I caught a cold last week. So I missed several days of scrolling endlessly and mostly fruitlessly on Facebook.
I did not suffer from FOMO — that Millenial-dreaded “Fear Of Missing Out.” I don’t care that I missed so many things that so many others felt so important they had to be shared. I read books instead.
I probably missed birthdays and Facebook invitations to “send a message” to the honorees. Maybe I missed my brother reaching his biking mileage goal. (So I called him and asked. He’s close.) Surely numerous friends and former students posted more kid pictures. I missed, no doubt, hours of scrolling through auto-play videos, listicles, quizzes, cute (to someone) YouTube kittens and puppies, what (to someone) is newsworthy, screeds about morality and politics, and the “ten things you need to know now.” I didn’t learn what Shakespearean character I am or what my favorite color says about me or whether I can successfully identify hit songs of the ‘70s. My bout with a virus deprived me of screen loads of time-wasting crap.
You know them — the social media parents.
They learn she’s pregnant with her first child. Joy consumes them. The announcement hits Twitter with abdominal photo or sonogram: “I’m preggers! #thefirst #babybump #joyful”
Husband and wife create an email account for the unborn child. They send a book’s worth of loving messages for her to read years from now. Husband or wife (usually wife) creates a WordPress blog to chronicle the family journey.
Delivery room photos of happy husband and sweat-soaked wife holding the minutes-old child hit Facebook. Baby clothes choices choke Instagram.
The predictable follows, mostly with photos. Cute baby eating in high chair, face smeared with mushed peas. Cute baby’s bare butt. Cute baby sleeping blissfully. Cute baby in cute baby holder. Selfies (usually by mom) holding cute baby smiling, regurgitating, sleeping, crying (don’t bother to pick one; you’ll eventually see them all). Cute baby with family puppy or kitten.
Then it’s toddler toddling. Kid taking her first steps. First play date. First day of pre-school. Pre-school graduation. First day of kindergarten. Kindergarten graduation. Various religious functions (baptism, bris, first communion, bar mitzvah, aqiqah, etc.)
Despite decades of taking pictures, I don’t know if I’ve seen (let alone taken) a perfect photograph. After all, perfection is a rarely achieved goal. How often is perfection attained in any human undertaking? In music? In art? In literature? In making a cup of coffee at Starbucks?
All these enterprises have metrics or dimensions in which competence is required. In photography, for example, a good shooter needs to demonstrate appropriate exposure, retention of shadow and highlight detail, composition, processing, etc. But there’s more, of course. Considerations involving texture, form, use of line and space, shapes, and tonalities abound.
… where, decades ago as a rock climber, I learned the meaning of “fear.”
Move along, now. There’s nothing new here. Really.
From the Wall Street Journal’s Steven Perlberg:
CNN is creating an in-house studio that will produce news-like content on behalf of advertisers, a move that reflects marketers’ growing desire for articles and videos that feel like editorial work.
CNN calls its foray into “news-like content on behalf of advertisers” by the name “Courageous.” But it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.
Marketers know their ads generally compete with other content. Continue reading
From a New York Times story this week:
Americans of both parties fundamentally reject the regime of untrammeled money in elections made possible by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and other court decisions and now favor a sweeping overhaul of how political campaigns are financed, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.
A ray of hope? A touch of sunshine? Can our long national nightmare of billionaire-bought elections be ending?
And by a significant margin, they reject the argument that underpins close to four decades of Supreme Court jurisprudence on campaign finance: that political money is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment. Even self-identified Republicans are evenly split on the question. [See the poll questions.]
I have given my last dollar to a politician. I will never again “like” a politician. I will never again click the “donate” button. Hell, I won’t even click a link to a politician’s website. I will stop following and friending politicians.
I’m just data to politicians, and they can and do sell me.
An impatient audience wielding smartphones says, ‘We want it NOW.’
Count with me, please: one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand five, one thousand six, one thousand seven, one thousand eight.
Eight seconds. That snippet of time, about 1/300,000,000 of an actuarial life, has driven The New York Times (among others) into the inviting arms of a Facebook lusting for revenue. Eight seconds. That’s the time Facebook says a user endures after she clicks on a Facebook link to a third-party site like nytimes.com.
The road to personal riches and political influence in Washington, D.C., is well trod. From Congress to K Street and back. From the White House to K Street and back. From numerous executive branch appointments to K Street and back. It’s called “the revolving door.” (If you’d like a close look at how many former government employees and members of Congress have been seduced by the fat purses at K Street, the good folks at the Center for Responsive Politics will provide you details.)
Yes, I know: This isn’t news. It’s historical; it has happened for generations. It rarely draws the attention it ought to. (Hear that, CNN? New York Times? Washington Post? Network news? Get off the dinner party circuit, risk losing your access to the powerful, and dig into these people.)
But every now and then, a door revolves and disgorges something so egregious that any hope, any last shred of hope, that decent, fair, legislatively productive government is possible fades to black.
The promulgator (a word he would likely detest) of the writing philosophy that has guided me since 1976 has left us. William Zinsser, author of “On Writing Well,” is dead at 92 years old.
Zinsser’s book went through six editions. Each revision reflected his growth as a writer and thinker as well as technological and cultural change. From The Times’ obit, masterfully written by Douglas Martin:
But it was his role as an arbiter of good writing that resonated widely and deeply. “On Writing Well,” first published by Harper & Row in 1976, has gone through repeated editions, at least four of which were substantially revised to include subjects like new technologies (the word processor) and new demographic trends (more writers from other cultural traditions).
I’ve been fortunate. I’ve spoken to him twice, both by phone, back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. He was warm, concise, and approachable. I’ve bought so many copies of his book. I keep giving a copy to (well, to be honest, pushing a copy on) one of my students, so, over the years, I’ve probably bought more than 50 copies of “On Writing Well.”
When I first read it, after its publication in 1976, I’d been in the news business for only six years. As a writer, I was far more the hack than a Hemingway. I found Zinsser’s book interesting, but, in the word created by Robert Heinlein, I didn’t “grok” it until many years and many annual re-readings (my New Year’s Day tradition still) later.