Tuesday, May 12, 2020


I'm glad to be finished reading about Charles Darwin, because he isn't the best subject for a biography. However, he fits the pattern that I see in most biographies, in which the person gradually becomes demythologized. That is not the case in hagiographic biographies, which I have attempted to avoid. With Darwin, it becomes clear that he inextricably belonged to a specific time and place, and that his strengths and weaknesses played out as they did only because his environment dictated what was possible for him. If he had been born a few years earlier, he probably wouldn't have thought of natural selection, and if he had been born a few years later, his ideas would have been considered passé among scientists. From my reading, there is no evidence that he was a towering genius who gazed over the millennia as no one else could. Even so, he still deserves a lot of credit for advancing substantive ideas that remain over the heads of many people in the world to this day. The problem occurs when readers attempt to emulate their biographical heroes, which is usually impossible, because all contexts are ephemeral and the same conditions will never arise again.

This spring has turned out to be very cold. Last Friday I mowed the lawn for the first time, and that night it snowed. Usually it is much warmer by now, and the hummingbirds have returned – they haven't. We are still burning wood in the stove to stay warm. Normally we would have run out by now, but a few months ago half of a large sugar maple blew over, and I cut and split it, a job that took several days. I bought a new chainsaw, because the maple had a larger diameter than what I usually cut. We also have some apple wood, which burns well because it is extremely dry. The very old Enos Severance apple tree was hollow in the middle, and the dead half of it recently blew over and was leaning on a telephone pole. I cut that too. The remaining half of the tree is more robust and should live for a few more years. According to the weather forecast, we should have a significant warm-up by Thursday. The coronavirus pandemic is having effects here, as everywhere, but is more subdued due to the low population density. As of today, Addison County has a total of 62 cases and 2 deaths. I would be at low risk of exposure, because I don't do the shopping, but I have been traveling to Chittenden County, to the north, quite often for treatment of a medical condition, and that is the hot spot in the state, with 432 cases and 37 deaths. It remains to be seen what the total effects of the pandemic will be. So far it hasn't had much effect on my family and friends. Everyone who isn't retired is still working or was already stay-at-home.

I am hoping that all the bad news will finally catch up with Donald Trump, who by now has unequivocally demonstrated that he is the worst president in American history. He sailed into a robust economy that was unrelated to anything that he did with the assistance of uneducated voters who had been taken in by right-wing propaganda, only to completely mishandle the first major crisis that came his way. Although he is now getting more long-deserved criticism in the press, he is still supported by the brainwashed true believers. In the long run, he will be seen as having mismanaged the economy and negligently permitted thousands of preventable deaths. When his legal protections are removed, he may well end up in jail, which is where he belongs. Future historians will be scratching their heads about how he was ever elected in the first place.

In other news, after giving up on Netflix and other streaming services, I recently subscribed to The Criterion Channel, which includes many good films that I haven't seen. They used to include Criterion films on Netflix, but it has steadily gone down-market over the years. Nearly all of the latest films and series are abysmal in my opinion. Some of the very old films on The Criterion Channel aren't that great, but I think that their overall catalog is far superior to any other of which I'm aware.

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