Friday, January 22, 2010


(Via Michelle)

Our Robot Masters Will Know How to Clean This Mess Up

The House Democrats seem hellbent on killing health care reform and dragging the entire party down with them, rather than sucking it up and passing the Senate bill. Sure, it's not perfect. Everyone admits that. Still, it's what we've got, and it beats losing for losing's sake. But, hey, don't take my word for it.

Josh Marshall: Pass the fucking Senate bill.

Paul Krugman: Pass the fucking Senate bill.

Steve Bennen: Pass the fucking Senate bill.

Kevin Drum: Pass the fucking Senate bill.

The "Experts" (TPM): Pass the fucking Senate bill.

Jon Cohn: Pass the fucking Senate bill.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Ones That Love Us Least Are the Ones We'll Die to Please

Despite all the sound and fury about a Democrat (who ran a piss poor campaign) losing to some naked Republican in Massachusetts, the Democrats still hold solid majorities in both chambers and control the executive branch. So why are they dead set on letting the Republicans run right over them? I don't understand the logic of forfeiting health care reform, when it only proves the Republican claim that Democrats won't even fight for what they believe in. If they keep this strategy, they're going to lose big in the next election cycle. It's not just going to be a matter of one seat. Moreover, they deserve to lose. It would be only a minor exaggeration to say that members of my own family won't be around to vote them back into power if they drop the ball on health care reform. It may sound melodramatic, but it's true.

What's particularly galling is that no one seems willing to take charge. The most obvious choice would be the president, but he's punted at every opportunity.

TPM: Dem talking points: "It is mathematically impossible for Democrats to pass legislation on our own." Uh huh, sure.

TPM: Hill staffer: "I believe President Clinton provided some crucial insight when he said, 'people would rather be with someone who is strong and wrong than weak and right.' It's not that people are uninterested in who's right or wrong, it's that people will only follow leaders who seem to actually believe in what they are doing. Democrats have missed this essential fact."

Kevin Drum: "[G]oing back to the drawing board and trying to pass a few little piecemeal reforms is suicidal. It's one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. One of the big problems with healthcare reform is that the public is sick of the process. The last thing they want is for Congress to spend several more months flailing around on it."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Music Videos

Islands, "Vapours" Long Legged Woman, "Yours Is Mine"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Bryant Park

Empty storefront in Midtown

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Healing Power of Television

Over at Stereogum, songwriter and memoirist Julianna Hatfield has a very persuasive op-ed about the the new season of VH1's Celebrity Rehab, a show she describes as follows:

The camera follows you around, inflating your importance in and to the world, glorifying and broadcasting your troubles over the airwaves into millions of peoples' homes. All this does is to perpetuate the fame and self-involvement that can really mess with a person's -- especially an addict's -- head.

She goes on to express concern that, far from helping the stars, the show is actually making them worse.

A 12-step program won't work without humility and humility is not possible with lights and cameras and microphones trained on you, following you around, inflating your importance. And real community and support is not possible on a TV set. The aims of a TV production are in direct opposition to the goals of rehab.

Is Celebrity Rehab helping or hindering the people taking part in the show? They are, after all, being given drug rehabilitation treatment and getting paid for it. The fact remains, however, that they're on the show precisely because they're addicts. Regardless of the apparent encouragement to get sober, the shows producers are rewarding them with attention and money for doing just the opposite. On the one hand, it's hard to sympathize with self-obsessed drug addicts bent on getting another stab at fame. On the other, aren't they just doing what they're told?

This, of course, raises another question: are we, as viewers, complicit in the producers' manipulation of the shows stars? Is watching bad behavior tacit approval? By watching them, aren't we the ones rewarding them with the attention they crave?

Hatfield ends her essay by asking, "When [Dr. Drew Pinsky] listens to the addicts tell their terrible sorrowful grotesque stories the look on his face is genuinely sympathetic and caring, I think. It's real, I think. It's real. Is it real? Is it real?" There's something plaintive in her question. Obviously, Pinsky is being paid for his participation in the show, but of course, all professional therapists are paid for the services they deliver. Hatfield isn't so much asking whether Pinsky cares for the show's stars as patients as re-asking the questions she raised earlier: Can shows like Celebrity Rehab make people better? Are we, as viewers, helping? It's a comforting thought, that we can help people just by watching television, and Hatfield wants to believe it, even as she's explained that it's plainly untrue. Count me, likewise, among the skeptics.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday Music Videos

Cold Cave, "Loves Comes Close" Cymbals Eat Guitars, "And the Hazy Sea"

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Prose Television

The Fiction Advocate has a nice little run-down of David Foster Wallace's 1990 essay, "E Unibus Pluram."

Brian's particularly interest in Wallace's take-down of what he (Wallace) calls "witty, erudite, extremely high-quality prose television." Brian writes, "If he were still alive, I would love to hear him pick apart the layers of irony in a show like 30 Rock, or a writer like Tao Lin."

I'm curious too, but I think it's worth pointing out just how self-conscious the essay is. Wallace rarely commented on his peers and only occassionally wrote about his forebears, but he was extremely aware of the weaknesses of his own writing, which he worried was shallow, cute, and primarily concerned with making himself look good rather than revealing deep truths. When he talks about "prose television," he's almost certainly referring to his own early writing, which explains the progression of his writing from the neurotic slapstick of The Broom of the System to more interior, increasingly discursive narratives like "Mr. Squishy."

The Back-Up: American Innovation Inspires Benign Credit Fraud

"I got the package in the mail yesterday. What an amazing product! I didn't know what it was at first until my buddy (and the same guy who charged it to my card) showed me the media coverage on your website. I changed my mind.... I'm keeping it! Tell the person who invented this product that he or she is a genius."

Health Care Reform: Public vs. Private

Rick Frommer is angry. He ain't no racist. He just "don’t like what they are doing because I believe that the federal government has no constitutional, legal right to take over, own or replace private business at all ever period no matter what political group does it." Well then. You'd think he might be reassured that (barring a miracle) whatever comes out of the Conference Committee will not by any means allow the government to take over, own, or replace the health insurance industry, but it seems as though he hasn't yet received the memo. I'm sure news will get to him eventually and he can go back to his usual hobby of railing against the evils of the U.S. Postal Service.