25 Years

Last week, This is True wrapped up its 25th year of weekly issues. What a great ride it’s been — it went by in a flash.

It was Wednesday, June 22, 1994 that the “ah hah!” moment hit in a flash of inspiration. It was before Google (September 4, 1998) — and even before their predecessor, Alta Vista (remember them? December 15, 1995). True came before Amazon (barely! July 5, 1994), before eBay (September 3, 1995), and before GeoCities (November 1, 1994).

But There’s So Much More Work To Do

The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin (1902)

For 25 years, This is True has railed about obliviocy, using real people and their stories as examples. True’s Uncommon Sense podcast covers the opposite: the cure for obliviocy …using real people and their stories as examples.

We must decide that learning how to think needs to be part of schooling for all children. It’s not: the “Every Student Succeeds Act” administered by the U.S. Department of Education, which is an update to 1964 legislation, has no requirement that children be taught to think.

We Need Everyone to Know How to Think If…

  • We want advances in healthcare.
  • We want humanity to rise to a higher level.
  • We want to foster inventions and innovation.
  • We want to anticipate and avoid pressing problems.
  • We want adults to have a chance at better employment.
  • We want better interpersonal (and international) relationships.
  • We want everyone to be able to figure out the difference between right and wrong.
  • We want our country to be a leader in the world (and the U.S. is already falling behind).
  • We want freedom.

Let’s be clear: obliviocy is the enemy, and it has declared war on intelligence, learning, science, and common sense. We didn’t want this war, but the world suffers if we don’t fight back.

How?

Step one is awareness, and that’s a large part of True’s mission. Sure, the second half of its mission is entertainment, but there’s a reason for the word order in “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”!

The awareness is striking: that’s why so many parents read the stories to their kids — or let them read them themselves. Yeah, even “those” stories, because they’re real-life examples of what real people do when they don’t think, and they see there are consequences. And they’re willing to read the stories because they are entertaining. I’ll include one parent’s report about this below.

This is also why I give away so much of True for free: I want as many people as possible to read it. As I said at my presentation to Mensa’s national convention last week:

We’re all stupid sometimes because we all forget to think sometimes, reacting first or making mistakes in our assumptions, and that’s what I’m talking about when I say we need more thinking in the world. Even us smart people need to think more, and react less. All of us have to work to ensure we don’t get fooled by our own biases, that we don’t rest on our laurels, that we don’t get too smug about our test scores. And yes, I absolutely am one of the people that are stupid sometimes.

How Much Longer?

Which is to say, how much longer will True continue? There are two critical factors involved with that question.

Not being independently wealthy, unfortunately I can’t give all of it away for free: the Premium subscribers provide the budget for operations, and in return get more than double the stories of the free edition every week, and without outside advertising. I am at once humbled and proud that they have been so willing to put their money where my mouth is, many times voluntarily paying extra so I can keep the cost of upgrades down so more readers can afford it.

Secondly, can I personally keep going? Well, I’m still having fun, still have things to say, and I’m young enough (and still quite healthy), so I’m planning for True to continue for some years.

Another 25 years? Probably not. I’ll play it by ear. At year 20, I said “at least five more years.” I’m still feeling just as good, so let’s try for another five …and decide then whether there will be five more after that!

Kids Reading True

I love that this has been going on long enough that some of the children or grandchildren of readers are now subscribers themselves.

Susanne and her family have been Premium subscribers since 1997. She wrote that her three children are now grown up. I’ll let her tell the rest:

Both my husband and I grew up in families with strong habits of dinner conversation, and we began introducing some of your stories, in summary form, at our own dinner table. This progressed over time to not just presenting the “funny” part, but some of the issues behind the stories. And it was natural to eventually read bits directly, as part of the sharing. By the time we were ready to homeschool, “funny stories” were an established part of their lives and it was a fairly direct path to pick & choose specific stories to talk about over breakfast or lunch as well as those we continued to discuss at dinner.

The longer we homeschooled, the more convinced I became that for our particular family, ensuring the broadest possible “exposure” to topics and viewpoints was the best. We went an amazing number of places and did an amazing number of things, but what astonished me most was the previously unrealized passions of those that lived in our immediate neighborhood. My oldest, before he was 12, could debate tiny little details about the Civil War with the grandparent-couple a few doors down, and they were delighted to have him try. There were 4 absolutely fabulous gardeners in the 3 houses closest to ours who would teach us everything they knew about the plant kingdom for as long as we would listen (I’m still listening!) The woman 2 doors up showed my kids how she used math all day long in her position crafting, running & doing data analysis on the results of market surveys. Her husband introduced me (and thus the kids) to the field of visual literacy and not only gave me copies of his 2 textbooks on the subject, he let me sit in on some of the graduate classes he taught in the field. People will share their passions with you at unbelievable levels, just because you were interested. And very little doesn’t interest me and the kids were along for the ride. Our dinnertime conversation still tends to be lively at the dullest, and a lot hotter than the food when we really get going.

We aren’t short on opinions; neither are the kids. I believe True has something to do with that — some topics come up over and over (ZT, anyone??), and others are just now and then. You have never restricted yourself to stories about just one age group either and that has a real appeal also — my kids dealt head on with people of every age and so does True. Difficult or touchy topics are a given when you have kids and they are likely to launch into the worst of them in public when the parent is on the edge of full scale madness already. From questions about what is done with dead bodies (from my oldest, at age 3, when he inquired casually at 6:58 am why we never saw dead bodies in the trash cans — my spluttering caused him to cheerfully conclude that we must put them out for recycle instead…), through the impossible questions dealing with digestion and reproduction. Politics I still cannot explain but I will take on pretty much any other topic. I have no need to be right, to know it all, or to preach my position. I have a really high need for them to think, preferably before they dig themselves into a pit, but after is ok too.

There’s the Key: “I have no need to be right, to know it all, [but] I have a really high need for them to think.”

To get there, they need to need to know how to think. If schools don’t teach it, it’s up to the parents, and clearly Susanne and her husband took that job on. Not enough do, but True is here to provide that encouragement with your support. Thank you.

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This page is an example of This is True’s style of “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. True is an email newsletter that uses “weird news” as a vehicle to explore the human condition in entertaining way. If that sounds good, click here to open a subscribe form.

To really support True, please sign up for a paid subscription to the much-expanded “Premium” edition:

One Year Upgrade


(More upgrade options here.)

Q: Why would I want to pay more than the regular rate?

A: To support the publication to help it thrive and stay online: this kind of support means less future need for price increases (and smaller increases when they do happen), which enables more people to upgrade. This option was requested by existing Premium subscribers.

18 Comments on “25 Years

  1. You’ll know when it’s time to let go, Randy (i speak from experience) so in the meantime, just enjoy keeping us thoughtfully entertained. 😉

    Enjoy it? You bet I do! -rc

  2. The oldest issue I can find my my email archives is from December 1995; but I might well have been subscribed before that. However, I distinctly remember that TRUE had a different title when it first came out — which was changed, because the name collided with something else. But I can’t remember what that was… and I don’t see that mentioned in these history pages, or even in the Wikipedia article about it, etc. Am I mis-remembering?

    Found it! I referenced it in another piece of email I sent to some friends in December 1994.

    Indeed it was This Just In for its first ten months. -rc

  3. I remember a back room (cigars) at Laudisio’s and you going on about Dvorak keyboards. Ran into you again when you were selling your house and moving west. Keep up the good work and ignore the obliviots.

    Hey, Mark! Yeah, I’d hang there sometimes with a Boulder buddy who liked the cigar room. Sadly, Laudisio’s didn’t survive my moving away! 😉 -rc

  4. I’ve been along for the ride for 20+ years and it’s still as good as ever!

    Thanks, Randy! It’s been and still is a hell of a run!

    Here’s to the next 25!

  5. Happy anniversary, Randy! It’s been a fantastic, enlightening, thought-provoking ride. Looking forward to as many years as you’ve got left!

  6. It was the day Windows 95 came out that I purchased my first computer. I really had no clue about the future of the internet, but there were Lists. One arrived suggesting some useful free things available on this internet and introduced me to This is True for the first time.

    Happy Anniversary and thank you.

    Now I am about to read my premium issue.

  7. Thrilled to have been a part of some of those years!

    May I share this article?

    Certainly: blog posts are meant to be shared! -rc

  8. Regarding thinking and learning:

    A good long term plan for the continued election of incumbent politicians and their acolytes is to change education to superficially teach logic, math, literature, history, geography and science. These poltroons who use 1984, Animal Farm, Atlas Shrugged and Fahrenheit 451 as guidebooks cannot afford to have their election and continuing re-election dependent on a literate, well-read, well-informed voting population with a sound base of general knowledge capable of objective analysis, discussion and independent thought.

    In the sixties when we had many “Statesmen” in Congress, people who regarded the long-term greater good of the nation as being nearly important as getting re-elected and had the intelligence, understanding and logic skills necessary to construct solutions to problems instead of symptoms, we didn’t have a federal Department of Education and high school graduates were not only considered adults they had been prepared to be adults by the societal culture including home, church and school.

    When I was studying engineering in the late sixties college was not merely an extension of high school. We not only learned the science and math facts and techniques we learned how to learn, how to analyze and put things into perspective — scientifically and historically. The use of logic was encouraged and discussions and debate ensued. We were encouraged to question and figure things out. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge was an attitude that fostered intellectual growth.

    It seems to me that now people don’t bother to know stuff because they can always look it up (if they’re not in a dead spot) and when they do look it up there is no subsequent thought processes. The traditional cyclic flow of (a) acquiring data related to a question, (b) organizing data into information (reports/lists), (c) assessing/interpreting the information to increase knowledge and/or understanding, and (d) producing more questions; has been curtailed or neglected.

  9. As someone who was on the free list for a few years this is for those who have not yet upgraded. What are you waiting for!

    It’s hard to believe the benefit of a premium subscription could be that much better than the free list, but really it is. When I go back and read the free edition (yea you can keep both) I am left to realize what I was missing all that time.

    Say thank you to Randy for 25 thinking years with your upgrade today. You will not for a moment regret it and will find that every week is that much better because you did. He’s reminding us to think and that is a priceless gift!

    Thanks, Doug. I’ve tried over the years to emphasize the differences between free and Premium, and haven’t been able to convey it fully. I’ve asked readers, and they’re similarly stumped. All I can say is, if you’re not sure then try a 3-month subscription and see. -rc

  10. When I finally got my own internet back in 2001, True was one of the first things I signed up for. Back in the day True and News of the Weird would often get printed off and passed around at school, so I knew I had to find both of you right away when I could. I’ve been a happy subscriber ever since, including several years of Premium. Everyone here is right, by the way. The value you get from a Premium subscription really can’t be explained in any other way than you just taking the plunge and trying it out for a while.

    Thank you Randy for the many years of thought and entertainment. Glad to hear you have at least a few more in you. Life is just a little bit brighter (And smarter!) for having had your work in it all these years.

    I gather what you mean is that you were reading True (and NotW) in print before you got online. I used to syndicate the stories to newspapers, but dropped it when just about all of them died off…. -rc

    • I actually mean both. You and Chuck did show up in our papers at times, but I also have a memory of at least one friend who was reading True online and would bring in stories that he particularly liked.

      Ah, got it. -rc

  11. We all know we are finite, our death WILL take place, sooner or later. That said, you have never (to my knowledge) mentioned if you and Kit have children. If you do, this might apply for them, if not…

    Knowing that you have another 5 years before you make the decision again whether to continue True, what about finding an apprentice to learn your “trade,” who can then continue the True story when you get tired of all the work? It seems to me that a child like any of the three that Susanne has, or children like them, would be prime candidates for being your understudy, and would be ready to step in when the star or the show cannot go on.

    Something for you to think on.

    I just turned 69, and have no intention of dying anytime soon, in fact, I would like to be reading True in 75 years!

    I’ve definitely been thinking on that, and for quite awhile. It takes a pretty special mindset to make True run. I do have a couple of writers who are honing their craft, and maybe one (or both?) of them might want to take it over when I’m done. We’ll see! -rc

  12. Until I saw your reply to Davin from New York I had forgotten all about the name change from “This Just In”, but I think I’ve been a subscriber since those days! Damn, 25 years! Where DOES the time go?!

    I know reading True has helped me to further develop & sharpen my thinking skills, which came in VERY handy in my career as a computer programmer for the US Army (for almost 30 years).

    Talking about parents reading True to their kids/grandkids reminds me of my Mom. While she didn’t do that (True wasn’t around in the ’70s), she DID encourage me to THINK. She always said “these are my rules; if you don’t like a rule then give me a good logical reason to change it”, and she HELD me to it. From her insistence on logical reasoning I learned to play “devil’s advocate” against my own arguments. Thankfully just about when I had given up on finding challenging thought-provoking reading, “This Just In” came along. It’s been a GREAT 25 years! Here’s hoping True lasts for many years to come!!! Ideally with you at the helm, but if you “pass on the reins” I’m sure whomever you someday pick as your successor will be great (not as great as you, of course).

    That’s a good mom! -rc

  13. Not sure when I first subscribed or where I found out about the website. I am glad that I am in the know and that Randy does what he does. 25 years is a long time (I have been teaching for 31 years) and sometimes that which appeared on This is True might appear on an English exam. Keep up the top-notch work, sir.

  14. Thanks for the twenty-five years Randy and here’s to many more.

    I read you in the newspaper then followed you to the Internet under various email addresses.

    Now I’m encouraging the grandchildren to think — can’t start too young!

    That’s for sure! -rc

  15. Two years ago I explained to you that I will be living the rest of my days in a nursing home and will have almost zero ‘spending money.’ For this reason (the lack of money, not the nursing home), I felt the need to unsubscribe from the Premium Issue. I hated this passionately, because I had been a fervent subscriber ever since that article came out in Boardwalk (I think) in 1995 with the cover picture of you and the cats.

    You came back with one of your ‘prepaid’ subscriptions for another two years, saying ‘somebody’ had given you money to pay for somebody in exactly my situation. I didn’t realize until months later that that ‘somebody’ was probably you yourself. Thanks, Randy, or whoever actually did pay for me to enjoy This Is True for two more years. It has certainly improved my quality of life.

    I probably won’t be alive to enjoy True for another two years, because I have faced Death from kidney failure several times in the last year. So far, I have won every battle; but there is no guarantee about the next. Sooner or later, I will lose. Until then, I’ll read the free issue. Thanks so much for keeping us amused while helping us think better.

    May you and Kit have very long, healthy, well-to-do if not wealthy, productive, and especially happy lives together and may This is True remain productive for many more years.

    Thanks for your kind words, Bill. Indeed, there is a fund that other Premium subscribers paid into to help other Premium subscribers who can’t renew for some reason: they know how much they would hate it if they couldn’t renew! Usually, when they get back on their feet they “pay it forward” into the fund, so it has been completely self-sustaining (I’ve not asked for any contributions to it) since 2006!

    Best to you in your battles with your kidneys, and I hope you enjoy the stories for a long time. -rc

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