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March 5, 2010

starbucks in williamsburg

Further to this news, the latest iteration of "Starbucks-invades-Williamsburg" — I'm not sure if I've gone into this before (and if I did, on which website), but if you've been around NYC/Williamsburg long enough, you've probably heard the story of the first time Starbucks threatened to occupy some commercial real estate.  It was an autumn weekend, and Starbucks set up a table on the sidewalk in front of the vacant lot (which is still vacant, I believe) on Bedford across from the Turkey's Nest.  Two young employees had an urn of Starbucks coffee, and they were giving away free samples, telling the pedestrian traffic that Starbucks was building a store in the very vacant lot you're looking at.

This would have been around 1998.  The first wave of WBurg homesteaders were already shaking their heads at the influx of keeds moving in and availing themselves of the sweet, cheap rent.  (Like me!)  Galapagos was still in the planning stages, and about the only watering hole was Mug's.  Goat cheese?  Organic anything?  Across the river, my friend, over there on Monster Island.

So yeah, the first Starbucks event, it was a hoax, and a hoax I have direct knowledge of.  A little preemptive assault on the future that came to pass anyway.  Uniforms were faked, and I forget what coffee was actually used.  Cafe Bustello?

But it was a good one.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:57 PM

merrill mcpeak and the homophobic elephant in the room

There's an amiably vile guest op-ed in the NYTimes today by Merrill A. McPeak, who was the Chief of Staff of the Air Force two decades ago, in which McPeak argues that Don't Ask Don't Tell should not be monkeyed with at this current time.

Why amiable?  Well, in the body of the op-ed when he's making one of his obfuscatory correlating arguments, he lapses into two paragraphs on why the Air Force is better than the God-damn Army and the God-damn Navy, and I think that specific sort of intra-service rivalry is just fun.  Gratuitous shots in the pages of the New York God-damn Times?  Right on.

But it's mostly just vile, as McPeak dances around with history and practical matters and then is forced to put his cards on the table before his allotted newshole expires:

Armies have to care about what succeeds in war. Sometimes they win or lose because of material factors, because one side has the greater numbers or better equipment.  But armies are sure to lose if they pay no attention to the ideas that succeed in battle.  Unit cohesion is one such idea.  We know, or ought to, that warriors are inspired by male bonding, by comradeship, by the knowledge that they survive only through relying on each other.  To undermine cohesion is to endanger everyone.

OK fine, let's accept the premise, but sneak up behind it: is the unit cohesion of our armed forces so weak-ass, so lame, that if a soldier admits that he likes guys the cohesion of the unit will suddenly diffuse?  These cohesive units, filled for centuries by all sorts of people — loud talkers, infrequent bathers, flippantly public self-abusers and fucking assholes — will be thrown into disarray over admitting biology?  Not to mention the whole being-shot-at-thing.  To be able to handle that and not handle a gay is mind-boggling.

So if this is the case, then how did we win the wars that we've actually won?

Basically the unit cohesion argument can be distilled into, "Our homophobes in uniform will not abide open gays."  So unless McPeak can produce some literature proving that only homophobes can be bad-asses (which I will reject out of hand: when have gay-bashees ever outnumbered their gay-bashers?), then argument dismissed.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:04 AM

March 4, 2010

more coffee party

Last week I wrote this:
And of course if this Coffee Party phenomena surges, will it be because the cause took off, or because a WashPost reporter had a slow afternoon?

And from Tuesday's edition of the NYTimes:

Fed up with government gridlock, but put off by the flavor of the Tea Party, people in cities across the country are offering an alternative: the Coffee Party.

I'm not denying the Coffee Party has its intrinsic appeal — who doesn't love coffee? — but the founders of the Facebook fanpage should probably send a box of chocolates to the Washington Post.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:15 PM

secret mountain hideout

So I wait my entire adolescent/adult life for an actual mountain hideout, one just like the ones I would obsessively draw the cutaway schematics of when I was ten years old (rec room, jet car hangar, kitchen...), to be found, and it ends up belonging to those lousy no-good international terrorists Al Qaida.

This is my childhood you are messing with Al Qaida, and I am an American and therefore my childhood is supposed to be off-limits and inviolable!

Please, superheroes, or at least highly-trained elite cadre of good guys, reveal a bigger, better, jetcar-hangar-ier secret mountain hideout of your own so that everything will be right again.  Hopefully one with beach access.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:26 PM

March 3, 2010

rip t-bone wolk

I didn't see this anywhere else, so I'm repeating the sad news that T-Bone Wolk has passed away.

You may remember T-Bone as the bass player for Hall and Oates back in the day, or playing with GE Smith in the SNL house band.  T-Bone was classy and unsung, he'd been there and done that.  There was never a moment that you could pick out, a "remember when T-Bone...?" but that's because he was too busy music directing behind the scenes, not attracting attention to himself (other than with his hat).

Here's a little T-Bone, sitting in with Nick Lowe and Darryl Hall on "Cruel To Be Kind".

Posted by mrbrent at 5:07 PM

too bad about choptank

If you're the interested sort you've no doubt already read Sifton's review of a Baltimore-inspired restaurant, of which review a work buddy from Bawlmer says (and I paraphrase), "He's laying the Charm City on a little thick, there, isn't he?"  He may well be, co-worker, which would make him guilty of being too exuberant a fan of your hometown (as am I).  All hometowns should be so lucky.

It's a bit sad on a rainy gray morning to see a restaurant not glowingly reviewed, but Sifton does nail what it's like to eat in the average NY restaurant at this point in history:

But a bistro steak with sweetbread gravy, mashed potatoes and baby vegetables puts you right back into a New York winter: eating B-minus food with friends, throwing money down a hatch.

Zeigeist!

And do read this Diner's Journal follow-up in which Sifton lays out the source of his Chesapeake fixation along with a brief history of the New York Press, which at the time was an institution not unlike Spy magazine was to the late 80s.  (Which you can read about here.)

Posted by mrbrent at 10:02 AM

March 2, 2010

hitchens v. vidal

I'm not gonna stand between Christopher Hitchens and Gore Vidal — depending on your tastes, either everyone wins or no one wins.  As a soul raised to respect the Man of Letters, I'm just glad that I'm the target of neither.

But this (from the Hitchens column linked above), though, dude:

(One report of the event said that this not-so-rapier-like reply had the audience in “stitches”: Vidal in his decline has fans like David Letterman’s, who laugh in all the wrong places lest they suspect themselves of not having a good time.)

But a gratuitous shot at Letterman?  Whose fans pretty much laugh at the right places?  And which places, if called the "wrong places", are evidence of a terminal lack of humor?  That I might get riled about.

But not so riled as to be a target, no.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:15 PM

jim bunning's filibuster

W/r/t Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) "putting a hold" on legislation that's resulting in furloughs and expiring unemployment benefits and bears, I think that Josh Marshall nails it when they point out that Bunning is not so much putting a hold on the bill as he is engaging in a filibuster.  And he is engaging in a filibuster without actually having to stay up all night reading "As I Lay Dying" out loud.

It's silly to get bogged down in semantics, but I think it's important for the casual viewer, already filled with hate because of a sudden loss of a job or a paycheck thanks to Bunning, to hear the word "filibuster" while in the throes of this hatred so as to hammer home the idea that it's not just "gridlock" that's causing this — it's procedural mischief conducted by a senator unpopular enough within the caucus (and not running for reelection) that the GOP is more than happy to hang him out to dry if they are forced to.  It's petty on the part of the senator and Snidely-Whiplash on the part of the greater Republican Party.

Of course, it's only Snidely-Whiplash to the extent that this is ever reported as a filibuster.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:48 AM

brief bright moment on the takeaway

OK, so sometimes NPR's "The Takeaway" (to which I am forced to listen when I walk the little dog) is not so suck: just now, they led into a story on the quake in Chile with a brief contemplation of the work of Roberto Bolaño, with two short excerpts read.  That was classy.

And then the segment followed, which whipsawed between two guests being asked faux-incredulous questions that would get to the botton of this in three minutes and twenty seconds.  And computer/robot sounds in the interstitials of course, because it's radio and we can't see the robots that work for the show so we have to hear them.

But the Bolaño bit was very nice, so credit where credit is due.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:42 AM

March 1, 2010

back to your millions, harold ford jr.

I was talking with a co-worker on Friday about the governor of NYS, David Paterson, and how he was finally not running for reelection, and how I always thought he did a good job but for the fact that he was unelectable.  "Really?" coworker said, "I always thought he was kind of sleazy."

"Wait," I responded, "like Harold Ford Jr. sleazy?"

And the co-worker shuddered and shook his head.  "Not like that."

Today was mildly shitty.  I guess a lot of days are mildly shitty.  But this news, of Ford second-thoughting his candidacy back to the private sector without polluting any primaries, I will take as good news.

I'm no big fan of Gillibrand (God I hope I'm spelling her name right), but I'm especially no fan of primaries against incumbents, because only ill comes from them.  And Harold Ford Jr. is just icky.  No matter what ticket he ran on, I wouldn't vote for him for State Flower.

Lesson for the day: hurrah for small victories.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:16 PM

beavers and moose

The Winter Olympics ended up being pretty nifty (making me a convert), but the little number that closed the ceremonies last night was so awesome that I feel like quitting whatever it is that I do and just watching that over and over again.

First honorary presidents of Canada William Shatner, Catherine O'Hara and Michael J. Fox worked on their stand-up routines, and then Micheal Buble kicked off a song and dance number that cycled through an arena-sized table-top hockey game, with a little Canadian kid as the puck, a cadre of dancing hockey players, Mounties and lumberjacks, shockingly healthy-looking dancing girl maple leafs and finally a parade of inflatable beavers and moose.

It was the finest parody of a closing number ever presented as an actual closing number, which only confirms my life-long love of Canada.

I would go look for a link for it but then would do nothing for the rest of the day.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:47 PM

February 28, 2010

it's "paterson"

Exactly five posts ago I misspelled the name of the governor of New York.  It is supposed to only have one "t" in it.  This means that I've been consistently been misspelling his name ever since we started talking about him, 20 years ago.

And as long as I'm falling on my sword, for years I would misspell the surname of the Mayor of 9-11 — I guess I thought that the first "i" softened the hard "g" so completely that it was subsumed, the "g" and the "i" becoming forever one, living over at "g"'s house.  This of course was not the case.  It was an error.

This does not mean I'm stupid.  This means that I am a very special kind of stupid, a kind of stupid that in fact eddies off of a distinctly non-idiot quality I possess, a stupid that makes me remember the names of public figures wrong.

I'd make another boring reference to being old, but this kind of stupid I've had since back before then.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:33 AM