PBJ

Some first week of October debuts:

Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, on October 2, 1950
The Twilight Zone, on October 2, 1959
The Andy Griffith Show, on October 3, 1960
The Dick Van Dyke Show, on October 3, 1961

Now, those are four of my favorite, well, anything ever, so I’m particularly pleased that, purely by happenstance, Professor Barnhardt’s Journal made it’s debut the first week of October too. In fact, today is PBJ’s 15th anniversary.

When I started PBJ, I didn’t know what to expect. The big question was, could I get anyone to contribute? I sent out e-mails to people I liked and tried to persuade them to write for me. How could they refuse? My pitch was basically this: Not only will you not be paid, you’ll be read by almost three dozen people! I didn’t have a lot of hope and figured I’d have to write everything myself, but then I had people like Roger Ebert get back to me and say, sure, I’d love to write for you!

It still amazes me. USA Today even named us a “Hip Click,” and Yahoo! made us their “Pick of the Week.”

I have a post up over there where I pick several of my favorite essays and stories over the years. There are others I could have mentioned but I didn’t want the post to be just be a long, hard-to-get-through list, so after you read what I’ve picked take a look at the archives.

Baby, It’s Warm Outside

First off, a big thank you to everyone who contributed to this! It is much appreciated.

Second…why is summer back? I didn’t order this. Can I send it back and get something else? Maybe the nachos?

I had already switched to “hot beverage mode” last week when the temps dropped to the 60s and there was a nice E/NE breeze. Finally, fall was here! No more shorts! No more sweating! No more annoying “It’s gonna be a Subaru summer” commercials! Now we’re back to dew points around 65 or so and I’m kicking myself for putting the fan away. Supposed to be a change on Friday when a cold front comes by, brings some relief, and pushes Maria out to sea. More mugginess next week though.

I don’t want to get all political, but I’m taking a knee too. To protest the return of summer. It’s just symbolic though, because if I actually took a knee at this point it would take me a while to get back up.

2017 Fundraiser!

This web site is now old enough to drink.

This month marks the 21st birthday for my site. Balloons! Cake! General merriment! That’s a lot of years, a lot of words. If you like what I do here, I have a request.

I’ll be blunt: a writing career isn’t what it used to be and I need cash. Not just for the usual life purposes but it also costs money to maintain this site and the pop culture blog Professor Barnhardt’s Journal (which turns 15 in October). Not a lot, but enough, and I want to start adding new things in 2018: a podcast, video, and more. So I guess what I’m asking is, if you enjoy the sites, maybe you can donate a buck or two to help keep everything going? A little goes a long way. If you give $8 you get a year’s subscription to The Letter, a handwritten or typed letter I send out quarterly via snail mail. And if you want to give even more, well, I’m certainly not going to argue with you.

Of course, if you can’t give anything, that’s fine too! These sites will always be free (there’s a free book too!). I appreciate each and every visit.

But if you can, click the Donate button on the right and you can pay securely via PayPal or a credit card.

Thank you! (Oh, needless to say, if you want me to write something for you, please get in touch.)

I Rate Things

On a scale of 1 to 10…

The Monuments Men: 7
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: 10
People who sit on my stairs and leave their Dunkin’ Donuts cups and cigarette butts: 0
Grocery carts with wobbly wheels: 1
Car commercials: 0
Frank Sinatra: 10
Sweatpants without pockets: 4
In-ear headphones: 2
No-alcohol mouthwash: 5
Reynolds Wrap: 10
Wolf Blitzer: 4

3…2…1…Relaunch!

So I quit social media and started mailing out handwritten letters. I’m always on the cutting edge of technology.

Subscribers to The Letter know that I stopped it earlier this year. I loved doing it but just couldn’t keep up with sending out a new, fresh letter every single month, especially with all of the other writing I was doing. But today marks its relaunch because I think I’ve come up with a solution.

It will now be a quarterly! I’ll send out a new one every few months or so (starting at the end of this month). And because it’s now a quarterly I’ve also dropped the price. It’s only $8 for an entire year. (If you’re not sure what The Letter is, here are all the details.) If you’re already a subscriber things will proceed as usual.

If you’d like to subscribe, just click the “Donate” button on the right and send the money through either PayPal or credit card (sorry, I can’t accept cash payments through this site – the bills keep getting stuck in the hard drive).

Order today! Makes a great gift! Help save the post office! Exclamation points!

Actual footage of me writing a letter.

Meanwhile, in the Post…

This is one of my once-in-a-while posts where I remind you to go on over to the Saturday Evening Post site, where I have a column every Friday.

This is also where I remind you that you should subscribe to the print edition! That’s the September/October issue on the left. We have an interview with David Sedaris (as well as an essay by him), a look at America’s funniest writers, a piece on the death of encyclopedias, interviews with William Shatner and Ken Burns, and an investigation into who really invented Monopoly. All that and a guide to apps that help you find the best fall foliage, a short story, recipes from Curtis Stone, new fall books, and more.

That’s a great variety of stuff, isn’t it? And I’m not just saying that because I work there. It’s a terrific magazine, and has been for over two centuries.

Everything Is Stupid, Everything Is Exhausting

I have a confession to make: I almost joined Twitter again last week. Don’t tell anyone.

My reasons were practical but no less sad (Sad!). In this day and age when so many people you need to contact have given up their web sites and/or hidden their e-mails, social media is the only way to contact them. But I came to my senses and took my itchy finger off the “join” button.

When I say I came to my senses I mean I went on Twitter and surfed around a bit to see what I was missing, and just being on Twitter for an hour was enough to throw ice water on any ideas I had about rejoining. I was reminded of the arguments that infest the place, the quick, endless “hot takes,” the feeling of wanting to fit in by replying to someone, the rush you get when something you say is liked or retweeted, the snark, the same jokes being told by everyone. And let’s not forget the links to stories – oh, so many links to stories, which only make your “to read” list grow and grow to the point you’ll never read them all – that just infuriate you. In the short time I was there I learned women are tired of the men on Game of Thrones mansplaining everything, that doctors who say you’re overweight are “fat-shaming” you, that Taylor Swift holds the key to race relations in America, that Dunkirk is sexist and racist, that people want to get rid of Mount Rushmore, and I discovered that if you like Friends or Seinfeld you might be a terrible person.

I can’t roll my eyes anymore and if I keep slapping my forehead I’ll leave a permanent mark.

Whenever a big event or news story happens and everyone is tweeting about it, someone will always joke “_______ is the worst Twitter.” You know, “politics Twitter is the worst Twitter” or “Super Bowl Twitter is the worst Twitter.” At this point we just have to admit it: Twitter Twitter is the worst Twitter.

Joining Twitter in 2017 is like starting to smoke in 2017. We know what it’s like, we know what’s going to happen, all the data is in. Why would anyone do that?

And then you have cable news, where everything is BREAKING NEWS or DEVELOPING (one of the reasons I’d rather watch the nightly network news and read newspapers). You have CNN and their non-stop coverage on every show of whatever big story is currently going on, all their pundits and experts in their Brady Bunch-like boxes, talking over or screaming at each other. All that’s missing is Ann B. Davis in the middle. They should actually superimpose her box from the Brady Bunch opening and just leave it on there for entire segments. While everyone is talking over each other and trying to get in their spin and make their point, the smiling face of Ann B. Davis would be seen until they went to a commercial.

I guess what I’m saying is, I really miss Ann B. Davis.

The combination of Twitter and 24/7 cable news has ruined…well, just about everything: the web, the news, our mental health, common sense, time, space, reality. I don’t think our minds and souls are made to absorb this much information at this pace. We don’t think the same way anymore and we certainly don’t react to things that same way anymore. Our minds are being trained to think in terms of news alerts and video and tweets and texts.

Help! Jane! Stop this crazy thing!

On Twitter last week, WGBH’s Peter Kadzis said that, because he was overwhelmed by everything that’s happening, he thought it was a good night to skip cable news, get off Twitter, and read a book. Actually, every night is a good night to do that. So that’s just what I’m going to do right now.

And so should you.