Archive for October, 2011

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It’s fucking snowing.

What the shit?

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4,721,010,894th!!!!!

Apparently, I was the 4,721,010,894th person alive on planet Earth at the time of my birth. Where were you?

Answer here, along with other fun stuff.

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7 Billion (Photo of the Day)

Not enough mango for everyone.

Photo stolen from here. H/t to Alex on FB.

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Happy Halloweenie!

different day, same shit…

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Three Quick Hits

It’s cold suddenly, and it might snow tomorrow. So, here’s some quick hits before I go get some wings.

  • Apple has successfully patented the “Slide to Unlock” feature on iPhones and iPod Touches. Yglesias has some good points (this sort of patent is not in the public interest, e.g.), but most damning of all may be that the patent was likely awarded erroneously, since the feature existed for two years before Apple got around to “inventing” it.
  • Since we’re all #OWS around here all the time, Matt Taibbi has a pretty great post over at Rolling Stone. The thesis boils down to this: People aren’t angry at Wall Street because its employees are rich; they’re angry at Wall Street because everyone there cheated to get rich, then whined (mostly successfully) about rules designed to curb cheating.
  • Following on the above theme, Joshua Holland has a piece up at Alternet arguing that Occupy Wall Street has already achieved quite a lot in its short history. To wit, “[i]n just one month, the protesters have shifted the national dialogue from a relentless focus on the deficit to a discussion of the real issues facing Main Street: the lack of jobs — and especially jobs with decent benefits — spiraling inequality, cash-strapped American families’ debt-loads, and the pernicious influence of money in politics that led us to this point.”

Since I like to deliberately mislead my audience, here’s a fourth link to Jay Rosen’s takedown of NPR over their firing of Lisa Simone. Simone, if you haven’t been keeping up, hosted NPR’s opera show, World of Opera, and she made the mistake of joining Occupy DC without concealing her identity — which is apparently a fire-able offense for the host of A FUCKING SHOW ABOUT FUCKING OPERA. Anyway, Rosen’s title alone is worth your click through, so I won’t spoil the fun.

We are Brutish&Short. All “Occupy X,” all the time. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get some wings.

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Apparently the book I (and many many other people) bought yesterday has a trailer:

 

Doesn’t really do it for me. For a stronger case, check out last weekend NYT Mag piece on Murakami. Teaser:

The title of “1Q84” is a joke: an Orwell reference that hinges on a multilingual pun. (In Japanese, the number 9 is pronounced like the English letter Q.)

I asked Murakami if he reread “1984” while writing “1Q84.” He said he did, and it was boring. (Not that this is necessarily bad; at one point I asked him why he liked baseball. “Because it’s boring,” he said.)

I’m very excited to read this book.

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Halloween or Williamsburg

Stolen from Kottke, here is a Tumblr that asks you to consider whether the individuals pictured are dressed up for a) Halloween or, b) everyday life in Williamsburg. It is terrifying and thought-provoking. (It is neither of those things.)

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What I found in my five free minutes

Are you all OWS-y like we here at B&S are? Do you tend to rile the man unnecessarily in your public displays of civil disobedience? Then the following app might be for you.

From the New York Daily News:

An Occupy Wall Street sympathizer created a free app called “I’m Getting Arrested” that lets protesters send out text messages to friends and family when cops swoop in.

Jason Van Anden, a Brooklyn software developer, said he came up with the idea when a colleague told him his girlfriend was about to get busted at a demonstration.

[...]

Users craft a text message in advance and program a list of recipients. Then, as cops get the bracelets out, they can hit one button and tell everyone on their list that they’re in danger of being pinched.

As of Monday morning, 9,000 people had already installed the app, but Van Anden doesn’t know if anyone has used it because he installed privacy controls.

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Riot Police Occupy Oakland

Not cool.

Bonus Police Excellence! Throwing a flash grenade into a crowd helping an injured protester! Cops are heroes! Yay!

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An Afternoon With #OccupyBoston

When I finally found a place to park my car in the early afternoon, I discovered that my camera didn’t work. It had been sitting in my leather bag for a week and a half, in the front pocket where the sand dollar I found on the beach that day long, long ago had disintegrated into its constituent sand. Turns out, little granules of sand dollar sand + electronic equipment = (at least for my particular piece of electronic equipment) a “Lens Error,” followed by an exclamation point — ! — and the camera automatically turning itself off. Terrific. I smoked a cigarette and chewed a stick of gum to get the scent of an afternoon snifter of Jameson off my breath. The train came, I put the camera back in my bag, picked up my box, and boarded.

Ostensibly, the box was the reason I was going to Occupy Boston. Or going to occupy Boston, if you’d prefer I put it in the active sense. Within the box were 40 or 50 books of a political, historical, and literary nature. Books I couldn’t sell in the online store that is my rapidly failing nonprofit start-up business. These were the books I was going to donate to Occupy Boston. I was going to donate them because they’d asked for them, because I told my boss I’d do it off the clock, and because it’s my birthday, goddamnit, and I don’t want to spend my birthday cooped up in a church basement. In other words, I wanted to have something to do. I picked an activity. I put some fucking books in a box and hopped on the train to North Station. I spent the thirty minute ride trying to pry the little point-and-shoot lens out of its place. When that didn’t work, I eavesdropped on the conversation between the Quebecois girls who’d gotten on the train in Salem. I didn’t understand a word, but French is a lovely language, isn’t it?

*

North Station, arrival. I put the box of books down on the ground to smoke a cigarette before I get on the subway. I pick it back up when the cigarette’s done. It’s wet. My hand, it’s wet. Somewhat viscous — something viscous. I glance at the ground: yellow green spit. Loogie. I stupidly turn the box around, thinking that this will rid me of the problem. It does not. It simply places the loogie remains clinging to the bottom of the box into the path of my left hand instead of my right. So now I have two hands covered with phlegm instead of one. There is nowhere to wash my hands.

I ask the man in the station selling roasted peanuts and cotton candy if he can spare a napkin. I don’t explain the circumstances, he doesn’t ask. He simply hands me the napkin and I get on the subway.

*

When you walk into Occupy Boston, you walk into a barracks. An encampment of tents with punk-rockers and hippies and anarchists and old folks and tourists. Gawkers and the gawked, police and poor people, skyscrapers and the depraved. My cousin Tris and I drove through a couple of weeks back on our way to a food festival; Tris honked his horn, the people with signs shouted and gave us the thumbs-up; he said, “It’s so easy”; we both laughed. It was easy. But today is weeks after that. Today, some of those people have been camped in Dewey Square the whole time.

And so you walk into Occupy Boston and you are confronted immediately by vendors on the sidewalk, hawking organic fruits and veggies, fresh baked bread, pretzels, hot dogs, the usual pushcart fare. Despite the irony of a bunch of wicked capitalist organic farmers moving in to make a quick buck on the protesting hippies (i.e., not really much, if you think about it), I can’t really blame them for setting up shop there. Nobody at Occupy Boston seems to have much of a problem with it, either. The pushcarts are doing their business. They’re serving a need of the community. They’re supplementing the meager kitchen with largely healthy alternatives. That’s not the problem. The problem isn’t that.

I asked the dude at the tent that looked vaguely “Information”-esque where the library was. He was dressed like I was dressed last year around this time in the hills of Northern California. He was very nice. He pointed me to the end of the line of tents, a big green army tent. “It’s that last one, on the left,” he said. I told him thanks. I walked down there.

Some guy was speaking and I wasn’t really interested. I walked through the impromptu landscaping crew, furiously raking gravel back onto the path and out of the grass, into the library.

“Excuse me?” I said. The librarian was doing something with his iPod, fiddling I guess. “Hey!” I said. He looked up. “I’ve got a box of books sitting outside. You still want ‘em?”

“Yeah,” the librarian said.

“Cool, let me grab them.”

*

I knew there was a bar in Chinatown, but this old Chinese guy wasn’t helping.

“Do you know where there’s a bar?” I asked. He looked confused. “Bar?” This time I motioned in the universal “I could sure go for a beer” way. The “raising your cup up to your mouth to get your sweet, sweet drink on” way. Still nothing. Luckily, he was a shopkeeper, and he had a customer.

“Bar?” the Chinese customer said.

“Yeah, a bar,” I said, suddenly relieved. “Is there one around here?”

“No. Not here,” he replied abruptly. And at this, he turned away to explain to the shopkeeper what it was precisely that I had been inquiring about. I walked around the block and found the bar that I was looking for. I’ve waited for buses at that bar. I knew it was around there somewhere. Sometimes you just have to walk a little further before you remember your way.

*

I walked back to Occupy Boston when I’d had a beer or two. An electric guitar and something-else duo were getting set to perform. A circle was being formed to discuss issues relating to the role of safety personnel within the camp itself. I sat down in the circle, because why not? A young woman led the discussion. We had friendly amendments and points of order and questions about consensus. It all seemed a little bit put-on, but it also seemed a whole lot more inclusive than much of what we call participatory democracy these days. Cumbersome? Sure. But if any old ordinary asshole off the street who sits in a circle is given the same voice as the people who’ve been living in Dewey Square for the past month, it gets my upvote.

In the end I didn’t join in the discussion. I was going to at one point, when some dude suggested that the police shouldn’t be notified of violent crimes if the victim of the crime didn’t think it was worth it, but it was voted down before I got the chance suggest exactly that. Consensus. Sometimes you don’t even need to try to reach it, since it’s already there.

The meeting broke up shortly after one of the guys with a bandanna over his face requested the services of a legal observer somewhere else in the camp. A commotion was going on. Audible. I got a call from Danny Spitzberg right around that time. Helicopters hovered overhead and I was suddenly aware of cameras everywhere. The beautiful woman from Channel 5, with the “Live from the Scene” coverage — suddenly I saw that. “Where did she come from?” It was all very confusing, is what I’m saying.

So, of course, I went to see what was going on. What commotion had killed the meeting.

“That dude’s just been trouble since he’s been here,” one of the Occupy Boston safety team members says of the dude causing the spectacle, and I have to agree with him. He is bouncing around, throwing accidental elbows, generally getting all sorts of out of hand.

“Who? Michigan?” I ask.

“Yeah, that guy with the hat. He’s just been going nuts, we’ve actually had to kick him out before.”

*

On the way out I consider getting free Occupy Boston food, but think better of it. There’s already food everywhere else. I walk aggressively past law enforcement, as if to say, “Go for it, fucker,” but I’m not a tough guy, and I’m not sure that I was at all aggressive. I see the pretty girl who held the door for me at South Station when I had all the books. I smile. She smiles back. We both keep going. Because why not?

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