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100 Foods To Throw In The Garbage, With Megan Greenwell

Gourmet specialty donuts are being displayed at a shop in Unionville, Ontario, Canada, on June 03, 2023.
Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto

As someone who has not written a publishable book, I find the very idea of doing so extremely intimidating, to the point that the act itself converges in my mind with magic. Maybe this is me revering books and authors too much, and maybe it is me mystifying and amplifying something I should have tried to do until that mystification-amplification serves as a justification for not doing it; I guess I can't really rule out some combination of the two. But there are exceptions to this rule, and the book—still untitled, although a draft has been filed—about the predations and ambitions of private equity written by our buddy Megan Greenwell is one of those. I know exactly where it came from, both because she wrote what is to my mind the definitive story on what it's like to work at a private equity–owned media company and because I worked there with her while all that awful stuff was happening. This only made me more excited to talk to her about her book this week on the podcast.

And that is what we did, after some Dad Updates from Drew and the requisite high-voltage food take from Megan—the woman who once canceled pancakes this time trained her ire on donuts; verily no sweet treat traditionally eaten in the morning is safe from her wrath. Once we got things together somewhat, though, it was easy to get all our wrathfulness pointed in the same direction; the threat that private equity's methods and headlong nihilistic avarice represent not just to our industry but basically everything else in the culture has a way of focusing the mind.

Megan is a good talker, although her audio is admittedly not the best in this one, and while she expressed some surprise at just how much we wanted to talk about private equity, she was very clearly in the pocket on this topic in the way that a writer can only be shortly after filing a long draft. And so we talked about how private equity works and for whom, the fundamental scam and scuzz underpinning it and why America's biggest public pension funds can't keep themselves from investing in it, and why it's so ominous that private equity companies have lately been moving into housing and medical care. It's not great, and while it is pretty funny and pretty fundamentally American that private equity is not really even good at its awful job and mostly supported by political influence and aspiration, it can be kind of hard to laugh at. We got some in there anyway, though.

And then we moved on. Sort of, or in the way that the podcast tends to move on. A conversation about private equity's interest in getting into college sports—an interest reciprocated by big-time athletic conferences—led into a conversation about private equity's future in sports more broadly, which somehow turned towards Megan's beloved and very poorly managed Oakland Athletics. After a brief anti-appreciation of The John Fisher Experience and his anti-stewardship of his team, we pivoted to something closer to (my) home, which is Dan Hurley's sketchy and unconsummated flirtation with the Los Angeles Lakers. That story was a delight, although I will admit that most of the appeal for me lay in the question of whether Hurley, or anyone else, was so fundamentally A Guy From New Jersey that he wouldn't really be able to flourish or function anywhere else. Sooner or later, it always comes back to the Taylor Ham/Pork Roll question. And by "it" I mean "our podcast" and by "comes back to" I mean "I drag it there."

That might have been a place to leave it, but there was more on our minds and also Taylor Ham would make for a very salty finish indeed. And so the back quarter of the episode is a sort of free-associative speed-run through Drew's recent happy experiences with Netflix and my skepticism about it, Generation Z's startling affinity for Gilmore Girls, and the proper use and abuse of LinkedIn. A question about where a person would be likeliest to see people wearing really perverted sports jerseys opened onto a celebration of the places where there is a culture of trying to impress others with how stupid your jersey is. At one point, I said that I was going to say something normal and Megan started laughing very hard. What I said was about the Mets, but I still fail to see the comedy in it. Maybe I should write a book explaining what "normal" means, because clearly there is still some misunderstanding on that front.

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