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The Complete Tom & Russell Talk Politics Podcasts

Starting in Mid-September 2016, my long-time friend, Tom Paynter, and I recorded a series of podcasts discussing the Trump-Clinton election. We recorded every week from then through to the election. Below are all of them collected, in order:

Episode 1 – Sept. 11, 2016

Not too long ago it dawned on me that absolutely nowhere have I heard two reasonable people, one a Trump supporter and the other a Hillary supporter, having a reasoned discussion about the election. This certainly isn’t happening on television (not that I watch much of it), and of course it doesn’t happen in print.

Without going into too much background (it’s all in the podcast), this is just to say: my friend Tom Paynter and I are trying out an experiment. He’s a Trump supporter; I’m a Hillary supporter. From now until the election, every week Tom and I will record a discussion about how we’re responding to the news of the week and talk about where our thinking is generally on politics, the election, and the issues which are driving national discourse.

Without further prologue, I give you, Episode 1:

I still cannot understand what is going on… But I do know one thing.

It’s time like these I wish I had the eloquence to match the moment.

The moment being two days before an election in which America could choose to collectively shoot itself in the head. For months I’ve reached for that argument, that paragon of persuasion, which might crystalize and explain what the fuck is going on in America right now.

And there has been lots of eloquence out there. There is no shortage of writers better than me who have explained just how completely insane it would be to make Donald Trump president. I’m thinking about Andrew Sullivan’s New York Magazine piece from last April, or, more recently, the one from a few days ago:

The most frustrating aspect of the last 12 months has been the notion that we have been in a normal, if truly ugly, election cycle, with one extremely colorful and unpredictable figure leading the Republican Party in an otherwise conventional political struggle over policy. It has been clear for months now, it seems to me, that this is a delusion. A far more accurate account of the past year is that an openly proto-fascist cult leader has emerged to forge a popular movement that has taken over one of the major political parties, eroded central norms of democratic life, undermined American democratic institutions, and now stands on the brink of seizing power in Washington.

On Giving Up Facebook (Or, Living the Dream)

At this point I consider Facebook to be a necessary encumbrance to modern life.

First, the bad:

  • Facebook does not “connect” us. It separates us.
  • Facebook is not good for political discourse in any way, shape, or form.
  • Facebook facilitates the Internet Outrage Machine that is so poisonous for everyone who is exposed.
  • Facebook hasn’t saved media companies. It’s made them serfs in Facebook’s empire.
  • Facebook is an addictive time suck.

The good:

  • Facebook incontrovertibly gives businesses an amazing advertising product with a reach and targeting ability the likes of which have never before been seen.

In my version of “living the dream,” I am not on Facebook. In this life, I share pics of my son with the extended family in one of several other perfectly obvious ways, I get my news by visiting actual news sites, and I keep up with my friends by actually visiting with my friends.

So, why don’t I quit?

Reason 1: I’m in marketing. I can’t quit, for obvious marketing-related reasons.

Reason 2: I can’t think of a more effective way to let people know what I’m doing with my film projects. My audience wants to know about what I’m up to, what movies I’m working on and such, but not all of them want to sign up for an email list. They actually do prefer to receive their updates via Facebook. It is without a doubt the most effective way to spread the news.

One day though I will quit. Either Facebook will cease to be the effective marketing tool that it is right now, or I will leave marketing and leave film and leave everything behind that requires me to “spread the word” in order for it to succeed. I would become a farmer, but that requires me to work 14-hour days in one place for much of the year, so that’s out.

But… one day.

85 percent of my daily thinking is not publishable

I was thinking today about the criteria I use for when something is worthy of a blog post.

Writing a blog post is in many ways a highly egotistical exercise. The implicit assertion is that my thoughts on this subject are worthy of reading, and in longer form than a social media post can accommodate. Of course, we live in a time of sharing. We share publicly our thoughts, feelings, and opinions on everything from how cute our cat is when she naps to whether the super-delegate system is treating Bernie Sanders unfairly. We share that we cooked a great dinner, and we share that someone in line at the grocery store cut us off. Hashtag rude.

Democracy is not what our founders had in mind… Nor is it even preferable

The best headline of the week absolutely has to belong to this Atlantic story, by Uri Friedman:

Boaty McBoatface and the False Promise of Democracy

See, what happened is that the UK government held a naming contest for a new science vessel. And the British voting public, in their wisdom, declared in a clear and not-so-authoritative voice, that they wished said vessel to be named… wait for it… Boaty McBoatface.

Introducing: Cam Girl, my fourth short film

Think I wasn’t doing anything else whilst promoting Districtland? Well, think again. A few weeks before the premiere myself and an intrepid bare bones cast and crew shot a beautiful little character study about sex, desire, watching, and being watched. Last week I finished post-production.


More on this production as it goes through the film festival circuit, but for now I want to thank the brave crew who helped me make this: Director of Photography Chris Mariles and PA and Script Supervisor Erin Davis (and of course Stana Kimball for lending her art to the production value and keeping us well fed). And especially my gratitude goes to Agatha Jazmin for her performance as the titular Cam Girl. Thank you Agatha!


Cam Girl Poster (web)

Lessons from The West Wing’s Brokered Convention Episode

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 12.04.59 PM


So, here we are.

Donald Trump is clearly ahead, but may not get enough delegates to actually clinch the nomination on the first ballot. The race is down to three people. Ted Cruz could wind up with momentum going into the convention. And John Kasich is furiously trying to normalize the idea of a brokered convention in the first place to give himself a shot.

A few weeks ago I re-watched The West Wing’s brokered convention episode, where our hero Matthew Santos goes into the Democratic convention against the current sitting Vice President, Bob Russell, who has more delegates than him but also sucks royally and would probably get crushed in the general. There’s also John Hoynes, the disgraced ex-Vice President who is trailing a distant third but is trying to pitch himself as the voice of reason and savior of the party.

Sound at least a little familiar?

Who Should Win at the Academy Awards

imgresThe Washington Post has a handy retrospective on who should have won Best Picture over the past 40 years, as opposed to who actually did win. As they rightly point out, the Academy gets it wrong more often than they get it right – a lot more.

But the Post’s story admittedly has the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, and as such many of their picks seem obvious in retrospect, relying as they do on a movie’s enduring cultural relevance than a look back at what seemed right at the time (of course Pulp Fiction should have beat Forest Gump).

Expat New Mexicans everywhere can rejoice: Trader Joe’s is carrying New Mexico green chile sauce

It’s difficult to really explain the depths with which this country has made the tragic, sad mistake of elevating “Tex Mex” above New Mexican Cuisine, which is superior in every single way to that sub-par, terrible-tasting culinary tradition. For native New Mexicans like myself, this tragedy is compounded by the fact that when we leave New Mexico we really can’t find authentic New Mexican food anywhere in the world. It is possibly the single greatest reason for us to return home – above seeing relatives, marveling at the sunsets, breathing the fresh air, and hiking through the Sangre de Cristos, we return home to eat New Mexican food.

I want to smack each and every person who uses “#adulting”

I have recently seen grown men and women – accomplished men and women, smart men and women, men and women who are going places in life – use the hashtag “#adulting” in various Facebook posts. I want to smack them.

With all due respect to my dear Facebook friends, please excuse me for what I am about to say:

GROW UP and stop publicly congratulating yourself for:

  • doing the dishes
  • cooking food
  • cooking healthy food
  • working
  • working late
  • having a full day
  • getting your internet hooked up
  • sending out a resume

These are all things my Facebook friends have recently hashtagged #adulting. You are not “adulting,” you are acting your age. I think Jezebel put it well:

Adulting is a term most often used when a person fulfills a basic prerequisite of adulthood and wants to feel special—or, worse than that, be charmingly self-deprecating—about it.

There are even ribbons for adulting:

…which is funny, because, even when given ironically, an award for fulfilling your basic responsibilities as a human is pretty much the most childish thing imaginable.