Category: Hot takes

Passing thoughts about the dying dailies

So it took me about five minutes and change to read the Sunday Durham Herald-Sun. That wasn’t surprising. But it’s a marvel that, amid all the carnage, the wasting away, the self-amputations, some things remain the same. The “funnies,” for example: The Family Circus is still in syndication, as are Hi and Lois, Beetle Bailey, and more. But the Herald-Sun recently dropped Doonesbury, and it seems like hardly anyone noticed. They also dropped the execrable Mallard Fillmore.

I’m not sure if this was designed to be a zero-sum change, something to appease both liberals and conservatives, or what. Doonesbury was, of course, the best comic strip in the paper, but I’m not sure Mallard Fillmore was the worst. In fact, I only read two strips. Guess which two?

The other thing I notice has not changed in 40 years is the presence of the Sunday Parade magazine. I used to read the thing when I was a kid. Even then I knew it was garbage, but I read the “Walter Scott’s Personality Parade” on the inside cover, and the “Ask Marilyn” column. Ah, the “Ask Marilyn” column, featuring answers from Marilyn vos Savant, who supposedly has an IQ of 230.

(True story from my adolescence: My friend Jimmy and I were discussing Marilyn vos Savant’s IQ. I said something like, “How can it be that high? It can’t go over 200, can it?” And Jimmy said, “What do you think happens when you hit 200? You explode?”)

(Today, Wikipedia says that vos Savant’s IQ is a matter of some controversy. And it offers some support to my notion that an IQ shouldn’t exceed 200!)

The amazing thing is that not only is Parade continuing to be published, but the same crappy features are in it, along with the same ads for commemorative coins and products for old people.

To be sure, today’s Parade is but a shadow of its once-mighty existence. It’s a smaller tabloid now, and it has 24 pages. “Walter Scott’s Personality Parade” and “Ask Marilyn” are still there, although poor Ms. vos Savant, who is now in her 70s, is reduced to one question and about 200 words.

Who publishes this thing? Is it profitable? Why is it still a staple of non-major Sunday dailies? And who reads it? (A clue could be on this cover here: A teaser for a vapid feature with a photo of … Sonny & Cher.)

The new myth of Sisyphus

bowl with cookie dough
Oatmeal cookies, maybe

The race to bake the cookies before I eat all the dough.

Next up: Something on Amazon Prime, perhaps John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King. AP  has had a lot of scuzzy 1970s fare available. No doubt everything that’s not Godfather, Jaws, or Star Wars is cheap to license.

Whatever the reason, in the last week I’ve watched Night Moves, Logan’s Run, Soylent Green, and Jeremiah Johnson, all for the first time. Only Night Moves generated any real interest beyond its museum-piece novelty appeal. But even something as so-so as Logan’s Run looks fresh to any pair of eyes that are exhausted by the digital perfection of even the lamest of current productions, with an endless array of overt and covert digital enhancements to paper over the usually vacuous scripts.

I’ve been able to find a few more vintage films to queue up for the coming days: Joseph Losey’s The Romantic Englishwoman (with Glenda Jackson, script by Tom Stoppard), and Wild in the Streets (a counterculture film from 1968).

Eight days in…

magazines and newspapers
January reading

Just caught up with the papers this morning. Today, refugees and travelers from several Middle Eastern countries were banned from entering the U.S., courtesy of a presidential executive order. Protests followed, and the ACLU secured a temporary stay.


We went to the Carolina and saw 20th Century Women. Very charming period piece (1979!), with some good scenes (“menstruation”), beautiful cinematography, and sensitive acting. But what was it about? It reminded me of Richard Linklater’s nostalgia trips–also impeccable in their attention to detail. But finally, these films are the memories of middle class white males who grew up to be artists, with the help of fondly remembered women. The specific memories — like the Harry Potter midnight sale in Boyhood, or the specific Black Flag album in 20th Century Women — becomes a nostalgia fetish without purpose.

Note to self: Complain to the Carolina about the low volume level of Cinema 2.

Late dinner at Gocciolina in late celebration of my birthday. K had oysters, truffles, and hand-cut noodles. I went for the carbonara.