I didn’t plan on taking two weeks off from my writing.
But I did.
The mechanics of writing a daily column come easy. Natural even.
Conveying genuine enthusiasm for subject matter is what has become far, far, far more challenging.
Mustering up motivation, particularly when faced with the creeping reality of long-form narrative’s indisputable decline has become a mental gauntlet. Market realities are an inhibitor of the creative process. Ask any writer worth a damn. Why toil over a keyboard when 250 viewers might click the content, on a good day?
Indeed, we writers know that we’ve been uprooted and supplanted and overgrown by wild vines and weeds. Our effervescent poison ivy is the inherent shallowness of the literary gutter known as “social media,” whether it’s in the form of Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, and the millions of mindless faux-celeb mavens who have come to dominate the popular cultural landscape, yet who are utterly lacking in originally or relevance, but still perpetually spewing Mountain Dew as though it’s Chateau Margaux. Everything’s infected — poker, entertainment, and now even politics, which has become entertainment. This void of serious discussion and lack of depth carries with it devastating consequences.
I don’t know of any decent writer who specializes in serving up an up-to-the-minute dose of Big Macs. Anyone who posts more than 20 Tweets a day should be cut off from society and tossed onto an island somewhere surrounded by sharks. Seriously, who is so goddamned important they think they’re opinion is worth 20 shout outs a day? By design, we who write for a living, or try to, are predisposed to put our mind into lots of introspection and contemplation. Nevertheless, we find ourselves competing for what’s become a dwindling sliver of real estate, and one that’s aging fast. Gee, I wonder if Noam Chomsky gets pissed off that he’s got 1/100th the number of followers as a Kardashian?
Inexplicably, I read over 250 tweets today. Don’t ask me why. Bored, I guess. Yet, I can’t remember a single fucking one of them. None of them are worth remembering. None. And, I’m pretty selective about who I follow. Come to think of it, I’m starting a PURGE list, a group of babblers I will seek to kill off weekly. Most Twitter posts are the equivalent of mental bowel movements. And if you follow more than 500 people, let me just lay it out for you — your social life is a basically and overflowing septic tank.
Even though I don’t remember the fluff of Twitter, I still do have great memory recall. See, I remember things that are important. I sure as shit remember the excellent column written by Matt Taibbi I read in Rolling Stone online this morning, which ran about 3,000 words. If forced to, I could probably recite half of it close to verbatim.
What does that say? What does that reveal? To me, it reveals there’s a lot of goddamn time and energy being wasted on petty trivial cultural fast food that no one will fucking remember 5 minutes from now. Fact: 99 percent of the stuff on Twitter and Facebook is worthless and devoid of substance — one reason why I’m starting to seriously limit my time there to visits about once or twice a day.
I wish a lot more people would be curious. We need that. Our thoughts should carry some sense of gravity. Even thoughts that aren’t fully developed nor realized yet should mean something. Meanwhile, social media floats in the air like Brownian Movement. It’s just….there. Like gathering dust.
Want an example? How does this mindless rich-kid fuck of an impostor get 1,000,000 views [SEE HERE]. By contrast, query some of the greatest thinkers of our time, discussing the most important issues of human existence. Check out those numbers and compare them with what masquerades as en vogue, and then try and maintain a shred of respect for popular opinion. You can’t. It’s hopeless.
Too cynical? Yeah, probably. I’m bitter as hell about this yet am hopeless to do much about it, other than write on and encourage others who write and want to write to keep on doing the same. It’s the only defense we have. As least now you know why I took my unplanned leave of absence. I. JUST. COULDN’T. FUCKING. DEAL. WITH. IT.
I’m not going to hammer out book reviews on some obscure text on Stalin or review a new Argentine movie if my prose is going to be covered in the Brownian movement of chip counts, cute kittens, mindless political attacks, and fanboy sports circlejerkdom. On second thought, maybe that’s precisely what I’ll do. It’s my defiance. It’s my defense.
Now, on to what’s been happening in the world….
A month ago, I wrote that Bernie Sanders should have dropped gracefully out of the presidential race. Recent events have proven me right.
Whether in show biz or modern politics, it’s critical the audience is left salivating for more. You give them everything you possibly can, but then leave them wanting something they can’t have. That’s why the greatest bands and singers leave the stage after three brilliant encores and the crowd still stays on its feet clapping and cheering. That’s why we overrate those who die too young — be it James Dean, John Kennedy, Kurt Cobain, or Amy Winehouse. We wanted more.
Trouble is now, we’ve seen a lot of Bernie Sanders and heard more than enough of his populist progressive message. Yes, I was with him and did my part to support his candidacy. Yes, he was right on the issues. Yes, he diverted attention to the problems with our system.
But then, the progressive candidate in this race lost. Yeah, we covered the spread. We should be proud of that. We completed a rebuilding phase and the future looks damn promising. But let’s also acknowledge that we lost the 2016 presidential race and now we’re oddly faced with the most establishment-oriented candidate imaginable on the Democrat side, and perhaps the most outlandish circus act in history as the Republican nominee. It’s going to be a wild fall, and the sooner the pretenders get out of the race, the better for them, and for us.
Sen. Sanders deserves extraordinary respect and appreciation for all that he’s done. But at this stage of the rigged political crap game played with loaded dice (fuck you, DNC) it’s time to walk away and plan for another day. Sen. Sanders tried as he did to fit in among the party hacks, is starting to taste like that grizzled 64-ounce tomahawk steak that’s free if you eat it all in one sitting. The first part of it tastes delicious, but the more we have to ingest and as it gets colder and tough, risks the very real possibility of embarrassment. Senator, you are the last ten ounces of a steak that’s now at room temperature and no one wants to eat it anymore. Time to ask for the dogie bag and wrap up the campaign, with some dignity.
Please. I’m begging. Bernie Sanders must leave the race now. That doesn’t mean capitulation. He should not be so eager to endorse Hillary Clinton. Make her work for it. Make her work to earn our votes. If Clinton takes us for granted, she will lose the 2016 presidential election.
There, I said it.
Professionally speaking, I left the production side of “Poker Night in America,” on CBS Sports. That decision was reached by mutual agreement just a few months ago.
Nearly three years earlier, the show’s creator Todd Anderson gave me an extraordinary opportunity. I will always be appreciative of that trust. I really like what the show has accomplished, so far. But it’s also a good time for me to move on, and for the Poker Night crew to move into a new direction. Seriously, I can’t say enough positive things about the team that works on that show. They are some of the most interesting people I have ever worked with.
That said, I’m sticking with Poker Night in a consulting role. I will help to bring in new venues and tour stops, and perhaps even some advertising. But my involvement on the show is over for now, at least regarding content and production.
All good things must pass.
Another World Series of Poker is approaching. It’s now less than one month away.
People often ask me if I’m looking forward to yet another year.
Truthfully, yes and no.
I’ve worked, played, and covered about half of the WSOPs, so far. My first one was back in 1985.
Every WSOP is new and exciting to me. For instance, I can’t wait to see old friends and meet new people. It’s really cool to meet just about every winner and see their faces when they earn life-changing money. The happiness is infectious.
But from the standpoint of physical health and a personal life, the WSOP is challenging. It’s all consuming. Frankly, I don’t enjoy the grind. No writer or reporter does.
Yet strangely , when we are asked, we all say the same thing: There’s not place we’d rather be between May 30-July 21. This is our Olympic Games. Our Academy Awards. Our Super Bowl.
I originally moved to Las Vegas many years ago because I was a dreamer, at heart.
I had the dream of playing poker and betting sports for a living.
Now, oddly enough, with no real job for the last 60 days and for at least another month, I’ve been doing nothing but playing poker and betting sports seven days a week.
I wondered — do I still have what it takes? There’s a few punch lines in there somewhere, and I invite you to fling it my way. Go ahead. But seriously, so far as professional gambling goes, there’s a myth associated with the trade that gamblers who take their craft seriously win or lose huge sums of money. Actually, I have observed the opposite to be true.
Many high-stakes “gamblers” have other sources of income. And so, there’s an illusion they are professional gamblers. Most of them are not. The actual professional gambler is someone who probably bangs out $20,000 to $100,000 a year grinding the small advantages. The real professionals aren’t betting $50,000 a game. They’re usually betting $300 or $500 a game.
Both sports and poker have changed significantly since I did this full time for the majority of my income. The games are certainly tougher, both to handicap and to beat. Still, I have this stubborn curiosity and want to know if I can still squeeze out a profit.
So far, my sports wagering has been off the charts. I’m running white hot now, in basketball and baseball. I realize some of this is just dumb luck. But, I’m proud to say the sports have been paying the electric bill, at least the last few months.
Poker, on the other hand, has been kicking my ass. Given my financial situation, I’ve been playing low-variance games, and been the tightest player in the game most of the time (which would shock those who have played with me over the past 25 years). Trouble is, I’ve just gotten hammered on 5-6 huge pots that for me would have paid my monthly bills, but which ended up on someone else’s stack. I’m still troubled by my poker results and have to ask myself serious questions at some point if I am still capable of beating the game.
That’s a tough discussion to have with oneself, but which requires honesty.
Finally, I considered issuing bonds and asking readers if they would like to invest in a couple of genuine book projects that I’m now working on. Consider this to be a teaser.
Writing has been the concentration of my life during the past 20 years to so, and I’d love to hammer out a book a year, plus the usual columns here and there which I think would be modestly successful given the subject matter and my contacts, notwithstanding my anger at the diminishing market for long-form narrative (see, this rambling column does come full circle). Surely, there are rich investors out there who see the potential in great storytelling, not to mention movie deals, ala the Stu Ungar project.
I considered putting an offer out there, but at heart I’m too proud or stubborn or stupid to ask people for money. Contact me offline if you want to know more.
Until a few rich benefactors step in and help me finish some of these writing projects, I’m going to have to rely on sports betting, and the occasional poker gig to get by.
Feel free to contact me offline at: firstname.lastname@example.org.