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The Greatest Ability is Availability | Gimme Schalter No. 4

Gimme Schalter
The Greatest Ability is Availability | Gimme Schalter No. 4
By Ty Schalter • Issue #4 • View online
The Facebook rumors said a statewide group called “Moms for Liberty” was going to blow up this week’s school-board meeting—hundreds of angry, roving anti-maskers swarming our little town’s high-school auditorium and decrying our district’s newly reinstated indoor mask mandate.
I arrived just minutes before the scheduled start of the meeting, and when I registered for public comment there were only a dozen or so names on the list above me. I walked in and saw only a few dozen people, total. No signs, no chants, no angry horde. But everyone who had shown up, showed up ready for a fight.
Mask discussion was not on the agenda; the superintendent and board had already made the decision. But from the first words of the first public-comment speaker, it became apparent we were all going to have to be angry about it anyway.
The mother of an old friend of mine gave an impassioned speech about how kids have an emotional need to feel safe enough at school to not wear protective equipment. That’s true! But as the fourth wave of COVID crashes over America, it isn’t safe enough at school for kids to go without masks. It was a perfect encapsulation of the current conservative mindset: We need to feel like the world is how we want it to be, so indulge usno matter how bad it makes the world for you or for us.
I was sending blow-by-blow reports of each speaker back to interested parties via email, text, group chat, etc. Everyone in the auditorium was applauding (or not) strictly on whether each speaker agreed with them (or not), and thus the battle lines were quickly drawn.
It turns out a handful of Moms for Liberty did show up. One demonstrated why coming up to a podium with a prepared speech and then impulsively tossing aside and saying, “I was going to read this speech, but I’m not going to” doesn’t work unless you’re a character in a movie. She was cut off by the timer immediately after saying, “Do we look like a ‘band of idiots’?”
When an older gentleman named Glenn was called up, I braced myself to add another notch to the anti-masker tally. But what he said gave me pause.
“First, what a wonderful thing it is to be a part of the United States of America, to be able to have this kind of dialogue,” he said. “Second, let me say what an honor and a pleasure it is to be among like-minded people.”
Which half of these people, I wondered, are you alike with in mind?
“Whether I agree with them or not,” he continued, “I do believe people are here, particularly on this stage, that love our children and want to do what’s best for them. Want to keep them safe and educate them.” He and his wife had worked for the district in different capacities for 50 years, he said, and he was proud of our community.
I’m not going to both-sides this. I am very firmly on one side: The side of reality, science, and the common good. It’s long been known that the “facts not feelings” crowd has little patience for facts, and considers their feelings paramount.
I have no patience for our national newsmedia’s continual fascination with those feelings. The desperation to understand why white Midwesterners like my friend’s mom reject our reality and substitute their own. The excuses and apologia for widespread ignorance, fear, and hate. The disingenuous framing of imaginary white Iowans as Real Americans, even as strong majorities of real Americans consistently support progressive, inclusive positions and policies.
Like many progressives, I’m left to conclude that the David Brookses of the world are even more clueless about people beyond Manhattan than they think they are. They lend credence to and engage with the stupid ideas of hateful, bad-faith trolls, never realizing they’re bringing a pen to a swordfight.
But at Mondays’ school board meeting, everyone who spoke thought they were fighting the good fight.
Even the complete Froot Loop who went on a profanity-laced, abeist-slur-filled rant urging everyone to “critical think” about how “science” had brought us thalidomide, asbestos and lead paint truly believed she was standing up for truth—even though the truth is that scientists also discovered the harms those compounds caused, and led the charge to get rid of them.
As the right wing completes its fascist turn, finally deciding that “free speech” means people who disagree with them should go to jail for doing so, it’s important to remember that the reason we protect free speech for everyone—even for trolls, even for Froot Loops—is because we’re all in this together. We have to have these discussions, have to fight these fights, have to do this work in order to live free.
Go to your next school-board meeting, or city hall, or township board. You’ll see money being spent, permits being approved, contractors being paid, usually with zero discussion or debate. If you, like me, have keyboard-warrior tendencies, save some of that energy for the big decisions that are actually impacting you and your neighbors every single day.
For instance: I didn’t go to that meeting to talk about masks.
Instead, I was representing our district’s equity-and-access team for the second straight meeting. I urged the board to consider the outcome of (and take action on) our year-long effort to collect, record, and have a mediated discussion about the opinions of students, parents, teachers, staff and community members on the police officer permanently stationed inside our high school.
Last month the Sherriff asked the board to rubber-stamp the funding for one more year, despite the report. They didn’t. This month, the Superintendent said the district’s new DEI officer will be looped in on the decision—the same one who pulled police from his last district’s schools in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
Judging by what was going around the local Facebook groups, there was plenty of pent-up public opinion on both sides of that issue, too. But I was the only one who showed up.

Voluntary Tiks & Twitches
Gimme Schalter’s first issue was an attempt to reconnect with the online audience I’d spent 12 years building. The second issue featured my exploration of how Zoomers were creating content and building audiences online. It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that by this fourth issue I’ve followed their lead:
Ty Schalter
Yeah, just really incredible Internetting from me the last couple of days
Yep, that’s me posting a Tweet of a TikTok video I made owning up to the absolute cringe having gone on Twitch and streamed a full hour of Genshin Impact while on mute.
I was talking and talking and talking the entire time, to absolutely no effect. You’ll all just have to trust that I was entertaining.
I also streamed a live unboxing of some cool Madden 22 swag that EA Sports sent me, and that…also hit a snag:
Ty Schalter
@PaniniAmerica @EAMaddenNFL Somehow I failed to consider all the things that could go wrong with literally opening a box
Obviously, I’m new at all of this. I’m still feeling out what direction to take this new content, these new platforms. I’m definitely going to be streaming video games, and probably also doing some plain chat sessions and talkbacks. As with everything I do, I’ll keep being passionate about everything I’m passionate about, and see what resonates with which audiences.
If you’d like to come along for the journey, follow me on TikTok and follow me on Twitch!
Everything Awesome
It wouldn’t be a Gimme Schalter without all the content that’s been on my mind lately, so:
Yesterday marked 25 years since SquareEnix’s seminal JRPG Chrono Trigger reached American shores, only slightly longer than it’s been since my 14-year-old self walked into his local Babbage’s and paid eighty-five freaking dollars’ worth of mowing lawns for a game that would go on to be worth much, much more than that as both an emotional escape and a creative inspiration.
Aidan’s a close friend, and I trust him with beta reads of practically everything I write. This game wasn’t just a catalyst for us realizing we shared a lot of values and opinions on what art and storytelling should be, it’s a shining example of what those values are. This feature was written for EGM, and had been set to be published just after EGM suddenly stopped publishing features.
Fortunately, Aidan shared the outstanding work he did with the rest of us anyway. It’s a beautiful piece with an enormous amount of, well, time behind it. As with everything I share here, if you dig me and what I do, you’ll dig this.
I didn’t know of Dan before stumbling onto his bananas Twitter thread, which is an incredible journey of one man finding his stolen scooter and possibly busting up a theft ring in the process?
Taken on its own, the thread delivers.
But my first corporate IT job was in information security, and Dan’s the CEO of an InfoSec research and assessment firm. I know it takes a special kind of brain to think like a security expert–the kind of brain that puts a decently well-hidden AirTag on a scooter to make the thief think they’ve found and disabled the only AirTag when the REAL AirTag is buried inside the handlebars.
It also takes someone who has time, energy, focus, and money to spend on hardening a scooter. Someone who has enough privilege and confidence to walk into an NYPD precinct and persuade two officers to escort him as he confronts the current possessors of his eBike:
Dan Guido
I was patient, upbeat, and demonstrated with the Airtags on my keys. I reiterated I didn’t want them to do anything illegal to help me, made a joke about it only costing $800 so it’s no felony, and insisted it would get solved within an hour. It worked!
This isn’t a critique of Guido, but of the optimism my fellow privileged IT geeks had in the potential of the Internet throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Overthrowing the stodgy old gatekeepers and democratizing information sounded great—and it seemed to work pretty well for a while! It’s no wonder, as early Internet access required a college education, thousands of dollars in hardware, and a steady flow of spare cash and disposable time.
But I’m a middle-class white straight cis man with an IT background and infosec experience. The fact that I can only dream of having enough spare resources and proximity to power to bother planning and executing something like this proves how few ever could.
Technology, by itself, doesn’t deliver power to The People unless you’re very specific about who you include in “people.” It mostly knocks down barriers for those who don’t face many anyway–and whenever the marginalized or oppressed use tech to get ahead, it doesn’t work for long.
As corporate capital has reshaped the Internet in its own image, it’s exposed how fanciful it was to think it would ever go any other way.
Let the record show I made it four issues before including any Detroit Lions content!
Chris Burke, who co-hosted The Athletic’s first Detroit Lions podcast with me, has been doing his usual great work around the Lions’ facility this training camp (as well as his current partner-in-crime, Nick Baumgartner). If you’re not from around here, the national line on the Lions is that Dan Campbell is a kneecap-biting goofball who won’t wipe your butt and is about to lead the Lions to the NFL’s worst record.
I don’t think that last bit will turn out to be true, though they’re likely to lose more games than they win. But for those who aren’t from around here, there are a lot of signs that Campbell is not just the stylistic opposite of Matt Patricia, but a smart, insightful coach who’s doing a whole lot of little things well.
It might lead to big things.
October Gale is a gifted young artist and meme connoisseur who got inspired to mash up these two anime characters by another Tumblr post (she’s also my daughter). I thought the drawing-process video she posted was awesome, but Revue isn’t playing super nicely with the video. So, view the pic here and then check out the video there:
posted with permission from October Gale
posted with permission from October Gale
Give October a follow on Twitter at @GaleOctober, and if you’re Tumblrish her Tumblr is here!
I’ve mentioned my novel project in progress (or “TyNoWriPro,” if you will) at a few places around the Internet, including here. A YA adventure fantasy with the working title of Codex 17, I completed the first draft almost exactly a year ago. It was a huge achievement I am super proud of.
Since then, I have sssssssstrrrrrrruuuuuuuuglllllllllllllllled with revisions.
Though Aidan, Jess Creaden, and a few other friends and CPs have supported and encouraged me along the way, I’ve decided to give you all a weekly update on what I’m doing and where I’m at because my ADHD brain responds best to external deadlines and guilt.
SO! A few weeks ago, Jess suggested I create a literary lookbook to re-immerse myself in the world, characters, and aethsetics. As part of that, I created a short synopsis of the first 1/3rd or so of the book—and immediately cranked out a full formal synopsis. Writing everything out in narrative gave me the mojo to firm up a bunch of vague ideas I’d spent months shuffling around my Scrivener outline.
I’m now revising the outline to match my synopsis, and then I’ll finish up the lookbook to have something to share (and, you know, show you guys).
Next update coming next week, along with Gimme Schalter No. 5. If you liked this issue (or anything about it), please let me know! I’m trying to fine-tune the content for what you all like best.
If it helps, I shamelessly retweet compliments.
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Ty Schalter

The latest thoughts, hottest takes, and coolest work of Ty Schalter, a professional writer & talker (@FiveThirtyEight, @ThreeOutPod). Lots of sports, geeky stuff, social commentary and more.

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