RECOMMENDED VIEWING: “Leonard in Slow Motion”

Yes, it’s a really straightforward one-gag SF sort of story executed in a “lit fic” mode (i.e., “white-people magical realism”)—but it is really completely, pleasingly executed.  Consider it the short-film equivalent of that $7 cup of coffee that you’re pleasantly surprised to discover really is worth $7.

Leonard in Slow Motion

(Also, I just love Martin Starr.  Y’all reckon he’s related to Ringo Starr or Kenneth Starr?)

Leonard in Slow Motion from Peter Livolsi on Vimeo.

The Trump U Sales Playbook: A Marvelous Primer on the Dark Art of B2C Sales

I wanna start with an apology: Based on a very brief hot-take published in Slate, I posted this quip:

After seeing the these two Jon Oliver episodes (vol 1 and vol 2), I finally dug into the 2010 Trump University Playbook in earnest (as opposed to just re-reading the same nibblets everyone was passing around). And you know what? This playbook is special.

Since the Slate excerpts were chosen for the lulz, not the insight, all I saw was what was there: Standard-issue sales training materials, with the genre-mandated jankety English and flop-sweat sheen of Glengarry Glen Ross bravado.  If you have experience with consumer-oriented sales (i.e., “B2C”—that’s “business to consumer”, generally contrasted to “B2B,” which is “business to business”), none of this is that unusual. And so that’s what I tweeted.

But, of course, I was looking at it as someone who’s worked in sales, studied the psychology of selling, written sales copy, and slogged through a lot of terrible sales material and ethically questionable sales advice.  After digging into the playbook with my “Normal Human” eyes on, I’m seeing the ickiness much more clearly. That fantastic, revelatory ickiness.

Give these materials a gander, esp. the “Sales Playbook” section starting around pg. 96.  Read it, and get a sense of what a steep disadvantage you are at, as a normal human thrust into a professional sales situation (e.g., buying a car, sitting down with a “financial advisor,” being dragged to court, being interrogated). 

This is, in fact, a pretty tight textbook on the dark arts of high-pressure sales/persuasion situations where there is a built-in power differential that favors the seller. 

Frankly, if Trump U really wanted to give students value, then screw real estate investing; they should have handed out copies of this. “Here’s how we suckered you; go forth and sucker others!”

Maybe not worth $995, but certainly worth more than nothing. 

RECOMMENDED READING2010 Trump University Playbook

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Talking Funny with Chris Rock, Louis CK, Ricky Gervais, & Seinfeld #craft #biz #writing

I’m not a huge fan of any of these comics–I like Chris Rock and some Louis CK, am sort of impartial to Ricky Gervais, and have grudgingly grown to respect Seinfeld as an artist, although I was never very into his show–but I *love* listening to accomplished craftsmen discuss craft. Hell, this documentary could be “Talking Toilets,” and feature four highly accomplished old plumbers who really respect each other’s work and love each other’s company, and I would love it *exactly* as much at this.
That said, since these four craftsman are “creatives” (*shudder*), what they have to say is both interesting *and* useful to me. If you are a creative craftsperson of any stripe–a writer, a marketer, a speaker, a printmaker–this will be an hour well spent.

Recommended Reading/Listening: “LizardFoot” by John Jasper Owens

A cappella Zoo 3: “LizardFoot,” by John Jasper Owens – A cappella Zoo
If there’s something not to like about this story, I frankly can’t imagine it–and the audio version is *even better.*

Please accept my resignation as Grand White Pharaoh of the Order of Racial Purity, and the return on these here robes (enclosed) which have been patched by Missy-Bee before she run off, and dry-cleaned all the way up in Shilohville by authentic Koreans.
As y’all know, I never quite fit in with The Order. I have nothing special against black people (except for Highsmith Jones, who beat me out for running back when we were in school, and that was more of a personal thing). Plus, I have never actually seen a Jew, but if they do control all media, I remain angry with them for taking Katie Couric off of the before-shift television, where she was good-looking to wake up to, and putting her on nights, where I have had enough of women by then.
I have long suspected anyway I was only invited to join The Order on account of my Kingfisher pontoon, on which we all can get on to go fishing, and my extra large hog pit for barbeques. And likewise for being hitched to Missy-Bee, who has long spoke out against racial intermixing, and is Super-Grand White Squid of Paladuck County Ezekiel’s sister, and second runner-up for homecoming queen, and well-liked.
Well I suppose y’all are wondering why I am resigning, on account of y’all have not been mean to me lately in any serious way. Well, it is the direct result of our LizardFoot con introduced in order to make money from Yankees.
As y’all know, Yankees are stupid. . . .


Spoiler Alert: I don’t believe in Good Guys and Bad Guys, and don’t really believe in the narrative necessity of antagonists and protagonists or the centrality of Conflict. Stories, to me, are about Problems, and the most interesting Problems are the ones that arise when everyone thinks they are basically the Good Guy Doing the Right Thing. Subsequently, most video games bore or frustrate me. That said, I’m loving Pipe Trouble, the newest new-media thingy from affable pop-culture gadfly Jim Munroe.

I dig games that 1) interestingly model real-world conundrums (however abstractly) and 2) force the player to balance competing interests in a Universe where there is never (or rarely) a zero-loss win-win. Add in adorable high-rez 8-bit graphics, interestingly quasi-narrative faux CBC radio clips between scenes, and reasonably ramping difficulty (I’m crappy at most traditional video games, so you kinda gotta take it easy on me), and this is just a perfect-fit game for dave-o.
Added bonus: Playing this game with my 6-year-old catalyzed a great conversation about 1) how to balance the stress of being challenged with the enjoyment of playing (levels get steadily harder and faster, which mega wigs both me and my kid out), 2) balancing economic development and environmental conservation in energy policy, and 3) how competing interests aren’t generally ones of “good guys” vs. “bad guys,” but situations where various groups are disagreeing because they have different visions of what constitutes the Best of All Possible Worlds, and their actions–no matter how destructive–come out of a good-faith effort to Do the Right Thing.
You can play a trial version online for free before buying–but I’m telling you, this is worth the price of a decent cup of coffee. Go get it for iPad or Android thingy.

RECOMMENDED READING: The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

The Last Policeman is a really enjoyable read, both as a literary novel and as a low-grade mystery/crime thriller. About 60% into the book you suddenly realize that the crime has been solved and all loose ends secured–which leaves one to wonder what the hell is going to occupy the remaining pages. At this point, though, the investigator tracks backward through his solved mystery (not temporally, just in terms if the relationships of cause and effect), and unwinds a whole second layer to it all. So, right there, it would be a great piece of mystery writing, wonderfully managing expectations and non-cheating reveals (a la the best of Christie or Doyle). Throughout, it’s also great crime writing, showing the way that ordinary folks can resolve–without cognitive dissonance–the mismatches between their external and internal lives (I think of Price’s Clockers as being the epitome at this aspect of crime fiction). This is all pinned against an almost classic SF backdrop: Impending meteor strike is gonna end the world on a known date. Everything that means for workaday humans–including this fair-and-square regular-joe cop who’s found himself suddenly bumped up to detective–brings these “lowly” genre pieces up a notch. It’s fine *craft* being used to explore the poignant humanity of Kobayashi Maru, which is basically the thing we mean when we say “art,” right?
Takeway: Read this. It’s a quick one and worth your time.

(DISCLOSURE Those are indeed Amazon affiliate links to the book; if you click on them and buy it, I’ll get some minuscule percentage. Also, the book itself was a gift from my mom; all of these factors may have swayed my opinion. I’m only human.)

RECOMMENDED BUY: LEGO Brick Separator Tool

I don’t know how this ended up in our possession, but at some point on our Holiday Season Travels (which included many LEGO gifts for and purchases by our first-grader, and many hours of LEGO building for all, both in new sets and sifting through the decades-old bins of LEGO at various relatives homes) my son acquired one of these little guys:

That’s a “LEGO Brick Separator Tool” and it’s worth its weight in gold. I remember many a nail bent back and tooth chipped trying to separate bricks and plates when I was a boy–but such enhanced interrogation and freelance orthodontics are a thing of the past. Just attach this little fella to the pesky LEGO (either from above or below), and you can lever it off with ease–even if you are only endowed with the scrawny musculature and soft hands of an American first grader. The added bonus on this model LEGO tool is the little poky-axle on top, which helps dislodge short rods, axles, and pins from Technic wheels and gears. As soon as it entered our house this tool reduced the calls of “Daaaaaadeeeeee: I need help getting these LEGOs apart!” by a solid 90 percent. *Bliss!*
LEGO tools currently sell new at Amazon for about $7, although I’ve seen older style tools online (ones without the axle/pin pusher on top) for as little as $2–even at the higher price, this thing is *so worth it.*

RECOMMENDED READING: Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Peterson

Although this is framed as a manifesto by a former bike-racer-turned-designer/bike-populist, railing against what “racer mentality” has done to the otherwise universal American pastime of “riding bikes,” I’m *manically* recommending it to anyone who likes to pedal. It’s a great, great book: a quick, fun read composed of short, tightly focused practical articles. the book is *packed* with excellent advice on fitness, maintenance, bike fitting, and riding techniques. E.g., this was the first I’d heard about using your hips to assist cornering, and it’s *changed my life.* I disagree with him about helmets (since I started riding daily in a city full of drivers-from-elsewhere, I’m *deeply* committed to my relationship with my brain bucket), but his points about how to own a slightly larger slice of the road by giving the *impression* that you’re an incompetent rider has been revelatory.
I’ve never been tainted by the bike-racing headspace (I’m *waaaaaay* to lazy to be into competitive *anything*), but I read this book in a single day, and have been going back to it frequently since, applying Peterson’s tips to my bike, diet, and exercise regimen. Get a copy, read it, and keep it close at hand.