Poor Pam.

Did I mention I’m dog-sitting this week? Not at my house, theirs. It’s just a mile or so from my house, so it’s not a huge deal, but I’m sleeping over with the dogs, one of whom is an insulin-dependent diabetic, and the other a cute little shit who thinks his cuteness excuses his in-house shitting. But whatever, they’re not my dogs, I’m just here to take care of them. What else do I have to do?

These friends of mine have all the streaming services, so I’ve been watching a lot of TV. One this week was the Pamela Anderson documentary on Netflix, “Pamela: A Love Story.” I didn’t get all the way through, but I saw enough to gather the gist: This sweet girl was fed into the sex-symbol meat grinder, had a wide range of experiences related to that, and is now telling her story, her face scrubbed of makeup.

This is, I’m sorry to say, an old story. A while back I noticed that single women past the age of 50 have a strong tendency to have lots of pets, and that all these pets sleep in their beds, up to and including 80-pound pitbulls. At the same time I can’t help but notice that when sex symbols worldwide age out of the role, they will inevitably swear off men forever and get heavily into animal charities. Brigitte Bardot, case in point. Anderson is following the same path; she sold her Malibu house for $11 million, bought her childhood home and a lot of surrounding land, and now lives in Vancouver with her parents and, you guessed it, a lot of animals.

Her latest marriage, to a construction worker on her reno project in Vancouver, didn’t last. This is a theme.

Not that I am judging. One thing that becomes clear, watching this heavily documented life play out in archival video, photos and readings from her own detailed journals is, this is a woman in love with love and always willing to take a chance on it. Also, she didn’t manage her money all that well, and from time to time she needed to marry someone with enough to support her.

And here’s the other thing: What happened to her, a process in which she was a willing and sometimes eager participant, was equal parts wild ride and tragedy. You look at old photos of her, from her teen years, and she is unrecognizable as source material for the bleached, pneumatically boobed, polished, waxed, sculpted creation that came later. Here she is at the literal beginning of her modeling career, when she was spotted at a Canadian sporting event by the Labatt’s crowd cam:

So pretty, so wholesome, right? Then Playboy magazine invited her to come down to L.A. and meet Hef, and that was the beginning. Breast implants, natch. Peroxide-blonde hair, but of course. I have no idea how many surgeries and procedures she’s had to maintain it all, but I’d guess plenty. Still pretty, still more or less natural:

Then the upper lip expanded, the eyebrows were tweezed into a high arch, the ridiculous Baywatch swimsuit was glued to her body and pretty soon she was getting married to Tommy Lee on a beach in Cancun. All this time men are staring at her, exposing themselves to her, pawing her, and, needless to say, masturbating frantically to her image. When women say, later, how uncomfortable they were with this level of literal exposure, I always want to ask: What did you think would happen? Had you ever seen a copy of Playboy? Sometimes, anticipating these questions, women will say, “They made me feel beautiful, which had never happened to me before,” and OK, I guess I understand. Anderson’s first sexual experience was a rape, and that does a number on your head. But none of this is a secret, and none of it was a secret when Anderson was drawn into it. She’s absolutely right that the obsession with her breasts was ridiculous, underlined by clip after clip of some late-night talk-show host goggling at them. (You know what that tells me? We need more female late-night talk-show hosts.)

But I can’t go along 100 percent with the “it turns out Pam was a person all along” hype. Everybody is a person, but we sometimes forget it. I’m glad that today’s sex symbols have more of a voice in these things; Emily Ratajkowski is photographed naked and semi-naked all the time, but also published a book of essays called “My Body.” I didn’t read it, but it was pretty respectfully reviewed. She had the advantage of coming along 20 years later.

Once again, we learn that women are human beings, and we should treat them as such, at least until they demonstrate, over and over, that either they consider themselves far, far better than the rest of us, or that their personhood is not something they value all that much, or that they have taken it to places where it’s clear they’re actually inviting the world’s judgment. Hello, Madonna and your latest terrifying face:

That’s her daughter, of course, Kate’s former classmate at U-M. She saw her once on the bus, and remarked, “She sure is pretty.” Careful, Lourdes. That’s what they said about Pam Anderson.

So the week starts. A few more days here, then a Shadow Show gig at the end of it. Should be good.

Posted at 5:36 pm in Movies, Popculch | 59 Comments

What we talk about when we talk about ‘Tar.’

(Before I start talking about “Tar,” the film starring Cate Blanchett as a Leonard Bernstein-level celebrity conductor who gets #MeToo’d, I just want to note that yes, I know the a in her name should have a diacritical mark, but I’ve been dancing with the keyboard option menu for a while now and haven’t figured it out yet, so just be advised: Blanchett’s character is named Lydia Tar, with an acute accent mark over the A, but pfft.)

Anyway. We watched “Tar” Saturday night. Loved, loved, loved it. It was smart and talky and everything I love in a wintertime movie. As someone who finds Marvel movies boring, it’s exactly what I was looking for. But there’s a weird thing that happens about 2/3 of the way through, as the toppling of Tar (this is not a spoiler) really picks up speed, and if you have seen it — only if you’ve seen it — you might want to read this piece in Slate and tell me what you think.

But if you haven’t seen it, it’s absolutely worth your time, if only for the Juilliard master-class scene, in which Tar disposes of a conducting student who blithely dismisses Bach — Bach! — as a “misogynist” that he, as a “BIPOC pansexual” doesn’t have to pay attention to. He pronounces it “buy-pock,” like it’s an identity he picked out of an array on a shelf at some very chic boutique that he can’t give you the address for, and they wouldn’t let you in, anyway.

Those of us old enough to remember Bernstein probably know he was a sexual exploiter without peer, too. A friend of mine was at Indiana University when he did a residency in the music school there, and said Lenny ran through college boys like breath mints. They weren’t boys, of course, but young adults capable to consenting to sex, but as we all know by now, the power dynamic makes any sexual encounter between the two problematic, to say the least. It’s equally true that imbalanced-power-dynamic sexual relationships don’t always end in tears and misery. That needs to be said.

“Tar” is set in the tiny, rarified world of classical music, and the highest levels of even that world. So you get the experience of glimpsing an environment of super-luxe life that doesn’t involve Wall Street assholes, so: Win.

This, I thought, was the review that best reflects my reaction.

The highlight of my otherwise ordinary January weekend. We’re going out of town for a few days, leaving Wednesday, so I hope to have more to report by the end of the week. We’re headed to New York for…just to get away. I can’t afford Broadway anymore, so we’re going to a cabaret show by Salty Brine. We saw him in 2019 at Joe’s Pub, and it was one of the most inventive, imaginative, funny nights of theater I’ve experienced in ages. Other than that, my aim is to find a chopped cheese sandwich. Small goals.

Talk later.

Posted at 3:58 pm in Movies | 88 Comments


I don’t know when it happened, if it was them or me, but I’ve kinda lost my taste for NPR.

It’s been so long since I was a regular listener to commercial radio I can’t even remember — 35 years? Forty? A long time. Obviously nothing should stay frozen in time, especially not a journalism outlet. I don’t miss Bob Edwards, but I miss the personal essays they used to run. I miss the offbeat stories from corners of the world I’ll probably never visit. They’ve been replaced by sometimes painful, flop-sweaty pieces to satisfy someone’s diversity agenda, and what’s worse, they’ve elbowed out actual news.

The other day Alan remarked that one of the January 6 hearings had gotten 30 seconds in the top-of-the-hour news roundup, while a stupid feature on a group called the Lesbian Avengers had gone about eight minutes. What are the Lesbian Avengers? “…An organization that focuses on lesbian issues and visibility through humorous and untraditional activism.” Thanks, Wikipedia. Alan only remembers that they sometimes pass out Hershey’s Kisses with notes attached: “Smile, you’ve been kissed by a lesbian.”

OK, then. Today the story was about Brendan Fraser’s six-minute standing O at the Venice Film Festival, where his latest film debuted. Called “The Whale,” it’s (quoting from the NPR story):

…about a reclusive English teacher (Fraser) who weighs 600 pounds, and as he struggles with his health, tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter. A combination of prosthetics and CGI help Fraser as he portrays this character.

The first half of the story was about how beloved Fraser is, by fans and colleagues alike, and how recent years have been rough on him, for a variety of reasons. He’s had some health challenges, and gained weight, although nowhere near 600 pounds. Maybe 40. He’s no longer Hollywood-slender and matinee idol-handsome. He looks like a Green Bay Packers fan. So what, though. In Darren Aronofsky, he’s probably found the ideal director for his comeback. (Remember what he did for Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler.”) So why does the headline for this story read Why Brendan Fraser’s Hollywood comeback story is both warming hearts and raising ire, hmm?

Because an advocate for fat Americans is miffed, that’s why:

Indeed, critics have turned to social media to say that the movie’s premise is inherently dehumanizing. There’s a question of whether it should have been made at all.

Aubrey Gordon, an author and co-host of the Maintenance Phase, a podcast focused on debunking health fads, took to Twitter to call out the movie’s aim.

“It’s so telling that so many only see fat people as ‘humanized’ in media that shows us doing exactly what they expect: living short, small lives; ‘eating ourselves to death’; feeling sad & regretful. All reminders of how tragic it is to be fat, and how superior it is to be thin,” she wrote.

This kind of media just “reinforces viewers’ anti-fat bias,” she wrote.

Gordon is smart, and I’m with her on the inherent societal bias against obesity. (She’s fat, if you haven’t guessed.) Fat acceptance, sign me up. Different-size models in advertising? Yes, please. Fat doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy. But 600 pounds? Any way you slice it, that’s pretty damn unhealthy. One of the undone stories of my career, one I wanted to do for Bridge but left before I could put it together, was on super-obesity, those whose weight has passed the quarter-ton stage and suffer mightily as a result. I met a doctor who paid house calls on those patients, and told me what it leads to, i.e., a spiral. The bigger you are, the harder it is to move, the harder it is to move, the less you move. The less you move, the worse you feel. Which leads to more eating, weight gain, etc. Most of his patients that size were virtual shut-ins, afraid to get out much in the world, for all the reasons you can imagine. Needless to say, everything hurt, especially hips and knees.

Tommy Tomlinson is a gifted writer, a former columnist in Charlotte, married to a former colleague of mine in Fort Wayne. At his heaviest, he weighed 460 pounds, and his memoir, “The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America,” was full of excruciating detail about the million calculations one has to make when you’re that size: Will that chair hold me? Will any other furniture hold me? If I’m not sure, can I stand without social awkwardness? And so on. I read excerpts and felt not anti-fat bias, but deep empathy – we all have our addictions, our weaknesses, and the idea of seeing an actor as talented as Fraser bring this complicated emotional stew to life sounds pretty great to me.

I’m reminded of the backlash to “Fatal Attraction,” the way feminists hollered over the idea of a crazy spurned lover, that it dehumanized single women, etc. As a sane single woman at the time, I didn’t feel dehumanized.

So while I appreciate that NPR is stretching like Elastoman to include the fat person’s perspective, I think this is fairly ridiculous in this context, and if it weren’t for the musical weekends on WDET, I probably wouldn’t give them another dime. There’s a question of whether it should have been made at all! Mercy.

So, bloggage:

It was a pretty fun long weekend for us. We saw Kate play in both of her bands, at the Hamtramck Labor Day festival, and both performances were pretty great. The second band, the side project, is GiGi, which got a little ink ahead of the fest, and I had NO IDEA it had appeared, which shows where my head’s been of late.

A local theme park, Cedar Point, announced it was retiring one of its very edgy coasters, following the injury of a rider a couple years back. The park was not held responsible, for the record. I always thought there was a book in the development of a modern roller coaster. When I started taking Kate to Cedar Point, I was amazed at how high-tech and insanely scary they are, yet still (mostly) safe. They gave me heart palpitations just to look at them, honestly. But I’d read a book like that. Cedar Point, hire me! I’m a good explainer.

Finally, in the bottomless pit of indignities our former president has visited upon our land, here’s this: He tried to pay a lawyer – a Jones Day lawyer, no less! – with a horse.

That’s a good note to end on. Happy Wednesday.

Posted at 8:37 pm in Current events, Media, Movies | 49 Comments

The never-ending story.

Yesterday all there was to read on the internet were opinions about Will Smith and Chris Rock, whether or not one or both of them should have done what they did, et cetera to the blah-blah. It made me want to poke my eyes out, but instead I just closed the laptop. Went downstairs to make lunch. Alan was putting flies he’d tied into one of the nine million plastic boxes he keeps them in.

“You know what this reminds me of?” I said. “When newspapers had tons of money, and a million columnists, and every single one would write about the same thing, when something like this happened.”

“Such as?”

I told him: The Sports guys would turn it into a crack about some hot-headed coach – “Coach K looked like he was about to go Will Smith on his star player’s ass,” only he wouldn’t say ass because THIS IS A FAMILY NEWSPAPER, so he’d say “butt” and still have to fight for it.

In Features, where the prevailing voices were women, there’d be something about The Pain of Alopecia, or What Sort of Example is Will Smith Setting For His Children. If one of the columnists were black, there might be something bemoaning the legacy of violence between black men.

For Metro, those folks would write about going to a Boys & Girls Club, maybe, to take the temperature of the youth on the issue of the day. Would contain some comic relief: Some kid asking “who’s Willy Smith?,” etc.

The A section, Nation/World, would probably not have anything, unless they have some old-fart windbag who usually writes about Washington. His/Her point would be: What’s The World Coming To When We Spend So Much Time Talking About This Silliness While There’s A War Going On?

And then, on Thursday, the Entertainment pages drop, and those people would have to find a fresh take on a topic that was old on Tuesday morning, but I’m confident they would have come up with something.

I’m so glad not to be in that grind anymore.

As for Chris Rock and his joke, I think this piece, about Joan Rivers, best captures my feelings.

Twitter got better as the day went on:

Moving on, then.

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in an immersive remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” This woman worked for CBS News in recent memory:

It wasn’t long ago that Lara Logan was a correspondent for CBS News, which is a little hard to believe considering the types of conspiracy theories she’s been pushing since she left the network. The latest came during an appearance on the right-wing podcast “And We Know,” during which Logan suggested that the theory of evolution is the result of a wealthy Jewish family paying Charles Darwin to devise an explanation for what gave rise to humanity.

“Does anyone know who employed Darwin, where Darwinism comes from?” Logan, now with Fox News’ streaming service Fox Nation, asked. “Look it up: The Rothschilds. It goes back to 10 Downing Street. The same people who employed Darwin, and his theory of evolution and so on and so on. I’m not saying that none of that is true. I’m just saying Darwin was hired by someone to come up with a theory — based on evidence, OK, fine.”

Meanwhile, Actual News is happening elsewhere in our decaying democracy. No, it’s not Trump’s alleged hole in one. It’s this:

Internal White House records from the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol that were turned over to the House select committee show a gap in President Donald Trump’s phone logs of seven hours and 37 minutes, including the period when the building was being violently assaulted, according to documents obtained by CBS News’ chief election & campaign correspondent Robert Costa and The Washington Post’s associate editor Bob Woodward.

Have a nice day. I’m on to real work.

Posted at 10:25 am in Current events, Movies | 55 Comments

The cats of war.

God, modern war is weird.

I know I’m about 10 years late with this take — the Arab Spring uprisings are generally considered the first social-media wars — but there’s something about this one that hits different. Between the social media AND the propaganda AND the weeks-long buildup AND the real-time video and punditry and all the rest of it, it’s like watching a very strange movie with a participatory element.

I have not added a blue-and-yellow flag to my various avatars. Here’s my contribution: A week or so before this started, I bought four spots at a dining pop-up for us and another couple. The co-chef is a former student of mine and a talented journalist of Ukrainian lineage, who immigrated here as a boy, in fact. The original theme was Russia (I and the other couple are Russophiles, and have been talking about a trip there for a while) but after the invasion, it was changed to a tribute to Ukraine, a couple of courses changed, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to relief organizations. So now, instead of beef stroganoff for the main course, we’re having chicken Kiev, and if you suspect I am embarrassed to write that sentence, you are correct. We all do our parts. This is mine. And it feels very much of a piece with the strangeness of this war: Admire me, world, for I have posted a meme. Also, what’s your corkage fee?

I found this Twitter thread interesting:

A couple days ago I found a tweet that showed Ukrainian soldiers cuddling cats, allegedly rescued from the streets, wreckage, whatever. Two of the soldiers were women, and both were wearing makeup. Here’s one.

Maybe I don’t understand modern warfare, but I’d think a soldier doesn’t have time to worry about makeup when bombs are falling. Maybe they do. I’m not a veteran; maybe someone could explain.

I also want to talk about “Attica,” which I watched my last night on the road, when I had Showtime on my hotel TV. I checked in around 5 p.m. and by the time I turned out the light, I’d watched three-fourths of the Cosby series and “Attica,” although I was getting woozy toward the end and watched it again last night. Jesus Christ, what a difficult experience, but a searing one. I knew the basic outlines of the story, but not many of the details, and had never seen the photos, which were ghastly. It ain’t a Pixar flick, but if you are interested in racism and justice, it’s essential. Find a way to see it.

OK, then. Here comes Wednesday, and probably more cats-in-wartime photos.

Posted at 8:51 pm in Current events, Movies | 38 Comments

Stop the damn presses.

The January Uncluttering is complicated this year. We’re ripping up carpet, preparing to redo hardwood floors, and of course, still waiting on the Ukrainians to come redo two bathrooms. But it’ll get done. Pandemic time passes slowly, but it still runs one minute at a time. We’ve offloaded one large piece of furniture, with a second going later this week, fingers crossed. And last week I schlepped three boxes and one bag of books to the used bookstore in downtown Detroit, and left with $60 in store credit that I will probably give away because I have a teensy little problem with accumulating books.

The goal for 2022: Reduce. Become more nimble. Accomplish 10 percent of my Death Cleaning, but don’t actually die in the process.

For Christmas, I asked for very little, but I did receive two new books. Ha ha.

It was a newsy weekend hereabouts. Nothing like sitting down to eat on Saturday and learning the University of Michigan has fired — fired! — its president. It’s the usual reason: Improper relationship with an underling. From the looks of the emails released by the Board of Regents to justify the decision, looks like someone fairly close to the office, an assistant or scheduler or something. Once again, I am amazed at how a man smart enough to have a million degrees, a medical scientist earning more than $900K a year running a major university, is too dumb to conduct a fling anywhere other than his work email. I mean, there are literal apps for this. There’s Gmail, for crying out loud. The mind boggles.

Then there was the volcanic explosion in the Pacific, which was just…daaaammmmnn. The time-lapse satellite views made it look like a bomb, which of course it was, albeit a natural one. Nature always wins, a lesson we’ll learn yet again, one day. One of the books I got for Christmas was “Under the Wave at Waimea,” Paul Theroux’s surfing novel, where several chapters take place in weird, impoverished Pacific island nations like Tonga. This won’t help the local economy, but maybe the influx of researchers will.

I woke up this morning, and read about a fight at a local steakhouse, and not a cheap one. An unruly patron pulled a knife and stabbed a security guard, and the security guard pulled a gun and shot him to death. And so you see where we the phrase “don’t bring a knife to a gun fight” comes from.

Detroit. Never a dull moment.

And finally, there was this:

I have no more words. No, I have these: Boy, he really sounds like an old man, doesn’t he?

Entertainment notes: If you have Apple TV, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” is absolutely worth your time, a taut, expertly staged and acted production. Sets, score, costumes, photography, etc., all first-rate, and accomplished in under two hours, hallelujah. If you struggle with Elizabethan dialogue, try turning on closed captions, which did the trick for us.

Is that all? I think so. Supposed to be warmer this week, but gray. So what, I’ll take it.

Posted at 4:25 pm in Current events, Movies | 62 Comments

One star.

I forgot to tell you guys about our Friday evening over the weekend. The three of us went to see “House of Gucci,” and for Alan and me, it was our first trip to see a movie in a theater since the pandemic. The movie was just OK — more on that in a minute — but the experience of watching it in the theater was? Awful.

No wonder everyone is trying to short AMC stock. The whole experience was interminable and expensive.

If you’re going to a movie these days, especially a first-run movie the first weekend it’s open, you should expect to pay the top price, but holy shit — $14 per ticket, and that’s the beginning. Popcorn — two small popcorns, mind you — were $16. They were salty, so we got three beers to carry in. $35, plus tip. We’re now t $100 for three people to see a movie.

Showtime: 6 p.m. The previews start, and keep going. And going, and going. They ran for 25 minutes, followed by five minutes of turn-off-your-phone spots and a long one featuring Nicole Kidman, extolling the experience of seeing a movie in a theater. The movie finally started at 6:30. It was nearly two and a half hours, which meant we were there for three.

And it wasn’t very good. The short version: Everybody speaks in a mamma-mia-that’s-a-spicy-meatball accent, which somewhat obscures the clunky dialogue but doesn’t obscure that the movie is too long, verges on camp, veers wildly in tone and, most appallingly, is a movie about a fashion house that contains hardly any fashion.
Although Lady Gaga looks great and that’s about all I can say about it.

See it yourself if you want; maybe you’ll love it.

But enough about my petty complaints. Today we had a school shooting in exurban suburbia. Three dead so far, eight injured, including a teacher. It’s going to be a brutal few days, and I’m not looking forward to it. Who would?

Random France photo, on a government building. As national mottos go, it’s a good one:

Posted at 8:38 pm in Movies, Popculch | 45 Comments

No sympathy.

People tell me I need to be empathetic, to meet people where they are, to not give up hope for our divided country. Then I read something like this, a comment Dexter left in the last thread:

When a farmer at his roadside vegetable stand began chatting small talk to me last August, he began loudly with all Trump supporters’ talk. “We all know Trump is our President”, and every other point, to the point, even, that the Covid19 is a hoax. I paid him for my goods and just wanted away from this maniac. I told him calmly of Carla Lee’s death from Covid19. “You mean she had the FLU!!!” he blurted out.

I found another place to buy my sweet corn. The gall that bastard showed, just after telling me he was a lay preacher in several little churches there.

And then I think: Nah, fuck these turd-juggling idiots.

I just read this in the NYT, which I am confident that farmer does not read. This is David Leonhardt writing here:

(The Covid vaccines) proved so powerful, and the partisan attitudes toward them so different, that a gap in Covid’s death toll quickly emerged. I have covered that gap in two newsletters — one this summer, one last month — and today’s newsletter offers an update.

The brief version: The gap in Covid’s death toll between red and blue America has grown faster over the past month than at any previous point.

In October, 25 out of every 100,000 residents of heavily Trump counties died from Covid, more than three times higher than the rate in heavily Biden counties (7.8 per 100,000). October was the fifth consecutive month that the percentage gap between the death rates in Trump counties and Biden counties widened.

And I am thinking very cruel thoughts right now, which I am not proud of, but honestly, what else can you do with people like this? A guy I know has a number of doctor friends who serve rural areas in Michigan’s Thumb, and hears this stuff all the time. “I’m sorry, but your father has Covid and we’re putting him on a ventilator.” “Daddy has the FLU, there ain’t no COVID!” You can lead a horse to water, etc.

How was everybody’s weekend? Mine was fine. Watched two movies — “Pig” and “The Green Knight,” as different as can be, but both worth watch, although I don’t recommend the second after a full meal and a couple glasses of wine. It’s…strange and contemplative. But beautiful. And “Pig” is similarly unexpected in almost every way. Good to see Alex Wolff, half of the Naked Brothers Band, which Kate used to watch on Nickelodeon. We also went out to a Detroit News farewell for one of Alan’s old colleagues, and that was nice. I also re-upped staples at Costco. Good to know we’re entering winter with all the laundry detergent we’ll ever need.

And it’s a beautiful day. What more can you ask of a Monday?

Another random France picture, below, of a volume of foot-fetish photography we spotted at a flea market, along with my own foot, which would not pass muster with Elmer Batters because I stop using nail polish after Labor Day. But it was published by Taschen, known for their outre subject matter and superior photo reproduction. The price started at 10 Euro, and immediately dropped to five. Reader, we bought it, shlepped it home and now it sits on our coffee table. It’s porny in places, but honestly, almost all the attention really is paid to feet. Foreward by Dian Hanson, described by her ex-boyfriend Robert Crumb as “sort of an Albert Schweitzer of filthy perverts.”

Posted at 9:12 am in Current events, Movies | 49 Comments

Losing it.

The boat launch went fine, thanks for asking. It was freezing — mid-40s — but ah well. The marina is under new ownership, and have deprived the main guy who handles this, Pete, of his assistant, so I had to be there. But no major mishaps.

While Pete and I were pulling the mast this way and that so Alan could attach the shrouds, we talked a little bit about this phase of life. (We’re all the same age, give or take.) He said he and his wife had unloaded a big house on a very nice street, and were now living aboard their boat at the same marina, and liking it more than they ever thought they would.

A big part of it, he emphasized, was “getting rid of all our shit.”

I thought of this while some of you were talking in comments about your own shit, or your parental shit, or all the other shit that gets dumped on you as you age. Pete said nothing felt as good as personal shit-liquidation, selling all the furniture and gewgaws and collectibles and other stuff that once seemed so important. Watching it go out of the house during the estate sale, he said, was liberating. “You don’t know how tied down you are until you get rid of it,” he said.

Caitlin Flanagan, a writer I often find myself at odds with, watched “Nomadland” recently and came up with this observation:

The make-or-break moment for the viewer is right at the top; if you’re the kind of brute who doesn’t enjoy watching a woman in late middle age poke around her storage unit, you should take your leave. Personally, I could have watched an entire movie on that subject alone. You spend your whole life accumulating things, and then they end up in a storage unit, slowly losing their charge of sentiment and memory and transforming into a bunch of junk. Fern is there to pick out what she will bring with her on the journey. In the end, she chooses the least practical thing of all: a box of china, white with a pattern of red leaves on the rim. That’s not the last of that china I’ll be seeing, I thought to myself, and I was spot-on.

Since Alan stopped working, I’ve been on my own smaller-scale shit-liquidation purge, and I’m making progress. Last week I dragged pretty much all my Fort Wayne ephemera to the curb, including all my newspaper clips and, comically, my journalism awards. I saved some photographs, but will probably go through those and pitch a lot of them, too.

But some things cry not yet. The doll bed I played with as a child and Kate, not so much — I can’t get rid of it yet. Some of her crib bedding, ditto. A couple of her favorite stuffed animals.

And god, so many books. Books are one of those things you’re supposed to be happy to purge, but after I cleaned up the basement enough to make it my pandemic gym, I shelved and dusted all the books down there and thought: Can’t get rid of these. I love many of them too much. But on the same shelf are many 78 RPM records from Alan’s dad’s collection, and god knows why we still have those.

For the next move, I guess we’ll grapple with all of this. For now, I’ll settle for slimming down.

Speaking of female writers I often find myself at odds with, do you know how much it pains me to say, “Mona Charen is right?” A lot. And yet:

Today, we stand on the precipice of the House Republican conference ratifying this attempt to subvert American democracy. They are poised to punish Liz Cheney for saying this simple truth: “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.” In her place, they will elevate Iago in heels, Elise Stefanik, whose claim to leadership consists entirely of her operatic Trump followership.

Let’s be clear: The substitution of Stefanik for Cheney is a tocsin, signaling that the Republican party will no longer be bound by law or custom. In 2020, many Republican office holders, including the otherwise invertebrate Pence, held the line. They did not submit false slates of electors. They did not decertify votes. They did not “find” phantom fraud. But the party has been schooled since then. It has learned that the base—which is deluded by the likes of Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Mark Levin—believes the lies and demands that Republicans fight. As my colleague Amanda Carpenter put it, the 2024 mantra is going to be “Steal It Back.”

If Cheney must be axed because she will not lie, then what will happen if Republicans take control of Congress in 2022 and are called upon to certify the Electoral College in 2024? How many Raffenspergers will there be? How many will insist, as Pence did, that they must do what the Constitution demands? How many will preserve any semblance of the rule of law and the primacy of truth?

Well, if we have to flee, I hope Canada will take us. If not, Mexico is warmer and has livelier food. And there’s always Europe, although I don’t think they can accommodate that many refugees. Maybe we’ll stay here and be the resistance. Works for me.

Happy Wednesday. A pic in parting, as another boating season begins:

Posted at 4:02 pm in Current events, Movies, Same ol' same ol', Stuff reduction | 77 Comments

Packing those bags.

News comes this morning that the E.U. will be allowing vaccinated tourists this summer, which means it’s time for the Derringers to start planning the inaugural post-retirement mega-vacation, i.e., a month in France, likely this fall. I did some peeking around VRBO in Paris and found about what I expected — plenty of inventory, not a lot of bargains, but hey, no one ever said the city of lights was cheap.

But you know what? I don’t care. My high-school class Facebook page has a disturbing number of obits lately, and then with the loss of David? I’m heavy into fuck-this mode, let’s go to France.

We may only do two weeks in Paris, however. Suggestions for the other two weeks are welcome. I’m thinking Lyon or somewhere on the Mediterranean coast.

A weekend that was a mix of relaxing and productive. I got started on another book (“The Committed,” the sequel to “The Sympathizer,” which I read last month), and stopped to think what a miracle it is, because from roughly 2016 to 2020 I could barely concentrate on anything long enough to sink into a good novel. I don’t keep count of these things, but this year I’m clipping right along.

Didn’t watch the Oscars, either. I just peeked at one of those best/worth-looks roundups, however. I can give a big thumbs up to Lakeith Stanfield’s Parisian nightsuit (“Freaks & Geeks” reference there for those in the know), and sigh deeply over Frances McDormand. Great actor, I love her honest-face anti-glam aesthetic, but lordy, I am writing this post-workout, with my head-sweat drying in a frizzy mess, and can honestly say that my hair looks better than hers did last night.

There’s a line, Frances. You crossed it. But you’re a winner-winner, so hey, chicken dinner.

I have absolutely no opinion on Chadwick Boseman, other than: He died too soon.

That said, I think I will jump into the shower and fix my hair. Frances, you do the same.

Posted at 8:58 am in Current events, Movies | 67 Comments