In 1997, at the end of my first year of college, someone gave me a copy of Baffler #10, noted Matt Roth's still-outstanding article on the cult of Amway ("Dreams Incorporated") and said, "Read this."
I had previously read as a one-off – what male in the 1990s did not read it with So Cool glee – Steve Albini's "The Problem with Music" from Baffler #3. But the publication didn't register with me at the time. It was just a photocopied article by a guy who made it seem very appealing to be a dick. I was 14-15 or thereabouts. It wasn't a time where anything stuck.
But with that copy of Baffler #10, which I still have, I became an addict. I've been a subscriber (including their long hiatus period) since then, which it pains me to realize is 20 years. The day they re-emerged from hibernation in the wake of the financial crisis was one of the happiest of that time period for me. They're back! It's all gonna be ok!
I know a lot of people have strong and usually valid criticisms of the operation, especially in the Thomas Frank years. It is the journal of criticism without proposing solutions. It is, as a friend put it recently, the guy sitting in the corner pointing and laughing and feeling superior. It borders dangerously on Comic Book Guy territory on occasion. Some of you who have followed Gin and Tacos since 2002 or whatever might notice that these are the same criticisms one can (with justification) make about my writing. The influence on my approach to writing has not been subtle.
One thing that always kind of broke my heart, though, was that I could never get them to tell me I was good enough to be anything but a fanboy. I think the first time I submitted something was around 1999-2000. In the past year I've pitched 3 or 4 ideas they didn't take, some of which became very successful hits in other outlets. Part of me was never going to be satisfied until I got in there.
On Thursday, they published my piece on the long tradition of the Pentagon and White House trying to convince Americans that nuclear war really isn't so bad – it's survivable, we swear! – at times that coincide with American presidents who want to engage in belligerent, dick-waving foreign policy. Fallout shelters, for example, are a thing the White House only talks about when there's a president eager to ratchet up the arms race. The newest incarnation is missile defense – It's cool, we'll just shoot 'em down! – which explains why the piece is entitled, "It's a THAAD, THAAD, THAAD World", although that's a little inside baseball for most readers.
To anyone on the internet I know this is just another piece of Content, another thing flashing past on the social media feed that may or may not provide an interested reader with a few minutes of enjoyment. To me, though, this is a goal that I've had on simmer for two decades and I can't tell you what a great capstone to what turned out, ironically, to be a great year for me individually even though the country and the world are going solidly to shit.
I don't want to preempt my sappy end-of-year post too much, but I'm really thankful to all of you who have supported me whether for a day or a decade. It really would not be possible for me to achieve some of these writing-related goals without you. I'm a lucky sonofabitch.