Author Archives: Brad Warthen

I’d forgotten Adolf Hitler was ‘woke’

McMaster et al applauding the Scout deal. Photo from Henry’s Twitter feed.

If I ever knew it, that is. Guess I need to go back and read my history some more, after reading this this morning:

Gov. Henry McMaster on Monday defended South Carolina’s $1.3 billion incentive deal with Volkswagen subsidiary Scout Motors after a group of conservative lawmakers this month criticized the company as “woke.”

Woke? Scout Motors? The subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group? Here’s how that company got started:

Volkswagen (meaning ‘People’s car’ in German) was founded in Berlin as the Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH (‘Limited Liability Company for the preparation of the German People’s Car’, abbreviated to Gezuvor) by the National Socialist Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Labour Front) and incorporated on 28 May 1937.[14][15][16] The purpose of the company was to manufacture the Volkswagen car, originally referred to as the Porsche Type 60, then the Volkswagen Type 1, and commonly called the Volkswagen Beetle.[17] This vehicle was designed by Ferdinand Porsche‘s consulting firm, and the company was backed by the support of Adolf Hitler.[18]

Whatever der Führer‘s role (and see the photo below), if you say a company got started in Berlin in 1937, the last word I think of is “woke.” Although there was, to be sure, an element of populism in the production of an affordable “People’s Car.” But as we all know, populism is a persistent feature of both the left and the right.

Folks, I can think of reasons to oppose this Scout deal, if you press me. But I can also think of a number of reasons to support it, and I suppose those win out.

But this “woke” business?

You learn something new every day. Or at least  I do…

1938: Hitler lays the foundation stone of the first Volkswagen plant…

Three approaches to a new Second Amendment

I was intrigued when I saw this headline this morning in The Washington Post: “What a new 2nd Amendment could look like.

But then, I was disappointed that Paul Waldman didn’t get into the actual wording of such an amended amendment. Fortunately, he told us where to look for one — or rather, for three:

The National Constitution Center made an attempt to rewrite the Constitution some time ago. Their conservative, liberal and libertarian experts came up with dramatically different answers on what a new Second Amendment would look like. Yet only the libertarians wanted virtually unlimited gun rights of the kind the courts are now creating; even the conservatives’ version made room for restrictions….

So I followed the link, and looked at the three different versions. Actually, there are three whole, separate constitutions there. If you have the time, you might want to peruse them. But in my renewed effort to keep posts brief, I just focused on the Second Amendment.

And as he said, the Libertarians looked at the mess that is our present amendment, and challenged themselves: How can we make this even crazier? I know! Remove any reference to a “well regulated Militia!” Libertarians, you know, hate to see anything be regulated. In fact, I’m a bit surprised to see them deigning to participate in drafting a constitution. Here’s their version:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Of course, the Progressive Constitution was all about some regulation, first and foremost:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms is subject to reasonable regulation by the United States and by the States.

And now, a drumroll for the Conservative Constitution, which says… hang on, I’m having trouble finding the Bill of Rights… OK, this is weird. The amendments we know are not presented as a Bill of Rights, and in fact are not presented as amendments (which I guess sort of makes sense, if you’re sort of starting over). They’re just blended in, awkwardly, in Section 12 of Article I:

Neither the States nor the United State shall make or enforce any law infringing the right to keep and bear arms of the sort ordinarily used for self-defense or recreational purposes, provided that States, and the United States in places subject to its general regulatory authority, may enact and enforce reasonable regulations on the bearing of arms, and the keeping of arms by persons determined, with due process, to be dangerous to themselves or others.

Whoa! And I thought the old one was hard to read, with the random commas scattered here and there. Good luck to any court trying to parse this baby. If we go for that one, we’re going to have to set up a bunch of new law schools.

Anyway, I just thought I’d throw those ideas out for discussion…

And if they all worked like this, even “progressives” would see little reason to regulate them.

Well, I hope you’re properly attired today

I met my daughter for lunch at Whole Foods, where she took this…

Well, I remembered just as I was going out the door for a rare trip downtown, and grabbed and donned the hat I’ve been after savin’ for this day.

As you know, since we went to Boston over the summer, my regular everyday hat (or one of them) is the one you see below, photographed in its natural habitat.

But later in the trip I popped into a shop in the downtown area and picked up the green one as well, but I haven’t worn it in public until now.

Here’s hoping you remembered, too. Happy St. Patrick’s Day…

The regular version in it’s natural habitat — or rather at the Charlestown Navy Yahd, with Boston in the background.

Images of USC campus as pandemic closed things down back in March 2020

Four days ago, my phone invited me to look back on pictures from that date — March 11 — in years past. So I did, and saw some pictures taken on what I suspect was my last walk around the USC campus and downtown Columbia in 2020, before we closed down the office for the duration of the pandemic.

Of course, I stayed home, but ADCO eventually ended up opening another office downtown, and some of my colleagues actually go there, but not every day. Sometimes we have our weekly meeting on Zoom and I see everyone’s there in the conference room; other times everyone’s at home like me.

I do my walking around my neighborhood, and on the elliptical, which is satisfactory to me.

But I did like walking around the campus, especially during summer and spring break when there weren’t all those people about. I felt a bit like a landed lord taking a turn through my private park. It was peaceful, and healthy.

But this day things were so peaceful, they were starting to feel a bit weird…

Below, you see:

  1. The Horseshoe.
  2. A copy of The Washington Post in Thomas Cooper library. Note that six were dead in the U.S. at that point. As you are probably aware, that number is now at 1,117,856. Or at least, it was on March 3. There was some cheery news, though, with other Dems lining up behind my man Joe.
  3. A sign on a rest room in Thomas Cooper library. Nothing like a dose of British pluck to help a chap deal with adversity, what?
  4. The seating area — or what normally would have been the seating area — in the food court area of the Russell House.
  5. Greene Street in front of the Russell House. Not really bustling that day.

Good thing we’ve got these smartphones, huh?

OK, technically this image is from my PC, not my phone, but you get the idea…

That’s that I said to my wife this morning: Good thing we’ve got these smartphones! Or pretty much any device with Google. (Or Microsoft’s Sydney, if you’re the adventurous type.)

This morning, after my shower (sure, I work from home now, but occasionally I do still take a shower), I was drying off and for the life of me, could not remember how many guitar pickers there were in Nashville. I was thinking it was 1,552, but I kept running it through my head, and I wasn’t at all sure about it.

Fortunately, my iPhone was right there on the cabinet where we keep the towels, so I didn’t have to wait until getting dressed and leaving the room to get my answer. Before I started shaving, I Googled it:

Nashville cats, play clean as country water
Nashville cats, play wild as mountain dew
Nashville cats, been playin’ since they’s babies
Nashville cats, get work before they’re two

Well, there’s thirteen hundred and fifty two
Guitar pickers in Nashville
And they can pick more notes than the number of ants
On a Tennessee ant hill…

And so forth. So I was like 200 git-tar pickers off. No telling what would have happened if I couldn’t have found out right away. My head might have exploded or something.

I don’t know what we did before having these phones, and Google. Well, I sort of know. I had a dictionary on my desk at the paper. I tried to avoid looking at it, and fortunately I’m good at spelling so I seldom had to. But occasionally I would think, “Is that really the word I want in this context?” and open it.

Well, that would be it for awhile. I’d look up that word, and the definition would contain another word that I just had to look up or bust. And something about that word would remind me of another one I hadn’t run into in awhile, and this suggested fond memories, and couldn’t resist looking that one up too for old times’ sake, and before you knew it, I’d have been darting here and there in that volume for 15 or 20 minutes, with deadline bearing down on me.

Of course, today we have Google and HTML links, which are among the most wonderful inventions in human history, and the problems I had back in the day with a mere dead-tree dictionary look pretty pitiful. Or at least quaint.

But it’s fun. Anyway, after looking up the Lovin’ Spoonful, I thought about taking a crack at Wordle, but resisted the temptation and went ahead and shaved. Discipline, baby, discipline.

Managing one’s time takes more willpower than our fathers e’er dreamed of…

What should have won, since 1976

Can you BELIEVE it wasn’t even nominated?

As y’all know, I love movies, and I used to care about the Oscars. I even made a point back in the day of seeing all the Best Picture nominees before the big night — and mind you, in those days that meant going to the theater and buying a ticket. But I stopped caring after the debacle of 1998. I knew the Academy’s judgments were random, whimsical, and dumb before that, but that was the last straw.

And since then, I haven’t seen any evidence that my 1998 judgment was wrong.

So while I generally ignored all the hoopla over the Oscars over the weekend, my attention was grabbed by this story in The Washington Post: “The Oscars always get it wrong. Here are the real best pictures of the past 47 years.

By the Post‘s critic’s standards (I’m using “critics” loosely here), that headline is somewhat misleading, since they occasionally agreed with the Academy’s judgment. And so do I. But in general, it states a truism.

I don’t know why they started with 1976, but since that is about when I started reviewing movies for The Jackson Sun, it works for me.

So I copied their list, and corrected it, by stating which was truly the Best Picture in these given years. You can thank me later. Oh, and to explain — especially in the earlier years, a huge criterion for me is whether it holds up. Is it as impressive now as it was then, or even more so? Do I think “Star Wars” was a great, profound cinematic statement? No. But boy, has it held up…

If I say “I dunno,” it’s because I didn’t see the nominated films — or saw one or two and was unimpressed, and wasn’t interested enough to see the others. You’ll see me do that a lot in the last few years. I’ve seen some good films over those years, but no really great ones — and of course I’ve felt far less obliged to go out and see them. I mean, I’ve got a nice HD screen in my house. I wait at least until they appear on a streaming service that will show them for “free.”

And no, I didn’t give this a lot of thought, and didn’t elaborate. I just saw it as a good topic for discussion. Or a bunch of such topics. If anyone engages, I’ll explain my choices.

My version of the list:

1976
Nominees: All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network, Rocky, Taxi Driver
Best Picture winner: Rocky
The actual best picture: All the President’s Men, OR Rocky. Quite a year.

1977
Nominees: Annie Hall, The Goodbye Girl, Julia, Star Wars, The Turning Point
Best Picture winner: Annie Hall
The actual best picture: Star Wars

1978
Nominees: Coming Home, The Deer Hunter, Heaven Can Wait, Midnight Express, An Unmarried Woman
Best Picture winner: The Deer Hunter
The actual best picture: The Deer Hunter

1979
Nominees: All That Jazz, Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away, Kramer vs. Kramer, Norma Rae
Best Picture winner: Kramer vs. Kramer
The actual best picture: Apocalypse Now, with a good word thrown in for Breaking Away

1980
Nominees: Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Elephant Man, Ordinary People, Raging Bull, Tess
Best Picture winner: Ordinary People
The actual best picture: Coal Miner’s Daughter

1981
Nominees: Atlantic City, Chariots of Fire, On Golden Pond, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Reds
Best Picture winner: Chariots of Fire
The actual best picture: Chariots of Fire

1982
Nominees: E.T. the Extraterrestrial, Gandhi, Missing, Tootsie, The Verdict
Best Picture winner: Gandhi
The actual best picture: E.T.

1983
Nominees: The Big Chill, The Dresser, The Right Stuff, Tender Mercies, Terms of Endearment
Best Picture winner: Terms of Endearment
The actual best picture: The Right Stuff, OR Tender Mercies

1984
Nominees: Amadeus, The Killing Fields, A Passage to India, Places in the Heart, A Soldier’s Story
Best Picture winner: Amadeus
The actual best picture: Amadeus

1985
Nominees: The Color Purple, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Out of Africa, Prizzi’s Honor, Witness
Best Picture winner: Out of Africa
The actual best picture: Witness

1986
Nominees: Children of a Lesser God, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Mission, Platoon, A Room with a View
Best Picture winner: Platoon
The actual best picture: Hannah and Her Sisters

1987
Nominees: Broadcast News, Fatal Attraction, Hope and Glory, The Last Emperor, Moonstruck
Best Picture winner: The Last Emperor
The actual best picture: Moonstruck

1988
Nominees: The Accidental Tourist, Dangerous Liaisons, Mississippi Burning, Rain Man, Working Girl
Best Picture winner: Rain Man
The actual best picture: Working Girl

1989
Nominees: Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, Driving Miss Daisy, Field of Dreams, My Left Foot
Best Picture winner: Driving Miss Daisy
The actual best picture: Field of Dreams

1990
Nominees: Awakenings, Dances With Wolves, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, Goodfellas
Best Picture winner: Dances With Wolves
The actual best picture: Goodfellas

1991
Nominees: Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides, The Silence of the Lambs
Best Picture winner: The Silence of the Lambs
The actual best picture: Oh, surely there had to be something better than these.

1992
Nominees: The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of a Woman, Unforgiven
Best Picture winner: Unforgiven
The actual best picture: Unforgiven

1993
Nominees: The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day, Schindler’s List
Best Picture winner: Schindler’s List
The actual best picture: The Piano

1994
Nominees: Forrest Gump, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption
Best Picture winner: Forrest Gump
The actual best picture: Four Weddings and a Funeral

1995
Nominees: Apollo 13, Babe, Braveheart, Il Postino, Sense and Sensibility
Best Picture winner: Braveheart
The actual best picture: Apollo 13. (The critics simply said “not that,” referring to the Mel Gibson film. They’re right.)

1996
Nominees: The English Patient, Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine
Best Picture winner: The English Patient
The actual best picture: Fargo

1997
Nominees: As Good as It Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential, Titanic
Best Picture winner: Titanic
The actual best picture: As Good as It Gets, OR Good Will Hunting

1998
Nominees: Elizabeth, Life Is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare in Love, The Thin Red Line
Best Picture winner: Shakespeare in Love
The actual best picture: Life Is Beautiful, OR Saving Private Ryan

1999
Nominees: American Beauty, The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense
Best Picture winner: American Beauty
The actual best picture: The Sixth Sense

2000
Nominees: Chocolat, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Gladiator, Traffic
Best Picture winner: Gladiator
The actual best picture: Gladiator, for the lack of anything better.

2001
Nominees: A Beautiful Mind, Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge!
Best Picture winner: A Beautiful Mind
The actual best picture: The Lord of the Rings, starring New Zealand

2002
Nominees: Chicago, Gangs of New York, The Hours, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist
Best Picture winner: Chicago
The actual best picture: Chicago

2003
Nominees: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, Seabiscuit
Best Picture winner: The Lord of the Rings
The actual best picture: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Duh.

2004
Nominees: The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Million Dollar Baby, Ray, Sideways
Best Picture winner: Million Dollar Baby
The actual best picture: The Aviator

2005
Nominees: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich
Best Picture winner: Crash
The actual best picture: Munich, or Capote

2006
Nominees: Babel, The Departed, Letters From Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen
Best Picture winner: The Departed
The actual best picture: The Departed

2007
Nominees: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood
Best Picture winner: No Country for Old Men
The actual best picture: Michael Clayton

2008
Nominees: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Picture winner: Slumdog Millionaire
The actual best picture: Gran Torino, which I can’t believe wasn’t nominated. Actually, yes I can.

2009
Nominees: Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air
Best Picture winner: The Hurt Locker
The actual best picture: The Hurt Locker OR A Serious Man

2010
Nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone
Best Picture winner: The King’s Speech
The actual best picture: The King’s Speech

2011
Nominees: The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse
Best Picture winner: The Artist
The actual best picture: Moneyball

2012
Nominees: Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty
Best Picture winner: Argo
The actual best picture: Lincoln

2013
Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Picture winner: 12 Years a Slave
The actual best picture: Gravity

2014
Nominees: American Sniper, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash
Best Picture winner: Birdman
The actual best picture: Dunno — despite the fact I saw most of these.

2015
Nominees: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight
Best Picture winner: Spotlight
The actual best picture: Brooklyn, OR Spotlight

2016
Nominees: La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Arrival, Fences, Lion, Hidden Figures, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water
Best Picture winner: La La — no, wait! MOONLIGHT!
The actual best picture: Manchester by the Sea

2017
Nominees: Call Me By Your Name; Darkest Hour; Dunkirk; Get Out; Lady Bird; Phantom Thread; The Post; The Shape of Water; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Picture winner: The Shape of Water
The actual best picture: Dunkirk

2018
Nominees: BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice
Best Picture winner: Green Book
The actual best picture: Dunno.

2019
Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Parasite
Best Picture winner: Parasite
The actual best picture: Jojo Rabbit (or anything, I’m sad to say, other than The Irishman)

2020
Nominees: The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, Minari, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Best Picture winner: Nomadland
The actual best picture: Dunno. Tried to watch both Mank and Trial of the Chicago 7, but didn’t get to the end of either.

2021
Nominees: Belfast, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, West Side Story
Best Picture winner: CODA
The actual best picture: Dunno.

2022
Nominees: All Quiet on the Western Front, Avatar: The Way of Water, The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, Tár, Top Gun: Maverick, Triangle of Sadness, Women Talking
Best Picture winner: Everything Everywhere All at Once
The actual best picture: Dunno, although I still plan to see All Quiet on the Western Front and The Banshees of Inisherin, soon as I can grab the time.

I had meant to post this over the weekend before the Oscars, but didn’t, and who cares? I didn’t have an opinion on this year’s…

Hey, I liked it when I reviewed it at the time, and it holds up.

Cool it on trying to start a run on banks, people

Like most days lately, I don’t foresee a lot of time today for blogging. So I’m just going to offer this, which I tweeted yesterday, as a topic for discussion:

About the time I posted that, I was somewhat comforted by the fact that the hourly NPR news summary started with this, far more consequential, story. Of course, the second story was further yammering about the banks.

Then, this morning, I was really dismayed to see the first screen of my Washington Post app covered with additional headlines about the banks.

We’re not having a general run and a national economic collapse yet, but keep pushing, everybody. Maybe if you keep trying, you can make the average person nervous enough…

Another song I should have paid attention to at the time

Almost 10 years ago, I put up a post headlined, “Top 12 Songs I Either Missed Entirely, or Didn’t Fully Appreciate at the Time.” I enjoyed looking back at it just now, although it filled me again with regret for the decades during which I had missed some amazing music.

This happened to me again the other day. I was looking for something else on YouTube, and it suggested I might want to watch the above video of The Moody Blues playing “Go Now.” I immediately remembered it was a great song and wanted to hear it, although I hadn’t known, or had forgotten, that it was by The Moody Blues. Another one of those bands I had been aware of but not really followed in the ’60s. And when I say “aware of,” I mean just barely. I immediately thought something along the lines of “oh, that artsy band with one of those two songs with ‘white’ in the title.”

Yes, to embarrass myself further, I can’t ever remember which is which between “Nights in White Satin” and “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” not for sure, until it gets going good — maybe not until I actually hear the title in the song. (Which means I recognize the Moody Blues song more quickly.) And I know even less about Procol Harum than about The Moody Blues. (But gimme a break on my confusion — don’t both songs have a similar atmosphere about them? They’re in a category together in my head.)

Anyway, once I know who it is, I can tell, and think, Yeah, this is what the “Nights in White Satin” group would have sounded like three years earlier, at the height of the British Invasion. (For you kids just joining us, in the 1960s, music and fashion changed so quickly, everybody went through an eon or two of cultural evolution each year. Today, everybody dresses and looks the same as they did 30 years ago.)

See how different they looked in 1967, boys and girls?

Oh, and speaking of the fact that this was 1964, I’ve thought of an excuse for why “Go Now” was dim in my memory — I didn’t hear it until a long time later. I was living in Ecuador at the time (from November 1962 to April 1965), and missed a lot of stuff. The Beatles had filtered down to us, and to some extent The Beach Boys, but that was about it.

Anyway, as I learned the other day, the song is more wonderful than I had dimly remembered from having heard in on oldie stations over the years. In fact, the thing that makes it so wonderful is that series of piano chords you hear over and over, so I’m hoping Phillip Bush will read this and explain to me the spell those chords cast.

The closest I come to having any musical insight into it is to recognize that it’s in a minor key. And I may be wrong about that. I think it’s F minor, but I got that specific detail from Googling, and there were dissenting opinions (don’t go trying to tell me about the “wisdom of the crowd”). But Phillip will know. I was just going by it having a minor-key feel.

But the story gets more interesting. I was so into in the song as I listened that I started reading about it online, and found that unlike “Nights in White Satin,” this was not originally a Moody Blues song.

You know the old story of pop music — of white guys making it big with black folks’ music? This is kinda one of those stories.

It was written by an American R&B man named Larry Banks. It was first recorded by his estranged wife Bessie Banks. She thought it was going to make her career, because it was getting some airplay. Then the Moody Blues released it, that that was pretty much it for major stardom for her. There’s this quote from her on Wikipedia:

I remember 1963 Kennedy was assassinated; it was announced over the radio. At the time, I was rehearsing in the office of Leiber and Stoller. We called it a day. Everyone was in tears. “Come back next week and we will be ready to record ‘Go Now'”; and we did so. I was happy and excited that maybe this time I’ll make it. ‘Go Now’ was released in January 1964, and right away it was chosen Pick Hit of the Week on W.I.N.S. Radio. That means your record is played for seven days. Four days went by, I was so thrilled. On day five, when I heard the first line, I thought it was me, but all of a sudden, I realized it wasn’t. At the end of the song it was announced, “The Moody Blues singing ‘Go Now’.” I was too out-done. This was the time of the English Invasion and the end of Bessie Banks’ career, so I thought. America’s DJs had stopped promoting American artists.[3]

Wikipedia sort of questions her details because the Moody Blues’ version didn’t come out until a year after hers. But, when it happened, I don’t doubt a bit that it was a moment of deep dismay for her. She and Larry were splitting up at the time, near as I can make out from looking it up. I sure hope she got some of the money. Come to think of it, I hope Larry got some money from the deal.

I don’t blame the Moody Blues for this at all. They heard a song that sounded good, covered it, and got rich and famous. It launched them to stardom. Although they didn’t do much to “make it theirs.” It’s very much the same as hers, down to those piano chords. They may have speeded it up slightly, à la “That Thing You Do.” But that’s about it.

For that matter, going to the larger historical trend, I don’t blame Elvis, either. Elvis was making the music that welled up out of him. He couldn’t help it that Sam Phillips saw him as the “white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel” he’d been looking for….

You want to blame somebody? Blame the white fans. (But don’t blame me on “Go Now;” I was in Ecuador.) But I do feel bad for Bessie Banks. Her version was great as it was. In both cases, though, I think the piano was a big part of what made it so…

On streaming British and European cop shows

“Murder in Suburbia:”

OK, I did it again. I was riffing on Doc Martin because Paul had brought him up, and got carried away on the topic of British and European cop shows, and decided to turn it into a separate post. This could be a Top Five list, or a couple of them, but I’ve got stuff to do and I don’t have the time. Anyway, here it is:

Oh, speaking of Doc Martin — you know the pretty dark-haired woman who plays his wife on that?

We’ve been watching and enjoying a good buddy-cop story that stars her. It’s called “Murder in Suburbia,” and she’s the more normal, straitlaced detective who is paired with a blonde who is a bit of a mess. (But this being TV, she’s also quite pretty — actually, that’s not a prerequisite so much on British TV, but she is.)

You can watch it on BritBox if you have that (and you should; it’s good). If you don’t, if you get the PBS Masterpiece add-on on Prime, I think it’s there, too.

As y’all know, my wife and I have been watching a LOT of Brit murder mystery/police procedural shows lately. (Two of the best we’ve watched in the last year or so — “McDonald and Dodds” and “Sherwood“) Sometimes we start watching one we don’t like, but most are good.

And we’ve been branching out to the continent lately, with German shows (“Luna and Sophie,” which has a very similar female-buddy-cop dynamic to Murder in Suburbia) and French ones — “Paris Murders,” “Astrid.”

The female-buddy-cop show is big across the pond — and across the Channel, in a number of languages. I recommend both “The Bay” and “Scott & Bailey.” My wife loves “Vera,” and I like it, too, but haven’t seen it as much. That’s not a female-buddy one, though. Vera works with guys up there on the Tyne.

“Astrid” is a twist on that buddy thing. In France, it’s called “Astrid et Raphaëlle.” Raphaëlle is the detective, and Astrid is the brilliant autistic criminal records keeper who becomes her friend and informal partner — the one who always has the insights that solve the crimes. Lately, that’s been my fave…

“Astrid et Raphaëlle.”

Jimmy Carter is going to die. So are we all.

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

In a scene from the television series Doc Martin, a scathingly curmudgeonly English surgeon turned primary care doctor, he is visited by an anxious preadolescent girl and her mother for the daughter’s minor complaint. After being given a cursory exam, the girl asks, “Am I going to die?” Doc Martin stares at her incredulously and retorts in hilariously untherapeutic but unassailably truthful fashion, “Yes, we all die.” The girl begins to cry as Doc Martin moves on to his next patient.

There are essentially three ways to approach Doc Martin’s response: full denial, full acceptance, and a usually unhappy middle ground. As a physician who spends part of his days seeing hospice patients, I have seen all three up close. This has led me to the conclusion that one of the most important decisions we can make in life is how we are going to conceive of our deaths. The meaning of life, said Kafka, is that it ends. So it is profitable that each of us have a reliable concept of where we are going.

When I talk about this subject with medical students, I don’t recommend a particular path (although, if asked, I tell them my Christianity frames my approach to death). Instead, I stress to them that they must find a path, through organized religion or some other framework, that provides them a way of understanding life and death. It is much easier for physicians to engage with patients and families about life-threatening illnesses if we have decided what happens to us when we die.

Over my thirty years of practice, I have seen hundreds of patients die. Each death is a blow, especially the unexpected ones. But when there is time to prepare, death can be beautiful. Such deaths require planning and support. That support is often in the form of hospice. That’s why I am so glad that Jimmy Carter chose to make public his decision to enter hospice care. Although his presidency was turbulent and his leadership uneven, his post-presidency has been remarkable, easily one of the best presidential second acts in American history. His choice of hospice will be his last exemplary act.

Hospice provides patients and families a much-needed embrace. We surround the patient with a team of experts who understand how human beings die. Dying can be hard work, as can watching a loved one succumb. It can be overwhelming without enough help. Having hospice team members to nurture and guide you can be shelter in the storm.

No other medical discipline is more rigorous in their team approach than hospice. Every patient is seen in their home by a nurse at least once a week, often more. Each team has a social worker and a chaplain who visit monthly or more if the patient wishes. The team member that is most appreciated is often the hospice aide who bathes, dresses, and provides other personal care to our patients. Their intimate, loving care of patients as they wash and reposition a frail human body is a balm for both the patient and the caregiver. Hospice volunteers are available to sit with, talk with, and read to patients, providing caregivers a brief respite. The team is led by a physician who provides oversight and visits patients when needed.

Choosing hospice is a recognition that death is near, which for some is a difficult bridge to cross. Those patients and families who approach death with fear and denial may, in so doing, deprive themselves of a rich and sustaining hospice experience. If you visit your primary care provider and think hospice might be appropriate for yourself or your family member, please ask (the criteria is a prognosis of six months or less). Some providers are hesitant to make a referral without a signal from the family.

Sometimes death comes quickly and hospice is not feasible. But in most cases, death can be anticipated and hospice can be called months in advance. This is the setting in which hospice works best. When the team members visit and call week after week, they become members of the family.

One of the ironic things about working in hospice is the disposition of my fellow team members. You might assume that people who work with dying patients all day would be in a permanent state of melancholy. However, the opposite is true. Perhaps there are some cynical hospice workers out there, but I don’t know any. Understanding death, it turns out, is key to enjoying life. At our weekly meeting there are often tears, but there is also laughter as we relate stories of funny things that team members, family members, or patients have said and done.

I grew up thinking that a deathbed was a place for hushed tones and whispering. But my team, my patients, and my families have taught me that the end of life is a profound experience to be savored and which can hold every emotion from intense sadness to side-splitting amusement. One of life’s sweetest moments is hearing a family member tell an amusing story about a dying patient which ends with the gathered doubled over. That kind of laughter is precious, for we know that our loved ones won’t be around to hear that story being told on them again.

So I encourage you, figure out what you believe about death. It will help you live better. And at the end, choose hospice.

A version of this article appeared in the March 8th edition of the Florence Morning News. Dr. DeMarco’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of McLeod Hospice.

We have indeed met the enemy, but he is not yet ours

Ross Douthat made a good point today, although it’s a depressing one.

In the column, “I’m What’s Wrong With the Humanities,” he brought up the subject addressed in a sobering recent piece in The New Yorker, “The End of the English Major.”

We all have shaken our heads over those stupid kids today who can’t seem to make their way through so much as a sentence of 19th-century prose:

Like all the others who managed to make their way through Nathaniel Hawthorne in high school, I read this with a mix of smugness and horror. Then, naturally, I‌‌ scrolled to the next declinist indicator, the next sign of the cultural apocalypse.

What I did not do was click through and read the whole Heller piece (though I have read it now, I swear it!). Even more conspicuously, I definitely did not go pick up a copy of “The Scarlet Letter” or any other 19th-century novel and begin reading it for pleasure.

“The answer to the question, ‘What is wrong?’ is, or should be, ‘I am wrong,’” G.K. Chesterton once wrote. And any response to the question of what’s happened to the humanities has to include the same answer. The Harvard undergraduates who can’t parse a complex sentence from the American Renaissance are part of the problem. But so is the Harvard-educated newspaper columnist and self-styled cultural conservative who regularly unburdens himself of deep thoughts on pop TV but hasn’t read a complete 19th‌ -century novel for his own private enjoyment in — well, let’s just say it’s been a while…

Oh, Douthat lets us know he’s started to read, say, Les Misérables, but only gotten a hundred or so pages into it. He has similarly failed with shorter works.

He cites some of the things that he lets get in the way: website browsing; looking at his iPhone, “even at a live performance;” and long-form television, an obsession he attempts to justify by talking up Golden Age TV’s supposed literary virtues.

I have to confess to all of those, plus:

  • The little work I do these days to pay the bills.
  • Naps, which fortunately I’m able to blame on my stroke.
  • My fitful blogging.
  • And other stuff…

So it is that, while I have boasted a number of times here about how awesome “Moby Dick” truly is, and how I’m reading it with great enjoyment and a commitment to finishing it, I have failed to get anywhere near the point at which they finally find the white whale.

I’ve been saying that since — well, since I was still working as a newspaper editor. That’s quite a while, in blog terms.

Douthat goes on from moaning about the problem to prescription, but I’m not sure how workable his medications are. For instance, he refers to a piece in the WSJ headlined, “College Should Be More Like Prison.” To be fair, the idea is more reasonable than it sounds — the author of that piece (which, alas, I cannot read, since I let that subscription lapse) was referring to things she has learned from teaching maximum-security inmates. But I find it hard to imagine it being a practical cure for the rest of us.

I’ve gone on and on about, for instance, what diving down the Rabbit Hole has done to our ability to think, and to have a functioning representative democracy. But that’s as far as I’ve gotten, and I’m still at the whiteboard working on the diagnosis. I await the inspiration that leads to a remedy…

These days people love to quote Pogo’s twist on a famous saying: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Which works in this instance.

But I’m thinking of the saying that Walt Kelly was playing on, from Commodore Perry: “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”

Perry had captured two ships, two brigs, a schooner and a sloop from the British at the Battle of Lake Erie.

I, for one, cannot yet claim that the current enemy is ours. In darker moments, I fear that we have struck our colors, and we are his…

Perry at Lake Erie

Has Ford sped past Tesla? This writer thinks so…

Admittedly, only 15,617 of these have sold, but that’s 15,617 more than the Cybertruck.

One of the greatest challenges I have on this blog is that I’ve largely lost interest in writing about the things that tout le monde is yammering about — the front-page stuff, which I usually find unbelievably repetitive and boring. But the world is still full of interesting things, things I’d like to discuss.

Unfortunately, the interesting ideas are usually here or there and coming from a single source. Which would have been fine back before newspapers figured out that their business was now online and that had to put up paywalls. (When I started blogging 18 years ago, that was not the case, except maybe for The Wall Street Journal.)

So when I see something I want to talk about, it tends to be in something I subscribe to, and others don’t.

That’s true of today’s topic, but I think I can summarize it easily enough to give everybody the idea. And I’ll try to quote from it within the vague Fair Use standard.

It was a “guest essay” in the Opinion section of The New York Times over the weekend, and it was headlined, “A 120-Year-Old Company Is Leaving Tesla in the Dust.” It’s written by Ezra Dyer, a columnist for Car and Driver magazine.

His point is that while everyone remains dazzled by Tesla, and while Elon Musk is making a spectacle of himself with his efforts to destroy Twitter, Ford has quietly sped past Tesla by such critical measurements as driverless and electric vehicles.

He starts off admitting that he once thought Tesla was the cool company, not only because it sold the only EVs you could drive for a reasonable distance without recharging, but also apparently because of the razzle-dazzle:

It made cars that performed animatronic holiday shows using their lights and power-operated doors. It came up with dog mode (a climate control system that stays running for dogs in a parked car), a GPS-linked air suspension that remembers where the speed bumps are and raises the car automatically, and “fart mode” (where the car makes fart sounds)….

But then, as a journalist covering the company, he started noticing that the people who worked there, his sources, were terrified to talk to him, being as evasive as spokesmen for a totalitarian government.

If you want to work for a flexible, modern company, you don’t apply to Tesla. You apply to 120-year-old Ford.

Tesla’s veneer of irreverence conceals an inflexible core, an old-fashioned corporate autocracy. Consider Tesla’s remote work policy, or lack thereof. Last year, Mr. Musk issued a decree that Tesla employees log 40 hours per week in an office — and not a home office — if they expected to keep their jobs. On Indeed.com, the question, “Can you work remotely at Tesla?” includes answers like, “No,” and “Absolutely not, they won’t let it happen under any circumstances,” and “No, Tesla will work you until you lose everything.”

But on the other hand, the cars make fart noises. What a zany and carefree company!…

More substantially, he noticed how Tesla lagged on the actual product front. He says Ford’s self-driving equipment is actually farther along than Tesla’s — and Tesla charges $15,000 for its feature that doesn’t fully work (he says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has referred to it with the charming words, “Full Self-Driving Software May Cause Crash“), on the premise that it may work sometime in the future. As for EVs:

Tesla’s long-promised new vehicles, like the Cybertruck and a new version of its Roadster, also keep getting delayed. The Cybertruck was unveiled in 2019, and on Tesla’s most recent earnings call Mr. Musk admitted that it won’t be in production this year, which is becoming an annual refrain. Sure, Ford sold only 15,617 electric F-150 Lightning pickups in 2022, but that beats the Cybertruck’s sales by, let’s see, 15,617…

Anyway, I thought all that was interesting. I don’t know that Tesla is slipping, but I’m impressed at what I read about boring ol’ Ford. I guess it helps not to have a, shall we say, problematic eccentric in charge. Although, of course, Ford once had that problem, too.

Personally, I drive neither a Tesla nor an F-150. But by way of full disclosure, I do drive a 2000 Ranger. It doesn’t do anything fancy. It’s a four-cylinder straight shift, and it doesn’t even have power windows. But it keeps running, and I hope it does so for years to come…

Meanwhile, I gather from the column, this model can make fart noises!

First Five Poems that Come to Mind

I like ol’ Edgar Allan, and I don’t care who knows it!

I was going to say Top Five, but that’s not accurate. More like the first five I could think of that I actually like.

I was recently interviewing a lady who writes poetry, and to have something to ask — since I’m not a person who thinks a great deal about poetry (which you will be able to tell from this list) — I asked who her favorite poets were. She named Robert Frost and several people I’ve never heard of.

That got me to thinking, well, what would mine be? And since evaluating a writer’s entire body of work is too much effort, I changed it to fave poems. And I’m pretty sure these five had come into my mind before the phone conversation ended.

None were by Frost. I mean, he’s good and all — I guess. I only know that one that everybody knows, and it’s fine. No, I mean those two that everybody knows. OK, those three. But none of those came to mind right away.

Here are the ones that did. Since one of them isn’t technically a poem, if I think of another to make up for it, I’ll give you six:

  1. Annabel Lee — At some point in my life, I learned that some people who are snobby about poetry (you know, English majors) look down upon Poe’s verse. As a fan since I was a little kid of his Gothic horror stories, I feel I must stick up for him. But I think “The Raven” is too obvious, don’t you? Barry would sneer at me if I picked that.
  2. Ballad of the Goodly Fere — I first read this in my college days at my uncle’s house, thumbing through an anthology he had. I was drawn to it because I had run across a lot of mentions of Ezra Pound in reading about Hemingway and such, but had never read anything by him. And I loved it. Mind you, this was at the time that “Jesus Christ Superstar” came out, and the Messiah tended to be depicted as a sort of wimpy hippy, so I appreciated the contrast of depicting him as a stronger, more working-class sort. I also enjoyed the dialect. Of course, it’s still the only thing I’ve read by Pound. We don’t tend to run into — or seek out, for that matter — a lot of stuff written by writers who are infamous for their fascist leanings. Or at least I don’t — there too much else to read. It’s still a good poem.
  3. La Belle Dame Sans Merci — Just to stick in one of the Romantics. I mention it not just because I have an avid interest in the Matter of Britain, and this has to do with a knight. It’s because, well, it inspired the worst nightmare of my life. This was also in my college days, and the shocking state of mind the dream produced caused me to get up, leave my dorm room and go sit on the floor in the well-lit hall until I could shake the spell. Fortunately, I got better. I can’t tell you the content of the dream. It was more of a vague horror, related to what the knight felt when “I awoke and found me here, On the cold hill’s side.” I’ve never been a partaker of hallucinogens, but it was like Aldous Huxley on mescaline, when he looked upon an ordinary chair and saw it as the Last Judgment. It was a moment of existential horror that defies easy rational description– little to do with knights.
  4. No Man is an Island — OK, this is the one that isn’t actually a poem, although it’s frequently quoted as one, since John Donne is the only famous metaphysical poet., and you often see it presented as a poem. And that’s not the title. It’s a part of Meditation XVII, which is in turn a part of a prose work called “Devotions upon Emergent Occasions.” My supposed title quotes the most famous line, or second most, if you count the one Hemingway turned into a novel title as leading the list. Anyway, if we count it as a poem, it’s definitely one of my favorites. Because, you know, it’s way communitarian.
  5. The Second Coming — Since Donne’s most famous work isn’t a poem, this may be my favorite — thereby confirming your impression that my taste in poetry is stunningly unoriginal and mainstream (although I tried to throw you there with Ezra Pound). It’s a contest as to which is more often quoted or paraphrased — this or the Donne thing. Hemingway went with that, and Joan Didion went with the Yeats. Well, a lot of people fall back on the Yeats these days. Maybe because it was written 104 years ago, but nothing written since goes as directly to the heart of what’s happening now in politics and society than “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,” or perhaps even better, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.”

Anyway, if we were ranking, and you counted the Donne piece as poetry, those last two would be my top choices. Stories about knights and ladies are all very well, but I like words to express ideas.

You’ll note they’re all pretty short poems. I love to read book-length prose works about the Matter of Britain, but don’t go expecting me to read a poem that long, Lord Tennyson. I still haven’t read The Iliad, for instance, and not just because I have no Greek. Poetry is too much work to read on and on.

Maybe I’ve been trained by pop songs. With Emily Dickinson, of course, it was hymns, and I think she was onto something.

Genealogy alert! So was my ancestor Thomas Wyatt the elder. He introduced to English a nice, short, disciplined form called the sonnet. Within a generation, William Shakespeare was making a name for himself with that form. I’m not really into sonnets (I prefer Will’s plays), but I respect the limits. Fourteen lines, baby, and that’s it. You’re done!

For that matter, I also enjoy haiku. And limericks

Yeats, rendered by another artist I like, Sargent…

A place to comment about Murdaugh

As y’all know, I’m one of maybe five people in South Carolina — and increasingly toward the end, the whole country (and even across the pond) — who were not totally absorbed in the Murdaugh trial.

But plenty of my friends — especially the ones who are lawyers — were, as were members of my family. Some watched the trial on telly from their law offices. Others actually went and sat there and watched it in person. (If you did that enough, they would let you get up and question a witness — I refer, of course, to Alan Wilson.) Most of them commented, many times, via social media.

As you see above, The Washington Post led with it this morning. So did The New York Times, at one point last night.

Even I was inspired to Tweet about it this morning:

O.J. said “One thing the jury must’ve seen is the guy’s a liar.” Yeah, O.J., I think a lot of people said that about a certain other trial back in the ’90s. (To be fair, I didn’t avidly follow that one, either, but as with this one, it was impossible not to know about it.)

Anyway, I thought I should provide a place for y’all to comment on this extended horror show. Have at it. Maybe I’ll join in…

My weather app is behaving like a B-movie mobster

Looking at my weather app to see what I should wear this morning — I’ve been switching back and forth the last couple of days between outfits one would wear six months apart in a sane universe — I saw something I’d never seen before.

I’ve seen advisories about poor air quality before, which warn that people with chronic respiratory conditions — people like me — should probably not spend time outside exerting themselves.

But this was new. I’d never been told the weather is “unhealthy.” Not that I recall. So I clicked for more info. (see image below)

Which was more startling. I’d definitely never seen a warning that “EVERYONE may begin to experience health effects.”

It went on to say that the problem was “particles” that “typically result from wildfires, smokestacks, bacteria, or small dust particles.” Which is not what I would call “specific.”

Wanting to narrow that down, I did something I seldom do — I turned to television weather. No, I didn’t turn on the TV and wait for something to come on telling me about the weather. I’ve never understood how anyone cares so much about weather that they’re willing to do that. I went to a TV station’s website, and called up the most recent weather report.

The guy went on and on and on about temperatures, and wind speeds, and yadda-yadda, and never once mentioned the quality of the air.

My wife assumes it’s the pollen I wrote about yesterday. And she’s out cleaning the deck wearing a mask.

Me, I’m going to do my 10,000 steps today on my elliptical trainer, right here in my home office.

But you know, I’d still like to know what it IS, and what about it caused the app to give me this unprecedented (as well as I can remember) advisory.

So far, it’s just behaving like a mobster in the protection racket in a B movie: “Ya oughta stay inside, if ya know what’s good for youse. Doin’ udderwise could be… unhealthy…”

What if everybody lived only with ‘people like me?’

This started as a response to the very end of a long comment by Barry, and it got sufficiently involved that I decided to make it a separate post:

This balkanization thing is pretty crazy. But it’s huge — people wanting to live only with people “like them,” however they define it. (I’ve always been puzzled by the concept. I look around and don’t really see any “people like me.” I just see people, with all their differences and quirks, and I prefer it that way.)

I was reading a column in the NYT tonight, taking off on the Scott Adams thing, “The ‘Dilbert’ Cartoonist and the Durability of White-Flight Thinking.” I don’t know if you read or heard this part of that story, but one of the things Adams said was, after essentially dismissing black folks as hopeless:

There’s no fixing this. This can’t be fixed. You just have to escape. So that’s what I did. I went to a neighborhood where I have a very low Black population…

Anyway, the column, by Charles Blow, went on to say that back in 2012, you could observe that cities had moved away from the white-flight mode to the point that they were more integrated than they’d been in a century. But over the next decade, things swung back the other way.

And of course, although Blow doesn’t address it, this desire to be with “people like me” extends far beyond race. People have been segregating themselves politically.

So what if we go to extremes, and split up the whole country the way you mentioned in Oregon? You’d have all the Trumpists in one part, and all the “enlightened” folks in the other. One would have a red flag, the other blue. Of course the red country would be run only by people who hate government, and don’t have the skills to do it anyway. Meanwhile, in the blue one, you’d have all these wonderful social programs financed by soaking the rich, and the rich would either lump it or move to the red country, where they’d find themselves without decent roads or schools or sanitation, and I don’t think they’d be happy. I don’t think anybody’d be particularly happy.

We need a mix of people. I think we’re all better off living in what Blow referred to as “a functional, egalitarian, pluralistic society.” A place where people may disagree and even yell at each other, but in the end understand that compromise and accommodation to other people who want other things is part of living together in something approaching sanity.

We used to have one of those. I miss it…

DeMarco: Worried About MTG? Don’t Be.

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Those of you who are avid readers of this column (yes, all three of you) may remember my writing a column with a similar headline about QAnon back in October. QAnon has pretty much run its course. MTG will be a little harder to get rid of, but please don’t worry about her.

For many, listening to Marjorie Taylor Greene is exasperating. She is often wrongheaded, facile, bombastic, and defensive. I don’t have enough space to recount all the ways Greene is unsuitable. They are well laid out on her Wikipedia page. Perhaps the most famous are her belief in QAnon and various other conspiracy theories, including that space lasers started California wildfires. She has been a vociferous champion of the lie that Trump won in 2020. Most disturbing was her statement opposing a peaceful transfer of power two days before the attack on the Capitol. She says on video “You can’t allow it to just transfer power ‘peacefully’ like Joe Biden wants, and allow him to become our president. Because he did not win this election. It’s being stolen and the evidence is there.”

She routinely calls journalists and opposing politicians “liars” and has mastered the simplistic, us-versus-them trash talk that has worked so well for Trump. In doing so, she has become the darling of the extreme right. In an inevitable response governed by Newton’s third law of social media, many Democrats are amplifying her as well, hoping to delude voters into thinking that she represents most Republicans.

In trying to understand Greene, I watched multiple interviews including one between her and CNN’s Jim Acosta in April 2022. It is an ambush sidewalk interview. Acosta questions Greene as she walks down a D.C. street about a tweet to Mark Meadows in the aftermath of January 6th. In the tweet, she raises the idea of Trump declaring martial law to avoid leaving office.

She defends herself vigorously. Her willingness to push back against those she and her supporters see as enemies has earned her a loyal following. Going toe-to-toe with a “fake news” reporter, calling him a liar to his face, is the MTG brand. She has a feisty, take-no-prisoners attitude that has replaced well-chosen words and sober deliberation as the currency of our nation’s politics. She feels Acosta has misrepresented the text and at one point says, “Why don’t you be honest for once?” But she doesn’t finish strongly. After some back and forth, she refuses to answer any more questions and walks away saying, “We’re done, we’re done, stop harassing me… leave me alone.”

The exchange left me feeling sad for Greene. She seems like a lonely, angry person whose career will mirror Sarah Palin’s – each has opted for transient political notoriety at profound personal cost. Palin and her husband divorced in 2020 after 31 years of marriage. Greene and her husband divorced in 2022 after 27 years.

So I would urge you, if you disagree with Greene, to recognize that she is unlikely to change and that you already know enough about her to predict most of her policy positions. Recognize that she is a second-term House member, a position with very little power. Yes, she was helpful to Speaker McCarthy but only because the Republican margin in the House is so small. With a larger majority, she would have been irrelevant. Remember that she’s well-liked by voters in Georgia’s 14th district. Her Democratic challenger in 2022 raised more than $15 million (a gigantic sum for a house race), much of it from out-of-state donors, and lost by more than 30 points. It was foolish for people outside the state of Georgia, most of whom knew nothing about her opponent, Marcus Flowers, to give him money. There was not a single clear-eyed person in the state of Georgia who felt that Flowers could win.

So I say to those donors, don’t waste your money until a credible candidate opposes Greene. And I say to all those of you outside of Georgia, don’t waste your mental energy on her. She has turned Teddy Roosevelt’s advice of “Speak softly and carry a big stick” on its head. She shouts “Liar!” at the president during his State of the Union, but she has no clout. Spend your precious mental resources elsewhere.

A version of this column appeared in the February 22nd edition of the Florence Morning News.

So, it’s April now, right?

Here’s what a section of my deck looked like yesterday. It’s supposed to be stained a very nice brown, by the way. And normally it is.

About a week ago, my wife saw a yellow stain on the brick of a corner of my mother’s house. She asked aloud whether the pollen had come already.

I dismissed the idea.

Now this…

So it’s April now, right?

Well, there goes the last funny comic strip

The last time I screenshot a Dilbert strip was on Nov. 23. This one spoke to me. Now, the cartoonist has spoken to us…

Y’all probably don’t remember, but about three years ago — having seen that The State was about to revamp its comics page — I posted something about the best and worst comics in the paper.

I did so in the sad context of lamenting that the heyday of actually funny, clever comics being long over. There’s been nothing on the page to get excited about since the very best went away in the mid-90s. But I said there were still two that were amusing — “Dilbert,” and “Overboard.”

Not that either was great, mind you. “Overboard” had been great, but had lost a lot of ground. Still, it was enjoyable. I had never been particularly a fan of “Dilbert,” but I recognized its strengths — and it had maintained those strengths over the years. I also put in a caveat about the creator’s problem of mixing in politics in ways that made you doubt his sanity.

That has now come to the fore, big time. But to finish my anecdote… I had intended to follow up that post with an assessment of the new strips once The State unveiled them, but I found it too depressing. They were uniformly awful. Not only that, but they killed “Overboard.” I’ve still looked at the comics page in the paper regularly, but only at “Zits,” “Peanuts” (which just posts strips created many decades ago by a long-deceased cartoonist, which shows you how desperate I am, and how sad the situation is), and “Dilbert.” Yeah, I make myself glance over the rest frequently, hoping something will surprise me with cleverness or originality, but that doesn’t happen. Ever.

And now this. I suppose Scott Adams’ self-destructive streak just wasn’t satisfied, and he felt the need to take it to a new level. I can’t begin to guess what prompted him to do that. No, I don’t think this is a case in which a closet racist has inadvertently exposed himself. This is a guy who has a history of saying and doing things in the political sphere that cause a WTF? response in other people. And I guess he hadn’t gotten enough attention lately to suit him. Or maybe he was sick of drawing strips and wanted to go out in a spectacularly awful way. In any case, it seems clear he knew what he was doing.

So, you know, goodbye, Scott Adams. And if you doubt that he has completed lost it, this might convince you: Elon Musk is defending him.

Oh, did you think I was going to defend Adams, going by that headline? No.

But as someone who used to go to the comics page with some enthusiasm, back when there was “Calvin and Hobbes” and “The Far Side,” I’m sorry there isn’t anything with a funny edge to it left. Bill Watterson and Gary Larson chose to go out with great dignity. Adams chose the opposite route…

DeMarco: What Christians Can Learn from Humanists

The Op-Ed Page

Bart Campolo

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

The first time I heard the term “secular humanism” many decades ago, it was in a negative context. I translated it as “angry atheist” and stored it in my mental junk drawer along with other assorted concepts I wasn’t sure merited further investigation.

Humanism reemerged as something to consider when I came across the story of Bart Campolo. Bart is the son of Tony Campolo, a progressive Baptist preacher and former spiritual advisor to Bill Clinton. Bart entered the family business as a spellbinding evangelist and founder of Mission Year, an urban ministry focused on improving the lives of young people. Through his twenties and thirties his faith eroded and he now rejects anything supernatural. In 2016, he started a podcast called Humanize Me. I’ve listened to dozens of episodes and, despite the trauma of his public deconversion, he remains a charismatic, insightful, and loving human being.

The trouble with humanism, Bart admits, is that it’s hard to gather a community around a belief system grounded in this world and not in the next. He has been able to generate a faithful online following but the idea of a humanist church has not been a galvanizing one. Bart attempted to start an in-person community in Cincinnati called Caravan, which, based on the website, appears defunct. But the four founding principles of Caravan are profound: building loving relationships, making things better for others, cultivating awe and wonder, and worldview humility.

Christians are familiar with the first three precepts but not the last. Most Christian churches, though not all, practice the opposite, what might be called worldview hubris. We are sure we have found the way to heaven and we’re doubly sure it’s the only way.

A couple thoughts about our certainty. First, the math of our proposition doesn’t seem compatible with a loving God. I suspect, when creating the universe, God knew that many of us would not be Christian (currently Christians make up about a third of the world’s population). Would God knowingly create a world in which so many of his children would miss the mark? Many Christians say they believe this, pointing to verses like John 14:6 in which Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” However, few are moved to invest time or money evangelizing the lost. According to the missionary organization The Traveling Team, for every $100,000 that Christians make, we give $1.70 to the unreached.

I respect those who believe Jesus is the only way. If you interpret the scriptures literally, you have a strong case. My view is that the Bible is authoritative but not inerrant. In John 14, Jesus also says “The Father is greater than me” (verse 28) and “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (verse 11). The message I get from the whole of John 14 is that belief in the Father is the critical piece. If you define God as Love, as almost all religious people do, then loving God by loving others is our highest obligation. If love is at the center of Christianity rather than belief in Jesus, we no longer are forced to be exclusive.

Again, I realize this is not the standard interpretation of the Bible preached from most pulpits. Nor am I a theologian. However, decades of Bible study and worship have shown me the hazards of an exclusive Jesus.

First, it instills an oppositional mentality. It’s us (the saved) among them (the lost). It’s virtually impossible not to pity or fell superior to people whom you believe have made a choice that will haunt them for all eternity.

Second, it can make us solipsistic. Why waste time dealing with people who are different from us and are dammed to hell anyway? Most churches are demographically homogenous – far more so than our cities, towns, or workplaces. The temptation to retreat into the cocoon of one’s comfortable church circle is strong.

Third, it makes us afraid. We worry that there is something wrong with “those people” who either worship differently or don’t worship at all. We fear becoming close lest their foreign ways lead us astray.

Last, it makes us incurious. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and peoples of the world’s many other faiths (and no faith) have traditions that can add to our understanding of the world. Many years ago while visiting Tucson, Arizona, I came upon a group of Buddhist monks meticulously crafting a sand mandala. These flat, intricate sand sculptures take groups of monks days or sometimes weeks to construct. Once completed, they are carefully dismantled, symbolizing the impermanence of the material world. The monks’ egoless devotion to their task, which they complete in silence, and their willing acceptance of the mandala’s destruction has no parallel Christian ritual but has been a lifelong inspiration to me.

I had a Jewish patient who taught me a deeper understanding of the concept of shalom. I had a Muslim student who taught me the discipline of Ramadan. We Christians have our own array of deeply meaningful traditions, but we must allow the possibility that we don’t have a lock on the Truth.

The Caravan website reminds us how most of us come to our world view: “(M)ost of our ideas and convictions are inherited from other people and/or conditioned by circumstances beyond our control. In other words, we are well aware that if our lives or brains were different, then our worldview would be different too, and we’d be using different arguments to defend it.”

When we meet someone of a different faith, our choices include conversion, consternation, or curiosity. Choose wisely.

A version of this column appeared in the February 3rd edition of the Florence Morning News.