Lancelot Links posts
Wednesday July 05, 2023
- Joey Poz has a nice Esquire cover story on Aaron Judge, No. 99, Yankees captain, in the mould of professional Yankees like Gehrig, Mattingly and Jeter (as opposed to raucous Yankees like Ruth and Reggie), and he did it without even interviewing the man. Apparently Judge turned that down—politely and professionally. “You do know it's for the cover?” “Yeah, whatevs.” The most impressive thing isn't that Posnanski did it without the interview, it's that he talked up the Yankees' recent championship drought without a snicker. He's a better man than I am.
- David Chen breaks down Reddit, subreddits, and the recent subreddit protest in his SubStack article “It Sure Would Be Great If Our Social Media Companies Weren't All Run by Jerks.” Chen also quotes from Cory Doctorow's “enshittifcation model” which I've been thinking about a lot lately. Doctorow's argument: On platforms, surpluses first go to users (great experience!), then suppliers (wait a minute...), then shareholders (crap). Chen writes: “At some point [Reddit CEO Steve] Huffman became convinced that he was the one in charge and everyone had better do what he says or else. There's a callousness to the concerns of the community, a sense that Reddit and Twitter can force users to stick around and accept whatever conditions are on offer.” Chen is more optimistic than I am, though, that this spells doom for the platform. Maybe eventually? Still waiting on that fate for Facebook (which I left in 2019) and Twitter (2022).
- A Twitter account from a pretty blond with ties to Obama and Biden campaigns whose tweets are “cartoonishly liberal” turns out to be (shocker) a fake.
- A Twitter account from a doofus male with ties to Silicon Valley whose tweets are cartoonishly douchey turns out to be (shocker) Elon Musk. The Atlantic goes over his latest idiocy: limiting the number of tweets users can see, which, Charlie Wurzel writes, is “the social-media equivalent of Costco implementing a 10-items-or-fewer rule.”
- The fact that The New York Times wrote about a woman who has amassed half a million Tik-Tok followers by reading entries from her teenage diary sends Craig Wright into thoughts about Semisonic, Copernicus, and the centre not holding. “I miss gatekeepers” I once tweeted after reading too many idiot thoughts, and Craig is basically saying “Fuck gatekeepers.” He's saying there is no centre and never was, so enjoy yourself. “Fly, be free,” he's saying, which is what Mork said as he tossed an egg into the air for what turned out to be a very short flight.
Tuesday February 21, 2023
- Jimmy Carter has elected for hospice care at age 98. His upcoming biographer, Kai Bird, offers an encomium of “probably the most intelligent, hard-working and decent man to have occupied the Oval Office in the 20th century.”
- As for the least intelligent, laziest and most horrendous man to occupy the Oval Office? Apparently that special grand jury investigating 2020 election interference in Georgia has recommended several indictments. “It is not a short list,” the forewoman told The New York Times. And was Trump on it? “You're not going to be shocked. It's not rocket science.” Oh please please please please please.
- As for the Jan. 6 scandal? Special Counsel Jack Smith has subpoenaed former VP Mike Pence, but Pence is fighting the subpoena. Love that. Pence's rep is that he acted righteously on Jan. 6, not caving to Trump's demands—though it took a phone call from former VP Dan Quayle to remind him to do the right thing. So why wouldn't he want the world to know he did the right thing? Yeah, because he wasn't always doing the right thing.
- On the one-year invasion of the Russian invasioin of Ukraine, David Remnick underlines Putin's massive folly. “The ramifications of his delusions are enormous and bloody,” he writes.
- Remnick also interviews historian Stephen Kotkin on what it might take to end the war. It's not pretty. “Authoritarian regimes can fail at everything—they can even launch self-defeating wars—so long as they succeed at one thing, which is the suppression of political alternatives.”
- Here's my kind of scandal. Via The Seattle Times: “The [Oregon liquor agency] officials purportedly had bottles of top-shelf bourbon routed to a liquor store, often in the Portland suburb of Milwaukie where the commission headquarters is located, and would reserve them for pickup later. They said they used the whiskey for personal consumption or as gifts.” And the dude on the make is Marks? Too perfect.
- Major League Baseball's Joint Competition Committee has made the regular season extra-inning ghost-runner rule permanent. Like assholes. You kind of knew it was coming. You knew they wanted it. And now the game is less interesting.
- That said, Joe Posnanski is in favor of most of their other moves for the 2023 season: banning the shfit, pitch clocks, and bigger bases.
- More on Poz. In the aftermath of the Baseball 100 and the Football 101, and after finishing his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” not to mention opening tons of old baseball packs with Michael Schur to raise money for ALS research, Posnanski is creating the JoeBlogs Hall of Fame, where he'll honor the best and brightest of baseball. Sure, why not. He's decided to start with classes of players, and the first class is the legendary class: not just great players but players who are still talked about. Each class will have eight position players, three pitchers, and two wild cards, who could be players or anyone connecte to the game. Given the “talked about” parameter, I'd probably have gone Brett or Brooks at third rather than Schmidt, but it's a fine list. I just don't see much of a need for it.
- I like this New York magazine headline on the new Ant Man movie: “This is a Cry for Help.” It looked awful from the trailer and apparently that wasn't false advertising.
Sunday December 19, 2021
- Nice Guardian article on Peter Jackson's “Get Back” documentary from the British perspective: How the street-level interviews during the rooftop concert reveal a Savile Row London that no longer exists, that went away with the times, even as the representation of those times, the Beatles, in music, dress and action, seem timeless: “aliens from the future” author Jonathan Freedland calls them. He's particularly poignant on their modern male empathy: John and Paul realizing they've mistreated George; all of them aware that post-Brian Epstein they've been leaderless, and Paul has tried to step into that role to no one's satisfaction, particularly his. P and I watched all eight hours this month, and parts are a slog, but it's still fascinating. You come away with more respect for them. You watch “Let It Be,” which is no longer available, and you get why they broke up. You watch this and wonder why. They seem to be working it out.
- To honor the great reviews and tepid box office of the new “West Side Story,” Nathaniel and his Film Experience team have posted their top 10 Steven Spielberg films. Main takeaways: They like “A.I.,” “The Color Purple” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (which is No. 1) more than I do, while I like “Saving Private Ryan” (which doesn't make the cut) more than them. My list would probably start with “Jaws,” and would include “Close Encounters,” “Raiders,” “E.T.,” “Empire of the Sun,” “Jurassic Park,” “Schindler's,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “Munich” and “Lincoln,” but not sure what order. And then you realize that's 11 movies, not 10, and where do you cut? It's a not-bad exercise that makes you aware, or more aware, what a master the man was.
- Right from the start, New York Times editorial board member Jesse Wegman is all out of fucks to give when it comes to the GOP and “election integrity.” He calls voter fraud a “scam peddled by right-wing con artists.” He says Donald Trump turned fact-free voter fraud charges into an art form but “the exploitation of the predictable public fear generated by that sort of rhetoric has been a central feature of the Republican playbook for years.” He knows the lose-lose game, too: Engage them, and you give them oxygen; ignore them, and let them have the stage. Facts, stats, evidence don't stop the next round of lies. And what election fraud there is mostly comes from a handful of Republicans who've bought into the lies and are trying to balance the scales. And now Jan. 6 idiots “are running for, and often winning, jobs overseeing the running of elections across the country. They are representative of a new generation of Republicans, raised in the fever swamps of Fox News and other purveyors of disinformation, who believe elections are valid only when their candidate wins.” Pay attention. The only thing at stake is American democracy.
- One of the most disturbing stories I've read in the past few months that got zero traction on social media and the legit press, generally, is Ian Urbina's New Yorker article on the Libyan prisons that keep migrants out of Europe at the behest of the EU. Trumpists aside, it reminds me again why America is exceptional. We are a microcosm of the world. If we can make it work here, the world has a shot.
- Also from The New Yorker, two months back, shockingly powerful and little talked about, is Jennifer Gonnerman's feature on a Baltimore kid in the 1980s who became a state's witness in a homicide of a friend, and the pressure he felt to testify against three peers even though he knew they were innocent. The multiple lives wrecked for the prosecutorial numbers game. Has David Simon seen this? Or is it too much “Been there, done that” for him?
- Oh right, two more from The New Yorker: Michael Schulman on Jeremy Strong of “Succession,” and Margaret Talbot on Greta Garbo. I came away with greater respect for Strong, and the Garbo piece made me think I should see some of her movies for once. (I'm trying to catch up on New Yorkers. Always a Sisyphean task.)
Monday September 13, 2021
- David Simon talks about the questions the late Michael K. Williams asked before the second season of “The Wire,” and what he asked each subsequent season. The answers to those questions are why “The Wire” is the greatest show in TV history.
- James Fallows explicates George W. Bush's speech on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and where we've gone wrong since. Yes, there should be a greater mea culpa in this from W., but he's one of the few members of the GOP who's saying what needs to be said: “We have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders, but from violence that gathers within.” I'd say it's the best speech W. has ever given; I wouldn't even know what might compare.
- As I mentoned on Twitter, W.'s line “step by step, toward grace” is very much Aeschylus by way of RFK: “drop by drop ... comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
- Here's a good YouTube discussion between David Chan and Walter Chaw on the merits, such as they are, of Marvel's “Shang-Chi” movie. I'm with Chaw; I was not impressed. I liked the bus scene but the more fantastical it became the more bored I got. And in the end it was too much like a Hong Kong/modern Chinese movie rather than a Hollywood or Marvel movie.
- The Washington Post's Lily Kuo on how China's crackdown on tech companies, private tutoring, “sissy men,” and actress Zhao Wei, as well as its increased regulation of everything from karaoke songs and park dancing, has many fearing another Cultural Revolution.
- Singer-songwriter-comedian Nick Lutsko has taken Alex Jones' rants and turned them into a folk song. And it's effin' brilliant.
- This is a few months back but a goodie: Jonathan Chait on why Tom Brady joining Pres. Biden at the White House and joking about Trump is the sum of all Trump's fears. I didn't know much on their history—Trump ingratiating himself over and over again—nor Brady skipping the 2017 Super Bowl celebration at Trump's White House. Fun. Makes me resent Brady a little less.
- Another new horrific term to learn: swatting, meaning to call 911 about a fake life-threatening situation to provoke a heavily-armed response from the police. I got it from this Post story. For a covetted Twitter handle, @tennessee, which belonged to Mark Herring, a father, grandfather, and 60-year-old computer programmer, several little shits, in both this country and the UK, harrassed him and others for several months. Then the swatting. They claimed violent, criminal activity at the Herring home when nothing was going on; and when the cops came, guns drawn, Herring suffered a heart attack and died. It's stories like this that make you want to wipe your hands of the whole mob.
Monday July 19, 2021
- Rob Neyer making the big time! He has a The New York Times piece on the behind-the-scenes macinations to get the new Yogi Berra stamp, and which players we might see going forward. One player who goes unmentioned is Harmon Killebrew. I get that he's down on the list—Hank Aaron's got to be next—but to not even be part of the conversation? C'mon, Rob. Oh, and despite my Yankees aversion, I bought three sheets of the Yogis. Because baseball.
- Speaking of: Watched the All-Star Game over at Tim's house last week and we were all horrified that Joe Buck—the announcer who tries to dramatize the game rather than, you know, announce it—was talking to the players while they were playing. And then faux-dissing them when they did poorly. Turns out, we weren't the only ones who were horrified. Only MLB could not see that coming.
- During the game, which was Mariner-less, we counted up the ex-Mariners present and playing, and I suggested Tim write a Grand Salami column counting them up and what we got for them. Here it is. Excerpt: “At one point late in the game, an ex-Mariner was batting while another ex-Mariner tried to advance on a wild pitch, only to have an ex-Mariner throw him out at second base.” Fun to be us.
- Though former colleagues call him “a typical Minnesota family guy,” for more than a decade Sean G. Turnbull has been peddling conspiracy theories online as “SGTReports,” according to The Washington Post. Among his wares: 9/11 was a “false flag operation,” the COVID-19 pandemic was a “bioweapon” and its vaccine an “experimental, biological kill shot,” and the 2020 election, of course, was a “coup.” He is a true believer but is way more strident online. One wonders how the turn began.
- Gabriel Sherman follows the money in the Jeffrey Epstein case to Leslie Wexner, a Ohio retail billionaire. The biggest unanswered question: Did Epstein simply charm Wexner or was there more to it? From an upcoming book, I assume.
- Speaking of: In their new book “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year,” authors Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker reveal that Gen. Mark Milley, chariman of the Joint Chiefs, worried Trump would attempt a coup in 2020 and worked to make sure it didn't happen. Trump's response to these revelations includes this all-but-admission: “If I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I would want to do it with is General Mark Milley.” Jonathan Chait comments: “All these points confirm rather than refute Milley's suggestion that Trump posed a threat to the republic...” Chait says Trump was obviously not a Hitler but points to the number of times the Hitler reference comes up—and not from critics but from his inner circle: James Mattis, John Kelly, Milley.
- Leonnig and Rucker are Post reporters and the Post is excerpting the book, most of which is the usual Trumpian horror show. Then there's the Trumpian opportunism—like this laugh-out-loud graf on what Ivanka was doing the morning of Jan. 6:
- She said this? Out loud? Was anyone in the room? Was it a real room? I picture her saying this alone in a blinding white void, the sad hero of her own retroactive, opportunistic mind.
Thursday June 24, 2021
Lancelot Links Looks for Some Good News
- This isn't a bad start. Forrest Hill Academy, a public school in Atlanta named for Confederate general and early KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, has been renamed the Hank Aaron New Beginnings Academy, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It was a unanimous vote by the Atlanta Board of Education and the fourth such name change in recent months. “Names do matter,” said board chair Jason Esteves.
- A New York appellate court has suspended Rudy Giuliani's license to practice law because of “uncontroverted evidence that respondent communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump's failed effort at reelection in 2020.” Encore. Many encores.
- Conservative columnist and anti-Trumper Max Boot writes about how Pres. Biden wiped the smirk off of Putin's face at the G7 Summit. Boot talks up how Biden got fellow G7 leaders to agree on: a 15% global corporate minimum tax; China challenges; sending 1 billion vaccine doses to poorer countries; and settling an aircraft subsidies trade dispute. Three years ago, Trump took Putin's side against his own intelligence community—a low point in American political history. Here, Putin emerged saying, “President Biden is an experienced statesman. He is very different from President Trump.” To which Boot adds: “Ouch. That's got to sting for Putin's biggest fanboy in the United States.”
- Speaking of China challenges: Nice New York Times piece on China expert Doug Guthrie's repeated warnings about doing business in China and how, “instead of empowering the Chinese people, American investment in the country has empowered the Chinese Communist Party.” No doubt. I like this line from Guthrie circa 2014: “I was going around to business leaders, and I'm like: 'Do you guys understand who Xi Jinping is?'” Yeah, this isn't exactly good news but best to be aware of what's happening.
- Speaking of being aware of what's happening: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mark Milley, was asked about this year's GOP bugaboo, Critical Race Theory, during congressional hearings, and he gave an answer that was bold in its honesty, empathy and toughness. “I do think it's important, actually, for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read. ... What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America—what causes that? I want to find that out.” See video here. I like how he just ran over the GOP's idiot talking points to get at what matters. Always nice to have an adult in the room.
- Finally, The Washington Post excerpts from a book on the Trump administration's disastrous response to the COVID pandemic—here, about what happened behind the scenes when Trump himself fell ill in early October 2020. “By that time, the virus was surging again, but Trump's contempt for face coverings had turned into unofficial White House policy. He actually asked aides who wore them in his presence to take them off. If someone was going to do a news conference with him, he made clear that he or she was not to wear a mask by his side.” My, what a charmer. Article makes it seem he would've died with access to every drug available. No further comment from me.
Sunday June 13, 2021
Lancelot Links is Still Worried About Our Democracy
Just trying to remind myself of all the horror that went on and is still going on.
- Trump-inspired death threats are terrorizing election workers, says Reuters. Not last November or this January but this April, when it was long over except for the bullshit. Just read the lede of the piece. On April 5, the wife of Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger received a text saying she “going to have a very unfortunate incident.” Mid-April it was: “We plan for the death of you and your family every day.” End of April: “You and your family will be killed very slowly.” It has to stop, Gabriel Sterling said of the Georgia situation last December. It hasn't. Trump and company make it worse every day. They're a shithole country unto themselves.
- Ambassador Kurt Volker may have perjured himself as a GOP witness during the first impeachment trial (over Ukraine) of Donald Trump, says the Washington Post. He said there was no quid pro quo, and “Vice President Biden was never a topic of conversation” in the texts he turned over. But Volker was party to a July 2019 phone call between Rudy Giuliani and a top Ukranian official in which the president's lawyer said: “All we need from the President [Volodymyr Zelensky] is to say, 'I'm going to put an honest prosecutor in charge, he's gonna investigate and dig up the evidence that presently exists, and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election, and then the Biden thing has to be run out' ... Somebody in Ukraine's got to take that seriously.” So split hairs—it's not a text. But he knew what he knew, withheld evidence, and is obviously a dangerously partisan actor. Let that be his obit.
- This seems the biggest Trump-era news story of the past week: Trump's DOJ sought the phone records of Democratic congressional leaders and their families, says the Wall Street Journal. Among those targeted: Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell.
- Oh, Trump's White House counsel Don McGahn was targeted, too, along with his wife, says the New York Times. Apple Inc. says it turned over their phone records to the FBI in 2018. The why of it remains unknown. “... the disclosure that agents secretly collected data of a sitting White House counsel is striking as it comes amid a political backlash to revelations about Trump-era seizures of data of reporters and Democrats in Congress for leak investigations.”
- Common refrain among Dems is that history will judge Trump and his stooges poorly. Maybe. Or maybe they'll write the history the way they want it. This week The New Yorker has a piece on how maybe Roman emperor Nero wasn't as bad as we think. He just had bad PR.
“And it's still going on, Danny. In today's newspaper, it's still going on. Right outside the door of this house it's going on.” — Paul Isaacson to his son Daniel in E.L. Doctorow's “The Book of Daniel.”
Friday July 31, 2020
- Early Silicon Valley investor Roger McNamee is getting out in a big way—writing a book “Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe,” and warning people and politicians. Brian Barth's story in The New Yorker from a few months back is a bit cynical about McNamee but still eye-opening. “I was as addicted as anybody,” he says, “ but we have the power to withdraw our attention.”
- I have.
- I remember first reading about Google, the better search engine, in The New Yorker in 2000; I actually brought this info to people working at Microsoft, who hadn't heard of it. (I also remember how for years the search engine made me thinking not only of Barney Google but Koogle flavored peanut butter from the ‘70s, before it became establlished enough to become a verb.) Well, McNamee is not only anti-Facebook but anti-Google. He recommends DuckDuckGo, which, Barth writes, “serves up ads based on keyword searches rather than on user profiles.” I add in case any old Microsoftees are out there.
- The Athletic on Roberto Clemente’s year with the Montreal Royals after being signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Imagine if they'd held onto him.
- Where is your favorite Hall of Fame baseball player buried? Stew Thornley has the details. California has 21, New York 20, Pennsylvania 19, Ohio 17, Florida 16. Washington state has two, with one in Seattle—Amos Russie at Acacia Memorial Park and Funeral Home near Lake Forrest Park along the northwest part of Lake Washington. As for Minnesota? Zip. The cold, most likely.
- Vanity Fair on how Jared Kushner's supersecretive team totally screwed up our national Covid response. “No nationally coordinated testing strategy was ever announced. The plan, according to the participant, ‘just went poof into thin air.’” Today's totals? U.S. at 4.5 million confirmed cases, 152,000 confirmed death. Our death total is approaching three times the number of Americans who died during the Vietnam War.
Monday June 15, 2020
Last time I did one of these we weren't even in the midst of a global pandemic. Imagine. Onward.
- Jonathan Chait over at New York Magazine compares Gen. Michael Flynn's ramblings in a recent Op-Ed to the paranoid “fluids” talk of Col. Jack D. Ripper from “Dr. Strangelove.” Apt. And sad. I hope someday Flynn gets the prison sentence he deserves rather than the one Trump needed.
- Also at New York mag: What it's like to find yourself a social media pariah for a crime you didn't commit? Dude went for a bikeride and found himself accused of being the bike-riding dude who accosted the teenage girls putting up #BLM signs. Which he wasn‘t. But the world is full of amateur sleuths now and police—even as the police are daily being demonized.
- The New York Times talks to Bob Dylan upon the release of his latest album, “Rough and Rowdy Ways.” Fun fact: That 17-minute JFK song he released last year? It was the first No. 1 single he’s ever had. Disclaimer: I don't know what having a No. 1 single means anymore. When I was 10, 20, 30 or more, it meant something. Now? Is there a new Top 40 countdown show? Dylan's still in good form, btw. He's always straightfoward and honest. And that's tough for a Minnesotan.
- Related: Martin Scorsese's great documentary “No Direction Home,” is streaming on Netflix. It's a must for any Dylan fan, music fan, Scorsese fan. It's the only document that's ever made me believe in a collective unconscious. Patricia and I watched it last week—me for the ... third time? I could watch it again right now. (Fun fact: Joan Baez does about the best Bob Dylan imitation I‘ve heard.)
- John Bolton has a new book out that would’ve helped during the impeachment hearings. Yeah, fuck that guy. (Profit before country, John.)
- Good god, do i miss Jon Stewart. (Glad NYT is embracing the Q&A format more.)
- I‘ve never really thought much of Melania Trump. Not disparagingly, I just don’t blame one spouse for the other spouse. But if a new book about her is accurate, and she's the reason Donald decided to run for president, she's on my forever shit list. Not-so-fun fact: Melania is the first immigrant First Lady since 1829—Louisa Adams, John Q's wife. A bit ironic given DT's stance on immigration. Seriously, how the fuck did we let all of this happen?
- Related: P and I are watching “Babylon Berlin” and the shocking thing is how relevant 1929 Weimar Republic is to current-day United States. Shocking and sad. And worrisome.
- Baseball's on hold but Yankees suck.
Tuesday November 26, 2019
Chabon: “I love Mr. Spock because he reminds me of you, I said.”
- Dan Kois and Laura Miller of Slate pick the top 50 nonfiction books from the last 25 years. For the last 15 I‘ve mostly read nonfiction. So how many of these have I read? Four. Yikes. Get busy reading or get busy dying. Particularly vis a vis the Kolbert.
- That said, no Michael Lewis, Adam Hochschild, Jill Lepore or Jane Mayer? How about Yu Hua? Or Bill Bryson?
- The New York Times, meanwhile, has put out its list of the top 10 books of 2019, as well as 100 notables. There, I’m 0-10 and 0-100. But I am interested in the impeachment book.
- Joe Henry's new album is out, “The Gospel According to Water,” a title I love. My most-played song so far? “Orson Welles,” with its beautiful refrain: “You provide the terms of my surrender, and I‘ll provide the war.” (Cf., “Citizen Kane.”) It’s available here, along with testimonials from Rosanne Cash, Lucinda Williams, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Jason Isbell, and John Prine. But you should really just buy it. Support your local artist.
- Parade magazine has posted a slideshow of its baseball-related covers through the years. We get about five Stan Musials, three Mickey Mantles, a few Tom Seavers, a few Yogi Berras. What's missing? Besides any Minnesota Twin? Well, on the April 11, 1954 cover, Roy Campanella is displayed as one of six sluggers in the Majors. He's the only African-American baseball player on the Parade cover until the 1978 Cleveland Indians/Bible study cover, in which none of them are named. And that's it. That's it, by the way, even to this day. Just two. Yes, a few pretty good players kinda passed over there, Chief. Cf., the history of Who's Who in Baseball.
- Everyone who cares about this world, not to mention good writing, should subscribe to The New Yorker. Print edition, if you still do that thing. Earlier this month, we got a personal essay from Michael Chabon about his dying father and “Star Trek.” I was reading it, went “Damn, this is good writing,” then checked the byline. Right, Chabon. Amazing what you can make art out of. “I'm with the Horta on this one.”
- How many of the SCOTUS justices can you name? On a good day I get all nine but it's kinda part of my day job. One that gets overlooked (not Breyer- or Alito-overlooked but still overlooked) is Elena Kagan, who's the subject of a good Magaret Talbot profile in The New Yorker. Talbot paints her as the stolid liberal justice even conservatives dig. Bonus points for Jewish/dry sense of humor.
- But the must-read New Yorker piece—for the year, really—is by Alec MacGillis, who wrote that scathing bio of Mitch McConnell I'm forever quoting. Here, he dives into how the Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes have affected one family. They lost a daughter in the second crash, flying out of Addis Ababa, five months after the first crash. She was 24, lovely, smart, driven. Her father ran “Coalition for a More Prosperous America,” a lobbying organization for small farmers and manufacturers, and on whose board sat a former Boeing engineer who had been warning for years that Boeing had shifted from an engineering culture to a business/bottom-line culture, and the inherent dangers there. Her mother, meanwhile, was the niece of Ralph Nader, the author of “Unsafe at Any Speed,” and the most famous consumer-safety advocate in my lifetime. You can't make this stuff up. If no one is contacting MacGillis to turn this story into a movie, Hollywood is truly dead.
- I should mention that those three great New Yorker stories were all from the same issue: Nov. 18, 2019. The one with the beautiful “Dressing for Fall” cover by Birgit Schossow. See what I mean?
Saturday November 09, 2019
- Peter Osnos (related to Evan?) writes about editing the first two Trump books: “The Art of the Deal” (w/Tony Schwartz), and “The Art of Survival” (w/Charles Leerhsen). The big reveal has less to do with Trump than with the publishing industry. It's all about fancy lunches in exotic places with rich guys pushing one of their own forward. The press, too, helped. See: a fawning 1976 profile in The New York Times calling him NYC's No. 1 real estate promoter who “looks ever so much like Robert Redford.” Ever so much? It was the original fake news. “The Art of the Deal” is one of the many fake books: a book by and about people who don't read.
- Yes, Evan Osnos is the son of Peter.
- Bernard Slade died last week at age 89. He was a TV writer who helped create “The Flying Nun” and “The Partridge Family,” then transitioned back to his first love, theater, for which he wrote “Same Time, Next Year” and “Tribute,” among others. He also wrote the screenplays for each; he got nominated for “Same Time, Next Year.” Key quote from the Times' obit: “While in Canada I had written a television play called ‘The Big Coin Sound,’ which was about a vocal group. Then one night I happened to catch a family group called the Cowsills on ‘The Tonight Show.’ Since ‘The Sound of Music’ was enormously popular at the time, I thought the combination of original music and comedy could be very effective in a television series.”
- News this week from The New York Times: “A state judge ordered President Trump to pay $2 million in damages to nonprofit groups on Thursday after the president admitted misusing money raised by the Donald J. Trump Foundation to promote his presidential bid, pay off business debts and purchase a portrait of himself for one of his hotels.” Right. So the president of the United States admits to bilking people for his own benefit ... and it hardly causes a stir. Those are the times we‘re in.
- Meanwhile, the latest GOP excuse for the Ukraine Scandal isn’t that it didn't happen, it's that there's no evidence in some of the charges against him. Gordon Sondland, for example, who gave $1 million to the Trump campaign and then became EU ambassador, has testifed before Congress that Trump basically directed him to shake down Ukraine—withholding favors until they conducted a very public investigation of Joseph Biden—but there's no direct evidence of this. Jonathan Chait has some fun with the absurdity of this. To me, it's like congressional Republicans in 1973 saying of Watergate: “It was a Don Segretti operation all the way.”
Tuesday January 08, 2019
- Outgoing chief of staff John Kelly says the man responsible for the “zero tolerance” border policy that separated families was Jeff Sessions. Kelly says the White House was surprised by it but doesn't say anything on why they didn't immediately push back. Also stuff about the wall. Old news.
- Robert Horton's 10 best/worst movies of 2018. I don't necessarily agree but I like the way he says it.
- Dave Barry's review of 2018. Wasn't pretty, kids.
- I am still in love with “Ben Franklin's Song” by the Decembrists, via Lin-Manuel Miranda. What I didn't know? The Ben Franklin Institute wrote about it!
- Via The New York Times, photographer Li Zhensheng tries to make the Chinese remember its recent past—specifically the Cultural Revolution.
- Good Q&A with Jena Friedman on the latest Louis CK controversy. Good because it's tempered. She acknowledges both the faults and the genius of the man. In the new routine that has people up in arms, secretly recorded and posted by others, she acknowledges that stand-up is a process. Exactly. To me, this is like people getting angry at an author over a rough draft that someone stole off his desk.
- Chris Rock is kind of funny on not being able to be funny anymore.
- Elina Shatkin makes a list of complaints about the things Millennials are supposedly putting out of business through lack of interest—including Buffalo Wild Wings, Applebee‘s, Hooters, golf and breakfast cereal—and says, “You go, kids.” Then she offers up a few other targets.
- Recommending again the New Yorker piece on how Mark Burnett revived Donald Trump’s sad career with “The Apprentice,” setting up our current predicament.
- From the same issue: the Trump-Merkel contretemps. The horror of what Trump is blithely ending. How it may end the world as we know it.
Monday December 24, 2018
- In the wake of the Harold Baines debaccle, Joey Poz had a great piece on the long sad history of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Baseball Writers Association of America, and the Veterans Committee. I know a lot about baseball history but the specifics he brings are new to me. It's basically how underreaction can lead to overaction, and over to under. Balance is tough.
- But Baseball's sure as hell beats the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. One of my guys, John Mulaney, did a great, brutal bit on the Rock HOF on Seth Meyer's show, and this Rolling Stone interview is an expansion on that. It's funny, chastising, but mostly heartwarming. He's reminding the honorees, “You mean a lot to all of us. Your music made happy days happier and sad days happier, or sometimes made normal days more poignant and sad, and that was necessary. ... Go ahead and enjoy it.”
- Life-lesson from John Cassidy: He who rises by the tabloid shall fall by the tabloid. Not that the lessonee will listen.
- Seattle Film Critics (sans me) announced their best of 2018 and it's the usual suspects: “Roma,” Cuaron, Hawke, Collette, etc. Not their fault; other film critics get to see and announce first. And none are bad choices. By now it's just ... familiar. They do give some love to tentpole films “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and “Black Panther,” but even there, it's not unfamiliar. Here's what I think has been missing from the conversation this awards season: “Wajib,” “Love Education,” “The King,” Sakura Ando, Jun Jong-seo, Hawke for “Juliet, Naked.” Maybe “Avengers: Infinity War.” Why I wrote, I suppose.
- The good folks at SABR have written a clear-eyed portrait of baseball's greatest loveable loser: Charlie Brown. The fact-checking graf on his exact birthdate alone makes it worth reading.
Wednesday December 12, 2018
- The U.S. box office hit “Crazy Rich Asians,” which some U.S. critics sadly keep touting, debuted two weeks ago in China—and bombed. It wound up in eighth place, grossing the equivalent of $1.1 million, $23 mil behind “A Cool Fish” in its third week. The website Sixth Tone tries to sort out why. Too shallow? Too Mary Sue—“a pejorative referring to the trope of shallow, unconvincing female characters in works of fiction”? How about too Asian? The article mentions how an All-Asian cast is a breath of fresh air in the U.S. but kinda not in China. It also doesn't mention the arms-length reaction of many Chinese to overseas Chinese or huaqiao. At the same time, the movie did OK in smaller Chinese markets like Taiwan and Hong Kong. But China said 不要。Could make a good dissertation someday—the why of all of this.
- Hey, guess what didn't bomb in China? “Aquaman.” It's opening weekend gross was $93 mil, which is the 21st biggest opening in China ever.
- Larry Stone has a good eulogy on Robinson Cano's five-year tenure with the M's: PED suspension, yes, occasional lapses, yes, but two top-10 MVP finishes and 23.6 WAR. He delivered. Mariners management didn‘t. Not enough. It was a bad deal, and now we’re out of it for the worst part of it, but I‘ll miss him. He was fun to watch. What Yankee fans saw as laziness, I saw as the usual nonchalance of great baseball players turned to 11.
- In an interview with Bob Schieffer, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says it was difficult to work for Trump because he’s “pretty undisciplined, doesn't like to read, doesn't read briefing reports, doesn't like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, ‘This is what I believe.’” Not a huge shocker. Nothing about Trump is a huge shocker to anyone who was paying attention in 2015 and 2016. And all the years previous.
- Speaking of: If you know anyone who says “They didn't know ...” what Trump was like, kindly direct them to this 2006 piece by Mark Singer in The New Yorker. He nailed it all then. There have been no surprises.
- Can't recommend enough George Packer's mid-November piece on the demise of a moderate Republican. Mostly because it's not about that. It's about Packer holding the GOP accountable for its 50-year-long slide into the muck: from the Southern strategy to welfare queens to Willie Horton. “They pushed conspiracy theories into the mainstream,” Packer writes. “They kept raising the bar of viciousness. ... Trump is the movement's darkest realization, not its betrayal.” His Mitch McConnell metaphor is brilliant.
Friday August 17, 2018
- Via my friend Andy, the best Shakespeare movies of the 1990s. Agree with the top 3.
- Trevor Noah and Roy Wood Jr. on the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of Franklin in “Peanuts”: its origins, breakthroughs and TV/movie oddities.
- Should this be in contention for greatest rock song ever? It's never mentioned. Nothing. It's not even mentioned among top 10 Elvis songs. Time to change that.
- What's your NPR name? According to Lianablog, you add your middle initial somewhere in your first name, then choose the smallest foreign town you‘ve visited for your last name. Don’t really know the smallest foreign town I‘ve visited, but how’s this: Erika Enkhuizen. I'm Erika Enkhuizen and this is “Fresh Air.” I'm Erika Enkhuizen and let me interview Wisconsin farmers who are hurt by Trump's trade war but still support the president “because he's the president” and not ask one decent follow-up question. Yeah. Works.
- Are Netflix movies from China actually helping American cinephiles appreciate Chinese cinema? Via China Film Insider.
- MLB.com gathers the coolest baseball cards every year from 1950 to today, with guest editors for every decade. Quibble: I love Joey Poz, but how was Josh “Cardboard Gods” Wilker not chosen for the ‘70s? Secondary quibble: I think the ’65 card, with the team name within a pennant, is the greatest card created. But guest editor and M's broadcast Dave Sims goes with a blurry Bob Gibson? I might go Tony Oliva. Because c‘mon. Or maybe I’d save Tony for the ‘68 “Manager’s Dream” card with Chico Cardenas and Roberto Clemente. It not only introduces the first great Latino players, it gets all of their first names wrong. Welcome to America, guys.
- Speaking of: Did you get see the A's Ramon Laureano's throw the other day? Shouldn't you?
- Amazing story by Jayson Jenks on everyone's favorite new Mariner, the continually upbeat Dee Gordon. Two things I didn't know: His father is former pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon, about whom Stephen King wrote a novel (which I reviewed for the Times); and his mother was shot to death by her boyfriend when Dee was only 7.
- My friend Jerry had a stroke and lived to write about it.
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