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December 2023
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Groundhog Day and Buddhism

As usual, I expect new material for my Groundhog Day The Movie website from my avid readers. Fire away if you have something you don't see here. It’s getting harder to find things I missed: the site has been up since 2001.

I run this item every year in conjunction with Groundhog Day (Friday, Feb. 2 this year). The Bill Murray movie of the same name is the 34th funniest American film of all time, according to the American Film Institute. It is also my favorite movie of all times. This is the fourteenth time I've run this item!

Great Writing

The NY Times' Frank Bruni's subscriber-only newsletter has a regular feature, For the Love of Sentences, in which readers who spot good writing pass it on to him. As a lover of good writing, I think it, alone, is worth the price of admission.

The first one I read is amazing. From now on, go get it yourself from the source.

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Kevin D. Williamson let it rip in a recent essay in The Wall Street Journal about how far American democracy has fallen. Here’s one whooshing stretch: “With the old media gatekeepers gone, right-wing content creators rushed in and filled the world with QAnon kookery on Facebook, conspiracy theories powerful enough to vault the cretinous likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene into Congress, fake news sponsored by Moscow and Beijing and fake-ish news subsidized by Viktor Orban and his happy junta, and whatever kind of poison butterfly Tucker Carlson is going to be when he emerges from the chrysalis of filth he’s built around himself. The prim consensus of 200 Northeastern newspaper editors has been replaced by the sardonic certitude of 100 million underemployed rage-monkeys and ignoramuses on Twitter.” (Thanks to Lisa Lee of Newton, Mass., and Emily Hawthorn of San Antonio for nominating this.)

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I am delightd by at “whatever kind of poison butterfly Tucker Carlson is going to be when he emerges from the chrysalis of filth he’s built around himself.” Chrysalis of filth. God, I wish I could write like that.

I am proud of “golden glow of nostalgia,” but that isn’t even Triple-A ball compared to Williamson. Too, a 77-word sentence might seem like someone winning a bet (I’ll bet I can slip a 77-word sentence past the copyeditor at the WSJ), but I admire the lucid structure beneath it.

The Death of the Middle Class

LinkedIn led me to this fantastic Robert Reich blog post: How the oligarchy shrank America’s middle class: Why American capitalism is so rotten, Part 8. I know for a personal fact that every word of it is true. I would quibble with the headline however: it is not capitalism that is rotten, it is the people running it and controlling it.

As with Reich, my working class father supported a middle class family. In my case, my high-school-educated dad could do it because he was a member of the Teamsters Union. Of course, Reich details a number of other factors besides decreasing unionization which hollowed out the middle class. Check it out.

One aspect of the problem is the decline of unions. Again, it infuriates me that today’s history-ignorant working class asks, “What do we need a union for?” If they knew anything, they’d know the answer is wages, working conditions and pensions. Their excuse for opposing unions: they are corrupt, they just collect my dues and do nothing for me. As with many aspects of American life, they work so hard against their own self-interest it is dizzying. There are signs this dynamic is changing. I hope the trend continues, and that I am not mistaking the first robin for spring.

It didn't continue; news came this week that labor union membership has reached an historic  low. WOTWU! Now!

It’s About Time

I share, with the husband in the Sally Forth cartoon strip, disappointment that the future we were promised never came.

* We are still living more like the Flintstones that the Jetsons. Where’s my robot maid? Roombas are weak tea by comparison.

* On Sept. 15, 1954, Edwin Diamond promised us A-Powered Locomotives and Smokeless Cities. I look around, I don’t see them.

* The movie 2001: A Space Odyssey promised us routine outer space travel with Pan Am flight attendants. I’d be willing to travel tourist class for that.

* As Jerry Pournelle used to say, “I hoped I’d live to see the first man on the moon. I never imagined I’d live to see the last.”

So imagine my pleasant surprise this morning when LinkedIn turned up two jet pack videos: a jetpack race and a serious use of jetpacks (3D-printed jetpacks, no less) for search and rescue.

Mom’s Sense of Humor

The item about our 44th wedding anniversary reminded me of two examples of my mother’s impish sense of humor.

Late in her 58-year marriage, she used to say, “We’ve been married for 30 wonderful years, which is not bad out of 50.” I suspect she was influenced by Groucho’s “I’ve had a lovely evening; this wasn’t it.”

From time to time she would introduce her life long soulmate, my dad: “This is Paul, my first husband.”