Friday, December 1, 2023

Can democracy survive uber-capitalism?

Editor's Note: The Snooze Button Generation published 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend in 2019, then updated it with 25 new books this year. This blog periodically will add a book, and today it is "It's OK to Be Angry About Capitalism" by Bernie Sanders.

"If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment, all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning."

Midway through It's OK to Be Angry About Capitalism (2023), Bernie Sanders quotes Fyodor Dostoyevski, and I could not agree more. If meaningless work overtakes us, what will become of us? Our souls?

But meaningless work, and not enough meaningful jobs or jobs that involve every waking moment and are soul-crushing are only part of the equation. With our unprecedented wealth gap, the development of AI and political and social division, the United States is in a crisis of sorts. In his book, Bernie lays out the problems and offers solutions.

In order for societies to function, we need workers in numerous and various roles. In our uber-capitalist system, for at least 40 years, workers in the United States have been making less wages, asked to work longer hours and have continually been getting the squeeze.

Bernie (with author John Nichols) outlines this unfair, and immoral, reality is his book, and he does it in a clear, logical way that should appeal to both Democrats and Republicans. Bernie is the longest serving independent in Congressional history and although he has campaigned for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, should appeal to any worker or pro-worker view who takes the time to understand his views.

The United States is facing an economic systemic crisis in which 735 billionaires exist while 60 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. The billionaire system absolutely, positively does not work, and Bernie explains this well. But he is clear. Don't hate the individuals who manipulated the system to become billionaires. Question the system that made it possible, and now let's go to work fixing it.

Unfortunately in the corporate media, Bernie is portrayed as a "leftist" or "socialist" or maybe even a weirdo to some. In reality, though, his beliefs only are extreme from a corporate point of view, and, unfortunately, the average person only sees politics and political "issues" through a corporate lens.

Facebook — owned by a billionaire. Twitter (or X) — owned by a billionaire. Fox News, CNN, the networks, newspapers — billionaire conglomerates. Ninety percent of all U.S. media is owned by eight conglomerates. 

That corporate media, and the Democratic National Committee, cringe at Bernie's anti-corporate, anti-billionaire message, and, truthfully, Democrats and Republicans have been heads and tails on the same corporate coin for at least 40 years. I believe Bernie is 100 percent correct, that the typical American is fed up with that tail-wagging-the-dog corporate system, and we have to move away from it and closer to an actual democracy.

It's OK to Be Angry About Capitalism walks through why Bernie dropped out of the 2020 race in an all-hands-on-deck approach to defeat Donald Trump. He also outlines his Medicare for All plan that would be phased in through five years, and he interviews Finland's of education Li Andersson and outlines what U.S. schools could learn apply from Finland. All of that was excellent.

But, to me, the two absolute best chapters were titled "Billionaires Should Not Exist" and "Corporate Media Is Undermining Democracy." 

With the billionaires, we truly are living in an oligarchy. Frequently, many of these oligarchs contribute to both parties in order to retain influence regardless of who wins an election. How is that a democracy?

The tax code hits wages relatively hard, but assets aren't taxed. How is that fair? Not only do many corporations pay zero in tax, but Congress often sends money to select corporations, including Amazon, in "rescue" bills. Totally ridiculous.

I remember hearing Mark Cuban express how wrong Elizabeth Warren was to criticize him and billionaires. Eventually, though, Cuban said one solution for taxing billionaires is to hit them with transaction taxes. When he sold to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in 1999, why not tax a billion or two? 

OK. That idea is a start. But I say go further. There has got to be a way to balance the power, and net worths, of billionaires. Can't these uber-capitalists at least be forced to cash out some of their stock with a yearly tax bill that resembles what the average worker pays in taxes?

Sadly, this wealth-gap crisis hardly is addressed in media or is contorted to something it isn't. My theory is that the average American has been raised on TV or the phone and is used to the constant drumbeat of corporate messages, brought to you be FedEx and GMC and Coca-Cola.

We don't even see the ads any more. We're numb to them. It's a billionaire, corporate world, and we other 331.9 million Americans are just living in it.

At the bare minimum, Bernie's book brings up modern issues that need more attention. But perhaps the book also allowed me to update my political operating system.

Older generations sometimes snicker at younger ones for being politically disenchanted, which I believe describes most — if not all — of the United States. Knowledge is power, and to understand that Democrats and Republicans alike have been corporate shills for at least 40 years clearly shows us why we're going to witness yet another presidential election nobody wants. How is that democracy?

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Why do they put cotton in pill bottles?

"I don't know anything offhand that mystifies Americans more than the cotton they put in pill bottles. Why do they do it? Are you supposed to put the cotton back in once you've taken a pill out?"

Ah, Andy Rooney, it's real easy to make fun of him. Norm MacDonald and Joe Piscopo each lampooned him on Saturday Night Live. Heck, Andy used to poke fun at himself.

"I try to look nice," he said. "I comb my hair. I tie my tie. I put on a jacket, but I draw the line when it comes to trimming my eyebrows." 

Yes, Andy did indeed have bushy eyebrows. He often complained about cereal boxes, the air inside cereal boxes and minutiae that annoyed him — and presumably should annoy everyday Americans. He was kind of like Seinfeld without the crisp delivery.

I guess I'm thinking about Andy Rooney, who's been gone for 12 years, because I'm lamenting our previous media world where we all just figured 60 Minutes was as legitimate of a news source as we could find, next to our local newspapers. Reminiscing about Rooney, and his eyebrows, makes me ponder life without newspaper columnists.

We're basically living without columnists, and I suppose we're surviving. If anything, I miss local columnists — especially the quirky ones. 

Now, you may say, hold on a second. There are plenty of legitimate columnists out there. What about The New York Times with Frank Bruni, Paul Krugman, Thomas L. Friedman and their cadre of mostly white men? However, I don't know. There is no one in 2023 I care to read regularly, except maybe Terry Pluto — Cleveland sports columnist.

Back in the day, I used to love Cleveland's Bill Livingston and Bud Shaw in sports and Michael Heaton and Jane Scott in entertainment.

When I was in the Queens office of Newsday, I worked in the same newsroom as stalwart Jimmy Breslin. He might be the epitome of news columnists. New York also had a list of popular sports columnists when I was there with Mike Lupica of the Daily News arguably at the top of the heap.

When I got to Long Beach, Doug Krikorian and Bob Keisser did an excellent job in sports with Tom Hennessey and Tim Grobaty (who recently announced a semi-retirement at the L.B. Post) doing the same in news. Even though Grobaty is hanging in there, it's been so long since we've had the gift of reading local columnists like we used to. With the demise of local news, we also lost our columnists.

Looking back on it, these columnists comprised quite a boys club — not a lot of diversity there. To me, the best ones were the ones that didn't take themselves too seriously.

Take me on a reporting ride of folks camping outside Best Buy at 4 a.m. on Black Friday. Report the glee of buying a VCR at half price. Compare the whole experience to a pilgrimage. Instead of trekking to Lourdes, go to aisle 6 with drastically discounted CD players. Make fun of the guy who bought something called a "Garmin" — like that's going to work.  

Quirky, slice-of-life columnists, AKA humorists, had fun, knowing very well that while they had a platform to do meaningful reporting and commentary, they also were limited by their perspectives and resources. They could make it all work, as long as we laughed.

Some wrote three, four columns a week, and I'm talking about the time well before the Internet and cell phones. Their main tools for research were their Rolodexes, landlines and maybe microfiche. Eh, what did they really know?

Still, I was a guy who dutifully read them and aspired to be one of them. Dave Barry, syndicated out of Miami, was the king of the humor column. Heck, he even won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1988. 

Barry is a celebrity, and that's tricky for me. When a columnist got on TV, I lost interest. Print, baby, print. I just wanted to read a column; TV news, or sound-byte commentary, never really worked with me. 

The format for humorists nowadays is basically toast. So much is a meme or Tweet. Maybe I can seek out individuals who are still writing meaningful stuff and are funny, but who exactly is that? Let me know if you know.

The Internet columnist (even though that really isn't much of a thing) is more interested in attracting clicks, building a brand and being a capitalist. I'm not interested in being one of somebody's million followers. Hard pass.

As I lament the loss of local columnists, perhaps I'm just getting older and tapping into my grumpy Andy Rooney side. Andy offered these words of wisdom back in 1988:

"The third rule of life is this: Everything you buy today is smaller, more expensive and not as good as it was yesterday."

Sunday, October 1, 2023

A midlife shift to woo-woo wonder

Midlife crisis?

I'm pretty sure the word crisis is too harsh to describe my deal. In my thesaurus, synonyms are catastrophe, calamity, emergency and disaster. My midlife is far from that.

Perhaps the term "midlife crisis" needs to go and be replaced with midlife change or midlife shift or midlife improvement.

As I just turned 50, I understand how we live in such a youth-centered culture. Yeah, ads on the Internet might be tailored for me, but aren't a lot of my hobbies, like watching sports for example, celebrations of youth?

My childhood isn't even in my rear-view mirror any more, and I have many, many important adult memories behind me. I'm feeling a sense of "it's now or never." I need to live the genuine life I want to live now while I can enjoy it.

After visiting Sophie in Berkeley, I've become inspired to have more of a college state of mind. When I was in college at the Ohio State University, I remember feeling that it was a time for discovery. I would take classes in whatever interested me and constantly meet new people. It was pretty fun and ed-u-ma-ca-tion-al. 

So much of the world, and so many subjects, have been left untapped by me that it's time to explore some new interests. Now or never. There is a whole world of things, such as plants, trees, insects, that I hardly know anything about. It's time to explore some new stuff. The world is full of wonder; it is wonderful.
In all reality, women have it much harder at this age with their change, but bros — or at least this bro — experience something as well. It's official that I can't do everything as well physically as I used. If I sprint, I'd likely feel that for days. Last month, I did a Chloe Ting workout with my daughter Chloe Stevens. Part of that entailed 100 jumping jacks. I did 75 of them and was sore for days.

I used to do random dance challenges with my daughters, and I stopped doing that. I've been retired from my high school's student-faculty game for years, and I no longer go for runs. But, honestly, by playing golf, bike riding and hiking, I'm not really missing, or lamenting, turning down the dial on hardcore exercise.

I agree wholeheartedly with one of the mantras of YouTube yoga star, Adriene. "Find what feels good."

So I've been doing light yoga, and I've been trying to get in touch with my feelings. Imagine that! Dina tells me that I'm becoming too "woo-woo," but I kind of like this 50-year-old woo-woo version of myself.

I'm being careful not to confuse my age and experience with certainty. We humans likely are walking contradictions. Yes, we have the ability to do some incredible things, but on the other hand, we are so limited with our perspectives and the scopes of our lives.

Yeah, I can consider myself a sophisticated gentleman for having done some travel, reading voraciously, being open-minded and battling against our 21st century consumer culture. But still, what do I really know?

It's time to open up my eyes, and heart, to the world and continually see the glory and wonder of what we call life — or in my case, woo-woo life.

Friday, September 1, 2023

An homage to Tito

Editor's Note: The Snooze Button Generation blog would like to thank the outpouring of kind words and donations to the GoFundMe fundraiser for Fred Stevens. Last month's post detailing Fred's health situation garnered a lot of attention, and Fred is making some much-welcomed progress! ... Now, this month's blog:

Thank you, Tito.

Inspirational. Practical. Smart. Adaptable. A Role Model.

Those are the first words that come to mind when I think of Cleveland Guardians manager Terry "Tito" Francona, who will be retiring at the end of this season after 11 seasons with the Guardians/Indians.

As Terry Pluto in pointed out, only the Dodgers (.613), Yankees (.565) and Cardinals (.559) have a higher winning percentage than the Guardians under Francona (.557). It's been a wonderful run of baseball for Cleveland fans, and it's bit disconcerting to see the 64-year-old retire.

Tito will be in the Hall of Fame as a manager. In his first year as manager for the Boston Red Sox in 2004, he helped break the Sox's 86-year-old championship as they won the World Series. They had come back from an 0-3 deficit in the ALCS to beat the Yankees, and then the Red Sox won the World Series again in 2007.

Our Cleveland Indians got the Worlds Series in 2016 under Tito, had a 3-1 lead over the Cubs, but couldn't seal the deal. I didn't fault Tito at the time because he was an absolute magician getting them that far. In fact, he probably was the main reason they were there in the first place.

In 2016, Tribe fans had the attitude that it was a surprise we were there and we were ecstatic for that. Plus, LeBron had just lifted our own curse with the Cavs' championship. Tito seems to often have his hand with lifting curses as the Cubbies won for the first time in 108 years.

A baseball season is like life or teaching. It's a long grind. There are constant decisions. We get up and down, and, at the end of the day, we're only in charge of so much.

Although I never met Tito and am just a fan, it appears that he connects with his players. He makes decisions to the best of his ability, and players and fans have total trust in him. It happens. But it's rare that he makes a blunder. He has been a major asset to the Tribe and Northeast Ohio. He even rides a scooter from his downtown apartment to the games:

As a kid who liked playing sports but wasn't on a high-school team, I quickly related to managers and coaches. While I feel I have a strong analytical sports mind, I never played at an elite level. After spending seven seasons covering the NBA, I concluded that a good, or bad, NBA coach only adds plus, or minus, five wins per season.

With all apologies to Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr or whomever you think is an awesome coach, it's likely not going to make a major difference. In Major League Baseball, however, it's probably more like a plus, or minus, 10 games. Tito maxed out those 10 games many, many years with the Tribe.

Even in this current, difficult year with practically a minor-league roster, he's still getting the most out of his guys, and he's a wizard when it comes to in-game moves. Yeah, we all know how important analytics are in baseball nowadays, but there's a human factor, too. Tito is good at all of it.

I'm fearful that the next era of Cleveland baseball will not nearly be as enjoyable as the Tito years. How could it be?

The new balanced schedule prevents the Guardians from beating up on Central Division opponents, like they did for 10 of 11 of Tito's years. Plus, no one, absolutely no one, will be able to fill his shoes. The guy who takes over — I vote for Sandy Alomar — will have a lot of pressure on him.

Sandy, of course, was part of the Indians' powerhouse teams in the '90s, when they went to the World Series in '95 during the first time they were in the postseason since 1954. In all reality, those '90s powerhouse teams when Jacobs Field opened will go down as the golden age of Cleveland baseball.
Of course, those powerhouse '90s teams never won the World Series, blowing Game 7 in the late innings against the Florida Marlins in '97. In many ways, those '90s teams were the opposite of Tito's teams. While those '90s Indians overpowered opponents with offense, Tito's teams finesse their victories with pitching, defense, speed and superb attention to detail.

Perhaps baseball purists respond more to the Moneyball-style success of the Tito era. But the city of Cleveland responded more to the powerhouse '90s teams.

Heck, the Indians had.a streak of 455 consecutive sellouts from June 1995 to April 2001. The demand for tickets was so high that in five straight seasons, all home games were sold out before opening day.

By the way, that sellout streak was a record at the time, but it was surpassed by the Red Sox (794 ending in 2013) and Giants (530 ending in 2017). Boston's streak — it must be noted — comprised of Tito's entire stay in Boston with three additional years.

The Guardians owner recently said that Tito will stay on in some sort of capacity as a front-office consultant. That's great, and all, but it is far from the same as knowing when to let a pitcher come out for the seventh inning or when to have faith in Josh Naylor vs. lefties.

Tito made so many constant right moves and was such an admirable individual, he is — without a doubt — the best manager, or coach, in Cleveland sports history in my lifetime. I doubt there will ever be any coach more impressive.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Please donate to my brother's GoFundMe

Listen. I feel a bit uncomfortable asking you to donate to my brother's GoFundMe fundraiser, but I am.

Fred has acute CIDP. He cannot get in or out of bed without assistance. He needs help with bathing and toileting and has constant medical personnel coming in and out of his home. Insurance does not cover the home health-care workers that he needs.

Please click here to donate. 

My sister-in-law Judi and Cousin Steve, AKA the World's Most Dependable Man, created Fred's GoFundMe about two months ago, and it hasn't reached half of its goal — yet.

I recently returned to California after spending a week with Fred, and I was fortunate to be a part of his best week in the past three months. I played a role in that by insisting on getting him out of the house and doing my best imitation of Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums by "taking it out and chopping it up."

Fred showed movement in his hands and arms, and that was an excellent step forward. He did physical therapy with a walker and gingerly completed a loop around his living room while being spotted. There were signs of progress, but the problem is that every 11 days, he does necessary infusion treatments. Around that time, his movement gets much, much less.

Acute CIDP is a rare neurological disorder that Fred first showed signs of in Dec. 2018. It got exceptionally difficult in April 2020, when he was basically paralyzed and we didn't know what in the world was happening. But after a lot of rehab and treatment, he dealt with it and got to the point where he was functioning, working, driving and living life in 2021.

Back in April of this year, he fell paralyzed from the neck down, after slowly getting to that point. He had a feeding tube for more than a month, and there was talk of a ventilator, which he never went on, thank God. He spent 27 days in the hospital, 40 other days in an assisted living/rehab facility, and now he's been home for a month.
When I visited, we had major victories by getting out of the house five of the seven days I was there. Fred hardly saw the world outside of the hospital, assisted living and his home for the previous three months. We went to an outdoor mall, wheeled around the premises, hung around a park and even went to a happy hour. Winning!

We went to his office, visited Cousin Steve, drove around downtown Cleveland, went to Shooters in the Flats and had dinner at TownHall on West 25th. Fred also got out to Chippewa Lake, slept over in Brecksville and cooked out with Steve, Krista, Dina, our mom and me. Winning!

Fred and I had a blast. No major issues happened with him out, and at times, I felt like I was Jim Jefferies in the short-lived show Legit, which I enjoyed quite a bit, by the way.

It took me a while to accept this new reality because Fred has always been the picture of health and quite athletic. He was playing fast-pitch baseball until age 49, and when I surprised him by showing up at his 50th birthday party in Cleveland in 2018, his health was all good.

Fred's attitude and approach to his health remains matter of fact and optimistic. He often talks about God, and he has strengthened my spiritual life. I love this guy, my only sibling. Thanks for reading this and thank you for the support!

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Wonder Twin powers, activate!

Quick: Fill in the blank:

Saturday morning _____________.

Think about it. Think about it. What is it for you? For me, it's real simple:

Cartoons! "Saturday morning cartoons."

That's the answer for this Gen Xer. Sadly, the only other thing that comes to mind for this former party animal is "Saturday morning hangovers."

Saturday morning cartoons were such a thing for us Gen Xers that I venture to say many of us remember that glorious time when we were allowed to watch TV as our parents slept in.

"Wonder Twin powers, activate!"

"Form of an octopus." "Shape of an iceberg." Or something like that. Say what?

Saturday morning cartoons were quite a thing for Generation X, and Super Friends was my favorite one. Through extensive Internet research, I have realized that Super Friends had many reincarnations and that I probably was watching something with a slightly different name.

Even though Super Friends featured Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and a who's who of DC action heroes, I strangely remember the Wonder Twins best. Who are they? What are they doing? Why am I interested in this duo?

I guess I'm pondering Super Friends and the Wonder Twins because as a Gen Xer, I believe there are too many entertainment options on our screens nowadays. It's not always easy finding people watching the same stuff.

I can find friends who've watched White Lotus, Succession, Ted Lasso and the Cleveland Guardians, but it's not like it's everybody — like Super Friends. In a sense, we were united when our kid demographic basically was forced to watch Super Friends and know who the heck the blue monkey Gleek is.

Hence, I maintain the theory that the phone and the nature of binge watching and streaming are divisive by nature. Too much junk out there!

Perhaps that's why it was accidentally genius that my daughters created their KPop Club at high school, which is where they got most of their friends. Basically, those kids' frame of reference is KPop trash, and they're united by that.

Back to the Super Friends and Wonder Twins, I think it was interesting how the twins, Zan and Jayna, were racially ambiguous. They don't appear white, and, of course, they were from another planet — Exxor. Actually, I believe they may have slightly inspired Saturday Night Live's Ambiguously Gay Duo, Ace and Gary.

Just like Pat from SNL, I don't believe Ace and Gary hold up. Truthfully, I never liked that skit because it seemed pretty darn homophobic even in the 1990s. I also couldn't stand the name "ambiguous." There was nothing ambiguous about Ace and Gary's sexual orientation, and why were heteros laughing at that?

Unlike Ace and Gary, I don't believe the Wonder Twins are on the wrong side of history or progress. They're pretty innocuous, pretty goofy. I might have to revisit them on YouTube, and search the Internet and pet stores for a blue monkey.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

A blink of an eye

I can't really put into words the overwhelming emotions that hit me when one of my groomsmaids, Sophie, walked down the aisle, moments before Dina and I were married. 

Oh, wow, it was just too much for me. Dad's remarrying with the daughters at ages 12 and 10. This isn't how I initially drew it up, but it was meant to be. Sophie and I had gone through a lot, and seeing her walk down the aisle — I just lost it.

A "blink of an eye." I've often heard that parenting feels like a blink of an eye. One day, the kids are babies. Then, boom, they're in college. A blink of an eye.

Yeah, that's accurate. I'm feeling how quickly life happened as Sophie just went to prom, accepted her dorm assignment and will graduate in a couple weeks. A blink of an eye.

Y'know, if life is a Texas hold 'em tournament, which it most likely is, you're going to have to push all your chips in the middle of the table at some point — or multiple points — and you only should do that when you know it's the right move. And even when it's a right move, the cards don't always hold up.

I went all-in with parenting, and the cards have held up. Even with the inevitable ups and downs of life, I've enjoyed this ride. All the days, years, stages — they've been a pleasure, and I deeply love the girls. Thank God, I went all-in. How could I not?

It's not like being a dad ends at age 18 or college, but I'm being forced to reinvent my identity a bit. This dad has to adapt to a newer version of life that isn't so dad-centric. I don't know if I'm transitioning into the Elder Statesman or Golf-aholic or Gardener or Whatever, but I'm forced to turn the dial down on my dad stuff.

Not too long ago, I reminisced about my Press-Telegram days, and part of my conclusion was that maybe I should've enjoyed my 10 years there more. I did enjoy it to a certain degree, but it was difficult to accept the constant downsizing and looking back to the past about what newspapers used to be.

The good news is that I don't feel that way about parenting. I've enjoyed it — big time. Of course, I made a zillion mistakes. I tried to make everything perfect in the beginning. I dabbled in helicoptering, then finally took some cues from How to Raise an Adult, and feel my approach has been successful. This has been life.

As we head into graduation season, it's totally different having a daughter graduating from high school than the 14 other graduations I've seen as a teacher. I get it now. I get the unified emotion we parents feel. Yeah, man, we've been through a lot. Let's move those tassels to the left and be proud.

I don't exactly know how I'll transition to the next step — a parent with a college kid — but that's fine. I'll enjoy this phase. And guess what? It's not really about me. It's about her, and I'm proud of the individual she is and will be.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Ted Lasso vs. The White Shadow

Is TV as good as we think it is, or are we just being manipulated?

That's the question I'm pondering as I'm watching two fish-out-of-water coach shows — Ted Lasso and The White Shadow.

The title character in Lasso is an American football coach who takes over a soccer team in England. It's one of the most streamed shows nowadays, and, well, you've probably at least heard of it. Right?

The White Shadow (1978-81) features Ken Howard as Coach Ken Reeves, who leaves the Chicago Bulls to coach hoops at a predominantly black school in Los Angeles. I remember watching it as a kid, ages 5-8, and totally remember the players Coolidge and Salami. I mean, come on, who can ever forget a character named Salami?

I love Ted Lasso, so much so that I went as him for Halloween in 2021. The show has good vibes and is a feel-good one. One of the phrases that promotes it is "Kindness makes a comeback."

But after revisiting the first 10 episodes of The White Shadow, I may like the '70s show more. I'm pretty sure The White Shadow was far ahead of its time, and I can't say the same thing about Lasso.

The White Shadow usually tackles a big social issue in each episode. It's explored teen pregnancy, alcoholism, the school-to-prison pipeline, homophobia and even taking a difficult airplane ride from LAX to San Jose.

By the way, the title comes from the end of the pilot episode when Coach Reeves says, "I'm going to be leaning on you guys, and I'll be behind you every step of the way." Then player Morris Thorpe adds, "Yeah. Like a white shadow."

I find the show entertaining and comforting. Of course, there are some outdated, cringey moments, especially with how female characters are portrayed and filmed. However, the show, which was created by Bruce Paltrow (Gwyneth's dad), is pure on so many levels. It's got heart, a social conscience, and it's not just out to make a buck as Lasso and contemporary shows and movies are — to the umpteenth level.

The White Shadow predates product placement, so it doesn't fill the screen with constant Apple products as Lasso does. And it doesn't sneak in products like current shows, or movies, do. Heck, a popular movie just released is Air about Nike. On one level, that movie is a 112-minute ad. 

For the longest time, TV shows have had various storylines, even in 23-minute sitcoms. I remember Seinfeld in the '90s definitely had multiple storylines, and The Sopranos did that, too. A typical Lasso episode has about five rotating storylines that are pretty fast-paced. In contrast, The White Shadow deals with just one storyline without any real subplots. That lone narrative thread is actually quite refreshing, and because of that, the show has more depth.

By revisiting The White Shadow, I also realized how overproduced and overstylized our current TV shows are. I remember hearing Jason Bateman once explain how on Ozark, they would film in bluish colors and greys to add an extra level of anxiety to a scene. With the lovey, calming music and pleasant hues in Lasso, I see that opposite tricks are being done to add warmth.

I'm not saying I don't like Lasso, but with advanced technology, the brain power of its writing staff and money of Apple behind it, it just may not have the pure heart that the character Ted Lasso has. But The White Shadow does.

Ted Lasso, like most shows today, pretends that everybody is equal in terms of social and economic class, and that's a gross lie. The White Shadow was created to expose those unfair differences in each episode. 

I believe what we see on the Internet, and many of our TV shows, make a default assumption that 21st century capitalism is important. There's another default assumption that it's worth scrolling through advertisements to see Instagram posts that are really just more advertisements. Another default assumption is that watching a 5-second ad is worth seeing another vehicle of capitalism, some YouTube video.

Back in The White Shadow's time, we didn't have the hyper video and advertisement consumption that we have now. The average person did not have blind faith in the marketplace or the belief that as long as something sold, or got attention, then it's OK.

The time was more reflective. The show was more reflective than my beloved Lasso, and the show's creators did something innovative, and socially progressive. Long live The White Shadow!

Monday, April 3, 2023

100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend

New and improved!

One word that sticks in my mind while updating 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend is ephemeral. With our ever-changing world, I wonder if books have become more timely yet more disposable.

Ninety-two of the 100 books I recommend come from the 21st century, and I believe nonfiction exploded as a genre around 2010. In just four years, I felt obliged to replace 25 book reviews with new ones. However, I must point out that 10 of the original reviews simply were books recommended by readers and the humor category wasn't that strong.

My odd main takeaway updating this list and writing 25 new reviews is that I'm developing more of an acceptance to nonreaders. It's not their fault. Our capitalistic culture is too much for many to overcome, and while publishing is a $30 billion industry, it doesn't compare to the $720 billion entertainment industry or $1.8 trillion technology industry.

Book reading is, and will remain, a counterculture action loved by only a few. It doesn't mean nonreaders are bad people, but they think (or don't think, wink) in ways I might not.

For those who actually read, or might give a book a try, I have vetted and give my seal of approval to all 100 books on this list. Many of these books aren't perfect, and some are slow in parts. But the vast majority are page-turners that I couldn't put down.

Also, some categories are perfect for some books, but not all. Many books could be in other categories, but, eh, let's not split hairs over that. Enjoy this list, and let me know if you love any of these as much as I do!

Big Time:
1. Outliers (2008) by Malcolm Gladwell
2. Daring Greatly (2012) by Brene Brown
3. The Year of Magical Thinking (2005) by Joan Didion
4. The Creative Habit (2003) by Twyla Tharp
5. Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) by Neil Postman
6. On Writing (2000) by Stephen King
7. Born Standing Up (2007) by Steve Martin
8. Lit (2009) by Mary Karr
9. Thrive (2014) by Ariana Huffington
10. All These Wonders (2017) by Moth Storytellers 

11. How To Raise An Adult (2015) by Julie Lythcott-Haims
12. Nonviolent Communication (1999 original, 2015 third edition) by Marshall Rosenberg
13. How We Love Our Kids (2011) by Milan and Jay Yerkowich
14. Grit (2016) by Angela Duckworth
15. iGen (2017) by Jean Twenge
16. Generation Sleepless (2022) by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright 
17. Make Your Kids Millionaires (2022) by Loral Langemeier and Kyle Boeckman
18. How Children Succeed (2012) by Paul Tough
19. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (2011) by Amy Chua
20. A Promise to Ourselves (2008) by Alec Baldwin

Personal Growth:
21. Mindset (2006) by Carol Dweck
22. Lost Connections (2018) by Johann Hari
23. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (2016) by Mark Manson
24. The Art of Asking (2015) by Amanda Palmer
25. Radical Compassion (2019) By Tara Brach
26. Not Drinking Tonight (2022) by Amanda E. White
27. The Art of Non-Conformity (2010) by Chris Guilleabeau
28. The Omnivore's Dilemma (2007) by Michael Pollan
29. Together (2020) by Vivek Murthy
30. The Power of Now (1997) by Eckhart Tolle

31. Teaching Community (2003) by bell hooks
32. Permission to Feel (2019) by Marc Brackett
33. Positivity (2009) by Barbara Frederickson
34. Letters to a Young Teacher (2007) by Jonathan Kozol
35. The Courage to Teach (1998) by Parker J. Palmer
36. The Homework Myth (2007) by Alfie Kohn
37. On Your Mark (2014) by Thomas Guskey
38. Lies My Teacher Told Me (1995, new edition 2018) by James Loewen
39. Readicide (2009) by Kelly Gallagher
40. The Body Keeps the Score (2014) by Bessel Van Der Kolk

41. Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968) by Paulo Freire
42. The Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys (1995) by Jawanza Kunjufu
43. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (2017, 20th anniversary edition) by Beverly Daniel Tatum
44. Punished (2011) by Victor Rios
45. Excellent Sheep (2014) by William Deresiewicz
46. In Defense of a Liberal Education (2015) by Fareed Zakaria
47. You Are Not Where You Go (2015) by Frank Bruni
48. Who Gets in and Why (2022) by Jeffrey Selingo
49. Smart People Should Build Things (2014) by Andrew Yang
50. Never Enough (2023) by Jennifer Breheny Wallace

Social Conscience:
51. The New Jim Crow (2010) by Michelle Alexander
52. White Fragility (2018) by Robin DiAngelo
53. How to be an Antiracist (2019) by Ibram X. Kendi
54. Stamped (2020) by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
55. This Fight Is Our Fight (2007) by Elizabeth Warren
56. The Vanishing American Adult (2017) by Ben Sasse
57. Food Not Lawns (2006) by Heather Jo Flores
58. The Souls of Yellow Folk (2018) by Wesley Yang
59. Black Boy (1945) by Richard Wright
60. Night (1956) by Elie Wiesel

61. The Millionaire Next Door (1996) by Thomas Stanley and William Danko 
62. The Psychology of Money (2020) by Morgan Housel
63. Dark Money (2016) by Jane Mayer
64. Born on Third Base (2016) by Chuck Collins
65. The Four (2017) by Scott Galloway
66. Kids These Days (2017) by Malcolm Harris
67. EntreLeadership (2011) by Dave Ramsey
68. Money (2014) by Tony Robbins
69. This Is Marketing (2018) by Seth Godin
70. The Power of Glamour (2013) by Virginia Postrel

71. A Pitcher's Story (2001) by Roger Angell
72. Why Baseball Matters (2018) by Susan Jacoby
73. The Mask of Masculinity (2017) by Lewis Howes
74. Little Red Book (1992, with 2012 anniversary edition) by Harvey Penick with Bud Shrake
75. Zen Golf (2002) by Joseph Parent
76. The Big Miss (2012) by Hank Haney
77. Back from the Dead (2016) by Bill Walton
78. Thinking in Bets (2018) by Annie Duke
79. The Biggest Bluff (2016) by Maria Konnikova
80. Relentless (2013) by Tim Grover

81. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (2002) by Patrick Lencioni
82. Multipliers (2010) by Liz Wiseman
83. Ego Is the Enemy (2016) by Ryan Holiday
84. A More Beautiful Question (2014) by Warren Berger
85. Crucial Conversations (2002, 2012 edition) by Kerry Patterson, et. al.
86. Conversational Capacity (2013) by Craig Weber
87. Leadership on the Line (2002) by Marty Linsky
88. Good to Great (2001) by Jim Collins
89. Leaders Eat Last (2014) by Simon Sinek
90. Positive Deviance (2010) by Richard Pascale, et. al.

Humanity in the Digital Age:
91) Reader, Come Home (2018) by Maryanne Wolf
92) How to Do Nothing (2019) by Jenny Odell
93) Fantasyland (2017) by Kurt Andersen
94) The Death of Truth (2018) by Michiko Kakutani
95) Braiding Sweetgrass (2013) by Robin Wall Kimmerer
96) The Coddling of the American Mind (2016) by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
97) Option B (2017) by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
98) Humans Are Underrated (2015) by Geoff Colvin
99) Tribe of Mentors (2017) by Tim Ferris
100) Poking a Dead Frog (2014) by Mike Sacks

I fully understand, like most authors, that nobody truly reads everything I write. And that's OK. I forget the exact percentage, but something like 80 percent of books bought are never even opened. Not even opened! 

We readers are a dying breed. I'm sure you're likely scrolling — and not actually reading — this list of 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend, but if you're actually reading word for word, I thank you. I appreciate words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and books.

Videos are great and all, but nonfiction books fill gaps in our educations. I feel so fortunate to be able to constantly fill those gaps and choose education (or at least an effort to educate) over ignorance.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Reading is for suckers!

After reviewing 25 books new to me for 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend, I must conclude this: Reading is for suckers!

One of the Snooze Button Generation's monthly posts grabs at least a few hundred hits. For the book reviews, none of them got to 100 on the day they were posted. I'm interpreting those lack of hits as this: "Hey, dude, stop these reviews. We don't care!"

I guess that response coincides with our current climate, where reflection is low as is full-length book reading. So I'm stopping reading ASAP and will be devoting my life to TikTok.

The big question: What took me so long? Everybody knows that I'd be a superb TikTok personality. Heck, I might even do an ice-bucket challenge or mannequin challenge and even get a fidget spinner. This Gen Xer is hip to all our current trends!

Honestly, I just felt odd releasing my concluding post of 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend with all of its links on April Fool's Day. So Happy April Fool's Day! Look for culminating post for 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend on Monday.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Good intentions gone wrong

Attending a youth soccer game can be an education in parenting gone wrong. You might see parents demeaning referees, caring too much about the outcome and searching for the next Pele. Then, when it's all over, everybody gets a trophy!

Poor parenting and helicopter parenting have negative ramifications, and Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt explore those in The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (2018).

The book explores some ideas in American pop culture that are new, compared to 20 years ago. It explores identity politics, cancel culture and "safetyism," which is how important one's physical and emotional safety is. A big point about safetyism is that overprotection of one's emotions can build weak individuals who hardly have resilience or grit.

What I respond to most in The Coddling of the American Mind is the authors' list of cognitive distortions and how they used to infect individuals, but now they have infected the masses. First off, I suggest everybody check out a list of cognitive distortions and see if they have a tendency toward any of them. Knowing what they are helps, and they will save anyone from any possible problem. (Hopefully, that's a joke and an example of magnification.)

It's true that black-and-white thinking affects the masses, especially when we're talking politics. There also is a bunch of catastrophizing and overgeneralizing that I see in media. Our divisive, combative political climate plays a role in this, and it's easy for the masses to be swept away in a cognitive distortion because that's what's happening to the person right next to them.

A lot of the book focuses on the culture of college campuses and how college students are showing up to campuses ill-equipped to function on a reasonable level of a human being. I remember being shocked, reading How to Raise an Adult (2015) about how many parents were inserting themselves in college campuses to help their children with basic things, like schedule changes and grade disputes.

Just like the child is the center of their cookies on the Internet and their iPhone, some kids assume that they are the center of the family and then the center of wherever they are. The phone and social media play a huge role with that skewed perspective.

With Coddling of the American Mind out in 2018, it examines more how overparenting hurt the generation in college. However, I realize that "overparenting" might be a misnomer. In fact, overparenting perhaps could be called "overprotecting" or "overscheduling."

To me, parenting has an important emotional component, and by shielding children from difficult situations, or difficult emotions, that is a disservice. Maybe overparenting shouldn't even be considered parenting. It's just whack.

Lukianoff and Haidt definitely are onto something, that the common "parenting" of a generation has set them up for failure. I understand that helicopter parents may have evolved to bulldozer parents. I want to be optimistic for the future, but it's just so difficult when I see so many kids being raised by their screens or by parents addicted to screens.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Indigenous wisdom in modern times

Many Americans seem pretty darn ethnocentric. They accept Cheese Whiz, football and Fudruckers as facts of life, when they are just part of our corporate culture.

I feel we take too much of our mainstream culture for granted, when there is a wealth of other meaningful cultures living here as well, including our Native American brothers and sisters.

I initially was curious why Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants (2013) by Robin Wall Kimmerer had jumped onto the The New York Times Best Sellers list and has been there for 153 weeks. I reluctantly got the book and, perhaps surprisingly, fell in love with it.

Kimmerer is a botanist and Potawatomi professor who examines indigenous people's knowledge, wisdom and culture. I like to soak in that culture and think how it may complement, or improve, modern living.

The book consists of a bunch of essays, and their tender, caring mood makes them feel like much-needed hugs to the reader with love declarations for Mother Earth.

Braiding Sweetgrass starts with Sky Woman, the Native American story of creation. One day, a pregnant woman drops through a hole created by an uprooted tree, and that starts the human race. I would say Sky Woman is just a tiny bit nicer than Adam and Eve eating an apple, learning about satan and being shamed. 

Speaking of apples, I also remember learning about apple orchards in Braiding Sweetgrass. In an apple orchard, all trees grow at the same, healthy rate, even if one is in the shade or in bad soil. The healthy trees send their nutrients to the ones who need it more, and that enables them all to grow together. I wonder if we human beings could learn anything from that.
With Sky Woman and apple orchards, I see that Native Peoples have much different core beliefs than their European conquerers. Even with land ownership, that is a concept accepted as a fact of life for many of us. But that's an obvious human construct. Humans created land ownership, and when settlers came to the Americas, Native Peoples did not comprehend that.

The Earth is a giving, loving entity that we human beings need to survive. Why would the land need to be "owned" by certain select people? Aren't we all just renting our space from Mother Earth?

A theme in Braiding Sweetgrass is sustainable land stewardship. That seems to be opposite philosophy of current Americans, including former presidential candidate John Kerry, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. He recently explained how American corporations will usher in a new era of environmentalism led by energy companies, including ExxonMobil. ... Kerry actually said that. Lol!

To look and explore the wonder of plants, trees, algae and all things earth-relate has started with me, and I give Kimmerer credit for allowing me to look at the world through her loving eyes. I feel it's healthy to question our fundamental beliefs now and again — whether it be about creation, land ownership or trees. 

That reminds me of that famous Mark Twain quote: "It ain't what you don't know that gets you trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Re-engage with the actual world

Jenny Odell taught me that bird watching is actually bird noticing. We're probably not going to see them, but we can listen and notice.

When I actually listen, I hear birds all over the place, and I hear various other sounds as well. I notice a lot when I actually look, different trees and shrubs, grass growing through sidewalks.

I absolutely love How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy (2019) by Odell because it's helped me re-engage with the physical and natural world, after giving away a lot of my life to social media, my phone and TV.

I've always resisted Google. Why just one Internet search engine? Where are Lycos and Excite? 

I held out from writing with Google Docs until about seven years ago. I just thought it was silly that I'd have to be online to write. Why? Couldn't I just save my work on my hard drive? So I wrote — and often still do — in Pages on my Mac.

In my mind, I look at Google searches as the start of the attention economy we find ourselves. Seriously, is this how any consumer, or lay person, would draw it up? Our every move is tracked so the right business can sell to us. Say what? ... And don't get me started with Google Classroom, which tracks what our students are doing.

Part of How to Do Nothing explains what we all know by now, that our Internet searches and phone lives are commodities, sold to companies, who do their best to cyber-hunt us and advertise to us. I do not like this system one bit, and, like Odell, I know my life is at its best when I'm not a part of that madness, when the screens are off and I'm exploring the actual, physical world.

Although I think "the kids today" give too much of their lives away to Big Tech and are being digitally manipulated, I guess it's not my place to scold them. However, I do like to present arguments for engaging with the actual, physical world vs. screens. The problem I run across is that many kids do not know how to engage with the actual, physical world. It's like their curiosity and humanity have been digitized out of them.

I guess I'm only really in charge of my own life and how I'd like it to be, and in the end, I want minimal screen time. How to Do Nothing offers more than that plan. It's a critique of capitalism disguised as a self-help book. Sure, I love the self-help part about re-engaging with the world, but then, it becomes a much deeper look at 21st century capitalism.

I hate to think that I'm a marionette moving my way through Internet searches and social media because artificial intelligence knows how to keep my attention. I can see how people can fall into YouTube warps, where Google manipulates them by constantly suggesting videos that fit their profile, likes and demographic.

Odell, who also plays with context as an artist, rightfully points out that the Internet strips us of time and place. But as a human being, doesn't time and place — AKA context — matter? Are we even human if time and place cease to exist?

With all the scrolling on our devices and all the images we encounter, where is context? We likely just respond to guttural impulses or what the computer already knows we'll respond to, and then the computer — and tech companies — shape us. I fear that we no longer shape ourselves and that our physical environment no longer shapes us either.

Another fear I have is that our cyber-time has become so normalized that Odell and I look like the weird ones for talking about reconnecting to the physical world and resisting the tracking parade of our online lives. But try it. Go out without the phone. See how incredible our surroundings are when we simply notice them.

Monday, March 27, 2023

That fertile miracle of communication

If you watch a movie from the '80s, like Splash or Big or Back to the Future, I bet you react how I do. You'll think, wow, that moved way slower than I remember. You'll notice more details than you did back in the day.

In the digital age, our brains have changed. We process video much more quickly than we used to. Our attention spans have diminished. Heck, we don't even have time to look at a 5-second ad on YouTube.

In the digital age, what has happened to our reading brains? Maryanne Wolf explores this in Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in the Digital Age (2018), and I find the book especially important for anyone who reads full-length books because it is truthful and enlightening.

I stumbled across this fact in Reader, Come Home: The average person encounters 100,000 words each day. That number is mighty high to me. That's a full-length book. Each day.

However, those 100,000 words typically accompany a photo or are scrolled past. Then, when we're actually reading, we are so accustomed to looking past words so fast that we don't read every word. We're scrolling, in sense, when we're reading nowadays. And if you happen to read this sentence, go ahead and tell me that at

Our lack of extended reading harms us. Not only do our brains end up craving video snippets, but we lose empathy. When we participate in actual human life, it can feel boring.

Personally, I had a stint in which I checked my phone at every possible free moment. At red lights — that is one place that comes to mind that made me realize I needed to change that. Thankfully, I did.

In Reader, Come Home, Wolf looks at the science of what happens to the brain with the bombardment of video snippets and digital experiences. That scientific part of the book was OK, to me. But I especially responded to the arguments Wolf made for reading, calling upon Aristotle, Derrida, Heidegger and a mini-army of renowned thinkers.
Heidegger argued that a human's special nature is to be a reflective being. I agree with Heidegger, and where is reflection nowadays? So much "content" is just consumed and forgotten. As I write this in an outdoor cafe, by the way, I notice that everyone here is on their phone, presumably working or consuming that content. Typical, I suppose.

With Wolf mentioning how Proust referred to reading as "that fertile miracle of communication in the midst of solitude" or explaining how the act of reading goes beyond the wisdom of the author to discover one's own, I loved the pro-reading passages.

In the digital age, however, reading may have morphed into a different animal. Nowadays, we experience "continuous partial attention," a phrase coined by writer/consultant Linda Stone. Are we even reading when we're reading? Is our attention being hijacked during reading as well? Are all those video snippets too much for our brain to overcome?

The phone, AKA the pocket supercomputer, allows us to consume so much content — videos, social media feeds, text, sports scores, stocks, emails, you name it — that it puts up a firewall between us and our reflective nature. Books, on the other hand, may get us to slow down and reflect.

Because of our omnipotent supercomputers, our brains need faster-paced books now, and we likely turn pages much more quickly than a decade ago. New fiction books almost make it a certainty that they will end each chapter with something surprising to get the reader to keep going, just like what TV shows do to keep the viewer binge-watching.

Our media has conditioned us to live in non-reflective, superficial ways. But I simply refuse to succumb to that.

Sure, I can watch some schlock TV, but something in me yearns to see things in a deeper way, to connect to wisdom of the past, to connect to our great thinkers and to understand that our minds, our perecptions, aren't meant to be wasted on supercomputer diversions.