It’s time for our annual conversation from and about the Mid-Ohio Valley. This year, Mark and Sarah talk about the Aeropress coffee maker, the Golden Girls, Yakov Smirnoff, “Black Pete,” and “Bubble.”
But not Barry Switzer.
Pie and Coffee: Are we going to talk about coffee first, or Barry Switzer first?
Mark: Whatever you want. I don’t care.
P: I’m drinking this cup of coffee. This is not the greatest cup of coffee I’ve ever had.
M: Yeah, it’s okay coffee, but it’s not–
Sarah: I’d say it’s solid.
M: I’d say it’s fine. I mean, that’s the thing, it’s perfectly acceptable.
S: Don’t you think it lost some flavor? Because this is a pretty flavorful coffee.
M: Yeah, it tastes a little bland.
P: Weaker than yesterday?
M: It just tastes bland. It doesn’t taste watery.
P: Do you think the water wasn’t hot enough?
M: No, it was plenty hot.
S: Yeah, it was definitely hot enough.
M: I made a cup at my house with better coffee, and it was better.
P: How long have you had the Aeropress?
M: Didn’t you give it to me last year for Christmas?
P: But this is not the regular way you make coffee.
M: I’ve only used it like 5 times.
P: So that’s what I’m saying. You don’t feel the results were amazing.
M: No. The testimonials on the container about how it’s the best cup of coffee ever, either they know a secret to making it better than I do using this machine, by following other directions, or I don’t know. I mean it’s fine. It’s nice if you only have to make 1 cup, cause then you don’t have to mess with the machine, and it’s pretty quick.
P: I often think about that, when I’m only making one cup of coffee for myself when I’m travelling, using somebody’s office or house. I think, Why am I going through all the trouble of firing up this coffee machine.
S: It seems like a lot to carry. Why not a French press?
M: The Aeropress has advantages over the French press. The primary advantage that they claim to have over the French press is A, it doesn’t take as long. Because it’s only supposed to soak for like 10 seconds.
S: Yeah, French press you let it sit for maybe like 5 minutes.
M: And you won’t get grounds in your coffee. French press, you often get grounds in there, depending on the grind of your coffee.
S: No, not necessarily. The thing with the French press is you can have it as dark as you like it.
M: You can do this with this too. You just add more coffee.
S: But it’s a lot of stuff to carry around.
P: Aren’t the French presses usually made out of glass?
M: Yeah, a French press isn’t very portable, because it could break easily.
S: This is plastic, but it has a lot more pieces.
M: It has more pieces, but that’s not a problem. It looks irritating but it’s really not. Like one of those pieces you can get rid of.
P: Do you feel like the coffee that comes out of this is actually bad coffee?
M: No! It makes a perfectly fine cup of coffee. I’m just saying it’s not any better than regular drip coffee.
P: Do we need to talk about Barry Switzer?
M: Not yet, because I haven’t read the article. Basically, if you only have a cup of coffee at a time, or you’re travelling, this coffee maker is worthwhile. If you, like me, always have 2 cups of coffee in the morning, it’s irritating. Because then you have to go make the second one. You have to redo the water, redo everything to make the second cup of coffee. When I’ve made espresso with it, it’s basically as good as espresso machines. It’s not like Italian machine espresso, but like home machine.
S: I had a really good espresso at that Tapas & Tintos place I went to in South Beach. Just FYI.
P: You want to talk about the Golden Girls? Speaking of South Beach. Did the Golden Girls live in South Beach?
S: No, they just lived in Miami.
P: But now you have the entire Golden Girls in DVD.
S: I do. I’m pretty stoked about that.
P: How many seasons were there of that show?
P: I would have thought there were more, for some reason.
M: There was also “Golden Palace.”
S: Yeah, that was a spinoff show. Seven seasons, but they had a lot of shows back then. So 7 seasons was like…
M: It’s like 22 or 24 episodes a season.
S: I don’t think they make that many shows these days. So that’s like 14 seasons.
P: There’s like hundreds of episodes of the Golden Girls. 
P: Have you ever thought about why you’re attracted to the show? It’s not really set up for your demographic. [Sarah is by far the youngest person in this conversation.]
S: Well, it’s smart. The writing’s good. It’s funny. It’s about women. I like women. Bea Arthur reminds me of my grandmother, who was very funny and smart.
P: I like Bea Arthur a lot.
S: I grew up watching it, and it’s stuck with me.
P: I think Bea Arthur is a big animal rights person. [Actually, animal welfare.]
S: Well, I know Betty White is.
P: I think Bea Arthur is a big radical. I think she has an FBI file.
S: She could be. The show is pretty progressive. They talk about all sorts of issues. Especially women’s issues that a lot of shows don’t talk about. They don’t deal with like–
P: People having a stroke.
S: Menopause, or losing your sexualness as you get older. And it’s just about older women. I mean how many shows are about old women? It’s progressive in the way they all live together, and they all are a family in that way. “We love men, but we love each other too.”
P: They have a brotherhood of sisterhood, or something.
M: You could just call it sisterhood.
P: You know some people, and I don’t know if this is a misogynist mischaracterization or what, talk about how women seem to have trouble getting along. So I think it’s good to have a show with a role model of long-term friendships.
S: And it’s not always easy for them.
P: They have different personalities.
S: They’re all very different, but they make it work. They have arguments and falling-outs, but they always figure a way to come back together and forgive each other. Like in any relationship.
P: I think it’s kind of genius how Estelle Getty plays the really old one, cause she’s not that old.
S: I think she’s actually younger than everyone else.
P: It’s like when Andy Warhol started wearing that silver wig, when he was in his 20s in New York. Word got back to him that people would say, “That Andy Warhol, he’s so spry.” People thought he was in his 50s! It’s the same thing when Estelle Getty puts on a gray wig. “She’s so feisty for a woman in her 90s!”
M: And then she was in “Stop or My Mom Will Shoot,” right?
P: We should point out that our grandfather, who’s in his 90s, left in the middle of this discussion of the Golden Girls. He didn’t care to hear about this.
S: Also what I like about the Golden Girls is that with my grandparents, we could all watch the Golden Girls and enjoy it together.
P: They don’t think it’s a little too racy of a show?
S: No. They love it. They think it’s hilarious. I think it stands the test of time. It ended what, like 12 years ago?
M: It ended in ’91, maybe. 
S: It ended a really long time ago.
M: It’s a shame that “Golden Palace” was no good.
S: You know, how it ends is one of them gets married and moves away. Which, I don’t know if I would have ended it that way . . . .
P: Who gets married? Betty White?
P: Rue McClanahan?
S: No. Bea Arthur.
S: That actually is the genius part, because she’s always like the ugly one, or the mannish one, the one that doesn’t get dates. But she ends up marrying Leslie Nielson, who is Rue McClanahan’s cousin or something.
S: At first they hate each other. And then they fall in love.
P: Then she watches some of his films.
S: On the one hand it’s genius to marry off Dorothy, on the other hand it’s kind of sad. Why does it have to be that way?
P: Why is it the end of their friendship?
S: Well it’s not the end of their friendship, but it means that Dorothy’s going to move out, and they’re not going to live together.
P: If I remember right they’re just sort of leeching off her. She has this nice apartment.
S: No, they all live in Blanche Devereaux’s house. But they all pay rent. They all pay for their keep. No one’s freeloading off anyone else.
P: So really this was this seven year period in their senior years where their lives have been disrupted, they came together to form this tight group, and after seven years . . . .
M: Oh, I don’t know if it was diegetic time.
P: Oh, it is.
S: It’s probably more than that . . . .
P: It was kinda like “24.” They kept close tabs on the year-to-year progress.
S: They have a lot of jokes of the times that I sometimes don’t get.
P: Mondale stuff?
S: Just like whatever, which were probably really hilarious at the time but I have no idea what they’re talking about.
M: I think there are Dukakis jokes.
M: There’s definitely a Bernie Goetz joke.
S: And you know they have that song. That Andrew Gold song.
P: It’s a good song.
S: We looked up the lyrics. There are more lyrics, and the rest of the lyrics aren’t as good.
M: He was really forcing it, to try to flesh out a full song.
S: I have a Golden Girls t-shirt. It says “Stay Golden.” And I was at the Oakland Mall . . . .
M: It has a drawing of all the Golden Girls.
S: I was at the Oakland Mall in Michigan, on 14 Mile and John R, and I was walking by this store, and this guy was like, “Hey, Golden Girls!” He was like all about my shirt. We gave each other high-fives. It was unexpected.
M: It’s a good show. It’s a real good show.
S: There’s hijinx.
M: It’s a show that stands up.
P: I would say that shows with a related setup, like “Friends,” I find have not worn well.
S: People really like “Friends,” but I think it’s got garbage writing. As opposed to the Golden Girls, which has quality writing.
P: Plus, all of the characters on “Friends,” I feel like if I met these characters in real life, I would not like them.
S: I wouldn’t like them either.
P: I like to watch them tear each other apart. Whereas the Golden Girls, if I ran into Sofia, I would think, “This is a good person.”
S: The characters feel a lot more real. They have jobs and actual struggles. They have ex-husbands, and dead husbands, and boyfriends. Money problems.
M: I like that it’s in Miami. You don’t see a lot of shows in Miami besides Golden Girls and “Miami Vice.”
P: Did Don Johnson ever guest on Golden Girls?
M: No, but Burt Reynolds did. We’re showing the episode with Burt Reynolds next semester.
S: Also George Clooney.
P: Wait a minute, back up to Burt Reynolds. You’re showing this in a class you’re teaching?
M: In “Introduction to Media,” we have a unit on television. And one of our screenings is about gender on television, and so we’re going to show the Burt Reynolds episode of the Golden Girls.
S: Mista Burt Reynolds. They love Burt Reynolds. Now I feel like a lot of actors got their early TV appearances on the Golden Girls.
P: Is Burt Reynolds as himself?
S: Yeah, Mista Burt Reynolds. They’re going to like his concert.
S: Yeah, I think that’s the one where they go to jail, because they stay at this hotel where there’s a prostitute ring, and the cops bust the place and think that they’re old hookers. It’s a really good episode.
M: It shows the Burt Reynolds masculinity aspect, and the old lady prostitute aspect, which is not something you see on television with any kind of regularity. Or at all, ever.
S: I wish that this had stayed around a bit more, but at the very beginning of the Golden Girls, Blanche’s roommate is gay. He’s a gay man.
P: I don’t remember this character.
S: He’s in the pilot episode.
M: Then there’s that lesbian episode.
S: I think Blanche’s brother also ends up being gay. So they deal with a lot of different things. Like homosexuality, racism, ageism, drug abuse.
M: Do they have an abortion episode? Apparently “Maude” had an abortion episode.
P: Yes, “Maude” has a very famous abortion episode.
S: Well there is one episode where Blanche thinks she’s pregnant.
M: There is that.
S: Abortion is brought up. I think that every possible thing that could be brought up, is.
P: I just want to roll it back to “Maude” for a second. Probably the only thing remembered about that show these days is that there was an abortion episode.
M: And Bea Arthur. It was a spinoff of “Mary Tyler Moore?”
P: I think “All in the Family.”
S: “Empty Nest” was a spinoff of the Golden Girls.
P: Who was in “Empty Nest?”
P: How is it that Yakov Smirnoff remains such a powerful force in the culture, but David Leisure has faded away?
M: How does Yakov Smirnoff remain a powerful force?
P: He has a theater in Branson, and do you know about the Internet meme of “Soviet Russia” jokes?
P: [Explains the genre.] But the whole David Leisure “He’s Lying” thing . . . do you know what we’re talking about?
P: Joe Isuzu. [Explains.] This was an important thing, but it hasn’t survived like the Yakov Smirnoff joke.
M: To say that it was “an important thing” is perhaps to misrepresent it.
P: At the time . . .
M: It was popular.
P: At the time, if you were to say to somebody, which will survive 20 years from now, the Yakov Smirnoff Russia joke, or the David Leisure “He’s Lying,” what would they have said?
M: Neither one! That’s what they would have said.
S: Maybe we should talk about the —
P: 3-D printers at Cranbrook.
M: Barry Switzer being a fan of WVU.
P: Where is this?
M: In the Netherlands.
P: It’s his sidekick?
S: Slave. It has something to do with the Moors.
Our father: He has black feet?
M: No, “Black Pete.” It’s like his slave.
P: He’s a Buckwheat figure?
M: I think he’s portrayed as a demon.
P: So he’s like his enemy.
M: He always has to keep him in check.
P: Because he’s Muslim?
S: A Moor.
P: Black Muslim. Nation of Islam.
M: Sinterklaas and Malcolm X.
S: Down with Sinterklaas!
P: They’re all racists.
S: Sinterklaas–one bad dude.
P: Lemme ask you a question. The other day I was down at a bar in Worcester, and the band was doing soul covers, and I thought of asking them to do Randy Newman. Not “Sail Away,” though, because it might come off as racist. But then they did “Brown Sugar.”
M: Famously racist.
P: You think it’s a racist song? Because you know about Media Studies. The average man might hear that songs and be unsure whether it’s racist, because he doesn’t have academic credentials.
M: Who doesn’t think it’s a racist song? Isn’t that the standard line on it, that it’s a racist song? Just like the standard line on Sinterklaas is that it’s a racist representation of Santa?
P: But if a band in a bar full of white people did something about Black Pete, people would think, “This is an inappropriately anti-black/anti-Muslim statement.”
M: People don’t pay much attention to lyrics. They would have to be really, really overt for people to care.
P: Wait a minute, how much more—
M: Especially Stones lyrics, which you can’t understand.
S: Bust magazine I think had a feature about, “Bad men, we love to hate them,” with classic misogynist songs. “It’s still great music, you want to hate it but can’t.” Like James Brown. You’ve gotta love James Brown, but he’s a jerk.
P: He was kind of a jerk, but he didn’t have lots of racist songs.
S: He beat his wife and had songs about being a man. Same thing about the Rolling Stones. “Under My Thumb.”
M: “Under My Thumb” is the classic misogynist Stones song.
P: What do they think about “Baby Got Back“? I think it’s a song that celebrates curvaceous women.
S: It does.
P: It says, I don’t care about the women in the magazines. People always say these magazines give a negative body image.
S: But not to Sir Mix-a-Lot.
P: Sir Mix-a-Lot is saying to the young women, forget about that stuff.
S: “I like big butts.”
P: If I write an autobiography, it will be called Even White Boys Got to Shout. I decided that a long time ago.
M: Well, what else are we going to talk about?
P: I think it’s time to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Which means it’s Barry Switzer time.
M: The article’s not very interesting, nevermind. We never talked about our responses to Bubble.
P: For our last interview, we talked about the upcoming Steven Soderbergh film “Bubble.” Very innovative, business-wise, released on DVD and cable around the time it came out in the theater.
P: And set at a doll manufacturer where you used to work.
S: Well here’s the thing. First of all, I thought Steven Soderbergh was going to make a bunch of these Americana movies, in small towns with non-actors.
M: Supposedly he’s making 6.
S: But I haven’t seen any and I’m a little bit disappointed.
M: I don’t know if maybe he’s making “Ocean’s 13” so he can fund his video movies.
S: He’s dragging his feet. That’s done! It’s already done! He’s rolling in the big bucks. He produces everything. I’m a little bit disappointed in that Steven Soderbergh.
M: He might do it. You don’t know! He’s coming up with an idea.
S: Well, anyway. Bubble. I need to see it again. But I was a little bit . . .
M: It’s not great.
S: I was a little bit biased, because I had certain expectations from working in the doll factory.
P: Do you feel that he caught the essence of Lee Middleton Dolls?
S: I think he fully caught the essence.
M: As someone who never worked or had been there, I feel like he captured the essence well.
S: I was a little bit mad, but whatever. The acting was perfect. The guy that plays the main character is the quintessential Mid-Ohio Valley male.
P: Really. Even moreso than Robert Mitchum in “Night of the Hunter”?
S: Well, he’s not evil. But if I was gonna have to explain a young man from the Mid-Ohio Valley, West Virginia, Belpre, Marietta, I would be like, “See that guy? How he talks? That’s him.”
P: Very flat vowels.
P: A little mumbly.
S: Very mumbly.
P: A little dry.
S: Probably very nice boy.
P: Kinda whiny.
S: Somewhat nice. Somewhat lethargic.
M: The movie does kinda get going at some point.
P: This area inspires lethargy.
M: The movie inspires lethargy.
S: You know, probably someone that has a lot of potential, but it’s all lost because they’re sucked into the black hole of this horrible, horrible place.
P: Do we need to recap the plot?
S: Sure, there’s a murder.
M: It takes awhile. The opening portion is an extended, “Here’s the Mid-Ohio Valley, nothing’s happening.”
P: Do they have landmarks?
S: Some, but that’s another thing I was a little bit upset about. I don’t think he showed the desperation of this place enough.
M: I don’t know. I think they did a pretty good job.
P: Did they reference Daniel “Buddy” James at all?
M: It shows the desperation, but it’s not overdone. There’s also a certain beauty to it.
S: I want overdone desperation.
M: But then someone gets murdered, and there’s an investigation.
P: It’s not like we’re living in Rwanda.
S: By a real cop.
P: Yes, the actor was actually a policeman, right?
M: The last maybe 25 minutes are really good. And they go to this bar on Market Street that’s next to where the dollar theater used to be. The Bank Shot?
S: Oh, yeah.
P: I don’t know if I’ve been in there.
M: I’ve only been in there once, but it has a special place in my heart. Because once we were going to see “As Good As It Gets” at the dollar theater. It was like me and Doug and Bret and Ben. Bret and Ben went to this bar beforehand, Doug and I just went to the movie. And they came in about halfway into it, and I think they’d been drinking a lot, because they were really loud. Like yelling and trying to find us. The movie theater was packed, and they sat five rows behind us. They kept laughing and yelling during the movie. And that was because of the Bank Shot.
P: So “Bubble” was kind of a bust.
S: Not entirely.
M: Not a bust, but not brilliant.
S: You know what, for what it was, it was perfect.
M: It’s worth watching.
S: You have a bunch of non-actors, doing their thing. I thought it was a good effort.
P: This is Steven Soderbergh. I expect every movie he makes to be a great movie.
M: But they weren’t all great before “Bubble.”
P: What was not good? “Ocean’s 12.”
M: “Ocean’s 12” is mediocre. “Full-Frontal” is terrible.
S: A lot of impromptu non-actors acting.
P: Goofing around.
S: No, everyone takes it seriously.
P: Maybe he should do all 6 of the films in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
S: I would pay money to see that. I would give up my time and come here to work on it.
P: I think if a good director made 6 feature films about the Mid-Ohio Valley, you could capture the whole thing.
S: I think there’s enough things around here.
P: The next one needs to be at a chemical factory.
S: Blennerhassett Island. Someone needs to make a movie about Blennerhassett Island.
P: You know, the whole Blennerhassett story tends to be hyped a little bit. But the whole phenomenon of that story being the key story of this part of the country, is kinda interesting.
S: And no one knows about it.
P: Did you ever see that musical, “Eden on the River”?
S: No. I would like to have. I don’t think they do it anymore. I think the heyday of Blennerhassett Island is over. Late 80s, early 90s.
P: Merry Christmas.
S: Merry Christmas.