Author Archives: Brad Warthen

No. No. No. Rob Gordon CANNOT be a woman

It was bad enough to make Rob an American. But that, at least, WORKED.

It was bad enough to make Rob an American. But that, at least, WORKED.

OK, I’m a little upset now.

I sort of heard on the radio this morning that Nick Hornby was going to be on Fresh Air tonight. I got a little excited about that, being such a huge fan of High Fidelity and all.

So I went looking to confirm what I’d heard. And I ran across this.

It seems that “High Fidelity” is being rebooted for Hulu. And in this version, Rob is female.

No. Way.

Why do I love High Fidelity? Well, for one thing, it’s hilarious. And the pop culture stuff is fun, especially the Top Five lists. But those aren’t the reasons why I think it’s one of the most profound books written by a living author.

My reverence for the work stems from the fact that no one else has ever come close to expressing something essential about the relationships between men and women in the slice of history in which I have lived and had my being. In other words, it is to my time what Jane Austen’s work was to hers.

Rob’s problem — an inability to see that what is truly important in life is our relationships with other human beings — takes a form that is particular to young (and, perhaps, old) males in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Rob cares about, and devotes most of his mental and spiritual energy to, pop culture. Specifically pop music, but movies and other manifestations as well.

It’s a problem that feeds on itself when similarly emotionally stunted young males gather, such as when Rob, Dick and Barry stand about in the usually empty record store arguing about their Top Five lists — while women are (presumably, since we don’t see them in this venue) off somewhere actually living life.

That’s the problem he has in his relationship with his typically far more emotionally mature girlfriend Laura.

SPOILER ALERT: One incident in the book illustrates the dichotomy beautifully. After their spectacular breakup (which finally was so painful that finally makes Rob’s Top Five list of worst splits), Rob and Laura are trying to make a go of it again, and whether they will succeed remains very much in doubt — on account of, you know, Rob.

They go to have dinner with some friends of Laura’s, a couple Rob doesn’t know. During the initial stages of the evening, Rob is really impressed. He likes these people. Laura observes this.

Then, when the couple is out of the room, Laura urges Rob to indulge his habit of inspecting his hosts’ record collection. And he is appalled. Their taste, in his exquisitely refined opinion, is horrible.

Laura knew this would be his reaction. And she watches to see if there will be an epiphany.

There sort of is, as Rob admits, but only to himself:

… that maybe, given the right set of peculiar, freakish, probably unrepeatable circumstances, it’s not what you like but what you’re like that’s important. I’m not going to be the one who explains to Barry how this might happen, though.

And feckless Rob, who is feckless in a particularly male sort of way, takes a tiny step toward maturity. But grumbles about it, accusing Laura: “You did that deliberately,” he says on the way home. “You knew all along I’d like them. It was a trick.”

It’s not that every male is like Rob, and every female like Laura. But the conflict between them, the gap between them, was colored by an essential difference that stated impressively true things about the relationships and differences between men and women.

Listen, sometimes it’s OK to change the gender of a character. It worked in the TV adaptation of The Night Manager, when Jonathan Pine’s case officer — who was a man in the book — is played by Olivia Colman. There were other changes that didn’t work, but that one was a great move. It gave the case officer/agent relationship an extra something that it didn’t have in the book.

But that book wasn’t trying to say something deep and true about the relations between men and women, and ways in which they are different.

High Fidelity was. (Actually, I don’t know that Hornby was trying to do all that, but he did. When I recommend the book to friends, I always describe it in those terms. That’s what’s impressive about it.)

I’ll try watching it, if it’s on the level of Hulu that I can get. (Some things, including some things I’d really like to see, aren’t.) But I suspect I’m not going to like it. It was a big enough leap that the original movie made the characters American instead of English. But it still worked because American males can be just as stunted as British ones, and in the same ways.

But with this change, that remains to be seen.

Oh, drat these computers! They don’t have enough holes!

hub

As technology progresses, our devices have more and more features, something we’ve come to expect. We don’t have flying cars, but our phones do cool things.

But today I’m kind of frustrated that computer makers keeping taking features away.

Sure, mostly the stuff they ditch is stuff we don’t need any more. Like floppy disk drives. But even then, I hate to see them go. The first time I went to buy a computer after that trend started, I paid extra to have a floppy drive added in a vacant drive slot of the desktop.

But I only did it that once. On the next few machines I bought, I didn’t fret about the lack of such a feature. It still bothered me, though, that I had shoeboxes full of floppies containing data I could not access. Finally, a few months ago I bought an external floppy drive from Amazon — it only cost about 10 bucks — and when it came, I spent a couple of hours popping in disks from those shoeboxes, and I found that… I really didn’t need any of that stuff after all.

So I guess the industry knew what it was doing there.

I’m less sanguine about some of the more recent omissions. (Did I use that right? Should I have said “phlegmatic?” I get those confused.)

You know how I told you I bought a new laptop last month? It’s great and all that, but the freaking thing only has two USB ports! When I bought it, I decided that was OK. After all, my last laptop before that one only had three, which had worried me so much when I first got it that I ordered a USB hub that converts one USB orifice into four. And for awhile, I made heavy use of it, plugging in all sorts of peripherals.

But I had noticed that I hadn’t taken the hub out of my laptop bag in maybe a year, so maybe two would be enough. Maybe. Even though, if you’re me, that means you only have one. That’s because the other one is in use all the time for my mouse. I’m physically incapable of using a touchpad. The first thing I do when I sit down at a computer that has one is disable it, because I can’t keep the heels of my hands from touching it as I type, and making all sorts of insane things happen to the document I’m trying to write — including occasionally defining the whole document and deleting it (and I’m not even sure how I’m doing that, but it happens).

So, I have one free USB port.

And that would be fine if certain other features weren’t missing.

First, I got the computer home and had been using it for a couple of hours — installing software and the like — when something dawned on me: It didn’t have a DVD drive!

OK, that’s cool. I hadn’t used one of those in a year or two, either, so… no biggie.

But then, one of the first days I used the new machine at the office, I kept losing the wifi signal. One of my ADCO colleagues suggested that I plug in the Ethernet cable, which we still have in our offices.

Good idea! Except… there was no receptacle for an Ethernet cable! I kept turning the thing over, this way and that, and no — no hole that shape. Although there’s an HDMI port — why, I don’t know. (I mean, I already have a high-def monitor — it’s attached and everything. It even has a touch screen.) And while hunting, I also noticed there was no SD card slot for the card that goes to the old digital Canon I sometimes still use at work.

I was pretty practiced at rationalizing away these problems at this point. I told myself I took better pictures with my iPhone, anyway — and I do. But in part of my brain, I’m going, I paid full price for this machine! Why doesn’t it have basic, relatively cheap, low-tech stuff that every other computer I’ve bought over the past decade had?

This nagged at me, and eventually I went back to Best Buy to see if I could take this machine back and trade it for one that still had some of these homely amenities. But the other models at the store were similarly bereft. I kept picking laptops up and turning them this way and that, and while a few of them did have SD slots, they weren’t overly endowed with USB ports, and none of them had Ethernet cable apertures.

So I kept the one I had bought.

A few days later, I needed to scan something from my home printer. I have this awesome Canon printer that does everything, and even has a multipage feeder on top, which is wonderful because I scan multipage documents pretty frequently. I love it. I’ve had it for four years, and just a couple of weeks ago replaced the toner cartridge for the first time!

But I couldn’t seem to get the drivers for it to load on the new laptop. Since I bought the super-duper Geek Squad coverage, I got them on it. One of those poor geeks spent a couple of hours trying to get me set up, but he finally installed a different scanner driver, telling me it was newer and better.

It isn’t. It’s OK for PDFs, but the scan quality on photos is really poor. And I’m really, really into good photo quality. This app was made for amateurs, for the kind of people who decades ago used Instamatics — and were satisfied — when I was starting to process my own 35mm film.

But wait! In the file cabinet in my home office, I found the original software DVD that goes with my printer!

Now, if only I had a DVD drive on this computer….

Fine. I’ll order an external one from Amazon. And eventually, I’ll probably get an SC reader and an Ethernet adapter for days when the Wi-Fi is acting up. Which, if I also add a thumb drive, will totally fill up my USB hub.

But it doesn’t seem like I should have to do all this. Computers should come with more holes in them. Is that really too much to ask?

drat

Video of Biden’s speech in Columbia last night

It’s a good thing I decided against trying to post this video last night before going to bed. I’d have been up half the night.

I’ve been having trouble moving video and images from my phone to this new computer. And of course 18 minutes of HD video make for a HUGE file.

So after a process that involved a phone, two laptops, and a flash drive that I had to empty in order to use, I can finally show you the speech.

Enjoy, and be edified…

A panoramic view of the room just before Joe came out.

A panoramic view of the room just before Joe came out.

Wow, what a gross misrepresentation of reality!

downcast

This blew me away.

Being a fair-minded guy, I wanted to stress that not everyone in the working media lacks perspective. You know that one headline from this morning that I cited and dissected in my previous post? I was going to confess it was a bit of an outlier, and that for every guy like that one, there’s a sensible soul such as Frank Bruni, whose column this morning made the same point I did:

Yes, Bernie Sanders won the state’s primary on Tuesday night. And that victory, coming on the heels of his functional tie with Pete Buttigieg in the dysfunctional Iowa caucuses last week, makes him the indisputable front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

But look at how closely behind him Buttigieg finished, despite furious attacks from Sanders and other rivals over recent days. Look at the sudden surge of Amy Klobuchar, whose strong third-place finish demonstrates not only how unsettled the contest is but also how many Democrats crave a moderate — or female — alternative to Sanders.

Note that while Sanders is hugely well known in New Hampshire and beat Hillary Clinton by 22 points in its Democratic primary in 2016, he squeaked by Buttigieg this time around, as many people who voted for him four years ago obviously didn’t do so on Tuesday night.

And so forth. The real story being the inability of moderates thus far to settle on ONE candidate.

But before adding that, I decided to check my email, and saw an enewsletter from that same, sensible Frank Bruni, and the headline was “What in God’s name happened to Joe Biden?”

OK, fine. Yes, it would have been better had Joe been on the top of the stack of moderates rather than the bottom in New Hampshire, but still — I’m still in a good mood from Joe’s rally at 701 Whaley last night.

And then I saw the picture that ran with the eblast, and my jaw dropped.

I was there. I saw Joe and how he conducted himself. He was as upbeat and ebullient as ever. In fact, if I can ever get the freaking thing to upload to YouTube, I’ll show you every second that he was at the podium, and challenge you to find the split-second reflected in that photo above, in which he seems to be delivering a concession speech with a crushed spirit.

Until I can get that up and running (and finally, here it is), here are some representative images:

You can almost always get a picture like that NYT one. You can play a fun game if you use the “burst” function on your phone (akin to the motordrive of old film cameras), and you’ll see all sorts of expressions flash across a person’s face, some of them quite comical and many of them highly misleading as to the person’s emotional state at the time.

But this one is a prize-winner. And I’m shocked that it was used by the NYT, even in an email…

THIS is a representative image illustrating Joe's mood at the event.

THIS is a representative image illustrating Joe’s mood at the event.

For what little NH is worth, Bernie got CRUSHED by the moderates

Bern

My NYT app this morning.

One can sometimes see why there are so many people in this country who can’t stand the news media.

I can get pretty peeved with them myself these days.

There are two phenomena that particularly irritating. Or maybe they’re just one:

  1. They have the attention span of goldfish.
  2. They have a mental block that keeps them from seeing the larger picture.

The last two weeks, it has been astounding the degree to which the media — both straight news and opinion — have been trapped in what’s happening right this second. It has always been thus, but the pace of reporting and the orientation toward social media has made the problem far, far worse.

Instead of a considered, consistent narrative over time, the picture we get of what’s happening is so immediate, it has no value beyond a few moments:

  • There are no results from Iowa!
  • There are still no results from Iowa!
  • Iowa is a disaster! This is the death of the Iowa caucuses!
  • No one should ever see results from Iowa as meaning anything again!
  • Wait! There are results from Iowa! Pete won!
  • No! Maybe Bernie won! This is hugely significant!
  • One thing’s for sure: Biden is toast!
  • Iowa didn’t settle anything, but New Hampshire will!
  • Oh, look, Bernie won! Bernie is triumphant! It’s settled! This is over!
  • No, wait! Klobuchar came in third! This is the big news!
  • One thing’s for sure: Since New Hampshire settles everything, Biden is toast!

Meanwhile, Biden was having a very nice rally here in Columbia before an enthusiastic crowd. And as a Biden support, I would prefer that he had done better among those uber-white people in Iowa and New Hampshire, but as far as I’m concerned, the race is just getting started.

Of course, when Joe wins here, we’ll be seeing:

  • A miracle! Biden’s not toast at all! He won one!
  • But he’s still damaged! Some black voters voted for other people!
  • Also, South Carolina means nothing because it’s TOO black!

And so forth.

And then, Super Tuesday will roll around, and South Carolina will be forgotten and it will be all about Bloomberg or something.

That’s the goldfish part.

The other thing is that so many people out there seem incapable of seeing what happens in this brief moments within any sort of larger context.

My favorite example of that today is a headline that trumpets, “Bernie Sanders Has Already Won,” followed by the subhead, “Whether he captures the White House or not, he has transformed the Democratic Party.”

Uh… no, he hasn’t. First, he didn’t do nearly as well as he did four years ago. I think it’s early to completely dismiss him, but if you go by that one bit of info, his time may have passed.

Second, and most importantly, if we’re going to draw conclusions based on something as thin as the New Hampshire vote, consider: The three candidates appealing to the moderates who utterly reject Bernie’s revolution got a total of 52.6 percent of the vote, compared to Bernie’s 25.7 percent.

They crushed him. They demolished him. They utterly rejected him. Even if you give him Elizabeth Warren’s 9 percent on the assumption that her voters might switch to Bernie, he got massacred.

The real story here is that the moderates just can’t make up their minds. If and when they do, we won’t be hearing any more about the triumph of Bernie.

I — and a lot of voters here in South Carolina — still believe that they would be wisest to line up behind Biden because he’s the one most likely to beat Trump. And nothing is more important than that.

They just haven’t wanted to accept that yet. I get it. I like Pete and Amy, too. But I’m going with the guy most likely to win. And I still remain hopeful that other moderates — sensible folk that they are — will reach that conclusion, too.

What did Harpootlian say that was so bad?

debate NH

I watched the Democratic debate the other night — or most of it — but wasn’t interested enough to Tweet about it or anything.

I almost did at one point, but I wanted to take time to do a little research — refresh my memory.

What I had wanted to say was, “What was it Dick Harpootlian said that was so bad that Steyer thought it could be damaging to Biden?”

So I went back and read the stories about the contretemps between Dick and Jerry Govan — neither of them any stranger to confrontation — and came away still wondering that same thing.

It all started with a Tweet from Harpo:

That one was followed up by this:

Then, this happened:

After the state House and Senate let members out of a joint session, the Legislative Black Caucus met in a closed-door meeting, and then held a press conference in the State House lobby. As members of the caucus exited their meeting, Harpootlian waved and said ‘hello’ to Govan, who stared back and waved his index finger in the air…

At the press conference, Harpootlian was accused of being racist. Harpootlian disagreed, and said “I will not be silenced by those who use race as a shield from criticism.”

By the way, only certain members of the Black Caucus backed Govan in this:

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, a Charleston Democrat and Biden supporter, noted that he and several other members of the Black Caucus did not participate in the press conference.

“It was to his benefit to give the impression that it was a Black Caucus press conference but it simply was not,” Kimpson said.

Kimpson argued Steyer “took advantage” of an internal dispute between SC lawmakers and “distorted the the facts” to hit Biden…

For his part, after the debate, Tom Steyer couldn’t answer Dick’s question about what Govan has done for the money:

“I’m not the person running the campaign,” Steyer said. “I know he’s a senior advisor and I know he’s been working for us. Exactly what that means, I don’t know.”

So I guess I should have sent that Tweet during the debate. Because I still don’t see what Dick said that was so bad. I mean, especially by Harpootlian standards.

But Steyer isn’t trying to convince me. He’s trying to sow enough doubt among Biden’s black support in South Carolina to damage him.

Which seems to me like a pretty cheesy move. I had been sort of neutral on Steyer before this. This knocks him a notch lower than that now in my book…

Can novocaine affect your brain? I think so. But then, I’m not thinking all that clearly at the moment…

I love the "technical, scientific" terms on this phrenology chart. I think my fave is "ALIMENTIVENESS."

I love the “technical, scientific” terms on this phrenology chart. I think my fave is “ALIMENTIVENESS.”

I’m ready for a nap.

I had two big cups of coffee before going to the dentist this morning to get a new crown put in. But I’m still ready for a nap. Seriously. I’ve got a third cup of coffee here in a travel mug, and I’m going to try to get it in me if I can do so without slobbering it all down my white shirt, on account of the numbness.

I had three shots of novocaine — or whatever they use these days, which is why I’m not capitalizing the name of the drug; I’m trying to suggest genericness. Genericity. The state of being generic. Whatever.

They weren’t going to give me anesthetic originally. They were just pulling off the temporary crown I’ve had a couple of weeks and popping the permanent one into its place. But every time the lady went to pry the old one off, it would hurt a bit at first, and I’d think I could take it, but when she started wiggling it the pain shot from a one to about a five in less than a second, and I’d go AAAAHHHHHHH! to make her stop before it went higher.

So the dentist gave me a couple of shots, which had no effect. I could feel the side of my face going a little numb, but not the gum area where the crown was. The technician’s subsequent efforts to remove the temporary produced more AAAAHHHHHHHs!

So he gave me a third one, and that did the trick. I’m comfortably numb on that whole side of my mouth, and I’m feeling the tingling as high as the top of my cheekbone.

And I’m sleepy. Groggy. Drowsy. I’m feeling this way even though the internet isn’t really backing me up on this being a thing. And I’m supposed to be getting work done.

Oh, well. I figure it’ll wear off by lunchtime. I generally eat lunch kind of late. Today, I’ll have to…

If my guy loses, I know exactly what I’ll do: Prepare for four more years of Trump

debate

In his daily enewsletter, David Leonhardt poses this question:

Many Democrats haven’t enjoyed the past week. It started with the Iowa chaos, and went on to include President Trump’s State of the Union address, his acquittal, his vindictive celebration of that acquittal and a few polls that showed his approval rating rising.

How should Democrats respond? My column today tries to answer that question, by arguing that Democrats will be hurting themselves, and the country, by exaggerating the differences between progressives and moderates.

The current moment, when nobody knows how the primaries will end, is a good time for both sides of the Democratic Party — left and center — to ask themselves how they’ll respond if their side loses the nomination. Reacting negatively would be a big favor to Trump. I instead ask both moderates and progressives to think about the strengths of the other side of their party.

Hey, I’ve thought about it, and my answer is this: If Joe Biden loses, I’ll prepare for four more years of Donald Trump as president of my country. Or what used to be my country, perhaps I should say.

Of course, Leonhardt isn’t talking to me. He’s addressing Democrats. His column’s headline is, “The Question All Democrats Need to Ask Themselves.” But I get used to that. I long ago grew accustomed to too many people, and definitely too many journalists, assuming that the world only consists of two kinds of people, and that therefore the only people concerned about Donald Trump dragging our country through the gutter are Democrats. (This is particularly strange because he talks so often with Ross Douthat — they do a podcast together every week. You’d think he’d realize, “Hey, maybe there are more people like Ross?”)

It’s a thoughtful column, inspired in part by my friend E.J. Dionne’s latest book, Code Red. And he makes a good point when he writes:

A Sanders or Warren presidency would have more in common with Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency than a second Trump term would have with either of them….

Good point, as I say, but not very comforting. But it does make me think: Why can’t one of our two political parties come up with an option as attractive as Ike? Or Adlai Stevenson, for that matter?

The closest we can come to the kind of sanity Eisenhower and Stevenson offered is Joe Biden.

Yeah, I know, there are other “moderate” choices: Buttigieg and Klobuchar. But I don’t see either of them winning the general election. I just don’t. I also think it’s kind of nuts to nominate either of them when you have Joe Biden available, whose experience is light years beyond Mayor Pete’s. The experience gap is not quite as great with Sen. Klobuchar, but I don’t see her as being as likely to get the nomination, either.

And if it’s Warren or Sanders, Trump wins in a walk.

Donald Trump is an idiot, but again and again he demonstrates a sort of animal cunning with regard to what it takes to win — or at least, what it takes to keep his base behind him and motivated.

And that low, Hobbesian instinct caused him to betray our country’s interests in an effort to bring down Joe Biden. That’s the guy he doesn’t want to run against. And he’s right to see it that way.

After the farce of Iowa, everyone’s trying to write Joe off. Not the sensible people, of course, but a large coalition of others, from ideologues to journalists, who’ve been itching to write Joe’s political obit from the start.

Listen, folks. Here’s the way I’ve looked at it from the start: I didn’t really expect Joe to win Iowa, and wasn’t particularly optimistic about New Hampshire. I’ve been holding my breath waiting to get through those ridiculous, unrepresentative contests, hoping we could get to the point that the rest of us, most of the country, could have a say in the matter.

And what’s happening? The wave of negativity out of Iowa, and increasingly out of New Hampshire, is reportedly causing cracks in Joe’s South Carolina firewall. Although I’m not seeing it yet.

But folks, if he doesn’t succeed here and beyond… well, I’m telling you, and no malarkey: Get ready for four more years of Trump…,

 

The world according to Elizabeth Warren

Warren ad

I couldn’t miss the huge banner ad that Google Adsense had placed on my blog.

Intrigued, I did a work-around to check out what she was trying to get me to look at. (If I click on an Adsense ad, Google is likely to cut me off for cheating. So I right-click, copy the link, and go open it on another browser.)Warren survey 1

It was this survey, asking me to “share what issues matter most to you.”

Of course, to me, this election isn’t about issues. It’s about replacing Donald Trump with a decent, normal, qualified human being. Which is why I’m for Joe Biden — who fully fits that description and actually has a chance to win.

Biden’s biggest barrier to the nomination, of course, is the ideologues who are all about their “issues” and their fantasies that they will get their way on those issues if they nominate Warren or Sanders. When in fact, all they will get is four more years of Donald Trump.

And folks, it’s not that I don’t care about issues. I do. That’s just not what concerns me most, especially at this particular moment in history.

Anyway, the survey tells us what we already knew about Warren — and indeed about most Democrats in the party’s ideological wing. It’ all about domestic social programs.

It was nice to see that the first item on the second screen of the survey (see below), right after “Medicare and Medicaid,” is “National Security.” Which causes one to pause for a moment and think, “I wonder what ‘national security’ means to Elizabeth Warren?”

And then, hey, something else that in my book is a core concern for the presidency: “Nuclear non-proliferation!”

But then we immediately return to “Opioid Crisis,” “Pay Equity,” “Prescription Drug Costs”… Important things, to be sure, but not top-of-mind, to me, in selecting a president.

Note how she ends the survey: “Is there anything else you’d like to share about why you’re in this fight?”

Which of course takes us to reason No. 1 why I never have not been, and probably never will, be interested in having his particular senator become POTUS. To her, politics in our representative democracy is always a “fight.” She just can’t get through a minute without saying that word

warren survey 2

Come on out for SwordFest 2020 on Saturday

Dan demonstrates the katana for Joe and Dawndy.

Dan demonstrates the katana for Joe and Dawndy.

I don’t always remember to tell y’all about cool things going on at the Relic Room — a client of ours — but I’d truly be remiss if I didn’t give you a heads-up about SwordFest.

I went over to WIS today with Curator of Education Joe Long and Dan Bernardo of WellWithin Martial Arts so they could do a live segment on Dawndy Mercer Plank’s lunchtime show. And it was fun. Dan gave a quick-but-deadly-looking demonstration of his skill with a katana, just one of many bladed-weapon techniques you will see demonstrated on Saturday.

That’s just one of many sword styles from history you’ll see at the event, but a particularly relevant one. It’s a little-known fact (he said, channeling Cliff Clavin) that the oldest artifact at the museum is a katana made in about 1600 that was captured by a South Carolinian at Iwo Jima.

Here’s the release about the event. I’m going to be there. I hope to see some of y’all:

En garde! Third annual SwordFest features every kind of swordplay. And it’s free!

COLUMBIA, S.C. – On Saturday, Feb. 8, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum will again come alive to the clanging and schwinging of swords.

All kinds of swords. Basically, if it’s got a blade and a hilt, you’ll see it in action or on display at the museum’s third annual SwordFest.

And it’s all free and open to the public, all day long.

We’re talking medieval swords, Renaissance swords, 19th-century swords, Japanese swords, Chinese swords, pirate-style cutlasses, modern sport fencing and lightsabers from a galaxy far, far away. More swashbuckling than you’ve ever seen before, and far more varied.

The doors open at 10 a.m., and here’s the schedule. All are in the Atrium except for the first and last, as noted:

10:15 a.m. – “Wade Hampton: Battlefield Swordsman.” This lecture by Education Curator Joe Long, about South Carolina’s most famous hand-to-hand warrior, will be delivered in the Education Room.

11 a.m. – Medieval swordplay. Laurence Lagnese of The Palmetto Knights Steel Combat Team will present a medieval weapon and armor demonstration.

12:15 p.m. – Lightsabers! Trey Jones and members of the Aiken Lightsaber Club will present the techniques of the Jedi, including a choreographed lightsaber duel.

1 p.m. – Art of the Katana. Dan Bernardo of WellWithin Martial Arts of Columbia will show the Japanese approach to sword usage through the stylized, and lethal, techniques of traditional kenjutsu.

1:15 p.m. – “Butterfly Swords.” Keith Mosher of KDA Wing Chun. This fast-flowing Chinese swordsmanship system, part of several kung fu styles including Wing Chun, uses twin blades.

1:30 p.m. – Kids’ Demo: “How to Fight Off Pirates!” The basics of naval cutlass techniques explained in an interactive session for youngsters. (And yes, the “blades” they use will be safe simulators, not the real thing.)

2 p.m. – Modern fencing. South Carolina competitive fencers will demonstrate the fast-moving modern sport.

3 p.m. – “The South Carolina Broadsword System.” Historical researcher and swordsman Benjamin Battiste explains the unique broadsword style taught in our own state during the first half of the 19th century. This will be in the Education Room.

Local, historical, worldwide and intergalactic swashbuckling. You can’t ask for much more than that!

And here’s a video about the event. It includes some brief clips from last year’s SwordFest:

Joe Walsh to ‘walk away.’ But Don Henley will hang in there, won’t he?

"Guys, if I drop out, will one of you carry on? And what are we playing now, an F7...?"

“Guys, if I drop out, will one of you carry on? And what are we playing now, an F7…?”

So I was surprised to read this:

Surprised because I didn’t even know one of the Eagles was running.

Well, Walsh may have thrown in the towel, but I’m sure Don Henley will hang in there until the end, right?

I want McAfee to go away. That’s all I want…

mcafee

So I got a new computer a couple of weeks ago, and things are going along pretty nicely with it.

Dude, I got a Dell.

And I got the Dell at Best Buy, and I went hook, line and sinker for the full Geek Squad coverage, which has already come in handy a couple of times as I worked to get this or that piece of software up and running. I call them, they take over my computer remotely, and they fix it.

And it comes with Webroot. So I don’t need McAfee. But McAfee keeps popping up on my screen trying to get me to subscribe.

So I decide to uninstall it. Turns out there are three separate McAfee applications. And whenever I go to uninstall one, I get a dialogue box that says it’s still scanning stuff and protecting me, and I think, hey, if get a backstop safeguard for free, why delete it? Then I decide to delete anyway, and I get another dialogue box saying I already have an active subscription.

Say what? I’m pretty sure my last three laptops have been protected by Webroot. So… what is McAfee protecting — that 12-year-old desktop that I used to keep plugged in in a spare bedroom but which my wife has put away, turning that table into a sewing machine station?

So… should I pull the trigger and get rid of it? And if I’m paying for it, how do I get that to stop? Or is the “active subscription” just the free coverage they give you at first with a new computer, as the red dialogue box above indicates?

I don’t know. I just want them to leave me alone…

active

State of the Union, 2020 — if you have something to say about it

tearing

I amazed myself last night by watching and/or listening to pretty much all of it. Missed the very beginning.

I don’t really have much to say about it overall, except that it was very Trump. No other president in my lifetime, and probably in our history, has engaged in such an extended bout of unabashed braggadocio in public. No one else would, it being so, you know, tacky. But that was to be expected.

Oh, there was one other thing. As I said in a Tweet, we’re used to the dramas of ordinary people being used as props in these speeches, and I think I grew tired of it the first time I saw it. But no one has ever pumped steroids into the device the way Trump did, with all those game show surprises and awarding of valuable prizes.

Anyway, here are my Tweets. I look forward to your observations:

I have some sympathy for those poor wretches in Iowa. Some.

Screenshot 2020-02-04 at 11.33.09 AM

In 2000, there was “Palm Beach stupid.” Now, we have Iowa.

At least, I could swear there was such a (pre-social media) meme as “Palm Beach stupid,” a rather unkind reference to Floridians who lacked the ability to punch a hole in a card corresponding to the candidate of their choice. Yet I can’t find it by Googling, so maybe I dreamed it.

But we definitely have Iowa today, and similar scorn is being directed at it. Especially by Trump’s minions, such as his campaign manager:

Mind you, this is coming from a guy who can’t spell “Democratic.” But hey, Iowa sort of asked for it, right?

The good news is, all this scorn could have a salutary result: Maybe it will finally spell the end of the Iowa caucuses, at least as anything the rest of the nation pays attention to. That would be a good thing.

But while we’re slinging insults at them, and pondering a return to older, more legendary ways of picking leaders:

… I have to admit to a certain fellow-feeling for those poor losers up in Iowa. I’ve kinda been there.

I’ve been the guy in charge of election coverage at three newspapers in my career, in three states: Tennessee, Kansas and South Carolina. Pulling together results from a long ballot and publishing them accurately in the next days paper is — or at least, was in those days — an extremely complex affair that required a lot of different things to happen in different places simultaneously, and without a hitch.

My fellow editors would kindly surrender the resources of the newsroom to me — a hundred or so trained professional would be at my disposal — but it was always on me to figure out exactly who would do what at precisely what time, and how it would flow through the newspaper production process without things clogging up, so that the presses would roll on time and readers would actually receive their newspapers crammed with all that information.

One piece of that puzzle was getting the numbers and putting them into tables — candidate by candidate, county by county, and in the metro area, precinct by precinct. The numbers not only had to get into the charts, but to the reporters writing the stories, so our numbers would match. (We generally kept the use of numbers in the stories to a minimum, though, to simplify the coordination somewhat.)

In other words, a part of my job was doing what the people in Iowa have failed so spectacularly to do.

It usually went pretty well, but not always.

One of the lowest points of my professional life occurred in the early ’80s in Jackson, Tenn. The Jackson Sun was then an afternoon newspaper, which meant we had all night and part of the next morning to get things right before going to press, which meant our report needed to be more complete and accurate than what the morning papers had. And it generally was.

But one election, things went horribly wrong. After working all day on Election Day, and then all night pulling the results together, at mid-morning — about an hour before the presses were to roll — I realized the tables were wrong. Completely wrong. All the totals were wrong, and we couldn’t figure out why. We’re talking about full-page tables, densely packed with numbers.

I’d been up and going at full speed for more than 24 hours, and my brain just froze. What was I going to do? There was only one thing to do. Check every single number, and try to find a pattern that showed us what had gone wrong.

At that moment, my boss stepped in. Executive Editor Reid Ashe was and is a very smart guy, for whom I’ve always had the greatest respect. And he had a lot of respect for me, respect that I valued. For his part, he valued excellence. He had this art deco poster, a reproduction of one that had once hung in French train stations, that had this one word over the image of a locomotive: EXACTITUDE.

Precision.

It was, if I recall correctly, the only decoration in his office. His walls bore that one message for the world. This is what mattered to him. Therefore, we understood, it needed to matter to us.

With a rather grim look on his face, he sat down at a table in a conference room with a calculator, and started to crunch all the numbers.

While he did that, I sat on the floor against the wall with my face in my hands. I had tried to sort it out, but my brain was too fried at that point — those numbers were sort of dancing around before my eyes. I had to wait while Reid had his go at it, with — at least, I imagined — steam coming out of his ears.

He figured it out (hey, he had had some sleep!), and we got the paper out. Eventually, I went home  and crashed.

I don’t know if there’s ever been a moment in my life when I felt more like a failure.

So as I say, I have some sympathy for those people in Iowa.

But it would still be great if this was not the way we started presidential elections going forward…

He had this one poster in his office...

Reid had this one decoration in his office…

Why is everything worth watching initially aired on Sunday nights?

From "The Sopranos" through "Game of Thrones," HBO has been squatting on Sunday nights for almost a generation. And the guys and I are getting tired of it...

From “The Sopranos” through “Game of Thrones,” HBO has been keeping us up on Sunday nights for almost a generation. And the guys and I are getting tired of it…

First, this seems like a stupid thing even to be thinking about at this stage in the 21st century. It’s been decades since the scheduled time of a TV show was a thing that regularly concerned me.

When I was a kid, when something came on was a huge factor in how I planned my life. Back in about 1965 and 1966, I didn’t even need a TV Guide — I knew when everything came on on the three channels we got in New Orleans. I had the schedules memorized. I was TV mad, after having spent two-and-a-half years living in South America without television — we left our set in our bodega, not even plugged in. Those first couple of years back in the States, I was mainlining it all — comedies, dramas, variety shows, talk shows (Merv Griffin, anyone?), reruns, even occasionally soap operas. I even loved the commercials. As I’ve mentioned here before, the night of September 15, 1965, was a major landmark in my life as an 11-year-old, because on that night, “Lost in Space,” “Green Acres” and “I Spy” all premiered.

But then I got older, and got a life. But I still looked forward to some shows, such as “Hill Street Blues” in the ’80s. But about that time, we got a VCR. And every development since then — DVDs, streaming, has made me increasingly apathetic about when something comes on.

There are exceptions to this. For instance:

  • Every decent show that comes on PBS, which is the only broadcast station I regularly watch, is initially broadcast on Sunday night.
  • Every new HBO show I may want to watch — say, “Game of Thrones” — is released on Sunday nights.
  • Remember that string of great shows AMC introduced in recent years — “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead?” Guess when they came on.

And I have to wonder: Why does every time-sensitive thing I want to see schedule its first broadcast at a time that keeps me up on the night before Monday morning? It really kind of makes me feel like TV schedulers hate me.

But I’m one of the lucky ones, as I was reminded this past week by a piece in The Washington Post headlined “Move the Super Bowl to Saturday, already. And the Oscars. And most of HBO.

Well, I couldn’t care less about when the Super Bowl is on. (But don’t get me started on baseball games that keep me up half the night for the convenience of the West Coast. If those people want to watch baseball, they should move back to civilization.)

And I care even less about the Oscars and other celebrity strokefests.

But yeah, you’ve got a point with HBO.

And it’s not just Sundays. Alyssa Rosenberg notes that we’re in for a bruising week this week:

2020 offers a particularly punishing schedule for American television watchers. The Super Bowl kicks off at 6:30 on Sunday, Feb. 2, and a week later, the Oscars begin at 8 in the evening on Sunday, Feb. 9. That means two late nights and two underslept Monday mornings for Super Bowl and Oscar viewers — and in between them, the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, President Trump’s State of the Union address on Feb. 4 and a Democratic primary debate on Feb. 7…

But the main problem is Sundays. And I’m tired of it. You?

 

Open Thread for Monday, February 3, 2020

What America needs now is a really nice guy. Fortunately, we've got one.

What America needs now is a really nice guy. Fortunately, we’ve got one.

I almost did a Virtual Front Page, but that would have been the third in just eight days! I don’t want to spoil y’all, so we’re going for an Open Thread instead. They’re easier: I don’t have to come up with a lede and rank the items in importance, and I can pull in opinion, which is more in my wheelhouse anyway. (I was the front page editor at two papers in the ’80s, but that was a long time ago — or so everyone keeps telling me and Joe Biden.)

The hard thing about VFPs is, there are a lot of rules. Things are looser in an Open Thread:

  1. Why don’t we all just ignore Iowa and New Hampshire? — Not a bad idea, particularly given that Iowa is caucuses, not even a primary. Have you READ the rules of this insanity? People standing around in groups, and then if their group is less than 15 percent of the total in the room, they regroup and the losers gravitate to second choices? It’s like ice-breaker games at that team-building retreat the soulless corporation you work for made you go to. (See what I did there? Two dangling prepositions in one sentence! Can I write, or what?)
  2. Senate hears closing arguments — Switching over to news now… and can you imagine that they’re still going through the motions as though this were still an actual trial being conducted by an actual credible deliberative body. I don’t see how the House managers made themselves get up this morning and do this. But at least they are doing their duty, so my hat’s off to them.
  3. Super Bowl halftime show was ‘sexual exploitation,’ Franklin Graham says — Really? Ya think? I knew that and I didn’t watch it. Has Graham been doing a Rip Van Winkle for the last five or six decades? Has he been somehow walled off from popular culture? Why the news flash at this particular point?
  4. Earth Fare grocery chain closing all stores, including in Columbia — This just in, and it kind of blew my mind. It suggests a lot of questions: Why now, instead of back when Whole Foods opens? Do we think Whole Foods will last since Amazon has taken it over and corporatized it? Couldn’t Earth Fare have hung on a little longer to see what happened there? How do small local shops like Rosewood Market and 14 Carrot hang on while Earth Fare can’t? Business and the way it works is just such a mystery to me…
  5. Super Bowl Ads 2020: Strange, Serious, Smaaht, And So Very Expensive — Some of y’all probably watched this, so tell me: Were there any really good ones, ones I might want to go watch on YouTube?
Did anyone besides me find it kind of hard to read the Roman numeral with that odd thing between the L and I?

Did anyone besides me find it kind of hard to read the Roman numeral, with that odd thing between the L and I?

See, I TOLD you we were all getting stupider

Just moments ago, in my previous post, I wrote the following:

We know, thanks to the clever people who figured out stuff like quantum foam, that the universe tends toward entropy. Well, this one also tends toward stupidity…

Right after that, I proved my theory by taking the Slate News Quiz:

stupider

You see? Not only am I, apparently, now dumb as a rock (and more so than I was in the past, in keeping with my theory), but that person at Slate is even dumber.

Oh, you’re going to say that the fact that the average was higher proves that not the whole ‘verse is as dumb as Molly and me?

Well, that just makes me chuckle condescendingly and tell you that that is evidence of another universe — one where people are slightly smarter — interfering with this one. I’d quote from Timeline to ‘splain to you how that works, but since you live in this downward-spiraling universe, you wouldn’t understand it….

We gotta get outta this ‘verse, so let’s get busy developing that quantum gadget

Moderns seek to escape a universe that's gone all medieval on 'em.

Moderns seek to escape a universe that’s gone all medieval on ’em.

In recent days, I’ve found myself picking up and rereading Michael Crichton’ sci-fi novel Timeline, which is not a great book, but modestly diverting.

(It was made into a movie — the above photo is from that — that somehow, through the special magic of Hollywood, managed to make the story even more disappointing than the original.)

No, it’s not a time-travel story, as the characters keep protesting (but sometimes they speak as though they’ve forgotten it, and act like it IS time travel). Basically, the premise is that a tech company has come up with a way to transport people and objects to other universes in the multiverse (by sending them through holes in quantum foam, or something). And since there is an infinity of them out there, and gazillions of those are almost-but-not-completely exactly like our own, you can travel to one that is exactly like this ‘verse back in the 13th century.

So the protagonists do that, and have adventures — most of them having to do with trying to get back to our own here-now, because the denizens of that other ‘verse keep going all medieval on their a__es.

So this has me thinking about how in such a multiverse, butterfly effects might cause every ‘verse to keep splitting into ones that will be henceforth forever different from each other. (Or something like that; I admit it’s hard to think coherently about this stuff because it’s so batty.)

Which gets me to thinking about how I’m in the wrong ‘verse now. I’m supposed to be in the rational, enlightened, Madison-Hamilton one in which it would be impossible for someone like Donald Trump to become president, and in which even if something so outrageous happened, the Congress would soon (like, way before now) rectify the situation through the process of impeachment.

I’m not sure how this happened to the creature I think of as “me.” Maybe I ate the wrong thing for breakfast one morning, or got up a few seconds too late (being the me that lives in this universe, it’s highly unlikely I got up too early). But I’m pretty sure this is not the ‘verse I’m supposed to be in.

And things are getting worse in this here-now. We know, thanks to the clever people who figured out stuff like quantum foam, that the universe tends toward entropy. Well, this one also tends toward stupidity. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but that tendency has been accelerating ever since we took that wrong fork in 2016. As I write this, the erstwhile “greatest deliberative body the world has known” is about to acquit Trump, facilitating the process by preventing the presentation of witnesses and evidence, because even they have enough residual intelligence to understand that facts would condemn him.

We’re just spinning off into Idiocracy at an alarming rate.

The head of that tech company in the novel is a prize jerk, but maybe some Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos or someone like that in this world should get busy on the quantum technology so we have a chance to get outta this madhouse of a universe and get over to one that makes sense….

Not up to Congress to decide Trump’s fate? What utter nonsense

Removing the president is not the job Congress? This guy would beg to differ.

Removing a president is not properly the job of Congress? This guy would beg to differ.

I’ve been meaning to comment on a Frank Bruni column from last week, headlined “Of All Trump’s Defenses, This Is the Lamest,” with the subhed, “Only the voters can send the president packing? That’s a joke.”

Actually, that subhed is probably the best part, but the rest is pretty good, too. An excerpt:

Once the Senate concludes its trial of President Trump, it should go into recess. Until next January. The House, too. Lawmakers shouldn’t pass legislation, consider nominations or make any important decisions whatsoever: This is an election year, and the voters will soon weigh in on the direction of America. The nation’s business should await that judgment, lest members of Congress contradict it.

A ludicrous proposal? Indeed. But it’s in line with — and an extrapolation of — a favorite argument against Trump’s conviction and removal from office. His Republican supporters say that lawmakers shouldn’t speak for voters on such a crucial issue. To pre-empt the verdict at the ballot box, they say, is to subvert the people’s will.

Nice try. Lawmakers are elected specifically to speak for voters on crucial issues. That’s the system. That’s their job….

Absolutely, it’s their job. And it’s no one else’s, including the vaunted electorate’s.

From the start, Republicans have complained that the impeachment process is somehow illegitimate — either because it seeks to undo the 2016 election, or pre-empt the one this year, or both.

But we have this Constitution, you see, and it was written by some very, very smart people (smarter than the average modern voter, dare I say), who wanted the voters to have input into who ran things, but not necessarily the final say. So they created a finely balanced tension between governmental elements that were each chosen by differently formed constituencies that should check each other:

  • The House would be elected the way far too many people today think the rest of the government should be elected — directly by the people, and extremely often. House members would represent equal-sized chunks of the population.
  • The Senate would represent states, and would be chosen by those states’ legislatures. It was an excellent idea, although we threw away half of it with the 17th Amendment. The only part we kept was that they still represent the people of entire states. And… they’re elected for six years to shield them from political passions of the moment.
  • The president would be chosen by the Electoral College, but we’ve pretty much altered that beyond recognition. But we kept enough of its anti-democratic essence to allow Donald Trump to be elected despite Hillary Clinton having the majority of votes. So yay, elitism, right, my Republican friends?
  • The president and the Senate would choose justices together.

But to hear certain people talk, everything should be decided by the people, acting directly through their smartphones.

(Shudder.)

I’ve gotten to where I can’t bear to listen to the Republicans when they speak during the impeachment proceedings, because despite all the pernicious nonsense I’ve been subjected to in covering politics over the last few decades, I’ve never had my intelligence insulted to this degree.

I forced myself to listen to one idiot the other day who was ranting about how the Democrats wanted to tear up every ballot cast in the country in 2016. Really. He said that, despite the fact that MOST ballots were for Hillary Clinton. Presumably, those nasty Dems wouldn’t want to tear those up, if they’re as single-minded in pursuing partisan advantage as he seemed to assume.

Anyway, the Senate needs to go on and conduct a trial and do its job — even if that means acquitting Trump, as it almost certainly will.

And in the meantime, hand me no lies about how this is NOT the job of Congress. It is, precisely. And it’s no one else’s.

There’s plenty of time to hear from the voters between now and November.