11/29 Daily What: Hate-watching is a luxury (or, how I spent my Wednesday with Blade II)

On the one hand, why spend the rare day when both you and your spouse get to stay home together with no children around watching a shitty movie? On the other hand, when ELSE are you going to do that? When in the last three years have you just sprawled out on the couch watching an action movie sequel and making loud predictions about what each poorly-written character is going to say next, taking breaks only to answer the occasional work e-mail and throw a batch of chocolate chip cookies in the oven?

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11/28 Daily What: Am I over the Coen Brothers?

The last Coen film I saw in theaters was Inside Llewyn Davis in 2013, and I absolutely loved it. I even felt indignant on its behalf when it got mostly ignored at awards season. I haven’t seen every movie the Coens have ever made, but ever since experiencing No Country For Old Men on the big screen, I’ve been fairly well in the bag for these guys. Anything they make, I’ll see it. So when The Ballad of Buster Scruggs came out on Netflix not too long ago, my husband and I sat down to watch it, as I knew we eventually would. It’s not exactly a conventional feature film; it’s a “feature-length omnibus” consisting of six vignettes, all dealing in some way with the trope of the American frontier. It’s at times violent, often funny in that bleak Coen way, and occasionally thoughtful and deep. Racist on one or two occasions, too, but in a way that’s probably meant to be honest to the era. It features plenty of trademark Coen-Brothers dialogue and even more plenty of grizzled old white men. Including my old buddy James Franco, who gets artificially grizzled for his bank-robber role. As Sarah Aswell writes for Forbes, “the Western story arc is delightfully scrambled, and characters are given the depth, reflection, and thoughtfulness that they lacked in the black-and-white shoot-em-ups. Or–at least the white male characters are.”

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11/27 Daily What: It's Tuesday, and this is all I need

Last night, I had a real urge to watch the movie The Jerk, and honestly I didn’t even want to watch The Jerk; I wanted to watch one scene from The Jerk. I have that with movies; I will sit through all of Casablanca just to watch the “La Marseillaise” scene, and when I watch It’s A Wonderful Life from start to finish, it’s really so I can feel all the feelings that flood me at the end when George cries out “My mouth’s bleedin’, Bert! My mouth’s bleedin’!”

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11/26 Daily What: Which Dante translation is the best one?

Here's the thing - it's really easy as a language geek to have bad things to say about translations. It's absurdly easy. I haven't read Ann Goldstein much, but I have certainly read passages and thought, well that's not how would do it. Seriously, though, who cares? Her translations are all New York Times bestsellers and I an a former academic who has a blog. I'm in a lucky position with my level of Italian and the extent to which I have studied it where I could spend all day poking holes in others' translations; a translation has to make constant, tiny (and sometimes less-tiny) choices, and I can identify the places where the translator chose X but I would on the other hand have excellent reasons for choosing Y and I know I am in the right. My reasons are the one that are important to me. When it comes to a text that has been translated multiple times, you’re seeing several different translators who are privileging different things and making different choices. The question isn’t so much “which is the best translation?” but rather “which translation should I read?”

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11/23 Daily What: Discovering

I can confidently say that this was my best Thanksgiving as a mom, poop and all. Three-year-olds are infinitely easier to please with a big, special day than two-year-olds (who in turn are infinitely easier to please than one-year-olds). My three-year-old was EXCITED to go play with Grandma and Grandpa so Mommy and Daddy could run a 4-mile race in 11-degree weather. She couldn’t wait for me to leave her with them. She went right down for a 3-hour nap after that playdate, because she was MOTIVATED to get her rest for a big awesome Thanksgiving dinner. Sitting at the big table with everyone else meant something to her. Trying all the delicious food was something she was excited to do. And when it came time for dessert, she was thrilled to try apple pie for the first time and then, adorably, said “more pie, please!” She had a hell of a day. And these days, watching her have fun that she herself recognizes as fun is one of the most fun things I can do.

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11/21 Daily What: Thanksgivings, Ranked

When I was growing up, my dad used to quiz my brother and me: “Do you remember where we were one year ago today?” Then five years, and eventually ten years. Now, I can talk about doings of twenty years ago with decent recall, which makes me feel like I am aging and time is passing quickly.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I think it has been for a long time. I think this is somehow related to the fact that I don’t actually have a whole lot of specific memories of specific Thanksgivings. Thanksgiving is a lot of hanging out. Aside from that one year when the disposal backed up and Dad got sprayed with flecks of onion skin and what-have-you, most Thanksgivings exist in a vague haze of road races and fantastic food and relaxed family time.

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11/20 Daily What: This Thanksgiving, sink your teeth into Homecoming

Julia Roberts is not here to be a movie star. Homecoming hides her face as much as I have ever seen a camera do, and it mostly does it with bangs and shadows. Heidi Bergman, Roberts’s character on Homecoming, always wears her hair down, obscuring either side of her face. To top it all off, she wears bangs that fall all the way down to her eyebrows. Look back at Julia Roberts’s most iconic roles, her best-known red carpet looks: Julia Roberts doesn’t do bangs. If her hair is down, it’s swept behind her shoulders, taking a backseat to that face. That face! Who would obscure a forehead and cheekbones and a jawline like Julia Roberts’s? Heidi Bergman, that’s who.

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11/19 Daily What: Change is gonna come in five more minutes

One of the most oft-named tools in the parenting toolbox (in my case, it’s more like a messy drawer) is the graduated warning. “Five more minutes until it’s time to go! Two more minutes and then we’re getting in the bath! One more minute until we take a break to use the potty!” With my kid, the graduated warning is like a flathead screwdriver; it’s a good basic tool to have, and you definitely don’t want to sell yours on eBay, but it’s kind of useless for any job that actually requires a power drill with various speed settings and multiple drill bits.

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11/16 Daily What: So Beto O'Rourke is a blogger too!

Slate.com decided to mercilessly make fun of Beto O’Rourke’s recent post on Medium about his morning run in the snow. Dude just came within a couple of percentage points of beating a Republican incumbent senator in Texas, so he’s got some deep thoughts to share. “In short,” Slate writer Heather Schwedel says, “if this guy were in my college creative writing seminar, I would be roasting him in a group text message with every woman in the class.”

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