Happy Sunday, dear readers!
As this hits your inbox, the national holiday — at least here in the States — is Father’s Day.
I won’t bore you with the details of my relationship with my father, other to say than it was estranged and difficult, but what I will tell you about is my relationship with my stepfather.
Mac, as he infinitely prefers to be called, is one of a kind. He’s the type of guy who will constantly, comedically test those around him. A Vietnam war vet, yet a complete and total pacifist, he taught me the value of two key things, which defined my life:
He’d be incredibly embarrassed to know I wrote about him here, so I’ll wrap it up with those two key learnings.
If you’re a father, close to your father, or know or are a mother who has to be both, congrats, this is a day to take stock and celebrate. For the rest? Enjoy your Sunday.
Now, onto the things…
In many ways, the Internet is one of the best inventions ever rendered. In others, it’s the worst. Today’s newsletter brings us two reasons to consider it the latter…though I’m writing to you via it, making it one of the best.
Dave Holmes — yes, the one who used to be an MTV DJ and/or hosted movies on FX — has noticed a terrible trend on the Internet. People are stupid. And LOVING IT. And worse? Profiting from it. Have we become Idiocracy? You make the call.
Stupidity is saying two plus two equals five. Elevated Stupidity is doing the same thing, except you invoke Pythagoras, decry cancel culture when someone corrects you, then get a seven-figure book deal and a speaking tour out of it. Elevated Stupidity has permeated all facets of life—reality TV, social media, Congress, your group chat, and your softball team. Elevated Stupidity stems from the idea that being good at arguing is the same thing as being correct. That rhetorical skill—or at least a degree of big debate-club energy sufficient to wear out one’s opponent—is the equivalent of intelligence. If being a good arguer is the same as being smart or correct, then do you know who is the smartest, correct-est person in history? Every Scientologist.
The second half of the “Gosh the Internet Sucks” double feature here comes from G. Keenan Schneider:
Being constantly bludgeoned by variety is destructive. It leaves no room for quiet. No space for contemplation. No opportunity for thought. When we’re constantly craving the next thing, we have no time to digest the previous thing. We have no ability to consider what something truly means to us. The pandemic provided a uniquely horrific opportunity for all of us to collectively share in that misery. We all fed into this in our own ways, mostly by feeding off of others in an effort to stave off the boredom, frustration, and despair a global catastrophe inflicted upon us. The Internet tries to be everything to everyone, and it takes its toll. What hope do we have if we can’t even sit quietly with our own thoughts?
For more on the above, check out Bo Burham’s latest special on Netflix, Inside.
Trying to desperately bring some positivity to this newsletter this week, it’s time to drop in on Martin Yan.
The joyful face of Yan Can Cook, a face that my PBS-viewing childhood mixes interchangeably with Mr. Rogers, Big Bird, and Julia Child in terms of “people who taught me to be enthusiastic and always learning”, Martin Yan’s taken a new stance in his decades long career — attempting to turn around the negative tide towards Asian Americans over the past few years.
Priya Krishna digs in for The New York Times:
Mr. Yan, in his perennially cheery way, focuses on the progress that’s been made — pointing to, say, the ubiquity of Chinese restaurants in America, or the availability of ingredients like soy sauce in grocery stores. Asked about his experience with discrimination, he insisted he had been “fortunate.”
But the next day, after thinking about it, he told a story: Forty years ago, he was taking out the trash at his San Francisco apartment, near a lake with ducks. A young white couple, seeing him with a bin, accused him of trying to kill and eat the ducks, saying that Asians like him were destroying the environment.
Mr. Yan assured the couple he had no plan to kill anything, and invited them to come over that evening for Peking duck.
He believes many conflicts can be resolved with a smile, a conversation and a sense of humor. “I cannot change my accent, I cannot change my background, I cannot change the color of my face, I can’t change,” he said. “I truly believe, as long as we are doing things to project a positive image,” that’s enough.
The couple accepted his explanation. They did not come over for duck.
OK, maybe this week got a little grim after the cheery opening. But that’s life, right? Take the light AND the dark. I’ll try to bring more joy in next week’s selections.
Stay cool, and I’ll see you here next week.