Digest, 10/3/2021: Beware of the Blob
the twenty-third digest post
This Week’s Posts
Tuesday, September 28th - There is No Such Thing as “Punching Up” or “Punching Down”
In which I complain about a common recent progressive trope that applies a reductive lens to social power in order to pretend that the world is simpler than it is.
Thursday, September 30th - “Blue No Matter Who” Gets You Sinema
In which I point out that if you give anyone total loyalty in exchange for nothing, there is no reason that person will ever have to reward you, and this is what Democrat-boosters can never get past.
Friday, October 1st - My Last Jedi Thoughts Are Substantially More Correct Than Those of Ross Douthat
In which I defend The Last Jedi from some attacks against it, particularly pointing out that the supposed disrespect to the original trilogy actually came from JJ Abrams. I also point out, again, that the Skywalker saga makes no sense and could have been saved with bringing the dyad together romantically.
And we had a book club post for subscribers and Chapter Twelve in The Red, The Brown, The Green, which more of you should be reading. (Cause it’s good.)
From the Archives
I grow weary of the Covid discourse. So, so weary. I am particularly exhausted by the fact that the side that is more correct on the epidemiology, the pro-vaccine side, is also worshipful of expertise, incurious about basic questions, contemptuous of good-faith questions, and shrill in all things. I hate it all. The above essay captured my feelings late last year and still does.
Song of the Week
Substack of the Week
Chris Arnade has spent the past few years carefully documenting the kind of lives that have been systematically left out of mainstream media, people who struggle with the day- to-day burden of overcoming a winner-take-all economy. Because many of these people are among what is called the white working class, Arnade is frequently accused of “centering” the pain of those who we are not meant to sympathize with. (This thinking also prompted the “Nomadland is a white grievance narrative” claims from last year.) Well, for one thing, I think all suffering is important and worthy of o ur compassion and interest, including that of the white working class, many millions of which didn’t vote for Donald Trump or otherwise deserve the collective guilty foisted on them. But besides, Arnade’s project is more subtle and more far-ranging than that caricature anyway. The above post of his new free Substack demonstrates a lot of what people like in his work - great photos of out-of-the-way places and ruminations on where this country is going. Check it out.
Zen Shorts, John J. Muth, 2005
Typically, children’s books that push for wisdom instead of whimsy make me cringe. But Zen Shorts just works - it's subtle and low key and yet genuinely moving, with a main character that's cute without being saccharine. Such lovely visuals too.
NFL Pick of the Week
We got in the win column last week, as the Falcons proved to be slightly less ass than the Giants. This week I’m picking another game of Ass v. Ass, this one involving my beloved and directionless Chicago Bears. While Justin Fields did not look good last week, he was running for his life behind an offensive line that looks like one of the league’s worst and surrounded by backs and receivers that are entirely unimpressive. The fanbase has turned pretty hard on Matt Nagy, which is fair enough, but it’s remarkable how poor the overall talent level is on the offensive side of the ball. Meanwhile Khalil Mack is still obviously an above-average outside linebacker, but I think anyone would say that averaging 8 sacks a season for the Bears is disappointing compared to the hype and what they gave up. Meanwhile the Detroit Lions, maybe the most talent-poor roster in the league, has proved pretty scrappy and looked better than I would have thought even in a blowout loss to the Packers. I’m not in love with Jared Goff but I like him a lot more than I do 2021’s version of either Andy Dalton or Justin Fields. So let’s take the Detroit Lions on the road +3 and hope for an end to the Ryan Pace era.
Comment of the Week
By appearing 'reasonable' Obama was able to reassure the PMC (media, social workers, educators, etc. etc. etc.) about everything that he sought out to do. As a result he had carte blanche to do what he wanted: he launched a catastrophic intervention in Libya, expanded drone wars over much Middle East, presided over a border crisis wasn't scrutinized ('kids in cages'), he let the banking industry get away with murder, expanded imperial presidential powers, etc. etc. etc.
There's a swath of Americans - an ersatz elite with some power - who want respectability and reassurance. Providing them with that gets you a lot.
Now that Obama's in his fat Elvis phase (to quote Matt Taibbi), partying with celebs, living in his mansion, planning the construction of his imperial mausoleum that will take the place of a park in Chicago, and generally not giving a fuck, we perhaps have a better view of who Obama is and what he was able to get away with. - Average Enjoyer
That’s it! See you tomorrow.
"I grow weary of the Covid discourse. So, so weary. I am particularly exhausted by the fact that the side that is more correct on the epidemiology, the pro-vaccine side, is also worshipful of expertise, incurious about basic questions, contemptuous of good-faith questions, and shrill in all things. I hate it all."
Me too. Weary on both sides. The obvious are the die-hard anti-vaxxers, which are really not that many in my practice. But equally exhausting are the Covid fundamentalists, who see nothing but Covid risk everywhere all the time. There were all kinds of health risks before Covid and there are those same risks now. I can't stand to read MSM these days, which reads like propaganda. "Horse-Dewormer": no Ivermectin looks like it doesn't work for Covid, but it's a real treatment used for people for other conditions. One recent article calmly reported that the vaccines work better than natural immunity. I'm not sure where they got that data. There's this study that looks at risk of re-infection with Covid, vaccinated vs unvaccinated, not looking at natural vs acquired immunity.
So, yes, you can get Covid again after contracting it, but you can also get a breakthrough infection after being vaccinated. This past week, a patient who had Covid in July had an appt with me to ask about being vaccinated. His job is requiring it and his family was pushing him to get a note from me exempting him. I explained that data does show vaccination offers further protection from re-infection and that LA county wants everyone vaccinated regardless of prior infection. But, in reality, he could likely wait 6-9 months to get vaccinated. We could have checked antibody levels. I've ranted here before, but I feel squeezed sometimes between what public health/CDC is recommending and what the actual data shows. He wasn't really against getting vaccinated, more appeasing his family with the visit, so we let it be. I'm not sure what I would have said had he been more forceful about wanting to wait to get vaccinated.
"There's a swath of Americans - an ersatz elite with some power - who want respectability and reassurance. Providing them with that gets you a lot."
Love this. Besides the political implications, this is great advice for anyone working a white-collar job. The bureaucratic PMC loves manners, plans, optics etc. The perception of my job performance improved a lot when I focused less on actually doing my job and more on nebulous strategies and corporate etiquette.