Saturday, June 18, 2011

Seven Fake Candidates

I saw some of the fake debate* of the Republican contenders so far. It reminded me of a post I did the last time we went through the election cycle. So here's who you've got on the Republican side so far this time around...Meet the seven fake candidates:

Fake President
Fake smile and fake laughter!
Mitt Romney comported himself like he'd already won, literally acting like he was in charge. I kept hoping someone would turn to him and say "who died and made YOU President?" He's taking the Hillary Clinton path of just assuming he's already got the nomination. Remember how well that worked out for her?

Romney has the superficial qualities of a leader. But he's a shell, missing the internals - the drive and passion to lead. Romney doesn't want to lead, he wants to be President. These are different things. 

Someone truly Presidential wouldn't back away from past successes because they're unpopular now, and wouldn't constantly be trying to figure out what other people want his ideas to be. That's what a consultant would do, and that's what Romney is.

Fake Tough Guy
Tim Pawlenty made an early ad that was mocked for emulating an action movie trailer, with himself as the pseudo-action-hero:

During the debate, Tim Pawlenty proved to be the kind of person who talks smack behind people's backs but denies it and acts all buddy-buddy when confronted by it. In other words, a fake tough guy.

If Pawlenty can't stand up to the relatively unfrightening Mitt Romney, how can he possibly stand up to someone actually frightening like, say, Vladimir Putin? Or Mitch McConnell?

Fake Sarah Palin
Fake backdrop!
Michele Bachmann is a woman. She's got brown hair. She smiles. Midwestern accent. She hangs out with the common people. She's opportunistically hopping on the Tea Party bandwagon. And she's got some crazy, crazy ideas.

In other words, she's a lot like Sarah Palin...but missing Palin's literal and metaphorical killer instinct. 

Pros: Unlike Palin, she will actually serve out her complete elected office terms.

Cons: See above.

Fake Black Guy
I'm not saying Herman Cain is not black. I'm not even saying he's as awkward as Michael Steele when talking to young people or describing himself as "a streets guy". What I am saying is: Dude, you're a Republican. Take a good look around the next time you're hanging out with that crew and think about what they're saying and who they are.

Mr. Cain, it is really disturbing to see you be asked a question about having minorities (in this case Muslims) on your staff and have you answer to the effect that "they ain't all bad, and I wouldn't mind so long as I have one of the GOOD ones, you know what I mean?" We expect that from someone like Trent Lott or Strom Thurmond or Haley Barbour, not you.

Fake New Ideas
I don't know what bothers me more about Newt Gingrich - his cynical self-marketing disguised as a presidential campaign or his great "new" ideas which are a) awful and b) old.

Hearing Newt Gingrich pitch his legislative genius is like watching Aziz Ansari's Tom Haverford character on "Parks and Recreation" brainstorming business opportunities:
  • A baby tuxedo line
  • A department store with a guest list
  • White fur earmuffs for men
  • Contact lenses that display text messages
  • Invent a phone that smells good
  • Replace workers compensation with a rehab program that focuses on retraining people to do whatever they can with whatever they've got left. 
Pro Tip: While it may be "innovative" or "different" to try running a campaign without a campaign staff, it is probably not going to be successful.

On the plus side, if people buy Newt paraphernalia, that's less money they have to spend trying to get one of these clowns actually elected.

On the minus side, since Citizens United passed, this election is more or less officially owned by corporate interests anyhow.

Fake Small Government Guy
Probably fake books.
Rick Santorum likes to say things like "the bigger the government, the more repressed the individual". He is referring to Democrats, who, in his view, are "repressing" your freedoms with things like making sure you can afford healthcare, making sure your peanut butter doesn't contain E. Coli and feces, and presumably, having armed forces (since our government is basically an insurance company with an army).

But Santorum proudly proclaims himself a "social conservative". Social Conservatism isn't about small government. Social Conservatives believe "government has a role in encouraging or enforcing what they consider traditional values or behaviors."

In Santorum's "small government" world, your personal, private, intimate activities get regulated according to what the government considers "traditional" and "moral".

We're talking things like who you can marry (one man, one woman!), when you can have sex (only if married!), how you can have sex (no "sodomy"!),  how you can start or terminate a pregnancy (no premarital or extramarital sex, no abortion!), whether or not you have the right to choose when you die (you don't!), what you can do with your time (no gambling!), what you can watch or read (no porn! only "good" books like the Bible!), and what you can put in your body (no drugs!), and so forth.

If you think that Republicans or government in general should be making those types of decisions for you and everyone else, you want Santorum. He's your Fake Small Government candidate!

Fake Republican
Fake flag!
Ron Paul is a not a "real" Republican. He's a Libertarian. 

Since American politics only has 2 "different" parties, Ron Paul operates under the Republican flag. Because he can't pass as a Democrat, and as a Fake Republican he can get elected.

But he disagrees with the Republicans on a number of their key issues, agrees with Democrats on some of their key issues (which in and of itself gets you booted out of the Republican Yacht Club in 2011), and alienates most of mainstream America when asked about the usual Libertarian "gotcha"controversial topics like prostitution (fer it!), right-to-die (fer it!), gambling (fer it!), marriage equality (fer it!), and helping the needy and less fortunate (agin' it!)

...but sorry, ladies, still no abortion for you! (that might even make him a fake Libertarian...)

In some ways, he's the Anti-Santorum. But that doesn't make him pleasant. It's sort of like having to choose between your steak arriving covered with broken glass or covered with the E. Coli none of these fakers want government to regulate out of our food supply.

So there you have it. Your seven fake candidates so far. Let's see how long they last!

* It's a fake debate because there's no discussion, no back and forth, no argument, no investigation of ideas, and no intellectual challenge. Nobody calls anyone out on poor reasoning or sloppy thinking. It's basically a stilted, boring, utterly predictable interview.

They even had an absurd "This or That?" set of questions. If the questions were inane, the candidates' responses were worse. Most disappointing is the thought that there will be voters out there deciding to vote for or against one of these folks based on the answers they provided here.

Modern televised debates are somewhere between a Japanese tea ceremony and kabuki theater - it's a stylized ritual, and the "thrills", if there are any, come from waiting for some kind of breach of etiquette, a "gaffe", or a bad outfit. We have got to do better, people!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The daily pastiche

7:10 am. The car silently rolls back to its spot in front of the house. I slowly, creakily emerge, sweaty and tired from my morning workout.

I see our local raven across the street in the neighbors' driveway. He is cawing and eyeing a nice piece of aluminum foil. Something shiny and new for his nest.

I watch him through the living room window as I sip my morning espresso, alternating my gaze between this solitary creature's glee and my daily internet. I come across this essay and bookmark it for later.
We become involuntary bricoleurs, scrambling to cobble together an ad hoc identity from whatever memes happen to be relevant at the time.
I read Facebook, check Twitter, and start writing a blog entry for both myself and my has-been rock star friend. I am pretty sure only about 5 people read these things. But I write anyhow, and feel bad when I don't. I think it's like a journal - it has more value for me years later, to go back and read and remember who I was then, what seemed important, and see how that compares to the present moment.

The raven caws. I look at the clock. It's after 8 now. I need to get cleaned up and get to the music factory. I have a great job. I wonder how long it can last.
social media hope to convince us that we always have something new and important to say—as long as we say it right away. And they are designed to make us feel anxious and left out if we don’t say it,
8:30 am. I think of all the things I've had to spend money on in the past week, all the things I've chosen to spend money on, and the giant, unending list of errands and things I should do.

I clean all the dishes in the kitchen while NPR gently tells me about how fucked up everything is. I gear up and motorcycle to work, parking in the secret locations I've found near the office where I don't have to pay.
it’s plausible that all other sorts of immersive knowledge by which we might invest our identity with meaning will become subordinate to the practice of clever sign manipulation, to adeptly choosing material and affixing it to one’s persona online
12:30 I'll have lunch with a friend. Talk about work. Get fired up about things we can do, projects for fun or profit or career enhancement or what is even the difference anymore? Food is good and I'm all charged up. I can spend the afternoon tracking bugs and banging on wireframes and inventing something good.

My iPod shuffles and Peter Murphy howls in a song called "Too Much 21st Century".
Too much selfish
Too much fake
Too much computer
Too much to take
4:00 pm. I'm looking forward to going home and practicing fretless bass. I'm starting to get halfway decent on it and I love the challenging simplicity of the thing. My regular bass seems weird now with frets all over it. I'm cooking up some ideas for a new record along with my other multiple albums-in-progress.
The personal brand, in its concatenation of fame hunger and dismal self-exploitation, is the evolutionary end point of a tendency implicit in fashion
6:20 pm. I am the last one to leave the office. I close up the windows and contemplate vacuuming the floor. I'd rather just get out of here. I fight my way through the crowd of people streaming towards the stadium to watch the Giants play.

I find my motorcycle and ride back home, weaving through traffic, tired and trying to be lost in thought while concentrating on not getting killed by drivers texting at 80 mph. I'm good about leaving work at work, as long as you don't count reading and responding to e-mails or thinking about things or talking about things "work".

7:30 pm. I make modest efforts to help prepare dinner. My strengths here lie in clean-up or in operating telephones generally, but I can open wine pretty well. This bottle is tasty. Probably a wine club selection.

10:00 pm. I try to stretch out my crunched spine and de-knot my leg muscles on a ball and roller. I feel the vertebrae shift and click and the knots in my legs thump as I roll over them again and again.
he encourages us to ask ourselves, “What have I accomplished that I can unabashedly brag about?” and “What do I do that I am most proud of?” and then promptly put these achievements up for sale, inviting capitalists to exploit them. He admonishes that we must be eternally vigilant about our personal brand
11:30 pm. I think about what I did today, what I must do tomorrow. Am I getting better or worse? Smarter? Slower? More patient? Am I a better human today than I was yesterday? Last year? In my 30s?
such bald self-promotion as one typically encounters on Twitter and Facebook would have been in questionable taste, and the idea of explicitly leveraging one’s network of friends in order to maximize one’s notoriety would have seemed preposterously alienating
So much of what I look at online now and much of what fills my inbox is a kind of meta-content. It's mostly links to things, which are in turn links to other things. A friend forwards me an e-mail he got from someone who saw a YouTube video on Facebook. The YouTube video is a "supercut" of some other program.  All of these various elements and how they are transmitted are signifiers, stacked up, towering, awaiting a response, preferably blasted out on all channels.

I don't care about this stuff. I care about the friend I had lunch with, the people in my band. My wife. Real contact with a real person.

I think about that raven I saw this morning, picking at that shiny foil this morning. It's not really going to help him at all, but he can't stop himself from liking it and wanting it and taking it home.

It's after midnight now. I close the computer, turn off the lights, and get in bed. Alarm will be going off in less than 6 hours. Another day.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Melophonic: Classical/Rock Posters

Melophonic is a site which hosts imaginary rock-style gig posters for classical debuts:

So far there's a lot of the real classics. I am hoping they get to the Futurists' Art of Noise, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, and Antheil's Ballet Mecanique!

Courtesy of the always interesting MetaFilter.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Anu 1, Apple 0!

I'm internet-famous for a day thanks to this story on Business Insider about Apple's subscription plans for iOS.

Here's the literal money quote:
"While it is fair for Apple to charge whatever they want for the value of their platform, it is reasonable for someone like me to argue that Apple does not add more value to MOG than MOG adds to MOG," said MOG vice president of mobile Anu Kirk, after Apple first announced its plan. "For Apple to basically claim a greater share of revenue than MOG or, say, Rdio, or Rhapsody, or any of these folks are actually getting from their own products is not a sustainable position for us in the space."
I am now officially claiming responsibility for getting Apple to back down. ;-)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Art Thought of The Day

Courtesy of this thoughtful essay from
"...if you love art that makes you better in some way, whether it’s smarter, funnier, or more understanding and caring of the world around you, then you must also hate art that seeks to keep you mired in the muck of stupidity and ugliness."
Yes, I do.

Monday, June 06, 2011

On Security Theater

Recently several writers have noted the USA could help close the budget and deficit gap by eliminating the TSA.

Between that and my recent travels I recalled this post I read [edited for clarity and typos]:

Anon in reply to Shivv
The reason it's labeled "security theater" isn't just because of how ineffective it is, but because the whole idea of a threat in the first place is imagined. It's playing into people's fears, convincing them they're in danger, and they're saving you from it.

In reality, there are countless other targets that terrorists could strike.
They could do more damage in a large subway system, yet you don't have pornoscans at turnstiles.  
Bridges would be great targets, but you don't need to strip naked to cross a bridge.  
The Unabomber and the anthrax scare were committed in post offices, yet you don't have to have your crotch fondled in public to mail a letter.  
The Oklahoma City bombing was caused by letting a truck park within a block of a government building, why don't we search everyone that comes within a 2 block radius of any building? 
It's called security theater because it actually protects no one from anything.  
The government can't save you from the bogeyman, but if they convince you they are, they can take whatever rights they want from you.  
 You have a higher chance of getting struck by lightning on a sunny day than you do of being victim of a terrorist attack.  
Why not protect people from car crashes instead? Something that's hundreds of millions of times more likely to happen to you?  
Why not spend millions of dollars and cripple your travel infrastructure to save people from slipping in the shower and breaking their necks? That happens thousands of times each day, whereas terrorist attacks happen once a decade.
After 10 years, we're stuck with a terrible, inefficient, expensive, and ultimately worthless airport security experience. Nobody can speak up about it because we're either too busy or too afraid (of terrorists, of the government, of being accused of not caring about people).

In the early days of the TSA, I used to joke about how we'd eventually be taking our pants off for security after some failed "ass-bomber" attack. Then the "underwear bomber" incident occurred. We may not be actually taking our pants off "for security", but we're doing it digitally, virtually, and metaphorically.

I've also heard accounts of supposed "freeze drills" where the TSA will yell "CODE BRAVO! FREEZE!" and actually expect and demand that everyone stand still like we're playing a game of freeze tag, or that we're all grade schoolers. I imagine they have everyone put their heads on their desks.

I hope to hell this is an isolated incident of TSA overreach. Otherwise I come to the conclusion that we are in fact living in an Orwellian science fiction future.

So far, way more TSA agents have been arrested for crimes relating to theft and abuse of power than terrorists have been caught. I think about that every time I shuffle along with the rest of the cattle through the line, angry with myself and my fellow Americans for letting it come to this.