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November 1, 2008

halloween in the big city

How was your Halloween?  I was for once trapped on what we call "Monster Island" (i.e., Manhattan), watching my wife kick ass in a kick-ass play (which I'm happy to tell you about if you'd like), and Halloween in Manhattan, esp. in the more night-lifier neighborhoods like the EVil, is pretty much more squares miles of what you remember Halloween being than you can count, with the uncostumed being outnumbered by the costumed at a righties v. lefties rate.

And in this sea of costumes, there were about five good ones.  I saw one dude who was a spear of asparagus -- I liked that.  And the robot made of cardboard boxes is always a hit.  A couple others.  Also, way more "sexy [x]" than you'd think, though it seems that way each year, and maybe I'm just more observant in my dotage.

But most importantly: only one Sarah Palin.  All week long I'd been dreading a flying wedge of women in only-moderately modified librarian costumes, shrieking with their fake-Wasilla accents, hurting my fillings.  I guess the word got out that everyone was going to do that, so no one did.  But, not to worry -- by far the most popular costume was Joe The Plumber, so, plenty of chances for my skin to crawl.

And a bunch of pirates.  Come on now.  Pirates?

Posted by mrbrent at 8:23 AM

October 31, 2008

is there anything that sarah palin knows?

Days out from the election, Gov. Palin remembers that there are still elements of our government that she has not yet addressed, demonstrating her terrifying misknowledge of such elements.  For example: the First Amendment:
If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me [Gov. Palin] to call Barack Obama out on his associations then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.

Funny thing is, the media's reaction to Palin's ad hominem has not a whit to the do with the the First Amendment, which a) concerns your freedom to speak and not your freedom from criticism; and b) prohibits the government from abridging this right, and not so much non-governmental parties.

And remember that the First Amendment also covers one's freedom of religion and the freedom of the press, so maybe that's what she's referring to?  Maybe a statutory prior restraint, at least with respect to her unvarnished lies, is what she has in mind?

Whatever.  She is not qualified to be State Flower, let alone a heartbeat away from the Oval Office.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:12 PM

time has not inured me to wolf blitzer's name

Dammit, even when I find a non-election topic to post, it's still tangentially related to the election.  Nothing is not related to the election, for the next five days.  Urgh.

Anyhow.  This Tuesday, as the election is occurring, on CNN Wolf Blitzer will be interviewing holograms:

CNN plans to have campaign representatives filmed by 44 different cameras in Chicago and Arizona, then feed the data through 20 computers to result in a 360-degree image of the interviewee, there in the New York studio with Wolf Blitzer.  CNN senior vice-president David Bohrman "says the network can project two different views from each city so Blitzer can appear to be in the studio with two holograms."

This is not so much a leap in technology, unless you never realized that the big orange first-down line in NFL games isn't actually there.  These images would not be "holograms" in the sense that you've seen in sci-fi movies, in that Wolf Blitzer won't be seeing the 3-D images, just the end-viewer, and, sorry, no matter how 3-D something is or appears, once it hits my Vizio, it's all 2-D and nothing but.

No, this is another step towards that potential point in the future wherein technology is exclusively used in creepy ways.  While there is no harm in Wolf Blitzer appearing to share personal space with people that aren't actually there, there's not really much of an upside to it either, as the talking heads format, or the live remote interview, or whatever the jargon is, isn't that obtrusive, as generations have been raised with it.  And as if Wolf Blitzer isn't creepy enough already!

But it's good to see CNN flex it's tech so that when the future runs us down like a dog in the street, we will at least be able to figure out what that was that hit us.

[Via io9.]

Posted by mrbrent at 9:59 AM

October 30, 2008

mike doughty returns, writing-wise

Mike Doughty alert!  Geez, I had no idea that Arianna Huffington had gotten to him, but here you have it, actual Mike Doughty originals, minus all that music stuff.

This is not common knowledge, but Mike Doughty was actually a journalist back in the day, before he became an International Global Pop Superstar Phenomenon, publishing a column in the New York Press under a pseudonym.  And that pseudonym was "Sam Sifton".

I kid!  It was actually "Lester Bangs".

Mike Doughty's own personal website is here.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:50 PM

the triumph of the stupids

Christopher Hitchens on Gov. Sarah Palin:
In an election that has been fought on an astoundingly low cultural and intellectual level, with both candidates pretending that tax cuts can go like peaches and cream with the staggering new levels of federal deficit, and paltry charges being traded in petty ways, and with Joe the Plumber becoming the emblematic stupidity of the campaign, it didn't seem possible that things could go any lower or get any dumber.  But they did last Friday, when, at a speech in Pittsburgh, Gov. Sarah Palin denounced wasteful expenditure on fruit-fly research, adding for good xenophobic and anti-elitist measure that some of this research took place "in Paris, France" and winding up with a folksy "I kid you not."

"Emblematic stupidity" makes me blaze with jealousy.  But anyway, Hitchens is addressing the issue that is the most remarked-upon issue for a certain wife: Palin's seeming war against competence, as in her speech last week she denounced scientific research on her signature topic, autism, as being French, I guess.  Back to Hitchens:

This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus.  Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist.  They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured.

We'll see if it sticks in my head, but the element of the elections that I'm most fascinated with is how the factions have not broken down over ideology so much as they have between anti-intellectuals vs. whatever you'd call the opposite.  The smarts?  This is the logical conclusion of the GOP's decades-long efforts to decide elections on likability instead of ability -- instead of a candidate who fakes a folsky know-nothingness, we have a candidate who is folksy and knows nothing.  It's making for some strange bedfellows, to be sure, but I'm glad it's out in the open at last.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:17 PM

note to self: remember snivelly tucker bounds

Nope, did not watch the Commercial last night.  I'm not exactly undecided right now, and I don't do Commercials.  And was I maybe a little concerned that I would find a big slick media extravaganza a little bit cloying -- like an infomercial!  Which is why it seems I can't click anywhere this morning without some joke-y infomercial reference, such as, "But wait, there's more!/And if you call in the next 20 minutes/etc."  Comedy!

And, oddly enough, the McCain campaign is responsible for both the best and the worst funny ha-has on this topic.  On the lead balloon side, we have campaign spokesman/pinata Tucker Bounds, inducing cringes wherever he sulks, responding as such:

As anyone who has bought anything from an infomercial knows, the sales-job is always better than the product.  Buyer beware.

My, that's not awkwardly constructed at all.  Nope.  And is he talking about anyone, or is he talking about himself?  In fact, is it a long history of disappointing infomercial purchases that has made Tucker Bounds what he is today?  (i.e., contemptible, but sorta pathetic?)

And on the laff-riot side, the candidate himself, Sen. John McCain:

"As with other infomercials, he’s got a few things he wants to sell you," Mr. McCain said at a sign company [in Riviera Beach, FL].  "He’s offering government-run health care an energy plan guaranteed to work without drilling and an automatic wealth spreader that folds neatly and fits under any bed."

Dude, that's funny!  It might not be "GIT-R-DONE!!!" enough for a GOP rally in Riviera Beach, Florida, but it made me laugh.  Comedy remains a viable post-election not-president career for Sen. McCain.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:24 AM

October 29, 2008

not that there's anything wrong with kicking ass, situationally

As the election creeps on and the McCain campaign realizes that, if they can't get votes, they can at least get headlines through ancillary mob violence, stories like this one are going to start to lose their shock of the new.  Whatever, we're a bunch of jaded freaks, and even more depressing than the GOP's blind eye is progressives acceptance of such incidents as inevitable.

But, I'd like to point this one out just for the reaction of the target of the violence, after one of the mob threatened to find him later and kick his own personal ass:

[Victim] Garcia had a message for his stocky, tweed-clad threatener.  "You tell that guy he can find Tony Garcia down at the West Dade library every day from 7 to 7 helping people early vote.   I'll be there from 1 to 5 on Saturday and Sunday.  You tell him if he wants to kick my ass that's where he can find me.  Come beat me up."

I was (am?) somewhat of a twerp, and accordingly the recipient of many a bullying.  As such, I love to see the muscular response in lieu of the "I'll sue you into oblivion!" tactic.

And it's the "I'm not afraid of you" aspect that I respect -- note that there's not much of a "I will beat your ass" in the statement.  Implied, maybe, but not textual.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:36 PM

really: wendy buttons?

My initial reaction, after reading this, a barely plausible confession that a former Democratic speechwriter is going to vote for McCain, was that, while it was airily reasoned, let's say (mostly, "mean old campaigns weren't nice to me"), it wouldn't be so prudent to attack it, as that would be the predictable response.  Brave McCainite stands up against old socialist co-workers, gets flayed by Stalinist media and godless bloggers, etc.  I mean, I really do think of myself as somewhat open-minded, or, at least, if the opposing belief is well-reasoned.  And I didn't really think that the argument of this woman, improbably-named Wendy Buttons, was that well-reasoned at all.  In fact, I think that the reason that The Daily Beast published it is because of its novelty -- "Dem Decamps!  Finally!" -- and not because it's anything like good.

What changed my mind about addressing the issue was coming across the Wonkette post on it, which ended with:

On a side note, if this gal can get a job writing for three major Democratic presidential candidates, your Wonkette editors should get the fucking Nobel Prize for literature.

And that made me laugh.  So, Wendy Buttons, if that is in fact your name: fifteen minutes for you, then!

Posted by mrbrent at 1:06 PM

October 28, 2008

sarah palin's voice is just the start of it

Hey, Gov. Sarah Palin said something monumentally stupid today!  No really!  Stupider than usual.  At a rally!  With supporters saying other stupid things behind her!  Like always.

So all you people that think she's really smart, well...  I sure showed you!  So change your minds!  Change your stupid-loving minds already!

Jesus God I so want this election to be over.

I never thought the day would come where batting down the stupid of public figures would make me feel bored and tired.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:59 PM

christopher buckley is good

I don't know if this is because of any conversion of Christopher Buckley or if he was always this good (because frankly I've not read much of his work prior to his forced resignation from the Permanent Republican Majority), but I'm very much enjoying reading his recent work.  Yesterday, he contributed a piece to the Daily Beast concerning the legacy of his father, and how Buckley is uncomfortable with Rush Limbaugh claiming possession of said legacy.  I'd throw a pullquote in here, but it is too tightly written, each paragraph depending on the preceding paragraphs, for it to really make any sense out of context.  But I recommend!

And I am not admiring this purely out of the thrill of seeing Limbaugh get slapped around -- Buckley is no sudden True Believer, and there's a great many things that I will not agree with Buckley.  But we do agree that Limbaugh is a bit of a blowhard, and I do appreciate Buckley's prosaic dexterity.

Admittedly, I do have a fondness for smart-pants writing.  But I also think that bemusement really does fuel Buckley's prose at this point -- not so easy a posture to take, for the beginner.  And also, come to think of it, a very smarty-pants motivation.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:13 AM

thinking without links!

Most disconcerting, in this, the final week of the campaign, is the total lack of effort by the Obama campaign.  Where are the ads calling McCain a Communist, or a Muslim or a community organizer?  Where are the emails reminding Jews that voting for McCain would repeat the lessons of the 1930s?  Where are the robocalls alleging that McCain wants to take your money for the government?  Where are the fliers telling Republicans that they vote on Wednesday instead of Tuesday?  Where are the n-words?  How come the Obama campaign can't muster a few n-words for McCain?  Shouldn't Obama's desire to be president overrule his ethics and his dignity?

Ahhh, yeah.

Well, considering that "equivalence" is the buzzword for the coverage of the election this cycle, interesting that there is absolutely no equivalence between the campaigns w/r/t dirty tactics.  No matter how hard you look.  Actually -- not interesting at all.  Just true.

No matter how this thing turns out (and I been wrong way too many times to be confident), at least I feel a certain amount of pride that my candidate ran a clean, grown-up campaign, concentrating mostly on treating voters like adults.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:38 AM

October 27, 2008

all the sad young formerly-employed

You may not care as much about this as I do, but last Friday the Powers-That-Were pulled the plug on "Radar".  I would say that the loss of another magazine is a terrible thing, but it's not like this is the first time "Radar" has folded.  Plus also it's made of paper, so, in reading it you have to brush aside the psychic screams of a million dead trees.

No, the bad thing was the immediate (like, clean out your damn desk immediate) shuttering of the website portion of the enterprise, which was edited by Alex Balk and employed a whole bunch of writers whose work I appreciated.  In fact, you've probably noticed that about 85% of the links on these pages were to something Balk-related, which means that I'm staring down the barrel of a world wherein I have to link to the unfunny things and not the funny things written about the unfunny things.

And the final kick-in-the-teeth is that the website is not down (as they announced that the relaunch by the new Powers-That-Be wouldn't happen until next year), but rather up, with the old masthead, and is being updated with really terrible posts that read like small-market television news copy.  For example, this is the kicker for an item on North Korean head-of-state Kim-Jon Il:

In addition to being a chest-thumping tyrant, Kim is known to many Americans as the nutburger dictator in the puppet film Team America: World Police.

Wacka wacka wacka.

Best of luck to Balk and the rest (and hopes that the masthead gets pulled like yesterday), and may RadarOnline cherish it's reader-less bag of suck.

(And if you are a fan of Ana Marie Cox, who was being sponsored on the campaign trail by Radar, go here and give her your your pocket change so that she may continue.)

Posted by mrbrent at 1:55 PM

pirates, me: quitsville

I was under the impression that it would only be one day a year (stupid Talk Like A Bla Bla Bla day) that I would be faced with civilians pretending, poorly, to be pirates.  No, the fake pirate problem is now so wide-spread that it merits a Sunday Styles piece in the New York Times.  Apparently, pirate reenactments are for this decade what Ren-Fairs were for the 80s/90s.  Which is the logical conclusion, one I shuddered to predict.

And you'd think that this bit of news would cheer me up:

But there is trouble in the world of the pretend pirates.  Just as deadly divisions developed amid pirate cliques deep in filthy, swaying wooden hulls centuries ago, so too are sides taking shape today, though perhaps less violently.

No, as much as I'd like to be cheered by trouble in the world of pretend pirates, not so.  Only if the trouble referenced is "trapped in a shopping mall by zombies".  And not those fake zombies, who are about as annoying as the fake pirates -- actually, brain-eating zombies.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:16 AM

October 26, 2008

greed is good, but not that smart

It would be a shame to let last week go into the books without noticing former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan's remarkable descent into apostasy, as he admitted to a congressional committee, with regard to the as-yet-unnamed financial crisis, "Erm, that's not what I thought was going to happen."

Greenspan had long opposed regulation of exotic financial instruments, believing that, in securitizing/spreading around risk, they would somehow be self-policing.  Then last week he said this:

Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief.

Which would be a pleasantly-parsed understatement, as is all the fashion amongst chairmen of the Fed.  As Solomund puts it:

Isn't Alan Greenspan admitting that free markets need regulation to avoid collapse a little like the Pope admitting God is dead?  I believe in free markets, but as I've said before equating freedom with anarchy is a mistake.  And this is precisely the mistake that Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan made.

And, while we're dancing on the graves of certain political/economic philosophers, my favorite comment comes from a private Twitter feed, republished by Maud:

Greenspan throws Ayn Rand under bus.

And that is about the funniest thing written all week.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:03 PM