April 24, 2024 / by 


What Are We Reading?

We’ve been fogged in here in Chicago for the last five days, after a week of brutally cold weather: perfect for reading. And a good time, too. My family’s go-to Christmas gifts are books, and I have a bunch of new ones, so here’s some of what I’ve been reading.

Current and recent books

1. The Tyranny of the Minority by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. This was the choice of a member of our book club, not a personal choice. It’s a discussion of the counter-majoritarian provisions of the Constitution and the counter-majoritarian norms and institutions that it spawned. It’s a depressing list, especially because the authors contrast it with the rules of other democracies.

The authors think the Republican Party is in the hands of people who oppose democracy because their  policy views are anathema to the vast majority of Americans. They don’t go into the question of why this is so, which means they don’t emphasize the role of the filthy rich and their lunatic goals.

The last chapter of such books is supposed to be the hopeful part filled with solutions. But it’s just as depressing as the rest of the book.

2. The Secret Lives Of Colors by Kassia St. Clair. This is a collection of 75 short essays on 75 different colors. St. Clair wrote them for British Elle Decoration. Each gives us some idea of the origin of the color, how it is made, it’s uses and other things she thinks are interesting. Puce was named by Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette wore gowns of puce in the summer of 1775, and he supposedly said it was the color of “puce”, the French word for flea. Scarlet isn’t the color I think of either. Here’s a link to the .pdf color chart.

The first time I went to the Pompidou I saw one of the works of the post-WWII artist Yves Klein: a flat canvas in the color he patented called International Klein Blue. It was entrancing. Also hilarious. Klein patented the color. Here’s the Wikipedia entry, with a swatch of the color.  It merits notice in St. Clair’s book.

3. Eve by Cat Bohonnan is an exploration of the evolution of the female human body. Bohannon is a terrific writer, as ready with a smart-ass quip as she is with a lucid description of recent research on oligosaccharides. I’m in the chapter on mother’s milk, and can talk your ear off about the marvelous fluids that create babies and the interactions between mother and baby created by this feature of all mammals. But I won’t.

Bohannon studies the evolution of cognition and narrative, about which she says “my field of research required I read regularly in at least three different disciplines (cognitive psychology, evolutionary theories of cognition, and computational linguistics)”. It shows. The problem she saw is that science treats the male body as the norm, ignoring the important fact that it’s women’s bodies that make the babies. Bohannon has two offspring (as she puts it on her personal webpage), and tells us a little about her experiences. The result is a wholistic narrative that keeps me involved in what might otherwise be a technical explication.

4. The Marquis Who Mustn’t by Courtney Milan. This is an entry in a series about a 19th C. English village populated by Asian immigrants. I really liked Milan’s earlier books, especially the series The Brothers Sinister. This one uses a technique common in romance novels: of constant repetition of the problems of the main characters. It feels like padding when we are reminded for the 25th time that the woman thinks she’s ugly and no one will love her. I did learn a bit about pottery-making, but I admit to skipping a number of pages that felt repetitive.

Other books of interest

1. The Education of a Golfer by Sam Snead and Scott Carter. I saw a tweet about books you read as a 12-year old more than once, and after a bit of thought I remembered this book. I was an avid golfer starting in 6th grade. I played with my dad and we often watched golf on TV, so I knew about Slammin’ Sammy Snead, Arnold Palmer and the great Julius Boros, who had the most beautiful swing I ever saw. I don’t remember how I found it, but I must have read it over and over, because when I saw that tweet I remembered the story about the chinchillas.

2. I’ll be re-reading Possession by A. S. Byatt, a book I’ve read at least 10 times since seeing a review in the New York Times book section. This book is a mixture of action, romance, feminist theory, 19th C. Poetry, and much more, told in multiple voices and through many eyes. Each thread of the storyline feels real and each reading has revealed a new aspect.

The book was made into a 2008 movie starring Gweneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam, not to be confused with the horror flick of the same name. It necessarily leaves out most of the stuff that makes the book so fascinating. Eckhart is too handsome and self-assured to be a good Roland, but the other three characters are very good. I’d forgotten that Paltrow could act.

3. Among the books I gave as gifts at Christmas was Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. it’s a delightful book, inspired by a galling event in Garmus’ life. I think my spouse read it for a book club focused on fiction by women, and I found it in our shared Kindle library (my eyes are bad, and I can only read in e-formats.) It’s a sort of feminist romance novel, but it’s much more. I couldn’t help but think a bit about my own mother, who did graduate courses in modern literature, focusing on Faulkner, while raising seven offstring.

4. I’ll be re-reading chapter 9 of The Origins Of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt for the next entries in my series on rights. It’s titled “The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man”, and can be read as a stand-alone essay on the subject. I didn’t discuss this chapter in detail when I did my series on this book, but it’s a good way of thinking about rights from a practical standpoint without focusing on current right-wing claims of rights like the right to force other people to give birth or the right of every gun shop to sell to every loon who walks in.

So, that’s me. What are you reading? What do you have on your table waiting to be read?


The Masters Of Faster Talk Of Trash

Alright Wheelies, it is Trash talk time! For the doldrums of summer, there are a lot of sports to talk about and space needed for all things “not” January 6 related. Bring it all here.

First up is the AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX. Qualifying is on right now. Stroll has already crashed his Aston Martin into the wall. Good thing his father owns the team, else Lance would not have a job. Oh no, the other Aston Martin, driven by Sen Vettel, has now gone into the wall, but seems the car is okay. Of the middle eastern races, the Baku City Circuit is actually better than most and usually provides good racing. As usual, the Red Bulls and Ferraris are up front.

Qualifying is over, and Ferrari’s Jean Leclerc is on pole, followed by Checo Perez, Verstappen and Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari. Race coverage on ESPN at 7 am EST Sunday.

THE BELMONT. The 154th running of the last leg of the Triple Crown in Elmont New York. The shocking come from behind winner of the Derby, Rich Strike, is entered.

There will be no chance of a horse winning the Triple Crown this year, after Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike did not race in the Preakness in May. But Rich Strike will still have a chance at making history on Saturday.
“Obviously, with our tremendous effort & win in the Derby it’s very, very tempting to alter course & run in the Preakness at Pimlico, which would be a great honor for all our group, however, after much discussion & consideration with my trainer, Eric Reed & a few others, we are going to stay with our plan of what’s best for Ritchie is what’s best for our group, and pass on running in the Preakness, and point toward the Belmont in approximately 5 weeks.”

The 80-1 long shot at the Kentucky Derby is still not favored to win at Belmont, with that honor going to We the People at 2-1.

It is hard to tell what to make of Rich Strike, only got in the Derby field by a last minute fluke, but he really went on a tear down the stretch and looked like he could have kept going, so today should be pretty interesting. But no, wouldn’t bet the farm on him.

NBA FINALS. Last night’s game four was something. Steph Curry just flat went off, finishing with 43 points and ten rebounds, which is Jordan and LeBron land. But it seemed more than that, he was everywhere. The series is tied 2-2, and they head back to San Francisco for a Monday night game five. It sure looks like it may be a seven game series.

LIV. Rayne mentioned it previously, and she covered the background, including Phil, quite well. Here is a running blog by ESPN on the final round in London. My only real comment is that the LIV is not attracting many viewers. Which figures because it is not on TV. At all. The only way to watch this junk is by streaming it, and who wants to do that for a golf tournament? Maybe sports writers that have to cover it? Those are the only folks I know that are watching. It is just a giant cash grab by golfers, most of whom nobody has ever heard of. From brutal murderous Saudi thugs.

DESHAUN WATSON. What a mess this sordid affair is. While two separate grand juries have refused to serve up an indictment, there are 24, Twenty Four!, civil suits filed against Watson. All by one carnival barker Houston lawyer, Tony Buzbee. Buzbee now claims he will be naming the Houston Texans as a party defendant as well, apparently based upon the somewhat tangential fact that Watson obtained a generic template non-disclosure agreement for from them. Something that had been known for a while actually. But Buzbee like to make a buzz, and he is at it again. Frankly I have no idea in the world how he does not have 23 conflicts of interest. There is no way in hell all of his clients are similarly situated, or have the same ultimate interest. I am stunned the Texas State Bar has not reeled him in. From Ben Volin at the Boston Globe:

But Watson and the Browns look to be in big trouble. The New York Times’s reporting on the lawsuits, which found that Watson visited 66 massage therapists over 17 months, provided vivid details of the allegations against Watson and revealed him as a deviant who used his power and celebrity to prey on women.

Nobody comes out of this looking good. Watson could be forced to sit out yet another season. The Browns look horrible for embracing Watson and still might need to find a quarterback for this year. The Texans are now getting dragged into the lawsuit and could be found at least partially liable. And Watson may find himself in more hot water thanks to the 24th lawsuit that was filed this past week.

The Browns may be without Watson for some or all of 2022, but there should be no tears shed for Jimmy Haslam’s team. It was shameful enough when the Browns traded three first-round picks for Watson despite these allegations hovering over him. But the contract they gave Watson shields him from any sort of financial accountability.

Not only is every penny of the five-year, $230 million contract fully guaranteed — setting an NFL record for the length and total of a guarantee — but the Browns truly protected Watson from financial repercussions of a suspension.

The Texans at least had the good sense to cut loose Watson. They paid him to not come around all of last year. But the Browns and Haslem look truly horrible. There is a lot of good stuff in Ben’s article. I’ll have more to say about this mess later as it plays out, but it is truly ugly on every front. Especially Watson, the Browns and carnival barker attorney Buzbee.

I knew Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin a little in the past, and he is very, very good. He can try any kind of case, although is probably best known for criminal ones. Head to head, Rusty would likely mop the floor with Buzbee. But 24 of them? And, make no mistake, you would have to try to make sure they are all separate and attempt to keep out all the other allegations from each one. That is certainly what I would do. Ooof.

Okay then, let rip the trash talk on anything that interests you. I’ll leave this post around through Monday night so there is always a place for things not January 6. Today’s music is an extremely little known one by the great George Harrison. The song is really written about the late great Ronnie Peterson, one of the fastest and nicest drivers ever in Formula One.But there is a lot of superb F1 footage in the video, including a couple of shots of my automotive mentor Phil Hill. And, if you catch it, a cameo by the Wee Scott, the great Jackie Stewart, as George’s driver. It is absolutely fantastic, give it a listen!

Through Turkey Giblets to the Stars

Sorry about the lack of a Thanksgiving Day post until now. I’ve had my hands stuck up the backside of a 19-pound turkey much of this morning when not busy with chopping, peeling, cooking everything to accompany this unexpected behemoth. My family pod is here and trying to help with the feast but as always it seems the challenges expand to meet the people present.

Like the 5-pound bag of sugar which more closely resembled a giant sugar cube.

Or discovering the turkey still solid like a pink fleshy iceberg.

Or beloved spouse deciding to get a jump on sales and buying 10-pounds of hamburger which must be shaped in to patties and frozen right now, in the middle of the circus in my kitchen.

But I’m thankful to have all of this hubbub today generated by my pod — myself, my spouse, my two kids — all of us healthy, masked, and together for this holiday.

~ ~ ~

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
― Winston Churchill

We have an opportunity to kick a fascist autocrat to the curb, thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Stacey Abrams in Georgia, and Ben Wikler in Wisconsin. Thank you to all the new voters they and others like them encouraged to register and vote, all those neophytes who saw the threat for what it was, who see the promise committing to vote can bring. We owe the chance to save Americans’ lives and America’s democracy to these folks.

~ ~ ~

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
― John F. Kennedy

Never separate the life you live from the words you speak.
― Paul Wellstone

Going forward it’s on us all to repair the damage of this last four years, to remedy base blemishes built upon over time, to scrape away the palimpsest of colonialism and contemporary racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, starting anew with better, inclusive materials.

May our efforts mirror our best intentions as we strive toward a more perfect union.

~ ~ ~

Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.
― Albert Schweitzer

We’ve had some very dark passages and tough times. We are grateful to those who give us reason to continue to work for social justice and economic democracy for all. We are thankful for you, our community.

~ ~ ~

Per aspera ad astra. Gratias tibi.

The Fabulous Emptywheel Music Blog: Setting The Scene

Okay, alright, enough of that live music stuff. This weekend, off another suggestion by Emptywheel Roving Reporter Rosalind, let’s do music documentaries! These are her remarks:

Music Documentaries (NOT films of live concerts). In 2019 there were several docs I watched that hit the music EW demographic sweet spot, including:

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice
David Crosby: Remember My Name
Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool
Boy Howdy: The CREEM Magazine Story
Mr. Jimmy – story of a Japanese guitar player who takes his Jimmy Page hero-worship to a whole nother level
Echo In The Canyon – Laurel Canyon music scene, 1/2 OK interviews w/various musicians, 1/2 self-indulgent concert featuring Jakob Dylan performing boring versions of the originals.

The Gordon Lightfoot and Miles Davis docs are ones I would never have thought to seek out and sparked a whole new level of appreciation for the two. The footage of their early musical lives is really something.

Rock on.

The Linda Ronstadt one is truly fabulous. I’ll have to look for the Gordon Lightfoot one, but have always loved him. Heard Carefree Highway long ago, and that sits awfully special to people here that actually drive on the Carefree Highway (yes, it really exists).

I’d like to add one music documentary to Rosalind’s list: Super Duper Alice Cooper. It is truly fantastic. You may think “eh, I dunno, that’s crazy”, but it is really good and, I think, available streaming online. And, yes all crazy, but those were the times back then, it “was” crazy.

Also, because this will invariably morph into the greatest music documentaries ever, let me throw in a couple of Scorsese classics: The Last Waltz and Shine The Light.

So have at it, whether music, the NFL draft or whatever. This weekend’s scene setting music is…..You Set The Scene by the incomparable Arthur Lee and Love.

Open Thread: Don’t Shoot the Freezer

I don’t know if it’s post-game fatigue and frustration, or if it’s the effects of last night’s super blood wolf moon eclipse.

Don’t know if it’s the bitter, killing cold where some of us are located, or if it’s cabin fever.

But it looks like some of the regulars are itchy, veering too readily off the road into the ditch.

Whatever reason, it looks like we need a wide-open thread.

Bring your off-topic content here and air it out. Stay on topic in the other threads.

DON’T THINK WE’VE FORGOTTEN YOUR FAILURE TO SERVE THE GREATER PUBLIC GOOD, MITCH MCCONNELL. That goes for the rest of the GOP senate who kowtow to his brand of Trumpist slackerdom, refusing to restrain the toddler tyrant and return government to working order.

Merry Christmas to the emptywheel Community

I’m mostly spending time with family in PA today. Thanks to bmaz for kicking off the holiday cheer with his remembrances post.

I wanted to weigh in, though, and add thanks not just to those who’ve been putting up with us for over a decade and those we’ve lost, but for the new commenters and lurkers we’ve gotten in the last year. One of the highlights of my year came as the host on a KPFA show introduced me before I came on his show. He went on a length talking not about my contributions at this here little blog, but the rich contributions of our readers.

I am enormously grateful that, over a decade after the golden year of blog-dom, our community has persisted and grown, and our comment threads remain a big part of what we offer.

At times the slog of reporting on Trump’s abuses gets really heavy. At those times, your support makes it worthwhile.

Thanks to all of you who have been (financial and non-financial) supporters of emptywheel, this year, and over the years.

Merry Christmas. May 2019 bring more good news than bad.

Open Thread: Angst

It’s the last weekend in February; I think Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ did such a fine job last weekend I’ll enlist another of his works to close this month. This one is called ‘Anxiety’ in English. In Norway they call it ‘Angst’. I think the latter is far more fitting based on definition.

We haven’t yet sunk into madness — March Madness, that is. (Don’t forget to fill out your bracket if you’re into that collegiate basketball-induced insanity.)

But we are definitely suffering from a collective existential dread. How will we climb out of this hole and fix this mess?

In the mean time, dump your burden here. Make light while you can. Remember Tuesday is Mardi Gras, the last guilt-free celebration until Easter for those of who are Catholic or Catholic-by-heritage. Offload your angst in comments and celebrate while you can without a side-eye or shade.

Open Thread: The Scream

Norwegian artist Edvard Munch‘s most famous work, The Scream, seems most appropriate this week. If you can’t think of something that made you want to scream this week, count yourself a lucky person.

With Superbowl done, pro football season is over; that’s enough to make some folks scream with frustration if not boredom. Cheer up — there’s other sportsing to be had.

NHL regular season doesn’t end until April 9, 2017. (Ugh, Red Wings, in the basement? Come the fuck on.)

NBA regular season doesn’t end until April 12, 2017. (Pistons smack in the middle of the Eastern Conference. Meh.)

NCAA regular season ends March 5th, beginning March Madness. Start working on your bracket now. (I got nothing. Maybe next year if my kid transfers to a Big 10 school.)

PGA golf tour continues its plodding way with the Genesis Open this week at Riviera Country Club in Palisades, CA. (Yawn.)

I’m sure bmaz will fill us in on critical racing news if there’s any this week. I don’t think Formula One starts until the last week of March, though.

Me? I’ll be watching for Amy Suskind’s weekly list of Not Normal events measuring our republic’s drift away from sanity into a fascist one-party state. Last week’s list was grim and included for the first time items we have now normalized. I can hardly wait to see what’s on Week 14’s list.

This thread is open. Scream away.

Summer Sports: What’s Good This Weekend?

I admit it freely — I’m the least sportif member of the Emptywheel team. As years have gone by, sports have lost their shine for me. The full-body contact of politics has been far more interesting.

But I need to get that shine back. My oldest is in a relationship with a sportsy guy, and I need to be able to talk with him without trying too hard and sounding like a total moron.

So, help a girl out. Auto racing. Baseball. Golf. That’s all that’s in my cable channel lineup right now, and I can’t muster enough excitement. Tell me what you think I should look for to get heated up about one of these, and is there something really juicy going on tomorrow?

— NHRA in Briston, TN on ESPN right now looks much as it did over the past couple decades. Is there some big technological breakthrough that makes these races different now than they were pre-2000? Fill me in.

— Folks in my other social media about were using lots of shouty caps about baseball and some guy named Scherzer. What happened? Which is/was the better game to watch: Detroit Tigers v New York Yankees, or LA Dodgers v SF Giants?

— And Tiger Woods has no game left they say, missing the cut at the U.S. Open. I did see this much in my timeline. I imagine poor Papa Earl is rolling in his grave, saying he was right that Tiger could only be stopped by a woman. I think it was the comprehensive use of word, “woman,” as in all women. Tiger hasn’t really had it together for any length of time since his marriage fell apart. Besides the current golden boy McIlroy, who else should I watch at the U.S. Open?

Golf has a little more appeal for me this summer. I used to play until a handful of years ago, when it just wasn’t fun any more. I lost my game, too, couldn’t spend enough time on the course. But now my youngest has landed his first job as bag boy at the nearby club. When he comes home after his shift it’s a hoot to listen to him describe navigating his inaugural work experience, let alone hear all the goofy things that happened to him on the job.

Like today, his first Saturday morning opening the course — he sent me a text mid-shift that read, HOLY TIPS. Came home with a wad of bills in his pocket, yelling how much he loved old dudes who played golf.

Now for this I can worked up.

emptywheel Takes a Vacation!

This is just a quick post to note that I’ll be on vacation, with limited access to the Toobz, for the next two weeks. If something major hits, I may sneak back on and post, but I hope to instead spend quality time with my mom.

bmaz claims he’s going to pick up some slack and I know Ed has some quality stuff planned. Hopefully, Rayne will continue to track some of the interesting hacking developments. And Jim’s schedule may finally free up enough to resume posting next week.

In the meantime, here’s to my mom, who is having a big birthday on Thursday, is a remarkable woman, and put up with me for many years and surely made me a better person along the way (imagine how awful I’d be without her influence?!?!).

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/free-for-all/