Yesterday was my [redacted] high school reunion. We started with a tour of the building, which has become a modern office park since we graduated:
The glass atrium there is new, as of 2008. The structure back to the left is the Center for the Performing Arts, which featured proudly in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
I didn't get a picture of the Michelin-starred student food court, but this, this I had to snap:
So, at some point I'll post about Illinois school-funding policies and why one of the richest school districts in the world has 20 or so exercise bikes, each of which costs as much as feeding a child lunch every school day for three years...but this is not that post.
It was great seeing some of my classmates and walking around the old school. Also, shout out to the server at Northbrook's Landmark Inn for dealing with about 100 old people who didn't remember their own drinks.
Craft distillers in the U.S., like home-town FEW Spirits, are getting creamed by the European Union's retaliatory tariffs:
Following the European Union's June implementation of a 25 percent tariff on bourbon, the popular U.S. whiskey variety, the impact has been clear. One American producer said his exports have "dropped to zero" as a result. Last year, they made up 15 percent of revenue.
"Every U.K. buyer backed off," said Paul Hletko, the owner of Evanston-based Few Spirits. "They may want to buy it, but if they can't sell it at the right price, that's not doing us any favors."
Small distillers cite the drought as proof their fears of a global trade war are coming to fruition. Europe had been blossoming as a source of new revenue — but this market has been effectively cut off for producers that lack the clout or brand recognition of titans like Brown-Forman and Diageo. Now they've been sent back to square one.
Remember: we didn't want these tariffs, we didn't need the tariffs that prompted them, and we are all (European and American alike) suffering because of them. So why did the president start this fight? Does he even know?
Today is the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' White Album:
There’s something about The White Album that invites listeners to mess around with it. Joan Didion stole its title for her 1979 essay collection, an elegy for the dreams of 1960s California. The producer Danger Mouse chopped it to pieces and recombined the fragments with vocals from Jay-Z’s The Black Album to create his 2004 mash-up The Grey Album. The jam band Phish covered all 30 songs on stage on Halloween night, 1994. Charles Manson, notoriously, had his own theories. Even the title has been rewritten: The Beatles called it The Beatles but their fans had other ideas.
The new reissue defamiliarises the album yet again, with 27 demos, 50 outtakes, and a thorough digital reconstruction by Giles Martin, the son of Beatles producer George Martin. The White Album is the only record by the most analysed group in the history of popular music that still retains considerable mystery, because there’s just so much of it. Whether or not you consider it the best Beatles album (I do), it’s certainly the most Beatles album.
Over the years we’ve learned almost everything there is to know about the circumstances of its creation. We know that due to various rows, sulks and walkouts, the first stage of the band’s disintegration, all four Beatles appear on fewer than half the songs. We know about Yoko Ono’s contentious presence, Ringo’s huffy absence from Back in the USSR, John’s contempt for Paul’s “granny music shit”, and so on. We know that they were less than a year away from the last time that they all stood in a studio together, although in the newly released demos we can also hear that there was still plenty of fun to be had, despite those fissures. Even at the time, I imagine, one could hear pop’s quintessential gang of mates splintering into four individuals, and their musical fusions unravelling into discrete genre exercises. Listening to it is like watching an explosion in slow motion.
I'm about to put it on. But I'll skip "Revolution 9."
When I'm explaining software designs, I'll often say things like, "I don't care if the data comes from SQL, NOSQL, or a squirrel..." It turns out, Frontier Airlines cares very much:
A passenger was removed from a Frontier Airlines flight late Tuesday when she attempted to fly with her “emotional support” squirrel and then refused to get off the plane when she was told no, according to the airline.
A Frontier spokesman said in a statement that the passenger had alerted the airline that she would be bringing an emotional-support animal on the flight but did not mention it would be so . . . bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
“Rodents, including squirrels, are not allowed on Frontier flights,” the statement read. “The passenger was advised of the policy and asked to deplane.”
I wonder if the person escorting the passenger off the plane was named Boris or Natasha. Or if they'll allow an emotional-support moose. And I probably never will.
Greg Sargent points out the obvious reality of who the president is really looking out for:
The suggestion here is that we are now seeing what “America first” really looks like. That is, when Trump says “America first,” he means it.
But this concedes too much. In an inadvertent but pernicious way, it supports Trump’s preferred framing of his presidency. In this case and many others, Trump is not being “frank” about his real priorities, and he is not putting America first. He’s putting his own naked self-interest over what’s good for America, and prioritizing the real-world policy realization of his own prejudices over any good-faith, fact-based effort to determine, by any discernible standard, what might actually be in the country’s interests.
But I’d like to take this further and point out that here Trump is not actually operating from any meaningful conception of what is good for the country. It isn’t just those lies [about our relationship with Saudi Arabia]. It’s also Trump’s insistence that we’ll never know whether the crown prince actually ordered the killing, which breaks from the intelligence community’s conclusion, and the subtle slandering of Khashoggi via the floating of the Saudi claim that he was an “enemy of the state.”
Again, this has been obvious for years. Decades, even. As Michelle Goldberg writes in today's Times, Trump's entire presidency is based on a con.
And the House of Representatives can start dismantling that con in just six weeks.
And finally, when can I take a nap?
This year the WHCA won't have a comedian or the president at its annual dinner. Instead, historian Ron Chernow will speak. Can't think why:
Go back a few minutes to hear the whole thing. I'm highlighting that passage because, don't forget, two days later Osama bin Laden was dead—because two hours earlier, President Obama gave the final order to have him killed.
Journalist Kelly Weill, writing for the Daily Beast, went to a flat-earth convention:
Thousands of years after ancient Greeks began referencing Earth as a sphere in mathematical proofs, people who believe in a flat Earth have become a movement. They’ve found their voice in the disinformation age, fueled by YouTube videos. For true believers, it’s more than just a conspiracy theory. It’s whole world view, a level plane onto which hucksters, trolls, and Christian fundamentalists can insert their own ideologies.
In an age of rising conspiracy theories—voter fraud, QAnon, anti-vaxxers, chemtrails—Flat Earth might be the most foundational conspiracy theory of them all.
Religious conspiracy (some people I speak to at the conference accuse the Freemasons, not the Jews of covering up Flat Earth) and political uncertainty go hand in hand. Embittered by Germany’s loss in World War I, fascists falsely accused the country’s Jews of “stabbing Germany in the back” during the war. The conspiracy theory contributed to the Holocaust under Nazi rule. The ongoing genocide of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, during a period of political strife has been fueled by a dramatic increase in anti-Rohingya hate speech and conspiracy on Facebook. In a period of political unrest in America, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and subsequent murders of Jews are on the rise.
When the entire world feels uncertain, it’s no wonder people look for an easy culprit. Flat Earthers say the planet is a stationary disk that does not rotate or orbit the sun. But I speak to enough to suspect they still feel off-balance in the world.
I probably don't have to convince any regular readers of this blog of the (mostly) spherical shape of our home. But I have seen proof with my own eyes, and posted it here previously:
That is the shadow of the earth stretching straight out into space as the earth itself curves away under it. You, too, can see this any time you fly across the terminator, as thousands of people do daily.
Meanwhile, with a modern-day Know-Nothing party in control of our government, it seems almost natural that so many people would reject the only possible explanation for so many readily-observable phenomena in favor of something so insane it took a fantasy writer to describe it comprehensively. All hail the Great A'Tuin!
Longtime (and I mean, longtime) reader DB sent me James Geary's eloquent essay on the value of puns:
There is no sharp boundary splitting the wit of the scientist, inventor, or improviser from that of the artist, the sage, or the jester. The creative experience moves seamlessly from the “Aha!” of scientific discovery to the “Ah” of aesthetic insight to the “Haha” of the pun and the punch line. “Comic discovery is paradox stated—scientific discovery is paradox resolved,” [novelist and cultural critic Arthur] Koestler wrote.
Bisociation is central to creative thought, Koestler believed, because “the conscious and unconscious processes underlying creativity are essentially combinatorial activities—the bringing together of previously separate areas of knowledge and experience.”
This is precisely how wit was understood in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the word was used to describe innovative thinking—something more akin to intellect or consciousness than to glibness or flippancy, a state of mind rather than just a sense of humor.
Lately, though, wit’s been whittled down to a sliver of what it really is. Witty has come to mean merely funny, and a wit is just someone with a knack for snappy comebacks.
True wit is richer, cannier, more riddling.
Aren't you glad I came upun this article?
Why is a white, gay, male, naturalized American the only journalist I have come across saying Theresa May deserves a lot more credit for persisting in the face of unrelenting male hostility? Sullivan:
I don’t know how else to describe Theresa May’s grueling slog toward the least worst Brexit possible.
The awkward prime minister is still standing upright, though maybe not for much longer. In this respect, I’m surprised more feminists haven’t come to May’s defense. May’s bourgeois Toryism, like Margaret Thatcher’s, doubtless disqualifies her from any respect from the left. But her tenacity in the midst of male obloquy is emblematic of many themes American feminists focus on.
May, after all, is taking responsibility while her male colleagues posture and preen and complain or resign; she gets almost no credit for negotiating one of the more complex international deals in British history for two demoralizing years; she works harder than anyone else in her government; and the deal she has struck is almost certainly the only one the E.U. will ever accept. A woman, in other words, got the toughest job in government in decades, did the best that could be done, has been pilloried for it, but still plowed on, and even now, won’t surrender. Her pragmatism and resilience — along with remarkably good cheer in public — are a wonder to behold. I guess May’s feminism, like Thatcher’s, requires no labeling.
Yes. Brexit is pathologically stupid; yet May has to make it work. She'll probably be out of office by March, of course, leaving the hard work up to someone who hasn't got the tools to get it done. Oh, England.