Opening Argument: The Ship That Got Stuck In Our Hearts
When the Ever Given container ship first got stuck in the Suez Canal — a disruption of global shipping that is not actually that fun to think about — the jokes began. Perhaps they needed to coat it in butter. Perhaps they needed to back up instead of trying to go forward. But it stayed stuck.
And it stayed stuck in the zeitgeist, as well. It spawned its own memes, it led to history discussions, it became somehow both a running joke and an adopted public pet. Poor ship. People who normally never think very much about global shipping one way or the other — myself included — were suddenly deeply invested in the future of the Ever Given, and of the canal.
My first instinct, as with everything else, is to attribute this burst of public passion to pandemic fatigue. It’s not all that hard to understand, right? Among other things, many of us have been stuck now for over a year. Whatever our circumstances, they’ve just frozen us in place, unable to go forward, unable to go back to before. I’ve never related to a thing that can’t go anywhere quite like I do right now. Poor ship.
But maybe it’s not even that. Maybe it’s just that so many of our problems are so complicated right now — systemic racism, hate crimes, climate change, wealth inequality, health care inequality — that it’s a relief just to see a problem you can actually get your arms around. I understand what it means for a boat to be stuck so that no other boats can go past it. I have been stuck on narrow streets, after all, with a garbage truck preventing passage. I get it! I know how water works and how ships work, and I know what floating is. When they started talking about «refloating» the ship, I thought … «Well, that’s what I would try also. I would try to refloat the ship!»
This was a huge problem and a difficult problem, but not a particularly complicated problem, even though it had a complicated solution that required a great, great deal of work and expertise. That’s precisely why people started so quickly to make jokes about tying a bunch of balloons to it, or wiggling it, or getting sled dogs to pull it. We’ve all tried to move something out of the way to make way for something else.
The great majority of the time, I look at the news and think, «How did this even happen? How on Earth do you fix this? How did we even get here?» Sometimes reading the news and having one of the headline problems be «Thing Won’t Move» is kind of a relief.
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Friend of PCHH Gene Demby pointed me to a home listing this week that I just want you to see. Just see it. Enjoy it.
I am delighted to recommend the first two episodes of John Moe’s new podcast Depresh Mode. Have I told you a couple times about this one? I have. That’s because I think the work John does around mental health is so important, and I’m so happy that he’s back.
A gripping but sad tale about going down a rabbit hole and being unable to get out, the story of Sara Gruen is one I will not soon forget.
Wednesday’s show was a fascinating chat (I can say that because I wasn’t there) among Stephen, Christina Tucker, and critic Walter Chaw about Godzilla vs. Kong, which is a big monster movie but also a callback to some longstanding — and complicated — moviemaking traditions.
Friday’s show found us talking about your 10 favorite Muppets, according to the thousands of you who filled out our poll. If you want to go deeper and read the list of your 25 favorite Muppets, with some commentary from all four of us, you can find that piece as well.