This newsletter was just a random one-off idea. Seeing a lot of bloggers and writers I enjoy and respect pivot to the newsletter thing was an inspiration.
Sure, I still like blogging random news bits as they come up, but it wasn’t a great place to share more long form content. More of a “hot take” scenario, than something you can dig in and read.
A newsletter though? On Sundays? That’s a way for me to do the number one thing I’ve always loved doing online — sharing unique, interesting and thought provoking stuff — and maybe become something that you, dear reader, enjoyed on a Sunday morning over breakfast, or as you got over a crazy Saturday night.
And here we are, 50 issues in, and it continues to be a joy in my weekend.
Anyway — to celebrate 50 issues released and to make up for me missing last week’s issue — this week will be a special double issue, with six things for you to enjoy and read on this fine Sunday morning.
Now, onto the things…
Ask a fan of The Simpsons who their favorite creators of the show are, they’d name the originator, Matt Groening, or writers who went on to do bigger things like Conan O’Brien. But the hardcore fans? They name one man from the “golden era” — John Swartzwelder.
Swartzwelder has long maintained his silence as one of the creators of The Simpsons, allowing the work to speak more for itself, and retiring from the show in recent years to instead write self-published humor novels.
Mike Sacks at The New Yorker some way, some how, got Swartzwelder to break his silence, and we’re all better for it.
Have you come to appreciate the effect that “The Simpsons” has had around the world?
I like to think that “The Simpsons” has helped create a generation of wise guys, who live in a world where everybody is up to something. If that’s all we’ve achieved, aside from the billions of dollars we’ve made, I’m satisfied.
This past weekend, Spiral, the latest installment of the trap-filled gorefests which is the Saw franchise hit theaters. I don’t know that we really needed a ninth installment for the series, but what makes it intriguing is the choice of star — legendary comedian Chris Rock, breaking out of his mold as a hardened detective.
The role comes during a renaissance in Rock’s career, during a time of personal turbulence, the comedian is taking risks — and Mitchell S. Jackson catalogs it all for Esquire.
This slim dude with the knowing eyes and the knife-sharp wit has somehow, at fifty-six, arrived at the belief that his place in the universe—of Black comedy, of comedy itself, of acting, of artistry, of defining the times in which he lives—is not quite set yet. That he must create more, more, more; that what he makes must be different, more challenging, and better, greater, superior.
Peep: In the past three years alone, he directed this year’s stand-up special Chris Rock Total Blackout—maybe his best ever—an extended cut of his 2018 special Tamborine. He anchored season 4 of the Emmy-winning crime drama Fargo, a shock to maybe everyone but him. Another shock: his starring role in Spiral: From the Book of Saw, the ninth installment of the Saw horror franchise out May 13. Then there’s his role in the untitled, mum’s-the-word David O. Russell film starring just about every A-list actor in Hollywood.
There’s the finished script of the next film he’ll direct.
There’s the nascent material for his next comedy special.
On these steps, playing Where’s Chris on the poster, the same steps he shuffled down for the first time thirty-seven years ago, you think about how a comedian, an actor, a writer—any serious artist, which is what he is—must resist the temptation to marvel too long at what they’ve made, must instead meet the constant challenge of equaling if not surpassing it. Must answer again and again the crucial questions echoing evermore in the mind:
Does what I make matter?
And, by extension, do I?
Will I be remembered the next century?
As it turns out, we’re going to probably be able to go and actually do things this year. Concerts are getting announced, mask mandates are being removed (YOU BET I HAVE THOUGHTS ON THAT), but importantly, we’re going to have to get used to being good humans again.
On the concert tip in particular, Bonnie Steirnberg at Inside Hook spoke with promoters to get the best advise for all of us getting used to being people in public places again. It’s a nice reminder of what was, and what we’ll have to be used to.
Beyond the usual unwritten rules of concertgoing that were hammered into us pre-pandemic, like “Wearing a t-shirt of the band you’re seeing at the show is lame” and “No flash photography,” COVID-19 has also left us with plenty of new rules and regulations to be mindful of as live music makes its return. Morgan Deane, chair of the New York Independent Venue Association (NYIVA)’s Reopening Task Force and owner of Lasher Louis Productions, recently launched a new set of guidelines dubbed “The Guide“ in an effort to assist venues looking to reopen with protocols in place and with the safety of customers and staff top-of-mind.
“If you had asked me six weeks ago, I would have said ‘No, things are never going back to normal,’” Deane tells InsideHook. “But, now I do think that within the next few years we will see live events return to something that resembles the before times. I think it’s really important that we all remember to be kind to each other as we navigate these next steps … I think fans should know we missed them as much as they missed us. Artists, promoters and operators have worked so hard to get live events back. Please just follow whatever rules we communicate to you.”
As DJ and producer Dimitry Mak, who recently posted what he called “The 10 Venue Commandments” to his Facebook page, points out, how quickly we’re able to get back to a pre-pandemic “normal” depends on how willing fans are to adhere to the rules. “As a musician and a DJ, I travel a lot,” he says. “I perform live, I love to attend live performances. With things potentially getting back to normal soon, I think it’s really important that we support artists and the nightlife industry the right way. It’s going to be so much fun when it all comes back, but it’s also going to be crucial that it’s done in a way that respects the venue, the staff and the performers.”
File this under “new fears I never had to have before, and will irrationally have even though I don’t have a twin.”
You know what’s worse than unexpected information on your credit report? When, for some reason, the credit bureaus keep confusing you and your twin. And there seems to be nothing you can do about it.
This fresh Hell is ruining the life of The Verge’s Mitchell Clark, and he’s here to share the horrors with us all.
My twin sister Alita and I have a credit problem: not because we’ve defaulted on loans or skipped bills, but because the US credit rating agencies can’t seem to tell us apart. Sometimes they associate her name with my social security number, sometimes it’s the other way around — and sometimes we both show up under the same SSN.
When I applied to work at The Verge, my background check gave my name as Alita Clark; Mitchell Clark was listed as an alias. Over and over, Alita and I have been rejected for credit cards, despite both having good credit. I was rejected for a car loan by a bank that I’ve used for years — despite having enough cash to immediately pay off the loan. Neither of us has had issues with getting access to housing, but it’s hard to feel sure it won’t happen in the future. The problem isn’t banks or lenders but the credit system itself, a vast and invisible information network with little incentive to correct even the simplest of problems.
Shock of shocks — in a time post COVID, people aren’t necessarily going to be flocking to have meals served en masse, with everyone grabbing from the same serving dish. In turn, the era of the buffet, a true American icon if there ever was one, may be over.
Joe Berkowitz at Fast Company looks into what the future holds for these gluttony encouraging food havens.
If this self-care-as-a-pejorative tradition goes away for good, is it worth mourning? Well, that depends on whether you enjoy momentary bliss with your vacation. The all-you-can-eat buffet syncs up perfectly with the rhythm and ethos of travel. Just the sight of so much delicious food in so many forms is a primal serotonin hit that whispers to the portion of the brain concerned with scarcity, “you’ll never be hungry again.” Salvation by salivation. It’s a chance to abandon all edible encumbrances, from diets to dignity, and luxuriate in unabashed gluttony. You get all the deluxe endless sampling that comes with auditioning caterers for a wedding, with none of the pesky “getting married” that usually follows. Come hither, weary traveler, and let us descend into wholesome decadence—a drugless, adultery-free transgression fit for the whole family. Any worries about weight and sensibility can wait until Monday. For now, the 10:30 a.m. lobster and guacamole are on the table, along with all things imaginable.
If you’re at all the type interested in stories of unexplained phenomena, chances are, you’ve heard the story of the nine soviet hikers, who disappeared in the winter of 1959, and died under mysterious circumstances. Was it aliens? Was it the KGB? Was it a weapon test gone wrong?
For decades, people have thrown out theory after theory, and this week…the answer appears to be revealed.
Douglas Preston for The New Yorker gives a full history of the incident, along with the key answer finally revealed. Do you think it’s the truth?
Something had happened that induced the skiers to cut their way out of the tent and flee into the night, into a howling blizzard, in twenty-below-zero temperatures, in bare feet or socks. They were not novices to the winter mountains; they would have been acutely aware of the fatal consequences of leaving the tent half dressed in those conditions. This is the central, and apparently inexplicable, mystery of the incident.
Four bodies remained missing. In early May, when the snow began to melt, a Mansi hunter and his dog came across the remains of a makeshift snow den in the woods two hundred and fifty feet from the cedar tree: a floor of branches laid in a deep hole in the snow. Pieces of tattered clothing were found strewn about: black cotton sweatpants with the right leg cut off, the left half of a woman’s sweater. Another search team arrived and, using avalanche probes around the den, they brought up a piece of flesh. Excavation uncovered the four remaining victims, lying together in a rocky streambed under at least ten feet of snow. The autopsies revealed catastrophic injuries to three of them. Thibault-Brignoles’s skull was fractured so severely that pieces of bone had been driven into the brain. Zolotaryov and Dubinina had crushed chests with multiple broken ribs, and the autopsy report noted a massive hemorrhage in the right ventricle of Dubinina’s heart. The medical examiner said the damage was similar to what is typically seen as the “result of an impact of an automobile moving at high speed.” Yet none of the bodies had external penetrating wounds, though Zolotaryov’s was missing its eyes, and Dubinina’s was missing its eyes, tongue, and part of the upper lip.
Whether you’ve been here since the first issue, or this is your first, here’s to at least 50 more. Thanks for letting me drop into your inbox each week. The pleasure is all mine.
Have a great week!