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May 7, 2010

balk v. ellis?

So in reading Alex Balk's initial take on the hung parliament and elections on the other side of the big puddle in general, I noticed a resonance with the Warren Ellis piece I linked yesterday.  Balk:
...it comes down to the most basic rituals of democracy, where the candidates vying to represent a constituency all wind up standing on the same stage in some horrible high school gym to hear the returning officer read their names and vote totals to the crowd before officially declaring a winner.  It is simultaneously touching, archaic, and somewhat eccentric—some of the exact characteristics we associate with Britishness.

And, Ellis:

It is perhaps worth remembering that, for all our immersion in technological advance and digital lifestyle -- and for good and ill -- this is still a world where security means a guy pats you down and doors are left open, and where a film is still a thing that requires carpentry and people and lovely utensils.

Balk and Ellis are pretty far apart in every way (other than style, maybe?), so this is not so much a case of like minds thinking alike as it is different minds ending up at the same cafe.  It's only two times that I've stubbed my toe on this yet, which is not quite a trend, but it seems there is a rogue sentiment (sentimentality?) out these and it's gone viral.  Ironic!

Posted by mrbrent at 10:55 AM

[x] in the uk

Hey, all you people in England, or the United Kingdom, or whatever I'm supposed to call it:

I will have you know that the New York Times, which is a newspaper of no small importance over here, which I picked up this morning intending to have a nice leisurely read about the general election that you probably voted (Lib Dem) in, was nearly entirely general election news-free.  Oh, there were some stories on page A6, but nothing on the cover, where there were stories about the growth of the Pakistani Taliban brand and about mortgage default key men.  The UK must've done something to irk the NYTimes something fierce, because not even a whisper, not even a teaser.

Just thought you'd want to know.

And while I've got your attention, a 25 year-old kid from Poland at this art opening was all like, "Margaret Thatcher was the greatest?"  What's the fifty-word version that I should've said instead of blowing a gasket and sputtering incoherently?

And yes, I'm talking to you, Shoebox.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:41 AM

May 6, 2010

not to fuel the cult

Ellis on what it's like to visit on a movie set:
Video Village is a couple of small monitors on a cart.  The (English) stunt coordinator confers with the (English) stuntman, discussing exactly how to kick Bruce Willis in the head.  No one’s on a phone.  No one’s twittering, flickring, blogging, emailing.  In the small, dark editing suite, big flat screens run Avid software, flinging scenes from one frame to the other. The only place where digital seems to have leaked into the process: storing and presenting the dailies.

I keep looking for a reason to hate Ellis, in the grand post-punk tradition of loathing your idols purely out of the shame of idolizing someone, and after a couple days of Ellisian solipsism — shout-outs to the faithful, bodymod gross-outs, etc. which I'm pretty sure constitutes a line being crossed, he goes and puts out something genuinely beautiful again.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:33 PM

fcc reversal

Today it's being reported that the FCC is edging back towards a net neutrality-friendly position, as they consider asserting oversight of that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum over which the Internet is delivered:
On Thursday, [FCC Chairman Julius] Genachowski is expected to assert that the agency, under its powers to regulate phone service, is permitted to require broadband service providers to follow certain transmission guidelines, including safeguarding privacy, not discriminating against certain types of content providers, offering service to rural customers at the same rate as urban customers and providing access to people with disabilities.

It's not exactly a full-throated assertion of a permanent net neutrality, but it's a nice succinct little start.

This is a bit of a change from what was reported over the weekend, if not a precisely 180 degree reversal.  So naturally, we should all take credit for this change of heart.  I know that we never actually took to the streets, but we thought about taking the streets maybe sometime, or at least watching The Daily Show, so it must have been that discrete shift in societal potential energy that spooked the shit out of Genachowski and sent him scrambling back to his proper net neutrality-leaning position.

So good job, dudes.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:14 AM

May 5, 2010

race card

Ben Smith (who apparently lives in the same neighborhood as me) puts his finger on the overarching truth of the past two years of post-racial America:
The phrase "race card" has undergone a strange transformation recently.  To play it meant, until recently, invoking racist sentiment.  Now, people accused of racism say their accusers are "playing the race card."

Not a lot of bells and whistles in there, but undeniably true.  And we should govern ourselves accordingly and stop hurting the racists' feelings by calling them racists.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:19 AM

los suns

I will probably not be watching any NBA playoffs this evening, but I will be rooting for one team: Los Suns, as the Phoenix Suns will change the names on their jerseys, in honor of Cinco de Mayo and for other reasons specifically pertinent to the great state of Arizona in which Los Suns play.

And even cooler is that it almost came to pass that it would have been impossible to pick a team to root for:

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is on board, and the team even tried to get their "Los Spurs" jerseys, though it was too late to do so.

This is some nice gentle but moving protest I can get behind, some very deft kung fu that should make steam come out the ears of AZ's National Front types.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:52 AM

May 4, 2010

net neutrality not

The Chairman of the FCC Julius Genachowski has let it be known that his support for net neutrality is a misty, tenuous thing that we shouldn't expect to be under the Christmas tree next year.  And these are the principles governing Genachowski's decision:
The sources said Genachowski thinks "reclassifying" broadband to allow for more regulation would be overly burdensome on carriers and would deter investment.  But they said he also thinks the current regulatory framework would lead to constant legal challenges to the FCC's authority every time it attempted to pursue a broadband policy.

So basically the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is more worried about burdening carriers than he is preserving public access to communications.  Moreover, even if he wanted to push some new regulations through, then the carriers would just get all litigious and so why bother?

Maybe I'm irrationally optimistic, but is this something that some grassroots hooting and hollering might affect the outcome of?

Posted by mrbrent at 12:16 PM

bomber: not tim mcveigh

So they caught the Times Square illegal-parker, and it turns out that he may actually have a foreign affiliation, as he is of Pakistani descent, and Pakistan is not unknown for producing people who blow things up around other people.

So I am glad I did not write the "if the attempted bomber is not an Al Qaida agent the right wing will have a stroke" post.  But at least the right wing does not have to contort itself into disinterested apologia and rationalization, as it would have if the perp was an angry white American who was trying to take his country back.

Still not panicking, though.  I didn't bring my panic-hat to work today.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:12 AM

May 3, 2010

michael brown is back!

Michael Brown, who was the head of FEMA circa hurricane Katrina, on the Gulf of Mexico Spigot:
"The delay was this," Brown said on Fox News today. "It's pure politics."

He continued: "This president has never supported big oil, he's never supported offshore drilling, and now he has an excuse to shut it back down."

That's certainly galling, if not unconscionable, but it at least opens up the door for bullshit equivalency:

The FEMA delay during Katrina was Heckuva-Job Brownie's pure politics — those poor people in those marginal neighborhoods who drowned in their attics in New Orleans wouldn't have voted Republican anyways.

I'm straining to find the iteration of "fuck him" that is worthy of the Michael Brown, but I can't.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:04 PM

balk dreaming

This is as fine a dream recap as you'll find these days, by Alex Balk, which is an excellent thing to read but for the fact that in four weeks there will be as many dream recaps as there are "Project Runway" recaps and it will be all Balk's fault.

And the comments thread is filling up with "OMG me too" and "What's it mean when [x]?" which is making me feel like we might not be one big society of collegiality these days but when a truly universal topic like dream symbolism arises we poke our heads out of our caves and stumble around smiling looking for a hand to shake.

Of course, when I say "we" I mean "I", but that's our little secret.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:57 PM

probably a misuse of 'fun'

Here are two fun facts relevant to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico:

First, while this oil leak seems bad beyond comprehension, remember that the platform that failed and caused this catastrophe was only one of roughly 4,000 platforms in the Gulf of Mexico (as of '05, that is).  Granted, given the number of structures, the failure rate since they started building them in the Gulf is very very low.  But when you take into account the horror of the worst case scenario, you begin to realize that a failure rate that exceeds zero is unacceptable.

And second, as a concession for a small tax on barrels of oil produced in the U.S., the liability for an oil company in the event of a spill is capped:

Under the law that established the reserve, called the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, the operators of the offshore rig face no more than $75 million in liability for the damages that might be claimed by individuals, companies or the government, although they are responsible for the cost of containing and cleaning up the spill.

Seventy-five whole million dollar?  I wonder how many days it would take every aquatic Gulf industry to earn (or lose) seventy-five million dollars?  Hurrah, oligarchy!

Of course, a workaround to this may be the fact that this is not so much a spill as it is a spigot to the bowels of the earth that was turned on and then snapped off the pipe.  Maybe there is no liability cap for spigot accidents?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:28 AM

but at least the shows did go on

I was driving out of town Saturday evening, so I totally missed the "CAR BOMB IN TIMES SQUARE" event which I bet was a realtime party of panic and trending topics and out-of-town relatives calling loved ones to be explained that in fact Red Hook is about seven miles from Times Square.  I know it seems scary, but after a) nine years of post-9-11 (when a bad thing actually did happen) shrieking nightmares; and b) however many years of being a NYer, having learned to be generally cautious, watchful and paranoid about one's own personal safety (and mindful of how the odds are not always in one's favor), a Pathfinder loaded with a couple propane tanks, some M-80s and glittery confetti is not exactly something to more worked up than usual about.

Not to say that there won't be some wringing of hands over this, but the wringing will be coming either from outside NYC or from FoxNews he-men, both of which being hard to take seriously.

But here's what we're gonna do: if the "terrorist among us" hysteria does continue, when Commissioner Safir says, "Anyone who's a terrorist take one step forward?" we are all gonna take one step back.  Just so to not take any chances.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:52 AM

May 2, 2010

old time religion

I just gave myself the gift of ten minutes of a radio preacher while driving.

I was raised in the faith and all that, but if you decontextualize yourself and try to figure out what he's talking about while pretending you have no foreknowledge of Christianity, it really sounds like crazy people talk.  And this dude was not a Pentacostal, or more concerned with the donations phoning in — he almost sounded scholarly.  And yet insane.  He might as well been talking about gods springing fully-formed from the foreheads of other gods.

I think I'm gonna catch some preachin' more often.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:46 AM

nativist apoplexy

It's Sunday morning, when thousands of bloggers search the day's Frank Rich for the pullquote they're gonna slap up.  It is a good one this week, concerning the latest episode of "nativist apoplexy" and the greater social movements behind it:
Arizonans, like all Americans, have every right to be furious about Washington’s protracted and bipartisan failure to address the immigration stalemate. To be angry about illegal immigration is hardly tantamount to being a bigot. But the Arizona law expressing that anger is bigoted, and in a very particular way. The law dovetails seamlessly with the national “Take Back America” crusade that has attended the rise of Barack Obama and the accelerating demographic shift our first African-American president represents.

It was either that one or the one about the secret powers of righteousness that turns one's own racism into racism against one.  It's a rubber/glue thing for the people who think Sarah Palin is presidential.  But I can't just cut and paste the entire thing — that kind of thing is considered poor form, unless you're Newser.

Also: Frank Rich has a cool job.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:29 AM