Deliver what you promise when you write

I’ve gone on a number of (hopefully mild) rants about clickbait in writing: “Seven Reasons Your Wife Will Leave You!”, “Trump’s Bat-Baby!”, and so forth.

Today I read with great interest an article on CNN entitled “Why Trump wants you to be afraid of high speed trains.” It’s… an interesting article, but I came away wondering why Trump wanted me to be afraid of high speed trains.

It wasn’t actually poorly written as an article – surprising given CNN’s Trump derangement – but I kept waiting for the delivery. The main takeaway I got was that California’s failure to deliver high speed rail from Los Angeles to San Francisco was a political football for Trump.

The whole point of the article seemed to culminate in this line for me:

But that wasn’t the only time the President dunked on rail this week.

… oh no! The President “dunked on” rail multiple times this week! Given rail’s centrality in the “Green New Deal,” is this surprising?

I wanted to read why Trump actually wanted me to be afraid of rail. I think rail’s a great idea for the urban areas – I can think of five or six regions offhand that would benefit greatly from more civic railways (centered in a metropolis, like a subway system) and they’d benefit from being tied together by rail, too.

That’d play fantastically in the densely populated areas that voted heavily Democratic in the last Presidential election… and be pointless for the wide swaths of United States geography that voted for Trump.

Here’s a map, based on geography, from the University of Michigan:

The primary beneficiaries of a heightened (and important) rail system are some of those regions of blue: high concentrated population centers, interconnected.

All that red? Left in the cold. They still get to drive their own cars, consume their own gasoline, and provide food for all the blue areas.

So why, then, is Trump wanting us afraid of rail?

I can still think of a few reasons, some actually reasonable from his point of view.

One reason he might be want us afraid of rail is because it cements beneficiaries of rail against “his party.” (This makes little sense, realistically; the GOP is not “Trump’s party,” for one thing, and for another, those areas voted against him anyway. They weren’t his votes to preserve.)

Another reason is that he didn’t come up with the idea – except he apparently did have an infrastructure plan (as published on CNN, and cited in the article about why he’s afraid of rail!) – so the high speed rail he wants us to be afraid of was actually something he’s wanted to create. As with the prior point, this makes little sense, if any, to me.

In both of these cases Trump needs to act like he’s completely unaware of self – which isn’t a stretch, given his history – and the worst thing about all of this is that CNN expects us to be unaware, too.

As usual: stop it, CNN. You have editors; use them, please.

The Grammy Awards ignored Rock and Metal!, Gordon Ramsey, Larry Hogan on CNN

Things I’m thinking about:

The Grammies

An article in “Ultimate Classic Rock” was entitled “How the 2019 Grammy Awards Basically Ignored Rock and Metal“.

I’m… a little bit surprised, considering how rap and hip-hop (are those different?) have been ignored by the Grammy Awards ever since they became significant art forms, and rock – historically – has not especially been ignored. Sure, it’s been ridiculous sometimes – I’m not really a super-duper Metallica fan but Jethro Tull’s Crest of a Knave should never have gotten the nod over ..and Justice for All.

But the Grammies at least have had rock and metal winners, regardless of how insincere those wins might have been. So… okay, 2018’s awards were not rock- or metal- focused, let’s wait 30 years and then complain, okay?

I’m not even really a rap fan, but the lack of rap artists winning Grammy awards is ridiculous to me.

Gordon Ramsey

I’m a big fan of Gordon Ramsey (and cooking shows in general, really) despite not being able to cook worth a flip.

I like Ramsey even though I find his confrontational style unnecessary in a lot of cases – because by golly I think he knows what he’s doing and I think he means well

“A Dose of Reality” by Gov. Larry Hogan, Maryland

Governor Larry Hogan, of Maryland, posted a really nice article on CNN, well worth reading: “A dose of reality for Trump, Pelosi and Schumer.”

Worth reading not only by the principals named, but by everyone. if I had any advice for the American populace, it might very well include “… everyone just calm down. Truth will be known, and God doesn’t care if your side wins.”

Outrage on Social Media articles; State of the Union

Things I’m thinking about, after switching back to a list-based list of thoughts because Gutenberg headers annoy me:

  • Gutenberg headers annoy me. I’m thinking of switching back to my comfortable editing process where I’m not constantly griping about my editor. It’s a flow thing.
  • Good article from Medium, paywalled (so if you don’t have a Medium account that you pay for – it’s $5/month – you may have to open this in a private window): The Power of Not Retweeting. Both the article and the subject are recommended. It’s very easy to be outraged by something that lacks context, and the context might make all the difference in how you actually react – but by the time you get context, it’s too late, you’ve committed your reaction to history and told all your friends.
  • Another excellent Medium article, this time from the New York Times’ Medium account: This Is Your Brain Off Facebook. It’s a little ironic that the NYT published this, given how manipulative they are for their readers… but the king of manipulation is still CNN in my opinion. Those guys should be ashamed. Their editors should be doubly ashamed.
  • I did not watch the State of the Union, but having people tell me that I shouldn’t watch it as a form of protest annoyed me and tempted me to endure the farce anyway. I want our politicians to love country over party, and that’s… not what we have right now.
  • Why didn’t I want to watch the State of the Union? Lots of reasons:
    • It’s Trump. His mode of speaking annoys me greatly. His inability to stay on topic annoys me. His stupid self-propping annoys me. I used to think George W. Bush wasn’t a particularly effective speaker because he always seemed to be searching for words – and now I find that I’d far prefer a President who actually searched for the right words to one who blathers out whatever foolish crap crosses his brain at any given time.
    • Do I need another reason? Oh, yeah.
    • The endless politicization of everything, and the seeming need to turn everything into a protest. I’m all for protesting police brutality, but sometimes a football game (or a State of the Union address) is … just a football game, and the protests don’t really make a difference besides signalling.
    • Circling back: I don’t trust Trump… or his opponents. They both lie. They both choose truths based on what plays to their bases. What’s funny is that Trump told us what he’d do in his campaign… and he’s actually held to that pretty strongly, for better or for worse. That’s somewhat commendable. His political opponents are changing their long-held opinions on lots of things just so they can oppose Trump – I’ve said before that he should just start echoing their campaign positions just to force them to change stances.
    • This is a lot less relevant of a list than I thought it might be.
    • Every State of the Union I’ve ever watched has bored me! There, there’s my best reason right there.

Intersections with Politics

Things I’m thinking about:

I’m changing the format up today, because one of the entries is longer than usual.

Trump and the Patriots

It’s really annoying that people are mad at the New England Patriots because Trump likes them. I dislike the Patriots myself – I nearly cost myself a job after they lost to the Giants – but for people to root against them just because of Trump speaks to a lack of basic reasoning on their parts. I don’t like thinking that my fellow humans are idiots. They’re acting like idiots.

Redemption is Being Considered Impossible

Speaking of politics, this thing with the governor of Virginia is making me angry.

Look, I’m not here to excuse the governor’s… anything. I don’t know exactly what happened; I think he’s been accused of being in either blackface or a KKK hood in an unidentified picture from a yearbook in 1984, and as I understand it, first he confirmed it, then denied it, then apologized, or… something.

Being in blackface is dumb. Being in a KKK hood is even dumber. Let’s get that out of the way immediately; I can’t condone either one, and won’t, even as a joke. Jokes are supposed to be funny, not threatening or harmful. Whoever was in the picture really should be ashamed of it, period, whether it was meant seriously or in jest.

But here’s the thing: it was in 1984. Thirty-four years ago! When he was a student! He may have been an idiot then – but who is he now?

With all the outrage, is the assertion that he’s a racist today? That’s what it looks like and should be. “Resign because you did something dumb 34 years ago” is… an idiotic thing to say, no matter what party he’s a member of (Democrat, if you’re curious) or what party the ones crying for him to resign are members of (both Democrat and Republican).

The implication is something we’ve seen shadows of before: There is no such thing as redemption. We’ve seen it mostly from the Left, although the Right is starting to pick it up as a useful political tool.

But the Left had better watch itself, very carefully… because if there’s no such thing as redemption, the Democratic Party itself is damned.

This is the party that fought for slavery… and after slavery was made illegal, overthrew the Republican government in North Carolina to restore the old order.

If there’s no redemption possible, then what in the world would make the Democrats think they can ever remove that stain from their history? They’re saying people can’t change – in 34 years, Governor Northam can’t have changed how he views people with different skin colors, Brett Kavanaugh can’t have become a decent man since he was in high school, and so forth. (Apparently Bill Clinton’s the only human being for whom redemption is a thing?)

If people can’t change, then people who claim the label associated with slavery are endorsing slavery. That’s the Democratic party, folks. There’s no sea change possible, is what they’re saying… and they chose a label that is by their own declaration and action irrevocably associated with endorsing slavery.

We’ve hit the slippery slope. Pandora’s Box has been opened, as I feared… I just hope that the cancer it represents eats its way to the extremes and leaves the middle confused but otherwise unaffected… until the extremes are eliminated and the middle ground can take care of its own with love and reason again.

Impressions

Things I think about sometimes:

  • I love the idea of being someone who might be described like “He only cares about the things that matter,” except loving that particular idea means that I… care about things that don’t matter. Darn it.
  • My DJ name is rather obvious: “43rd to the Q.”
  • Finally got a new phone! I’m thrilled – now I expect to make and receive calls consistently. I’m happy enough with it that I actually ordered a specialty case from Carved. Of course, now I’ve got to learn to use it again…
  • The culture we’re engendering, where being called out is a threat from every vector, is incredibly dangerous. But people keep feeding the mindset, because calling people out is fun, satisfying, rewarding… it’s “speaking truth to power,” ignoring a basic truth: we’re ALL guilty when the metric isn’t fixed and history remembers everything. The wheel turns, folks. If you see something offensive, especially if it’s from “the past” – which might be as recent as a few years ago, given Internet time – you might want to scowl to yourself and say “… people!” privately, instead of howling publicly…. because the beast that howls is coming for you, too. It’s coming for you, too. My goodness, we have people apologizing for having been born now.

Big Time!, Politics and Empathy, Football

Things I am observing myself thinking about:

  • I can’t listen to Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” these days without thinking that it’s something like Donald Trump’s theme song.
  • I’ve hit a wall in exercising. Need more motivation. Need to push harder. (Oddly enough, my annoyance at having hit a wall was motivating.)
  • I think a lot of the United States’ political dysfunction is rooted in the ability of either side to say “I see your point.” What we need is both sides to be able to say that – and for them to attempt to say it, and for them to say it willingly.
  • It’s not just politics – in programming forums you see a lot of “I know more than you, therefore you’re an idiot” responses. Someone may know more than someone else, but that kind of response is unnecessary, regardless of truth – and the conclusion of idiocy is stupid.
  • I have seen a ton of interceptions made over the last few years where a fairly easily catchable ball bounces off of the receiver’s hands and into a defender’s arms. I think it’s time we blame this on the receiver instead of the QB; the QB threw the ball well!
  • Yes, I Could Care Less” is a fascinating read for one like me. There’s a balance between being correct and being readable, especially in context.
  • I’m still unimpressed by WordPress’ Gutenberg editor.

Jalen Hurts, Clemson, Politics, Teamwork

Things I am thinking about having thought about:

  • I feel bad for Jalen Hurts. Swapped out for Tua Tagovailoa, despite having been the guy for Alabama last year… and this year, gets put in on Alabama’s last drive for mop-up duty, when the game’s already lost and there’s no flexibility left to exploit. “Go in and lose us this game, Jalen!” — despite Hurts being a consummate team player. Never mind that I was thrilled that Alabama got crushed – I still feel bad for Hurts, who’s been the kind of teammate everyone wishes they had.
  • Speaking of, congrats to Clemson! I don’t like your team, because I’m a Seminole fan through and through, but you dominated. Good job. Now I hope you lose to FSU next year. And every year.
  • Glances looks neat.
  • Few things are as comfortable as seeing a co-author respond to a topic with “eek!” … oh wait, I meant uncomfortable.
  • I was highly displeased with the resolution of the Dr. Pepper National Championship trophy mystery. “Are you wearing a wire?” is burned into my ears now – hilariously phrased – but the resolution was dumb and manipulative. I get enough of that from politicians.
  • Speaking of manipulative politicians: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is playing games like a master. “Republicans are attacking me on social media!” with respect to her dancing… meanwhile, it’s one tweet from one anonymous account. Yes, it’s a stupid thing to complain about (the tweeter’s problem!), but her reaction is… overblown, too. It sure plays into her base, though!

Justice?, cats, resolutions, 2019

Things I’ve learned recently:

  • It’s tempting to write expressions of moral outrage, like “Does anybody remember justice?”, but then you remember that yes, most people do, but they’d rather reach for revenge or outrage instead. Justice takes too long. It’s also too easy for justice to accept that the wrongdoer might not be so wrong after all, so… yeah. Outrage! Revenge! So much easier!
  • Things I’d like to do more of in the coming year:
    • Exercise. In particular, get more core working better again – my back is a struggle for me.
    • Practice music, with dedication, rather than noodling a lot. I’d hope writing more music would fall under this, too.
    • Write more, and with more discipline.
    • Think of more resolutions worth implementing within reason.
    • Figure out this stupid Gutenberg editor, which seems fundamentally limiting for some reason.
  • I think “It’s no better to be safe than sorry,” a lyric from a-ha’s “Take On Me,” is an excellent indicator of political leanings.
  • Cats like to type. They type gibberish, though.
  • Happy New Year, everybody. May this year find you healthy, happy, productive, and manifest.

Hope, 2018

One of the things I’m most afraid of, watching all the screeching and shrieking over petty politics, along with true horror, is that I’ll forget that redemption is possible.

We look at all the people committing violent acts over political differences… and compare them to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. And we see them as having the same value. We would rather advocate violent resistance to our political opponents – not our political enemies, but those fools who have the audacity to simply not be members of whatever Party we prefer – than slow down, and think, and remember that we’re all human, we all bleed, we all die the same way and with the same horror and fear.

I recently rerecorded “Hope,” a song I wrote a long time ago – probably during Bill Clinton’s presidency – and I simply cannot help but hear my own words in my head:

When the supplicants of power
Start to sing a new song
They've got the words right
But the tune is all wrong

They've got all the phrases
They've got what it takes
They look like the lamb
With the heart of the snake

   I'm tired of hoping past the edge of hope
   For a world that needs no redemption
   Tired of pushing more than I can
   For the clean edge of justice
   Tired of closing my eyes, closing my heart
   Not seeing calamity before me
   Tired of trying to be innocent
   And so I hate

We look around and see destruction
Caused within and caused without
We might survive distortion
But truth is killed by doubt

Our lives are only messages
Written large upon our souls
What we rescind, receive, acknowledge
Is what the future is told

Nobody asked, but… why I wouldn’t run for public office

It’s not like anyone’s ever asked me to run for office, but if they did, I wouldn’t. There’s no way it’d be a productive use of my time. I wouldn’t win. I couldn’t win, actually.

I wouldn’t be able to convince myself to go along with the scummy campaigning mechanisms, putting my opponents in stupid positions (one state candidate portrayed her opponents as riding a pig, being “high on the hog,” for example). I just… I couldn’t see myself manufacturing claims against my opponents for political gain.

I mean, seriously: what if I had to work with that person in the future? If I could bring myself to ridicule them personally, how in the world would I ever be able to look them in the eye and work with them, ever?

And, of course, if I couldn’t lie about my opponents in order to win, well, I’m pretty sure they’d not share my objections; they’d surely malign me. And my answer would be, at best, “no, that’s false” – not some kind of overresponse that today’s politics seem to expect and demand.

It’s possible, of course, that I’d be posed against someone actually awful: a Keith Ellison (who allegedly beat the crap out of his girlfriend, only to have the case dismissed before indictment because her physical evidence was found wanting), or a Donald Trump, or a Roy Moore.

I’d still lose… because if such a person was elected in the first place, my commitment to a marketplace of ideas and progress wouldn’t be compelling. The people who woud vote for a Donald Trump would have no reason to vote for me: I’m not funny enough, I’m not caustic in the right ways, I don’t shrug at my own foibles and attack others for their flaws, I don’t attack people who oppose me. The people who could elect a Roy Moore or a Keith Ellison would find nothing of value in me.

Fun thought experiment, though.