Here’s some good news: they can’t both win. On the night of November 8 one of the two lying, greedy New Yorkers running for president will begin to recede from the national stage. The short-term goal of the millions of us is to find suitable diversions from a dark age as it descends on a baffled nation.
I tried to do this the other night by seeing the new release “Jason Bourne.” You can usually count on Matt Damon to take one away from the cares of the day with a film featuring sleek production values. The “Bourne” series always includes some incredible car chases that allow you to forget your troubles while Damon battles his tormentors in American intelligence.
Early in the film, however, CIA computers, which seem to have many safeguards, are hacked from Iceland. Watching the vivid computer graphics, I thought, “Shouldn’t the secretary of state have had at least that much security for her home brew operation?” It is hard to escape this campaign even with escapist fare from talented Bourne franchise veterans.
A fellow discontented friend whose job also requires her to pay attention to politics is going to immerse herself in Marcel Proust’s seven-volume masterpiece, “In Search of Lost Time.” This unhappy campaign requires big diversions. People who’ve pondered escaping by diving into Proust’s tales of life in France at the dawn of the 20th century may have found their spur to do it with the prospect of this grim contest.
I’m more of a “War & Peace” advocate. Stick with it through the first 100 pages and the rewards of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece will stay with you for the rest of your life. Plus, it’s nice to recall an age when the Russians left us alone and concentrated their cunning on trapping Napoleon by burning down Moscow. Oh, for a simpler age.
It’s getting hard to remember what life was like before YouTube, but the online video treasure trove can help with that. For a reminder of when dignity was a hallmark of national political life, join nearly a million others who have seen Eleanor Roosevelt’s 1953 appearance as the mystery guest on the popular game show “What’s My Line.” The human rights advocate and former first lady was promoting the approach of United Nations Day at a time when the U.N. was a repository for the world’s hopes for peace. That was long before it became a nest of anti-Semitic madness.
Nostalgia, however, may not be enough to sustain the discontented for the next three months. Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” series reminds of the glories of a Hollywood fixer. Bernie Sanders and all those hopeless Republicans should have hired Ray. Liev Schreiber’s Ray may not be able to solve his own niagara of troubles, but the guy can take care of others’ torments for a fee. His indispensable assistant Lena, played with elan by Katherine Moenig, is a testimony to American ingenuity in finding ways to dispose of messes and torment troublemakers.
HBO’s new “Vice Principals” tells the tale of diabolical connivers with laughs, something missing in this year’s long campaign. It reminds us that most strains of American life can be found in some form in a high school. Two thin-skinned disappointed vice principals connive to undermine the steely outsider who snagged the top job they wanted. It’s zany antics married to raw, disappointed ambition. Maybe it’s not as divorced from this year’s politics as I thought.
If you don’t want to pay for your refuge, resort to that 21st century marvel, the podcast. Podcasts have revived the long-form interview. With a smartphone and a pair of earbuds, you can shut out the part of the world that’s clamoring for votes and substitute laughter for despair.
I prefer podcast pioneer Chris Hardwick. A standup with the business instincts of a tycoon, Hardwick knows how to do it. In the talk business, there are no bad guests, only bad hosts. Hardwick can make anyone interesting. The language can get blue, but this loyal listener can tell nothing of Hardwick’s politics. You can thank me later for this one. There are 22 episodes of comedian Norm Macdonald’s hilarious podcast. He is the master.
This should get us through November 8. After that, we may need stronger fare to blot out the ghastly noises our leaders make in our name.