Nomadland

Frances McDormand is Fern, a widower struggling to let go of her past. She’s hard working and resilient. Her van makes for a precarious home. She befriends other “nomads” also living on the road, but only to a point, because she isn’t fully in the present.

Nomadland has the feel of a compelling documentary. A thoughtful window into a vulnerable, but resourceful community of non-conformists prioritizing personal freedom and nature over material comfort. If you enjoy films firmly based in reality, you may like it as much as I did.

The ‘Rona Reflex

Yesterday, I began my day with one of my favorite runs to PriestPoint Park and back. I went in the back door, meaning I climbed up 26th and then hung a right on the wide, paved connector road that drops down before dead ending into a single track trail on the park’s edge.

At least ten feet away, a young hipster (meaning he sported a beard) and his cute dog were walking up the 12-foot wide connector on the opposite shoulder of me. While exchanging silent “good morning” smiles, I couldn’t help but notice he edged off of the car-less road’s shoulder to create one or two more feet of distance between us.

Because he was youngish, seemingly healthy, not wearing a mask, and smiled at me, I doubt he was a grunt in the Mask Wars. And yet, even though everyone now knows the CDC guidelines—six feet away from one another when indoors while masked—I predict many will continue going a lot further given the ‘rona reflex which is the now deeply engrained idea that if some distance and masks and safety precautions are good, more are better.

I am not advocating for Texas Governor-like “Neanderthal thinking” about masks and mitigation. I’m advocating for proportionality. Specifically, a return to more relaxed interpersonal interactions as we chip away at the virus. Trusting that 12 feet is more than sufficient when outside.

If, in return, the Neanderthals are more patient with our neighbors for whom the reflex is deeply engrained, maybe the YouTube videos of people losing their minds while fighting the Mask War will abate and a post-‘pan peace will descend upon the land.

Botched Sexual Harassment Apology #193—Andrew Cuomo

Some public relations pro, not an amateur like me, should write a book on how not to apologize. There’s so much material in the public record, it would almost write itself.

Call it “Sorry, Not Sorry: The Art of Not Apologizing.” Each chapter a separate apology. Provide the context of what’s alleged, then the transcript of the non-apology, then translate each individual non-apology sentence-by-sentence. In a concluding chapter, illuminate all the problematic things the non-apology apologies have in common.

Rough notes for the Andrew Cuomo chapter based upon problematic things he volunteered at today’s presser:

  1. “. . . this has been an incredibly difficult situation for me—as well as other people.” Translation. . . Can we please focus more on me and my pain and less on these spiteful women’s misinterpretations of my personal style of communicating?
  2. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone. I never intended it.” The blanket “whatever pain” phrase coupled with the amorphous “anyone” is expert use of vague generalities to sidestep the very specific, credible, corroborated accusations. Translation. . . I didn’t do anything wrong to anyone. Major props to the journo who asked the Governor, “Who exactly are you apologizing to?” The exact right question. Along with, “What are you apologizing for specifically?” 
  3. “I will be better for this experience.” Translation. . . My political future, which is most important, is hanging in the balance. Can we please focus more on that? 

My Subconscious Is Weird

I make so many trips to the loo each night, I’m more efficient than a NASCAR pit crew. I’m awake about three minutes each time, which is what makes this story even stranger.

Here is my internal dialogue from a random 2 a.m. loo visit from a few nights ago.

“Why do John Rahm and Tony Finau have so many Top Ten finishes? Hella short backswings. They don’t get anywhere close to parallel, but very, very quickly accelerate through the ball generating above average power. Because their swings are shorter, there’s less margin for error, thus they are more consistent than the vast majority of their peers. Thus, they are human ATM machines.

It’s the same minimalist principle I employed as a poker player. I often won at poker because whenever I was dealt a poor to middling hand, I folded. Over the course of hours, I profited from other more optimistic players staying in a round or two too many. My competitive advantage was being more disciplined about bailing early. In essence, I shortened my swing.

Governor Cuomo should shorten his swing. A lot. The more he talks, the worse things get.

This is some weird shit for 2a.m.”

I would ask you to diagnosis my condition, but in the interest of dodging Liz’s wealth tax, I think I’ll pay a therapist.

Wealth Tax Weirdness

I’m confused. Which won’t surprise anyone who knows me very well.

Elizabeth ‘Has a Plan For That’ Warren is reviving her wealth tax proposal.

“Ms. Warren’s wealth tax would apply a 2 percent tax to individual net worth — including the value of stocks, houses, boats and anything else a person owns, after subtracting out any debts — above $50 million. It would add an additional 1 percent surcharge for net worth above $1 billion.”

Three in five Americans support the proposal. Cue my confusion. Why does 99.9% of the 40% oppose the proposal when the tax will never come close to applying to them.

“Ms. Warren estimated her initial proposal during the 2020 campaign would raise $2.75 trillion over a decade, which she proposed spending on education and child care, based on estimates from the University of California, Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.”

Maybe the answer to my question lies within that dastardly sentence. Maybe the “anti-wealth tax forty percenters” have the backs of the ultra-wealthy because they know how just how bad things could turn out if people of modest means are able to provide their children improved childcare and schooling.

Personally, just to be safe, I’m going to do everything possible to keep my net worth under $50m.

Thursday Required Reading

1. Hiking Is an Ideal Structure for Friendship. Love stories like this.

“As soon as we complete one hike, we immediately establish when the next will be. We rotate the organization and planning duties, eeny-meeny-miny-moe style.

That person has complete authority and responsibility to organize the hike, select the location, provide the beer and other refreshments, and make any other side-trip plans. We’ve done breakfast, dinner. We sometimes hit various local watering holes, or we just plop down with a cooler in the woods somewhere. The organizer is responsible for setting up all the logistics, soup to nuts, and is not questioned on the decisions made.”

2. This game has surpassed League of Legends, Fortnite and Valorant as the most-watched gaming category.

3. 2021’s Best States to Retire. I know, I know, how can any state known for the blog ‘PressingPause’ be ranked 31st? Spurious methods.

4. Inside a Battle Over Race, Class and Power at Smith College. Don’t know where to start on this one.

5. Mean tweets may take down Biden nominee. If only Neera Tanden had shown the same tact and diplomacy as The Former Guy. Has nothing to do with “civility” and everything to do with political power. It’s a tad bit ironic that the R’s are channeling Malcolm X. “By whatever means necessary.” (credit: DDTM)

6. The most important Western artist of the second half of the twentieth century. (credit: Tyler Cowen)

Are You Not Jazzed?

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The hottest basketball team in the world is quietly positioning themselves for the #1 seed in the Western Conference. Of course, whether winning or losing, by default, a Salt Lake City-based team is quiet.

Dig this box score from last night’s 132-100 victory over the 18-12 Portland Trailblazers. The starters scored 67, the bench 65. They made over half of the 55 3’s they took. Super impressive, but one blemish, the starters turned it over too much.

How do the flashy teams everyone always talks about beat the Jazz in a seven game series given their bench and three-point shooting?

Postscript: Upon further review, imagine being Georges Niang. Pre-game, coach says, “I’m only gonna play you 16 minutes tonight.” “Okay then,” you think to yourself, “I’m going to jack it up from everywhere and get us 21 points.”

Many Say ‘The Worst Writer Ever’

Things were looking up. . . a return of electricity, a comeback UCLA basketball victory against Arizona State, a sharp decline in ‘rona cases, then The Former Guy had a really bad day in the courts which he took out on us with this opening paragraph of a longer statement.

“This investigation is a continuation of the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country, whether it was the never ending $32 million Mueller hoax, which already investigated everything that could possible be investigation, “Russia Russia Russia,” where there was a finding of “No Collusion,” or two ridiculous “Crazy Nancy” inspired impeachment attempts where I was found NOT GUILTY. It just never ends!”

The mind whirls. 1) Why capitalize Witch Hunt? 2) Why capitalize Country? 3) Why “possible be investigation” instead of “possibly be investigated”? 4) Who repeatedly quotes themselves? 5) Why, oh why, the exclamation point?! Trust me on this, it doesn’t make you look any younger.

It appears all of the Former Guy’s writers have abandoned him and he doesn’t know how to use spell check. Just when we thought it was safe to return to normal life, our writing sensibilities are in for one of the roughest patches in our nation’s history. Hide the children.

On Obsessiveness

Tyler Cowen’s “My days as a teenage chess teacher” is interesting on a lot of levels. For instance, take lesson learned #6 of 7.

“6. The younger chess prodigy I taught was quite bright and also likable.  But he had no real interest in improving his chess game.  Instead, hanging out with me was more fun for him than either doing homework or watching TV, and I suspect his parents understood that.  In any case, early on I was thinking keenly about talent and the determinants of ultimate success, and obsessiveness seemed quite important.  All of the really good chess players had it, and without it you couldn’t get far above expert level.”

I often envy people who are obsessive about anything even remotely socially redeemable—whether being a grand master in chess, or cycling 12,000 miles/year, or knowing more about Mormon history than anyone except a few dozen Mormon scholars. Why do I envy obsessive people? Because I don’t know if I’ve ever been truly obsessive about anything. It seems like it would be fun to be so immersed in an activity that time stops.

And yet, when I take stock of my life, I can’t help but wonder if my lack of obsessiveness about any one thing may be one of my most positive attributes. If it’s not a positive attribute, splitting the difference between similarly compelling forces, is my essence. It’s who I am.

To the best of my ability, I seek balance. Between work and family life. Between intellectual pursuits and physical ones. Between running, swimming, and cycling more specifically. Between listening and talking. Between teaching and learning. Between friends. Between being silly and serious.   

I wonder, should I stop idealizing obsessiveness?