Sunday Reading

I’m currently reading The Bartender’s Tale by Ivan Doig, which is a cozy and nostalgic coming of age tale in 1960’s Montana, about a young boy growing up behind the gin mill his father runs in Gros Ventre, a beloved saloon called the Medicine Lodge. I’m enjoying it so far, it has lots of local language, wordplay, and Americana.

Speaking of nostalgia, my friend the TV host and actor Bobby Rivers started a discussion on his excellent blog about Disney’s blonde obsession, which kicked me off into a discussion about nostalgia, “fairy tales,” and fantasy fiction, and why it should always be taken with a grain of salt. I recently watched Maleficent. I should’ve loved it, I’m a huge fan of Disney’s evilest femme fatale, but it was an obvious ripoff of Wicked, and I hated it. Afterward, we watching the original Sleeping Beauty (which still looks magnificent) and it was creepier and more involving than the rehash. Also watched 47 Ronin, the one with Keanu Reeves as a half-demon… well, it was dopey fun, if you look at it the same way you do Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

As for good movies, I watched The Endurance, on Shackleton’s failed expedition to cross Antarctica. I rented it via Netflix,  but the link I provided has the entire documentary on YouTube. It’s an amazing story of survival, a mix of footage, reenactments, and interviews with families of the survivors. The RRS Discovery, the ship from the first, successful expedition, resides in Dundee, Scotland. Here it is from our visit in 2013.

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As for news that makes me apoplectic, spas are now catering to affluent girls, age 7 and under. Because their young skin needs products? No, to get them used to pampering themselves. My favorite line? “Don’t we want to spoil our children?” It’s at the NY Times and may be paywalled. Read on to see a 3 year old get a pedicure, and for an introduction to the next generation of privilege.

All writers should read the newspaper. The inspiration never ends, and you don’t have to read Internet comments (though NJ’s Star-Ledger has taken to printing NJ.com comments in the paper, which is surely a portent of impending doom). It’s often bad or annoying news, of course, but the drop in violent crime across most major cities, as reported in the Washington Post, is something to be happy about. I’m not sure I agree that long prison sentences are wholly responsible, as Louisiana has some of the longest, and its violent crime rate is still among the highest in the nation. But there is certainly good reason to keep violent felons incarcerated. “Heroin is cheap” doesn’t make sense either, because crack was cheap. The violence is committed over supplying it. Perhaps the drug gangs are done divvying up neighborhoods? As for targeted policing, New York City quit stop & frisk over a year ago and crime dropped. It will take longer to see if the end to “broken windows” policing will have any affect. I think Matt Taibbi is calling it a little early, but quotas and selective enforcement won’t be missed.

Another link seems to be the reduction in lead paint. That is heartening, because it means the drop may continue, but also disturbing, in how our environment can affect us. I’ve lived in buildings that had warnings about lead paint, where all the landlords had to do was give us written notice. I think they have to repaint if young children move in. I wonder for how long we’ll be affected by chemicals in our homes and even the drinking water, without ever knowing the cause. Estrogen-like chemicals in the water have been blamed for lower sperm counts in males and earlier puberty in females; every species is collecting more fat around the middle, which may be linked to PCBs and plastics. I wonder how many people are dead due to a child eating paint chips in a building, so the landlord didn’t have to pay to have it removed…