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September 18, 2010


W/r/t the bronado video: maybe I'm naive, but I'd never really bought that "bro" as a meme was something that actually happened in the world.  And I'm someone who goes in for "dude," so it shouldn't be that much of a shock to hear actual bros bro-ing each other, even at the height of terror and excitement that a Park Slope tornado brings with it.

And here's a tangentially related funfact.  In my hometown of Rochester, NY, there is a DJ named Brother Wease, who was one of the earliest versions of the morning "zoo crew" that populates your radio dial.  Gravelly voice, with a bunch-of-blue-collar-guys-hanging-out vibe, he was (is) as iconic as you can get in a media market like Rochester.  Well, the pronoun/interjection of choice for Wease and that portion of the audience that identified with him was, "Brah."  Which I thought was more of a surfer-expression.

So basically I hear "bro" and then I think "brah" and then I'm all like, dude.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:59 AM

vampire cowboys saloon

Late as usual, but tonight is the first episode of this season's Saturday Night Saloon, presented by Vampire Cowboys, in the scenic Bushwick area of Brooklyn, NY.

Six different plays in six different fantastical genres will be presented, episodically!  I know that episodic theater is rough, because who can commit to making all five shows (third Saturday of each month until January), but it is well worth your time, and definitely worth your money, as it is free free free (five bucks to drink beer).

And one of the plays is written by me: "Jack O'Hanrahan and the One-Sided Window".  Tune in as Jack and his friends are hot on the trail of demagogue Father Glenn Boughlin, who has already attracted the attention of President of the World Nicholas Mountainrange.

What could be more fun than that?  (Please don't answer that question.)

Eight o'clock sharp, location in the link above.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:28 AM

September 17, 2010

two sides of the tea party

Amidst the tumult I totally missed the results of the last primaries of the season, which brought us two prototypical Tea Party candidates in upsets.

First, here in New York State, Buffalo millionaire Carl Paladino won the GOP nod for governor.  Paladino is the raging id of the Tea Party.  He is all enthusiasm and rolled sleeves, he's mad as hell, and you're mad as hell too!  So it's a date!  He is not inchoate.  In fact, he knows a great many things.  But he is the anti-incumbent fervor wrapped up in a foul-mouthed man who has turned his dog into a prop.

And the flip side is Christine O'Donnell, who shocked longtime Delaware pol Mike Castle in a bid to take Joe Biden's Senate seat.  O'Donnell is the anti-Carl Paladino.  There may be rage in there somewhere, but if there is it has sublimated into pure naked ambition.  Literally without qualification other than "I'd like to be senator, please," O'Donnell is entirely emblematic of the Tea Party as it stands now: they want to replace the people with governing skills with people who agree with them.  It's not that they are avoiding qualification in the candidates they favor, but more that they are neutral on the issue.  And maybe even willing to make a point about the depth of their desire for having their loud voices represented that they will back unelectable candidates out of spite.  O'Donnell is this unelectable candidate.  She is the no-calorie candidate.

Paladino is the easier to understand version, a little bit Ross Perot, the aggrieved businessman who will show those Beltway goofs how to run a civic apparatus like a corporation.  He'll get some ink and some votes update.  His association with the Tea Party is almost coincidental.  O'Donnell, however, is the Tea Party in one fell swoop.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:48 AM

September 16, 2010

moe tkacik lands at city paper

This is excellent news — after a bit of bouncing around various gigs, Moe Tkacik lands at DC's City Paper, where she will hopefully blog long time and prosperously.

If you are not familiar with Tkacik's work, she is smart and funny, and she is schooled to the eyeballs in the ways of finance and the industry that surrounds it.  She also has a little bit of a mean streak, and she indulges in impossibly long sentences (like likes like!).  Take this opener to a post on Howard Kurtz:

I wish I had the bile in me today to go advanced menstrual on Howie, who was a decisively early adopter of all the traits—fatuousness, near-religious myopia, imperviousness to basic comprehension, dogged almost-Confucian commitment to churning out colorless text in such reliably prodigious volume every single gosh darn bleeping day that any of his editors who are not in a coma already are probably still too overwhelmed combing it all for copy editing errors to notice how extraordinarily awful he is — the “journalism” business would later come to deify.  But either the abundance of trees and sunshine and nature smells in this fucking town has already started to screw with my neurotransmitters, or I am just in a “service-y” mood, because this one is all about lending a hand to the aforementioned overburdened copy editors.

Ha!  That's some good whiskey, I say.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:43 AM

September 15, 2010

fried dumplings on the awl

Gah, the next piece I wrote for the Awl went up last night right as I was running out of the office and so if anyone clicked through to here they were met by a tepid by-the-numbers "Newt Gingrich is a dick" post and I'm feeling like company came over before I had a chance to empty the ashtrays.

But it's up and it's putatively about fried dumplings but what it's really about is the interface between you and the world and how it's mediated in ways that are different than they used to be.  This is always true, I guess, but ah sweet mystery of life, yes?

There is one comment left on the piece which goes as follows:

This would make a great entry in a William Gibson fan-fiction contest.

I can't tell how the comment is intended, but I will cop to excessive reading and re-reading of Gibson over the past eighteen months.  So even if that is a neener neener, thank you for the comment, Username El Matardillo.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:10 AM

September 14, 2010

the relevance of newt gingrich

I too was initially hopping up and down over the latest Newt Gingrich-says-something-deliberately provocative — in this case restating Dinesh D'Souza's latest transparently commercial high-concept for a "book", that President Obama is inspired by Kenyan, Marxist ideology.  Like, to the DailyKosMobile, Robin, and all that.

Fortunately, I was directed to this Dave Weigel essay which talked me off the ledge a little bit:

D'Souza was the first modern conservative author to discover — the hard way — that if you want to be a pundit, there is no downside to making a reprehensible argument.  The downside comes for the people who may agree with your politics but not your argument.

That's the nice friendly thing Weigel writes before he smashes D'Souza's thinking into the million pieces of piffle that it really is.  So no real need to get worked up over it, right?

But I do remain a little aggrieved over the subject of Newt Gingrich.  Last month's Esquire feature on Gingrich was extremely revelatory concerning the motives and methods of Gingrich, how his former Conservative intellectual zeal has calcified into a say-whatever fecklessness.  D'Souza's crackpot theory contains the codewords "Kenyan" and "Marxist", which are two dogwhistles too potent for Gingrich to pass up.  But in light of the article (not to mention his excess of ex-trophy wives), why do the words of this man get repeated by the mainstream media?  He's a disgraced, failed politician whose ambition outstrips his shame.  What exactly is his relevance again?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:15 AM

primary day

Oh yeah I voted this morning.  I love to vote.  I love the Oreos and orange juice they give you when you're done, and I love being reminded what an elementary school cafeteria looks like — everything's so little!

This year I'm working on new voting strategy, at least for the primaries.  Instead of knowing anything about any of the candidates, I voted for whoever was handing out the best flyers.  I kept checking for maybe a fiver somewhere in that stack of glossy paper, but no.  But at least now I know how a real rootin' tootin' American feels.

Remember: if you don't vote, you don't get to have big big savings on select items through the day!

Posted by mrbrent at 9:49 AM

September 13, 2010

dick ebersol: what would roone arledge do?

I was ready for some football, so last night I plopped down in a friend's finished basement to watch the Sunday night game on NBC, which is known as "Dick Ebersol's Football Night in Dick Ebersol's America".  The opening sequence was a little jarring (Faith Hill?), but Dick Ebersol was limited to one credit, so the overall humility brought it home.

It was a nice little broadcast package, with the youthful antics of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth in the booth, and teenager Bob Costas hosting the pre-game.  Plus, the Cowboys stumbled, so that portion of America for whom the 'Boys are not their team was happy.

Ultimately though, it could've used a little more Dick Ebersol.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:15 AM

September 12, 2010

william gibson in wired

That last thing is long and emotional and shrill.  Apologies if that's off-putting.

As contrition, I offer this long interview with William Gibson.

Now let's all get back to work.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:40 AM

now you can't have 9-11

So all yesterday I was mostly bitterly cynical.  I was mostly stuck in the apartment, so this came in the form of muttering to myself: "You know what, if the douchebags want 9-11 so bad, let 'em have it.  Me and mine will have our quiet sober reflection and the crazified douchebags can have their little mini-May Day, maybe release some Muslims to the lions or something else appropriately ghastly."  That's where I was, and I was pretty serious about it.  Sometimes you just get so tired of arguing you don't want to do it, and I really don't see any scenario in which the Islamophobes of the world will suddenly realize that the "clash of cultures/war declared by Islam" thing happening now was entirely part of bin Laden's plans.

(To reitereate, bin Laden is a crafty evil dude with a specific policy goal — US out of the Arabian peninsula — who gambled that the US could be baited into ridiculous military adventurism through low-cost terrorist acts that would eventually be blamed on a religion and not bin Laden himself.  Looks like that worked out very well.)

And so, hands: thrown up.  Again, douchebag extortion works — "Cede us our point or we will so poison the discourse and culture in general that no number of showers will help you."

But last night I had the occasion to be driving around the non-NYC countryside, and I couldn't help but notice (hard to miss) three separate instances of fireworks between the hours of 8:30p and 9:30p.  The first one we saw, we thought might be some landowner burning his leftovers from the Fourth.  But by the time of the third one (and now with a little research) it was clear: people celebrate 9-11.

The whole "Patriot's Day" thing was sketchy to begin with, and I was of the opinion that it was far too goofy to ever have any kind of legs, that it was too redolent of, "What's a vague positive term that we haven't used in a holiday yet?"  Even in the endless build-up to the non-burning of the Koran by a formerly anonymous crazy person, the term used by the media was "the anniversary of 9-11" and not some stupid made-up holiday.  Americans are funny with their holidays.  Even the holidays that are deliberately dignified, the ones about remembrance and honoring sacrifice, are treated like the BIGGEST PARTY OF THE YEAR because that's how Americans remember things: by drinking beer and watching television sports.  So should it be a shock that some communities think it appropriate to commemorate the ninth anniversary of terrorists killing a whole bunch of people by setting off fireworks?

And I should be immune to this, having lived in America for my entire life.  It should roll off my back.  But the thing about 9-11 is that New York City bore the brunt of it.  9-11 might be a watershed for security-minded patriots, the day that it All Became Clear.  In reality, it's a day when a city of 12 million people had to eyewitness unimaginable horror, which city is generally held by the rest of America to be un-American in discrete ways, whether through the ease of our multi-culturalism or through our Big City reluctance to be intolerant.  So fine, we took the hit on that one, we got to smell dead people for a solid month, we lost a whole bunch of citizens including a very large number of actual heroes who were rushing into harm's way, and we are going to be, for the rest of our lives, anxious at both sudden loud aircraft noises and public spaces covered with posters.  We're not complaining.  In plain English, shit happens, and we get that.  We don't want your sympathy.  We're fine.  But the fact, and maybe I'm just dumb in waking up to it now, that the rest of America wants to have a picnic and fireworks to celebrate that awful day?  That is beyond the pale.  That is untenable.

There is not a fucking thing to celebrate.  We didn't win anything.  Our intelligence services, the best-funded on the planet, got beat by nineteen assholes with boxcutters.  Of the more than three thousand that died, only these nineteen were not innocent.  There is not a fucking thing to celebrate.  And while it's easy to imagine the crazified douchebags engaging in such proudly inappropriate symbol-making, adopting terribleness as a badge of honor, it is harder to think of most of America also being such fucking ghouls.

And now it's 9-12, which is the day that the crazified long for, the anniversary of the day when allegedly everyone was unified.  That also is a myth.  We welcomed your sympathy and your donated blood, but we were not unified.  We were just happy that you were as gobsmacked as we were, that you were stunned into not being a douchebag for half a second.

So I was wrong.  They cannot have 9-11, and their clueless 9-11 Day pig-pickin's are an affront to everything decent.  Loss and sacrifice are not honored by dumb-ass ritualized civic blowing-up of things.  It's worse than the knuckle-dragging protests yesterday at Ground Zero.

This is a nation desperately in need of grown-ups.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:47 AM

resale fee is patently dishonest

Good morning, I hope you enjoyed your 9-11 Day.  If not, please brighten your Sunday with news of how it's not just the financial services sector that has decided to increase the amount of blood sucked from the average consumer:
A growing number of developers and builders have been quietly slipping “resale fee” covenants into sales agreements of newly built homes in some subdivisions.  In the Dupaix contract, the clause was in a separate 13-page document — called the declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions — that wasn’t even included in the closing papers and did not require a signature.

The fee, sometimes called a capital recovery fee or private transfer fee, has been gaining popularity among companies that have been frantically searching for new ways to gain access to cash in the depressed housing market.

So financing sources dried up for real estate developers (those who turn forests into suburban tracts), so they decided to bury a clause in the small print that says that the developer gets a cut of the price of the house every time it resells.  The only way for developers to keep up their insane profit margins without access to easy credit is to add a fucking vig, conning home-buyers into allowing the developer to basically retain equity in a parcel they're "selling".

I say that's dishonest, and I say that it's another example of why markets need regulations: because someone is always trying to get away with something.  The firm cited in the NYT article as leading the charge is Freehold Capital Partners — may they be well and thoroughly investigated.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:18 AM