Dep't of Corrections

Today in dummies.

Yesterday I felt like a dummy when I ruined what would have been the best joke in the newsletter by mistakenly writing that Elise Stefanik is “the Charlie McCarthy of Eugene McCarthies.” Of course I meant that she’s the Charlie McCarthy of Joseph McCarthies. The Charlie McCarthy of Eugene McCarthies is Dennis Kucinich, and while we’re at it the Charlie McCarthy of Kevin McCarthies is Mike Johnson. I regret the error.

Photo montage of ventriloquist’s dummy Charlie McCarthy on the left and Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson on the right, looking remarkably similar.

Ventriloquist’s dummy Charlie McCarthy (left) vs. regular dummy Mike Johnson.

Also today in Mike Johnson, The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott Calabro wondered “What if Mike Johnson is actually good at this?” Sure, what if? What if Napoleon didn’t invade Russia? What if Rutherford B. Hayes hadn’t sold out Reconstruction for his own presidential ambitions? What if we kissed in the Congressional panic room? This genre of story is called RPF or “real person fiction” and usually the question posed is more like “what if I met Mike Johnson and we smooched?” I assume this is just the first chapter of a slow-burn and the smooch will happen somewhere near the end of act one.

At the conclusion of the retreat, I met Johnson in a small, mustard-hued room in one of the more secluded corridors of the resort. At 52, he is a curiously unimposing presence—horn-rimmed glasses, ruminative expression—with little of the gravitas one might assume of the person second in line to the presidency.

Second in line to the presidency, but first in line… to my heart.

dk posted: “i've got a type A personality. type A lot on da copuder”

Also Today in the Dep’t of Corrections:More than 100 protesters at New York University, including students and faculty” were arrested yesterday for the crime (?) of being on the NYU campus where they are employed and/or matriculated. The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia called for a “course correction” on the university’s response to students exercising their first amendment rights. I guess an adjustment from “indiscriminate crackdowns by jackbooted thugs of the NYPD” to “allowing constitutionally protected speech” is a kind of course correction. And no one in modern American life is more committed to the fantasy of murdering protesters than Tom Cotton, who’s at it again, getting all hornt up on X fantasizing about imaginary “nascent pogroms at Columbia” that could justify having a new Kent State massacre. As Tom Scocca pointed out:

The act of even stringing together the words "nascent pogroms at Columbia" should be facially anti-Semitic, an insult to every victim of actual pogroms around the world. No one is starting a pogrom on an elite university campus on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It is not happening. It is a fantasy. And who fantasizes a thing like that?

You will not in a trillion years, you will not in all the ages of our life-giving Sun, guess what has television’s Drew Carey tweeting “This is what it must feel like to cum with a pussy.” I could give you one guess for each atom in the universe and I don’t think you’d get it.1 I never thought we’d see a new Kevin Smith tweet in these fallen times, but miracles do happen.

Speaking of the universe,2  NASA managed to fix Voyager One remotely, sending the interstellar spacecraft updated computer code to route around a hardware failure via a radio transmission that took twenty two and a half hours to arrive. Imagine rebooting a server over ssh, but the server is more than fifteen billion miles away and you don’t have a tech on-site in case something goes wrong. This team is a first ballot shoo-in for the Ops Hall of Fame.

And continuing an absolutely dominant streak of major media mentions for Tabs this week, the Businessweek newsletter’s Reyhan Harmanci investigated the internet’s collective ongoing failure of audience measurement by way of my own humble disinterest in A/B testing anything.

What does [Foster] care about? “Am I happy, am I continuing to make a living, do I have enough subscribers to make a living? The level I have now is enough for a decent middle-class living.”

Damn it’s true tho. Thanks, paying subscribers! ❤️

Today in Books: In the Elysian, Elle Griffin excerpted some interesting publishing numbers from the compilation of testimony in the 2022 DoJ antitrust case that ultimately prevented Penguin Random House from merging with Simon & Schuster.

Griffin’s title takeaway is “no one buys books,” which is kind of true. It’s more accurate to say that few people buy most books but even the CEO of Hachette, with a direct stake in presenting his industry as existentially imperiled, admitted that “When a book is successful, it can be wildly successful. There are books that sell millions and millions of copies, and those are financial gushes for the publishers of that book, sometimes for years to come…” Griffin not un-gleefully speculates that the publishing industry as it exists today is “on its way” to death. “Spotify has already started publishing audiobooks, and my money is on Substack for eventually publishing written books!” she writes. It’s not clear why a Substack publishing imprint would suddenly inspire a rush of bibliophily in people who aren’t buying books already, but maybe they’d all be about eugenics or something.

In 2022 during the antitrust trial, Lincoln Michel posted some context about publishing industry numbers, pointing out that if you want to talk about how many copies a published book sells, “it all depends on what you mean by ‘book,’ ‘published,’ and ‘sell.’” None of these terms are particularly obvious or straightforward, in the publishing world.

So while Griffin’s collection of excerpts is fascinating, I don’t agree with her conclusions. It seems to me that publishing as it exists today is the only media industry that still manages to both turn a profit and support the creation of art for its own sake, and we would lose a lot more than we’d gain if we allowed it to succumb to the kind of Netflix / Spotify tech swamp that has already drowned the music, film, and television industries.

dan mentos posted “if you watch Rocky backwards it's an unboxing video”

Finally, Tuesday #Longreads Edition: Rest of World’s Viola Zhou has a massive investigative report on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s struggle to build a new plant in the Arizona desert. RoW is consistently so good, they should be getting a lot more attention.

Today’s Song: Tribe Called Quest, “Can I Kick It?”

Music Intern Sam threatened us with Jars of Clay today so I gave him as much time off as he needs to get better, and picked this classic jam instead. I can’t wait to see what embarrassing blunder I made today! Imagine how it feels to email forty thousand people and get your McCarthies mixed up. I appreciate how kind everyone who corrected me was.

And speaking of the Spotify tech swamp that drowned the music industry: Tabs maintains a massive Spotify playlist of previous today’s songs, and an ongoing playlist of this current season’s as well, if you were looking for something to listen to for the next thirty three hours and thirty six minutes.

And don’t forget to subscribe to Today on Trail. I finally started posting to it, so now the website works right. More soon!

I will never get tired of looking at these guys.

1  If you can’t access the tweet, the answer is: he saw Phish play in the Vegas Sphere.

2  How’s that for an all-purpose segue?