Tabs Open #8: The Glaciers Slid Down the Valleys

Welcome to Tabs Open! This week: the wizardry of baseball physics; the linguistic pathway between Chinese essays, the Talmud, and American poetry; and more.

1. The weather in Seattle this past week has been perfect—sunny, cloudless, the kind of long lazy weather that makes you wonder how you were ever cold or gray inside or outside before. It’s on days like these where I feel compelled to cue up songs that have brought summers with them in years past. It’s been 10 of them since I first heard Bonnie Raitt and John Prine’s brilliant, haunting duet “Angel From Montgomery,” a song that I played on repeat as the weather turned hot my freshman year of college and I began once more to get Big Ideas about the world. Anyway here it is, may it herald summer for you as well, even you all back home in Syracuse where it’s been 45 and gross for days:

2. Over the weekend 5,000 teachers in Las Vegas took a vote on whether or not to strike if the under-funding of their county school district causes any further cuts. 78% of them voted to authorize the strike. It’s potentially the latest in a wave of strikes that has persisted since last year, starting with teachers in West Virginia. As you can imagine I’m pretty fired up about that. On Saturday I was fortunate enough to get to hear journalist and former teacher Eric Blanc talk about his new book, Red State Revolt, based on his time embedded in the 2018 strikes as a reporter. It’s a great read on an essential topic for our current political moment.

If you want to get deeper into one element of the strategic path forward, I’d also recommend this (far shorter but still excellent) pamphlet, “Why Socialists Should Become Teachers.

3. For my money, Kazuo Ishiguro is one of our best living storytellers. I’m amazed by just how different each and every one of his novels is, from the almost bucolic dystopia of Never Let Me Go to the post-Arthurian mystery of The Buried Giant. Novelists don’t always make good short story authors, and vice versa, but he’s good at that, too, if you can believe it. A story of his I think you might enjoy is “A Village After Dark,” which I first heard read aloud on the New Yorker Fiction podcast, which you might also enjoy.

4. With each passing day there seem to be fewer and fewer things worth being on Twitter for. I will probably always be too dumb to quit it for good, especially because of the joy that accounts like Pitching Ninja bring me. I’ve never seen a more thorough exploration of the wizardry required to be a Major League Baseball pitcher—seriously, look at this; it’s hypnotic, even if you don’t care about baseball.

(If you do care about baseball, then check out this profile of San Diego Padres pitcher Chris Paddack, who has taken up the mantle of pitching’s newest weirdo.)

5. There are few things more pleasing than finding an interesting turn of phrase and being able to trace it back to its roots (see: “the only way out is through” and “the sea hates a coward” in previous editions of the newsletter). This week, we have the poet Gary Snyder’s excellent poem “Axe Handles,” which quotes both Ezra Pound (“When making an axe handle/the pattern is not far off”) and 4th-century essayist Lu Ji (“In making the handle/Of an axe/By cutting wood with an axe/The model is indeed near at hand”). Because there is nothing new under the sun, that same idea is expressed to us in the Talmud in a phrase (“From the forest itself comes the handle for the axe”) later borrowed by formerly-Hasidic hip-hop artist Matisyahu to open his song “Chop ‘Em Down.” What a ride. Isn’t language fun?

6. Essayist Annie Dillard, author of the greatest book on nature ever written (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek) headed out to the dry hills and valleys of eastern Washington in 1982 to experience a full solar eclipse. The dispatch she came back with is in turns funny, poetic, and haunting. Writing about writing that is so much better than my own invariably does the writer a disservice and makes me look even worse by comparison, so I’ll just shut up and implore you to check it out.

7. One of the presents I bought my niece upon learning of her imminent arrival in the world was the recently-deceased Tomi Ungerer’s delightful Moon Man. What I didn’t realize or appreciate at the time was how bizarre, controversial, and interesting the man himself really was. This trailer for the 2013 documentary on his life should be a good place to get started investigating that for yourself:

PS- If you have a minute and a few spare bucks, why not make a donation to the Yellowhammer Fund to protect safe, legal abortions in Alabama?

Thanks for coming along for the ride this week! If you liked what you found here, feel free to let a friend know where to read it.

-Chuck