Tuesday 29 September, 2020

“Which bit of ‘No’ don’t you understand?

From the Comedy Wildlife photography awards

Quote of the Day

”God give me the strength to ignore the news that won’t change anyone’s mind, the energy to engage with the news that might, and the wisdom to know the difference.” * Elizabeth Ayer in a tweet.

Thanks to Quentin for spotting it.

Musical replacement for the morning’s radio news

Regina Spektor – “Better”


One of my favourite songs.

Every picture tells a story

Jason Kottke (whom God preserve) had this striking photograph on his blog. It shows Thomas Jefferson and his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson, Shannon LaNier. It comes from an article in the Smithsonian Magazine about an intriguing project of the photographer Drew Gardner, in which he takes takes photographs of people done up to look like their famous ancestors.

The description of Jefferson’s portrait on the White House website says that it

was completed in Philadelphia before mid-May 1800 when he left that capital for Monticello. The face has the glow of health, a warm complexion. The sitter here looks directly at us and does so with candor, as our equal. The splendid eyes and mouth convey reason and tolerance.

You can guess by now that there’s a ‘but’ coming…

At odds with that glowing description, writes Jason,

“is Shannon LaNier’s very existence; he’s here today because Thomas Jefferson raped his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Sally Hemings. Says LaNier of Jefferson: He was a brilliant man who preached equality, but he didn’t practice it. He owned people. And now I’m here because of it.”

There’s an interesting video on the Smithsonian site about how the portrait was made and LaNier’s thoughts about it.

Someone once told me a story about JFK’s White House dinner for all living American Nobel laureates. Standing on the balcony after the meal a member of the Cabinet observed that there was more collective IQ in the Executive Mansion that night than at any time in history. “Yes”, Kennedy is supposed to have said, “except when Thomas Jefferson dined alone”. I don’t know if the story is true: if it is, I guess it was intended to burnish JFK’s ‘Camelot’ image as a man of culture.

It might have succeeded then, but it certainly wouldn’t now.

Trump’s tax returns (contd.)

From Quartz this morning:

In the mid-2000s, Donald Trump was drowning financially. That’s when NBC and The Apprentice threw him a life raft. According to a New York Times report on the US president’s taxes, Trump made $427 million off his 50% stake in the show and its subsequent licensing deals. Here’s a brief timeline of how the highly-rated program saved his finances:

2004: The Apprentice debuts on NBC.

2004–2015: Trump dumps proceeds from the show into purchasing 13 golf courses.

June 2015: Trump is fired from The Apprentice over racist comments made while announcing his presidential run.

September 2015: Arnold Schwarzenneger is announced as Trump’s replacement on The New Celebrity Apprentice.

November 2016: Trump wins the electoral college vote and becomes president-elect.

January 2017: The New Celebrity Apprentice debuts on NBC with Trump as executive producer.

August 2017: The show is canceled after one season.

2018: Trump pays just $750 of federal income tax for the prior year.

In praise of uncommon readers

I admire people who read both widely and well. My colleague Diane Coyle is one. So is Tyler Cowen. And so is Venkatash Rao. Last week I came on his notes on reading Kenneth Brower’s The Starship and the Canoe, a compelling and unusual biography of a famous father (Freeman Dyson) and his son (George Dyson). This came as a shock because although I’ve read all of George’s books and lots of Freeman’s articles and essays, I hadn’t known about Brower’s book. You can guess the rest — it’s now on order!

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