Aug. rambling: BS asymmetry principle

RIP, Don Everly, Nanci Griffith, Charlie Watts

asymetry principle
Also known as Brandolini’s Law, this is the simple observation that it’s far easier to produce and spread BS, misinformation, and nonsense than it is to refute it. The original images and associated explanatory text on this website are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Is Religion a Force for Good or Evil?

Amid calls to #TaxTheChurches – what and how much do US religious organizations not pay the taxman?

A Harvard professor predicted COVID disinformation on the web. Here’s what may be coming next

FDA grants full approval to Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer, BioNTech

Jordan Klepper  debates anti-vaxxers and Recounts His Wild Experiences at Trump Rallies

This Physicist Discovered an Escape From Hawking’s Black Hole Paradox and Hubble captures an ‘Einstein Ring’

Malware Camouflaged As Code

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – Ransomware and Opioids III:
The Sacklers

Kids Who Die by Langston Hughes (1902–1967)

For the First Time on Record, Rainfall Observed at Peak of Greenland Ice Sheet

How We Fix the Climate

The Southwest’s most important river is drying up

Census growth data for every city, county, district, and  state

Crime and other topics

That afternoon in 1978.

The Dresden Job jewel heist

White Ohio woman gets probation for $250K theft, while Black woman jailed for stealing $40K

A history of the Segway

My Physicalmental Illness – John Green

 Why People Who Brush Still Get Cavities

Gene Roddenberry would have been 100 years old

Not me:  Colleagues remember Professor Emeritus Roger Green

Strange towers and diverted disasters (Route 20A) 

Marvel and DC face backlash over pay: ‘They sent a thank you note and $5,000 – the movie made $1bn

How Extortion Scams and Review Bombing Trolls Turned Goodreads Into Many Authors’ Worst Nightmare

 Stealing Books Before Release

America’s Best Convenience Stores, Ranked (Stewart’s is 3rd)

How to reheat and re-crisp French fries

Eight. Missouri and Tennessee Share the Most Borders With Other States

FULL 9TH INNING from Field of Dreams’ CRAZY final inning between White Sox and Yankees

Final Jeopardy! Season Finale 08/13/2021 | Matt Amodio Wins His 18th Game The JEOPARDY season returns on Sept 13

The Solution to Jeopardy’s Hosting Crisis


How to beat the “milk crate challenge” -The first time I’d heard about this. Since then, saw some kids doing this in ALB’s Washington Park.

 Last Week Tonight’s Masterpiece Gallery Tour

Uncopyrightable is the longest word we have that doesn’t contain any repeated letters.

Now I Know: A Back-Alley Way To Create a Successful Board Game and  You Actually Win Friends With Dirty Salad? and Maybe Adults Shouldn’t Play Kickball and Why Spaceships Need a Foot Bath and  When The Robber Hits the Road and How Horses Created Firehouse Poles


Bad Wolves: Rebecca Jade featuring Jason Mraz, Miki Vale and Veronica May, which won a San Diego Music Award

Mighty Quinn – Manfred Mann

RIP, Charlie Watts:  Paint It, Black – Rolling Stones; Honky Tonk Women – Rolling Stones; Slow Turning – John Hiatt (namecheck)

The Hymn of Jesus by Gustav Holst

RIP, Nancy GriffithFrom A DistanceDrive-In Movies and Dashboard LightsHeaven 

Coverville 1369: Cover Stories for The The and Tears For Fears and 1370: Tributes to The Everly Brothers and Nanci Griffith

Human -The Killers

Er Huang by Qigang Chen.

Novorossiysk Chimes (Flame of Eternal Glory) by Dimitri Shostakovich

Amy Biancolli writes about  The Tale of the Bow

Reviews: Respect; Genius: Aretha

Take care, TCB

Respect PosterIn another rare sojourn into normalcy, my wife, our daughter, and I went to the nearby Madison Theatre to see the new biopic Aretha. Where else would one want to wait out the remnants of Tropic Storm Henri, which wasn’t as bad here as we feared?

Respect is a serviceable film. That’s damned with faint praise, I suppose. We thought Jennifer Hudson was excellent as the Queen of Soul. At times, I forgot it wasn’t Aretha herself on the screen. The creation of the title song I found particularly moving.

Quite probably, part of my difficulty sorting things out stems from having seen Genius: Aretha, a National Geographic eight-part miniseries back in March and April. Cynthia Erivo was equally good as the title character.

Genius: Aretha was long and occasionally unfocused, bouncing around chronologically. This NPR review notes that it “too often unfolds like a predictable biopic burdened by ham-handed storytelling.”

But it put to good use the young Re, played by Shaian Jordan, with a very fine voice, at all of those revival tours her father C.L. put her in. There was little for young Skye Dakota Turner to do in Respect.

Control freaks

genius-aretha-posterGenius’ C.L. (Courtney B. Vance) was oilier than respect’s C.L. (Forest Whitaker); that’s a compliment to Vance and/or how he was written. My wife wondered how the young Aretha got pregnant a second time in Respect, which is more explicit in Genius.

Both portrayers of Aretha’s abusive first husband Malcolm Barrett (Genius) and Marlon Wayans (Respect) were solidly villainous. It’s clear in both iterations that Aretha left her controlling and occasionally abusive father for her likewise disposed spouse.

Each story touched on her ultimately frustrating time with Columbia. And her first session for Atlantic at Muscle Shoals is told. It would be namedropping if it weren’t the case that the Franklin family really DID know all these folks who appear in one or both films: Sam Cooke, Clara Ward, Mahalia Jackson, Dinah Washington, King Curtis, Smokey Robinson, Rev. James Cleveland (of course), and in particular, uncle Martin, that is to say, MLK, Jr.

I think the real flaw in Respect is that Aretha’s mother Barbara (the great Audra McDonald) did not get the screentime required for the payoff of her last appearance. The Barbara in Genius is present enough that the feeling of loss is stronger.

Amazing Grace

The last major scene in Respect, a part also in Genius, is her Amazing Grace performance in Los Angeles. You’d be better served by seeing that documentary, or at least segments of it.

At least, Respect had the sense to end on that triumph. The storyline of Genius after that point wasn’t nearly as compelling. My bottom line is that they each had their strengths. Genius with the young Re. Respect with its shorter running time, although at two and a half hours (!) it was not compact.

The week after we saw Respect, my daughter and I were watching the 2004 biopic Ray, with Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles. Though I recorded it over a year ago, I had never seen it. Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records was a character in all of them, working with Ray in the 1950s before his time with Aretha in the late 1960s. The remembering his mama in Ray worked better than a similar scene in Respect.

If you don’t know the stories, see one or the other, but probably not both.

My “recently closed mortgage”


I received an odd postcard about “your recently closed mortgage.” This was interesting because I didn’t have a “recently closed mortgage.” Well, there was the one I did back in 2000.

The postcard looked very much like the image shown here except for some small details. Mine mentioned that the mortgage was “recorded on August 16, 2021.” But my version did not mention any specific financial institution. Same phone number, though.

Heartland Bank noted that it “did not sell your personal information.” Also, “We would not send confidential account information on a postcard. Account information will always be mailed in a sealed envelope with our logo, sent via an encrypted email, or we will call you directly.”

Wauna Credit Union also clarifies the situation. “Often times, scammers will pull what’s called the ‘phantom help’ maneuver, where they’ll encourage you to reduce or even stop your mortgage payments while they work to lessen your costs (for a moderate fee, of course). Unfortunately, by the time you realize you’re being taken advantage of, the phantom helper is long gone.”

My card also has this same H.W.C. text. “If you look reeeeeeally closely in the bottom right-hand corner of the examples we’ve provided, you’ll see an ‘All information provided by H.W.C.’ and a ‘Not affiliated with…’ disclosure. Problem is you can grow old searching for information about H.W.C. and come back with nothing solid.”

Wauna makes the calls

I thought to call the number, but my wife thought I ought not. Fortunately, Wauna was willing. “In fact, we tried all the numbers we were able to find. Some connect to a live person, others are recordings, and one dialed directly to an automated system. Regardless of which number, we were eventually probed for personal information. Funny enough, these fraudsters refuse to give out any information about themselves, or even the actual company they are working with.”

American Southwest Credit Union, First Guaranty Bank, and First Federal  Savings Bank have been among the entities misrepresented, going back at least since December 2018.

In fact, the action is SO pervasive, here’s a generic denial letter. This discussion expressed the outrage of a victim. “How in the world is this even legal? Shame on them, shame on the government for letting this happen, shame on the post office for delivering it knowing fully well it’s S-C-A-M!! SCAM SCAM SCAM!!”

Someone responded: “The government can’t stop these, and the post office can’t legally discard your mail. Yes, it’s a scam, but the only thing you can do about it is throw it away.” So I have. Burned it, actually.

The comeback hits, part the second

DeShannon love songs

Roberta Flack.Donny HathawaySome more comeback hits. This is when an artist, who’d had some success on the pop charts, regains that commercial stature. As before, I’m basing these on Billboard’s singles pop charts, because it’s fun!

If I Were A Carpenter – Bobby Darin. After a pair of Top 10 songs in 1963, including 18 Yellow Roses, he returned with this #8 hit in 1967.

Smoke On the Water – Deep Purple. Their 1st Top 30 song was Hush, #4 in 1968. This song, in 1973, also hit #4.

Put A Little Love In Your Heart – Jackie DeShannon. She had only two Top 30 songs, What The World Needs Now is Love, #7 in 1965, and this, #4 in 1969.

Abraham, Martin, and John – Dion. After a couple of #6 hits in 1963, including Drip Drop, he reached #4 in the pivotal year of 1968.

Not Ready To Make Nice – Dixie Chicks. Landslide reached #7 in early 2003. But that was before the Iraq war. This return reached #4 in 2007, long before they were redubbed The Chicks.

What A Fool Believes – The Doobie Brothers. Black Water was their first #1 in 1975. This one, in 1979, was their second, the first Top 20 since Takin’ It To the Streets, #13 in 1976.

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan. This song from Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, #12 in 1973, was his first Top 20 since Lay Lady Lay, #7 in 1969.


The Closer I Get To You – Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. At #2, her biggest hit since her #1 Feel Like Makin’ Love in 1974. His only other Top 20 hit is their 1972 duet, Where Is the Love, which reached #5.

The Old Man Down The Road – John Fogerty. He wasn’t recording much for nearly a decade, in part because he sounded too much like that lead singer of Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty. This hit #10 in 1985.

I Want To Know What Love Is – Foreigner. They had a couple of Top 5 hits in 1981, including Urgent, with that Junior walker sax solo. But they only had one #1, in 1985, thanks to the New Jersey Mass Choir and Jennifer Holliday.

December 1963 – the Four Seasons. the group had five #1 hits. Rag Doll (194) was the fourth. This, in 1976 was the fifth. Other than Who Loves You (#3 in 1975), it was also their first Top 10 since C’mon Marianne, #9 in 1967.

In 1998, my office was having its holiday party in September (long story). We played a board game. One of the questions was to name songs featuring years, but you needed at least eight words of the lyrics. My response: “Oh what a night, late December back in ’63.”

Ain’t No Woman – Four Tops. Their first Top 5 (#4 in 1973) since Bernadette (#4 in 1967).

Spanish Harlem – Aretha Franklin. QoS had tons of “comebacks”, such as Freeway of Love (#3 in 1985). But I picked this earlier resurgence, #2 in 1971, her first Top 5 since Since You’ve Been Gone, #5 in 1968.


Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye. this return to form involved a change of record labels, from Tamla/Motown to Columbia. The song hit #3 in 1983, his highest position since the #1 Got To Give It Up in 1977.

Kiss On My List – Daryl Hall and John Oates. #1 in 1981, their first chart-topper since Rich Girl in 1977.

Got My Mind Set On You – George Harrison. #1 in 1988. the first #1 since Give Me Love in 1973 and first Top Ten since All Those Years Ago, #2 in 1981.

The End Of The Innocence – Don Henley. #8 in 1989, his first Top 10 since All She Wants To Do Is Dance, #9 in 1985. (Live version here.)

Long Cool Woman – the Hollies. #2 in 1972, their first Top 5 since Bus Stop in 1966.

Leaving Afghanistan after two decades

“It’s hard to deny the evidence in front of you.” – General Mike Mullen

AfghanistanI wrote what I thought about the US leaving Afghanistan back in May. But if I noted what I felt about the country ENTERING the war, I don’t recall. I thought it was…inevitable. If it had been tied to the limited mission of capturing Bin Laden and his accomplices, that’d be “reasonable.”

Here’s the really weird thing about our totally unnecessary war in Iraq – which I’ve documented often in this blog – including here and here and here and a bunch of other places. When we entered the Iraq war, it was as though it slipped the collective minds that we were in Afghanistan.

I’m not just talking about the American people. The US government under W was sharing its assessment of its “success” in Iraq but saying relatively little about Afghanistan. Did they… forget?

Anyway, I was going to write something more about the end game in Afghanistan, but all I could find was a quote from the movie The Princess Bride: “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is ‘never get involved in a land war in Asia.'”

And a quote that Mark Evanier cited: “A friend of mine spent several years in Afghanistan working as a doctor attached to the U.S. forces. He told me some pretty harrowing tales about his tour o’ duty here but the thing I remember most is when he said, ‘Staying there is a disaster. Leaving there would be a disaster. Nothing about the country is not a disaster.’ I think that’s proving to be the case.”

I agree with much of is linked to here, even when they occasionally contradict each other.


Bloomberg: Why Both Russians and Americans Got Nowhere in Afghanistan. If you’re not going anywhere no matter what happens, or what price you’re forced to pay, you can outlast superpowers. (You may recall that the US and other Western countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980 because of the Soviet incursion.) On one of the news programs recently, a general suggested that American hubris was the reason the US thought it would succeed when the USSR failed.

Alan Singer in Daily Kos: “Nation Building” Fails in Afghanistan

Nation of Change: Why did a military superpower fail in Afghanistan? This external approach, based on military occupation, to promote democracy in occupied foreign countries was “doomed to fail.”

Daniel Larison: Biden’s Prudent Decision to Withdraw from Afghanistan. It doesn’t say much for our political culture that it takes far more political courage to end a pointless war than it does to start one.

Matthew Yglesias. Biden (and Trump) did the right thing on Afghanistan
The war was lost long ago — if it was ever winnable.

Fred Kaplan of Slate: Trump’s New Big Lie: Afghanistan. Biden has handled the withdrawal very badly. That doesn’t mean Trump would have done better.

Seth Meyers

The “liberal press”?

Weekly Sift: Afghanistan, Biden, and the Media. “What struck me about that discussion, though, was how one-sided it was. Even ordinarily liberal MSNBC shows, or newspaper outlets like the Times and the Post, were unified in their denunciation of the Biden administration and its plan to withdraw our troops. I haven’t seen that level of unanimity since the post-911 era, when the Iraq and Afghanistan wars started. A lot of bad ideas sneaked into the discussion around that time, and didn’t get criticized because there was no room for criticism.”

Fred Kaplan in Slate: A Top U.S. Military Officer Finally Admits He Was Wrong About Afghanistan

The Atlantic: What I Learned While Eavesdropping on the Taliban

Cartoon: Leaving Afghanistan.

Foreign Policy: Two Talibans Are Competing for Afghanistan. The gap between the group’s international leadership and its rank-and-file fighters has never been wider. (This is why the messaging about Taliban 2.0 seems inconsistent.)

Afar: The Organizations Aiding Afghans and How Americans Can Help

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