It is time, finally, to tell the story of “The Bag of Shame.” This happened long ago, when I was very single, living alone, and dreading Christmas. Anxiety for me is a baseline state, but the prospect of Christmas used to induce a special panic — an apprehension of extreme loneliness — together with an impulse to alleviate it. That year, a man I had been dating — or, rather, sleeping with from time-to-time — invited me to accompany him on a ski vacation for the holiday week. It was a surprising invitation. We saw each other only occasionally, and strictly on a booty-call basis. He was amusing, but no one with what I would have called Long Term Potential. We were not close. I had not met his family, nor he mine. Nevertheless, as a single person, a Jewish person with zero Christmas heritage, and a person easily irritated by the suffocating requirements of seasonal cheer, it seemed like an okay alternative to what I had planned — which was nothing. I said yes. When I told my friend S, she — who knew Booty Call Man — asked me what I was thinking.
“It’s something to do,” I answered, trying to sound flippant, like an adventuress.
“You could go to the movies,” she said, a phrase that has resonated down the ages. Even now, whenever I am on the brink of a decision that may cost me, in time or money or self-respect, I pose the hypothetical to myself: Would it be better to go to the movies right now?
I tell the story of “The Bag of Shame” now as a gift to my younger, single friends who live alone. Nothing makes a single person feel more single, and more anxious, and more anxious about being single, than a holiday that perpetuates a whole lot of myths about family togetherness at a moment when togetherness is not an option. For more than a decade, starting in my later 20s, I lived alone, and during that time was more or less constantly worried that my single status would be never-ending, and worse: that it signaled some kind of factory defect in me. In my world at the time, the existential question of aloneness was a constant preoccupation — for me, for my friends, for my mother (especially) — its drumbeat accompanying all our activities and conversation, like the hum of an old refrigerator in a small apartment.
And that was then. According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, the number of people under 35 who are “un-partnered” has risen to 61 percent from 56 percent over the past decade. Aloneness and loneliness are not the same thing, but one begets the other: the former U.S. Surgeon General has called loneliness the public health crisis of our time. And the experience of loneliness today is qualitatively different from when I was young. Back then, the universe I inhabited was prosperous, stable: the corporation I worked for matched my 401K. Today, millennials’ solitude exists against a backdrop of massive political and environmental and financial disruptions that can be accessed through Twitter at any time of day. Their anxiety may be neurotic, in other words, but at the same time it’s understandable, even rational.
Booty Call Man and I had an awkward time out West. We had previously spent a fair amount of time in bars, but never face-to-face at a restaurant with cloth napkins in our laps and never, certainly, navigating the intrinsic awkwardness of a hotel room. Plus, I’m not much of a skier, and we had to negotiate that should-we-ski-together-or-separately dynamic, but without any of the goodwill or history that real couples have. Our sojourn was a performance of coupledom begotten by a mutual fear of seasonal loneliness, and so it was also sad. Still, compared to a long weekend inventing “projects” in my apartment, I might have preferred it, if it hadn’t ended how it did.
Hey, kittens, you did it: It’s almost 2018 and you have most of your hair left. 2017 made good on the promise of 2016 and has been an absolute nonstop barrage of mind-bending plot twists, lies, and mea culpas in politics, Hollywood, and the media. Late night has emerged as an ever-increasing functionary arm of the Fourth Estate, dedicated to parsing the daily news, while also standing in for a mood or an ideology. The year brought a new crop of hosts entering the political comedy ecosystem, including Robin Thede at The Rundown, Sarah Silverman with an optimistic I Love You, America, Anthony Atamanuik doing his Trump impersonation on The President Show, and Jordan Klepper with The Opposition.
Of the established network hosts, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers found comfortable grooves delivering nightly political news bulletins, while Jimmy Fallon and James Corden still had difficulty pivoting to politics. Then there’s Samantha Bee, born in the outrage cycle of 2016 and staying the course, and John Oliver sticking to his enlightening and witty deep dives. Still, it has become harder and harder for a late-night host to cut through the noise and find something original to say, and curiously, it was the former host of the The Man Show, Jimmy Kimmel, who emerged as the voice of sanity during insane times when he defended the Affordable Care Act from the GOP’s attempts to repeal it. Here’s our list of the best and brightest moments of late night, which, yes, happened this year.
Conan Creepily Drives Tom Cruise Around
So many comedians are driving celebrities around these days that Conan decided to get in on the action by driving Tom Cruise around London. But instead of doing carpool karaoke or talking about comedy with some coffee, Conan just decides to concentrate on making good lane changes and telling Tom Cruise to save his hilarious stories for another show. Yes, we’ve hit the moment when anti-comedy is the comedy.
Kevin James Is a Master Klutz
As my colleague Jesse Fox likes to say, Jimmy Fallon is not a wartime comedian. After the head-pat felt around the world, Fallon has steadily tried to include jabs against Donald Trump into the diet of The Tonight Show for his show’s survival. But really, The Tonight Show is at its best when it’s doing pure fun, like when Sarah Paulson unleashes a wheel of impressions or this face-off between Fallon and Kevin James where they try to out-klutz each other. Physical comedy is hard!
Robin Thede on the Russians
Robin Thede became the first black woman to host a late-night show with The Rundown on BET. With that historical milestone out of the way, Thede delivered this excellent piece looking at Russian attempts to manipulate black American sentiment while finding a distinct style that satirizes the self-seriousness of investigative journalism while actually doing some good investigative journalism.
Samantha Bee Takes on Weinstein’s Sad Penis
Samantha Bee held a marquee event this year hosting an alternative White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but lost a little steam when it became clear that the actual proceedings would turn into its own alt-version after the job fell to Hasan Minhaj, who acquitted himself admirably. (Immigrants get the job done.) Her most memorable moment would come a little later, during the spate of sexual-assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. She makes the point that this isn’t a partisan issue (Weinstein was a high-profile donor for the Democrats), but rather, a dicks-in-power issue.
More Best of 2017
John Oliver on Confederate Monuments
Last Week Tonight, which won its second consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Variety Talk Series this year, keeps up the good work: John Oliver is thorough without being pedantic, principled without feeling moralistic, and always, always funny. This year he’s covered a wide range of issues from net neutrality to the corporate consolidation of local news to the belief that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are “moderating influences” on Trump. But this piece on Confederate monuments is an excellent dissection of both white southerners’ desire to erase slavery from history while weaponizing statues (Fun fact: the biggest spikes happened during Reconstruction and the civilrights era!).
Jennifer Lawrence Interviews Kim Kardashian West
Celebrities interviewing celebrities can turn into tedious circle jerks, but Jennifer Lawrence is the Kardashian superfan perfectly suited to talk to Kim. She has her Jennifer Lawrence-ness dialed up, and it works to show a thoughtful, mature side of Kim Kardashian you rarely see on late night.
Tina Fey Stress-Eats Sheet Cake
It was hard to keep up with all of the bad things that happened this year, let alone figure out how to fight them. Tina Fey appeared on Weekend Update to show the boys just how she was coping with the news that neo-Nazis held violent rallies at her alma mater, the University of Virginia … terribly! She pointed out the stark difference between government treatment of protesters at Standing Rock and the white militiamen at Charlottesville while consuming an entire sheet cake. Let us all eat cake, goddamnit.
Amber Ruffin Says What
Late Night writer Amber Ruffin has been popping up in segments alongside Seth Meyers for a while now, including the excellent “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell,” but this solo segment, “Amber Says What,” has become the best showcase for her comedy so far. Whether it was questioning Blake Shelton’s status as the sexiest man alive, making fun of Jared Kushner’s voice, or reclaiming her time, Amber Ruffin covers the parts of pop culture Twitter loves most while exploring the multitude of the ways you can say What.
Jimmy Kimmel on Health Care
It all started when Jimmy Kimmel told an emotional story of how his infant son Billy had to have the first of multiple heart surgeries to survive. Even then, Kimmel related it back to a simple and democratic idea that all Americans, regardless of income, should have access to good, affordable health care. So when the GOP pushed to repeal Obamacare, the former host of The Man Show became the startling and passionate voice of populism on late night. When Kimmel said “this is not my area of expertise,” it wasn’t Jon Stewart–like demurring. It felt like a genuine attempt to understand what was going on. Best of all, Kimmel wasn’t afraid to throw down and call people liars, including one Republican senator, Bill Cassidy, to whom he posed the question, “Could it be, Senator Cassidy, that the problem is that I do understand and you got caught with your G-O-Penis out?”
Tiffany Haddish and Her Swamp Tour
Where would 2017 be without Tiffany Haddish? Somewhere deep in the bowels of a lonely Louisiana swamp, no doubt. She was everywhere right when we needed her, first in a standout, Oscar-worthy performance in Girls Trip, and then Def Comedy Jam 25, Jay-Z’s “Moonlight” music video, SNL, and Taylor Swift’s dinner table. Her best moment on the couch though was her first: this anecdote where she tells Jimmy Kimmel about the time she took Will and Jada Pinkett Smith on a Groupon swamp tour. Girls Trip had yet to open in theaters, but it was clear that a star had been born.
2017, what a hell of a year. It was a year that seemed to last an eternity, yet pass by like a car crash. And through it all, countless people — and things — spent the year unwittingly vying for the title of the biggest villain on the internet. With many worthy nominees, it’s going to be a tight race: Twitter is nominated for doubling the character limit for double the harassment; Equifax is in the running for its monumental data breach that involved an unbelievable chronology of mismanagement, and Ajit Pai has emerged as a strong favorite thanks to his success in defeating net neutrality. Who will win? Place your bets — using your preferred volatile cryptocurrency — and watch.
Tor Ekland “steps up for the thankless shit,” says a fellow lawyer, “just because people need help.”
Over soggy scrambled eggs at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington, Kentucky, Tor Ekeland is doing his best to cheer up Deric Lostutter, a 30-year-old hacker who is about to be sentenced to federal prison. “It’s terrifying,” Lostutter says.
“It is what it is,” replies Ekeland, a fast-talking 48-year-old lawyer who sports a neatly trimmed beard and a crisp blue suit for this morning’s hearing. “You’re going to know what your future is going to be after today. You know what I mean?”
Some four years earlier, Lostutter, a member of the hacker collective Anonymous, went after local authorities in Steubenville, Ohio, who he believed were covering up the rape of an unconscious 16-year-old girl by high school football players. He and another man hacked into the team’s fan site and posted a video in which Lostutter, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, threatened to dox the players and local officials (post their private information online) if they didn’t apologize to the girl. The hack and its aftermath helped rebrand Anonymous as a force for legitimate activism. Not only were the rapists convicted, but an investigation led to the convictions of three school employees (on charges ranging from allowing underage drinking to obstructing official business). Lostutter pleaded guilty to lying to an FBI agent and violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
After breakfast, Ekeland accompanied Lostutter to the courthouse, where a judge sentenced him to 24 months in prison—the maximum allowed under the plea deal and, despite Ekeland’s efforts, a year more than one of the Steubenville rapists had received. The prosecutor claimed the sentence would send a message that “hacks will be taken seriously as crimes, not as pranks or publicity stunts.” After the hearing, Ekeland countered that the sentence was really about “the DOJ being scared of the power of social media to organize social protests.”
Ekeland can sometimes come off a bit radical considering he used to be a corporate attorney in Manhattan. But six years ago he traded his fat paycheck for a not-so-lucrative private practice. Now he’s one of a handful of defense lawyers who specialize in computer crimes. “I’m much happier,” says Ekeland, who shows up at our first meeting in jeans and a black T-shirt. The corporate gig was boring, he explains—”it made me an alcoholic”—and he rarely saw a courtroom. When he first arrived in New York City prior to law school, he was involved in experimental theater, and it was the theatrical aspects of the court that prompted him to study law. Litigating “is super stressful,” he says. “I love it, though.”
Paul Bayes, bishop of Liverpool, accuses some religious leaders of ‘colluding with a system that marginalises the poor’
A senior Church of England bishop has lambasted conservative evangelical Christians in the US for their “uncritical support” of Donald Trump, urging them to reflect on how their endorsement of the president relates to their faith.
Paul Bayes, the bishop of Liverpool, said “self-styled evangelicals” risked bringing the word evangelical into disrepute, and added there was no justification for Christians contradicting God’s teaching to protect the poor and the weak.
Bayes told the Guardian: “Some of the things that have been said by religious leaders seem to collude with a system that marginalises the poor, a system which builds walls instead of bridges, a system which says people on the margins of society should be excluded, a system which says we’re not welcoming people any more into our country.
“Whenever people say those kinds of things, they need to be able to justify that they’re saying those things as Christians, and I do not believe it’s justifiable.”
He said he regretted that “people who call themselves evangelical in the US seem to be uncritically accepting” positions taken by Trump and his allies.
“Some quite significant so-called evangelical leaders are uncritically supporting people in ways that imply they are colluding or playing down the seriousness of things which in other parts of their lives [they] would see as really important,” Bayes added.
He stressed that not all evangelicals were Trump supporters, saying there were “many, many Christians who are trying to proclaim the gospel as we’ve received it, even if that means political leaders have to be challenged”.
Storms, fires, floods, and heat caused unprecedented destruction in 2017. Why?
2017 is about to become the most expensive disaster year in US history, costing nearly $400 billion in damages.
How did that happen? Consider some of the record-breaking weather events that came our way:
- California was drenched in the wettest winter on record, ending years of drought.
- Then came California’s most destructive and largest wildfire season ever. The Tubbs Fire in Northern California killed 22 people and damaged more than 5,600 structures.
- Hurricane Harvey broke a rainfall record for a single tropical storm with more than 4 feet of rain.
- Puerto Rico is still mired in the longest blackout in US history after Hurricane Maria struck three months ago. More than 1,000 are estimated to have died in the storm and its aftermath.
- San Francisco reported its hottest temperature ever, 106 degrees Fahrenheit, while other parts of the country set records for high-temperature streaks.
- 14 places across Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas reported record-high water levels during floods in April and May.
- Requests for federal disaster aid jumped tenfold compared to 2016, with 4.7 million people registering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
As of October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had counted 15 disasters with damages topping $1 billion, tying 2017 with 2011 for the most billion-dollar disasters in a year to date. And that was before the California wildfires. (We included some of those fires in the map below):
The unending string of calamities was shocking to many Americans. As Paolo Bacigalupi, who writes climate dystopia fiction, tweeted in August: “The thing that bothers me most about these unprecedented disasters is that even I imagined they wouldn’t happen for a long time yet.”
Yet we must see 2017 as an average year, if not a baseline. We must reckon with the likelihood of even worse storms, heat waves, fires, and droughts as the Earth warms — because scientists expect even this “new normal” to get worse.
The reasons for this are many: As the climate changes, the US is becoming much more vulnerable to disasters. People keep flocking to live in places we know are likely to be hit. And our policies don’t protect them, not by a long shot.
Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned from 2017, and what they suggest for how to prepare for future catastrophes.