When I graduated college, my dream job was to be the theater critic for the New York Times. My life has taken so many turns since then it seems hilarious to me now. Within a year of graduation, I was done with that dream, and applying to grad school. I quickly realized that my path to this career would be mostly taking unpaid internships, and relying on my parents’ money. Several of my fellow editors at my college newspaper chose this path. The other option was marketing work, pitching publications blindly, or writing on spec. Even then, many of those options didn’t pay.

I quickly realized that, in order to have the easiest path to enter the media world I grew up idolizing, I needed to expect not to make money working what was essentially a full time job.

I was majorly struck by a recent twitter thread by Alec Karakatsanis on the discrepancy between the mainstream media’s focal points vs what actually constitutes a threat to society. His main argument is that what mainstream journalism considers a threat reflects the interests of the rich, and what actually threatens most people, not large corporations, is buried:

It’s hard to think of something more important than understanding the information-spreading apparatus that creates this gap between perception and reality.

He asked a lot of good, provocative questions about why this is, without needing to provide an answer:

Are there professional economic incentives, racial and class biases, and jingoistic ideologies that shape *what harms* to *which people* count as important enough to be breaking news, or news at all?…

What role does corporate ownership and consolidation of media companies play in determining what is covered and how urgently it is covered?

Karakatsanis is approaching the issue from a top down level. My experience, which goes hand in hand with this, is bottom up. Is the barrier for entry to journalism so cost-prohibitive that only the children of the rich and the ruling class can afford to enter it?

The publications themselves, despite what they often preach in their editorial content, aren’t practicing it. Ever since Vice‘s bombshell expose on the unpaid internship structure of the left wing media, these publications have implemented half-measure after half-measure that ignore the main issue: for a job like this, people need to be paid, and paid comfortably.

As my colleague at LexBlog Alec Downing noted, journalism is a  brutal enough job on its own. There’s a ton of burnout, and people from marginalized and underrepresented groups are often the first to leave when things get tough. Publications’ declining ability to pay the people doing the worst entry level work leads to it essentially being a futile enterprise. The only way to really survive, or, heaven forbid, eventually thrive, is to have money from your parents. With the corporate consolidation of mainstream media in recent decades, this isn’t simply a crying shame. This is by design.

Josh Weinstein, the longtime Simpsons showrunner, recently tweeted some of the rules of the Simpsons writer’s room that made the show (at least in the ’90s), arguably the best written in television history. One stuck out to me:

Never shoot down another idea. Don’t like it? Pitch a better one

After years of blindly accepting and even defending toxic behavior among friends and coworkers, I’m perpetually looking to find patterns of behavior and compatibility I like, and behavior I’ve come to learn I don’t like. One pattern I’ve discovered as I’ve gotten older is the perpetual naysayer. Both professionally and creatively, I’ve worked with several people who are great at finding the flaws and smugly dismissing ideas. When asked for a better idea, they either shrug their shoulders or propose something well out of the realm of possibility, because that’s how it should be in a perfect world.

If someone is able to take an idea and pitch alternatives, or discover potential dealbreaking flaws in an idea that need to be addressed, that’s one thing. But if someone mocks an idea, points out why it won’t work, and leaves it at that, over time, that person becomes impossible to work with. There’s a difference between being a Cassandra and being a perpetual naysayer.

I’ve come to realize this is a personality type. If someone does this, they don’t do it here and there—they approach every idea this way, no matter how strong or weak it is. And over time, they alienate all their professional and creative collaborators.

That’s not to say this person is wrong when they point out flaws. There can be great, informed, thoroughly researched reasons why an idea is wrong. Some of the smartest people I’ve ever known are like this. Some of them speak with such authority that it’s easy to get suckered into their point of view. But the people I’ve worked with who fit this mold have never reached their potential, because no one likes working with this kind of person. And when that kind of person doesn’t get the kind of work their intelligence deserves, they’ve tended get resentful, which leads to them turning to their perpetual naysayer tendencies even more. It becomes the world’s fault for not respecting their intelligence.

I used to respect this personality type; I fancied myself as something of an intellectual crank, and appreciated others who somewhat fit that mold. As I’ve learned to focus on more positive qualities of my life, and being nicer to myself, I realized how much these personalities bring me down, and stymie me from accomplishing what I need to accomplish. Going forward, when I identify someone with this personality type, I now know not let them into my inner circle. I wish I’d learned that sooner.

Welp, Aaron Rodgers certainly made it easier for me to stop caring about sports.

There’s no comedian, musician, actor, or artist who could have disappointed me more than Aaron Rodgers disappointed me this week. And what he did isn’t close to the worst thing any of my former heroes have done. He’s not an open Trump supporter like Mariano Rivera, Paul O’Neill, or Brett Favre, hasn’t engaged in generally idiotic criminal behavior like Johnny Jolly, Sean Avery, or Brett Favre, and has never been accused of abusive or predatory behavior or violence like David Cone, Robin Van Persie, or Brett Favre. For Christ’s sake, I’m willing to do the mental gymnastics to continue to root for the New York Knicks despite everything that’s happened for the last 20 years, and the fact that their recent resurgence is in no small part fueled by Derrick Rose.

There’s a sense of betrayal with Aaron Rodgers, though, because, for the past decade-plus, I’ve convinced myself that he is not only one of the greatest athletes to ever play for a team I root for, but that he, himself, was a fun dude to root for.

Every year he’d have some kind of quip that became a team rallying point (“R-E-L-A-X”, “Run the Table“, and even earlier this year, “I fucking own you“). He hates his conservative family, went to Berkeley, is an atheist who mocked a rival quarterback’s evangelism, and was outspoken about Colin Kaepernick. He was always noted for having an overwhelming ego, which clashed with management and coaches, but when it’s a feud between Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy, you’re always going to side with Aaron Rodgers.

All the signs that could be interpreted as awesome attributes of a closet leftist who has to keep his politics in check playing for a team owned by fans who have consistently voted Republican for decades. But they could just as easily point to a Joe Rogan acolyte. Turns out, it’s the latter. If he’s a Bernie supporter, he’s the kind of Bernie supporter that, as a friend of mine put it, comes from Lydon LaRouche.

I didn’t know about Shailiene Woodley’s homeopathic anti-science stuff. I didn’t know anything about Rodgers’ relationship with Miles Telfer, or Miles Telfer’s deal at all. Maybe I didn’t want to know. Maybe I would have chosen to believe something else until reality forced my hand.

My ability to justify watching the NFL in spite of all morality to the contrary was already hanging by a thread. Now…what’s the best-case scenario? My favorite team wins the Super Bowl, with this idiot getting validation? The Jets, my other favorite team, come back from the dead? Jordan Love becomes an NFL legend, then turns out to be an asshole 15 years from now?

I need a sabbatical at the very least, but this feels like a straw that broke the camel’s back. All my Packers jerseys are going to Goodwill. I’m donating to the Concussion Legacy Foundation every remaining month of this football season.

I can stomach a lot of moral shades of gray when it comes to sports. But this story feels like a loved one dying.

I’m going to spend a lot of words on the absolutely horrific Chicago Blackhawks scandal. But none of them will be as perfect as this Tweet:

I don’t have the energy to summarize the scandal too much. May I recommend this summary (CW), or simply Googling it. The worst part of the story is the horrific abuse Kyle Beach endured. Coming up in close second is the level of cover up at every level of the organization’s leadership. Closely coming in third is the level of horrific homophobic slurs and toxic masculinity that Kyle Beach had to endure for something that was no fault of his own.

This is a player who gave his body and soul to the sport of hockey. He was an absolute star at the junior level, so much so that he was drafted by the Blackhawks high in the first round. This was one year after the Hawks drafted Patrick Kane, who the Blackhawks shamelessly defended in a sexual assault scandal of his own, despite a pattern of abusive behavior. This is an organization who, before anyone even asked, jumped the gun and loudly announced they would not change their offensive name with racist origins. For years, Hawks fans wondered why Kyle Beach, a highly touted prospect, never got a fair shot in the NHL. Now we know why.

At the same time this story was unfolding, the Hawks and their fans were enjoying the most joyous stretch in the history of their franchise, founded nearly 100 years ago. In 2010 they ended a 49 year year title drought, and proceeded to win 3 Stanley Cups in 6 years. I had strong connections to Chicago through college, and watched some of my friends there, Hawks fans for life, enjoy the kind of success that all sports fans dream of. Kane, aside, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, and many others became names that Hawks fans will talk to their grandchildren about. All of those names, as well as the organization leaders that brilliantly managed their roster, are tainted forever.

It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating. I hate all of it. Other franchises are dragged into it. And it’s so predictable based on everything we’ve seen from hockey culture, and sports culture in general.

I’ve been feeling frustrated about this for the past 24 hours. I’ve stayed a fan of the New York Knicks and New York Jets despite their cultures of sexual harassment and toxicity. I don’t begrudge Blackhawks fans or any sports fan for staying loyal to a team. But I don’t know what I’d do if I was a full fledged Hawks fan right now.

I don’t see this culture changing. I can’t do anything personally to change it. Some people don’t understand why the Internet defaults to hostility. It’s one of the reasons I decided to blog more and post on social media less. But when you’re powerless to stop a force in society that has devastating consequences on people who don’t deserve it, and not nearly enough consequences for those who abuse, sometimes the best response is simply “fuck you”.

The  last 24 hours must have been fun day to be a headline writer for major newspapers in America. Just look at these juicy headlines:


The New York Times:

The Boston Globe:

The Washington Post:

Look at that image placement! I have a hard time imagining a design editor of the Washington Post not audibly laughing when deciding exactly where to crop Marc Zuckerberg’s chin.

It’s only natural that the tone of the coverage from national newspapers, whose influence has been decimated by social media in the past 15 years, would implicitly, and in some cases not-so-implicitly (that chin!), turn to snarkiness. Snarkiness is the route the powerless tend to take when their influence is small and their voice has been marginalized. As NYMag’s Adam Sternbergh put it in 2008, when we first started the debate over online snarkiness:

Snark, irony’s brat, flourishes in an age of doublespeak and idiocy that’s too rarely called out elsewhere. Snark is not a honk of blasé detachment; it’s a clarion call of frustrated outrage.

The major newspapers listed above, which honored that doublespeak and idiocy for far too long, were some of the subject of snarkiness.

The difference is that these major newspapers aren’t powerless here, or blameless. For decades, their coverage has transformed into a desperate attempt to play towards being “factual” and “fair”, despite the fact that one side has completely abandoned the factual and fair. There are now over 15 cycles of college graduates who are intelligent enough to see that, for instance, normalizing Nazi sympathizers, being owned by the tycoons you’re supposed to be covering critically, giving credence to human rights abuses, and exploiting your own labor in the process, aren’t exactly good faith behaviors.

I’m old enough to remember how news coverage was handled right before social media emerged. I was an editor of my college newspaper from 2006-2007, just as social media’s influence was skyrocketing. I didn’t know at the time just how awful a dirge on society social media would become. But I had a front row view of where mainstream media coverage was failing, and where social media and new media was able to fill the gaps (remember the coverage cycle of the John Edwards scandal? I sure do).

So yes, the past 48 hours are a huge loss for Facebook in particular and social media in general. But let’s not pretend there are any winners here.

Without Canada, I wouldn’t be alive. Nor would my father, my brother, my sister, or nine of my cousins. When my grandmother fled Poland in my 30s, and later married my grandfather, a survivor of the Gulag, they built a prosperous life in Montreal. They found opportunities for themselves and their children in North America in the 1950s and 1960s that starkly contrasted Europe they fled in the 1930s and 1940s, which was designed for them to cease to exist.

I’m not sure if my grandparents ever considered the fact that the land that not only saved their lives, but allowed them to thrive, came with a country that was built on the same unnecessary and appalling loss of life that they managed to avoid themselves.

Today is National Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada, for the first time an official national holiday. I know I have to be better, which is why I’ve ordered Out of the Depths, Isabelle Knockwood’s book on the subject. One passage hit me from the excerpt, made available online, pretty intensely:

I testified before the TRC to bring awareness to the fact that the testimony given to the TRC by the survivors of the Indian residential schools in Canada was not a sworn oath. The risk is that historians will find ways to discredit the oral evidence and, like the holocaust of the Jews by Hitler’s regime, will be able to say that the “residential schools did not happen….

As children, the residential school students were warrior children — we stood on the front line alone, unprotected and unarmed trying to defend our culture, identity and heritage. As adults we brought a lawsuit against the two most powerful organizations in the world, the federal government and the churches. We empowered ourselves when we broke the code of silence of abuse.

This is the kind of language of breaking through silence was what I was raised with in Hebrew School for 8 years. When it came to other persecuted groups, groups that were marginalized, and often slaughtered the foundations of the land that had helped us survive, the religious schools I was raised in tended to turn silent.

Here is another excellent resource from historian Daniel N. Paul. This kind of quote provides a more blatant example of the kind of thinking common among 20th Century white Canadians, by civil servant and poet Duncan Campbell Scott:

I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill.”

Most of all resources, I’ve looked up is this absolutely heartbreaking song by Buffy MacNeill, of Mi’kmaq descent, which was released to raise funds for a Paq’tnkek Mi’kmaw Youth Center.

If you have some funds to give, I’d highly recommend donating.

One persistent theme I see on social media from people of my age range is the idea that the world won’t exist in the next 10-20 years. This is actually a standard trope of left-wing thinking and joke material. The logic seems to be that the environment has gotten so bad, political strife has gotten so turbulent, and white supremacy is so rampant, that there’s simply no way society as we know it will exist by 2050 or so.

To some extent, they are right. Society will not exist the same way in 2050 as it will in 2021. The same way society in 2021 does not exist the same way it did in 1981, the same way society in 1981 did not exist the same way as 1951, or 1951 to 1921.

The environment is seen as the bleakest threat, and let’s not sugar coat it, it’s bleak. Mass population clusters and major cities will cease to exist. The economy as we know it is not equipped to handle this level of economic disaster. Los Angeles is likely to see thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands displaced due to an earthquake within the next 20-30 years. New Orleans could be completely underwater within the next 50 years.

As bleak as the environment and political strife is, no scientists are, at the moment, arguing that human beings will be extinct within the next 50 years. Even today, as the UN warned of catastrophic climate change by the end of the century, extinction was not discussed as a possibility. We absolutely need immediate and mass action on global warming, which we likely will not get. Even if the U.S. was to change its policies drastically, China will be an even bigger problem. But even the worst case scenario will not be the end of humanity.

Apocalyptic thinking is not new to my generation. The prospect of nuclear apocalypse, which is still a non-zero possibility, led people to believe that extinction was inevitable in the 50s and 60s. In the previous generations, fascism and Nazism were so prevalent that it was assumed the tides were already turned, and that it was too late. We have mounds of art, journalism, and academic research that argued as such. If you think if the mass deaths associated with a major city being destroyed are the end of humanity, consider Konigsburg, Dresden, and Tokyo. They were devastating losses of life and the cities were completely demolished. But humanity continued.

What I hate about doomsday thinking is that it leads to apathy, self-destructive behavior, and mental health issues. People are legitimately arguing that people under the age of 40 shouldn’t save for retirement, because humanity is doomed. Combine that with the prospect of slashing social security, this could lead to a nightmare scenario caused by our own nihilism.

Doomsday thinking also is linked to conspiracy theory thinking, which can actually enable the white supremacist forces that many on the left are actively trying to curb. It can also lead those who are legitimately suffering from mental health issues to feel validated, as opposed to seeking care.

I encourage you to build an emergency preparedness bag with as many supplies as you think are necessary. I encourage you to fight for politicians to enact policies for radically curbing climate change, and make changes to your own life to both prepare for and help prevent a truly horrific series of events. We are already seeing the devastating effects of the choices of our species. It will only get more extreme in the coming years. But defaulting into “humanity is doomed” thinking is short-sighted, harmful to the very causes we worry about, and, scientifically, just plain wrong.

I can pull any number of Norm Macdonald clips that have deeply influenced me. His Bob Saget Roast act, hosting the ESPYs, his Conan bits, his run on Weekend Update. But I’m going to focus on the clip that affected me the most.

My grandfather died my first year of standup. It was absolutely devastating. I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t know how anything could be funny again. Then I saw Norm open his special, released the same month my grandfather died, with 10 minutes of material on death and dying. I suddenly felt it was okay to be funny again. And I could be funny about even the most devastating things.

Though he said  not greatest of stuff on Twitter later on in his life, the influence he had on comedy was incalculable. And to me, that far outweighs the bad.

RIP Norm. One of the greats.

Last year I made the choice to stop drinking alcohol. It wasn’t a situation where I had to stop to save my life. I just didn’t feel the need to drink anymore. I barely eat sugar anymore at this point in my life. I quit smoking 6 years ago after I had some health issues and realized that only smoking when I was drinking wasn’t worth it. Most of the bad habits that can drive others to the brink of madness, and most of my own toxic behaviors from my younger days, I’ve either cut out of my life or have done a lot of work to cut out of my life.

There’s one glaring exception: I can’t stop watching sports. I don’t even know how to begin.

Continue Reading Why Do I Still Give A Sh*t About Sports?

The moment you see your reflection in a coke mirror is the moment your childhood dies.

-John Mulaney, 2009.

I can’t keep up with the John Mulaney news. Every hour it’s a new thing. I’m not on Twitter nearly as much as I was even 3 weeks ago, but a simple scan shows friends of mine openly in revolt. The “wife guy” relapsed, broke up with his wife, may or may not have cheated on her in the process, and got Olivia Munn pregnant shortly after exiting rehab for the second time in his life. Is that it? Is there some new news that broke right as I type this?

I know there’s gender politics at play here. I know it can be a shock to the system to see a “wife guy” melt down like this. As of now, I don’t know all the details. As far as I know, no one knows all the details except for John Mulaney.

Nothing as of now indicates that John Mulaney is abusive or a predator. His behavior may have not been perfect, but most if not all of what’s been revealed, as of now, falls to me under “his business.”

As someone who’s been a fan of John Mulaney since 2009, and saw his evolution from his first album through his later specials, the news that John Mulaney has a dark side is not new to me. There was a dark undercurrent to his entire act early on, especially on his first album (and even more so in live sets I saw him do around that time, with jokes that didn’t make any of his specials). As a fan, I was thrilled to see his successful turn, but a little disappointed that he moved away from that dark undercurrent. I never wanted John Mulaney the person to relapse, see his marriage fall apart, become a scandal, and have to rebuild everything from scratch. As a fan, if I’m truly honest, part of me evilly rooted for it.

What I will say, first and foremost, is don’t trust any comedian’s opinion on the story. They are either far too bitter or jaded to form an objective opinion on the story, or far too defensive of their careers to form an objective opinion on the story. I say this as someone who until the pandemic pursued a path in comedy, so make of all this what you will.

I also had the privilege of seeing his new standup act two months ago, literally titled the “From Scratch” tour. He addressed his relapse, his destructive behavior to his friends, loved ones, and most of all himself, with the kind of brutal honesty I knew he was capable of. The evil fan inside me got everything he ever wanted. His closing joke (paraphrased here), which has been shared by others on social media, has rattled around my brain ever since I heard it:

When I’m alone, I’m with the person who tried to kill me. And nothing anyone can say about me is worse than what I’ve said or done to myself. What, you want to cancel John Mulaney? I tried to kill John Mulaney. Do you have the dedication to go through with that, Jezebel.com? (Or a more current website?).

He didn’t address any of his marital issues in the set. I have no idea if he’ll add that element by the time his new set is released as a special. But in any event, the inevitable special will answer a lot of questions. Not all of them, but a lot.