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November 12, 2011

joe paterno

Now I'm not really so much of a sports guy.  When I hit 25 or so I decided that watching sports was a not-bad way to spend time, make small talk, etc.  Plus I like it!  But it is in general a culture that I have not penetrated, and is occasionally mystifying.

Take for example the thermonuclear scandal unfolding at Penn State right now.  I will listen to the sports radio when walking the dog or driving, so I hear plenty of it, but not obsessively.  And you'd think the elements of the at-the-very-least child sex scandal if not child sex trafficking scandal are icky enough, let alone not-directly-sports-related, that it would be a topic lightly skirted and then largely ignored in favor of Papelbon going to Philly or will the Pats drop three straight?  But that is not the case.

In fact, absolutely the opposite: they are talking about having sex with boys almost to the exclusion of everything else.  It is almost a rapt fascination.  And of course the having-sex is never spoken; it is only alluded to, with words like monstrous or inhuman.— And there's no actual disagreement, among the hosts and the callers.  Everyone agrees, and if anything, they are, like sports fans, they are competing to demonstrate who can muster the most revulsion at the situation.

Oh, there are people out there who are up in arms that Joe Paterno was fired (Franco Harris, for one), but they are not broadcasting.  They are referenced, and heads are shaken, just as they were at the students who rioted when Joe was actually fired.  But the broadcasters that fill the schedule are marching in lockstep: this is an outrage, and if you have children (like they do, nearly universally), then [some description of the violence that would have been conducted had they been the assistant coach that traipsed into the shower where Sandusky was having sex with a child].

These are all charming dudes, to varying degrees (I exclude Colin Cowherd from any sentence in which the word charm appears), but at the end of the day, they are TO A MAN ill-equipped to discuss this topic.  Inasmuch, they are incapable of considering any aspect of it other than, "What if that was my kid?"  Which is a huge aspect (no kids here, but my friends have kids I love like my own), but not the exclusive filter through which this terribleness should be considered.

I'm not begrudging anyone their opinions.  I just think that this particular echo box is not particularly well-suited for this topic.  It's the worst kind of straw man that they inveigle against: the one that is not an exaggeration of someone's position but one that is made up entirely.  And frankly, I'd rather hear about how the Bills are going to do this week, or the Steelers.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:01 PM

November 11, 2011

steak with vincent and mary price

So the thing I left out of (or couldn't fit in, I guess) my latest for The Awl is exactly how awesome A Treasury of Great Recipes, by Vincent and Mary Price, is.  A friend of mine, who's now editing one of the food magazines still in business, gave it to me ten or so years ago.  She had been telling me about it, and then she found a copy being sold on a blanket in the 2nd Ave F station.  Where she found the one she gave me I don't know, but I treasure it.

Additionally, it is of historic import!  Everyone knows how James Beard and Julia Child were easing America into gourmandism at the time, but Vincent Price is also partly responsible.  He was well-known as a fellow of class at the time, and the book turned him into an ambassador for the great cuisines of the globe, at least the parts where the Prices would vacation.  It was all very grandiose, but it's fair to call Vincent Price something of a proto-foodie.

So there's that.  Now I need me a steak.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:08 PM

fun david brooks fun fun friday fun

Hey look, it's a David Brooks column, and it's called 'The Inequality Map'.  This is how it starts!
Foreign tourists are coming up to me on the streets and asking, “David, you have so many different kinds of inequality in your country. How can I tell which are socially acceptable and which are not?”


Not only is David Brooks under the impression that there are more than a couple hundred people on the planet that could pick him out of a lineup, he's also of the belief that the subject of inequality in America is one that could benefit from his deft comedic talent (which, as a conservative/moderate, consists of making fun of poor people).

And even if he were particularly good at making fun of poor people (he's not), it's just a shitty set-up.  "Excuse me, fine sir," says the German in thickly-accented English, "but these inequalities in your America, they are acceptable, some of them, or no?"  HILARITY ENSUES.

Sometimes, all David Brooks deserves is just a terse but forceful, "Shut up."

Posted by mrbrent at 9:25 AM

November 10, 2011

the front page of the new york times 11.10.11

The front page of the New York Times this morning is utterly fascinating, especially if you unfold it and think of it as a whole and not above- and below-the-fold.  Upper right hand corner, you have the big big news of the Euro debt crisis/Italian debt skyrocketing/etc., you know, the stuff that the grandkids will be reading about someday.  But your eye gets pulled to the center of the page, a photo from last night's debate, blue background, Rick Perry pointing at his ear, Ron Paul looking like Perry just called someone a motherfucker on national television.  He didn't!  He just oopsed.  But then you glance back up and to the left, and it's a photo of a street at night, crowd milling, a couple staring at a car with a broken rear windshield.  A riot!  Occupy Somewhere?  No, just the good citizens of State College, PA busting shit up because Joe Paterno got fired.  Euro Crisis what?  No, "slapping noise" and college football, plus also: OOPS.

Meanwhile, on the first page of NYC coverage is a little local color, about bankers Tweeting about how they will boycott Mario Batali's restaurants because Batali said mean things about bankers.  Tweeting, you say?  Of course, but not only — second to last paragraph:

On Eater, a reader who used the name Sanity Now wrote: “Major mistake on Mario’s part! What was he thinking?? Alienating those that frequent his restaurants and spend the $$$ needed to keep his doors open. Wonder how he got the financing for all those restaurants and Eataly?”

The New York Times is now dredging the comments of Eater for comment on the stories of the day.

Congratulations, Sanity Now, for inadvertently blowing today's novelty index through the roof!  Enjoy being Internet famous.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:49 AM

November 9, 2011

news in farming

This is a couple weeks old, but it's still worth noting — years of technological innovation in farming have brought us to the point where so-called super-weeds are resistant to pretty much everything.
The Global Citizens' Report on the State of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) refers to American and Australian studies which found that conventional crops outperformed GM crops. It also warns that when crops are modified to withstand herbicides, nearby weeds can develop a resistance to the chemicals. The extremely hardy pigweed, which grows at a rate of an inch per day, is a particular concern. The problem is so severe that farmers have had to resort to the expense of hiring labourers to tour fields with scythes to clear them.

I'm tempted to make a crack about the law of unintended consequences, but the phenomenon of multiple-drug-resistance, be it in humans to medication or in weeds to herbicides, is pretty well known, so you have to figure that at least one or two of the dudes at Monsanto saw this coming for a country mile and are working feverishly on some patented "only solution" that should throw another couple million in Monsanto's coffers.

And as far as the side effects, or even the lack of efficacy, of genetically-modified crops — you'd of thunk that maybe Big Agra would have at least heard of Prometheus, at least from a friend of a friend.  (And I don't mean that as a Luddite-glibness, just that w/r/t GM seedstock, the law of unintended consequences definitely applies given the unknowable vastness of the entirety of the ecosphere.  This is a butterfly's wing causing a hurricane on steroids.)

Posted by mrbrent at 1:06 PM

the classical

I'm gonna start the day by being nice: go you now to The Classical, which you might have heard of from back when they were Kickstarting.

They are a new arrival in sports journalism, and they are a bunch of guys, a couple of whom I am a rabid fan of.  They're running some content over the month of November, prior to their launch, and already two of them are home runs.

First, catch David T. Roth on the Penn State situation, where one of his best sentences is for once a shorter one:

All of it is terrible, and terrible to talk about.

Word to that.  Roth is a ninja at whimsy, which makes for very interesting read about an absolutely non-whimsical topic.

And then click over to a Paul Flannery profile of my all-time favorite baseball player that I never saw play, Bill "Spaceman" Lee.  Lee is one of the best profile subjects ever, and Flannery gets a good one out of him.

I'm looking very forward to the emergence of this site.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:37 AM

November 8, 2011

yeah, more herman cain

Thinking out loud.  So as you know, Herman Cain, while being a fascinating creature who is reputed to have never read a newspaper, has also a small history of inappropriate gender relations back when he was the president of a restaurant association, or David Koch's cruise director, or whichever.  And even before yesterday, when the fourth accuser stepped forward, those that sympathize with Herman Cain were calling the situation a high-tech lynching.

And of course that's a loaded term as it ties critics of Herman Cain to the American south pre-Civil Rights Era, and also recalls the last so-called high-tech lynching, during the confirmation of Clarence Thomas, when he was accused of inappropriate gender relationships by Anita Hill.

So here's my question: not paying too close of attention to it (at least this go-round), I'm getting the sense that the sensitivity to being accused of such a charge has calcified somewhat?  As in, it seems that the charges leveled twenty years ago were met with more of a sense of a gasp and a leeriness that it was a hit below the water line (from the perspective for Thomas' supporters), and that the real push-back against Hill took some time to organize.  And now, it seems like in the eyes of Cain supporters, any accusation against Herman Cain is automatically a slander, as Herman Cain is innocent of everything because of the support of the supporters.  And not just that reflexive "I'm against it b/c the President is for it" toxicity, but even to the point of, and I'm paraphrasing but not by much, "What's wrong with a little early Christmas goose and an invite for a nightcap?"  Which are apologies not for the candidate but for the concept of that particular crime itself.

Is it just a product of the calcification of the political process (or, the populist right wing, I should say)?  Has there been a generational feminist backslide?  I don't know, but I'm curious.

And I'm also curious how the back-and-forth over this has largely obfuscated the fact that Herman Cain is about the least electable general election candidate I can imagine.  Like, he makes Ross Perot look like Thomas Jefferson.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:10 AM

November 7, 2011

herman cain and his brothers

I don't know if this counts as news, but last Friday, at a conference for Americans For Prosperity, the Koch Brothers' thinktank/lobbying organization, Herman Cain claimed that he is "he Koch brothers’ brother from another mother... and proud of it."

Give the guy credit: he has an acute sense of who is signing his paycheck.

Herman Cain is approaching Sarah-Palin levels of hapless ubiquity, and I very very much want him to snatch the nomination out from under the nose of the consensus candidate (which is still Romney, yes?), just to have him continue to behave as if it doesn't matter what he does or says.

I guess there's a risk of him actually becoming president, but I don't know a single person alive (including Herman Cain) who thinks that a possibility, so wouldn't it be neat if it actually did happen?

Posted by mrbrent at 11:59 AM