Fixed.

Every time we have computer trouble, I find myself both irritated (haven’t we reached the point in the internet that it should just flippin’ work?) and — if I solve the problem — amazingly satisfied. Problem-solving has never been my most marketable skill, so it feels good to do deductive reasoning from time to time. Is it this? Let’s take it out of the chain and see what happens. Is it this? Yes.

It was the router, the ugly-ass Cisco that wanted me to install all its stupid software, added a Guest network and couldn’t find the damn printer until J.C. passed through town and brought it to heel.

The new one’s an Apple. Yes, I paid the premium. My reward? I plugged it in, and it worked. The lagniappe? It’s pretty. Good enough for me.

So, on Wednesday I experimented with what the urban planners call “last-mile” bike commuting. That’s where you ride your bike to the bus stop, put it on the rack on the front of the bus, commute to the urban center, take the bike off and ride to your office. It worked swimmingly both ways, unless you are the sort who would be bothered by the raving homeless guy who lingered at the downtown stop for a time. Bonus: I had a bike for lunch, and a friend and I rode down to Eastern Market for a slice at Supino’s, the best pizza in this or many other towns. The crust is so thin you can eat it entirely without guilt, because they don’t lard the cheese on, either.

And then it was back to the office, passing between a major-league baseball park and the housing project where the Supremes grew up, now abandoned and undergoing demolition. All under china-blue skies. That is what I call a lunch hour.

The only potential sour note in this is the lack of a rack at my office building, and the management’s refusal to let me bring it upstairs. I can’t even lock it in the vestibule, which meant I had to secure it to a parking meter outside the front door. I invested in a bomb-ass lock, but nothing works all the time. That’s when I rely on my time-honored strategy of never having the nicest stuff. Today, a woman rode past me on a racing bike that looked like it had been imported from the 23rd century. If I recognize her blond ponytail, she’s a local amateur racer and probably needs it, but I wouldn’t want to leave it anywhere without a 50-pound anchor secured to, I dunno, maybe a car.

OK, so bloggage for the weekend?

Here’s the WashPost Wonkblog thing I posted in comments Wednesday, for you non-comments people. It explains why ophthalmologists are among the highest-billing Medicare doctors out there. Spoiler: Pharmaceuticals.

I guess some people won’t be watching Stephen Colbert when he takes over for David Letterman.

And then Jesus said, “Take my wife. Please.” Can’t wait to see how this plays out.

Great weekend, all. And happy birthday, J.C. Burns! You make this thing happen every single day.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol', Television | 53 Comments
 

Screen time.

Sunday night, watchin’ the Oscars — at least until “True Detective” comes on. I hate most of this red-carpet silliness, but I have to say, just the glimpse I caught of Charlize Theron in that snaky black number is probably worth all the bullshit.

People get bent out of shape about fashion, and I’ve been among them from time to time, but I think I’ve finally learned to appreciate it for its own sake. I no longer get irritated that the dresses are too expensive or can’t be worn by anyone other than human hangers; I just enjoy them, knowing I’ll never wear one.

Who does buy those things, anyway? Actors get them free, but most are only loans. So who pays $14,000 for a dress? Russian mobsters’ girlfriends? I’m baffled.

Oh, Jared Leto, what a nice speech. But I just realized I’ve been mispronouncing your name for years.

And enough of that, I think.

So, we had snow over the weekend. Because we really needed it, you know. The landscape is positively Siberian; the giant heaps of snow at the end of every driveway and block have been hazards for weeks now. Now they’re 4.5 inches more dangerous. And yet. We’ve had some thaw-y days here and there, and enough has melted to start exposing the winter’s detritus, trash and dog poop and other grossness, so in spite of my thorough done-ness with this winter, when a fresh blanket falls on top of the gray, honeycombed drifts, part of me always says: Sure is pretty.

Current temperature: 2 degrees.

Siberia is probably more pleasant this time of year. They have their winter culture down pat — the glasses of tea, the steaming loaves of black bread, all that stuff. Whereas we have the green banners heralding St. Patrick’s Day, a day for planting peas, as the gardeners say. Not this year.

Sorry for excessive lameness. It was a lame weekend, spent cleaning bathrooms and watching “House of Cards” and on Saturday night there was this:

CJEatDSO

That’s the exceedingly creative Creative Jazz Ensemble, which this season consists of three violins, four or five guitars, drums, vibes and my little girl on bass. They do mostly original compositions, as I expect it’s difficult to write charts for “Take the A Train” for that particular lineup. Not one horn this year. Fortunately, they’re very creative.

I don’t have much linkage today, but I will say this: “House of Cards” tried my patience this season, even as it whipped me on and on. There were moments of humor, however, among them, spoiler-free:

Claire selecting a dress for her CNN interview from her closet, which is a mass of black, white, beige and navy. “Maybe something less neutral,” she says. As though she owns anything that isn’t neutral. She ended up in black. I guess because it’s not beige.

Claire entertaining the first lady, and she brings a bottle of red wine to where they’re both sitting, on the Underwoods’ white couch. Everything in the Underwoods’ house is neutral, like Claire’s closet, and it’s really weird how not only do they dress to match the furniture, so does everyone else in the show. Anyway, Claire picks up the wine bottle and, no shit, pours them both glasses while holding them OVER THE COUCH. This was a moment far more suspenseful than any plot twist. Don’t spill a drop, Claire!

If autoerotic asphyxiation pays that well to the prostitutes who do it, I may have to consider a career change. That’s serious bank.

I’ll think of some more, just as soon as I take all the red, orange, cerise and other jarring tones out of my wardrobe. I have a takeover of the U.S. government to plan.

So let’s head into the week, and hope we can get to the end without freezing to death or seeing war in the Crimea.

Posted at 7:49 am in Movies, Television | 38 Comments
 

What’s it worth to you?

Some years back — 2000-ish or so — I had an assignment to interview two brothers from Fort Wayne who were both living in Israel during one of the intifadas. Because of the time difference and their schedules, it was easier for me to call them from my home phone before 8 a.m. than from the office. I figured I’d expense the bill, until it arrived. About 60 minutes total talk time was something like $180. And while it would have felt good to stuff that one down the paper’s maw, I figured it was worth another phone call.

Good news! If I signed up for international calling, the $5 extra fee would be waived for this month, and I could cancel it after the following month’s bill. And as a welcome-to-the-world gift, the two calls to Jerusalem would be knocked down to reflect the international-plan rate, and cost more like $15. Sign me up, then! I canceled the plan after the interval and saved the paper $160.

That’s when I knew land lines, and long distance, were over. Skype hadn’t come along yet, but broadband was spreading like wildfire, and there were all sorts of ways to talk as long as you wanted to anyone with a computer, free or close to it. The days of “phone’s for you! Hurry, it’s long distance!” were past sundown.

So a few months ago we canceled our land line, and in the process, the cable company accidentally shut off our HBO, too. I called to get it back on, and the guy in the call center apologized profusely and said he’d throw in the premium channel of my choice free for the next three months, just so no hard feelings. We opted for Showtime.

We knew it would be going away sooner or later, and Friday night, the first of the month, alas, Showtime was but a disappointing screen telling us to contact the cable company to get this exciting channel. Oh, well; we’ll miss “Masters of Sex” — love that Lizzy Caplan. Switched over to HBO. No HBO. Got on the phone. The operator was apologetic, and by way of keeping us very, very happy, turned on HBO AND Showtime, threw in a bunch of sports stuff and knocked $10 off our bill, for a year.

I expect, at the end of the year, we’ll get another blandishment to get us to stay a little longer.

Cable is over. But you knew that.

You know what else is over? The bicycling season. We’ll have some warm days here and there, but for all intents and purposes, Halloween is the last day for this latitude. At the beginning of the season, I said I would ride 1,000 miles this summer. After a month or two it became obvious I wasn’t going to make it, but I thought I’d keep trying. And what do you know? I logged 870 miles, and that’s with a cold spring, eye surgery, a vacation and other distractions. Started April 5, last rode a significant distance Oct. 15. Not too terrible.

Riding season is over for another reason — SAD FACE :(. Today I took a bad step off the stairs and hyperextended my knee badly enough that, a few hours later, I’m fearing the worst. I still can’t put any weight on it, and I’m fortunate to have some old crutches around, because without them, I’d be immobile. I’ll see the doc tomorrow if it doesn’t improve overnight. For now, ice, elevation and 800 mgs of vitamin I. Fingers crossed.

It couldn’t have happened on a worse day, as I was just about to go outside and help Alan with one of our infamous home-improvement projects, on the last day of his vacation. This is a patio we’re building, and there were six yards of topsoil that had to be wheelbarrowed out of the driveway.

He’s out there doing it now, in full darkness. My body serves me well most days, but it has terrible timing for its mishaps. Fucking stairs.

Here’s to a good week with good medical news.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol', Television | 65 Comments
 

Phone call from Crazyville.

My cell phone rang yesterday. I answered it the way I always do for a number I don’t recognize: “Hello, this is Nancy.”

“Nancy, are you in the Tea Party?” a belligerent male voice demanded.

“Who is calling, please?” I replied.

“It’s a simple question: Are you in the Tea Party,” he repeated, just as belligerent.

I hung up. The phone number was from Wilmington, Del., and the reverse lookup was for someone named Jackson. My cell number isn’t widely known, but it’s out there. Is craziness in the air these days? It must be. Why should only the U.S. Congress be affected?

It turned out the same guy called my colleague in Lansing, who started laughing. Might have been the better response.

I recall a guy who rang the city desk in Columbus one night and started raving about the IRA and the British monarchy. We were just leaving for dinner, and the editor who answered put the receiver down on the desk. We left and when we returned an hour later, the guy was still raving. I hung up the phone on the words “right down the queen’s chimney,” followed by a cackle.

It was a craptastic day all around. As I hinted yesterday, our health insurance in the new year is skyrocketing. Which means we’ll be moving to my employer’s plan, but that can’t happen until mid-year 2014. Which means it was one of those days I spent figuring expenses we can cut, while simultaneously trying to gather data for a story, but guess what? Any data website run by the federal government is down.

Here’s something you shouldn’t do on a bad day: Read the comments on a story. Take this one, for example. It’s a column by a grad student at Johns Hopkins, explaining all the ways the shutdown is affecting her life. I read it with a sinking heart, knowing the comments on the story would be horrible, as the accepted narrative seems to be that nothing all that bad is happening, and anyone who goes to grad school to study “environmental change and demographic transition theory” must be a twee egghead and all the rest of it.

To be sure, they weren’t that bad, but they were depressing. Don’t read the comments. EVER.

Don’t read stories like this, either:

Many members of an audience of mostly Ole Miss students, including an estimated 20 Ole Miss football players, openly disrespected and disrupted the Ole Miss theater department’s production of “The Laramie Project” Tuesday night at the Meek Auditorium.

Cast members of the play, which is about an openly gay male who was murdered in Laramie County in Wyoming, said members of the audience became so disruptive at times that they struggled completing the play.

It’s just too much of a bummer.

Let’s move on to black comedy. It wasn’t a great day for Indiana congressmen in general. Besides the much-discussed story about Marlin Stutzman, there was this:

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), a member of the House Committee on the Budget, was invited to discuss the government shutdown on this morning’s CNN Newsroom, but the congressman seemed far more interested in hitting on the host instead.

After Carol Costello called Rokita out over the “divisive approach” taken by Republicans to arrive at a resolution that benefits them alone, the lawmaker retorted by “mansplaining” the situation to the anchor.

“I don’t know if you have children yet, I’m sure you don’t have grandchildren yet, you look much too young, but we’re fighting for them,” Rokita told Costello. “Carol, do you have any idea how much this law is going to cost?”

There were later comments about Carol’s loveliness. I wonder what Mrs. Rokita thinks of that.

Here’s Charles Pierce on Stutzman.

And now let’s change it up a bit.

Oprah Winfrey is cutting her ties to Chicago. Neil Steinberg bids her farewell:

As much as you liked to float your Chicago street cred when basking in the endless celebrity limelight that trailed you like your own personal sun, it wasn’t as if you were ever really here beyond the confines of your 15,000-square-foot Water Tower Place duplex. Not a lot of Oprah sightings in all those years you did that hall-of-mirrors show of yours. No river of Oprah bucks watering thirsty Chicago charities. More like a trickle.

…Or, in your defense, the public’s gullibility was already there, and you just reflected it. You had your moments. Sure, too many were spent in squealing worship of brand materialism as its basest. But sometimes you rose above: One show, you sent a family from St. Louis to live in Mongolia in yurts. It was interesting.

(I should probably say, in the spirit of full disclosure, that I was a guest on Oprah’s show once, nearly 20 years ago, promoting my second book. A four-hour ordeal I remember as a blur of endless waiting punctuated by frantic assistant producers with clipboards lunging past, of fellow guests blinking in wonder at indoor plumbing, of cheap vending machine muffins sweating oil in their plastic wrap, piled in the Green Room by minions of the richest woman after Queen Elizabeth II. Of how flinty, disinterested and queenly in a bad way you were in person. It is not a happy memory).

OID: A shots-fired police raid across from an elementary school. Leads to a change in policy. OK.

And I think that’s it for now. Have a good weekend, all. I think I’ll be firing our cleaning lady. With regret.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol', Television | 68 Comments
 

Farewell, Albuquerque.

Like the true moderate I am, I watch — watched (sob) — “Breaking Bad” from a perspective in the vast acreage between casual and obsessive. I went to college and have dabbled in criticism, so when I learned the final episode would be called “Felina,” I immediately thought of Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” but didn’t consider that the title is an anagram for “finale.”

(My appreciation for “El Paso” comes from pushing quarters into the jukebox at the Scioto Trails, a great roadhouse from my youth that long ago fell to the developer’s wrecking ball. MarkH, I’m sure you were there.)

Anyway, if you know the song at all, you know it’s about the tragic fate of a jealous cowboy. And at this point, I guess we have to say SPOILER ALERT FOR THE FINAL EPISODE OF “BREAKING BAD.” If you don’t know what happened, why are you even reading this? Seriously.

The lyrics of “El Paso” are as effective as a beat sheet (TV writer jargon; it’s an outline) for the final episode, which — all seem to agree — was as satisfying as it could be, without being entirely perfect.

Cowboy music has a lot in common with bluegrass — a tragic story told in many, many verses. But let’s take it from the turning point:

Just for a moment I stood there in silence,
Shocked by the foul evil deed I had done.
Many thoughts raced through my mind as I stood there;
I had but one chance and that was to run.

As we all know, Walt was on the run for the last two episodes, deep in not “the badlands of New Mexico,” but the very cold landscape of New Hampshire. Brooding. Broken. Ready to give up. Until, galvanized by the Charlie Rose ramblings of his former partner and girlfriend (now man and wife), he finds the strength to return to the scene of his many crimes and set things right.

Back in El Paso my life would be worthless.
Everything’s gone in life; nothing is left.
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the young maiden
My love is stronger than my fear of death.

Walt’s young maiden is his guilt, or maybe it’s what remained of Heisenberg, meth king and rampaging angel. His love for his family is what it most certainly isn’t, and Vince Gilligan gets credit for the pivotal line of the episode, the final shred of self-delusion falling from Walt’s eyes: “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really … I was alive.” Remember, he made this decision when he was under a death sentence. And that feeling of being alive is cited often enough by people in criminal enterprises that “adrenaline junkie” doesn’t really cover it. In “Thelma & Louise,” not long before they hurtle toward the cliff OOPS SPOILER, Geena Davis says, “I feel awake.” That’s a powerful feeling.

And at last here I am on the hill overlooking El Paso;
I can see Rosa’s cantina below.
My love is strong and it pushes me onward.
Down off the hill to Felina I go.

Off to my right I see five mounted cowboys;
Off to my left ride a dozen or more.
Shouting and shooting I can’t let them catch me.
I have to make it to Rosa’s back door.

To Rosa’s back door he made it, in the sense that he touched base with the Schwartzes, Skyler, Lydia and Todd before finally facing the music at the Nazis’ meth compound. This was the most implausible sequence, but it’s not like Walt invented the idea of using the trunk of a car as a shooting station.

Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel a deep burning pain in my side.
Though I am trying to stay in the saddle,
I’m getting weary, unable to ride.

And we all know the rest. Because recaps and criticism aren’t my strong suit, I’ll leave the rest to you. I would like to note one thing, however: For all his self-justification of doing this for the money, Walt was never all that driven by it. Granted, a man trying to hide criminal activity would be unwise to flash cash around town, but beyond the episode with the car(s), he didn’t even allow himself the little luxuries that wouldn’t have drawn attention — a kitchen remodel, a cashmere pullover. That’s why I loved the scene in the Schwartzes’ ridiculous mansion, with Walt gazing at the appointments and proportions like an archaeologist. One of my favorite episodes of the whole series was when Walt and Skyler go to a birthday party at their place, Skyler wearing what looks like a repurposed bridesmaid dress and all the other guests so effortlessly and expensively underdressed. One of the gifts is a guitar once owned, and signed, by Eric Clapton. Walt’s wounded seething was something to see.

The whole series was something to see. RIP, and on to the next one.

Of all the last-episode recaps out there, I recommend Hank’s and Matt Zoller Seitz’.

So, back from New York, where much fun was had and many miles were walked. My feet feel like old bread dough in need of some serious kneading. More on that tomorrow.

Posted at 11:42 am in Television | 54 Comments
 

Old TV.

The New York Times had a great piece on an old episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” one I saw once as a child and never again. Over the years, I’d ask others if they remembered it, and I think only one did. Thank God for him, because it almost seemed I’d hallucinated it:

“Remember that episode where Rob was convinced they’d taken the wrong baby home from the hospital?” Blank stare. (Except for Lance Mannion, who watched every episode of every show ever aired, evidently.)

Well, I didn’t. “That’s My Boy??” is a classic of the civil-rights era, and — critic Neil Genzlinger points out — a milestone of racial relations in TV entertainment.

The plot: Rob is recounting the days around little Richie’s birth. He’s getting ready to take Laura and the baby home from the hospital, and the nurse delivers the wrong envelope of jewelry. No, this is Mrs. Peters’ jewelry, Laura says, remarking that it’s been happening all week: She got Mrs. Peters’ flowers, and Mrs. Peters got her rice pudding. Their names are similar, after all — Peters, Petrie. This starts Rob thinking that maybe they swapped something else, too. Something more important.

The rest of the episode is Rob staring into the bassinet, trying to find any family resemblance. Finally, he calls the Peters, who live nearby, and tells them his suspicions. They agree to stop by that night.

The doorbell rings in the middle of a squabble between Rob and Laura, who refuses to believe the baby is anything other than hers. Rob goes to the door, opens it:

“Hi! We’re Mr. and Mrs. Peters!” And they step into the room. It’s Greg Morris and another African-American actress, although then she would have been a Negro actress. The studio audience is howling with laughter. Morris can’t keep a straight face, either. I remember laughing so hard in my own living room that I almost peed. It was one of the funniest moments of TV I’ve ever seen. Here’s a two-minute clip of the big reveal.

Genzlinger:

Today TV seems to push various envelopes with a vengeance, often clumsily so, trying for shock value in a world that is increasingly hard to shock. You have to admire the bravery and the unwillingness to tolerate any barrier, whether it be the one against gay characters or characters with disabilities or unsettling subjects like rape and child abuse. But you also sometimes are left mourning the lack of subtlety and art.

Carl Reiner knew what he was doing, that’s for sure.

I started writing this with some gusto, and then my connection started flickering again, so let’s get this going:

Make a man 300 sandwiches, earn an engagement ring! Jezebel takes it apart — hilariously.

Yet another reason Kid Rock sucks: His Malibu house — of course he has a Malibu house — has a stripper pole in the living room.

Thursday already? You don’t say.

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch, Television | 34 Comments
 

Both sides now.

Count me among those who were underwhelmed by most of the just-concluded “Mad Men” season, but blown away by the finale. It’s a hard thing to do, to drag out an unpleasant story for 10 or so hours and then turn on a dime and make you see why it had to go like that. It certainly wasn’t perfect — I could see a million squandered opportunities to flesh out lesser characters and bring them to bear on the main plot lines, but ultimately, eh, that’s showbiz.

I think it was hearing Judy Collins singing “Both Sides Now” over the credits, a song that applies to most of the main characters (especially Peggy), and is sort of sentimental, but worked more or less perfectly.

I’m easy to please in these matters. I loved it. Now to wait another year.

“Low Winter Sun,” the show they’ve been promo-ing during the last few episodes, is being shot in Detroit as we speak. The executive producer is renting on a one-block-long oasis street called Harbor Island, one of those little-known places that never gets mentioned in the national stories about the decline of Detroit.

Speaking of which, this Michael Barone piece in RealClearPolitics is a perfect example of the form — the ignorant Detroit essay. You’ll never guess what caused our current predicament. Ready? Lean in close: Liberals. I know, I’m as amazed as you are. Deadline Detroit runs down the inaccuracies.

If you didn’t see Sherri’s link to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ piece on Paula Deen, it’s here. And it’s good.

For those of you paying attention, it’s looking like Wendy may stick as the dog’s name. I got her a dog-park pass today, which catapulted her quality of life well beyond that of many Detroit children. That’s the unfortunate truth around here: A Grosse Pointe dog will live better than thousands of human beings in the city next door. She has: a comfortable place to sleep, high-quality food, focused attention, medical care and, now, a pass to a restricted park reading “Wendy Derringer.” She’s looked at life from both sides now. I ask you.

Posted at 12:41 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol', Television, Uncategorized | 66 Comments
 

Cruel and dumb.

OK, I’ve officially had it with “Downton Abbey,” with its parade of death and soapy excuses for plot and character development. Sorry, Julian Fellowes. You had one good season, one ridiculous one and one that was just plain bad. I don’t know how many strikes you’re allowed in cricket, but here in ‘merica, you’re out.

I could have handled Matthew Crawley’s death, the same way I’ve been handling TV character deaths in the past. Someone wants out of their contract, maybe to do a big movie or somethin’, and steps into an elevator shaft or into the path of a speeding train or whatever. Crawley had to die because he had to die, so there you were.

But did you have to telegraph it so awfully? Anyone with half a brain could have seen this coming a dozen scenes out, and once his father-in-law had another personality transplant change of heart and decided he’d been wrong about their season-long conflict, and he was only now seeing what a fine, fine man Matthew was, and how blessed they were to have him, well — it’s as though Meg Ryan had walked onto the set and demanded that someone take her to bed or lose her forever. He was that dead.

I’m so, so with Tom & Lorenzo. When Fellowes can’t even come up with a decent subplot for Mrs. Patmore, it’s time to wipe the slate:

Little Matthew Junior will inherit the title and we find ourselves wishing that, for the next season, Fellowes just skips ahead about 16 years and we settle in to watch the nearly grown Sybil Branson and Matthew Crawley Jr. take over the reins of Downton as World War II bears down on them. The prospect of watching the family shuffle through the rest of the 1920s bores us, especially since the only interesting thing happening to a Crawley right now is Edith’s decision to become a mistress to a married man. Since Fellowes wimped out on showing anyone’s reaction to Matthew’s death, he should just skip through the whole mourning process and the dreary “raising a child on your own” story and just have teenage Matthew Jr. inherit his estate just as war breaks out again. It’s the only potential plotline with any interest to us – and it really says something that we have to jump ahead that far to find anything that might keep our attention.

And for those of you who don’t watch “Downton Abbey,” I’m sorry, but I needed to vent.

By the way, what ever happened to Mrs. Hughes’ cancer scare? Clearly she had a favorable result, but I don’t recall a single scene after the “we’ll have to wait a few weeks” one.

Grr.

A speedy drive to Lansing this morning, and when I got off the freeway and into town, I wondered if there had been a bomb scare or something before remembering it was one of those holidays I’ve never, ever had off in my life, and never expect to. Good for the ski resorts up north, but not much more. Nevertheless, a quiet day is a quiet day, and probably as good a way as ever to ease into the week. So, some bloggage?

RIP, Policy Review. Will Thomas Sowell have to get a job at Wal-Mart?

A few remarkable pieces of journalism from 1968. As an accompaniment, 50 remarkable photos from 1963. We’ve changed. A lot.

Did I mention how very early it was when I left this morning? No? Well, zzzzzzz.

Posted at 12:46 am in Television | 48 Comments
 

Who’s naked now?

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m thinking I should be doing our taxes. It’s a perfect do-the-taxes day — not lovely enough that I should be outside, cold enough that inside chores are called for, and taxes are the ultimate inside chore. And yet, I’m not doing the taxes. I did organize the tax-document box, which is considerably easier now that I’m no longer freelancing. So yay me.

Instead, I’m thinking about naked Lena Dunham.

I’ve become a reluctant fan of “Girls,” the HBO series about 20something New Yorkers learning about life and love, at least that tiny slice of life and love as its experienced in hipster Brooklyn. All four of the titular cast members are the privileged daughters of wealthy artists and/or media figures, although I’m not sure you can call the former drummer for Bad Company, father of cast member Jemima Kirke, an artist. But what the hell, let’s go along with it.

Because these girls (the actors) were born into money and fabulousness and now have achieved the next level of money and fabulousness with cable-TV success, and because the show is a pretty accurate reflection of a certain sort of demographic (theirs), only they’re pretending to be poor and salad days-y, it can be a challenge to watch, much as it may have bugged the servants to watch Marie Antoinette pretend to be a peasant at Versailles. Everyone is hyperarticulate and crazy and impulsive and does stupid self-sabotaging shit, and it took me a long time to admit that what’s discomfiting about it is, it’s true.

And Dunham is naked in this thing. A LOT. The sex scenes are excruciating, in the way that watching actual sex is discomfiting and movie sex isn’t. The clothes come off with considerable trouble,
one party frequently looks to be having a terrible time, and Dunham cares not a whit that she’s overweight, pear-shaped, small-breasted and pretty much the polar opposite of what we consider suitable for public nudity. This is a little weird at first, but you get used to it, much as you got used to the idea that three of the “Sex and the City” quartet routinely had sex with their bras on.

She’s naked so often, in fact, that it borders on gratuitous, and that’s a word I don’t use lightly. Last week, the show petered out on Dunham’s character lounging in her tub, singing “Wonderwall” to herself, when Kirke’s character shows up. These girls love to bathe together, and it’s pretty clear Kirke is going to climb in, but not before Dunham rises to her knees, so we can get a shot of her breasts again. Alan, who likes boobs as much as the next guy, actually said, “Noooooo!”

Dunham’s wardrobe is also terrible. I’d love to see T-Lo take it on — beyond the red-carpet stuff they’ve already done, that is.

More on naked Lena.

Hope y’all had a good weekend, and if you were snowed upon, that it was pretty and not too awful. Some bloggage:

Tonight is the Grammy awards. I’ve always hated the Grammies, for reasons explained here. A sample:

1989’s Record and Song of the Year went to Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” a T-shirt slogan of a song that has aged as well as a beer koozie that says, “Is that your final answer?” It beat Anita Baker’s “Giving You The Best That I Got,” Steve Winwood’s “Roll With It, ” Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” and Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror.”

The Michigan GOP gets on Wayne LaPierre’s train. I’m totally sure an armed, 110-pound female teacher will somehow never be surprised and disarmed by, say, a 220-pound high school linebacker who needs a weapon, quick.

Another homeowners’ association horror story, featuring two equally loathsome parties bent on mutual assured destruction. Enjoy, Jeff!

And let’s all have a good week.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch, Television | 102 Comments
 

They (finally) did.

Potpourri today, folks. I took a hot yoga class during today’s blogging time, and my chakras are too aligned to work up much of a head of steam over anything. Besides, we have some good stuff here, starting with…

Jim Nabors, out of the closet at 82. Well, good for him. It’s not like the whole world hasn’t known this for a while. It reminded me of when I first heard the rumor that Gomer Pyle was a ‘mo, as the nomenclature went among grade-schoolers, which I believe I was. The rumor mill said that Gomer had married Rock Hudson in a weekend ceremony.

How would that rumor have traveled in 1968 or so? It was before the internet. A long-distance call required a parental ruling, and certainly wasn’t so you could discuss Hollywood gossip with a distant cousin. There were showbiz scandal sheets, to be sure, but even then they stuck to language like “confirmed bachelor,” which would have flown over the heads of kids. No, it just arrived one day, entire, at the city pool: Gomer Pyle had married Rock Hudson.

Nearly half a century later, he married someone named Stan Cadwallader, in Seattle. Well, congratulations, gentlemen. Better to live in truth, however late in the game it comes.

And speaking of living in truth, may I just say I am growing quite weary of Downton Abbey? I can tolerate a whole damn lot from a TV show, but these soap-opera personality transplants are getting on my last nerve. In the first season, one reasonable criticism of the show was that Lord Grantham was too nice; a man of his station wouldn’t have had personal conversations with his footmen, any more than he would chat with his bedroom furniture. But it was tolerable, because otherwise? Not much of a show. So you can take that liberty, but you can’t decide, in season three, that the lord of the manner has to be a prick, so that we can set into motion plots 7 through 12. Stories flow from character. When the characters aren’t real? Lousy stories.

Also, either shank Mr. Bates in prison or spring him. This Nancy Drew stuff is the worst.

Two stories with a religious angle, one better than the other. The inferior one: Brooklyn and Saudi Arabia have something in common. Modesty police, only these are Jewish.

In the close-knit world of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, community members know the modesty rules as well as Wall Street bankers who show up for work in a Brooks Brothers suit. Women wear long skirts and long-sleeved, high-necked blouses on the street; men do not wear Bermuda shorts in summer. Schools prescribe the color and thickness of girls’ stockings.

The rules are spoken and unspoken, enforced by social pressure but also, in ways that some find increasingly disturbing, by the modesty committees. Their power is evident in the fact that of the half dozen women’s clothing stores along Lee Avenue, only one features mannequins, and those are relatively shapeless, fully clothed torsos.

I really don’t like this sort of thing. Really. The other story is far more interesting, and you may have seen it making the rounds: How in 1978, a Soviet scientific party stumbled upon a family living in squalid conditions, deep in Siberia, in full retreat from the world. Why? To protect their faith from Commies and Peter the Great, among other things. A great, fascinating read.

Enough potpourri for one day? It better be, because I’m about out of gas for the night.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch, Television | 100 Comments