The Weekly Edit: The Endless Loop

Dec 12, 2019

I’ve been trying to dispel some tension from my life, and I’ve decided that creating a bit of distance between myself and national politics is essential to that goal.  That means I need to give up watching cable news.  My (formerly) favorite thing.

I knew I needed to take a step back from watching 24-hour news channels when my dog learned to say the word ‘impeachment’ just so I would pay attention to her.  Of course, I’m joking about Avery being able to talk.  But if she could, a talking dog might be enough to draw cable news’s attention away from the President for just a moment.

It’s incredible how many important news stories aren’t being properly covered in the endless morass of impeachment coverage.  This is not to say that the debate over impeachment isn’t very important, but it isn’t the only thing going on in the world.

The island of Samoa is on virtual lockdown due to a measles outbreak.  Dozens of children have died.

Iranian citizens are dying in the streets for protesting against their government.  Oh, and to make sure this kind of freedom of thought doesn’t happen again, the regime would like to replace the Internet in Iran with a state-run intranet.

And, just in case you needed to feel a case of hot, blinding rage today, a federal prison in Florida is accused of being a “sanctuary” for systemic rape and sexual harassment where guards routinely victimized inmates and punished those who spoke out.

Of course, all of these stories got a little bit of coverage.  But not nearly the air time they would have gotten in a pre-Trump era.

I don’t watch the news for entertainment.  I don’t watch to warm the cockles of my heart with criticism of my political enemies.  I watch the news to become better informed. But now, instead of reporting a wide variety of stories, an endless parade of pundits, panelists, experts and analysts spend most of the broadcast debating and dissecting every single detail of President Trump’s day like a kind of journalistic Chinese Water Torture.

For four years, the President has dominated the news.  ‘Covfefe’ received more attention from the press (and as a result, the public) than hundreds of dead, democracy-loving Iranians trying to stand up for their basic human rights.  And that makes me frustrated and sad.

The President hates the press, and he’s been very successful at convincing vast swaths of the American electorate to blame them for everything.  But the press, in its quest to tell truth to power, has tilted from covering presidential news to a ratings-driven obsession.  Not only is that making it very difficult for those of us who watch to stay informed and engaged, it runs the risk of proving him right.  And I, for one, am exhausted by it.

If you need an emotional break from the national news as well, here’s a video of a boy being reunited with his lost dog.  I’m going to go look at YouTube videos of Lynne Russell and think fondly about what CNN Headline News used to be before it become HLN, and an endless parade of Forensic Files episodes.

In 2012, BBC One produced Restless, a two-part miniseries about British spies during WWII.  The story follows a free-loving 1970s woman (played by Lady Mary Crawley or Michelle Dockery if you want to get technical) who discovers that her mother was a highly trained British spy.  Told through a series of flashbacks, the first few episodes have proved very engrossing.  You can catch it on Amazon Prime TV if you need something to watch over the holidays that even your in-laws will probably love.

I stopped buying ThirdLove bras after they failed to respond publicly to allegations that they maintain a hostile work environment that doesn’t comport with their heavily advertised feminist values.  So when I needed to replace a couple of bras, I followed reader suggestions over to Soma.

I prefer front close bras, but they’re not easy to find.  So I scooped up this Vanishing Back Bra the second I spotted it.  I’ve historically avoided full-coverage bras because the proportions sometimes look matronly, but this one is very sleek and flattering. I also snapped up this Cooling Balconette Bra so the girls don’t sweat when trapped under wool sweaters.  So far, I’m very glad that I made the switch.

I’m hoping to get some reading in over the holidays, so I snapped up a few things from Book of the Month.  I grabbed The Glittering Hour, Red White and Royal Blue, and The Water Dancer.  Though I’m probably most excited about The Glittering Hour, I do love a good period piece, and first part of the 20th Century has always been a favorite setting.

Kyle and I were cleaning out the cupboards a few weeks ago, when we decided to toss out the old, flavorless dried spices that had accumulated in our kitchen.  (Spoiler Alert: I’d been toting around the same bottle of ground ginger since the Bush Administration.)  After making a list of the 28 spices that needed to be replaced, we went to the bank to get a loan so that we could afford dozens of bottles of coriander, paprika and the like.  Because at $5-$10 a pop, this wasn’t going to be cheap.

Then, a friend suggested that we buy a spice rack with 20 spices included from Kamenstein.  The spices were surprisingly fresh, and the rack fits nicely into our cupboard. And you get not only the spices in the rack, but free refills for five years when you register the product.

If we win the lottery, we’ll upgrade to a fleet of products from local company, Spiceology.  But until then, the store bought rack was a great money saver.

{image by Mats Peter Forss; this post contains affiliate links that may generate commission for the author}

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  1. Aar1 says:

    Yes, could not agree more

  2. Mallory says:

    I’ve always been able to source affordable spices/herbs/blends from local “international” grocery stores: those that specialize in Hispanic, Indian, Asian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, etc. foods. They’re usually in plastic bags, not plastic/glass containers, but I soak the labels off of old spice jars to reuse.

    I live in Houston, so I am spoiled for options, but even my old hometown of Pittsburgh had a couple of good options if you knew where to look (many of which are independently owned, to boot).

    • Mel says:

      I second international stores for spices. I keep the glass spice bottles that I get from TJs or Giant and refill them with the packages from the international stores. Dirt cheap, less packaging wasteful, high quality, and I get the opportunity to explore new flavors.

    • Denise says:

      +1 for the international stores.

      Also +1 for a Houstonian from Pittsburgh. There might be…2 of us in this city? haha! I find that Fiesta is a great for the little bagged spices. Also the little meat markets have wonderful blends for seasoning brisket and steaks!

  3. Kels says:

    Okay to not to be pedantic or “That Person” on line – but just a clarification, the Gilded age is 1870s-ish to 1900 and the Glitterign Hour is set in 1920 (Roaring 20s/Jazz Age).

    I read a few good Gilded Age novels this summer, including A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts and That Churchill Woman.

    • Belle says:

      Thanks. I just wonder why the book describes itself as set in the Gilded Age…apparently everyone is getting this wrong. Appreciate the clarification.

  4. Kat says:

    If there’s a whole foods or other natural foods store in Spokane, you can buy spices in bulk and they are WAAAAYYYY cheaper. Like $1 to fill a spice bottle. Life changing.

    • Belle says:

      Oh that’s a good tip. No Whole Foods here, which according to some in town is a kind of tragedy. But there is a natural grocers, so we will try that.

      • Minnesota says:

        Or try your local food co-op. Always amazing prices for staples like spices, olive oil, maple syrup. Even if you’re not a member.

      • Jess says:

        You can get bulk spices at Huckleberries or Winco – that’s where j get all my spices anymore, especially the more random ones that I’m purchasing for one recipe. I love leaving with $0.12 of exactly what I need, instead of an $8 jar that I will never use up.

  5. Priya says:

    Well said, Belle!
    I’m a Democrat and Trump has never been my guy. I think impeachment is necessary even though it will fail. But most importantly I agree with you about the corrosive effects of the news on my soul. It wears me down psychologically to see so much negativity and all-Trump-all the time leaves out so much of the story of what’s happening in the world. One million Uiygurs are in work camps. Rohingya have lost their homes. Iran kills dissidents and no one notices. It crushes my soul and there is precious little I can do about any of it.

    My neighbors have Trump signs and Trump flags out in their yard, and yet i love them dearly. We share food and friendship and I hope that never changes.

    I survive by getting rid of cable and spending more time outdoors.

  6. Shanna says:

    Well said.

  7. Casey says:

    Have you tried PBS newshour? It’s all I watch and has excellent in depth pieces on everything that you discuss – besides impeachment. I talk about PBS newhour all the time.

  8. Sara says:

    Minor correction: the measles epidemic is in the Samoa (the nation) not American Samoa (the US territory). There is a small outbreak of nine confirmed cases in American Samoa, but thousands have been infected in Samoa.

  9. Anna says:

    I spent a lot of time while reading Red, White, and Royal Blue annoyed by the inaccuracies about Washington, DC and the flagrant and repeat violations of norms and laws like the Hatch Act (apparently I can’t let go of my day job!). But for something that was meant to be an escape, it grated a bit.

    All that being said, I love that an LGBT love story came mainstream and would appreciate future recommendations along those lines.

  10. Katel says:

    The news cycle is exhausting. When someone I followed on Twitter re-tweeted Erin Ruberry I signed up for her newsletter. I read it BEFORE Axios and Politico Playbook for my feel good news of the day. It’s a nice reminder that most people are decent and kind.

  11. Julia says:

    I am exhausted from the news, though I don’t watch any on tv. All my news is consumed online from the Nytimes and Washington Post or from NPR. I love watching foreign shows to distract me from the chaos and craziness going on right now. If you like British shows, check out Foyle’s War. And my sister-in-law got me hooked on Asian soap operas. Since I don’t know the language at all I have to focus on the subtitles, which is actually a great distraction. Netflix has a lot of Asian shows (though you really have to search to find good ones.) One of my favorites that came out awhile ago is called Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo. I’ve watched or started watching so many foreign tv shows on Netflix that the vast majority of shows that are suggested for me aren’t in English. Netflix does still have mostly shows in English, right?

    • TheLOOP says:

      If you like foreign TV shows, try Made In Heaven on Amazon Prime. It’s in English actually so should be easier than subtitles. It’s really good!

  12. Meredith says:

    Abra, I am so exhausted by the news too! I work in DC in policy and I get Politico Pro updates all day and it is TOO MUCH. I need to get non-US news, like ASAP.

  13. AMANDA says:

    The NYT’s Daily podcast gets a lot of praise–deservedly so. It is excellent. If you haven’t tried it, pleaee do!

    • Belle says:

      The podcast is good, but it’s so basic. If you’re looking for something beyond the same headlines everyone else covers, there’s not much.

  14. e says:

    24 hour Cable news channels are designed to be entertaining. That might feel more pronounced in the Trump era because there is more lunacy to report on and because his office has suspended daily press opportunities for reporters, but I think conflating Fox News / MSNBC / CNN with “the news” is a mistake. My personal suggestion would be NYTimes & WaPo for reading, and NPR, The Daily, and BBC news for some audio. And, for sure, YouTube videos of dogs and boys being reunited!

    • Anon says:

      Be a little wary of the BBC. There is some (increasing) concern from a lot of quarters that they are less neutral and objective then they used to be – which is a shame, since we have always relied on them to be less partisan than most.

  15. Staci says:

    Prior to 2016 I didn’t identify as belonging to either political party. I liked Obama okay. He seems to me to at least be a decent person. I never felt like he was shoved in my face constantly. With Trump all of that has changed. I’m sick of the news and I’m sick of social media.

    I feel like impeachment is important. It needs to happen and I should be paying attention. Still, if I went a month without seeing or hearing the word Trump, I think I would be happier. I’m not sure what a person is supposed to do in these times.

    I’ve gotten rid of Facebook friends whose whole MO is to piss off the other side. It’s possible to have an opinion without being vile about it. I still have Trump supporter friends on the site that aren’t posting inflammatory crap.

    As for the news, I’m still paying attention. I am sick of it all though.

  16. LS says:

    Echoing PBS news hour as a great option.

    One other important note unrelated to political news is the media significantly overplays negative stories about people of color (usually black men) and positive stories about white people (usually men). The impacts are hard to measure but it’s not a stretch to see how that negatively affects the public’s stereotypes of those groups. It’s not a cure, but I follow “itscolorcoded” to try to swing my own perception the other way and it’s almost all feel-go stories too which is nice.

  17. E says:

    I hear you on US cable news. I’ve switched to more international news – BBC and France24 are two of my favorites. I also enjoy more and more the ABC/CBS/NBC 30 minute nightly news bulletins. Informative without going into overdrive.

  18. GF says:

    I 100% agree with you Belle about the news, thanks for putting into words what I’m feeling when my two co-workers (with whom I share an office) start discussing politics…. I just grit my teeth and don’t engage, but man it’s annoying.

    • Belle says:

      If you don’t work in politics or government, I’m never sure why anyone would choose to discuss politics or religion in their office.

  19. Caitlin says:

    I really loved Red White & Royal Blue as a fun campy little LGBTQ romance, but I could definitely pick a few inaccuracies with Hill life that made me laugh. I suppose it’s best to think of it as a sort of a fantasy, kind of like that alternate history book about American princesses(?) you were reading earlier this year? It’s lovely & heartwarming & nothing is EGREGIOUS to me, but… heads up, haha.

  20. LL says:

    What are your best sources for real news? Not the FOX/CNN drivel. Twitter seems really hard to curate. And the traditional papers have their own views. So….where do you go?

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