Monday, December 20th, 2021


Theater of the Absurd

Note: Delivery will be sporadic during the holiday season.

Let's start with what I think is the photo of the year in 2021. It's not a shot that was captured by a professional photographer. It was snapped by someone with an iPhone and uploaded to Reddit where that social network and the rest of the internet let Shawn Triplett know the power of his photo. It was taken from the back of a theater in Mayfield, Kentucky after the tornados wreaked their destruction. The viewing area where a screen had been was now just an empty frame providing a clear view of the sad reality that had ripped through this small town. The image serves as a reminder that in 2021, no matter how hard many people tried, on topics from climate change to Covid, you can't hide from the truth.

+ It was a year when nature was determined to prove it could still surprise us. And no one captured that shock better than AP photographer Emilio Morenatti who took a series of haunting pictures from the Spanish island of La Palma, where the Cumbre Vieja volcano pumped out enough ash to cover entire homes. A photo from that scene leads this Vice look at 13 of the Most Surreal Pictures From 2021.

+ And from ESPN: Sports Photos of the Year. One of the photos shows cardboard cutouts filling the stands at a college basketball game, a scenario I really hope doesn't return. (But it sure feels like it could.)


Build Killed

"This is a no on this legislation. I've tried everything I know how to do, and the president has worked diligently. He's been wonderful to work with." Joe Manchin has been telegraphing his opposition to the Build Back Better legislation for a long time. If that didn't convince you he was a no, then the venue for his announcement certainly did. On Fox News, Joe Manchin says he won't support President Biden's Build Back Better plan.

+ Manchin blames White House staff for failed negotiations. As vital as some elements of the economic plan are, the voting rights legislation is more urgent and ultimately more important. It's unclear how that's gonna happen, though. Especially since the rage level is pretty high. WaPo: From charm offensive to scorched earth: How Biden's fragile alliance with Manchin unraveled.

+ It could be just more negotiation. Let's hope so, because, among other things, the legislation held the United States's best chance to take action on the climate crisis this decade.


Boric Rolled

"He ran on a platform promising radical reforms to the free-market economic model imposed by former dictator Gen Augusto Pinochet. One that, he says, is the root of the country's deep inequality, imbalances that came to the surface during protests in 2019 that triggered an official redraft of the constitution." Gabriel Boric: From student protest leader to Chile's president.


Clear as Mud

"This variant may be escaping our antibodies and causing infections, but it is almost certainly not escaping all of our immune system and causing severe disease or worse even in people with vaccination and or prior infection in any substantial numbers ... That is a relief ... And yet… We still don't know all we should because the world is no longer uniform for some of the most important variables: prior infections and vaccination." Zeynep Tufekci on the latest Omicron possibilities. The Still Not Sure Edition.

+ We're sure that being vaccinated and boosted is a hell of a lot better way to go. But that's if you're lucky enough to live in a place where you have vaccines that provide a good defense against Omicron. NYT: Most of the World's Vaccines Likely Won't Prevent Infection From Omicron.

+ And here's a viral blast from the past: 48 Test Positive for COVID-19 on Royal Caribbean Ship Returned to Miami.


Crime Beat Boxing

"San Francisco Mayor London Breed pledged to end 'the reign of criminals who are destroying our city.' And she laid out a plan to be 'less tolerant' of what she called 'bullshit': The city would be to be 'more aggressive with law enforcement,' with a new plan to direct emergency overtime funding to the police." That's a big shift from earlier SF efforts to change the business as usual way cities deal with crime. But when you've got politics, media, a pandemic, videoed crimes, and a ferocious drug epidemic, it can be tough to make changes. Here's an interesting look at SF's crime beat from Sarah Holder: Why the San Francisco Mayor Just Pivoted on Policing.


Error Power

"The trove of documents — the military's own confidential assessments of more than 1,300 reports of civilian casualties, obtained by The New York Times — lays bare how the air war has been marked by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, and the deaths of thousands of civilians, many of them children, a sharp contrast to the American government's image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs." A two-art special report from the NYT (Gift Article): Hidden Pentagon Records Reveal Patterns of Failure in Deadly Airstrikes.


Back Spin

"Lianhe Zaobao, a Singaporean Chinese-language newspaper, posted video of Peng it says was taken Sunday in Shanghai in which she said she has been mainly staying at home in Beijing but was free to come and go as she chose. 'First of all, I want to emphasize something that is very important. I have never said that I wrote that anyone sexually assaulted me. I need to emphasize this point very clearly.'" Peng Shuai tells paper she never wrote of being assaulted. (Did that emphasizing do the trick for you?)


Chart Toppers

"In 2021, FiveThirtyEight's visual journalists told stories of the pandemic, political gridlock and the world of sports ... Through it all, we kept it weird. Now we continue our tradition of celebrating our best — and wackiest — charts of the year. Here are some of our favorites." Our 51 Best (And Weirdest) Charts Of 2021.


The Third (Grade) Reich

"The librarian reportedly made the comment about Jews 'ruining Christmas' after a student asked why the Nazis carried out the Holocaust." School Librarian Reportedly Made Third Graders Re-Enact the Holocaust. Happy Holidays, Everyone.


Bottom of the News

"Jamie Gagne carved a seven-foot statue out of a pine tree and placed it in the front yard of his Ruggles Road home in protest of town code enforcement, who had ticketed him over plans for his under-construction workshop." After a long, hard fight, there's been a resolution in the case of the Wilton man arrested for placing a large penis sculpture on his front lawn.

+ Eric Clapton Wins Lawsuit Against Woman Who Listed Bootleg CD on eBay for $11. Someone send Clapton the large penis sculpture. He's definitely earned it in 2021.