Five things that are worth your time: December 13

Five things that are worth your time: December 13

Welcome! Here are five more fun things to read this week. Nothing too serious or depressing this week, but, I did read a good article on relationship advice, a silly article on arena proposals, and a couple work-related ones. The first one is my favourite though!

Fantastic Beasts and How to Rank Them

Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker

I’m not sure what’s more whimsical here: The article itself, which is a ranking of how likely various mythical creatures (mermaids, unicorns, vampires) are to actually exist… or the fact that this article comes from the New Yorker’s Dept. of Speculation. Which is so whimsical, it’s like what the New Yorker would be like if Wes Anderson was the publisher. (And yes, this is the only article in the Dept.’s publishing history.) Anyway! This is a totally self-serious examination of these creatures and where myths like this originate, and why we cling to them even as we know, intellectually, that they don’t exist. (Right?)

A quote: ”Like supernatural creatures, such powers can be ranked in terms of plausibility. Which seems more likely to work: Harry Potter’s apparating ability or Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Jedi mind trick? If you ask me, it’s obviously the mind trick, with its real-life analogies of charisma and hypnosis, not to mention its failure to defy any major laws of physics. On the other hand, apparating—vanishing from one place and appearing in another—strikes me as more plausible than time travel, possibly because we have many ways to move through space but only one way to move through time.”

You Have More Than Enough Time, You’re Just Not Spending it Right

Thomas Oppong, Thrive Global

As I’m starting to build my freelance consulting business, I’m becoming more conscious of my time and how I spend it. So far, even though I’m not working anywhere close to full-time hours, I feel just as busy I did when I was. And yet I can honestly say I’m not spending that time doing idle or unimportant things. Unimportant being relative of course; this blog isn’t “important” in the grand scheme of things but it’s something I want to be doing and enjoy doing. The days are full. This is a good thing, right?

A quote: ”Prioritization and organizing can lead to a more efficient allocation of time. Step back and figure out what is important to you. Get rid of the unimportant, de-commit, brainstorm long or short-term changes. You have all the time you need to create value, work on your best work and make an impact.”

1,500 People Give all the Relationship Advice You’ll Ever Need

Mark Manson,

Mark Manson wrote The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, which I haven’t read, but I hear is well worth reading. Also well worth reading? This article on relationship advice. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises here, but what makes it work is that the advice comes from real people and is offered in a very regular-person, down to earth, human way. It’s not professional therapy, or coming from a guru or self-help book. Just folks offering opinions. It’s long, and seeing some of this advice may make you feel like a bad partner if you don’t do it… but that’s OK. Take it as a nudge to do better.

A quote: ”If you have two different individuals sharing a life together, it’s inevitable that they will have different values and perspectives on some things and clash over it. The key here is not changing the other person — as the desire to change your partner is inherently disrespectful (to both them and yourself) — but rather it’s to simply abide by the difference, love them despite it, and when things get a little rough around the edges, to forgive them for it.”

New Research Answers: Is Content Marketing Sustainable?

Steve Rayson, BuzzSumo

Well, here’s some wonderful news for content marketers (like me): Content marketing is dead! OK, not quite. But Steve Rayson channels Mark Schaefer (author of Content Shock) and gives us the bad, if predictable news: There’s so much content out there now, on so many topics, that it’s incredibly difficult to stand out. People are still consuming content, but does it excite them, engage them, energize them to take action? Content marketing isn’t dead, but it is changing.

A quote: ”If you are entering a saturated content market you need to look at creating radically different and exceptional content. Less is more when it comes to content production. Another “me too” list post will sink without trace. In our experience it is better to focus all of your promotion on a single day to become the story of the day rather than spread your promotion and amplification efforts over a period of time.”

Inside the Awkward, High-Risk World of Arena Wedding Proposals

Alex Wong, GQ

Here’s my one piece of relationship advice: Unless you and your SO are both huge fans of a specific sports team, don’t ever do one of these elaborate arena proposals. Like, just don’t do it. I know it’s memorable, but come on. It’s a stunt! And I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to reduce your relationship and an otherwise intimate moment into a piece of theatre for several thousand other people… but, that’s just me. I guess everyone really is different.!

A quote: ’Bryan and Nancy have heard the criticism about arena proposals, but the moment was as special as Nancy could have imagined. “With the love I have for sports, I’ve always thought about how cool it would be to get proposed to on live television,’ says Nancy, who was previously a sideline reporter for ESPN3. Bryan is aware of the snarky comments that people have left on their arena proposal video online. ‘Every person is different and prefers to do things differently,’ he says. ‘The comments don’t bother me.’”
That’s all for this week! Come back next Wednesday for another five things.

Five things that are worth your time: December 6

Five things that are worth your time: December 6

This week’s five things are highly movie-inspired, as I share articles on two of my all time favourites—or is it three of my all-time favourites?—plus the latest on the Marvel Universe. I also share some advice on an important soft skill, and one beautiful story of a Holocaust survivor, which—for obvious reasons—is an important story to share right now as we wind down 2017.

Remembering the Wonderful Little Idiosyncrasies of Good Will Hunting on Its 20th Anniversary

Shea Serrano, The Ringer

Good Will Hunting is one of the my favourite movies. Shea Serrano is one of my favourite writers. There was no doubt this was making the list this week! Shea nails the truth of Good Will Hunting here: For all of the things that we remember about the film that make it memorable and enjoyable, it’s the little things between the lines that make it a classic. I love “Here’s ya fuckin’ double burger” sooo much. But Shea missed a couple: Billy’s “That’s a good takedown” when Will and Chuckie are wrestling at the batting cages; and Morgan’s Brando-inspired “I swallowed a bug” as he extricates himself from the scene when Skylar finally approaches Will at the bar.

A quote: ”The way Will leans in to propose a fight with Clark. That’s how you know he was serious about fighting. If Will wanted to just show out for the girls, then he’d have been really loud and blustery so everyone could see and hear the confrontation. He wasn’t, though, which is why you see Clark get filled with fear so quickly. As soon as Will lowered his voice and proposed stepping outside, Clark was like, “Oh fuck, this guy really wants to fight.””

Secrets of the Marvel Universe

Joanna Robinson, Vanity Fair

Speaking of things in my wheelhouse, here’s the great Joanna Robinson with a great “state of the union” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a look inside exec producer/architect Kevin Feige’s head. It’s a little light on actual “secrets,” of course—Marvel and Disney guard those details as if they were actual infinity stones—but it’s still a fun read, and the photos of everyone in costume are brilliantly outrageous.

A quote: ”One day on set (of Fox’s X-Men, 2000), (Lauren) Shuler Donner and Avi Arad, then head of Marvel Studios, watched as an exasperated stylist, at Feige’s insistence, sprayed and teased actor Hugh Jackman’s hair higher and higher to create the hairstyle that would become the signature look of the character Wolverine. The stylist “eventually went ‘Fine!’ and did a ridiculous version,” Feige recalls. “If you go back and look at it,” he admits, “he’s got big-ass hair in that first movie. But that’s Wolverine!” The experience stuck with Feige.”

Debate Club: Which is Better, Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back?

Tim Grierson and Will Leitch, SyFy

I am a big fan of Tim Grierson and Will Leitch’s movie reviews (and also, possibly, their podcast, of which I’ve saved every episode but have not yet found time to listen to). Here they tackle the age-old debate: What’s the best Star Wars film? For most of my life I’ve leaned slightly towards Star Wars, because even though Empire is, technically speaking, a better film, how can you top the original? But this article makes the case for Empire, all while neglecting to mention one thing: The music. And as much as I love Luke’s theme, and as memorable as the Star Wars fanfare is, Empire contains the one piece of music that may in fact be more famous than the Star Wars fanfare: the Imperial March (Darth Vader’s theme). It’s also got Yoda’s music and Han and Leia’s theme (used to great effect in The Force Awakens trailer). So yeah. With that in mind, I think I’m giving Empire the slight nod. For now.

A quote: Empire is enhanced by Lucas settling into his more comfortable position as producer and overseer, hiring Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan to work on the screenplay, and bringing in director Irvin Kershner and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky to give the sequel a more layered, somber tone. Also, Empire introduced some of the franchise’s best characters, including Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett, and Yoda, who’s the movie’s spiritual center”

I Have a Message For you

Matan Rochlitz, The New York Times

This is the story of Klara, a Holocaust survivor from Belgium; specifically, her escape from a train taking her to a concentration camp, and who she had to leave behind on that train. And of a message that she receives many years later. It’s more important than ever to pay attention to and share these stories like this right now, of course, since Nazis are all but running the United States, but even setting that insanity aside, it’s just a lovely story and it’s beautifully presented. Here’s Rochlitz with some more detail behind the story.

A quote: ”You know what those cattle wagons are like? There’s a little window, like this. I put my legs through and turned around and I slid between the two wagons. The train kept going and going. It was very difficult because the SS would shoot at us. I waited a moment. Then I put my hands up to protect my head. And then I jumped from the train.”

Here’s the Key to Great Conversation in 1 Sentence

Wanda Thibodeaux,

Most of the time, when someone’s talking to us, we’re listening—but only so that we can respond. We’re focused on what we’re going to say next, not what the other person is saying. And that sucks. But active listening is a skill that takes time to master. There are some good tips here to help. (Just try and ignore the typo in the first sentence…)

A quote: ”Formulate your answer only after the other person has finished talking. Embrace the silence that happens as you think. Your partner isn’t going to care about the pause if you give a thoughtful answer that demonstrates respect.”

That’s all for this week! Come back next Wednesday for another five things.

PS I’ve changed my mind already. I still like Star Wars more.

Five things that are worth your time: November 29

Five Things: November 29

For the past year at Brainrider my colleague Jon Kane and I have been putting together a weekly internal newsletter, sharing five cool things we’ve read (that generally have some relevance to what we do at Brainrider) with the entire Brainrider team.

At its core it’s just curated content with a little bit of commentary. We send it out on Friday and then we share one thing a day via our intranet the following week. The whole thing was Jon’s brainchild and I give him all the credit. But I like the idea so much I’m stealing it for myself! (OK, I asked his permission so it’s not really stealing. But it’s more fun to say it that way).

On to the things! This week they’re I have four fairly long long reads to share; you might want to settle in with a coffee. But I am very, very certain that all of them are worth your time. And I wrap it up with a video that I am also certain is worth your time.

Luke Skywalker Speaks

Dave Itzkoff, New York Times

I love how totally at ease Mark Hamill seems with his life; he became a mega-celebrity right at the start of his career, and it probably completely derailed said career but he’s just steered into it, owned it and enjoyed it. I think there’s an obvious lesson in there for all of us.

A quote: “Mr. Hamill isn’t bitter or jaded, and he isn’t Luke, though he has retained some of that character’s incorruptibility. He’s gone from a new hope to an old hand, with a lined, expressive face and a gray beard, beneath which lurks a mischievous sense of humor, a yearning to perform and a joy in sharing “Star Wars” war stories.”

Gal Gadot Kicks Ass

Caity Weaver, GQ

Super-hero movies have become pretty formulaic these days, and Wonder Woman isn’t really all that different… except for its star. Gal Gadot embodies that character in a way I don’t think any actor in a super-hero role has done since Christopher Reeve in Superman (whoops, just aged myself there). It’s like she was born to play the part. This profile seems to indicate she’s just as awesome in real life as she was on screen.

A quote: “Gal Gadot is very hands-on. As in: When you meet her, she will put her hands on you many times, in many different places. Israeli culture is so touch-oriented that guides for Americans traveling there warn they may feel their personal space is constantly being violated in formal settings… Even as Wonder Woman sequels and spin-offs propel Gadot to new heights of global stardom, she probably will not lose this habit of touching, because she is a charming, beautiful woman, and it will never occur to people to shrink away from her.”

“That’s My Justice”

Jordan Ritter Conn, The Ringer

Brenda Tracy was raped by four college football players in Oregon in 1998. It took her more than a decade, during which she battled depression and contemplated suicide, before she realized she had within her the power to effect change in the rape culture found among men’s athletics, and football in particular, on college campuses. This story is equally horrifying for what Brenda went through, and uplifting for what she’s trying to do now. My words can’t express how impressive this story is.

A quote: “Tracy realizes she may have offenders in her audience. She targets her message, though, to the vast majority of the players in the room who are unlikely to ever perpetrate a violent act but have the ability to shift the culture among their peers. At Houston, she says: “You might think to yourselves, ‘I don’t commit rape. I don’t beat on women. Why is this my problem?’ I’ll tell you why it’s your problem. Because if women could stop sexual violence, we would have already done it. Eve would have done it. The first woman on the planet would have done it. And do you think that rapists are going to stop it? No. Of course not. So it’s up to you, the 90 percent of men who would not commit rape, to put an end to it.”

Promethea Unbound

Mike Mariani, The Atavist Magazine

This is one of the best things I’ve read in a very, very long time. It’s the story of a child prodigy and the challenges she and her family had growing up. You’d think that a girl who started taking college classes at age 8 and earned her degree at 13 would have it made, but young Jasmine (later Promethea) encounters one challenge after another, climaxing in a tragic act of violence, that derails her future.

A quote: “Solomon posits that “being gifted and being disabled are surprisingly similar: isolating, mystifying, petrifying.” The Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t cover prodigies, and the rationale seems obvious: These children are overequipped for normal achievement. Yet their unique requirements for learning and the extraordinary burdens placed on their families make prodigies resplendent doppelgängers to developmentally challenged children.”

When every word doesn’t belong to everyone

Ta-Nehisi Coates, YouTube/Random House

What do words mean to different people; different groups of people, different races or genders? And why are some words acceptable in some groups but not others? The amazing Ta-Nehisi Coates explains why white people using the N-word is problematic, and why, if you’re not black, you need to be OK with not using it.

A quote: “My wife, with her girlfriends, will use the word “bitch.” I do not join in! I don’t do that. I don’t have a desire to do it. The question one must ask, if that’s accepted and normal for groups to use words that are derogatory in an ironic fashion, why is there so much hand-wringing when black people do it? … Why do so many white people have difficulty extending things that are basic laws of how human beings interact to black people. And I think I know why.”

That’s all for this week! I’ll have five more to share next Wednesday.

Claire McNear breaks down the NFL’s entertainment fallacy for The Ringer

NFL entertainment

A few thoughts on this excellent piece by Claire McNear for The Ringer:

Claire thinks the NFL is no longer fun; I agree

I outlined my thoughts a few weeks back, but Claire frames it up nicely by saying it simply: NFL Football is supposed to be entertainment, but the controversies and violence have robbed it of that value.

She makes a valid point: It isn’t really new, either

We’re just finally starting to notice.

I find myself returning again and again to the suspicion that much of the discord—in outline, if not in specifics—has been here for some time, and in the past we’ve just been distracted by the football itself. This year, you might have heard, the quality of games has been lackluster: The caliber of quarterback play has been lacking; scoring across the league has been down; in Week 8, not a single game was played between teams with winning records.

I haven’t been watching so I can’t comment on the quality of the games, but yes, in the past, the love of the game, the players, your favorite team, your Sunday routine—they overshadowed the noise. But this year the noise got so loud, and the games have seemingly gotten worse, so the script has flipped.

The question then becomes, do enough people care?

Ratings are down, sponsors are complaining and owners are panicking. But what are we talking about here: a few less million for already rich-beyond-measure old white men?

It’s gonna take a lot more Americans tuning out before it really makes a difference. And what then? It’s not like it’s my goal to see NFL football go away; I would simply like to see it be a little more labor-friendly (and have those labor relations a little less tinged with racism) (OK, a lot less tinged). But will that ever happen? Is there even a workable solution that keeps football remotely the same as it is now? I don’t know.

Kudos to The Ringer, by the way…

I was just about out on The Ringer six months ago. Too much Hollywood and tech culture reporting, and way too many silly “fictionalized account” stories. The last couple months they’ve seemingly refocused on sports and I’m much more impressed with the content; their sports stories were always their best work. I hope it stays that way; it might just seem that way now because we had all four sports running for a full month there. We’ll see.

… especially for all of their diverse voices

It’s sad that there are still not enough women writing about sports, but I credit The Ringer for giving so many women a platform to write about sports and more; it would be very easy for them to pigeonhole their women as their Hollywood or pop culture writers, but Claire McNear, Haley O’Shaughnessy, Mallory Rubin, Alison Herman, Juliet Litman, and Kate Knibbs are all doing excellent, high-profile work on the NBA, NFL, MLB and tech beats. I still think they’re underutilizing Katie Baker though!


So in case you missed it, I still haven’t watched a down of NFL football this year. I might feel different once the playoffs start, but I don’t miss it, at all.

Five thoughts on five thoughts

On Friday I wrote a blog post offering five thoughts on the Fantastic Four. I’ve had that one in my head for a while—since I restarted this blog actually. Originally it was going to be four things about the Fantastic Four—which, obviously, makes sense thematically. But I’ve been writing five thoughts about the Raptors every game and I’ve found myself enjoying it; so much so that I’m actually considering writing every post that way.

As a matter of fact… I have five thoughts about it:

  1. It’s a bit gimmicky. But it’s also a decent hook for a blog that doesn’t have much connective tissue beyond “things I like to write about.”
  2. There are some inherent challenges—but challenges are good. The first challenge is that it’s a constraint, a structure that I’m locking myself into that may not always fit “what I like to write about.” But I think that’s a good challenge. If it’s one of those short little curated pieces, maybe it’ll make me think more deeply about it. If it’s something I initially want to write more about, maybe it’ll help me focus my thoughts. And if I can’t make it fit the format… then maybe it isn’t right for the blog?
  3. If I really want to go deep, I can always do “five more thoughts.”
  4. My Photog category—which was essentially my Instagram replacement—definitely doesn’t fit this format. But I have a couple thoughts on how to make it work… and besides, I haven’t been using it much anyway. If this little idea works—and we’ll see at the end of this week—
  5. Part of the reason I’m doing this blog at all is to try new things and experiment with my writing. Maybe this will work, maybe it won’t!

Now my next challenge is finding a better way to title these posts! I can’t keep calling them “five thoughts on…” every time…

RIP Gord Downie

Gord Downie passed away today, which, while not unexpected, is still incredibly sad and heartbreaking. The Tragically Hip are very much Canada’s band and Gord Downie very much emblematic of Canadian music, and, heck, of Canada itself.

Two weeks ago we went to see the documentary Long Time Running, about the Tragically Hip’s last tour. It’s a lovely doc and you should see it. It was the same day Tom Petty died so, you know, pretty emotional day, musically. I can’t imagine how emotional it’d be to watch it now.

Last summer in advance of the last show of that tour, I shared a few Tragically Hip memories on Facebook; I’m gonna share them again here. Copying content is a content marketing sin, but, there’s a decent chance I’ll deactivate that Facebook account in the near future, so I’d rather house that content here.

Here’s what I had to say on August 20, 2016:

  1. In my 12th grade media arts class, we studied the video for “Locked in the Trunk of my Car”. Something to do with visual metaphor on film or something, I don’t remember… we also studied the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” in that same class, so, you know… It was pretty great.
  2. Every time I hear “Ahead by a Century,” I’m immediately transported back to summer 1996 – the summer after I graduated high school. It instantly evokes memories of pool parties, games of Hearts, long goodbyes, my first serious relationship (hey Sheila). And I think “no dress rehearsal, this is our life” was a scary line to think about before heading to college.
  3. Circa 1999, my college buddy Grant posted an ad looking for a roommate. It said, “Looking for a place to happen? Making stops along the way?” (Eventually I became one of those roommates).
  4. In 2001, at the bar we (me, Grant and roommate #2, Joe) frequented, there was a cover band that often played on Friday nights. And often, Bull, the bartender, would get behind the mic for “New Orleans is Sinking” – and riff for ages in the middle of it, on God knows what. The drunker you were, the more entertaining it was… Which was probably the point.
  5. In 2008 the Hip headlined a festival in Belleville, ON. The tickets were my ex’s birthday present – she was the bigger fan than I – but I was excited to finally see them in concert and discover for myself if everyone who ever said, “yeah, the Hip are great but they’re even better live!” was on the mark. They were. Given what’s now happened I’m more glad than ever that I got to see that show.

That same day on Twitter, #7favehipsongs was trending. Here’s what I had to say about that:

  1. Scared
  2. World Container
  3. Wheat Kings
  4. Bobcaygeon
  5. Ahead by a Century
  6. Fiddlers Green
  7. 38 Years Old

Having given it more thought—and honestly, having listened to a lot more Hip in the year since—I’d probably move “Fiddlers Green” or “38 Years Old” out for “Escape is at Hand for the Traveling Man” or “Last of the Unplucked Gems”. But who knows.

Anyway. That’s what I have to say about the Hip. I recommend Long Time Running, it’s a really nice film that captures a nice moment in time when the country came to celebrate a great band and a great Canadian.

Now get out there and listen to some Hip, man.

Airport customs checkpoints and automation

Going through customs has always been a chore but recent automation “improvements” seem to have made it worse.

I’m talking mainly about the “automated passport scanners and customs declarations forms” machines that are now appearing in many airports, but especially here in Toronto’s Pearson International. I came home from a trip to London earlier today, and this may just have been the worst experience I’ve had at customs.

If “automation” is a way of making something function on its own, minimizing (or eliminating) human interaction, then this process has a long way to, I think. Let’s illustrate this and you can judge for yourself how effective it is.

First let’s recall how customs used to function, and still does in airports without these scanners. You get your customs form on the plane and fill it out. You file off the plane and are funneled through a queue until you reach of a bank of customs officers; often a single officer might guide the front of the line to the next available officer. You present your passport, your customs form, confirm your declaration is true, the officer asks you a couple questions, and assuming everything’s hunky-dory you’re on your way.

Here’s how it works at Pearson now.

You don’t fill out your customs for on the plane. You file off the plane and are funneled through a queue until you reach of a bank of computers. Here, you scan your passport, and you fill out the customs form on the spot. Then it takes your picture, prints a receipt of your customs form, and sends you on your way.

A couple points to this. First, there are multiple lines, and there’s no signage directing anyone anywhere, so unless you happen to arrive at the right moment—otherwise known as “the moment when the customs lady decides to scream about which line is for connections, which is for express, which is for regular passport holders etc.”—you’re left standing in confusion, creating a wonderful backlog right from the start. Once you get in (hopefully the right) line and get to the front, you wait for the next machine. A light on the top front of the machine lets you know when it’s free, except, half the machines face away from the front of the line. So you can’t see the light. Unless you wander over to that bank… but then you might miss the “next free” machine if it’s on the other side… so you’re stuck in limbo, hoping a machine you can see opens up.

Second, the electronic filling out of the form itself is… well, I get that it’s nice to have that data electronically, but it doesn’t seem to make sense from an efficiency standpoint. Previously travelers did this on the plane, prior to arrival, so when they got to customs they were all set. Now, they have to fill this form out at customs, along with ALL other travelers, one at a time, at one of the few available kiosks. Efficiency is greatly reduced by this.1 2

Third, let’s talk about the machines themselves. The touchscreens are of average responsiveness it seems, but the passport scanners seem pretty unreliable—at least a third of the people I watched while waiting in line needed assistance from a Customs officer on this part. And then the camera part—that’s just excruciating. The camera has to move into eye level, and that is SLOW. A customs officer with a camera would be much, much more efficient, but more importantly, I have to ask—WHY do you need a picture? You have my passport. IT HAS MY PICTURE ON IT. That I paid for. That Customs has a record of. There is absolutely zero need for this machine to take my photo, and that’s the slowest part!!

Moving along, once you’ve got your customs form receipt, it’s back into the queue… leading to a bank of customs officers… to have the customs officer look at your passport and said receipt. In other words… it’s the exact same process as it was before the stupid machines were installed. It’s moderately quicker, because they are not physically scanning your passport – just eyeballing it (looking at your picture, then at you, to make sure it’s you, which again raises the point… why did your stupid machine take my picture?), but they’re still asking how long you stayed, purpose of your visit, bringing back any alcohol, etc.—all the same questions they asked before, and all the same questions that are answered on your form.

If you’ve lost track, this so-called automated process has not reduced the number of humans needed and has almost tripled the time it takes to move travelers through customs. I supposed there may be some security benefits to having more information electronically, but I also know that keeping more people confined in a small space for more time is inherently less secure, so seems like a wash to me.

All of this to say… you’ve still got a lot of work to do here, airport customs.


1I do note that the electronic form is simplified and asks fewer questions about how much you spent etc., which is appreciated.
2Apparently there is an app that allows you to fill out your customs form and advance, and sync when you get to the machine. I was unaware of this. My dad heard about it, and tried it; the sync didn’t work so he had to fill it out anyway at the kiosk.


Why I’m not watching football right now

This past Sunday, my wife asked me, “does football season start this weekend?” Her only barometer for when the season starts is when I start watching; since she hadn’t seen me watching she didn’t know the season was already a month old.

It’s true: Week 5 just ended and I haven’t watched a single down of the 2017 NFL season.

Naturally my wife asked me why I wasn’t watching. I struggled to put it into words, because there are a number of reasons; it isn’t a simple answer.

I used to be a diehard NFL fan, watching football for about 12 hours every Sunday and three more on Mondays. The number started to decrease three years ago when we cancelled our cable subscription, mainly because I didn’t have easy access to the games (only getting two per week over the air, and the NFL steaming package was ridiculously expensive1). But truthfully I was OK with that decrease because—and this will sound familiar if you read my post on Facebook—watching the NFL has made me increasingly uncomfortable. And I think over the summer I just hit the breaking point… and certainly nothing that’s happened this season has made me regret it.

(Sure, I’m missed some great moments—like the Packers’ comeback against the Cowboys yesterday—but I’m happy reading about it on Deadspin for now.)

What’s making me uncomfortable? Here’s a sampling:

Concussions. This is the big one: The league’s stance on the impact of repeated head trauma and concussions, and the long-term consequences… the way the dragged their feet on admitting the dangers, refused to pay for health care, continued to promote “big hits”, refused to make changes to make the game safer… I could go on. Read more here and here.

The way the league arbitrarily disciplines its players. From Ray Rice to the Saints to Tom Brady to Ezekiel Elliot, there are sooo many problems with the way the league handles this I don’t even know where to begin. Except to say this: In no universe does it make sense for someone with no background in either football or law to serve as the sole judge and jury in these cases. Except that’s what the league has done in inexplicably appointing its commissioner as its arbiter of justice. And he (unsurprisingly) always gets it wrong. And yet the league is fine with this continuing as-is. Read more here and here.

The “domestic violence problem”. First of all, I think it’s important to point out that the league doesn’t actually have a domestic violence problem; hand-wringing columnists will tell you it does, but statistics show that NFL players are no more or less likely to commit crimes than any other group (and are far below the national average for their gender and age group). It’s just that they’re famous, so they’re in the news. (And that they’re almost always black, and those hand-wringing columnists are almost always white. Isn’t that curious?) Which makes it a PR problem for the league. Their response? The league decides it needs to become “a leader in the domestic violence space” (their words). Of course, since issuing that asinine statement, the NFL has managed only to issue one tone-deaf and inadequate response after another while making scapegoats of shitty players and excuses a’plenty for those that can still play. And I can only shake my head in dismay. More here, and for the love of God, watch Katie Nolan:

Their joke of a “breast cancer awareness” program. Read about it here; it’s nothing more than pandering to an audience (women) that they want to make more money from. Not convinced? Read this one. And then go back and think about the “domestic violence space”, and tell me if you think that’s really about making a difference in the community or teaching players to value and respect women, or if it’s just another part of the “pander to women and turn them into paying customers” playbook.

Colin Kaepernick and the “anthem protests”. I could write 10,000 words on this, but I don’t think I need to say anything here, do I? That the NFL has not unequivocally taken a stance behind its players and supported their first-amendment-protected rights is disgraceful enough. That they then tried to turn the whole thing into an ad campaign about “unity,” thus completely missing the point? I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised but… come on.

I guess the other thing that really got me going about all this is just how many fans don’t support the players. People booed! Their own team! How can you boo players who simply don’t want to see any more innocent people get killed? Who have taken a peaceful, silent protest to draw attention to this issue? That they are 100 percent within their rights to do? If that’s really how ignorant football fans are, well then… it makes me uncomfortable to be associated with them.

Oh, and this past weekend’s publicity stunt by Vice-President Pence was the icing on the cake.

Those are five huge issues and I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting. It’s all just had a cumulative effect of, “I’m tired of this, it isn’t worth it, I don’t want to engage with it any more.”

At least right now. I’m not saying this is how I’ll feel forever. My mind might change. I might start to miss it. Maybe the league will change! Anything is possible. But for right now, I just can’t support it the same way. I’ll be satisfied checking the scores and reading the updates online.

1I can’t find the exact numbers but I believe it was USD$280 in 2014; That’s for 256 games, and they’re only on three days a week. (In comparison, the NBA is USD$160, for 1256 games, on almost every day.) Curiously, this year, the NFL has a new streaming partner in Canada, DAZN, which promises every NFL game for $20/month. For five months you’re looking at only $100 – Canadian – so that’s a great deal! It’s almost a shame I don’t wanna watch any more… but the fact that the service has been terrible and unwatchable doesn’t make me feel too bad.

The Straw that Broke the Social Media Camel’s Fake Back, or something

“Why’d you start this blog” is always a good blog post to write.

The easy answer is, “I’m a writer, I love to write and I have lots to say.” And that’s true, but there’s a little more to it, and it mainly has to do with Facebook, and social media.

Although I “celebrated” 10 years on Facebook earlier this year, I’ve never been a huge user of the platform. I have a small group of friends and family and check in regularly to see what they post; I don’t follow many “third parties” on there, other sites or personalities or what-have-you. This means my news feed is—other than ads—almost exclusively posts and shares from people I actually know.

I post maybe once a month or so myself; it was definitely more frequent 8-9 years ago.

On the other hand, I am was a fairly heavy Instagram user. I take a lot of photos on my phone and I like to share them. I recently started a second account to share some of the cool comics and geek stuff I have in my library, and that’s been a fun exercise (and the fact that I’ve been able to do it consistently is part of the reason I thought I might be able to make the blogging thing work this time). Both of those accounts are public.

But I haven’t posted on Facebook or either of my Instagram accounts in over three weeks. The ongoing string of “no, Facebook is actually kinda awful” stories seems to have broken me.

I don’t meant to single Facebook out; YouTube is taking crap right now for promoting fake news stories about Las Vegas as well, and I’m sure Snapchat and Twitter and LinkedIn and all the rest are equally awful. People in my age group and above have complained about social media for years and my response has always been, “hey, you’ll only get out of it what you put into it,” meaning if you don’t want to post about what you had for breakfast or read about the latest Kardashian dating crisis, you don’t have to. If you just wanted to connect with a few friends, like I was doing, it could be used for that.

But when these channels start influencing elections and terrorism and put peoples lives at risk, that’s something different. You can’t ignore that, or at least I can’t.

So I’m not sure how much I want to be present on those platforms anymore. I have 30+ photos and about half-dozen a posts written for the geek sanctuary account, just waiting to be posted, but I seem have lost the motivation to do so.

Meanwhile, as a content marketer, I know I can do all of this stuff myself, on a channel I own, without the help of Facebook. Sure, if I really want eyeballs, I should use those channels to promote my content. And of course, it’s a one-way communication channel. I lose the “social aspect” of it.

But then there’s the real question—what am I really losing? Am I really actively engaging with friends and family on social media, or is it just habit, activity for the sake of activity?

I don’t know. I just know it makes me uncomfortable these days.

So I’m gonna try this out for a while, and maybe wean myself off those other channels where I can, and see where I end up.

Thanks for reading.

Into the Great Wide Open

Tom Petty died this week, so just a few personal thoughts:

  1. Shortly after the movie version of High Fidelity came out, I started dating someone, and one of our earliest conversations turned to top five records. I put Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Greatest Hits on my list. Being young and dumb I didn’t think about the fact that there’s a more that goes into a record than just putting a bunch of popular songs on it that span an artist’s or band’s career, which is all a greatest hits record is; I wouldn’t put a greatest hits record on that list today. And yet… tell me that this isn’t, simply, a great fucking album:
    1. American Girl
    2. Breakdown
    3. Listen to Her Heart
    4. I Need to Know
    5. Refugee
    6. Don’t Do Me Like That
    7. Even the Losers
    8. Here Comes My Girl
    9. The Waiting
    10. You Got Lucky
    11. Don’t Come Around Here No More
    12. I Won’t Back Down
    13. Runnin’ Down a Dream
    14. Free Fallin’
    15. Learning to Fly
    16. Into the Great Wide Open
    17. Mary Jane’s Last Dance
    18. Something in the Air

There’s not one skippable song on there, and the order is perfect. Most greatest hits records have one or two songs on them that the band likes but no one else does, and most you can just throw on shuffle and enjoy… this one is just perfect as-is.

  1. This is a great driving album, with “Runnin’ Down a Dream” being the highlight. I remember my friend Grant and I singing along to this on the way up north to his parents’ trailer circa 2001.
  2. I know it’s easy to goof on Tom Cruise, and it’s actually pretty easy to goof on Cameron Crowe now too, but Cruise singing “Free Fallin’” in Jerry Maguire is a pretty perfect match of music and movie.
  3. Speaking of Free Fallin’ (and guys that it’s easy to goof on), John Mayer’s cover of “Free Fallin'” from his Live in L.A. record is pretty superb.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. RIP Tom Petty.