Tuesday


7
Jul 20

There’s audio here and I would be appreciative of your listening

No Phoebe and Poseidon on Monday? No. We had other cats to feature. I also had to do my work in the actual building on Monday. And the world has gone mad.

I was going to make that joke. But the local world has actually gone mad. There’s a banner on an overpass right now that says “A man was almost lynched” because a man here was almost lynched. There’s a video of the confrontation. A putrid, two minute and several seconds video of it.

So, last night there was a demonstration downtown about this troubling weekend event, as you might imagine. Someone chose to drive a car through some people. One or two people were hurt. One of them apparently mildly. The other was treated at a local hospital and released with a reported head injury. I’m also hopeful they’ll address arresting the driver of the car that did this terrible thing.

There’s certainly evidence. But there’s evidence of both, isn’t there? You can see it. I’m not putting any of that here, but it is out there if you want it, and it is all repugnant.

This is the thing about video: someone will always say “You don’t see what happened before the video.” And that’s a true and powerful insight you have there. What a keen legal mind you have. This is the real thing about video: no matter what happened before someone whipped out their phone and got the camera up, no action calls for what is seen before the unblinking eye.

At least one of my students was out there reporting. Apparently eye witnesses say the driver ran several red lights. So, in other words, done deliberate. And I’m really stuck on this part: one of my students was out there.

So vehicular assault in broad daylight, that ought to go somewhere, one assumes. One also assumes that state officials, the appropriate authority for where the almost-lynching confrontation happened, will figure out the threatened or attempted lynching. But they haven’t managed to do that yet, despite, you know, daylight video and plenty of incriminating evidence like work shirts, prominent tattoos and faces.

Madness.

But the FBI came down to look into the first crime, too. This was announced at this evening’s demonstrations which were, seemingly, much more peaceful for everyone.

So we’re having Phoebe and Poseidon on Tuesday this week.

Poseidon should also get a name for his love of cabinets. Cardea, if I recall, figures into hinged doors in Roman mythology, but I can’t think of anything close enough in the Greek, so we’re giving it to the mighty Poe, who was surveying his kingdom with great contentment here:

Phoebe and three of her favorite pursuits: a spring, a stair landing and the pursuit of belly rubs:

And they decided to sit together on the stove cover of my own design and creation. A rare display of getting along in proximity in their sibling rivalry.

So, yet again, spending a few hours building that little thing one weekend was worth it, I guess.

You know what else is worth it?

I talked to an epidemiologist today. We discussed whether the coronavirus is airborne. We talked about looking at the data and masks and the bubonic plague. We discussed whether I should get a haircut.

We also briefly mentioned the task of getting kids to wear a mask. Of course, she said, her children wear masks. She doesn’t have too much trouble with them, she said. But they are of a certain age now. And, being someone that tracks diseases, she probably brings home terrible images and scares them to death, as would be her parental right.

I’m sure she doesn’t do that. She’s a perfectly pleasant individual and probably her children listen to reason. And if they don’t, both of their parents work in public health, which means they’ve got plenty of adult experts in their lives to scare them senseless while mom and dad are conspicuously working on backyard appetizers.

Anyway, she says wear a mask. And be willing to leave places that have people not wearing masks. Stay distance and stay in well ventilated areas she said.

It keeps coming up: we had the stay-at-home orders handed down to give hospitals a fighting chance. Supplies were needed. Beds were needed. Crush the curve. Remember that, a few months and oh so many outrages and personal inconveniences and national outrages ago? Medicine and science needed time. Well, we gave it a bit of time, and now hospitals are filling up. There are a few more supplies headlines popping back up. And the consumer knows it. Stores are limiting paper goods and cleaning products again.

Let’s say everything about your health, and the health of the people around you. Mortality rates are lower than earlier projections. Thank goodness. Hard, hard earned trial-and-error have been teaching physicians for future rounds of patients, hallelujah. One of those things we’ve learned is this isn’t just about the sniffles, and it’s not just about your lungs. There are big, and varied impacts. One of the things still to be learned is how varied those impacts. Is it your lungs? Some other organ? Your mind? Medical science is still trying to figure that out. Another thing on the board, how lasting can the problems be? You can find nightmarish stories aplenty about that, too. You’re living in a big world of uncertainty right now, friends.

What’s amazing, according to every doctor and epidemiologist I’ve interviewed and seen interviewed, your best defenses are something so exotic as washing your hands and putting a protective covering over your mouth and nose. As most of us would prefer not to have our quality of life impacted in a negative way, please and thanks.

We didn’t discuss the covid19.healthdata.org charts, but we should have. They now have death projections stretching out to November 1st as a status quo, wherein some restrictions are being held and many are being eased, versus mandated mask wearing. And it looks like this.

In Connecticut 4691 – 4551 = 140 lives.

In Georgia 3,856 – 3,403 = 453 lives.

In Indiana 3,400 – 2906 = 496 lives.

In Alabama 3,442 – 1,682 = 1,760 lives.

In Texas 13,449 – 6,442 = 7,007 lives.

In Florida 17,472 – 9849 = 7,623 lives.

Wear a mask. Yeah, it’s itchy, but you can be that kind of hero.


30
Jun 20

A flashback before a big flashback

We were sitting in a corner booth at the OK Cafe in Atlanta, Georgia in 2006 or 2007 and I was, as usual, thinking out loud. The Yankee had to have known that by then — this guy does all his thinking outside of his head — and she still decided to hang out with me.

We were talking about this trip she’d made to New Orleans. She was a TV hotshot and a station down there wanted her to come work for them and, as part of the tour, they drove her around to see what New Orleans was like after Hurricane Katrina. One of the job interview meals was at McDonald’s. There still weren’t a lot of options even at that point in the aftermath.

We’d watched it from afar, fearful for our friends and thankful it wasn’t our coverage area, and knowing that in all that horrible devastation that the media down there would do good, solid, amazing, real work. The year before we’d done the same when another hurricane right into the Port of Mobile. Our corporate boss forwarded us a very complimentary email he’d received, saying our work deserved the Pulitzer Prize. Only Pulitzer didn’t offer it in that format for which I would have been eligible in 2004. But they surely did in 2005 when Katrina roared ashore in New Orleans and our peers in the newsroom down there did the work and got the prize and to live and struggle and grieve and upend their own lives and look after their families and then go back to work to do it all again the next day.

It’s probably easy to forget, if you weren’t there, or somehow otherwise immersed in it, what New Orleans was like after August of that year. In the last week, a quick Google News search tells me, that three dozen stories referencing the storm have been written. It was 15 years ago and it’s still on the tip of their tongues. Which is why the news director wanted to give her the tour when she went down there for the job interview. You need to see, he said, what it is like right now. Usually when people bring you in from out of town they show you the good stuff. Back then, they had to show you the real stuff.

It was, I am sure, sobering. She ultimately turned down the job, but we talked about it a lot, and in that cafe in Atlanta I remember formulating what I thought would be just the neatest job in the world. Because I think out loud it started out pretty ragged and never really got much better, especially the name, but I called it a history journalist, reporting the journalism through the prism of time and past events, and history through a lens of journalism.

None of the things we cover or experience or watch or read about happen in isolation, after all. And New Orleans, a place hip waist deep in history and hip deep in tragedy, would have been a place for that sort of work.

They didn’t invite me down for an interview, which is fine and probably for the best. I would have pitched something like that idea and it would have been dismissed out of hand. A role like that is a passion project. It would take time and vision. And it is, admittedly, incredibly niche, when all of my media work was incredibly immediate and niche in some other sort of way. Besides, most journalists that do that sort of work? They have another name: Author.)

Anyway, I was thinking of that cafe and that corner booth and that conversation and how, all these years later that still sounds like the coolest idea. I interviewed a medical doctor and a professor who somehow holds appointments in seven different areas around the university. He’s written hundreds (literally, hundreds and hundreds) of journal articles and 12 books and he is still practicing medicine and who knows what else.

The subject was how the coronavirus pandemic is sometimes sorta similar to the influenza pandemic of 1918. He answered these questions in his role as a medical historian.

And if Dr. Gunderman, there, can find time in his day to be a medical historian on the side, I should be able to figure out some way to be a history journalist. Right? We should dive into some of that soon.

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23
Jun 20

We’re going (eventually) to the circus in this post

Hey hey, it’s Tuesday. (Right? Tuesday? Still a day? Still named after the Old Germanic and English god of war? Yeah? Yeah.) Tuesday! How’s your Tuesday!

I kid, of course. The days of the week are still easy to maintain. I’m solid on the month. No idea of the date, and, sometimes, I’m having brief mental lapses about the weather. Lunch seems to come later and later.

Tyr, the old god of war, wouldn’t care for that. He once ate an entire ox by himself. He was with Thor at the time. Thor ate two.

Struggling with the time of day for a PB&J, can go directly to the proper Nordic poem. That, apparently, is where I am today. Some literature professor somewhere should be very proud.

Tyr gets short shrift. Loki basically emasculated him. He lost an arm in a symbolic sacrifice and that’s one of his two most notable (and known to modern scholars) achievements. The other is his last battle, where he and the opponent both died. That’s a Tuesday.

I was looking through old newspapers for some family names, just to see what would turn up. There are a lot of simple farmers in my family, so the mentions, particularly among the branch I was searching last night, are a bit thin. But the advertisements around them are kind of interesting. Shall we?

We shall.

We’ll start in 1952. It’s page 11 of the local newspaper, one of the community sections. You’d call it the society pages, but that’s putting airs on too many people. Anyway, I was searching one of my great-grandfather’s names, and there’s a brief mention where his son has returned home for a visit from the service.

It was July, and Sherwin Williams wants you to know that wallpaper is very much in. (Was it ever out?) It’s glamour, glorious, glorious glamour, for those who care. And, to be honest, it’s that last part that led to this brief little collection. For those who care. The rest of you, stick with your wood paneling or your flat drywall or whatever clapboard, newspaper covered shanty you’re rocking at home. For those who care …

It looked like Dwight Eisenhower might earn the Republican presidential nomination. (He would.) There were some pictures from the remains of the Peary march to the North Pole. The month prior Air Force officers got there in a fraction of the time it took the navy man in 1909.

There’s an Asian grocery store at that street address now. That would have surely seemed improbably to readers of this ad, again, in 1952. We ate one block away from there last year over the holidays. It’s a small world in small towns.

This is the same paper, but in 1959. My great-grandfather, or a man who shares his name, gets mentioned he got hit by a bolt of lightning while out in his field. He was not seriously hurt. In 1959, you could have “the cable.”

My great-grandfather never had cable. His daughter, my grandmother, got it … eventually. I remember going out to manually turn the antennae in the yard to get a signal from that station, which still exists today, though operating under different call letters. Cable, in 1959. I’m sure that wasn’t like what we think of today, if anyone thought of cable anymore.

Just above the OWL TV ad there’s an all-text advertisement. It says “Obey that impulse.” It’s urging you to make a long-distance phone call. Says “It’s twice as fast to call by number.” We’re, perhaps, a lot farther away from the 1950s than we realize.

Anyway, that’s July 1959, and there’s a column on the front page set aside for late news. One item is that Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey has declared he’s running for president. (Spoiler alert: Nope.) Also, there was a steel strike on, and all of the economy, bemoans the front page, was under threat. (There was a brief mention of a steel strike in 1952, which was no nearer ending. It was called disastrous.)

There’s also a nice little front page story about a study for a proposed scenic highway. They built it. Did a lovely job. It’s beautiful, and has held that reputation since it was opened. Senator Al Gore, of Tennessee (not him, his father) is mentioned in the story. At the bottom, there’s a mention of a going transportation concern. “Progress on the ultra-modern Interstate Highway System has been good in the rural areas but slow in the large urban areas. When finished there will be 878 mies of four-lane, limited access Interstate Highways in Alabama. A total of 199 miles is now under construction … ”

Some 25 or 30 years later they got there. It’s still marvelous in all of the places that aren’t desperate for expansion.

And from that 1959 television advertisement we drop back to 1944. Still searching on the same great-grandfather’s name. Now, he died, at age 70, before I turned three. I don’t have a recollection of him, I’m sorry to say, and in my mind I can only conjure up the images of him in his old man studio portraits. So it’s pretty wild, to me, to think about him in this way, but his name shows up in a Friday edition of an April 1944 paper as having his name called by the draft board. He’ll soon be 35, but first he has to report to the courthouse. I don’t think he was enlisted.

There were two draft boards working the area. And there’s a front page brief that says victory gardens were badly needed. Also, there’s a mention of a local man who was lost after bailing out of his bomber over Germany. It’d been three weeks, so who knows, and his brother, meanwhile, had been listed as a POW in the Pacific since the fall of Bataan. Their poor family, you think, having to lose them both.

I googled them both. Both men came home and lived long lives.

Anyway, there was a fine little ad floating around all of that, and that’s what we’re here for today. Here’s the fun part of it.

The text helpfully tells you that “just a little care will save your tire,” and, “every turn of the wheel means that much added wear.”

It’s a false memory, I’m sure, but I want to say I remember that. Maybe there was a sign, or an old ghost ad, but all of this is well before my time. There are two offices listed in that 1944 advertisement. One of them is downtown in a place where this sort of building makes no sense. The other is in a town I never go to, but looking at it on the maps, I think that might be the place.

One of the owners testified before Congress about a tax that was going to hurt his, and similarly rubber re-treading businesses. You can read the entire thing in the 1956 congressional record. It was a brief presentation for what was surely a long trip. He was, in 1995, inducted into the Tire Industry Association’s Hall of Fame as someone who “brought lasting fame to the tire, rubber and transportation industries.” I bet he bragged on that to his friends.

Let’s go way back, to 1904. I’ve found a brief mention of a great-great-grandfather getting married. He was 33. His wife, my great-great-grandmother, was 23. It’s a simple one sentence mention. The two names who were “united in marriage.”

This is the top half of one of the ads in that same issue.

I was going to go with the summer rashes advertisement, but there’s just something about “The Highest Class Circus in the World,” and the words around it. Not one so original. Not one so modern. Not one so different. Not one so popular.

There’s a little rhetorical problem with the original-different construction, but that popularity claim is accurate. Apparently The Great Wallace Shows was the second biggest show in the country.

If you saw this show up in the windows of the shops around you, wouldn’t you want to go?

Oh, the wonders that must have stirred in young minds when they saw prints like that. The parents would sigh. Only if we get all the chores done. There were always chores.

I wonder if my great-great-grandparents, the newlyweds, saw the circus when it came through their town.


16
Jun 20

An early Father’s Day post, of sorts

When we moved into this house a few years ago we discovered some unfinished attic space above the garage. We wanted to use that space for storage. When the folks came up the first time my step-father offered to help. So we picked up some lumber and he bought me some extra tools and we spent a day telling ourselves “This is an attic, no one will ever see it but us. It doesn’t have to be perfect.” It merely needed to be functional. We needed some walking and storage space.

We set about cutting plywood to fit all of the interesting angles of an attic and sweated and installed it all. When it was done I climbed out of the attic and passed the first thing back inside it to my step-father. It felt right that he should put the first thing into the space. He made it usable, after all.

The attic is valuable storage. More valuable for this, which I saw again the other day when I was putting something away in there, because we’d also asked him to sign his handiwork.

I’m glad we did that. When I’m prowling around in the attic, as I was tonight to store an extra window screen, I see that right away, and it always makes me smile. I’m grateful that he takes the time to do these sorts of things every now and again. There’s always something new to learn, always some valuable experience to gain, some time worth spending on it.

It’s a great space, but more space would allow me to organize it. So I wonder if I should put in more flooring. And what we were doing with all of this stuff in the first month or two in the house before we had this extra space.

Maybe in the fall. One summer sweat in the attic those years ago was enough.


9
Jun 20

Dip your toes in, the water’s fine

And, now, a scene from “the beach,” which is how I mistakenly thought of the lake’s shore line when we were out there for a few minutes today. That says something about how long since I’ve seen a beach.

It was Christmas, last time I saw a beach, and that was just looking into a sound, so it might not even count. If you don’t count that you have to go back to last July. I’m not the biggest beach person in the world, but that still seems like too long.

So we were at the lake for a few minutes. It rained. I sat under an umbrella talked on the phone while The Yankee did some considerable distance of freestyle swim. And that was lunch. Down to the lake, in for a quick dip and then produce a show.

Talked to an economist today. Bottom line is … we know a lot of things, but that really just illustrates what we don’t know. We’re about to start stage four of back-up-and-at-’em here, which will be normal-ish but for some restrictions that won’t get honored a lot, I’m sure.

The good news is that the jobless claims are coming down from the spring. The bad news is they are still very high. The other bad news is that state tax revenues are taking a hit. This was not a surprise, but still, it is underway and impactful. The good news is that people are going back to work and so there is progress to be made. But don’t take my word for it. I have a minor in economics. This is an actual economist:

I have a love-hate relationship with security-footage-as-news stories. It doesn’t devalue a story, but too often it elevates a story beyond its natural worth because of suddenly compelling available video. Compelling, easily available video. (That part is important.) Or, even worse, it elevates a story because there’s video and no one else has anything better that day.

It’s a tricky thing, when visual drive messages. I see and have worked with and teach this stuff, so I consider all sides of the argument. I think we all should consider all sides of its use before using it, and that’d be a great starting point, I’d say.

And then there’s stuff like this …

Funny how video has helped bring to light rampant injustice in society. Funny how necessary that video is for this sort of circumstance. Sometimes the visuals have to drive the message.

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