Kanye West Lied To Me About Getting A Pre-Nup

I generally trust Kanye West for all kinds of advice in matters of fashion or finance, despite his absurdly garish wedding. But I have to disagree with him about the justifications for a pre-nuptial agreement.

In his 2005 song “Gold-Digger,” Kanye suggests that men should use pre-nups to avoid paying child support:

18 years, 18 years! She got one of your kids,
got you [and your payments] for 18 years….
If you ain’t no punk, holla “We want pre-nup!”

That’s flatly wrong. Child support, visitation, and custody are always excluded from these kinds of agreements. You simply can’t sign away the obligation to support your children.

There Are Other Limits, Too
Both parties must willingly enter into the pre-nup, and the agreement can’t be ridiculously one-sided. But even with these stipulations, that doesn’t mean that these aren’t good to have—or that they’re only for name-brand celebrities entering into rapid-fire marriages.

For example, my wife and I have a prenuptial agreement. It says that almost everything we own is held in common and will be split evenly in the event of divorce, with one exception: my share in my grandmother’s farm.

For possessions that aren’t very sentimental, like our beat up old car, we could sell it and split the cash. If it were a beloved dog, we could work out some kind of custody arrangement. But the family farm? Not easy to split and not easy to share.

Should You Consider A Pre-nup?
Pre-nups protect your individual interests in a marriage. Some situations where you might want to consider one could include the following:

  • One of you stays home to raise children. Being a full-time parent means less income now and a harder time getting back into the workforce later. A pre-nup could help ensure that it doesn’t also mean becoming destitute if your marriage falls apart.
  • One of you makes a lot more than the other. I know a couple who met during law school. He became a high-paid corporate lawyer, and she made less in nonprofit law. When they got divorced, she had trouble paying her student loan bills. A pre-nup could have specified that he’d help her with those debts even after the marriage ended.
  • It’s not comfortable to talk about these kinds of things, of course. A lot of couples fear that planning what to do in case of divorce will make it more likely. Others think that bringing up the topic will make it sound like they don’t trust their partner.

    But talking about difficult subjects and planning for the future are really important in relationships. That includes talking about things you hope won’t happen, including “what if we get divorced?” and “what if one of us dies?”

    Besides, it’s much, much easier to decide these kinds of things before you get married than it is to argue about them during a divorce.

    Why I’m proud to work in the student loan industry

    Let me reiterate that this is my personal blog, and that I don’t speak for my employer here. This is a personal statement.

    I do work in the student loan industry and I want to defend it. I think student loans in general are getting a bad rap. Groups like the Edu Debtors Union have a lot of really valuable things to say, but they’re also part of a backlash against something that has a lot of real utility.

    Even my mother recently confessed to me that she had initially thought my job was specifically to turn the misery of young debtors into profit. That’s not what I do. That’s not what my company does (for the record, it’s a nonprofit that helps students manage education debt). That’s not what my industry does. Lord knows I’ve worked for companies that have no redeeming social value. My current employer is one of the good guys.

    I’m not claiming the industry is perfect. I’m not claiming that student loans are always a great thing for everyone. But I do believe that debt, and education debt in particular, is underrated. I think it can be a great thing.

    That sounds heretical, like being in favor of bullying or starvation. But hear me out.

    Why Education Debt Exists
    For most people, most of the time, higher education is a good thing. It’s good for society as a whole, but it’s especially good for the people who get the education.

    Because society as a whole is better off with educated citizens, it makes sense that we should all chip in to subsidize and promote education, even if not all of us are students right now. That’s the reason we have public universities and federal student loans and the Department of Education.

    Even so, the major beneficiaries are the educated citizens themselves. Since they benefit the most, they should shoulder a substantial portion of the cost of providing it. Since they don’t often have the ability to pay in advance, so it’s reasonable to study now and pay later.

    Groups like Occupy Student Debt are opposed to all education borrowing, and want all education to be free. But remember, not everyone benefits equally from education. If there’s no tuition, then society at large pays for it, including people who don’t benefit at all from its existence. Look at Georgia’s HOPE scholarships, which largely go to middle-class white kids and are financed largely by poor people of color buying lottery tickets. Student loans are, frankly, a fairer way of addressing the cost of providing education.

    Debt is a Tool
    Debt isn’t bad. Not always. Even personal finance gurus like Dave Ramsay will tell you that borrowing money has its place. Think of it as a tool, maybe a circular saw. Used carefully, it cuts things down to size quickly and easily. Used alone or for the wrong tasks, it’ll just give you a pile splinters and sawdust. Used carelessly, it’ll cut your hand off.

    I don’t mean to deny that over-borrowing, and borrowing to buy the wrong things, are real problems. You shouldn’t generally borrow to buy a car, and definitely not to take a vacation or buy a jet-ski. But financing an education can increase your earning potential and the quality of your life in a lot of ways. Not for everyone, not for every course of study, not for every school, not for every loan. But it’s not as bad as some people think.

    The Trillion-Dollar Headline
    The headlines are all screaming about the fact that there are now over $1 trillion worth of student loans outstanding. That’s a big scary number, but to me it’s mostly a good sign. Yes, college costs too much, and people are borrowing too much. But that worry is obscuring the fact that more people are going to college, and borrowing to do it. In particular, people who haven’t had the money or the opportunity in the past. I’d much rather see a trillion dollars borrowed to pay for education than a trillion dollars borrowed to pay for skinny jeans and smartphones.

    Nothing is perfect, and borrowing is not risk-free. I know that. Debt-financed post-secondary education is going to backfire for a significant number of people, and we as a society need to find better ways to help those people. I also think that tuition is too high and that public universities and community colleges are under-funded, but that’s all a topic for another time.

    But can tell you this much: For most people, a Stafford or PLUS loan is a good deal and helps them undertake a worthwhile endeavor. And that’s why I’m proud to work in the student loan industry.

    Business Writing Samples (Updated June 2012)

    These business pieces are presented in contrast to the blog posts in the “portfolio” category on this site.

    Direct Marketing Materials

    • Print: I led the project that produced a high-impact mailing for a highly-targeted audience. It consisted of a large envelope, data-driven cover letter, and two datasheets. The program resulted in a dramatic improvement in both contact and cure rates over a control group which got only a conventional set of letters and phone calls. I also managed an additional series of print messages for each of two different brands within the company.
    • Email: I was responsible for content and strategy for both the casual and more formal versions of a loan delinquency communications program. I wrote the copy and built the template and business logic in Silverpop for this program, which consisted of 9 different messages for each of the two brands.

    Editing, Copywriting, and Search Engine Optimization

    • Shulman & Hill: I wrote a significant amount of the website copy for this tutoring company, where I also work as a college application essay editor for paying and pro bono clients.
    • Also as part of Shulman & Hill, I helped the charitable group Saving Teens In Crisis Coalition (STICC) develop a press release to promote their efforts.
    • SEO-driven website copy: United Domains needed short descriptions for new top-level domains (TLDs) under consideration by ICANN. Templated or boilerplate text would have drawn a penalty from search engines, so each one had to be written from scratch, while still using relevant keywords and linking to relevant external content. I was able to provide UD with quick turnaround on dozens of pages of copy, including descriptions for .BCN, .ARAB, and .SECURE.

    Technical Publications:

    Technical Manuals and Whitepapers

    • Evolution User’s Guide:
      I was the primary author for the manual for the Evolution email, calendar, and addressbook tool through version 2.4. You can learn more about the project at the GNOME project site for Evolution.
    • Novell ZENworks Linux Management 6.5 Administrator’s Guide:
      Formerly known as Red Carpet Enterprise, ZENworks Linux Management is a tool that allows administrators to control exactly what software gets installed on which computers at what time. I also wrote the man pages for the command-line interface. Note that I was only involved in the Linux portions of this product, not ZENworks for Desktops or ZENworks for Handhelds.
    • Manuals for Ximian Desktop 2, Ximian Red Carpet and Ximian Red Carpet Enterprise:
      These products have now been discontinued, but I wrote the instructions for them.

    Poem Revision: The Long Run

    The Long Run
    It is good sometimes to drop a plumb-line
    to the basement and find subsidence;
    lie prone in a crawlspace and point a light
    at desiccated mice in dusty traps;
    hold your hand against the seams of the house
    and feel the cold air seep.
    to be reminded, I mean, of the long run:
    That maintenance is vanity,
    that you may rail against decay for just so long
    before it tears this whole place down
    and carts you off as fill.

    TV Criticism: “Quarterlife” Review

    Originally posted in November 2007 as “Internet TV Won’t Make Money If It Sucks” over at TV With MeeVee.

    Everybody’s been talking about the possibility of new shows getting started online instead of on TV, but few shows produced specifically for online delivery have had much success. That’s mostly because they suck. In general, online shows tend to be under 10 minutes per episode, but offer way less than half the entertainment of a 22-minute "full-length" show.

    The MySpace TV show "Quarterlife" is a perfect example. It’s produced by the team behind successes like "Thirtysomething," "My So-Called Life" and "Once And Again," so you know there’s actual talent back there. But they don’t seem to be trying. I’m not the only one who thinks so- the New York Times agrees with me.

    The show follows six artists in their twenties as they try to cope with the fact that earning a living involves compromise and hard work, that their talents are not immediately recognized and celebrated, and that employers aren’t as willing to give them a break as their college professors were. Above all, it’s about blogging and all the different ways it can get you into trouble.


    The problem isn’t just that "Quarterlife" is based on the concept of the "quarterlife crisis," which just might be the most irritating solipsism since the "quirkyalones" decided to start hanging out together. It’s not just that the show spends a lot of time pondering the way the characters have no privacy, as though "everybody is up in everyone else’s business" hadn’t been a sitcom setting for the past 50 years. Note to TV producers: The wacky neighbor doesn’t get funnier if he has a webcam. It’s that the characters aren’t fundamentally interesting people. JenniCam was a cool concept, but it wasn’t interesting when Jenni wasn’t doing something worth watching.

    A good show is good no matter what the format, but "Quarterlife" is basically a second-rate show trying to claim that being online is some kind of an advantage. It’s not. It’s a sign of weakness.

    The Hollywood Reporter points out that "Quarterlife" was originally developed three years ago as a pilot for ABC but got rejected, so the creators took it online as a backup. Now the word is that if the WGA strike drags on into February, we might be seeing "Quarterlife" hauled up from the bench. In other words, it’s a second-rate show and it’ll get on TV if the networks are desperate. Why would anyone, online or off, want to watch that?

    The reason online shows are almost never as good or as popular as televised shows is the same reason straight-to-video movies and print-on-demand books tend to suck. The things most likely to grab the audience get put into the big leagues pretty quickly. Of course, there are exceptions for niche audiences: The best new animators end up online first, just like skateboard and horror films go straight to DVD and technical publications with small runs do print on demand.

    But if you’re a well-known producer making a TV show aimed at a mainstream TV audience and you can’t get it on TV, don’t go online. Go back to the drawing board.

    TV Criticism: Tim Heidecker And Eric Wareheim Interview

    Originally published at TV With MeeVee as “Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job Season 2

    If the long self-parodic name doesn’t tip you off, "Tim And Eric’s Awesome Show Great Job" is the sort of weird comedy that the Cartoon Network’s late night Adult Swim block is known for. Like fellow Adult Swim productions "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," "Venture Brothers," and "Lucy, Daughter Of The Devil," it’s a 15-minute production packed with offbeat humor, pop-culture references, and ADHD pacing. Unlike its stablemates, it’s a live-action sketch comedy with production values reminiscent of cable access TV from the 1980s. Yes, live-action on the Cartoon Network. Bear with me.

    The Tim and Eric of the "Awesome Show" are Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, and the pair have collaborated for years. They got their start doing sketch comedy they filmed and posted at timanderic.com before they were tapped by Cartoon Network for "Tom Goes To The Mayor."

    I recently spoke by phone with Tim and Eric about their show, which kicks off a second season just after midnight on November 19th. I am impressed with the risks that shows in the Adult Swim programming block are able to take, so I asked whether they had any creative constraints imposed by the network at all. They said that aside from avoiding libel and obscenity laws, they tried to include at least one Christian message per episode. "Something Jesus would teach. It doesn’t have overtly out there, just a nice thought, like ‘do unto others.’"  As an example, Tim suggests the song ‘I smell my dad’s dirty socks,’ which is about the dangers of adultery.


    Tim and Eric claim that they included the Christian themes partly to appease Standards and Practices, who "look for four frown moments" in which a sin is frowned-upon in each episode, but mostly because they want their youthful audience to learn about righteous behavior. "I don’t know if you know any teenagers," Eric says, "but these kids are growing up to be whores, and we’re out there saying alright, let’s try and change that a little bit."

    It was at that early point that I realized that the interview had gone entirely off the rails.

    It turns out that talking to Tim and Eric is a lot like watching their show: A combination of confusion and laughter. I can’t tell if they’re being serious, or how serious they’re being. Am I going to laugh at their statements about helping children learn to respect marriage by having a married news team as recurring characters? Not without putting the phone on mute first.

    Ten minutes later I’m on IM, asking my friends to look at the music video about sitting down to pee and tell me what kind of golden rule they’re talking about. They’re as baffled as I am, but can’t seem to stop watching. One favorite is the news team’s PSA about fruits and vegetables:


    For the rest of the interview, I tried to ask Tim and Eric questions with a straight face, and they revealed no strain at all in responding with totally deadpan, increasingly absurd answers. I did manage to get them to tell me that they are not WGA members and therefore not affected by the strike, and that they enjoy the 15-minute format partly because it gives the show a condensed feeling, but mostly because it’s way easier to produce a shorter show. That was about it for believable answers.

    Towards the end of our conversation, Tim and Eric suggested I take a look at the book of John, Chapter 16, and after the interview, I did. It begins "These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended." I think that’s supposed to mean I got punked, but I shouldn’t take it personally.

    The new season of "Tim And Eric’s Awesome Show Great Job" starts in the wee hours of Monday, November 19th on Cartoon Network. If you can’t stay up that late, you there are plenty of clips over at AdultSwim.com.

    TV Criticism: Robots In “Terminator,” “Battlestar” And “Wall-E”

    Originally posted at TV With MeeVee as ““Terminator” Brings The Hot Robot Love (And Doom)

    I mentioned yesterday that I really hope that "Terminator" gets a second season because I want to see Cameron (Summer Glau) go to the prom, but io9 is even more into the whole robosexual thing than I am. To be honest, I’m beginning to think that robot love is the sci-fi theme of the moment. Maybe it reveals a widespread cultural anxiety about technology, and maybe it’s just that robots are kind of sexy, I’m not sure. But bear with me here.

    First we had the "Battlestar Galactica" Cylons and their spines glowing during hot Cylon sex. It’s inspired a lot of jokes, but they’re still drawing attention to the question of where to draw the line between where’s the line between humans and technology.

    And now there’s John Connor developing an unwholesome attachment to Cameron. Is a tame Terminator more trustworthy than a wild human? Will his distrust of humans and his trust in robots eventually kill him? Plus, of course, his teenage lust and Cameron’s careful notes on seduction. As io9 says "The moment where John Connor cuts Summer Glau’s head open and lovingly rips out her cyber-brain was actually weirdly tender and sweet, and yet ridiculously sexual. (And then when Summer reboots, she catches John giving her the post-coital moon-eyes.)"

    We’ve had this sort of pop-cultural moment before, of course, but it seems more and more possible than it did back in the 1980s, when the rapidly increasing power of computers helped to inspire Short Circuit and Electric Dreams. In this decade, we’ve seen plenty of trend pieces in which people worry about the opinions their technology has formed – the "my TiVo thinks I’m gay" moment. And don’t get me started about the way people tend to treat Roombas like pets instead of vacuum cleaners.

    This summer, we’ll get family-friendly treatment of the same theme, with WALL-E, a movie about a robot who falls in love. No glowing spines or reproductive organs, sure, but look under the hood. It’s got the same basic circuitry as "Terminator:" Humans cause some kind of apocalypse through arrogance and stupidity, while robots become human and replace us.

    TV Criticism: “The Wire” and “Law And Order”

    Originally posted at TV With MeeVee as a challenge to myself: Argue that Law & Order stands up pretty well to comparison with David Simon’s inarguably brilliant The Wire. In retrospect, I think this post could use some expansion, but for twenty minutes off the cuff it’s not bad.

    First off, let’s talk about the disappointment in the air over this season of The Wire In particular, the critics over at Slate seem pretty unhappy. They think McNulty is way out of character, the newsroom story is too spiteful, and the only good points are Bunk Moreland and what little we see of the kids from last season. TV Squad thinks this episode (we’re talking number six, "The Dickensian Aspect," by the way) stumbled a little bit, but the show is still absolutely stellar. And Tim Goodman is still in love. Still, it really seems like this season just isn’t living up to the impossibly high standards set for it by previous seasons and their attending hype.

    In other words, The Wire isn’t perfect. And even if it were the greatest TV show ever, its existence doesn’t magically invalidate everything that came before it.

    See, I keep coming back to the story David Simon likes to tell about The Wire and its origins, how it’s meant to be a big kick in the teeth for people who produce shows like Law & Order, which pull punches and are too pat and too easy.

    I’m not sure it’s all that different, though.

    Yes, The Wire is a greater work of art and it definitely makes other cop shows pale in comparison. But at the same time, the standard procedurals—I’m most familiar with the Law & Orderfranchise but it holds true for things like CSI as well—are underrated by Wire fans.

    Yes, obviously, The Wire is more novelistic: It’s got story arcs that go on for years, while the L&O franchises never do more than a two-episode special. The Wire blurs the line between cops and crooks, between protagonist and antagonist, between good and evil, in a realistic way. And no, the mainstream procedurals aren’t in any way realistic. They don’t even have swearing, or disillusioned cops, or crippling budget cuts.

    Still, I keep seeing Law & Order episodes where the bad guys mean well, where the real evil goes unpunished, where nobody gets caught, or where the framework of the police procedural is used to explore a particular political issue. These shows are not a simple hour of cops and robbers.

    For example, last November, we had an episode of Criminal Intent in which Detective Goren was ordered not to investigate abuses at an upstate mental hospital where his nephew was held, but disobeyed orders, and got himself committed and tortured by sadistic guards. When the whole thing unwound, he and his superiors got reprimands, the nephew disappeared, and the systematic inmate torture was more or less ignored.

    Or take the episode of SVU in which a mercenary soldier kills a refugee and a translator to prevent them from spilling secrets about US-sponsored torture in Iraq, then gets his company to transfer him to Bahrain before the law catches up. Nobody wins in that episode, either. And what about the one where the frozen embryos were kidnapped? The investigation may have led to a simple revenge killing, but on the way it spent a terrific amount of time visiting the land of bioethics and reproductive counseling.

    How is an hourlong special on interrogation or bioethics "pulling punches," especially compared to Omar Little jumping off a five-story building and escaping with only a broken leg?

    Book Review: The Polemic Tradition In Nonfiction: Roberto Saviano’s “Gomorrah”

    Roberto Saviano has a book out called “Gomorrah,” about the Camorra, the Neapolitan mob. I got an advance copy from Bookdwarf awhile ago. She knew when she saw it that it was exactly the sort of thing I love. It’s got crime, scandal, ecological disaster, and a heartfelt, personal touch. There’s an excerpt in the latest Granta, although it’s not online, just in print. You can also read about the author – now in hiding – in the Times from earlier this month.

    He says his distaste for the criminal class in Naples is personal. That’s definitely true. In the US, getting worked up about a political issue is considered poor form these days. Critics who have point out that our president is a corrupt, criminal nincompoop are derided not for being incorrect but for being “shrill.”

    Not so in Italy. In Italy, when you get furious, when you write poetry about the crimes of your fellow-citizens, they kill you. Saviano’s rage is intense. He’s got a polemic here, and I can only hope that US audiences don’t ignore it because of that. His choking rage at the destruction that criminal enterprise wreaks on his hometown should draw you in. It says: This man is serious. He’s got something important to say. Listen carefully.

    You should read this book. You should buy it from the Harvard Book Store.