Both Ends Burning

I have so many topics I want to write about now that this site is re-kindled. And while I promise there won’t be much more political talk here because I find it all so exhausting, I do have another thing to express about how it feels like politics operates today.

Here’s my summary: It’s all so dumb. Summary complete.

I just want stop there, but if I did, then it’s just a lazy social media post. So off we go…

Let’s admit one thing – media entities with the largest readership and viewership tend to lean left, some harder left than others. To find out which media companies tend to favor, there are some good sources you can look at, one of which is AllSides. This morning I did a Google search of media outlets which reach the most people in the USA and then I input those into AllSides and here’s what it came back with:

NEWSPAPERS BY CIRCULATION VOLUME

  • The Wall Street Journal (leans toward center)
  • The New York Times (leans left)
  • USA Today (leans left)
  • The Washington Post (leans left)
  • Los Angeles Times (leans left)
  • New York Post (leans right)
  • Tampa Bay Times (leans toward center)
  • Chicago Tribune (leans toward center)

MOST WATCHED TV NETWORKS

  • CBS (leans left)
  • NBC (leans left)
  • ABC (leans left)
  • Fox News (leans right)
  • MSNBC (leans left)
  • CNN (leans left)

We often hear the more conservative right talking about unfair treatment from the press and they kinda do have a point, given that the media companies with the most readership/viewership do tend to lean left. And the only high-circulation newspaper in the top 8 can barely be called a newspaper.

I’m not here to comment on whether or not I think that’s fair, but I do find it mighty interesting that our last election was pretty evenly split. It shows, perhaps, that those media outlets above just don’t carry the weight that they used to. Hell, that’s an easy argument to make, actually, and supports my prior notion that social media is also playing a role by sucking you into the magic algo-spiral where you only see the content from the perspective that you support (which takes you further and further down the toilet).

But it does make me wonder why 2+ years later, there’s still SO much coverage of election deniers when back in 2016…..well….I’ll be quiet and just beg you at this point to watch this video about the 2016 election:

I do realize the one big wild card here is that nobody stormed the capital on January 6th after the 2016 election, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that both parties are just full of it.

It’s fair until it’s NOT fair. It’s not deplorable until *those people* do it. Give me a break.

It’s fair until it’s NOT fair. It’s not deplorable until *those people* do it. Give me a break.

One more thing – I’m pretty entrenched as someone who leans left, but very close to the center. As I mentioned in my prior post and above, the whole thing just exhausts me to no end and I’ve really had enough of both parties and their constant blathering, finger-pointing and moral superiority. Take all that energy and, um, just do your job maybe?

Things Fall Apart

Politics wasn’t a thing in my house when I was growing up. We weren’t one of those families that watched a lot of news or sat around the dinner table talking about politics or the day’s top stories. It’s not like these things were never discussed – it just came up way less than other stuff. And that’s pretty much the way politics was for me until the last few years. A non-issue. I never truly cared about who the president was or who my local representative was…and I found talking about politics boring.

I’ve always had left-leaning friends, right-leaning friends and party agnostic friends. The only important thing for me was that they were nice people and enjoyable to be around. And I think, perhaps naively, that a good amount of America was like that when I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s.

I wish life was still like that. It’s not.

America, to me, has turned into a borderline police-state country where there is far more hatred, dis-trust and vitriol than there used to be. I don’t think the genie is going back in the bottle.

Six or so years ago, I remember having a conversation with my dear friends Dave and Leo about the prospect of Donald Trump becoming president. Both of them are far more interested and knowledgeable in politics than I am (to the point where I believe they have a seperate text thread about it) and I distinctly remember asking them if any president in their lifetime had ever really, truly had any effect on their day-to-day lives. My point was that all three of us were so lucky to be born white and male and not oppressed by our race or gender as so many others are. We can be empathetic and sympathetic (and we are), but we will never truly know that feeling of oppression. Anyway, I sensed that point hit home with them.

And then came President Donald Trump – and my point about the president having an effect on our everyday lives became, well, wrong.

But let’s get back on track – how did we get here? I’ve always been a fan of Matt Taibbi, ever since he wrote for Rolling Stone. I like his tone and his almost frantic style of writing. I also like his content, so I pay for it. I especially love his approach to politicians and politics – he’s not afraid to call out anyone, anytime, anywhere, any party. So I fully subscribe to Taibbi’s notion that there is one bullseye we can place on why America has turned into what it has: the media and the wild west of the internet/social media.

Think about it:

  • Cable News: The advent of Fox News in the early ’90s wasn’t viewed at the time as anything groundbreaking or titanic. It was a greedy white-male capitalist who saw that CNN was having some success and he wanted a slice of that cake, too. It wasn’t until later in the decade when Fox, CNN and MSNBC started to become more outwardly and obnoxiously partisan. All three, and now countless others, are now cesspools and garbage disposals for partisan talking points. Worthless. Just feeding the narrative of what people want to hear, at the expense of truly balanced reporting, which is not easy to find on TV anymore. The national networks (CBS, NBC, etc) have 19 minutes per night and god forbid those broadcasts be too controversial because, well, ad dollars and access. These cable news networks have splintered us and turned us against each other.
  • Social Media: this is almost too easy a target. The first wave was impossibly fun: memes, cat videos and the real dopamine hit of connecting with old classmates and friends and also finding like-minded people who you would *never* otherwise meet. The world shrank immediately and boy, was that intoxicating! You mean somebody else in America likes listening to Southern Culture on the Skids as much as I do? Golly! Fast forward to today, and it has turned into a nasty, nasty place where “brave” people hide behind keyboards, feeling emboldened to toss bombs of verbosity at anyone who doesn’t think like they do. Algorhithms only show them the content that feeds only their political beliefs and it all just sucks them further into their netherworld. This is poison. It just pulls the left lefter and the right righter. And yet I can’t seem to fully tear myself away from social media, largely because…cat videos and windows into my friends lives.

Anyway, I agree with Taibbi that these two things have become poisonous and there’s really no going back. No political third party or revolutionary politician is going to lead us out of this as long as there’s partisan media and algorithims to tell us ONLY what we want to hear. If some third political party emerges and becomes a regular factor, it just means another cable news network will come up where that party line will be the exclusive message. The cat is out of the bag – and it’s an ugly hairless cat that pukes up a lot of hairballs. I don’t know the solution. Part of me wants more regulation of these things, but how?

All I can do for now is a) not watch or support cable news to the best of my ability, b) use social media less; Facebook and Twitter are off my phone and c) really, truly try to understand all sides to a story and respect people’s perspectives as much as I can.

What do you think?

Define a Transparent Dream

This is my first post in 2,096 days. That’s 50,304 hours, or 5.7 years without a single post. But as they say, today is the first day of the rest of your life.

What took so long? You could call it laziness, or lack of time. You could call it the easy allure of short-burst thoughts posted to Social Media. Call it whatever you want. Truth is, it’s probably all of those things. And while I’m not particualrly proud that I haven’t worked out this muscle in a long time, consider the leaf turned over. I’m coming to back to longer(ish) posts and freshening up this dusty area. I’m doing this for myself, mostly – I just miss writing.

Simple solution: do it more. So I will.

This morning I was reading The Atlantic’s recent series of articles about dreams. Dreams have always fascinated me. In “How to Change Your Mind,” Michael Pollan’s captivating book about psychedelic drugs, he writes that our dreams are literally as close as we get to “drug trips” without actually ingesting the illegal substances. So whether we remember it or not, we’re all tripping every night. Right on! And somehow, “it’s Freedom Rock, man!” just popped into my head.

Back to The Atlantic. Of the handful of articles posted about dreams, the one that resonated with me the most was the one about recurring dreams, particualrly school-related dreams. The one that seems most common (and is referred to in the article) is about forgetting you signed up for a class, only to be reminded of it just before the final, dooming your planned graduation. I don’t recall ever having that one. But I do have two recurring dreams:

  1. The first one is actually school related: I can’t for the life of me ever remember my class schedule – and I find myself not knowing what class to go to next and subsequently not knowing what to do. Every day .It results in me just missing classes, never knowing my schedule and panicking.
  2. This one is hockey-related. I have somehow “made it” to the NHL and I’m in the locker room before the game, when I realize there’s a skate missing. Or perhaps some other piece of equipment that won’t allow me to play. I desperately look around for it and grow more and more despondent with each passing minute. I miss the warm-up. I hear the National Anthem from the locker room. I hear the roar of the crowd as my sadness in the locker room grows. The game begins. But I never get to experience it.

So the question I’ve always asked myself is “why these dreams?” The Atlantic, as they do, investigated this with Deirdre Barrett, a dream researcher at Harvard University and author of two books tied to sleep and dreams (I guess she has a dream job! Cue dad joke here).

“…these dreams tend to pop up when the dreamer is anxious in waking life, particularly about being evaluated by an authority figure.”

Kelly CONABOY (The atlantic, 9/22/22)

Well there you have it. Even at the age of 51, I’m still thrilled to learn and will definitely try to be more cognizent of what is going on in my life when these dreams appear.

In addition to encouraging us to connect the dots between our dreams and meaningful things in real life, the article also surmises that school-related panic presents in our sub-conscious and dreams so often because it is such a foundational part of our lives and where (arguably) a huge amount of life skills were instilled. This makes sense to me, though at this point school years (let’s call it 17) make up just 33% of my waking life, so I believe it to be more than that.

So what recurring dreams do you have? Leave a comment!

Anyway….happy tripping, er, dreaming.

I Feel The Need, The Need For…

I Feel The Need, The Need For…

Hello blog readers and curious onlookers. Hello spammers, too. There seem to be plenty of you spammers around, according to my comments sections. A few months back I had written how a book by Elizabeth Gilbert ignited a small fire within me to create more. You know, for creation’s sake.

During that time, I had started researching a book and even making calls with the goal of putting together a series of non-fiction stories about NHL players who had realized their dream of playing in the NHL – but ended up only playing one NHL game in their career. I had a few doozies that I was excited to write about. A few months after my research began, this book came out. Someone got to it before me. So it goes. Onward.

I’m happy that I have some creative freedom at my current job. We have a creative group that does the majority of our stuff and they do it so well. But I still get plenty of tasty morsels in terms of creative freedom. And that’s great. But I always want more. Insatiable need? Maybe. Today’s post isn’t about labels or personality traits, though.

Late last summer I connected with John, the owner of Hit the Net Sports, a sporting goods store in Acton, MA. They mostly sell hockey equipment, along with lacrosse and field hockey. Sounds familiar, right? I told him I was looking for a side project and would love to build him a new website. We met, I outlined my vision and he was cool enough to trust me to proceed with my vision. Neat.

Over the next 8 weeks, I slowly built the site, using the WordPress platform and a whole bunch of pictures I took at the store. The old site was very text heavy with a lot of images pulled off the internet. There were no actual pictures of the store. So my main goal was to turn it into something where the visuals tell the story. It’s not absent of text, but in an fast-increasing world of visuals, this was a glaring need. I also went in and shot some video, because video is where it’s at, if you’re to believe the marketing experts. Which I do.

In addition, I wanted to make sure the most common questions and their answers would be on every page, along with location and contact info. Important for a local business

Here’s a quick before and after shot of the hockey page:

BEFORE

building a website

AFTER

hit the net sportsIt’s my first real website project that I’ve built on my own, in its entirety, other than this blog. While it’s not 100% complete, it’s 95% of the way there and it’s certainly far enough down the road to launch. So launch it we did, just after Thanksgiving. If you want to see it all, you can see it here. Hope you dig it. I was happy to hear that John liked it and I’ll be doing more with him at some point soon.

My mission continues: create. Inside AND outside of work. It keeps my spirit burning.

If you need a small website built, let me know! I’d love to help you out. I have a full time job, so most of my work happens piecemeal, but I’d love to build more. You can hit me up here with questions or ideas.

I Fear Gender Equality

I Fear Gender Equality

Gender equality is a hot issue as we head into the election, isn’t it? Wow. This last week has really been interesting. Infuriating. Frustrating. Even funny at times. But I’m not here to talk about gender equality in the same way that our Democratic and Republican representatives for President are. Equal pay, equal work, et al. We’ll let them handle that conversation, if that’s what it’s even called.

I’m talking about a different kind of gender equality and that is the fear that most men have of sharing and showing emotion with each other. I’m talking aside from the spousal sharing. I can’t really speak for other men (and don’t want to), but I do think men are far more fearful than women are when it comes to this. It’s not a stretch to say this. There is unquestionably a fear there – a fear of being perceived as weak. Or meek. Or incapable. Or something.

That’s right, I fear that kind of gender equality!

I’ve spent a fair amount of my life with a very few close friends. There are not many with whom I’d share really personal things. I think this is the norm with men. Women, on the other hand, seem to thrive and gain strength in numbers. In the power of many. Their relationships are meaningful, deeper and stronger than the ones men have.

I speak in generalities based on my own experience and observations. I obviously know that there are the exceptions to the norm with both genders.

I’m not saying that my friendships with other males are superficial, either. Quite the contrary. There IS something meaningful about just going out and having a couple of beers with some friends. To get away from the daily pressures of life and NOT have to be deep in thought. While our “locker room” talk may not be at the level of Trump/Bush, a fun, ridiculous and even raunchy conversation is good stuff. Healthy. Fun.

But I’m envious of these women and their relationships and have been for years. I wish it were that easy for guys. It’s just not. And it will never be.

gender equality

Me, Leo, Dave.

This past weekend I drove out to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania to spend a weekend with two people I’ve known for about 20 years now. We had this crazy idea in the 1990’s to run a record label. The stories from that era alone are epic.

It’s basically two out of two people on Earth (who are men) for which all fear is removed when I spend time with them. We lay it all on the table, without fear and with total comfort. There is emotion. There is laughing. A LOT of laughing. There is honesty. And there is connection. It’s exhilarating.

When I get together with them at any time, I experience that connection that women seem to experience more than us men. I want more of that.

Luckily, one of them lives nearby and I see him every so often. And that’s so great. The other, however, lives further away. A flight. And while I email with him and text, I hadn’t seen him in around eight years. That’s really quite unacceptable. And it won’t happen again.

But seeing him this weekend, it felt like it had been a few days. We just clicked right back in. Magic. And we share so many similarities and personality traits that it sometimes astounds me. As I always do when I see him, I asked him to find a job up here so the three of us can play shuffleboard whenever we want. Haha.

Anyway, I don’t have a moral to this story. I just needed to get it down on paper because it’s on my mind. I love these guys. And you can probably never get enough love.