I Got Into A Fight

A week ago and lost bigly. The saddest part, it was the fourth time I went into our green space to trim bushes and weed underneath them ignorant of the poison oak lying in wait. For 48 hours I was fine, and then, not so much. I will spare you the pictures which I should sell to a medical textbook publisher.

The poison oak plague is just one of repeated health challenges I’ve been struggling with this spring. Challenges that have left me with less energy to read, think, and write.

I’ve been reminded that control is elusive and life is fragile. Eating well, running, swimming, and cycling doesn’t guarantee anything.

If I come out the other side more appreciative of my health and whatever time I have left, my travails will have been worth it.

The Genius Of Kenny Mayne

Bummer start to the day.

Reading the responses on Twitter was illuminating. Who knew so many other people appreciate Mayne’s unrivaled, irreverent sense of humor as much as me.  

Here’s one example among thousands.

At 1:27 Mayne delivers the best sports comedy line of all time, “The engraver uses ‘Skin So Soft’ to remove the name.”

Rachel Nichols on Mayne:

So many people use sarcasm as a crutch to be mean. @Kenny_Mayne‘s secret sauce is sarcasm as a weapon for compassion, brilliant observations mixed with a sense of wonder & appreciation for the good.”

Damn the ESPN bean counters.

What My Critics Get Wrong

I refer to this as the “humble blog” because of the small readership. I routinely get proposals from search engine optimizers (presumably from India) who promise an increase in readership as a result of their coding prowess. But their pitches are impersonal and expensive, so you remain a part of a highly selective group of readers. 

Given that reality, I can’t afford to alienate any loyal readers, but that’s exactly what I did when I flippantly wrote that I wouldn’t be voting for Biden at age 82 in 2024. Check that, in hindsight, it wasn’t flippant, it was a semi-thought out point of view which of course anyone can disagree.

But one friend didn’t just disagree, he declared he was done with the humble blog. Who knew I was committing an unforgivable sin. Another very good friend somehow colluded with the first from across the country to ask if I’d vote for an assortment of especially revolting right-wing nut jobs if they ran against The Octogenarian.   

Since the infamous post first appeared, The Former Reader sent me a few text messages about “probably being too old” for this or that. For the record, he is 63 years young. Finally, a light bulb went off, he took it personally. Somehow, me not wanting an 86 year old President was saying his own expiration date was fast approaching. I wonder if the same is true for his Fellow Critic, who is two years the President’s junior.

That most certainly was not my intent. I would vote for both of my friends for President without hesitation. Here’s hoping someone shares that sentiment with The Former Reader.

The Former Reader’s and Fellow Critic’s doomsday electoral hypotheticals distract from the key question. Why the hell should any national political party have to settle for someone so elderly for one of the most difficult and important jobs in the world? Is there no man or woman as well qualified in their 40’s? What about their 50’s? 60’s? 70’s? An 82-86 year old Biden might do okay, and Fred Couples might win the Masters, but the odds are a lot better that Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, or Dustin Johnson is sporting the green jacket Sunday night. I probably won’t be voting for Biden in 2024, because I’ll be playing the odds.  

I do not expect this elaboration to have any salutary effect on my critics, known and unknown. In fact, I’ve probably just stepped into it a little deeper. Fellow Critic despises golf, so he’ll probably cancel me too. 

If a blog post falls in the forest, does anyone hear it?  

  

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.