What’s This All About?

Hi, I’m Matt Lebofsky. I’m just some guy with a compulsion to write miniature stories about personal experiences and put them on the web. I hope they are entertaining.

Why are you doing this?

Social media is terrible. We all know this. One random day near the end of 2014 I felt particularly frustrated by the general confusion and panic on my Facebook feed. People were sharing memes and links but rarely using their own words. And so I couldn’t help but write a random autobiographical tale to combat all the unoriginal FUD on my screen. It happened to be a Tuesday, so I added the caption: TOTALLY TRUE STORY TUESDAY

For the next 5 years I ended up posting well over 250 Totally True Story Tuesdays as my browser otherwise filled with bad journalism, self-important hot takes, and insidious propaganda. The internet was seeming to be no longer an information superhighway as much as an information pressure washer. Or maybe an information centrifuge. And said information was all too often uselessly general, desperately glib, obnoxiously unoriginal, and lacking any nuance. I was on a mission to combat everybody’s tiny demons with real fleshed-out, personal stories. It’s the only thing that I could offer that made any sense any more – thoughtful dives into actual experiences as opposed to glimpses into other people’s hastily sculpted alternate realities presented in algorithmic order.

The stories were maybe for my friends and family, but mostly for myself, especially when I could reflect on personal moments of weakness and failure. I wasn’t always the hero, and in fact I was often the fool or a puzzled bystander, but I still compose these tales in the hopes they offer some sort of relatable insight. We are all just a bunch of confused monkeys, after all, and all the wikipedia articles in the world can’t change that.

Tired of feeding the monster, I eventually completely deleted the Facebook account to give myself a much needed time out, but I still wanted to organize these stories somewhere. And here we are. Not sure if a blog is really the way to go, but it’s worth a shot.

What can we expect to find on this site?

I’ll be posting oldies from the archives (perhaps cleaned up a bit) along with new ones, in no particular order, and at no particular cadence. I may include contributions from others at some point. In any case, devoted followers of yore may get some reruns.

Here is some personal background for context: I grew up in New City, NY (i.e. suburban NYC), went to college at the University of Binghamton in upstate NY, moved to CA on a whim, and had many weird jobs, friends, and mishaps along the way. Now I work by day at UC Berkeley as a general computer geek/data analyst on some of the world’s biggest scientific searches for extraterrestrial intelligence. At night I’m a musician. Those interested in either of my dueling careers should read more about looking for aliens, more about music, or just check out my old school web site.

Other threads that may crop up from time to time in these yarns: a fondness for outdoorsy adventures (largely backpacking in the deserts and mountains in the US and beyond), coexisting with wacky doberman pinschers, my reign in the college radio world at WHRW, and the good old days growing up with the Lebofsky clan.

I cannot stress enough that publishing these tales is not about me trying make myself seem more awesome than I actually am. To repeat: I’m just some guy. Sometimes I succeed. Often I fail. But mostly I fall into the interesting folds of other people’s timelines, in which case I can only report from my perspective. I strive to be honest as to the importance of my role, whether it be the hero, a supporting character, or an extra. I admit some posts may be more like essays, or sermons, but there will always be a personal story at the heart of it.

I’ll rarely include anything too juicy or scandalous. I also feel bad drawing attention to people when they mess up. Basically I don’t want to embarrass myself or others – unless of course they deserve ridicule, or it’s a really fun anecdote, in which case I’ll change names to protect the innocent (or guilty).

In life I end up mingling with a lot of VIPs, which is as much a surprise to me as anybody. I try to avoid unseemly name dropping unless it somehow serves the story. I’m humbled by my opportunities, and I hope you grok the frequent subtext that I’m astonished by my random luck instead of thinking I’m important or talented enough to be rubbing elbows with such esteemed humans (I most certainly am not).

I must include a huge thank you to my wife, Jenya Chernoff, who is my partner in crime. Among her many talents: she’s a fellow musician, an incredible baker, an amazing photographer, a true dog whisperer, and sharer of many adventures. She has been an invaluable editor, helping to reign in some of my rants, and shall post stories of her own on here as well.

How can you possibly remember all these details?

Turns out I’ve been keeping a journal pretty much continually since age 19. I write about 600 words a day on average – so over 10,000 pages thus far of rather descriptive notes, mostly mundane minutiae. Even still this sometimes isn’t enough, and I supplement my incomplete memories with decades of archived e-mails, letters, photos, and pocket calendars. Of course I often rely on basic internet searches, or corroboration from family and friends. I do my best to be historically accurate, but even then I get some facts wrong. I’m more than happy to be corrected as I strive to be as “totally true” as possible. And with that, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time:

Written history is, in fact, nothing of the kind; it is the fragmentary record of the often inexplicable actions of innumerable bewildered human beings, set down and interpreted according to their own limitations by other human beings, equally bewildered.

—Veronica Wedgwood