Thursday, April 30, 2009

Asher Roth Officially Sucks

Of the three predictions written for Gawker of how well Asher Roth's album would do, Byron Crawford's was almost exactly right. It was especially nice to see Touré's prediction fail, his overestimate hinging as it did on myths about how "the majority of hip hop fans" are "suburban," "[think] hip hop is theirs," and "enjoy listening to and looking at someone who reminds them of themselves." This is pretty much wrong in every particular as well as mistaken overall.

I don't care one way or the other about Tom Breihan's being wrong, but it's interesting that he got caught up in the idea that Roth would succeed entirely due to successful marketing. If anyone should recognize the speciousness of that kind of thinking, you'd think it would be Lil Wayne's biggest mainstream stan...dard bearer. If it were as simple as marketing, every label would have a Soulja Boy or a T-Pain. One thing every label does have plenty of, however, is Asher Roths...not gimmicky white rappers with "suburban" schticks, but artists they've pumped zillions of promotional dollars into creating buzz around who subsequently put up lackluster album sales.


People are probably aware of the Israeli minister who thinks "swine flu" is offensive to Jews and Muslims because it refers to a food they can't eat. I don't get it...I could see the objection if they named a deadly disease after something that Israelis do eat (falafel pox?), but it's hard for me to understand this one. I'm assuming he was mistranslated.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good Idea

Using pronunciation audio clips from online dictionaries as ringtones.

Exercising myself upon a dumb Bell

For some reason I find the quotes from this week's World Wide Words weird word, dumbbell, very hilarious. Apparently the original "dumb Bell" was just a fake bell that "affords the exercise called RINGING, by means of a rope, which comes thro’ the floor or floors down to a study or chamber, and was practised by an eminent physician who was very fat." Of course.

Selling Livable Streets to Conservatives

Streetsblog links to an essay on why social conservatives should support public transportation and walkable communities. It's a good thought, though I personally tend to be fairly skeptical of the notion that the vast majority of conservatives are truly interested in things like "family values" or "free markets" beyond their rhetorical utility.

And even if you give them the benefit of the doubt on that score, they still have to weigh those benefits against the "piss off a hippie" potential of continuing to support car culture.

Honestly, a better tack might be to play up the value of walkable communities when Obama establishes the New World Order, Jesus returns, global race war erupts, and you're forced to use your arsenal of stockpiled firearms to defend your family from roving satanist cannibals. Under such conditions, riding a recumbent or hopping on the bus will be much easier than scavenging for gas.

We Like This Crime Rate Just Fine

MY previews a book that makes the claim "that if we use smarter law enforcement, and hand out smarter punishments, we can decrease the crime rate while also becoming considerably less brutal and punitive in how we treat offenders."

The obvious rejoinder: who says "we" want to decrease the crime rate (let alone become less brutal or punitive)? This is not new territory, and the ability to reform the criminal justice system has existed for long enough that at this point the assumption that there is a general good-faith desire for reform can only be considered naïve.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Biden His Time

Hey guys, what ever happened to Vice President Joe Biden? What's he up to?

Professor Emeritus Griff

Whoa, I had no idea Professor Griff still performed with Public Enemy. I think Bol is onto something in the sense that after letting Flav use PE shows to promote his reality TV career, Chuck D doesn't really have any grounds for denying Griff a platform.

And all that said, at least considering, or not dismissing out of hand, some of the left-field theories about Obama or 9/11 and so forth, if only for the sake of argument or as a jumping-off point for serious discussion, would have at one point been well within the Public Enemy mode.

Burn Hollywood Burn and One Million Bottle Bags, for example, both come to mind as songs that posit what most people would consider some fairly incredible wide-ranging conspiracies aimed at repressing African-Americans, and then develop themes around how the machinery of capitalism makes actual deliberate conspiracy redundant. Not to say those are the best examples, just that they immediately occurred to me as demonstrating Chuck D's approach to cultural analysis.

And also it is nice to see that sort of mentality now once again becoming part of PE's approach after (again, agreeing with Bol) Chuck's understandable but disappointing Obama cheerleading during the election.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Representation and Accountability

Matt E. Glesias bases his case for direct mayoral control of NYC schools on the argument that a larger number of democratically elected offices, most of them representing very small local regions, leads to less accountability, because the average voter doesn't have the time or means to stay up to date on the actions of all of their elected representatives.

This seems obviously mistaken to me. Having fewer races on the ballot doesn't magically make voters more informed on the issues, and it reduces the ability of those who are informed to, say, endorse current zoning policy while voting to change course on the city's approach to reducing street crime.

It's nothing more than the fetishization of turnout, and it's undemocratic.

More Opera Nonsense

Ezra Klein links to a Freakonomics blog post that links to Terry Teachout's Wall Street Journal piece wondering why more musical performances aren't booed.

The occasion prompting the article was the Met's premiere of La Sonnambula, which was booed, and though Teachout actually writes that the Met is one of the few places where booing is not unheard of and contrasts it with Broadway shows that always get standing ovations regardless of the quality of the performance, the comment thread in Klein's post somehow twists it all into a case of Met audiences standingly ovating everything.

And wouldn't you know it, the consensus seems to be that opera goers are a bunch of phonies who don't know the first thing about good music and sneakily cover it up by acting as though all opera performances are amazing even when they aren't. (Everyone knows that the best way to conceal one's insecurity and lack of discernment is via indiscriminate enthusiasm rather than with, say, baseless reflexive skepticism.)

Anyway, not much to add really. People are silly, and not least silly among them the Met audience who booed the La Sonnambula production, which could barely be called experimental by any standard rooted in the last half century, let alone "avant-garde"; I'm really reminded of the jerky guy in Farewell My Concubine who was outraged that one of the protagonists took the wrong number of steps between one specific set of lines or something.

Putting the "Erm..." in Sabermetrics

Particularly absurd post on Mets Geek charting each team's bullpen's average fastball speed against strikeouts. Don't even try to wrap your mind around what it might even mean to average the pitch speeds of an entire bullpen together, the results are random noise, not "a slight trend."

Monday, April 20, 2009

At Least He Has a Kickstand

Accident waiting to happen. Come on, put the grill on the ground before you light it. Jeez.

Interesting Church

I've walked by one of these little storefront churches that are so plentiful in my neighborhood that intrigued me with the slogan on their sign: "Where People are Equipped for Management and Productivity."

Today I looked up their website, where you can tithe online, email them a prayer request, or buy instructional CD's on topics such as Laziness and (on sale) My Lover Is My Friend ("Re-learn the magic of touching...Is there anything too hard for God?"1).

Anyway, sort of crazy. It reminds me of those "prosperity" oriented megachurches, but even Amwayer.

1 That's what He said.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Two-Way Bike Lane on Prospect Park West

A road diet and bike lane there is a great idea. CB6 knows what's up.

Aaaaand we're done here

Aforementioned C4SS blogger Thomas Knapp's credulity towards the "Tea Party movement" is the final straw.

"Little indication" it was an astroturf job? That's the whole point of the astroturfery, no? That it looks like the roots of real grass? Fortunately we don't have to rely on "indications," as the involvement of right-wing and business interests has been well documented.

Not likely to take on an "explicitly anarchist ideology"? I think you might be on to something there...the transformation of authoritarian right-wing populism into anarchism would be odd indeed.

So I'm done with them. It really gets me, as carrying water for proto-fascists who don't want to pay for public schools is exactly the kind of short-sighted tactical blunder for which Kevin Carson has so frequently excoriated libertarians. I had high hopes for C4SS but at this point they might as well be Reason.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

FeedBurner Considered Dangerous

Robert's RFC for short URL auto-discovery reminded me the other day that FeedBurner could be responsible for the same potential mass link-rot problems as URL shorteners, depending on how aggregators interpret their feeds.

It doesn't seem like RSS has a concept of how to present an item's "real" (I guess canonical) URL, versus the URL of the item within the feed itself. Or if it does then FeedBurner doesn't use it.

For example, the link element in an item from Eschaton's feed contains "" rather than "", and (at least in Bloglines and Google Reader, the two aggregators I've used) that first one is the URL that you get when you try to copy the item's address to link to it in a post of your own.

The real URL is there, but it's in the origLink element in the FeedBurner namespace, which apparently not even Google Reader knows to look at. If you're not anal retentive enough to actually follow the proxy URL and resolve the redirect then you'll most likely end up linking to the FeedBurner link that's subject to all the same risks as a shortened URL. FeedBurner, being owned by Google, admittedly looks like a pretty reliable bet at this point, but who knows what the future holds.

The Cats Know What's Up

There's a vacant apartment upstairs, and every time the landlords come in the building to show it Lucy starts growling and both cats scurry away to hide in the bedroom. I am chalking it up to class consciousness.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Citizen Kane 3D

Awesome. Not sure if he used successive frames from a dolly shot or cut out different elements and did it "by hand," but the results look really good.

Clowning the Discourse

Myglesias takes issue with Brendan Nyhan's approving link to Bob Somerby's criticism of Rachel Maddow. He has some worthwhile points, but there's a fundamental disconnect at play here in how these different media critics are coming at the show.

I think Nyhan is somewhat of an idealist who believes in and tries to work towards a more elevated public political discourse. Spinsanity really used to drive me nuts (during the 2004 election cycle, I guess it would have been) with how painfully even-handed it could be in the face of all sorts of right-wing vileness. Matt Yglesias is basically himself a pundit, and of course he's going to be pretty cynical about the political media; from that perspective, the existence of Democratic talking points on cable news beats is preferable to its non-existence, end of story.

Somerby is sort of a hybrid, eminently jaded about the state of the discourse, but committed to improving it because he's a true believer who is certain that liberalism will carry the day if things are hashed out in good faith on an even playing field.

Personally, I enjoy Somerby's vitriol but am probably closer to Yglesias on the cynicism scale. Not that the triumph of either of their brands of moderate liberalism is worth propagandizing or discoursing for in the first place.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Who Is This Fellow?

I subscribed to the Center for a Stateless Society feed when they picked up Kevin Carson...I had already wished he'd post more to his personal blog, and didn't want to miss anything. But now they seem to have a new blogger, Thomas Knapp, whose ideology seems much more in line with the vulgar libertarianism Carson has dedicated so much effort railing against.

For example, take this recent litany of standard libertarian canards...Mussolini never made the trains run on time, public schools suck, USPS sucks, &c. It gets my dander up, though I'll refrain from offering a classic point-by-point rebuttal; if I wanted to spend my time rebutting libertarian cant then there are any number of intertubes I could read, but I don't so I don't.

In any case, Kevin Carson seems to be pretty consistent in linking to his C4SS posts from his personal blog, so maybe I'll just stay subscribed to that.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ah Neat

I noticed this wall on the way to pick up pet food in Cobble Hill the other day. I had actually been wondering how long they took on it and whether it was approved by the property owner or construction crew.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Where'd I Put That Pitchfork Oil?

Digby posts, then follows up with the video, on a CNN segment that comes to the (counterintuitive!) conclusion that toiling away in poverty is actually a pretty good deal when the economy is collapsing, since your life can't possibly get much shittier than it's always been.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Physics of Balls

I got a sort of demi-spam from some science organization who put on an event that Sarah and I attended last year. I would have ignored it, but it was Mets-related, so I clicked through to view a weird video about the physics of baseball. Science professors and professional athletes are pretty comparable in terms of awkward comedic timing.