EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE: The Real Housewives of 1940’s New York

Director Mervyn LeRoy has a stable full of thoroughbreds and he lets them run.

Let’s get this straight right off the top:  I love this film.

We’ll start with James Mason, who plays Brandon Bourne, a rich man who knows all the right people, goes to all the posh places, wears tailored suits but beneath that thin veneer is nothing but a weak, worthless cad.  He cheats on his devoted wife as a matter of course, safe in the knowledge that she will accept—if not believe—his flimsy excuses about where he’s been and his empty promises that each time is the last time.

Gardner and Mason

Though Brand will take up with any beautiful woman who will have him, Isabel Lorrison has her claws in particularly deep.  Ava Gardner is never better as the woman who knows she can snap her fingers and make another woman’s husband come running.  Her part in the film is smaller than the others, but she makes her mark, stealing every scene she’s in.

You’ve got Van Heflin, an excellent actor who isn’t as remembered as he should be playing Mark Dwyer, the man who is everything Brandon Bourne is not, and who longs to show Brandon’s wife what real love and devotion look like.

Stanwyck and Van Helfin

And at the center of it all, you’ve got Barbara Stanwyck as the stoically long-suffering wife, Jessie Bourne.  Through all the subplots about Mark Dwyer and his childhood friend, Brand and Isabel, a murder mystery, and an exploration of the different neighborhoods in New York, this is a film about how Jessie Bourne comes to leave her long marriage.  You watch her suffer the small indignities of having to pretend everything is fine with her friends while they all know the truth of her husband’s infidelity.

The film is filled with scene after scene you can feast on:  Brand coming home after staying up all night and groveling to Jessie, who keeps forgiving but not managing to forget.  A reticent Jessie squirms with discomfort when her friend (in one of Nancy Reagan’s first roles) questions her about Brand’s philandering.  Isabel taunting Brand, knowing he won’t be able to give up their trysts.  Mark Dwyer and Jessie falling in love while he makes eggs and mushrooms in her kitchen.  The icy showdown between Jessie and Isabel.

Gardner and Stanwyck face off

It’s all leading to Jessie finally calling it quits.  When Brand comes home to face the music for the final time, I couldn’t wait for Jessie to let him have it.  I wanted this shy, stoic woman to finally let it rip—to scream, list his myriad indiscretions, throw things at him.

But this is not Jessie Bourne’s way.

In one of the best acted scenes of Stanwyck’s long career, her Jessie Bourne listens carefully while Brand lists all the reasons she should take him back one more time.  He’s scared because he knows how far he’s pushed her this time, but he believes—he always believes—that he can find a way to get her back.

When he’s finally finished, Jessie looks at him with dry eyes.  You can hear the tears in her throat, but she’s done all the crying she’s ever going to do for Brandon Bourne. No screaming, no throwing things—Brandon has finally killed all Jessie’s love for him and there’s nothing either of them can do to change it.

Stanwyck kills the delivery, and it’s a damn shame I couldn’t find a YouTube clip of it. This tumbler gif from duchesscloverly will have to do:

East Side, West Side is a well directed, excellently acted melodrama.  It’s the life and love of New York City’s upper crust in the 1940’s.  It’s got everything—love, drama, murder, infidelity.  

It’s a fine film that should be more celebrated and remembered.

Give it a shot.

Those Darling Bluestockings Sure Had Moxie

Just like fashion, words change.  When I was growing up in the nineties, it was all about the bling, people needed to take a chill pill, and talk to the hand.  Let me tell you, we were cool.  Psych!

Today everyone is extra, people are coming for you on social media, and spilling the tea.  And don’t forget—you got this.

I’m not advocating bringing back 90’s slang…as if!  But there are some great words that have never been widely used during my nearly forty years on this earth, and I really think we need to bring them back into circulation. 

Let me give you three examples:

Darling

If you spend your time watching old movies as I do, you come to love the world darling.  Today it’s the stuff of melodramatic movies and novels.  You have a single darling, your one and only love.

But in the 1930s and 40s, the word indicated non-exclusive affection.  Women tossed it out constantly.  They called their fathers darling, their mothers, their close friends.

“Hello darling,” they’d say, as they breezed into the room. 

I honestly can’t think of anything more glamorous. 

In 1961, Audrey Hepburn dropped the word dozens of times in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

If it’s good enough for Audrey Hepburn, it’s good enough for me. 

So the next time I see you, if I call you darling, you’ll know why.

Bluestocking

I first came across this word in Virginia Woolf’s seminal essay on writing, A Room of One’s Own.  I’d never heard it before and had to look it up.  The Merriam-Webster website defines it blandly as a woman having intellectual or literary interests.

I thought nothing of it at the time, but then I came across the word again in Olive Higgins Prouty’s Pencil Shavings, a memoir of her writing life.  Prouty gained literary success with her 1923 novel Stella Dallas and eventually became a mentor to Sylvia Plath.  Prouty was an excellent writer but tortured by the idea that she was neglecting her duties as a wife and mother when she worked on her novels.

About her desire to go to college in 1900, she writes:

Both my parents, like many others, were skeptical about a college education for their daughter.  College was apt to make a girl opinionated, undomestic, unmanageable and also unmarriagable in the opinion of many a young man who wanted no “blue stocking” for a wife.

I realized then that bluestocking—a woman having intellectual interests—was an insult.  After a little more research, I found that the term originated from a group of British women in the mid-eighteenth century who were bored to death playing cards and pianofortes and decided to form a society to discuss their literary interests.  They invited men as well, and the story goes that one man declined to attend the meeting because he did not have the formal dress required for such an evening.  One of the women told him to come in his “blue stockings,” a term for the worsted wool stockings worn informally.  He did come, and critics who wrote the women off as pretentious dilettantes termed them bluestockings.

But I think the bluestockings were pretty bad ass—grandmothers to the suffragettes, great-grandmothers to the feminists of the 1960s, and great-great grandmothers to today’s women.

The bluestockings were rebels in their own way, readers and writers in a time when such activities would garner patronizing pats on the head at best and expulsion from the marriage market at worst.

So let’s bring back the word, but make it our own.  Say it with me, literary ladies—I’m a bluestocking and proud of it!

Moxie

And finally, moxie

The term comes from a soft drink of the same name that originated in 1876 and is still sold today.  The Moxie Man has appeared in the advertising throughout much of its history, pointing confidently forward and inspiring the expression, “the kid’s got moxie.”

Men—and women—with moxie won’t let anything stop them from getting what they want.

Neil Armstrong had moxie.  So did Ruther Bader Ginsberg and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

So for that matter does Tom Brady.

You don’t make it to the moon, the supreme court, or destroy a hellmouth without moxie.

You don’t win six Super Bowls without it either.

To have moxie is to have guts.

You know, like those darling bluestockings.

Marshmallow: Found!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a happy ending!

After being missing for thirteen days and presumed dead, the marshmallow was found alive and unharmed early this morning.

The marshmallow had been missing since December 26, when she and her friend, the hot chocolate mug were kidnapped from their place on top of the microwave by Blinker Novak, a notorious one-eyed bandit.  Blinker has been arrested multiple times on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering crinkly toys, but has never been convicted.

It was widely believed that Blinker was responsible for the kidnapping, and the marshmallow was indeed found with Blinker. 

Blinker had taken the marshmallow from the top of the microwave in retribution for her missing Christmas Eve dinner.  She dragged the marshmallow into the last place her owner would ever look—into her cat carrier, which she normally avoids like the plague (covid?) as it means a trip to the vet.

Blinker and the marshmallow were found cuddled together in the carrier.  The marshmallow insists she is quite happy, though the authorities strongly suspect Stockholm syndrome.

The marshmallow has declined to press charges.

GILDA: Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

You may not know it, but you’ve seen Gilda.

In the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins play inmates in the Shawshank State Penitentiary.  In a famous scene, Andy Dufresne (Robbins) slides into the seat behind Red (Freeman) in the prison’s crowded movie theater.  

Red-

Wait, wait, wait, wait,” Red insists, holding up a hand.  His eyes are transfixed on the giant movie screen before him.  “Here she comes.  This is the part I really like.  This is when she does that shit with her hair.”

Oh yeah, I know,” Andy says with a smile.  “I’ve seen it three times this month.”

We then see what has Red and Andy transfixed.  A black and white film, two men in suits walking into a room.

Gilda, are you decent?” one asks.

The camera closes in on a woman who throws her head back and Rita Hayworth’s face fills the frame.

Me?” she asks with a mile-wide smile and anything-but-decent voice.

The prisoners hoot and holler, Red laughs, and Andy smiles.

The Shawshank Redemption is based on the Stephen King novella with the lengthier title Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.  As anyone familiar with the film or novella knows, Andy escapes by spending years digging a tunnel out of his cell, which he covers with a poster of Rita Hayworth.

When it came to having a poster of Rita Hayworth hanging on his wall, Andy Dufresne was in good company.  The poster in the film was made from a famous shot of Hayworth taken by Bob Landry for the August 11, 1941 issue of Life magazine.  It became one of the most popular pin-ups of American troops during World War II.  

Andy Dufresne and Rita Hayworth in The Shawshank Redemption

If you watch Gilda—or even just the few seconds of her that show up in The Shawshank Redemption, you know why Stephen King, Andy Dufresne, and millions of G.I.’s picked Rita Hayworth as their preferred pin-up girl.

Rita Hayworth looks good on a poster.  But looking good on a poster is modeling, not acting.

Gilda is a film mostly remembered for two scenes, both showcasing Hayworth’s innate sex appeal.  The first is her opening scene in the film as showcased in Shawshank.  In the second, Gilda dons a black strapless gown and long black gloves and sings “Put the Blame on Mame” to an appreciative crowd.  During the song, she yet again “does that shit with her hair” before slowly rolling down one glove and discarding it.  This one glove striptease—the director didn’t dare risk having Hayworth remove both gloves—shocked and titillated audiences of 1946 as much as anything on the screen today.

Rita Hayworth’s Gilda is seductive and mysterious, equalling loving and hating her one-time lover and eventual husband Johnny Farrell.  She drives Farrell mad by playing the part of a femme fatale, though in truth she only has eyes for him.

Yet outside those two scenes, Gilda drags.  Johnny Farrell and Gilda sparring mostly falls flat, and it’s hard to understand why they love and hate one another so deeply.  The twist that Gilda is not a femme fatale but has been faithful to both her husbands is obvious to the audience and only makes Johnny look like a fool for suspecing her of serial infidelity.

Rita Hayworth’s femme fatale lacks the chilling calculation of Stanwyck in Double Indemnity or the confident sex appeal of Lauren Bacall’s Slim Browing in To Have and Have Not.

Part of the problem is that Hayworth’s true talent was dancing, and she doesn’t get to do much of that here.  She was as good a dancer as Ginger Rogers and made two well-danced but mostly forgotten films with Fred Astaire.

But the best stars of the golden age have what the French call je ne sais quoi, an indefinable charisma that you can’t look away from, no matter how bad the film.

Whatever it is that makes audiences want to watch films that are seventy-five years old, Rita Hayworth doesn’t have it.

There’s no shame in it.  Most people don’t.

Have You Seen This Marshmallow?

Friends, as of this morning, the marshmallow is still missing.

I can only hope she has escaped the house and is out there, alive somewhere.  Though she’ll be shivering in the cold, she has plenty of fluff to keep her from freezing to death.

If you see the marshmallow, please contact me immediately.  If she is accompanied by a black one-eyed cat, do not approach.  Assume the assailant is clawed and dangerous.

With each day that passes, hope is slipping away.

The hot chocolate mug is inconsolable.

The Case of the Missing Marshmallow

I planned to write about my hopes and dreams for the New Year.

Unfortunately, I must instead begin 2021 with a disturbing story. 

On Christmas day, my parents had a gift for my cat, Blinker.  I accepted the crinkly stuffed marshmallow and cup of hot chocolate on Blinker’s behalf, as she was practicing extreme social distancing and refused to leave our house.

Due to heavy snow and ice, I spent the night at my parent’s house.  I was away from home overnight for the first time in a year.  As a consequence, Blinker missed her Christmas Eve dinner.

This is when the trouble began.

If you have a cat, you know they always let their owners know when they are displeased.

She shunned me, of course.  Sure, she purred a bit when I first came through the door to make sure I served her missed meal, but afterwards she had her tail in the air and her butt in my face.

I decided to hold off on giving her the crinkly marshmallow and mug.  I’d wait until she was in a better mood, ready to play instead of sitting around giving me the stink eye.  When she was out of the room, I hid the toys.  She knows she isn’t allowed on the kitchen counter, and even if she went up there, she’d have no reason to explore the top of the microwave, especially since I sandwiched the toys between the loaf of bread and sleeve of English muffins I keep there.

After a few more hours of snow, I suited up and went out to shovel the driveway.  The snow was heavy, and I helped a few neighbors, so I was outside for nearly an hour.

When I walked in the front door, I heard whimpering.  I ran up the stairs and found Blinker, curled around a red object, her claws sunk deep into the soft fabric.

“Oh no,” I said.  “No, it can’t be.”

She’d found my hiding spot.  She was torturing the poor whimpering hot chocolate mug, kicking him with her claws, biting him, licking him until he screamed.

Reader, it wasn’t pretty.

I left him to his fate.  There was nothing I could do.

I ran into the kitchen, which appeared undisturbed but I knew better.  I flung aside the bread and English muffins and raised my hands to my head in terror.

The marshmallow was gone.

“Where is he?” I demanded.  “What have you done to him?”

She didn’t reply, just looked at me with that one eye and an expression that said it all.  It was retribution for her missed Christmas Eve dinner.

Like any good mob boss, she hadn’t taken her revenge on me directly, but on the ones I was sworn to protect.

I searched everywhere for the marshmallow—beneath the bed and the couch.  I searched her bin of toys, and the basket of blankets, and behind my office desk where she likes to bat my pens when I am working.

No marshmallow.

She resisted my interrogation.  I offered her head scratches, an extra can of Fancy Feast, a new Amazon box.  I promised to ask for brown paper bags the next time I went to the grocery store.

Nothing worked.  She didn’t cave.

Even a night in the clink didn’t weaken her resolve.

As of this hour, the marshmallow is still missing.  I fear he has come to a bad end.

Pray for him.

Mildred Pierce: Crawford at a Crossroads

The career of every actress—then and now—approaches a hairpin turn at around age forty.  It begins with the slap in the face the first time a star loses a coveted role to a younger woman.  The box office draw slips and no longer justifies the huge salary earned from your prior successes, leading to the potentially fatal “box office poison” designation.

The actress cannot continue doing what had previously brought her monumental success—if she tries too hard for too long, she will drive her career off a cliff.  But if she finds a way to survive this icy, harrowing turn, forty becomes the end only of her first act.  

And presents the chance to become a legend.

In 1945, Joan Crawford was going over the cliff and everybody knew it.

After eighteen years as MGM’s glamour girl, she asked to be let out of her contract because she wasn’t getting any good parts.  If it was a bluff, Louis B. Mayer called it.  He was happy to have her bloated salary and fading looks off MGM’s books.  

It looked like she’d landed on her feet when she signed a lucrative contract with Warner Brothers—she was still Joan Crawford, after all—that included control over the roles she played.

This control was nearly her undoing.

Despite the new contract, she didn’t work for two years.  Warners sent her scripts, but she kept turning them down.  It was true that many of the parts weren’t very good, but what rankled was that they were age-appropriate. 

She could not—would not—accept that she was no longer an ingenue.  

The flow of scripts slowed to a drizzle and eventually dried up.  She was gaining the reputation of being difficult to work with.  She was no longer worth the trouble.

No one was waiting for Joan Crawford’s comeback.

The realization that she may never work again ignited her fighting spirit.

She would not go gently into that good night like Garbo or Norma Shearer.

She needed a part—a good part, certainly, but she had to get off the sidelines.  She had to convince the world—and perhaps herself—that she had worth as an actress beyond youth and beauty.

She set her sights on Mildred Pierce.  Producer Jerry Wald and director Michael Curtiz were adapting James M. Cain’s novel about a woman whose tireless and unselfish efforts to provide for her daughter ultimately turn that daughter into a treacherous monster.

The producer and director had Barbara Stanwyck in mind for the title role, and it’s easy to see why.  Stanwyck—famously less vain than other stars of her caliber—had relatively little trouble adapting herself to more mature roles.  

Many times when I hear that someone else was slated to play an ultimately iconic role, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the part.  But I can see Stanwyck as Mildred Pierce—she would’ve brought her natural style, and highlighted Mildred’s tough exterior that coated a core of vulnerability.  

But although I’d like to see the alternative universe version, I think Joan Crawford was still the right choice.  The plot of Mildred Pierce rhymes with that of Stella Dallas, and while it would’ve been interesting to watch Stanwyck play another self-sacrificing mother, Crawford had never played anyone like Mildred and thus brought a freshness to the role.

The wardrobe for a Stanwyck Mildred Pierce would likely have been entirely different—more housewife and waitress, less successful restaurateur and fading glamour girl trying to hold a younger man.

And I am just not willing to sign up for a world in which we are denied the sight of Joan Crawford as Mildred rocking those mountain high shoulder pads.

Nobody, but nobody rocks shoulder pads like Joan Crawford

In any case, Crawford had set her sights on Mildred Pierce as her comeback vehicle and wasn’t going to let anyone—not the director’s dislike, the producer’s wavering, or her friend Stanwyck’s desire to play the part—stop her.

She fought for the part, insisting she understood Mildred better than anyone.  She even did a screen test—a humiliating comedown for an actress of her statue—to convince the skeptical director that she could bring the required gravitas to the part.

She got the role.

Mildred Pierce is a first class melodrama.  When she divorces her husband, Mildred—who had seemingly never worked outside the home before—humbles herself (much as Crawford did to get the role) by taking a job as a waitress and baking pies.  Mildred finds she has a head for business and eventually buys the restaurant.  She has more success, turning her single restaurant into a chain.  

Like Crawford, she is less successful in her personal life.  Her practical business sense does not carry over into the men she picks for romance.

The fuel that drives Mildred’s ambition is providing for her daughters, especially Veda, who has expensive taste and social climbing ambitions.  In indulging her, Mildred creates an ungrateful beast who brings them all down.

Mildred Pierce was the triumph Crawford needed.

She received the first Academy Award nomination in her long career.  Much has been made of the fact that she did not attend the Oscars due to illness.

Uncharitable readings are that she faked the illness for attention.

A more sympathetic interpretation—and the one I choose to believe—is that Joan feigned illness because she was too afraid to lose that Oscar in public.  Her career was riding on the success of Mildred Pierce and her career was her life.  Losing the Oscar didn’t mean her career was over—the movie was a success—but winning the Oscar would cement her comeback.

She won.

There is a dramatic photograph of her receiving the Oscar in bed in her hotel room, the most glamorous sick woman you ever saw.

She was still Joan Crawford, after all.

She’d made the hairpin turn.

And the second—and in some ways more successful—half of her career began.

Goodbye 2020: The Year that Didn’t Happen

I don’t keep a scrapbook, but if I did, this untorn ticket stub is the only thing I’d put in it to symbolize 2020.  Scheduled for March 20, 2020, its abrupt cancellation with the promise of a reschedule was an early omen of all that was to come.

The NBA shut down the week before this concert was to have taken place.  Days later I was sent home from work with my laptop and assurances we’d be back in two weeks.

I haven’t seen the place since.

Mandy Moore never rescheduled.  The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust gave up in early November and refunded my money.

Goodbye 2020:  The Year that Didn’t Happen.

For some, 2020 has been marked by horrific loss—loss of a family member, a job, or a small business.  But for those of us lucky enough to have thus far avoided those fates, 2020 is going to be hard to remember.

I know what you’re thinking—how could we forget this unprecedented, crazy year?

But on the other hand, what is there to remember?  This is the year we didn’t go to concerts, or weddings, or dinners out with friends.  We didn’t celebrate birthdays or holidays together.  We didn’t go on vacation.  Sure, we Zoomed. 

But we all know deep down that Zoom doesn’t count.

“There was Trump and there was covid,” we’ll tell our great-grandkids about this year.  “And that’s all I remember.”

“But what did you do?” they’ll ask us.

“I have no idea,” we’ll say.

And isn’t it true already?  March seems so long ago and yet I cannot think of the things I’ve done in the past nine months.  I can only remember the things I didn’t do.

Five years from now, I won’t remember that I was ever planning to see Mandy Moore at all.

We’ll forget all our plans that never came to fruition.

I’ll bet you can’t even remember that when this all started you binged Tiger King.

Goodbye, 2020.  You won’t be missed and won’t you be remembered.

Here’s to 2021:  The Year of the Vaccine and the Roaring Twenties Redux.

See you then.

Miracle on 34th Street: Believe In Santa

It’s easy to make a passable Christmas movie, but hard to make a great one.  

A great Christmas has to walk a tightrope— sentimental but not saccharine.  Funny but not crude.  Traditional but original.  Appealing to the entire family.  Eminently rewatchable.  

They absolutely have to stick the landing—a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas that has your heart melting and not your eyes rolling.

It’s nearly impossible.

Most Christmas movies are quickly forgotten, around for a season and only half-watched as you munch on popcorn and contemplate gifts for those hardest to buy for on your Christmas list.  They’re enjoyable but predictable, a pleasant two hours passed but quickly forgotten.

But when a filmmaker manages the impossible, the results are magical.

Beloved Christmas movies become part of family Christmas traditions, watched each year as the tree is trimmed or after all the presents are opened.  They are souvenirs of childhood, keys to unlock the sweet nostalgia of good times with the ones we love.

Love Actually.  Home Alone.  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  White Christmas.  Christmas in Connecticut.  A Christmas Story.  All make me laugh and feel as warm inside as a Christmas hot toddy.

So does Miracle on 34th Street.

Unnecessarily remade multiple times, the 1947 original is a classic and earned Edmund Gwenn a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Santa Claus.

It starts out with a setup that can be seen any night of the week on the Hallmark Channel—skeptical all-work-and-no-play Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) falls in love with her idealistic neighbor Fred Gailey.  Doris hires a man to play Santa Claus in the Macy’s Day Parade and soon discovers that he believes he is the real Santa.  Fred is charmed.  Doris is dismayed.

Miracle gives us our first real look at Natalie Wood, who plays Doris’ equally skeptical daughter.  Under her mother’s tutelage, Susan does not believe in Santa Claus or anything else that defies good common sense.  

At only eight years old, one can already see the star that Natalie Wood would become in films like Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story.  Her Susan is charming as a girl who has not been allowed to indulge in childish fantasies and acts like a little adult.  

Fred and Kris Kringle—the man hired to play Santa—work together to crack open the hearts of the stubborn Walker women.

So far, so good.

But when Kris Kringle is thrown into an insane asylum for insisting he is Santa Claus, the movie makes an unexpected U-turn from fantasy-laced romance to courtroom drama.

To get Santa out of the asylum, lawyer Fred sets out to prove in court that Kris Kringle is the one true Santa Claus.

Here’s where the movie gets original and funny.  Not laugh-out-loud funny, but clever.  Fred’s legal maneuverings are based around the idea that no one involved—not the judge, not the prosecuting attorneys—want to be quoted in the newspaper as saying Santa doesn’t exist and therefore breaking the hearts of the city’s children.  (And more importantly in the case of the elected judge, his constituents.)  Those involved in the case against Santa are shunned at home by their wives and children.

Meanwhile, Doris and Susan are ultimately won over by Kris Kringle.

When the post office begins delivering all the mail addressed to Santa Claus to Kris Kringle at the courthouse, Fred uses this as proof that the U.S. government officially recognizes Kris Kringle as Santa Claus.

The judge rules in his favor, Santa is released from the looney bin, and everyone makes it home in time for Christmas Eve dinner.

Little Susan gets the last scene in the film when she becomes a true believer in Santa when he manages to deliver her impossible Christmas request—a lovely house in the suburbs, which a newly engaged Doris and Fred agree to buy.

It’s a great film, and if you’ve never seen it, make a point to this week.

To all my readers, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season.  I’m grateful to all those who read and support this film series in particular and my writing in general.  Even with the pandemic, I have much to be grateful for this holiday season.

I’ll be back next week at the usual time and place for the last movie blog of 2020.  Then it’s full speed ahead into 2021.

Slowing Down To Speed Up

I’ve got another rant.

Blame yourselves.  Readers responded so well to my rant about the spaghetti man and his ridiculous paper plate date, that I have no reason to hold back now.

I want to talk about podcasts. 

My beef is not with podcasts themselves.  I love getting regular updates on news, politics, entertainment, and inspiration from hosts I’ve come to think of as friends.  They say podcast listening is down in 2020 due to less commuting.  While I agree that driving is the ideal listening place for podcasts, I’m not sure how I would’ve survived 2020 without them.  While some people use radio or television for background noise while they’re working, I use podcasts.

So what’s the problem?

1.5x speed. 

For those not familiar with podcasting, there are settings on podcast player that allow you to speed up the sound.  You can literally listen to podcasts on fast forward.  The most common speed is 1.5x, which allows you to get through a 60 minute podcast in 45 minutes.

It takes some getting used to, or so people say.  People often work their way up to 1.75x speed, and even 2x in which a 60 minute podcast is played in 30 minutes with the hosts sounding like Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Why do people do this?

To make sure they hear all of their favorite podcast during their morning commute?

To fit in more podcasts—to be better informed, more inspired, more entertained?

To—

Oh, let’s be honest.

People do this because they’re insane.

I had a great analogy to use here—that people could watch movies in fast forward to get more movies in, but they don’t do that because it’s crazy.

Except that there’s now a Chrome Plug-In that lets you watch Netflix on your computer at double speed.

To all the people who listen and watch on double-speed, I have a news flash for you:  you will never be able to watch and listen to everything good out there.

I guess it’s like trying to learn to speed read.  But speed reading is to get through boring school material.  You don’t speed read your favorite novel.

You savor it.

But really, people can do what they want.  If they want to listen to their podcasts on 2x speed, it’s no skin off my nose.

Except now it is.

Because I was listening to my favorite podcast host recently, and he mentioned that over the years he has learned to speak more slowly and take longer pauses during his podcasts.

Why?

So that people listening on 1.5x and 2x speed can understand him.

Podcasters now have to slow down so that we can speed them up.

And now those of us who listen on normal speed have to listen on slow-mo.

Are movies next?  Are directors going to have to make three hour cuts so we can watch them in an hour and a half?

This.  Is.  Lunacy.

Right?