The Social Media Activist


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He’s the first one to post
when things couldn’t be worse.
A riot, the government,
the Billy Goat Curse.

He trolls through the Web
With justice in mind.
Writing words that are true,
But not terribly kind.

When he’s really annoyed,
he might go on a screed
about late-term abortions
or the music of Creed.

He’s the friend whom you never
would dare to unfriend.
For you know that he’d notice,
and then angrily send
you a message that asks
why you’d ever take issue
at his meme about guns.
Should he fetch you a tissue?

He’s the social media activist.

And then there are moments
that touch everyone’s heart,
A shooting, a court case,
Someone’s life ripped apart.

At that very moment,
He will rush to his Dell
And alter his profile pic
to show he means well.

It’s the least he can do
as a person who cares
about big events
that score “likes” and “shares.”

He’s the social media activist.

And every four years
when they have an election,
he’ll post all day long
about his selection.

He’ll share lots of click-bait,
some of it true,
about his opponents
And bad things that they do.

Crowding out all the posts
about babies and kittens,
and marriage announcements,
and warm, woolen mittens.

It’s kind of turned into his calling,
you see.
When he’s not stuck at work
or home watching TV.

He’s there to remind us
of terrible stuff
that will or may happen,
of how life can be tough.

And I think he’s succeeded
to an alarming extent
at making Facebook and Twitter
great places to vent.

He’s the social media activist.



Eighteen Months of Happy Gilmore


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Happy Gilmore is a movie about a guy who decides to become a professional golfer, even though he knows nothing about the sport and has no training. Amazingly, he starts winning tournaments and builds up an army of followers who love Happy’s fiery demeanor, especially when compared with the stodgy, unlikable players who have dominated golf for so long. Happy even draws in fans who have never followed the sport before.

I feel like the past 18 months have been a political version of Happy Gilmore. I’m surprised by last night’s election results, but I am not shocked. Whether you are “happy” today or not, this is the country we live in right now. I’m praying for the best possible outcome.

Review: Stories I Tell Myself, by Juan Thompson


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Raise your hand if you think that growing up as the only child of the writer Hunter S. Thompson would be a stable, nourishing experience.

Really, no one? Okay. Well, I’ll continue…

Stories I Tell Myself is a memoir by Juan Thompson about what it was like having a father who was as famous for his wild behavior as he was for authoring counterculture classics like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.

Hunter S. Thompson was a celebrated writer and one of the more charismatic figures of the 1960s and 1970s. Along with others like Truman Capote and Tom Wolfe, he crafted a style of reporting that blended journalism with literary techniques and a considerable amount of egotism. He called his creation “Gonzo Journalism.” Thompson was a powerful figure whose friends included Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, “60 Minutes” stalwart Ed Bradley, and at least two U.S. presidents—Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Thompson was also an alcoholic and drug addict who was prone to late-night hours, womanizing, and violent outbursts. At Owl Farm near Aspen, where he spent most of his time, Thompson held wild parties that were often punctuated with firearms and the detonation of outdoor explosives. Throughout the 1970s, Thompson held court in the bars of Aspen, always surrounded by a throng of friends who adored and very likely feared him.

Juan Thompson, who is in his early 50s now, does not hold back in portraying his father as a brilliant artist as well as a distant, unpredictable and sometimes dangerous man. Early on, Juan Thompson writes that his father never hit him, though the threat of “a beating” was often present. The elder Thompson did direct a lot of screaming and verbal abuse toward his son and wife, Sandy. By the late 70s, when Juan was in his early teens, Sandy Thompson was fed up with Hunter’s tantrums, boozing and nocturnal routine. She and Juan moved out of Owl Farm, and Juan confesses that he hated his famous father at that point in his life.

Much of the book is about what happened after that moment, and the many years it took Juan and Hunter S. Thompson to find common ground and forge a relationship as son and father. Given Hunter’s self-absorption, the son apparently had to do most of the work in building that connection. At times, it is heartbreaking to read about Juan’s efforts. It is clear how much he craves his father’s love, but there are long emotional deserts to travel between halting moments of fatherly praise or affection.

Stories I Tell Myself is an engaging memoir for Hunter S. Thompson fans, as well as anyone who is fascinated by the bond between a child and a very flawed parent. By the way, not all is grim with the Thompson family. There are some fun moments in the book, such as when a teen-aged Juan gets to spend a month sailing the Caribbean with Hunter’s laid-back buddy, Jimmy Buffett. Fame has its privileges, I guess, even if you’re sometimes trapped inside the strange, paranoid world of Hunter S. Thompson.

I Do Love the Football


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For me, Labor Day weekend always means the start of football. Every few years or so, pro football will kick off its regular season on the Sunday before the holiday but, more often than not, Labor Day is exclusively tied to college football. Tomorrow and Sunday will bring an unusually tasty menu of big games between traditional powers: Alabama vs USC, Clemson vs Auburn, Texas vs. Notre Dame. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

My love for college football started when I was 11 years old. That was 1982, Herschel Walker’s Heisman Trophy-winning season, so I naturally became a devoted Georgia Bulldogs fan. Nobody told me at the time that the Bulldogs would not return to the Sugar Bowl for another 20 years after that season. Maybe I would have chosen to root for Alabama if I had been able to peer into the future.

As the years passed, my football obsession grew. On Labor Day weekend of 1984, my father and I were invited to go water skiing on a friend’s boat at West Point Lake. I didn’t want to go. It was the start of college football, and I intended to plop myself on the downstairs couch, eat popcorn and watch games all day. I finally agreed to go to the lake after my dad dug up a tiny little transistor radio so that I could listen to the action of the Georgia-Southern Miss game.

The Bulldogs had a young, inexperienced offense that year, and Southern Miss was pretty good. The game was back-and-forth between the two teams. As we rode in the boat, watching my friend glide in and out of our wake on his slalom ski, I held the radio to my ear and sweated out the final minutes of the 26-19 Georgia win. I remember that the Dawgs’ Kevin Butler (who went on the play for the 1985 Chicago Bears) kicked four field goals in that game. I went home that day sunburned and happy.

Looking back, it probably seemed odd that a 13-year-old boy would prefer to listen to a football game on the radio rather than swim, water-ski and wrestle on the lake’s muddy shore with his friend. Even now I have to shake my head at the number of gorgeous fall afternoons I spent indoors watching football games on TV, regardless of whether the action was SEC, Big Ten, ACC or the NFL. At a time when I was crossing that uncomfortable void between boyhood and adolescence, televised football and other sports were something I could count on every weekend. I might be carrying a D-minus average in Algebra, I might be afraid to talk to the girl sitting in front of me in seventh period, but there was always a chance the Georgia would rise up and beat Auburn on Saturday afternoon (they usually didn’t, though).

Football doesn’t mean as much to me now as it did then, but I still enjoy watching the games, even with all the money, corruption and other negative things swirling around big-time athletics. As the great Alabama coach Bear Bryant once growled, “I do love the football.”

15 Years


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Wedding Rings

Fifteen years ago, my wife and I got married in a little chapel in the heart of Kansas City. My uncle officiated, five of my best friends were groomsmen and, as my soon-to-be bride entered the building, the double doors swung open and the late afternoon sun embraced her in a heavenly glow.

The next day, we flew to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, went snorkeling, got sun-burned, drank rum punch, and relaxed most afternoons in a hammock below our beachfront cabana. After a week of honeymoon bliss, we flew back to the city to start real life as a newly married husband and wife.

Ten days later, two planes hit the World Trade Center. The country was paralyzed. To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, it didn’t take much to see that two little people didn’t add up to a hill of beans in a crazy, frightening new world.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if my wife and I had scheduled our wedding and honeymoon a little later than we did. The shut-down of U.S. airlines and airports would have forced us to spend a few extra days in the Caribbean. Would we have decided to just stay down in Tortola and never come home? It would have been tempting to do so.

Staying in the tropics would have been romantic, but not very realistic. After all, we had a house, jobs, and three cats in Kansas City. What would we do for employment? Not many people in Tortola seemed to work, so maybe we could have just fished and slept on the beach?

At any rate, we decided to put down our roots in Kansas City, and I am glad that we did. There have been many magical moments like that trip to Tortola in our 15 years of marriage. There have also been doses of cruel reality, some which I dearly wish we never had to experience.

Through it all, though, we have stuck it out together. My wife has been so much more than just someone I share a home and a bank account with. She is my friend, ally, collaborator and confidant. You need that in a marriage, I think. Just being in love is not enough. You need someone you can laugh with and suffer with, and you especially need someone who can laugh with you even when you both are suffering.

A few days before our wedding, my wife did something that I felt spoke to her commitment as a partner and companion. I mentioned it in my toast at our wedding rehearsal dinner.

My wife and I had tickets to a Kansas City Chiefs preseason game, and we were trying to find a parking space near where our friends were tailgating. The journey in our Honda Accord took us off-road and onto a grassy ridge where fans had parked and were barbecuing. At one point, to get through all the cars and tailgaters, I had to drive along what felt like a 45-degree slope. It really seemed like the car might tip over at any second as we drove through the crowd. My wife, who sat in the elevated side of the car, opened her passenger door and leaned out as far as she could, both hands clutching the roof like a windsurfer hanging onto a sail. Instead of just bailing out, she thought her quick action might help keep the car from flipping down the hill.

We and our Honda survived, of course. I knew then—if I had any doubts before—that I had found a partner who would be with me all the way, even during times of potential bodily harm.

Fifteen years on, she is still with me, and I am so grateful for that.

Donald Trump’s Big Red Book of History


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Trump hat

NEW YORK, NY (Aug. 25, 2016)–Less than 80 days before the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump has announced the publication of a new book, The Trump Big Red Book of History.

At a press conference Thursday inside the Trump Tower, Trump praised the new book as “an inside look” and “the real story” about the history of Western Civilization. Unlike previous books published by the presidential candidate and real estate billionaire, Trump said he did not use a ghost writer, noting that he didn’t need one and did not want to share royalties that he expects will be “huge.”

Trump added that he has been working on the book for years and that the publication date has nothing to do with his bid for the White House.

“They say that history books are written by the winners, and that’s very, very true,” Trump said. “Look, I’m a winner. I’ve always been a winner. And so I wrote a history book.”

Below are three exclusive excerpts from Trump’s new book, which can be purchased at Barnes & Noble and beginning next week:

The Revolutionary War

One thing about America, one thing that made us so, so great, was that we didn’t take crap from anybody. King George—you know about him? He was the ultimate insider. He didn’t just benefit from the system, he was the system. That’s how they did things back then, with kings and queens and the Earl of Sandwich and all. They controlled everything, and everyone.

And, you know what King George did? He did what they all do. He did what Hillary wants to do if she becomes president. He raised the people’s taxes. But Americans in those days wouldn’t stand for it. They didn’t take anything lying down. They got together and they wrote up this document called the Declaration of Independence. It’s a beautiful, beautiful document. It’s my favorite thing to read, right behind the Bible.

So George Washington got on a ship to take this Declaration of Independence to King George, because in those days there was no such thing as Next Day Air. And as Washington was leaving Boston Harbor, he saw these guys dressed up like Indians dumping boxes of tea into the water. And he smiled a big smile. Do you know why? Because George Washington knew right then that we were gonna win the war. Because nobody tells Americans what to do. At least not back when we were great.

The Soviet Union in World War II

Stalin was a bad guy, okay? A bad, bad guy. Nobody’s arguing that. But you know what Stalin did really well? Do you know what he did better than almost anybody else? He never gave up. He was tough! He was a very tough guy. Even when the Germans were knocking on the door of the Kremlin back in 1940-whatever-it-was, Stalin said, “You people are completely out of line. We’re gonna push you back across the border where you belong!”

Another thing about Stalin was he was extremely competitive. No one got the best of Stalin. He looked at Hitler and he said, “Oh, you’re gonna kill six million people? Well, guess what? I already killed 10 million people!” That was Stalin for you. Always competing.

And you know what they did after Stalin died, in his honor? They went into Berlin and they built a wall. And you know something else? They made the Germans pay for it.

The Reagan Revolution

Speaking of walls, here’s a guy who liked to tear walls down. And you know what? He tore down walls very, very well.

Of course, he had a little help.

In the 1980s, when my net worth was only somewhere around $500 million, I met President Reagan in the White House. He didn’t have to meet with me, but he did. He was a very gracious man, and very bright. He looked great in a navy blue suit! Just being around this guy, you could tell he was going to do big, big things with this country.

We started talking about Russia. And I said, “you know, Mr. President, the Russians have a lot of natural resources. Lots of oil, lots of coal, and I’m sure they have other things. They’re tough negotiators, but they could be wonderful business partners, especially with the right guy in charge.”

Reagan nodded, the way he always did. He seemed to be in deep thought. Then he spoke.

“They got a new guy in there, you know,” he told me. “Seems like a sharp guy. You think I should give him a call?”

The guy was Gorbachev, of course. And I told the president, “that’s exactly what you should do. Make the call. Make the first move. Get leverage. Keep him on his heels.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Facebook and the First Day of School


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Facebook Posts About Little Girls on The First Day of School:

  • “Ready for another exciting year at Taft Elementary! Our little Kimberly missed all of her friends!”
  • “Gracie loves her Paw Patrol backpack! So psyched about kindergarten!”
  • “Third grade, here we come! Kelsey is growing up so fast!”
  • “No fears about second grade. Sophia couldn’t wait to get on the bus!”
  • “Math is fun! Here’s a video of Olivia explaining the Pythagorean theorem. Look out, first grade!”

Facebook Posts About Little Boys on the First Day of School:

  • “First day of kindergarten for Tyler. Wish us luck.”
  • “This is the best photo we could get for Jacob’s first day of second grade. We practically had to drag him out of bed.”
  • “If nose-picking is a 1st grade subject, Declan will sail through with flying colors—all of them gross.”
  • “That blur you see is our son as we attempted a back-to-school pic. Prayers for his teacher and classmates.”
  • “And, so it begins…”

Sad boy

Three Ways to Tell Who Really Likes You


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Lost among this week’s media coverage of the latest asinine comments from Donald Trump was an intriguing New York Times article titled, “Do Your Friends Actually Like You?”

The thrust of the story is that not as many people truly like us as we imagine. Most “friends” are really just casual acquaintances. Others are friendly to us for their own selfish, manipulative reasons. The article quotes various academic experts who seem to agree that most of us each have, at best, four to five true friends who carry no agenda. These friends simply love us for who we are, and they genuinely enjoy our company.

I had hoped that the Times would provide some constructive ways to weed out your phony friends and identify the ones who really care about you. The Times is usually more than willing to tell people what to do with their lives, but this time it fell short. There were no tangible “next steps” for categorizing and managing one’s friends.

So I came up with some exercises that might help. Here are three simple scenarios you can create that will help you identify your real friends:

1. Have a Child

This exercise is particularly effective if you are among the first in your social circle to try it. Just get married, have a kid, and watch in amazement as interactions with some of your closest pals trickle down to an exchange of text messages every two or three months.

At your child’s first birthday, make a point of counting the number of non-relatives who call regularly, occasionally stop by to help with the baby, remember the baby’s name, and listen patiently as you ramble on about the baby. If you need more than one hand to list those friends, you’re doing better than most new parents.

2. Move Out

Plan to move to a new home or apartment. DO NOT hire professional movers. Instead, ask your friends if they would mind helping you out. Make a point of not packing any boxes before they arrive at your place at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Also, make it clear early on that you are running low on cash, and you won’t be able to provide free pizza or beer after the move is complete.

Those two or three people who are still around four hours later to help unpack your grandmother’s china? Those are your real friends.

3. Do Something Crazy

Invite all your friends to meet up for drinks after work. Excitedly explain to them how you are going to quit your job, sell your possessions, and dedicate the next three years of your life to traveling the country in search of The Perfect Cheeseburger. Sure, you only have $530 in the bank, along with a mountain of debt. But you’ve got a pup tent, your trusty 1989 Honda Civic, and a list of the best burger joints along the East Coast. Anyway, life is short. It’s time to follow your dreams.

Those people smiling and nodding as they try to wave down the waiter for their checks? They aren’t your friends.

The handful of people who are with you four drinks later, calmly asking if you’ve really thought this all the way through? The ones who remind you about your spouse and kids, and ask what happens to them during your quest for The Perfect Cheeseburger?

Those people are your real friends. They always will be.

Your Password Has Expired


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Hand reaching for the sky

    Dale followed the light, which is what they always say you should do. His body was catapulted into some kind of cosmic vortex, where he floated around for what seemed like days.

    Finally, he landed, his Timberland work boots touching a marble floor. Up ahead were six massive, ivory columns that reached into the clouds. A man with a long, white beard and a flowing gown approached him, and smiled. Dale knew he must be St. Peter.

    “Hello, Dale,” he said. “We’re glad to have you.”

    Dale nodded and blinked. Everything was very bright up here in the clouds.

    “Just go over to one of the kiosks and sign yourself in,” St. Peter advised, extending a cloaked arm toward a battery of silver-plated work stations with glowing LED screens.

    Dale walked to one of the kiosks and typed in his name.

    “Do you have your confirmation number?”

    “My what?”

    “You need a confirmation number,” St. Peter said. “We sent it to you in a text message before you arrived. Do you have your phone?”

    “Why would I have my phone?” Dale asked.

    St. Peter shook his head. “People usually bring their phones. It’s okay. Let me help you.”

    The apostle walked to the kiosk and moved his pale, perfectly manicured fingers across the screen.

    “Can’t you just let me in?” Dale asked. “You obviously know who I am.”

    “I do?”

    “You called me by name when I got here.”

    St. Peter looked at him dubiously. “That’s because it’s on your shirt.”

    Dale looked down at the ironed patch on the left breast of his shirt. Dale had forgotten he was at work when the end came. His last conscious memory was scrambling across the floor, crab-like, as the underbelly of a Toyota Prius tumbled over him.

    St. Peter squinted at the kiosk screen. “We just upgraded to a new system,” he explained. “To say that it has a few bugs would be a bit of an understatement.”

    Dale nodded. He was extremely tired.

    “What’s your gmail address and password?” the saint asked. “That might do the trick.”

    Dale tried to remember his password. He gave St. Peter a combination of his first pet’s name and the year he graduated from high school. It didn’t work. Dale gave him the name of his first girlfriend and the year he lost his virginity. Still no luck.

    “Cheese and rice! This new system! I wish I could just wave you through, but I can’t,” St. Peter said. “Look, it’s getting late, and you’re exhausted. I’m going to book you a night at a place near here, and we’ll try this again tomorrow. Sound good?”

    St. Peter reached into his gown and pulled out an Android phone. He made the arrangements. Dale checked into the Pearly Gates Lodge, which billed itself as “The Closest Thing to Heaven.” The bed was rock-hard and the remote control didn’t work, but he was too tired to care. The breakfast buffet the next morning was pretty good, although the eggs were a little runny for Dale’s liking.

    “Hello, Dale,” St. Peter said, glancing at his shirt. “We’re glad to have you.”

    “I was here yesterday. I remembered my gmail password.”

    “Very good. Let’s give it a try.”

    They walked to the nearest kiosk. The password had come to Dale as he awoke that morning on the rock-hard motel mattress. FairLane#1968—it was the model and year of his first car.

    “Oh, heavens,” St. Peter said, after keying in the password three times. “Not good. Not good at all.”

    “What is it?”

    “It says, ‘your password has expired.’”

    “You gotta be kidding me.”

    Dale stood, a hand propped on his hip as St. Peter swiped through several brightly colored pages on the kiosk screen. Dale looked around. It seemed odd that he and St. Peter were the only two people at the entrance to Heaven. He crossed his arms and listened to a familiar melody playing softly over the PA system. After a moment or two, he identified the song as “Drops of Jupiter,” by Train.

    “So, what’s Hell like?” Dale asked.

    “Hell?” St. Peter said, still staring at the screen. “Oh, it’s a mess, total chaos. They run things on a paper-based system. It’s like being in the 1970s all over again.”


    “The bars down there are all open until two in the morning, though. People need to self-medicate, you know, to deal with all the inefficiencies of being in Hell.”

    “Sounds like my kind of place,” Dale said. “How do I get there?”

    “The saint gave him a disapproving look. “You’re kidding, right?”

    “I think I’d like to give it a try,” Dale said.

    “Well, there’s no easy way to transfer you. If you’re really serious about going to Hell, you’ll have to fill out a few forms. It could take weeks to sort everything out.”

    Dale pivoted on the heel of his boot and gave St. Peter a wave as he walked toward the gold-hued cumulonimbus clouds.

    “No thanks,” Dale said. “I’ll figure out a way down there myself.”

    What Clint Eastwood Knows About Trusting Your Gut


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    Clint + Monkey = Cinema Gold

    Clint + Monkey = Cinema Gold

    In the late 1970s, when Clint Eastwood read the script for the movie, Every Which Way But Loose, all of his business advisors urged him to turn down the role.

    “My lawyer begged me not to do it,” Eastwood recalled in a recent interview with Esquire. “’This is a piece of shit. It’s not the kind of thing you do.’ And I said, ‘It’s not the kind of thing that I’ve been doing—all these pictures where I’m shooting people. I want something you can take your kids to.’”

    Eastwood ended up doing the move, of course. And while Every Which Way But Loose was hardly a cinematic masterpiece, it became a commercial hit. It did not ruin Eastwood’s acting career. While the decision to do the movie seemed risky at the time, Eastwood liked the story about a rough-and-tumble trucker and an orangutan named Clyde. It was something different.

    “If you make a couple decisions where your instincts worked well, why would you abandon them?” Eastwood said.

    I remember one night in the fall of 1988, walking to the mailbox and pulling out a brochure from the University of Missouri. I was a high school senior at the time, and I was looking at different colleges to attend. Missouri wasn’t on my radar at all. I had never been to the Show-Me State, and didn’t know much about it beyond Harry Truman and Mark Twain. In fact, I still have no idea how the people at the University of Missouri got my contact information.

    Nevertheless, as I sat down at our kitchen table and flipped through the glossy brochure, I got excited. Something about the place just seemed right. I filled out the application that night and mailed it the next day. Ten months later, I was a freshman in Columbia, Missouri, more than 700 miles from my hometown.

    I had practical reasons for choosing my college—I wanted to go to journalism school, and Missouri had a good one. Mostly, though, my decision was based on instinct. It just felt like the right place for me.

    I think it was a good decision, and it has directed almost everything that has happened in my life since—my career, the woman I married, the city we live in, most of my friends. All of that would have been completely different had I chosen to attend, say, the University of Georgia.

    I am grateful for following my instincts that night in 1988. The life that has unfolded since has been a good one.

    As we get older and pick up more responsibilities, it becomes harder to act on a hunch. Often, we choose the safer route because we have so much more at stake than when we were young. We aren’t high school seniors anymore, and we certainly aren’t movie stars who can afford to take a chance on making a goofball truck driver flick.

    But our instincts are still there. When is the last time you listened to yours? How did that decision work out for you?

    Sometimes, our instincts lead us to do strange things.

    Sometimes, our instincts lead us to do strange things.