But before we get into all that — what shall we name the baby?

Not mine (I’ve had a lifelong fear even of picking them up, let alone changing their diapers; I am enormously grateful to those who get them to age 2, when they become — sort of — people; and age 4, when they become — many of them — adorable; and age 10, when — the precocious ones — do magic tricks; and age 18, when their failure to register and vote makes me crazy, but it’s more our fault than theirs, because, “if the pupil hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught.”)

Your baby.  Or your daughter’s, or your co-worker’s . . . someone you know must be pregnant.

If it’s a girl, I think we go with: Tesla.  If it’s a boy: Einstein.  (As in, “Get over here, Einstein.”  “What do you think, Einstein?”)  In the latter case there are potential pitfalls, to be sure; but I’m of the view that a little adversity in childhood can lead to a more interesting, successful adulthood.

Click here for ten other suggestions, all from the world of inventors.

Or you could go with Pistachio.

“Pistachio Klein.”  “Pistachio Smith.”  “Pistachio O’Malley.”  Think about it.

(His sister? Pastiche.  “Hey, y’all.  We’re Peter and Patsy Podlodowski.  Meet our kids, Pastiche and Pistachio.”)


Well, your call. I’m just trying to be helpful.

Meanwhile, I just finished reading Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance — or, more accurately, listening to J.D. Vance read it to me.

You really have to start doing that.  For autobiographies read by the subject, you are spending five or ten hours privately — quality, intimate time — just you and Trevor Noah!  You and Steve Martin!  You and Amy Schumer!  You and Barack Obama!  You and Tina Fey!

From their vocal cords direct to your brain pan.  Who gets to do stuff like that?!  Reading their books with your eyeballs is okay — though hard to do while driving or hiking, waiting in line or resting.  But kinda like reading a transcript of the Gettysburg Address when you had a chance to hear Lincoln recite it himself. Yet more being lost if Lincoln, like Tina Fey, had done impressions.

Sign up with Audible.com and the first book is free.

You can set Audible to read at 1.25X speed or 1.5X speed, which doesn’t sound squeaky and for many books is a more enjoyable pace.  Read an eight-hour book in six.

And if you have Alexa, and you come in from your hike and don’t want your earphones in while you soak in the tub, you can say, “Alexa, read my book.”  And she will say, “Resuming Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance” and pick up exactly where you left off.

What a world.

And Hillbilly Elegy gets us back to the point.  It’s an autobiography about a special tribe of Americans — hillbillies — of whom the author is one.  A tribe for whom life has been exceptionally hard.  And while it’s only a very little about politics (you will be relieved to know), and a tremendously engaging read (don’t worry about being depressed; you’ll really enjoy it), it does relate to today’s brief assignment — the excerpt of a column by Professor Simon Schama in the Financial Times that I offer below.

Of particular note: it was written days before the election.

. . . The polls are tightening and the result might be closer than the received wisdom supposes.  This is the first Presidential election since the Supreme Court  deprived the electorate of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the one aimed at preventing states and counties from manipulating registration.

Now who would do a thing like that?  Greensboro County, North Carolina, for a start, which has reduced the number of stations available for early voting from 16 to one, and thus has seen a steep drop in pre-election day polling.  At the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay, a city clerk made sure only one early voting location was available, a 15-minute drive from the campus because, it was revealed, he assumed most of the student body leaned Democratic.

. . . [C]ontrary to many narratives, the root cause of Trumpian rage has not been economic.  The vision, much rehearsed in the press and reiterated ad nauseum by Mr. Trump, of legions of the unemployed rising from the dereliction of the Rust Belt, Appalachia and the south makes a dramatic story but is actually a myth.

Exit polls of nearly 100,000 Trump voters in the primaries produced a median household income of $72,000, about $20,000 higher than the national median.  The most deep-dyed red Republican states are often those like the Dakotas or Nebraska with 3 per cent unemployment.  Rock-ribbed Trumpian Appalachian states like Kentucky and Tennessee are among the regions which, far from seeing manufacturing disappear, are seeing it return in the “reshoring” of jobs and investment from China.  GE’s Appliance Park is in Louisville, Kentucky.  Under pressure from under supply of skilled labour, real wages are going up not down.

So where does the flood of rage come from….?  The poisoned fountainhead is, of course, the one subject barely touched on in the campaign and that is race.  Eight years ago, elated by the Obama election, many of us naively assumed that epochal event would somehow take the edge of racial polarization.

But the Obama presidency–high-minded, characterized by unflappable composure, exemplary in its domestic life–only provoked still madder furies of resentment.  It was bad enough that an African-American had reversed what to alienated whites was the natural order of things;  it was even worse that he should lecture them from his pulpit of intellectual superiority.  When Birther Trump came along, giving disgraceful credence to racist fantasy, impervious to even the minimal obligations of evidence, conspiracy mutterings went mainstream.  What Trump supporters celebrate as the repudiation of ‘political correctness’ is really the permission that their leader has given them to vocalize the happy rush of hatred.

. . .

Unexpectedly, to those living in the echo chamber of broadsheet news and policy seminars, conservative and liberal alike, something altogether outside the norms of their arguments has risen from history’s tomb:  the cult of the pure national tribe is back with a vengeance.  It stalks the globe, from eastern Europe to the crypto-fascist ‘alt-right.’  The world now divides into those who wish to live only with people who look, sound and pray like them, and those who live, in fact celebrate, heterogeneity, the marketplace of the modern city.

(Thanks, James Altschul!)



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