March is the new February

Yeah, I know, you never received February’s issue of The Letter (if I can even call them “issues”). I had planned to get one out at the end of February but I had a technical problem with the super-sophisticated software that produces each letter and there was a production mishap at the plant in California that delayed things (actually, I simply forgot to do it but the other excuses sound much more impressive). So the next letter will be for March and you should have it next week. We’ll be back on a monthly schedule again with this letter.

In the meantime, go over to my friend Jennifer Armstrong’s site and read her great how-to on the business of being a freelance writer (with a guest appearance by yours truly) as well as her follow-up on the economics of writing books. And speaking of books, buy her book that takes a look behind the scenes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted. A really great read.

Son Of Five Things About Media And Technology Right Now

(Part 4 of my ongoing series. Here are Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

1. On his CNN show today, Brian Stelter had a Huffington Post reporter on talking about her grueling day of going without e-mail. She did this little experiment because Senator Lindsey Graham and others recently said that they don’t use e-mail. Could she do that too? So she went without e-mail (and social media) for an entire 24 hours! Somehow – somehow – she got through the day, even though she actually had to use her PHONE to get in touch with people! (Insert gasp here.)

Oh, I should probably mention a few things. First, she had an assistant who could e-mail for her. This assistant could even print out the e-mails to show the reporter, because I guess reading e-mail on a piece of paper isn’t really reading e-mails? Or something? (Her printer was broken so she couldn’t do this but she was going to.) Her assistant could also post on the reporter’s social media accounts. Oh, did I tell you the reporter could read her social media accounts if she wanted? She could also text and instant message people. Other than, she totally went a whole day without checking her e-mail and somehow survived.

Hey, I’m going to go a whole day without driving a car. I’ll just have my chauffeur drive me around.

2. It’s 2015, but apparently it’s still optional for publications to pay writers who did work for them (and it’s also OK to send those writers cease-and-desist orders).

3. I’ve noticed that a lot of TV news anchors are now holding tablets while they deliver the news. I guess it shows they’re cool, tech-savvy, always in-the-know! It’s also massively silly-looking and distracting. But I guess it’s the best way to keep track of all those tweets coming into your account from viewers giving their opinions on the stories you’re reporting on, because social media is the most important thing now.

4. Speaking of, I’ve been a bad Twitter quitter. After writing my anti-social media essay a while back, I’ve managed to stay off Twitter for 98% of the time (maybe it’s less – I’m not good at math) but I’ve certainly been a lurker, using it as a news feed and posting links to new articles I’ve written. And that’s probably the best way to use it if you can, though I’ve found I can’t. If you’re a journalist it’s hard to get away from it, because so many people in that profession base their professional and personal lives around social media now that you miss out on what’s going on (or at least finding out quickly).

But I don’t really consider myself a journalist, I’m a writer, and I want to stay away from it as much as I can and just write. Remember when there was a sense of mystery with writers and celebrities? A writer would write something (or a celeb would make a movie or TV show or release an album) and you might read or watch an interview with them, but then they’d go back to their lives. You wouldn’t constantly read a stream of what they were thinking/observing/experiencing/watching/eating. Remember when we actually wrote more than spending time on social media promoting ourselves and our writing? Remember when we didn’t have to be “on” all the time?

You don’t remember those things? Well, you must be under 30.

5. Words and phrases people have to stop using right now, no matter what your age:

“All the feels”

“THIS”

“Asking for a friend”

“That thing where…”

“____ I am in you”

“Because reasons”

“tl;dr”

Disturbing

pringlesfrenchoniondipI bought some French onion dip potato chips the other day. (Wow, there’s a thrilling opening for a blog entry). Specifically, Pringles French Onion Dip Potato Crisps (years ago the USDA said they can’t call them “chips”). Here’s the can.

Anyone else find this image disturbing? You mean to tell me that two Pringles potato crisps go out to eat at a cafe – I don’t really understand how they can even do this since they seem to not have legs, arms, a mouth or pockets to keep their money in) – and they order French onion dip? There’s no other food on the table, so what, they dip themselves into the dip and eat themselves? Do these crisps live in our world and the other cafe patrons are human and everyone is staring at them, or are we supposed to imagine a world where it’s all potato crisp people, driving their potato crisp cars and having potato crisp babies (I really don’t want to know how that would work)? And these potato crisp people eat foods like dip that are designed to be eaten with potato crisps?

I don’t think this scenario was thought through all the way. It’s like those M&Ms ads that feature walking, talking M&Ms that encourage you to eat them.

And if all this isn’t disturbing enough, I bought some Goobers at the store the other day (that’s not the disturbing part, unless you don’t like Goobers). The woman at the checkout told me that her little brother licks all of the chocolate off of them and then puts the peanuts into the peanut bowl. Remember that the next time you’re over someone’s house and they have kids and they have a bowl of peanuts on the table.

The next Letter is going out Monday. Have a great weekend.

25 turning 25

1990 was a fun year for me. I was living with my best friend and a few other friends in a condo out of town. They were all in college and I, well, wasn’t. But I got to live a little bit like a college student: eating way too much pizza and subs (we ordered so much from the place we actually sent them a Christmas card that year), playing tennis several times a week, playing Risk on computer, drinking, watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Simpsons. We even put out a music magazine (which I still have to upload to this site at some point). I think there was a meme on the web several years ago where people would pick the favorite years of their lives. 1990 would definitely be one of mine.

That was 25 years ago. God, 25 years. In some ways 1990 still seems so futuristic, but it was actually a very long time ago and we’re all old. Here’s my latest for Esquire, where I list 25 movies that turn 25 this year.

The Liam Neeson GIF makes me laugh.