I love all the hype around Cocaine Bear. It’s not going to slot anywhere in the pantheon of the top 10 movies ever made, but I do think it checks a post-pandemic box – a movie that is made to be consumed in a theatre with a bunch of strangers. Perhaps aside from Top Gun – Maverick, and maybe even more, this movie is made for theatres and I think we need more of those. That’s where I plan to see it. It’ll be funny, gory, campy, and super fun.
In the same breath as Cocaine Bear, I came across this New York Times article this morning about the growing number of animals making their way into places where there are more people and how that has increased the amount of weird food and other objects that animals are ingesting. I had to laugh at a few parts of the story where they cite a few real examples. A skunk in a panic because it couldn’t get a McFlurry cup off its head, or a bear who entered a house several times and *only* took vanilla ice cream. Raccoons, in particular, were the most amusing: dazed and zoned out on marijuana and benzos, one had a soda can stuck on its leg, and another had it’s head stuck in a container of peanut butter. Animals are funny. And dumb.
I listened intently to The First Person podcast on my way to and from work this week, featuring a high school senior named Logan Lane, who seems to be wise beyond her years. She recognized early in high school that, ick, smartphones, endless scrolling, and non-stop screentime made her feel like a non-functioning, brain-dead zombie of sorts. So she did something that 99.9999% of kids today would never do – she gave it up and started “The Luddite Club,” a group of kids who approach screens and phones the same way that Straight-Edge kids avoid drinking, smoking, and drugs. She spoke eloquently about how life’s beauty and the meaning of real interaction and connection with others in the group have proven far more satisfying to her. At a cost, of course. She lost some friends and was probably subject to some ridicule, but gained other meaningful connections. I’m toying with making my kids listen to it. Not because I want them to STOP all screens and join the Luddite Club, but because I’d like to see better balance, I guess.
I’ve already watched the Pavement appearance on Austin City Limits twice. It’s sooooo good. I sometimes really miss the anticipation of knowing a favorite band was releasing an album, that I would have to plan a trip to the record store, of getting it off the rack, buying it, getting it home and experiencing the art, reading the liner notes, experiencing the music. It was a more full-on experience than it is today. I’d love for Spotify or some other entity to somehow bring that experience back to me in some way. There must be some methods to make that happen. I don’t really even know the individual names of members in new bands anymore. I don’t like that. I used to know ALL the names of the players in the bands I like!
Ladies and gentlemen, your elected officials. George Santos is a fascinating story, but one that tracks just perfectly if you think about the long, downward spiral that seems to be our government. Imagine you’re a regular person interviewing for a normal office job and you just invent a whole basket full of shit about yourself and totally fake your resume in order to nail the role. And your game face is so strong and convincing that everyone falls for it and you get the gig. Now, you probably don’t know what the hell you’re doing when take a seat in the role, but who cares? Fake it ’till you make it! Now imagine it’s Congress! How can you not help but laugh at the level of insanity that is going on right now? I, for one, can’t get enough of the Santos memes that are going around on social media, because they are hilarious. All you need to do is do a hashtag search and you’re in for endless amounts of fun. The below image, though, is not a meme. It’s a real story! Santos, the people’s representative from New York, stole money from a dying dog. The truth is indeed stranger than fiction!
One of my favorite news sources of late is The Free Press. You have to pay for the full boat of content (and it’s worth it), but if you sign up for their emails you can get a good tasting. They recently ran a piece mentioning another total clown, FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried, our latest example of what seems like an entitled 30-year-old in a 16-year-old’s body. The article isn’t about the billions (with a b) frittered away irresponsibly or the minefield that is crypto right now. It’s more about one of my favorite topics – age. Namely, how a 30-year old human man should probably be less sheepish, childish and dumb. What I find most interesting isn’t that the boomers are largely still in charge and the millenials are taking it on the chin a little and living with their parents. Oh, no. What I find most interesting is that yet again, there is not one single mention of the Gen-X’ers. It is almost like that generation is just floating out in space, or tucked away in a quiet, dark corner. Or left at home by themselves after school to…oh wait – that part is actually what we WERE. Anyway, back to Bankman-Fried. Don’t let me try to explain it, because the professional journalist will do it much better than I will:
Bankman-Fried’s fate will now be decided by the Southern District of New York, but his media charade of aw-shucks interviews and congressional testimony laced with brogrammer idioms built a public persona that we’ve largely come to accept: SBF is just a kid. Indeed, he’s so young that his law school professor parents were involved in his business and political dealings. (In this, they embody the helicopter style of child-rearing favored by nearly the entire Boomer elite.)
The reality, of course, is that SBF is a grown-ass, 30-year-old man. He is twelve years older than many of the men and women we sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. Twelve years older than the adults we encourage to swallow hundreds of thousands of dollars in college debt before even declaring a major. And, if we’re serious about the math, SBF is a mere eight years away from the half-life of the average adult American man, who boasts a provisional life expectancy of only 76 years, according to the CDC. At 38, SBF would have already lived most of his life on Earth.
Katherine Boyle, The Free Press, January 17, 2023
Finally, it’s with great appreciation and interest that I read about John Laroquette, he of 1980s Night Court fame, who confirms that yes, he was paid in weed for his part in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We need more of this today. I want Woody Harrelson to only accept a role (as a crazed banjo-playing dean of students at an Ivy League college) if he can wheel a barrow full of weed out the door after the production is complete.
As a kid, we always received daily newspapers. We’d get the Worcester Telegram in the morning, the Clinton Daily Item, and the Evening Gazette at night. Of course, much like the rest of America’s newspapers, they’ve gone through massive upheaval with the onset of the digital age. The Item and Evening Gazette don’t really exist anymore. The Telegram seems to be holding on somehow. Interesting side note: I had a girlfriend my junior and senior year of high school whose father was the Managing Editor of the Worcester Telegram. I thought that was so cool! He’s now in the “New England Newspaper Hall of Fame.”
My mom would read through the newspapers each day, and I would only be allowed to read them myself after she was finished with them, but as soon as she put them down, I picked them up and combed through. I’ve always loved the physical newspaper and even now, I receive the Boston Globe and New York Times on Sundays, delivered to my porch.
Back then, I thought of newspapers as actual authorities – balanced reporters doing the hard work to inform Americans of important news and local information. My, how times have changed. Today I harbor no “good old days” notion that the press back then wasn’t somewhat influenced or coerced by large corporations or government entities who needed to steer Joe Smith on Main Street in one direction or another. Of course, it happened back then and there’s plenty of evidence to show it, but today it’s getting really hard to trust any mainstream media outlet.
You should really read The Twitter Files. Dare I say it might be the craziest and most important thing you’ll read in years. I won’t spoil it all for you because it’s a whopper, but in short, government agencies have been strong-arming and partnering with Twitter and other social media outlets to totally shape the content you see on social media platforms to the government’s narrative. Social Media literally took direction from the government on whose accounts to ban, where to slap “fact check” labels, etc. It’s nauseating…and fascinating. If Elon Musk has done one good thing, it’s releasing all this information to longtime journalists who are not beholden to mainstream media anymore. These aren’t cranks either – we’re talking about Matt Taibbi at TK News and Bari Weiss crew at The Free Press – people who in the past wrote for national publications (Rolling Stone, New York Times, etc) and do not pull any punches against Republicans or Democrats. They are truly part of the only real “free press” we have left. You would be well served to subscribe to their Substack news feeds, which you can sample before you buy. I pay for both now after sampling their output for a couple of weeks. They are interesting, talented, serious, funny, they break real news – and they serve YOU.
And The Twitter Files? Good luck finding out about it in any national mainstream publication. They won’t touch it for the most part. They’re just as much in bed with the government. And listen, I’m not some far left or far right nut job, ok? I’m a pretty normal person that is curious, into news and I want it straight, without influence from meddling and shape-shifting entities and organizations. TK News and The Free Press give that to me (and you) far more than the mainstream press and tv news do. I dare you to read TK or Free Press and tell me otherwise! Which isn’t to say that the New York Times or Boston Globe are BAD newspapers. There is plenty of good content in both. But there’s also plenty of content that I now am forcing myself to question. And that’s not good.
Here’s a couple of good recent tidbits from The Free Press’s last newsletter:
? Latest from the Twitter Files: The Twitter Files—internal documents, emails and chats involving the past Twitter regime—continue to show how the U.S. government sought to silence its critics. The latest, from Matt Taibbi, shows that Adam Schiff, a Democrat and the head of the House Intelligence Committee, specifically asked the social network to ban a journalist, Paul Sperry. Even Twitter employees, usually perfectly happy to censor the politically inconvenient, balked at this.
Nellie Bowles, The Free Press
? Of course this is happening in the U.S.: A new law in California paves the way for doctors to lose their license for “dissemination of misinformation or disinformation related to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.” That sort of behavior is now considered “unprofessional conduct.”
Longtime TGIF readers know my stance, but for all the newcomers: Misinformation and disinformation are real phenomena. But most of the time these days the words are political terms applied to any information a ruling clique doesn’t like. Often, it’s used by progressive journalists who want to see various voices censored on social media.
In the case of Covid, many, many very real facts were considered mis-and-disinfo. Like: The vaccine does not prevent transmission of Covid. That was considered fake news, verboten. Had this law been in place you would have lost your medical license for saying it. In that case, people saw with their own bodies that, although vaccinated, they were very much coughing. But thanks to this new law that muffles doctors, who knows what we won’t know going forward.
Nellie Bowles, The Free Press
? Vaccine-skeptical, sit this one out: When Damar Hamlin, a football safety for the Buffalo Bills, got hit in the chest and collapsed on the field, who was ready to jump in and opine but the vax skeptics. On Tucker Carlson, there was speculation that Hamlin was suffering vaccine-induced myocarditis.
Obviously there are vaccine side effects that were under-reported and lied about, but that does not mean anyone with an injury or anyone who dies young was killed by Pfizer. Just like progressives see a twinge in their ankles as #longcovid, the conservative vax skeptic movement is a hammer looking for nails.
Nellie Bowles, The Free Press
So…who do you rely on for the truth? Who do you trust?
When 2022 started, I set a very simple goal to read more books than I did in 2021. With that in mind, I jumped right in, and on January 1, 2022, I purchased “Lights Out,” a book authored by longtime ABC News Correspondent Ted Koppel. The subtitle is “A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath.”
In short, Koppel’s book scared the shit out of me. The over-arching theme is, “what happens when the power grid in the USA is attacked?” It wasn’t IF; it was WHEN. Because it has already happened, don’t let little old Jeff’s words sway you. Here’s part of the description of the book:
It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault anytime. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.”
So that’s scary. Here’s more:
Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before.
Crazy! By the way, this book was written in 2015. We are now close to 8 years later, and in the big picture, more needs to be done in terms of advancements to protect the power grid. In the last month alone, we’ve seen two pretty major attacks on power grids: one in North Carolina that took out electricity in 45,000 homes and one on Christmas day in Washington state, affecting 14,000 homes. Christmas without power. Damn. The question that many are asking is if these are small dry runs for a significant attack soon. Nobody knows. Over 100 attacks on the electrical grid in the USA occurred in 2022. That’s the most in the last decade.
We all have experienced a loss of power, typically for a few hours or maybe one day. Manageable. But ask yourself what would happen if it was a week? Or two weeks. Or a month. The US has three major power grids across the country, but thousands of substations take power wholesale from “the big three.” These little substations are more susceptible to attacks because they don’t have the budget or sophistication to protect themselves, which is what we are seeing. With larger budgets, brainpower, and security, the big three are tougher to penetrate but not foolproof. It’s natural – and it’s scary.
So I read the Koppel book, which you should read. I arguably spiraled a small bit after that, buying another book about protecting yourself from a long-term power outage. I’ve thought about a generator, but I’m not sure I’m there quite yet. Some of the advice was sound, with good instructions on basic things to have on hand in the event of a prolonged outage. So I did put a bin together of those basic recommendations and they are all sitting in a large Rubbermaid container in my house. Other advice was paranoid bordering on insane – like talk to your neighbors and set up an agreed-upon high ground in case of attack. That’s kinda ridiculous. I’m imagining myself walking around to my neighbors, knocking the door and trying to get alignment on a high ground in case of attack. I laugh to myself at what they might say when they close the door after that conversation!
On this day 14 years ago, I put out the message below on Facebook about Lasik. Even back in 2008, Lasik was on my mind and I know it was on my mind before that, too, because I can remember talking to an Ask Jeeves co-worker (shout out, Chris Damsen!) about his experience with Lasik. In fact, I was talking to a lot of people about it.
My eyes are a pain in the ass. I first got glasses in 1988 when I was 17 years old and a junior in high school. I really wish I had a picture somewhere of me wearing them because they were, um, of the time. I haven’t been able to find one. What I am really trying to say is that the frames made me look like a mass murderer and I bet you know exactly the frames I am talking about, don’t you? Of course you do. Witness:
I remember putting the glasses on and being dumbfounded about how clear everything was, so obviously I needed glasses long before 1988. I am pretty sure the reason that there may be no pictures is because I tried to avoid wearing them whenever possible. But more and more I had to rely on them to see in class, to drive and to watch TV. Sigh. It also was a bit of a conundrum playing hockey, because my eyes had built up a need for them, so when I took them off to play, my vision was shit. You kinda need vision for hockey.
Anyway, back then it was just plain old near-sightedness. Over the years time has really done a number on them, as is the case with many people in their fifties. I have to take off my glasses for certain things, put them on for other things, sometimes I just lift my head and point my eyeballs down to see something on my phone or whatnot. Now I wear progressive lenses, which is my next step towards inevitable death (I joke).
I basically feel like that 50 year old man always having hold something out far or within an inch of my eyeball to see it clearly. Oh wait – I AM THAT 50 YEAR OLD MAN.
OK, I’m rambling. Back to Lasik. All I ever heard was how amazing it was, how everyone said “I can’t believe I didn’t do this 10 years ago!” And I was jealous. Boy, was I jealous. I priced it out, I checked insurance, I even called around to a couple of places and talked to my doctor about it. Now you might even be asking yourself why the hell didn’t I just do it then?
Well, here’s your answer: I’m a wimp.
That’s right. A wimp. I could never get over the mental hump of surgery on my EYES. I don’t think it was the prospect of pain, it was more about the notion of something going really south and then I’d blind forever in one eye and have to wear a patch. Or blind in both eyes! Or it wouldn’t work. Or I’d have to go back and constantly get adjusted. Well, now after 25 years of wanting Lasik, but being a wimp, I have my vindication and I now no longer want it.
So yes, it’s DRAFT guidance. But now I do take great pride in knowing that my wimpiness and fears were not unfounded! The Times fairly points out that the F.D.A. document is not final and they are now reviewing the input from testing while preparing the final documents. But where there’s smoke, there’s fire, I say! And now I welcome all the comments coming from all of you Lasik lovers who’ve had no problems whatsoever. Good for you! I’m not joining your eyeball surgery club!
A few months ago I posted a couple of things on Facebook about the new bivalent COVID vaccines and my uncertainty about getting them, as they hadn’t been tested on any humans yet, just mice. And we’re not like mice. I tried to make it clear in my social posts that I am not anti-vax at all. I willingly and excitedly got the original COVID vaccine on April 12, 2021 (J&J) and then I went ahead and got the booster as well on November 12, 2021 (again, J&J). So I did not get the mRNA version from Pfizer or Moderna. It wasn’t my choice – I showed up at the big vax factory and they moved us like cattle through the lines – they pointed and told me “go over there” and that was that. “Over there” just happened to be the Johnson & Johnson area. I also get a flu shot every year.
So now that I’m doing more long-form writing on my blog, I can explain more clearly how I’m feeling about this.
With that now framed up, this bivalent COVID vaccine gave me pause. As mentioned above, they skipped what I consider a kind of important step, which is testing on humans. I am generally averse to taking a shot of something that hasn’t been tested on humans. Because the Johnson & Johnson shot is not available anymore, any booster I get will have to be Pfizer and Moderna, which is a different technology than the J&J was.
My hesitance is largely rooted in a few things:
The lack of testing on humans. This is becoming less of a factor as more time goes by and we see an overwhelming amount of people reacting fine to it. Still, I think it’s logical to say that the rollout of this new booster to the masses in September was, effectively, the trial. YOU were the experiment if you got the shot this fall. And that’s fine. I’m not here to criticize, to each their own. I just decided to sit it out for a little while and not be a part of the experiment. And god bless the humans who volunteer for vaccine testing, by the way. They are kind of unsung heroes. Hesitance level: fairly low
Deep distrust of Big Pharma. Try to make sense of what Pfizer and Moderna are putting out there for data around trials and adverse reactions – it’s hard. Very hard. They do that on purpose, you know. These companies are *selling shots* – they are public companies beholden to shareholders and driving revenue. They are not looking out for you at all. You might also feel like the CDC or the FDA are more trustworthy and perhaps they are. But the FDA gets 75% of it’s funding for its drug division by…Big Pharma. Ouch. That feels like a very concerning conflict of interest. It wasn’t that long ago that doctors and patients were told that Oxycontin was perfectly safe and non-addictive. We cannot forget this. Hesitance level: medium
The shots don’t seem to work as well as Moderna and Pfizer told us. This is one of my biggest issues. One of my favorite tweets at the beginning of the original vaccine rollout was the CEO of Pfizer, who tweeted that Pfizer’s testing of the vaccine showed 100% effectiveness in blocking transmission entirely. The New York Times ran a piece on December 7 that is worth reading about this, focused on how “Covid-19 Isn’t a Pandemic of the Unvaccinated Anymore.” The article leans more towards the age of people getting it, but has some interesting data around mortality with Covid-19. Hesitance level: medium-high
The share of deaths among people vaccinated and boosted grew significantly as well, from 12 percent in January 2022 to 36 percent in April.
New York Times Op Ed, December 7, 2022
These three things all give me pause. They don’t make me anti-vax and if anything, over the last few months I’m coming around to getting the shot. I’m not there yet, but maybe I’m getting there. I do feel pretty strongly that I have good reasons to wait.
A popular response to my hesitance is the point that, yes, ok, they lied to us and it doesn’t stop transmission, but it *does* prevent hospitalization and death. So I will make one other interesting point. Each week The Boston Globe publishes a COVID-19 data status for the state of Massachusetts. I can’t speak for the other 49 states, but have a look at the total amount of people hospitalized vs. the total amount of *vaccinated* people hospitalized. The total amount of people hospitalized is around 750 this week, 450 of which are vaccinated. 60% of people hospitalized in for COVID in Massachusetts are vaccinated.
I think where things go off the rails for me is all the fear mongering from the hardcore anti-vaxxers. There’s a lot of posts out there about kids and adults collapsing on sports fields. Or people just collapsing on the street or in the course of their daily lives. Or people dying of heart attacks “out of the blue.” All of these things are sad, but they happen. They happened before 2021 and they will happen long after this pandemic is truly abated. But still, they fear monger. When confronted about this, the response is often “but how do you know it’s not from the vaccine? It could have been.” BAH.
There is not a single anti-vax person that can show me data that clearly shows the percent of people dying from the COVID shot isn’t the same as the percent of people dying from the flu shot or any other vaccine. They LOVE to show charts and graphs singularly showing the number of people having reactions since 2021, but when asked to show the percentage of reactions vs. total administered for COVID vaccines vs other vaccines, they go silent. Of course. Because they love fear mongering. OF COURSE the sheer volumne of reactions is going to be higher! The total number of vaccines given starting in 2021 skyrocketed!
Look, I’m not a doctor. This is a topic that people are really passionate about. And I respect and do not criticize anyone’s position on this. But I just wanted to get a longer form explanation of how I’m feeling. Now go get vacccinated! Or don’t! Either way, I’ll still love you.