Dear International Friends

About 25% of the people who visit the Humble Blog are foreigners. Among others, this morning, a few Nigerians have stopped by. These words are for them. I imagine they would acknowledge Nigeria, like every country in the world, has serious challenges to overcome, but they would never characterize their country the way the President of the United States characterized some developing countries yesterday.

When caught saying hateful, racist, abhorrent things, the President acts in an extremely predictable way, and today is no different. Like a second grader at recess, he denies saying what others heard and in many cases recorded. As if by denying his words, he has the power to erase them.

The President does not speak for the vast majority of Americans who know Haitians, Salvadorans, Nigerians, and other Africans strengthen the U.S. Also, most Americans are far more aware than the President that Haitians, Salvadorans, Nigerians, and other Africans come from beautiful places with rich cultures that have proven amazingly resilient in the face of U.S. imperialism. They also know that we are an immigrant nation, that the vast majority of us came from other places, and that our economic success is, in large part, the result of hardworking, law-abiding immigrants from every corner of the globe.

The President has never read Chinua Achebe, Toussaint Louverture, or Manlio Argueta, because he doesn’t read.

We will turn him out in three years or less. And then we will go to work repairing the damage he’s done to the environment, the rich/poor divide, and the prestige of the office. And we will work to repair all of our international alliances, working doubly hard  to reconcile with the proud people of the Caribbean, Central America, and Africa.

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On the Commodification of Damn Near Everything

From the great electronic encyclopedia in the sky:

Commodification is the transformation of goods, services, ideas and people into commodities, or objects of trade. A commodity at its most basic, according to Arjun Appadurai, is “any thing intended for exchange,” or any object of economic value. People are commodified—turned into objects—when working, by selling their labour on the market to an employer.”

A year ago, a Seattle runner, training for a marathon, took a self-defense class. In the middle of a long training run, she hopped into a public bathroom on the Burke-Gilman trail, where she was attacked by a violent, deranged person inside her bathroom stall. Thought she was going to die. Then drew on her training, tapped her inner savage, and repelled her attacker.

Made the news. Clearly, a tough, resilient, inspiring woman. A few days ago, I listened to an update. She finished the Chicago Marathon and created a “NTMF” movement, Not Today Mother (something or other), which is intended to inspire women to learn self-defense. A good thing, but then the story took a sharp, predictable, commercial turn. T-shirts and coffee mugs now available for sale. Note too, she’s available for media inquiries and bookings.

A few months ago, pre-Weinstein, my favorite radio sports talk host, who I’ve enjoyed listening to for two decades, stopped by a Bellevue condo complex after a round of golf. Said it was for a massage. Turns out, he paid for sex. His radio station thanked him for his service.

After going dark for awhile, he turned to Twitter to revive his personal brand. He’s not selling t-shirts and coffee mugs, he’s selling himself. The vast majority of people responded positively, quick to forgive, hopeful he’ll get a new gig soon. He replied to darn near each person with a personal “thank you”. I’m sure they think he cares, that they have some sort of personal connection.

They’re all being played. How can he truly care about them, when he’s never met them? All he cares about is increasing his followers on Twitter. The higher that number, the better his odds of a second act.

Everyone is selling something. A friend tells me I’m no different. I’m selling ideas on the Humble Blog. Guilty as charged. But don’t underestimate my commercial chops. At last look, I had 61 Twitter followers.

 

The Sexual Harassment Epidemic is More Sordid Than You Realize

If you think you have a pretty good feel for the breadth and depth of the sexual harassment landscape, think again. Then read “Can Hollywood Change Its Ways?” by Dana Goodyear:

“Lyle’s job was to write down what the writers talked about. According to testimony she gave later, several of them talked about anal sex, oral sex, “fucking,” “pussies,” “schlongs,” what color hair they preferred women to have, what size breasts, and how one of the writers had missed his chance with one of the show’s stars. They referred to a lead actress as “having dried branches in her vagina”; one writer “frequently brought up his fantasy about an episode of the show in which one of the male characters enters the bathroom while a female character is showering and rapes her.” They doodled offensive anatomical drawings, vocalized pleasure while pretending to masturbate, altered a calendar in the writers’ room so that it read “pert tits” instead of “persistence” and “penis” instead of “happiness.”

“I can’t even say I was offended,” Lyle told me recently. ‘That’s how steeped in the culture I was. It was such a ubiquitous thing that it would’ve seemed off to have them not do that stuff.'”

Goodyear describing a female writer who became a target of one studio’s star executive:

“The woman wore librarian glasses and thrift-store clothes, and kept her hair short. It was her style, but also a signal of her seriousness, her not-gameness. It provoked him, even though his own girlfriend was “hot,” as he told her all the time. “Can you believe I want to fuck you and that’s my girlfriend?” he said.

Several times a week, she had to call him to talk about a script, a writer, the status of a project. Instead, he asked her what she looked like naked, and sulked when she declined to flirt. It was impossible, under these conditions, to do her work effectively, but she had to make nice—he was their guy.”

Kim Masters is an investigative journalist at the Hollywood Reporter. Goodyear turns to her for the bigger picture:

Hollywood, Masters says, has long operated like a men-only club. “This town is shot through with a culture of intimidation, boys having fun, going to Las Vegas, hiring hookers. They don’t want female colleagues anywhere near them. Women are not invited and not promoted. I remember Dawn Steel saying, ‘If only I could go whoring with these guys my life would be so much easier.’ ”

Still, Masters has been shocked to see how pervasive sexual harassment is, particularly at certain studios and agencies. “It’s not just one or two people,” she said. “It’s woven into the fucking fabric.” She went on, “What’s become clear to me is how deeply the culture of tolerating this behavior is rooted. You have a standoff—mutually assured destruction. There’s so much bad behavior, if you try to get rid of one guy then he says, ‘I will go after you. I know what you did.’ The behavior is entrenched at such high levels. You almost have to burn the companies down.”

Are we, as regular consumers of Hollywood products, complicit in helping create the “fucking fabric”?

Monday Assorted Links

1. The Only Way to Keep Your Resolutions.

“From 1985 to 2004, the percentage of people who reported having at least one friend on whom they could rely and with whom they could discuss important matters dropped to 57 percent from 80 percent. Today, more than half of all Americans report feeling lonely, especially in their professional lives. But study after study has shown that those who are seen as grateful, warm and justifiably confident draw others to them. Because these emotions automatically make us less selfish, they help ensure we can form relationships with people who will be there to support us when we need it.”

2. Why Self-Compassion Beats Self-Confidence.

“Admitting we have flaws just like anyone else keeps us connected to others.”

Brings to mind my favorite sentence of recent days, compliments of Jason Zweig, “If you think you’re the smartest person in the room, you must not have talked to everybody in the room yet.”

3. “Even as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I have a red line.”

“Saving the lives of law enforcement and the abused is a nonpartisan issue. . . We can take reasonable steps to prevent deadly acts by people who already have a violent record with firearms.”

4. How Rural Students Define the American Dream.

“I don’t feel like I’m living the American Dream, especially not here, in Southeast Arkansas, being a black female with a big mouth. You’re looked at funny when you want to be something more than just a wife one day and you live in Dumas. . . . If you have dreams beyond what other people feel like you should, you can’t live the American Dream in a place like this.”

What if we all adopt the same resolution for 2018, to support and cheer young, ambitious people.

The Overworked American

From True Wealth by Juliet Schor:

“Not surprisingly, over the last twenty years, a large number of U.S. employees report being overworked. A 2004 study found that 44 percent of respondents were often or very often overworked, overwhelmed at their job, or unable to step back and process what’s going on. A third reported being chronically overworked. These overworked employees had much higher stress levels, worse physical health, higher rates of depression, and reduced ability to take care of themselves than their less-pressured colleagues. Adverse effects of long hours, stress, and overwork have found in a number of studies, for a variety of physical, mental, and social health outcomes.”

Phenomenon like that inspired this blog’s name many moons ago. So, as the calendar year draws to a close, let’s step back and process what’s going on.

Why do so many U.S. workers subject themselves to the “adverse effects of long hours, stress, and overwork”? Is it because, as one of my friends insists, they have no choice, because their families have grown accustomed to uber-comfortable, expensive-to- maintain lifestyles? Is it as simple as mindless materialism or trying to keep pace with one’s neighbors conspicuous consumption? What if my friend went to his family and said, I want to invest less time at work and more strengthening our relationships and my physical, mental, and social health?

Overworked U.S. readers, what is keeping you from reducing your personal or family overhead and going half-time at work? Or if your employer doesn’t provide a half-time option, finding a different job that would require less of you so that you could prioritize, rather than continue neglecting, your physical, mental, and social health?

I don’t think my friend would admit it, but I’m convinced, despite his sporadic complaining about his work, he greatly prefers being at work to not. He does not have many interests outside of work. He’s good at what he does. Being good at what he does gives him an identity.

Maybe the central challenge for the overworked American isn’t figuring out how to down-size his or her lifestyle, it’s how to craft an identity from non-work interests and activities.

Postscript: Mea culpa. I should’ve woven this sentence in from Schor too. “Of course, for many earning less money is simply impossible, because their wages are too low.”

 

 

Wednesday Assorted Links

1. Don’t throw away your Christmas tree.

2. The ten longest bike/ped tunnels in the United States, with a link to the international top ten.

3. Why data-obsessed jocks need a data detox. In my late November Seattle marathon, the first time I took a look at my watch, it read 21.6 miles. Not bad, eh.

4. Can kindness be taught?

5. Neighbors fed up with traffic take matters into their own hands.

Millennial Madness

Humble Blog insiders know I do the bulk of my winter reading submerged in hot water at the tail end of the day.

That said, this horror story puts a major dent in my affection for “Mills”. Read it til’ the end. The last three pgraphs redeem the whole damn discussion.