The Friday Shitpile: Rules for not being a terrible wedding guest

Next week, I’m going to my buddy Jesse’s wedding in Boston. His is the first of the 2015 season, which will consist of 8 weddings over the next 6 months, culminating in our own in November. It is a lot of weddings, and it is the first “Summer of Weddings” I’ve had. Everyone has this period in their life when everyone is getting married, and as much as people like to complain about it, it’s pretty awesome to get to go to ritzy parties with free food and booze.

During the planning of our wedding, I have developed certain rules for what wedding guests should keep in mind to not fucking suck. If you have held a wedding, you already know these rules. If you have not, these are for you:

Your opinion is not welcome.

Trying to plan a wedding is like trying to fuck a tornado. If it ends and you’re not dead, it’s a success. The tornado part of this analogy is balancing all of the opinions and weird politics of weddings: the bride and groom (or groom and groom or bride and bride) have to balance a) what they want, b) what their parents want, c) what their grandparents want, d) what their church wants, e) what their close friends and wedding party wants, f) what their society wants, and g) what their budget allows. Which means that, 10 minutes into the engagement, they are already bogged down with suggestions, demands, and restrictions.

So if you approach the bride or groom unsolicited and say, “Hey, don’t do a cake-cutting ceremony, it’s cliche,” or “Don’t have penis straws at the bachelorette party, it’s fucking weird,” then please keep in mind that the best possible response you’ll get is this:
But that they are totally within their rights to give you this:
If your opinion is asked, by all means give it. If it is not asked, stop. Just stop. And remember the Golden Rule: “Shut the fuck up.”

Weddings aren’t weapons. Don’t take anything personally.

Literally the worst part of the wedding is figuring out the guest list. This is where the couple has to actually rank the people in their lives and decide whether or not to invite certain friends. If you invite this friend but don’t invite these three friends, then the latter three will be offended, but if you invite all four there’s no room for Great Aunt Maude without going over on budget.

Maybe the couple has a huge family and needs to cut certain friends, maybe they have to set arbitrary rules to cut the size of the guest list down — no kids, no unmarried couples, no significant others we haven’t met before — maybe they had to choose between old childhood friends they loved but aren’t all that close with anymore and an open bar.

The wedding party is also tough: what if you have a really big group of close friends? Who do you choose to be involved? What if there are siblings to consider? And how do you choose which of these is the “Best” Man? This shit’s stressful, man.

The point is this: if you don’t get invited, if you don’t get asked to be in the wedding party, and you don’t get asked to do a reading, it very likely is not about you. Brides and grooms have too much on their minds during the planning to orchestrate petty vengeances by not including you in the way you think you deserve. Just shrug and roll with it.

You’ll get a plus one if we damn well want you to have a Plus One.

Wanted a Plus One but didn’t get one? Worried you’re going to feel alone at the wedding? Try this: hook up with someone at the wedding. There will be other single people, they will be drinking, and there will be a reserved block of hotel rooms at your disposal.

Seriously. Plus Ones are really cool things for the bride and groom to give you, but keep in mind that giving you a Plus One might mean that they no longer get to invite a close friend of theirs. Plus Ones are perks, like a vodka slide or a kitten as a party favor. They are not requirements. Do not complain about your lack of a Plus One. Get some strange.

In short: Do not make it about you.

It’s an opportunity to watch your friend be in love while drinking and eating for free. Why would you read into this any more than you have to?

Featured photo by Michael Salvato.

23 ideas for fixing America’s problems

  1. Change to an “everything is on fire” system.
  2. Everyone chooses to be gay and all the people who aren’t willing to give parenting the time, effort and money required to do in vitro fertilization slowly die out.
  3. Let Kanye get in his zone.
  4. Give every politician a sockful of nickels, send them into the Thunderdome, and whoever comes out is our new overlord.
  5. Institute a parliamentary dictatorship.
  6. We all pretend to understand dogs and then obey what they say.
  7. The Constitution is just the lyrics to “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” by Smashing Pumpkins, all up to interpretation by an appointed-for-life Supreme Court.
  8. We all admit the apex of humanity was the “Peanuts” Christmas special and walk hand-in-hand into the sea.
  9. We change our justice system so that if you do anything wrong, Chris Pratt refuses to give you a good night hug.
  10. We play the “Chariots of Fire” theme until everyone kills themselves.
  11. We convert the entire country into a laser tag course and have some fun while the world collapses around us.
  12. Make bodily fluids the only currency. Solve income inequality forever.
  13. White men only get to speak when spoken to.
  14. Require every cable news channel to always carry a picture-in-picture box featuring hardcore pornography so everyone either watches something else or watches it for much more noble reasons.
  15. Massive, mandatory, worldwide orgy to blow off all the sexual tension.
  16. Everyone over the age of 10 is executed, everyone under 10 is allowed to grow up. Economy presumably becomes centered around bringing back Dinosaurs and finally inventing a working Iron Man suit.
  17. We all unite to fight the one true common enemy: mosquitoes.
  18. Just shrug and give all the money to the Koch Brothers. They want it the most, anyway.
  19. Play Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” on loop until every male dies of prolonged, throbbing erections. Women are now totally in charge.
  20. We force Y to always be a vowel.
  21. Rename every world capital “Bonetown.” Everyone is at least clear on what goes on there.
  22. Awake Cthulhu.
  23. Create a new law where you’re forbidden to buy a product if you think that the CEO of the company that makes the product is kind of a dick.

Featured photo: Judy Van Der Velden

Neato Burrito: Here’s how we get you to click on things

The Neato Burrito is my weekly column where I talk about things you probably didn’t know. 

You know how occasionally you’ll click on an article because the title promised something, and the article totally doesn’t deliver? Yeah, we did that on purpose. Internet writers have to pay very close attention to their numbers (we have way more information on you than you realize), and they improve their numbers by employing little tricks to get you to click on their stuff. Here are some of them:

1. We put more effort into the title than we do into the content.

Here’s the thing: advertisers have a few things they look for when they’re looking for a place to advertise. The first is how many unique pageviews we get per month. This is a number that exists regardless of how long you spend on the site. Click it for a second and decide you hate it or that it’s stupid? Sorry. We already gotcha. A second thing advertisers like to hear is the amount of time you spend on our page — they want to know not only that people are coming to the page, but that they are likely to see their ad. But we give that information to them in averages. So as long as we can keep a majority of readers attention for a couple of minutes, we’re more or less fine.

This means that the thing that matters most to us is the click. Which means that our main challenge isn’t writing quality content, it’s getting you onto the page. Most of us are interested in producing quality content, both because we actually enjoy writing good things, and because quality content keeps people around on the page for longer, but it’s somewhat secondary, and there are absolutely people who produce schlock just for the clicks.

The way we get you to click? Titles. Facebook captions. Featured photos. If we have none of these things but really great content, it won’t matter. You’ll never get to our page.

2. We make it about you.

You, it turns out, are incredibly selfish. If we make a title about you, you’re far more likely to click. See what I did in the title of this piece? And see how you’re reading these very words right now? Yeah, sorry about that. There’s so much on the internet though, that the best thing we can do to get your attention is to be useful to you personally. So even if we’re writing about something that happened to us, we’ll make it sound like it’s really about you.

3. We make it a list.


Really: you guys love lists. Numbered pieces do disproportionately better than non-numbered pieces, and the reason is because the internet is a place where it pays to quickly break down arguments into its main points so that people can skim. In the same way the title matters more than the body of the piece, the individual points matter more than the text underneath these points. I guarantee you at least one person who opened this article is not reading this text: they read “We make it a list” and they moved onto the next point.

Also: for some weird reason, odd numbers work better for listicles. We don’t know why, but they do. The most effective odd number? 23. If a piece has 23 points, if it has a good title, and if it’s mildly amusing, it’s probably going to do pretty well.

4. We piss you off intentionally.

It does not pay to be level-headed on the internet. If we’re intentionally provocative, especially in our title, then we’re not only going to get the readers who agree with us, we’re also going to get readers who are hate-reading what we have to say. Whether you liked the article does not matter. If you spent time on our page, we’re earning off of you.

So if you see a title that pisses you off, don’t click on it. Your hate is actually helping them.

Another note is that for many sites, editors choose the headlines, not the writer. More than once I have read a level-headed article that has an inflammatory headline, and the readers are arguing against the headline, not the text of the piece. Not that this is relevant to clickbait, but kindly remember: if you protest an article without reading it, you are a turd.

5. We use sex.


6. We make wild promises we can’t keep.

This follows the same basic theme as the others: it doesn’t matter if we can’t keep our promise as long as we’re able to tempt you to find out if we do. This is why sites like Upworthy make wild, hyperbolic promises: in the end, they don’t need to fulfill those promises. They just need to fool you into thinking they will.

7. We emphasize images.

The human brain processes images faster than it processes text, so if you see a really amazing picture in your Facebook feed, it’ll grab your attention faster than our title will. Even the simple act of transposing text over an image makes that text more effective. For example:



8. We track you obsessively.

I am not the NSA, but using Google Analytics, a totally free tool, I can track what article you’re reading, the location you’re reading from, whether you’re on a computer or a cell phone or a tablet, what browser you’re using, how long you spend on my page, which page brought you to mine, and depending on whether you have cookies enabled, what your general age is, what your gender probably is, and what your other interests are.

So basically, I don’t know you by name, but if I was pressed, I could probably figure out who you were. And that’s what I’m doing with totally free software.

Internet writing is about trial and error, but the only way we discover if we’ve made an error is a) if we get direct feedback, which we almost never get, or b) if we rely on our site’s data. We know a ton about you, and we will cater to what we know. Just to get a goddamned click.

Featured photo by Lecates.

Don’t Be A Dick: What atheists say about death

When you tell people you’re an atheist1, one of the most common questions you get is, “Well, what do you think happens after death?” This is tricky, because we’re people too, and so we have some interest in the second bookend of our life. This bookend, unlike the first bookened, after all, has the distinct benefit of involving no placenta, and placenta is the reason that around 82% of us became atheists in the first place. So maybe, we hope, death will explain the whole placenta thing, or maybe at the very least it’s a slightly more pleasant experience.

I bring this all up now because my Uncle Andy died this weekend, and when someone dies who, during your childhood, represented all of the best parts of life — off-color jokes, storytelling, cartoon-watching, boating — it’s hard to not look at death and think, “there better be more to that than a placenta-free exit from existence.”

I’m generally of the mind that people should be allowed to find what they can to comfort them in times of death. So I never argue against an afterlife. It strikes me as improbable and actually pretty discomforting, but if it works for other people, it’s not my business to refute it. What the fuck do I know about death, anyway, and who am I to make people feel worse because of my beliefs?

Here’s what comforts me, though.

Mark Twain:

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

Elton John:

Marcus Aurelius:

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

Aaron Freeman:

“You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

“And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

“And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

“And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.”

The final thing that comforts me is the scientific idea that time, basically, may be an illusion that humans had to construct because of their physical limitations. It may be that all moments are happening simultaneously, and we just perceive life in this way. If that’s the case, then death simply doesn’t matter, because it’s only one moment among many, it just happens to be the one we’re experiencing right now.

Regardless, we know that the dead aren’t gone. It may be that their soul went to an afterlife. It may be that they live on in our memories. It may be that death is required for the continuance of life. Or it may simply be that the energy and matter that made who they were hasn’t left at all. They’re still here. They’re still here.

1. Tip: Don’t tell people you’re an atheist.

The Friday Shitpile: The friends in Friends are terrible friends

Friends is on Netflix, so that’s all Steph and I do anymore. It’s a terrible, dated, ridiculous show, but I have a soft spot for terrible sitcoms. I’ve watched all of How I Met Your Mother several times, all in spite of a seething hatred for its main character, and I kinda love The Big Bang Theory in spite of myself. But rewatching Friends, I’m realizing something: the friends in Friends are terrible friends. Not only are they terrible friends, they’re terrible people. Here’s the structure of an episode:

1. Someone comes into the coffee shop, everyone shouts “Norm!”

2. “Monica used to be fat!” joke. She laughs on the outside, takes a step closer to a horrible, anorexic death on the inside.

"Hey gang! See that clearly depressed man across the street? Let's point and laugh at him and refer to him only as 'ugly naked guy'!"

“Hey gang! See that clearly depressed man across the street? Let’s point and laugh at him and refer to him only as ‘ugly naked guy’!”

3. Someone lies about a small thing that they absolutely didn’t need to lie about.

4. The Friends theme. Younger versions of these characters dance around in a New York fountain that, as this is the 90’s, is presumably filled with crack-addict ejaculate.

4. “Ross got divorced and we mock him for this in spite of his severe emotional trauma!” joke.

"Women only think about marriage! Hahaha! The only thing that can fill this empty hole in my life is a penis!"

“Women only think about marriage! Hahaha! The only thing that can fill this empty hole in my life is a penis!”

5. The lie begins to snowball, wackadoo hijinks ensue. Somebody hides behind a purple piece of furniture.

6. Chandler and Joey worry that they’re gay. Chandler covers this anxiety by weirdly modulating his voice, Joey fucks something.

From that one episode that was written in a hungover haze after the Friends  staff Christmas party.

Friends writers: “Guys, how fucking awesome and bleak would it be if we created a character who gives America a glimpse into the black abyss of human id?”

7. The lie has now turned into a fantastically huge avalanche, ripping apart lives as it bears down upon its initial teller.

8. Rachel says something horribly shallow.

9. Catastrophe! Entire villages destroyed! Bodies strewn everywhere! The lie is revealed and is immediately forgiven with a hug.

10. Phoebe sacrifices a terrified cat to the Prince of Darkness.

Or something like that. I’m usually pretty tuned out at the end.

Neato Burrito: Magic is Real!

No one believes in magic. No one. It’s a silly thing to believe in. But everyone kinda wants to believe in magic. That’s why Disney movies and Harry Potter are so popular. It’s why people still believe in the wackier elements of religion, and it’s why superstition is still a relatively common thing, even among the so-called “rational” people of the world. It’s why Lovin’ Spoonful insists that the magic’s in the music and the music’s in you.

Most of us understand that magic is a somewhat silly and outdated conception that’s used to fill in the spaces of the universe we don’t fully understand. But while pressed, most people will say they don’t believe in magic.


Magic, in one sense, is very, very real: Magic is the exact same thing as language.

I'm sorry guys, I'm just not gonna stop using this GIF.

I’m sorry guys, I’m just not gonna stop using this GIF.

You’ve probably heard of Alan Moore. This Rasputin lookalike is Alan Moore:

Photo by Chris Boland.

Photo by Chris Boland.

Moore is the writer behind the best comic books ever created: V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Swamp Thing, From Hell, The Killing Joke, etc. He first decided magic was real while writing From Hell, his brilliant book about the Jack the Ripper murders and a supposed royal conspiracy surrounding them.

“One word balloon in From Hell completely hijacked my life … A character says something like, ‘The one place gods inarguably exist is in the human mind’. After I wrote that, I realised I’d accidentally made a true statement, and now I’d have to rearrange my entire life around it. The only thing that seemed to really be appropriate was to become a magician.”

Moore describes language and art as basically being the equivalent of magic, and when you look at the language of magic, you find that the language is basically the same as the language of writing. You cast spells. You curse someone. You read magical spells out of a grimoire, which has the same etymological roots as the word grammar.

On top of sharing the language of language, magic has the same function as language: if you are excellent at rhetoric or persuasion, you can convince someone to do basically anything you want. You can convince them of Gods that do not exist, or that things that never happened actually did happen. If you are a brilliant satirist, you can ruin someone for life or destroy their entire family reputation, much like a curse would. If you are a brilliant novelist, you can transport people into different worlds and into different levels of consciousness. Words can be used to make someone fall in love with you. Words can be used to make someone murder someone else. Words can be used to brainwash and manipulate. Words can be used to transmit knowledge through space and time. Words have power.

This idea serves people like Moore (and myself) particularly well because we are writers, and this puts us in a position of power. But it still holds true: the only real magic is language.

Don’t Be A Dick: “I’m not a dickpuncher, but…”

GUYS, SERIOUSLY. I’M NOT A BAD PERSON. I don’t go around punching dicks all the time, okay? Dickpunching is wrong, and I think that it’s good that we’re fighting our country’s long, sad history of punching people in the dick. I know a lot of people who have been punched in the dick, and I genuinely feel bad for them and I see where they’re coming from when they say we should be fighting harder as a society against penile pugilism. I get that.

All I’m saying is this: I understand why people punch dicks. I don’t approve of it, but I understand it. I understand that some people maybe kinda sorta deserve to be punched in the dick. I understand that maybe if you’re going around having a dick and just flailing it around, that maybe you’re asking for it to be punched. Maybe don’t dress in a way that shows off the fact that you have a dick if you don’t want it to get punched. Maybe — just maybe — it’s on you a little bit.

I know! I know! If I had a son and he got punched in the dick, I would be devastated. Devastated. But the reality is that my son lives in a world that is just teeming with wangsmacking weirdos. That’s a reality, guys. That’s a fact. And all the liberal do-goodery in the world isn’t going to change that fact. There will always be people out there who think it’s hilarious watching bros get cockclocked. Do I like it? No. But that’s the way it is. So I’m gonna teach my boy how to protect himself. I’m gonna show him how to dress appropriately when walking home alone at night: tight briefs and baggy shorts. Change up which thigh it’s laying against. Walk to the other side of the street when someone with their fists out of their pockets is approaching.

I’m not saying it’s his fault if it happens. But he’ll know what he could’ve done to prevent it.

And look: maybe, just maybe, it’s my right as an American, goddammit, to go online and watch videos of guys getting punched in the dick. Maybe that’s a matter of free speech, and maybe free speech is something we should value more than the feelings of the dickpunched.

And I don’t see the problem anyway, as long as I know it’s consensual and no one in the situation is in any real danger. And if it’s a cartoon? All bets are off. It’s not real life. It’s a cartoon, goddammit, I know the difference between cartoons and reality.


Hahahaha! Right? Oh, lighten the fuck up, it was made in a different time.

No! I don’t think this stuff creates a culture where dickpunching is tacitly accepted. That’s ridiculous. You know whose fault it is if young girls watch this and grow up into pudpummeling thugs? The parents. Maybe if their mothers were at home instead of out prowling the streets with wiffle bats coated in IcyHot these girls would learn how to behave.

And as far as the military goes, I’m sorry, but that’s just the price you have to pay for a secure America. You knew the risks going into the military: it’s a culture of a lot of young, estrogen-fueld women who are amped up from the rush of battle, and they’re gonna come back and want to blow off some steam. I’m not saying it’s right that they blow of steam by punching the young male soldiers in the dick, I’m just saying, y’know, what did we really expect? I mean, have you seen a dick in uniform? Just… wow. It’s like you’re putting a goddamn speed bag in front of them and saying “don’t touch.”

Yeah. Just like that. Except the bag's a dick.

Yeah. Mmm. Just like that. Except the bag’s a dick.

Like I said: I’m not a dickpuncher. But this is just the world we live in. It’s a dickpunching world. It’s always been a dickpunching world. It’s always gonna be a dickpunching world. Nothing’s ever going to change that.

On another not, have you seen the video of the One Direction guy getting hit in the nuts?



The Friday Shitpile: Adventures in burning symbols into cows asses!

Lighting my ass on fire for publicity.

A WHILE BACK, I APPLIED FOR A POSITION as a columnist in an online publication. I was rejected, and the editor sent me back this feedback: “Really think about what your voice is, and how it’s unique from everything else on the internet.”

I sat there for a few minutes and then said, “God fucking dammit.” I am white. I am a guy. I am straight. I was raised upper middle class. I was raised a Catholic. The world is full of my perspective. The world has almost too much of my perspective. I have no real “brand” to offer the world.

The mere idea of branding terrifies me. The term “branding” has its etymological roots in the practice of shoving a red-hot poker onto a sad cows ass to denote ownership. The reason they had to do this is because all cows look alike.

Well, not all cows.

Well, not all cows.

So the way to tell them apart was to make a tiny mark denoting that this was, indeed, a separate individual than all of the others. But the brand is basically just a way to denote ownership. Burning something on your ass does not make you different than all of the others except in the sense that, for you, it’s much harder to sit down. All of which is to say I’ve struggled with branding. This is as far as I’ve gotten:

Matt (1)

Learn the scary, scary meaning of life.

By my estimation, I’m about halfway through a 20 year existential crisis. Seriously guys: how do the rest of you figure out who you are? Don’t you realize you’re just the sum of your protein, fat and bone parts? That 70% of what you consist of is functionally no different than the material they use to spray grime off of car windows? That your personality is just a byproduct of genetics and personal history?

That’s more or less the crisis. I’ve learned to live with it, much as other people learn to live with herpes. Lately, I’ve been fixated on the pointless question, “What’s the meaning of life?” I say it’s pointless because if anyone had figured it out, it would be generally accepted knowledge. So I’m forced to accept that there may be no meaning to life that I will one day discover for myself, no matter how many books I read or meditative practices I try.

Anyway, I’ve found two short animated films that explain the meaning of life. Here they are.

There. The meaning is life, any other explanation is just frills. Problem solved.

A shark is heading towards my town.

I now live in Asbury Park, which is a ways north of where this shark was spotted in South Jersey. I touched a toe into the Ocean for the first time of the summer today. You may think: Matt, aren’t you scared of swimming in shark infested waters? I say nay. A) Because shark attacks are like, insanely rare, and B) because a few weeks ago, while sitting on the beach, a stranger’s dog pissed on my Kindle. So the presence of a shark gives me something to hope for.

Can we please be the first generation to be cool about the next?

I recently contributed to Matador’s 20 coolest towns in the US article, where I wrote about Asbury Park and a few other places. A stranger on Facebook said that the problem with the article is that it would bring more “groovy ghoulies” to Asbury Park. By which he meant “hipsters.”

Doesn’t Groovy Ghoulie sound kind of like a 19th century British racial slur? And also, can we just say what we mean already? That we hate young people and people who are different than us and don’t want anything to ever change?

Also, hey, I’m on Instagram now.



Please let my generation be the first to be cool with the next

Photo: Micadew

Photo: Micadew

A WHILE BACK I SAW THIS HEADLINE from the A.V. Club in my Facebook feed: “Some dummy just paid $1.2 million dollars for Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ lyrics.” My first thought was: “Is the reason it’s stupid because you can find the lyrics pretty much anywhere on line? Or because he sings pretty intelligibly throughout the song?”

After reading the article, I discovered it’s because “American Pie” is stupid and people who like “American Pie” are stupid. The comments of the piece are mostly people agreeing about how “American Pie” is stupid and it’s because it’s a Baby Boomer song and Baby Boomers are stupid. I am happy I know that now, I had always rather liked it and didn’t realize it was because I was stupid. Life is going to be easier to navigate now that I know that I’m stupid. People operating under the delusion that they’re intelligent are the source of most of the world’s problems, and now I am no longer one of those people.

The comments read more or less like, “I hate Boomers because they ruined everything!” which is a refrain one hears a lot from Generations X & Y. A trending article on Salon a few weeks ago had the headline, “Boomer parents destroyed us: I needed rules and boundaries, not parents who want to be friends.” The article goes on to suggest that our Boomer parents hated rules and would rather — I’m not kidding — be “noodle dancing to Ravi Shankar into the wee hours of the night.”

I have never noodle danced and I do not particularly like the sitar as an instrument to noodle dance to (also, I call noodle dancing “Kermit the Frogging” and I only do it to Skrillex). This story does not resonate with me. And that’s because there are 76.4 million Baby Boomers, according to the US Census Bureau, which leaves a little space for variety.

The emerging anti-Boomerism is irritatingly similar to the hand-wringing Boomer articles about how Millennials are going to destroy everything, or to that obnoxious Aaron Sorkin assertion that Millennials are part of the “worst period generation period ever period.”

We get it. Generations don’t like each other. Boomers don’t like that modern kids wear skinny jeans and get tattoos (“YOU KNOW THAT WILL NEVER COME OFF, RIGHT?”) and kids don’t like that aging Boomers are still trying to dictate the direction of their lives. It’s not some great generational war. It’s just a parent-kid dynamic projected onto a fucking boring national stage. I appreciate having issues with your parents. But please, work it out between yourselves, not by proxy in some weird culture war.

What’s upsetting about reading all of this intergenerational sniping for me is the thought that I’m doomed to relive the same thing in 25 years when my kids are starting to assert their own independent direction. I’m doomed, somehow, to wring my hands as I watch them dismantle the world me and my peers built for them, leaving some of the good stuff, but tossing aside the stuff they decide is rubbish. “THAT’S NOT RUBBISH!” I’ll shout, “THAT REALLY CAME IN HANDY BACK IN THE DAY!”

Then, like my parents and grandparents generation, I’ll start worrying about “legacy,” and I’ll use my money to produce nostalgic movies about the “good ol’ days” when you could eat meat, drive a gas-fueld car, or discriminate against transgender people without feeling guilty about it. Ah, those were the days.

And then, as our kids break into the media, they’ll start writing long screeds about how we could’ve done more, or how we should’ve known to stop the NSA before it turned into a sentient nuclear death robot, or about how we squandered the early years of the internet on cats and porn rather than democracy, and how we tanked their economy and so on and so on. And their kids will do the same and then their kids will do the same on and on for eternity until we either die in a horrible global cataclysm or evolve into non-corporeal beings that can fully perceive the fourth dimension and thus no longer technically have temporally distinct “generations.”

It just… it just sounds fucking exhausting. So to my fellow millennials: please. Please. Please. Can we just not? When our kids get older, can we just let them go on their way, and allow them to build the world they want, and accept the fact that our legacy was never going to be eternal anyway? Can we just come to terms with our mortality like fucking adults and not try and build monuments to our greatness under the illusion they won’t be eroded down to mostly nothing within a few generations? Can we please just be fucking cool?

Featured photo by Micadew.


Neato Burrito: The guy France hated more than Hitler


ONE OF THE DIRTY SECRETS OF HISTORY is that a lot of the countries that were invaded by Germany in World War II were not particularly good at resisting against the Nazis. France has done a particularly good job at selling itself as a country full of anti-fascists that was teeming with insurrection from the moment Hitler entered the country until the moment he was forced out. But before the Nazis rolled into Paris, the right wing of Paris could be heard chanting a somewhat terrifying slogan: “Better Hitler than Blum.”

Most Americans would likely mishear the name Léon Blum as Leo Bloom. I promise, they’re two different people: Leo Bloom was the anxious accountant played by Gene Wilder in The Producers, while Léon Blum was one of the 20th century’s coolest guys you’ve never heard about. The latter Blum was the French Jewish Socialist who was briefly the Prime Minister of France.

Blum originally came to prominence as a writer when, in 1905, he published a pamphlet titled “On Marriage” that argued for the sexual liberation of women. He was roundly mocked by the right who spent the rest of his life calling him a girl (because let’s be honest, a lot of the right is comprised of 10-year-old boys), but he never stopped being an advocate for women’s rights.

After WWI (which, as a Socialist, he opposed) he became the ideological leader of France’s Socialists, who split from the more radical Communists. The Communists wanted to have a violent revolution similar to that of the Bolsheviks in Russia. But Blum believed that socialism was impossible without democracy, and predicted (70 years ahead of time) the collapse of any dictatorial communist government.

Later, in 1934, French right-wing fascists began rioting in Paris in what could easily have turned into a coup against the French Republic, but Blum helped rally the Communists and Socialists together, forming what was called the Popular Front, to keep the Fascists out of government. In 1936 (pushed along by a right-wing assassination attempt against Blum), the Popular Front won, and Blum became France’s first Jewish Prime Minister, as well as its first Socialist Prime Minister.

He would only be in office for a year, but in that year, he instituted the 40-hour work week, paid vacation for workers, and collective bargaining rights. His term was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, though, which caused major problems: Blum was a supporter of the Spanish Republicans against the Fascists, but he couldn’t publicly support them without destroying his fragile coalition, so he resigned in 1937. He’d done one other fateful thing during his reign: he’d nationalized the country’s military industries, which interrupted the production of armaments a mere two years before the start of the War.

Since he was Jewish, Blum was arrested by the Vichy government, who blamed the fall of France on the very convenient, Jewish shoulders of Léon Blum. During his trial, though, he took the opportunity to attack Vichy for collaborating with the Nazis, while simultaneously urging his friends and Allies (and Roosevelt) to support the resistance efforts of Charles de Gaulle. The Nazis were furious, and ordered Vichy to stop the trial without a verdict, and instead, Blum was shipped to Buchenwald.

Through a mixture of luck and the fact that Blum was more valuable to the Nazis as a hostage than as a corpse, Blum survived the War with relatively few scars, and went on to become Prime Minister again briefly to help with the reconstruction of France.

STRANGELY BLUM IS NOT RECOGNIZED as a hero of WWII in the West. I hadn’t even heard of him until a couple of weeks ago while listening to an iTunesU French History course. In a mythological sense, he’s got the same story as an archetypal hero: he was called to service more or less against his will, he was put through a series of tests, faced a darkest hour, and returned, wiser, battered, but ultimately triumphant after his trials.

And he stood for all the good things! He was opposed to fascism, he was opposed to anti-Semitism, he believed in the common humanity of all, he supported women’s liberation before it was particularly fashionable, and he shunned violence. So that’s why, this week, I’m saying Léon Blum is fuckin’ neato burrito.

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