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June 6, 2008

return of the writer-crush

I've been persistent but quiet in my appreciation of the young feller they call Balk, which, if you are not weirdly obsessed with New York media/bloggers, you've probably had a hard time giving a specified number of tosses about.  Which is fine!  Why waste your allotment of tosses on the debris left in the wake of Nick Denton?  And who is Nick Denton anyway?  Exactly.

But!  On his dayjob online presence, Balk has two posts, in a row, that matched purty much exactly the conversation I was having with my wife last night, about twenty seconds before she went back to "SYTYCD", and that bit of weaponed coincidence means that I post them, for you, whoever you are.

First, his commentary on the fistbump, which, if you click through, is born of having posted once before, earlier in the day.  I also don't know if the photo, of Michelle and Barack Obama, is the most presidential image I've seen, but it's a photo of the most genuine behavior I've seen of a candidate in a public place, and I can't stop looking at it either.

And second, the longest Tumblr post ever, in which Balk totally nails why we (you?) like Obama.  Is there time for a pullquote?  There is always time for a pullquote:

I’ve probably said this before, but here it is: I believe in America. I believe we’re ready.  If I’m wrong?  It’s going to suck for all those people in Kansas and West Virginia who couldn’t see past the prism of race to somehow support their own self-interest, but you know what?  Maybe they deserve to suffer because of that.  I mean, I hope it doesn’t turn out that way.  Based on my demographic profile, I should be a natural McCain supporter, but I’m not, because, as stupid as this sounds, I want a better world.  But hey: If the rest of America doesn’t, I’ll still be just fine, as I suspect many of you who are reading this will also be.

It's nice to see someone among us admit that the vital issues facing the country won't affect the majority of us chattering class a whit, because it won't.  But we won't be voting against the self-interest of those that will be affected, because we are not assholes, or Republicans.

Which is more partisan a take than I suspect Balk would want attached to his thoughts (I'm sure a link on DailyKos would be as mortifying to him as it would be to, well, a reasonable person).  But, at the risk of Balk putting words into my mouth, same goes double for me.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:31 PM

June 5, 2008

terrorist scuba divers armed with almanacs

Finally, someone has tied together all of the terrorist photographer newsbits together and wrapped them up with a pretty pretty bow:

Given that real terrorists, and even wannabe terrorists, don't seem to photograph anything, why is it such pervasive conventional wisdom that terrorists photograph their targets?  Why are our fears so great that we have no choice but to be suspicious of any photographer?

Because it's a movie-plot threat.

A movie-plot threat is a specific threat, vivid in our minds like the plot of a movie.  You remember them from the months after the 9/11 attacks: anthrax spread from crop dusters, a contaminated milk supply, terrorist scuba divers armed with almanacs.  Our imaginations run wild with detailed and specific threats, from the news, and from actual movies and television shows.  These movie plots resonate in our minds and in the minds of others we talk to. And many of us get scared.

This certified wisdom is from Bruce Schneier, who is smart on these security issues, and should be Vice President of Security Something Something for some upstart nation-state.  Maybe even old imperialist us.

I know, when you sit and try to imagine exactly how you would go about blowtorching the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River, your first thought it, "How am I going to be able to blowtorch the Brooklyn Bridge if I don't conspicuously photograph it while wearing a turban?"  But actually, if you going to blowtorch the Brooklyn Bridge, you don't need photographs!  You don't need a turban!  Not only do I say so, but Bruce Schneier says so, and he is wise and kind!

I imagine that the Rugged Fighting Keyboarder response to this would go something along the lines of, "Your refusal to be scared makes you a coward!  The only good photographer is a dead photographer, and if you get your way, we'll be wondering what went wrong, from the bottom of the East River!  Because the Brooklyn Bridge was photographed/blowtorched!"  My rebuttal to this bit of straw-mannery is, "Shut up."

I might be missing the point of the whole "Strength Through Abject Fear and Paranoia" point-of-view, but, no, I'm not.  It's ridiculous, even without doing the math.

Now watch all the terrorists start taking lots of photographs and scattering them about their secret hideouts, just to mess with us.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:00 AM

never bring a fake knife to a fake gun fight

Now I know that the editors of the Yahoo! Rectangular Collection of Headlines of the Day have been reading this, because this morning:
• [Tiny camera jpeg] Professional clown foils attempted robbery with fake gun

Like I'm gonna fall for that.  Nice try, Yahoo!  A little more rat on a cat on a dog, and we'll think about it.

Though, as usual, the syntax leaves me a little confused -- whose fake gun was it?  The amateur robber?  The clown-hero?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:32 AM

June 4, 2008

that was the concession that wasn't

This may be more appropriate to the Tumblr blog that I will start someday on a dare from my wife, but I consumed a good couple hours of the coverage of the presidential whosawhatsits, and these are my brief impressions:

Obama:  are we all going to start tailoring our suits to look like the ones that Obama wears?  I may be a little too fat to pull it off, but that dude owns his look, and he looks good.  Also, crowds roar loudly.

Clinton:  this morning, a little old lady at the grocery in Flatbush looked at the front page of the Daily News and said to no one, "I knew they'd never let a woman be president," which is what watching Clinton's non-concession speech was like, times nearly eighteen million.

McCain:  Not sure why he gave his speech in a basement lecture hall of some community college, but I like it -- more unlikely settings please, like a stockyard, or a Wendy's.  Once the nausea induced by the green of the walls passed, a friend noticed that one side of his face was not as puffy as he remembered.  He's tan, he's rested, he's less puffy!

Posted by mrbrent at 1:08 AM

June 3, 2008

dick cheney/west virginia

The office of the Vice President has decided that the twilight years of one's administration is the perfect time to launch a charm offensive:
Vice President Cheney apologized for saying yesterday that he has "Cheneys on both sides" of his family tree dating back to the 1600s, "And we don't even live in West Virginia."

Hey, that's a good one!  And one you don't hear too often.  West Virginia as the incest capitol of the world?  Where does he think these things up!?!  I mean, I'm from West Virginia myself, and you would've thought I'd heard that one before.

Even though Cheney looks like Wilford Brimley's younger, dumber, meaner brother, and had raped the environment, casually outed anti-nuke proliferation covert assets, and suborned the nation's foreign policy apparati into a cash-factory for the favor of defense contractors and other old friends of Cheney who haven't yet been shot in the face by him, at the mere cost of a trillion dollars and thousands of dead/maimed US soldiers, it's hard not to like the guy, with a comic talent like that.

Where's he from, again?  Wyoming?  Isn't that sheep-fucking country?

Posted by mrbrent at 1:19 PM

but why would anyone want to see this thing conclude?

OK, I figure I got seven or eight hours to think of something pithy to write when Hillary Clinton "concedes" or "suspends" or however she wants to phrase reading the writing on the wall.  Eight hours -- not a long time, when you're a dumbhead like me.  And especially considering that I'm gonna have to read eight hours worth of I-will-vote-for-McCain!!! from the committed partisans on the Clinton side.

Because they-will-vote-for-McCain!!!  They're not joking.

Well, I figure that sometime after the "con-suspension" we'll have to roll up the sleeves and get to the heavy lifting of uniting the Democratic Party, etc., etc.  So that means only eight hours for cheap shots!

So to the Hillary-supporting brothers and sisters: I appreciate your advocacy, but you guys really need to be better losers.  There is no grace in shrieking like a banshee.  My man all along was John Edwards, but when he went down, I did not cling to his pant leg like a five year-old being dropped off at his first vacation bible school.  We should all rally around a single candidate, but if you're gonna keep it up like that, then take it somewhere else before we all get a migraine.  Isn't Nader running again?  Don't you like Ron Paul?  Remember, it's nice to be important, but it's more important not to be so freakin' shrill.

Ahhh, I'm just kidding.  Someone's gotta keep a sense of humor through this long year of grinding teeth.

The biggest consolation is all this is that, in eight or so hours, I'll never have to write about any of this again.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:24 AM

mayhill fowler and her hidden microphone

This was going to be yet another hand-wringing over our last president's fall from grace, plus a little deserved smacking of his hand for another diatribe that is beneath him, but in pulling the requisite links together, I had to put the brakes on.  Using my tiny lizard brain, I realized one thing -- the author of the post quoting Bill Clinton's ill-chosen words on the x-th iteration of nasty magazine feature about him is the same author of the post from April in which Barack Obama was quoted as thinking that Pennsylvania hillbillies are stupid, religious and armed, or something like that.

If you are familiar with both stories, you will see that, in each, the speaker is quoted in a non-interview context.  Sen. Obama is quoted from conversation with donors, and Pres. Clinton is quoted from a conversation while working a rope line.  To me it seems that the work of this Huffington Post blogger (who goes by the name Mayhill Fowler) is suspect inasmuch as it seems to be comprised by stolen quotes and unspoken contexts.  Is she reporting on these public figures, or suckering them into ambushes, or just plain spying on them?

Now, as I have often started a sentence, I am not an expert in many things, least of all journalism, but, is it possible that, in the case of Pres. Clinton, Fowler failed to identify herself as a journalist, and spurred his rant with leading questions?  And, if she did, is that not wrong?  And in the case of Sen. Obama, would not the context of the conversation he was in clarify his comments?  And you will note that the tone of the April piece -- breezy, bloggy, first person -- has evolved into the stentorian, with Fowler referring to herself as "this reporter".

"Reporter"?  Is that accurate for her to say?  To me she seems more like an ambitious busybody with a tape recorder, and I love an "extree-extree-read-all-about-it" as much as the next guy, but I think these stories are crap.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:54 AM

June 2, 2008

nothing says sexy like the first sale doctrine

Further to discussion of your diminishing rights in a copyright-police-state, in which you are stop-and-frisked for unlicensed content, Boing Boing reminds us that yesterday was the one hundredth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that established the "first sale doctrine".

Without going too deep into mechanics of it (or at least the mechanics that I understand), the "first sale doctrine" is the reason that yard sales and flea markets are not illegal.  It provides that you bought it (i.e., a book or a record), and you can do what you want with it.  It is, after all, a physical good (like a chair) that you purchased, and there is no reason that you should be prevented from disposing of this physical object (like a chair) how you wish.

Of course, it's getting trickier as technology evolves, and content-delivery systems move away from physical objects and towards ones and zeroes.  But, the good fight is to assert that the first sale doctrine applies, whether I can put the object on a bookshelf or in my hard drive.

The case that went before the SCOTUS actually deals more with bogus end-used license agreements, but that's a whole nuther rat on a cat on a dog which can provide hours of diversion.

So remember to raise a glass for the first sale doctrine yesterday, or in a year minus a day, and be grateful for good-guy precedent.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:39 PM

i hope the "m" stands for "mike"

When both the New York Times and the New York Post run full-length features on the backlash against M. Night Shyamalan, then the backlash against M. Night Shyamalan has truly inevitably arrived.  Everyone can now stop whispering about how Shyamalan is over-rated and self-aggrandizing, because these traits are now out-in-the-open facts, with which you may agree or (you rebel) disagree.

The two pieces are very similar, and they both hit the same points -- his box office is down, his hagiography was revolting, he bitch-slapped Disney, "Lady In The Water" was eight kinds of terrible -- but they both miss the biggest point, the reason why Shyamalan deserves backlash even before you examine his one-note career:

He renamed himself "Night".  (While a student at Tisch, according to the usual apocryphal sources)

I'm not sure where the rules of self-reinvention are written down, but as I recall "thou shalt not bestow upon thyself a pompous or preposterous nickname" is up towards the top.  And of course the penalty for breaking this rule is becoming a tool.

You'd think that an intrepid media organizations like the NYT and the Post wouldn't miss something so big.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:32 AM