1 December 2002
Well Twained

I really, really wanted to hate Shania Twain's Up!

For one thing, the title is rendered, in some godawful imitation-of-someone's-bad-handwriting font, no less, with a blithering smilie [:)] in lieu of the proper U. And then there's that exclamation point, which is only the beginning: there are no fewer than ten of them scattered among the nineteen song titles. (One song, so help me, has two of them.) What's more, her main competition in the country-crossover-major-babe industry is Faith Hill, who could probably walk off with my heart if I actually had one.

Then there was this incredible conceit on a square of card stock, stuffed into the CD case:

Since I've always been comfortable writing and singing many styles of music from the earliest age, I wanted this CD to reflect that versatility....When I listen to the music, depending on what mood I'm in, I might put on the RED CD to hear the songs with an electric, rockier-edged sound, and if I want to hear them with a more acoustic, down-home feel, I listen to the GREEN CD.

Yep. It's a two-CD set, each CD running 72 minutes and odd, with exactly the same songs in slightly different arrangements and mixes, the green presumably aimed at traditional country fans, the red at the crossover buffs. For the um, record, I listened to the green first.

And really, it wouldn't have mattered if I'd started with the red sides. What makes Up! work isn't spiffy production (which Mutt Lange has been doing for decades) or instrumental timbre, but Shania Twain's songwriting. (Lange gets co-writer credit on all these, but while he may have contributed some instrumental bits, I am convinced these are her songs.) It is said that she refused to tour to support her first album, which she didn't write; she insisted on waiting until she could do an entire set of her own songs. The tracks here suggest that she knew exactly what she was doing, and there are enough hooks screwed into these tunes to outfit an entire Ace Hardware store.

There are pickable nits. I grew up in an era when a three-minute song was the exception, not the rule: if you turned in a 3:15 master to Berry Gordy, it wound up as a 2:55 single. Some of these songs are just too long, especially "Ain't No Particular Way", whose lyric sheet contains the cryptic notation "Repeat chorus (1.5x)". Most of the exclamation points are expendable. And the Twain/Lange combine's penchant for avoiding 4/4, while generally laudable, results in some clunky transitions, especially in "C'est La Vie", which alternates between being strangely arrhythmic and being Abba's "Dancing Queen".

But these are still just nits. What matters in a country record, even a record as far removed from country as this country record, is whether you believe what's being sung. And here, Shania shines; even fairly prefab sentiments like "Thank you baby / For lovin' me the way you do" come through as genuine. At her best — say, "What A Way To Wanna Be!", which actually contains the word "exfoliate" — she is wry and witty and warm.

And if you can't get around the red vs. green debate (there are even a couple of blue mixes available at Twain's Web site), there's this:

For me, having the variety of styles is reminiscent of my youth when I used to listen to our local radio station and hear Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Supertramp and the Bee Gees all in the same hour.

I know just what she means. Present-day radio would never permit this sort of thing, which is only one of many reasons why it blows.

And what we're going to see, I predict, is an enormous number of CDs burned at home with some of the green tracks and some of the red.

Incidentally, I had to scrap my planned title for this screed and start over: this does impress me. Much.

The urge to merge, with a splurge

Louisville, Kentucky presently ranks sixty-sixth among the nation's cities. About five weeks from now, it will be sixteenth.

What's the deal? In a word: consolidation. In 2000, voters in Louisville and surrounding Jefferson County passed a measure which would merge the functions of city and county. On the fifth of January, the merger goes into effect.

This isn't the first time a city and a county have merged in the US; it isn't even the first time it's happened in Kentucky. (Lexington and Fayette County tied the knot back in the Seventies.) But it's an uncommon event, and in fact the Louisville/Jefferson merger had been proposed, and voted down, three times before.

The merger won't be as painful as it looks. Louisville and Jefferson County have shared some services — schools, transit, purchasing — for years. On the other hand, there are some divisive issues lurking. For one, the new Greater Louisville will have a population of just under 700,000, and with the inclusion of previously-unincorporated suburbs, that population will be distinctly whiter, which means there will likely be complaints that African-Americans are being disenfranchised, or at least having their political power diminished. And there are fears in the dozens of smaller municipalities in Jefferson County that the merger will eventually lead to their disappearance.

And what's the point of all this, anyway? It's the same old Louisville, isn't it? Well, yes and no. For most people in the combined city/county, life will likely go on much as it has. But there's a sensation that the newly-expanded Louisville will be able to "play in the big leagues", to come up for consideration when national businesses look to expand. The examples of Jacksonville, Florida and Indianapolis, fairly sleepy medium-sized metropolises before consolidation and now bustling big cities, indicate that there may be something to it after all. And it occurs to me that the city that might most benefit from it — St. Louis, Missouri — is probably the least likely to get it, since it's wholly separate from St. Louis County, and there is no indication that either city or county is even contemplating such a notion, or would want to.

I am reasonably certain that this sort of thing would never work in Oklahoma City (population 510,000). For one thing, the city already covers over 600 square miles; almost all the developed land (and most of the undeveloped land) in Oklahoma County has already been annexed, either by Oklahoma City or by another municipality. To further complicate matters, Oklahoma City extends into two other counties, Canadian and Cleveland, neither of which is likely to be receptive to any such ideas.

They love that dirty water

The embattled archdiocese of Boston, having been unable to settle some 450 claims of sexual abuse by its clergy, is now on the verge of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

There are distinct advantages to a Chapter 11 filing. Existing civil lawsuits will be suspended; no new suits can be filed. But there is also a downside: the filing will be widely construed as an admission of liability by the archdiocese, and their financial records will be opened to the public for the first time. Some church properties — notably, the chancery in Brighton, to include Cardinal Law's residence — are likely to be turned over to the court to pay claims against the church.

Cynics, of course, will scoff. "They're already morally bankrupt; this just takes care of the money."

(Muchas gracias: Bill Peschel.)

2 December 2002
Etched in the darkness

Half an hour before dawn. A sliver of moon hangs unsteadily above; only the vaguest hint of sunlight peeks over the horizon. The trees offer their bare limbs in supplication. The winds are hushed; only the occasional motor vehicle disturbs the silence.

Would that every winter's day began this way.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:52 AM to Weather or Not )
It won't be called "Murrah 2"

We used to have a Federal building in Oklahoma City, named for Alfred P. Murrah, judge of the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit from 1940 to 1970.

After everything came crashing down in 1995, plans were drawn up for a new facility. The new building, as yet unnamed, will open next fall, and already it's full; ten Federal agencies are slated to move in.

So far, so good. But there's one minor hitch.

The new building is located at NW 6th and Hudson (400 block west).

The Oklahoma City National Memorial, erected on the site of the Murrah, is located between NW 4th and NW 6th west of Harvey (300 block west).

A lot of people with windows facing east or south are going to be able to see the memorial. And not everyone, I imagine, will be able to shrug it off.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 AM to City Scene )
And tell Tchaikovsky the news

During the weeks preceding Thanksgiving, our local classical radio station takes votes from listeners, and on Turkey Day and the day following they count down those works which are most requested.

Since 1995, when this little promotional event got started, the composer at the top of the heap has been Ludwig van Beethoven; in fact, the ever-popular Symphony No. 9 has won every year but one, when it was edged out by No. 5. (Myself, I prefer No. 7, which took third this year.) As a general rule, you're not going to find anything really weird in lists of this sort; it's highly unlikely that more than a handful of people are going to vote for anything by, say, Lukas Foss. (Even Cathy Berberian knows there's one roulade she can't sing.) Still, it's always interesting to see the list, and it seems churlish to gripe about the warhorses that always place; there is, after all, a reason why these works are still around decades, centuries, after they were composed.

(My favorite? Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3. Don't ask.)

3 December 2002
A touch of frost

We dodged last week's threatened snow and ice. We will not be so fortunate this week.

I still contend that the stories of immense heat in Hell are apocryphal; what is ordered up by the minions of Lucifer from the main tower at One Brimstone Centre is endless freezing rain, and the damned are always driving to work.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:19 AM to Weather or Not )
Roundup of the rotten

John Hawkins at Right Wing News has posted, for the third year, his list of the 20 Worst People, Places And Things On The Internet, which begs the question:

"Only twenty?"

I might quibble about the final rankings, but everything there, in my opinion, certainly deserves to be there. Nice work, Mr. H.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 AM to Blogorrhea )
Going for twenty

When this site was launched in 1996, one of its pages was devoted to whining about my incredibly bad luck at picking Playboy's Playmate of the Year; up to that point, I had been completely wrong for thirteen years straight.

Now it's nineteen years straight, and I have no reason to think I'll do any better this time around, but inasmuch as the January 2003 issue is out with the annual Playmate Review, it's time to make a fool of myself once more — mainly because this page draws about five percent of the site's traffic, mostly from people looking for pictures pirated from Playboy (which I don't have), and I hate getting "Why haven't you updated?" letters.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:59 PM to Blogorrhea )
From the Department of Too Cool

Jamie Zawinski's WebCollage pulls in random images from the Net and, well, forms them into a collage. About every minute or so, an old image is replaced with a new one and the page reloads. (And yes, you can click on the image and go to the page whence it came.)

I discovered this quite by accident: it pulled in a page of mine, however briefly, and someone looking at the collage duly clicked on the link. Highly spiffy, if you ask me.

4 December 2002
Winter Wonderland and other myths

The weather outside is frightful. We didn't get a whole lot of snow, but we compensated by getting enough ice to serve the nation's bartenders through July. To the north and west, that ice is covered with four to seven inches of snow. About 27,000 people statewide are freezing in the dark.

I think I'll go knock on neighborhood doors and ask people to run their SUVs a few extra minutes today.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:17 AM to Weather or Not )
The Carnival comes to town

The lovely and talented Michele at A Small Victory is happy to host the first Traveling Edition of the Carnival of the Vanities, your first look at stuff you would have read when it came out if you had had the time or had known where it was. As always, I recommend it highly, especially since none of it is mine.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:25 AM to Blogorrhea )
Bookish

Spark is not happy with the unsolicited assessment she received:

Today, the garage attendant said to me, "If there's a movie with a librarian in it, I'll recommend you."

I asked, "Why?"

"Because you remind me of one."

And apparently this is not something to which she aspires:

Have you ever heard of a sexy librarian? Here I thought I had the sex-kitten-trapped-in-an-intellectual's-body thing going on, and all the time I just look like a goddamn librarian.

What better place to trap a sex kitten inside the body of an intellectual than at the Reference Desk?

Lloyd Dobler would understand.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:31 AM to Table for One )
Specialty of the house

In Chicklit's Paper Jam, Anna Carey reports on a small English publishing house with a narrow but clear focus: Persephone Books Ltd, which puts out high-quality editions of "forgotten books by female writers" and distributes them through its own Web site (and its own store in a former betting shop in Bloomsbury).

Given the sheer number of titles published each year — easily a hundred thousand in the United States alone — a lot of good books will inevitably fall through the cracks, and the number of undiscovered classics hiding in the crevices must be fairly huge by now. Persephone so far has retrieved 38 of them, and while this isn't a quantity likely to upset the descendants of Mr Barnes and Mr Noble, it's definitely a worthy effort, especially since, in the words of the founders, the books are "guaranteed to be readable, thought-provoking and impossible to forget." Such a deal.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Another one bites the dust

Aimee Deep hasn't mentioned it yet in her blog, but the Madster file-sharing service which used to bear her name (when it was Aimster) has been ordered to shut down. What's more, a contempt-of-court hearing has been scheduled for 19 December, to determine whether Madster's failure to comply with a previous order to block all sharing of copyrighted files qualifies as such.

Madster has argued that the encryption used by its network makes it technically impossible to separate copyrighted from non-copyrighted files, as demanded in the previous order, and that breaking encryption is in itself a copyright violation.

While the swapping of copyrighted music files seems to be clearly illegal, I remain persuaded that, regardless of how many injunctions the music industry can obtain or how many lawsuits they can win, their current batten-down-the-hatches business model is way past its sell-by date, and they know it. Surviving a kick in the McNuggets from Aimee Deep's Manolo Blahniks merely prolongs their agony, and ours.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:47 AM to Fileophile )
Waving it in the wind

Even if you've never heard of Bonzi Software, you've seen their ads: they look like half-assed (maybe quarter-assed) imitations of Windows dialog boxes, usually titled "Message Alert" or something comparably absurd. You're too smart to click on those silly things? Then you're not part of the class-action suit filed against Bonzi by a Pacific Northwest legal firm.

While I personally wouldn't mind seeing Bonzi and its imitators forced to gargle with ground glass, I'm not quite sure that litigation is the answer, and I'm reasonably certain that the outcome of this suit will be a windfall for the lawyers and little or nothing for anyone else. And right now, the people I really want to see disemboweled with a slotted spoon are the ones who, when you close their popup ad, ask if you'd like to change your start page to their sleazy site. Not even Bonzi does that — yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:36 PM to PEBKAC )
5 December 2002
God's own prune

The Big Tree in the courtyard is suddenly about one-third less Big; the ice storm frosted up the limbs, a hard freeze afterwards made sure the ice wasn't going to melt, and gravity took care of the rest.

I don't think it's doomed — while there's a nasty break in the trunk, it's not the worst this tree has ever suffered — but if you're in the habit, as I am, of thinking that trees are something that endure no matter what, the sight of massive branches not exactly writhing on the ground is a shock to the system.

Besides, I know better than "no matter what"; another tree in the same courtyard, twenty-five feet away or so, fell victim to bagworms a few years ago and did not recover. Only a fragment of stump and an odd grass pattern remain to attest to its existence.

Evidently reminders of mortality have more effect on me now than they did when I was young and semi-indestructible.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:29 AM to Soonerland )
A dispatch from Bizarro World

I admit up front that the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade is not marked on my calendar as a Day to Celebrate. Of course, I'm not Planned Parenthood. They, however, are going all out to commemorate the event.

Well, maybe not all out. I don't see any parades scheduled. But there is an art competition, in which they will select an "original piece of artwork or poster that celebrates these 30 years of choice and illustrates the concept that 'Behind Every Choice is a Story'."

Okay, fine. Until you read the Terms and Conditions, which contains this innocent-looking notice:

Children under age 18 must have a parent or legal guardian's permission* to submit their designs and for us to publish it along with their name.

The asterisk points you to a Parental Permission Form.

Now it strikes me — it certainly strikes Rosemary Esmay — that Planned Parenthood gets their BVDs knotted every time someone suggests that children under age 18 must have a parent or legal guardian's permission to have an abortion. "Oh, yes, vacuum out your uterus any time you like. Just don't get us in trouble with the Contest Police."

What's wrong with this picture?

So you want to be a literary critic

On the off-chance that some of you aren't reading Cinderella Bloggerfeller, I point you to the latest exposition from Cindi's bloggergänger Dr. Dinah Dienstag, unexpectedly appearing on a Thursday for once. (I doubt there will be a name change to "Donnerstag", but you never know.)

This time, the good Doctor brings us a list of Essential Clichés, bits of cant which simply can't be overlooked by anyone seeking to make his mark in the murk of Post-Modern Criticism. Or something like that. In the midst of all the pseudo-literary bushwa circulating these days, it's kind of hard to tell.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:31 AM to Almost Yogurt )
So safe, so sane and so secure

Kim du Toit finds one way to salvage the Department of Homeland Security:

[N]ow that you have all 170,000 federal employees under one roof, fire one third of them, immediately. The rest will have to become more efficient, and nonsense like turf wars and political silos will disappear out of necessity and sheer survival.

Sounds logical to me.

World ends, film at 11

Jerry Springer: The Opera.

Truly, the end is at hand.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:42 PM to Almost Yogurt )
6 December 2002
The iceman stayeth

The cloud cover that was supposed to bug out yesterday hung around until midnight, so the promised warmup fizzled out short of the freezing mark, and this morning, with skies clearing, the mercury hid in the bottom of the thermometer and refused to show its face.

As ice storms go, this one was comparatively minor, though I'm sure the folks on the East Coast who were subsequently hit by it would argue that point. Local damage was relatively slight, most homes are back on the power grid, and I'm sure sales of Frozen Tundra Barbie will recover before long.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:03 AM to Weather or Not )
FatWallet revisited

Last time, you'll remember, FatWallet.com was being threatened under the DMCA by retailers who claimed that their prices were trade secrets and therefore covered by copyright. One of those retailers, the ever-surly Wal-Mart, went so far as to subpoena FatWallet to demand the name of the person posting Wal-Mart prices on FatWallet's message board. How were these prices obtained? Newspaper inserts require a certain amount of lead time, online prices are right there where you can see them, and, well, you can guess the rest.

A law clinic at UC Berkeley said that they would fight Wal-Mart's subpoena and DMCA claims on behalf of FatWallet. Wal-Mart, for its part, has decided to cool its jets for now.

None of this is likely to put much of a dent into the DMCA, but it's almost always a good sign when people refuse to roll over and play dead for the big shots.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:57 AM to PEBKAC )
Credentials, please

As anyone who's used a recent Windows machine knows, certificates aren't necessarily what they're cracked up to be; the presence — or, for that matter, the absence — of digital signatures may turn out to be meaningless.

By no coincidence, something similar is true in one's life away from the computer as well. Alexandra at Out of Lascaux might have the potential to be a truly great teacher, but so long as she's lacking the appropriate signatures, we may never know:

Teachers need to be Certified to teach in our school systems. What does this mean? It means they attended several "education" classes, either in college or as an "alternative program" and did student teaching for a year or so. The NEA will tell you that Certified is synonymous with "qualified," but I beg to differ.

The National Education Association, which aspires to be a Great and Powerful Professional Organization, has the urge that typifies almost every G.P.P.O.: they wish to define the profession in their terms, and their terms only. Included in those terms, of course, is the desire to restrict the profession to those who have had the proper indoctrination.

Not that the indoctrination necessarily does anything to enhance actual teaching. Alexandra continues:

My problem with many public school teachers is that they are not educated, they are trained. The difference is that education teaches you to think: training teaches you how to act.

And, of course, how to complete the paperwork before and after you act.

I am neither educated nor trained, but I can certainly tell the difference between the two, despite my complete and utter lack of certification. (Those of you ready to hit the Comments link to tell me that I am indeed certifiable — well, I already knew that.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:44 PM to Almost Yogurt )
7 December 2002
Do we read his lips?

Governor-elect Brad Henry said yesterday that he will oppose a proposal to raise Oklahoma's state sales tax from 4.5 to 5.5 percent as a way to fill the estimated $700 million shortfall in the state's budget.

This is perhaps a tad less courageous than it looks: almost every county in the state levies an additional sales tax, as do most municipalities. Add it all up and you're paying a stiff 8.375 percent in Oklahoma City, which isn't even the highest in the state. It's not likely that Henry would want to start his term by pushing some Oklahoma towns perilously close to ten percent, especially if there's some joker around to point out that the sales tax in New York City is a mere 8.25 percent.

But still: a Democrat who disdains raising taxes. How often do you get to hear that?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:04 AM to Soonerland )
The once and future Solid South

The occasion of Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday has opened the door to a closet where a lot of our less-savory history has been stashed. Thurmond, you'll remember, ran for President in 1948 on the so-called "Dixiecrat" ticket, a campaign remembered fondly by, among others, Trent Lott. Not that Lott would actually have voted for Thurmond, inasmuch as he was seven years old at the time, but no matter.

As a useful reminder of just what the Dixiecrats stood for, beyond the vague generalities of "states' rights", Atrios has posted a shot of the 1948 sample ballot for Mississippi's breakaway Democrats, which, you should pardon the expression, calls a spade a spade.

And Thurmond's Dixiecrats gradually returned to the Democratic Party in the early Fifties; the Southern transition to Republican stronghold would not begin for another decade or so. (Thurmond joined the GOP in 1964.) The horrendous racism of the Dixiecrat days is mostly behind us — Strom Thurmond himself seems to have outgrown it — but I have to wonder just what's going through Trent Lott's head when he defends it.

That don't oppress me much

Andrea Harris slaps down the tragically hip:

It is hysterically funny to read statements from young persons who are pierced with the equivalent of an anvil's worth of steel, have the entire Sistine Chapel tattooed on their bodies, and are living off their parents' credit cards complaining about "conformist, fascist, Amerikkka" when the worst thing that might happen to them in this country is that they might get pulled over for playing their Rage Against the Machine cds too loud in their Mitsubishi Eclipses.

Yeah, all those nonconformists look alike.

(Aside to Ravenwood: Yeah, it's a strange title. Blame Shania.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:47 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Without honor in our own home

George Lang churned out a five-page piece about blogs for the Oklahoma Gazette this week, with quotes from Joshua Micah Marshall, Andrew Sullivan and Joe Conason, screen shots from all of the above plus one from Glenn Reynolds, and the obligatory interview with a journalism professor — in this case, Mark Hanebutt of the University of Central Oklahoma, who opined:

If I were an editor again at a paper, I would be assigning somebody to pay attention to these. If you look at some of these Web logs, it's people who are talking about the aftereffects, the aftershocks, the fallout of an event and how it might affect them or how it might push over other dominoes.

Reasonable enough. But George, couldn't you have found it in your heart to talk to so much as one blogger actually in Oklahoma?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:39 PM to Blogorrhea , Soonerland )
Fresh spammage

Today's spam is claimed to come from one Jennifer Hawkings, at the dubious address of <sandrasaga@mail.com>. The ostensible Ms. Hawkings says:

Browsing through the CNN website I came across this CNN article which seems to be about you:

http://www.cnn.com:USArticle1840@www.liquidshirts.com/

Believe me, there isn't a chance in hell that anything ever covered by CNN has the slightest thing to do with me; I am completely unknown even at home. And, of course, the trick is in the proffered URL: anything before that @ is parsed as a password/user-ID combination (for use, for instance, with Web-based FTP), and the browser actually travels to liquidshirts.com, a domain belonging to Carlberg Grafix, Inc. of Springfield, Illinois, an institution which is not known to be a provider of information to CNN, but which is known to be a provider of printed novelty items such as T-shirts and, um, toilet paper.

At least it's not a porn operation. And "Jennifer", dear, while I appreciate the clever touch of designating Sun's iPlanet Messenger Express, a Web-based product, as the mailer, you really didn't have to go to the trouble of routing this little bit of spam through Russia, the Netherlands and Japan.

Then again, given the general resentment of spam by US-based ISPs, maybe you did.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:12 PM to Scams and Spams )
Life's less-rich pageant

If anyone still cares, Azra Akin, Miss Turkey, has become the new Miss World.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:18 PM to Almost Yogurt )
8 December 2002
Porn in the U.S.A.

I had some thoughts on Oliver Willis' piece on the porn industry, and on Susanna Cornett's comments thereto, and by the time I'd turned them into something vaguely resembling readable text, I had a couple of screens full of screed, which after not enough polishing is now available as The Vent #320.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:59 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Involuntary deaccession

The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam is missing two paintings today; thieves gained access from the roof, dropped into the building, and made off with two of Van Gogh's early works, valued at somewhere between millions and priceless.

Swiped were View of the Sea at Scheveningen (1882) and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884).

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:51 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Worst. Wheels. Ever.

Mark, the self-proclaimed Heavy Metal Redneck, takes issue with that Forbes.com poll to determine the Crappiest American Cars:

I'm horrified to find the "Chevrolet Caprice" and "Dud" on the same page. Holy cow, people. Put the crack down, and back away slowly. The Caprice was one of the most comfortable, most durable, and most widely used by the police from 1977 until the end of their production in 1996. Any clapped out and rusting Caprice stands a very good chance of scattering YOUR brand new shiny car all over the highway. Some of them also stand a good chance of outrunning YOUR brand new shiny 4 banger. Which is why they were used for police cars.

Anything that can't outrun my four-banger (zero to sixty in 11.2 on a good day) is in need of repair, is being driven by a narcoleptic, or is a Segway.

AMC was a company that didn't make it. Why didn't they make it? Because they didn't make cars that blended in. See a Pacer, anywhere, and you will remember seeing it. Remember the last time you saw a Camry? Huh?

The problem is, I can remember the last time I saw a Camry. In fact, just about every damn time I pull into a parking lot, I see a Camry.

The sheep buy cars that are power everything and loaded with features...and never stop to think what to do if the car doesn't work like it's supposed to. They buy front wheel drive cars, because they think they're better on the snow. That is, until it snows, and then they and their FWD jap jobs are stuck, while the driver of the 1976 Caprice 2 door (400 V8, 300 horsepower, lots of legroom, had many women in the back seat can't do that with a Galant) is having no trouble at all.

Uh, Mark, does your mom know you've had women in the back seat? (And why the hell didn't I ever do this?)

Actually, my FWD "jap job" (made in Flat Rock, Michigan) does pretty well in the snow; I haven't had a serious slide in the slush in years.

All too soon, the Crown Victoria will be phased out... then the Mustang will become a front wheel drive Acura wannabe. The De-Balling of America will be complete. No wonder Saddam Hussien is still alive.

If you're not doing anything this weekend, why don't you run him over with a Caprice? You'd be doing us all a favor, and Chevrolet could use the publicity. I won't even make any jokes about Iraq-and-pinion steering.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:45 PM to Driver's Seat )
Discontinued Lott

So just what is the Republican Party supposed to do with Trent "Out to Lynch" Lott?

Christopher Johnson has come up with a solution:

Suppose [Lott's] position were offered to Zell Miller as an inducement to switch parties? The media and the Democrats would howl but the Republican position in Georgia would be strengthened immeasurably which is all the more reason to go ahead.

It has a certain visceral appeal to it, and it retains the Southern connection so vital to the GOP these days. And if Miller won't budge? Mr. Johnson has a Plan B:

Next term, the face of congressional Democrats will be that of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, presumably exploiting a Democratic advantage with female voters. But would that advantage still be there if the face of congressional Republicans was that of Senate majority leader Kay Bailey Hutchinson?

Oh, how I would love to hear the shrieks in Terry McAuliffe's office if that comes off.

To Hellmann's and back

"What is it about Southerners and mayonnaise?" asks Kevin McGehee, and he's not kidding:

[W]hen you put mayonnaise on a hamburger, you are offending the spirit of the noble cow that kindly gave its life for your sustenance.

I estimate that over the past four decades, I have uttered some variation on the theme of "Hold The Mayo, Dammit" literally a thousand times, so I can relate.

And remember: revenge is a dish best served with tangy Miracle Whip®.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 PM to Almost Yogurt )
9 December 2002
Available space

The Oklahoma City Public Schools have been pondering moving John Marshall High School about two miles northwest of its current location. Under the current MAPS for Kids initiative, money is available for renovation and improvements, but the present school sits on a 24-acre site, about half what the state specifies for a high school. Rather than buy up nearby properties, the district proposed to move the school to a larger tract, but residents near those tracts took exception.

Later this week, a feasibility study will point the district towards its next move. The negative response to moving the school, it is believed, will make the prospect of staying put and buying adjoining property more likely. A similar study earlier this year made basically the same recommendation for U. S. Grant High School, on the other side of town. If the Marshall plan follows the Grant example, the new school will occupy the far end of the school property; once it's built, the old school will be torn down.

This sounds excessively complicated, but both the Marshall and Grant facilities are really old and fairly decrepit and bringing the existing buildings up to spec will likely cost even more.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:11 AM to City Scene )
Heartstrings: Tug here

Once again, Lileks captures the human condition in a paragraph or three:

There's only so much room in a human heart, Tramp says. A baby moves in, the dog moves out.

Later that night, sitting at the kitchen table, hearing the dog sigh for no reason you can think of, you know Tramp was wrong. There's endless room in a human heart. Build three rooms or three million, and they'll have the same tenants: Love. Fear. And Hope.

And isn't it odd how two of those tenants always end up sharing a room.

No wonder hearts are so damnably breakable.

The very appearance of gratitude

To commemorate this site's 200,000th visitor, a minor facelift.

In the whirling world of blogdom, picking up two hundred thousand visitors in a few months isn't so unusual. It took me eighty months. No matter. I'm grateful to each and every one of you.

And to the nonexistent Jennifer Hawkings, who infested enough mailboxes over the weekend to send scores of people scurrying to Google to find out what was going on, I thank you as well: this day will likely be the busiest in the site's history.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:37 AM to Blogorrhea )
The last notification system you'll ever need

I think everyone's seen a blog that would benefit from this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 PM to Blogorrhea )
How about "It sucks"?

Dave Mandl asks How Awful Is the Radio in Your City?, and provides a handy checklist.

No, I haven't done the math. One of the prerequisites is actually listening to the radio for four consecutive hours. This is simply not done in Oklahoma City, except by those who have nothing to lose by brain damage.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:27 PM to Overmodulation )
10 December 2002
Semi-big numbers

728 visitors viewing 1,110 pages yesterday. Half again the previous record.

And without any assistance from Glenn Reynolds, who remains unaware that this site even exists.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:28 AM to Blogorrhea )
Where all the lights are bright

Downtown Oklahoma City, once the sun set, used to do a passable impression of a mausoleum: the offices would empty out, and nothing remained but concrete.

The redevelopment in Bricktown, across the Santa Fe tracks just east of downtown, has brought actual nightlife to the area. And the new Oklahoma City Museum of Art, about a mile west of Bricktown, is anchoring a nascent downtown arts district. However, almost everyone coming to Bricktown or the OCMA has come from a fair distance across town: there are private residences on the edge of downtown, but not many.

In an effort to reduce that "fair distance", the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority is planning 300 residential and retail units in something called "Legacy Summit at Arts Center", a few blocks north of the Museum. It's not quite as close to Bricktown as the row of renovated lofts on Broadway, but the city fathers have an abiding faith in "If you build it, they will come." Only recently has that faith begun to pay off; still, as the success of Bricktown attests, it is paying off.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:38 AM to City Scene )
@ are belong to us

In France, don't be caught calling @ the "at sign". It is the arobase.

They're still looking for a suitably-Gallic replacement for "email", though.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:46 AM to PEBKAC )
The Real truth

Dave Dobbs is sorely vexed with the sore vexation that is RealPlayer:

[J]ust about every time I'm forced to use it because a stream is in ram format it tells me I need to upgrade.

I actually removed the miserable thing from one of our PC fleet today for failing to comply with a "Do not show this message again" request.

I mean, Microsoft's various Media Whatzits are annoying, but they generally shut up when told to.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:26 PM to PEBKAC )
11 December 2002
25 or 6 to 404

404, of course, is the error code generated when you request a Web page that does not actually exist. Servers feed a 404 page to give you the bad news, and usually it's fairly generic.

I said "usually." Blogdex has been all over plinko.net's best 404 page ever, which seems only reasonable if it's truly the best.

For myself, I kind of like Lileks' variation on the theme.

The worst? Why, it's right here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 AM to Blogorrhea )
Nonideological plugola

It's an even dozen for the Carnival of the Vanities, where the best of the blogosphere jumps up and slaps you in the face like a damp fish. Read it. Learn it. Take it to heart. Complain about it for issue #13 next week.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:43 AM to Blogorrhea )
We apologize for the previous apology

Jesus Gil analyzes the apologies of Trent Lott and other sorry individuals, and his criteria are strict indeed. Better brush up on your Act of Contrition.

Yes, Virginia

There is something disconcerting about the current flurry of activity regarding the new set of photographs of author/blogger Virginia Postrel. While I freely admit I'm not entirely immune to purely-visual stimuli, I find this sudden shift of interest away from the way she thinks to the way she looks is rather offputting. There is no justification for this sort of leering objectification, and omigod omigod look at her just look at her omigod shes so freaking gorgeous i dont believe shes actually posting these holy mother of god look at that dress i bet it stops a lot closer to denton than university park if you know what i mean that mouth that mouth why are we wasting time on the likes of ann coulter are these gonna be on the next book jacket please please tell me are any of these gonna be on the next book jacket holy cow shes so beautiful i cant stand it i just cant stand it I am disappointed that the blogosphere would expend so much effort on it when there is so much work to be done.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:16 AM to Blogorrhea )
The thin blue line

Actually, it's not so thin; it's about a foot and a half wide, and due to get wider. The city of Bethany, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City, stung by declining sales-tax revenues, has decided to remind its 21,000 residents just where they live by drawing lines across the pavement at the city limits. (Why blue? They match the street signs.)

Bethany's tax base has been eroding for some time, since there is little or no space for new industry or greatly-expanded retail facilities; it's mostly a sleepy college town, anchored by the somnolent Southern Nazarene University. And matters are not helped by the fact that Bethany is completely surrounded, by Oklahoma City on three sides and on the fourth by Warr Acres, which is happy to wave its 6.5 percent combined sales-tax rate in Bethany's face. (It's 8 percent in Bethany, and 8.375 in Oklahoma City.)

Not that Bethany is doomed. With airline travel stagnating, more people are hitting the road, and one of the roads they like to hit is historic Route 66, two miles of which pass through the center of Bethany. The main thing Bethany has to do is make sure those two miles look less squalid than the segment to the immediate east, which runs through Warr Acres. Somehow this doesn't strike me as particularly difficult.

Less leash on Lynn

The blog formerly known as Poet and Peasant has freed itself from the surly bonds of Blogspot. Lynn Sislo's new digs have been christened Reflections in D minor, and they're open for your perusal even as we speak. Or type.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:31 PM to Blogorrhea )
Those Kentucky back roads

During the World Tour, I caught my breath long enough to say something about driving in rural Kentucky, and it seemed to go over fairly well, so I'm happy to pass on a second opinion.

The following paragraph comes from Jean Jennings, editor-in-chief of Automobile Magazine, and she's describing a late-October (I think) slide through the countryside.

It was election time in Kentucky, and all of our turns were marked by clumps of campaign posters for people with names like Peanuts, Lacey, Doc, Dot, Butch, and Buford. There was a Bobby Lee, a Ricky Lee, a Proctor, a Thurston, and a Catfish. You got the idea that a guy named Jim or Bob might not have much of a chance at the polls, but a guy named Jim Bob could rule the world. The sumac was on fire, and tobacco hung browning in big, weathered barns. It was 59 degrees, and we had a blast, splitting into two groups and gathering at the day's end to tell tales and compare favorite road sections.

Of course, this was before they rolled the Ford SVT Focus, but that was in Tennessee.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:32 PM to Driver's Seat )
12 December 2002
Clouds from both sides now

Monday: high 44, low 40, overcast.

Tuesday: high 45, low 40, overcast.

Wednesday: high 44, low 40, overcast.

Today it's supposed to rain.

I realize that this isn't the worst possible weather pattern for winter — nothing's likely to freeze at these temperatures — but it might be nice to see the sun once in a while, just to jog the old memory cells.

And the sunset, such as it is, has gotten to its earliest point (5:17 pm); from this point on, it gets later. (Sunrise is 7:30 am; the latest sunrise, around 7:40 am, will be around Boxing Day.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 AM to Weather or Not )
You've got pink slips

America Online announced that about 300 jobs would be cut, and locally, where AOL operates a call center, everyone was sweating bullets (and, of course, offering bullet de-sweating devices at 40 percent off). It appears, though, that only a dozen or so will be laid off from the AOL facility in the north end of Shepherd Mall, leaving more than 1300 folks to talk you out of canceling your service after the 1025-hour free trial.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 AM to City Scene )
Trent control

John Rosenberg is taking a proactive approach to the Trent Lott question, by writing his two Senators:

I grew up in Alabama under segregation. I abandoned the Democrats only when they abandoned their committment to colorblindness. I didn't switch parties to have the Senate Majority Leader of my new party endorse the 1948 Dixiecrats. A real apology might have attenuated my anger, somewhat, but Lott's tepid non-apology simply added fuel to the fire he lit.

I have supported and voted for you in the past, but if you vote for keeping Trent Lott as Majority Leader I will think long and hard before doing so again.

I don't think I'll have to go to this much trouble with my two Senators, since one of them (Ditzy Don Nickles) is probably even now angling for Lott's position.

The blogger's prayer

No, it's not "O Lord, we beseech thee, grant us an Instalanche."

Actually, it's based on a theme first enunciated by St. Thomas More, and given a voice by Fritz Schranck. I'll quote just one line:

Give me the strength to be candid with my readers, while respecting the privacy of those whose words and deeds inspire my writing.

Thanks, Fritz.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:02 AM to Blogorrhea )
Size matters after all

The Interactive Advertising Bureau would like you to know this:

In IAB ad effectiveness research conducted by Marketing Evolution's Rex Briggs, it was found that "?the larger format sizes, which are naturally more visible and provide more creative freedom, did prove to be significantly more effective than smaller, standard banners across all campaigns."

In related studies, it was found that, all else being equal, deer will eat significantly more of your garden than will squirrels, and that getting an inoculation in each arm hurts between 1.9 and 2.1 times as much as getting a single inoculation in one arm.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:27 PM to PEBKAC )
13 December 2002
Tunnel vision

Quick, now, who causes crime? If you said "criminals," go to the head of the class. If your first thought was "corporate hegemony," you've been hanging around the likes of Kenneth Tunnel too long.

Mr Tunnel, seven years ago, churned out something called "Silence of the Left: Reflections on critical criminology and criminologists" for the Spring 1995 issue of Social Justice. (I must have missed that while I was adding to my Entertainment Weekly collection.) Susanna Cornett, who came upon this screed in her postgraduate studies, was, I suspect, tempted to give the fellow a brisk fisk, but she apparently decided that he was best hanged with his own words. A sample thereof:

The media, and thus most Americans, simply dismiss progressive criminologists even though they may be the academics best-equipped to explain various social phenomena and especially crime, since they depart from behavioral interpretations and focus instead on the political economy of crime and punishment, the physical, economic, and symbolic consequences of corporate violence, and governmental activities that are both criminal and non-criminal, yet socially harmful.

For myself, I'm more inclined to believe that most Americans dismiss progressive criminologists because they persist in believing that violence in the streets can be blamed on all of us for our failure to adopt some socialist utopia, rather than on the actual perpetrators. Somebody shot in a drive-by? You voted for lower taxes, contributing to economic distress in the inner city. A woman is sexually assaulted by a thug? The patriarchy exercising its prerogatives. The 7-Eleven up the avenue was robbed? Corporate malfeasance leading to massive unemployment.

Yesterday, the state of Oklahoma executed an individual who held up a bank in the town of Geronimo in 1984 and killed four people in the process. Mr Tunnel will have a difficult task explaining how this is all our fault.

Name your poison

I know from nothing about Encover, Inc., but its name, at least, strikes me as aggressively bland. Floyd McWilliams, who actually saw the name affixed to an office, is a bit blunter:

This is a typical Silicon Valley dot-com name, and it sucks. "Encover" sounds like an English word being mangled by, say, a wild and crazy guy from Bratislava.

Is it even English? I keep wanting to give it a French twist (ahnh-ko-VAY). Doesn't help.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:42 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Did someone say "quagmire"?

Cinderella Bloggerfeller, with the Scornograph cranked up to 11 — well, it was a Guardian piece that provoked him — on the phenomenon of history repeating itself, even when it doesn't:

[W]hat we did learn from the Vietnam War is that any conflict in which Americans are involved must automatically resemble it. This is an Iron Law of History. Kosovo was like Vietnam, Afghanistan was like Vietnam, the war of 1812 was like Vietnam, and Iraq is definitely going to be like Vietnam. After all, Iraq is an Eastern civilization and therefore ancient and mystical and it surpasseth our puny Western understanding.

As a practical matter, Iraq is about as mystical as Minot, North Dakota, but that doesn't seem to discourage radical dudes like Jeff Spicoli from seeking great enlightenment therein.

14 December 2002
Noise potential

Just wafted through The Vent:

Is it possible to repeat your emotional reaction to Sixties "underground" radio if you're approaching your own sixties?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:45 AM to Blogorrhea )
Pox Americana

NewsOK.com, the Web site of The Daily Oklahoman and KWTV, is asking visitors "Do you want the smallpox vaccine?" As poll questions go, this one ought to get points for simplicity, if nothing else.

As of this writing, just over 40 percent of the respondents have said "Yes." (The only other response was "No," which of necessity is drawing just under 60 percent.) This isn't at all scientific, of course, but I wonder if comparable figures are available from other areas.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:49 PM to Soonerland )
One of those days (Part 1)

For a Saturday the 14th, today definitely seemed more like Friday the 13th.

Quite apart from the fact that I go into a coughing fit every time I assume a horizontal position, I was downright weepy most of the morning, though I attribute this to unlucky programming of the background music. Imagine this block of four in sequence on your local oldies station:

"Past, Present and Future" - The Shangri-Las

"Ask the Lonely" - The Four Tops

"The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)" - The Walker Brothers

"Save It For Me" - The Four Seasons

From back to front, hope, dashed hope, permanently dashed hope, and paranoia. Curiously, the Walkers track started out as a Frankie Valli solo effort, which inexplicably flopped; in some almost-but-not-exactly-parallel universe, this set might have ended with a Four Seasons twin-spin.

The real killer here is "Past, Present and Future", which contains this truly twisted text (it's not really a lyric, since it's not sung):

Was I ever in love? I called it love. There were moments when...well, there were moments when.

Beyond that, deponent saith not.

The real fun to come, however, was in cyberspace.

One of those days (Part 2)

At some ill-defined point between Then and Now, my Web host made the curious decision to (1) drop a Perl module essential to the operation of Movable Type and (2) tell no one about it. The easy fix, of course, would be to set up an extlib and install a copy of the module there, but since when have I ever done anything the easy way?

So I backed up the 500 or so files in the archives (itself a tedious chore) and decided to install the 2.51 upgrade and the extlib. This actually worked on the seventh, maybe eighth try, after I'd wrecked my directory structure two or three times trying to get everything to fall into its canonical position. I really think installing 2.21 originally was easier than doing this upgrade. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

If nothing else, staring at this screen for however many hours today has (temporarily) cured me of the notion that I'm overdue for a redesign.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:25 PM to Blogorrhea )
And I checked it twice, too

The Nice-O-Meter at claus.com inexplicably lists me on the kinder, gentler side of the ledger:

Nice, but has room for improvement. Could be better listener. Has a kind heart. Often sets a good example for others. Was very nice last Saturday!! Hopefully, will keep up the good work!

Stuff like this could ruin a guy's reputation, you know?

(Muchas gracias: Miss Christine.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:40 PM to Dyssynergy )
15 December 2002
Googlage

I have never paid a great deal of attention to what Google thinks is its Zeitgeist, if only because I am more comfortable thinking of Google as a tool rather than as a breeding ground for the eventual Masters of the Universe.

Fortunately, this presents an opportunity for Colby Cosh to contemplate our Googlecentric future:

Do you think the people who came up with the name "Google" knew that they would essentially be running the world within a few years, and they deliberately gave their creation a cutesy, frankly imbecilic name so we wouldn't despise and fear them? The typical instinct would be to create a menacing, ahistorical brand that made you think of a gory metal maw gnawing live babies by the cord. Like "Omnix" or "Info-stopheles" or "Lycos".

In the latter case, substitute "Point" and "Tripod" for "live babies", and the truth-to-poetry ratio goes up substantially.

Of course, my greatest regret is that former Yahoo! CEO Tim Koogle has yet to serve time at Google.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:09 AM to PEBKAC )
Twelve angry men and/or women

Scott Ganz takes a break from serving time on a jury to explain huge punitive-damage awards:

[M]any were outraged that a jury of 12 people could dare to award fifty-two billion dollars in damages against a tobacco company. However, while ambling around the hallway outside the courtroom not discussing the case with my fellow jurors, I learned that the jurors in the tobacco case, due to over a year of service, lost jobs, homes, and investments. I can only assume that this was a result of incessant, needling actions on the part of the defense. Generally, the more expensive the big-shot attorney, the longer the case will run.

So you get twelve people who know by the time they reach deliberation that their lives have been ruined. So what do they do? Punish the tar-smelling shit out of the bastards that wasted all their time. Whether or not it's right for them to do (and technically, it's not), can you imagine anyone behaving otherwise?

And they don't even get a cut of the proceeds, either.

Is there a solution to this?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:32 PM to Dyssynergy )
Don of a new Congress

What everyone wants to know, apparently, is whether Senator Don Nickles (R-OK) can wrest the Majority Leader position away from Trent "You don't know how sorry I am, but just wait" Lott.

It is no particular secret that Nickles has been pining for Lott's job. But with the rest of the Senate Republicans basically sitting on their hands, Nickles' call for a new vote looks almost like Actual Leadership, something the GOP has not been getting from Lott. Oklahoma Republicans are giddy over the prospect, and given the electoral drubbing they got this fall — expected to make substantial gains, they lost a couple of legislative seats and the Governor's mansion to boot — it's perfectly understandable.

What sort of person is Don Nickles? On the left-right scale, he's not so far from Lott: the American Conservative Union's lifetime ratings put Lott at 93, Nickles at 96; Lott got a zero in 2001 from Americans for Democratic Action, who gave Nickles a 10. Myself, I find him a tad indigestible, though nowhere nearly as distress-inducing as the other Oklahoma senator, Jim Inhofe, a man to whom clues are a personal affront. And I've been known to grumble about Nickles' off-again-on-again support for term limits (hint: when it comes to him, it's off). But the GOP could do a hell of a lot, or a Lott, worse.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:40 PM to Soonerland )
The nine billion ZIP codes of God

Patrick Nielsen Hayden finds Google's actual physical plant somewhat disconcerting:

It's like discovering that the Holy Spirit has a storefront headquarters, and it's in Fresno. That can't be. Like the downward-diving pigeon, Google is numinous, immanent, and everywhere at once. It doesn't have a street address, for cry eye.

Remind me not to mention what's at 1313 South Harbor Boulevard in Anaheim.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:05 PM to PEBKAC )
From the Department of Redundancy Department

So you thought there were half a million blogs out there, with half a million people busily typing and Googling away?

Sorry, Chucko. They're all written by Susanna Cornett.

(Except this one.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:32 PM to Blogorrhea )
16 December 2002
Read Ben Stein's screed

Yeah, Bueller, I mean you too. For the 85th anniversary of Forbes (What is an appropriate gift for 85 years, anyway? Batteries?), Ben Stein has put together the top 12 ways to ruin American enterprise, and while it's no doubt all over blogdom this morning, I want to make darn sure that the two or three of you who come by here daily actually read it.

Assume it will be on the test.

Will there be a fourth overture?

Tongue presumably firmly in cheek, the estimable Dr. Weevil proposes a revision of Beethoven's Fidelio suitable for those sensitive souls in the European Union, in which Leonore, horrified when she realizes that she's actually pointing a pistol at Pizarro — "A gun? What are we, crass Americans?" — tosses away the weapon, leaving the way clear for Florestan to be stabbed to death and subsequently venerated as the first martyr of the gun-control cause.

Come to think of it, this might also work at the Berkeley People's Opera.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Gustatory inevitability

Absolute certainty, they say, comes with two things only: death and taxes.

And in December, Nova brings out the fruitcake, which, unlike your standard store-bought versions of same, can be eaten, even enjoyed. And what's more, there's no tax on it, nor any risk of death — unless it's eaten at a speed far exceeding anything I can manage, and I can put it away pretty darn quick.

There are, I am told, other fruitcakes out there which qualify as foodstuffs rather than as insulation, but in the absence of Actual Samples, this is the primo stuff, and I'm damned lucky to be getting it, so to speak.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:25 AM to Worth a Fork )
U can't watch this

My cable company, and probably also yours, is doing the hard-sell on the Digital Cable package, which doesn't actually carry digital television but which does contain about 400 channels, some of which you wouldn't watch if they put a gun to your head.

Hmmm....

Top Ten Least Popular Cable Channels

  10. VH3
    9. Assyrian Movie Classics
    8. ESPN for Dwarves
    7. Tragedy Central
    6. CNMSNBFDNBC
    5. Traffic Court TV
    4. Vegetable Planet
    3. Narc at Nite
    2. The Yahtzee Channel
    1. SCM (Sandler Classic Movies)

Nothing essential here, I should think.

17 December 2002
Worst-kept secret

The evolution (or maybe "mutation") of Citadel Radio's KQBL continues apace. In a move that surprises absolutely no one, "104.9 The Bull" will move after Christmas to 96.9, which is currently running something called "The Bull's Oklahoma Christmas" 24/7. What is yet unknown is the fate of the 104.9 facility. Will Citadel revive its K-Spy alt-rock format, last heard (barely) at 105.3? Will the Sports Animal return with a simulcast of WWLS-AM 640? Is something entirely different in the works? Nobody is saying for sure — yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:02 AM to Overmodulation )
Finalizing the Marshall plan

After briefly flirting with the notion of expanding John Marshall High School, the board of the Oklahoma City Public Schools has decided to relocate the school to a site on the southwest corner of NW 122nd Street and Portland Avenue. The move will cost upward of $25 million.

There are still objections being raised by nearby residents, though there's always the question of whether they'd raise the same objections were it a school from, say, the adjacent Putnam City district being moved into their neighborhood.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 AM to City Scene )
A Lott to happen

The first hour of today's Diane Rehm Show was spent asking "What will happen to Trent Lott?"

Of course, instead of listening for 54 minutes, I could have simply read The Blog from the Core, which fills in the story of Lott's — sorry, Mfume's — ongoing penance and ultimate redemption.

Axis: Bold as Mercator

George W. Bush's notion of an Axis of Evil didn't sit well with some folks, and they had their reasons, but one reason they hardly ever mentioned was the most obvious one: "Well, it's not really, y'know, an axis, is it?"

Perhaps not in the WWII-era sense of an alliance, no; whatever Iran and Iraq may share, North Korea probably doesn't have it. But in the mathematical sense? Can you actually place these nations on a straight line that divides a geometric figure?

Yes, you can.

18 December 2002
Lock box

Those huge sort-of-rectangular shipping containers are common sights at port cities, not so common elsewhere. Certainly you wouldn't expect one in Calera, Oklahoma. But there it is, next door to the police department, blocking the view of the mural painted on the building's side.

This big ol' box is Calera's response to being charged as much as $800 a month by Bryan County for use of the county jail. The shipping container can hold as many as twelve inmates on a short-term basis; cots are anchored to the interior walls.

Many residents consider the box to be an eyesore, and after the complaints started to pile up, the trustees of the town decided to schedule an election in March to determine whether it should be kept or removed.

Me? I don't know. It's definitely not very pretty. On the other hand, it's a jail, not a museum; a certain amount of starkness would seem to be inherent in the concept.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 AM to Soonerland )
I seek bucks

According to U.S. Patent #6,449,344, filed in 1997 and granted this fall, instant messaging as we know it was invented by Mirabilis, the Israeli firm which created the ICQ IM client, now a part of the lumbering AOL Time Warner conglomerate. This will come as a surprise to those of us who were sending IMs in the middle 80s on QuantumLink, an online service dedicated to the Commodore 64 computer, whose parent company is now known as, um, America Online.

It's difficult to imagine why AOL would bother to try to get a patent on this fairly nebulous concept, unless it's to further annoy rivals who would like access to AOL's AIM and ICQ users, and to toss a monkey wrench into the FCC's demand that AOL, as a condition of the merger that put it under Time Warner's tent, open up its IM network. Armed with a patent, AOL could theoretically stall for twenty years or so. But given AOL Time Warner's always-precarious financial condition, the most likely result of the patent, should it stand up in court, is that AOL will seek licensing revenue from firms with IM clients of their own.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to PEBKAC )
Hey, pal, include this

Unlike some of my fellow infidels, I don't get horribly bent out of shape when someone utters the dreaded C word during Christmas — uh, during the, um, holiday season. Sometimes, though, it takes The Onion to settle the holiday hash. Quoth Jim Anchower in The Cruise:

Last Friday, Smalley totally dressed me down for wishing someone a Merry Christmas. I told him I thought we were supposed to say that, and he was like, "You're supposed to say 'Happy Holidays.' It fosters an environment of religious inclusion." I got a news flash for you, Smalley: It don't make no difference if you tell them "Happy Ass Day." They're there to get a Christmas tree, not a holiday tree.

Yeah.

Have a Happy Ass Day, y'all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:29 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Somewhere a mixed marriage

The latest trend in spam, it seems, is to insert a name in the FROM: field that looks almost believable, with the hope that the recipient, seeing that it's not from farginggibberish@fakeisp.com, might actually look at it before hitting Delete.

I said "almost". Today in my Hotmail box, which I use mostly for spam collection, was the usual item about how to leverage Euro currency (which is probably no more believable than that "World Currency Cartel" stuff), ostensibly from a fellow named, um, Mohammad Schlottman.

Methinks their name-generating algorithm needs a little tweaking.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:04 PM to Scams and Spams )
19 December 2002
Slash, then slash some more

For fiscal year 2004, the state of Oklahoma will have approximately $600 million less to spend, a ten-percent hit to the state's budget.

That's the glum story from the Office of State Finance, which each year is required to produce revenue projections for the next year. The Board of Equalization may tweak the figures before the Legislature approves a budget in February. But there's simply no way to tweak away a deficit this large, and since the state Constitution prohibits deficit spending, there will be cuts. Big cuts. The state income tax will rise slightly because of an automatic indexing provision enacted a few years back, but the operative word is "slightly".

It's going to be a long year for state planners.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:19 AM to Soonerland )
The crones of academe

I have always suspected that Departments of Women's Studies have nothing to do with me, except to the extent that I am considered a threat because of my membership in the half of the species with the external genitalia. Okay, fine. Maybe some people need to designate enemies before they can find friends. It never occurred to me, though, that we might be better off without those studies.

It has, however, occurred to James Lileks:

You know, if every "Woman's Studies" department was closed, and the student loans were used to create businesses that hired women instead of studied them like tragic butterflies impaled on the patriarchal pin, we might be better off. Granted, we'd be without PhD theses like "Rape Symbolism and Beatrix Potter: A Rake's Progress," but the culture would survive; the only noticeable effect at all would be a 17% decrease in Frieda Kahlo poster sales, and a 50% decrease in 33-year-old college students.

"Here Comes Peter Cottontail" is evidently more menacing than I had imagined.

But belligerent bunnies aside, all this makes me wonder what a "Men's Studies" curriculum might be like. Certainly the three-hour lab for home beer production would be inadequate, and the wisdom of Vince Lombardi can be exhausted in a few paragraphs. I am reasonably certain, however, that at no point will any of the instructors suggest, even for a minute, that women are capital-E Evil.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:41 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Just loafing

John Lee Malvo, the younger of the D.C. sniper suspects, is not happy with his meals at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center; the veggie loaf he's getting three times a day, he says, is making him ill.

In a related story, requests for ice water from the hades.org domain are up 11 percent from last week.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:20 PM to Wastes of Oxygen )
20 December 2002
Lady looks like a dude

Have Playboy Playmates become androgynous? Not quite. But there is, apparently, a marked trend away from the hourglass: over nearly half a century of centerfolds, the average bust and hip sizes have dropped somewhat, while waistlines have actually increased. What's more, although the average height has gone up, as it has in the general population, the average weight is essentially unchanged over the study period.

I'm not quite sure what I think about this. I do know that present-day Playmates, however attractive they may be, tend to be about my daughter's age or below, which has the effect of making whatever enjoyment I derive from their photos seem inevitably somewhat creepy, a situation Steely Dan would have understood.

On the other hand, Miss January 2003 is thirty-five (link possibly NSFW), by a slight margin the oldest woman ever to appear in the magazine's signature feature. (Of course, I read the articles first.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:33 AM to Almost Yogurt )
An equal and opposite revision

Like any number of pundits, George Monbiot predicted that US involvement in Afghanistan would result in Vietnam: The Sequel. Unlike any number of pundits, Monbiot has at least partially recanted:

The rout of the Taleban was much swifter than I believed possible. Though I opposed, and continue to oppose, the means by which the Taleban were overthrown, I am pleased both that they have gone and that far, far fewer people died than I anticipated.

Said recantation, reports Tim Blair, was sent in a letter to the editor of the Spectator, though for some reason it does not appear in the letters column on the Spectator's Web site.

Be kind - rewind

The Weekly World News (imagine The New York Times after twenty years of Howell Raines) reports that the actual eject button for the human soul has been located in the angular gyrus of the right cortex. Or something like that.

This might almost be plausible, but it leaves a whole lot of questions unanswered: why, for instance, is there no channel selector? And is it possible to fast-forward individuals whose time isn't running out fast enough?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:50 AM to Dyssynergy )
The last, dear God, the last Trent Lott entry

Get outta here, ya knucklehead.

And take a look at this while you're out.

Do not adjust your mindset

The folks at MoveOn.org, having come to the end of their original mission — fighting the impeachment of Bill Clinton — have diversified into other areas of interest to the American left, and while it's too early to say whether they'll be any more successful this time out, this particular Flash animation they've worked up is pretty darn clever, if I say so myself. Liberals will no doubt embrace its message; conservatives, maybe, can appreciate the craftsmanship.

(Thanks, Nova. Where do you find this stuff?)

21 December 2002
From the Teachers' Handbook

Chapter 12, Section D, Paragraph 5-7b:

Do not attempt to wake a sleeping student by lobbing a Koosh Ball in his/her general direction. If you miss, you look foolish; if you hit, you get sued.

And in either case, you will probably not get your Koosh Ball back.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:55 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Doo-wop eternal

Low grumbles, oo-wah, high weazlings and dwaedy-doop:

All the guys in the band hope that you are sick & tired of all this crazy far out music some of the bands of today are playing. They hope you are so sick & tired of it that you are ready for their real sharp style of music. They are good socially acceptable young men who only want to sing about their girl friends. They want everybody to start dancing back close together again like 1955 because they know that people need to love & also want to hold on to each other.

Thus spake Frank Zappa in the fictional (I think) story of Ruben & the Jets, a persona assumed by Zappa's Mothers of Invention "in a last ditch attempt to get their cruddy music on the radio," as the Verve LP jacket proclaims. Perhaps uncharacteristically for FZ, he was not being sarcastic: he really loved this stuff. One of Zappa's earliest compositions, in fact, was "Memories of El Monte", a 1963 tribute to the doo-wop shows in the San Gabriel Valley, recorded by the Penguins, whom you may (and should) remember for their recording of "Earth Angel" nine years before.

At various times in the Rock Era, or whatever it's called, it has been fashionable, even de rigueur, to disrespect doo-wop, its ability to grant temporary plausibility to sub-Harlequin-level romantic fantasies, its affinity for nonsense syllables, as though we're supposed to grow out of this or something. If that's the case, count me out. It may be possible to conduct one's daily existence without so much as a hint of misty-eyed yearning — it would certainly make mine less complicated — but what kind of life would that be?

As is often the case, a reminder was delivered by unexpected means: in this case, an MP3 of a song surely I would have forgotten if I had ever known it in the first place. "For Eternity" by Vickie Diaz and an anonymous backing group never got close to the Top 40; I'm not even sure when it was released, though the orchestral backing, reminiscent of a couple of Crests hits, suggests 1960. As a singer, Diaz doesn't have an enormous amount of range, and what range she has is pitched too close to Ray Peterson for comfort. But it doesn't matter; what makes this song work is its absolute conviction that True Love is not only imminent but inescapable. (See "Angel Baby", Rosie and the Originals, which is sung asthmatically and played ineptly and which packs a wallop just the same.)

None of this is meant to suggest that you should immediately shelve Verklärte Nacht or Kind of Blue and immerse yourself in street-corner harmony. But once in a while, you ought to make the trip, if only to see where you wind up when your heart leads the way.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:12 PM to Tongue and Groove )
What you see is what you get

Flip Wilson used to say that a lot on his NBC-TV variety show in the late Sixties; as "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get," it was a big hit for the Dramatics in 1971. I was eighteen in 1971 and had no real interest in computers, let alone how this phrase might apply to them.

Eventually, of course, it became an acronym: WYSIWYG. And when it did, Jeff Jarvis was there.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:03 PM to PEBKAC )
22 December 2002
It's not easy bleeding green

The European Union's new "electroscrap" rules contain a provision which is intended to reduce the number of discarded inkjet cartridges on the Continent. Manufacturers are now barred from installing smart chips inside their cartridges to insure that only the OEM brand can be used as a replacement, or to prevent the use of refill kits. Given the commodity status of inkjet printers these days, this is rather like requiring Schick and Gillette razors to accept each other's blades.

Alternatively, the EU could have mandated something resembling an incentive, a couple of euros for your used cartridges from your nearest recycling center, which would then send them back to the manufacturer for salvage, but I suppose this sounds too mercenary, too market-oriented — in short, too American.

Figures.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:22 AM to PEBKAC )
When rights become uncivil

This week in The Vent: color-blindness as a destination, and some problems encountered along the journey.

One of the points I attempted to make, largely by borrowing the words of other bloggers, is that while the Democrats are generally the ones playing the race card, the Republicans have played less and accomplished more.

Rosemary Esmay, to illustrate this point, has put up a time line, and Dean Esmay has chimed in with the following comment:

On the whole, you can pick any — I said ANY — ten-year period in American history and you will find the Republican record on race and civil rights is better than the Democrats'.

Obviously we're not out of the woods yet — "You can spend eternity listing all the places where things could have and should have been done better," says Dean — but if the GOP can continue to press for actual equality of opportunity, as opposed to the bizarre handicapping schemes called for in recent Democratic dogma, we'll get there, and we'll get there in one piece. Remember that number: one. Last time I looked at the Constitution, I didn't see any references to the Multicultural States of America.

Curse you, Irving Berlin

In days of old when knights were bold and tinsel not invented, snow right before the 25th of December was viewed as an annoyance and an impediment to travel. Which, of course, it was.

Nowadays, by which is meant the last sixty years, almost everyone is dreaming of a white Christmas, and entirely too often those dreams come true: we're going to be staring at half a foot of snow before the reindeer make that last pass over the housetops.

Women I know on the East Coast will sneer at the mention of a mere six inches, but there's at least a measurable chance that the car nearest to them on a frozen road will be occupied by an individual who actually might know how to drive on the the damnable stuff. We don't get odds that good here on the Lone Prairie. Come to think of it, hardly anyone here knows how to drive in July, either.

And if you must listen to "White Christmas," Bing is good — Bing is always good — but the Drifters, in this instance, are better.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:55 PM to Almost Yogurt )
23 December 2002
Because I can

It's time for the seventh annual Chaz Awards, worth nothing to the donor and even less to the recipient, but it does fill up a page of text, and isn't that what it's all about?

Don't answer that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to Blogorrhea )
Rooting out racism everywhere

With the former Senate Majority Leader martyred and the Republican Party duly purified, attention must now be turned toward the blatant racial policies of non-governmental organizations. Gregory Hlatky suggests we begin with a group which touches millions of households in the nation and somehow is never, ever called to answer for its crimes. He refers, of course, to the American Kennel Club:

One of the AKC-recognized breeds is persistently called the Black and Tan Coonhound. Whatever its use in tracking and treeing varmints, the use of a racially explosive code word is an indication of an insensitive, if not sinister attitude by the AKC and fanciers. Naturally, abject apologies and the payment of massive reparations are required to begin the process of healing. All checks should be made out to "J. Jackson."

Why, there's actually a club bearing this blatantly-racist name! Do these beautiful dogs know they're being used as cannon fodder to preserve the privileges of The Man?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:38 AM to Dyssynergy )
Home of the Whopper

The local Burger King franchise will pay $187,000 to settle a civil-rights lawsuit filed by a male employee with learning disabilities who claims he was strip-searched and sexually harassed by a female assistant manager.

I'd say that it seems he learned fast enough, but that would be cruel and uncalled-for.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:24 PM to Soonerland )
24 December 2002
Drizzle, drizzle, fizzle

You want picturesque? Head northwest, where they got five and seven and nine inches of white and fluffy.

We got two in a hurry, and then the next ten or twelve bands fell as freezing drizzle, which makes for a lot more Maalox moments than Kodak. This system is supposed to move out today, but since none of the previous predictions were on the mark, I'm going to assume this one is wrong also.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:22 AM to Weather or Not )
Saucy observation

The Professor happens upon a Great Truth:

I'd feel sorry for myself if I weren't about to go out to an all-you-can-eat barbecue joint. There's just no room for self-pity when you're contemplating vast quantities of seasoned pork.

BBQ is quintessentially American: it's yummy, it's served up in, well, "vast quantities", and its nutritional qualities cause the minions of the Nanny State to break out in hives. I can think of no better recommendation for the stuff.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:11 AM to Worth a Fork )
25 December 2002
The peace process

Most of the time, day or night, you can turn to one of the news channels and see footage of people killing one another, or heads of people talking about people killing one another. And if you do this often enough, you might conclude that peace as a concept is as remote as Neptune, and as unlikely to be reached in your lifetime.

And this conclusion works, sort of, if you are inclined to define "peace" as something contingent upon the absence of war. In which case, erase "Neptune" and replace with "Betelgeuse": man's inhumanity to man is a seemingly-permanent feature of the landscape, at least to the extent that man himself is a seemingly-permanent feature of the landscape.

But it's not every man, on either end of that equation. Like so much else, peace, as a process, must begin with the individual. And peace on an individual level is more complicated. Life itself is fraught with conflict: things just refuse to fall into nice, neat little patterns we can follow by rote. At some point, we are faced with questions as basic as "Should I stay or should I go?" Can you just walk away? Sometimes you can. Sometimes you can't.

When I was younger, so much younger than today, a radio station once had the temerity to follow John Lennon's "Imagine" with his "Working Class Hero", a mordantly bitter tune that demonstrated pretty convincingly, at least to me, that the lightest and brightest of dreams could — maybe even had to — coexist with fear and loathing and disillusionment. Finding a balance therein is, I think, one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and I suspect it will take me the rest of my days. But it's a conflict from which I cannot walk away.

A short time later, I was in the Army, and during this time I had some cards made up which identified me as "Specialist, United States Peace Force." Unofficial, of course. Some noted — some will note, even today — that I wore a uniform and carried a rifle (and sometimes more), and that by so doing, I belied my own self-description. I didn't buy it then, and I don't buy it now. The argument that you should never, ever strike first is awfully close to the argument that you should never, ever take vitamins. I don't know any homeowner who will say, "Aw, let's give the termites a chance." If conscience demands, as it will, that we think things over before we commit ourselves to some frightful war in the Middle East, it demands also that we consider the consequences should we walk away.

Peace on the individual level: "Can you live with the decisions you have made?" I'm working on it. And thank you for working on it for yourself.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled greeting-card sentiment.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:49 AM to Dyssynergy )
The Carnival rolls on

Fourteen weeks on and still without a single fatality, the Carnival of the Vanities stops this week at Ravenwood's Universe, where you can sample all the delights of the Blogosphere™ that you unaccountably missed during the last ten days or so.

(Disclosure: I have an entry in the Carnival. Don't let that stop you from enjoying the good stuff.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:03 AM to Blogorrhea )
Home for the holidays

Christmas itself is no big deal in Muslim countries, except where it's actively prosecuted, but Muslim students in the United States get the same holiday break period as everyone else, and some of them are uneasy about flying home: what if, because of increased attention from the Department of Making American Borders As Efficient As Airport Security, or whatever the hell it's called, they can't get back into the States?

The simple answer is "Screw 'em", usually accompanied by a bitter reference to the 9/11 hijackers, a number of whom had held student visas. And indeed, it's probably only prudent to be keeping a closer watch on foreign students, inasmuch as few of them are likely to be wearing "Future Terrorist" sweatshirts as they pass through Customs. At the very least, it's a hint that ridding the world of the stench of Islamofascist terror should be done as quickly as possible, so that legitimate students from Arab lands can get back to the business of learning things that will help transform their societies and themselves.

26 December 2002
The big radio switch

As expected, Citadel Broadcasting bounced around some of its FM facilities over the holiday. The K-Bull country format at KQBL 104.9 has relocated to 96.9, previously the home of soft-rock KMMZ. The slot at 104.9 has been filled with a simulcast of WWLS AM 640, the Sports Animal, which vacates 105.3. And 105.3 is now the full-time home of The Spy, playing alt-rock, which had been sharing space with the Sports Animal.

What was not expected was that Citadel would fill all its FM slots, including all of the above plus hot-AC KYIS 98.9 and active-rock KATT 100.5, with the first full day of The Spy, before the new lineup kicked in this morning.

I'm not sure what to make of all this, though anything that annoys Clear Channel has to be a Good Thing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:11 AM to Overmodulation )
It's a gas

It's no particular secret that Oklahoma, like many other states, is in dire financial straits this year, no thanks to a stagnant economy and rising expenses.

There is one bright spot on the horizon, though: natural gas prices, while not quite through the roof, are definitely knocking on the ceiling. And Oklahoma, a major producer of the stuff, collects a production tax based upon those prices.

The state budget anticipates $252 million from the tax this coming year, a projection based upon an expected market price of $2.52/mcf (thousand cubic feet). However, the current market price, due to low production and nasty weather, is more than twice that: the closing price Tuesday was $5.15, and most analysts expect the price to hold above $4.00 for at least a year, maybe longer, depending on how much (if any) production increases. At four bucks per mcf, the take from the gas-production tax would be about $147 million higher, which would put a sizable dent in the state's projected $593 million shortfall.

We'd all love to see the plan

Tim Cavanaugh at Reason Magazine reports that after all these years, sales of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, despite the Chinese switch to Pinyin notation (rendering him "Mao Zedong") and Mao's switch to Death Mode, are still strong. The little (three by five) red book, distributed all over China and occasionally elsewhere, is printed in, um, San Francisco, California. I don't know if it contains pictures, but as John Lennon once (well, twice, actually) pointed out, if you carry such, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:29 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Of Democrats and yellow dogs

Over at Tightly Wound, the legendary Big Arm Woman explains what's wrong with the Democratic Party:

[M]y dad is what you would call a Yellow Dog Democrat: a traditional southern liberal who associates republicans with rapacious big business and screwing over the little guy--namely, dad.

Lots of those in Oklahoma; they're not particularly "liberal", at least by current definitions, but this sums up their attitude toward the GOP fairly well.

[L]ately he's slacked off supporting them, and I think he's well on his way to disillusionment. Know why? Because although my dad is still no fan of big business, he thinks the democrats have their heads in the sand about this whole war thing, and when he asks himself why, he's forced to admit that the PC lobby has hijacked the dems to the extent that they couldn't make a tough decision if they had to, for fear of pissing someone off.

Some would suggest that their head position is, um, somewhere else.

But B.A.W.'s dad has it spot on: there is almost constant fear at the DNC of rubbing a constituent group the wrong way. It's like having to deal with the People's Front of Judea.

There are lots of folks like my dad out there--and the democratic party has always taken their support for granted. But if you kick a yellow dog enough, it'll bite you on the ass. Keep kicking, democrats. It seems to be working sooooo well for you.

They'll learn — once they lose a few more elections.

27 December 2002
A grim fairy tale

Once upon a time, there was a blogger who decided to move his blog, and....

I never was any good at these things. Go read Fragments from Floyd. Fred tells the story far better than I could. It is, indeed, a tale most hideous.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:17 AM to Blogorrhea )
Something blue

The next office over has a couple of Authentic Beauties. I, of course, strive to avoid them, simply as a matter of maintaining equilibrium; I'll toss out an occasional flip remark, but it never goes beyond that.

Yesterday, one of them (the younger) was sporting an engagement ring. "It's about time," I said. Certainly she thought so; they'd been dating seemingly forever.

And for some reason, this stung me, and I can't come up with any justification for it. I'd never even considered her as a potential companion — she's gorgeous, and she's fairly bright, but she's half my age (more or less literally) and we wouldn't have a whole lot to talk about — so it shouldn't matter if she goes into the Permanently Unavailable file. Yet somehow I mourn, even as I wish her great heaping gobs of happiness, and I mutter deep, dark curses against the person who causes me all this heartbreak.

Which is, of course, myself.

(10:20 am: Modified slightly to increase vagueness.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:11 AM to Table for One )
Unexpected subject

Listeners to Today on the BBC's Radio 4 have nominated five persons "most deserving of honourary status as a British citizen," and one of the five is Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

Are the British thumbing their nose at the States? Not necessarily. The popup window for nominee profiles suggests the reason for selecting Saddam: "He will cause less problems over here where we can keep an eye on him."

Voting continues through New Year's Eve. I shudder to imagine what Stephen Chapman thinks of this.

28 December 2002
None dare call it reasonable

Dean Esmay has come up with a list of half a dozen offenses which, in his view, qualify as Crimes Against America, trangressions so heinous that the only suitable punishment is "immediate loss of citizenship and expulsion from U.S. territory."

Fortunately, Mr Esmay has tongue firmly in cheek. I think. (If not, I see trouble, with a capital T and that rhymes with B and that stands for Balzac.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:34 AM to Dyssynergy )
Smoking that bluegrass, or something

Is it my imagination, or is the new Kentucky license plate truly the smarmiest automotive excrescence since fuzzy dice?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:49 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Reprobates on the right

Jesse Taylor, after taking nominations from the field, has issued his list of Twenty Most Annoying Conservatives of 2002, presumably as a response to John Hawkins' list of Annoying Liberals.

Mr Taylor's list includes some people who annoy me a great deal (like Cal Thomas, #20), some people who don't annoy me all that much (like George W. Bush, #7), and at least one person who doesn't annoy me at all (Charles Johnson, #17). And really, if we're gonna have a tie between Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, the least they can do is put Hannity in a dress — and, in the name of Christian charity, blindfold Alan Colmes when they do.

29 December 2002
A thoroughly modern moviemaker

George Roy Hill (no relation) is gone. The director of crowd-pleasers like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting, which won eleven Academy Awards between them, he was equally at home with difficult material (say, The World According to Garp).

For me, the best thing he ever did was the gentle comedy A Little Romance, in which an American student in Paris (Diane Lane, all of fourteen years old) and a French kid (Thelonious Bernard) find themselves mad about one another and, courtesy of a romantic fable spun for them by that charming old rogue Laurence Olivier, obsessed with getting themselves to the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, that their love may be forever sealed.

Many years after this 1979 film, I briefly entertained the fantasy of doing likewise with the person not yet (un)known as She Who Is Not To Be Named, despite a gnawing suspicion that at the precise moment when we started to pass beneath the bridge, when according to the legend the Kiss of Eternity must be delivered, she would gaze up at the Palace and holler, "Who let the Doge out?"

Which of course would have sealed the deal anyway, but I didn't realize that at the time.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:22 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Wanna bet?

After that West Virginia chap picked up some spare change in the Powerball game this month, a small circle of Sooners started wondering out loud just why it is that Oklahoma doesn't have a lottery of its own. The short answer is simple: the last time it was put to a vote of the people, it lost, and Brad Henry, then a state senator, tried but failed to get a new initiative on the ballot this year.

In 2003, though, Brad Henry is the governor, and will have more of a bully pulpit to push for the numbers game. But there's yet another sticky wicket: should the state enact a lottery, the door will be opened for lotteries to be operated by Native American tribes in the state.

Tribal lotteries could theoretically put a serious dent into a state-run game, since they won't have receipts earmarked for state purposes and won't pay state taxes, which means that they could offer bigger jackpots, which will attract money that might otherwise have gone to the state lotto. Other forms of tribal gaming exist in the state already and are largely flourishing, though there's nothing here to compare with, say, Foxwoods.

But would the state's forty or so tribes strike out on their own, or band together to produce one really big game? A lot of questions are out there, and the answers seem a long way off.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:37 AM to Soonerland )
Samuel Pepys: blogger

The first entry (1 January 1660) in the blog-based version of the Diary of Samuel Pepys is up. The adaptation, by Phil Gyford from the 1893 Wheatley edition, manages to be both mind-numbingly obvious and wonderfully audacious at the same time: if you've read Pepys before, well, you're reading him again, but it's a genuine kick to see this seventeenth-century text in a twenty-first-century milieu, and Mr Gyford deserves great heaping volumes of kudos for this undertaking.

The site, incidentally, runs on Movable Type. No, not Gutenberg's.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:12 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Mystiques were made

Michele at A Small Victory is seeking nominations for The Ten Most Intriguing Bloggers of 2002.

What's that you say? Nah. Don't even think of bringing my name into this. I locked up Least Intriguing Blogger of Any Conceivable Year quite some time ago.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:19 PM to Blogorrhea )
Measured impact

Zee at RoadSassy looks for her place in blogdom:

I would like to be read but I have come to know from being online that there is a staggering number of brilliant minds out there. Minds and hearts in service to whatever philosophy or passion marches their souls through life. I stand back in awe and admiration of the human race.

A staggering number indeed. I marvel at the sheer diversity (in the real, not the Democratic National Committee's, sense of the word) of the people who bring us these words on a more-or-less-daily basis. Of course, the real worry is that in an effort to pigeonhole ourselves, we'll eventually fly straight up our own archives:

I'm just disappointed to see this hoopla around blogging and what kind of political impact it will have and will it change the nature of journalism and who knows? Who cares? Can't we all just frigging write? As soon as anything comes under intense scrutiny, it becomes self conscious or something.

It's already changed the nature of journalism. Dead-tree writers are catching on to the idea that their asses can be fact-checked. The days when Big Media could just hand out stuff and expect it to be swallowed whole grow ever shorter. And this happened before the orgy of self-absorption, while we were, well, just frigging writing.

Will blogs become less effective as they become more numerous? Maybe. But the best blogs will always have an impact far beyond their regular readership, and the worst — well, I'm still here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:01 PM to Blogorrhea )
30 December 2002
And it's all your fault

The Republicans have been calling for tort reform for some time, at least partially because trial lawyers are generally lined up under the Democratic banner, but mostly, I think, because there is increasing irritation with the ongoing whine of self-described victims: "I am hurt," they cry, "and somebody's gonna pay!" Whether the somebody in question is at all culpable is at best a secondary consideration.

I got a reminder of this last night in a chat room, courtesy (so to speak) of a person who, I am given to understand, has suffered some romantic reverses in recent months; while those who presumably hurt her keep a low profile, anyone she considers a friend or associate of the culprits is duly attacked on sight. (Well, except me: it is generally a waste of time to heap invective on me, since my reputation for payback in kind is fairly colossal, if largely undeserved, and besides, trying to hurt my feelings is rather like trying to cool off a glacier.) It was a dispiriting experience all around, comparable to watching fourth-graders taunting each other in the playground and trying out all the new words they learned watching Cinemax.

To paraphrase the bumper sticker: feces transpire. They always have, and they always will. In this Oprahzoid era when being a victim is the next best thing to being a celebrity, everyone wants a cut of the compensation fund — whether it's deserved or not.

Personally, I think she should get a blog.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 AM to Dyssynergy )
Intriguing, she said

About the only thing I'm sure of in Michele's Ten Most Intriguing Bloggers of 2002 competition is that whoever nominated me wasn't paying attention, or something.

Since we're supposed to cough up a list, here is mine, in no particular order:

  • Victorine Sclafani-Drachenberg, Liquid Courage (intellectually curious and frighteningly attractive)
  • John "Akatsukami" Braue, Rat's Nest (as thoughtful a grouch as you'll ever see)
  • Marc Lundberg, Quit That (writing his own blog software ensures his inclusion here)
  • Scott Ott, ScrappleFace (the funniest man alive, possibly even after he's dead)
  • Edward, lactose incompetent (a gentleman and a scholar, and a man with a past or two)
  • Susanna Cornett, Cut on the Bias (like the onion of yore, no matter how much you peel, there's still more)
  • Fred First, Fragments from Floyd (imagine Garrison Keillor with a sense of humor and a sense of priorities)
  • Jessie Rosenberg, Discriminations (she posts so little that she invites curiosity on that basis alone, and besides, she's a 16-year-old college junior, which ditto)
  • The pseudonymous Cinderella Bloggerfeller (an intellectual, a European, and yet not a leftist goofball)
  • Arthur Silber, The Light of Reason (fears no argument from anyone, anywhere, on anything)

I have duly submitted this list to Michele, who is free to discard it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:12 PM to Blogorrhea )
The last great ding-a-ling

In the town of Americus, Georgia, Meri Edgemon, 53, was perhaps best known as a patron of the local arts, and she was greatly mourned when she was killed in a single-car accident south of town this past weekend.

To those of us with a tad more dementia in our souls, Meri Edgemon was Meri Wilson, quintessential Southern blonde, who in 1977 (the breakup of the Bell System was still more than six years away) put out one of the snarkiest 45s of all time: "Telephone Man", the story of a tech from the phone company who could put it anywhere she wanted it.

Follow-up discs didn't go anywhere (though 1980's "Peter the Meter Reader", like "Telephone Man", became a staple of the Dr Demento radio show), and Wilson dropped back into obscurity, but she was never quite forgotten — at least, not by me.

31 December 2002
Def but not blind

Rap impresario Russell Simmons puts out a magazine called One World. If you see this title and assume from it that Mr Simmons is contributing to the ongoing homogenization of world culture, you might want to think again: the cover of the December/January issue features rapper Lil' Kim in a burqa, but she's got it bunched up around her shoulders, and underneath — well, already the complaints are coming in from the arbiters of Islamic culture.

In point of fact, this is a lot more than Lil' Kim usually wears, but I doubt that this particular argument will carry much weight at your friendly neighborhood mosque.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:24 AM to Almost Yogurt )
A feverish suggestion

If you're in Connecticut and you covet a traditional fever thermometer with a column of mercury enclosed in glass, this is the last day you can buy one.

(Disclosure: I own no holdings in thermometer manufacturers, CVS, or Walgreen's.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Dyssynergy )
Things to come

This is the time of year when pundits issue predictions, and sometimes they prove to be absolutely stunning in their prescience. Needless to say, such a level of prognosticational perspicacity is the exception rather than the rule; apart from the occasional weather forecast, I've been consistently wrong on all manner of things. I do believe, however — and since this is a meteorological prediction, sort of, there's a chance I might be right — that Kevin McGehee has nailed it with this one:

There will be absolutely no remarkable weather at all, anywhere, in all of 2003 — which will be presented as conclusive proof of global warming.

Somebody give that man a raise.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:38 PM to Dyssynergy )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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