Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Being Fed Peeled Grapes at the Rent-Controlled Castle

From today's NYTimes , a story of elderly, long-time tenants being harassed by an evil, corporationy corporation:
Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are home to roughly 20,000 New Yorkers. There were 8,037 rent-stabilized apartments when Tishman Speyer bought the property in 2006, and now there are 7,297, a loss of 740, according to the company. All of those 740 rent-regulated units became market-rate apartments, increasing the market-rate total to 3,935.
Essentially, evil corporationy landlords harass tenants and neglect needed repairs in rent controlled apartments because there is a strong financial incentive to do so. While this happens in buildings large and small, the above case is notable because of the size and location of the property(big, and awesome). Some of the investigation techniques used by the evil corporation are downright lazy and Googlicious:
In 2007, Tishman Speyer accused Dolores J. Shapiro, 62, an anthropologist and retired professor of nursing, of actually living in Naperville, Ill. Ms. Shapiro says she has never been to Naperville. She hired a lawyer, James B. Fishman, who discovered in an Internet search that a woman with the same name but a different middle initial — Dolores M. Shapiro — appeared to reside at the Naperville address.

This is generally distressing, but don't feel too bad for them yet:

Edward Stanley, 53, a retired police detective and Stuyvesant Town resident for three decades, said he and his wife each sat through a two-hour deposition after Tishman Speyer accused the couple of living in the summer house they own on Long Island. “They asked my wife if she kept a toothbrush in the apartment in Manhattan,” said Mr. Stanley, referring to the lawyers representing Tishman Speyer. “You’re being forced into a position where you have to justify your existence to these people.”

His legal fees have exceeded $5,000.

A number of accused tenants are people in their 60s and 70s who say the ordeal of proving their occupancy is highly stressful. Tishman Speyer claims that Gladys Serringer’s Stuyvesant Town apartment — where she moved in 1991, keeps framed family portraits in the living room and pays $1,300 monthly rent — is not her primary residence.

“If I don’t live here year-round, why would I have my heirlooms here?” asked Ms. Serringer, a retired United Nations employee who is disputing allegations that she lives in property she owns in Florida and Maryland.

It's good to know their property is being well-utilized as below-market heirloom storage. Strangely, the article didn't delve into whether or not their yacht records could prove primary residency. And the stress of your wife being asked where she keeps her toothbrush must be simply overwhelming for a retired police detective.

In this case, Bloggy Blog is going to don a bright-orange Neocon jumpsuit and call the artificial economic construct of rent-control a bunch of baloney. Responding to inadequate housing supply by further restricting it -- for the benefit of a chosen few, doesn't make a whole lot of sense. This strategy worked out pretty well for DeBeers, but obviously disadvantages those who have to scrap for market-rate rent or spend long hours commuting. The real estate version of a non-equilibrium state assures the development of tenant fraud and landlord-hijinks.

In the end, the article's inadvertent characterization of these golden beneficiaries is one of well-off retirees with a victim/entitlement mentality. Curbed seems to buy into the plight of the idle rich, but many of the commenters weren't so easily led. The next time NYTimes wants it's readers to feel sorry for someone, they might want to spend some time finding some people worth feeling sorry for (they can start with the huddled masses of exposed bloggers).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Best Movie You Didn't Like When You Were 13

With apologies to the timely war-satires of Team America and Dr. Strangelove, as well as the knee-slapping hilarity of American Psycho and Dancer in the Dark, the #1 USA god bless comedy over round these Bloggy Blog hills is "The Cable Guy". Like many in Bloggy Blog's demographic, we rushed to the theatres in 1996 to see Jim Carrey's newest laugh-fest only to be sorely disappointed. He didn't talk with his butt. And that obscene gesture he made to Matthew Broderick went right over our sheltered heads like a short pass from Aaron Brooks. It wasn't until years later that we revisited this film, and were able to grasp the masterful confluence of writing, directing, and performing.

Ostensibly, the film was a satire on the mass media obsession of the American 90's, and to a large extent this goal is achieved. But the real strength of the film lies in the absurdity of low-stakes competition. All of the movie's best scenes examine this motif, for example: pickup basketball, Medieval Times, and porno password. The unequal enthusiasm between participants brings to mind the last time we played shuffleboard at Plug Uglies and were permanently scarred by the trash-talking scamps who dominated the table.

With all these people taking shit too seriously, it's enough to make you want to slack off like good ol' Generation X. In fact, there are too many mid-90s time capsules to comprehensively list: Ben Stiller's pitch-perfect OJ/Menendez parody, ironic 'information superhighway' references, and a soundtrack with the likes of grunge deitrus Silverchair and Filter. Additionally, Janeane Garafalo and Jim Carrey were in this movie.

But as a whole, much of the film's cast and crew had their best work ahead of them. Crazy fame awaited Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, the guys in Tenacious D would later become appreciated in some circles, and Mr. Show had just started. Current-day "It" boy Judd Apatow executive produced and was forcibly restrained during the entire filming, thus preventing him from turning the second half into a sappy chick-flick like all of his current movies. Even Andy Dick went on to hook up with Trishelle and have a misunderstood MTV show.

If anybody at Bloggy Blog ever took a psychology class we might be able to use some big words and delve into a deep analysis of character motivation. Jim Carrey's social interactions are poisoned by his cathode ray rearing, and he is unable to create the reciprocal friendships he so dearly craves. The success of the movie itself was poisoned by casting Carrey as the lead in an adult-slanting highbrow comedy: the children didn't get it, and the 20s/30s target demographic couldn't take him seriously. But nobody else could have inhabited this character and made him so alternately endearing and repulsive, pitiful and detestable. With each viewing we find something new to laugh at, and the anticipation of old gags only grows.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It's like that time nobody ever read this blog post

Christine C. Quinn is the second most powerful person in NYC city government, and has some pretty good environmental policy stands. These include electronic recycling programs, using better fuel in city ferries, and stormwater management. In fact, her environmental policy stands are so good that she was sending us snail mail about them every couple of months. On single-side printed, non-recycled paper. In fact, its that fancy, watermarked, 25% cotton paper that you buy to print a thesis on. You would think that if you were going to communicate your environmentally-conscious policy stands to your constituents, you wouldn't print them recklessly on tree pulp and ship them via diesel trucks. Email and CIA brain-chip-transmissions are methods with a much smaller carbon footprint.
  • It's like that time Hillary Clinton worked for the Barry Goldwater campaign and was on Wal-Mart's board of directors, and is now some kind of everyman, China-bashing populist.
  • It's like that time Al Gore jet-setted around the world to give a powerpoint presentation about how humanity's jet-setting lifestyle is contributing to global warming.
  • It's like that time Bill Clinton lied about getting blowjobs in the Oval Office and invited That Guy Who Hates America to the White House.
Well, actually it's not nearly as hypocritical as those things. But when we emailed Speaker Quinn about her diluted message, she shocked us by sending us back a detailed reply that included point by point responses. Basically, she said her office is trying to print on both sides of recycled paper. Hopefully she can follow through on this easily achievable goal. But, she did not claim to be "taking it seriously".

But the larger point is that a message to a hot-shot city politician was responded to in a way that shows the message was actually read. Kudos to that! It's a lot better than that time we wrote to Rep. Charles Rangel about supporting Catagory 5 hurricane protection in New Orleans and sending more aid in general to the region. The letter we received back from his office thanked us for agreeing with him that New York should be federally reimbursed for housing Katrina victims.

Hey, Buddy, the door is right over there...

Capital One is well known for their great commercials and shitty credit cards. They also like to buy out banks and lay off the workforce. For this Bloggy Blogster, a Capital One card was our first foray into the exciting world of temporary debt. We always paid off the balance in full on our way to choir practice. But, one time we were like a day late and got a 30$ late payment fee. The CSR lied about taking the fee off, even after browbeating us for 10 minutes about it. So we got another card from Schwab and stopped using theirs.

It seems a lot of people had the same brilliant idea, and with the economic downturn, Kapital Eins wants to limit their exposure. Sometimes they just cancel your card. For a solid financial bet like Bloggy Blog, however, they get passive aggressive:
Hey, so we were thinking about actually raising your cash advance fee and stuff, so if thats like, not cool or something, you could like call this number and cancel your account, you know if you like, wanted to. It's like automated and stuff, so you won't even have to talk to a real person.
It's OK, Kapital Eins. We can take a hint[sheds tear]. So, if you want to cancel your card as well, that number is 1-800-261-3718.