Friday Assorted Links

1. The Best Way to Lampoon Trump: His Own Words.

2. Where Nellie Bowles moved after coronavirus.

“I invite readers to join me on this insane quarantine hobby.”

Too funny.

3. Where does Obama live?

4. Katie Lou Samuelson on mental health journey: ‘I realized I needed to ask for help.’ Lots of athletes, including Michael Phelps and Kevin Love, are saying ,”It’s okay to not be okay.”

You’re Boring Me

We could hold the 2020 Presidential election tomorrow because everyone of voting age made up their mind a long time ago.

Let’s do it. Then let’s take all the money that would’ve be spent in both campaigns over the next five months and use it to strengthen our anemic public health system. Or let’s give it to Dan, Dan, The Transportation Man to hire the newly unemployed to build new bridges, highways, and airports.

Our partisanship is so acute, everyone is an ideologue. Reported sightings of “moderates,” “undecideds,” “independents,” or “centrists” are a myth. There’s no color wheel, only deep red and blue.

I know this because I read your tweets, see your Facebook posts, and listen to you. And there’s one thing all of you have in common, you’re incredibly predictable. So much so, I know what you’re going to say before you say it. Because you’ve said it so many times before. I could write your tweets and Facebook posts and finish your arguments. You mistakenly think repeating yourself enough will cause others to “see the light” and suddenly adopt your way of thinking, voting, being.

Of course, a reader of the humble blog in recent months could say the same thing about me. That you know what I’m going to write before I write it. No subtly, no nuance. I am you.

When it comes to interpersonal communication, there’s nothing more counterproductive than the receiver thinking, “I know what you’re going to say before you say it.” Because instead of truly listening, they just wait, wait, wait for a slight pause to say what they wanted to all along.

Instead of trying to understand why others believe what they do, we just make the same assertions over and over as if we will wear down the other. But our approach is futile because our group affiliations are indestructible. Our team identities are set in stone.

What counts as political “dialogue” in these (dis)United States is a series of highly predictable mutual monologues on continuous loop. We’re stuck in the largest, most predictable, worst Zoom meet up of all time.

Time to “leave the meeting”.

What I Look (Most) For In A President

A cheerleader. Someone to help me feel better about myself.

Someone who calls me a warrior. I like imagining myself as a taller Jon Snow.

Someone who boosts my national pride by telling me my country has two or three times more tests than all the other countries combined.

Someone who has confidence that I can Transition to Greatness and Make America Great Again.

 

 

 

Paragraphs to Ponder

From Dexter Filkins’, “The Twilight of the Iranian Revolution”:

“Sara was nervous about meeting me in public. ‘It is really dangerous,’ she said. ‘Me sitting here talking to you might get me in deep trouble.’ Still, she was poised and determined, insisting that she be granted her rights. ‘If you want to know how we live, you have to watch ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’” she said. ‘This is the real Gilead. Margaret Atwood, she wrote our story before we were born.’

Last year, a twenty-nine-year-old woman named Sahar Khodayari was arrested while trying to sneak into a soccer match and charged with ‘appearing in public without a hijab.’ She set herself on fire and died. Afterward, the authorities finally conceded—a little. Under pressure from fifa, the international soccer authority, the Iranian government agreed to allow women to attend matches of the national team, as long as it was playing foreign opponents. Sara described the thrill of entering Tehran’s stadium for a match between the Iranian and Cambodian teams. ‘The soccer field is really green when you see it,’ she told me. Even though the women were relegated to a roped-off area behind a goal, ‘everyone was screaming and crying,’ she said. ‘It was the dream.’

I asked Sara why the authorities were concerned about something as trivial as a soccer match. ‘They know that if they open the doors to the stadium they should open other doors, too,” she said. “But the women of this country are not going to stop. I am absolutely prepared to go to prison.’ All her friends felt the same way about the authorities, she said. ‘The problem they have with us is that, if women get power, they’re going to take them down. That is the fact. They are going to overthrow the government.'”

What Filkins accomplished in six days is a marvel. A journalism tour de force.

The GOAT, But At What Cost?

The Last Dance, the ten episode Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls documentary, was a  welcomed oasis in the live sports desert some of us are wandering aimlessly in.

But even at eightish hours, it felt woefully incomplete in that it ignored the the costs of ultimate professional success on personal well-being.

The doc’s one overarching insight was that Jordan’s work ethic, drive, and competitiveness were unparalleled; as a result, none of his teammates ever measured up. And so he beat them down, to the point that they had no affection for him.

Here’s Noam Scheiber describing the dynamic in The New York Times:

“As Jordan himself said of his teammates in ‘The Last Dance,’: ‘I’m going to ridicule you until you get on the same level as me. And if you don’t get on the same level, then it’s going to be hell for you.’

More than 15 years after Jordan retired from professional basketball — for the third time — the mix of power and grace he displayed on the court remains a breathless thrill. But his leadership style, such as it was, feels outdated.

In the intervening years, a chorus of experts has warned employers, investors and board members against tolerating such cruel or demeaning behavior. Academics and government officials have used terms like ‘toxic worker’ or ‘superstar harasser’ in preaching vigilance against flawed if seemingly talented performers.

‘Every organization needs the ‘no-asshole rule’ because meanspirited people do massive damage to victims, bystanders who suffer the ripple effects, organizational performance, and themselves,’ Robert Sutton, a Stanford University management professor, wrote in a 2007 best seller named for that rule.

Watching the Michael Jordan depicted in ‘The Last Dance’ presents a paradox of sorts: The Bulls dominate the league. Yet Jordan is frequently meanspirited. He appears to make light of one teammate’s migraine and uses words like ‘dumbass,’ or more foul-mouthed epithets, to refer to others. He doles out postgame abuse as easily as high fives, complaining, ‘You couldn’t make a damn jump shot all night long.’ He seems to delight in embarrassing a teammate on camera.

One struggles to know whom to believe: the experts or your lying eyes.

According to the studies Mr. Sutton cites in his book, the problems with toxic workers range from the obvious to the subtle. Their belligerence creates costly distractions. Their treatment of co-workers increases turnover and absenteeism. When the demoralized colleagues do show up, they perform apathetically.”

Hey Scheiber, it’s very easy to decide who to believe, IF the question is professional success. Jordan took one of the worst franchises in the league and almost single-handedly turned it into a historic dynasty with six NBA championships. The ends justify the means. Professionally.

But personal success is an altogether different question, and I contend at least as important a one. The little bit of light the doc shined on Jordan’s personal life was telling. In particular, he didn’t have meaningful relationships with his teammates. They seemed largely a means to an end, championship rings, a historic legacy. Steve Kerr, who attributed it to his unrivaled fame, said Jordan lived separately from his teammates, but Kerr also acknowledged there was an “emotional” distance. The picture of Jordan sitting alone of the bus with headphones on spoke volumes.

The question that went unexamined is whether Jordan was too competitive for his own good OFF the court. Interpersonal success hinges on one’s ability to cooperate with others. Can someone as hyper-competitive as Jordan, who at one point admitted to “having a competition problem” throw a switch when the stadium lights go off?

We never hear from his first wife. Or his adult children in any meaningful way.

But we do hear from his teammates and competitors. Yesterday I listened to a podcast interview with Wright Thompson who has a piece out about Jordan’s family history. Talking about Jordan’s relationship with some of his security guards and staff, Thompson said he is intensely loyal, once you’re in his circle of friendship, you’re in it for life.

Tell that to Charles Barkley, who after criticizing Jordan for making some poor decisions as owner of the Charlotte Hornets, was deemed persona non grata.* Formerly friends, they haven’t spoken since and Barkley doesn’t expect to reconcile with Jordan.

Fast forward from the bus. The enduring image of present day MJ is sitting alone in his mansion with his drink and cigar in hand. He’s considered by most the greatest basketball player of all time.** The GOAT. His net worth is $2b. And yet, it’s unclear how rich he is when it comes to meaningful friendships.

Through the imperfect, incomplete lens of the doc, Jordan doesn’t appear to have any regrets, and of course, every one gets to decide for themselves how to balance their work and non-work lives. And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’s living large not just professionally, but personally. Maybe he’s surrounded by people who know him well and who love him unconditionally and who he knows and loves back.

In which case, nevermind.

*Barkley wasn’t exactly making news.

** The increasingly tiresome GOAT debate is whether LeBron is Jordan’s equal. Three-point hysteria aside, I might start my team with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Podcasts to Ponder Plus

1. NPR’s Hotel Corona.

“When the Dan Hotel in Jerusalem was leased by the government to house recovering COVID-19 patients, the new guests gave it the nickname, “Hotel Corona.” The nearly 200 patients inside already had the coronavirus; and so, unlike the outside world on strict lockdown, they could give each other high fives and hugs and hang out together.

What was even more surprising than what they could do was what they were doing. Patients from all walks of life – Israelis, Palestinians, religious, secular, groups that don’t normally mix – were getting along and having fun. They were eating together, sharing jokes, even doing Zumba. And because they were documenting themselves on social media, the whole country was tuning in to watch, like a real life reality TV show.”

34 minutes of joy and hope.

2. Malcolm Gladwell, Revisionist History, A Good Walk Spoiled.

“In the middle of Los Angeles — a city with some of the most expensive real estate in the world — there are a half a dozen exclusive golf courses, massive expanses dedicated to the pleasure of a privileged few. How do private country clubs afford the property tax on 300 acres of prime Beverly Hills real estate? Revisionist History brings in tax assessors, economists, and philosophers to probe the question of the weird obsession among the wealthy with the game of golf.”

In my junior and senior year of college I was a teacher’s assistant at the Brentwood Science Magnet School for the best third grade teacher ever, Marilyn Turner. I parked across from the school on the leafy border of the Brentwood Country Club next to the chain-linked fence Gladwell describes with great disgust. This excellent story hit home.

3. What Does Opportunity Look Like Where You Live? An interactive story, made even more interesting by putting in the name of the county you live in (if a U.S. citizen). The New York Times is unrivaled when it comes to interactive, data-rich, compelling story telling.

[Some readers have informed me they can’t access the New York Times articles I link to. You have to register at the New York Times to access them. Registration is free.]