Some things were enjoyable this year

Indignity Vol. 3, No. 199

Some things were enjoyable this year

Three Things I Liked in 2023

Sterling K. Brown and Jeffrey Wright in American Fiction (2023)

Jeffrey Wright in American Fiction

CORD JEFFERSON'S NEW movie American Fiction, in ever-widening release to ever-widening acclaim, has been hailed as a biting comedy about the culture industry's appetite for Blackness and as a brilliantly acted portrait of professional-class Black family life, both of which it is. I am fully biased on the subject of Cord, an old Gawker colleague and co-contributor to The Awl, because I like him very much and am rooting for him to succeed. But I am also personally championing American Fiction, his debut film as a director, because—in addition to those aspects that critics and commentators have been praising it for—it is an uncannily accurate depiction of what it's like to be a middle-aged writer spinning your wheels as life slips out of control around you.

When I went to a screening of the movie in September, I was dismayed and regretfully delighted to realize that in one scene, Jeffrey Wright's sad-sack protagonist, Thelonious "Monk" Ellison, was wearing the exact same model of knit J. Crew button-front shirt that I had worn to the theater. Before changing my mind at the last minute, I had almost even worn one in the identical color. American Fiction is the kind of movie where every detail is very intentionally chosen, and that particular detail had me dead to rights.

Also Sterling K. Brown is hilarious as Monk's high-achieving wastrel brother. But it's Wright who's been haunting me for months now.

The MTA's Bus Tracker

SPACE IS TIME, and knowledge is power, and the knowledge of when the bus is really going to come is the power to bend space and time to your will. The countdown clocks in the subway system are a confusing and unreliable mishmash of different information feeds, but if you point your phone's browser to, it will tell you exactly what's going on with the bus you need, one stop at a time or along the entire route.

With the tracker in hand, I can spot which uptown bus my 12-year-old will need to catch to his Saturday dance class while breakfast is still on the table, and while the bus in question is still heading downtown. Then I can track its progress back uptown while I nag him to get his shoes and socks on. Once he's on the bus, by clicking on his destination stop, I can tell whether or not he's due to arrive on time.

The tracker's ability to make the invisible into the visible has made me into a bus rider. Earlier today, I got out of the Department of Motor Vehicles, checked the progress of the next M7 home, and successfully fit in a trip to the bank-lobby ATM, reaching the bus stop just when the bus arrived. It felt as if the whole system were set up to meet my transportation needs.


Frozen Peas

DID THE FRESH produce supply seem a little thin and beat-up this year? The grocery company I use has this system where it calls things "Peak Quality," and it felt like there was just less Peak Quality on offer than usual. We're in what ought to be the peak of stocking-stuffing citrus season, and I keep seeing only one kind of mandarins and one kind of grapefruit that make the grade. And on the vegetable side—we use at least two different vegetables a day around here, green or possibly purple vegetables, not potatoes or other things that incidentally happen to be plant matter. Some weeks, especially in the cold and dark months, it's been a real chore to keep those vegetables coming. The Brussels sprouts have been lagging, for some reason, and there's only so much kale a person can put up with, and I don't even know what happened to the broccolette they used to have year round. Half the time, even in the summer, the sugar snap peas were too fibrous to chew, let alone swallow.

Meanwhile, every day, the kids needed something to keep their lunches nutritionally balanced. Luckily technology has an answer to the emergency: frozen peas! A bag of peas in the freezer is green enough, in a pinch. The freezer peas, quickly microwaved, harmonize with most other leftovers in the lunch thermos. They also are always ready to go into fried rice, or to join the freezer pancetta in a Parmesan-based pasta. They're the convenience food that's also a whole food. They never wilt!


IN THE FLAMING Hydra Holiday Preview Spectacular, over at our newest collective and collaborative publishing enterprise, I wrote about my festive memories of the time my teenage pals and I inserted my buddy Steve's car into the Aberdeen, Maryland, Christmas Street Parade without authorization:

Every December that ever happened, as Charles Dickens knew, runs superimposed on every other one. Sometimes I am in a hard wooden pew, the air suffused with light and incense on a cold night, singing: "Mild He lays his glory by / Born that man no more may die." Sometimes and always I am in the front seat of a Dodge Coronet, looking out the windshield at a two-foot Christmas tree and a mass of spectators.

New York City, December 19, 2023

★★★ Wind sent the leaves skidding along the crosswalk. The cat made deep groaning sounds in her mesh-sided carrier, though it was hard to tell if she was complaining about the temperature or the general principle. The Uber had its windows down, letting the cold blow right through. The sun struggled to get clear of a long ragged edge of cloud, then gleamed on a crumpled wire fence and the mysterious droplets on the car's upholstery. By the time the rabies shot was done, the light had lost its wanness and poured richly, if not for many hours, over the faces of the buildings.


Indignity Morning Podcast No. 186: Billowing fiery clouds.

Tom Scocca • Dec 20, 2023


The Gentle Readers of Indignity have sent us more Bluesky codes, for people who want to try the still-beta Bluesky social networks. If you haven’t already gotten a code from us, email and we will award Bluesky codes to those who respond, one per reader, first email, first served.


WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS for the assembly of select sandwiches from The Modern Cook Book and Household Recipes, revised and edited by Lily Haxworth Wallace, Lecturer on Foods, Contributor to the "National Food Magazine," Etc., Published in 1912. This book is in the Public Domain and available at for the delectation of all.

Brunette or Brown Cheese Sandwiches
Take brown bread loaf; spread over the end, after cutting off the crust, with soft, lightly salted, creamed butter; then a layer of cream Neufchatel, or cottage cheese. Then slice about 1/4 inch thick. Butter the end as before. Use crisp, carefully washed lettuce that has been shaken dry. Dip a leaf into French dressing; place it upon the cheese, to which a seasoning of red or black pepper is always an addition. Then cut the next slice very thin; press it gently upon the lettuce. By pressing the palm on the upper slice the two will be made to adhere.

White or rye bread cheese sandwiches can be made as the above, also pumpernickel.

Anchovy Sandwiches
Wash 6 or 8 anchovies, cut off their heads and fins, take out the backbones, and divide each fish in two, from the shoulder to the tail. Cut an equal number of thin slices of brown bread and butter; put between 2 slices alternate layers of hard-boiled eggs, mustard and cress cut small, and the fillets of the anchovies; press the slices closely together, and with a sharp knife cut them into neat squares. Place them on a dish covered with a napkin, and garnish with parsley. If not wanted immediately, cover them with a napkin wrung out of cold water to keep them moist.

If you decide to prepare and attempt to enjoy a sandwich inspired by this offering, be sure to send a picture to


The second printing of 19 FOLK TALES is now available for Holiday gift-giving and personal perusal!

U.S. Postal Service media mail delivery takes an estimated 4 to 8 business days, which means from here on out it will be a gamble against the calendar.

For adrenaline junkies and/or Eastern Orthodox shoppers, the author stands ready to hand-fulfill orders as they come in, even at the cost of dealing with that one clerk at the neighborhood post office whose whole thing is trying to start a fight with everyone who steps up to her window. Happy holidays!

HMM WEEKLY MINI-ZINE, Subject: GAME SHOW, Joe MacLeod’s account of his Total Experience of a Journey Into Television, expanded from the original published account found here at Hmm Daily. The special MINI ZINE features other viewpoints related to an appearance on, at, and inside the teevee game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, available for purchase at SHOPULA.

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