Advice

It's Title's last day, and we have some thoughts about it.

It’s so Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday

To our dear and loyal readers—or “Mom1,” as they prefer we call them outside work—we have some news. You may have noticed that this website and its associated social media channels have been quieter of late. Some of that has been due to personal reasons, which we will get into shortly. But mostly, it’s due to the fact that as of tomorrow, Title will no longer exist. We know. We’re shocked and saddened also. Which is why we—Greg Hudson and Yang-Yi Goh, two of the three people responsible2 for bringing this unlikely, silly, wonderful magazine into the world—have convened to explain how this happened and say our farewells.

YANG: Well, Greg, we had a good run. A year and a half. Four issues. Not bad for a print magazine in the late-2010s with only two full-time-ish employees working on it. Do I have any regrets about my time at Title? Only one: I wish that, last October, I hadn’t gotten hit by a car, leaving me concussed and sidelined for the rest of 2018, and leaving you as the only active member of Title’s editorial staff. Maybe that could have changed things somehow, or at least let us go out with more of a bang than a whimper.

Beyond that, though, I’m very proud of all the work we’ve done here. We created a whole lot of worthwhile #content. We published thought-provoking features and truly dumb deep dives, produced high-flying fashion shoots and low-hanging comedy bits. We indulged in nostalgia, made some underrated videos, travelled to the darkest corners of the earth, and gave voice to people who deserved to be heard. We even briefly dipped our toes in the self-help game. We did good.

Title will now join Grantland and The Dissolve in my pantheon of Publications I Loved That Weren’t Long For This World.3 Although, I haven’t really explained why it’s going away—possibly because I don’t fully understand it myself. Care to jump in?

GREG: I mean, why does anything go away? Because our first parents, Adam and Eve, were tempted by Satan and disobeyed God’s explicit commandment, we live in a fallen world and thus must contend with sin, illness, death, and the premature closure of our favourite publications. It’s really that simple.

I’ve been trying to come up with the most Title-y analogy to describe how I’m feeling today. Here are three:

  1. I feel like John Mulaney after Mulaney was cancelled.
  2. I feel like Shawn Bradley, who tasted NBA stardom—he was even, somewhat inexplicably, in Space Jam—but was not fed.
  3. But mostly, and forever, I feel like Kyle Rayner.

You’ll note that there is hope in each of these analogies. Mulaney’s TV show didn’t work, but he is probably the best stand-up in the world right now.4 Admittedly, I know nothing of Shawn Bradley apart from what I already wrote.

But Kyle Rayner—that’s who we are. Like him, we were given a great opportunity. He was given one of the universe’s most powerful weapons and the chance to join an intergalactic police force. And, because he was young, with hair parted in the middle and a cool design job, he became the coolest Green Lantern. He wore a different logo and a larger, nose-protecting mask. And we were given a chance to make a magazine. And we made one that was cool and different. We made a magazine for men who like magazines for men.

And yes, Kyle Rayner eventually had to stop being Green Lantern, but then he got to be Ion (a character I only knew via Wikipedia deep dives) for awhile before becoming Green Lantern again. I’m hoping that can happen for us, too.

YANG: The analogy that just popped into my head was Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which was unceremoniously cancelled by Fox last May, before riding a wave of online outrage to a pickup by NBC a mere 30 hours later. I’m not convinced that my mom and your sister have quite the same level of Twitter clout as Lin-Manuel Miranda and Mark Hamill, but I remain hopeful, too, that Title might come back someday in some other form.

That’s the thing. It was a huge thrill for both of us to build a new print publication from scratch, to take everything we’d learned and loved about men’s magazines—from obsessing over GQ and Esquire in our teens to working at one in our 20s—and try to update that template for today. And in terms of voice and content, I think we nailed it. Maybe it was the delivery system that was the problem. Maybe Title was always meant to be a podcast network, or an email newsletter, or a web series. Maybe we’ll still get to find out.

In the meantime, let’s celebrate this terrific thing we had a terrific time working on. I already linked to a few of my fave stories a little earlier on. Looking back, what are you most proud of? How do you think Title will be remembered? And what will you remember most about this brief (but fruitful!) period of our lives?

GREG: I have this vision—one of those unsolicited daydreams that are both entirely common and too delicate to mention out loud. Like when you go to a concert and you imagine the band pulling you on stage, maybe as a goof, only to discover that you deserve to sing with them for the rest of their tour, maybe for the rest of their lives.5 It’s that kind of daydream. Only it’s that you and I will write something in this post that will strike a nerve with some famous Twitter person and, boom, like that, we’ll be passed around the world. THESE TWO EDITORS GOT REAL ON THEIR LAST DAY OF WORK, AND WE ARE THERE FOR IT!

In all likelihood, that won’t happen. But it’s pretty to think so.

Without turning this into some kind of heavy-handed philosophical treatise on the subject, I think what seems most significant about this time at Title was freedom.6

Freedom isn’t easy.7 It’s what we all claim we want, and what movie characters from Luke Skywalker to William Wallace have fought and died for throughout cinematic history. And yet, it’s not simple. You can’t be free without other people, and yet, how free can you be surrounded by all these other people? It always costs something to somebody.

But that’s what I loved about this little project: we were free.8 As you mentioned, that meant we got to publish some pretty niche stories, and do some impressive photo shoots. But more than that, I liked the humming thrill of potential that underscored all our time here. I liked the actual freedom we had, but I loved the freedom to dream and plan and let our ideas run around like dogs without horses. I learned that that freedom is as inspiring as a paycheck. Or, well, almost anyway.

But as such, some of my favourite things from Title are the ideas we didn’t get to do. Like having Week Week. Remember that? Other sites would have, like, 1994 Week, or Tom Cruise Week, where many of their features would centre on the same theme. Week Week was going to be a weeklong editorial celebration of the concept of weeks. Like, what’s the best week of the year? A think piece about the BNL song “One Week.” That kind of thing.

Or, I wanted to do a deep dive on the career of Anthony Michael Hall. Because that dude has had an interesting career. Did you know he’s still friends with Robert Downey Jr., with whom he starred on a best-forgotten season of Saturday Night Live?

Of course, there were things we actually did, too. It’s an example I use a lot, but it’s taken on a kind of metaphorical importance, a symbol of everything Title was and could be. Sadly, it’s not online, just in the magazine. I’d urge everyone to look at the Table of Contents9 in the last issue. It might be the thing I’m most proud of in my 10 years in journalism.

It’s easy to get cynical, or worse, entitled and bitter about missed opportunities or unreached potential. To blame others when your dream didn’t work out. But, I mentioned those little daydreams we all have. When you live one, it usually happens far removed from the initial dream. Getting to it takes longer than you think. It’s easy to forget that 12 years ago you were in journalism school wishing that you could just write for the student newspaper. You were so afraid to approach them that you used to dream about starting your own paper, one that wouldn’t turn you away, that wouldn’t be intimidatingly full of older students.10

And now? Look at this. It’s enough to make you want to write down a cheesy poem and stick it on Instagram. #blessed.

Or, maybe it’s not too cheesy:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

                                                                                                                                                                                       William Ernest Henley

YANG: Um, is someone cutting onions? Jesus, Greg. I’m supposed to just, like, follow “Invictus” now? What am I supposed to do, copy + paste the entire Iliad in here?

How about this: let’s end this thing with a nod to a man who once took a much bigger hit than we did today, but came back stronger than ever on basic cable (and now a podcast!) for another decade and counting. We might not be able to spend St. Joseph’s money on a rare giant sloth fossil spraying beluga caviar at a Picasso, but we can at least quote his farewell:

“All I ask is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality—it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.”

Thanks for reading, everybody. We’ll see you all again real soon.

References   [ + ]

1. Or Gillian. Sometimes sisters read websites, too!
2. That’s right, kids. When three men love each other very much, a small and possibly too-clever-for-its-own-good magazine is born.
3. I’d put JFK Jr.’s George on that list, because I sure do love to joke about it, but I was in grade school when it came and went.
4. Who also got to voice Spider-Ham, which is every boy’s dream.
5. Not unlike the film Rockstar, starring Jennifer Aniston and Mark Wahlberg.
6. For (what some consider) a heavy handed treatise on the subject of freedom, we would refer you to Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.
7. Oh, did you think we weren’t going to make at least one passing reference to The American President? HA.
8. Well, as free as our budget would allow.
9. For those who can’t get that issue, because it’s like sold out because everyone wants it, the Table of Contents was made to look like a prescription brochure. And it was wonderful.
10. A few of whom would go on to be pretty famous!