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October 16, 2010

saturday night saloon tonight

Naturally if you're looking for something fun to do tonight you will stop by here and ask, "Hey, what's goin' on?"  Normally, the answer would be, "Not much.  You?"  But not tonight, as tonight is the second episode of the Saturday Night Saloon, presented by Vampire Cowboys, in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn, NY, which they tell me is the center of the universe.

Six different plays in six different fantastical genres will be presented, episodically!  Last month, the initial episodes, was colossal, so even in the event of a sophomore slump it should be well worth your time, especially considering 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".  It was supposed to be all about Glenn Beck.  It still is, I guess, but not so much as not to be entertaining.

And I'll be there, pacing nervously.  I might be only a so-so playwright, but I'm very good at pacing nervously.

Eight o'clock sharp, location in the link above.  Bonus: L trains are running!

Posted by mrbrent at 10:36 AM

October 15, 2010

someone please name this crisis

The Foreclosure Something-Something is still extraordinarily interesting to me, above and beyond my interest in the behavior of banks in general.

Two reasons: First, the source of the "crisis" is something very near and dear to my paycheck — the behavior of low-level legal types.  While caused by some white-shoe deciding that the mortgage recordations (and subsequent foreclosures) should be going faster, ultimately it boiled down to professionals on my level (i.e., professional but not actually a lawyer) signing an affidavit that contained assertions that were incorrect, or signing a name not there own, or other such things that courts of competent jurisdictions generally frown on.  I'm all like, that could've been me! except for the fact that had I ever knowingly signed a false representation that would get a soul kicked out of their house, I would be honor bound to throw myself off of something tall.  I'm all kinds of asshole, just not that kind.

Second: this is not a playing-with-fire crisis, not something caused by tasking scientists and mathematicians with devising new ways to make money and then not sufficiently understanding the new ways.  This is not Promethean.  This is old-fashioned, straight up greed and cheating.  As in, if they're going to process four hundred foreclosures a day, why waste all that money on compliance and just have some sucker commit perjury on all the paperwork?  Who's gonna check?  It's just another deadbeat freeloader.  So I guess that I'm fascinated by this because there are fewer shrubs for the financial services industry to hide behind, motive-wise.

And if you want people with actual experience writing cogently about such matters to give you a fuller understanding, then Moe Tkacik and Yves Smith are the places to start.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:16 PM

good morning 10.15.10

I know that talk about stats and referring links and what not is boooooring, but some paid-movie-download-pirate site managed to link-refer me thirty-five times in the past day.  Referring links are a measure of other non-search engine websites who have a hyperlink directing a visitor to this site.  The unscrupulous websites — in the past, porn sites and link farms — would send traffic to blogs and the like that would be measured as link-referred, in the hopes that the blog owner would notice the traffic and click over.  It's been around forever, and it's not such a bandwidth suck that I care one way or the other.

But thirty-five times?  That wins, in this little Internet career.  That is some robot that really wants me to stream some bootleg movies.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:11 AM

October 14, 2010

choking on a what?

So here in New York State there's this crazy dude running for governor who says crazy things — he's a real pistol, as my granddad would've said — and he said some stuff about hating gays at the behest of this rabbi and then back off the comments only a little bit but enough to hack off the rabbi.  I'm sure that you have something similarly entertaining in one of your local elections.  But the real entertainment is derived from what the rabbi (Yehuda Levin, his name is) was quoted as saying, in this NYT story:
“I was in the middle of eating a kosher pastrami sandwich,” Rabbi Levin said.  "While I was eating it, they come running and they say, ‘Paladino became gay!’ I said, ‘What?’ And then they showed me the statement.  I almost choked on the kosher salami.”

I'm nervous that commentary cannot improve the rabbi's thoughts, but was he concerned that we'd maybe think that he was eating a traif pastrami sandwich, like with bacon and cheese?

Also: Choking on a kosher salami?  There's really only one thing that can mean.

Maybe this rabbi has what they call a ribald sense of humor?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:04 AM

October 13, 2010

ted miller is an unrepentant scumbag

Matt Taibbi interrupts his long days of feature writing to spit out a couple hundred words on the rank hypocrisy of candidate Joe Miller (R-Tea Party), running for Senate in Alaska, who is of course ardently opposed to any and all kinds of government entitlement programs, even though he has been a recipient of them.  That is to say, Miller, and the Tea Partying Like-Minded, are opposed to entitlement programs that benefit you:
This whole concept of “good welfare” and “bad welfare” is at the heart of the Tea Party ideology, and it’s something that is believed implicitly across the line.  It’s why so many of their political champions, like Miller, and sniveling Kentucky rich kid Rand Paul (a doctor whose patient base is 50% state insured), and Nevada “crazy juice” Senate candidate Sharron Angle (who’s covered by husband Ted’s Federal Employee Health Plan insurance), are so completely unapologetic about taking state aid with one hand and jacking off angry pseudo-libertarian mobs with the other.

Not that this sets Miller apart so much from the other candidates who have been propelled into the general election by the Tea Party Movement.  What really sets him apart is his blanket refusal to address any further personal matters until the election.  It's the converse of "When did you stop beating your wife?" — any non-policy question is immediately qualified as an attack and ignored.  And it would be political suicide, a tacit admission of skeletons in the closet, were he not a Republican running in a very red state.  (Though I would say that the behavior rises to the level of "unrepentant scumbag"."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is in most probability your next senator from the great state of Alaska.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:45 PM

Donuts: I'm sorry that I took you for granted.

I stopped eating donuts on a regular basis at least a decade ago, but I was raised suburbs-soft, so donuts were not just a treat or a breakfast — they were a staple, like salt or canola oil.  And back then, donuts were good.  Donut technology had not advanced to the point that it was possible to make a donut entirely out of non-donut materials.  The baseline, the worst a donut could be, was not that bad at all, whether you were buying them from a country grocer or a national chain.

And once I got to NYC for college, donuts were the calories that got you through until late lunch.  Manhatta

Posted by mrbrent at 9:29 AM

October 12, 2010

bees are back

Bees are back!  Serious allegations of untold connections in the NYT story claiming that the mystery of Colony Collapse Disorder had been solved, in a Fortune piece by Katherine Eban:
A cheer must have gone up at Bayer on Thursday when a front-page New York Times article, under the headline "Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery," described how a newly released study pinpoints a different cause for the die-off: "a fungus tag-teaming with a virus."  The study, written in collaboration with Army scientists at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center outside Baltimore, analyzed the proteins of afflicted bees using a new Army software system.  The Bayer pesticides, however, go unmentioned.

What the Times article did not explore -- nor did the study disclose -- was the relationship between the study's lead author, Montana bee researcher Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, and Bayer Crop Science.

Eban additionally questions Bromenshenk's motives in that he owns a company that is developing devices that "that use sound to detect various bee ailments," which devices would be more easily marketed were a fungus/virus threatening bee colonies and not something else like, say, pesticides.

It's science, and ticky-tack back and forth is not out of the ordinary, nor are side-deals for sweet sweet cash, so this should be taken with as big of a grain of salt as the original NYT story.  But that is enough of an appearance of impropriety for me to declare the mystery of CCD still mysterious!

Also: we're back to being doomed.

[Thanks to Dan for bringing this to our attention.]

Posted by mrbrent at 11:28 AM

david brooks hates people

I go back and forth on David Brooks — he's amiable!  he's annoying! — but this morning's contribution is infuriating.  Brooks' premise: everything sucks because government employees are paid too much money.

Not a controversial opinion, as I'm pretty sure I hear it regularly anytime I wander too close to a television with any of the TV newses on, but it's an opinion I am sick to death of and one with which I disagree entirely.  It encapsulates everything about the Free Marketeers that makes me hate them: they see labor as a force to be manipulated and not as IRL people trying to make rent.

And this factoid specifically I wish would get hit by a cab or fall into an elevator shaft just die die die:

[Some polisci wonk] notes that nationally, state and local workers earn on average $14 more per hour in wages and benefits than their private sector counterparts.

Is there a better example of "Let's you and him fight"?  The middle class has been extincted as the business class moved manufacturing clear over seas, and so the new black is to set the unemployed against the one sector that's still getting paid a fair wage.  Perhaps the case is not that the government employees are getting paid too much.  Perhaps the case is actually that private sector employees are not getting paid enough.  But this would be an alien thought to a soul that measures a nation's prosperity by it "GDP" rather than the actual living circumstances of the actual people that live in the nation.

Obviously you feel like a jerk for letting David Brooks get under your skin, but this is an insidious little prestige, a distraction while the oligarchy picks your pocket, and the fact that it is repeated so often means that you have to push back against it harder and harder.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:30 AM

October 11, 2010

coupland's forty-five things to mope about

Go read this contribution in the Globe and Mail from writer Douglas Coupland (you remember him) consisting of a nice forty-five point guide to the future from the perspective of a radical pessimist.  Everyone seems to love this one:
6) The middle class is over. It's not coming back

Remember travel agents? Remember how they just kind of vanished one day?

That's where all the other jobs that once made us middle-class are going – to that same, magical, class-killing, job-sucking wormhole into which travel-agency jobs vanished, never to return.  However, this won't stop people from self-identifying as middle-class, and as the years pass we'll be entering a replay of the antebellum South, when people defined themselves by the social status of their ancestors three generations back.  Enjoy the new monoclass!

Which I agree with, but I find this one more dangerous fuel for thought:

28) It will become harder to view your life as “a story”

The way we define our sense of self will continue to morph via new ways of socializing.  The notion of your life needing to be a story will seem slightly corny and dated.  Your life becomes however many friends you have online.

That seems alarmist and unlikely, but maybe I'm just too wrapped up in my life as "a story".

Who knows if Coupland is right?  I mean, we'll all know in a decade or less.  But I find, as I've recently become addicted to reading the work of "futurists", is that what the good ones are talking about is how things are NOW, and then extending NOW into some foreseeable.  And if the work passes the NOW test, it's pretty good stuff.

Accordingly, the Coupland is pretty good stuff.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:18 PM

columbus day?

Maybe you are not familiar with this phenomenon: here in NYC, with all its esoteric industries (like "entertainment law"), Columbus Day is truly an "obsv.", as it is not universally honored.  Banks?  Yes.  Schools?  Yes.  Entertainment law offices?  Nope.  So this interesting thing happens where the coworkers with children either disappear, or appear a little bit late, with little ones in tow.

It is: "No, seriously: Take Your Kids To Work Day."

Plus also there's the experience of the ghost-town commute, the commercial blocks abandoned and shuttered.  That's kind of neat, actually.  Makes you feel like a circa 1974 Charlton Heston.

On the other hand, it's a gorgeous day outside.  So boo-go that.

I just hope the good people of Ohio have a good one, on this their day.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:25 AM