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September 12, 2008

maybe i'll take up fishing

We interrupt our endless yammering on politics and other icky slimy things to recommend to you this article about icky slimy things right here in the waterways of the greater New York metropolitan area.  It's about fishing, and it's a sweet read.

In the way of convincing you that this article is worth reading, even if you, like me, are not much of a fisherman, I offer this sample:

Here are rumpled fishing guides ripped from the womb of sleep that comes late and never stays long, standing with their clients, far from home.  Titanium fishing pliers hooked to their belts, eyes raccooned by sunglasses, they’re talking up what’s to come: monster bass, combat bluefishing, pelagic madness.  Here are poachers with shifty eyes and hands like catchers’ mitts, wiring up on sweet coffee and Danish, getting smokes, more coffee.  Monster or not, they’ll take what they get.  These men steal fish.  They sell them illegally to restaurants where you may have eaten.

Here too are oddballs up early, picking through newspapers, drinking tea.  And teens up late, smelling of pheromones, Red Bull, marijuana.  They’re silent, on the walk of shame.

Those are some pretty nifty sentences, the like of which one would not normally find in the confines of The New York Times.  Also, imagine the fogeys of the world, reading the paper over their morning grapefruit, wondering just what this "walk of shame" is.

It's a nice antidote to counting on one hand the people you know who don't know the definition of the Bush Doctrine.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:27 PM

say 'charlie' one more time

So, two weeks ago when we were jumping all over the selection of the governor of Alaska as Sen. McCain's running mate, I was consciously exaggerating.  "She has no foreign policy experience!  She is not qualified!"  Well, not exaggerating, exactly, but I was definitely framing the statements as more ironclad that I suspected they needed to be.  After all, would a modern presidential campaign pick a total cypher to run for veep -- someone who not only had no record on a whole host of "presidential" issues but also did not have enough gravitas to fake it?  Surely there was more to her than her "story", and surely she had some small facility with issues other than chasing wolves with helicopters?

Well, after last night's superimportant interview -- her first without a chaperone and a teleprompter -- was stunning, inasmuch as she actually is that unqualified to be vice president, or president, or to have a grown-up conversation.  She was stilted and rehearsed, and her manner reminds one only of an SNL skit, and I haven't laughed at an SNL skit in ten years.  And while expectations have been so lowered that Palin remembering Charles Gibson's name (and if anything, she over-remembered it) would mean that she Hit It Out of the Park!, that fact that she had to have her interviewer explain the Bush Doctrine to her was pretty effing bone-chilling, considering that she is a possibility that she will someday have the codes.

So, I wasn't wrong after all.  She is that unexperienced, she is that unprepared, and she makes Dan Quayle look like a professor of astrobiology.  Please, voters, please: like this woman, and her story, and her uncountable children all you want, but do not vote for her.  You may be uncomfortable with the "elite", but do you really want to elect someone out of pity?

Posted by mrbrent at 11:19 AM

September 11, 2008

lamm/brookshire: election dance 2008

For a lighter note, please peruse this little video, entitled Election Dance 2008.  For those of you who've been around this little venture, and the ones that preceded it, it may look a little bit familiar -- yes, that is Sara Lamm and Matthew Brookshire performing the piece, just as they did on the live stage here in New York eight (!!) years ago, for the show that Sara and I produced that we called "Dog & Pony".  Of course, it's not the same piece exactly -- the candidates have changed, no matter how much it feels that they're remained the same.

And hopefully you'll find this one as pleasing (as I do!) as you found the first version, back when we were drinking yellow beer out of cans in some theater that probably isn't there any more.

But, yeah, Dog & Pony -- that was some fun, huh?

Posted by mrbrent at 1:54 PM

i was a little late getting the 9-11 cards out again this year

Jeez, I didn't even realize that today was September 11th until I was halfway to work.  I remember six years ago, five years ago, and I would be a wreck.  I was a little more of a wuss back then, I guess, or maybe it was all the unilateral invasions and shameless political mileage that wore me down and turned a Very Bad Day into more of a memory than a reality.  And, hey! I've certainly had some worse ones since!

But, whatever, I'd like to commemorate this special day in the appropriate fashion, with this link to the finest collection of crying eagles I've ever seen.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:37 AM

presidential headlines

As long as I'm obsessively consuming election news like I was young again or something, can I suggest that if the construction "[CANDIDATE] SEZ" or "[CANDIDATE] RESPONDS" or "[CANDIDATE]: [BLA BLA BLA]" is employed in a headline, then the story contained therein should be of the actual candidate actually responding, with spoken, verified words.

Because, most often, it is not so, and actually either a "statement" from the campaign or even a quote from some functionary of the campaign.  There are not without merit, but I do think it's important to differentiate between the words of the candidate and the words of the campaign, just as I think that if John McCain and Sarah Palin actually co-wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal without any help at all, then I am the lost heir to the Romanoffs.

So, going forward, if the item is news of info from the candidate's headquarters and not from the candidate him- or herself, then the headline in question should instead read "CAMPAIGN SEZ" or "AXELROD RESPONDS" or "VENGEFUL GHOSTS OF RICHARD NIXON AND ROY COHN: [BLA BLA BLA].

I'm just looking for a little higher accuracy from all those headline-writin' copy editors is all.

Posted by mrbrent at 6:56 AM

john feehery, this is your life

Further to the issue of the campaign tactic of outright lies, on which everybody wrote all kinds of words yesterday, and of which everybody but me (well, and everyone else writing about it) is sick to death of , the Washington Post filed the obligatory story -- a nice start, though still dancing with the false equivalence problem that must have been taught in J-school -- concerning why the McCain campaign insists on repeating demonstrated mistruths on the stump.  And in this piece, we get the GOP party line in defense thereof:
John Feehery, a Republican strategist, said the campaign is entering a stage in which skirmishes over the facts are less important than the dominant themes that are forming voters' opinions of the candidates.

"The more the New York Times and The Washington Post go after Sarah Palin, the better off she is, because there's a bigger truth out there and the bigger truths are she's new, she's popular in Alaska and she is an insurgent," Feehery said.  "As long as those are out there, these little facts don't really matter."

Regardless (irregardless?) of the fact that there is no evidence at all of Palin's insurgency other than the reference to such by "Republican operatives", let's look at some little facts about John Feehery that don't really matter.

Does it matter that, in Feehery's childhood, he engaged in both random arson and the torturing of small animals -- two of the three recognized traits of serial killers?

Does it matter that every time Feehery told his father that he loved him, he was actually thinking about how much he hoped that the miserable old bastard wouldn't spend everything before Feehery could inherit it all?

Does it matter that Feehery is not only a bad kisser, but a man who kisses like he is trying to get that last bit from the bottom of the cup of frozen yogurt?

Does it matter that Feehery says that his favorite band is Gentle Giant -- and then smirks like he knows more than you do?

Does it matter that Feehery's bigotry is not limited to the minorities and the poors, but also includes the double-jointed and guys that play bass with it slung down low?

Does it matter that Feehery claims to be able to discern the manufacturer and brand of any golf ball by "the feel of it in [his] rectum"?

Does it matter that Feehery, a presumable opponent to abortion, would terminate the pregnancies of his mistresses by kicking them in the stomach and then shoving them down a flight of stairs?

Does it matter that Feehery would regularly violate the gift limits of House staffers because "it's not like you can put a price on a snuff film -- it'd be like fifteen dollars, kinda"?

Does it matter that Feehery, who a cursory Internet search shows was once the spokesman for former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert, would order call girls for other GOP strategists, with the proviso to "put it on Denny's tab"?

Does it matter that Feehery's claim to have "raped and killed all kinds of bitches" is his way of saying that he "inappropriately touched two or three pages and escaped with his scrotum intact"?

Now, I have no idea whether any of these little facts are actually true or not, as the first I've heard of them is when I imagined them (i.e., fabricated them for satirical purposes, counselor) just now.  But, until Feehery addresses them directly, how can we know for sure?

Not that I expect him to.  Since truth is not relevant, then these little facts are not relevant either.  Plus also there's that bigger truth about that the the evil stepsister of that character from "Northern Exposure" who has the eerie power to cloud the electorate's minds with her "story", which is a lot like the story of a lot of my relatives, but without the naked, transparent ambition and the craven willingness to say whatever their handlers tell them to.  We can talk about that instead.  That'd be fun.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:02 AM

September 10, 2008

farhad manjoo's 'true enough'

I don't know if this is coincidence or synchronicity, but it is brightening my day.  After a fitful night's sleep and a grumbling trudge to work (especially after I glanced a tabloid, with the lipstick on a pig!!! thing), the third thing I see in the morning sprint around the Internet is this recommendation from Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow for a new book by Farhad Manjoo entitled "True Enough: Living In A Post-Fact Society".  If the title is not descriptive enough, the book about how large sections of society collectively proscribe knowledge, values and beliefs that have little tether to reality.
Grounded in history and science, "True Enough" paints a dismal picture of a species with a limitless capacity for self-deception and selective reasoning.  But Manjoo doesn't ascribe the rise of truthiness to fragmented media alone: he calls out PR firms, media outlets and others who have profited from the erosion of the truth.

I'm not familiar with Mr Manjoo's work, but clearly, this is a book I need to read, since we're all currently living it.  Then, I'll need some time to figure out how to argue that my reasoning is not selective.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:46 AM

the long way to say, 'thank you mark halperin'

So yeah, when I typed up the immediately previous post last night I was so mad I could barely spit.  Both the wife and the little dog were wondering, "What's wrong with Mr Cranky Pantalones this time?" as kept turning back and forth from the computer to the TV, cussing.

And I am very happy to see that my observations are confirmed, as one must always stand guard against the day when one has "lost it".  The link comes complete with requisite shock that the man making the principled stand is Mark Halperin.  That is a little inside-baseball for the casual reader, so think of it like Derek Jeter calling out the New York Yankees organization as a soul-crushing blight on society that is threatening to destroy professional athletics forever.  Not an entirely apt comparison, but anything's worth a free shot at the Yankees.

I'm hoping that the forecast calls for more strange bedfellows like Halperin, as attacks of conscience become endemic inside the Beltway.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:32 AM

September 9, 2008

bridge to nowhere feckless lies

I just watched Mark Halperin on CNN, discussing "Bridge To Nowhere" issues, use the phrase "demonstrably false" as he excoriated the press for giving the GOP campaign a free ride.  Anderson Cooper's response: "Well, let's move on to other issues."

And I'm not making this up or misreporting this.  It happened forty-five seconds ago.  And, if I was, maybe I'd fucking sleep better at night about this bullshit.

The media is reducing matters of verifiable fact into he said/she said bullshit, as if the Fairness Doctrine, long dead, was about equal credence instead of equal time.  And the fact that they do that is not just nauseating, it is actionable.

Mark fucking Halperin, who has not been known as an Olbermann-level partisan, was sounding the alarm, and Anderson fucking Cooper, the very spirit of partisan disinterest, stepped on his dick.

I'm fucking pissed off.  Yeah, I got a dog in that fight, but apparently I was so naive to think that the press was a bulwark between us and fucking lies.  Action needs to be taken.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:11 PM

"the bridge to nowhere": actually, a petard

As far as subliminal resonance goes, I would not be very excited to be running a presidential campaign that is forced to repeat the phrase "Bridge To Nowhere" over and over again.  Call me overly cautious, but that's not a concept that I'd want to become memeticallly associated with.

And God forbid if a campaign opts to do so, of its own free will!  Are the T-shirts back from the printers yet -- the ones that say, "McCain-Palin 08/Bridge To Nowhere!"

Yeah, sure, there was a brief moment of panic yesterday, as the RNC bounce took hold in the polls.  But I need to remember -- the McCain campaign is not just betting the farm on stupid voters, it is stupid itself.  Like putting a greenscreen behind your potatohead candidate's acceptance speech, which turns out to be the lawn of the wrong place named Walter Reed.  And like giving a script to your vice presidential candidate which is just lies all lies, and then pissing off the media by bragging about how she wants to speak "directly to the American people", abrogating the entire Fourth Estate.  Sure, he might win -- after all, George W. Bush won.  But, Bush ran a smart campaign.  Feckless and without honor, but smart.  McCain is running a bumbling campaign.  Also feckless and without honor, but as dumb as an OTB lounge.

Once the "Bridge to Nowhere" hubbub has either died down or consumed the entire Republican Party, I suggest repeating the phrase "Drill Baby Drill" over again.  That's like Harvard smart.  Really.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:14 AM

September 8, 2008

the fix is in, and his name is brokaw

By now you’ve heard that MSNBC is changing its anchor team for the remainder of the election, replacing the “Jane you ignorant slut” team of Olbermann and Matthews with White House correspondent, who must have got all his meanness out by kicking around Press Secretaries.  The implication being that MSNBC’s parent, NBC (and NBC’s parent, GE) bowed to pressure from parties not thrilled with the “partisan tone” of the Olbermann/Matthews team, which tone I’m struggling not to call the “obvious truth”.  Or also there is the fact that the relationship between the anchors (and other MSNBC personalities) was occasionally visibly strained, which maybe the higher-ups thought was unseemly.  Whichever, MSNBC switched horses midrace, which is always an awkward thing to do, and ample ammunition for the NetRoots to cry conspiracy.

I personally am not too cheesed off by it.  I mostly appreciated the pure drama of two men trying to cooperate as each suddenly and repeatedly remembers that he loathes the other man - - it could only end in “best friends forever”.  But I am a fan of Alex Pareene’s long argument against this action by MSNBC, which concludes as follows:

So, MSNBC President Phil Griffin, be a fucking man for once and hold your ground against Zucker and NBC News President Steve Capus and even Original Blowhard Tom Brokaw (seriously, why did the act of "retiring" bestow respectability upon that hack?).  If people wanted Brian Williams and David Gregory to cover everything quietly and politely they'd actually watch your evening news.  Scarborough, Olbermann, Matthews, and Maddow are the best of cable this year, because of their unique ability to annoy the shit out of each other and also to generally know what the fuck they're talking about, which is basically unheard of on television, let alone cable news.

An unconventional argument, that television commentators should have personalities and expertise (especially in these days of the Exaltation of the Untalented), but one that I agree with.  And one I’ll take into consideration once I finally get my network off the ground.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:45 PM

pardon the interruption

Attention, keep-your-dog-off-my-lawn types:

Let's assume -- and I think it's a safe assumption to make -- that there are the good dog owners, the kind that curb their dog, clean up the poo, etc., and then there are the bad dog owners, whose pets piss and shit everywhere and bite children and little old ladies.  Now, when you "keep-your-dog-off-my-lawn" to a good dog owner, then you're wasting a "keep-your-dog-off-my-lawn", because the good dog owner already does so, or at the very least, will not allow the dog to mar your lawn with waste, which is what your objective is anyway.  And when you "keep-your-dog-off-my-lawn" to a bad dog owner, then it's a little worse than a waste, as the bad mean dog owner not only had zero chance of compliance -- on account of his badness -- but also will now purposely direct his dog pile your yard high with dog crap.

So, to sum up, to greet someone first thing in the morning with a "keep-your-dog-off-my-lawn" is at best futile and at worst lawn-suicide.  Which is why the keep-your-dog-off-my-lawn types are assholes, and dumb as a beer bong to boot.

Yeah, but how was your morning?

Posted by mrbrent at 8:35 AM

September 7, 2008

neal stephenson, cell phones, ear cancer, etc.

And again the wisdom of my crankiness is vindicated -- ancillary to the crushing publicity machine for Neal Stephenson's new novel "Anathem" (of which you're sick of hearing from me), a savvy reader identifies a possible cultural critique -- that is, cell phones suck.  In the world of the book (which I have not read as I do not yet possess it) as I understand it, a certain portion of society, devoted to learning/understanding of the scientific sort, cloisters themselves into long periods of quiet contemplation and study.  And, as it would follow, the hand-held gizmos that the rest of the world possess are a source of frustration.  The writer, Annalee Newitz, looked into it:
I [Newitz] spoke to Stephenson about this issue in the novel, and he replied via email:
There is a larger question here... having to do with attention span and ability to focus on complex problems—or even non-complex ones, such as driving or having a civilized conversation with someone next to you.  This is what the avout find so alarming about the cellphone-like devices used by people in the world of the book.

I asked Stephenson whether he felt that cell phones in our own world might represent a wrong turn, technologically speaking.  He said:

I couldn't live without mine.  But the etiquette and the interface are lagging behind the technology.  Introduction of new technology often leads to disruptions in manners that can take a generation or more to play out.  We're in one of those awkward times now.

I've long held that a city of fools walking around talking to the ether is a phenomena that I don't plan to get used to.  I don't mind the technology or the multi-tasking, but the constant disembodied conversations I think demean both the experience of the walker and of the conversation.  So Stephenson agrees with me, suckas, even though he's missing the point that cell phones are disrupting the planet with their microwave pollution, and will someday give us all ear cancer, which is forgivable, considering how long the books he writes are.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:41 PM

they are onto me being onto their master plan

I am finding that everything everywhere is dominated by discussion of Gov. Sarah Palin, and her ascendancy to figurehead of a vast and secret group, so secret, in fact that it exist only in reference.  The ubiquity of the topic of Palin and her skeleton-closet/celebrity extends not only through the print media and the Web, but into personal conversations and chance encounters with strangers.

Which leads me to ask: what is it that we're forgetting?  This Palin creature has so many side stories, flaws and otherwise conversation-demanding traits that it is hard to believe that she was not created to be so, that she was engineered to suck up the available bandwidth in the room to the exclusion of all other topics.

What is it we are supposed to be talking about instead of making jokes about Caribou Barbie and the Vice Pregnancy of the United States?

(No, I'm not going to stop making jokes about Caribou Barbie and the Vice Pregnancy of the United States, but as long as we're going to suck the oxygen out of the coal mine, let's at least notice the dead canary over there.)

Posted by mrbrent at 8:54 AM