Thursday, December 07, 2023

Steve Kornacki

Thanks to Ethan Strauss for interviewing Steve Kornacki, who election watchers and TV owners might recognise. He is the maps guy with lots of records-based and numbers-based analysis on NBC. Ethan claimed he is uber-objective, but I went in prepared to find something that proved otherwise to pounce on quickly. I have heard such claims before. I was counting up the red-flags: Comes from Groton, MA, a very liberal town next to where my father lived most of his life, just over the border from NH; guest hosts on Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow; gay now living in Manhattan; former political editor at Salon. And Strauss calls himself a substack liberal - look, I like those guys a lot.  We learn a lot from that crew.  I have a few on my sidebar. But in so many ways they are still quite liberal, more than they necessarily see. Especially, there are often cultural signals they are not (yet) alert to that telegraph their tribal beliefs. So his say-so of Steve's objectivity I held at arms length. I did grudgingly note that among all the liberal publications that Kornacki has written for, there was also Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.  

Yet I have to give him credit. The red flags tell you what his beliefs probably are, but you wouldn't know it from his content.  You can tell that looking at the data and the history with a cold eye is something of a fetish for him. He reminds me of the Democratic analyst David Shor, often hated by Democrats for telling them truths they don't want to hear. Kornacki's the book The Red and the Blue, comparing Newt Gingrich's and Bill Clinton's careers of remaking their parties seems unsparing in assessing the bare facts of both. 

He started winning me early, but asserting things that I have maintained I remembered from the 1990s for years, which have been remade in political memory. He is very clear that the day after elections, the media has its own narratives of what was supposed to happen, and immediate unreflective interpretations of what happened instead, how they pretty much knew it all along, and what it means - especially for media and media figures - going forward. This more than influences what they see in the politics, because it is wishcasting their own futures and secondarily, wishcasting their politics.  He notes the invisible influence of C-Span that changed everything. Few people watched it, but those who did watched it a lot, and remembered, and could refer back to the record later. He remembers that the Democrats owned the House, the Republicans usually owned the White House from 1968-1992 and everyone thought this was immovable, but the 1994 midterms changed everything. For the first time they were nationalised, and since then have become gradually culturalised, tribal.

So he doesn't think that the Dobbs decision was the driver of the 2022 mid-terms.  There were states that were very solid counter-examples. It was about Trump, and we learned that he remains very popular, but this doesn't carry over to people he endorses much at all. As little as I follow it, my impression is that even at his worst Trump was motivated strongly by Americanism, America First as he saw it, and however much he liked attention he had that as a core belief. I don't think that's true anymore. That is much vaguer now. His only issue is himself and who he wants to punish for not being loyal to him. The residue of his previous instincts might have some good results in another Trump presidency, but we would have to count on victory allowing him to change his focus now that he couldn't be re-elected.

That's not new with presidents, BTW. When they are running for a second term their opposition always says things like "If you think Nixon/Reagan/Clinton/Bush/Obama was conservative/liberal before, you are going to see all restraints thrown off if he is elected again."  And then it never happens, because they are used to a certain type of appeal, and have the same places they will compromise and places they won't.  They have the same idea of who their friends are and who their people are, and they govern accordingly.  so if Trump is elected, I expect him to spend a of of his time baiting his opponents and creating smoke-and-mirrors around any legal issues.

I Still Miss Budapest

Six photos that I posted in April 2006

Sunrise on Pest 

I Miss Budapest

Parliament at Night
Outside Matthias Church
Matthias Church Interior
Gellert Hotel

They do all expand nicely

Faux Logic

I did a series on what I called Faux Logic in April 2006

I feared I was going to disagree with at least a couple of these by now, or would at minimum write them better. The opposite may be true.  I find the writing more lively here, though perhaps also more impulsive. I may be editing the juice out of my persuasion

Teenager Logic

We Were Here First (slightly edited)

False Dichotomy

Stop Me If You've Heard This One (Update:  I should have cut more slack to the "moral person" one, because the opposite erroneous argument is also common)

Evidence Is Seldom Unambiguous I still like this, but I come up against the blogger's problem that making one's examples current makes them sound out-of-date and strained later. I reflect that the really good essayists like Orwell or Lewis thread this needle far better than I, and Lewis even talks about it with regard to Plato and his homely but durable examples.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023


 Here's the other side of that Dear John letter motif.

Cocker sounds more standard-issue now than "Western Union" but at the time The Five Americans were considered pretty usual, while he seemed very edgy, radical. Part of that was the transition from 45s being the center of popular music to long-play albums becoming the sought-after items. You still had to do both, but a single without an album to carry it was considered rather ephemeral. It was repeatedly predicted that singles were going to become unimportant altogether, but like Brazil being forever just about to become a world economic power, that never happened. There were oldies thrown in every hour ("WKBR Good Guy Gold!") and full out oldies shows, or at least oldies hours came in quickly after Sha Na Na* created the combined nostalgia/parody scene. I think that contributed heavily to the persistence of the 45, as the earlier Boomers wanted popular music, but had grown out of needing to know what the Top 20/30/40 was this week. When we sang "Walk Away Renee" in 1973, it was already a nostalgia song. In 1967 there was no Oldies genre, but very soon after, songs from 1967 were considered part of that new genre.

*They were classmates of Bird Dog over at Maggie's Farm at Columbia University.

Western Union


Practically a novelty song, but the purity of the high harmonies saves it. I have mentioned before that it was an era that everyone, not only groups known for their harmony like the Beach Boys or the Mamas & the Papas, sang harmony and sang it well. It was prominent at the 8th grade graduation party and on into church camp that summer.

The Rise and Fall of Social Psychology

 A very nice summary at Aporia by Russell T Warne.  It covers replication crisis, fraudulent research, and likely causes because of the attitudes of the intelligentsia, all in a compact essay.  I have written about dissident social psychologists Lee Jussim and Jonathan Haidt many times, usually quite positively.

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Long Distance Driving

A fair number of people up here are "snowbirds," heading south for the winter, usually Florida or Myrtle Beach. A majority of those do it all in one go, in a punitive 24-hour Portland to Ft. Myers slog, once each way. The next most likely is dividing it in half, in Richmond or wherever some relative or old Navy buddy lives. I have done 24-hour drives solo, with 20 of driving and 4 of napping on the way to Wilmore, KY or Tigerville, SC, but I would never do it again.  No point. When Tracy and I drive now we aim for four hours of driving plus some sightseeing, shopping, lazing around little shops.  I works great for a trip to the Finger Lakes, for example. It can be stretched to six hours in a day, and on the return trip when one is sick of it all it almost always is. No real hurry when both are retired. I drive 75% of it and Tracy takes a turn for an hour or so each day when I am getting dangerously sleepy.

One learns on shorter drives, say 1.5-2hrs, that the highway is quite boring, and in your own area, there are places not that far off that could be worth checking out. You can divert and take Rte 4 in NH instead of I-89 for an hour, then get back on and make better time to Burlington.  You find out that more than an hour at a time on a secondary road, even if you break it up for lunch in Marlboro VT or Willimantic CT, is about as much as you want before you start looking at the map to your destination and frowning. Any unexpected delay can really set you back, at least psychologically. "We won't be checking in until 9PM and tomorrow is our longest driving day.  Let's get takeout on the way. I hope that hot tub is operating." (Hint: They never are.)

So you apply that to the longer trip, trying to break up the consecutive hours on the interstate by taking something that goes in the general direction.  But you find it is either too much like the freeway or not enough like the freeway and wish you hadn't done that.  Back roads are charming in small doses, and if construction prevents you from getting back to I-88 for an extra half-hour in which you drove for 25 miles but only cut four miles off your trip, it can set couples wondering whose idea this particular detour was.

But you drive differently, don't you?  I'm curious how.  Different problems set different individuals off, others are seen as rather charming.


I dropped Chris and Maria off at Logan at about 2pm - or 14, as Chris would say. The first 14 years in Romania, plus his time in the USMC, plus almost 13 years in Norway has him pretty far removed from AM and PM at this point, and you can see him calculating when we say "Meet us at 5:30" here. I told Maria to enjoy the last 2 hours of sunlight she will see for two months and she laughed. "We sit in front of the fire and pretend it's the sun." Those who have not lived there always shudder at the though of the continued darkness, but they are quick to point out that the summer is harder.  You have to be disciplined in order to get good sleep, and this is not just a fun adventure that a tourist might enjoy for a week, like the White Nights in St. Petersburg, but May 1 - September 1, which takes its toll.

Not that everyone notices.  My son and DIL in Nome, on the other side of the Arctic Circle, have three girls, 3-12, who seem to stay up to all hours once school closes at the end of May. It's not what we would do - Tracy went to bed long before the girls did when she visited at the end of August for the Alaska State Fair - but hey, it's their life.  The consequences are theirs, and as both parents grew up mostly unsupervised (in Manila and Transylvania), they don't see things as we do. Still, it's not hard to think "Gee, maybe this nightly meltdown by Bella could have been headed off..." They still have four hours of sunlight, defined loosely, on the Bering Strait. It's why basketball and volleyball are the popular sports there. Baseball, softball, football, outdoor soccer, lacrosse - they don't tend to steer their best athletes into those sports.

There is the biathlon in Norway, a sport I deeply admire, requiring you to hold your rifle still in below-zero weather after having just skied hard for 10K - and of course the engineer-heavy Scandinavian countries have expensive snowmobiles, plus a strong habit of designated drivers so that everyone else just lets it rip...

So they still have sports, sure. Plus hunting and fishing and flying small planes where there are no good mechanics...

He Shall Feed His Flock

A version you probably have not heard.  I like doing regular folks rather than professionals, especially during Advent. God condescended to live among us, and that theology of the Incarnation is important.

Light in Narnia

We are doing an Advent devotion, Advent in Narnia. I usually dislike canned devotions. I believe this is my lack, my judgemental attitude that prevents me. No, actually I just said that to be polite.  I really think it is theirs.  All of them.

Yet I have liked this one tolerably well, perhaps because I am making an effort to fight through my irritation and submit myself to what some other Christian, someone who just might know something worth knowing, is teaching. Last night's devotion included thinking about lights (the lamppost in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was the starting point) as a metaphor for the gospel. It is a very accessible thought, as even quite secular people keep lights central to their decorations every year. Most religions make use of candles as an invitation to the edges of some other world. Other fires are prominent as well.

One of my first dates with Tracy involved her sorority Pledge Dance, at which she wanted to dance, of all things, but I, after a few glasses of wine, found myself staring into a candle thinking Deep Thoughts.  Her friends were concerned about this new boyfriend, to say the least. We stare into the embers of dying fires, or stop thoughtfully at night to watch a fire across the water. We are seeking another world.

Yet it matters what world one is seeking.

Intellectuals as Ethnic Group

The article from the NYT suggests that intellectuals view themselves as a something much like an ethnic group - physically separating, the only Real People, distrust and ignorance of those outside, etc.  This sounds like a great deal like my discussions over a decade ago about various American "tribes," including what I then called the Arts & Humanities Tribe. 

Culture is indeed missionaried at some of the working‐class institutions (state colleges are what I have in mind) at which exiled members of this elite are forced to teach to earn their daily bread, and snobbery is as present among this elite as among other groups of human beings.


First of all, we must investigate the values shared by the members of the intellectual ethnic group. The most basic value is the conviction that the articulation of ideas is the most dignified form of human activity; and closely related is the notion that those whose role it is in society to articulate ideas are not only the most superior members of that society, but also the only ones really qualified to run it.

If it seems that I am bragging that I was on this brilliant observation years ahead of everyone else - though I was ahead of a great many people - I am saying the opposite. The NYTimes article is from 1970, and by Andrew Greeley. It has been out there to see for those willing to see it for a long time.

(CWCID Rob Henderson)

Puberty Blockers

The Dutch study showing good psychological outcomes for using them failed to replicate, which I am sure is a shock to all of you.  If fact, 34% of the participants "reliably deteriorated."

Monday, December 04, 2023

Food Science

How is it that there is artificial meat for sale in the world - some, at least, say it is tasty - but no one has been able to develop a tolerable gluten-free egg noodle?  Is wheat harder to imitate than beef?

Wyman Christmas Letter 2023

That’s a Whole Christmas Letter Right There

Maybe we should do two letters, because we often have the best stories established early on.  This year was extreme. By the end of Christmas Day 2022 we already had Chris engaged to Maria up in Tromso; Pops’s ratty sweater from Scotland in 1998, thrown away under family pressure in 2021 but “miraculously returned by Santa” under the tree in 2022; arguing over what color was Philly mort  for another sweater; Ben reminiscing on the podcast about the Advent customs of his childhood; Jonathan’s brothers finding a full-size R2D2 for his office;  Ben and Jen making noises about moving to New England.  Then in January we joined the Alaska Wymans visiting the Texas Wymans where they loaded up on varied Buc-ees merch and flew fifty pounds of Jollibees back to Nome for their friends.  We could have done a whole letter from those alone.


So as above, Chris proposed to Maria Reithe and she accepted.  The wedding was going to be in the summer of 2024, but is now moved to 2025. He was originally going to propose while they were vacationing in Turkey, but this fell apart in ridiculous fashion and he brought the whole plan home instead. He almost botched the proposal several times even there – an Advent calendar was involved - but it happened. Chris went to Romania this summer to renew some documents and visited Casa Iosef, the orphanage he was at in 2000. Many people remembered him, and he face-timed John-Adrian (11 hour time difference) to catch up with as many as possible. They still call them Cristi and Ionut, of course, which is strange to our ears. However, the main adventure was Maria’s back home, as the youngest Rhodesian Ridgeback picked that time to melt down. Update: And then…they show up by surprise on Thanksgiving from Norway! We get to meet Maria and she gets her first look at America. So far so good.


Tracy has always had her obsessions, and David has always worried that these contribute to unhappiness. He now rescinds that accusation. Railing against her fitbit, which does not give her full credit for her steps and her sleep, is a solution for her, not a problem. Keeping her morning routine, including getting both the tea and the prayer list right, sets the world in balance every day. She keeps track of the natural history around her: she has both apps and FB groups for birds, fungi, wildflowers, Lord knows what else. A librarian is supposed to know everything, after all. This year she added Asian Jumping Worms, an invasive species destroying gardens. She researched the best methods of raining death upon them and counted her captures like Legolas does orcs.  She comes in, face shining, and voice excited. “I got 23!” The obsessions are in fact a source of joy.

South Shore Boy

Kyle has moved to Duxbury, where the very terrain delights him, reminding him of childhood in Barnstable. He has again landed on his feet (we sometimes worry), starting a new business photographing dogs, and now branching out into nature, portrait, and wedding photography.  He has a talent for it we did not expect. He has other businesses starting as well.  Very old New England of him.

The Only Interesting Facebook.

Most people’s Facebook accounts, at least in our circle, are pictures of cute kids doing cute things, plus great scenery and vacation photos. But JA and Jocie in Nome actually have good FB pages with dramatic things: hunting for caribou and moose, shooting an attacking bear, harvesting 150 king crab through the ocean ice, catching hundreds of salmon to be smoked, finding sizable pieces of gold with his detector, snow August through May, winning thousands in Las Vegas, cords of (Russian?) driftwood for his woodstove, Aurora’s desire for a surfboard to use in the Bering Strait, and Jocie’s running commentary on her life in Alaska that is avidly (1 million on TikTok) followed in the Philippines. Pinay sa Alaska. Aurora used to avoid the camera but is quite comfortable now, and the younger two, Quinn and Bella, have generally liked attention in any form anyway. Not to mention their usual aurora borealis - and 40 below weather. Tracy went out to visit with them at the Alaska State Fair in August and saw again that the girls are their mother’s daughters, carrying bags and bags of shopping. Like Jocie, Aurora likes to get presents for other people as well. She joined the volleyball team, mostly  in order to go shopping in Anchorage.  Yet it turns out she is GOOD at volleyball. They bought an igloo to put out in the wilderness and stay in.

Heidi is Finally Appreciated

We have always been Team Heidi, and it is not that no one knew how important she was at the church.  Those who knew, knew. But she now has two jobs there and people looking to her for direction – a mixed blessing, certainly, but it’s nice to be well thought of. People now ask us if we are related to her, instead of her to us.

You Got Travis Kelce For Your Birthday, What Else Do You Want?

Emily (16) has played previously in the family and (almost-family) fantasy football league, but this was Sarah’s (12) first year. She’s doing fine and learning that life isn’t fair. When the Taylor Swift news broke early in the season, Emily found that Ben had Kelce and said “You HAVE to trade him to me!” Ben apparently loves his niece very much, as he worked out something that seemed equitable  - that went sour on him immediately with injuries. My view is that Ben owes her little else this year.

The league has been an ongoing source of amusement for years. David’s last place punishment trophy was a crow (named Edgar) with a lightbulb in its mouth. Best trophy he ever got, and it is a porch decoration now.  Not many couples get to tell each other “Don’t forget to turn off the crow,” at night, which was the original title to this section.

Nostalgia Destruction Tour

If I had to do it all over again, I would spend less time thinking about how to do it all over again.

David is noted for remembering only the sweet nostalgic things about people in the past. Unless you step in to ruin it, he only remembers the nice things about you, rather like old photo albums or trunks in the attic.  Auntie Em! Toto! If he ever liked you, he still likes you and now tears up thinking about you. But the many reunions and his effort to contact people he had lost touch with did not end entirely well these last three years.  He does now have lunch with people from high school every month and has heard back from some surprising people. But don’t go to old haunts – strangers live there now! And some of us you have, um, not improved with age.  

And I didn't even mention my hospitalisations for tickborne illnesses, which ordinarily would have been notable.


Saturday, December 02, 2023

March 2006

These are the posts from March 2006 that just missed the cut to be brought forward whole.  Niche audiences

This one was fun.  Same newspaper, two protests. 

Why are local elections so boring?

When Christian and nutritional myths collide. Have you ever seen those odd decisions like "We only eat the foods that are mentioned in the Bible?"  I don't think that "God intended for us to eat only natural foods" is much better. 

Friday, December 01, 2023

Young American Leftists

 A lot of older Democrats are amazed and appalled at how pro-Palestinian many of the young are, wondering how this could be. They are less surprised, but still have a bit of amazement at how socialist young liberals are.  The uneasy truce in America has been a hybrid system that leans more to safety net than socialism, and to free market rather than capitalism per se. A lot of blame gets placed on social media, TikTok in particular because it is run by a foreign government, as the manipulative evil force 

Let me make some guesses. A lot of people just want to be outraged, and show the world how outraged they are for the status points. On the left, many of the young are outraged because the Biden administration is so milk-and-water. In 2020 they could get outraged about George Floyd, facts be damned. (And you got to go outside and protest in the open air, which the conservatives couldn't, so double bonus.) I guess that's solved itself, huh?  No more police misbehavior anymore, at least, not worth mentioning.  Then there was getting rid of Trump!  Now there's a cause you can get behind! Then there was a lull around covid, because some lefties and righties got mixed up as to which stereotype they were supposed to be enacting, so it wasn't really satisfying. Then Ukraine was really a mess, because it was also sort of ambiguous, what with war and communists, oppression and plucky freedom fighters.  What are our lines here?  But you could squint and say that Putin was really a conservative because he was all status quo and just felt conservativey, and Trump had spoken admiringly about his political skill, so you knew that (wink wink) behind closed doors they were fast friends.

But really, it wasn't that much fun.  So they were just itching to find something to get outraged about.

A Quinnipiac poll shows age 18-34 as having a majority in favor of the Palestinians. That is a big increase since October 7. That's everyone, not just liberals or Democrats of that age. The older generations, especially the oldest, still have no use for Hamas, so the country as a whole still favors Israel. But old people die, even old Jews, and votes are still one per person. In the conscious lifetimes of young leftists, Israel has had conservative governments, and everyone knows that conservative = bad. They don't like them. Older people remember a far more mixed Israel, with socialists, social liberals, ultraconservative parties on the fringe mostly.  Those are all still there, but people like their narratives simple, so Israel = conservative has taken hold in that group. The Oppressed Palestinian narrative has also been around on the left for a long time - I recall reading about it in Tikkun in the early 80s - so they aren't starting de novo on this.

It doesn't pay to attribute too much reasoning to fanatics, but it also is a mistake to see it all a manipulation by a few dark forces.  If the young left has been talked into supporting Palestine, rather than South Sudan or Tibetans or whatever, that is largely because they were looking for an outrage ticket. That was pre-installed.

Tangentially related: Are those who have children more likely to be nationalist? It makes intuitive sense, but I don't know about it.

British Lefties in 2006

Posts brought forward from March 2006.

I kept seeing parallels between American and British political divisions in those days, though there were some differences as well. I had one about McDonalds supposedly invading everywhere on the planet unasked, which I post in full here. But that was part of a series, and I include links to two of the others.

There was a general overview, which included wombats

The Reduced Shakespeare Company (whose performance of 37 plays in 94 minutes I loved in 1997) gets it annoyingly politically correct a few years later.

Going to the London Zoo and learning about the rights of the bearded pig


I was going to do the wombats first, but Lee Harris's article at TCSDaily moved McDonald's into the next slot.

What is it about McDonalds that draws the ire of so many? It is large and visible, which is certainly a great factor. Eurofear of the US always includes a mention of the Golden Arches® as a culturally hegemonous soul-grabber, and Americans often apologize for it when discussing international relations. “You can see why they’d be suspicious of our culture which has to date mostly exported McDonalds and navel rings to them.” There is this enormous European worry that their cultures will be unable to withstand the onslaught. Once fast food becomes available it will inexorably push out all those unique, quaint places to eat. Oh, the horror!

Picture this, then: You and the missus are taking a weekend holiday and have driven several hours from home, and as night closes in and you grow hungry you begin to search for a place to eat. You approach a small seafood restaurant with a tacky name in a bad neighborhood. Well, it might be a really find, eh? Inexpensive little out-of-the-way place with excellent mussels and no one knows about it! But you’re not going to find out, are you? Because you aren’t going to stop there. You’re going to look for Someplace Else. Theoretically, I like searching out interesting little inns and cafes when I travel. But I also like clean restrooms and wiped tables and the aura of quality control. These sets of restaurant values do not always coincide in Europe, where even in Great Britain the loo at the restaurant could be strongly reminiscent of the facilities at American gas stations. Or summer camps.

In the 1960’s my mother would almost weep with relief at seeing a Howard Johnson’s while traveling. She knew there was zero chance of discovering a quaint little out-of-the-way place she would like better.

Eurofear. McDonalds. Where was I? I don’t think McDonalds-hatred stems from anyone’s deep concern for my nutrition (though that is put forward as the reason). And though the vegetable eaters focus on McDonalds as a primary enemy, that’s not a very logically sustainable position, so that’s not it either. Then there are folks who hate it when someone else makes money -- but even that’s only a partial explanation.

There is an arrogant elitism in the disapproval. We who are wise and discerning know how to avoid all this cultural coarsening, but the great unwashed are unable to resist. Worse, McDonalds is not a secret that only those special few know about.

These American imports succeed because Europeans also choose to go there and spend their money, BTW.

A common refrain is “No one was clamoring for a McDonalds before it came. It wasn’t supply and demand.” Oh, but they were and it was. There was already a market for 1) beef sandwiches, chips and coke long before these foods were purveyed at the golden arches. There was already a desire for 2) quick, accurate service, and a preference for 3) clean tables and restrooms. There was already a market for 4) restaurants in high-traffic areas. Did I mention 5) inexpensive? What else could you possibly characterize as demand?

There are still old-style pubs of course, and bully for them. They are offering something that people actually find worth paying for. Money is not the measure of all things, or even most things, but it’s an excellent measure of what we actually do prefer, rather than what we say we prefer.

Bill Bryson gets halfway to the right answer as he bemoans the loss of disappearing Britain. Certain trains no longer run because “They don’t pay for themselves,” and Bryson correctly notes that very few things in life pay for themselves. Public libraries don’t. Parks, zoos, and museums don’t. For unknown reasons he stops his reasoning there, not proceeding to the question “Who does pay for them, and why?” Not only those things that make for local culture, and quaintness, and tradition, but public safety, public health – we agree to pay for some and not for others. We don’t buy all possible good things, so how do we choose?

Alarmists to the contrary it is not true that there are only two types of water, clean and dirty, or only two types of vehicle, safe and unsafe. How clean? How safe? Or would you rather have whatever’s behind curtain #3? If you want a McDonalds-free town there are costs, and ultimately towns find that the hidden costs are much higher than they projected. There are a thousand ways that we wish the world would be instead of the way it is. Here’s the key: you have to find someone willing to pay for it.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Jason and the Argonauts

 "The Ancients" podcast is on my sidebar, but there are hundreds of episodes and no good search function that I can find. Still, just browsing down the list I imagine there will be things that jump out at you that you would like to here.  I keep falling farther and farther behind myself, as they add episodes faster than I listen to them. 

But this one from September 2020 was quite marvelous, an excellent storyteller named Tom Holland telling the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. It is before a live audience and there were children present, and I think the story is accessible to children to about the age of ten. 

"Medea goes to Jason and says 'Darling, I've done it.  I've saved you!' 

"And the time may come...I'm talking to the boys now...The time may come where you find you might have paired up with the wrong girlfriend. And ... Jason has is doubts about the kind of girlfriend who would slice the throat of her younger brother and cut him up into little pieces and drop him into the sea. Seeds of doubt are sown. Seeds of doubt are sown."

Really quite well done, start to finish.  It's an hour long, so you may want to save it for an airplane trip or a long car ride.  But your children will know the story cold after only one hearing, I think, and so will you.

Mr Bojangles

The things that we think we know.  I knew that the song had been written by Jerry Jeff Walker, not anyone from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which is where most of us first heard it. I knew that the the original Bojangles was Bill something* who was known in the teens and especially the '20s as a vaudeville dance performer. He is remembered mostly now for his movies with Shirley Temple in the '30s, and was dead by 1950. So he is not the man that Walker met in a cell in New Orleans when he was "down and out."


That anonymous man took the name Mr. Bojangles to have something to tell the police when they picked him up. We don't know his real name. He was a homeless itinerant white man.  Well knock me over with a feather. I suppose if you are looking for a pseudonym, you might as well pick a good one. Sammy Davis Jr, who knew the original Bojangles, sang the song and it always provoked a poignancy, because that whole dynamic of a black performer in a white industry, having to not only put up with insult and have a forced smile but to see others with talent make choices and succeed or not, and understand both. Dance, dammit. But you are either going to make a living or you ain't, and maybe there's others who depend on you.  It's the sort of choice everyone faces in life, but more stark with black performers of the time.

So maybe you might want to hear Sammy do the song with that context. "I don't feel that I'm talking about Bill Robinson, I feel that I'm talking about  all the black hoofers who never really made it."