Archive for February 2011

That time of year

The trouble with those little candy hearts is that there’s no room to print DON’T MAKE ME LAUGH.

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Brow positioning

Class warriors seem to vector in from every section of the spectrum these days, but that’s no real surprise. Apparently sociologist Pierre Bourdieu figured out their trajectories back in the 1960s:

Bourdieu’s Distinction famously unmasked “good” or distinguished, educated taste as so much “cultural capital,” a mere panoply of status markers. To favor a more challenging type of book, a less strictly tonal sort of music, a less representational kind of painting — or, more to the point today, a less completely shitty grade of film product — mostly demonstrated that you came from a higher social class. And many Americans have come to agree. So when Al Gore said his favorite book was Stendhal’s Red and the Black, this could be boiled down to mean, You know what? I’m an upper-class guy who went to Harvard. Of course, everyone with power in America is an upper-class guy who went to Harvard. But this isn’t held to be the problem.

The noxious thing about the cultural elite is supposed to be its bad faith. Everyone else in America more or less forthrightly confesses that they’re trying to grab as much money as they can, and if somebody has meanwhile forced a liberal education on them, that doesn’t mean they’ve had to like it. Upon making their money, real Americans are furthermore honest enough to spend it on those things that evolution or God have programmed humans to sincerely enjoy. In winter recreation, this might be snowmobiling — genuine petroleum-burning fun! — as opposed to cross-country skiing, a tedious trial of aerobic virtue. In wintry Scandinavian literature, it might be Stieg Larsson rather than Knut Hamsun. Oppositions of the same kind — between untutored enjoyment and the acquired taste — can be generated endlessly, and are. Half the idea is that genuine, honest people differ not so much in their tastes as in their economic ability to indulge those tastes; there exists an oligarchy of money but no aristocracy of spirit. The other half is that less sincere people — elitists — lie to themselves and everybody else about what’s really in their red-meat hearts. Instead of saying I’m pleased with my superior class background, they pretend to like boring books, films, and sports.

There is plenty of bad faith to go around, you may be sure. We might amble our scruffy selves up to the counter at B&N with a copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in tow, and often as not there’s one person nearby who imagines a disconnect between reader and reading material. Of course, we’re only reading this because it’s been mentioned in the popular press, while he read it on the day of release. In Latvian translation, yet.

Which, of course, is consistent with Bourdieu, who argued that whatever working-class aesthetic exists is more or less forced to define itself in terms of the dominant — middle-brow and higher — aesthetic; in general, any popular A is at best some dumbed-down knockoff of some more literary, more desirable B. Pity the poor hipster who finds his favorite band on the radio: if everybody can hear them, they must have sold out, and therefore they suck.

I’m tempted to boil this down to an aphorism: Nobody eats arugula for the taste. It’s a status indicator, pure and simple. If you could get it in a salad at Wendy’s, no one would pay however many dollars a pound for it.

Advice Goddess Amy Alkon, who pointed me to this article, says:

When I got to New York (little rube me from a suburb in Michigan), I was determined to partake of Important Culture, and did I ever…going to all sorts of things, including the Joyce Theatre, to see modern dance. At some point, in my early 20s, I realized that I’d rather lie down in traffic on 18th Street than EVER see another modern dance piece. And I hate John Cage with a huge passion and think they should play his music for prisoners at Guantanamo to get them to talk.

I’ve actually been in a modern dance piece, a bit of experimental theatre when I was a young and impressionable college student with time to kill and electives to take. Ability to dance, you may be sure, was not a criterion for inclusion. Then again, it’s not like I went to Harvard or anything.

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A dark-brown voice

There are those who’d argue that it’s a mixed-up, shook-up world, based on stories like this:

The president of the first Thai airline to hire transsexuals as flight attendants on Thursday said he was a “pioneer” and predicted other carriers would follow his lead.

Fledgling airline PC Air has already recruited six crew of the “third sex” and boss Peter Chan said recruitment, driven by a belief in equal rights, would continue.

Thanyarat Jiraphatpakorn[Insert "Bangkok" joke here.]

Seriously: “third sex”? They’re not necessarily presenting as Something In Between, Pete. Now I’m aware of the Thai term “kathoey,” which ostensibly translates as such — and the snippy English rendering “ladyboy,” which does likewise — but I suspect at least some of them embrace these terms reluctantly, if at all. And hey, you hired the young lady at right, who won a beauty pageant back in ought-seven. I am not aware of the state of Thanyarat Jiraphatpakorn’s, um, hardware, but I’m reasonably certain that it isn’t particularly relevant to being a flight attendant.

Or, perhaps, even to being a fashion model these days:

Transsexual model Lea T. has taken her first turn on the runway and — surprise! It wasn’t for Givenchy. She walked in a long, black dress with ornate sleeves for designer Alexandre Herchcovitch’s Fall/Winter 2011/2012 show at Sao Paulo Fashion Week, in her native Brazil.

Lea T. in VogueMiss T. is pre-op. (Trust me on this.) I’ve grumbled for years about fashion models having the general shape of twelve-year-old boys, so it’s probably about time we had one who, legally anyway, used to be a twelve-year-old boy.

So what are we to make of this? Is transsexual the new black? I have no idea. It’s been a long time since Boys Don’t Cry, and even good ol’ Chaz Bono has been out of the limelight for a while. Maybe it’s just that, like everyone else of a certain age, I grew up with the idea of gender as strictly binary, and it takes a while to get one’s mind around the notion that 2 might not be a high-precision number.

If your next question is “What brought this up, anyway?” it was the combination of seeing those two stories yesterday and this video, from someone just down the road from me, over the weekend.

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Some time after sunset

Severian comments at Morgan’s place:

Ever read any big histories of the British Empire? Even the ones specifically designed to make them look awful (i.e. every book on the subject ever written after, say, 1960) show a civilization just brimming with confidence, and they accomplished amazing things. We on the right know, for instance, that the Atlantic slave trade was stopped by the British navy and not, say, transgendered disabled Wiccan performance artists. They decided it was a moral evil, and ended it. Just. Like. That. Was it “imperialism?” Sure. But — no more slavery. Imperialism ain’t all bad.

This is germane because we’re the first unquestionably top-dog civilization to a) deny that it is the top dog, and b) act like it’s not the top dog, and c) actively try to take away its own top-dog status. The left would cheer all three of those things, and it’s true that some aspects of American “cultural imperialism” are rather ugly. But there’s never a situation where nobody’s the top dog; it’s only a choice between this hegemon (to slip into grad-school-speak for a second) and that one. Think America sucks? Oh, you’re gonna love taking orders from the ChiComs.

Thomas L. Friedman’s heart would definitely leap at such an opportunity.

And let’s face it, no one asks “What would Britain do?” anymore; Her Majesty’s Government is more concerned these days with making life easier for the criminal element and propping up the corpse of Global Warming™.

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Ouroboros 2.0

If only…

USB Laptop Charger

(Via Zoe Brain.)

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Mysteries of General Motors

Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten has calculated that possession of a Chevrolet Volt makes you sexier — but not all that much:

I assure her that I am a working journalist and that my question is purely hypothetical. Judging by appearances alone, I ask, what would be my theoretical chance of having sex with her, expressed as a percentage?

“Three,” she says finally.

He then gestures toward the Volt, and says:

“This is my ride,” I say. “Does this new information change the hypothetical answer at all?”

She takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly.

“Three-point-five.”

Hey, it’s a 16.7-percent improvement. Isn’t that worth $35,000 after tax credits?

And speaking of statistics, here’s the Cadillac section of GM’s January sales report, as snipped from The Truth About Cars:

Cadillac sales January 2011

I knew the XLR had been marked for extinction because of low sales, but I had no idea they were this low. Minus one? That’s even below the point where you can make it up in volume.

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February ’96

Local weather types are trotting out this month, fifteen years ago, as being the last time it was this cold. And indeed, it started out chilly:

  • 1st: low 12, high 20.
  • 2nd: low 8, high 20.
  • 3rd: low 0, high 12.
  • 4th: low -3, high 31.

But here’s the punchline: the average temperature for February 1996 was more than three degrees above average. Two reasons why:

  • 21st: low 43, high 82.
  • 22nd: low 44, high 92.

I’m telling you, after yesterday’s foot of snow and the untimely demise of my snow shovel — cheap sumbitch couldn’t take the strain — I’m ready for some 90s. Or at least 80s.

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A world of her own device

Twitter has value as background noise, maybe. On the other hand, I’ve picked up on rather a lot of interesting stuff by occasionally paying attention.

Last fall, a friend mentioned an album he was blasting at the moment, and I decided to ask the details. The artist was unknown to me, and the title was inscrutable: The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III), by Janelle Monáe. He sent me a link to a YouTube video of a cut: this one, in fact. “It’s a concept album,” he said, “the sort they don’t do anymore.”

I looked at the video, asked if it was representative of the whole album. “You really have to hear the whole thing,” he said.

Amazon coughed up eighteen MP3s (on sale!), an hour and ten minutes in all, and I sat down to listen. The tags said “R&B,” but The ArchAndroid defied categorization:

On Janelle Monáe’s major-label debut, the 25-year-old, ragingly talented singer and dancer from Atlanta by way of Kansas City synthesizes a wealth of influences — Afro-futurism, glam rock reminiscent of David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars, ’50s easy listening, MGM-style orchestrations, bebop jazz and slickster-hip hop.

Which is only the half of it, maybe. There’s so much going on that I haven’t been able to come up with anything resembling a coherent review; I can just about figure the storyline, which involves a fembot in a Fritz Lang-y world, but that’s about it.

Until, of course, it dawned on me that since this was Suites II and III, there must perforce be a Suite I. Which there is: an EP from 2007, five tracks introducing the character and her milieu. “Many Moons” is track three:

So the next order of business is to buy this EP and consider the whole — unless, of course, she comes out with Suite IV, which I’m told is in the works. Doesn’t matter. If she keeps sounding like this I’m good until Suite XCVI.

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After 2012

The thinking around Chicago, reports HillBuzz, is that President Obama will not run for a second term:

They think he will use “family reasons” for not seeking re-election, either making up something about wanting his daughters to grow up outside the limelight of the White House, or even using grandmother Robinson as an excuse, saying she’s sick and Michelle Antoinette wants the family to relocate to Hawaii for their health.

I can believe the bit about the daughters, maybe: the White House can be one hell of a fishbowl, and not every child of a President aspires to being on display.

But then there’s this:

[David] Axelrod was recently on a Chicago Sunday political show and kept dodging all talk of the re-election campaign, which is like Oprah Winfrey turning down a large supreme pizza or a sandwich bigger than her head. It’s unheard of.

Axelrod’s favorite topic in the world is how he got Obama elected president, which means Axelrod’s second favorite topic in the world should be how he is going to re-elect Obama in 2012. He left the White House claiming that’s why he was moving back to Chicago, to focus on the re-election bid, and when given the perfect opportunity to wax on about that, and praise himself and his efforts, he completely dodged the topic, wanting nothing to do with it.

Unless, of course, we’re to believe that Axelrod has actually been thrown under the bus.

There’s a lot more, no individual item even close to being conclusive, but several of which theoretically might make sense. I think it’s safe to say, though, that if Obama does decide not to run for a second term, it won’t be because he’s scared to death of Mitt Romney.

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A classic Astleyan argument

Who knew? (Some of you probably did, since this has been around a while, but I hadn’t seen it.) Apparently it’s possible to Rickroll a term paper.

(Via Miss Cellania, who somehow knows where all this stuff is.)

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Is this a playoff preview?

The Thunder won the season series over the Hornets tonight, three games out of four, in a fairly convincing fashion: New Orleans led 55-49 at the half, but they lacked buzz thereafter and fell to Oklahoma City, 104-93.

Both sides were missing a starter: Emeka Okafor for the Bees, Thabo Sefolosha for the Thunder. Chris Paul apparently sprained his ankle early on, but came back; Trevor Ariza sprained his ankle later in the game, and didn’t. And Nenad Krstić managed only 14 minutes before departing with a then-unspecified ailment. So the body count was higher than usual, but bench players for both sides stepped up.

As usual, though, the big problem for OKC was David West, who rolled up 20 points and reeled in 15 boards. Chris Paul missed about six minutes, but still scored 15; Quincy Pondexter and David Andersen came up with double figures from off the bench. More impressive: eight steals, versus three for the Thunder.

But this was one of those nights when Kid Delicious was in the zone. Kevin Durant picked up 43 points (on 19 shots!) and 10 rebounds. Serge Ibaka, recipient of a few extra minutes, took advantage of the time to grab 12 boards, block six shots, and score 8. And speaking of extra minutes, Eric Maynor got some, mainly because Russell Westbrook was in foul trouble; Maynor led the bench with 9 points. Westbrook still managed 10 points and eight assists, and Jeff Green contributed 12 points and seven boards to the cause. The Thunder owned the boards, 44-32, and shot a creditable 52.9 percent. Weirder yet, they put up two dozen treys, and actually connected on ten of them. (KD had five.)

It’s supposed to be about 0 degrees tonight, so it’s a good time to be going on a road trip. The Thunder head to Phoenix Friday night, and jump up to Utah on Saturday before returning to the Gee, I Hope It’s Warm Arena on Tuesday to host the Grizzlies.

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Graphic criticism

Old friend Joe Goodwin weighs in on a literary phenomenon:

Times for reading Twilight

“Kryptonite doesn’t bother me, either,” said Edward Cullen.

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Nobody rides for free

Oregon, home of some of our most enthusiastic environmentalists, collects a stiff 30 cents on every gallon of gasoline sold in the state. (The Feds are already taking 18.4.) What’s more, several cities and a couple of counties add a tax of their own.

So far, so good: as they said in Econ 102, you want to discourage something, you slap a tax on it. It’s apparently just dawned on them, though, that pure-electric vehicles, which burn no gasoline at all, will contribute nothing to the kitty, and that simply won’t do:

A bill before the Oregon Legislature aims to deal with the government’s potential beefs with a growing fleet of cars and trucks that never stop for fuel at a gas station: that they don’t ever pay the gas tax that helps cover the cost of state and local road construction and maintenance.

Under House Bill 2328, those drivers would pay a “vehicle road usage charge,” starting with model year 2014 electric vehicles and plug-in gas-electric hybrids.

And how will this charge be determined? There was a pilot program conducted in Oregon several years ago, which was intended to determine whether it might be more useful, or more remunerative, or anyway more something, to drop the gas tax entirely and replace it with a per-mile fee. Not everyone was enthusiastic about having their every trip logged and reported via GPS, it turned out.

So no GPS in the new bill. Instead, someone will have to develop a gizmo that can read your odometer and report the details back to Salem — since they’re sure as hell not going to take your word for it.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Empathy Diminution Syndrome

As expected, science is now working overtime on justifications for sending senior citizens to Shady Acres:

Scientists claim to have finally figured out why grandparents can be embarrassing. They did it by studying a group of over 60s watching The Office, the sitcom featuring Ricky Gervais as David Brent, a socially inept middle manager.

Psychologists found that older people were less adept at spotting Brent’s gaffes, which include him abandoning a wheelchair-bound woman in a stairwell during a fire alarm and failing to realise he cannot dance.

Compared to younger participants, the older volunteers were also less able to identifying the varying emotions of the other characters.

“Gaffes”? Those aren’t gaffes. Those are conscious — well, maybe not so conscious, in the case of his dancing ability or lack thereof — manifestations of Brent’s actual personality as written, which, to borrow a line from an American sitcom, was evidently acquired at the Jerk Store. It’s not like he’s suddenly casting a light on himself; he’s always like that.

I suppose, though, you have to have vast experience with other people to recognize such things, and the most efficacious method of acquiring that experience is to live long enough to have seen them already, as those of us who have been throwing away AARP membership offers for decades can tell you. It’s not that we can’t identify people’s emotions; it’s that we just don’t give that much of a damn. Now all of you, get off my lawn.

(Via Fark.)

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Semi-cruel shoes?

Moon Bloodgood in Tricida by Manolo BlahnikManolo Blahnik occasionally comes up with something that isn’t exactly gossamer, and you’re looking at an example: “Tricida,” a sandal with almost industrial-strength buckles, worn here by Moon Bloodgood. The legendary Shoebunny, who has spotted this shoe on several celebrities over the years, owns a pair of these herself, and if that alone isn’t reason enough to mention it here, this is: today, almost a decade after its introduction, “Tricida” is regularly selling on the secondary market (think eBay) for $300 and up, although lately you’re more likely to find it in white rather than black.

I figured this was simply because it was an elegant, uncluttered design, but maybe not. Said George Malkemus of Manolo’s US branch:

“This is our S&M sandal,” Malkemus explains, admiringly holding aloft the fearsome-looking black Tricida. “It’s all about the buckles and aggressiveness.”

I could believe that for Moon Bloodgood, perhaps, but not necessarily for Mandy Moore.

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The snipe hunt takes a detour

Illiteracy, or just laziness? You make the call:

Donald Leu, a researcher from the University of Connecticut, conducted a U.S. Department of Education-funded study of Internet literacy among so-called “digital natives,” fabricating the tree octopus to test students’ ability to evaluate information they find on the internet.

Researchers asked students to find out information about the endangered Pacific Northwest tree octopus. Students had no problem locating a Web site dedicated to the cause, “but insisted on the existence of the made-up story, even after researchers explained the information on the website was completely fabricated,” according to a press release.

The proffered description of the critter is admittedly quite persuasive:

The Pacific Northwest tree octopus (Octopus paxarbolis) can be found in the temperate rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula on the west coast of North America. Their habitat lies on the Eastern side of the Olympic mountain range, adjacent to Hood Canal. These solitary cephalopods reach an average size (measured from arm-tip to mantle-tip) of 30-33 cm. Unlike most other cephalopods, tree octopuses are amphibious, spending only their early life and the period of their mating season in their ancestral aquatic environment. Because of the moistness of the rainforests and specialized skin adaptations, they are able to keep from becoming desiccated for prolonged periods of time, but given the chance they would prefer resting in pooled water.

We must mention here that contrary to the news report, while he did set up the experiment, Donald Leu did not actually create the story of the octopus out of water: Lyle Zapato concocted this tall tale over a decade ago, and it’s apparently been a reliable test of gullibility, or something, ever since. Which the students would know, had they bothered to look it up on Wikipedia.

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Banksy-er than thou

The one and only, or however many, Keyboard Cat in, um, Exit Through The Pet Shop:

I admit, I LOLed.

(Via Urlesque.)

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IP, less freely

It’s the end of the Internet, and I feel fine:

At a ceremony held on 3 February, 2011 the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) allocated the remaining last five /8s of IPv4 address space to the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) in accordance with the Global Policy for the Allocation of the Remaining IPv4 Address Space. With this action, the free pool of available IPv4 addresses is now fully depleted.

Meanwhile, ICANN, which manages the address space, has no cheezburger:

“This is truly a major turning point in the on-going development of the Internet,” said Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Nobody was caught off guard by this, the Internet technical community has been planning for IPv4 depletion for quite some time. But it means the adoption of IPv6 is now of paramount importance, since it will allow the Internet to continue its amazing growth and foster the global innovation we’ve all come to expect.”

I’m debating whether I want to add an IPv6 address for this humble site now, or wait until it becomes mandatory. (It won’t replace the existing IPv4 address, at least at first.)

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Like I don’t lose enough of them already

Invisible paper clips! How do they work?

In the past, researchers have only been able to “cloak” microscopic objects using extremely complicated physics and so-called meta-materials made on a tiny scale.

But a new study at the University of Birmingham in the UK has taken a major step forward by making a paper clip invisible — an object thousands of times bigger than in previous experiments.

The research works by using a naturally forming crystal called calcite which has extraordinary light-bending abilities.

What’s not entirely clear to me, so to speak, is whether you have to have a crystal exactly the right size at exactly the right angle. The laws of physics will take some bending, but breaking them, I suspect, will require some serious quantum activity. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

(Technically not crossposted from here.)

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Random useless weather statistic

For the first two days of February 2011, the official National Weather Service reporting station at Will Rogers World Airport — and why don’t they build a theme park called Will Rogers World while they’re at it? — recorded an average temperature of 11.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

I went looking for places with comparable February averages, and came up with:

  • Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada: -10.1°F.
  • Nome, Alaska: 5.7°F.
  • Nuuk, Greenland: 18°F.
  • Oslo, Norway: 25°F.

Now the normal Oklahoma City February average is 39°F. It would be nice to see that at least once before, oh, the first of March.

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I suspect Murphy approves

What comes after “shit happens”? This morning’s Oklahoman tells us in very large type:

Front page of the Oklahoman

Suggestions for Phase 3 are encouraged.

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Solar flareout

The Suns looked like they had this game won after the third quarter: they were up seven points, and Vince Carter had scored forty bazillion from downtown. Not an auspicious moment for Oklahoma City, but the Thunder have been there before, and tonight they knew how to get out of it. Carter was shut down — he got only one bucket in the last twelve minutes — and the momentum gradually shifted. Down goes Phoenix, 111-107, and off go the Thunder to Salt Lake City.

Then again, even with that fourth-quarter drought, Carter finished with 33 points, leading all scorers. All five starting Suns, plus bench big Marcin Gortat, managed double figures, but it was Vince’s show tonight: 11 of 21, including 6 of 12 treys, and half a dozen rebounds besides. But Phoenix, after hitting seemingly everything early on, couldn’t sustain that pace, and wound up shooting just under 46 percent. Worse, they left seven points at the charity stripe, and in a late dustup, both Steve Nash and Grant Hill were T’d up. (Which turned out not to matter, since Kevin Durant, awarded four foul shots for the play and the ensuing technicals, hit only two.)

I am becoming persuaded that the deciding factor these days is whether Jeff Green is on his game. Tonight, Uncle Jeff was definitely on: 28 points, even more than Durant (24, 11 boards), more than Russell Westbrook (19, 11 dimes). The Thunder outrebounded the Suns, 45-38, and dished up more assists, 25-19. But the guys to see were Serge Ibaka, who hit 9 of 10 from the floor and hauled in six rebounds, and Nick Collison, whose seemingly meager three points might distract you from his position as Glue Guy. (On the plus-minus scale, Collison was +25, far and away the best on the floor.) Thabo Sefolosha was back, but he was apparently not entirely healed, and he played only eleven minutes.

The Thunder will be back home at the Eventual Thaw Coliseum on Tuesday, to take on the Grizzlies. In the meantime, though, there’s that trip to Utah. The Jazz won’t be any better rested — they’re at Denver tonight — but they’ll be at home.

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Top side of the Moon

Thursday’s shoe post gave you a look at Moon Bloodgood from there down. It occurs to me that you might want to see what else she was wearing at the time, the time being the 2007 AZN Asian Excellence Awards, and so:

Moon Bloodgood at the 2007 AZN Asian Excellence Awards

Moon’s mom was (South) Korean; her dad was stationed over there, and, well, you know the rest.

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Exodus II: Electric Boogaloo

This isn’t even close to the worst idea I ever heard:

The Next Iran. You can take it to the bank. Extremely optimistic alternative: Another Turkey (though I doubt it). My solution? We take over Mexico, buy it from them or something, and en masse, move Israel to the Yucatan peninsula. It lacks the Biblical back-story, but it gets one of the USA’s stoutest allies out of the middle of the Musselman basket of snakes, lets those hunyaps rip each other’s guts out.

On the other hand, “Next year in Quintana Roo” just doesn’t have the same resonance.

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After the Gold Rush

The state of blogdom hasn’t changed much since the Silurian Period, notes Robert Stacy McCain:

Brains, talent, hard work and persistence ultimately win out in any competition, and the losers go home. That’s what has happened in the blogosphere since the Gold Rush days of the Great Blogging Boom. (Aside: When was ’49 in that analogy? That is to say, was the boom year 2002 or 2005 or 2006?)

I’m on record as dating the Beginning of the Boom to September 12, 2001: once we’d grasped the enormity of the horrors the day before, a lot of us felt the need to speak up.

Were I to go strictly by the spinning of my own SiteMeter, I’d have to say 2005; I was pulling about 700 visitors a day back then. Today, I’m (mostly) below 500, but I have more than 200 folks pulling the feed, none of whom advance the meter one whit, so apparently my traffic has stabilized over the past half-decade. Then again, someone with no traffic enjoys, or perhaps resents, the same level of stability.

As I have often pointed out, the people who are most successful in the blogosphere don’t match the popular stereotype of dropouts in pajamas ranting from their mother’s basement. They are people of considerable professional accomplishment in their offline careers, often with advanced degrees and specialized knowledge that is their stock-in-trade online. (I’ve never met Eugene Volokh, but if I did, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be wearing pajamas.)

I don’t think of myself as being especially accomplished in Real Life, at least in terms of Bacon, Bringing Home Of, but I’ll cop to “specialized knowledge”; as I no longer have to remind upper management, my particular skill set is pretty close to unique. Perhaps in reaction, I play the generalist on line, offering a hint of this and a smattering of that. And I haven’t owned any actual pajamas since the late 1960s, but that’s another matter entirely.

Winners win and losers lose, and self-publishing software has not changed that fact, except to allow some people to succeed as writers who did not previously have the opportunity to write professionally.

And while I’m not anywhere close to having a book deal or anything like that, I figure I’ve carved out my own little niche here, and as I said in the waning days of 2010: “[I]n a decade and a half of slogging away at the keyboard — and the same keyboard at that, I’ll have you know — I personally have gone from having no influence whatsoever to having extremely little influence. To me, that’s a major upgrade.”

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Quote of the week

In an age of rudeness and incivility, it is a tragedy whenever we lose someone who worked diligently to maintain higher standards in her own life. The following incident in the life of Princesse Ghislaine de Polignac (1918-2011) illustrates the point nicely:

She took a dim view of a society figure who became depressed and threw himself out of the window at his host’s chateau, landing in the moat (so that it was a long time before his body was found). Declaring this to be bad manners because lunch had been delayed, she added: “Listen. If you want to die, there are plenty of places in the world where you can go. You go to Dubrovnik, you put on a moustache and you say you’re a Croat. Someone will certainly kill you.”

Everything in its time, in its place.

(Via Fark.)

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Aerial ballet

Sometimes the Thunder start things off seriously inauspiciously, and this was one of those nights: it took the Jazz about twelve tries to miss a shot, and Utah had a fat 37-27 lead after the first quarter. But from that point on, it was all OKC, and how they did it was wholly unexpected: deployment of the long ball. The Thunder, usually around the bottom of the league in beyond-the-arc prowess, hit 13 of 21, and would have done better except that Kevin Durant was having a slightly-below-average (21 points, 12 rebounds) night. In the last three quarters, it was Thunder 94, Jazz 68, and if Jerry Sloan didn’t actually do a facepalm on camera, he surely was wondering what the hell happened: the Jazz shot over 51 percent, were +2 on the boards, moved the ball with alacrity (30 assists), and yet OKC is going home with a 121-105 win and a 2-1 lead in the season series.

Paul Millsap, who outscored everyone — 34 points, 10 boards — was his usual formidable self, despite getting into foul trouble early, and three other Jazzmen rolled up double digits. But Russell Westbrook (33 points/10 assists) won the Battle of the Point Guards over Deron Williams (14 points/11 assists), and the Jazz bench contributed only 16 points to the cause, two fewer than James Harden. (The Thunder reserves finished with 33.) The Uncle Jeff factor: Jeff Green checked in with 20, missing only one shot all night.

So a titanic defensive struggle this wasn’t. And I’m still trying to figure out how it is that the first three games in this season series have all gone to the visitors. (The fourth game, on the 23rd of March, is in OKC, so the Jazz perhaps have some reason to be hopeful.) But for now — which, I know, doesn’t mean squat — the Thunder are 3½ games up on Denver and 4 on Utah. And the Grizzlies, who have won eight of their last ten, arrive Tuesday night during Blizzard ’11 Part Deux; the one saving grace here may be that the night before, they have to take on the Lakers. Or not, given L.A.’s apparent diffidence about turning the screws this early in the season.

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Magical fun-time back-breaking pixie dust

Or, Snowpocalypse Now:

I must point out that while AWD helps you go, it isn’t necessarily going to help you stop, which is just as much of an issue. On the other hand, they got those shoppers dead to rights.

(Via The Truth About Cars. Title swiped from KingShamus.)

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Radio silence

The BBC World Service quit beaming shortwave radio to the States a decade ago, although you can still pick it up on satellite (channel 141 on Sirius, 131 on XM). There was not a whole lot of mourning, at least partially because the US is awash in radio services, though few with a comparable level of prestige.

Now places without so much in the way of choice are being cut loose: in anticipation of the loss of government grants — in 2014, the BBC is required to finance the World Service from UK licence fees — five foreign-language services will be dropped, and shortwave transmissions to India, Russia and China will be discontinued.

Perhaps more alarming, at least at this moment, is the impending demise of the shortwave service in the Middle East:

Short-wave broadcasts of the BBC Arabic service, which has around 400,000 listeners in Egypt, will be shut down as part of plans to save £46m from the World Service’s budget. The changes follow a 16% cut in its funding by the government and are likely to lead to the loss of 30 million listeners worldwide.

There will also be “significant reductions” in the BBC’s Arabic TV services, according to the plans outlined by the BBC’s global news director, Peter Horrocks, last week.

The Beeb argues that their overall audience in Egypt is about 3.4 million, and they’re served adequately by FM radio and/or local partners, and by BBCArabic.com, at least when Cairo isn’t blocking the Internet.

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Not that I’d ask or anything

I have long suspected that universal open-carry laws would discourage rather a lot of perp wannabes on sight, which is probably why we don’t have them: the criminals would probably sue you for restraint of trade, or some such foolishness. However, concealed carry is legal in most civilized parts of the country, though I’ve occasionally found myself wondering how women can conceal at all, given the dictates of fashion.

Which, I suppose, demonstrates that I am a bonehead, since “you do not have to dress like a nun to conceal the tools necessary to defend yourself.” Consider me set straight.

(Holsters at the above link by Michael’s Custom Holsters.)

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Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane

You know the song already. It’s direct and to the point, but the potential for rudeness is on the high side, as Zooey Deschanel is compelled to point out:

To whom are you explaining all of this? The ticket agent? FYI the ticket agent definitely doesn’t care why you’re buying a plane ticket. The ticket agent just wants your money, not your explanations.

On t’other hand, “The Letter” was written by Wayne Carson Thompson, who also wrote this, so sivilizing him, Mark Twain-style, may prove to be a bit more complicated than she anticipated.

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Primary for the Tailgate Party

Parking at Cowboys Stadium is, shall we say, on the pricey side:

The fees for premium parking at Dallas Cowboys games are estimated at $75 per game, based on season ticket holder parking charges. The fees to park at major concerts and other sporting events will be nearly $40 per space at the new stadium.

Today, during the TV Commercials Extravaganza, it’s — what? $100? $300? $1099?

Which gives me an excuse to mention something that’s not supposed to be mentioned on solemn occasions like this:

Anybody who has ever attended a professional or collegiate sporting event in America knows that folks like to throw back a few cold ones during the course of the game. But at the same time, we are effectively inviting people to drive home drunk by not providing adequate transit options. In Green Bay, a state legislator went so far as to suggest that installing roundabouts near Lambeau Field was a bad idea because it would be too difficult for drunk drivers to navigate.

One has to assume that Arlington, Texas is used to dealing with besotted fans by now. You can take a shuttle from Cowboys Stadium to the Texas & Pacific Station in Fort Worth, but DART doesn’t go to Arlington, except today.

New stadiums being built or proposed tend to fall in one of two camps: those in downtown cores, like LA’s Staples Center or San Diego’s Petco Park; or those nestled in exurban sprawl, like the aforementioned Cowboys Stadium. Los Angeles, in its quest to lure an NFL franchise back to the city, is torn between the two models.

Public transit in Oklahoma City is so ludicrously inadequate that facilities pretty much have to be located downtown, where there’s a mathematical probability that you’ll see an actual bus once in a while. (I mention this because there are a few hardcore types around here who believe that we should be trying to land an NFL team.) And while a drunken fan on the bus is not exactly high on my list of urban desiderata, it beats the hell out of having him on your back bumper.

Besides:

[W]hat are the two most-cherished stadia in the United States? Arguably, Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field … both of which are situated in dense, old urban neighborhoods with good transit connections, and neither of which provides much in the way of parking.

The mathematics of the NFL require more seating capacity than either Fenway or Wrigley, but I retain my preference for in-town facilities. I’m reasonably certain that back in the Seventies, when I was perched in central Massachusetts doing Uncle Sam’s work, I’d have paid a lot less attention to the Sox had they been closer by: it was no trick to take the bus into Boston and then walk a few blocks. (To visit the Garden or the Arena, it was a short hop on the T.) No way would I ever have seen any of this stuff had it been in, say, Framingham. And come to think of it, while I’ve been to Dallas several times, and to Fort Worth several times more, I’ve never once had a reason to go to Arlington.

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Strange search-engine queries (262)

This weekly feature is based on the premise that some people are looking for really peculiar things on the Web, and that cheap laffs can be elicited by mentioning them here. It’s worked for about five years now.

weird search engine that tells too much about you:  Um, you brought this on yourself by looking for those things, Bunkie.

minneapolis switch on automatic transmission:  Far as I know, they get the same slushboxes in the Twin Cities as do the rest of us, and I’ve actually seen people in Bloomington using turn signals occasionally.

peugeot no handbrake:  I’m guessing you’re not in Minneapolis.

genius mixes marry me:  Somewhere, an iTunes programming-team member is smiling.

“all the sex I’m ever going to have”:  Perhaps you should compile a Genius Mix.

ann coulter nude fake:  The quest for wank material goes ever on.

cast your fate to the wind where does it come from:  Well, let’s see. Wind comes from out of the sky; fate comes from either (1) three women pulling strings or (2) something equally inscrutable.

the comparison of the farmers and miners:  Farmers work long hours above ground; miners work long hours below ground. (Next time do your own damn homework.)

will snorting lady bubbles bath salts make you fail a drug screen?  Perhaps not, but if that’s your idea of fun you need to work some long hours in a mine.

manager desirability curve:  I try my best to avoid desiring curvy managers.

“what’s the climate like today?” asks the teacher. What is wrong with the teacher’s question?”  She asked Al Gore.

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She doesn’t look mad

Over the weekend, a local media type was asking “What shoes would Mad Men gals wear?” Inevitably, this got forwarded to me, and I tossed off a few generalizations about early 1960s fashion, which, I opined, could be divided into Pre-Jackie and Post-Jackie. (I also heard from a writer with a current book about Mrs Kennedy’s days as a book editor, about which I know too little.)

Later, I went looking for representative looks from that era, and stumbled across this:

Cover of Knittax Magazine, July 1960

This is the cover of Knittax magazine, July 1960. (You can see all twelve covers from that year at Retro-Fashion.) This is perhaps a little more dreamy, a little less martini-fueled, than was being sought, but I liked the ensemble, and the shoes fit one description I had proffered: simple pump, relatively unadorned, a heel no higher than three inches.

The inevitable tangent, of course: what is Knittax, anyway? It’s a knitting machine with a couple hundred needles that looks only slightly like a medieval torture device, presumably aimed, not at commercial garment producers, but at the homemaker with a largish bank account. (Purl of great price, doncha know.) Of course, back then we were still waiting around for our flying cars.

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No shake, Sherlock

Yes, you can has cheezburger, and it’s your own responsibility when you nomnomnom:

State law would bar people from suing restaurants for causing them to gain weight, under a proposal revived by a Central Minnesota legislator.

The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act is authored by Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, who also calls it “the cheeseburger bill.”

Urdahl says his bill would shield restaurants, farmers and others in the food business from frivolous litigation. He points to a 2002 New York case in which people sued McDonald’s Corp. after eating its food for years and becoming overweight.

Trial lawyers, unsurprisingly, oppose this measure:

An association that represents Minnesota trial lawyers opposed previous versions of Urdahl’s bill. That group, now called the Minnesota Association for Justice, still hews to that position, spokesman Mike Bryant said Friday.

Bryant said “there’s no purpose” for Urdahl’s bill, adding that he’s never heard of a Minnesota case of the type the bill is meant to ban. Lawyers and judges are the best deterrents to baseless litigation, Bryant added.

We were unable to determine the color of the sky in Mike Bryant’s world.

(Via Fark.)

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MoJo working

Magazines have fallen in love with auto-renewal schemes: they know you’re coming back, and all they have to do is charge your plastic and send you a perfunctory notice. Most implementations of this have sucked greatly, as I informed whoever does the subscription fulfillment for the Atlantic the other day.

So far, the only non-problematic version of this that I’ve seen comes from Mother Jones, the left-wing investigative-journalism mag, and here’s why, from their not-so-perfunctory notice:

The credit card we have on file ends with [number redacted]. Please let us know if that card is no longer valid. And if you would like to use a different credit card, or if you choose not to renew your subscription, please indicate your wishes on the form above and return it to us ASAP. You can also write to subscribe at motherjones.com.

This covers all the conceivable options, except one, without having to negotiate a Web site or, worse, voice mail. However, the one exception is on the return form: “Check enclosed. Please do not charge my credit card.” Which is what I did.

The rest of you guys should pay attention to your Mother.

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What the fuchsia?

Apparently it has been decided in some circles that pink has some “sinister undertones”:

Abi Moore, the co-founder of the protest organisation Pink Stinks, says: “We started as a reaction to the rampant stereotyping increasingly evident in products and clothing marketed towards children, and the use of the colour pink as a signpost for girls as to what is ‘for them’. We think that this ‘pink’ phase is the beginning of a journey, instilling seemingly innocent ideas of princesses, beauty, fairy tales and sparkles above all else. It limits girls in their early development to conform, be ‘girly’, and look pretty, preparing them for a life of body image anxiety and insecurity ahead … a marketer’s dream.”

So, according to the feminists, pink isn’t just a colour, it represents submission, insidious gender stereotyping and prettification. It is preparing little girls for a life full of kowtowing and compromise.

In other news, there is a protest organization called Pink Stinks.

Seriously: Huh? I live in a freaking pink house — been there for over seven years — and I am as unprincesslike an individual as you’re likely to find outside reruns of Dog the Bounty Hunter. Admittedly, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an impressionable young girl, but if this color is so insidious, surely it would have had some effect on the house’s previous owners, most of whom were female.

And it certainly hasn’t affected this guy.

(Via House of Eratosthenes.)

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Face value

CoverGirl is hawking something called “NatureLuxe Silk Foundation”, which boasts, per its magazine ad, “flawless coverage with a light-as-air feel,” and as the Fab Four used to say, you know that can’t be bad.

For some reason, I read farther down in the ad, and found this claim:

Even the $180* makeup can’t beat it for a lightweight feel!

My unlined eyes bugged out a bit at that, so I went down to the asterisk, and the fine print said:

* Avg. price based on US data from the NPD Group.

Does the NPD Group, through a subsidiary, sell $180 makeup? No. They’re a market-research firm. So much for my idea of reading down a list of brand names.

By now I was keen to find this pricey stuff, just on general principle. I finally wound up at SortPrice.com, and asked for face makeup sold at, oh, let’s say Nordstrom, in order of price. Sixty-six dollars was the lowest price available, and at the very top was, um, $180 for La Prairie Skin Caviar Concealer Foundation.

I should point out here that La Prairie claims SPF 15 for their product, CoverGirl only SPF 10 for theirs. On the other hand, CoverGirl has Taylor Swift in their magazine ad, and she looks 15.

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Rooted out

I spend so much time denouncing really stupid stuff on Yahoo! Answers that I feel a twinge whenever I see something I think is sorta clever.

Like, for instance, this:

To anyone that knows the Tron film (old one, not new one) and unices. Would the MCP have root?

He says at the beginning that he has had trouble “reappropriating” some files. Assuming this means chroot, then he can’t have root because he can’t change permissions for files. And he has to hack into other systems, which suggests he’s more likely to be a virus than an operating system.

Best answer at the time I read it:

I always thought of MCP as a daemon for Root. MCP is not OS and he can’t be a program limited to Heap, thus he’s a “yes man” like Smithers is to Mr. Burns on The Simpsons.

Excellent.

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Difference split

The last thing Glenn Reynolds linked to on Saturday night was this piece of mine.

This is only my third Instalanche, and I wasn’t quite sure what the result would be: once I got 53 hits, once I got about thirteen thousand.

If I’d thought it out, I’d have figured it would have fallen Somewhere In Between: weekends are not big-traffic days anyway, and there was some sort of sports event on Sunday. As of last night, I’d picked up around 6,500 total; the Sunday SiteMeter figure was 5,155, and for the moment at least, I have a ten-percent bump in feed subscribers.

And I owe a tip of some fedora-like article of clothing to The Other McCain, who linked to that punchline first, presumably giving the Instant Man an opportunity to see it.

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