Riding the Third Rail
Here's what's in store for 2022.
My first published email newsletter feels like a lifetime ago.
The year was 1997. Bill Clinton was president, the internet was still a marginal force in American life, and the word “blog” didn’t yet exist.
Every Sunday, I’d manually send out a mass email from my prison inmate-sounding college email address (email@example.com) to several hundred subscribers. It was called The Sasquatch Journal for no good reason other than the fact that I loved the evocative way the word “Sasquatch” rolled off the tongue. That and I’d been playing the cartoonish arcade fighting game Darkstalkers, and my favorite character was the roly-poly yeti character.
Why the nonsensical name? For one, I was only 18, the age that deliberate randomness is supposed to reflect a sophisticated sense of humor. The Sasquatch Journal was also vague because it meant I could publish all of my silly stream-of-consciousness essays, personal anecdotes, and short stories under one roof without having to conform to a specific subject matter.
By the time I killed it sometime in 2000, I’d written something like 150 emails and tens of thousands of words. I’m half glad that it’s all been lost in the ether of the internet of yore because I’d no doubt be embarrassed by my teenage prose. But it was good practice, the kind of thing that helped instill a sense of discipline when I began to work as a professional writer.
It’s been a roller coaster of a career in journalism since then. Certainly, there have been times I’ve strongly considered switching gears or changing careers altogether, perhaps running for city council or something more whimsical like becoming a park ranger or a train conductor. But not quite yet.
Here’s what’s next: I’ve been asked to be a regular columnist at Jacobin Magazine, where I’ve been writing with more frequency since mid-last year. I believe strongly in political alternatives and independence and Jacobin is one of the few national media outlets that provide one that isn’t becoming increasingly beholden to the two poles—the Democratic and Republican Party.
The majority of my work for 2022 will appear there but whatever I write that doesn’t quite work for Jacobin will be published right here at the Third Rail. Ideally, I’ll write political commentary, media criticism, reported essays, cultural commentary, and detours in forgotten or misunderstood pieces of history. We’ll see. In the meantime, thanks for subscribing and helping me celebrate 25 years of writing email newsletters!
On another quick programming note: I won runner-up for the book contest that Freddie DeBoer ran on his Substack recently. Freddie published my review on his site yesterday. It was a super fun exercise because he opened up the contest to any book—fiction or non—from any year. I picked The Medium is the Massage, Marshall McLuhan’s 1967 head trip of countercultural pop philosophy because AOC made it newly relevant during “The Dress” controversy. Also, if you haven’t, definitely check out Freddie’s writing on his Substack as well.