Being Twenty Something Right Now

Empathy for our young adult friends and children is in order. Imagine being them and trying to:

  • cultivate a sense of purpose
  • find a job that contributes to the common good, pays a livable wage, and comes with medical benefits
  • find an affordable place of your own to live
  • afford a car or other forms of reliable transportation
  • get out of debt
  • save some money each month
  • develop the self discipline and knowledge to smartly invest for future expenses
  • find a caring, loving, compatible partner with whom to be intimate
  • decide whether to marry and have children
  • decide whether to commit to a faith community, if so, finding a compelling one
  • contend with friends and acquaintances inauthentic, curated selves on-line
  • create a close circle of friends who aren’t so overwhelmed with all above that they have the energy and desire to spend time together
  • worry about growing social inequities and the fate of the natural world
  • cultivate the discipline to eat well, exercise, and maintain decent physical health
  • manage your anxieties about all of the above and maintain good mental health

In the context of a global pandemic about which so much is unknown. How bad will it get? When will it end? How should we “reopen”? What exactly will the “new normal” be?

This pandemic presents unique challenges to many twenty somethings, whom for whatever reasons, already struggle with anxiety, depression, and related mental health challenges.

Extra patience and kindness with our young adult friends and children are in order.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But What If?

Can’t you see aides coaching Trump like attorneys prepping a client before taking the witness stand.

“One person is too many.” Again, “One person is too many.” Again, “One person is too many.” Good, again, “One person is too many.”

  • But what if that one person is a DoNothing Democrat?
  • What if that one person happens to be an immigrant, say from a shithole country?
  • What if that one person was a prisoner of war?
  • What if that one person happens to be differently abled?
  • What if that one person is a journalist for CNN, MSNBC, the AP, or ABC news?
  •  What if that one person is African American and takes a knee during the National Anthem?
  • What if that one person is a Senator from Utah who voted for impeachment?
  • What if that one person used to be the President of the United States?
  • What if that one person is an actor who occasionally impersonates the President on Saturday Night Live?
  • What if that one person used to be the mayor of New York City or is currently?
  • What if that one person is the Governor of Washington State? or Michigan? Or Illinois? Or Maryland?
  • What if that one person is an environmentalist?
  • What if that one person is a late night television host?
  • What if that one person works at the State Department? or the Department of Justice?
  • What if that one person said #MeToo about the President?
  • What if that one person happened to be Hillary Clinton?

Even then?

 

 

260,000 Words Later

The New York Times has analyzed every word the President has uttered during his daily press conferences/campaign rallies. Equivalent to a 700-page book.

Some context from Charles Duhigg in The New Yorker:

“During the H1N1 outbreak of 2009—which caused some twelve thousand American deaths, infections in every state, and seven hundred school closings—Besser and his successor at the C.D.C., Dr. Tom Frieden, gave more than a hundred press briefings. President Barack Obama spoke publicly about the outbreak only a few times, and generally limited himself to telling people to heed scientific experts and promising not to let politics distort the government’s response. ‘The Bush Administration did a good job of creating the infrastructure so that we can respond,’ Obama said. . . . At no time did Obama recommend particular medical treatments, nor did he forecast specifics about when the pandemic would end.”

One of The Times conclusions:

“. . . the self-aggrandizement is singular for an American leader. But his approach is even more extraordinary because he is taking credit and demanding affirmation while he asks people to look beyond themselves and bear considerable hardship to help slow the spread of the virus.

“He doesn’t speak the language of transcendence, what we have in common,” said Jennifer Mercieca, a historian of American political rhetoric at Texas A&M University. Instead, Dr. Mercieca said, he falls back on a vocabulary he developed over decades promoting himself and his business.

“Trump’s primary goal is to spread good news and information and market the Trump brand: ‘Trump is great. The Trump brand is great. The Trump presidency is great,’ she said. “It’s not the right time or place to do that.”

“Transcendence”, shit, the nation would settle for silence.

Another:

“The coronavirus briefings have often contained the same phrases and themes that he used in his 2016 race.

“It’s consistent with the way he campaigned when he said, ‘I alone can fix it,’” said John Murphy, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studies the rhetoric of American presidents and politicians.

Dr. Murphy said that most presidents avoid taking personal credit because they appreciate the fact that Americans can draw the connection themselves between presidential leadership and the country’s successes.

With Mr. Trump, there is no such subtlety. “The level of self-congratulations that occurs every day at these press conferences is unprecedented,” Dr. Murphy added.”

I’ve been wondering, what would my dad think about the President? He was a free-market capitalist, a successful businessperson, lived in Florida, and leaned right. Despite all of that, I’m convinced he’d be damn near as critical of him as me because he couldn’t stand self-promoters.

He grew up poor, during the Depression, in Eastern Montana. Sometimes in the West self-promoters are said to be,”All hat, no cattle.” Dad was “All cattle, no hat.”

When I was a young professor, the President at my college resigned. He wrote a letter for the campus community that detailed his accomplishments. I was impressed, dad was anything but. Why? Because of John Murphy’s insight—he trusted that people could draw the connections themselves between leadership and a business’s or university’s success.

 

 

 

 

Is ESPN’s “The Last Dance” The Most Overrated Sports Documentary of All-Time?

ESPN’s documentary about Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls is getting serious buzz because there’s no competition. Current sports programming consists of reruns of “classic” games; or in the case of golf, tournaments; and forced National Football League trade and draft drama.

The documentary, based on the first two installments, underwhelms. There’s one way to judge docs. Do viewers with no prior interest in the subject become interested? And how much so? I’m already down with pro basketball, so I’m not the best judge, but I have a hard time imaging basketball agnostics jonesing for it after watching the first two episodes of The Last Dance.

It does have one redeeming value. Jordan’s unbelievable smoothness on the court never gets old. One day in 1984, after class, I was (once again) putting on a clinic in UCLA’s Wooden Center. In walked Jordan, in town to pick up the John Wooden award as college basketball’s best player for 1983-1984. Watching him that day school the UCLA varsity was like watching Baryshnikov in his prime. I can still see him effortlessly filling passing lanes and making steals with ease. It’s a shame no one thought of asking me to check him.

One other thing I’ve found somewhat interesting is Phil Jackson’s player-centered leadership. Which begs a question, what the hell happened to Jackson in New York? That’s the documentary I want to see. How does a coach go from the top of his profession to utter and total incompetence?

One other, other thing of interest, is Magic’s and Bird’s pointed, effusive praise of Jordan. In the LeBron versus Jordan debate, it’s worth noting that LeBron’s contemporaries don’t speak of him with the same reverence.

The fact that Pippen was grossly underpaid, the sole focus of Episode 2, is not nearly interesting enough to anchor the hour. And Jordan’s mistreatment of the General Manager, a subtheme, is just kind of pathetic. Except for learning about Jordan’s and Pippen’s family backgrounds, off the court, nothing about Jordan or Pippen inspires.

Instead of a zoom lens on Jordan, Pippen, and Krause, the producers should’ve used a much wider angle one. So far, viewers have learned absolutely nothing about what it was like to be a teammate of Jordans. Toni Kukoc, the silky smooth 6’11” Croatian great is invisible. Harper, Kerr, Longley, invisible.

Give me more of Jordan splitting defenders and elevating for mid-range jumpers (since we don’t see those anymore) and more of the high flying one arm sideway slams that I always found difficult to pull off. But even more than that, give me some subtleties, nuance, ambiguity as it relates to the whole team. Their success suggests the sum was more than the individual parts, but the documentary, so far at least, fails to illuminate that dynamic. And that is a fatal flaw.

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Outstanding Leaders Who Happen To Be Women

Demick providing global context on North Korea:

“. . . consider that, as many commentators have noted, the coronavirus crisis is accelerating the pace of change in technology and culture throughout the world. A widely noted aspect of the pandemic is that many of the countries winning high marks for containing the contagion and protecting their economies are headed by women—among the most notable, Germany’s Angela Merkel, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen. Could North Korea fare better under a woman, too”

Could the United States?

In North Korea, The Fourth Man Could Be A Woman

Barbara Demrick in The New Yorker:

“The conventional wisdom is that a woman could never ascend to the leadership of North Korea, a country stuck in a time warp of passé fashions, hairdos, music, and social mores. A toxic mix of Confucianism and totalitarianism indentures women to their husbands, to their in-laws, and, ultimately, to a male-dominated regime. With a few exceptions (the best known being the vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui), North Korea’s senior cadres are almost entirely male. The Supreme People’s Assembly—which currently has six hundred and eighty-seven members—is supposed to set aside twenty per cent of its seats for women, but the percentage has frequently dipped lower. And the primary function of these token deputies seems to be to brighten the optics, by wearing the jewel-toned, floor-length Korean gowns best known by the South Korean term hanbok. Since 1948, North Korea has been ruled by three men—the founder, his son, and his grandson—but, nevertheless, it is now conceivable that the fourth man will be a woman. That is because, with reports that Kim Jong Un is in failing health, the most obvious successor is his thirtysomething sister, Kim Yo Jong.”

And dig this:

“She was reportedly a favorite of her father, Kim Jong Il, who ruled from 1994 until his death, in 2011, and who, according to a former Russian official, Konstantin Pulikovsky, may have had a more enlightened attitude toward women than some of the North Korean élite. Pulikovsky, who travelled with Kim Jong Il by train and later wrote a memoir about the experience, told interviewers that the leader praised the intelligence of his daughter, while deriding his sons as ‘idle blockheads.'”

Despite being 36 years young, obscenely rich, and with access to world class medical care, Kim Jong Un is allegedly at risk of dying due to obesity, chain smoking and who knows what other vices. Dad’s assessment seems spot on, which begs the question, why didn’t he go with Kim Jo Young in the first place.

Most likely for two reasons. Too young and . . .

“‘North Korea is so outlandishly sexist, despite the fact that they are supposed to be a revolutionary society. When it comes to gender relations, it is like South Korea decades ago,’’ Katharine H. S. Moon, a political-science professor at Wellesley College who has written about gender issues in Korean politics, said. In fact, as Moon notes, women have not fared well in politics in South Korea, either, a nation that is routinely toward the bottom of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s list of developed countries’ rankings on gender equality. South Korea’s only female President, Park Geun-hye, was impeached in 2017, and is now in prison, serving twenty-five years for bribery, extortion, and abuse of power, which some maintain is harsher treatment than accorded men who committed comparable offenses.”