Monday, December 20, 2004

I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man 

I'm currently guest-blogging at AND THEN.... Go say "hi."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Shame the Bloggers 

Shorter New York Times Magazine:
Aaaaaaggghhh!!! Unprofessional blogs!!!! Look out!!! Sex!! Blawgs!!!

The Kindness of Strangers 

On a personal note, I'd like to thank Mr. Sholom Fishman for forgetting to fill out a change-of-address form and sending me his subscription to Harper's.

The movie playing in the mainstream media during the first week after the election conformed to the specifications of a major studio release along the lines of Titanic or Lord of the Rings; the one that opened in the blogosphere multiplex resembled a film noir independently produced by Quentin Tarantino.

Ha! He said "blogosphere"!

I Want High School Report Cards to Look Like This 

The Library of Congress has recommended two poems by David Berman for study by high school students. This, to me, is a bit like hearing that the Department of Education has recommended that the Mekons be taught in the standard history curricula under "British Labor Relations circa Margaret Thatcher"; that is to say, it is a pleasant surprise. So, enjoy -- it's not very often you get to link to your favorite rock & roller's work on a .gov page, excepting occasional FOIA releases. Make sure to thank Billy Collins on your way out.

Imagining Defeat


Friday, December 17, 2004

Prolonging Your Joyless Existence 

Legislator would sanction Minnesota welfare recipients for smoking
Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said Friday that welfare recipients should be fined for smoking because the habit increases the state's health costs.

Seifert, the chairman of the House State Government Finance Committee, said he would introduce legislation next month imposing higher premiums, co-payments or economic sanctions for people getting state assistance who don't quit smoking.

This is a bit contradictory, isn't it? If you hate the poor this much, wouldn't you want them to smoke themselves to an early grave?

This follows on the heels of that heel Gov. Pawlenty's proposal to forbid people with food stamps from purchasing snacks -- poor people are apparently held to an entirely different moral standard than the rest of us. If sucking from the government teat means one is no longer allowed to enjoy oneself, shall we take away their brain-deadening televisions? How about their toasters? Why should they get to alter their white bread for the sake of hedonistic deliciousness on the tax-payers' nickel? Hell, we should mandate that they buy only specifically unappetizing foods with their welfare dollars! If they get foods high in sugars or trans-fats, they're cut off!

And what are you doing with that trashy novel from your public library, welfare mom? Trying to forget your troubles? I don't think so! We're restricting your library access to the theology and self-help sections! And hey, you better not be riding that city bus somewhere fun! Hard-working tax payers want their money going towards downtown development of Hard Rock Cafes or massive subsidies for corporations that really, really mean it this time when they say they won't close up shop and move somewhere without OSHA or minimum wages, not free-loading poor people unwilling (or unable) to give up their last remaining petty, trifling vices!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Ceaselessly Into the Stupid 

After the exultation comes the holiday trip home.

Group says 'Peanuts' statues don't belong in Rice Park
Statues of Charles Schultz's "Peanuts" characters have become a St. Paul tradition, but one group thinks they don't belong in Rice Park.

The Ross Group is an 11-member organization that's been involved in city beautification efforts for the past dozen years. They say bronze statues of Peppermint Patty and Marcie don't fit with the historic character of the park in the middle of downtown St. Paul. In particular, they say the characters clash with the park's statue of St. Paul-born author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The group says the "Peanuts" statues could jeopardize the park's possible designation as a historic site.

But St. Paul City Councilman Dave Thune says the statues won't get moved. He says Charles Schultz's characters offer a better image for the public to follow than Fitzgerald's notorious bohemian lifestyle.

The trend towards posthumous moral judgment among politicians is a frightening one. Also, does Thune honestly want the public emulating the gang from "Peanuts"? They were angst-ridden neurotics adrift in a meaningless world with both God and parents conspicuously absent! They were little kids who had The Nausea!

Thune perhaps meant "better" as in "more accurate". While the St. Paul bohemians are no longer the force they used to be, that fair city is today, like "Peanuts," notable mostly for poignant ennui and a late-period failure to do produce anything interesting.

(Thune, by the by, is the primary force behind St. Paul's periodically sabotaged attempts at stringently anti-Bohemian smoking restrictions. He is carrying on that glorious St. Paul tradition of strict anti-fun legislation. In doing so, he is more responsible for preserving St. Paul in its historic form than any bunch of park-advocating do-gooders could hope to be.)

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Let That Lonesome Whistle Blow Your Market Blues Away 

Forgive me if this becomes a Lileksian post, but I'm going to wax nostalgic about New York for a moment, then give a poorly remembered history lesson coupled with a didactic political message -- we Minneapolitans who idolize old humorists are more similar than we might wish, even if Lileks is a (vastly overrated) fascist and moron. (Actually, I don't know if his fascism is overrated. I meant his writing, as any Star-Tribune reader knows)

I was dragged out to see a rehearsal of a reading of a ten-minute play I wrote this afternoon (yes, it was as boring as it sounds), forced to leave my (intermittently) climate-controlled room and venture into a gray December day with only my fashionably shabby sportjacket to protect me against the freezing Manhattan wind (to be frank, Chicago, I am increasingly convinced that we are windier than you). After my punishment at the hands of undergraduate acting students and their trial-by-improv-comedy director, I ran for the 8th St. subway station entrance, convinced I'd just missed the damn train. But as I reached the platform, a G.I. green-painted iron monster ambled to a stop and opened its doors. It turns out the MTA has been running a vintage 1930s subway car on the N/R line every weekend from Thanksgiving till December 19th. The interior is a thing of beauty -- if I get my camera phone working properly, I'll post a few blurry shots of the gloriously ugly interiors, complete with "rattan seats and period ads" (including a few for Viceroy cigarettes touting the Readers' Digest claim of greater health benefits through filter science). Travel between cars (newly illegalized by MTA diktat) was encouraged, engineers in funny hats chatted and answered questions, straphangers actually had straps to hang on, and the conductors shouted the stops in their best theatrical voices. I rode the thing, investigating each slightly different car, three stops past mine, then walked back home past the neo-classical architecture of City Hall and ugly/awesome historic TriBeCa. It was, all in all, considerably more magical than The Polar Express.

Now the part (per Lileks, still) where I stop playing wide-eyed Midwestern tourist and move smoothly into obnoxious neighbor who knows more than you.

This really is just a post where I share something cool that happened to me, but there is a political story for this political blog in this world where the personal is political, and/or vice versa.

The notoriously poor design of the New York subway system (no crosstown lines, ridiculously redundant lines running a block apart, incompatible rail gauges among different lines, no service east of 4th Ave, etc.) is a direct result of a turn-of-the-20th Century idea that big public works projects are best managed by private interests. A 1905 editor of muckraking McClure's magazine gives you the details:
The story of the travail of a modern city in bringing forth a great public work: how the will of the people, opposed by the street-car monopolies, deflected through the Political Boss, ineffectively enforced by the Rapid Transit Commission, blunted by its own dumbness, finally found expression in a great work; and how, at last, following the common fate of such enterprises, the Subway is nourishing a new private monopoly, more piratical than any of its predecessors. --THE EDITOR.

Soon, there were two competing privately owned companies controlling rapid transit in New York -- the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) Company and the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit (BMT) Corporation. The Market did its work, and competition gave New York relatively stable and cheap fares. Then, it gave them "competing lines" that ran down the same damn streets and didn't cover huge swaths of all the boroughs, severe over-crowding, delays, corruption, and generally poor profit-driven duopoly service with no public input and little oversight. Finally, in the 1920s, the city planned to take over the whole damn system and try to make it compatible. The result has been a qualified success, with the subway system, after many extremely rough years, efficient, clean, safe, and completely necessary for the survival of the city. The current problems, and there are many, are because of never-ending Albany corruption and growing resistance to public funding of anything that doesn't directly benefit the wealthy. That's just my opinion, and a lazily proven one at that, but the lesson for the modern-day Light Rail advocates is apparent. Private companies will benefit private interests, and mass transit is not a true market by any stretch of the imagination -- it leads, when privatized, only to monopolistic exploitation.

So -- go ride the fancy old subway if you're in town, and thank the god of progressivism for Big Government.

[Updated to correct the spelling of a certain fascist's name -- you'd think I'd remember, having so purposefully skipped it every week in my hometown paper]

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Let's Make Michael Powell Earn His Paycheck 

FCC Wary of Greeks Baring Gifts at Games
In response to one or more indecency complaints, the Federal Communications Commission has asked NBC to send it tapes of its coverage of the Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies in Athens, the network confirmed late yesterday.

It's been revealed recently that most FCC indecency complaints come from only a few individuals -- that is, though the Commission may recieve hundreds or thousands of letters, there are only a few unique complaints that aren't form letters from well-funded conservative organizations.

Which means each individual complaint must wield a great deal of power and influence. Therefore, I will now be sending letters of complaint to the FCC on a semi-regular basis regarding just about everything I see on network tv or hear on the radio, and I recommend you do the same. For New York viewers tonight, the following programs are sure to cause outrage:

Robbie the Reindeer in Legend of the Lost Tribe
CBS 2 Dec 11 08:30pm
Robbie discovers a mythical lost tribe of Viking warriors who help save his friends from the evil Blitzen.

Cast: Ben Stiller, Hugh Grant, Britney Spears, James Belushi, Brad Garrett, Leah Remini, Jerry Stiller, James Woods.

The cast features admitted non-christians Ben and Jerry Stiller, as well as immoral whoremonger Hugh Grant. How will I explain this to my children???

UPN 9 Dec 11 07:30pm
"I Pity the Fool",
Joan has trouble breaking up with Marcus, so her friends try to do it for her.

Cast: Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, Persia White, Jill Marie Jones, Reggie Hayes, Rodney Van Johnson, Tre Wood, Theodore Borders, Larry O. Williams.
Director(s): Leonard R. Garner Jr..
Producer(s): Kelsey Grammer

Once again, note the involvement of degenerate amoral Hollywood drug-addicts like Grammer. Also, this show seems to be encouraging pre-marital sexual relations without demonstrating the consequences (i.e. pregnancy, unmentionable sin-related diseases, single-motherhood, damnation).

The Odd Couple
WB 11 Dec 11 09:00pm
"I Gotta Be Me", Episode #63.
A counselor suggests role reversal for Oscar and Felix.

No explanation necessary.

I will be drafting my letters of complaint by 10 o'clock tonight, and I recommend you do the same. Each and every night at prime time until every half-hour of American Entertainment is painstakingly combed over by our Moral Referees like some great Holy Tape Review. Jesus will personally thank you.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Apologies to Christgau 

All right, all right. I know it's been a while. Chalk it up to one part the life of a college student around the end of the semester, another part ennui. You ought to be reading alicublog; that Roy Edroso knows his shit. And you ought to be listening to Rust Never Sleeps.

Inspirational verse: "Welfare mothers make better lovers"

This guy became a Reaganite?

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