Trump country, on both sides of the bars.

One of the lesser-remarked-upon gifts of the holidays came from Kate, who, because she’s a college student, gets Showtime for practically nothing, bundled with her already low-cost Spotify account. She loaded the app on our TV box when she was home, and as a result we were able to watch “Escape at Dannemora” over these past few nights.

I liked it. A lot.

It’s a seven-part series about the 2015 escape, by inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat, from Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York. You probably remember; they got out with the help of a female civilian employee, and stayed out for more than three weeks, surviving on food stolen from a series of Adirondack hunting cabins, using the dense forest cover to escape detection from an intense manhunt. But they didn’t get away clean, because how often does that happen? Matt was shot to death, and Sweat was also shot, but taken alive. The civilian employee, Joyce “Tilly” Mitchell, who it turned out was having sex with both of them in the course of supervising them in the prison tailor shop, ended up behind bars for her role in all of this.

I read a few reviews of this when it was released about a month ago. The primary complaint was that it was too long, suffering from “Netflix bloat,” i.e., the tendency for projects like this to be padded out to make a season out of what could be a two-parter. I didn’t find this to be true, mainly for the way it observed the entirety of the Clinton Correctional universe, particularly the corrupt culture among the prison staff, which made it easy to smuggle contraband hacksaw blades and other tools into the facility, blurring the line between the criminals and those charged with keeping them behind bars. You really feel how shitty and depressing life is on both sides of the cell door; Dannemora is referred to as “Little Siberia” for its deep winters, and working at the prison is probably the best gig in town for the working class. But it sucked, because how could it not?

My favorite episode was the penultimate one, a flashback compilation that introduces the three main characters via their histories, the two prisoners committing the crimes that landed them in Clinton, and Tilly’s shady romantic affairs with her ex-husband and the one who takes his place. We see her working at a shoe factory maybe 20 years before the escape, already dumpy and frowzy, trading sex to get ahead in the world, in a place where sex is about the only pleasure to be had outside of food and Bud Lite. It’s not surprising to see her working later in the prison, because the shoe factory probably closed, its jobs sent out of the country. (A little Googling shows that was indeed the fate of the Tru-Stitch facility.) After a while, what’s the difference between living in a cell and living in a house nearby? In many ways, not all that much.

Some critics have pointed out that the “escape” doesn’t happen until the final episode, but honestly, I didn’t mind. And if there were a noticeable number of long, contemplative shots of the Adirondack forest rolling off to the horizon in waves, well, all it did was remind me what it must have looked like to a man who hadn’t seen freedom in many years.

All three leads were outstanding. Paul Dano captured Sweat’s keen intelligence and patience. Patricia Arquette must have gained 60 pounds to play Tilly, and is nearly unrecognizable. And Benicio del Toro as Matt did a great job of embodying a man who, it turns out, not only belonged in prison, he did everything possible to get himself back there — until he was shot to death. And Ben Stiller directs with a confidence that surprised me. But I guess an actor knows how to work with actors.

Anyway, the nights are still long and cold, and will be so for a few more months. It’s worth your time.


Big news today, obviously. I just read this in the Axios PM newsletter:

Between the lines: The two sides of the House chamber looked drastically different today, Axios’ Caitlin Owens notes.

All but 13 House Republicans this Congress are men, and the vast majority are white.

While the GOP side of the chamber was filled with dark suits and red or purple ties, the Democratic side was filled with colorful attire and people of varying racial and ethnic backgrounds.

I think that says it all, and I’ve gone on for a while. Time to walk Wendy and think about dinner. Have a good weekend, all.

Posted at 6:00 pm in Current events, Television |

41 responses to “Trump country, on both sides of the bars.”

  1. David C. said on January 3, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    I loved the photo of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar walking through Washington National Airport with her father. The same airport they walked through when they first came to the US. They both looked so happy. I teared up seeing that.

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  2. Dorothy said on January 3, 2019 at 6:45 pm

    I watched Dannemora too and I share your feelings. Extremely well done and I’ll make sure to catch the next thing Ben Stiller directs. He knows how to tell a story. I got curious about the actor playing Lyle. He put on weight to play the part, and Stiller had asked the leads to lose some weight before they filmed the penultimate episode (it was filmed last actually). Ben gave them a month to lose some weight; the actor (Eric Lange) ate a very low carb diet, and in addition his wife was due with a baby during this time. Lange didn’t want to miss this event, and it turned out the baby came earlier than expected, which meant Ben Stiller granted him an additional 3 weeks off in addition to the month. Lange ended up losing 35 lbs. Those fake teeth he had drove me bats but the real Lyle looked like that, so … and Lange said because of his transformation, he has not been recognized ANYWHERE since the show started on Showtime. He’s balding and looks nothing like the character he played. I really love IMDB and Google when I want to research details like this.

    Patty Arquette better win several awards for her acting. She was amazing. All of them were very good. But she really stood out.

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  3. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 3, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    If it helps any, current and former Marines are getting really, really P.O.’ed with Donny Two Scoops, or depending on which forums you read, Cadet Bone Spurs.

    I hope the POTUS doesn’t have to ask the USMC to mobilize in a hurry to anywhere, because there some serious discontent in the ranks. Dissing Mattis on the way to the paymaster’s office was a really bad move. Few officers this side of the Commandant have as much respect as Gen. Mattis has.

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  4. Jeff Borden said on January 3, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    I saw something on Facebook that noted how uncomfortable Vice President Dense must have felt swearing in lesbians, bisexuals, Muslims and all those women of color Oh, Mother, how icky!!! I loved the bisexual woman who took her oath on a law book. And, of course, the howling monkeys of fake christendom went koo-koo bananas over the young Somali woman David referenced above. As a hajib wearing Muslim, she opted to use Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Qu’ran to take her oath.

    We’re still neck deep in political and social shit, I guess, and will be until the rot of the GOP as it exists today is finally excised, if it ever is. But today made me feel a lot better for the future. The contrasts between two political movements could hardly be more stark than we saw today.

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  5. Peter said on January 4, 2019 at 9:01 am

    I know she’ll be raked over the coals for this one, and sure, it wasn’t a polite thing to say, but when I saw a clip of new Rep. Rashida Tlaib saying “we’re going to impeach the motherfucker” I said ‘PREACH PREACHER!!!!”

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  6. Sherri said on January 4, 2019 at 9:16 am

    Trump is a good measure of what you really value, because he trashes everything. It’s instructive to see where people reach their breaking point with Trump, especially those who never do. Those people should be discredited forever, especially Republicans and white evangelicals.

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  7. Mouse said on January 4, 2019 at 9:55 am

    I second your choice of Dannemora being outstanding Nance,I thought it was the best thing to hit the screen since Billions.Patrica Arquette should win every award available for her role.

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  8. FDChief said on January 4, 2019 at 10:54 am

    The USMC shouldn’t be the only group getting chapped with Orange Foolius. The dude is seriously, genuinely, pure-D, stomp-down, bull-goose looney. It’s painful, but read the annotated interview here:

    When a retired artillery sergeant with a geopolitics hobby makes more sense than the President of the Unite States?

    We ALL got trouble.

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  9. Dorothy said on January 4, 2019 at 11:01 am

    Paul Dano article:

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  10. Icarus said on January 4, 2019 at 11:09 am

    Jeff Borden @ 4:

    And, of course, the howling monkeys of fake Christendom went koo-koo bananas over the young Somali woman David referenced above. As a hajib wearing Muslim, she opted to use Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Qu’ran to take her oath.

    On the Matt Walsh page, I posted a simple “why is this a problem”

    the comments did not disappoint. So apparently Thomas Jefferson only had a copy of the Quran* because he wanted to understand the enemy to defeat them.

    * the Venn diagram of people who won’t type “Qu’ran” but would get butthurt if you didn’t capitalize the B in the bible is an overlapping circle.

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  11. susan said on January 4, 2019 at 11:21 am

    Jeff B @4 – VP Dense wouldn’t have been in the House, swearing in anyone. His position is part of the Senate mob. He was more likely swearing at home with Mother by his side.

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  12. Scout said on January 4, 2019 at 11:35 am

    The video of Alexandra Ocasio Cortez dancing in a high school video was one of my favorite Twitter events of yesterday, made even more so because some idiot Q anon person posted it as if it made her look bad. Extreme ratio commenced.

    And I loved my new blue Senator Sinema’s outfit for her swearing in – she was glam and rocking some buff arms. She is the Senator who was sworn in with a law book, and I love her for that.

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  13. susan said on January 4, 2019 at 11:48 am

    JeffB @4 – Ooops, sorry about that. Dense was swearing at the Senate whilst the wonderful Dem show was going on in the House. I was paying attention to that one, as it was such a beautiful thing to see.

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  14. beb said on January 4, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    I was curious about who swears in the House of Representatives and so looked it up. The Speaker of the House swears in the other members. But who swears in the Speaker. That turns out to be the member with the longest continuous service in the House.

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  15. jerry said on January 4, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    Yesterday Deborah asked about the perception of Theresa May over here in the UK. My two-pennorth: she is a shining example of danger of receiving what you wish for! I doubt that there are many people in the country who think she’s doing a wonderful job but they “keep tight hold of nurse for fear of finding something worse” If she weren’t the leader we might get Boris Johnson – an extremely ambitious, totally cynical but undoubtedly clever politician who tends to open his mouth without engaging his brain.
    Or failing him, Jacob Rees-Mogg who I suspect believes in the absolute right of monarchs and that everything would be wonderful if only HE was in charge and people did what they were told and showed due deference, and probably believes that you were better off when America was still a colony!!

    Personally I have no time for May but find Corbyn a waste of space and despair of the future of the country. No doubt we will survive but in what sort of state I dread to think. I have desperately looked for an Irish ancestor so I could claim refuge away from here but without luck. I fear the worst.

    Having said that, my best wishes to you all for 2019 and my thanks for the entertainment and education you have all given, especially, of course, Nancy.

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  16. Jakash said on January 4, 2019 at 1:35 pm

    I don’t know if we’ll get around to watching “Escape at Dannemora,” given our lack of Showtime access, but that’s certainly a strong recommendation, supported by the ones among the comments. For me, Nancy’s review was worth reading just to see “penultimate” used correctly! : )

    You didn’t steer us wrong with your take on Wild Wild Country, way back when, which we enjoyed. But we were not deterred by the dis of Mrs. Maisel, and we plowed through both seasons of that, in spite of it. (The curiosity about it winning 5 Emmys won out.) Uh, yeah, she’s pretty fucking pleased with herself (I think that’s how she’d phrase it) and most of the points Emily Nussbaum made in the review you linked to are valid. Still, as a mostly fun fantasy featuring some marvelous production values, I’d give it a qualified thumbs up. The oddest thing about it for me was that, given that it was the “Best Comedy” and a show featuring a lot of comedy routines, it wasn’t nearly as funny as I expected it to be.

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  17. David C. said on January 4, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    I was hoping my Irish great-great-grandparents might get me an Irish passport. One great too many.

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  18. Deborah said on January 4, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks Jerry, interesting. We walked past parliament a lot while in London and every day we did there were protests outside across the road. The day we got there they had the vote of confidence which was all the buzz.

    I was weeping this morning looking at all the photos of the swearing in. That is what democracy looks like.

    I thought the dance video of AOC was absolutely charming. Who could possibly object?

    As soon as I read about the Congresswoman’s motherfucker quote, I thought uh oh, gonna get some panties in a snit. Sure enough.

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  19. David C. said on January 4, 2019 at 4:49 pm

    Liberal’s superpower is memory.

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  20. susan said on January 4, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    david c, could you play that video of FatNixon’s F-bomb rant? Neither Safari nor Firefox would open it. Not that I really need to hear FatNixon’s fat mouth going off.

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  21. David C. said on January 4, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    It played for me on Chrome. Try this one.

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  22. Dexter Friend said on January 4, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    I watched week by week, waiting anxiously for each episode. Matt , I believe, did not want to go back, he committed suicide by cop, right? A scattergun fired wildly at a truck-trailer? That was his signal to come and get me, coppers. He raised the shotgun and that was it, he was wasted then. A great show, and Arquette is a shoo-in for an emmy. Yeah, Lyle Mitchell was captured perfectly with that mouthpiece and wig. He really is that fucking goofy. * (I still am being warned by my Bitdefender Security , with a a red triangle with an exclamation mark that this site is “Not Secure”.)

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  23. Jeff Borden said on January 4, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    David C.,

    When we were in Portugal last spring –Lisbon and Porto– we were told by an ex-pat from Australia that if you buy property of a certain value, you can apply for a Portugese visa within 6 months. I am NOT vouching for this as a fact. What was readily apparent is Portugal welcomes foreign investors. . .up to a point. In Porto, which is a truly lovely city nested in steep hills along the Douros River, so many non-Portugese people have bought properties it’s become a local political issue. It’s a cool country with some of the friendliest people we’ve encountered. . .even nicer than the Spanish.

    We have a friend who’s angling for a Luxembourg passport. He also missed out on the Irish paperwork.

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  24. susan said on January 4, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    During the BushWah Error, I investigated leaving this shit-hole of a country. Canada was (and still is) quite appealing, but it gets harder and harder to immigrate to our northern neighbor. I found that I could become a citizen of Austria because my grandparents had come from Austro-Hungary. That’s as far back, generation-wise, for which that applies. But, my grandparents left for a reason, and I have no interest in emigrating to Austria.

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  25. Sherri said on January 4, 2019 at 8:07 pm

    John Rogers, who gave the world the crazification factor and the Tolkien-Rand mind warp quote, lays down some more wisdom:

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  26. David C. said on January 5, 2019 at 8:53 am

    Jeff Borden, Mary would like to retire in Spain. I’ve tried to talk her into Portugal, but I think her having high school Spanish leads her to think Spain would be easier. I figure if we go abroad we’ll both be dependent on the ability of others to speak English. I had French in high school. I could ask were the bathroom is, but I know very well I wouldn’t understand the answer.

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  27. Heather said on January 5, 2019 at 10:48 am

    My father got his Irish citizenship about 20 years ago–all of his grandparents were born in Ireland. I was hoping I could use him to get mine, but I think it’s unlikely. I’d immediately move to Rome.

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  28. Jeff Borden said on January 5, 2019 at 10:49 am

    David C.,
    My wife preferred Spain, too. And Spanish would be easier to master than Portugese, I guess. I’d suggest you check out a website called International Living, which is aimed at the 55+ crowd seeking overseas adventure. It offers solid information on every kind of getaway spot from isolated little beach towns to sizable cities and includes estimated costs per month in U.S. dollars. Barcelona, for example, is quite doable if you stay out of the trendiest neighborhoods. You won’t get a villa on the beach or a place overlooking Las Ramblas, but you’re still in a nice neighborhood with good amenities. And like most European cities, the public transportation is excellent and inexpensive.

    Here’s the website:

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  29. David C. said on January 5, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks, Jeff. There’s a lot of information there. Retirement is ten years off for me, so I have plenty of time to think about it. I’ll be seventy then and we may decide just to stick it out here, but planning is fun too.

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  30. Deborah said on January 5, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    When we were in Paris we fantasized about selling out in the US, buying a tiny flat there and ending our days in the most beautiful city in the world. One of my grandparents came over from Germany when he was 2, does that do anything for me?

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  31. alex said on January 5, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    My dad was born in Hungary, but it’s a nasty totalitarian hellhole of the kind Trump can only envy. I wouldn’t even want to visit as a tourist at this point.

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  32. Jakash said on January 5, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Back to Nancy’s post before the penultimate post: “The one-word resolution for 2019: Delete. Delete crap apps from the devices, delete all games, delete as much b.s. as possible from daily life.”

    One of Nancy’s elite-media buds, Eric Zorn, has appropriated “delete” as *his* word for the year, as well, while crediting her appropriately. Given that his other choice seems to have been “Elmer,” I can see why.

    His test for de-cluttering, or downsizing, or whatever, which is the focus of this column: “If you saw this item on top of your neighbor’s garbage bin, would you pick it up and bring it into your house? If so, keep it. If not, give it away or set it atop your own garbage bin.”

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  33. David C. said on January 5, 2019 at 3:14 pm

    I think there a bit of wobbly logic in the garbage bin test. I wouldn’t pick anything from the top of anyone’s garbage, nor I think would anyone else I know.

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  34. Jakash said on January 5, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    Me either, David C. I wasn’t endorsing that idea, FWIW, just bringing it to the party…

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  35. David C. said on January 5, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    It’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from only keep things that bring you joy. My toothbrush brings me no joy, but I’ll keep it for the American Dental Association recommended three months. We all have to find our zone somewhere between garbage and joy, I guess.

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  36. jcburns said on January 5, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    How millennials became the burnout generation: Hmm. Hmmmmmm.

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  37. beb said on January 5, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    The article about millennial burn out was interesting but too long. The problem I have with it is that I’ve had the exactly same problem — all my life! It started long before the internet. It must be an anxiety related issue not borne of any modern contrivance.

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  38. Julie Robinson said on January 5, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    Sherri, I had no idea who John Rogers was before this but he definitely has his finger on the pulse of the millenials, or digital natives, as he calls them. Those tweets could have come from my son, though he would have used more profanity. Over Christmas he told us many of his friends are severely depressed due to climate change. They think they are f*cked and don’t see any way things are going to get better. Add in the absence of well-paying career jobs, sky-high student loans, expensive housing and…wait, now I’m severely depressed.

    For those of you not familiar with the Tolkien-Rand mind warp quote, here it is: “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

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  39. Sherri said on January 6, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Nancy’s good buddy Mitch Albom has predictable things to say about Rashida Tlaib’s language. I particularly like that he calls it lazy!

    I’m glad she said it. It’s given more pundits the opportunity to demonstrate how worthless they are.

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  40. alex said on January 6, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    I’m not sure which is worse, the pearl-clutching over broaching the subject of impeachment or the swooning over “motherfucker,” but I’ll take either of those over the usual right-wing histrionics about creeping shariah.

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  41. Deborah said on January 6, 2019 at 7:32 pm

    Here is an interesting Psychology Today article about Trump supporters. A lot of it is stuff you probably already know, it’s just interesting to see it all in one place. I found it repetitous, you really only need to read the sub heads and the first paragraph or two after each subhead to get the basic gist.

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