Yes, he is. Good of you to notice.

Among this year’s MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellowship recipients is the creator of The Wire, David Simon. He is said to feel mildly guilty, given his status in an industry that has funded him pretty consistently, but as far as Heathen HQ is concerned he deserves it for the groundbreaking, astonishing accomplishment that is the Wire.

From the Salon story:

Simon … said his wife would like to thank the foundation for “five years of fresh material.” The morning after she heard the news, Simon’s wife, best-selling novelist Laura Lippman, told him, “Hey Genius, you forgot to take the trash out last night.”

On the New Yorker

I have, for many, many years, been a happy New Yorker subscriber. Their brand of long-form, intelligent written articles is increasingly rare in the American publishing landscape. Every other magazine seems content to give us a page or two, but the New Yorker will commission and print articles that sometimes require more than one sitting, and that’s just fantastic (The Atlantic and Harper’s still do this, too, but beyond them I’m at a loss for another US publication that does).

The New Yorker, too, has done some pretty interesting things digitally, at least up to now. They offered their entire archive on CD and DVD, and then on a hard drive, and finally online; in none of these cases was the product poorly-scanned and haphazardly OCR’d text — instead, the New Yorker provided full-page scans of entire issues, complete with vintage ads, all the way back to the beginning of time.

It’s a wonderful thing, I tell you.

What I’ve been waiting for, though, has been a real digital companion for my New Yorker subscription. I travel quite frequently, and always end up with 2 or 3 issues in my bag — maybe I’m partway through a long Sy Hersh piece in one issue, and want to catch up on the fiction from another, or whatever. The New Yorker is a weekly, too, so issue proliferation is a problem around the house — you don’t want to accidentally discard an issue without being sure you’ve read all you want to read!

I had high hopes for the New Yorker when I first heard that publications would be available on the Kindle, but those hopes were quickly dashed. Some numbskull at Conde Nast decreed that (a) the full text wouldn’t be available on Amazon’s device; and (b) no pictures would be present at all; and (c) the cost would be greater than a print subscription. Add to this the fact that a walled-garden digital subscription is by definition a rental — Amazon can zap your back issues at any time! — that you can’t share (no more “hey, read this!”), and it starts to look like a very bad deal indeed.

Today, the net is abuzz with the introduction of the New Yorker iPad app, which at first blush comes much closer to the mark. Appaarently, each new issue will have an iPad edition, complete with full text, all the pictures, all the cartoons, and the whole nine yards. That’s a great idea. What ruins it, and with it the New Yorker’s digital strategy, is that apparently the same numbskull is still handling pricing: Each iPad issue is $5, still contains a boatload of ads, and there is no provision for discounting or bundling for existing print subscribers. (Who, I note, retain access to the clunky web experience mentioned above for the whole of the archive.)

The New Yorker is a great magazine, but I can’t imagine buying even a great magazine TWICE. This is what the music industry wanted us to do (pay multiple times to play a song at home, on our iPods, in our cars, as ringtones), and it’s what the book-and-magazine industry would like to dupe us into.

I say bollocks. For now, if I want to carry back issues with me in digital form, I guess I’ll be printing a whole bunch of PDFs, because FUCK this iPad pricing model.

Tea Partiers: Stupid or Evil?

Once again, Fred Clark knocks it out of the park. He begins:

Tea partiers tend to revere the U.S. Constitution in much the same way that many American evangelicals revere the Bible, which is to say they read it without comprehension, looking only for ammunition that can be used against their enemies. And since neither text was written for such a purpose, this so-called reverence is an exercise in illiteracy.

And it gets better from there:

“Stupid or evil?” is really just a way of exploring whether or not someone has provided sufficient evidence for us to conclude that they are not acting in good faith. The distinction may not seem to matter much, practically. A responsible citizen does not need to know precisely whether O’Donnell is really so astonishingly stupid as to believe what she’s saying here or so mendacious that she does not care that it is ridiculously false. Either way, she is clearly unfit for office.

The real kicker: what O’Donnell said in this context was that Obama was acting contrary to the Constitution because of the use of the word “czar” for some advisory positions, and we all know the Constitution insists quite clear that we don’t grant titles of nobility in this country.

No one is that stupid.

Dept. of Amazing Television

And when I saw “amazing,” I mean “holy crap, it’s amazing something that unremittingly shitty can exist.”

After giving up on the Texans, I started browing the Tivo guide. On Syfy, we have the following on offer:

2:00 PM – Cyclops
“A corrupt emperor forces a soldier to fight a single-eyed giant in a gladiatorial arena.” Starring Eric Roberts, of course.
4:00 PM – Yeti
“A legendary beast terrorizes members of a college football team after their plane crashes in the snowy Himalayas.” Really? We can’t get anyone to play Hawaii because they’re too far away, and somehow you’ve got a college football team in goddamn *Tibet*? I mean, I’m all about suspension of disbelief — I love Doctor Who, for crying out loud — but this is a bridge too far.
6:00 PM – Ogre
“Young hikers travel to a small village where an ogre requires an annual human sacrifice.” Obligatory washed-up star: John “Was He Bo Or Luke?” Schneider. Rumors of Mel Gibson in the eponymous role are sadly just that.
8:00 PM – Madrake
“Adventurers on a jungle expedition encounter a half-plant, half-animal creature out for blood.” At least this time the victims knew what they were getting into, unless they were the sorts of yuppie “adventurers” who pay through the nose to bag Tibetan peaks by getting short-roped to a sherpa. As for half-plant, half-animal creatures, the less said of Christine O’Donnell, the better. Perhaps the Mandrake’s murderous ire was aroused by too much adventurer onanism?
10:00 PM – Abominable
“A disabled man tries to warn others about a legendary beast roaming the California mountains.” Sigh. At this point, we’re safe to assume they’re not even trying.

In a word: Whew!

The Tide got it done yesterday to stay perfect, but it was way too close for my taste — though a win is a win. I’ve got nothing but respect for Ryan Mallett now, and hope very very much that the Arkansas QB elects to go pro early; that guy is crazy good, but I expect that the Hogs will go back to being a fair-to-middlin’ SEC squad without him.

Update: Polls are just plain weird. Alabama garners more first-place votes as a result of the quality road win yesterday, but Arkansas — the former #10 team who played 4 quarters of solid football only to lose a squeaker against the number one team in the country — drops to #15. That’s just bizarre. Shouldn’t you EXPECT #10 to lose to #1?

The merger’s not done yet, but the sucking and lying starts now.

Continental is no longer partnering with Amex on either Membership Rewards points or Presidents’ Club access, starting in one year.

From the site:

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Continental Airlines withdrawing from participation in the American Express Membership Rewards and Airport Club Access programs?

Continental’s agreements to participate in these programs expire Sept. 30, 2011 and we have decided not to renew the agreements. Continental continues to offer many options for OnePass mileage earning and redemption opportunities as well as Presidents Club access.

Note that this is not actually an answer.

Is this decision the result of Continental’s merger with United Airlines?

The decision to end Continental’s participation in the American Express Airport Club Access and Membership Rewards programs is not related to Continental’s merger with United Airlines.

Note that this answer is almost certainly a lie. You can tell in part because answers to simple yes or no questions that do not begin with “yes” or “no,” and that go one for this many words, are almost all lies. By reading further, it’s also easy to see how brazenly mendacious the CO people are being.

I’ve already started doing most of my flying on Southwest for other reasons. My guess is that this will seal that deal even further, though my AX points are useless there, too. (The moral there is “all airlines hate you,” by the way.)

BTW, Amex is trying to make it less painful, but it’s still going to suck:

Amex is also trying to hang on to some Continental and other airline fans with a new benefit for Platinum and Centurion (a k a, “Black Card”) customers. Starting Dec. 1, you can register your favored airline with Amex and it will waive up to $200 in fees (like those for baggage checking, in-flight food purchases, airport club day passes and flight changes) with that airline each year.

The remaining domestic airlines partnered with Amex are AirTran, Delta, Frontier, and JetBlue. Of those, the latter may be useful to us, but the rest are less interesting. Time to schedule a bigass CO trip with my AX points, methinks.

This dead 89-year-old woman is way more badass than you are

Check it out:

LONDON — After she died earlier this month, a frail 89-year-old alone in a flat in the British seaside town of Torquay, Eileen Nearne, her body undiscovered for several days, was listed by local officials as a candidate for what is known in Britain as a council burial, or what in the past was called a pauper’s grave. [...]

But after the police looked through her possessions, including a Croix de Guerre medal awarded to her by the French government after World War II, the obscurity Ms. Nearne had cultivated for decades began to slip away.

Known to her neighbors as an insistently private woman who loved cats and revealed almost nothing about her past, she has emerged as a heroine in the tortured story of Nazi-occupied France, one of the secret agents who helped prepare the French resistance for the D-Day landings in June 1944.

Go read the obit.

What a smackdown looks like, NYROB edition

I’m immortalizing this below, in case the New York Review Of Books ever takes it down:

In response to Words from the July 15, 2010 issue

To the Editors:

It is truly discouraging to see, in a column by Tony Judt about sensitivity to language, “inchoate” used as a synonym for “chaotic” ["Words," NYR, July 15]. Although this solecism is quite common, it still pains the ears of those few of us who are sensitive to the etymological resonances of English words. Didn’t Professor Judt learn Latin at the fancy school he went to?

“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”—Tom Paine

Sam Abrams
Rochester, New York

Before his death on August 6, Tony Judt replied as follows:

Like most people of your kind, you assume too much: regarding both what I wrote and what you are qualified to infer. “Inchoate” means: “Just begun, incipient; in an initial or early stage; hence elementary, imperfect, undeveloped, immature” (OED). And that is just what I meant — the words begin to form but do not complete. If I had meant to say that they were “chaotic” I would have said so.

At the “fancy school” I attended (my education cost precisely nothing from the age of five to twenty-four: what about yours?) I was taught Latin, but also how to distinguish between knowledge and pedantry. I am glad to say that forty years later I can still smell the difference at fifty yards.

Ever notice how Constitutional Originalists tend to be dicks?

Yeah, me too. Herein find a discussion of Scalia’s apparent opinion that sex discrimination is constitutionally sound, since the “original intent” of the authors of the Constitution and the 14th amendment surely wasn’t to make women complete citizens.

Originalism seems more an excuse for holding unreconstructed 18th century views on white, male privilege than an actual respectable legal theory. (Are there any pro-choice originalists, I wonder? My guess: No, because originalism is an intellectual port of convenience for people who want to restrict that and other behaviors protected by the notion of Constitutional privacy, which was vague and uncertain prior to Griswold and Roe.)

(Confidential to R.M., formerly of Jackson: Not you.)

9/22/09 + 1 Year

A year ago, I flew home quickly from Kansas and went straight to the critical care clinic, where Erin and I and Sharon said goodbye to Bob. September 23 was the first day ever that Erin and I woke up without our little fuzzy pal.

Our house has two cats now. We lasted not quite a month before we tried to fill the hole in our hearts with two kittens, but they just wormed their way into entirely new areas and left the Bob-shaped cavity pretty much as it was. I still sometimes forget she’s not here, in the night, or when I’m moving through the house and a corner of shadow looks inky and fuzzy enough to be my old girl.

We love Saracen and Wiggins. They were made to be ours. They picked us, at the rescue site, as much as we picked them. Saracen thinks Erin hung the moon, and follows her around like a puppy. She stalks and captures all manner of small textiles when we’re not looking, which means our house actually does have a tiny gremlin who steals socks. Wiggins is absolutely fascinated with just about everything I do, and spends a good chunk of every day insisting her way into my lap. She vocalizes more than any animal I’ve ever seen, which is hilarious, and has invented a game for herself involving our stairs and wine corks. They romp and run through the house like the juveniles they are, and then collapse together in the increaseingly-too-small-for-them cat condo, or in extra chairs, or next to us on the couch when they’re done.

But neither of them are Bob, and in some ways they’re both still strangers compared to her. And I still miss my girl even though I love these new guys, too.

Who thought this was a good idea?

Can someone explain why iTunes needs special ID3 tags to be set on MP3 files for them to sort properly into the “Podcast” area? And, if this is the case, why iTunes lacks the ability to backfill these values FOR you if you acquire podcast MP3s from other sources (such as one’s RSS reader, which (unlike iTunes) never decides to stop downloading a given podcast because it’s been too long since I listened to an episode).

It’s been a busy year, so the football blogging has been light

For that, I apologize, but it’s impossible to pass up the gems week 3 has brought:

  • The triumphant return of Mark Ingram today. Granted, it’s Duke, but prior, pre-Saban teams have sometimes struggled against this grade of opponent. It’s a question of consistency and being able to deliver, so seeing numbers like the Tide racked up today make me feel good about the stretch of in-conference foes lining up next (at Arkansas, Florida at home, and at Spurrier’s Gamecocks before Mississippi at home).

  • MO TIDE: It’d be hard to be happier about the Penn State situation, and how deep the Alabama team apparently is. With two top players out, they still got it done. In addition to a big win over a storied program, we got press out the wazoo from Lion faithful about what a nice time they all had. Try that at Rockytop. Or Baton Rouge.

  • Ole Miss just keeps sucking, and that makes my heart glow. I really thought Coach Nutt was better than this, though. A non-IA team and letting Vandy win by two TDs at home? Fantastic. It’s like Notre Dame all over again!

  • Speaking of which: the Irish dropped another one, this time to Michigan State.

  • Add to this the collapse of Tennessee today, and I’m a happy, happy man.

Dept. of Anniversaries I’d Just As Soon Not Have

For a long time, I’ve belonged to a place called The Well. It’s an old-school Internet discussion forum pleasantly (mostly) bereft of the noise and spam that most online discussions have descended into.

Two years and two days ago, I wrote this post there, in an area set aside for sharing terrible news. I actually assumed I’d posted it here, too, but apparently not.

My friend Cary died on Tuesday. He’d been fighting cancer for a while but his most recent and dire prognosis wasn’t common knowledge. He was locally famous in Houston and Austin, partly for being in a band called Horseshoe, and partly for his years of association with Houston’s Infernal Bridegroom Productions. IBP was, until its own unfortunate and premature death in 2007, a tremendous and inventive local theater company devoted to doing the weird, the underperformed, the new, the avant garde, and doing it very, very well. Most (all?) of Cary’s acting was with them, but his roles just got stronger and better with time. He started with their very first production in 1993, but was best known for star turns in productions of the Kinks’ “Soap Opera” (2002) and, in 2006, something called “Speeding Motorcycle.”

If you asked Cary the most important, biggest, best thing he ever did on stage, I’ll bet he’d answer quickly that this show, based on the songs of Daniel Johnston, and done partly in collaboration with Johnston himself, was his pinnacle. Already sick by the time the show went to Austin this summer, he cut his chemo short so he could reprise his role (all three “Joe the Boxer” actors made the move).

Ike’s made it a rough week or so to be a Houstonian. You still can’t go to the grocery store, mostly, or buy gas like a normal person. More than half the city doesn’t even have power yet, which is astounding. Galveston is still flat, and will stay that way for a while. We got lucky in that we had no damage, little to clean up, and good friends a mile away who never lost power and opened their home to Erin and I as well as to some others from our social group. We called it Camp Ike, and tried to make the best of it — but even in a largish house, that many adults is tight, so we were very happy on Tuesday when we got word our block had power at around 8pm. In the midst of dinner when we got word, we didn’t end up coming home until nearly midnight. Sitting on the bed in our delightfully re-lit and re-cooled house, waiting for my wife to join me, I idly checked my email on my phone, and the four-hour everything-is-fine holiday we’d been enjoying evaporated. Cary’d had a seizure Tuesday morning, and was in Ben Taub. I should call for more details.

I think I knew what the details were before I clicked Jason’s number. Cary’d never regained consciousness, and passed away around 1130pm. Erin and I didn’t go to sleep for a long time, watching video I had on my laptop from a still-unfinished and unreleased DVD version of SM. Also on YouTube was this performance of Cary doing a cover of a Johnston song that didn’t make the final show. Cary liked it well enough to work it up for a post-show performance one night, after his much-loved singalong of “Brainwash”.

Cary Winscott was 38.

On Reggie’s Heisman

I’m no fan of USC, but the fact that he had to do this is ridiculous.

I don’t know what the answer is to the college star problem, and I’m generally in favor of institutions being held to a reasonable set of rules with respect to amateur status and whatnot as long as that’s the fiction we’re going to insist on in college sports. USC didn’t police its team well enough, and they’re paying the price. I’m fine with that.

I just don’t think it’s a good idea to penalize Bush personally for taking the opportunities he did. Will we pretend that there was no Heisman winner that year? Or that Vince Young was the winner? It looks like a temper tantrum by the club to me, a desire to try to hurt him now that he’s beyond the reach of any NCAA sanctions. That looks cheesy to me, and (in my view) makes the Downtown Athletic Club look worse than Bush.

Frankly, it astonishes me that so many are calling for even stricter rules, like lifetime NFL bans for people who do what Bush did. My guess is that, to a man, every person suggesting that kind of draconian sanction grew up with a shitload better financial situation than Bush. He was a standout, award-winning player, and was by popular consensus the best college player around in 2005. Even without the booster’s gifts, he’d have probably played at USC (he’s from San Diego). Did he use his status to benefit his family? It appears so. Did that meaningfully affect his school choice or performance? I doubt it.

College football isn’t amateur in any meaningful sense, not at the top-25 level, anyway. Colleges make millions on the backs of guys like Bush. I say leave him alone. Hounding him to give back this award and remove himself from the Heisman fraternity (a step they’ve not bothered to request of, say, O. J. Simpson) is just shitty.

Things that shouldn’t be true, but are

It’s totally possible for the freakin’ Coens to make a movie with Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, and freakin’ George Clooney, and still have it be an unwatchable mess.

Honestly, this brand of farce — in which terrible things happen to lots of miserable people, and which the Coens clearly love — doesn’t need to be done again after Fargo. And the brothers do much strong work when they undertake more meaty fare, such as their previous high point and the recent adaptation of No Country for Old Men, both of which remind us more of their neo noir debut than broad, grotesque messes like Burn After Reading and Intolerable Cruelty. I have no fear about their upcoming project, but I really hope they stop beating this particular farcical horse in the future.

AT&T Is Still Trying To Fuck You

So AT&T has this new “microcell” product out, and I think it’s pretty poorly understood. I say that because there’s no way rational people would accept AT&T’s pricing if they understood how it works and what it does.

The pitch is simple: If you put one of these $149 devices in your home, you’ll have better cell service there. This part is true, but the next part is nefarious: AT&T wants to charge you, one way or another, for the calls that are routed over this device.

If you have no idea how they work, this probably seems reasonable, but let Uncle Heathen explain something to you: The AT&T Microcell is an example of the femtocell class of devices. They work by being, basically, a short-range cellular-to-Internet bridge. The device, about the size of a wifi router, works as a short range cell tower that covers (basically) your home, and which only works for certain phones. It then routes the calls placed by those (in-range) phones not over the cell network, but instead over your broadband connection and thence to the AT&T mothership for completion.

That’s a pretty neat trick, obviously, but leave it to AT&T to turn a technology boon into a way to rape their customers one more time. Calls routed via femtocell never touch the AT&T wireless network, and yet AT&T wants to either count those minutes against your allotment, or charge you a monthly fee ($20) for “unlimited” Microcell minutes.

That’s astonishingly brazen, and completely full of shit. An iPhone on another carrier simply cannot get here quickly enough. I know they’re all sociopathic greedheads, but I’m tired of giving this particular pile of jackasses my money.

I’m really sick of this

Not as sick as I was before, when it came with a host of other policies I found equally repugnant, but the Obama administration’s position on state secrets is just as antithetical to liberty as Bush’s. Frankly, I blame folks like Bush, Cheney, Addington, etc., who promulgated the notion of the imperial presidency so ceaselessly for eight years. Presidents of any stripe are loathe to release power; I noted at the time that such power grabs were likely to be permanent, and this is ongoing proof thereof.

Dammit.

Usually, lists are stupid

But this list of the 50 worst ideas in sports history is pretty good, especially, including the DH, penalty kicks, Caddyshack II, Boise State’s blue field, sudden death OT, dog fighting, charging the mound against Nolan Ryan, and the BCS, about which they say:

Here’s a good rule of thumb for “how do I know if I’ve got a bad idea”:

If — in this highly politicized world in which professional politicians guard every word they say, intent upon offending no one — the President of the United States is willing to go on national television and say that your system is bad and you need a playoff system, well, you may have a bad idea.

No. Just no.

We do not approve of this whisky:

James Gilpin is a designer and researcher who works on the implementation of new biomedical technologies. He’s also got type 1 diabetes, where his body doesn’t produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.

So he’s started a project called Gilpin Family Whisky, which turns the sugar-rich urine of elderly diabetics into a high-end single malt whisky, suitable for export.

We’re so fucking doomed

TBogg: Sigh.

It is almost like the terrorists unleashed an unstoppable stupidity toxin into American airspace on 9/11. Yes, I know people like this have always existed. but in the good old days they at least had the decency to stay indoors gorging on Slim Jims and 84oz buckets of Mr. Pibb while watching Raymond reruns.