TV

Bacon

louis ckLouis CK’s comedy often leaves me wriggling with a kind of self-recognition that finds its way to the middle of where I am most ashamed of myself. Last night, for instance, while watching his new HBO special Louis CK: Oh My God, I had the sense that his riff on the evil he can become when he gets behind the wheel could have been my own, were I genius enough to write and deliver such a one.

Same went for his “of course — but maybe” bit, in which he reflects on what might be called an organ of wickedness that seems to reside somewhere in the mind and that makes it possible for us to be horrified by the idea of slavery and, at the same time, to be taken by a companion idea that, historically, slaves have been responsible for some of the greatest feats ever accomplished (as in the Pyramids).

Because I often have the feeling that I am alone in the darkness I can spin myself into, I was comforted by the routine itself and by the nervous laughter that accompanied it. What I most appreciated, though, was his reminder that we have a pretty sweet deal here, both because we have somehow been able to take ourselves out of the food chain and because we are alive, which in itself is a miracle. It is good to be reminded of that, and to be reminded of how lucky we are to be able to eat bacon.

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Is it just me?

The Good Wife is a good show. It’s smart, skillfully scripted, and well acted. Julianna Margulies, in the title role, brings to her Alicia Florrick a barely bridled reserve that makes you want to shake and hug her character all at the same time.

Josh Charles, as Will Gardner, and Archie Panjabi, as Kalinda Sharma, almost always deliver strong performances, as does Christine Baranski, who, as Diane Lockhart, a senior partner with the law firm around which the series turns, at times steals the show. Classy and crisp, though not without a subtle softness, Baranski’s Diane is ever the voice of reason and resolve when forces seemingly beyond her control threaten to bring down the house she has worked so tirelessly to build.

During a recent episode, for example, in which Will is given a six-month suspension for having embezzled client funds some fifteen years earlier, Diane shows her true grit by moving immediately to re-assign her partner’s current cases and to change the practice name from Lockhart & Gardener to Lockhart & Associates.  

“So, we’re done?” Will asks after Diane hands off the last of his files to Alicia.

“For now,” she says, adding, “You’ll still have a place when you come back.”

Later, we see Will packing up his office and then heading towards the elevator. There, he meets Alicia, who earlier had expressed dismay when she learned her law partner, and former lover, was going to take the six-month suspension without fighting it.

“You’re giving up the law for six months? she asks, incredulous. “I can’t imagine it.”

Afterward, I found myself wondering why Will had received such a somber send-off. After all, the guy was going away for six months, not for six years. 

Then, I got to thinking. Perhaps the way I experience time, and my movement through time, is different from the way others experience it. I have always found, for instance, that it takes me ages to grieve a loss. Where others might find themselves frisky after, say, three months, I might be hangdog for three years. Once, my brother told me that there is a rule of thumb for how long it should take to get over the breakup of a relationship: one year for each year you had been with that person. So, my relationship with my ex-husband lasted two years, we have not been together for about seven years, and I still haven’t gotten over him. See what I mean?

Here’s something interesting to think about, though: If six months feels like six years to some, then twelve months would feel to them like twelve years. That means they would have lived the equivalent of nine hundred and sixty years if they were to die at eighty. 

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Sacred heart

Molly Price as Dottie and William H. Macy as Frank G

It is hard to imagine anyone other than William H. Macey playing Frank Gallagher. Bringing the same unexpected pathos to this dark, complex character that he has brought to other characters throughout his career—most notably Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo—Macey fully inhabits the role of the liquored-up, fallen patriarch in the Showtime series Shameless, now in its second season.

As funny as it is disturbing, the series revolves around a working-class family struggling to make ends meet on Chicago’s South Side. To be sure, we’ve seen this story line before, but it would be wrong to think that there is anything derivative about the show. Macey is no Archie Bunker, the bigoted pater familias of the 70s sitcom All in the Family. Whereas Archie is predictable in his circumscribed life as a blue-collar worker who, despite his many flaws, loves and provides for his family, Frank is an unpredictable, hapless drunk who all but abandons his six children.

It is difficult to see how such a selfish, unapologetic alcoholic who leaves his children to fend for themselves could be a headliner for anything other than a Greek tragedy, but Frank’s shadowy schemes draw plenty of laughs and fetch equal amounts of outrage and compassion. In spite of his despicable behavior, we find ourselves accepting him, even caring about him, in part because we see his humanness and vulnerability when he cannot.

At one point, Frank bets a local gang banger $10,000 that he can’t be tased twice and stay on his feet. The thug lets Frank zap him and, naturally, he remains standing. Not surprisingly, Frank can’t pay the debt, so he hatches one crazy plan after another to come up with the money–including allowing his toddler son, Liam, to be held as collateral until he can pay what he owes and showing up in a gay bar to exchange sex for cash. We are so horrified by his behavior that we think he can’t possibly be more reprehensible. He can.

After finding out that neighborhood floozy Dottie Coronis, played poignantly by Mollie Price, will die unless she receives a heart transplant, Frank contrives to get his hands on her pension by offering to help her with household projects and by asking her to marry him. After the proposal, we see Dottie in the distance stepping naked into the shower, while Frank, in the foreground, hears her pager go off and surreptitiously answers it. When he learns that a heart is available, he tells the person on the other end of the line that “she doesn’t need it anymore. She passed last night.” What follows is an unspeakable sex scene that defies description.

Yet, Frank is someone we almost know: He’s just a few degrees the other side of the feckless fathers and hooched-up husbands who live with us, sleep in our beds, eat at our tables, and pilfer our savings. We hope they will change but fully expect they will not, just as we hope every lapse will bring Frank closer to salvation and every moment of self-justification will bring him closer to a moment of self-awareness.

That moment seems far off, though, when we later find him at his local watering hole rationalizing his behavior to anyone who will listen. “If you are waiting for a new organ,” he bellows, “you are interfering with God’s plan. If you have a bum heart, that’s your lot in life. Don’t take someone else’s.” Since Shameless trades in gallows humor and asks us to question our notions of morality, this rant, like all of Frank’s other rants, should make us laugh. It doesn’t. Because Dottie is such a sympathetic, even sacred, character—more so than any other in the show—it’s just too hard to find any humor in her tragic end.

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The seinfeld of blog posts

I live in a condo developed by a couple of charlatans, still free, and managed by a team of embezzlers, now jailed. I am less bothered by the fact that the swindlers made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars in condo fees from unsuspecting owners across the city than I am by my kitchen faucet. Every corner was cut when the building was renovated, but not every henny penny is visible to the casual observer. I loved my faucet when I first moved into my place because it, along with what I have since learned are unsealed marble countertops, is one of the few indications of luxury living in an otherwise unremarkable, underwater home the size of a post-it note.

The description of the faucet on the company website reads “stainless steel sanitary ware sink/kitchen faucet/mixer/tap,” and, the jabberwocky notwithstanding, I am most struck by the first three words. It is my understanding that “stainless steel” means the product is stainless steel and that “sanitary” means the product is sanitary, but this isn’t the case with my faucet.

The first time I noticed the odor I was eating my dinner, and, every time I brought the fork to my mouth, there it was. I sniffed my fingertips, the backs of my hands, my arms, my armpits, my only table, my one couch, my floors, my walls, my 39 utensils, my 20 plates, my 13 cups, my 12 bowls, my 2 garbage cans, my sole bathtub, my 1 toilet, my 1 closet, my 5 windows, my 2 book shelves, my tea kettle, and my printer. For the life of me I could not find the source of the smell, so the sniffing at meal time went on for weeks. One evening, when I was eating a cup of minestrone, I noticed that the smell was especially strong when the spoon was in my mouth. It was then I discovered that my palm reeked of mildew, and, sleuth that I am, I traced it back to the faucet handle.