The Weird Times: Issue 77, October 31, 2021 (V2 #25)
November is American Indian Heritage Month
“Now is the time for leaders in all walks of life—for citizens of all political backgrounds and persuasions—to come to the aid of the Republic. KIeptocrats, autocrats, and criminals are making a strong bid to control our country.”—Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, 10/24/21
“We are in an existential fight to defend our democracy from those who would destroy it.” —Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, 10/26/21
“The legal make-believe that the corporation is a person, the ingenuities by which it has been fitted out with a domicile, the elaborate web of 'as-ifs,' which the courts have woven, have put corporate affairs pretty largely out of the regulations we decree. [The] corporation, unlike real persons has] no anatomical parts to be kicked or consigned to the calaboose; no conscience to keep it awake all night; no soul for whose salvation the parson may struggle; no body to be roasted in hell or purged for celestial enjoyment. [No one can lay] bodily hands upon General Motors or Westinghouse...or incarcerate the Pennsylvania Railroad or Standard Oil of New Jersey with all its works.” From On the Composition of the Corporate Veil, March 21, 1946 by Walton H. Hamilton, economist, lawyer, Yale Law School professor.
The apples are thumping, winter is coming.
The lips of the pumpkin soon will be humming.
By the caw of the crow on the first of the year,
Something will die, something appear.
—Maurice Kilwein Guevara, from "A Rhyme for Halloween" in Poems of the River Spirit
TWT #75 included a piece about the writer Lucia Berlin. Gloria Frym has also written about her beloved friend. "Gloria Frym on the wide resurgence of a late writer and beloved friend’s work" appeared in Zyzzva Magazine’s Winter 2019 issue.
“We do like our writers better if they’re dead.
The success of my friend’s work can be summed up thusly: “It’s a fairy tale without a princess,” says another writer friend, Summer Brenner.
I wish the princess had not taken her life. But I understand why she believed she should. I wish I hadn’t spoken with her a few days before she staged the event. I wish I didn’t know how much anguish each story she wrote cost her and others. I wish I had no idea of how cruelly one of her husbands treated her. He was a perfect replica of her mother—a mean-to-the-core alcoholic, crippled by her small-mindedness and racism, selfish. She instructed her attendant to have her cremated before her daughters could arrive to make a funeral.
Sometimes knowing too much belies the notion that The Truth Shall Make You Free. I’m bound, entrapped, imprisoned in what I know and what I witnessed and how I saw it then, and how I see it now, years after she saved up a bunch of OxyContin, calculating exactly how many she’d need to stop her generous heart. Took apart her oxygen tank, called the fire department, and deliriously described to me on the phone how handsome the firemen were. She was hallucinating, and still she got my joke: “So when I visit you next week, I should bring you a clock to disassemble?””
A River’s Right to Flow: Indigenous communities and conservationists around the world are challenging the view of water as a human commodity, and fighting to keep this precious resource in the ecosystems it sustains. Can the same approach work in the United States’ arid Southwest? Sara Van Note, BioGraphic, 10/22/21
Don Lewis Is Reviving the Grain Economy in New York’s Hudson Valley: The heritage wheat wizard is adapting grain varieties to present-day climate conditions, developing a local market, and working to diversify the food system, Liz Susman Karp, Civil Eats, 10/25/21
Republicans Are Manufacturing Fake Fraud, Marc Elias, Democracy Docket, 10/25/21 “Unable to force voters to commit actual fraud, they settled upon redefining what constituted fraud in the first place. Over the last 10 months, Republican legislatures across the country have enacted new voting laws aimed at making ordinary activities illegal, thereby manufacturing fraud where none exists. This fake fraud is the cornerstone of many of the restrictive voting bills enacted this year.”
Chief federal judge in D.C. assails ‘almost schizophrenic’ Jan. 6 prosecutions: ‘The rioters were not mere protesters,’ Rachel Weiner, Washington Post, 10/28/21 “Let me make my view clear: The rioters were not mere protesters.”
5 things you should know about Facebook, Judd Legum, Popular Information, 10/26/21
Jan. 6 Protest Organizers Say They Participated in ‘Dozens’ of Planning Meetings With Members of Congress and White House Staff: Two sources are communicating with House investigators and detailed a stunning series of allegations to Rolling Stone, including a promise of a “blanket pardon” from the Oval Office, Hunter Walker, Rolling Stone, 10/24/21
Teju Cole on the Wonder of Epiphanic Writing: Or: How Authors “Evoke the Overspilling World,” Teju Cole, LitHub, 10/26/21 “The secret reason I read, the only reason I read, is precisely for those moments in which the story being told is deeply and almost mystically alert to the world.”
The People of the People’s Trail, Derrick Z. Jackson, AppalachianTrail.org “It has finally dawned on environmental leaders, at least rhetorically, that a movement symbolized so long by melting ice and polar bears must meld into a more holistic vision. It is hard to invite people to put on some hiking boots to meditate on the carpets of trillium and tunnels of rhododendron along the A.T. in the South or marvel at scarlet tanagers zipping through the canopy or ravens soaring around the barren peaks of the New Hampshire White Mountains if they can’t open their windows in the city during a heat wave because of blowing industrial soot. At some point, environmentalism and environmental justice must stop being two separate words.”
“Critical Race Theory” is the new satanic panic in right-wing politics, Kelly Jensen, BookRiot, 10/27/21 “The morality of teaching white kids about race rides alongside the idea that a global satanic cult worked to abduct and ritually abuse children. But today, the leaders of the satanic-like cults are educators and library personnel who are indoctrinating children with books about Black lives, about racism, and about queer people.”
The New Bugaboo, Judd Legum, Popular Information, 10/25/21 “The impact of SEL education, research shows, is long-lasting. A 2015 study "found significant associations between social-emotional skills in kindergarten and young adult outcomes across education, employment, criminal activity, and mental health." As a result, "every dollar invested in SEL programming yields $11 in long-term benefits." These benefits "include reduced juvenile crime, higher lifetime earnings, and better mental and physical health."
Now, these benefits are at risk. Conservative activists, as part of a political strategy, are trying to stigmatize SEL and purge it from schools.”
How much longer will major league baseball stay in the closet? Peter Dreier, The Conversation, 10/29/21 “But among the more than 20,000 men who have played major league baseball, not one has publicly come out of the closet while still in uniform.”
Why is Baseball the Most Literary of Sports? Lincoln Michel, LitHub, 10/28/21 “So baseball in literature tends to stand in for America. It might represent an earnest nostalgia, such as in Kinsella’s work. It may reflect the small anxieties of average Americans as in Coover’s The Universal Baseball Association. Or it might be used to examine the great forces of history that shaped the country, as in DeLillo’s Underworld when J. Edgar Hoover is informed of Soviet nuke tests during a game, or in Roth’s The Great American Novel when the Cold War is fought out over a fictional baseball league. In literature, baseball can represent any part of American life the author needs.”
Eagles, Beavers, Sea Turtles: Why N.Y.C. Is Humming With Wildlife: New York is now ‘the greenest big city on earth,’ one naturalist said. Some creatures have noticed, and are staying for a while, Lisa M. Collins, NY Times, 10/28/21 “…and the animals’ return, according to Kathryn Heintz, the executive director of the NYC Audubon Society, is because of the city’s 40-year effort to expand and clean up its parks, rivers, forests and wetlands. This has included planting more trees, wildflowers and grasses that are native to the area, banning pesticides in parks and spending billions on converting former landfills and industrial wastelands into nature sanctuaries.”
“We Were Alive and Life Was Us.” How Ken Kesey Created LSD Subculture, Kevin Boyle, LitHub, 10/27/21 “The point wasn’t to move LSD from one lab to another but to break it out of the lab altogether, to carry it to freedom, and to let it carry its users to freedom too.”—from The Shattering: America in the 60s
NASA May Have Found the First Planet in Another Galaxy: It’s 28 million light-years away and might be sitting next to a black hole, Neel V. Patel, Daily Beast, 10/26/21
An Ultra-Precise Clock Shows How to Link the Quantum World With Gravity: Time was found to flow differently between the top and bottom of a single cloud of atoms. Physicists hope that such a system will one day help them combine quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of gravity, Katie McCormick, Quanta, 10/26/21
New dataset calculates 24 trillion pieces of microplastics in the ocean and counting, Kyushu University, Phys.org, 10/28/21
Smart material switches between heating and cooling in minutes: Passive technology on roofs and facades could greatly reduce HVAC energy consumption, Duke University, Science Daily, 10/27/21
China launches world’s fastest programmable quantum computers: Researchers say their supercomputer is 1 million times more powerful than its nearest competitor, Google’s Sycamore; A second light-based machine takes 1 millisecond to perform a task that would take a conventional computer 30 trillion years, Stephen Chen, South China Morning Post, 10/26/21
Computer scientists developing method to identify disease biomarkers with high accuracy, Cheriton School of Computer Science, Univ of Waterloo News, 10/28/21 “The new program is also unique in that it is not trained to only look for one kind of disease, but also to identify the biomarkers associated with a range of diseases, including heart disease, cancer and even COVID-19.”
All About Eve: AI model EVE shows capacity to interpret meaning of human gene variants as benign or disease-causing, Ekaterina Pesheva, Harvard Medical School News, 10/27/21
Scientists make breakthrough in understanding how penicillin works, Univ of Sheffield, Eureka Alert, 10/25/21
High-speed laser writing method could pack 500 terabytes of data into CD-sized glass disc: Advances make high-density, 5D optical storage practical for long-term data archiving, Optica, Eureka Alert, 10/28/21
This startup says it has found a way to cut the cost of making solar cells in half: Leap Photovoltaic is working on a way to build solar panels without the use of silicon wafers, a hard-to-manufacture component that bottlenecks the solar production process. If it works, it could mean vastly expanding domestic solar production, Adele Peters, Fast Company, 10/27/21
Colorado research farm studies benefits of pairing agriculture with solar panels: The farm encourages community leaders, students and elected officials to visit and learn, YCC Team, Yale Climate Connections, 10/25/21
Why Protecting Tribal Rights Is Key to Fighting Climate Change: Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, talks with Yale Environment 360 about how climate change is hitting Native Americans especially hard and why protecting tribal sovereignty is critical for tackling the climate crisis, Jeremy Deaton, Yale Environment 360, 10/28/21
Endangered birds experience 'virgin birth,' a first for the species: Female California condors don't need males to have offspring—joining sharks, rays, and lizards on the list of creatures that can reproduce without mating, Jason Bittel, National Geographic, 10/28/21
Cooking with the sun: Entrepreneurs help launch Mexico’s solar revolution, Sandra Weiss, MongaBay, 10/27/21
A Novel Pilot Brings Vertical Farms to Public Housing: Jersey City is trying a new approach to bring healthier eating to low-income communities: on-site indoor farms, Doyinsola Oladipo, Bloomberg, 10/26/21
This Groundbreaking Simulator Generates a Huge Indoor Ocean: It’s a 32,000-gallon concrete tank with a wind tunnel grafted on top. With it, researchers can study the seas—and climate change—like never before, Matt Simon, Wired, 10/26/21
This, is no bare incoming
of novel abstract form, this
is no welter or the forms
of those events, this,
Greeks, is the stopping
of the battle
It is the imposing
of all those antecedent predecessions, the precessions
of me, the generation of those facts
which are my words, it is coming
from all that I no longer am, yet am,
the slow westward motion of
more than I am
—from “Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld]” from The Maximus Poems, Charles Olson, The University of California Press, 1985. Watch this amazing recording of Olson reading this poem.
Americans Don’t Trust Their Congressional Maps To Be Drawn Fairly. Can Anything Change That? Mackenzie Wilkes, 538.com, 10/26/21 “Just 16 percent of U.S. adults said they thought their states’ congressional maps would be drawn fairly, while 44 percent said they thought the maps would be drawn unfairly, per an August YouGov/Economist poll. Another 40 percent of adults said they were unsure if the maps will be fair.”
Immigrants could fix the US labor shortage: The US has more jobs than it can fill. Fixing the immigration system could boost the economy, Nicole Narea, Vox, 10/26/21 (Ed. Note:) Gee, what a surprise.
The Resurgence of Waffle Gardens Is Helping Indigenous Farmers Grow Food with Less Water: In the face of climate change and persistent droughts, a growing number of people from Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico and elsewhere are adopting the traditional farming practice, Greta Moran, Civil Eats, 10/26/21
For Forest Blazes Grown Wilder, an Alternative: The ‘Good Fire’ Despite the evidence supporting prescribed fires in the American West, policymakers are slow to put it into practice, Madeleine Ostrander, Undark, 10/25/21
What happens when you put 926 random Americans in a room and tell them to solve the climate crisis: The latest installment of America In One Room asked an eclectic mix of voters to come talk to each other until they came to consensus on the best climate policy. Can people’s minds be changed? Talib Visram, Fast Company, 10/26/21
Mummy’s older than we thought: new find could rewrite history: Discovery of nobleman Khuwy shows that Egyptians were using advanced embalming methods 1,000 years before assumed date, Dalya Alberge, Guardian, 10/24/21
Mort Sahl, giant of political comedy who emerged from S.F. clubs, dead at 94, Robert Hurwitt, SF Chronicle Datebook, 10/27/21
‘Caroline, Or Change’ Broadway Review: Sharon D Clarke Triumphs In Masterful Revival Of Tony Kushner-Jeanine Tesori Musical, Greg Evans, Deadline, 10/27/21 (Ed. Note:) There have been many other positive reviews for this musical. Proud papa notes that the Associate Sound Designer is Emma Wilk.
And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it's a very, very
Mad world, mad world
—From “Mad World” sung by Tears for Fears, written by Orzabal Roland
Probably the most important news this week comes from Glasgow, where international leaders are meeting, and failing once again to take concrete action on address climate change. This quote by Mark Carney, from a piece in the Financial Times, is behind a paywall, so here I am quoting the most important part of it:
“We must build a financial system entirely focused on net zero. That means defining best-practice, science-based transition plans for companies and financial institutions. It means robust assessments of the portfolios of financial institutions. It means developing approaches to wind down stranded assets — that could reach four-fifths of coal reserves and up to half of proven oil and gas reserves — transparently and responsibly. And it means mobilizing trillions of dollars of capital to finance decarbonization in emerging and developing countries — a hitherto unimaginable number but without which real sustainability is not possible. Given the enormous resources of GFANZ (Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero), a radical new approach to mobilizing private capital investment in emerging market and developing economies can be developed.”
Thanks to all who wrote after last week’s question about format. Based on what you said and how I feel too, I’m sticking with the same format and just trying to be a better editor to keep TWT as readable as possible.
Stay well, stay safe, and above all, stay vigilant and active, as American democracy is under attack. Much love to all — David.