Book Reviews: Comparing and Contrasting Never Enough by Michael D’Antonio and MAGA Mindset by Mike Cernovich

donald-trump-president-person-of-year-time-magazine-2-facebook

You can't get away from Donald Trump. He's the President. As with Barack Obama, Trump has those who worship his every move and those who hate his stinking guts.

But I am not here to praise him nor to bury him. No, I'm not even here to talk politics.

I'm here to talk books.

Regardless of your personal feelings, Trump is President. And it's always interesting, at least to me, to learn about our elected officials and see what makes them tick. Because, to be honest, one has to be a little touched in the head to want to go into politics. And so, I read (actually, listened) to two books about the man, one that painted him in a distinctly negative light, and another that was far more flattering.

Let's face it: Whether you love him or hate him, Donald Trump is an interesting cat. And he did beat both a veritable army of GOP insiders and the most favored candidate in American history, to win the election.

[Full disclosure: I voted for the guy. Mainly because, as a reluctant Republican, I have grown so disgusted with the party as I have with the Democrats, and Washington in general, that I relished the idea of sending a giant, human middle finger to the entire establishment. Regardless, one does have to admire his ability to accomplish what he sets out to do, even if you dislike him politically or personally. I felt much the same about Barack Obama (whom I did not vote for, twice–but still, the man knows how to accomplish what he wants and is also an interesting guy. There's a lesson there for all of us.)]

First up, the more "negative" book, Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success by author and journalist Michael D'Antonio, published in 2015. I know that in 2016 D'Antonio updated the book and re-christened it The Truth About Trump, but I listened to the audio version, borrowed by my wife from our local library for me to listen to during my many long car trips between the D.C. Metro area and New England I had to make in the recent past.

Reviews of this book call it “A carefully reported and fair-minded account" (USA Today), “A brisk and entertaining read, drawing on interviews and documents and distilling decades' worth of news coverage to tell the story of Trump's childhood, family, business deals, and political forays” (The Washington Post), and "Balanced, well sourced, and perfectly timed" (Financial Times (UK)). Me, I find these claims of balance and a lack of bias laughable.

Let's get it out of the way: D'Antonio clearly does not like Trump. That said, the book is meticulously researched, well-written and constructed, and sheds a lot of light on Trump and what makes him tick.

Trump's family history is pretty fascinating, with his hellraising and, quite frankly, dishonest and kind of sleazy grandfather (who first built, and then lost, the family fortune), to his father Fred who, through hard work and good timing, nearly single-handedly rebuild the family fortune, to Donald himself, the story of the Trumps is one of sheer determination and will. No one will tell ANY of these men that they cannot do something, and they all have a knack for sniffing out an opportunity and exploiting it . . . even if that involves some unsavory steps along the way.

Michaelauthorphoto

What D'Antonio discusses definitely raises some red flags (and sensationally hints at far more sinister doings without much in the way of evidence, but I digress) about Trump's temperament and proclivities–his penchant for stretching the truth, if not outright lying; his habit of bending the rules to benefit himself and his family, if not outright breaking them; insinuating that he is a virulent racist and anti-Semite with no real proof; his cozy relationship with corrupt attorney Roy Cohn . . . but was it enough to make me pull the lever for his opponent? Absolutely not. For all of his vices–greed, arrogance, women, and a pathological inability to not fight back seem to be Donald's vices–to me at least, Hillary Clinton was far worse.

And yet, through it all, Trump comes across as an enthusiastic builder with an almost childlike sense of wonder about everything. One can imagine him looking at a building he fought tooth-and-nail to get built and being like, "Holy cow, can you believe it?" He clearly also believed in his designers and architects, going to the mat for many of them. And he, obviously, believes in himself.

He also tends to, let's say, exaggerate his accomplishments and disparage those of his opponents with stereotypical New York bravado. Continue reading “Book Reviews: Comparing and Contrasting Never Enough by Michael D’Antonio and MAGA Mindset by Mike Cernovich”

Get Some Help

I'm not going to lie: famous, successful, and beloved people committing suicide freaks me out. Anyone killing themselves is terrible, but the rich and famous seem to have fewer reasons to do so. Don't they?

Of course not. There are many reasons why people take their own life, and those who seemingly "have it all" also have as many mental and emotional issues as the rest of us.

And like the rest of us, they didn't get the needed help that may have prevented this.

Help is a funny thing. We all know it's good, but so few of us ask for it when we should. And this doesn't just go for mental health issues, but any aspect in life.

I've had recent, chaotic experiences that brought this home. Stuff happened, and then more stuff happened, and I found myself overwhelmed. It was not my finest moment. I survived with minimum damage, but it was still brutal.

So focused on staying afloat, I didn't even think to ask for help from anyone. I also kept agreeing to take on more duties, because of the "I can do it!" attitude that some may mistake for stubbornness, but I like to call…

Okay, it's stubbornness.

But the point is this: people like to take on too many burdens, and delude ourselves into thinking we can handle it all.

We can't. Not always.

And since I'm a man, and men kill themselves at appalling rates, and I'm also a white man, and white men kill themselves at an even more appalling rate, and I tend to write about what I know, I'd like to share a hypothesis as to why men tend to not ask for help:

Most of the available resources are women.

In fact, as recently as 2013, there were 2.1 female psychologists for every male one.

There are many reasons for this gap, which mirrors the general widening gap in educational attainment, and the reasons for this could open up another whole can of worms that I don't want to get in to here.

But before you call me a "misogynistic, patriarchal, heterosexual subhuman," hear me out: I'm not saying it's a good or a bad thing; it just is. Maybe it's societal. Maybe it's biological. I have a strong suspicion that it's a bit of both. Continue reading “Get Some Help”

A High Tolerance for Chaos: What I’ve Learned from Rejoining the World of Customer Service 

I got a second job, and it’s going along nicely. Sure, working after work, or on a weekend, isn’t nesesarily the first thing one wants to do. But the extra money is nice, as is the chance to just get out, meet some people, and hopefully learn something. 

In this case, about wine. 

But the return to the customer service industry has also proven to be educational on other matters besides the vino. For example, I’ve learned some things about myself and others.

You see, this past Friday and Saturday night, our point-of-sale computer system was out of commission. So all billing, taking payments, and accounting had to be done by hand.

In a historic downtown hotspot.

In the middle of summer.

On the two busiest nights of the week.

Like this, but sadly with less mustache.
Despite it all, we survived. And we survived with style. 

Here’s what stuck out to me from this brief return to the days of my youth when doing everything by hand would have just been considered normal.

We rely on machines way too much. A malfunctioning machine, in this case due to a quick lightning storm that rolled through town, made everyone panic like the sky was falling.

Well, not all of us. There was definitely a, shall we say, demographic difference in how people handled things, but I’ll get to that later. 

The thing is, the idea of having to do things manually seemed to abhorrent, not only to employees, but to the customers. From the looks of pity and soothing words we received, it was like we all lost loved ones.

It wasn’t that bad. Really. In fact, in some ways just writing things down was easier.

But this doesn’t bode well–and I’m really stretching things out here–but if there’s ever some global catastrophe, be it natural disaster or act of war, that knocks out our power grid, we are totally boned.  Continue reading “A High Tolerance for Chaos: What I’ve Learned from Rejoining the World of Customer Service “

The Anti-Self-Loathing Manifesto

People hate themselves. 

It is now a big part of my mission to help end self-loathing. Not just in me, but in others. As an idea or a way of life.

Self-loathing is at the root of many societal and cultural problems we have today. And I do not understand it.

So what happened?

A part of it seems to be the Western Enlightenment tradition of questioning everything. The endpoint of this, with no objective truth to ground this search, appears to be “Well, we’ve run our course lads. We’re uniquely evil upon the world. Let’s all die!”

This is bad. 

Another aspect seems to be subconscious boredom. When you’ve reached the top and live in peace and comfort, there’s nothing left to do but tear it all down and start over. Instead of starting a new project, we seem hellbent on wrecking the one we’ve built over the millennia.

And of course there are the enemies of civilization who foster and actively work towards this. 

But this is societal self-loathing. And societies are made of individuals. Individuals whom have that fallen, common, all-too-human tendency towards self-destruction.

I cannot change society myself, but it makes me sad to see my fellow humans, in real life and online, hate themselves. If my words can make anyone reconsider this course, I’ll consider all of this blogging a success. 

But what to do? What authority do I have?

Let me tell you: I have been there. And it’s still a struggle. But I’ve learned to not hate myself. It can be done. You don’t have to become an arrogant, selfish psychopath…but a little swagger never hurt anyone. 

Below I humbly declare my Anti-Self-Loathing Manifesto! Continue reading “The Anti-Self-Loathing Manifesto”

Always Be Moving Forward: Nine Lessons Learned from Following the Rules

You go along with the checklist. You follow the rules. And you find that you still can’t “make it.”

Replace “you” with “me,” and that’s where I am now. 

You see, I did the pre-approved, Boomer-sanctioned thing: College. Grad school. Safety. Security. Don’t rock the boat. And I still have to get a second job. 

I’m not against working hard. But it is kind of depressing. 

Perhaps “disillusioning” is a better word. But I’m telling you, this is why I do not find it irresponsible to warn as many young people as humanly possible to explore alternatives to college. 

It’s another reason why I warn people away from law school as much as humanly possible. 

Law school provides you with some of the most unmarketable skills in one of the least-demanded fields. 

Every instinct telling you to go to law school? Listen to it, and then do the opposite. 

The same goes, generally, for college. 

Look, I’m no self-improvement guru. I don’t have everything together. But I can tip you off about what not to do. Why make the same mistakes someone else did? Continue reading “Always Be Moving Forward: Nine Lessons Learned from Following the Rules”

Think “Fast”!

img_5403-1

“Fasting is that weird thing religious people do where you don’t eat so that you can go to heaven or something. I dunno. Pass the bacon.”

Or it’s a way to focus your mind, body, and spirit, exercise self-control and channel your energy away from cramming things down your foodhole and towards other things you may be trying to accomplish.

I’ve already written about the religious aspects of fasting, and won’t go into that again save to say that, at least in Christian tradition, there are no hard-and-fast fasting rules in Scripture; it’s all based on ancient traditions. If I had to boil the practice down to a sentence, it would be this:

A little humility does a lot of good.

First, let me acknowledge the elephant in the room.

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;

That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

Matthew 6:16-18

But I’m not doing this for reward or accolades. I’m just trying to pass along an experience that’s worked for me in the event that maybe it’ll work for you.

So why am I fasting, even though Lent and Easter finished months ago?

Am I trying to lose weight? Who isn’t? Intermittent fasting is a thing that many say helps achieve your fitness goals. And while this is a part of why I’m fasting now–it’s nice to not feel stuffed and bloated, weight down by all the garbage we tend to eat!–that’s not the only reason I’m fastinjg.

Am I trying to accomplish something? I was. I was working furiously to finish the second draft of my book, which I did last week a little past the deadline I set for me, but it’s done regardless. Still, there are always other things we want to accomplish in our lives.

Am I trying to commune with The Spirit? Yes. This one is a bit more subtle, but there are things in my life that need work, and I’m taking a page out of Jesus’ book: “. . . this kind [of demon] goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” Continue reading “Think “Fast”!”

Axiometry Part III “Don’t Think About What You Could Have Done Differently.”

“Don’t think about what you could have done differently.”

“Don’t beat yourself up.”

“Let the past go.”

Sayings we’ve all heard before. But are they valuable bits of wisdom, or valid, empty words?

Thats right! It’s time for more axiometry, my made-up word for examining common aphorisms and figuring out if they really make any sense:

Axiom: “A rule or principle that many people accept as true.”

metry: “Art, process, or science of measuring.”

There are many variants of this particular axiom, but they all focus on the same thing: regret.

Ah, regret. A favorite topic of mine. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you should know how I feel about regret:

Carry around your past regrets, not as an anchor, but as a guide.

So you maybe you think you already know where I come down on this particular axiom.

But as with everything , we shall see. Continue reading “Axiometry Part III “Don’t Think About What You Could Have Done Differently.””