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July 22, 2011

a little grover for a friday

There are all kinds of things to get upset about in this op-ed that Grover Norquist felt compelled to write (and the NYT felt compelled to run) — about as many things as there are to get upset about Norquist, actually, he of the "Shrink government to the size that you can drown it in a tub" sentiment.  But if I have to pick one thing worth getting steamed about, it's this.

Now, the reason that Norquist is in the news at all is because of his silly Taxpayer Protection Pledge is being cited as a reason that some House Republicans would never vote for a debt ceiling increase that increased revenues.  This raised the question: who the hell is Grover Norquist and why are elected officials bowing before him?  This is the section of his op-ed addressing this issue:

Another challenge has been to suggest that members of Congress had somehow made a pledge to Americans for Tax Reform, or even to me personally, and that therefore it should be no big deal if they broke their commitments. Nonsense. The pledge clearly states that the commitment is to the people of their states and the nation. During the last election cycle those people elected a majority of the House who have made this commitment to their constituents.

Well, addressing the issue at least in the sense of sidestepping it.  But anyhow, the conflation Grover is making here (Grover equals the American people) is distressing to say the least.  We all want to cloak ourselves in the majority, give ourselves the high ground, unimpeachability.  But to answer the charge of personal influence wielded with, "No, it is not I! It is the will of the people!" is some megalomaniac bullshit, for real.  It is not the people the GOP are afraid of, it is Grover Norquist, annointing a primary challenger, or worse, cutting off the lobbying money.

BTW, Grover's organization, Americans for Tax Reform, is funded by a nice mix of billionaire neocon foundations (Scaife! Olin!) and Big Tobacco, so if Grover is a synecdoche for some group, it's less "proud American citizens" and more "corporate fat cats".

Posted by mrbrent at 10:07 AM

July 21, 2011

tonight at the cornelia street cafe

This stupid texting-while-walking issue is eating my brain.  For the past three days, I have been obsessively surveying the number of pedestrians that are somehow playing with a gadget while walking, and by my back-of-the-envelope calculations, that number is 115% of all pedestrians.  And this does not include the loud phone-talkers that creep up behind you and then walk exactly as fast/slow as you do — those people are just evil, not distracted.

But at the same time I realize that the more ones and zeroes I devote to this, the closer I creep to quixotic behavior, or at least back-sliding to that elementary school level of everyone making fun of me.  So as a solution, instead of walking on the sidewalks with everyone, I will travel only by rooftop, like a low-level superhero.  It'll take some climbing, but I could use the workout.

Also!  And this is the last you'll hear of it, but tonight I read in front of people, and if you are in New York you are more than invited because I will forced to be social!  6p (though the fellow I'm opening for, Farid Nassif — and I am opening, my slot is enough to read two pieces and stare at the audience awkwardly — swears we go on at 6:30p) at the Cornelia Street Cafe, which had better be air-conditioned, I tell ya whut.  Seven bones at the door, I'm told, which includes a drink, but I don't know of what.

Maybe we could just ban texting while walking on stairs?  Or during rush hour?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:00 AM

July 20, 2011

i can talk about walking forever

A colleague and I were on the same train this morning, and accordingly we walked the three avenue blocks to work together.  At some point she checked her email on her handheld device (while walking) and I remarked to her that, hey! isn't it interesting that in Philadelphia what you're doing is a ticketing offense?

She didn't think it was interesting.  In fact, she thought that the new code is a stupid waste of time.

But, I answered, you're a dedicated walker.  You love walking.  You've never had anyone nearly get run over by you because they stopped to skip a Foo Fighters song?

It's never been a problem for me, she said, as she scrolled to the next email.

It's funny, I was wondering not a month ago when someone of note would remark on how the posture of either holding one's hand up to one's ear, or dropping one's chin down to one's chest, while walking is an entirely new use of our bodies that we did not necessarily have time to evolve into.  Then I was rereading "Zero History" and Gibson had a passage that echoed the sentiment.  So there you go.

But given my colleague's scorn, I gave a second thought to my position on distracted walking.  Aaaaand I'm still against it.  Not to be unreasonable, and maybe my position will evolve, but there is public space and private space, and getting from point A to point B largely happens in public space.  There's no reason that it shouldn't be as pleasant as possible.  (Not to mention what a scary picture an entire nation of people unable to encounter an environment without being cut off by a gizmo paints, etc.)

Posted by mrbrent at 9:50 AM

July 19, 2011

a law against texting!

This may look like a bad idea — for the summer, Philadelphia is enacting a fine for walking (among other things) while texting.

And this is definitely the post wherein Andy Rooney is invoked and the getting-off of lawns is referenced, but, this fine for texting while walking?  Absolutely a good idea.

Laws are intrusive, impediments to the liberty of man, sure.  But, at the same time, humankind needs to be protected from its own bad habits.

Take for instance walking.  Forward motion is truly one of more beautiful aspects of nature, be it the water trickling down the stream, or ants somehow seemlessly merging into one tiny point of egress.  However, watch the collective motion of a bunch of people and it is a truly ugly sight   chaotic stop/starts caused by the inordinately aggressive/polite, hurt feelings, the gas face — the whole magilla.  People do not have skills in these ways, like ants.  They do not keep the game in their heads: cooperate, and everyone gets there faster.

In the same vein is distracted walking: veering off of true, sudden stops, even just walking at two-thirds speed, head down.  It may be very important for the subject to change the playlist or dash off the text about how they're five minutes away, but to the people whose paths are impeded it is not so important.  For them, the important thing is deciding whether or not to knock the subject on their butt to teach them a lesson, or to pull them from in front of the speeding car and save their texting life.

And since this mild egotism will not be trumped by common sense, the five-oh need to get involved.  (And it is a temporary program, so Libertarians rest easy.)  I wish that it didn't have to be that, but if there were no stop signs, some intersections would be uncrossable.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:08 AM

July 17, 2011

brent cox at the cornelia street cafe

I just remembered I have a reading.

I haven't done one of these in a couple years, so I'm actually going to try to promote it like it matters: this Thursday (July 21) at 6:30p, at the Cornelia Street Cafe, in the heart of Greenwich Village.  Where, if memory serves, I acted in a little play in 1997 or so?  It was a cute little play, with a section on Mormonism that pounded enough info into my head to serve me well as a succession of Mormons run for president.

But enough about magic underpants!  It will be a reading, and I promise to be entertaining, and I am opening for writer Farid Nassif, who promises to play the piano.

(Expect more of these posts!  I am terrible at self-promotion but am going to try!)

Posted by mrbrent at 11:09 AM