Expanded from a couple of posts at Brontoforumus, 2017-10-08.


I like listening to NPR on the drive to work.

I do not like listening to NPR on the drive home. I have had just about enough of Kai Ryssdahl acting surprised about the Internet.

So I decided to look into some podcasts. I'm not really looking for scripted stuff at the moment (I've got a buttload of Big Finish Doctor Who I haven't listened to yet as it is); I want something where if I lose the thread for a minute to concentrate on the road, I'm not going to miss out on important story details.

So here's what I've been looking at so far:

Brontoforumus regular Niku recommended Talkin Toons with Rob Paulsen; I listened to the Rick and Morty episode and thoroughly enjoyed it. The website hasn't been updated in a couple of years; it has episodes up through Christmas 2015. It went on hiatus after that (Paulsen had throat cancer; he's better now) and came back in January. Tech Jives has episodes up through May. More recently, the show has moved to Nerdist, which has a bunch of short videos but no episodes; there are some articles referring me to a subscription service called Alpha but it's not mentioned on the website and I really have no idea if the show's even available in audio format anymore? It's really not clear and I hope they fix that.

Retronauts is a podcast started by Jeremy Parish and currently hosted by Bob Mackey, about retro games.

Axe of the Blood God is USgamer's RPG podcast. I've only listened to it a couple of times, when my old friend Steve Tramer was a guest; he hasn't been on it recently, but it's still a good group.

Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast is pretty great. So far I've listened to some great interviews there, with Frank Conniff, Rob Paulsen, and Carl Reiner.

And speaking of Frank Conniff, he and Trace Beaulieu have a podcast called Movie Sign with The Mads where, as the name implies, they talk about movies.

I don't listen to a lot of political podcasts at the moment, but I like Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air. Larry's a good interviewer; I'll never understand why he went with a panel format on The Nightly Show, which was easily its weakest component. (It's not an original sentiment, but I do wish he'd gotten to take over The Daily Show and Noah had gotten a chance to do his own thing in Colbert's timeslot.)

I hear good things about Flop House (failed movies), Kevin Smith's Fatman on Batman (comics, movies, the sort of stuff characters in Kevin Smith movies talk about), and WTF. I've mentioned Kumail Nanjiani's X-Files Files before, back in 2015. I've listened to one episode of Talking Simpsons with Bob Mackey (another Niku recommendation) and it was pretty good; I expect I'll check out more.

As for actually-scripted podcasts (not what I'm currently looking for, but there are some good ones!), I enjoyed the one episode of Dead Pilots Society I listened to. It's a podcast where they do read-throughs of TV pilot scripts that never made it into production; the one I listened to and enjoyed was Only Child, a John Hodgman vehicle (the hook was he was playing himself as a teenager; all the other kids would have been played by age-appropriate actors).

And, lastly (for now!), I see that yesterday saw the launch of Nathan Rabin's Happy Cast. I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but I bet it's pretty good!

I haven't talked a lot about politics here lately, though I've talked about them plenty over in places like Brontoforumus, the politcs threads at the Avocado, and occasionally Nathan Rabin's comments section.

The results of Tuesday's election are cause for cautious optimism. The Democrats aren't perfect, but they're moving in the right direction and voters are responding.

I'd like to think this is a sign of things to come in 2018, but that's premature. We've got a lot of work to do.

I mentioned the other day that I just read Bill Schelly's Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America. Since then I've been on a bit of a Kurtzman kick. The nice thing is, most of Kurtzman's work is in print.

I'm going to include some Amazon links here. As always, support your local comic shop or independent bookseller if at all possible, but if for some reason you can't (you don't have a local comic shop, your local bookstore can't order these books, etc.), please feel free to use these Amazon links; as always, they're Amazon Associates links and if you buy through them I'll get a small kickback.

While most of Kurtzman's work is in print, some of his earliest work, sadly, isn't; Hey Look! goes for big bucks used. But his EC work is available in a couple of different forms. Dark Horse has its hardback EC Archives series including Two-Fisted Tales, Frontline Combat, and other titles that feature earlier Kurtzman work such as The Haunt of Fear, Crime SuspenStories, and Weird Science. Fantagraphics has black-and-white collections sorted by artist. Corpse on the Imjin contains some stories that Kurtzman wrote and drew himself, and others that he wrote and laid out but other artists finished. (I think I'll have more to say about Kurtzman's layouts in a later post.) Other books with with Kurtzman's layouts and other artists' finishes include Bomb Run (finishes by John Severin), Aces High (George Evans), and Death Stand (Jack Davis). Some of these books are also available in digital versions. Dark Horse books have DRM, but Fantagraphics books don't.

Unfortunately, neither format is ideal. The Dark Horse books are massive hardcovers, fit for a coffee table but not to be thrown in a backpack and taken with you. And I don't care much for the new coloring job. The Fantagraphics books, on the other hand, shrink the art down, and while the black-and-white presentation brings out more detail in the art, I think the stories lose something without their color. Plus, I prefer seeing the stories presented in their original anthology format to seeing them split up by artist. Still, while neither choice is perfect, both choices are good.

Which brings us to Mad. It's available in DC Archives collections, which is the best format you're going to get it in. The original comic book run (and issue #24, the first magazine issue) is collected in a 4-volume DC Archives hardcover set. DC Archives books use original coloring on newsprint. I'm kind of a snob about reprint coloring, and this is my favorite way of doing it: keep the original colors and print on newsprint; that's the way those old comics are meant to be seen.

But a $240 hardcover set is expensive -- even if you could get it for that price, which you can't, because the last two volumes are out of print. They are available digitally, but the digital versions have DRM, and unless you're rocking a 12.9" iPad Pro, you won't be seeing the pages at full size on a tablet. I'm also not sure how the colors look if you put them on a screen instead of newsprint -- and anyway, even the digital versions will set you back a total of $160.

I think Mad's Original Idiots is an acceptable compromise. It's three paperbacks, one each for Jack Davis, Will Elder, and Wally Wood; each book collects its respective artist's work from those first 23 issues of Mad; they go for $15 a pop. It uses the original colors and, while the paper isn't newsprint, it's not glossy, either; the colors look okay.

Again, the format's not ideal. You lose the letters and other editorial content. You also don't get any of the work by anybody but Davis, Wood, and Elder -- and that's a cryin' shame; John Severin is a particularly notable omission, but there were a few features by Basil Wolverton, Bernie Krigstein, Russ Heath, and Kurtzman himself in Mad's comic book period too.

But, nonetheless, I think the Mad's Original Idiots paperbacks are a decent way to go. I've bought all three and have been quite enjoying the Davis one so far. Even with the dated references, even not recognizing what half the parodies are making fun of, they're still great damn comics -- but hell, even when I was reading Mad as a kid in the '90s, I hadn't seen half the movies they were parodying, and I loved them anyway.

After Kurtzman quit Mad, he wrote and drew The Jungle Book, which, contrary to its title, is not based on the Kipling book. It's one of the earliest examples of what came to be known as a graphic novel, and it's all Kurtzman's work. It was reprinted in hardcover in 2014 and was nominated for Eisners for Best Domestic Reprint and Excellence in Presentation.

After The Jungle Book came Trump, Kurtzman's followup to Mad, which featured work by his Mad collaborators (including Elder, Davis, Wood, Severin, and Al Jaffee) as well as humorists including Mel Brooks. It was recently collected and is easy to come by.

After Trump came Humbug, another magazine by the original Mad artists.

Kurtzman's last magazine was Help! There's no complete Help! collection, but there is a collection of the Kurtzman/Elder Goodman Beaver cartoons that were published in it. It's out of print, but doesn't cost too much used.

Kurtzman and Elder's longest-term collaboration was Little Annie Fanny, which was published in Playboy, so that link may be NSFW.

This is not an exhaustive list. There are other Kurtzman books, too, like his adaptation of The Grasshopper and the Ant, From Aargh! to Zap!: Harvey Kurtzman's Visual History of the Comics, and The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics by Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle.

This list is thorough but not exhaustive; it should be a good starting point, but there are other Kurtzman books out there I haven't mentioned.

I'm not done with Kurtzman. Hell, if the size of this list is any indication, I'm just barely getting started.

I was looking for something to post about, and then Jeremy Parish posted a mail call for HyperCard comments over on Retronauts.

And I've got a few things to say about HyperCard, because there's a straight line between HyperCard and what I do for a living (and for a hobby) today.

HyperCard was my first development environment. I was 7 or 8 years old and I wanted to make games. Today we've got Kodu and Super Mario Maker. In 1990, we had HyperCard.

HyperCard's interface bore a certain resemblance to PowerPoint, with drawing tools that looked a lot like MacPaint. You could show slides -- or "cards" -- in order, as in PowerPoint, but you could also use buttons to link to cards out of order. So it was a useful language for making Choose Your Own Adventure-style games. "If you want to examine the sound coming from the next room, turn to page 38. If you want to see what's going on outside, turn to page 44." That kind of thing, but with buttons to click.

My game, SEKR's Awesome Adventures, was mostly that sort of thing. (It's pronounced "Seeker", and it was my grandpa's dog's name.) There were a few roundabout ways to get to where you were going, some of which would result in your untimely death. The most complex sequence involved selecting two tools from a list that you'd be allowed to use later on -- and keeping track of your selection required just a bit of actual programming.

I mostly built SEKR through the simple point-and-click frontend, but HyperCard also came with its own programming language, HyperTalk. I used HyperTalk to track what weapons/tools the user selected, and the endgame would adjust accordingly: you're in a pit; did you bring the grappling hook? It's pitch-black; did you bring the night-vision goggles? Store a variable and test a conditional; this is absolutely as simple as programming gets. It was a pretty good place to start.

And that's more or less how the Web works: fundamentally, it's a set of pages, and users navigate between them using hyperlinks. For more complicated stuff than just moving between pages, your browser has built-in support for a scripting language.

The similarities aren't coincidental. The HyperCard Wikipedia entry says:

Through its influence on Robert Cailliau (who assisted in developing Tim Berners-Lee's first Web browser), HyperCard influenced the development of the Web in late 1990. Javascript was inspired by Hypertalk.

HyperCard is where I started programming. And while I never did make a career of game development, I'm still programming, and there's a more-than-passing resemblance between developing for HyperCard and developing for the Web.

My grandmother's been cleaning old stuff out of her house, and a few weeks ago she gave me a bunch of old 3.5" floppies. SEKR's Awesome Adventures is probably in there somewhere -- the original graphical HyperCard version, the text-only remake I put together in QBasic a few years later, and maybe even the unfinished Turbo Pascal port with PC speaker music (which played fine on the 286 I wrote it on but way too fast on a 486; you had to turn off Turbo to slow it down. Remember Turbo buttons?).

I really should buy a USB floppy drive and see if I can get any data off those disks.

I recently finished Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America by Bill Schelly. It's an interesting read; the first couple of chapters are a little choppy, but as you'd expect, it picks up once Kurtzman makes it to EC and Schelly has more sources to work with.

Kurtzman's story, alas, is familiar to anyone who's studied comics history: he created an American institution but never achieved financial success from it.

And what tremendous influence he had, and continues to have. Not only did his work inspire the later Underground Comix artists (he counted Crumb, Spiegelman, and Kitchen in particular as friends), but Schelly's not overstating things with that "revolutionized humor in America" line. Mad's influence can be seen everywhere in American comedy, from Airplane! to The Onion to The Simpsons to The Daily Show to "Weird Al" Yankovic, to name a few examples off the top of my head. Hell, did I say "American"? Because that's too limiting. There's Kurtzman influence in Monty Python, too; John Cleese once did a photo shoot for Help! magazine, and that's where he met Terry Gilliam, who was Kurtzman's assistant at the time.

And yet, after Mad, Kurtzman never really had financial stability; he hustled for work for the rest of his life, and died with $35,000 in savings. That's not bad -- it's more money than I've ever had in my bank account, even before adjusting for inflation -- but I'm 35 years old and didn't create Mad.

Of course, part of Harvey's misfortune was self-inflicted. There's little doubt that if he hadn't quit Mad, he would have died a much richer man. His successor, Al Feldstein, went on to retire in comfort, and spent his final years on a 270-acre ranch. If Kurtzman hadn't quit Mad, it certainly would have become a different magazine that it did under Feldstein, but it's reasonable to assume it would have been just as successful.

Schelly notes that, of course, hindsight is 20/20. Kurtzman quit Mad because Hugh Hefner had offered him an unlimited budget and total creative control on a new magazine, glossy and in full color. Let's put it this way: if this were 1956 and you didn't know what you know now, and you heard that the entire creative team of Mad had left to start a new magazine, backed by Hugh Hefner, and Mad was being handed over to the editor of Panic and a bunch of new artists, which of the two magazines would you bet on?

In 2009, Warren Ellis remarked that the late Alex Toth "never drew a story worthy of his talent". Similarly, Kurtzman, in a career that spanned half a century, only ever produced one magazine that was up to his own high standards. It was called Trump, and it got cancelled after two issues.

Schelly posits two major reasons for Trump's cancellation, and neither one was related to sales.

One of the reasons Trump was cancelled was due to external circumstances entirely beyond Kurtzman's control: Collier's unexpectedly ceased publication, and it sent shockwaves through the entire magazine industry. Hefner suddenly had trouble getting investors; something had to give, and it wasn't going to be Playboy.

The other reason was Kurtzman's fault: his perfectionism kept him from meeting deadlines. Gaines had been effective at riding herd on him at EC and making sure Mad (and Kurtzman's previous comics, Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat) shipped on time, but Hefner didn't have similar success keeping Trump on schedule (Hefner was in Chicago and Kurtzman was in New York; this no doubt played a role). Schelly quotes Hef as saying, "I gave Harvey Kurtzman an unlimited budget, and he exceeded it."

And that's what frustrates me the most about Kurtzman's work: I think he got in his own way. I think he was a micromanager who needlessly restricted his incredibly talented collaborators, and his own output suffered from it. Spectacular as Kurtzman's work is, I can't help but wonder how much more he could have done if he'd been able to take a step back and give greater autonomy to guys like Jack Davis and Wally Wood.

And I suspect I'll have more to say about that in a later post.

Expanded from a post at Brontoforumus, 2017-10-22.


Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff, formerly of MST3K, have been touring the country, riffing movies, under the name The Mads. I caught them at the Chandler Alamo Drafthouse two weeks ago, riffing the Vincent Price "classic" The Tingler. It was fun! If you get a chance to see them, I recommend checking them out.

The event was smaller and felt more intimate than when I saw Cinematic Titanic some years back. They've got a merch table (books and posters) where they hock stuff before and after the show, and I had a chance to chat with them for a bit (and picked up copies of Trace's Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children and Frank's How to Write Cheesy Movies). They did an audience Q&A after the movie, too.

The riffing...well, you know how MST3K keeps things PG and doesn't make timely political jokes? Well, it's not like that. They say "fuck" a lot and one of the more memorable riffs involved a corpse covered by a sheet and Frank saying, "That sheet makes you look like a Trump supporter." So keep that in mind if you're planning on taking any kids or Republicans.

At any rate, the Mads put on a good show. Keep an eye on that tour schedule on Facebook (because for some reason their website is down) and go see 'em if you get a chance.

They've also got a podcast, Movie Sign with the Mads, where they discuss movies -- including some that are actually good! So far I've listened to their episodes on The Shining and Young Frankenstein -- it was Halloween season, after all. I enjoyed the shows and look forward to hearing more. And I expect I'll have more to say about podcasts in a future post.

In 2006, I bought a used 2002 Chevy, for $4000.

It was a reliable damn car, and lasted longer than any of us expected. But about a year ago, the AC compressor went out. I decided it would make more sense to get a new car than fix the old one, so a few months ago, that's what I did.

I planned on giving the Chevy to my dad, who needs a car. But when we went in to transfer the title, we found out I couldn't. Turns out that, some years back, he sold his van to a coworker without getting the title transferred over. The coworker abandoned the van (whatever "abandoned" means; as we'll see below, in the eyes of the law "abandoned" can just mean "parked on the curb too long"), and now Dad's stuck with a $500 fine before he's allowed to register another car.

So the Chevy's been sitting out on the curb for the past few months, while I've been waiting for Dad to get his paperwork sorted. During these months, I didn't take the car out regularly to keep its battery charged -- I knew I should have, but it was a-hundred-and-fuck-you degrees out, and if I wanted to drive a car with no AC in that weather, I wouldn't have bought a new car.

So, my own damn fault; by the time I tried to take the car out again, the battery was dead.

The design of the street I live on makes it difficult to line two cars up for a jump. I've got a little device called a Power Station PSX that's got jumper cables and an air compressor built into it, but its battery was no longer holding a charge. I had already E-Mailed the Power Station company to ask if the battery was replaceable, but I'd received no response.

At any rate, on Thursday the 19th, I got home to find a bright orange sticker on my Chevy declaring that it had been confirmed as abandoned and I had 120 hours to move it or it would be towed.

I don't know if the police officer who left the tag was just a busybody -- it's pretty obvious to a casual observer that nobody's driven this car in awhile; it's got cobwebs and leaves and shit under it --, or if one of my neighbors complained about my car to the police. In the latter case, jeez, neighbor, I wish you'd just come and rung my bell and talked to me about it. I know the thing's an eyesore, and I didn't mean for it to be there this long, but is it really going to be any less of an eyesore in my driveway? If you'd asked me to just clean up the leaves and the cobwebs, I'd have done it.

And yeah, I've been meaning to get that battery charged anyway, but a hard 5-day deadline is a little tight. I mean, it's nice to have a weekend in there, but even if I can find a battery with Amazon two-day shipping at this point, it's Thursday night and that means I won't be getting it until Sunday.

I wondered if I could just reverse the thing back a car-length. What's the legal standard for moving your car? So I called the Tempe Police Department, and talked to an officer who politely and repeatedly failed to answer that question. "How far do I need to move it?" -- "You need to move it." -- "Yes, but what is the legal standard for moving it? If I move it one car length, will it still be considered abandoned? If I move it a couple of houses over, will it still be considered abandoned?" -- "Sir, you just need to move your car within 120 hours." And so on.

Ultimately, I decided the only safe course of action would be to move the Chevy to the driveway and keep my new car on the curb. This doesn't really seem like it solves any kind of a problem. I pointed this out, in exasperation: "If I just switch them so that the old car is in the driveway and the car I drive to work is on the curb, I don't see how that's helping anybody."

"Because," she said, "then the car isn't there during the time you're at work." And I remembered, ah yes, never ask a police officer how a law makes sense, and disengaged from the conversation. It reminded me of the Douglas Adams story about the time he was pulled over to the center lane in the middle of a curve, and when he protested to the policeman that this was unsafe, the policeman responded that it was safe because he was there at the request of a policeman.

Yes. Yes of course everybody is better off because, during work hours, there's not a car in that spot. In case there's, like, a block party in the middle of a weekday and there's no other place to park. How silly of me.

So I went back to trying to figure out whether I could change the battery in my Power Station, or, if I couldn't, whether I could replace the whole thing -- and, either way, whether I could do it by Tuesday afternoon.

A replacement Power Station would run $150 -- and wouldn't be there in time.

So I searched some more for answers on whether I could replace that battery. And I found a YouTube video demonstrating how to do exactly that.

The official battery, the brand and model that came with the Power Station, was expensive and I couldn't find it with Prime shipping. But, for the first and only time in human history, a YouTube comment proved helpful: commenter Maverick Alchemist noted that, based on the voltage, wattage, and physical dimensions of the battery, an item listed as ExpertPower EXP12180 12 Volt 18 Ah Rechargeable Battery with Nuts and Bolts should do the job. And whaddaya know: two-day shipping.

I kept busy Friday night and Saturday; I made sure to get my chores out of the way -- yard cleaned, dishes washed, laundry done, bills paid, groceries purchased -- before Sunday, to make sure I'd have plenty of time to take care of the car -- change the Power Station battery and jump it, at minimum, and then, if something broke down along the way (battery didn't arrive on time, battery didn't work, jump didn't work...), time to get somebody to help me push the damn thing into the driveway in case my wife and I couldn't manage it by ourselves.

I managed to finish all my other chores up in time to take Saturday night off and go to the Alamo Drafthouse to see the Mads. I'll have a post about that along soon.

So Sunday rolled around. I took the Power Station out front, grabbed my tools, and set to taking it apart to change the battery. The process was tedious -- a hell of a lot of screws, and a couple of inconveniently-placed nuts -- but straightforward. The new battery arrived, the new battery worked, I buttoned it back up. The new battery didn't have a full charge, so I went ahead and plugged it in for a few hours, just to be sure.

And so finally, Sunday evening, around sundown, I went out, popped the hood, wired it up, and turned the Power Station on.

I turned the key.

It started.

First try. It really couldn't have possibly gone any better. Like I said: this old girl is reliable.

So I drove around the neighborhood for about half an hour, to make sure I got a good charge. It was a nice drive, too, with the windows down; we're still seeing some pretty warm days here (I think that day got up to the high 90's), but the evenings are pretty much perfect.

I'll try and take it out once a week or so from here on in, so I won't have to do that again.

As I mentioned last week, I've been avidly following Nathan Rabin's The Weird Accordion to Al (today's entry: Harvey the Wonder Hamster from Alapalooza). As it happens, I've also been reading Nathan Rabin's Weird Al: The Book. All this Nathan Rabin stuff has really got me thinking about Weird Al.

I'm pretty sure the first time I ever saw Weird Al was in UHF, running on HBO a year or two after its release. My grandpa was channel-surfing; we came in right around the time George and Bob get to the TV station. Grandpa mistook Philo for Doc Brown and thought it was Back to the Future, so we kept it there; it wasn't long before we realized it was not in fact Back to the Future, but we liked what we saw enough to stick with it through the end.

I'd have probably been 8 or 9 years old. I didn't even catch the name of the movie; it'd be awhile before I saw it again. It was on its way to becoming a hard-to-find cult hit; I remember by the early '00s, there was like one video place that had a copy on VHS (the DVD wasn't out yet), and we'd rent it sometimes.

After UHF, I next saw Al on the PBS math show Square One TV. He did a song called Patterns, which is sadly not included on the Medium Rarities disc in his new "complete" collection.

He also appeared in the Mathnet segment, playing a sleazy DJ who Frankly and Tuesday suspected of accepting payola. Or possibly flyola.

A few years after that, we got cable, and we'd see Amish Paradise and Gump in regular rotation on MTV. I remember I was in eighth grade when Spy Hard came out; a classmate of mine was telling me about the opening Bond-parody number and said something like "What's that guy's name? Crazy Al?"

The first Weird Al CD I ever bought was the Gump single, which also featured the Spy Hard theme. It wasn't long after that I got the Permanent Record: Al in the Box set. The first Weird Al album I ever bought was Bad Hair Day -- and I think I'll come back to that later. Rabin's just a few songs away from getting to Bad Hair Day, and I expect I'll have some Bad Hair Day-related thoughts as he wends his way through the track list.

An overdue update:

A couple of years back, when MST3K: The Return was still a Kickstarter campaign, I talked about the lack of royalties most of the show's writers and cast members received from episode sales when the show was still owned by Best Brains, Inc. I noted that Rifftrax shared profits from its MST3K episode sales with all the principals, and expressed my hope that the show's new owner, Shout! Factory, would do the same.

I've been meaning to update that post, and have finally gotten around to it, because I found out some time ago that Shout! Factory does indeed pay royalties to the former MST3K cast members. Here's from the FAQ from The Mads are Back (currently an archive.org link, as the site is down as of this writing):

It was previously stated on this site that Shout Factory was not paying us any royalties for the classic episodes of MST3K. That was completely and totally untrue. Don't know how that slipped by, but Shout has been nothing but kind and generous with us. If you have attended our live shows, you know that they give us lots of boxed sets and DVD’s of the show to hand out to fans.

It's also notable that Mary Jo Pehl and Bill Corbett, who had complained about the lack of royalties in previous interviews, both returned to write for and appear on the new MST3K, so it would appear that they're satisfied with the new arrangement.

So please, rest assured that if you're buying your MST3K episodes from any legal source, whether that's Rifftrax, VHX, or a DVD set on Amazon, the cast members are getting a cut. (I'm not sure about streaming subscription sites like Netflix, but I'm guessing, and hoping, that Shout! shares the profits from those sites too.)

And I'll have more on the Mads later. (Or earlier, since I'm planning on repurposing a Brontoforumus post.)

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake announced last week that he wouldn't seek another Senate term. It's not at all clear what that means yet.

I didn't like Flake, but I thought he was a better choice than "Chemtrail" Kelli Ward, the Bannon-endorsed candidate who was running against him in the primary (and, according to current polls, was likely to beat him handily). I was strongly considering voting for Flake in the primary and against him in the general.

I don't agree with Flake on the vast majority of issues, but I think he really is sincere, honest, and principled. He helped save Scalise's life after the shooting in June, and never tried to make political hay of it. He defended a possible Democratic opponent against his own supporters when they smeared her for being Muslim. When other Republicans were canceling town halls, he faced an audience of protesters and even stayed late to talk to people one-on-one. Hell, here's a video where he holds the door open for someone following him around in a chicken costume.

All in all, I think Flake is probably a decent human being. I think his criticisms of Trump come from a place of genuine moral concern, not political calculation. (And if it was political calculation, oof, he sure miscalculated.) That said, his objections to Trump seem to be almost entirely on tone, not on substance; he agrees with Trump on economics, healthcare, choice, and government surveillance, to pick a few nasty examples off the top of my head.

But, non-trivially, he's strongly criticized Trump's racism. He vocally opposed Trump's travel ban, and for years he's one of a handful of congressional Republicans who's favored immigration reform. That doesn't excuse all the issues I disagree with him on, strongly, but I do think it's worth recognizing and praising a bad politician who does a good thing.

But I'm not gonna miss the guy. At least, not unless somebody even worse takes his seat.

Right now the frontrunners for the nomination are Kelli Ward (R) and Kyrsten Sinema (my rep, the most conservative Democrat in the House). But that could change.

FiveThirtyEight has a pretty good article called How Does Jeff Flake’s Retirement Change The Arizona Senate Race? and KJZZ's The Show had a discussion about Flake as well. Both pieces note that, while Ward's currently the Republican frontrunner by default, there's plenty of time for another candidate to enter the primary. In fact, that's almost certainly what Flake is counting on: he wants his seat to be filled by someone who's like him, but more electable. I see a lot of people saying Flake's a coward because he's quitting instead of staying and fighting, but quitting is honestly his best shot at keeping a Trump-friendly candidate out of his seat.

I think Sinema's got the best chance to win a Senate seat of any Arizona Democrat in thirty years. Just how good a chance isn't clear yet. Her conservative record, while deeply frustrating to liberal constituents like myself, will be an asset in a statewide election, she'll be running for an open seat instead of against an incumbent, and midterm elections usually favor the opposition party, especially if the President is incredibly unpopular. Flake's was the most vulnerable Republican seat in the Senate before he announced his retirement, and it still is.

But even assuming Sinema is the nominee -- and the primary's not until August -- we don't know who she'll be running against. I think she'd stand a good chance against Ward, but not decisively so; I'm legitimately worried that Ward could win.

And if it's not Ward, then who? We don't even know who else will enter the race at this point, if anyone. There's plenty of speculation -- Graham, DeWit, McSally, Schweikert -- but nobody's announced yet.

But shit, I'm getting ahead of myself. Never mind next year -- don't forget to vote next week.