Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Agree or Disagree: Society Sucks

Ran into a relative who I don't see often.

Her: What do you teach?

Me: Sociology.

Her: What's sociology?

Me: Study of society.

Her: Society sucks!

I find it difficult to refute her point.

Monday, November 28, 2016


What's your favorite possession?

My neighbor (a good guy) told me I'd like Sky Blue Sky by Wilco. But all I hear is Don Henley. Does anyone else think Jeff Tweedy sounds like Don Henley on this album? Musically, I like this album a lot. But it's like Don Henley is singing over the music and it's not working for me. I'll try more, but I think Hate it Here might be the only song I really like.

I've had this blog since 2011 and this is my first entry by phone.

Took one of my kids to the doctor today. He stayed home from school. We took a walk around the block in the afternoon and I held his hand. Holding hands is one of my favorite things to do.

As I get older, I get more sentimental. I cry easily. I'm an emotional dude. Dudes aren't supposed to cry but I'm less afraid of my emotions than I used to be.

If there were snow on the ground I might be shoveling right now. Instead I'm killing time.

Either Way is the Wilco song playing now. It doesn't do much for me. I do like the phrase "I will try to understand." I try to understand. There's a nice guitar solo in this song. I take it back. This song is better as it goes along. I think this is a winter album and suddenly I think I'll like this album a lot in February.

I promise to let you know.

Before then, maybe I'll start an Instagram and show you what I'm reading and cooking.

People are a mystery but that's a subject for another day.

Tell me, what's your favorite possession? I bet you have one.

Does a person count as a possession? I don't know. You tell me.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Donald Trump, Tweetbaiter in Chief

There were many interesting moments in the 60 Minutes interview of Donald Trump last week. Here are four of them, in order of when they occurred in the interview.

1. On Trump's use of rhetoric during the campaign. This portion of the interview stands out to me because it reminds me not to underestimate Trump's understanding of crowd psychology. He finds ways to connect with people. Does he mean what he says? Does he say what he means? Sometimes yes, sometimes who knows. Apparently he will say what he needs to say to motivate and energize people. From the interview transcript:

Lesley Stahl: Are you going to sometimes have that same rhetoric that you had on the stump? Or are you going to reign it in?

Donald Trump: Well, sometimes you need a certain rhetoric to get people motivated. I don’t want to be just a little nice monotone character and in many cases I will be.

2. To me, the headline news of the interview was Trump saying that if abortion "were overturned, it would go back to the states," a scenario for women that would mean "they’ll perhaps have to go, they’ll have to go to another state." From the transcript:

Lesley Stahl: During the campaign, you said that you would appoint justices who were against abortion rights. Will you appoint-- are you looking to appoint a justice who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade?

Donald Trump: So look, here’s what’s going to happen-- I’m going to-- I’m pro-life. The judges will be pro-life. They’ll be very—

Lesley Stahl: But what about overturning this law--

Donald Trump: Well, there are a couple of things. They’ll be pro-life, they’ll be-- in terms of the whole gun situation, we know the Second Amendment and everybody’s talking about the Second Amendment and they’re trying to dice it up and change it, they’re going to be very pro-Second Amendment. But having to do with abortion if it ever were overturned, it would go back to the states. So it would go back to the states and--

 Lesley Stahl: Yeah, but then some women won’t be able to get an abortion?

 Donald Trump: No, it’ll go back to the states.

Lesley Stahl: By state—no some --

 Donald Trump: Yeah.

 Donald Trump: Yeah, well, they’ll perhaps have to go, they’ll have to go to another state.

 Lesley Stahl: And that’s OK?

Donald Trump: Well, we’ll see what happens. It’s got a long way to go, just so you understand. That has a long, long way to go.

3. Trump is right about Twitter--it's an effective form of communication. It gives him a direct line to people. He also knows that he can bait reporters and pundits to overreact to his tweets. He can take over a news cycle with tweets about Hamilton, as we witnessed this weekend. We'll see if media can figure out how to handle his tweeting without becoming Trump's twitter fool. From transcript:

Lesley Stahl: But are you going to be tweeting and whatever you’re upset about just put out there when you’re president?

Donald Trump: So it’s a modern form of communication, between Face-- you know, Facebook and Twitter and I guess Instagram, I have 28 million people. 28 million people--

Lesley Stahl: So you are going to keep it up?

Donald Trump: It’s a great form of communication. Now, do I say I’ll give it up entirely and throw out, that’s a tremendous form-- I pick up-- I’m picking up now, I think I picked up yesterday 100,000 people. I’m not saying I love it, but it does get the word out. When you give me a bad story or when you give me an inaccurate story or when somebody other than you and another network, or whatever, ‘cause of course, CBS would never do a thing like that right? I have a method of fighting back. That’s very tough--

Lesley Stahl: But you’re going to do that as president?

Donald Trump: I’m going to do very restrained, if I use it at all, I’m going to do very restrained. I find it tremendous. It’s a modern form of communication. There should be nothing you should be ashamed of. It’s-- it’s where it’s at. I-- I do believe this, I really believe that, um-- the fact that I have such power in terms of numbers with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et cetera, I think it helped me win all of these races where they’re spending much more money than I spent. You know, I spent my money. A lot of my money. And I won. I think that social media has more power than the money they spent, and I think maybe to a certain extent, I proved that.

4. What is Trump's actual position about marriage equality? Do we take him at his word that it's "settled" and he's "fine with that"? I don't know, but it's notable that he describes marriage equality as settled but does not see Roe v. Wade in the same way. From transcript:

Lesley Stahl: Well, I guess the issue for them is marriage equality. Do you support marriage equality?

Donald Trump: It-- it’s irrelevant because it was already settled. It’s law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done.

Lesley Stahl: So even if you appoint a judge that--

Donald Trump: It’s done. It-- you have-- these cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled. And, I’m fine with that.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

It's a Good Time to Stop Watching Cable News

I barely watch CNN. When I do turn it on, there are a bunch of pundits around a table. What the hell is the point? Here's a few Republicans, some Democrats, a Libertarian, and a host. No thanks. Jeff Zucker flat out saying what we knew was true--that cable news is a game about ratings and profits--is reason enough to avoid cable news.

There is nothing you can do to get me to watch Fox News. I've written about them before. Sean Hannity is all in with the Donald. No thanks. Bill O'Reilly still plays the part of a working-class Irish guy despite the fact that he's been making millions of dollars for years. Hey, let's celebrate Megyn Kelly--she's the reasonable one, right? No thanks, I have no interest in feeding her brand or contributing to her next enormous contract.

And then MSNBC, starring Mika and Joe. What the hell is their deal with Trump? Whatever their relationship with Trump is, it's just too weird for me. I don't want to hear them talk about Trump in their capacity as friends or quasi-advisers or whatever. Yes, they'll be tough on him occasionally for cover and to appear fair, but I have no reason to trust what they say. Nor do I want to watch Chris Matthews ask 1,400 word questions or continue to constantly interrupt his guests. The sad thing is, he has good guests on his show at times. Recently, I watched a Hardball segment with Molly Ball (from The Atlantic). She was smart and insightful when she actually had a chance to say something. Problem is, Matthews kept interrupting her. And the guy just gets too damn excited about the sport of politics. MSNBC loves horse race politics. There are plenty of times that Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes offer something other than horse race politics, but they still are part of a corporate cable news landscape that offers superficial analysis and too often lapses into "he said, she said" coverage. This is a channel that parted ways with Melissa Harris-Perry, apparently because she didn't do enough horse race politics on her show. It's a channel with Brian Williams on air. Am I to believe that Brian Williams can give a reliable account of events, knowing he was suspended from NBC for not telling the truth???

Why do I continue to watch these channels knowing they will not deliver news and analysis in a responsible manner? I can't bear to watch them be played by Trump during his presidency. I can do without cable news. It's a good time for me to stop watching. As a news junkie I'll be looking for ways to fill the void. I intend to pay more attention to how BBC and CBC cover news, politics, and world affairs.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

I'm Normally Cranky About Everything But I Like The Mannequin Challenge

Fads are the kind of thing that bother me, because I'm a crank. But I like the mannequin challenge. I think I like that it requires group work. It's coordination. Cooperation. It looks and feels different than the solo actor on social media doing their thing. It's nice to see people coming together to have fun. So while I'm still and probably will always be a crank, you can now add the mannequin challenge to the short list of things I like: classic rock, hip-hop, carbohydrates, coffee, mannequin challenge. Here's the Lloyd team (Buffalo's favorite food truck) doing it swell. Pro tip: if you're ever in Buffalo, hit up a Lloyd truck or go to their restaurant.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Say Not, "I Have Found the Truth"

Years ago, a student gave me The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It's a gift I continue to treasure.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Baking. Grading. Raking.

What a great day here in the 716. That's code for the greater Buffalo area. Started the day by baking banana bread. My long search for the best recipe has landed on Janet's Rich Banana Bread, courtesy of my friends at Allrecipes. It's the real deal, if you ask me. It's the only recipe I've used that includes sour cream. I mostly follow the recipe. I leave out the walnuts and add chocolate chips instead. I also suggest a dash of cinnamon. The recipe calls for sliced bananas but I mash them, because, as always, society can't tell me what to do.

Then I put on my professor cap and graded a batch of exams. This is me procrastinating and not grading more exams. I'll return to the stack in a moment.

You can tell that autumn agrees with me. It's a gorgeous fall day. The leaves are falling at an acceptable pace. These two trees in our front yard will soon be bare. Enjoy your weekend, everybody.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Take Us to the Weekend, De La Soul

The tremendous lyric "Wipe your Lottos on the mat." Whistling from perhaps the greatest song of all time, Otis Redding's Dock of the Bay. Sampling from Steely Dan, one of my all-time favorite bands. How does it get better than that?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I Found Bob Dylan. He Was Gone Till November.

I am in disbelief that it's November. Woke up today thinking of great November songs. There's November Rain by Guns N Roses, and there's this spectacular beauty by Wyclef Jean. I forgot Bob Dylan has a cameo in the video. "I'm knockin' on heaven's door like I'm Bob Dylan."