feed the monkey

Politics, music, sports, culture, technology, food.

Owning a home: good for people who are bad at saving money, but not good for much else.

According to a newly released study, renting has been the better economic decision for the last thirty years. Felix Salmon defends home ownership:

 [A] mortgage is a commitment device. You’re forced to spend all that money on your mortgage each month; if on the other hand you rent, you’re very likely to simply spend the excess, rather than save it. 

I am bad at saving, but good at paying bills on time, so home ownership makes sense for me. For those built of stronger stuff, renting seems to be the way to go.

I am only just barely managing to resist a late-night urge to rename this blog “Shabby Articles of Self.

Shabazz Palaces

—Are you...Can you...Were you? (Felt)

Time I understand it, but I never choose it.

I can’t explain it with words, I have to do it.

Up on the racks, old school cat from way back,

I gave him my meal, cuz he’s not right, but that’s just my impression.

He ask me ‘how you float all sharp and always have a fesh one,

And seem to know the answer to the most proverbial questions?’

I told him ‘wind the etch and swirl it in a book of sketches,’

I find the diamond underneath the subtlest inflections.

When you’re right, your’re right.


One of the things you learn as a college president is that if an undergraduate is wearing a tie and jacket on Thursday afternoon at three o’clock, there are two possibilities. One is that they are looking for a job and have an interview; the other is that they are an asshole.

- Larry Summers, regarding the Winklevoss twins

h/t Doug J, who makes another good point:

Is There Any Ceiling For Apple?

If so, Gruber doesn’t see it yet:

Apple is to the post-PC era what Microsoft and Intel combined were for the PC era. They control the dominant software platform and reap the majority of the profits from hardware. When people argue that Apple has somehow already grown as big as it can get, they’re not seeing the size of the opportunity that remains ahead. Imagine how big a combined Microsoft and Intel would have been 20 years ago. Then consider that the post-PC/mobile market is going to be bigger than the PC market.

Apple’s ceiling won’t be defined by other hardware manufacturers. Unless Google and Amazon become hardware manufacturers. Which they might. 

Like Parents Fighting, A Review

The epic (to me) war of ideas between personal internet heroes Matt Yglesias and Ta-Nehisi Coates seems to be winding down. Yglesias won, and TNC looked unusually mean. In case you weren’t playing along at home, here’s a links-only recap. It’s worth your time. 

Read More

She taught me how to breathe according to the basic principles of 19th century health guru F.M. Alexander, and reintroduced me to my neglected spine, which I had long treated as a kind of hat-rack for my sundry, shabby articles of self.

G+ Peep Shows, Coming Soon

This is a neat idea:  

As a Lifehacker user pointed out, the Hangouts are perfect for an impromptu video surveillance system. You will need two Google+ accounts to make this work — one for the camera side and another to view the stream. But that shouldn’t be that big of an issue. Simply start a Hangout on one side and then email yourself the URL. Once you’re at work, or wherever, just open the link to look through the other side of the portal.

This will not end well.

A Nuanced Look At Gentrification

Lest it seemed that Ta-Nehisi Coates’s position on gentrification was one-sided and simplistic, it’s worth taking the time to read his full thoughts. Highlights below:

A slew of newspaper articles have been written on the subject which assume the truth of gentrification. But any proponent of the gentrification thesis (explicit or implicit) needs to fully explore and answer the following question—Is white migration into the city forcing black migration back out? 

Speaking as though this is the case because it “feels true” isn’t evidence. Indeed it’s the flip side of blaming white migration to the suburbs on riotous criminally inclined blacks. 

I don’t say this so much in defense of hipster interlopers, as I do in opposition to the theory that black people are, solely, that which is acting upon them. Understanding the vestiges of white supremacy, isn’t the same as understanding black people. There needs to be a lot more agency in this discussion. There also needs to be a lot less nostalgia.

TNC comes back, again and again, to the point I’ve bolded above. It’s an important one.

It’s far too easy and comfortable to conflate an understanding of black people with a list of historical and structural ills that act against them. While this is usually a sympathetic move, it blots out agency, humanity, and nuance, just the same as racism. 

Well this is a soul-crushing hypothetical.

The thought honestly had not occurred to me.  


It’s always dangerous to ask this question when it comes to history (especially recent history) but it’s one worth asking when it comes to the revolution in the Middle East. 

What if the US had never invaded Iraq? Would Iraq be going through its own revolution right now and would that revolution have taken down Saddam Hussein without a single American boot setting foot in Iraq?

It’s not a crazy hypothetical. Although the usual talking heads were initially skeptical of a fruit seller’s self-immolation catalyzing a real movement, the collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year old regime in Egypt, a country that was the standard of culture and stability in the Middle East, proved that no dictator, no matter how entrenched, was safe. Now, with Moammar Gadhafi (another dictator celebrating a stint in power spanning decades) resorting to gunships to quell protests in Libya along with major protests in Yemen, the relatively weaker dominos in the region are starting to tumble as well. 

To keep with the hackneyed metaphor, Saddam actually would have been more likely to be the second dictatorial domino to topple after Tunisia than either Mubarak or Gadhafi. He was a long sitting ruler (would be over 21 years in power were it not for the invasion), ruled a country plagued by strong unemployment (somewhere in the  astronomically high 50% range before the war), suffered from a weak economy and terrorized a society with a highly repressed majority. To put it in perspective, Mubarak’s regime still managed to fall apart despite having an unemployment rate of only 9.7% in 2010 and benefitting from a culture that provides a strong degree of societal cohesion across ethnic and religious divides. On top of all this, Saddam’s primary tool of deterrence, the military, would only have inflamed protests were it deployed as evidenced by events in Libya.  In all likelihood Saddam would have been a victim of the Jasmine Revolution. 

But beyond asking whether Saddam could have been overthrown by his own people instead of through American intervention, you also have to ask whether a revolution would have left Iraq better off than it is today. It is certainly fair to say that a grassroots movement which removed Saddam would have left behind, inadvertently, the same damaging power vacuum created by the United States’ dismantling of the Iraqi army and political class. Yes, there would have been sectarian strife and looting and likely widespread chaos, but one has to wonder if a bottom up revolution might have been the crucible such a divided society needed to see each other not as Sunnis or Shias or Kurds, but as Iraqis.

Of course, we can only ever guess at what might have happened had things gone differently. Nevertheless, from an American perspective, I can give you 4,408 reasons why a revolution in Iraq is one “what if” I wish was reality.