Friday, October 28th, 2022


The Bird is Fried

Oh, what Elon strange trip it's been. After months of top of the news wrangling, Elon Musk celebrated the purchase of the company he was essentially forced to buy with the tweet, "The bird is freed." So why do I feel like our goose is cooked? Journalists make up a large proportion of Twitter's most active users and work in the world's most self-gazing profession, so you'll be seeing nonstop, top-of-the-page headlines about each move Musk makes at Twitter—which already includes the predictable firing of top execs and the more predictable removal of lifetime user bans—so I'll spare you the blow by blow.

Speaking of blow... In 1979, Victor Kiam appeared in a commercial for Remington shavers in which he proclaimed, "I liked the razor so much I bought the company." That's similar to the Musk/Twitter story, but Scarface is probably a closer analog. It was Michelle Pfeiffer's Elvira Hancock who warned Al Pacino's Tony Montana, "Don't get high on your own supply." Tony didn't listen. Neither did Elon. Musk is a Twitter addict. This comment falls into the category of it takes one to know one. I'm a Twitter addict, too. Most of the platform's active users are.

Several years ago, I started using an app from Twitter called TweetDeck to track my likes and retweets—they call tools like these social media dashboards, but they're better understood as the vital signs for an internet dopamine junkie. One of the options in the app is to hear a shrill, school alarm bell sound anytime anyone interacts with one of your tweets.

Out of curiosity, I enabled the feature. The first ring startled. The second one went down a little easier. The third ring calmed. And after that, I needed the fourth ring. When the alarm bells went off in quick succession, it felt good, like a song I wanted stuck in my head. So, that day, I decided to leave the feature on for a little while.

That was about a decade ago. Since then, anytime someone responds to me, mentions me, retweets me, likes one of my tweets, shares anything re- lated to my newsletter, NextDraft, or links to any of my other writing online, I hear the ring. And I experience a positive response each time. Ring, response. Ring, response. It's like someone forgot to pick up after Pavlov's dog.

The bell has sounded so often, and has become such a pervasive source of background music in my house, that no one in my family ever even mentions it. It would be more noticeable if my laptop were open and there was no ringing. Every now and then, during a quiet, dry spell, one of my kids will hold a finger under my nose to make sure I'm still breathing.

I'm a small-fry, just one of the millions of middling addicts. For guys like Musk, with more than a hundred million followers, the dopamine hits are like tidal waves. So he kept tweeting. He kept tweeting when it hurt his reputation, even among prospective Tesla buyers. He kept tweeting when it led to nasty lawsuits or huge SEC fines. Even with all the fame, pressure, and influence associated with being the world's richest (and maybe most famous) person, Musk couldn't resist the blue tweet button. It was this Twitter addiction that led Musk to publicly ponder the possibility of purchasing the platform. That thread got him in so deep he was ultimately forced to wildly overpay for a company that will endlessly distract him from the several other much more impressive companies to run. Now that's a Twitter addiction. (On the plus side, I'm so bummed that Musk owns Twitter, it may actually help me kick my own habit.)

Twitter is a bloated company that has often been poorly managed, both on the product and revenue fronts. So Musk and his fellow investors may very well see financial upside at some point. But, as it was for Tony Montana, the psychological upside will prove more elusive. $44 billion is too much to pay to own the libs. I keep picturing Musk at Twitter HQ yelling, "Say hello to my little friend." But when you look, he's just holding an iPhone with the Twitter app open.

+ Two other takes on the purchase: From John Hermann in NY Mag: Twitter's Day of Spite. And from Nilay Patel in The Verge, a sentiment to which any longtime Twitter user can relate: Welcome to hell, Elon.


Where is Nancy?

In a horrible story out of San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi's husband "Paul Pelosi was attacked and severely beaten by an assailant with a hammer who broke into the Pelosi home early Friday." In an echo of Jan 6, the assailant (who has been arrested) entered the home and repeatedly yelled, "Where is Nancy?"

+ The attacker, who had posted many conspiracy theories pushed by the My Pillow Guy and others of his ilk, tried to tie up Paul Pelosi and said he was waiting for Nancy. Here's the latest from CNN. Paul Pelosi is expected to fully recover. Until we put a lid on the forces that unleashed Jan 6, our democracy won't.


Keep Me in Your Heart

"When Letterman asked his friend how his work had changed after learning that he was sick, he replied, 'You're reminded to enjoy every sandwich.' As soon as he heard it, Letterman's longtime band leader Paul Shaffer knew the line would become famous. 'Man, if I had only said that in my life,' he says, 'I think my life would've been worth something.'" Alan Siegel with an excellent look back at the time a dying Warren Zevon appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. Thank You, and Goodbye.

+ After you read the article, check out Eddie Vedder covering the unreal Zevon song, Keep Me in Your Heart, at Letterman's Mark Twain prize ceremony.


Weekend Whats

What to Book: "Jonathan Freedland tells the incredible story of Rudolf Vrba—the first Jew to break out of Auschwitz, a man determined to warn the world and pass on a truth too few were willing to hear—elevating him to his rightful place in the annals of World War II alongside Anne Frank, Primo Levi, and Oskar Schindler and casting a new light on the Holocaust and its aftermath." And sadly, because the rise of antisemitism and the explosion of misinformation, this is an incredibly timely book. And, despite the often heavy content, it's impossible to put down. The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World.

+ What to Pod: "Every week host Joel Stein picks a long magazine article that fascinates him – and then actually reads the whole thing, all by himself. Then he calls his fellow, but greatly superior journalist friend who wrote it, and gets them to tell him all about it. He does the work and you get the stories. More accurately, some great journalist does the work and Joel Stein puts his name, Joel Stein, on the podcast." This is a really good idea for a podcast and it is of course well-executed by the excellent Joel Stein. Check out Story of the Week.

+ What to Watch: "There are 5000 people in Letterkenny. These are their problems." That's how each episode of the insanely binge-able Letterkenny begins. I never necessarily advise people to leave the US for Canada, but I do suggest that you use this comedy for a series of 22 minute visits.


Extra, Extra

Poly Driving You Crackers: "In the polycrisis the shocks are disparate, however they work together in order that the entire is much more overwhelming than the sum of the components. At instances one feels as if one is shedding one's sense of actuality. Is the mighty Mississippi actually operating dry and threatening to chop off the farms of the Midwest from the world economic system? Did the January 6 riots actually threaten the US Capitol? Are we actually on the purpose of uncoupling the economies of the west from China? Things that may as soon as have appeared fanciful are actually info." Or, why you feel the way you feel. Welcome to the world of the polycrisis. (Paywalled, but you get the idea...) Related from the NYT: The Rising Tide of Global Sadness.

+ Store Room With a View: Amazon dominates ecommerce and they're a leader when it comes to cloud commuting. So they serve as a pretty good barometer of the general consumer and business economy. And this week, that's not good news. Vox: Why Amazon's stock price is tanking — and why that should worry you.

+ Strife in the Fast Lane: The article is about America's urgent and growing need for more truck drivers. The headline is a little more scary. The driver of the big rig one lane over might soon be one of these teenagers.

+ Beware of the Linkage to Shrinkage: "Cold-plunge devotees say the practice offers all kinds of benefits, including mental clarity, pain management and even weight loss, citing proponents like the Dutch motivational speaker Wim Hof and the Stanford neuroscientist Andrew Huberman." NYT: The $4,990 Ice Bath.


Feel Good Friday

"The entire trip has multiple benefits, Swanson said. It is helping get the word out about reading, but it is also a chance for them to promote the hard work of public school teachers, who they feel have been overlooked heroes in society and often maligned in today's political climate. They cited Bartscher and the staff at L.B. Williams as examples of teachers and school staff working tirelessly to enrich the educational lives of students. The tour is specifically visiting Title I schools throughout the country, Swanson said. 'Our hope is that people following this adventure will see a positive representation of teachers in a time when people are doing a lot of disrespecting and denigrating of the profession,' Swanson said." A great article on an even greater adventure. Busload of Books bringing inspiration to the classroom one stop at a time. You need to follow along on Instagram. Trust me. This is the American story you don't read about in the news.

+ Joe Biden just signed an international climate treaty. And Mitch McConnell voted for it.

+ A young bar-tailed godwit appears to have set a non-stop distance record for migratory birds by flying at least 13,560 kilometers (8,435 miles) from Alaska to the Australian state of Tasmania, a bird expert said Friday. (The bird is freed.)

+ Experience: I paddled a giant pumpkin down a river for 11 hours.

+ Tenacious D performed a medley of The Who's songs on Stern.