One woman and her big metal hat.

The polls have just closed in Alabama, but in my head, I’m repatriated to my ancestral home of England, at least for an hour here and there, as I find solace in a cold snap in bleak midwinter. How? By sucking up the second season of “The Crown” on Netflix.

The first season was very fine, but it was hard to separate how much I loved the story from how much I loved the details – the sets and the costumes and the big paste-jewel necklaces and tiaras and oh my, the coronation episode! In that way, it was “Downton Abbey” before it turned into a stupid crap soap opera. But season 2 is something else. Now that the characters have settled in, the richness of the big themes are emerging. Which is to say, how this institution of monarchy is simultaneously the best and worst sort of prison to be locked into, for all involved, how tradition murders freedom, how duty and autonomy wrestle one another for supremacy. And how this imperfect family manages to lead and follow a complicated country through the middle of the 20th century, when everything changed around it and yet, it endures. Through everything.

I’m a little overwhelmed, having just notched the sixth episode (of 10; I’m trying to make it last the week), which is all about Elizabeth’s uncle, the Duke of Windsor, the king who abdicated, and his ties to the Nazis in World War II. I’ve never understood the fascination with the Duke and his wife, Wallis Simpson, who were profoundly silly people, at least when they weren’t being downright evil, which is to say, consorting with Hitler and his pals. It was a marvelous episode, contrasting the Duke’s towering self-regard and self-pity with Elizabeth’s dogged sense of duty and simple Christian faith. (Billy Graham also shows up in this hour, of all people.) The big reveals, the depth of the duke’s wartime treachery, don’t come until the last quarter of the episode, and it all falls into place: Of course he schmoozed with the Nazis; they were going to return him to the throne after they won the war, with Queen Wallis at his side, at long last. He’d win his petty battle with his family, and all it would take was a few more months of his new friends bombing his own countrymen to prepare the soil. The final scenes show him playing bridge with Wallis and another couple, probably Trump relatives. And that was pretty much how his stupid life played out. Fitting.

(Princess Elizabeth did her own service during the war. She was a truck mechanic.)

Last season I marveled at how much drama a typical episode was able to drum up, when you considered what was at stake. In the coronation episode, the central conflict was over whether Elizabeth’s husband, then the Duke of Edinburgh, would kneel before her as part of the ceremony. (Spoiler alert: He did.) But isn’t that what our own lives are like on a day to day basis? Today’s episode: “Commute.” Logline: Nancy has to drive to the west side in snow squalls; will she be able to get there in 55 minutes or less? Tune in tonight! It turns out you can be a queen and still have to deal with a troublesome sister who is bound and determined to marry Mr. Wrong. You can wear a crown but have an irascible co-worker to handle. Yours likely isn’t Winston Churchill, but you get the point.

Oh, and Princess Margaret is killer this season. Gorgeous and tragic and doomed and very fond of strapless dresses.

The plan for this show is to cover Elizabeth’s entire monarchy, with each season covering roughly a decade. The actors will change after this year for an older cast. I can’t wait to see what they do with Margaret’s nervous-exhaustion phase. Every time she lights another cigarette – and she lights approximately 400 every episode she’s in – I want to tell her to think of her future wrinkles.

So enjoy it, if you haven’t checked it out already. Totally worth it.

I’m calling this race for Moore. Anyone else?

Posted at 8:56 pm in Television | 54 Comments
 

Catching up.

Another lazy Monday night for yours truly, as I caught up with what Alan refers to as “my programs,” i.e. the premium-cable Sunday-night stuff. We canceled Showtime after the last “Ray Donovan” season was such a disappointment, so we’re talking HBO here. Good news: “The Leftovers” is swinging for the mu’fuh’in’ fences, and it is awesome. Bad news: My bedtime is 10 p.m. Hence: The Monday catch-up, for “Veep” and “Silicon Valley.”

I love “Veep,” too, although I don’t recommend it if you’re sensitive about profanity; it really is a cuss-fest, but the cussin’ is glorious. Those of you who saw Armando Iannucci’s criminally under appreciated “In the Loop” know what I’m talking about. If, like me, you believe the best English-speaking accent for swearing is Scottish, then you probably watch this often.

A little bit of bloggage, then, and best wishes for Deborah as she briefly goes under the knife today. They’re a little old, but only Sherri and a few others will notice:

How Donald Trump’s ascent led to Bill O’Reilly’s downfall.

David Remnick on Trump’s first 100 days. A fine, towering j’accuse.

Back tomorrow.

Posted at 8:25 am in Current events, Television | 33 Comments
 

Black reflections.

Finally, an actual weekend, full of weekend-y things — exercise, reading, shopping, day-drinking. Also: “Black Mirror,” of which I knew nothing before reading something good about the new season (the third) in the NYT recently. Although the show isn’t episodic, I figured it’s best to start with Season 1, Episode 1, which was…

The U.K. prime minister gets a pre-dawn call that summons him to his office, where a grim-faced cadre of aides plays a video for him. Princess Susannah, a mashup of Diana and Kate Middleton, has been kidnapped. The ransom demand: That the P.M. have sex with a pig on live television at 4 p.m. that afternoon.

Now that’s what you call a shirt-grabber, I’d say. This episode is five years old, and came to the U.S. three years ago, and this is the first I’m hearing of it.

Well, it’s impossible to keep up.

The hip-pocket description of the show would be this: A creepier, more disturbing “Twilight Zone,” with the underlying theme of technology, and how we interact with it. So far — we’re in the second season — it’s fantastic. Hour-long episodes. British. And everyone who’s known about it, and hasn’t sent a telegram to me insisting that I watch the whole thing in a mad stretch, is dead to me.

So I guess you know what we did Saturday night. There was a vegetarian meal involved, too.

Now it’s Sunday, and time for the week-ahead prep. In addition to the (vague) meal ideas and (hopeful) workout plans, there’s the Halloween-season (also vague) plans to get the holiday season edging toward front-of-mind. In other words: Shopping, or at least some ideas for it. Ergh. Another year, at least approaching the final turn.

In the meantime? Bloggage:

Yes, late-term abortions are done for the health of the mother. Here’s one story. Foul-mouthed, but effective.

The Republicans are eating their own, particularly in Michigan:

“[I]t won’t be just Trump that drives me from this party. I’m disgusted with the male leaders of the Republican party,” Texas right-wing activist Brittany Pounders wrote on Oct. 18. “They may not be sexual predators; they may not be sexist or misogynist—but they are clearly okay with others in our party who are.” On Oct. 21, Nancy French, a conservative who has co-authored books with Sarah Palin and Bristol Palin, wrote in the Washington Post about her own childhood history of sexual assault; her essay implied that the GOP itself has become a sort of sleazy predator in the age of Trump. “My party—which should’ve been a place of a certain set of values—now shelters an abuser,” she writes. “I’m thinking of this when the GOP presses against me and asks me to close my eyes just one more time.”

Time for “Westworld.” Enjoy the week ahead.

Posted at 9:05 pm in Television | 65 Comments
 

Send in the cupbearer.

Kate’s been working her way through “Game of Thrones” in the millennial fashion — watching nothing else for days at a time — and I keep walking into the room just as big things are about to happen onscreen. The Red Wedding, Joffrey’s wedding – you Throne-heads know what I’m talking about. I like the show, but I think the immersion is seeping into my bloodstream; I just asked Alan to bring me a flagon of wine.

He brought me half a flagon. I considered beheading him, but he said there was more in the pantry.

Thanks for carrying the conversation yesterday. As to the burning question of Deborah’s library, here’s my method: Sort by mass-market paperback / trade paperback / hardcover, shove them wherever, and just know, more or less, where stuff is. Or sort by color. Oversize volumes on low shelves, trashy novels up high, classy stuff at eye level.

With all I had to do today, I thought I might stop over at MLive, the statewide online news network that carries Bridge content. I was actually wondering if the chatty, informational op-ed by a high-school guidance counselor, on the advisability of gap years for graduating high-school students, was attracting a sewer full of racist comments. (It was pegged to Malia Obama’s decision, of course.) I couldn’t find it, but I found the story I wrote yesterday, which was briefly on the Top 5 most-commented list. It’s about the movement to make menstrual supplies more affordable and/or free in certain situations, and I figured it would be trailing a long string of… never mind. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to find readers, male readers, saying they supported the idea of free tampons in schools, because they had daughters themselves.

Sometimes the human race can really surprise me. Pleasantly.

And then something like this happens, and I realize we will never change:

An Arkansas judge accused of swapping sex for reduced sentences resigned Monday after a state commission said it discovered thousands of photographs from his computer that depicted nude male defendants.

…Boeckmann’s resignation came after the commission said in a May 5 letter to his lawyer that it was in the process of recovering as many as 4,500 photos.

“They all depict young men, many naked who are in various poses inside the judge’s home and outside in his yard,” the letter states, adding that many of the men had received checks from the judge and had appeared before him as defendants.

Arkansas is sort of another country, isn’t it?

So, want to own a piece of internet history? How would you like to buy the birthplace of this very blog, for the low-low price of practically nothing? Well, you can, because my old house in Indiana is on the market. In the years since we left, someone has taken up the carpet and refinished the floors, and I suspect a bit of staging was done, too, because those pillar candles are always a dead giveaway, don’t you think? The floor Alan put in the kitchen remains, and thank goddess they didn’t paint the kitchen cabinets. Those are some serious wide-angle lenses in some pix, but ah well — that’s real estate for you.

Finally, this may be the only Trump news I have the stomach for at the moment: Speculation on who he might choose as a running mate. Seeing as how he already has a transition team in mind, I don’t see how this is wrong to do, do you? Note how he uses the phrase “take over the White House.” Ha.

OK, outta here. Happy Wednesday.

Posted at 12:11 am in Current events, Popculch, Television | 56 Comments
 

His list of grievances.

I was working on a task that needed to be laid aside for a few minutes for the sake of my sanity, so I checked out the livestream of the surrender in Oregon. The last holdout was, I’d be willing to bet, a client of our own MMJeff at one time. (Jeff’s taking an internet fast for Lent, so I don’t know if he can stop in to illuminate us.) After all, he’s a Buckeye:

“I’m actually feeling suicidal right now,” said Mr. Fry, 27, who lives in Ohio. “It’s liberty or death. I will not go another day as a slave to this system.” He railed against taxpayer money being used for abortions and drone strikes in Pakistan, said bankers were to blame for the world wars, complained of being unable to obtain medical marijuana in his home state, and accused the government of suppressing breakthrough inventions, concealing U.F.O.’s, and “chemically castrating everybody.”

I heard a little of this before I turned it off; he was complaining that a cop once suggested he, Fry, might be a Rand Paul voter, and when Fry said he was, the cop said, “I voted for Obama.” “And this is the kind of crap I have to put up with!” Fry moaned. Imagine.

Of course this isn’t funny, even though Fry surrendered without making good on his threat. Fry is only a nuttier version of the people I’m thinking of whenever I say, What the hell are we going to do with these people? Young Mr. Fry had a place in the world of 40 or 50 years ago, but he doesn’t anymore, and he doesn’t know what to do with himself. Neither does anyone else. So he heads off to Oregon to join up with this ridiculous bunch of pissed-off grifters.

Well, at least we dispersed this group without a Waco-like level of bloodshed. Tidy up the mess, unfuck the road they cut and see if we can get the birdies and critters their refuge back.

Watching the debate now, and I can’t take my eyes off Hillary’s resplendent golden garment. She wears a lot of yellow, and I’m not sure it’s her color — I like her best in jewel tones like cobalt and emerald. The rest of the event appeared to be measured policy discussion, conducted with mutual respect and sobriety. No wonder this thing is on PBS.

A bit o’ bloggage:

Today is the 25th anniversary of the death of Gary on “thirtysomething.” Hank does a story. If you didn’t watch it, don’t tell me. It meant a lot to me, back then.

And justlikethat, the weekend is here. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 12:20 am in Current events, Television | 109 Comments
 

Flattened.

So this was shaping up to be a chilly but lovely June 1 morning. New calendar! New leaf! New resolve!

I decided to bike to work. Not to the bus stop, all the way in. It’s only 12 miles, I’ve been planning it forever, and got rained out on Bike to Work Day last month, so I figured there was no time like the present. And until about the halfway point, it went great. Until I hit one pothole WHAM and then another WHAM, followed by the grinding of an insta-flat tire.

Now. I carry flat-fixing tools and a spare tube and pump. But I was dressed for work, this was the back tire (meaning I’d be touching the chain) and it was in one of those freakishly abandoned parts of the east side:

flattiresite

Note looted, empty school at right. That empty gas station/repair shop, freshly painted when the Google Maps car rolled through two years ago, has tipped all the way into seedy. The thought of standing exposed on this weird stretch, getting my hands greasy with no hope of degreasing them with the soaps found in office bathrooms, all with the very real chance the rim might be bent and it could all be for naught, potentially attracting unwelcome “help,” and I did what any sensible person would do: Called Uber.

A very nice man picked me up. Cornelius, a jazz drummer who Ubers for a cash flow between gigs. He helped wrestle the bike into the trunk, drove me to my office, wrestled it out of the trunk and told me I should check him out at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, any Sunday night.

I love this town. Potholes and all.

I guess the news of the day, in the non-foreign policy, non-national policy, non-consequential division, would be the birth of Caitlyn Jenner. Bruce is dead, long live Caitlyn. I know we have many gay, lesbian and perhaps transgender readers here, so a reality check, please: Is this list of rules offered by GLAAD just a tetch obnoxious? I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: People have to be guided gently on this issue, and there’s a certain STFU in my head when I read stuff like this:

AVOID the phrase “born a man” when referring to Jenner. If it is necessary to describe for your audience what it means to be transgender, consider: “While Caitlyn Jenner was designated male on her birth certificate, as a young child she knew that she was a girl.”

Don’t tell me how to write, don’t tell me what words are OK to use, don’t make me Caitlyn Jenner’s publicity agent. OK? OK. This is uncharted territory for most people, and we’re figuring things out as we go. Let’s be kind to one another, not assholes. And now “misgender” is a verb, apparently:

Fox News Repeatedly Mocks And Misgenders Caitlyn Jenner

Meanwhile, Jenner’s non-Kardashian children seem to have their heads screwed on right, refusing to appear on his latest reality show:

… [D]espite numerous entreaties from their father as well as the head of E! programming, the Jenner children refuse to participate, forgoing financial gain and exposure in the process. At first their decision did not seem to register with Caitlyn. She kept hoping they could be persuaded because she knows from eight years on Keeping Up with the Kardashians the necessity of a family dynamic for ratings success. When she realized the decision was final, she became increasingly frustrated and on one occasion hurled profanities. She told me she felt “terribly disappointed and terribly hurt.”

So there’s that.

Any “Game of Thrones” fans in the house? You should be reading Grantland’s recaps and precaps for lines like this:

…last night’s episode of Thrones taught us that only three things can stop a rampaging army of pickax-wielding, undead popsicles: obsidian, Valyrian steel, and 6 to 10 inches of shallow water.

It’s chilly enough that I expect a White Walker or two to emerge from the gloaming, frankly. I give up. It’s June. The week ahead must be better. Hope yours is, too.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol', Television | 49 Comments
 

Another milestone, marked by food.

The Derringers had an anniversary Friday — 22 years. Someday we’ll have to come up with a new idea for celebrating other than the usual, i.e., going out to dinner. Maybe we should play miniature golf, or volunteer at a homeless shelter, or do improv on open-mic night. I think our first anniversary we went to Hartley’s in Fort Wayne. There must have been many others in 22 years, but I don’t remember most of them.

This year’s was Republic, here in Detroit, a small-plates place — is there any other variety of new-hot-now restaurant, these days? — with a certain modernist take on things, which is to say there were items like pickled shallots on cheese thingies, and marrow fritters and beef-tallow fries with salt (which you’d expect) but also sugar (which you probably wouldn’t) and lamb sausage with pea smash. At least, I think the waitress said smash, but I couldn’t be sure, because it was very loud in there.

Can you tell I’m growing tired of loud restaurants? The food was very good, the drinks ditto, but I’m sort of done with loud. In the course of our marriage, we’ve gone from an entree that protein/starch/green to marrow fritters.

Anyway, 22 years. I’ll have another!

Alas, we didn’t see the new Mad Max movie yet. It was a beautiful weekend packed with activities, and it didn’t seem right to spend a few hours or even an evening indoors, watching a post-apocalytic story unfold. Maybe next weekend. But! The yard is shaped up and off to a good start, the laundry is done, the groceries bought for another week. Apocalypse whenever.

Besides, you never know when you’ll be caught in the crossfire of a multi-gang-plus-police shootout, and be one of nine cooling corpses. AMERICA.

I expect all of you want to talk about “Mad Men,” anyway, so do so. I’m off to a work week that will proceed at a gallop. Good thing the yard’s in good shape, because I don’t think we will be by Wednesday

Posted at 12:10 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol', Television | 36 Comments
 

No cold pizza here.

Did I just say I had some breathing room at work? I don’t have it Tuesday night. There was an election today, there was but one question on the ballot, but it was the one I’ve been writing about for a month, so I have to handle the follow-up. (Or, as we journalists like to put it in our internal memos: the “folo.”)

I’m writing this about an hour after the polls closed, and this question is going down like (insert fast-falling imagery here). Like a rock in a pond. Like a plane with one wing. Like a whore at a bachel– never mind. I haven’t seen a margin slimmer than 75-25 percent yet. Well, anyone could see it coming. I’ve never seen internet comments quite like the ones on this issue, seething rage from left to right, all of it directed at a legislature that simply couldn’t get anything done, even in a lame-duck session (important in Michigan, because of our term limits).

They got this thing done at 5 a.m. on the last day of the session. And this is what happened. Back to the old drawing board, boys and girls.

One quick note before I get on this conference call with the Democratic leadership: You “Mad Men” fans who’re watching the final episodes may have an opinion on the sexual-harassment plot line in the latest one. Hanna Rosin did:

…this episode depended on some pretty crudely-drawn enemies. The bros at McCann were like guys you usually encounter only on workplace training videos about sexual harassment.

You want to know how much things have changed since the c-1970 period depicted there? Look at that observation by Rosin, who almost certainly was an infant at the time. I had a friend whose boss literally chased her around the desk, and when she complained, she was transferred, but the boss, deemed too valuable to the company, was left in place, a new assistant dropped in to amuse him. So was it bad then? I was years away from entering the workforce, but it was bad when I did a decade later, so I have no problem believing what Joan Harris was fictionally enduring up on the screen.

Many of you readers went through this. Tell some stories. Me, I gotta hoover up some quotes.

Posted at 12:24 am in Current events, Popculch, Television | 43 Comments
 

TV explains it all.

I expect we’re heading for cord-cutting within the next few months. (When “Mad Men” wraps, and then “Ray Donovan,” and then “the Knick” and oh, it’s just gotta go.) But we’ll be doing the HBO Now when we do, and in part because of shows like “Silicon Valley,” which in its most recent episode introduced a character who explained digital-economy finance better than anyone or anything else I’ve heard or read. Mike Judge really has a great sense of satire. I can’t reproduce the dialogue, but this recap nails it:

As usual, “Silicon Valley” is gleeful about ripping off real-life story lines of the Valley. So you have Hanneman espousing one of the tech businesses’ happy secrets, which is that for young companies, making any money can actually be detrimental to its prospects. “If you show revenue, people will ask how much, and it will never be enough,” he advises Richard, who’d foolishly believed that the point of starting a company is to make money. “It’s not about how much you earn but what you’re worth,” Hanneman says. “And who’s worth the most? Companies that lose money.”

Hanneman’s analysis is largely correct. Google bought the home-device company Nest last year for $3.2 billion, a relatively small sum for a company that actually sold products that people were willing to pay for. Meanwhile companies that had, at the time, spent little time trying to make any money at all — like Snapchat and Pinterest — were valued at many billions more.

Thank you, fictional Hanneman guy. This has baffled me forever. How can Instagram be worth $1 billion? There are no ads and it’s free. ‘Splain this. No one can.

Much good to read today, so let’s get to it.

On the Baltimore situation, here’s Hank on CNN:

On a night like Monday, no one involved — Baltimoreans, city officials, CNN reporters, and, indeed, all journalists doing live TV or filing dispatches tweet by tweet and photo by photo — had the time to parse their own words. Words such as “riot,” words such as “thug,” combinations of words that are mostly metaphorical exaggerations, such as “the city is burning.” You can only be so careful with the sting of smoke in your eyes and the taste of pepper spray in your mouth.

Likewise, CNN doesn’t always have the time to think deeply about the images it beams live back to the rest of the country. One assumes there are a lot of people calling the shots at CNN, but it’s hard to see the power of a guiding hand or principle. It is CNN’s nature to jump into the fray and seek out the most dramatic events it can capture on camera and then summarize them as they occur, while queueing up a long line of experts to weigh in.

The strongest visual will always win. CNN would be shirking its duty if it declined to show such events to appease some nobler effort to accentuate the positive, which, in this case, included the many people who chose peaceful protest. TV news frequently finds itself explaining why non-burning buildings and people standing still (or staying home) don’t make the cut.

I’ve really come to despise live cable news in a breaking story, even while I freely acknowledge that it’s the first place I turn when news is breaking (plus, y’know, Twitter). Sometimes I hate myself as a news consumer.

Also, from the WashPost: The burning of Baltimore and “The Wire.” Some smart stuff, some dumb stuff, but if you were a fan and you were watching CNN Monday night, you had to think it: Is that the street where Kima was shot? It looks so familiar.

Time to return to Twitter.

Posted at 12:39 am in Current events, Television | 45 Comments
 

Feed my dog.

Based on the Twitter recommendation of JeffTMM, and the fact “Game of Thrones” was still 15 minutes away, we tuned in “A.D. The Bible Continues” for a while Sunday night. Jesus asked Peter if he, Peter, loved him. Of course, Peter replied.

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus said. He asked the question again, and got the same answer. “Feed my sheep,” he tells Peter.

Alan said, “Feed my dog.”

Cracked me up.

Why are so many biblical dramatizations so awful? Actually, they pretty much all are — Jesus is too pretty and everyone’s teeth are too white. All the poetry is lost. It’s like the opposite of “The Godfather,” in which a pulpy, craptastic story was turned into a spectacular, operatic movie. These shows take the greatest story ever told and turn it into bad community theater.

I will say, though, that I never come away from these things unimpressed with the Roman soldiers. The ones in “A.D.,” etc. had breast plates with nipple rings on them. Yes, little rings dangling from the nipple part of the armor. I guess it’s so you can tie a rabbit’s foot there, or your keys.

I know Rome was wealthy, but is it possible every Roman soldier had identical fighting gear? The production of all those leather minis and brush helmets must have been a logistical nightmare.

I just figured out why the centurions wore those brush helmets. So their men could pick them out on the field of battle, right? Plan for retirement, should it ever come: Read up on that stuff.

Oy, what a day. Driving, meetings, then another meeting via speakerphone, which is only marginally better than driving nails into your palms, but does have the advantage of a mute button.

So let’s get to the bloggage, which is, coincidentally enough, mostly blogs:

Neil Sternberg bought some shoes. And wrote about them.

Gin & Tacos on the increasingly tiresome call-out culture.

Some simple rules for eating. I know, I know — to add to the million previous simple rules for eating. But they’re good rules.

Monday is over, so bring on Tuesday.

Posted at 12:11 am in Same ol' same ol', Television | 58 Comments