“Choose to Stay” (Or, Virtute the Cat Contemplates Her City)

One reason I love the Weakerthans is that their songs are set in their hometown. The louder you yell “I Hate Winnipeg” the more I know which city holds your heart. So let's listen to "Reunion Tour" and get emotional. Welcome to Washington, DC! The local time is 1987. Like every other week I meet somebody who says, “Oh, wow, I've never met anybody from DC before.” Guess these people's race! I meet people from DC all the time; you can probably guess their race, too. (I think I've been a gentrif … [Read more...]

Success Perm: “Fresh Off the Boat”

This is just a quick Saturdayish post to say that ABC's new sitcom "Fresh Off the Boat" is surprisingly enjoyable. It's based on a memoir, which probably explains the specificity of the setting: The central character is Eddie Huang, a rap-loving plump kid whose parents move from DC's Chinatown to suburban Florida in 1995 in order to open their own restaurant, the perpetually-struggling Cattleman's Ranch. The humor mixes culture-clash jokes and nice specific details (one episode gets a lot of … [Read more...]

Small Screens: Several Very Short Movie Reviews

What I've been watching.Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Actually pretty fun, once you get past the narcissism and abuse of women.EDIT: I should say that the latter two elements aren't things I wish they'd left out of the movie. They add texture to what could have been a plasticky, "drugs R fun!", self-consciously edgy cliche. F&LILV manages to be neither a cautionary tale nor an ad for addiction.Whiplash: Miles Teller is a super actor. This is not the movie to see him in. It's a … [Read more...]

The Mayor-for-Life, At Least

Marion Barry, RIP.Look, Barry started out as a civil-rights organizer throwing block parties in the hood, and ended as an advocate for people coming out of prison. In between he presided over a decade and a half in which DC suffered disproportionately from the violence which swept through all US cities in the '80s and '90s. I know it started before we even had "home rule" (ish) and everybody else's city also suffered and hey, at least he didn't declare a state of emergency and try to call … [Read more...]

Before #yesallwomen, There Was “The Gift of Fear”: Me at AmCon

w/criticism, but you should read the book: I had the vertiginous experience of reading Gavin de Becker’s 1997 bestseller The Gift of Fear in the midst of the reporting and reaction to the killings at UC-Santa Barbara. I read Gift for the same reason as hundreds of other women: A close friend told me to. And there’s a reason the book gets passed along. It’s pushy, it’s overstated, it’s flawed—but it’s a powerful guide to recognizing potential violence and listening to your intuitions.It’s als … [Read more...]

“Way Too Early to Declare Victory in War Against Mass Incarceration”

from the Brennan Center, possibly via Radley Balko or PrisonCulture: It is far too early, as a matter of law, of policy, and of fact, to be talking about a “plummeting” prison rate in the United States or to be declaring that the end is in sight in the war to change the nation’s disastrous incarceration policies. There is still far too much to do, far too many onerous laws and policies to change, too many hearts and minds to reform, too many families that would have to be reunited, before anyon … [Read more...]

Goldfinch and Lyre Bird

I just re-read The Liar, Stephen Fry's 1991 debut novel, and it's still the funniest thing I've ever read. The antihero, Adrian Healey, careens through life plagiarizing, dissembling, cheating at cricket, and camouflaging his deepest emotions. He's terrified of getting caught (at what? at everything), and fears/hopes that the whole world is just a giant set-up to expose him.It's a heartbreaking book in its own way, scathing but poignant. Adrian's vulnerability comes through from the very … [Read more...]


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