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.

Wednesday Required Reading

1. You try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Deep down, there’s goodness. Then this. Criminals are selling fake Covid test results as they look to profit from travel restrictions.

2. What the next generation of editors need to tell their political reporters. A complete rethinking of journalism.

3. Aswath Damodaran makes sense of GameStop.

“The difference, I think, between our views is that many of you seem to believe that hedge funds (and other Wall Streeters) have been winning the investment sweepstakes, at your expense, and I believe that they are much too incompetent to do so. In my view, many hedge funds are run by people who bring little to the investment table, other than bluster, and charge their investors obscene amounts as fees, while delivering sub-standard results, and it is the fees that make hedge fund managers rich, not their performance.”

4. Betraying Your Church—And Your Party. How Representative Adam Kinzinger, an evangelical Republican, decided to vote for impeachment—and start calling out his church. My headline would’ve been, “Don’t Lump All Republicans Together Y’all”. His nickname has to be “Zinger”.

What’s Next?

The humble blog, at nine years old, is a true outlier. Most bloggers sprint from the gun only to hit the wall quite quickly and bag their plans of blogosphere glory altogether.

So, props to me for the longevity. Correction, props to you for inspiring me to keep on keepin’ on. Whether you “like” a post, leave a comment, tell me about a post that made you think, or just keep silently returning, it’s all motivating.

I get inquiries from tech firms all the time that say they could help me grow the humble blog through their search engine optimization (SEO) expertise. I haven’t hired any of them because I’m an outlier in another way, I’ve never cared about monetizing the blog. Even to the point where I actually pay for it to remain ad free.

Being content with a small, internationally inclined readership doesn’t mean I don’t think about mixing things up on occasion. I suppose, that could mean enlisting the services of an SEO team, although I have no idea how to evaluate their relative merits. It could mean changing formats too. I could vlog (video blog); however, many people say I have the perfect face for radio, which brings us to the coolest kid on the “personal journalism/communication” block—podcasting.

When I think about podcasting, which I really learned to appreciate in 2020, I assume we’re just approaching or just past “Peak Podcasting”. There’s no danger in it fading away, but there’s definitely going to be a shakeout with 15% of the best ones getting 85% of the audience. And I have no illusions about what it would take to be in that 15%, largely a dedicated team outworking the 85%.

I suppose though, I could have a humble podcast, since I wouldn’t be depending upon it to feed my family. 

I’ve been contemplating what’s next when it comes to personal journalism/communication. Many would say the future is Substack. Substack is definitely a part of what’s next, but I anticipate some unknown format evolving to compliment subscription-based blogging, vlogging, and podcasting.

In the last twenty years, a significant swath of phone-less Sub-Saharan Africans skipped landline telephones in favor of inexpensive, cellular ones. Similarly, I could leapfrog podcasting and make a real go of the next format if I had a better, more concrete feel, for the future.

Is your crystal ball any clearer than mine? What do you think is around the corner? Five years from now, how might you “consume” news, hear stories about other people and places, and educate yourself about things you care about?

What is lurking on the personal journalism/communication horizon? Put differently, what should PressingPause become?

A One Act Play

The setting: Jeff Bezos’s and MacKenzie Scott’s Medina, WA kitchen. After working together to make Kraft macaroni and cheese with hot dogs, they serve themselves, grab two cans of Mountain Dew, and sit down at their formica dinner table. It’s one of their last dinners together as a married couple. A few days following this meal, they decide to pull the plug on their marriage. 

Jeff: Mac and cheese with dogs never gets old. [laughs uncontrollably] 

MacKenzie: No, it doesn’t. [inner voice. . . but your laugh has sure started to] 

Jeff: What did you do today?

MacKenzie: I spent most of it journaling. Which helped me realize I don’t want to help you turn Amazon into the world’s retail store anymore. I think $182 billion is enough money. I want to make the world a better place through writing and giving my share of our money away.

[All the while, Jeff texts Lauren Sanchez under the table.]

MacKenzie: [Softly, sadly, and with a deep sense of resignation.] Did you hear me?

Jeff: Yes, you said you want to help me make Amazon into the world’s retail store. 

[MacKenzie stares at Jeff in silence]

Jeff: [Head in his lap.] Can you pass the applesauce? 

 

“I Often Look Down On Myself”

Despite all the distancing, I’ve had many more meaningful interactions with my students this semester than I anticipated. Interactions that have left me feeling sublimely aligned with my life purpose.

I regularly challenge students to focus more on learning processes than outcomes. More specifically, I advise them not to focus on grades too intensely.  I’m not naive as to why so many of them do exactly that—scholarship requirements, good driving discounts, graduate school applications, and parents’ expectations for starters.

And yet, deep down they know their intense focus on grades often compromises their learning. Many still can’t help themselves.

“Why, do you place so much importance on your grades?” I gently probed with one of my first year writers last week during a one-on-one conference. I don’t remember what she said, but I’ll never forget her follow up e-mail.

“You asked me when we last met why I focus so much on my grades. I gave you the first answer to come to mind. I have put a lot of thought into it. I often look down on myself. I have a hard time telling myself, that I’m smart or interesting or pretty. I have a hard time accepting it when others say it’s true. Grades are the way, I can look at myself and say, ‘here in front of you is proof that you are smart, or at least smart enough, and that you can succeed.’ That’s all. Thank you for everything professor.”

I’m the one who should be thanking her for the single most honest, heartfelt explanation for grade anxiety I’ve ever heard.

My Plan To Jump The ‘Rona Vaccine Line

What’s the most effective and humane way to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine given the limited supply? Apparently, the plan is to prioritize the “most vulnerable”. Therefore, beginning immediately, I am going to begin talking about my feelings in a much more genuine and authentic manner than ever before.

Laugh To Keep From Crying

Alternative title, “The Truth is Stranger Than Fiction”.

Unless you’re a MAGA True Believer, it’s impossible to read this Politico piece, “‘Every Day Was Like a “Veep” Episode’: The Veepiest Moments of the Trump Era” without at least smiling if not laughing out loud.

Nice framing:

“When House of Cards debuted on Netflix in 2013, Americans were shocked and a little thrilled to imagine that its sharp, murderous plotlines might reflect the real Washington—a sinister place where calculating, ruthlessly effective pols achieved their dreams by shoving reporters in front of Metro cars. But the people who actually work in D.C. were quick to log a correction: The day-to-day experience of politics in the nation’s capital is really much more like HBO’s Veep—a constant near-train wreck of bumbling, improvisation and profanity.

Presidents have generally succeeded in keeping that aspect of the job well-hidden, managing to project an image of executive competence no matter how absurd the backstage dynamics.

And then came Donald Trump.”

The anecdotes are especially funny, if like me, you savored every episode of HBO’s Veep staring Julia  Louis-Dreyfus. Who I’ve had a thing for ever since Seinfeld. Please don’t tell the Good Wife. 

Good Luck With That

Mr. President, Sir, It’s Time to Do What’s Best for the Country by Resigning and Never Speaking Again.

Great last paragraph:

“Detractors may point out that we have called on Donald Trump to resign four times this year already and that it won’t work because he doesn’t read Slate and is not a fan of the ‘ideas journalism’ sector in general. Those detractors are traitors to the United States and President Pence should arrest them.”