1 June 2005
Parental guidance suggested

Back in the Nineties there was a brief vogue for Web-page ratings using the recommendations of the Recreational Software Advisory Council, which I, contrarian so-and-so that I am, declined to implement:

The short answer is that writing a few lines of PICS code is not going to protect anybody's children. If I thought for a minute that I could summon the forces of the universe by means of the <META> tag, surely I would have accomplished far greater things, or at least far more interesting things, by now.

But that's not really the issue either. While display of the RSACi logo does not officially imply anything, there are people who will take its presence as some sort of moral imprimatur, and its absence as an admission of shame. These people are obviously deeply confused, and I have no great urge to add further to their confusion.

Today, RSACi no longer exists, and if we're concerned about such things, we have to take matters into our own hands. Julie Neidlinger has done so:

Regarding the safety of this site for youngsters (ages 0-18, or those children firmly in the grip of public education or tied to apron strings), no. This blog is NOT SAFE. Parents should not let their children read this blog, despite letting them watch any old crap on TV or on DVD, or despite having children who could curse me into a corner with words I didn't know existed. This is not hypocritical. This is parenting! No. This blog is NOT SAFE!

For one thing, it requires the ability to read, and understand basic English grammar and usage. Getting beyond that tricky catch, sarcasm, contradiction, stating the obvious, hidden meanings, avoidance of bad grammar and spelling, and other written feats of magic are used to convey both simple and complex ideas. Some of these ideas include things that aren't happy thoughts and fuzzy bunnies, such as anger, depression, sadness, psychotic episodes, shame, suicide, movies, stupid people and broccoli. Joy and happiness make an occasional appearance. Every so often a link to a site with similar tough themes is used. USE CAUTION! BE CAREFUL!

Of course, if you introduce broccoli to the fuzzy bunnies ... but I digress.

Anyway, this is a model for the way these things should be done. And, as Frank Zappa once proclaimed on a warning label:

The language and concepts contained therein are GUARANTEED NOT TO CAUSE ETERNAL TORMENT IN THE PLACE WHERE THE GUY WITH THE HORNS AND POINTED STICK CONDUCTS HIS BUSINESS.

Unless, of course, you believe they will.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to Blogorrhea )
The view from Yancy Street

Mister Snitch says the new Fantastic Four movie will be a letdown:

The FF movie failed to rise to the challenge of mining and translating the sublime, subversively self-aware, pulpy pleasures of its source material to the screen. This same failing doomed The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which sank from sight, unmourned, shortly after it appeared some weeks ago. The FF no doubt will suffer a similar, equally undeserved, fate.

And what's more:

The FF's original self-mocking, pulp sci-fi wit and sweeping scale were lost on its cast, who treated the project as just another gig.

All of these may indeed be true. Still, we're talking my two favorite people in all the Marvel Universe — Sue Storm and Benjamin J. Grimm — and I will be there.

'Nuff said.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:32 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Speaking of user guidelines

Xrlq has revised his to reflect the realities of the times.

I suppose it's time to overhaul mine, which have the virtue of inclusiveness, but which aren't even slightly amusing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:56 AM to Blogorrhea )
141

As in C-141 Starlifter, which includes A, B and C models. (Obligatory Oklahoma note: The first C-141A was delivered to Tinker AFB in 1964.)

Otherwise, it's the 141st edition of Carnival of the Vanities, presented this week by Blog Business World. Make it your business to read it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:12 PM to Blogorrhea )
Remember good old self-defense?

In April, Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed Senate Bill 436, which authorized the use of force, up to and including deadly force, against intruders and attackers and other nogoodniks.

Now I've always figured that the only good intruder is a dead intruder, and Oklahoma law tends to support this notion. I might have thought that Floridians would be happy about it, but apparently some of them aren't:

Chicago Alderman Dorothy Tillman, formerly of Pensacola, said the law will "lead to open war on black males."

"It's almost a way to eliminate people. Black men will be under the ground more than ever."

Okay, she's not all that Floridian. But what is she saying? Black males are more likely to be attackers or intruders or other nogoodniks than other people? Isn't that, um, sorta racist? And what were those other 100 people in this protest thinking?

Believe me, if you've breached my threshold and thus qualified for a free rib-cage ventilation, my first concern is not going to be the color of the perp; it's going to be how I'm going to get his bodily fluids off my hardwood floors.

(Via LilacRose, where Susan B. asks the same questions.)

2 June 2005
Can schizophrenics claim two exemptions?

Back in the day, I did some spring moonlighting for the Block brothers — mostly H., as no one could remember ever even seeing R. — and I remembered that bribes were considered ordinary income, and that gambling losses were deductible only to the extent of the winnings you reported as income. But this provision is new to me:

Stolen property. If you steal property, you must report its fair market value in your income in the year you steal it unless in the same year, you return it to its rightful owner.

And is the owner allowed depreciation for the period in which he is deprived of its use? The mind boggles.

(Via Jacqueline Passey.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to Common Cents )
Over and above "Thou shalt not kill"

Jennifer McBride in the Oregon Daily Herald supplies ten reasons not to assassinate George W. Bush.

Now I would have thought that two words — "President Cheney" — might have been sufficient discouragement, but evidently it takes more than that up in Eugene.

(Found by Rammer.)

Permanently grounded

Oklahoma City's Downtown Airpark, across the river from the west side of downtown, is apparently shutting down: the company's offices, on site and at the Clarence Page Airport on the city's far west side, have been closed after 58 years of boom and, more recently, bust.

For the time being, landings and takeoffs will continue, though neither maintenance nor fuel will be available on site.

This could be a blow to the ongoing development along the Oklahoma River, just to the north: access for general aviation could have been a major asset. On the other hand, the land itself might be worth more being used for something else.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:02 AM to City Scene )
The answer is still 42

Well, an answer, anyway. Developer Grant Humphreys has a plan for the eastern edge of the Flatirons District, east of downtown and north of the Deep Deuce area: Block 42 will incorporate about thirty upscale residences — 1560 to 2728 square feet — at prices averaging around $270,000.

This might well fit into the Master Plan for The Triangle, as proposed by a group of developers. And with the demand for downtown housing projected to grow substantially in the next decade, Block 42 is coming along at the right time; assuming final approval by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority within 60 days, Humphreys says the first units could be ready next summer.

Still: two hundred seventy K? I know that they're wanting to attract the young urban professional type (I'm trying my best to avoid the Y word), but I suspect that these homes will likely go to more settled folk, possibly connected to the medical-research complexes on the other side of I-235. And anyone willing to trade off floor space for view can buy in at The Classen for $150-200K.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:25 AM to City Scene )
From Allen's Alley (part 1)

Allen Klein's Abkco Records was for many years the label collectors loved to hate. Sides from Cameo/Parkway Records, which Klein acquired for next to nothing in the late 1960s, have been conspiciously absent from the CD marketplace, and the stuff Abkco did release — compilations by the Animals and Herman's Hermits, the Rolling Stones' Decca recordings, and a box of Phil Spector material — was half-heartedly mastered and (especially the Spector box) woefully overpriced. Worse yet, Abkco, which controlled Sam Cooke's Tracey Records catalog, actually sued to get an RCA Cooke compilation off the market, because it included one track ("Another Saturday Night") which they said belonged to them. RCA responded by reissuing the collection with the track excised, but the damage was done.

For reasons unknown, though, Abkco has been mending its ways. The first ray of light was "Keep On Movin'," a Sam Cooke compilation that included the major Tracey tracks; they have since issued box sets on Cooke and on his SAR label, plus a biopic on DVD. The Stones, Animals and Hermits material has been remastered from better source material and reissued.

The Herman's Hermits issue (Retrospective, Abkco 9228-2) features twenty-six tracks, from "I'm Into Something Good" to "Here Comes the Star," the group's last British hit from late 1969. (The American well had dried up a year or so before.) Compared to MGM or Abkco's own vinyl, this is remarkably clean, and while it would have been nice to have the stereo mix of "A Must to Avoid," at least they got the correct version of "Leaning on a Lamp Post," something MGM always seemed to be confused about. And there is one actual stereo track: "Museum." If you've been nursing a crush on Peter Noone all these years, you need this disc.

Retrospective is also the title of the Animals disc (Abkco 9325-2), with twenty-two tracks, more than half of which Klein didn't own and actually paid to license. The Mickie Most/EMI material is generally fairly clean, though it's clear Most overdid it on the levels in a couple of places, and "Boom Boom" has a few extra bars in its instrumental break, which I wasn't expecting. The most grievous fault of the previous release — the UK, rather than US, version of "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," which has a different lead vocal — has been fixed. I could carp that "Don't Bring Me Down" is in mono, but at least they went to the trouble to get it and subsequent Animals tracks from Decca/Universal, and everything else that was released in stereo on vinyl is in stereo here. The last track is the usual 4:01 radio edit of "Spill the Wine" by Eric Burdon and War, about 50 seconds shorter than the LP track or my copy of the single, and a lot less noisy than either.

Both these discs are SACD hybrids: played on SACD machines, they're supposed to sound even better. I don't have one and couldn't check this claim.

And Cameo/Parkway? We'll talk about that next time.

3 June 2005
White with fright

An anonymous observation from craiglist:

tell me why all the white people that live outside okc are scared to live downtown. i had a party once near the paseo area and all my friends from the mwc/choctaw area arrived wide eyed and freaked out because of the black people along 23rd street (it was a friday night).

Must be Choctaw. Midwest City is even blacker than OKC (19.5 versus 15.4 percent, per city-data.com). I guess some people are, you should pardon the expression, easily spooked.

And anyway, there are plenty of streets I think are scarier than 23rd. NE 10th, before it peters out west of Martin Luther King, often gives me the creeps, but then the last near-death experience I had in a car was along 10th, so take this with large quantities of sodium chloride.

NE 4th, late at night — which was my commute back in the middle 80s when I lived in the northeast quadrant and worked swing shift downtown — has a sort of not-even-vultures-will-live-here quality to it, and it still has EPA Superfund sites on it, making it seem even worse than 10th, which used to have one (the old junkyard east of Bryant), which since has been capped and taken off the list.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:31 AM to City Scene )
Connections lost

There was, and is, one major difference between your online friends and your friends in Real Life™: when your online friends go, it takes forever to find out about it.

Dennard Summers died on the 8th of May, still in his thirties. In his real life, he was a music and media writer — for a while, he ran something called Pittsburgh Media Insider — and most recently, he had established himself as the producer of Steel City Video Mix, a public-access cable series. Our paths crossed first in 1999, when our common interests intersected: I was collecting examples of female invisibility in the media, and he was doing bluescreen work and archiving precisely the sort of still photos I was looking for. A mailing list grew out of this; there are now well over 100 subscribers.

Word didn't get back to Pittsburgh bloggers until last week, and the mailing list was informed late last night, though I didn't check it until this morning.

For a while, members of the group styled themselves "The Hole in the Air Gang." Today, the Gang has a hole of its own, one which will be impossible to fill.

Fare thee well, old friend, and remember: in the next world, there is no digital-rights management.

Considering a notebook?

If you're about to run up your MasterCard to get a new laptop computer, Syaffolee knows the questions to ask:

If you want to get a laptop, definitely consider what you're going to be doing with it. Are you going to be using the laptop for everything or just traveling? Do you really need all those doohickies when a five dollar LAN cable will work? Is size and weight a factor? What are other people's experiences with the particular laptop you're looking at? Does it break down all the time?

My own little Road Warrior, a Toshiba Satellite, vintage 2002, gets more use on the road than it does at home. It has a CD burner/DVD player. I carry a PC Card with a Wi-Fi adaptor and, well, a five-dollar LAN cable. It's not too light, but not too unwieldy either. Battery life is an unimpressive two hours, which declines markedly with use of the optical drive. It's never given me a bit of trouble, though 42nd and Treadmill bought two of the same model for its traveling staff, and the troglodytes therein managed to kill them both in less than nine months.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:33 AM to PEBKAC )
Shadows over the tables

This year's Sovereignty Symposium incorporated one classic, or at least warmed over, bit of political heat, courtesy of Citizen Potawatomi Nation chairman John "Rocky" Barrett.

Gaming has brought economic good fortune to Native Americans, says Barrett, but a vast right-wing conspiracy threatens the tribes, including the oil industry, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who presumably won't stand for that sort of thing:

Never in the history of the United States have tribes been allowed to profit at the expense of the European invaders ever and it will not happen now.

Barrett also objected to the compact between the State of Oklahoma and various tribes enacted as the result of the passage of State Question 712 last year, which he characterized as the "stupidest, most absurd" agreement ever developed. Scott Meacham, state treasurer, was happy to point out that the Citizen Potawatomi were among the first in line to file for membership in the compact.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:52 PM to Soonerland )
Going for a Mas audience

Carolyne Mas and I go back a long way: I put up the very first fan page for her back in 1997, and she promptly called me to tell me what I'd gotten wrong, an early example of having my backside fact-checked.

Steve Burgh produced her first two albums for Mercury, a quarter-century ago; they met up again in 1999 and cut some sides, four of which turned up on her 2003 release, Beyond Mercury. (There must be something about that label; Graham Parker, once shut of them, recorded a single called "Mercury Poisoning.") When Burgh died this year, Mas decided to put out the remaining six tracks, which with the four previously-released items comprise Brand New World, just released on her Savage Juliet imprint.

You can get this disc from her Fan Club, or from CD Baby once they get stock. (There was an MP3 here briefly, but only just.)

Stale turnover

You can hardly blame Dan Dill. At the end of 2004, he snapped up Heritage Park Mall for $4.1 million; a brace of California investors has now taken it off his hands and given him a tidy profit for the brief period he owned it.

The $7.8 million price is still below the appraised value of the mall; tenants are still waiting to see if anything improves. I'm starting to think it may be too late, myself: the focus of new activity in Midwest City is far to the south, with a not-quite-Super Target, a Lowe's, and a Kohl's all taking spots on the north side of SE 29th east of Air Depot, and a new Sheraton hotel near I-40 and Sooner Road. None of these is within two miles of the mall.

Well, there's the new Wal-Mart Supercenter at NE 23rd and Douglas, but that's even farther away.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:39 PM to City Scene )
4 June 2005
Windows on the womb

I have never had a great deal of faith in fetal-monitoring devices, and this doesn't help.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:54 AM to PEBKAC )
The war inside the desktop

I upgraded both Firefox (to 1.0.4) and QuickTime (to 6.5.2) on my work box yesterday, which had the non-salutary effect of causing rather a lot of Web pages to display incorrectly. After a period of cursing, investigation, and recursing, I determined that at some point during these processes, Macromedia's Flash and Shockwave plugins were somehow screwed; reinstalling them seemed to restore some semblance of normal operation.

Needless to say, this is a Wintel box. And one does get used to failures on Wintel boxes, no matter how inconvenient, but "get used to" does not translate into "appreciate."

Which makes me wonder what sort of hell Francis W. Porretto was put through, to motivate him to post the Curmudgeon's Laws of The Adequate Device Driver, a list of ten desiderata, on which typical Windows systems can count on, oh, 0.5 or so.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:57 AM to PEBKAC )
A new twist on an old joke

How many Bush administration officials does it take to screw in a light bulb? I guessed two — one to assign the contract to Halliburton, and one to overlook the cost overruns — but Aldahlia says ten.

(Hmmm. Second list of 10 items I've noted today.)

Bricktown evolution

Last week, I posted this business about one particular local mindset that perplexed me: the notion that the Bricktown entertainment district, rather than being allowed to evolve, should be given a sharp push — presumably according to some, um, "intelligent design" — in the direction of young and hip and "urban."

The Downtown Guy brought this notion in front of his readers, and the discussion there has gotten interesting. A few excerpts from his commenters, very slightly edited by me, and my responses thereto:

Certainly, there are people who do not get or like the young trendy professional or creative artists that are attracted to more adventurous activities and design. But outlets for these people are in short supply in Oklahoma. And urban settings are generally where you find these people in other cities. So, it made sense that if we were trying to improve our city and downtown it would be with new and original developments. Let's face it, for the person in the post running down the art world [this was the lovely and talented Andrea Harris, whom I quoted in my original piece], OKC was already a haven for that individual. Anyone who is satisfied with large corporate mega-retail, black top landscaping, and prefab restaurant design should be happy with developments in OKC already and have no reason to leave the suburbs in the first place.

Nothing at all wrong with originality. But I'm not at all persuaded that originality, in and of itself, is necessarily an unalloyed boon; the farther out on the weirdness asymptote you go, the smaller an audience you can expect. While I'm not at all disinclined to see edgy and unorthodox developments in a town that has damned few of them, I believe that these things take root and grow on their own: you can't really direct the process from outside.

It has always been the core city's role to move the region's cultural curve. If the suburbs are meant to be "safe", it's the inner city's role to experiment and push the tastes of the rest of the region. I think dustbury jumps the gun in assuming that the "young trendy" types want to make it their preserve, when most consider it to be a tourist area. The fact is, Bricktown is successful because it appeals to all people — families and yuppies, the pubcrawlers and sophisticates, the active and passive.

Apart from my gun-jumping, this neatly encapsulates the issue here: Bricktown's success is due to its ability to draw people who think of themselves as suburbanites in addition to those who consider themselves urban in orientation. It's an uneasy balance, and maintaining that balance is, I think, more important than trying to push the district a notch or two toward either side.

As for some ideas of future tenants, here are some things that have worked in touristy areas of other cities: a Galleria, shops unique to Oklahoma heritage, Dave and Busters or GameWerks, high-end shopping or just plain different shopping than other parts of the city such as Neiman-Marcus, Saks, Nordstrom, Marshall Fields, etc. Weird little record stores like Waterloo Records, pool halls and other recreational activities, more GOOD live music, maybe an IMAX, what about an Apple Store those are cool. Maybe miniature golf, those oddly enough seem to make millions in places like Myrtle Beach, SC. What about ferris wheels and a boardwalk like Navy Pier in Chicago? And why is an area that some are trying to bill as "upscale" only seemingly able to support sports bars and steak houses? More often than not anything ethnic seems unsupportable there (see: Indian, Chinese, and Japanese).

I've been to Waterloo Records in Austin; I spent rather a lot of money last time I was there, in fact. The closest music outlet to Bricktown is a CD Warehouse in Automobile Alley, and while I'm glad it's there, it's simply not in the same league. I don't see Neimans or Nordstrom making any moves in this direction, though Saks has a Tulsa store (in Utica Square). Some greater restaurant variety would indeed be welcomed; right now, if I'm thinking dinner date, I'm more likely to go for Western Avenue than Bricktown.

Some folks seem puzzled, or perhaps angered, that Bricktown has Bass Pro instead of Versace. Why the Bass Pro? It's Oklahoma: by definition it is not "upscale"! This state is about something different, and will be for a long time. Part of it is money (probably most of it) and, mixed in with dollars, is culture. Yeah, that's all going to change, eventually (some friends toured a few million dollar homes in Rivendell last weekend: million dollar homes SOUTHSIDE!) but it will take many years. Did other funky downtown areas just appear overnight? Of course not. One respondant mourned our dissimilarity to Austin: I was there a few weeks ago, and 6th is indeed ultra-funky, but I was told (and have read) that's it's been like that for at least thirty years.

It has. (I started at UT Austin in 1969, and Sixth Street was already moving towards funkiness.) And time is always a factor: it took about thirty years to turn a decaying uptown corridor into the Asian District. Still, I think "upscale" is, well, "scalable," if only because having a great deal of disposable income is simplified by not having to spend an ungodly amount of money on housing, one of the major draws of this part of the country. (Yeah, you probably won't earn as much, either, but the Feds will be taking less away, which surely helps.)

As far as the quality of food in Oklahoma City: it can be hard to find good food even in a place like Manhattan. The trouble with Manhattan is that a lousy meal there costs $60 instead of the $15 it might cost here.

No argument from me.

And, to close out, something I probably should have said, but didn't:

There's no point in running around demanding that niche interests have mass appeal and any uncouth and vulgar development should be stopped. Equally annoying is the hostility from the other direction, demanding that these damn nonconformists just shut up and go to the damn Wal-Mart like everyone else. Both perspectives are elitist and counterproductive. This is a big city. Both Toby Keith (last seen shaming Chevy truck buyers nationwide) and Wayne Coyne (of the Flaming Lips, last seen walking across an audience in a giant plastic bubble) live here, and have done so without incident for many years. By the same token, the same crop of post-MAPS private investment brought us both Bass Pro and the excellent and very hip OKC Museum of Art. Irene Lam saved the gold dome, while her husband does LASIK for rich Edmondites.

I'll drink to that. Even in a Bricktown sports bar.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:17 AM to City Scene )
A somewhat heavier fandango

The credits on Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" have always read: music, Gary Brooker; lyrics, Keith Reid.

Matthew Fisher, Procol's organist, has maintained for some time that he contributed at least as much as Brooker — and, for that matter, as Johann Sebastian Bach — to the song. From a BBC interview in 2000:

The song used to be a lot longer, I mean it used to have four verses and what used to happen was that Gary and I would take turns in between verses. I'd play a bit and then he'd play a bit, and it was all improvised. When it got to the point where we decided we wanted to make a demo of this, and we had to cut it down because it was about ten, twelve minutes long, you know, decisions were made that perhaps it would be better just to have the organ doing the solos; and then I made the decision that well, if it was just gonna be me, then I would actually construct a definitive organ solo that would be the same every time, you know, that could be sort of a hook; and I did this by remembering all of my favourite bits that I'd played and stringing them together, during the course of which I did actually come up with this idea of actually changing the bass line, and so the whole thing got a little bit changed at that point.

That Air on a G String bit was pretty well down to Gary; I mean, he came up with that chord sequence and it was very strongly evocative of Air on a G String, and for me to try and play any other note than the one I start off on would have been deliberately going against that, which would have been stupid. So I went along with it, and then I drifted into this other thing, this Sleepers Awake thing, but all the little bits apart from that actually I did. If I say so myself you can't really see the join. A lot of people think that there is actually a Bach tune that is like that, but it isn't. It's just a couple of bits of Bach and the rest is me.

Comes now this notice on Fisher's Web site:

Jens Hills & Co., specialist media and entertainment litigators, have issued proceedings in the Royal Courts of Justice, Chancery Division on behalf of Matthew Fisher against Gary Brooker and Onward Music Limited for inter alia a declaration that Matthew Fisher is the co-author of the music in the song entitled "A Whiter Shade of Pale". The Royal Courts of Justice served the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim on Gary Brooker and Onward Music Limited on the 31st May 2005.

It's probably a safe bet Brooker didn't turn cartwheels 'cross the floor when he was so served.

5 June 2005
From Allen's Alley (part 2)

Philadelphia's Cameo label was a newborn at the beginning of 1957 and was all but dead by the end of 1967. Still, Cameo and its Parkway sibling sold a few zillion records in those years, and the majority of them have been out of print ever since.

The biggest help to the company in its early years, no doubt, was the fact that it was in Philadelphia, about three miles from WFIL-TV and American Bandstand, and if Dick Clark happened to need a guest star one afternoon, Cameo/Parkway was more than happy to supply one of its acts. As Bandstand grew, so did C/P, and the show's ability to break teen idols nationally paid off handsomely with C/P's Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker.

It couldn't last, of course. By 1964, Rydell was off the charts, Checker was recording folk music, and the airwaves were full of invading Brits. Worse, Bandstand had moved to Los Angeles. And founder Bernie Lowe, wondering what had gone wrong, sold out. The new management fumbled for awhile, then started to click again, but the glory days were over, and in 1967, the labels were sold again, this time to Allen Klein, who had better things to do than to run a record company, fercrissake.

The new Cameo/Parkway 1957-1967 box, on Klein's Abkco label — which, history records, is the legal successor to Cameo/Parkway — attempts to give an overview of the eleven years when the labels were active, and while it's possible to gripe about some of the bigger hits that were excluded (none of Checker's folk tunes made it), the emphasis is sensibly placed on the smaller acts. Besides, the big names will presumably have their own compilation discs eventually.

In 1964, C/P, like every other American label, was anxious to tap into the British Invasion, and they chose to do so by licensing tracks from the Pye label in England. They got early tracks by the Kinks (who were later signed to Reprise), the Ivy League, ex-Beatle Peter Best (represented here by "Boys," a Shirelles tune which the Fab Four themselves had recorded with Ringo on lead, which should fulfill your minimum daily irony requirement all by itself), but scored only one actual hit: "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" by Sounds Orchestral.

Perhaps less well-known was C/P's mid-1960s dabbling in what became Philly soul. Eddie Holman and the Delfonics both cut early sides for C/P before moving on to greater success elsewhere, and Bunny Sigler, one of the Gamble/Huff organization's main acts, made his reputation with a couple of Parkway tracks.

And Neil Bogert, when he took control of C/P in late 1965, headed to the Midwest in search of music; he brought back the Rationals, Bob Seger, Terry Knight and the Pack, and the ineffable ? and the Mysterians, whose "96 Tears" was Cameo's last-ever Number One.

Drooling collector geeks (whose number certainly includes yours truly) have been pestering Abkco to get this material out for years. Decades, even. No one knows for sure why it took so long; there were rumors that tapes were missing, that royalty disputes had gone unresolved, that Klein was waiting for certain individuals to die off. And this is the one question that Jeff Tamarkin doesn't answer in the liner notes. At this point, though, it's more important that the stuff is available at all, and the sound is definitely better than you'll find on bootleg versions, though there's only one stereo track (a Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles version of "You'll Never Walk Alone") in the bunch. (Which means, I suppose, that "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," which has appeared elsewhere in stereo, is making its first-ever mono CD appearance.) And the price — $60, but not hard to find for ten bucks or so below that — is within reason. Besides, where else are you going to find Cool Ghoul John Zacherle's "Dinner with Drac"?

Road kill blues

The Chinese automotive market is now the world's third largest, ahead of Germany and closing in on Japan. China, however, is not any kind of driver's paradise, and Ian Hamet turned conjured up this paragraph in The Misanthrope's Guide to Shanghai which is even more unsettling:

The average Chinese driver has less than five years' experience behind the wheel. One might infer this to mean that the average Chinese driver is, psychologically, a cocky teenager or early twenty-something with a chip on his shoulder, something to prove, and a residual hatred of daddy and all his stupid "rules" and "regulations". Such an inference, however, is hopelessly pollyannish and naive.

I was just about ready to snicker at this when I caught this in The Economist:

Acquiring a driving licence is not difficult. Although a learner has to undergo 70 hours of training over two months, it is hard to fail the test. Ill-paid examiners are readily bribable, with the instructors acting as middlemen and taking their own cut. Many cars on city streets display notices saying "New driver, please look after me". The plea is in vain. The death rate on China's roads is the highest in the world: 680 die and 45,000 are injured every day, according to the World Health Organisation, compared with around 115 deaths a day in far more motorised America.

Suddenly I don't feel so apprehensive about driving in Massachusetts (!) this summer.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:06 AM to Driver's Seat )
The thousand natural shocks

As the phrase goes, I've been poor, and I've been, um, less poor. Perhaps on the global scale I might be considered "rich" these days, in the sense that I don't have to rearrange the budget should I fancy a cherry turnover some morning, but where I see myself is somewhere below the middle of the middle class. (Then again, in years gone by I've tended to see myself as somewhere near the top of the lower class, although we're not supposed to use terms like "lower class" in these hypersensitive times.)

Economic class, however, has a little more volatility than we're generally willing to admit, as a few hundred folks in Bluebird Canyon found out recently; a million-dollar asset can become almost worthless in a matter of moments. "Nature," we are reminded, "bats last."

Although I don't think I'd put it quite as baldly as this:

[T]here is a discernible amount of scorn, envy and contempt I have for people who, for no real reason of intellect or moral capability, have amassed wealth simply by sitting still. I like earthquakes in California, they are the only economic justice in the face of half-million dollar homes with 1100 square feet. I don't really hate the players, I hate the game, and I hate not having mastered it. I hate not having that thing easily as is expected of persons of my station. I wonder if I'll ever get over it.

Probably not: the politics of envy is now firmly established in the American system. ("Economic justice," indeed.) Still, no matter how rich you are, you can't afford to be smug about it; there are always forces beyond your control.

(By way of Xrlq in the O.C.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:05 AM to Dyssynergy )
Those oldies but goodies

I learned a long time ago that I was no longer valued as an audience member by the commercial-radio industry; I'm too old and I can't be persuaded to listen to the stuff they're most anxious for me to hear. Still, it never occurred to me to mourn.

Until Michele said this:

As I got older and had my own radio tuned to the rock and roll of WNEW, I never tired of hearing CBS emanating from the kitchen or the backyard. I prided myself on knowing all those doo wop lyrics, all those early rock artists. Even now, walking into a store that had CBS on the stereo, to hear the call letters was the equivalent of comfort food; the warm, cozy feeling of your past reaching out to give you a squeeze. It made my heart and soul feel good and now it's gone. I never thought I'd be saddened over the loss of a radio station, especially one I rarely listened to anymore — I've been angry and pissed off and cynical every time a station I like changed formats, but I've never been so sad to see something go.

WCBS-FM continues to issue forth some semblance of an oldies format at its Web site, but much of the value of radio is in its portability: if you can't listen to it in the park or on the freeway, why bother?

Here in the Okay City, KOMA is giving more airtime to 70s tunes, but their playlist hasn't expanded; they've simply divested themselves of that ancient 50s stuff that people like me (and Michele, who is just about a whole decade younger than I am) still cherish. Fortunately, I still have my records.

Calling the spayed the spayed

Writers of soap operas shy away from almost no terms that pertain to women. But when it comes to men, says Meryl Yourish, there's a vas deferens:

The word "vasectomy" was said exactly once, if I'm not mistaken, when Ryan called the doctor to inquire about it. After that, it was called "the procedure," "surgery," or "the appointment," and is now being referred to as having made sure that he will never have children, or having made sure that Greenlee (hey, I don't name 'em, I just report 'em) will never be able to have Ryan's baby, or even "stolen my future."

The overwhelming majority of soap opera fans are women. "Vasectomy" is not a word that strikes fear into our nether regions. It is, in fact, a word we like, because it means we don't have to fool around with various birth control methods that are inconvenient, annoying, slightly gross, or even dangerous. So what is up with the writers on All My Children being unable to allow their actors to utter the word "vasectomy"? Hey, they're perfectly comfortable with using "skank," "slut," and "whore" when referring to female characters they don't like (that is a subject for another day, don't even get me started on that one), and yet, they can't refer to a vasectomy as a vasectomy?

Megan McTavish, what hath thou wrought?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:26 PM to Almost Yogurt )
6 June 2005
Starting rotation

Jon Ledecky's Big Train Holdco (named for Hall of Famer Walter "Big Train" Johnson, who pitched 21 seasons for the Washington Senators) is one of a number of groups seeking to buy the new Washington Nationals baseball club, currently owned by the other twenty-nine Major League Baseball teams and due to be sold this summer, perhaps for as much as $300 million. (MLB acquired the team, then the Montreal Expos, for $120 million in 2002.) One of the investors in BTH is leftist billionaire George Soros.

Should BTH prevail, the White House won't take the looming presence of Soros lying down, says Eric at Off Wing Opinion:

[L]ook for the White House to issue an order mandating that the President visit a different city every year to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

In alphabetical order.

Does Anaheim Los Angeles get to go first?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to Base Paths )
Rice is nice (that's what they say)

Sean Gleeson's trip into the very heart of the Net begins with a familiar visitor:

"You're looking good, Condi," I said, as she sat on my futon and demurely crossed her legs. "Your peignoir is largely diaphanous." Dang it, I'm always saying what's on my mind. A tragic flaw, like Coriolanus.

Okay, this is hardly the pivotal paragraph, but I'm a sucker for, um, vivid imagery. A comic flaw, like Kasenetz-Katz.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 AM to Blogorrhea )
Gearing up

Four weeks from today, I hit the road for my fifth annual World Tour and Celebration of Internal Combustion. This year's destinations were chosen on the basis of Not Been There, Not Done That: there are only two states east of the Mississippi which I have never visited — Maine and Rhode Island — and fortunately for me and my fuel budget, they are in relatively close proximity to one another.

The actual route has yet to be set, though there will definitely be a stop in Philadelphia (thank you, Donna), and one or two others will probably suggest themselves in the next few days as I peer into the old Rand McNally.

I expect this trip to take 17 days, cover 5,000 miles, and cost $2,800. We shall see.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:00 AM to World Tour '05 )
Gimme an F (again)

Washington State actually issued this plate, then cancelled it after four months.

It's up for auction on eBay as we speak (minimum bid $5000).

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:34 AM to Dyssynergy )
We want some plastic

Washington Mutual, the nation's largest S&L, has announced the acquisition of Providian Financial, one of the top ten card issuers, for $6.45 billion.

Providian is profitable these days, after a near-death experience brought on by massive defaults among its largely-subprime customer base and the company's own manipulation of payments to maximize late fees, which drew lawsuits. Forced into a corner, Providian shed most of its lower-quality accounts; they have also entered into partnerships with eBay and PayPal.

Washington Mutual, perhaps mindful that it has no experience running a credit-card operation, plans to leave the Providian apparatus largely in place; layoffs once the deal closes are unlikely.

Analysts are expecting more mergers in Plasticland, with huge MBNA and less-huge Metris believed to be in play.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:30 PM to Common Cents )
Positively sandalous

It's flip-flop season, and CT is not thrilled:

There are really not that many pretty feet out there. In fact, there are far too many downright ugly ones on display, thanks to this open-toed madness. No matter how many $75 pedicures or toerings administered, ugly feet remain ugly feet. The biggest shame of it is, most women are kidding themselves to the contrary (although I suspect that, deep down, they know they’re not pulling it off).

I have no reason to think I'm especially fortunate or especially pervy, but the below-ankle scenery around here is actually pretty good these days, although multiple toerings (I know one woman who used to wear three and now wears four) probably would qualify as overkill.

Besides, every pair of flip-flops worn means someone is not wearing these hideous fur boots.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:01 PM to Almost Yogurt )
7 June 2005
Maximum cram

Everybody who burns the occasional audio CD knows the drill: 650 MB/74 minutes, or (far more common these days) 700 MB/80 minutes. I've run a few discs up to the 79:45 mark before, but never before did I attempt 80:00.05.

And Nero (version 5.5) balked. Not enough space, it insisted. I reedited a couple of fadeouts and got it down to 79:59.55. (Before you ask: I had changed the default 2-second between-track spacing already.)

No soap.

I did a tighter fade on two more songs. At 79:58.30, it took.

It's gotta be that damn digital. Most of my 90-minute cassettes run 91:45 or thereabouts.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:17 AM to PEBKAC )
Cross purposes

The state has laws against placing memorials by the side of the road, though they tend not to be particularly strict about enforcement: after all, somebody died there.

On the other hand, it's possible to abuse a privilege, and the placing of about 3000 crosses by a lobbying group hoping to win support for a fuel-tax increase would certainly thus qualify.

Why are these things illegal, you ask? They're considered a distraction to drivers, and therefore a safety hazard.

Neal McCaleb, head of Oklahomans for Safe Bridges and Roads, says that if his group's crosses should be removed, so should everyone else's.

I think I've just made up my mind on SQ 723.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:25 AM to Soonerland )
Log: a rhythm

I just love this: Jacqueline Passey fuses John Napier to John Kricfalusi.

It's better than bad; it's good.

Pot stickers

The majority opinion in the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling in Gonzales v. Raich contained this statement from Justice Stevens:

Even more important than these legal avenues is the democratic process, in which the voices of voters allied with these respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress.

Which prompted this response from Ravenwood's Universe:

In other words, if they don't like the law, they should get Congress to change it. This is where the Seventeenth Amendment rears its ugly head.

Depending on which number you believe, there are either 10 or 11 states which support the use of medical marijuana. That means there are 20 to 22 Senators from states where the people or the legislature shows support for the issue. If the Senate were appointed by state legislators (like they were originally), the states would not be so removed from the federal legislative process. As it is now, not only do the states have no rights that the federal government cannot overturn using their loose interpretation of the Interstate Commerce Clause, but they don't even have a voice in federal politics any more.

And Aldahlia considers the situation in California:

Prop. 215 here never trumped federal laws, and that's written on every recommendation issued.

The decision ... was an attempt to overturn the federal trump card, not a decision criminalizing all possession on a state or county level, based on a law that prohibits federal interference intrastate trade practices. Which is why someone like Clarence Thomas (who I must give props to this one time for standing by the old-school notion of "smaller government") voted in Raich's favor. Thomas said the ruling was so broad "the federal government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives and potluck suppers throughout the 50 states."

[M]edical marijuana in California isn't any more illegal today than it was yesterday.

Do I hear a cry of "Judicial activism!" out there?

Certainly not from the Bushniks.

Moroccan role

Norway, thanks to North Sea oil the third-largest exporter of petroleum, has been socking away spare kronor in a Petroleum Fund, a hedge against the time when the pumps will presumably start sucking air. To avoid undue influence on the Norwegian domestic economy, the Fund buys overseas equities only.

And for a while, the Fund held about $52 million of Kerr-McGee stock, but Norway has announced that the Fund has sold all its KMG shares and will do no further business with the company.

The reason? KMG is engaged in offshore oil exploration off the Western Sahara, a region annexed by Morocco in 1975, and the Fund's ethics advisors said that this was "a particularly serious violation of fundamental ethical norms ... because it may strengthen Morocco's sovereignty claims and thus contribute to undermining the UN peace process."

Kerr-McGee points out that the UN itself reviewed, and approved in 2002, their permit from the Moroccan government. The company did not, so far as I know, burst into guffaws at the mention of the phrase "UN peace process."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:03 PM to Dyssynergy )
Actual sewer update

After a week of nothing happening, the top of the trench has been filed down, not exactly smooth, but decidedly closer to flat than it was when the pipe was laid.

I have no idea whether the fact that I mentioned the lull to the president of the Neighborhood Association had anything to do with this sudden upsurge in activity.

The terrain is still kinda bumpy, but then it was kinda bumpy before.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:57 PM to Surlywood )
8 June 2005
Comparing notes

The Oklahoma Gazette's OKG Free Classifieds, one has to assume, is an effort to fill a niche that in most metro areas is occupied by craigslist.

It might actually be working, too; last time I looked there were 200 postings to the OKC edition of craigslist, but 371 to OKG Free.

Still, there's plenty of room for both, I think.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:22 AM to City Scene )
Edumacation blues

Disclosure: I started this last night with the following statement:

Not that either John Kerry or George W. Bush should care, particularly, but my grades weren't any better than theirs were.

I couldn't think of an adequate follow-up, so I shoved it onto the back burner to await an opportunity.

Such as, well, this non-screedy Bleat from Lileks:

One of the things I've let go in the last few years is the belief that college grades are an accurate predictor of intelligence. (I'm sure it would horrify some of my more . . . vociferous emailers to learn I got great grades in my three-semester European Diplomatic History course.) Put it this way: if you get good grades in college, you're probably not unsmart. (I also excelled in English.) I did well in Art History, my minor; I had teachers and courses that rewarded passionate essays full of doubleplus bellyfeel. I suq'd the hindmost teat in the sciences. I like science — I was a total chemistry set geek as a child — but my essential impatience swamped that inclination, and I really do lack the temperament for mastering that amount of details. Geometry, algebra — they irritate me. I was not an indifferent college student, but college did not seem to be pointing me where I wanted to be. Until I found the newspaper, and that was the end of that.

I attended the U of M for seven years. And I don't have a degree. I have no shame about that, and admit it freely; am I dumber than someone who was in and out in four? I spent one glorious year taking three classes that lasted all year long — Art history, Russian lit, and European history. They led to nothing in the professional sense, and did combine like Transformer Credits to turn into a sheepskin, but I wouldn't trade that year for anything. When I finally left college I took a job as a convenience store clerk, which is just what my English degree would have prepared me for anyway. But. I had clips. Damn, I had clips. I had written about 100 pieces, and I had an audience and a name, however lower-case and minor it might have been. But when you want to be a writer, that matters more than a Masters in Fiction.

So Kerry’s poor scores mean nothing to me. College is an interesting fiction; it’s become the modern monastery that confers Holiness merely by virtue of tenancy in its ivy-slathered walls for a certain period of time.

Nothing so far has pointed me to where I want to be, but then I'm not entirely sure where that is. I do know this much, though: the possession of Actual Verified Education in my, um, profession of the moment is far more likely to be a liability than an asset.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:12 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Note to someone in a hurry

If you can't bestir yourself to go to the trouble of putting actual paper in the remote printer, there's very little reason for me to answer system messages about it, y'know?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:40 AM to PEBKAC )
Books? We got some

How the mighty have fallen. Tony Blair comes to America with hat in hand and is sent away without even the hat; Jimmy Carter is reduced to pleading on behalf of the scuzzballs at Guantanamo; and, perhaps most startlingly, Francis W. Porretto passes on a meme. What is this world coming to?

Oh, well. To the business at hand:

1. The number of books I own.
It seems churlish actually to count them, but my best guess is 1100. (There are also about 1200 magazines around here, boxed, and not particularly neatly boxed at that.)

2. The last book I bought.
Kim du Toit's novel Vienna Days.

3. The last book I read.
Laurie Notaro's memoir (or whatever it is) We Thought You Would Be Prettier.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me.

  • Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle
  • H. Allen Smith, How to Write Without Knowing Nothing
  • Robert Townsend, Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits
  • Mark Twain, The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson
  • Meredith Willson, Eggs I Have Laid

Pick up on it if you like; I hate inflicting these things on people.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:23 AM to Screaming Memes )
142

We tip our cowboy hat here to the late Mr. Frank Gallop, who so sonorously intoned "The Ballad of Irving," the saga of the 142nd fastest gun in the West, a #34 pop hit (on Kapp 745) in 1966.

On an unrelated topic, the 142nd edition of Carnival of the Vanities is galloping your way from The Conservative Edge, a week's worth of superior bloggage that's easier to schlep than a salami.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:30 PM to Blogorrhea )
At least one of these is medicinal

Macaulay Culkin, busted last year on I-44 near the Kelley Avenue exit, entered a guilty plea today to misdemeanor charges of possession of controlled substances — Xanax and marijuana — and was given a one-year deferred sentence on each of the two charges. Culkin also paid $940 in court costs.

Culkin and friend Brent Tabisel were driving to Los Angeles from New York — Tabisel was at the wheel of their rental car — when they were pulled over for doing 70 mph in a 60-mph zone (yeah, right) and making an improper lane change.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:18 PM to City Scene )
The home stretch

Fenceposts are up, which can mean only one of one thing: they're getting ready to replace the fence.

Good gracious, they might actually have all this finished by Friday afternoon.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:46 PM to Surlywood )
Grinding Ground Zero

Um, no, I won't be visiting the City of New York this year.

And if the insufferable bastards of the Blame America crowd have their way, you can extend that promise until eternity.

If they must have a place for their Celebration of Man's Inhumanity to Man, allow me to offer a suggestion:

1. Crash a jet into the UN Secretariat Building.

2. Voilà! Instant site.

Here's Terrye, commenting at Roger L. Simon's site. She gets it:

Is nothing sacred?

I mean it, is there nothing that Soros and his nasty money can not buy?

The memorial in OKC was not a tribute to why white extremists hate us, it was a memorial to the people who died that day when Tim McVeigh blew up the federal building.

It would seem to me that the people who died on 9/11 deserve no less.

Damned right.

9 June 2005
BWV number as yet undetermined

I am just tickled about this:

Experts have discovered a previously unknown work by Johann Sebastian Bach in a German library, a research foundation devoted to the composer said Wednesday.

Historians found the aria in May in the Anna Amalia Library in the eastern city of Weimar, the Bach Archiv foundation said on its Web site.

There was no doubt about the authenticity of the handwritten, two-page score, dated October 1713, said the Leipzig-based foundation. It was the first unknown vocal work by Bach to surface since the discovery of the single-movement cantata fragment "Bekennen will ich seinen Namen" (BWV 200) in 1935, the foundation said.

And we'll get to hear it pretty soon, too: music publisher Bärenreiter-Verlag will issue the score this fall, and Sir John Eliot Gardner is working on a recording.

The song, for soprano with strings and continuo, was written for the birthday of the Duke of Saxony-Weimar, for whom Bach was court organist at the time.

I'm thinking this will turn up at lots of recitals in the next couple of years.

(Swiped from Rocket Jones.)

Not Hilda Doolittle, either

H.D. versus H.D. Contrast and compare.

Brown ascendant

Janice Rogers Brown has been confirmed by the Senate, to the delight of some and the despair of others.

On the delighted side, Susanna Cornett:

[S]he is trained from both life experience and biblical teaching to be fair. She was raised in the Jim Crow South, and taught from early years that God is no respecter of persons. I'd say that's had a big role in her career, and would naturally extend to her judicial decisions.

Why is that important for a judge? Other than the obvious issues of morality and conservatism, what it means is that she is trained, almost at a cellular level, to respect and rely on original documents when deciding what is and is not the right thing to do. And she is bound by something larger than herself to adjudicating fairly and according to the letter and spirit of the law — she would, by definition, not be a legislating justice. In a courtroom, I'd say that would translate into stringent analysis and evenhanded judicial decisions.

On the "despair" side of the ledger is People for the American Way. President Ralph Neas, on Brown's ascension to the D.C. Court of Appeals:

She believes we would be better off if we returned to a time when protections like the minimum wage, food safety standards, and Social Security and Medicare were ruled unconstitutional — never mind what voters and elected officials think. She equates affordable housing regulations with theft. She argues that much corporate behavior can only be regulated if companies agree that it's in their best interest. She calls court decisions upholding the New Deal "our own socialist revolution." Her record on civil rights and equal opportunity offends the very notion of justice.

To support this, PFAW has offered a selection of Brown's speeches and California Supreme Court decisions. To me, this one stood out:

Some things are apparent. Where government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates and our ability to control our own destiny atrophies. The result is: families under siege; war in the streets; unapologetic expropriation of property; the precipitous decline of the rule of law; the rapid rise of corruption; the loss of civility and the triumph of deceit. The result is a debased, debauched culture which finds moral depravity entertaining and virtue contemptible.

I don't have any reason to think Ralph Neas finds moral depravity entertaining, particularly, but I suspect he rather chafes at the notion that there might be an objective definition of "virtue."

And the present-day definition of "equal opportunity," which calls for the most absurd tilts in the playing field in the hopes of making the results look good. or at least proportional, is far more of an offense to justice than anything Justice Brown has proposed.

Right in the lug nuts

Jalopnik reports that Vivid Entertainment, hitherto on my personal radar only as a purveyor of triple- or fourple-X videos, is entering the aftermarket automotive-wheel business.

Fortunately, they've already used the obligatory rim-job joke. And frankly, I can't see myself calling up these guys and asking for 18 inches minimum.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:23 PM to Driver's Seat )
Quote of the week

Chase McInerney, on the newer, svelter Ronald McDonald:

Maybe, just maybe, it's not the responsibility of a burger-joint mascot to dissuade kids from patronizing his boss' restaurants. After all, our hard-working hookers are under no obligation to dispense penicillin.

Okay, it's not precisely the same dynamic, but it sounds good.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:07 PM to QOTW )
Three quarters of a million

Visitor #750,000 (from 68.33.220.96, allegedly in Baltimore) waltzed in here at five seconds past 8 pm Central, and promptly disappeared into the log.

That's fifty thousand since the 12th of April, not all of whom were wondering what the heck they were doing here. I think.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:13 PM to Blogorrhea )
10 June 2005
Demotivational research

I don't know how many people have asked me why I do this.

It never occurred to me, though, to ask why they don't.

So: If you don't blog, why not? It's not like you don't know what it is or anything, else you wouldn't be here watching me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:21 AM to Blogorrhea )
Securing the Bricks

There is no shortage of fire stations in the central part of Oklahoma City, but the growth of the Bricktown district and points to the north and east has suggested to City Council that maybe there ought to be one more; this week, the Council has decided to hire an architect and start the ball rolling for a Bricktown fire station.

Existing fire stations near downtown:
No. 1, 820 NW 5th
No. 4, 100 SW 4th
No. 5, north end of Winans Park (NW 22nd and Broadway)
No. 6, 620 NE 8th

A police substation is under development at 219 East Main (the old Rock Island depot), replacing the temporary location on Sheridan near the canal.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:03 AM to City Scene )
Compassionate Canadians

These days, says Matt Rosenberg, downtown Vancouver is full of crap:

The ripe stench of human excrement is getting stronger in downtown lanes, curling the stomachs of workers who no longer want to relax by the back door for smoke breaks.... The 10-block city slum is swollen with up to 5,000 injection drug users who have less control of their bowels. Many are homeless and have nowhere to go to the toilet. Often the drug users roam out of the neighbourhood into alleys linking downtown businesses.

(Original here. )

Vancouver, you'll remember, has a "supervised-injection site," a location where heroin addicts will be supplied with clean needles and high-grade H, in the interests of, um, well, it certainly can't be keeping them off the street, can it?

Much is made of Oklahoma's high incarceration rate, and while it's possible to argue that we lock up way too many people for drug-related offenses, it's also pretty clear that someone behind bars has a lower probability of taking a dump on the sidewalk.

I can't help but wonder if maybe the most rational policy here might be good old Moynihanian benign neglect: let them be, let them pursue their highs without fear of arrest, and let them quietly expire when the drug, as it will, exacts its price.

Still, "rational" has little to recommend it in the feel-good department, so I'd be happy to entertain other ideas.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:33 AM to Dyssynergy )
Dial M for Me

Warren Bell proposes a new telecom service:

Find Me is a telecom service that provides you with one phone number that you give to everyone. Then you tell Find Me where you want to be contacted at any given moment in the day. Getting into the car? Call Find Me's toll-free number, enter a PIN (not a PIN number, because that would be a Personal Identification Number number, and boy does that irk me, just like ATM machine), and tell Find Me to route all calls to your cell. Or program Find Me with a schedule, so that all calls at 8 AM routinely start going to the cell, at 9 AM to the office and so forth. Tell Find Me which numbers should always go to the office, or which should go to voicemail (mother-in-law. Oops. Was that out loud?). Your friends and family can have an emergency code that allows them to try all of your phones until you are found. And Find Me will automatically recognize a fax machine and send it to your fax.

And you only ever have to give out one phone number for the rest of your life.

Well, okay, but I'm not buying unless there's some way to turn the SOB off entirely. I mean, Judith H. Christ, I may not want to be available to the whole freaking world 24/7/365.

The House of the falling funds

Not quite two weeks ago, I came up with this:

I am starting to think that Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, sees his job as clearing a path for the eventual dismantling of the CPB.

First blaze in this particular trail:

A House subcommittee voted yesterday to sharply reduce the federal government's financial support for public broadcasting, including eliminating taxpayer funds that help underwrite such popular children's educational programs as "Sesame Street," "Reading Rainbow," "Arthur" and "Postcards From Buster."

In addition, the subcommittee acted to eliminate within two years all federal money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — which passes federal funds to public broadcasters — starting with a 25 percent reduction in CPB's budget for next year, from $400 million to $300 million.

This is, of course, far from a done deal, but, to borrow a phrase, I told you so.

(Via Greg Angelo.)

We got your credo right here

Michele, I understand, loathes Bull Durham, so I am not inclined to quote Kevin Costner's too-often-quoted "I believe" spiel here.

On the other hand, I don't have any problem posting a rewrite of it, and here's a good one from Steph at The Song in My Head:

I believe ... that pizza cheese is the grossest smell on the planet. I believe that pickles are a very close second. I believe that Oklahoma University fans are fair weather fans, and that football is the very core of their very small and inconsiderate universes. I believe that summer is the worst season of them all. I believe that you should just leave me alone when I'm hot. I believe that you'll agree with that once you've been exposed to cranky me. I believe that painting a formerly purple room another color so it looks better as an office is really overrated. I believe purple will just have to do for now. I believe that I have the worst timing on the planet. I believe that the baseball season is not long enough. I believe that the basketball season is way too long. I believe that if people have kids, they should at least make the effort to acknowledge they are there. I believe that vacation cannot come soon enough. I believe that I better get back to work now, or vacation will come way sooner than I had hoped.

And yes, I tried this myself, way back in December 2000.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:20 PM to Blogorrhea )
11 June 2005
The stature of Liberty

Si Waronker has died, and this matters to me because Si (Simon, his mother called him) Waronker was the founder of Liberty Records, one of the great West Coast independent labels, which would have celebrated its 50th anniversary this year had it remained an independent label.

Si's tastes ran to jazz, orchestral and movie music — his first release (#55001) was a Lionel Hampton single ("The Girl Upstairs" b/w "Conquest") — and his first big hit was #55006, Julie London's "Cry Me a River." But he was also looking for new and distinctive stuff, which is how he came to sign Alfi and Harry, despite the name actually one person, a fellow named Ross Bagdasarian, who subsequently produced a number of interesting novelties for the label under the name "David Seville."

Seville's biggest hit was a weird little number called "Witch Doctor" (Liberty 55132, 1958), with two voice tracks, both by Seville, but one of which was speeded up past all understanding, until it sounded like the chattering of a chipmunk. "Witch Doctor" actually made Number One, and Seville reasoned that if one funny voice was good, three must be better. The Chipmunks debuted that fall with a sappy-but-sweet Christmas song ("The Chipmunk Song" aka "Christmas Don't Be Late", Liberty 55168) in which Seville rode herd, albeit in a kindly manner, over his three rodent charges, one of whom he had named "Simon" after Si Waronker. (Before you ask: Theodore Keep was Liberty's chief engineer; Alvin G. Bennett was Waronker's second-in-command.) It was the fastest-selling record ever up to that point, and charted every fall as late as 1962.

Waronker also moved into that weird rock-and-roll stuff, signing Eddie Cochran, Bobby Vee, and Jan and Dean. Al Bennett was essentially running the company when Waronker decided to sell out in 1963; Bennett remained in charge until the Transamerica takeover five years later. (EMI owns the catalog today.)

Lenny Waronker, Simon's son, had worked at Liberty's Metric Music publishing outfit before moving to Warner Bros. in 1966; he eventually became president of the label, departing in 1995 after a corporate shakeup.

All this, of course, is ancient history, and today there are tiny indie labels, monstrous corporate collections of labels, and nothing in between. Probably why there's nothing on the radio right now.

Our fumbling renaissance

A chap named The Old Downtown Guy can be seen occasionally commenting on the blog of the presumably younger Downtown Guy, and TDG the Elder was accorded space to write a post of his own, which I excerpt here:

[A] conversation ... was going on here about the sort of new stores and restaurants that might be placed in Bricktown to attract the patronage of Richard Florida's "Creative Class" and whether there is a way to encourage development in that direction. It is my experience that people of all ages, backgrounds, life styles, creative class or otherwise, congregate to do things that they share a common interest in; in places where that common interest occurs. Case in point; last evening's OKCMOA-supported deadCENTER film festival. Call it diversity in action if you will. The edgy clothing shops, vegetarian restaurants etc. discussed in earlier posts about Bricktown development are a byproduct of having sufficient cultural stimulation to attract a critical mass of people to provide the required consumer market. It's just a sidebar to "retail follows roof tops". That stimulation is constantly shifting, an ongoing series of things and might be a film festival, music festival, art festival, a competition at our new first class skateboard park or any number of people oriented events. I really believe that the market place will, in time, take care of the consumer needs.

Links added by me. The marketplace does work: if there's enough of a demand, eventually there will be a supply. TDG the Elder understands:

Trying to force the development of particular kinds of stores, restaurants and shops a la a Disneyland type of approach is ultimately doomed to failure, except in a very select few cases. As citizens, we can best direct the development of our city through our involvement in the political process. By demanding quality civic government that builds well designed appropriate public sector projects and provides services to fulfill basic community needs. And, we can encourage good public policies that facilitate the private development of venues where stimulating human activities and interaction can occur; the ways and means to nourish our minds and spirits. The market place is well suited to serve the physical wants and needs that we support with our collective disposable income. Having said that, I'll add that I can stand on either side of the discussion of whether or not it was a good idea for The City to underwrite Bass Pro as a way of jumpstarting lower Bricktown development. Cities are uniquely complex in their evolution and exciting to watch.

And for every couple of steps forward, there's one step back, or occasionally to the side, a series of motions made more interesting by the fact that not everyone agrees on which way we're going in the first place.

Finally, The Old Downtown Guy calls for the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority to quit hiding in the shadows:

Bad public policy and wrong headed thinking by the OKCURA almost slammed the door in the face of the Oklahoma City Art Museum's decision to move to its present location by quietly seeking to raze the Centre Theater building and install a surface parking lot convenient to City Hall. Only a monumental effort on the part of a handful of unsung heroic citizens prevented an unimaginable tragedy for this city. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art now stands in its perfect location.

Little of value grows where no sunlight shines.

The Authority is a public body, but over the past forty years it's managed to reduce its accountability to the public to near zero. City government otherwise is open to scrutiny; it's time to open up the Authority's agenda and proceedings to the rest of the world.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:52 AM to City Scene )
The Everclearmobile

While Saab continues to throw rebadged Subarus and Chevrolets at its US buyers, it's building a 9-5 BioPower model for the Swedish market that runs on gasoline, on ethanol, or anything in between.

The 2.0-liter turbo four is pretty standard Saab fare; what makes it different is the revised fittings (heavy doses of ethanol play hell with a car's fuel system, proving that cars really do reflect their drivers) and the revised engine-control software to adjust for whatever is coming through the fuel line.

Conventional wisdom holds that ethanol is less desirable as a motor fuel because of its lower energy density; to get the same performance, you'll end up with fewer miles per gallon. The Saab, however, tunes itself to get maximum value out of grain alcohol: while the engine produces a respectable 148 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque on gasoline, feeding it a mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, which costs about 25 percent less than straight gasoline in Sweden, yields 180 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, with about the same mileage. (Performance figures from Automobile Magazine, July '05.)

American automakers have turned loose a few fleet cars over the years that run on this same E85 mix, but refueling stations have been few and far between in the Midwest and virtually nonexistent anywhere else. (Gasohol, which is more common, and which I sampled in western Minnesota last year, runs about 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol.) Given the fact that Saab is part of the GM organization — in fact, GM's Brazilian outpost, used to ethanol-based fuels by now, consulted on the Saab BioPower project — it's theoretically possible that this engine, or even this particular model, could end up Stateside, though there'd have to be a lot of them to justify opening up a bunch more E85 pumps. (Yes, it does run on ordinary gasoline, but someone paying $35k for a Saab is, I suspect, not going to tolerate the performance hit.)

Mama's got a brand-new bag

Well, yes, you're supposed to put something in it. That's the whole idea.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:00 PM to Entirely Too Cool )
Saturday spottings (mutatis mutandis)

My first place of my own (neither college dorm nor Army barracks counts) was a one-bedroom flat east of NW 23rd and MacArthur. And indeed a number of firsts took place therein, some of which are none of your beeswax, but I didn't stay there too awfully long: I had to learn how to undertake the responsibilities of Family Man, and they were too large to fit in the space available. It's still amusing to drive past there, though; the "distinctive" architecture is a hoot, and unlike most complexes in this neck of the woods, the name remains unchanged after all these years, even though a new management company has assumed command.

Finding something that hasn't changed in thirty years is obviously not impossible, but it's not the easiest thing to do either. Sometimes you're grateful for the change: the bar previously known as The Dirty Hoe has somehow mutated into Thirsty Mike's Sports Bar. Sometimes the change is demanded: Shogun Steak House of Japan (NW 118th and May) has an ad in the Sunday Oklahoman asserting that a similarly-named restaurant in Norman has no legal rights to the name. And sometimes I don't know what to think: the not-yet-opened Light at 57th eatery is now bearing a sign marked "Nancy's 57th Street Lighthouse," for which I claim no credit whatsoever.

I did pass by the old AT&T facility on Reno east of Council Road, which has been sitting empty for a scary length of time. There's a banner up promoting the warehouse as a distribution center, which makes sense, and another one pointing to a Web site devoted to the plant and the eventual sale thereof. To be honest, I can't see it going as a unit: I think they're going to have to subdivide it — the actual manufacturing facility alone is over 1.1 million square feet, nearly a third as large as the mammoth GM plant on the southeast side.

Which leads to another question: What happens when GM leaves town? (Which they will, almost certainly; despite having shed over 130,000 workers in the past 15 years, the General still has far too much excess capacity, and it's a safe bet that there won't be any concessions from the United Auto Workers between now and contract expiration in 2007.) My own personal belief is that GM as we know it is beyond the dinosaur stage and should be put out of its misery; any of the brands it owns which are worth keeping alive should be spun off. (Not so fast there, Buick.) After all, except for Saturn, they were all independent companies to begin with, and maintaining the current status quo as some sort of homage to Alfred Sloan and/or Billy Durant is no longer an option. And once GM is out of the picture, I'm betting, Oklahoma City Assembly will reopen, putting together Chevrolets — or Hyundais.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:56 PM to City Scene )
12 June 2005
Desiderata

While pondering for the nth time my chronic datelessness, I happened upon the greatest personal ad of all time, and it wasn't even a personal. Technically, it was a help-wanted ad, but ... well, read it yourself. The headline was We Need a Girl!

Not just any girl. Not the usual Queen of the Cranberry Festival, but the ONE. A girl you'd climb the fence to get a close-up of. We mean a GIRL! What she must be or have is:

Personality, charm, couth, background, poise, education (why not?), chic, allure, a keen interest in cars and racing, pizazz, duende, vigor, enthusiasm, elegance, blond, brown, white, red (maybe freckles — why not? — we've never had one with freckles) or black hair; she must be loyal, able to talk to the boys in the pits as well as business executives, trustworthy, valiant, emotionally stable, kind, worthy (worthy?), polite, good to her mother, patriotic, single (it's less complicated that way when you're in Florida one day and California the next), compassionate, radiant, serene, sensible (sort of), stalwart, tactful, natural, have a desire to travel, a sense of humor, good health, warmth, personality (we'll say it again), sensitivity, a jet-set figure and sound teeth. The girl selected will become:

Miss Hurst Golden Shifter

She'll be the No. 1 girl in performance circles. She'll appear at all the major racing events. She'll act as hostess at Hurst exhibits and receptions and never, never be bored. It's a full-time job with quite a nice salary.

God knows I could use a little duende around here.

Oh, this ad ran in auto magazines in early 1966, and this is the person selected by Hurst. She'd be about 62 today, and presumably would still meet most of these qualifications easily.

Fish story

His name was Albert Fish, and his story ended in the electric chair at Sing Sing in 1936, a story filled with murder and perversion and cannibalism.

Inevitably, there is, or will be, Wisteria: The Story of Albert Fish, after Wisteria Cottage in Westchester County, New York, where Fish in 1928 killed a young girl and finished her off, probably not with fava beans and a nice Chianti. It's a pure New York story, so naturally it was filmed in central Oklahoma.

Most of the filming was done in and around Guthrie and Pawhuska; scenes requiring a New York City look were shot in Oklahoma City, where the old OPUBCO building at Fourth and Broadway, with a few minor tweaks, passed for the outside of a NYC police station (interior shots were done at the Guthrie Public Library). Local car clubs brought in vintage vehicles. This is not a huge production: budget is around $2 million, which is above shoestring, though not much.

Wisteria: The Albert Fish Story is produced by Wisteria Cottage Productions and is scheduled for release by Ravenwolf Films in 2006. (If you have QuickTime, you can see a teaser here.) The busy Patrick Bauchau stars.

Preservation act II

Back in January, I linked to a Michael Bates complaint about the weakness of Tulsa's historic preservation ordinance.

It appears that things aren't much better in Big D, per this Dallas Observer story:

[T]here are myriad structures and neighborhoods on the National Register, many in South Dallas, that stand despite the fact that City Hall has done nothing to guarantee their futures. The Dallas Landmark Commission, charged with protecting these properties, is short-staffed, under-budgeted and must ultimately answer to the city council, which has to approve the commission's recommendations before a property or neighborhood is deemed historic.

And what happens if you go to the Landmark Commission?

Usually it's up to the property owner to seek the designation from the Landmark Commission, which meets once a month. The city provides considerable incentives for those who want to have their site designated, including an abatement program that freezes taxes on the property for 10 years, meaning if you buy a dilapidated structure for $50,000, then put $100,000 of work into it, you're going to pay taxes on only the initial investment for a decade. But some property owners don't want the designation because with it also come pages of regulations telling you what you can and cannot do to the house. Before you can even touch a local landmark, you have to get a certificate of appropriateness from the city, which most owners would rather not deal with.

The experience of one property owner:

Dennis Topletz says he only found out about the [Ellis House's] historical value when he went to City Hall to get a permit to do a little work on the place. He was informed not only that the building was on the city's teardown list, and had been for several years, but that before he could do any work on it, he had to get a certificate of appropriateness from the Landmark Commission, which then had to go to Austin for approval. (Technically, [Dallas city official Leif] Sandberg says, the certificate wasn't required since the Ellis House isn't a landmark, but the Landmark Commission still demanded one.) Around the same time, he was also served with a code-compliance violation for failing to mow the overgrown yard. Topletz says it was taken care of within two days, but he was ticketed anyway. He went ahead and paid the ticket, at the insistence of his attorney, who said it would cost more to fight the fine than just pay the $200.

This isn't the sort of thing which encourages taking care of historic structures. Oklahoma City guidelines specify: "A [Certificate of Appropriateness] is not necessary for routine maintenance work, which includes repair or replacement when there is no change in design, materials, color in certain instances, or general appearance. A CA must be obtained for all other projects that affect the exterior surfaces or spaces of properties in the historic districts." This is not to say that it's particularly easy to do things in Oklahoma City, only that there are fewer potential legal hoops through which a property owner may have to jump.

Dallas' rep as a place where you tear everything down and start over again is somewhat undeserved. But it's pretty clear that when tearing something down is the path of least resistance, the bulldozers will be busy.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:24 PM to Dyssynergy )
Turned with the century

Now here's a scenario just waiting for a story to be told:

In 1880, Vienna was home to a confident bourgeoisie devoted to order, mannered charm and the grandiloquent facades on the Ringstrasse. But turn-of-the-century Vienna was swiftly becoming something quite different, a test of wills began emerging between well-behaved traditionalism and liberated modernism. The capital's population increased more than four-fold during the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph, from less than half a million in the 1850s to over two million by 1910. While technical and scientific advances followed one another in bewildering succession, the Habsburg empire clung to ideals of stability and the preservation of existing order — the cultivation of the status quo.

If official Viennese society remained rigid and unchanging, its urban subculture of coffeehouse-and-cabaret cosmopolites united poets, writers and artists aspiring to break through the complacency of intellectual life. Such was the gap between actuality and what was presented as sham that Vienna is often described as the city in which psycho-analysis needed to be invented. The discoveries of science and medicine, to say nothing of the triumphs of the human intellect and the human spirit, were largely met with indifference by the stolid burghers of Vienna. The city at large was quite oblivious to the fact it was one of the intellectual centers of the world.

In short, exactly the sort of place you'd find Peter Keller, young, ambitious lawyer, with a good job, a fiancée from one of the better families, and utterly devoted to that "well-behaved traditionalism" — until one day he wanders into a coffeehouse and gets the first hint that what he really wants is something entirely different:

[W]hat was Schmäh, the Viennese custom of insincere politeness, if not dishonesty? Peter was aware that it was a social lubricant, a means whereby unpleasant truths could be avoided, even disregarded; or else a way to concel the harshness that was so unacceptable in Viennese society. But was that avoidance even necessary? Most change, he knew, arose from inner conflict; by avoiding conflict, what people really did was affirm their acceptance of the status quo.

And so it was that Peter Keller decided that he did not accept the status quo, and resolved to go his own way, a way which, he found out quickly enough, would require him to give up everything he knew and start off in directions not only unfamiliar but perhaps even unheard of.

This is Vienna Days by Kim du Toit, a novel which examines the unraveling of one man against the backdrop of the unraveling of the old order in Vienna, the artistic movement known as Secessionism. It's not an unfamiliar story — we've all seen people seduced by the Quest before — but it's a story that unfolds at exactly the right speed and asks all the right questions, some of which are even answered. Du Toit's writing style is spare and precise: scarcely a word is wasted. It's appropriate, I think, for the story of a man who spent the first part of his life learning to think linearly, and the rest of it trying to find some reason not to.

Du Toit says he's selling about one copy of Vienna Days every day. I hope this piece stimulates at least a week's worth.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:33 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Forget the debt?

It appeals to my forgiving nature (yeah, right), this cancellation of Third World debt business, but it still leaves me somewhat queasy, and Lemuel knows why:

Though Alex Singleton may be right that most of these debts were made by corrupt irresponsible dictators, and though they are now gone, their stifling shadow looms over these poor countries via the enormous debts they created.

But on the other hand how are you expecting someone to learn to behave in a frugal manner if you eliminate their past bad results. This will only encourage continuing bad governance.

And then there's the case of countries who currently have corrupt irresponsible dictators; forgiving their debt will simply increase the cash flow for the favored few with no benefit to the general public. This should be perfectly obvious to anyone who isn't a rock star.

Personally, I think it's time we foreclosed on some of these hellholes. First person who shouts "Colonialism!" gets to send his next two paychecks to Robert Mugabe as a gesture of support for thuggery masquerading as government.

13 June 2005
And away it goes

Last month I wrote about a new semi-risqué calendar intended to draw attention to the growing pension crisis, or something like that.

I have now received a copy of said calendar, and here's the explanation on the back:

Will your pension/retirement fund be there for you when you need it? Our mission is to create a national awareness to the naked truth that no retirement fund is completely secure and that there is a definite crisis in the pension guaranty system. Make certain that your retirement plan is not sitting on a time bomb. Take an active role in your future and start now to plan for your retirement years. You can never start too soon.

And from whom are you getting this worthwhile advice?

We are retired and active flight attendants who began our flying careers in the 1960s and early 1970s when we were called "Stewardesses" or "Stews". We are single, we are married, we have children in college, and one of us is a grandmother. We have enjoyed the very best of times and we have experienced the worst of times in the airline industry. Presently, we are facing the frightening probability that our "guaranteed" pension will be terminated. To all who believe that their pension is safe and secure, we hope our message gives you a wakeup call.

Nor does it hurt that they are, um, scantily clad on the twelve pages of this 2006 calendar. These aren't your airbrushed beauties from your lad mags, and some of them have rolled up quite a few miles, but what the hell; at least it makes more sense than bicycling nude to protest oil consumption, which strikes me as downright painful.

You can order this for yourself at StewsStripped.com. It's $14.95 plus a buck and a quarter for shipping, and they're definitely undercharging for the shipping: mine came Priority Mail, which runs $3.85 or so.

Spring delayed

Or something like that; last night's eruption of thunderstorms was far more reminiscent of early April than of mid-June, and just about everyone got an inch of rain for their trouble. Surprisingly, no tornado showed up, but 90-mph straight-line winds can do enough damage, thank you very much, and five TV stations had their hands full juggling on-screen graphics and live reports from people who for some reason enjoy watching these things close up and personal. (I don't have the temperament to be a storm spotter, I suppose.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:02 AM to Weather or Not )
The Apocalypse is not yet here

It's apparently still possible to hear Randy and the Rainbows on Philadelphia radio.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:57 AM to Overmodulation )
And speaking of music

Steve H. lists ten artists even more suitable for torturing enemy combatants than Christina Aguilera.

And one day, when he rules the world:

[C]hildren in public schools will be forced to listen to real music instead of songs about diversity and having two lesbian mommies. Maybe then we will see hacks like Prince working at Burger King, and B.B. King won't have to struggle to fill 2000-seat tents at state fairs.

Then again, even now wise parents will take their children to see B. B. King.

(Disclosure: I actually like Prince, or at least I did before he decided he wanted to be named after a melted household utensil. Maybe I have greater-than-average tolerance for horny five-foot-two-inch androgynous badasses.)

Jackson pulls off one more moonwalk

Now do us all a favor and beat it, wouldja please?

(Details here.)

The penultimate sewer update

At least, I hope so. About half the fence is now up; one section that had not been secured actually fell down during last night's storms. (Winds of 70 mph and more can do that, even if they're not spinning around in a circle.) The rains resulted in rather a lot of unwanted gullies being cut, but there's very little that can be done about that, inasmuch as there's no actual vegetation just now to hold the soil in place.

Tomorrow should be sunny, and maybe they'll be finished.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:04 PM to Surlywood )
14 June 2005
Yet another drop-in (follow-up)

From this very site in August 2003:

KWEY-FM in Weatherford would seem to have it pretty good; they're the only FM in town, they pump out 100,000 watts all over western Oklahoma, and they've got an AM facility to boot.

So why would they want to make themselves over as a lowly 6,000-watt rimshooter in Blanchard?

The application is in, and it's even lowlier than I thought: the request is for 1,000 watts at 244 meters, about the same stick height as they have now. They're still short-spaced to KQOB (at 96.9; KWEY's application is for its existing 97.3 frequency) by about nine miles, though. (Translation: They don't meet the usual FCC spacing requirements for stations this close together on the dial, and must demonstrate to the Commission's satisfaction that there will be no excessive interference.)

The question remains: "Why?" Back then, I speculated: "I'm thinking that maybe they want to sell this station, and they don't think they'll get a buyer out there in Weatherford." I'm going with that until I have some reason to think otherwise.

(Prompted by this item at Radio-Info.com.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:22 AM to Overmodulation )
For your consideration

The eleventh item on the Oklahoma Gazette's "The Best of OKC" ballot is "Best blog," a category they didn't even have [link requires Adobe Reader] last year.

Now I've read the Gazette long enough to know that they pull in some extra ads during the issues the ballots are circulated, ads from firms and services hoping you'll remember their names when you complete your ballot, and, if you're really lucky, explaining why you should.

You won't find this sort of thing here, not because I'm a shoo-in, which I'm not, but because for every reason I could think of why you should vote for dustbury.com for Best Blog — well, here are the Top Ten reasons why you shouldn't:

10.  Does anybody understand those damn category names?

  9.  Inadequate coverage of busty lesbian ninja pirates.

  8.  Gets enough free publicity already.

  7.  Lamest post title in the history of blogdom.

  6.  Has the temerity to invent forms of profanity instead of sticking to the tried and true.

  5.  Constantly whining.

  4.  Can't pronounce a simple name like "Xrlq".

  3.  Hardly an inimitable style.

  2.  Still hasn't gotten around to naming She Who Is Not To Be Named.

  1.  750,000 people can so be wrong.

Wired for safety

A cable barrier down the middle of Interstate 35 near Purcell will be installed this summer as a test.

This is not the same product that is being used on the Lake Hefner Parkway in Oklahoma City, made by Brifen; it's a new product from Dallas-based Cass, which would like to get into the highway-barrier market and is providing free wire and installation for the test. The Cass system uses three intertwined strands, versus four for the Brifen.

A third firm, Safe Fence, has a test barrier in the median near the I-35 Goldsby exit.

Out of my league

I would dearly love to snipe at this guy:

This may not sound like a problem, but it is: My girlfriend is too rich. In a nutshell, I basically feel like crap all the time. We both worked in the same industry, only she's a stock-lottery winner while I was unemployed for almost two years, went broke, and finally moved in desperation to work in the city we both live in. She will not have to work for a very long time (or ever, as far as I can tell), dines like a queen, has a gorgeous house. I live in a small apartment and am ever the exhausted corporate cog, still financially making up for two years of having no money plus living far from friends and family. She travels everywhere, gets plenty of sleep, and generally has/does everything I've ever wanted or dreamed of. She is endlessly kind, smart, hilarious, and I absolutely adore her. But all the while I feel like a Grade A Loser, not to mention not much of a man. The envy and sadness eats at me rather constantly — she has no idea how badly. Am I just a whiner or what? Please advise.

Unfortunately for me, I suspect that were I in the same position, I would emit exactly the same annoying noises. (Does this mean I should be grateful for the attention I don't get?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:49 PM to Table for One )
Pure coincidence

After all, it was published in 1980:

If you look up "Islam" in the 15th Edition of The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia Volume 9, copyright 1980, you will find it on page 911.

Just one of those things.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:01 PM to Dyssynergy )
Do fence me in

It's done, and in a mere three and a half weeks.

Of course, it's a mixed blessing:

Upside: Unexpectedly, the crew repaired the diagonal wire on the gate (which was broken before they started work), and the areas closest to the inside corner of the fence were actually covered with sod, meaning I'll have about a third as much in the way of bare spots as I anticipated. What's more, the new gully cut by the Sunday rainstorm was filled in with fresh dirt, so I won't have a mini-trench developing in front of the gate.

Downside: They hung the fence on the back side of the posts instead of the front, which may (I haven't looked at the abstract yet) give me more space back here than I'm entitled to. Also, it's obvious that much of the privacy that I used to have was due less to the fence than to the foliage next door, which is now gone; I am about as well-hidden as an ostrich beak-deep in sand. I do not know if they plan to replant; I am contemplating putting up something of my own.

And I'll have to replace one board in the gate, which split. All in all, though, not horrible.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 PM to Surlywood )
15 June 2005
Not to mention your account number

The Bank One transition to Chase is more or less complete, and I haven't seen any outdated signage since the late-April switchover. This leaves Bank 2, in the Reno/Meridian area, as the lowest-numbered bank in town.

The highest-numbered bank? This would be Bank 7, which is taking over the old Guarantee State Bank near 63rd and Western.

There used to be a Bank IV in Wichita, successor to the Fourth National Bank, which was acquired by NationsBank, which is now Bank of America. If I remember correctly, Bank IV at some point bought the Fourth National Bank of Tulsa.

Still, in terms of numerical names, we're pikers next to Ohio, which has the wondrously-named Fifth Third Bank.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 AM to Common Cents )
Paul paid; Peter waits

Midwest City borrowed $30 million from the city's Hospital Authority to cover some of the costs of the ongoing redevelopment of SE 29th Street. The transaction drew a court challenge, which got all the way to the state Supreme Court, who ordered an election, since the Midwest City charter specifies that hospital funds can be spent only on the hospital (imagine that), unless the electorate should choose otherwise.

The electorate did choose otherwise; voters gave nearly 3 to 1 approval to the fund reallocation yesterday.

The old Target store at 7601 East Reno — Target is moving to the new 29th Street — reportedly will end up in the hands of Midwest Regional Hospital, to be used as a clinic; I assume that this is a wholly-unrelated deal.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:32 AM to City Scene )
On the edge of burnout

What it was like for The Downtown Guy:

Over the past few months, I've seen a couple of frequent visitors start their own blogs with an initial intent of also promoting downtown OKC. I welcomed the effort. Why? So I wouldn't feel so bad if I killed this thing. But one blog went dead, and the other became an excellent example of photo blogging. What I do with words, Luke does with photos.

So for now I persist. But with increased visitor counts, I get increasingly uneasy. I'm just an average guy who watches the big things going on in our town and marvels at what is surely the ongoing fruit of MAPS.

Which would also describe me, though I cover some other topics along the way.

But then there's this:

I'm no longer seeking exposure for this site. I don't want it. It scares me. The counter says I'm about to hit 30,000. That's nothing compared to Charles Hill at www.dustbury.com. He has had something like 750,000 visits. He's a far better blogger than I. Same can be said for Michael Bates at www.batesline.com.

This is at least as much a function of longevity as any other factor: I've been counting for nine whole years, after all. The mere fact that 800-odd IPs show up in my referrer log every 24 hours doesn't necessarily make me a good blogger. (And certainly I'm a lot less focused than The Downtown Guy, who largely sticks to one major topic.) What strength I have comes from my occasionally-demonstrated ability to come up with something interesting.

Then again, if I had to read only one Oklahoma blog — and God forbid I should have to read my own stuff — I'd read BatesLine, simply because it ranges over a lot of topics without ever getting into the realm of the Desperately Silly. But there is room for the specialist alongside the general practitioner, which is why I also read TDG every day. (And Bates reads it too.)

As for "exposure," well, there's no exposure quite like wearing your heart on your screen. All I ever wanted out of this site was a soapbox of my own; I keep going because, well, I like having a soapbox of my own. And this was true when I had only four hundred visitors a day. Or forty. Or four.

Addendum, 11:11 am: La Shawn Barber explains it this way:

When I first started, I had the advantage of being a non-blog reader. My expectations were low. I wanted to start an online journal as a place to rant between the bi-weekly op-eds I used to write and send to newspapers, even if I were the only one reading it.

I didn't know what hits were, didn't know who the popular bloggers were, and I certainly wasn't worried about my own hot air. A blog is the place for your hot air, your own corner of the blogosphere. And if you’re a consistent poster and decent writer, readers will come.

I do qualify on at least one of those.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Blogorrhea )
Right. What's a cubit?

And Tulsa was corrupt before God, and the political system was filled with violence, and God said unto Meeciteewurkor, "Build an ark, and save two of every animal, for I shall destroy this land called Tulsa. Except for Cain's Ballroom, of course."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:00 PM to Soonerland )
Share the 143

No, not that. I mean Carnival of the Vanities #143, hosted from deepest Hoboken by the one (I think) and only Mister Snitch, and featuring a week's worth of superior bloggage in a single handy package.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:53 PM to Blogorrhea )
Terri: aftermath

The Terri Schiavo autopsy report is available here [link requires Adobe Reader], and it answers most, if not all, of the questions that arose. It is apparent that her condition did not arise from mistreatment, which is a relief: I would hate to think that it had. And the damage to her brain was more extensive than the Schindler family had hoped, or than perhaps they were willing to believe.

I still don't think this was enough of a justification to starve her to death, but what's done is done — at least, on this side of the line that separates this world from whatever follows.

Addendum, 16 June, 7 am: Andrea Harris reminds us:

[E]ven if some people did have the hopes that she might recover some of her brain function, that was NOT the main reason so many people opposed her cruel and pointless court-approved murder. The main reason so many people opposed her cruel and pointless court-approved murder was because it was cruel and pointless.

And besides, if we weeded out everyone whose brain function was reduced below 50 percent, we'd lose most of our television and a rather large number of Congressmen.

16 June 2005
Following my own advice

Which, as many of you know, I don't often do.

I've just ordered this little darb for myself, mostly because it weighs rather less than my turntable-receiver combination and takes up rather a lot less space.

(More specifically: My actual receiver, which dates to the quadraphonic days, measures, per the owner's manual, 7.125 by 20 by 15.875 inches and weighs 44 pounds. That's a hell of a lot to lug halfway across the house just to rip some vinyl, which in turn must be lugged from a different location.)

I will report as time and circumstances permit. I paid the usual $399 price — this thing is never on sale, after all — but the dealer (a New York outlet with which I am familiar) is picking up the tab for UPS ground shipping.

Sweet vidiocy

I am, of course, a Beta fan, but that won't keep me from appreciating Michele's personal VHS history.

Oh, my first machine? A Sears unit built by Sanyo, with a wired remote, which I bought at the very end of 1981 for a prodigiously-discounted $799.95. (Well, it was $150 off.) I started buying blank tapes in cases of ten for $160, substantial savings over the usual $20 single-tape price. And I signed up for one of those pricey rental plans that was cunningly designed to cost just slightly more than going to the actual movies.

And somehow I don't think there will be comparable nostalgia when DVD gives way to whatever comes next.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:33 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Page fault

Based on the best available information, if we threw away the goddamn intercom, productivity at 42nd and Treadmill would increase:

  1. 10 percent.
  2. 20 percent.
  3. 30 percent.
  4. All of the above.

I'm just saying.

Scary juxtaposition

In the tradition of innovation that has marked dustbury.com since its inception (okay, quit laughing, dammit), here's a Caption Contest that's all text.

From this evening on BlogShares:


Screen shot


Keep it at least semi-clean, wouldja please?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:05 PM to Blogorrhea )
Keyboard not found, press F1 to continue

This is right up there.

(Via Dan Lovejoy.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:41 PM to PEBKAC )
17 June 2005
File under "Sheesh"

Yes, I said it: Kim Possible is, like, totally hot.

I am, however, obliged to point out, to the guy (I assume) from Louisiana who came searching, and to anyone else who might be wondering, that I have no pictures of Kim Possible with her clothes off.

So there.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:23 AM to Blogorrhea )
Newly historic

The State Historic Preservation Review Committee is evaluating sites to recommend for the National Register, including the Edwards Neighborhood, north of NE 10th and Grand, the first postwar suburban development on the city's largely-black northeast side.

Also up for consideration are the Sieber Hotel in midtown, and the Will Rogers Park Gardens and Arboretum near NW 36th and Grand.

The Committee will meet on 21 July at 10 am at the Oklahoma Historical Society, and the meeting is open to the public. (If you'd like to nominate a site, here are the rules.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:25 AM to City Scene )
D'oh! a deer

A female deer.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:11 AM to Dyssynergy )
Taking leave of one's census

Matt Deatherage titled this screed "Istook's tired of representing those nasty non-citizens," which may be true, but then again, Ernest Istook hasn't been exactly enthusiastic about representing the actual citizens in his district either; there are times when it seems he's been much more interested in seeing that Utah gets its share of pork federal dollars.

Still, I'd be hard-pressed to make a case that non-citizens, nasty or otherwise, have any call on representation at all, so Istook's attempt to latch onto House Joint Resolution 53, which proposes to limit the Census to actual citizens, is at least somewhat defensible, and Matt Deatherage's reference to "annoying brown-skinned people" strikes me as a gratuitous slur: all illegal immigrants are annoying, irrespective of skin color, even if (as is almost certain) some of them are relatives of mine.

Got any salsa for those chips?

Nichols Dollar Saver in Marietta was the last supermarket in all of Love County, and now it's closed, apparently unable to pay the $14,000 monthly rent demanded by the building's owner in Florida, a figure that has also discouraged the Homeland grocery chain from taking over the location.

This is what I found most perturbing:

"We have a casino, but we don't have a grocery store," said Pat Eggleston, director of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program for Love and Marshall counties.

Supermarkets in Ardmore, or in Gainesville, Texas, are about twenty miles away.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:25 PM to Soonerland )
Stuff distributed at random

Last month, I was adding up all the bucks I spend on media of various sorts, and noted that my $62 figure for subscriptions to magazines "does not include Stuff, which has started appearing in my mailbox despite the fact that I don't remember ever ordering it."

I haven't been inclined to complain — I mean, I wasn't at all ready for photos of a scantily-clad Danica "Winnie Cooper" McKellar — but three issues have arrived, and I've been puzzling over "Why me?"

Well, it's not just me:

Stuff magazine started arriving each month — no explanation given. If you don't know, Stuff is a lot like Maxim, only dumbed down. Yes, that's possible, although I'd have never believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.

Of course, Playboy, godfather to all the lad mags, has sacrificed a few IQ points in the past forty years. (Playboy Interview, April through June 1965: Art Buchwald, Jean-Paul Sartre, Melvin Belli. Playboy Interview, April through June 2005: Les Moonves, James Spader, Lance Armstrong.)

And the perfectly-logical reason for sending out unordered magazines:

Magazines base their ad rates on how many eyes they can promise to deliver. Issues on newsstands barely count — there's no promise anyone will ever buy them. What counts is, how many people get each issue mailed to them. 100,000 paid subscribers are worth a lot more than 1,000,000 issues delivered to Barnes & Noble.

But it would now appear that even unpaid subscribers are considered too valuable to lose.

Considering how little the "official" price matters — has anyone paid more than $12 for a year of Wired since Condé Nast acquired it? — reducing it to zero probably doesn't matter very much at all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:49 PM to Almost Yogurt )
18 June 2005
Needles and pins

Debra Galant, the Barista of Bloomfield Avenue, explains in a comment (scroll down to 16 June, 3:53 pm) to this post why she doesn't belong in the GOP:

First of all, I'm not rich enough. Second of all, I don't have Republican hair or a GOP wardrobe. I can't be a Republican woman: I refuse to wear pantyhose.

I understand most of that just fine, but pantyhose? When did those become a GOP trademark?

Then again, I know some Republican women with extremely nice legs, but, well, it is June, therefore making temperature a factor, and....

Hmmm. I'm going to have to give this a lot more thought, a prospect which bothers me hardly at all.

China thinks about wind

The Chinese government reportedly is pouring 8 billion yuan (a shade under $1 billion) into a one-gigawatt wind farm in the northwest province of Gansu.

This is a pretty good-sized plant — about twenty times the size of the wind farm near Woodward that OG&E uses — but it won't make much of a dent in Chinese energy needs. Still, it's a start.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:08 AM to Family Joules )
Filling a big box

The city of Edmond was fretting.

Wal-Mart was building a new Supercenter near I-35 and 15th Street, and initial opposition from area homeowners had been largely answered, but one question still remained: What happens to the old store at 33rd and Broadway?

The answer came from Jackson Development, developer of a number of shopping areas in town, which will buy the box and convert it to an upscale strip when Wal-Mart officially moves next summer.

Those who worry that the American landscape is being converted into an endless stretch of "empty, hulking husks of abandoned Wal-Marts" will have one less husk to count.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:44 AM to City Scene )
Vacations with a peel

James Joyner has his doubts about the reported increased demand for nude or clothing-optional recreation:

[T]here are 290-odd million Americans. How many of them are engaging in nude vacations is not mentioned in the report. The fact that they had to use a file photo [in the wire story] may be an indication that the trend is not so large after all.

I'm guessing it's bigger than he thinks, but not enough to be a true "trend"; those who partake are extremely enthusiastic, but converts to the cause are few and far between, and the willingness to set one's clothing aside around the house, or in the back yard, doesn't necessarily translate into a willingness to do so in front of the whole darn world already.

Still, it's an industry with its own specialists. The biggest question for now is whether younger folks will take to it; right now nude recreation is largely perceived as an activity for older people who just don't give a flip anymore.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:32 AM to Birthday Suitable )
Saturday spottings (NBT edition)

So much is going on in the city these days that trying to guess the Next Big Thing has become almost a cottage industry; ascertaining Things that are Big is not too difficult, but schedules change, finances shift, and all manner of stuff transpires, making the determination of Next tricky at best.

Still, twenty years ago no one imagined any Big Things at all for anywhere in the city, let alone the near-northeast sector, which is about to become seriously hot, and not in the scorching-summertime sense.

Beacon of Hope at Stiles ParkAnd right now, the hundred-foot-long tube sticking out of the center of Stiles Park on NE 8th Street invites more questions than it answers. But the Beacon of Hope, the centerpiece of Founders' Plaza, due for completion Real Soon Now, is, I suspect, going to draw far more attention to a part of town that is today largely overlooked by many of us. At least, it will when it's dark outside. (Photo borrowed from DowntownOKC.com. I described this project to my daughter, who asked: "Can it be used to summon Batman?" Um, no, I don't think so.)

Banner seen on a clinic on Classen: "CAR ACCIDENT / No Appointment Necessary." Thank goodness. I'd hate to have to schedule one of those.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:52 PM to City Scene )
19 June 2005
Just like pop

With a title like Global Web-Marketing & E-Business Information Magazine, you know that it's one of those startups where getting from "Brilliant Idea" to "Profit" somehow doesn't have a solid step 2.

And you'd be wrong, although they don't tell you this up front. Down one directory level, there's Google Will Eat Itself, which reveals that the reason Global Web-Whatever carries Google text ads is to obtain funds to purchase shares in Google.

If I remember correctly, this scheme was last attemped by the late William M. Gaines, founder of Mad, who announced it after the takeover of National Periodical Publications/DC Comics (then his corporate parent) by Kinney National Services, later to become Warner Communications. It went something like this:

The Mad companies are now wholly owned by Kinney, and are slowly acquiring Kinney stock. Our goal is to acquire all of the Kinney stock, so that while Kinney will own Mad, Mad will also own Kinney.

Which, Gaines noted, would cut down the staff meetings considerably.

(Based on this AdLand post.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:02 AM to Dyssynergy )
Post-teenage wasteland

I wasn't around much before that, so I couldn't tell you if the trend had already started by then, but about the time the 1960s counterculture was taking hold, marketroids had figured out that it was possible, and theoretically profitable, to drive a wedge between young people who were cool, and not-so-young people who were not so cool, by developing products aimed specifically at post-adolescents.

Except, of course, that it doesn't actually work. If there's anything a self-respecting twentysomething hates, it's having something pitched to him because he's a twentysomething. ("It's like we're, like, being used.") It's not that they necessarily want to hang with the elders or anything; it's just that they'd like to find their Special Things on their own, thank you very much.

So kiss Coca-Cola Zero goodbye; it is geared specifically to the Young and Hip, the very model of your modern major marketing, and it will fall flat on its artificially-sweetened face. Lynn gives it the royal send-off:

I love that — "a new brand they can call their own." Well what are they gonna do if us old farts decide we like it and start drinking it? Will they call the age police on us or will they just give it up in despair. "Damn those old people. We can't have any brand to call our own."

Damn us, indeed.

Think Honda Element, a funky panel truck built on the CR-V platform, which everyone was sure would appeal to surfer dudes and such and which was far too outré for everyone else. After the first year, the numbers were in, and the average Element buyer was, um, 43 years old.

Hitting a moving target is hard enough; hitting a target that doesn't take kindly to being considered a target is damned near impossible.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:02 AM to Dyssynergy )
Juneteenth

A reminder from The Glittering Eye that slavery goes on, even today:

The first step is condemning slavery. Let's stop condoning or excusing people who practice slavery. We should be snubbing them not welcoming them into our homes. Even if it costs us a buck or two to take a stand. Let's stand behind our beliefs rather than knuckling under to tyrants. Microsoft and Yahoo, that means you.

Second, let's not make specious equivalences. Low wages isn't slavery. Being chained to your workbench or locked up at night to prevent escape is slavery. And, particularly, working for no wages and being physically and sexually abused is slavery. And it takes place today in Iran and Pakistan and China and Germany and Colorado and Florida and on every continent and in many countries. People who practice slavery may temporarily be our allies but they can't be our friends and we shouldn't put up with it.

There isn't anything I could add to that except a couple of links, and so I did.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:25 AM to Almost Yogurt )
You're my soul and my perspiration

Old Spice, which is probably not really spice but which is certainly old, has issued its annual Sweatiest Cities list, which is topped off by (what a surprise) Phoenix, Arizona.

Methodology, such as it is:

The rankings are based on the average U.S. male/female height/weight and the average high temperature for 2004 in each of the cities during June, July and August. The sweat level was analyzed based on the assumption that an individual was walking for one hour.

Given our hot summers and our tendency not to eat like supermodels, you'd think Oklahoma would place highly on this list, but Soonerland summers lately haven't been quite the sweatboxes of Dust Bowl days, and the best (worst?) we could do was a third of the way from the top, with Tulsa coming in at 32nd and Oklahoma City right behind at 33rd. (The entire list is here.)

I think I need a drink.

(Via Yeah, Right, Whatever, from #21.)

The equalizer

Neal McCaleb is on the op-ed page of the Oklahoman this morning pitching for State Question 723, and he let this one slip by:

For diesel, the proposed increase is 8 cents, phased in over four years. I respectfully submit to truckers that it is more than fair for them to be taxed at the same rate as the rest of us, given their 18-wheel axles cause much more wear and tear on our roads than normal traffic.

Were that the criterion, it would seem logical to tax them at a higher rate than "the rest of us," wouldn't it?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:36 PM to Soonerland )
20 June 2005
Return engagement

At the request of Cam Edwards: five books I liked enough as a teen/young adult to read again as an adult.

1. Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
I picked up on this at the beginning of the Seventies, when it was considered the hip read of the times. And I suppose it's a measure of something that the one character I connected to most strongly on a personal level at the time was the curmudgeonly Jubal Harshaw, whose distaste for the foibles of the world was exceeded only by his fondness for the fair sex, but the one I ultimately found most relevant to my own existence was his secretary Anne (did she even have a last name?), an official Fair Witness, who, when enrobed and therefore on duty, was expected to give the most accurate appraisal of any given situation. Would that I could be so discriminating myself.

2. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
I read this mostly so I wouldn't have to see the movie, which struck me as kinda creepy. While most of the sexual references went right over my head, obsession and possessiveness were concepts I could easily grasp, concepts I vowed (not exactly successfully) to avoid in my own life.

3. Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity
Published in 1969 and bought by me the next year, this is a guide to getting ideas past the mossbacks on the right who were presumably in charge of the education establishment in those days, and it's nearly as useful for getting ideas past the mossbacks on the left who are presumably in charge of the education establishment in these days — provided you blow off the last chapter, which embraces moral relativism in the classic sanctimonious Sixties style.

4. Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle
I've talked about this one before; it is, I suppose, an odd choice for a teenage boy, inasmuch as it's the journal of a teenage girl who's in love with someone unattainable and the one boy who fancies her is kind of a dork and she wouldn't have him on a bet, and — well, maybe it's not so odd after all.

5. Frank Yerby, The Foxes of Harrow
Yerby's specialty was the historical novel, often set in the American South, and this was his first: the tale of a rakish Irish fellow named Stephen Fox, or, as the folks of New Orleans were wont to call him, "Etienne Reynard," who builds (well, actually, absorbs) a magnificent spread in Louisiana and then manages to piss it away in his pursuit of a young lady of, um, dubious ethnicity. I found this fascinating, not only for Fox's ruthless attempts to achieve surface respectability, but for his willingness to risk it all for horizontal calisthenics. Having experienced none such at the time myself, I figure my own expectations were thenceforth distorted.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:22 AM to Screaming Memes )
Dead man (not) spending

In the summer of 2001, Raymond Young — he was the "Y" in TG&Y — signed a donor letter of intent for the YMCA's local campaign, pledging $1 million over five years, to begin when construction began on a new southside Y.

Construction began on the Earlywine Park YMCA at SW 119th and May last October, but Young's estate balked at forking over the first $200k installment:

Michael Hovastak, the attorney representing Young's estate, said the letter of intent that Young signed is not binding and no plan exists to donate $1 million to the YMCA. Hovastak said a letter of intent is a statement for future intent.

"The letter of intent says payment begins when construction begins," Hovastak said. "Of course, Mr. Young died two years prior to any construction. Under the law, dead people cannot enter into contracts, so the letter of intent basically died with him."

Which was 23 March 2002.

Attorneys for the YMCA have filed a petition in Oklahoma County District Court asking for a ruling.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:32 AM to City Scene )
An alternative alternative minimum tax

Deroy Murdock proposes:

The H.O.T. Tax, or Higher-rate Optional Tax, would give those who think their levies are too low the ability to pay the steeper tax bills they say they deserve. This is the truly compassionate thing to do.

The H.O.T. Tax would offer relief to powerful Democrats and wealthy liberals who cannot stand it when Republicans cut their taxes.

Determining the amount of this tax would be simple:

The IRS simply would add a small box to the 1040 tax form beside these words: "If you believe you should be taxed at a rate above that assigned to your income bracket, please indicate here the higher rate you prefer. Kindly calculate your tax liability, and send it in."

With that easy step, congressional liberals and residents of Malibu and Martha's Vineyard no longer would have to keep the tax cuts conservatives keep throwing their way. Instead, they could send 50, 75, or even 99 percent of their incomes to Washington, so the GOP, Congress, and President Bush can spend it even better than they can.

And God knows the GOP, Congress, and President Bush have no trouble spending it.

(Via Kim Du Toit.)

A little warp, a little woof

How many dogs does it take to change a light bulb?

According to Wendy Cooper, it depends on the breed.

The cat, of course, will talk the dog into it, and then casually point out the broken lampshade when the humanoid comes home.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:30 PM to Blogorrhea )
Gore victorious

Lesley Gore never stopped singing, but she's kept a low recording profile since her last studio album back in 1976. In the interim, two of her compositions made it into worthy motion pictures: "Out Here on My Own," a collaboration with younger brother Michael for 1980's Fame, was nominated for an Academy Award, and "My Secret Love," from the soundtrack of 1996's Grace of My Heart, was seen by some as a bid to open a closet door.

Ever Since, recorded for Blake Morgan's Engine Company label with Morgan himself on piano and labelmate Mike Errico on guitar, sounds like nothing else in the Gore store; there's just the right balance of wistful and world-weary, and the spare accompaniment provides her with plenty of breathing room.

There are two real surprises here. "We Went So High," written by Lesley with Ellen Weston, perhaps a forgotten song from the 1970s — Gore and Weston were regularly writing together in those days — is deceptively simple in its geometry and quietly heartbreaking in its finality. And "You Don't Own Me," recast as a torch song, is darker and more emphatic than you remember it being four decades ago.

Obviously this isn't girl-group stuff. Then again, "Not the First," a new Gore composition, could have fit in nicely alongside "California Nights" and her other later Mercury waxings: Lesley hasn't forgotten where she came from. And more important, she knows she's still going somewhere. That sense of direction infuses every one of these ten tracks, and it makes Ever Since more than just another teen-idol "comeback" album — because you end up wishing you'd been along for the ride.

21 June 2005
Instant tribute

It had to happen, and I'm thinking it's probably a good thing that it happened quickly: CBS-FM Remembered.

Promised: lots of airchecks from the glory days.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:20 AM to Overmodulation )
We love this bar

If you live here and your musical tastes extend beyond the two standard types — country and western — you might be one of those folks who is utterly appalled that lower Bricktown is being invaded by Toby Keith. "Just what we needed," you mumble, "something else to make us look like a buncha hicks."

Believing as I do that our culture (not to mention politics) is best served by a studied indifference to what is represented to us as world opinion, I'm happy to see Toby pouring some dollars into the old hometown, and I care about cool only to the extent that it prevents perspiration.

And The Downtown Guy, generally an astute observer of local trends, sort of concurs:

[T]he more I think about Toby's place, the more it seems fitting that it be the first theme restaurant for Bricktown. While some of us long for downtown OKC to be something more cosmopolitan, at the end of the day, we're Oklahoma. Toby Keith is definitely a part of that.

And it's not like Toby Keith is going to prevent anyone from going to the Philharmonic. You want to see some real hicks? Take a gander at Fred Phelps and his entourage.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:38 AM to City Scene )
Alternative delivery

A couple of years ago, Doc Searls prescribed the following regimen for public broadcasting:

Get off the public dole completely. If you're down to just 2%, finish off the job. Turn to listeners and viewers. Operate in the real marketplace. You already have a huge advantage over commercial broadcasters, thanks to the fact that your listeners and viewers are customers and not just "consumers."

And let your listeners and viewers get involved in production. Embrace audio blogging. Embrace local video production. Wake up and smell the content, dudes. There's a huge pile of it out there. You don't have to get all of it from NPR and PRI. And I'll bet you can get a lot of it cheaper than from those bigtime sources, too.

At the time, I predicted that Congress would kill off the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It hasn't happened yet. Then again, public broadcasting hasn't exactly changed its ways either, and once again, Doc Searls is on their case:

[P]ublic broadcasting has a huge advantage over commercial broadcasting: it sells its goods directly to its viewers and listeners. Put another way, its consumers and its customers are the same people. Commercial radio and television have a huge (and problematic) split between customers (advertisers) and consumers (viewers and listeners). Yet, for some dumb reason (too many staffers coming over from the growing labor pool of laid-off commercial broadcast marketers?), public broadcasting has looked to commercial broadcasting as an ideal model. Rather than make it easier than ever for its consumers to become customers, and for its customers to become more involved with the stations, public broadcasting whored itself to underwriters and other "sponsors."

Maybe that's an unkind characterization, but there's a follow-the-money effect at work here. As dependence on federal money shrinks, commercial sponsors take up the slack. There is a natural drift of energy toward pleasing those advertisers (which is what they are), and away from customers that really matter: paying listeners and viewers. In other words, public broadcasting has been doing its best to behave like commercial broadcasting. Not helpful.

A different business model might address this issue:

[T]hink of your listeners and viewers as customers. Make it easy for them to buy retail the programs you buy wholesale from NPR, PBS and other sources. Sell them good local programming as well. Don't think of them as sources of "support." Think of them as customers for your service.

Let's say I have $60 to spend on the local NPR station. Suppose, instead of a simple block grant, as it were, I went to an online storefront of sorts and specified, say, $39.50 for Morning Edition and All Things Considered, $12 for The Diane Rehm Show, $8 for the evening jazz programs, and four bits for Car Talk (two guys, each with two-bit commentary). Fine and dandy, and it's the same sixty bucks. (Disclosure: Last year I sent this station, um, sixty bucks.)

In a more advanced public-broadcasting market, it might be worthwhile for program providers to stream their material through local station links in exchange for a small fee, which might reduce the number of people kvetching to the station manager about "How come you don't carry So-and-so?"

There are other possibilities. But none of them must rely on the tedium that is the semiannual pledge drive, and none of them need be dependent on taxpayer dollars. As Jeff Jarvis says, "Taking money from politicians gets you politics."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:07 AM to Overmodulation )
Personally, I blame Paris

Have we come to this? A Hilton hotel with an outhouse?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:07 PM to Dyssynergy )
A bouquet of forget-me-nots

North Dakota Governor John Hoeven just can't keep his mind on Julie R. Neidlinger:

I have to say that Hoeven is very personable. Except, of course, he greeted all the other media people at the airport as if they were old buddies "So your dad is ______, over at Game and Fish, huh? I guess you know the outdoors. And Ronna! It's always good to see you" blah blah blah. Me?

Silence.

It's not like he's never ever ever seen me before. He came up to Langdon just a few months back because of all the Main Street fires (Langdon seems to be a kind of Bermuda Triangle for crappy luck here in North Dakota), and I met him then. And I met him when I was at the capitol with my friend whose father is a representative. He even made the same silly joke then as he did this time, about how the paper I work for, the Cavalier County Republican, was a great name for a paper. Which, I suppose, should have been a sign he didn't remember me. The same joke. Twice. To the same person. In one year.

You know, "Cavalier" is a great name for a county.

I don't want to be too hard on Governor Hoeven — I've been known to repeat myself for no discernible reason — but telling someone a good joke twice is bad enough; telling someone a bad joke twice is almost unforgivable.

Then again, I've been known to repeat myself for no discernible reason.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 PM to Dyssynergy )
22 June 2005
Fear is the drug

Last fall in Vent #407, I found myself in the unusual position of defending a drug company:

Merck, on balance, was right to pull Vioxx from the shelves; while the publicity is bad, it would have been much worse had they waited for the FDA to order a recall. Still, it should be remembered — but probably won't be, at least among the general public — that just about anything you put into your mouth, be it a $3 Vioxx tab, a two-cent aspirin, or a Kellogg's Pop-Tart, has a measurable risk factor, and the only way to avoid risk completely is to drop dead.

One reason the general public won't remember this, you can be sure, is medical scaremongering, as described by Dr. Sanity, who encountered it in regard to hormone-replacement therapy:

I suspect there is considerable individual physiological variability associated with the number of estrogen receptors and such, which probably determines how sensitive one is to estrogen depletion. But it is an individual thing, and each individual should decide for themselves whether the risk is worth it or not. Everything in life is a trade-off, after all. It is only in a culture where litigation thrives that miracle drugs like HRT, or anti-inflammatory agents (e.g., Vioxx, Celebrex, Ibuprofen etc.) are damned because they have side effects. EVERY SINGLE DRUG HAS SIDE EFFECTS.

Emphasis in the original.

How much risk was the good Doctor facing?

Why, I asked, couldn't I get back on HRT? Oh, I was told, the risks are too great. Well, I went to the original literature and read the articles — and lo and behold, it was exactly as Dr. Purdie suggested above. For example, when you are talking about a 20 in 1000 chance of developing breast cancer (which is the risk WITHOUT EITHER HRT OR ERT) doubling — you get 40 in 1000 (that's the actual risk of HRT; if you use ERT, the risk goes from 20 in 1000 to 25 in 1000). Let me tell you, that risk seemed pretty darn good to me in exchange for being able to sleep and function as a normal human being again.

"Dr. Purdie" is Professor David Purdie of Hull-York Medical School, who took the British medical journal Lancet to task for hyping the two-percentage-point increase in risk, which they characterized as a doubling of the risk, which is mathematically correct, but which, says Purdie, is "unbalanced and inflammatory."

Similar numbers exist with NSAIDs: in a clinical trial with Vioxx, 3.5 percent of patients suffered "cardiovascular events" — but so did 1.9 percent of patients who were given a placebo. Yet the press reacted as though Merck had hacked together some form of snake oil containing two parts arsenic, one part raw sewage, and just a hint of eye of newt, and I don't mean Gingrich.

Repeat: EVERY SINGLE DRUG HAS SIDE EFFECTS. If this seems astonishing to you, you should perhaps steer clear of Walgreen's.

(Found at The Cotillion.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:21 AM to TANSTAAFL )
Unadorned, as it were

Matthew, motivated by this post from Miriam, urges that this Friday's postings be done unclothed.

I will, of course, comply, unless I happen to post something from the workplace.

(Suggested by Michele, who is inspiration enough.)

Bedlam steel

Oklahoma State is the new Nebraska, says Berry Tramel:

It's sacrilege to Sooners fans, but OU-OSU has turned into a series worthy to fill the calendar void of the cherished Big Red rivalry.

OSU-OU is not OU-Nebraska in stakes. Not in significance. But in drama. In entertainment.

And that's something to be encouraged:

This is what an in-state rivalry should look like. Michigan [State] should have to fight and scratch against Michigan. Alabama should not walk over Auburn.

[insert Longhorn/Aggie and/or Jayhawk/Wildcat comparison here]

Norman will always sneer at Stillwater; the difference today is that Stillwater is in a position to sneer back.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:59 AM to Soonerland )
A feline for the good stuff

Well, why shouldn't a cat run the Carnival of the Vanities?

And so we have edition #144, probably assembled in the back room by Laurence Simon, though he's too modest to say so.

And amazingly, I managed to get through this without using the word "gross." (Oops.)

Addendum, 29 June: We regret to note the passing of said cat, who by all accounts was a sterling feline citizen and, more important, a good friend to the resident humans. (Laurence, old fellow, I'm so sorry.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:52 AM to Blogorrhea )
Bistrociousness

Bistro, n. 1. A small restaurant, featuring simple fare, sometimes with entertainment. [Fr. bistro] 2. A vehicle for transferring credit risk to a Special Purpose [financial] Vehicle. [Acronym for Broad Index Secured Trust Offering]

Either way, I don't want it creamy and/or garlic-ridden.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:13 PM to Dyssynergy , Soonerland )
Life with the GF-350

About a month ago, I mentioned the Teac GF-350 shelf system, which incorporates a three-speed turntable (yes, it plays 78s), an AM/FM stereo tuner, and a CD recorder, which simplifies the task of converting all that vinyl (and I have, if not literally tons of vinyl, probably at least one ton of it) to digital form. Last Thursday I ordered one for myself from a dealer on Lawn Guyland; it arrived today and was immediately put to the test.

As a shelf system, it's okay, if not great; the power is modest (3.5 watts per side) and the tuner is just barely adequate. But what you want to know is "How well does it record?" The answer is "Pretty darn good, actually," especially if your records aren't in absolutely terrible shape.

I tested with a decent 1970s LP (The Works, a Warner Bros. sampler album) and an original styrene 45 from 1965. The cartridge is apparently a ceramic type, which means its RIAA equalization is approximate at best. Still, the minimal amount of tweaking I had to do to these files suggests that the Teac is doing a good job of getting the sound out of the grooves: the LP came out very well, if a tad bass-shy, while the 45 benefited from a 3-decibel cut around 15 kHz. For the casual listener, this is all you need; for us drooling audio geeks, it's the quickest way to get an editable file into our computers for further processing.

One word of warning: the GF-350 expects CD-Rs (or CD-RWs, if you can find any) that are specifically labeled for digital audio. I was unable to trick it into using the cheapie CD-Rs I buy in bulk.

Teac has a Web site for the GF-350; you can read the manual with Adobe Reader, if you're curious.

Blue on blue

Heartburn on heartburn.

I mean, a live-action Smurfs movie?

This wasn't a good idea even when it was a good idea. In 2006 — assuming they could get it finished by then — it's just another indication that Hollywood is circling the drain.

23 June 2005
The nonfunctional Demo version

I thought Oklahoma Democrats were in a bad way, having had to lay off their entire paid staff, but it looks like Florida Democrats aren't doing much better:

Broke and without enough money in the bank to pay its bills after the end of the month, the Florida Democratic Party has now been slapped with a lien by the Internal Revenue Service for failing to pay payroll and Social Security taxes in 2003.

The state party’s budget and finance committee voted Tuesday to ask for a new audit to account for more than $900,000 it believes somehow disappeared from the books during the 2003-2004 calendar years when the party was led by Scott Maddox, who is now seeking its nomination for governor.

In defense of Oklahoma's Lisa Pryor, at least she doesn't seem to be running for office.

All news is local

Truth, poetry, and a hint of the future, courtesy of Lileks:

If I were king of the forest, and could remake the Daily Paper according to my whims, I'd make two changes. I'd confine the editorials to local matters, because no one cares what the Peoria Gleaner thinks about Sudan. Whereas an intensely local editorial section has a unique power; it's distributed and read by the people who can actually do something about the issues raised. Second, I'd flip the A and B sections. Newspapers can do the local issues like no other medium. Someone gets shot on the north side, and a southside blogger doesn't know it — unless he reads it in the paper.

Of course, there's always the possibility that the Daily Paper has its fingers in too many local pies, but that's a different issue entirely.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:12 AM to Almost Yogurt )
They say the neon lights are bright

A suggestion from NewPlains:

[H]ere's an idea for Automobile Alley: why not convince OU, UCO, OSU (and maybe OCU and OCCC) to consolidate their art schools into a single downtown art campus based in one or more of the old dealership buildings? Art programs require lots of studio space and facilities suitable for things like glass blowing and sculpture, which are hard to accomodate in campus buildings. I think those old buildings would be great for that, and with the Paseo, Midtown, and plenty of lofts nearby, housing wouldn't be a problem. It would give them much needed classroom space on their main campuses, and defray in four or five directions the costs of the facilities necessary to get their art programs accredited (which, amazingly, none of the above are). I think that area would be perfect for something like that, maybe modeled on the downtown consortium.

It makes a certain amount of sense. A couple of galleries have already opened along or just off Broadway, and there's no reason we can't have an art presence downtown besides what's in the officially-proclaimed Arts District.

But none of those university programs have full accreditation? Really? The mind reels.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:34 AM to City Scene )
What the hell, let's tear down her house

After all, five-ninths of the Supreme Court says that we can trust government to make the right choices.

Justice John Paul Stevens:

The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including — but by no means limited to — new jobs and increased tax revenue.

And if some people have to be thrown out into the street for those "appreciable benefits," well, too bad.

I don't think we're likely to see a repeat of Kelo v. New London here in Oklahoma, but I don't see how any property owner anywhere in the country can be happy with this decision.

Sometimes you have to laugh

Can you be cynical and happy at the same time? Bruce says yes, and I'm inclined to agree:

The two states seem at odds with each other. Just how can you assume the worst about everything and still see the good in the world?

It's possible, but not if you remain cynical about everything all the time. I often say that I wouldn't be so cynical if it didn't work so well. I think that's true. People that aren't cynical might never see the absurdity that pervades our lives. And it's that absurdity that can make you happy at unexpected times.

The human condition is indeed fraught with absurdity; if life doesn't make you bust out laughing once in a while, you're not paying attention.

Besides, just because you assume the worst doesn't mean you're invariably going to get it; you've got to allow for the occasional pleasant surprise from things failing to go as badly as you anticipated.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:15 AM to Almost Yogurt )
For those keeping score

This site was established in 1996; at the time, it really couldn't be considered a blog. Updates were few and far between, except to the series of Vents, which rolled out more or less regularly four times a month. Not bad for a 'zine; not enough for a blog.

Daily bloggage on this site began on this date, five years ago; the first entry, unsurprisingly, was to announce the beginning of daily bloggage.

Comments, incidentally, were implemented in June 2002; Movable Type (then in version 2.21) was installed here in August 2002. (This is the first MT entry; Dave got the first comment, which began, of course, with a remark about comments.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:01 PM to Blogorrhea )
24 June 2005
Beyond threadbare

Were it not for the roof over my head, I would be skyclad right now. (If that doesn't repel the bulldozers, nothing will.)

As promised, any post I do today that isn't written at work (during breaks, of course) will be written while unclothed. I hasten to point out that this isn't as big a deal as it may seem, since (1) this requires basically no adjustment of my regular routine and (2) rather a lot of people have been doing this all along.

And no, I'm not taking my clothes off in the office. For one thing, there's a server in there, and its temperature preferences take precedence over mine. For another, I have a leather chair.

The new ethical Tulsa

Okay, this is probably a premature judgment, but the city now has a stronger (or at least "less pitiful") ethics ordinance. Here's the new definition of "personal interest," courtesy of Roemerman on Record:

Personal Interest means a direct or indirect interest, matter or relationship not shared by the general public which could be reasonably expected to impair the City Official’s objectivity or independence of judgment.

Not the strongest possible statement, but a heck of a lot better than this:

Personal Interest shall be an item which creates a feeling of affection, aversion, or emotional investment so as to influence the City official's objectivity.

Kudos to T-town for trying to narrow the loophole. The tricky part, of course, is going to be getting the Usual Suspects to follow the new rule, or indeed any rule at all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:17 AM to Soonerland )
The good life, with price tags

I suppose it's all in your definition of "living well," but according to Forbes, it takes about $200k a year to live "well" in Oklahoma City.

This assumes a house in 73142 (Gaillardia and its environs) running $850k or thereabouts, a place on Grand Lake, $18k a year for the family vehicles (type of vehicles not specified), $42k a year in educational costs (tuition and such), a $20k food budget divided evenly between meals out and meals in, and a mere $2000 socked away for emergencies.

I suppose it's a good thing I'm not obsessed with living well, or I would have sunk into despondency long before the end of the previous paragraph.

(Via Okiedoke. Remind me to buy Mike a beer.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:03 AM to City Scene )
An eminent-domain case in Oklahoma

From this morning's Oklahoman:

Five miles north of the Texas border along Interstate 35, Joe Heim breeds and trains quarter horses on 56 acres he bought in 1980 as an investment. Heim is among six defendants in condemnation lawsuits filed by Western Electrical Cooperative, which wants to build 80-foot transmission poles across the owners' land.

All around Heim, property values have skyrocketed since the Chickasaw Nation built the massive WinStar Casino in 2003. Two miles south of Heim's farm, the tribe's casino partner paid $1.4 million last October for 216 acres, or $6,481 per acre. Nearby land that fronts I-35 near an exit, like Heim's, has been valued at up to $80,000 an acre, his attorney said.

The casino also has brought a need for electrical transmission improvements. Heim said Western Farmers Electric Cooperative offered him $2,700 to erect the transmission poles on 10 of his acres, he said. "It would make it useless for anything other than a parking lot or grass."

Brian Hobbs, the cooperative's attorney, said the utility is seeking an easement on Heim's land of just 467 feet long and 100 feet wide. Only one pole would be built on his property.

This isn't directly affected by Kelo v. City of New London: WEC is not a governmental unit, and it's seeking, not the entire tract, but a narrow strip as an easement. Still, the Kelo definition of "public use," which is "just about anything," might play a role in the unwinding of this case.

Meanwhile, Mr Heim has other complaints:

Heim said cooperative officials have admitted in depositions that the Chickasaw Nation is paying for the power lines, and that the upgrade wouldn't be necessary except for the casino and a planned resort, including two hotels.

Heim said he had considered selling part of his land for a truck stop and for apartments to accommodate casino workers. Condemnation of his property would ruin those plans.

And I'm wondering just how much impact the presence of the Chickasaw Nation as an interested party will have on the outcome; the state's relationship with the tribes has often been prickly.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:14 AM to Soonerland )
There are always weasels

Our esteemed health plan (surely someone esteems it, since we've had it for over a year, which is approaching the corporate record) apparently has a degree of paranoia which exceeds the usual insurance-industry standard; they had a third party send me a seemingly-innocuous letter asking me to call in with information about my knee surgery last December. Apparently they got the notion, God knows where, that I had claimed this to be work-related and had filed a claim with someone else's insurance, and they expected to be reimbursed for what they paid in.

Well, yes, I know the rules of the game. And I didn't file with anyone else: if I have a work-related ailment, it's called Bad Temper, and no one is compensating me for that in the slightest.

What irked me most, though, was that they would go to this much trouble for the seventeen bucks they paid for the lab work. There was no mention of the operation itself, or of the amount paid for the surgical facility, or any of the other bazillion ways health-care professionals have to run up the tab — only this feeble $83 laboratory charge, eighty percent of which they blithely ignored in the first place.

If I ever say anything kindly about the prospect of single-payer health care, it will be because of stuff like this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:06 PM to Dyssynergy )
Let's not call it treehugging

I do rather a lot of whining around here about my chronic datelessness, but it never occurred to me to blame it on the enormous chaste tree in my back yard.

I'm not complaining about the tree, though; it's quite lovely, and after an indifferent 2004 it's come back very strong this year, reaching a height of about nine feet on its way to the sky.

After entirely too long a workday, I wasn't up to mowing the entire yard, so I decided to do the worst two-thirds this evening and save the rest for some unspecified future time. In making the turn by the back fence, I knocked loose a few dozen blossoms from the chaste tree; from a distance, the spillage looked like a nice blue puddle. And if there's one thing birds in this neighborhood love, it's a freshly-mowed lawn, or even two-thirds of one, so the moment I parked the mower, one of the resident robins dropped into the pile of blossoms to investigate. Within twenty seconds, there was a second and a third; a fourth followed quickly. From the far north, or at least north of the back fence, a blue jay ventured into the zone, but the robins weren't in any mood for guests and dispatched the intruder forthwith. A second jay, perched on the gas meter, decided he wasn't going to wait around for the same treatment, and departed. Last year the jays ruled this yard, but once they abandoned their nest (in one of the twin sweetgum trees near the back door), they fell victim to regime change.

(Yes, I have a lot of trees. One of the reasons I live here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:06 PM to Surlywood )
25 June 2005
The Gaylord legacy

Matt Deatherage has a good roundup of the history of the Gaylord clan in Oklahoma, their media holdings, their politics (which have varied from right-wing to way right-wing), and their philanthropic activities.

One minor correction: The Oklahoma Publishing Company no longer owns radio station WKY, which was sold to Citadel Broadcasting in early 2003. [Link requires Adobe Reader.]

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:43 AM to Soonerland )
Post-Kelo

While I wrestle with the question of whether state laws more restrictive than Connecticut's will prevent the sort of travesty that's taking place in New London — first guess is that they might, but developers tend to have deeper pockets than mere property owners, which probably means expensive litigation — McGehee has already jumped in with a proposed Constitutional amendment.

Frankly, I don't think that will wash; doesn't the Constitution already have a provision barring ex post fathead laws?

And The Downtown Guy points out a local angle here in Oklahoma City, which has cleared lots of old buildings over the years.

Personal note

To Recruit (and regular reader) Jean Jon-Paul LeCompte:

It might be a really good idea to call your mom before you report for duty next Tuesday.

(Addendum: Well, it sounded French.)

Toying with the fabric of the universe

Jacqueline Passey's new philosophy:

Television is to news what bumper stickers are to philosophy.

Bless her, she went out and bought a bumper sticker that says so.

And I know, if I had a television news program, I would absolutely have to report on this.

This is one of the best bits of self-referential whimsy since Noble Clay, Maine-based porcelain potters, put up a sign that read nowedonthaveawebsite.com. (Now, of course, they do. And long-term readers, if I have any left, will remember that I brought this up way back in 1999.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:13 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Saturday spottings (judge not)

So I'm tooling up the Lake Hefner Parkway and not actually looking (much) at the blonde in the red Mustang convertible, when a member of the Anti-Destination League shows up in the lane ahead of me: a greener-than-thou Toyota Prius at a stolid 61 mph, impeding progress and probably proud of it. I noted that this was probably just my evocation of a standard stereotype, and such things have been wrong before — fercryingoutloud, I actually once knew a gay man who was an absolute slob, which conventional wisdom says is impossible, or at least unheard of — but it didn't stop me from uttering a few choice Anglo-Saxonisms as I passed the little electric wheezer. (Speed limit on this section of the Parkway is in fact 65 mph.)

Northwest 122nd Street this far west has some weirdnesses. It hadn't dawned on me, for instance, that the new John Marshall High School is going in next door to a station of the Oklahoma City Police Department. (Write your own joke.) And while fancy subdivisions continue to sprout, occasionally there are traces of what used to be; there's a working oil rig out there still.

I was out in this neck of the woods at the invitation of a reader who lives in the magical 73142 ZIP code, albeit in a house selling for less than half of the $850k suggested by that Forbes article. (And you know, if you can get something this spiffy for $350k, it's very hard for me to imagine something worth half a million more.) Said reader took exception to some of the assumptions in that piece: for instance, we're talking a family of four here, two of whom are teenage boys, and they don't spend anywhere near $20k a year for food. Bargain hunters, of course, exist in all income groups, from lowest to highest. ("As does profligacy," I said sadly as I wrote the check to the supermarket this afternoon.)

The advantages of living behind a gate? "Where we used to live, we were vandalized just about every week." New Urbanists and such hate gated communities because they insulate their residents from the common folk; I rather suspect that there wouldn't be such a demand if so many of said common folk didn't act so, well, common.

And eastbound on Memorial Road at a crisp clip, I was passed up by someone in a big hurry — in a Toyota Prius. Under the circumstances, I suppose I should have apologized for driving too slowly.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:31 PM to City Scene )
Post-Kelo (part 42)

Advice from McGehee:

Properly prepared, you should be able to spot and head off a threat before it’s right on top of you; you’ll know who, among those with the power to seize your home, might be open to persuasion to vote against doing so. You’ll also know other involved people in your community that could help you fight in other ways. When it comes down to a fight, you’ll be better off having more options sooner, not one last-ditch option when the bulldozers roll up.

Meanwhile, somewhere in England:

Prosser:  But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the planning office for the last nine months.

Arthur:  Yes. I went round to find them yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call much attention to them had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything.

Prosser:  The plans were on display.

Arthur:  And how many average members of the public are in the habit of casually dropping round at the local planning office of an evening? It's not exactly a noted social venue is it? And even if you had popped in on the off-chance that some raving bureaucrat wanted to knock your house down, the plans weren't immediately obvious to the eye, were they?

Prosser:  That depends on where you were looking.

Arthur:  I eventually had to go down to the cellar...

Prosser:  That's the display department.

Arthur:  ...with a torch.

Prosser:  Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.

Arthur:  So had the stairs.

Prosser:  But you found the notice didn't you?

Arthur:  Yes. It was on display on the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard.' Ever thought of going into advertising?

Prosser:  It's not as if it's a particularly nice house anyway.

Arthur:  I happen rather to like it.

Prosser:  Mr Dent!

Arthur:  Hello? Yes?

Prosser:  Have you any idea how much damage that bulldozer would suffer if I just let it roll straight over you?

Arthur:  How much?

Prosser:  None at all.

Damned bypasses.

26 June 2005
The bin Laden/Dr Phil dichotomy

Per Andrea Harris:

The modern ideal of romantic love has contributed more towards the destruction of Western society than any Islamofascist terrorist could even dream of. Poor Al Qaeda — if only they had turned their energies towards becoming screenwriters and pop song producers. Because after all, what could we do, go to war against love? If you thought the war on drugs was unpopular...

Unfortunately, this would mess up my plans (not yet approved by Darth Rove) for Gitmo, which call for the replacement of those horrid noises by Christina Aguilera with the far-more-wretched sounds of "Honey" and "(You're) Having My Baby," which would make the jihadis' ears bleed in three minutes flat.

"See the tree, how big it's grown...."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:17 AM to Table for One )
We got your pregroove wobble right here

Previously in this space on the Teac GF-350:

One word of warning: the GF-350 expects CD-Rs (or CD-RWs, if you can find any) that are specifically labeled for digital audio. I was unable to trick it into using the cheapie CD-Rs I buy in bulk.

Of course, this invites the question: "How the hell does it know? The disc is blank, fercrissake."

Well, almost:

Even though general purpose CD-R and CD-RW discs and their consumer audio versions appear for all practical purposes identical, only blank media bearing the "Compact Disc Digital Audio Recordable" (CD-DA Recordable) and "Compact Disc Digital Audio Rewritable" (CD-DA Rewritable) logos can be written in consumer audio recorders. The reason for this restriction is to comply with international copyright agreements. A special Disc Application Code present in the ATIP information of a CD-DA Recordable/Rewritable disc's pregroove wobble identifies it specifically for audio use. Consumer audio recorders are programmed to reject discs not containing the correct code. By adopting this safeguard various countries and other authorizing jurisdictions may selectively apply copyright levies to the price of blank discs intended for consumer audio use while exempting those destined for computer or professional applications.

Now to me, "pregroove wobble" sounds vaguely sexual, and indeed it's possible to see this as a screwing of sorts:

The disc application codes are used to distinguish between discs used for different applications. The two main application codes used are "Discs for Unrestricted Use" and "Discs for Restricted Use." Within the "Disc for Restricted Use" code, another additional encoded identification may be used for special disc applications. One example of this would be the Photo CD.

This is why, for example, you can't use blank data CD-Rs in a consumer audio disc recorder. You must use an audio CD-R. The audio recorder will check to ensure that the blank CD is encoded for audio applications. The audio CD-R isn't any better or different, but will cost more because of copying fees paid to the RIAA.

Ah, yes. The RIAA. The last thing they did that was of any value to anyone other than themselves was the LP equalization curve (500 Hz crossover, 13.7 dB rolloff, and it scares me that I remembered that).

This still doesn't explain why at least one GF-350 I know of supposedly runs just fine with ordinary CD-Rs, but there are such things as running changes, and well, he bought his first.

Get looked @

Look@OKC, the Hip or Die section of NewsOK.com, is looking for a few good bloggers.

No, really. Here's the pitch:

Look@OKC is looking for young adults in the Oklahoma City metro area to become trusted bloggers for the community.

We want sports bloggers, local music bloggers, movie bloggers, television bloggers, video game bloggers, night club bloggers, single bloggers, married bloggers, dating bloggers, exercise bloggers, job bloggers, shopping bloggers .... The list goes on.

We might even want bloggers who still live with their parents and refuse to find a real job. Could be interesting . . . who knows?

If you have something interesting to say, and have the commitment to say it on a regular basis, then you might have the ability to become a Look@OKC blogger.

It can't hurt, can it?

Not being a "young" adult, except in comparison to the likes of Methuselah, I don't qualify for this sort of thing, but I'm willing to bet I have a couple of readers who might be interested. If you are, go here and apply.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:42 AM to Blogorrhea , City Scene )
The official WT05 FAQ

When does the World Tour actually happen?

It begins on 4 July, and continues for a bit more than two weeks.

What makes it a World Tour, exactly, since you're not leaving the States or anything?

Two things: it's awfully damned long, and much of it is through relatively unfamiliar territory.

How long is "awfully damned long"?

The first four of these jaunts averaged about 4500 miles; this one will be a tad longer than that.

You've done this four times before. Why do it again?

Because I can. More to the point, it's good for me to get out of town, and it's good for my car to get a serious workout once in a while.

Will you be blogging every day?

That's the plan, anyway. You can still read the reports from 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

What's the shape of this year's route?

To be determined. So far, the only things that are known for certain is that at some point Maine and Rhode Island will be entered, and that I will pass through Philadelphia. First stop, however, will be the Kansas City metro, since it will be my son's 24th birthday.

Isn't this basically a rewrite of the official WT04 FAQ?

Well, yes, but then it was basically a rewrite of the official WT03 FAQ, and I am not one to reinvent the wheel while I'm on a roll, if you know what I mean.

Is there any chance you'll say "Screw it" and not go home?

I would have to be extremely fortunate, in the winning-lotto-ticket sense, or extremely smitten, in the "I've been waiting for you all my life" sense. Don't count on either of these actually taking place.

Note: Feel free to post additional questions in the comments box, or by mail if you'd rather.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:56 PM to World Tour '05 )
27 June 2005
Themes like old times

The Downtown Guy drops into Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill, and lives to tell:

The prices are on the high side, but the portions are huge. (samples from the menu: Cheeseburger and fries, or a chicken sandwich and fries, $8, BBQ chicken, $13, 16 oz chicken fried steak, $14) At least while you’ve waited, you’ve had a chance to survey all the odd décor that's to be expected in a theme restaurant. Country music plays over the speakers (no live music until long after the dinner hour), while redneck programming (NASCAR, sports, country music videos) play on several televisions.

The food is damn good. And it should be for the price. Service improved dramatically once seated.

Which, at the moment, is the weak point:

Would I have left if I had been told the wait would have been an hour? Yes. But I would have come back. Despite the good food and service once seated, I left still upset over how I was treated at the start. And it's still very upsetting that the hostess deceived me on my place on the list. As a customer, I should be allowed some control over how long I'm willing to wait. If I want to wait an hour, I will do so and I won't complain.

It's not like anyone has ever had to wait to be seated at an Oklahoma City restaurant (cf. Molly Murphy's), but really, they know how long it will take to get you seated, and they should be able to tell you that up front.

Still, I'm just happy to hear that the food isn't terrible, as it too often is with "theme" eateries. Then again, Toby tends to get his way.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:23 AM to City Scene )
Honing the Point

Sinclair Broadcasting executive Mark Hyman delivers those stentorian corporate editorials on the company's stations (including KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City, a Fox affiliate) which fall under the collective title "The Point".

Troy Steele at Oklahoma Media Watch identifies the components of "The Point":

  • 1 part [Kelly] Ogle-esque homespun sensibility
  • 1 part R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket
  • 1 part confusing right-wing stance on topics that don't normally lend themselves to picking political sides
  • 1 part hair gel

I think Steele is probably slightly underestimating the contribution of the hair gel, but otherwise, this sounds about right.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:10 AM to Overmodulation )
Mething around

Oklahoma's efforts to curb meth labs include restrictions on the purchase of products containing pseudoephedrine, an essential ingredient in homebrew methamphetamine, and Governor Henry has been recommending similar programs be adopted in other states.

Apparently it's working in Tennessee: the Volunteer State, after thirty days of pseudoephedrine restrictions, posted a 39 percent reduction in lab busts from the corresponding month last year. Governor Phil Bredesen says it's gratifying, but cautions that the figures are for only one month.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:10 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Going with the flow

Everybody knows that it happens, but sometimes it takes a little help.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:20 AM to Dyssynergy )
Careful with that promotion, Eugene

DragonAttack would like to know — and frankly, so would I — if you can really call it a Pink Floyd reunion without the participation of Syd Barrett.

(Yes, I know. On the other hand, do you have any idea how long I spent trying to come up with an Arnold Layne-related title?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:28 AM to Tongue and Groove )
Hardware fasteners as metaphor

"Blogs unbolt door into writer's world" is the title on this Oklahoman article, and maybe it's true to some extent, but I would be remiss if I didn't point out that some of us, far from being unbolted, are perilously close to coming unscrewed.

On the other hand, the reporter did ask good questions, and good answers were generally forthcoming, occasionally even from me, though I wince just slightly at this:

Whether written or digital, journals are a representation of the author. And when the author looks back on past entries, they learn more about themselves.

That is, of course, the editorial "they."

(Tipped off by Dan Lovejoy.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:30 PM to Blogorrhea )
Putting up a front

It's not like my cup runneth over or anything, but somehow this just seems wrong.

(Via Peppermint Patty.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:15 PM to Dyssynergy )
28 June 2005
10, 2 and forlorn

A "Useless Fact" stuffed into a corner of Stuff (August '05):

The Dr Pepper company says it doesn't use prunes, black peppers, chili peppers, bell peppers, peppermint, prune juice or cherry flavoring to make its drink. Which leaves only eggs and ketchup.

I remember making an Emergency Bloody Mary (proper ingredients being unavailable at that particular instant) out of that combination once upon a time, and I don't recall it being the slightest bit Dr Pepperesque.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:24 AM to Dyssynergy )
How dry they are

In 1984, Oklahoma voters approved a Constitutional change allowing county option on liquor by the drink. The following year, a number of counties (including Oklahoma and Tulsa counties) voted to open the bars. McClain County turned it down, and there hasn't been any pressure to get county voters to the polls to try again, probably because it's easy enough to drive to Norman or Oklahoma City.

But Linda Clark of the Purcell Chamber of Commerce reports that the county lost out on a Red Lobster restaurant being considered for the future boomtown of Newcastle, because of McClain's liquor laws. So Clark approached McClain County commissioners, and two of the three said that they had more important issues to worry about.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a petition drive later this year.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:53 AM to Soonerland )
Let there be blight

The Downtown Guy asks, reasonably enough:

Do you really want to take away a city's ability to deal with blight?

No. What I do want, though, is a definition of "blight" that can't be stretched out of recognition in an effort to get someone's pet project through. And at the moment, we don't have such a definition in this state.

§24-101 of the Oklahoma City Municipal Code says this:

The exterior of a structure, including fences, shall be maintained in good repair, in sound condition and sanitary so as to pose neither a threat to the public health and safety nor a blighting affect on the surrounding neighborhood.

Assuming they meant "effect", this might serve as a starting point, but it may not be enough by itself.

Addendum, 11:45 am: Michael Bates finds this in the state statutes, which apply "except as otherwise provided":

"Blighted area" shall mean an area in which there are properties, buildings, or improvements, whether occupied or vacant, whether residential or nonresidential, which by reason of dilapidation, deterioration, age or obsolescence, inadequate provision for ventilation, light, air, sanitation or open spaces; population overcrowding; improper subdivision or obsolete platting of land, inadequate parcel size; arrested economic development; improper street layout in terms of existing or projected traffic needs, traffic congestion or lack of parking or terminal facilities needed for existing or proposed land uses in the area, predominance of defective or inadequate street layouts; faulty lot layout in relation to size, adequacy, accessibility or usefulness; insanitary or unsafe conditions, deterioration of site or other improvements; diversity of ownership, tax or special assessment delinquency exceeding the fair value of the land; defective or unusual conditions of title; any one or combination of such conditions which substantially impair or arrest the sound growth of municipalities, or constitutes an economic or social liability, or which endangers life or property by fire or other causes, or is conducive to ill health, transmission of disease, mortality, juvenile delinquency, or crime and by reason thereof, is detrimental to the public health, safety, morals or welfare[.]

The proper response to "inadequate parcel size," of course, is "Did you not accept this plat in the first place? Why is it suddenly 'obsolete'?"

This is way too broad to suit me; I could probably find dozens of properties meeting this description in Nichols Hills. ("Improper street layout" is a potential killer, given the general increase in traffic.)

Water for North Africa?

This looks promising: General Electric will partner with an Algerian energy company to build a major water desalination plant. The plant, which will cost about $270 million, will provide 53 million gallons of potable water per day from the Mediterranean Sea, enough to serve one-quarter of Algiers' three million residents.

GE entered the desalination business three years ago, and acquired major player Ionics Inc. in 2004 for $1.1 billion; the company sees a $5 billion market growing at 15 percent annually.

The largest such plant in the US, which opened in Tampa in 2003, ran into difficulties early on and is operating only intermittently while system upgrades are performed. GE, with more resources at its disposal than the firms who collaborated on the Tampa project, perhaps can be expected to have fewer problems with the Algiers facility, which could open in 2007.

(Via Matt Rosenberg.)

Post-Kelo (part 03281)

Now here's an idea: build a hotel on the parcel where Mr. Justice Souter used to live.

What's that you say? He still lives there?  Not a problem.

Gratuitous grandchild photo

Laney Paige-Marie Hill, 26 months)When you're in love, the whole world is two-ish. This girl is apparently as camera-happy as a Congressman, and with a whole lot more justification. (And she doesn't know it yet, but some time next spring she's gonna be someone's big sister. I thought I warned my son about that sort of thing. Then again, I'm not particularly mindful of stuff like that either; if I had been — well, never mind. Don't go there. In fact, don't even acknowledge that there's a "there" there. If you must say something, remind my daughter that she, too, has a child, and she doesn't send me anywhere near as many pictures, hint, hint.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:29 PM to Next Generation )
Post-Kelo (part 3.55 x 10^113)

Me, I'm leery of anything which begins "Greetings, Citizens of Earth".

29 June 2005
Dancing downtown

Last week, I made this sort of noise:

A couple of galleries have already opened along or just off Broadway, and there's no reason we can't have an art presence downtown besides what's in the officially-proclaimed Arts District.

And in addition to said galleries, we're now looking at a school of ballet.

BMI Systems, which has been dealing in office equipment in the city for nearly 50 years, is located at 913 North Broadway in Automobile Alley. BMI is out of space, and they've bought the building across the street, which isn't just "the building across the street," but the fabled Greenlease Moore dealership at 914-920 North Broadway, which sold Cadillacs from 1921 to 1938.

How does this contribute to the art scene? BMI is going to occupy the ground floor only; the third floor will be subdivided into two apartments and a 7,000-square-foot dance facility for the nascent Oklahoma City Ballet Conservatory, headed by Alexa Fioroni, who studied at the Paris Opera Ballet and who has been giving private lessons for the past seven years. Fioroni, interviewed by the MidCity Advocate, says it's an idea whose time has come:

Oklahoma City seems to have a hunger for a ballet conservatory and seems to be ready to at least try it. What's really exciting is to be able to offer my students the knowledge and guidance to help them with where they want to go.

How many students will be admitted to the Conservatory is not yet known; Fioroni has been working with ten or so.

And those two apartments — presumably 3500 square feet each — ought to be really spiffy. TAParchitecture is overseeing the building's transition; the Urban Design Commission has approved most of TAP's proposals, and construction should begin later this year.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:24 AM to City Scene )
Kihntinuous entertainment

Tom McMahon reveals that Greg Kihn has been on the radio in San Jose for the last few years. While following up on this news, I discovered that Kihn's planning to syndicate a daily four-hour radio show, which, judging by the proffered demos, seems promising, though I tend to doubt any of our hidebound FM mausoleums will take a flyer on it. I mean, it's not like they're going to have to bump Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas to make room for Greg Kihn.

Nucularity ensues

I hadn't made up my mind yet about the new International Thermal Energy Reactor, a $12-billion fusion reactor to be built at Cadarache, northwest of Marseilles. The theoretical advantages of fusion are considerable: the energy production is prodigious — pound for pound, about 10 million times more efficient than fossil fuels — and waste products are less hazardous than those produced by contemporary fission reactors. Still, the ITER is only a precursor to commercial fusion-power production, which is at least a decade or two away, maybe more.

It was Greenpeace, though, who finally pushed me off the fence:

"Pursuing nuclear fusion and the ITER project is madness," said Bridget Woodman of Greenpeace. "Nuclear fusion has all the problems of nuclear power, including producing nuclear waste and the risks of a nuclear accident. Why is Europe backing a bad energy option, with no prospect of operation in the near future, when alternative, environmentally acceptable options for electricity generation exist now? Renewable energy has massive potential, yet the EU continues to plough billions of euros in research and development grants into nuclear fusion."

In France, where the ITER will be located, nuclear reactors currently produce more than 75 percent of the country's electrical power. And France isn't exactly teeming with vacant locations where one could locate massive wind farms of the sort Greenpeace envisions.

Given the dichotomy for which Greenpeace argues — you can have fusion, or you can have renewables, but you can't have both — I'm inclined to think more favorably of the ITER, if only because I tend to believe that we're going to need every kilowatt we can get in the years to come. We can have both, and I think we will have both.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:10 AM to Family Joules )
Post-Kelo (part 73008)

Bethany City Manager Dan Galloway's thinking [link requires Adobe Reader] on the matter of eminent domain:

Why would a City in Oklahoma want to exercise eminent domain and take personal property simply to build a major shopping mall? Cities in Oklahoma cannot collect ad valorem taxes for operating expense, so it must not be the increase in assessed valuation that they are after. Overall Oklahoma has a very low unemployment rate, so I don't think job creation is what they are after. However, the primary and largest source of operating revenue for Cities and Towns in Oklahoma is local sales tax! Aha! That must be why those cities are going after those development projects.

If a city has 20,000 or 50,000 citizens to provide police, fire, streets, and other municipal services for, it must by necessity collect their local taxes. If the city doesn't have any retail stores (or only a few) inside the city limits there are no "local tax collectors". No collectors no local tax income. No local tax income — underfunded police, fire, streets, and other services. Citizens shop somewhere else and some other city gets the local taxes they could not pay at home. Oklahoma laws on local government finance are somewhat unique in this respect compared to the other 49 states. Until the State legislature is willing to tackle the job of repairing the outdated and broken system of inequitable distribution of local taxes in Oklahoma, you are putting more and more pressure on local governments to use whatever means available to get new tax collectors (malls and shopping centers) inside their city limits, and that includes eminent domain where necessary.

I sincerely want to protect and preserve our rights to own property. You might think of governments taking private property for business development as a disease. We need to do something about the pathogen that is causing that disease. One of the pathogens in many cases may well be our statutory provisions for local government taxation. If the Legislature does not try to cure the disease, cities will continue to try to ease the symptoms by taking personal property and replacing it with retail business.

Bethany, incidentally, has about 20,000 people and not a whole lot of shopping.

I have to wonder if maybe Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett was thinking along these lines when he offered to extend city fire and police protection to some of the suburbs under contract.

(By way of The Basement in Tulsa.)

Don't stop 'til you get Anuff

What was the greatest Web site of all time?

Yep. And here, ten years later, is the secret history of Suck, one of only three sites I've ever bought in book form.

(Five points if you can guess either of the other two.)

(Via Mr. Mxyzpltk.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:20 PM to Blogorrhea )
145

It's a record company, although I suspect the name is not a number but a chord progression.

And if it's not that, it's the 145th edition of Carnival of the Vanities, presented this week by Adam Gurri, the SophistPundit, with all the the usual bloggy goodness.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:53 PM to Blogorrhea )
30 June 2005
Obama in the highest

The junior senator from Illinois compares himself to another fellow from the Land of Whatzisname:

In Lincoln's rise from poverty, his ultimate mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat — in all this he reminded me not just of my own struggles.

Peggy Noonan amplifies:

Actually Lincoln's life is a lot like Mr. Obama's. Lincoln came from a lean-to in the backwoods. His mother died when he was 9. The Lincolns had no money, no standing. Lincoln educated himself, reading law on his own, working as a field hand, a store clerk and a raft hand on the Mississippi. He also split some rails. He entered politics, knew more defeat than victory, and went on to lead the nation through its greatest trauma, the Civil War, and past its greatest sin, slavery.

Barack Obama, the son of two University of Hawaii students, went to Columbia and Harvard Law after attending a private academy that taught the children of the Hawaiian royal family. He made his name in politics as an aggressive Chicago vote hustler in Bill Clinton's first campaign for the presidency.

You see the similarities.

Okay, who wants to see Barack Obama split a rail? Anyone?

Because I know how they hustle votes downstate.

(With thanks to Max Jacobs.)

Big doings in Midwest City

The big story reported here is the Sheraton in Midwest City, actually owned by the city and built adjacent to the Reed Conference Center in an effort to pick up some sub-convention level business; it should open this fall at 5750 Will Rogers Road, east of Sooner and north of I-40.

But this is what got me:

The council rezoned 5701 E Reno to include commercial and single-family residential uses. Current plans manager Ron Green said the owner of Anthony's TV and Appliance Inc., is moving into the building on the northeast corner of Sooner Road and Reno Avenue. The owner wants to move his home to the upstairs portion of the business, Green said.

Now that's devotion. The building in question was a Venture discount store, later a K mart, and most recently some sort of flea market. Anthony's has moved before; if I remember correctly, they used to be on SE 15th east of Sooner, and then relocated to Del City on SE 15th and I-40, east of Vickie (once a Hudiburg auto dealership).

And it never occurred to me that the building even had an upstairs; I keep getting this vision of kids going "Daddy, can we go downstairs and watch the big-screen TV?"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:23 AM to City Scene )
Lady Justice takes a powder

We begin with a quote by Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Lance Salyer, former prosecutor in Dayton, Ohio, tried his best to live up to that quote:

Sadly, the work of doing Justice sometimes falls into the laps of "timid souls," who not only shrink from the hard and uncertain work of Duty, but have the audacity to wrap themselves up in an air of self-congratulatory smugness at their exercise of "responsible caution." And while the halls of the ivory tower bear witness to the solemn nods of other, like-minded souls with their reinforcing pronouncements of "Yes, it had to be done. Nothing you could do," the Small, the Weak, and the Victimized are left to fight Evil alone. Some fight, too: unfair to start, now Evil has the added upper-hand of having had the Powers That Be tell its Victim in no uncertain terms "You're not worth fighting for." Simply calling it shameful is like describing the Titanic as having had "a problem." I've never been good at understatement.

Here's hoping that Lady Justice hasn't yet left the building in total disgust.

The operative phrase here, unfortunately, is "former prosecutor":

Today I was fired from my job as an assistant prosecutor with the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office. The reason? — my opinion as expressed in my blog post immediately preceding this one.

Evidently the souls really resent being referred to as "timid."

And Dawn Eden gets to the heart of the matter:

Simply put, some people don't like working with people who believe there is a real difference between good and evil. Those people don't like the feeling of having their behavior judged — and they feel judged by the mere presence of someone who believes there's right and wrong. To that end, like the vinedressers in Jesus' parable, they believe that by disposing of the person who represents judgment to them, they can dispose of judgment itself.

I'm beginning to think that "responsible caution" may be an oxymoron.

Best of luck, Lance; and if your former employers were chafing before, they're going to be shrieking in pain as the word gets out.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Dyssynergy )
Plastic consolidation

MBNA has been the nation's largest standalone (i.e., not connected to an individual full-service bank) credit-card issuer for some time; its $35-billion absorption into Bank of America will position B of A as the largest issuer of plastic, period, ahead of the Chase/Bank One combine.

In one way, at least, it's a good fit; Bank of America issues primarily Visa cards, while MBNA has more MasterCard (and, lately, American Express) cardholders.

With Providian now off the market, this leaves Capital One as the only merger target among the Top 10 card issuers, who now control about 87 percent of the nation's credit-card market.

And there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth in Delaware, where MBNA is the largest single private employer, but I don't think it will be that much of a hit; since basically MBNA people will be running the combined show — MBNA CEO Bruce Hammonds will be in charge, and card operations will be centralized in Wilmington — I'd expect that most of the 6,000 or so expected layoffs will come from the B of A side.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:13 AM to Common Cents )
Do it yourself, we need the money

The People's Republic of Berkeley scores again:

Starting Aug. 1, when the 2004 California Electrical Codes automatically take effect, residents will have to apply for city building permits to replace or add wall, porch and ceiling lamps, light switches, electric receptacles, and other common do-it-yourself chores.

So changing that noisy electrical switch with a quieter mercury switch will cost a lot more. Besides the costs of the new switch, there’ll be the $81 basic permit fee plus an additional surcharge of $2.15 for each receptacle, outlet or switch and—if you want to add more — $21.50 for altering or changing wiring.

Under the current city code, such small changes can be made without permits and inspections; starting Aug. 1, not so.

I am disinclined to spend $117 for a copy of the California codes, so I can't tell you whether this sort of mopery is mandated statewide or is merely an effort by Berkeley to extort more coin of the realm from its subjects, but eighty-three bucks and change to swap out a light switch? I expect this will be followed just as religiously as "No Signs" laws pertaining to garage sales.

(From Knowledge Problem by way of No Watermelons Allowed.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:34 PM to Dyssynergy )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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