YouTube’s new terms of service

YouTubers are generally freaking out over YouTube’s new terms of service, which will go into effect on December 10th.

Basically, YouTube is explicitly stating that it has no obligation to host anyone’s content, and that it may terminate at will content and channels that aren’t “commercially viable”.

This is technically no change from what the terms of service have always been. But the explicit restatement suggests a new wave of channel closures and video removals. 

The changes won’t affect everyone using the platform. If you’re a hobbyist YouTuber uploading the occasional vacation video, you can skip the rest of this piece. 

If you’re doing children’s content, on the other hand, or anything political that falls to the right of Joe Biden, you might be in trouble–especially if you rely on monetization. 

The Verge declared some time ago that the golden age of YouTube is over. The Verge gets a lot wrong, but they’ve been mostly right about YouTube. 

It is tempting to segue here into a rant about leftwing censorship (which exists on every social media platform). But the situation is more complex than that. 

Political biases aside, YouTube’s basic business model has always been precarious.

Think about it: a video platform where anyone can upload almost anything, with no vetting whatsoever. From the beginning, the platform was open to anyone with an Internet connection. The barriers to entry were therefore always close to zero.

Then monetization came along, in the form of the YouTube Partner Program. Now there was money involved, too. So we saw an arms race to produce edgy clickbait content, as quickly and voluminously as possible. 

Oh, and the youth factor: The site always had a juvenile tone and orientation. Most YouTubers are under the ripe old age of 24. 

What could possibly go wrong, with a setup like that?

YouTube isn’t evil. But nor do I think it would be a good idea to make YouTube your primary platform if you’re a creator. The future of YouTube is too unpredictable.

Regular readers of this site will know my feelings about social media.

Social media isn’t evil, per se; but social media is not nearly as essential as most people think it is. Long before Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, people expressed themselves online with individual blogs and websites. 

The Internet existed long before social media, in other words.  There will be a post-social media age on the Internet, too. Maybe sooner than you think.

The ideological war on ‘Friends’

I was recently nostalgic for 1990s television, and so I decided to rewatch a few episodes of the 1990s’ favorite sitcom, Friends. Although the last new Friends episode aired 15 years ago, Friends is all over my cable directory in reruns, on channels like TV Land and Nickelodeon.

As most of you will know, Friends was incredibly successful—and profitable—during its ten-year primetime run, from 1994 to 2004. I recall reading that at the height of the show’s popularity, the six lead actors—Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer—were being paid $650,000 per episode. 

It might seem to you that a few of them have been resting on their laurels since Friends ended. David Schwimmer, who might have been the next Tom Cruise or Will Smith, has barely done anything in the intervening years. And when was the last time you went to see a Jennifer Aniston movie?

There might be a reason for that. They’ve all got tons of money. (Aniston has a reported net worth of $240 million.) 

And there might be yet another reason: Friends was so popular in its day, that all of the show’s actors have become irrevocably associated with their Friends roles. You can’t see any of them today without automatically thinking of Friends

Sometimes decades-old television doesn’t age well. Not long ago I watched a rerun of Family Ties, which aired on primetime from 1982 to 1989. I liked Family Ties in the 1980s. By 2019, however, the show’s Reagan-era jokes simply weren’t funny anymore.  

But what about Friends?

I was only about ten minutes into the first episode of Friends that I’d stored on my DVR, when I realized why the sitcom was such a hit.

The setup of Friends—six twentysomethings making their way through professional and romantic challenges in fin de siècle New York—is instantly accessible. The main characters are mostly likable (though Phoebe and Joey can both be annoying). 

The jokes, moreover, pass the test of time. I found myself laughing out loud at least once during each episode I watched. 

This is because the humor is built into the characters themselves. Ross and Chandler are funny in awkward situations because of their insecurities. Rachel, the pretty princess, is funny when she copes with smackdowns—because she’s the pretty princess. Phoebe’s rendition of the “smelly cat” song is funny because she’s just flaky enough to take the song seriously, to consider it art.

Friends is one of those cultural artifacts that I enjoyed in the moment and then mostly forgot about. I never would have considered Friends to be the least bit controversial or offensive—even by the hyper-woke, endlessly offended standards of the twenty-first century. 

I was wrong. 

There is an episode in which one of Ross’s paleontology students describes him as a “hottie” on the end-of-semester class evaluation form. This will evolve into a storyline in which the thirtyish Ross will date a twentysomething former student, a problematic enough idea in the era of #MeToo. But that’s just for starters. 

As Ross is sitting around speculating which girl in his class called him a hottie, Rachel asks, with a wry look in her eye, “How do you know it’s a girl?” 

There is a pregnant pause, as Ross considers this possibility—which would have been awkward for most twentysomething heterosexual men in the late 1990s. 

After a few more beats, Ross says, dismissively, “It was a girl.” Cue laugh track. 

This was a fairly innocuous comedic setup in 1995, or even 2000. By the standards of 2019 it is borderline hate speech. As a properly woke young man, Ross should be indifferent about the gender of his admirer. And if he has the gall to explicitly prefer women, then he should at least be open to women who have male anatomical features. 

The characters of Friends are like a lot of white, suburban twentysomethings I knew in the 1990s. They aren’t exactly puritanical, but they are plain vanilla and predictable in their lifestyle and romantic choices. This clashes with today’s identity politics. 

There is no episode in which Rachel dates an African American man who is infinitely cooler and more accomplished than all the white guys on the show. There is no episode in which Joey questions his sexuality, and goes bi for a while.

And what about the episode where Monica is involved in a polyamorous three-way relationship? That one is missing, too.

Above all this, there’s the show’s overweening whiteness. In 1995, the idea of six white Friends was no big deal. In 2019, it must be a conspiracy. They must be closet racists. 

Friends, when you think about it, is problematic on so many levels: The show is completely white, completely cisgendered, and across-the-board heteronormative. 

There is a storyline in Friends in which Chandler’s father, Charles, comes out as a transgender woman. In one memorable scene, the newly christened Helena Handbasket dresses in drag and sings “It’s Raining Men” at a gay cabaret. Suffice it to say that Chandler, rather than being pleased at his father’s awakening, is horrified and embarrassed by the whole thing. 

This may be a realistic reaction, but it doesn’t conform to the ideological orthodoxies of our present times. This is one Friends episode that would never see the light of day in 2019—not without Twitter mobs, advertiser boycotts, and no end of finger-wagging from CNN columnists.

I thought to myself: I can’t be the only one who sees this. I’m not even woke, and these problematic aspects of Friends were apparent even to me. 

So I did a bit of googling, and I discovered that Friends has already raised the eyebrows of the culture police:

“All the reasons why ‘Friends’ is problematic”Film Daily

“Millennials watching ‘Friends’ on Netflix shocked by storylines”The Independent

That’s just a sample. There are scores of articles like this throughout the Internet. 

And you thought there were still a few guiltless pleasures left, that the ideological killjoys hadn’t yet excreted on absolutely everything. Well, guess again, comrade.

A recent article in Cosmopolitan is entitled, “11 actually pretty shocking things Friends couldn’t get away with today”. The author of this piece, one Dusty Baxter-Wright, mentioned all the “problematic” elements that I identified, but she didn’t stop there, adding a few of her own:

Gendered children’s toys: Late in the show, Ross becomes a father, and that damned troglodyte objects to the fact that his son, Ben, plays with girls’ toys. Hate crime!

Fat-shaming: The character of Monica is played by the rail-thin Courtney Cox, but part of the show’s backstory depicts her as being obese in college. Baxter-Wright is shocked at the “fat-shaming” and “size-ism” on display here. 

Sexism: “Joey Tribbiani objectifies women.” I should have caught this one, really. Joey is consistently depicted as a not-too-bright-but-good-looking Italian stallion. He does indeed “objectify women”. 

So she’s right about Joey. Baxter-Wright, with the typical dour humorlessness of the ideologue, misses the bigger joke here, though: Joey is also depicted as a deeply flawed character throughout the show. When Joey constantly makes leering references to women, the show’s scriptwriters are making fun of Joey

But such subtleties are lost on culture warriors. Likewise, Baxter-Wright goes into her tsk-tsk virtue-signaling routine over a Friends episode in which Ross assumes that a male nanny must be gay. 

This episode is funny—not because it makes fun of gay men, or male nannies—but because it pokes fun at Ross’s conformity and insecurities.

Baxter-Wright observes, “Joey and Ross can’t seem to share a hug without saying ‘no homo’ or questioning their sexuality.” She’s largely right about this, too, but she misses the point, and who is actually the butt of the joke.

Young heterosexual Gen X men (I was one of them) did have contradictory attitudes about sex and sexuality. Let’s be forthright about that. Most of us considered ourselves open-minded…to a point. 

We knew that Freddie Mercury was gay, and we suspected as much about the lead singer of Judas Priest (who would come out in 1998). If explicitly asked, in 1988 or 1995, the vast majority of us would have said that being gay was perfectly okay…for other people. At the same time, though, we all went out of our way— whenever any hint of the question arose—to let you know that we weren’t gay. “No homo”, in other words.

This insecurity was symptomatic of coming of age between the freewheeling 1960s and the conservative 1980s. Gen Xers (again, I am one) were raised in a cultural environment of mixed messages—about everything from gender roles and virginity, to same-sex relationships. (Admittedly, few of us thought much about transgenderism back then.) 

Mixed messages lead to insecurities, because you’re torn between competing ideas. Those insecurities provide endless comedic fodder, and Friends capitalized on this. 

Yes, sometimes making fun of homophobia means depicting homophobia. And not only in the frowning tone of a scold. It’s called satire. Satire, by its very nature, is designed to probe areas that make us uncomfortable.

The tendency of woke young Millennials, though, is to see a naughty word, or an uncomfortable scenario, and immediately reach for the censor’s pen. 

I wish I didn’t have to be so hard on Millennials about this, but I can’t help doing so. Millennials will eventually be running our society, after all. That makes me wonder about the future of free expression in the West. 

And finally, Baxter-Wright notes: “Joey and Chandler are grossed out by breast milk.”

I don’t know quite what to do with that one. But again, I ask: Is the joke here on breast milk, or is the joke on two young adult men who can’t keep their cool when confronted by a perfectly normal aspect of human biology?

Dusty Baxter-Wright wraps up with the following assessment:

“Come the end of the programme, four of the six main characters were ‘coupled-with-children’, the fifth was ‘coupled up’ and the sixth character acknowledged that ‘coupled-with-children’ was the end goal. Considering the breath of opportunities and differences there are between six real human beings, this seems ridiculous and narrow minded.”

Egads—and you thought I was engaging in shrill, farfetched sarcasm in some of the preceding paragraphs. Most twentysomethings in the 1990s did seek to be coupled with children. What the heck is wrong with that?

Fellow Gen X-ers: Consider this fair warning: Friends is still airing on cable in reruns only because legions of woke young Millennials and Zoomers haven’t yet learned what it contains. Their older ideological allies, meanwhile, have forgotten, or they’re busy protesting Trump.

But they’ll get back to Friends, in due time.

If you’re still enjoying Friends in reruns, you’d better hoard those episodes on a secure hard drive somewhere. It’s only a matter of time before watching Friends becomes yet another form of thoughtcrime, in this brave, new, woke world of ours. 

What if impeachment fails?

CNN has been leading with pro-impeachment stories every day. Today’s grandiose headline:

“Trump impeachment hearings will echo through the ages”

Can you tell they’re excited? Can’t you practically hear the orchestra music playing in the background?

To people of a certain mindset, this is D-Day, Woodstock, and the release day of the latest iPhone, all rolled into one.

And they’ve been working on this for a long time—literally since before Trump took office. (Does anyone still remember that Unite for America video, in which a bunch of fading celebrities publicly asked the Electoral College to overturn the 2016 election?)

Then there were all the conspiracy theories: Trump, the porn star, and the campaign funds. Trump the Manchurian candidate, who takes orders from the Kremlin, via a secret transmitter in Trump Tower.

They’ve basically been going with the kitchen sink approach. Put it all out there. Be creative. Throw enough spaghetti at the wall, and some of it is bound to stick.

And finally, they’ve found some spaghetti that will stick—sorta. This Ukraine business.

Or maybe not. I’ve also read some reports suggesting that impeachment will be “dead on arrival” in the Senate.

There are millions of voters who don’t particularly like President Trump. (I’ll be honest with you: Trump was far from my first choice; and I’m a Republican.)

But for a certain kind of voter, the removal of Donald Trump, the Resistance, is an obsession. Like John Hinckley Jr.’s obsession with Jodie Foster, in 1981.

What’s going to happen, then, if it doesn’t work this time? And what will happen—brace yourself—if Donald Trump is reelected in 2020?

We’re going to have a national mental health crisis on our hands. That’s what. I have no doubt that some of those people on Twitter will literally self-combust on November 4, 2020, if Donald Trump wins reelection.

But then, what will they do with themselves if he loses? If you’ve spent the last four years tweeting anti-Trump messages for four or five hours per day, what do you do with yourself when suddenly, Trump is gone?

Spend more time on your hobbies? These people have no other hobbies.

I suspect that they’ll continue to tweet about President Trump even after he’s gone. Some of them will still be resisting Trump in 2024 and 2028.

Obsessions can be difficult to break—or to resist, to use their language. Just ask John Hinckley Jr.

The polyamory craze: old wine in new bottles

Over roughly the last year, I’ve been noticing the word “polyamory” cropping up in the news a lot. Basically, this refers to non-monogamous relationships. Some wags in the mainstream media are trying to make this out to be the coming trend. 

The term “throuple” has gained currency since the polyamorous adventures of Rep. Katie Hill came to light. A writer at Refinery 29 declared, “Rep. Katie Hill Was Allegedly In A ‘Throuple’ — Just Like Many Millennials & Gen Z.”

If you’re looking for a stern talking-to from an older person (I’m 51), I’m going to disappoint you. What consenting adults do behind closed doors is their own business, so far as I’m concerned. But I do have one small wet blanket to throw on the sex party. Fundamentalist Mormons jumped on this bandwagon long before you did. 

As I peruse the articles about polyamorous relationships, the vast majority of them seem to involve man-woman-woman arrangements. Almost invariably, it’s a man who is hooked up with a steady wife/girlfriend and a bisexual female.

There seem to be relatively few cases, conversely, of women hooked up with two men. Two heterosexual couples all sharing and sharing alike is also a rare set-up, from what I can see.  

There’s a reason for this: Heterosexual men typically don’t like to share partners with other men, unless the relationship with a woman is extremely casual. And almost no heterosexual men are interested in encounters that involve other men in their birthday suits, even if there’s no direct contact involved. Guys just aren’t into that, as a rule. 

Consider the misadventures of Katie Hill: Her husband was fine with the “throuple” concept, so long as it involved him with two women. But when Ms. Hill started hooking up with another man, her husband wasn’t feeling so polyamorous anymore. 

So when we talk about polyamory— supposedly a new word—what we’re [usually] talking about is a very old word: polygamy

Folks, there’s nothing new about polygamy. Read the Old Testament. Read the Quran. Powerful and persuasive men have been monopolizing multiple female partners since…pretty much time immemorial. That’s what men tend to do, whenever they can. 

Polygamous societies reliably create imbalances. If x number of men monopolize the attentions of 2x number of women, then that leaves a sizable portion of the male population without female partners. 

Those males who are polygamously partnered, meanwhile, may be less devoted than monogamously paired men, since they have a “spare”…or two. 

Look around the globe, and at history, at polygamous societies. Most American women wouldn’t want to live in such places. (Consider the Muslim Middle East, for starters.)

Let everyone do their own thing. But don’t allow a hip new buzzword (polyamory) to delude you about what you’re actually doing. First Millennials and Gen Z rediscovered vinyl records. Now they’re rediscovering Sister Wives, too. 

Winter in Ohio…in November

It was barely a month ago that I was complaining about the blistering heat in October.

Well, now November is here, and suddenly we’ve got January weather in Southern Ohio. Tonight the mercury will dip all the way down to 13 degrees Fahrenheit in Cincinnati.

This is part of a larger cold front. Most of the eastern half of the United States is experiencing unseasonably frigid temperatures both today and tomorrow.

The good news: the weather is supposed to moderate later in the week!

‘The Pacific’: HBO

I’m watching The Pacific on HBO. This series is a significant investment in time, but well worth it. 

There haven’t been nearly enough films and novels about the Pacific war. World War II movies and fiction tend to gravitate to the war in Europe.

Perhaps that’s to be expected. The war in Europe took place in the middle of Western Civilization, in countries that everyone is familiar with: France, Germany, Russia, etc.

And, of course: Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. Probably half the documentaries on the History Channel are about the Third Reich. 

Much of the war in the Pacific (the part that we were involved in, anyway), was fought on thinly populated, remote islands. While the ideology of the Third Reich is well known to anyone with even basic historical literacy, few Americans grasp the essentials of the Japanese Empire, and its major players. 

Those are among the reasons why the war in the Pacific has been such a challenge to storytellers, and–as a result–often neglected by them. But this HBO series does a great job of bringing “the other World War II” to life.

How songs connect us to memory

I was never a huge fan of Richard Marx. (I never actively disliked his music, either. I just wasn’t a raving fan.) 

But boy, the summer of 1987 was his moment. That summer, I spent a lot of time in my car, listening to FM radio, and this Richard Marx song was on the radio endlessly

When I hear it now, I’m instantly transported back to that time and place. That hot, fun summer. I was nineteen years old.

Songs often ground us to particular moments in our past–sometimes even songs that we didn’t necessarily love at the time, but nevertheless heard a lot.  

Children’s songs and the culture police

Writing in the Gen subsection of Medium.com, progressive finger-wagger Dr. Katya Ermolaeva bemoans “blackface minstrel songs” like “Jimmy Crack Corn” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” as racist

“The removal of racist songs from school music programs is long overdue,” Dr. Ermolaeva goes on to declare. “The Camptown Races” is turning white American children into aspiring Nazis and Klansmen, apparently. The argument seems to be that at one point (in the 1800s) some of these songs may have been employed by minstrel singers. 

This is part of a larger progressive project to go over our culture with a fine-tooth comb, and look for pretexts for offense. Their method is to constantly ratchet up the bar of sensitivity, so that you can never really be sure if you’re in violation of their latest cultural diktats.

This isn’t limited to children’s music. Earlier this year, Nike nixed the planned release of a Betsy Ross shoe because Colin Kaepernick denounced the Betsy Ross flag  as (you guessed it) racist. That same flag appeared at Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

The “wokeness” of the privileged on display

In almost every case, kerfuffles like this are more about virtue-signaling “wokeness” than any material harm done to African Americans, or anyone else. This sort of cultural nitpicking is invariably the concern of the privileged. Dr. Ermolaeva is a white music educator. Colin Kaepernick is wealthy NFL player. 

Obviously, no one is oppressed by the Betsy Ross Flag. No one is oppressed by “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”, either. 

Intention and context

When judging whether or not something is “racist”, intention and context count.

If someone is standing on the corner waving a Confederate flag and shouting racist slogans, then clearly there are racist intentions behind the Confederate flag. The flag is being displayed in a racist context.

If the Confederate flag appears on the cover of a book about the Civil War, however, then the intentions probably aren’t racist. Nor is the context.

(Speaking of context: “Jimmy Crack Corn” is a slave’s cryptic celebration of the master’s death. It can arguably be construed as a song of liberation, of striking back at the oppressor.)

But those concerns are for ideological adults–not children. I remember singing most of the songs Ermolaeva condemns in kindergarten, or during my early primary school years. They were just songs, and there was nothing racial about the context in which they were performed.

The end game of the culture police

Leftwing ideologues like Ermolaeva and Kaepernick aren’t concerned with intention and context. The immediate goal of these self-appointed culture nannies is to ding you on a technicality. They want you to be constantly on edge, to constantly wonder if you’re being racist, or sexist, or ableist, or homophobic, or whatever.

And guess who will be the judge of that? They will. Their ultimate goal is to subject every aspect of our culture and history to a revolutionary dialectic.  

There is something oddly Soviet about their methods. (Ermolaeva, I might note, specializes in Soviet music; and Kaepernick has expressed admiration for Castroite Cuba. )  As was the case in Soviet Russia, in their universe, everything is political–even “Jimmy Crack Corn”.

Just say: NO

We need to tell them that we’re having none of it. Tell them “NO”, clearly and firmly. And without shame.  Do not apologize. 

Or, as the refrain goes, “Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care.”

Linux and leftwing ideology

The programmer Charles Max Wood has been officially disinvited from all future Linux Foundation events. 

The reason? There is a public photo of him in front of the Trump Tower in NYC, wearing  a MAGA hat.

The chief instigator behind Wood’s banning was programmer/ professional race-baiter Kim Crayton. Crayton’s tweets indicate that she is a militant hater:

The leadership of the Linux Foundation is aware of Kim Crayton’s hateful rhetoric, of course. How could they not be?

But just as leftwing media outlets rushed to the defense of the emotionally unstable Sarah Jeong last year, Kim Crayton is now getting a pass, too. The Linux Foundation is not judging her by anything close to the yardstick they have applied to Charles Max Wood. 

The Linux Foundation has now established two irreconcilable and contradictory precedents: On one hand, you can be banned from their group for being a Republican, but on the other hand, you can refer to entire demographic as “shit” with their blessing.

The obvious difference here, of course, is that Kim Crayton (like Sarah Jeong) is a woman of color. Charles Max Wood is a white guy. 

Linux Foundation president Linus Torvalds is, of course, a white guy himself. While politics is not his primary concern, Torvalds is also a self-styled progressive.

There is a certain kind of progressive who simply won’t challenge a woman of color (especially an African American woman) under any circumstances. Agreeing with all African American women–no matter what–is among their primary methods of virtue–signaling. 

We see that dynamic at work here. The Linux Foundation is giving Crayton a pass for her hate speech because she’s black and female. Is there another reason? You’re going to have to get pretty creative to make that case. 

Double standards of this kind obviously harm white males like Charles Max Wood. But this also does African American women no favor. Just as contemporary white men are now taking the rap for racism that occurred decades before they were born, Kim Crayton’s conduct will, in the minds of some, reflect poorly on African American women as a whole.

And that would be a shame. Most black women aren’t racist assholes like Kim Crayton. She speaks for herself, and no one else. 

The Internet, Jonathan Franzen, and distractions

About a year ago, literary novelist Jonathan Franzen shared his “10 rules for novelists”. Number 8 was:

“It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”

Jonathan Franzen

I’m not sure I would be this absolutist about the matter. But as someone old enough to have reached adulthood before the Internet was “a thing”, I can appreciate just how distracting cyberspace can be.

It was bad enough in the beginning. But then came social media (I’ll spare you my usual rant), and those damned smartphones. 

As for Jonathan Franzen: The guy gets a bad rap, and I’m not sure why. Yes, he is quirky and eccentric. Yes, he is fashionably progressive and eye-rollingly politically correct in his politics. But no more so than many other people in the arts.

I’ve read two of his novels: The Corrections (2001) and Freedom (2010). I thought both books were pretty good. 

Fall of the Berlin Wall + 30 years

The Berlin Wall fell thirty years ago today, on November 9, 1989. (Several more years would pass before it would be systematically demolished.)

I won’t recount the entire history of the Wall’s fall here. (You can find that in various places throughout the Internet.) But I will provide a personal perspective.

I was twenty-one years old in November 1989, and a college student. Like most people at the time, I viewed the fall of the Wall with intense optimism.

And there was a lot to be optimistic about in late 1989: The USSR still existed, but a progressive-minded reformer, Mikhail Gorbachev, was at the helm. And he was allowing the Berlin Wall, that symbol of Cold War Soviet tyranny, to come down.

US domestic politics were relatively calm. Not everyone loved George H.W. Bush, of course. But few saw his administration as seriously divisive. This was an era when you could simply ignore US domestic politics, if you wanted to. There wasn’t a lot of drama.

There were problems in the Muslim Middle East. (Aren’t there always?) But the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait was still just a gleam in Saddam Hussein’s eye. No one in the West had yet heard of Osama Bin Laden.

We believed, at that time, that the world was on the verge of a peaceful new era of free markets, international harmony, and peace.

Some scholar–Francis Fukuyama, I believe it was–described this moment as “the end of history”, meaning: the end of traditional historical conflicts.

But it didn’t work out that way, did it? Russia did not develop into another Sweden (as many predicted at the time), but became a paranoid, bellicose, neo-czarist state, in some ways worse than the USSR. The Muslim Middle East continued its long descent into fratricidal chaos. China became more aggressive.

And the West–well, let’s just say that both North America and Western Europe looked much better in 1989 than they do today.

Proof that things don’t always work out as you expect. The evidence can deceive you. Sometimes the future is better than you anticipate, but sometimes it’s far worse, too.

Obesity and the only child

Researchers have found links between obesity and only children.

Well, perhaps. I was an only child, and I was a chubby youngster. I didn’t lose weight until my teen years, when I took up distance running, and began to focus on maintaining a healthy diet.

I’m not sure, though, if my weakness for carbs had anything to do with my lack of siblings. I’m in my fifties now, and I still have a weakness for carbs. Make of that what you will.

Dan Crenshaw, the First Amendment, Israel

A good video from the guys at YouTube’s Revenge of the Cis channel about genuine criticism of Israel sometimes being conflated with antisemitism–including in the eyes of the law, in some extreme cases.

I am a fan of Israel, the only real democracy in the benighted Middle East.

That said, everything and everyone must be free game for criticism and debate: white men, heterosexuals, gay people, African American women, transgenders, Christians, atheists, Muslims, and yes…Israel, too.

“Congress shall make no law …abridging the freedom of speech.”

That’s pretty clear and unequivocal. 

OK, Boomer

The media has been doing somersaults of glee (as have the folks on Twitter) over 25 year-old Chlöe Swarbrick’s retort in a New Zealand parliamentary session (“Ok, Boomer”). Ms. Swarbrick was advocating a Zero Carbon Bill, when an older politician expressed strong and vocal disagreement. The phrase “OK, Boomer” has since become an Internet meme.

There is a lot wrapped up in this: climate change, generational conflict, and more. I won’t attempt to untangle it all here, but I do have a few quick remarks/observations:

  1. It seems to me that young climate activists conveniently ignore the pollution that occurs on a truly epic scale in places like India, China, and Iran. I mean, seriously: When is Greta Thunberg going to lecture the people of New Delhi about “stealing her future”? What young climate activists mostly want to do is shame Western restaurant patrons about plastic sporks. That’s why I don’t take them seriously.
  2. “Baby Boomer” is not a synonym for “conservative”. The Baby Boomers were the original moonbat lefties, otherwise known as the hippies.
  3. It was, though, the Baby Boomers who coined the phrase, “Don’t trust anyone over 30” back in the 1960s. So perhaps this is a form of cosmic justice at work. Bad ideas often come back to bite you.
  4. Millennials and Zoomers frequently lump everyone who is “kinda old” into the Baby Boomer category. In many cases, they’re actually addressing a member of Generation X, born between 1965 and 1979.

Japan’s $46,000 crab

On November 7, a rare Japanese snow crab sold at auction for 5 million yen, or $46,000.

No, the buyer doesn’t intend to place the crab in a vault. (Nor, to the best of my knowledge, is there any such thing as the interest-bearing crustacean.)

The purchaser, Tetsuji Hamashita, is the president of fishery wholesaler Hanashita Shoten. The 2.7 lb crab will eventually be served to diners at a very pricey restaurant in Tokyo’s Ginza district.

I’m no killjoy when it comes to enjoying my food and drink. I like my Starbucks, and I have nothing against the occasional splurge on an expensive steak dinner. But there’s nothing on this planet worth five figures that I desire to eat.

Likewise, I’m a greedy Republican and all, but there’s a point where conspicuous consumption simply becomes tacky. A $46,000 crab? Give me a break.

Perfect autobiographical memory

Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), or hyperthymesia, is a rare condition in which an individual remembers every single day of his or her life in precise detail.

Less than a hundred people in the world are believed to have perfect hyperthymesia. One of them is actress Marilu Henner. In 2012 she published a book about her memory (with tips for how to improve yours) called Total Memory Makeover: Uncover Your Past, Take Charge of Your Future. 

(I’ve read it, by the way—it’s a worthwhile book if you’re interested in this topic.)

“Greta shaming” is a thing now, apparently

Arghhh!!!! I give up! You win!!! I’ll gladly eat with reusable utensils–nay, I’ll eat with my bare hands–so long as I don’t have to look at the scowling face of this humorless, self-righteous Swedish elf in my kitchen. 

It’s amusing to see how often the Greta Worship folks are unintentionally funny. (I do think these bizarre gestures are intended to be serious…but we can’t be 100% certain.)

The Bloomberg factor

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is hinting that he may join the 2020 Democratic fray.

Bloomberg’s reasoning? Read the CNN article. The ex-mayor doesn’t want to see another Trump administration, but he realizes that the current Democratic lineup is a pack of losers (and that’s putting it kindly).

I’m inclined to think that Bloomberg could give Trump a run for his money in the 2020 general election.

Before that, though, we must ask: Would Bloomberg be moonbat radical enough for the Democratic Party of 2019?

I’m inclined to think not…

School official implies Holocaust didn’t happen, loses his job

In email correspondence with a parent, William Latson of the Palm Beach County School Board in Florida wrote,  “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a district employee.”

The mincing of logic and deliberate obtuseness have their place, I suppose. But in an era in which young people’s grasp on any history (including basic American history) is negligible, no school district needs an educator like this fellow.

Latson’s exact political leanings are difficult to discern. Holocaust denialism, after all, is a favorite hobbyhorse of both the asshole right and the asshole left.

Why Kentucky went blue

Or sort of blue, anyway…We don’t yet know what the results of the recanvass will be.

Here is what we can say for sure: The GOP should have had Kentucky in the bag. The Bluegrass State is conservative, culturally at least.

But there were other factors at play here.

(I should mention, before I begin, that I live in Cincinnati, just across the Ohio River from Kentucky. I know many people in Kentucky. Northern Kentucky (for those readers in New York or Oregon) is considered part of the Greater Cincinnati area. Kentucky is my home turf.)

Last year Matt Bevin got into a nasty fight with Kentucky teachers over their pension funding. I know several teachers in Northern Kentucky, and I heard their side of it. I’ve also listened to the counterarguments.

Suffice it to say that this is a complex issue that can be cogently argued from more than one side.

Matt Bevin, however, didn’t take a nuanced approach. He alienated a lot of Kentucky residents when he referred to the teachers as “bullies” and “selfish”. Like Trump, Bevin seems to believe that the antidote for political correctness is to simply be as tactless as possible.

Teachers unions can be a bit heavy-handed. And no group of professionals so celebrates themselves like teachers do. One of my personal Facebook friends is a teacher (in Kentucky, as it happens). At least once per week, she posts a meme or an article telling all of us how great teachers are, and how much teachers contribute. My friends who are accountants, factory workers, police officers, and salespeople also contribute to our economy and to society, but they don’t toot their own horns quite so much.

So no, I don’t accept the teacher-as-holy-martyr narrative.

But Bevin was shrill in his messaging, and–like I said–there was a real case to be made that the teachers weren’t being treated fairly.

Medicaid expansion under Obamacare was also an issue. As I said in an earlier post, the GOP is shooting itself in the foot by ignoring the high costs of healthcare for so many Americans. The GOP isn’t going to lose the White House in 2020 over transgender restrooms. But they might lose the White House over healthcare.

Andy Beshear, moreover, isn’t exactly Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Yes, he is more liberal than many Republicans would like, but most “woke” Democrats would turn up their noses at him.

The ideological drama aside, most Americans vote on bread-and-butter issues. Matt Bevin did a poor job of making his case to the people of Kentucky, and this is where it got him.

Why social media sucks for authors

Every now and again I rail against social media in this space. 

I have my reasons: Social media has poisoned our political discourse. What happens on social media has become a source of chronic anxiety for teenagers and twentysomethings. 

Social media sites aren’t about “creating community” or “fostering dialogue”. They’re about capturing the lion’s share of expression on the Internet, so that Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey can monetize your attention. 

Social media is a corporate money-grab. That’s all it is. 

But how is social media especially disadvantageous for authors? Let’s focus in on those points below (in no particular order):

1.) No one goes on social media to buy a book. 

Most people are on Twitter to kvetch about politics. Facebook users are there to find out if that mean girl from Central High School, class of 1996, is still hot, or if she’s gained weight like her mother did at forty.

Instagram is where guys go to look at hot women, and where hot women go to show off.

Oh, and celebrities. Jennifer Aniston recently joined Instagram, and she almost broke the site.

Speaking of Jennifer Aniston, here’s an example of what’s big on Instagram:

Jennifer Aniston Shares a Sexy Photo of Her Open-Back Dress on Instagram: ‘Jen in Black

Now, does that sound like a great venue for selling your historical novel set during World War II?

2.) Organic discovery is declining across all social media platforms. 

This is by design. The reason is simple. If you’re a business of any kind (and an author is a business, for our purposes here), social media sites want you to purchase ads.

Why? Social media sites have virtually no other source of income (other than selling user information to advertisers, as we’ve recently learned). 

If your announcement of your new book organically reaches your 3,500 Facebook followers, Mark Zuckerberg makes no money from that. If you buy a Facebook ad and give Zuckerberg $0.30 for every person who clicks on the post, however..

Well…you do the math. 

3.) It’s easy to get in political trouble on social media.

Social media is filled with snark and political vitriol. 

I don’t shy away from politics and current events. About 25% of the content on Edward Trimnell Books can be classified as political and social commentary. I genuinely enjoy exploring issues in the news. 

When I post on my own site, though, I usually think before I post. When commenting on a particularly sensitive topic, I take the time to clarify my position. I reread. I edit. I say to myself, “Naw…someone is going to twist my words, if I post that.”

I’ve made it a rule never to write a blog post when I’m actively angry about something in the news—that is always a recipe for looking like a jackass (at least, for me it is).

Such caution is far more difficult to maintain on social media, which is by nature reactive and real-time. The formats of social media posts (especially Twitter) are biased toward brief, bumper-slogan statements (280 characters).

If you’re an author, you won’t be on Twitter anonymously, but you’ll be arguing with lots of people who are on Twitter anonymously, and who will therefore say anything. They don’t care about the consequences. 

In frays like this, with that Tweet button right there, it is easy to post something that you will later regret. 

Social media sites like Twitter have recently caught flak for censoring conservatives. Basically, if your political views fall anywhere right of Joe Biden, then most of what you say is probably “hate speech” by Twitter’s yardstick. 

But perhaps you have the “correct” (i.e., fashionably leftwing and progressive) political views. You have a COEXIST bumper sticker on your Prius. You wear a rainbow bracelet everywhere during LGBTQ Pride Month, even though you’re straight. You honestly believe that banning plastic straws in American fast-food restaurants is going to offset all the raw pollution that they’re spewing out by the second in New Delhi. You would describe Greta Thunberg as “wise beyond her years”.

Well, that doesn’t get you completely off the hook. You can get in trouble, too, on social media. 

Chuck Wendig, a far-left science fiction writer, was fired from his Marvel Studios gig (as a story developer for the brand’s Star Wars comics) because of what he said on Twitter in October 2018.

This happened in the aftermath of the contentious Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Wendig went off on Republicans in profane and borderline violent language. Since Twitter is generally a leftwing environment, Wendig assumed this would be okay. But someone from Marvel Studios saw the tweets, and they weren’t okay with what Wendig said. So they canned Wendig. 

Chuck Wendig, because of his politics and his contrived edginess, is a polarizing figure. People either love him or hate him. My guess is that Wendig was egged on by his supporters, and goaded by his detractors. In the heat of the moment, he simply went too far. 

That’s easy to do on social media. Especially Twitter.

4.) Social media is declining, anyway.

The time people spend on Facebook has been declining for several years now. Twitter is losing traffic so rapidly that it has become unattractive to the advertisers it so desperately needs to stay afloat. 

Social media really took off around 2005, with YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter all launching within a period of just a few years. 

But the Internet thrived long before any of these sites existed. There’s no reason to believe that it can’t thrive without them. Social media isn’t important or necessary. Social media has convinced us that it’s important and necessary.

Perhaps social media is a trend that—like so many trends throughout history—is characterized by a natural rise, peak, and decline. Predicting the future is a fool’s game, but there is evidence to support the notion that social media is on the way out. As anyone who was online before 2005 can tell you, online expression does not require social media. 

So this raises the question for you as an author: Do you want to invest (either time or money) in shrinking platforms?

What should you do, then?

Believe it or not, people actually marketed books online before social media, too. Here’s how you can market your books without Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites:

1.) Your author website/blog

There is a current groupthink in the (indie) author community that “websites don’t sell books”. 

Au contraire. Bestselling science fiction author John Scalzi got his start when an editor saw the serialization of his first published novel, Old Man’s War, on his blog, The Whatever

Trad-pubbed science fiction authors Cory Doctorow, the aforementioned Chuck Wendig, and Charles Stross all maintain regular blogs/websites. 

Look up their Alexa rankings sometime. With all that traffic, it’s hard to believe that they aren’t leveraging at least some of it to sell books. 

Rather than “blogs and websites don’t work”, maybe it’s more accurate to say that indie authors have never learned how to leverage author websites and blogs. 

2.) Mailing list:

I hate mailing lists as a consumer. You aren’t going to get my personal email address unless you can promise me a weekend with the Swedish National Women’s Volleyball Team in return. 

But lots of authors still swear by them. A mailing list, like an author website, is something that you own, that is yours forever. You can’t be deplatformed from your own mailing list.

3.) Ads on the retail sites:

For most authors, this is mostly Amazon, i.e., AMS ads. The bidding market for AMS ads has become overheated in recent years. But at least the traffic on Amazon is there to buy books—not to look at Jennifer Aniston’s black dress.