Some thin Tuesday gruel.

I keep meaning to tuck my Russian grammar book into my bag on mornings when I take the bus, and forgetting. After the phone gets boring, I end up looking out the window, and today I decided I’d been too hard on “Twelve Years a Slave.” I found myself thinking about Michael Fassbender, who plays an exceptionally cruel slave master.

His performance captures not only the cruelty (the easy part), but the way slavery corrupted everyone it touched. It’s kind of a brilliant performance, in fact, as his character, Epps, has to beat, rape, humiliate and otherwise be almost one-dimensional in his insane evil. And yet, there’s something behind his eyes that says, this isn’t easy for me, either. How the hell did he do that? I guess that’s what great acting is.

And with that, I feel like I’ve said what there is to say today. It was an enervating day, but it ended with grilled chicken and a black-bean salad thing I sort of made up on the spot, and it was great. Could be a lot worse.

So let’s get to the bloggage:

You Lynda Barry fans take note: She’s alive and well and teaching at the University of Wisconsin. Alan and I saw one of her plays in Chicago early in our courtship; it remains a wonderful memory.

Gordon Willis, an artist with sepia, is dead.

I was struck by the photo accompanying this story about Flint’s fiscal problems. I recall being there a few years ago on assignment, taking a turn off a main drag into a neighborhood and being shocked — it looked like rural Mississippi, or something close. The picture captures it well.

I need to sleep. See you in the morning, all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' |

30 responses to “Some thin Tuesday gruel.”

  1. Dexter said on May 20, 2014 at 2:12 am

    Eric Zorn, please weigh in on this topic…I was just wondering what you thought about this man’s life and times:,0,5193537.column

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  2. Deborah said on May 20, 2014 at 5:00 am

    I used to read Lynda Barry’s blog, Near Sighted Monkey, but then she started ranting about wind power being a bad thing because when the blades rotate on the turbines they cause a strobing effect if you live nearby. She must live near a wind farm. Anyway it got old.

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  3. Dorothy said on May 20, 2014 at 6:34 am

    Julie all my quilting friends I spent time with in the late 80’s/early 90’s called their sewing space their “studio”; I thought that sounded very sophisticated. In my mind that’s how I thought of mine, but I don’t think I ever said it out loud, even to my family. It’s just always been my sewing room. I absolutely despise calling those kinds of rooms a ‘craft’ room. I don’t know why it sets my teeth on edge. I just know it makes me boiling mad if someone would call my space that. Just a personal pet peeve, I guess. I think of crafting as things other than sewing, quilting, knitting or crocheting. Bead work, tole painting, scrap booking – those kinds of things strike me as crafts.

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  4. alex said on May 20, 2014 at 7:11 am

    I’m glad to get some affirmation from Lynda Barry. I doodled my way through college and a lot of otherwise boring jobs in the past and in hindsight I think it really did make a difference in my creativity. Since the dawn of computers in the workplace the habit has fallen by the wayside. I keep wanting to set aside time and space just for drawing, but life’s demands haven’t allowed me that luxury just yet.

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  5. Basset said on May 20, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Good article about Flint but I don’t think Corvettes we’re ever made there, maybe a few prototypes or something… main production started in St. Louis and later moved to Bowling Green, Ky.

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  6. Basset said on May 20, 2014 at 7:36 am

    Looked it up… the first 15 or the first 300 were made there, depending on who you believe. Sold only to GM people and not the public, though, so I suppose you could call them pre-production models or something.

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  7. coozledad said on May 20, 2014 at 8:03 am

    alex: I keep hoping some company will put together a computer assisted drawing system that isn’t just hack bullshit. A computer and a printer are useful tools for reference, but the dedicated drawing systems remind me of the marriage of Lego and Etch-a-Sketch.

    I don’t know why drawing isn’t part of the core curriculum. It’s both meditation and problem solving.

    Nancy: I’ve been slogging through Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom, sentence by two page sentence, and getting his sense that part of the curse of slavery was the “mortuary Presbyterianism” the slavers handed off to their assets. He was closer to the whole enterprise, and confirms that it didn’t take solely a criminal mind to thrive in that system, but one steeped in Puritan zeal. It also demands a bunch of complicit moral weaklings.

    Between every couple of semicolons there’s a portrait of Jeff Sessions, or Jesse Helms, or any one of the numerous bible-waving pinch-mouthed old biddies around here who moisten their knickers watching Fox news.

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  8. brian stouder said on May 20, 2014 at 8:47 am

    Cooz, I’ve been pulled into Ebony and Ivy, about the inextricable links between American slavery (and systematic genocide directed at native American people), Puritanism, and the establishment of the big eastern universities.

    I always go for US history, and indeed, books like that one always remind me how very little I know

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  9. brian stouder said on May 20, 2014 at 9:21 am

    By the way, I forgot to mention that I saw the exceptionally lovely and intelligent Ms Burns on MSNBC last week (on All In?), speaking about Atlanta. It was very good stuff

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  10. Judybusy said on May 20, 2014 at 9:29 am

    I’m a Madison alumna, and the latest issue of the magazine had an in-depth article about Barry: I kept this link because you can see the cover art, then click to the link if you want more. I don’t ahve time to read the article above to see if it’s redundant…..

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  11. Julie Robinson said on May 20, 2014 at 9:59 am

    My sister was an Extension agent in Flint for a year or so in the late 70’s when it was still thriving. As an aside, I think that was the first time I went to a superstore, a Meijer of course, and was confused by the idea of buying groceries and clothing at the same place. Sure wish I had the renewal answers so I could spread them around.

    Dorothy, I don’t think I could say studio without giggling.

    So, my perusal of the morning paper indicates our female fire chief is about to resign, after less than two years on the job. I’d love to hear the inside story there.

    And this: the Indiana GOP has managed to book its state convention at three gun-free venues; the Grand Wayne Center, Embassy Theatre, and Parkview Field. Cue ironic misuse of words like this quote from Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City: “Oh my gosh. That’s ironical. It could be a problem for some people but I haven’t heard a lot of angst. Some will be up in arms about it.”

    Well, no, actually, they won’t be up in arms. But it is “ironical”.

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    • nancy said on May 20, 2014 at 10:03 am

      He also doesn’t know what “angst” means, either, but hey — Columbia City.

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  12. beb said on May 20, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Speaking of bankruptcy, I reading this morning that the Koch brs fueled Americans for Prosperity have started lobbying Republicans to screw the Detroit bail-out proposal. Because bailing out “those” people is always a waste of money and a bad precedent.

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  13. Bob (not Greene) said on May 20, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Judybusy, I saw that in the UW alumni mag as well. I was pleasantly surprised to find that out. I’ve always liked Lynda Barry, although I always confuse her with Heather McAdams, whose drawing style is very similar.

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  14. Kim said on May 20, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Cool story about what Lynda’s up to, although I can’t think about her without immediately recalling the beau she brought to Chicago: Mr. Ira Glass. That was one kooky couple.

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  15. alex said on May 20, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Everyone thought Ira Glass was gay. One time I was at a party where people were trying to cajole him into coming out, but without much success; this was hosted by Jack Hafferkamp, who had been the music critic at the former Chicago Daily News, and his then girlfriend Marianna Beck, who’d run a short-lived alt-weekly known as the Lincoln Park Spectator. By this time Jack and Marianna were the principals of Libido, the Journal of Sex and Sensibility. They used to be wildly successful at getting people to take off their clothes. Admitting to being gay not so much.

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  16. nancy said on May 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    The thing that most jolted my opinion of Ira Glass was the TAL chapter about his dog, Piney.

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  17. Dexter said on May 20, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Gordon Willis did this, which is my favorite New York movie opener, ever (firework scene at end of this video):

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  18. Dexter said on May 20, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    It’s fishin’ season in Michigan; here, a giant Muskellunge is taken.

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  19. brian stouder said on May 20, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    I have no sound (until I’m home; and the tease at the npr site refers to the TAL staff “confronting” Ira about his dog…..??

    So – all I ask for… is a clue.

    Is he a dogged disciplinarian?

    Or maybe he insists on feeding his pooch chocolate?

    Or, he leaves him in the car when he goes to work?

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  20. Dexter said on May 20, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    That Piney dog is vicious , biting children two at a time, not to be trusted, force-fed Valium to clam him down a little.
    He’s an attack dog that prevents apartment visits for their friends. But they love that doggie. The dog has 4 doctors, also.

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  21. Sue said on May 20, 2014 at 4:17 pm


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  22. nancy said on May 20, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Short version: I think this is political posturing that will go nowhere. Two polls now have shown popular support for a Detroit bankruptcy settlement, across the political spectrum. But to the point it allows the Kochs to go BOOM BOOM BIG GOVERNMENT, then it will be successful. I just don’t see this as a winner.

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  23. Jenine said on May 20, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    In that TAL, Ira related a story about taking the train way out to visit an obscure butcher who provided the kangaroo meat that their unstable dog (who also suffers from complicated allergies) needed to eat at the time. Imbalanced was the word that came to mind.

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  24. Basset said on May 20, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Mrs. B was a vet tech for about twenty years and saw quite a few… Let’s say eccentric… pet owners. We heard that TAL together in the car and agreed that Ira Glass was an irresponsible pet owner and the dog should have gotten the big shot long before then.

    Muskellunge… sometimes known as the fish of a thousand casts because it’s so hard to get them to come to a lure. Sometimes, though, you just get lucky , really lucky .

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  25. brian stouder said on May 20, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Sometimes, though, you just get lucky , really lucky

    …words that I live by!

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  26. Basset said on May 20, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    And sometimes I repeat myself, sometimes. I miss the edit function.

    That was quite a feat to land that Muskie on such light line, too – usually you use wire for the last few feet before the lure so they don’t bite through it.

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  27. beb said on May 20, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Sue, my take on the Koch’s efforts to derail the bankruptcy settlement is that there are a lot of paranoid politicians out there who are afraid to annoy anyone with the slightest amount of money. It’s going to take a lot of hand-holding from Gov. Snyder to get the legis to go ahead with the bail-out. And Snyder is a giant weathervane himself. So this is not good and the Koch’s prove again that their are essentially anti-democratic, anti-government nihilists. Traitors to the country that allowed them to inherent enormous wealth and abuse it.

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  28. Charlotte said on May 20, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    I’ve always been afraid of fish, and as a little kid, the grownups would tell me not to be silly, there’s nothing in that lake that will hurt you. Then my dad caught the biggest muskie in the state of Wisconsin when I was 7 — bigger than me (it’s stuffed and I hear it’s hanging in Bozaki’s boathouse bar now in Minoqua). Right, nothing will hurt me. That fish could have taken me, easy …

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  29. Andrea said on May 20, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    Nancy, I’m with you about the TAL episode. I listened to it the way you look at a car accident — with growing horror, fascination, and a healthy dash of “thank god that’s not my life.” I definitely have revisited my admittedly limited impression of him.

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