Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

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  • Published: Apr 20th, 2010
  • Category: Media
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It’s Not Always About the Look

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Less interesting than the most recent Farhad Manjoo article on Slate is the little flame war between him and Charles Stiegler in the comments section* (which are now lamentably inextricably linked to one’s Facebook/Twitter/other social network site and utterly redundant to the local forums anyway, but I digress).

No, people don’t always buy expensive products solely on the look of them. Hell, with cars it’s fairly clear to me that people honestly don’t care about the looks at all, which is why just about every contemporary car is some similarly amorphous egg-like blob, and just about every previous era’s cars were boatloads more distinctive in looks (not to mention color. “Mist” is not a color. Your car is gray, and so’s your life, asshat.) It’s practically the engineer’s dream: Things like cost, luxury options, safety ratings and gas mileage become the primary means for gauging cars because everything else is basically the same.

But back to AppleCo, Manjoo on Slate is to Technology like Emily Bazelon on Slate is to Mothering: Lowest common denominator uninformed squeeing that makes me wonder why I’m not making money duping people who are equally as ignorant on those topics that I’m some form of journalistic guru. Case in point, who the fuck cares about what the new iPhone looks like, if it still sucks as a phone? What ever happened to utility?

While I’m beating up on Manjoo, there’s also his last article about Twitter, with this incredible bit of tripe:

…if a lot of conversation on social networks is banal, that’s only because banal conversation is one of the main ways people form and maintain social bonds. You don’t ask your co-worker what she did on the weekend because you really care; you ask her because you want to chat. In that way Twitter is only mirroring real life.

It’s called “banal” for a reason: It lacks originality. If you form social bonds by broadcasting banality, you’re a very boring person and so are all your friends.

*If there’s anything I hate more than closed-source iShit, it’s professional shills paid to suck the teats of Steve Jobs. This particular example trolls his own articles’ comments threads. It’s rather funny how masturbatory it all is.

Free Floating Anger

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The trial’s begun over a cop knocking a Critical Mass participant off his bike two years ago and it looks like the biker might win this one.

Now, I’m by no means a fan of Critical Mass, but herein lies the dangers of indicting a whole movement in a legal trial that demands the specificity of one single actor: Sure, on the whole they’re counter-productive to their cause and incendiary, but policemen must always be consummate professionals else they look like dicks, and in this case officer Pat Pogan looks like a dick. Mainly because he is one.

While I’m calling people dicks, I’d like to get something else off my chest after n+1 arguments about this, where n is too many: Yes, people protested George W Bush, myself among them. Yes, a number of them did things slightly less than savory, tho specific instances outside of shouting matches with parade police elude me at this moment. (They certainly didn’t brandish loaded firearms in Town Hall meetings.)

But there’s where the similarities end. The anti-war and anti-globalization protests were attacking Bush’s policies. The anti-tax protests today are attacking Obama.

Never mind the hypocrisy of claiming the illegitimacy of Obama’s status as a citizen as he won a mandate majority of the vote, when the previous president actually got fewer votes than his competitor and was handed the election in an unprecedented decision by a state governed by his brother. Never mind the Tea Partiers claiming taxation without representation after they voted (and lost). Never mind the hypocrisy of Medicare recipients protesting against government health care, unemployment and welfare recipients protesting against government spending, and anti-tax zealots protesting tax cuts. Never mind the deficit hawks who voted for two wars right after a massive upper class tax cut.

Because they’re not attacking Obama on his policies. That’s the difference. They’re attacking Obama. When liberal protesters had placards comparing Bush with a monkey, they were criticizing his judgment, not his heritage. Just like Clinton, where a year’s worth of policies were held up not because of any legitimate reason of governance but because of the political ramifications when he tripped and fell into an intern. Except this time Clinton’s not just “Black” but Black. Which apparently makes all the difference in the world with some people. Or to quote Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles:

You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.

Hipsters!

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NPR did an interview with a self-described hipster over why Williamsburg, Brooklyn has some of the worst return rates of the 2010 US Census, to which it got some choice replies:

Mr. Stark: “…When it comes down to it, nobody wants to fill out like another form that’s just like getting sent to your house that really relatively has nothing to do with your life. I mean people would do if they got like five bucks.”

Ms. Lilly: “You know, on a personal note, maybe some people, they figure what’s the point to be counted if you don’t count for much anyway? If we don’t count, why be counted?”

Of course, the hipster blogs immediately railed against the “unfair” characterization NPR depicted of the hipster community, noting that the significant Hasidic community is also to blame for the low returns.

Now, while it appears that the Talmud has something to say about that issue, it also appears that there are about a dozen loopholes already in place, for without some form of practicality, it’d be hard to live in a larger world. And while religious fervor and paranoia are certainly one set of irrational fears, laziness is on its own level of idiocy.

Puppeteers

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I’ve always pretty much worked under the assumption that Republican party was the party of the rich, maintained largely through the manipulation of the heartstrings of the non-rich in order for them to vote against their economic interests.

As it turns out, this describes the Tea Party “movement” perfectly: People who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about being cynically manipulated by people who wish to hold on to their vast wealth. In fact, I think this is the closest I’ve ever seen the New York Times get to running a Daily Show skit.

It’s too bad that under their collective shrill tantrums – people collecting unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicaid complaining about government size and spending, during a time when taxes went down for practically everybody – meticulously directed and publicized for ulterior motives (on Fox! And now: CNN!) drown out the voice of reason.

Kabuki

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Jon Lackman attempts to make the argument on Slate that Rush Limbaugh and Frank Rich calling the current political rigmarole “Kabuki theatre” is a vain attempt by them to denigrate it by associating it with something foreign.

No.

The point those commentators are attempting to make by calling parliamentary tricks “Kabuki” is that it’s a highly ritualized form of theatre.

For example, we’re about to go through another turn in the bender for a Supreme Court nomination. This will involve Republicans – themselves gross caricatures of otherwise legitimately perceived grievances or political philosophies – making some very predictable, if outlandish, acts in order to block whatever nominee the White House chooses. The nominee the White House chooses will be, in turn, pointedly scrubbed by Democrats of any history that might be considered “radical,” a term that will ultimately be defined not by social convention but by professional propagandists on the airwaves, for which there will be a lot of manufactured Sturm und Drang.

That’s a highly ritualized form of political theatre, marked by its outlandish performances. “Kabuki” is not far off the mark. Where Limbaugh and Rich leave themselves open for criticism, however, is not that they’re being racist, but that they’re being big flaming hypocrites, for outlandish, ritualized theatre is exactly what they’re peddling.

Wait, what?

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So… the Polish President Kaczynski – a Catholic conservative nationalist, son of Warsaw Uprising fighters, who’s been combative with Russia in the past and recently signed a deal with the United States for a missile shield – dies along with a hundred representatives of the Polish elite in a plane crash – all of them, in one 40-year old Russian airliner – while en route to Smolensk to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Forest massacre – a Soviet zachistka during the Second World War where twenty thousand Polish officers and officials were killed – mere days after Putin – a former KGB officer – was the first Russian leader to acknowledge and join the commemoration.

Irony doesn’t cover it. This is more like an episode of Axis Powers Hetalia.

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