My new book coming in May 2019 on the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Ed

I’m very pleased to announce that my new book will be released next May on the 65th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.  This is the culmination of several years of work with my good friend and mentor Gloria Romero, who is the former Democratic majority leader of the CA State Senate.

Gloria is so passionate about ending the link between where a child lives and what public school the child is allowed to attend, and she has convinced me that this is one of the primary civil rights battles of our day.  My book is about the state laws that allow (and often require) school districts to discriminate against you based on where you live.  These policies keep most middle-class and poor kids out of the best public schools, encourage residential segregation by class and race, and drive up housing costs.  We can do better.

This is not a Left vs. Right issue.  Liberal writer Malcolm Gladwell has advocated for opening up the best public schools to all-comers, and the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a Republican, once called for an educational system “in which parents are free to disregard neighborhood-school assignment, and to send their children (with transportation paid) to whichever school they choose.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right that a child’s fate should not determined by their zip code, and school assignment is the place where all of it starts.

As I finish up writing this book, I’m looking for your stories about how you’ve been affected by attendance zones (or school district boundaries).  Has your child been blocked from attending a quality public school because of where you live?  Have you lied about where you live in order to get the best possible education for your child?  Have you paid $200 thousand extra for a house in order just to gain access to a public school… only to learn that the school isn’t a good fit for your kid?  If so, please email me at tim [at]  I’d love to hear your story (confidentially, of course).

This is one of two new books that are coming out in May 2019.  This is the more serious one, the other one being a bit more playful and even silly.  More on the other book, later.  But I’m very eager to get each of them out into the world.

(Cover design by the incredible @printgonzalez, of course.)

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Recording the audiobook for Huck & Miguel

All this week I’ve been in the studio recording the audiobook for Huck & Miguel.  Surprisingly fun.  I love Huck’s voice so much that it’s a pleasure getting into his head again.

And narrating an audiobook is a distinct craft.  I got some wonderful coaching from pros PJ Ochlan and Pat Fraley.  Such a challenge to bring the story to life for the listener.

Did you know that the leading independent audiobook production company is right here in Los Angeles?  Deyan Audio has won 5 Grammies and 25+ Audies.  These folks are pros and are going to make the book sound great.  They operate 5 recording studios out of a beautiful house in Northridge.  They were founded by engineer Bob Deyan, who died of ALS in 2014, and the company is now run by his wife Debra.

A great week with this book that I love.

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Rebecca De Mornay and the Cat in the Hat

What do they have in common?  (besides red stripes, of course!)

They are both agents of chaos.

Has anyone else noticed that Risky Business and The Cat in the Hat are basically the same story?  Bored, obedient boy is left alone by parents.  Agent of chaos arrives and injects all sorts of fun into boy’s life…. and creates a big mess to boot.  Big mess is cleaned up just in time!

(Note: Sally’s a really underdeveloped character in Cat, right?  Her main purpose seems to be to make the rhymes work.)

Oh!  I just Googled, and at least one other person has noticed.  Here is Marc Spitz in Salon back in 2014:

Like the Cat in the Hat [De Mornay’s character Lana] creates havoc when the parents are away, jars a man-child out of his torpor, and exits just in time to leave everything safe and sound by the time the adults return.

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First-borns are taking over — Should we be afraid?

Over at The Cut, Adam Sternbergh bemoans the slow-motion extinction of the middle child. As fewer families have more than two children, the number of middle-born children declines. Dramatically.

I’m interested in a related phenomenon — the fact that first-borns are a much greater percentage of the population now than in previous decades. Using the chart above from the Pew Research Center, I estimate that first-borns have gone from about one-third of the population born from 1950-1975 to over 50% of the population born from 1990-2014.

Effects of birth-order on personality seem to be largely overblown.  But what if there is some small tendency of first-borns to be more conforming, more socially dominant, less open to new ideas.  Could those small effects — multiplied across our whole society — be contributing to the change in how we talk to each other about politics?

It’s pure speculation, of course.  But it makes this first-born wonder.

HT Althouse.

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Was Alan Watts the Jordan Peterson of the 50’s and 60’s?

Reading this story about Packers’ running back Ty Montgomery led me down a rabbit hole that led to this fascinating character Alan Watts, a public intellectual in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s who brought Eastern philosophy and religion to a popular Western audience.

It started with the Parable of the Chinese Farmer, which was recommended to Montgomery by one of the guys on the practice squad. (Montgomery is coming back from an injury-shortened season in 2017.) Listen to Watts’ telling of the parable below. Good stuff.

At the risk of committing heresy against unknown true believers, it seems that Jordan Peterson is working within the Alan Watts tradition. Watts called himself a “philosophical entertainer” and reached an audience primarily through audio. Even today, there are hundreds of Watts lectures on YouTube, often paired with psychedelic animations.

Peterson and Watts both think of suffering as inherent to human experience.

And they both admire Jung!

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First page – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Here’s the first page of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  The brilliant Charlie Kaufman breaks at least two rules here:  (1) starts with a block of action description that is 16 lines long (any more than four and everyone will know you’re an amateur!), (2) tells us what is printed on his tie (not the writer’s business!), and (3) introduces a voiceover to tell us what is happening (verboten!).

What I love most about this is the quick start.  We meet Joel right away.  We know that something is amiss.  We know it’s Valentine’s Day.  But we want to know even more.  He’s lying to his co-worker, right?  Why is this seemingly reclusive man going to the beach?  You could argue that the rest of the movie sets out to answer that question for the audience.

This is the first in a series of posts where I’ll post the first page from the screenplay of a movie I love.  And we’ll see what we can learn.

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We’re all Keynesians now — except when we’re not

The famous quote is “We’re all Keynesians now” credited to Milton Friedman and/or Richard Nixon.   Or as Paul Krugman wrote in 2011, “Keynes was right“.

What they mean is that — in an economic downturn — there’s a general consensus among economists, policy makers, and monetary leaders that the government should engage in expansionary policies, increasing the federal deficit and enlarging the money supply.  As Keynes said: “The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity.”

As someone who was once an unrepentant deficit hawk in the style of the Concord Coalition, I have to admit that these types of policies have established a track record of easing economic pain in the short run.  It’ s made me reconsider some of my most dearly-held beliefs.*

But it also begs the question:  Where are the calls for austerity now?  This is the boom that Keynes was talking about.  To be consistent, Krugman and all of the Keynesians (i.e., everyone!) should be arguing loudly for decreasing the deficit and tightening the money supply.  But that’s not happening.

It’s easy to be a Keynesian during a downturn.  Just open up the spicket to placate a panicked populace.  It’s a lot harder to do as Keynes recommended and actually tighten things up when the party is underway.


*As an aside, there is no doubt in my mind that the expansionary policies of Bernanke and Obama helped ease the pain, and perhaps prevented a much more significant downturn, during the Economic Crisis.  That said, I still feel very ambivalently about those policies.  The crisis was caused — at least in part — by incredibly loose monetary policy and incredibly large budget deficits under George W. Bush.  Seemingly, we were able to avoid a Depression by (1) making monetary policy even looser, (2) increasing federal spending at a time when the deficit was already historically high, and (3) transferring billions of dollars of debt from private entities to public ones.  That’s a troubling pattern…  We may have only been successful in kicking the can down the road.

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