Archive for September, 2011

1

Two-thirds of us know a guy who just won an Emmy

Tom and I grew up with a kid named Jeremy Levine. In high school, Jeremy and I wrote and directed a short dramatic film entitled Toast Dusters: The Movie. (Watch it in medium def here. Or, more likely, don’t.) Yesterday, while my wife and I were watching “X Factor” and Tom was doing Yahweh knows what, Jeremy won an Emmy.

Thought I’d mention it.

That's Jeremy on the right. His business partner, Landon, is on the left. I don't know who the dude in the middle is, but I'm sure he's important too.

 ***

(The whole shebang):

New York, N.Y. – September 26, 2011  – Winners of the 32nd Annual News and Documentary Emmy® Awards were announced tonight by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS).  The News & Documentary Emmy® Awards were presented at a ceremony at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, located in the Time Warner Center in New York City.

The event was attended by more than 900 television and news media industry executives, news and documentary producers and journalists. Emmy® Awards were presented in 42 categories, including Breaking News, Investigative Reporting, Outstanding Interview, and Best Documentary, among others.

[...]

OUTSTANDING BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC REPORTING – LONG FORM

POV                                                                                                                                 PBS

Good Fortune

Director/Producer
  Landon Van Soest
Producer
  Jeremy Levine
Field Producer
  Benard Aulo Ohanga
Executive Producers
  Katy Chevigny, Judith Helfand, Diana Barrett,   Andrew Herwitz
Executive Producer for POV
  Simon Kilmurry
Co-Executive Producer for POV
  Cynthia Lopez
    Director of Programming and Production, POV 
  Chris White
Series Producer, POV
  Yance Ford
Coordinating Producer, POV
  Andrew Catauro

0

Everything is terrible.

(via)

That doesn’t mean this guy isn’t being extra alarmist in order to sell shit. Another thing to point out: his recommendation seems to be for people to start a bank run. Hard to argue with the logic, though, that if there’s going to be a bank run, best to be at the front of the line.

1

Thom Yorke, and Radiohead, in a Nutshell

On Thom Yorke:

“THIS IS THE NIGGA FROM RADIOHEAD. IDK IF YOU KNOW THIS BUT RADIOHEAD IS IN EVERY WHITE PERSON’S TOP 5 BANDS B. ALWAYS. IT DON’T EVEN MATTER IF THEY INTO PUNK OR DEATH METAL OR SOFT ROCK OR FUCKIN BEETHOVEN MY NIGGA. THEY LOVE THIS NIGGA B. WHITE FEMALES WOULD EAT THIS NIGGAS ASS AFTER HE DID GLASTONBURY WITH NO DRAWZ ON IF HE STEPPED TO THEM LIKE “DUNLEEMEE HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA DUNLEEMEEE DRAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAAAHH” THAT’S IMPRESSIVE B SINCE THIS NIGGA LOOKS LIKE A SICK BABY BIRD THAT FELL OUT THE NEST. THIS NIGGA IS SO WHITE HIS VEINS PUMP ORGANIC CARROT JUICE B. MY SON ALSO IS NAMED TOM BUT SPELLS IT “THOM” AND HE’S PROLLY WEARING A PAIR OF TOM’S RIGHT NOW. IF I HAD TO MAKE UP A PRETEND NAME FOR A BRITISH HOMO IT WOULD EITHER BE “ELLIS SHERMANY” OR “THOM YORKE”. YOU ARE AN EXEMPLARY CAUCASIAN MY FRIEND. SALUTE.

In a word, yeah.

(via The Awl)

 

0

Ross Douthat Takedown Watch

Susan of Texas pretty much has you covered for yesterday’s laugh-a-minute column from Douthat (no, I will not link it). If you want to see the hypocrisy of the country’s (and specifically the right’s) death penalty advocacy barbarism, there you go.

0

The Last Last Meal

From The Slatest:

Responding to a letter from an influential state senator, the head of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced Thursday that the state would no longer give death row inmates their choice of a final repast.

The move came after universally-reviled white supremacist gang member Lawrence Brewer ordered up a particularly lavish feast before his execution Wednesday night. Brewer, 44, had been convicted for his role in a 1998 hate killing in which a 49-year-old black man, James Byrd, Jr., was chained by his ankles to a pickup truck and dragged for miles along an asphalt road. The killers dumped his decapitated body in front of an African-American cemetery in Jasper, Texas.

According to the Houston Chronicle: “Brewer ordered—but did not eat—a final meal of two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, a cheese omelet, a large bowl of fried okra, three fajitas, a pint of Blue Bell ice cream, and a pound of barbecue with a half loaf of white bread.”

So Brewer was an inhuman asshole. Hasn’t anyone ever heard of personal discretion? You don’t need to revoke the entire last meal privilege. If you think an inmate who orders 10 pounds of food isn’t going to eat it all, don’t fucking give it to him. Otherwise, fer Christ’s sake, you’re about to take a man’s life. At least toss him a goddamn cheeseburger if he asks for it.

***

By the way, here are the countries that still use the death penalty. I don’t know about you, but I think we fit right in here!

  • Afghanistan
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Belize
  • Botswana
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Chad
  • China (People’s Republic)
  • Comoros
  • Congo (Democratic Republic)
  • Cuba
  • Dominica
  • Egypt
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon
  • Ghana
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • Guyana
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Korea, North
  • Korea, South
  • Kuwait
  • Laos
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Libya
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Mongolia
  • Nigeria
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Palestinian Authority
  • Qatar
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Swaziland
  • Syria
  • Taiwan
  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Uganda
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
0

Marc Maron’s Humanization of Ira Glass Will Make You Laugh

Maron to Glass:

You’re a guy that threw up on himself the other night, and I think it’s high time you start thinking about poop and grow the fuck up.

He’s the first interview after the monologue. Starts shortly after the 12 minute mark.

1

Health!

Do you like health? I know I do.

Hi

I’m Ben Nolan and I have no credentials whatsoever suggesting I have any business dispensing health advice.

THAT SAID

Health tip from Doctor Ben, M.A., B.A., S.O.B.:

  • When you’re biking clipped-in, kinda buzzed, listening to music and trying to answer your phone, DO NOT FORGET to unclip before coming to a complete stop at a red light. If you do forget, you will fall over sideways in front of everyone, your phone will hit the asphalt, its back and battery popping out, all skittering closer to a sewer than anyone’s comfortable with, and you will probably hurt your wrist.(Update: Additional health tip — replace the batteries in your goddamned lights and buy a new helmet you asshole. /talking2self)
For your health!
(h-t to Steve Brule for the tagline)
0

Two musical inversions

To my simultaneously vast amusement and utter dismay (depending on my mood at the time), sardonic references to Swedish rock band Europe’s classic 80′s trash hit, “The Final Countdown,” have become a mainstay amongst my cubicle mates over the last couple of months. I have also found myself regularly besieged by this rousing synth opus outside of the office, whether it’s blaring over the loudspeakers at my gym or accompanying Gob’s magic act on every third episode of Arrested Development. The song has become so ingrained, in fact, that — in an apparent subconscious effort to invigorate the more mundane aspects of my life — I now catch myself humming the opening riff while engaging in such previously soporific tasks as peeling cucumbers and taking out the recycling.

The point being…uhhh…okay, there is no point. I just needed a way to introduce this kick-ass YouTube video I found of a group of cellists tearing it up on “The Final Countdown.”

 

***

More YouTube laziness: After overhearing our umpteenth reference to TFC last week, another co-worker sent me a link to the following video featuring Toto’s “Africa” as performed by Perpetuum Jazzile — who, as you know, is a popular a cappella jazz choir from Slovenia.

The singing itself is good, but didn’t strike me as extraordinary or anything. However, the opening crescendo simulating a strengthening then weakening thunderstorm is truly incredible. Just make sure to turn up the volume to get the full effect, since the first pitter patter of voice rain is quite subtle.

0

Newburgh, Murder Capital of New York

My cousin wrote this article for New York Magazine. Go take a look.

1

On Class Warfare

What kind of phenomenon is Tom Friedman? What does he think about as he sips his morning coffee? Does he honestly believe that the United States would be a better place if his particular brand of “enlightened” oligarchy were to be implemented? Could he possibly endorse the tripe he peddles in the nation’s most important newspaper twice a week? Would he maintain that it’s worth the salary he makes, the position of influence he holds? What does he really think of himself? Does he go to bed satisfied with the life he’s led? Does he have regrets? Can the sheer lack of self-awareness that he demonstrates in column after column really and truly be genuine? What makes the Mustache of Understanding tick?

I bring these questions up because The Friedman wrote a particularly egregious column today. Or, if not particularly egregious, then at least rather telling. In the process of whining about how we need Leadership For A Grand Bargain Otherwise Herbert Hoover, Friedman lays all of his cards out on the table:

All I know is this: If either of you [Boehner and Obama] had been a real leader truly committed to a Grand Bargain — which you both know is what we need — you wouldn’t have just walked away from your negotiations. You would have taken the issue to the country and not let up until the other guy came back to the table.

Instead you both mumbled publicly about a Grand Bargain and how you were prepared for it but the other guy folded — and then retreated to your bases. Boehner went back to his base, arguing that more tax cuts can get us out of this, and Obama moved back to his base, with his focus on taxing millionaires. (In my next life, I want to be a member of the “base” — any base. They seem to have so much more fun and influence.)

That’s it. That’s Tom Friedman. Sorry there’s so much bold, but it really needs to sink in for a second. So let’s unpack this really quickly.

First, “all [he] know[s] is” completely wrong. Let’s take it one step at a time. 1) Obama offered the Republicans everything but the kitchen sink (though he did offer some of the dishes!) for the Grand Bargain, 2) Boehner couldn’t get his nutbag caucus in line because he’s facing a power struggle with Eric Cantor, who epitomizes House Republican craziness, 3) Republicans threatened to ruin the economy if they didn’t get everything they wanted, 4) …? 5) “Both sides do it!!!”

The “neither of you is a TRUE leader, nyah!” stuff is equally repellent. Again, Friedman is a man who gets paid — paid very well! —  to follow politics very carefully, but his analysis reads like that of someone with absolutely no knowledge of how the wheels of American government work. He’s too thick to realize that there was nothing that either of these leaders could do at the time. Obama could not allow his presidency to adopt a full-metal wingnut economic policy if he expected to be taken seriously as a Democrat in the next election; Boehner could not control his caucus, and very nearly lost his speakership over the debt ceiling, “Grand Bargain” fiasco. The country was quite literally held hostage by an intransigent group of extreme Republicans — highlighting, in fact, the crises our democracy might more regularly undergo if these people are given more power — but Friedman treats it as though it’s a lack of leadership that brought us to this place. “If you were real leaders, you wouldn’t have walked away from negotiations,” Friedman says, but did it ever occur to him that you can’t negotiate with nihilists — even if, as in Boehner’s case, you happen to share a good part of your endgame with them?

Of course it didn’t, because that was two months ago, and Friedman’s ideological filters have since transformed what actually happened into what he would prefer to have happened. Which, of course, goes like this: Left = bad, right = bad, center = good. Both sides do it, and there is no monopoly on truth, regardless of what the facts are.

The real tell, though, the part that I thought was revealing, was this (which I’ll quote again in full, for the lazy):

Instead you both mumbled publicly about a Grand Bargain… and then retreated to your bases. Boehner went back to his base, arguing that more tax cuts can get us out of this, and Obama moved back to his base, with his focus on taxing millionaires. (In my next life, I want to be a member of the “base” — any base. They seem to have so much more fun and influence.)

Nowhere in this “analysis” does Friedman assess the merit of the two bases’ arguments. For him, and other Village centrists, bases are irrational by definition, so there’s no need to investigate any further. Case closed, as it were. But what’s most galling is Friedman’s assertion that he’s not part of any base — that, moreover, the “bases” he so clearly disdains seem to have much more “influence” than people like him. Let me make this as plain as I can.

Earlier in the column, Friedman advises Obama, et al:

[U]nlike [Herbert] Hoover, who was just practicing the conventional economic wisdom of his day when we fell into the Depression, you have no excuses. We know what to do — a Grand Bargain: short-term stimulus to ease us through this deleveraging process, debt restructuring in the housing market and long-term budget-cutting to put our fiscal house in order.

What kind of history is this? Amity fucking Shlaes? “We know what to do,” Friedman says, “and yet I’m going to pretend that the Roosevelt administration didn’t exist, that John Maynard Keynes didn’t exist, and that my fellow columnist Paul Krugman does not exist. Because history is just a set of facts, and grand narratives are so much more fun, even when they’re wrong.”

Which brings me back to Friedman’s assertion that he is of no base, but that he sincerely wishes he were because of all the “fun” and “influence” he would have. It brings me back to my rhetorical questions in the beginning, which can be summed up basically as, “Does Tom Friedman have a soul, and if so, how hard is he going to hell anyway?” The answers to which are simply, “No,” and “Very.” Friedman is a man who will do everything in his power to make sure that people like him, the political taste-makers and shot-callers, are comfortably sated till the day they die. He will peddle transparent crap like “entitlement reform” while decrying Obama for his “focus on taxing millionaires,” of which he is, of course, one. He will claim to be of no party or clique, and then shamelessly plug for the very wealthy under the guise of speaking for the hardworking man everywhere.

Of course, your everyday New York Times reader doesn’t have digs quite like this:

Nor does your everyday Times reader support “entitlement reform.” (Though, curiously, she does endorse higher taxes on millionaires.)

But then, Tom Friedman isn’t exactly your average Joe. He just plays one on TV.

Tom Friedman can call for slashing Social Security benefits because he’ll never have to rely on them. He can talk about raising the Medicare eligibility age, because his financial adviser informed him that he was a fucking multimillionaire and he will never ever be without leisure, never mind without a refill of a prescription. He can call for short term stimulus and long term austerity, because he’ll be fine either way. It’s all of a piece with Tom Friedman. He represents the interests of the very well-off to an audience of the well-off and the fairly well-off; he disguises it as sober analysis amid a flurry of cliches; and then he cashes his check and goes home to his mansion. He goes back to his base. His base isn’t left or right. It’s that sweet spot right in the middle, the one that caters to the interests of the wealthy under the patina of being above the fray. It’s the visage of cool, calm, and collected centrism — the “both sides do it” nonsense. The epitome of intellectual laziness: “In the final analysis, splitting the difference is the only sensible policy.” That mentality has never made less sense than it does now, as one of the country’s two political parties has been taken over by complete loons.

Nevertheless, you can count on people like Tom Friedman to keep counseling us about the error of our ways. “We don’t compromise enough,” he’ll warn. “We need to bargain more grandly! Everyone’s opinion is valid, there’s plenty of blame to go around (except when it comes to people like me, of course — it’s you left- and right-wingers who are the real problem).”

“Are they stupid or crazy?” is a question that gets asked a lot about the Republican party these days. The answer is always, “Both.” But when we’re talking about people like Tom Friedman, or David Brooks, or Fred Hiatt, or Mark Halperin, or any of the other pundits I don’t feel like rattling off right now, I think you should add a third possibility. The question should be, “Are they stupid or crazy or craven?”

To which the answer is, “Yes.”

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