Something for Thursday

I heard this song…someplace online, a week or two ago. I honestly don’t recall where. I think someone used it as a background on their video about something else. But I love this singer’s voice–husky and soulful in her lower register, but she can also rise up and do some belting–and the song itself is quite beautiful. Here is Katrina Stone with “I Hope So”.

 

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“And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day”

Yeah, I’m pretty much back to normal this morning. I’m not planning on testing myself again until tomorrow, but it’s really looking like I’ve weathered my own personal COVID storm pretty well. I’m one of the lucky ones for whom it was “just a cold”. Since the worst of my cold passed on Monday, I’ve basically been enjoying what is turning out to be a lovely August week–albeit, a week when I can’t interact with anyone except my immediate family. It’s like house arrest, but without the ankle monitor. Oh well! Writing is also starting to go passingly well again, but more on that in another post.

Meanwhile, the open tabs are starting to pile up, so let’s clear out some stuff. That’s right, folks, it’s a GRAB-BAG POST! Yay!!!!

Pitter patter, let’s get at ‘er:

::  The value of owning more books than you can ever read.

I love articles like this, because they justify this book-buying lifestyle of mine. I make no apologies. None! Give me all the books! (I do need to do some weeding soon, though. That’s a project for my annual Autumn Vacation.) This article justifies large numbers of unread books in a way that I’d not thought of before in quite this way, however:

These selves of unexplored ideas propel us to continue reading, continue learning, and never be comfortable that we know enough. Jessica Stillman calls this realization intellectual humility.

People who lack this intellectual humility — those without a yearning to acquire new books or visit their local library — may enjoy a sense of pride at having conquered their personal collection, but such a library provides all the use of a wall-mounted trophy. It becomes an “ego-booting appendage” for decoration alone. Not a living, growing resource we can learn from until we are 80 — and, if we are lucky, a few years beyond.

A large personal library as an expression of acknowledgment of our own ignorance? I like that.

::  On lesbians and overalls. (“Dungarees” in the article; I believe the author is British and that’s the word they use over there.) I don’t have much of anything to add, but I did note during the 2000s and the 2010s–when overalls almost completely disappeared after a solid three decades of their being somewhat common, and downright ubiquitous in the 90s–that the only people really keeping them alive were the gays. I thank them for that! I couldn’t do all the heavy lifting myself, after all.

::  Loose lips sink ships. A typically superb essay by Jim Wright, a former Naval intelligence officer who now writes about politics and current events on his own.

What did Trump take?

I don’t know. But the very fact that he could walk out of the White House with classified material shows you that we as a nation need much better oversight and control of this process.

Trump’s own supporters often talk about “our way of life.”

And that’s ironic, because the very foundation of our way of life is that the president is not a king and he can’t just wave his hand and make it so.

This material does not belong to him, it belongs to us.

The president is not above the law.

Shortly after the 2016 election–and by “shortly”, I mean, minutes later–I started believing that that single election might well turn out to be the biggest self-inflicted wound in American history. The ripples from 2016 will be echoing through history long after I’ve joined the Choir Invisible, and I see to this day a reluctance on the part of Americans to admit that in a democracy, the blame always should go to us.

::  The real home run record is 73, not 61.

I’ve been paying more attention to baseball the last few years than I had basically from 2000 to, oh, 2015 or thereabouts. In the 90s I loved baseball and I almost always had a game on the teevee if there wasn’t something else we were watching (and it was baseball season, of course). While I’m not much for televised sport anymore, I’ve found it appealing to follow sport the way people probably back in the days before television: they read about it! You can do this, after all. I find that I can know just as much about what happens without spending three hours watching various sporting events by reading the work of all the fine people out there who write about sport. And then there are the box scores! I’ll let Fox Mulder explain:

 It’s like the Pythagorean Theorem for jocks. It distills all the chaos and action of any game in the history of all baseball games into one tiny, perfect, rectangular sequence of numbers. I can look at this box and I can recreate exactly what happened on some sunny summer day back in 1947.

Of course, no box score is perfect; sometimes you just have to see the weirdness that the box score can’t capture. Like this moment, which I just saw this morning: a minor league batter takes a swing at the ball, makes contact, and the ball goes…nowhere.

Well.

Back to the link above, this year there’s a player named Aaron Judge who plays right field for the Yankees. He’s already been known as a good power hitter, having hit 52 home runs in his rookie season in 2017. But this year he’s on an even more torrid (“torrider”?) pace. As of this writing he has 46 home runs already, which roughly translates to 64 home runs if he maintains that pace for the balance of the season. The famous single-season home run record for many years was Roger Maris’s 60 home runs in 1960, a record which stood until the late 1990s, when it was first broken by Mark McGwire and then also superseded by Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, who set the current record at 73.

But.

Those players were all implicated in the steroid scandals that swamped baseball in the early 2000s, and therefore, a whole lot of people view their accomplishments and records as being tainted. None of those players has been elected to the Hall of Fame, despite near-universal acceptance that Bonds was one of the very greatest players in the entire history of Major League Baseball. This has led many to simply set aside the numbers Bonds and the others put up, and re-establish Maris’s mark as the real record to beat.

The linked writer, Will Leitch, disagrees. Strenuously.

You could make a plausible argument that Judge is having the best home-run-hitting season of all time. McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds all accomplished their feats during an age of unprecedented home-run and scoring rates. And in 2022, nearly every pitcher in the game is throwing 95 mph cutters with late movement, and ultra-specialized relievers mean your final at-bat of the night is usually against some 23-year-old kid who throws 102. Pitching right now is as good as it has ever been. The leaguewide batting average this year is .243, the lowest since 1968, a.k.a. the “Year of the Pitcher” — making Judge’s mammoth blasts all the more impressive. If Bonds and company had to face the caliber of pitchers standard in today’s game, would they have broken Maris’s record? I doubt it.

The thing is, though: They did. The record is not 61: It is 73. Unlike in Maris’s case, there is no asterisk. There is no footnote in the record book reading, “Sure, Barry Bonds is technically the man to beat, but a lot of people didn’t like him and he probably took cow tranquilizers and had a huge head, so not really.” If Judge doesn’t get to 73, he doesn’t get the record. It’s pretty cut-and-dried.

I tend to agree with Leitch. I always found MLB’s tippy-tap dance around PEDs rather disingenuous–“There’s a thing we’d like you to not do, but we’re not going to actually make it a rule that you not do it, nor are we going to undergo any procedures to verify that you’re not doing it, and if you happen to enjoy spectacular success that brings good teevee ratings to us in a time when wow, we could really use some good teevee ratings, well, what’s the harm!”–and I find the resulting annual moralizing bullshit by Hall of Fame voters really cloying and ultimately nauseating. Every year we’re subjected to thinkpieces about “Why I’m not voting for the steroid guys again“, and every year–even moreso, really, with the passage of time–this crap reads more and more like the protest nonsense of self-appointed gatekeepers and guardians whose mission in life is to make sure that baseball’s history is always and forever whitewashed with just the right shade of sepia.

(I also have some suspicions as to the degree to which the public’s distaste for honoring Barry Bonds’s accomplishments stems from his being a black man who, let’s be honest, never put much effort at all into being what white people consider “pleasant”.)

(Oh, by the way, the X-Files episode I reference above, “The Un-natural”, is one of my favorite episodes of any teevee show, ever. If you can track down just that episode, watch it. It’s a stand-alone that requires zero knowledge of that show’s weighty mythology.)

::  OK, I gotta talk about this a little.

I’m not going to get into all the many ways this “I am TOO a man of the people!” Dr. Oz moment is a campaign gaffe for the ages (but seriously, it reminds me of the 2000 Senate NY senate race when that nitwit Rick Lazio thought that storming across the debate stage to force a pen into Hillary Clinton’s hand to sign his bullshit compaign-tone pledge was a great idea). You can read about his failure to even know what store he’s in (resulting in his mashing together the names of two real stores into one name of a store that doesn’t exist), and his absurd notions of what constitutes a veggie tray, and his goofy ideas about prices and how to shop, in lots of other places. You can also dig elsewhere into the current Republican trend of ignoring that inflation is a global trend because they want to blame whatever they can on Joe Biden.

I just want to focus on…Oz’s shirt.

Who the hell wears a Henley shirt with all the collar buttons done up?!

The whole point of a Henley is that the collar opens! It’s why you wear one! There is literally zero point to wearing a Henley shirt if you’re going to button up the collar. At that point you’re better served wearing a long-sleeve tee or a sweater. Just go with a friggin’ button-up shirt, you weirdo–or, if you must, a polo or a golf shirt. (My own personal suspicion of men increases directly with the number of golf shirts in their wardrobes, but that’s just me.) It’s just one more detail in a campaign video in which every detail screams out, “OK, guys, I gotta go where and do what, now? OK, how do I dress for that? Fine, is that my size? Does this look OK? It does? OK, let’s go!”

After this, Oz said something about his bungling of the store’s name along the lines of “Getting the names right doesn’t say anything about my ability to lead the Commonwealth.” This shows that he doesn’t even understand what he’s running for. Senators don’t lead their states, Doc. They represent them.

Seriously, at some point Oprah Winfrey has to account for giving this clown the public life he’s enjoying now.

::  Finally, here are two cats being jerks.

That’s Carla’s bed.

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Day Four

I’ve seen nothing from the CDC on the subject, but I cannot see any reason why lap time with a warm dog would not be part of a COVID treatment program.

Also, it occurred to me yesterday, as I was eating a bowl of Ramen noodles–still one of my dietary mainstays when I’m under the weather–that the Campbell’s Soup Company really could have made a killing when the COVID crisis started, had they returned to production with one of the finest of all therapeutic soups, Pepper Pot. Alas! I’ve still not got round to making my own. At this point it’s been so long since I’ve eaten the Campbell’s that I’ll be going off memory for the flavor, but I’m up to the challenge. (The main challenge for that soup will be finding its main protein component, cow tripe.) I did find the episode from The Frugal Gourmet on YouTube where Jeff Smith made Pepper Pot soup (the episode is in two parts on YouTube and the soup straddles both, so: part one, part two), and it doesn’t look hard at all.

(I also learned that there is a Guyanese dish called Pepperpot, which is not the same thing as the Philadelphia soup. From what I’ve read, the Philadelphia soup does come from Colonial Black culture by way of the Caribbean and then back to Africa, so maybe the dishes are of similar heritage. I don’t know about making my own Guyanese Pepperpot, but I’d sure like to taste it.)

Oh, as for how I’m feeing: Pretty good! The cold is almost entirely gone, with just the usual remnant throat crud to cough out or whatever. Again, had I had this exact cold without the context of COVID, it would have been just another annoying cold. I’m sad that my coldless streak has ended; I continue to think that our societal acceptance of regular colds is kind of insane. But then, I think a lot of things we accept as a society are insane.

Assuming I don’t relapse, my next target is Friday morning, when I plan to test again. I’m hoping it’s negative. Meanwhile…onward and upward, I suppose!

 

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An Hypothetical

So, you’re cleaning out your house.

It’s a pretty big house, and you’ve got a lot of stuff to get rid of. But you’re sure the town trash service will be perfectly happy to deal with all of it, so you start piling it up down by the street.

And you keep piling…and piling…and piling.

It’s a giant pile you got there.

Think of the biggest garage sale you’ve ever seen, and imagine all of that stuff…in one pile, down by the street, with the idea that the town’s trash service will cheerfully pick it all up.

Naturally, the town’s trash service does not pick it all up…or even some of it. Or any of it.

So your pile sits there for a week, maybe two, before you finally rent a dumpster and transfer the contents of your pile into it. Which is what you should have done in the first place. And who knows, maybe a representative from The Town contacted you and said “Nice try, but get a dumpster, at your expense.”

Anyway, now the pile’s gone.

And it’s a month later.

And you’re still clearing out your house.

And inexplicably, you somehow still have enough stuff to get rid of to stock another biggest garage sale in history. (How you’ve packed this much crap into that one house is a mystery for another time.”)

So you decide–because it’s the obvious conclusion!–that what you do now is very simple: you start hauling all your stuff down to the side of the street and start making a nice giant pile….

[some steps omitted]

…and now, two weeks later, you’re on your second dumpster.

 

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Tone Poem Tuesday

You know the drill: When I’ve not really had time to listen to anything specific and write insightful commentary about it, I turn to Franz Von Suppe’s operetta overtures.

Here’s a very good performance of Suppe’s Morning, Noon, and Night in Vienna overture.

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“First offense, BAM! Into the colon you go!”

Mr. Carlin on germs and disease (play through headphones if you’re at work and you share a desk with some easily-offended Karen-type):

Obviously I’m not in total agreement here, but it’s fun watching an artist at the top of his game. Carlin’s language had such music, such rhythm to it. He’s an icon of comedy, but I don’t think he gets his due as a prose-poet.

As for me this morning? Feeling better! As I’ve said, this cold has been proceeding in exactly the same fashion that my colds normally go, and if not for COVID I’d never have thought much about this particular cold beyond its annoyance level. I’ve now reached the point where I’m sneezing a lot less and my throat is significantly less sore. I’m still waiting for the stuffiness upstairs to abate to the point where I can smell things*, but I imagine that’s in the offing soon. Whereas my sleep the night before last was interrupted frequently by sneezing and coughing, my sleep last night was much more fitful, and it was only interrupted a couple times, and those were by a dog making his “Excuse me, I need to go outside and pee now” noises. (The Dee-oh-gee had a rough day yesterday, but more on that another time. He’s doing OK, though, for a doggo who is about to turn ten years old.)

So, to sum up: Feeling better, not a hundred percent, but definitely on the mend. I suspect that by Thursday I’ll be feeling quite normal. Meanwhile, I’m going to keep on imagining my vaxxed-and-boosted immune system working its way through my bloodstream and escorting freshly-dead COVID virus molecules directly into my colon.

(And a promise to you, readers: barring something significant happening down there at some point in the future, this is the last time I shall ever mention my colon in this space. A writer has limits.)

*On my sense of smell: I know that loss of scent and taste were major symptoms of COVID’s original variants, but that is apparently much less the case with the current versions of this damned thing. Also, when I get colds I always lose my sense of smell for a day or two, pretty much because I’m pretty stuffed up. I can still taste food and beverages, though with the scent component out of play, eating is a lot less enjoyable.

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Ginger root and citrus peel

The dialogue opening this scene from The West Wing (season one) has been on my mind today:

I haven’t resorted yet to a strong shot of whiskey, but I’m not ruling it out, either. I have an unopened bottle of Scotch around here somewhere….

 

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The mood of the day…

…is this.

And why is that the mood of the day?

Because of this:

I started feeling a bit of scratchiness in the back of my throat the other night, after we got home from the County Fair, but I didn’t think much of it. It was a dry and dusty day, I didn’t drink nearly as much water as I usually drink, and I do occasionally grapple with mild hay-fever this time of year. But yesterday it started feeling suspiciously like an actual cold, and this morning I got up and thought, “Yup. This is a thing. I’d better take a test.”

And, to no surprise at all, there it is.

I’m not terribly worried at this point. So far this just feels like every other mild head-cold I’ve had, though I’m irritated because I’ve enjoyed not having had a cold in at least three years. I’m vaccinated with all boosters available (second booster came a couple months ago), and I’m in decent health for a fellow my age (the weight could be less, yeah yeah, whatevs, I’m working on it slowly). I’ve also maintained my habit of masking, though maybe not quite as religiously as I was. I’ve no idea where I got this from, but I’m happy that it’s taken me this long, and that my hard work to not get it does seem to have paid off. Dating from the day the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, I’ve made it 886 days without getting this damned thing. I know folks who have had it more than once in that same period.

I continue to be vexed by resistance to simple measures like vaccines and masking. My commitment to “personal freedom” does not outweigh my awareness that I am a part of what I still hope is at least a partially-functioning society, and on a more mundane note, I genuinely don’t understand why we’ve all just accepted “getting sick two to four times a year” as just…something we do. Like it’s the cost of doing business. What is that about?

So anyway, that’s the latest. Sigh…but if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a virus to curb-stomp. I ain’t got time for your shit, COVID!

 

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A learned hatred in service of a small god

I, like many others, am disturbed and horrified by the attack on author Salman Rushdie that took place at the Chautauqua Institution, a place I’ve been to a few times, which is just an hour’s drive away on the lovely shores of Lake Chautauqua. Hatred and religious extremism no know boundaries and can flourish anywhere, though this wasn’t a local hatred; from what I can tell, some guy checked where Rushdie was going to be, went there, and attacked.

I haven’t read any of Rushdie’s novels, but I’ve read a few of his essays and other pieces over the years. He has always struck me as a nuanced thinker and a fine writer, and that he could be attacked in this way is appalling…as is, quite frankly, the entire “fatwa” placed on him in the first place. The whole concept of blasphemy has always struck me as deeply, deeply weird. I have never been able to wrap my head around the idea of God–a being so vast and powerful as to be able to create the entire Universe–nevertheless being apparently so thin-skinned as to be offendable by anything some being says, thinks, writes, or does down here on Earth. It just doesn’t make sense to me, and I can’t understand why anybody would even want to believe in a God like that in the first place. It seems to me we should ask more of our supreme beings.

There’s a cartoon online that sums up this point in pithy fashion. I tend to agree. If you think blasphemy is even possible, and that it’s something that needs to be enforced in God’s name here on earth, something is wrong with both your religion, for its small and limiting view of God, and with you, for having chosen that religion.

One final thing strikes me about this whole affair: the fatwa against Rushdie was pronounced by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, 43 years ago. The man who drove a few hundred miles to execute the fatwa yesterday is 24 years old. He was taught this hatred. He was taught it, and he took it into his heart willingly.

Many people tend to think that such religious extremism is bound to die out just by a kind of atrophy. And maybe it will, in some inevitable course. But it’s clear that this will be a very long process, and in the meantime, there are plenty of self-minted extremists rising to do evil in the name of their small-minded God who commands it.

 

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“Then you may take me to the Fair….” (but a different one!)

Our summers are partially dominated by two Fairs: the Sterling Renaissance Festival (or Faire), and the Erie County Fair. We’ve done the former already, and later today, we go to the latter! More to come on that…but for now, here’s my favorite of all the photos I’ve ever taken at the EC Fair. I took this eleven years ago, and I’m not sure which camera this was. But I like the energy here and the gentle hazing of the light….

 

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