Stick to these hand-picked topics to keep this year’s dinner table cordial, or at least bloodless.
Ask any bed-headed twenty-something and they'll tell you the same thing, usually in unison: Telecommuting is the wave of the present. What they won't tell you is it's not as easy as it sounds. Here, a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your home office experience.
1. Look the part. If you show up to work in your boxers, not only will you look like a piece of shit, you'll feel like one. That's bad for productivity, which is bad for the company, which is bad for the economy. And believe me, the last thing you want at nine in the morning is President Obama knocking down your door while you're still in your tighty-whities.
2. Your girlfriend is now your Boss. Whenever she comes home, you'd better be working. If she catches you slacking and tries to fire you—and she will—remind her that only he who is without sin shall cast the first stone. If she claims to be sinless, accuse her of blasphemy, a serious crime in your office. Tattle on her to the Lord later that night.
3. Keep strict office hours. With your bed just feet away from your desk, it can be tempting to let the work hours bleed into your off-time and vice-versa. Like trying to boil the milk out of your soupy instant-mac, this is a mistake. Keeping to a solid schedule will not only inspire you to work harder, but once your time is up, you'll feel better about having that beer with your co-workers afterwards during some good old-fashioned FaceTime™.
4. Be flexible. When your pitches aren't landing and rent is right around the corner, you might need to take on another job to make ends meet. Don't worry. Cam boys make great money, and you can work practically whenever. And as that new Rashida Jones documentary proved, it's one of the most fulfilling jobs available to anyone, especially hot local singles in our area.
5. Placement is essential. To keep your clients interested, put cameras all around your apartment so they can watch you 24/7. This way, you can reel in profits around the clock. But you'll also want to keep your new career a secret from the Boss, so make sure they're well hidden. Your best bet is to buy her several teddy bears (gifted to her over the course of several days of course) and hide cameras in their bellybuttons. Bonus points if you can convince Boss to wear a Go Pro around the house.
6. Be flexible. Yoga. One hour, every day.
7. Stop watching Garden State. You've seen it three times this month, and all it's making you want to do is wear wallpaper-patterned clothing and stand in the corner at parties. And while you're at it, stop donating to the Wish You Were Here Kickstarter. That thing reached its goal like two years ago.
8. Hire an intern. So long as you pad their resume, these tender brains will work for nothing. And since you work from home, their "extensive editing experience" can be put to use with trips to Goodwill, floor sweeping and those thank you letters for your Bar Mitzvah that you never got around to. It's win-win.
9. Blog instead of working. It's the best way to trick yourself into thinking you've been productive, and your mom will be delighted to learn what you've been up to.
10. Always think of a tenth thing. One for each finger.
Celebrities are (rightfully) about getting while the getting's good. None, not even the once proud Stone Cold Steve Austin, can count on extra time tacked onto their 15 minutes of fame, no matter if they were a firefighter before they got famous, or a butterfly in a past life (Gosling).
Hence all the cash grabs. Ozzy Osbourne's I Can't Believe It's Not Butter campaign. Tommy Lee Jones' left-field appearance in this unibrow- and Japanese telecommunications-touting ad. Bob Dylan—once the Dennis the Menace of the corporate world—and his purported $5 million payday of a Chrysler commercial.
Any unused branding opportunity is money on the table. Here are a few of the most egregious unattempted slam-dunks.
Kendrick Lamar, Soda Mogul
Drake already paved the way for the rapper-cum-carbonated beverage salesman. Instead of limiting himself to Sprite, Kendrick should aim higher: the soda industry at large. He'd barely have to change his raps:
I can taste the changes / this new Coke's amazing / to you that's a quick sip / with all disrespect / let me say this...
I am a sipper / who's prolly gonna sip again / Lord forgive me / Lord forgive me / 23 flavors I don't understand / sometimes I need a soda can / Bitch don't drink my Sprite
All right? That's enough.
Stone Cold Steve Austin, Cold Stone Creamery
Eight words: Cold Stone's Stone Cold Steve Frostin' Ice Cream. Just $3.16 per scoop.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Ardbeg Scotch
The best way to drive a man to drink is to repeatedly remind him how small he is in the grand scheme of our ever-confounding universe. Why Ardbeg? Obviously because it was the first whiskey to be blasted into space. The future is space-whiskey, and the future is now.
In the world of soccer, nothing is a certainty. Giants are felled against the odds. Goal-line sitters soar over the bar. All-time leading goal-scorers are left off of World Cup Finals rosters. (Speaking of course about Iran's Reza Enayati, who at the tender age of 37 was refused a ticket to Brazil this past summer. And no one else.)
That goes double for picking a World Cup roster—hell, maybe triple, considering it's some three-and-a-half years before the next tournament kicks off in Russia. After all, despite recent form, qualifying is by no means a gimme: The U.S.'s recent stint of seven-straight World Cup qualifications came off of a 36-year cold streak. And with three CONCACAF nations squeaking into the round of 16 in Brazil, getting into the next dance has rarely looked more difficult.
But with a newly inspired fan base, young talent to spare, and the wunderbar German connection, it's an exciting time for U.S. Soccer. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan won't see another cup cycle, but for once, there's a clear line of sight for the future of American soccer. On that note, let's do the impossible and guess at what a prospective starting eleven might look like for the 2018 World Cup.
Because defense wins championships, and right now, we need all the help we can get back there. Without extremely skilled or at least dependable defenders, the next best option is to congest the backfield. This obviously leaves our attack less potent, but zippy outside midfielders and a good hold-up striker render this a capable counter-attack formation.
This isn't to say the game plan should be to absorb attacks all day and spring the counter when possible—that has almost never worked for the USMNT. It's a simple acknowledgment that against higher-ranked teams, of which there are many, the U.S. will be on the back foot more often than not. A 4-5-1 should give enough support to ensure Guzan won't have to break any records to keep the U.S. in a match against a potent offense.
Joey Altidore is the closest thing to a definite on the roster. So long as his form remains, he'll be in Russia. The 4-5-1 depends heavily on Altidore's hold-up game, which has admittedly been spotty thanks to an often stiff first touch. Thankfully, that can be improved upon. What can't be taught is brute strength, which Altidore has in spades. Provided he gets the minutes on a top-flight team—whether in England or elsewhere—Jozy could blossom into the striker fans have believed him to be. But really, unless Klinnsman digs out another surging young talent—Gyasi Zardes seems ripe—Altidore doesn't really have that much competition. Once Dempsey is gone, the current scarcity of quality strikers will be a borderline crisis, which is why we've seen unknowns like Bobby Wood and Alfredo Morales given chances recently. Even if Altidore rises to prominence in the next four years, he needs a backup, some form of contingency lest he sustain an injury.
This is where it gets interesting. If their potential is realized, the midfield will be the most formidable part of the U.S.'s game in 2018. Since his introduction to the side, DeAndre Yedlin has done everything but get on the scorer's sheet for the United States—and that's as a defender. The 21 year old's trial in midfield in the U.S.'s friendly against Ecuador this October proved a natural transition from his post as a marauding right back. His ability to speed up the line and fling dangerous crosses will be integral to set up the attack, and no doubt his well-laid defensive foundation will keep his work rate high on the other end of the field. With a move to Tottenham in the imminent offing, Yedlin will only benefit from the competition for a spot on the first team and eventually, against the best the world has to offer.
Joe Gyau is no less exciting of a prospect. Before he tweaked his ankle against Honduras, Gyau showed pace, strength, and an all-around willingness to take on defenders that's been too scarce in a Donovan-less midfield. Now that he's getting minutes in the first team at Borussia Dortmund, expect a sharp rise in his stock from here till 2018. That is, so long as he stays healthy.
Another recent call-up to the senior squad is also seeing a deserved bump in attention, though at a later phase in his career than he would have preferred. Attacking midfielder Lee Nguyen has had a breakout season in the MLS, and though he only played about 20 minutes in a friendly against Colombia, set-up one of that game's most inspired moments. Nguyen has the skill and cheek in creation that Bradley lacked at attacking midfielder, and looks capable as the go-to playmaker at the top of a five-man midfield. (Another possibility here but with too many question marks: wunderkind Gedion Zelalem. The soon-to-be 18 year old Gunner looks like the real deal, but who knows how that will pan out? More pressing, whether or not he'll even play for the U.S. He's rumored to be leaning that way, but it's best not speculate until that crucial information is settled.)
Despite the folly of the Michael Bradley attacking midfielder experiment in Brazil (terrible band name), Bradley is—and in all likelihood will be—the player most vital to the USMNT's success. He can see the field like few others on the roster and has proven time and time again how deadly he can be in distribution. And though we haven't seen it recently, he's just as capable of thumping it in the goal as he is setting up a teammate. Every team needs a rock in midfield, and Bradley is it for the U.S.
Though traditionally employed as an attack-minded midfielder, Mix Diskerud has seen a few looks as a defensive midfielder to some promising effect. It isn't among the strongest aspects of his game—that would be his passing and finishing—but he is learning the position on the job, and alongside the best the U.S. has maybe ever had in the position. Though Diskerud never saw any game time in Brazil, he's now a regular fixture in USMNT friendlies and will be important to the team's success going forward.
Let's start with a long shot: Jermaine Jones as a central defender. After a strong showing in the 2014, fans embraced the German-American like a long-lost cousin. The only problem was his age: at 32 years old, it was assumed that Jones was playing his last world cup. After all, defensive midfielders like Jones need to have the legs to get them from box to box quickly, which is far from guaranteed the older you are.
But Klinsmann's decision to slot Jones in at center back suggests two things: one, he wants to prolong Jones' talented presence on the team, and 2) a general lack of confidence in other central defense options. On both counts, you can't blame him. Jones has proven a capable field general both in midfield and in his recent trials as a center defender, and as Ireland so kindly pointed out via a recent 4-1 drubbing, our defense lacks a leader without him or Omar Gonzales on the pitch.
For the strongest squad, the U.S. would start both of them. At 6'5, Gonzales not only locks down the box in the air, but he's generally the soundest and most consistent defender on the roster. Barring a turn in form (completely possible) or a patch of injuries (equally so), he'll be at the height of his powers in four years, perfectly weighted between experience and youth.
On the flanks, Fabian Johnson will command the left side, opposite Timmy Chandler on the right. Nearly full-footed and with plenty of attacking prowess, Johnson is versatile enough to plug any hole south of the strike line. That said, it'd be preferable to see his talents keep the net empty rather than compete for a slot in an already packed midfield. Still, Yedlin and Johnson could almost be interchangeable, with complementary skill sets and Road Runner-esque speed. Right back is still the USMNT's biggest weakness, and Chandler will take some developing before he's a known entity over there. But unless Yedlin remains a fullback in four years, Chandler is the best option.
Tim Howard had a career year this past year, both for club and country. He finished top three in the Premiere League for best shot/save ratio and least goals conceded per game, and had a much fawned-over display in the World Cup, batting away a record 16 shots against Belgium alone.
However, barring a serious resurgence in form, Howard has played his last meaningful game for the U.S. national team. He owes it to his decision to take a year break from the squad, which he took in order to spend more time with his family and allow him to focus on Everton's year at home and abroad in the Europa league.
From a human perspective, this is completely understandable. From a coach's perspective, not so much. As we saw with Donovan, Klinsmann has no reverence for the old guard and takes particular umbrage in self-imposed hiatuses. Howard has said he expects to fight his way back onto the squad next year, but the way things are going for him at Everton this year, he should maybe concentrate on keeping his day job.
While he isn't necessarily better than Howard, Brad Guzan, the U.S.'s new number one in net, has a lot going for him. He's been Aston Villa's first-string keeper for the past three seasons, with no sign of that changing. While Villa haven't by any means had a barn-storming season this year, they are averaging less goals conceded than Everton by a small margin. That's reductive, of course. But watching both sides play, Guzan may not make as many unexpected saves, but he does appear more consistent than Howard, who tends to be hot or cold on the whim of the stars. Then there's the bald thing, which has been a talisman for quality U.S. keepers for years now. Here's hoping he doesn't pull a Rooney and keeps that cue ball shined.
A holiday trip home and Serial's hiatus opened up plenty of time for checking out the pieces amassing in my reading queue over the past weeks.
Honorable mentions: the onslaught of Christopher Nolan profiles around the release of Interstellar. You'd think this guy has never done a magazine profile before. New York Times Magazine did a dependably great piece on the man's quirks and sensibilities, while Wired took the long way around and gave the term "page turning" a whole new meaning. Read them, but maybe see the movie first—the pieces are rife with spoilers.
Enforcers, Kent Russel -- n+1
"Nobody plans for being a fighter anymore.”
“Enforcers” is a fascinating look into one of sport’s most misunderstood creatures: hockey’s enforcer. Russell is granted a style of storytelling here that cuts between an almost P.I. first-person tale of tracking down former enforcer and coach John Brophy, and a hypothetical third-person account of what it’s like to be charged with playing bodyguard in the rink. Salient because of the recent studies that have shown the sort of long-term damage these crunching athletes sustain in their careers. But as if he's too stubborn to allow all that troubling info to become a reality for him, Brophy seems unaffected when confronted with the info—though his respirator suggests differently.
The Airborne Toxic Advent, Staff -- The A.V. Club
Service packages don't get a lot of love, but the A.V. Club managed to make a gift guide that manages to be informative, creative and hilarious, not to mention admirably transparent: they tell you which companies sent them items they're recommending. I had no idea you could buy a Gremlins Christmas sweater or a vinyl-of-the-month subscription. Questionable if I was better off not knowing, considering my shopping is behind me now. I suppose there's always Flag Day.
The Jihad Cult, Staff -- Der Spiegel
The Der Spiegel staff takes on the conundrum of middle-class German youth shoving aside their comfortable lives—their “Playstations and Nutella” as the article puts it—to enter the unknown of ISIS. The piece suggests that lack of a sense of purpose is what entices these young men. But ISIS’s knack for manipulation would seem an equal factor, as they outfit a pair of recruits in “T-shirts in which the Adidas name had been replaced with "alqaida" and that depicted an aircraft flying toward the largest of the three stripes.” There are multi-million dollar corporations less brand-savvy than this.
A Rape On Campus, Sabrina Rubin Erdely -- Rolling Stone Revelatory piece on the history of sexual assault at the University of Virginia, the college with the most cases of sexual assault in the country. It's worth mentioning the controversy over RS's decision not to interview the accused or name the witnesses (understandable, I think, considering the fearful environment surrounding these sort of accusations). But even if you ignore Jackie's story, the statistics and glance at UVA's questionable judicial process make this a valuable read.
Too fishy. Even if the core of it is true—which from the sounds of it, might not be the case—odds are it was sensationalized. Jury's out, but looking like a future classroom lesson on the importance of fact-checking.
A fun research assignment I did for the latest issue of 5280. That's a lot of rocket scientists. (Colorado is the home balloon boy, after all. Remember him?)
Silky-smooth graphic design work courtesy of 5280 art director Dave McKenna.
The clip at which high-quality writing springs out of the Internet today is comparable to that of Geocities anime sites back in the 90s. And sometimes, with just as many gifs. (Looking at you, Grantland.)
At times, it's overwhelming. How are you supposed to read it all and still get your work/sleep/eating done?
I'm here to help: Each month, I'll be collecting my favorite pieces and posting them here. Because we could all use a few more hours of sleep.
My picks for October:
Dear Team, Michael Signorelli -- Howler Magazine
A hilarious nod to an overlooked genre of fine literature: the rec-league email chain.
The Mushroom Whisperers, Kate Siber -- 5280 Magazine
Full disclosure: This was the last piece I fact-checked for 5280 Magazine. It's also a great profile on a pair of fellows making a living in Colorado's second—and maybe more fickle—gold rush: mushroom foraging. (Not going with the title "Fun Guys" seems like a bit of a whiff, though.)
After The Fall: Bob Dylan's "The Basement Tapes Complete," Sasha Frere-Jones -- The New Yorker
Another masterful album review/essay from Frere-Jones that manages a bit of Dylan history, too. Interesting that this archival grab-bag probably wouldn't have made it out of the cellar if it weren't for today's click-and-choose technology.
Sex Is Sex, But Money Is Money, Svetlana Z -- Medium.com
Fascinating insider's view of the life of a New York City escort. Insightful and informative, there's business advice here that any freelancer could benefit to learn.