I Get A Kick Out Of You

August 3, 2021
Cole Porter
Performed by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga
From the album Love for Sale (2021)
1934

Tony Bennett

August 3, 2021
95th birthday today

Helpless

August 2, 2021
Lin-Manuel Miranda
From Hamilton
Performed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, June 2020
2015

A Deal With The Devil

August 1, 2021
It isn’t that Conservative Evangelicals are incapable of expressing compassion (which would be tragic enough), it’s that they are selectively wielding it in order to accrue political power and acquire dominance. The cruelty isn’t a blind and unavoidable instinct, it is a strategic weapon of intent designed to eliminate obstacles.

That’s the grieving that comes for so many of us, because we know these people and have lived our lives alongside them. They can and do express true compassion and show real kindness to those who they see as their tribe: their families, friends, church, and party members. To the people their theology and politics tell them are fellow soldiers in a righteous march to transforming the world, they are as effusive with affection and capable of gentleness and fiercely loving as anyone.

But outside the narrow confines of religious or political affinity, the cruelty comes easy, the brutality effortless. That’s why these seemingly unfathomable acts of malice are so troubling: they are being committed by people who should and do know better; people of professed faith, who understand that their actions are inherently malicious but who believe their noble cause justifies them. Other human beings are simply the acceptable collateral of getting whatever they believe God or Donald Trump (for many these are one and the same) wants. They do not lack the ability to love, they just fully love something completely destructive.

Because of this, the rest of us face profound relational crises: people we love dearly, people who raised us, people we once saw as family, people we’ve spent years in deep and empathetic community with—now commit acts and support legislation and celebrate human beings that we cannot fathom, not because they don’t know any better but because they don’t care. They want the sprawling kingdom laid out before them and don’t mind the deal they need to make with the devil to have it.
John Pavlovitz
Gustave Doré's illustration for La Grande Bible de Tours (1866)
2021

Why Managers Fear A Remote-Work Future

July 31, 2021
Remote work lays bare many brutal inefficiencies and problems that executives don’t want to deal with because they reflect poorly on leaders and those they’ve hired. Remote work empowers those who produce and disempowers those who have succeeded by being excellent diplomats and poor workers, along with those who have succeeded by always finding someone to blame for their failures. It removes the ability to seem productive (by sitting at your desk looking stressed or always being on the phone), and also, crucially, may reveal how many bosses and managers simply don’t contribute to the bottom line.

Last fall, 94 percent of employees surveyed in a Mercer study reported that remote work was either business as usual or better than working in the office, likely because it lacks the distractions, annoyances, and soft abuses that come with co-workers and middle managers. Workers are happier because they don’t have to commute and can be evaluated mostly on their actual work rather than on the optics-driven albatross of “office culture,” which is largely based on either the HR handbook or the pieces of the HR handbook your boss chooses to ignore.

The reason working from home is so nightmarish for many managers and executives is that a great deal of modern business has been built on the substrate of in-person work. As a society, we tend to consider management a title rather than a skill, something to promote people to, as well as a way in which you can abstract yourself from the work product. When you remove the physical office space—the place where people are yelled at in private offices or singled out in meetings—it becomes a lot harder to spook people as a type of management. In fact, your position at a company becomes more difficult to justify if all you do is delegate and nag people.

When we are all in the same physical space, we are oftentimes evaluated not on our execution of our role but on our diplomacy—by which I mean our ability to kiss up to the right people rather than actually being a decent person. I have known so many people within my industry (and in others) who have built careers on “playing nice” rather than on producing something. I have seen examples within companies I’ve worked with of people who have clearly stuck around because they’re well liked versus productive, and many, many people have responded to my newsletters on the topic of remote work with similar stories. I've also known truly terrible managers who have built empires, gaining VP and C-level positions, by stealing other people’s work and presenting it as their own, something that, according to research, is the number-one way to destroy employee trust.

These petty fiefdoms are far harder to maintain when everyone is remote. Although you may be able to get away with multiple passive-aggressive comments to colleagues in private meetings or calls, it’s much harder to be a jerk over Slack, email, and text when someone can screenshot it and send it to HR (or to a journalist). Similarly, if your entire work product is boxing up other people’s production and sending it to the CEO, that becomes significantly harder to prove as your own in a fully digital environment—the producer in question can simply send it along themselves. Remote work makes who does and doesn’t actually do work way more obvious.

The Reading Girl

July 31, 2021
Théodore Roussel
Photo © Tate 
CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)  
1886

Nihonbashi Bridge In Snow

July 30, 2021

And A God Descended

July 29, 2021
Well, a God descended 
And the reason ended 
His life was lifted just above the law 
Dar Williams
From the album The Green World
2000

London

July 28, 2021
Bob Humphrey
2021

Living For The City

July 27, 2021
A boy is born in hard time Mississippi
Surrounded by four walls that ain't so pretty
His parents give him love and affection
To keep him strong, moving in the right direction
Living just enough, just enough for the city

His father works some days for fourteen hours
And you can bet, he barely makes a dollar
His mother goes to scrub the floors for many
And you'd best believe, she hardly gets a penny
Living just enough, just enough for the city

His sister's black, but she is sho'nuff pretty
Her skirt is short, but Lord her legs are sturdy
To walk to school, she's got to get up early
Her clothes are old, but never are they dirty
Living just enough, just enough for the city

Her brother's smart, he's got more sense than many
His patience's long, but soon he won't have any
To find a job is like a haystack needle
'Cause where he lives they don't use colored people
Living just enough, just enough for the city, yeah
Stevie Wonder
From the album Innervisions
1973

Solveig

July 26, 2021
Gustave-Max Stevens
1897

Lost In Translation

July 25, 2021
Director: Sofia Coppola
2003

Vaccinated America Has Had Enough

July 25, 2021
Reading about the fates of people who refused the vaccine is sorrowful. But as summer camp and travel plans are disrupted—as local authorities reimpose mask mandates that could have been laid aside forever—many in the vaccinated majority must be thinking: Yes, I’m very sorry that so many of the unvaccinated are suffering the consequences of their bad decisions. I’m also very sorry that the responsible rest of us are suffering the consequences of their bad decisions.

As cases uptick again, as people who have done the right thing face the consequences of other people doing the wrong thing, the question occurs: Does Biden’s America have a breaking point? Biden’s America produces 70 percent of the country’s wealth—and then sees that wealth transferred to support Trump’s America. Which is fine; that’s what citizens of one nation do for one another. Something else they do for one another: take rational health-care precautions during a pandemic. That reciprocal part of the bargain is not being upheld.

Faces #9

July 24, 2021
Photo by OSPAN ALI on Unsplash

Hope

July 23, 2021
George Frederic Watts
Photo © Tate 
CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)  
1886

Tonight The Heartache's On Me

July 22, 2021
Mary Francis, Johnny MacRae and Bob Morrison
Performed by The Chicks
From the 1998 album Wide Open Spaces
1994

Loving Arms

July 21, 2021
Tom Jans
Performed by Livingston Taylor (with Leah Kunkel)
From the 1988 album Life Is Good
1971

Cooler Than Going Into Space

July 21, 2021

The New Yorker

July 20, 2021
Malika Favre
2021

My Cleveland Heart

July 19, 2021
Jackson Browne and Val McCallum
From the album Downhill from Everywhere
2021