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February 13, 2015

what a week: david carr edition

I've lately been mired in a little existential quandary, relating to the putting of words to paper.  (Or ones and zeroes, if you will.)  No biggie!  Everyone does at some point, right?

So just as it seemed that I was arriving at some conclusion to this process, Balk dropped this, and it gave me pause.

Yeah, about that: Nobody needs to be a writer. Nobody. I can certainly understand the appeal of not doing physical labor or toiling in a field in which your brain is not fully engaged but there is no human need to be a writer. I get it, you have thoughts, you feel the world should share them, you like attention, you don't want to do something else that is probably harder and less affirming of how special your sensitivities are, but you know what? The world will somehow get along without your deep and knowing interpretations of what we mean when we say something or what is conveyed when we stare into the middle distance or how our titanic struggles with existence are often played out in the smallest and most quotidian of ways. Someone else will eventually say it, and probably better.

Oh God I totally freaking agree, and not because any doubt in my own ability or motives.  But the world is just filled with so many words, words everywhere, waiting to be quickly read and (usually) nearly as quickly forgotten.  Just in my own personal reading life, and I am nowhere near as voracious a reader as some of my friends, I am backlogged by weeks if not months, and the deficit is only growing.  At a certain point you HAVE to run up against the wall of Why Are You Doing This?  This feeling goes all the way back to college, at which time I was under the impression that I was going to be an actor/comedian.  Colleagues would testify to the importance of their craft, how they were chosen and compelled to pretend for a living, and I would respond with the hypothetical: Would the world be worse off if all the actors suddenly disappeared, or all the plumbers suddenly disappeared?

Not that I was flirting with quitting, but I was getting twisted into this recursive loop of self-questioning.

And then David Carr died suddenly last night.

You are all in varying degrees familiar with Carr — part of his job was making sure of that, in subtle ways.  But he was a great one.  In fact, as far as the tradition of old-school reporting goes, shoe leather, impertinent questions, icepick-prose on deadline, he was pretty much the last of them.  (There is one left, who I will not embarrass with mentioning.)  There's a lot of ink spilled last night and today, and I haven't read one yet that didn't make my heart swell with admiration and bring (another) tear to my eye.

But for the purposes of my train of thought right here, what Carr was was relentless.  You will never read all of what he wrote, because he wrote for so long and so frequently.  And he was not myopic and he was not meta.  He had his profession boiled down: he found stories, he researched and reported them, and then he told them to other people.  Oh, his opinion was sometimes implicit (see his famous takedown of Shane Smith), but he figured out what his purpose was and went from there.

I'm not saying that I want to be another David Carr, or even another reporter.  Just pointing out some things that happened this week.  I still got some thinkin' to do.

Thank you Balk; rest in peace Carr.  And the rest of you, let's try to stay warm.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:31 AM

February 12, 2015

another unseemly characteristic of late model capitalism

This is how far behind I am.  So I see that RadioShack has asked for permission from its bankruptcy court to set aside $3,000,000 for "retention bonuses" for its executives.  My gosh that's an outrage!  (It's not an outrage.  See below.)

And then, oh yeah!  I scan the tabs, half of which I keep open until I remember what I'm supposed to do, and then I find the one I'm looking for.  It's a story about how companies are permitted under tax code to write off certain portions of punitive damages that they are forced to pay in adverse outcome of lawsuits and settlements with government authorities and the like.  To wit:

But even if Hyundai is eventually forced to pay the full amount of the damages, the punishment could be substantially reduced through a tax loophole that permits the company to save millions of dollars by deducting any court-ordered punitive damages as an ordinary business expense. The result, critics say, is that taxpayers are in effect subsidizing corporate misconduct.

Also an outrage!  (Actually an outrage.)  But the think of it is, the story is from exactly a week ago.  It doesn't make it any less outrageous, but it does make me a shambling geezer bumping around trying to find his reading glasses.

Enough about me.  The retention bonuses?  Not such an outrage, as business require employees to see them through the bankruptcy process, while when we mere mortals go through the process, we're on our damn own.  Not an outrage, just another unseemly characteristic of late market capitalism.

The tax loophole?  That's a fucking outrage, and just another reminder that the deck is increasingly stacked against us.  And remediable!  But ask yourself how many times you heard/read about this in the past week, and that's the answer to the likelihood of it happening.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:38 AM