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Alex' by Wonkette Operative Toots Stansbury

Time for our weekly respite from the standard parade of awful that the news has become here in the worst timeline, where our Spock won't just have a beard; he'll also have a green mohawk. Enjoy a nice brain cleanse, and we'll ease back into the madness later.


John Dingell's Valedictory

Just in case you didn't see it on Friday, be sure to read John Dingell's farewell message, dictated the day he died to his wife Debbie, who succeeded him in Congress. The man had an elegant way of getting the last word:

One of the advantages to knowing that your demise is imminent, and that reports of it will not be greatly exaggerated, is that you have a few moments to compose some parting thoughts.

Dingell reminds us what a different world we live in from the one he faced when he came to Congress in 1955. Old people with medical issues faced financial ruin before Medicare (Dingell held the gavel when it passed in 1965). The Great Lakes were a dump for industrial waste. And Jim Crow was just the way things were. And how did things get better?

All of these challenges were addressed by Congress. Maybe not as fast as we wanted, or as perfectly as hoped. The work is certainly not finished. But we've made progress — and in every case, from the passage of Medicare through the passage of civil rights, we did it with the support of Democrats and Republicans who considered themselves first and foremost to be Americans.

On his way out of life, Dingell reminded us that the real power in the USA can't be the few -- it has to be us: "In democratic government, elected officials do not have power. They hold power — in trust for the people who elected them."

We were so lucky to have him on our side for so long.

Worst Field Trips EVER

Wonkette's own Robyn Pennachia started a fun thread on the Twitter Machine, asking folks to share the stories of their worstest school field trips, starting with her very own visit to a living history museum inflicted on many Massachusetts schoolchildren.


And oh golly, as pre-Simpsons Matt Groening liked to remind us, School Is Hell.

Moar screenshots!

Well maybe the teenagers were just re-creating that scene in Elie Wiesel's Night where the young couple on the way to Auschwitz just did it in a corner of the cattle car in front of everyone because life and propriety no longer had meaning. We'll guess not, though.

When my ex and I went to Schindler's List, she went into the restroom afterwards to dry her eyes. A college-aged gal saw her red eyes and tears, and asked, "Oh, is it sad?"

EVERYONE puked on the whale watching trips. Or at least in the ones mentioned here (I did not puke! I was used to the sea! -- Robyn). Also, Australian and New Zealand field trips are pretty metal. How anyone survived is a wonder.

Think Nice Things About A Shark

We recently started following marine conservation biologist David Shiffman on Twitter. He's a bigtime shark guy, and last week he found his favorite illustration ever from a scientific paper. Or at least a science education paper, if you want to get picky. The study, in the International Zoo Educators Association Journal, looked at how fourth-graders' perceptions of sharks changed after reading two versions of a grade-appropriate book about sharks. One version included text and questions that encouraged kids to make connections with the animals, such as noting that a shark uses its teeth like a fork, like you use a fork when you eat. The other just presented the facts without the connection-y text. Big surprise: In pre- and post-reading surveys, kids thought more positively and less stereotypically about sharks when they read the version that drew connections between sharks and the small mammals reading about them. And then there's the illustration, with kids' drawings and the words they thought about sharks:

"BOSS OF OCEAN"!!!

The kid who drew that third pic may was REALLY into sharks! It's worth noting that the book didn't anthropomorphize sharks, so this kid went a bit beyond the text:

Wo! Be careful about cuddling sharks. Still, beats "all good sharks are dead sharks," huh?

The 'Wicked Bible,' So Saucy!

The Washington Post's "Retropolis" feature did a story in 2017 about a real rarity in Washington DC's Museum of the Bible: a copy of the infamous 1631 "Wicked Bible," which included a doozy of a printer's error: "Thou shalt commit adultery."

An angry King Charles I ordered every copy of the Wicked Bible to be gathered and burned. But not all the Wicked Bibles went up in flames. At least 11 copies somehow survived, and one of them went on display Saturday at the new $500 million Museum of the Bible, which opened in Washington amid great anticipation. [...]

The Wicked Bible contains another huge error in Deuteronomy 5:24, which was intended to proclaim the "greatnesse" of God. Instead, the Wicked Bible replaces the word "greatnesse" with a word church-goers may find difficult to utter: "great-asse.""

And ye said, Behold, the LORD our God hath shewed us his glory and his great-asse," the passage reads, "and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth."

The two blasphemous mistakes in the same Bible have led some scholars to conclude they were an act of sabotage.

And the naughty printers turned out to be two twelve-year-old boys; they were sentenced to the Iron Whoopee Cushion.

We have no idea why the Post decided to unveil an audio version of the story Thursday, but there it is. Can we embed it? Nah, because WaPo is a proprietarty jerk, boo. But you can listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or RadioPublic.

The Best Mom-N-Pop Porn Shop In L.A. (Fine, West Hollywood)

Go read this wonderfully sweet LA Times story about the closing of an institution: Circus of Books, a West Hollywood purveyor of "gay and straight nudie magazines, hardcore pornographic films and sex toys, as well as international newspapers and classic literary titles." The couple who've run it for 37 years, Karen and Barry Mason, didn't really plan to make a career of dirty books, but they ended up turning their shop into a safe gathering place for the gay community. It's a lovely profile of a lovely couple whose business model survived police raids, societal disapproval, and the AIDS crisis, until finally society improved -- but the internet killed off independent bookstores. Their daughter, Rachel, is working on a documentary about her parents and their bookstore:

"This store represents a time capsule of a different era … when being queer was really underground," she said. "It was truly a hidden culture."

Rachel and her brothers sometimes sneaked into the pornography section to giggle at the movie covers until their mom yelled at them to get out. In the 1980s, young Rachel noticed that her parents' clerks kept disappearing.

They were dying of AIDS.

"Somebody I just met would be dead the next week, then another person and another person … as a kid, I didn't have any perception that that was unusual.

"They were extraordinary young guys who I looked up to."

If employees felt well enough to work, the Masons encouraged them to come in so they could have some normalcy. If they needed public assistance to pay for expensive medication, the couple would pay them off the books in cash so they could keep unemployment benefits. It was the only time, Karen said, she ever broke the rules.

It's a terrific piece. Go read about some really good people.

The Last 'Blazing Saddles Couldn't Be Made Today' Discussion You'll Ever Need

Movie/culture critic Lindsay Ellis explains in this Twitter thread why "They could NEVER make Blazing Saddles today" is both true and has NOTHING AT ALL to do with "political correctness." It's because comedy doesn't age well, and what was innovative, taboo-breaking, and a whole new way of talking about the politics of race in 1974 is really not going to work in 2019. Along the way, Ellis argues that a lot of white people just really like saying that one word because they think it's funny, and that even Mel Brooks gets the whole "PC won't let us be funny" thing all wrong:

The observation that "Blazing Saddles couldn't be made today" is the most tired, unoriginal thing and I've been hearing it ad nauseam since the 90's. It is the sort of thing espoused by people who believe the real problem is the PC police, not the structure of white supremacy.

It ignores the many complex contexts and trends the film came in the midst of that made it feel fresh at the time. Yes, I am aware that Brooks himself has oft repeated this line. And I do think he doesn't realize he's contradicting himself.

Even in a 2017 diatribe against our "stupidly politically correct" culture, Ellis notes, Brooks lists several comedic lines that he would never cross, because some things you just don't joke about. Except in very particular circumstances, which is why you could make Blazing Saddles in 1974 but not now, duh.

Several replies to the thread also note that Brooks brought in Richard Pryor to work on the script as well -- so yes, even in the early 70s, Brooks was concerned with not slipping from satirizing racism into flat out racism. As Brooks told Rolling Stone, he already knew the bad guys would have to use the word all the time. BUT:

But you know, if we're going to do this, we're going to need permission. I don't want to cross lines I'm not supposed to be crossing.

So I called up a friend of mine, this guy who was a brilliant writer and the best stand-up comic of all time: Richard Pryor. I said, "Richard, read this, tell me what you think." He read it and said, "Yeah, this is good … this is real. I like this." I asked, "Right, but what about the N word? We can't say this so many times …" "Well, Mel, you can't say it. But the bad guys can say it. They would say it!" Then I asked him to come write it with us, and he said sure. That was how it started.

He was, in a word, worried about political correctness. Good stuff! Also too, check out Ellis's earlier meditation on Mel Brooks and Nazi jokes:

Mel Brooks, The Producers and the Ethics of Satire about N@zis www.youtube.com

Let's Put On A Book Club In The Old Barn!

We really need to do a Wonkette Book Club again, guys. So let's do that! We're thinking we could either 1) read a book over the course of a month and discuss it in one Sunday post, or 2) Devote two or three Sundays to reading the book in chunks, a few chapters at a time. I am leaning toward the latter, because I am a slow lazy reader, but can see advantages to the former, too. Whaddya think? Here, let's do this as a Twitter Poll! You will need to have a Twitter account to opine:

If you don't have Twitter and don't want it, please say your preference in the comments and I will try to keep track! I may or may not go with the majority opinion on this, unless it goes overwhelmingly in one direction, and even then, we may experiment.

Either way, our first book will be Erik Loomis's A History of America in Ten Strikes, which is exactly that: a look at class struggle as a driver of American history. Not much of a spoiler: one chapter covers the 1912 "Bread and Roses" strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the very site where Elizabeth Warren kicked off her campaign yesterday. (Update: we originally said this was the first chapter, but nah, that's about the strikes by "mill girls" in Lowell in the 1830s-40s. Massachusetts had a bunch of labor unrest.)


If you DO have Twitter, you should definitely follow Erik Loomis, who does history threads very, very good! Check out this recent thread on the 1894 strike by gold miners in Cripple Creek, Colorado, who went up against the bosses and -- rare in a Gilded Age strike -- got what they demanded. It helped that Colorado Gov. Dave Waite was an old-timey populist who sided with the workers.

Oh, this is a terrific book. Buy it! We get a kickback!

And have yourselves a fine Sunday!

[ WaPo / Robyn Pennacchia on Twitter / IZE Journal via David Shiffman on Twitter / WaPo / Retropod / LAT / Lindsay Ellis on Twitter / A History of America in Ten Strikes by Erik Loomis]

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Doktor Zoom

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.

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Well, goddamn it, a wonderful person we'd never heard of until last night is dead. Lyra McKee was 29, an investigative journalist who specialized in looking at the legacy of "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland. She was murdered by someone shooting at police during rioting in Derry, or perhaps Londonderry, depending on who you want to piss off by using either name for the city. The rioting broke out after police "started carrying out searches in the area because of concerns that militant republicans were storing firearms and explosives" in advance of attacks planned to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. Police are blaming the violence and McKee's death on the "New Irish Republican Army," a radical republican group formed a few years ago from several smaller groups. Despite the name, the group has no ties to the old Provisional Irish Republican Army, which renounced violence and disarmed in 2005 following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which was supposed to have brought peace to Northern Ireland, and kind of did, at least much of the time.

McKee is being remembered by colleagues and readers as a promising journalist who was expected to go far. A year ago, McKee signed a two-book deal with Faber & Faber; the first of the books, The Lost Boys, an investigation of eight young men who disappeared in Belfast during the Troubles in the '60s and '70s, will be published next year. A 2016 Forbes profile said "McKee's passion is to dig into topics that others don't care about." For instance, CNN reports, McKee spent five years investigating a story about the only rape crisis center in Northern Ireland and its long struggle to regain funding after the government eliminated it.

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