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September 3, 2010

philip stricker: you have imminetized the idiocracy

Congratulations, son, you are now officially a US voter:
Philip Stricker, 21, a biology major who voted for Mr. Obama but says he has not been paying much attention to politics lately, uses a nontechnical term to describe the phenomenon.

“There’s a vibe,” he said on a recent afternoon, while pumping weights at the gym.  “Right now it seems like Republicans just care a lot more than Democrats.”

All you need to become an official member of the US electorate the laziness required to use "vibes" as the basis of making big decisions and a terminal lack of curiosity.

To become a seasoned US voter, you need to add a stiff defensiveness to anyone pointing out the obvious fact that you are a by-definition know-nothing and perhaps should not be qualified to drive an automobile let alone participate in an electoral democracy.

We'll give young Master Stricker a few years and see if he develops this bitter sense of ignorance-self-entitlement.  Or maybe he's a fast learner?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:23 AM

September 2, 2010

tom scocca on sharks, predictability

Tom Scocca pretty much captures all that is wrong about the Internet in a comments thread to an unremarkable news story in the Washington Post.  It's a story about a shark.  The comments go just like you'd expect.  I don't have to even excerpt them!  You in fact don't even have to click and read them, because you know exactly how those comment threads about nothing go Hitler in fifteen minutes or less.

Also Tom Scocca sums it up:

The Internet is an instinctive killing machine, and if it stops swimming and attacking, it dies.

I would add that all that is wrong about the Internet is also all that is wrong about a whole lot of other things.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:53 PM

yup, we're talking about boobs

Why is it that the ironing board is the go-to simile for flatness?  Of all the interesting features of ironing boards, flatness falls pretty far down the list, with weight/sturdieness ratio and collapsing-leg-function both being far more fascinating.  I'd be much more compelled by "as hard to wrestle out of a closet as an ironing board" or "as ubiquitous but archaic as an ironing board".

And flatness is not really that distinctive of a feature.  Within reach from where I sit, flat things include my desk, the floor, the walls, the door, the mousepad and the CRT.  Obviously, a durable simile is more concerned with color than it is accuracy, otherwise you could skip the simile entire and just say "planar".  But if you're sticking with the simile construction, how about "as flat as a marble counter" or "as flat as Kansas" or (and this is a remembered one from childhood) "as flat as a flitter".

Further: note that the piece linked avoided use of any phrase referencing "a handful".  Maybe victory, probably defeat.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:17 AM

September 1, 2010

william gibson on google

William Gibson is smarter than you:
Cyberspace, not so long ago, was a specific elsewhere, one we visited periodically, peering into it from the familiar physical world.  Now cyberspace has everted. Turned itself inside out. Colonized the physical.  Making Google a central and evolving structural unit not only of the architecture of cyberspace, but of the world.  This is the sort of thing that empires and nation-states did, before.  But empires and nation-states weren’t organs of global human perception.  They had their many eyes, certainly, but they didn’t constitute a single multiplex eye for the entire human species.

The excerpt is from an NYT op-ed Gibson contributed, on just what Google is now.  It's good stuff.

At the risk of hero worship, I've been impulsively re-reading the entire Gibson canon for the past eighteen months, in the hopes that cool insight is something I can pound into my own head.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:38 PM

beer thrown at optimism

Visiting the Yahoo! mainpage for nostalgia's sake, this is the first headline I noticed:
Private sector unexpectedly cuts 10,000 jobs in August

I even read the story to make sure that there was no inaccuracy or bait-and-switch in the headline.  There's not.  It's a financial story, concerning projected figures being revised to actual figures.  It's a little bit jargony.

But if there is a person living who can be ambushed by the private sector cutting jobs, then this is a person that should not be gainfully employed in the economics field.  Plastics.  Plastics is the future, my easily-surprised-by-the-obvious friend.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:15 AM

August 31, 2010

uppity hedge funders

Aaron Ross Sorkin (who only writes in SCOOPS!) today has the story of how high finance wizards who supported our president as a candidate are not so supportive now that he is president.  Or at least one or two.  The primary wizard cited is hedge fund manager and former Obama-supporter Daniel S. Loeb:
“As every student of American history knows, this country’s core founding principles included nonpunitive taxation, constitutionally guaranteed protections against persecution of the minority and an inexorable right of self-determination,” [Loeb] wrote.  “Washington has taken actions over the past months, like the Goldman suit that seem designed to fracture the populace by pulling capital and power from the hands of some and putting it in the hands of others.”

It may be a story that Wall Street is deserting the White House, as Wall Street likes to buy candidacies, and they have a lot of money.  But the bigger story is that Loeb is a terrible history student, as the core founding principles he brings up are one-for-three.  Non-punitive taxation?  Let's go to the source — it's not in there.  Article 1, Section 8 grants Congress the right to lay and collect taxes, but does not mention how punitive they are allowed to be.  Persecution of minorities?  Considering that it was nearly a century until the 13th Amendment was passed, that's laughable on the face of it.  I'll give self-determination, just because an act of self-determination happened, though you could argue that our Western Expansion was a pretty historic example of the denial of self-determination to a whole lot of indigenous people.

So Loeb is mostly wrong.  So there.

And to me these rich people yakking about free market capitalism and the creeping Nazi menace of government regulation are not so much whining as they are overtly trying to bribe.  "If you dare to protect consumers, if you dare suggest that our billions in hedge fund profits should be taxed like income, then we'll just buy a president more pliable."  I'm happy to argue the dogma behind this, but they are more concerned with the quid pro quo than they are with the conversation.

To which I say: "Inside Job" is coming this fall.  Let's all go see it.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:02 PM

the summer of bedbugs

OK OK I'm already terrified of bedbugs so please stop with the rampant glorification thereof.

How terrified am I?  I am a lifelong adherent to "sidewalk decor", much to the dismay of my wife.  Some of my more favorite items of junk are in fact items I found "onna street".  And this weekend a neighbor put out what must have been a metric ton of books, and books are the most delicious junk items ever.  And they were good books, and if it was a used book store (hello, Niantic!) I would've needed more than one brown paper shopping bag to fit my haul.

But it's the summer of the bedbugs, and there is nothing in which a bedbug cannot hide.  Even the subscription inserts that fall out of a magazine when you hold it by the spine?  Each one could contain more bedbugs than you can count.

So I just looked at the free (and potentially mine) books, made a sad puppy face and kept walking.

So please let's put this behind us so I can ramp down to a normal level of paranoia and anxiety.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:19 AM

August 30, 2010

the conspiracy problem

So, trolling some conspiracy message boards (which I won't link on account of, I dunno, respect), I'm catching a whiff of the thought that The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are actually counter-intelligence assets of whatever unseen hand that runs the world.

In the context of the conspiracy world, this is not controversial.  Well, nothing is controversial — the web of doubt is drawn so tight that nothing is unquestionable, anything is possible and the most obvious ally is probably not.  (And I should say that the mbs I troll are left-leaning, and not of the black helicopter variety, though after a fashion there is no distinction.)

So here is the dilemma: I work in the entertainment industries, and I have friends of friends that work in the nightly televised satire field.  And from my experience and my knowledge it is impossible that the content on either TDS or TCR is being nudged in the service of cointelpro.  There are no direct lines to the CIA in the writers' rooms, and even if there were, the pressure of putting on a nightly show leaves little room for nudging, be it from the network or the New World Order.  I'm not saying it's not possible.  I'm saying it is the highest order of unlikely.  But do I volunteer this informed opinion?  It'd be nice to knock down an easy one like that, but then again generally those that knock down easy ones are generally thought of as agents of the Unseen Powers themselves.

I want to be helpful.  And I think the batting around of ideas on these sites is useful — it sort of serves as the REM sleep for the national consciousness, if you can think of it like that.  But if I dare post, does that make me a whack-job tinfoil hat like everyone else that posts?

Like with the Truthers, or that subportion of them that think that the planes that flew into the WTC were holograms.  That's an easy one, as I've got friends who got freaked because of a low-flying jet on the approach, and another one who won part of a Pulitzer for the shot she snapped from the Promenade.  But is it worth it to open that discourse and its can of worms?  Even if your thoughts are accepted, will you be then dragged into endless arguments over planted mini-nukes?

I suspect that lurking is the best strategy, at least with these very unstable affinity groups.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:12 AM

August 29, 2010

9-12 dingbattery

One of the refrains of the attendees of Glenn Beck's "Restoring Dollars Into Glenn Beck's Wallet" rally yesterday is, to paraphrase, "I just want to return to the way we were on September 12, 2001, when America was unified, etc. etc."  This is not intrinsically a bad thing.  Maybe even it's understandable, some kind of nostalgic yearning for a subjectively better circumstance.

But here's the sick part of it: the better circumstance being yearned for is the day after two skyscrapers got knocked over on top of three thousand people.  I know this is a sticking point for a lot of very patriotic and honorable Americans, but as a New Yorker, 9/12 was a really terrible fucking day, the smell of it alone.  And if there was any unity on that day, it was born of being stunned and that only.  Liberals did not have the liberal momentarily knocked out of them.  Maybe people living in places entirely unaffected by the attacks were thinking grand political thoughts of togetherness, but here in New York we were busy trying to count the dead.

So with kindness I say to the people who wish we could go back to 9/12, to this whole 9/12 Movement: your effort to politicize and claim 9/11 for your own while maintaining plausible deniability is just not shrewd enough.  You are either cynical liars, hiding your objectionable demagoguery behind ostensibly higher motives, or you are ghouls, longing for that awesome day when so many died.  Both are things I do not wish to be.  And as far as it goes, claiming that your wish to impose your dogma on all the people is nothing but a desire to bring back a unity that never existed is both dingbat and odious.

The high ground on which you think you stand does not exist, so please leave us alone.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:55 AM