My "My Octopus Teacher" Teacher

No real spoilers, but still might ruin it for you.

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Dearest Sternal Journalists,

Welcome back once again to this, the Sternal Journal. This week, we have a very special guest joining us! Would you like to introduce yourself?

Of course! Hello, Sternal Journalists! It’s me, Julian Stern!

Okay, so to be clear, we’re both Julian Stern from the Sternal Journal, right?


And to be doubly clear, you aren’t the Julian M. Stern who is Lisa Kudrow’s son? Because that’s not the Sternal Journal Julian M. Stern.

Correct. That’s Julian Murray Stern. He’s 10 years younger than us, far more famous, but honestly very kind every time someone accidentally tags him in a post about us. I am—we are both—Julian Michael Stern.

Okay, great. We should get Julian Murray Stern sometime, though. That would be cool.

Agree. He does seem nice. Will you write that down?

Sure. Can I borrow a pencil?

Curses! As we are both Julian M.(ichael) Stern of the Sternal Journal, we have both forgotten a writing utensil.

Okay, we’ll just have to remember it. Maybe the Sternal Journalists can remind us?

Hopefully! They’re really good about that stuff.

Okay, so why are you here? Why are we doing this?

Well, if I may be so bold…

“If you may be so bold,” what?

I just wanted to say that.

Because you’re the one talking in bold?


Okay, cool. You got it out of your system. WHY are you here?

Because… we watched My Octopus Teacher on Friday.

Yes, we did. The Oscar-nominated documentary about a man who has a profound life experience spending a year with an octopus he meets in the wild. And?

How to put this… a lot of people really like it.

They sure do!

And that’s cool.

It’s very cool! People like it a lot. People should be allowed to like things that they like very much.

They should. In theory….

Oh, no. Other Julian. You’re gonna Queen’s Gambit this, aren’t you?

No. I am not going to tell an irresponsible and exploitative, if visually exciting and fairly acted, story that puts addiction at it’s center and yet says nothing profound about addiction and leaves you with a pretty strong sense that the key to beating addiction is throwing away the thing you’re addicted to once, then you’ll be all good. No, I’m not going to “Queen’s Gambit” this.

You know what I mean. Are you going to take something that everybody loves and talk about why they shouldn’t love it?

I’m… just… going to say… I feel like I was tricked into watching one 12-minute act of an episode of Planet Earth that was stretched out to 90 minutes.

People love Planet Earth!

They do! Of course they do. And it’s already great. So I’m just wondering did we need a new version that’s the same, but you get to spend 60% of it listening to the self-centered cameraman telling you the story he’s planning to tell every single person he corners at a party for the rest of his life—

That’s not fair—

He’s someone who—

You do not know him—

Fine, he’s got the vibe a man whose loved ones have been asking him to go to therapy for decades, but now that he’s been to like three sessions, he thinks he thinks he’s got the solutions to his problems and everyone else’s.


Okay, he has that vibe a little.

He was exactly vulnerable enough to brag about patching things up with his son, without telling us at all what he was patching up.

I mean, he said at the beginning…

What did he say?

He said… he was like being a bad father, I think.

Lotta ways to be a bad father. Some of them not necessarily fixable by a couple weeks of snorkeling. We didn’t even hear the son’s side! All this emotional resolution hinging on him, and the damn pajama sharks got like ten times more screen time.

He’s a kid! Maybe he doesn’t wanna be in his dad’s movie.

Maybe because his dad was like, “Listen, son. I really wanna make things right. I need to be more present. And I’m going to do that by spending eighteen hours a day hanging out with this octopus I just found.”

…. Why are you doing this?


I… I don’t know?

Exactly! So maybe don’t—

No. Listen. I don’t know what to do with this part of us.


I’m serious. I don’t know any better than you why we do this. But it helps us write jokes sometimes, being all analytical and questioning the status quo.

I mean, sure. But the world’s a different place! We’re getting our second dose tomorrow!

Exactly! I don’t know if it’s ethical to keep bringing things down when people are feeling so up!

That’s what I’m saying!

No, you’re saying “Don’t bring the mood down.” I’m saying, “I don’t know if we should.”

Well, if you’re not sure, why not just err on the side of not bringing people down?

Look… I think probably people are gonna like My Octopus Teacher and (somehow) love Queen’s Gambit, no matter what we say. But when people are so blindly into something, I think it can help everyone to just be the voice that says, “Hey, maybe there are some issues with this that we can point out while still enjoying the good parts.”

People are bad at that, though.

So bad.

But I see what you’re saying. And moreover—

Hey there, Mr. Casually-Dropping-”Moreover.”

Thank you, thank you. Moreover, the world is in this weird place where we need to keep the pressure on to make sure our modern abundance of resources is being used to help all current and future humans have pretty chill lives. But in order to do that, we may need to relax and let people enjoy things they’re enjoying, faults and all.

Exactly! And where the hell does our flamboyantly nihilistic brand of comedy fit into all that?!

I don’t know! That’s why I’ve been writing short stories and poems and shit for like six months!

See?! So I have a point!

Ahhh! Damn! Damn. I thought I was going to be your My Octopus Teacher teacher. But it turns out you’re my My Octopus Teacher teacher.

Look who’s the captain now. I’ve got moves you’ve never seen.

Is that… a reference to Captain Phillips, Look Who’s Talking, and My Best Friend’s Wedding all rolled into one?


Have you seen any of those movies?

Only Look Who’s Talking Too, actually.

Of course. Well, where’d we land?

I still don’t know. Just… I guess I should try not to ruin things people like?

But you’re right. It’s a lot more complicated than it sounds. Because you, well we like pointing out funny things we notice. And sometimes those funny things are just funny. But sometimes they’re kinda bummers. And those ones are arguably more important.




Well… can we maybe unite around the fact that his lips look really funny when he’s snorkeling?

Oh my god, yes!

And not even in a sexual way—

Not at all! It’s just like a good classic, funny face!

Honestly worth the price of admission just to see the funny snorkel-mouth face he makes.

And you know, the nature stuff, and the human connection, even if he maybe was a little lopsided in his vulnerability, was really nice.

Sure, sure, sure, sure. Well… how do we end this?

I guess a picture of Julian Murray Stern just so they see he’s real.

Woah! He’s got a goatee now?!

Right? He’s growin’ up!

— — —


My Octopus Teacher. Documentary. Judge it for yourself!

The Book of Emma Reyes. Memoir. This is a fascinating memoir of a Colombian painter who had a wild life, and when her friends encouraged her to write a memoir, she said, “No, but I’ll write you letters about my life.” The letters she wrote over thirty years were compiled into this book. I’m like a quarter of the way through and loving it.

Ted Lasso. Television. Again! Finished it. It’s great. It’s about sports, which means I shouldn’t be too into it. But I am!

LIVE 2019. Album. Totally stumbled upon this album by musician Lewis Cole last week. I went for a walk while listening to it and it was magical. I don’t know the genre—maybe electronic jazz (?cringe emoji?)—but it’s very fun and very live and apparently he wrote a song for the Lego Ninjago movie, so if you watched that, maybe you know it! “Bank Account” off this album seems to be a representative and popular song.

And that’s all, folks! Much love! Enjoy what you enjoy!