An appreciation of how wonderfully, revolutionarily boring Joe Biden has been as president

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

What’s President Joe Biden’s position on the legal travails of Representative Matt Gaetz? Where does he stand on the removal of some Dr. Seuss books from publication? What public comments did he make about the Japanese golfer who won the Masters last weekend? What does President Joe Biden think about NFTs? After copious research, I believe the answers to those questions are none, he doesn’t, he didn’t, and he almost definitely has no idea what that is.

Read everything from Saul Austerlitz — and more.

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On dreaming of being a walker in the city once more.

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For as long as I can remember, I have always loved to walk. In part, this might be because I grew up in Los Angeles, where being a pedestrian is a mark of profound suspicion — bro, what happened to your car? — and I enjoy being ornery. Feeling the syncopated clip-clop of your feet against the pavement, watching your surroundings slowly approach and fall away, taking in the comic and profound and absurd and utterly mundane theater of city life are enough to temporarily sink your troubles and remind you, hopefully, of the profound gratitude every city dweller should…


On making the extra pass

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I have attempted to do many things with my time over the past year — keep an apartment with two young children at a tolerable level of cleanliness, stay politically involved, earn money — but the primary thing I have actually accomplished during the past twelve months is to watch an Olympian amount of television. In that time, I have gone through many phases, many brief bursts of enthusiasm: for Japanese crime thrillers on the Criterion Channel, for political docuseries like City So Real and epic-length documentaries like Frederick Wiseman’s City Hall, for series that blend scuzzy realism and flights…


But not for the reasons you expect

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Of all the seasons, my least favorite is tax season. Every year, right around when February turns into March, I know it’s about time for me to dig out my receipts, ransack the Finances folder in my email account, and start accounting for how I made and spent my money over the past year. Nothing makes me feel more infantile than my yearly silent temper tantrum at the thought of tax time. Inevitably, I put it off in favor of work or Netflix or the NBA until finally the clarion call of April 15, or the polite reminders of my…


Why reading books is crucial for this pandemic spring.

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I have spent much of the past year in search of recommendations. Recommendations about whether or not to stay home; whether to purchase a mask; whether or not to send the children to school once it reopened; whether it might be safe to attend a Black Lives Matter protest in the midst of a pandemic; whether it might be safe to canvass for candidates; whether children could see their grandparents; recommendations for what gadgets and trinkets to purchase that might temporarily assuage the howling grief and fear that was part and parcel of being an American in the year 2020…


No villains allowed

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You may take this as bragging, but it most assuredly is not: my children, ages 8 and 4, have fallen in love with silent comedies. Earlier in the pandemic — I believe it was somewhere around Month 372, although I might have to double-check my records — we reached an impasse regarding the question of villains. With schools closed and the country on lockdown, our family sought to safeguard our fraying collective sanity and the silent terror of endless empty hours to fill with the imposition of a daily 4 PM movie, or “movie show,” as the 4-year-old termed it…


Post-apocalyptic movies reflect the selfishness we’re living through

“A Quiet Place.” Photo: Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures

The family crosses a bridge, single-file, in silence. Movies always teach us the rules of the worlds in which they take place, and we rapidly learn that in the universe of A Quiet Place, sound is peril. Mother, father, daughter, and two sons proceed, in painstaking caution, across the bridge, in a motion we understand is one of countless silent steps they have been taking since long before the film began. But when the youngest boy’s toy begins to pulse and beep, the looks of horror on his family’s faces, and his father’s failed attempt to rescue his son from…


We haven’t earned normalcy yet

Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

We all have a reward we’re promising ourselves for when we get through the worst of the pandemic. We will get to see our friends and family again, close-up and in person; we will eat out at our favorite restaurant once more; we will go to the movies, a concert, Hamilton (and not on Disney+). Whatever your imagined pandemic survival prize is, it’s probably something that symbolizes normalcy for you, that will signal to you that, finally, we live in the After.


Not everyone can afford to spiral out about the news

Photo: Andreas Solaro/Getty Images

I am sitting by the window in my living room, watching the sparse traffic pass by on the usually busy Brooklyn street. My kids are home from school, closed due to COVID-19, also called the novel coronavirus. I have a mild cold.


When you’re trying to get a point across, embrace your inner candidate

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Everyone knew the question of “electability” was going to come up at last night’s Democratic presidential debate. And when it did, Sen. Elizabeth Warren — fired up after reports emerged that Sen. Bernie Sanders had told her that no woman could win the presidency — was ready to strike: “Can a woman beat Donald Trump?” she said. “Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women! Amy [Klobuchar] and me.”

Saul Austerlitz

Author of Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era +4 more. Work published in the NY Times and many others. Teacher at NYU.

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