“I was eating bodega grapes at my desk on a recent Monday morning, gearing up to wrangle my inbox, when my phone started buzzing:
“Are you OK?”
It was an emergency: My ex-boyfriend, I learned, had a new girlfriend.
“Lolol” if you want. (Everyone I know did.)
But it was true. While I’d been watching the Super Bowl on television in New York, they were snuggling in her private box at the Hard Rock Stadium at Miami Gardens. There were the paparazzi as he escorted her away, her pink hair flowing and sequins pasted around her eyes. . . . “
- Volkswagen is expected to change the name of its operations in the U.S. to “Voltswagen of America,” emphasizing the German automaker’s electric vehicle efforts.
- A now unpublished press release called the change a “public declaration of the company’s future-forward investment in e-mobility.”
- The release said “Voltswagen” will be placed as an exterior badge on all EV models with gas vehicles having the company’s iconic VW emblem only.
Editor’s Note: Volkswagen initially said it was going to rename its U.S. operations Voltswagen to signify its commitment to electrification of its fleet. The company confirmed Tuesday that the announcement was an elaborate April Fools’ joke. Our full story on the ‘joke’ is here. Below is the original story based on VW’s announcement of the name change.
“The weird American reality has spawned a line of great satirists: Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, Dorothy Parker, Paul Krassner, Molly Ivins, to name just a very few who have shredded the veneer of sanctimony from many a pillar of culture and politics. In that same vein thrives Carol Denney, with roots in West Virginia, but for more than five decades a proud and prominent Berkeley troublemaker. Her bio would be an ample vita for four people: musician, artist, activist, and writer, but she wraps all of that into one slender frame.
Since the founding hours of People’s Park, Denney has been wielding the pen as a dart gun whenever targets popped up. In the mid 90s she began firing regular salvos monthly. At first she edited Hard Times — “It’s Free, and its’ Funny” — and then, under the nom de plume Grace Underpressure, she morphed that broadsheet into Pepper Spray Times.”
“In the summer of 1936, Theodor Geisel was on a ship from Europe to New York when he started scribbling silly rhymes on the ship’s stationery to entertain himself during a storm: “And this is a story that no one can beat. I saw it all happen on Mulberry Street.”
The rhymes morphed into his first children’s book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” about a boy who witnesses increasingly outlandish things. First published in 1937, the book started Geisel’s career as Dr. Seuss. He went on to publish more than 60 books that have sold some 700 million copies globally, making him one of the world’s most enduringly popular children’s book authors.
But some aspects of Seuss’s work have not aged well, including his debut, which features a crude racial stereotype of an Asian man with slanted lines for eyes. “Mulberry Street” was one of six of his books that the Seuss estate said it would stop selling this week, after concluding that the egregious racial and ethnic stereotypes in the works “are hurtful and wrong.”
The announcement seemed to drive a surge of support for Seuss classics. Dozens of his books shot to the top of Amazon’s print best-seller list; on Thursday morning, nine of the site’s top 10 best sellers were Seuss books. The estate’s decision — which prompted breathless headlines on cable news and complaints about “cancel culture” from prominent conservatives — represents a dramatic step to update and curate Seuss’s body of work, acknowledging and rejecting some of his views while seeking to protect his brand and appeal. It also raises questions about whether and how an author’s works should be posthumously curated to reflect evolving social attitudes, and what should be preserved as part of the cultural record.”
“Welcome to Best of Late Night, a rundown of the previous night’s highlights that lets you sleep — and lets us get paid to watch comedy. We’re all stuck at home at the moment, so here are the 50 best movies on Netflix right now.
Pence’s Choice: ‘Have MAGA Nation Hate You’
“The House on Tuesday formally called on Vice President Mike Pence to remove President Trump from office using the 25th Amendment, an idea Pence had already rejected.
Though Pence did not yield to pressure from Trump to overturn the election results last week, which he did not have the authority to do anyway, he said that invoking the 25th Amendment “would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment.” Those passions include some of Trump’s supporters, whose votes the vice president would probably need for his own White House run, chanting, “Hang Mike Pence” as they stormed the Capitol in an effort to stop the election certification.
“It’s a tough choice for Pence: Invoke the 25th and have MAGA nation hate you, or refuse and still have MAGA nation hate you,” Jimmy Fallon joked.
“Of course Mike Pence isn’t going to do that. He’s not going to remove Donald Trump. Mike Pence doesn’t even remove his shirt.” — JIMMY KIMMEL
“You could tell Pence was nervous, because he spent all day slamming milks like it was Friday at 5 p.m.” — JIMMY FALLON
“And you’d think Pence would be into the idea, considering the whole ‘Hang him’ thing. But you would be dead wrong, because yesterday, after days of silence, ‘The president and Mike Pence spoke for the first time, meeting in the Oval Office, and agreed that those who broke the law and stormed the Capitol last week do not represent their policy of America first.’ Well, of course this mob violence wasn’t America first — it was in Germany first. So, apparently, it’s all water under the gallows now.” — STEPHEN COLBERT”
“Hello, America! I am the housefly that perched atop Mike Pence’s head for two solid minutes during Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate, and I’d like to talk to you about the future of this great nation. Like some of you, I was undecided when I began watching the debate, because, as with some of you, my brain is the size of a poppyseed. But when I heard Mike Pence outline the Trump administration’s plans, I knew there was only one ticket I could trust to protect me and the 150 or so eggs I laid in the vice president’s hair. Today I am thrilled to wholeheartedly endorse Donald J. Trump for president.
You may be confused as to why I am offering an endorsement in the first place, since most Americans share molecular physicist Seth Brundle’s pernicious misconception that “insects don’t have politics.” It’s true that we’re not big on compromise, but it’s also true that we love garbage, and we love corpses, and we love shit, and you don’t have to have one of those big ugly mammalian brains to tell which political party is committed to materially improving our lives. No president in my life cycle—which began two weeks ago, when I was a maggot happily gnawing my way through a rotten Egg McMuffin in a dumpster behind Kingsbury Hall—has done more to roll back environmental regulations, ensuring that my family and I have a constant supply of garbage where we can live, laugh, and love. No president in my life cycle has provided more dead Americans for us to eat, working tirelessly to overwhelm hospitals and morgues, presumably for our benefit. And no administration in history, never mind my life cycle, has been as dedicated to shit in all its forms—bullshit, horseshit, and of course the literal shit that inevitably accompanies a diet of fast food and Diet Coke—pumping it into the airwaves, the sewers, and the skulls of their supporters. There’s just no question which administration will do more to help me feed my family.
This election goes beyond mere material concerns, however; there’s also a spiritual dimension. And for faith-based voters like me, the Trump administration is the only option. Like all flies, I worship Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies, the Prince of Demons, the Archfiend of Lies and Death and Decay, and my faith is very important to me. When I heard Mike Pence speak so movingly of his faith—his faith in Donald Trump, primarily—I knew which administration I could trust to build Our Dark Lord’s Throne of Lies right here on earth. Kamala Harris did her best to dissemble at a few points, and maybe it worked on television, but take it from a fly in the studio audience: You could smell the evil radiating from Mike Pence. In fact, I was originally only planning on briefly alighting on the vice president’s head, running my ovipositor through his gorgeous strands of snowy white hair, dropping a clutch of eggs, and going on my merry way. But the second the setae on my footpads touched that wiry surface, I sensed a kindred intelligence coldly whirring and clicking away just under Pence’s skull, and I knew it was time for me to make my first political endorsement.
My endorsement of a Republican candidate may be surprising to those who remember my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton back in 2016, which famously caused Alex Jones to speculate that Clinton and Barack Obama were both demons:
The explanation here is simple, and it’s a treasured story my family has passed down to our larvae for 48 generations: We were pranking Alex Jones because he sucks. Land in the right place at the right time, and you can get that dude to believe pretty much anything. I know that humans are bad at detecting a wryly cocked proboscis, but you hardly needed compound eyes to see that Hillary Clinton was just a run-of-the-mill Democrat, not some kind of hellbeast of decay practically rubbing her hands together with glee at the thought of stacking the lies and the garbage and the bodies so high that mankind’s rotten civilization finally collapses and the Age of the Fly can begin.
The 2020 election is different, however. I have listened closely to Mike Pence’s plans and policies. I have carefully smelled his hair. I have laid hundreds of eggs in his scalp. And this November, I am confident that there is only one ticket that can ensure a happy, healthy, and extremely well-fed future for my larvae. I urge all humans to cast your votes for Donald Trump and Michael Pence. They might not literally be insects, but they’re the closest thing we’ve got. Besides, the other guy is trying to kill me:”
“When Joe Biden debates President Trump on Tuesday, he will have to figure out how to parry with an opponent who habitually lies and doesn’t play by the rules.
As a psychiatrist, I’d like to offer Mr. Biden some advice: Don’t waste your time fact-checking the president. If you attempt to counter every falsehood or distortion that Mr. Trump serves up, you will cede control of the debate. And, by trying to correct him, you will paradoxically strengthen the misinformation rather than undermine it. (Research shows that trying to correct a falsehood with truth can backfire by reinforcing the original lie. )
Instead, Mr. Biden should use more powerful weapons that will put Mr. Trump on the defensive — and also tell the audience that the president is a dishonest narrator.
The first weapon maybe the most effective: humor and ridicule. A derisive joke can defuse tense and outrageous situations. In 2007, for example, protesters dressed as clowns confronted a “white power” march in Charlotte, N.C., holding signs that read “wife power” and throwing white flour in the air. It made the white nationalists look ridiculous and avoided a violent confrontation, which would have served the interests of the racists.”
It is a cold February day, and the new crop of potatoes is just in the ground, an average of six weeks before the last frost. I am in Virginia, the well-known home of potato farming. To guard the potato is a sacred duty, which I have studied since my days at Au Groton, a boarding school for people who aspire one day to protect potatoes. I have my weapon, and I have my training. I settle at the edge of the field with my carbine on my knees and prepare for a long spring.
It rained today. I kept my eyes on the potatoes, just as I knew that they would be keeping their eyes on me.
I walked the perimeter of the field. This will be a good crop, if I can only keep it safe for the 75 to 135 days that potatoes require. I must keep it safe.
As I walked today, I saw something move just at the corner of the field. But by the time I got there, it was too late. There was a footprint in the soft, slightly acidic soil. A boot, not mine. I think the potato raiders will be here soon. I think they are making their preparations. I must make mine.
No sign of the raiders today. At midday, the farmer’s daughter brought me a glass of milk. “You looked thirsty out there,” she told me. I took it from her hands and thanked her. “And you have been sent to guard the potatoes?” she asked. I shrugged. I am a potato guardian of few words. I let my eyes speak for me. “What an interesting life,” she said. “Do you get lonely?” I told her I did not.
But the question has stayed with me. Lonely? Do I get lonely? No. I have the potatoes. And I have my Second Amendment rights. I do not need anything else.
The farmer’s daughter brought me another glass of milk and watched me as I sipped it. I think it is too late to tell her that milk is not a good drink when you are hot in the middle of the day. I think we have gotten into a pattern now, which I regret. She is nice. She has kind eyes, like I imagine a potato would have, though she only has two, which is low for a potato.
After drinking the milk, I dozed a little, and when I awoke there were more footprints at the edge of the field. I must be more vigilant. If I do not protect the potatoes, who will?
I planted a trap at the corner of the field where the footprints keep appearing. It was hot and tiring work, and the farmer’s daughter brought me another glass of milk. “I guess all you have is milk,” I said, in what I hoped was a pointed way, but she did not seem to understand what I was getting at. “Yes,” she said. “We have lots of milk, thank heaven.”
“Good,” I said, but I did not really think it was good.
Last night there was a frost. I am glad the potatoes are sleeping sound and warm below a blanket of two inches of soil. I went to check the trap at the edge of the field. There was something in it, a boot. The boot was bigger than mine, but not by much. I followed the tracks as far as they went, to the edge of the woods. I should mention that there are woods here in Virginia, where I guard potatoes. That must be where the potato raiders come from.
“Did you catch him?” the farmer’s daughter asked, at midday.
“No,” I said. “But be on the lookout for someone with a very muddy sock.” I took a sip of the milk she had brought.
I bet the raider comes back tonight. You can’t get far with one boot. Not here in the potato fields of Virginia. I reset the trap and put the boot next to it. As bait.
No movement at the trap. But there are footprints at the edge of the field. New ones, with sneaker treads. This potato raider must own multiple sets of footwear, which complicates matters a little.
I got a call from an old friend from potato guardian training. He washed out; people were always taking potatoes from under his nose, and he was a laughingstock among us. Now he works in finance. He asked if I had heard the news about the governor and what he was planning to do. I said I hadn’t, so he told me. I can’t believe the governor would come for our Second Amendment rights. No potato will be safe then. It’s monstrous.
The farmer’s daughter brought me my milk right after this conversation, but I told her in a forbidding tone that I was not thirsty.
A small success! I spent an uneasy night after the news about the governor, tossing and turning at the edge of the field of my precious charges. Toward dawn, I saw a shadowy figure prowling at the edge of the field. I got up, and he did not see me creep toward him. I leaped at him and caught him by the leg. As we tussled, several potatoes fell out of his jacket. Jacket potatoes. He wriggled his foot free of his boot and ran away. Now I have two boots. I do not know what his footwear situation is; it seems complicated.
I was very glad to have my Second Amendment rights, although, come to think of it, I did not use my carbine at all in this encounter.
Then I woke up. I am bewildered. Was it all a dream, or did I catch a potato raider, however briefly? I went to look for the boot, but there was nothing there.
I am still unsure what is reality and what is dream. The potatoes will slumber another two months, but I cannot rest. The farmer’s daughter did not bring me any milk today. Instead her father came out to my corner of the field and said that I had to get off his property and that there was no such thing as a potato guardian.
“Don’t be like that, Cyrus!” I said. “The president knows about me. I am for sure a real thing that exists.”
He said his name wasn’t Cyrus and I had to get away from there. I packed up my things and slung my carbine over my shoulder. I said goodbye to the potatoes and set off.
When I was almost to the Maryland border, I received a call from Cyrus. During the night, someone took all the potatoes. Cyrus was sobbing so hard I could scarcely make out his words.
“I should not have doubted you,” he said. “You are real, and the need for you is real, and the need for protecting your Second Amendment rights is the realest of all.” I could tell that all the starch had gone out of him. “I will be sure to write to my governor at once! Please, come back, and guard the new crop.”
“I would like that, Cyrus,” I said. “But I go where the potato calls.” And I continued over the border toward another state, with a new motto. Live Frite or Die. The spuds needed me, and I could not look back.
Gail Collins: Hey Bret, how are you feeling? I’ve never had so many people politely inquire about my health, with a slight undertone of suspicion.
Seems like all anybody’s talking about is the coronavirus. What’s your take? Are we overreacting? Underreacting? Or doesn’t it matter since the end is imminent?
Bret Stephens: Fine so far, Gail, and thanks for asking, though I’m worried about my elderly relatives and friends. This is one of those topics where those of us in the punditocracy really need to listen closely to epidemiologists, virologists and other experts in the field, and pretty much adopt their views as our own. In other words, let’s not follow the Rush Limbaugh model and just mouth off on the hunch that it won’t amount to much and the prejudice that it’s a tool to bring down Donald Trump.
On a level of ordinary social observation, I have to say this is starting to have an end-times feeling to it. I walked into a Duane Reade pharmacy the other day and entire shelves had been emptied, as if I were in a Soviet grocery store. At another pharmacy, on Lexington Avenue, a midsize bottle of Purell was being sold behind the counter for $50, which almost turned me into a raging Sandersnista. I was supposed to have been traveling abroad last week, but that trip was canceled, as was a forthcoming conference in Georgia.”