Finally, sun. Finally, spring. Happy Easter to all.
It’s Good Friday, and if y’all don’t mind, it’s still Holy Thursday as I write this and I really want to watch “Top of the Lake” on demand and practice my Oz accent.
Here’s something: I have been trying (unsuccessfully, so far) to get this guy, John Corvino, to write for Bridge. He’s a friend of a friend, and recently published a book, “What’s Wrong With Homosexuality?” Corvino teaches philosophy at Wayne State, and approaches these questions from his discipline. I’ve seen him lecture, and he’s terrific.
In connection with his book, he’s released a collection of YouTube videos that breaks the big question down into small pieces. You might like to watch a few of them on this slow Good Friday. Or maybe not. But here they are.
Have a great holiday, all. See you Monday. April Fool’s. We’ll have some fun.
One thing I love about Detroit: All these ethnicities have their own food traditions. And they’re all sold in the markets.
Hey there, I’m back. I wrote something for today, reconsidered it, and decided I’d rather talk Oscars instead — that is to say, listen to you people talk Oscars. So talk it up.
Meanwhile, here’s a photo from the Forever XXI store on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago. I hate that store; I always get the sense the blood from the child laborers who make the clothing is thisclose to dripping onto the floor. And so much of it is hideous. When Kate and I shop, I will sometimes tell her a dress is “a little too Russian prostitute” for me to approve. When it’s really bad, it’s “Siberian prostitute.” Behold, some Siberian prostitute shoes:
See you tomorrow.
Guess what time we ate dinner tonight? Why, 8:30, which I think reclassifies it as “supper.” It couldn’t be helped — those weird bands of snow squalls that killed three people on I-75 in the morning continued all day. One minute you’d look out the window and it would be a regular old boring winter day, and the next it would be a spinning whiteout. A night to stay in, but Alan and Kate didn’t. (Bass lesson.) Hence, a late dinner.
Roast chicken, mashed potatoes and Mark Bittman’s spicy-sweet green beans. Pretty good feed for a snowy night.
The best thing I saw today was this, a Conor Friedersdorf piece on the problem with conservative cultural criticism. Roy Edroso has gone into this at some length, working from the assumption it’s difficult to consider art critically when you see it as merely another opportunity to propagandize. (I’m not going to look up links, sorry.) Truth be told, the one thing I tend to avoid, in political journals at both ends of the spectrum, is the arts coverage. The New Republic has had some good critics over the years, but ever since I sprained my eyes rolling them over a piece about “The Untouchables” in the Nation or one of those, I haven’t bothered.
It sounds like nothing much has changed:
There isn’t anything wrong with lamenting the effect songs like “Sex Room” might have on teens hearing it at their first dance. But how absurd to reduce rap to Ludacris and Sir Mix-a-Lot. And how impossibly, comically uninformed to assert that the entire genre is bereft of “human feeling.” Did the right learn nothing from its panicked, reductive reaction to Elvis Presley and the Beatles?
Friedersdorf is describing a National Review podcast featuring Mark Steyn, Jay Nordlinger and that old waste of space, Mona Charen. At one point they wonder why Kids These Days aren’t interested in the old standards. To which one can only say: Sheesh.
Much more amusing, in a good way, was the end of “30 Rock.” In honor of its last episode, a glossary of all seven years. I’d forgotten about many of these.
Oh weekend! Let me fall into your arms. I have plumb run out of gas.
We’ll see how long this lasts. I was up at 5 a.m. today, out the driveway at 5:55 a.m., in Lansing for a half-day conference followed by the story-writin’, then home. Did I mention both legs of the drive were made in pouring rain and fog? Yes, and isn’t that fun, knowing that just at the end of your headlights might be the puddle that sends you hydroplaning, while enormous SUVs pass you — on both sides — at 80 or so.
The last part of the trip home, a Mercedes sat in front of me for six miles, right blinker on. Exited, turned left, merged left, merged right. Blink, blink, blink. My tension level was high enough at that point that I would have happily rammed the back of his car to shut the thing off.
The point is, man am I tired.
But I have fortified with pizza, wine and cake, and all is better. And now I’m thinking about what I read yesterday, from the AP:
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The breathtaking model on your magazine cover: Of course she’s not that thin and unblemished. That reality show you never miss? You’re shocked – shocked that its real-life drama isn’t 100 percent unscripted. And that diva who may or may not have mouthed the words to the national anthem to her own prerecorded voice? Yeah, well, so what? It was a big moment, and she wanted to sound her best.
In America these days, in countless tiny ways, much of what we see and experience isn’t exactly what it seems. We know it, too. And often we don’t care, because what we’re getting just seems to “pop” more than its garden-variety, without-the-special-sauce counterpart.
It’s not a dumb essay, but not a particularly smart one, either. Real life has become a cascade of unreal artifice? That’s a revelation that could only occur to the AP. Honestly, I can’t think of a single thing I care about less than whether Beyoncé was singing live at the presidential inauguration. Not one thing. Singing is a more physical act than most of us would expect, and cold air doesn’t go well with it. Even delivering a rocky note or three is asking to get yourself on Gawker or in the late-night monologues or whatever, and who wants to be known as the girl who was flat on the National Anthem on worldwide TV? So she faked it a little. (Or she didn’t.) It was still her.
If you want to talk about fakery in entertainment, then I want to talk about a show that’s becoming one of my very favorites, because it’s so real — “Enlightened,” a half-hour dramedy-ish thing on HBO. What’s it about? So much, and so little, but mainly, it’s about the way many of us work today.
(Somewhere along the way, it became Wednesday morning.)
It’s a tough sell, this show, as it’s hard to even describe. Season one was about the return of Amy Jellicoe, played by Laura Dern, to work at the soulless corporation that helped drive her to a nervous breakdown some months earlier. The pilot introduces Amy in recovery at a posh Hawaiian rehab facility, meditating on the beach, swimming with the sea turtles and returning to Riverside, Calif. a new woman — the sort who gets up in your face at the office coffeepot and says stuff like, “I am speaking to you with my true voice.”
But in the unspooling of the first season, and especially the second, we come to understand why Amy flipped out in the first place, and why her return, upon which she was immediately exiled to a weird new basement cube farm to work on a project called Cogentiva, is leading to an even bigger flip-out. Because this place may well be hell.
Take the name of the corporation — Abaddon. If you lack an encyclopedic knowledge of the book of Revelation, be advised that’s the name of a dark angel, king of an army of locusts. The company seems to make consumer goods that come in bottles; pre-breakdown, Amy worked in health and beauty, and is seen begging for a demotion to cleaning products to avoid the Cogentiva basement gig. (And because this is 21st-century America, there also seems to be a pharmaceutical wing.) Abaddon is housed in a glistening glass tower in one of those office parks that’s the same from Hartford to Cincinnati to Austin to Riverside, but like its namesake, it’s a destroyer — nominally of the environment, but mainly of the poor schmucks who toil behind those glass walls.
Here’s something I noticed a while back: How often the characters in the books I was reading were independently wealthy. Even serious novelists, with aspirations to Pulitzers and Nobels, and yes, I’m looking at you, Jim Harrison, seem to throw in a lot more heiresses and early retired tycoons than the average person might know in real life. It’s an easy way around a problem for writers trying to create fiction about the way we live today; most of us spend most of our waking hours at work, and much of our work sucks ass. I recall reading an interview with Mike Judge, around the time he was trying to sell “Office Space” in Hollywood; none of these zillionaire, Harvard-educated studio heads could understand why the story’s main character didn’t just quit his job and get a better one. They couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact there are millions of Americans who toil for corporations like Abaddon or Initech, in suburban office parks, and that many of them are quietly being driven insane by their jobs. But the next job is likely to be just as crazy-making, maybe even in the same office park, so why give up the seniority and accrued vacation days?
“Enlightened” brings us into this world, this real world, better than anything I’ve seen since, well, “Office Space.” It’s sharper, meaner but also kinder, if that’s possible. Even the bad bosses are simply the overseers for the unseen slavers in the corporate suites.
And if that isn’t a pivot, from Tuesday to Wednesday, from the AP to HBO, from Beyoncé to Laura Dern, well slap my face and call me Streamy McConsciousness. But right now, I have to get to work.
Every year around this time, my friend Connie, who curates a monthly short-film fest, devotes one month’s program to zombies. Tonight was Zombie Night, and I went. One hour and 40 minutes of splattering, moaning and head-smashing. And that was just the audience. Ha, a joke. But seriously — making a film might make you a filmmaker, but it doesn’t make you a good one. I grew very weary of guns and guts, although there were some nice moments — a couple playing bedroom games, a little girl who cooks a meal (or ten) for a visiting ghoul. The point is, some people simply love zombies. And for that, many makeup artists will have long careers.
But I am weary. And I would like to go to bed. So here is a link or two, eh?
Best restaurant review I’ve read since maybe ever, of Guy Fieri’s 500-seat Times Square hog trough. I don’t want to spoil it for you — just read.
One of my former neighbors in Fort Wayne is a tattoo artist, emphasis on the artistry. Although I’m never going to get one myself, his work always seemed a cut above to me. The shop he co-owns with his brother has a new website, and as good as Dominick’s work is, his brother’s is amazing. If I could be assured my skin would never stretch or sag in any way, I’d consider getting that Bettie Page somewhere. And that’s the highest praise I’m capable of.
Time for bed. Night, all.
On edit: I forgot to include this appalling story, about a woman who died in an Irish hospital for want of the D&C that would have cleared the doomed, 17-week fetus she was in the process of miscarrying. I know the election’s over and the idiots lost, but let’s be reminded once more that these things happen all the time, and to refuse a woman in this position is the most repulsive sort of “pro-life” advocacy.
I’ve been getting a lot of wrong numbers lately. Not “Is Bob there” wrong numbers, but ones that go like this:
“Hi, is Nancy there? Yes? This is Nancy? OK, I’m wondering if it’s too late to get my 9-year-old registered for the indoor soccer league.”
When I told this person I had no idea what she was talking about, she asked again if she had Nancy, read me back my number, and then threw the ball into my court — you’re Nancy, this is your number, now what about the soccer league? It took a minute to convince her she really had the wrong person.
Two days later, someone else called, asked for me by name and asked where she was supposed to drop off the boxes for the book sale.
I suspect much of this comes from my other website, GrossePointeToday.com, which I am all but severed from — other than killing spam out of the comments and doing what I can here and there for Sheila, my partner, who is using it in her editing class at Wayne State. We link to various community pages, run an events calendar, and people get confused which one sent them there. At least, this is my theory.
Today someone called, asked for Nancy, and started into a description of a vintage jukebox. When I realized he wasn’t asking for a story to be written about this jukebox, but rather wanted a professional appraisal, I cut him off and told him I didn’t do that.
Again, “But this is Nancy, right? And this is (my phone number)? You don’t do antique appraisals?”
No, sorry. But I gave him a name and number of someone nearby who did. He seemed grateful.
Yesterday was the best of all, though:
“Yeah, this is Jerry.” African-American man’s voice, someone who’s either seen a few dozen summers or works regularly as a blues singer. Hi, Jerry. Who are you calling?
“Well, I’m wondering if you’re open. The dispensary, that is.”
I did some reporting recently on medical marijuana, and that word — dispensary — is one you don’t hear much outside of the green-cross world.
“The dispensary? What?”
“Yeah, for, you know, marijuana.”
“Sorry, but you have the wrong number. This is a private residence, and I don’t have any pot.”
Again! He’s incredulous, and reads back my number. “I was told this is the dispensary.”
“It’s my house, Jerry. And I don’t sell marijuana. You’ve been misled.”
Something strange is going on. We’re talking about severing our land line soon, and I was hoping to get it done before robocall season really ramps up. So far, we haven’t gotten any robocalls, but if we keep getting asked whether we have weed for sale, I might keep it around a little longer. Jerry sounded like he really needed something to take the edge off.
So. It’s Wednesday night, the Tigers are rain-delayed (even though it’s not raining, and hasn’t rained all evening) and will probably be rained out (because the rain is coming, and it looks pretty wet).
Let’s pop over to the bloggage, then, eh?
A tale of two rudenesses. Which is worse — tying up a table in a busy restaurant for 2.5 hours, or bitching about it to the diners’ faces? The confrontation and the thrown LIVESTRONG bracelet — which followed the playing of the cancer card — are the whipped-cream topping on this particular schadenfreude pie.
And speaking of yellow rubber bracelets, how Lance Armstrong is like Lehman Brothers:
In both cases, a culture of excess and risk led to record-breaking performances, and then to catastrophe. In both cases, the behavior in question was driven by a distinct set of social forces, including a win-at-all-costs culture, lack of regulation, and the credulousness of journalists and the public.
In many ways, the structure of professional cycling resembles a trading floor: small, tightly knit teams competing daily, with great intensity and effort, for marginal rewards. … (And) just as Wall Street firms hired Ivy League PhDs to invent new financial instruments, so did cycling teams hire doctors to perfect new pharmacological instruments.
Sounds about right.
Rain, rain, rain, ring, ring, ring. I’ll let you know if anyone interesting calls tomorrow.
These polls can’t be correct. Can they? (I’m looking at the right-rail stuff, the Election Day forecast, but especially the “now-cast,” which shows the gap wide and widening. It’ll tighten by Nov. 6, but I honestly expected it to be a lot tighter. I guess that’s what happens when you’re running the Personality Twins. Forget the commentary in this piece; just watch the embedded clip of the Chris Wallace interview. It’s Palin 2.0. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Well, it’s going to be a long month, just the same. Lots of local races. Frankly, if a pollster called and asked, “If the election were held today…” I’d interrupt and ask, “Pretty please?”
This is just the fatigue talking. Mondays are still the longest day of the week. It’s nice to get it over with just the same.
So. Some linkage?
We’ve spent a bit of time chatting about education here, and how different nations do it differently, so this is offered in that vein:
“The pressures and workloads that the students and the teachers in the U.S. are facing nowadays are, perhaps, greater than they were a decade ago,” Korsunsky said in a recent paper. “But still, compared to a typical Chinese or Korean school, a high-pressure U.S. school is a summer camp.”
Let’s start with discipline. Korsunsky’s student sources are not describing a Chinese version of a blackboard jungle with metal detectors at the main entrance. These are some of the best and most selective schools in Asia. Being “tardy usually results in physical punishment, such as running in the gym a few times or doing jumping jacks. Forgetting to do homework and talking during class will often result in hitting with ruler or some sort,” one student said.
How fun. Let’s be more like the Chinese, eh?
Good NYT piece on Fender, the guitar company, being squeezed from all sides — the culture favors turntables and digital music-makers, and the customers would rather own a vintage guitar than a new one.
What the hell, it must be class warfare day around here: I, job creator.
Tuesday, amuse me. I need it.