Saturday, May 4, 2013

I Gotta Get Me Some New Weekend Reading

Honestly.  I used to love catching up on my stacks and posts of reading on the weekend.  Not so much lately, though. I feel like I’m seeing the same articles and hearing the same opinions over and over again. For example. . .

1. Peggy Noonan writes beautiful prose, and seems to hang out with some pretty interesting people. Why, then, does everything sound like this to me these days:

I went to the grocery store, like many Americans, to shop for mangoes.  Barack Obama hates mangoes.  We saw it in his polling numbers.  I had lunch this week with several conservative Senators who confirmed it.  I think we can all agree that the President is failing at mangoes.  
You know what?  We’re tired of Barack Obama hating mangoes.  It’s old.  It doesn’t play in middle America.  It gives our enemies in South America a reason to hate us.  In Washington we call it Obama-Mangoe fatigue.
You’ll find mangoes exhibited brilliantly at the new Bush library.  George W. Bush was one leader who knew how to deal with fruit.
Let’s be clear: Real Americans love mangoes.  I love mangoes.  The editors at the Wall Street Journal love mangoes. Many of us remember that Ronald Reagan loved mangoes, too, and sometimes had them for breakfast.
(For more of the same, see the latest here.)

2. Likewise, there’s a nightmare going on over at LinkedIn “Updates,” a series of posts apparently
solicited by the website from entrepreneurs in which they are asked to write about My Worst Mistake.  Think: "Tell me about your weaknesses" asked of people who honestly don't believe they have any weaknesses. The humblebrags have reached dizzying heights.  Here’s what the typical post sounds like:

I am the CEO of a very cool, rapidly scaling Silicon Valley company.  I have a beautiful PhD wife and precocious blonde one-year-old (already translating The Iliad from the original Greek on her iPad) with whom I spend massive amounts of quality time.  
I am getting ready to compete in an IronMan, putting in long hours for my TED Talk, working the fields of my own vineyard, and writing my next digital best-seller.
How do I get it all done??   Frankly, it’s pretty amazing.  
So, this is my worst mistake: Being too successful, too soon.
Scout's honor--there was a post by an entrepreneur saying his biggest mistake was too much success, too soon. And, there are many others that play to that theme. I could not make this stuff up.

3. Then, there’s Tom Friedman’s “latest” column, which used to seem so fresh and topical.  No longer. It looks and feels like one long-playing ad for a book:
The world is flat, and it’s even flatter than the last time I told you a few days ago.  In India last week I visited one of the flattest companies in the world.  The CEO is Dominican and transacts business in Múra-Pirahã.  The CFO is Austrian and does spreadsheets in Sanskrit.  They’ve outsourced their coding to a group of Danish transplants in Tallinn and have their lunch offshored from Iceland.  Some of their dumbest workers are twice as smart as some of our smartest workers.
After my meeting I shopped for birthday presents for my kids and found the flattest copy of The Lion King in existence.  
This is the new world of flat.  America is far, far too lumpy.  Bumpy. Not flat at all, and worse still, falling behind in its flatness.  Way behind.  There is a flatness gap of historic proportions.  Our test scores in Sanskrit are 12th among developing nations.  Our Múra-Pirahã is nearly last.  We only spend a few days a year in Tallinn when our cruise ships stop there for fossil refueling.  We generally avoid Iceland.  The Chinese are stealing flat from right under our noses.  The Japanese are making a comeback in flat that will leave us breathless.  Here in India, every young person lives flat from the day they are born.  
Our politicians in Washington don’t talk flat but instead seem obsessed with mangoes, which are practically the least flat of any fruit on earth.
We only have a short time in America to get flat.  I think we can do it.  I do.
(When it comes to Mr. Friedman, I see I'm not the first who has noticed some repetition.)

4. And finally there’s good old TechCrunch, which just pumps out thousands of missives a week, all of which relate somehow to their four circles of technology hell.  The analysis inevitably sounds to me like this:
Facebook launched a new feature this week and it is over-the-top brilliant.  Yesterday, Google did the same, and it was, well, pretty good and mostly ok and alright.  The day before Apple launched a similar feature and we have to say it kind of sucked (and is nothing like the way Steve Jobs would have done it).  And last week Microsoft launched an identical feature and we can already predict it will be a disaster without looking.
There's more, but I'll spare you. Maybe I'm just getting old. Maybe just cranky. Maybe I need my morning coffee. But, like I said, I really think I gotta get me some new weekend reading.