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May 30, 2009

hello dere

I am on a small vacation (i.e., hours not days), and I have not yet figured out the tech to update blog while driving/visiting/loading comic books from the childhood home into the car.  So that's why the last post is from Thursday!

But, I am very looking forward to exploring the who/what/where/why/huh?s of "slammin and rammin".  I think it has something to do with Newt Gingrich claiming taking a Mulligan on the Civil War.  They didn't really talk about it on ESPN Radio, or Fresh Air(!).

I just pray that nothing else ridiculous happens to push it off the front page between now and then.

Also, GrizzlyDad said to say hi, and his daughter says, "What're you doing?"

Posted by mrbrent at 10:32 AM

May 28, 2009

ken blackwell bores christopher hitchens

It might be a guilty pleasure, but Boing Boing linked up a clip from "Hardball" featuring Christopher Hitchens, and man I can listen me some Christopher Hitchens -- but that every talking head could make the generation of intelligent speech look so stultifyingly effortless.

The chyron describing this conversation is "The End of Christian America?", so you can see why Hitchens was invited, and the counter-guest is Ken Blackwell (who used to be something of Ohio? Viceroy?), whose plodding, platitudinal style of speech dangles in front of Hitchens like a piñata.

And even though Hitchens gives the last twenty seconds to "our worst enemy in the world, the one that seeks to destroy us," he at least ties it back into a insinuation of strange bedfellows of the planetary faithful.

A not bad way to spend lunch at your desk.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:09 PM

'the neocons are revolting' - tell me about it

This is a useful passage from this morning's Nicholas Kristof op-ed in the NYT:
One of the main divides between left and right is the dependence on different moral values.  For liberals, morality derives mostly from fairness and prevention of harm.  For conservatives, morality also involves upholding authority and loyalty — and revulsion at disgust.

Granted, the above is not only entirely unsourced, but also the view of an op-ed writer (i.e., an opinion).  But it seems to me to be fair, succinct and descriptive.

Yes, while some people will sit and ponder the ways in which the menfolk and the womenfolk differ, I instead wonder why it is that the eyes of otherwise reasonable citizens will light up when El Rushbo starts his broadcast day.  My working thesis has always been, "They're secretly stupid."  But a heightened awareness of authority is probably the nicer way to approach it.  (And the tendency towards revulsion explains a bit, too.)

Also, it fits with the unshared sympathies that I've experienced over the years -- like caring about Iraqis during an invasion while everyone is flag-waving, worrying about the Ninth Ward even though it was filled with the poor, etc.

It is a very nice op-ed, from a man who generally writes very good op-eds, and it goes a lot deeper into the topic, complete with reporting and quotes from actual scientists.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:23 AM

May 27, 2009

mark krikorian: you're saying it wrong

Yesterday morning I blithely tweeted this:
anticipating a sotomayor pushback of "that's not a real surname"

Now today a dude from the Corner named Mark Krikorian writes a couple hundred words about how Sonia Sotomayor pronounces her surname wrong.

Either the wingnut in his natural habitat is running out of cogent things to say, or my imagination is failing on an epic level.  Or maybe I actually am Mark Krikorian.  None of these things bode well.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:44 PM

prop 8 today and forever

As long as the struggle for gay marriage rights is going to be a bumpy conflict of indeterminate length, let's just set this one ground rule:

As these skirmishes unfold state by state, when you Prop8ers attain some kind of victory, whether it be at the ballot box or in the courthouse, we non-Prop8ers will call you, rightfully, bigots, so please do not pretend that being called a bigot is some violence against you.

You are not merely intolerant.  You are advocating that fundamental rights be taken away from a segment of the population.  In a purely conceptual world of ethical behavior there is a word for a person trying to take away someone else's rights, and that word is "asshole".  So be happy that we're stopping at "bigot".

You don't get to be a bigot and then complain of hurt feelings.  Real grown-up bigots are more sure of themselves than that, and they take name-calling from the communists as a badge of honor.  If you are a bigot and you don't like having your feelings hurt, then you need to stop being a bigot.

And if anyone is tempted to respond with, "Oh, I'm not a bigot, I just want to defend traditional marriage," then that person needs to look back over their years of schooling and wonder when it was when they became so easily deluded and immune to self-examination.

This lesson, taking responsibility for one's beliefs, is a lesson learned by casual racists years ago -- odd coincidence, that.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:21 AM

construction workers!

The construction workers around the corner from my office will still make the effort to catcall the young ladies on their way to their gallery jobs.  The morning commute offloads the bus-riders for their walk up 10th Avenue from the bus right when the hardhats clamber down from the building to the sidewalk for a coffee/smoke break.  Civilians trundle past, and the boys turn to follow the asses up the street, chucking each other on the shoulder, sometimes saying something that no one pays attention to.

Mostly it seems for the benefit of each other that it does for the purpose of acquiring phone numbers and meaningful companionship.  And the gallery girls don't seem to mind, any more than they would a drizzling rain or a noisy flock of pigeons.  I personally get a little steamed in the sense that it's a behavior I don not want to be associated with by virtue of my gender, but there is such a ritual imposed over it that it's hard to see it as intentional harassment -- it's a little dance they do, because, growing up, that's what construction workers did on the TV.  Not that they don't know any better; they all have moms and sisters.

They're just reenactors for the unspoken New York Historical Preservation Society.  In the same vein, sometimes at night they disco.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:11 AM

May 26, 2009

times square

The consensus opinion of NYC's decision to transform vast tracts of trafficable pavement into ped-malls is pretty negative, by my reckoning.  Friends and family tend to agree with the cabbies interviewed by news outlets -- the traffic will be a nightmare, and its a stupid idea anyway.

Disagree!  There was once a time when the streets were cobblestone and filled with horse poo, and I'm sure when the city tried to de-horse the city, residents were up in arms -- how can we live without our livery, your steam-powered contraptions will surely kill hundreds!  And then time passed, bringing new things to be outraged by.

A less car-friendly city can only benefit the non-car users, and, if it is sufficiently discouraging to the automobiles, improve the ease with which the remaining cars can navigate.  The streets and avenues cannot be widened any further -- this is a city laid out a half-century before the internal combustion engine was a remote possibility, and Robert Moses is far too dead to knock down any more neighborhoods for superhighways.  So let's start with the tourist district and see if we can't let change creep elsewhere.

Will it suck for a year or two?  Yes.  So does everything.  Let's give it a shot.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:34 PM

stairway to heaven's long tail

If you've ever wondered how much money there is in the music business, this Portfolio story of the projected value of the track to "Stairway To Heaven" is pretty illuminating.  Their estimation is $560-ish million dollars.

This seems like a lot.  It is a lot.  But let's break it down -- of that figure, $550 million is allocated to record sales of the various albums/downloads the track appeared on.  Record sales money goes to first to the label, who then apply arcane definitions of what constitutes gross receipts and takes all kinds of fees and deductions off the top (container fees! CD deduction!) that basically reduces the amount flowing into the label that has to be shared with the artist.  And the artist's share is nothing like "half!"; more like a royalty somewhere between twelve and twenty percent.  I'm simplifying this (and disclosing that I do have music industry experience, though not on the Led Zeppelin level), but I'd guess that the artist would walk away with something like a tenth of what the label brings in.

That leaves a paltry $12 million for the publishing (the amounts paid to the songwriters).  Not a whole lot compared to the label's take, but it is much more favorably distributed to the talent -- assume that the composers take home less than half.

So, what we learn from that is that iconic rock and roll can certainly generate a steady stream of money over the years, and a small portion of that money actually filters down to the artist.  And while no one would ever accuse Led Zeppelin of going broke, the money they keep from the venture is a fraction with a denominator somewhat higher than two.

On the other hand, write and record one of the top five rock songs of history, and in thirty-eight years you will have a whole lotta cabbage.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:56 AM

May 25, 2009

bustin up a starbucks

Last night, as we slept, someone tried to blow up a Starbucks in Manhattan's Upper East Side.  Not only does NYC have a mad bomber, but this mad bomber is a Mike Doughty fan.

And of course my eye is caught by a curious phrasing from a local television newsperson:

Officials tell CBS 2HD it wasn't a bomb that went off, but an improvised explosive device.  The device was planted on a bench outside the Starbucks.

I don't know if that's meant to be comforting, or to turn our mad bomber into a mad IEDer, but I was unaware that the defining component of a bomb is not the fact that it explodes but whether it was engineered diligently or on the fly.

No arrests yet, but once we get the issues of nomenclature nailed down, someone will get right on that.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:55 AM