Bits and bobs.

I hope you all had a pleasant Insurrection Anniversary Weekend. The observances around here were minimal, mostly a lot of coughing, mostly on Alan’s part. Me, I think I may be over it, but as always, more will be revealed. Probably Monday. (On edit: It is now Monday. Still sick, but not terribly so.) We watched “Maestro” and were underwhelmed. Made salmon. Did the laundry.

Now I’m killing Sunday night scrolling through Golden Globes photos. Some astonishingly ugly turnouts, even considering it’s the starter event for awards season and often a little off-the-wall. Tom and Lorenzo liked this, but OMG no, Bella Ramsey, I don’t care if you’re nonbinary, this is not a goddamn bowling league banquet:

They also loved this, but I’m a hard no on peplums pretty much everywhere:

That’s Da’Vine Joy Randolph, from “The Holdovers.”

We’re in full agreement on Meryl Streep, however:

(We both loved it.)

Moving on to my new Monday hate-read: Paul W. Smith, who’s a local talk-radio host published by The Detroit News, where he files no more than six or seven paragraphs of prose so slight it barely qualifies as elevator small talk between the 10th and 25th floor. What’s more, they put it behind a paywall, because lord knows only the readers who pay for the paper should have the privilege of reading this:

Aside from many religious related exclamations of “miracles” over the years, one of the most famous such exclamations/questions of our lifetime had to be on Feb. 22, 1980, when extraordinary sportscaster Al Michaels blurted out, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” at the end of the United States’ 4-3 upset of the USSR in the 1980 Olympic hockey semifinals in Lake Placid, New York. The U.S. then went on to win the gold medal.

I have a new miracle. In fact, I am proclaiming it the first one of 2024.

The miracle at Japan’s Haneda Airport. Japan Airlines flight 516.

That long windup in the first graf makes me chuckle, it’s so full of cheese — “exclamations/questions,” the precise date, “extraordinary” Al Michaels, the full quote, the score, the date again, the city, the medal. Because lord knows this obscure moment from sporting history needs to be fully illuminated in the opening sentence. I’m surprised he didn’t mention the movie, too.

Then, the technique I’m calling the Albom Drop: But I have a new one. [new paragraph] The new thing.

More cut-and-paste from the wire services follows, detailing the crash in Japan, etc. etc. And he still manages to get the miraculous escape, in which all the passengers survived, wrong:

The well-trained crew of 12, along with a veteran pilot with 12,000 hours of flight experience, led to a relative absence of panic while passengers remained seated awaiting instructions.

See, I differ on this. I’m sure the crew did their jobs. But what saved the 379 people aboard wasn’t the crew. It was the fact they’re Japanese, raised in a culture where following instructions for the greater good of the collective is a bedrock value. If Japanese passengers in a clutch situation are told to get up, leave everything behind and swiftly exit via the inflated slides, they’re going to do it without an argument.

Anyone who’s flown on an American airline knows exactly how this would have ended at one of our airports. Fifty people might have made it off, and the rest would have been barbecued in jet fuel as passengers clawed at the overhead compartments, trying to rescue their laptops, wallets or favorite shoes, angrily pushing back at anyone who tried to hurry them toward the exits, screeching I HAVE A WORK PRESENTATION ON THAT COMPUTER AND MY BONUS DEPENDS ON IT.

Eight paragraphs, due to the Albom Drop. If it took him 10 minutes to write, he took a bathroom break in the middle.

More photos? Yes. Here’s one for my Columbus readers. I was telling Alan some Dispatch stories the other day, and recalled the Bonhams, a married couple who presided over the Sunday books page. We only saw them one day a week. Fridays were payday in the newsroom, and in those days before direct deposit, it meant everyone came in on Fridays — all the regional correspondents, the farm reporter (who wore bib overalls, and was hilarious), and the contributors like the Bonhams, who assembled and proofed their Sunday page. They were…well, “old-fashioned” would be the polite adjective. They took over from another weirdo, whose singular accomplishment of note was keeping books he considered “dirty” off the paper’s best-seller lists. I don’t remember how he did it — it was before my time — but Marge, our bridal reporter, said he was furious when “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)” sat atop the lists for months at a time. I don’t know if he asterisk’d or simply ignored it, but if you had a book that did unexpectedly well in Columbus during the 1970s, that might be the reason.

Anyway, the Bonhams were cut from the same cloth. One of my colleagues described their ideal volume as “Twenty Years of Steam Trolleys,” and that’s pretty close. But they also hankered to be authors themselves, and when the Dispatch agreed to print a collection of their columns in book form, they came up with the perfect title:

I didn’t buy it, or even nick it out of the library, no. I told Alan this story, which he found hilarious. A few days later, UPS delivered it to our doorstep. The used bookseller was clearly so thrilled to get this dog out of her collection, she threw in another small-press volume, something called “Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction.”

I’ve been paging through the Bonhams’ prose for a few days. My fave so far is “Some Books That Press My Anger Buttons,” which I’ll summarize for you: Books that tell the reader how to succeed with no thought of others; books that run down America; books with “vulgar scenes and bad language”; and “books that exploit celebrities.” This column contains my favorite line so far: An author I know, who is a good writer and is working on a book, is being pushed by his publisher to put a homosexual scene in the manuscript. “Never!” says the author. “Even if it means my book will never be published.”

Seeing as how I’ve gone on at length beating up on three writers, let me finish with some praise: This biblioholic received Zadie Smith’s “The Fraud” for Christmas, and is enjoying it very much. Happy Monday, all, and send healing vibes this way.

Posted at 8:13 am in Current events, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' |

34 responses to “Bits and bobs.”

  1. Joe Kobiela said on January 8, 2024 at 9:08 am

    100% agree with your take on the JAL crash, when I was flying for wheels up I airlined out of DTW every Tuesday morning, I always counted the number of seats to the exit, I wasn’t going to die because some zone 4 moron had to get his carry on out of the overhead. Did you know that in order to get an airline certificate you have to demonstrate everyone can get off in I believe 90seconds, think of that next time your on a triple7.
    Pilot Joe

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  2. Jeff Gill said on January 8, 2024 at 9:22 am

    90 seconds is a long time, too (if there’s a fire behind you).

    Everyone has gone to paywalling the opinion/commentary pieces, including the contributors, certainly systemwide for Gannett. When they put me behind the paywall and I asked “huh?” my editor said “that’s where the clicks are.” And so it goes.

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  3. Suzanne said on January 8, 2024 at 10:03 am

    I agree with your assessment of Maestro. I was underwhelmed as well. Bradley Cooper sounded like he had clogged sinuses throughout and I thought the whole thing was disjointed. I think anyone not well versed in classical music would find it very difficult to follow.

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  4. ROGirl said on January 8, 2024 at 10:12 am

    I watched Maestro as well. The nose didn’t offend me, but the movie tried to do a lot of things and in the end it was unsatisfying. At least it wasn’t a standard biopic, but it jammed a large life into a blender and pureed it. Martin Scorsese was going to be the director at one point. Too bad he didn’t make the movie.

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  5. David C said on January 8, 2024 at 11:17 am

    In the land where you can’t get people to wear a fucking mask when they’re sick, fifty seems optimistic even on a regional jet.

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  6. Jeff Borden said on January 8, 2024 at 11:36 am

    I always wear long pants and decent shoes when flying…just in case. Still, considering the behavior of my fellow ‘Muricans–especially post pandemic–it’s likely I’d perish in a crash scenario. Rugged individualism is counter-productive in a plane crash.

    We’re exploring more limited series over films. Currently enjoying “Babylon Berlin,” a German Netflix series focusing on the Weimar Republic in the late ’20s through the eyes of a troubled police detective.

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  7. Suzanne said on January 8, 2024 at 11:45 am

    Oooh, Jeff, I loved Babylon Berlin! Supposedly there is new 4th season coming but I am not sure when. The show is based on a series of books and I tracked down the first one, which was ok. The series seems to haven taken a lot of liberties with the story. I really need to revisit the series, though. I recall watching the first season and my husband asking me what it was about and my reply was that I really didn’t know but that it was fascinating.

    We’ve delved into Stranger Things. Creepy as heck but it does suck you in.

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  8. Deborah said on January 8, 2024 at 11:55 am

    Me too Suzanne, I loved Babylon Berlin too, I’m glad you commented about it Jeff B, I think I’ll start rewatching it now. We got 5″ of snow in Santa Fe since the wee hours, I’m not going anywhere and don’t need to, so binge watching today is a good idea.

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  9. Julie Robinson said on January 8, 2024 at 12:05 pm

    Maestro is a vanity project for Cooper and the Bernstein children, so my expectations will be low. He was an extremely complicated person. He wrote some of the most sublime music that will make your heart ache, and some of the most ridiculous, self-indulgent dreck; sometimes in the same piece, like Mass.

    But I’ll watch it anyway, if just for the music.

    Speaking of dreck, the most recent Agatha Christie, A Haunting in Venice. Dark, depressing, plot and characters completely changed from its source material. Kenneth Branagh just cashing the paycheck.

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  10. Jeff Borden said on January 8, 2024 at 12:21 pm

    Those of you smitten with “Babylon Berlin” must read the Bernie Gunther novels by Philip Kerr. Kerr, a Scotsman, created a German version of Phillip Marlowe, a cynical, hard-drinking, womanizing police detective caught up in the rise of Nazism. The books should be read in order as they build upon each other. “Berlin Noir” collects the first three novels written and it hooked me and my wife immediately. It can be some very rough stuff, but there’s always a humanity and traces of humor. I can’t recommend the series enough.

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  11. Jason T. said on January 8, 2024 at 12:43 pm

    A homosexual scene! Well, I never!

    (monocle falls out of eye, drops copy of The Times of London, faints)

    I think this goes to show us that culture warriors fighting imaginary boogeymen have always been with us; they just have never before had such big mass-media megaphones to rail publicly against the shadows in their minds. Yay us!

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  12. Peter said on January 8, 2024 at 12:54 pm

    Joe, I would agree with you, but with one exception: Years ago, when I had projects in NY, I would fly out to client meetings on the 6:00 AM flight to LaGuardia. You know that announcement they make when the plane lands to keep your seatbelt on until they reach the gate? Every week, as soon as that announcement was made, passengers got up and got their stuff out of the overhead bin; they were lined up and ready to go when the jetway was opened.

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  13. Deborah said on January 8, 2024 at 2:09 pm

    Yes, I’ve been on flights where people instantly stand up when the plane hits the ground and is on it’s way to the gate, then they make the announcement for everyone to sit down and they do, but lately I’ve noticed that there are a few guys who refuse to sit down, they keep standing and getting their stuff out of the overhead bins and no matter what they say over the speaker they just keep going and there doesn’t seem to be anything the flight attendants can do about it. It’s always guys, one or two and they have the attitude, “you can’t tell me what to do”, it’s such irresponsible entitlement. It’s not something I noticed before, there seem to be more assholes on planes now.

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  14. Sherri said on January 8, 2024 at 7:55 pm

    I’m not sure what the strangest news of the week is (and yes, it’s only Monday, so plenty more to come):

    -Bill Ackman defending his wife’s plagiarism and her relationships with Brad Pitt and Jeffery Epstein in a long rambling X thread..
    -the boards of Tesla and SpaceX tip-toeing around Elon Musk’s prolific use of illegal drugs
    -Roger Stone trying to put out a hit on members of Congress
    -SecDef going off to the hospital for several days and not telling anybody

    Sometimes (a lot of times?) I feel like I must be the crazy one.

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  15. Jeff Gill said on January 8, 2024 at 10:49 pm

    So I had to go look up the Roger Stone thing (thanks, Sherri, he said sardonically), and realized he’s just 71. It feels like he has been around as long as Kissinger or J. Edgar. But no, not really. I would have sworn he was 80-something at least.

    My guess on Lloyd Austin is he had bariatric surgery that went bad. I’ve had four clergy friends of Austin’s size & heft decide to have that operation, two just after retirement, who then died of complications. One on the table, two a day or two after while still in, and the fourth a week later who probably didn’t go back when they could have saved him. But for many people, it’s outpatient. And like Ozempic, some folks are leery of saying that’s what they’re doing, and hope to keep it all private.

    I’m not a doctor, and I could very well be wrong. But that’s my guess, is that this cluster started with Austin hoping to dash in and out, spend holidays “at home” recovering, and no one the wiser. With his core staff knowing he wants to keep this quiet, and not wanting to be the one to say anything.

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  16. Deborah said on January 8, 2024 at 11:36 pm

    Seriously, Roger Stone is younger than me? I had no idea.

    I watched “Maestro” and liked it, the music is fabulous of course, and it’s quite long but I was definitely into the story. What a conflicted guy. West Side Story is my favorite Bernstein, they played one piece from it in an odd part of the movie, I thought it didn’t fit there.

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  17. basset said on January 8, 2024 at 11:43 pm

    Finished the Mal Evans bio, which had some facts I’d hadn’t seen but no real insights. Poor guy made a good roadie and bodyguard, but when it got more complicated than that he didn’t have the tools to handle it.

    And this might be of interest to anyone who knows their way around a set of Pantone chips:

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  18. Peter said on January 9, 2024 at 4:36 am

    ROGER STONE IS 71 ?!?!?!

    Didn’t he get his start on the Nixon campaign doing dirty tricks?

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  19. Deborah said on January 9, 2024 at 7:05 am

    That’s a cool link Basset. I’ve been studying up on the history of colors recently, it’s pretty fascinating (to me). There’s a collection of historical pigments at Harvard, I have a book about it and my husband went there a couple of years ago to see if he could get a tour of it.

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  20. Jeff Gill said on January 9, 2024 at 8:34 am

    So it seems Roger Stone dropped out of George Washington University to work for Jeb Magruder & CREEP at 20 in 1973. Supposedly he first encouraged Trump to run for president in the late 1990s while a political consultant for his struggling Atlantic City casinos. It’s as if he stepped directly into the void left by Roy Cohn’s death. Between Cohn, Terry Dolan, Charlie Black, and Stone, that’s a lot of void, even for Trump.

    And I learn while figuring all that out Elise Stefanik appeared on The Roger Stone Show two days ago.

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  21. LAMary said on January 9, 2024 at 9:32 am

    At what age did Roger Stone get the full back tattoo of Nixon? I just turned 71 and even in my very republican small town I doubt if anyone in my high school class would get a Nixon tattoo.

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  22. Jeff Gill said on January 9, 2024 at 9:36 am

    It’s about the size of a palm on his back, a full face portrait of Nixon. Friends, don’t go looking it up. It’s left me quite unwell. Sheesh.

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  23. Deborah said on January 9, 2024 at 10:17 am

    And then there’s the piece that Jeffery Toobin wrote about Stone going to swinging sex clubs with his wife, and advertising for swingers with photos of his wife scantily clad.

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  24. Jeff Borden said on January 9, 2024 at 10:23 am

    Roger Stone is smegma in human form.

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  25. LAMary said on January 9, 2024 at 1:05 pm

    Imagine responding to a swinger ad meeting Roger, his tattoo and Mrs Roger. Wonder if she’s got a Kissinger tattoo?

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  26. Dorothy said on January 9, 2024 at 2:14 pm

    I did not care for Maestro. Many of you already explained what was wrong with it and I second (third, fourth, fifth, etc..) all of those statements. I also did not care for May/December. I watched Dan Levy’s movie ‘Good Grief’ today and it was very good. The Golden Globes gave me a new list of movies to see in the future when they’re available on streaming – preferably for free. Anatomy of a Fall is first on that list. Bella Ramsey’s outfit was yuck and so was Billie Eilish’s. Oh and we had salmon on Sunday, too.

    Today the weather is crap here so I’m trying to make good use of my time: hand quilt a small piece I’m giving to a swap buddy at QuiltCon next month, knit on a new hat I cast on for my husband, and clean up the membership list of our modern quilt guild to be sure it’s all accurate and updated. It’s the kind of day that seems tailor made for a nap but I have to meet the school bus in a half hour, so no nap today.

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  27. Sherri said on January 9, 2024 at 3:06 pm

    Interview with the mom of the boy who’s shirt was torn off his body when the door plug blew out of that Boeing 737-9 Max.

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  28. Julie Robinson said on January 9, 2024 at 3:41 pm

    Lloyd Austin is being treated for prostate cancer. Wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but it was not handled well.

    Mr. Three-way, Christian Ziegler has lost his job as head of the Florida Republican party. Criminal charges still pending, including for a couple for filming the acts without permission.

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  29. basset said on January 9, 2024 at 4:51 pm

    Dorothy, I am impressed that some obsessive collector out there managed to find cans of the original paint.

    Meanwhile, the beginning stage of my first batch of soap made from deer fat is simmering out in the shed.

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  30. Sherri said on January 9, 2024 at 7:01 pm

    Bill Ackman’s latest defense of his wife is that the MIT Academic Integrity Handbook didn’t mention Wikipedia back when she wrote her dissertation. Which reminds me of a board member we had to remove because he was attacking a staff member personally on social media. We asked him to resign, and he refused, saying we didn’t have a social media policy. My response was we didn’t need a social media policy to expect our board members not to be assholes to staff.

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  31. Deborah said on January 9, 2024 at 8:14 pm

    How embarrassing to be Ackman’s wife, but then she’s probably a piece of work too.

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  32. Jeff Gill said on January 9, 2024 at 8:25 pm

    Weirder and weirder. Prostate cancer sure doesn’t sound like an elective surgery.

    Des Moines will be -1 come Caucus Night to start, with wind chill in the negative dozens. Which means . . . no idea.

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  33. Brandon said on January 10, 2024 at 2:03 am

    Interestingly, as a boy, he stumped for Kennedy in the school’s mock election, when he claimed that Nixon would keep school open on Saturdays.

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  34. Dexter Friend said on January 10, 2024 at 2:16 pm

    The Mahler piece towards the movie’s end had me choking them back it was so beautiful. I consider “Maestro” to be wonderful.

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