I have two people listed up until 1804 because presidential and vice-presidential voting were not yet differentiated prior to the Twelfth Amendment. In these cases, I imagined that I elector at liberty to vote for any two eligible candidates.

1789: George Washington and John Jay

1792: George Washington and John Jay

1796: John Adams and Gouvernour Morris

1800: John Adams and Gouvernour Morris

1804: Thomas Jefferson

1808: James Madison

1812: DeWitt Clinton

1816: Rufus King

1820: James Monroe

1824: Henry Clay

1828: John Quincy Adams

1832: Henry Clay

1836: Daniel Webster

1840: bye week

1844: Henry Clay

1848: Martin Van Buren (Free Soil)

1852: John P. Hale (Free Soil)

1856: John C. Fremont

1860: Abraham Lincoln

1864: Abraham Lincoln

1868: Ulysses S. Grant

1872: Horace Greeley

1876: Samuel Tilden

1880: James Garfield

1884: Benjamin Butler (Greenback)

1888: Alison Streeter (Anti-Monopoly)

1892: James Weaver (People’s)

1896: William Jennings Bryan

1900: William Jennings Bryan

1904: Theodore Roosevelt

1908: William Jennings Bryan

1912: Eugene V. Debs (Socialist)

1916: Allan Benson (Socialist)

1920: Eugene Debs (Socialist)

1924: Robert LaFollette (Progressive)

1928: Al Smith

1932: Franklin D. Roosevelt

1936: William Lemke (Union)

1940: Wendell Willkie

1944: Franklin D. Roosevelt

1948: Thomas Dewey

1952: Adlai Stevenson

1956: Adlai Stevenson

1960: John F. Kennedy

1964: Lyndon Johnson

1968: Hubert Humphrey

1972: George McGovern

1976: Jimmy Carter

1980: Jimmy Carter

1984: Walter Mondale

1988: Michael Dukakis

1992: George H. W. Bush

1996: Bill Clinton

2000: Al Gore

2004: John F. Kerry

2008: Barack Obama

2012: Barack Obama

2016: Hillary Clinton

2020: Joe Biden


I’m just chiming in with my final Rock Hall predictions for the ballot that will produce the Class of 2023. It’s very similar to my earlier guesses from a few months ago, but I’m taking out Queen Latifah and The Spinners, and Joy Division and adding a seventeenth pick to match last year’s nominees.

I’m off Twitter now, but Philip, Nick, Donnie, Michelle, Neil, Tim- if you are out there If love to know your guesses.

1. Cher

2. George Michael

3. Kate Bush

4. Rufus/Chaka Khan

5. Missy Elliott

6. The B-52s

7. Dionne Warwick

8. Weezer

9. Jethro Tull

10. Outkast

11. New York Dolls

12. Motörhead Iron Maiden

14. Sade

15. Cyndi Lauper

13. Rage Against the Machine

16. Peter Frampton

17. Willie Nelson

Voltaire-Fest Day 2

As a continuation of my earlier post, if Voltaire Fest somehow actually occurred, here are the set lists I’d like to see for the Day 2 artists.

Vienna Teng (w/ 2cellos and Alex Wong):

  1. Hope On Fire
  2. Grandmother Song
  3. Harbor
  4. Whatever You Want
  5. Stray Italian Greyhound
  6. Shasta (Carrie’s Song)
  7. Homecoming (Walter’s Song)

The Spinners: (Harry Fambrough, Philippé Wynn, Bobby Smith, Billy Henderson, Pervis Jackson, orchestrated by Thom Bell)

  1. Working My Way Back to You
  2. Games People Play
  3. It’s A Shame
  4. Mighty Love
  5. One of A Kind Love Affair
  6. I’ll Be Around
  7. Sadie
  8. Then Came You (w/ Dionne Warwick)
  9. Are You Ready for Love?
  10. Could It Be I’m Falling In Love?
  11. Rubber Band Man

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo (w/ Roger Capps, Charlie Giordano, and Myron Grombacher)

  1. We Live For Love
  2. You Better Run
  3. We Belong
  4. Invincible
  5. Hell Is For Children
  6. Shadows of the Night
  7. Wuthering Heights
  8. Love Is A Battlefield
  9. Hit Me With Your Best Shot
  10. Heartbreaker
  11. Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash cover)


  1. Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg
  2. Diggin’ On You
  3. Creep
  4. Somethin’ Wicked This Way Comes
  5. What About Your Friends
  6. Unpretty
  7. Red Light Special
  8. No Scrubs
  9. All That theme Song
  10. Waterfalls

Linda Ronstadt: (w/ Andrew Gold, Lowell George, Kenny Edwards, Dan Dugmore, Mike Botts)

  1. Love Is A Rose
  2. Willin’
  3. The Waiting
  4. When Will I Be Loved
  5. Blue Bayou 
  6. Guadalajara
  7. Carmelita 
  8. Tracks of My Tears
  9. You’re No Good
  10. Different Drum
  11. Tumbling Dice 
  12. You Can Close Your Eyes 

Peter, Paul & Mary: (w/ Dick Kniss and Paul Prestopino)

  1. When the Ship Comes In
  2. Don’t Think Twice (It’s All Right)
  3. Wedding Song (There Is Love)
  4. Leaving On A Jet Plane
  5. Freight Train
  6. Reason To Believe
  7. The Great Mandala
  8. And When I Die
  9. 500 Miles
  10. I Dig Rock and Roll Music
  11. If I Had A Hammer
  12. This Land Is Your Land

The Zombies: (Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, Chris White, Steve Rodford, Tom Toomey, Darian Sahanaja)

  1. I Love You
  2. Care of Cell 44
  3. She’s Not There
  4. A Rose For Emily
  5. I Want You Back Again
  6. Beechwood Park
  7. I Don’t Believe in Miracles
  8. Tell Her No
  9. She’s A Woman (Beatles cover)
  10. Changes
  11. This Will Be Our Year
  12. Hold Your Head Up
  13. Time of the Season

Indigo Girls: (2/ Gail Ann Dorsey and Blair Cunningham)

  1. Romeo and Juliet (Dire Straits cover)
  2. What Are You Like?
  3. Land of Canaan
  4. Power of Two
  5. Ship of Hope
  6. Get Out the Map
  7. Hammer and Nail
  8. Share the Moon
  9. Diamonds and Rust (Joan Baez cover)
  10. Shame on You
  11. Love of Our Lives
  12. Galileo
  13. Tangled Up in Blue (Bob Dylan cover)
  14. Closer to Fine

Weird Al Yankovic: (w/ Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz, Steve Jay, Jim West, Rubén Valtierra)

  1. UHF
  2. Bob
  3. Weird Al Show Theme
  4. Frank’s 2000 Inch TV
  5. Dog Eat Dog
  6. Everything You Know Is Wrong
  7. Mr. Popeil
  8. When I Was Your Age
  9. You Don’t Love Me Anymore
  10. I’ll Sue Ya
  11. Velvet Elvis
  12. Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota
  13. Skipper Dan
  14. Dare To Be Stupid (w/ Mark Mothersbaugh)
  15. Albuquerque
  16. Headline News (new verses about Kanye, Harry & Meghan, and Florida Man)
  17. White and Nerdy
  18. Yoda

Crosby, Stills & Nash (David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, w/ Joe Vitale, Mike Finnegan, and Freebo) 

  1. Carry On/Questions
  2. Immigration Man
  3. Lay Me Down
  4. Love The One You’re With 
  5. Love Work Out
  6. Deja Vu
  7. Got It Made 
  8. Orleans/Cathedral 
  9. Woodstock 
  10. Helplessly Hoping
  11. Bittersweet
  12. Puppeteer 
  13. Don’t Dig Here
  14. Guinevere 
  15. Southern Cross
  16. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
  17. Dark Star
  18. Teach Your Children
  19. Might As Well Have A Good Time
  20. Long May You Run (w/ Neil Young)

Chicago: (Robert Lamm, James Pankow, Lee Loughnane, Walt Parazaider, Terry Kath, Danny Seraphine, Jason Scheff, Bill Champlain, Laudir de Oliveira, Neil Donell)

  1. Mississippi Delta City Blues
  2. Questions 67 & 68
  3. Ballet For A Girl in Buchanan
  4. In the Country
  5. Dialogue Part 1 & 2
  6. Listen
  7. It’s Alright
  8. Now That You’ve Gone
  9. The Pull
  10. You’re Not Alone
  11. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?
  12. What Kind Of Man Would I Be?
  13. This Time
  14. Canon/It Better End Soon
  15. Street Player
  16. Beginnings
  17. Feelin Stronger Every Day
  18. Free
  19. 25 Or 6 to 4

VoltaireFest- day 1

A few days ago, we had Spotify Day- when the music streaming service generates your year-end statistics: how much music you listened to, which artists were your favorites and so on. I actually enjoy seeing other people post their results, and it gives me a glimmer of insight into even my closest friends that I would not have otherwise had. I wanted to share my own music experience. One significant problem, though, is that I am not on Spotify anymore, having left earlier this year for Joe Rogan-related reasons.

I was particularly enchanted by a program that generates a music festival based on your playlist. So I want to Canva, edited their template using my own favorite artists, and came up with this:

Other than misspelling Linda Ronstadt, not bad, huh? But it wasn’t enough. In typical fashion, I thought about what I’d like to see these artists play at this imaginary bespoke music festival. For the moment, let’s assume (in ascending order of unlikelihood) that 1) an impresario is willing to put together a music festival based on my preferences; 2) said impresario is also a necromancer capable of resurrecting Lennon, Harrison, Nina Simone, Mary Travers, most of The Spinners, Left Eye, and if he has time, Glenn Frey; 3) this necromancing impresario is also a skilled mediator capable of making various CSN members, Eagles, and Beatles actually put aside their differences and collaborate.

With all this out of the way, here’s how I see Day 1 going down– starting with opening acts on various stages doing 40-50 minute sets, to headliners who are given 90-120 minutes.

They Might Be Giants: (John Flansburgh and John Linnell, with Dan Miller, Marty Beller, and Danny Weinkauf)

  1. Birdhouse in You Soul
  2. I Can’t Remember the Dream
  3. The Mesopotamians
  4. Everything Right Is Wrong Again
  5. Canajoharie
  6. Too Tall Girl
  7. Your Racist Friend
  8. Tippecanoe and Tyler Too/James K. Polk
  9. Nightgown of the Sullen Moon
  10. Celebration
  11. Ana Ng
  12. Instanbul (Not Constantinople)

Lake Street Dive: (Rachael Price, Mike Olson, Mike Calabrese, Bridget Kearney, Akie Bermiss)

  1. You Go Down Smooth
  2. Call Off Your Dogs
  3. Hypotheticals 
  4. Bobby Tanqueray 
  5. Nobody’s Stopping You Now
  6. Rabid Animal
  7. Walking On Broken Glass (Annie Lennox cover)
  8. Don’t Let Me Down (Beatles cover)
  9. Bad Self Portraits
  10. Good Kisser

Jars of Clay: (line up includes Dan Haseltine, Stephen Mason, Matthew Odmark, Charlie Lowell)

  1. Dead Man (Carry Me)
  2. Collide
  3. Fade to Grey
  4. Jealous Kind
  5. There Is A River
  6. Love Song for a Savior 
  7. Worlds Apart
  8. Liquid
  9. Come Thou, Font of Every Blessing/I’ll Fly Away (hymn covers)
  10. Lonely People (w/ America)
  11. Flood

Okee Dokee Brothers: (Joe Mailander, Justin Lansing)

  1. Howl
  2. Echo
  3. Don’t Fence Me In
  4. If You Want a Song
  5. Roll On River
  6. Hard Road to Travel
  7. Legend of Tall Talkin’ Sam
  8. Jackalope
  9. Sister Moon and Brother Son
  10. Haul Away Joe
  11. Gone Wishin’
  12. Early Bird
  13. Through the Woods
  14. Along for the Ride
  15. Can You Canoe?
  16. Tiny Little Life
  17. The Great Divide

America: (Dan Peek, Gerry Buckley, Dewey Bunnell, Calvin Samuel, Willie Leacox)

  1. Only In Your Heart
  2. Everyone I Meet Is From California
  3. Don’t Cross the River
  4. Tin Man
  5. Another Try
  6. Feels Flow (Beach Boys cover)
  7. Daisy Jane 
  8. Sandman
  9. Sister Golden Hair
  10. Woman Tonight
  11. The Border/Ride Like the Wind (Christopher Cross cover)
  12. A Horse With No Name
  13. Ventura Highway

Carole King: (with Leland Sklar, Danny Kortchmar, Craig Doerge, and Russ Kunkel)

  1. I Feel The Earth Move
  2. Sweet Seasons
  3. Jazzman
  4. Pleasant Valley Sunday
  5. It Might As Well Rain Until September
  6. So Far Away
  7. It’s Too Late
  8. One Fine Day/Take Good Care of My Baby/Chains/I’m Into Something Good/The Locomotion
  9. Will You Love Me Tomorrow?
  10. Some Kind of Wonderful/Smackwater Jack
  11. (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman
  12. You’ve Got a Friend (w/ James Taylor)
  13. Beautiful

Jamcrackers: (Peggy Lynn, Dan Berggren, Dan Duggan)

  1. The Good in Living
  2. Step By Step
  3. Tauhaus 
  4. Hitch Up Matilda
  5. Live Free or Die
  6. The Gasman Cometh
  7. Sing To Me of Ireland/Deep Winter Waltz
  8. Old Scioty/Shantytown
  9. The Power from Above
  10. Isn’t This Supposed to be April?
  11. Wood Elise Waltz
  12. Bert LaFountain’s Packard
  13. Lydia
  14. Psalm of Life
  15. Mountain Air
  16. Crossing the Bar

Janelle Monae:

  1. Dirty Computer
  2. Cold War
  3. Electric Lady
  4. Make Me Feel
  5. Primetime
  6. Dance or Die
  7. We Were Rock And Roll
  8. I’m Like That
  9. Stronger
  10. Q.U.E.E.N.
  11. Dance Apocalyptic
  12. Tightrope (w/ Big Boi)
  13. Let’s Go Crazy (Prince cover)
  14. What An Experience

Eagles: (Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmitt)

  1. Seven Bridges Road 
  2. How Long?
  3. The Long Run
  4. Keep On Trying
  5. Peaceful Easy Feeling
  6. The Boys of Summer
  7. Nightingale
  8. In The City
  9. Desperado
  10. On the Border
  11. Ol’ 55
  12. Busy Being Fabulous
  13. Take It To the Limit
  14. Bitter Creek
  15. The Heat Is On
  16. Rocky Mountain Way
  17. Hotel California
  18. Take It Easy

Billy Joel: (w. Liberty DeVito, Mark Rivera, Tommy Byrnes, Dave Rosenthal, Andy Cichon, Crystal Taliefero)

  1. Sleeping With the Television On
  2. I Go To Extremes
  3. Prelude/Angry Young Man
  4. Summer, Highland Falls
  5. Ain’t No Crime
  6. Uptown Girl 
  7. Downeaster Alexa
  8. And So It Goes
  9. Pressure 
  10. Captain Jack
  11. Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)
  12. Ballad of Billy the Kid 
  13. Leave A Tender Moment Alone
  14. My Life
  15. A Matter of Trust
  16. You May Be Right 
  17. River of Dreams
  18. Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
  19. Piano Man

The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, w/ Billy Preston & Jeff Lynne)

  1. Day Tripper
  2. A Hard Day’s Night 
  3. Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey
  4. If I Needed Someone
  5. Getting Better
  6. Hey Bulldog
  7. It Don’t Come Easy
  8. Ticket to Ride
  9. She Said, She Said
  10. I’m Down
  11. Imagine (John solo)
  12. All Things Must Pass (George solo)
  13. Blackbird (Paul solo)
  14. Back in the USSR
  15. Yer Blues
  16. Revolution 
  17. Hey Jude
  18. Old Brown Shoe
  19. I’m Looking Through You
  20. Dig A Pony
  21. Money 
  22. I Saw Her Standing There 
  23. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End
  24. Get Back
  25. Twist and Shout 

On to 2024!

Well…those midterms…could have gone worse! They might very well have gone better—and if they were held in September, they very well might have. There’s all manner of lessons to learn, but among them…we can’t stop being vigilant. Every election now has the potential to be the last one that’s free and fair. To that end, I have my completely unsolicited endorsements for Senate races two years hence.

Before we begin, I should mention that I’m entirely off Twitter now- all three accounts (professional, Alex Voltaire, and The Also-Rans.) As always, feel free to leave a comment on this blog if you want to get in touch with me.

Senate races:

Arizona: To say that Kristen Sinema has been a disappointment would be an understatement. She’s held up important legislation for bizarre reasons, ignores her constituents, and lacks good sense or judgment required of senators. There’s a theory that she is just “tanking” at this point in hopes of a bright future in lobbying and/or Big Pharma. There’s not a lot of evidence to refute this. She rightly won’t make it out of the Democratic primary. Ruben Gallego, a congressman with military experience, seems poised to challenge Sinema, and I have no reason to object to his candidacy.

California: Dianne Feinstein’s cognitive decline is an open secret in Washington. At 89, she seems reluctant to heed public calls for her resignation, but she might simply decline another term and let the current one play out. There is no shortage of pols California’s deep Democratic bench salivating at a chance for one of the state’s two precious Senate seats. Given the embarrassment of riches, I’ll endorse two choices: Aja Brown was an innovative and successful mayor of Compton, but Id also love to see Elizabeth Warren-protege Congresswoman Katie Porter elevated to the Senate. She has to keep fighting for her life every two years in a very evenly split Orange County district.

Delaware: Tom Carper is up for re-election. The 75-year-old isn’t the worst guy we could have, but he does embody the corporate-friendly m.o. on which Delaware hung its hat. For an acceptable but not exceptional senator, 24 years in the chamber is more than enough. I’d propose the state’s at-large representative, Lisa Blunt Rochester. She is trusted by President Biden, is more progressive and would bring a Black woman back to the Senate.

Florida: 2022 showed that Florida’s transition from swing state to shithole state is nearly complete, facilitated by the state Democratic Party’s staggering incompetence. Because Rick Scott is so awful, we should give it one more chance. I’d pick Stephanie Murphy. A Vietnam refugee, she embodies so much good in the American story. She pulled her punches in the Trump impeachments, not voting for every single count, and that might give her some wiggle room in this dystopian peninsula.

Hawaii: Mazie Hirono is one of my favorite senators. But her health scares over the last several years raise some concerns, and she is 75 as well. As a successor, I’d suggest State Rep Jeanné Kapela. She is a previous Miss Hawaii and was crowned Miss Congeniality at the Miss America pageant, and has made stopping sex traffic the cornerstone of her pageant and political career. She will barely be 30 in 2024, but Hawaii’s Dem bench is geriatric and they need their delegation to be capable of accruing seniority.

Indiana: Republican Matt Braun, who toppled Joe Donnelly in 2018, isn’t going to seek a second term, creating an open seat we should take advantage of. I’d pick Destiny Wells, who ran (but lost) the Secretary of State race in 2022. Given the real possibility of Pete Buttigieg landing somewhere in the ticket in 2024, this may further tweak the barometric pressure for a perfect storm that would be necessary for a Democrat to win here. Wells’ fundraising skill, charisma, and veteran status shows she can make the most of an opportunity here.

Maine: Democrat-caucusing Independent Angus King will be 80, and after two terms in the Senate and two as governor, it’s time to leave it to the next generation. (By the way, did you know King’s son was used by Jim Henson as the model for Scooter? It’s true!) Troy Jackson would be the unicorn here- a rigorously pro-working class guy who represents culturally conservative Aroostook County in the State Senate.

Maryland: Not a fan of Ben Cardin, one of only two Senate Dems to vote against Obama’s breakthrough deal with Iran. He will be 81 when the election rolls around, and Maryland has a deep bench. Angela Alsobrooks and Tom Perez would be fine, but my first choice is Krish Vignarajah, a former Michelle Obama aide, current head of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, and an incredibly sharp and compassionate woman.

Massachusetts: Elizabeth Warren is up for election. While I’ve intimated that others her age should retire, I want her to run again. One reason is that she’s only had two terms compared to the three and four that other septuagenarian senators have. But the other is that she’s the best mouthpiece for progressive ideas we have in the Senate.

Michigan: Her redoubtable war chest suggests Debbie Stabenow isn’t going anywhere, but she’s had four terms now. I’d say retire and get someone new in while Michigan is still blue-tilting. I’d recommend State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, who went viral taking down right-wing talking points about trans support being a form of “grooming.”

Minnesota: All hail Queen Amy. May very well be the first female Senate leader when Schumer’s done.

Missouri: Josh Hawley’s role in the 2021 insurrection at the Capitol has been largely forgotten and his approval rating hovers in the high 40s. It remains to be seen whether he can overcome the legacy of that dark day in a re-election campaign, with old mentors like John Danforth and all of the state’s major papers having called on him to resign. His mental health has been a roller coaster, but Jason Kander, who nearly won in 2016, offers the best contrast to Hawley’s snide, preening cowardice.

Montana: Jon Tester must run again. That’s all there is to it.

Nebraska-1: Deb Fischer pledged only two terms, but she’s pulling a Ron Johnson and breaking that promise. My hopes aren’t high, but challengers might include former Unicam member Sara Howard, a health care specialist. A more creative choice might be Susanne Shore, who spent the last eight years as Nebraska’s First Lady. Her husband, Governor Pete Ricketts, is a conservative Republican, but that hasn’t stopped Shore from taking different stands on the issues and even endorsing different candidates.

Nebraska-2: Ben Sasse is leaving his current gig as the Senate’s token faux-moderate to become president of the University of Florida system. For this open seat, I’d nominate Howard Warren Buffett– a scion, yes, but also a brilliant thinker who also runs a farm in the state.

Nevada: Jackie Rosen for a second term! It will be interesting to see if this is as close as her colleague Catherine Cortez-Masto’s re-election.

New Jersey: He’s been embroiled in scandal and graft for years, it’s time for Bob Menendez to go. Given the likelihood of Tom Keane Jr running for this seat, it will be very competitive. I’d recommend Mikie Sherrill; although technically a moderate Dem her voting record doesn’t show any real variance from the party line. What she does offer is a military and national security background, and an ability to hold a historically Rockefeller Republican-y district.

New York: No problems with Gillibrand running again.

Ohio: Sherrod Brown must run again.

Pennsylvania: Bob Casey has served in the Senate for three terms, more than any Pennsylvania Democrat ever. He will only be 64, and overperforms the party’s baseline in the Keystone State, so if he wants a fourth term, I say go for it.

Rhode Island: Sheldon Whitehouse.

Tennessee: Marsha Blackburn is God’s own lackwit, but she’ll still likely win re-election. One formidable challenger might be Lee Harris, mayor of Shelby County, Tennessee, which includes the city of Memphis. His organizational chops and grassroots energy recall some elements of Obama, and at the very least, will raise his profile for a future race.

Texas: God love ya, Beto, but it’s time to move on. Beto O’Rouke generated lots of attention and came within a few points of Ted Cruz in 2018, but couldn’t even get close when challenging Greg Abbott last month. Let’s look elsewhere. I’d pick Colin Allred, a former football player who afterward became a civil rights lawyer. A relative moderate who understands where Democrat-shy voters are coming from, I think he’s got the best chance to crack the code and engineer a victory over Cruz, a man so unctuous that even other hardcore conservatives don’t like him.

Vermont: Bernie’s going to be 83 on Election Day 2024. I think he can retire with a sense of accomplishment, having changed the Overton window of American politics, revived actual Leftism, and remade the Democratic Party at least partially in his image. Perhaps his successor will be Jill Krowinski, the current Speaker of the Vermont House, who is fairly young at 42, and is the kind of young, savvy progressive who would be a good follow-up to Sanders.

Virginia: He is maybe the best vice-president we never had, my man, Tim Kaine.

Washington: Maria Cantwell has been in the Senate since 2000, but she’ll still be a not-especially-geriatric 66. I don’t see any indication she’ll retire, and there are more egregious cases of people who need to pack it in. Cantwell it is.

West Virginia: Manchin had to be begged to run in 2018, and even then, he didn’t have it easy–even against a doofus of an opponent. My guess is that he will retire, and whether he does or doesn’t, this seat will almost certainly belong to a Republican. For our best shot, let’s just go with another scion, and try Justin Rockefeller. If you think that he isn’t West Virginian enough, remember, this is a state that voted twice for a man who shits on a golden toilet to serve as president.

Wisconsin: Tammy Baldwin for a third term. Should be pretty easy to do.

And we’ll just forget about Wyoming, Utah, Mississippi, and a couple of the others.

Rock Hall 2022 is now over, topped by a fun ceremony that many of the others in the Rock Hall Junto were able to attend. If the last two years are any indication, we can expect next years’ nominations in the bleak midwinter— perhaps late January or early February.

What follows isn’t my final prediction, any more than an early July poll can claim to auger what will happen on Election Day. Instead, it’s a snapshot of who has the buzz and the credentials given what we know now. I may- in fact, I probably will- revise this as we get closer.

Cher: She spreads La Mer on her toast in the morning. She’s Cher, bitch!

George Michael: The new documentary on his life shows a man more complex and philanthropic than any of us knew. Turn on Top 40 radio and you’ll find we are still playing in his sandbox.

Outkast: One of the true, seminal acts of the early 2000s. Apparently, their name was brought up last year, but it was pointed out that they were sharing the ballot with Eminem. With no obvious FYE rap act this year, it may be OutKast’s turn.

Kate Bush: For a few years running, the conventional wisdom was that lots of people liked her, but she was too weird, too reclusive, and too much of a British phenomenon to earn enough votes. Stranger Things just decimated that calculus this summer.

Queen Latifah: I know Missy Elliott is eligible this year, but I have to believe that somebody on the Nom Com will say, “what about the women who paved the way for her?” Her actual oeuvre doesn’t matter— you haven’t put on a Queen Latifah record for years and you know it. As the ceremony becomes a bigger spectacle focused on big personalities, this gives her an advantage.

Dionne Warwick: She was on the ballot the last two years, and it seems like she was a real contender each time. With Elon Musk in charge of Twitter, there are, as Lady Gaga would have it, a million reasons to walk away. But Auntie Dionne is a good one to stay.

The Spinners: We never got a good answer as to why they stopped appearing on the ballot, and it’s possible that Questlove or Cliff Burnstein are still lobbying for them behind the scenes. In the same way that Joe Tex just randomly reappeared on the ballot a few years ago, I think something similar will transpire here. It would be pretty fun if they got in with their duet partner, Dionne Warwick.

Joy Division/New Order: Who will be the 80s alternative pick? There’s an objective case to think it’s this outfit, whichever iteration they pick. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sonic Youth or Pixies or even Nick Cave in their stead.

New York Dolls: It was discouraging to see both the Dolls and MC5 again, two important acts whom voters have nonetheless made clear that they don’t want. Yet, the Dolls’ importance to pink and glam stands out, and if one of the two return, I think it’s them.

Motörhead: Now that Judas Priest is in, who is the next metal act? The kiosks show clamoring for Iron Maiden but I’m guessing they ranked when nominated two years ago. Motörhead was up against two metal acts for the Class of 2020, and this band formed better, stronger, more personal connections to the sorts of people who sit on the nominating committee.

Rage Against the Machine: After years of “will they, won’t they”, Rage was touring again before Zach de la Rocha’s injury cut off the proceedings. The Nom Com really likes this band, which have been nominated every year that they have been eligible, save one. And Tom Morello doesn’t seem inclined to discourage this.

The B-52s: Rock and roll began as music you could dance to, and as the world’s greatest party band, The B-52s have kept that legacy alive. They have been in the news recently with their farewell tour, and this would be a prime opportunity to give this classic Athens, Georgia band their roses as they prepare to retire. It’s possible that they will fill Devo’s niche on this ballot.

Sade: I’m going to take a risk and suggest that Fela Kuti may be given a break (or a side category induction), and that the developing world will be represented with Sade. Rumors are swirling around that the band and its iconic singer are working on new material, at a studio owned by…Brad Pitt? 80s soul and R&B has really been shafted, and the band’s long-term influence, its high esteem in the rap world, and its eclectic world music vibe make them a compelling possibility.

Peter Frampton: Frampton’s diagnosis of inclusion body myositis means that his days of playing guitar are unfortunately drawing to a close. He just finished a sensational performance at Royal Albert Hall at what can only be an informal farewell. It’s important to remember that Frampton has wide respect in the music industry and is anything but the pretty boy who did the “Frampton Comes Alive” album. Oh, and two years ago, he wrote a memoir with Alan Light, who has a knack for getting his favorites on the ballot.

Cyndi Lauper: It just makes too much sense; Lauper is the next 80s woman to get nominated now that Lennox, Benatar, Parton, and others are in, right? It helps that there’s a committed online movement supporting her candidacy. It helps that an MTV guy is in charge of things. And it helps that Lauper is consistently in the public eye, usually for her LGBTQ activism and her Broadway bridgehead via Kinky Boots.

Willie Nelson: Dolly Parton’s candidacy proved the viability of inducting a country legend. It would certainly be tempting to do so for the Red-Headed Stranger. But they’d better quit wasting time; Nelson will be 90 when the next induction ceremony rolls around. Greg Harris even name-checked him as a possible guy who might get nominated a few years ago, so it’s a little odd that he hasn’t already made the cut.

So that’s it. No First Year Eligibles. No Shockers. Just a hunch that the Hall will build on the successes of the last couple years. If I had to guess who would get in if this were the ballot, I’d pick: Willie Nelson, Cher, Kate Bush, Outkast, George Michael, and The B-52s, with Peter Frampton on deck for a seventh pick. On a theoretical fan vote, I’d pick: The Spinners, B-52s, Kate Bush, Outkast, and Sade.

I’m still in the midst of cabinet fever. Even with a toddler and a newborn at home, what little mental bandwidth I have left is hyper-focused on who I’d like to be in charge of things in 2025. So, well in advance of the next presidential election, I’ve outlined my picks the only way I know how– through my trademark Poorly Made Trading Cards.

At the time I’ve written it, Joe Biden has had a really good week: a key al-Qaeda leader is killed, gas prices are finally going down, an excellent jobs report, Trump is inching closer to an indictment, and the biggest climate legislation in history– even with its concessions to Manchin and Sinema– looks primed for passage. After a few moribund months, this is welcome news. Even so, I agree with what is quickly becoming the consensus that Biden should not run for another term in 2024. Accounts of any mental decline are cruelly exaggerated, but I am not comfortable with an octogenarian president, even as I’ve seen people in their 80s and 90s do amazing things in my own life. Having said that, Biden is absolutely correct not to announce that he is steeping down in 2024. You don’t want to be a lame duck any sooner than you have to, and one of the most potent weapons a president can wield is the threat that they will be around for another four years.

Who is in charge, then? Here’s my ideas for a Democratic administration starting in 2025. In general, these picks align with my Elizabeth Warren-y preferences in politics, although Warren is also perhaps too old to run that year. Instead, my presidential ticket is Jamie Raskin for POTUS and Tammy Duckworth for Veep. Raskin has shown leadership, mastery of policy and parliamentarian process, and discernment through his work on the Jan. 6 committee– and has done so through the tragedy of his son’s suicide. As I note on his card, I like Raskin in part because he’s somebody both the party mainstream and the Bernie folks might be able to agree upon; he blows up that false dichotomy. Duckworth as Veep explains itself. She has a heroic story, and is great at using it to leverage for progressive outcomes. She will destroy whatever poor sap has to debate her, and is the bludgeon to Raskin’s surgical scalpel.

You may notice that there is not an abundance of sitting senators, representatives, or governors. This is by design. Picking a ton of senators and governors is not only unoriginal; it risks what might be a precarious control over the House or Senate. Moreover, as they say in farm country, “don’t eat the seeding corn.” There is usually no quicker way to destroy one’s future political ambitions than serving in the cabinet. Instead, I’ve chosen a ~lot~ of civil servants, but ones with expert policy chops, strong progressive values, and a robust moral compass. Just click on the pictures of the cards to see larger, more readable versions. Before we begin, a friendly shoutout to the Progressive Cabinet Project, which inspired this idea.

In sum, we have:

  • President: Jamie Raskin, congressman from Maryland
  • Vice-President: Tammy Duckworth, senator from Illinois
  • Secretary of State: Russ Feingold, former senator from Wisconsin
  • Secretary of Treasury: Katie Porter, congresswoman from California
  • Secretary of Defense: Sarah Sewall, former Asst. Secretary of State
  • Attorney General: Sonia Sotomayor, associate justice of SCOTUS
  • Secretary of the Interior: Deb Haaland, current secretary
  • Secretary of Agriculture: David Beasley, Executive Director of U.N. World Food Programme
  • Secretary of Commerce: Ro Khanna, congressman from California
  • Secretary of Labor: Bonnie Castillo, Executive Director of National Nurses United
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services: Rebekah Gee, Former Louisiana Secretary of Health
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Peggy Flanagan, Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota
  • Secretary of Transportation: Phil Washington, CEO of Denver International Airport
  • Secretary of Energy: Daniel Kammen, U.C. Berkeley Professor
  • Secretary of Education: Zakiya Smith Ellis, Former New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education
  • Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs: Wayne Peacock, CEO of USAA
  • Secretary of Homeland Security: Krish O. Vignarajah, CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services

I like this cabinet a great deal. There’s a wide range of experiences: government, academia, the business world, nonprofits. In terms of demographic diversity, this is a pretty sound cabinet. Of the 17 spots, women hold 10 of them, men hold 7. I wasn’t even necessarily trying for that outcome, it just sort of came out that way. The cabinet is majority-minority. While White Americans constitute the biggest chunk by far, we have two Black Americans, two Asian Americans (both of South Asian heritage), two Native Americans, and two Hispanic Americans. And this is in addition to Tammy Duckworth, whose mother is Thai and whose father can trace his ancestry to the American Revolution.

In the 19th century, a balanced presidential cabinet meant factional and geographical diversity. Here, too, this cabinet thrives. We have Northeasterners (Raskin, Sewall, Ellis Smith, Vignarajah), Southerners (Peacock, Beasley, Gee), Midwesterners (Duckworth, Feingold, Flanagan), Mountain Westers (Haaland, Washington), and Pacific Coasters (Khanna, Porter, Kammen).

More than this, I have a solid progressive cabinet that can do the business of the country– they have common environmental and social justice priorities, but also know how to run things. We have one Republican (Beasley) who is nevertheless committed to feeding hungry people throughout the globe, and one fairly apolitical person (Peacock), but otherwise, this is a cabinet of conscientious reformers.

I tried to pick realistic choices that could get confirmed in a closely divided Senate. So, this is a “dream” cabinet, but it is very much a lucid dream, if that analogy makes sense. For now, the key is to work hard to make this dream a reality– do what we can to hold Congress in 2022, and build on those gains two years later. And put some traitors in prison along the way.

It’s taken us long enough, but we’re finally at the end of Round 1 of my Omni-Bracket, where 512 “things I like” battle it out. If this seems silly and self-indulgent, you’re correct. It is. And yet my hope for this project is an honest voyage of self-discovery. If we look at what we enjoy: the music, the places, the movies, and so on– what takes priority? Why? In a world of pop culture overload, what are the things that matter most? Join me, as we determine the final seeds entering round 2.

241. Cambridge, UK (VIS) vs. Wheaton, IL (VIS). This is a particularly bad draw for Wheaton. So we have one of the two most prestigious university towns in England vs the town with the most prestigious evangelical college, which is located in the worst part of the Midwest (the endless Chicagoland suburbs). Cambridge.

242. Kilimanjaro Safari (WDW) vs. Expedition Everest (WDW). This is a competitive matchup between two of the strongest attractions in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. An immersive recreation of a Safari battles a roller coaster in search of a yeti? In an apples-to-apples match like this, the question is: if I have time for one more ride, which do I pick? For all the work that went into creating and maintaining the Safari, my choice is Expedition: Everest.

243. George Harrison (MUS) vs. Jimmy Carter (PRE): This one is agonizing. Not because I can’t choose. I know who I have to choose. No, it’s agonizing for who gets left behind. Beatles are in this bracket for their solo careers, not for their work in the 60s. However, even if we included Harrison’s contributions to the Beatles, it couldn’t outpace my admiration for Jimmy Carter and the important role he plays in my life. It’s a shame, at any rate, for a Beatle to fall in the first round. Jimmy Carter.

244. Spectacular Realities (BOK) vs. Passionate Sage (BOK). Spectacular Realities is about public spectacle in fin de siecle France and Passionate Sage is Joseph Ellis’s slim volume on John Adams in retirement. Just because it feels weird for a book on John Adams to make it to round 2 when John Adams himself lost in round 1, I’m giving this to Spectacular Realities.

245. Tom Lehrer (MUS) vs. Bar Harbor, ME (VIS). Hmmmm…it’s not so much Bar Harbor, but Acadia National Park is staggering in its beauty. But Lehrer exists in an entire different realm for me. His sharp satirical takes on the Cold War cut against the “cocktail hour and plastic furniture” ethos of the early 60s. He was the military-industrial complex’s sharpest, most intelligent, and most mean-spirited critic. Tom Lehrer.

246. Hubert Humphrey (POL) vs. Curaçao (VIS). If you know anything about me, you know Hubert’s going far in this bracket. Especially against Curaçao. My most indelible memory of the island was watching the boat that was supposed to give us a tour crash into the harbor. Their liquor is subpar as well. Hubert Humphrey.

247. Straight Man (BOK) vs. The Spinners (MUS). My love for Richard Russo’s novels is well established by now. Straight Man is his funniest book, and the best one to have an academic setting. But man, I love me some Philly soul. The Spinners.

248. Star Trek: Insurrection (MOV) vs. The Circular (RES). Insurrection wasn’t a terrible Star Trek movie; believe me, there are definitely worse offenders. But it was nondescript and even clichéd sometime, right down to the evil Starfleet admiral. The movie was conceived as something much better, but studio interference watered it down. Alas. One thing that wasn’t watered down was the sumptuous breakfast I enjoyed at The Circular, the restaurant at the Hershey Hotel across the road from Hershey Park. You’d best believe I had the most delicious chocolate chip pancakes of my life. The Circular.

249. The Cabinet (BOK) vs. Millard Fillmore, Mon Amour (BOK). Two books that deal with the presidency in unique ways. Lindsey Chervinsky’s book was a long-overdue analysis on how George Washington formed the cabinet, an institution that isn’t really prescribed in the constitution and borrowed heavily from the English models that his country just rejected. Millard Fillmore, Mon Amour, by contrast, is a novel. Its eccentric protagonist has an obsession with the last words spoken by famous people, and a clear interest in Millard Fillmore. Unsurprisingly, his love life is a wreck. When he comes across a lost letter to Millard from an apparent lover, he begins to question everything he thought he knew for certain. Close call, but I love the questions posed by Millard Fillmore, Mon Amour.

250. The Simpsons (TV) vs. Toy Story Mania (WDW). Toy Story Mania is a very fun, utterly re-rideable attraction that resuscitated Hollywood Studios at its nadir. And now, with Star Wars Land on the ascendency, it hopefully won’t have the prohibitively long lines that were the norm during my last couple of visits. Alas though, it’s up against The Simpsons.

251. Mafia (GAM) vs. The Living Seas (DIS). The Living Seas is probably my least favorite of the Future World pavilions in Epcot. Although it’s still very, very good, you can definitely tell that it was a hasty addition to Epcot designed to stanch the defections to Sea World and keep guests on property. No, I think I’ll go with the classic summer camp game (which became a favorite among my college friends), and stick with Mafia.

251. Bernie Sanders (POL) vs. Mumford and Sons (MUS). We needed someone to push the Democratic Party left, and Bernie turned out to be the guy to do it. Like Jesus, I love the person, but his followers have driven me to therapy. Bernie Sanders.

253. Bill Russell (NBA) vs. Vienna, AUS (VIS). Look, I clearly passed the “places I’ve visited” category. I only spent six hours in Vienna, and most of it was trying to figure out how the hell to get from Sudbanhoff to Oestbanhoff. No match for Bill Russell and his eleven rings– and I wrote this before he passed away. Bill Russell.

254. Captain Planet and the Planeteers (TV) vs. Beto O’Rourke (POL). I’ll reconsider if Beto ousts Greg Abbott, but for now, this is Captain Planet’s to lose. Allegedly, the cartoon originated with Ted Turner’s demand for an environmental superhero. The result was maybe the most 90s thing ever imaginable, with very era-specific ways to save the earth that often put the onus on individual action, like cutting up six-pack rings and using testing-free makeup. Still, it was an iconic childrens’ show for its day, tackled important themes regularly, had a great voice cast, and…I kinda had a crush on Gi. Captain Planet.

255. Amy Winehouse (MUS) vs. Harris Wofford (POL). The work that Amy Winehouse left behind is captivating. Like so many others who left us at the age of 27, it’s hard not to think of her without dwelling on what more she could have accomplished if she had gotten better help with her demons. She’s up against perhaps my favorite Pennsylvania pol of all time, Harris Wofford. The dude helped introduce MLK to Gandhian nonviolence, served as a college president, was an original Kennedy guy, and is maybe the paradigmatic liberal of his day. The fact that he lost an election to Rick Santorum in 1994 is an indictment of our national character. Harris Wofford.

256. X-Men: The Last Stand (MOV) vs. John McCain). When John McCain died, we heard a lot about his courage and the maverick qualities of his political career. This is very true, but I also remember his petulant opposition to Obama’s administration, and the fact that there was never a war he didn’t support. He did save Obamacare with his dramatic thumbs-down signal on the Senate floor, though– and he legit had one of the best senses of humor in American politics. All of this- the good and the bad- outweighs the conclusion of the original X-Men trilogy. The Last Stand was a turgid mess, haphazardly putting together the disparate storylines of a “mutant cure” with the Dark Phoenix Saga. Major character deaths were meted out arbitrarily. Genius casting of Kelsey Grammar as Beast and Elliot Page as Kitty Pryde can’t undo that. John McCain.

And that’s (finally!) a rap on round 1 of my Omni-Bracket. I’ll do a rundown on where things stand in a week or so, and we can move on to round 2 soon after. Only (sigh) 256 combatants are left in the arena!

I’m starting to get not “cabin fever” but “cabinet fever.” When I’m busy or distracted or idle, my brain thinks of who I would like to run the diverse executive departments. I will submit my dream post-2024 cabinet to you soon, but for now, let me pursue this fun lark….a cabinet of unsuccessful presidential candidates.

President: Robert LaFollette Sr. (WI)

Vice-President: Walter Mondale (MN)

Secretary of State: Wendell Willkie (NY)

Secretary of the Treasury: Daniel Webster (MA)

Secretary of Defense: George McGovern (SD)

Attorney General: Thomas Dewey (NY)

Secretary of the Interior: William J. Bryan (NE)

Secretary of Agriculture: Hubert Humphrey (MN)

Secretary of Commerce: H. Ross Perot (TX)

Secretary of Labor: Eugene V. Debs (IN)

Secretary of Health and Human Services: Hillary R. Clinton (NY)

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Norman Thomas (OH)

Secretary of Transportation: DeWitt Clinton (NY)

Secretary of Energy: Al Gore (TN)

Secretary of Education: Charles Evans Hughes (NY)

Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs: Winfield Hancock (PA)

Secretary of Homeland Security: Winfield Scott (VA)

Chief of Staff: Henry Clay (KY)

Press Secretary: Horace Greeley (NY)

2 Supreme Court justices: John P. Hale (NH), Rufus King (NY)

221. Revenge of the Sith (MOV) vs. Bill Richardson (POL). In the 12 or so months since I devised this bracket, Richardson’s name surfaced in a list of Ghislaine Maxwell’s clients. “Innocent until proven guilty” is the lodestar in a court of law, but this is the court of public opinion. And when it comes to Jeff Epstein, smoke is almost always tantamount to fire. Now I have to move the worst prequel film to the second round. Thanks a lot, Bill. Revenge of the Sith.

222. Whose Line Is It Anyway? (TV) vs. Saint Maarten’s (VIS). Whose Line was the funniest thing on network tv in the late 90s- no canned laughs, no prizes, just four people plying their comedy chops. A lot of the impromptu jokes haven’t aged well- “he’s gay” or “he’s a cross dresser” or lowest common denominator ribaldry abounded. But it was so much better than the sort of network sitcom which customarily aired at that time. St. Maarten’s in the Caribbean is a multicultural feast- it’s own Caribbean society accented by Dutch and French control. And it was the first place off the U.S. mainland that I visited. Unfortunately, my parents’ unadventurous approach to our cruising deterred me from seeing more of this island. Whose Line.

223. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (MOV) vs. American Classic Arcade Museum (GAL). What can you say about the ultimate cult film? It’s inspired a musical, and nearly every line is like a secret handshake for nerds. It’s opponent is a museum of 200+ vintage video games from the 80s. And you can play nearly all of them—for the standard quarter per play. As much fun as that was, I’m picking the most quotable comedy of all time. Holy Grail.

224. Peoplemover (WDW) vs. Columba (ST). If you’ve been to the Magic Kingdom park, maybe you’ve had the same experience I have: it’s hot, you are exhausted, and you do not want to stand in line any longer. Enter the Peoplemover- a breezy, elevated tour through Tomorrowland that never has a wait. As for Columba, he’s not well known today, but he was the biggest figure in early Celtic monasticism. He oversaw an expansion of contemplative Christianity and an artistic renaissance of beautiful illuminated manuscripts. My son’s middle name is Colm in his honor. But that was my wife’s idea. It reflects badly on me, but I’m selecting a ride that’s a staple to every visit I’ve made to the Magic Kingdom. Peoplemover.

225. Larry Bird (NBA) vs. The Office (TV). Ah, Larry Legend. My brother’s favorite player. The Great White Hope. Larry’s game as an enforcer, distance shooter and passer was way ahead of its time. Put young Larry in the modern NBA and he’s be fine. But does he compare to The Office? It started as a derivation of the classic UK sitcom, but became something more expansive, and more human. In time, the play-it-for-laughs boss has deep insecurities; minor characters take on lives of their own: the salesman and receptionist not only end up together but are the model couple for a generation. Larry was a great player but also an arrogant jerk. The Office shows us our foibles. When we cringe at Michael Scott’s latest, we cringe at ourselves. The Office.

226. Advise and Dissent (BOK) vs. Logan (MOV). Advise and Dissent is the best political memoir I’ve ever read, and it’s by a senator you almost certainly have never heard of: Jim Abourezk. He got elected as a maverick liberal in South Dakota in 1972, pledged to serve one term, and spent the next six years being a thorn in everyone’s side. The opening vignette has Iowa senator John Culver setting the author’s pants on fire while making a call in a phone booth. It still pales compared to Logan, Hugh Jackman’s stark, gritty farewell to the role of Wolverine. It took big risks and they all paid off. After how bad the other two Wolvie films were, that’s quite an accomplishment. Logan.

227. James Taylor (MUS) vs. Din Tai Fung (RES). Look, soft rock speaks to me. Tender singer-songwriters are my people. “Sweet Baby James” is a perennial lullaby I sing to my kids. Din Tai Fung, the Taiwanese dumpling chain, is still going to win this round. There’s probably a dozen franchises in Singapore, each one creating an elegant atmosphere, with great big windows where you can see the chefs meticulously prepare the dumplings. I ate at one every full semester I spent in Singapore- all 16 of them. Din Tai Fung.

228. Ducktales reboot (TV) vs. Bob’s Burgers (TV). In this matchup, we have two animated series with crackerjack voice casts. The Ducktales reboot is miles ahead of the late 80s original- the triplets are given distinct personalities, there are lots of Easter eggs for fans, and it has some surprising deep meditations on loneliness, corporatism, and the nature of family. Speaking of family, Bob’s Burgers puts the relationships between the five Belchers front and center. The character Tina, especially, might be the most fully realized middle school-aged girl in the entire medium of animation. The problem is the guest stars; there’s far too many episodes dedicated to the family reacting to some eccentric guest character. And then they bring those guest characters back the next season despite a total absence of popular demand. This single flaw is bigger than anything I can think of to dock Ducktales, so the winner is the Ducktales reboot.

229. What Is God Like? (BOK) vs. Home and the World (BOK). Rachel Held Evans lost her last matchup, but she’s back here again with a beautiful (but sadly posthumous) children’s book. What Is God Like is a sweet introduction to a very big question, and I applaud some of her choices that make theobros lose their minds (like overtly feminine metaphors). It’s up against a stone cold classic of Indian literature, Rabindranath Tagore’s novel, Home and the World. As perhaps the capstone of the early 1900s Bengali Renaissance, it explores the symbolic connections between nation, home, and womanhood during a pivotal moment in the history of Mother India. It raises a valid point- if you are using swadeshi, or home-made products to avoid patronizing the British, you need time and resources to do the spinning. Which puts the poor at a distinct disadvantage in the campaign for nationalism. It’s a great work of literature- deep and conscientious- but there’s one problem I can’t overlook. My students hated it when I assigned it in my World Civilizations class. Everybody’s least favorite assignment of the term. So- sorry Tagore, this round goes to What Is God Like?

230. Spaceship Earth (WDW) vs. Ypres, Belgium (VIS). This match is fascinating because it puts the very best of humanity against the very worst of humanity. Spaceship Earth, as many of you know, is the giant multifaceted geodesic sphere you see on entering Epcot. It’s one of the most striking structures in the world. What’s even more remarkable is that they put a 15 minute ride on the history of communication in that thing (as it’s original sponsor was AT&T). It’s one of my top 3 Disney rides of all time, and the only one that still exists in recognizable form today. What stands out is its hopeful vision for humanity- we are all on the only spaceship we have. Compare that to Ypres (Ieper to the locals), the site of some of the worst trench warfare of the Great War. Even a century later, the landscape is dotted with massive holes from artillery and cemeteries as far as the eye can see. Every person should visit once, but today I’m choosing hope. Spaceship Earth.

231. Muppet-Vision 3-D (WDW) vs. Walter Mondale (POL). Muppet-Vision is probably the best 3-D film in Disney World, and has no small amount of historicity. It’s basically the last thing Jim Henson worked on before his untimely death. That makes everyone a bit reluctant to alter it, which is a problem due to it’s dated CGI. And the zany Muppets are facing off against charisma-free Mondale. I was reminded of his good qualities when doing my podcast episode on him- his smart, compassionate liberalism, his work to make the vice-presidency consequential and useful. He’s not very fun, but Fritz is on my list. Walter Mondale.

232. Q Squared (BOK) vs. The Orville (TV). Two sci-fi franchises enter, one leaves. Q Squared is the other Trek novel in this bracket. Although not canon, it leans into the fan theory that the mischievous Trelane from the Original Series is a child of the omnipotent Q race. It’s author, Peter David, captures the voice of each of the Next Gen characters with aplomb. The Orville, meanwhile, works more as a Trek homage. It’s very much Star Trek refracted through Seth MacFarlane’s mind. That means scatological humor and riffing on awkward situations— even among a theoretically professional space crew. Like many MacFarlane projects, it’s funny at the time and doesn’t hold up to anything like analysis. Q Squared.

233. Big Mouth (TV) vs. Saigon Bangkok (RES). When I heard about Big Mouth, I expected it to be a crass juvenile show. That it was, but this cartoon show about preteens hitting puberty is also uproarious, surreal, and some of the most honest and nonjudgmental takes on being young and horny in all pop culture. It’s strange to compare such a distasteful show to the tasty food served at Buffalo’s Saigon Bangkok restaurant. It’s SE Asian curries are to die for, and it’s no mistake that I took Heather there for our first real date. For that reason alone, I need to advance Saigon Bangkok.

234. Great British Baking Show (TV) vs. Peter, Paul & Mary (MUS). You’d be hard pressed to find two more wholesome programs than these two. GBBS rewrote how reality shows are done, sublimating them into a fun, joyful, and even therapeutic hour of television. Heather and I watched a ~lot~ of this when Baby Alex was in the NICU as our reprieve from all the medical drama. On the other hand, Peter, Paul & Mary have been in my life since I was old enough to watch PBS pledge drives. In the intervening years, I’ve come to appreciate their revival of folk music’s impetus to social change— and I even got to make a case for their historical import on Nick Bambach’s podcast. So, Peter, Paul, and Mary.

235. Pete Buttigieg (POL) vs. White Mountains, NH (VIS). I’m not a hiker, and unfortunately, that’s the best thing to do in the White Mountains. But the area was staggeringly beautiful. How does it compare to Buttigieg? He’s a very talented man, my kind of policy wonk, and clearly a social climber. His ability to explain things to the liberal-skeptical, though, stands out. I look forward to voting for Buttigieg-Michelle Wu in 2028. Mayor Pete.

236. Portland, OR (VIS) vs. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (MOV). Portland is the sort of city that might make me rethink my liberalism. For all its good qualities, it’s also dirty, badly run, and has shitty suburbs. (On the other hand, it doesn’t push the homeless to the margins. In Singapore, homelessness existed but the whole metro was designed to keep expats like me from encountering it.) This mixed record looks like downright excellence when compared to a film directed by Shatner and features the first itinerary on of “Spock’s sibling who was never mentioned until now.” Portland, OR.

237. China pavilion (WDW) vs. The Zombies (MUS). China was a semi-rushed addition to Epcot, as the People’s Republic asked to participate at the eleventh hour. The results were still very good: a fine circle-vision film, a beautiful recreation of the Temple of Heaven, amazing gymnasts, and an honest reckoning with its human rights record. Haha—just kidding about that last one. They face off against The Zombies, a band with a short bit impactful run in the 60s. Despite their limited output, they made one of my favorite albums ever, Odessey and Oracle, and boasted probably my favorite keyboard player of all time, Rod Argent. This round, the Zombies are alive. Zombies.

238. They Might Be Giants (MUS) vs. Old Bryan Inn (RES). As an intelligent eccentric (at least in my estimation), you might think They Might Be Giants is my jam. And you would be right. They’ve set 19th century campaign songs to music, reimagined Mesopotamian royalty as a struggling Indie band, and even done some social commentary. And yet they aren’t the kind of band I would listen to for 45 minutes straight. I’d rather be eating at an old revolutionary-era pub that serves everything in my favorite hangout of Saratoga. Old Bryan Inn.

239. Pisa, Italy (VIS) vs. Battle of the Five Armies (MOV). The Battle of Five Armies was a woeful ending to the troubled Hobbit trilogy. It had a few nice moments, but it accentuated the problems of the first two films. That meant: making major plot points out of offhand references in the book, a grandiose tone for what is essentially a children’s tale, and squeezing in unnecessary ties to the Rings films. So…Nazgûl, Legolas, Moria allusions…but no character work in the dwarves going on this quest. When Bilbo tearfully says goodbye to them at the end, it’s laughable. After three films, we somehow don’t really know much about these dwarves going on the journey with him. By default, the winner is Pisa.

240. Mike Mansfield (POL) vs. Shirley Chisholm (POL). Two epic legislators of the 1960s— one an institutionalist, One a firebrand. In the end, Mansfield had to deal with Dixiecrats and Goldwater Goons. Chisholm had to deal with centuries of systemic racism and misogyny. Shirley Chisholm.