A brief word from me
Welcome to the first edition of Miscellany! I first solicited emails for this list in 2017 after HuffPost Hill was sent to live on a farm upstate. Don’t worry, HuffPost Hill is doing just fine: It’s got a whole box of Mitt Romney quotes to chew on and other defunct, Obama-era media products to befriend -- I hear it gets along splendidly with The Awl and the Washington Independent.
I left HuffPost after the midterms to start a civic tech venture I’ve dreamt about for years, and I’ll describe it in greater detail down the line. However, this will mostly be a space for me to haphazardly dump my writing and browsing history into your inbox -- like the contents of a slop bucket out a medieval burgher’s window.
Whooo boy: What a time to be alive! Each news cycle finds new ways to wear us down, like an Uber driver who won’t stop inquiring about your personal life or where you’re headed -- a particularly onerous burden when the answer is, “to return these capri pants … to Marshalls … which is near my therapist.”
(No judgement: sometimes the only way to endure times like these is to highlight your ankles and work through your anxiety issues)
Please forward this newsletter -- or better still, the sign-up link -- to anyone looking to supplement their ankle exposure therapy with some choice content. As always, drop me a line with any comments, complaints, legal injunctions, claims of parentage or interesting links.
There are many things on the internet
Links...and more links! Links upon links upon links!
Was Stephen Miller born, or was he pieced together from parts belonging to the neighbor who sued you over some encroaching hedges and the kid at recess who fried ants with a magnifying glass? Truly, he is a petty, cruel person.
Politics is the accumulation and expenditure of resources: money, voter data, opportunities to meet with dying politicians whom everyone suddenly loves because they’re dying, invites to Mitch McConnell’s twice-yearly snout-to-tail barbecue of a Senate parliamentarian who crossed him, etc. This Roll Call piece provides a good overview of how email lists are being commoditized.
Time to reexamine the tragedy of the commons, and not just because “Tragedy of the Commons” is a surprisingly underused Brexit headline.
The raisin industry is an absolutely bonkers, cutthroat world, replete with threats of violence, collusion and family feuds. Clearly, it is very ripe (har har!) for a gritty, “Deadwood”-style drama starring Ian McShane. In fact, I’ve drafted an excerpt of the pilot. You’re welcome:
IAN MCSHANE, SURLY RAISIN FARMER: My fucking raisins.
MEEK DEPUTY WHOM IAN MCSHANE IS ABOUT TO STAB: Uhhh, sir?
IAN MCSHANE, SURLY RAISIN FARMER: THAT IMPUISSANT FUCKWIT IS FUCKING WITH MY RAISINS!
MEEK DEPUTY WHOM IAN MCSHANE IS ABOUT TO STAB: Uhhh...uh, sir... if I may…
...ahhh! I am stabbed!
IAN MCSHANE, SURLY RAISIN FARMER: [SWEARS, CLEANS KNIFE, RECITES IRISH POETRY FOR 10 MINUTES, ENACTS RAISIN VENGEANCE, SWEARS SOME MORE]
Airpods are the new cubicles, Amanda Mull writes in The Atlantic: They provide workers a figurative wall between themselves and the cacophony of our formerly compartmentalized office spaces.
This is possibly the saddest article you’ll read this month about white-collar America -- aside, of course, from my recent essay for Sad Office Birthday Quarterly: “Why Shoving Your Index Fingers In Your Ears, Squeezing Your Eyes Shut And Screaming, ‘LALALALA I AM REMOVED; I AM NOT HERE; SWEET ESCAPE TAKE ME!!!!!!!’ Is The Hot New Trend Sweeping The Googleplex.”
As a millennial, it is my solemn responsibility to oversee the American Empire’s decline, address people on Twitter as “my dude” and only listen to “This Must Be The Place” on repeat. I am very much obsessed with Shawn Colvin’s lowkey cover of The Talking Heads’ tune. It is my second-favorite version, right after David Byrne’s 2004 performance on the BBC.
BUTTIJUDGING A BOOK BY ITS COVER
Wherein I squeeze every last inference I can out of the cover of Pete Buttigieg’s memoir and provide you a review without actually reading a word of the book.
It’s golden hour on the cover of Pete Buttigieg’s “Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future.” The author is aglow in the late-day sunlight, rolling up his shirtsleeve and framed by a squat, unassuming building.
A good old-fashioned sleeve rolling is a must for politicians who don’t have a barn jacket handy. “I like this person with their bland business attire and exposed forearms,” the political consultant imagines John Q. Idiotvoter concluding. “They can do Microsoft Excel and also a barn raising. This is good.”
But I’m getting ahead of myself: We are looking at South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the great hope of centrist Democrats who find supporting the would-be first-openly-gay-and-millennial-president socially acceptable in lefty circles — that is, more acceptable than divulging their squishy neoliberal dreams of bolstering charter schools, delivering a talk at Davos or admitting they found “Hillbilly Elegy” compelling.
Put it mildly, there’s palpable worry on the left that the former McKinsey employee is merely another Bill Clinton — this one with a husband, an Amazon Prime account and a disarming, beaverish appearance.
The cover doesn’t help that narrative, seeing how it oozes such blah, algorithmic charm; it’s the type of lobotomized mise en scène one might see splashed across a McKinsey new hire packet (“Welcome! Let’s Get To Work!”).
Or maybe I’m reading the title wrong. Maybe “Shortest Way Home” isn’t an allusion to an accomplished and gifted young man channeling his worldliness into a life of good works in his somewhat obscure yet politically appealing hometown.
Maybe it’s something more … literal. Something… bolder.
Maybe this book is about taking the “best practices” ethos of McKinsey to an extreme conclusion: a conclusion so outside the Overton Window that it falls somewhere closer to the Overton Rain Gutter; a conclusion so completely beyond the puny imagination of us mere mortals that only a brilliant young leader with an unwavering sense of purpose can see it through.
Maybe “Shortest Way Home” is the story of Pete Buttigieg’s attempts to find the *literal* shortest way home: a story about taking the inefficiency-eliminating mission of McKinsey to ... directions. You know: directions … like, getting from one place to another in the most efficient manner.
Maybe Pete Buttigieg is rolling up his sleeve... because you see that squat little building on the cover?
Maybe Pete Buttigieg is about to punch his way through it.
You heard me right: maybe Pete Buttigieg is rolling up his shirtsleeves and daring to take best practices to heights that even the most passionate McKinsey associate -- spending the bulk of their workweeks in a godforsaken office park outside a city you forgot existed, Microsoft Excel-ing their butts off to earn those summer flex Fridays and daydreaming of the company’s annual field day where, if they play their cards right, they’ll hit it off with Clarissa from marketing at the IPA cart -- wouldn’t dare.
Maybe the cover is truly depicting Pete Buttigieg preparing to best practice his way home by destroying literally everything in his path, as if physical impediments en route to his abode were a 50-year-old warehouse manager at a client company who could be made redundant by hiring a 25-year-old at a fraction of his salary -- experience and other intangibles be be damned.
“Shortest.” “Way.” “Home.” Of course.
OK, maybe this is all a little problematic™. Indiscriminately pulverizing large swaths of South Bend, Indiana would cause some damage to .... other people and things, but it’s not like sacking Marty from shipping and receiving wouldn’t hurt his family -- and at the end of the day, is there really any difference?
Maybe this book is a distinctly American tale about breaking down walls -- actual walls -- of scattered flakes of plaster, bent rebar and grotesquely damaged drywall. This is a tale of America, of working men and women, their living rooms scattered with dried paint chips, splintered wood and damaged support beams as Pete Buttigieg barrels into their china display cabinet that rudely sits on the path between Pete Buttigieg and the condo where Pete Buttigieg keeps his SodaStream.
This is a tale of communities -- of neighborhood gardens with Pete Buttigieg-sized holes smashed into their fences; of pee wee soccer games stopped cold by Pete Buttigieg stomping through the pitch with laser-like determination; of churches, mosques and synagogues, their rec rooms flooding because Pete Buttigieg just breached their hot water pipes.
This is a clarion call to change our ways. Sorry -- I mean our Waze, the app that clings to outdated, 2018 notions that the best way to get from point A to point B is to drive around a Dick’s Sporting Goods.
This book is a vision of an America where the barriers that divide us -- race, religion, load-bearing walls that stand between Pete Buttigieg’s place and the Panera Bread where Pete Buttigieg gets his clam chowder bread bowl -- are superseded by that which transcends such barriers: family, faith, the enduring vision of the Founding Fathers ... and Pete Buttigieg’s fists.
But why, you ask, encourage a mentality that insists on tidying corporate books to such an anally retentive degree? Why continue to discount less tangible — but nevertheless economically and culturally important — things like human psychology and social capital?
Well, first: we live in a world where nothing matters beyond the next 10-Q, so chin up, buster. And second: think of the efficiencies -- the beautiful, geometric efficiencies, unlike any imagined before. Ask yourself: aren’t you tired of a world where you have to circumnavigate ... stuff?
Doors? Detours? Travel in a second dimension? … like an idiot? Fie on that!
Oh, your presidential candidate just unveiled a proposal to ease student loan debt? Cool. Whatever. Pete Buttigieg just head-butted his way through the windowed garage door of a Meineke Car Care Center because only losers use the y- and z-axes to get home.
Oh, your presidential candidate wants to impeach Donald Trump. Cool. Whatever. Pete The Goddamned Juggernaut Buttigieg just bulldozed the southwestern wall of Notre Dame’s student center with nothing but his chest. Speaking of students, time for a physics lesson, girls and boys: momentum equals mass times velocity times Sweet Pete Buttigieg.
Eat shit, Deloitte.
So will we stand in Pete Buttigieg’s way, like so many wrecked storefronts, pancaked daylilies and violently uprooted poplar trees? Or will we join Pete Buttigieg as he tramples at least seven different blue-winged warbler habitats on his evening commute?
The arc of the moral universe is long, Dr. King reminded us, but it bends toward justice.
Well, guess what, peabrain: the arc between the Crossfit where Pete Buttigieg gets huge and the kitchen where Pete Buttigieg blends his green juices is a straight motherfucking line, so watch the fuck out, because Pete Buttigieg’s commitment to the hypotenuse takes no goddamned prisoners.
I ask you: Will we make it to the mountaintop? Will we ascend to that city on a hill? Or will we remember how much it totally sucks to trudge up an incline, and let Pete Buttigieg bore through all that nonsense?
Will we follow Pete Buttigieg home?
There Are Many Things On The Internet, Pt. 2
I leave you now with two poems written by Miscellany’s poet laureate, the algorithm that suggests words in Apple’s iMessage. The titles are the letters used to start each line.
Update my new phone
Love the way it works and works
Keep it going on
Oh god I’m sorry
Please let us be safe and sound
I’m heading over