Look, attempting to write a mildly amusing recap of “Democratic National Convention: Now Virtual Due To The Ongoing Pandemic Ravaging Our Nation That Has Left 160,000 People Dead and Millions Unemployed” is like trying to roast an in-flight safety presentation when the plane is going down — you can do it, it just feels as though, perhaps, this is time that could be better spent screaming. Instead, I think we ought to marvel at a thing of beauty: the roll call.
I demand that henceforth all roll calls be conducted virtually. This segment was good for the right reasons. It was good for the wrong reasons. It was full of mysteries and wonder! Remember places? Remember people?
I would like to give out some awards to all the states and territories involved. There were many states that did a lovely job highlighting a tragedy, an injustice and delivering a speech in the spirit of hope. These awards are not for that; they are for excelling in ways I did not know, until watching this roll call, that it was possible to excel.
Michigan, both literally for Detroit and metaphorically, for when the two gentlemen in the video said “Michigan” in unison and then one of them kept going and the other one lapsed into silence, but they made it work!
Best Coordinated Attire
Northern Mariana Islands. I would like to have seen the email thread coordinating Northern Mariana Islands’ appearance, because they clearly put in the effort, and it shows! Coordinated masks. Coordinated but not matchy fabrics and colors! Beautiful backdrop! Greetings in multiple languages! Flower crowns! Everyone is holding so many items, but they are making it work. “We don’t get to vote for president, so don’t waste yours!” is a dire kicker.
Roll Call Donald Trump Would Be Most Excited About Because It’s Got A Big Truck In It
Best Mysterious, Non-speaking Masked Figure (Runner-Up)
Vermont, with Sen. Bernie Sanders stealthily in the back.
Best Mysterious, Non-speaking Masked Figure (Winner)
RHODE ISLAND. Rhode Island’s roll-call video included a silent, masked man holding a platter of calamari. You simply cannot beat this.
Most Use Of Amy Klobuchar
Minnesota. I love how enthusiastic Amy Klobuchar is about her state, but this video lends credence to my conspiracy theory that for some unclear reason she wants people to think she is the only person in Minnesota. As though to anticipate this concern, she cuts to the mayor of St. Paul.
Best Location Not in the United States
Democrats Abroad. Nice bridge, 10 out of 10 Javerts.
Most Sudden Biden Enthusiasm
New York, with “It’s Joe Time!” Out of nowhere!
Most Confusing Location, Indoor
Indiana. Mayor Pete is trapped in some kind of hall of pillars and illuminated geometric figures. This looks like where the Space Age equivalent of the Treaty of Versailles will be signed. This is where you hold your prom if the committee to select the theme was evenly split between Ancient Rome and dystopian starship.
Most Confusing Location, Outdoor
It is night in Massachusetts, and we will not specify where we are standing! Those who know, know, and those who do not know will have to Google it later!
What do you think of when you think of Rhode Island? I guarantee that from now on, I will only think of the phrase “Calamari Comeback State,” which has been etched onto my cerebellum forever, unless that is the part of the brain that controls muscle movement. “Calamari Comeback State"!
Best Tourism Promotion, Continental U.S.
Sorry, Rhode Island. Maine came to win. It’s not just for lobsters and Jessica Fletcher! Between when this roll call started and when it ended, I found myself Googling “how to move to Maine” and “where is the bed and breakfast referenced in the Maine roll call." If the point of this roll-call segment was to make me desperate to stay in the inn owned by this man and his husband, congratulations! I guess it also gave Maine’s votes to Joe Biden — but a 25-acre farm on a lake? A roadside farm stand? My suitcase leapt from the top of the closet and started to pack itself.
Best Tourism Promotion, Overall
Coordinated masks! Periodic cheering! A quick rundown of U.S. Virgin Islands highlights — young Alexander Hamilton and the nominee’s vacation home, apparently! Huh! “Turquoise waters, white sand beaches, and friendly people!” Too bad all travel is canceled, forever! (Also wins for Most Amazing Background Hat. This hat is a complicated series of triangles, and it’s breathtaking!)
Best Product Placement
Sorry, Arkansas food trucks! I thought for sure you had it in the bag, and then along came the only possible category winner, Rhode Island. Whoever made certain that the masked man holding a tray of calamari would be wearing a shirt that said “IGGY’S” on it has done better, advertising-wise, than anyone spending millions of dollars to buy a television commercial. Television commercials are instantly forgotten; the image of this silent defender with his plate of calamari standing by the ocean will linger with me for the rest of my life.
Best Background Activity
Montana! This shot has everything! A single individual speaking into a high wind in a recognizable landscape! A plea for broadband access! But it has something no other video has had yet: ACTUAL LIVE CATTLE MILLING ABOUT IN THE BACKGROUND. Imagine having the confidence to film a video where you knew the whole time that cattle were behind you and never turn once to look at them. Orpheus could never!
Best Use of Joe Biden’s Scranton Home
Pennsylvania, which seems like it was very excited to realize it had Scranton in its arsenal.
Best State Appetizer
Rhode Island. It is possible I wrote this entire piece so that I would have an excuse to talk about the Rhode Island roll call. It is perfect in every detail, from the use of “Calamari Comeback State” to describe Rhode Island to the presence of the state appetizer itself. This realizes the potential of the roll-call-video form in ways no other video manages to do.
Best Biting Off a Lot and Chewing It
Tennessee is trying to cover a lot of ground here, and I think they succeeded. History is hard to do in your brief video if you do not have a handy mural behind you. Suffragette white! Suffragette sashes! A hundred years of suffrage! The use of the full name “Mr. Joseph R. Biden!” Much more cheering than you would anticipate from the number of people visible in the video. As someone who once competed in a pageant (did not win; was told I was bad at walking), I hope it will not come amiss if I say this had a strong pageant energy.
Best I AM STILL THINKING ABOUT THE CALAMARI
On my dying day, as children and grandchildren gather around my bed, I will turn and whisper, “The Calamari Comeback State survives.” I must go to Iggy’s as surely as the salmon must swim upstream.
Best Use of Implied Trains
At first, when Delaware passed, I feared it did not mean to endorse its son Joe. But fear not. Delaware and its absent but always felt trains were thrilled to endorse him. My only complaint is that this would have been perfect if once they had finished throwing their support behind him a train had also appeared to voice its support with a prolonged whistle, but we cannot have everything in these times.
Best Calamari Comeback State
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