by John Walters
Tweet Me Right
Death or glory? Watch and see.
The 1619 Project
Five hundred years from now, if man is still alive (now we’re just channeling the song “In The Year 2525”), it feels to me as if the United States of America will be paired alongside ancient Rome among the historians. There’s no denying the technological advances that the USA has been responsible for, or that its ideals about democracy and liberty advanced society/societies in every hemisphere.
On the other hand, the two ugly truths about America is that it is land that was stolen from indigenous peoples and claimed via coast-to-coast genocide. And, second, that it was built on the backs of slaves who, as this new project from The New York Times accurately accounts, actually predated those Plymouth Rock Pilgrims on our shores.
“I love the poorly educated,” Donald Trump once said and he’s sincere. The poorly educated do not read. The poorly educated are happier to buy the myths that make them feel good about themselves rather than learn the harsh truths. The poorly educated prefer power to truth. There’s no crime in being poorly educated, since it’s normally the fault of those adults responsible for educating you. But, as an adult, it is a poor trait to willfully be opposed to learning more about what the truth is.
We don’t know how much traction this series from the NYT will gain beyond the “coastal elites.” Surely, if Trump even deigns to spend a moment responding to a question about it, he’ll call it “fake news.” But, capitalism flourished due to slavery (the way it does now via workers in Asia and workers from Central America) and America was built by capitalism. No way around that.
The Man From The Train
If you’ve read Devil In The White City, you know that serial killers in the U.S.A. existed long before Zodiac or Son of Sam or Ted Bundy. What you may not have known, what I certainly did not know, is that there may have been ONE brazen and prolific serial killer using railroads as his entry and egress for murder nationwide in the first decade of the 20th century.
The Man From The Train, whose author is Bill James, better known as the godfather of baseball saber metrics, investigates a series of murders that took place from Portland, Oregon, to the Deep South to Colorado Springs to Iowa and the Midwest. The M.O. was similar and chilling: the killer enters the home of a family after midnight and murders everyone, never using a gun but rather an axe handle, smashing heads as his victims slept. The homes are usually in rural areas and within half a mile of a railroad track.
What makes James’ book (his daughter Rachel gets a co-author credit thanks to her copious research) fascinating is how easy is was to get away with murder a century ago. There was no FBI. Most small towns could not afford to investigate a murder—victims’ families were responsible for raising the money, which meant murders of lower-class people went uninvestigated (have times really changed?)—and without the internet or even a sophisticated newswire network, a mass murder that took place in Colorado that had shocking similarities to one in Iowa, well, those two murders would likely never be connected.
We’re not quite finished reading this book yet, and we hear that James and his daughter will eventually posit a prime suspect. If you enjoy true crime, this is one highly enlightening, and yet very disturbing, read. The good ol’ days weren’t all that good, it seems.
Loved the idea of and, from what we saw, the execution of pairing Jason Benetti and Bill Walton in a baseball booth for a White Sox-Angels broadcast on Friday night (Benetti, whom ESPN viewers know as a precociously talented college football broadcaster, is the White Sox play-by-play guy). Which happened to be, coincidentally, the 50th anniversary of Woodstock.
“There’s no time limits, and you just go until somebody says, ‘It’s over,’” Walton, sounding not unlike George Carlin, said of baseball. “Sounds very much like a Dead show.
Okay, hate to be That Guy, but the record is actually FOUR and 88 different pitchers hold it. That’s because of the passed ball/wild pitch strike three that allows the player who struck out to safely reach first. But it’s never been done TWICE in one inning plus three other strikeouts (Rule No. 7 waiting to happen).
Here’s for us, the funny thing: the renaissance of Bill Walton has almost nothing to do with the fact that he’s arguably the greatest college basketball player to ever touch the hardwood (you can make an argument for his UCLA predecessor, Lew Alcindor, or for Pete Maravich, sure). For us, it’s all about his infectious attitude toward…living! Bill gets it: the ride ends for all of us, and all too soon. Enjoy the ride! And be a positive force while on that ride.
One thing we’d like to add: at the apex of Walton’s basketball glory, in the early to mid-Seventies, one of the two to three most popular shows on television was a show that just happened to be called The Waltons (“Good night, John Boy” was America’s most popular catchphrase—a precursor to memes—in the early Seventies before giving way to “Kid Dy-no-MITE!”).
The biggest name in basketball was Walton. One of the two to three biggest names in TV was Walton (after Bunker, perhaps). And while Sam Walton’s first Walmart had already been open for a decade (in Rogers, Arkansas) it was nowhere near yet being part of the American consciousness.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow had us harkening back to Johnny Cash’s classic “Sunday Morning Coming Down” as he answered questions on Fox News (and on NBC’s Meet The Press) Sunday morning with what appeared to be a vodka-infused speech impediment. Save the Bloody Marys until after the TV hits next time, LK.
Google Turns 15
Literally, Google began in a garage in California. Fifteen years ago today, the company went public. I remember this fairly well because in the company’s early days, CNBC’s Joe Kernen skeptically asked, “Yeah, but how are they going to make money?”
The company’s stock is up 2,701% since its IPO. And if you happen to care, Google absolutely controls the fate of print media because Google controls how high up a story appears on a Google search.
Google opened at $85 per share on August 19, 2004—the company approached Berkshire Hathaway, i.e. Warren Buffet, with an investment prospectus, and he turned them down. It’s now worth $1,193 per share after one 2-for-1 stock split a few years back.
Hello, bingewatch! The first season of Mindhunter, based on the real-life beginnings of the FBI’s serial-killer profiler unit, was hypnotic and addictive. Special agent Holden Ford (based on John E. Douglas) and his partner, Bill Tench, go around interviewing serial killers (the term had yet to be coined, but they’d do it) when not giving seminars around the nation to law enforcement units. Ford comes off as college boy-type while Tench is a man’s man to other cops, but the duo work well together–and in interviews with psychotic killers, Ford demonstrates an uncanny ability to see through his subjects and manipulate them into confessing things they’d never expect to do (he’s like the Roy Firestone of serial-killer interviewers).
So here comes Season 2, which dropped on Friday night. We’ve only seen two episodes, but BTK is going to finally play a prominent role (he was teased in the pre-credit scenes of most episodes in Season 1) and there’s a terrific interview with David Berkowitz. If you say this is the best original series Netflix has yet produced, we’d not argue. For us, only The Crown is on its level.