> "Where are the super-massive black holes, in our own vicinity?"
Our galaxy, Andromeda and Triangulum have got super-massive black holes at the centre, so three out of the three closest big galaxies have them. They're just not chucking out insane amounts of energy like this one is, and good thing too.
>"We're looking back at the wild freaky things that went on during the Universe's misspent youth, but surely, the implication is that these shenanigans went on around these parts, too."
I don't think it's quite like that. 1.5 billion years isn't _all_ that long ago when you're talking about the universe though - I wouldn't refer to it as youth, anyway. It's not as if every galaxy was blazing away like this until they all stopped some time in the last billion years - it seems to be uncommon for something to be this energetic. I don't know if there's any reason to believe that this kind of thing isn't still going on somewhere in the universe right now, just not "nearby".
It could be that there's a distribution of these fairly uncommon objects and we just happen to be 1.5 billion light-years away from where this one was 1.5 billion years ago. Maybe they're sporadic - e.g. galaxy collisions could lead to a larger influx of matter than normal (and therefore outbursts like these) over the period of a couple of hundred million years before the source dries up and the black hole reverts to a less blowtorchy state.
Of course if there are any closer to us, but their outburst started more recently than the amount of time it takes the light to get here, we won't know about it.
A quick Google says the closest quasar we know of is 600 million light-years away, so not that far really ("quick jog before breakfast" distance :P).
Blimey that's a long post, and all completely made up, too.