Archive for May 2007

Can’t even give it away

Once upon a time, Alex Massie once asserted that “Maureen Dowd really, really can’t write.” Since then — well, read it for yourself:

Is it unkind to suggest that were she to hand her columns, unsigned, to the editor of a minor magazine at any of the nation’s lesser provincial universities they would be deemed unpublishable? One need make no great claims for oneself to suggest that the pages of the New York Times could be filled with better stuff than this.

I mean, all newspapers print loopy nonsense a lot of the time. There’s too much space to fill for this not to be true. But there is loopyness that, however barkingly, is trying to make a point and there’s loopyness that rambles on without ever threatening to hit upon an argument, let alone blunder into anything so recherche as an insight.

I thought that was my department. Then again, no one is charging you to read me:

Putting Dowd behind a subscription wall remains both … a demonstration of a complete lack of business acumen and an extraordinary act of charity.

(Yeah, Snitch, I know, I know. I don’t have a quota or anything, but once in a while I feel the urge, as it were.)

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Don’t leave Azeroth without it

The legendarily-addictive World of Warcraft game universe now has its own credit card.

The WoW Visa, issued by First National Bank of Omaha, pays one-percent reward points in actual WoW game time. The usual Platinum benefits are offered as well. What I want to know is this: when is a player going to find time in Real Life™ to spend $1500 to earn a month’s subscription fee?

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Not many birthdays on that suit

The American Association for Nude Recreation is cranking up its youth-outreach programs of late, perhaps because they’d like to have some members still when the old farts who pay most of the dues die off. (Dying off, incidentally, does make one’s member still, but don’t go there.)

Out of curiosity, I downloaded the enrollment package (as a PDF file here), and the pièce de résistance is a multi-page (okay, two) Affidavit of Good Moral Character, which details a whole bunch of Thou Shalt Nots intended to disqualify anyone who might cast dark shadows on the lifestyle. On the cleanliness scale, the proverbial hound’s tooth doesn’t even come close. I can’t really blame them: gotta keep the pervs out, after all. But while I haven’t come close to these depths of depravity — okay, once I made use of the pictures and accounts of a game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball — I’m still kind of put off by the sheer size of the list. Of course, this is just a ruse: what really puts me off is how much lower the student dues are.

Oh, and where did I find out about this? On a MySpace bulletin. (I don’t know if AANR has a presence on Facebook, but if they do, you can pretty much write your own joke.)

Addendum: Tom Mulhall of Palm Springs’ Terra Cotta Inn weighs in:

In my opinion, they do many things that prevent them from getting younger members. One of the biggest turn offs is you have to join the club. People these days are not joiners of clubs.

If nudist campgrounds want to attract more members, they need to change their ways and adapt their marketing and operations. Also show younger members in advertising. If you only have 60 and 70 year old people in your ads, that is the age group you will attract.

That’s got to be true.

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Word to your mother

And she won’t like it either, if Dean Esmay is correct:

Microsoft Word is the most evil piece of word processing software in the history of the known universe.

My very first evil piece of word-processing software was SpeedScript for the Commodore 64, and yes, I typed it in from a magazine. (At least you don’t have to do that with Word. Yet.) It worked better than it deserved to, but when I moved up to the C-128 I snagged a copy of PaperClip, which became my word processor of choice right up until I noticed that the 128 would actually sort of run CP/M.

Shortly thereafter, I got a native CP/M machine — a gently-used Osborne 1 with the entire software bundle still intact, including, yes, WordStar. In the 1990s, when I was finally driven to DOS, I picked up a DOS version of WordStar (3.3, I think; it definitely wasn’t the WS2000 version), decided I didn’t like it, and wound up with WordPerfect 5.1, which I stayed with through most of the decade, finally jumping to Ami Pro when I moved into a Windows 95 environment some time just before the release of Windows 98.

Lotus bought out Ami, changed it to WordPro, and added the obligatory bloatware features needed to stay even with Microsoft; I installed the whole Lotus SmartSuite. (I still use 1-2-3. Go figure.) And I stayed with it until newer hardware and changes to Windows XP made WordPro somewhat less reliable, at least on my work box; I’ve started switching over to OpenOffice.org. Be it noted that 42nd and Treadmill was willing to allow me a Microsoft Office license; I turned it down.

So I’m probably not the ideal person to cast aspersions on Word, although I’ve spent enough time with it to appreciate some of its strengths and deplore some of its irritations. Its greatest strength, perhaps, is its sheer ubiquity: everybody has it, or knows where to find it on short notice. And I have to wonder if part of my distaste for the program is actually distaste for that goddamn animated paper clip.

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That’s it, turn in your keyboard

Drive-By Download

Didier Stevens set up this little blurb in Google Adwords, just to prove a point, and the point seems to be that there are a lot of idiots out there: over four hundred people actually clicked on it. No, he didn’t actually serve them any malware or anything, in the manner of a true drive-by download; he simply wanted to see if people would bite. (Oh, and 98 percent of the, um, victims were running Windows.)

Stevens paid a mere $23 for the ad campaign: around six cents a clickthrough. The amusement value is, of course, priceless.

(Via Fark.)

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What happened to that little red Celica?

Is there such a thing as undercompensation?

The women I know all point at men driving Hummers and sports cars and say that he is obviously “overcompensating.” I usually come right back and ask, “Then how come when you see me pull up in my Toyota Echo no one ever says, ‘He must be hung like a horse’?”

Title reference: I used to own one of these: a ’75, in GT trim. Finally retired her in ’95.

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It helps if they aren’t working for scale

Grrl Genius Cathryn Michon points out this curious fact about fish:

There’s hope for the less-than-perfect male — if you’re a swordtail fish, that is. As the size and age of female swordtail fish increases, so does the preference for males with asymmetrical markings, according to a new Ohio University study.

Molly Morris, associate professor of biological sciences, found that older female swordtails spent more time with asymmetrically striped males than symmetrical males when offered a choice.

The new study provides evidence that visual cues are not the only thing driving mate selection, however. The findings also suggest that “females may not have the same mating preferences throughout their lives,” Morris said.

My experience with fish consists mostly of throwing back the little ones (hardly ever caught any big ones) and the occasional trip to Captain D’s, so I won’t take exception to these findings, but I suspect they differ from humans in this regard: women, almost unanimously, demand men with a “sense of humor,” which undoubtedly explains all the girlfriends Gilbert Gottfried has stolen away from Eric Bana.

But the Grrl Genius demurs:

If a female human has learned ANYTHING AT ALL FROM HER HORRIBLE MISTAKES, her mating preferences are not the same throughout her life.

The article goes on to say that the older (smarter, more accomplished, sexier than ever!) female fish prefer the asymmetrically marked fish because, basically, it means these fish fellas have been kicked around a bit, and have survived.

In other words, the older females are no longer looking for guy fish who are, metaphorically speaking, wet around the ears.

Do we need schooling or something?

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Welcome to Viurnoleif

Or maybe it’s something else entirely. It’s hard to tell just where these letters are supposed to go:

Stedman Whitwell, 19th-century social reformer and architect of Robert Owen’s failed Utopian city at New Harmony, was deeply troubled by the willy-nilly way that cities and towns were named in America, and proposed a more “rational” system of geographical nomenclature, which would have renamed Washington as Feili Neivul, Philadelphia as Outeon Eveldo, and Pittsburgh as Otfu Veitoup.

Would Philadelphians be known as Eveldoers? Never mind. From New Harmony Movement by George B. Lockwood:

Whitwell noted some of the incongruities in American nomenclature, and deplored the repetition which was producing Washingtons and Springfields in every State in the Union. He proposed to give each locality a distinctive name by expressing in a compound word the latitude and longitude of the place, thus enabling one to locate any community geographically when the name was once known. Letters were proposed as substitutes for the numerals used in expressing latitude and longitude.

Latitude gives you the vowels, longitude the consonants. It’s not entirely clear how these are supposed to be hooked together, but one thing’s for sure: there wouldn’t be any more Springfields. Not even a Shelbyville. It’s not much worse than, say, Mark Twain’s Simplified SpellingLa on, Makduf, and damd be he hoo furst krys hold, enuf! — but you’ll never hear me singing “It’s up to you, Otke Notive” either.

I figure it’s just a matter of time before someone puts up a Whitwell Place Name Generator: you plug in your coordinates and it spits back a utopian tongue-twister.

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Remember when they just ate homework?

Cam Edwards explains a relatively low volume of bloggage as follows:

The damn dog ate my laptop power cord.

Is there no solution? I mean, they have software to get your damn cat off the computer now.

Which may or may not work:

obligatory lolcat

(For those of you who simply cannot believe that I would resort to a lolcat, well, it’s time to start believing.)

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Nothing more need be said

From Hospital Chart Bloopers, through many twisty passages and ultimately through Scribal Terror:

Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid.

We have vendors like that.

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I’m hoping McGehee can read it

Liesweiter is a German blog which seems to be written in Morse code.

Except for the embedded YouTubes, of course.

(Via Lynn.)

Addendum: On the other hand, who needs him?

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A bit of TBAGing

Not so long ago, The Truth About Cars polled its readers to determine the Ten Worst Automobiles Today, and most of the winners indeed exhibited high levels of suckage. But there’s such a thing as Accentuating the Positive, and so TTAC is now taking votes for the Ten Best Automobiles Going. I wish that I’d driven more of the nominees, but the opportunities for seat time don’t often present themselves. (Yes, I’ve driven a Maserati Quattroporte, but not one of the current models, and after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I struck it from my ballot.)

Things I noticed:

  • No Toyotas or Scions or Lexuses (Lexi?) to be seen.

  • Both Boxster and Cayman?
  • One actual diesel car, though being a Mercedes-Benz, it’s not designed for maximum miserliness.
  • Both North American and European Accords (the latter being an Acura TSX) make the list.

They’re taking votes until midnight (Eastern) Saturday. Do vote, if only to counterbalance my choices.

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Rest in piece

John Cage’s infamous 4’33”, in full orchestration and five-part harmony.

(Previous discussion here and here.)

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Post-divorce jewelry

It may be a while before Chrysler, sprung from bondage, gets its mojo back, but at least they have their logo again: the Pentastar is apparently coming back.

There is historical precedent for this, too: Ford’s blue oval with the name in script was considered old hat after WWII and eventually dropped from the vehicles altogether, only to be reinstated in 1976.

The Pentastar was apparenly the one good idea of Chrysler chair Lynn Townsend, who moved to install it on everything Chrysler-related circa 1963. In the 1990s, Dodge got a Ram badge, and the Pentastar appeared less often; after the Germans took over, it was suppressed, allegedly because it conflicted with the Mercedes-Benz star. (So much for that “merger of equals,” huh?) There is, however, no plan to bring back Plymouth.

(Via Autoblog.)

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None of which explains Heathers

The Baby Name Wizard has been around a while, but now it’s been Java-ed into something called NameVoyager, which will tell you just how popular that name was here in the States during any particular decade, including all of the 20th century and the very end of the 19th.

In the 1890s, for instance, “Charles” was the fifth most popular name given to boys. (My maternal grandfather, born in 1899, was one of them.) It dropped off markedly after World War I, recovered a bit, but is still sliding: in 2006 it was number 60.

My daughter is named Rebecca, a name which was nearing its peak when she was born in 1978, getting as high as 13th; it’s since dropped off dramatically, down to 96th in 2006. My son is named Russell, a name which peaked in the 1910s at 51st and has since slid out of the top 400.

Perhaps the sharpest spike was Jennifer: 206th in the 1940s, first in the 1970s, and now out of the top 50. And one odd thing I stumbled upon: names starting with F have almost died out, with the exception of Faith and Frank — and Francisco.

(Via Laura Lemay, who says she’s using it to come up with names for fictional characters.)

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243

Three to the fifth power. And speaking of power, it would have taken a Higher Power to rejuvenate The CW’s series 7th Heaven, which, after being canceled and then resurrected, expired after its 243rd episode.

Not expired — yet — is the Carnival of the Vanities, which also has had 243 episodes and one brush with death.

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Amex to get involved, sort of

American Express has come up with something called The Members Project. For the next month, Amex cardmembers will be asked to suggest charity projects; in July, the top 50 suggestions will be posted, and a vote will be taken. For each accountholder who registers for the Project, Amex will donate $1 to the chosen charity, up to a maximum of $5 million. As of last night, two days into the program, over 200 suggestions had been received.

From their announcement email:

Will you send meningitis vaccines to Africa? Rebuild a school in New Orleans? Or support small organic farmers? The possibilities are endless. The decision is yours.

I will definitely register, putting another buck in the kitty: however, I have no idea where I would like to see it spent. Yet.

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But all the candidates suck

Not like this, they don’t.

(Via Eric Scheie.)

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The name is Bond. Jane Bond.

British intelligence is looking for female operatives, and not everyone thinks this is a wonderful idea. Ben Macintyre in The Times:

A female officer must have all the qualities of her male counterpart — courage, ingenuity, resourcefulness — but she must also deal with the fact that in most non-Western countries she will be a woman working in a man’s world. In many parts of the world a woman, especially a good-looking one, attracts attention — the last thing a spy wants. In Muslim countries this attention may be openly hostile if she is unaccompanied, and there may be other practical problems: for instance, if she is sent to Saudi Arabia, she will not be allowed to drive a car. There are also the risks of being mugged or worse, and sadly spies are not allowed to carry guns as often as the movies lead us to believe.

Still, she may have advantages. Annalisa Barbieri in The First Post:

I can say that intelligence work is, in a way, an ideal job for women. They are naturally very good at it. Spies need to multi-task, be many things at different times to different people, be good listeners. And have a great ability to recall information. (Try this: ask a man what someone said on the phone, then ask a woman, the difference in response length will be at least 1,000 words.) Also, women are cunning. So spying’s not difficult — or at least, I didn’t find it so.

I did some time in US military intelligence, thirty-odd years ago. If we had female operatives, I wasn’t aware of them. (So maybe they are that good.)

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When in doubt, take it out

A couple of months ago, to illustrate some vague point about the value of Condensed Versions, I produced a two-minute edit of Iron Butterfly’s “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida”.

There is, to be sure, a tradition of abbreviation, and WFMU honors this tradition with something called the Sixty Second Song Remix Contest. The premise was disarmingly simple: “compress a ‘known’ song to 60 seconds or less.” Forty finalists have been selected from over 400 submissions, and your vote is solicited. I liked rather a lot of these, including, yes, a version of “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” — in 32 seconds.

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Would you, could you, under oath?

In 2001, Portland playwright Charles Augustus Steen III filed suit against the estate of Theodor Seuss Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss, charging that Daisy-Head Mayzie, based on a manuscript found by Audrey Geisel in her husband’s papers after his death and subsequently published as a new Dr. Seuss book, was in fact based on Steen’s copyrighted-but-yet-unpublished book The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. The case was dismissed on a technicality — Steen missed a filing date for some papers — but it wasn’t over.

Steen’s next step was a play with the incendiary title The Tragical History of Audrey Geisel or How the Grinch Plagiarized My Goddamn Children’s Story, a copy of which was emailed to the Geisel estate’s lawyers, accompanied with a drawing by Steen of several Seuss characters enjoying some, um, amok time. (The Grinch seems happy, and when’s the last time you saw the Cat out of his Hat?) Somewhere along the way, Steen asked for $2.5 million (“after taxes”) from the estate; he was charged with extortion, and drew three years’ probation and a series of anger-management classes.

Out of probation, his record expunged, Steen’s still out there; Tragical History was presented at Portland’s Someday Lounge earlier this month, and he’s posted his take on the case on his MySpace page. The Oregonian has posted a summary of the situation.

(Via Bill Peschel.)

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Boys keep out

Cootie checkers will be installed on the 19th floor:

No men allowed. That will be the rule on the the entire 19th floor of a new J.W. Marriott hotel being built in Grand Rapids, Mich. A lounge at the hotel also will be reserved for women only when the hotel opens in September.

Spokeswoman Andrea Groom said more than half of all business travelers are women. She told The Grand Rapids Press that they want be able to relax over a drink without getting hit on by guys.

The women-only rooms will have distaff-specific amenities such as special hair dryers, bath products, jewelry holders and chenille throws. But the businesswomen will have to pay for the privilege. Rooms on the women-only floor will be about $30 more than the usual rate.

Which, being a J. W. Marriott, is considerable: expect to pay $250 a night.

I can hear the shouts of “Sexist!” already, with hints that this is some sort of leftist plot. I have my doubts, if only because the hotel is owned by Alticor, the parent company of Amway, which is not exactly known for its slavish adherence to political correctness.

More to the point, $220ish is a bit above my usual room budget.

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A situation not unknown in the States

As of 2005, the United Kingdom has a Freedom of Information act similar to the American FOIA passed in 1966 and modified extensively since then. As with the Stateside version, the UK’s FOI has a number of exemptions, including the sort of things one might expect to be protected under the Official Secrets Act.

And Parliament itself is about to be exempted from FOI rules: incoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he will not block a bill granting the exemption to MPs. The Commons has already voted to send the measure on to the House of Lords.

David Maclean, a sponsor of the bill, explained why the exemption for Parliament was necessary: “To give an absolute guarantee that the correspondence of Members of Parliament, on behalf of our constituents and others, to a public authority remains confidential.”

Opponent Norman Baker counters: “It is an effrontery for the House of Commons to make the deeply hypocritical move of exempting itself from a law that applies to every other public body in the country.”

Oh, in case you were wondering, Congress is exempt from FOIA.

(Via Stuffem.)

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I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate

The National Weather Service’s local forecast page normally features nine graphics this size to illustrate five days’ (almost) worth of forecast, and most of them seem to illustrate the conditions well enough. (The one for freezing rain, sleet and stuff is a nasty-looking icicle, seemingly almost big enough to use as a murder weapon.) But this one? I mean, really, does that look like sprinkles to you, isolated or otherwise? This is more like Noah than NOAA.

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Saturday spottings (discontinuity)

Once again, Beverly Bryant has an interesting cover story in the Oklahoman’s real-estate section, and once again, I go check it out. Here’s the premise:

Las Rosas is breathing life into a part of the inner city that has struggled for years. Long-neglected, overgrown property near SE 25 and Lindsay is now a housing addition that is adding to the sense of renewed vitality just southeast of downtown Oklahoma City. There were no sewers, water lines, roads or streetlights in the 50-acre parcel across the street south of Schilling Park and Wheeler Elementary School when the project was conceived.

As it happens, I’d mentioned Las Rosas in Vent #518, back in January:

[I]t’s reportedly quite nice, especially considering where it’s located, but not everyone is in a position to buy a new home for even as little as $100,000. I’m starting to think that the city should buy up a bunch of fairly dilapidated structures, such as the ones that were presumably bulldozed to make room for Las Rosas, and sell them off for next to nothing to people who are willing to fix them up and live in them. There’s plenty of housing stock in this town, and some of it is even affordable; we’ll do our lower-income households far more good by giving them a chance to own something than by issuing them a stack of Section 8 vouchers.

What was bulldozed for Las Rosas, in fact, was a refinery: no residential units had ever been developed on that tract. (That’ll teach me to presume.) Aside from that, we’re talking serious contrast here. To the left, something “fairly dilapidated” with a For Sale sign out front; to the right, a new home in Las Rosas. Distance between the two: about 2000 feet, and an eternity.

Two homes

By the current standards of Oklahoma City development, the Las Rosas home is “affordable”; at $140k, it’s a good $40-$60k below a typical new home in the city. On the other hand, if you can afford it, you can afford three of those things on the left.

I like the idea of building in areas that most people wouldn’t give a second thought to, especially if they’re fairly convenient (downtown is a straight two-mile shot up Shields) and if there’s a serious effort being made to tap an underserved market (as you might infer from the name, Las Rosas is largely being pitched to Latinos). But my larger point remains: ultimately, fixing up the best of the left-behind homes may be a better deal in the long run. And no, the loss of that refinery had nothing to do with the fact that I had to pay $3.469 a gallon last night, my first forty-dollar tankful ever; it’s been closed a long time.

Of course, that was for premium, as Gwendolyn’s high-powered (for 2000, anyway) engine demands. Still, there are plenty of cars out there with even more horsepower, and I find it somewhat baffling that people will pay for it and then not use it. Coming up the Lake Hefner Parkway this afternoon, I was not exactly zipping along at slightly below the speed limit when I spotted a very long line of cars starting down the onramp from the Northwest Distressway. My first instinct, of course, was to get the hell out of the way, but wait just a moment here: shadowing my every move in the center lane was a spiffy new Lincoln MKZ, 265 ponies under its shiny nose, poking along just fast enough to keep me from easing in front of it in time to avoid causing grief for the first of the onramp arrivals. I didn’t have time to perform my usual perfunctory check to see if the driver was in fact awake and not on the phone; instead, I blipped Gwendolyn up to 5500 rpm (from 2500, including a 4-2 downshift) and pulled in front of the hot-rod Lincoln just in time for folks to merge. No harm done, but would it have killed the guy to speed up enough to open up a hole? You’d almost think he’d just been handed a ticket two miles back.

Elsewhere: once Famous Footwear’s store-closing sale is done, the only retailer remaining west of center court in Heritage Park Mall is EyeMasters. Everything else is gone. There’s still activity along the north-south axis there: both jewelers are open, as is the salon; the game shop had Wiis in stock; El Chico is still serving. But hang a left at the ATM, and you enter the Dead Zone. And there was a weird little contretemps in the parking lot: a couple of folks were busy sticking handbills under people’s wipers, and a young lady, cell-phone glued to her ear, approached the area where I was parking. Then from out of nowhere appeared a Security Dude, a sort of seven-eighths-scale Fred Thompson, complete with sequoia-sized cigar, who gave the girl the Evil Eye. She quickly changed direction. When I returned to my car 40 minutes later: no handbill. I suppose I should have swiped one to see what it was about.

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Close to Katie

An ad from Portland craigslist, placed by Katie:

I have a wonderful guy friend who is a great guy! I have a boyfriend already and I have been platonic friends with this great guy for 4 years. All my female friends are married and I’d like to set him up with a nice woman. He knows all about this ad. He is kind, attractive, with blond hair and blue eyes. He is honest, reliable, has a college degree and works for a good company. He likes movies, hiking, dining out, golf and good conversation. He is smart, funny and a good conversationalist. He is a family man and likes children. I trust him fully. He is not a player. He’s the type of guy who really cares. Last year when I broke up with my fiance all my friends were tired of hearing me complain about my broken heart, but not this guy. He would seriously listen to me and try to cheer me up. My married girlfriends all think he is quite a catch and would date them if they were single.

Cue Mike Clifford, “Close to Cathy,” United Artists 489, 1962:

I’m so close to Cathy
I know just what she’s dreamin’ of
She always calls me up to tell me
Every time she falls in love

Oh, I’m so close to Cathy
I know her every tender sigh
She loves to cry upon my shoulder
Always for some other guy

Oh, why can’t she see
The one true, lasting love in her life should be me?

Irony Bonus: Mike Clifford is still singing today — with someone else’s wife.

(Via Anwyn, who says: “‘I’ve got five bucks says this guy was waiting around for this girl.” Make it ten.)

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The original: not still the greatest

A couple of months ago, the Onion’s A.V. Club put together a list of fourteen remakes that surpassed the originals, some of which I actually agree with. (There’s no reason for anyone, even Dylan, to do “All Along the Watchtower” anymore; in fact, in the 1980s, Dylan had reportedly worked parts of Hendrix’ rearrangement into his own live show.) In response, In Theory questions one on the list and two others not mentioned.

Which, of course, leaves an opening for me.

  • Run-D.M.C., “Walk This Way”
    In the Aerosmith original, Steven Tyler’s cadence had much in common with hip-hop delivery; converting the tune to a rap was easy enough, but the stroke of genius was inviting Tyler (and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry) to appear on the new version. The resulting hybrid was surprisingly close to its ancestor, with just as much energy and perhaps even more attitude.

  • Santana, “Black Magic Woman”
    Peter Green’s original for Fleetwood Mac is a decent British blues, but nothing to write home about. In Carlos Santana’s hands, it becomes vaguely mysterious, as though the magic itself had been invoked; on the Abraxas album, it merges seamlessly into a version of Gabor Szabo’s jazz-guitar classic “Gypsy Queen,” otherworldly in its own right.
  • The Isley Brothers, “That Lady”
    Originally, this was called “Who’s That Lady,” a title which makes more sense, and the Isleys themselves recorded it in 1964, a fairly ordinary soul song with none of the enthusiasm they brought to it nine years later, and also without cousin Ernie’s wailing guitar, the real star of their 1973 remake.
  • The Rolling Stones, “Time Is On My Side”
    Purloined from the Irma Thomas songbook, as Irma herself will remind you at the drop of a hat. Irma’s a better singer than Mick Jagger, but her recording was filled up with soul boilerplate and bored-sounding strings, perhaps because it was intended as a B-side which would probably be ignored. (And jazz trombonist Kai Winding had actually cut an instrumental version before Thomas, anyway.) The Stones did it twice, once leading off with an organ passage (on the US 45), once with a guitar lick (elsewhere), and both versions are packed with the energy Thomas expended on her A-side, since forgotten.
  • Pearl Jam, “Last Kiss”
    Wayne Cochran’s 1962 original is more creepy than evocative; the monster hit by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers in 1964 turns up the earnestness but sounds more lovelorn than heartbroken. (You figure J. Frank would sound the same if he’d merely been dumped.) A Canadian band named Wednesday charted with a bland cover in the Seventies. But it took Eddie Vedder to give this song the sort of emotional coloration it seems to demand: he sounds simultaneously desolate and determined.

I could go on, and perhaps eventually I will. After all, I will always need material.

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Simultaneously clean and dirty

As much rain as we’ve had lately, I haven’t been sending Gwendolyn to the wash rack; in fact, the only time she’s had an official bath this year was the last time she was at the dealership, getting her starter replaced. I don’t know who does their wash work, but I’d bet he doesn’t look like this:

A nude car wash offering an X-rated sideshow and topless cleaning in Australia’s tropical Queensland state has been given the all-clear after police and officials said they were powerless to scrub it.

The Bubbles ‘n’ Babes car wash in Brisbane prompted a flood of complaints with a topless car wash for $45 and a nude car wash with X-rated lap-dance service for $82.

On the other hand, the dealership gives me the wash for free, which perhaps compensates for the lack of sexual frissons.

(Via Autoblog.)

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Instant flats

Well, sort of:

CAMiLEON Heels have a patented adjustable-height technology that’s incorporated into the heel of every shoe. Design features of the heel and the overall shoe maximize ease of transition from high-to-low heel positions without removing the shoe from your foot, removing any parts or use of any special tools. You can transition from high-to-low positions within seconds, as often as desired.

The high heel is 3¼ inches; in the lower position, the heel is 1½ inches. And the tucked-away portion is inconspicuous except to someone viewing from underneath, something you’d presumably discourage anyway. Here’s how it’s done.

The line is carried in a few Northeastern stores and at Zappos.com; you can also buy directly from the manufacturer. They’re pricey — $300 or so — but think of it as getting two pair for the price (and in the space) of one.

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Question of the day

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Strange search-engine queries (68)

As you might expect, most people use search engines to find useful information. Then there were these folks.

Where did Ann Coulter go to high school?  New Canaan (CT) High School, where she developed methods of getting the Debate Club to cry.

st. peter knows everything search engine:  It’s true. However, it takes a whole lifetime to learn how to log in.

nudism etiquette and farting:  Similar to that for clothed individuals, though the one-cheek sneak is more difficult.

ask Jeeves where are pictures of naked fairies:  Jeeves stays out of this, ever since he saw Henry Wooster mooning over Tinkerbell.

what was formerly known as the end of the world?  The cancellation of The Ed Sullivan Show, in 1971.

Corvette Chastity, Prototype:  This is the model whose top doesn’t go down.

pornok:  A logical extension of the NewsOK brand, but one not likely to occur to Opubco.

what can you buy a nudist for her birthday:  Jewelry. You know she’ll wear that.

pave the ocean:  What, don’t we have enough potholes already?

why does a dirty jockstrap smell good:  This is evidently some definition of “good” we didn’t cover in English class.

chlamydia wax bikini:  I submit that if you have chlamydia, you have more immediate needs than a bikini wax.

is it illegal to bury a cat in florida:  If it’s not actually dead, yes.

horizontal “parallel universe” “match.com”:  Is this the one where I actually get dates?

mayonnaise in engine:  Definitely a reason to change the oil.

likelihood girlfriend 8 inch penis:  Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve never had a girlfriend who had an eight-inch penis, or indeed any penis at all.

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All the comforts of gnome

The business plan looks like this:

  1. Produce underpants that protect against cell-phone radiation.

  2. ????
  3. Profit!

It seems hardly sporting to point out that:

  1. Weren’t cell phones supposed to cause brain damage?

  2. These are being marketed only to men.

(Via Engadget.)

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The Hermits’ Association will come to order

So Brad walks down to the beach early one morning, and comes back to witness this spectacle:

[O]n the way back, I saw a guy wearing a vest that said “Lone Wolf Motorcycle Club” … I was reminded of the scene from Grosse Pointe Blank, where Dan Aykroyd’s character is trying to get John Cusack’s character to join his assassination “union”. Cusack explains that he’s not interested in joining a club, what with wearing all black; trying to craft the “lone wolf” persona.

Who came up with this name? Were they thinking?! I could see something like “Wolf Pack”, but not “Lone Wolf” … Lone wolves ride alone; joining a club kinda defeats the purpose.

I am disinclined by nature (and by fondness for various internal organs) to mock bikers. But then there’s this:

Lone Wolf Biker — Someone who lives the Bike Lifestyle but chooses not to ride with a club.

I detect a hint of Marxism, of the Groucho variety: “I refuse to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”

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Alternative: SOL-123

Courtesy of Acme Labs

Mike’s contemplating getting this vanity tag if it “isn’t already taken.” He’s out of luck; it’s not taken, actually, but it’s an eight-letter word, and the state limits you to seven characters. [Link to PDF file.] He also quotes a newly-arrived fellow whose plate arrived in two months, which is about two months faster than the state claims it can stamp ‘em out. And in point of fact, I don’t have a state-issued vanity tag, though since Oklahoma doesn’t have a front plate to mess with, I filled up the available space with a bird picture. (Plate graphic courtesy of Acme Labs.)

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That Norfolk sound

There are a handful of record producers whose work you can identify from the first few notes, who simply don’t sound like everyone else: Sam Phillips, almost certainly; Creed Taylor, pretty consistently; Phil Spector, absolutely.

And then there’s Frank Guida, who died this weekend in Virginia Beach at the age of 84, after having made some of the most distinctive sounds ever to grunge up your radio. Some of us budding Snooty Audiophiles, back around the time they started trying to sell quadraphonics, got the notion that Guida simply was in over his head, that had he had better equipment or greater skill his records wouldn’t sound so much like they were recorded during a kegger in a pup tent.

How wrong we were. In the 1980s, Steve Hoffman assembled a Gary “U.S.” Bonds compilation for MCA, and with decades of accumulated muck cleared away, we could hear the real muck Guida was producing. The focal point was “Quarter to Three,” arguably the noisiest recording ever to top Billboard’s Hot 100. Rock critic Dave Marsh had focused on its “peculiar unity,” claiming: “I’ve played it on stereo systems ranging from $49.95 to $10,000, and the equipment makes no difference.” But even in “Quarter to Three” you can hear what Guida was up to: he doubled the bass drum to maximize the bottom, and he ran his tape deck into the red, even into the infrared. (“It sounds like it was recorded in a toilet,” complained one distributor.)

Does this make Frank Guida the American Joe Meek? Probably not. Meek’s life had its tragic aspects; Guida, not particularly drama-oriented, kept promoting Tidewater talent well into the 1980s, and however much he may have messed with his master tapes, he kept them in tip-top shape. The memories, of course, need no such maintenance.

(Note: MP3s disappear eventually.)

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It helps to plan ahead

Embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales apparently has a fallback position: in the National Basketball Association.

In the absence of a better explanation:

For some reason, typing the domain www.albertogonzales.com into your browser’s address line takes web-surfers to the online home of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. A quick online search shows that the Attorney General’s name is registered to InterCosmos Media Group of New Orleans, and was registered on Feb. 3, 2005, just as Gonzales was up for Senate confirmation. An attempt to reach InterCosmos for an explanation was unsuccessful.

OregonLive Blazers blogger Casey Holdahl speculates: “My guess is that Alberto can really stroke the three.”

(Via TrueHoop.)

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Drowning in the pitch

The perennially-inspiring Rachel Lucas puts up a personal ad, and the results are not pretty:

Of the roughly 400 “contacts” I got in the first month, I immediately deleted 95% of them with a cringe on my face because their profiles were just so apocalyptically BAD, but that made me feel kinda mean (really — only a little), and I thought to myself, Self, maybe you can HELP these poor bastards. So, this is for any single guys who are trying to meet women who are both sane and intelligent…

I should point out here that I know rather a lot of women who are both sane and intelligent. I know this because they won’t go out with me.

Okay, enough of the self-defecating humor. What Rachel has come up with is a list of twenty ways “not to sound like a total dillwad on the personals,” and apparently avoiding clichés like the plague is a priority:

[D]o yourself a huge favor and don’t say that you “enjoy life.” Because, again, NO SHIT. We are all going to go ahead and assume you do, in fact, enjoy life, even if you don’t point out such. You may as well tell us that you are glad you can breathe and you don’t want to die.

Long walks on the beach, I infer, are something to avoid mentioning.

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Not a small-block Ford

I sent up a ping for that last post, and back came this cryptic reply:

Ping ‘http://www.rachellucas.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/7′ failed: HTTP error: 302 Found

After all, what could be more erroneous than actually finding something?

The official definition:

The requested resource resides temporarily under a different URI. Since the redirection might be altered on occasion, the client SHOULD continue to use the Request-URI for future requests. This response is only cacheable if indicated by a Cache-Control or Expires header field.

The temporary URI SHOULD be given by the Location field in the response. Unless the request method was HEAD, the entity of the response SHOULD contain a short hypertext note with a hyperlink to the new URI(s).

If the 302 status code is received in response to a request other than GET or HEAD, the user agent MUST NOT automatically redirect the request unless it can be confirmed by the user, since this might change the conditions under which the request was issued.

And, well, I’d rather see a 302 Found than a 403 Throttled. (Like someone would have the temerity to throttle Rachel Lucas.)

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Talkin’ bout degeneration

Time for a pain pill:

I’m watching Metal Mania on VH1 Classic.

If your formative years were in the 80’s, you realize how jarring the aforementioned premise is. That is, metal and VH1 being mentioned in the same breath without derisive laughter.

To make matters worse they ran a commercial about treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

As Pete Townshend never said, “Hope I die before I get incontinent.”

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Are we downtown yet?

One of the trickier aspects of planning downtown Oklahoma City, apparently, was that no one was entirely sure what “downtown” really meant: the middle was pretty obvious, but where does it end?

A quarter-century ago, Neal Horton, now acknowledged as the Father of Bricktown, projected that downtown would eventually span 13th to the river and Western to Lincoln. Now the Planning Department, the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown OKC Inc. have defined downtown according to Horton’s boundaries, with one exception: they’re bumping out the eastern edge to Lottie, so as to take in the entire Oklahoma Health Center.

Then again, it’s not like this is really startling news: the Downtown Strategic Action Plan, approved in 2003, covers 13th to the new I-40 alignment and Western to Lincoln, and that “Core to Shore” business from last year extends the focus down to the river’s edge.

Still, at least there’s a working definition now, and it’s as important for what it excludes as for what it includes: residents of Heritage Hills, for instance, really don’t seem to live “downtown” in any sense of the word.

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