July 2, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 27

Dr. Wes

If you want people to read your stories, make them relatable. And include a photo of Waikiki Beach

By Dr. Wes Browning

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I take a lot of pride in things that other people don’t even like to admit. I’ve mentioned my stupidities often here. They’re a great source of entertainment. They give me so much to live for. I’m also really proud of my self-centeredness.

I find that self-centeredness is a wonderful tool. It provides motivation and focus. Each week I have to read a lot of newspaper articles. This is hard for me, because I’d rather sit and stare out the window and mutter quietly to myself while rocking. But I get through the reading. How do I do it? By being self-centered.

For example, I was reading Ann Coulter’s piece explaining how immigration reform half a century ago has led to our country being overrun by non-Americans, and that’s why so many people now care about soccer. Real Americans not only don’t care about soccer, according to her, but they shouldn’t because soccer is inherently un-American, by rewarding cooperation.

Even as I wanted to turn my eyes away from Coulter’s writing, they were dragged onward by my own self-centeredness. Is it true? Am I not a real American? Do I like soccer too much to qualify? She wrote, “No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer.” Where were my great-grandfathers born? There’s that one, we never even knew his name. Could it have been Rodrigo? Rodrigo Jackson? Are we part Spanish? 

Whenever I read a news story, the first thing I do is check whether the events of the story occurred in a place I’ve been. It’s, “Oh, I’ve been to that mall,” or “Hey, I’ve been to Boston, I wonder what they’re going to say about it?” This helps me keep my eyes open and aimed at the print in front of me.

Conversely, it’s hard to read about stuff that doesn’t connect to me. So reading “U.S. Supreme Court’s Cellphone Ruling Is a Major Victory for Privacy,” I have huge problems. I’ve been to D.C., but not that part of it. I’ve never met a Supreme Court Justice, much less been one. I don’t own a cell phone and I’m not planning to get one any time soon. The whole story is one big long blahty-blah digital blah John Roberts blah electronic blah. I quit halfway in.

When the Washington Post reported that a computer had just barely passed the Turing Test, I was riveted. One, Alan Turing was English. I’ve known an Englishman. Two, I have a computer. I’ve even programmed a few. Three, could I pass the Turing Test in reverse? I wonder.

I checked to see if there was a Reverse Turing Quiz on Facebook. “Can you fool a computer into thinking you’re a computer? Take this fun quiz and find out!”

This week the New York Times sucked me in with this headline: “Honolulu Shores Up Tourism With Crackdown on Homeless.” It stirred up memories of what I call my Hawaiian Connection.

The picture accompanying the article showed a homeless man trying to sleep under a tree at Waikiki. I’ve been there! In so many ways.

I was three but I clearly remember the one or two trips to Waikiki beach. I remember the breeze, the fresh air, and the crowds. And I’ve been homeless, not in Hawaii, but here in Seattle, and tried to catch some sleep in nice places with fresh air, preferably under a tree.

So I can relate. I get it, from all angles. I even get it from the angle of the authorities. Waikiki is what sells Hawaii to tourists. They want everyone who visits to go away remembering the beach and not remembering images that prove that Hawaii isn’t paradise.

It’s sort of how I feel when I read such articles. “This isn’t the reading experience I wanted,” I think. Then I keep reading.

Hawaii needs to suck it up. If they want tourists to have a homeless-free experience, they should put their homeless people in homes. It’s that simple.

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