Dumb Stuff

Interesting piece in The New York Times on how some “dumb” tech can be better than the smart stuff companies keep inventing.

I know what he means. A pen and a notebook make more sense to me if I need to take notes than an iPad or app. I still have my Timex because I want my watch to just tell me one piece of information, the time, not access all of my other devices.  I’m already online 10 hours a day so I don’t need a phone that can access the web (not being on social media helps). I don’t even own a cell right now. When I do get one again it’s going to be a flip phone, because my main goal with it will be… to make phone calls.

Dumb can be easier, clearer, more comforting. You don’t have to always upgrade dumb. There’s something to be said about separating the media and technology we use every day, getting away from all the screens and buttons. It gives you some mental breathing room.

“The Internet Of Things” is supposed to be a step forward but I have no desire to access the web from my toaster.

I’m happy about all of the things we can experience, watch, listen to, and do in 2018 (including being able to post the words you’re reading right now), but sometimes I just want to party like it’s 1959.


Just a couple of hours into this storm, rain falling lightly against the windows, and the power has already gone out. It was only for five seconds, which is short enough not to get you frustrated but still long enough to mess up the clocks and the internet and the TV. A reboot morning.

The lights just flickered again. I better post this before I get knocked offl

Hark the Herald

I was sad to hear about the sale of The Boston Herald, though I’m hoping that sadness will be temporary. Maybe the paper will stick around and its employees with flourish under the new ownership, though most people who know about these things don’t think it will.

The Herald was the first major publication I ever wrote for on a regular basis. I freelanced for their arts and entertainment section. Long before he hosted his late night talk show, Jimmy Kimmel, promoting The Man Show, told me he was “a terrible misogynist but a wonderful father.” A very tired Martin Short called me to talk about his new daytime talk show and told me about the talk show he did in his attic when he was a kid. I got to ask Kurtwood Smith about his guest appearance on Stingray, even though the interview was supposed to be about That 70’s Show.

I talked to Al Franken about his new sitcom.

How was your Valentine’s Day? I’m in no position to truly enjoy Valentine’s Day. It was just Wednesday to me. Though I did write a poem that night.

Roses are red
Violets are blue
It’s Valentine’s Day
I’m eating frozen dinners alone

The Letter is coming. I’ve said that before, haven’t I? One of the best things about making it a quarterly is that I now have more freedom when it comes to when it comes out. No more monthly deadlines that had me scrambling, and I can make them longer. It will be out by the end of the month, and the next one will follow in about three months.

In the meantime, here’s this week’s Saturday Evening Post column, where I talk about my lack of interest in the Olympics, Abraham Lincoln’s cabin, new books, the last Peanuts strip, Vic Damone, and more.

Have a great weekend. Supposed to snow tonight.

It Came From Five Things About Media and Technology Right Now

(I don’t know why I started giving these posts classic sci-fi/monster movie titles, but sometimes things just happen. Here’s Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11, and Part 12.)

1. My friend Will Leitch, who used to do the Two Writers Drinking series with me until he got to a career level where he needs to wear a suit and tie and put on makeup, has a new talk show on Amazon Channel’s Sports Illustrated TV. It’s called The Will Leitch Show, and his first guest is Tara Lapinski.

2. The Atlantic has gotten rid of their comments and launched…letters to the editor! This is a fantastic idea, one that I’ve been pushing for years. Comment sections have become garbage dumps, where people spew nonsense and hate, go to political extremes, start arguments, give their opinion without even reading the article, or leave spam, usually with spelling errors and questionable punctuation. Many comment sections aren’t even moderated, which is why they’ve become what they are (it’s the fault of the sites as much as the readers). Congrats to The Atlantic for favoring quality over quantity and bringing back common sense.

3. If you’re on Twitter – and I hope you’re not – you’ll see that the most-used phrase in bios is “RTs do not equal endorsement.” I’ve been thinking about this and it’s actually dead wrong, and a cop-out. If you retweet an obviously inaccurate piece of news or an insane conspiracy theory, aren’t you part of the problem? Sure, you may not agree with it or believe it, you’re just retweeting it to show how crazy/silly/funny people are being, but at the same time you’re still spreading that information through your timeline, and people have such short attention spans now that they often don’t know the difference. It all becomes part of the Twitter world, everything mixed together, and in a way actually becomes “real.” By retweeting it, especially without your own comment, you’re not helping.

4. Since we’re on the topic of Twitter, I’m glad to see that Richard Roeper wasn’t fired by The Chicago Sun-Times for buying Twitter followers. The buying of followers, disclosed in a New York Times story last week, isn’t illegal, and has been going on for a decade. People are overreacting. I mean, it’s more embarrassing and sad than anything else, and equally the fault of publishers who want their employees to get a lot of followers and to tweet and post on Facebook a lot and “brand” themselves and go viral. I wonder how many fake followers the Sun-Times had.

What this shows is how nothing good can happen when publications – and their writers – put so much emphasis on social media and clicks.

5. And in this week’s Saturday Evening Post column, I talk about Crock-Pots, Nutella riots in France, cartoonist Mort Walker, New England vs. Philly foods, and explain how the ’80’s band Marillion might have something to do with those Bud Light “Dilly Dilly!” commercials.

Let It Snow

I wasn’t dreaming last night when the meteorologist said we were going to get a dusting or “maybe an inch” of snow.

I don’t know what happened in the atmosphere between 6:15pm last night and this morning, but I woke up to the snow coming down hard, a few inches on the stairs that needed shoveling, and one of those RED ALERT automated phone calls from the mayor saying that we need to watch out for coastal flooding and wet basements and general weather danger. Then there was the crunch and munch, the sound of a car hitting the island in the road right outside my front door. He knocked down the stop sign but he’s OK.

Just now a meteorologist said this storm was “overachieving,” which is the best euphemism for “we were wrong” I’ve heard in a while. I’m going to use that the next time I’m wrong about something or forget to pay a bill on time.

I sometimes feel bad on days like this, because I work from home while other people have to commute to work in the snow and the cold and the traffic. Sometimes I feel bad. But since I’ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.


Remind me never to go shopping just two hours before a popular local sports team plays in an important playoff game.

Imagine the day before Christmas mixed with an upcoming apocalypse: parking lot full, every store employee wearing a jersey, swarms of people buying potato chips and candy and soda and every other food item you might buy to watch a sporting event on television. I ran into someone I went to school with and she asked, “Hey Bobby, loading up on snacks for the game?” I smiled and laughed, though really what I had in my cart was just what I buy every Sunday. Another reason I was smiling is because the only people who ever call me Bobby are family members and old girlfriends, and perhaps people who think I’m a child actor from the ’40’s.

Where is the Letter that I promised a couple of weeks ago? You may be asking that question as you check your mailbox daily and see nothing but bills and catalogs and coupons. The answer: it’s right next to me here on the coffee table. Look for it next weekend!

New column up.