1. Pasadena, CA. 12.16.12.

    Sunday Night in America

    It had been three days since the shooting. A massacre of twenty. Our most precious twenty. Precious in the way we all understand it - little plots of joy and promise, life beaming from their round little eyes and toothfairy smiles. It had been three days and life had already moved on.

    A buddy and I were sitting behind a platter of chips and salsa, a diet coke and two beers on the table. We were there to watch the Niners play the Patriots and eat wings. This was America. Every table brimming with chicken bones and beer, fat guys in Brady jerseys and plumpy girls slurring between sips. The place was loud and crowded for a regular season game. So too was Foxboro, the field still hazy on TV from the pregame fireworks. I was in my element: propped up on a tall chair surrounded by a sea of tables too small for grown men, each one littered with cardboard coasters and table tents offering Double-Fudge Chocolate Cake to people who’ve clearly never said no to chocolate or cake or double-fudge anything.

    And then the President appeared. First on two screens, then on twenty. The two big screens went to the President last. I slowly bit into a tortilla chip. The place went quiet as he began: “Scripture tells us, ‘do not lose heart…’” There was no movement. There was silence, but one without reverence or reflection. Like the kind a mother receives from a scolded child - a half hearted show of compliance, almost a taunt, really. As the President spoke, I began to feel the twinge of pain in my chest again. The devastation of even one child lost was unimaginable - much less twenty. I welled up and felt a sigh leave my lungs.

    Not more than five minutes into his remarks, one of the big screens switched back to the game. Time’s up, POTUS. A football game on mute on one side, a somber Obama on the other. It was a gradual change in mood and an awkward one. The President’s speech a perverse soundtrack for the first quarter of Niners-Pats. A handful of booths began to murmur. Hot sauce painted hands raised mugs. Waitresses resumed their duties in sync. Eventually, half the place found its legs again. And with game still on mute it let out an unadulterated pigskin-loving, guacamole-sucking roar after every big play - very much to the disapproval of those still tuned in to the memorial service. 

    This was Sunday Night in America. Tragedy and escape. Real world grief and gridiron delight. Had we moved on or just repressed our hurt? Is football a disgrace in the wake of national heartache or a symbol of our best and truest qualities? I didn’t know. I still don’t.

    We live on a tattered spectrum of empathy and impulse. Where hard-earned wisdom goes head-to-head with deliberate ignorance. And the beauty of our country is that a real and honest slice of her lives in every bar, stadium, school, and home on any given night. Our diversity of spirit, values, and culture present in every microcosmic bubble. I wish there was a right or wrong way to spend that Sunday night, but there wasn’t. In hindsight, there still isn’t. It’s gray matter and it damned well might be the definition of freedom - or at least our brand of it. That and every Sunday night in America we’re free to choose who, what, and where we are. We might fight and fiddle over who’s right or wrong, but that’s exactly the point isn’t it? We’re a country that strives to lift up and live out ideals, but find ourselves in limbo more often than not. And though I’m left bewildered that life can run the gamut from unspeakable tragedy to happy hour wings in a matter of hours, it is who we are. Free to deal with life the way we think or feel we should deal with life. So, three days after a national tragedy, when a mourning president and a football game are shown on split screens in front of us we get to lean the way we wish. It’s gray matter. And in no way is that a judgment. If anything, it’s an acceptance.

     


  2. The One Thing I Hate More Than Politics: People Screaming About Politics

    Political season is about to be in full swing here and I’d like to offer a polite suggestion to everyone I know: please shut the fuck up.

    No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, please shut the fuck up.

    Let’s get this out of the way first: nothing is going to ‘destroy America.’ Do you know why? Because America is not some dainty porcelain candy bowl that will shatter and explode when some other fuckwad is in office. America is a behemoth of a country that can handle its shit. And while we’re at it, you can’t ‘take the country back’ because that doesn’t really mean anything. And there’s no such things as a ‘Real American’ [besides Hulk Hogan], so stop proclaiming to be one because you read Mitt Romney’s wikipedia page once.

    Politics is a dirty game and a necessary evil. We all accept this, yet still argue in terms of ideals and absolute values. Please stop. Like anything else in life, government is inclined to swings and stumbles and changes over time. Regardless of who takes office next January, you’re probably gonna be just fine. Calm down. We have these traits called human decency and reason that have gotten us through several millennia now; we’ll be ok.

    I’m not saying government is unimportant, I’m just asking you to shut the fuck up about it. Nobody changes their mind because of your facebook post. And unless your name was once stenciled on the door of a government building, you truly have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about. You know as much about running a country as you do about banging a porn star; obsessively jacking off while thinking about it doesn’t make you an expert in either.

    There is a time and a place for debate and it usually happens in October, in Primetime, on national television. It typically involves two candidates running for president and a moderator. You were not invited to participate in this event. Your tweets don’t count. In fact, nothing you say ever counts. Ever.

    The only thing you could possibly do that resembles anything even remotely relevant is to vote. Go check your box. That’s all you get. Before and after that is an invitation to shut the fuck up land. Go there. Make yourself at home. Enjoy the fresh mountain air and cloudless skies. Watch football. Eat wings. Find peace in the fact that nobody gives a shit why you’re a republican or a democrat or even more insufferably, neither. And if you catch a friend or foe spewing worthless political noise in the next 2 months, invite him to shut the fuck up land too. Just be polite about it.

     

  3. This is Steve Jobs yesterday presenting at a City Council meeting in Cupertino, CA. You know in Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby says, “Here’s the deal: I’m the best there is. Plain and simple. I wake up in the morning and I piss excellence”? Steve Jobs actually lives this way. He bends and twists the universe to fit his will and his only adversary is a world brimming with mediocrity. 

    There is integrity of Steve Jobs in everything Steve Jobs does here: the clothes, the unassuming entrance, the ease with which he speaks. But the real secret to his presence is in the pauses. Those perfectly timed moments of silence where it seems as though he has a thought which is so deep and profound and beautiful that he needs to figure out a way to dumb it down for the city council members of Cupertino and me. Steve-Synthesis. And in these pauses we wait with bated breath at what Steve will reveal, what anecdote will serve as the metaphor for his earth-shattering proposal. Sometimes it’s an MP3 player, sometimes it’s a goddamn building shaped like a spaceship that can hold 12,000 people.

    Nothing is ever pedestrian with Steve. Even the glass in his office building will be special - “there’s not a straight piece of glass in this building. It’s all curved.” And even the expertise to build such a geometrically sound spaceship office could only come from Steve and his exceptional group of Apple retail store architects. For Steve, everything that currently exists is “boring and we’d like to do it better.” And by ‘we’ he means Steve.

    There is, apparently, a way to rule with an iron fist as long as the fist gives the appearance of being casually humble. Everything is “pretty cool” with Steve. “We think [this amazing feat of modern architecture and engineering which will also be eco-friendly and beautiful to behold] is pretty cool.” He lets the idea sell itself and does the classic undersell at the end - that’s the real power move. If that were anyone else, it comes across as crass and manipulative, but with Steve, well, that’s just Steve pissing excellence.

    And for all his excellence and unbending will, Steve calls himself a simpleton. And in his back and forth with the council members, the phrase “best in the world” is always preceded by the casually humble disclaimer, “we have a shot at…” As if being the best in the world is by chance or some random opportunity. The new building ‘has a shot’ at being the best office building in the world because Steve will make it so. He will have the ground broken by the end of the year and his people will march inside by 2015. He’s a simpleton alright.

    With Steve, the plan is always simple: make it the best in the world. Why aren’t more people like this? Why aren’t we all like this? This is probably why Steve has a legions of fanboys and the rest of us don’t. We cling to those with a singular pursuit. Those who endeavor to the top. In Steve, we see what we’re supposed to be but fail to achieve because we’re too scared or too dumb or too unsimple. Maybe more than anything we lack the moxie. It takes a hell of a lot of courage to try to do/be/make the best in the world. And it takes even more to not let up when you get close. It’s not enough to just drink excellence, you’ve gotta piss it out too. Excellence has to be the only thing running through your veins. Excellence oozing out of pores and tear glands. 

    The video ends with Steve, simple Steve, being honest in his simple way. The sweaty palmed council member, in a classic bullshit politician move, clumsily gropes his iPad and asks Steve to remember to ‘give back to the community’ by way of building an Apple retail store in Cupertino, CA. It says a lot about a community when ‘giving back’ has nothing to do with serving soup to the homeless or donating shoes to orphans. Build an Apple Store in Cupertino? You have the attention of the world’s most influential figure in technology, the CEO of the Century, and you ask him to build you a goddamn store because the other two stores are 7 miles away? Why not ask him to help you unlock your iPad screen while you’re at it? In that moment is revealed the difference between Steve Jobs and rest of us: one is thinking in terms of ‘best in the world,’ while the other can’t leave an 8 mile radius of his house, even in his imagination. And still, Steve, in his cool, simple way answers honestly: “The problem with putting an Apple store in Cupertino is that there just isn’t the traffic. So I’m afraid it might not be successful. If we thought it’d be successful, we’d love to.”

    You’re right, Steve, there just isn’t the traffic.

    [now, if you’d like to read something that was actually well-written, see: Tom Junod on Steve Jobs and the Portal to the Invisible

     
     

  4. This is not a commentary on politics, but I have a deep trust and admiration for our president. The man is measured, tactful and articulate. The full 60 minutes interview shows a leader, speaking from heart and head without an obvious script or political agenda. There’s plenty to be cynical about in politics, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for Obama as a man and I’m immensely proud to call him my president. I say without a hint of irony that if more people like him ran for office on both sides of the aisle, our country would be so much better for it.  

     
     


  5. YES YES AND YES! Written by Mr. Y:

    It is time for America to re-focus our national interests and principles through a long lens on the global environment of tomorrow.  It is time to move beyond a strategy of containment to a strategy of sustainment (sustainability); from an emphasis on power and control to an emphasis on strength and influence; from a defensive posture of exclusion, to a proactive posture of engagement.  We must recognize that security means more than defense, and sustaining security requires adaptation and evolution, the leverage of converging interests and interdependencies.  To grow we must accept that competitors are not necessarily adversaries, and that a winner does not demand a loser.  We must regain our credibility as a leader among peers, a beacon of hope, rather than an island fortress.  It is only by balancing our interests with our principles that we can truly hope to sustain our growth as a nation and to restore our credibility as a world leader…  

    Inherent in our children is the innovation, drive, and imagination that have made, and will continue to make, this country great.  By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young Americans – the scientists, statesmen, industrialists, farmers, inventors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow – we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future.  Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable  infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth. 

    Our second investment priority is ensuring the nation’s sustainable security – on our own soil and wherever Americans and their interests take them.   As has been stated already, Americans view security in the broader context of freedom and peace of mind.  Rather than focusing primarily on defense, the security we seek can only be sustained through a whole of nation approach to our domestic and foreign policies.  This requires a different approach to problem solving than we have pursued previously and a hard look at the distribution of our national treasure.  For too long, we have underutilized sectors of our government and our citizenry writ large, focusing intensely on defense and protectionism rather than on development and diplomacy.   This has been true in our approach to domestic and foreign trade, agriculture and energy, science and technology, immigration and education, public health and crisis response, Homeland Security and military force posture.  Security touches each of these and must be addressed by leveraging all the strengths of our nation, not simply those intended to keep perceived threat a safe arm’s length away.

    Mr. Y is a pseudonym for CAPT Wayne Porter, USN and Col Mark “Puck” Mykleby

     

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  8. Mute your speakers. Watch the first 60-90s of this video, watch Bush’s eyes. Then skip to 2:30 and watch Clinton’s eyes. Legendary charm is no more than eye contact, personal space, and being fully present. 

    Michael Ellsberg released a book on the Power of Eye Contact and recently wrote a post for Tim Ferriss’ blog. It’s fascinating. His breakdown of the 1992 Town Hall:

    First point: In the initial seconds of the video, Bush checks his watch when the voter begins asking him a question. Presence? How about “How long do I have to listen to you before I can talk?” This was widely considered a “Dukakis-in-the-tank/Dean Scream” moment during the campaign, and among the worst gaffes in presidential debate history (up there with Gore’s sighs and eye rolls in 2000). And it all hinged on one moment of absent presence.

    Notice Bush’s eye contact as he answers the woman’s question. It is sporadic, weak, drifting, and random. He hasn’t decided whether he’s talking to her, to the moderator, to the whole audience, or to the air in the room. In terms of personal space, he is totally unsure of how close he should stand; he walks closer to her, then backs off, visibly uncomfortable with the personal space aspect of the interchange. In all three factors of RDF we’ve talked about–eye contact, personal space, and presence–he’s clearly not making a personal connection with the voter.

    At 2:30, when Clinton begins to answer, notice how he manages to simultaneously own the space and put the woman at ease. He walks up several yards closer than Bush did, making a personal connection in her space, without making her uncomfortable. His eye contact is clear, unwavering, and calm. There’s absolutely no mistaking whom he’s talking with. Clinton’s there in the room with two rival candidates, news media, other audience members, and a national TV audience of millions. Yet that feeling of “The only two people in the room” is palpable when he talks with the voter.

    The result of this town hall debate? 58% of viewers declared Clinton the winner of the debate, 16% for Bush, and 15% for Perot. (In the previous debate, with a traditional podium format, 47% of viewers declared Perot to be the winner, with 30% for Clinton, and 16% for Bush.)

    Look at the woman’s response at 3:22. Clinton completely has her.
    Bush’s facial expression at 3:47 is priceless. He knows he’s been beaten.
     

    Malcolm Gladwell nails it in Blink: it strikes me how consistently our impressions of others come through snap judgments of unspoken cues and stimuli. There is no ‘natural charm,’ only good non-verbal habits. The best part: charm is an attainable skill. Just try not to look so creepy when you practice.  

     
     

  9. Jan Brewer's Brain:Words!! Think about some words! Any word will do! No, stop smiling, idiot. Words. We need a word right now. Stop swallowing!!! How about something about those damned Mexicans? That was a big deal right? No, save it for later. Larry, Berry, and Terry will ask about it. Thank God I got their names right in my opener - I think it came across well. What a funny coincidence that their names rhyme. I wonder if they planned it that way… oh shit!! I still need words! Ok, ‘did’ is a word, right? Did! Ok, ‘did’ it is! Ooh, how about, ‘We have did?’ That’s even better! Go with it. Words!!

    Thanks peterhassett:

    Whose responsible this?

    Really, it’s easy.  Start with a noun.  Now put a verb in there.  You’re doing just fine.  Keep it up.

     
     


  10. Julian Assange and Wikileaks

    First watch this:

    The read this Open Letter to Julian Assange from Reporters Without Borders:

    Dear Mr. Assange,

    Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom organisation, regrets the incredible irresponsibility you showed when posting your article “Afghan War Diary 2004 - 2010” on the Wikileaks website on 25 July together with 92,000 leaked documents disclosing the names of Afghans who have provided information to the international military coalition that has been in Afghanistan since 2001.

    Wikileaks has in the past played a useful role by making information available to the US and international public that exposed serious violations of human rights and civil liberties which the Bush administration committed in the name of its war against terror. Last April’s publication of a video of the killing of two employees of the Reuters news agency and other civilians by US military personnel in Baghdad in July 2007 was clearly in the public interest and we supported this initiative. It was a response to the Obama administration’s U-turn on implementation of the Freedom of Information Act. The White House broke its word in May 2009, when it defied a court order and refused to release photos of the mistreatment of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    But revealing the identity of hundreds of people who collaborated with the coalition in Afghanistan is highly dangerous. It would not be hard for the Taliban and other armed groups to use these documents to draw up a list of people for targeting in deadly revenge attacks.

    Defending yourself, you said that it was about “ending the war in Afghanistan.” You also argued that: “Principled leaking has changed the course of history for the better; it can alter the course of history in the present; it can lead us to a better future.” However, the US government has been under significant pressure for some time as regards the advisability of its military presence in Afghanistan, not just since your article’s publication. We are not convinced that your wish to “end the war in Afghanistan” will be so easily granted and meanwhile, you have unintentionally provided supposedly democratic governments with good grounds for putting the Internet under closer surveillance.

    It is true that you said that “a further 15,000 potentially sensitive reports” were excluded from the 25 July mass posting, that they were being “reviewed further” and that some of them would be released “once it was deemed safe to do so.”

    Nonetheless, indiscriminately publishing 92,000 classified reports reflects a real problem of methodology and, therefore, of credibility. Journalistic work involves the selection of information. The argument with which you defend yourself, namely that Wikileaks is not made up of journalists, is not convincing. Wikileaks is an information outlet and, as such, is subject to the same rules of publishing responsibility as any other media.

    Reporters Without Borders has for years been campaigning for a federal “shield law” protecting sources, one that would apply not only to the traditional media but also to the new Internet media without exception. This is why we condemn all forms of harassment of Wikileaks contributors or informants – such as the recent arrest of Wikileaks researcher Jacob Appelbaum – by government agencies and immigration officials. We also condemn the charges brought against US army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who is suspected of leaking the video of the Baghdad killings. However, you cannot claim to enjoy the protection of sources while at the same time, when it suits you, denying that you are a news media.

    The precedent you have set leaves all those people throughout the world who risk their freedom and sometimes their lives for the sake of online information even more exposed to reprisals. Such imprudence endangers your own sources and, beyond that, the future of the Internet as an information medium. A total of 116 netizens are currently in prison in a dozen countries because of the comments they posted online. Can you image the same situation in the country of the First Amendment?

    Wikileaks must provide a more detailed explanation of its actions and must not repeat the same mistake. This will mean a new departure and new methods.

    We look forward to your reply,

    Sincerely,

    Jean-François Julliard
    Reporters Without Borders secretary-general

    Clothilde Le Coz
    Reporters Without Borders representative in Washington DC

    Thoughts?

     

  11. Dear Joe Barton, 
    Go away and die.

    Thanks,
    The World 

     
     


  12. Speech Battle: Obama vs George W Bush

    When Obama edits a speech:



    When W. edits a speech:

     


  13. My Top 7: TED Talks

    One of my outrageous dreams in life is to be invited to TED. Don’t know why or how this will occur, but I will see to it that it does. TED.com is now at a point where the quantity of content is almost overwhelming (especially if you’re recently discovering it) and so I’ve filtered out my favsies below. I’ve watched all of these at least a dozen times and could talk about the issues/questions raised in each ad nauseam. I’ve learned more through these 18 minute talks than anything else in my life, ever (sans life itself). The residual effects of each far outweigh 18 minutes - my mind is still expanding and my eyes and ears are still opening. Special favsie spot in my heart for #1 -  I have never heard any musing on God as honest, articulate and reverently relevant as Tom Honey’s talk and it’s had a profound, once-in-a-lifetime kind of effect on my life. Enjoy.

    My Top 7 Ted Talk Favsies:

    1. Rev. Tom Honey - How Could God Have Allowed the Tsunami?






    2. Ken Robinson - Do Schools Kill Creativity?






    3. Samantha Power - Shaking Hands with the Devil






    4. Phil Zimbardo - How Ordinary People Become Monsters [and Heroes]






    5. Wade Davis - Cultures at the Far Edge of the World.






    6. Mike Rowe - Celebrating Work






    7. Vik Muniz - Art with Wire, Thread, Sugar, Chocolate




     


  14. Favsies: NYTimes Opinion Section



    Pretty obvious, huh? No paper does opinion better than the Times. I’m lazy, just tell me what to think and I’ll take it from there.

    My favsies:

    Nicholas Kristof - Journalistic Hero of Human Rights and International Relations

    Thomas Friedman - Sociologists’ fantasy job

    Paul Krugman - Smarty-pants economist

    Maureen Dowd - Political columnist somehow finds symbolism in throwaway phrases

    Measure for Measure - Songwriters column/blog