John Y’s Musings from the Middle: How to be Special

Isn't That SpecialHow to be special. And be able to prove it.

I just realized, according to a popular idiom, that are very few individuals out there who can be considered special.

How did I come to this inevitable conclusion?

Yesterday I used the phrase in describing two well known public figures I had met many years ago in my childhood as two men who, “Put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us.” Therefore, my friend and I agreed that since that was the case, it was surely true that these two public personalities were “just like us” in all the important ways. That they were just normal and ordinary, after all.

But that got me to thinking, “Does that mean that everyone—every single person—who puts their pants on one leg at a time is basically an ordinary person?” I mean, that’s the whole point of the phrase, right? “He (or she) puts his (or her) pants on one leg at a time.” Ergo, they aren’t special. It’s the great equalizer. Pants putting on, that is.

In other words, anyone who puts their pants on one leg at a time instantly moves from the category of “special” (if they possess some rare talent or skill) to the category of “ordinary.”

jyb_musingsSo, how to we find truly special people? It means we should really ask–for the sake of efficiency —who DOES NOT put their pants on one leg at a time. Since that is a small group, presumably, we will quickly limit all the possible candidates for being a special person. Once we have this tiny group of people who, for whatever reason, pass the “ordinariness” threshold test by putting their pant on in some way other than one leg at a time, we are ready for the critical next step.

Of these individuals in the “non-one leg at a time pants putting on routine when getting dressed,” which ones also have some rare talent or gift? Once we identify those individuals–given we have eliminated the great equalizer test in the pants department, we will, technically speaking, have a list of the only truly “special” people in this world. Just like that!

Isn’t logic a a wonderful tool enabling us to reach correct conclusions?! It sure is!

Oh by the way, I’m trying to teach myself to put my pants on over my head like a pull over shirt. It’s slow-going so far… but I am determined. To be special, that is.

Lauren Gilbert: The 17% Employment Rate No One is Talking About

Did you know that we have a second Texas? If you didn’t, it’s not your fault. We don’t talk about it all that much. Unlike the Texas everyone’s familiar with, this one isn’t located in any one geographic location. Rather, it’s scattered throughout the United States. You probably know someone from the second Texas. Here’s the thing: Because we hardly ever talk about it, hardly anyone knows that only 17% of it is employed, compared to 59% (according to the American Communities Survey 2011) in the Texas most people think of.

However, most people in this Texas want to work. Of the other 83%, fully 80% want to work at least part-time and contribute to our society. This population is our nation’s disabled, and it is truly our country’s most underused economic resource.

Our disabled population makes up a large share of the total population – about one-fifth, according to some estimates. Saying that our disabled population is roughly the first Texas’ size is a very conservative estimate. The Census says that it’s actually both a second Texas and a second New York combined, all with that dismal 17% employment rate.

If counted on its own, Texas would have the 15th largest economy in the world based on 2011 data. New York would have the 16th largest. Together, the two states would be ninth, right under Italy and above Russia. Imagine what our second New York and Texas could be if they were employed at the same rate as everyone else. So why aren’t they working and contributing? 

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Lauren Gilbert: The 17% Employment Rate No One is Talking About

Jason Atkinson: D

Lauren Mayer: Breaking Bad…Habits

We’ve all struggled with trying to stop behaviors we know aren’t good for us, and I imagine most of us have some embarrassing episodes in our past. So far be it from me to cast the first stone against politicians whose foibles are played out in the glare of public awareness. None of us would want to be a candidate for office, trying to defend ourselves against a surreptitious youTube video of us telling an off-color joke (or singing karaoke badly). My younger son claims he has photos of me sneaking Reese’s out of his Halloween candy several years in a row, and let’s just say I’m glad that the internet and cell phone cameras didn’t exist that time my college roommates and I went to Martha’s Vineyard.

However, the subject seems to be different when the bad behavior is sexual, and engaged in by elected leaders. (Which should give you a clue that my Martha’s Vineyard escapade was pretty benign, and didn’t actually involve anyone important or anything worth photographing . . . . ) Part of it is often the hypocrisy factor (see Gingrich, Newt). And part of it is the “you’re kidding, right?” disbelief at how stupid some people can be (see Danger, Carlos, or all the comments about how Bill Clinton could have had just about any gorgeous liberal starlet or international political figure instead of cheating on Hilary with a frumpy, not particularly brilliant intern). But the larger concern is that these are people who are telling us to trust them, with our laws& our tax money. Therefore, when they engage in clandestine activities, it isn’t just between them and their cheated-upon partner.

So when still MORE revelations came out this week about Weiner’s continued sexting after he’d insisted he had turned over a new leaf, the general reaction was “enough already, just go away.” (I don’t know about anyone else, but that famous original grainy shot of his bulging underwear continues to give me nightmares.) But he’s not alone – Bob Filner now acknowledges that as Mayor of San Diego, he engaged in a plethora of unsavory behavior, from the now infamous “Filner headlock” which he used to express sweet nothings to his employees, to groping constituents and telling his staff they’d work better if they weren’t wearing underpants. However, he keeps insisting that these acts were just evidence of a problem he has, not actual sexual harassment. (Which begs the question, what WOULD he consider sexual harassment? I guess it’s okay as long as he didn’t insist on women giving him lap dances as a condition of keeping their jobs?) And on top of everything else, both Weiner and Filner have extremely bright, attractive wives – sort of like our horror that if Halle Berry’s husband cheated on her, the rest of us are screwed. (But I digress . . . .  

Honesty is a big factor, but I have to go back to the “how stupid can you be?” question. (Like how Eliot Spitzer claims to be a brilliant fiscal manager, after shelling out thousands of dollars for overpriced hookers, not to mention the weird thing he had about keeping his socks on . . .) These are people who seek public attention, so you’d think they’d be a little more careful about their public behavior. But the unsavory details continue to emerge, and the middle-school-level jokes keep popping up (the NY Daily News is having a field day with headlines about Weiner, as one might imagine from the newspaper which once announced “headless body found in topless bar,” which is the first headline I saw when I moved to New York). Even my teenage son has seen the Weiner memes, with every possible variation on ‘pulling out’ or ‘sticking out’ you could imagine.

As a feminist, a registered Democrat and a former New Yorker, of course I hope Spitzer & Weiner withdraw from the race so voters can refocus on the important issues facing the city, and as a Californian, I hope Filner resigns once he realizes that 2 weeks of rehab may not be sufficient after years of thinking the way to reach out to a constituent is to grab her buttocks. But as a comedian, these guys are the gift that keeps on giving – I thought after last week’s song, the subject would be passe, but I guess they all could still use a little musical advice to “Zip It Up!”

Breaking Bad is Coming Back…Soon

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: That’s Hot!

That's HotImagine Paris (“That’s hot”) Hilton commenting, “That’s so luke warm.”

A middle-aged friend finalized his divorce recently and I tried my hand, feebly, at matchmaking.

In describing him to a divorcee woman I work with I tried to buikd him up to her.

She asked half-jokingly with a smirk, “So, is he hot?”

jyb_musingsThat caught me off guard and I recovered with this failed response.

“I wouldn’t say hot in the conventional sense of the word.. but a more middle aged kinda hot. Like something that you made to eat two days ago that gets heated up and you are pleasantly surpried to find it is still edible. Sooo, kind of hot but in the warmed-over sense. Which can be good. Like pizza.”

Artur Davis: Weiner and the Character Cops

Count me as being in the camp that thinks the press’s fixation on Anthony Weiner’s sexual misdeeds was not worthy of the live cable deathwatch before his latest confessional press conference: in fact, it was the raw equivalent of inadvertently wandering into a pornographic chat-room and the browser breaking down. That’s not to excuse the most brazen or lurid elements of Weiner’s actions, or to venture into the parlor game over what Weiner’s conduct, particularly if it persisted after the implosion of his career, says about his judgment or some other cryptic zone within his psyche.

But I’ll hold onto a broader point that I made over a year ago in the context of a set of similarly unbecoming revelations about a figure decidedly more consequential than Weiner: the late John F. Kennedy, who—if we believe an woman who stayed silent for almost 50 years until a book deal incentivized her—gave Weiner a run for his money in promiscous crudity and unlike Weiner, poached on his own official staff and even shared his spoils with another member of his entourage. My argument, then and now, is that given a choice between trying to extrapolate character from sordid private conduct that gets unmasked and the readily available public record, I’ll take the latter, because it almost always gives off fewer false positives and tells us infinitely more about just how a particular personality would use or misuse power.

In the context of JFK, his public courage on civil rights and forging a détente with the old Soviet Union struck me as more dispositive of what and who he was than the considerable evidence that his presidency would not have survived if the door had come off the hinges of his private life. The opposite is just as true for, oh, several thousand public figures whose private pristineness has never much interfered with their pursuit of enrichment at the public’s expense, or their trading of reelection for the price of failing to lead, or their mediocrity in wasting a role of responsibility out of laziness or disinterest.

Weiner is obviously no Kennedy, and but for highlighting the wrong handle and sending a dirty tweet to the wrong twenty-something, would have stayed stuck in obscurity. Therefore, he is like those thousand or so other mortal politicos who don’t require a deep character dive to understand. In fact, the public profile of the former congressman tells any discerning observer plenty: therein lies the thin record of a legislator of genuine intelligence who still managed to avoid shaping any major bill in the decade or so he spent in the House; who routinely subordinated his hearings and floor time to his cable appearances; and whose penchant for verbally abusing staffers and changing staff leadership was noteworthy even in an environment where petty, whim-driven browbeaters are a dime a dozen.

davis_artur-11If Weiner’s “narcissism”, the sin people with keystrokes keep assigning to him, is the fault that legitimizes the dig into his personal misdeeds, there is just as probative an exhibit in the first couple of months of his candidacy for Mayor: the Sunday Times profile that sounded weirdly but exactly like an ex athlete touting how easy it is to get free stuff, and bragging about the sale price of his jersey. And on a routine day, his stump speeches and debate performances have resembled more a mash-up of his extemporaneous speeches on the House floor than any deeply thought out platform for the world’s greatest city. He seems, for example, under the spell that a city that, if it had to keep books like a company would be insolvent, could sustain its own publicly run health insurance program: that, more than his sex talk, is what unmasks him as a fantasist.

I might cut the press voyeurism some slack, and might even justify the elevation to mainstream discourse of a website whose disclaimer mentions that it does not get in the weeds of discriminating between the true and the untrue (I avoid a link in the interest of not abetting their traffic) if dirty messages were actually necessary to unearth the real Anthony Weiner. But they aren’t. And that’s no ad hominem kick on a guy I admit I liked when I served with him: no, it’s instead a sober reflection about going into dark places on the flimsy excuse of finding light.

Nancy Slotnick: A Hallmark Moment

My 8-year-old son wrote me the card pictured above: “Love is the best thing a family can share.”    Somebody call Hallmark—I think they have a future employee.  But it got me thinking- how do we share love with family?  And that got me sad. Because sometimes we put our best foot forwards when we are in the company of strangers and we save the worst for family.

What kind of love do we share with family?  Insults, criticism, unbridled emotion, long boring stories, unreasonable expectations.

When people say on the street: “Give me some love,” I don’t think that’s what they’re referring to.

So I’m going to respectfully disagree with my son.  Or at least I’m going to ask him to clarify to what subset of the noun “love” he is referring.  Luckily my boy is wicked smart so he will know what the heck I am asking.

Nancy SlotnickOk, I conferred with my boy genius and he said that he was referring to “Fun with the family”, so that I will definitely support!

How many people can say to themselves“I had too much fun this year?”  I don’t even think there is such a thing. So I will show you the Shrinky Dink charm bracelet that was my gift that went along with the card.

And, with that, I am off to go have fun on my birthday, which includes not being bogged down with blogging unless it is fun.  Which this was. Off to ice skating!

And to save you Recovering Politician staffers the trouble of asking me—Yes, I did get the copyright permission from my son to reprint his card.  J

John Y. Brown, III: Book Sales


Just got to view a graph of my book sales during its first week.

All I can say is that if this were a roller coaster instead of a book sales chart, it would be epic! Everyone would want to try it!

In one week the book rocke…ted (downward) from the top 11,000 books selling on to the top 396,865. That is about a 4000% drop. Which is something few authors can claim. And have hard data to back it up. I claim it and have the data and am sharing it now.

There are a total of 8 million books on So, in theory, being ranked 496,865th isn’t as bad as it sounds.

Except that it is.

Click here to purchase

Click here to purchase

It sounds so …, what’s the word?….Sounds so far behind everyone else. I guess that’s what I’m saying. I mean…have you ever had to pass up 385,000 of anything to get back to where you started? At what point do you look at that blur of 385,000 somethings and say to yourself, “You know what? I’ll try to pass some. Maybe 20 or 25. But the other 384,975 or 384,980 can have it.” I think I’m about to reach that point.

Another option that I am going to suggest to is to re-frame how they describe rankings in my sales territory. Tomorrow I’ll probably hit, say, rank 511,150th. I’m not going to tell anyone about that when it happens. 396,865th is bad enough. But I might be tempted to brag about it if described the ranking instead as “You are now ranked in the bottom 7.5 million in book sales listed on” Something about being in the bottom 7.5 million makes a bigger statement, makes me feel part of something bigger, and doesn’t sound so darn lonely as 396,865.

Erica and Matt Chua: Biggest Regrets?

After 31 months of traveling the world there are still some things we missed, places we failed to see, things we would have done differently and lessons learned. As we reflect on our journey here are a few things we regret from our RTW trip.


Considering all the things we’ve done it’s hard to fathom I could regret not doing something. We went all out on this trip, discovering and doing more things than I knew existed before we started. There are a few things though that I wish I had done…especially considering I will probably not be there again.

God descended from heaven and spoke to Moses in a literal burning bush. That bush still exists. Seriously. It’s located in Saint Catherine’s Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula. It’s a place that God himself has been, yet I skipped it. I was worn out of religious sites after Israel. I didn’t want to go on the tours which are packaged with a climbing a holy mountain, something of which I’ve overdosed. These reasons for skipping it seem valid, but when will I be so close again? I should have gone.

I regret not walking across these mountains.

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Erica and Matt Chua: Biggest Regrets?

The Recovering Politician Bookstore


The RP on The Daily Show