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)

The Art Of Political Commentary

Frank Bruni is one of the best political writers going. Too many of us are wowed by clever turns of phrase and pointed humor almost always at the expense of some deeply flawed public figure.

Style matters, but without substance, it’s like eating two pieces of Wonder Bread. By “substance” I mean an original insight; an idea that few, if any, have considered; at least not as thoughtfully.

Exhibit A, Bruni’s current commentary titled “When You Don’t Have Trump to Hide Behind”. Bruni’s insight is this:

“. . . the Lincoln Project is unraveling. . . because Trump is out of office, and that not only deprives the organization of its fiercest mission and tight focus. His departure also opens the political actors there — and political actors everywhere — to more scrutiny and more reproach than they received when he was still around.”

He explains:

“If the Trump of today were the Trump of yore — which is to say, if he had won the election, hadn’t been kicked off social media and was still tweeting to his spleen’s content — he would have fired off such excessively cruel, overwrought nastiness about the Lincoln Project that these attacks would have competed with the organization’s sins for notice and censure. But Trump is off Twitter, which puts others on the spit.”

Bruni drives home the point:

“That dynamic may be having an impact on Andrew Cuomo. Would his concealment of Covid-19 deaths among New York’s nursing home residents be sparking as much outrage if Trump were still in the White House to mismanage the pandemic and lie more extravagantly about it than anyone else — and to deflect criticism of his own failings with hyperbolic rants about Cuomo’s? Recall that Cuomo won acclaim during the first chapter of the pandemic in part by specifically styling himself as Trump’s public-relations antonym and holding news conferences that were (supposedly) as factual as Trump’s were fantastical. He no longer has that counterpoint and counterpart to burnish him.”

Aspiring Bruni’s spend too much time trying to wordsmith in similarly clever ways when they should be trying to figure out how he anchors his pieces in original insights that makes readers say, “I hadn’t thought of that.” How to generate original insights, that is the question.

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How Isabel Allende Locksdown

From an interview with Isabel Allende: ‘Everyone called me crazy for divorcing in my 70s. I’ve never been scared of being alone’.

“Allende is talking from her home in California, where she has been based since 1988 (she became an American citizen in 1993) and where she now lives with her third husband, Roger Cukras. Visible behind her are pristine white shutters with sunshine blazing through the slats. Lockdown, she says, has not made her slovenly – ‘I get up every morning around six. First I have a cup of coffee, then a shower and then I put on full makeup as if I was going out to the opera. I get dressed and put on high heels, and then I climb the stairs to this attic where I work. I won’t see anyone, not even the mailman, yet I dress up for myself.’”

Liberal Arts Colleges Fight To Survive

If you want to understand why, consider the case of Albion College in Michigan. Fill in the names of 85% of liberal arts colleges with similarly modest endowments. 

A key comorbidity.  

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Is the eventual outcome of the discount rate race to the bottom Admissions and Financial Aid administrators saying to prospective families, “Pay what you’re able.”?

Weekend Required Reading

1. The US is building a bike trail that runs coast-to-coast across 12 states.*

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2. The pandemic is speeding up the mass disappearance of men from college. 

3. Europeans “get” station wagons in ways U.S. drivers do not. Could this begin to change that?

4. Trump Was the Swamp. Persuasively argued, but come on, no credit for pardoning Lil Wayne?

5. Biden Gave Trump’s Union Busters a Taste of Their Own Medicine. Elections have consequences.

6. Mina Kimes Eats All-22 Tape for Breakfast. Love me some Mina, but her brain and communication skills seem better suited to weightier subjects.

* thanks DDTM