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Kim Potter

Kim Potter (1972- ) is the White American police officer who killed Daunte Wright, an unarmed Black man, during a Routine Traffic Stop on April 11th 2021. That was in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota – just miles away from where Derek Chauvin was standing trial for the murder of George Floyd! And just miles away from where Philando Castile was also killed during a Routine Traffic Stop.

Potter is now on trial for manslaughter – for whether her negligence or recklessness led to Daunte Wright’s death. Despite her 26 years of experience, she says she mixed up her Taser with her handgun. She is a good person! And a mistake is not a crime. And blah blah blah blah blah!

The jury, after three days of deliberations, seems to be badly split. It is made up of 6 White men, 3 White women, 2 Asian women and 1 Black woman. Potter took the witness stand, crying White women tears. If she walks free, that will almost certainly be why.

On April 11th 2021, the department told officers to avoid making unnecessary arrests because of the heightened tensions caused by Derek Chauvin trial. The governor had already called out the National Guard (state militia) fearing the streets could turn violent. Despite that, Potter apparently wanted to show her trainee, Anthony Luckey, how to escalate a Routine Traffic Stop into a life-or-death situation in less than a minute.

Routine Traffic Stop: They stopped Wright for “air fresheners hanging from his rear-view mirror” – aka DWB: Driving While Black. They found out he had a warrant for his arrest for missing a court date for a misdemeanour weapons charge from a year ago. But then he was resisting arrest! She was afraid he had a gun.

Potter:

“[Officer Mychal Johnson] had a look of fear on his face. It’s something I’ve never seen before. It just went chaotic.”

Wright was trying to drive away!

Police are not supposed to shoot on fleeing suspects. Even the US Supreme Court can see what is wrong with that – or could in Tennessee v Garner (1985). And you are not supposed to use a Taser (stun gun) on anyone trying to drive a car since it temporarily paralyses them.

Despite all that, she shouts:

“Taser, Taser, Taser!”

She shoots and nothing happens. Then: “Holy shit, I shot him.” With her handgun. Right through the heart.

Instead of trying to save his life, she breaks down in tears saying she was afraid she was “going to go to prison”. She resigned two days later.

Police Tim Gannon testified that he saw “no violation” of “policy, procedure and law”.

Taser and handgun – spot the difference!

Tasers: The use-of-force instructor said that no one in his 16 years with the police department had ever mixed up a Taser with a handgun. Tasers are much lighter, have a different grip, are brightly coloured, are drawn from the opposite side of the body, and so on. Potter had been trained on their use every year since 2002.

Race did not come up during the trial. But her disproportionate use of force (or panic) was almost certainly because Wright was a Black man, which White people in the US have an overblown fear of.

– Abagond, 2021.

Update (21:47 GMT): Kim Potter has been found guilty of manslaughter! The jury did not hang!

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Digital Minimalism

“Digital Minimalism” (2019) by Cal Newport lays out the whys and hows of living a life less consumed by digital technology –  the Internet, video games, video streaming and, most of all, smartphones. Although Newport is fascinated by the Amish, he is not for getting rid of digital technology – just for using it mindfully.

The attention economy began in 1830 with the penny press. From there it has spread to magazines, billboards, radio, television, the sides of buses, the Internet, and worst (best) of all, smartphones. It sells your attention to their customers: advertisers. You are the product! Your time is turned into their money. It reached a particularly ugly milestone in 2014 when Facebook began to make most of its money from smartphones. Money they used to make smartphones yet more addictive. Your urge to check your phone is no accident. It is by design. And, unlike billboards or television, a smartphone is always with you, eating up yet more of your time.

Digital detox: Newport recommends going on a digital detox for 30 days. During that month you limit your use of digital technology to the bare minimum, to only what is absolutely necessary. And only according to “operating procedures” – rules you write down that lay out the when, what and how. Only after a month can you possibly have the perspective needed to rebuild your digital use from the ground up.

Recommended practices: Some suggestions he details in the book:

  1. Spend time alone – leave your phone at home, go for long walks, write letters to yourself, etc. Anything where others cannot interrupt you.
  2. Don’t click “like”. Instead of clicking “like” on your cousin’s baby photos maybe you should visit her. Or at least call her up. “Like” is a big thing that makes social media addictive.
  3. Consolidate texting. Do it at set times. Do not let yourself be endlessly interrupted. Likewise:
  4. Hold conversation office hours when people know they can talk to you at length.
  5. Fix or build someting every week. You know, like in the physical world.
  6. Schedule your low-quality leisure. If you are going to mindlessly scroll through the Internet, at least limit it and do it on purpose.
  7. Join something. The real world awaits!
  8. Follow leisure plans.
  9. Delete social media from your phone. The computer versions are way less addictive.
  10. Turn your devices into single-purpose computers. Zadie Smith said she would not have had the time to write her novel “NW” if she was unable to turn off the Internet while writing on her computer.
  11. Use social media like a professional. They are purposeful in how they use it.
  12. Embrace slow media. Breaking news on Twitter is low-quality and often misleading. Better to read about it in the Times the next morning. Let paid professionals chase down the story.
  13. Dumb down your smartphone. Some hedge fund managers use flip phones like it was 2005 so that they are not distracted and misled while at work.

The book most reminds me of “The Plug-In Drug” (1977), written by Marie Winn a generation ago. It was about an addictive technology that seemed to be warping the youth and replacing real life: television.

– Abagond, 2021.

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Remarks:

This went to #9 in the US in 1980 and has since become a classic December song on radio stations in North America.

Fogelberg said it was based on a true story, but would not say who the woman was. The truth came out after he died in 2007 when Jill Anderson Gruelich (pictured) outed herself. It took place on December 24th 1975 at 1302 East Frye Avenue in Peoria, Illinois (see the Google Street View at 40.7121938° N, 89.5773293° W). There is still a grocery store there (its current storefront appears in the video). The snow did turn into rain.

Greulich says the story is true, six-pack and all, except that her eyes are green, not blue, and she married her a physical education teacher, not an architect. She was divorced by the time the song came out.

The drummer, Russ Kunkel, has appeared in this space before, playing on Carly Simon’s “Coming Around Again” (1986).

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Lyrics:

Met my old lover in the grocery store
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve

She didn’t recognize the face at first
But then her eyes flew open wide
She went to hug me and she spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried

We took her groceries to the checkout stand
The food was totaled up and bagged
We stood there lost in our embarrassment
As the conversation dragged

Went to have ourselves a drink or two
But couldn’t find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at the liquor store
And we drank it in her car

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how

She said she’d married her an architect
Who kept her warm and safe and dry
She would have liked to say she loved the man
But she didn’t like to lie

I said the years had been a friend to her
And that her eyes were still as blue
But in those eyes I wasn’t sure if I
Saw doubt or gratitude

She said she saw me in the record stores
And that I must be doing well
I said the audience was heavenly
But the traveling was hell

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence
Another ‘auld lang syne’

The beer was empty and our tongues were tired
And running out of things to say
She gave a kiss to me as I got out
And I watched her drive away

Just for a moment I was back at school
And felt that old familiar pain
And as I turned to make my way back home
The snow turned into rain

Source: AZ Lyrics.

tornado

A tornado, also known as a twister, whirlwind or cyclone, is a spinning wind storm that comes down from the clouds in a snake or v-shape and tears up the earth.

On December 10th and 11th 2021 in the US, at least 90 people were killed by tornadoes in Kentucky and neighbouring states. Part of what made the tornadoes so deadly is that they struck at night and in an ill-prepared part of the country. But it is rare to have such severe tornadoes in December.

Compared to hurricanes (aka typhoons, cyclones), tornadoes are much smaller, generally form over land, last minutes to hours instead of days, but can have much higher winds. Hurricanes are huge, slow-moving and come from the sea, bringing floods. They can kill way more people than tornadoes – and can give rise to tornadoes of their own, as Hurricane Ida did a few months ago.

Location: Most of the world does not get tornadoes! A surprising fact if you live in the US, where they seem to be a natural feature of the Earth. But, in fact, most of the world’s tornadoes take place in just one country: the US, about 1,300 a year. Europe only gets about 300. Nearly every US state gets tornadoes, but most are found in Tornado Alley:

Tornado Alley goes right down the middle of the US. It is where Dorothy of “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) is from. It receives slow-moving, low, warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico in the south and fast-moving, high, cold, dry air from the Rockies to the west and from the jet stream from Canada. These meet over the Great Plains, often creating tornado conditions, especially in the summer.

Climate change: There are not any good models connecting climate change to tornadoes. And so far it does not seem that tornadoes are becoming more frequent or more severe. But it seems Tornado Alley itself might be moving eastward – to where more people live and are less prepared.

Warning signs: These days the weather service can warn of a possible tornado a half hour in advance. On their radar maps they can see a tell-tale hook. On the ground, you see a what looks like a wall cloud come down from a thunderstorm cloud. Wall clouds can spawn tornadoes.

Safety tips: If your town has tornado sirens, you will hear them going off. That means to seek cover. Go to the lowest place you can find, underground if possible, with as many walls as possible between you and the tornado. Stay away from windows and outer doors – but close them if you can. Have a battery-powered radio with you for news updates. Cinemas and shopping malls are not safe. If you cannot seek cover inside, find a ditch or the lowest ground you can, lay down and protect your head as much as possible. Know that cars and trailer homes can be lifted into the air and land some place else.

– Abagond, 2021.

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In memoriam: bell hooks

bell hooks (1952-2021) passed away yesterday at age 69. She was one of the leading Black feminist thinkers in the US. She was not just anti-sexist, but anti-racist and anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist too. Not in a knee-jerk way, but in a de-brainwashing way. Because in the US and beyond our minds have been colonized by the self-serving lies of rich White males. She leaves us with more than 30 books, but, as she said in “remembered rapture: the writer at work” (1999):

‘No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much”. Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much”… No woman has ever written enough.’

Requiescat in pace.

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The 1619 Project

“The 1619 Project” (2021) is a book edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones and others that re-imagines US history as starting in 1619 when Blacks first arrived, not in 1776 when Whites declared their independence from the UK. It is the special issue of the New York Times Magazine of August 18th 2019 fleshed out into a 590-page book, nuance and all.

Nikole Hannah-Jones:

“Black Americans understand that we have been taught the history of a country that does not exist. What I have heard again and again since the original project was published is that the 1619 Project, for many people, finally made America make sense.”

It has been banned from being taught in schools in Texas, so you know it must be good!

I am reading the book now. As I read each chapter, I will write a post with my own summary, linked to below:

  1. The 1619 Project: Democracy
  2. The 1619 Project: Race
  3. The 1619 Project: Sugar
  4. The 1619 Project: Fear
  5. The 1619 Project: Dispossession
  6. The 1619 Project: Capitalism
  7. The 1619 Project: Politics
  8. The 1619 Project: Citizenship
  9. The 1619 Project: Self-Defense
  10. The 1619 Project: Punishment
  11. The 1619 Project: Inheritance
  12. The 1619 Project: Medicine
  13. The 1619 Project: Church
  14. The 1619 Project: Music
  15. The 1619 Project: Healthcare
  16. The 1619 Project: Traffic
  17. The 1619 Project: Progress
  18. The 1619 Project: Justice

When I finish the book I will come back and flesh out this post.

– Abagond, 2021.

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Remarks:

This is one of the best-selling Christmas songs of all time in the US. It came out in 1994 but did not hit #1 in the US till 2019, and not in the UK till 2020. Even the New Yorker admitted that it was “one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon”.

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Lyrics:

I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don’t care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree

I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you, yeah

I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
And I don’t care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree

I don’t need to hang my stocking
There upon the fireplace
Santa Claus won’t make me happy
With a toy on Christmas Day

I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you
You, baby

Oh, I won’t ask for much this Christmas
I won’t even wish for snow
And I’m just gonna keep on waiting
Underneath the mistletoe

I won’t make a list and send it
To the North Pole for Saint Nick
I won’t even stay awake to
Hear those magic reindeer click

‘Cause I just want you here tonight
Holding on to me so tight
What more can I do?
Baby, all I want for Christmas is you
You, baby

Oh, all the lights are shining so brightly everywhere
And the sound of children’s laughter fills the air

And everyone is singing
I hear those sleigh bells ringing
Santa, won’t you bring me the one I really need?
Won’t you please bring my baby to me?

Oh, I don’t want a lot for Christmas
This is all I’m asking for
I just wanna see my baby
Standing right outside my door

Oh, I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
Baby, all I want for Christmas is you
You, baby

All I want for Christmas is you, baby [repeat with ad-libs until fade]

Source: AZ Lyrics.

Brief Encounter

“Brief Encounter” (1945) is considered one of the best British films ever by those of a certain age. It is based on the play “Still Life” (1936) by Noel Coward and is directed by his protege David Lean, who would go on to direct stuff like “Doctor Zhivago” (1965) and “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962).

Theme: The film pushes an unrelieved heterosexual monogamy that was practised by neither Coward nor Lean, but which the target demographic (middle-class, mid-century Brits) struggled with, as in the film:

Our story: Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) has a brief encounter at a railway station with a handsome doctor, Dr Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard). One thing leads to another and, in the fashion of compulsive gamblers or Zeiler’s pecking pigeons, they are soon falling in love. It does not end happily ever after – because both are already contentedly married with children. Their love pulls them together but it also pulls them towards their destruction, towards “the precipice”.

Setting: Milford and Milford Junction are fictional. Going by the accents and lack of rationing, it seems to be suburban London in the 1930s, but it was filmed in part during the war in early 1945 in the north of England: London and the south were still subject to Nazi bombing and the blackout rules in force made filming there difficult. The railway station where it was filmed is still in operation: Carnforth station in Lancashire, 100 km north of Liverpool.

Compared to the play: Noel Coward wrote the screenplay (and did the station announcements), but made the film more clear-cut than the play. Filmgoers are not left in doubt whether the heroine had sex with the doctor or wanted to kill herself. The play left those to hang as open questions.

Music: Like Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” (1975), most of the music comes from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2.

Accents: The ill-starred lovers conduct their affair in the classic Received Pronunciation (RP) of the time. You know, where “really” is not “ree-lee” but “rillih”.

Best lines:

Alec:

“The stars can change in their courses, the universe go up in flames, and the world crash around us, but there will always be Donald Duck.”

“All good doctors must primarily be enthusiasts. They must, like writers and painters and priests, have a sense of vocation, a deep-rooted, unsentimental desire to do good.”

Laura:

“It’s awfully easy to lie when you know that you’re trusted implicitly. So very easy, and so very degrading.”

“I believe we would all behave quite differently if we lived in a warm, sunny climate all the time. We wouldn’t be so withdrawn and shy and difficult.”

“This can’t last. This misery can’t last. I must remember that and try to control myself. Nothing lasts really. Neither happiness nor despair. Not even life lasts very long. There’ll come a time in the future when I shan’t mind about this anymore, when I can look back and say quite peacefully and cheerfully how silly I was.”

– Abagond, 2021.

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Equiano

Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745-1797), aka Gustavus Vassa, wrote the “Interesting Narrative” (1789) about his life. Millions were dragged off into slavery in the 1700s. His is one of the few written accounts.

Interesting: The book mainly covers the years 1753 to 1777, in what is now Nigeria, the US, UK, and the Caribbean. It includes his boyhood in Africa, being dragged off into slavery, the Middle Passage, being a slave, a sailor, a free man, a slave overseer (yes), fighting in the British Navy, taking part in an Arctic expedition, converting to Christianity, helping to set up the colony of Sierra Leone, etc.

Igbo: Like Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, he was an Igbo, from what is now south-western Nigeria, then the Kingdom of Benin. Olaudah Equiano is his Igbo name, Gustavus Vassa his Western name.

Slavery: His father owned slaves. They were generally prisoners of war or guilty of some terrible crime. The transatlantic slave trade drove African wars and slave raiding. At age 11 he was taken in a raid and marched to the sea.

The Middle Passage across the Atlantic Ocean in the belly of a slave ship drove many mad. His is one of the few eyewitness accounts. Here are parts of it:

“I was soon put down under the decks, and there I received such a salutation in my nostrils as I had never experienced in my life; so what with the loathsomeness of the stench, and crying together, I became so sick and low that I was not able to eat, nor had I the least desire to taste any thing. I now wished for my last friend, Death, to relieve me … could I have got over the nettings, I would have jumped over the side.”

“… the white people looked and acted, as I thought, in so savage a manner; for I had never seen among my people such instances of brutal cruelty …”

“The shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable. … Often I did think many of the inhabitants of the deep much more happy than myself; I envied them the freedom they enjoyed …”

And when they arrived in Barbados they thought they were about to be eaten.

Freedom: Even after he bought his freedom in 1766, Whites could still take advantage of him, especially in the Caribbean, because the courts almost always sided with Whites or turned a blind eye –  or would not even allow testimony by free Blacks. Some Whites were honourable, others not.

A mercy: Like Phillis Wheatley, a fellow Black author from the 1700s, he became a Christian and later saw the hand of God in being taken from Africa:

“Now every leading providential circumstance that has happened to  me, from the day I was taken from my parents to that hour, was then, in my view, as if it had but just then occurred. I was sensible of the invisible hand of God, which guided and protected me, when in truth I knew it not: still the Lord pursued me although I slighted and disregarded it; this mercy melted me down.”

– Abagond, 2021.

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Remarks:

This came out in 1758, written by Robert Robinson after becoming a Methodist. An autobiography of sorts. Olaudah Equiano, in his own autobiography, “Interesting Narrative” (1794), references it at least twice. It is still a popular hymn even now, sung above by Sarah Noëlle in 2013.

It is based in part on 1 Samuel 7:12 in the Bible. After defeating the Philistines:

“Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.”

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Lyrics: The original lyrics:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothèd then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

Omicron variant

A computer-generated picture of the Omicron variant. Via NPR. (Uma Shankar sharma/Getty Images)

The Omicron variant (by October 2021), aka B.1.1.529, is the latest “variant of concern” of covid-19, the coronavirus disease that swept the world in 2020, causing the pandemic that is still with us. In South Africa, Omicron is spreading faster than even the Delta variant, even among young people! Most people reading this will likely encounter the new strain within the next few months. By yesterday (December 1st 2021) it had reached the US.

Symptons appear in 2 to 14 days, among them:

  • fevers or chills,
  • cough,
  • shortness of breath,
  • tiredness,
  • headache and body aches,
  • loss of taste or smell,
  • sore throat,
  • congestion or runny nose,
  • nausea or vomiting,
  • diarrhoea.

Pretty standard stuff for covid-19.

So far it seems to be no deadlier than the Delta variant. Some who have received the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines have caught the  Omicron variant, but so far only with mild symptoms. The key phrase is “so far”. While this fits what we know about the genetics (most of the changes are to the spike proteins, which would make it more contagious, but not deadlier), there is not yet enough empirical data to draw firm conclusions. But:

In the next few weeks it will become clear just how contagious and deadly the new variant is and how well the current vaccines stand up to it. Pfizer says it could whip up a new vaccine and get it to pharmacies by March. That sounds quick, but Omicron might be quicker.

Origins: Its nearest known relative is from the middle of 2020, yet it has dozens of mutations or changes in its genetic code. Where was it all that time? No one yet knows for sure, but most likely it was inside one of the millions of people in southern Africa who have HIV but are not receiving proper medical treatment. Since they have weak immune systems, their bodies cannot completely kill off covid-19, allowing it to mutate endlessly.

It was discovered by scientists in South Africa – even though it was already present in the Netherlands and Nigeria. For its pains (and un-Chinese-like transparency), South Africa was slapped with a blanket travel ban by the US, UK, EU, Canada, Australia and others.

President Ramaphosa of South Africa:

“The emergence of the Omicron variant should be a wake-up call to the world that vaccine inequality cannot be allowed to continue. Until everyone is vaccinated, everyone will continue to be at risk. Instead of prohibiting travel, the rich countries of the world need to support the efforts of developing countries – economies, that is – to access and to manufacture enough vaccine doses for their people without delay.”

Africa: Only 7% of Africa’s 1.3 billion or so people have been vaccinated. As long as it has low rates of vaccination, it will continue to produce variants. Last year it was Beta, this year Omicron. And next year? The main thing standing in the way of vaccinating most of Africa is the US government’s defence of the intellectual property rights of its big drug companies. Something it did with AIDS as millions died.

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Adele: Easy on Me

Remarks:

My favourite Adele song to date. It was the #1 song in the US and UK for most of this month, November 2021.

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Lyrics:

[Verse 1]
There ain’t no gold in this river
That I’ve been washin’ my hands in forever
I know there is hope in these waters
But I can’t bring myself to swim
When I am drowning in this silence
Baby, let me in

[Chorus]
Go easy on me, baby
I was still a child
Didn’t get the chance to
Feel the world around me
I had no time to choose what I chose to do
So go easy on me

[Verse 2]
There ain’t no room for things to change
When we are both so deeply stuck in our ways
You can’t deny how hard I have tried
I changed who I was to put you both first
But now I give up

[Chorus]
Go easy on mе, baby
I was still a child
Didn’t get the chance to
Feel thе world around me
Had no time to choose what I chose to do
So go easy on me

[Bridge]
I had good intentions
And the highest hopes
But I know right now
It probably doesn’t even show

[Chorus]
Go easy on me, baby
I was still a child
I didn’t get the chance to
Feel the world around me
I had no time to choose what I chose to do
So go easy on me

Source: Genius Lyrics.

For most books at most public libraries in the US circa 2020, it generally goes something like this:

Selection – each library (or at least head library) has a librarian or librarians who pick new books. They keep up with the new books that are coming out, read journals like Booklist and Library Journal, read reviews online, even blogs! They are supposed to pick books that are of interest to their community, which is not necessarily a book they personally like.

Purchase – they buy books from distributors, like Baker & Taylor or Brodart, who specialize in this sort of thing.

Donation – not all books are purchased. Some are donated by kind souls. If a donated book is in bad shape (falling apart, marked up, smells mouldy, etc) or if the librarian does not think it is a good fit for the library’s collection, then it goes straight to the After Life (see below). Otherwise it advances to the next step along with the purchased books:

Processing – the book is entered into the catalogue and given all the things a library adds to a book: a good dust jacket, bar code, the library’s stamp, the label on the spine showing where it will be shelved, etc. Some of this might already have been done by the distributor (see Purchase above).

Circulation – the book is checked in and ready to be taken out! Sometimes it goes on the shelf for new books. Sometimes it is held – new books often already have a waiting list of people who want to read it. All the books you see at the library are in this stage of their life cycle.

Lost – some books are lost. Or even stolen. At this point their life as a library book ends. But most books are not and proceed to the next stage:

Weeding – this is what librarians call it. From time to time they get rid of books! In general, they get rid of books that are worn out, damaged, outdated or which are not getting checked out (borrowed) enough. Sometimes librarians will check out books just to keep them alive! But sooner or later most books reach this stage. This is the stage that fascinates me because books on my to-read list are disappearing! Those books that are weeded out go on to:

The After Life – this is determined by whether the book is in good shape or not:

  • If the book is still in good shape it is given to the Friends of the Library. They either hold a book sale themselves, like at the library, or sell it to a used bookseller, or donate it, like to Better World Books. Money from the sale goes back to the library so they can buy new books.
  • If the book is in bad shape then it is either thrown out (pictured above) or sent to a recycler where it joins the paper cycle of life and has a chance of becoming part of a new book. Most likely, though, it will just become office paper.

If the book was popular enough and is still in print, it is re-ordered.

– Abagond, 2021.

Source: mainly Book Riot (2019), St Vincent Review (image).

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Pilgrim Fathers

Getting married like it’s 1627, as historically re-enacted in 2012 at Plimoth Patuxet, a tourist attraction. Via boston.com.

The Pilgrim Fathers (fl. 1620s), or just Pilgrims, are the religious fanatics from England who came to North America in 1620 on board the Mayflower. According to legend, they landed at Plymouth Rock. They were settler colonialists who founded Plymouth Colony (1620-91), which later became part of Massachusetts, one of the Thirteen Colonies, now a state in the north-eastern US.

Thanksgiving: It was 400 years ago this autumn, in 1621, maybe in November, but probably October, that the Pilgrims held the First Thanksgiving: a feast with the Wampanoag Indians to mark a peace treaty that more or less held till Prince Philip’s War (1675-78). By the 1890s, the Thanksgiving holiday and the Pilgrims had become part of the origin myth of White Americans. Or, as the Wikipedia puts it:

“The Pilgrims’ story became a central theme in the history and culture of the United States.”

The name “Pilgrims” comes from Hebrews 11:13 in the Bible (bolding mine):

“These [early believers in God] all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

Because heaven was their true homeland. William Bradford, a Pilgrim Father, did apply this imagery to them in his journal, “Of Plymouth Plantation” (1630-51), but the name did not catch on till the early 1800s.

Saints is what they called themselves.

Brownists is the name Shakespeare would have used: they were followers of Robert Browne. They refused to attend Anglican churches as required by English law. They were Calvinists who thought the Anglican Church was hopelessly corrupt, beyond reform. They wanted a separate, pure church of their own – which is why they are known as Puritan Separatists.

Netherlands: In about 1607 they fled to the Netherlands. But when they saw their children becoming Dutch they wanted a place where they were free to be both Puritan and English.

Meanwhile in America: By 1610, English fishermen were regularly fishing off the coast of New England every summer. That touched off a plague in 1616 that, in three years, killed nearly all the Indians within 65 km of the coast. Attempts to colonize New England did not succeed till after the plague, even though there were already English colonies in Virginia and Newfoundland. By 1619, Black people were already arriving in Virginia.

Plymouth Rock: On December 16th 1620 the Pilgrims land at the deserted Indian village of Patuxet, already renamed Plymouth on English maps. It is deserted because of the plague. The few survivors had fled inland. The idea of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock (at 41.958083° N, 70.662139° W) does not appear till 1741. The Pilgrims come off the Mayflower coughing and suffering from scurvy.

That first winter half die of disease.

Squanto: In March 1621, as the winter was ending, an Indian arrived speaking English: Squanto. He was visiting what was left of his old town of Patuxet. He teaches the Pilgrims how to live on the land. It was already cleared, but the Pilgrims were townspeople – carpenters, tailors, printers and such. And he made peace between them and his people, the Wampanoag Indians.

– Abagond, 2021.

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Travis McMichael

Travis McMichael (c. 1986- ) is one of three White men on trial for murder in the US for killing Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black jogger. His father, Gregory McMichael, and neighbour, William “Roddie” Bryan, are on trial with him. All three took part in his murder, but:

It was Travis who pulled the trigger.

Vigilante justice: On February 23rd 2020 down in Georgia in Satilla Shores, when they saw Arbery jogging through their White neighbourhood, they got in their pickup trucks and chased him down. They said Arbery had entered a house under construction (true – but so had White people, who they had neglected to chase down). And said he looked like a burglar they had seen (no burglaries had been recently reported in that neighbourhood).

Self-defence: Once they had him “trapped like a rat” (their words), Travis faced Arbery with his 12-gauge shotgun. He says Arbery hit him and then tried to take his gun. That part of the video takes place in front of Travis’s pickup truck and is hard to see, but they do seem to be struggling over the gun. Travis feared for his life and so shot Arbery dead.

The prosecution says that according to Georgia law you cannot start a fight and then claim self-defence:

“What does the kid who’s being bullied do? He takes it and he takes it and takes it until he can’t anymore and he finally shoves the one bully, and what does that bully do? BAM. Punches the target child, right? What’s the bully always say? ‘He started it. He pushed me. I was defending myself.’ The law knows people do this. The law knows people will goad other people into defending themselves so that they can claim, ‘I was acting in self defense.’ You can’t do that.”

They got Travis to admit that he saw Arbery with no knife, no gun, that he had made no threat. Meanwhile they had threatened him:

“Stop, or I’ll blow your fucking head off.”

Heritage not hate: Right on the front of Travis’s truck, where Travis feared for his life and fired his first shot, the licence plate had the old Georgia flag of 1956-2001, the one with the Confederate flag on it:

Travis’s lawyers were themselves racist! They wanted Black pastors removed from the court room, wanted the only Black person on the jury removed, called the trial a “public lynching” because of the “woke left mob” outside the courthouse. And even said, in their closing arguments:

“Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails.”

Jury: 11 Whites and 1 Black person. Glynn County, Georgia, where the trial takes place, is one-fourth Black. During jury selection, you cannot give race as a reason to get rid of a possible juror, but clearly ways were found to get rid of all but one Black juror.

– Abagond, 2021.

Update: All three were found guilty of murder!!! They face a minimum sentence of life in prison.

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