A couple quick administrative notes: Episode 007 of Mass for Shut-ins will be posted overnight tonight (Thursday) so be sure to subscribe and get that bad boy hot and fresh when you wake up tomorrow.
Additionally, for the next 16 days I will be galavanting around the former Hapsburg empire, visiting six countries in southern / southeastern Europe including Slovenia and Hungary. I am 39 years old and I've never been to Europe. I am likely to be fully unemployed soon. If I don't do it now, when am I ever going to do it.
Originally my plan was to ride my bike across Europe like a college kid, but decided this plan was superior. But in the course of that, I had some moments where I felt mortality pretty keenly. Not that 39 in ancient and near death, but…let's face it, if I want to do something like that I need to do it soon because before long I won't be physically able to. There are probably some 55 year old guys out there riding bikes a couple thousand miles; I think they are the distinct minority, though.
I've never had to factor that into life decisions before, you know? I've never had to think, "What if I can't do this." I'm fully able bodied, but definitely feeling my age when I have to exert myself now. Lying around on one's ass type vacations are always an option. Things that are physically difficult have an expiration date on them.
That said, when I was in Peru I saw women who looked like they were about 200 years old climbing Machu Picchu. So. Maybe the clock runs for longer than I'm assuming.
If you don't follow me on Instagram, do so. Many wonderful pictures will be shared. I'll try to keep regular updates on the easier-to-post social media sites as well.
Two pieces landed simultaneously this morning, one about the absence of a GOP legislative agenda and the other about how Trump is affecting public opinion among Republicans.
In The Nation I point out that for the rest of 2018 – continuing the trend from the first half of the year – the GOP has no legislative agenda it is actually trying to pass. During unified control by one party of the Senate, House, and White House, this is unprecedented. It's tempting to chalk it all up to the Trump Scandal Vortex derailing normal politics, but it goes deeper than that. After decades of ranting about Activist Judges, the GOP now appears quite satisfied to sit back and allow the courts and the unelected parts of the Federal government enact their agenda for them.
Over at The Week, I have a little more political science-oriented piece about Republican public opinion on issues like tariffs and Russia where the Trump position diverges from the rest of the GOP. Spoiler alert: they're following the man, not the party.
I've been a busy beaver the last few days.
Two things to be aware of from late last week.
One is a piece at Dissent Magazine on the many forms of voter suppression and some ideas on how to combat them in the short term. It doesn't offer magic wand solutions, but I think you know not to expect that from me by now. However, until the proper long-term solutions can be enacted (e.g., electing people who don't intend to actively suppress the vote) we have to do what we can for now.
The second is a Mass for Shut-ins Minicast – the second one of these shorter ~5 minute podcasts with a self-contained topic – on the origin of the phrase "Mass for Shut-ins" which was originally a program broadcast on WGN-TV Chicago from 1962 to 1992. Listen to learn more, and subscribe so you don't miss episodes.
Hi! I've been traveling as well as scrambling to finish production of Mass for Shut-ins Episode 006, which is now available. Give it a listen – you'll find the story of the Red Square Pilot and the interview with best-selling author Dr. Lisa Wade interesting or I'll eat my hat. Seriously, I will eat any hat you send me.
Plus: an important few words on "stealth voter suppression" that will give you some tips on things to watch out for as November approaches, plus the cocktail of the month, The Bee's Knees.
Check it out on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or whatever feeds your podcast needs.
Regular content to resume presently. Oh, and it helps the show's "ratings" if you leave a review on iTunes. So. If you're feeling charitable.
By (actual, not pretend) popular demand on the Facebook group, I'm doing another run of the suddenly very appropriate "None of this is OK" shirts. The front design remains unchanged (as pictured here) but if the screenprinter can accommodate it, I'm going to have the reverse text ("Gin and Tacos") replaced by small text on one sleeve this time. Looks a little more stylish, or at least it's something different.
Other details that remain unchanged: Navy blue Canvas (or BellaCanvas for Women's) shirts, Unisex/Men's in crewneck and Women's in V-neck. Canvas sizing chart available here. Sizes S – XXL in either Unisex or Women's. Contact me if you need 3XL – sometimes they are available, but often they aren't. Shoot me a message and I'll do my best.
This is a pre-order and you will receive your shirts in early to mid July, depending on how busy the printer is. $18 (slight upcharge for XXL) plus $4 s/h in the USA, $14 s/h for all other countries. I'm sorry about that, but package shipping overseas (incl. Canada) has gotten incredibly expensive lately.
Are you enjoying Mass for Shut-ins? I hope you are. I'm adding "Minicasts" to the menu – little segments that aren't enough to make a whole episode out of, but interesting enough to pass 3 to 7 minutes of your time pleasurably. No production (music, intro, etc). Just a quick hit of the stuff you like.
They won't be on a regular schedule; they'll happen when the need and opportunity arise. If the full podcast episodes are too long for your liking, give these a shot. The first minicast is on the scary tones of the Emergency Broadcast System. Subscribe and you'll never miss one.
David J. Roth – and note there are important differences between him and David Lee Roth – is probably the best writer out of the current crop when it comes to putting into words the kind of person Donald Trump is, and consequently many of his supporters are as well. It goes beyond being stupid, or selfish, or right-wing, or any other one-word descriptor.
Some people first became aware of his political writing with a Dec. 2017 Baffler piece in which he declared Trump "President of Blank Sucking Nullity" – a must read – and foreshadowed his latest viral hit on Deadspin, "The NFL is too dumb to realize that Donald Trump is never going to stop with this shit."
Trump loves that stupid "snake" parable, but it's fun to watch people realize that it's pretty accurate as long as you're smart enough to recognize that Trump is the snake.
Sorry for farming out. Real post coming soon.
When I was five, I wanted to have my 6th birthday party at Shakey's (bonus points if you're Midwestern 70s/80s enough to be down with Shakey's). The neighbor kids refused to come because they were staunch Pizza Hut partisans. I detested Pizza Hut, demonstrating what a perceptive child of impeccable taste I was. So I pouted, sat in my room alone with my MASK and GI Joe action figures, and had a birthday party for myself instead.
You may have heard that on Tuesday afternoon, having been stiffed by the Philadelphia Eagles, our president is doing the same, promising to convene military bands to play the National Anthem for…for him, I guess. The amount of weird autocrat-military imagery the nation is willing to tolerate from a white conservative continues to be tested.
Drew Magary has an excellent write up on how Trump's constant, meaningless grandstanding on the National Anthem, the flag, and other jingoist touchstones makes perfect sense in the context of an entire life and career built on constant, meaningless grandstanding.
It doesn't happen often, but Twitter delivers some pretty useful insights on occasion. Though I remain unconditionally opposed to the ridiculous "threading" format – seriously, just get a blog already – this string of posts by Matthew Chapman offers a useful way of conceptualizing Trump's worldview in terms of negotiating.
Briefly, he is a con man. Like many con men, he presumes that everyone else is also a con man. This is how many Wall Street and real estate types morally justify their behavior – I am doing nothing wrong by ripping you off, since the entire economy is everybody trying to rip everybody else off.
Since everyone is trying to rip everyone off, a deal in which the other party is enthusiastic is de facto evidence that you have been ripped off. Nothing can be mutually beneficial, even though making mutually beneficial transactions is like, the Page 1 definition in every textbook ever written about a market economy or even a barter system. Nope. The other party being pleased with the arrangement means you got fucked, period.
Therefore every "deal" the United States has ever made with another country is bad, because if the United States was not getting fucked then the other country would not have wanted to make the deal.
God only knows what really goes on in that desiccated brain of his, but this is one potential explanation that lends a bit of coherence to his insistence on pulling the United States out of NATO, out of the Iran deal, out of treaties, out of free trade agreements, out of everything. Either the other country is clearly getting fucked, or we are. No other outcome can exist.
For the next six days I will be shackled to hundreds of other college faculty and high school AP teachers in a conference center in Salt Lake City to grade the many thousands of Advanced Placement exams taken by high school students over the previous academic year. If your kid (or you, on the off chance anyone high school aged reads this) doesn't get the score he or she was expecting, it may be my fault.
That's not strictly true, since grading is done according to a very demanding rubric to ensure consistency. So it is technically not my fault; I am only following orders.
Though it is not a 24-hour per day endeavor, I do have a large amount of my time in the upcoming week spoken for. If updates are less regular than usual, I apologize.
Be sure to catch up on episodes of Mass for Shut-ins if you need a fix. The past two episodes (004 and 005) in particular are very good, I think, as I'm starting to figure out the production end of things as well as tailoring the content to the format.