Uneducated Posturing

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S1: The following program may offend those who say fudge instead of another F word. It may also offend those who say fudge. When asked to rank their top three desserts.

S2: It’s Monday, July 13th, twenty twenty from Slate, it’s the gist. I’m Mike Pesca. Let’s see. Paul Rudd make refined baked goods, including scones, decided to get out of the Skold game. Rebrand ant man biscuits. He’s going with. And of course, there’s the fact that his his signature product, the Rudd Stones, may have engaged in Baker.

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S3: A ratio of the actual maker of the Stones has been marginalized during the process. Anyway, what I’m saying is I think it would be a best practice for Paul Rudd to affirmatively tell the world that he will no longer be talking about and making reference to and making us all hear about and think about the Rudd stones. All right. We’re talking about the Rudd scones. And if Paul Rudd were to say no more talk of the Redskins, I would think, given that Paul Rudd is a good and sensitive guy. He’d do it without saying over and over again. Rudd’s going. Rudd’s going. Rudd’s gone. Unfortunately, the Washington football team could not do the same. This is from the official Twitter feed of the Washington Rudd’s Goans, the address of which is in its entirety at Rudd’s Goans. Let me describe there’s a press release and the press releases the statement from the Washington Redskins football team about no longer being called the Redskins. It is on letterhead. The letterhead says Washington Redskins in Over Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park two one three hundred Redskins Park Drive. W w w dot. Redskins dot com. Media dot. Rud’s Goans dot com. Key sentence. Today we are announcing we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of a review. Could you guys just stop being the Redskins without rubbing the Redskins in our face over and over again? I mean, I guess if you rub it in our face long enough, our skin is going to turn a ruddy or sanguinary color. But that’s beside the point. I guess this is a retirement. And with any retirement, you got to say the retirees name a lot. You put the retirees name on a banner. Goodbye, Jim. Congratulations, Myrdal. You might give the retiree a watch engraved with the retirees name unless the reason the retiree is being forced out is that he has a wildly inappropriate name. If the name is synonymous with a giant headache, you might not want to celebrate the name. When the Ford Edsel failed, I would hope Ford didn’t have a huge fail. Well, Edsel, we hardly knew you. Ed sole party for his son Edsel Ford, though, in reaching for an example of avoiding insensitivity. Perhaps Henry Ford isn’t the right guy to go to the right guy. The most sensitive guy, of course, the great Paul Rudd. So what I’m saying is by Antman biscuits, Paul’s pastry’s and of course, boycott, turn your back on those Rudd scolds. And maybe if you want to look in word, despite what they say, you might find some stale Washington State semolina rolls in your bread basket on the show today. Why it’s so hard to have a good conversation with the seemingly open, approachable, affable and intelligent Betsi Davos await. You disagree with that assessment? That’s on you, buddy. But first, Alexandra P. Try is described in her official Washington Post bio as a columnist offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. Oh, yeah. Well, the cover of her new book is a Goya painting depicting a titan chopping the head off his just birth child. The description of said book, Nothing is wrong. And here is why is the collection is of impossibly cheerful essays and the routine horrors of the present era. That’s a lighter take. Well, having witnessed the horrors of the present era, I’d say it is. Indeed it is. Alexandra P. try. Up next.

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S1: Satire even possible these days anymore? What with an administration that maybe becomes comes pre satire? Well, Alexandra P try the great satirists, shall I say. Columnist, humorous columnist, but totally not a humorist. God. That’s a terrible appellation for The Washington Post is out with a new collection. Nothing is wrong. And here is why. And in my assessment, I don’t know if it’s possible or if the if the times are ripe for great satire, there’s only one exception. If the execution is so good that it overwhelms whatever you think the preconditions are. And I think that might be what is going on in. Nothing is wrong. And here is why. Hello, Alexandra. Welcome back to the Gist.

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S4: Hello. Thanks for having me back.

S1: Have you ever sincerely used an exclamation mark in your life?

S4: Oh, all the time. Most of the time in e-mails, because I love to make certain that people know that I’m not disapproving of them silently and gravely. So I looked to release sprinkle those with exclamation marks, literally like an exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke. And I also sometimes do that. So both of those things.

S1: OK. So I’m going to amend my question. I take that. I understand what you’re saying. But in his book, I think all of the exclamation marks are they are, let’s say, the whoever the voices of the person using them. I would say mostly they are meant to convey the sincerity of expression within that voice. But you, as the author and Metacritic are using them to imply that these are not sentiments that should be taken sincerely.

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S4: Oh, yeah, no, totally. I think also whenever I see a phrase like good news or the good news is usually what follows, that tends not to be good news. Well, look, on the bright side, that’s usually followed by something sort of extremely devastating. But yes, I love my husband whenever he heard me chuckle to myself. And then I explain why he’s always like, that’s really a very depressing thought. So I think maybe the inverted punctuation has also gotten stuck in my head.

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S1: Well, it’s also good for a setup, right? If Yuma is nothing but what is a benign disruption of what you expect when you set something up with a cheery. Here’s the good news and then it’s not good news. That itself follows the form of a joke, right?

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S4: Exactly. Because you expected something and then instead you got banana.

S1: I mean, the first four words of the book are relax. Nothing is wrong. And in fact, we should not relax. And many things are wrong.

S4: Exactly. I feel like sometimes the best way of describing how bad things are is a treaty state. What’s happening as though you were trying to say that it wasn’t so bad because it immediately becomes clear how many things are just spiritedly obviously wrong. The second you start describing them as maybe going well.

S1: Right. Right. OK. So there are different kinds of essays and sometimes there are little screenplays in the book. But I would say a main, if not the main form is that is someone being super positive about a situation that’s truly horrible. I think the essay where Donald Trump tries to assess his own cabinet in a cheery way and then maybe determines that things haven’t gone so well. That’s one of them. Or even the main essay where, you know, the part one is called the brightest timeline. Like, things aren’t actually bright. Right.

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S4: Right. No. I think they also sort of this emperor’s mirror type situation where you’re trying to think, what on earth would you like to see? Like, what’s the version of the world you would like to be living in? And so, like, you had your inauguration and it’s full of people and maybe Bono comes up to you and apologizes for no reason whatsoever. And just all of these little details that aren’t true but would make him feel better. And that can also sometimes factor in when you’re trying to figure out how to be cheery inside a nightmare.

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S1: Right. Right, right. Or the pope. You know, regard Jewesses best friend when that is clearly not the case. Exactly. There is, though, a I think your introductory essay, the entire title and tone of the book, there being nothing is wrong. Many of these essays are written from the perspective of a person who is asserting things aren’t wrong. But of course, they are in your mind. Is it the same person? Is this person, say, a functionary of a government where they are tasked with spinning something? Are they a deluded person two seconds away from laughing maniacally? And, you know, I don’t know, playing with their own feces or something like who is this lying person who is putting on this sheen, this gloss of positivity on this horrible situation?

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S4: Well, I feel like it almost varies a little bit from piece to piece, because the thing that you’re maniacally excited about in one can be slightly different than another. But I sort of think of it as like my Facebook feed. Facebook feed, we’re getting correct information about what was going on, but also we’re still as excited about it as they are.

S1: So it’s sort of a combination of his two terms as that famous picture of the dog surrounded by fire saying everything is fine. Does that factor in or is that tone expressed anywhere?

S4: Oh, yeah. I you know, I feel bad that I’ve wasted that wonderful cartoon months before they really blew the powder on that one early. Now we have an entirely new media. That was like five years. Really?

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S1: Yes. Well, I guess human beings have this tendency to look at the world darkly, even if the world can actually tone down four different shades of opacity. Or maybe we didn’t even know we had the capacity to live in a world that was that dark.

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S4: Well, that was almost poetry. I was taken on a journey there. It’s funny because you often do try to find bright spots in dark situations and that could be actually a healthy coping mechanism. But there’s also sort of just like like Voltaire was always been like, wasn’t it great how we had a very efficient earthquake that killed 30000 people? And of course, you know that what he’s actually saying is like, what a devastating loss of human life. Isn’t this awful? How do we exist in a world where this can happen? But if you put it jovially enough, sometimes it can startle people. Is the hope.

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S1: Yeah. There are some essays where we figure out what the genre is, about a third or a quarter of the way through, like the one where Donald Trump is looking out the window contemplating the ethical implications of having demanded that we lock Hillary up over unauthorized emails. And then information came to light that Ivanka herself used unauthorized emails. What are you channeling in that essay?

S4: It’s it’s funny how the emails, they were everything and now they’re sort of a whisper on the horizon, a cloud that’s been forgotten. Something else that’s been forgotten. I can’t even bring it to mind. I’ve forgotten it so completely. And I love a good fairy tale structure where you have really just rituals turned ominous and people marching around and gates opening and bells clanging. Right. Right. Happening. And so just sort of all of the nightmarish punishments that people were going to visit on this horrible e-mail violation. Now that we know that potentially even it has penetrated into Ivanka herself, you wind up having a situation where those words are all applied with their same force as needs must, because this was such a serious infraction that to do anything less than claiming all the bills, exactly the same number of times you were going to claim them before would be a miscarriage of justice. And so I think trying to sort of heighten it and play up the pomp of sort of arcane punishment can be fun.

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S1: Right. Right. And part of that is also what if the what if the king in a fairy tale, what if someone who sees himself as a readout of doing what is just. What if this person were Donald Trump? And it’s so much fun to imagine him internally struggling with how to lie. How do I be fair in this situation? Because, dammit, my reputation is at stake and I have articulated this premise and how can I possibly find my way around it? And then also to further sit with him as he thinks about the implications of visiting an injustice or a hardship upon a loved one. This is not the Donald Trump we know.

S4: Exactly. I mean, imagine the struggle and the hardship. And what do you really have to live out your principles? And if there’s one thing we know about Donald Trump is that he’s always lived out his principles. They’re not a matter of convenience with him. They’re held as deeply as his beautiful certificate of health is to his heart.

S1: So this is I mean, this really gets at one of these questions that comedians are people who think and perform comedy are always grappling with, you know, how can you be funny about Trump? And you found a way which is that you take what we know of him and you juxtapose him into a different genre, or you squeeze that 242 pound, though, one pound from obese carcass into another type of character who has to act a certain way. And it’s just hilarious. It’s just hilarious to picture this guy who we very much know, trying to act with chivalry or act with, you know, a gunslinger’s honor or act as a parent who actually is interested in the emotional life of Donald Trump. Junior and Eric knows that.

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S4: I think the thing with him is that he himself has been sort of portraying a character for as long as we’ve known him. And so sometimes it can actually be more effective to take the things that he’s doing and the things that he’s saying, which are often objectively strange when they’re not actually harmful, a menacing and try to put them through another filter like Sarah. Cooper is another person who does this. We’re just taking the thing out of the context of this enormous bag of flesh and horror and having it a. Here just you see how bizarre all of the words are even coming from someone else. If you just focus on him. I mean, look, there’s all kinds of aspects that he possesses that many good people possess. Like, you know, if you’re obese, that doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. Far from it. Right. Right. I think it’s also just like the most interesting thing about himself is not himself. If anything, he’s like sort of avoid into which everyone put older knowledge and ideas and curiosity. And so you have to think of something else some other way in. That’s not just how much time can I spend on this man, because, you know, you only have one precious, beautiful life. And if you spend too much of it staring into this avoid, that’s a new word I’ve just coined. It’s a beast and void. And I couldn’t decide which one I was saying. So I said both of them. Then you wake up 60 years from now with like a giant. It’s entirely about Donald Trump. Oh, no. I’m having one of those ghost of Christmas past moments.

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S1: That’s right. So some of these essays were great because they brought me back to thinking the news or a scandal past like Scott Pruitt and his moisturizing lotion. Thank you for that gift. Thank you for reminding me of that scandal.

S4: He’s one of my favorites because I feel like I love trying to find an explanation for something where somebody is behaving bizarrely and you’re like, well, it could be that they’re just doing something corrupt and got confused, or it could be that there’s he’s slowly transforming into an enormous lizard. And why don’t we explore both possibilities, give them equal time, as it were. And I had a lot of fun with that. Plus, you know, it’s nice to sometimes hop back into the frying pan as a little break from the fire.

S1: Yeah. Now, if I read your essay to you describing members of Trump’s cabinet and inner circle, that turned out not to be the best and the brightest, and they have phrases like instead of the best, instead of the brightest, we had the ghost of Christmas yet to come. We had an aardvark and a model U.N. sweater. We had a hairpiece on top of a novelty skeleton with light up eyes. We had a paid advertisement for unscientific vitamin supplements and a curse to Oscar statuette. All right. Do you know specifically which people all of those descriptions apply to?

S4: Ha. I will leave that up to the readers discretion. But a couple of those I have a clear mental line. I feel like there’s only so many people who really deeply in their essences resemble a skeleton with light abayas and a hairpiece.

S1: Yes. I mean, it’s some of them. I didn’t even read them, Mr. Monopoly man. That one’s pretty obvious. You also talk about six bat six rejected Batman villains. I think when Steve Mission and Wife visited the Mint, he was at least four of those who rejected Batman villain.

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S4: Yeah. And Roger Stone was the other two.

S1: So two of them actually apply to either person, or was it just you were riffing on you got some inspiration from the retinue and cabinet as a whole, and then you started riffing on descriptions of types of terrible people.

S4: I think a lot of us just sort of the general caliber of person who would be attracted to such a cabinet. And so you have a couple of actual people to serve as bottles. And then you’ve got just sort of the people who I presume are lined up outside of the West and East Wings ready to leap into their positions should they fall.

S1: Yes, that’s the thing. So since you published that essay in which you describe people around Donald Trump, one is being a stand of reads into which hateful words have been whispered for months. Let us realize that we are now. We are now dealing with not that stand of hateful reads, but we are dealing with the person who was the second stringer or maybe the third stringer behind the hateful reads words human.

S4: Right, exactly. Now we’ve got like some hateful kudzu or hateful poison oak, like out of the reeds and into less desirable forms of plant life.

S1: There are some essays in here that I think are pretty much sincere, like how difficult it is to get the train to stop.

S4: Yes. The good thing about being a user columnist is that while most of the time the explanation is that you will provide humor or some things just aren’t funny. And so you can’t treat them as though they are because ideally you were is based on truth, that if it’s truth, nothing about something is laughable. Then you don’t laugh. You just speak as honestly as you can. And so I’ve always been grateful to have the opportunity to get to describe things that aren’t funny as not being funny because, yeah, otherwise you wind up sort of in like an awkward gesture type role. And it can be soul crushing. And sometimes you just can’t see anything ridiculous about it or you’re just too exhausted emotionally and otherwise to do so. And in those cases, you can still say something. And sometimes it’s better to do that.

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S1: All right. So the last thing I want to talk about is the first thing the reader will see, which is the cover of your book. It is that Goya painting of Saturn devouring his son. Other than the fact that it’s in the public domain. What drew you to that picture?

S4: Oh, man. I was initially going to be like, let’s do a Hieronymus Bosch because I love a good sort of hell scape. But then my husband was like, how about a Goya? And I was like, oh, even better. And like, just the fact, like, he’s got like a little hat on. Such a classic loggerhead. It’s also like he’s got a little hat on. I don’t know. I find something very stupid and delightful in that. But I also think it’s a nice cover by which the book ought to be judged. Please judge it by its cover. Unless you find the cover creepy, in which case take the cover off and just read it that way. And that’s also fine. Whatever is your comfort level.

S1: Alexandra Tri is out with a new book, a new collection. It is fantastic. Nothing is wrong. And here is why. Thank you, Alexandra. Thank you.

S3: And now the spiel, chief, among the reasons that it’s so hard to have a good, honest conversation with a member of the Trump administration is that so few are good or honest, cheap shop, accurate shot, but cheap shot. But there’s something else going on. It’s not that or it’s not just that they will lie to you. It’s that they won’t even engage you in the conversation that you’re trying to have. This is evident in Kyle Mackin 80s. I think the real issue is and Kellyanne Conway’s you know, the question you should be asking is not engaging in the argument on its terms. It’s clear that changing the terms of the debate is an especially useful tactic when you can’t win the debate. But it is really frustrating to the listener. In fact, it makes listening kind of a waste of time. That was on display when Secretary of Education Betsy Davos showed up on a couple of the Sunday shows yesterday. It being Sunday on one CNN State of the Union. Dana Bash attempted to lay the groundwork quite early to try to head off because they only had a short amount of time allotted, a tendentious argument about why in-person schooling is good or better than doing it remotely, because that wasn’t the debate they were trying to have. Which one’s better? Everyone agrees. If you could do in-person schooling, you should do in-person schooling so long as in-person schooling can be done without imperiling the school workers, the children and the children’s families. So with this in mind, Dana Bash, quite constructively, I thought said this up top.

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S5: Thank you so much for joining me this morning. And let me start by saying that everybody shares the same goal. They want children to be back in school.

S3: OK, I get it. No one is saying kids shouldn’t be back in school. Everyone is saying it’s better to be in school. The question isn’t, should kids be in school? Is going to school best for kids? Not the question. We need to be clear on what the question is and what the question isn’t. And remember, let me say again, we all want children to be back in school. So knowing that, how do you get them to go back to school safely? You’re now the first words out of Betsy Devizes mouth.

S5: Well, the key is that kids have to get back to school.

S3: Yes. Yes, I know. I know. This is exactly the discussion. I didn’t want to have stipulated conceded they had to get back to school, but how can we do it safely? Or as Dana Bash put it, quite less grievously than I.

S5: To Betsy Davos and Madam Secretary, I don’t think anybody disagrees with that. I mean, I’m a parent. I want my school age child to go back to school as much as you are saying you want for everybody. But the question is, can it happen safely?

S3: Can it happen safely? To which said sure. Because, well, wash hands and other countries are doing it. And also because the American Academy of Pediatrics says being in school is good for kids. To which Bash said, yes, yes, yes, of course it’s good for kids, haven’t I? Haven’t we all said this? But the AARP also said because there is a pandemic, we can’t recommend it as being safe in many, many places. So what did Secretary Divorce say about that?

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S5: Now, what we’re saying is that kids need to be back in school.

S3: Oh, OK. Over to Fox, where Chris Wallace tried to interview her there, she did the same. Yes, yes. But being in school is good for kids. But she also had a slightly different argument or a slightly different emphasis. Here she is now on FOX.

S5: Well, Chris, there’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous. We know that children contract and have the virus at far lower incidents than any of the other part of the population. And we know that other countries around the world have opened, reopened their schools and have done so successfully and safely. And kids there are going back to school every day. And so that has got to be the posture here.

S3: My posture over here is best described as hand smacking for head while doubled over in either convulsions of laughter or paroxysms of rage. There is nothing in the data that said schools are dangerous. All right. OK. That’s her posture. But then she’s with some other thoughts on posture.

S5: The guidelines are also that guidelines. They’re meant to be helpful, as in a posture of how you actually do things and how you actually move ahead.

S3: The posture of how you do things that would be, I suppose, an upright posture or maybe bent at the knees, palms forward, ready to field whatever comes at you. It is, she said later in the same interview.

S5: There has to be a posture of doing something.

S3: Also, once more good lock in about a four or five minute span during this interview on Fox.

S5: And so, again, the twin John Howard.

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S3: I hear a little posture there, too. Chris Wallace could not take her posturing anymore. Of course, he was privy to four of her postures. CNN only got one this gem like usage.

S5: Well, the CDC has also been very clear to say they never recommended schools closed down in the first place. And they are very much of the posture that kids need to be back in school for a multitude of reasons.

S3: I know somebody needs to be back in school or at least any place where they have access to the sources. Wait, what’s this? You can get synonyms in an online Web site. So their posture means their position, their stance, their opinion. They are of the belief they are recommending. Or how about this one, which I’ve been trying to puzzle out? There has to be a posture of doing something. I just think she’s totally using the wrong word in that case. Or maybe not. Maybe what she’s actually saying, in fact, I think it is what she’s actually saying is that they have to have the appearance of doing something which actually is the truest thing she said, because that is the Trump administration’s stance, attitude, pose and. Oh, yeah, posture.

S2: And that’s it for today’s show that just is produced by Daniel Shrader, Margaret Kelly with executive producer of Slate podcasts. Lisa Montgomery. They have combined to redraw Hieronymus Bosch triptych. They’ve replaced all the demon horns with those helmets that let you drink two beers at once. And they’ve also rendered all the upright go creatures as wearing I’m with stupid t shirts, stupid being the anguished soul, being tortured by the goats. The gist. We are fully in support of posture. We’re positively preposterous. We’re pretty desperate to prove. And thanks for listening.