• It’s the 22nd of December, which, where I’m sitting, is the second day of winter. For some readers here — and for many of the folks I follow on Twitter during my middle-of-the-night lunch breaks — it’s the second day of summer. So here’s a song for those folks, evoking the hot weather that tells us Christmas is right around the corner:
• Evan Osnos introduces us to the recently unearthed memoir of Xu Hongchi, who spent years in a Maoist gulag before escaping. Osnos’ introduction and conclusion are insightful and unsettling:
What is the precise moment, in the life of a country, when tyranny takes hold? It rarely happens in an instant; it arrives like twilight, and, at first, the eyes adjust. …
… Tyranny does not begin with violence; it begins with the first gesture of collaboration. Its most enduring crime is drawing decent men and women into its siege of the truth.
Bo Diddley had his right hand man, Jerome. … Bo had decided that Jerome, shaking the maracas, was more essential to his world, his sound, than a bass player — of which he had NONE. Understand, on 99.9 percent of all the records you’ve heard for the past fifty years, there’s a BASS! But Bo said, “F–k that, I’ve got all the bass I want here in my right, thunder-makin’, guitar-strummin’ hand. But what I really need is my man JEROME to shake his maracas!” Ergo, Jerome was important.
• Amelia Tait reports on “The movie that doesn’t exist and the Redditors who think it does.” This is just so … odd. There are, apparently, Sinbad truthers. It’s a window into the unreliability of memory but also, maybe, into the kind of twisted constructs we’re capable of building in our minds instead of taking the wiser and more expedient course of just saying, “My bad, I was mistaken.”
And it’s all the stranger in that the imagined movie isn’t even any good. Here are folks testifying passionately like they’re Jody Foster at the end of Contact, but it’s not in service of something numinous or transcendent, but rather in service of the claim that the comedian Sinbad starred in something even more regrettable than Houseguest or Jingle All the Way. A fascinating read.
Trump, for his part, was unapologetic about his actions. “Why should we give him medical coverage?” he told Evans. When she asked him if he thought he might come across as cold-hearted, given the baby’s medical condition, he said, “I can’t help that.”
The sick baby he was denying medical coverage, by the way, was his own grand-nephew. (The infant son of Trump’s nephew, Fred. Yes, Dickens fans take note: Donald Trump has a good-hearted estranged nephew named Fred.)
• “That’s the breakthrough we need — I also think there’s a spiritual value answer to it that transcends a lot of the bifurcation, and we have to find that. I don’t know exactly what that is, but I think we have to start asking the questions.”
Cornell Belcher takes a hard look at what election surveys show, and it isn’t pretty. You know those sad online bros freaking out about the new Star Wars movie because the lead character is a woman? You know how they insist that excludes them, as boys, from enjoying the movie — even as they also insist that having male lead characters doesn’t similarly exclude anyone else? Yeah, that. That’s the white voting population of America right now, and for the next few decades.