When life intervenes (5×8 – 8/11/11)

Taking risks in uncertain times, gaming the economy, a family goes to war, censoring kids’ stories, the things you can’t do in summer, and going home again.


1) FROM THE DEPT OF YOU NEVER KNOW

Life doesn’t work out exactly like you think it will. Good things interrupt an expected downturn. Bad things interrupt dreams. Sometimes seemingly bad things interrupt seemingly good things and that turns out to be a good thing.

We live in a time where news prognosticators speak of the future as an absolute and a time when we believe too much what they say. Life doesn’t work out exactly like they think it will.

Lane Wallace, who writes about taking risks in life, has an example.

It’s the story of a former college roommate who, having raised children, was looking forward to getting on with her dream of being a writer. But in her ’40s, life did what life does.

There was a baby boy who was in need of adoption. Without going into all the details, Jackson and her husband were asked if they could take him in, because they could provide the most stable and complete family connection and environment for him. Jackson called me to tell me of her decision.

“I’ve been agonizing about it,” she said. “But I just keep imagining this 20-year-old young man appearing on my SoHo apartment doorstep one day and saying to me, ‘I just need you to explain to me why the apartment in New York was so much more important than me.'”

Follow the link to find out how it turned out. Then tell us about a turn in your life that you didn’t see coming, and how that turned out.

2) GAMING THE ECONOMY

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken got a little bit of love last night from law professor John Coffee who revealed how ratings agencies collapsed the economy in 2008. He said it’s like a baseball team hiring the umpire and then paying him on his performance. Congress passed legislation to tighten some of the nonsense, but then refused to fund the program that would do so. Coffee said it was Franken who tried to change what is, basically, a rigged system.

Barry Ritholtz, meanwhile, calls shenanigans on anyone who is saying people should just calm down.

People who try to soothe the savage market psychology do so because its their jobs, and it is in their self-interest. They may work for Fed or the Treasury or a firm so large they cannot be tactical investors.Hence, their calming words amount to little more than propaganda, self-interest, and crowd control.

I prefer the Truth bomb. Precision guided, accurate to within millimeters, high yielding explosive truths. If you think people are sheep, then you try to manipulate their fears and psychology via the media. You engage in color coded terror warnings, you threaten total financial Armeggedon, you warn of an economic seizure. You say what cows the masses into a corner to be harvested and sold off for parts.

He’s looking at you, President Obama. He tried to calm the markets on Monday, an effort that fell flat. That’s a predictable outcome, a professor tells NPR this morning. Presidential therapy sessions rarely work, he says.

When we look at the evidence systematically, and even look at the great communicators, we find that they rarely are able to move public opinion,” Edwards says. “That includes Franklin Roosevelt, that includes Ronald Reagan, that includes more contemporary politicians like Bill Clinton — they all have a very difficult time moving the public in their direction.”

3) A FAMILY OFF TO WAR

Three Valley City, ND brothers are deploying to the Middle East. “A little nervous, a little scared,” their dad said.

Meanwhile, a University of Minnesota researcher is close to collecting data to study driving behaviors of returning warriors, the U of M Daily reports.

One such survey of 150 service members about their driving in the first month of being home showed 31 percent were anxious when driving past objects on the side of the road. About half said they were anxious when other cars approached quickly.

4) CENSORING KIDS’ STORIES

Many parents, the Boston Globe reports, are censoring the scary parts of children’s stories when reading to the little ones. They’re doing them no favors. There’s no escaping loss, danger, violence – all figure in some of the best children’s books of all time. A Harvard prof says there’s a reason death runs rampant in books for little kids. Kids are thinking about what happens if mommy or daddy go toes up, anyway, she says.

Then there’s the question of just how real reading to kids should be.

For Jessie Bennett, 39, of Belmont, reading to her 5-year-old son, Nathan, was an opportunity to revisit the beloved books of her own childhood, including the “Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. “I really loved them, and I still love them,” she says, “but there are some really troubling things” she hadn’t remembered from her earlier readings of them, in particular the way the books talk about Native Americans. “The sad fact is that the history of our nation is a difficult history,” Bennett says, adding that she tries to add age-appropriate context to help her son understand, rather than censor as she reads – until she came to one word too loaded to explain. “I kept skipping over ‘savages’,” she says, “which is hard now because Nathan can read!”

Exposing mommy as a censor.

5) SOME THINGS YOU CAN’T DO IN THE SUMMER

(H/T: Perfect Duluth Day)

Bonus: No two words can return all the insecurities of your youth faster than these: high school. The New York Times Lens blog focuses on Paul Moakley, who didn’t fit in at his Staten Island high school, and returned years later to photograph it. “I wanted to concentrate on something that made me uncomfortable,” said Mr. Moakley, now 35. “Something that I had questions about.”

Meanwhile, an NPR reporter returned to his hometown recently — the one that was the backdrop for American Graffiti — and found that while you can’t go home again, you can easily be a sniveling punk again.

TODAY’S QUESTION

The fortunes of Republican presidential candidates, including Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann, could take a dramatic turn in this Saturday’s Iowa straw poll. Today’s Question: Should Iowa have the power to make or break candidates so early in the process?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The Iowa straw poll.

Second hour: Hip-hop superstars Jay-Z and Kanye West have billed their new album, Watch the Throne, as an “event record,” meant to be listened to from start to finish. But are the days of thorough listening over? Has digital music changed the way we experience an album?

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: State education commissioner Brenda Cassellius talks about No Child Left Behind, the Race to the Top, and early childhood education.

Second hour: A Chautauqua Lecture by Bethany McLean , who uncovered the Enron scandal and is the author of “All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis.” McLean is a Hibbing native.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Making major financial decisions in this economy.

Second hour: What it’s like to live in rural America.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – New businesses often turn to venture capitalists and so-called angel investors when they need cash. But those sources are not opening their wallets very freely in the midst of the financial crisis. In these hard times, can entrepreneurs still raise the money they need to build companies?

  • Although I didn’t attend it, I used to live a couple of blocks away from Monsignor Farrell High School on Staten Island…

  • Bob Moffitt

    I’ll have to ask my wife if she knows the Metcalf family in Valley City. She grew up near there.

    There’s a gas station in Valley City called the Brothers 3. I’ll think of the Metcalf bros. from now on when I see it.

  • Cara

    Thanks Bob, for the paragraph about children’s stories.

  • Once upon a time, I had a supervisor who was harassing me. I made a joke about it one day in front of him and a few other people. Later he came to me and asked, “You don’t think I’m really harassing you, do you Drae?” On, no I assured him. “If I thought you were really harassing me, I’d take it to the boss.” Well – after that he made sure to write me up for the smallest infraction and eventually got me fired.

    Well, that was hard, because I’d never been fired before, but as it turned out I got a much better job a few months later.

    It was a few years later when I saw this former supervisor of mine. He was working for one of the distributors my company did business with and as it turned out, the sales rep for that distributorship adored me. So I went to him and told him to make sure he was giving my former supervisor a steady stream of hard work. He said he would, and a few months later, my former supervisor wasn’t working for that distributor anymore.

    Not only does life take unexpected turns, sometimes they’re highly karmic.

  • lucy

    //So I went to him and told him to make sure he was giving my former supervisor a steady stream of hard work. He said he would, and a few months later, my former supervisor wasn’t working for that distributor anymore.

    Not only does life take unexpected turns, sometimes they’re highly karmic.

    Drae,

    Karma is NOT revenge.

  • Heather

    Laughing because I had that exact same experience with the Little House books. I got lucky with page layout and realized what was coming just before we got there. Took the opportunity to stop, ask my girl how she thought Laura was feeling, and have a quick discussion about what was making her so anxious — basically, that these people were strangers who didn’t look, dress, or speak like the people Laura was used to, and she wasn’t sure what to expect from them — and then turned the page to where the Indians are in the house with Ma. There’s no getting around the fact that fresh skunk pelts smell bad, so you have to just lay it all out!

  • Lucy – karma isn’t revenge, but it can work out that way at times. I didn’t get him fired, he quit. He quit multiple vendors, and I had nothing to do with any of the others.

    I had another co-worker who treated people poorly. I had friends offer to beat him up, it was that bad. But I left that job, and didn’t take any “revenge.” Eventually, this guy was caught stealing from work and fired. Now, I think that was karmic and it served as better “revenge” than anything anyone else could have done to him.

    These two guys were workplace bullies and their karma caught up to them and there are people who weren’t sorry to see it happen. So karma as revenge can sometimes happen.

  • lucy

    //Lucy – karma isn’t revenge, but it can work out that way at times. I didn’t get him fired, he quit. He quit multiple vendors, and I had nothing to do with any of the others.

    I see, the order of words you first posted made it sound like revenge.

    Justice.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Lucy and Drae –

    One of my favorite bumper stickers:

    My karma ran over my dogma.