“Social Media is Bullshit” by B.J. Mendelson

B.J. Mendelson is a former online marketer who is fed up with the lies and the all-encompassing positivism surrounding the promise of social media. Some of his attempts to be funny are grating, but his honesty is refreshing and is what makes reading this book worthwhile.

This book’s main point is that social media is bullshit for small businesses (“like us on Facebook!”) that don’t have the massive financial backing of giant corporations to launch a Facebook/Twitter/YouTube/Yelp!/Instagram marketing campaign. The lie that these avenues for getting customers is a lie propagated by marketers who stand to gain from running these small businesses’ social media presence. The most effective advice the author has for these companies is a quickly-loading, uncluttered webpage and focusing on personal relationships with their real-life customers.

This book also has a practical lesson for everyone, even though it’s only a peripheral argument. Social media is bullshit for regular people because companies like Facebook gather all the value their users produce without giving anything back. Facebook owns all the content you create, as well as the advertising dollars your eyeballs generate. And that, my friends, IS bullshit!

Further Links
Samuel Brannan—Morman businessman who became a millionaire publicizing the California Gold Rush of the 1840s.
Adbusters Kalle Lasn—Baby Boomer journalist who incited the Occupy Wall Street campaign
New Yorker article: “Lessons from Late Night” by Tina Fey
Telecommunications Act of 1996
Cisco’s “Ted from Accounting”—Cisco’s abysmal failure to replicate Old Spice Man’s advertising success (I could find tons of commentary on this but not the actual video.)
Chewbacca defense—a joke from South Park that has become legal terminology to describe a legal strategy in which the aim of the argument seems to be to deliberately confuse the jury rather than actually refute the case of the other side.

Buy on Amazon

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“Cracked: Putting Broken Lives Together Again” by Dr. Drew Pinsky

I’ve always been a fan of Dr. Drew as a radio personality but didn’t know much about his everyday personal and professional life. It feels like he he left nothing out in this book. His busy professional life is covered in great detail (he runs a private practice as a general care physician, a drug treatment facility, and at night answers calls on the long-running radio show Loveline), but he also opens up about his own fears and neuroses.

However, the book is mostly about drug addiction and treatment. No matter what anyone says about drug addiction (is it a disease? a failure of impulse control? Poor parenting?) what is readily apparent from this book is that opiate withdrawal is brutal. If nothing else, read this book to scare yourself about and find out about prescription drug use, which is killing about 44 Americans per day.

Further Links:
The Dr. Drew Podcast—specifically my favorite ones pertaining to addiction/treatment:
David Sheff (wrote a couple books and this article recounting his son’s drug problems)
Chris Kennedy Lawford (ex-addict who’s interviewed hundreds of treatment experts for a book)
Bob Forrest (huuuuge ex-junkie and now a rehab counselor)
What the professionals are saying: The Publisher’s Weekly review
Vicodin addiction is linked to profound hearing loss and TV medical dramas give misleading medical information (which should be no surprise!)
Buy on Amazon: Cracked: Life on the Edge in a Rehab Clinic

Vocabulary and Stuff of Interest:
somatically—of the body; bodily; physical. ‘…somatically preoccupied heroin addicts.’
labile—liable to change; easily altered. Easily broken down or displaced.
turgor—a sign used by health care workers to assess fluid loss or dehydration.

Quotes and Anecdotes: Dr. Drew on the Emptiness of Entertainment and In Drug Rehab With Dr. Drew.

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“The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom” by Jonathan Haidt

This book is amazing, it’s the rare book that has something to offer everyone. I say that because who doesn’t want to live a ‘happy life’?

The final paragraph summed up the book better than I ever could:

What can you do to have a good, happy, fulfilling, and meaningful life? What is the answer to the question of the purpose within life? I believe the answer can be found only by understanding the kind of creature that we are, divided in the many ways we are divided. We were shaped by individual selection to be selfish creatures who struggle for resources, pleasure, and prestige. and we were shaped by group selection to be hive creatures who long to lose ourselves in something larger. We are social creatures who need love and attachments, and we are industrious creatures who needs for effectance, able to enter a state of vital engagement with our work. We are the rider and we are the elephant, and our mental health depends on the two working together, each drawing on the others’ strengths. I don’t believe there is an inspiring answer to the question, “What is the purpose of life?” Yet by drawing on ancient wisdom and modern science, we can find compelling answers to the question of the purpose within life. The final version of the happiness hypothesis is that happiness comes from between. Happiness is not something that you can find, acquire, or achieve directly. You have to get the conditions right and then wait. Some of these conditions are within you, such as coherence among the parts and levels of your personality. Other conditions require relationships to things beyond you: Just as plants need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, people need love, work, and a connection to something larger. It is worth striving to get right the relationships between yourself and others, between yourself and your work, and between yourself and something larger than yourself. If you get these relationships right, a sense of purpose will emerge.

Further Links:
www.happinesshypothesis.com: the author’s website, filled with supplemental information.
Quotes and Anecdotes: Theories of Mind Throughout the AgesThe First Division: Mind vs. BodyThe Second Division: Left vs. Right ; The Third Division of the Mind: New vs. Old ; The Fourth Division of the Mind: Controlled vs. Automatic Thinking ; and A Brilliant Study of Moral Hypocrisy.
Buy on Amazon: The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

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“And the Sea Will Tell” by Vincent Bugliosi

“An ocean is forever asking questions,
And writing them aloud along the shore.”
—Edwin Arlington Robinson

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf since Christmas 2011, and it was author/attorney Vincent Bugliosi’s (August 18, 1934 – June 6, 2015) death that encouraged me to finally read it. And I’m glad I did. Much like his earlier book, Helter Skelter, this book details murders that took place under mysterious circumstances, the specifics of which Bugliosi had to piece together in order to bring the case to trial. The first part of the book reads like adventure/mystery fiction, with the later parts covering the ensuing legal proceedings. Bugliosi interjects the narrative of the investigation and trial with his own legal theories and observations; and manages to keep the writing compelling throughout the book’s 729 pages.

(spoilers ahead) 

In the summer of 1974, two couples took a long-term getaway to the remote 4.6 sq. mi. island Palmyra, which is positioned in the Pacific between the Hawaii and Australia. They both were hoping to be the only people on this otherwise deserted island. The two couples couldn’t be more different: Mac and Muff Graham are seasoned sailors who went around the world on their honeymoon. The other couple, Buck Walker and Jennifer Jenkins, are rootless ‘hippies’ who are out of their element so far from civilization. They are out on the open seas for the thrill, without having the knowledge to survive. They barely make it to the island in their rundown boat and don’t have the provisions that Mac and Muff have with them.

I should probably mention that Walker is a convicted felon running from the law. Jennifer is aware of this and has conflicted feelings about it, but sees him as a fundamentally good person.

Long story short, after a couple months on the island Mac and Muff disappear and Buck and Jennifer are spotted in a Hawaii harbor in the missing couple’s boat.

No one will ever know for sure what exactly transpired far out on this Pacific atoll, but Vincent Bugliosi takes on the case to defend Jennifer from the murder charges. Buck Walker’s conviction is a slam dunk, and he ended up in prison until 2007. Of the two, only Muff’s body was ever found, and that was six years after the couple disappeared. In the end, Bugliosi makes a convincing argument that Buck Walker acted alone in the murders of Mac and Muff Graham, and Jennifer is acquitted of the charges.

“Mac Graham, we can speculate with a degree of certainty, lies inside that last missing container. But are his remains still in their watery grave in the Palmyra lagoon, where at any time, like Muff’s, they could surface and wash ashore? Or has his makeshift coffin washed out through the channel into the murky depths of the sea that Mac so loved?

Someday, perhaps the sea will tell.”

Further Links:
Vincent Bugliosi’s New York Times obituary
Buck Walker’s death notice in the Honolulu Advertiser, 2010
Jerome Kern ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’
Quotes and Anecdotes: Consciousness of Innocence, On Judges, Trial Preparation, and Jury Selection Prejudice.
Buy on Amazon: And the Sea Will Tell

Vocabulary and Stuff of Interest:
Caryl Chessman, the ‘Red Light Bandit’
Palmyra, the scene of the crime
Allard Lowenstein
Massie Trial, Hawaii
peroration–the concluding part of a speech, typically intended to inspire enthusiasm in the audience.
redound– contribute greatly to (a person’s credit or honor). ‘This confusion could only redound to her detriment.’
avuncular–like an uncle ‘despite his easygoing manner and avuncular looks, he could be tough and direct when necessary.’
splenetic–bad-tempered; spiteful. ‘his splenetic repertoire.’
sybaritic–fond of sensuous luxury or pleasure; self-indulgent. ‘Kool-Aid was a sybaritic luxury on a deserted island in the tropics.’
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What is Moral Hazard?

Ahh…a life without consequence.

Moral hazard is created by a law or situation that incentivizes someone to take on risk with the assumption that someone else will pay the expected cost of that risk. It doesn’t remove the downside, but defers it to someone else. Without fail, this encourages the people who won’t be negatively effected to act irresponsibly. In removing concern for the consequences of a risky behavior, a moral hazard entices someone to act without regard to the consequences of their actions.

Examples can be found in large and small groups, from the doctor defrauding Medicare and pocketing the taxpayer money (when you steal from everybody you steal from nobody in particular) to the child carelessly making dirty dishes because he knows his mom will clean them.

Although it’s typically used to describe the unintended and undesirable side effects of a rule, some moral hazards can have a net benefit on society. In 1970, for instance, Congress imposed a fifty-dollar cap on consumers’ liability for unauthorized credit card use. This shifted responsibility for secure credit transactions to the credit card companies and in time made the Internet a safer place to go shopping.

Unfortunately, there are many more negative examples of morally hazardous corruption: student loans that encourage well-intentioned students to overpay for degrees they’ll spend the remainder of their youth paying for, and health insurance programs that subsidize treatments for smoking-induced emphysema or organ transplants for heavy drinkers.

Moral Hazard isn’t a ‘thing’ in itself, which confused me for a long time, but quality of a given circumstance. It’s always prudent to consider the moral hazard of any situation you orchestrate, whether it be in the rules you come up with or the way you treat other people.

Source:  Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better


“Moral hazard is when somebody takes your money and is not responsible for it.”

–Gordon Gekko, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps