The Clearing of the Tabs

Time to clear out some open stuff in my browser!

::  Jamelle Bouie on the apparently uncheckable Supreme Court:

[O]ur Supreme Court does not exist in the constitutional order as much as it looms over it, a robed tribunal of self-styled philosopher-kings, accountable to no one but themselves.

I’ve been noticing this increasingly of late. Of course, Republicans have no intention of checking the courts, as they determined years ago that the courts were their clearest route to a complete usurpation of power in America, but it still galls me to see this system of “checks and balances”, which we were all taught in grade school is the most ingenious system of government ever devised by humans, has devolved into no checks of any kind, assuming the ideology is correct.

Checks and balances should work, to draw a rough metaphor, like Rock-Paper-Scissors, in which each move defeats one other move and is defeated by the other. Our judiciary now is like the logic applied in an episode of Seinfeld, when Kramer and his friend Mickey are playing Rock-Paper-Scissors, and Mickey claims a victory by playing rock while Kramer plays paper:

KRAMER: I thought Paper covered Rock?
MICKEY: Nah! Rock flies right through Paper!
KRAMER: Then what beats Rock?
MICKEY: [shrugs] Nothin’!

They resume playing, to no result because they both keep playing Rock.

::  No itinerary needed: the case for unplanned travel.

As luck would have it, The Wife and I took a short trip just last week (post forthcoming). While our trip wasn’t quite “unplanned”, we did leave enough room in the journey for a bit of “Let’s turn here and see where the road goes”. For years we couldn’t afford much by way of travel at all, and I think it did hamper our mental acuity.

::  Defunding Public Libraries: Republicans’ war on reading goes nuclear.

Scary reading, there. I will never stand with book-banners of any type, because they will never, ever, ever be content to just remove these few books because they’re inappropriate for “children”. You let these people ban one thing, and tomorrow they’ll look to ban something else. It will never, ever stop.

::  “Phantom Ballplayer” no more, Maggi makes MLB debut after 13 years in the minors.

I love this story:

After 13 seasons, 1,154 games and 4,494 plate appearances in the Minor Leagues, Maggi was finally going to have his opportunity to step into a Major League batter’s box to enjoy his first at-bat, to take his first swing. He had envisioned how this would play out on countless occasions, but as the fans at PNC Park rose to honor the journeyman, Maggi found himself unsure how to proceed.

Maggi got called up when there was a sudden need on the roster (Bryan Reynolds went on a bereavement leave), and Maggi was the closest option, playing with the Pirates’ AA team in Altoona, PA. He struck out in his first at-bat, but so what? He got that at-bat, after 13 years of toiling in the minors. He has already been optioned to go back down–he was never going to be sticking around, everybody knew this–but it’s still a great story. Maybe he’ll get a “good guy promotion” at the end of the season when rosters go to 40 players for the last few weeks. He seems to have earned it.

(Maggi was called up to the Majors a couple years ago while with the Twins’ organization, but in two games up with them he never left the dugout.)

::  Finally, Willie Nelson turns 90 years old today. I firmly believe that Nelson is one of the great Americans to come out of the 20th century. On this occasion I present again one of my favorite pieces of music writing ever, Trigger: The life of Willie Nelson’s guitar.

The guitar—a Martin N-20 classical, serial number 242830—was a gorgeous instrument, with a warm, sweet tone and a pretty “mellow yellow” coloring. The top was made of Sitka spruce, which came from the Pacific Northwest; the back and sides were Brazilian rosewood. The fretboard and bridge were ebony from Africa, and the neck was mahogany from the Amazon basin. The brass tuning pegs came from Germany. All of these components had been gathered in the Martin guitar factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and cut, bent, and glued together, then lacquered, buffed, and polished. If the guitar had been shipped to New York or Chicago, it might have been purchased by a budding flamenco guitarist or a Segovia wannabe. Instead it was sent to a guitarist in Nashville named Shot Jackson, who repaired and sold guitars out of a shop near the Grand Ole Opry. In 1969 it was bought by a struggling country singer, a guy who had a pig farm, a failing marriage, and a crappy record deal.

Willie Nelson had a new guitar.

Forty-three years later—after some 10,000 shows, recording sessions, jam sessions, songwriting sessions, and guitar pulls, most taking place amid a haze of tobacco and reefer smoke and carried out with a particular brand of string-pounding, neck-throttling violence—the guitar looks like hell. The frets are so worn it’s a wonder any tone emerges at all. The face is covered in scars, cuts, and autographs scraped into the wood. Next to the bridge is a giant maw, a gaping hole that looks like it was created by someone swinging a hammer.

Most guitars don’t have names. This one, of course, does. Trigger has a voice and a personality, and he bears a striking resemblance to his owner. Willie’s face is lined with age and his body is bent with experience. He’s been battered by divorce, the IRS, his son Billy’s suicide, and the loss of close friends like Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and his longtime bass player Bee Spears. In the past decade, Willie has had carpal tunnel surgery on his left hand, torn a rotator cuff, and ruptured a bicep. The man of flesh and bone has a lot in common with the guitar of wire and wood.

Read the whole thing! It’s just a wonderful piece, and I never tire of linking it.


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