The world keeps growing hotter
The recently passed decade of 2010-2019 was the warmest on record, according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Our world can't grow much hotter, but temperatures keep rising as the world does nothing but make promises and sign treaties.
At least those whose money runs the world are taking notice. Blackrock's Larry Fink, not to be confused with Larry Fine, announced this week that the firm will consider climate change in making investment decisions.
Children's faces break my heart. If climate change action isn't taken very soon, they will know an increasingly uninhabitable world.
Those born in the late 20th century have enjoyed unlimited travel, technological wonders, extravagant entertainment. The price has been dear: soaring carbon emissions, a bill our grandchildren will pay.
Atmospheric carbon has reached 417 parts per million, the NOAA and NASA reports found. Only a couple of years ago, the dire 400 threshold was crossed. Climate change activists say 350 parts per million is the limit for humanity to escape catastrophe.
Watching the college football championship the other night, I was amazed at the heavy traffic rushing by when streets outside the Superdome were shown. Nothing stops the steady flow of cars, spewing carbon into the atmosphere.
The world kept getting hotter in the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s, the 2000s. The few warning voices were ignored. The world as we know it is now passing away.
Cecelia Watson's ode to the semicolon
Cecelia Watson's "Semicolon: The Past, Present and Future of a Misunderstood Mark" moves from a brief history of the pesky punctuation mark to a call for liberty from restrictive grammar rules.
White and Strunk's "The Elements of Style" probably has crippled more writers than encouraged them. Subverting the tyranny of usage guardians, Watson calls for writing creativity, especially in the application of semicolons.
A professor at Bard College, Watson doesn't support complete anarchy. She believes in an understanding of grammar, without allowing a slavish adherence to stifle writing.
Watson gives examples of excellent writers who have imaginatively used the semicolon beyond its common role of separating two interdependent complete statements. Passages from Shakespeare, Irvine Welsh, Rebecca Solnit and Raymond Chandler illustrate how semicolon flexibility enhances writing.
The punctuation mark, invented by the Italian scholar and printer Aldus Manutius the Elder in 1494, is shown as an essential writing tool.
She doesn't mention Saul Bellow, but I thought of his liberation from language strictures in "The Adventures of Augie March." A look at the novel's celebrated first paragraph reveals how Bellow's semicolons boost his writing.
Watson's small book, with lovely woodcut illustrations, raises enthralling questions about the philosophy of writing. Grammar purists will warn that she's opening the gates to increased language promiscuity, but her own work shows the effectiveness of elegant English.
Her treatise ends by skewering David Foster Wallace's admonition to students to conform to the standard English dialect.
I'm not sure how far she would go in allowing freedom from spelling and grammar rules. I suspect she would oppose complete abandonment of grammatical norms. However, she speaks for the value of speech outside of narrow syntactical channels. Her thorough historical analysis of how those rules developed points to their arbitrariness.
In Watson's viewpoint, semicolon mastery is a hallmark of vivid writing. Those who might think of her book as a dull pedantic exercise will discover a witty, expansive work touching upon history, philosophy, literary criticism and personal reflections. Her footnotes are like jewels in a stream.
All hail the semicolon; Watson seeks to free the funny-looking mark, and writers' thoughts. Already, I'm throwing semicolons around like doubloons from a Mardi Gras float. I don't fear the language police.
Truist name strikes out for Braves stadium
The Braves lost Josh Donaldson on the same day their park was saddled with one of the dumbest corporate names ever.
Truist Park? What does Truist mean?
The merger of Atlanta-based SunTrust Bank and North Carolina-based BB&T brought the misbegotten name, one of those made-up concoctions that give vague connotations of .....something. Truth? Tryst? The name doesn't correspond orthographically to any English word.
I'm sure the Truist Corp. shelled out millions to some branding agency to come up with the name. If so, that doesn't speak too well for the bank leaders' judgment. They gave up the word "sun," which has so many positive connotations, for a vague neologism.
I don't like corporate names of stadiums, but have come to accept Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Minute Maid Park, etc.
For years, Braves played at Turner Field, nicknamed "The Ted" by AJC sportswriter Jack Wilkinson. Turner Field was an improvement over the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
Then the Braves fled their inner-city home for the suburbs, and their cozy new jewel of a stadium was called SunTrust Park. As corporate names go, SunTrust was fine, bringing images of sunny afternoons and trusty performances.
But Truist? That just reminds Atlantans that one of its oldest companies, SunTrust, has been folded into a company now based in Charlotte. That loss of a local connection for the Braves comes on top of the team being owned by Liberty Media, the penny-pinching company based in Colorado.
Liberty wouldn't shell out enough money to keep the slugging Donaldson, who also excelled at the hot corner. Now the Braves won't have anyone to protect Freddie Freeman.
Perhaps Austin Riley, the phenom who faded out so quickly last season, will fix that hole in his swing. Or Johan Carmago will bounce back. Perhaps the Braves will make a trade for a power-hitting third baseman before pitchers and catchers report next month.
Whatever the Braves do, they'll have to play at a place called Truist. Can't some Atlanta-based company step up to acquire naming rights to the stadium: Coca-Cola, Delta, UPS or whatever?
That would be the truest for Atlanta fans.
LSU's national championship brings memories
LSU's national football championship brings a swirl of impressions and memories.
Coach O. A soulful Ohio kid named Joe. The Tigers, black and white, standing amid falling purple and gold confetti at the Superdome.
Lying in Piedmont Hospital watching the Tigers open the season against Ga. Southern. Joe Burrow's fast-break offense makes me wonder if I'm dreaming from the meds. Is this the Ole War School?
Bewildered and scared people huddled in the Superdome after Katrina flooded New Orleans.
Going to then cozy Tiger Stadium as a boy with my father and mother. Those hamburgers pressed on the bun, with pickles and mustard, pieces of bread stuck on the meat. Coke in a paper cup, filled with ice.
Driving from Georgia to Baton Rouge and Blacksburg with my son. Meeting Luke in the Green Bay Airport to watch the Tigers play at Lambeau Field. Saying goodbye in Chicago. Luke and I watching the Tigers at Sanford Stadium and the old Georgia Dome. And the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Watching Charley McClendon's Cajun boys whip Arkansas in the 1966 Cotton Bowl, and beat Notre Dame at Tiger Stadium in 1971.
Going down to the Tiger Stadium field in 1970 after Tigers beat Ole Miss and Archie Manning, who played with his broken arm in a cast. Oranges covered the turf.
Driving with Loftin, Tommy, Hall and Dean from Baton Rouge to Miami for the 1971 Orange Bowl. It took us several cases of beer. Sitting in the old steel structure, shivering in a tank top. I didn't know it got cold in south Florida.
Billy Cannon. Jimmy Taylor, Pat Screen, Joe Labruzzo, Ronnie Estay, Johnny Robinson, Wendell Harris, Tommy Casanova, Art Cantrelle, Mike Anderson, Al Coffee, Burt Jones, David Woodley, Trey Prather, Kevin Faulk, Dalton Hilliard, George Bevan, Nelson Stokley, Ruffin Rodrigue. The Chinese Bandits.
Vietnam Moratorium day at LSU's parade ground, 1969. All of those crazy kids I knew at Kirby Smith and the Pentagon, scared we'd be sent to Vietnam.
Clifton Chenier at the LSU Union.
Kate Chopin, Robert Penn Warren, Walker Percy, Leadbelly, Lafcadio Hearn, James Lee Burke, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Gaines, Louis Armstrong. Louis Prima, Buddy Bolden, Robert Lowell, Peter Taylor, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, Lazy Lester, Buddy Guy, Slim Pickens.
All of those songs, full of the state's joy and pain. "Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou." "Gotta make a living, he's a Louisiana Man." "Leaving Louisiana in the broad daylight." "Busted Flat in Baton Rouge." "Walking to New Orleans.""Louisiana, Louisiana, they're trying to wash us away, they're trying to wash us away."
LSU's fight song, played at my mother's funeral.
Alan Bennett in annual diary remembers Jonathan Miller
Noted British playwright Alan Bennett in his latest diary in the London Review of Books pays homage to fellow "Beyond the Fringe" member Jonathan Miller.
For years, Bennett has brightened the new year with his annual chronicle of the previous 12 months, published in the LRB. Bennett's record of his life in 2019 runs in the LRB's Jan. 2 issue.
The polymath Miller, who died Nov. 27, excelled in medicine, the theater and television. He was especially known for his opera productions, and hosting the TV documentary "The Body in Question."
Rising from their college days at Oxford and Cambridge, Miller and Bennett joined Dudley Moore and Peter Cook in the satirical revue "Beyond the Fringe," which eventually played on Broadway.
Along with serene depictions of the London literary world and unhurried life in suburban Yorkshire, Bennett can be cutting in his views. An entry in his 2019 diary gives a chilly assessment of Miller.
"Ours was a not unrivalrous relationship, with neither particularly generous about the other's work," Bennett says. He confesses to never seeing one of Miller's operas, and suspects Miller never watched one of his plays.
Bennett ends on a warmer, regretful note. "Now that he's gone I feel remorse as well as sorrow. But, jokes apart, it was a question of survival. I needed to write. Jonathan needed one to listen."
The diaries increasingly chronicle Bennett's aging. This year's entries often reference Bennett lying on his couch or in bed, suffering from severe arthritis. He also gives an alarming account of a fall on his bicycle, from which he suffered bruises but no broken bones or head injuries.
A disturbing sign of Bennett's looming mortality is that the diary is much shorter this year; he missed several months during the spring and summer because of open-heart surgery.
With all of his suffering, the diary is again a treat of refined thinking, with references to obscure films, actors and British writers. The diaries reflect his cultured life in suburban Yorkshire, where he enjoys gardening, old houses and reading. Bennett's at times fussy writing reveals a disgust with conservative politics, an enjoyment of small town life and an appreciation for small pleasures.
His diaries mirror my own aging, giving me encouragement and comfort. I hope to read Bennett's annual missives for years to come.