Bet You Could Use Some Nice Things About Now!
It's been another hell week, so how about we have some Nice Things? We'll all get back to the quotidian parade of horrors soon enough, that's for sure. For now, let's have a little break, with stuff that will make your brain feel better. (This is not a medical treatment. Side effects may include cat videos and glorious strings of obscenities. Actual brain health not guaranteed. Ask your doctor.)
Cussin' Botany/Geology Guy
Dominic let me know a few weeks back about this video that went big on Reddit, of a guy with a thick Chicago accent talking about California plants and soil, and oh sweet jebus it'a a delight. It's like Andy Sipowicz giving you a guided tour of the arboretum.
Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose and The Spinners www.youtube.com
You don't necessarily get a lot of nature videos with commentary like this: "The dunes are here because they're deposited, ya know? It's all sandy dunes, washed outta the fuckin' Sierra Nevada." But this guy, username "Joe Blowe," knows his plants, rattling off Latin species names and geological information like nobody's business, punctuated with observations like,
This subspecies you only get here, with these weird mottled leaves [focuses on a flower] Ah, that smells so nice! It's nicer than a big deep-dish with a big stack of giardiniera on top.
It's ridiculously relaxing to just click on one video after another (it's a big account!) and let "Joe Blowe" walk you through all sorts of terrain and flora in the great Southwest. He clearly loves the desert. Here, how about some fauna, too, like some glowing scorpions under a black light? "Perhaps he is lying in wait for some sort of arthropahd, or spider, or even a math." (Trust me, he says "math" -- you know, one a' those fluttery bugs that are attracted to lights.)
An evening with Centruroides exilicauda and Luciano Pavarotti www.youtube.com
Looks like since he became internet famous, "Joe Blowe's" video collection has ballooned, with bunches and bunches of recent uploads of what appear to be older videos. They're all fun! Say hi to a rattlesnake, from a safe distance!
Red Diamond Rattlesnakes & Tecate Cypress in Mexico www.youtube.com
"Now this bastard over here is real interesting! See these little delicate leaves? That's a saxifrage, which just sends up one leaf, so this might actually be two plants there [...] What the shit is this?"
Here's his magnum opus (so far), a 17-minute ramble through some washes and hills in what comments identify as Baja California, complete with informative onscreen notes on species names and geological terms, or as he puts it, an "Introduction to da ultramafic soils", aka serpentine soils. Hey, people like his accent; he may as well make it part of his online brand.
Annotated, Profanity-laced Checklist of Desert Ultramafics www.youtube.com
Informative AND cussy, just the way we like it! Some sample monologues:
- Looka that fuckin' soil crust! Look at how nice dat is, just a thick crust, like melted cheese on top of a pizza, holdin' the entire thing together.
- Now dis is a quite common tree down here, a pachycormus discolor; it's all over da peninsula. Anacardiaceae, poison oak family, mango family. But I still can't get over how fuckin' weird they look! Especially growing on serpentine. Especially growing onna very harsh soil, that's probably a 300-year-old tree -- wuu-uuh! [he almost slipped and fell]
- And look at this one over here! All laid out like a fat guy onna couch!
- OK, one more thing before I break my ass gettin' down off this ridge...
We're very happy to have found this guy. We hope he doesn't go milkshake duck on us.
Hey, what should we read next?
We had fun reading a book and discussing it with you guys! Let's do it again fairly soon, like in April! Haven't decided what we should read, but I have a few candidates; in the comments, which we don't allow, please go ahead and suggest more!
Format-wise, I like the idea of breaking the discussion into chunks, although I think maybe three installments might be more than I want to do next time. Maybe two? And perhaps with a week of Nice Things in between the two book club segments? Or would you prefer back to back?
I know one thing for sure: I gotta shift to writing book-review stuff, not so much summarizing the book, which is simultaneously really LAZY but still a lot of work, especially with a book like our last one, Erik Loomis's A History of America in Ten Strikes -- lots of labor history to go over. Aim at discussion questions, Dok!
I have a few books in mind that we might hit next:
How About Some Nice Climate Catastrophe?
My top candidate is current bestseller The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, by New York magazine deputy editor David Wallace-Wells, who may well have written a kind of Silent Spring for the fight against climate change. Chris Hayes prefaces his interview with Wallace-Wells on "Why Is This Happening?" with a warning: the scope and speed of the likely devastation might be more "emotional violence" than you want to try to consume in an hourlong podcast. But Hayes also says it's an incredibly good book that he "flew through reading," and the interview with Wallace-Wells is fascinating, for all the Oh My God moments. Like this fact, in answer to the climate-denier claim that we don't need to worry too much because in the distant past, the Earth has been warmer than humans are making it now:
DAVID WALLACE-WELLS: Yeah we're now living entirely outside the window of temperatures that enclose all of human history.
CHRIS HAYES: Say that again, and slowly, because that is actually what I mean by it.
DAVID WALLACE-WELLS: Yeah. That temperatures were relatively stable for the entire evolution and history of humanity.
CHRIS HAYES: Human history. Humans evolved. We figured out fire. We got the wheel that Donald Trump likes to talk about. We got society. We had a little priestly caste. We figured out agriculture. We started hanging out around each other. We started trading little pieces of coins. We started making hieroglyphics. We wrote books. We created empires. We created sewage. We created the industrial revolution, and we made liberal democracy. We had world wars. All of that, the whole thing, the whole frickin' has happened in a band of... that we have left?
Or if that's too long, try this on for size: "The last time the Earth was four degrees [Celsius] above the band we've been in, there were palm trees in the Arctic."
Here, give it a listen:
Wallace-Wells addresses one of the objections sometimes raised against trying to motivate action by calling attention to the worst case scenarios, which increasingly look like the most likely ones, too. Maybe some people will shut down and tune out, yes. But complacency is a far greater threat. And fear is a perfectly good motive, honestly:
We need to halve our global emissions by 2030 and that will require a global mobilization at the scale of World War II starting this year, 2019. If we have to do World War II against climate it's worth remembering we did not fight that war out of optimism or hope. We fought it out of fear and alarm.
The book grew out of a 2017 piece Wallace-Wells wrote for New York; even if you don't get the book, give the article a look, and/or this excerpt which emphasizes that we don't face a binary choice between calamity or safety. Too late for that. But we have considerable control over just how bad it will get, so hey, let's go for the least bad. And yes, there's reason for hope that we will take real action; look at the advocates for the Green New Deal, and at those wonderful kids. Says Wallace-Wells in the interview,
I think we're not in a place that gives us much confidence right now, but as you say, when you look at the long sweep of human history, it's also hard to bet against us. Honestly.
Embattled optimism is my favorite kind! Along similar lines, check out this fine Rolling Stone longread on US diplomats who are working to save the Paris climate accord even as Donald Trump keeps trying to murder it.
Let's Get Utopian!
Another book I'd like to hit is Utopia For Realists, by Rutger Bregman. You probably know Mr. Bregman as the Dutch historian Tucker Carlson had a snit fit at a few weeks back, when Bregman pointed out that of course Carlson doesn't want to take taxation seriously because he's a millionaire working for billionaires. And then Bregman posted his own video of the interview, HA! HA!
Bregman's 2014 book is a practical guide to how we could reshape the economy to work for everyone, with a universal basic income (UBI) for all, as well as a 15-hour work week and, yes, genuinely open borders. And yet he's not crazy! Among other things, Bregman reminds us that Richard Nixon, of all people, actually proposed a universal income bill that would have replaced welfare with a guaranteed basic income; it passed the House but failed in the Senate because Democrats wanted it to be more generous.
Here, give a listen to this interview with Bregman on WNYC's On the Media:
UBI, Bregman says, won't lead to poor people blowing all their money on liquor and fripperies. Instead, the research on some long-running experimental programs indicates it gets people out of poverty, because people aren't nearly so stupid as conservatives think they are. UBI isn't so much putting people on Easy Street as creating a floor for economic stability, freeing people to work, raise their kids, and even start small businesses. Give it a listen and tell us what you think!
The Presidential Transition From Hell -- No, Not That One
Our third candidate is Eric Rauchway's Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal, which looks at the efforts by the outgoing administration of Herbert Hoover to hamstring Franklin D Roosevelt's New Deal before Roosevelt was even inaugurated. You thought last year's attempts by lame duck Republican leadership in Michigan and Wisconsin to take power from incoming Democratic governors were bad? They were! But hoo boy, they were far from unprecedented.
Here, have ANOTHER podcast interview! It looks like a video but is audio, don't panic:
The New Deal That Almost Wasnt www.youtube.com
Fun tidbit: FDR really enjoyed trolling Hoover, of whom Rauchway says, "Nobody likes to be described as humorless, but if Hoover ever told a joke, it has escaped my attention."
Also too, go take a look at this piece Rauchway wrote for Time in November about the perils of lame duck legislatures trying to sabotage their successors before the new people have even taken office. All during the 1932 election campaign, notes Rauchway,
Hoover warned [New Deal] policies would "destroy the very foundations of the American system of life," and said they smelled of the same "fumes of the witch's caldron which boiled over in Russia."
Hoover didn't just try to undermine the New Deal as policy, he also attempted -- with surprising success! -- to promote his own legacy in history by retroactively whining that Roosevelt refused to "cooperate" with Hoover on the financial crisis. That lie -- Hoover had demanded Roosevelt jettison the New Deal, not "cooperate" -- actually took root in mainstream history. It even led Barack Obama to take more cautious action in the 2009 stimulus, with the hope of avoiding that "lesson" from history, which was actually a myth promoted by Hoover and his laissez-faire fans.
Gee, kids, can you think of any other examples where the dominant history was written by the losers?
Also too, see Dr. Rauchway's excellent history threads on the Twitter! Like this fine debunking of the old "private charity is better than wasteful government' myth.
So whaddya think, kids? Here, have a Twitter Poll (or comment in this piece, or email me at doktorzoom at-sign wonkette dot com!
And Also This Silliness!
This is just some wonderful goofiness that will make you larff. Enjoy, and have a good Sunday! \
["Joe Blowe" on YouTube / New York / Why Is This Happening? / Rolling Stone / On the Media / Time / Eric Rauchway on Twitter / Atlantic / Wonkette kickback links for books: Uninhabitable Earth / Utopia for Realists / Winter War]
Yr Wonkette is supported by reader donations! Sending us some money would be the nicest thing of all!
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.