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December 19, 2009

meanwhile in iraq

Meanwhile in Iraq, out of the headlines for twelve months, two interesting news items:

First, from Spencer Ackerman, the news that no American companies have acquired contracts in a a post-invasion auction of Non-Kurdish exploratory oil contracts.  While this could lead one to believe that the invasion was not about oil (as we progressives used to assert), Ackerman explains that it could also lead one to believe that the invasion was a little bit about oil, which little bit we botched pretty good.

And second, from the wire, Iraqi troops are facing down some Iranian troops over an Iraqi oil well that the Iranians seized.  I know, soldiers are always facing each other down over some damn thing, but Iran and Iraq had a really nasty little war twenty years ago.  I don't think anyone's saying that it will happen again, but the possibility of it sure does make for spicier chili, considering the varied and confusing commitments we have in the region combined with the stink-eye we've been giving Iran since George Bush Axis-of-Evil'ed them.

OK, enough of that, back to Tiger Woods.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:37 PM

we throw off gaits

This is a brief kicker from a Boing Boing post by Cory Doctorow about undercover cops collecting DNA samples from suspects:
And this is one of the main reasons that biometric identifiers are so very risky...  You can protect the PIN for your debit card by shielding the keypad when you enter it, but how do you keep counterfeiters from getting your DNA for authenticating the debit-card of the future?  We throw off fingerprints, DNA, hand-geometry impressions, gaits and other biometrics at a titanic rate, and there's no way to stop, short of spending all your time in a hazmat suit.

I'm sharing it with you because it captures perfectly what it is about sci-fi writers of the futurist bent (Doctorow, Gibson, Stephenson, Vinge) that has me so enchanted these days   the ability to unravel an idea forward instead of backwards.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:22 PM

December 18, 2009

health care reform, hands-throwing

Am I a bad person for failing to continue to pay attention to the health care debate?  I noted that it was edging towards internecine warfare, which is only fun if you're watching from the outside, and then decided that videos of cute puppies and the HuffPost nipslip parade were infinitely more interesting.

Yes, I'm a bad person, but not as bad as the pols derailing this process into insignificance.

Speaking of which, this bit of video did slip into my line of vision — more evidence that Sen. Franken is the baddest senator alive.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:50 AM

December 16, 2009

fifty years of second city

I have very little to add to this small NYT feature on the 50th anniversary of Second City, other than to say that if you are a "comedy person" then the history of Second City is something you should absolutely absolutely know about, more influential than Monty Python (around these parts).  SNL?  That'd be the less-funny more commercial version.

And also I would add that the headline ("Look Back In Laughter") is the kind of thing that copy editors should lose their jobs over.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:31 PM

good morning 12.16.09

You might have noticed a little productivity drop-off in the past day or two.  What happened is, I was starting endless drafts of a very thoughtful and beautiful (but punchy!) piece on the experience of visiting the City Marshall's office to discuss the disposition of an automobile.  In between starting drafts, I would wad up the immediately previous draft and throw it at a trash can — and then miss, but only sometimes  It was very much like a montage.

And then I had this idea to format this piece in such a way that you would have to keep clicking links to advance to the next portion.  I was thinking a sentence a page.

And then I realized that that's not the kind of oversharing anyone's looking for, even stalkers.

But if you did notice the drop in productivity: gee, you're swell.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:14 AM

December 14, 2009

chris lehmann on taibbi

Chris Lehmann on why Matt Taibbi is partially validated for his beating on Goldman Sachs (in the Awl).

Ordinarily, here is where I'd throw a sentence or two as a free taste from the pusher-man.  But not in this case!  It's actually a piece of writing in which each paragraph relates to the paragraphs that precede and follow in order to make a greater point, which point is something like, "It has come to light that Taibbi was righter than his detractors said he was, so said detractors might want to get some crow to eat early to avoid the Christmas rush."

Remembering the substance of Taibbi's piece and the pushback against it, I realize that Taibbi's real success is that he was able to find the ember of outrage that is buried in the mundane and complex facts of the conduct of Goldman Sachs and stoke it into an actual flame.  And reading Lehmann's partial defense, I realize that the sheer un-sexiness of the conduct of Goldman Sachs, no matter how defenseless (other than by that great early 21st Century trope, "It wasn't technically against the law.") may well keep that small flame that Taibbi tendered from being able to break through into any kind of mainstream attention.

That is to say, since it cannot effectively be reduced to a three-minute for/against spot with two talking heads on Wolf Blitzer's program, it will continue to sound like conspiracy theory no matter how right Taibbi was.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:14 AM

maud newton on m.f.k. fisher

Maud Newton on reading of the most timely sort -- M.F.K. Fisher's "How To Cook A Wolf".  I myself recently read "How To Cook A Wolf" and I too definitely kept a corner of my eye on the lessons I might learn about kitchen management from Fisher.  Though Maud hogged the best little bit to share with casual readers that gives a good feel for the book, I say that the sections concerning saving all (or most, I guess) sorts of leftover fluids and making a stock out of them is not only useful but fun and delicious.  And M.F.K. Fisher is one of the best food writers alive or dead, so please read even if you are a TV dinner type.  (Note to self: do they still have TV dinners?  And how about TVs?)

And as we're also talking about Maud, here is her contribution to the field of listicles, which you will note is not very listy at all.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:10 AM