Very quick Open Thread for Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Who knew the era of the Mercury Program was such a bummer? I was there, and didn't notice.

Who knew the era of the Mercury Program was such a bummer? I was there, and didn’t notice.

Been super-busy lately what with Lent, Easter, and basketball — not to mention work — but here are some items I’ve meant to do separate posts about:

  1. America Has a Ruling Class — And that’s a good thing, if I remember correctly from reading this way last week. An excerpt: “There are good reasons to be skeptical of career politicians and entrenched elites. Even when they don’t have all the answers, outsiders can draw attention to unrecognized problems. That skepticism becomes dangerous, though, when it pits an unconventional affect and good intentions against the practical demands of governing. The defining task of politics isn’t to speak truth to power. It’s to use power to achieve shared goals.” Yep. And thank God Joe Biden is now our president. It’s worth a read.
  2. When the Pandemic’s End Means the Return of Anxiety — Yep. I happily — but briefly — hugged some of my grandchildren on Easter. But beyond that, I can do without a return to “normal,” and all that hurrying about, going places, having to eat out (which to me is a burden), go to social events, and such. I haven’t had time to put the post together, but maybe this NYT item can kick off a conversation. Oh, dang. It’s WSJ. Huge firewall. OK, I may have to post about it later, but it’s much on my mind now.
  3. The Right Stuff Grounded After One Season on Disney+ — Hey, I’m surprised it made it this far. I am a fanatic for Wolfe’s book, and for the original movie, which utterly stunned me by so effectively putting on film something that was mostly about Wolfe’s narration style. By contrast, I don’t think anybody affiliated with this depressing TV series — which doesn’t even have Chuck Yeager in it! — ever so much as glanced at the book. Watch this, and you won’t ever get the sense that we were once an amazing country that did amazing things. You’ll just be bummed out. Who knew the Mercury program was such a downer?
  4. The woman being blamed for blocking the Suez Canal — Look, I’ve read the Aubrey-Maturin books, so I know that every British sailor during the Napoleonic Wars knew there was nothing more unlucky than having a woman on board a ship, except maybe leaving port on a Friday. Might as well have a Jonah aboard. Oh, it’s OK to bring along the gunner’s wife maybe, as long as she doesn’t look like Mrs. Horner in The Far Side of the World. And here the Egyptians went and put a woman in command of a ship! (And she even looks kind of like a Mrs. Horner, to me — see below.) What did they expect? How powerful is the bad luck generated by such a mistake? I’ll tell you: This woman commands a completely different ship, and it was hundreds of miles away from the Ever Given at the time, and this bad thing still happened. So now you know why it happened. So, lesson learned.

That last one will probably get me in enough trouble, so I’ll just stop now….

The captain being blamed -- even though she wasn't there.

The captain being blamed — even though she wasn’t there.

63 thoughts on “Very quick Open Thread for Tuesday, April 6, 2021

  1. Doug T

    No mention of Holderman death? Saw an article where The Greenville News and The Charlotte Observer were credited with exposing his excesses. No mention of The State.


    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Wow, talk about a blast from the past!

      I’ll answer that in three parts…

      First, this wasn’t really a news-oriented Open Thread. Usually when I do one, my first step is to call up all the main papers I read — 7 or 8 of them, in separate tabs — to look for current topics. Didn’t do that this time. I had a bunch of stories — mostly opinion pieces — I had emailed myself over the last few days, and decided to make a thread out of those before cleaning out the In box. So… I guess you could have chosen almost any prominent story of recent days, and there’d have been “no mention” of it.

      Second, I HAD remembered seeing the Holderman headline in the paper the other day, but really didn’t have anything to say about it. I had two main reactions at the time: I hadn’t known he was still alive, and his death — not to be unkind — didn’t mean that much to me. It had meant a lot to me when his wife died, suddenly and tragically, about 10 years ago. But she was a friend of mine — I had gotten to know her sometime after she and her husband had split, when we were serving on a board together. I didn’t know Jim Holderman, and never had any dealings with him, before or after his time at USC.

      Finally, and here’s the part that actually answers your question…

      Word on the street back in the day — and to this day — is this: The Charlotte Observer and the Greenville paper went after Holderman, and The State didn’t. It’s more complicated than that, but I’m not going to get into it in detail, because that simple impression has its basis in fact.

      Before I came to work at The State, it already had a national black eye for having missed this story. Yes, the embarrassment had gone across the country in journalism circles. I’d heard about it and read about it before I came. Holderman would continue to be president of USC for three years after I got here, and only really toward the end did The State get really aggressive on the story. I was involved pretty heavily in those investigations at the end, although I don’t take any particular credit for it. Anyway, from what I heard (indirectly, because I was still a lower-level assigning editor and not involved with senior management), Holderman was alarmed by what we were doing, and came to have a talk with the editorial board. He wanted to get the paper to back off. He was told that wasn’t going to happen. A few days later, he resigned.

      I’m not trying to get you to applaud The State for that. It had plenty to live down from earlier, and was working hard to make up for it, developing angles on Holderman that broke new ground. Some of us were very anxious to erase memories of what had gone before — but that wasn’t going to happen. Basically, you have to take all that happened over a number of years into account.

      Over those years and beyond, I got to know pretty much all the people involved in this story, from senior people at The State during that time to folks like John Monk, who co-wrote The State’s story about Holderman’s death. John was probably THE reporter, more than any other involved, most credited for having pursued the Holderman story relentlessly. For years, Holderman was sort of his Great White Whale. It’s very much a part of John’s legend.

      So why is John Monk at The State now? Because I hired him away from The Charlotte Observer in 1997. John’s a longtime friend, and so are some of the senior people at The State who are seen as having dropped the ball. I respect them all, and accept their strengths and their weaknesses, as you do with friends.

      Anyway, I didn’t mean to go on like that, but I hope I answered your question…

  2. Bryan Caskey

    MLB moved the All-Star Game from Atlanta, GA because of the “Jim Crow” law (that’s the description according to President Biden) and it’s now being held in Denver, CO.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Atlanta has the advantage over Denver for me because I can drive there in 3.5 hours.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Here’s a question about that: Does anybody, other than merchants in Atlanta, really CARE where the All-Star game is played?

      I mean, it’s not a real game. It doesn’t count for anything. It’s a break in the Major League schedule. Baseball stops, they have the All-Star game, and then baseball resumes.

      I can’t begin to tell you where it was last year — or the year before, or any other year.

      Because it just doesn’t matter.

      I say that not to belittle MLB’s objections to absurd effort by Georgia lawmakers to “fix” a problem that doesn’t exist, to repair processes that aren’t broken, except in the twisted mind of Donald J. Trump.

      That matters. But where they play this non-game does not….

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And you know, it’s quite likely that each player in the All-Star “game” DOES have his own personal masseuse. Not masseur. Masseuse….

        That’s how ridiculous it all is, in the large scheme of things…

      2. Bryan Caskey

        The location of the All-Star game matters a great deal to the fans in the general area who were planning on attending. For instance, I was going to take my son and see all the great players. It was going to be a fun weekend. Now it’s canceled. It’s an easy drive to Atlanta from here for me.

        Don’t tell my son it doesn’t matter.

        1. Mark Stewart

          All-Star games are perfect for kids.

          Hey, this way kids in the west will now get to go. That won’t make your son any happier though.

  3. bud

    Just now watching Lindsey defend the reprehensible voter suppression law in GA. He even jumped on Biden for (correctly) referring to the law as the new Jim Crow. And of course we have the hypocrisy of Republicans slamming cancel culture while calling for boycotts. These people have no shame. Lindsey Graham has always been a disgusting little weasel but he’s gotten even worse over the last 5 years.

    1. bud

      And just for a bit of comic relief individual 1 was caught with a Diet Coke on his desk while he’s calling for a boycott of Coca-Cola. He clumsily tried to hide it but failed spectacularly. Moron.

  4. bud

    The. Chauvin trial was very boring today. One juror even fell asleep. I only watched about an hour of it. The prosecution does not need to drag this out. I’m predicting a manslaughter conviction. Not a just outcome but about the best that can be expected against a cop.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      I watched the first episode last night on the PBS app. As always, Burns is a master story-teller. I haven’t read much Hemingway, so I am learning a lot.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Well, this is a mess for me. On Monday, I figured, “I’ll watch basketball tonight, then watch tonight’s Hemingway episode on Tuesday night, and I’ll be caught up and ready to watch the second episode next week…”

        Except the next episode was on Tuesday night, when I had planned on watching the Monday one. I tuned in last night, and we were already in the Spanish Civil War, and he was already moving on to wife No. 3.

        So now I’m all messed up.

        Not sure I’m going to enjoy it anyway.

        I was a HUGE Hemingway fan when I was young. Something I was known for. I was mentioned in the college annual, on the page about the newspaper staff, and I was described as the “Hemingway nut.”

        But even then, I was torn between my love of his writing and the fact that, as a person, he was kind of a jerk.

        And what I saw kept reminding me of the latter. And since I haven’t reread Hemingway lately, I don’t have the good part to balance that out — although they’re reading some good bits on the Burns show….

        1. Norm Ivey

          My favorite Hemingway story is A Clean, Well-lighted Place. If I ever open a pub, that’s what I’m going to name it.

          I can’t explain its appeal. It left an impression at first reading that has persisted do 40 years…

          I’m looking forward to seeing the documentary. I’ve not started it yet.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            That one is wonderful. It’s depressing in its theme — “nada y pues nada…” — but it’s so beautifully written. His talents on fully display…

            Remember when you open your place that…

            It is the light of course but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want music….

  5. bud

    Well the defense in the Chauvin trial played the race card. They suggested that a black man can have super human strength that would pose a threat to 4 cops while handcuffed and lying face down on the pavement! The plan is to convict one racist jurist that Floyd posed a risk. Disgusting but predictable.

    1. Randle

      Another get-out-of-jail card the defense keeps putting on the table:
      “Angry” or “agitated” black people distracted the four policemen from George Floyd’s deteriorating condition by pointing it out to the officers repeatedly and with increasing desperation.
      The defense apparently hopes the image of justifiably “angry” or “agitated” black people witnessing a death is more alarming than that of Chauvin casually kneeling on the dying man, hand in pocket, ignoring the man’s cries or onlookers’ pleas for him to stop.

  6. bud

    The ever disgusting Mitch McConnell has weighed in on corporations taking a stand on political issues. Stay out of politics but by all means keep send Republicans money. Mitch is nothing but a caricature.

  7. Bill

    Too many better documentaries out there to give Burns undue attention esp with American writets
    Patently vague and boring

      1. bud

        Not a documentary but a fantastic mini series I highly recommend is the Queen’s Gambit. A rare series that illustrates the chess world in the 1960s. I wouldn’t change a thing.

  8. Barry

    Well, I finished the Hemingway documentary last night. I thought it was fantastic.

    Kudos to Burns and his team for being able to get access to Hemingway’s home in CUBA. When watching, I assumed that was a re-creation but in the “aftershow” they mentioned they had access to film in his home in CUBA – which was left in the condition it was when he had to abandon the home.

    Ironically, he worried about his possessions there being stolen/gone forever – and they were left as is- right down to his toothbrush on the bathrooms sink.

    PBS also previewed the upcoming Burns treatment of Muhammad Ali coming in September. It looked terrific. I do hope they cover Ali’s awful mistreatment of Joe Frazier though.

    Speaking of Ali – One Night in Miami – on Amazon – is very, very good. I am a huge Sam Cooke fan so that’s what initially captured my attention. Leslie Odom. Jr (of Hamilton fame) played Cooke perfectly. Odom is a great singer too. My wife and I really enjoyed it.

    1. Barry

      BTW- in the closing credits of One Night in Miami, Odom sings a song he co-wrote – Speak Now – which is a good song and sounds as if it could have been a Sam Cooke song.

      Near the end of One Night in Miami, Odom recreates Cooke singing – A Change is Gonna Come – on The Tonight Show. Odom sounds like Cooke. Remarkable performance.

      More info about that performance –

      1. Bryan Caskey

        I really enjoyed One Night in Miami. I thought the most interesting character was Jim Brown.

        1. Barry

          He was the most conflicted for sure. It seemed like he really wasn’t in on the struggle as defined by Macolm X.

          Jim was popular, well off, and had an acting career he wanted to pursue. He had been treated bad – but also knew he had a lot of power already.

          I’ll likely way off but that was the way the movie presented it to me.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’ll have to check that out since y’all are praising it. I hadn’t watched it yet because I felt like it was maybe a bit gimmicky, since it’s about real people, but about a get-together that never actually happened.

          But I’ll tell you one thing that impressed me about the previews I’ve seen (not the long previews, the short ones Amazon plays at the beginning of other things you watch on Prime): They keep showing split-second (like, just three or four frames) of Clay/Ali in the ring, and each time I do, they make me think, “That’s really him!” It’s probably just super-artful editing. You don’t really get to see the face, so the illusion isn’t spoiled. I’m thinking they managed to find split-seconds when the movement, the fighting style, look just like the original, so you get a little subliminal rush of recognition.

          Unless, of course, those are actually clips of Ali, and you can’t tell that for sure because it’s so quick.

          Either way, it’s pretty effective…

          1. Ken

            “about a get-together that never actually happened.”

            Actually, the get-together did happen: on February 25, 1964, at the Hampton House Motel in Overtown, FL.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Did you change email addresses again, or enter it incorrectly? That can do it sometimes. The other day, somebody got held for misspelling his own name. I won’t say who…

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      And I still don’t know why.

                      Very weird. I looked back and see no difference between comments several days ago — which were not being held — and these.

                      Just suddenly — yesterday, I think — they started being held…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Turns out you’re right!

              I had seen that the story was “fictionalized,” and I took that to mean that the meeting itself didn’t happen. I assumed it was a “what if?” kind of plot — sort of what if all these cultural icons got together that night?

              One reason I assumed that was that it was hard to imagine — based on the guy I know mainly from the Autobiography — that Malcolm would want to spend an evening hanging out with a couple of athletes and a popular singer in a hotel room. He just never struck me as a “partying with the celebs” guy. So I thought some writer had thought, “But wouldn’t it be interesting if he HAD?…”

              But no, it happened. And the next morning, Clay announced he was converting to Islam. Which might explain why Malcolm was interested in meeting with him. And maybe also with the other celebrities.

              That was at a fascinating moment for Malcolm. It was right when he was splitting off from the Nation of Islam, right before he went on his Hajj. He was about start his own group.

              Anyway, apparently the “fictionalized” part I had read referred to what that the dialogue during the meeting was supposition…

              1. Barry

                It was no party.

                The movie makes it clear that X wanted a discussion, the other guys wanted a party.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Yes, I see that from the LONGER trailers that I found on YouTube, when I was looking for something to illustrate the point I made of those clips of Clay fighting…

        3. Brad Warthen Post author

          “I thought the most interesting character was Jim Brown.”

          Interesting, maybe… but morally defensible? I confess I felt some ethical qualms when he dropped the grenades down the vents on those trapped Nazis, especially with some of the folks down there being women and other civilians….

          Oh, wait! Wrong movie

          Actually, for a reader of the novel, Jim Brown’s character in that was kind of disappointing. In the book, he was a fascinating character, who is explored more than anyone other than Reisman (the officer who forms and trains the Dirty Dozen) himself. He was an intellectual, a college graduate at a time when so few were, black or white. He and Reisman have philosophical debates. He was the one who had been an officer — not Wladislaw like in the movie (Charles Bronson). He had been in command of a black unit, and ended up killing a redneck soldier who attacked and nearly killed him. Unfortunately, he killed him long after he had recovered from the attack, which is why he was in prison.

          But in the movie, there’s none of that. Brown hardly got any lines at all. His character was so different that they gave him a completely different name. The former officer in the novel was Napoleon White. In the movie, Brown played someone named Robert Jefferson.

          But he did get to sprint across the courtyard and blow up the Nazis…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            OK, this is cool. I’ve read supposition in the past about what inspired Nathanson to write The Dirty Dozen. I’d even heard there was something called the Filthy Thirteen.

            But I’ve never read this much specific information about them. It even names them.

            Apparently, they were just discipline cases, not condemned murderers like some of those in the novel…

      2. Randle

        Leslie Odom Jr. nailed Sam Cooke. He’s up for Best Supporting Actor and Best Song at the Oscars. I’m betting on Daniel Kaluuya though. for “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
        His song is good, too, but the academy only seems to factor quality in only occasionally. That should win, but then there’s Diane Warren’s song…, I will bet on Odom here.
        Oscars are my March Madness, but different months.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Maybe now that the Hemingway thing is over I can go back and watch it from the beginning. I hope the PBS app will let me do that. I’m frequently disappointed by things not being available there when I expect them to be…

        1. Ken

          Though Boroughs wasn’t a man of small doses, he’s easier to take that way.
          Like in this old number by Laurie Anderson:

            1. Bill

              I did and album cover for Alfred Harth who gave Burroughs his first art exhibit in Berlin way back when
              It All connects..

  9. bud

    A distinguished forensic pathologist is being cross examined by Chauvin’s attorney. Her testimony for the prosecution was devastating.

  10. bud

    I guess no one is particularly interested in discussing the multiple murders in Rock Hill. Seems like a pretty damning incident for the mental health impact from playing football.

    1. Mark Stewart

      It may be that we are getting close to understanding the reality of brain injuries and their impacts on players. If his autopsy shows significant damage, that might be a game changer.

  11. Brad Warthen Post author

    Looking back…

    I see we had a pretty good discussion here — several of them, really…

    But no one seems to have been terribly interested in the topics I raised in the original post. I suppose this can happen when I don’t talk about things in the news, but instead mention things that have been on my own, somewhat damaged, brain.

    Thing is… lately I’ve found it hard to get terribly interested in the breaking stuff out there. I mean, now that we’ve made it through the worst of the national crisis of the last few years, and a normal, decent person is in the White House, I feel like I’m free to think about stuff other than politics. I mean, Joe’s got it covered.

    National politics, I mean. I could talk about state politics some, I guess. In fact, at this moment I’m thinking about one about Henry. I might post it today. But then I think, what’s the point? I made the argument as strenuously as I could that we needed someone else to be our governor (someone far better, someone who would actually have used the office to try to make SC a better state), and y’all (I mean the majority of y’all out there) didn’t listen, so what more is useful to say?

    But I guess I’ll post the Henry thing when I get a minute. I might also post something about the results of the MRI of my brain I had the other day, just before the anniversary of my stroke. The results were somewhat disappointing, even insulting. The report keeps saying that what the MRI showed was “unremarkable”…

    But of course, that latter one wouldn’t fit in the category of “news” either, would it?

    1. Ken

      State politics? How about the House passing the so-called “Constitutional carry” bill?
      Which your favorite representative, Micah Caskey, not only voted for, he sponsored and spoke out publicly in favor of. Is this what one of those “good, reasonable” Republicans you keep promoting is like??

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        You got held again; I don’t know why.

        I just realized Micah was involved with that — my wife asked me about it a day or two again. I need to reach out to Micah and ask him what’s going on…

        1. Ken

          Caskey was quoted in a piece in The State on April 7.

          Scoppe’s op-ed in today’s Post and Courier reviews how “the past 25 years have been a headlong rush to further liberalize our gun laws,” eventually leading a majority of the House to this extreme end of the nuttiness spectrum.
          There are no acceptable excuses for it.

    2. clark surratt

      You know this story, I’m sure:
      Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean got hit in the head with a fast ball.
      Headline two days later in Post Dispatch:
      “X-rays of Dizzy’s head show nothing.”

    3. bud

      We’re all interested in different things. I’m extremely interested in the Chauvin trail. The Queen’s Gambit is the best mini series of all time. And the shootings in Rock Hill have, in my humble opinion, significant implications beyond the horrible tragedy of 6 deaths. But like Brad’s offerings my interests are not broadly shared. This divergence of what interests people seems to be growing post Trump. And that is a good thing.

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