Friday, January 10th, 2020


The Script Hits the Fan

Mind feeling a bit numb? You can blame the devices or the nonstop deluge of political news. But, late at night, after you've rushed the kids to bed, closed the laptop, and settled in with a few pints of ice cream, you know what's really eating up your time and brain space. TV. Keeping up with your favorite shows used to require an occasional binge, but now it's practically a full time job. The biggest companies in the world are competing for your eyeballs by spending a ridiculous amount of money, and creating a shit-ton of content. And in 2019, shit-ton translates into more than 530 scripted television series released in the United States alone (to which you can add sports, cable news, reality television, late night talk, game shows, a plethora of available international shows, and all the old series that you're boring your kids with). NYT: Peak TV Hits a New Peak. I hate to say it. But we may need to bring back buffering.

+ Times have changed since Bruce Springsteen was overwhelmed by 57 Channels and Nothin' On.


Wage Against the Machine

"The stock market is near record highs, but working-class Americans (often defined as those without college degrees) continue to struggle. If you're only a high school graduate, or worse, a dropout, work no longer pays. If the federal minimum wage in 1968 had kept up with inflation and productivity, it would now be $22 an hour. Instead, it's $7.25." Lot's of enlightening (and upsetting) stats in this piece from Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in the NYT: Who Killed the Knapp Family? "Across America, working-class people — including many of our friends — are dying of despair. And we're still blaming the wrong people."


Weekend Whats

What to Book: Patrick Radden Keefe has written an amazing crime story that feels urgent even though the events took place decades ago. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland is just a remarkable piece of historical writing. Well researched. Well written. And well, just order it and start reading. (Keefe's next book is on the Sacklers and the opioid crisis. Stay tuned.)

+ What to Watch: The latest recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor is Dave Chappelle. And that made for an excellent award ceremony, that was both funny and thought-provoking (which is entirely on brand for the honoree). Dave Chappelle: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize.

+ What to Hear: They're still a small band opening for others in relatively small joints, but I predict that will change during the course of 2020. Check out Brooklyn's Pom Pom Squad to hear the next big thing before it's big.


Plane Truth

"'What is obvious for us, and what we can say with certainty, is that no missile hit the plane,' Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran's national aviation department, told a press conference." The US and Canada are pinning the blame for the downed Ukrainian jetliner on an Iranian missile. Iran continues to deny that's the case. Meanwhile, the integrity of the crash site will seriously hamper investigations. "Virtually all pieces of the plane were removed yesterday - say locals. Scavengers now picking site clean. No security. Not cordoned off. No sign of any investigators."

+ Caught in the crossfire of imbeciles, liars, and maniacs. The poor families of Flight 752. They suffered a tragedy and will live another one as we seek the truth in the age of lies. Buzzfeed: Young Newlyweds, College Students, And Entire Families Are Being Remembered After Dying In The Iran Plane Crash.

+ The Iran plane crash could be the latest in a long history of accidental shoot-downs.


Id and Nancy

"I have asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler to be prepared to bring to the Floor next week a resolution to appoint managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate." Nancy Pelosi is set to send the articles of impeachment to Senate next week. (Finally. This has been such a slow news year, we need some controversies.)

+ WaPo: "A Justice Department inquiry launched more than two years ago to mollify conservatives clamoring for more investigations of Hillary Clinton has effectively ended with no tangible results, and current and former law enforcement officials said they never expected the effort to produce much of anything." (If investigating your former political rivals is the new normal, Trump should be worried...)


Monkey See, Monkey Don’t

"'Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn't,' one employee said to a colleague in another exchange from 2018, before the first crash. 'No,' the colleague responded. In another set of messages, employees questioned the design of the Max and even denigrated their own colleagues. 'This airplane is designed by clowns, who are in turn supervised by monkeys.'" Boeing Employees Mocked F.A.A. and ‘Clowns' Who Designed 737 Max.


Joel Stein’s Latest Hack Job

"Silicon Valley bros see a century of human life as a 20th-century limitation. If we went from a TRS-80 to an iPhone in 30 years, we can surely double human life using big data and self-quantification. What is the body if not another piece of hardware waiting to be hacked? Isn't it time that death got disrupted?" I Biohacked for 10 Weeks to Try to Live Forever. (I know Joel, and I give him another 200 years, 250 max.)


It’s All Coming Back to Me Now

"He didn't have time to explain to Dion how important she was to him—how her artistry and her journey from rural poverty to international success mapped out a life he was chasing for himself. So he definitely didn't have time to explain that he had recently launched a fan page about her online. Or that the fan page was an online repository of other people's dreams about her." The Early Internet, Explained by One Weird Celine Dion Fan Site. (Maybe this story will help you kids understand why we had such high hopes for the internet before it ruined the world.)


Tongue Lashing

"If you are one of the one billion people globally who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, having a fat tongue could be a key reason you snore, choke, gasp or stop breathing periodically during the night, ruining your sleep and potentially your health." CNN: Lose fat in your tongue to improve sleep apnea. (Unfortunately, the primary way I exercise my tongue is by licking ice cream.)


Feel Good Friday

My friends Annie and Eric are back at it again, using their art to raise money for an important cause; the people and animals affected by the devastating bushfires in Australia. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of this print will go to fund disaster relief efforts. They're great people and this is a worthy cause.

+ There are lots of feel good-ish stories coming out of Australia's bad situation. In addition to the money being donated, teens are saving koalas, a pub is receiving a beer shipment via a Navy ship, there are many moving photos of animals being rescued, and the model who went viral for offering au naturel photos in exchange for donations for Australia said she's raised an estimated $1 million. (No wonder I can't go viral. She selling naked pictures and I'm selling pun headlines about Trump news...)

+ Awesome story on the awesome 826 Valencia. WaPo: How to get kids to love to write. (I'm on the board of 826 and I feel quite comfortable using the word awesome twice in a sentence to describe the program...)

+ Progress on Lung Cancer drives historic drop in U.S. Cancer death rate.

+ A boy asked his dad to help the homeless. Now, father and son take them out to lunch each week.

+ Vogue: Meet Najiah Knight, the 13-Year-Old Girl Upending the World of Professional Bull Riding.

+ On eve of legal recreational pot sales in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker pardons more than 11,000 people with weed convictions. (Chicago is about to finally live up to its Windy City nickname...)

+ Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she is cancer-free after spate of health scares.

+ The Oakland women who took over a vacant lot to house the homeless.

+ A billionaire is giving away $9 million to his Twitter followers in an experiment to see if the money makes them happier. (Some people will do anything for more retweets...)