Leading up to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia Stew and I had been diligently, almost obsessively, reading the New York Times and Washington Post and watching the PBS NewsHour. We supplemented such serious reporting with peeks at CNN, with its usual lineup of six or eight babbling bobbleheads, a format reminiscent of the Hollywood Squares but without the humor. Then we had been checking the online Huffington Post which is to news what potato chips are to a balanced diet—addictive but of little nutritional value.
Finally, for perversity's sake, we've occasionally tuned in to Fox News for a dose of magical realism, such as Bill O'Reilly's timely observation that, after all, the slaves who built the White House were well fed and received decent lodging from the government. He was responding to Michelle Obama's speech at the convention, in which she mentioned how awesome it was to wake up in a house built by slaves. I guess O'Reilly couldn't bring himself to say that it was a beautiful speech and just leave it at that.
But following the Democratic Convention, political news has become a hailstorm of bullshit largely thanks to Donald Trump. The worst of it is not that he blurts out something offensive, ridiculous or just plain false, but that news providers feel obligated to repeat it, massage it and hold it up to the light as informational nuggets that need to be pondered for several days.
It was at this moment, when Stew and I had nearly overdosed on potato chips, that Providence intervened with an unexpected solution—heavy rains, road construction and new and excellent Internet service at our home.
The rains and road construction have increased driving time to town from twenty minutes or so to over an hour, as traffic has been rerouted onto a muddy, out of the way detour that has the feel of driving through some remote part of West Virginia. So we've cut down our visits with friends in town, during which politics and much moaning and groaning about Trump is the inevitable topic of conversation. Zot!
A flash wireless Internet connection also has enabled us to download movies, documentaries and dramas that have preempted the constant political yadda-yadda from our TV schedule. We still record the PBS News Hour but fast forward past Judy Woodruff, Gwen Ifill and all the political hubbub and go directly to Jeffrey Brown, who's usually reporting about global warming or unusual plant species from the Maldives, Tahiti or some place where no one talks about Donald Trump.
Reading the Times and the Post online will require more self-control to slip past the political bloviation that consumes much of the news and opinion pages and go straight to book and movie reviews, science, travel, recipes, fashion, theater and other topics not likely to get us riled up.
In our reading, it's fiction all the time. No more "Black Flags: The Rise of Isis," by Joby Warrick, a terrific but depressing book that unfortunately reminded us of the war without end in Iraq and Syria, and the biggest debacle in U.S. foreign policy since Vietnam.
Stew instead prowls Amazon for detective or crime stories while I have settled on "Miss Jane," by Brad Watson, a novel about a girl in Mississippi born with chronic incontinence.
"Whoa! That sounds depressing!" some of you may say. Let me assure you it's a beautifully written and inspiring work, certain to take your mind off the presidential election in ninety-seven days, twelve hours, thirty-four minutes and thirty-six seconds. Make that thirty-one minutes, four seconds.
Just don't forget to vote.