Friday, January 14th, 2022


The Great Coverup

In my book Please Scream Inside Your Heart, I wrote this about the great mask debate. "I'll never fully understand how wearing a mask when in public was seen as some unholy liberty infringement. When I wore a mask and saw others around me doing the same, I felt a sense of patriotic unity. That feeling, like every other feeling during COVID, pissed off half the country. Maybe I'm a bit biased on this topic since I look better in a mask. During the peak of COVID, for the first time in my adult life, I was getting second looks by women at my local grocery store. They say some people have a face for radio. I guess I have a face for pandemic."

Well, it turns out I'm not the only one. According to a study out of Cardiff University, people look more attractive in protective masks. (As a bonus, their breath is better, too.) As per usual, René Magritte was less surreal than we thought. The findings held true across genders, and get this. "In what may be a blow for producers of fashionable coverings – and the environment – they also discovered that a face covered with a disposable-type surgical mask was likely to be deemed the most appealing." Researcher Michael Lewis explains: "The pandemic has changed our psychology in how we perceive the wearers of masks. When we see someone wearing a mask we no longer think 'that person has a disease, I need to stay away.' (Now when we see someone without a mask, we think "that person has a disease and it's called Fox News.")


Ukraine in the Membrane

"U.S. intelligence officials have determined a Russian effort is underway to create a pretext for its troops to further invade Ukraine, and Moscow has already prepositioned operatives to conduct 'a false-flag operation' in eastern Ukraine, according to the White House. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday the intelligence findings show Russia is also laying the groundwork through a social media disinformation campaign that frames Ukraine as an aggressor." Meanwhile, Russia just hit Ukraine with a massive cyberattack, a strategy they've used as a precursor to invasions in the past.

+ Fred Kaplan in Slate: The Last Chance to Stop Russia From Invading Ukraine.


Second Sleep is the New Second Dinner

"Biphasic sleep was not unique to England, either – it was widely practised throughout the preindustrial world. In France, the initial sleep was the 'premier somme'; in Italy, it was 'primo sonno'. In fact, Eckirch found evidence of the habit in locations as distant as Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Australia, South America and the Middle East." BBC: The forgotten medieval habit of two sleeps. (Interesting. So I guess that in Pulp Fiction, when Marsellus Wallace says, "I'ma get medieval on your ass," he means he's gonna take a nap...)


Weekend Whats

What to Doc: I have been waiting all week to tell you to stop everything and watch The Rescue on Disney Plus. It is the riveting, remarkable story of the unlikely rescue of 12 boys trapped deep inside a flooded cave in Thailand. But it's really the story of two sets of kids: the kids who were trapped, and the kids who were maligned, made fun of, and picked last for every team, but who grew up to be the right guys (and the only guys) qualified to be the heroes the world needed.

+ What to Watch: The Hookup Plan on Netflix is just a goofy feel good rom com type show that is good weekend binge watch, and it's in French, so it seems more important.

+ What to Review: While we're on the topic of voting rights this week, it's worth a refresher on exactly how this very popular and very critical legislation gets stopped in its tracks. Jane Mayer in The New Yorker: Inside the Koch-Backed Effort to Block the Largest Election-Reform Bill in Half a Century. "The speakers on the call expressed alarm at the broad popularity of the bill's provision calling for more public disclosure about secret political donors. The participants conceded that the bill, which would stem the flow of dark money from such political donors as the billionaire oil magnate Charles Koch, was so popular that it wasn't worth trying to mount a public-advocacy campaign to shift opinion. Instead, a senior Koch operative said that opponents would be better off ignoring the will of American voters and trying to kill the bill in Congress." It's bad stuff. It works.

+ What to Read: "These aren't your stereotypical parents of a child star, who, frustrated with their own crashed Hollywood dreams, put their kid through singing and dancing lessons in the living room of a bungalow in Van Nuys. But neither are they just an adorable couple who stumbled into fame and fortune. They're much cannier than that." NYT Magazine (Gift Article): The Boy King of YouTube. (FWIW, he's not the king anymore. MrBeast was the highest-paid star of 2021.)


Extra, Extra

Sed Heads: Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group, and 10 other members or associates have been charged with seditious conspiracy in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. (Good. Now let's move up the chain of that conspiracy.)

+ The Fault in Our Star: Djokovic faces deportation as Australia revokes visa again. This should be settled in time for Wimbledon. If you missed it, I shared thoughts on this on Monday.

+ Pizza, Pizza: "The native country then looks on in befuddled amazement at the value placed on something they took for granted. The object in question is then reassessed and draped in romanticism. From the new perspective, a potentially lucrative tradition is born." Italians Avoided Pizza for Centuries—Tourism Changed Everything.

+ Package Tour: Uh, are you by chance missing some packages that were supposed to be delivered? Photojournalist John Schreiber found them. All of them.

+ Lottomobile: New Car Price Keeps Climbing, with Average Now at Almost $47,100. (Which is bad timing, because my Volvo check engine light comes on about 47,100 times a month.)


Feel Good Friday

Covid tests are too expensive. Covid tests are hard to find. Starting next week, every home in the U.S. can soon order 4 free at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests.

+ Wordle is everywhere. But the Wordle app is the not that Wordle. "Here's how a mobile game I built 5 years ago suddenly got blown up by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Jimmy Fallon."

+ Major Solar Farm Coming to Coal Country. And jobs are coming with it. (This is the model. Don't attack coal or coal miners who have powered America for decades. Say thank you and give them a better alternative.)

+ Cancer mortality rates continue to decline amid 'major progress' in lung cancer early detection and treatment.

+ The World's Largest Wildlife Crossing Project May Get Longer, Eyes Spring Groundbreaking.

+ Dog lost for four months found alive on snowy hillside, reunited with owner. This Ontario cat came back — after 12 years on the lam. (These stories align with my theory that dogs get lost, but cats escape.)

+ Now that NextDraft is leaner, meaner, and better than ever, why not take a second to spread the word about it to some of your friends and followers? I'm a one man team, and word of mouth is the only way this free (hint, hint, you owe me!) services spreads.