Daily Digest: Tunis, Regis, trente, Sarte

Mike Mullen

Welcome back.

– Don’t blink. Tunisia’s had some sort of democratic — or at least anti-dictatorial — revolution, but the outcome seems to be changing by the hour. Earlier today, according to the New York Times, a handful of ministers in the new unity government resigned from their posts, after protesters raged over their connections to former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. (Side note: It feels like his name is backwards, no?) That the protests continue — and that other countries are seeing a wave of self-immolations (!) — ought to keep the State Department up late into the night. But there are good signs for the transition: among the newly-minted government employees is Slim Amamou, a former dissident blogger whose pictures make him look like a hip, if somewhat pretentious, American grad student. When another blogger asked what, exactly, he was doing inside the halls of power, Amamou responded: “It’s a temporary govt to set up elections. I’m here to watch and report and be part of the decisions. Not here to rule.”

– Speaking of the end of brutal dictatorships, Regis Philbin announced this season would be his last on “Live with Regis and Kelly” this morning. Regis spent 28 years with America’s housewives and hangovers, first joining Kathie Lee Gifford (who’s since moved onto a career as a competitive drinker on the Today Show) and more recently by Kelly Ripa (who’s now famous as a competitive non-eater). As is noted in the Washington Post’s Celebritology blog, Regis’ announcement marks the third recent departure of major, daily institutions on American television: Larry King, then Oprah, and now Regis. None of these people was ever accused of being too-prepared  for their interviews, but each made a connection with TV audiences that lasted decades. In a related note, Barbara Walters was spotted late Monday night with her right foot stuck in the La Brea tar pit.

– This morning, across 14 states, Starbucks unveiled its new “Trenta” size coffee cup. Minnesota didn’t make the cut (but it is available in Nevada — ROAD TRIP!) but the new size will be available nationwide by May 3. As seen in this fancy National Post illustration, the Trenta is actually larger than the average human stomach. This doesn’t seem to pose a medical concern — it’s unlikely anyone’s going to drink it in one gulp and overwhelm their stomach — but it ought to tell us something. We’ve gone too far. Some day, archaeologists will uncover the ruins of a Cadillac Escalade, a super-sized fries, and a cup of coffee the size of a baby, and decide that we Americans were a race of giants. Then they will find our tiny cell phones and laptops, and they will be confused. Let’s at least leave them a note. 

– In Sweden, Volvo has tested a new car/train kind of thing. As the BBC reports, the project has a lead car, operated by an actual driver, which dictates the movements of the cars following it, which are unoccupied. According to the report, the technology could be in use within a decade. The research is part of the European Commission’s Safe Road Trains for the Environment, or, as it’s abbreviated, SARTE. Presumably this is some sort of inside joke, and not an actual reference to the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte, who would’ve called everyone involved capitalist pigs, and then said that the road train was only a construction of one’s own existence, and that the cars following the lead car should think for themselves.