Cool Mom

I don’t blog much in the summer… it being all gorgeous outside and whatnot. Also, I have a July birthday to commemorate with unnecessary shopping and enthusiastic drinking which leaves little time to assemble (coherent) thoughts into silly paragraphs. Also, I have Stevie to pick up the slack with his smartypants hilarity and thoughtful musings. But now that we’ve waved good-bye to visiting family and re-claimed the house to the quieter, lazier place we’re accustomed, I’m drawn to the computer to waste your time with ridiculous stories.

This week, shuttling the boys from the pool to a playdate, an unfamiliar 12 year old was assigned to my car during the divving of children. This is the kind of kid you love instantly: his humor is generous, his charm effortless, and his kind attention to your maybe-sort-of-dorky kids a blessing. His parents certainly could take a fair share of the credit for the likability of their kid, but they wouldn’t. Some things are just God-given.

Do any of you share a family affliction for singing in the car that cannot be cured? The Lees know no shame… nor, on occasion, the correct lyrics. Nonetheless, the situation found us subjecting the unfamiliar 12 year old to booties needing no explanations because that’s what we do. We sing in the car. Them’s the rules.

The tweenager beside me was initially surprised, then happy to sing along, and then this:

“You’re like one of those cool, Capri Sun moms, aren’t you?”

Giggles from the backseat, and then upon dismounting the SUV, my oldest dropped his voice an octave and said,

“Thanks for the lift, mom.”

Less kind friends have since forwarded me the juice pouch commercial wherein I am now likened to a dowdy mom in Capri cargo pants one-upping another for having provided chemical-riddled sugar drinks to a busload of children. (Thanks, STEVE.)

But this is one of those moments where I passed muster as a parent, and because it may never happen again, I knew it was worthy of a few paragraphs, or a tweet, or status update, or whatever.

Been around the world, don’t speak the language… but your booty don’t need explainin’!

Sing loud and often, friends… it’s never wrong. xoxo

All I can hear is my mother's voice saying, "would it kill them to wear a stitch of makeup?"

All I can hear is my mother’s voice saying, “would it kill them to wear a stitch of makeup?”

Willing to Pay, by Steve Safran

What do we still value enough to spend real dollars to acquire? What do we assume we can get for free? Stevie explores knowledge as a commodity in our Google-able world.


 “Irony: Telling me $10 is too much to pay for something I worked a year on, while drinking a $5 coffee the barrister spent 30 seconds making.”

Tweet, James S.A. Corey, author, “Cibola Burn”

My God, that’s about the most wonderful quote I’ve ever read about the frustration of being in the creativity business. We’re living in an age when it’s reasonable to slap a 99-cent price tag on an app that, in the very recent past, would have required a calculator, legal pad, un-refoldable map, $15, and hours of your time. People today think it’s a matter of principle that they will not pay for music. A t-shirt featuring my favorite band? Sure, I’ll buy that. Their songs? Screw that.

A good chunk of my career has been spent in the advice business. This is known as “consulting,” or as a Freudian typo I once made and came to embrace, “consluting.” The problem with knowledge being your product is that people are loath to pay for it. Drs. Britt and Bernie surely know this. No, it doesn’t cost me anything to tell you what I think about social media or how it might affect your company. No, it doesn’t cost Britt or Bernie to give you a medical opinion. But if you added up the price of all of that schooling, overnights at work, lost time at home, relationship stresses, ramen noodle meals, missed birthdays, and student loan interest… that sort of advice might be worth a bit more than 99 cents? But, I just have one, super-quick question. We’re friends, after all, right?

Argh. Sure. I’m all ears. I’m also a sucker… and want people to like me.

The Internet has changed expectations. I think it comes down to this: “I paid for this computer. Whatever shows up on it– that should be included.”

The stories of the Internet billionaires that everyone likes to cite?  They’re the outliers. Looking at them and deciding that it’s a good idea to start a website is like looking at a lottery winner and deciding to invest your money in scratch tickets.

Now, I’m not an Internet crank. Not at all. I like that it has changed the equation for so many. I like that it has given platforms whereby the previously voiceless can speak up. I love that new talents have emerged, that record labels no longer decide who should be famous (and then take all their money), that a few newspapers and TV stations get all the ad money and that we don’t need to kneel at the altar of the phone company to communicate with each other. I love that. Even as it put me, a journalist, kind of out of business.

So I’ve adapted. I recently became a partner in a video production company. I decided to get back to what I know best. There’s still a need for good storytelling done well by professionals. There’s a big demand for video online. People crave high-quality information they can receive quickly…

… and for free.

Lucy knew her value...

Even Lucy knew the value of her advice resided partly in the payment…

Shouting Into the Echo Chamber, by Steve Safran

On Monday night, Steve and I had a late, text-y discussion wherein we commiserated about the Angry Internet in the face of recent Supreme Court decisions. Our fingers typed less about women and their parts and protection than how social media was failing to provide grown-up discourse. My drafts folder holds similar sentiments, but Stevie’s here are smarter. And he’s braver than I am.

Shouting Into the Echo Chamber, by Steve Safran

One of the many wonderful things about the Internet is that it gives a forum for focused debate on issues of importance. It allows earnest and sincere people to have a platform from which to share their beliefs and learn from others. So, of course, we don’t use it that way.

Here is a sampling of the thoughtful statements and rejoinders that spewed forth from this past week’s Supreme Court rulings:

(SCOTUS) Wants to enslave women— all of us. How can they be so hateful. #ImpeachTheFilthyFive

(SCOTUS IS) Disgusting misogynistic racist scumbags. #WarOnWomen.

(The ruling is) against Hobby Lobby and now (the Supreme Court) hates the country. Laughable. F@UCKING LEAVE. (The ruling was in favor of Hobby Lobby. I hope he’ll F@CKING STAY.)

Oh– I should mention something. All of these were aimed at @SCOTUSblog – which isn’t the Supreme Court’s Twitter feed. How do I know? Two reasons. 1. It says so, right there at the top of the feed and 2. The Supreme Court doesn’t have a Twitter feed. I mean, come on. Does anyone think the Supremes would Tweet?

@RuthBG: h8 Scalia but ❤ Bieber 2 much 2 deport.

But these comments are from just a handful of anonymous hatebags, right? Nope. Look at your Facebook feed, and you will see your perfectly rational friends get into reductionist lathers.

Here is my disclaimer: My opinion on the Supreme Court decisions this past week has no bearing on this column. I am not going to get into a debate over right and wrong, because the very idea that decisions are “right” or “wrong” is exactly the problem. We have opinions and biases. Too many of us seek information that supports our biases (“Confirmation Bias”) and reject information that does not.

That’s a shame, because within the lengthy Supreme Court rulings are some pretty remarkable works of legal prose. A dissent can often be the most compelling part of the debate. Witness Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s withering and wonderful 36-page dissent in the Hobby Lobby ruling. If you supported the outcome and aren’t interested in the dissent, you’re missing a master class in Constitutional Law. Taking a 40-page ruling and reducing it to “The Supreme Court Hates Woman” is like saying Moby Dick is about a guy who hates a whale. You can’t fit a ruling on a bumper sticker or a Tweet or an insult plastered over a picture of John Roberts. Even if he’s got that Mona Lisa smile thing going on and you can’t decide if he’s proud or just got the last donut in the chambers.

When the Supreme Court rules against us, they are fascists (“They’re in Bush’s pocket!”) and when they rule in favor of a cause we hold dear (e.g., gay marriage), they are wise and learned (“The Supreme Court is modern and progressive!”)

There were two especially fascinating rulings this week. I say “fascinating,” because within each the Court gave a remedy. Now that’s really cool. In the Hobby Lobby case, the court ruled that the store could indeed have health insurance that didn’t offer birth control, but offered that the HHS could pick up the tab instead. In the case striking down the Massachusetts buffer zone law, it suggested the state use existing law concerning harassment, intimidation, and obstruction. Massachusetts legislators are going to hammer out a new law that fits the Court’s recommendations.

Think about that. The Massachusetts ruling was a 9-0. This wasn’t an “Old White Guys Hate Women” decision. Every justice concurred that the 35-foot buffer zone was a violation of the First Amendment BUT, they demurred, “If you want to protect the women, here’s how you would do it…”

Compare that to the ruling against Aereo, a company that was– and here I will opine– blatantly ripping off TV stations with mini satellites and rebroadcasting their work via the Internet for a monthly fee. Here, the Court didn’t say “But Aereo could tinker with a couple of things and we’ll be cool, K bro?” When the Court offers a remedy, it’s like your dad saying, “You know I can’t give you permission to drink a beer. So I’m just going to put this can of Bud down and go work in the shop. But remember: I can’t give you permission.”

I like having my opinions challenged. Over the course of my adult life my position has changed on the following topics: gay marriage, guns, the war in Iraq, the death penalty, and the durability of the music of Billy Joel. Think about the college professor or the TED Talk you saw that changed how you saw something. Remember the joy you felt realizing it was time to rethink your idea on the topic. Honor that memory with a shot. Maybe with a chaser. Remember: Britt runs this blog. (Editor’s note: Britt recommends bubbles, and the general honoring of memories where a noted shift in thought leads to better conversations between us.)

We have to give rulings some time to breathe. And we need real outcomes to judge the prescience of our judges. In the 2010 ruling Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations could not be restricted in the size of their donations to political campaigns. The outrage was along the lines of “Corporations will buy elections!” But look what happened last month to Eric Cantor, the Majority Whip from Virginia. He got smoked in the primaries by an unknown, and Cantor had a more than 25:1 cash advantage. Funded by all sorts of interest groups, Cantor spent millions. Dave Brat spent $200,000. Brat won.

The Supreme Court may not always rule the way you want. That presents you with the marvelous opportunity to learn and discuss. Shouting into the echo chamber that “The Supreme Court should do its homework!” won’t change anyone’s mind. Debate. Agree your opponent has valid points. Engage in persuasive argument. These are the real tools of change. They may not change the Supreme Court’s rulings. But they will, occasionally, change the way you think.

Especially about Billy Joel. That stuff just doesn’t hold up. I’m not debating you on this.