Friday Morning Open Thread: Bubble of the Moment

(Mike Luckovich via

… Because I don’t think A Warning, by Anonymous, will qualify for the full ‘Flavor of the Day.’ Not even on the Friday before a three-day government holiday.

The author — who first captured attention in 2018 as the unidentified author of a New York Times opinion column — describes Trump careening from one self-inflicted crisis to the next, “like a twelve-year-old in an air traffic control tower, pushing the buttons of government indiscriminately, indifferent to the planes skidding across the runway and the flights frantically diverting away from the airport.”…

At a moment when a stream of political appointees and career public servants have testified before Congress about Trump’s conduct as part of the House impeachment inquiry, the book’s author defends his or her decision to remain anonymous.

“I have decided to publish this anonymously because this debate is not about me,” the author writes. “It is about us. It is about how we want the presidency to reflect our country, and that is where the discussion should center. Some will call this ‘cowardice.’ My feelings are not hurt by the accusation. Nor am I unprepared to attach my name to criticism of President Trump. I may do so, in due course.”…
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Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Cole (Slaw) Bait

From indefatigable gardener OpieJeanne:

Yes, I know, but ‘Sauerkraut Bait’ isn’t as funny.
Also from Opiejeanne, a visual jest for us Terry Pratchett fans…

… who remember what happened to Mr. Pink in The Truth.

What’s going on in your garden(s) this week?

(Respite) Intriguing Book News: “The Fallen Worlds of Philip Pullman”

I had not known that the American edition of The Amber Spyglass was ‘slightly’ censored for the publishers’ fear of our delicate sensibilites about… teenage hormones. Alexandra Schwartz, at the New Yorker:

Pullman, who has written books for both adults and children, including the Sally Lockheart quartet, numerous fairy tales, and a reimagining of the New Testament, considers himself a storyteller first and foremost. Before becoming a writer, he taught middle school. In 2017, he returned to Lyra’s world with “La Belle Sauvage,” the first in a planned trilogy called The Book of Dust, named for the mysterious particle linked to consciousness that lie at the heart of His Dark Materials. The trilogy’s second book, “The Secret Commonwealth,” will be published in October; and an adaptation of His Dark Materials, starring James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and the newcomer Dafne Keen, will appear on HBO the following month. Pullman lives with his wife and two cockapoos in Oxfordshire; he spoke with The New Yorker over the phone on a recent afternoon…

“The Secret Commonwealth” is the second in your new trilogy, The Book of Dust, which returns to the world that you created in His Dark Materials. How did you decide to come back to Lyra?

Well, in the usual way. These stories come to me. I didn’t do it on purpose. I found myself daydreaming a number of events involving Lyra and the people around Lyra. And there was always a kind of a mystery which I hadn’t settled to my own satisfaction in His Dark Materials, which is about the nature of Dust. It has something to do with consciousness, but I didn’t explore that fully, and I’m using this story, among other things, as a way of finding out what I mean by this idea.

The first book in the series, “The Book of Dust,” takes place when Lyra is a baby. She’s not enormously communicative, as babies aren’t.

And she hasn’t got any agency in that book. She’s the MacGuffin, in Hitchcock’s words, the thing that sets the plot going: the secret plans, or the unlocked suitcase, or the mysterious woman wearing a veil, or whatever it is.

And now she’s back in “The Secret Commonwealth,” and she’s twenty years old. It’s a shock, honestly, to read about her, because she’s troubled, she’s surly, she’s depressed. She’s not at all the confident heroine we remember from His Dark Materials.

Well, she’s growing up. She’s an adult. I don’t use the word “depressed.” It’s a rather depressing word. Melancholy. I think at one point Malcolm’s dæmon refers to her as bearing the mark of “Le soleil noir de la mélancolie,” which is a quotation from a poem by Gérard de Nerval which I like very much.

She’s marked by melancholy, and the reason for that, and probably one of the results of that, is she and Pantalaimon have suffered a rupture.

Yes, they’re not joined in the way that people in that world are with their dæmons.

They’re not. This was something I had wondered about for a long time. You know, we’ve had a picture of dæmons in His Dark Materials as these close beings, really an aspect of yourself. You can’t be divided. But what if you don’t like your dæmon and your dæmon didn’t like you? What would it be like then?

In the past, you’ve spoken of not so much creating dæmons as sort of discovering that they were there in your writing.

I’m sure that a very strict scientistical person would say that I did not discover anything because there’s nothing there before I make it up. But it does really feel like discovery, not invention.
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Wednesday Morning Open Thread

(John Deering via

From a Watergate prosecutor:

Living Well: The Best Revenge…

Recommended Reading #6: Audio Drama Edition

I’ve been a sucker for a good audio drama ever since middle school, when my dad introduced me to the old classics. He’d bought some sort of anthology collection on tape, and took to playing it during long drives. I have a fond memory where we were driving through the mountains at night listening to Suspense and The Shadow. Later, in high school, a friend introduced me to the inestimable Nick Danger, Third Eye, which I still think about more than is probably healthy.

So I have absolutely no idea why I waited until 2019 to start listening to audio drama podcasts. It turns out there are a lot of good ones! Some are so good, I wanted to share them. They’re 100% free, so check them out at no risk to your pocketbook:

Steal the Stars (from Tor Labs, written by Mac Rogers) tells the story of Dakota Prentiss, security chief at a secret facility to study a crashed alien ship. It’s set in a recognizable near future, where such things are done by indentured servants at a defense contractor megacorporation, and the employees are forbidden to fraternize. One day, new hire Matt Salem joins the team, and you can probably see where this is going. Taped in a warehouse, Steal the Stars has the distinction of actually sounding like it takes place in its setting. Tightly-written, easy to follow, very well-executed. Available as fourteen 40-ish minute episodes. (Warning: the link contains some spoilers in its description.)

"TANIS" is filled with images of nature, on a black background.Tanis (from the Public Radio Alliance) is an odd duck. It’s told in the format of a public radio podcast, like Serial or Radiolab. In it, fictional podcast host Nic Silver investigates the fictional myth of Tanis, a legendary locale known only from a few cryptic references. Aided by a team of irregulars he picks up as he digs deeper, he aims to uncover the truth behind these bizarre stories, which seem to gravitate around the woods of the Pacific Northwest. The first season of twelve 45-ish minute episodes works as a standalone, and I highly recommend it. Each episode seamlessly blends strange real-world events with the story’s developing mythos, in a manner I would characterize as Borgesian. Recommended especially for fans of weird fiction.

If you’re looking for something lighter, check out StarTripper!! (from Whisperforge, written by Julian Mundy). This zany space opera follows Feston Pyxis, a bored bureaucrat who sells his belongings, buys a starship, and starts a podcast narrating his adventures. Each 25-ish minute episode finds him at a new locale, within which hijinks ensue. Think Buck Rogers meets Futurama. It’s an indie production, so the audio isn’t as good as the above two, but don’t let that stop you.

What sort of audio dramas do y’all enjoy? I know it’s a niche genre, so feel free to talk about books and stories, too! I’m reading This Is How You Lose The Time War and Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, both of which are great. I think the latter was a recommendation from one of these posts…