Stop Fretting Over The Mueller Report And Have Some Nice Things!
Bet you guys could do with some nice things about now, huh? So let's take a break from the usual grind of horrors and nastiness and look at some less miserable stuff for a while, shall we? Oh indeed we shall.
Awesome Refugee Kid Makes Good, Does Good Too
First up, a bit of Oh Wow Cool from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who last week profiled 8-year-old Tanitoluwa Adewumi, Tani for short, who kept bringing things back to the homeless shelter where he and his family lived. Big bulky awkward things -- the last nearly as big as Tani. He was allowed to keep the things because they were his chess trophies, and that really big sucker was for the new York state chess championship for his age group (K-third grade). He managed to go undefeated at the state tournament a couple weeks back, after only learning chess a little more than a year ago. Tani attends a public school near the shelter and beat kids attending fancy-schmancy private schools who had fancy-schmancy private chess tutors.
That's great, Tani, now all the other parents of third graders are going to use you as an example to browbeat their rotten underachieving kids. If that little homeless refugee boy in New York can win a chess championship, you can pick up your socks. Thanks a whole hell of a lot. Still, as Kristof notes, it's a nice break from the glut of news about wealthy jerks paying to get their wealthy jerk kids into top colleges. So let's enjoy Tani's story, since it keeps getting better. And Crom knows he deserves it:
Tani's family fled northern Nigeria in 2017, fearing attacks by Boko Haram terrorists on Christians such as themselves. "I don't want to lose any loved ones," his father, Kayode Adewumi, told me.
So Tani, his parents and his older brother arrived in New York City a bit more than a year ago, and a pastor helped steer them to a homeless shelter. Tani began attending the local elementary school, P.S. 116, which has a part-time chess teacher who taught Tani's class how to play.
The chess club waived his membership fee, he got really good really fast, and his parents just adore him. His dad works two jobs (for one, he drives an Uber with a rented car), and his mom just finished up the training to become a home health aide. They're really into the whole immigrant achievement thing, and let us all take a moment to say "Fuck You, Stephen Miller," Amen. And Tani has a heck of a talent for chess, yowie!
Tani has an aggressive style of play, and in the state tournament the coaches, watching from the sidelines, were shocked when he sacrificed a bishop for a lowly pawn. Alarmed, they fed the move into a computer and it agreed with Tani, recognizing that the gambit would improve his position several moves later [...]
Tani's mom can't play chess but takes him every Saturday to a three-hour free practice session in Harlem, and she attends his tournaments. His dad lets Tani use his laptop each evening to practice. And although religion is extremely important to the family, the parents let Tani miss church when necessary to attend a tournament.
The column, not surprisingly, sparked a GoFundMe campaign to get the Adewumi family out of the shelter and into an apartment, because people can be surprisingly good when they're given a reason to be. The campaign blew past the original $50,000 goal and is currently at over $235,000. Offers of free housing and tuition at private schools were sent to Kristof to relay to the Adewumis, too. Immigration lawyers want to take the family's asylum case on a pro bono basis, and three separate film companies are bidding for the story rights. Somebody's offered Tani's dad a free used car so he can keep more of his Uber payments, and Tani's mom has a job offer at a hospital.
And despite offers of more high-end places to live, the Adewumi's decided to moved into a sensible two-bedroom apartment (with a year's rent prepaid by the donor) near Tani's school; another donor provided furniture. His parents prefer that he keep attending the public school where he's done so well, but said they may accept a scholarship for a private middle school later. Tani's pretty excited to have a room he shares with his older brother, and looks forward to tasting his mom's cooking again instead of shelter food.
Oh, and he's been invited to meet Bill Clinton.
Why yes, the story gets even more inspire-y: Tani's parents decided that the fluke of having been featured in the media isn't anything they need to profit from, so they aren't planning on making use of that $235K themselves (Tani might get a computer, though).
They will take out a 10 percent tithe and donate it to their church, which helped them while they were homeless, and the rest will be channeled through a new Tanitoluwa Adewumi Foundation to help African immigrants who are struggling in the United States the way they were a week ago.
"Anybody who is coming from Africa who is in the position we were in, we will help them," Mr. Adewumi said, acknowledging that details need to be worked out.
And Kristof, who knows how all these media narratives go, makes a point of both lauding his readers' generosity and reminding us all that poverty will never be solved simply through philanthropy aimed at particularly mediagenic kids who do neat things:
There's a risk that a triumph like this leaves the impression that charity is the solution rather than a way to fill gaps: Fundamentally we need comprehensive systems in place to support needy kids. We would never build a bridge or subway with volunteers and donations, so why entrust an even more urgent cause — homeless children — to charity?
Tani thrived because everything fell into place: a good school, a dedicated chess teacher and devoted parents committed to taking their son to every chess practice. The challenge is to replicate that supportive environment for all the other Tanis out there with public services and private philanthropy alike.
One challenge I face is that readers often want to donate just to a particular individual I write about, without addressing the larger social problem. So it's thrilling to see Tani and his parents use their good fortune to help other anonymous kids in need. In that, there's a lesson for all of us.
Might be a good moment to review that Twitter thread I mentioned last week, by historian Eric Rauchway, about the myth of the New Deal ruining a supposed golden age of private charity when "Americans took care of each other." As historians note, churches and charities were actually glad to see the New Deal take over the job of helping people in need -- they'd been calling for it to happen, because they knew their resources were overwhelmed.
Hey, speaking of Eric Rauchway and history stuff, we've decided on our next book for the ol' Wonkette Book Club! That deserves a new subhed, even!
Yr Wonkette Book Club Selection: When Republicans Tried To Hoover Up The New Deal
Our next Wonkette Book Club book is gonna be Erich Rauchway's Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal, which looks at Herbert Hoover's attempts to strangle the New Deal in its cradle and, failing that, to make perpetual opposition to the New Deal a central tenet of Republican orthodoxy. As you may have noticed, Hoover failed at the first goal but succeeded all too well at the second. See? Now you've read the book! Dr. Rauchway has generously offered to be involved in the book club discussion, and we'll figure out how that should work -- maybe we'll just move Wonkette to Twitter for that day (no we will not). I'm thinking we'll spend two Sundays on Winter War:
April 7: Intro through Chapter 4
April 21: All the rest!
So go get you a copy of Winter War with a nice Amazon kickback to Yr Wonkette! Also available wherever fine books are sold or loaned to readers who don't have excessive library fines!
Also too, since there was enthusiastic support for Rutger Bregman's Utopia For Realists, a practical guide to saving capitalist economies from themselves, let's just plan on that being our May book, schedule to be determined. Enough of you seemed bummed out by the prospect of The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, by David Wallace-Wells that I will just read it myself and then harp on it at you in weekday columns (you should get it; it's supposed to be incredibly good).
Your Book WTF Of The Week
Errors happen in the making of books. I have a cheapo Unabridged Mark Twain collection from 1980 in which a few score pages of The Innocents Abroad are plopped down for a second time in the middle of another chapter, and I've seen binding errors that left out a whole section. But this is the first time I've ever seen this!
He also points out an additional weirdness: "the Holston book is published by @PrincetonUPress and the Russian short stories are published by [Indiana University Press]." Wonder if it was just his copy or the whole load of them? If it was a one-off, then switching the focus of the class to Russian lit wouldn't even help. And you thought a book called Winter War without any discussion of Stalingrad OR the Battle of the Bulge was confusing.
French Humor For Our Times!
Just in case you hadn't already heard this amusement from French Foreign Minister Nathalie Loiseau, about her cat. Last week, Loiseau told Le Journal du Dimanche,
He wakes me up every morning meowing to death because he wants to go out, and then when I open the door he stays put, undecided, and then glares at me when I put him out.
And so she has renamed the kittycat "Brexit."
Apparently inundated by requests for cat pictures, Loiseau later clarified that Brexit the Cat is in fact wholly fictional and that she has no cat at all. So now if she ever does get a cat, people will mistakenly think it's her second and they'll call her Nathalie "Two Cats" Loiseau. Also, now there are two things the French find funny: cats AND Jerry Lewis.
We hope you'll forgive us for reminding you, yet again, to read the epic very short science fiction story "Cat Pictures Please," by Naomi Kritzer. It posits a very reasonable alternative to the development of Skynet: what if, instead of hating hu-mons, the internet achieved consciousness and decided it really just liked cats a lot? Oh, joy! I see there's a streaming audio version too!
Here Have A Longread Or Two!
1) We keep meaning to call your attention to a fascinating bit of history we came across, this nifty 2017 essay (it's not actually very long) on the "Women of the Klu Klux Klan" in the 1920s. Like the main organization, KKK for Her was racist, nativist, and virulently anti-Catholic, but with a disturbing twist: The WKKK also sought to mobilize women, who'd just won the vote nationwide in 1919, to get out and vote for good traditional white candidates and hold off godless communism, touting "new days of freedom" for women in its pamphlets. Yeesh. Horrifying, but an interesting window into the strange pervasiveness of the Klan in mainstream politics in the 1920s. Thanks tons for that, DW Griffith.
2) As a nice palate cleanser, go read this overview at Mother Jones of various arguments for reforming the federal courts. We need it after eight years of Republican efforts to block Barack Obama's judicial nominees (Merrick Garland was just the tip of a prodigious iceberg). That was followed by whole big raft of loons dredged up by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. Several 2020 Dems are saying it's time to make this election about cleaning up the courts and undoing the damage that Trump and McConnell have done, and if people want to call it "court packing," maybe it makes more sense to call it court UNpacking. Go! Read!
Fun Twitter Miscellany? Why The Hell Not?
Here, have some things we smiled at!
Hugo is a BIG BABY and a GOOD BOY. Also, his dad came and picked him up. Literally, so he didn't have to deal with any scary marble floors.
More Floof pics followed, as will happen.
Looks like Twitter is just full of Bernese bros, man.
And we do NOT think this is the recommended way of dealing with a koala in your car. Problem is, we don't know if there IS a recommended way of dealing with a koala in your car. We would bet it involves not letting a wild animal's claws anywhere near your face.
Winter Wrap-Up, Winter Wrap-Up!
Also too, you should follow the nifty Twitter account, Silent Movie Gifs because it features cool things like this sight gag from Buster Keaton and Mr. Laurel stanning for Marilyn Monroe:
Silent Movie Gifs also blew my mind with an excerpt from a 1902 French short, "The Spring Fairy" (La Fee Printemps), directed by Ferdinand Zecca , which lives in its full three-minute glory on YouTube. Every bit of color in here was added by hand tinting the film, frame by frame, by Segundo de Chomón.
Silent Film: The Spring Fairy (1902/Ferdinand Zecca/Segundo de Chomón) www.youtube.com
Well yes, OF COURSE the magical appearance of more and more flowers was drawn out forever; people were not jaded and insistent on constant action back then. Also, we do not recommend this movie as an explanation of how is babby formed, not even in book-banning Florida.
Enjoy your Sunday and also please stay dry!
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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.