• War crimes in Ukraine? The war itself is a crime.
• In 1984, the company named Apple introduced a personal computer named Macintosh which is the only variety of apple that Apple ever used as a product name. Apple missed a golden (delicious) opportunity to call their AirTag tracking device Northern Spy.
• I read very few novels, no doubt an adharma I will be asked to atone for in my next life. With most novels, I tend to suffer from LCI, or Low Character Identification. For instance, in the last novel I read (Freedom by Jonathan Franzen), I felt no empathy for any of the characters, major or minor. Their motives were pathetic: most were carnal, and each was more-or-less an exploitation of the people and opportunities that presented themselves. This post-modern view of human motivation is apparently the new rule, not just in novels but in serial dramas (Breaking Bad) and films (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). Can a skillful writer no longer imagine a realistically decent, thoughtful, semi-heroic character without imbuing him/her with a host of dark qualities? Has Batman killed Tom Hanks?
• Nature Nugget No. 1: Cardinals usually mate for life. Nature Nugget No. 2: On average, cardinals only live for three years. Hmm.
• It was the summer of 1969. My years-long best friend Bill — of whom I’ve always meant to write an essay — and I were attending summer school at our Pennsylvania high school. This was our school district’s one-and-only means of advanced placement: if you wanted to take, say, pre-calculus in 12th grade, you had to take trigonometry in the summer after 11th grade.
In any event, it was summer (as I said) and one day Bill decided to wear a preppy-looking v-neck knit shirt to school. His teacher objected and Bill was sent back home to change, because of the v-neck collar. It was summer, dammit. And 1969, not 1869, though in our hometown it was often hard to tell.
• On a recent stop in West Virginia, I heard for the first time someone use the possessive form of y’all (it was your’all). Now I’m going to be on the lookout (hearout?) for our’all and their’all.
• On this day in 46 B.C., Roman Emperor Julius Caesar looked into his mirror and thought, “Have they invented these yet?”
• Speaking of ancient days, it’s hard to believe that it was once common for restaurants to prepare Caesar salads tableside. My spouse and I recall them — especially the one that we watched our server (also our back-door neighbor) prepare with his bandaged finger.
• Here’s one from the “been thought of already” chronicles. I came up with the phrase “Armed and Beautiful” and thought it might be a good title for a NRA-type country song. Well, it turns out that this was in fact the title of a 2006 hip-hop EP by Roger Robinson. Before that, it was the title of a 2005 photograph by Sandie Yi. Before that, well, nothing. Here, I figured the phrase “armed and dangerous” would have inspired all sorts of “armed and…” variations in popular culture. For example, if I had a gun fetish, I could have titled this column Armed and Thoughtful. Which, unsurprisingly, hasn’t been used.
• Onions spoil every dish they are in, except onion rings.
• I’m torn on what to title a future essay. Would it be better to say, The New York Times Should Not or Does Not Define American Liberalism?
The rings inside this weathered tree mark every cloud passed over me