Friday, September 29, 2017

Another year

My first year of living here in the small city of Geneva, New York, quietly came and went earlier this month. I didn’t put much thought into it. I’d had to renew my lease way back April, so all the decisions and angst and thoughts of doing something else really happened back then. This past month has just been silently watching things happen for the second time: HWS students coming back into town and filling the bars on weekend nights just like they did last September; the same strange early fall heatwave that happened last year. Soon the heat will be over and one day in a couple weeks I’ll hear the eerie sound of the ancient steam radiators in my even more ancient apartment groaning and creaking back into life for another season.

Perhaps the only remarkable thing about this being the second year is that I now know what will happen before it happens.

I’d hoped last year that I’d have some friends here by now. But that hasn’t happened. The only people who recognize me are my landlord, the YMCA desk attendant, and a collection of bartenders (people that I pay) and people that I meet through work—who all hate me (but I won’t elaborate on that because if I did they might find this and would no doubt derive great satisfaction from the possibility of me being lonely and miserable).

So things progress onward.

The lake is beautiful. I stare at it occasionally. I decided it was pathetic that I just stare at it, so I took one sailing lesson. But it was really expensive, so I had to quit.

The church bells are beautiful too—even if they play for like an hour every day when I’d rather not hear them. I visited a couple churches here. One was full of the vaguely-aforementioned people who hate me. The other was better, but everyone was either 40 years older than me or a doctor.

The days are getting shorter again too. I guess they’ve always done that, but this is 150 miles further north than I’ve ever lived before, so it’s more intense, technically. Pretty soon it will be dark again whenever I go to the YMCA, whether it’s before or after work. I don’t like to think about that, so I’ll stop.

I’d hoped I might meet some people by going to the YMCA, but unless you’re 70, a jock or speak Spanish, it’s really difficult.

So I just signed up for Spanish lessons. I or I think I did. I mailed my registration form and money to the community college, but I haven’t heard anything back.

That was the same thing that happened with the Young Professionals group. Only fortunately I didn’t send them any money, because I never heard back at all.

It’s all beautiful though. The lake and the bells anyway. I’m not so sure about the YMCA.

In the event that I make it through this year, I think I might go to the Philippines, or maybe back to Egypt. Some place that’s cheap and I have a good excuse for not fitting in.

Or maybe Latin America. But that’s only if the Spanish classes work out.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Move Fast and Break Things

About a month ago I was sitting in the office with CNBC on in the background when they brought Jonathan Taplin on for an interview. I’d never heard of him before that I could remember. And what he said about how many of the Silicon Valley giants are really byproducts of a direct antitrust action by the federal government several decades ago was something I’d never heard before anywhere. So, at the end of the segment, when they made a plug for the book he’d just written Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, I decided to buy it on Audible. It turned out to be one of the most simultaneously devastating and enlightening pieces of non-fiction I’ve ever read.

I don’t really have the time or emotional energy to write a proper review about it, so I’ll just say that if you work in advertising, media, music or art, or any business associated with those things—or if you’re even just a consumer those things—it’s a must read.

I’ll add the note that I don’t promise that you’ll agree with Taplin’s moral audit of what’s happening—I know I didn’t entirely. The thing is, even if you don’t agree with how he judges what is happening out there, the picture he paints of what is happening out there is the most prescient and comprehensive that I’ve ever seen. Whether you want to take it as a heart-wrenching lamentation—or just investment intelligence—it’s an invaluable read either way.