Illinois congressman Mike Bost wants a national park designation granted to Cahokia Mounds, a historic site in the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis that are the remnants of a large city of some 20,000 Native Americans from centuries ago. Before Martha and I made our first visit to the Mounds last year, we were sure we’d learn about how the Natives had been wiped out by European settlers expanding across America. As it turned out, the culture was gone in the 1300s, long before any white settlers got here. The residents of the Mounds were either scattered elsewhere or died from wars with other tribes or disease or some other force — no one’s really sure — but the stories of their civilization are well told in the visitor’s center, and there are paths you can climb up some of the Mounds that remain. Making the site a national park would bring even more tourists to learn about them as we did.
After the success of the recent HBO series “Chernobyl,” the government of Ukraine has decided to embrace the publicity by declaring the 1,000-square-mile exclusion zone around the site of the 1986 nuclear plant disaster to be an official tourist destination. Yes, now you can glow where no one has glowed before, and stay at one of many Don’t-Breathe-The-AirBnB locations! Or, if you can’t afford to fly there, you can just rewire your microwave so it works with the door open and heats up your internal organs while making popcorn.
I love it when a company is forced to change a bad policy because an intrepid reporter has exposed it. Such was the case with food delivery service Door Dash, which wasn’t allowing its drivers to keep customers’ tips. Instead, it lowered the drivers’ base pay so that the tip only brought them up to the company’s minimum level of $6.85 per trip. After Andy Newman of the NY Times wrote about it, Door Dash got so much backlash from customers — outraged that their tips were going into the company’s coffers instead of the drivers’ pockets — that it dropped the ripoff policy and now lets the hard-working delivery people keep the few extra bucks. Those drivers still aren’t making much of a decent wage, but at least they’re doing a little better. Score one for journalism!
I don’t know or care much about the sport, but I laughed at a recent remark by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred in response to criticism that the marked increase in home runs this year must be due to the balls being juiced. No, Manfred claimed, all they’ve done is use a smoother leather on the exterior and lowered the stitching on the seams. I’m no aerodynamics expert, but that sounds to me like enough of a change to give batters more of an edge against pitchers, who would lose some control with the new design. Juicing, it turns out, can be external as well as internal.
I have really enjoyed a podcast series called The History Of Standup, with comedian and professor Wayne Federman and his student Andrew Steven delving into decades of stories and clips of a huge number of comics, some of whom share their own histories. Across more than a dozen episodes, topics include the impact of television (particularly Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show), the rise and fall of the Playboy circuit, black comedians who emerged from the Chitlin’ Circuit, alt comedy, def comedy, the roots of San Francisco and Chicago comedy, and a lot more. I recommend it highly.