Return to the Land of Linkin'
The Picayune Sentinel has had a robust launch. I'm returning this week with a revival of the Land of Linkin' feature
9-16-2021 (Issue No. 2)
The first issue of the PS last week received a lot of favorable attention for which I’m really grateful. I hope I can live up to the high expectations, mine and yours. Some of you wanted to know if I plan to implement comments, and the answer is yes, but not yet and perhaps not in the conventional form.
Keeping comment threads civil and on point is a job, which is why so many publications have either gotten rid of them or allowed them to become festering cesspools of bile and irrelevant, ad hominem attacks. For now I’m inviting responses via email — firstname.lastname@example.org — to topics I’ve raised or points I’ve argued.
I do this at the risk of turning the Picayune Sentinel into the Substantial Sentinel. Several notes from trusted sources offered the view that last week’s debut issue was oppressively long. Less is more and all that. So adding a “reader mailbag” section (I called it Z-Mail back in the Change of Subject days) will only add to that problem, if it is indeed a problem.
Tweet of the week
Here is the winner of last week’s poll:
Careful readers will note that I took two editing liberties with this tweet. In the poll it appeared as “Back in our day we’d ride through deserts on horses and never find out their names, but we didn’t take their meds.”
I added a comma after “names” and changed “drive” to “ride” even though the lyrics to the 1971 America song “A Horse With No Name” are “I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name.” One can certainly drive a horse — “she’ll be driving six white horses when she comes,” to wit — but only from a wagon or other conveyance. One cannot drive on a horse. So there.
Careful readers will also note that my fussiness is ironic given the little errors that slipped into last week’s first issue. “Argle-bargle” somehow became “argyle-bargle,” which maybe I should trademark. Elsewhere I forgot to close a parenthetical aside, misspelled Gilead, dropped a few words and, well… that’s what happens when you don’t have editors and are typing at midnight. Yet my shame will never stop me from holding others to the highest standards.
This week’s finalists. Cast your votes here:
“I want things back to normal and I’m willing to do anything except wear a mask or get vaccinated” has big “I want to get in shape and I’m willing to do anything but diet or exercise” energy … @OhNoSheTwitnt
I try to live my life everyday as if it were my last. And who wants to do laundry on their last day? Not me. … @Whatevah_Amy
Hate is a strong word. Maybe because I’ve been giving it quite a workout … @UnFitz
Top tip: Gain people's respect by correcting their spelling and grammar. If they know your language superiority, they are more likely to be convinced by your arguments and also probably have sex with you … @wildethingy
Don't worry if you've forgotten the first rule of Passive Aggressive Club. It's fine … @cluedont
Text "It is done" to random numbers … @WilliamAder
Life is like a box of wine, you never know how much you have left. … @topaz_kell
When I was a kid, my dad taught me how to fix a car. We would drive to the mechanic and he would be like, “Fix my car.” …. @YSylon
A great icebreaker on a first date is asking her how much she weighs …@bartandsoul
Good news: It’s family game night. Bad news: It's the blame game … @mxmclain
Instructions: Follow this link then click the box next to each tweet that amuses you -- no limit to the number of choices. I’ll note the winner next week. Some tweets are lightly edited to improve punctuation, diction or clarity. If you see a plagiarized tweet, let me know via email -- email@example.com -- and send a link for evidence! I'll change the attribution on the poll itself, make it "unknown” or attribute it to “various” sources. If your tweet is included and you'd rather it not be or you object to how I may have edited it, let me know and I'll remove it as quickly as I can. If you know the Tweet is not original with you, email me and I’ll change the attribution. Some of the tweets are old, but if they’re new to me, then they qualify for inclusion. Answer order is randomized in the poll each time.
I enjoyed the pun in this tweet — “Hyundai called it the Sonata because it’s sonata good car,” by @Holy_Mowgli — but rejected it for inclusion because it’s sonata fair joke. The vehicle in question actually gets pretty good reviews and humor has to be rooted in truth to really land.
To be sure to get the poll delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning,
Land of Linkin’
A collection of interesting, useful or otherwise remarkable links was a feature of the old Change of Subject blog, and I’ll be reviving it here.
Though I wrote last week that blogs are all but dead, killed by social media platforms, there are still some that I check in with regularly: Syndicated columnist Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax is reliably on top of all breaking news out of Springfield and most of the political news in Chicago and Cook County as well. Plus it has the best moderated and therefore most useful comments section around. Writer Nancy Nall Derringer’s Nancy Nall weaves observations on the news and pop culture around tales of her life with a style I’ve always envied. Sun-Times columnist/author Neil Steinberg’s Every Goddamn Day is a tour de force of Neil’s wit and insatiable curiosity. And Daily Herald media columnist Robert Feder’s eponymous report is a don’t miss. What blogs do you read and recommend?
Local author, radio game-show host and boulevardier Peter Sagal has a wonderful profile of White Sox play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti in the October issue of Chicago Magazine: “The fact that Jason Benetti was born with cerebral palsy, or CP, and thus limps quite noticeably is usually the first thing mentioned in stories about him …. and I assumed he was deeply tired of being held up as an Inspirational Story. He is — sort of. And yet his disability is a significant part of what drives him, what obsesses him, and what has shaped his life — not so much in how it has limited his physical activities but in how it has suffused his sense of self.”
I don't think abortion is murder, and neither do you, a 2018 column by my former colleague Steve Chapman, argues that the “abortion is murder!” battle cry of the anti-choice crowd “is a rhetorical device or a moral conceit, not a well-thought-out conviction. The vast majority of people who endorse it really don't mean it. Even they exhibit a deep sense that a fetus has an appreciably lower status than an actual person.” And, related, Aaron Blake at the Washington Post asks whether the new anti-abortion law in Texas has turned the GOP into “the proverbial dog that is finally catching the car.” Will the now looming possibility of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade ultimately “hurt them politically in a country where most people generally support legal abortion?”
Where are they now? Updates on the true-ish stories featured in season two of “Modern Love” on Amazon Prime
“I was dead for eight minutes,” writes former Tribune senior writer, national editor and blogger Charles Madigan in “A story about coming back from death.” “The paramedics tried three times to revive me in the one block it took to get an Evanston Fire Department ambulance to St. Francis Hospital.… On the third attempt, after all kinds of valiant tactics, I returned.”
“Everybody needs an editor,” writes my former colleague Mary Schmich this week in her regular Tuesday Morning Post on Facebook. “Anybody who has ever written for a living knows this basic truth of writing. We all need someone to save us from mistakes, extract us from the swamp of our insecurities and muddled thoughts, make us think harder, nudge us to just get the damn thing done.” Not to mention saving us from argyle bargle.
Where parody meets sound technical advice: How to make a true-crime documentary about stolen toast:
My fully vaccinated older brother, Steve, passed away from Covid -- just eight days after testing positive for the virus. . He was 72….
His passing is not a story of ineffective vaccines. Rather, it’s an illustration of how everyone needs to get vaccinated to stop the spread of this deadly virus that has ended too many lives prematurely. Please, please get vaccinated. Protect yourself and protect others.
At the top of this week’s Mincing Rascals podcast I introduced myself as the “pundit extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Picayune Sentinel,” which was a nod to the flowery formal nomination of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel “to be ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the United State of America to Japan.”
Here’s a partial list of the topics WGN-AM host John Williams, Lisa Donovan (Tribune), Austin Berg (Illinois Policy Institute) and I discussed:
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to sue gang members; to haul them “into civil court, out of the shadows, expose them for what they are — and, if we’re successful, and I think we will be, take their assets and the profit motive for killing our babies,” as Lightfoot said.
The “forking good idea” approved by the City Council of requiring restaurants to ask carry-out diners if they need plastic cutlery, napkins and other supplies rather than just routinely stuffing them in the bag. I doubt oversupplying diners with disposable conveniences uses a significant amount of landfill space or energy, but doing so as a matter of course is at least symbolically wasteful, and Lisa said she’s spoken with owners of small restaurants who’ve told her that the costs of providing such materials does add up over time.
Ald. Jim Gardiner, 45th, the “a human being who has sinned,” as he put it in a public apology Tuesday. He used vulgar, misogynist language referring to colleagues and constituents. But he denies more serious allegations that he used his power to punish his political enemies, a claim that the FBI is reportedly investigating.
The proposal in Springfield to honor Ronald Reagan with a statue on the grounds of the Capitol. I objected to this as I am increasingly anti-statue. Statues suggest the kind of veneration that ought to be reserved for principles, movements or deities. To my mind they’re quasi-religious and in their very three-dimensional way suggest a one-dimensional worship. My compromise would be a 50-years-after-death rule so at least we can let history pass a sober judgment. That said, it is notable that Reagan ain’t looking so bad lately.
Total un-recall. California Gov. Gavin Newsom beat back a recall effort in resounding fashion Tuesday, not because the voters love him so much but because the Democrats successfully turned the election into a choice between Newsom and MAGA wingnut Larry Elder, a conservative talk-show host who would have become governor had voters rejected Newsom.
Yet another Republican has declared his candidacy for governor in next year’s battle against incumbent Democrat J.B. Pritzker. Now it’s venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan going up against Gary Rabine (say it RAY-bine), state Sen. Darren Bailey and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf , with downstateU.S. Rep Rodney Davis and possibly U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger waiting to toss their hats into the ring. Sullivan has already raised more than $10 million, which is found-between-the-sofa-cushions money for Pritzker.
In May, Johanna and I had a terrible experience at McGrath City Honda on the city’s west side Our full story is here but the short version is that we made a deal over the phone with a salesman to buy a Honda CRV hybrid for a certain price, and when we arrived at the dealership the salesman prepared all the paperwork and then abruptly told us that another customer had just bought the car he’d reserved for us, the only such car on the lot. He offered us a higher trim level for $2,000 more, but we walked out.
The retrospectively more galling aspect of this story is that McGrath had offered us $3,000 for our trade-in, a 2012 Kia Sorento. We ended up taking it to CarLotz, a consignment dealership in Downers Grove, where, after paying their commission, we ended up with about $9,000. Yes, we could have sold the Kia ourselves and maybe done better, but CarLotz made the transaction hassle free.
We ended up buying the car at a different Honda dealership (admittedly for more than the deal we’d struck at McGrath, but the microchip shortage was driving up prices and exacerbating shortages as every week went on). The CRV is terrific — I particularly like adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist for long drives — but I’m vexed by the intermittent failure of Apple CarPlay to connect my iPhone to the car’s information/entertainment system.
It’s a common problem, as an Associate Press article headlined Owners frustrated when linking phones to vehicles attests:
Smartphone connections, mainly linking Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to automobiles, was this year’s top problem (in a survey of owners)….
Automakers have been trying to link phones to cars for more than a decade, yet the problem persists, said Dave Sargent, J.D. Power’s vice president of automotive quality. …
Consumers quickly blame their vehicle, but tech companies are part of the problem and should share some of the burden in solving it, he said. About one-third of vehicles on the market in the U.S. have the ability to link to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the problem is pervasive with all manufacturers, Sargent said.
I know, I know. First World problems. I should simply be awed at the miracle that I can usually connect to my dashboard screen a device that allows me to see navigational maps, make phone calls, play music and podcasts, check sports scores and more. But it’s infuriating when it fails and offers incoherent error messages.
Truth is, most technology works so well now that I, for one, am spoiled. I haven’t lost more than a paragraph or two on my computer for well over a decade; it’s been at least 30 years since a car has malfunctioned and left me stranded.
We had our first significant cast gathering Sunday on my back deck (due to COVID restrictions at our usual rehearsal spot at the Old Town School of Folk Music). The newest Cheerio, Jim Wynton, joined us by Zoom and several stalwarts had prior commitments, but we considered 8 out of 13 in person to be a quorum and proceeded.
The first order of business was going over contingency plans related to the possibility that our live performances on December 10th through 12th (for which we have already sold about half the tickets) will have to be cancelled because of the pandemic. Refunds and deferrals will be available to ticket buyers. But either way we’re making plans and trying to get funding for a video version that will be quite different from last year’s Zoom-inspired collaboration.
The process begins each year with weekly fall meetings at which we discuss which songs to do, who should lead them and in what order. The goal is to mix classic Christmas carols, beloved winter-holiday pop standards, a Hanukkah song or two, something from the Hispanic tradition, a nod to New Year’s Day and at least one or two new singable holiday songs that are likely to be unfamiliar to most of the audience.
I nominated “Happy Birthday, Jesus,” a song recorded by the Tar Heel Travelers, a little-known old country act that had a similar sound to the Louvin Brothers, Jim and Jesse and the Everly Brothers. Listen to the chorus here. The cast rejected my suggestion in part because they felt it comes off like a parody of over-the-top religiosity.
I doubt that it was in the original. The Louvins, in particular, recorded quite a few earnestly Christian songs — see their album “Satan is Real,” for instance — and the strong, even strident lyrics is part of what gives much of country gospel its power. But the consensus was that a band of city folks can’t present “Happy Birthday Jesus” without skating too close to mockery.
The cast was much more enthusiastic about “Hoosianna,” a song from Finland nominated by Paul Tyler. It’s folky, catchy, unfamiliar and seasonally appropriate, so right in the SOGC wheelhouse. In this video he auditions the English-language version as we sang along on our phones from the lyrics he’d emailed us:
The other morning I was on our back deck reading the paper and listening to Spotify when “Swannanoa Waltz” came on. Moments later, Johanna emerged from the kitchen and asked me to dance. This was not exactly in character for her, but the tune reminded her of Happy Meeting in Glory, the first dance at our wedding in 1985 and so we waltzed around the deck.
The tune is by Rayna Gellert, a top-tier traditional, old-time fiddler and stellar singer and songwriter. She told me she composed it “eons ago” when she was working a summer job at a factory in her hometown of Elkhart, Ind., and longing to return to her studies at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, N.C., just outside of Asheville.
The wistfulness in the simple melody sounds romantic to me — and to others, clearly! — but what makes this recording so special is how Gellert uses a pulsing bow to accentuate the basic, driving rhythm. We lesser fiddlers have tried to emulate her sound as this tune has ended up in basic jam repertoires from coast to coast.
Thanks for reading. Look for the Picayune Sentinel — maybe shunted into an email subfolder? — next Thursday morning. Tell your friends to sign up!