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This week: the Trump we never got, why your password should be simpler, and the great toilet roll debate.
On Wednesday the White House held a meeting with senior lawmakers to discuss the response to Florida, and let in the cameras. Intentionally or not, it turned into an extraordinary moment of political theatre. Trump's Republican colleagues, including John Cornyn, who sat on the president's left, hold firmly to the NRA policy of no compromise on (no) gun control. While the talk was of bipartisanship - the Democrat, Diane Feinstein, sat on Trump's right - Trump was expected to just thump the table and say "more guns" or maybe recommend arming children. But he went rogue in a wildly unpredictable direction, arguing forcibly for gun safety legislation, which threw his GOP colleagues into a panic and delighted Democrats. Visibly so - the clips are a must watch. John Cornyn's face! Diane Feinstein's glee! Of course, nothing will actually happen because Trump has probably already forgotten what he said - he only thinks one cheeseburger ahead. Even if he remembers, he will be easily rolled by the powers that be, because he simply has no capacity, mental or political, for follow-through. But now and again you get a glimpse of the president he might have been: a non-partisan leader with an independent political base who is able to bang together heads, break logjams, and cross the wires of left and right. I guess we'll have to wait for President The Rock. (In other Trump news: Jeff Sessions's seemingly unremarkable statement in response to being attacked - again - by the president may have been more incendiary than it appeared.)
During the three days when the NRA holds its annual convention, gun injuries in the US decline by about 20%.
This week I listened to a great episode of Backlisted, a podcast about books and reading, one of my regular listens. The main book under discussion was Denis Johnson's now classic collection of short stories, Jesus Son, and now I need to read it (I read one of its stories, Car-Crash While Hitchhiking, many years ago, and it was amazing, but I didn't get round to the rest). They played a clip of Johnson giving a reading at Cornell about a year before he died, in 2017. Johnson introduces a new story by saying that he got the title ("Triumph Over the Grave") first, and liked it so much that he found a way to weave a story round it. Then in an aside, he says he's sure J.D. Salinger did the same thing with Catcher In The Rye. As he points out, the image of Holden standing at the edge of a cliff in a rye field, trying to catch kids, is pretty lame; a clumsy metaphor. Quite probably Salinger had this lovely phrase rattling around his head - maybe he woke up with it one morning? - and found a way to make it work as a title. We'll never know, of course, but it's one of those theories that just makes intuitive sense the moment you hear it. It's also a good lesson for writer or anyone engaged in a creative endeavour - when you land on something you like but you don't know what it means, don't throw it out - let it shape what you're doing.
OH SAY CAN YOU SEE
I love this clip of Jessye Norman explaining - with such precision, and such grace - why America's national anthem ought to be America the Beautiful, instead of the Star Spangled Banner.
You know when a website demands that your password include a punctuation mark and a number and an upper case letter? They're making your password easier to crack. Better just to make them longer.
DEPT. OF BIG QUESTIONS
How do you like your toilet paper oriented? I love Wikipedia.
ONCE SEEN NEVER FORGOTTEN
There's a bank in New York...