June 2011

Open tabs, June 12

Here are several things I’ve been meaning to talk about but haven’t had quite enough motivation.

Filed: Open Tabs || 15:03, June 12 || No Comments »

Safe seats

Nancy Pelosi is calling for an investigation into Anthony Weiner’s sexting habits, making a pretty clear show of throwing him under the Democratic caucus bus after his press conference admissions. It presents an interesting wrinkle to the notion that Weiner should just try to ride this out, since he’s in a “safe” seat. This was the same logic that applied to Senator David Vitter, a conservative Republican in conservative Louisiana, who won re-election in 2010 despite being revealed as a prostitute-frequenter. But for Weiner, if Pelosi and the national party turn against him, suddenly his seat may go from safe — in that it’s a strongly Democratic district that is highly likely to elect whomever the Democratic nominee is in 2012 — to dangerous — in that its general election safety allows the party to feel free to support a primary challenge against Weiner, knowing the challenger would likely win the general election. It’s a good illustration that a “safe” seat is simply one in which party power players, rather than unaffiliated voters, have the most sway.

Filed: We R in Control || 21:05, June 7 || No Comments »

I’m gonna cuss on the mic tonight

The declining relevance of physical media for audio has led to a declining relevance of printed parental advisory labels:

Parental warning logos are set to be introduced before songs and music videos on services such as Spotify and YouTube that contain explicit material, following recent concern about the amount of risqué music content too easily available to children online.

Music industry body BPI is to update its 15-year-old Parental Advisory Scheme – which is responsible for the well-known warning symbol appearing on CDs, DVDs and records with strong language, sex or violence – to “bring up to date what happens on the high street to the digital age”.

It’s an interesting attempt, but of course the thing they can’t replicate is the one thing that makes the sticker most useful (to the extent that it is) — the parent as physical intermediary in the consumption of media. A label that can be seen while the parent is making the purchase on the child’s behalf, or that the parent might notice when seeing a surreptitiously purchased CD sitting on the kid’s bookshelf, is much more noticeable than a warning that plays before a streamed song or an icon that appears next to a download button. If parents aren’t physical intermediaries anymore, solutions based on physical sensations (sights and sounds) aren’t going to work. I’m a little surprised they’re not jumping straight to a technological solution, like the parental access codes that are commonplace on TV receivers.

Filed: aka Syscrusher || 10:16, June 6 || No Comments »

Red brick, green brick

An abandoned brick building near Choteau and 14th in St. Louis. Photo by Bill Keaggy.

A while back, I read that brick buildings in St. Louis were being burned down so that the bricks could be stripped, shipped south and sold:

But the blaze, one of 391 fires at vacant buildings in the city over the past two years, may have had a more sinister cause. Law enforcement officials, politicians and historic preservationists here have concluded that brick thieves are often to blame, deliberately torching buildings to quicken their harvest of St. Louis brick, prized by developers throughout the South for its distinctive character.

“The firemen come and hose them down and shoot all that mortar off with the high-pressure hose,” said Alderman Samuel Moore, whose predominantly black Fourth Ward has been hit particularly hard by brick thieves. When a thief goes to pick up the bricks after a fire, “They’re just laying there nice and clean.”

Driving through downtown yesterday I found myself thinking about this, because downtown St. Louis is littered with abandoned, bombed-out warehouses and factories made of this same brick. There are a lot of them, butting right up against attractions such as Busch Stadium, and they are a significant source of blight in the area. To the extent that St. Louis has a crime problem (and it does), these big, empty buildings aren’t helping make things better.

Presumably somebody owns these properties and pays property taxes on them, or the city owns them. Either way, if this St. Louis brick is in high-enough demand to warrant burning houses down to steal it, why not tear these things down and sell the brick? They’re in no shape to move new businesses in anyway — if something were going to happen in these buildings they’d need near-total renovation. Perhaps there’s a good answer to this, but I’m not sure what it might be.


Filed: Super Special Questions || 14:44, June 1 || No Comments »