*Clicks open briefcase* psst...you like content?

“Ten enter. Ten leave.” ... Last night’s Democratic debate was perhaps the least exciting, least consequential battle royale in history. Bernie Sanders … was there. Joe Biden … was there. Elizabeth Warren … was there. Beto O’Rourke … is a nice guy. And Julián Castro teased Joe Biden for being old, employing the tried and true political strategy of offending the nation’s largest voting bloc. Here’s some content:

[Miscellany’s Smart Brevity™©™ count: 481 words … The heat death of the universe will draw only .0000000000000000000005% nearer after reading this.]

A profile of Trump rally regulars, for whom nothing is cooler than wearing the band’s t-shirt to the concert. That and racism. 

Good news for all of you who like staring intently into a circa-1994 IBM desktop and loudly tapping the keys: zoom and enhance is here. Say goodbye, secret Libyan arms depot! 

Like that fuzzy leftover pasta in the back of your fridge, Congress’ committee tax is an oft-forgotten thing that will make you vomit.

Why therapy is so expensive. Also, if you can, you should see a therapist — and not just so you can concoct one of those self-care, “me, my friends, therapy, healthy eating habits” memes. 

Obama/Biden fanfiction is all fine and good, but hold onto your butts, because my Chris Coons manga will rock your world.  

Andrew Beaujon would like you to know the differences between scooters, mopeds, hover-boards, etc. This will be helpful when you file your damages suit against the teen who mowed you over on a Lime scooter. 

🎵This is ground control to major good boy🎵  Why the Soviets sent dogs into space while Americans used primates.  

How many hot takes can you squeeze into one article? Well, here’s a list of TV shows that should’ve ended sooner.

They all laughed at how I earmarked that contribution to the Committee to Protect Journalists, but then that BBC cameraman got hit in the crotch by an irate sheep so... who’s laughing now

... ALSO, I try to shy away from overtly adolescent content in this newsletter, but take a moment to contemplate that the BBC -- the BBC! --  published a video with the title, “Cameraman smacked in the nuts by angry sheep 😱” ...Now read it again in your best BBC English. 

In yet another instance of delayed female representation in Congress, here’s the story behind why a statue of Amelia Earhart was never delivered to the U.S. Capitol 

The WiFi password at this week’s GOP retreat was … very on brand.

Tips on bringing a baby to a bar

  1. Put a napkin over baby’s beer when baby is away. 

  2. Make sure baby has its payment method out and ready when flagging the bartender. Bartenders appreciate babies who don’t take too long with their order. 

  3. These other suggestions, from Eater.

Out: the Amazon; In: Greenland

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If America is serious about buying Greenland, maybe we should first Airbnb Svalbard to see if we like the neighborhood. Gwyneth Paltrow hired a “professional book curator,” which is also known as a “librarian” and is typically “free.” And the hivemind is abuzz over Bret Stephens quitting Twitter in a huff, registering three out of four Alan Dershowitz Feeling Alienated in Martha’s Vineyards on the Dumb Stories We Spend Too Much Time On™ scale. Anyhoo, here’s some content: 

Photos of Hillary Clinton’s house. Fellow members of the liberal media conspiracy will recall this as the site of last year’s child porno ring potluck. On an unrelated note, Vince Foster really had it coming. 

Why UFO sightings have spiked since WW2.

Ain’t no laws when you’re drinking Claws...except for all of them.

And stay out: the international database of banned bar patrons

Sloppy practices around metadata are costing musicians and songwriters billions

Men ruin everything, just like pumpkin spice flavoring, traffic and business school graduates. A piece on “mentrification.” 

One doesn’t typically think of palliative care as awkward, but one has to imagine there’s some uncomfortable dissonance at the end-of-life wings at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville-themed retirement communities

Show ‘em you ain’t no neoliberal shill with an Intercept tote bag

Topsoil is soil that is on top of other soil. So, top….soil. Anyhoo, we’re running out of it.  We’ll all starve soon because of this decline. G’day! 

Online archivists are working to preserve the early internet -- lousy Geocities pages and all. On that note, the next “National Treasure” installment should depict Nicolas Cage sitting at his computer, yelling at random intervals and frantically clicking about for the Hamster Dance. 

Speaking of old websites, you can still visit the website for Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential bid. It’s like the internet home of “Space Jam,” except with more Jack Kemp. 

About your Beto O'Rourke fantasies...

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What a spring! Notre Dame was damaged in a fire, “Game of Thrones” ended and the New York Times tried to defame the Aperol spritz -- take some time out today to hug your most basic friend. The 2020 field has been inundated with so many bland, early-middle-aged white dudes that you’d think the Democratic primary were the merch stand at a Green Day show. And Memorial Day came and went, though the holiday honoring the fallen was in something of a rebuilding year as John Bolton tries to recruit a bunch of promising young prospects for its roster.

SOME CONTENT FOR YOU, FRIEND

  • Scrutinizing the 2020 candidates’ font choices. There is *time yet* for Pete Buttigieg to burnish his millennial bonafides by finding some way to incorporate the Trapper Keeper “S.”

  • Yes, we’ve all had bad airport experiences; yes, we’ve all killed time by scouting a second Hudson News to see whether it offered a more robust yogurt pretzel selection than the first one; and yes, we’ve all stared intently at our “Nachyo Mama’s Nacho Platter” at a Guy Fieri—branded restaurant to avoid making eye contact with a dude in an “Orgasm Donor” t-shirt. Well, guess what: Airports are going to be even worse this summer.

  • New age guru Marianne Williamson has effectively secured a spot in the first Democratic debate, begging the obvious question: when will Fred Thompson enter the race and inject it with some much-needed gravitas?

  • Twitter got so bent out of shape over the rules of UNO that you’d think the makers of the iconic card game had tweeted about towel ownership or centrist policies.

  • President Trump and his ilk would have you believe that undocumented immigrants are bloodthirsty rapists who are responsible for everything from American industrial decline to PBS fundraising drives. Yet another study finds that undocumented immigrants are no more felonious than documented residents.

  • A great Erik Wemple piece on the journalism that informed (and sometimes misrepresented) the Mueller probe. Journos, cite this the next time your #resistance aunt or uncle -- the same ones who posted on Facebook, “THANK YOU JEFF SESSIONS!!!!!!” when the former attorney general recused himself from the Mueller probe -- trashes the fourth estate for reporting negatively on their preferred candidate.

I AM HERE TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR BETO O’ROURKE FANTASIES

The erstwhile three-term Texas congressman’s presidential campaign has electrified our hearts ... and other parts, too. I may not be qualified to speak to your romantic and/or carnal flights of fancy, but this is a country where Elizabeth Holmes can raise tens of billions of dollars for a malfunctioning phlebotomic pain cube, basically anyone who ever saw the trailer for “Hairspray” can anoint themselves a camp expert and Beto O’Rourke is deemed a suitable presidential candidate. So let’s do this:

What are you talking about?

Your Beto O’Rourke fantasizing! I admit it’s very presumptuous to assume you have fantasized about Beto O’Rourke, or are doing so right now -- the latter could lead to some real problems, FYI (“Marty, the Q3 lookahead is great, but I think it would really shine with some more detail about the diminished maintenance outlays and a rangy former member of Congress freshly showered and wearing nothing but his killer smile and a towel haphazardly tucked-in and sagging at his waistline *just so*”).  

Anyhoo, whether or not you're into him, Beto O’Rourke is *the* Gen X hunk du jour. He appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, dreamily declaring how predestined he is to be president because, one guesses, he once read Zinn’s “People’s History” and is on a first-name basis with 23% of the employees at his local REI. He is the subject of a fawning HBO documentary that paints him as something of a martyr for the cause of a better politics -- like George McGovern but with more pronounced calves. And he is likely very good in bed, according to one Twitter user.

How do I know that Beto O’Rourke is the right Gen X hunk to fantasize about?

Good question. There are a lot of options out there. To name a few:

  • Rock climbing with Eddie Vedder.

  • Coastal cleanup volunteering with Mark Ruffalo.

  • A really constructive couples therapy session with Dave Matthews.

  • Some kind of composite Gen X hunk that you dreamed up -- let’s call him Graham.  Graham was on the lacrosse team in college -- yes, yes but he wasn’t into the scene, which you know because you remember spotting a copy of “Middlemarch” in his dorm room. Anyway, these days Graham is a partner at an impact investing firm — again, *eye roll* — but he gets to work with a portfolio company that sends one needlepoint belt with sailboats on it to third world countries for every one needlepoint belt with sailboats on it that customers purchase. It’s rewarding, and it pays the bills for his place in Taos, which is where he’d much rather be right now. Have you snowshoed? It’s really centering.

Anyway, all these fantasies can induce anxiety. Are you sport or trad climbing with Eddie? Are you and Paul Rudd chilling in the VIP Balcony at the Hole reunion show or down on the floor? You work hard and shouldn’t have to put so much effort into Gen X hunk fantasizing. Beto O’Rourke, meanwhile, is such a caricature of the dopey Gen X hunk that any fantasies about him are processed by the brain as having all the complexity and leadenness of flavored seltzer.

I have my perfect Gen X hunk date with Beto O’Rourke planned out: first we meet for paninis at an independent cafe with threadbare couches; then we idly browse a record store where I secretly buy him an original printing of “Slanted and Enchanted;” finally, we end the night with some Natty Bos at a dive bar. The thing is, I work in software development, and I worry I don’t have the public policy chops to talk to a former member of Congress.

Listen, first: Beto just wants to hear about you. Second: Don’t sweat it! Not having discernible policy chops is precisely what Beto fantasizing is all about! Beto just wants to get up on a diner countertop in Boone, Iowa, say a few things about pluralism and American exceptionalism and maybe sweat a bit onto some guy named Darrel’s breakfast. You don’t want to talk policy? Neither does he!

Think of Beto a bit like that ur-Gen X political hunk, Barack Obama. Except instead of cutting his teeth in the 1990s as a community organizer or teaching at Harvard Law, like Obama did, Beto spent those years stoned in a basement playing “Turok Dinosaur Hunter” and explaining at his 6th Riot Grrrl girlfriend in as many months just who shot Mr. Burns.

I think I might be losing my thing for Beto

You and a lot of people! To be honest, the Beto thing might be over already.

Let’s cut to it: Beto sometimes feels like the grown-up version of the lovable, quirky but academically meh high school jock who kind of assumes his bed magically makes itself — not realizing that mom has been diligently doing it for years. Yes, he delivered an endearingly impassioned report on “Animal Farm” — of which he only read the first 5 chapters — but meanwhile his mom was tidying his sheets and clearing all the leather wristbands and back issues of Thrasher off of them. Beto is going to need a lot of taking care of.

----

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HuffPost Hill Is Dead. Long Live...Whatever This Is

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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.

Enjoy!


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…
[IS STABBED] 
...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.

An actual review | Another actual review

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?

6.2/10


There Are Many Things On The Internet, Pt. 2

  • Lis Smith is the the woman behind the Pete Buttigieg media frenzy. She’s a real workhorse and often takes on longshot center-left candidates as clients. Current odds are 7:1 that she helps one of Jon Tester’s bolo ties launch a campaign for Montana’s at-large House seat. Don’t laugh: that bolo tie’s got some solid name recognition.

  • The party bro who got hit in the head and became a math wiz. Do you suppose the Hollywood executives angling to leverage his life rights into a Zac Efron vehicle showed up at the hospital or waited a respectful couple of hours after he was discharged?

  • Chinese scientists have grafted human brain genes into monkeys. The influx of creatures with two extra gripping appendages for selfies will only hasten social media’s destruction of all that is good and pure. We must fight this.

ALGORITHM HAIKUS

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.

ULK

Update my new phone
Love the way it works and works
Keep it going on


OPI

Oh god I’m sorry
Please let us be safe and sound
I’m heading over

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