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October 9, 2009

me, i tend towards believing the unbelievable

An excellent find by Boing Boing — a seemingly crackpot article warning that the moon asplosion that happened this morning must not happen for fear of provoking extraterrestrial lunar civilizations into some kind of military retaliatory action!  Just the kind of kooky thing you can note on a blog, mock gently and then be done with before the coffee break is over.

But!  If you have more than a coffee break's worth of time, click through and read the source article — it is free of primary crackpot symptoms (misspellings, all-caps, 9-12... that sort of thing), and the author pretty rationally uses the moon bombing as a peg to discuss some documented assertions that not only is ET out there, but ET was paying scary close attention to our extraplanetary flight efforts.  As in a secret base on dark side of moon, and unknown spacecraft ringing the crater in which the moonshot happened.  Which may or may not be true, but why not kill a few moments thinking about it?  It's not like Lee Harvey Oswald will shoot you three times real quick all by himself if you don't.

And as a sidebar, I realized that by my reckoning today's little moon experiment was the first deployment by mankind of a so-called kinetic weapon, which consists of a real big thing dropped from orbit to planet-side, which is a big favorite WMD in the speculative fiction I've been reading.  Science!

Posted by mrbrent at 11:34 AM

vampire cowboys saloon tomorrow

Tomorrow is the second edition of Vampire Cowboy's Saloon, which is a little episodic theater project in which I am participating with this here keyboard.

Now I know you're already planning on coming so I won't waste time asking.  But do be advised that the entire metropolitan transportation system of New York City will be in retrograde tomorrow, so plan accordingly.

With a little foreknowledge, you won't have to let a shuttle bus from Lorimer to Morgan discourage you from free theater and endless rivers of beer for five smackers.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:03 AM

good morning 10.9.09

I'm going to skip right over insinuation and tell it like it actually happened: last week, when the rightwing gave themselves tennis elbow patting each other on the back after the IOC denied the Chicago Olympics bid, there were some dudes in Norway who were paying particularly close attention to that right there.

Maybe that's not how it went down, but this irony is delicious: political interests manufacture a goal for Obama — popularity around the globe   so that they can later accuse him of failing at, which goal he quickly and suddenly fails to fail at.  Wile E Coyote couldn't have done it better.

Good morning.  Weird news day, huh?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:05 AM

October 8, 2009

olbermann on healthcare

I know we are all distracted because of the Great Twitter Freeze-Up of 09 (or at least this guy is), but let me recommend highly last night's Countdown with Keith Olbermann.  He designated the entire hour as a Special Comment on health care, and it's a stunning piece of work, personal, researched and reasoned.  It's even fifty percent less smarmy than Keith can be sometimes, and it had me sobbing a couple times (as bad as this made me sob yesterday afternoon).

I go back and forth on the extent that one's own personal experiences with health care/health insurance should be employed as arguments for health care reform.  I guess in one sense I think it's tacky — the majority of us have these experiences, and I'd hate to cite my own terrible experience as somehow universal or worse than anyone else's terrible experience.  And yes, I do have a terrible experience that I could cite that I've written about elsewhere.  And I will still probably hold off on retelling it on this site.  But Olbermann couched his entire hour in his own personal experience with his parents, and the excellent conclusion he came to (and repeated) was that if Olbermann, who can afford whatever health care he wants for his loved ones, can clearly see that health insurers are corporate interests trying to make money off the illness of Americans, then what of the vast majority of Americans who do not have Olbermann's deep pockets?  Why is this not the damn obvious truth?

Probably ain't many of you out there that need convincing on this point, but if you know someone that does, make them watch (or read) the episode.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:24 PM

stop calling christie fat

I agree — there is no place in the campaign for governor of New Jersey for allegations of fatness leveled at Chris Christie, the Republican challenger.  It is not fair and mean to call Christie fat, or remind him that he is fat, whichever.

Also, I think that articles about how articles reporting the onset of efforts to call Christie fat are inadvertently repeating the words "Christie" and "fat" in the same sentences, and are also not fair!  So stop writing/publishing/reading them!  Also, any articles about the second generation of articles, include those.

Basically, just stop thinking about how fat Chris Christie, because as educated voters taking part in our uniquely American system of representative government, only the highest considerations should enter our heads as we entire the voting booth, and not thoughts of whether Christie is so fat that he needs some kind of special car.

Taft was probably fatter than Christie, and he was president.

(You're still thinking about Christie and fat.  Quit it, if you love democracy.)

Posted by mrbrent at 10:22 AM

October 7, 2009

bigfoot is eating your tomatoes

We don't have enough fun anymore.  I don't know why — Age?  Responsibility?  Our imaginations have withered and shriveled into little dried walnuts of is-today-an-alternate-side-parking-day?  It could be any of these things, or it could be that chicken-on-pita that I ate last night was not the ideal dinner choice.

It could be, even, that it's Hump Day.

Whatever, let's have fun.  Let's join hands and dance in a circle while we wonder just who is it that's eating your tomatoes, and why would they do such a thing?  Is it a deer?  Is it a neighbor's child?  Is it a hobo?  Is it a lost terrorist, destroying freedom and/or your garden?

Nope: BIGFOOT IS EATING YOUR TOMATOES!  Because tomatoes are delicious.

See?  That was super-fun, and it's barely lunchtime.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:46 AM

dowd on letterman, er, i mean

It's not that I frequently disagree with Maureen Dowd.  It's more that I am frequently befuddled by Maureen Dowd, and the op-ed column-writing choices she makes.  But today our interests align so I must give credit where credit is due — she explains exactly what I've been trying to vocalize concerning Dave Letterman:
Sexual harassment entails pressuring or penalizing a staffer or making the office atmosphere hostile. Despite the blustering of the attorney of the alleged execrable extortionist, Joe Halderman, there’s no evidence yet that Letterman was guilty of that.

Working for a boss as anti-social and self-critical as Letterman, whose world is circumscribed by his show, would not be easy. (The man is obviously not joking when he goes off on his self-loathing shticks; otherwise, he would have dated some of those gorgeous actresses flirting with him on air over the decades.)

But we haven’t heard that the curmudgeonly comedian, who has never lost his streak of Midwest primness, forced any staffers to listen to tales of pubic hairs on Cokes or Long Dong Silver.

Yes, that's what I've been trying to say.

So if I can have back all those hours spent debating the ethical implications of David Letterman's sleeping arrangements now, that'd be super.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:44 AM

October 6, 2009

taibbi: the message, the static

The continued and intensified presence of Matt Taibbi is a good thing!  In fact, I will go so far as to say that tempestuous little chairfights over financial blogging?  Also a good thing.  (Even though one should never ever get into an argument like that publicly, because it's not polite.)

I freely admit that Taibbi is not everyone's taste, and that he can be potty-mouthed, or just strident.  But there's not really anyone else talking about Big Picture things like the possibility of fraud and corruption in our financial service industry or health insurance wrongness, or at least no one talking about it at length, so if Taibbi is the one man grabbing headlines for being shouty about these things, it's everyone else's fault for not having been shouting along with him.

Personally, I'm down with the cuss-word stridency, and I waiting for a more convincing counter-argument to him than, "He just doesn't get it because he's an outsider," before I dismiss him out of hand.  And I think that it is Taibbi's abrasiveness that spurs him to eat up the newshole and nudge the conversation.  So it's a good thing/bad thing.

Take this bit, for example, from a brief look at Michael Moore's new film:

But we’re living in a time of extreme crisis almost nothing on TV or in the movies is designed to get us thinking about how to fix our problems. If anything, most of the stuff on TV is designed to jack up our anxiety level without offering any solutions except the short-term fixes of buying and eating — witness the endless reality shows in which ordinary people slave away and scheme against each other for weeks on end for a 1 in 12 shot at a (pick one) modeling job/date with a non-deformed, non serial-killing person/chance to be shouted at by Donald Trump.

Now that stuff is cynical and monstrous.  It is my sincere hope that the people who are producing these programs will someday be tried and executed by war crimes tribunals at the Hague.

The first paragraph is exactly the reason the world could use a few more loudmouths like Taibbi (or the world could stand for the other loudmouths to raise their voices), and the second sentence is an example of why it is easy to dismiss Taibbi.  And from a piece on Moore's message/how easy it is to dismiss Moore's message because of Moore.


Posted by mrbrent at 11:11 AM

david brook: jibber jabber

David Brooks is fun to push around a little -- free market nerd, aggressively nice Republican op-eder -- but his work today is magnificent, in the sense of I'd like to have some of what he's smoking.

It's an odd little allegory of two of his friends, Goofus and Gallant Bentham and Hume, who are different!  In different ways!

Mr. Bentham is a great lunch partner. If you ask him to recommend a bottle of wine, he’ll reel off the six best vintages on the wine list, in ranked preference.  Mr. Hume can’t even tell you which entree to order because he doesn’t know what you like.

See?  And then Brooks is all like, health care!! and the screen fills with rainbows and little hearts.  See, Bentham and Hume are actually dead philosophers, so it's supposed to be funny, but for the fact that there's never an explicit acknowledgement of the same, or implicit wink at the little bit of cleverness.  So instead it comes off as either smarmy or deranged, depending how you look at it.

It is truly a "tied an onion to my belt" moment for David Brooks.  Cool.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:01 AM

October 5, 2009

rip gourmet

Further to this scoop, here's my take on the looming death of Gourmet magazine.

First of all, I'm partial to paper.  I always have been and I always will be, and a sure way to get me to swoon is to take me to a junk shop or a antiques stores that sells old magazines -- I mean old magazines, from back when they still had some mystery to them.  So the news of one more magazine pulling the plug is not a good thing, for readers or the makers of magazines.

On top of that Gourmet is (was?) one of the good ones, with a 68 year history of writing about food and eating.  And at the best of times it was producing not only top flight food and travel writing, but excellent writing no matter the genre.  We were not always a nation of foodies, and Gourmet was never one to chase a trend.  Back when everyone was content to eat whatever could be freezedried into a flavor paste or frozen into tinfoil, Gourmet was already there.

Lately Gourmet was stumbling, in my opinion, as it seems to be hell-bent on producing more and more recipes at the expense of features and reporting -- nothing against recipes and they are central to the appeal of a Gourmet (or food writing in general), but it seemed that Gourmet was trying to play someone else's game.

No matter: the loss of Gourmet is colossal, and seemingly counter-intuitive -- why kill a not-dead brand, brimming with good will?  Smart kids say that the migration of magazines away from the dead trees is inevitable, and they might be right.  But even if a web-only emag is the planned continuation of Gourmet, it will not compete with some of the really great issues, when you felt like you were reading a publication on par with the New Yorker and Vanity Fair, but exclusively about delicious things and places.

It sucks.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:22 AM

whip it

Is it me or is there a surfeit of misplaced Shadenfreude out there?  The boo-go Obama Schadenfreude, as discussed immediately previously, is the most excessive but at least motivated by something identifiable -- deranged petulance at having lost an election.

But this morning I'm seeing multiple headlines about how the Drew Barrymore roller derby picture "Whip It" tanked at the box office or, worse yet, "CRUSHED by 'Zombieland'!"  I don't know if the animus is directed at Barrymore or roller derby, but I don't think that it's merited in either case, and the people whose opinions I respect have said that "Whip It" fucking rocks and everyone should see it.

Or is it nothing to do with Barrymore/roller derby, and just that people are mean just for the sake of it?  I hope that's not the case, because that's karmic territory we shouldn't flirt with as a culture.

Actually, I also wouldn't mind seeing "Zombieland".

Posted by mrbrent at 9:00 AM

October 4, 2009

no to chicago

So I myself was opposed, or more accurately indifferent, to the bid for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics, just on the account of so what?  They're a fun little party and everyone that lives in the Olympic town can make a few bucks renting out their apartments, but it didn't seem like a story that merited so much coverage, Obamas or no.

But I was somewhat surprised to see the decision of the IOC cheered like it was the fall of the Berlin wall.  I'm sure that the staff of the Weekly Standard have policy differences with the current administration, but the nihilism in the incessant hopes for Obama's failure is a new one for me.  And to head the equivalency arguments off at the pass, when that last president fainted because he "choked on a pretzel", we (me and the other reasonable folk that thought he was not a very good president) didn't exactly take to the streets and dance.  What's happening now is kneejerk and childish, yet retains the whiff of the bully.

And even the occasion is a bit mystifying, as I don't see it as a defeat of any sort -- it's like the President lost a game of chess to a computer,  "The One lost!!!! LOL He he he!!!"  Computers always win at chess unless you're Gary freakin' Kasparov, and the IOC moves in mysterious ways that are rarely swayed by lobbying.  Don't see the deal, and I don't see an international loss in prestige for the president in anyone's eyes but for those in whose eyes he already has no prestige.

It's like taking pleasure in the president falling off of a Segway.

But if the GOP wants to run on the platform of "Chicago lost!" then who am I to stop them.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:00 AM