1 August 2004
Once the stuff of dreams

It may not be true that everything old is new again, but I was never comfortable with the idea that everything old was destined for the trash heap.

So I was heartened to see that Susanna Cornett's appreciation of all things Victorian reaches even further than she might have imagined.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:30 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Flash in the pan

Well, maybe next year.

The Oklahoma City Lightning ran into some serious Detroit Demolition in last night's NWFA title game; the maidens from the Motor City put the hurt on the stormin' Sooners, 52-0. The Demolition have now won 31 in a row; I'm wondering if maybe they could actually handle one of the scuzzier NFL teams.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:50 AM to Soonerland )
Where was this on Flag Day?

Blue Bell Creameries in Brenham, Texas, maker of one of the more highly-prized brands of ice cream in these parts, has come up with an oddball flavor called Heart of America, which is something like this:

The ice cream is divided into three sections similar to Neapolitan Ice Cream. One part is a vanilla ice cream with a cherry sauce swirl, a second part is strawberry ice cream with milk chocolate hearts and the third section is vanilla ice cream with a wild blueberry sundae sauce swirl.

Strange concept, but it works — though frankly, I think the chocolate bits detract from the red, white and blue theme.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:03 PM to Worth a Fork )
A brief position paper

"Take a stand," said Dave, and so I did.

(This is twice I've ripped off a topic of Dave's in a single week. Hmmm....)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:12 PM to Blogorrhea )
2 August 2004
Me, I want a Hula Hoop

In the Seventies, I found myself with entirely too much free time and a four-track tape recorder. Enlisting the aid of family members to figure out what sort of trouble we could get into with this combination, we hit upon the absurd notion of copying phonograph records to tape, replaying the tape at a slower speed and overdubbing our voices, then playing the tape at its proper speed and listening to the weird rodent noises we produced.

Which, of course, is how the late Ross Bagdasarian created the Chipmunks way back in 1958. Issued on Liberty 55168, "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" sold about four million copies, and was reissued yearly, continuing to chart as late as 1962.

Smartasses like me, of course, continued to screw around with the concept, and it was inevitable that it would be at some point deconstructed: Sean's Said the Gramophone blog is offering a 4:43 slowed version of TCS — the single was timed at 2:17 — which lets you hear each voice Bagdasarian used at more or less its original pitch, "sounding," says Sean, "like an accountant, a hot-dog vendor, and a lunatic." Which describes Simon, Theodore and Alvin rather neatly, come to think of it.

(Via Phil Dennison, who says, "IT IS A MILLION TIMES BETTER THAN ANYTHING ON THE RADIO." What does that say about radio?)

A matter of record

Cast your threats upon the water, and they shall come back and soak your shoes.

Doug Clifton, editor of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, thought it would be a really neat idea to publish the names and addresses of everyone in northern Ohio who had been issued a concealed-carry permit. His explanation:

We were able to do so because the state legislature, bowing to Gov. Bob Taft's threat to veto a bill with no public access provision at all, gave the news media access to the list. The general public is not allowed to see it.

From the start, The Plain Dealer opposed that media-only provision, and so did most news organizations. We don't believe the media should have access to records that the general public is denied.

And, like the governor and millions of others across the country, we believe licensure information of all kinds should be open to public view.

Persuaded as I am that information about gun owners should not be compiled into any sort of database at all — what's to stop a crook from stealing their weapons one at a time, or a politician from stealing them en masse? — putting these records into play is simply reprehensible.

The advocacy group Ohioans for Concealed Carry responded by publishing Clifton's name and address and other details which could be easily found online. Clifton, of course, was not happy with this development:

The posting, I gather, had two purposes. The first was to say "turnabout is fair play": Public records are public records, and you're not exempt.

The second was to intimidate. Why else run a map?

Said OFCC:

[W]e simply hope to see if Mr. Clifton is as big a believer in open access to public records as he claims.

I'd say they got their answer.

And further, says OFCC, noting that four other Ohio papers had printed similar lists:

[T]he media exception to the protection of these records should be removed immediately. These newspaper editors have proven they cannot handle the responsibility.

I have a feeling this story is a long way from being over.

(Via Ravenwood's Universe)

One on one

You know, those boring old monogamists may have been onto something.

Really. "Money, Sex and Happiness: An Empirical Study" [it will cost you $5 to read the whole thing] is a National Bureau of Economic Research study by David G. Blanchflower (Dartmouth) and Andrew J. Oswald (Warwick). The idea: to link the common happiness survey to information on sexual behavior.

The following executive summary, sort of, appears in The Atlantic (September, "Primary Sources"):

Married people have considerably more sex than swinging singles and gay divorcees, and the "happiness-maximizing" number of sexual partners in a given year is almost exactly one. Rising wealth has no positive effect on the frequency of sex, and increased education actually has a slightly negative effect, particularly among men. (This is unfortunate news for the well-educated, since they are the group for whom sexual activity has the highest impact on happiness.)

Did I mention I quit school after ten years? :)

To expand on that "almost exactly one" business, from the actual paper:

How many sexual partners in the last year will maximize a person's happiness? Although persuasive cause-and-effect is clearly difficult to establish in cross-section data, the simple answer according to these GSS data is one sexual partner. In this sense, our work has conservative implications. After some experimentation, we report this monogamy result, in Table 3, simply as the variable 'single partner'.

Table 4 looks in more detail at the type of sexual partner. We find, for instance, that people who say they have ever paid for sex are considerably less happy than others. Those who have ever had sex outside their marriage also report notably low happiness scores.

[Preceding paragraphs © 2004 by David G. Blanchflower and Andrew J. Oswald.]

"GSS" refers to the General Social Survey of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

I learned two things from this report:

(1) My instincts aren't entirely unsound, after all;

(2) Seventeen cents a page for downloaded material apparently doesn't faze me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:52 PM to Table for One )
3 August 2004
It was right here a minute ago

Ms. Christine has found out, mercifully not the hard way, that if you lose your ticket on Southwest Airlines, you have to buy a new one, and wonders why:

When you reserve your ticket, you give them your name, address, more than likely a credit card or bank card number, they put this into a thingy called a "computer", for security reasons they run various background checks and also store this information in the computer. Right along-side your flight info. It's all there. All the time. When you show up at the airport to check in, whether an e-ticket or regular check-in, they print off your ticket, check your ID, and off you go. I'm assuming, unless their programmers are complete morons, that the information isn't purged when your ticket is printed.

Of course, it may be the case, not that the programmers are total morons, but that they're working to the specifications demanded by total morons. This is a situation that exists far beyond the airline industry.

I want to know why they can't print another ticket if you lose your ticket, or get all the way to the airport and realize that you left it at home, or in the rental car, or whatever.

Why not tack on a $20 fee to re-print the ticket and call it, officially, the "idiot charge"?

Call it a Federally-mandated surcharge under Section ID-10T, and stamp the replacement ticket accordingly.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:09 AM to Dyssynergy )
Pennies pinched, no waiting

The city of Kingfisher, thirty miles from northwest Oklahoma City, has been in a financial bind; its accumulated deficit had grown to nearly $1 million, a lot of debt for a city of four thousand people. "We would have found ourselves bankrupt in 18 months," says City Manager Doug Enevoldsen.

They're not out of the woods yet, but fiscal year 2004 ended with a surplus of $193,000 following Enevoldsen's austerity program.

Perhaps ironically, Enevoldsen himself owes his position to budget cuts: he was let go from the Department of Tourism last year as part of the state's austerity program.

I mention this because, well, I have this weird idea that governmental units should not spend more than they can reasonably expect to receive.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:03 AM to Soonerland )
Quietly into the night sky

During World War I, the Service Flag, known more descriptively as the Blue Star Flag, was seen throughout the land, a simple banner with a blue star representing a family member serving overseas, the blue star replaced by a gold star should he be killed in battle. The practice continues to this day; if you haven't seen one lately, well, this Newsday scribe seems to think we've lost interest in such things:

Whatever one thinks of the Iraq war, it's hard to escape the reality that America doesn't have much stomach for fighting anymore. Support for Operation Iraqi Freedom stood at 76 percent in April 2003, according to Gallup. Today, support has sunk to 47 percent. What's caused that huge drop? Mostly, U.S. fatalities — just over 900. Heck, during the U.S. Civil War, both sides lost many more men than that in single afternoons, and the fighting lasted four years. But today, America finds itself in a "post-heroic" culture, mostly because of small families. To put it starkly, mothers won't part with their only son, who might also be an only child.

Somehow this doesn't seem plausible. A lot of things have happened since, say, the founding of the Gold Star Moms, and decreasing family size is certainly one of them, but I'd argue that diminishing support for the war is at least partly due to the ongoing efforts by papers such as Newsday to make sure we get a steady dose of bad news from Iraq. Some bad news, of course, is inevitable, and not even the most avid hawks will give this operation a grade of A-plus — myself, I'm inclined to award a "gentleman's C" or thereabouts. And if we are indeed in a "post-heroic" culture these days, I suggest it has something to do with the post-World War II fascination with antiheroes, once literary curiosities, now durable archetypes.

Geitner Simmons inquires:

I hadn't heard about the small-families aspect as a factor shaping American public opinion. Is [James P. Pinkerton, the Newsday columnist] on the mark, or is that just op-ed hyperbole?

That, I couldn't tell you. On the other hand, Pinkerton was using this example as an illustration of how our future will be inextricably intertwined with robotics, of all things, so I'm going to assume at least standard fanboy levels of hyperbole.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:32 PM to Almost Yogurt )
4 August 2004
Hey, 98.0

Not to be confused with 98.6, but still, it's good to have it back again, "it" being the Carnival of the Vanities, presented this week by Seldom Sober in cooperation with the Office of National Blog Control Policy. ("This is your brain on blogs. Any questions?")

As always, it's worth reading, even if there's something of mine in the mix.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to Blogorrhea )
Revenge of the Parental Unit

I mean, really: Top Ten Things You May Not Know About Dawn Eden, by Dawn Eden's mom.

The next fifty or sixty are probably just as fascinating, but I can wait. And anyway, it's not like nothing unusual has ever shown up on The Dawn Patrol; my actual phone number turned up there once, though this was my fault and it's not like Dawn ever calls anyway.

Where the elite meet for defeat

John Kerry, says New York Daily News columnist Zev Chafetz, is "the captive of the overbearing, elitist wing of his party," and as such, is sure to lose:

John Kerry is not a bad man. He probably wouldn't make a bad President. But he is a bad candidate in a terrible situation. He represents the wing of the Democratic Party that is imbued with a sense of its own moral, intellectual, cultural and social superiority. In short, he is the standard bearer for the unbearable.

But surely he can dispatch the fumbling, inarticulate George W. Bush in the debates. Or can he?

Democratic true believers think he'll kill Bush, one on one. That's what they thought about Al Gore, too.

Actually, Democratic true believers still think Al Gore won.

(Via La Shawn Barber)

And no write-ins, either

D. Frank Robinson, who's running as a Libertarian for the 5th Congressional District seat currently held by Ernest Istook, was last mentioned here in connection with his plan for greatly expanding the size of the House of Representatives. He posted a comment to that item, which I reprint here:

As of this date [08/03/2004], it appears more likely that Oklahoma may be the only state without any Libertarian candidates on the ballot this year. Our case is still pending, but unless we get a favorable decision by mid-September, it looks like a fugitaboutit. Well, just push on to 2006. Hip deep in the big muddy in Oklahoma and the big fools say to circulate a petition!

This is, of course, because Oklahoma, alone among the fifty, expects a party to get signatures from five percent of the state's registered voters, more than 36,000 signatures in all, to be granted access to the statewide ballot, effectively locking the two major parties into permanent primacy. By contrast, Texas, six times bigger, demands only 45,540. (This enormous number of signatures extends to initiative petitions as well; to get a State Question that amends the Constitution on the ballot requires 15 percent of the number of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election [link requires Adobe Reader], which for November 2004 would be over 155,000 signatures.)

I've complained about this sort of thing before, and I suppose at some point I'll be complaining about it again. We should be encouraging political organizations, not trying to strangle them in their cribs.

A hint of tint

Inasmuch as it's been hours since I linked to anything of Michelle Malkin's, I commend to you her Media Diversity Test, something she wrote to tweak the Unity Journalists of Color, in convention in the District of Columbia this week.

Out of a possible 100 points, Malkin of course scores an even 100. How would you fare? Give yourself five points for every Yes answer.

  1.  I have never voted for a Democrat in my life.
  2.  I think my taxes are too high.
  3.  I supported Bill Clinton's impeachment.
  4.  I voted for President Bush in 2000.
  5.  I am a gun owner.
  6.  I support school voucher programs.
  7.  I oppose condom distribution in public schools.
  8.  I oppose bilingual education.
  9.  I oppose gay marriage.
10.  I want Social Security privatized.
11.  I believe racial profiling at airports is common sense.
12.  I shop at Wal-Mart.
13.  I enjoy talk radio.
14.  I am annoyed when news editors substitute the phrase "undocumented person" for "illegal alien."
15.  I do not believe the phrase "a chink in the armor" is offensive.
16.  I eat meat.
17.  I believe O.J. Simpson was guilty.
18.  I cheered when I learned that Saddam Hussein had been captured.
19.  I cry when I hear "Proud to be an American" by Lee Greenwood.
20.  I don't believe the New York Times.

Assuming that in #19 she really means "God Bless the USA", I check in with a 55.

5 August 2004
Really heavy plastic

The folks at Columbus Bank and Trust Company (Member FDIC) won't say so on their Web site, but they are apparently the vendors of the Aspire Visa card, an offer for which crossed my threshold yesterday, and which provided undue levels of mirth.

Unlike some other cards I've seen, this one doesn't demand a fistful of fees before activation. On the other hand, Aspire isn't about to lose any money on this deal: the preferred interest rate is a whopping 29.75 percent, increasing to 35.75 in the case of delinquency. For someone who doesn't qualify for the preferred rate, it's 35 percent, increasing to 41 percent for deadbeats. And incidentally, these are variable rates: should the prime rate rise, which Mr Greenspan says it will, these rates rise right along with it. I suspect the Mob has more generous terms than this.

Having successfully (for now) fended off a card issuer's attempt to get 16 percent out of me on a card they gave me at 8, I can assure you, I'm not even thinking about applying for this little darb, even with its lofty (ha) $3250 credit limit.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:31 AM to Common Cents )
Pushing the warmer buttons

Laura at Oddly Normal describes the process by which she came off the fence:

I was still leaning Bushward until he started seriously pushing the FMA — and, as he continues to push it, it's clear that he wasn't just doing a minimum amount of lip service required to placate certain quarters until 2 November — he appears willing to expend some political capital in support of this atrocious amendment. It's hard for me to even describe how much this angers me — pushing for a jurisdiction-stripping measure or an amendment explictly leaving it to individual states I could buy — I'm enough of a federalist to be willing to let Alabama not recognize same-sex marriage if they don't want to — those I could forgive and possibly, if worded correctly, or as part of the right package deal, support. But pushing to everywhere and for all time disallow same-sex marriage (and civil unions, as language as written almost certainly would have) — that's pretty much unforgivable in my eyes. Kerry's certainly no great crusader for gay rights, his own opinions are cloudy, but he appears willing to keep the issue in stasis during his term, and if that's what I can get, I'll take it.

Conventional wisdom holds that there are relatively few voters still undecided, that most of the electorate has already thrown in with Mr Kerry or with Mr Bush. For Laura, Bush's ongoing opposition to same-sex marriage pushed her into the Kerry camp. If she's at all typical, and I have no reason to think she isn't, it will be a single issue, though not necessarily this issue, that eventually pushes the remaining fence-sitters to one side or the other.

The candidates, of course, will do their best to complicate this process by harping on their plans for the future. It would be well to remember that their actions in the past tend to be a more specific indicator of their actual positions, and a more reliable predictor of the actions they would take once inaugurated. In our Bizarro World political environment, though, the candidates don't really run on their records; they run against the other guy's. The plight of the undecided voter in the so-called "battleground" states — I'm officially still wavering, but I don't think it matters, since the President will almost certainly carry Oklahoma — will be more difficult than usual this year, I think.

(Update, 9:15 am: Ralph Nader is on the Diane Rehm Show, saying, among other things, that it's necessary to look at what a candidate has done, not at what he has promised. Hmmm.)

One of these things is like the others

When a critic says a work is "derivative," what does he mean? If he's talking about a musical work, Lynn's on to him:

Derivative [is] a favorite word of those who look down on anything composed after 1930 or so that has an actual melody.

Oh, my. An actual tune. Nothing innovative here. Let's give it a brief, superior sneer and move on to this piece for percussion ensemble and tuba, written by an expatriate Lithuanian lesbian in response to the cruel treatment she received on a visit to Baltic Avenue in Atlantic City.

Dissonant? Atonal? Cacophonous? You betcha. But it's not derivative, and that's all that counts.

(So much for my future as a music reviewer. And Lynn's better at it anyway.)

Hit me with your best series of shots

On 31 July, a Barbados sheep was euthanized at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Glen Rose, Texas; it had tested positive for rabies.

Which means that the children who visited Fossil Rim's petting zoo during late July were exposed to the disease. Sheep don't bite very often, but licking the face or an open wound is quite enough to pass on the infection.

The Children's Animal Center at Fossil Rim will be closed for 90 days; you can read the official announcement here [requires Adobe Reader].

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:45 PM to Dyssynergy )
6 August 2004
Lovely span, wonderful span

It's no secret that many Oklahoma bridges are in wretched condition. And there's one particular bridge that, as far back as I can remember, has always been in wretched condition: the Walnut Avenue overpass, which connects the Deep Deuce and Bricktown areas. (Walnut, south of Main, becomes Mickey Mantle Drive.)

Three years ago, a move to tear down the bridge entirely was foiled when then-Mayor Kirk Humphreys discovered that under state law, the Union Pacific railroad, whose tracks run under the bridge, could be billed up to half the cost of repairs.

The city has the money to fix the bridge — the Walnut Avenue project was funded in a 1989 bond issue — but the railroad has yet to consent to the repairs. In the meantime, Paul Brum, the city engineer, says that beams under the bridge are deteriorating, and therefore the bridge is closed until further notice; repairs should take about a year.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:38 AM to City Scene )
Packing the carpet bags

I tell you what, if Alan Keyes can get settled into his new home in Illinois between now and the first Tuesday in November, I'd say it's prima facie evidence that he has both enough presence of mind and physical stamina to be a United States Senator.

I do think, though, that he might be well advised to consult with the junior senator from New York, whose experience in executing a similar maneuver could prove useful.

The limits of bareability

Evolving Beauty [title page possibly not safe for work, subsequent pages almost certainly NSFW] is a collection of photographs by Eric Boutilier-Brown.

Susanna Cornett is impressed by some of the photos, not impressed by others, and by her own admission somewhat conflicted:

I find myself torn on the issue of these nude photographs. Obviously these are real people, without clothes, and a real person photographed them. Issues of modesty (or the lack thereof) are rampant, and not, in my judgment, unimportant. However, the photos that I like the best are not overtly sexual, but rather positioning the human body as an element of nature, the juxtaposition a celebration of the beauty of the human form and its connection to other parts of nature. The images where the model is the central point, not the blending of the model and nature, I find much less compelling and nothing out of the usual. I find myself philosophically opposed to nude photography, yet aesthetically drawn to the photos of the type I point out above. I don't think nudity in and of itself is wrong, and I think we should all be comfortable with our bodies. However, I agree both theologically and practically with the Biblical strictures of modesty, for exactly the reasons the Bible states that it's important. Our society is too cavalier about both sex and nudity already.

It's a dilemma. And I'm not quite sure how to resolve it.

I think part of the problem is the coupling of "sex and nudity" as a single concept, as many people (though not Susanna, I suspect) do; while nudity certainly facilitates sex, it doesn't imply it, unless you've somehow acquired the notion that apart from bathroom functions, the only reason to take off your clothes is to have sex. Any semi-serious skinnydipper knows better than that.

Still, discerning intention occasionally requires some work. Flashing a barista is very likely an act of exhibitionism, something not to be encouraged officially. (My apologies in advance to baristas.) Camping nude in a national park (which is not generally illegal under Federal law) probably isn't, but it could be. Dressing up with the hope that one's garb will lead to what Helen Gurley Brown once called "getting Dial spelled backwards" likely is.

I'm not going to suggest that everyone shuck his duds for the sheer delight of it. (Of course, if you do, I'm not going to complain, unless you do it in my driveway.) But it might not be a bad idea to create a little Garden of Eden of your own, outdoors if you dare, indoors if you don't — provided, of course, you keep in mind what happened in the first one.

(Disclosure: Written while dressed.)

7 August 2004
This morning's nightmares

No changes in drug consumption, mind you: just a wider spectrum of really bizarre ideas that obviously reside somewhere in the back of my head.

The roof is leaking in the converted Sherwin-Williams store (or whatever the heck it is) where I live, and nobody answers the phone, so I drive up 4th Avenue in search of assistance, only to be stopped by flood waters which aren't exactly raging but which aren't going to allow passage either. The ferryman says I'll have to leave my car behind, but he has a chair left, into which I scramble. It's more of a bar stool with a back, actually; nice cherrywood finish. Amazing how it holds up under these conditions.

After which I am unceremoniously dropped into some dismal landscape in which the name of Lileks is occasionally spoken, usually in hushed tones, maybe reverent, maybe fearful. I get it, I thought. This is one of his dreams. Let's hope not. I have to admire some of the construction work — a machine that can fabricate funnel cakes and nunchucks simultaneously deserves some sort of accolade — and I had to grin at the idea of Alice B. Toklas having a recipe for summer sausage, but this clearly wasn't the place for me. Lileks himself appeared briefly in a doorway, looking rather like Dave Barry, had Marcellus from Pulp Fiction gotten medieval on Dave Barry's ass.

Cut to the sneak preview of a new non-Star Wars film by George Lucas, and while I forget the title, I figured the best I could hope for was something other than Willow II. Maybe THX 2100. No such luck. It came off more or less like Henry V in Space, and the much-hyped "surprise plot twist" wouldn't have surprised anyone old enough to have gotten through potty training. The credits, though, were full of in-jokes, and cards in the seatback pockets obligingly detailed every last one of them. I stayed long enough for the lights to come back up, whereupon the theater operator cut to a local radio station doing a pitch for some car show, and as I left, I heard my brother doing a creditable Darryl Starbirdesque "BE THERE!"

Downstairs, I sought to get the bad taste of Lucas out of my mouth with an arcade game, and the only one open was a truly bizarre thing with an ersatz Dick Tracy theme. It was your basic shoot-'em-up, yes, but sometimes when you shot 'em, a voiceover popped in with a list of reasons why you shouldn't have. "Political correctness," I sighed, and the fellow next to me, who in fact had been doing those voiceovers, said, "Well, it's a living."

After that, waking up was actually an improvement.

Worse, they called him a lawyer

A California attorney, claiming he was the subject of abuse on Yahoo! message boards, is assembling a class-action lawsuit against Yahoo! on behalf of Californians who have been similarly picked on. Apparently the cruel words came fast and furious:

[Stephen] Galton is a partner in the firm of Galton & Helm, which specializes in insurance law. He registered to use Yahoo message boards in early 2004 in order to respond to a negative late-2003 post about one of his clients, which he did not identify in the suit.

After Galton posted his response, under the screen name "stephengalton," he was subjected to name-calling by various other users of the message boards.

One user, a person using the screen name "mumioler" who had posted the original messages about Galton's client that started the dispute, wrote a series of new messages calling Galton a "shyster" and an "overly robust geezer that makes a living walking behind the elephant with a shovel."

Other users also took personal shots at Galton, and he filed suit in April of this year against them. At the same time, he sought their personal information via a subpoena from Yahoo. The company, the suit said, responded with incomplete or inaccurate information.

McGehee is properly scornful:

I used to get called names a lot when I was a kid, and when I was a kid I used to try to make them stop. I outgrew it. Galton didn't.

And Galton will probably have a hissy fit over his new prominence in the search engines, too.

This reminds me of an incident twenty-odd years ago in which Car and Driver ran a column which castigated the legal profession for various offenses against motoring enthusiasts. An attorney wrote in to cancel his subscription in protest; the magazine printed his letter, along with the following response:

Perhaps you'd be interested in subscribing to our sister publication Ambulance and Chaser.

All by itself, that was worth a three-year renewal.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:28 AM to Wastes of Oxygen )
Saturday spottings (with vegetables)

I was threading my way back from Sears' repair location, which is tucked away southwest of the Capitol complex, and eventually I found myself at 23rd and Classen, where Beverly's Restaurant had been bulldozed into oblivion to make way for the city's 726th Walgreens store.

Beverly's, of course, was an Oklahoma City staple for years, and their Chicken in the Rough was briefly franchised to other eateries. And while this location had been closed for some time, Beverly's Pancake Corner, west of Penn Square, still serves breakfast and lunch, so it's not the end of an era. Yet.

Besides, it could have been worse. Walgreens at first tried to get a different corner of this intersection: the one occupied by the Gold Dome.

North of 23rd, the new Asian District signage is in place, white on red in the sort of font one expects to find in ads for Chinese restaurants. A letter to The Oklahoman last week complained about the whole idea:

Since when can Oklahoma City Councilman Sam Bowman and his steering committee decide for the city to allow people to put up signs designating a certain district for a certain group of people? Will the Chamber of Commerce and other city leaders let Hispanics and any other group decide to put up signs on city property to claim a certain district?

The chamber's Drew Dugan says putting a brand on a district gives the business owners "pride." He may see it that way, but I don't think the majority of the citizens would agree. Why segregate an area for any group of people? I thought we were getting away from identifying any group of people from everyone else.

Which is a reasonable point, but identifying a mile of Classen Boulevard as an Asian District hardly constitutes segregation. For one thing, it's not a reflection of housing patterns; Americans of Asian descent live all over the city and in the suburbs, not just around this area. For another — well, Tom Waken, who owns property on Classen and elsewhere, and who sits on the Asian District Commission, sent this to the Mid-City Advocate:

The Asian business people staked out Classen Blvd. in 1975.... they are responsible for bringing Classen from a dying area to a place where business is thriving and property owners and business owners are paying more taxes into the city's treasury than they were previously.

I am for any ethnic group who will build up our great city to proudly display their own district with their signs. It is good for everyone who lives in Oklahoma City.

And that initial arrival of Asian-owned businesses got this area, and the strip of 23rd just to its east, known informally as "Little Saigon," a name which has persisted all these years; it's not like anyone should be at all surprised by this.

Will we eventually see Latino (around, say, SW 29th and Western), African-American (NE 23rd and Martin Luther King), even gay (NW 39th and Pennsylvania) districts? I'm thinking we will, and I'm thinking it's just fine with me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:21 PM to City Scene )
8 August 2004
The soul of the city

The transformation of the record business into the Music Industry basically spelled the end of the regional hit, the record that all the locals dearly loved and which the rest of the nation unaccountably spurned, ending up way below Billboard's Top 40 as a result but still able to bring back memories.

The archetype for this situation might be Bob Seger, who cut more than a dozen singles in the late Sixties and early Seventies that sold in the high five figures in his native Detroit and apparently nowhere else; of the lot, only "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," credited to the Bob Seger System and issued on Capitol 2297 in 1968, made any serious chart noise, topping out at #17. It would be six years before Beautiful Loser made him a household name in more than a handful of households, and "Night Moves" was still yet to come.

The Detroit soul scene included one monolith — Motown — and one scrappy little competitor, Eddie Wingate's Golden World/Ric-Tic group, which Berry Gordy eventually bought out, ostensibly to get Edwin Starr, Wingate's biggest act, perhaps more likely to keep the Funk Brothers from moonlighting on other people's records. There were major soul scenes in Memphis and in Muscle Shoals, and minor soul scenes in dozens of other places.

One of those scenes was in Columbus, Ohio, and the man behind it is Bill Moss, who at the time was a DJ at WVKO radio and who had cut a couple of records in the late Sixties that went nowhere in particular. In 1970, Moss called for local talent to fill up a local show and maybe fill out the roster for a new record label; the first release on Capsoul (short for Capital City Soul, of course) was Marion Black's "Go On Fool" b/w "Who Knows", issued as CS-20. "Go On Fool" was an extended lament in Toussaint McCall mode, which was picked up for national distribution by Avco Embassy. But the real gem was the flip: "Who Knows" was a spirited shuffle with gospel overtones which got far more airplay. While both sides obviously sold the same, neither individually made the Hot 100.

Still, it was enough to get Bill Moss going. He built a small studio and wangled some local financing, and in 1971 issued perhaps the most remarkable disc of his career: "You Can't Blame Me", CS-22, by "Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr," a group of Columbus kids who up to this point had been called the Revelations. Hawkins didn't actually exist — this was a typo by Moss, who apparently forgot Al Dawson's real name when he typeset the labels — but the one who got the attention was Virgil Johnson, who sang in a quavering yet somehow never thin falsetto that beautifully offset the bumpy bassline and the staccato shouts from the background. Not willing to be a big fish in a small pond, Johnson eventually betook himself to Los Angeles and promptly disappeared.

By 1974, Capsoul was still holding its own, having issued a dozen singles and one LP — Gently Down Your Stream (CSLP-370) by the Four Mints, then the label's most consistent act — when the bankers decided that they'd had enough: Bill Moss, they said, was "too emotionally involved" with Capsoul. Moss' studio was padlocked; he spirited away the master tapes and stored them at a friend's house. Flood waters came, with the results you'd expect; disheartened, Moss took what little inventory he had down to a record-pressing plant in Cincinnati and had it recycled.

And that might have been the end of that, except for one minor detail: memories don't die as easily as vinyl does. Bill Moss dabbled in politics, eventually serving on the Columbus school board; he still does a radio show for WVKO. Once in a blue moon, someone would ask to license Capsoul tracks, and Moss would say thanks, but no thanks.

Then Ken Shipley, late of Rykodisc and now running his own boutique label, got a whiff of "You Can't Blame Me." He drove to Columbus to talk to Moss, and this time Moss said yes. Nineteen tracks, all painstakingly remastered from vinyl pressings, are compiled on Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label, the first release (literally: #001) from the Numero Group. If you grew up in Ohio or thereabouts, you may remember some of these tracks; if you didn't, now's your chance.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:58 AM to Tongue and Groove )
JFK version 2.0

Hint: it's not an upgrade.

Andrea Harris isn't pleased with this product either:

I can't believe this is the best candidate the Dems could come up with. He makes Clinton look like a shining knight in comparison — at least Clinton had the balls to actually dodge the draft instead of mincing through what read to me like four inept months of scratch-tending and grunt-bothering, and then coming home to grandstand against the war for political gain. Then again, maybe that's all part of the Plan: the Plan to make Clinton look so attractive by comparison that we'll all fall for Hillary when she runs in 2008 just so we can have the Big He hanging around the White House again.

For a couple of putative backwoods Arkansawyers, Bill 'n Hill seem awfully well-versed in all things Machiavellian.

Then again, John Kerry did get three Purple Hearts. Just ask him.

The original Hellfighter

Red Adair, who started out as a roughneck in an Oklahoma oilfield in the Thirties and wound up the go-to guy when your oil or gas well was on fire, died this weekend in Houston at 89.

After World War II, during which he was part of a bomb-disposal unit, Paul N. Adair went to work for Myron Kinley, who had built a business controlling oilfield fires, and set up his own company in 1959. He stayed with it for thirty-five years, taking on the scariest assignments imaginable and inspiring the 1968 film Hellfighters, starring John Wayne and crediting Adair as technical advisor — though it was the Wayne character's assistant, played by Jim Hutton, who proved to be the real hothead on screen.

In 1991, Adair, then seventy-six, was brought in by the Kuwaiti government to tame the dozens of oil wells set ablaze during the Gulf War, a project predicted to last three to five years, which Adair's team finished in less than nine months.

Red Adair feared no fire, on earth or elsewhere; he quipped in 1991 that he'd struck a deal with the devil "to give me an air-conditioned place when I go down there, if I go there, so I won't put all the fires out." Myself, I rather think he's gone somewhere with better climate.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:01 PM to Almost Yogurt )
A cute little booger

Nissan has been schlepping this teensy car around the show circuit, and it's in production for the Japanese domestic market. The Moco hews closely to the Japanese minicar spec — 3.4 meters in length, 660-cc engine — and will be available with optional all-wheel drive. Oh, and Nissan's not actually making it at all; it's a rebadged Suzuki MRwagon. Despite its confused parentage, it's selling well in Japan.

There's probably no market for the Moco in the US, mostly because Americans don't have much interest in cars a foot shorter than a Mini Cooper fercryingoutloud, but at least partially, I suspect, because the growing Latino submarket isn't likely to be delighted by a car whose name means "snot" in Spanish.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:50 PM to Driver's Seat )
9 August 2004
Questionable joints

Later this week I will trudge across town for my first meeting with an orthopedic surgeon, who will review the results of my recent MRI (not good) and will make recommendations for treatment (not cheap).

Interestingly, I have been in somewhat less pain in recent months, which I attribute to an increase in sunshine, an increase in the diversity of my movements — going to work and working in the yard affect the knees differently — and, for all I know, divine intervention. (Not that it would occur to me to cry O Lord, take this burden from me; I always assumed He had more important things to do.)

By the end of the week, I'll know more.

From the Department of Low Expectations

While I get an occasional attaboy for this site design, I feel compelled to point out that it's simple and uncluttered because that's about the extent of my design abilities; there is no shortage of people who can produce really excellent yet still highly-readable pages, but I'm not one of them.

On the other hand, try as I may, I can't seem to muck it up as badly as Microsoft. Here's Phil Ringnalda on the new MSN blogs:

The HTML is, of course, execrable. The one possible way they could have gotten some approving buzz from tech bloggers was to use extremely clean (X)HTML, but given the apparent total lack of a corporate culture believing that code is poetry, at least when it comes to HTML, there was little hope of that. It might be possible to persuade Microsoft tools to produce valid HTML, but judging by what mostly comes out of them, they must think of HTML as a hot dog factory, where nobody in their right mind would ever look inside.

Having seen some of the hash that emerges from FrontPage, I'm afraid even to look at this stuff.

And, of course, there's this:

To the surprise of exactly nobody, when I clicked the signup URL in Firefox, I was told to get a better browser. Instead, I switched to Internet Explorer.

What, precisely, is IE better than? Lynx?

I'm still on a relatively old (2.64) version of Movable Type. I think I'll stay put.

(Via Dowingba)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:23 AM to Blogorrhea )
It's a long, long time

Terry Nichols drew 161 consecutive life terms without parole today for his role in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

The sentence was issued by US District Judge Steven Taylor after the jury failed to agree on a sentence. In addition to the life terms for the murder charges, Nichols received shorter terms on arson and conspiracy charges, was fined $30,000, and was ordered to pay $5 million in restitution and legal fees, plus $161,000 toward the victims'-compensation fund.

Once the proceedings in Oklahoma are wrapped up, Nichols will return to federal custody in Colorado, where he is already serving eight life terms.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:01 PM to Soonerland )
Who's edits the newsletter?

Transformations, August 2004, page 7MAPS for Kids is the successor to the original Metropolitan Area Projects plan that renovated so much of downtown Oklahoma City. The plan, funded by a temporary sales tax (seven years), will take ten years to implement completely. Half a billion dollars will be pumped into Oklahoma City Public Schools, and $150 million more into suburban districts that overlay parts of the city. The Chamber of Commerce has begun sending out a quarterly newsletter called Transformations, to advise us taxpayers where the money is being spent. From the looks of this sidebar on page seven, apparently none of the $650 million went to proofreading.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:46 PM to City Scene )
10 August 2004
Popping a couple of time capsules

Unexpected parcel last night, which turned out to be 32 pages of biographical material on my old high school class, issued for the 35th reunion last month (which took place about the time I was returning from the World Tour). It was gratifying, I guess, to see that some of the couples were still together after all these years. Most of the class stayed pretty close to home; the committee had obtained addresses on about four-fifths of us, and I'm 1230 miles from the school, good for third-farthest away. (We have one alum near Austin, Texas, twenty miles farther out, but the winner, by a considerable margin, is between Bakersfield and Santa Barbara, California.)

And yes, alas, a dozen or so are gone. Inevitable, I suppose, but still it tugs at me.

The biggest kick? Following up on the Web and finding an Al Hirschfeld drawing of one of us. Not that I'd ever fall back on "I knew her when."

(Update: Added link to school site.)

Crushing dissent fashionably

Steve Skubinna poses a question to Andrea Harris, and offers some answers:

What kind of footwear do you use when crushing dissent? Hobnailed jackboots are generally de rigueur for us fascists, but they’re so clumsy, as well as noisy. When you did the Goth thing I suppose you wore Doc Martens and they'd crush dissent damn well. A pair of Nancy Sinatra boots made for walkin' would be the obvious choice. Too obvious.

My favorite boots are a pair of Cabela's ultralight kangaroo hiking boots. Best pair I ever had, no break in period, light and flexible. One drawback is they are so light you can't count on their inertia in crushing, you need lots of leg action. I am a swimmer, so no problems there, but it does take it out of you, using the kangaroo boots. After I crush the dissent I like to spray Roundup on the remains just to prevent it sprouting again.

Maybe you ought to consider a pair of those Rosa Krebs stiletto shoes Lotte Lenya used in From Russia With Love? Of course, that’s not so much a crushing action as a stabbing one. "Stabbing dissent" doesn’t have the same ominous ring, but it would make an excellent name for a rock band.

Being something of a traditionalist, I think there's still a place for the jackboot; tried and true, it still packs a wallop, delivering a full measure of imagery with each and every step. Besides, if the future is indeed, as Orwell says, "a boot stomping on a face forever," you can bet it's not an Ugg boot.

That said, should Ann Coulter or Laura Ingraham prefer to crush dissent in strappy sandals, I'm probably the last person in the world to object.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:49 AM to Dyssynergy )
What's brown and sounds like a bell?

Apparently five American girls, according to the Social Security Administration.

Name by name, but not by nature, one hopes.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:14 PM to Dyssynergy )
The sweetness of sixteen

Grameen ("Rural") Bank is an anomaly among financial institutions: 90 percent of its shares are owned by the poor people of Bangladesh whom it serves. (The government in Dhaka owns the remaining ten percent.)

Grameen's specialty is microcredit, and here's how it works:

The assumption is that if individual borrowers are given access to credit, they will be able to identify and engage in viable income-generating activities — simple processing such as paddy husking, lime-making, manufacturing such as pottery, weaving, and garment sewing, storage and marketing and transport services. Women were initially given equal access to the schemes, and proved not only reliable borrowers but astute enterpreneurs. As a result, they have raised their status, lessened their dependency on their husbands and improved their homes and the nutritional standards of their children. Today over 90 percent of borrowers are women.

And the story of one of these women is at the heart of the motion picture 16 Decisions, named for the philosophies underlying Grameen Bank lending. I haven't seen it yet, but Christine has — it's running on the Sundance Channel, which is outside my cable tier for now — and she was moved:

I am both inspired and humbled. Inspired by the many women in Bangladesh who have taken control of their lives and families, not out of the need to be "heard", "recognized" or "validated", but out of sheer necessity and because it's right. And I am humbled by the grace and fortitude that these women exhibit in their every action.

Words to live by, and not just for women either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:01 PM to Almost Yogurt )
11 August 2004
Accidents waiting to happen

The mix is perfect: two or three inches of rain, which means that drainage, theoretical at best in some parts of town, has become all but nonexistent; street lights being turned off because, after all, it's sunrise; and winds howling from the north at 40 mph or thereabouts. An eleven-mile commute is no treat under the best conditions; add all this and you've got a recipe for disaster.

Not that anything befell me today. Under hazardous conditions, my tendency is to put the hammer down and keep it there, reasoning (if that's the word) that the sooner I finish the trip, the sooner I get away from the hazards. This actually seems to work far better than it deserves to.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:24 AM to Weather or Not )
You just turn your pretty head and walk away

John Kerry's secret plan's no secret anymore:

My goal, my diplomacy, my statesmanship is to get our troops reduced in number and I believe if you do the statesmanship properly, I believe if you do the kind of alliance building that is available to us, that it's appropriate to have a goal of reducing the troops over that period of time.

Whatever the hell that means. (And they say Bush has trouble with the language.)

The implications, however, seem clear enough. Notes Mitch Berg:

If Kerry wins, and his "peace" with "honor" agenda takes office, then the terrorists will know one thing; there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's one year away.

If there's anything that guerrillas like more than fighting major armies, it's not fighting major armies. Laying low for a year, in exchange for greasing the skids on a Kerry-led pullout, is a fast, cheap way to return to power in Iraq. Everyone "wins" (if you ignore freedom-loving Iraqis, as John Kerry, the French, Germans, Russians and large parts of the State Department do); Kerry gets his foreign-policy "win" on the cheap (short-term, anyway), the French and Germans get their client back, the terrorists get to fight the scrubs for all the marbles when the US is gone, and the pan-arabs and islamofascists get to win by default.

Which may be an exaggeration, but riddle me this: In the Sixties and Seventies, John Kerry (d)evolved from a marginal hawk to the shrillest possible dove. At the 2004 Democratic convention, he made all sorts of hawkish noises. What in this man's history would make anyone think he might actually have meant any of them?

(Via Steve Gigl)

Of crocodiles and cuttlefish

The American Chesterton Society recently made its first-ever pilgrimage to G. K. Chesterton's England, and Dawn Eden was there.

For the most part, she was delighted, though she was dismayed to see a peripheral argument among the pilgrims — whether Shakespeare was a Roman Catholic, of all things — taking center stage. "Somewhere along the way," she says, "the idea of examining and celebrating G. K. Chesterton's life and career got buried." Nonsense in the wrong place? Perhaps.

I rather think she'll have more to say in the next couple of days, but for now, let's welcome her home. (I, of course, followed the other way home: I stayed there.)

(Update, 4:45 pm: Gawker welcomes Dawn home with their infamous Five Questions.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:44 AM to Almost Yogurt )
You take one down and pass it around

Ninety-nine Carnivals of the Vanities on the Web.

This week's edition is presented by The Smallest Minority with the obligatory Suitable Theme; as always, it's your quick-and-easy guide to last week's best blogging.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:26 AM to Blogorrhea )
12 August 2004