The Reason Romney Lost …

Among all the reasons offered for why Mitt Romney lost the presidential election (and I think I have read ALL of them, from both sides, I really do) …

Just one stands out for beauty and comprehensiveness and ALSO for utter prescience, because this result was foretold.

Romney, by not having written a concession speech “just in case,” tempted “the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing.”

Mitt Romney's OKCupid Profile: Mittster Wants You

So on Thursday, in a spurt of lunacy, I created a fake OKCupid profile for Mitt Romney. The OKCupid Robot was not amused and the profile was deleted, which is entirely understandable … fake dating profiles being the scourge of the Internets, and all.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea.

So I sent a version of Mittster’s profile off to a guy I know and today I’m finally on the cover of the Rolling Stone Salon.com.

http://www.salon.com/2012/10/19/ok_mittster/

Oh, and, in case you were wondering, my own OKCupid username is scribblebot. ;)

The Next Insanely Great Thing …

While everyone is still twittering about the death of MySpace and the flight from FaceBook, I thought I’d take a few minutes to write down what I want from a social networking site, something that no one has yet provided. It could be the next insanely great thing.

Here it is: I want to be able to present myself online the same way I do in real life, and who I am often depends on where I am and who I’m with. Sure, I have a core personality. But I (and everyone else) have different personae.

  • I am this one guy when I am talking to a roomful of healthcare professionals about medical tourism.
  • I am another guy when I’m fixing a computer network or delousing a PC.
  • I am yet another guy when I am writing and researching a book on sexual culture.
  • I’m still yet another guy when … well, you get the idea.

And, online, I mostly have to be all those things at once. Sure, there are some ways around it. I have different web sites, different e-mail addresses; sometimes I rely on the pseudoanonymity of screen names. It’s not that I have anything in particular to hide — it’s that not all information needs to be available all the time. And I like to fine-tune what is available, be as nuanced as possible (and sometimes as brief as possible) in any giving setting. I do it about as well as it can be done, given the lack of appropriate tools.

FaceBook TRIES to address this by allowing you to place your friends into groups. Some can see all. Others can see some. And strangers can see anything from nothing to everything. But the privacy tools are ham-handed, clumsy.

What is needed, really, is a way to define myself in different ways, as opposed to a way to define my friends.

So the next really big, insanely great idea is a social networking site that will allow you to define different personae for yourself. Prisms.

There is a basic profile — how you would introduce yourself to anyone. “Hi I’m Jeff Schult. I’m a writer.”

Then I would have the corporate persona, available to people/and or web sites to whom I relate to that way. NOT necessarily available to Google, NOT necessarily searchable. Maybe I would list the persona on my main profile. Probably I would. But maybe I wouldn’t.

Then I might have my geek persona; my writer persona; my musician persona; my family persona; my flirting persona. Etc. And these would only be available to people and/or other web sites via my own choice; but would be controlled through one site, one interface.

My party animal persona — you know, the one that is demonized for college kids, the one where they post drunken, nude photos of themselves having sex while doing bong hits? No one could see that unless they were in my party animal persona tribe, which would be pretty damned small and trustworthy, by the way. There would be no hint that it even existed, to any potential employer or my mom and dad.

Get it?

Well, I bet some people do.

If anyone has some venture money and wants to hire me to help build the successor to Facebook, you know where to find me. :-)

FaceBook, Twitter have the same fatal flaw

Like a lot of people, I’m on FaceBook. I’m on Twitter. I’m fascinated and creeped out at the same time.

And I finally figured out why. The fatal flaw of both is embedded in the genius of both. Much of the commercial history of the Internet is about companies trying to PUSH. Push technology. Push information. Push anything and everything. The most interesting thing about PUSH is that companies keep doing it even though consumers, demonstrably want PULL. Let me choose what I want. Let me pick. Let me PULL what I want. Don’t jam things down my throat.

But FaceBook and Twitter have succeeded with PUSH because they’ve gotten consumers to accept PUSH … from their friends and from other consumers.

Increasingly, we are serving up our thoughts, conversations and information on FaceBook and in Twitter messages to our friends and other consumers in ways that these companies can monetize our communications.

And in the end, there is a limit to it. We’re creeped out by PUSH. I don’t know when we will hit the limit, but the backlash from early adopters has already started.

The Benchleys of Nantucket

The “first” Robert Benchley was the one I thought I sort of knew, as much as you can know someone who died 11 years before you were born. He wrote brilliantly and hilariously for The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, won an Oscar and, by all accounts, acquitted himself with distinction at the Algonquin in New York. Up there with Dorothy Parker, et. al.

Among his more self-deprecating bons mots:

“It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.”

We should all be so lucky. Few could be arguably as skilled.

R.B. is buried in the family plot on Nantucket. My partner, Nancy, and I didn’t visit there this past weekend, in our time on Nantucket. We were with a living Benchley, Rob (the third) and his lovely wife Carol, and we didn’t talk about literature or the family tree much at all. We were too busy enjoying the present tense … good food, long walks along the sand bluffs in Sconset, the bustle of an island household, Rose the tennis-ball fixated dog, skinnydipping in the Atlantic and stops in town to visit boutiques where Nancy would like to sell her fiber artist clothing creations … mostly scarves and ponchos, but she’ll make about anything if someone gets her going and wants something specific. Benji’s Boutique, a new place on Easy Street, took all of her scarves and wants more, besides. And that was the point of the trip, which made it a happy one in every way that it could be.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. I hadn’t really had any idea about the Benchley family tree. “A lot of cousins,” the present day Rob said, laconically. Which was plenty to go on, when I got home. There was a lot of begatting in the Benchley family. They include the writer and actor Nat and also Peter, most famous for writing Jaws … Peter and Nat’s dad, Nathaniel Benchley wrote children’s literature, was a biographer of Humphrey Bogart’s and wrote the novel on which the 1961 movie The Russians are Coming was based.

There are probably more famous Benchleys. That is as far as I got.

It is Rob III and Carol, though, who have made their mark on Nantucket island as much or more so than any of the clan, and not really because Rob is an extraordinary photographer for the local papers and sometimes for the Boston Globe. It is more because they are real islanders, deeply involved in the local community and passionate about the preservation of the natural beauty that surrounds them.

I met an older fellow on the ferry going back to the mainland who is another “real” islander, and asked him if he knew the Benchleys.

“Of course,” he said. “Rob is a real icon on the island.”

“People say the darnedest things on that boat,” Rob responded, when I told him in an e-mail about the comment.

Continue reading The Benchleys of Nantucket

An Unusual Resume

I’ve always had sort of a roguish curriculum vitae, I guess. Why “roguish?” I’m certain most employers would (or have) describe/d it differently and with less charm. But I think it is the right word because, for example, I could probably add that I was first mate on a pirate ship and people would think it made perfect sense.

The version of it I’ve had up on careerbuilder dot com and monster dot com (no links for you guys, hah) has never done me a whit of good … I think HR departments are good at screening out rogues. The last time a resume played any role in getting me a job, I think it was 1981.

Yesterday, I debated deleting myself from the aforementioned job sites because they do me no good and, increasingly, they let their clients spam me for sales and/or multilevel marketing jobs, which makes me crazy. But instead I tried a writing experiment. I added *this* to the top of my resumes:

“I don’t see any point in writing a boilerplate “objective” designed to squeeze me through the HR funnel to interviewers on the way to Cubicleland, or even a corner office. If you’re unnerved that I would say so, please don’t bother me. I’m busy. You might be getting paid to seek me out, but I’m not getting paid to listen to you.

“If, on the other hand, you’re someone who needs a wickedly smart person who writes anything as well as anyone, has a tremendous range of skills and interests and knows how to get things done, you’re invited to try and get my interest. Please start with email. Try to be clever. I treat online job sites just as I would a dating site. I’m choosy because I can be. And I won’t chase YOU unless you’re irresistible.”

What do you think? Can’t hurt, right? I do crack myself up sometimes …

My So-Called Life, in Six Words

Yep. There I am on page 127 of “Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.”

Smith Magazine got the idea, see, from Hemingway, that one can say quite a lot in six words, which of course, one can, whether one is famous or obscure. Most of us would be the latter.

“After Harvard, had baby with crackhead,” Robin Templeton’s six words that lead off the book … well, those are pretty lively, huh?

It took me a few years to get my answer to the question of what happened to my marriage down to … let’s see … ten words, which I’m not revealing here. That was a long time ago. I’m not going to try to knock it down to six. Unless someone wants to publish it.

My six words included “serendipity,” which is sort of cliché, or at least it’s a word I get tired of periodically. But I’m not going to give you the other five words here. Go read the book.

Or give me your own six-word memoir in a comment, and I’ll play catch-and-throw.

the writing thing …

I haven’t written much about writing and I don’t think I will. Every once in a while, though, I get a glimmer of insight into how and why I do what I do.

I have a book to write, I am pretty sure of that right now. And so there is writing to do.

And there is research to do, a ton of research. There are places to go and … activities to observe.

There are also many conversations to have. Interviews are part of research, but I differentiate. Research prepares me to have good conversations.

But it occurs to me, in the end, that when I go to actually write my next book, I won’t be ready until …

until I can sort of remember the whole book, even though it hasn’t been written. It will get written when, in some way, I can remember the words to it and how they sound.

It’s a strange plan, but I think it works for me.

For those who want less esoteric advice, I recommend Stephen King’s “On Writing.” Even if you don’t like Stephen King’s bestsellers (I mostly don’t) and even if you think he’s a hack writer (he’s not) … if you care about writing, read his book about it. I think I need to read it again, in fact.

There’s been this pile next to the bedside table for more than a month now. It’s great to have new things to read.

The New York Times said 'fuck' … once

I’m doing research for my next book, which I’m not ready to write about yet though I have been contemplating that I might sort of ease into it at some appropriate point in time — which isn’t now, so I’m going to have to leave you guessing as to why I was searching The New York Times web site for the word “fuck.” You might surmise that I’m writing about journalism, or censorship, or sex, or somesuch, and I would give you that much.

But anyway, The New York Times, I have read in quite a number of places, does not print the word “fuck.” This would also be true of the vast majority of daily newspapers in the United States and we all know that you really can’t say it on TV or radio, either. In more than 20 years in journalism, I have only gotten the word into print once, in a minor column in the New Haven Advocate in 1995. (Thanks, Josh.)

So, forgetting for a moment as to why I wanted to know: Just what the, um, heck, is “fuck” doing in the New York Times archives?

Continue reading The New York Times said 'fuck' … once