Archive for April, 2008

Mall of ‘Merica, part deux

Just when you thought our late twentieth century obsession with malls and parking was over, you hear a story like this:

Minnesota House and Senate leaders are backing a tax subsidy to expand Mall of America in Bloomington. The mall is seeking state and local help to build a parking ramp as part of the expansion that will add 5.6 million square feet of new retail, lodging and and entertainment space

Mind you, the mall already comprises 4.2 million square feet.  And guess what they can do with all that?

2 Victoria’s Secrets
2 Claire’s
2 Bath and Body Works (only 1 Body Shop, though)
2 Perfumanias
2 At&T’s
2 Gamestops
2 T Mobiles
3 Mall of America gift store’s
A pair of sunglass huts
2 America Eagles
5 different kinds of Gap stores
3 caribou coffee’s
2 starbucks
2 auntie anne’s
and of course, two panda expresses

And much, much more.

The Minnesota legislature is so stoked about this, because of the 7,000 construction jobs it will create.  Plus, it’s a bargain, because they only forgive some stupid taxes on the construction, and then when it’s all built, WHAMMO!  tax revenues enough to fill Victoria’s Secret 4 more times over.

I don’t know the numbers.  The mall site claims that no public dollars are going towards paying for it (other than forgone taxes). So I’m not mad that the state is misusing public funds.  The fact that this is so bi-partisan a bill convinces me that Minnesota will probably make out well in the offing.

But instinctively, I just feel that the law of diminishing returns is going to apply sooner or later.  They propose to double the size of the mall – it’s slightly unclear who’s clamoring for MOA lease space – but I just can’t think of what they’re going to fill it with.

I suppose that with a mall that size, you’re going to need a few more Yankee Candles.

But parking lots and malls.  This, when the Twin Cities is a decade away from choking on its own growth – build a goddamn transportation system.

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Funky editing in Hillary’s new ad?

Does the audio sound funny to you too?

I hear a weird cut between “you need to be ready for anything” and “especially now”

and also between “economy” and “crisis”.

if that’s the sort of shoddy work she’ll do in the white house, just nevermind, she’s lost my vote.

I say iran, you say i ran

Ishum usually don’t just push vids, but here’s a good ‘un…

http://video.236.com/services/link/bcpid1507884404/bctid1509297835

It’s the Cling, not the Bitter

Can ISHum just get a word in edgewise? This crazy dust-up over this awesome Obama quote is as frustrating as it is predictable:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Obama called it like he saw it, and now he’s an elitist who disdains the working class. (the jobless working class, paradoxically)

Hillary Clinton slammed him for suggesting that the people of Pennsylvania are bitter rather than up-by-the-bootstraps optimists.  She thinks that Pennsylvanians are all pluck and no quit.  (Ha.)

John McCain took serious umbrage – check out this over the top language:

It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking. It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans.

First of all – breathe.  Secondly, try Lindsay Lohan, or Jesse Ventura, or Milan Kundera.  There.  That wasn’t that hard – I mean, I just thought of three people who, if they ran for president, would be way more out of touch with “average” Americans. Of the top of my freaking head. Whoa.

It’s the “bitter” part of his comment that has gotten the most flap.  Again, the suggestion that Pennsylvanians aren’t super earnest, that they might EVER betray the slightest cynicism in the face of difficulty and seek to lay blame.  Whatever – I think that people can be bitter.

When I first read it, I admit I was a little bit scandalized by a politician using the word “cling” to refer to how people relate to their churches and guns.  (awesome, by the way.)

And what’s wrong with “cling”? I think that Ben Smith put his finger on it.

What he did suggest, most problematically, is that there’s something wrong, or symptomatic, about clinging to your faith or to your gun. It’s a suggestion that probably plays better in San Francisco (politically, the worst possible place to say it) than in the middle of the country.

I hope BO takes this opportunity to call HRC and JMC out on their cloying pandering to their imaginary blue collar worker.  They are piling on right now (and I guess I don’t blame them – that comment is pretty toxic, politically) but I bet that this holier-than-thou allegiance to the working class will burn them both in the end.  Because I bet that working class people aren’t so stupid as to think that when you say they aren’t stupid that you don’t actually mean that they are.

Don’t Believe everything you read on HuffPo

Idling down there at 9th or 10th on the Huffington Post’s best loved, or most viewed list is this article by Shawn Christensen. It’s a pretty exciting article.  The claim is “Don’t be Fooled” because Obama is not leading by a mere 800,000 in the popular vote, he’s out in front by a good 1-2 mil.

Now, just for background, Real Clear Politics has Obama leading the PV anywhere from 94,005 to 827,308, depending on which combination of Michigan, Florida, and caucus turnout estimates you subscribe to

Shawn’s point is that in caucus states, the number that the New York Times publishes is not the popular vote, and it’s not even the delegate count to the party convention.  Its the “county delegate” count.  So each of Barack’s 27,172 county delegates represents an undetermined number of Kansas caucus-goers.

He then “generously” only allocates 10 votes per county delegate and says that in Kansas alone, Barack’s lead has leapfrogged any chance that Hillary might have ever had, because now he’s cleared Kansas with a net 177,100 votes!

I was taken aback! and then shawn extrapolated for ALL the caucus states – if we say (conservatively!) that Barack gets 10 voters per county delegate, that’s a good estimate of the popular support he has.  and So that’s where we get the 2 million vote lead figure from.

I went home and opened up an excel chart, determined to do the math for myself (and get mad traffic, because everyone would link to my clear-headed appraisals, vindicating shawn from the haters, and firming up his logic where needed.)

But I stumbled upon this sad fact:

Only an estimated 36,000 to 37,089 Kansans caucused that night.  Tough for Barack to net (even a conservative) 177K out of a mere 37 large.

There are only about 2.7 million kansans to begin with, and only about 2 million who are of voting age.  Did Shawn really think that nearly half of them would vote in a democratic caucus?  In kansas?

A plausibility check was all that was needed here.

Sketch Comedy Canon

IFC and Nerve.com just released their list of the top 50 comedy sketches of all time.  What’s great about this is that its not just a list – they link to the clips on YouTube, Hulu, and other places.  These are complete sketches, not just highlights.  The commentary for each clip is sort of stupid, I think, but that doesn’t really matter.

Its the fact that someone took the time to take the huge amounts of raw material out there and organized it.  YouTube tries to do this with calculations of most viewed, highest rated, etc.  But those types of ratings aggregate the stupid people’s opinions with the smart people’s, so you get, you know, some chuckles, but not like, whoa, MAD chuckles.

And the Amazon/Netflix model of telling me what I would like based on what I do like?  Yeah, but that doesn’t really get me out of my box, or at least I haven’t tried and liked many new things that have been “recommended” to me that way.

Real life, human editors can do some things that the best algorithms can’t yet: compile a list like this. So IFC and Nerve.com – I salute you.  We need more of this kind of content.  Not just top ten, fifty, or one hundred lists (indeed, who gives a shit about the rankings – its the material that’s cool) but people out there to guide me to the good stuff. I don’t know enough about sketch comedy to quibble with their choices, but I can tell you I enjoyed what they picked.

I’ve only watched #’s 50 though 14 or so, but so far, my fav’s have been:

49. “Ass Pennies,” Upright Citizens Brigade, 1998
48. “Gerald Ford Dead at 83,” Saturday Night Live, 1996
40. Citizen Kane – The Kids in the Hall
32. Four Yorkshiremen – At Last the 1948 Show
15. Word Association – Saturday Night Live

I also would direct you to the editors’ preface or disclaimer or caveat, or whatever.  I think that they’re pretty self aware:

So why, then, have IFC.com and Nerve.com devoted an enormous amount of time, manpower, monetary resources, server space and posh catered lunches to the pursuit of ranking the boob tube’s finest sketch comedy offerings?

In part, we’re here because magical new technology (*coughYouTubecough*) allows us to do more than just pontificate for paragraphs on end — now we can pontificate for paragraphs on end and provide audiovisual evidence to back up those pontifications. We provide the context, share our thoughts and feelings, and let you commence with the guffawing and, naturally, the disagreeing. After all, the comedy sketch — short, sweet, completely silly or shot through with social commentary — worms its way into the public mind like nothing else, and has easily made the leap to the web when other forms have faltered.

Any list is bound by the limitations set on it — consciously and unconsciously — by its creators: we kept our 50 selections to stuff that’s appeared on television by choice, and to what’s appeared in English out of necessity. One must also bear in mind the availability of material; who knows what comedic treasures are lost to us because they simply don’t exist anymore?

But of the sketch comedy that remains viewable, this is some of the best.

I also think it’s odd/cool? they way they split the traffic between the two sites.  (I think nerve’s interface is better.)

Bets anyone?

Like any story about fucking dogs or marriage, this one’s headed straight for the most emailed list.

Bets on how long it stays up there?

And also, I’m pretty sure that Bader ElShareif, who is mentioned towards the end of the piece is the guy who sold me cigarettes for four years at Harper Foods. He was really kind and generous with me (and everybody else I ever heard talk about him). I’m surprised he was leaning McCain before his kids talked some sense into him.

Update at 3:07 Central Time, Tuesday April 8th:

Right now it’s at number 11. Just wait till this sucker explodes on to the top ten list. All the way to the top.