Last summer I was at a pretty low point which is a story I told in the opening chapter of the Hell World book but I forgot to mention this part. My savings lol such as they were had dwindled to about nothing and I had lost my main freelancing gigs mostly because I liked to criticize the places I wrote for on Twitter too much and I just could not get any reliable work despite being America’s Only Freelancer. A friend who works at Harvard Business School told me there was a writing job there I might be good for and that was nice of him.
I was broke at the time not poor mind you which is a different thing altogether. Poor people don’t get the opportunity to work at universities like this unless it’s to mop the floors and do math equations.
What is it I asked and my friend said uh we don’t really know we’re trying to figure it out. Despite being on the threshold of the pit I still didn’t want to do it so I said fuck it how about $100 an hour because it’s Harvard and fuck Harvard and their $40 billion endowment and they said what about $80 and I thought goddamnit I guess I am probably not in a position to turn that wage down at this particular juncture in my life due to needing to stay alive even though I didn’t really want to stay alive so I ate shit and I went in for like four meetings to see what they wanted and eventually I got started even though they still didn’t really know what it was they wanted.
I remember the first day I went to the campus which is only a mile or two from my house which also made it somewhat appealing and it was so hot I sweated throughout the entire interview. I kept dabbing my forehead like a nervous southern lawyer and I thought no way someone who sweats this much will get hired. I don’t know what you think of when you imagine what people at HBS look like maybe you think they are all nerds but they are not they mostly look like they’ve been cast on a diverse prime time soap opera about how poor people are mud so on top of everything else I had the prospect of being horny to contend with.
It could turn into a regular thing with tons of work they told me while I was sweating. No no benefits offered though sorry about that.
The job it turned out was to take these hours of sit down video interviews their professors do with International Business Geniuses and turn them into narrative pieces of journalism that the students could read and share but in a fun Vox-y way and so I dug into some footage with a guy who started this company called Careem which is basically the Middle Eastern Uber and has since been acquired by Uber for $3 billion. The guy kept stressing how much the company operated with a set of core values that drove every decision they made and also talked about how many hours he worked and all sorts of shit that guys with money concussions say and he talked a lot about how the company was like a family and how this gig economy work gave the drivers a sense of purpose in their lives. They called them captains instead of drivers and this was supposed to be a big point of pride for the company because calling one thing another thing is one of the most important techniques a business guy can master and also a poet for that matter although there’s generally a bit of a discrepancy in the salary for either profession.
I turned in my first draft and I kept writing in bits like “Any company can proclaim that it operates under a set of values. It’s as easy as waking up in the morning and telling yourself you’re a good person. But…” which I thought were subtle but clear enough points of contention with the mythological narrative they were pushing. I guess the thing I was telling myself to justify it was that maybe I could tweak the brains of the future McKinsey consultants a little bit which of course was a quixotic pipe dream but we tell ourselves all sorts of lies to survive don’t we. I’ve only been awake for two hours and I’ve already lied to myself like fourteen times.
I would ask questions of my HBS handlers like uh what if one of these companies we profile is straight up evil what then can we … mention that and they were like ah we’ll see when we get there. I said shouldn’t we get the perspective of some of the actual Careem drivers in here to see how they feel about the idea of the “family” they keep talking about and long story short I didn’t end up working at Harvard very long.
The last thing I did was turn in a second draft of the piece that I felt like I could live with without hating myself too much and they sent some shit back to me like “From this version, we're going to extract core teaching points to highlight in sub-titles and do a round of testing with our target audience to determine the ‘usefulness’ and ‘interestingness’ factor for them” and I said ah ok thanks for letting me know then I went and fucked myself.
That was October of 2018 after I had just started this newsletter for free and then in November of that year I started to ask some of you to support my work here and a lot of you did so thank god for that because who knows where I’d be now if it had worked out I might have ended up a Pete Buttigieg voter.
One favor to ask if you like the book please leave a review on Goodreads or whatever like these nice people did. Pay no attention to the first once it’s … a computer virus.
Check out this cool shit from Bloomberg:
Facebook Inc. chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg has privately recommended several potential hires to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, a rare example of direct political involvement from one of tech’s most powerful executives.
Earlier this year, Zuckerberg sent multiple emails to Mike Schmuhl, Buttigieg’s campaign manager, with names of individuals that he might consider hiring, campaign spokesman Chris Meagher confirmed. Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg’s wife, also sent multiple emails to Schmuhl with staff recommendations. Ultimately, two of the people recommended were hired.
The emails between Zuckerberg and Buttigieg have come to light as Zuckerberg faces unrelenting attacks from politicians from both parties over such issues as misinformation, privacy, election meddling and bias. Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee on Facebook’s impact on the financial services and housing sectors.
Zuckerberg, 35, and Buttigieg, 37, overlapped at Harvard, and Buttigieg was friends with two of Zuckerberg’s roommates. He was also one of Facebook’s first 300 users. But they were only introduced years later by a mutual Harvard friend.
Here’s some shit Mayor Pete said last week:
“I am a candidate who believes Medicare for All is not as attractive as Medicare for All Who Want It,” Buttigieg said at The New Yorker Festival. “Because it gives people a choice.”
“The way I come at it is with a certain humility about what’s going to happen,” he said. “Because one of two things will happen. Either, there’s really no private option that’s as good as the public one we’re going to create … which means pretty soon everyone migrates to it and pretty soon it’s Medicare for all.”
“Or, some private plans are still better, in which case we’re going to be really glad we didn’t command the American people to abandon them whether they want to or not,” Buttigieg said. “I’m neutral on which one of those outcomes happen.”
I mentioned the other day in here in this piece about the crushing surprise costs of ambulances that Terminator-eyed techno-incrementalists like Pete always harp on this concept of choice which is just a signal to rich people that they will still be able to have better health insurance than the rest of us if it were ever to be made universal. It goes without saying that that sort of shit is disgusting and I was going to talk more about that presently but I just read this interview in the New Yorker with Rob Delaney who is a mensch of course in which he does a good job talking about it.
You’ve had two major health catastrophes in your life, one in the United States and one in the United Kingdom—you were severely injured in the car crash, when you were twenty-five, and then what you’ve been through with Henry. I know that health care is central to how you think about things, and I wonder if you can talk about the difference between the experiences with U.S. health care and U.K. health care.
The short version is it’s better to get sick in the U.K. than here. I’m a pretty vocal advocate for Medicare for All in the U.S. and for support of the N.H.S. in the U.K. I had private health insurance that I paid for back in 2002 when I had my accident—this was pre-A.C.A., or Obamacare—so, when I started to generate fairly sizable hospital bills, my insurance company just dropped me, which they could do back then. So I was paying for surgeries with credit cards. People in this room have done that—maybe they’re doing it right now.
So I knew something needed to change here. I knew my dad and my stepdad get care from the V.A., and I knew if you were very poor or over sixty-five there was something for you. I just thought, it’s really weird that some people get health care from the government and some people don’t. And then I went to the N.H.S. in the U.K., and I remember walking into our local general practitioner to sign up my family and being, like, [breathing heavily] “So what do you need? Do you need a retinal scan? What fluids from me do you need?” And they were, like, “What’s your address?” And I was, like, “O.K., now what else?” That’s it. Now we can go to the doctor. It’s not free—your tax dollars pay for it—but, if you get sick in the U.K., you don’t immediately begin to stress out. What’s the story with my deductible? Was my private prescription plan sold three weeks ago without my knowledge to another company, so I got dropped because I didn’t answer an e-mail? The stress that you have when you get sick in the U.K. is so much less than over here because the financial element isn’t a part of it. You’re still sad or angry because your knee fell apart or something’s wrong with your butthole, but you don’t have the ancillary stress of what’s going to happen to my wallet.
We had the worst possible outcome in the U.K. Our son died. He would have died here; there’s nothing you can do for this type of tumor in a kid that young. What we didn’t have to do was spend hours, days, weeks, months on the phone with billing offices or insurance companies making sure this M.R.I. would be covered. And that was time that we got to spend with our son, the little boy that I just described, rather than with some actuary on the phone in Indiana.
So, yeah, I want to abolish private health insurance in the United States. I want to smash it and destroy it. We have to do it, because the amount of money we spend on health care for people in Medicaid and Medicare and Tricare—we’re doing that, and then we’re paying private health-care companies, C.E.O.s who are making hundreds of millions of dollars, and spending money on advertising. “Your choice! Get the plan that’s right for you”—what the fuck is that? The plan is go to the hospital and it’s covered. There’s your choice. Yeah, I’m a zealot on that one, and I won’t stop until you can go to the hospital without fear of going bankrupt.
I guess I drink about 1.5 gallons of soda water a day now and it’s wild to me that you can become addicted to drinking soda water what a miracle the human brain is. Other than that the only things I really have much interest in of late are not-eating food not-drinking alcohol and going to sleep and I have varying degrees of success with each of those depending on the day.
I saw this tool from ProPublica yesterday which you can use to enter in the name of your own doctor if you even know what it is to see how much money they take from drug companies.
I entered in my PCP and a surgeon I saw not too long ago and they had taken respectively $15 and $5 and I was like what the fuck that seems pretty low. Maybe there’s something different about the rules or standards in Massachusetts or something I thought and apparently there is to some extent.
“Of 4,183 family medicine doctors, internists, cardiovascular physicians, psychiatrists, and ophthalmologists in the state who wrote significant numbers of prescriptions, 49 percent received payments from drug and device makers in 2014. That is the fifth-lowest percentage after Vermont, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Maine,” the Boston Globe reported a couple years ago.
They said it’s maybe because there are so many teaching and university hospitals here that it’s frowned upon generally to push name brand shit that you get paid for and I don’t know if that’s true or not but if it is thank you to Harvard and the other rich schools who we are all proud of living near for all they do for us.
Here’s the list of the companies that paid the most and the doctors who took the most last year.
Congrats to Kevin Foley.
This video below is funny to me it shows what looks like a cop in Dallas collecting some full bottles of booze from a storm-destroyed store and then he gets caught by the TV cameras and is like uh just tidying up in the dark here.
I know that exact feeling it’s like when your s/o is asleep and you’re trying to pour one more drink before bed real quietly and they go what are you doing in there and you go uh nothing and then you place the bottle down so slowly and you think you’re Indiana Jones replacing the artifact on the booby-trapped thing but you probably sound more like a rhinoceros with its horn caught in a guitar amplifier.
I probably don’t need to point out what the TV News Cops would call this sort of behavior if it were let’s say a different class of person liberating the liquor from a damaged store and if you’re wondering if there’s a Hell World about who counts as looters and who counts as people merely trying to survive after natural disasters and what that has to do with Bentham and Foucault and the Panopticon and the ingrained fascism in all of us then you are in luck and you can read it here.
Of course there are people in the comments defending the cop from accusations of wrongdoing and they are the very same people who would not give the average person the benefit of the doubt in such a scenario.
Around the corner from Harvard Business School in Allston — which is a part of Boston that the university has been steadily buying up piece by piece forcing out more and more of the student and immigrant heavy population every year — were two of my first apartments ever. I was going to write about them a little here then I remembered I wrote a piece for Esquire a couple years ago where I asked people to share memories of their most disgusting apartments they ever lived in and here were mine:
My first apartment post-college was a particular nightmare. There were three of us in a two-bedroom, and although my roommate and I set up child-sized bunk beds in one of them, I sensibly opted for the mattress I had found on the sidewalk and dragged into the living room, where it stayed propped up against the wall during the day. (It was the early 2000s and bedbugs weren't really a thing yet—don't judge.) The prior occupants owned a ferret, which had pissed all over the disgusting wall-to-wall carpets. The odor didn't seem to bother the cockroaches spilling into the building from the Pizzeria Uno dumpsters next door.
Things got more spacious from there, but no less cleanly. A few miles away, some friends and I shared a five-bedroom with one bathroom. The tub clogged, so taking a shower meant standing in a pool of tepid brown hair-water that even a family of pond skaters wouldn't set up shop in. Every room maintained its own natural history museum of pizza boxes past, with all the attendant rodents. I remember finding a festering pile of maggots in a cereal box in the pantry one day and, not really knowing what to do about it, leaving it there for someone else to worry about. When you live in a place like this, there is one overarching philosophy that binds everyone together, maintaining the lowest possible living standard for everyone: Eh, not my problem.
Speaking of apartments and Harvard last year I wrote something about the chicken wing industrial complex. It was for this site Good Beer Hunting and now that I look back on it it was the first time I ever experimented with whatever this style I write in now is called. More commas though.
A few years later, I moved into a house just up the street. My roommates and I painted the walls a disgusting junkie pink, and would play video games and sneak into each other’s rooms when the others were out, looking for any leftover drugs from the night before. A dog named Nietzsche peppered the gravel yard with shit that no one bothered to clean up and it hardened into a minefield of fossilized turds as the seasons changed.
I don’t remember how much we paid to live there at the time, though it was certainly enough to get by on a scumbag’s salary. But there’s no way any of us now, even with actual adult lives and careers, could afford to live there anymore. Everything on that street, everything on every street it touches, is well beyond the reach of anyone but the wealthiest at this point, with two-bedroom spots selling for millions of dollars. That’s in part because Harvard is so close, but also because everywhere around here there’s a Harvard of some kind or another—an idea of borrowed prosperity by proxy—just up the street. It’s a place people want to come to. Aspirational.
Even in nearby Somerville, formerly a rough and tumble city dense with triple deckers, and still a sanctuary city, home to some of the so-called “animals” the president is so quick to throw into the rhetorical—and actual—trash, there’s no place for people like we used to be. I pass by the apartment every so often, and it looks much the same as it always did, perhaps with a new coat of paint, and a lot fewer dog turds than before. But it’s the same thing it always was. Its nature has not substantially changed, it’s just more expensive than it used to be. Someone told us all that it was nice here. Nicer than somewhere else where it was much worse. Then we all believed it. We’re suckers for that sort of garbage.
I don’t remember too much from that period of my life but I do remember around that time in the mid 2000s having been recently fired from my last real media job which was an editor at the alt-weekly Dig Boston. I had been making $20,000 a year and then I went on unemployment for a while and the checks for that could not have been very large. On Fridays I’d go to the ATM and try to take out money so I could buy drugs and my balance would usually be like $50 which is around what a gram cost and so I’d deposit a check from myself to myself hoping that the next dole check would arrive in time to cover it and in the meantime it would inch my balance up just enough that I could take out the full $50 and get the drugs I wanted.
I have no idea how we managed to live like that and I can’t believe none of us died — besides Nietzsche the dog :((( that is — but I guess in the grand scheme of things and depending on when you read this we did we’re just not gone yet.
When I wrote that joke above about Harvard janitors above it of course made me think about Elliott Smith and I thought I should post an Elliott song in here but then I thought nah I do that too much then I just realized that he died sixteen years ago today so no choice now.