Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hey, Macy's, Go Fuck Yourself

So the NYTimes has an article about Macy's poor results since reducing the use of coupons in its marketing. I suppose that's one explanation for its poor results, but I can think of a far more compelling one: its inexplicable, ruinous decision to re-brand the Marshall Field's stores it acquired.

Basically, the situation was this: Marshall Field's was a beloved retailer in Chicago, an integral part of the city's history, a landmark. It was common, especially around Christmastime, to see people making their way through Chicago's streets merrily swinging the signature dark green Marshall Field's bags. Many people associate the company with Frango mints, a favorite of Chicagoans and a fond memory for me.

I say a memory, because there's no fucking way I'll shop at a Macy's now. Their ugly red bags and overall mediocrity are anathema to everything Marshall Field's stood for. Chicagoans literally picketed Macy's when it made the name change, and I'm sure plenty of us bear a grudge. More than a grudge: a deathwish. When your company is engaged in the wholesale destruction of America's best institutions, don't be surprised when no one wants to buy your products, and don't blame it on the fucking coupons.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Swing and a Miss

I was reading an otherwise interesting NYTimes article about a sale of a copy of the Magna Carta, and I saw this:

It is the only copy in the United States and the only copy in private hands.

I find this very hard to believe. The Magna Carta is from 1215 - any copyrights have long since expired. Furthermore, government works aren't subject to copyright. Furthermore, fuck you. I'm willing to bet everything that there are multiple privately held copies of the Magna Carta in the US.

Friday, September 21, 2007


I work on the 37th floor of the World Financial Center in downtown Manhattan, and a butterfly just flew past my window. Isn't it time to admit that I must be drunk?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I Can Has Laffs Without Racisms?

So I generally enjoy the lolcat phenomenon - see here and here, and in fact I think it should be extended to other areas (lolfinance - Icahn has cheezburger!). My worry is that people don't seem to get the joke, or at least they're extending the joke in a very unfortunate way. The basic idea is to have a picture of a cat (or other animal or robot) with text expressing something with poor grammar and spelling. I think it takes at least some of its inspiration from shorthand used in texting and IMing.

Anyway, it doesn't take its inspiration from race-baiting or bigotry, but I worry that racism could creep in. You'll see text along the lines of "let me aks you sumthing," and it's easy to see how that could be offensive to someone. Basically it needs to stay far away from stereotypes about the way particular racial groups talk.

That's about all I have to say - it would be unfortunate if the whole thing got tinged with racism.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Falafel McPita

So I was reading Den of Thieves, a kind of mediocre book about insider trading, and it got boring, so I picked up Fast Food Nation. So far it kind of sucks, but I'm only like 2 pages into it. Anyway, it's making claims about how much we spend on fast food, and I'm sort of thinking to myself, I don't eat that much fast food.

And then I thought, what about falafel? Does that count? It's not as though there's some falafel-industrial complex. There are falafel chains, I suppose, but they don't exactly span the nation. It is fast, though, and it is deep-fried.

And then I thought, what the fuck? Why aren't there falafel chains across the nation? Or, why don't the existing fast-food restaurants sell falafel? They have already mastered the technology of frying. True, fast-food places hate to add new ingredients, but we're talking about pita, falafel, and tahini. The tomatoes they already have.

And can anyone doubt that falafel would be a big seller? True, you might have to market it as an Israeli food, and play down its Arab connotations. Better yet, you could market it as "authentic New York style falafel." Fundamentally, though, falafel is in keeping with the American aesthetic: deep-fried, hand-held, condiment-smothered goodness.

[before I posted this, I glanced down at the page I was reading, and saw this line, the last I will read from the book, ever: "Fast food has proven to be a revolutionary force in American life; I am interested in it both as a commodity and as a metaphor."]

Slate's Persistent Mediocrity

There's a headline on Slate right now, "Let Them Eat Shiitake." The sub-headline is "Banning fast food in poor neighborhoods." This seems to be an attempt to make a pun out of the famous line, "Let them eat cake."

The only problem is that shiitake doesn't rhyme with cake, the implication being that Slate is idiotic. It really really makes me want to hear a Slate writer ordering a shiitake dish at a restaurant.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Silly Krugman, Don't You Know Anything

So they're having a debate about Jon Chait's new book about Republican pseudo-economics. Paul Krugman and Ross Douthat are among the participants. Douthat, on his own blog for some reason, challenges Krugman's argument that race has played a huge role in GOP success. Douthat says:

Really? That's it - that's the whole story? The Cold War, the crime wave, the sexual revolution and Roe v. Wade, the tax revolts, and about sixty other smaller things that I can think of were all trumped by the race issue? What an utterly ridiculous interesting idea.

It seems to me that this is almost willfully obtuse. What if, for instance, Krugman had argued that the Union's victory in the Civil War was largely explained by its advantages in industry, population, and transportation? Douthat could have responded, "Really? That's it - that's the whole story? Bull Run, the death of Stonewall Jackson, Vicksburg, Gettysburg - these were all trumped by GDP? What an utterly ridiculous interesting idea."

The point, of course, is that there are always plenty of but-for causes for any given outcome. We don't attach the same level of importance to all these causes because some are more fundamental than others. An analogy from the law is that it's not considered causation for the purposes of negligence (or refuting negligence) to drive too fast, if the only result is that you are under a collapsing bridge earlier than you would otherwise have been. Sure, if you had been driving slower the bridge wouldn't have fallen on you, but the fast driving wasn't a meaningful cause of the injury.

Anyway, Krugman doesn't need my help, but it certainly causes Douthat to fall a bit in my estimation.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Florida, Your Votes Don't Count

This seems like exactly the kind of thing we don't need: Florida Democrats feuding with the national party. It's looking as though their primary won't even count, which is not exactly a great way to get them enthusiastic about whoever the eventual nominee is. Of course, it's a complicated issue - you have to make sure that there are consequences when states disobey you - but this seems like pretty bad news to me.

[UPDATE: I see that the decision to hold the primary early was one made by the GOP-controlled Florida legislature, albeit with Democratic support. I sense this is a clever maneuver, possibly too clever.]

Friday, September 07, 2007

Here's the Thing, David Brooks

So there's this video of David Brooks explaining his job to TimesSelect viewers (here's a link, but no guarantee it will work: Brooks video). He says he gets a lot of e-mail, and "The basic message was ummm... Krugman's great, you suck. That was the basic message of my e-mails."

The thing is, that's pretty accurate e-mail. If that's the kind of e-mail he's getting, then he's fortunate, because he can take that to the bank. If he starts getting e-mail along the lines of "short the euro," he should do it. I mean, his readership is batting a thousand here. Time to cash in. If only my e-mails were that useful... mostly I get retarded stuff from Alan with "leet hacker" text in the subject line. I can't tell you how cool it is to know an elite computer hacker like Alan - he must have improved vastly since his CS 11 days.