Saturday, April 30, 2005

If This Is Anyone But Steve Allen... 

A little gossip from Minneapolis' Best Blog:
* The Mall of America has seen its fair share of obnoxious activity, but none as obnoxious as 1280 AM's Hugh Hewitt. Last Thursday, this conservative talk radio host was caught molesting 11-yr-old boys on Camp Snoopy's Mighty Axe. For shame.

This may inspire me to bring back an old bit of my own. Or not. I'm remarkably lazy.

Dancepunk Is Neither: An Experiment In Stating the Obvious 

Personal to Pitchfork: The reason "dancepunk" is "dead," according to those picky arbiters of indie taste (which means you, actually... I'm not really sure how you missed that memo), is that it's a poor simulacrum of actual dance music. Which is to say that this specific song, which you love so much, is, in fact, a funk-less whiteboy imitation of an '80s Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis groove. As the old SAT analogies might have put it:
This kind of shit : real dance music :: Blueshammer : Muddy Waters

But If You Really Want To Get Some, You Can Probably Purchase It From Niger 

Personal to the three separate people who were brought here today by an identical search for "luminous poisoning": It was made up. There's no such thing. That was probably just regular ol' rohypnol.

New York Mayoral Race 2005: What the Hell's "Coachella"? Edition 

I'm sure most of you don't particularly care. Hell, I'm having trouble caring at this point -- gimme another week or so, and it'll become rage at the new york democratic party. It doesn't really matter which of these idiots they pick. I'd throw my vote away on a third-party candidate, but our third parties exist to endorse and often embarrass the two-party candidates.

Anyway, the only real news today is this:
Two senior officials abruptly quit the mayoral campaign of Fernando Ferrer yesterday over "strategic differences," a spokeswoman said, a sign that recent problems consuming his candidacy are causing serious discord among his close advisers.

In a terse statement issued late in the afternoon, the campaign said that David Axelrod, a senior media adviser, and Chad Clanton, the director of communications, would leave the campaign "effective immediately due to strategic differences."

Well, at least the lede didn't make reference to the story-of-the-story of the notorious Diallo gaffe (no, not "giff"). You'll have to wait for the third paragraph to see how effectively a dead horse can be objectively beaten by an inverted pyramid:
The resignations come as Mr. Ferrer, a Democrat, has struggled to regain his footing since remarking last month before a police union gathering that the 1999 police shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, was not a crime.

For more examples of how the New York media works, check out the reaction to Ferrer's proposed stock-trading tax. Initially, it was played as a pretty good liberal move that would play well in Peoria (or the Bronx, or whatever the New York equivalent is -- I never go above 14th, how should I know?). Only Tony Weiner attacked the plan:
When another candidate, Fernando Ferrer, dared to get past his recent troubles with a wonky speech of his own, on proposing a tax on stock transfers, Mr. Weiner went after him - alone among the other Democratic contenders.

Then came Mr. Murdoch to do a little tone-setting, and suddenly it was a fucking disaster!!! The New York Sun, read only by people who work at other newspapers, led the charge, calling it a "poisonous" "$1 billion tax hike." Then Post, came a'callin' and the Daily News declared it an "unpopular" proposal. The other candidates adjusted their views accordingly.

It may be a bit early in the game to quote Curtis Mayfield, but it's lookin' like Freddy's Dead.

Anthony Weiner, resident douchebag, is now the official idea-man of the race.

C. Virginia Fields is making news primarily by being a target of inexplicable hatred. Some guys (angry hipsters?) registered a bunch of Fields-related domains and put up an attack site. They're a bit nuts, but they may be the only people actually calling her out on hypocrisy as she attacks Ferrer for holding more or less her own views.

Here's what it's looking like right now: For Weiner and Fields, the "underdog" narrative is assuring good press. But as Fields catches up to Ferrer, it remains to be seen whether that'll change the tone of her coverage -- Ferrer is locked in a negative spiral of "FERRER MISSTEP" stories, and the Giffster is a living joke. My own prejudices are towards Ferrer, mostly because Weiner's a dick and Fields doesn't seem to stand for anything besides being an alternative to Ferrer.

And Bloomberg, New York's own Berlusconi, hasn't done a damn thing to get in the news lately, which may be the savviest campaign move seen yet this season.

For news about the race that's updated a little more often, go to the Observer's Politicker blog.

If you don't give a shit, go see The Decemberists and pretend that you'll be able to parlay your B.A. and Buddy Holly glasses into a career as an indie heartthrob. I know I will. Except for the part about seeing that boring-ass band. I mean, christ, how can a guy who wrote a book about loving the Replacements say something like this:
"When we first started playing, I assumed that we would eventually hit a wall," Meloy says. "That people wouldn't be able to swallow seeing a bunch of people performing, recording, getting photos taken of themselves, not trying to posture in this rock and roll masculine way. So I always assumed we would never really get that far because we just don't exhibit that."

Is it wrong of me to want to see a rock band actually fucking rock out without feeling guilty about it? Thank god New York has the nation's last surviving Bar Band.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Like Eating Glass 

I'm pretty sure off-duty stockbroker guy and his no-necked friend next to me at the Paul Westerberg show kept calling out for him to play "Skyline."

In other shouting idiots news, the president's press conference started a half-hour early. I'm streaming it right now.

Someone asked how the energy bill would affect oil prices, and Bush just launched into a Bloc Party cover.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Best Thing That Never Happened 

Mr. Westerberg, by the way, was fantastic. New Yorkers are advised to go tomorrow. But if you request Whipping Post, be forewarned: He will play it. All of it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I Love My Dead Gay Republican Operative 


How do you cover this story:

a) A Republican consultant with ties to some of the most powerful men in Washington and who was involved with influencing 26 elections in countries across the world (in what associates say was a standard practice) died of a cocaine overdose last February.



If you said (b), congratulations! You're the lead story in the May 1 Arts and Leisure section!

(it's an interesting piece regardless of the irritating focus -- go read it and weep at the worldwide power of the wealthy -- conspiracy theorists will be heartened to know that a few well connected folks truly do control the world, or at least 18/26ths of it)

Monday, April 25, 2005

Once This Trend Hits the Book Review We're In Trouble 

Nudes on Stage, and Music to Sketch By
Published: April 26, 2005
(New York/Region section)
On a recent Tuesday night, about 75 people crowded into the third-floor dining room of a private club in a Manhattan town house.

Some flocked to a small, noisy bar in the front, others to a rollicking party spilling out into a rear garden. The drinks flowed freely, and a jazz band struck up a lively blues number. A couple near the bar began swing dancing.

When two svelte women stepped up onto a small stage in the center of the room and dropped their robes, their nude bodies hardly attracted a glance from the two groups. But another group, clustered around the stage, became rapt and stared intently and unabashedly at the women, fixating on the contours, lines, creases, shadows and proportions of their bodies.

The people in this group - about 50 illustrators, from college students to retirees - were sharpening their skills by drawing the women, who were figure models. The artists were poised over pads and easels. Some tapped their feet or swayed to the music, but kept sketching rapidly in pencil, ink, pastels or charcoal.

The session was organized by the Society of Illustrators, a century-old organization whose home is the town house at 128 East 63rd Street.

A week ago:
The New York Times
April 17, 2005 Sunday
SECTION: Section 2; Column 4; Arts and Leisure Desk; ART; Pg. 1
LENGTH: 1609 words
THE mood was relaxed, even familial, on a recent Tuesday evening as the painter Will Cotton welcomed visitors to his Lower East Side loft. As he set out bowls of chocolate Easter candy, the artist Inka Essenhigh, who first made her name with paintings of anime-like creatures, pinned paper to an easel. Delia Brown, an art world provocateur who specializes in society scenes starring herself, relaxed in a chair with a drawing pad at the ready. The multimedia and performance artist Guy Richards Smit handed Mr. Cotton the first CD of the night -- a post-punk mix -- and unpacked his watercolor kit.

With a studiously blank expression on her face, another guest, Linda Marraccini, then casually pulled off her clothes, revealing ample, Rubenesque curves.

''Standing poses!'' Mr. Cotton called. The model twisted her torso, lifted an arm aloft, and the life-drawing session began.

Only a few years ago, the idea of artists gathering to paint from a model would have seemed impossibly old-fashioned and hokey -- and if the model was female and nude, sexist to boot. Yet for nearly three years now, a number of artists -- not students putting charcoal to paper for the first time, but successful artists with established styles and audiences of their own -- have flocked to Mr. Cotton's weekly invitation-only sessions.

Both, of course, came with photos:

The New York Times: A Naked Chick In Every Section By Year's End

Barracks Are the New Warehouses 

Hell, I'm calling it now.
Governors Island is the new Williamsburg. In a year, the whole scene will be out there.

Primarily An Excuse to Post a Funny Picture 

This is going to blow up. Mark my words, it'll be ugly.

Of course, the protesters don't speak ingles and they're supporting a "leftist." So don't worry about it. No, all Americans must devote their time and energy to making sure this man is confirmed by the Senate:

(picture courtesy fark)

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Mission Creep
Or: COINTELPRO, What A Beautiful Morning!

Negroponte Must Take Charge
First, he must create a sense of community within the fractured confederation of agencies that do our spying. The director of national intelligence should launch a range of initiatives designed to foster interagency information-sharing and collaboration, creating a sense of shared mission.

Spying: Giving Out U.S. Names
According to information obtained by NEWSWEEK, since January 2004 NSA received—and fulfilled—between 3,000 and 3, 500 requests from other agencies to supply the names of U.S. citizens and officials (and citizens of other countries that help NSA eavesdrop around the world, including Britain, Canada and Australia) that initially were deleted from raw intercept reports. Sources say the number of names disclosed by NSA to other agencies during this period is more than 10,000. About one third of such disclosures were made to officials at the policymaking level; most of the rest were disclosed to other intel agencies and, perhaps surprisingly, only a small proportion to law-enforcement agencies.

Negroponte: Getting Results!

Culture Wars 

National Poetry Month:

Unfortunate Coincidence

By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying--
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.
-Dorothy Parker

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Public Service 

I hereby un-recommend Michael Bérubé.


New York Mayoral Race 2005 

I can't believe Burt Reynolds is playing Boss Tweed! edition

On Mayoral Issues, Weiner Has an Idea or Two (or More)

Weiner (whom a more shameless blogger might call "aptly named") does indeed have a number of interesting ideas -- like blatant pandering to Catholics and Jews at the expense of the first amendment and bedrock principles of academic freedom (respectively).

He should run a fairly interesting race once he can figure out how to violate the 4th Amendment in some way that would please Hispanics.

But honestly, can he imagine there ever being a "Mayor Weiner"?

The rest of 'em? Booooring. Here's the summary:
Freddy Ferrer accidentally proposed a tax. Also, it's still news that he refuses to apologize for personally shooting Amadou Diallo.

C. Virginia Fields has given new, more boring meaning to the word "controversy."


And finally, Bob Kerrey decided that the best way to truly fight for what he believes in would be to fire James Lipton. Actors Studio students stage over-dramatic protest, demand to know how many schools he "killed" today. Kerrey didn't kill the Actor's Studio, of course. He just held it down while a subordinate cut its funding.

Another Victim of CNBC-Sponsored Rendition 

Tina Brown to gain 50 pounds, kill a judge.


Rejected Headlines:



I'll Stay Chaste et Pure, Thank You Very Much 

I'm sorry, but opera's fuckin' weird.
The worst for him comes later, during the terrifying scene in the village church, where the guilt-racked Marguerite, pregnant with Faust's child, goes to pray. Here Mr. Pape, wearing a rubberized bodysuit, appears as a naked Devil, complete with bulging muscles, exposed genitals and a serpent's tail.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Globalization: Be Exploited Anywhere! 

The playing field is leveling. The Earth is Flat. It's time for American Workers to become more efficient if they want to compete.

Some people are about to get FREE!!!

Coming In 2008: Gideon Yago's The Making of the President's Playlist 

This generation's The Boys On the Bus, no doubt.

There can be no doubt anymore that Alexandra Pelosi is living proof of the Law of Diminishing Returns.

But she knows the Official New Truth about Journalism these days, which is that the kids don't care none about it no more. The problem is either that it is too "biased" or that there isn't enough of an effort to relate news to what marketers have (pre)determined young'uns really care about.

I am willing to offer my services as a youth consultant to any large media corporation willing to shell out either a six-figure fee or tickets to see The Shins.

Here's a few tips pro bono, 'cause we kids sincerely believe that information wants to be free:

Blogs. Find out what these are and report back to us. Might be important. (And here's another hint: You can use them for super-secret and subtle "viral marketing"!)

Irreverence. We 18-35s think nothing is sacred! We're sarcastic! We make jokes about stuff! Wouldn't it be funny if you put Hootie in a commercial dressed like a cowboy? Yes! We love South Park because they are so un-PC and we hate it when things are PC! South Park is funny because they make jokes that tell us what to think about stuff! And stuff's complicated! (Note: Often confused with "irrelevance.")

Oral Sex. Find out what this is and report back to us. Might be important

Morning Readings 

Via Dum Pendebat Filius, Thomas Frank in the New York Review of Books.

Also, because I am a strong proponent of puns:
Like Comparing

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Jumps, Giggles, and Shouts 

I went to the Experience Music Project in Seattle a couple years back, and thought it was kinda pointless.

Robert Christgau and Phil Freeman disagree. I suppose having a forum for goofy academic conferences about Iron Maiden is, on the whole, a good thing, but the museum portion was just artifacts behind glass and a general Children's Museum/allmusic-for-dummies kind of vibe.

See, they should take a few pages from the new Lincoln museum and spice things up a bit with the magic of imagineering! Have an animatronic Mama Cass choking on a sandwich (who cares if it's apocryphal!)! Have a "Heaven's Band" with a robot Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon, Janis Joplin, Robert Johnson and Sid Vicious all playing the soundtrack to American Graffiti on into eternity! Hire impersonators to reenact great Rock 'n' Roll Trials Through History!

All I'm saying is, if you're contemplating a visit to next year's EMP Pop Conference... you might be an indie yuppie.

They're No Brazilian Girls. But Then, Neither Are the Brazilian Girls. 

Just a brief note:
The greatness of mp3 blogs, their potential for new models of music distribution, their ability to give otherwise overlooked acts exposure that a record company wouldn't be willing to invest in creating, all that aside, anyone who writes this:
With this record, it feels to me like Bloc Party has managed the impossible: they have completely reinvented rock and roll music.

is a fool. Especially when it comes immediately after accurate references to said band sounding (a great deal at times, but to generally good effect) like The Fall, The Specials, Gang of Four, and Joy Division. Two bands I love, one I like, and one I've always thought overrated (you can guess, it doesn't matter). In other words, The Bloc Party are okay.

The difference between revolutionary and okay is one that escapes lots of people -- look at Sideways or, say, Joy Division (gave it away, there). For examples of the sublime and the revolutionary, check out the Cinema Comedy Tournament Finals and vote or die over at the Norbizness Experience.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Sweet Little XVI 

I have just received word that the Emperor Pope has dissolved the council conclave permanently. The last remnants of the Old Republic Vatican II have been swept away..*

Hooray! Huzzah! The Child-Rendering Plants at the Olive Garden's Experimental Culinary Institue in Rome have belched forth black smoke, which means WE HAVE A POPE, or as they say in Latin (but not Latin America, where they're all mopey for some reason), cave papam.

And what a Pope we have! Our new Vatican City Madman is Cardinal Joseph "Ratzo" Rizzo, former head of the Panzerdivision For the Doctrine of the Faith and ol' JP2's personal muscle. He also shoots laser beams from his hands, and, though he's almost as old as our last, dead pope, he's healthy as can be (aside from occasional bouts of melting).

Now BOW before Pope Eggs Florentine! Bow before the Pope NOOOOOWWWW!!

*(italicized picture captioning borrowed from the hardest-working man in Norbizness, Official Pope Picture courtesy Jesus' General)

UPDATE: Hey, he's lookin' at Negroponte! Hee hee hee! I'm gonna post a picture of Kissinger in between 'em, lookin' all like, "hey, be cool, Pope Ratzo, be cool -- Johnny didn't know they were your nuns..."

Privileged White Mandate! 

The Bush Doctrine: "Health care? [America] needs a beer garden!"

Slightly More Interesting Than Repeatedly Googling Yourself 

Yes, I'm back-dating these to keep the Pope's eye on the intel czar, but this was such a great idea, that I had to post it:
googlemilking (stupid name, yes, but stay with me here)

It's kind of like thinking of a great setup, and letting the internets provide the punchline.
Just as you know that any sentence beginning with the words "I'm not one of those racialists but ..." will end in a diatribe about immigration, it is obvious that the closing part of a statement beginning "I'm totally straight but" will be something along the lines of "I'm not totally straight". Some of them are hilarious. Some are shocking. All are entertaining.

Try it: google (in quotes) something like "and they all blamed me" -- and there you go. Instant literature.

So -- try it at home, and can we think of a better name for this, please?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Not That I Have A Particularly Successful Record In Getting Out the Vote 

Go over to Norbizness' comedy tournament and do something to save Duck Soup, for chrissakes. I like the Zuckers as much as the next guy, but Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty are not quite Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont material. Besides, Duck Soup is a movie that has been proven to prevent suicide -- and I'm pretty sure Airplane! just aggravates the causes.

Most Popes Are Called "Babe" 

National Poetry Month + Current Events = James Tate.

Monday, April 18, 2005

I Should Only Be So Lucky 

As part of my new job destroying the media elite from the inside, I've been infiltrating its outlying colonies and preparing to push into its center. And I'm making good time -- today, I was linked to by Washington Post-subsidiary/former Microsoft satellite Slate, in their "Today's Blogs (Tomorrow the World)" feature -- which is just one step away from a mention and a blurry screenshot on CNN's Blog Report! I can't tell for sure, but I think they mistook italicized sarcasm for sincere "amazement" at the number of candidates running for mayor in New York. I'm not actually surprised -- I expect every nutjob and dead-ender to crawl out of the woodwork when they smell a primary, though the war criminals tend to get cold feet when their inescapable Nabraskanism is pointed out. Hey, I kid 'cause I love. I'm applying to your school, Bob, please don't read this post. I have a recommendation from Professor Michael Bérubé, you know.

Then, demonstrating that I can give as good as I get, I fired off a poorly-edited letter to Romenesko (scroll way, way down -- damn you, Romenesko!!), thus hitting the journalists where it hurts -- right in their masochistic/narcissistic obsession with self-criticism!

A couple links:
The guy who writes "Sally Forth" has a blog. And he's funny! See his other comic for evidence.

Chris Schroen on the etymology of "zimmitude".

And David Brock, via americablog, gives us a very special look at the life of heterosexual non-Republican Matt Drudge.

Cardinals Remove Sneakers, Put On Moccasins, Enter Conclave of Make-Believe 

I'll be back when the day is new,
And I'll have more ideas for you.
And you'll have things you'll want to talk about,
I will too.
It's such a good feeling, a very good feeling--
The feeling you know that we're friends.

See you next time!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

I Don't Need Your Freedom 

Blogger's fucked, per usual, and it's currently batting about .200, relability-wise. Post reconstruction efforts have been stymied by corruption and cronyism. Here's a little Sunday night reading material for the Blame America First Crowd:

"The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, by Naomi Klein.
"Iraq: The Real Election," by Mark Danner.

As Klein reports, your government has developed preemptive post-war plans for wars that haven't happened yet, and contracts for reconstruction have already been signed with the usual suspects. Reconstruction, it seems, means shock treatment economics and privatization at gunpoint. Homes are left rubble; ministries and institutions are reconstructed in our image. Meet the new colonialism, same as the old colonialism.

New York Mayoral Race 2005!
Less Interesting Than San Francisco's, More Interesting Than L.A.'s

Let's check in with the hottest contest in politics right now -- no, not the British elections. We don't know a goddam thing about that. You guys still have fucking Tories? Dude, that's like if we still let the Whigs run candidates. And what the hell's a "Libdem"?

No, I'm talking about the New York mayoral race -- literally five or six people are jockeying for the position most likely to stop your political career dead in its tracks. Sorry, guys -- only one of you will be lucky enough to be forced out of office as the city goes to hell and spend the rest of your days posing for photo-ops with old people and using your increasingly meaningless endorsements as weapons of impotent spite.

New York is an interesting town, politically. Something like 254% of its denizens are registered democrats, and the rest are undocumented aliens. But they don't decide who to vote for based on party allegiance -- no, there's also race and fear. Most of the time, New Yorkers will vote for the candidate closest to them in skin tone. If a member of their ethnic group is unavailable, they will vote for the one representing the group that lives furthest away from them. No one votes for Asians.

As I said, most New Yorkers are registered Democrats, so in many races, the Democratic primary is the real election. That's not really true this time, so I'm not sure why I brought it up.

The New York Democratic party picks candidates much in the same way MTV producers assemble a Real World cast. You need a black woman, a closeted gay guy, a loud obnoxious guy, and a loser. Look for Ferrer and Fields to "hook up," and for Weiner to leave under mysterious circumstances half-way through the season. Think of Michael Bloomberg as the cast of "Road Rules," and the primaries as a Spring Break swimsuit-trading competition. It won't help you understand anything, but it might make the next seven months less boring.

Let's take a look at the candidates:

Freddy Ferrer:
The frontrunner by an ever-shrinking margin. The only one to beat Bloomberg in a head-to-head poll. BUT HE HAS DOOMED HIS CAMPAIGN!!!!! How? Because journalists have decreed it! Mr. Ferrer, speaking to cops, said some cop-friendly things about Amadou Diallo. Ferrer, who was arrested protesting the Diallo's shooting back when it happened, has been accused of "flip-flopping." It doesn't particularly matter that he's been relatively consistent in saying that the shooting of Diallo wasn't a "crime," as it is now officially mandated by the Benevolent Order of Metro Section Editors that every mention of Fernando Ferrer in a newspaper be followed by a reference to his beleaguered campaign and his now notorious PR GAFFE (Google News reports 118 hits for Ferrer and Diallo). It is already a meta-story, with papers covering the way the papers cover this BLUNDER beginning to trickle out. This might be the smartest thing I've seen on it thus far. See here for context, if you're into that kinda stuff. Me, I prefer to report on whether the reporting is unfair and wait for the next fuckup.

C. Virginia Fields:
It's becoming increasingly clear that the New York press is rooting for her. The come-from-behind narrative is beginning to take shape, and the underdog pose is being universally admired. Why would an otherwise unremarkable and indistinguishable candidate get the benefit of blatant media bias? Because of the headline pun possibilities. Editors are salivating over the opportunities in a Fields administration. And it runs the ideological gamut. How would two of the dailies cover a Mayor Fields Press conference?
The New York Times approach: Brought Up to the Majors, Mayor Fields A Few Fouls
The Post (which will be calling her C-Vir by June): WRIGGLY FIELDS

And that's just the last name! This woman's name generates enough material to get Dawn Eden fired from two jobs!
Time: C. Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus
Post: See? Virginia's Slim!
Pitchfork: Come On, Come On Down, C. Virginia

Anthony Weiner:
Candidacy doomed by his tragic suicide in the new Todd Solondz movie. Also, he's a douchebag.

Gifford Miller:

And that's about it. We're all screwed.

WAIT!! This JUST IN!!! Bob Kerrey may be considering a run! Except that, well... he's heading "Democrats for Bloomberg." Still, he'd liven the race up a bit once he stormed the other candidates huts at night and slit their throats.

Fun With Algorithms! 

Yay Innovation! Yay Internets!

Google keeps giving and giving, giving away essential services, and all they ask in return is that you let them collect information about you to sell to advertisers (nothin' important, you know, just like, what kinda car you drive, if you shave with an electric razor, your favorite Wilco side project, that kinda stuff). Now they have free and fairly detailed satellite photos of most of the country available for people who enjoy squinting at things from great distances. It's not actually good for anything, but what a neat toy! Here's where I got a summons for smoking on an elevated train platform! Here's the old headquarters of the Daily Worker! Here's where I played wiffleball once!

Useless but briefly interesting!

That phrase, the official motto of the internet, is also a fairly accurate discription of all the shit Amazon's been doing lately. There's the stuff that one could see being very helpful, if it actually worked -- say, linking yellow pages entries to photographs like this one. And there's the crazy shit they're doing over at their bookselling arm, which has excited four or five people the world over.

Living in Manhattan, I don't use Amazon that much; I find most of my books in cardboard boxes on the curb. But they're trying oh so hard to get me to like them, so I checked around the site and saw what was new.

First, many books allow you to "search" their content, and to view images of the first few pages. It's a remarkable, revolutionary new way of shopping for books -- one might call it "browsing" (in this, Amazon falls still short of real-life bookstores, as most Barnes and Nobles have chairs to read in and many Border's, from what I understand, encourage patrons to shoplift). And part of the search feature is fun, computer-generated statistics that explain the book so you don't have to. My favorites are the "readability stats." Let's take a look, shall we?
The Readability calculations estimate how easy it is to read and understand the text of a book.

* The Fog Index was developed by Robert Gunning. It indicates the number of years of formal education required to read and understand a passage of text. A score between 7 and 8 is considered ideal, while a score above 12 is considered difficult to read.
* The Flesch Index, developed in 1940 by Dr. Rudolph Flesch, is another indicator of reading ease. The score returned is based on a 100 point scale, with 100 being easiest to read. Scores between 90 and 100 are appropriate for 5th and 6th graders, while a college degree is considered necessary to understand text with a score between 0 and 30.
* The Flesch-Kincaid Index is a refinement to the Flesch Index that tries to relate the score to a U.S. grade level. For example, text with a Flesch-Kincaid score of 10.1 would be considered suitable for someone with a 10th grade or higher reading level.

And, of course, some representative examples:

Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger, By Sonny Barger
Fog Index: 9.5
Flesch Index: 66.5
Flesch-Kincaid Index: 7.9

The Da Vinci Code
Fog Index: 9.1
Flesch Index: 63.2
Flesch-Kincaid Index: 7.2

The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
Fog Index: 6.1
Flesch Index: 83.7
Flesch-Kincaid Index: 4.2

Battle Ready, by Tom Clancy
Fog Index: 12.8
Flesch Index: 53.1
Flesch-Kincaid Index: 10.1

Fog Index: 9.0
Flesch Index: 68.1
Flesch-Kincaid Index: 6.8

So there you have it. Sonny Barger is officially a better writer than James Joyce.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

And If Slap Shot Wins, May God Have Mercy On Us All 

Professor Norbizness's Wacky Old Tymey Komedy Kavalkade Elimination Death Race Tournament of Laffs Challenge 2000 is underway. The brackets have been set. The competition is fierce. While I disagree with a couple choices (Annie Hall specifically represented a break from his earlier, funnier filmmaking, not its pinnacle!), you can't argue with the talent on display this weekend (with the exception of Harold Lloyd, who is quite easily argued with -- he beat out Sons of the Desert???). The game to watch, for my money, is Some Like It Hot vs. Repo Man.

I will be organizing the Unintentional Comedy tournament next week.

Friday, April 15, 2005

1,086,000,000 Catholics Can't Be Wrong
Or: Holy See Small Hours of the Morning

Every blogger does it, no one really thinks its funny anymore.

Still. I am the 12th result returned for:
karol wojtyla sings ave maria

Sure, it was a hit, but I just don't think it'll hold up as well as Pious XII's Psalms For Swingin' Martyrs.

But you really have to listen to the original monotheist mix.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

High Five (Blog the Catskills) 

Roxanne, damn her, has sent another one of these damn blog things my way.

Behold, the Caesar’s Bath meme! List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can’t really understand the fuss over. To use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), "Nice. Nice. Not thrilling . . . but nice."

Here's the five:

There you go. The gods are appeased. Next in line:
Corndog! You just finished the book thingy, so you're in a meme state of mind. This'll be a cakewalk.
Norbizness! I choose you!
And, uh... Glenn Reynolds. That'll show the smug bastard.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Outside the Trains Don't Run On Time 

New York magazine, "Don't Hate Them Because They're Rich," April 18, 2005:
Let’s say that the number of New Yorkers with more than $500,000 in adjusted gross income has risen to about 30,000, which is surely conservative. If, on average, each of these folks spends $200,000 a year on services locally (remember, the $500,000 is a floor, not an average), then the top 1 percent of earners supports about 153,000 service jobs. One hedge-fund manager who spends $1 million annually on services—a driver and house staff, investment management and real-estate brokers, restaurants and psychotherapists—probably sustains 25 livelihoods.
More conventional service professions are prospering, too.

The New York Times, "Falling Fortunes of the Wage Earner," April 12, 2005:
Since 2001, when the recovery began, productivity growth has averaged 4.1 percent a year; overall compensation - wages and benefits - has risen about one-third as fast, by 1.5 percent a year on average. By contrast, over the previous seven business cycles, productivity rose by 2.5 percent a year on average while compensation rose roughly three-fourths as fast, by 1.8 percent a year.

"The question is not whether corporations are seeking higher profits; the question is how come they're getting them to such a degree at the expense of compensation," said Jared Bernstein, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute. "I'm struck at how successful they've been at restraining labor costs."

New York magazine:
The rich subsidize our public services, too—and graciously don’t use them much. Mayor Bloomberg may pride himself on riding the subway, but your average hedge-fund managing director is not a connoisseur of mass transit.

Gothamist, "MTA Fare Increases In 2006 AND 2007," October 19, 2004:
The MTA not only mentioned the fare hike for 2006 but also warned about another fare hike in 2007, due to the budget deficit that will just keeping ballooning. Why is there a crazy deficit ($400 million more expected for next year, on top of the the current $700 million gap)? The lack of city and state aid in recent years.

New York magazine:
The nonprofit world has become a big business in its own right. The Museum of Modern Art raised $858 million—in the teeth of a recession—for its new building. The New York Times reported that 50 trustees—whose members include David Rockefeller, Ronald Lauder, and out-of-towners Thomas H. Lee and Los Angeles developer Eli Broad—kicked in more than $5 million each.

After its celebrated reopening on November 20th, 2004, following a renovation project that cost $858 million, the Museum of Modern Art will begin charging visitors $20 for admission. The cost represents a 60% increase from the previous fee of $12 and makes MoMA one of the most expensive urban museums in the world.
The $858 million dollars that MoMA has spent in its renovation serves only its own vainglory. That sum could have provided the old MoMA’s 1.8 million annual visitors with free admission for forty years.

New York magazine:
The very rich may be carving out more space for themselves. But in this highly uncertain economy, that’s something of a blessing, not an unmitigated curse. The ultimate definition of a city’s health is the ability to attract people, companies, and industries that can choose to be anywhere in the world.

Made it, Ma -- top of the world!

Monday, April 11, 2005

New York Sez: The Super-Rich Are Only Bad If You're Poor 

Shorter New York magazine:
Absurdly wealthy plutocrats are what make this city great!

Or, in their own words:
"The magnetism of the very wealthy does limit options for the merely affluent."

This might be the most disgusting article I've read today. And I went to Front Page Magazine this afternoon.

Questions About Books, Answers About How Smart I Am
Or: The Story of the Internet

I've been sent the book meme. I spent more time on it that I have actually reading books today, thank you very much. And can we please stop referring to it as a meme? I don't think Richard Dawkins (or Maeterlinck, for that matter!) would approve.

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

It seems like you should pick a crowd-pleaser -- no one wants to party with Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. So I'll be Bob Dylan's Chronicles, vol. One, which is hysterically funny when you read it in a deep, smoke-ravaged Okie/Iron Range accent.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I've been thinking about this one for a while, because I'm pretty sure I must've, at some point. Maybe Y.T. from Snow Crash, when I was fourteen or fifteen... but sci-fi books all have hot female characters specifically designed for the fantastical needs of a lovelorn audience, so it may not count.

I'll just say Nately's Whore.

The last book you bought is?

Just Enough Liebling by A. J. Liebling (not the best anthology, I'm afraid)
and a couple Assigned Texts:
Dancing In the Distraction Factory: Music Television and Popular Culture by Andrew Goodwin
The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

What are you currently reading?

(re-reading) Most of the Most of S. J. Perelman
American Ground by William Langewiesche
The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett
Choose Your Own Adventure #130: You Are Microscopic by Edward Packard

You might notice that I'm completely lacking in contemporary fiction at the moment. I cannot bring myself to be excited by it. I liked "Everything Is Illuminated," and now feel guilty about it because Foer had to go and write another book that makes him look like a fraud and me look like a sucker (no, i haven't read it, but i've read the excerpts, and first chapters don't lie). I've read a couple good short stories in Harper's and the New Yorker (the last two magazines to publish short fiction, I believe, though every so often The Economist likes to print totally made-up emerging-market indicators just for kicks), [DELETED -- long discussion blaming celebrity authors for my own laziness and inability to find time or inclination to buy new fiction]

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

Don Quixote (probably the Grossman translation, as a desert island may be the only place I'd ever get around to finishing it)
Gravity's Rainbow
Either "The Collected Prose" (Without Feathers, Getting Even, Side Effects) of Woody Allen or The Portable Dorothy Parker
Pale Fire
Some sort of omnibus edition of the plays and novels of Samuel Beckett (cheating! ha!). Oh, and it also has a shitload of Twain in it, for some reason. A printing error, let's say. It also has some Mencken essay scrawled in the margins. Oh, and I'm on the island where blank notebooks and pens and IBM Selectric II typewriters grow from palm trees, and the sea washes up copies of the OED.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

I think every single blogger has done this by now. I mean it. So I'll pass it on to:
doghouse riley, because i can tell by his pseudonym that he's got good taste, plus I'm pretty sure most of his responses will be TV Guide or TV Guide-related.
and... uh... Jim Romenesko.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

When Doves Pie 

Some damned liberal professor gave me homework, so while I'm working on it (or watching Arrested Development tonight), go over and read the new-to-me dadahead, whom I found via Christopher Schroen. They disagree a bit over the DANGEROUS PIE CRISIS that is rocking political circles right now, and I don't really have an opinion on the matter yet (perhaps we should just pie people in effigy?). I do think it's mostly harmless (if Leon Czolgosz had pied President McKinley, Emma Goldman may never have been deported, Teddy Roosevelt's political career may have been completely derailed, and today we wouldn't have to deal with certain smarmy, irritating, Lieberman-idolizing moderate-to-the-point-of-meaninglessness third-person-abusing bloggers).

On the other hand, it's not particularly effective, even in a yippie street-theater kind of way, as it tends to make the poor, pied crypto-fascist seem a little sympathetic. As in the IS MICHELLE MALKIN A CUNT OR JUST A JERK debate, this kind of behavior just tends to justify the Conservative Victimhood canard.
(slightly edited)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Then They Take Berlin? 

You plug a new search engine, then you sit back and wait for your first referral -- and what a referral it is!

leonard cohen muppets manhattan

Lord know why they had to use the newest most fanciest most feature-heaviest searching/shopping tool to look up gibberish. But warms my heart to know it brought them here.

Friday, April 08, 2005

O Brave New World 

The most useful thing ever?

Or is this?

I remember back in the good old days when the world wide web was entirely devoted to uselessness.

Karol Wojtyla's Plastic Inevitable 

Mourning the Pope in Mexico City, 2005, left. The Velvet Underground and Nico, 1966, right.

You know, I heard his first encyclical letters were really about Edie Sedgwick.

Citizen Journalism 

Gawker Stalker
: 1947 Edition

Saw Myrna Loy at The Cotillion Room on Saturday. Guess she's into the "jive," huh? I smiled when she walked past on her way to the W.C., but she didn't respond. A lot shorter than you'd think.

Frankie Laine at the Copa. What a nut! Looked like a rented tux, too. Total one-hit wonder.

I swear I just ran into one of The Andrews Sisters (one of the brunettes -- the uglier one?) on 7th Ave. I was just leaving the IRT station, and she (Patti?) nearly ran me right over on her way to, I don't know, make it with Bing Crosby or something. I guess I wouldn't be worrying about looking where I was going if my career had died along with Tojo [not dead -ed]. Maybe she's heading out to meet Truman about bombing the reds and reviving her career in the war bonds racket.

I saw Richard Rodgers outside the St. James Theatre. Cigarette break (he smokes Luckies!). Looked tired and NOT HAPPY. My friend kept trying to get me to ask him for tickets to Ohio! or whatever it's called (it's still running!), but I told him I heard it was boring. Too bad Hart died, Rodgers doesn't look very happy now that he has to write songs about cows or whatever.

I was at the Oak Room the other night (don't ask), and I noticed this really serious-looking egghead type totally trying to make it with a swell-looking dame at the other end of the bar. Couldn't hear what he was saying, but he kept writing stuff down and giving it to her (room number? algebraic equations? abstract art?). Anyway, as I was settling my tab and mentally preparing myself for a return to the cloakroom (Plaza hat check kid is always surly), I hear the bartender telling some other guy that the creepy egghead is Walter Lippmann. What an asshole.

Two sightings yesterday!!! First, at 21 (I don't care what Winchell says, it's still THE HOTTEST BAR in NEW YORK) I saw none other than CARY GRANT, who is EVEN HOTTER in person!!! Oh my god, I nearly kissed him right there!! He is sooo cute, and even though I think he was a little drunk, he was still totally charming to everyone, and wasn't even in one of the private rooms! Then (this was less exciting), I was trying to get a cab on Madison at like 10 and who should be stumbling around dressed like a total skank with some grungy hepcat type but Shirley Temple. She's such a hoe-bag these days. Doesn't she have parents? Or is she still owned by Zanuck?

This was a weird one. I was at the Diamond Horseshoe and saw Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. They were together, chatting pretty friendly-like, but I couldn't really make out what they were talking about. Anyway, I wanted to tell Salvador that Walt was a fascist, but my wife told me not to make a scene. Dali probably knows already. Anyway, I don't really like either of them that much.

Ok, someone will have to settle this one for me: my gal SWEARS she saw Bing Crosby at Cafe Elysian on Thursday. Now, I was there too, but I only caught the back of this guy as he left. I mean, I couldn't tell the back of Bing Crosby from the back of Jack Benny. But this is HOBOKEN, people! Bing simply wouldn't be there, unless personally escorted by Frankie "Maresy Dotes" Sinatra. Anyway, it's looking like there's a Bing Crosby DOUBLE prowling the streets across the Hudson. And he wears Oxfords. Are the '30s back now?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


You know, this isn't the first time the Associated Press has managed to "scoop" the competition with material from a particularly gruesome terrorist act. One starts to wonder -- how are they doing it? Could it be because they are aiding the terrorists to get stories? How, for example, could one Mr. Eddie Adams possibly have gotten this shot:

He would've had to have been only yards away from the killings. What would the chances be of a press photographer, ambling through Saigon, happening upon such an iconic image accidentally? That would be like me walking though New York and happening upon a gang war! You know, if I was a professional photojournalist, and there was actually a gang war going on, and I knew where it was, on account of it being a war zone, and if it was my job to take pictures of that kind of thing.

I demand an immediate investigation from the Pulitzer committee. Please contact your local congressman.

Hi, Kids! I'm Quor M the Rules of Order Duck! 

Is this ad a joke?

Are we mounting a campaign to save a bedrock of Parliamentary procedure or making a Schoolhouse Rock knock-off? We're fighting "the nuclear option" with clip art? "Checks and Balanz"???

Anyway, I'm sick as hell, so it'll probably be sorta quiet around here for a little while.

Though, if you've been following the news about news about news today, you may have noticed that I've officially sold out. Which reminds me of a piece I've always wanted to write and submit under a pseudonym to, I don't know, Front Page magazine or something:
I Was an Intern For the Media Elite.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Marlo Thomas, Pocahontas, and Me 

And why not a little music blogging on this sunny afternoon?

Point the first: I've been alerted to the posting of the latest in the continuing series of Unauthorized Beatles Covers back at Idyllopus' ranch. You can stream "Revolution" or download "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" and now the eternally-timely "Gimme Some Truth." They're all pretty amazing -- my personal favorite so far is "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," which has a sort of Wurlitzer carnivalesque bridge that, in combination with the quadruple-tracked effects-laden vocals, puts me in the mind of the "luminous poisoning hangover" scene in the original D.O.A..

See also What Would a Minoan Goddess Do?, a disquisition on the writings of The Free Online Casino Philosopher, the politics of underclothes, and the depravity of Marlo Thomas' "untethered breasts."

Point the Second: The super-secret unreleased Fiona Apple album is, well, decent. I don't know. If you're a Fiona Apple fan, it's great. Otherwise... your milage may vary. Thing is, for all the talk of a great artistic leap forward, Fiona's still writing exactly the same songs. And you take that however you like. Must-downloads: "Not About Love" and the amazing title track ("Extraordinary Machine"), on which Ms. Apple sings (I swear, though no one believes me) like Miss Peggy Lee (as arranged, perhaps, by Randy Newman). Sample the rest, delete where necessary.

Point the Third: Greil Marcus has a new book about an old song, and soon he'll be everywhere. Tell him how much you dig his rock critic glasses and ask how life is these days in the abandoned, boarded-up attic of the Rolling Stone masthead.

At the New School, New York:
Nonfiction Forum: Greil Marcus
Thursday, April 7, 6:30 p.m., Rm. 510
Moderated by Robert Polito
Greil Marcus reads from and discusses Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone
[NOTE: Not actutally the name of the book.].

Finally: I totally feel guilty about making fun of him last week.

It Is, Apparently, National Poetry Month 

The Best Cigarette

There are many that I miss
having sent my last one out a car window
sparking along the road one night, years ago.

The heralded one, of course:
after sex, the two glowing tips
now the lights of a single ship;
at the end of a long dinner
with more wine to come
and a smoke ring coasting into the chandelier;
or on a white beach,
holding one with fingers still wet from a swim.

How bittersweet these punctuations
of flame and gesture;
but the best were on those mornings
when I would have a little something going
in the typewriter,
the sun bright in the windows,
maybe some Berlioz on in the background.
I would go into the kitchen for coffee
and on the way back to the page,
curled in its roller,
I would light one up and feel
its dry rush mix with the dark taste of coffee.

Then I would be my own locomotive,
trailing behind me as I returned to work
little puffs of smoke,
indicators of progress,
signs of industry and thought,
the signal that told the nineteenth century
it was moving forward.
That was the best cigarette,
when I would steam into the study
full of vaporous hope
and stand there,
the big headlamp of my face
pointed down at all the words in parallel lines.
--Billy Collins

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Basic Knowledge Shall Not Deter the March Of Progress! 

It's hard to take Thomas Friedman's magazine piece this week seriously when his lede contains this rather elementary misstatement of historical fact:
In 1492 Christopher Columbus set sail for India, going west. He had the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. He never did find India, but he called the people he met "Indians" and came home and reported to his king and queen: "The world is round."

Okay, Tom, are you ten years old???

Look, he does it again:
Here I was in Bangalore -- more than 500 years after Columbus sailed over the horizon, looking for a shorter route to India using the rudimentary navigational technologies of his day, and returned safely to prove definitively that the world was round....

All right, once is a rhetorical device. Twice is just fucking stupid. I thought people who went to school were, at this point, pretty clear on the fact that everyone in the 1490s knew the shape of the world, that it had been proven fairly definitively, and that all the other sailors were applying their knowledge of global roundness with much more accuracy than Chris, who was better at genocide than navigation anyway.

And the extended flat-earth metaphor never makes one lick of sense throughout the entire piece, which can be summed up as: "Americans will have to work super hard if they want to compete in the Global Marketplace!!!!!! You will work for free in information sweatshops because those superintelligent Indians will, in fact, pay your employer for the privilege of taking your job if you don't!!!! Low-cost hyper-efficiency!!!! Capitalism to the extreeeeeme!!!!!"

This was my favorite line:
"So parents, throw away the Game Boy, turn off the television and get your kids to work."

America, meet the New Economy, same as the Old Economy.

Thomas Friedman would've been a great read in the 19th century, actually.
The ways of the American trade unionists may have worked in the past, but in this new 'industrial' economy, the old rules are useless. Why should a garment factory owner hire an adult when a faster, more efficient, and sprightly young orphan can do the same amount of work at a fraction of the cost? I talked to Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York, which is quickly becoming the nexus of the fast-paced 'urbanization' trend in the national workforce:

"In the new economy, it just doesn't make sense to employ a full-grown man to do this kind of job, which is perfectly suited to the abilities of children and single women," Harris told me over tea. "Sure, there may be another blouse-manufacturing concern out there that can afford to give their 'men' princely 'wages' and provide them with such trivial luxuries as 'emergency exits,' but our product is going to be of a higher quality and sold for a lower price, and that's just the way the marketplace is heading. And the consumer is going to thank us, and, eventually, those folks who wish to earn enough to survive or work in 'safe conditions' are just going to have to catch up."

It was a stunning moment of clarity for me. Of course! I immediately sent a telegram to my wife: "HONEY STOP SELL THE CHILDREN STOP TOM"

And, of course, who can forget Friedman's landmark pop-economics bible,
The Sharecropping Economy: Why the 13th Amendment Will Reshape the Southern Workforce, and How Poor White Farmers Will Compete (From the Author of "The Other Side of Indentured Servitude" and "Eugenics! Building a More Efficient Toiler")

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Obits Are In 


I Get More Hits Than Saduhara Oh 

Today's bizarre google referral:
"david horowitz" beastie boys

It's Adam, but close. That's a fairly common mistake, but here's how I keep them straight:
David is the best-known critic of the left.
Adam is known primarily for rocking so well, and is said to have class like pink champale.

Hope that clears things up.

Just for future reference:
The Left's Best Known Critic

UPDATE: Corndog asks an important question:
"What does David have class like? My guess - bathtub sloe gin."

If Mr. Horowitz's typical self-adulating tone were expressed in the form of old-school rap, how would he describe his class?

Ain't no better critic of the left than myself,
'cause I got more smarts than Soros got Wealth.
I'll link Mohammad Atta to Eliot Spitzer,
I got class like a Rhine Wine Spritzer

Add your own couplet to the comments, should you feel so inclined.

Friday, April 01, 2005

mary cheney banjo medicaid 

Strangely, I'm not the first result returned in a google search for bush twins ukulele social security, as a visitor learned this afternoon. Though, perhaps, that would make a good name/theme for a short independent film.

I know it's belated as hell (Gimme a break! I've been sleeping all day!), but Michelle Maklin has been on fire today. As have Glennnn and the whole gang over at WND and BoringBoring.

But What About Stephen Malkmus' Endorsement of High Seas Piracy? 

Still on the political pop stars kick:
Those on the fence about M.I.A.'s revolutionary rhetoric ought to read this well-researched (as usual) Christgau piece that I somehow missed last month.

Those who don't know what the hell I'm talking about, go read some other blog, old man!

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