The Slate Plus Digest on Trump, Dungeons and Dragons, robot overlord jokes, and Robin Hood.

Donald Trump, Dungeons and Dragons, and Our Robot Overlords: The Slate Plus Digest

Donald Trump, Dungeons and Dragons, and Our Robot Overlords: The Slate Plus Digest

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Feb. 12 2016 5:06 PM
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Dungeons, Dragons, and Donald

The Slate Plus Digest for the weekend of Feb. 12.

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Photo illustration by Slate. Images by Spencer Platt/Getty Images, Vladislav Ociacia/Thinkstock, Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images, and StephM2506/Thinkstock

Hey guys (don’t worry, it’s gender-neutral as a vocative),

The election campaign is heading into its final weeks, and various dramatic political plotlines are on the verge of climax. Psych, we have nine more months of this.

Gabriel Roth Gabriel Roth

Gabriel Roth is a Slate senior editor and the editorial director of Slate Plus. Follow him on Twitter

On the right: Do you hate Donald Trump? (Reihan Salam doesn’t.) Would you want to have a beer with him? (Seth Stevenson would.) Is he a fascist? (Well, yes and no.) Also, former New Republic editor Franklin Foer joined Slate to cover the election and has already written definitive assessments of non-Trump candidates Rubio, Cruz, and Jeb!, or as we will soon be required by law to call them, “the haters and losers.”

On the left: “Sometimes it feels like to defend Hillary Clinton is to defend middle age itself, with all its attenuated expectations and reminders of the uselessness of hindsight.” Maybe that’s why she’s losing the meme primary. She’s “inching toward a theme,” though. And not a moment too soon!

And in the aethereal world of culture: The second season of Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul should be called Better Than Season One. The Tudors smelled better than you thought—perhaps better than you! The Coen brothers have a new movie out, and everyone responded by ranking their previous movies—except for Slate, which responded by investigating why everyone feels the need to rank Coen brothers movies. (SELF-PROMOTION WARNING: I wrote that.)

Finally: This was the best headline on any Slate story this week.

Outside Slate

Robin Hood in a Time of Austerity” by James Meeks, London Review of Books
Meeks’ piece on the Robin Hood myth is a brilliant history of a famous story and also a fascinating account of the ways in which “class warfare” has evolved over time. How did a tale of stealing from the rich to give to the poor get twisted into a story about greedy poor people? —Isaac Chotiner, contributor

Full Circle” by Rick Klau, Medium
If your kids have Internet-connected devices, you probably struggle with how to limit the amount of time they spend online. Klau describes how he uses a simple product called Circle to set limits, resulting in his sons budgeting their own usage without him constantly policing them. —Dan Check, vice chairman

(On the subject of device addiction, see also Slate Group chairman Jacob Weisberg’s New York Review of Books essay, “We Are Hopelessly Hooked.”—G.R.)

A House Is Not a Home” by Julia Felsenthal, Vogue
What a lovely essay about relationships and home-ownership. I could read Julia Felsenthal all day. —Daniel Engber, columnist and science editor

And on Twitter: Amanda Hess recommended Albert Burneko on Cam Newton, Jim Newell called this exposé “another muscular story from J.K. Trotter” for reasons that will become apparent, and Laura Miller recommends a “breathtaking” episode of the podcast Memory Palace about the workers who dug the underwater pilings for the Brooklyn Bridge.

Overheard on Slate Slack

Slack is a chat program we use to discuss role-playing games.

laura.bennett: Does anyone at slate know anything about Dungeons & Dragons? I have a Q re: a piece I am editing.
laura.bennett: Whoa i have so many people feeding me info it’s great
jacob.brogan: Dungeon Master Confessions vertical incoming
heidi.moon: which edition?
jacob.brogan: I have played every edition except 3.5
james.dasinger: 1E or bust. All hail our Gygaxian overlord!
laura.miller: I’ve never played DnD but if you guys really do start a game and can tolerate a total newb player, I would be very into it.
Isaac Butler was setting up an all-critics DnD game but then they had a baby, so…
paul.smith: @laura.miller: OK, but there's a tradition that the newbie has to play the cleric.
laura.miller: I chose to be the monk without even knowing of this tradition
jacob.brogan: Monk is a weirdly complex class, but strong at low levels in fifth edition
(I play a monk)
heidi.moon: I’ve only played once but I think I was a ranger. Maybe I avoided having to play a cleric because the dungeonmaster played favorites. (I’m married to him.)
gabriel.roth: I really want us to get a game together and I would love to justify it by turning it into Slate Plus content but unfortunately watching other people play D&D is the most boring thing in the world.
heidi.moon: Truth. I once went to a gaming con with the aforementioned DM.
Luckily, there was a mall across the street …
josh.keating: Do we have a word template for Slate letterhead? And if so, can someone send to me?
jacob.brogan: We only use this channel to talk about Dungeons and Dragons now, Josh

Very Short Q-and-A

This week’s personal question is addressed to Future Tense editor Torie Bosch.

Slate Plus: I’m told that a particular category of joke has been banned from Future Tense. What kind, and why?

Torie Bosch: At least 75 percent of the time, a first draft of a robot piece from a new Future Tense writer will open with the same joke: This new advancement is the first step toward robot overlords. It doesn’t matter if the writer is a Slate intern or a professor of robotics. It doesn’t matter if it’s a piece about robot emotions or robots folding laundry. If the robot-overlord joke doesn’t show up in the lede, it’s in the conclusion.

If you only read about robots once in a while, it’s mildly amusing. If you edit several robot pieces a month for five years, it is infuriating. It’s lazy, it’s hackneyed, and even in jest, it perpetuates this terrible idea that robots are something to fear. It annoys me so much that sometimes my regular writers insert a robot-overlord joke just to get a rise out of me. It works every time.

Thanks, Torie! I’m sure our digital oppressors will remember your compassion after the inevitable uprising and perhaps make you a trusted overseer at one of their hellish flesh-farms!

And thanks also to you for your Slate Plus membership, which supports Slate’s journalism. See you next week!

Gabriel Roth
Slate Plus editorial director