Geoffrey Chaucer, who lived through the black death, wrote the line “Ech man for himself, ther is non other” in The Knight’s Tale and it quickly entered English permanently as “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.”
Every day I see despairing posts and re-posts of articles and blogs claiming that the pandemic in America is a lost cause. One post that is currently getting massive attention asserts that the epidemic in the USA is now in a runaway state that can no longer be brought under control. Another simply assumes that this is true, and concludes that Covid-19 will eventually infect everyone in America, killing 1% (3.25 million people) and crippling or otherwise disabling many tens of millions of us in gruesome ways.
None of it is true. The ubiquity of graphs like the one below make this feeling understandable on an emotional level but the despair it engenders is completely inconsistent with the facts. The appropriate emotions in response to the graph below are (a) fury and (b) hope.
By way of making the case for hope, I’d like to lay on you one of the most remarkable and under-publicized bits of research I’ve come across but first we need to look at some basics.
Continue reading “You Might Be Thinking About It All Wrong”
I wasn’t a reflexive Kavanaugh hater when this started. His politics are deplorable but they are pretty much of a piece with those of anyone else who was in the running. His evasive responses to virtually all questions were dismaying but they were not much worse than has become customary in Senate hearings.
The spectacle only strayed into the bizarre with Kavanaugh’s response to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. Who carries on like that at a job interview, attacking and insulting the interviewers, raging, crying, acting hurt, citing massive conspiracies to get revenge for work he did for Ken Starr twenty-some years ago? You can lose touch with how weird that performance was.
Continue reading “Yep, I Definitely Believe Her.”
Ordell tells Melanie that too much weed will sap her ambition. Melanie responds, “Not if your ambition is to get high and watch TV.” Jackie Brown, 1997.
As a society, we’re in the process of accepting the obvious truth that pot is never going away and that impairing hundreds of thousands of lives with criminal prosecutions is cruel and wasteful. Decriminalization is a good thing.
What’s not a good thing is letting decriminalization blur into officially normalizing pot use by setting up a government-approved infrastructure for distribution so that we can tax it. Is there no middle ground between imprisoning people over something and giving that thing the government’s seal of approval?
Continue reading “Reefer Madness”
More than ever before, our shared world is constructed of images. We talk a good game about facts but the connection between our collective memory and history as documented by journalists and historians is more tenuous than we ever imagine.
Take the pictures on this page, for example. I’ve shown them to dozens of Americans over the last few years and nearly everyone recognizes them as the fall of Saigon. It’s not too surprising; how could anyone forget the day America lost the War in Vietnam, that frightening and humiliating day in April 1975 when United States Navy sailors dumped helicopter after helicopter overboard to make room for the fleeing troops, and the embassy staff, protected by M16-wielding marines, evacuated the city as North Vietnamese Army (NVA) tanks rolled into town.
Like the Challenger disaster or the burning World Trade Center, these pictures are burned into the memory of a generation.
Continue reading “The Last Days of Pompeii”
I am new to the appreciation of chickens, new to seeing them as anything more than the larval form of McNuggets, but I’m fascinated by these beautiful birds that I somehow never noticed until now. Here are some things I have learned.
First of all, there are a lot of chickens in the world, but it’s hard to grasp what the raw headcount of about 20 billion really means. With about 7.4 billion humans in the world, chickens outnumber us by almost three to one, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story because chicken lives are so short compared to human lives. Continue reading “Chicken Love”
I just reread Michael Shaara’s classic novel of the Civil War, The Killer Angels (1974.) It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 and was wildly popular with readers from across the political spectrum; it remains one of the great novels of the Civil War. It’s a fascinating story, beautifully told, but rereading it in a time of political polarization that rivals the political climate of the 1850’s, there is a new level of poignancy, not so much about that ancient battle, but about how we, the reading public, have changed.
Today, conservatives and even grumpy liberals bemoan the prissy falsity of PC speech, and it is loathsome, but it is easy to forget how bad, and how recent, the bad old days were.
History moves at different speeds across America. As a Yankee, I think of 1974, the year The Killer Angels was published, as modern times; The Velvet Underground and the Beatles had already come and gone, the moon landing was history, the great March on Washington was more than a decade in the past, and Martin Luther King himself had been dead for six years. Modern times.
Yet, much of the country was still rooted in the old days. The last of the “Whites Only” signs had only just been taken down in the South. I know they were still commonplace in the mid-1960’s South Carolina, so maybe some were still up, for all I know. Continue reading “Long Division”
It’s almost impossible to get through to young people how egregiously they are getting screwed. The current economic situation crept up so slowly that you can only see the broad strokes when you look back over decades.
It’s like the frog in the cook pot, but in this case, the frogs aren’t just sitting there—they are loudly cheering the cook. It’s beyond the wildest dreams of the rapacious classes of yesteryear.
What follows is my personal perspective on what young people in 2018 can’t see because their frame of reference is too short. I know it’s boring, but it’s your money, people. I wish you’d think about it.
Continue reading “Here’s One Way to Put It”
“Memories were meant to fade. They’re designed that way for a reason.” Mace, Strange Days (1995)
Strange Days, 1995, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, never got the acclaim it deserved. For that matter, nor has Bigelow.
Anyway, when Strange Days starts, our antihero has fallen on hard times in the aftermath of a love affair. He’s barely making it, a disgraced ex-cop addicted to a new illicit technology that replays the recorded experiences of others directly into your brain. He’s both an addict and a dealer in the underground market for experience clips recorded by people pulling robberies, having sex, racing cars, or simply being whoever they are that you aren’t.
Clips are illegal in Bigelow’s dystopian LA, both because they’re addictive and because people stage socially destructive experiences in order to make them. Other people’s experiences are what our guy sells, but they aren’t his vice; he obsessively replays clips he made of himself with the girl he lost, endlessly reliving their happy moments.
Continue reading “Other People’s Dreams”
I just watched Jackie Brown again. It’s a great movie—maybe Tarantino’s last good movie before all the silliness. Made in 1997, but it takes place in 1995. So many little things have changed. Holy $#*+! it’s already a period piece!
- Landlines, beepers, and phone machines
- Arcade games
- Smoking indoors, home, car, police station, bars, etc.
- Cigarette machines
- Cassette tapes and record players
- Sam Goody record stores
- She’s a “stewardess”
- Kangol hats
- Sandals and socks