Monday, February 13, 2023

The Movie that Changed My Life

It's hard to believe it was 25 years ago. I'd been one of those Titanic rivetheads since the age of 11, when I read A Night to Remember in the sixth grade. I remember reading the book multiple times, though I can't remember what made this story so interesting to a girl who was beginning to have crushes on boys, who'd just begun wearing a bra, and who was alas, the first in her class to sprout pimples. But it was. Perhaps that was the beginning of my social conscience.That was 1966.

Fast forward to 1997. I'd been waiting for Titanic to come out ever since I first heard that the guy who directed "Aliens" would be directing it, that Kate Winslet, who I already adored from "Sense and Sensibility" and Leonardo DiCaprio, who had already shown serious chops in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, This Boy's Life and The Basketball Diaries (all of which I'd seen) were going to star. Clearly this wasn't going to be just another throwaway treatment.

Like so many others, mostly women, I walked out of my first viewing a blubbering mess. I was 42 years old, I'd been married for a decade already, and I'd never been a starry-eyed romantic. So at first I didn't know what it was about this movie that touched me so much. I knew the background story, I had never believed in love at first sight, so what the hell was it?

In this quest to find out What It Was About This Movie, I became a writer.

The Aftermath, Part I: In Which I Become A Film Critic

When I need to work something out in my head, I start writing. And before I even knew what I was doing, I'd written my first movie review. I submitted that review of Titanic to a now-long-gone site called Virtual Urth that was looking for writers, and lo and behold -- I was brought on a film critic (unpaid, of course, as most internet writing STILL is). That one dashed-off review led to another, and then another, and then an invitation to join the Online Film Critics Society. Through the OFCS, I met a number of other online film critics,, many of whom are still toiling away decades later. I had started designing and building web sites for my REAL job, so I departed Virtual Urth and until 2005, wrote reviews at two of my own web sites, both of which no longer exist, thanks to rising hosting fees and the end of static web sites.  A bunch of us later went off and created the pretentiously-named Cinemarati: The Web Alliance for Film Commentary, which hosted a lively messageboard, held annual awards (which enabled us to get cool things like Academy Award screeners and press passes to film festivals) and showcased the best of our collective work.

I saw Titanic two more times in the theater, and by then I was a regular on all the movie messageboards. And reading what people who might not have read everything they could for the last 30 years about this particular sinking eventually made me realize what moved me so much: It was that photo montage at the end of the movie and what it symbolized. 

Over time, our Cinemarati web host was collapsing, our messageboard software and database proved to be not sufficiently robust, and we'd reached the end of my ability to manage it. So Cinemarati fell by the wayside, and in 2005, so did my nascent career as an unpaid film critic.

 But I digress.

The Aftermath, Part II: The Fictioning

I noticed something while I was reading the Titanic messageboards that bothered me, and it was the number of young women who both truly believed that Jack was Rose's One True Love and that she pined away for him forever. That this was missing the entire point of the movie, even the sledgehammer moment (in retrospect) of the "Madame Bijou" sketch, never occurred to them. Now I hadn't yet dealt with tragedy in my own life, but I was old enough to understand that life consists of a certain amount of Getting On With It. 

I'd always had a certain amount of contempt for fan fiction. I'd never been able to write fiction worth a damn myself. I had no idea how one came up with characters, never mind stories for them. Nevertheless, fan fiction, because of its pre-existing characterizations, seemed a kind of cheat -- something not really creative and a rip-off of someone else's work. I knew that fan fiction was a big thing in sci-fi circles, but in my literary snobbery (and lack of sci-fi fandom myself), I never would have considered writing any.


Titanic was a movie that spawned a thousand fan fictions, and they tended to fall into two categories: "Jack lived and they lived happily ever after" and "Rose never got over Jack and she was sad forever." I was 43 years old and I was long over being attracted to tragic love stories. Besides, this wasn't one of them. There is a short clip near the end of the movie where we see a montage of photos of Rose's life after Titanic. Of course we see her riding a horse with the Santa Monica pier in the background, but there's also a headshot, a photo of Rose in aviator gear next to an airplane, and numerous photos that indicate a life filled with travel. And THAT was the story I wanted to tell. I've always found tragic love stories to be more than a little toxic. There were always girls who had read Wuthering Heights a million times and were madly in love with Heathcliff. That wasn't me. There was a real woman, a real story in Rose and damn it, I was going to be the one to tell it. None of this pining away crap. Rose was going to Get On With It.

r/MovieDetails - In Titanic, Rose’s bedside photos are everything she was going to do with Jack. She ice fishes, learns to fly a plane, alluding to the “Come Josephine My Flying Machine” song, rides a horse like a man, and rides roller coasters until she throws up. There’s a roller coaster in the …

There was a skeleton of a story there already. For me it started in California, because I'd always been interested in the silent film era. So I did research. Lots of it. I wanted no anachronisms and I wanted to include some actual history and actual people. I found a site called Taylorology, which still exists and  that went into excruciating detail about the murder of director William Desmond Taylor and the entire scandal-ridden Hollywood of the 1920s. I bought books about Iowa. I included actual shops there that appeared in those books. I included popular songs with links to sound files. And as I wrote, suddenly I was creating characters: Rose's eventual husband was named Charlie and he looked kind of like a young John Cusack. Charlie was a young widower who lived with his much-older sister Margaret who I envisioned as being Sarah Plain and Tall-vintage Glenn Close. And there were more. I'd be out in the yard planting impatiens and suddenly there was a character. It was as if they were unincarnated souls to whom I had opened my mind and they were asking me to tell their stories. And then my mind would "cast the movie," and as soon as I had the actor's voice, I had the characterization.

There were others of us -- a small army of women in their 20s through 40s, all writing our own version of that "and then what happened?" story. And some of us were pretty good. I teamed up with a young woman I'll call Kate, who was also an American social history buff who had the same vision that I did. And we came up with an outline that evolved into plans for a multigenerational sweeping family epic. We took a few liberties with the source material, but what we envisioned was a ripping yarn indeed.She was great at place and setting, and I had a way with dialogue. We'd edit each other's work and it was a truly collaborative effort.

So much of any fan fiction is abysmal, but there were a few of us who had some ability to write. I still have what some of the others from our informal little collective wrote. Some of it is pretty good. And we put it all online. I was lucky that I had a writing partner in Kate who was far more versed in web site creation than I was, and set up a beautiful site for us that was up for a very long time. And people liked it. I would get emails from people who loved what we were doing, and in fact, there is one reader from Hong Kong who STILL emails me every now and then, mostly about politics, but that's staying power.. Alas, not even the Wayback Machine has it anymore. But I do, at least the parts that I wrote.

Of course we never finished it. Just like Rose, Kate got married and had two children, and I got a job where there was actual work to do, and I was being an aspiring film critic, and then a blogger. But there was one original character who came to me and all these years later she is still wanting me to tell her story. 

This character is a young widow, and from the minute she came to me, I knew her. I felt her in my bones. Her husband dies by suicide during the Great Depression, and I swear I felt her grief in my own chest. I KNEW her grief in a very profound and visceral way. And when Mr. Brilliant died nearly a decade after I created her, and I experienced that heaviness first hand from my own loss, it felt oddly familiar. And I will always wonder how. This character is spoiled and self-indulgent and she goes through hell before coming out the other side. There's a lot of me in her, but she's a before-getting-a-lot-of-good-therapy me. Her story isn't the same as mine, but she and I do have this common experience of being widowed. Perhaps we really ARE in a multiverse and I am the alphaverse me, who has been able to deal with what life has thrown at me. She is pre-multiverse Evelyn from Everything Everywhere All at Once, unhappy and stuck. I know her parents' story too. Again -- I have no idea how. I truly believe that I didn't create these people, but that they chose me to tell their story.

The Aftermath, Part III: 25 Years On

Kate and I probably stopped writing together around 2005. She had two children, I had actual work to do at my job, and with people having moved on from Titanic, the readership wasn't there to put the effort into the project. We've now been friends for 25 years, most of it online. We talk every now and then about reviving it, and we even made a short-lived attempt at bringing back the site at one point. .

And now it is 25 years later, and there's a new Titanic 3-D release that opened this week, and I'm having a kind of "returning to where it all began" sense that I should go see it on the biggest screen I can find. This is despite the fact that after all these years of premium cable, I can probably recite every line in the movie at this point as if it were the Rocky Horror Picture Show. But can you go back? Gloria Stuart is dead, David Warner is dead, Bill Paxton is dead, Billy Zane's career is dead (deservedly, after his performance in this film), Leonardo DiCaprio is now a middle-aged, fleshy creep dating teenagers, and what's left of the wreck of the Titanic, like the 9/11 memorial, is a crumbling tourist site. If there were ever a time to bring the site back, it would be now. But I'm guessing this re-release will be gone in a week, given the way the industry is today

The only movie I can think of now that has come close to being the cultural phenomenon that Titanic was in 1997-98 is Black Panther. Yes, James Cameron's Avatar and its sequel have grossed over $5 billion between the two of them, but they don't seem to have had the cultural impact that the first Black Panther had, or that Titanic had in the late 1990s.

Titanic enriched my life in so many ways. Without this movie, I never write movie reviews. I never meet the many other people who also wrote online movie reviews back in the day, some of whom are still at it and a few of whom were able to make a career of it. I never try my hand at fiction writing. I never meet Kate and watch her children grow up. And I probably never start the blog that in its own way led me to what I'm writing here today.

Fan fiction isn't limited to the sci-fi world anymore. Back in 1990s, many of those writing Titanic sequels labored under the delusion that their work could be published, only to find that as a derivative work, even self-publishing could lead to lawsuits. Then a woman named E.L. James parlayed her fan fiction about Bella and Edward from Twilight into a little book called 50 Shades of Grey. In 2017, The Daily Beast called fan fiction "the future of publishing."

When I spun off my original co-lead-character into her own story, Rose was still there, only her name became Ruth and I jettisoned the whole "society girl from Philadelphia" thing. But I left everything else about their interaction intact from its fan fiction roots. Kate and I used to talk about changing our original huge outline to remove Rose's connection to the movie and writing it as its own story. We'd given her a compelling story arc that stood on its own, and surrounded her with fleshed-out, vivid characters.

I'd love to think that young people today will be swept away by the sheer spectacle of this movie once again on the big screen. I'd love to think that an entirely new generation will sit down to write the way we did 25 years ago. After all, if seemingly everyone in Gen-Z can be reduced to tears at Bill and Frank's story in Episode 3 of The Last of Us on HBO, why not this?

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

My Facebook Jail Novel of Eternal Torment

I used to post at least one blog entry every day. From mid-2004 until 2014, I'd grab my coffee, go sit in my office, take a quick look at the New York Times, the Washington Post, and a few other places, and my brain would go into writing mode. My focus and concentration went kerblooey after Mr. Brilliant became ill, got worse after he died, and never came back. If in those last days he was off in a Jamaica of the mind with his spirit guides, when he left 20 minutes after they stopped pumping oxygen down his throat, he took my ability to concentrate with him. I don't know what he planned to do with it, but I wish he'd left me at least a little.

Most of my rantings have been on Facebook lo these last few years. Why that's easier than blogging, I have no idea, except that posting links that contain nice photos along with a few paragraphs just seems easier. But that has to change.

I have spent the last 48 hours in Facebook Jail. This is what happens to you when you run afoul of the algorithms developed by the techboy douchebags who decide who needs to be punished for saying things that run against the techboy douchebag ethos, whatever that may be. So what were my crimes, specifically? 

I posted a comment on a predatory real estate company ad that I would burn my house to the ground before I would sell it to a company like theirs. By predatory real estate company I mean deep-pocketed investment companies that swoop into residential neighborhoods, outbid everyone else by huge numbers, waive all inspections and contingencies, and then turn formerly owned houses into rentals. The aggregate result of this is that it locks individuals out of homeownership, which historically is the main source of wealth for an increasingly strapped middle class. Here in the Triangle area of North Carolina, up to 20-30% of homes sold in the last year have been to real estate investors.

Now did I threaten to burn down a house? Absolutely not! I love my house. And when I'm ready to sell it, I hope to sell it to someone who will love it as much as I do. Not only am I NOT a destructive person, but I was referencing this scene in Gone With The Wind


The line I was referencing didn't make it into the movie, but in the book, when Tara's former overseer, Jonas Wilkerson, now essentially a predatory real estate investor, comes by to tell Scarlett O'Hara that she has no choice but to sell to him, Scarlett says "I'll tear this house down, stone by stone, and burn it and sow every acre with salt before I see either of you put foot over this threshold,"

I guess not everyone has a brain littered with bits and snippets of obscure popular culture references. But that's what I was paraphrasing, and you have to admit that it IS an appropriate metaphor.

But the thing that put them over the edge was when I commented on a post about Facebook guilt-tripping. You all know what that is -- it's when someone copies/pastes canned text about suicide, or cancer, or whatever the cause is, and at the end the text is "I'll bet none of my friends share this" or "I'll know who of my friends cares about [cancer/autism/suicide/heart disease/fill in cause of choice here] by who shares this."  

I hate that second one most, because it implies that pasting canned text into a box and hitting "Post" is somehow "proof" that you care about the particular cause in question. I started posting nasty comments about these back when I was driving Mr. Brilliant 46 miles each way to chemo while holding down a demanding and stressful job, and was somehow supposed to believe that because I didn't share canned text, I somehow didn't care about cancer. That I had already convinced Mr. B. that he'd never pass a psych test for assisted suicide because of his depression, that he wasn't terminal, and that foregoing treatment would be agonizing pain until he got to terminal status, was immaterial.  On Facebook, it's "Show you care by copy/pasting canned text." 

I can still get angry about it just typing that, and it may be why I refuse to participate in what I call "performative activism" -- protests and marches that make us feel all solidarity-ish and activisty but ultimately don't really change anything because the Powers That Be don't care about protests and marches. Facebook guilt-tripping is just another form of performative activism. And I'll bet many of the people who insist we show how caring we are by copying/pasting text are the first ones to ghost friends whose spouse or child is diagnosed with cancer. But hey, they care! They pasted some text and hit "Post"!!

So I posted a comment that people who do Facebook guilt-tripping should be beaten with sticks. This too is an obscure reference that I should have known NO ONE would get. It's a phrase that at least USED TO be used by the great Charles P. Pierce, whose politics commentary at Esquire is the ONLY reason to subscribe. The concept of "beaten with sticks" is basically one of mild corporal punishment, much as someone would punch someone in the arm who says something tactless. It is by no means a "threat of violence." But such are the times we live in, and I had the bad timing of saying this the day after yet another angry white boy who left a social media trail o'clues a mile long decided to kill a bunch of people attending a July 4 parade in Highland Park, Illinois. Because the sarcasm of a 67-year-old grey-haired Jewish woman is EXACTLY THE SAME THING. But I'll give Facebook this one. After all, the few days after a mass shooting are always a sensitive time, until the next mass shooting happens and the miserable cycle starts all over again.

Back during the post-9/11 year, George W. Bush administration officials told us we needed to "watch what we say, what we do." It was a time of "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists," and it was a direct threat from the then-government that questioning its policies could get you in a heap of trouble. Today we really ARE all under surveillance, not by the government this time, but by a bunch of techboy douchebags who probably identify as Libertarian. These guys write the algorithms that allow medical disinformation, Trumpian lies, the violent fantasies of mass shooters, and threats against anti-Trump politicians to be shared freely, while sarcasm and metaphor must be stamped out at all costs. For six-and-seven figure techboys, who even as I type this are marching like zombies towards my true blue home city, threatening to turn it purple over taxes, only speech that benefits them is allowed.

So seriously, folks. Be careful what you post on Facebook. Twitter at least tactfully lets you know that what you want to post is perhaps not cool:  "Most people don't tweet posts like this," they say. And then  you can go back and edit out whatever curse word is causing the Twitbots to clutch their pearls today. There's no rhyme or reason to that either; a few days ago I responded to Ted Cruz' "thoughts and prayers" about Highland Park by calling him a "craven, cynical monster." I guess on Twitter, you can still tell the truth.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

For 25 years people have thought I was a drama queen about this

 I remember a news report from about 25 years ago. It was about another anti-abortion case that was brought before the Supreme Court. The reporter was talking to young women about it, and every last one of them was blithely dismissing the danger, insisting that "they can't make it illegal now" and "they'll never put that genie back in the bottle."

It's been about 15 years since the right to abortion became irrelevant to my particular body. And believe me, it's been tempting to just say "the hell with it; you don't care about your rights; why should I?" But then I remember that every generation rolls its eyes at being lectured by the previous one about "the way it used to be." After all, isn't "You kids don't realize what it was like when an unwanted pregnancy meant shame and guilt and either putting your health in danger by having an illegal abortion or putting it in danger by having a baby before you're even mature" just a variation of "You kids don't appreciate what we did in World War II," as my late father-in-law used to lecture us? Isn't it just another rendition of "both ways, uphill, in the snow"? 

And yet here we are, on the precipice of a country where college women will go back to bargaining with God to bring on their periods, where women with ectopic pregnancy will die because too few people understand that there can be no baby, where women were utter slaves to our own anatomy. Except that this time, it's going to be worse.

My mother had an illegal abortion in 1949. Why she became pregnant, got married, and THEN had the abortion is anyone's guess, but with my father in grad school and her being a newlywed and already suffering from the depression that plagued her for her entire adult life, a baby was more than she could bear at that point. She was lucky. Somehow she managed to find an actual doctor to perform the procedure and went on to have my sister and me. So I grew up in a household that supported women's bodily autonomy long before it was even mentioned.

It's a fallacy that everything was just fine until Donald Trump was able to put Anne Gorsuch Burford's son, a man who is a credibly-accused rapist with obvious anger management issues, and a woman whose faith group has been accused of being a hotbed of emotional and sexual abuse on the Supreme Court. The roots of the Dominion Theology theocracy we are now staring in the face date back to the 1980 campaign of Ronald Reagan, when the Christian Right used abortion as a shield to hide their real agenda, which was perpetuatins segregated schools. A candidate who started his campaign in the very town where three civil rights workers were murdered told them loud and clear that the actor-turned-California governor would be the savior of segregation.

The Christian Right may have lost (at the time) their battle for segregation, but being anti-abortion warriors gave them a weapon that served their agenda almost as well -- putting women back into their place.

I didn't always know that what I was jumping up and down and screaming about for a quarter century was at its core, a theocratic movement, though that's been pretty clear all along to anyone who paid attention. I am not a religious person, at least not in the established religion sense, and especially not an adherent of any of "the big three" religions that came out of the Fertile Crescent. I have never hidden that I have a strong cultural Jewish identity, but as I tell people, I have all the food and all the neurosis and none of the religion. My spiritual system involves "Make people's lives better as best I can while I'm here and not leave too much of a mess when I'm gone."  I don't fault people for being religious. Whatever gets you through what Mr. Brilliant called "this God-forsaken level of reality" is A-OK by me. Just leave me, and leave government, and leave others who do not believe the same way, out of it. And I have never understood why people who profess strong faith need everyone else to march in lockstep with them. And yet, here we are in the 21st century, with robots that have faces and CGI people and phones that play movies and electric cars -- and we're fighting off having a country run by Iron Age mythology.

I needn't go into gory details about what the implications of overturning Roe and sending the abortion issue back to the states are, because much ink and video has gone into it from even the corporate media that have been complicit in the tiptoeing around theocracy that has affected both political parties as well. Of course there are some things that HAVEN'T been covered in detail, such as the implications that affirming "states rights" could have in, yes, the re-legalization of segregation, and perhaps even slavery. (Do you think THAT couldn't happen? Are you still asleep at the wheel even now?) The women who are screaming about child support haven't thought through the nightmare of being tied for the next 18 years and perhaps beyond to the man who raped you, to the ex-husband who beat you, to the father who impregnated you when you were 12. Men who spew sperm into a woman get visitation and custody every single day no matter what their status is in that woman's life. Ask anyone who practices family law in Florida, where "fathers' rights" seem to supersede everything else.

You know what? I'm tired. For 25 years I've voted, I've sent money to candidates, I've argued with people about the bigger implications of essentially deciding that a pregnant woman ceases to be a human being and is nothing but a uterus with legs. I've marched and sent letters to the editor and blogged and stuffed envelopes and canvassed and done all the things you're supposed to do. And here we are. And I'm tired. And I don't know where we go from here.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

"To those who left us....and who brought us together"

I think the worst part of getting older is the parade of departures from this mortal coil moves ever faster. And now I have to write about yet another one.

I'm writing today to talk about Karl. I'm not going to mention his last name out of respect for his family's privacy. 

Two weeks after Mr. Brilliant died in 2013, I joined a social group for widows and widowers. I didn't want to join a grief group. I felt they were all too churchy and I truly did not want to sit in a room full of crying people. Some would say I should have, that I pushed grief away and that is why it's been squeezing out in manageable doses over eight years. 

I also didn't want to join "singles" groups. I already knew that dating wasn't in the cards for me. It had been horrible in my 20s, and I knew that it was going to be even worse for an overweight woman pushing 60  So when I found a group on Meetup whose mission was to build friendships with people who "get it" in a safe space, but by sharing enjoyable times, it was exactly what I needed. 

We've all known people who are like the mayor of whatever the group is. "The mayor" is always someone whose very presence signals that you are welcome. He's the first one with the smile, the extended hand, the "tell me your story" when someone new comes into the room. Karl was that person.  He wasn't hitting on people, he was all about welcoming. I've realized how important this is, after joining a group here after I moved where the men don't talk with any women they're not interested in fucking, and the women seem to see all new women as interlopers. The group in NJ was nothing like that.

Every Wednesday for two years I had dinner with these people, and Karl was always right there, showing genuine delight at being with everyone, and extending that smile, that hug, that warmth, to the new and the tentative. He had an unfailing instinct for where people's boundaries were and respecting them, while providing just the right amount of comfort. And last year during that long, cold winter, I was able to host Zoom calls for the group and see them all virtually. I am now particularly glad that I had that opportunity. I had no idea that the last Zoom I hosted would be the last time I'd see Karl.

I was at one of these dinners when I got the call that my father had passed away. I'm glad I was.

Karl and I shared an enjoyment of jam bands, especially the New Jersey-based Railroad Earth. I went with him and our friend Stacey to see Hot Tuna in Stroudsburg, PA in 2014, retracing the steps and the restaurant Mr. Brilliant and I had traced  a few years earlier for a different show. Karl and I weren't on the same page politically, and to be honest, I'm glad I never had to have political discussions with him during the Trump years. But upon reflection, he really did test my "You can't support Trump and still be a good person" doctrine.

Karl always closed every "widder dinner" with this toast:  "To those who left us...and who brought us together." Our friend Stacey, who has endured far more than her own share of tragedy already, noted today that he has now joined them. Perhaps he will now bring THEM together in an alternate universe version of the camaraderie those they had left behind shared.

My heart hurts today for Karl's loved ones, for Stacey who was such a close friend, for Carolyn and Carol and Bette and Kurt and Susan and Dan and Lynne and Gordon and Elsa and all the others I haven't met in person and who are new, and who I just can't remember right now, for they are the ones who have to face the empty space at the table every Wednesday. His loss makes grieving just that much more difficult for those who will no longer have his smile to welcome them and show that even in the face of indescribable grief, there is warmth and friendship and hope.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Right Wing Anti Vaccine Death Scorecard Episode 4, or COVID Is Nowhere Near Done With These People Yet

 Today's entry into the death pool is Bob Enyart, Colorado wingnut talk show host and pastor of the Denver Bible Church, who died this week from COVID-19. 

According to the Denver Post, Enyart had refused to be vaccinated because of his concern about abortion, believing the lie that COVID vaccines are made of aborted babies.

The term "Good riddance" certainly applies to Bob Enyart, a man who once read the names of people who died of AIDS while playing Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust."

So let's give this paragon of right-wing hate the proper send-off, shall we?

Honorable mention: Victoria Wolski, known for posting QAnon banners from bridges and demanding that she be treated with Ivermectin while in the hospital.

Honorable mention 2:  Josh.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

And now it's 20 years. Same shit, different angry men

It seems that every year, the annual ratings grab of 9/11 coverage starts earlier. Before we can turn around, it'll be a whole season. Maybe it'll start at the Summer Solstice, but more likely, as with this year, it'll start around Labor Day, which is the unofficial start of fall. Maybe eventually it'll be a shopping season. Who knows? 

A year is really just an arbitrary designation of time passing, though it seems that the "fives" and "zeroes" have special meaning. As I sit here on the sixth of September, 2021, which this year doubles as Labor Day, I've already noted that CNN has rebroadcast the excellent Naudet brothers documentary that was supposed to be about a probationary fireman in New York, but turned out to be a gripping and horrifying documentation of that terrible day. It's also run a discussion with the now-adult school children to whom George W. Bush was reading "My Pet Goat."  One of the premium channels is running Paul Greenglass' film United 93, a movie I could never bring myself to watch. Spike Lee's HBO docuseries NYC Epicenters 9/11 —> 2021½ is in heavy rotation.

Lee is no stranger to controversy, and much has been made of his excision of most, but not all, of the "9/11 Truther" content n the series. My own relationship with 9/11 Trutherism is complicated, especially in the context of the direct line from that particular movement down into the QAnon/deep state/2020 election was rigged/etc. lunacy that has received far too much oxygen and still thrives. 

Let me explain:  I have freely admitted to my belief in what was then known as LIHOP ("let it happen on purpose"). My belief was constructed from the following facts:  1) that a Newsweek article had just hit newsstands and mailboxes detailing the events leading up to the Supreme Court decision that made George W. Bush president; 2) Bush's already-dropping poll numbers; and 3) his aides' clearly known desire for a war with Iraq.