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January 22, 2011

keith olbermann

While we're waiting for the answer to the question, "Did Olbermann jump or was he pushed?" — Fineman? whiff — I've noticed on the social media that surf is very much up, and normal joes are piling on Olbermann like he's got the loose fumble.  There is an awful lot of distaste for Olbermann out there from the rank and file, people that I ordinarily would think of as fellow travelers, and it seems to come into full bloom coincidentally the day after Olbermann newsdumped his departure from television.

For one thing, I do not share this dislike of Olbermann.  Is his on-air persona that of an asshole?  It sure is, but, as they say about lawyers, he's my asshole.  His editorials were pompous and pugnacious and dripping with righteousness, which is one of the many ways I like my editorials.  And you don't have to like them.  I'm sure David Brooks is being interviewed, reasonably, on some network.  That might be more for you.  No harm in anyone if that's the way you go.  What's the point in pointing fingers if we can't all get along, right?

And for another thing, how fortuitous that those who do not like Olbermann have finally found the courage to voice their preferences.  It must be a relief to finally have the cover of groupthink to enable to so unburden yourself.

I hope that Olbermann lands somewhere in broadcasting, or that he is replaced somewhere, by a voice, imperious that it may be, unafraid to be uncivil, so long as they fall short of calling for the murder of judges or worry openly about a Reichstag reenactment.  Marc Maron?

Posted by mrbrent at 11:19 AM

January 21, 2011

probably the only lieberman hagiography of the day

And what are the odds that on Planet David Brooks, Joe Lieberman is not only a principled man of the middle, but also unspoken hero of the past twenty years?  A senator whose dedication to principle is not born of political expediency and pique at unwanted twists of fate, but of political courage, the courage to follow one's fortune like a lodestar no matter where it lead, like a hero, like a moderate, like a beige moderate hero unafraid to lean right and call it the middle?

The odds are: basically inevitable.

Joe will no doubt share many lunches with Brooks once Joe is a full-time lobbyist for General Dynamics or some other CT defense contractor.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:21 AM

pension obligation doubletalk

The info comes from a Wall Street Journal article, which is paywalled (so fuck 'em!), but brought to attention by Kurt Andersen's Twitter feed:
In 2001, NYC spent $1.5 billion on municipal pensions. This year? $7 billion, or $2300 per household. Astounding.

OK, astounding, sure.  Money can be daunting, especially in amounts bigger than you will ever see.  And the municipal pensions and other so-called "legacy costs" are a bigger bite than they used to be if only for the fact that people live longer than they used to.

What I don't get is the demonization of pension obligations, which you get a whiff of from Andersen's tweet, and which is applied on an institutional level as reported here.  No matter how crushing the financial obligation, no matter how sweet the benefit, it's a compensation agreed by the employer and the employee.  It's a handshake, and to try to find a way to weasel out of it is breaking your word.  And for Ma and Pa Kettle out there in TV land to nod approvingly is just baffling.

Corporations fought organized labor for a century under the flag of "freedom of contract".  But when actually makes a beneficial deal, then "freedom of contract" is more like "convenience of contract" — remember how the Detroit unions got blamed for the near-faceplant of the auto industry a couple years ago.

Labor is guilty of nothing but working a job and getting paid, and employers should be compelled to honor the agreements they made.  Recall, if you will, when financial services executives were scheduled to receive many millions in bonuses while their employers were being bailed out by the Feds, the defense of this practice was, "Employment agreements must be honored!"

Well, is it only the employment agreements of the plutocracy that must be honored?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:32 AM

January 20, 2011

curious dance of the 'citizen legislators'

So yeah the House passed some sort of legislation yesterday.  It's the first real bit of business got to for the new session of the House, as the first week was spent reading the redacted Constitution out loud and the second was spent scrubbing websites and generally taking away everyone's crazy-hats and trying to look respectable.  But now it's week three, and the new GOP leadership accomplished exactly what it said it would do: pass a poorly-written bill with a ludicrous name that has exactly no chance of doing anything except for wasting the People's time.  This is the repeal of "Obamacare" I'm talking about, of course, and the fact that the House leadership feels the need to tart it up with schoolyard epithets like "Obamacare" and "Job-Killing" show exactly what they think of you, the voter.

I'm not a total fan of the health care reform, but I'm under no illusion that the government has to reflect exactly my whims.  I like the parts I like, and will live with the parts I don't.

But your 112th House just spent two days achieving the equivalent of having a bunch of T-shirts made up with some snappy slogan like "I'M WITH STUPID!!"  And this act engenders nothing but contempt.

I'd be happy to entertain some grown-up behavior, like legislating, coming from inside the Beltway, but I won't pencil that in quite yet.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:18 PM

augmented reality

Brief note — if you're familiar with the works of people like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, then you are familiar with the concept of "augmented reality" — basically, the ubiquitous of computing on a portable level enables art to be superimposed over the real life world.  Imagine virtual reality, and then walk it one step back, so that instead of an immersive but fake world, you have a created world overlaid, that you see through your mobile.

The potential applications of this are pretty interesting.  Obviously for entertainment/gaming, but fine art, certainly, and down the road social uses like geotagging (which is already extant, yes, Google) and public safety (realtime evac routes? robust traffic signs?), and definitely education, kids'll eat this stuff up.  Of course it's a little bit scary, too, walking around in a world where all that stuff you see might not be actually there, but that's technology is for.

I bring this up only because yesterday was the first time I saw augmented reality mentioned in the NYT, in the context of a promotion for Esquire magazine that will superimpose Brooklyn Decker into a photograph you snap.

So, OK, maybe the scary is already here.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:27 AM

david roth is good

So as I understand it we are all supposed to be deleting our Tumblrs quitting our blogs.  Funny, I thought that had largely happened years ago?  And I'm not goofin' — all your favorite bloggers from five years ago are now your favorite senior editors or entrepreneurs or hard-chargin' freelancers.  Just like getting old: things change

And speaking of writers that I'm knocked out by, by virtue of his football (!) writing for The Awl I poked around the "blog" of David Roth and read this post right here, which is as fine a post you'll find that explains the motivations of a certain breed of writer, which motivations I ratify and confirm and share nearly down to the word.  And there are lots of words!  No pullquote, because it won't do it justice, and because maybe you are the reader that really doesn't care about a writer talking about writing, and shirts.  That's OK too.  I'm sure someone will say something stupid today, and then we can all stop navel-gazing and point and laugh.

But: David Roth is good.  Read him.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:12 AM

January 19, 2011

what is titivil?

So what is a titivil anyway, and why choose that as an Internet pseudonym?

Second one first.  This little concern got started up in 2004.  2004, if you were around back then, was a little hothouse of blogging.  In fact, much of the online content you now read is generated by these insane people with fake names that blogged like runaway trains.  (For the murderer's row of these people, check the links at the bottom of this page.)  I'd been "blogging" myself, since 1999 or so, on a now-defunct website that was the online presence of a variety show that I and a very good friend of mine, Sara Lamm, produced here in NYC.  By '04, the show had lapsed, and I wanted to jump into the already-full pool of people writing for an invisible, silent audience from the comfort of their own homes.  All of the awesome of joining an APA or running a zine, without having to spend a penny on xeroxing.  But I needed a funny name too, since everyone else had one, and I did not want to seem conspicuous.  Luckily, the aforementioned Ms Lamm had given me the shorter Oxford English Dictionary for Christmas, and, like all dictionaries, each page has a header including the first word defined on the page, and the last word.  And on one of these pages, the first word defined was "titivil".

Which brings us to what a titivil is — it is a specific sort of devil, the kind that snatches up the errant words spoken in the recitation of the Mass and carries them down to Hell to be held against the speaker.  Generally, a nifty concept, from back when there was a whole org-chart of the varieties of devils, demons and imps.  And errant words?  Who doesn't love errant words?  Or at least holding words against people?

So I snatched Titivil up and now here I am.  At some point I realized that the need for Internet anonymity was not over-bearing, so I became a little less circumspect about my slave given name, which is Brent Cox, but I still like the concept so I'm keeping it.

Sorry, this is about seven years late.  I really meant to get to it, I swear.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:00 AM

January 18, 2011

she who will not be named

Sigh.  Sarah Palin speaking on the University of Arizona memorial service last week, in which the president spoke:
"I agree with those who have said that the setting was a bit bizarre, it was kind of like a pep rally, kind of like a campaign stop and that was unfortunate because that really did, the setting, distract away from the message, and the message is, as I prefaced my comments with today, the number one thing to remember here is lives were lost, people were injured by a crazed gunman that I and you and others had nothing to do with influencing him," Palin said.

I know, it's Sarah Palin, so it' not like we're expecting some kind of conversion, some last stab at legitimacy through contrition.  And I don't think that she actually thinks that the number one thing to remember is that she and whoever she's talking to (Hannity? the viewers at home?) did not influence Jared Loughner, but that what's she said.  Not just not a presidential thought, but the thought of some kind of sociopath.  (And a thought that she may have just blurted and not really thought, natch.)

To be fair, just by bringing that sentence to a full stop somewhere, anywhere, and then continuing with a new sentence, Palin would appear seventy percent less crazy.

There's some other vile stuff in there, but I'm not sure that that's noteworthy.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:03 AM

setting yourself on fire?

This is an amateur and off-the-top-of-the-head read, but from this NYT piece on the continuing events in Tunisia, it seems to me that now that the overthrow has happened, the search for the brake switch on the protest movement is ongoing and as-yet fruitless.
Protesters — previously focused on ousting President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali — marched on the headquarters of the Progressive Democratic Party, the biggest legal opposition party, demanding that it pull out of the unity government. Inside, party leaders struggled to mollify their members. “You sympathize with the current government,” one woman shouted. “How are you supposed to represent the people?”

Two ways to look at this.  First, the change that happened was not change-y enough, and the Tunisians that flooded the street are not satisfied with increments.  The initial replacement coalition contained a bunch of dudes from the overthrown government, so that could be irksome to the man on the street.  But second, well, is that the act of protesting is so intoxicating that nobody wants to stop yet — taking to the streets, wielding primitive but unequivocal political power, I could see how that would be a lot more fun than going back to being merely disenfranchised.

And of course it could be a bit of both, or neither.  But the aspect that gives me pause is that it is a movement partially predicated on people setting themselves on fire, which reportedly continues to happen.

I love freedom as the next guy, but I must say that I'm at least of leery of a mob that will set itself on fire if they don't get what they want as I am a good old-fashioned dictatorship.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:56 AM

January 17, 2011

zeitgeist: the self-promotion

Is it possible to defend oneself and promote oneself simultaneously?  I think so.

The media starts to make a connection between AZ shooter Jared Loughner and conspiracy-dripping documentary series "Zeitgeist", so filmmaker (and movement founder!) Peter Joseph says NO WAY, but in oddly-canted terms:

Make no mistake: The Social System is to blame for the rampage of Jared Loughner - not some famous online documentary which is known as the most viewed documentary of all time in internet history. Are the other 200 million people who have seen the film also preparing for murder sprees? I think not.

Some people just take the marketing/SEO guru phenomenon way too seriously.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:20 AM

happy mlk day

Dear people of America:

Happy Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  If you're old enough, you remember a time MLK Day was not a Paid-Day-Off, but rather every day, in a sense, for those of us with the proper amount of reverence for the Rev. Dr. and the sacrifices he made.

But now that this is a federal holiday, please celebrate this day appropriately: by imagining the stick being symbolicaly poked in the eye of every American racist alive trying to redo the Civil Rights era.  Oh, this is not a "some would say" — I don't imagine there's too many of them, but I'm sure there are enough to wish consternation and discomfort upon.  And remember the time when the people actually made the difference.

Plus also see a movie or make a big dinner for your friends. 

Posted by mrbrent at 8:51 AM