It's Franzen Season, and an undisclosed quantity of fries.
Jon Mooallem went to Spokane, Washington to see a minor league baseball game, and discovered the story of Jack “Lucky” Lohrke, whose life featured several close calls with disaster.
All these stories about Jack Lohrke narrowly escaping death didn’t feel breezy and wondrous to Jack Lohrke. To him, they were traumas. They were stories about a succession of his closest friends not escaping death, all while Lohrke kept on existing, knowing they were dead or even watching them die.
He also sees Ribby the Redband Trout do his famous dance, the story’s not an unrelenting bummer. But it does help explain why surviving this pandemic relatively unharmed still feels so bad. Anyway, The Washington Post says we just exceeded the total estimated death toll from the 1918 flu pandemic in coronavirus deaths, with 675,000. As a share of the increased population, of course, it’s still much less. So I guess we’re… lucky. But hey, here’s a question:
It feels like humanity cross-connected everything in our energy systems, food systems, climate, travel, water, shipping logistics, etc., into The Perfect Doozer Building, then bashed it with a big cartoon mallet labeled “CLIMATE CHANGE” and dropped an anvil labeled “THE PANDEMIC” on it. And now I keep running across stories that make me think to myself: “Are we boned?”
Yesterday it was the news that, according to Bloomberg, “U.K. Soft Drink Makers Have Just Days of Carbon Dioxide Left.” So Scotland might run out of Irn Bru, och hae’ wi’ ye lieve, ha ha. But CNN’s headline for this news is a lot more alarming: “Gas prices in the UK could trigger food shortages within weeks.” “UK natural gas prices jumped 420% on an annual basis in September,” Hanna Ziady reports. Natural gas is the primary input for ammonium nitrate and urea fertilizer production, which was also interrupted in the U.S. after the spring cold snap in Oklahoma and Texas shut down natural gas production here. But back to CNN:
Illinois-based CF Industries… said last week that it would halt operations indefinitely at its two UK plants because of the high price of natural gas. Those plants supply 60% of the United Kingdom's food-grade CO2 as a byproduct of fertilizer production…
That food-grade CO2 is used in carbonated drinks, but it’s also the primary way pigs and poultry are slaughtered for British meat markets and, according to Bloomberg, “Staffing shortages across U.K. slaughterhouses have left pig farms crammed with 95,000 extra animals” before we’ve even run out of the means to kill them for food. So an Illinois company looking at the economics of natural gas in fertilizer production threatens the supply of meat to the U.K. Each link in this chain is a distinct potential sub-disaster, involving risks to the U.K.’s overall heating and energy supplies, fertilizer supplies, and food supplies. Today Bloomberg reports that the U.K. government has made a deal with CF Industries to restart production at what I guess are now state-subsidized CO2 plants that produce very expensive fertilizer as a byproduct.
Also today in AWB?: A huge debt-financed Chinese real estate developer is bringing down both U.S. stocks and Bitcoin, supposedly a haven from fiat-economy risks but actually just a very volatile asset connected to the whole rest of the rickety international market. I’ve tried and failed to understand the Evergrande story so we should all probably just ask Matt Levine instead.
Today may only be the first day of fall, but it’s already Freazen—that’s Franzen Season baby, and Cody Delistraty kicks it off with a profile in the WSJ Magazine. Apparently his last book “Purity” only sold 290,000 copies, which is a huge success for most novels but dreadful by Franzen standards, and in LitHub Jessie Gaynor highlights the anecdote about why he didn’t sign the Harper’s Letter, which feels like a new high in bar lowering but go off I guess, Bird Lord.
Max Chafkin excerpted his bio of Peter Thiel for NY Mag, which makes it clear that Thiel is both even weirder than you thought he was, and an ongoing danger to the continued existence of liberal democracy. Epic (the games company) x Balenciaga. Epik (domain host and web tech for anyone too toxic for the normie market) x leaking your data even if you have nothing to do with them. The Wrens are coming back (kind of). “Astra has a development Reaver engine from Firefly in its Alameda factory right now” is somehow a tweet about events in the real world. David Cole interviews Orson Welles. Fun new Apple SensorKit feature can analyze your input and guess your mood:
The Tabs Discord got mad at me when I didn’t use the header last time so come along and join me in:
Two men were arrested trying to break into a strictly locked-down Auckland with $100,000 in cash and what New Zealand police describe as “a large amount” (but anyone in the U.S. would describe as “a normal amount”) of Kentucky Fried Chicken, reports Wellington’s own Tess McClure in The Guardian. The cops even did a classic drug-seizure photo with the KFC:
Close examination of the police evidence photos revealed at least three buckets of chicken, up to 10 tubs of coleslaw, and an undisclosed quantity of fries.
And finally: did you remember?
Today’s Song: I mean 👆, but also DJ Cummerbund, “Love Shack (Tik Toxic Remix)”
~ lookin for the tabs getaway ~
I got me a twitter, it seats about twenty.