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Chronicle Media Politics

Silicon Valley Isn’t Modern and That’s Why It’s Good

My favorite genre of essay is elites discovering the system is fucked. The latest to catch my eye is ostensibly about a mother for whom the medical system failed her child and who then like Alice in Wonderland has to completely reset her expectations of reality. It’s a spectacular piece of writing in Tablet Mag by Alana Newhouse that weighs in on many topics near to my heart like modernism, Marxism and the aesthetics of the future. It’s helpful to understand the context from which she writes which is conservative Jewish American which is an uneasy set of political priors in our current moment (she hints at biological essentialism and the benefits of religious community order which are to put it mostly just not my jam). But this gives her a firm base for the cultural critique of both socialism and the individualism of which I’m a proponent.

She references back to an excellent piece in The Verge about the flatness of millennial Silicon Valley consumption. It’s a significant and widespread aesthetic of ease and consumption we’ve all experienced. Some of us even like frictionless capitalism as she lays it out.

I also think she’s dead wrong about about both it’s causes and it’s main perpetrators. She blames Silicon Valley for the great flattening. Lays at its feet the horrors of socialism and capitalism alike with a hearty dose of Soviet aesthetics as its anchor.

But that’s just not the historically accurate view of Silicon Valley. I like to think I have some authority on the subject at hand for a multitude of reasons. If anything I am emblematic of her thesis. I’m someone who has fallen through the medical system by being spat out of the ringer of hustle culture. I also chose this fate willingly.

And it was not the aesthetics of Silicon Valley, late stage capitalism or libertarians who set my fate in motion. Or even American Calvinists (again I would know ask me how set theory and Russels paradox made me a born again Calvinist). It was the fucking boomer hippies.

Hear me out. I know this as I was born in Fremont (Palo Alto’s poorer sister) to a family of hippies who immigrated to Silicon Valley because they were devoted to the ethos of the Whole Earth Catalog. Information wants to be free and all that early optimism. They get woo. They were Age of Aquarius believers. They weren’t remotely modernists or Marxists. Hippies may be have pretended to be collectivists but in the end they were all about the pursuit of selfish enlightenment.

So I guess she gets the communitarian roots of it quite right. She simply missed the inherent radicalism of its early adherents. And I suppose it’s easy to forget this as most of the successful adherents became quite wealthy and became the anchor tenants of NIMBY towns like Boulder and Big Fork. They became the things they never wanted.

In other words Silicon Valley hippies became the Boomers their millennial and Gen X children know and hate. I honestly feel terrible saying this as my parents are the light of my life and I owe everything to them. My mother in particular hates being called a Boomer. As it’s come to represent an inversion of their core beliefs. It’s not really fair to be honest. They are better people than the term flattening could ever suggest.

Nevertheless it is true that Stewart Brand’s legacy is a complex one. The network society didn’t at all emerge into the utopia they envisioned. I believe it haunts them. It’s the great shame of their generation that their legacy on the turning of the cultural wheel would do so much to harm the very people they built it for: their children. And it wasn’t at all their intention.

Silicon Valley people are radical. But they actually believe quite a bit in hierarchy. They just believe it is earned. Founders wouldn’t be worshipped as messianic figures if this weren’t our culture. We wouldn’t have significant and elaborate sets of cultural capital signifiers if we believed in communists aesthetics of equality. Just because the outcome appears brutal doesn’t make it brutalist. Bertolt Brecht would be appalled to be compared to the radicalism of Silicon Valley’s meritocracy. It’s probably helpful to remember that Jacobin revolutionaries are not the same as those who exalt in the unique power of individualism.

But it’s a common historical fallacy Americans try to evoke as we become more and more uncomfortable with just how close our worshiping of liberties can overlap with the nationalist strongman of fascists of yore.

But the difference is the network state of Silicon Valley is a philosophy of freedom. It’s deeply retrograde in some aspects. It exalts the possibility of excellence for all that chose the system. That’s why America has been the country of immigrants in modern imagination. Being an American was a choice. So was Silicon Valley. The network is a choice. No one is born jacked in. Eventually you make a choice to be a part of it. The question I have is why do so many of us think we are victims of the choices we made?

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Chronicle Politics

Day 12 and The Shopping Binge

It’s always the after effects that get you. Last Wednesday’s insurrection riots in the capital left me reeling. This of course is a choice. But taking responsibility for the emotional turmoil is taking a few more days than I’d hoped. I let in too much stress and worry over an event that I can do nothing to improve and is miles away.

Which isn’t to say that I shouldn’t be upset only that I know I’ve let more stress into my life this week than I can comfortably handle. And while I’m lucky to have many routines that help reduce unnecessary anxiety like a meditation practice and a daily hike into the mountain foothills, I decided I should greet this crisis with a bit more force.

So ironically an exercise about about creating more is now chronicling what I consumed today. What an American way of handling things. I went on Amazon and binged on through an essential oil diffuser, a salt rock lamp, some paper and pastels, a white sage smudger and a Tibetan singing bowl for more meditation practice. Lets hope some improvements in my environment and a little bit of creative activity can keep me from worrying to much.

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Chronicle Politics Preparedness Reading

Harden Your Personal Supply Chain

Remember think global act local? That wasn’t just a cute 90s slogan to warm us up to globalization. Or at least it probably shouldn’t have been. Having local hookups started to look pretty smart last March during the lockdowns. Local grocery stores held up better during disruptions than the big chains did. That’s just how complexity works. Americans learned that local has advantages.

One of my favorite scenes from the science fiction epic The Expanse is a botanist explaining systems cascades to the muscle.

“It’s a simple complex system. Because it’s simple it’s prone to cascades. And because it’s complex you can’t predict what is going to breakdown next or how

Supply chains are “sort of” simple complex systems (it’s just inputs of goods and outputs of retailers really). Which means cascades are a normal occurrence but genuinely hard to predict. The more we rely on modern inventions like “just in time” ordering and multi-country manufacturing and assembly, the trickier it gets. The money people are already worried about how distributors and consumer end points like groceries and restaurants will cope.

I’m obviously someone who likes to prepare for possible futures. I like finance, disaster preparedness and science fiction. All of which are put options on the future. So I’m beginning to give more consideration to how I can harden the supply lines in my own life. I have no control over logistics companies nor do I have special insight into choke points but I have done enough import work in my time in fashion and cosmetics to have lived through a cascade or two and seen the damage.

If it’s a topic of interest to you too I’d check out resilience and complexity studies (give Joe Normon a gander) and read the classic Lean Logic. You will start to notice the more expert someone is in complexity systems the more interest they have in providing themselves with personal protection against system hiccups or god forbid collapse.

Now I’m a globalist (in both the Hyatt points system sense and being married into a Jewish family) a capitalist, and a fan of trade so I’m pretty invested literally into a planet of free trade and open markets. But I don’t like being unprepared for a problem. Be it short or long term. So in addition to being a dedicated prepper I am giving a lot of thought into how I can harden my personal supply chain.

Some things are national or global in scope (pharmaceuticals notably) and I doubt I can find a local manufacturer of toilet paper, but I can very much get local milk, eggs, and vegetables. So I signed up for a milk coop. I already paid up front for a community supported agricultural share for the spring. And I’m noodling on what else I can find local in the Rocky Mountains. Meat is at the top of the list. I’m guessing some fuels like wood would be easy. Refined fuels might be tougher but Colorado has some options.

But it’s a fascinating exercise right? You realize you probably can’t buy clothing (even if it’s made here chances are the fabric and dyes came from elsewhere). You can’t buy most personal care products but you probably could buy some apothecary products. Most herbal medicines, teas and some cosmetics could be acquired. You notice that if our global supply chains cut off the goods you rely on simply won’t make it to you anymore. But the basics of life like food can very much be acquired and cultivated nearby. So I’m starting to buy what I can locally and build ties with farmers. Because it’s good for my community and it’s just more resilient living.

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Chronic Disease Chronicle

Day 10 and The Migraine

When I committed to writing a long form piece every day I told myself a lie. I told myself It was no big deal to make a daily commitment. I told myself I’d find a way to put fingers to keyboard no matter what.

I told myself this lie knowing full well that willpower was never issue. My addiction to my willpower was the issue.

You see I’m a workaholic. And I made my physical illnesses significantly worse because I tried to exert willpower over them. I tanked my body into a kind of rock bottom that forced me to stop my whole life.

I told myself I physically couldn’t do it anymore. But that was a lie too. Even at my worst physically I had secret. I could still work through it. I could muster up my resources and be “on” for just long enough to get a job done. And then I would crash. Bed ridden. Pain addled. But I could will myself to action. I only began my recovery when I admitted to myself that I wasn’t willing to pay the price anymore. I knew eventually I wouldn’t just crash. I would force myself to perform when weak and I’d kill myself. I knew deep down my sickness was that I had the willpower to kill myself with work. So I decided to turn that willpower towards recovery. I stopped. And I healed.

So I’m a bit sad to see myself caught in the same lies again. That willpower is what matters. That I can always do what needs to be done. That I lied to myself by saying that it was no big deal to write every day. Because some days I won’t feel well. And I’ll be tempted to use my willpower to overcome it in order to keep my promise that I will write every day.

I bring all this up because I have had a migraine for the past 24 hours. It came on as was writing yesterday’s post. I felt it in my forhead building. I crashed out of an important virtual gathering last night crying on the floor as I dumped my dresser drawer searching for an Imitrax. I’ve been struggling with the migraine all day. So the post I had planned to write (media training for normies part 2) has been at the edge of my addled brain all day. It took till 6pm for me to realize I’d relapsed. I was going to use my willpower to power through the lie that that I could do it.

Except I can’t. Noises make me cringe. Bright lights make me shrink back. I’m sick to my stomach. I couldn’t bring myself to go for a hike in the fresh snow today even though I love stomping through undisturbed powder.

So I’m giving myself a pass. I’m admitting the lie to my teller. I won’t write up some advice on media today. Maybe I won’t write it tomorrow either. I’ll do it when I do it. I won’t try to prove to myself what I already know. Willpower isn’t the issue. Willing myself to recognize my limitations is the challenge. One day at a time right?

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Media

Talking to Press for Normies

Interacting with the media used to only be a concern for politicians, executives, and law enforcement. You would give a press release or stand up in front of a podium for questions, and that was about it. Now virtually anyone can become the focus of intense press interest, meaning the skills to interact constructively with media is becoming crucial for any normie trying to survive online.

I’m going to write up a four part series on the basics any slob can use to make sure that when the time comes (and it will come), you don’t accidentally immolate yourself. I’ll break it down into four parts.

  • What to say
  • Who to say it to
  • When to say it
  • How not to fuck yourself

Today is part one in the series and we will focus on “what to say” should you find yourself talking to a reporter.

First, and this may seem obvious, but the press are not your friends. They have a job to do. Many people find it insulting that a reporter will chat you up, seeming all friendly like, only to find themselves portrayed in a light they didn’t expect. They blame the reporter. But it’s not the reporter’s fault. The responsibility for coming across the way you want is on you.

Step 1 is to Figure out your main point. If that’s the only key insight that gets communicated, you will be happy with the result. That means you need to plan out what you need to communicate. Rehearse it in your head. And do not deviate from what you planned to say. That means don’t give out idle chit chat to the press. Don’t make jokes about opponents. Stick to the point you wish to make and do not give any additional detail or color. Don’t get nervous or get rushed. Stick to what you planned to say. If you are a normie who just needs to survive a media encounter unscathed do not fuck around. Leave the advanced moves to the professionals

Think of it like talking to a cop. They are not your friend either. You don’t give up any additional information to law enforcement and you know you shouldn’t be talking to them without a lawyer. If I had my way, no one would talk to the press without a publicist on hand but we haven’t quite reached the stage where that’s a legal right (maybe it should be).

If you are being interviewed you may encounter questions you didn’t think of beforehand. That’s OK. Don’t panic. Recall your main point. Journalists anchor stories with what is called a “lede” which is the first thing mentioned a story. If you give an interview where you repeat your main point over and over again the journalist will intuit that this should be their lede. Or at least you increase your chances that your main point will become the entry point of the story. You will get your point heard.

You may notice skilled communicators always circle back to their original point. No matter what story or anecdote they tell they always get back to the one key thing that need you to grasp. I don’t care if the key point is “chocolate and peanut butter is the best combination” but if you are telling a reporter how you think caramel is also tasty and you actually quite like marshmallows and graham crackers with melted chocolate, I need you to come back to the punchline “but none of them compare to chocolate and peanut butter”

If you don’t get back to your main point you may find yourself reading a headline that says committed Chocolate & Peanut Butter Advocate admits that caramel may be just as good with chocolate. You can imagine how this turn turns out right? “How can we ever trust this agenda if they willingly offer up that other alternatives are equally tasty? Why do they insist on this combination for us when they know others are equally delicious”

Sure, this sound ridiculous but think of how many policy discussions are derailed when an academic innocently offers up that other points of view have merit but ultimately do not support their core conclusion. The doubt factory sets in and simple conclusions are clouded. Present your information clearly and as conclusively as possible.

Coming up soon, how to know who you should be talking to in the press.

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Chronicle Media

Talking To Press for Normies Part 2: Who To Talk To

Gone are the days when normies could be assured they would never have occasion to talk to the press. Social media gives us all the opportunity (and I don’t mean this positively) to grab the attention of the media. So how do you handle yourself, as a normie, when it’s your turn in the spotlight? This advice is not meant for folks who need to improve their media training skills but for normies who have no professional reason to interact with press. Plenty of great public relations content covers how to talk to the media for business people, civil servants and law enforcement with obligations or incentives for public relations.

To start at the beginning check out part 1, what to say. Today I’ll cover who to say it to. With future installments I’ll discuss when to say it and specific tactics on how not to fuck yourselves in the process.

So you may intuit why in what to say the key takeaway is to repeat your core point and not deviate with any color or commentary. Many of us know that words can get mangled when someone retells it. Telephone is a children’s game for a reason.

But who you talk to can be just as crucial as what you say to them.

First, stay as local as you can. National press, particularly television or big publications like the New York Times, can give you life changing exposure. But I mean it when I say life changing. Being in the spotlight can up end your reality. So be careful of that monkey’s paw. A local reporter is closer to your community. They have a better grasp on why an issue may be controversial and require a lighter touch. They appreciate that their subjects live in their community meaning they have less incentive to sensationalize or portray two sides to an issue as mortal enemies. Note that this isn’t necessarily true for how the subjects see themselves (few issues divide quite so well as the provincial or personal) but reporters have to remain in the good graces of their beat (the topics they are assigned by their editor) in a way that occasional subjects do not.

Next, be honest about what medium will serve your message best. If you are particularly articulate with the written word go to a print publication or online daily. If you are photogenic and confident you can deliver you message concisely in short (30 seconds or less) bursts then you can consider an invitation to be on a local television program. If you are good at conversations (this is the most risky as it is the least controlled) a radio or podcast program can offer more range. It is a rare person that can deliver information equally well in any medium. The old adage “they have a face for radio” has more truth to it than we care to admit to ourselves. Be brutally honest and pick a medium accordingly. Again this assumes that you are the center of a story and have a choice (and the first choice for most folks is not talking at all so all this advice assumes that you are past that moment and need to speak for yourself.)

Finally, if possible, pick a reporter or personality that is similar to you. We are kinder and more empathetic towards those we see ourselves in. I know this sucks for women and minorities of all kinds. But if you can find even the slimmest of ties or commonalities between you and the media covering you highlight it helps create a sympathetic connection. Both played the same sport? Love the same team? Have a passion for the same tv show? Research that shit ahead of time. I guarantee that the reporter will have done the same. Establishing a rapport is crucial.

So decide what you will say (concise and repeated) to an audience that will be empathetic to you (local, in a medium that flatters you, with someone who can relate). Next installment I’ll go over when to say what you have to say.

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Chronicle Politics

I Need To Start Preparing

I’ve managed to make it a full week of writing something long form everyday. And this off the cuff stuff is becoming routine but also I need to start preparing topics and having a thesis or two. Because I’m just winging it. With a violent insurrection in the capital smack dab in the middle no less. As I doomscroll Twitter this Friday night I’m barely able to pull myself away from “The Purge” to think about a topic for a few sustained minutes. How could I ever consider “thought leadering” up some content in the middle of all this!

I feel like I should be doing better. Being more productive about this creative exercise. With as much effort as I’m putting in to parenting my inner child and taking responsibility for my emotions you’d think I’d be coping with the insanity of the week better. And writing better essays. Because when you take responsibility for your own actions you can survive anything right? Well maybe for a couple minutes at a time. And then you add them up and it becomes hours and days and I think I’m just reciting AA program jargon at this point. One day at a time don’t “should” on yourself and such.

Truth is I am struggling mightily. While doing the laundry I tripped and smashed my foot into a cabinet so hard I split my big toe’s nail. I spent a good 15 minutes on the floor crying over the pain and unfairness. Like the 5 year old that lives inside me. Because I just feel that fragile and distracted. To do lists are piling up. Obligations aren’t being met. And here I am crying over an ouchie. But then if you told me that you were doing just great and has never more been more officer I honestly might not believe you.

Today’s consumption was all over the place.

Food: Picked up the raw milk from the diary cooperative Light Root Farm. Then stopped to get empanadas for lunch on the way back. I also got ahead of things by securing and preparing for my spot in a biodynamic CSA farm share for spring. Fun fact about this farm? It’s my first YIMBY effort! In 5th grade I testified before Boulder City Council asking to get permits to farm the land my school had purchased. They said no. I was crushed. Twenty five years later the farm exists (no clue how the permits worked out) and now this spring I’ll finally get to eat the fruits of my labor. You do reap what you sow. It just might take a few decades.

Media: Nothing has made a serious impression on me today. I put on NPR with breakfast. I read the various New York Times round ups. I got annoyed at the latest Olivia Nuzzi talks to anonymous political toady piece. Mostly I read up on various cultures for cheese and prepared to make ricotta and yogurt tomorrow.

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Chronicle Politics

Shock and Horror

I’ve spent most of the day watching cable news and doomscrolling. I tweeted a lot. I cried. I watched my heart rate hover above 120 as I sat on the couch. Alternating between numb shock and furious anger.

I’m quite honestly a mess and I have no idea how I’ll say anything of substance given the trauma of the day. And I knew it was coming, not that that helped soften the blow.

To paraphrase Republican Liz Cheney, a violent mob assaulted the American capital as Congress did their constitutional duty. The President formed the mob, he incited the mob and he lit the flame.

I’ve been concerned that we would have violence in the streets around the election outcome for sometime. I have done my damndest to disavow Trump from the start, while holding fast to my libertarian, small government principles. Incitement has been a real concern since before Trump was even the nominee, but even with the warnings of people from across the spectrum of ideologies, it is still genuinely surreal to see it come to pass. Because deep down I really believed it can’t happen here, in America. The land of the free and the home of the brave. A great and free democracy that the world has looked to for inspiration for centuries.

Sure I was early in stating it was a possibility that Trump would bring our institutions to our knees. If I were writing this with citations I’d break out the time stamps. But I’m writing this in my bed, under the covers, and with a box of tissues next to me. Knowing and living it are very different experience.

We had a mob of raving mad insurrectionists storm a constitutionally mandated certification process. Even if you think irregularities happened (which I’ve seen no evidence of and remain convinced is largely a conspiracy theory and not the fun kind from Art Bell at 2am), taking the Capitol isn’t the path.

We have a legal system. We have representatives. We do not have any need to engage in violence. Americans have fought and died so we could have free fair elections without fear of violence. Seeing a mob of terrorists stop our election process was chilling. Literally. I’m fucking freezing as I tremble from dismay.

Obviously none of this is incisive political commentary. It’s barely coherent. It’s the emotional rambling of a woman who was born into a stable functioning democracy who believed it would be there for her entire life. Our system of government was a given for me. I believed in the American dream.

I’ve slowly watched that dream unravel for a pack of power obsessed grifters who only wish to self enrich.

I’ve watched as people equivocated and waffled over the dangers to our institutions.

I’ve listened to arguments on how it’s all worth it for the Supreme Court seats or the tax cuts.

And now all we’ve done is debase ourselves. It has come to this horrible moment. Where democracy was overrun in the heart of America.

I’m watching Mitch McConnel reconvene the Senate now. His speech is actually pretty good. I feel somewhat soothed. Except that he’s enabled the path that has led us here. He’s just as responsible as any. But I am comforted that there was a line.

But I don’t know at what cost. What cracks in the foundations may widen in future shocks. I’m too sad. Too angry. Perhaps even too afraid to calculate out future horrible possibilities. I’m sure many of you are feeling the same mix of emotions. To say that today was traumatic is an understatement. .

Take care of yourselves. Be with your loved ones. Be resilient. But remember it’s ok to be hurt.

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Uncategorized

Consumed 1/6/21

Media: Lets be honest I sat in front of the television and watched Fox News in horror for most of the day.

I did some reading. Practically speaking the Republican Party is leaning more on disenfranchisement techniques. As a conservative and libertarian I would much prefer simply creating a more popular party platform instead of leaning in on minority rule and chicanery.

Food: As it is winter I’ve been eating fruit that is available like winter satsumas. I much prefer berries. So it was a thrill to get a vat of organic blueberries and raspberries for my Greek yogurt. Now that I eat breakfast consistently instead of a fasting (a long story for another time)

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Chronicle

On Being Extremely Online

Many folks find social media to be overwhelming. It’s a constant barrage of sensory inputs. It’s not necessarily the most pleasant unless, like me, you live for large information loads. It provides me an emotional comfort get data points. One of the few things I could do when sick was scroll Twitter and read news (longer form not so much) so I have become as they say “extremely online”

I follow shifts in opinion like a rancher can sense a change in the winds. Being extremely online skews your politics in some ways. I can recite minutia in history and policy. Which makes it harder to form firm opinions. It’s all simply too nuanced to be partisan. Then I speak to family members who are dead sure of their position who can’t answer a basic question about how they decided to hold the opinion. It’s not so much that they are low information voters so much as I’m a saturated voter. If a pollster tried to talk to me they couldn’t place me. Which is how I ended up being the token white conservative that voted for Clinton that Frank Luntz brought to Oprah. So being a saturated voter does have its perks.

This saturation effect isn’t just true for politics. I swim in economic data. I follow petty feuds and undercurrents in venture capital. I have entire magazine mastheads committed to memory. I know what stories writers wrote a decade ago. I probably know CV of some editors better they they know themselves.

This also makes it relatively easy for me to move between different types of communities. Code switching isn’t just for race. Online it can be the difference between getting ratio’d or being promoted. And thanks to the constant scrolling and consumption I can talk just as easily to size proud chronic disease communities as I can the swol bros who insist being jacked is a moral authority. Which I find to be genuinely additive to my life. Diversity of opinion makes you smarter. It makes you kinder.

And holy shit does being in the information flow of diverse communities give you an edge. My favorite thing to do on Twitter is to ask someone to explain a controversy or event and nine times out of ten I get a nuanced thoughtful answer…from the source. Just this week I was feeling overwhelmed trying to parse the Bret Weinstein controversy at Evergreen college. It’s one of the original culture war battles on campus but I’ve never understood it. Media was intense and wedded to their priors. I couldn’t make heads or trails of it. So I asked. And within hours Bret himself took the time to point me towards sources so I could become informed. I still don’t know exactly how I feel about it but I do know if you seek in good faith the internet will provide. If you can find a way to intake more media and don’t let it overwhelm you being extremely online will make your life significantly better. Or it will melt your brain. No guarantees.

Media: In which the venerable conservative George Will loses his shit on the venal craven fuck nuts that are senators Hawley and Cruz. I also reread the interview I mentioned above with Oprah and I have to say I was spot on in my predictions.

Julie Fredrickson being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in 2016 about the election of Trump.

Food: I was out of pour over coffee so I acquired a latte from Spruce Confections. Ok I’ll also admit I got a ham and cheese croissant too. We then made a trip to Costco and acquired quite a bit of meat and vegetables so I don’t repeat that nonsense too often.