Mason Levinson: Blog en-us 2021 [email protected] (Mason Levinson) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:59:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:59:00 GMT Mason Levinson: Blog 120 95 Rocket’s Red Glare, F-Bombs Bursting in Air Facebook followers now know: “Mason has a potty mouth.”

Uh, that was the recent message from a good friend and former two-decade colleague who took notice of the fact that I’ve been particularly expletive-filled in my social media posts of late.

Commendable observation, Mike. I hadn’t thought about it before you pointed that out, but it seems you’re right. I’ve developed a trash mouth, particularly when I sit down at the keyboard to clear my mind. 

Know why this is? What could possibly have driven me to such a state that the only way I know to react these days is by dropping an F-bomb in front of whatever I’m sharing? Let’s consider the possibilities.

Do you think it’s the loss of my job? As background, I was jettisoned from my career as a sports reporter at Bloomberg News during a September 2015 newsroom reorganization. And indeed, almost a year later I’m just starting to find my own voice, breaking free from two decades of drone-like subservience to the Bloomberg Way.

Of course, this is by no means an indictment of that style of writing or those two decades. Working for Bloomberg provided me a tremendous education in the art of clear, concise, morally unambiguous journalism. However, the sharing of my own opinion wasn’t part my job description, so in many ways my growth as a writer, and probably even more so, as a creative thinker, was stunted. So, to a degree, having the freedom to write obscenely – even gratuitously so – is liberating. I have no plan to make a long-term habit of it, but it sure is nice to have the option to.

Neither Bloomberg nor the freedoms my departure created, however, are the real root of my recent vulgarity.

Any chance it’s because of Hamilton? Yes, I’m talking about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical. No, I haven’t seen it yet. Yes, I am beyond excited to. And yes, my 9-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son have forced me to listen to the soundtrack so many times that I’m either going to challenge her to a duel or Rise Up and choke him, Homer v. Bart style.

Listening repeatedly to Hamilton’s 46 tracks has given my kids – and those of so many families I know – a great example of both awe-inspiring, somewhat educational creativity and also first-rate profanity. Initially, At first, I tried skipping over the songs that had explicit lyrics, but I was doing a disservice to the genius of Miranda and the goose bump-inducing voices of his cast in doing so, so I gave up.

“Don’t pay attention to the cursing,” is what my sister, a wiser parent than I, told my 10-year-old niece about Hamilton. “There’s nothing wrong with hearing curse words, just so long as you know that you shouldn’t use them yourself.” Solid advice.

Pardon My French, Lafayette

That’s not it, though. I can’t blame the infectiousness of Hamilton for my own filthiness. That’s just silly, even if the show has legitimately loosened my view of how I should be parenting my kids over the issue of naughty words.

Right. I think we all know where this post is heading. It’s where just about every social media post heads these days, to him…the guy I’m not with.

Understanding what’s mostly at play with my trash mouth comes down to recognizing my sheer disbelief that a possible sociopath, dozens of spineless politicians and just about half-a-country’s worth of ignorant bootlickers can band together to possibly imperil our country the way it has. I’ll admit, I don’t even think I gave sufficient enough serious thought before to the greatness of America, and to freedom, and to safety, and to peace until this election period got under way. And now, with my eyes officially wide open and my vocabulary armed with awesome new words like “demagogue,” and “fabulist,” and even “grawlix,” I still feel the need to punctuate my thoughts with legitimate profanity. That’s what he’s done to me. How about you?

Mike, by the way, saw an early draft of this post and responded by reminding me of the old saying: “Curse words are for those who lack the intelligence to otherwise express themselves.” Then, in an admission that his thinking might be a touch outdated, he added: “Now get off my lawn!”

Perhaps it's time I grow up and be like Mike.


[email protected] (Mason Levinson) election Facebook hamilton language trump Wed, 16 Jan 2019 19:50:55 GMT
Warning: Please Keep Your Kids Away From My House Attention Neighborhood Parents,

Until further notice, the Levinson household is off limits to your children – quarantined – because I respect you and I don’t want your precious kids to develop what’s already inflicted mine: a truly pernicious and perhaps incurable case of quadraffirmitis.

What’s that? The disease is foreign to you? Consider yourself lucky, because if your kids have it your life is almost certainly inefficient, your vocal chords are withered, and your wife is most likely irritated with you. Quadraffirmitis (QUAD-rah-firm-EYE-tis) is the inability to affirmatively accomplish any task requested of you until being asked at least four times.

If you’re unsure as to whether the disease has spread to your house, here’s an example of how it presents itself in ours:

Mason: “Scarlett, the camp bus is going to be here in 5 minutes. Put your shoes on.”

Scarlett: “OK.”

(Scarlett, 9, takes somewhere between four and seven steps toward her shoes, then notices the Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty. Picks it up.)

Mason: “Scarlett. Shoes.”

Scarlett: “Yep.”

(Scarlett puts down the Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty. Takes zero steps toward shoes.)

Scarlett: “Did you know we’re playing the basketball finals today? Like, last week, we won because we had a few guys who were like really tall, but they’re not back this week so we’re like probably not going to…”

Mason, staring intensely: “Scarlett.”

Scarlett: “OK, OK.”

(Scarlett walks the entire 14 steps to where her black high-top Chuck Taylors were last shed next to the front door. She almost sits down on the step to begin the process of putting them on before realizing that, perhaps in her bedroom, there’s a particular lanyard bracelet she’s been working on that could use some attention on the bus, so she heads up the stairs, but not until she zones out looking at a completely random spot on the bannister for 18 seconds. She then disappears.)

Mason, a minute later: “SCARLETT!! Enough. Jeez. You are so irritating. PLEASE. PUT. YOUR. SHOES. ON.”

Scarlett, heading back downstairs: “OK! I heard you!”

No, this is not an acute case of quadraffirmitis, nor is it cute. It doesn’t come on suddenly and then disappear. It’s chronic and I think it’s invasive. For the full picture, consider every task needed to get Scarlett off to camp (wake up, brush hair and teeth, get dressed, sunblock, etc.) and multiply that by some number north of four.

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned 5-year-old goofball Everett yet. He’s only suffering from tricaffirmitis, though all available data suggest that this is a degenerative condition and that he’ll be in Scarlett’s shoes within a couple of years. Of course, that’s just figuratively; literally, he’ll be without shoes as I yell at him. 

Mr. Goofball"Everett, give me a nice look. Everett. Everett. Everett!"

I actually considered starting a GoFundMe campaign instead of penning this community missive, seeking to crowd fund survival supplies such as coffee, booze and therapy. But, having to list quadraffirmitis in the “medical” section of the website, next to people suffering from much more horrible diseases, felt highly inappropriate. Yes, I am aware that if quadraffirmitis is the only ailment from which Scarlett suffers, I should consider myself lucky. Indeed, I do, and not wanting to jinx myself, I made a donation to a complete stranger in our community on GoFundMe. Maybe you should too?

I’ve given a lot of thought about how to solve my family crisis, including my latest experiment: DIY Friday. With both my wife, Rosie, and me at home on Fridays, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to let Scarlett call the shots, handling her responsibilities entirely by herself. If she ended up getting on the bus naked with her hair looking like a bird’s nest, so be it. Scarlett also said she was up for the challenge. Everett said he’d like to play next year. Here’s how DIY Friday began:

DIY Friday

Having set her alarm clock for 7 am, I walked into Scarlett’s room at 7:07 to find her asleep, head fully under the blankets as her clock radio blared Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd. Feeling compassionate, I woke her up, not wanting to immediately submarine the entire experiment.

Scarlett, excited for the chance to prove her mettle, initially responded well. She showered, grabbed most of her necessary clothes and came downstairs. And then, the train slowly came off the tracks, frequently finding herself lost in thought and distracted by everything that wasn’t needed to get ready for camp.

If you’d like to try DIY Friday yourself, here’s my suggestion: Wait until the enabler spouse in your household – you know who you are – is out of town. Inventive therapies such as DIY Friday are not for the feint of heart and sadly, Rosie apparently just doesn’t have what it takes to stay the course.

Seconds after literally yelling at Everett, “Oh, my God, do I have to say ‘Kids’ bar?’ 17 times?” Rosie began dropping hints at Scarlett on what she still needed to accomplish prior to leaving for camp.

For example, she silently made the “brush your teeth” finger gesture before turning to me and saying, “What? I was just wiping something off my face!”

I knew then that DIY Friday was a failure.

The decision to write this letter was made after Rosie last week told me that both kids had recently mentioned that I yell at them a lot, and that she wanted me to know that. I took it to heart, as I didn’t disagree. Prior to trying DIY Friday, my latest course of action in confronting quadraffirmitis had often been to forego repeatedly and pleasantly asking the kids to get going. Instead, I’d moved straight into sternly telling them to go to bed, or take a bath, or wash their hands. Apparently, this method of parenting just made me come off like an angry jerkface.

I’m not an angry jerkface and because I don’t suffer from quadraffirmitis, it didn’t take Rosie telling me several times to change my behavior for me to try to do just that.

Incidentally, I have occasional flare-ups of athletanondisruptus (ATH-let-ah-NON-dis-rupt-US), the complete tuning out of any and all other people while watching sports, but that’s a wholly different condition.

I’ll keep working at remedying all our family disorders, but in the meantime, you’d be wise to keep your own perfect children out of my house. Let’s just hope this thing isn’t airborne.


Mason Levinson, formerly of Bloomberg News, is a freelance writer and photographer. See more of his work at


[email protected] (Mason Levinson) children humor parenting Sat, 13 Aug 2016 17:34:46 GMT
Why I Won’t Be Unfriending Trump Supporters From Facebook “Conservative Christian, right-wing Republican, straight, white American males,

Gay-bashing, black-fearing, war-fighting, tree-killing, regional leaders of sales.

Shirt-tuggin’, frat-housin’, keg-tappin’, back-slappin’ hater of hippies like me,

Tree-huggin’, peace-lovin’, pot-smokin’, porn-watchin’ lazy-ass hippies like me.”

-- Todd Snider


July 29, 2016 -- An anagram for P.T. Barnum is “Ban Trump,” but I won’t be doing that to his supporters, no matter how big the circus gets.

The above lyrics, from the song “Conservative Christian, Right-Wing, Republican, Straight, White, American Males,” by the powerfully funny bare-foot, folk-singin’ hippy Todd Snider, popped up randomly on my iPhone yesterday. Though I’ve loved this anthem for years, listening to Snider bisect the American population particularly resonated with me this time. As the two presidential conventions are now wrapped, it’s safe to say no one my age (46) has ever experienced an election season quite like this. To me, the Donald Trump phenomenon is the most fascinating news topic of my lifetime, somewhere akin to watching Tonya Harding, club in hand, chase O.J. in a white Bronco down the highway past a basketball court as Steph Curry drains 3s over John Wayne Bobbitt, who is complaining that Tom Brady let too much air out of the ball.

I cannot get enough. I’m captivated and astonished by how two halves of the country can look at the same thing and see it so differently.

I covered both presidential conventions for Bloomberg News in 2004: in Boston with the Democrats and New York with the Republicans. It was my first and only in-depth involvement with politics, and after dealing closely with congressmen, senators and governors of both parties, I came away feeling that I had just spent my time with essentially the same people. Many on both sides of the aisle were friendly and genuine, while some from both parties were slimy pricks. Yes, they championed different agendas, but all had essentially the same career. They played the exact same game. Incidentally, I felt the Republican Party was much better at driving home its key message (“Swift boat!”), so I wasn’t surprised when the election ended as it did.

Photo: Gary Lue

That experience was pretty eye opening for me. It helped me come to terms with friends whose worldview was different than mine. And by friends, I mostly mean old schoolmates with whom I am friends on Facebook.

Maplewood Life

I live outside New York City in perhaps the most liberal town in New Jersey. I did not know how meaningful that would be to my wife and me in raising our children until we got here. Our kids, 9 and 5, operate with essentially zero concept of homophobia, racism, sexism, or any other ism. They’ve made introducing the seemingly complicated topics of interracial two-dad families or gender bathroom rights completely boring. To them, that’s just life in Maplewood, or anywhere. Sure, they’ll learn some harsh realities as they mature, but they’ll be armed with compassion as they do so.

And in my everyday interactions, these are the people I’m drawn to. Whether at work or play, I don’t often find myself totally digging someone’s company only to discover that they’re conservatively Republican. While, yes, there are outliers, I gravitate toward likeminded folk. 

And then there are my old grammar school friends.

The neighborhood of my adolescence, while solidly liberal in comparison to much of the country, was much more conservative than that of my kids. Our Democratic family lived in a small, very middle-class, probably slightly Republican-leaning suburb of Philadelphia. As a fairly non-confrontational and easygoing guy, I got along well with just about every subsection of my high school student body: from the jocks, to the nerds, to the beautiful people, to the druggies, to the guys who just wanted to screw around, get drunk and fuck shit up.

Old Friends

Like many people, I added the lion’s share of my friends in my first year on Facebook, reaching far into my past to include dozens whose paths I hadn’t crossed since tossing my cap into the air upon high-school graduation. Few of these people are real-life examples of Todd Snider’s “Conservative Christians.” They’re not racist, or sexist, or homophobic, but plenty of them are Republicans. They’re socially conservative, anti-big government and pro-America-before-anyone-or-anything-else. That’s how they were raised. Oh yeah…and they hate Obama and the Clintons.

For the most part, this has had very little impact on our relationship. I’ve enjoyed having them as part of my adult life, even if that part involves mostly living inside my computer. I’ve come to believe that their political beliefs are just a part of who they are, and that it really speaks little about their personalities or decency. Overall, I was lucky to grow up in a much more forward-thinking town than most, so while I haven’t agreed with many of their Facebook posts over the years, I’ve been able to let it go.

And then Trump happened.

Oh, to read the Facebook posts people have angrily written to old friends about divisive topics such as politics, only to chicken out just before hitting SEND. I’ve done that dozens of times, if only to feel good about what I might say in response to some completely idiotic post. And then, after settling down, BACKSPACE, BACKSPACE, BACKSPACE. It just wasn’t worth damaging old friendships.

Over the Edge

The other night though, I made the leap. A Facebook friend, claiming not to be a supporter of either Trump or Hillary, took issue with the media’s focus on Trump after he suggested that Russia should engage in cyber-espionage to interfere with our presidential election. Others joined in, supporting her post, blaming the media for creating this “circus.”

As a long-time journalist who’s had dozens of exceedingly thoughtful, intelligent colleagues, I was unable to hold my tongue, or I suppose my fingers, any longer. (Apparently, I still can’t.) I responded that if she thinks Trump was being acceptably sarcastic about a topic like that, then she shouldn’t kid herself. She is a Trump supporter. 

She, of course, gave that careful consideration before responding by telling me that I have no right to tell her whom she really supports, and then she called my remarks the kind of elitist bullshit that Republicans hate about Democrats. Thankfully, it ended there, but it took every bit of strength to pull me away from that keyboard.

OK, so this is the moment where I either go full-tilt bat shit over my absolute disdain for Trump or I try to stay on message. 

Breathe, Mason

Almost a year into this election process, I’ve learned that nothing I write here will change any Trump supporter’s (aka Hillary hater’s) vote. The work of dozens of amazing journalists and persuasive columnists at the New York Times, Washington Post and newspapers nationwide won’t do a thing to convince people that he’s a dangerous sham, and neither will this. So be it.

Here’s my point. This election promises to divorce more people from their “legacy friends,” neighbors, colleagues, and family members than any event I can remember. I’d be very curious to see a chart on Facebook “unfriending” levels these days. I’d imagine it looks a lot like the Cliff Hanger game on “The Price Is Right,” with the yodeling on full blast and the mountain climber, rocking his lederhosen and walking stick, about one rung away from falling into the Alps.

This does not feel like progress. It’s not American democracy successfully at work. Rather, it feels what I imagine the precursor to civil war feels like. And with months still to go until Clinton v. Trump is decided, I’ve written this in an attempt to set some personal ground rules.

Yes, I have a lot more in common with the tree-hugging, peace-loving, pot-smoking, porn-watching lazy-ass hippies of this country than I do conservative Republicans – and I’ll certainly be voting for Hillary Clinton and advocating for her policies – but I won’t be unfriending the people who brought me to this point.

Of course, they might just unfriend me.

--Mason Levinson is a freelance writer and photographer based in Maplewood, New Jersey. See more of his work here:



[email protected] (Mason Levinson) Clinton Facebook P.T. Barnum Trump circus election folk todd snider unfriend Fri, 29 Jul 2016 21:31:42 GMT
Bloomberg News Writing Samples

[email protected] (Mason Levinson) Tue, 12 Jan 2016 17:59:13 GMT