Welcome to “Stuff Happens” by HistoryBoomer (@HistoryBoomer on Twitter).

Does the world need one more Substack? Nah. But there’s stuff I’d like to say and this seems a good place to say it. What stuff? Back in the olden days of 2014, Vox started a website devoted to what they called “explainer journalism” and I loved it. A calm not-too-biased (but still left-of-center) voice explaining the world in clear prose. It was every liberal teacher’s dream! Then about five minutes later—somewhere around 2015-2016—their not-too-biased became sixteen tons on the editorial scales pushing articles in a direction that some folks were calling “woke.” The dream was done.

My own dream is to explain stuff Vox-style but without the slant and that’s what I’ll try and give my readers, although without the great Vox prose. Remember, back in the early days they had Matty Yglesias and Ezra Klein, both amazing writers (who have since left for greener pastures: Klein to work for the New York Times, Yglesias to start his own incredibly successful Substack, Slow Boring).

I’ve got my own biases, of course, but I like mine, and I’m deluded enough to think that I play more fair in arguments than Vox (or Breitbart, Salon, or—god save us—Huffington Post). If I’m wrong, folks will tell me so. Or I’ll attract a horde of readers who share my biases and we’ll build a cozy little silo of warm and fuzzy groupthink! In the meantime, I’ll try and explain stuff.

What stuff? I got some followers on Twitter by talking culture war nonsense and I plan to continue but I really really don’t want to be talking about that all the time. Politics, history, some book reviews, mostly topical stuff but sometimes obscure ephemera.

Why read me? My goal is to be as clear as I can on topics that people (starting with me) might find interesting. I’ve been a professor for decades and my job has been making complicated stuff a bit simpler without (hopefully) putting students to sleep. I enjoy trying to figure out how the world ticks and then trying to explain it. In other words, while I’m explaining, behind the scenes I’ll be busy learning. Sure, I may pull out that omnipotent authorial voice (“…and this is why an American decision to greenlight MQ-1C drones would be critical for Ukraine’s near-term…”), but I’ll confess to you all now: odds are I just learned it from a Wall Street Journal article.

Who am I? A center-left New Yorker, history professor, news junkie, and recovering (I hope) culture war obsessive. I’m anonymous for now because I don’t need the grief of some grumpy extremist trying to mess with my real-world life.


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Politics, culture, history, and other ephemera.


New Yorker, history professor, poker player, heterodox center-left.