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All the salty margaritas in Los Angeles

Posted by Ben
on 12.09.16

Los Angeles,

It is possible that I will be in you, fair city, on the eve of one of the 26th, the 27th, or the 28th. Maybe a few of your select citizens wish to meet up? lmk.

Yours ever,
Neb


 

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Guest Post: When is Uber going to finally crash?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.09.16

E. Messily writes: I hate them so much. But this will probably work really well for them.

Heebie's take: There have been a number of complaints of sexual misconduct by Uber drivers. While Uber has not done anything to address that, it is a mere temporal accident that makes it seem like these new guidelines for riders - like "no flirting" - are a response to allegations of sexual assault. We are absolutely against rape, but couldn't the passengers stop asking for it?


 

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Guest Post from C. Stabby: CARLOMAN

Posted by Ben
on 12.08.16

says she:

#1 band releasing series of madrigal pop concept albums about Charlemagne's (real!!!) unfortunate brother.

xmas music

first album is still best but Diurnal Animals on this one is good

This is the album!

I'm gonna be straight with you all: the "madrigal" content, and the "medieval" content also, is pretty weak here, IMHO. It's basically just whimpster chamber pop. The tag says "pre-baroque" but it's exactly what is meant by "baroque" when that is applied to pop groups. Maybe the earlier albums are better, as C.S. suggests (answer: yes)? I feel that the promise of this band (as I understand it) is better fulfilled by Gryphon, complete with KRUMMHORN, or Gentle Giant despite its being possibly the weirdest band ever, EVEN WEIRDER than Magma. Or, I dunno, Circulus.

Anyway, Carloman. It's fine! Submit guest posts to me and I will abuse you, too!


 

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ATM: The 63-year-old Virgin

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.08.16


Viscount Palmerston writes
: So, I have this friend, call him Disraeli, who has never been on the internet in his life. He lives in a small town in southern England, so there is connectivity available; he is extremely intelligent (we met at school when I was 13); he has a little money from god knows where. But he is abnormally suspicious of the outside world, and frightened of it, too.

Until his early thirties he was an alcoholic to the best of his considerable ability. I was out of the country then, but a succession of health scares had him cutting down to a bottle, and the two thirds of a bottle and finally no whisky at all every day. Since then he's hardly drunk and never to my knowledge binged. All of his old drinking chums died in their forties.

He has not been employed since he was 25. After that, he was supported for a while by his gf, (the virginity is purely cyberspatial) who was a barmaid in the pub his father owned. A lovely woman who in her late twenties developed strange tinglings, and then stumblings, which turned out to be a progressive demyelinating disease, not MS, but very similar in its effects. Disraeli looked after her with unflagging devotion and thoughtfulness through all the terrible progress of the disease, all the way to its end. For much of this time, since we live in topless enlightened Europe, he was paid by the state to be her carer.

By the time of her death, 13 years ago, the couple had been rehoused in an end-terrace bungalow where he still lives. It's in the servants' quarters of the village: the bits that look like the houses Saruman put up in The Shire. Think Sebastian Flyte as gatekeeper in a monastery.

For a while after her death, his friends thought he would come back to the world. He had been a semi-pro guitarist, a talented writer (he passed the exam that gets you into university with distinction in English literature, even though he had breakfasted on a bottle of wine before taking it. He worked in the pub instead of going on, though) and just about the wittiest man I have ever known. For about a year after his gf's death a clearly very dedicated therapist tried to get him to emerge to the world. She failed. Within about eighteen months his mother had settled near enough to him to be a problem (she was another alcoholic) and far enough away that getting to her on public transport would take up all of a day. So looking after her consumed all his energies for another ten years, providing endless excuses why he couldn't do anything else.

He had some books (he has an informed fondness for Victorian decadent poets) but essentially no music. He listened to the radio endlessly and bought music wank magazines like guitar player, with back copies piled three or four feet high behind his bed, but he didn't play anything. I'd ring him every six weeks or so and he could talk for twenty minutes at a time about such topics as the rig John Cipollina used when recording with the Man Band that time when he was so stoned and out of tune they had to rerecord the whole thing when he had flown back to California.

Two years ago his mother finally died. Three people attended her cremation: Me , Disraeli, and an old girlfriend of mine who takes an interest in him. Later, another schoolfriend arrived. That was it. Teh rest of us got rapidly drunk afterwards. Since then he has not left the village except to walk to a neighboring town once a day to shop or go to the library. He refuses all invitations to come and stay with friends, from behind impregnable fortifications of hypochondria -- his leg, his eyes, his incontinence, his liver have all at different times prevented him from taking a bus or accepting a lift. Our mutual schoolfriend passed on a good guitar, which he has apparently been playing more seriously again.

Three weeks ago I decided to give him for his 63rd birthday an old smartphone and a pair of speakers, with a tiny bluetooth amplifier to link them up. He'd said he needed a new phone anyway (the old one of course had been as dumb as a phone can be). With pains and patience I got them all hooked up. I asked him to name the most obscure blues artist he knew. Using my own phone, I showed him Youtube and the hideous strains soon filled his (only) room. The deal went down.

I got him to order a sim with a data plan, despite his conviction that giving his bank card to anyone over the internet would result in instant penury. He fretted for days about the terms and conditions of the contract: safely back at home I suggested that he walk into the local library and print them out on a terminal there. I might more safely have suggested he fellate some stranger's dog outside Waitrose. "I've never used a computer in my life and I'm not going to start now!" he replied in outrage.

However, the sim arrived. He put it in. He discovered Youtube. Last time I called, two days ago, he was complaining that sometimes it had the wrong versions of songs he wanted. Also, he had been up till four that morning, and now he had a blister on his finger. Already, he complains that the screen is too small. [duh]. So. I have a ten year old mac mini lying around. I can put on a screen and keyboard and fix it up as an internet terminal with a linux distro and a wifi antenna. But have I done a terrible thing? Will he be found like a Korean gamer, a mummified, emaciated corpse at the keyboard when finally the cops break down the door?

In the meantime, what should I put on his bookmarks?

Heebie's take
: What a fun task! It's our own blank slate, and we can control all his first impressions. Does he like fashion blogs?


 

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Not Climate Change or Trump

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.07.16

What's the most frivolous thing we can talk about to balance out the destruction of the human species, both climate-wise over decades and locally over the next few years?

I'm having a blast reading Harry Potter with the kids (or Hairy Potty, as we relentlessly call it), and it's kind of funny to be reading The Magicians simultaneously.

I have a question - are your kids readers for pleasure? Our kids all love storytime, but Hawaii does not really read books for fun, and none of the (eligible) kids seem to be early readers at all. I seriously am not worried one iota, and in fact will be annoyed if I get placating remarks about how the kids are fine, chill out Heebie. (Obviously now I'm just courting such remarks, because you're a stinker.)

Anyway I am scientifically curious to figure out what's different. E. Messily mentioned a theory about how Kids Today see a lot more isolated words out of context, which means that they read slower at first and then all at once (like falling in love getting divorced). The problem is that for my kids at least, their environment seems nearly identical to my own 1970s/80s environment. They don't actually have different technology exposure in the pre-reading years, to speak of.


 

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Sub Specie Pissed Off At Us

Posted by Ogged
on 12.07.16

If the effects of climate change get really bad globally, it would be interesting to hear how our cave-dwelling descendants sum up the American empire of hundreds of years ago. A large, turbulent nation, founded by rejects and zealots, unable to hold itself together for more than a few hundred years, dragging the whole world behind it into catastrophe. Also, went to the moon.


 

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Guest Post - Political Rhetoric

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.06.16

Nick S. writes: We've argued about how and why the Democratic party has had a difficult time appealing to rust belt voters, without achieving much clarity. Today Mike Konczal writes about the topic, and does a very good job. He manages to identify some specific issues, and explain why it is that Trump was effective and why Democrats had a hard time responding to his populism.

I think this is very smart (emphasis mine):

Trump talked about jobs. All the time. This gets lost in the coverage, which focused on the inflammatory scandals. Listen:
When I win on November 8, I am going to bring back your jobs. The long nightmare of jobs leaving Michigan will be coming to an end. We will make Michigan the economic envy of the world once again. The political class in Washington has betrayed you. They've uprooted your jobs, and your communities, and shipped your wealth all over the world. They put new skyscrapers up in Beijing while your factories in Michigan crumbled. I will end the theft of American prosperity. I will fight for every last Michigan job. -- Trump, Michigan, October 31, 2016
It's the first and most consistent thing he discusses. It's implied that he's speaking of a specific kind of job, a white, male, breadwinning manufacturing job. He doesn't discuss "the economy" and how it could work for all, he doesn't talk about inequality, he doesn't talk about automation and service work. He just declares that you will have a high-paying manufacturing job when he is president.
So what? Much of the Democratic platform is based on the assumption that most Americans understand that the kind of political economy he's talking about, a country filled with high-paying manufacturing positions, has been anachronistic for decades. Family leave, child allowances, and universal pre-K acknowledge that we need to look beyond male breadwinners as the core economic unit. Fight for $15 is about turning service work into a decent, secure, working-class life. Efforts to try to disentangle commodities like health care and retirement from employment start from the premise that many people won't get such benefits from their jobs. Many voters don't want to hear this.


Heebie's take
: I'm increasingly short-tempered with arguments against the Democratic Party. They're a party, trying to get power and run the country. But they are not synonymous with all institutions in the United States. Just because one party is a destructive toddler shitstorm does not mean that the other party is exactly one and the same with the media, the judicial system, the educational system, and so on. The DNC has a responsibility to try to get people into office. The existing people in all of these institutions and fields have a responsibility to act like fucking adults and not be held hostage to a self-destructive toddler shitstorm.

Despite all that, yes, the Democrats should state their message in bold, plain language like Trump did. But the fucking media should be held accountable for not consistently unraveling the bullshit in his speeches. I'm probably most mad at the media.

(And the statisticians. My personal theory is that they over-normed states to the national poll, because they underestimated how polarized the nation had become. I blame them, because I think Stein voters and others would have broke differently if they were taking the Trump threat seriously, so the statisticians should have been more thoughtful about the consequences of their assumptions.)

I go back and forth on whether or not I blame the voters. On one hand, I see them like a digestive system that just shits out whatever it's been fed. I blame the feed-designers. OTOH, that's paternalistic and they're fucking upscale suburban adults - learn to not be scammed already. OTTH, there is absolutely nothing productive about wishing the voters weren't so dumb. All you can do is blame the institutions that should have been informing them out of their dumbness. So I do. OTFH, if the standard for complaining is that it must be productive, then I'd never be able to say anything. So it isn't.


 

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He Was Fucked Up

Posted by Ogged
on 12.06.16

A while back, some of the grownups were talking about someone who'd died, and my oldest was asking "who died? who died?" and I got to earnestly tell him, "Santa." But the grownups totally stepped on the real, follow-up joke, "It turns out Rudolph really shouldn't have been guiding that sleigh." And a moment's reflection reveals the truth of this. This drunk, red-nosed reindeer is ostracized all his life, and only when the night is "foggy" does Santa say, "hey, you drive!" Then there's the abrupt emotional turn, when all the reindeer love him--are they all also drunk? is that the fog of the foggy night?--and then the fateful chorus, "you'll go down in history." To go down in history is traditionally a way of saying "become immortal," but as life teaches us daily, only the dead can be immortal.


 

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#pizzagate

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.05.16

So is there a primer on the content of the #pizzagate conspiracy? All I know is that they said "pizza" in the hacked emails so many times that obviously, statistically, it had to be a codeword for pedophilia.


 

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New York Review of Fascism

Posted by Ben
on 12.05.16

Mossy Character sent in a link to this Umberto Eco article from 1995 that's been going around; more recently, of course ("of course"), there have been a couple of good article (I thought more actually) by Masha Gessen. And, on the "prescience" tip, presumably we've seen the bit from Rorty's Achieving Our Country, but perhaps fewer have seen this bit, which comes from On Democracy by noted NCGOP donor Joshua Cohen.

(Speaking of NC, is there cause for hope that McCrory's coup will be prevented? Anyone know wtf is happening there?)


 

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Guest Post: NickS/Trevor Noah/Some Shithead

Posted by Ben
on 12.04.16

NICKS WROTE TO ME ME WONDERFUL ME as follows:

When I heard last week that Trevor Noah had invited a conservative pundit on his show I had no idea who Tomi Lahren was, and had no interest. But today I saw this article which got me to watch the interview.

I think the article is correct in highlighting the ways that Noah did a very good job and yet I found the entire conversation painful and depressing. Noah tried very hard to make the conversation interesting, productive, or informative and, to my eye, he just barely succeeded. There are moments in which he is able to provide perspective and highlight the meaning of what Lahren is saying. But, overall, I feel like, as Noah said early in the interview, "sorry, my brain . . ."

The AV Club headline captures the dynamic fairly well, "Trevor Noah has his best interview yet with living Facebook screed Tomi Lahren"

But, after mulling over my depression about the conversation I thought about the Jonathan Chait's column about David Brooks which Brad DeLong posted about Brooks' unwillingness to acknowledge as a moderate figure:

The effect of all this commentary was not to empower the moderate ideas Brooks favored, but to disempower them. Brooks was emblematic of the way the entire bipartisan centrist industry conducted itself throughout the Obama years. It was neither possible for Obama to co-opt the center, nor for Republicans to abandon it, because official centrists would simply relocate themselves to the midpoint of wherever the parties happened to stand.

If that was supposed to be a conversation between Conservative Tomi Lahren and Liberal Trevor Noah, it makes me feel like "Conservative" and "Liberal" as labels are completely disconnected from reality, they are just positional statements.

Help me out, should I be happier about the dynamic which Caroline Framke describes as,

Noah badly wanted to find some semblance of reason within Lahren's blanket aggression toward all things liberal, but he went about it in the exact same way he proposed some should approach Trump. Yes, he expressed his opinions and challenged her on views he found confusing at best and offensive at worst. But he also just kept asking for clarity, for more information on why, exactly, Lahren thinks the way she does.

I have not got it in me to watch what I'm sure is a stomach-turning interview but I did read the vox article and I guess good job Trevor Noah? But obviously "conservative" especially has no meaning in itself;* and one suspects moreover that "liberal" just means "not those guys". But that's been the case for a long time.

* let's keep the structuralist etc. blather to a minimum, please


 

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Entertainment

Posted by Ogged
on 12.04.16

In some piece I was reading recently, Jimmy Stewart had just come back from WWII, suffering from PTSD and feeling like everything was insignificant compared to the war. Someone said to him, so you think it's more important to bomb people than entertain them? A striking line, and it helped Stewart move forward. Which is all by way of saying, this is a good tweetstorm series of tweets.


 

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