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Why yes, the #BenghaziCommittee hearings are a political Rorschach test

[ 145 ] October 22, 2015 |

The commentators just have the wrong Rorschach:


Idea by SEK — actual mash-up by David Moles. You’re welcome.


New YouTube algorithm Saturday night fun!

[ 12 ] October 17, 2015 |
Yes, that's Jeff Tweedy because yes, we're that old

Yes, that’s Jeff Tweedy because yes, we’re that old

Apparently YouTube changed its search algorithm, allowing access to material previously available only in theory, and because it’s Saturday night, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve found that has an SEK twist to it.

First, when I went to find the video of Hamilton‘s first cabinet rap-battle, I found a slew of videos of cast members entertaining those in lottery line for tickets. I was watching this one when I realized that the woman they pulled out was my friend Kendra! (Who you may remember from this podcast.) If you’re wondering whether I freaked out when she appeared, wonder no more — I freaked the freaking fuck out. Also, the following is a testament to the show’s power, even when it’s being performed a capella on the streets of NYC:

The second item I stumbled into is truly TARDIS-worthy, given that it’s an Uncle Tupelo show from 1994 in which 1) Jay and Jeff weren’t actively engaged in fisticuffs and 2) I was in attendance. I’d never been to St. Louis before and didn’t know who Uncle Tupelo were, but after that night, I was a fan for life. Somewhere in that crowd of bobbing heads is an 18-year-old SEK who has no clue what life’s about to start offering him. It’s a strange form of nostalgia, watching a crowd you know you’re in and wishing the next 21 years doesn’t happen to him too.

Meet the man who gave voice to the Dothraki

[ 14 ] October 17, 2015 |


As in, literally, he wrote their tongue. David Patterson is legitimately brilliant, and yet he agreed to speak to me anyway. Sample:

As a former linguistics major, I’m very amenable to the idea that people who study language are more open-minded, but could you go into detail of what you mean by that?

As tiny little humans, we naturally assume everyone else is like us until reality shows us something different. If our parents speak one language, and the community we’re raised in speaks one language, we think that’s how language works period; we never imagine a language could work any other way than our own. It’s easy to dismiss or “otherize” someone who speaks a different language—one we don’t understand and which doesn’t work the way we feel language “should” work. The first second language one comes to learn is key. It’s the first time we see that language has the ability to work differently—that the logic can be different. Many in the world are fortunate to have their first exposure to a second language occur simultaneously with their first. For those that don’t, the earlier the exposure comes, the better. If someone who otherwise would not be interested in language at all becomes interested due to exposure to a created language, I can think of no higher compliment to the creator.

I’m making the right enemies

[ 44 ] October 1, 2015 |

Apologies for the pun, but come on, are you not entertained? Apparently “quoting verbatim” is the new “lying,” at least according to some people.

If you loved The Wire

[ 7 ] September 30, 2015 |

…and I know you did, you’d probably enjoy D. Watkins’ The Beast Side, a first-hand account of living and dying in Baltimore which I’ve helpfully reviewed for you here. Sample:

Each of the short vignettes that occupy the first half of “The Beast Side” attempt to dispel white stereotypes of inner city America via a give-and-take with bigotry, as in “Lessons of a Former Dope Dealer,” which openly acknowledges that while many black youths turn to the drug trade, they apply an “inner city work ethic” that, “had they been exposed to a different way of life [would have had them] running a Fortune 500 company today.” It’s not the mythical inherent laziness of the so-called “welfare queen” that keeps these communities of “grinding grandma[s]” from elevating themselves out of poverty — it’s simply a lack of opportunity. Theirs is no culture of dependence, as conservatives like to argue, and the drug trade is evidence of this. As Watkins notes, the “hardworking people like us…are forced to create our own industries as a direct result of being isolated by society,” which means the real question is why “employment inequality for African-Americans [is] always identified as laziness.”

For history buffs and hip-hop aficionados…

[ 10 ] September 21, 2015 |

hamilton 2

Do yourself a favor and listen to this. Farley turned me onto it this morning, and I’m not sure I’m going to be listening to anything else anytime soon. It’s stunning as a history of both Alexander Hamilton’s life and ’90s era hip-hop.

I can’t recommend it highly enough, whatever that means. (Been working all day, I’m not sure words make sense anymore.)

What we should never forget on 9/11

[ 147 ] September 11, 2015 |

Shared with permission from Siva Vaidhyanathan, this is what I’ve been wanting to write all day, but couldn’t do so quite so eloquently:

Many people are posting versions of “never forget.”

So let’s review, shall we?

1) The 9/11 hijackers were funded by rich people in Saudi Arabia, none of whom have been punished for it.

2) President Bush had ample and direct warnings that Al Queda was a threat yet failed to take them seriously.

3) One security technology could have prevented the hijackings — secure and solid cockpit doors. The airlines fought FAA proposals for them for decades.

4) Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks but more than 10 years later more than half of Republicans still believed it did.

5) For one brief moment almost the whole world was united in horror about the slaughter. Yet our government dissolved that unity within 18 months.

6) The mania that gripped the White House in the wake of 9/11 generated massive violations of US and international law, significant violations of human rights, and a squandering of the moral high ground.

7) If the Supreme Court had allowed the voters to choose the president in the 2000 election we would have had sober, moderate, law-abiding, knowledgeable adults running the country and things would be a lot better now.

8) President Bush not only failed to defend us against Al Queda before 9/11, he let Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora and ceased serious efforts to capture or kill him while he shifted U.S. resources to a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

Yeah, I am still angry.

You should be, too.

Never forget.

If I were planning on going out on a high note…

[ 9 ] September 8, 2015 |

..this would probably be it:


Once upon a time, and for many, many years, Craig Ferguson was my best friend. The feeling wasn’t mutual, as that’s not how television works, but like hundreds of thousands of insomniacs, the Scottish comedian was a nightly companion, a reprieve from the crushing anxiety of insomnia. Instead of watching the minutes crawl across the clock, each one bringing you that much closer to the moment in which the charade of sleep would have to be abandoned, you’d hear the doorbell ring and watch a pantomime horse dance out of the wings while a gay robot skeleton wiggled his wrist to the beat.

Maybe you were awake, maybe you weren’t, it didn’t matter — you weren’t curled in a corner of your bed dreading the break of day. How could you not come to love the man who stayed your execution nightly? And how could not freak the fuck out when that man’s assistant calls you up and said, “Scott, I’ve got Craig on the line for you.”

Fortunately, there’s a bit in his new special about how flustered he was the first time he met Mick Jagger…

Who wants to entertain some Game of Thrones theories while we await the long winter’s arrival?

[ 71 ] August 28, 2015 |

meera reed jon snow 2

I have a take on the latest Game of Thrones fan-theory about Jon Snow because of course I do. Steven will, no doubt, demolish it in the comments — but for the moment, inasmuch as hope can exist in Westeros, it’s springing eternal.

The End of Clickbait

[ 43 ] August 18, 2015 |

Not that headline writers won’t continue to write it, mind you, they simply will never be able to top this.

“I knew I could never go home again”: The high cost of cooking (gumbo) on reality television

[ 11 ] August 16, 2015 |

I don’t think it’s much of a secret that I watch far too many reality cooking shows, so to say that I found this profile of Next Food Network Star finalist Jay Ducote really gratifying to write should go without saying.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t prefer the 3,500-word longer version that got nixed by networks and publicists for containing too much specific “behind the scenes” information, mind you. I don’t know what they thought I wasn’t going to include “behind the scenes” information given that I pitched the piece as a “behind the scenes” look at reality cooking television. But that’s neither here nor there.

“The Curse of the Parakeet”

[ 70 ] August 15, 2015 |

What’s it like to be a Mets fan? At the moment, it’s fantastic — the best young rotation in the league even absent two studs in Matz and Wheeler, a lineup that can feature eight players who can actually hit, and even guarded optimism that Wright is on the mend — so it stands to reason that announcers Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez are spent time playing amateur ornithologists and embarking on SNY-sponsored parakeet watches:


KEITH: There it is, it’s on the backstop!

GARY: Where do you belong, little parakeet?

KEITH: He’s a long way from home.

GARY: If you’ve just come home work and are missing a yellow parakeet, we know where it is.

KEITH: It’s on the backstop!

(PARAKEET flies away after a foul ball)
KEITH: Where’s the parakeet?

GARY: It’s gone now.

KEITH: There it is! It’s over to the right. Tell Dave to hell with what’s on the field, show the damn parakeet.

During the following game — in which newly acquired outfielder Cespedes could be seen sporting a bright yellow batting sleeve and matching necklace — the Coors Light Cold Hard Facts came to you courtesy of:


As soon as the graphic appeared on screen, Gary and Keith were off again, noting the number of critical tweets and emails they’d received about their alleged misidentification of the “Rally Parakeet,” which was to the eyes of some viewers clearly a “Rally Canary.” Keith insisted that he’d kept parakeets as a child and that it was a parakeet, while Gary did what play-by-play announcers are wont to do and held up his hands as if to say, “I’m just telling you what people are saying, Keith.”

Because the Mets won again in thrilling fashion, however, the issue could not go unaddressed, so when the team went down 1-0 in the top of the first inning of the next game, Gary said it might be time to break out the “Rally Canary” early and the director — the aforementioned “Dave” — immediately cut to a series of shots of people around Citi Field wearing or in possession of bright yellow paraphernalia and Keith couldn’t take it anymore:


He said in English, of course, and suggested that if people continue to refer to it as a “Rally Canary” it would lose whatever magical properties it possessed. The Mets eventually tied the game, but Parnell gave up two runs in the top of the tenth.

Down 2-1 in the bottom of the tenth, Lagares doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch. When Granderson drove him in with a sacrifice fly, Gary opined “maybe there’s something to this ‘Rally Canary'” and Keith audibly sighed when Cepedes struck out swinging and Uribe grounded out to third.

The post-game wrap-up is not included in, so I don’t know what was said, but if it didn’t consist of Keith repeatedly saying “I told you so” I’d be very disappointed.

If this team doesn’t make the postseason, we’re going to be talking about “The Curse of the Parakeet” for many sad years, I fear.


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