Friday, March 29th, 2019


Roid Rage

I know it seems like today's news is all consuming and worthy of the constant stream of breathless headlines. But Douglas Preston puts things into perspective in The New Yorker with a look back at the day the dinosaurs died. "The asteroid was vaporized on impact. Its substance, mingling with vaporized Earth rock, formed a fiery plume, which reached halfway to the moon before collapsing in a pillar of incandescent dust. Computer models suggest that the atmosphere within fifteen hundred miles of ground zero became red hot from the debris storm, triggering gigantic forest fires. As the Earth rotated, the airborne material converged at the opposite side of the planet, where it fell and set fire to the entire Indian subcontinent. Measurements of the layer of ash and soot that eventually coated the Earth indicate that fires consumed about seventy per cent of the world's forests. Meanwhile, giant tsunamis resulting from the impact churned across the Gulf of Mexico, tearing up coastlines, sometimes peeling up hundreds of feet of rock, pushing debris inland and then sucking it back out into deep water, leaving jumbled deposits that oilmen sometimes encounter in the course of deep-sea drilling. The damage had only begun." (When I first read that description, I thought the full Mueller Report had dropped.)


(Almost) Everybody Hurts

"At 65, she'd needed to have her hip replaced. Because it had not caused her pain, she had not noticed anything was amiss until it was severely degenerated. Cuts, burns, fractures — these did not hurt either. In fact, it often took the smell of burning flesh or her husband identifying blood for her to notice something wrong. She also reported that eating Scotch bonnet chili peppers left only a 'pleasant glow.'" NYT: At 71, She's Never Felt Pain or Anxiety. Now Scientists Know Why. (Can her gene mutation lead us to better ways for the rest of us to combat pain?)


Weekend Whats

What to Watch: Seinfeld. Borat. Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry Charles is a dude who knows how to find the funny. But can he find it in war zones and some of the other most difficult places in earth? Find out in his documentary series on the roots and role of comedy. From Netflix: Larry Charles' Dangerous World of Comedy.

+ What to Stream: The much-anticipated debut album from Bille Eilish has finally arrived. But among your kids, she's already a household name. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Don't take my word for it. Here's Dave Grohl's take: "I went to see Billie Eilish not too long ago. Oh my god man. Unbelievable. My daughters are obsessed with Billy Eilish. And what I'm seeing happening with my daughters is the same revolution that happened to me at their age. My daughters are listening to Billie Eilish and they're becoming themselves through her music ... the connection that she has with her audience is the same thing that was happening with Nirvana in 1991 ... I don't care what sort of instruments you use to do it. When I look at someone like Billie Eilish, I'm like...shit man....rock n roll is not even close to being dead…"

+ What to Book: Don Winslow's The Border is one the most riveting books you'll ever read. And when it comes to today's debate over the wall, gangs, and drugs, it's also one of the most insightful. Do not miss it.


Pound Sand

The parliament keeps voting on measures. And those measures keep getting defeated. Chaos is ensuing. The pound is falling. And Europe and the world are getting pretty irritated. Here's the latest from CNN. Theresa May's Brexit deal defeated for third time. (With a parent like this, is it any wonder that America is a total screwup?)


Getting the Coal Shoulder

"The vanishing of coal plants from the American landscape began years ago, but it has persisted under President Trump, who came into office promising to revitalize the coal industry. He has rolled back environmental regulations meant to curb pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, installed a former coal lobbyist as head of the Environmental Protection Agency and tweeted in favor of keeping certain units operating. And yet, utilities have continued to shut down plants ... More coal plant capacity disappeared during Trump's first two years in office than during President Barack Obama's entire first term." Those closing coal plants are good from the environment. But they're rough on the towns that were built around them. WaPo: In small towns across the nation, the death of a coal plant leaves an unmistakable void. (As I've said before, the people who risked life and limb to power America for the past several decades should be included in the renewable revolution that will help power the next several.)


Fungus Amongus

"Scheele's team estimates that the fungus has caused the decline of 501 amphibian species—about 6.5 percent of the known total. Of these, 90 have been wiped out entirely. Another 124 have fallen by more than 90 percent, and their odds of recovery are slim. Never in recorded history has a single disease burned down so much of the tree of life. 'It rewrote our understanding of what disease could do to wildlife.'" The Atlantic's Ed Yong on The Worst Disease Ever Recorded.


Tapped Out

"Experts who study Americans' bedroom habits say there are a number of factors driving the Great American Sex Drought. Age is one of them: The 60 and older demographic climbed from 18 percent of the population in 1996 to 26 percent in 2018 ... But changes at the other end of the age spectrum may be playing an even bigger role." WaPo: The share of Americans not having sex has reached a record high. (I thought it would feel better to finally be in the majority...)


Do Not Pass Go

"Last week, eight US Marshals came to his home. He was certain they were after the wrong person. He hadn't committed a crime in more than 13 years. They insisted he come with them to court because he still had a 16-month federal sentence to serve for crimes he committed in Philadelphia." A man walked out of prison 13 years ago thinking he was free. The feds say he owes 16 months.


Slap Shot

"On one side we have a burly man in a blue sweatshirt and across from him a minuscule man in a green jacket and scarf. The two lean over the table as a rather large crowd looks on. The two lock eyes, a man (a ref?) taps both of them on the shoulder and it's go time. Then they start slapping the shit out of each—politely though, as they patiently wait for the other to finish so it will be their turn." Vice: Competitive Slapping Is the World's Greatest Sport. (I still prefer congressional hearings, but this is close...)


Feel Good Friday

"What happens when you put a classroom on wheels and park it in the poorest neighborhoods of San Francisco?" Hint: Good things.

+ Thanks to a great idea from Dave Eggers and Nick Hornby, you'll soon be able to bid for written setlists from some top bands. The dough will go to excellent youth programs, including 826 Valencia. Billboard: Second Lives For Setlists.

+ WaPo: For decades, Garfield telephones kept washing ashore in France. Now the mystery has been solved.

+ Beyonce and Jay-Z Preach LGBTQ Acceptance in GLAAD Awards Speech.

+ LA Mag: The DMV Reviewed Thousands of Hilarious Vanity Plate Applications Last Year. These Are Our Favorites.

+ Sanitation Workers Help Man Find His Lost Wallet In City's Trash.

+ He was going to miss his daughter in the Sweet 16. Then his colleagues surprised him.

+ Band of wounded warriors healing through music.