Tuesday, August 2, 2022

And John went down into the land of Indiana

   

     Facebook has been increasingly aggressive with its advertising. In my perception, anyway. Not only are there more commercial intrusions, but the plugs seem of a lower calibre, more off-point and unwelcome. Here, a kit of grooming devices and hair-removal creams for — I kid you not — men's balls. Immediately following, the columns of John Kass.
     Regarding the the former, I took the time to click a button so I'll never see it again, wondering all the while if I could have posted anything to make me a target for such a product.
     And seeing the latter, against my better judgment, almost mesmerized, I began to read his latest, “'Have Laptop, Will Travel,' and the Demise of The Chicago Tribune." Kass's July 27 offering. It begins:
     "When the editors of 'the paper' that I served faithfully for 40 years recently decided to team up with angry leftist trolls in a vengeful 'gotcha' exposé on our new home, I wasn’t happy about it."
     As a media savvy guy, I knew what he was referring to: Bob Goldsborough's July 13 Elite Street column, "Former Tribune opinion columnist John Kass purchases Indiana home for nearly $300,000," detailing the self-imposed Indiana exile of the erstwhile arbitrator of the Chicago Way.  I was alerted to the story on Twitter.
     The move makes sense to me. Illinois tacks increasingly blue, an island of freedom in a frothy sea of GOP rights-drowning red. Next door is Indiana, the Mississippi of the Midwest, home of Mike Pence and the Klan. The state practically echoes with the forging of manacles.
     Indiana might be a better fit for Kass. Perhaps there he will finally find that elusive sense of home, of security.  Among like-minded citizens who also fancy themselves the greased hub around which the universe spins, who don't see the point of following a moral code that isn't also being forced upon everyone else. So yes, good that Kass will be tightly swaddled in Indiana, warm, safe, enfolded by the similarity he obviously craves. Free of menace at last. 
      Wanting to join the fun, I tapped out a tweet: "You mean he moved to Indiana VOLUNTARILY!?" Then immediately deleted it. There's no upside in remarking upon Kass. I've already had my say early last year. And while I did enjoy the waves of love that resulted, there's no need to pile on. I accept that people read him, perhaps for the emetic effect. There's also a market for testicle shavers, apparently. Who am I to judge? The man quit his job and moved to Indiana. What greater punishment could I add atop that? When Dante encounters Judas being gnawed by Satan in the frozen bowels of hell, he doesn't kick him. Let sufferers be.
    Plus: so what? Kass could move to Mongolia and live in a yurt and his work could not become further removed from the day-to-day world of real life in Chicago. He could live in a box at State and Lake and the essence of the place would elude him.
    Besides, I am among the blessed, and the lucky shouldn't mock the unfortunate. Years ago, I made the decision to always be who I am, which by necessity means to acknowledge that I live where I actually live. Because once you start pretending to be someone you're not — perhaps even convincing yourself, if no one else — living somewhere you're not, the fear of being uncovered must be overwhelming. The tone of Kass's column borders on hysteria.
     “Why won’t they leave us alone?” Kass has his wife demanding of heaven. He places a manly hand upon her quivering shoulder.
     "Because this is how they play," he intones, like the hero in a Left Behind novel. "This is who they are. They won’t leave us alone. They’ll never leave us alone."
     Kass then does that patented, Fox News mind-reading trick. He doesn't need to inquire; he knows the motivation for sharing news of his real estate transaction.
     "Some at 'the paper' are angry," he decides. "Bitter. This is not the old Tribune. It’s the new left-leaning Tribune. I see the woke media for what it is, what it’s done to the city, how they’ve avoided the truth of what’s happened to Chicago. And the left hates my guts."
     Another big difference between us. Were I curious as to why Bob Goldsborough wrote about my move to Indiana, I wouldn't simply slip open the gate of of my corralled nightmares and let the slavering beasts of my paranoiac id roam free. I'd  simply ask Goldsborough why he wrote what he did. That's called being a reporter. At least I would have to try. 
     Which I did. So why'd ya do it, Bob? Out of spite? On command from your vindictive Tribune masters? On direct orders from George Soros?
      "No," replied Goldsborough — not to be confused with his father, a successful mystery writer of the same name. "I never was ordered by my editors to write the story. I largely come up with story ideas on my own, and I had come up with this one on my own as well. When it first looked like he'd moved to Indiana, I ran the idea past my editors, months before Greenfield broke the news. And they were supportive of the idea. (I have great editors.)"
     The Greenfield he refers to is John Greenfield, who broke the story, spurring Goldsborough to return to his excavation of the Kassian Cheops established on the shifting sands of Indiana.
     "John Greenfield, who contributes to the Reader and is the co-editor of Streetsblog Chicago, got a tip that Kass was living in St. John and started tweeting about it," wrote Goldsborough. (Another reason to feel sorry for Kass; turned in by his own neighbors, perhaps, who might have dropped a dime to the media that he was cowering among them). "That spurred me to dig some more to finally confirm the Kasses' purchase once and for all. I have to hand it to Kass — he didn't make it easy for me to confirm that he'd bought the house in St. John."
     Goldsborough dug into the story, not at the behest of his Tribune puppeteers or the woke mob, but inspired by Kass's own frantic efforts to hide his whereabouts. The guilty flee where none pursueth.
     "The house to which Kass and his wife were tied had an owner who had bought the home in 2020 through an opaque Indiana land trust (similar to the Chicago Title trusts that so many bold-faced names in Illinois use to try to mask their purchases). Was it the case that Kass had bought that house, but was trying to keep his ownership a secret? I didn't know."
     Do you notice something about Goldsborough's tone? A candor, a cadence of normal humanity, of a regular person doing his job, living in the world of the actual. Devoid of petulance or grievance. 
     As opposed to Kass's column, which ended ... which ended ... actually, I didn't get to the end. Not at first. Halfway through I bailed out — not out of hatred, I should add, but its polar opposite, indifference. Nothing is easier to cast aside than a column by John Kass.  Yes, I was smiling as I moved on, but not at the unintentional humor of the column or the relief at abandoning it.  
     Rather, I was smiling at a decades-old memory.
     In 2000, I moved to the suburbs. Since certain columnists were already manifesting their lifelong habit of presenting themselves as living on Evergreen with the ghost of Nelson Algren, warming their hands over scrap lumber fires in 55-gallon oil drums on Lower Wacker Drive, when in fact they were hiding in Western Springs, hoarding dried food against the collapse of civilization, I was very public about my move, even writing an article about it for North Shore Magazine , which ran a photo of me, my wife and kids sitting on the front steps of our 1905 Queen Anne farmhouse in Northbrook. Nothing to hide.
     This caught the attention of the very same Goldsborough, who noted that while I shared the tableau of a neighbor stopping her car in the street before our house and leaping out, door flung open, to demand, "How much did you pay for that?" I did not actually share the purchase price with my readers.
     "But Upper Bracket will share," Goldsborough chuckled. "Steinberg paid $370,000 in June (although the sale closed in October) for the house on a half acre, according to public records."
     Or, I blushingly point out, about 25 percent more in 2000 than Kass paid for his Hoosier haven in 2022, which should give you an idea of the relative worth of life in the Chicago suburbs versus life in the blasted conservative hellscape of Indiana. 
     My reaction to my private real estate deals ending up in the pages of the Tribune was very different from Kass's. I remember reading Goldsborough's report with surprise, raising an eyebrow, and thinking, "'Upper bracket?' I wish!"  No collapsing to the ground and clawing at myself. No dragooning my wife as a Greek chorus of alarm.
     There did seem a whiff of mischief about it. Since I asked Goldsborough about his motivation regarding Kass, I also asked he cast his memory back and see if I had missed the doorjamb-gnawing rage that Kass detects. 
      "You have a great memory — I did indeed write about your move to the suburbs in 2001," Goldsborough replied. "You took it the right way — I didn't mean it with any harm or really anything more than just a mild tweak."
     So what's going on here? You have to remember the central place that fear occupies in the conservative mindset. Kass dwells in the realm of panic rooms and alarm systems and doxxing, the fear — perhaps justified — of encountering the baked-in malice of people such as himself. The fear that the harassment they inflict on others might be returned. Then mix-in self-importance. Perhaps he is genuinely terrified that if the liberals he imagines are so tormented by his fierce sweeping beacon of truth knew what state he lives in, he might wake up one morning and find his lawn crowded with outraged trans protesters barking through megaphones, waving signs as young folk who believe in reproductive rights link arms with Jane Fonda and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and trample his petunias.          
      To be honest, I initially shared Kass's underlying conceit: this isn't worth writing about.  There's something disreputable, almost cruel, about highlighting Kass's deficiencies. It's too easy. He disgorges his words without critical reason ever being applied to them. So to abruptly shine the light of logic on them, uninvited, to flush out his thoughts, like blind albino worms, forced from their subterranean realm, yanked from lightless caves and exiled into the blazing noontime to wither and die under the relentless sun of reason. Is that not cruel? Maybe you're not supposed to think about what Kass writes; perhaps doing so violates some kind of unspoken contract. It's like bursting into a toddler's birthday party and ruining the magic show by explaining the simple tricks. Leave him be.
     Ready to dismiss the matter, I returned to Kass's column to read the end — unfamiliar territory, to be sure — and found something that absolutely demanded today's effort. As an act of mercy.
      "I can’t recall 'the paper' ever dedicating so much precious time, resources and space, when newsrooms are strained, to other columnists at the Tribune who bought or sold a home," Kass complained, ending with this coda: "Just me. Curious. Hmm."
     Oh poor John! To be singled out like that. It's so mean. He must be set straight. "Can't recall the paper ever dedicating..." A prod to action. "Just curious."
     We men in our 60s do sometimes do fail to recall things, and how welcome it is to have your memory primed. To find a friendly face, filling in the lost details, showing you how to work the self-checkout, offering a helping hand. How could I not  step up and aid a fellow columnist? Besides, isn't a general lack of curiosity perhaps the defining characteristic of the writer in question? Here he is, finally wondering about  something; we can't then just leave him hanging. I feel compelled to reward this rare, perhaps unique, moment of inquisitiveness by providing an answer: Jan. 21, 2001, and, plus many, many other times, that would be clear to someone whose eyes were not thickly cataracted with fear, self-pity and injured pride.
     "He wasn't targeted any more than the column might 'target' a starting pitcher for the Cubs who buys a condo on the Gold Coast," Goldsborough explained. That's what the column does: write about the real estate doings of the locally familiar. 
    So the news, John, is good, and I'm happy to be the one to share it with you and the world. It isn't you being picked on, or victimized, or paid back for your daring ... umm ... whatever it is you do that has made you the cynosure of a Dick Tracy rogues gallery of villains, in your own mind if nowhere else. We are brothers here. I too have felt Bob Goldsborough's lash. Or his fleeting professional attention, anyway. The Trib's real estate Torquemada gave similar treatment to a newbie nudnik more than 20 years ago. So you aren't the victim of vast conspiratorial forces arrayed against you.
     Reassured? I didn't think so. See, that's the problem with the whole unable-to-process-new- information-contrary-to-your-own-long-entrenched-beliefs thing. But that's a column for another day. 

39 comments:

  1. Great column Neil!

    One nit: Nelson Algren lived on Evergreen. There was a bit of local ado when, after Algren's death, Mike Royko proposed renaming that block of Evergreen after Algren. Mayor Byrne agreed and the signs got changed. But some residents objected vehemently and it got undone. That was the inspiration fir "honorary" street names in Chicago.

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    1. Not a nit at all. We here at EGD thrive on accuracy, which requires occasional self-correction. I've amended the text. Thanks.

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    2. Royko got a couple of good columns out of that kerfuffle. For starters, he was really surprised that the mayor agreed with his proposal; he wasn't used to City Hall agreeing with anything he proposed. And it turned out that renaming a street requires an act of the City Council, not a mayor's prerogative. So after the new signs went up, they got taken down. Royko mused that Nelson Algren would have been amused by the whole affair.

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  2. As always, great fun to read you pummel Kass.

    For a man like him who tries so very, very hard to be Mike Royko, he’s forgetting the columns Royko wrote himself about his various real estate transactions. (They were funny, which was Royko’s special charm.).

    Royko could be unpleasant and bitter, but had he moved to a cornfield he would have made fun of himself for doing it.

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    1. Also, having read Greenfield’s column, St. John’s seems like a lovely place to visit some time.

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  3. Enjoyed that. Not enough for you to have actually had to trudge through a whole column by Kass, but still fun.

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  4. I thought that Kass attacking John Greenfield was far worse than his attack on the Trib & Goldsborough.
    Greenfield specifically stated he wasn't going to look at the Kass house, nor was he going to give out his address.
    But Kass, in his usual mean spirited way, decided that Greenfield was the enemy & had to be vanquished.
    But as for Kass moving to a red state, he's still in Lake County, which generally votes for Democrats & looking up St. John, I found out that CNN rated it the 48th best place to live in the US, but only the 4th safest place to live in Indiana!
    And that was the first & only time I went to Kass' website to read what he spewed out. When he was at the Trib, I usually only made it part way through his bile filled columns, before I gave up.
    So I hope he enjoys living in the state where 100+ years ago, the modern KKK was reborn, totally controlled the state government & attempted to change the value of pi, from 3.1415, to just 3! Thankfully, that idiocy failed, but as a whole, Indiana is still a backwards disaster, as personified by the truly vile & hate filled state attorney general Todd Rokita, whose attacks & lies about the doctor who performed the abortion on that 10 year old rape victim from Ohio, don't seem to end. And that little girl was 9 when she was raped!

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  5. “So to abruptly shine the light of logic on them, uninvited, to flush out his thoughts, like blind albino worms, forced from their subterranean realms, yanked from lightless caves and exiled into the blazing noontime to wither and die under the relentless sun of reason. Is that not cruel?” God, that’s beautiful, Neil.

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    1. Isn’t that from an old genesis song?

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  6. " He could live in a box at State and Lake and the essence of the place would elude him"

    True. Kass' physical location is irrelevant, whether it is Western Springs, Avondale, or Indiana..

    Great column.

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  7. Kass should have remembered "The Streisand Effect" and just have kept quiet. His move has gotten way more attention than it deserved.

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  8. When I sold my house in Lincoln Park and moved to Santa Fe the move was covered by the Elite Street column. Elite! Hah! It never occurred to me that I was being punished for my long tenure at Fox News Chicago or not-so-long tenure at City Hall or the Bernie campaign. People are mostly curious, not malicious. It takes a special kind of self importance to call this benign coverage persecution.

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  9. Kass quit the Tribune? He wasn't forced out with the rest of the columnists and other editorial employees who made more than minimum wage?

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    1. IIRC he took a buyout, which is what a lot of the long-standing Trib writers (like Eric Zorn) did.

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  10. Like many of the readers of this blog, I love good writing, which is really just good thinking. When I moved to Chicago many years ago I devoured the local newspapers every day. I quickly regarded Kass with wonder. Here was the most prominent columnists at one of America's most prominent newspapers and he was a comically bad writer (and thinker). It was obvious that he was copying Royko, but so clumsily and ineptly that it made my head hurt. How did he have this prestigious job? He combining egomania with a disjointed writing style that made the reader nauseous. I recall one column he wrote from the Olympics (I believe in China) that was so bad, so lazily thought out and written that it was the equivalent of stealing his salary. He had nothing to say, so he said nothing. Poorly.

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    1. I can't agree with every one of your particulars, but in general, I certainly agree with the gist.....

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  11. I like most of Bob Goldsborough's work, but not "Honey". That maudlin piece of crap should never have made the top 40.

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  12. It's almost unfair to compare this gorgeously written work to the awful, immediately forgettable prose of Mr. Kass. So I won't.

    I will say, however, that it blows me away that Kass makes himself the victim of "the paper" (he won't name it!) because it's... what... a woke mob that sent him from page 2 because of his bullshit Soros conspiracies (which he continues to peddle)? The same paper that paid him millions of dollars over the years to write that hackish drivel that would've made Royko cover his eyes in embarrassment? That's what he's railing against?

    I made the mistake of reading the comments — it's all the same group: people who claim they lived in Chicago (likely Western Springs or some such place) and left because of the crime and the city's woke attitude and "Kim Foxx" (wink wink) and whatever other imagined slights and horrors the city can inflict on the feeble. They see Kass as their brave hero, sticking up for the brave who just want Chicago to... what... go back to 1954 or so?

    I know Kass fancies himself a rough-and-tumble man of the streets, but whatever he fancies the city to be... it's not. Chicago went for Hillary roughly 84/16 and Biden 82/18, so maybe he should just accept he's now among his people and mimeograph his beercan chicken recipe to hand out at the local soda shoppe.

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  13. Indiana, the Mississippi of the Midwest😂😂😂😂

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    1. The pinnacle of the amazing writing in this piece

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  14. My favorite line : "The fear that the harassment they inflict on others might be returned" is so apt and applicable.
    As for J Kass, I recall similar sensitivity and feelings of persecution when his column was moved to a different part of the paper. It was a decision that affected ALL opinion writers, so I found it odd.
    It was my custom to glance at every column to get a gist of the topic, before (usually) moving on. I admit he wrote a couple columns that I enjoyed! They were about tomatoes!

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  15. You captured the essence of the egotistical and paranoid persecution complex of Kass. I would surmise he chose St. John, Indiana for his latest cave-dwelling location as a tribute to himself. He is right where he belongs —KKK meetings are easy to find, illegal gun sales flow routinely from the Lake County Fairgrounds, facts don’t matter and denial is not just a river in Egypt.

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  16. Neil: Thank you for this prime real estate level blog entry.

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  17. Terrific stuff as usual.

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  18. Oh to be of such import to even merit a mention on Goldsboro's column. If you've ever read it...and I love it so much I wanted to hire Bob at the Sun-Times...you can't complain about it. I'm pretty sure Kass read it because many journalists do, particularly the investigative kind who are always following the money...
    It's real estate rubbernecking for most of us. And it often illustrates how property taxes in northern Illinois make no sense.

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  19. Cleveland became my home thirty years ago this month. Before that, including the entirety of the Eighties, I ignored Kass, or never read him at all, because I cannot remember a single line he wrote. I don't think I missed a lot, because your classic 2,400-word kick in the Kass last year made it abundantly clear that he was a pompous right-wing a-hole...and a real piece of...work.

    Your latest 2,200-work rebuke underscores that. But upon re-reading it, I again thought: "Why does it matter where this shitbird lives, anyhow? Why should anyone care about anything this jamoke says or does?" Indiana is exactly where he belongs. I call it "West Missitucky"--the same way I call Ohio "North Misstucky.". One is already deep red, and the other is getting there fast.

    Anyone who rants and rails about conspiracies by George Soros is simply being a polite anti-Semite. That name is, and always has been, a euphemism for "Jew." So gay kocken offen yom, shtick dreck. Kuss mir in tuchas,

    .

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    1. You bring up an interesting point. Kass dwells, as far as I can tell, at the intersection of Fox Nation and the Chicago media, and while the former no doubt barely perceives him on the lower range of Right Wing fuckery, he's more a notable anomaly in liberal-ish Chicago. You are right, I did trap him in my killing bottle last year, and would not have done wasted attention on him again except a) I had that amusing personal connection, via Goldsborough and b) a former colleague of Kass's goaded me to do it. And it was a wildly-popular post, with thousands more hits than usual, plus hosannas of praise, so it worked for me. Were I the kind of writer living for such things, the message would be to slag other journalists more assiduously. But I'm not and, by the end of the day, I was thinking I have to get my teeth into a meaty story, you know, about something more interesting than a habitually mistaken former newspaper columnist whose opinions are known for narrowness, malice and beer can chicken.

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    2. Both of your Kass-kickings were superb, Mr. S. Kudos and more kudos. And both posts received far more replies (and hits) than average. Mazel tov!

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  20. This is a column sandwich with the works. Every bite tastes better than the last. Until I got to "blind albino worms." It doesn't get any better than this. As a newspaper reporter for 44 years, a columnist for 18 of them, I thank you.

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  21. So many good lines in this one, but right out of the gate being presented with "...hair-removal creams for — I kid you not — men's balls. Immediately following, the columns of John Kass" is a juxtaposition that's tough to beat. Though the praise for "blind albino worms" is certainly not misplaced!

    Jack Kass wailing and gnashing his teeth about being persecuted by Mr. Goldsborough is A+ hypocrisy, of course. Uh, you don't get Page 2 placement for your beer-can chicken recipe because you're an incomparable journalist, but because, in this charmingly low-key metropolis, you're what passes for a celebrity to right-wingers because you're eager to tilt at the windmills they'd like to see toppled. Which is why you can also use a website and podcast as grifts when you decide to take a buy-out from the paper. Celebrities get reported on for various reasons that regular folks don't -- when they buy or sell a house, for instance. Simple as that.

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  22. This was so delightful I had to revisit it today. A true labor of love.

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  23. Excellent description of little big man

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  24. Tamara Kerrill FieldAugust 5, 2022 at 8:55 PM

    Neil, this was such a pleasure to read. “Blind albino worms” kinda made me spit out some seltzer. Eric Zorn mentioned this post on FB, so I hopped on over and glad I did. Your writing only gets better. Hope all is well with the fam and your swanky digs in the ‘Brook. Go well, my friend.

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  25. Have mercy on Kass. His audience lives on outrage. He has to feed them a daily does and then on holidays republish his wholesome family pablum.

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  26. Neil,
    As Steve Dahl would say about Kass, "He's on to smaller and worser (sp) things"! He has to respond to all of these slights since that is the only way to maintain his fingernail-hold from his final fade into irrelevance. May your excellent observations continue to pierce the pompous!

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    1. There's a line in "Broadcast News" where the Holly Hunter character asks why she just wants to sit there. "Because you know the good part of your life is over," the Albert Brooks character replies. "And you don't want to get up and start the bad part."

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