Three Blogs for the Price of One

Hey guys! I just wanted to give you a quick update on the status of this blog: it’s kind of ending. Or not ending, but splitting into three separate blogs. Basically, while I’ve loved doing this blog, I’ve realized that the topics are too scattershot to really collect an audience who’s seriously interested in everything I write. Most people wait for me to write about one topic and then ignore the rest.

So to make life easier for people who aren’t just interested in me personally, I’m creating three new blogs. The first you are familiar with:

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A Man Without A Country is continuing as my travel blog. As I explained a few weeks ago, the title doesn’t quite reflect me personally or politically anymore, but it sounds cool, and it’s a brand I’ve developed. So it’s staying on. I’m planning on publishing at least one article a week on AMWAC, with a few shorter posts here and there.

The second blog is:

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Don’t Be A Dick is the name of the new human rights blog I’ve created. As much as I like to write about butts and other tomfoolery, the thing I’m actually the most qualified to write about is human rights, because I’ve got a masters in it. This is where all of my political writing is headed to, though it’s going to mostly be from a human rights type perspective from now on, rather than just being me aimlessly ranting.

The third blog is:

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All Cool Shit is my new culture site. It’s basically just going to be about books, shows, and movies I love. This one is going to be the biggest change from the others: most of my culture writing lately has taken on a bit of a sociology-ish tone, which I’m not really all that qualified for, and which people tend to not enjoy reading all that much. So this site will be only about stuff I genuinely enjoy. It’s an exercise in positivity, and it’s more or less inspired by Patton Oswalt’s stint writing movie reviews as Neill Cumpston. If you haven’t checked it out, you should: it’s basically a fanboy shouting about how awesome certain movies are and saying stuff like “I am out!! of!! cum!!” while describing the car scene in The Matrix: Reloaded.

Not that everything’s going to be about that, but I need a place to be a giddy fanboy.

All of the posts that I’ve already written – in AMWAC and in other incarnations – will remain here on MattHershberger.com, which I will hold onto as my professional page.

I’m really excited about all three of these blogs, and really want to thank everyone who has been reading my stuff. It’s really cool having an audience that is smart, fun, and totally not shitty. I’ll see you on the interwebs.

Something Horrible Happens, Internet Explodes As Was Foretold

In Hinduism and Buddhism, there’s a concept called “samsara.” It refers to the continuous cycle of life, birth, death, and the suffering that comes with it. In both religions, part of the goal is to release oneself from this endlessly repeating cycle through enlightenment.

I think, if you were to create a religion out of the internet, you could say the same basic idea applies: We’re caught in a pretty consistent cycle of outrage every time there’s a catastrophe like the one that happened over the weekend at UC Santa Barbara. You can generally expect, after a shooting, a brief, ADHD national discussion about gun laws and mental health and, maybe, depending on the details of the case, another issue – if it happens in a military setting, we’ll briefly talk about mental health, or, if it’s like this weekend’s shootings, we’ll talk about misogyny.

Someone will make a suggestion about aspects of our culture that may have contributed to the state of mind of the person who committed the atrocity, then that corner of society will explode in outrage, will reducto ad absurdum their opponents argument, and we’ll get nowhere. We’ll return to talking about celebrities and missing planes until the next atrocity inevitably happens.

It happened this weekend in the Washington Post. Ann Hornaday, a movie critic for the newspaper, pointed out that a lot of Hollywood movies tend to revolve around the wish-fulfillment of white males, whether it’s through superhero vigilantism or through Seth Rogen getting laid, despite being a schlubby fuckup.

Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow were not happy, and took to Twitter. “How dare you…” “Horribly insulting…” and when asked why it’s not ever about mental illness, “because that doesn’t sell papers.”

It’s frustrating because the debate is very frequently about mental illness, and even a basic reading of the article makes it clear that she’s not blaming Judd Apatow for the shooting, but for a culture that makes young men think that their entitled to getting laid and partying hard in college.

In times where we aren’t feeling distressed, we’re more than happy to consider ourselves part of a culture: we’re proud of our heritage, we love music, we love movies, we’re active participants in our society. But the second that culture appears to be having a negative influence on some group of people, we pull ourselves from it. It’s a “crazed individual,” and “how dare you” suggest that we could have played any role what happened.

Here’s an example: Hornaday’s article drew attention to the relative lack of women storytellers in Hollywood. Last week, Matador published a piece I did that was basically suggesting 10 books people should read while traveling. It’s a good list (check it out!) but a pretty decent number of people pointed out to me that there wasn’t a single female author on the list.

My first impulse was to be annoyed and defensive. I legitimately love all the books on that list, and they are my ten favorites. I went on a long rant to Steph about how not every list needs to include every demographic, and about how I of all people know the need for drawing attention to female writers and blah blah blah.

But I checked my Goodreads “travel” shelf: I haven’t read a single travel book by a woman. Not one. This isn’t a conscious choice (travel writing, ironically, is not my favorite genre, so it’s not my most-read category), but it’s definitely remarkable that of dozens of travel books, I haven’t read anything except shorter essays written by women. This isn’t to say that I’m to blame in some way for not having sought out female writers: but I never have. I haven’t tried to make them a part of my reading diet. For all of the books I’ve ever read, female authors make up under 10% of them. And a disproportionate chunk of this blog’s readership is female.

I can’t really remove myself from that guilt: I could find female writers I like pretty easily, and I could make an effort to read more of them. That’s on me. And this does, technically, make me complicit in a culture that favors voices like my own over those of women and other minorities. This doesn’t mean that I’m at fault for misogynist attack and shootings, but I am a part of an environment that allows misogyny, gun violence, and untreated mental illness to be things.

Seth Rogen’s not a bad guy, and there’s nothing wrong with a movie where he gets laid. There’s only something wrong if that’s one of the only messages getting across. Maybe if the shooter had watched movies like Brave or Frozen instead of just action movies and bro comedies – maybe if there were more Braves and Frozens in the live-action realm, female characters would be a little less fake and a little more human too him. So maybe we need to make asking for more movies by women a priority. And maybe that starts with me seeking out some more female authors. I’m reading Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle now. It’ll move my ratio up just a little tick.

Or we could all refuse the blame and shout. It’s okay, this cycle’s been going for a while, it’ll keep going until we catch on.

John Oliver’s Show is Better than The Daily Show, as Long as You’re Okay With Looking at Mitch McConnell’s Dick

I haven’t made a secret of my love for John Oliver. The man has been one of the funniest people on television for years: this bit from 6 years ago is, to this day, the hardest I’ve ever laughed at something on TV:

His weekly podcast The Bugle, with fellow British comedian Andy Zaltzman, is consistently one of the highlights of my week, and his takeover for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show last summer was absolutely amazing. So I was thrilled when HBO offered him his own show, and then dismayed when, just a few months after he left Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert quit the job that undoubtedly would have been filled by John Oliver if he had remained.

I don’t feel that way anymore, and the reason is Mitch McConnell’s dick.

Let me back up:

For years, Jon Stewart has been considered the king of late-night satire in America, and he’s done a particularly great job of taking on Fox News, or, as he calls them, “Bullshit Mountain.” It’s something America needs, but after more than a decade of hearing it, it’s gotten kind of old and stale, and it’s to the point where it seems a little bit lazy. For someone with a relatively progressive agenda, Jon Stewart hasn’t really done much but mock the Republican Party and cable news. He occasionally touches on other things, but that’s the huge bulk of his content. And while it’s important, it’s not “fill up your nightly show” important.

John Oliver’s new show has only been on three weeks, and though it has made fun of cable news on a number of occasions, it is infinitely more ambitious. The HBO format obviously offers him a little more freedom: he can swear, and he can show gore and boobs and dicks on screen. So last week (the third episode), to mock the SuperPAC-funded Kentucky Senate races descent into attack ad absurdity, he created his own ad for Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes that was basically just a long shot of Mitch McConnell’s wrinkly old man dick.

I mean, I assume it’s actually McConnell’s dick. They couldn’t lie about that, right?

And while that should’ve been the highlight of the night’s show, it wasn’t: immediately after, Oliver did a bit on the constant debate over climate change in the United States, saying:

“The only accurate way to report that one out of four Americans are skeptical about global warming is to say ‘A poll finds that one out of four Americans are wrong about something.’”

Which was then followed by a “statistically representative climate debate”:

It’s more cutting than The Daily Show, and frankly, it’s covering more important topics: he’s already covered the NSA, the death penalty, the election in India, Oregon’s healthcare boondoggle, and how sports analysts are embracing Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL player, by dehumanizing him with ridiculous sports statistics.

All of this probably means he’ll never be as big as Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert (who are more willing to go for the easier jokes), but he’s already proven he’s a better satirist, after a mere four weeks. Long live John Oliver.

I’m Getting Married, So A Man Without A Country is Over

I’m ending A Man Without A Country. I was going to make a big deal out of this – try and make you think that I was ending the blog entirely, try and make it seem like I was retiring from the internet, like it was time to sell out and become a banker – but then it occurred to me that relatively few people would actually care if I did that, and if my cancellation news wasn’t met with cries of despair and outrage, I would probably be pretty depressed.

So I’ll be clearer: I’m just changing the name of the site. There are an infinite number of reasons for this, but only one of them really matters. So naturally, I’m going to give you all of the reasons that don’t matter first.

I started using “A Man Without A Country” when I started using Tumblr around 5 years ago. I shamelessly stole it from Kurt Vonnegut, who used it for one of his last books. While it has a jazzy ring to it, and while it thrilled me a little bit to pretend that Kurt Vonnegut may have liked my blog if he was the type of guy who would spend lots of time Googling himself while also being dead, it wasn’t a very practical choice: no one searching for “A Man Without A Country” finds my site unless they click through a few search pages.

So there was that. But that was always a problem, and I was always too lazy to come up with an original blog title to care.

The other reason that doesn’t matter is that it was originally a title for my travel-centric blog. I’m not really traveling as much anymore, and also, I’m working for the Matador Network as a staff writer. Since they pay me to write about travel, and I am a significantly less generous editor to my site’s writers, I haven’t been writing much about travel on my own blog lately.

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Me and Steph

The reason that does matter is this: Steph and I got engaged last week.

For followers of my blog who aren’t my Mom, Steph is my girlfriend (fiancee!). I’ve been dating her for two years, and I haven’t written about our relationship all that much on my blog because I am a firm believer in two things: first, that the internet is not a place for happiness – happiness belongs in the real world – and second, that people who write about how happy they are are boring writers.

Also, I’m pretty sure she’d hate it if I wrote about us. Us is our thing, not the internet’s.

The reason this is a reason against AMWAC is that AMWAC is that AMWAC is a product of my twenties. I’ve felt like I’ve been wandering and generally lost for the past decade. I haven’t been sure where I want to go, what I want to do, or what I wanted my life to look like. And this is probably a good thing in your twenties: I learned a lot about myself and I’ve been to a lot of places. But at some point, drifting around stops making much sense. At some point, you want a home and a community and a country. At some point, being a wanderer isn’t as much of a thing to brag about.

With Steph, I’m not as interested in drifting around anymore. I’ve spent the last three days in Las Vegas on a press trip for Matador (which I’ll be writing about in detail very soon). I left 3 days after my engagement. It’s been rough. I’m homesick for the first time in years.

By choosing the name A Man Without A Country, it felt like I was refusing to be a part of anything that I had a problem with: whether that was countries, professions, ideologies, or cultures. But when you put down an anchor – just one! – you have to stop thinking about sailing to the next destination, and you start thinking about what you can do in the place you’ve arrived at.

So a new era calls for a new blog title. I’m not sure what it’ll be yet, but it’ll be coming soon. In the meantime, the travel section will still be called A Man Without A Country, but it won’t be updated all that much: you can go to Matador for my travel writings. I’ll post them on our Facebook page. I’m probably going to write about our wedding a little bit, but I promise I won’t let it be about happiness. I don’t want to bore you, and that’s reserved for the two of us anyway.

What You Missed This Week: Death and Taxes

“What you missed this week” sounds more straightforward than “The Friday Shitpile,” right? Anyway, here’s some of the stuff I wrote over the past two weeks:

    • Another one in the death vein: This American Life recently did an episode titled “Death and Taxes.” The first half is about a woman working in hospice care. It’s really incredible, especially if you’ve experienced the death of a loved one firsthand. The second half is about taxes, naturally.
    • Bernie Sanders asked Fed Chair Janet Yellen if America was an oligarchy. It’s kinda cool when they talk about things they should talk about in Congress.

“The World Needs Trash Collectors” is a Dick Thing to Say

I once read that the average number of jobs a person holds in their lifetime is seven. I had seven by the time I was 22. I’m up to 14 now, though I’m not sure how you count freelance gigs. It might be a lot more. Of these, my favorite – counting both my most recent job working in communications for an immigration non-profit, which was the most meaningful job I’ve had, and my current one as a freelance writer which is genuinely what I want to do with my life – was working in a grocery store.

It’s called Pipkin’s Fruit and Vegetable Market, and it’s in a suburb of Cincinnati. I wasn’t paid much money, but I got to spend all day hanging out with friends and I could eat all the free fruits and veggies I wanted. At the end of the day, if the dumpster was full, I got to get inside it and jump up and down on the garbage to jam it down. We called it the “Dumpster Dance.” And then, because I was 23 at the time, I could grab a drink with my coworkers after work and we’d play trivia at the bar.

It was pretty awesome.

Now, I’m happy I don’t work there anymore. I’m happy I left Cincinnati and get to be writing all the time. But while I find this work more fulfilling, I don’t necessarily find it as fun.

While I was at Pipkin’s, everyone kept talking about getting a “real” job. A real job was presumably in an office where I’d be in front of a computer all day. Manual labor was frowned upon. Daily physical motion that involved anything more than the pounding of fingertips on a keyboard was not a proper career. The world of manual labor was not the “real world.” The real world exists only in cubicles.

Since then, I’ve worked in cubicles, and I’ve decided that I felt a little more in touch with the “real world” when I was stacking grapefruit or chopping pineapple than I did when I was staring at a screen all day.

But we pitied those who had to stay back and stack fruit or work as bartenders. They hadn’t “made it out.” Whenever a sentiment like this was expressed, we’d say, “The world needs trash collectors, I guess.” The idea was that those who didn’t manage to get a “real job” in the “real world,” simply couldn’t make the cut, and were fated to stacking fruit or tossing garbage into the back of trucks for their whole lives.

This is bullshit. Because those should be totally valid professions that aren’t deserving of our pity. I’m not going to pretend that some of the older people working at Pipkin’s were possibly less than satisfied with their profession: but some of them were fine with it. Some of them were totally happy with where they were. And after working there, I could conceive of a happy life where I worked in a grocery store. It would be zen as fuck. I’d get up early, open the store up, bring out all the produce, and then spend the day organizing things, helping customers find their fruit, and maybe spend a bit of time ringing them up. If I did it long enough, maybe I could become a buyer. Maybe I could work on the finances a bit. But after my shift was over, I’d go home, not think about it, and read whatever I wanted while sitting on my porch with a scotch in hand. Maybe I’d listen to some music with my girlfriend and play cards with her.

That would be just fine.

It’s a sad situation if someone is in a career that they don’t like. And that includes office drones as much as it includes manual laborers. But working manual labor isn’t a punishment for those who couldn’t make the cut into the “real world.” It’s only a punishment if the manual laborers feel unfulfilled. Believe it or not, there are probably some people out there who enjoy waste management. And they don’t need our condescending pity.

How Do You Give to the Homeless?

About five years ago, I was in India on Semester at Sea. We were in a market in Chennai, and I was soaked in sweat. We’d been told not to drink the water, so I was wandering around looking for some bottled water that I’d be able to drink without getting Delhi belly before I died of heat stroke. I finally find like a 2-liter bottle, and as I’m leaving the store, this little girl runs up to me and starts begging. I’m worried about getting pick-pocketed, and I’ve been told by the people on the ship and by family that, if you give to one beggar in India, you’re going to be surrounded by other beggars in no time at all.

So I try and move away. But the little girl hugs around my leg and reaches for my water bottle. I suddenly realize what she wants, and I switch the water bottle to my other hand, so my body is between her and the bottle. She’s trying to reach past me, but without moving around, so it’s like she’s doing the Three Stooges poke-em-in-the-eyes move and my body is the palm blocking the fingers.

A nearby street vendor sees this, feels he has an opportunity, and grabs up a rolled newspaper and smacks the girl. She runs away crying, and he looks up at me grinning, and then tries to sell me a rug. I’m a little shocked, so I go back to the ship, which is a few miles away moored in the harbor.

They have a strict policy that you can’t bring any liquids on board. It’s partially a health thing, partially a keeping-college-students-from-smuggling-on-alcohol thing. So I have to pour the water bottle out over the side.

This is the moment I feel the most guilty about in my life. I didn’t even need to finish the water, and I saw the slum right next to the market I was at – they were bathing and drinking out of sewage. You could smell it from the market. That’s what she went back to. She wasn’t acting all cute so I’d give her a few rupees so she could run back to some skeezy criminal who forces her to do it everyday.

She was thirsty.

Now I live in an American city where there’s a pretty solid amount of homelessness. The most convenient bus for me takes me right past a homeless shelter, so a lot of the mentally ill or drugged out people will get on the bus with a ton of bags, and will occasionally – not joking – light up a joint or start yelling at a random person on the bus. It gets old real quick, and your sympathy starts to drain over time. You get a little numb.

The typical response to homelessness is “if you give them money, they’re just going to spend it on drugs.” Or you’ll hear people say, “You’re just enabling them to be homeless if you give them money.” As if it’s a life they’ve chosen.

These are, of course, exaggerations or myths. But I’ve had some trouble figuring out how to support the local homeless (who are, after all, my neighbors) effectively.

I’ve got two rules that I follow now:

1) If they are performing in some way, and they are good enough to make me stop, I owe them at least a buck (this applies to non-homeless street performers as well).

2) If someone asks me for money, I don’t give it, and mentally add a dollar towards a donation that I’ll give to a homeless shelter once it reaches a certain number.

But these don’t feel sufficient. Any suggestions for new rules?

The Last Friday Shitpile

1NumberOneInCircleSo I’ve been doing the Friday Shitpile for over a year now. The Shitpile was originally intended to be a roundup of both what I’d written over the course of the past week, and the material that I considered writing about, but decided wasn’t big enough to merit its own post.

Since then, I’ve become a full-time writer, and as a result, I’m no longer writing this blog on lunch breaks, during gaps in the weekend, or right after work. I’m writing for AMWAC and a few other publications full time. So as a result, if I have an idea that’s Shitpile-worthy, I’ve already written on it, either as a post on this blog, as a post on Matador, or as a post elsewhere. So the Shitpiles now are basically written on the fly – uhhh, I dunno, Putin’s a dick, can I recycle that “Putin on the Ritz” meme again? – which makes for way less interesting material.

So this is the last Shitpile. I’ll still be doing weekly round-ups of everything I’ve written, and I’m also going to start doing a weekly e-mail which you can sign up for in the toolbar on the right. This e-mail will only be used by me, and it’ll just be once a week. Now, back to your regularly scheduled Shitpile.

number2cHere’s what I did this week:

Incidentally, this format’s how I’m gonna do week-end round-ups from now on. Plus maybe a video that snuck through the cracks.

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Obviously I’m going to go out on cute animal sounds. Here’s lion cubs trying to roar.

Here are baby rhino sounds.

And here are baby sloth sounds.

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Obviously I’m going to go out on Batman vs. Terminator.

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Obviously I’m going to go out on Calvin & Hobbes dancing.

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Obviously I’m going to go out on the best GIF ever.

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And also this.

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Blogs You Should Read (Because I Won an Award, so I’m an Authority)

liebster-award1Last week, I was given the Liebster Award by my friends at Applied Sentience, a humanist blog based out of Rutgers University. The chief editor at Applied Sentience is an old Semester at Sea friend, Paul Chiariello, and we’ve been following each other for – Christ, it’s been 7 years since SAS now.

Here’s what the Liebster Award is:

A blogger-to-blogger award that tells a fellow newbie blogger that they are making the world a more interesting/intellectual/funny/better place. It is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers.

Basically, it’s like a chain letter, except it’s actually useful in that it can help bring exposure to up-and-coming blogs. Which means Applied Sentience was nominated by another blog, that I was nominated by them, and that I get to nominate another group of blogs that I follow.

With the Liebster Award, I’m technically supposed to finish 5 tasks: I have to give 11 random facts about myself, I have to answer 11 questions that Applied Sentience provided for me, I have to ask the next round of blogs 11 questions, and I have to choose another 11 blogs.

I feel bad, because I don’t want to blow the spirit of the award, but as this blog is basically just a catalog of things I’ve done and thought, I’m gonna skip the 11 random facts. I also don’t know a full 11 blogs with under 200 followers, so I’m just gonna list people with relatively small followings you should follow instead. They can choose to reciprocate to other blogs they follow (thus granting themselves the Liebster award) if they choose. The one of these steps I am going to follow through on is answering Applied Sentience’s questions. I’ll do that right underneath the blogs you should follow, because that’s more important.

Blogs You Should Follow According to the Award-Winning Matt Hershberger 

Applied Sentience – Duh. Seriously though, Applied Sentience is run by people who actually think hard about life, and produce some really interesting content in between. And they’re humanists, too! These aren’t religion bashers, and the content you find on here won’t sound like some asshole atheist on Reddit. They are genuinely interested in virtually everything (the way a good blog should be). So check them out.

TL;DR - TL;DR is a blog done by my good friend and old co-blogger Jesse Steele. Jesse’s finishing up a master’s in Public Administration and Policy at Virginia Tech, so naturally his blog covers politics and urban issues. Jesse’s great at providing context to big issues that most of news media doesn’t get into with their reporting. He’s like David Simon (the creator of The Wire), except he still has some hope for the world.

Amanda Elsewhere - Amanda’s another SAS friend and blogger (a few months ago we did a blog debate over whether New Jersey is the worst state in America). She’s got a pretty terminal case of wanderlust, and she writes about her struggles with this lifelong illness.

The Write Way Around - I spent a summer in Beijing working as an intern/journalist for the shitty China Daily newspaper with Alexandra Petri, and she made way more of it than I did. She also kept traveling afterward, and has been everywhere. She’s still going, and she’s writing about it.

danniedoodlesDannie (also an SASer) is living and teaching in Korea, and she’s been blogging about it for a while now. Dannie’s got a personal style of writing (I wanna say e.e. cummings-esque, but that might just be because she doesn’t use a lot of capitals) that makes for really pleasant reading.

Okay. Sorry if I left anyone out.

Answering the Big Questions (from Applied Sentience)

Q: What will (you imagine) be your “Oh, not this one again!” favorite story which you recount over and over to your kids and grandchildren.

A: Definitely the time I got robbed by a whore.

Q: Walking down the street you run into a quite eloquent and polite mini-Godzilla, about as tall as you are, sitting in a café reading a paper. Give us the 2-3 sentence Reader’s Digest of how you then became best-est friends?

A: I smash his cup of coffee, tear up his paper, and slap him with a glove to challenge him to a duel. We battle. The coffee shop is in ruins afterward, but we’re feeling pretty good so we grab a beer and talk about Asian politics. We’re friends now.

Q: Who is your favorite Shakespearean character, and why?

A: Puck, probably, just because I have a thing for tricksters. I also like Iago because he’s Shakespeare’s best villain, but honestly, I read all of his lines like the parrot from Aladdin.

Q: What would your 16-year-old self think if they met you as you are now?

A: “It took you how long to lose your virginity?”

Q: What will you say when your child asks: why didn’t you invest in Eastern Poland?

A: “Because I was poor as fuck, son. Now finish your anklebone soup, we’ve gotta get on Thunder Road and catch some more of the Deadliest Game if we want to eat tomorrow.”

Q: What problem is stealing your sleep at this point in life?

A: During the apocalypse, I’m probably going to have no access to jelly beans or scallions. What good is a fucking salad without jelly beans or scallions?

Q: What is your greatest love story?

A: That’s between me and Steph.

Q: What is the corniest pun you know?

A: Mark Antony is cooking corn-on-the-cob. He goes to the nearest farmer and says, “Lend me your ears!”

It’s supposed to be about corn, right?

Q: Best music album ever made?

A: Probably Born to Run.

Q: Best non-fiction book ever written?

A: I haven’t read all of them yet. But A People’s History of the United States.

Q: What fact are you most uncomfortable with?

A: Either the futility of human existence or that clothes actually matter to people.

The Postmodern Age: Where You Aren’t Allowed to Enjoy Anything

College Humor did a pretty perfect video recently about how literally everything we do has a social consequence:

It brings up something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while: it’s kind of impossible to like anything anymore. Everything is ruined. It’s surrounded by context, and no matter how much we want to like something, we always hear about stuff that we’re not supposed to like. And it’s not like the people bringing up these hesitations are wrong. A lot of shows don’t have much going on in the way of diversity. A lot of movies are misogynistic. And virtually everything we buy has an impact on something somewhere.

It makes living a drag, especially if you’re trying to be an intentional, aware, ethical person. It also makes enjoying regular stuff a chore.

I recently did a “viral” article for Matador with pictures of famous cities and locations from aerial point-of-views. The pictures are pretty awesome, but then I read, in the comments on a similar article on a different site, that someone had written this: “Humanity from a distance looks like a colony of termites.”

Which depressed the shit out of me. Check the pictures, it’s absolutely true: we look like parasites.

This naturally had me thinking, “So as long as I’m contributing to any of this, how can I feel good about myself as an ethical human being?” And I think the answer is that I can’t, unless I want to live in the woods and just not take part in regular civilization. I also won’t be able to read much while I’m out there, unless the book conforms to certain standards of racial tolerance, gender equality, and social consciousness. Definitely no more Game of Thrones (although, side note: I understand that the rape scene was fucked up, especially given that it didn’t happen in the book, but there are multiple murders every single week of that show. Including several of children. Are we that comfortable with murder? Is murder a less upsetting crime?).

At some point, with all this “awareness,” there needs to come acceptance. Acceptance that our society may be destructive, unjust, and fatally flawed, and acceptance that we need to live in it in a way that’s not bleak and boring, but fun and exciting. Acceptance that our tasks to create a better society might be Sisyphean, but that we need to try at them anyway. And the ability to move past stuff that we don’t agree with while still getting whatever enjoyment we can out of it.

Basically, I’m just saying that if I didn’t stop watching Game of Thrones after the Red Wedding, I’m not going to stop after the rape.