Thursday, December 12, 2019


I went to see Frank Bruni speak the other night.

Wow, I never thought words like that would ever come out of my mouth. (Confession: when I'm writing it's often as if I am talking at my keyboard.)

I've heard words like that come out of other people's mouths. More often in one of those effete Manhattan dinner parties depicted regularly in the "good" movies of Woody Allen.

"Did you read Safire today?"

"Shades of Moliere. And quite the stirring counterpoint to Buckley."

"I'm reminded of what Kierkagaard wrote regarding the duality of man..."

Nope. I would never have fit in with the NY socialite crowd.

"Holy Shit, did you see Eli Manning's start against the Eagles? I thought Blue was gonna get out of Philly with the W."

Mr. Bruni, for those who don't know, is an author and leading Op Ed columnist for the NY Times. And as I have mentioned most recently I have become a voracious reader of the Old Grey Lady.

So much so that I'm now comfortable talking about my favorite writers and reporters, including Michelle Goldberg, Nicholas Kristof, and even Maureen Dowd(who couldn't be bothered to mention my name 20 years ago but delighted in bashing my work).

Frank Bruni is at the top of my list.

He has a straightforward and thoughtful style, not to mention a George Tannebaum-like vocabulary that always leaves me envious.

On this night however I was disappointed that his subject matter was less political and more personal. Nevertheless his speech was captivating.

He spoke of his early college years. And his first slide, pictured above, used the beautiful campus of UDUB, where my oldest graduated little more than a year ago.

He had some very interesting thoughts on "safe spaces" and the abridgment of our freedom of speech. This naturally led to how social media/technology had become a negative force on our lives. More specifically, how algorithms had trapped each of us in our own self-selected echo chambers. Think about it.

Facebook feeds us news from the same sources.

Netflix picks our movies and shows.

Pandora chooses our music.

And Amazon recommends future purchases based on previous ones.

It's all very frightening. And should make each of us take inventory of our habits and vow to diversify our sources of news consumption.

Don't start with, however. That shit will sow the seeds of doubt into any First Amendment Absolutist.

It will also have scare the bejesus out of you and have you updating your passport.

No comments: