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April 4, 2009

the tears of glenn beck

Not in relation to anything current or linkable, but, question: are the tears of Glenn Beck cringe-inducing to everyone, or is it just me?

And I'll leave the ad hominem out for just this once -- plenty of time for that later -- and let's even sidestep the question of what the cause of Beck's tears are.  But the dude cries, on camera, to such an extent that he's starting to get metatagged for it (cf. Stephen Colbert).  And I gotta say, subjectively, these crying episodes are both scary and nauseating at the same time. It's not how an adult behaves.  And it's not the crying itself that is not the adult behavior -- adults cry, or at least they do when prodded by the correct stimuli.  Me, I cry at the happy endings of cheeseball Hollywood movies, and then also when sad things happen.  The big no-no is crying on camera, repeatedly.  Maybe this is a uniquely North American social more (elsewhere newscasters cry all the time?), but it sticks out, at least for the reason that no one else does, so frequently, so predictably, so treacly-ly.

If you have not seen examples of Beck weeping, and I do not recommend it, this is not how it goes down: Beck, delivers news from a producer that a school bus full of differently-abled children, each with their own cute puppy dog, has driven over a cliff and exploded into a fiery ball of molten school bus from which no child, puppy or driver could possible escape, and then Beck's eyes water up from the sheer tragedy of the horrible situation.  No, they actually go more like, Beck is talking about how people are surrounded by an amorphous ambiguous shadowy group of others, then says that viewers should attend some Beck promotional event, wells up and then apologizes (it's just that he loves the country so much), and then cries again.

I would not have anticipated that this behavior, whether its genuine or hokey showbizzery, would have been appealing to any market demo, let alone that of Fox News.  It doesn't really have any precedent, around these parts -- the last cultural figure that I can think of known for weeping was Tammy Faye Baker.  And I can't think of many positive connotations to a man having crying as part of his schtick, unless he is announcing the crash of the Hindenburg.  Not to mention the unmanly notes that crying plays, which I note but do not buy into.

I don't have any answers to this, or even anything close to a working thesis.  I just can't help but think it either nakedly manipulative or evidence of a deeply unhinged man.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:51 AM

April 3, 2009

how movie stars get paid

I've had this conversation here and there over the years usually with distant family, trying to satisfy the American need to know how things work, but summary by Gabriel Snyder is an accurate and understandable guide to how it is that those movie stars down in Hollywood get paid the big bucks.

Also, as I'm more in the world of "independent film" (and I think we've all forgotten just exactly from whom we are independent), the structures described in Snyder's piece largely track, though there are exotic creatures like "deferments" -- fixed amounts paid at a specific point in the waterfall of recoupments and profits -- and "box office bumps" -- lump sums paid on achievement of domestic or global box office benchmarks -- that get thrown in often to make up for the lack of long studio green.

There.  Now we all have a little something more for the lazy hours around the water cooler.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:00 PM

mark begich is should man up and quit

The Alaska GOP has found a newest best silver bullet to combat the alarming trend of Republicans-losing-elections: accusing the winner of such elections of being mean for not resigning.

Because, you see, the DoJ abandoned a corruption case against former Sen. Ted Stevens on account of how the Bush DoJ mishandled the prosecution (which resulted in a conviction).  So such Alaskan luminaries as Sarah Palin have requested that the man who beat Stevens, Sen. Paul Begich, should step down for a do-over election.

And these requests are delivered with the stunted sincerity of a three year old, exhibiting the total absence of superego that is the hallmark of all Ayn-Randian exploits -- "But if it works then I profit, so what's the big deal?"  Sure, it's extra-Constitutional and unprecedented, but the game is about winning, not being right.

But do keep in mind that OJ Simpson skated as well.  The irregularities that caused AG Holder to walk away had to do with the prosecution of the trial and not so much the quality of the evidence:

But even leaving criminal wrongdoing aside, no one disputes that Stevens accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of home renovations and gifts (remember that massage chair?) from a supporter who had a slew of business interests that Stevens was in a position to affect as a powerful federal lawmaker and appropriator.  That's what we call "corrupt".

In fact, one could hypothesize from events that the Bush DoJ tanked the prosecution, on purpose, to protect a long-time Republican supporter in the Senate.

Until that hypothesis is popularized, I hope that Sen. Begich can sleep at night, being too cowardly to quit.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:14 PM

April 2, 2009

let's also admit that "chemical used in rocket fuel" is misleading

Not to make fun or anything but if I had to pick a potentially harmful unintended substance to be present in my own personal foodstuff, I would have to go with rocket fuel.

Cuz then I'd be fast.

If only we were allowed to choose.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:57 PM

the truth about harold koh

Another brush fire of opinion sweeps the Red States, and yet again it is based on what could at best be called a mischaracterization and at worst a lie -- Obama's pick for legal adviser to the State Department, Harold Koh (who is currently the dean of the Yale School of Law) would like to see Sharia trump U.S. law.

And of course, Dean Koh does not want to see Sharia trump U.S. law -- even without looking over his record, you'd have to get up pretty early in the morning to believe that a man or woman could rise to the deanship of an Ivy league law school while proposing that Islamic religious law be adhered to by American courts.  The precipitating incident -- and the only precipitating incident -- is a New York Post report that some lawyer said that Mr Koh said along those lines at a law industry function two years ago.  The only problem with that is that oh no he din't.  From the words of Dahlia Lithwick, someone paid to find things out and then write about them:

The New York Post today published a letter from Robin Reeves Zorthian, who actually organized the Yale Club dinner to which [accuser Steve] Stein refers.  In that letter, Zorthian writes that "the account given by Steve Stein of Dean Koh's comments is totally fictitious and inaccurate" and that she, her husband, "and several fellow alumni ... are all adamant that Koh never said or suggested that sharia law could be used to govern cases in US courts."  Why should we believe her and her colleagues over Stein?  Well, for one thing, Koh in all his academic articles and many public statements has never said anything to suggest some dogged fealty to Shariah.

There are all kinds of reasons for a GOP movement to oppose Koh (that President Obama picked him, most obviously), but none of them are as terrorist-hugging as the one that has the scary Muslim word in it and is a big fat lie.  But the truth never prevented the righteous from out-Americaning everyone else by swinging their bunched panties over their heads and lowing like angry cattle.

The thrust of the Lithwick piece is that if you examine the right now, the lies about Koh are gaining more traction than the refutations of said lies, and this fills her with outrage.  And if you've forgotten what reasoned and tethered outrage looks like:

The little trick of upending Dean Koh's legal arguments and recharacterizing them as the nefarious plotting of Dr. Evil is a surprise to nobody at this point.  But we can be bothered even if we're not surprised.  When moderate Americans and the mainstream media allow a handful of right-wing zealots to occupy the field in the public discussions of an Obama nominee, they become complicit in a character assassination.

...then I advise giving the Lithwick a read.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:13 AM

April 1, 2009

who is todd palin again?

From a terribly gripping AP story about how Men's Journal is running a story on Todd Palin, the man who gave the universe's dumbest veep candidate ever her surname, Mr Palin's thoughts about wardrobe:
"You come into a campaign late, you put all your trust into the team, you got people who are working on VP ops for a long time, and we're just focused on debate prep.  I couldn't give a rat's (expletive) about clothes.  Please.  I mean these are my Sunday go-to-meeting jeans!"

Rat's fuck?  Rat's felch?  Rat's cocksucker?  OK, I give up, then.

Taking nothing away from Todd Palin, of course, who is an irrelevancy and therefore a rising star of the Republican Party.  Well, I guess I'm taking relevancy away from Todd Palin, then, aren't I?

Posted by mrbrent at 4:54 PM

please save our dollar

The latest popular groundswell capturing the imagination and outrage of normal men and women across the nation -- that of the primacy and future of our red, white and blue, and green, American dollar -- is pretty much based entirely on a failure in reading comprehension.

That is to say, China may be suggesting to replace the dollar, but they are qualifying this suggestion with, "as default international reserve currency," which, even though it follows immediately the suggestion it happens sometimes long after brain surgeons and rocket scientists like Rep. Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck stop listening.  You remember the old one, the schoolyard "get", where you'd tell some girl, "Hey, you're pretty," and wait for them to blush and then finish the sentence with, "Pretty ugly!!" and they'd get mad and chase you around the playground?  Well, right now China is wondering why Bachmann/Beck/et. al. are starting at them all dreamy instead of trying to kick their ass.

And actually, while I'm blaming this mostly on a big nation-sized dumb, maybe China is doing this on purpose, knowing that as long as they say anything that could be remotely construed as menacing then our soft American minds will be incrementally more rotted by an increasingly be-pitchforked, weeping Glenn Beck.

I know that I should make less fun, as Father Coughlin and even more successful demagogues started out as pathetic clown-ass parodies themselves.  But screw that: DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:19 PM

bill keller and the future

In this letter to PoynterOnline (wherein NYT executive editor Bill Keller reacts to the merits of a big Vanity Fair piece on NYT's publisher Arthur Sulzberger), Keller raises a point that crosses my mind every time someone (like me) bemoans the near future when newspapers are the rotary-phones of our children's future:
Last year readers paid The New York Times more than $600 million to buy our newspaper.  In a world of declining everything, our circulation revenue has gone up.  That's people paying good money for good journalism.  And it buys us time to answer the existential question of our business, which is how we assure that journalism continues to pay.

In other words, if the if the industry is so dying, then why are 1.6 million copies of the average day's New York Times going out to paying customers?  Or even take the 150,000 copies of the Morning Call, serving the greater Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania.  Those are some good numbers, and they indicate that revenue is coming in.  These numbers might be sliding down, or expenses are going up, or both, but if there are a million and a half people out there that want to pay a buck fifty a day to hold an actual item filled with news reporting, then there is some room for successful enterprise there.

I'm not saying that newspapers won't change from what they are now, and I'm not saying that any newspaper publisher company should be able to stay in business.  If you have a company whose investors and/or shareholders demand ROIs of 15% or 20%, then it might be hard to stay in business without being tempted to go into some other business (TV! Internet! Real estate!) that more easily provides for such inflated returns.  But what I am saying is that, no matter how the tech changes and the business models come and go, there are going to be people eager to trade cash for news.  The demand may be shrinking compared to way back, but it is still significant; if newspapers die, it will have been a supply problem more than a demand problem.

Also, Bill Keller writes muscular letters when provoked.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:28 AM

sean delonas' brave stand against blind smoking dogs

Any time spent typing about the stank that is Sean Delonas is time well spent, so it's nice to see that another Delonas masterpiece has attracted the watchful and eager-for-hits eye of Gawker.  This one's not about gays, but it is about the blind, so Delonas persists in speaking truth to power.

My one question is, if Governor Patterson's seeing-eye dog is depicted as having a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth, does that mean that Delonas hates dogs, or smokers?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:39 AM

March 31, 2009

i've never wondered how thick my brain is

Every day is a slow news day at the Yahoo! Rectangular Box of Headlines:
• Researchers find that thick-brained people tend to be smarter

And the war on science produces a new casualty: idiom.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:57 PM

the poetry of glenn beck

I post this link to the poetry of Glenn Beck as a way to congratulate its authors (well, other than Glenn Beck) Hart Seely and Tom Peyer for being the first to apply the "poetry-izing of the words of the famous careless speaker" meme to the twenty-four karat crazy of Glenn "He Will Surround You" Beck.

Because it fits like a glove.  The conversational reluctance to complete every third or fourth sentence, the dash of paranoia, the pinch of Andy Rooney.  Spot on.

And extra special kudos to the first who Youtubes dramatic readings of this free verse that Beck feels like he would like to say all the time.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:35 PM

retard and other bad words

So I'm all ready to jump in with both feet and defend my right to use the derogatory term "retard" when I see fit no matter what anybody might say, and then I have to go and think about it for a second.  Sure thing that we can't exactly completely ignore otherness out there any more than we can police the hurtings of feelings.  But no matter how easy it easy for me to shrug off, decades later, the nasty things that I got called, some other nasty things that people got called over the past century are pretty serious.  But, then again, even with those Really Bad Names, should there be a campaign against its use?  Do these campaigns really work?  And is it taking on only the symptom and not the disease?  Plus also the offensiveness of a term, whether "retard" or on up to the unrepeatables, is entirely subjective and contextual, which is why blanket prohibitions of use of a term are always short-sighted or at least stuck in a little bit of a logical loop -- i.e., how can you tell someone not to say [poopy] without actually saying [poopy]?

So yeah, so much for jumping in all bravado and devil-may-care.

Here's a tentative solution: words have a certain amount of power, whether they come with cultural/historical baggage or they are just employed with specific intent.  If you say them, own them, and try not to do undue damage with them.

It's gonna be some fun times on the slippery slope, I tell ya.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:21 AM

March 30, 2009

a nervous nation turns its anxious eye to corporate governance

In the wake of the Obama Administration showing GM CEO Rick Wagoner the door as a condition to further bailout funds, there has been a great outpouring of raised eyebrows and scratched heads, a mass general wondering why this drastic and personal action was taking with the automotive industry and not taken with the financial industry.

And there's been a whole lot of suggestions as to the answer to this, and they're all great!  Really.  All of them.  Even the ones that I didn't read after plowing through the first three or four, and then getting sleepy.

But the one suggestion that I have not read (again, this could be a failure of my research and not of the punditocracy) is that Wagoner was pushed out the window because the administration was able to push him out the window.  Like, able without any unforeseen negative consequences.  So, to take this totally hypothetical and unsubstantiated thought one step further, the question is not so much, "Why are they picking on the automotive industry?" but rather, "What is preventing them from picking on the financial industry?"  And then this would be the time to remind everyone apropos of nothing, that the preponderance of the major players with regard to the determination and doling out of the financial industry bailouts would still be welcome on the Goldman Sachs softball team.

And now that I have baseless insinuation out of my system, let me also suggest that all of the interest shown in the past month or two demonstrates a great need for someone to invent a Macroeconomics Rotisserie League.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:56 PM

glenn beck has arrived

Yes, I did see that the NYTimes ran a frontpage article on one of my favorite topics, doughy millionaire all-times ratings champeen Glenn Beck.

However, I've been pretty busy and I did not get a chance to read it.  Once I get home from my job -- supervising the construction of internment camps in which the politically incorrect may be, well, interned -- I'll try to get to it.  Or maybe after a beer.  Insidiously undermining the very fabric of freedom is some thirsty work.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:54 PM

wherein i am enticed by a story about the pension benefit guarantee corporation

Funny, I was just thinking about the Pension Benefit and Guarantee Corporation a week or so ago, about the same time that the "sanctity of the written agreement" hoopla rose in the throats of our put-upon millionaires.  I was thinking about the PBGC -- the government agency that guarantees employee pension obligations (and administers pensions that private enterprise have ditched out on) -- because it was an excellent example of a contractual obligation (namely, the pensions) that seemed less sacred than the bonus of a derivatives trader.

And now here it is not ten days later and the Boston Globe breaks a story that the PBGC had manage to yank the pension money out of bonds and shove it into the stock market in the waning days of the Bush Administration, right on the precipice of the market's sad long slide.  Boring news, yes, but walk it backwards, as TPM does:

One of the big drives behind Social Security privatization was the desire to find more money -- in the case of Social Security, a lot more money -- to keep the fires burning on Wall Street.  Not just more fees for the people handling the money, but more money to keep pushing asset values higher.  This looks like the same thing just using slightly different means.

To tease it out, why would an agency take its $64 billion fund out of the safe haven of bonds and inject it into the stock market at a time when absolutely no one thought that the market was going up anytime soon?  It's not exactly a smoking gun proving that Bush Administration eggheads were looking for vast amounts that could be privatized without Congressional oversight, but it certainly creates an impression of impropriety.

I don't know when I started to find this niggling wonky trivia interesting, but here I am.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:52 AM

beware the yard of the dever post

Hey look, it's one of those fake-cartoon things like they have in The Onion!  You know, one that pretends to be an editorial cartoon but it reads like it's from a script that Paul Harvey threw out in 1978?  It's about how new media in general (and Twitter in specific) will give teens bad posture and caveman outfits.  It's hilarious!

Oop -- small correction:  Upon closer inspection, it's not fake.  And I think it's supposed to be funny, but not in an ironical sense.

Ha!  I mean, ha.  I mean, oof.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:46 AM

March 29, 2009

krugman on icebergs

I am a big fan of Krugman, and as I try to cram a post-grad degree worth of economics into my small noodle I tend to favor him above others (academics have the least to gain, at least in economics), I gotta call them like I see them:
"It's a plan to rearrange the deck chairs and hope that that keeps us from hitting the iceberg," the Nobel Prize-winning economist said of Geithner's bank plan.

This may be the case (the quote is from ABC's "This Week"), but, really?  Metaphor foul.  It's whatever year it is, and the accepted short-hand is just, "rearranging the deck chairs."  So there is no need to further need to locate the metaphor with references to the Titanic or the fate thereof.  Plus also, I believe the resonance of "rearranging the deck chairs" comes not from its relation to avoiding icebergs, but rather the actions one takes after one has already hit an iceberg.

I'm just standing up to show that I will hold the ill-spoken words of those I agree with to the same extent that I will do so with the dumb-ass jerks that I do not.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:21 PM