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November 9, 2007

save novelty now

We are in novelty deficit.  Maybe you saw that cute little story about a boy crushing on a girl and starting a website over it?  A little "desperately seeking" action?  And maybe you saw this referenced, what, last Friday?  Monday?

As of this afternoon, in the Yahoo! Headline Box:

• NYC man creates website to find subway 'dream girl'

This is of course in addition to the number of local and national teevee news outlets that have already run "dog bites man" human interest stories on the cute little guy and the cute little intern.

I'm not saying that my heart wasn't warmed.  Kids today!  But it seems that all of our newses are relying on the same one or two online sources for their quirk.

We are short on novelty, and what little can be found is being ground up and commodified in the span of time it takes a high schooler to write a five paragraph essay.

To the streets!

Posted by mrbrent at 3:24 PM

mukasey: walk or chew gum

As uninspiring (well, to anyone but Sen. Charles Schumer) a choice for attorney general Michael Mukasey is, it seems that He Who Brung Him To The Dance is even less uninspired.  From President Bush's comments after Mukasey was confirmed by the Senate yesterday:
Judge Mukasey will lead the Justice Department as it works to protect the American people whether from drug traffickers and other criminals on our streets or from terrorists who seek to attack our homeland.

But what if the traffickers on our streets and the homeland-attacking terrorists do something simultaneously?  How will Mukasey pick which one to protect us from?

I got a feeling the administration will be frustrated as they realize that the new AG is very good at carrying water for the president, or for the vice president.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:40 AM

November 8, 2007

and a nod to nitro, wv, as well

It's not every day that my birthplace makes the national news, but yesterday was one of those days.  The students and the Board of Education of Kanawha County are all in a kerfluffle.  They're having a hard time agreeing on whether one should ban or read the books of Pat Conroy.

I only know the Pat Conroy books in question ("Prince Of Tides" and "Beach Music") by name, so no snark on whether the thought police are right on this one, which is the kneejerk snark response on a story like this.  But I do believe that book-banning is in general a bad thing, and really a sadly impotent last refuge of the bad child-rearers and educators -- if you're worried that a book is going to taint these beautiful minds, you might want to check the calendar, because it's no longer 1905.

As far as the birthplace goes, well, it's where I was born.  Kanawha County is the county of Charleston, WV.  I haven't lived there in many years, but I do have some pretty vivid childhood memories of a world in which we weren't talking funny, everyone else was.  (And there's something weird about the quality of the light in the photo of the high school student that distinctly reminds me of there, but it's tough to explain.  Flat?  Muted?  Could be a trick of memory.)  Funny how I ended up in a place nearly diametrically opposed to Charleston, WV.

BTW, "Kanawha" is pronounced "can - AW - wu", with that second "w" a little on the soft side.  See?  Now we learned something.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:15 AM

November 7, 2007

also, citigroup screwed my dad over

Just for the purposes of continuing the nudge of the Democratic Party leftwardish, allow me to throw you this link, which discusses the failure of the financial behemoth Citigroup, and at whose doorstep the blame should be laid:
Now that this institution has slid into deep trouble and [Clinton Administration Treasury Secretary Robert] Rubin has been appointed emergency chairman to rescue it, Democrats inherit the stink.  They made this mess possible.  Will they now accept the meaning of Citigroup gone sour and begin to undo the damage?  That is, undertake reform of the financial system in fundamental ways?   I doubt it, though the message is obvious.

I'm linking this not so much to pile on the Democratic Congress at a time when so many pile on, in light of their inability to pierce the armor of the Bush Administration's "unitary executive" claims.  I just want to keep in mind that the point of reform is not the ascendancy of any political party, but rather the common good.

I know, I know, the best available version of common sense is that the extremists on both ends of the political spectrum (and just why is that a straight line of finite length?  Are political theories allowed that little complexity?) are in the wrong and driving the country over some cliff, not the same cliff, of course, but two different cliffs, of equal and opposite ruin.  The middle way, the consensus way, is what's going to pull we people together and give us the vision and purpose to meet the challenges of a new century head on.

Me, I say, "Hooey on that."  Appraising the things people believe like they can be reduced into a first-grade math so that some "mean" can be found and followed is an awful sexy idea, for those with no ideas of their own, but has no basis in practicality or the real world.  Some believe that wealth and power should be vested in a small minority, and that the state should protect such wealth and power from the remaining majority.  I'm more in the camp that believes that we can be judged only by the welfare of the worst off among us.  Just taking those two points of view, to the exclusion of all the other ones out there, there is no middle ground.  There is no synthesis of the two, into some sunny-day happy tenet that will cure all ills.

And furthermore, I'm right and they're wrong.  I'm certainly interested in discussing how my beliefs bleed towards the edges, but I ain't got no time to bargain with the oligarchy.

And the link, way up there, before all these words, is a reminder that the bad guys -- the dudes who cut your pensions, rob your savings, bloat your healthcare expenses, etc. -- are not exclusively the GOP.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:51 AM

November 6, 2007

giuliani is better than you, sez giuliani

Rudolph Giuliani has come to the crossroads of his political contemptuousness.  In one swell foop a few days ago, the former Mayor asserted to his fans that he is by far the most feckless self-aggrandizer in room for not one but two different reasons.

When asked in an interview if he knew more about torture than the actually-tortured (five years, Vietnam POW camp) Sen. John McCain, Giuliani responded:

I can't say that I do but I do know a lot about intensive questioning and intensive questioning techniques.  After all, I have had a different experience than John.  John has never been -- he has never run city, never run a state, never run a government.  He has never been responsible as a mayor for the safety and security of millions of people, and he has never run a law enforcement agency, which I have done.

Basically, do you hate Giuliani because of his sneering, kneejerk short-sheeting of the life experience of people he is compared to, or do you hate him for the retroactive inflation of his mayoralty into some kind of unitary imperium wherein he single-handedly repelled the Mongols and the Visigoths?

Seriously, if Giuliani is serious about becoming the most despicable man in human history, he needs to buckle down and pick one.  If he insists on being both a serially mendacious resume-padder and a power-grabbing egomaniac, he's gonna split the asshole vote.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:26 AM

November 5, 2007

more on charles schultz

A week or two ago I referenced the current attention being paid to Charles Schultz, and the attendent surprise that his life resembled his own comic strip and not, say, Bil Keane's.  And when I say "referenced", I mean "opened a can of flabby weisenheimer", which I why I'm linking a much much more well-written contemplation of the topic:
Despite his midwestern isolation, Schulz must have been sensitive to the postwar zeitgeist and its uncertainty. He must also have been aware of the popular artists that reverberated to it -- jazz players and rock 'n' rollers, filmmakers like Nicholas Ray, writers like James Jones and Norman Mailer.  What else could have inspired him to break into the conservative comics world with a strip that began with a cute little kid saying "Good ol' Charlie Brown... how I hate him"?  Or that revolved around the universally unloved Charlie Brown, the frankly vicious Lucy Van Pelt, and the emotionally crippled Linus?  Few artists in any era are strictly sui generis, and Schulz was sitting atop a mushroom cloud of influences.

The idea of "Peanuts" exemplifying the concept of the culture creep that turned the Ozzie and Harriet childhoods of the baby boomers into the John and Yoko post-adolescences is a very insightful one; "atop a mushroom cloud of influences" pretty much sums it up.

It is from Alicublog, as usual.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:00 AM