To my sister Heather, who lives on Mars:
Though we missed the Mars retrograde, and are farther from each other than I’d like, it seems as if an update from Earth on the state of the planet is in order. We are headed into our 2018th circumnavigation of the sun since Jesus Christ was born. I believe in Jesus and consider him a role model, “Love the poor” and all. I just don’t buy the lineage many believe he had … but that’s another letter. I’ll keep it short, as I know our years are half the length of the Martian year, with your 687 days. Anyways, the Earth in 2018.
Big picture, things are good here. Infant mortality continues to decline. Every day in 2017, 18,000 fewer children died of curable diseases, and daily 250,000 people escaped abject poverty. The global economy is growing at a decent clip and gaining momentum going into 2018. Wealth inequality between nations continues to narrow.
As often happens on the world stage, and in second grade, the two ugly kids with bad haircuts got in a brawl that was more hype than horror. North Korea keeps threatening the US, and we make it worse by listening. I wonder, if Costa Rica were threatening to go gangsta on China, if they’d bother to laugh, much less respond.
The most under-reported story of the year globally is the West’s crippling of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This is a huge victory for peace-loving people and a testament to the skill of our men and women in uniform, and our nation’s resolve.
Speaking of our nation, it wasn’t a banner year for the Great Experiment, the US. We elected a new president. His victory was a primal scream against the establishment, who spend their days complaining about the water quality (income inequality, declining middle class, need for public education), then shit in the well at night (bought into a globalist agenda of sucking wealth from rest of world to the US, and then to the coasts of the US). Our supreme leader is a bigot (bad), stupid (worse), and brutalizes the English language (unforgivable). However, he’s likely not going to make it to 2019, as he colluded with the Russians to get elected (understandable), but botched the cover-up (he’s done). The other big story was sexual harassment. We’re hoping that those confronting it will register more real progress than the last time such scandals erupted in the nineties.
Last year, as the year before, Elon Musk warned that artificial intelligence was a threat to humanity. He’s wrong. The greatest threat to humanity is organic intelligence (people) armed with technology. The most successful man-made thing in the history of humanity, to date, is a platform called Facebook. It has assembled a community as vast as Christianity, bigger than Islam or China. In addition, it can target inside this community with unprecedented accuracy. The result is a robust and efficient complex … that takes rubles.
Speaking of rubles, the most innovative act of the year wasn’t the Echo device, a voice personal assistant, but the weaponization of Facebook by an intelligence unit of the Russian government. People had to be reminded Russia is an adversary. I believe this is the seminal moment that augurs the fall of of both the president and Facebook, as well as the dressing down of big tech. People seemed genuinely disappointed in big tech, but we’re the naive ones. The Zuck screwed over his friends in college, then fucked over his best friend after college, and — spoiler alert — he’s not concerned with the condition of our souls or national security. As happens in capitalist societies, we’ve incorrectly conflated genius and money with character and kindness.
The good news is we’re waking up to the fact that these firms have become too powerful and markets are failing. IPOs and venture funding are down despite the markets touching all-time highs. We still haven’t recognized the Dow is an indicator of the health of the wealthiest 10%, since they own 80% of the stock — it has little to do with the real health of the country. I believe we’ll begin the process of breaking up big tech this year.
A problem that didn’t get enough coverage in the US was the toll of the opioid epidemic. Each year more Americans now die from drug overdoses (63,600, two-thirds involving opioids) than died in the Vietnam War (58,000). It almost killed dad when he gave up the Percocet he’d been taking since his back surgery.
Young people have lost so much faith in institutions, they now have their own currency, Bitcoin. It’s not linked to any government, central bank, or anybody born before Reagan was president. It’s the perfect speculative asset — it has no underlying intrinsic value or metric (like earnings, yield, or rent). This lack of gravity makes chaos the only benchmark for value. And there’s a lot of chaos. I believe Bitcoin will likely double sometime in the coming year, as we’re headed for a constitutional crisis in the US — the president is orchestrating a coordinated attack on our most trusted institutions to cover up his crimes. Coincidentally, the most successful company of 2017, Amazon, is also no longer nuisanced with a traditional metric of valuation — profits — and will be the first $1T firm in 2018. Most people believe it will be Apple.
For the US, in 2017 the bad news was we have ceded global leadership and much of our moral authority. The worse news is that the void created by the delegitimization of the US has been filled by China, who is now the adult in the room.
Despite my grumbling, there is love everywhere. People continue to lift up others and look for something bigger than themselves. I’m still involved with charity: water, who brings safe drinking water to people in developing nations. A friend also turned me on to Lifting Hands, a charity run by a young Mormon woman that provides goats to displaced Syrians. Btw, I fucking love Mormons. Despite all the crazy shit they’re known for, I know a lot of them and find they walk the talk — talk about Jesus and act like him. My own religious beliefs still square me as a devout atheist. Though, as I get older, I acknowledge my version of the cosmos — there was nothing, and then it exploded — is no less bat-shit crazy.
We sold L2 in 2017, which is a big deal for us. I’ve always feared my success wouldn’t match my “potential,” and that people would figure out I’m a fraud. I’ve also deep down been coopted into believing (and I’m not proud of this) that the worth of an American male is root function of one thing … his wealth. Those fears of irrelevance and lack of wealth abated for a good 60 days post-close. Those 60 days were awesome. Now I’m back to gazing at my navel — asking how I can be more relevant, make money, give more away, be more relevant … and the wheel spins.
I’m also feeling my age. I used to be the youngest guy in the room — now I’m the oldest. Never felt the same age. My youth serums are CrossFit and time with my boys. I’m in the midst of the happiest (or in my case, least unhappy) period of my life … and I know it. Waking up with school-age children who look and smell like you, and raising them with someone you love and respect gives you something to look forward to every day. In addition, I’m generally less afraid that all “this” has no meaning.
I hope Mars is also filled with love, water, and goats for the next 687 days.
If you thought the first week of January was going to bring some Instagram “new year, new me” into my posting, you’ve come to the wrong blog.
When I was six, I came home from school one day and found my mother with her head down on the kitchen table, moaning. The memory is in HD, as next to my mom’s head was the decoupage we were working on. She hadn’t neatly sorted our art project to a corner of the table, meaning something was very wrong.
She told me to get the neighbor. My mom was in the midst of a late-term miscarriage. The friend arrived in curlers, smoking, saw my mom, and ran out, not saying a word to me before bolting. No “I’ll be right back,” “There’s nothing to worry about,” or any information that might be well received by a six-year-old who discovered his mom at the kitchen table writhing in pain, only to see her friend run out of the house after 10 seconds. A few minutes later she returned, honking, with her son in the back of their gold-colored Plymouth Duster. I went outside. She told me to get in as she went to get my mom. I approached the door. Her son rolled down the window and punched me in the throat. I went around to the other side of the car and got in. My mom sat in the front seat, and we drove to the emergency room. The next thing I remembered was being with my dad, looking through the glass in the ER, and seeing my mom being wheeled into another room.
And then … I fainted.
And kept fainting. Not in the heat, nor when I hadn’t eaten, but whenever my mom was in physical distress. I fainted when she got her ears pierced at the Bullock’s in Westwood. I fainted when she tried to break up two cats fighting and was rewarded with a nasty scratch on her arm. Also when she got a flu shot. I’m not especially squeamish, and can handle most intense situations with a reasonable amount of calm. But witnessing the woman in my life in distress spawns an autoimmune reaction of colors, the feeling of dying, more colors, and then a semicircle of people above me looking very concerned. In my twenties, I found out it might be genetic, as my dad told me he had petit mal (mild seizures). Again, information that would have been welcomed earlier. Maybe during that period of my life when, oh I don’t know, I was fainting all the fucking time.
To be clear, it’s not the admirable, macho, Russell Crowe L.A. Confidential beatdown on misogynists. Nope, I just faint. It’s carried over to the mother of my children. My oldest came into the world with me passing out in a chair. At the birth of my second, I just lost consciousness for a few seconds, I think. Regardless of what every Lifetime channel movie tells us, I believe spouses have no place in the delivery room. But that’s another post. Until my forties, my “avoid partner pain at all cost” mentality inhibited healthy relationships with women, as I was constantly managing or protecting my partner, instead of having open, honest dialogue.
After my mom was discharged from the hospital, things returned to normal … or abnormal. The next week in school, when asked to tell the class what we had done the past weekend, I shared the story of my mom’s miscarriage … as six-year-olds do. In a moment of timeless genius, or seventies-inspired poor judgment, my teacher suggested I write a letter to my departed sister. My mom had told me we were having a girl. We’d even discussed names. The teacher asked where I thought my sister was now, and I responded, “Somewhere in space, I think.” She said nobody would read or grade the letter, so I could say whatever I wanted. I don’t remember everything I wrote, but remember how it started:
“To my sister Heather, who lives on Mars”…
Life is so rich,