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April 20, 2013

me in maura magazine

I am proud to take part in Maura Johnson's great project Maura Magazine, the magazine that is actually an app.  Each week a new issue is available by subscription to your iPhone/iPad, filled with crackerjack writing on music, art, and even sometimes cultchah.

In the most recent issue (which should appear here soon), I have a piece concerning Jurassic Park, the Replacements and the recursive death of imagination.  So go get your subscription and support the endeavor.  (Three bucks a month, or thirty for the entire year.)

(And yes, those of you that know me, I do not have an iPhone or an iPad, so someone let me know how it looks.)

Posted by mrbrent at 2:31 PM

April 18, 2013

nyt on armslist

Here's something you can do while you are fuming that the NRA killed (by "willfully lying," as our president put it) a firearm universal background check bill that polls at 92% support of the general public: spend fifteen minutes with this epic read from the NYTimes, concerning Armslist, which is the anonymous firearms classified ad equivalent of CraigsList:
The mere fact that [self-admitted felon] Mr. Roman-Martinez was seeking to buy and sell guns on Armslist underscores why extending background checks to the growing world of online sales has become a centerpiece of new gun legislation being taken up in the Senate this week. With no requirements for background checks on most private transactions, a Times examination found, Armslist and similar sites function as unregulated bazaars, where the essential anonymity of the Internet allows unlicensed sellers to advertise scores of weapons and people legally barred from gun ownership to buy them.

The authors (Michael Luo, Mike McIntire and Griff Palmer) ID three other gun buyers/sellers that also turn out to be felon and accordingly prohibited from owning a gun, and each time the felon is contacted by a reporter, it's a bitter comedy of denials and hedges and sudden online profile deletion.

Four felons trying to circumvent background checks may not seem like a lot.  However, keep in mind that Armlist is designed for anonymous transactions, so these four are just four criminals to stupid to disguise their identity.

And yes, the amendment killed yesterday would have made these such transaction subject to background check.  But the NRA is more interested in enabling felons to break the law so that the gun industries sales don't flag.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:13 AM

April 17, 2013

finding the boston bomber

Check your Facebook page and you'll notice something pretty astonishing: the crowdsourcing of the search for the party(ies) responsible for setting off the bombs in Boston on Monday.  You've got thousands of tech-savvy individuals pouring through photographs and videos of the marathon looking for the backpacks, looking for clues, etc.

It's a bit scary — what if the wrong guy gets fingered? — but the distributed might analytical might of thousands of righteous 4Channers is something that law enforcement would have a hard time to match.  And while you're being leery, know that this has worked in the recent past, nabbing a douchebag who mugged a little old lady not a mile from my apartment.

Actually, here's a link to a message board devoted to photo/video ID.  It's a bit gobsmacking.

And not to mention what the FBI is probably (well, should be if they aren't) doing with all the footage from the scene they're obtaining: constructing a full real-time replica of the crowds milling around the finish line area.  Even without video (which they have hundreds of hours of), they could pull it off with just the photographs available online.

It just got a whole lot harder to commit these kinds of crimes, in, what? Ten years?

Posted by mrbrent at 12:06 PM

April 16, 2013

generational terror fatigue

Hey, we're still here, if not a little Boston'd out.

There's a lot of great reporting to come out of yesterday's events, and a lot of hackery.  In the same sense, there was a comforting blanket of civic responsibility on the social media, and of course a handful of bad actors that were quickly excoriated.  I'm tempted to call it another day at the office, but if you think about it, the collective response to these tragedies is evolving as the Internet also evolves.  Alex Jones and Jennifer Rubin aside, there was a good bit of self-policing out there, a sense of care in using what is essentially a public address system.

And of course it's hard not to internalize shit like this, because that's who we are, but in a day or two the remove will shift the bombings back into the public domain and away from My Very Vivid Monday Afternoon.

I'm sure you have your own thoughts!  It's how we roll.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:14 AM

April 15, 2013

hazelton and the canadian problem

I caught this very stirring bit on Weekend Edition yesterday morning, concerning the situation in Hazelton, Pennsylvania.  You see, for the past ten years ago, Hazelton, not thirty miles from the Lehigh Valley region I spend so much time in, has become a popular place for Canadians.  They talked to the dude who used to be the Mayor, and he talks about how back in the day he went to apartment and there were like ten of those Canadians all living in there, eating back bacon and reading MacLeans, and not one of them had emigrated legally!

Now everyone admits that all the businesses started by and catering to the Canadians has really turned the town's economy around, but still, these were Canadians, and therefore presumably guilty of something!  So the town enacted all these laws, prohibiting renting apartments to Canadians, outlawing the long O in "aboot," etc.  And the mayor, now in the House of Representatives, has some pretty big ideas about how to fix this: secure the Canadian border.  Well, that's his only idea, really, but how can we sleep at night with Canadians sneaking across Lake Erie in the dead of night?

Wait now, I might be misremembering that — maybe it wasn't Canadians they were talking about.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:34 AM