LW writes: John Darnielle, singer and creative voice behind the Mountain Goats, is a judge for a the national book awards, translated literature category.
Would anybody interested in talking about Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris, or maybe other "widely read" books?
Curtis Mayfield's orchestration is insanely lush on Back To the World, an amazing and ambitious record. Also the lyrics are way ahead of their time and unfortunately still relevant. Plus great grooves. He grew up in Cabrini Green.
Heebie's take: I went to go listen to Back To the World. The top comments on this YouTube version are a lot of black men reminiscing about listening to this song in Vietnam or when they returned home, and it makes for a touching thing to skim through while listening to the song.
(This is intended to be our system for checking in on imaginary friends, so that we know whether or not to be concerned if you go offline for a while.)
Clearly I cannot keep this simple thing together. Maybe I'll just aim to keep one on the front page at all times.
Grace - henceforth known as Jesus's Grace - shares that the Reed nucleus is planning on compile some type of book with photos and short writings for Thing 1 and Thing 2. If you have favorite comments or stories about Jesus McQueen from the archives, or specific bits that JMQ wrote about his daughters, can you share what you recall of them? Jesus's Grace will try to locate the originals and add them to the collection. (Of course, if you can locate the actual comments and link them, that would be super.)
When the book is produced, the hope is to make some online/PDF version that could then be shared with the blog.
Growing up, there were stories about various political prisoners of our family's acquaintance teaching the other inmates chess, or poetry, or whatever it was they cared to teach and learn (I think it's part of the universal political prisoner playbook) so it made me chuckle--in a most rueful and bitter way--to read about an Iranian doing that in American detention centers.
That story is amazing, by the way. Asgari is as resilient and inspiring a character as you could ask for, and even so and of course, the extra-judicial American machinery of cruelty very nearly grinds him up and kills him. And yet, he has generous and insightful things to say about America!
Everything seems very demoralizing at the moment. I could use a thread with the right dose of pick-me-ups and escapism: the silver lining in your life at the moment, the book that is bringing you joy (that may have won recent recognition), the Covid news article that reads like wish fulfillment, your new kitten, whatever. I would love to read successive comments that make me smile.
It is with a heavy heart that I share with you all that Jesus McQueen passed away this morning. It sounds like it was fairly unexpected.
I know that his loved ones would appreciate reading any memories or loving thoughts that you may consider sharing here.
politicalfootball writes: My son recently got his Selective Service notice - as I did 40 years ago. My failure to register cost me the opportunity to apply for federal government jobs. Nowadays, it turns out, they just inform you that they have registered you, and ask you to correct any errors. There were no errors on his form.
When I was his age, I was enraged at the prospect of fighting in some stupid Central American war. I was pissed off about many things. The 1980 election crushed me -- almost as badly as the 2016 election did. Decades later, none of my youthful anger seems childish, misplaced or excessive.
My son and daughter are old enough to be furious, and they are not. They are good people and not stupid. They understand and appreciate their privilege. They know the unjust nature of the world they live in, and are aware of the catastrophes on the horizon. They will be good citizens. They will vote for, and donate to, the right people. But they will try to stay out of the line of fire. My son, particularly, will never attend a protest that his parents don't bring him to. He won't be fired for union organizing.
This is consistent with what I have taught them, and for a couple of decades now -- since they were born -- I myself have kept my head down and avoided trouble.
We will bequeath my children a fucked-up planet on the brink of disaster -- or in the midst of disaster. Morons will gloat while the world burns. I have trained my children to face this prospect with equanimity.
I am not sorry. I couldn't bear to do anything else.
Heebie's take: PF's kids aren't angry because they don't have lead poisoning like he did at their age!
But really, this is a fascinating topic - what philosophy do you equip your kids to live by when the world is self-destructing? I think a generation ago, my parents were certainly well-aware of the problems of the world, but there was a sense that it was limping along, rather than self-destructing. I think the acceleration of climate change is the main difference.
My parents' philosophy was very similar to PFs - they want us to vote correctly and donate money, but don't put yourself in harm's way. In a different domain, but similar, art is something to be done in your spare time, not a career to pursue. (They would have been supportive, but there was a basic message still there.)
I think we are raising our kids slightly more activist than PF or my parents, although I really don't know where they will land. We take them to protests, but they are gentle and run by the Unitarian Universalists and have a smalltown homey feel. I would like them to understand the balance when they grow up: fight for your beliefs but please keep yourself safe.
Sometimes teenage anger is partly out of shock that you were lied to - perhaps being told bluntly about the ills of the world defuses some of the anger, because you incorporate it into your worldview from the beginning. Maybe not.
This is the worst thing I've read recently:
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco took office in 2011 with a bold plan: to create a cutting-edge intelligence program that could stop crime before it happened.
What he actually built was a system to continuously monitor and harass Pasco County residents, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found.
First the Sheriff's Office generates lists of people it considers likely to break the law, based on arrest histories, unspecified intelligence and arbitrary decisions by police analysts.
Then it sends deputies to find and interrogate anyone whose name appears, often without probable cause, a search warrant or evidence of a specific crime.
They swarm homes in the middle of the night, waking families and embarrassing people in front of their neighbors. They write tickets for missing mailbox numbers and overgrown grass, saddling residents with court dates and fines. They come again and again, making arrests for any reason they can.
One former deputy described the directive like this: "Make their lives miserable until they move or sue."
In just five years, Nocco's signature program has ensnared almost 1,000 people.
At least 1 in 10 were younger than 18, the Times found.
Some of the young people were labeled targets despite having only one or two arrests.
(Goddamnit, I wanted to consolidate those paragraphs so badly when I lifted that passage, but I resisted out of some misplaced sense of decency.)
The entire article paints a grotesque, enraging, fucked up picture. Enjoy.