… and we’re back! I missed you, situation normies. As a careful custodian of your inbox, you know that I didn’t publish Situation Normal last Wednesday, or Sunday. At the top of the last email I sent you, I explained that I’d be taking a brief break. But people don’t read programming notes, I guess, because my inbox was overrun with emails asking questions like:
Are you still alive? Please respond!
Were you abducted by aliens? Please ask your alien overlords to respond!
Were you indicted? Please ask the court to respond to our habeas petition!
Did the U.S. government force you to sell Situation Normal to the Chinese government? Please ask Joe Biden and Xi Jinping to DM me!
Did Elon Musk buy the internet and accidentally unplug it? Please Tweet so I know we’re still connected!
The answers to those questions are as follows: I think so, I don’t think so, ask my lawyer, no comment, and he doesn’t have the money to buy the internet because he blew all his cash on Twitter—the Pet Rock of social media companies.
Kidding! I didn’t reply to those emails because my mom, aka “Gayle,” aka the scourge of the Situation Normal comments section was in town. Picking Mom up in Las Vegas, hanging out with her for a week, then driving her back to Vegas kept me busy. Thankfully, my travels yielded at least one story, which you’ll receive this Sunday.
The other thing that kept me busy was what people in the newsletter game call “housekeeping.” Now, you can eat off the Situation Normal floor. Also, Situation Normal has that new newsletter smell.
Kidding again! I don’t recommend eating off the Situation Normal floor, or any floor, unless the food has been on said floor for five seconds, or less. Then it’s safe because germs need a minimum of five seconds to hurt you.
For real, though, I did do some newsletter housekeeping. I revised the paid subscriber benefits for Situation Normal and updated the About page. You can read the new & improved About page here. There’s stuff about—wait for it—me. Plus, stuff about comments and recommendations on Situation Normal.
But one thing I want to talk with you about here, situation normies, is a change to my business model. Here’s the TL;DR: most Situation Normal stories will remain free, but sometimes Situation Normal stories will be for paid subscribers only.
Why the change? A little background.
For the first two years of Situation Normal, every single story was free. This made Situation Normal an easy newsletter to manage and an even easier community for situation normies to join. But the costs were 💯% on me, and as Situation Normal grew, those costs grew too.
What costs? Well, I spend anywhere between three and five hours putting together the Wednesday edition, and anywhere between ten and fifteen hours writing the Sunday story. In a typical week, I spend somewhere between thirteen and twenty hours making you laugh, and another hour or two making sure that the comments section is a fun and safe place for the approximately 2,600 situation normies who share and lurk in that space.
I’m happy to spend my time making you laugh, but the operative words in that sentence are spend and time. I don’t talk much about my day job here because non-disclosure agreements, like Wu-Tang Clan, ain’t nothing to fuck with. But I’m a freelance writer, which means I’m always balancing my day job (corporate communications stuff) with my side hustle (Situation Normal).
Three months ago, I turned on paid subscriptions to see if I could strike a better balance between my main hustle and my side hustle, without putting any of my stories behind a paywall. Since then, more than 50 situation normies have stepped up to underwrite humor for the larger situation normie community. I’ve been blown away by that support! It’s awesome, and frankly, it means a lot to me that so many people would say: Michael, I dig your work, here are a few bones, or clams, or whatever you call them, to help pay for all of the time you put into making strangers laugh.
Unfortunately, my writing schedule is still out of balance. To remedy that situation, I see two options. On the one hand, I could cut way back on Situation Normal. I don’t want to do this, and I don’t think situation normies want this either. On the other hand, I could convert more situation normies to paid subscriptions. I’m choosing the second option for two reasons.
First, if capitalism teaches us anything—and I hate the fact that it does—it’s more effective to charge some customers for the occasional story than to ask everyone to honor an honor system. Adam Smith may have been an asshole, but as far as economic models go, Adam Smith is our asshole.
Second, some stories like Big Dick Nixon Energy, Porn Conventions Are Decadent and Depraved (and also very mainstream), and We Took an Alaskan Cruise, I Kept a Log, for example, just take a lot of work to bring to you. I love writing those stories, and I know situation normies love reading them. But until the California Lottery makes me independently wealthy, or Christina’s boss lady business prowess makes me a gentleman of leisure, I need to be a little more guarded with my time.
Those are the reasons behind my decision to change things up, situation normies. As for the change itself, I don’t think things will be too different around here.
You’ll still receive Situation Normal every Wednesday and Sundays. Chances are, those posts will be free for everyone. But every now and then, maybe once or twice a month, I’ll send out an exclusive story. If you’re a paid subscriber, you’ll see the full story. If you’re a free subscriber, you’ll see a preview, and if you’re so inclined, you can subscribe to read the full story.
Hopefully, this new model works better. But like everything I do, Situation Normal and its business model are works in progress, which is another way of saying that these policies are written in pixels, not stone. In a few months, at the end of what business people call Q2, I’ll reevaluate and adjust.
To read every Situation Normal story & support my work, upgrade to a paid subscription👇
One last thing. I recognize that some situation normies can’t afford to pay. If that’s your situation, just reply to this email, and we’ll work something out.
Big Tabasco update
The last story I shared with you was about a phone call with my friend Bridget and how our call took some serious, strange, and silly turns, including a failed Tabasco-run. I called that piece Big Tabasco, and in that story I wrote:
A younger version of me might’ve offered to fix the problem for my friend, somehow. But the older, wiser me knows that you can’t really fix another person’s problem. All you can do is listen, and hear them, and crawl into whatever hole they’re in and just be there with them so they don’t have to go through one of life’s shit-storms alone.
I stand by my words. But after I published the piece, I realized I could solve one of Bridget’s problems. So I got Jeff Bezos on the blower. Then Bezos called one of his third-party vendors. For a few minutes, they bickered because partnering with Bezos is no picnic, from what I hear. But eventually, Bezos and the third-party vendor agreed to disagree in the name of consumerism. At that point, I gave Bezos my credit card number, and in exchange for my moolah, the third-party vendor shipped Bridget a six-pack of Tabasco sauce.
One problem solved!
As publications grow, they often add correspondents in places of interest to their readers. Since my beat is a little off beat, I asked Zach, my brother from another mother, a brother shamus in the Lebowski sense, and an OG situation normie, to be the very first official Situation Normal correspondent. Zach’s mandate: be on the lookout for good Situation Normal material.
“What is good Situation Normal material?” Zach asked me.
“Good material is a lot like poorly written Supreme Court opinions on pornography,” I explained. “You’ll know it when you see it, and since you live in Florida, you’re likely to see a lot of it.”
The other day, Zach sent me a photo of a sign at a Florida strip mall. The sign advertised two tenants. Individually, the signs are OK. But taken together, Zach had found it.
Meanwhile, Tab, an enthusiastic situation normie and occasional contributor, sent a photo of a secret pole dancing studio’s self-defeating sign.
Did you take a funny photo, overhear an odd conversation, or spot some slice of life hilarity? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They Might Not Be Giants
Talk to anyone about artificial intelligence long enough and you’ll hear two fears. First, the machines will annihilate humanity Skynet-style. Second, the machines will take our jobs, especially jobs like writing the next installment of the Terminator franchise, where Sarah Connor travels back in time to download the Robinhood app so she can short Silicon Valley Bank stock.
Personally, I’m not at all worried about an AI murdering 8 billion humans, and I think the fear that the machines will take our jobs is way overblown. Maybe that’s why I enjoy messing around with ChatGTP so much. In the short-run, ChatGTP is fun, and in the long-run, like any new technology, it’ll probably have terrible consequences that none of us predicted, even though many of those consequences were totally obvious from the jump, but whatever those consequences are, they’ll result in humans doing stuff for fun and profit, but mostly profit.
ANYWAY, I’ve been feeding ChatGTP song lyrics because it’s fun. I’ve asked situation normies to get in on the fun too. Geoffrey Golden, who writes Adventure Snack, asked me to ask ChatGTP the following: “Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch. Who watches over you?”
Here’s how that conversation went, Geoffrey.
Stick around and chat!
You know the drill. I’ve got questions, situation normies have answers.
Do you follow the 5-second rule? Or, do you discard food that touches the floor, no matter how long it’s been there? Or, do you live dangerously by eating such delicacies like floor-pie, Linoleum-sushi, and carpet-Jello?
Am I right about Adam Smith? Is he our asshole? Or, is he just some asshole giving us an invisible middle finger?
Is Birdhouse in Your Soul by They Might Be Giants in heavy rotation on your personal playlist, or are you dead inside?
What else should I ask ChatGTP? Song answers only.
Is there anything you I want me to clarify about subscriber-only stories at Situation Normal? Seriously, situation normies, I want to hear what you have to say👇
See you Sunday…
I’ll have my first paid subscriber story about flying home from Vegas on Southwest. Until then, enjoy this Kyle Kinane joke about the bus of airlines…
Enable 3rd party cookies or use another browser
Okay, the photos made me laugh. 😂
Kudos for the proper Tabasco gift.
Don't eat the food on the floor, zero seconds, zero.
Adam Smith and his damned invisible hand. Sock puppet. Straw fingers.
AI isn't coming for anyone's job. The people who become proficient and clever at using AI are coming for lots of jobs.
AI won't kill us all, that'll be someone on an IT support desk who hits the wrong button. The last words spoken will be: "oh, oops".
Traveling back in time to short fraudulent companies is just the type of story prompt I can work with.
Also, maybe ask GPT-4 to write a Back to the Future sequel using that as a prompt.