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Reviewing ‘But What If We’re Wrong?’

I’m chronicalling my way through Chuck Klosterman’s newest work, ‘But What If We’re Wrong? Thinking About The Present As If It Were The Past’.

Check back occasionally for my thoughts on the book, one of the most original pieces on modern socialism in recent history.

Reach me by email me at dennisanthonypope@gmail.com with questions or comments.

July 7, 2016 — Klosterman does not want ‘But What If We’re Wrong’ to be read as a collection of essays. He makes that pretty clear in his dedication, and so far it’s an intriguing look at the evolution of the theory of gravity. Klosterman takes care to note that Aristotle’s original assumption was generally accepted for over 2,000 years, while Isaac Newton’s theory has only existed for 350-or-so years. What’s wrong with that? Nothing except Newton’s laws are so widely assumed to be true that any prospect of new, perhaps contradicting future evidence is all but considered laughable.

July 10 — ‘BWIWW’ wants to know the unknowable, like what facts will come to light in the future that will change said future? And is it even possible to make an accurate prediction about what the future will be like? The answers are ‘There’s little way of knowing,’ and ‘It’s not.’ The author illustrates how experts did not predict, as late as the 1980s, the proliferation of mobile phone technology. Most people polled thought land-line phone calling was here to stay, so how can we possibly think we know more about the future now then we did then?

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Surprise! Nobody wants to talk

I covered the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana (Calif.), March 18-20, 2016, and had an idea for an opinion piece.

It was a very good idea, based upon current events which would garner the interest of a much larger audience. It could be a potentially important piece, if properly sourced. The kind of piece that would have raised some eyebrows.

But nobody wanted to talk. Why? The topic is something of a third rail.

I wanted to write the sampled opinions of average NASCAR fans about the circuit’s president, Brian France, and Sprint Cup Series driver Chase Elliott’s endorsement of likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

My colleague and I asked the young and old, tattooed and bearded of both genders about what they thought of France’s political statement.

Quite honestly, we got a lot of “I’m for Trump, too!”-type sentiment.

France’s endorsement clearly tapped into a vein of NASCAR fandom that is pleased.

We also saw a lot of people unwilling to talk. They’d say, “I’m not talking about that,” or “Why are you asking me that?” I interpreted these responses as what amounts to anti-Trump sentiment at a West Coast NASCAR event.

So of the 20 people we spoke to, 12 people didn’t want to talk, seven were pro-Trump in their responses, and one had never heard of Donald Trump (it’s true).

People were not happy to have been asked these questions, either. The overall response was negative.

What to do then?

We scraped it. There was just too little to go on.

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Another Brush With Greatness

I’ve met my share of TV stars, rock band heroes and pro athletes. It’s exhilarating and rarely normal. Which makes a most recent brush with greatness all the more “new.”

Leigh Steinberg requested to follow me on LinkedIn, and today I accepted.

Steinberg is the sports agent of sports agents. Literally, Jerry Maguire. And he wants to follow me!

Note: I checked it out and it’s legit. The account is solid, and I’m sure he has a social media team working hard to find hard-working folk like yours truly.

Conjecture aside, it’s pretty humbling. Steinberg is well educated and well connected. He’s a California guy, Berkeley grad, and lives in the O.C. from where he has established his foundation.

His credentials in pro sports are unmatched — especially in the National Football League — and he’s spent his fortune with philanthropic purpose.

I’d love to pick his brain but should probably read his books first. Then maybe I’ll click that “send message” tab and fire off a detailed missive.

Wow. Leigh Steinberg. Just a click away.

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Plain Drained By Trains

In the last three weeks there has been a gluttony of train (see: locomotive) issues arise here in the greater Inland Empire.

Three train deaths in Riverside (two of which were likely suicides), a train derailment in Colton and a lawsuit filed against BNSF and its alleged disposal (or lack thereof) of diesel fuel in San Bernardino.

First, the deaths. Each completely unnecessary, all avoidable, and all within a three-mile stretch of track in western Riverside.

It began early this month when a man reportedly placed his BMW automobile upon the tracks at Adams Street and refused to budge until an engine slammed into his car, killing him.

Then a mother was killed less than a week later at Mary Street when her child’s stroller wheel became lodged in the tracks. The child was thrown to safety but the woman…

And finally, several days later, a pedestrian — walking on the tracks near Adams Street — was killed when he was struck by a train. The train’s operator was quoted as saying he saw the pedestrian look back at the train but remained on the tracks and was struck down.

Riverside must be the train-death capital of the U.S. right now.

As if the deaths weren’t bad enough, a train derailed early Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2011, and as a precaution, Colton High School and other surrounding schools were closed for the day. The train was carrying hazardous materials, and clipped another train going in the opposite direction.

Also Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed by an environmental group against BNSF, one of the busiest train companies in the Western United States. The lawsuit alleges the company of mismanaged waste disposal and contends the company is responsible for the health of those within a certain area of its localized operations, with one such location being its station in San Bernardino.

Hasn’t time long since passed when the potential dangers of trains were minimized? Sure, trains were dangerous in the early part of the 20th century but it’s 2011. Shouldn’t the industry, for all its history and importance, have engineered solutions to its problems?

And no, I’m not saying trains were responsible for people who throw themselves in front of locomotives, but derailment and waste disposal? C’mon!

For all the sympathy afforded the industry in the wake of senseless deaths like those earlier this month, most, if not all, good-will is spoiled when avoidable issues like these arise.

Trains are supposed to be the arteries of commerce, not the veins of the morose. Are there corollaries to these incidents? What’s really at the heart of it all? And who is really left in the red?

Anyway, it makes me feel drained. But not in a giving-blood type of way. That would’ve been taking the joke way to far, which this is not. This train stuff is not a joke. It’s very serious. People’s lives have been lost.

Accidents and worse (possible illegal behaviour) continue to plague the industry. This month it finally permeated my environment.

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My Sun Years, A Summary Act

Plenty has been written about the demise of newspapers. I’m not going to detail the industry’s downfall or the business behind MediaNews Co. gutting more than five local Southern California dailies that, in some cases, have histories dating more than 100 years. But I will share my thoughts on my time at one SoCal daily owned by current AP Chairman Dean Singleton, and my reasoning behind the decision to flat-out quit before things got really ugly.

I worked at The Sun newspaper in San Bernardino (Ca.) beginning April 2000. I was hired by a long-time Sports Editor to work as a News Assistant in the sports department. I answered phones (Hello? Prep badminton? OK.) and performed other tasks essential to the day-to-day operations (So you want two beef and bean burritos, no sauce, from Del Taco?).

I was also given the opportunity to write a ton. I covered preps and local colleges and by 2003 was the Motor Racing Columnist and had two or three bylines a week. I covered four NASCAR weekends and a slew of other racing forms at California Speedway in Fontana (Ca.), conducted one-on-one interviews and wrote feature articles and columns about Dale Earnhardt Jr., Sam Hornish Jr., Helio Castroneves, Jeremy McGrath and many others. I also covered the local dirt tracks and made a decent local connection and earned a surprising following.

After several years of working full-time hours in these conditions for part-time pay, I eventually was promoted to Copy Editor, a full-time position, in 2005. By 2006, only two people had worked in the sports department longer, the Sports Editor who hired me and the Asst. Sports Editor who trained me. Though others had been hired to fill in spots around me, I made the most of any seniority and got away with many, many, I’ll write, youthful indiscretions. 

I moved to paginating sports pages five nights a week when we merged with another MediaNews Co. daily in the same region. My gig as a columnist went by the wayside because, well, one paper doesn’t need two motor racing columns. That would be silly. Turns out the other daily had a writer who had been covering motor racing in San Bernardino County since before I was born. So that was the end of that.

The sports desk morphed some during that time and I assumed a role on the sports desk. I made the most of that too, and by late 2006 I was in charge of producing the sports section two or three nights a week.  

Then all hell broke loose in mid-2007 when rumors began to circulate about imminent moves/layoffs and Sun staffers scattered to find a hole to crawl into. The decision came from above to move the sports department to the offices of a third MediaNews Co. daily some 40 miles away. For safety’s sake, if nothing else, I made my own move and transferred to The Sun’s news desk around July 4, where I could probably have stayed until at least the Leap Day Massacre (more than 10 long-time staffers were fired on Feb. 29, 2008).

I’m now thinking I had an epiphany or moment of clarity because I decided to walk out the day before my 28th birthday, on Nov. 18, 2007. That’s the day I realized, while staring at the clock on my PC’s screen, that my career at The Sun was coming to the end and that I’d rather stick it to them than be told that today is my last day.

So I walked up to the News Editor and asked to speak privately. I proceeded to explain about how I appreciated the opportunity, yadda, yadda, but the job no longer appealed to me. She was stunned. “Are you gonna work the two weeks?” she asked. “No,” I said calmly. “I’m going home.” I left them with more than 12 pages to paginate that night. Makes me chuckle even still.

Besides, working on a MediaNews Co. news desk was an exercise in constant self-deprecation. And believe me, I came in with boatloads of stamina. I’m a relentless hard-worker and I was gonna blow them away with my stamina. But they beat me down. Nothing about that scenario, in that newsroom in San Bernardino, is positive. From faux-leadership to tactless treatment of employees, The Sun was a place where hopes of advancing in journalism die.

But I’m no longer very bitter. I had a good run. I treated every story with the attention it deserved. I met some seriously great people and I worked for others who were surprisingly easy to despise then forget — just like any other job, I suppose.

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