Random DJB Thoughts, The Times We Live In, Weekly Reader
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Weekly Reader: Help! I’m feeling optimistic

This Weekly Reader features links to articles that grabbed my interest or tickled my fancy here in the heart of winter. I hope you find something that makes you laugh, think, or cry.

We will get the laughter part out of the way up front. Janine Annett, writing in McSweeney’s, pleads Doctor, Please Help, I’m Feeling Optimistic.

Doctor, I’ve been feeling really strange these past few days. I haven’t really felt this way in about four years. My chronic migraines have completely disappeared, and the past few nights I’ve slept like a baby. I have pleasant dreams, sleep for eight hours without interruption, and then wake up feeling refreshed.

I scrolled through Twitter to try and snap out of it and feel pessimistic again, but all I felt was joy seeing people praise Amanda Gorman and share those kindhearted Bernie memes.

There’s more, and I promise you that you’ll laugh (if you’re not crying).

Let’s jump into the more serious stuff with two author interviews by writer and editor Anand Giridharadas in The Ink, his newsletter about money and power, politics and culture. 

The first is with policy guru Heather McGhee — the author of a forthcoming book, The Sum of Us, which argues that racism costs everyone, not just people of color. In the post Ending the uncivil war, Giridharadas and McGhee discuss how racism keeps us from having nice things, why the portals of disinformation need to be shut down, and how America can save itself in the Biden era. McGhee begins with “the parable of the pool” that anchors her argument.

The parable is a story that I grew up learning from family members. It was a very visceral memory for many of them. There was a grand, resort-style public swimming pool in the heart of their community. In fact, in the United States there were more than 2,000 of them that were built with tax dollars over the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s. In many ways, it was one of the most real, everyday examples of the New Deal consensus of government being a force for the improvement of the everyday quality of life of its citizens.

Yet in so many of these communities, the pools were for whites only or were segregated. In the 1950s and ’60s, as the courts began to knock down these segregation codes in recreational facilities, many towns in virtually every region of the country decided to drain their public swimming pools, rather than integrate them.

It’s the parable at the heart of “The Sum of Us,” because in many ways the era that I’ve known my whole life, the inequality era, has been defined most dramatically by the hollowing out of the public goods that we share in common, an era of austerity and a lack of investment in public infrastructure.The opening sentence of my book asks, “Why can’t we have nice things?” And the answer is that racism has drained our pools.

The second interview I recommend — Love the world anywayis with Ann Heberlein, author of a new biography of Hannah Arendt.

The “German-born, Jewish, American political philosopher and author of such enduring works as The Origins of Totalitarianism and Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil is a writer and thinker for our times. Heberlein’s book, On Love and Tyranny: The Life and Politics of Hannah Arendt tackles this fascinating subject. Giridharadas’s interview with Heberlein delves into several parts of Arendt’s life and impact.

The next three articles deal with the role of journalism in the rise of Donald Trump, the media bias that you may not have expected, and what needs to come next.

Karen Attiah, writing in The Washington Post, calls out her fellow journalists and those who own media companies in The media had a role to play in the rise of Trump. It is time to hold ourselves accountable.

In Press Run, Eric Boehlert is upset about the way the New York Times characterized Donald Trump for four years verses their treatment of Joe Biden in After touting Trump as “populist,” New York Times paints Biden as elitist. Yes, this is about the Rolex nonsense.

Reviving a long-running gotcha narrative that portrays wealthy Democrats as hypocrites, the New York Times has been dinging President Joe Biden since Inauguration Day as being out of touch with voters. It’s a dishonest pursuit that looks especially absurd following Trump’s four years of gaudy, country club excess, which the newspaper ridiculously labeled, “populism.”

At the swearing, the Times reported Biden wore, ‘a stainless steel Rolex Datejust watch with a blue dial, a model that retails for more than $7,000,” and noted the handsome piece “costs the equivalent of dozen or so stimulus checks.’…In the same article detailing the price of Biden’s Rolex ($7,000), the Times omitted any references to the cost of the gold Rolex Trump wore as president. ($36,000.)

The urgent wristwatch update came three days after the Times delivered a reported piece on Biden’s exercise bike of choice, Peloton, noting the high-end workout machine, “does not exactly comport with Mr. Biden’s “regular guy from Scranton” political persona.”

Instead of focusing on what’s on Biden’s wrist or in his exercise room, the better way to determine his “Everyman” agenda is to look at his earliest policy initiatives.

Also in The Washington Post, media critic Margaret Sullivan takes on the right wing media in Fox News is a hazard to our democracy. It’s time to take the fight to the Murdochs. Here’s how.

Even James Murdoch, while not naming names, blasted the harm that his family’s media empire has done. “The sacking of the Capitol is proof positive that what we thought was dangerous is indeed very much so,’ he told the Financial Times. ‘Those outlets that propagate lies to their audience have unleashed insidious and uncontrollable forces that will be with us for years.’

But it’s his father and his brother, Lachlan, who run Fox, not James.

Let’s end with two history-related articles. First, Dr. Lindsay M. Chervinsky has a piece at her blog on Historians Contextualizing the Political Chaos: A Roundup. After the January 6th insurrection, she noted that…

Right away, historians recognized the unprecedented aspects of these events, as well as their deep historical roots. They’ve written blog posts, op-eds, and columns helping us to understand the political developments following the insurrection, including discussions of impeachment, the 14th amendment, the 25th amendment, and D.C. statehood.

Patsy Cline Historic Home in Winchester, VA

Brian Breham in the Winchester (Virginia) Star has the good news that the Patsy Cline House is now a national landmark.

Cline was a Winchester native who went on to become one of the most highly regarded country music singers of all time. She lived at several addresses throughout her life, but the two-story, single-family home she shared with her mother, Hilda Hensley, on South Kent Street was where she stayed the longest.

According to information contained in the house’s National Historic Landmark nomination form, “it was her home when she started singing professionally, signed her first recording contract and made a name for herself in regional country music circles.”

Patsy Cline was a country music trailblazer and a woman who led the way for a whole generation of female performers in an industry long dominated by men. She was among the first to headline concerts and she became the first female to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1991, MCA records issued her first box set entitled The Patsy Cline Collection, which was subsequently named by Rolling Stone magazine as among their “50 Greatest Albums of All-Time”.

Enjoy a bit of Walkin’ After Midnight.

Have a good week.

More to come…


Image: The iconic “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper” photo by Charles C. Ebbets, taken in 1932 as workers sat on an iron crossbeam high above New York City, got a new addition on Wednesday: Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. It was just one of many memes to feature the lawmaker in his mittens on Inauguration Day. (Bernie photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP, skyscraper photo by Charles C. Ebbets via Yahoo)

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Weekly Reader: Do it because it is hard | More to Come...

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