Friday, February 3rd, 2023


Red Zeppelin

In the biggest inflatable story since Balloon Boy, a Chinese spy balloon flying over the US has created an international stir. Maybe the balloon is just here to chat with DJI drones, Anker security cams, Volvo GPS systems, or to get a different perspective what your kids are doing on Tik Tok. Whatever it's doing, and regardless of why China would use a balloon for surveillance, it's not being well-received and has further pressurized of the already tense relationship between China and the US. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed an upcoming trip to China and the Pentagon is no mood to suffer any excuses about what the balloon is doing here. Here's the latest from CNN.


Driven to Distraction

"Believe me, this is not nourishing the mind with literature, but killing and burying it with the weight of things or, perhaps, tormenting it until, frenzied by so many matters, this mind can no longer taste anything, but stares longingly at everything, like Tantalus thirsting in the midst of water." That was 14th-century Italian scholar and poet Petrarch on the technology he thought was tormenting the human mind. What was it? Books. Joe Stadolnik in Aeon: We've always been distracted. "Worried that technology is breaking your brain? Fears about attention spans and focus are as old as writing itself."


Narcan Do Attitude

"Jessie Blanchard started small nearly five years ago, just trying to get enough of the rescue drug naloxone that reverses opioid overdoses to keep her daughter from dying from an overdose. She pleaded with colleagues at the college where she's an adjunct teacher in Albany, Georgia, to use their prescription benefits to get two doses every six months. Now she loads her Jeep every week and heads out with a few other volunteers to bring the antidote — commonly known by its brand name Narcan — to hundreds of others in the town of 70,000." It's sad that we always need nearby Narcan. But it's crazy that we usually don't. Experts urge better opioid rescue drug access to save lives. In this case, experts refers to anyone with a hint of common sense.


Weekend Whats

What to Book: My excellent friend and sometimes contributor to NextDraft (whenever I need a psychoanalytical perspective to help explain the fully crazy behavior of certain people in the news, which was pretty often for four years or so) Michael Levin, and his two co-authors Adam Blum and Peter Goldberg, have just published their book, Here I'm Alive: The Spirit of Music in Psychoanalysis. The book examines how music is fundamental to becoming human, establishing our embodied sense of membership and participation in a shared world through the fabric of culture. And it rocks. Don't take my layperson's word for it. Here's Adam Phillips, one of the most respected names in psychoanalysis: "This book shows us what many of us have always somehow thought but have never been able to know with such clarity and vision. Not simply one of the most fascinating books written about psychoanalysis, Here I'm Alive is, more importantly, about just how musical our lives are and can be. It is a unique and remarkable book." That review made me so jealous, I had to make an emergency visit my psychoanalyst—which didn't help because he was jealous, too.

+ What to Watch: Fauda is an action-packed and excellent TV show set in the never-ending and entirely frustrating and extremely counterproductive Middle East conflict. Season 4 just came out on Netflix. It's as good as ever.

+ What to Watch: While I liked it, I didn't totally get all the hype around The Last of Us on HBO. By the end of episode 3 I was sold. Fully.


Extra, Extra

Storm After the Storm: "She hates to admit that living after Ian feels harder than living through its terror. She can't help it, especially on the really hard, frustrating days spent at a Federal Emergency Management Agency recovery center obtaining no real answers about the progress of their aid applications and then getting into their black Dodge Nitro, which they've been living out of since November." Brianna Sacks in WaPo: (Gift Article): For some, life after Ian is ‘more tragic than the hurricane itself.'

+ Watch This: The NYT (Gift Article) on The Unlikely New TikTok Influencers: Old-School Watch Dealers. "The draw of these videos has little to do with vintage watches, or even the elite lives they symbolize. What's irresistible has to do with the world in which these watches are bought and sold. By providing a window into the district, Buckley is taking viewers into one of New York City's last great kingdoms — an idiosyncratic old world of fast-paced, person-to-person commerce that looks fresh and fascinating to TikTok's youthful eyes." (It turns out today's youth are quite intrigued by that old-fashioned tradition of in-person human interaction.)

+ Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow: "Bird flu — known more formally as avian influenza — has long hovered on the horizons of scientists' fears. This pathogen, especially the H5N1 strain, hasn't often infected humans, but when it has, 56 percent of those known to have contracted it have died. Its inability to spread easily, if at all, from one person to another has kept it from causing a pandemic. But things are changing. The virus, which has long caused outbreaks among poultry, is infecting more and more migratory birds, allowing it to spread more widely, even to various mammals, raising the risk that a new variant could spread to and among people." Zeynep Tufekci in the NYT (Gift Article): An Even Deadlier Pandemic Could Soon Be Here. (Editor's note: Shit.)

+ Box Brief: Want to track and predict economic conditions? You might want to keep your eye on cardboard.

+ I've Callen and I Can't Get Up: "Lately, emergency call centers in some ski regions have been inundated with inadvertent, automated calls, dozens or more a week. Phone operators often must put other calls, including real emergencies, on hold to clarify whether the latest siren has been prompted by a human at risk or an overzealous device." Matt Richtel in the NYT (Free Article): 'My Watch Thinks I'm Dead.' (If I even approach a ski slope, my phone sends out an alert that I've been kidnapped.)


Feel Good Friday

For the past few months, NextDraft has been following along with the travels of my friends Robbi and Matthew who have taken their four kids on the Busload of Books tour. So far they've traveled 16,731 miles, visited 33 Title 1 schools in 33 states, and given away 16,000 books. If you missed it yesterday, I had some thoughts and got a lot of reaction: Takin' it to the Streets.

+ Nonprofit 'Play Marin!' supports youth sports diversity in North Bay. Great program. Both of my kids participated.

+ New rules would limit sugar in school meals for first time.

+ A Portuguese pooch that was almost killed at birth has become the world's oldest dog.

+ "America's unemployment rate fell to 3.4% in January, the lowest since before the 1969 moon landing." An astonishingly strong US jobs report.

+ Yale honors the work of a 9-year-old Black girl whose neighbor reported her to police.

+ A newly single mom wasn't sure she could make ends meet. They threw her a lifeline.

+ WaPo: Minnesota teen has slept in his backyard for nearly 3 years just for fun. (Sort of like my kids never come upstairs and interact with me, just for fun.)