Friday, November 17th, 2023


Welcome to the Con

There was probably a time when one could have argued that obsessing over shows like the Real Housewives distracted Americans from infinitely more serious issues. But these days, I'm really not sure that what you see on Bravo is any more ridiculous than what you see on C-Span. For several days in Vegas, no one mentioned Jewish Space Lasers, lied about an election, or threatened to shut down the government. Maybe they are our true representatives after all. They even have the honest decency to describe their annual interactions with the public as, The Con. "More than a hundred and sixty reality stars descended on Las Vegas, for BravoCon, where they were pulled apart by their harshest critics, who also happen to be their most diehard fans." The New Yorker: Bravo in the Flesh. "A romantic does not spend thousands of dollars on tickets, hotels, airfare, food, and drink because she seeks to be hustled as she urinates. A romantic accepts the flood of advertisement theatre at BravoCon because the event promises her real fourth-wall breaking. Executives at NBCUniversal, Bravo's parent company, and fans on the ground parrot one another: You come to the Con for a mental escape. BravoCon is the natural evolution of an inorganic corporate entity. The virtual consumption of human story while watching reality television becomes temporarily, and weirdly, physical."

+ The Hollywood Reporter: It's the Bravo-conomy, Stupid! "Witness the insanity at BravoCon and you'll understand why the ‘Real Housewives' ecosystem has remained so successful amid the decline of linear TV — by ignoring the haters and giving its rabid, advertiser-beloved fans more drama, more content and more ways to part with their cash." (It's not about ingoring the haters, it's about embracing them.)


You Can’t Beat The Meat

The answer to the age-old question, Where's the beef? is, Everywhere. In a world where demand for a product so associated with climate change continues to grow, maybe it's worth trying to tweak the industry rather than trying to replace it. Before you have a cow, here's how ranchers and researchers are trying to make burgers less burdensome. Raising Better Beef. "They believe there are solutions that address climate change and fill demand, for a world in which people can buy, cook and eat beef with a clear conscience. They point to efforts to change how cattle are raised to retain more carbon in the ground, to develop feed supplements that reduce gas releases, and to make genetic breakthroughs so animals digest their food without brewing up harmful gases." (I'm a lifelong vegetarian, so for me, the steaks are less high.)


Bibi-ing There

"Before the war, the standard critique of Netanyahu was that he had gutted his government, removed his possible rivals, and replaced them with nobodies and ideologues." That weakness helped dragged Israel into a nightmare. It also might make it more difficult to unseat Bibi. Why the Most Hated Man in Israel Might Stay in Power. (Many of these stories about BiBi have connections with the moves currently being made by Trump.)

+ He was told his 9-year-old daughter was dead. Now she's believed to be alive and a hostage in Gaza. While two of their bodies have been recovered near Al-Shifi hospital, the hostage negotiations continue. Be nice to see the kinds of loud demands for their release as we see for a cease-fire. Here's the latest from CNN, BBC, and Times of Israel.


Weekend Whats

What to Doc: Buried: The 1982 Avalanche is a really well done documentary about the power of nature and its impacts on human nature and emotions. Excellent work.

+ What Else to Doc: With a lot of re-enactments, The Saint of Second Chances seems a little goofy on the surface. And, of course, its main topic, baseball/promotions man Mike Veeck, is in the business of selling goofy. But stick around as this entertaining documentary becomes quite moving.

+ What to Holiday: Tis the season, and I loved both seasons of the Norwegian television series Home for Christmas.


Extra, Extra

Putin Place: "The raging war in the Middle East has put the prolonged war in Eastern Europe largely on the back burner, in terms of media coverage, with Vladimir Putin's campaign of brutality against Ukraine receiving much less attention from the press than it did prior to the Israel-Hamas conflict breaking out." Putin's brutal war on Ukraine vanishes from news coverage amid raging conflict in Gaza.

Nazi Adjacent: IBM and the EU's executive branch are pulling ads from Musk's X after report says they appeared next to antisemitic posts (which could mean they showed up next to Elon's posts.) Charlie Sykes on Elon Musk: The Bigot in Full. (Jews run media? We can't even get Elon Musk to STFU...)

+ Mich-egas: At the last minute, Michigan and Jim Harbaugh halted efforts to fight the coach's latest 3-game suspension. So you know that whatever was about to come out was pretty bad. Sources: NCAA's evidence vs. Michigan included booster involvement in scouting scheme, attempted destruction of evidence. And today, Michigan football fired linebackers coach Chris Partridge.

+ Not a Puff Piece: "In the suit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, Cassie, whose real name is Casandra Ventura — and who had long been Mr. Combs's romantic partner — says that not long after she met him in 2005, when she was 19, he began a pattern of control and abuse that included plying her with drugs, beating her and forcing her to have sex with a succession of male prostitutes while he filmed the encounters. In 2018, the suit says, near the end of their relationship, Mr. Combs forced his way into her home and raped her." NYT (Gift Article): Sean Combs Is Accused by Cassie of Rape and Years of Abuse in Lawsuit.

+ Nether Region: The region "as a whole lost 62% of its banks between 1980 and 2020, with the decline sharpest in rural areas. At the same time, local hospitals and medical facilities have been shuttering, while funding for everything from emergency services to wellness programs has been cut." A third-world country? A war zone? Nope, the rural South. Poor men south of Richmond? Why much of the rural South is in economic crisis.

+ You're Gonna Need a Bigger Portfolio: The Artist Roger Kastel has died at the age of 92. You may not know his name, but you definitely know some of his work, including the iconic Jaws movie poster.


Feel Good Friday

If you missed it earlier in the week, check out this excellent story about a group of Palestinian and Israeli teammates that are trying to stick together during the toughest of times. Bridge Over Troubled Water.

+ Crispr gene editing shown to permanently lower high cholesterol. (Science is slowly catching up to my poor personal habits!)

+ Today, Miles Scott is a healthy teenager with a passion for baseball ... Ten years ago, the then-5-year-old Miles won hearts both in his hometown and around the world when he transformed into the black-clad superhero Batkid for a day, becoming an instant media sensation."

+ A nice Ted Talk on nature and beauty that will brighten your weekend.

+ These electric ferries may set a new standard around clean public transportation.

+ "Cheez-Its were originally meant to conjure the toasty, cheesy flavors of Welsh Rarebit, a broiled cheese-sauce toast that was popular at the time, though now it's probably safe to say the proxy has surpassed the popularity of the original." Cheez-Its: Making that cheddar. (I mean sure, if you're pretty high and you've run out of Goldfish...)

+ Speaking of getting high, here's the most unlikely headline of the decade: Snoop Dogg Says He's Giving Up Smoke. "Snoop was asked to try putting a number to the total amount of joints and blunts he's enjoyed. According to Snoop's estimate, he had likely smoked more than 650,000 joints and 420,000 blunts at that point in his life." (When I asked my most intellectual friend Mike, "What's the difference between a blunt and a joint?" He answered, "230,000.")