An email from my father

For a while there I was afraid I'd never get to post another one of these. His spelling and punctuation haven't improved, but he's still “a thinker.”

Paul Krugman of the NY times had an article in our local paper cutting on my beloved Amazon. You didn’t write it, did you. Sounded like it came right out of your mouth. Communism sounding stuff. Stuff like Amazon is too powerful & can force publisher’s to their knees if they want to. Says they are in a fight with an outfit, sounds like Hatachette or something like that. Says they don’t force them on price but if they like the publisher they send their books out in 2 days but if they don’t like them it may take 2 or 3 weeks. Guess one outfit writes a book by Paul Ryan & it goes out right away, but a book about our beloved Koch brothers, I think it’s called ‘the Wichita Boys” doesn’t go out for 2 or 3 weeks. What’s going on here? And is that why you dropped your Prime? love, dad

We just got back from Pelindaba. We went to Dick & Carolyn’s on Sunday to watch the Packer game. Aunt Ruth was there & so were Ken & Sandy. We stayed over night & then mom came home while I went up to Pelindaba with Dick. Then today Dick & I drove to Birnamwood (that’s where Diane’s drive-in is located) & met mom & we went to Chet & Emil’s for chicken dinner. Then mom & I drove home from there.

Tomorrow morning we have to go to Christie’s “grandparents day” at her church & school. They are gradually making her into a little Catholic, she sneaks in words like “Jesus,” “heaven,” & the big one, “God.” What’s the world coming to? Not enough we got I,S.I.S., Ebola, the god damn republicans about to take over the Senate & now this. Is nothing sacred anymore.? Well, I’ll let you go but fill me in on this Amazon attack. They are even making comparisons to the huge oil conglomerates that were around at the turn of the century that they had to “break up” because they were too powerful & monopolistic. My little old Amazon is much too consumer friendly to be thought of in that light. love, Dad

Against fear & trembling

Self-respect begins in privacy, whether we experience privacy alone or in an intimate relationship with another. It is in private that we manifest what we have truly learned about living human lives. If we have learned little or nothing — if making the best use of our skills and interests is unimportant, if generosity is merely unprofitable, if the state of the world is somebody else’s problem — then we live in disorder and mess.
— RJK @ the Daily Blague

Here's the Remains of the Day lunchbox

I'm late to this summer kerfuffle vis-à-vis the literary merit of Donna Tartt's Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch, since I've developed a recent allergy to the "thinkpieces about thinkpieces" subgenre of opinion writing (or was it always thus? Have I just awoken from a long nap inside a pumpkin?). Although I do love a kerfuffle.

Indeed, we might ask the snobs, What’s the big deal? Can’t we all just agree that it’s great she spent all this time writing a big enjoyable book and move on? No, we cannot, say the stalwarts. Francine Prose, who took on the high-school canon—Maya Angelou, Harper Lee, Ray Bradbury—in a controversial Harper’s essay, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot Read,” argued that holding up weak books as examples of excellence promotes mediocrity and turns young readers off forever. With The Goldfinch she felt duty-bound in the same way. “Everyone was saying this is such a great book and the language was so amazing. I felt I had to make quite a case against it,” she says. It gave her some satisfaction, she reports, that after her Goldfinch review came out she received one e-mail telling her that the book was a masterpiece and she had missed the point, and about 200 from readers thanking her for telling them that they were not alone. Similarly, Stein, who struggles to keep strong literary voices alive and robust, sees a book like The Goldfinch standing in the way. “What worries me is that people who read only one or two books a year will plunk down their money for The Goldfinch, and read it, and tell themselves they like it, but deep down will be profoundly bored, because they aren’t children, and will quietly give up on the whole enterprise when, in fact, fiction—realistic fiction, old or new—is as alive and gripping as it’s ever been.”

So many words on so many words. I read The Goldfinch over a dark, feverish week last winter, absorbed by the characters and slightly bored by the story, and I forgot about it the minute I set it out on the stoop as a gift to a passing stranger, like the plucky Christian joy spreader I am. But I'm also the kind of dum-dum who reads "serious fiction" and "realistic fiction," in addition to cozy fiction and breezy fiction and sometimes even terrible fiction, and somehow manages to comprehend that it doesn't all have to be one thing. The fact that fiction is and can and should be so many things is the reason I love to read. Donna Tartt provided me with hours of entertainment and owed me nothing more. I did not need to commit The Goldfinch to memory or tattoo it on my toenails. It did not have to save my life. No book, and no writer, should be expected to do that.

So why would these critics assume that a person who picks up 1 or 2 books a year exists in such a brain vacuum that a single negative experience will literally drive them to abandon the business of reading FOREVER? This is akin to me telling myself in 2002, Jesus Christ, Self, I hated that fucking movie The Hours so much I will never in my entire life watch another movie because clearly every movie is The Hours. Does anyone think moviegoers are that stupid? Au contraire, mon petit fromage. This bellyaching seems to be the domain of critics who don't have much faith in the actual readers of actual books—and while I'm not saying The Goldfinch is for everybody (is any book for everybody?), if every book those biannual readers choose needs to pass some Paris Review-sanctioned suitability test, I'm not sure I have much faith in the future of fiction.

</thinkpiece, yo>


I think a storm’s rollin’ in

I just read somewhere that “poignant” best describes an emotional reaction to an experience that is both happy and sad (whereas my friend Merriam-Webster defines it as “pungent,” or “piercing,” or just plain sad). Happy is watching a shell sneeze itself right off a brick curb and sad is the little camp song it sings at the end.

Bad news/good news

For the past few years I've suspected I might be suffering from mild depression, since I've lost interest in so many things I used to love passionately and would rather head back to the heartland to spend time with friends and family than run off on some wild European adventure, or prefer to sit in my cozy little matchbox studio and read a book rather than fork over $100 to sit at the back of the mezzanine in some dark and lonely theater.

I hesitated to label this state “depression,” however, since that word seemed too big for a generally small feeling, and at no time did I actually feel that sad about any of it. I didn't withdraw from the world, I only stepped back from the parts that no longer seemed to fit. It felt like the temperature had changed somehow, permanently, and I couldn't understand what it was or why things that used to thrill me—including the reasons I packed up my life eight years ago to move here—no longer held any appeal.

Then yesterday I read Atul Gawande's Being Mortal and realized I'm not depressed at all, I'm just old.

What's more, our driving motivations in life, instead of remaining constant, change hugely over time and in ways that don't quite fit Maslow's classic hierarchy. In young adulthood, people seek a life of growth and self-fulfillment, just as Maslow suggested. Growing up involves opening outward. We search out new experiences, wider social connections, and ways of putting our stamp on the world. When people reach the latter half of adulthood, however, their priorities change markedly. Most reduce the amount of time and effort they spend pursuing achievement and social networks. They narrow in. Given the choice, young people prefer meeting new people to spending time with, say, a sibling; old people prefer the opposite. Studies find that as people grow older they interact with fewer people and concentrate more on spending time with family and established friends. They focus on being rather than doing and on the present more than the future.

The book deals primarily with how we as a culture deal (or not) with aging and death, and this section was only one of many that struck me as so true and so obvious that I don't even mind admitting—in front of god and the Internet and everybody—that I really have reached middle age.

Unrelated yet apropos to the overall mise-en-scène:

+ p.s.: read the book. It's vital.

5 for 5

1. The very first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is listen to Garrison Keillor's daily Writer's Almanac podcast. He lists birthdays of famous people and notable events in history that occurred on said day (this a.m. was devoted almost entirely to the surrender of General Cornwallis to George Washington in 1781) and follows that up with an unrelated yet seasonally appropriate poem. I'm not gonna lie, this can be a lot to absorb at six o'clock in the morning, but Garrison Keillor always manages to sound like he's speaking from the bottom of a well or the back of a cave, which is soothing and terrifying in equal measure, so at the end you're pretty grateful just to be able to get out of bed and get the hell on with your day.

2. This morning I also listened to a Taylor Swift song. I can't remember why. Since I started listening to more music on my phone during the day, I've been drawn to many uncool artists from the past, like Sting and Matchbox Twenty and the Dave Matthews Band and Dido, but since I'm employing “tech” as the gateway to this lite FM mediocrity, I'm still able to feel “hip” and “with it," which seems to be what life in your forties is all about.

3. The best thing I listened to all week was this Nerdist podcast with Dax Shepard (who I could not possibly love more) and the best thing I watched was the first episode of Foo Fighters Sonic Highways on HBO, where they recorded a song in Chicago at the studio of legendary producer Steve Albini. I coincidentally visited Chicago just last weekend, and saw some friends and an opera and had an amazing dinner at Blackbird, and looking forward to moving back to Chicago is now my favorite hobby.

4. I also watched Grosse Pointe Blank last night, which more and more I'm convinced is a perfect movie. There are maybe a couple of false notes with the two G-men played by Hank Azaria and K. Todd Freeman, but tone-, character-, setting-, and dialogue-wise, it's just a completely realized, self-contained world. It's also very human without being at all sentimental, which would make it a good twofer with Young Adult in a Maladjusted Midwestern Malaise film festival.

5. Yesterday I volunteered to work a water station during a 10-mile training run for the marathoners in my group. We were situated at Engineer's Gate, at East 90th and Fifth Avenue, which is where they'll enter Central Park during the marathon. It was bright and cool and breezy and I was there with another woman from my group, and as the runners came through in sweaty, beaming waves, a severely handicapped man with a walker stumbled past us, moving at a glacial pace. After we watched him go by, this woman, Carol, looked over at me and shook her head and said, “What did you complain about today?”

& cf. Elaine Stritch quoting her late husband in the documentary Shoot Me: “Everybody's got a sack of rocks.”

Sweet glory

Everything I love about the world is right here: the hair and the screwy (mock turtleneck!) jumpsuit and the Jonathan Hart tuxedo and the rhinestones and the lipgloss and the soft focus and the schmaltz and the earnest, up-close face singing. Not to mention the circa-Solid Gold battery-pack hand mics, or how deeply invested the audience and I are in the long-term prospects of this fictitious relationship, and of course the stars. Oh my lord THE STARS.

Week 12. reading watching clicking


I went through Bad Feminist in a day, a feat I have not attempted since Jane Eyre last winter (ed.: not actually a difficult achievement) // A Bad Feminist book list // And more Roxane Gay: read her, follow her: there is so much to look forward to

"So often we attribute a lack of kindness or decency to something endemic to the culture. But Paula Deen got into this mess because of Paula Deen." // Yet another story about women (in publishing) being harassed online (replace "in publishing" with "in tech" or "in gaming" or "in XYZABC" and you'll get the drift) // The crackerjack female reporter who broke the Secret Service wide open

Ugh of course babies are the worst: "A toddler is almost as precious as a baby, but a teenager less so, and by the time that baby turns fifty, it seems that nobody cares much anymore if someone crashes into her car." // "I don't love Mark Duplass even half as much as most women my age seem to, but Mark Duplass as a midwife in a peacoat: stunning."


AAAHHHHHH FALL TV: the greatest season in all the land. Transparent is everything the critics say & beyond ... I can't think of another show that's as fully formed (and gorgeously shot) but messy and raw and stripped of artifice. Jeffrey Tambor is a revelation, Judith Light is a revelation, Gaby Hoffman is a revelation, you get my drift. And then Bradley Whitford shows up! And then Kathryn Hahn shows up! I'm stunned by this series. I want it never to end. // Olive Kitteridge: adore the book, can't wait for the miniseries (two nights! they're doing it right!) // Reign is finally back. REIGN!! // Black-ish (autocorrect keeps pushing "blackfish") had the best network pilot I've seen in ages, and the second episode was no slouch. Anthony Anderson in high dudgeon is a wonder to behold. // Coming in at #5 on the list of David Fincher's complete music videography (amid mucho Madonna):


North Dressed: ah, toddlers and their squirrelly parents // Digital NYC pick a job any job // The Longform podcast with George Saunders // The blessing of the animals is why I stay far away from churches // Marilynne Robinson will be at McNally Jackson the same night that The Wire cast reunites at The Paley Center ("Where the fuck is Wallace?" feels mandatory here, but that whole storyline was so painful I've never understood how that line became a thing). // Los Angeles //  A perfect Sunday from the impeccably named Johnny Patience

Answers to thirty-three personal questions

Stupid memes are one of the reasons I quit Facebook (again), but I'm home sick today and just woke up from my third nap. Also, "33" is one of my very favorite Battlestar Galactica episodes, which would make an infinitely better meme. I'm not in charge of these things, though, so lifted from a recent post by Terry Teachout, here goes:

1. What was the last thing you put in your mouth? Well this is a bad question right out of the gate, but many handfuls of pistachios. Pistachios are starting to be a problem for me, on the slippery slope/tree nut addiction spectrum. I've been safe up to now because in their native form they take an enormous amount of thumb effort to get to, but Duane Reade recently started selling bags of kernels already shelled, and now I just don't even know what to do.

2. Where was your Facebook profile picture taken? Does not compute.

3. Can you play Guitar Hero? No thank you.

4. Name someone who made you laugh today. Margaret H. Willison with this tweet.

5. How late did you stay up last night, and why? I was in bed by 8:30, reading Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, and was asleep by 9:15. Yesterday was an all-day meeting of the brunch of the month club and let’s just say I should have said no to the beer flight at Paulaner, which came after brunch at Russ & Daughters Café but before the bottle of Magner’s at d.b.a. and the divine Frenchie burger at DBGB. So basically I fell asleep early because the day was so awesome, kind of like being a kid when you're out racing the mean streets on your cool bike with your friends all day and you pull up the driveway just in time for dinner and are so wiped out you have to go to bed before the sun is even finished setting.

6. If you could move somewhere else, would you? Chicago is right there waiting for me.

7. Ever been kissed under fireworks? What a bold, out of left field question! 

8. Which of your friends lives closest to you? My dear SarahB.

9. Do you believe exes can be friends? If they have to.

10. How do you feel about Dr Pepper? No.

11. When was the last time you cried really hard? I generally enjoy a good cathartic cry in the bathtub at about 7:30 on Sunday nights. It’s a time/place of reflection and general life assessment that tends to make me melancholy, since I know that 10 years ago (or 15) I would have been doing the exact same thing at the exact same time of night while wondering where I would be in 10 or 15 years and all I can think is why don't I have a bigger bathtub by now. But last night, as I mentioned, I was way too tired to cry.

12. Who took your profile picture? Does not compute.

13. Who was the last person you took a picture of? My cousin’s daughter Lily and my father running in the Langlade Springs Country Possum Chase, which makes me cry for a whole different set of reasons. 

14. Was yesterday better than today? Yes. Today I woke up with a stuffy nose and a sore throat and have been sniffling on the sofa. 

15. Can you live a day without TV? Indeed, and frequently do, although I will never not love television or be one of those people who claim television is the downfall of America. America is falling down for a lot of reasons and television is probably only one of them.

16. Are you upset about anything? I'm not wild about this sore throat.

17. Do you think relationships are ever really worth it? Was this questionnaire written by a Facebook algorithm?

18. Are you a bad influence? Jesus Christ I hope so.

19. Night out or night in? Red light! Red light! HOMEBODY ALERT.

20. What items could you not go without during the day? Lately a pair of headphones and some ugly walking shoes, two things that make living here palatable.

21. Who was the last person you visited in the hospital? My father.

22. What does the last text message in your inbox say? My inbox is empty, fools.

23. How do you feel about your life right now? Ambivalent.

24. Do you hate someone? Intermittently, yes.

25. If we were to look in your Facebook inbox, what would we find? Does not compute.

26. Could you pass a drug test right now? What a bold, out of left field question secretly designed to get me to incriminate myself to the world wide web!

27. Has anyone ever called you perfect before? Yes, and they said it kind of snotty, too.

28. What song is stuck in your head? Oh hey, you're welcome!

29. Someone knocks on your door at two a.m. Who do you want it to be? Is this like that short story “The Monkey’s Paw”? Am I supposed to say someone I love who’s now dead? I don’t understand the question, I guess, since no way in hell do I answer the door at two o’ clock in the morning.

30. Want to have grandchildren by the time you’re fifty? What a bold, out of left field question!

31. Name something you have to do tomorrow. Work and run.

32. Do you think too much or too little? Always too much. Always always.

33. Do you smile a lot? Always too much. Always always.

p.s. Have fun out there! Take condoms!

The exercise of deep reading

“Without books, I am starting to feel mentally flabby,” I complained to Dr. Maryanne Wolf, the author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain,” after I phoned her to ask for help.

“There’s a good reason for that,” she said.

Deep reading — the kind that you engage in when you get lost in the syntax and imagery and the long, convoluted sentences of a really meaty book — is a special sort of exercise that creates a new part of the brain that did not exist at birth.

“It’s semi-miraculous, really,” said Dr. Wolf, the director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University. “We don’t have genes for reading. It’s an activity we invented, and by doing it, we show that our brain has the capacity to go beyond itself, to take all these circuits that were created for oral language or vision, and do something entirely different with them — deduction, critical analysis, imagination, contemplation.”

Not so long ago, Dr. Wolf suffered like me. “I am constantly using Google or whatever search engine, and one day I realized I had given up my old habits of reading poetry,” she said. “I thought: ‘Poetry takes too much time. Can I spend that much time on a sentence anymore?’ ”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“I forced myself to re-read one of my favorite books, ‘The Glass Bead Game’ by Hermann Hesse, and I had no clue that at first it was going to be such a torturous experience,” she said. “The first two nights, I couldn’t read more than a couple of pages. Third night, same. Fourth night. Then, around Page 35, finally, it was like coming home.”

Michelle Slatalla, "The Endless First Chapter"


Days We Would Rather Know

There are days we would rather know
than these, as there is always, later,
a wife we would rather have married
than whom we did, in that severe nowness
time pushed, imperfectly, to then. Whether,
standing in the museum before Rembrandt's "Juno,"
we stand before beauty, or only before a consensus
about beauty, is a question that makes all beauty
suspect ... and all marriages. Last night,
leaves circled the base of the ginkgo as if
the sun had shattered during the night
into a million gold coins no one had the sense
to claim. And now, there are days we would
rather know than these, days when to stand
before beauty and before "Juno" are, convincingly,
the same, days when the shattered sunlight
seeps through the trees and the women we marry
stay interesting and beautiful both at once,
and their men. And though there are days
we would rather know than now, I am,
at heart, a scared and simple man. So I tighten
my arms around the woman I love, now
and imperfectly, stand before "Juno" whispering
beautiful beautiful until I believe it, and—
when I come home at night—I run out
into the day's pale dusk with my broom
and my dustpan, sweeping the coins from the base
of the ginkgo, something to keep for a better tomorrow:
days we would rather know that never come.

— "Days We Would Rather Know," Michael Blumenthal

Week 11. reading watching clicking


A few weeks ago I ordered a stack of books from Amazon* that I once loved and for some reason no longer own: Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank, and The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. Someday soon I'll move on to something I've never read before, but when autumn settles in all I want is to go back in time.

It was Gilmore Girls week at Vulture and they did not hesitate to sling some well-deserved hash: "Lorelai's downfall is her intense, overwhelming self-absorption. She thinks it's pretty darn adorable to pester people about giving her coffee!" In one of the comments, somebody calls Rory as boring as bibb lettuce. // A great piece by the great Linda Holmes on the sensitivity required when writing about beauty, which is not a synonym for frivolity: "But when you are touching on people’s bodies, on their hair and skin and shape, you are actually treading on something that’s powerful because of its intimacy. Writing about books or TV shows can be the same way: people are attached. It’s personal. It’s not a pass to take your eye off the ball." // Monitoring the iPhone of a 21-year-old sorority girl goes better than you might expect // Always a good reminder: "The desire, when in the presence of the famous, to separate yourself from the herd by saying something memorable to them is a dangerous one."

Other: all Roger Angell. He's so, so good.

p.s. my favorite book cover of all time (and #2):


Yep, we had a fine night at the ol' ballpark! The sun set and the rain held and the thunder roared up from the ground. I also ate a hot dog and drank a Coors Light, and when the ice cream cart came around they served top-it-yourself sundaes in little plastic Yankees caps.


We have a lot of discussions at work about what an intolerant pedestrian I am, but what's so unusual about expecting people to know where to stop and stand on a sidewalk? You can't stop your car in the middle of the goddamn road every time you find some bird you want to look at. So: How to survive in New York City // Eyebrows! // Awesome things to do in Palm Springs, tangentially related to Cary Grant yet tragically time-sensitive // Laura Jane drinks wine // Amazing Longform podcast with Lewis Lapham // Lewis Lapham's desk // Pop Culture Happy Hour on fall books and great detectives (esp. the discussion on the distinction between detectives who are observers [Poirot] and those who are intuiters [Miss Marple])

Week 10. reading watching clicking


Recipe comments: “I just started Paleo yesterday, and I’m wondering if there’s a way to make this without the ingredients.” // The shyness at the heart of Rebecca, a book I was obsessed with in high school and still own but have not opened in the 25 years since // "Sometimes I don't want to be fuckable, thanks." // Welcome to the pain in your future // Except for the cool people who love flip phones // Stop saying stupid things, smarties!

I seldom attend the ballet yet I love reading about the ballet, which seems even less ideal than watching it on film, and even more I love reading about it in the New Yorker — this week on A.B.T. principal Misty Copeland // Ditto Ira Glass: "Wait a second, I think maybe I’m sophisticated enough to like dance!”

Here's as good a reason as any to want to die at 75: "Instead of predicting a cure in the foreseeable future, many are warning of a tsunami of dementia—a nearly 300 percent increase in the number of older Americans with dementia by 2050." // All that's empty at the bottom of the bucket list // And yet: " my absence, please, please, enjoy life."

I can trace particularly stressful times in my life back to the refuge I found in certain TV shows: when I first moved to Chicago, it was Absolutely Fabulous; when I moved to New York, it was The Office. My freshman year in college, it was Growing Pains of all sad pathetic things: I'd get out of class in the morning and watch reruns in my dorm room before lunch. The summer I spent in Eau Claire before my senior year, it was Murphy Brown, and a couple of years ago, when I was stuck here alone and sick over Christmas, it was Happy Endings. Which is to say that Mindy Kaling loves TV like I love TV: "The serialized nature of TV breeds anticipation, and anticipation breeds a kind of loyalty and excitement in viewers that I love. I watched The X-Files every week when I was a teenager and I was as devoted to it as I was to a boy I had a crush on. Watching it was one of the coziest hours of life." It's not only anticipation or loyalty; it's safe and familiar ground, and a different kind of family.


Re: the above: I reactivated my Netflix account last weekend so I could re-watch season 1 of The West Wing. Something in my cold dead shrew heart needed to remember that feeling, of falling in love with these characters and the depth of their believing and the conviction of their voices beating back against anger and cynicism and fear. And the language! Not the grandstanding monologues or hallway quips but the regular conversations and meeting room debates. There's a line that some House Republican gray-hair throws at Josh and Sam in "Take Out the Trash Day"—"I'd like to hold hearings into the two of you being stupid!"—that's such a miracle of weird syntax and natural speech. And also, of course, the Sorkinisms:

Your slice of life seems so large and unmistakeable, like a mirage of wholeness from where you stand. But it is your job to know better and not confuse your small piece for the whole.
Frank Chimero

The Falcon to the Falconer

Unleash me from your hand
And I will lance the light for you
I’ll cut a swordblade on the wind
And pennant it with flight for you
To signal I am yours
If you will free me to be true to you

Unleash me from your hand
And I will mock the sky for you
I’ll pull the anger from the air
And make the breezes sigh for you
To show that I am yours
If you will free me to be true to you

Unleash me from your hand
And I will jewel it bright for you
I’ll hunt the treasures of the wind
And pluck them into sight for you
To show that I am yours
If you will free me to be true to you

O, cast me from your hand,
That I may show my love for you
And throw me to the wind
That I may know my need for you

All darkness on your hand,
I’m hooded, pinned and held by you
O, give me back my wings
That they may bring me back to you

— Jonathan Steffen

Week 09. reading watching clicking


Claire Zulkey's Duran Duran primer // The Apple Watch: "This has gone too far." // Quasi-related: "Outside the prison or the military—which actually provide, at least on paper, some guarantee of due process—it’s difficult to conceive of a less free institution for adults than the average workplace." Cheerio! // 1950s marriage counseling via the good paternal geniuses at Ladies' Home Journal: “‘If she wanted a serene family life, she would have to learn to give Josh what he wanted from their marriage and thereby help him control his temper.’” // p.s. Not much has changed // & etc., how not to review a book about slavery: “Here’s the problem: If American slavery was anything, it was an institution where almost all the blacks involved were victims and almost all the whites involved were villains.” // a list of one's own

The Wire ranks the top 114 (?) characters on the West Wing and the Internet (I imagine) rages over the placement of Amy Gardner over both Josh and Donna. Or maybe nobody cares. But it's a bold move, since in the TWoP fandoms at least she was a very divisive figure. Also Donna was the worst. (But Ainsley Hayes at #14? She really was the worst.) I won't quibble about Jed Bartlet coming in at #2, because C.J., but I will dispute naming “Two Cathedrals” as Martin Sheen's crowning actorial achievement. Ach my hatred for that overblown, overwritten, overly dramatic, self-regarding and self-important episode. It's too much! All of it! Too full of the stench of its own steamrolling success and ever-lovin' virtue. My Jed Bartlet is the professor who argues with poor dumb Morton Horn over history and two turkeys in “Shibboleth,” and then delivers the bounty of freedom unto a boatload of Chinese seekers of asylum. My Jed Bartlet goes shopping for rare books at Christmas and forces all his friends to come along. 


U.S. Open finals. Boring as hell! Although it was fun watching CBS try to fill the airtime after both matches, it would have behooved Mary Carillo to axe the incessant reminders that Caroline Wozniacki is the owner of a lonely heart and Serena Williams a faithful friend. This isn't passing notes in 7th grade study hall, lady, these are professional female athletes doing their job while you get paid to do yours. Which is not to pass notes in 7th grade study hall. FYI.

How not to be ignorant about the world. This was a much needed palliative for my lingering summer anxiety, only now I fear the Planet of the Apes just might be inevitable. Six of one, half dozen of the other, etc. At least I'm not Swedish.


If you like pies // I was paying for my lunch at the Sushi Shop last week when a woman walked up to the guy behind the counter, pointed at the printed menu, and asked, quite earnestly, "What's scrimp?" And he said, "Oh just that's a typo." She truly may have imagined it was some magical new Japanese fusion sea creature, but I laughed real loud right in her face and felt bad about it. So if you like scrimp. // + Ina's lemon pasta with roasted scrimps // All the pink lipsticks // I have zero understanding of these enormous scarves. Who has shoulders that big? Who can breathe like that? Who can move under all that neck weight? // Commercial Type Showcase. Tip: follow Lyon through to the end.