New Reading Glasses

“The clerk is a jerk.”

That’s what Jeff Garlin told Marc Maron.

Actually, that’s what Jeff Garlin’s mother told Jeff. That you want to talk to the MANAGER!

Maybe it’s a Jewish shtick, but my father was full of these aphorisms. Like you need to see the BIG DOCTOR! Especially in L.A., where they’re available. You want an opinion from the expert, someone with experience who sees what you’ve got every day. As my father put it, “Schnooks get shat on.” If you’re just being nice to everybody and fielding what’s coming along you’re gonna lose out.

Or are you?

My prescription changed.

I no longer see the ophthalmologist, I now see the optometrist. I know, this is a crime. But it turns out ophthalmologists only care about surgery, big problems, and if you just want new contacts…

I saw an ophthalmologist in the Palisades who prescribed lenses that made my eyes burn. And I’ve been wearing contacts since I was sixteen. And I have a high threshold of pain. And then a friend told me about Dr. Richard Silver…

He doesn’t need my endorsement. He doesn’t need more patients. As it is, you can wait months to see him, in either Santa Monica or the Valley, but this guy is a contact lens EXPERT! And he’s got you sitting in front of so many machines, testing your vision, that no ophthalmologist ever did with me, that I’m a believer. See him.

And I did see him, last week. And for the first time in a decade, my reading glasses prescription changed.

That’s right, by wearing rigid gas permeable lenses, the ones almost no one does, I not only get the best vision, they act as a retainer, and your eyes don’t change. But in this case they did, a little, tiny bit. My prescription went from +1.25 to +1.50.

I know, you’re laughing. You’re in the 3’s or 4’s.

But by being nearsighted and wearing the rigid gas permeable lenses I’ve got baby reading glasses, but I need them.

And I buy this Microvision product:

MicroVision Optical

Listen up people, especially you guys. You don’t want to go to the restaurant and be unable to see the menu. But you don’t want to bring your glasses, with no place to put them so you lose them. But if you buy the folding glasses, which fit in a tiny little case, you’ll always be able to bring them with you.

These are the ones I buy:

Premium/Rx-able
Folding Vision Reading Glasses

And if you go to that page, you’ll see you can order them with +1.50 lenses, so problem solved, right?

Wrong. You need the prescription lenses. That’s what I’ve always been told.

So I go to the eyeglass counter…

Let’s start at the beginning. I go at 12:15. Can you go anywhere at 12:15? Isn’t that when everybody takes lunch?

Those are the thoughts that go through my head, I have OCD.

And when I get there the only person working is a woman I’ve never seen before.

Mmm… I want a pro. The regular guy. Who I’ve been using for a decade. Should I come back?

NO! That’s not only too OCD, it’s discriminatory. Am I really not going to use the woman? That’s OFFENSIVE!

So I sit down, and she can’t find the number. She’s looking all over the frames, I figure she’s scanning for the brand name, which I know, Microvision, but she says she needs a number.

And when she doesn’t find one she whips out a ruler.

And my anxiety starts to rise. Is she being exact? I’m gonna wear these each and every day!

And then she wants to know if I need anti-reflective coating and polycarbonate lenses.

I don’t know. But I need the best. So I ask her.

And she tells me to do NOTHING!

That’s right. The glasses came with +1.50 lenses, I should wear them for a week, see if I like them. After all, she’s just gonna put in the same lenses herself!

Huh?

Yup, Microvision used plastic, she’s gonna use plastic.

No difference?

Well, maybe the width between my eyeballs.

So she measures me. And says she’s gonna measure the lenses already in the glasses.

And I’m thinking I’ve got such bad OCD and I need everything perfect and this woman is gonna save me money and the stock lenses are o.k. and then she comes back and asks…DO YOU READ A LOT?

Do I read a lot, that’s all I DO!

Well, if that’s so, then Robert says you want the prescription lenses.

LET ME SPEAK TO ROBERT!

And I hear my father’s voice echoing in my brain. Why did I waste time with this jerk. I need the EXPERT!

And Robert comes in and measures the difference between my eyeballs and it’s DIFFERENT from the measurement the girl got.

Furthermore, he tests the already installed lenses and discovers the center point on each is different, by a wide margin.

So I was right to begin with. Not only did I need prescription lenses, I needed the big guy, the manager.

Life’s such a hassle. Do I have to struggle over everything?

I guess I do!

WTF Podcast, Episode 567 – Jeff Garlin

The Fall Line

The Fall Line: How American Ski Racers Conquered a Sport on the Edge

What does it take to win?

The new age snake oil salesmen will tell you it’s all about attitude.

The Silicon Valley titans will tell you it’s all about failing.

But the truth is it’s a feeling deep inside that you can succeed, followed up by tons of practice and sacrifice, oftentimes by your loved ones, and then a ton of luck plopped on top. Are you ready?

No, most people are not. Most people don’t want to miss out on the pleasures of life. The prom, the tv series, all the rites of passage. But the truth is our winners miss out on so much to grab the brass ring. And you might know their names for a fraction of a second, they may ultimately become footnotes. But they are our beacons. They point the way. And after finishing Nathaniel Vinton’s “The Fall Line” I’m pondering my own next journey in life.

You’ve got to have a goal. And unlike the boastful rappers, you’ve got to hew to it when you’re sick and hurt and nearly defeated. Because success is never about spin, that can factor in, but it’s always about effort. Which most people are unwilling to make.

Yes, “The Fall Line” is about skiing. But except for the last third, which is competition dominated, anyone would be riveted. It’s the story of Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller and the U.S. Ski Team, how they all convened at the Olympics in Whistler, Canada for success.

So Lindsey Vonn is skiing laps at 310′ Buck Hill, Minnesota under the lights. First you’ve got to have the passion, the desire. If what you’re doing is not fun, turn around and go in another direction.

Bode Miller is bombing the icy slopes of Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire on ill-fitting borrowed equipment, having been dropped off there by his hippie parents every afternoon.

And there you have the dichotomy. The daughter of upper middle class attorneys who moved their family to Vail, Colorado so their daughter could succeed and the son of counterculture parents who were lucky a friend granted a Sugarloaf, Maine ski academy scholarship to their son who was home-schooled.

And when they both have success, they both cope with it in different ways.

Lindsey deflects. She lets her team handle it.

Bode gets in the mix and speaks his truth. And anyone who’s dealt with the press knows you never speak the truth.

So this is athletics. This is very different from the modern music business where oftentimes the star is just a face, all the work being done by ancient men most people are unaware of. In athletics you’ve got support, but it’s only you on the field.

But America is fascinated with team sports. We lionize the individual but we pay fealty to the team. But going it alone is so much harder.

And there are only a couple of sports where you’re out there completely alone. Tennis is one, golf another. But in tennis the conditions remain the same, or close to it. The golf courses change, but neither sport has an element of danger. In downhill skiing you can lose your life, or your leg, as one recent skier did.

And until recently there wasn’t much money in it, certainly not for American skiers.

But in Europe downhillers are stars. And with the loosening of Olympic amateur rules and the corporatization of the world, it’s now all about corporate sponsors. You can make a mint if you’re a winner.

But it’ll cost you. You’ve got to stop in New York to debut a watch even though you’d rather fly straight to Europe to compete. You’ve got to fly to Europe for the day, getting unbelievably jet-lagged in the seventy two hour turnaround. But you need the cash.

And here lies the difference between music and athletics. The corporate sponsors don’t invade the field of athletic play, but they do in art. Can you forgo the cash and hew to the beat of your own drummer? Can you stand outside the system and do it your way, appealing to an audience of your own device?

With today’s victory, Lindsey Vonn is the most successful woman ski racer of all time. She has 63 World Cup wins. And she’s beautiful. And wealthy. And she dates Tiger Woods. But she’s cold. You can’t warm up to her.

Bode Miller is nearly as successful, a jangle of rough edges, and despite his excoriation by the press as a result of his lack of success at the 2006 Olympics, he’s the people’s favorite, those who pay attention. Because he’s sui generis. He says what he thinks. And he never holds back.

We need people to believe in. And we’re drawn to those who break the rules. Because the truth is we are not cookie-cutter, we’re all unique in a world telling us to be like everybody else. So when someone wins on their own terms, we glom on. We want to believe we can do it our way and succeed.

And in skiing there’s the twin issues of weather and course preparation. And the difference between medaling and not can be a hundredth of a second. That’s what separates a winner from a loser. But you can’t complain. Nobody likes a whiner, certainly not in sports.

Are you willing to practice when no one is watching? When no one will notice?

I became a great skier by going to the Middlebury College Snow Bowl when no one else would. When it was raining, when it was far below zero. Not because I wanted a medal, but because I loved it.

And my brief tenure on the ski team proved that it wasn’t for me. They’re jocks. With the concomitant practical jokes and hazing, all of which I hate.

But in the modern world everybody specializes. And if you don’t start early, if you don’t have parents who will support you, you have no chance. Kind of like the underprivileged kids living in poverty going to bad schools. Winning is ingrained at a young age.

And the winners in ski racing don’t take it casually, they all go to academies, usually sponsored by the state. Because you’ve got to dedicate all your time if you want to succeed. That’s the truth about the Silicon Valleyites, they’re nerds who didn’t date in high school who excelled to get into Stanford, you’re just catching them in the last lap. And a lot of them fall by the wayside in the interim, very few “make it.” But making it has nothing to do with social networks and shaving the edges, it’s all about hard work, put in, once again, when no one is watching, never mind listening.

“Fall Line” is the “Hit Men” of ski racing. The inside story of what really goes on. The autocratic executives who mess with athletes’ heads, never mind their careers. The ski contracts that not only allow you to get rich, but come with a supporting cast of characters that make the difference between victory and defeat.

That’s right, if you tune in once every four years for ten minutes you’ll see who emerges victorious. But you won’t know that the skiers don’t care about the Olympics, they care about the World Cup, a season-long endeavor, and you’ll be unaware of all the hard work and heartbreak expended, not only by those who achieve, but those who don’t.

What are your goals? What are you doing to achieve them? Like Bode Miller do you know that sometimes you’ve got to listen to criticism and sometimes you don’t? After all, it’s just you on the hill. Like Lindsey Vonn do you stand up to the team and make them play by your rules?

All of this and more is covered in “The Fall Line.” I spent all day reading it. I couldn’t put it down. You don’t have to finish it.

But you don’t have to be successful either.

Google Glass

Killed by the public, the press gave it a free pass.

That’s right, for years we were subjected to fawning stories about this idiotic product in the mainstream press. There were numerous pictures of Sergey and Larry at parties, looking like the dorks that they are, until suddenly barroom backlash surfaced in San Francisco and the media woke up to the fact that Google Glass might be an undesired product.

And there you have the modern media paradigm in a nutshell. The nitwit organizations trumpet everything made by people with money and the truth comes from the public. The inane writers tell us every movie and album is good until someone checks the sales charts thereafter and finds out that they’re stiffs.

How did this happen? How did reporters seeking out truth miss it?

Because they saw themselves as reporters and not analysts, just getting the facts, giving credence to every contrary opinion. Just like on TV all the anchors employ happy talk, all writers believe if you don’t contain the opposite viewpoint in your article you’re not doing your job. And that opinion should be left…on the opinion page. So therefore, newspapers have turned into sales catalogs, no wonder the younger generation ignores them.

And if someone is rich or powerful, they get a compete pass. As if being rich makes you smart or infallible. Oh, that’s right, the rich are “job creators” who must pay less taxes in order to keep our country humming. Without private equity, the rank and file would be able to keep their jobs, companies not being merged and sent overseas… Wait, that’s right, these guys are in it for themselves, and the stockholders, corporations are people you know… Make me puke.

But this has been the story of the twenty first century. How the rich and powerful and their complacent media think the world is headed one way and it turns out the public is going somewhere else.

Why would anyone want a file when they could buy a CD?

Why would anyone not want to see a movie in a theatre?

Why would anyone want to read the reporting of nobodies when we’ve got authorities who are members of a cabal beholden to and enthralled by those who pay them…the advertisers and the rich and powerful.

And now this same press has gone on record that the Apple Watch will fail. Probably because they don’t know what to do with the Cartiers and Rolexes they wear to the Metropolitan Costume Ball. But at least there’s rationale for a connected watch, eliminating the endless removal of your phone from your pocket to learn what’s going on. What was the rationale for Google Glass?

None. Just that some techies could make it. But in this case some rich and powerful techies who owned desktop search, as if that were forever.

Notice Google’s stock lately? Realize that the company’s ads for search model is challenged on the handset?

Nothing is forever in tech.

And the mainstream media is doing a good job of driving itself off a cliff.

The “New York Times,” the doyenne of paperdom, keeps laying people off, not realizing, like every experienced businessman, that in times of trouble you DOUBLE DOWN! You employ a scorched earth policy and take market share.

TV has turned its news into an entertainment profit center, not realizing that people go online for news the same way they go online for music videos, and that if you lose the audience’s trust via the evisceration of your credibility, you’re toast.

And then the mainstream press pooh-poohs Occupy Wall Street and Ferguson and chokehold protest coverage because those people are poor and it’s not sexy. They’d rather speak to the head of  the police union or Bill de Blasio, who is in charge of the people?

No one. We have no spokesperson. And we used to rely on the media to get the story out. And it’s not doing a terrible job, but it could do such a better one.

How about the public editor of the “New York Times” doing a story into how much of the content has been pitched?

How about listing hype as such?

How about looking at the world in a critical way.

I love tech, I love gadgets, but never did I have a desire for Google Glass. Forget that it had no functions useful to me, IT LOOKED DORKY! Didn’t anybody in media realize this? With all those fashion reporters?

But that’s the other story of modern life. You’re building your own personal brand, and the best way to do this is to piss off nobody, fawn over the rich, build your network, hell, LinkedIn is a raging success.

Just give me some truth.

Modern Life

CURATORS/FILTERS

They’re everything in the modern world. Unless you attach yourself to someone/something that already has an audience, your chance of succeeding is incredibly low, because there’s just too much noise.

So, despite the bitching about challenging economics, that’s the power of the newspaper. It’s filtered news. And ads. And listings.

Most competing with traditional news outlets are amateurs. They’re bad writers in an era where no one has time for that. So people gravitate to those who already have the power.

That’s the magic of the “Huffington Post.” It’s link-bait on steroids, but it’s got an audience. Same deal with “BuzzFeed.” The rich get richer and the poor are irrelevant.

NEWS

Is the entertainment of today. In an alienated world, we all have a desire to belong. Pre-internet, when we lived in a monoculture, going your own way, going deep into your own niche, was a badge of honor. Today, you’re just irrelevant. And this judgment hurts. If you’re rebelling and those you’re rebelling against don’t care, don’t react, then you feel alone. Which is why we all desire to be part of the scene. That’s why we post on social networks, we want to belong. And the glue is news. It’s what we talk about. Whether it be Charlie Hebdo or the shenanigans of some celebrity.

Children believe that school is the world. Their ignorance is bliss. But this hotbed of sharing helps parents be clued in. But if you’ve got no children, or you’re out of school, you’re hungry for information, so you can have discourse. Sure, you could discuss the obscure record or TV show…IF YOU COULD FIND SOMEONE WHO’S HEARD IT OR SEEN IT!

NUMBER ONE AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE

Whether it be the weekly winner of the movie grosses or Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” you can read that something tops the chart and never encounter it. This never happened before. The hits were ubiquitous. But television ratings are a fraction of what they once were. And you never have to listen to a radio station you don’t want to, never mind the commercials. In other words, Kanye West is more famous for his inane outbursts of superiority and being married to Kim Kardashian than he is for his music. Most people know Kanye is a boasting boor, but they don’t know his music.

INSULARITY IS KING

When life becomes incomprehensible, when you feel powerless with no hope of upward mobility, you trumpet that which you are into, believing that others should feel the same way, completely ignorant that they too are flummoxed by modern life and cannot separate the cultural wheat from the chaff. Everybody is overwhelmed, nobody is ever bored. And to think that which you find to be important is truly such is oftentimes to be delusional.

TRIBES RULE

You collect your colors and they establish your identity. Sure, you could favor the obscure, but the American story is glomming on to the mainstream. That’s the essence of sports. They give you something to believe in and someone to be against. Competition is cut and dried with a limited number of teams, there’s a defined winner when the normal game of life…you’re not even sure who the players are.

CURATORS/FILTERS 2

That’s why the festival is more important than the act. And the hang is more important than the music. The festival is a party. The goal of a party is to have a good time. Eat some fun food and have some laughs. Other than dance/EDM acts, which are party central, the soundtrack to the revel, the rest of the bill is irrelevant. And the big money goes to the promoter. Just check AEG’s Coachella grosses.

FEWER CAN WIN

When we’re overwhelmed, we gravitate to the blockbuster. So, despite the ability to play, it’s even harder to get any traction, never mind succeed.

TIME CHALLENGES

Everybody complains that no one marinates in their art, meanwhile the creators are jumping from item to item just as frequently. It’s not about a short attention span, it’s about a fear of missing out, and even more powerfully, a fear that something better is just a click away.

NEWS IS RARELY FUNNY

TV is selling entertainment. Which is why it’s lost purchase on the news business. People want the facts. And no one’s got time to waste watching a program with commercials. If you leave the TV on all day to be informed you know nearly nothing.

BEWARE OF FADS

Used to be musical acts were one hit wonders. Now MySpace disappears and youngsters move from Facebook to Snapchat. As hard as it is to make it, it’s even harder to sustain.

STORY

Story is everything. That’s what too many publications and websites don’t realize. In a puzzling world we’re attracted to humanity, something that reflects our condition. The most important tech story this week? Nick Bilton’s “New York Times” piece

“Be the Star of Your Own Snapchat Story” 

This is not a fad. Narrative is forever. Immediacy is key. Which is why Netflix and Amazon release all episodes of their series at once. Oldsters think they’re missing out on marketing, and buzz. But the truth is today buzz comes after the fact, long after the release. The buzz empire driven by purveyors and news outlets does not square with modern society. Every week we’re sold new stuff, but we only find out months later if it’s got any traction, when we hear about it from our friends…or not. This week it’s Sleater-Kinney and “Broad City.” They’re featured in every news outlet known to man. But over the last year we’ve seen not only movies disappear in a weekend, but complete albums. Furthermore, albums that start off as stiff suddenly gain traction, like “Kansas City” from the New Basement Tapes. You know you have a hit if people are still talking about it six months later. If not, you wasted your time.

MISUNDERSTANDING RULES

In a world where we rarely speak to one another, where we broadcast our thoughts, often ineptly, to the masses, miscommunication is rampant. Readers want encyclopedias behind every pronouncement, needing to nail the writer for mistakes in order to feel good about themselves, and feuds are caused by statements that would evaporate into thin air prior to the internet. The end result? Fear of communication. That’s the story of today, not how everybody is busy building their brand online, but how they’ve become gun-shy, fearful of participating, because of the backlash.

DATA, NOT STATISTICS

Everybody’s number one at something. To advertise this is to make us laugh and ignore you. But if someone parses the numbers, tells a story with data, then we’re interested.

AUTHORITIES, NOT NOBODIES

At least entertainment knows it’s about stars. The “New York Times” let Nate Silver and David Pogue go, and now their data stories are written by nobodies without authority and they’ve ceded tech to other outlets. Cherish your stars. Compensate them well. Meanwhile, David Pogue has faltered at Yahoo because Marissa Mayer knows nothing about news and entertainment. Only go where people understand your core business. Nate Silver is doubling-down on fivethirtyeight.com, but he’s almost starting all over. Once again, the team is everything, and the team needs its stars.