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September 11, 2009

saturday night saloon

I still am a reluctant self-promoter, but I have a short piece (Part One of Five) in Vampire Cowboy's Saturday Night Saloon, which runs this year on the second Saturday of each month, up through January.

So please come, not so much for me but for the cast (Eric Cook, Lex Friedman, Jamie Klassel, Kelley Rae O'Donnell and Aaron Weiner) who are fabulous and hilarious and Padriac Lillis who directed it into submission.  They are all better than I deserve.

My piece is called "Jack O'Hanrahan and the Troubulation of Doom", and it's a mash-up of screwball comedies and the "Left Behind" series (which I actually read and am happy to tell you all about.)

There are other pieces going up too, and they better not be better than mine if they know what's good for them.

It's is a bit far out in what used to be called Bushwick, but it's free free free, unless you drink beer, in which case it's only five freakin' dollars.

So please come.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:54 PM

good morning 9.11.09 edition

So yeah I'm a big ole cynical bastard, especially, today, w/r/t this national holiday of feeling sorry for ourselves and promising to crush a lot of brown-people countries in the names of a bunch of people who never volunteered to be knuckleheads' bad rationalizations, let alone dead.  And shut-up-haters, I can be as cynical as I want without it reflecting on my permanent record of patriotism or nation-loving because the assholes who drag out the bloody tatters of the WTC on their shoulders once a year and march up and down and shake their fists at across the ocean were largely not here, in NYC, or at the Pentagon.  They rushed home from the mall to watch it on CNN, and then hid under the four-poster for a month, knees knocking.  New York never asked to be on the standard borne by the idiot-vengeful -- in fact if you check you'll find out that America's Mayor of 9-11 Day Rudolph Giuiliani is not so popular around these parts anymore.  I'm not trying to play a game of grief-equivalency here, I'm trying to explain how my location relative to the events of 9/11/01 make me not so tolerant of the misappropriation of the symbolism of 9-11.  But the funny thing is that after all that I still find some reason to burst into tears every 9-11, and not for any big thing like history or liberty or fate but because it was a fucking terrifying day and I still get the heebie-jeebies.  This year the trigger was a Get-Up Kids song -- "Up On The Roof", how pathetic is that?

Yes, I can overshare with the rest of them, but good morning anyway.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:17 AM

September 10, 2009

didn't work out like that

New York would become a fortress city, choked by apprehension and resignation, forever patrolled by soldiers and submarines. Another attack was coming.  And soon.

Tourists?  Well, who would ever come again?  Work in one of the city’s skyscrapers?  Not likely.  The Fire Department, gutted by 343 deaths, could never recuperate.

If a crippled downtown Manhattan were to have any chance of regeneration, ground zero had to be rebuilt quickly, a bricks and mortar nose-thumbing to terror.

Eight years later, those presumptions are cobwebbed memories that never came to pass. Indeed, glimpses into a few aspects of the city help measure the gap between what was predicted and what actually came to be.

It's from a nice piece on the way things were on 9/12/01 as compared to the way things are now, and it's damn straight.

Happy 9-11 Day Eve.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:19 PM

cherry-picking and lemon-dropping

Just to bolster my drink-no-kool-aid credentials, this is the biggest problem I have with the health care reform plan as it stands/was explained last night:

So on the table right now is a provision that will prohibit health insurers from denying coverage for reason of a preexisting condition and from dropping a policy for reason of maxed out benefits.  Those would both be great (as long as we have to keep having insurers instead of health care providers).  But, to my simple-minded thinking, all an insurer would have to do is instead of denying or dropping a policy is to raise the premiums on these policies to some astronomical level tantamount to the desired denial/drop.  And it's not like they wouldn't try to do it (or we wouldn't be talking about prohibiting them from doing it in the first place).

So, yeah, sorry but that blows.  The president may want to force insurance companies to play fair, but I say they've already had their chance, and now they can reminisce about what it was like to be an industry from wherever industries goes when they are wiped off the face of the map, and them maybe devise some other equally immoral way to pick the pockets of the innocent.

Inside the insurance industry, these two practices are called "cherry-picking" and "lemon-dropping", and if the callousness of that jargon is not enough to make you hate the health insurers right down to the dirt, I don't know what is.  (Yeah, a relative of mine was a "lemon" and she ain't around to tell her story anymore, so I am very comfortable in phrasing my distaste as more of a hatred.)

Still a big fan of that president, thought, even if he doesn't achieve every last exact thing I personally want.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:34 PM

obligatory joe wilson post

I wasn't going to watch the president's speech last night, but I accidentally did, and it was a hoot.  Of course I'm not happy with many elements of the proposal -- it not only leaves health insurers in business but feeds them new customers, for example -- but Obama did get a little "There's a new sheriff in town" on the joint session, which may or may not be just what the doctor ordered but it sure did tickle me pink.

And of course the big story was that in a speech decrying contentiousness and shouting fabricated scary things, some representative that South Carolina would like to forget shouted a fabricated scary thing.  The day will be filled with the eight ways Rep. Joe Wilson was wrong, factually, decorously and strategically, but let's look at his initial apology:

This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill...

And that is not only an insufficient apology, it is exactly what is wrong with dingbats like Joe Wilson -- when discussing a matter of fact, there is no room for "emotions".  Not as in, "don't be tempted", but as in, "emotions do not exist in that atmosphere any more than sound exists in a vacuum."  Whether or not the health reform plan provides health care for illegal aliens is not a matter of how one feels.  And Wilson -- and Glenn Beck is also responsible for this -- is operating in some alternate universe where how one feels determines reality.

For example, the "Obama is gonna take my guns away" complaint of some of our right wing types -- when confronted with the fact, the lead pipe cinch fact, that Obama has never suggested that he would nor has he introduced anything that would result in doing so, respond with something along the lines of, "Well I just know he will."  No you don't know, straw man, you feel like he will.

That sweep of emotion that caused Rep. Joe Wilson to embarrass his family, his name and his state on live television?  That emotion is called, "I'm wrong."

But it sure did frame the debate all nice, right?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:54 AM

September 9, 2009

greenspan: staircase epiphany

Amazing that only scant years after being the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan has decided that there is no place in Heaven for liars, "irrational exuberance" or no.  Greenspan was interviewed for a BBC documentary, where he revealed the secret lesson learned of a life spent in the financial corridors of power:
Greenspan, who has defended his record repeatedly, said financial crises are all different, but they have one fundamental source.

"They [sic] human beings begin to take speculative excesses with the consequences that have dotted the history of the globe basically since the beginning of the 18th and 19th century," he said.

"It's human nature: unless somebody can find a way to change human nature we will have another crisis."

Notice he is not pointing the finger at undue regulation of the markets, nor is he mentioning how the markets will self-correct and protect us all.  Greenspan just called you all greedy fuckin' monkeys that will cock things up again and again no matter how writ-large the warning signs are.  Why will you do this?  Because, like he said, you are greedy fuckin' monkeys, duh.

[Via Max.]

Posted by mrbrent at 3:09 PM

alex pareene buries the lede

In this post concerning the nature of ghost-writing and who might be the ghostwriter of Sarah Palin's body of work, Alex Pareene goes all meta, as he insidiously buries the answer in the very last line:
(It is probably just Bill Kristol, actually.)

Ha ha!  That's an awful long way to go to find out the store's still open!

Though seriously, the question of whether Palin writes her own op-eds is analogous to whether Roger Moore did his own stunts in "A View To A Kill".

Posted by mrbrent at 12:55 PM


A big difference that I'm noticing between the invasion/occupation of Iraq and the slow sucking conflict in Afghanistan is that the journalism being produced out of Afghanistan is better by leaps and bounds: hard-bitten and immediate, detailing the travails of a specific unit.  Like this from McClatchy, detailing an ambush that took four US marines, eight Afghan troops and an Afghan interpreter.  No, it's not fun stuff, but better we know how un-fun the conflict is, as long as we're there.

And to be fair, I've been meaning to point out how good the Afghan reporting is mostly because of the coverage of the New York Times (specifically the work of C. J. Chivers), which I would give longer shrift were it not for the breaking story that they had another reporter kidnapped, in Afghanistan, who was rescued by military action yesterday.

Generally speaking Afghanistan is off most of our radars -- blame fatigue from the Iraq War.  But it seems that reporters are getting access to the troops in ways that did not happen four or five years ago, so some pretty serious good work is emerging whether we're paying attention or not.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:22 AM

September 8, 2009

matt fraction, if that is in fact his name

If you don't still read the comic books, then you should know that this dude, Matt Fraction, is a talent of whom you should be aware.  He's doing a bunch of stuff for Marvel, but he will go on to do greater things, unless the tentacles of Disney money him into complacency.  And yes, the link is to a profile and not to an example of his work -- I'm trying to trick you into liking him by liking him as a person first.

On the reading of the comic books: I've been down since I was five, so I'm a lifer.  And comics are about as mainstream as they ever have been, thanks to a number of successful adaptations into other media.  Having said that, it is a little bit shocking how many of them now suck, and I'm not just talking about the one's that you haven't heard of.

But Fraction, if that is in fact his name, gets it.  It's a coincidence that he hopped on "Iron Man" right as the movie broke the world in half, but it is a righteous coincidence, and all the Iron Man-loving children should stop watching that crappy animated emo-toon and read Fraction.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:41 PM

obama staying in school

Gah, it's one of those dollar-short/day-late days.  Plus: motorists drive crazy!  Especially if you're already on the edge of perturbation.

But right now the president is addressing America's schoolchildren, and about three-fifths of us are making jokes about "Hitlerifying" or "secret socialist mindwipe", one-fifth of us are furiously yanking kids out of school and into a McDonald's where they will be safe from everything but chronic and persistent morbid obesity (but a patriotic life-killing fatness).  The last fifth?  Someone's gotta keep the Internet running.

And instead of trying to make my voice heard above the din, read Balk's take:

Does it seem unlikely that a small group of Indonesians forty years ago could accurately predict that I would become the first African-American to be duly elected to the highest office in a land where a black man is still considered suspect if he wants to address children on the values of hard work and continuing education?  Fools!  Now you will learn the truth.

And it gets better from there!  It also reads remarkably close to what my take would be if I tried harder and had more talent.  The way I should put it is, "What he said."

Posted by mrbrent at 12:24 PM

September 7, 2009


How the media works when well-functioning:

Real estate scumbags rip off the innocent.  Filmmakers smell story, start shooting documentary.  Scumbags lawyer up, dispatch cease & desist letter.  Filmmakers fail to cease or desist.  Effort to squelch filmmakers draws mainstream media attention.

Just a simple little story of good and evil.  And now we disseminate MSM newsstory, in the interest of putting out the good word.  (Filmmaker's names are Sarah Friedland, Kahil Shkymba and Joy Nayo Simmons, and their movie, "SUBPRIMED", has a website.  Hopefully the attention will help the prospects of the film.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:32 AM

glenn beck's cloudsourced lynch mobs

Further to me having a navel-gazing nervous breakdown episode concerning what is passing for the give-and-take of democracy, I think that this is an illustrative example of what I'm talking about:
In a message from last night, [Glenn] Beck told his followers to “FIND EVERYTHING YOU CAN ON CASS SUNSTEIN, MARK LLOYD AND CAROL BROWNER.” They are, respectively, the nominee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer of the FCC, and the Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.

This follows, of course, the resignation of Van Jones, who was not the first Obama administration target of Fox News, but at least the first target to resign (mostly because he had signed a Truther petition back in the day -- paranoiac conspiracies are only tolerated from GOP members of the House).

Short version: it's McCarthyism.  And it's not just Glenn Beck's greasepaint claiming that he has a list of actual administration employees who espoused Marxism in college, it's the glycerin tears of Beck "empowering" our nation's mouthbreathers into thinking that a) success is personally attacking the weak and wounded until they resign; and b) the mouthbreathers helped!  Beck is cloudsourcing lynchmobs, and making a fortune off it in the process.

I have no problem with playing politics.  I think it's cynical to do so, but someone has to do it.  But the problem I have with personal attacks and mud-slinging is that it slippery slopes into right what we have now: a vocal, dispossessed electoral minority with brains filled only with some neoconservative Vince-Lombardi-ism, picking off their opponents one by one by burning crosses in their front yards after they are discovered with a booger hanging out of their nose.

Ultimately it's terrifying because it takes this segment of people who might actually believe in real things -- no taxes! homogeneity! robot butlers! -- and delegitimizes them to the point that all they stand for is "victory".  And not a whole lotta governance comes out of "victory".

And the bigger question raised is, "Who benefits?"  (Besides, of course, doughy millionaire Glenn Beck.)  I'm not so sure the answer to that question is the GOP.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:54 AM

good morning 9.7.09

A holiday weekend trip has caused me to sample some entertainment programming that I haven't yet.  Last night clicking around the horn on a strange couch as everyone else slept, I caught some cartoons featuring Marvel characters, both of which demonstrate that it won't be a long drive for Disney to compromise characters for the sake of tentpole franchises.  I forget/ignored what they were called, but they featured a version of the X-Men lead by a tough grizzled leader-y Wolverine, and then a version of Iron Man in which Tony Stark and Pepper Potts are cute teen that tend towards the anime range of emotion.  My God how quickly that joy I felt stumbling over the cartoons resolved itself into a dew -- I don't mind my emo, but I used to Make Mine Marvel.  At least I still have the capacity for joy.

And then driving over to this Panera Bread in the sleepy Lehigh Valley (which is packed), I listened to three miles' worth of Mancow, who is some sort of radio host who's been tugging at the skirts of Howard Stern for a decade.  Boy howdy that was some bad radio.  What is this quality -- take Glenn Beck, for additional example -- affected by media personalities where aw-shucks know-nothingism is used to mask a stentorian proscriptive moral code that would worry Father Coughlin, all fueled by a sociopathic egotism?  Whatever it is, it seems to be recently repopular, and I don't like it.  It is charisma learned from watching action movie villains from the late 80s, and it might as well have obvious foreshadowing for the inevitable "I fooled you all!" monologue.  So no, don't like Mancow either.

But I like working from Panera's, so good morning, and try to get something done on this Labor Day.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:20 AM

September 6, 2009

good morning 9.6.09

I know I'm obsessing, but I have the occasional troll that hops in on my Twitter feed -- the MC 900 Foot Glenn Beck types.  So recently I got all fed up with it and the ideological gulf and the naked aggression towards the general welfare (for which I think you have to go back a couple steps in the evolutionary chain to find precedent), so I was all like, "Well, let's pretend like there's such a thing as socialist America-haters and that we're one of them," and sure enough those tweets get RTed by what seems to be a neo-McCarthyite as evidence of the existence of such America-haters.  Which should have filled me with joy -- my fiendish plan worked! -- but instead left me feeling dirty and mostly like, OMG the idiocracy is actually already here.

Is this a function of age?  This would be an excellent chance to make fun of the wicked (a neo-McCarthyite?), and I used to love making fun of the wicked.  But now I'm growing more into, what, empathy?  Futility?  Right now the whole subset of knuckle-draggers are having boy-girl parties with soda pop and cake because a policy wonk in a purely advisory capacity to the White House... resigned.  And I can't tell if the glee comes from advancing the cause or from just hurting some dude.  The world, it hurts.

I'm staring down the barrel of a birthday divisible by ten -- I'm blaming that entirely.  But good morning back atcha.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:24 AM