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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Our Shawshank, Our Selves

August 31, 2014, 11:20 am

In 1994, I saw The Shawshank Redemption as a paying customer, at the Kabuki multiplex in San Francisco. These days, trying to prove that without a ticket stub is like trying to prove you once saw Nirvana. I have a confession: my cousin Aran and I were actually planning to watch half of Shawshank and then sneak into Timecop. Well, as of this week, 20 years have passed, and I still haven’t seen Timecop. What is it about The Shawshank […]

Let’s Start the 21st Century Already

August 29, 2014, 10:30 am

200 years ago last Sunday, British soldiers burned Congress and the White House, causing President Madison to flee the capital, and marking the nadir for American soldiers (and, perhaps, our nascent nation), who would afterward rally to a draw. 100 years ago this week, news of the fiery Battle of Liège, where Germany killed 20,000 Belgians in its opening salvo of the First World War, spread around the world, causing France to fortify its defenses and Britain to enter the […]

The Parents Who Beat Up “The Kids Who Beat Autism”

August 27, 2014, 11:07 am

A few weeks ago, Ruth Padawer’s cover story in The New York Times Magazine was “The Kids Who Beat Autism.” I had a feeling this one would rock the autism community as hard as anything since Ron Suskind’s book, and I was right. I didn’t post anything about it here because I wanted to wait to see how much outrage I could collect. The answer: plenty. I wonder, when writers submit/plan a feature for the NYT, do they have any […]

Emmy Dearest, 2014

August 25, 2014, 12:12 pm

Are you ready to spin from last night’s broadcast of the mildly freaky MTV Video Music Awards, and last night’s broadcast of the mildly geeky Creative Arts Emmy Awards, to tonight’s live broadcast of the 66th Prime-Time Emmy Awards? I thought so. The Big Six media megacorporations await your genuflection! (They are: CBS, Comcast/NBC, Disney/ABC, Fox/FX, Viacom, and Time Warner, who own HBO and thus expect you to be extra appreciative tonight.) I don’t do full previews; you have the […]

Remembering the Populist Simpsons

August 21, 2014, 9:39 pm

We interrupt your workweek for a special announcement. Perhaps you’ve heard that, starting today, FXX is airing all 552 extant episodes of The Simpsons in the largest TV marathon of all time (12 days). Have you tried googling which episodes to watch? You’ll probably get recommendations from the New York Times or Vulture or Slate or even And you’ll hear about some outstanding episodes, sure. But their lists are generally missing something. Namely: the first two or three years of the […]

A rarely heard voice

August 20, 2014, 7:36 am

My friend Kristine sent me this yesterday, from the Autism Discussion Page on Facebook. First, there was this rather impressive slide show: …then there was the following person’s reaction to it. I do read from other adults on the spectrum, but I have to say this perspective was unusual, and thought-provoking. Sorry it took me so long to go about writing this, but it took me a while to process and word my response. I wanted to make sure I […]

Lauren Bacall and Fantasies

August 18, 2014, 11:50 am

Today the Belfast Telegraph has run a story with the headline “Lauren Bacall Will Always Be in the Shadow of Humphrey Bogart.” Of course I’m linking it, for the record, but you needn’t bother to read it. It doesn’t come anywhere near explaining its own header. The author, Deborah Coughlin, mentions the old chestnut about how Bogart lost his first two wives to their careers, and how Bacall thus felt as his wife, her first priority was to support him. […]

Wilkie-Ful Misreading of History

August 15, 2014, 8:41 am

Last week, I wrote that populism does not have the money, power or infrastructure that libertarianism does. Still, populism presents a significant enough threat that, on Tuesday, the New York Times thought to publish Mr. Curtis Wilkie’s attack on historical and contemporary Southern populism. His charges deserve a response, and I’m going to have to do that here, because I notice that his Times column (unlike most Times columns) was closed to any commenters. Hmm, I wonder why? Wilkie warns […]

“Do you have anyone to talk to?”

August 13, 2014, 11:30 am

“Do you have anyone to talk to?” As a parent of a special-needs kid, I hear this question a lot. Are my well-meaning friends talking about a shrink? I know this sounds old-school, but I feel like wifey is my shrink, and I’m hers, and it goes really well. Sometimes, the question gets re-phrased to the idea of a community of other parents who also have kids facing similar challenges. This always gets back to email groups. I’m on some. […]

Yes, he was our Chaplin

August 12, 2014, 10:47 am

Every reputable university offers a film class where students learn about Charlie Chaplin. Robert Sklar wrote that Chaplin’s comic persona “succeeded far beyond any other figure in the history of twentieth-century media.” At least six weighty textbooks hail Chaplin’s exquisite blend of comedy and pathos, but contemporary students usually prefer Chaplin’s peer Buster Keaton. As Louis Giannetti and Scott Eyman put it, Keaton’s “dry, sardonic, analytically abstract humor is much more in tune with modern sensibilities.” Robin Williams was our […]