Monthly Archives: June 2017

I Went to a Fight and a Hockey Game Broke Out

 

Before we get to True Things, let’s address a blatant lie.

And that’s “Partisan bickering.”

The sentence itself isn’t false or dishonest. Or even inaccurate. But the use of it as political obfuscation is.

We are hearing it used often, thanks largely to those of us in the media desperate to coin a new term. Before this was “unmasking,” which we learned was used by the CIA, FBI, and other agencies declared enemies of the state by the administration.

We love jargon in journalism. It makes us feel like we’re part of the club. Like getting a merit badge in the Cub Scouts.

But like those badges, the term is all starch and no protein.  Why, exactly, did we allow “Partisan bickering” become the dismissive epithet pundits and politicians use when they want to diminish the opponent? Partisan bickering is what politicians are supposed to be doing. That’s why they’re on the public dole: To argue, bicker, and finally vote on an issue that, almost by definition, has to have a divisive component.

To dismiss a political issue as a product of partisanship is like saying you went to a basketball game, but it just decayed into a contest of who had the greater athletic skill. Sometimes the differences are the point.

Now, dear bitches, some factslaps:

  • A Huntington Beach resident has visited the parks of the Disneyland Resort every day since January 1, 2012, marking his 2,000th consecutive visit in 2017.
  • Kenny G broke a Guinness World Record in 1997 for playing the longest note ever recorded on a saxophone: an E-flat for 45 minutes and 47 seconds.
  • In Mississippi it’s illegal to have more than one child out of wedlock.
  • “Response to Those who Criticise Me for Spending Money on Old Wine & Prostitutes” is a lost work by Aristippus, a disciple of Socrates.
  • The Philippines consists of 7,641 islands.
  • UK’s Royal Mail estimated in 2015 that it would cost £11,602 to send a letter to Mars.
  • The Hollywood sign originally said “Hollywoodland.”
  • The sale of Nazi memorabilia is prohibited in Argentina, Austria and many other countries in the world.
  • “Cheesy” originally meant excellent.
  • Rolling luggage wasn’t invented until 1970. Initially, stores didn’t want to stock it.
  • In 2016, it was discovered that Beyonce’s “Empower Women” clothing line was made by female  sweat shop laborers working on less than $7 a day.
  • 56% of Americans believe Adam and Eve are real people, a 2014 poll found.
  • 7% of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, a separate survey found.
  • 13th century Japan cultivated a particular banana for its fibers, which were used to line the insides of kimonos.
  • Before unifying Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi was a spaghetti salesman in Uruguay.
  • Otters often cover their eyes when they take naps. (Thanks sis!)

 

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This is a True Story.

 

Let’s get this out of the way now: Complaining about Fargo is a little like complaining about a Ferrari that stalls. Ultimately, you’re just bitching about wealth. At some point, you need to get over yourself and realize you’re lucky to have a kickass set of wheels.

As it is was with Fargo, one of the best television series in the lore of television series. When the show misses a piston, it still laps most competitors.

But let’s not mince words: Fargo misfired in its finale, which ended its season last night (and possibly for good, as creator Noah Hawley admits he has no plans — or ideas — for a season 4). And while no one could reasonably claim that the Coen brothers homage went out with a whimper, it did conclude with a muffled bang, like an execution beneath a pillow.

This is a long way of saying spoilers abound.

Unlike the previous two seasons, this iteration of the series ended on an intentionally (as Hawley told USA Today’s Bill Keveney) on a cloudy fade-to-black: with hero Gloria Burgle and villain V.M. Varga staring at each other in a police station, vowing to defeat one another.

The scene is, to a small degree, a violation of the Coen brothers ethos: That virtue defeats vice — even when it doesn’t win. Such was the case in the movie Fargo. And The Big Lebowski. And Raising Arizona. And every one of their films with a religious undercurrent. Which is every one of their films.

Including No Country for Old Men, the movie most critics cite as the influence on season 3. But that’s incorrect. While Anton Chigurh, who played Death in the flick, did indeed walk away from the chaos to haunt another day, he did claim the soul of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. That Bell (played by Tommy Lee Jones) survived came thanks to him screwing up his courage and facing Death (which fled), another consistent through-line of the brothers Coen.

Here, however, bravery was not rewarded. I wonder that Joel and Ethan thought of that. And this:

  • The exposition Fargo 3 had lots of talking. Burgle does a lot of audible thinking: Was this a robbery gone wrong? Is she the character she’s reading about in her latest book, The Planet Wyh? Is life a morass of random collisions? These are all questions the Coen brothers love to ask. Just not aloud.
  • The beauty For the first time in the series, major characters were beautiful. Carrie Coon and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are model-pretty. That should never work against a TV show, but it’s standard practice in network television to add beauty to a show that’s desperate for ratings, like Homicide and The Office in their waning years. In the Coen universe (and the first two seasons of the show), beauty equals vanity.
  • The money Joel and Ethan Coen once told me that they don’t care where the money winds up in their movies. In fact, they prefer that it goes missing (perhaps because it’s symbolically the root of evil?). But in the season 3 finale, not only are the millions found. They’re given to Mr. Wrench. It’s a wonderful touch, but not necessarily Fargoesque.

And finally, the show was decidedly detached from the first two iterations, which were blended so seamlessly they could play as one, 20-hour movie. The millions thrown to Hawley and FX for a third installment may have been too enticing. Who turns that down?

And there were still moments of unmitigated brilliance. The ethereal bowling alley conversations between Ray Wise (who played a version of Peter at the pearly) and the series’ most heroic and villainous characters may constitute the best scenes of the entire show. The animated story of the droid Minsky is a short film within itself.

Alas, time likely spells the end of Fargo. If so, it puts the series in the pantheon of great-but-brief shows: Rome, Twin Peaks, The Office (British version), True Detective (and that was good for only the first season). All accomplished brevity, soul of wit, yaddy yaddy.

So it may be for Fargo, where the names have been changed out of respect for the dead and request of the living. But the rest was told exactly as it occurred. Brilliantly.

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A Father’s Day Letter to a Child I Never Had

 

These are the olden days
These are the golden days
These are the days that we get
For time is a con
Yesterday’s gone
And tomorrow is simply a bet

 

Why is life such a leadfoot?

We speed the plows of our world until the only thing we are maintaining is velocity. The momentum of Things eclipses the meaning of them. We mock Sisyfus in the great boulder shoulder. 

We know to watch for this, of course. We know the lines by heart, the part by rote drumbeat: Smell the roses, live the moment, be thankful for receiving more todays than yesterdays. Or tomorrows.

Yet we press the gas. And blur the background. And grind in the gnash.

How do we stop it? Maybe the first step is recognizing it.

Ask yourself this: What was the highlight of today? Every day has one, if only that it gave us another.

But the question, when asked honestly, can be tricky. And if it’s tough coming up with an answer you believe, you may want to check your speed.

When that question is no longer difficult, you’ll know you’re maintaining a healthy distance.

Which is this:

On the bumper and in the mirror, where today is closer than it appears.

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