13 July 2024

Shakespeare sits in the Mastermind black chair

A parody of the classic BBC program.


I would bet that most readers of TYWKIWDBI would enjoy viewing episodes of the BBC program Mastermind.  I've embedded a random example of a program above.  Contestants are quizzed with in-depth questions on a single subject, then have to answer "general knowledge" questions.  For ultimate success, it is not sufficient to have expertise on just one subject, because winners have to come back for additional (3? 4?) rounds to reach the finals. 

For this particular episode, the specialty subjects were the geography of Switzerland, the family of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Sir Roger Moore and Bruce Springsteen.

Lots of episodes are available on YouTube.  I don't know if they are available streaming somewhere or not.


When I was on sabbatical in London many, many years ago, Mastermind was my favorite program to watch on the telly in my rented room in Turnham Green.

The original quizmaster was Magnus Magnusson (quizzing a contestant on Sherlock Holmes here)

Originally posted by some guy over at NeatoramaReposted from 2017.

University Challenge


I had no clue on some of these questions.

Reposted from 2017.

GE College Bowl epic battle (Princeton vs. Agnes Scott)


I've just spent an enjoyable half hour walking down memory lane, watching an episode of General Electric's College Bowl. This quiz bowl series ran on U.S. television from 1959 to 1970.
The most dominant team was the University of Minnesota, which had teams appear in 23 of the 68 broadcast matches. The 1953-55 series had a powerful appeal because it used remote broadcasts; each team was located at their own college where they were cheered on by their wildly enthusiastic classmates. The effect was akin to listening to a football game, but this type of excitement evaporated in later versions, in which both teams competed in the same room.
One of the most memorable upsets in the history of the show occurred in 1966, when an all-woman team from tiny Agnes Scott College [Atlanta], took on the defending champions from Princeton University.

Agnes Scott fell behind 185-130 with less than two minutes remaining. You can see the final segment of the show in the embedded video above. (Although if this subject matter interests you, it's more fun to watch the first ten minutes here, and the second ten minutes here. The videos also incorporate the original advertising that ran in 1966.)

One particularly poignant aspect of the contest was pointed out recently by Robert Earle, who was moderator of the program. The last bonus question was answered by Karen Gearreald with about one second left in the game. "That young lady, by the way, was the only person in the theater who could not see the clock," Mr. Earle wrote. "She is blind."

And here's the final question: "For twenty points, what were Balmung and Durandal?"

For the answer, watch the video. It's more fun than Googling the answer.

(via Metafilter)

Reposted from 2017 to accompany other posts.

Ummm.... not this time

I'm always amused when my computer offers to auto-fill a security code.

Pimple patches as fashion statements

For a few years now, pimple patches — opaque, whimsically shaped, in conspicuously nonhuman hues such as bright yellow, jet black, magenta and even rainbow — have been showing up on more and more faces in workout classes, in classrooms, at workplaces and online. Many are medicated with hydrocolloid or salicylic acid; they treat pimples while also covering them up, protecting them from both idle fingers and strangers’ stares. As a skin-care tool, pimple patches, which gained traction in the late 2010s, were a game-changing development in skin-care technology. But they’ve also become a fashion trend. And although their proliferation heralds a shift in attitudes toward acne — one of the most universal discomforts of being a human — they’ve also begun to act as a social signifier.

The first generation of pimple patches arrived in the late 2010s. Hero’s Mighty Patch hydrocolloid dots, for example, debuted in 2017, and Peace Out began offering flesh-toned and translucent versions of the same concept around the same time.

Then, in 2019, came Starface, whose pentagram-shaped Hydro-Star patches would eventually be available in a full spectrum of opaque, vibrant colors. Decorative and spunky, they were a sensation almost immediately. Hailey and Justin Bieber were photographed sporting them around in their daily lives and, crucially, showed up wearing them in photos on social media. So did Florence Pugh, Willow Smith and Nicola Peltz Beckham, and the brand even debuted its first black version of the product on models in a 2022 Puppets and Puppets fashion show...

Cadence Lawson, 12, just finished sixth grade in Bowling Green, Ky., and can confirm: She and her classmates trade their Starface pimple patches not just for other Starface colors, but also for higher-value goods. “It’s mainly at lunch,” she says. “For ice cream, or something like that.”

“They’re the new Pokémon cards,” cracks Cadence’s dad, Daniel, 34...

When Starface patches are on a jawline or chin, Annie says, she assumes they’re being used to treat actual zits. On a cheek, though, or in that alluring Marilyn Monroe mole position, above the lip? That’s just fashion, baby...

Tiny silk patches in the shapes of “stars, crescent moons, diamonds, all those sorts of things” were often affixed to the faces of well-to-do young people in 17th-century Western Europe. The trend originated in the French royal court, where the patches were initially used to cover up the scars and skin damage from diseases such as smallpox and syphilis, “but they eventually became quite popular. Where they were worn on the face could signify ‘I’m married’ or ‘I’m not married,’ or ‘I’m available’ or ‘not available.’ Or, alternatively, ‘I support this political party or that political party,’” Stewart says. The type or placement may have also indicated astrological signs, she adds, or even religious beliefs. (So Edouard’s workout classmate may not have been totally clueless — just off by a few hundred years.)
I should have bought some of these after my recent visit to a dermatologist who zapped a bunch of my facial SKs.  Then I wouldn't have looked like a plague victim while shopping at Target.

More information at the Washington Post (when the embed, cropped for size)

12 July 2024

Mudlarking - updated

This past week [In 2009] the BBC featured an article on "mudlarking," (treasure hunting along riverbanks at low tide).
"... there is no place better to mudlark than on the 95-mile foreshore of the Thames, considered by some the largest open-air archaeological site in London...
While a general permit to look for artefacts allows the aspiring treasure hunter to dig only 7.5cm into the ground, a special mudlark's licence allows the enthusiasts to venture much further underneath the surface.
"The best thing I've ever found," says Tony, "is a silver wine taster, dated 1634, that is now in the Museum of London's collection."
Over the last 30 years, Tony and his friends from The Society of Thames Mudlarks have amassed a collection of more than 2,500 buttons ranging in date from the late 14th to the late 19th Century. They are now being donated to the Museum of London and include examples of buttons made of silver, pewter and semi-precious stones...
I think it sounds like fun, although I think I remember references in some Dickens' novels that it was not viewed that way in earlier times:
During the Industrial Revolution, mudlarks were usually young children or widowed women. Becoming a mudlark was a cry of desperation as it is considered one of the worst "jobs" in history. At the time of the Industrial Revolution, excrement and waste would wash onto the shores from the raw sewage which wasn't treated. The corpses of humans, cats and dogs would also wash up. Mudlarks would be lucky if they made a penny a day selling what they had found during low tide, which was the only time people could scavenge along the shores of the rivers.
I'm sure lots of murder weapons and wedding rings have been tossed into the Thames.

Reposted from 2009 to add a report of the recovery of a neolithic skull fragment by a mudlarker:
The fragment of a neolithic skull was mudlarked from the south bank of the river’s foreshore by Martin Bushell last September... The discovery, which Bushell initially believed was just a shard of pottery, was handed in to the Metropolitan police. The force commissioned radiocarbon dating of the bone, which revealed that the man had died about 5,600 years ago...

Last month, a rare Roman oil lamp found on the river’s foreshore by Alan Suttie, an amateur treasure hunter, also went on display at the Museum of London. Other ancient objects found in the Thames in previous years include a neolithic polished macehead, a sword dated to the late bronze age and a bust of the Roman emperor Hadrian, dated to his visit to Britain in AD122 – all of which are on display at the British Museum.
See alsoLove tokens retrieved from the mud of the Thames (2011).

Reposted from 2019 to add a link to a Bloomberg article on the subject:
The number of mudlark permits, which are valid for three years, surged from a few hundred around 2016 to more than 5,000 during the pandemic, fueled largely by social media. Worried about a plundered foreshore, the Port of London Authority that oversees the riverbank halted issuing new permits in November 2022...

The publicity has been a headache for riverbank conservationists, and the multitude of mudlarks is part of the problem. Maiklem argues that using metal detectors, shovels and hand tools hastens erosion and are unnecessary given the river’s powerful 20-foot tidal swing that unearths buried treasures...

Miller says that because the number of mudlarks has “gone through the roof,” it’s harder to find buried artifacts. “It’s basically the same size cake, but now thousands of people are trying to get a slice of that cake.”..

Lots of rivers in old cities hold troves of sunken antiquities but nowhere else are they as readily accessible as the Thames. “London is really quite unique, in that we have that combination of having a tidal river and a foreshore that’s stable enough to be walked on,” Sumnall says. “And we are a global city with a very long history of human occupation that stretches back 400,000 years.”

Ah... politics

"Conservative candidate Jacob Rees-Mogg stands next to Barmy Brunch from the Official Monster Raving Loony Party during the declaration for the North East Somerset constituency at the University of Bath campus, on July 5, 2024, in Bath, England. Rees-Mogg lost his seat in the election."
One of the Photos of the Week at The Atlantic.  credit: Finnbarr Webster / Getty

11 July 2024

"Malice prepense" and other postpositive adjectives

This week I gave a "goodbye read" to a book I've had for some 50 years.  While doing so I paused at this curious passage:
"At this distance no one can say how much of what Lady Caroline accomplished represented malice prepense and how much was a quick response to opportunity."
The definition of "premeditated" was implicit in the context of the passage, but while looking up confirmation in online sources,  I encountered these passages:
"Malice aforethought is a direct translation of the Law French term malice prépensée, so the adjective follows the noun as in French."  "prepense is usually used postpositively."
As an English major now in my elder years, it's a bit embarrassing to see the word "postpositive" for the first time (even though in my career I responded to innumerable "code blue" alerts).  As it turns out there are an abundance of "postpositive" adjectives - I just didn't know the classification term.
A postpositive adjective or postnominal adjective is an adjective that is placed after the noun or pronoun that it modifies, as in noun phrases such as attorney general, queen regnant, or all matters financial. This contrasts with prepositive adjectives, which come before the noun or pronoun...

In some languages (Spanish, Welsh, Indonesian, etc.), the postpositive placement of adjectives is the normal syntax, but in English it is largely confined to archaic and poetic uses (e.g. "Once upon a midnight dreary", as opposed to "Once upon a dreary midnight") as well as phrases borrowed from Romance languages or Latin (e.g. heir apparent, aqua regia) and certain fixed grammatical constructions (e.g. "Those anxious to leave soon exited")

Recognizing postpositive adjectives in English is important for determining the correct plural for a compound expression. For example, because martial is a postpositive adjective in the phrase court-martial, the plural is courts-martial...
Herewith some examples - tons more at Wikipedia and other online sources.  In food: spaghetti bolognese; chicken korma, whiskey sour. In titles:  professor emeritus, attorney general, consul general, postmaster general, surgeon general, astronomer royal, notary public, poet laureate, president-elect, prime minister-designate... In organizations: Alcoholics Anonymous, Amnesty International, Weather Underground.  Titles of works: Apocalypse Now, "Bad Moon Rising", Body Electric, Brideshead Revisited, Chicken Little, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Hannibal Rising, Hercules Unchained, House Beautiful, Jupiter Ascending, The Life Aquatic, A Love Supreme, The Matrix Reloaded, Monsters Unleashed, Orpheus Descending, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Prometheus Unbound, "The Road Not Taken", Time Remembered, Enemy Mine.

The book itself I am now done with, and I've listed my copy on eBay.  It was special to me for many years because the author, John Chapman, was a personal friend and my attending physician during my medical training in Texas.  He was a classic academic physician who had also developed a personal interest in the poet Lord Byron, and had extensively researched Byron's life and times, specifically to address the question of whether Byron committed incest with his half-sister Augusta Leigh [TLDR answer: no.  The accusations were most likely malicious rumors started by a jilted other woman].  The book also has a detailed analysis of Byron's death at an early age, concluding that the original reports of cerebral malaria etc were nonsense, but that Byron may have had an intracranial arteriovenous malformation that occasionally leaked, causing his lifetime of intermittent headaches, before finally rupturing fatally on his last visit to Greece.  

This is a scholarly book, not a general interest book for the casual reader.  I didn't donate it to our library because its narrow focus and esoteric subject matter puts it at risk for being pulped, and IMHO it deserves a better fate.  I'm hoping that via eBay it will find its way into the hands of an interested scholar.

09 July 2024

How bog bodies were secured underwater

Wet sites have yielded some of the most spectacular archaeological finds in the world. Prior to Windover’s discovery, ancient human remains had been uncovered at four others in Florida:  Little Salt Springs (Sarasota County), Warm Mineral Springs (Sarasota County), Republic Groves (Hardee County), and Bay West (Collier County). Known as mortuary ponds, these sites served as cemeteries during the Early and Middle Archaic periods, roughly 10,000 to 5,000 years ago...

Toward the end of the first field season, Doran and Dickel made an astonishing discovery: a mushy, greasy, tan substance inside one of the skulls... confirmed that a sample was actually human brain tissue. By the end of that year, several intact brains had been recovered. Though shrunken to a quarter of their original size, they still retained the shape and surface features of a typical human brain...

The bodies were tucked into a “flexed” position, bundled in fabric along with a variety of grave goods, and submerged beneath the water, typically on their left sides, facing west. Wooden stakes driven through the cloth kept them anchored to the bottom of the pond. Generation after generation returned to the pond to bury their dead in this manner for the next 1,000 years.
More information at the Orange County Regional History website.

Simone Biles

The one below is a trailer for a Netflix program scheduled to air July 17.  Looks awesome, because she is a very well-spoken young woman.


08 July 2024

Medieval gardens and turfed benches

I recently enjoyed browsing this book.   It has chapters on monastery gardens, abbess gardens (medicinal plants), pilgrimage-related gardens, cook's gardens (edibles), orchard gardens, and alchemist's gardens, and one on "Mary gardens."  Since I was raised Protestant, I have never been taught the extreme degrees of reverence for the Virgin Mary, or known that Mary gardens were a thing.  The book chapter details the history beginning in an ecumenical council in 431 at Ephesus and the subsequent rise of a "cult of Mary."  By the late medieval period there was an outpouring of relevant music, literature, and art, including garden design.  I was amazed by how many common garden plants were not only dedicated to Mary, but named after her.  The "lady" in the many plants named "lady-x" refers to the Virgin Mary. Here is a partial list of plants incorporated in a Mary garden:

"Eyes of Mary" is one common name for forget-me-nots.
Soapwort (Bouncing Bett) is also known as Lady-by-the-gate
The wooly mullein is also "Lady's candle."
English Primrose = Lady's Frills
Sweet Violet = Lady's Modesty
Ground Ivy = Madonna's Herb
Maidenhair Fern = Maria's Hair
Bachelor's Button = Mary's Crown
Meadowsweet = Mary's Girdle
Marigold = Mary's Gold
Bleeding Heart - Mary's Heart
Lungwort = Virgin Mary's Tears
Spearmint = Menthe de Notre Dame
Iris = Mary's Sword
Cowslip = Mary's Tears
Bedstraw = Lady's Tresses
Solomon's Seal = Lady's Seal
Pansy = Our Lady's Delight
honeysuckle = Lady's Fingers
Hweet Woodruff = Lady's Lace
Columbine = Our Lady's Shoes
Lily-of-the-Vally = Our Lady's Tears

And many more.  However "Rosemary" is not a corruption of "Rose of Mary", but of the Latin ros marinus ("dew of the sea").

One more interesting item from the book.  Herb gardens typically incorporate benches, some of which in medieval times were "turfed":
"The turfed seat drained quickly after rain and provided the sensation of sitting on a dry and fragrant meadow.  It consisted of a raised bench seat with the sides constructed of stoneor brick or, less permanently, wattle, almost filled with compacted stone and rubble to provide good drainage and topped with a layer of soil.  The seat was then turfed with soft fine grass or fragrant creeping herbs, such as apple-scented chamomole and thymes, to form a dense mat."
What a great idea.  I've been unable to find a suitable photo of a turfed bench other a few partially depicted in stained glass windows.

Here's the Wikipedia page on medieval gardens.

06 July 2024

"Laying a hedge"

 For my gardening Zoom group I recently browsed In a Unicorn's Garden: recreating the mystery and magic of medieval gardens.  There I encountered the phrase "laying a hedge" and had to look it up...

What life is like for a normal person

"Kevin Bacon has daydreamed about walking through life as a regular, nonfamous person... A person who could stroll the Earth for a day without being asked for a selfie by a stranger.... Then Bacon realized he could test out his fantasy by donning a disguise... Bacon put on his normal-person camouflage and tested it at one of the most densely populated locations in Los Angeles: an outdoor shopping mall called The Grove..."

At the Grove, Bacon recalls, “People were kind of pushing past me, not being nice. Nobody said, ‘I love you.’ I had to wait in line to, I don’t know, buy a fucking coffee or whatever. I was like, This sucks. I want to go back to being famous.”

03 July 2024

"The Sixteen Pleasures"

"I Modi (The Ways) is best known as The Sixteen Pleasures, an illustrated sex guide published by Marcantonio Raimondi in 1524. Based on paintings by Giulio Romano, The Sixteen Pleasures carries the proud boast of being the first work of pornography banned by the Catholic church. For his gross indecency, Raimondi was imprisoned by Pope Clement VII. All copies of the book were destroyed. Romano got away with it. And so began a long debate whether art and porn can ever be the same thing?..

Pietro Aretino was aroused by this curious case of private and public mores. “After I arranged for Pope Clement to release Raimondi,” he wrote, “I desired to see those pictures which has caused the [Vatican] to cry out that their creators should be crucified.” Aretino thought the illustrations needed a few words, so he composed a sonnet for each woodcut. He also successfully fought to have Raimondi released from prison. In 1527, I Modi and Aretino’s sonnets appeared in a new collaborative work. “Come view this you who like to fuck,” wrote Aretino, “without being disturbed in that sweet enterprise.” Predictably, the Pope banned this second book and destroyed every copy...

In 1798, The Sixteen Pleasures reappeared as the French title L’Arétin d’Augustin Carrache ou Recueil de Postures Érotiques, d’Après les Gravures à l’Eau-Forte par cet Artiste Célèbre, Avec le Texte Explicatif des Sujets. With most of the original mucky pictures lost (or maybe just locked away in the Vatican?), this book featured illustrations based on engravings by painter Agostini Carracci.
I have embedded one of the Carracci images above; the others are viewable at a 2017 article in Flashbak.

Two doggy day care bus videos

"Dressing pretty" is over

"...I'm a messy eater,” admits Isaiah Lat, a 20-year-old student, DJ and stylist from Chicago, “I used to wipe away stains but now I don’t mind a little oil or a little spaghetti on my shorts. I think it’s chic.”

He does not believe that a term has yet been coined for the way he likes to dress. “It’s probably this dystopian, Mad Max, pirate, Steam Punk, mythological vibe,” he says, big on thrift and DIY; he likes skinny jeans, Capri pants and visor-like sunglasses. He doesn’t pile on the pasta sauce before he leaves the house but says he does like his clothes to be “somewhat stained”.

There’s a new mood in fashion: aesthetically varied, but its disparate elements – camouflage, combat shorts and grungey plaid; goth-inspired make-up and stomper boots; silhouettes and garments inspired by 2010s indie sleaze; T-shirts emblazoned with slogans inspired by nihilistic internet humour – project a common mood. Daniel Rodgers, digital fashion writer at British Vogue, says that much of it stems from the rebellious energy of kids “born in 2000 trying to reclaim the things millennials wrote off as loserish”. It is often a bit grotty, a bit greasy and crumpled and raw.

It’s a big leap away from the homogeneous looks that have dominated visual culture for a decade, including sleek, mass-produced athleisure and the ubiquitous “clean girl” trend, which problematically centres influencers who either are – or look like – Hailey Bieber, with white, gently blushing skin and huge fluffy eyebrows...

It is an intentional rejection of the mainstream. “We are sick of late-stage capitalist fashion,” he says. “In the aftermath of Trump’s presidency, with the conservative supreme court and our rights being stripped away, we want to dance and look hot – and this is our way of showing the government and corporations that we don’t need them.” [you might consider voting...]

Still, there is something particularly nihilistic about what is happening now, says Rodgers. The way people are “dipping into looks from the past 15 years of mainstream culture and putting them all together in a wild bonfire heap” and sampling from subcultures without the “lifestyle obligations” that used to be part of wearing those clothes. He says that when micro-trends come into style at the moment, they stay in: “So everything is trending at once. Everything is porous and blurred; it’s kind of a free for all.”..

Even Hailey Bieber, the ultimate icon for the “clean girl” look, is dressing a bit more chaotically, points out Rodgers, and is “in some way mirroring what’s happening on the street. She’ll wear a football shirt with some tailored trousers and cowboy boots or a poet sleeved shirt with Fila shorts and a Mary Jane, like someone’s kind of sifted through a lost property box on sports day.
More (with photos) at The Guardian.

The most common jobs in the United States

From the Department of Data column at The Washington Post, where there is some discussion.  I'll also embed the bottom of the list (which goes on for 58 pages).

The rarest book in American literature

If ever a book ought not to be judged by its cover, Edgar Allan Poe’s debut collection, Tamerlane and Other Poems, is that book. Known as the Black Tulip, only twelve copies appear to have survived since its publication in July 1827...

Both Poe and the novice printer Calvin F.W. Thomas were just eighteen when the poet handed over his manuscript, presumably at Thomas’s shop at 70 Washington Street in Boston, and paid him to make it into a book. The result was forty pages of unevenly printed verse bound in drab tan wrappers the shade of a faded tea stain. Tamerlane’s front cover features a potpourri of discordant typefaces within an ornamental frame that resembles a geometric queue of conifers—a heavy-handed period design I have grown to adore. It’s clear that Thomas, as a workaday job printer whose usual commissions were show bills, apothecary labels, calling cards, and the like, had his shop stocked with a mishmash of typefaces to fit any taste. On this occasion, he seems to have drawn liberally from his inventory... 

The Holy Grail of book collecting, Tamerlane is one of those books that—like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the original boards, which sold at Christie’s in 2021 for $1.17 million, or Shakespeare’s first folio, priced at $7.5 million and sold last year by the London-based rare book firm Peter Harrington on its 400th anniversary—causes a stir among rare book enthusiasts whether or not they have any hope, or desire, of acquiring it. (Not to mention the Bay Psalm Book or even the Eliot Algonquin Bible, other ultra-rare early American printed books, though religious texts, not literary.) Whenever a first edition of Tamerlane comes under the hammer—a rare event in itself—its past legacy and future home become the topic of discussion among booksellers, archivists, collectors, and Poe scholars around the world.

Originally produced in an edition estimated at forty or fifty copies, Tamerlane was from its inception a rarity. The Morgan Library doesn’t own a copy. Nor does the Library of Congress. The copy once held by the University of Virginia, Poe’s not-quite alma mater, was stolen in 1973 from the McGregor Room vault in Alderman Library. If it is never recovered, an unfortunate possibility, the number of known copies drops to eleven. At least one prominent Poe expert I know speculates it may have been destroyed to hide the evidence. 
More details about Tamerlane at Literary Hub.  

Your biodegradable, renewable, sustainable T-shirt may start in an old-growth forest

"You might think that wearing a top made from wood pulp would give instant eco-credentials – it is renewable, biodegradable, and, having once been a tree, it has soaked up some carbon along the way. What’s more, it’s not plastic. This is why many brands are opting for viscose, Lycocell, acetate and modal – soft, silky, semi-synthetic fabrics made from tree-pulp – as an apparently more sustainable option... Except that the chances are that your wood-pulp top may not be so green...

In total, about 300m trees are logged globally each year to make viscose, sustainably or otherwise. These fabrics go by the rather geeky term, “man-made cellulosic fibres”, or MMCFs. Demand for viscose, the third most used fabric in fashion (after polyester and cotton), is expected to double over the next eight years, says Rycroft: “Many brands are looking for a substitute for polyester or virgin cotton, but it’s trading one environmental disaster for another.”

Significant amounts” of viscose come from endangered forests in Brazil, Canada and Indonesia, says Rycroft. “We’ve also noted old-growth forests in Australia – koala habitats – disappearing into the viscose supply-chain. 
More information at The Guardian.

I forgot to post this on Tau Day (June 28)

More about Tau Day.

Stars in tree twigs

"...this five-pointed (also called five-angled) star shape is common in Populus (aspen, poplar, cottonwood) and Salix species (members of the willow family) but is also found in oaks (Quercus), and chestnut (Castanea). The pith inside a stem is made of parenchyma (large, thin-walled cells), which are often a different color than surrounding wood (xylem). The pith’s function is to transport and store nutrients. Pith is usually lighter when new, but darkens with time (as seen in images like these of cottonwood “stars”).

Mowry’s story notes the importance of cottonwood to the belief systems of Native American tribes: the Lakota, the Cheyenne, the Arapaho, and the Oglala Sioux. Pacific Northwest naturalist and poet Robert Michael Pyle’s essay, “The Plains Cottonwood” (American Horticulturist, August 1993, pp.39-42),  describes an Arapaho version of the story of the stars that you told above: “They moved up through the roots and trunks of the cottonwoods to wait near the sky at the ends of the high branches. When the night spirit desired more stars, he asked the wind spirit to provide them. She then grew from a whisper to a gale. Many cottonwood twigs would break off, and each time they broke, they released stars from their nodes.” Cottonwood twigs sometimes snap off without the assistance of wind, a self-pruning phenomenon called cladoptosis. Pyle suggests looking for twigs that are neither too young nor too weathered if you want to observe the clearest stars: “The star is the darker heartwood contrasting with the paler sapwood and new growth.”
Embedded image from Mountain Cathedrals.

29 June 2024

Rereading 1984

In preparation for the upcoming election, I decided to give George Orwell's 1984 a reread; it's probably been 50 years since I last read it.  If anything it is even more ominous and foreboding than it was back then.  I'll probably post a few excerpts later, but for now I'll just offer this excerpt from the Emmanuel Goldstein's antiestablishment book Ignorance is Strength:
Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or the other.

The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable. The aim of the High is to remain where they are. The aim of the Middle is to change places with the High. The aim of the Low, when they have an aim - for it is an abiding characteristic of the Low that they are too much crushed by drudgery to be more than intermittently conscious of anything outside their daily lives - is to abolish all distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal. Thus throughout history a struggle which is the same in its main outlines recurs over and over again. For long periods the High seem to be securely in power, but sooner or later there always comes a moment when they lose either their belief in themselves or their capacity to govern efficiently, or both. They are then overthrown by the Middle, who enlist the Low on their side by pretending to them that they are fighting for liberty and justice. As soon as they have reached their objective, the Middle thrust the Low back into their old position of servitude, and themselves become the High. Presently a new Middle group splits off from one of the other groups, or from both of them, and the struggle begins over again. Of the three groups, only the Low are never even temporarily successful in achieving their aims. It would be an exaggeration to say that throughout history there has been no progress of a material kind. Even today, in a period of decline, the average human being is physically better off than he was a few centuries ago. But no advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimetre nearer. From the point of view of the Low, no historic change has ever meant much more than a change in the name of their masters.
The text continues online at Panarchy (or better yet get 1984 from your local library).


For many years I've been intrigued by the images on the stamps of Papua New Guinea featuring an unusual sailing vessel, but I've never taken the time to look up what they are.  Until today.

The local term is "lakatoi" (literally "three dugouts"); the dugouts are harnessed together with booms, creating craft that are stable for oceanic travel.  The sails are "crab-claws."
Crab-claw sails were invented by the Austronesians somewhere in Island Southeast Asia by at least 2000 BCE. It spread with the Austronesian migration to Micronesia, Island Melanesia, Madagascar, and Polynesia. It may have also caused the unique development of outrigger boat technology due to the necessity for stability once crab claw sails were attached to small watercraft. Crab claw sails can be used for double-canoe (catamaran), single-outrigger (on the windward side), or double-outrigger boat configurations, in addition to monohulls.

Crab claw sails are rigged fore-and-aft and can be tilted and rotated relative to the wind. They evolved from "V"-shaped perpendicular square sails (a "double sprit") in which the two spars converge at the base of the hull. The simplest form of the crab claw sail (also with the widest distribution) is composed of a triangular sail supported by two light spars (sometimes erroneously called "sprits") on each side. They were originally mastless, and the entire assembly was taken down when the sails were lowered...

Another evolution of the basic crab claw sail is the conversion of the upper spar into a fixed mast. In Polynesia, this gave the sail more height while also making it narrower, giving it a shape reminiscent of crab pincers (hence "crab claw" sail). This was also usually accompanied by the lower spar becoming more curved.

Austronesians traditionally made their sails from woven mats of the resilient and salt-resistant pandanus leaves. These sails allowed Austronesians to embark on long-distance voyaging. In some cases, however, they were one-way voyages. The failure of pandanus to establish populations in Easter Island and New Zealand is believed to have isolated their settlements from the rest of Polynesia.

Is there any way for me to rescue this thumb drive?

This message appears whenever I insert an old thumb drive into my iMac.   It is a THKAILAR  64GB USB C flash drive loaded with memorabilia photos.  I don't know how it was damaged - most likely I removed it before formally "ejecting" it.  

Not a major tragedy, but hoping for a workaround.  

28 June 2024

This is what Photoshop is for

The image above was posted to the PhotoshopRequest subreddit with this message:
As our family's "photoshopper" I have been asked to edit this picture to make it look like she isn't in the hospital. But I am too emotional to even start it. Their one request was that I make it look like she isn't in the hospital, but they have no other ideas or suggestions. I told them I don't think I'd be able to get the tubes covering her face removed. But if that's something you would like to attempt, please go for it. I am from South Africa, and so $10 is all I can offer. I hope this amount is acceptable, as I know how much effort and skill this will take. This picture was taken using their phone, so I don't have a better quality image, I'm afraid. Thank you all in advance.
The discussion thread includes several cleaned-up images, including this one:

Hats off to the Redditors who provide these services.

Bribery of federal officials is now legal

Bribery of officials in power in government has always occurred, but until now it has always been illegal.  The Supreme Court has now changed that.  Herewith some excerpts from an incisive commentary in an op-ed piece in The Guardian:
"Did you know you could give your local government officials tips when they do things you like? Brett Kavanaugh thinks you can. In fact, if you’re rich enough, says the US supreme court, you can now pay off state and local officials for government acts that fit your policy preferences or advance your interests. You can give them lavish gifts, send them on vacations, or simply cut them checks. You can do all of this so long as the cash, gifts or other “gratuities” are provided after the service, and not before it – and so long as a plausible deniability of the meaning and intent of these “gratuities” is maintained.

That was the ruling authored by Kavanaugh in Snyder v United States, a 6-3 opinion issued on Wednesday, in which the supreme court dealt the latest blow to federal anti-corruption law. In the case, which was divided along ideological lines, the court held that “gratuities” – that is, post-facto gifts and payments – are not technically “bribes”, and therefore not illegal. Bribes are only issued before the desired official act, you see, and their meaning is explicit; a more vague, less vulgarly transactional culture of “gratitude” for official acts, expressed in gifts and payments of great value, is supposed to be something very different. The court has thereby continued its long effort to legalize official corruption, using the flimsiest of pretexts to rob federal anti-corruption statutes of all meaning.

The case concerns James Snyder, who in 2013 was serving as the mayor of small-town Portage, Indiana. Late that year, the city of Portage awarded a contract to Great Lakes Peterbilt, a trucking company, and bought five tow trucks from them; a few weeks later, Snyder asked for and accepted a check for $13,000 from the company. Snyder was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 21 months in federal prison. He argued that the kickback was not illegal because it came after he awarded a contract to the company that ultimately paid him off, not before.

Absurdly the US supreme court agreed, classifying such payments as mere tokens of appreciation and claiming they are not illegal when they are not the product of an explicit agreement meant to influence official acts in exchange for money...

For an example, we need look no further than the conservative justices of the supreme court itself, who have become notorious, in recent years, for accepting lavish gifts and chummy intimacy from rightwing billionaires. According to investigative reporting by ProPublica, Clarence Thomas has accepted vacations, real estate purchases, tuition for his young relatives, and seemingly innumerable private jet trips from the billionaire Harlan Crow, as well as financing for an RV from another wealthy patron, Anthony Welters. Thomas has argued that these gifts and favors are merely the “personal hospitality” of “close personal friends”...

Adding money – or, in the court’s parlance, “gratuities” – to these arrangements only makes this more obvious. It is not a coincidence that the court has chosen to legalize for state and local officials exactly the sort of corruption that they partake of so conspicuously themselves."

Related: Kleptocracy and kakistocracy explained

Proof that butterflies crossed an ocean

Excerpts from a story in The New York Times:
Early one morning in late October 2013, Gerard Talavera, an entomologist, saw something highly unusual — a flock of painted lady butterflies stranded on a beach in French Guiana.

The painted lady, or the species Vanessa cardui, is one of the world’s most widespread butterflies, but it isn’t found in South America. Yet there they were, lying in the sand of the continent’s eastern shores, their wings tattered and riddled with holes.

The insect is a champion of long-distance travel, routinely crisscrossing the Sahara on a trek from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa, covering up to 9,000 miles. Could they also have made the 2,600-mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean without any place to stop and refuel?..

Dr. Talavera and his team describe a crucial clue to cracking the mystery of the stranded butterflies: Pollen clinging to the butterflies in French Guiana matched flowering shrubs in West African countries. These shrubs bloom from August to November, which matches the timeline of the butterflies’ arrival...

In addition to studying the pollen, the researchers sequenced the butterflies’ genomes to trace their lineage and found they had European-African roots. This ruled out the possibility that they had flown over land from North America. Then, they used an insect-tracking tool called isotope tracing to confirm that the butterflies’ natal origins were in Western Europe, North Africa and West Africa.
It's amazing what science is capable of nowadays.  The full scientific report is available online at Nature Communications.  The painted lady resting on my finger is one I raised some years ago from a caterpillar found on local nettles.

Dolly Parton for President

Reposted from 2023 because she would have out-debated both of those losers last night...

Seriously.  Dolly Parton is the only person who can unite the brutally divided partisan voters of this country.  She is eminently qualified to represent the values this country claims to hold dear.

Allow me to anticipate the potential objections:

"She wouldn't have the right qualifications for being president of the country"
Constitutional requirements for the president:  a natural-born citizen at least 35 years old and a resident of the country for at least 14 years.  Box checked.  Moving on.

Duties and responsibilities of the President, as defined at the U.S. Senate site:
As chief executive, the president presides over the cabinet and has responsibility for the management of the executive branch. With the advice and consent of the Senate, the president also has the power to make treaties and to appoint ambassadors, U.S. officers, and judges to federal courts. He is also the commander in chief of the armed forces. The president signs laws and can veto bills that have passed Congress.
Details at the link.  We all know that every previous President has delegated those duties or fulfilled them based on recommendations from advisory committees (although Eisenhower may have been a real-life commander-in-chief).  No problems there.
"She has no political experience"
Exactly.  An asset, not a deficiency.  Dolly is the antithesis of a politician.  

"She is not part of a political party"
Exactly.  She has carefully avoided aligning herself with either the Democratic or Republican party.  She turned down the Presidential Medal of Freedom offer from Trump (twice) and from Biden; she felt that if she accepted it she "would be doing politics."

Here's a discussion of her recent "World on Fire" song lyrics:
“Don't get me started on politics, Now how are we to live in a world like this, Greedy politicians, present and past, They wouldn't know the truth if it bit 'em in the ass.”
These are the words read back to Dolly [by a host on the Today Show], who laughs as a response. She’s then asked which politicians she’s talking about.

All of them. any of them.” She replies, plainly.

She then adds, “I don’t think any of them are trying hard enough… They worry more about their party than they do about the people.”

Dolly added the better approach would be “If we just do what we felt was the right thing rather than who’s going to lose or who’s going to win this, or who’s going to look better if they do this.”
Absofuckinlutely right.  Here's the video of that conversation. And most Americans will agree with her.

This comment about her own politics, as cited in Woman and Home:
As for her own political views, she knows what they are and that’s good enough for her. “I’ve got as many Republican friends as I’ve got Democrat friends and I just don’t like voicing my opinion on things,” she says.

“I’ve seen things before, like the Dixie Chicks. You can ruin a career for speaking out. I respect my audience too much for that, I respect myself too much for that. Of course, I have my own opinions, but that don’t mean I got to throw them out there because you’re going to piss off half the people.”
Here's the full video of her performance of "World on Fire" at the American Country Music Awards.  Listen.

She gets a standing ovation from a room full of cowboy hats after performing what can reasonably be described as a climate change anthem.

"Liar, liar the world’s on fire

Whatcha gonna do when it all burns down?

Fire, fire burning higher

Still got time to turn it all around."

It’s difficult to say whether Dolly explicitly intended “World on Fire” as a climate song, though people are hearing it as such. But that’s how many of Dolly’s more “political” statements and artistic work come across — they tap into the zeitgeist without making any explicit political statements. Dolly is an expert at this.
Note also that the performance is a crossover of country music and rock and roll.  Dolly bridged that gap like no performer in history, recently accepting induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after a lifetime of country music and Grand Old Opry.

Her new album, due out later this year, will include a cover of Prince's Purple Rain and duets with Sting, Steven Tyler, and Elton John, as well as a combined performance of "Let It Be" with McCartney and Ringo (see video above).  This from the most acclaimed "country music" artist of all time, because she believes in music and the lyrics of music, not in the politics of country vs. rock

This was Dolly Parton's comment regarding the Trump/Clinton presidential debates many years ago:

Let’s talk about what we really need — taking care of us. I think people just want to have a feeling of security. It’s just like political terrorism right now, they got us all scared to death about everything,’ Parton said.
A pause in this nomination post.  Anyone who has ever written anything knows that it is easier to write the long version rather than a concise version.  I'm going to take the easy way out for the moment because I have so much to present, by inserting extended extracts from a variety of sources I've bookmarked over the years.  Later I'll need to come back to weed, summarize, correlate etc.  So here we go with some of the source material...

She is beloved across so many demographic groups because she really transcends politics,” said Lance Kinney, an advertising and public-relations professor at the University of Alabama. “And her magic lies on being a cipher onto which you can graft whatever political agenda you prefer.”

The allure that rings from honky-tonks in the rural South to gay bars in large coastal cities has everything to do with the persona Parton has meticulously cultivated since the 1950s, Kinney said. On the one hand, there’s the conservative-appealing story of Parton’s origins — or how she managed to pull herself up by her bootstraps after growing up poor in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. On the other, there’s the glitz and glamour of her towering wigs and acrylic nails, and the feminist anthem she created with “9 to 5,” an iconic song about workplace discrimination.

In recent years, Parton has turned the Imagination Library, her literacy-focused nonprofit, into a 2 million-book-a-month international operation and also helped fund Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine. She has supported the LGBTQ+ community and endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement — breaking with “the guardrail in country music of not talking about racial injustice in the present,” said Joel Schwindt, a music history assistant professor at Berklee College of Music.

“Dolly Parton, much like country music, is a paradox,” Schwindt said. “But I think she can get away with it because of her authenticity and also because she’s reached founders’ status in country.”
Regarding controversial issues, per Gizmodo:
She’s acknowledged, for instance, the role of the LGBT community in inspiring her stage persona. Yet when Tennessee banned public drag performances, she kept quiet. She publicly attested her support for Black Lives Matter with a spate of other country musicians as artists reckoned with the genre’s long silence on racial justice. Her speaking up came two years after she changed the name of her long-running dinner show from Dixie Stampede to Dolly’s Stampede after much criticism of its Confederate nostalgia. Parton insisted the original name was chosen out of “innocent ignorance.” (This move did divide some fans.)

In interviews, Dolly has certainly expressed support for environmental causes, in her down-home oratory style. “We’re just mistreating Mother Nature,” she told National Geographic last year.“That’s like being ugly to your mama.” ...

But Wilkerson feels that Dolly, and her companies, don’t own up to their part in damaging the region’s climate resilience or contributing to environmental catastrophe through the cumulative impact of all those cars and private jets. “It’s been the ruination of the Smoky Mountains,” Wilkerson said bluntly. 

From Vox in 2021:
But Parton knew what she was talking about when she suggested to the New York Times last fall that people were starting to get sick of her. She has now achieved the sort of hysterical and highly trendy adoration that can shade into overexposure in the blink of an eye — even for a legend with a reputation as durable as Dolly Parton’s. The pressure on Dolly Parton to be the single person who can unite a fractured America is so high, there is a slow and uneasy creep of incipient backlash all around her...

But in recent decades, everything that makes Dolly Dolly has swung back into trend. “One reason Parton’s approval rating is so high, though” Lindsay Zoladz posited in the New York Times in 2019, “is that all the attributes that used to set her up for criticism — the outrageous, hyper-femme style; the unapologetic business savvy needed to pull off her late-70s pop crossover; even the so-what acknowledgment of her own cosmetic surgery — are no longer taboo.”

Dolly Parton often explains that she modeled her look after the town tramp, who as a small child she thought was the most beautiful person she’d ever seen, and that she knows straight men don’t find it attractive and doesn’t care. “If I was trying to really impress men or be totally sexy, then I would dress differently,” she told Playboy in 1978. But why bother? “I’m already married and he don’t mind how I look.”..

For decades, this acknowledgment played as tacky or trashy. But in the 2010s, it came to be seen as empowering, even feminist: Dolly dresses for herself, not the male gaze. And Dolly’s self is a celebration of the artificiality of femininity and glamour, a finding of authenticity in what is fake. That’s downright avant-garde...

In 2008, Roger Ebert returned to his 1980 Dolly Parton profile, noting that it had missed something he considered very important: her presence, which he writes “enveloped” him. “This had nothing to do with sex appeal,” he says. “Far from it. It was as if I were being mesmerized by a benevolent power. I left the room in a cloud of good feeling.”

Ebert adds that when he spoke with his writing partner Gene Siskel about Parton the next day, Siskel reported the same feeling: “This will sound crazy,” he said, “but when I was interviewing Dolly Parton, I almost felt like she had healing powers.”
Lots more good information at that Vox article, including insights into the Dollywood Dixie Stampede dropping the term "Dixie" at her request, her refusal to join Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in disrespecting Donald Trump, and the weaknesses inherent in embracing both sides of an argument.

In 2020 The New York Times offered "The Grit and Glory of Dolly Parton":
Only as an adult did I see how widely and warmly (if sometimes ironically) Parton has been embraced by people with little else in common. Her ability to navigate social and conceptual divides helps explain why this is: She is country without being retrograde; a friend to the outcast whose basic political philosophy, that people should get paid to do what they do best, is uncontroversial. She is beautiful without making beauty look easy; feminine but not fragile; white but not precious; principled but not hardened or fixed...

Most accounts of her life, of which there are many, begin with Parton’s humble origins as the fourth child of 12 born to an industrious sharecropper and a musical mother in the mountains of East Tennessee. Extremely poor, but confident and creative, Parton wrote her first songs at age 5 or 6, got her first guitar at age 8 and appeared on a local radio and television show at age 10. The morning after her high school graduation in 1964, Parton left her small town for Nashville. That day, she met her husband, Carl Dean, to whom she has been married for 54 years...

Parton addresses the wealth she has amassed through these ventures with predictable nonchalance, but she clearly knows the value of money, in a way familiar to those who have grown up without it. She supports several family members (she does not have children), and has donated millions to the Imagination Library, the literacy program she founded in 1990; to East Tennessee residents whose homes were destroyed by a 2016 wildfire; and, this spring, to Nashville’s Vanderbilt Medical Center, for Covid-19 vaccine research...

The word that you’re going to have to use over and over when describing her is ‘work,’” Summers tells me. I admit I have gleaned this from Parton’s description of how she “gets more done than most people do all day” by working every morning from 3 to 7 a.m. on her spiritual practice and any one of several projects she keeps lined up in plastic bins before her workday officially begins. Parton says she “lives on creative and spiritual energy” — and the more she talks about “rising above” her physical self to meet the demands of each day, I see she means this literally: She subsists on energy instead of typical amounts of sleep (she gets no more than six hours a night, and is fine on three)...

Even her gleaming exterior can be seen as a function of her working girl’s pragmatism. “I’m really not that ‘high maintenance,’” she writes in the new book, “I can put on my makeup, costume and wig and be ready for anything in 15 minutes or less.”..

She remains true to country music’s historical role, not as a bastion of conservative patriotism (as it was rebranded when it was aligned with Richard Nixon’s “silent majority” in the 1960s) but as an inclusively populist, working people’s music meant to give outsiders a voice. Hence her decision to write the song “Travelin’ Thru” for the 2005 film “Transamerica,” about a trans woman’s attempts to connect with her son; and, in 2017, to join Miley Cyrus on the pro-gay anthem “Rainbowland.”

The Imagination Library videos on YouTube, where Dolly reads bedtime stories to you (or your children) from the books that she gives away free to children every month in order to promote literacy

Re her childhood poverty and dietary preferences, from Rolling Stone in 2003:
Despite all the modern trappings of her fame and success, Dolly Parton is a living link to what seems like an impossibly remote past. She was born the fourth of twelve children in a log cabin in Sevier County, Tennessee, on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The doctor who brought her into the world was paid with a sack of cornmeal. The Partons didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing, and her dad, a tobacco farmer, supplemented the family’s diet by taking his shotgun and heading off into the woods.

“People hear me talk about eating squirrel and groundhogs, but in the mountains like that, you really didn’t have much of a choice,” says Parton matter-of-factly. “There were twelve of us kids. We never ate possum — I remember Daddy saying, ‘That’s like a damn rat.’ But we ate everything — turtle, frogs. I just remember the big old groundhogs — whistle pigs, they called them — and you’d cook ’em with sweet potatoes, and you’d have different ways of making some of that gamy taste go away.” 
“Look,” she says triumphantly, throwing the cabinet doors open. It’s magnificent: cans of corned-beef hash, tins of Spam, loaves of white bread, a Costco-size brick of Velveeta. “I have to have my Spam,” she says. “And look at this!” It’s a pig-shaped ceramic jar. Inside is a baggie of bacon grease, neatly labeled with a date. “The people who come to clean my house every Thursday have to fry up bacon, so I have bacon grease to cook with. I have to have it in all my houses.” She brightens. “You want some Velveeta?” She saws off an orange hunk and offers it. “You didn’t believe me, did you?” she says. “I grew up with that stuff and I never got over it. Good, ain’t it?”  

She was the first in the history of her family to graduate from high school.  Lots more at the link. [note to self - extract more later,

The first episode of “Dolly Parton’s America” centers partly on the “9 to 5” songwriter’s reluctance to call herself a feminist. Earlier this year, Parton’s own sister, Stella, said she was “ashamed” of Dolly for not speaking out more about the #MeToo movement. In response, Parton told The Guardian: “I don’t feel I have to march, hold up a sign or label myself. I think the way I have conducted my life and my business and myself speaks for itself.”..

Like Cher, another 73-year-old multihyphenate icon, Parton has over the past few years ascended to a rarefied level of intergenerational celebrity: a saucy grandmother of social media...

Both-sides-ism rarely feels as benevolent as it does when coming from Parton, but that’s nothing new. When asked, in 1997, how she was able to maintain fan bases within both the religious right and the gay community, she replied, “It’s two different worlds, and I live in both and I love them both, and I understand and accept both.”..

Parton was born in January 1946, to parents so poor, they paid the doctor who delivered her in cornmeal. Their home at the foot of East Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains had “running water, if you were willing to run and get it” — one of Parton’s many, oft-repeated “Dollyisms” that makes light of her hardscrabble upbringing.

As a child — one of 12 — she had no exposure to movies or television, rarely even magazines, so her earliest ideas of glamour came from two seemingly disparate sources: the glittering kings and queens she heard described in fairytales and Bible verses, and from the “streetwalkers,” and “strumpets and trollops” she’d see when her family went into town. “I was impressed with what they called ‘the trash’ in my hometown,” she later mused. “I don’t know how trashy these women were, but they were said to be trashy because they had blond hair and wore nail polish and tight clothes. I thought they were beautiful.”...

For all the musical legends we’ve lost in the past few years, it’s heartening to see this show pony get her victory lap while she’s still around to bask in the glory. Not that she’s planning on going anywhere. Whenever she’s asked how she’d like to be remembered 100 years from now, Parton trots out one of her best Dollyisms: “I want ’em to say, ‘God, don’t she look good for her age!’”..

[In the WNYC podcast series "Dolly Parton's America,"] Abumrad narrates from his position as a relative outsider to what he calls the Dollyverse, presenting “Dolly Parton’s America” with the aesthetic language of the modern podcast: snippets of interviews, tonally appropriate background music, and the inviting, conversational voice of a man guiding you through his thought process as he travels down various rabbit holes of his own curiosity. Parton granted Abumrad quite a few sit-down interviews, and although seasoned Parton fans will find little of what she tells him to be new information, “Dolly Parton’s America” is a genial, compulsively listenable crash course in Parton’s lasting appeal...
And that will serve as a segue to my earnest suggestion that those wishing to understand Dolly Parton should listed to these podcastsThe full 8-part series of podcasts is here [transcripts are also available for those who want to skim quickly].  In the "Dixie Disappearance" she explains why she modified Dollywood's chief attraction - the "Dixie Stampede" after learning it offended people:
Well, there's several reasons that we changed the name or a few reasons. Maybe I should say a couple of reasons. One being that out of ignorance, people do things you don't know. A lot of my things that I do wrong, just out of pure ignorance really, because you grow up a certain way and you don't know. The Dixie, we always thought way down in the land of Dixie, it's like a Dixieland or Dixieland music, Dixie. You know, I just thought of Dixie as a part of the, part of America. And it was offensive cause like I say out of ignorance, you don't know that you're hurting people, never thought about it being, about slavery or any of that. But when it was brought to our attention, and some woman wrote about it and I thought, well Lord have mercy, I would never want to hurt anybody for any reason. And being a business woman, we didn't really have that many people say anything about it.

But I thought, Lord, if I've offended one person as a business woman, I don't want to do that. So we completely cleared all that out and started over that. But we, I just wanted to fix it cause I don't want to ever hurt or offend anyone. And so I did it as a good faith effort to show that it was never meant to cause anyone any pain.
Back in 2019 after listening to Radiolab's introduction to "Dolly Parton's America," I posted a summary of the podcast, including this: 
JAD: Like, she tore right through all of that noise. Through the general election and beyond. And I kept bumping into people who would describe the experience of being at a Dolly show as, like, standing in an alternate vision of America than what was unfolding on the TV.

JESSIE WILKERSON: I remember just standing out in the lobby and just people watching, because it was the most diverse place I’ve ever been. I was seeing a multi-racial audience. People wearing cowboy hats and boots. I was seeing people in drag. Church ladies. Lesbians holding hands. Little girls who were there with their families.

WAYNE BLEDSOE: You had a whole audience of people who absolutely their philosophies were in opposition to each other co-mingling, and everybody is polite to each other.

JAD: So that was one thing that caught my attention. That in this very divided moment, Dolly seems to maybe be a kind of unifier. And after doing a little poking around, the data does kind of bear this out. If you look at her global Q Score, this is a measure of how well people think about your brand, globally. What they do is they assemble a very diverse sample of people, they ask them a bunch of questions, and out of all of these different brands that are out there, all these different performers, she is in the top 10 globally in terms of everybody's favorites. But she's almost number one when it comes to lack of negatives, if that makes any sense.
That's what the United States needs right now

O.K.  That's the end of the multi-course dog's breakfast of my archived Dolly Parton links.  Now back to the "presidential nomination" part of this megapost.

First, I would like comments from international readers re what your reaction would be were the United States to nominate or elect Dolly Parton as U.S. president, and how she would play out on the world stage.  Björk had this to say back in 2003:
“Oh, Dolly’s big in Iceland,” says Björk. “Her voice is immaculate, really powerful. Her character is so warm and human, and she has a great sense of humor.” To Björk, Parton transcends her musical genre. “All my friends love Dolly, and most of them are people who would never listen to country music,” she says. 
But that's one talented musician talking about another one for a music-centered Rolling Stone magazine.  How would "regular people," diplomats, and other world leaders react?  Personally I can envision her attending a major international conference in the Hague, walking up to an obscure foreign minister to say "Hi - I'm Dolly," and him responding "Yes, I know.  My people back in Eastern Rumelia just love you."  "I'm so pleased to hear that.  Let's talk about this climate mess."

Second, we need to ponder a vice-presidential running mate.  Many years ago when Donald Trump was running for president, I thought the Democrats should counter with Tom Hanks, but at their convention they disastrously chose Hilary Clinton.  Now I would suspect that Tom Hanks would be too "woke" for this centrist new party.  Readers may have some reasonable suggestions, but in the end likely Dolly could come up with her own pick.  And what to call the party? (again, she can decide.  She built a multimillion-dollar business from scratch; she's good at this stuff).

The biggest problem is not getting her elected, but getting her to accept the nomination.  It would probably only take three degrees of separation for someone reading this post to ask someone they know to ask someone who knows Dolly personally to tell her that she needs to offer herself as a presidential candidate.  She will of course immediately decline.

I have no doubt that the idea of being president has been suggested to her many times in interviews.  The difference would be that this would be a serious appeal, not clickbait for a media video or post.  It needs to be emphasized to her that she needs to do this for the good of her country.  Dolly Parton probably has more true patriotism than all the congressmen combined, and she might well make sacrifices for that goal.  But her reply would probably also be a serious declining of the offer, because I believe her husband is probably in failing health.

Dolly has said that she would continue her music until her death and the only thing that would take her away from that would be if she is needed at home.  She has recently announced that she will no longer be touring - just doing occasional appearances, because she wants to spend more time at home with her husband.

The response to that would be an acknowledgement of her situation and the counteroffer that she can stay at home for the process.  She won't need to do any campaigning.  Just a simple 30 second video inserted during the upcoming Trump-DeSantis flame wars and during the Democratic staged "debates" in which she says "Hi - I'm Dolly, and I am also running for president.  Please write my name in on the primary ballots.  Thank y'all so much" would be sufficient to confirm her viability. 

And as president, she could also spend her time at home (except for those international conferences), Zooming with her cabinet.  This is the way business is done in the modern world.  What else does a president do in real life?  They go to tornado/hurricane/flood sites to hug victims and then get back in their motorcades of black SUVs back to their helicopters.  She could do that much much better.  And do it sincerely.

What can we do in the meantime?  Discuss this with friends and family as a serious matter, and start writing her name in on every online poll.  I've not been able to find her included in any FiveThirtyEight surveys, except for this casual aside: "these days it’s difficult to get 58 percent of Americans to agree on anything except perhaps distaste for airline travel and love of Dolly Parton."  Somebody over there please take notice.

I will offer this for her campaign song/theme video:

TLDR:  An intelligent, hard-working, compassionate businesswoman who puts people above politics is the best available representative for the United States at home and on the world stage.

Photo embedded at the top from the Associated Press, via a Los Angeles Times article on Dolly's receiving of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.

Addendum:  A Bloomberg article about Dolly Parton's business management techniques.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...