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June 6, 2009

renegade craft fair

So we went to the Renegade Craft Fair this afternoon, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the neighborhood in which I used to reside, for years.  It was pretty hard to find, as it was obscured by a writhing mass of people ambling contently around McCarren Park.  But to be sure, there was a craft fair in there -- Renegade!

Of the hundred and something booths, there were many people making some interesting things, and even a couple who weren't making tees, onesies or tote bags.  And they all had a very sure sense of what constitutes the price you'd never pay for something.  Nice job.  And that one thing that you just have to have, no matter what, because it is so excellent?  I'm sure it exists somewhere.

It's a fascinating micro-economy that I never knew existing in this economy: the manufacture and sale of overpriced ironic (ironically?) useless shit.  I wonder what the craft fair is renegade from, but then I suspect that I would be disappointed by the answer.

But it was a beautiful day; we had a great time.  I spent a very good five minutes watching a French bulldog puppy play with another puppy of indeterminate breed.  We had a water ice.

And Williamsburg: you did a very good job of scabbing over whatever wound I created by leaving, with condos and commerce.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:37 PM

the shame and betrayal of insurance fraud

There is a very excellent ad on the radio that I'm sorry you probably haven't heard.  It's a decidedly AM-oriented spot that tells the story of an average ordinary dad.  It's narrated by an ominous dude.  The dad is a pretty vanilla guy, with a son who sounds to be a teenager.  And then this dad, we are told ominously, shatters his relationship with his son: by committing insurance fraud.

The tagline is something about avoiding "the shame and betrayal of insurance fraud".

Chances are you haven't heard this radio spot, because radio is a medium that actually already died years ago and doesn't know it yet.  But man that's a good thirty seconds of radio.

It might make you wonder what it is about insurance fraud that inspired the anti-insurance fraud advocacy organization produce an ad that says not one word about what is so bad about insurance fraud, which must be so innocuous that appeals to right and wrong are bypassed by a purely emotional appeal to the bond between a father and a son, and how teenagers don't like insurance fraud.  Which is totally plausible, in a "say-no-to-drugs" sense.  But let's leave that inside-baseball shit to the smart people.

In the meantime, it sure makes you want to go out there and not commit insurance fraud, doesn't it?  Whatever "insurance fraud" is.  Mostly I'm glad that I didn't have a son back when I had the Subaru registered at my folks' house.  (Fraudulently!)

Posted by mrbrent at 8:06 AM

June 5, 2009

a promise gm can keep

There is a full-page ad running in newspapers this week, following the bankruptcy and reorganization of General Motors.  It's a letter from the new CEO, Frederick A. Henderson, to us lowly car purchasers, trying to distract us from the fact that the workers are creeping closer to owning the means of production by reassuring us that customers will come first at the new GM, as always.

Whether or not that's accurate -- i.e., I don't remember a groundswell of support for vehicles with terrible gas mileage designed to be replaced after four years -- but there is a turn of phrase in the letter (the text of it at the bottom of this post) that caught my eye, and boy do I love the eye-catching turns of phrase (it's what titivils do):

At this critical point in our history, we cannot afford to lose your business.  Or your trust.  You have our word.

"You have our word," is always a good sentence to throw into a bit of advertising -- it's a very solemn way to demonstrate human qualities that business entities do not have.  But upon closer reading, GM is not promising anything of value, really.  What we have their word on is that they can't afford to lose our business or our trust -- a point that we can agree on without anyone putting their hand over their heart.

It raises the question of how many more billions of taxpayer dollars it will take for GM to give us their word that they won't lose our trust.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:42 AM

obama's cairo speech

I wondered why there was a small uproar on the more conservative half of the Internet concerning the president's speech in Cairo yesterday, so I gave it a read.  And what I discovered is that President Obama's equanimity is just galling.  First he drops this bombshell:
So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America.

If the president thinks that our forefathers dumped tea into a harbor in the name of freedom of religion and freedom to levy our own taxes just so that the Muslins would be welcome here some day... well no wonder patriots are filled with the righteousness of a hundred Sean Hannitys.

And then the President gets to the pouring of the salt:

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not - and never will be - at war with Islam.

Now all the the very angry Americans convinced that a faith is doctrinally thirsty for the blood of infidels on account of there ain't enough Jesus in that Koran will have to keep on with their War Against Mooslem And For Everything Caucasian without a president leading the charge.  Which means that we'll soon be speaking Russian or whatever it is the Muslin's talk unless we WAKE UP!!!

I guess if I had a strangled 19th Century worldview I'd be pretty cheesed too.  But I wasn't.  I've said it before and will repeat, but what a peculiar pleasure it is to read words of a president that haven't been watered down into understandability or restricted to poll-tested sentiments.  Our president rocks.

And no -- the phrase "war against terror" does not appear.  I presume the Administration would rather declare war on things you can actually fight, like nations, or at least armies.  And if you're the type to get your panties in a bunch because you're a fan of a specific bit of rhetoric that the president won't use -- well then that'd be its own reward.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:00 AM

June 4, 2009

bush sr and obama have so much in common, really

In the midst of a somewhat pro forma Daily Beast piece by Mark McKinnon handicapping potential GOP candidates for 2012 comes this paragraph, explaining why Obama might not be so formidable when running for reelection:
Mid-term in the presidency of George H.W. Bush, he looked unbeatable.  Favorability ratings after the liberation of Kuwait in the high 80s.  Everyone thought he would be a two-term president, including heavyweight potential opponents like Lloyd Bentsen and Dick Gephardt, who never suited up.  But, as Woody Allen said, 90 percent of the game is just showing up, and Bill Clinton did.

Ignoring the jarring dissimilarities between Bush Sr. and Obama in background, tone and demeanor, the rationalization that McKinnon makes boils down to, "There have been other one-term presidents before."

Technically, true, but not exactly the kind of insight worth hanging an article on.

McKinnon comes to the conclusion that the number one GOP candidate is Mitt Romney, a pol whose stauch values, electrical presence and carefree hair could not move him to the front of the class of '08.  So maybe McKinnon's heart just isn't in it.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:55 PM

diann jones is sorry you don't 'get it'

This is just another garden variety story of another racist political functionary caught saying something racist and then acting surprised.  It's made the radar of HuffPost, it might bounce elsewhere, but it's no big.

I do however find the "sorry, but" portion of the narrative compelling and worth sharing.

In an e-mail Tuesday to state District Judge Robert Dry, [vice chairman of the Collin County, TX Republican Party/putative racist Diann] Jones wrote, "If someone is offended by something in an e-mail, I don't think forwarding it on to 50 other people [that never originally saw it] is really prudent ... That action simply multiplies the offensive e-mail and enlarges the damage."

It is a twist on the, "If it weren't for you kids and that talking dog I'd have gotten away with it, too!" defense, with a higher than usual dosage of self-righteousness.  It imputes a cabal of people for whom the email (with a "black house" reference to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave -- yawn) is perfectly okay, and waggles the rubber finger at the person who has forwards the email outside of this circle, thus spoiling the fun for everyone.

And it's that wink at an established unrepentant cadre of the like-minded that inches the "apology" away from banality and gives it an undertone of menace, that elevates it from another boring iteration of someone being sorry for you being offended at the patently offensive thing they said.

Which makes me wonder what else lurks in the emails of Diann Jones.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:07 AM

get andy rooney out of my head, yard

Hypothetical question: who among us will free the world from the shackles of Andy Rooney?

It came to me while reading this morning's Gail Collins.  She mentions the fact that the drug store has very many different brands of moisturizers.  It was about that time that the Andy Rooney alarm went off, and I was prevented from reading the rest of the column because the part of my brain that would unpack an op-ed was crushed under the memory of a wrinkled old dude dressed in a reporter costume hunched over one of those old desks actually made of wood.

In fact, it is impossible to muse on overlooked aspect of modern life (like moisturizers!), or to muse at all, without kicking up the dust of Andy Rooney's career on "Sixty Minutes", in which he would opine about bricks or dinner or a dog, and it was just like having "Reader's Digest" read to you by a man who seemed both irascible and cute.  The cultural act of "musing" is in fact now owned by Andy Rooney, thanks to Andy and thanks to a generation of stand-up comics -- in the same sense that conversational feedback-loops about nothing are owned by Jerry Seinfeld.  And God forbid you should try to muse on some cultural inanity, because after the quick flush of Rooney comes the panicked effort to un-Rooney it, and then the greener pastures.

I'm not saying that this is a bad thing.  I just want for Gail Collins to be able to talk about moisturizers without Andy Rooney leering avuncularly over her shoulder.  And it will take the brave and selfless efforts of one of you volunteers to accomplish this.

(This thesis, and the question it raises, generally only applies if you are over a certain age.  If you are under a certain age: here, have some Andy Rooney.)

Posted by mrbrent at 9:13 AM

June 3, 2009

schadenfreude: domestic terrorist asshole edition

A bit of light humor as a nightcap, as reported concerning the blog of Hal Turner, a white nationalist/anti-Semitic radio host:
"It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally," the blog stated.  "These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die."

And, the post continued, "If any state attorney, police department or court thinks they're going to get uppity with us about this; I suspect we have enough bullets to put them down too."

Not so funny, no.  The funny part is that he didn't exactly have enough bullets to avoid being arrested for inciting injury to persons or property.

Maybe it's not funny.  Maybe it's just another asshole writing checks that his ass can't cash.  Or maybe he's another domestic terrorist asshole that just got headed off at the pass.  Maybe he's talking right this moment about all the government officials he's gonna ice.  Whatever -- he's doing whatever he's doing tonight in the hoosegow.

Sleep well.

[Via this DailyKos diary.]

Posted by mrbrent at 11:09 PM

actually, my pop was a compliance officer

The way things are now:
A group of former George W. Bush administration officials gathered at O’Melveny & Myers Wednesday evening to discuss the current enforcement environment.  But, at times, you might’ve thought they were pitching a campy horror flick.

The salient element of this is not the presence of the Bush Administration officials (though it's always cute to see them out in the world making their millions) but rather the fact that the corporate behemoths of the world need to be told that now would be a good time to comply with the law.

At the very least it comes off as a "free lunch is over" pep rally, though I'd go as far as to say that it smacks of a wink and a nod at START SHREDDING NOW.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:35 PM

there's a million stories in the north korean peninsula

Good times on the front page of the dead tree edition of the NYT, as this story appears above the fold with the following headline:
North Korean Is Said to Pick A Son as Heir

Which would not be so much as a dog-bites-man story as it would be a dog-wakes-for-a-moment-contemplates-existence-returns-to-sleep story.

I don't know if this is an error (the web version of the story includes the fog-cutting word "leader"), or if it's a deliberate provocation of the North Korean government, which is referred to as "wackadoo" a number of times elsewhere in the paper.  (Seriously: one phrase attributed to the Department of Defense is, "not of this planet.")

I'll take provocation and the under.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:19 AM

June 2, 2009

meghan mccain redeems herself with upityness

I'm not clipping this for the political content.  I'm clipping it because I think that it is a very polite and restrained slapdown whose manners and restraint do not detract from the down-slapping, and as such must be applauded.  Steve Benen explaining himself to a nose-disjointed political celebrity:
When the former Vice President of the United States, someone who enjoys considerable influence in Republican politics and ties to GOP officials nationwide, takes a policy position on a controversial issue, he's in a position to have some kind of impact.  When a politician's son or daughter, who has never held elected office and has minimal influence with GOP officials nationwide, takes the same position, chances are, the significance is much, much smaller.

Note the absence of the words "irrelevance" and "fameball".

Oh sure, there's backstory, but I think it looks pretty all out of context and shit.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:50 PM

June 1, 2009

scott roeder

I'm learning that it's important in the moments of highest dudgeon to take a step back and let the angry thoughts bounce around before you put them to print.  Angry-not-funny can be a real gas sometimes, but angry-not-funny-not-smart -- that's high school lit mag, that's college editorial.  That is whipping it out boastfully and having it not be comparatively that big at all.  And I got enough petty ignominies running me down; no need to chum the ocean.

Having said that, about the best that I can wish for Scott Roeder is a long long life behind bars, each morning waking and realizing that he solely is responsible for blowing a hole beneath the water line in his cause.

And I fully support the rights of Randall Terry and Bill O'Reilly to say unrepentantly dumb shit in the aftermath of the gunning down of a church usher.  The closer they edge to advocating the murder of doctors -- and I think that whistling and looking the other way is approaching a level of advocacy -- the more their cause is illuminated.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:31 PM

video blackjack at the sands casino, and boobs

Last night we were kicking around the Lehigh Valley and decided to meet some friends at the Sands Casino that opened in a portion of the abandoned steel mills in Bethlehem.

The entire experience is worth a whole lot more words than I'm about to give it, but after a short evening of skewed casino experience -- a Vegas floor of slots ripped clean and dropped into a steel mill, peopled, on both the employee and client side, by the decidedly non-Vegas -- we decided to go check out what one of our party had mentioned earlier: a virtual Blackjack table, run by a video fembot.

We found it quickly, as there were a cluster of them.  They were terrifying.  Set up like a more-than-two-player coin-op from a generation ago, it was a video cabinet with a big yellow marquee looming over a half-table.  At the half-table sat a bunch of fellas both gambling and leering, as the video was the "dealer" -- a smiling "dealer" staring out vacantly, seemingly heedless of her enormous rack.  Here, look.  As the play of the game proceeded, the video would hitch and an appropriate clip would run (dealing more cards to a player, or flipping the cards).  Somehow, the tech seemed very 1990s.

It was very reminiscent of "Blade Runner", but without the post-apocalyptic feel, or the coolness.  And it was very popular amongst the male crowd, perhaps transfixed by the soft-porn of the game into giving the casino all of their money.

It's the future, but it's not exactly a jet car.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:31 PM

samantha peale's 'the american painter emma dial'

Lost weekend over!  And actually parts of it were worth sharing -- a goal!

Unfortunately, leisurely weekend plus missed day and a half of work means desk piled high and looming.  Sweeeet.  There will be little of the devil's work today with these un-idle hands.

So for now let me just say that my friend Samantha Peale has just had her first novel ("The American Painter Emma Dial") published.  I've read it and I love it -- it's taut where it needs to be and breathes deep everywhere else, and as close to a page turner as a literary novel can be without guns and things blowing up.  And it got a big ole review in today's NYT.  That is rare for a first novel, unless the novel is unusually good, which is the opinion that I and the reviewer share.

You should pick up a copy.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:14 PM