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September 2, 2011

the friday balderdash from david brooks

I mentioned this elsewhere, but it deserves to be unpacked a little bit, because it is David Brooks and it is terrible.  From this morning's column:
Dads no longer have to marry the women they impregnate because government will step in and provide support.

The column is about lecturing people about their manners and hygiene whatever it is that Brooks writes about when he's not imagining himself president.  But that's not important!  Context does nothing to save that sentence.

Purely by using the word impregnate, Brooks reveals that he is an alien sent to Earth to explore our backwards mating practices.  It also lets slip what one could imagine a David Brooks pickup line to sound like.

Even as Brooks means it, to demonstrate some moral erosion that Brooks imagines to have happened because he watched a lot of TV as a child, the sentence makes no sense.  Well, unless you agree with this statement: the reason men marry women is that they knock them up and then need to take care of them.  Not likely.  The only way that sentence makes a lick of sense is if the social safety net gave the men all the free stuff once they "impregnate" someone.

But ultimately, would you have wanted to have written that sentence?  That's an unfortunate smoosh of words embarrassed to be next to each other, I tell you.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:45 AM

September 1, 2011

robosigning *settlement*?

This is confusing.  On the radio this morning I thought I heard on the news at the top of the hour something like, "Some bank reaches settlement and agrees to stop robosigning," which I thought odd for a couple of reasons.  First, I don't think that I'd heard that any bank admitted to the practice of robosigning (which is, as you know, the signing of foreclosure documents without reviewing them), and second, foregoing the practice of robosigning is something that needs to be negotiated?

So when I got to the computer I looked it up, and sure enough, it's news — "NY regulator, Goldman reach "robosigning" pact."  The banks in question are Goldman Sachs and a couple of smaller entities, and the purpose of the agreement is to allow Goldman to sell off a mortgage servicer.  But do read this passage:

A chief focus of the superintendent's agreement, which was announced on Thursday, was putting an end to a practice known as "robosigning," in which bank employees signed foreclosure documents without reviewing case files as required by law.

Goldman, Litton and Ocwen agreed to stop the practice, make new staffing and training requirements for employees handling foreclosures and withdraw pending foreclosure actions that are based on faulty paperwork.

I'm a bit obsessed with the "as required by law" caveat at the end of that first paragraph.  Is there any other industry that "as required by law" is basically consequence-less?  I do know that for you or me, "as required by law" is something that we generally adhere to because we don't want to go to jail?

So an entire industry consistently commits fraud by forging signatures on foreclosure filings, and not only are they not punished under the law, they won't even agree to stop the practice unless bank regulators give them a carrot.

It's galling.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:27 AM

dfw: a concession to aesthetics

I had yet another couple thoughts on David Foster Wallace as the author of everyone's voice, as raised by Maud Newton and then commented on by Maria Bustillos/David T. Roth, after sleeping on it.

First, I clearly need to brush up on my Lester Bangs.  Funny how many glaring and embarrassing gaps there are in your education, no matter how hard you tried for all those years.  I mean, Lester Bangs?  It would've been entirely in place for me to have been reading that when I was fifteen.  So is Bangs as much father to the current Internet voice as DFW, as Bustillos surmises?  Dunno, but I intend to find out.

And second, has anyone made the point yet that perhaps an impetus for this specific manner of writing, be it from DFW or from Bangs, is at least purely because it's pretty?  Sure, it can be easy to get lost in the syntax, or twisted around by the swirling clauses, but it also is poetry.  I mean, that's what I thought at the time of first reading, and still think so now.  Maybe the voice is a concession to aesthetics as it is a by-product of Zeigeisted genius?

(That's probably enough about this topic for now, or, at least until the next time.)

Posted by mrbrent at 10:00 AM

August 31, 2011

maris bustillos and david t. roth, together at last

If you read and enjoyed Maud Newton's essay on the DFW-ization of Internet talkin' (you did), then you will find yourself needing to read this Yakkin' on the topic by two of my favorite writers: Maria Bustillos and David T. Roth.

It's long, which is good, because both of these guys are at their best when they have room to breathe.  They take issue with some of what Maud wrote, but all in the sense of appreciation, and not in the kind of gothca sense that I'm so frequently guilty of.  And it contains a glancing description of the problem of existentialism that made me gasp and start to weep a bit.

It's awesome that Maud has started such a conversation, and if I had to hand-pick two writers to talk about it, it'd be Maria and David.  So it's like I won a contest or something.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:57 PM

it's still ok to like kunstler

Someone on one of the social media that drowns me brought up a bit of copy from the website of James Howard Kunstler.  It was about Hurricane Irene, naturally.  That's Kunstler's beat: the big bloomy future of post-peak oil and irreparable climate change and all the chaos that comes with it.  He's been around, writing, forever, but with his book "The Long Emergency" he became your go-to guy if you were looking for a distopic futurist.

And the quote that someone, must've been on Tumblr, snatched up was about how Irene, and specifically the devastation of Vermont, with entire communities unreachable because of washed-out bridges, is the latest in the series of dire warnings that we must take our oil-less, extreme weather future seriously!

And part of me was like: of course, good point.  And part of me was like: well, duh.  When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail, right?

But what I really wanted to say (and didn't, so as not to harsh anyone's mellow), is that a certain family member was the head of a certain English department at a school which paid Kunstler (not a small amount) to speak.  And after the speech, at the customary dinner with the talent and the applicable faculty heads, Kunstler was, reportedly, a man of poor manners.

And I do think that those behind-the-curtains stories are maybe not worth as much as people think they are, and why waste readers' time with stories of the failings of public figures?

Because, dude was a dick to my mom.  So there's that.  (Which I've been waiting for a looong time to get off my chest.)

But we don't have to get along in order to agree, right?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:35 AM

August 30, 2011

is politico dumb?

I'm grateful that The Politico is employing so many writers these days (including a neighbor who runs a pretty invaluable neighborhood blog), considering how that market is not what it used to be, but man is it hard not to look down your nose at it when it runs stories like Is Rick Perry Dumb?

Granted, I am probably the target consumer for that bit of linkbaitery, but that's just the point: reporters shouldn't be assigned to stories because the headline is a phrase that is trending high on some Google measure of search phrases.  At best it's a specious waste of time, and at worst it's ammunition for those who believe in a certain spuriousness and bias of the mainstream media.

To boot, it's a confusingly bad piece of work.  Oh, it's rigorously reported, but it reads like the notes of a reporter and not an actual story.  Five pages of story to click through, with very many one sentence paragraphs.  It's a thought exercise: what if Demand Media paid by the word and not by the piece?

And if you're curious, the answer is: kinda, but kinda not!  That conclusion is not exactly unearthed, but rather was the one that everyone already had and knew about.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:28 AM

August 29, 2011

good night irene

So the weird thing about Irene is that it ended up doing more damage to everyone on the East Coast except for New York City.  Not saying that I didn't spend portions of Saturday night/Sunday morning being scared out of my wits, my neighborhood took relatively little damage.  (Odd considering that Irene, which went on to devastate the Catskills and Vermont, came aground not three freaking miles from where I was at the time.  That's creepy, but I'm also not complaining.

There are also complaints, if not a full-blown argument, over whether the preparations for the hurricane were appropriate, as we did evacuate a couple hundred thousand people.  I have an opinion on this (of course not!), but do empathize those who were looking to be more tested by this natural event, which people should probably take up skydiving or free-climbing instead of wishing catastrophe on major urban areas.

Now let's race to see who can be the first to define the post-Irene mindset!  Is it too early to get Nine-Eleveny?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:02 AM