Friday, June 17th, 2016


To Be a Rock and Not to Roll

Let's end a rather hellish week of news with a look at the Stairway to Heaven controversy. In a much-watched case, Jimmy Page took the stand to face plagiarism-related questions about Led Zeppelin's biggest hit. While Zeppelin has been accused of borrowing riffs in the past, this case could have wider implications. It also brings up an interesting set of questions for young music listeners: Who is Jimmy Page? Where is the Stairway to Heaven? And what is plagiarism?

+ How much has the music business changed since this song was released? Stairway has pulled in "$562 million in publishing royalties and record sales since its release." Does anyone remember royalties?

+ Join Stephen Colbert and judge for yourself.


Assad State of Affairs

According the the NYT: "More than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration's policy in Syria, urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country's five-year-old civil war."

+ Also from the NYT: Declan Walsh shares photos and cellphone videos from a road trip in one of the world's most violent war zones.


Weekend What Tos

What to Read: "There is no policy that matters. There is no promise that matters. There is no villain, no scapegoat, that matters. If, tomorrow, he said that Canadians, not Mexicans, were rapists and drug dealers, and the wall should be built on that border, no one would blink. His poll numbers would not waver. Because there are no positions and no statements that matter to them. There is only the man, the name, the brand." The excellent Dave Eggers put on a Nascar hat and attended a Trump rally in Sacramento, which he found to be about as threatening as a Garth Brooks concert. (Related from WaPo: The man who showed Donald Trump how to exploit power and instill fear.

+ What to Stream: Your new favorite slide guitar and slide bass (yeah, you heard me) infused rock band is The Record Company. Start with these songs: Off the Ground, On the Move, and this cover of So What'cha Want.

+ What to Doc: The Battered Bastards of Baseball.

+ What to Book: Elizabeth Strout's The Burgess Boys, which includes a look at the changes to a town when Muslim immigrants move in from Somalia.


Textual Healing

Some of the biggest names in tech invested nearly $24 million into the latest start-up from the excellent Nancy Lublin. The company uses tech, it has big data, it targets a massive audience. And it can scale. It has all the components of an internet startup, but in this case, the investors don't expect (or want) to see any return, at least not in terms of money. Crisis Text Line is a non-profit that connects with young people where they feel most comfortable sharing their problems and asking for help. Let's hope this is the start of a non-profit bubble!


The Philadelphia Eighty-Sixers

"By a vote of fourteen to three, the city council approved a surcharge of 1.5 cents per ounce to be applied to sugary drinks, a category that includes regular and diet soda and energy drinks." From The New Yorker: There's Now A Soda Tax In Philadelphia, But Not Because Sugar Is Bad For You. (How are people in Philly going to wash down all those nutrient-rich cheesesteaks?)


Russian to Judgment

Because of systematic and widespread, state-sponsored doping, Russian Track And Field athletes have been barred from competing in the Rio Olympics although there is some wiggle room for potential exceptions. From the head of the task force that made the call: "Because the system in Russia has been tainted by doping from top level and down, we cannot trust that what we call and what people might call clean athletes really are clean." (I'm pretty sure his speech-writer was on the juice.)


Petals and Pedals

"Then, against a chain-link fence, you can't miss them: They are covered in flowers, ornaments, and handwritten notes. Throughout the day, people stop to look at them, to pay respects, and to confirm what happened on this road on Tuesday, June 7 was real. Five bicycles, painted white." The WSJ's Jason Gay goes to Kalamazoo to see how a vibrant cycling community in western Michigan is coping with unthinkable tragedy.


A Lot To Chew On

We've got some weird calls. The throwing of history's most famous mouthpiece. A clash of superstars. Fines. Suspensions. Family Tweets. And Game 7 tickets that are so expensive, I wouldn't be surprised if a pair of court-side seats IPO before Sunday. (In the spirit of unbiased reporting: Go Dubs.)


And There’s the Rub

"The actual effects of pornography on attitudes, behavior, life and relationship satisfaction are difficult to study, and for many years most data have remained purely correlational or anecdotal." Maria Konnikova looks at what we really know about the effects of the Internet's favorite pastime: Pornucopia.


Bottom of the News

Since it's Father's Day weekend, let's examine the history of American fathers via a look back at some popular TV dads.

+ "What's the best way to fend off a wolf that's stalking you? Bait it with a bear cub, of course." (I tried something similar with my new Beagles and one of my cats. It didn't end as well as this story.)

+ Yes, a lot of people still use the Yellow Pages.

+ A question to ponder: How are so many baseball fans catching foul balls while holding babies?