Fandom.

If Nance is in the kitchen making deviled eggs, cucumber sandwiches and chocolate cream pie, it can only mean one thing:

She is invited to a “Mad Men” viewing party, and needs period snacks to bring to the potluck. But surely deviled eggs are outdated by now in the series, right? We’re into 1969, Megan’s making fondue, and deviled eggs and WASPy little sandwiches are too Betty-in-season-two. However? I don’t care. Deviled eggs are tasty, so deviled eggs it is.

But I put in extra dijon, a mustard that didn’t exist even in sophisticated Megan Draper’s refrigerator, I’d wager. Gotta update.

I am looking forward to this season, but I am not optimistic. I want the holy-shit verve of season 5, not the bourbon-soaked ennui of 1968. If this is Matthew Weiner’s idea of a slow glide to the finish, I will be pissed. Vince Gilligan may have written the manual on how to go out in style with “Breaking Bad.” Weiner may not have it in him. After all, he made his own kid a minor player in this ensemble.

Soon it will be time for me to jump in the shower, so let’s bloggage it up:

This is a developing story, so I may update the link: Someone’s shooting at …elderly Jews? Why? At least they got this one alive. I guess more will be revealed.

One of my social-media connections described going out to a restaurant Saturday night and seeing a couple of mother-daughter pairs, dressed identically in skin-tight this and stiletto that. Chances are, they were headed for the Palace, to the Miley Cyrus concert. She entered on a slide shaped like a tongue and exited on a flying hot dog. And she earned thousands and thousands of dollars doing so. That’s entertainment! Mercy:

“Drive,” aided by an arsenal of lasers, was a power moment, where her vocals took center stage over production tricks, and she dropped the stunts and let her voice carry a set of covers performed at a B-stage in the back of the arena, taking on Bob Dylan (“You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”), Lana del Rey (“Summertime Sadness”), Coldplay (“The Scientist”) and Dolly Parton (“Jolene”). She returned to the main stage for “23,” the one song of the night that felt expendable. But she was soon on to her killer encore, which packed “We Can’t Stop,” “Wrecking Ball” and “Party in the USA” – complete with dancing versions of Mount Rushmore, the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan — back-to-back-to-back.

Speaking of “Mad Men,” I think Andy Greenwald gets it right.

And another action-packed week begins.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch, Television | 27 Comments
 

He kneaded her.

Something I learned today: “…the rear end is a repository for lactic acid buildup from all kinds of leg injuries.”

I had no idea. You never know what reading a lengthy, deep-dive story about a skeevy sex abuser of teens will turn up. It’s about a Mr. Clean Marine super-Christian ex-baseball player from West Michigan, Chad Curtis, who ended up — I know you will be as astonished by this as I was — to be a guy who basically wanted to paw teenage girls, and did, quite successfully. The fact nugget about lactic acid in the buttocks was offered at his trial as justification for why he had to knead the rumps of the girls he was doing “sports massage” on.

It’s a pretty icky story. I fear for women, even teenage girls, who will lie under the hands of a man who is clearly assaulting them and say nothing, because he’s such a good Christian, this can’t possibly be wrong. What are we failing to teach them? Or is this just the dark side of being female, with our self-effacement and pleasing others and other essential life skills? And of course there is this:

He asks if I’m familiar with the show Pretty Little Liars. He says he prays daily for his teenage accusers, all of whom had similar athletic builds and All-American good looks. He says all he was doing in that locked, windowless, dungeon-like training room was helping those girls recover from sports injuries. He says he took the same all-out approach to treating sports injuries as he did to playing baseball — “whether it was running into an outfield wall or breaking up a double play.”

As for why the girls thought otherwise, and accused him of touching their rear ends, breasts and, in one case, genitals, he doesn’t want to speculate: “I’ve been really discouraged by how often and how wrong people have assumed my motivations, so I’ll extend them that same courtesy,” he says.

He doesn’t mention that not a single boy testified to having gone down to the trainer’s room for similar treatment.

Yeesh.

Let’s skip through that ordeal, shall we? Did we all have a pleasant Tuesday? I did. There was work, and a dog walk, and kale for lunch, and two helpings of beans. I believe I will regret the second one. Swam most of a mile, and my “most” I mean in five more minutes I’d have broken that tape. Yay me. I read this, which is quite stirring and sobering in equal measure.

I spent the evening with Tom & Lorenzo. They’re so right about the Cambridges, especially Cathy’s silly hat (but fab coat). Lena Dunham, do you even own a comb? And Nicole Kidman, what are you doing with my dress? Box it up and send it to ME. Also, I wish Leslie Mann would just go away. Stop trying to make Leslie Mann happen, Judd Apatow! She’s not funny and looks like a stringy old chicken. Surely the Hollywood Wives Full Employment Act can find her a position where she isn’t actually in the movies.

Excuse me, but I spent the day looking at data. I need to spend the evening looking at frocks.

Posted at 5:54 am in Current events, Popculch | 43 Comments
 

Trolling.

I don’t think it’s any secret that most people who write for a living eventually want to write books. At least one, anyway. There’s something about that ISDN ISBN number that says: Ah, immortality.

But alas, it seems your best shot at author-hood these days is to be a troll. From Amy Chua to the Princeton Mom, the path to success is: Needle the shit out of people. Chua:

The “triple package” is touted as the combination of magic ingredients that enable certain ethnic groups to achieve extraordinary success in modern America. Chua and Rubenfeld identify three key qualities: a superiority complex, a sense of insecurity and “impulse control”.

It should not surprise you to learn that both Chua and her husband, who is Jewish, both come from certain ethnic groups that achieve extraordinary success in modern America. They just want to help! As to the Princeton Mom, aka Susan Patton, well, she’s a real piece of work:

“Marry Smart” (which Patton plans to follow with Parent Smart and Work Smart) advocates starting the husband-search during the college years. Its advice ranges from practical (“plan for your personal happiness with the same commitment and dedication that you plan for your professional success”) to old-fashioned (“it’s the lonely cow that gives away free milk”) to charmingly kooky (an ode to her “lifelong imaginary friend” Caroline Kennedy) to shockingly offensive (a chapter entitled “Birds of a Feather” denounces interracial and interfaith relationships). She also questions the legitimacy of date rape. “‘Date rape’ is like ‘politically correct,’” Patton tells me, as she holds out a bone for Lucille. “Either something is correct or it isn’t. Saying something is ‘politically correct’ is like saying you ‘almost won.’ You ‘almost won’? That means you lost.”

What helpful advice for young women. What a penetrating, forward-thinking insight for a rapidly diversifying culture. What crap.

Oh, but why start the weekend off on a sour note? My workplace officially moves to the D today, it’s Pi Day, and there’s no reason not to spend some time thinking about, oh, the missing Malaysian 777, for instance, which now could be en route to Mars, for all the rest of us know.

The search for a missing Malaysian jetliner with 239 people on board could expand west into the Indian Ocean based on information that the plane may have flown for four more hours after it dropped from radar, U.S. officials said Thursday.

A senior American official said the information came from a data stream sent directly by engines aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. If the two engines on the Boeing 777 functioned for up to four additional hours, that could strengthen concern that a rogue pilot or hijacker took control of the plane early Saturday over the Gulf of Thailand.

The sea is so, so big. Who knows where the thing is?

As to the Ban Bossy movement, I have nothing profound to say, only that any writer who voluntarily gives up standard language ought to get their card pulled. What a waste of time. Maybe that’s Sheryl Sandberg’s next book.

Finally, I bid you all a great weekend. I think I will…pine for spring.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch | 71 Comments
 

Here’s looking at you.

It’s difficult to write about not being beautiful. It’s so easy to sound envious. Or self-pitying. People want to leap to your defense: Yes, you are! You’re a beautiful person! That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking physical beauty, the kind that gets you voted Hot rather than Not, the mathematic formulas that make up the perfect proportions of your body parts. I’m not talking about making the best of what you’ve got. I’m talking gorgeousness that comes from being kissed by the angels.

I’ve probably told this story before: Sometime in maybe week three of the Princess Diana Worldwide Mourning Tour, I wrote a column suggesting maybe, just maybe, the world had gone a little nuts and it might be a good time to step back and ask ourselves what, exactly, we were so upset about. A reader responded in a letter: “I wonder if you wrote that because you are envious of the attention Princess Diana is getting, because you are so plain.” This is what people think un-beauty is worth: That it makes you envy the dead. The beautiful dead, anyway.

Another story I’ve probably told before: Once, many years ago, I attended a horse show with a friend at the time, one blessed with the whole package — tall, slim, lovely,  great eyes. The show was at a hunt club in Snootyville, and I was happily surprised to find people were anything but. It was a gray, chilly, drizzly day, and we were watching one class at ringside, next to a large pickup truck parked at the rail. The door opened. “Would you ladies like a warmer seat?” the man inside said, inviting us in. My friend took the front seat and I slid into the back. It was a minute before I realized the man behind the wheel, now paying a great deal of attention to my friend, was judging the class. In the middle of doing a job he was being paid for, he’d taken the time to offer aid to the leggy beauty out in the rain. Her, and her less-attractive friend.

It was like that all day — merchants gave us close, helpful attention in the sales tents, the waiter at the restaurant where we ate lunch performed outstanding service with a smile. It took hours before I realized Snootyville was so welcoming not because we were wrong about the place, but because one of us had the sort of face and body that just makes people…nicer.

Over the years, I’ve seen great-looking women get extra everything — attention, praise, career advancement, and as to this last, I stand firm. I’ve seen it happen so many times I simply won’t argue it anymore. It happens, and it happens a lot.

If Princess Diana had led the exact same life she did, but looked like Princess Anne, would the world have collapsed in mourning her death? Would Sarah Palin be known outside Alaska if her looks hadn’t bewitched Bill Kristol? Do we even have to ask these questions?

Being born beautiful is like being born with a great deal of money. Like money, beauty comes with its own problems, but they’re problems anyone with the opposite set of problems would trade for. A gorgeous woman may complain that she never really knows if a man likes her for her, or for her face and body. The next time someone says this, suggest she go to a plastic surgeon and have some lumps of fat added to her thighs, or a bump to her nose, or maybe she could just shave her head or put on 35 pounds. Ha ha! Will never happen. You probably couldn’t even find a doctor who’d do such a thing.

Which brings me to Kim Novak, again. As much as I liked Farran Smith Nehme’s excellent take on the pathetic sight of Novak, now 81, showing up at the Oscars with her wrecked face, a tiny part of me was not kind. Poor pretty lady isn’t pretty anymore and can’t stand it, boo fucking hoo. If you’re invited to the Oscars at 81, you show up in a nice dress and you read from the cards, because if you can’t get over yourself by 81, what’s the use of anything?

But then I read Laura Lippman’s equally excellent take on Novak, on faces of both genders, on the way we see and don’t see ourselves.

I am generally unhappy with all photographs of myself these days. I look older, fatter, messier than I am in my head. When I pick up my iPad or iPhone, the reflection I see in those devices makes me shudder.

…Yes, beauty isn’t exactly my stock in trade and I am only a semi-public person. I am ridiculous. So all I could think was, God love you, Kim Novak. We criticize women for aging. We criticize women for not aging. We criticize women’s bodies. We criticize women for bad plastic surgery.

You know who doesn’t get criticized? People who look great and pretend they’ve never had surgery. Come on, someone must be getting terrific results or no one would do this. I wish that every person who walks a red carpet was annotated or wore a label, detailing exactly how much work they’ve had done. Not to shame them, quite the opposite. We need to stop lying about how people age. We need to own our Botox, our fillers, our nose jobs, our liposuction. Remember that crazy alibi in Legally Blonde, when the fitness guru accused of murder was getting liposuction and would rather go to jail than admit it? That happens in real life. Not the alibi, but the lipo.

I’m with Laura that we should probably all ease up on ourselves, starting with Kim Novak. But I’d like to reserve the right to be a little judgey about those of you were were kissed by the angels. I’d like you to come out and say, Yep, I’m very lucky, and I got that promotion because I batted my baby blues at my boss and he liked the shape of my ass. You probably deserved that job. Sorry-not-sorry. The friend who went with me to the horse show? She married her way richer boss. I found her on Facebook a while ago, a little wrinkled, a touch of gray, but with the same killer cheekbones. Lucky.

So, some bloggage:

What’s it like to walk across eight miles of Lake Michigan ice to North Manitou Island? It’s like this. Great photos.

What I said the other day about appreciating fashion as art? One aspect is how it relates to the times in which it is made. A good piece on the fashions of the 1930s.

Finally, Charles Pierce on Sarah Palin. A gas.

A long entry for what promises to be a long week. Expect scantiness later. We shall see, but onward we go.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch | 54 Comments
 

The old man.

For some reason I found myself reading the cover story in the current issue of Rolling Stone, about Justin Bieber. I managed to avoid Bieber more or less entirely; he either fell just outside of Kate’s teen-idol sweet spot, or she never had one at all. (I suspect the latter; smart girl.)

Anyway, he’s really terra incognita, so I read nearly all of this stupid story (no link; firewall), pegged to his recent screwups. And it was sort of fascinating, with many rich details of what you might call Graceland Life, that zone that rich entertainers and sports stars can afford to live in, surrounded by yes-men and layers of lawyers, managers, fixers and others who make unpleasantness go away. I learned that Bieber carried $75,000 in small bills, packed in two duffel bags — carried by underlings — to distribute to strippers’ G-strings at a Miami club. A photo array in the article featured a devastating headline: “The Wolf of Sesame Street.”

And I learned that many trace this arrested infant’s current spiral to the re-entry of his once-estranged father into his life. Pa Bieber, a brawler, recovering addict and all-around swell guy, has taken his place in the charmed circle.

And that reminded me of something I read over the weekend, a book excerpt about Lance Armstrong. A chunk of it concerned J.T. Neal, Armstrong’s first real mentor, who served as guess-what to him in the early days of his career:

Neal’s first impression was that the kid’s ego exceeded his talent. Armstrong was brash and ill-mannered, in desperate need of refinement. But the more he learned of Armstrong’s home life, the sorrier Neal began to feel for him. He was a boy without a reliable father. Linda Armstrong wrote in her 2005 autobiography that she was pleased that her son had found a responsible male role model, and that Neal had lent a sympathetic ear to her while she dealt with the rocky transition between marriages.

Neal soon recognized that Armstrong’s insecurities and anger were products of his broken family: He felt abandoned by his biological father and mistreated by his adoptive one.

Neal, ironically, was diagnosed with cancer around the same time Armstrong was. But he didn’t survive. And that reminded me of Pete Dexter’s several stories about Cus D’Amato, the boxing trainer, who made Mike Tyson into a profoundly dangerous heavyweight fighter, and then died, leaving the 19-year-old bereft and at the top of a very fast ride straight down. A father figure who left before the job was done.

Fathers. They’re so important. I bet Jeff could write a few million words about that one.

Yesterday we were talking a bit about music, yes? Their albums — especially “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” — were part of the soundtrack of the ’70s, but I haven’t given Little Feat much thought, so I read this Slate piece on the band with some interest. I don’t know if I’m down with the first sentence; “the most underrated band of the ’70s,” really? But what the hell, it’s just pop music.

I wasn’t entirely convinced, but there were some good memories in those video links. “Willin’,” I told someone the other day, is the trucker song America was too stupid, and too busy making “Convoy” a smash hit, to appreciate.

And while it may seem the long way around, I followed a link in the piece to a Rolling Stone reader poll on the best live albums of all time. Just to see what the other nine were. And when I saw that “Frampton Comes Alive” was included by not the J. Geils Band’s “Full House,” well, that’s when I knew what a Rolling Stone reader poll is worth: NOTHING.

Some people I knew in Indiana would have an annual party in honor of Lloyd Lowell George, Little Feat’s founder, who died young. While Peter Frampton yet lives. I ask you.

And now we come to the end of the week. I’m headed out tonight to see a friend and former student play in his new band at the Lager House, one of those Detroit institutions. The band is called Clevinger, named for the character in “Catch-22.” It’s been so long since I’ve read the book I can’t remember, so I asked Wikipedia to tell me about Clevinger:

“A highly principled, highly educated man who acts as Yossarian’s foil within the story. His optimistic view of the world causes Yossarian to consider him to be a ‘dope,’ and he and Yossarian each believe the other is crazy.”

One piece of bloggage: If the Detroit Tigers can replace an entire goddamn baseball field’s worth of grass in the depths of this winter, why can’t we send a manned mission to Mars? Surely it can’t be that hard.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, Popculch | 50 Comments
 

Up and down the dial.

One of the presets on my car radio abruptly changed format a few weeks ago. To country. Because it’s too depressing to see what’s become of commercial radio in search of another, I left it there and commenced one of my every-few-years anthropological examinations of the strange world of country music.

It lasted about two days, and alas, wasn’t very surprising. Like so much pop music, it sounds like it’s written by a robot and recorded by an ad agency, the better to shorten the trip between the radio and the beer and/or truck commercials they all seem to be written for.

I do find country music refreshing, for about 15 minutes. I’ve always enjoyed it as a form of pop music that deals with adult problems and concerns, from the Pill to D-I-V-O-R-C-E. But of course, those songs are 40 years old now. The stuff I heard this week was mostly, as I said, good-time ditties about drinkin’ beer and drivin’ trucks, and sometimes self-reflective self-pity about farmin’ and America. Nashville lyricists do have a way with words, though — rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey, a little bit of whiskey makes my baby frisky, etc. But otherwise, it was a little like visiting Real America. I may be a citizen, but I don’t feel at home there.

A colleague of mine used to do this comedy routine at lunch sometimes: Stevie Wonder struggles to write “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” the treacle that announced to the world that “Innervisions” and “Songs in the Key of Life” were well in the past. He’d do Stevie at the piano, tearing his hair out: “I just called to say…what? Let’s have lunch? What’s happening? I know! I love you!”

That’s country music these days, alas. Obvious, dumb, beer, trucks.

Or maybe I’m just not tuned into the right station.

Bloggage today? Here’s a compare-and-contrast to show you what a good writer and a bad one can do with the same subject matter — Mitch Albom and Ta-Nehisi Coates. It’s embarrassing.

I’d have more, but in my scans tonight, I can’t find a headline that doesn’t start with “5 Ways,” “8 Ways” or “How  X Happened, And Why You Should Care.” God, sometimes I hate the internet.

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch | 70 Comments
 

The singing dogs.

A friend of mine here has a truly encyclopedic record collection, and when we were chatting online about the Westminster dog show, he recollected a garage-sale find of many years back, an album of songs about dogs. Children’s music, mind you, not country-western weepers about a latter-day Ol’ Yeller. Did he have any on MP3? But of course. Enjoy the one about terriers:

(No, it’s not as good as this one, I fear.)

And you dachshund lovers do the same:

So. I wish I had more to report today, but it was one of those. Woke up to -5 temperatures, which at this point is just one of those OK-so-no-early-dog-walk days. It was sunny, though. Just have to white-knuckle it through to Saturday, after which: Photo posts only next week. I will try to make them interesting photos, but no promises. I know I had time off only two months ago, but I’m feeling the need for this one — not to get away from work, but to get away from winter. I know you understand.

That said, there’s still some good stuff to share.

My friend Dave Jones, doing a pretty standard Winter Olympics column (hey dudes, figure skating isn’t so bad), which nevertheless has some very funny moments:

Even when the women aren’t classically beautiful, they are interesting looking. I mean, from what world is Meryl Davis? Were she only born 40 years before, Gene Roddenberry surely would have signed her for a single episode to be one of those women Captain Kirk used to fall in love with when he beamed down to warring planets and they’d look into each other’s eyes and the soundtrack would turn to quavering fifth-octave mellotron. Meryl Davis is evidence we are not alone.

And finally, an ad for a personal-care product. I’ll say no more. I’ll just lay it down on the table and …slip out of the room.

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch, Uncategorized | 46 Comments
 

The end of an overly perfumed era.

Perhaps it’s because I’m from Columbus and always found the words on The Limited’s shopping bags silly (New York Paris London) or perhaps it’s because I once interviewed the company’s CEO without a single PR person in the room, but I always will read stories about its business empire.

And while I believe Abercrombie & Fitch was formally spun off a while ago, it found its contemporary life as an arm of The Limited. Also, its CEO is a crackpot plastic-surgery addict control freak whose business life virtually sprouts good stories. So I read this one in New York magazine this week, pegged to the fact the thrill is gone. Sales are down, and the mojo that used to work doesn’t work anymore. Alas, Mike Jeffries, aforementioned CEO:

Above all, Jeffries, who was once married but is now openly gay, sought to sell an image of American beefcake sexuality as he saw it: a world of hairless, amply muscled men tussling in a pastoral Eden. That this world was so highly homoeroticized—the roughhousing in the catalogues seemed perpetually on the point of turning into a full-on orgy—is one of the most poignant ironies of his success. He was persuading straight jock teenagers to buy into a gay man’s fantasy of a jock utopia.

The story isn’t vicious. While frank about Jeffries’ many eccentricities and jerkishness, you’re left more with a picture of Puff the magic dragon after Jackie Paper stopped coming around, as rendered in American boardrooms. He’s been stripped of much of his power and, at 69, appears to be waiting for the ax to fall on his blonde-dyed head. But it was such fun (for him) while it lasted!

In many ways, Jeffries’s most impressive accomplishment was not the signature Abercrombie style but the signature Abercrombie attitude, with its bluntly brash appeal. As one former employee put it, “The only bad news was no news. Controversy was what you wanted.” Consequently, the list of PR disasters past and present is too lengthy to fully detail, but the more notable flare-ups include the following: the quickly recalled line of Asian-themed T-shirts, which featured men in rice-paddy hats and cartoonishly slanted eyes; a line of thongs, marketed to girls as young as 10, with the words wink-wink on the crotch; an issue of A&F Quarterly that included a user’s guide to having oral sex in a movie theater; and the disingenuous joke-apology to critics that appeared in the same periodical in 2003: “If you’d be so kind, please offer our apologies to the following: the Catholic League, former Lt. Governor Corrine Wood of Illinois, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Stanford University Asian-American Association, N.O.W.”

Ha ha ha. Come back, Jackie Paper:

But sensibilities have since evolved; casual prejudice is not as readily tolerated. Today’s teens are no longer interested in “the elite, cool-kid thing” to the extent that they once were, says Gordon, the Michigan professor. “This generation is about inclusiveness and valuing diversity. It’s about not looking down on people.”

I’m sure he has a nice retirement to look forward to, and plenty of money for botox.

My sister did some business with the Limited, back when she was selling phone systems. The headquarters were in an enormous building, with cafeterias scattered throughout, each one decorated with advertising images from a particular brand under the corporate umbrella. The guys she worked with always wanted to eat in the Victoria’s Secret canteen.

So, how are you spending the week? Olympics, yes of course, but is anyone watching Westminster? I am. I could watch those dogs trot up and back all day. And who is the winner in this house? Wendy with the crooked leg, Jack Russell Terrier No. 1.

Not much other bloggage today, although this story about a heroin overdose in Wisconsin broke my heart.

Supposed to be close to zero tonight. Keep those fleece jeans out, I guess.

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch | 51 Comments
 

Don’t drink the water.

My Russian teacher and I were marveling at the news during the last winter Olympics, that the next one would be in Sochi. It’s a resort at a fairly southerly latitude, for starters, and, well, it’s Russia. The country has galloped ahead on the usual emergent-economy trajectory, but an Olympic Games is a herculean task to mount, and this isn’t China.

Turns out we might have been on to something:

Some journalists arriving in Sochi are describing appalling conditions in the housing there, where only six of nine media hotels are ready for guests. Hotels are still under construction. Water, if it’s running, isn’t drinkable. One German photographer told the AP over the weekend that his hotel still had stray dogs and construction workers wandering in and out of rooms.

My favorite is this:

My hotel has no water. If restored, the front desk says, “do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous.”

That’s from Stacy St. Clair of the Chicago Tribune.

I wonder if any of us really realizes how much safer our so-called nanny state keeps us, by insisting on things like animal control and water purification. I remember when we were in Argentina a decade ago — hardly a third-world country — and coming across broken sidewalks, which may or may not be under repair. No orange cones, no caution tape, just whoopsie daisy, there’s an 8-inch drop.

We should let the market decide whether water is safe to splash on your face, don’t you think?

So. I was driving to Ann Arbor today, listening to Tom Jones’ version of “Sixteen Tons,” and it reminded me of something I read a while ago — that Jones is married to the same girl he chose back in the hometown, pre-famous days. A quick Google, and what do you know: They’ve been married since before I was born:

“We grew up together, come from the same place, have the same sense of humour. That has a lot to do with it. How do you walk away from somebody that you get along so well with? What’s the point?

“And we do still have a lot of laughs together. The first thing my wife asks me when I get home is: ‘Have you heard any good jokes lately?’”

It doesn’t exactly sound like passion — he admits to having had many infidelities and a long-term affair with Mary Wilson — but after all this time, more of a tea cozy of a marriage, warm and comforting and familiar. She looks like an ordinary girl from Wales who married a handsome boy and then found herself being swept up by his crazy career.

Remember: The only two people qualified to judge the quality of a marriage are the people in it.

Guess what we’re doing tonight? Waiting for snow. Yes! Snow! Quite a lot of it, too, although not as much as some. Then another deep freeze.

At least it’s a short month.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch | 41 Comments
 

The great works.

Neil Steinberg had a great blog yesterday, about his intention to see the entire Ring cycle at Chicago’s Lyric Opera in 2020. For you non-opera fans, this is the four-part, 15-hour magnum opus of Richard Wagner’s “The Ring of the Niebelung,” the most operatic opera of all. Staging it is the Mt. Everest of opera, and watching it is pretty much the same. In Chicago…

The first opera in the cycle, “Das Rheingold,” will be staged in the 2016/17 season, with the other three, “Die Walkure,” “Siegried” and “Gotterdammerung” performed in each subsequent season, with the whole megillah, as Wagner definitely would not say, being performed — three complete Ring Cycles — in April, 2020.

Mark your calendars.

What I liked about it, though, were his observations on Big Works, and why they’re still important:

…like a mountain, a massive work calls to you. Not by its pure massivity, mind you. There are plenty of works that are long, multi-part 19th century romance novels and such, that have fallen into deserved obscurity.

But certain long works endure into our Twittery time, not because they’re big, but because they’re also good. Very good, wonderful, something that becomes clear when you gird your loins and finally sit down and read them. If they weren’t, they’d be forgotten. People don’t hold onto these things because they should, but because they have to. War and Peace is the template for every Barbara Cartland novel that followed. It isn’t tedious — well, much of it isn’t — but filled with love and conversation, with blood and battle, with war and, umm, peace. It’s a great book. That sounds obvious, but so many years of it being a “great book” sometimes obscure that. Tolstoy knew his stuff.

I need to read a great work this summer. So much depends on translation, though, and how do you choose the right one? I started “Dr. Zhivago” when I found a copy at a vacation house we rented years ago, but absolutely couldn’t penetrate it. Just show me one hint of Julie Christie and Omar Sharif, I kept thinking. Nothing doing.

Maybe that’s part of the problem. So many great books have been adapted into something else, and necessarily sliced down to a shadow of their original selves. We need to approach them as something completely new. On the other hand, Steinberg does a nice job explaining why the Ring is pretty much the single source for all opera jokes in pop culture; it is where the fat lady sang, after all.

OK, a quick cut to the bloggage, because this has been one long icy-lumpy-fuck week:

Columbusites! Remember Larry’s bar on High Street? Here’s a lot of old pictures from the place. I wasn’t a regular, but I loved that place.

I just found this, but it MUST BE SHARED. Of course Wendy’s day-care center posts daily photos; how else would her humans get through a day without her? (This is from Monday, obvs.)

Finally, can the Marlise Munoz case in Texas get any worse? Hard to imagine. How awful.

Let’s all have a good weekend.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 125 Comments