July 17, 2018
Win Bigly: Persuasion In A World Where Facts Don't Matter
Author: Scott Adams, 2017
Politics, Psychology, Non-Fiction
If I were to recommend one book to someone who hates Trump, or thinks he’s an idiot, this would be it.
Scott Adams describes himself as an Ultra Liberal, meaning liberals are typically too conservative for him. He has some weird opinions, like that men should sideline themselves on the abortion debate, and we should consider paying reparations to black Americans via a tax on the top 1%. That should be enough for many liberals to entertain the idea of reading this book. But it’s important to note that Adams is a trained hypnotist, and a “lifelong student of persuasion.”
He’s also the author of the Dilbert comics. However, he authored this specific book because he was one of the first people to predict a Trump win in 2016, when everyone else thought it was insanity. This book is the election through his eyes. The question raised in ‘Win Bigly’ really is, if you open yourself to the idea that things may not be as they seem, or as the media portrays them, is it possible that Trump isn’t as dumb as you might think he is? (Even if you don’t like him.)
Everybody jokes about “7D chess,” but to what extent is that a reality? Trump literally wrote the book on negotiation, and people are still surprised when he acts it out. Throwing out an extreme and working back to the “middle” still has liberals AND conservatives terrified at the first offer. They can’t get past what it looks like on the surface, and that’s understandable. As Adams says, how could you recognize a business negotiation tactic if you’ve never studied business negotiation? It’s not 7D chess if it’s extremely simple. It’s just not what it appears to be at first glance. This book provides concrete examples and an explanation of how “7D chess” was being played during the 2016 election, and it isn’t complicated. It’s just persuasion-- and Trump is a Master Persuader.
‘Win Bigly’ not only shows Trump in a different light and through different lenses, but it’s also something of a self-help book. Adams’ persuasion tips are something that everyone can leverage. You don’t have to like Trump to read this and get something out of it. You can see what Trump got right, and where Hillary went wrong, from someone who predicted the outcome early. Or just convince your boss to give you a raise.
Here’s an example of one of the persuasion tips he offers. When you associate two ideas or images, people’s emotional reaction to them will begin to merge over time. Adams shows this with the examples of Trump aligning his brand with Reagan, and Carly Fiorina accidentally aligning hers with a dead baby. Visual persuasion is everything. Considering how the direction of Trump moving from “Hitler” to “incompetent baby” to “competent, but I don’t like it” is playing out, it doesn’t seem like an accident.
Whatever your opinion is of him, Trump is something different in politics. Scott Adams can help you understand why. Or maybe he just has me hypnotized.
June 16, 2018
A confession: I was pushed to tears about four times and was otherwise misty-eyed for the full 90 minutes. A documentary about a beloved childhood hero—my childhood hero? His loving gaze and soothing voice will have you lost in the folds of your past.
The film opens with the late Fred Rogers’ musings about modulations. He sits at his grand piano and plays a few chords to demonstrate an analogy. He talks about shifts, like C to F and F to F#. Some shifts are simple, some are complicated, but they’re always easier when there’s someone there to help you and guide you. This documentary is not about Fred Rogers, but it is about his ideas on self-worth, the need to face reality with love and care, and the need for children to know their emotions are real.
The parallels of his show and the world around him are deliberate. In 1968, the puppet Daniel Tiger asks Lady Elaine to blow up a balloon for him. As she does, Daniel builds up the courage to ask “What does assassination mean?” Days before, Robert Kennedy had been killed in Los Angeles. Lady Elaine takes a moment to think and asks “Have you heard that word a lot today?” She goes on to explain “Well, it means someone getting killed in sort of a surprise way.” Daniel Tiger pauses to interpret the words much like the many children in the documentary do whenever Rogers explained things to them. He ponders the words deeply and then tries to make sense of it. “That man killed that other man,’ then after a moment, “I’d rather talk about it some other day.”
Rogers knows that the thoughts of children are deep and that they need the space to make sense of things themselves. Recognizing that the child’s anxieties about the world’s big troubles are indeed important and warrant the help of adults, that was his true north.
History has a perennial nature to it. Though it may not repeat itself, children develop themselves everyday. When they encounter the world of grown-ups, they may not yet fit into that world. But then where do they fit?
Rogers’ story is about that journey of navigation—a journey we’ve all had to live through and one that it seems Rogers would argue continues into our adult lives with just as much need for heart as ever.
Beyond the 60s, beyond 2001, the end of the show, or the end of Rogers’ life in 2003, this story comes to us at a time of great American need. Perhaps we should feel bad for all the times we didn’t do something so simple as showing kindness—and it hits us as simple because Mr. Rogers was so able to do it. The kindness and caring feels so possible, especially when reminded that the Westboro Baptist Church protested Rogers’ funeral for being too tolerant (tolerant of homosexuals).
Won’t You Be My Neighbor reminds us that Mr. Rogers life is truly a part of American history, his vision about love and virtue is powerful and his legacy is a lasting lesson. Go and see this film.
June 14, 2018
Solo is a great movie. It's fun, exciting, and great time to spend with your kids. If you're in it because you wanted to experience the origin story of the real Han Solo, take a step back.
The story is solid. We're following Han as he makes his escape from the squalor of Corellia and into the stars to become the famous pilot we know and love. He spends time with the military and thieves, fighting all ends of intergalactic politics, and it's all very exciting. Some of the scenes are even among the best in the Star Wars canon -- to which prolific director Ron Howard deserves some major credit.
But the key to this film is in the title: who the hell is Han Solo and do I even care about him?
Alden Ehrenreich isn't terrible. He's got all those Han Solo Quirks™ and Smirks™, but that doesn't make him any more real as a character. It's particularly clear when he's playing Han Solo in the beginning just as coy and cool as Harrison Ford does as Han Solo several decades in advance. Where is the character development if he's Han Solo™ the entire time? Essentially, you're getting served with a Han Solo action figure for a movie.
The question of 'do I care' is a real one that audiences are going to have to ask. As the Disney machine continues to crank out films for multiple expanding universes, is another hour-and-a-half worth it if there's going to be another sequel, prequel, spin-off or reboot (How many people have actually watched the whole MCU?) The very same problem is going to show up right here at the feet of Star Wars. I can't honestly say Rouge One was worth it. Solo barely makes the cut, which is a problem since they end the story with a lingering question about the future of some of the characters.
Reviews often have a binary appeal to them: yes or no—go buy the ticket or not. I say yeah, sure. It's fun, it's energetic, and at the very least you get to see Donald Glover lay on the sex-appeal as Lando Calrissian intermingled with an fairly epic space drama.
Also, they end the story with a subtextual 'Han shot first' joke. Keep your eyes open.