Last year I got to thinking about the many things that I should be thankful for, but never have, mostly because they have kinda been off my – and most folks’ – radar. More macro-level social elements that have helped to enable me and my family to have a life that we are indeed very thankful for. So I did a blawg post, and since I - not surprisingly – got carried away, I did another one. Here we are another year hence and Thanksgiving looms large (especially with a coast-to-coast storm and a never-before-heard-of “bomb cyclone” crashing into the West, which sounds good!). Not surprisingly, since we were just in DC, a few of them are a bit history-intensive.
It’s no secret that the news industry is hurting. And “hurting” may be a euphemism. Major city papers around the country are a pamphlet of what they once were, and it’s clear from the plethora of ads for hearing aids, ED, adult diapers and living facilities that their target market won’t even be around much longer. And yes, Ashley and I still rely on someone driving around in a car, burning gasoline throughout the wee hours of the morning to toss a physical paper onto our porch. Then we put it in the recycling bin with the other mostly-ridiculous social dinosaur of US mail and hope that the Chinese will be able to recycle it for us.
But we do read the paper. And it’s great. The Salt Lake Tribune – as it’s banner proudly proclaims – been around since 1871 and literally is an institution in the state. Paul Huntsman (brother of former UT governor and presidential candidate, and recent candidate for guv again Jon Huntsman) was apparently inspired by Jeff Bezos who bought the Washington Post, but even families’ mountains of money aren’t enough to plug the dike, because recently the Trib went to a nonprofit model; the first “legacy” paper in the country to do so. We’ll see how it goes.
In DC we went to the soon-to-be-shuttered Newseum, which was incredible, and getting a historical perspective of how important newspapers have been throughout our country’s history indeed gave a lot of credence to the famous Thomas Jefferson quote: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
|Paul Revere wasn't only a good horseman with a lantern, he was also a muckraker!|
and speaking of muckrakers:
There's no doubt that papers have had a big effect on history:
|The movie "The Post" is a great version of this story that stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks|
Now of course, with 24 hour news channels and a gazillion “news” outlets on the interwebs that have a clear social/political bias (for sure, bias has always existed, but it’s gotten turbocharged over the last 20 years) it has created a society that tends to clique together into echo chambers, but I’m pretty convinced that most reporters, papers, and news agencies are committed to honesty and integrity in their reporting, with newspapers perhaps being the last holdouts.
The Daily Show
Speaking of biased news, the Daily Show has been a bit of an institution for liberals looking for someone to skewer…pretty much everyone for over 20 years. To be sure, the Daily Show just another in a long litany of TV political satire: the Smothers Brothers show got heavily censored and eventually cancelled for it’s unceasing criticism of the Vietnam War and the president:
and the classic “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live nearly defined satire news culture in the 70’s:
|the actual sign that was used on SNL|
and all the while the likes of Carson, Leno, and Letterman delighted legions of fans with their nightly opening monologues. But it seemed like the Daily Show turned up the volume a notch with a creative, hilarious, and bold cadre of correspondents that in turn have gone on to successful careers doing more of the same themselves. And while the likes of Carson et al seemed to be pretty much performing for laughs, Jon Stewart infused the (actual) fake news with a real passion that was reflected in his stories and the crew around him, and as such he and they seemed to transcend the blurry line between comedy, news, and social commentary.
Trevor Noah had hugemungous shoes to fill, and Ashley and I feel like he’s done a great job at retaining the Stewart Spirit.
Here are some other perspectives of Jon Stewart at his retirement:
|Michael Steele was a particular target of Jon Stewart's|
|as was Glenn Beck.|
On the plane the other day I watched “Jaws” for the first time in….a longggg time (I remember reading the book when I was 10). It’s still a great movie. I was surprised at the end to see that it was a Steven Spielberg movie. I don’t really know much about him as a person, nor really what he actually “does” (or, for that matter, any directors/producers do) but he’s been an integral part in a big handful of pics that have almost defined pop culture of those eras. In addition to Jaws he did the iconic full-on entertainment ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Goonies and Gremlins, the Jurassic Park series, Back To The Future, Poltergeist, and Catch Me If You Can, yet in between he made the really profound Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, Flags of Our Fathers, and of course many others (32 total). One ancient classic that is a favorite of Brother Paul and I that I just found out is a Spielberg creation: Duel. Making entertaining movies isn’t necessarily a paramount ingredient of our existence, but the litany of movies that he’s done have added a fair bit to our social web.
Daniel Kahneman (and Amos Taversky)
Some years ago I saw a guy named Jonah Lehrer being interviewed on a tour for his new book “How We Decide”, which I found to be pretty intriguing since - as Ashley found in later research – we make something like 35,000 decisions a day, and making more “right” decisions out of those 35k might make for a better life. It was a good book (tho Lehrer was later disgraced by plagiarizing – of all people – Bob Dylan in a subsequent book) and put me onto a bit of a binge of reading similar books, including Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”, another unspellable guy’s “Flow”, and “Deep Survival (who lives, who dies, and why)” Basically, I wanted to try to get a handle on my own decision making so that I wouldn’t make dumb decisions.
I realized that a common name that kept coming up in those books was Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman had won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2003 for proving a very simple thesis: people do not act rationally. Almost all economic models made the fundamental assumption that humans are rational and will always act in ways that will enhance their position. However, anyone with a pulse or knows someone who has one knows that this isn’t true. Kahnemann and his deceased buddy Amos Taversky basically just proved that and put it into terms that pompous economists apparently could understand and accept.
But he didn’t stop there. Basically, the Father of Behavorial Economics decided to put his life’s work into a tome for non-economists (and non-psychologists) called “Thinking, Fast and Slow” that puts our rational and irrational behaviors under a microscope and explains them very effectively, and kind of introduced the concept of “heuristics” (rules of thumb, based on previous experience, for right or wrong) to many people. For my little world, Ian McCammon took the concept into the decision-centric backcountry ski/avalanche world (“do I ski this slope or not? Will it avalanche or not?” and pretty much changed the avalanche education world.
“Thinking, Fast and Slow” is a bit of a project, but I think – and many other folks who are far smarter than me would agree – that it’s the most important book ever.
I of course got carried away on this "thankfullness" concept and have a coupla more, for another post later this weekend.....