Friday, September 18, 2015

A Lazy Summer

Okay, so you may have noticed I took the summer off. Or maybe not, but many of you gave me grief, so I suppose it's nice someone's paying attention.

There were stories I meant to write, of course, but, well...I mentioned it was summer, right? That, and I'm pretty busy with my new startup, LiquidSky. So here are a few thoughts that accumulated during the dog days.

In June, we had the whole Bruce/Caitlin Jenner thing.

My immediate reaction was if people can just decide what sex they are because it's how they feel, why not race? Why couldn't some white kid, rejected by Harvard for checking the "African American" box, sue Harvard's pants off, saying he identifies black? After all, how you feel now trumps objective fact on a fairly routine basis.

I was about to travel to France with my family, so I figured my piece could wait. 

It couldn't:

While we were in France, the Rachel Dolezal story broke. Damn, that'll teach me to sit on an idea.

It's breathtaking to ponder how much our culture has moved in the last decade or so, and not in the right direction. Miss Dolezal neatly captures many of our current perversities. 

Speaking of France, I hadn't been in a while, and I found it a very perplexing place. Beautiful, for sure. We visited WWI sights in La Somme, WWII sights in Normandy, chateau country in Loire, and finally Paris for a few days. But this is a country so caught up in its own self-identity, that they have achieved a weird, unhealthy, stasis. While the rest of the world moves forward, France remains frozen by choice.

Ever hear of a movie called Bottle Shock? It was made by a classmate of mine, Mark Lhormer. It's a wonderful movie about wine and the "Judgement of Paris," a blind tasting back in the 70s when California wines trounced French wines. The judges were all French, and they were predictably horrified. At that time California wines were thought of as screw-top jugs, maybe from Gallo, perhaps a step removed from Welch's grape juice.

It's a great movie, go rent it. But the point is that the Californians, the crazy cowboys of the industry, were trying new methods. There was no set way of doing things, so they innovated. The French had their methods, and everyone knew French wine was the best, so creativity ground to a halt. To do anything else meant you weren't doing it the "French" way.

So, the Americans blew by them.

I found Bottle Shock to be an apt metaphor for all of France. There is a French way, and you don't mess with it. In all matters cultural, France has immersed itself in a cryogenic chamber of its own making. Honestly, I had very few good meals in two weeks. The art is wonderful, but none of it was created in the last half century. The language itself is tightly regulated by the government, lest "un-French" words dilute its purity. On the business side, well, name one French startup.

All this is also why France has never encouraged the melting pot concept for its immigrants. As a result, Muslims have evolved their own ghettos where Sharia dominates and little French is heard. As Arab immigrants swarm over Europe, it will be interesting to see how France survives as "France."

Which brings me, of course, to Donald Trump.

Look at that hair, would you? It looks like an orange wave, cresting over his face. But whatever. I get asked a lot for my take, so I'll get this out of the way: I don't support him. For one, I don't really know where he stands on many things, and I'm not sure I'd trust him anyway. His views seemed to have "evolved" quite a bit over the years. A little is okay. A lot, not so much.

More importantly, I don't believe he's a man of high character. His business dealings are said to be borderline sleazy, and I've heard many times over the years, from many people, that he cheats at golf. There is absolutely no way someone who cheats at golf - a game where you self-police - should ever be president of the United States. You better believe Mitt Romney would never cheat at golf (but of course he had other issues).

Having said this, Trump is GREAT for the race. Ratings for the debates - debates where many in the field have distinguished themselves - have gone through the roof. Millions of people now know who, say, Carly Fiorina, is because of Trump. I also think he's showing the others how to not be afraid of their own shadows, or the media. I believe that most of the Trump "phenomenon" is explained by his lack of political correctness. People are awfully tired of the ever-growing list of proscribed words and thoughts, and finally, here, someone says, "I couldn't give a crap what you think."

So, Trump has been good for the process, but it's nearing the time to put this flight of fancy to bed.