The Internet Ruins Lives

love-of-the-internet

I’m trying out this new idea, an hour at a time:

Zero internet.

For an hour.

No checking email, no Twitter, no Facebook. No CBS Sports, no New York Times, no CNN. No following a rabbit trail from Eugene’s 10-Day Forecast on the Weather Channel’s site to Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live fiasco to Youtube’s “The Netherlands Welcomes Trump In His Own Words” (which, trust me, is worth 4 minutes and 4 seconds of your life).

But it’s SO difficult. Especially while writing on a laptop. I go to research something related to my writing, say, Hiroshima 1945, and suddenly I’m reading about how to make sushi with Willamette Valley trout, then off to a fly-fishing trout video filmed in western Montana, then how to pack raft down the Escalante River in Utah.

Wait, what was I talking about?

Right, the internet.

Yes, I recognize the irony of writing about no internet while posting on a blog…on the internet.

Meta.

But this is real. The addiction. The distraction that is the little guiding Safari compass or gorgeous little orange Firefox wrapped around a globe of pure, pure blue. I want to click them. I want to click them so badly.

Yet, I’ve found a way not to be on the internet, using a mantra. Each morning – when I get up to write, to write a real book, a manuscript, not a post or status update, but a real book – I say this to myself:

“The internet is broken. The internet is very, very broken right now.”

But sometimes I don’t believe myself, so I have to be emphatic:

“The internet is broken WORLD WIDE RIGHT NOW!!! So there’s no possible way it’ll work for the next hour. You can’t search or click anything. You can’t check your notifications.”

The only thing is, sometimes my finger acts of its own volition, just drags that little arrow down, down, down – to the toolbar at the bottom of the screen – and sometimes I even click that internet icon without meaning to and a page pops up, and…

I yell: HIT “COMMAND Q” BEFORE GOOGLE LOADS!

Damn. What is this internet thing, anyway? This vapid little pill?

I used to have a wrestling teammate in college who’d tried crystal meth once – only once, back when he was seventeen years old – and he talked about it for the rest of his life. He said, “There’s nothing like it. Nothing at all. And all I want to do is do it, do it all the time, every single night. I think about it all the time.”

I nod and smile. Say, “Yes, I know what you’re talking about. I too have this little addiction.”

Donald Trump & Selena Gomez, A Romance

I guess I can tell you what happened in the stock room now that TMZ broke the story with that video:

This was at the end of last summer. 2015. The start of August. When everything was happening all at once.

Selena came into the room. Selena Gomez. She walked right past the shipping crates. I knew it was her right away. I’d seen a lot of girls come and go during my time writing speeches for THE Donald, but I’d never seen anybody like Selena Gomez, and I didn’t have to Google her name to verify that it was actually her. Plus, she’s that pretty in real life. She looks exactly like she does in her Vevo videos, reminding me of a cross between a young mountain lion and a big-eyed, cartoon Disney princess.

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I was hiding out in a back corner, trying to figure out how to fix the latest of what we – on the team – liked to call “straight shooter issues.” I’d already dealt with on-air cursing, off-color debate comments, and – during the last two days – some sticky misogynistic moments. Also, I was trying to spin the persistent rumor that if THE Donald had only invested the “small 9 million-dollar loan” from his father, and had not worked at all, not a single day in his entire adult life, he’d actually be a lot richer than he is now. The problem with this inheritance/investment issue was that I’d done the research…and the financial analysts were correct. Also, the math was so simple that the average 7th-grader could do it.

Thankfully, American voters don’t want to do any math – not even 7th-grade math – so I just needed to twist a few financial facts, declare a bit of “liberal Dem bias,” throw in a red herring or two, add a sprinkle of Ad Hominem against Hillary, and a smooth little non sequitur to get on to a better topic.

Anyway, I was working on solving the inheritance problem, making it go away like everything else.

But Selena Gomez came into the room and I stopped working. She stood right there in the middle of the stockroom. She seemed like the kind of girl who stands in the middle of a room – no wallflower, is probably used to standing in the middle of every room she ever enters – so she was right there where I could see her. But she couldn’t see me because she was looking at her cell phone. Then – still looking at her phone – she turned, and her back was to me.

I was kind of hemmed into a corner, halfway hidden behind two shipping crates, sitting on the floor, leaning back against the sheetrock, my laptop resting on my legs. These are the kinds of places I go whenever THE Donald says something really, really ridiculous. I like to work in some small, backroom sort of place where I know I won’t be disturbed. So even if Selena turned around again, she might not’ve seen me in my slunk-down, half-hidden position.

I knew that I had a long day of research and speech writing. This was also right before Roger Stone quit our team (or, sorry, was “fired” by THE Donald), and it was also the time period when the Fox News anchors were mad about a few things, and I hadn’t even told Roger where I’d be. But he didn’t care as long as I showed up at the end of the day with a clear sound bite, a solid Tweet, and a full-length speech. That was what I needed to keep my job. It was a complicated summer but just like that it was also a very simple summer. The expectations were clear: Make THE Donald look like a titan of industry with at least the political acumen of a Bush brother. We knew that’d be enough to win the GOP nomination and maybe even the entire presidency.

Anyway, Selena was standing in the middle of the room, her back to me, her head bowed to her phone like she was praying, and I had a little time to look her over. I noticed that she was dressed up, too dressed up for the middle of the day, standing in the middle of a stock room in this part of town. She had on a little black cocktail dress, black heels, a small black purse in her left hand, and her hair was pulled up. I could tell that she wanted to look good, and the truth was, she did. Plus, she smelled good. Her vanilla perfume had already permeated the room, making it so I couldn’t focus on the laptop in front of me.

I was watching Selena as she watched her phone, and that was when THE Donald came in. Roger walked in with him and said, “Twenty minutes. That’s all,” and THE Donald gave him a pouty face before adjusting the front of his hairpiece. Then Roger left.

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Selena put her phone away, tucked it into that little black purse.

THE Donald said, “Don’t put your phone away. I love the things you’ve been sending me.”

Selena said, “You like the pics?”

“Oh yeah, I like those a LOT!” THE Donald enjoyed emphasizing the last word in most of his sentences, something I’d learned to use all-caps for or a series of exclamation points when I wrote his speeches.

Selena said, “But I heard that you don’t like Mexicans.” She moved her hips a little  when she said that, like she was dancing to some kind of music that no one could hear, and I’m sure she got THE Donald’s attention with her little shimmy and shake.

He stepped closer to her. “I would make a Mexican exception for YOU.”

Selena touched the lapel on his suit. “You would do that for me?”

“Without a doubt. You’re such a cute little…” THE Donald touched the tip of her nose, “…foreigner.”

Selena said, “You really think I’m cute?”

“Of course I do.”

Selena tipped her head to the side, and made a sad face. “’Cute’ is something Justin never called me. I tried every trick I knew, but he only thinks…” She stopped.

“Thinks what? You can tell me. My friends say that I’m a great LISTENER.”

“Well,” she said, “Justin just thinks…well, he just thinks prostitutes are cute.”

“That’s CRAZY!” THE Donald said. “You’re cuter than most prostitutes I’ve ever been with.”

“Oh, Donald, say that again.”

“You really ARE. And that’s the kind of TRUTH Obama is always afraid to say, the real truth. The difficult and obvious TRUTH!!!”

Selena started playing with THE Donald’s tie. She was sliding her fingers up and down the stripes, slow and smooth. She said, “I’ve been wanting to see you in private.”

“That’s normal. A lot of people want to see me in private. I’m a wealthy guy and my time is limited. But, of course, I want to see you in private too. There’s something I’ve been thinking about for us. It’s a big idea. World-CHANGING.”

I’d been listening this whole time – even taking notes on my laptop – but now I leaned forward to make sure that I didn’t miss a single word. I was scared of whatever THE Donald was about to say, scared for Selena, scared a little bit for her, but even more scared for me.

`           We – on the team – tried to limit the total number of ideas THE Donald was allowed to come up with each week. Roger was always telling him, “This is a one idea week, okay. That’s all we can handle right now. One.” Then he’d hold up a single finger for emphasis and THE Donald would look like a kindergartener who’d been sent to the corner by the teacher. He would lower his eyebrows and push his lips out. His hair would slide forward and flap a little bit on top, and I wanted to tell him to never make that face around the media but unfortunately I’d seen him make that face almost every single day I’d been with his campaign.

But THE Donald wasn’t making that face now. Right now, he looked happy. Or to be more accurate, he looked excited. Selena was still rubbing his tie and he had this big, wide-eyed look on his face as if Roger were allowing him a TEN-idea week. THE Donald leaned in to Selena, his face close to hers, and said, in a stage-whisper, “Run with me.”

“What?” she said.

“Run with me. Be my vice PRESIDENT!”

“Could I?” she said. “I mean, would people really think that I was…”

“Qualified?” he said. “Yes, of course. You’re FAMOUS.”

“Oh, that’s all you need to be?”

“Obviously. That’s all anyone needs to be ANYTHING in this country. We could be famous TOGETHER!!!”

“As running mates?”

“As lovers AND as running mates. Plus, you’d solve my Mexican problem!”

“Oh my god,” she said. “That is so sweet.”

“I know, see? Megyn Kelly was wrong. I really can be sweet to women.”

Selena pulled THE Donald’s face down and kissed him. Then she said, “Be sweet to me, Donald.”

He kissed her, then stopped and smelled her hair. “I’ll treat you better than Ivana.”

“Who’s Ivana?”

“No one, Sweetie. Shhh…” THE Donald put his finger to Selena’s lips.

Then they kissed some more, and THE Donald’s hair shifted a couple of inches to the right.

Selena pulled back. “Wait, I thought I heard that the vice president has to be 35 years old, or something like that.”

“Is that a RULE?!” THE Donald tipped his head back, held his hair, and laughed. “I don’t follow rules. That’s why I’m a breath of fresh air in this election. That’s why I’m something DIFFERENT. That’s why I’m going to WIN!”

“Oh, Donald,” Selena said, “hold me like Justin never did.”

THE Donald’s hands roamed down her body, and he whispered, “You know I will.”

 

…and the rest of what I saw, I probably shouldn’t describe.

Anyway, TMZ has that grainy video footage that – thank god – I’m not visible in.

 

Later that day – after a double-highball at a nearby bar to get rid of some lingering images in my mind, then two shots of espresso to clear my head – I came up with the following pieces of promotional material.

 

The Sound Bite:

Donald Trump has announced his running mate…

None other than the incomparable Selena Gomez.

 

The Tweet for @realDonaldTrump:

I love Mexicans so much that I’m sleeping with one AND running with one AS WELL!!!

Vote #SelenaAndTHEDonald

 

Plus, I wrote the speech that day, THE speech, the one that most people are saying will win Donald Trump the presidency of the United States.

7 Reasons Not To Teach High School

After receiving a particularly fear-mongering “Safe Schools” e-newsletter this morning…

And after thinking about how difficult it is to be me…

What a rough life I have…

How much of a victim I am…

And how few things are just handed to me…

I decided to post this very serious essay:

7 Reasons Not To Teach High School

By Peter Brown Hoffmeister

 

I didn’t particularly love high school. No one does, of course, except for that one really annoying popular rich kid who, when speaking at graduation, spews some garbage about the best four years of his life or how prom night changed his life forever.

But for the rest of us, for the normal people, the real people of the world, high school is something we suffer through so we can get on with our lives. On to better years, college years in which we choose what we want to study. Then come careers that we’re passionate about. Family life. Traveling. Maybe a few amazing outdoor adventures.

Most of us don’t choose to repeat high school. But for some reason, a few masochists decide to return to high school, not as students, but as teachers. None of us know why we do this. It’s probably some combination of the following equation:

 

Zero Talent + Social Activism + A College Degree In Absolutely Anything =

MAYBE I SHOULD BE A TEACHER!

 

I had all of the elements of this equation, and after thirteen years as a teacher (less than halfway to a 30-year pension), I’ve realized that teaching high school is actually sentencing myself to an eternity of high school. Other people graduate in 4 years, but I’ve been in high school for 17.

There are countless reasons I shouldn’t have been a teacher, but here are 7 reasons why no one should ever teach high school.

 

  1. School Shooters

High schools are dangerous. You don’t believe me? Watch a little Fox News. According to the diligent and honest reporters at that network, schools are shot up all the time. Going into a U.S. high school is like being a Jew in Syria, like challenging a warlord to a machete fight in Central Africa, or picking an armload of poppies in a field in Afghanistan.

Since Sandy Hook, something like 57,997 schools have been shot up in the United States.

Students bring weapons to school all the time, hide pistols and AR-15s in their lockers. Axes and knives and 9 millimeters and semi-automatic .22 long rifles.

Most boys in trench coats are hiding Mossberg shotguns underneath those coats.

And the average high school boy will kill a teacher given the right combination of autism and access to firearms. That’s a fact.

 

  1. No One Respects a Teacher

Be honest. Does any kid say, “I want to be a teacher when I grow up.” No. That’s stupid.

Kids want to be doctors or firemen or astronauts or soldiers. They want to be heroes, not jokes. Does any kid dream of standing in front of a bored class of 35 people so he can assign some homework? Is that an exciting future to aspire to?

And – be honest now – do you have a single teacher that’s cool enough to start a pop band or be the star of a reality television series on the Discovery Channel?

Clearly not. And speaking of TV, are teachers ever asked to be on the Today Show? Are their highlights ever shown on ESPN? Does the Discovery Channel have a show called Teachers Digging for Educational Gold?

Parents only email teachers to complain. Administrators hold meetings to assign more work for teachers. And students never say, “I really wish I could hang out with my teacher this weekend.”

Respect isn’t something granted to teachers. Respect isn’t something that’s going to happen if you choose this line of work.

 

  1. Teachers Work Too Much

It’s so hard to be middle class in America. And middle class means working.

Including grading papers and prep work, the average teacher works 50 to 60 hours a week during the school year. And it is a fact that teaching is the only profession that requires more than 40 hours of work during a workweek. Every other worker in the United States gets to the 40-hour limit on a Friday and just goes home. But not teachers.

Proponents of teaching might argue that teachers have 10 weeks off in the summer, or that they also have spring break and winter break as well. But that argument minimizes the stress of impending teaching. Most teachers spend their entire summers thinking and worrying about the next school year. Even in a hammock in July, a teacher never forgets the horrors of working with high school students. A teacher might be sipping a minty drink on a beach somewhere, but she’s spending every single second thinking about the next lecture she has to deliver.

 

  1. High School Kids Cuss Too Much

A recent study by Harvard University or somewhere else (I’m not really sure where I got this) proved that 100% of cuss-words are spoken by the 13-19 year-old demographic, and high school students are in the very middle of that age-group. As an adult, and having been around other adults, I can honestly say that adults don’t ever use swear words. So, clearly, swear words must only exist as linguistic vehicles for the physically immature.

Although I’ve heard many people argue that high school students can be articulate and witty and engaging and funny, I’ve seen quite a few teen movies (which are probably more accurate). Therefore, a teen is most likely to say something like this: “Fuck yeah. That’s, like, fuckin’ total shit. Just because he’s a douche-bag doesn’t mean I have to do whatever the fuck he wants. Ya know?”

My ears are sometimes literally bleeding when I get home from work.

 

  1. High School Kids Are Addicted To Technology

According to some great source, 96.7% of cell phone use is by high school students. Teens text and scroll and update and “like” all day long. They’re on Twitter and Facebook. Instagram and SnapChat. They don’t put their phones down. They can’t put their phones down.

According to another great source from the internet, most adults don’t even have phones, and only 1.4% of the adult population uses a phone on a daily basis. All Sprint and AT&T ads are geared toward teenagers, and it is scientifically proven that hell on earth is a line at a Verizon store. But where do we find teenagers waiting for new iphones?

Exactly.

 

  1. High School Kids Are Out Of Control

High school kids are physically incapable of listening. Okay, maybe not physically incapable, but they won’t listen. Trust me. They’re too busy drinking and using drugs, fornicating in the hallways and stairwells, planning the next rager at the quarterback’s house.

Some people believe that public displays of affection were developed by the Italians after World War I, but PDA was, in fact, first implemented by U.S. high school sophomores in New York City, and spread school-wide and nation-wide soon after.

Other signs that high school students are out of control:

They wear hip-hoppity shorts and listen to rap bands.

They speak in an ever-changing slew of slang.

They touch each other even if they’re not even dating.

And they won’t give you enough physical space. Ever.

 

  1. High School Students Are Too Demanding

My final point is this. If you teach high school, your students will want you to teach them something EVERY DAY.

They will want to learn something in your class.

High school students won’t just sit there and enjoy being bored.

They won’t take notes with smiles on their faces.

They won’t listen the entire time that you lecture for 70 minutes straight.

And after they’re out sick, they’ll ask you if they can make up quizzes and homework as if it is your job to educate them even though they are the ones who contracted viruses and missed school days.