It was improv comedy for me, but it’s been Western culture for awhile.

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It’s NXIVM but it doesn’t have to be (from ArtVoice)

Like a lot of us in the U.S., I read and watch about cults to relax. A lot of the responses online to NXIVM and Scientology have a snide, superior tone. “How could they pay so much for those classes? How could they let themselves be branded?”

I am not qualified to EM or audit everyone sharing opinions online, but my hunch is that a dominant feeling for a lot of us is either, “There but for the grace of God go I” or “Oh, that does remind me a lot of that one thing I used to do, if I am being honest with myself.” …


And some tips for patients navigating a broken, feckless system that calls you crazy

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The medicine chest. The bottom row is daily.

I caught Covid at the doctor’s office this summer, the only time I left the house in 7 weeks. It was just me and the medical assistant in the lobby, while I received an injection. She infected me, unless it snuck into the medicine. I considered myself lucky that the virus barely touched my lungs at first.

For a few weeks, I had high fevers, flu-like symptoms, and fatigue like I didn’t know was possible. I thought I knew fatigue. I did not! I was sleeping all day. I am not a day sleeper (ask anyone). I was unable to not sleep. I strongly believe that there were times when I was so fatigued that I wouldn’t have been able to escape a fire. I was sort of in and out of consciousness, with hallucinations and serious brain fog. I let so many pots burn because I forgot. But none of this was that terrible. …


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Kendall, FL post office employee, 2011

I’m not sure about the ethics of sharing this picture of a one-time employee of a Kendall, Florida branch of the United States Post Office, but I do have only wonderful things to say about him. He let me take the picture. I remember documenting this moment, because it was so emotional for me.

Most of us are scared about certain aspects of the Donald Trump presidency. At the top of my list has been the prospect that he would 1) turn national parks into Trump golf courses and 2) abolish the postal service, which seems to be happening. Sorry, those are my big things! …


Dear The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, Village Voice, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Slate, People Magazine, E! News, and probably every other news outlet in the world:

On behalf of most ladies, we appreciate that you are taking seriously the Harvey Weinstein-is-a-predator story and exploring it from every angle.

So which of your editors decides that the best thumbnail photo for an article called “Rose McGowan claims Harvey Weinstein raped her, calls out Amazon head Jeff Bezos” is a picture of Weinstein and a young McGowan arm and arm, smiling? How many different levels of editors had approval over using a clickbait photo of Gwenyth Paltrow smiling in Weinstein’s arms, holding an Oscar, for an article called “Gwyneth Paltrow Claims She Was Sexually Harassed by Harvey Weinstein at Age 22: I Was Expected to Keep the Secret.” How many of your staff members do you use to hunt down pictures of Renee Zelwegger with her hand touching Weinstein’s leg? …


By Justine Barron

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Clinton and a bystander on November 9: We shouldn’t tell women when to smile. But one day after doomsday?

“It sounds like you are blaming the victim.”

This is an actual response I got to an angry Facebook post of mine, directed at Clinton and the DNC, immediately after the results of the presidential election. Note that I am a Democrat and supported Clinton against Trump.

I’m not angry at Donald Trump or his supporters for the results; they did exactly what they said they would. I’m angry at them for the rest of existence. The Clinton campaign is the one that mostly failed us.

To some, my anger has seemed misdirected or poorly timed. …


by Justine Barron

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Beyoncé’s new movie-album, Lemonade, has generated a lot of internet discussion thanks to its thoughtful, dense, and brave artistry and/or passing reference to a possible hook-up. With all of the virtual noise around this album, I have picked out a handful of headlines and articles for commendation as especially dense.

Complex Magazine: Did Jay Z and Beyoncé Develop the “LEMONADE” Storyline Together?

Ah Complex Magazine, with your sheen of respectability. …


Season 2 — Wrapping It All Up, In a Tidy Bowe

By Justine Barron

Read previous episode discussions here!

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We weren’t told that episode 11 of Serial season 2 was our last until it started. I would bet that Serial didn’t even know, two weeks before, that they were wrapping up. Who plans to go out on eleven episodes? An even twelve, like last year, would’ve made sense. Thirteen episodes makes a cable TV series or a suit of cards. Eleven is the world’s least notable number; nothing stops at eleven.

Knowing Serial, if they really intended to end on eleven, they would’ve broadcast it throughout the tenth episode. Disclosure of intent is a Koenig trademark. Instead, she kind of threw it away, like she hoped we wouldn’t notice. It makes sense that the scheduling of the last episode should be as loose as the rest of the season, with the skipping or doubling of weeks. …


Season 2 — Ep. 10: The Worst and the Best

By Justine Barron

Read previous episode discussions here!

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“I wasn’t just bored; I was aggravated.” This is not only what I plan to put on my tombstone, but it describes my feelings about Episode 10. This is possibly Serial’s Worst Episode Ever. It is saved by some graceful writing and production towards the end, dealing with Bowe’s reentry into society. That part is quite beautiful actually; that is Serial at its best. …


Season 2 — Eps. 7–9: A Tale of Two Serials

By Justine Barron

Read previous episode discussions here!

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Bowe Bergdhal finally gets a diagnosis in Episode 8, but Season 2 of Serial is still suffering personality issues. Somewhere between the recent double episode, on Bowe’s background and mental health, and last week’s episode, on U.S. negotiations with the Taliban, lies the season’s identity. On the one hand, it’s about a soldier who made a legendarily bad choice. On the other hand, it’s about… the Afghan war?

The other hand gets rangy, expanding into Taliban operations, war strategy, hostage recovery, and Homeland Security bureaucracy. It’s very PBS Frontline eight years ago. Whereas Season 1 stayed focused on the question of Adnan’s guilt or innocence, Season 2 seems to have two central questions: “Why does Bowe Bergdhal really walk off his post?” And “How does the Bergdahl story reflect the problems in our War in Afghanistan?” …


Cause this is mostly about you guys!

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This article refers to recent events for women in improv comedy. Although a satirical list of suggestions, I have heard nearly all of them in real life.

You’re a decent guy. Not too good or bad-looking, clever to a fault, fun but also understanding. You and your best buds are comedians. You all hang out with women who are into comedy. They’re chill, funny girls. You don’t want to date them, they don’t want to date you, but who knows? Maybe one day.

It’s crazy. All of a sudden, these chill, funny girls are posting things on Facebook about really dark stuff. Like being molested. Or worse than molested. By guys you know! They’re suddenly angry about all of this “institutional sexism” that, to be honest, you never really saw. …

About

Justine Barron

Crime, politics, culture, personal essays, humor (but I’m sad). Twitter: @jewstein3000.

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