Quotes of the Week

Steve Kerr on being singled out by the President of the (dis)United States:

“I realize the horse was out of the barn a long time on this. But for me personally, this was my experience with, wow, has the office sunken low. My hope is that we can find a mature unifier from either party to sit in that chair and try to restore some dignity to the Oval Office again, and I think it will happen.”

Randi Mayem Singer on Twitter where she has changed her name to Randi Great and Unmatched Wisdom Singer:

“BREAKING: The president is refusing to be impeached on grounds that if he were impeached, then he would be impeached.”

Ruth Whippman in a New York Times essay, “Enough Leaning In. Let’s Tell Men to Lean Out.”

“So perhaps instead of nagging women to scramble to meet the male standard, we should instead be training men and boys to aspire to women’s cultural norms, and selling those norms to men as both default and desirable. To be more deferential. To reflect and listen and apologize where an apology is due (and if unsure, to err on the side of a superfluous sorry than an absent one). To aim for modesty and humility and cooperation rather than blowhard arrogance.”

The backlash in the comments from Whippman’s male readers speaks volumes about the validity and importance of her insight.

Who Will Hold Weinstein’s Lawyers To Account?

Harvey Weinstein tried to rape Rowena Chiu, a Miramax assistant, twenty one years ago after evaluating scripts with her in a Venice hotel. Chiu, who has a degree from Oxford in English Literature can write, so she tells a lucid and harrowing story that details how Weinstein, and others like him if we extrapolate, wreak havoc on their victims’ lives.

Props to you for getting this far in the post.

But will you take the 7-8 minutes required to read her story or is it too unpleasant a topic for a fall weekend? Are you giving in to a MeToo malaise? I hope not, women who have suffered sexual abuse deserve much better. And given the intense silencing of victims that Chiu details, we’re really just getting started understanding the breadth and depth of the problem.

Chiu reflects:

“I’ve had many years to ruminate on how I fell into Harvey’s trap, and the best way to understand it is through the four power dynamics of gender, race, seniority and wealth.”

Power over. Power over. Power over. Power over.

I shudder to think Weinstein may leverage his immense wealth to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison. In the U.S. we talk sporadically about growing inequality, but not nearly enough about how that growing inequality creates two distinct judicial systems.

Granted, our legal system depends upon everyone receiving a robust defense when charged with a crime, but what about before then, how is it okay for lawyers to enable monsters to continue committing crimes indiscriminately by strong arming victims into non-disclosure agreements? Why can’t we go after those attorneys and get them disbarred for moral turpitude? It’s not enough to ask “How do they sleep at night?”

What Podcasts Should I Listen To?

In a shameless effort to appear a wee bit younger and hipper, I’ve finally started listening to podcasts. Sometimes during the commute, but primarily when I run and cycle with me, myself, and I.

Here are ones I’m enjoying:

Against The Rules by Michael Lewis. About the decline of “referees in American life”. Maybe things really are at least semi-rigged.

The Happiness Lab by Laurie Santos. Yale prof who created a Positive Psychology class that went viral both on campus and later on-line. Since reading this, I’m a positive psychology skeptic, but so far my bullshit alarm has not sounded. Episode 2, “The Unhappy Millionaire” is particularly interesting.

Bundyville by Leah Sottile. Everything you wanted to know about Cliven Bundy and his anti-Government hangers on, but were afraid to ask. Thorough and thought provoking.

The Retirement Answer Man by Roger Whitney. Granted, this one won’t help me appear any younger/hipper, but great case studies of ordinary people trying to save and invest enough to stop working.

Bogleheads on Investing Podcast by Rick Ferri. Interviews with smart financial analysts who adhere to Jack Bogle’s philosophy of investing. Bogle is the recently deceased founder of The Vanguard Group, an investment management group.

Conversation with Tyler by Tyler Cowen. One intellectual talking to others about everything under the sun. Recent guests included Samantha Power and Masha Gessen. Next up, Salmon Rushdie.

The Nation, Start Making Sense. Insightful lefty analysis of current events. My conservative friends will say “insightful lefty” is an oxymoron, but I will not take their bait. :)

What else dear reader should I be listening to on my now pitch black, drizzly morning runs? Think politics, social sciences, personal finance, sports, comedy.

 

 

 

 

Netflix’s “Unbelievable”

Rumors of Netflix’s possible demise are premature. This eight episode mini-series about a serial rapist is truly outstanding. I wasn’t sure I was up for it and almost bailed after the very dark first thirty minutes, but indoor cycling season has started, and I’m glad I stuck with it.

Merritt Weaver and Toni Collette are a dynamic duo. Weaver’s steely minded, workaholic detective is especially impressive.

More important than any particular person’s contribution is the powerful illustration of how victims of sexual abuse can easily be traumatized a second time by uncaring, calloused, hyper-skeptical police.

The miniseries excels at what I try to get my first year writers to do, tell a subtle, nuanced, and complex story particularly in how it portrays men. Given the topic, it would’ve been easy to paint the majority of men in the story with a broad, decidedly negative brush.

But to their credit, the writers resisted that impulse. Instead, the rapist’s evil is detailed in the larger context of several caring and likable men including the female detectives’ male partners, along with good guy FBI agents, police, an intern, and others.

Also, the pacing is perfect and the whole tragic story, which sadly is based on a true story, seems imminently believable. Almost like you’re watching a documentary.

Unbelievable is more proof that this is the Golden Age of television. Tonight, the eighth and final episode. Hoping against hope for some semblance of justice for the victims.

How Not To Apologize

Another master class, this time from Shane Gillis.

From today’s New York Times—Shane Gillis Dropped From ‘S.N.L.’ Cast Among Criticism For Racist Slurs. Shortest S.N.L. career ever.

After being caught uttering racist shit on tape and film Gillis apologized by saying, “I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said.”

I’m guessing he could’ve salvaged the biggest break in his life had he shown genuine remorse, by you know, mentioning specific things he said that were hateful and the specific people most effected. But obviously, he felt so little remorse, he couldn’t fake it.

His non-apology apology translates this way, “Screw any and all of you who are too sensitive for your own good.” A sentiment that always works wonders when reconciling with others.

National Greatness Reconsidered

Team USA is doing poorly in the World Cup of Basketball which is also serving as a 2020 Olympic qualifier. Even though several top NBA players chose not to play on Team USA, many US fans still assumed the team would prevail. Now they are disappointed.

The new international basketball reality, the world has closed the considerable gap the US historically had in basketball dominance, makes me wonder why the men’s US National Soccer Team is still a third or fourth tier program?

Much more importantly, why do we let our country’s athletic performances influence what we think about ourselves? At all.

It’s odd isn’t it, the way we count Olympic medals and feel a little better about ourselves, at least temporarily, when our countrymen/women excel in international competition.

Like most places, in the US we watch our teams closely and cheer them passionately, while we simultaneously incarcerate more people, childhood poverty and homelessness increases, gun violence persists, environmental regulations are undone, and loneliness and mental health challenges mount.

If we have to compete, why don’t we change the parameters? How about a World Cup of Prison Reform. The country that reduces their prison population and recidivism the most wins. The World Cup of Childhood Poverty and Homelessness. The country that moves the largest percentage of children out of poverty and reduces their homelessness population the most wins. The World Cup of Public Safety. The World Cup of Environmental Protection. The World Cup of Social Infrastructure.

Granted, those competitions won’t translate to television and will take a lot longer, but unlike the athletic ones, the outcomes will improve the long-term quality of our lives.

Weekend Assorted Links

1. The Quick Therapy That Actually Works. Referred to as “microtherapy”.

“Effective solutions are crucial because Americans—stressed out, lonely, and ghosted by Tinder dates—are in desperate need of someone to talk to. The data suggest that most of the Americans who have a mental illness aren’t receiving treatment. About 30 percent of psychotherapists don’t take insurance. Quick interventions offer ‘something, when the alternative is nothing.'”

Research findings are hopeful, but skepticism is understandable.

“Lynn Bufka, a psychologist with the American Psychological Association, says that these types of brief interventions could be just a first step toward the treatment of various mental-health woes. They might be enough for some people, while others go on to get more intensive therapy. But. . . for more severe issues, such as bipolar disorder and major depression, a quick dose of therapy is unlikely to be enough. ‘These kinds of interventions are probably more likely to be beneficial before full-blown symptoms or disorders have developed.'”

2. An Echo Dot in Every Dorm Room.

“If students can’t or don’t want to spend money on their own smart speaker, Saint Louis University’s Echo Dots offer a way to bring voice assistants into the dorm without any added cost to the student, since the project went through the capital funding process and wasn’t funded by tuition increases.”

I’m calling bullshit on this. There is an opportunity cost. Money that is being directed to Echo Dots is money not being spent on something else like physical plant maintenance and that money for physical plant maintenance will come from students. I’m also very wary of the wholesale adoption of any technology. Maybe my thinking will change, but right now, if I were an SLU student, I would not want an Echo Dot.

3. The worrying future of Greece’s most Instagrammable island.

A Greek-American who has lived in Santorini for 12 years laments:

“‘People treat churches like selfie studios. There’s one in front of my house and people used to ring the bell every three minutes or climb up on the roof for their fake wedding shoots. I’d get woken up at 6am by people traipsing across my terrace.” His frustration at the crowds has led him to start hanging ‘respect’ signs around Oia that state ‘it’s your holiday… but it’s our home’.”

As if that’s not enough.

“The constant building and flood of tourists create tons of rubbish, which is all dumped illegally. Santorini still has no proper waste-management facilities, so all the empty water bottles, coffee cups and restaurant leftovers go into a huge dump which doesn’t meet EUregulations. Leakage is free to infect the surrounding earth, water and air.”

Alexa, find me someplace free of deranged photographers.

4. The Mistrust of Opposite-Sex Friendships.

The headline is misleading since the focus is on opposite-sex best friends.

This makes sense to me:

“Alexandra Solomon, an assistant psychology professor at Northwestern University and the instructor of the university’s Marriage 101 course. . . wonders whether the correlation between negative attitudes toward opposite-sex friendships and negative or violent expressions of jealousy could be due to participants’ personal beliefs about gender roles.

It speaks to a bit of a rigid, dichotomous way of thinking—I suspect there’s a layer in there about how much [the subjects] endorse traditional gender roles. . . . A woman with more traditional ideas about gender might feel threatened by her boyfriend’s female best friend because. . . ‘she may have this idea that I ought to be your one and only, and I ought to be able to meet all your needsIf you love me, then you’ll only turn to me.‘ A man with similarly rigid or traditional ideas about gender roles, she added, might feel territorial or possessive, as though his female partner belongs to him and only him.”

The more important, relevant question is about the potential for opposite-sex friendship more generally. I’ve long been intrigued by the tendency of friends to congregate in same sex circles at social gatherings. Even opposite-sex friendships of multiple decades seem relatively superficial. Opposite-sex friends seem to bump up against an invisible wall as if friendship is a zero-sum game. It’s that wall that intrigues me the most. More specifically, why the wall?

5. Waze Hijacked L.A. in the Name of Convenience. Can Anyone Put the Genie Back in the Bottle?

This was a hard read. Seemingly, my favorite app has no regard for the common good.

6. Elizabeth Warren Is Attracting More Supporters and More Media Attention.

An easy read. :)