Chapter II, The Sixth Extinction (The Discovery of the Mastodon)

What a superb storyteller Elizabeth Kolbert is! To think self only heard about her books from reading the Contributors Notes for a back issue of The New Yorker. She wasn’t even aware that The Sixth Extinction won the Pulitzer in 2015.

from Chapter II:

  • The first mastodon bones subjected to what might, anachronistically, be called scientific study were discovered in 1739. That year, Charles le Moyne, the second Baron de Longueuil, was traveling down the Ohio River with four hundred troops, some, like him, Frenchmen, most of the others Algonquians and Iroquois. The journey was arduous and supplies were short. On one leg, a French soldier would later recall, the troops were reduced to living off acorns.

Longueuil was leading his men on a campaign against the Chickasaw, and many of his men died in the next several months. Indian scouts discovered, at the edge of an enormous swamp near present-day Cincinnati, a quantity of gigantic bones and teeth (the roots alone were the length of a man’s hand). They turned out to belong to a creature later known as “the American elephant,” or mastodon.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The New Yorker, 1 February 2021

A subscription is expensive, but is so worth it.

Self saves all the back issues in a huge pile, and now and then, when things calm down a bit, she picks an issue from the pile to read.

The one she picked today is dated 1 February 2021, meaning shortly after Biden’s inauguration.

For all that Trump tried to trash America’s democratic governance, his fellow-Republicans had been doing damage to the idea of government itself long before he became their standard-bearer. The extreme belief in small government that so many in the G.O.P. have espoused . . . That attitude got a big assist from Republicans in the Senate who have successfully wielded the filibuster — the mechanism that requires a super-majority of sixty senators to move a bill to a vote — to block progressive legislation and prevent even the discussion of, for example, a public option for health care.

— Margaret Talbot, The Talk of the Town

“espoused” without an ounce of sincerity, self might add.

The system of health care in California is: if your income is lower than a certain level, your health care is shunted off to MediCal. And God help you, because none of the doctors self has been seeing for the past 20 years accepts Medi-Cal. She’s scared to ask WHICH doctors accept Medi-Cal. She’d rather stick with the doctors who know her medical history. Which means she still pays through the nose, her Medi-Cal card means nothing. But that’s better than the alternative, which is being dead.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Poetry Friday: Kimiko Hahn

To Be a Daughter
And To Have a Daughter

(An Excerpt)

can forecast at-odds relationships
especially when the mother hazards to write
while keeping the baby safe
from herself as she and the baby wail,
one in the crib, the other on the floor, to wail
with the vacuum cleaner so the daughter
can’t hear mama-drowning, so the new relationship
isn’t all arithmetic and geometry, all right
angles barely connecting. What is left
at dusk, still tender and safe,

— from The New Yorker, 23 March 2020
  • Kimiko Hahn teaches at Queens College, City University of New York. Her latest poetry collection is Foreign Bodies.

So Long, Won’t Be Missing You

_________________________________________________________________________________

His tweets and retweets, which came “at a favored rate of more than a hundred a day,” provided “talking points right-wing media outlets,” and were “absorbed as doctrine by millions of faithful constituents.” (The New Yorker, The Talk of the Town, 25 May 2020)

A sample of adjectives used by 45 in his tweets: “pathetic,” “dopey,” “a total nut job,” and “low-class slob.”

He declared “They will have to drag me out of the White House!”

Well, you’re gone, gone, goooooooone.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

New York City, April 2020

Self suspended her subscription to The New Yorker a few months ago, since the pile of unread issues was getting ridiculous. She’s now just working her way through March/April.

But that resolution (not to renew The New Yorker) lasted just two months. There was a 20% off sale for former subscribers, and she signed up just like that. Her new subscription starts with the Dec. 7 issue.

In the 13 April 2020 issue, David Remnick in the Talk of the Town:

  • The streets of New York City are so desolate now that you half expect tumbleweed to blow along the pavement where cars and cabs once clustered. There is barely a plane in the sky. You hear the wheeze of an empty bus rounding a corner, the flutter of pigeons on a fire escape, the wail of an ambulance. The sirens are unnervingly frequent. But even on these sunny, early-spring days there are few people in sight. For weeks, as the distancing rules of the pandemic took hold, a gifted saxophone player who stakes his corner outside a dress shop on Broadway every morning was still there, playing “My Favorite Things” and “All the Things You Are.” Now he is gone, too.

Self is preparing to teach a 10-week course on Creative Nonfiction for UCLA Extension’s Writers Program. She enrolled in a class that helps teachers prepare.

Self has to turn in a video Welcome message this week. She printed out the instructions and they were three pages. She is not enthusiastic. Not to mention, her looks have really gone downhill this year: she hasn’t been to a salon in months, everything about her appearance is really rough. She’ll have to do some extreme intervention. On herself. She planned 10 different outfits to wear for each of the 10 Zoom classes. Which will make her feel more confident. Also, will choose a room with nice background (art, maybe?). No bedrooms cause that’s just tacky.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker

25 November 2020

  • Putin warns that the U.S. is on the verge of being controlled by Americans.

That is all.

Back Reading: The New Yorker, 18 May 2020

  • When an Ebola epidemic erupted in West Africa, in 2014, the United States and China, the world’s two largest economic powers, responded in starkly different fashions. The Obama Administration dispatched the 101st Airborne and other troops to build treatment hospitals, and donated more than half of the $3.9 billion in relief funds collected from governments worldwide. Within six months, the outbreak was under control, and the U.S.-led effort was hailed as a template for handling future epidemics.

Ron Klain, Biden’s Chief of Staff, spearheaded the American effort against Ebola, which means he is more than ready to handle COVID-19.

Is Emily Murphy at GSA ready for Rep. Katie Porter to go nuclear on her today?

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The Pandemic Protocol (The New Yorker, 4 May 2020)

Ground Zero was Evergreen Health, a hospital in Kirkland, WA, just east of Seattle: Here was where the first diagnosis of corona virus in the United States was confirmed. That was back in January. Dr. Francis Riedo was the “medical director for infectious disease at Evergreen Health.”

  • “A national shortage of diagnostic kits for the new coronavirus meant that only people who had recently visited China were eligible for testing. Even as Evergreen Health’s beds began filling with cases of flu-like symptoms — including a patient from Life Care, a nursing home two miles away — the hospital’s doctors were unable to test them for the new disease, because none of these sufferers had been to China or been in contact with anyone who had.”

Testing finally began at the end of February, when “there had been only six detections of the corona virus in the U.S., and only one in Washington State.”

During the previous few weeks, “researchers, in quiet violation of CDC guidelines, had jury-rigged a corona virus test in their lab and had started using it on their samples. They had just found a positive hit: a high school student in a suburb twenty-eight miles from Seattle, with no recent history of foreign travel and no known interactions with anyone from China.”

Dr. Riedo sent two patient samples to the local department of health. “I was sure they’d be negative. “Riedo got a call from his friend at the public health lab. Both of the samples he had sent were positive. Riedo sent over swabs from nine other Evergreen Health patients. Eight were positive.” Riedo kept sending more samples, and “most of the patients tested positive.”

And so it began.

The article was written by Charles Duhigg.

Looking Back, November 2016

Self is doing catch-up reading of The New Yorker. She’s currently reading The Talk of the Town of the 3 February 2020 issue:

  • In the dazed aftermath of the 2016 election, as a vast portion of the country tried to come to terms with the fact that a fixture of the tabloids and of reality TV would be the next President of the United States . . .

Steve Bannon announces the new President’s agenda in an interview to — not The New York Times, not the Wall Street Journal, not the Washington Post, but to The Hollywood Reporter which would have been telling except we were all too dazed from shock to grasp the direction the wind was blowing:

We’re going to build an entirely new political movement.

Four years later, here we are. The new political movement turns out to be nothing more than a transparent and clumsy power grab by the most rank amateur ever to occupy the White House. All that fanfare, all that hoopla — all just a distraction, all smoke and shiny mirrors. To call it tinsel-town Hollywood would be an insult to the actual Hollywood.

Does self sound bitter? That’s because she is. She voted for Hillary and really, really thought that American women would have their moment. Instead, we got the president who’s a serial cheater and the First Lady who was so enthusiastic about being First Lady that she re-negotiated the terms of her pre-nup before she agreed to move into the White House.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

“Beyond the Waters of Death,” Joan Acocella’s New Yorker piece on the making of GILGAMESH (14 October 2019)

  • “A young Londoner, George Smith, who had left school at the age of fourteen and was employed as an engraver of bank notes,” was fascinated by artifacts. He spent lunch breaks at the British Museum and “studied the shards for around ten years . . . it was he who found the most famous passage inscribed on them, an account of a great flood wiping out almost all of humanity, with one man’s family surviving. When he read this, we are told, he became so excited that he jumped out of his chair and ran around the room, tearing off his clothes.”

George Smith died of dysentery in Aleppo, where he’d gone to do research, age 36. But not before he discovered the oldest long poem in the world, Gilgamesh.

Everywhere in the world has an ancient flood story. Even Mexico. Even the Philippines. Self thinks this means there must have been an actual climactic event whose effects were felt worldwide.

Stay safe dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

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