Friday, April 15th, 2022


How Barnes Became Noble

There was a time in the not too distant past when Barnes & Noble was considered the chief foe of independent booksellers. Well, times change and the manuscript has been flipped. A relationship that could once be found in the war stories section is now perched snugly among the romance novels. What changed? Amazon for one thing. OK, Amazon for all things. The enemy of my enemy is my friend and, these days, Barnes & Noble is part of the terrestrial team trying to draw a line in the ampersand and keep print books in vogue. "Buying a book you're looking for online is easy. You search. You click. You buy. What's lost in that process are the accidental finds ... No one has quite figured out how to replicate that kind of incidental discovery online. It makes bookstores hugely important not only for readers but also for all but the biggest-name writers, as well as for agents and publishers of all sizes." And because Barnes & Noble is the biggest shop in town (and often the only shop in town), it's suddenly a vital force for good. NYT (Gift Article): How Barnes & Noble Went From Villain to Hero.


A No Knock Knock Joke

Getting a warrant for a no-knock raid was supposed to be relatively difficult. "But judges generally rely on the word of police officers and rarely question the merits of the requests, offering little resistance when they seek authorization for no-knocks, a Washington Post investigation has found. The searches, which were meant to be used sparingly, have become commonplace for drug squads and SWAT teams. Criminal justice experts estimate that police carry out tens of thousands of no-knock raids every year nationwide." Some of those raids, as we know all too well, can be deadly. And most of them are targeting what end up to be pretty low level drugs operations. An investigation from WaPo (Gift Article): No-knock raids have led to fatal encounters and small drug seizures.


Teen Spirit Down

"Almost every measure of mental health is getting worse, for every teenage demographic, and it's happening all across the country. Since 2009, sadness and hopelessness have increased for every race; for straight teens and gay teens; for teens who say they've never had sex and for those who say they've had sex with males and/or females; for students in each year of high school; and for teens in all 50 states and the District of Columbia." Derek Thompson in The Atlantic: Why American Teens Are So Sad. It predates the pandemic. It crosses the political spectrum. At it just happens to coincide with the period when we all started staring at our phones 24/7.

+ In general, drug use is down among teens. That's the good news. The bad news is that the drugs they're taking are more dangerous than ever due to the rise in deadly batches of fentanyl. US teen overdose deaths double in three years amid fentanyl crisis.


Weekend Whats

What to Book: There are those who are surprised by Putin's behavior. And there are those who have read and listened to Bill Browder. Browder's latest book couldn't be more timely. Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin's Wrath.

+ What to Watch: Jerrod Carmichael's Rothaniel is billed as standup comedy. But Carmichael is sitting throughout and humor is just one small aspect of the show. It's unique and riveting. Watch it in HBO. And then, and only then, watch Carmichael's recent SNL hosting monologue.

+ What to Stream: Coachella kicks of this weekend and as is the case with most large, outdoor music festivals, it's best enjoyed from the couch. Luckily, you can watch it that way via YouTube.


Extra, Extra

Laugh Tracks: "Is Putin afraid of humor? 'Very much so,' Zelensky said. Humor, he explained, reveals deeper truths. The famous television series in which Zelensky starred, Servant of the People, mocked the pomposity of Ukrainian politicians, attacked corruption, and presented the little guy as a hero; many of his sketches were clever satires of political leaders and their attitudes. 'Jesters were allowed to tell the truth in ancient kingdoms,' he said, but Russia 'fears the truth.' Comedy remains 'a powerful weapon' because it is accessible. 'Complex mechanisms and political formulations are difficult for humans to grasp. But through humor, it's easy; it's a shortcut.'" (Let's hope Ukraine has the last laugh.) The Atlantic's Anne Applebaum and Jeffrey Goldberg talk to Volodymyr Zelensky who explains why the best case scenario is Liberation Without Victory. "He is a kind of anti-Putin: Rather than telegraphing a cold-eyed, murderous superiority, he wants people to understand him as an Everyman, a middle-aged dad with a bad back." (My life goal is to hug Zelensky.) Meanwhile, on the less human side of the spectrum, Russia held a ceremony to mourn the loss of its Black Sea Fleet flagship Moskva. And the refugee number crossed 5 million. Here's the latest from BBC.

+ Climate's Front Lines: "Below average rainfall for 2022 is likely to prolong the already extremely dry conditions which have not been experienced to this degree since 1981. Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia — which will be severely impacted by the reduced rains — are already in the midst of a dire famine." East and Horn of Africa prep for worst drought in decades.

+ When I Say Jump... Covid cases are on the rise. You probably know that from hearing about friends and others who are getting it. The only question about the post Spring Break, Easter, Passover period is how high it will go. And the signs aren't all bad. It's not over: COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in US.

+ OMG: "The campaign is on the brink of success in the courts because proponents of school prayer have perfected a tactic that reverses the victim and offender." Slate: How the Right Is Bringing Christian Prayer Back Into Public Schools.

+ One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: "McIndoe made a placard, and went out to join the march. "It's not like I sat down and thought I'm going to make a satire. I just thought: ‘I should write a sign that has nothing to do with what is going on.' An absurdist statement to bring to the equation.' That statement was 'birds aren't real.'" And the story just kept getting weirder. ‘The lunacy is getting more intense': how Birds Aren't Real took on the conspiracy theorists.

+ Look What You Made Me Dough "So far, Nesmith has received messages from six fans asking if he was selling his commencement tickets. Most told him to name his price; one fan offered $500 for a ticket." It's weird when people are willing to pay top dollar for a graduation ticket. That changes when one of the speakers is Taylor Swift.


Feel Good Friday

"The bump caused her to accidentally hit the button for a $30 scratcher instead of her usual lower-cost tickets." Woman accidentally wins $10 million on lottery scratcher after stranger bumps into her. (This is oddly similar to how Reese's Peanut Butter Cups were invented!)

+ "The outcome could have been tragic if it hadn't for a 'quick response' that Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremey Briese credited to the sharp eye of a Cal Fire firefighter who just happened to be passing by." Father and son rescued after car plunges 500 feet down California cliff.

+ Months after a hostage situation, and just in time for Passover, Congregation Beth Israel in the Fort Worth suburb of Colleyville reopens.

+ ‘We're All In This Together': Retired Denver Cop Helping Feed Ukraine Refugees.

+ Walpole prison to close as incarceration rates hit 35-year low. "The fruit of that work — the lowest level of incarceration in decades — was achieved by providing at-risk individuals with pathways to positive life choices, creating new re-entry services, and empowering returning citizens to rebuild their lives in meaningful ways." (America needs more fruit in its diet...)

+ Reminder: I'll be in conversation with DJ Patil (America's first chief data scientist) on Monday the 18th in San Francisco. Locals should come in person and out of towners can join online.