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June 13, 2009

goodbye snow

I haven't yet found the proper obituary for UHF television.  I know, the channels aren't yet dead, and the UHF flavor -- a TV channel run like an AM radio station -- died years ago as Fox and Universal snatched up the former UHF channels to assimilate them into their "network".  But if you are of a certain age, you remember the time when the television actually had two dials: one for the VHF channels, one through thirteen, and then the second for the UHF, going from fourteen up to infinity.

And now that the DTV switch has been made (which was surely a matter of public interest and not of, say, television manufacturers), there will be no more UHF.  Someone (not me) needs to write that obit up.

But I did realize an even more ubiquitous thing that died along with UHF: snow.  From now on, if you want to see snow again, you'll need to look it up on YouTube.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:27 AM

June 12, 2009

unintended journalistic consequences

Further to the concept of "responsible white separatists", the espouser of such concept, garden-variety white supremacist John de Nugent went and got himself all over the national television, despite his questionable value as a so-called "expert commentator":
Hmm. Do YOU think he’s a credible source?

NBC did - and so, apparently, did ABC, CBS, WaPo, Bloomberg, AP and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Before I go all knee-jerk, I'd say that quoting this gentleman, on the page or off-camera, as someone who claims to have known the asshole coward shooter is justifiable.  And to put his leering racist visage on the TV screen in the same context as every other talking head is a questionable decision.

I mean, why not also put on a convicted spree killer on the feed as an expert commentator on murdering?

This just does not seem like a discrete judgment call to be making.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:58 AM

the high line

I visited the High Line this morning.  If you're not from around these parts, the High Line is an old elevated railbed that winds through the westernmost edge of Manhattan from the Village up north to Midtown.  And the city had been developing it into a big long public park, for the beautification of our fair city, or at least that portion of it through which the High Line winds, consisting largely of expensive galleries, expensive boutiques and expensive restaurants.  Oh!  Expensive nightclubs, too, but I've never been to them.

So I gave it a spin, entering at W. 16th Street, and this is the early verdict: it's very striking visually, but of limited utility.  The view is cool, from the new buildings to the old buildings to the jersey shores of the Hudson River, and the design is very cool -- a cement-logged walkway bordered by splashes of flora, with a couple neat tricks, like a an "amphitheater" facing a window over Tenth Avenue, traffic trailing away.  But!  The path is not just a suggestion, it is a rule; the areas of local brush and shrubs are not meant to be walked through or touched -- they are meant to be looked at.  And the walkway tightens into unmanageable choke-points, reminding you that you are in New York.

It has taken the essence of the "public park" and whittled it down into something too delicate to tossed like a frisbee.  It looks great, and you can walk though it, but please follow the rules else you will destroy this experience of beauty their design firm worked so hard to create.  Where I come from, the grass is meant to be walked on, for starters.

But it doesn't suck -- still a much nicer walk to work than 10th Avenue -- but it does make me wonder what it could have been.  Maybe some nice day after work I'll try to read a book up there for an hour or two and see if my opinion improves.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:33 AM

June 11, 2009

how not to tease creepy phil spector mugshot

I know that I forswore writing about the Yahoo! Whatever Container of Headlines, so let's just call this a headline that I saw on a site I still foolishly use as a portal that I feel is worth sharing:
Mug shot shows wig-less Phil Spector with bald head

This headline is preceded by the tiny little .jpg that indicates that the hyperlink is headed for a pic and not anything substantial, like words.

But that might be my new favorite contemporary example of tipping the punchline, or blowing kay-fabe, as some would say, inasmuch as it describes the surprise that one might feel if one had not read a description of the photo one might otherwise be interesting in viewing.  Like maybe Spector might have a row of tomatoes growing up there, unless.. oh, he's just bald.

Shorthand: way ta go.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:17 PM

debbie schussel: muslims made von brunn wear this dress

[Just noticed that my first post of the AM got ate.  This is what it was supposed to be:]

Efforts to get to sleep last night in advance of an early wake-up were prevented by thinking about the shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum -- just how wrong and right-now it is, from the bubbling over of the rage of the ignorant to the number of metaphorical layers in the target.

Specifically I wondered how long it would take, now that the asshole coward shooter has been IDed as meeting the minimum qualifications to be a white supremacist, for white supremacist to come out and publicly complain that the media is giving white supremacists a bad rap, and that it is unfair for white supremacists to be judged on the actions of one lone white supremacist asshole coward.  Once I'd have been comfortable offering that up as a (dark) punchline.  Now, I'm actually watching to see when it happens.

And in not entirely unrelated news, from At-Largely:

Someone named Debbie Schlussel has the need to express her frustrations that people are not quickly jumping on Muslims for today's shooting at the National Holocaust museum:
Much is being made by Muslims and their many defenders on the left... that the shooter of several people (one now dead) at the U.S. Holocaust Museum is not a Muslim but a White guy, James W. Von Brunn, who is a neo-Nazi.

But that is a distinction without a difference.  In fact, it is because of Muslims--who are the biggest contributor to the worldwide rise in anti-Semitism to Holocaust-eve levels--that neo-Nazis feel comfortable--far more comfortable!--manifesting their views about Jews.

And in this piece from Schussel (no links for the wicked), she reasons:

Mr. Von Brunn has been on this planet for 89 years, and he didn't feel comfortable shooting up a Holocaust museum until now -- this new era of "tolerance," in which we must tolerate the most extremist Muslim behaviors and sentiments. 

[And then a bunch of bla bla Muslim are mean bla bla.]

I think I've made this point before, but the fact that von Brunn waited until he was 89 years old does not mean that he finally felt like he could take no more.  It means that he reasoned that as an 89 year old he'd lived a lot more life than a lot of people, so, what the hell?  He waited until he had nothing to risk and therefore is a coward.

And as to the merits of Schussel's arguments: if any turn up I'll let you know.

I mean, it's useful for a certain extent for the lunatics to be flushed out, as the lunatics certainly illuminate the conversation, even without a slippery slope.  But I don't think the usefulness is something worth getting shot to death over.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:57 PM

von brunn has done a disservice to the asshole community

W/r/t the protesting white supremacist referenced in the last post, the wait is over.  From a Washington Post backgrounder on James W. von Brunn's descent into asshole coward ignominy:
"The responsible white separatist community condemns this," [John de Nugent, an acquaintance who describes himself as a white separatist] said.  "It makes us look bad."

I'm not sure what the "responsible white separatist community" looks like -- they only burn crosses during reasonable business hours, and never more than twice a week?  Oh wait, I do know what they look like: caucasian, but lurking in the shadows. It's not like it's a Grand Wizard or whatever the alpha white supremacist likes to call himself these days, but I'm counting it.

Actually, it wasn't even really a question of waiting -- I'm pretty sure the story hit the web last night as I was wondering how long it would take to drive one more nail in irony's coffin.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:22 AM

June 10, 2009


Today started out really interesting, news-wise, and then turned very bleak and depressing, again, news-wise, which makes me get all strident and shrill.  And not fun!

So have some beavers, because they are cute, industrious and back, so take it or leave it but learn to live with it, those of you living near the wooded wetlands.

Maybe the news will be less bleak in a few hours, or at least I'll be less strident and shrill.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:55 PM

domestic terrorists are assholes

This is terrible, terrible news from Washington, DC.  Maybe there's some small consolation that the asshole shooter waited until he was very very old and therefor near death to try to pull this off and thus is a coward asshole shooter, but that won't make anyone unshot.

Gladly, those responsible for amped-up rhetoric now that Barack Obama is president (like this jackass) clearly bear no responsibility for the recent spate of right-wing shootings of innocent people, because the last thing in the world a responsible person should own is their words.  Which is also why the Department of Homeland Security should not be scrutinizing right-wing extremists, because all they're really doing is saying incendiary shit and then opening fire on civilians.

That was egregious sarcasm.  Too retro.  My bad.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:59 PM

have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?

According to a Book of Ages, this week is the anniversary of the epic moment in American history in which television and liberal outrage both arrived:
On June 9th, it was Joseph Welch, a mild-mannered Army lawyer, whose famous rebuke seemed to waken America from a bad dream.  "You've done enough.  Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?  Have you left no sense of decency?"

Bonus to the author, Eric Hanson for describing McCarthy as a "failed chicken farmer and upstate Wisconsin judge", which stuck with me for some reason.

If you recall, a couple political seasons ago the GOP felt it time to rehabilitate the reputation of McCarthy and paint him as some kind of American hero, ignoring the fact that he was a miserable drunken asshole whose character was crushed under the weight of his his naked and craven ambition.  If McCarthy was some sort of American hero, that makes Tom Golisano the direct and sole heir of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Douglas Fuckin' MacArthur.

But it's nice to remember McCarthy on this, the anniversary of his punchline-ification.

[Via David Carr.]

Posted by mrbrent at 11:26 AM

what's for breakfast?

Dig this, which apparently goes by the name "The Taste of Mull Platter For Two".  I'm generally immune to salivation caused by a two-dimensional image of food, but holy smokes I would like the Taste of Mull Platter for Two for dinner for a week straight.

Our old friend Dan G and his wife had this dish while vacationing in Scotland (the Isle of Mull, oddly), and he describes it (the dish, and Scotland to some extent) as:

All local goodness, from left to right: crabs, langoustines, smoked salmon over arugula (out of view under the langoustines), cheddar, chicken liver pate, rare beef (with mustard sauce), venison (with a sauce we couldn't identify, and it was better without), and mutton with chutney, served with unseen oatcakes and roll and salads. They called this "The Taste of Mull Platter for Two." Yes. Outstanding.

You can't get that at McDonald's.  In fact, you can't really get that at Momofuku Ko.  Color me impressed/jealous.

I am going to call this post apart and outside from the burgeoning substrata of the web that consists of content detailing what people ate (which I note without comment, as I would a newly popular item of apparel), solely for the reason of WILL YOU LOOK AT THAT THING.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:54 AM

June 9, 2009

gas prices! like it's 1979!

I realize that many of you do not operate a motor vehicle on a daily basis (nor do I -- city livin'), but here's a hypothetical for you: why are those employees of the oil companies who collude to set the gasoline prices so tone-deaf?  A year ago, as the Great Recession was rounding second, prices were up around four bucks a gallon, at which point everyone just stopped driving.  So then last autumn, as the recession was slipping its fingers around our throats, demand plummeted, oil prices collapsed and then gas prices were soon behind.  Now, in the past eight weeks, gas is back up to $2.75/gallon or so -- an increase that corresponds with neither an economic recovery nor with oil prices (over time and not from the bottom of last winter).  Now we wait for everyone to stop driving again, prices drop, rinse, repeat.  (I cite this as supporting evidence.)

It is as if they, the price-setters, are consistently probing what the ceiling of feasible price is, and then over-compensating when the backlash happens, and then bumping the ceiling again like they learned nothing from the exercise.

Wait, did I write "collude" up there?  As if an industry that marks quarterly profits in the tens of billions would need to do that!  Everyone knows that collusion is strictly prohibited by anti-trust laws!

Sorry.  Straight face: hard.  Where was I?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:04 PM

new york state senate

The best part is when the little New York State Senate drives out, and then all these senators with their floppy shoes and big red noses start climbing out -- how do they all fit in there?  Must be fifty or sixty of them.  And while you're wondering, some of the senators that got out first start trying to get back in, stepping over the ones that are trying to exit, so then they start squabbling and throwing whipped cream pies back and forth.  Kids love it, at least for the first five minutes.  And the best thing is that if you forget about them -- go get some popcorn or something and then return to your seat -- they're still going at it.  In fact, if you look over your shoulder while filing out of the arena, those state senators are still there, covered in whipped cream, arguing about who gets to sit where and who's driving.

It's not in the center ring or anything, it happens off to one side while the trained bears play "God Save The Queen" on clarinets and the flying whatevers trapeze back and forth.  They learned years ago that the Senate would do what it wanted regardless, so they just proceed with the circus as planned and hope the Senate does something funny.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:20 AM

rush hour: the shoving

Dear people I had to shove in order to disembark from the B train:

I'm sorry for nuthin'.  Wrong place, wrong time.  Maybe you forgot that thing about letting the passengers off first, maybe you were in a rush because the terrorists are holding your daughter hostage and if you and Vin Diesel can't make it to Times Square by 9 am on the dot they're going to cut off her pinky toe.  Irrelevant.  I didn't stop to ask, as I was too busy pushing you backwards on your heels out the door so I could get off at my stop.  Wait, I am sorry for something: I'm sorry that I didn't knock all of you clean on your ass and then taunt as the B train left without you.

And while I have your attention, asshole-commuter-people, "please" and "thank you" are still the rule.  Remember how I chirped, "Excuse me," as I was plowing through you?  A gentleman must retain his manners at all times.  Who was it that said, "Politeness is the produce of nature's soil?"  Hopefully it wasn't one of you, the Shoved.

Also, I hope that Vin Diesel can get that dude's daughter back from those terrorists.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:07 AM

June 8, 2009

newt gingrich: arms too short to box with relevance

I could write about Newt Gingrich for saying some damn fool thing.  After all, I certainly wrote about him back when he was relevant, though that was not for a website but for a "zine" or similar physical object.  So I definitely have practice mentioning that Gingrich is despicable for details of his private too sordid to go into but definitely alarming in light of his recent conversion from technocrat to Righteous Warrior.  But ultimately, he's a big who-cares.  He hasn't held office in a decade, he hasn't been relevant to the GOP for even longer, and no matter how he parades from talk show to talk show with the airs of Republican kingmaker, dude ain't made no kings, ever.

So: I could easily take a pass and wait for the cold fingers of obscurity to re-snatch up the fat man.

On the other hand.

It actually is good to have the airwaves filled with Newt Gingrich, because he's not playing for my team.  And no matter how hard he tries, he will not be given the ball -- he's got a little bit of a charm problem, and his ambition is tangible and icky, even to someone that might agree with him.  So maybe when he says that Judge Sotomayor is "racialist" or that society is beset by paganism, it's best to reference and repeat these remarks, in the hope that he might garner actual GOP support and actually run for something, like president.

Just thinking out loud.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:35 AM

i guess it's gonna be a health care week

What follows is a sentence you might see a couple times today, or at least you should:
[C]ritics argue that with low administrative costs and no need to produce profits, a public plan will start with an unfair pricing advantage.  They say that if a public plan is allowed to pay doctors and hospitals at levels comparable to Medicare's, which are substantially below commercial insurance rates, it could set premiums so low it would quickly consume the market.

It's from a NYTimes article on the coming attention to be paid to possible fixes for national health care.  The section above explains why the insurance industry is gonna spend a whole lot of money to foot-drag any new health care legislation to death.

The point of a government insurance program is to ensure people are covered -- i.e., to take care of people, or help people take care of themselves.

The point of an insurance company is to make money.

And the free-marketeers that are joining the insurance industry to howl about this are basically arguing that the right to make money should be more important than a healthy public.  Everyone's entitled to their opinion; I hope they shout it loud instead of trying to hide behind a Harry and Louise.

And as we're calling for drawing back the rhetorical curtain, I don't hope that a government health care program "unfairly competes with" the insurance industry, I hope that it obviates the insurance industry.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:06 AM

June 7, 2009

in which i remain mean to well-meaning reporters

This Washington Post article insults the intelligence, but it leaves us with an important lesson -- do not use the word "may" in your headline unless you are referring to a month of the year:
Close Races in Virginia, New Jersey May Be Indicators for 2010

It's a short round-up of the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey this year, which would probably be news if you were the sort that did not follow politics or read the Washington Post.  The premise of the article is that the advance indicator for the 2010 midterm elections either will or will not be the VA/NJ races for governor.

I find this a bit dubious on account of the VA/NJ races are the only races of note at all this year -- no Senate seats are up (unless you count the one in MN), and only three special elections in the House.  So really, if there's going to be any bellwether at all, it'll have to be VA/NJ or nothing.  Admittedly, the lead sentence sums up the strength of this premise right off the bat:

Off-year elections rarely predict the future -- except when they do.

Now we know what the construction "There are many interesting things about [x]" grows up to be.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:42 AM