The Sweetness Of Water

https://amzn.to/3xQMMKx

This is a really good book.

It’s not the easiest book to read, it doesn’t cut like butter, but it’s far from difficult. And as good as it starts out, it gets better.

I’ve never read a book exactly about this era. I mean there must be some, but I don’t remember reading one. And as much as “The Underground Railroad” has gotten kudos, and it was good, you’ll enjoy “The Sweetness of Water” more. Because you can feel the setting, and it’s all about story, the underlying themes/messages, don’t eclipse the tale.

So what we’ve got here is the south just after the north has won the Civil War. The slaves have been freed and the Confederate troops are walking back home and the law is different, but the thinking remains the same. Ergo the conflict.

And it’s always outsiders who push the envelope. If you’re accepted, if you’re popular, your job is to stay that way, you don’t want to jeopardize your standing in society. But George never thought that way. His father made the money he’s living on, he’s a dilettante, and he’s not open with his feelings, but he rises to the occasion. That’s the measure of character, when something is on the line, when it means something, do you do the right thing?

So what we’ve got is freed slaves who are not really free. They may not be beholden to their masters anymore, living on their property, then again the masters believe they should be, they treat the freed people who’ve absconded as traitors who must come back to them or be ostracized.

So you’re free, you can finally pursue your dreams, but you have no means, no shelter, no money, no food.

And everybody’s got an agenda and everybody’s in everybody’s else’s pocket/business. No one is independent, they’re all tied up with those in power. Which means change can’t happen, but it has. Then again, you read “The Sweetness of Water” and even though it’s a hundred and fifty years later, you can still see the similarities, the prejudices.

I’m loath to tell you any of the plot because that’s the heart of the book, what makes it so good. There are surprises. Not illogical, but in some cases totally unforeseen. And there are many stories. There are main characters, but the peripheral ones are fleshed out too.

So can you beat the system?

Be sure, they don’t want you to. And that’s the case whether it’s human rights or just going against the grain in business. People are entrenched in their feelings, they make them feel better about themselves, and they’re often tied into their economic worth so…

And it’s all about appearances.

Will you be riveted instantly?

No, but you’ll have no desire to put “The Sweetness of Water” down. You’ll be interested, and then about twenty percent in you’ll be hooked and about halfway through you’ll be riveted, you’ll want to know what happens. But unlike lowbrow stuff it isn’t only about what happens, the feelings, the emotions, the questions are right there hitting you in the heart and groin. “The Sweetness of Water” is not just a screenplay, but it would make an excellent movie. Then again, they don’t make movies like this anymore, that are about regular people, not superheroes.

“The Sweetness of Water” could be the new “Color Purple,” but that was thirty five years ago. And shooting something like this…too often filmmakers get the images right, but ultimately lose the feel/the story. Spielberg did a great job with “The Color Purple,” but few can balance a wide canvas and gravitas. Then again, “The Sweetness of Water” would work on a small canvas, not only as a TV series, but one that is more about the characters than the images.

And I mention “The Color Purple” because it was Oprah’s breakthrough (no last name necessary, right?) And “The Sweetness of Water” is an Oprah’s Book Club pick. Oprah started the paradigm, of mass book clubs. They’ve been diluted, but Oprah never picks a loser. And “The Sweetness of Water” is a winner.

And I mention a visual version because so few people read. And when it comes to fiction, too many men don’t, read it that is, they need nonfiction, business books, biographies. But you’ll learn more about people reading “The Sweetness of Water.” It demonstrates how our country was broken back then and is still broken today. Not that it’s a polemic.

Get it. Start it late at night, or on a rainy day. When it’s quiet, with no distractions. “The Sweetness of Water” is not a beach read, it’s a tunnel into a different era, you want no distractions as you go inside. You’ll dig it.

P.S. If only we had an Oprah in the music world.

Schmigadoon!

Trailer: https://bit.ly/3zdOUML

This show is so whacked that you’ve got to watch the two available episodes just to marvel at the creativity. In a world where everybody just repeats what everybody else does, I’ve never seen a show quite like this.

Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key are doctors who go on a retreat to improve their relationship and end up in a musical. With all the musical tropes. There’s no effort to make it appear like reality, that’s just the point, musicals never are real, I mean who walks down the street and bursts into song?

As for the songs… They’re all brand new and creative…the lyrics trump the melodies, but there are melodies and the words all have meaning and it’s a trip back to the fifties and sixties when music was about musicals and if you couldn’t sing it, they didn’t write and record it.

So, Cecily and Keegan-Michael are alternately wowed and horrified/terrified by the musical they’ve found themselves inside of. Are these people for real? And what about their agendas? Kristin Chenoweth, the preacher’s wife, has banned most of the books from the library and is against living in sin so this couple who’ve been together for years can’t sleep together.

And there’s the bad boy Danny Bailey.

And the mayor, Alan Cumming, who is brilliant, who must spread love and happiness but isn’t always up to being gay, but Cecily wonders, is he gay? And Martin Short plays a leprechaun and…should you really listen to leprechauns?

So, Key is trying to figure out the game whereas Cecily just wants to play along and they can’t escape and…

You’re sitting there howling!

It’s kind of like a Christopher Guest mockumentary, but not really. Because the two main characters aren’t buying it. And the people involved are not delusional. You’re not laughing at them so much as the ridiculous situations.

Now this show is hobbled by being on Apple TV+. In that they’re dribbling out episodes once a week, which is a flawed strategy. Read Rich Greenfield’s take on addiction: https://bit.ly/2UrSbtd

Bottom line, Apple would be better off releasing “Ted Lasso” all at one time. But the people in control at the Cupertino giant, or the Hollywood drones they’ve hired, are so mired in old school thinking that they don’t understand how it works today.

So, will I watch “Ted Lasso” week by week or wait until it’s all over so I can binge?

I’m leaning towards the latter, at least I’ll be able to remember what happens from episode to episode.

This also means I can’t vouch for the entire “Schmigadoon!” series because not only have I only seen two episodes, but I must say the second episode wasn’t quite up to the first.

Too many of the reviews didn’t get the show. They were taking it too seriously. They were busy analyzing it on a macro level whereas it’s on a micro level that it succeeds. Some things are so ridiculous, such spot-on parodies of regular musicals, that you split your sides. And that’s what we’re looking for in comedies, not perfection, but the ability to crack us up on a regular basis enough to make the time worthwhile.

Really, “Schmigadoon!” reminds me of the sixties, when everything was up for grabs, and praise was heaped on those who broke the construct, who engaged their wildest imaginations and blew our minds. Same deal in music. But this was all before big money was involved. Hell, today’s story about Ackman and Universal is bigger than any of the music on the label. It’s about creativity. I have no idea what it took to green light this project, but I hope the creative team didn’t have to jump through too many hoops. You’ve got to give creative people the cash and let them go. If you demand demos, proof, you take the air out of the project. You’ve got to be in a crazy place to create something like “Schmigadoon!,” and if you’re paying for it your goal is to eliminate all distractions and let people go, because then you might end up with something as crazy and deranged yet infectious as “Schmigadoon!”

To The Moon

“‘To The Moon” – How did a bunch of amateurs take Wall Street by surprise? Our five-part podcast series goes inside the GameStop saga.”: https://on.wsj.com/2UqbCCJ

They didn’t see it coming.

This is not only about Wall Street, but America in general. We no longer live in one cohesive country where anybody, never mind everybody, can know what is going on, and it’s not only in politics, but in every business/walk of life. Look at the music business, it thought it conquered the internet with the authorization of Spotify, et al, and then TikTok came along, never mind the additional platforms being sued for rights on a regular basis. Bottom line? There are more ways of consuming music than just listening passively on a linear basis to recordings via a traditional distributor. Opportunities abound.

And music was the canary in the coal mine for digital disruption. Because people wanted the product and files were small. Other media? They still haven’t figured it out. Hollywood doesn’t know whether to release films simultaneously on the flat screen, and there are a plethora of  streaming outlets/platforms/companies, whereas you can get everything from one company for one low price in music. As for news? They keep bitching about the death of local newspapers while the three big kahunas, the NYT, WaPo and WSJ, get ever bigger. What did Jeff Bezos say? You don’t want to bet against the future, because the future always wins.

And the new future is always more power in the hands of individuals. And an inability to control them, never mind not knowing about their actions until way too late.

So the bottom line is Robinhood made trading free. It didn’t used to be, but all the other brokers had to fall in line, to compete. You used to have to pay for every trade. And Robinhood made trading easy, you could comprehend and execute on their simple platform with essentially no learning curve. Was there a cost to this? Of course! You got people with little money making insane bets and putting their savings at risk, when everybody knows Wall Street is a controlled game played by experts. But then the punters organized on Reddit’s wallstreetbets and rewrote the rules, based on organization and a different set of principles.

How often do you think a Wall Street trader goes on Reddit? I’d argue NEVER! Therefore they had no idea what was going on. And when GameStop started to go up… The analysts who follow the stock couldn’t understand it, it made no sense, according to the rules. But a mob of retail investors, who are ignored by most because each has so little to invest, turned the Street on its head.

They organized and stuck together. You wanted to have “Diamond Hands.” If you sold out and took your winnings you were excoriated. This was not only about investing, but being a member of a club, and the power was in the mass, so you had to stick with the group. Therefore, stock valuations went wild and the Street had to compensate. But in the process a hedge fund shorting GameStop had to get an infusion of billions to stay alive.

And the platforms, Robinhood has a competitor, Webull, broke the system, there was so much money involved that their intermediaries, who actually traded the stock, didn’t have enough cash to cover/protect themselves and trading had to be halted. Robinhood didn’t have enough assets! And therefore you couldn’t purchase GameStop stock and it crashed.

I followed this story pretty closely, but this podcast does a great job of putting it all in context. It’s an easy listen, and also a fascinating one. It’s only five half hour episodes and it’s anything but dry. And despite being a “Wall Street Journal” podcast, it’s available on all platforms.

Everything’s the same today, politics, business, real life. Everyone has blind spots, but these blind spots can come back and bite you in the ass. If you’re looking backward you’re going to be disrupted. If you’re living in the present you’re going to be disrupted. You must always scour the landscape, taking the temperature of the future, because there’s someone somewhere who wants to change your business. It’s your job to recognize it. And we’ve learned in the last twenty years you never try to kill it, you try to co-opt it, buy it, improve it, supersede it.

This is today.

Facebook/Biden

“On Saturday, Mr. Rosen said in the blog post that among Facebook’s American users, vaccine hesitancy had declined by 50 percent since April and vaccine acceptance had increased by 10 to 15 percentage points, or to over 80 percent from 70 percent.”: https://nyti.ms/3y14349

How would they know? I didn’t get an e-mail asking my status. No, they sifted through the data, that they collected, while you thought you were connecting with friends. How myopic can you be? Never mind inaccurate.

Funny how Facebook and the rest of these tech companies kiss the ass of China, do whatever authoritarians want them to, but when it comes to the United States they believe they’re safe, impenetrable, bigger than the government. Administrations come and go, but Facebook remains.

Misinformation. It’s why people are not getting vaccinated. I know not because I read about it, but because my inbox is full of people e-mailing me false reports. All you have to do is Google to find out these bloviators and their opinions have been debunked. But if you get a vaccine you’re acceding to the power of the government, whereas if you believe some bozo anti-vax philosophy you’re in control. Let me ask you, do you want to be in control of the airplane? How come expertise is meaningless in today’s society?

As for all those computer science students, you know, the STEM people, maybe they needed to take humanities courses, because last time I checked our brains aren’t digital, nor is sex, nor are most of our feelings and decisions. Facebook is like a rogue dictatorship run by someone only barely better educated than Kim Jong-un. And Zuckerberg’s mentors? All data and finance people. And just like Trump thinks he’s entitled to still be president, Zuckerberg believes Facebook has a god-given right to exist. Hell, Apple allows users to turn off tracking and Zuckerberg throws a conniption fit. As if he’s entitled to hoover up our data. Wasn’t he prepared for this? Isn’t being a techie being worried about disruption?

As for disruption, Facebook missed the memo that you’ve got to pay creators and give them a chance for an audience. You can start from zero on TikTok and the platform will seed your video to those not following you to give you a chance. But not on Facebook, which cultivates your feed using black box algorithms. You want to know why our country is divided? WE DON’T SEE THE SAME NEWS! Whether it be on Facebook or Google. It’s like a bad remake of “2001,” the computers are in control, soulless, and in this case only interested in making a buck, and power, of course. The truth is Facebook is in the middle of getting disrupted, it was asleep at the wheel. And Zuckerberg cozied up to Trump but not Biden. But Zuck makes all that money on Trump/right wing stories, ever see the list of the most shared posts on Facebook? THEY’RE ALL RIGHT WING! I mean each and every one of them, well, eight out of ten, the others are cat videos and other innocuous trifles.

And now Zuckerberg is telling us he’s not the problem, but the solution. It’s “1984” but in real life. Researchers ask interviewees why they won’t get the shot and they all say because of what they read on Facebook, I’m not making this up, read the studies, but now Facebook says exactly the opposite?

The first rule of thumb?

Never ever respond. And if someone does, in internet land, they find out the joke is on them. Because the silent majority is no longer silent, they’ve all got keyboards, and they let others know how they feel and suddenly you’re in the crosshairs. Funny how a social media company doesn’t know how you act on social media. Facebook should have said they’ll have a meeting with the government, kick the ball down the road, wait for the story to fade away, which it always seems to do in the fast-paced world of today. But now this is a story.

Primarily because of the Delta variant. Did you see that one in five cases nationally was in Florida? Where DeSantis is so busy running for president he’s running to the right and killing people? No masks, no vaccination cards, open the state up… Do you really want to get on a cruise ship without knowing everybody has been vaccinated?

And the Delta variant is in the news every damn day. Because infections are going up, as are deaths. Furthermore, essentially one hundred percent of the infections are in people who have refused the shot, who are unvaccinated. It’s become Russian Roulette. I gotta ask you punk, do you feel lucky?

Kinda funny, just like every social movement that becomes mainstream, from gay marriage to legal marijuana, enough time has gone by that people are waking up to the fact you want to be vaccinated, and those who are not… This ain’t gonna go on forever, people are going to start getting the shot, because they’re gonna know people who get infected. Because infections are happening in all the places where people thought they were immune, like rural areas. We didn’t see this coming. It’s time to be optimistic. Then again, if these people are stupid enough to go bare and get infected…they find out that no one cares about them, they think they’re part of a tribe who will protect them but it turns out they’re just collateral damage to be ignored. Every day there’s a report of relatives of the dead crying, saying everybody should get the shot. You learn from experience.

As for Biden… They jump on him 24/7 in the right wing sphere, and what does Biden do? IGNORE IT! For a long time he wouldn’t even mention Trump’s name! How is it seventy eight year old Biden knows more about media management, staying on message, triumphing, than seemingly everybody younger than him? You cannot cave to the haters. I don’t care if you’re Mother Teresa, the Pope, go on social media and you’ll find someone who hates your guts and says so. You can’t let it get to you. That’s how you know someone is a winner, if they’re aware you’ve got to ignore the rabble-rousers.

And the raw truth is Facebook is a private enterprise, the First Amendment doesn’t apply. End of story. So Zuck and company can get rid of anything they want to, but they don’t want to, because of the MONEY! Meanwhile, these multinationals based in the U.S. shift income to tax havens so they don’t have to cough up any dough to the country and the recent right wing mantra is that we can’t increase the size of the IRS because… Well, if big business and rich people have to pay taxes…somehow it’s going to ruin the country, as if the trickle down theory hasn’t resulted in income inequality so bad that seemingly everybody working for a living is looking for someone to blame. David Geffen posts a picture from his yacht, saying this is where he’s riding out the shutdown, and gets crucified for it and shuts up, but Jeff Bezos gets a new girlfriend and is love drunk and gives up his job, buys a yacht, which is just a measurement of a billionaire’s unit, and is flying into space not realizing that every day he’s becoming more hated around the world. We use Amazon, but we’re as positive about it as our cable providers. Tried to shop on Amazon recently? Between the ads and the “Amazon’s Choice” picks that are not the best deal you need an MBA and half an hour to buy toothpicks. But in the name of commerce, everything’s fair game!

Meanwhile, no one wants a crappy job anymore. With time off they’ve thought about it and they’ve realized there must be another way, or if they’re gonna do the gig they must be paid more. Sure, we need to raise the minimum wage, but it turns out the pandemic is doing a good job of it while the frozen Congress is embattled in a no win, no action contest.

If you think you can rule America in the future by only appealing to your base, you’re wrong. You’re one step away from a revolution. Biden hits at Facebook and… Who really wants to defend Facebook? Who wants to defend misinformation? Turns out not many. It’s an easy target.

And being president is not like building a career online. If you’re looking for good feelings from likes online you’re part of the machine, posting ever more to ultimately find it’s too much work and you end up nowhere. You were an influencer and now… It’s not like YouTube gives you a pension. Biden’s got a different job, he doesn’t need to be in the news 24/7, so when he does take a stand, it’s got much more gravitas.

It’s like America’s a competition, everybody playing for accolades online, ignoring reality, which ultimately comes to bite them on the ass.

Turns out the Democratic strategy wasn’t working. The Supreme Court allowed the evisceration of voting rights. So, Biden turned it into a street fight.

This is only the beginning.