Category Archives: Opinion

Jim’s observations and opinions on things

Trump Lies, Update #3

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So yeah, it’s really, really hard to keep up with these. This week, I’m including lies told by his minions, so we expand the lying level to it’s logical extension. And, of course, these are all Trump’s lies as well, unless he specifically pushes back against them. As they say, the fish stinks from the head, and he is definitely the head of this Train Ride to Hell.

Just a sampling. I’m including the link down below.

  • Trump said his rich friends could not borrow money because of Dodd-Frank. Seriously?
  • The January employment report, which shows job gains in December. Before Trump was President. And he took credit for those gains, which is absurd.
  • Trump said Sanctuary Cities breed crime, when stats show the opposite is true.
  • Press Secretary Spicer said that current protests against the Trump regime are fake, i.e. paid protesters and they are not grass roots. Lie. If this is true can I please have my check? I need it yesterday and I’ve already been in at least 4 anti-Trump demos.
  • Trump said the murder rate is the highest it’s been in 47 years. This is a lie, the murder rate in the US has been falling since the 1980s.

Here’s the entire list.

 

I expect that next week we’ll be reporting that Michael Flynn has resigned as National Security Advisor. Of course that will be a lie, he will have been fired.

 

How that Hopey Changey Stuff Worked Out

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Memo to: Sarah “The Quitter” Palin

From: Jim A.

RE: Hopey Changey Stuff

Sarah! Regarding your query:

Actually, in the end it’s kinda worked out pretty good. Herewith, a few things that affected me directly or that I thought were significant:

  • my IRA, which I hope to actually use someday, has more than doubled in value since its nadir in 2009. That’s without any new deposits whatsoever since the end of 2009. (The stock market has tripled from its 2009 low, all during the Obama years.)
  • We have marriage equality in the United States now, fully supported by Obama. I can get married if I find the right guy. Wow.
  • LGBT men and women can now openly serve in the US Military, i.e. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is history, so if you’re queer and want to be a soldier, you can go sign up.
  • Obama ended the 2008 Great Recession and prevented a Depression.
  • Obama saved the U.S. Auto Industry.
  • The Obama administration cut the unemployment rate in half since 2009.
  • I’ve been able to get and pay for health insurance because of the ACA, because of Obamacare.
  • Obama opened up relations with Cuba. Finally someone did the reasonable thing.
  • Obama terminated our enemy, Osama bin Laden.
  • Obama stopped deporting DREAMERS, which hugely benefits our country and economy.

that’s just a sampling, and there’s so so so much more! Here’s a long list with citations. I’ll miss the grace and wit and the lack of drama at the top. I wish our President and his family only the best as they find their footing in their new lives as citizens.

Car Free in L.A. for Three Years – and counting

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Three years ago on June 7, 2013, I drove into CarMax in Burbank, California, and sold them my car. They gave me a check for $6000.

The Blogger at an Orange Line stop, waiting patiently.

The Blogger at an Orange Line stop, waiting patiently.

I walked back to my apartment via Magnolia Boulevard. It took more than an hour. During the early summer walk, I had numerous moments of “oh my god, what have you done?” but I did not fall into the earth, wailing or otherwise.

I’d planned to go car free, and had been thinking about it, reading about it for years. There were lots of reasons, from wanting to be more environmentally conscious to wanting to save money to frustration with driving and especially with parking.

I made lots of dry runs with LA’s Metro system, did lots of bike riding on streets with bike lanes (and others without them, but rarely) and started figuring out places I could walk to in my neighborhood of Valley Village.

Still, it was very strange to arrive back at my apartment and leave my parking space empty. That voice in my head would say, well, you’re crazy, you’ve finally done it buddy, what are you thinking, Jim? You can’t live in L.A. without a car, everybody says so!

But then I have lived in L.A. without a car, and for three years now.

Benefits:

  • more money for me (I save about $5K a year on car costs)
  • easier for me to keep weight stabilized, as I get so much aerobic exercise
  • stress level is lower, and blood pressure readings are more in the normal range
  • I see the city on a more human, sidewalk level. I notice people and buildings and plants and . . . that I would have missed before, speeding by.
  • I don’t get road rage.
  • I don’t have to deal with road ragers.
  • I don’t fret over the price of gas or car insurance or car repairs or any of that.
  • I can still be spontaneous — hello car sharing services, Uber and Lyft. That’s one of the missing pieces to this puzzle, and it’s been filled in.
  • I love just showing up at a venue and walking through the front door, shaking my head when someone asks if I need to be validated.
The donut stand on Magnolia and Keystone in Burbank. That's my bike, but the guy is someone else.

The donut stand on Magnolia and Keystone in Burbank. That’s my bike, but the guy is someone else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are really no cons to being car free, but I have learned some things about myself and the whole idea of “car free” from a white, middle class perspective.

Some of these things are:

  • Public transport is really a class thing in L.A., still. Regardless of the new Expo line, which everyone wants to ride, because it goes to Santa Monica and the beach, most people ride the Metro because they can’t afford cars. A decision like the one I made to be “car free” was born of privilege (similar to Voluntary Simplicity or New Frugality movements) — because I can afford a car if I want one, if I wanted to return myself to that misery. I imagine that most of the people who have no choice but to take the trains or buses would consider me a silly old fool. I hope that perception will change and we’re making headway, but we’re not there yet.
  • Speaking of that Expo line or the Wilshire 720 Rapid or any of the other public transport ways to get to the Pacific Ocean from the San Fernando Valley: There’s no quick way to get to the beach, other than a car, and even that’s relative. At like, 4 am. On a Tuesday. It would probably take about half an hour at that date/time. But at any other time, rail makes the journey a lot more palatable, i.e. there are no potholes on the rails. And you can read, you can access WiFi or a cell tower (Expo is above ground). You shouldn’t read while driving.
  • When you have a car, you go to lots of places just because you have a car to get there, whether it makes any sense to go there or not. It SEEMS purposeful, but I think that might be an illusion. Because I’ve found that with just a little bit of resistance (the resistance being not having an easy transport option at the ready 24/7) you make lots of different choices.
  • Driving also serves to mask boredom and loneliness. You’re part of this stream of humanity, all GOING somewhere, or at least seeming to, if really not. Listening to the radio is part of it, too, feeling connected to the music or the DJ or the newscaster makes it all a little less lonely.

Just as I started this post I saw that yet another bicyclist had been killed in the LA area, this one in Compton, today, June 6, 2016. RIP.

Be careful out there.

How the blogger lights up his ride

How the blogger lights up his ride

Bernie Sanders Rally Los Angeles August 2015

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I joined my friend Chris King and 27,000 others at a rally for Bernie Sanders on Monday, August 10 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. I don’t get down to that area too much anymore and it brings back a lot of good memories of my first days in L.A. at USC and at my first job here, which was only blocks away from this location back in 1981.

Anyway, the rally was great and inspiring. For more on Bernie Sanders and his platform, see the campaign website.

Some snaps from the rally:

Thoughts on “Ballet 422” and the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center

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I liked this documentary on Ballet 422, which refers to the 422nd original ballet produced from the New York City Ballet Company. This one comes from choreographer Justin Peck, a 25-year old dancer/choreographer – and it’s his first ballet for the company.

For someone like me, who knows little of the world of dance, it was educational to watch the process of choreography. It’s always been somewhat of an enigma, or it’s like magic. Anyway, I really enjoyed the interplay between the choreographer and the dancers, and the parts that almost seemed co-created, or at least collaborated on. How these fantastic dancers remember what they’re supposed to be doing is truly beyond me! But they do, I guess that’s why they’re stars of the NYC Ballet, eh?  Plus of course, there’s lots of eye candy no matter what your orientation happens to be.

The documentary (from director Jody Lee Lipes) also shows the requisite behind-the-scenes, including some parts of Justin’s life beyond Lincoln Center. We see him waiting for the subway, we see him go to his apartment in a borough other than Manhattan. It looks big enough by NYC standards, but then it got me thinking, he, a member of the corps de ballet probably doesn’t make enough money to live in that toniest part of New York.

So I looked up dancer salaries to get an idea. They are in the range, it seemed, of around $50,000 to $80,000 depending on what city they were dancing in and if they were chorus or principals or had a longer season, etc.

I found this information on The DL Reporter (http://dlreporter.com/2014/04/14/ballet-wage-issues/): (Raquel Nieves, author)

Jeremy Telman in his article, “New York City Ballet Dancers Agree to New Contract,” cited that a quick internet search suggests that a member of the corp de ballet makes $1,500 per week. He describes how the average rent in the city of Manhattan for a cramped one-bedroom is $3,150 per month and that it can get hard to find a two bedroom for under $1 million. “If the dancer gets paid for 38 weeks per year, that comes out to $76,000 per year, and that is a good salary in New York City as long as you can share a studio apartment in an outer borough with two or more other members of the corp (or you can marry an investment banker).[3]” Principal dancers, essentially the “A” list celebrities at ballet companies, make roughly about $1,000-$2,000 more per week than the corp de ballet (think below the line talent). Principals make more with the additional guest performance or teaching gig, but only a small percentage of dancers who join the company ever become principals.

So there you have it, on stage, like so many performers including actors and musicians, dancers appear to be so incredibly glamorous yet the society fails to reward artists for this. I also noticed during my viewing of the film that the theater building at Lincoln Center where the New York City Ballet performs is the David H. Koch Theater.

Yes, as in that Koch! Right, the Koch brothers, those infamous John Birch society right wing billionaire polluters from Kansas!

According to the theater’s website:

In July 2008, philanthropist David H. Koch pledged to provide $100 million over the next 10 years for the purpose of renovating the theater and providing for an operating and maintenance endowment. It was renamed the David H. Koch Theater at the New York City Ballet Winter gala, Tuesday, November 25, of that year.

So great, he’s willing to support the actual structure and maintenance of the physical building, but the dancers who fly on the stage? Well, not so much, apparently. They are members of a union [American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA)] and, well, you know, the Kochs, they just don’t like unions. Their group “Americans for Prosperity” helps states like Wisconsin gut union contracts, which is just another way to race to the bottom and destroy the middle class.

So I guess the dancers won’t really be able to look to David H. Koch for any help with their meager salaries that don’t really allow them to live in the city in which they perform. I guess it’s always been that way for robber barons, i.e., Andrew Carnegie probably didn’t help any turn of the century violinists with their rent either, though he built a theater in which they could perform.

Not that the $76,000 annual salary would make much sense to someone like David H. Koch, who, according to this piece, made $3 million PER HOUR from investments in 2012.

One of the last images in the film “Ballet 422” is of Justin Peck returning to the dressing room after all the curtain calls for this successful ballet premiere to don his costume to dance in the corps de ballet for the next offering in the program, later the same night. A worker among workers, a union man.

“The Conversation” and the NSA Spying on Everyone

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Watched Francis Ford Coppola’s movie “The Conversation” again recently (I had a huge crush on both Robert Shields and Frederick Forrest in my younger years!) and thought it prescient.

We studied this film in film school for its use of sound effects and editing, also I’m sure just for its utter fabulousness. Now that we are watched and recorded and spied on 24/7 by government (NSA), corporate and even individual entities, it all seems rather quaint.

Still, the twist/comeuppance at the end still works for me. Also it’s the old days of San Francisco – when a middle class was predominant there. These somewhat dark films from the 1970s do remind one of that great era of less inequality.

Of course, I’m a little late to the comparison. The Atlantic did a piece on this last year, worth reading.

What I Learned About Leaving the Workforce Early – Some Thoughts On That

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thank you CNN

thank you CNN

I’ve realized lately that I’ve read an incredible amount about early retirement, reinvention, midlife change, and related topics to probably  write a book on the subject. OK, maybe not enough for a book, but certainly enough for a blog post.

So I write this in service of anyone reading who may be contemplating these issues and the difficult decisions they often entail.

First of all, once you leave a certain level of job early, you can’t go back. It’s like going home again, you can go to the physical place, but you can’t ever recapture the feeling you think you remember. I find it’s the same kind of thing with the working world. You’ve moved on; they’ve moved on and everything is different. It’s an important choice to leave, and not one to take lightly.

I left a high paying high esteem high stress corporate type job (public relations work) in the early aughts for more time to devote to writing and filmmaking and other creative pursuits; while having that time has been great, I didn’t truly suss out the financials, whether it be self-employment or part time work or just living on savings.

While it is possible I could survive on savings, living a very frugal existence (which I have done for some of the time since I left this aforementioned job), I’m the type to get nervous at only seeing spending with no income coming in at all. So I wanted to do something, just not what I was doing before which was overwhelming (this I realized after I survived a bout of cancer while at that job).

So one of the dirty truths I’ve learned is that nobody will hire you in the same industry you used to work in at a lower level job. You can only be hired again at the same level you were at or higher. The idea that someone with a lot of experience might want a lower pressure job just for the sake of paying the bills does not really compute with the HR types or the always upwardly -driven. And it’s even more that you “marry” your job these days than it was when I left – -management employees are tethered to the company 24/7 by all manner of digital handcuffs. So, no thanks.

So if you don’t want to get back on that rat race treadmill, new opportunities will always pay less. Sometimes really a lot less. So this it another thing I’d think long and hard about: do you really need or want to leave that job so much that you’re willing to give up the salary and the perks that come with it? You’re saying “of course I do, I just have to escape it, it’s hell.” Hell is also having absurd health care costs when you have just very basic insurance; no paid holidays or vacations, no fun gadgets the corporate budget pays for, certainly no paid-for travel, food or even coffee!

I have been greatly blessed in my life; we’re not talking about a hell of no roof over my head or no food on the table, so I’m really not complaining so much as managing expectations. But can someone tell me whatever happened to that idea of job-sharing – for instance, you “share” the job, say, of PR Director with another person; perhaps they work mornings and you work afternoons, or alternate days. You’d think in PR, which as a industry has a ton of female executives, there’d be mothers who’d want that kind of arrangement. But it seems it never took off. One person I asked told me it was around the idea of benefits, as in, who gets the healthcare. Just one more reason for national single payer, Medicare for everyone, if you ask me.

Another thing I’d mention is that age discrimination is rampant and horrible and really hard to pin down. After my last full-time job layoff at the end of 2009, I got crickets response to my resume, with its 30 years of PR experience and several more years of publishing experience. Gurus I talked to encouraged me to leave off the year of my college graduation (1980 – and that was 3 years later than if I’d gone directly after high school) but I figured when they called me in for the interview they’d figure out my age anyway. Except – there haven’t been any interviews! I’ve not been called into any interviews for full time communications jobs in the last five years. Depressing, sure. You become, in a sense, unmanageable (and I understand this now) which derives from many things – experience, age, temperament, your accumulated wisdom, etc.

So one of the gurus told me: “I think consulting is the way you should go.”

Truly, she was correct. And actually, there wasn’t much alternative. So I have become a B2B writing consultant. But this guru also said: “And then you must commit to it 3000 percent!” She was right about that, too. Passion is key if you’re going to become successfully self-employed. Not everyone is cut out for this. For most of us, clients don’t grow on trees. You need to do major marketing work to have a chance to bring in the work — so again, make sure this is something you really want to do.

Some other thoughts on early retirement/involuntary retirement: If you retire at, say, 55, that’s maybe 30 years in retirement. That’s a long time, a really long time! You really need to think long and hard about what you’re going to do with all that time. Lying around the pool or catching up on TV series is OK for a month or so, but beyond that I think most people need a purpose. In fact, I’d say you shouldn’t retire even at a traditional retirement age of 65 or 66 unless you have a plan for what you’re going to do with all that time.

I used to look down on people who were unemployed or said they couldn’t find a job, thinking they were probably doing it wrong or just plain lazy. Then it happened to me. Funny how that works, eh?

I have more pearls I hope to share in future posts.

 

 

Essential Reading for the Sleepwalkers Among Us

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Here’s a recommendation for the erstwhile progressive, a trio of books to get you thinking about the current state of affairs in the world and in particular, the United States. This list will scare you if you’re brave enough to read the books and internalize their messages, taking the unflinching look — which is pretty hard to do, I admit, since we’d like to think that the United States is different, it’s the best country, all of that. That’s how I was raised and what I was taught in school – you probably as well.

Those days are over, if they ever really existed. Here are the books, in no special order, along with my notes/impressions.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century – Thomas Piketty

18736925OK, this is a difficult book if you’re not interested in financial arcana. Much of it is very prosaic, and it doesn’t help that it’s written by someone whose first language is not English, but French. That said, there are a few chapters that are riveting.

I felt a lot of the book was restating the same thing over and over. However, I learned a great deal about the history of capitalism as practiced in the West, and found it fascinating to learn about such obscure things as the Cost Of Living in the 19th Century and the history of inflation, etc. He makes a very persuasive case that the return on capital will always outstrip other forms of income and that will always lead to greater inequality, unless governments manage wealth by taxation policy (that’s his main argument).

I look at it this way – there’s an easy way and then there’s a hard way to fight inequality. The easy way is through modified tax laws, which in the US should take us back to the rates existing in the 1950s and 60s, our most prosperous era. The hard way is to go back to 1789, (see Revolution, French) which I don’t think would be a plus for anyone – for the 1%, surely not, but also not for the 99%.

 

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism – Naomi Klein

1237300Honestly, this is one of the most important books I’ve ever read on politics and economics. Klein lays out the entire sordid history of neoliberalism and the Chicago School of Economics, and America’s involvement in some of the most repressive movements of the late 20th century and early 21st century, all pretty shocking even if you had some kind of inkling “we” were not innocent in these conflicts. This really gave me a good understanding of the concepts and concrete results of such neoliberal policies, and was told in story/layman’s terms so it was very accessible even without a poly sci or economics degree.

The Shock Doctrine should be required reading for anyone participating in a representative democracy, that’s for sure. Highest Recommendation. It’s a lengthy book, and well worth the trouble.

and perhaps the most shocking of all —

No Place To Hide — Edward Snowden, the NSA and the U.S. Surveillance State — Glenn Greenwald

18213403This is Greenwald’s account of the release of the Snowden NSA files to him and filmmaker Laura Poitras over a series of secret communiques and trips to various corners of the world. (The documentary film of this event/process is called CitizenFour and I highly recommend watching that as well – covers the same territory but obviously the book goes into more depth.)

Basically, your government is spying on you. All of your texts, emails, facebook postings, phone calls and any other kind of electronic communication you make is being logged and compiled. This, at present, is the basic idea of the Snowden revelations — that Americans are being spied upon in the name of “national security.” And not just people the government has probably cause to suspect of something, but all of us.

Critics of Snowden et al. will say that it’s only the metadata being tracked – things like phone numbers but not phone conversations, email headers but not the content of an email message. So the takeaway is that we have nothing to fear from that, that it’s not really spying. Tell me, what kind of picture of you would a good analyst have from knowing what phone numbers call you and that you call, and the content of your email headers? I think it would be a pretty good picture. If you have a mobile with GPS (and don’t we all) then they also track wherever you’ve “checked in” etc. So if they’re interested in finding out more, all they have to do is set a few parameters, and it’s like “24” or Jason Bourne right here and right now.

I was shocked that this is the world we live in now, not some sickening vision of an Orwellian future. It’s the United States of America, 2015. Welcome home. Read and know.

COPS: Everything that’s wrong about America in one short “reality” show

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OK so you probably read about a cameraman getting shot and killed on the production of this show, recently. Which is a really very sad and unfortunate thing, both for this man, his family and for the show and its fans.

yeah you wish

yeah you wish

Though it’s pretty surprising this is the first time it happened. Probably, if you found this story somehow through the Internet, then you’re like me, because, yes – I admit that I sometimes watch COPS. Sometimes, even, I binge watch COPS (episodes are only 22 minutes long; also, they’re often set in Palm Springs, where I used to live, which gives me a kick).

But it’s like that empty high, that kind you get from the pink and white iced cupcake you know you shouldn’t be eating but do anyway and you’re gagging about 20 minutes later. Because COPS brings out the worst in us.

It’s about making us laugh at the misfortunes of poor people, mostly. Yuck yuck yuck, here’s another poor white trash slob getting pulled out from under his trailer. Surprise – he’s not wearing a shirt, he’s drunk, and he has no teeth. Well – I may have it bad, but not that bad! Not yet anyway.

Also I think the show really points out the absurd futility of the war on drugs, and the asinine laws we have on the books which routinely revel in absolutely destroying young men’s lives. More often than not, they’re young men of color. Although I’m sure the producers of COPS go to great pains to at least give the illusion that they’re unbiased in reporting on crime and race.

But it’s so often set in some small town in a backward state where these minor drug crimes are felonies and it’s the way to keep these people off the streets, right – we don’t have that slavery anymore so that sure as hell won’t work – so send them all to prison. That’s the plan, right?

I get mad. Not only am I watching these COPS, who are probably decent guys and gals just hoping to make a living so they can buy a house and have kids and get a decent pension if they don’t get shot first, participate in this ruin but I also see it’s my tax dollars going to waste.

And sometimes their moralizing makes absolutely no sense. I remember one episode set in Vegas (another one of their favorite locations) and they were busting a young lady for streetwalking on the Strip. In the interview with the female task force officer, the girl talked about the money she’d make turning tricks (hundreds of dollars per night, or more) and the Person in Charge went on to detail how bad a life this would be, etc etc. But this young lady knows, like you and I both do, that a pretty 19 year old girl with perhaps a H.S. diploma, if that, in today’s world, might be able to get a fast food minimum wage job in a hellhole place like that, paying $8.25 per hour and requiring her to wear a silly costume and be a latter day wage slave – with no real hope of ever getting anywhere economically.

Not that prostitution is a sure road to a fantastic middle class life (though it could be a start) at least it pays a decent wage and there’s some semblance of control (at least this particular girl seemed quite smart to me). So what’s the real crime here? A no-victim offense like prostitution, or the systematic elimination of any real route to middle class?

All this is to say I resent the moralizing this show wants to convey and their definition of “crime.”

I’m really not sure who the real criminals are anymore.

 

 

 

 

Reasons Why I Rejoined Facebook

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82619759_d11931c81bHow embarrassing.

There I go with my anti-Facebook Manifesto, all righteous and everything, and now here I am telling you I’m back.

Go head and snicker. Surely, I deserve it.

Not that I still don’t think it’s generally a pretty bad idea, but here’s the deal kids:

  • basically everybody is on Facebook, and unfortunately, many of them are using the message protocol there as their de facto email. I don’t like it, but there you are.
  • I know many people and have lots of family in far away places. I’ve lived in San Francisco, Milwaukee, Palm Springs and have many friends on the East Coast as well. It’s unrealistic to keep up with them in person and this is really just the path of least resistance (especially for a lazy person).
  • I miss getting invited to things. Facebook has become the way people invite you to parties, events, personal meetings, etc. and I was missing that big love! Not that it can’t happen in other ways, but. . . see first point above.
  • Honestly, there were a couple of personal relationships that really blossomed in real time due to Facebook, and now those have waned. That’s the thing I liked most about this social media journey, and I want those people back in my life on a regular basis (and it wasn’t just virtual).
  • I do need the visibility. There’s still the remote possibility that people will look for staff or, heaven forbid, find out about books on Facebook. Again, like I said in my Manifesto, people don’t go to Facebook specifically to find books or writers, but the impression could be made. It could happen.

So I’ll rejoin, after all, it’s free. Still. Sort of. Though it’s not an equal trade at all. This time around, I’m going to try to:

  • “friend” or accept as friends only those people I know and like in real life.
  • avoid politics as much as humanly possible, though my fingers may get itchy.
  • I’ll just ignore the gross pictures of your food.
  • I’ll still share stuff, but hopefully this will be highly curated and mostly stuff from here (the blog) that I’d like to see distributed; I know Facebook will try to thwart that as much as they can, because they’d like to make money on wider distribution.
  • Will only share the barest minimum of digital assets — meaning photos, in particular. Naturally, I’m on Instagram as well, and Facebook owns that, so. . . any suggestions there?

OK, so now it’s Arnold 0, Zuckerberg 1. Don’t know how long I’ll be back, but stay tuned.