Newspaper columnist and Texas raconteur Molly Ivins’ mortal coil left this plane on January 31, 2007 (Oh Lord, have we been without her for a decade?), dubious that she was bound for greater glory. Alas, she never got to witness the accidental ascendance of Donald R. Trump, not that it would have surprised her. She surely would have had plenty to say about the state of affairs that allowed yet another buffoon (the last one being “Shrub,” her affectionate moniker for Bush Lite) to leave the middle class behind as he terrorized the planet.
Most of the right-wing pols who had to pull her barbs from their behinds considered her a fifth-columnist, but all she was was a dogged, sharp-tongued reporter of liberal persuasion who took down political bloviation and chicanery with devastating down-home humor. She is sorely missed, and in her absence the self-awareness of the politicking class in the Republic of Texas—if not everywhere—has sunk below irony. As Molly once said, the thing about holes is when you’re in one, stop digging. Oh sure, we have Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and Andy Borowitz to deliver unto us outrage over political jackassery, but who remains to make us giggle by exposing political mendacity in regular columns syndicated in hundreds of newspapers? But then, does anyone read newspapers anymore? Continue reading “Channeling Molly”
It being Mothers Day and all, here’s a shout to my two main moms. First, a salute to the wisdom and fortitude of the one who birthed me, Sophie Pincus Dutton (1910-2005). Below the fold, listen to her describe her first several jobs and how she met my father in 1940. Spoiler: She married that handsome tennis coach, Charles Dutton, after a two-year engagement and they stuck it out until he passed in 1982.
Both stories unabashedly ripped from the pages of cowbird.com.
Five minutes of Sophie’s voice talking about her early work and love life:
Closer now in time and place we meet Aygül Balcioglu, the mother of my daughter. Here we explain how a Muslim woman and a Jewish man happened to meet and click at a Christmas party, generating a disturbance in the Force that lasted over five years. Those kinks got worked out, mostly.
Sophie opened her home and heart to Aygül and Aygül returned the favor and often says she misses Sophie, who lived long enough to see her only grandchild turn five. (She should have had more time, way sooner. My fault. I’m an only child and was always a slow starter.)
This story takes the form of a letter to our daughter, written to help her appreciate what it took to get her here.
Aygül has taken the lead again and again in realizing our daughter’s potential to become the best person she can when I wasn’t clear on how to proceed. I treasure that, and someday, I hope, so will our kid.
I love you both deeply. You are bookends to my erratic, unlikely life who has saved me more than once from lapses of judgment and catastrophes of character. Happy Mothers Day to my two moms. You’re the best.
Having noted that there are seven billion human beings now weighing down the planet, most struggling for subsistence, the question that keeps corporations up at night is “How can we turn these poor wretches into consumers?” And more often than not the answer is “tether them with technology that we’ll constantly monitor and update.”
Due to the dispersed nature of talent and resources, high-tech expertise nests in niches, nooks, and crannies in all sorts of places, pursuing separate goals that may or may not be related. To maximize the market potential of up-and-coming makers and capitalize on it, corporate chiefs, technologists, government policy makers, non-governmental organizations, and academics have learned to meld minds to find ways and means to get the downtrodden up to speed in the digital economy. Many hard-striving institutions of higher learning have assumed the guise of problem-solvers-to-the-world to hone the bleeding edge of innovation to razor sharpness, and no one does it better than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Continue reading “Go Solve Yourself”
I’m with J.I. It seems most of the second half of my life has been devoted unlearning the craft of writing. Despite having written millions of words in all manner of forms, creative writing remains tedious, if not downright torturous. When I write a short story, I can easily compile four or five drafts before it starts to look okay. My current novel underwent seven month-long revisions. Now I love to write, but this is too much. Hoping to short-circuit this busywork, I decided to perform an experiment on a human subject. I would observe myself writing to pinpoint where it bogs down by drafting a mini-scene and taking note of what I had to do to whip it into shape. Prompted by a short story I’m having trouble with, this text popped out of my head:
[A little-known Star Wars fact: As an apprentice Jedi, Yoda paid his dues by serving as a technical writer. The following text is the first part of the only example of his work that has wormholed its way to us. It’s a user’s manual for installing, calibrating and using the software that light sabers need to function. In addition to his other formidable exploits, Yoda as a great technical communicator remembered will be.]
For purchasing Light Saber Toolbox®, thank you. For any application of a light saber—even opening packages—essential it is. Simple and pleasurable this guide the installation and operation of the toolbox makes. In it you find
Background – About your light saber
Installation – How the code to bootstrap
Control Logic – General operating principles
User Interfaces – Two of them, your choice
Self-Tests and Diagnostics – If trouble you encounter
Having written a subversive action novel focused on terrorism that some early readers indicated would make a great movie, I gave the project some thought and soon concluded that my story was a natural for film adaptation. It has a simple, linear plot with subplots to spare and at least half of its settings were real places I hadn’t had to make up, with sharp, luminous details.
Suspecting that there was more to this I needed to know, I straightaway dove into the turbulent and treacherous waters of screenwriting, only to surface gasping over how ginormous and competitive, how overflowing with talent, copy, and productions the screenplay marketplace is. Not to mention the secondary markets for script consultants, synopsizers, agents, contests, how-to books, DVDs, webinars, and software products wanting to help you write screenplays that sell. Emerging from my brief and bewildering dip into these waters, it was closeup clear that to navigate a course to celluloid I needed to consult sage practitioners of the art. Continue reading “Lights! Camera! Aristotle!”
Q: How did the “sharing economy” become a predatory landscape?
A: It’s simple; Capitalism is a predatory beast. Corporations will appropriate idealism, deceive customers, cheat workers, and squander good will in a New York Minute if doing so accrues value to shareholders and executives.
As Dean Baker wrote in CounterPunch several years ago, “… in their exuberance over the next big thing, many boosters [of the sharing economy] have overlooked the reality that this new business model is largely based on evading regulations and breaking the law.” He’s right about the criminality but his piece paints sharing with too broad a brush.
There’s an old Russian proverb that Trump and his minions should take to heart: “A fish rots from the head.” It’s redolent of the kind of moral decay that sets in when CEOs mistake market share, earnings and valuation for virtue. The stench that now pervades the entire economy is overpowering to everyone who doesn’t have a financial bubble to wall it out. Continue reading “Will Drive for Food and Sex”
[Dug out this 2006 essay from my archives because it seems to apply as much now as a decade ago. Only the technology has moved on, not the human species.]
Dedicated to Peter Balen
If life has you feeling more overwhelmed and less able to cope all the time, it might not just be encroaching senility, the accumulation of bad chemicals in your body, or even 9-11. Consider what might connect such random areas of interest as
Have you ever reacted badly to a newscast on radio or TV and shouted at your set things like “Why not admit our wars in the Middle East caused all this chaos!” or “Ask him how much he was paid to mouth that b.s!” or “I’m sick and tired of hearing those stupid stump speeches!” whenever they fail to get to the bottom of things. Happens to me a lot.
Right now, one of my local NPR radio stations (WBUR, from Boston University) is surveying listeners to find out how we think they’re doing. I normally skip such polls, but given that I listen to it most days and occasionally answer phones for them I decided to pitch in and ended up at SurveyMonkey. As I had hoped, beyond the usual demographic data and how/when/where/why I listen or browse their site, they actually wanted reactions to their programming, so I belted some out. Continue reading “Talking Back to my Radio”