Monday, September 19th, 2022


The Tears of a Crown

In History of the World, Part 1, Mel Brooks famously states, "It's good to be the king." After watching fictional shows like Game of Thrones and the coverage of the real life monarchy, it seems to me that royalty is a life-consuming drag. I feel similarly about the act of obsessively watching the minute-by-minute coverage of the Queen's weeklong funeral. While I can't seem to bring myself to watch the endless coverage, I think I understand the draw, especially in these modern times. Social technologies have partially replaced our in-person communal activities with an inferior facsimile, locking us into our own hermetically sealed silos of homogeneity. We are thus, more than ever, starved for a moment of community when we're all talking about the same thing at the same time; preferably something that isn't a violent incursion, a political harbinger of chaos, a global pandemic, or the general outrage that defines our daily online experience.

Where does the media's coverage of the outside world end and your own real life begin? As a guy who has wrapped himself in the news for most of my life, I'm in no position to say. But, like many other celebrity deaths, I know the Queen's death blew past that line at internet speed. But maybe that's OK. In fact, maybe it's better than OK. From gossiping about the details, to fixating on the characters, to feeling a connection to something to which we're largely disconnected, maybe this communal mourning fulfills a very real human need to feel like we're all in something together. In the Jewish tradition, a death is followed by loved ones sitting Shiva, a seven day process that brings mourners together for spiritual and emotional healing (and a lot of carb-heavy snacks). Maybe the last week of royal coverage served a similar spiritual and emotional function for millions around the world.

From a bar in NYC that was packed with TV watchers at 5:30am to the final two civilian mourners to see the Queen's coffin saying the experience forged friendship that will 'last forever,' being together—even if that just means watching the same televised feed—seems to be at the core of this experience. The Queen's gave her subjects one last gift: a focus on the same subject and a communal emotion other than mutual contempt. For that, we should all hail the Queen.

+ And with that, here is your complete guide to the Queen's funeral, and photos from BBC, NPR, and Time.


Democracy No Evil

"The reluctance of many GOP candidates to embrace a long-standing tenet of American democracy shows how Trump's assault on the integrity of U.S. elections has spread far beyond the 2020 presidential race." WaPo (Gift Article): Republicans in key battleground races refuse to say they will accept results. (Respecting the people's will as expressed via the vote is a pretty key part of democracy. Don't sugarcoat these findings.)

+ Jennifer Rubin in WaPo (Gift Article): "Herein rests the fundamental failure of the mainstream political media. Far too many continue to disguise the political reality we face. They refuse to use appropriate descriptors to describe Republican conduct, such as 'fascist' or 'racist.' Instead, they mislabel radical authoritarians as 'conservatives.' If this were a foreign country, the media would accurately describe the MAGA movement as a far-right cult. Yet in the United States, too many reporters cannot help themselves in normalizing the movement."


Lease to Own

"The state was leasing these prisoners out to private companies for a fee, in a practice known all across the South as convict leasing. In states like Texas, Florida, Georgia and Alabama , prisoners were also used to help build railroads, cut timber, make bricks, pick cotton and grow sugar on plantations." A joint project from AP and Center for Investigative Reporting: The prison labor that built business empires. Listen to the podcast version at CIR.


Two Processors Walk Into a Bar

"Just because a robot tells jokes doesn't mean it can respond to them appropriately. Did a comment warrant a polite robot giggle or an all-out bot belly laugh? The right response could mean the difference between an approachable android and a metallic boor." Scientists Are Trying to Teach Robots When and How to Laugh. (Now we just need to teach them to be overly sensitive and try to cancel the joke teller.)


Extra, Extra

Literal Blockbusters: "Three blockbuster storms struck different coasts this weekend, causing widespread damage in Puerto Rico, Alaska and Japan." And all three are connected to climate change.

+ Over? "The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over." Joe Biden says the COVID-19 pandemic is over. This is what the data tells us. (There's no benefit to Biden saying the Pandemic is over. Better to say it's on the ropes and we need to knock it out.) Of course, things are better. But over? Ask a touring musician about that. In the words of John Rambo, "nothing is over."

+ Compost Facto: "Assembly Bill 351 will create a state regulatory process for natural organic reduction, a method in which human remains naturally decompose over a 30-to-45-day period after being placed in a steel vessel and buried in wood chips, alfalfa and other biodegradable materials. The nutrient-dense soil created by the process can then be returned to families or donated to conservation land." California's dead will have a new burial option: Human composting. (My friend Zem gives me a hard time for not composting. Maybe there's still a chance for me to make up for lost time...)

+ Vineyard Sale: "The brochure says that migrants who arrive in Massachusetts will be eligible for numerous benefits, including '8 months cash assistance,' 'assistance with housing,' 'food,' 'clothing,' 'transportation to job interviews,' 'job training,' 'job placement,' 'registering children for school,' 'assistance applying for Social Security cards,' and many other benefits. None of this, however, is true." Judd Legum with another scoop. The smoking gun in Martha's Vineyard. (In retaliation to DeSantis' move, blue state governors are plotting to airlift a smidgen of human decency to Florida.)

+ Punctuated Equilibrium: "Could anything be more satisfying than straight A's? Could anything be more infuriating than the barely joking paternal response "What happened to the other two points?" when I managed a 98 on a test?" (My dad's similar line was, "Why the minus?") The great Ben Dreyer in the NYT (Gift Article): My Life in Error. A copy editor recounts his obsession with perfection.

+ Hawkeye Still Pierces: "When we think of the default mode of much of contemporary television — mingling the tragic and the offhand, broad comedy and pinpoint sentiment — we are thinking of a precise mixture of styles, emotions and textures first alchemized by M*A*S*H." NYT (Gift Article): As the acclaimed "situation tragedy" turns 50, the star reflects on its innovations. (MASH was like The Office except the office was in a war zone and you cried about 6 times during the series.)


Bottom of the News

App State's last second touchdown win over Troy was a hell of thing. This reaction of the radio announcers was even better.

+ Need a Yeti cooler? Head to an Alaskan beach and wait.

+ "Anytime you order nachos at a sporting event, there's a good chance they came from a molten-cheese empire in San Antonio, Texas." The family that built a ballpark nachos monopoly. (This family has probably caused more health problems than the Sacklers!)