1

We Need to Talk

So many things we hoped the internet would do for society have backfired. "Conversation in this new American public sphere is governed not by established customs and traditions in service of democracy but by rules set by a few for-profit companies in service of their needs and revenues. Instead of the procedural regulations that guide a real-life town meeting, conversation is ruled by algorithms that are designed to capture attention, harvest data, and sell advertising. The voices of the angriest, most emotional, most divisive—and often the most duplicitous—participants are amplified. Reasonable, rational, and nuanced voices are much harder to hear; radicalization spreads quickly. Americans feel powerless because they are. In this new wilderness, democracy is becoming impossible." But we can rebuild it. We can make it better that it was. Anne Applebaum and Peter Pomerantsev in The Atlantic: How to Put Out Democracy's Dumpster Fire. "Our democratic habits have been killed off by an internet kleptocracy that profits from disinformation, polarization, and rage. Here's how to fix that." (Also, maybe stop having up those newsletter signup forms pop up before I even know what your site sells or does...)

2

Royal Shush

The Harry and Meghan story is interesting in large part because things like this are still stories at all. You're either really into the story, or really irritated by the fact that everyone else is. Royalty is absurd in this era, especially in a democracy. The only thing more absurd is feigning shock that people we foolishly call kings and queens, and actually bow towards, aren't that excited about having a nonwhite outsider join the family. Meghan and Harry have a Netflix deal, a podcast deal, and a direct line to Oprah. That's royalty in 2021, folks. If Archie launches a newsletter on Substack, all of the Windsors will relocate to SoCal. If you feel compelled to read about the royals, then read Patrick Freyne's take in The Irish Times: Harry and Meghan: The union of two great houses, the Windsors and the Celebrities, is complete. "We cut sporadically to the couple's own property, where they wander in hoodies, jeans and anoraks, as if to say, ‘We're just regular rich folk, Oprah, no different from you or Tom Hanks or Jeff Bezos.'"

3

We Talkin About Practitioner

"What I have seen throughout the year, I would rather die, any other way of dying, than dying with coronavirus. It's a sad way to go. Your family is not there to hold your hand. The last person that a patient would see is my ugly mug." NPR: 'War Doesn't Even Compare': A Year In The Life Of A Traveling Nurse.

4

Bagel Battle Boils Over

In 2020, we all became baking experts. So it makes sense that carbs would be at the center of many of our subsequent holier than thou debates. NYT: "West Coast bakers are driving a great bagel boom, producing some of the most delicious versions around and finding ways to expand during the pandemic." The Best Bagels Are in California (Sorry, New York). The sad truth is that many boulangerists poke a hole in a piece of white bread and call it a bagel. I've consumed enough bagels to be on the cover of Carb Aficianado, and I can confirm that NYC has grown as lethargic with its bagels as it has with its pickles. I trace it all back to the moment that people started calling the Lower East Side the L.E.S. One bagelry left out of this article is Barton's Bagels in Marin. Their product is rock solid. (In terms of quality, not consistency.)

5

Job Lot

The pandemic did not hit all groups equally. And those hit the hardest are also benefiting the least from the recovery. NYT: A Year Later, Who Is Back to Work and Who Is Not?

6

You’re Not Swiping Right…

"In a world that is slowly inching towards normalcy, the absurd reality is that nothing is what it seems anymore. And as lockdowns taught people to embrace the art of innovation, many migrated to platforms like dating apps, especially local ones that serviced specific areas or communities, to circumvent social media's gaping privacy concerns." Vice: People are Using Dating Apps to Find Doctors, Drugs, and Protesters.

7

Ballot Box Out

"Why target Sunday? The most likely explanation is that Black churches frequently hold 'souls to the polls' voter turnout drives on Sundays leading up to the election, so eliminating Sunday voting makes it less likely that Black Democrats will cast a ballot. But Republicans in states like Georgia and Arizona also have a new target — they hope to limit or even abolish mail-in voting. According to the Brennan Center, lawmakers in Arizona introduced at least 11 bills that seek to restrict absentee voting in 2021 alone." The new war on voting rights, explained.

8

Don’t You Forget About Me

"The forgetting feels like someone is taking a chisel to the bedrock of my brain, prying everything loose. I've started keeping a list of questions, remnants of a past life that I now need a beat or two to remember, if I can remember at all: What time do parties end? How tall is my boss? What does a bar smell like? Are babies heavy? Does my dentist have a mustache? On what street was the good sandwich place near work, the one that toasted its bread? How much does a movie popcorn cost? What do people talk about when they don't have a global disaster to talk about all the time? You have to wear high heels the whole night?" Ellen Cushing in The Atlantic: Late-Stage Pandemic Is Messing With Your Brain. "We have been doing this so long, we're forgetting how to be normal." (This is basically the same reason I switched from indica to sativa.)

9

Head Start

"Scientists have discovered the ultimate case of regeneration: Some decapitated sea slugs can regrow hearts and whole new bodies." (Tucker Carlson did this when he went from CNN to Fox.)

10

Bottom of the News

"In 2021, it's obvious most people understand that what influencers post on social media doesn't actually reflect reality: They slim their faces and bodies, remove blemishes, use heavy filters, and precisely frame shots to give viewers the impression that their lives are casually desirable. But a new theory circulating on social media argues that influencers are warping reality in a new way." Influencers' Mirror Pictures Might Not Be Mirror Pictures At All.

+ Biden's German Shepherd has aggressive incident and is sent back to Delaware. (That leaves us with a cat and the nuclear codes...)