The Nationals and Orioles: let’s get along

Washington Nationals manager Jim Riggleman (5) and an Orioles fanDear Orioles fans,
Let’s talk. Last night our respective teams (the Nationals and your beloved O’s) clinched first place in the NL and AL East Divisions. This is an amazing and great thing for all of us.

No longer do we have to suffer the incessant and repugnant gloating of fans from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. For the next month and a half we can revel in our success and enjoy the drama of the playoffs while our rivals are forced to eat a steaming bowl of STFU.

We can dream, collectively, of a Beltway, or Chesapeake, or 95, or whatever series as the final expression of our baseball dominance. We should be shaking hands and back-slapping, not sniping and back-biting.

Yet all is not well among the Beasts of the East. For some reason, we Nats fans (ok, me Nats fan) have endured a spate of ill feelings and vitriol from those who follow the Oriole Way.

I’ve been called a traitor to my boyhood team (the Orioles), accused of abandoning the O’s because they struggled for years and had terrible ownership, and told my team/stadium has no soul or history.

Let me set the record straight: I have no ill-will toward the Orioles at all. I’d count them as my second favorite team. I’ve been to an Orioles game this year, my kids have Orioles caps and pennants — they have the complete team set of Topps baseball cards, which I bought for them in Camden Yards. I have nothing but good feelings for your club and fond memories of cheering them on in Octobers past.

But yes, I am a Nats fan first, and foremost. I am a Nats fan because they are my hometown team — I have  lived in the Washington, DC-area for almost half of my life, and all of my adult life. I am a Nats fan because my kids are Nats fans and whatever your children love, you better damn-well love it too. I am a Nats fan because they’ve been able to unite this riven city in a way that few things beyond an enemy attack can.

I didn’t abandon the Orioles, and if I did it was only because I found a team I could love just a bit more. I didn’t leave them because of bad ownership or losing seasons — I sat through Nationals games in RFK stadium during 100-loss seasons.

Finally, our team isn’t soulless, it’s just new. You can’t look at players like Zimmerman, La Roche, Werth, Rendon, and Harper and say these guys have no soul — no personality.

So please, let’s put whatever perceived differences we have aside — we’re not even in the same division for Pete’s sake! — at least through the playoffs. Let’s enjoy and congratulate each other on our shared success and hope to celebrate a friendly rivalry in the Fall Classic.

Photo:  Washington Nationals manager Jim Riggleman (5) and an Orioles fan. By Keith Allison, used under a Creative Commons license.

“My name is Dick Whitman, and I’m an alcoholic.”


This is what I want to see at the beginning of Sunday’s “Mad Men” season premier — the premier that marks the beginning of the end for this, the best show of the new golden age of television.

“My name is Dick Whitman, and I’m an alcoholic.”

The camera tight onto Don’s face, wan with bags under his eyes, his hair hanging over his forehead. The camera pulls back to reveal his light grey suit, shirt open at the collar. He sits on a metal folding chair cradling a cup of coffee, bathed in the harsh fluorescents of a church basement.

“Hello, Dick.” a representation of late 1960s America drones — housewives and businessmen, blue collar workers, civil servants, black and white.

“It’s been two weeks since my last drink.”

This is the only way forward for Don Draper — the only way forward that doesn’t involve his death — a complete stripping away of his facade, his false identity and removing the crutch that would otherwise kill him.

The last scenes of season six began Don’s unmasking. He disastrously revealed his past to his colleagues, and poignantly to his family. The firm put him on leave, hinting at an admission that his alcoholism was affecting his work. Much like Freddy Rumsen, Don has been put out to pasture.

At this point there are three ways forward to Don: He can accept his fate, rest on his substantial fortune and fade/drink his way into oblivion, perhaps mellowing enough to hang onto Megan; he can burn out spectacularly, dying an alcohol-fueled death; or he can find redemption and rebirth — he can achieve a new beginning.

Based on the opening sequence and the reoccurring allusions to death throughout the series, most critics and fans believe the series will end with Don’s death, that the primary question left to answer is, “How does Don fall from that window?” Does he jump, is he pushed, or simply stumble.

But I prefer to be an optimist. I prefer to believe that Don will find his new beginning. That he will rise again to start his own boutique firm in somewhere in sunny California. I prefer to believe he will fund happiness. That the twilight of his career will see him surrounded by a small, bustling creative team dreaming on the cutting edge of advertising. I prefer to believe the show ends with Don smiling, as he settles into his chair, arm sling around the back, to listen to the pitch of a brilliant young creative director.

This is how I want the series to end, but to get there, it must begin with Don’s ultimate admission.

“My name is Dick Whitman, and I’m an alcoholic.”

Photo via AMC

we need notecards for the web

Felix Salmon is right in so many ways here, but his note about some user-generated content platforms being “too beautiful” as to become intimidating/a barrier to bringing quick thoughts to the web is particularly prescient.

There’s a need for a space between the Twitter’s 140 characters and Medium’s high-design environment. Something that is essentially a mobile-friendly online text field where users can tap out quick thoughts, collect and display them publicly and share them via social media. There should be one minimal design to rule them all, no theme picking, no customizing, no effort but type and share, with a simple Twitter, Facebook, Google or email sign up and share functionality.

There are services that begin to fill this need —, which I’ve been experimenting with and Posthaven, which resurrects the functionality of Posterous come close, but don’t get to the pure simplicity I’m imagining here. Others would argue that Facebook pages and Google+ fulfill this need. However, both also are walled gardens and don’t play well with other platforms because they’re geared toward keeping you in their space.

Tumblr arguably fulfills exactly what I need, but again it has a layer of functionality that goes beyond this concept.

It sounds crazy to say, but I don’t think there’s a truly efficient way to easily create and share text via social media. What am I missing?

Salmon Felix on the over-designed beautiful news page

Today, when you read a story at the New Republic, or Medium, or any of a thousand other sites, it looks great; every story looks great. Even something as simple as a competition announcement comes with a full-page header and whiz-bang scrollkit graphics. The result is a cognitive disconnect: why is the website design telling me that this short blog post is incredibly important, when in reality it’s just a blockquote and a single line of snark? All too often, when I visit a site like Slate or Quartz, I feel let down when I read something short and snappy — something which I might well have enjoyed, if it just took up a small amount of space in an old-fashioned reverse-chronological blog. The design raises my expectations, even as the writers are still expected to throw out a large number of quick takes on various subjects.

via Against beautiful journalism | Felix Salmon.

three reasons I’m not down with Upworthy and why they don’t care

First, if you care at all about digital content, how it works and how it’s shared, you need to study Upworthy and you need to try and understand what they do, how they do it, why, and why it works. To get a sense of all that, read this article from New York Magazine now.

Did you read it? Good. Now here’s why Upworthy is not for me (and I’m not for them):

I can’t stand the headlines, but mostly, I think, because they’ve been so often imitated by clones and spammers. This isn’t Upworthy’s fault, but those headlines have become a parody of themselves.This is referenced at the end of the able article, so I’m guessing this will be dealt with soon enough:

Then he lets everyone in on his newest data discovery, which is that descriptive headlines—ones that tell you exactly what the content is—are starting to win out over Upworthy’s signature “curiosity gap” headlines, which tease you by withholding details. (“She Has a Horrifying Story to Tell. Except It Isn’t Actually True. Except It Actually Is True.”) How then, someone asks, have they been getting away with teasing headlines for so long? “Because people weren’t used to it,” says Mordecai. “Now everybody does it, and they do cartoon versions of ours.” (CNN, for instance, recently ended a tweet about a child-murder story with a ghoulish “the reason why will shock you.”)

I’m too old and cynical for Upworthy (and I have a high opinion of myself) or, in other words, I’m not their target audience. Judging from the comments in this article, Upworthy is for hopeful, positive Millennials who live in the midwest — or something. I’m a jaded, cynical GenXer who lives in a major metropolitan area. Also, Upworthy seems to hate the media elites with the strange bizarro-world passion of a Fox news-watching Tea Partier. I read The New York Times daily.

I don’t think Upworthy’s content elevates the discourse. This is simultaneously my toughest criticism to prove, and Upworthy’s toughest to refute. In other words, it’s subjective. The article states that Upworthy’s “mission is to ‘draw massive amounts of attention to the topics that really matter.'” That’s all well and good, and I can’t argue with the premise that the majority (but not all) of what Upworthy aggregates matters.

However, what does “drawing massive amounts of attention” do for an issue if you’re not actually adding to the discourse around that issue. Raising awareness for awareness sake — even if it’s “massive amounts of awareness” seems about as compelling to me as bumper stickers and awareness ribbons. They’re clever and touching when you first see them, but after while they start to loose meaning. To me, this is the real danger for Upworthy. That, sooner rather than later, their message is going to be glossed over as we all move on to the next bright and shiny Internet thing that makes us feel all warm inside.

All of that said, you have to admire Upworthy. They’re truly fantastic at what they do and they have real, genuine and completely uncynical zeal for doing it. Even with those horrible click-baity headlines that have spread like a plague across my Facebook newsfeed (I really, really hate those headlines), they — on balance — make the Internet a better place.

Top podcasts of the year, interview format

In no particular order…

By the Way, in Conversation with Jeff Garlin: Matt Weiner (Really any of Jeff Garlin’s interviews could be at the top of this list, but the Weiner interview was his best. See also, Sarah Silverman, Bob Odenkirk, Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Zach Galifianakis.)

WTF with Marc Marron: Jim Breuer ( see also, Will Ferrell)

The B.S. Report with Bill Simmons: Nate Silver and Malcolm Gladwell

Fresh Air with Terry Gross: Bradley Cooper (see also, Bruce Dern)

The Nerdist Podcast: John Hamm (see also, Oliver Stone.)

10 Questions We Always Ask: Episode 10, Dave Connell (self-serving, I know.)

mickey mouse in yodelberg

Mickey Mouse in Yodelberg – YouTube.
A gorgeous Mickey Mouse short done with a modern take on retro style. There’s a bunch of these on the Disney Shorts YouTube channel.

It’s great to see an American icon revitalized by great animation.