Happy Inbox Amnesty Month!

Happy Inbox Amnesty Month! January 2, 2024

• January is Inbox Amnesty Month. Proclaim liberty throughout the land … it’s an inbox Jubilee!

You are henceforth free from any obligation to plow through the unread emails of 2023. Archive, recycle, delete, trash, or whatever other verb your set-up uses. Select all. Delete all. Start 2024 afresh with a blank slate, a clean page, and an empty inbox.

But what if there was something really important in that logjam of unread email? Well, if it was really that important, they’ll send it again. Or they would have followed up with a text by now.

And in any case, it’s their fault for sending something so important so close to January 1, which is — as everyone knows, or everyone should know — the first day of Inbox Amnesty Month, when all right-thinking decent people sweep their inbox clean of all unread email and start the new year free of the shackles of the old.

Your bosses can’t yell at you for doing what everyone is supposed to do this month. If they’ve never heard of Inbox Amnesty Month, that’s their failure, not yours.

• This clickbait article on the “10 Most Haunted Bodies Of Water Around The World” doesn’t include Lake Lanier, so I can’t trust anything else it says.

“The lake was created in the 1950s by flooding valley communities that contained a cemetery, fueling beliefs that it’s cursed. Historians say some unmarked graves and other structures were swallowed up by its waters.” That’s almost a perfect basis for ghost stories and legends. (Craig T. Nelson in Poltergeist voice: “You left the bodies and you only moved the headstones!”)

The ghost stories of Lake Lanier are important not because they are “true,” but because stories like these are how we remember the history we otherwise are reluctant to remember. This is Georgia, and America, and part of how we manage to keep living here in places like Georgia and America is by pretending not to know about all the bodies down there that were covered up when we created this thing.

My favorite example of this dynamic of ghost stories as memory — as the history that endures when the facts of actual history are suppressed, erase, or deliberately “forgotten” — is a place just a few miles from here called Duffy’s Cut. That’s where the official records and official history said dozens of Irish railroad workers died during a cholera outbreak in 1832. This tragic event, historians said, was the true story behind the fantastical folklore of the local tales of the ghosts of Irish railroad workers haunting the woods near the R5 in Malvern.

But the ghosts in those stories hadn’t died from cholera. They’d been murdered. This was, the official history suggested, an embellishment from generations of storytellers seeking to make the tale more exciting and dramatic.

Those ghost stories endured for generations, retaining enough vivid detail that some 170 or so years later they were able to guide the archaeologists who went into the Malvern woods with ground-penetrating radar. That’s where they found the mass grave of 57 railroad workers whose shattered skulls and broken bones showed that they hadn’t died from cholera, but from the violent panic that accompanied the disease.

Lake Lanier is haunted because Atlanta is haunted because America is haunted. Not by actual ghosts, but by the memory of all the bodies we pretend to have forgotten are there.

• Depictions of Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie character like the one above are now in the public domain. So is a whole bunch of other wonderful stuff from the 1920s:

On January 1, 2024, thousands of copyrighted works from 1928 will enter the US public domain, along with sound recordings from 1923. They will be free for all to copy, share, and build upon. This year’s highlights include Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence and The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht, Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman and Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It, and a trove of sound recordings from 1923.

Other songs entering the public domain as of yesterday include “Hooray for Captain Spaulding,” “I Wanna Be Loved By You,” “Mack the Knife,” and “Makin’ Whoopee.” So, OK then, here’s Michelle Pfeiffer and Jeff Bridges performing that last one in The Fabulous Baker Boys.

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