…of having 50 open tabs.
I leave Chrome open all the time, and on the rare occasion that I do have to close it, or it closes during computer updates and restarts, I always restore to the most recent collection of open tabs, which grows over time to the point where when switching from one tab to another via the mouse, I run the very real risk of accidentally closing the tab, because the tab is so tiny it’s easy to hit that innocuous little ‘X’!
So, as a means of getting my tab situation under control for now, I present to you, ladies and gentlemen and everyone in between in the audience, a Grand Selection of Links!
Item the First! Here we have an article about the word decimate, which is a really vexing word in that the natural shifting of language has pushed it away from its original meaning (to reduce something by one-tenth), to a more general meaning (to destroy, with a usual connotation of pretty thorough and cataclysmic destruction). Decimate is one of those words that attracts word-pedants like a lamp outside attracts moths at night; use it in is present-day general meaning and you can almost set a stopwatch to someone stepping in with “Actually, that word really means….”
And I get it, I really do. Neil Gaiman (I think) once said something about shifting words, something along the lines of “When a word with an original specific meaning loses that meaning for something more general, as a writer I lose a tool.” And we have plenty of great words for “general destruction”, don’t we? I, for one, don’t really have a need for decimate to have a new meaning.
But, here’s the thing: I also don’t really have a need for decimate‘s original meaning, either. When’s the last time I needed to refer to something being reduced by a tenth? I have zero recollection of ever needing a word for precisely that, and I’m not really thinking up any likely future scenarios for the same, either. For me, decimate is most useful in a poetic way, if the word sounds best in the sentence I’m writing. So honestly, I don’t have a big dog in the decimate fight.
And more generally, I tend to be very meh on the idea that words should have precise meanings and that language shifting about is a bad thing. With exceptions, of course! It really grates on my ears and eyes when I encounter a “foodie” someplace saying that some restaurant’s dish or general food is “inedible”, when what they mean is “I don’t like it”. No, folks. Rocks are inedible. Little Caesar’s is not.
Item the Second! An article about the history of American coffee, from the coffee-and-chicory mix familiar to Civil War soldiers to the Robusta-bean dominance of the mid-20th century to coffee’s present-day high mark. The article is a summation of a podcast episode that I haven’t listened to, but I might! I do love my coffee, after all. I didn’t come around on coffee until my 20s, and it took ice cream to get there (I should see if I’ve told that story), but coffee’s an every-day thing for me now.
Interestingly the article ends by citing the rise of the light roast in contemporary coffee-making and brewing, because that’s where real flavor is. Here, I have to refer you to the wisdom of Detective Harry Callahan: “A man’s got to know his limitations.” I’ve tried many times, but I have to admit now that I really do prefer a dark roast.
Item the Third! It’s continually amazing to me how much of astronomy, much of the time, is just quietly going along learning stuff, but then something explodes someplace in the universe, and BOOM!, we suddenly learn a lot of new stuff. This article is a good case in point: a star’s explosion appears to be caused by a black hole literally consuming the star from the inside out. Wow!
Item the Fourth! An article about “Broadway Melody”, the 13-minute ballet that takes place in the last act of Singin’ in the Rain.
When I first saw Singin’, back when I was a kid in the mid-80s, I was confused by this strange and long number that takes place as the movie is heading toward its climax. If you haven’t seen the film, at this point our heroes, led by Gene Kelly’s Don Lockwood, are converting their disaster of a talkie into a musical, and Don goes to the producer to describe all that’s left to film: one number. The producer asks, “What number?” and Don says, “Here, I’ll describe it to you!” And then we go into a kind of dream sequence, which is the “Broadway Melody” ballet. Which, in a very meta way, is supposed to exist in a fictional movie…so it’s kind of doubly fictional! Strange!
Anyway, as noted, this entire ballet sequence confused me. I hadn’t seen a ton of musicals at this point but I’d seen enough to know that the musical numbers usually either advanced the story or expressed emotions felt by the characters. Not always, mind you, but most of the time that’s what the songs and dances are for. They establish character, show you what they’re feeling, and move the story along. “Broadway Melody” does none of those things! It’s an entirely self-contained entity, a musical story within a musical story, that has zero relevance to the larger film’s tale. Once it ends, thirteen minutes later, we’re back in that producer’s office, with Don grinning and saying, “So, what do you think?”
(In a real-life nod to a habit of actual producer Arthur Freed, the producer in the movie says, “I can’t quite visualize it!” Apparently Freed wasn’t a visualizer, either.)
The “Broadway Melody” sequence over time came to be one of my favorite parts of the film (though I’ll be honest, every minute of this movie is one of my favorite parts of the film). It’s a work of art all on its own, and despite the fact that it is clearly just plopped into the movie with a transition so bluntly awkward as to make you wonder how on Earth anyone ever thought they’d get away with doing it that way, it always works for me, because the song is great, the ballet’s story is a classic tale full of internal character development, and it features some of Singin’ in the Rain‘s most iconic dance imagery.
Item the Fifth! A neat post about the background of the legend of Dick Whittington and his cat. I owned a book as a kid about this story, and it stuck with me for years; in fact, the Whittington story is a partial inspiration for the fantasy novel I’ve been wrestling into shape for years. (Think Dick Whittington-meets-Alexandre Dumas, with a bunch of Renaissance-Faire stuff thrown in, and you’ve got it. Why something so simply conceived has been so hard to write, I honestly don’t know.)
Item the Sixth: Mary Oliver on how books saved her life. A quote:
I learned to build bookshelves and brought books to my room, gathering them around me thickly. I read by day and into the night. I thought about perfectibility, and deism, and adjectives, and clouds, and the foxes. I locked my door, from the inside, and leaped from the roof and went to the woods, by day or darkness.
I read my books with diligence, and mounting skill, and gathering certainty. I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way too.
Item the Seventh: Roxane Gay on the Will Smith-at-the-Oscars fiasco. I have offered no comment on this subject in any forum anywhere, on the assumption that my opinion on this is in no need of being aired. (And don’t ask, because not only will I not share my opinion, but I’m not even sure I have an opinion to be shared!) I do value Ms. Gay’s thoughts and views on many topics, though.
Item the Eighth: A Twitter thread delving into the awful nature of Florida’s new “Don’t Say ‘Gay'” law. What the American right is legislatively doing at all levels right now is absolutely and utterly appalling.
Item the Ninth: A sad article outlining the concerns about Bruce Willis’s mental decline over the last ten years or so. I knew none of this, having not paid much attention; I didn’t even know that Willis’s career the last several years has been an apparent assembly-line of one direct-to-video project after another. I’ve long been a fan of Willis, having been won over by Die Hard after my initial distaste because I really disliked Moonlighting, the 80s teevee series that first made him a star. In addition to the action work for which he became a huge star, Willis also did a lot of frankly underrated character work in movies like Mortal Thoughts, Nobody’s Fool, and his turn in Pulp Fiction.
Also, a brief note of appreciation here for what is probably the goofiest entry in Willis’s filmography, the action flop Hudson Hawk, in which Willis plays a thief who gets out of prison and immediately returns to thievery, eventually ending up in a gonzo scheme involving lost works of Leonardo da Vinci. It’s not a good movie, but it is one you can enjoy if sufficiently lubricated, and I love that Willis and his partner-in-crime (Danny Aiello) time their heists by singing old classic songs as they work. Just the fact that this movie resurrected “Swingin’ on a Star” from obscurity elevates it, for me.
Item the Tenth: A photograph that sums up rather a lot of one big part of my childhood. I didn’t own everything in this picture, but I had quite a lot of it!
Item the Eleventh: Roger on composer John Rutter’s Requiem. I haven’t heard Rutter’s Requiem, but I will have to give it a listen soon. Requiems are a category unto themselves, where great composers are concerned, from the Viennese classicism of Mozart’s to the awesome romantic bombast of Berlioz’s to the gentle introspection of Faure’s.
Item the Twelfth: Jim Wright on “When Fascism Comes to America”. I have nothing to add here.
That’s how it starts.
You see yourself as a victim.
You see The Other as terrorists, murderers, convicts, and rapists.
You paint The Other as the worst possible thing you can think of, Satan worshipers, pedophiles, criminals, subhuman, the Enemy.
You use that rhetoric, revenge, get even, and you tell those most privileged by your society that they are the real victims.
And when you gain power, you use the mailed fist of government and the military to crush your opponents — and to keep that power, you’ll need to carry through on your promise.
You’ll have no choice but to actually line up those you hate against the wall and put a bullet in their heads. The mob who raised you up to power will accept nothing less than blood.
That’s where it starts.
Item the Thirteenth: I don’t want to end on a bummer note, so here’s a comedy sketch someone shared with me online, when I briefly discussed what I call “the Jesus Pivot”. I’m sure you’ve seen this before, maybe when you’re doing some Internet research on some random thing, as I was doing last night. You do a search and you find an article someplace about that particular thing, on a site you’ve never visited; you read the article, which starts out by discussing the very thing you’re researching–only somehow the specific topic is simply being used by the author as a starting point, because you end up on the back half of the article talking about Jesus.
This isn’t new–honestly, I’d say that a majority of sermons I’ve heard from all the Christian pastors in my life follow this structure–and it’s not really even always confined to pivoting to Jesus. But still, when I’m not expecting it, the Jesus Pivot always kind of weirds me out a little, and I find myself stabbing for a “Back” button as quickly as I can.
The video oddly presents the sketch twice, and the second time appears to be silent, so when the sound cuts out, you’re done. (Also, the user has disabled embedding.)
OK, that’s all! With this post I managed to clear down to only 27 open tabs! Yay!