We are all Florida man.

Everglades drainage canal circa 1910 / Detroit Publishing Company via the Library of Congress

Not to be presumptuous, but if you think of the Everglades — the beautiful, foreboding wetlands that make up most of the southern tip of Florida — you might think of it as a swamp. Lots of swamp grass and swamp trees, alligators and wading birds. It’s a lot like a swamp. But what it actually is, is a river. A “river of grass” is how the conservationist Marjorie Stoneman Douglas termed it. A piquant phrase, but it’s also a river of water, that moves very, very slowly.

The author’s shirt (detail)

Not long ago I found a Jhane Barnes shirt at a thrift store. It fit like a charm: a barely-there lightness from cotton that somehow feels like silk. Completely unfaded, with a distinctively three-dimensional texture you can feel arising from Barnes’s signature: complex, robust weaves in elaborate, evolving patterns, designed and made on the best technology of the early digital era.

Shealah Craighead/The White House

Remember Donald Trump? Before he got tossed out of the White House, and more importantly Twitter, he ran the free world and consumed all its oxygen. Now he has to hope reporters pick up his weird, wordy missives on clip-art virtual letterhead in order to get a back-pages mention or a few RTs.

Wilson Hui/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

After a bit more than 100 days in office, Joe Biden has demonstrated an impressive political ability: the willingness to change course quickly without making a big deal about it.

John Marshall’s opinion in Madison vs. Marbury, the foundation of its role as a co-equal branch, is magisterial. The case that inspired it was anything but.

Silhouette portrait of John Marshall by William H. Brown / Library of Congress

Ain’t it something? What makes it special — this whole moment came from nothing.

The dull stress of the late pandemic is a kind of window into what a lot of people live with all the time.

Illinois WPA Art Project / Library of Congress

As the pandemic drags into its second year, the tone of the coverage about day to day life has shifted. The most fortunate among us have been the most likely to do nothing: not go into a workplace, not go into a hospital or nursing home, not go to a grocery store, not travel, with all the attendant risks.

The U.S. is worse than a lot of developed countries at a lot of public-health issues, but cutting this low-hanging fruit by a quarter would be like eliminating all gun homicides.

Bernard Gotfryd/Library of Congress

A few days ago, the state of Oklahoma granted immunity “to motorists who unintentionally cause injury or death while ‘fleeing from a riot,’” one of five in which such a bill was introduced. Critics, who call such legislation “hit and kill” laws, argue that they threaten to go beyond criminalizing dissent, permitting vigilante justice against dissent. In The New Republic, Alex Pareene writes:


We won’t forget all the mundane intricacies of life during the time of Covid-19 — thanks to the personal essay

Demonstration at the Red Cross Emergency Ambulance Station in Washington, D.C., during the influenza pandemic of 1918. / Photo: Library of Congress

The reliance of contemporary journalism, particularly online journalism, on the personal essay has been the subject of criticism and sometimes revulsion — often with subtexts about generations and gender, navel-gazing youth taught by years of therapy to look within for the most important subject.

Between violent crime and stagflation, the 1970s were kind of a mess

Two youths in Uptown, Chicago, 1974 / Danny Lyon (National Archives)

Hating on boomers is a cottage industry online. Some of it is the usual generational foofaraw; some of it is conveniently viral clowning. But it’s all ultimately grounded in a perception that their generation got cheap college and houses, locked down the balance in pensions and stocks, and pulled up the ladder behind them by pivoting from the idealism of their youth to reactionary austerity.

First-year analysts are making noise about their ‘inhumane’ working conditions. It’s tempting not to care, but it’s their world and we’re living in it

Paul Strand, Wall Street, 1916 / Library of Congress

A few weeks ago, a group of first-year analysts at Goldman Sachs dropped a “Working Conditions Survey” outlining their hundred-hour weeks, “consistent 9 am-5am’s,” five hours of sleep, and self-reported 2/10 firm and work satisfaction rating. Public response fell along predictable lines. Some said these expectations were clear and the money is great, which is true. Others took issue with normalizing banker burnout and said they still shouldn’t be working that much anyway, which is arguably true. Anonymous investment bankers said the same thing.

Whet Moser

Freelance writer/editor in Chicago. Words in Marker, The Atlantic, COVID Tracking Project, elsewhere. Author of ‘Chicago: From Vision to Metropolis.’

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