Archive for April 2011

No, you can’t have cereal

“Which seat can I take?” sounds trivial until you think about societies that insist on telling you where you can sit, ostensibly for your own good. Libertarian writer/editor Jeffrey Tucker weighs in on Rebecca Black’s “Friday”:

And where is she headed? To catch the official, tax-funded school bus, which, though it is not shown, we know is painted yellow today just as it has been from time immemorial since there is never really progress or change in the state-run system. The tax-fueled machine comes to your door to snatch you away from home, where you are loved and valued, in order to transport you to the cement structure that teaches you about the glory of fitting in and believing what you are supposed to believe.

But then the protagonist experiences a foreshadowing of the liberation at hand. Arriving before the school bus is a car with “my friends.” They are smiling and inviting her to join them on the ride. And it is in this context that she confronts that glorious institution that is otherwise denied to her and every student in government school: human choice.

Oh, and in case you missed the point:

A child-like dream of Friday and what it represents for kids trapped in public school, kids who are transported around on tax-funded buses and ordered around by tax-funded propagandists for the state, is a plausible allegory for the plight of all people imprisoned in state-controlled environments.

It’s no accident that there’s no Federal Department of Fun, and it wouldn’t be worth a darn if there were.

(Previous Rebecca Black coverage.)

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He’s no clown, that Charlie Brown

Peanuts, 25 percent off:

Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comics often conceal the existential despair of their world with a closing joke at the characters’ expense. With the last panel omitted, despair pervades all.

It’s scary how often this works, though I don’t see it being as life-changing as, say, Garfield Minus Garfield.

(Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

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Dunham right

Some of you Fringe fans will recognize FBI agent Olivia Dunham, played by the lovely Anna Torv:

Anna Torv circa 2009

Some of you who are not Fringe fans will recognize Anna Torv from an earlier Rule 5-y post this week at the Rio Norte Line, which demonstrates, I suppose, that most people participating in this particular scheme are thinking faster than I am.

Torv has an unofficial and almost scarily-detailed fan site at annatorv.com.

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Expressing oneself

My younger sister, by a considerable margin, was the family hotshoe, and once upon a time she possessed the speediest production vehicle from these here United States:

In 1978 The Dodge Lil’ Red Express was the fastest American made vehicle from 0 to 100 MPH as tested by Car and Driver magazine.

Because of a loophole in the emissions regulations the 1978 Dodge Lil’ Red Express Trucks did not have catalytic converters, what the Lil’ Red Express did have was a special High Performance 360 C.I. 4-barrel small block engine code (EH1) which was a modified version of the 360 police engine (E58) producing 225 net horsepower @ 3800 RPM. The package also included Hemi style mufflers with a crossover pipe breathing through 2 chrome stacks located behind the cab, a special 727 transmission and 3.55:1 rear gearing.

I drove this thing a couple of times, and found it slightly intimidating. And nowadays 225 hp is no big deal; my semi-sedate sedan sports 227 ponies, albeit at a comparatively-stratospheric 6400 rpm, a couple of scratches below the redline. Still, I always wondered why Dodge didn’t revive this beast after we’d gotten through an energy crisis or two.

And maybe now is not the best time, but what the hell:

The new RAM 1500 Express [offers] a 390-hp HEMI, the coil-sprung platform which supposedly offers better dynamic qualities than the competition, and some youth-oriented features like 20-inch wheels, at an out-the-door price around $23,830.

Of course, that’s the price for the regular cab variant. It’s been a long time since that body style ruled the roost in pickupville. The RAM excuse, er, reason is that this truck is aimed at young people.

She’d have been 49 this summer. But I’d bet you a pair of Mopar valve covers she’d be on the waiting list for this truck.

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Split that lane!

Well, maybe you shouldn’t, but maybe it shouldn’t be illegal either:

Lane-splitting, for the uninitiated, refers to the practice of going between cars when you’re on a motorcycle. It is legal here in California, and in not too many other places. I must admit that if I was on a motorcycle I’d probably not exploit this.

But here’s the justification, kinda sorta:

While this stupid suicidal practice remains legal, there is a layer of insulation separating California from the brink. It is the one way you can use your resourcefulness, and your drive, and your rugged individualism to get ahead of the crowd. It’s dangerous. California allows it and not too many other states do. We need more things like that, not fewer.

In 1988, when I made a perfunctory effort to become a resident of the Golden State, I was informed that on average, freeway traffic in and around L. A. moved at 33 mph. I quickly discovered that this figure was derived by averaging the speed during half the day, which was 66 mph, with the speed during the other half, which was zero. (Technically, this is not the correct mathematical approach, but work with me here.) I figured that no one felt the need to split a lane at 66, and it couldn’t possibly do any harm if the four-wheelers were sitting still.

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Quote of the week

The Man of the West weighs in on Terry Jones’ barbecued-book escapade:

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it seems to me that certain things need to be pointed out to President Karzai: that Pastor Jones lives in the United States, not Afghanistan; that we enjoy the protection of the First Amendment; and that it is not Pastor Jones’ fault that Muslims are so frickin’ deranged as to go all apesquat over the burning of a copy of the Koran and that their doing so pretty much proves his point (I note again that I would not go all apesquat over the burning of a Bible, offensive though I might find it, nor would any other Christian I know). It further seems to me that the only thing preventing POTUS and our diplomats from pointing these things out to President Karzai and cheerfully inviting him to take his opinion and go tinkle up a rope is a pronounced and tragic lack of onions.

Well, the diplomats, maybe. POTUS would never, ever say such a thing, except maybe to Benjamin Netanyahu if he thought the microphones were off.

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Nuggets crushed

You wouldn’t have thought it would have gone that way if you’d sat through the first four minutes and watched Denver run — well, amble, actually — to an 8-0 lead. And the first quarter ended with a blah 17-17 tie. But the Thunder second unit opened up a lead, and “Hey, aren’t we the division champs or something?” began to take hold. OKC was up six at the half, eleven after three, and won it 104-89, taking the season series 3-1.

The answer tonight, as it was at the Pepsi Center earlier this week, was interior defense: in neither game could the Nuggets garner more than eight points in the paint. Forced to rely on dialing long-distance, Denver put up 18 attempts from beyond the arc, but only five went down. And 18 times they gave up the ball, handing the Thunder an ungodly number of points.

Still, Denver showed plenty of moxie. The Nuggets’ starting frontcourt — Nenê, Kenyon Martin and Danilo Gallinari — were good for 49 points and 31 rebounds. And Raymond Felton (17 points) was good enough to make you wonder how it is that Ty Lawson is starting. On the other hand, Al Harrington rang up six fouls in less than 13 minutes, an indication of how frustrated Denver must have been; the 40.3 shooting percentage is another.

The Thunder shot 46.3 percent and outrebounded Denver 46-40. And that second-period burst was engineered by Daequan Cook (8 points) and James Harden (14). Kevin Durant got a statistically-average 28 on 9-21 shooting; he was, shall we say, Not In The Zone. The line you want to see, though, is Russell Westbrook’s: 17 points (7-15), six steals, eight assists, and only two turnovers. (Eric Maynor didn’t score, but he didn’t give up the ball at all.) Then there’s +22 Nick Collison, with two points but eight boards.

Three games left: Sunday at Los Angeles against the Lakers, Monday at Sacramento against the team potentially known as the Anaheim Royals, and the finale at home against the Bucks. Playoffs start the following weekend, and right now, it looks like Thunder vs. Nuggets.

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15th anniversary open thread

Make of it what you will.

Historical note: This site went live on 9 April 1996 with seven pages. Not all of them are still up. One of the dearly departed was the then-obligatory links page, which eventually was subsumed by the blogroll; another was something called “Tyranny of the new,” which listed every last update in reverse chronological order. That disappeared in 2000, when I started updating every day. (Before that, updates were on an as-needed basis, except for The Vent, which came out fairly regularly four times a month.)

Some ideas from the early days that have since been excised:

  • A section of 1996’s Communications Decency Act was intended to criminalize online abortion information. I am no great fan of abortion, but I took offense at this, and posted a list of local, um, service providers. (And yes, there was a list of pro-life counselors, at the very next link.) Eventually, most of the CDA was canned, and I saw no reason to maintain the list, though one relic from that period remains: a send-up of a then-well-known anti-abortion group.
  • “Your 15 minutes are up” applied the classic Warholian interval to various celebrities and concepts. The Wayback Machine actually has a 1999 copy. I’ve since used the phrase for a blog category.
  • “Forty-one with a glass ceiling,” in the Music Room, was a list of songs that peaked at #41 in Billboard. (The Cars had three of them.) I took it down after deciding that their lawyers might think I’d used too many of their chart references in a single page.

Records:

  • The dustbury.com domain was obtained in March 1999. At the time, the counter service I was using had recorded 6,444 visits; I then switched to Site Meter, and set the starting number to 6,445. The count is currently a bit over 2.1 million.
  • Busiest day ever was 12 May 2009, with 13,636 visitors, mostly due to an Instalanche on this item.
  • Originally everything here was hand-coded. I installed Movable Type in August 2002 for the daily bloggage, and put up about 7000 posts over the next four years. In September 2006, noticing performance issues, I scrapped the old database — all the old posts remained as static pages — and started over with a new permalink structure. This lasted two years, until it started taking five, six minutes to publish a post; I exported all those new posts to WordPress, then deleted both the database and the static pages, so as to avoid duplicate content. There are now about 9500 posts in the WordPress database.

If anything else is bothering you about this site, feel free to use the space below.

(Stuck to the top of the screen all day.)

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Minorities rule

And they intend to keep doing so whenever and wherever possible. Might as well get used to it.

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Same as the old tunes

Brian J. dubs it Sudden Music Liking Syndrome:

This struck me today, as I heard the second song by The Who on the radio in two days (“Teenage Wasteland” today, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” yesterday) and decided, hey, maybe I ought to get an album by these guys.

Obviously the album to get is Who’s Next, which opens with “Baba O’Riley” (aka “Teenage Wasteland”) and closes with “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

This phenomenon is not entirely unheard of, even among those of us whose musical tastes are alleged to have matured: there is no shortage of acts I couldn’t stand in days gone by whose recordings I now actively seek out. (Think Eagles, though I still draw the line at “Hotel California.”) On the other hand, if I never hear another Paul Simon song, it will be too soon.

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Hold not thine breath

Ric Locke has a category called “Probability Epsilon,” which deals with desirable outcomes that are less likely than the snowball’s getting past Cerberus on the way to from the warm nether regions.

This one, applying the sauce-for-the-gander principle, seems especially apt:

[E]mployees, including senior officials, at regulatory agencies should be subjected to the most extreme form possible of the edicts and ukases they enforce so enthusiastically. For instance, no EPA building, employee, or official should be permitted the use of solvents or heavy metals in any form, or engage in or benefit from any activity that emits carbon dioxide.

In fact, this need not be limited to the Executive Branch. We’ll know we’re making progress when Congressman Scheisskopf shows up with the sniffles at your local Doc-In-The-Box.

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You can’t spell “incarnation” without “car”

It won’t take half an hour on busy downtown streets to tell you that there is nothing inherently poetic about bumper stickers.

On the other hand, the best of us can see the lyrical potential, and can run with it.

(The poet in question has been on Ye Olde Blogroll for years.)

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The best that they can do

“Hollywood,” says a frequent Farkism, “is out of ideas.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, says Neil Kramer:

Why should Hollywood waste time and energy searching for new ideas, when it can stick with the classics, such as Arthur?

In fact, Hollywood shouldn’t just stop with a Dudley Moore Arthur and a Russell Brand Arthur. There should be a black Arthur. An Asian Arthur. An Arthur all in Spanish. A gay Arthur. An Arthur where the roles are reversed and Arthur is a woman. A transsexual Arthur. A Pixar animated Arthur — in 3D Imax — where Arthur is a irresponsible raccoon who is a glutton with his acorns rather than an alcoholic, in order to keep it G-rated. I think there should be a new big budget Arthur produced EVERY 30 years. Ten year old Raymond Ochoa of the children’s TV show Drake and Josh will be perfect in thirty years time as the womanizing drunk in the new new Arthur, released in 2041.

And while we’re at it, let’s get Christopher Cross to do all the themes for all these Arthurs.

Except maybe for this one:

Hopefully, in thirty years, science will have perfected a time machine, so Hollywood studios, still hoping to recreate the success of the first Arthur, will go back in time to 1951, creating an Arthur appropriate for that era, starring Orson Welles, Deborah Kerr, and Spencer Tracy.

I wish I had a dime for every dime they spent on story conferences.

On the upside, a bevy of Arthur remakes might well silence the complaints about Lack of Inclusiveness being leveled by the Drunk Inebrio-American community.

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A møøse once bit my sister

And they say you never learn anything from gaming:

World of Warcraft skillz save sister of gamer

We apologise for the fault in the title. Those responsible have been sacked.

(Via FAILBlog’s WIN!)

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The decision to get real wild

Nature maintains an equilibrium of sorts, one extreme offset by another — yet the extremes continue to exist, the average/median/mode/whatever be damned.

So I was contemplating, once again, Rebecca Black and “Friday,” a simple song with four chords by a pretty young girl with not a whole lot of experience. What on earth could possibly offset that?

Right you are. Jandek’s first album came out in 1978; he’s had more than sixty releases since then. The man is clearly experienced, even if he went a quarter-century before doing a live gig, and I defy anyone to count his chords.

I’ve brought up Jandek here before, usually with an Irwin Chusid quote attached. (I even linked to that first live appearance, in Glasgow in 2004.) To say that Jandek marches to the beat of a different drummer would suggest a rhythmic precision he’d disdain; his off-center blues, or whatever, meander all over the place.

In 2003, the documentary Jandek on Corwood was released. Jandek himself does not appear in the film; however, Corwood Industries, which issues all Jandek product (and nothing but Jandek product), allowed the filmmakers the run of the catalog, which gave me an excuse to order the DVD. And to fill out the order, I added a wish-list item about which I’ve posted before:

I dearly love George Rochberg’s 3rd String Quartet, something there isn’t a chance in hell of hearing on the local classical station’s request show. (Which reminds me: I need to find this on CD if at all possible. My cassette dub, mixed to stereo from a quadraphonic tape — I no longer have my old open-reel gear — is starting to squeak.)

This is, I reckon, music about as un-Jandek-like as you can get and still not sound the least bit like Rebecca Black.

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Fig leaves for all

Some Christian naturists in Britain say that Manchester Cathedral is bringing them down:

A Church of England cathedral is at the centre of a row after promoting nudism as ‘wholesome’ and ‘liberating’ on its website.

The item was posted by Manchester Cathedral several weeks ago on its ‘Spirit of Life’ site, which has been advertising a Mind, Body, Spirit fair planned for next month.

The C of E’s General Synod was apparently embarrassed by all this New Age-y stuff, and after a bit of upper-hierarchy churn, Manchester quietly sent that particular reference down the memory hole, to the annoyance of some:

Christian Naturist Fellowship chairman the Rev Bob Horrocks complained on his group’s Facebook site: ‘We’ve had our link about Christian naturism censored from a Diocesan-sponsored website.’ One supporter commented: ‘What happened to freedom of speech?’, while another asked: ‘What is wrong with simply not wearing clothes?’

I admit to being fuddier and/or duddier than most other folks who leave their clothing in the closet, but I tend to think that one’s Sunday best probably should not be hand-me-downs from the Emperor. But maybe that’s just me.

(Via this nudiarist tweet.)

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Flatter you

Christina Hendricks“Unsightly bra bulge,” says the Daily Mail correspondent, “could become a thing of the past with the introduction of the first four-way brassiere — which promises to slim, push up, plunge and even allow you to go strapless.”

The £25 bra, liberally festooned with boning and cantilevers and multilinks and sway bars and, for all I know, MacPherson struts (and where is Elle these days?), was ostensibly designed with the likes of curvy Mad Men star Christina Hendricks in mind, and is called “Flatter Me,” which, if you think about it, makes no sense: anything that makes you look like Christina Hendricks is not likely to make you flatter. Kathy Shaidle, not surprisingly, wonders what they were thinking.

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Just to prove it could be done

The early-on Telltale Statistic was easy: the Lakers had turned the ball over exactly once in 36 minutes. Despite that, the defending champs trailed through the first half and much of the third quarter; they fought back to a small lead. But the Thunder weren’t having any: they forced Los Angeles into nine turnovers in that fourth quarter, regained the lead within the three-mark, and closed out the Lakers on a 17-2 run. The final was a startling 120-106, with OKC holding L. A. to 16 points in that final frame. It was the Thunder’s first win ever on the Lakers’ home court.

There was only one double-double all night, and Andrew Bynum got it: 12 points, 13 rebounds. Kobe Bryant was up to speed, with 31 points, and Pau Gasol had 26 more; but at the end, none of those guys were able to get through a stifling Thunder defense.

Besides, Kevin Durant had 31 tonight, and it took him only 15 shots to get it. (Bryant took 19.) Russell Westbrook amped up the ferocity tonight and finished with 26. Both Serge Ibaka and James Harden landed in double figures. And here’s a couple of remarkable numbers: 55.6 percent from the floor, 91.4 percent from the stripe.

The main value of this game, though, is psychological: a barrier broken through once and for all. There was a tendency to see the Lakers as somehow otherworldly, always somehow destined to prevail. But the Lakers had lost four in a row coming in, and while a 55-25 record is certainly nothing to sneer at, the Thunder are now 54-26 and demonstrably capable of knocking on their door. Hard.

Will there be a letdown tomorrow night against the Almost-Out-Of-Sacramento Kings? Ask me in 25 hours.

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Strange search-engine queries (271)

Late Friday, it looked as though this long-running series might have to be shut down for lack of an agreement over just how much material was available for the upcoming week. Cooler, or at least tireder, heads prevailed, and here we are on Monday, just as though nothing had ever happened.

Chicken evisceration fork Picture:  Now that takes guts.

why did joan blondell’s breasts wobble when she walked:  If they’d wobbled when she was standing still, she’d have had a problem.

whole wheat pork rinds:  You don’t want to know how long it took to produce this genetically-modified hog, believe me.

Stanley peener:  If this is perennial kid favorite Flat Stanley, I don’t think anyone has ever mentioned his peener.

sedans for the rich:  This is a tradition dating back to the old sedan chair, though steel-belted radials have long since replaced long-suffering lackeys.

“bands with seven members”:  For instance, the original Three Dog Night.

grasping lower orders:  That would be you and I, according to our self-described betters in the Political Class.

guy throwing bibles from moving car:  Nobody noticed until the next weekend, when the litter crew found a Qu’ran among the Bibles, today generally acknowledged as the beginning of World War III.

I was shopping at Kmart and I got delusional and was charge with shoplifting:  Did your defense include the fact that you were shopping at K mart in the first place?

it’s what’s up front boobs:  Well, duh.

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No figuring these goddesses

Lee Thompson Young plays Detective Barry Frost on Rizzoli & Isles, the current day job for perennial heartthrob Angie Harmon. According to Ms Harmon, the following conversation (edited somewhat for Twitter considerations) took place on the set:

LTY: “ang, can I say something to you?”

AH: “of course, anything.”

LTY: “you’re what would happen [if] aphrodite & yosemite sam got 2gether & had a daughter.”

“Best compliment ever,” she said.

And it makes sense that Aphrodite, rather than being drawn to some scwewy Elmer Fudd type, would take on the biggest ego north, south, east, and west of the Pecos.

Besides, it gives me a chance to put up this photo, presumably from R&I, in which we get to critique Rizzoli’s weapons-maintenance technique:

Angie Harmon as Rizzoli

At the very least, it seems like she could use better light.

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Texans wasting no time

The Texas Legislature is contemplating a world, or at least a state, where it’s possible to have an 85-mph speed limit:

The House on Thursday passed Brenham state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst’s HB 1201 on final reading. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by Katy Republican Glenn Hegar.

HB 1201’s primary goal is to drive a legislative stake into the heart of the controversial but already-dead Trans-Texas Corridor, a network of toll roads and rail and utility lines that would have slashed across rural Texas. The bill preserves one aspect of the TTC: the speed limit.

This bill would not, in and of itself, raise existing speed limits:

The 85 mph speed limit would apply only to specially built roads and only after the Texas Department of Transportation performs engineering and traffic studies.

And at the moment, TxDOT has no such roads under construction.

The usual Dire Warnings were aired:

“People already drive 5-to-10 mph over the limit,” [Sheriff’s Capt. Reno Lewis in West Texas’ Reeves County] said. “Eighty is fast enough. You put it up to 85, and they drive 5-to-10 mph faster, they’ll be going close to 100 mph.”

I’m sure Capt. Lewis spends more time in Reeves County than I do, but this is what it was like when I was driving 80 in west Texas:

This speed limit, I suspect, reflects the reality of this road: I punched up Gwendolyn’s cruise to an indicated 81 mph, and scarcely anyone bothered to pass me. The Texas Highway Patrol, meanwhile, is ready to make sure you don’t abuse the privilege.

There is, of course, no privilege that can’t be abused by someone.

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Pre-dawn shenanigans

My son lives in Missouri, so he presumably wouldn’t be directly affected by Texas speed limits, but I imagine he didn’t want to show this to a uniformed representative of the Show-Me State:

Dashboard readout 133 miles per hour

“This,” he explained, “is why walking is for losers.”

“You are an idiot,” said his loving wife. “You are going to make the damn engine explode.”

I dunno. Looks to me like he was a tick or two below the redline. On the other hand, if I’m driving that fast, and as a general rule I’m not, I’m also not simultaneously grappling with a frigging camera.

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O pioneers!

I was, of course, grateful for the Tamalanche that brought several hundred extra visitors this weekend, but the discussion of matters at her end has led her to wax philosophical, à la Mike Godwin:

I’m trying to formulate some theorem that states that “Any mention in an internet post of a piece of computing equipment older than X years will, within Z comments, degenerate into a discussion about which slide-rule jockey slung punch cards first.”

Which is, of course, absolutely true; those of us who are seldom out of range of a keyboard are no less susceptible to “Can you top this?” than the rest of the species, although some of us spell better.

And her example is exactly spot-on:

“Hey, the other day I found 2600 in perfect shape at a garage sale for $5, and it came with a copy of Space Invaders! We took it home and played all afternoon!”

… will, within an hour, result in someone posting that they were writing code on an IBM 360 before some other participant in the discussion was born.

Given enough thread length, eventually you’ll hear from someone who claimed he once bought Charles Babbage a beer or looked up Ada Lovelace’s skirt.

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The grandeur that once was Arco

If the Kings had been getting crowds like this all year, nobody would have mentioned the dreaded word “Anaheim.” And nobody, lately, seems to be speaking the dreaded word “Tyreke”; Sacramento’s hummingbird of a point guard is still ailing, but Beno Udrih and Marcus Thornton handled the wings nicely in his absence. And DeMarcus Cousins, when he wasn’t having a hissy fit — he drew a technical for one of them — was getting to the line on a regular basis, and by “regular” we mean he hit 18 of 21. (Radio guy Matt Pinto will swear that he was getting help by three guys with whistles.) Cousins wound up with 30 points, as many as Russell Westbrook and almost as many as Kevin Durant, but the Kings, who had a six-point lead at the half, weren’t able to sustain it, and the Thunder posted their 25th road win, 120-112.

Still, nobody will accuse these Kings of rolling over and dying. Offsetting their indifferent 41-percent shooting was a mass of free throws: 38 of 42. (The Thunder, which normally dominate at the stripe, went 32-37.) But OKC shot 57 percent, and somehow managed to survive giving up 18 turnovers. (Rebounds were dead even at 40 apiece, but the Kings grabbed more off the offensive glass.)

The season ends back at home, with the Milwaukee Bucks perhaps in the headlights. We can think about the playoffs later.

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Good old American oatmeal burgers

The Little Village Academy on the west side of Chicago no longer allows students to bring their own lunches: you eat what they serve, or you do without. E. M. Zanotti finds this curious at best:

This is problematic for a number of reasons, least of which is probably that a one-size-fits all government brainchild is destined to fail at solving a complicated problem. Anyone who’s ever met a kid knows that kids are weird. It’s a full time job, sometimes, for parents, to figure out how to ensure a child gets necessary nutrition while skirting a number of irrational food phobias. My brother once ate nothing but baked potatoes for six months.

And there’s precedent for that failure, too:

The King of replacing school lunches with healthy food, TV chef Jamie Oliver, has seen his health-i-fying plans meet with disaster. Oliver, who claimed to change the eating habits of an entire British town by forcing the local elementary school to adopt a million-dollar school lunch program, actually managed to ensure students received higher-calorie, higher-fat meals than before (most of which were worse than McDonald’s Happy Meals), and having a heavily negative impact on students scores, especially among low-income students. Turns out when kids didn’t like the food they received, they didn’t eat it.

Finding audio to accompany this story was a (probably forbidden) piece of cake. From the Conception Corporation’s infamous “Rock and Roll Classroom,” a 24-second ad [mp3, 567kb] touting the wonders of the school’s in-house eatery; you’ll hear the title of this piece therein.

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Rabbit decline

Hard times, as it were, for Hugh Hefner:

Certainly there is an irony that while pornography is now more plentiful than ever in world history, the rise of the Internet has destroyed Playboy’s profitability. The company lost $48.5 million last year. Hefner recently took Playboy Enterprises off the stock market, offering $6.15 a share for outstanding shares. Exactly what he’ll do with the Playboy “brand” (it’s not just a magazine) remains to be seen. Hef has recently gone back to the idea of “Playboy Clubs,” opening one in Vegas and announcing two others in Sydney and London. But these are not really “clubs,” just Playboy-themed casino/bar/restaurants, a sort of chain operation like the Hard Rock Cafe.

The not-so-big bucks these days come from playboy.com, which has a fairly active pay section — there’s also a Somewhat Safe For Work site which scares up some ad dollars — and from licensing the Rabbit Head symbol, which still has some commercial value. Still:

The value of the Playboy brand isn’t likely long to outlive the man who created the myth on which the brand depends, and of which he is the absurd elderly symbol.

There is, I think, one other contributing factor: Adobe. With Photoshop on every other desktop on the planet, nobody has any faith in anybody’s photographs anymore. The “girl next door” in the centerfold? Not next door to me, you damn betcha. There isn’t a wisp of hair out of place, and often as not there isn’t a wisp of hair in place, so to speak. Furthermore, they’re all apparently nineteen years old these days, and to get me to take up with someone one-third my age would require a hell of a lot of tequila and probably something more.

And anyway, it’s not like Hef and I have similar tastes.

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Are you sure Abe done it this way?

“Dammit,” says Ford to its remaining Lincoln dealers, “this is a luxury brand, and it’s time we acted like it.” To wit:

According to Automotive News [behind paywall], Ford has issued an ultimatum to its Lincoln dealers: either they agree to meet minimum brand requirements by September 1, or they face losing their franchise. Ford’s demands include that dealers

  • Offer perks such as a free car wash and a Lincoln loaner vehicle to Lincoln service customers
  • Have a dedicated service manager and dedicated sales staff for Lincoln, if the dealership is paired with a Ford store
  • Have only the word “Lincoln,” without “Mercury,” appear on all franchise signage
  • Have at least 30% of used-Lincoln inventory be certified pre-owned

Geez. The local Infiniti store manages three out of four, and they’re paired with Porsche-Audi fercrissake. And Lincoln does about the same annual volume as Infiniti: 100k or thereabouts.

This particular objection, which I find risible, was raised:

[W]hat if a customer wants a full-sized loaner replacement for a vehicle that’s been turned in for service, but the dealer only has MKZs on the lot?

It is bad form, I think, to complain about freebies. The cheapest thing on the Infiniti lot, until recently, was the G35 sedan, and that’s mostly what they lent out; once they sent me off in an FX, probably because that was all they had left. It’s not like they were stashing Nissan Versas on the premises.

(Title swiped from the late Waylon Jennings.)

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PL/P fiction

Before you can describe what Marsellus Wallace looks like, you’ve got to declare some goddamn variables.

(Via QA Hates Your Ass.)

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Moore than we bargained for

Peter Morgan’s 2006 play Frost/Nixon — and, for that matter, the 2008 film version, directed by Ron Howard — starred Michael Sheen, who didn’t look much like David Frost, and Frank Langella, who didn’t look even slightly like Richard Nixon.

So I’m not too concerned that HBO has signed Julianne Moore to play Sarah Palin in a film adaptation of Game Change. Moore doesn’t look too much like Palin, but she does look like this:

Julianne Moore in InStyle UK

And far be it from me to complain. (However, see the POH Diaries for an alternative choice.)

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Exit 150 at Cornett Place

Mayor Mick Cornett, speaking from the brand-spanking-new Mick Cornett Pavilion on the grounds of Cornett Hall, noted that he had, as Steve Lackmeyer puts it, “a lot of experience on branding,” and after “years of experience and expertise on branding and observing that the city doesn’t do a great job at branding itself,” has decided that the so-far-mostly-theoretical boulevard intended to lead into downtown Oklahoma City ought to be called Mick Cornett Oklahoma City Boulevard.

Former Mayor Ron Norick declined to turn over in his grave, pointing out that he wasn’t actually dead yet and therefore any such action would be premature.

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There’s a zombie on my brain

Back in the fall of ought-nine, I identified the theme music from the videogame Plants vs. Zombies as the Catchiest Tune of the Week; it’s been on my various playlists ever since. And composer Laura Shigihara was kind enough to post the theme in actual stereo, which was even more fun — except that the roar of the undead, a truncated post-Vader “NOOOOO!” at approximately 0:47, was apparently mixed only into the monophonic game version; it did not appear in the stereo mix. Anyone who’s collected records for a ridiculous length of time has encountered this phenomenon before: there’s stuff in the 45 that wasn’t on the LP version. Poster child: “Creeque Alley” by the Mamas and the Papas, the stereo version of which is missing a hell of a lot of overdubs.

I put up with this for about a year and a half, then took action: I took the stereo version of “Zombies on Your Lawn,” then flew in that little section from the mono version and mixed it in, a bit left of center. This will be my official version hereafter. (And for “Creeque Alley,” I play a dub of the 45.)

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Bad girl gone worse?

Donald Douglas apparently has some problems with Rihanna’s video for “S&M,” and quotes The Closing of the American Mind author Allan Bloom:

Bloom warned that rock and roll — and the Walkman and MTV commercial culture within which it was embedded by the 1980s — was “life made into a nonstop, commercially prepackaged masturbational fantasy.”

I looked at the video, and yeah, it’s a bit raunchy, but on the other hand, it has Perez Hilton on a leash and (briefly) wearing a ball gag. If that’s not redeeming social value, what is?

(See also this earlier ode to the pleasuring of oneself.)

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Fevered prow

Leadership from the White House? Not supposed to work that way, points out the Curmudgeon Emeritus:

The closest the Constitution comes to such a concept is here [Article II, Section 3]:

“He shall…recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;”

But literally any American citizen has the exact same “power.”

The notion of government “leadership” is appropriate to a parliamentary scheme such as Britain’s, where the chief executive is chosen by the majority coalition in the legislature. Such systems are designed for activist government, wherein the idea is to enable the legislature to move forward, without hindrance, and to have the executive in concert with it ab initio. The American system is diametrically opposed to government activism. It’s founded on the premise that government action ought to be slow and difficult.

So it’s perhaps a blessing in disguise that the White House is so often occupied by persons with some, if not all, of the leadership qualities of a recently-discharged shift supervisor at Taco Bell.

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Any color you like

The sheer number of references on this site will tell you in no time flat that “I am a major, and unrepentant, fan of the classic Little Black Dress, and variations thereupon.” Which may seem odd, since I never actually saw one in real life until I was well into my twenties, but then I had probably watched too many old movies up to that point.

For those of you (if any) who are unclear on the concept, a tutorial on the subject:

The “LBD” is a basic, and slightly sexy go-to dress that can easily go from casual to fancy, without too much effort. A good little black dress shouldn’t be too fussy, revealing, slinky, or fragile. Also, a little secret … It doesn’t actually have to be BLACK. These days, a little black dress can get away with being navy or dark grey, and still serve the same purpose. You want something that you can throw on anytime and know that you’ll be ready for any event, without feeling overdressed.

Which is admittedly a lot to ask of a garment. On the other hand, if chosen with proper disdain for That Which Is Trendy Right This Minute, it will serve you well for many seasons.

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Where the gripes of Roth are stored

I’ve heard a few variations on this theme lately:

I just wrote the biggest check of my life ever to the IRS. (I converted an IRA from standard to Roth this past year. Now watch as the tax code gets replaced with a national consumption tax the year I decide to retire…)

That latter, I suspect, she may not have to worry about. So long as there are power-mad politicians who wish to hand out favors to some and punish others — so long as there are politicians, in other words — we’ll continue to have what Dave Barry once called a “tax code … the size and weight of the Budweiser Clydesdales.”

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And that makes 82

The Milwaukee Bucks, perhaps contrary to the expectations in the Large Round Building tonight, did not exhibit any of that Deer-in-the-headlights meandering one might expect of a team with 47 losses. In fact, they led by three at the half and put together a 9-0 run near the end of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 96; Scott Brooks, having vowed to play the starters around 20 minutes or so, wasn’t about to put them back in with 23 seconds left, and we had a wholly-unanticipated overtime. The Bucks, despite not being used to scoring this much, did not falter, and they won it 110-106, to the bewilderment of the crowd, locking the Thunder into the #4 seed and setting up the first round of the playoffs against fifth-place Denver.

This was a game where nobody scored a lot, but a lot of people scored: Milwaukee had eight players in double figures, OKC six. (Russell Westbrook led all scorers with 20.) Only one double-double: Nazr Mohammed, with 12 points and 10 rebounds. The Thunder were awash in rebounds, collecting 52 while the Bucks could grab only 34. But the Thunder also turned the ball over two dozen times, and Milwaukee was happy to capitalize on those mistakes to the tune of 27 points.

It may not have mattered: the only way the Thunder were going to move up in the seeding would have been if the Mavericks lost to New Orleans, which they didn’t. And there were stats to accumulate: Kevin Durant won the scoring title, and nobody blocked more shots this year than Serge Ibaka. But this is a hell of a way to go into the first round of the post-season.

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Who’s that shoe?

If I seem puzzled by the names applied to some of the shoes mentioned here, it’s because I have no idea where said names came from: it’s as though they just fell out of the sky.

Which, of course, can’t possibly be true, and it isn’t. Nancy Friedman, doing a guest post for the Manolo, explains that some brands have very specific reasons for selecting those names. Ferragamo, for instance:

With Ferragamo, if a shoe doesn’t have a letter-of-the-season name, you know it’s either (a) a perennial, like the ever-popular Audrey (named for Audrey Hepburn), or (b) an item from a previous season that may have a discounted price.

And the letter for spring ’11, she says, is D. This wedge, for instance, is “Domizia”:

Domizia by Ferragamo

Also available in black, it’s a modest 3 cm tall, and has a leather hook gizmo across the upper. While it’s still current, it’s $450.

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Money for nothing

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) have been engaging in a war of words of late, with Dimon denouncing Durbin’s amendment to the Dodd-Frank Financial Finagling Act, which calls for a review of debit-card interchange fees, as “price-fixing at its worst.” Durbin has now responded:

For years, card-issuing banks like Chase have agreed to let the Visa and MasterCard duopoly fix the interchange fee rates that banks receive from merchants each time a debit card is swiped. The banks get the fees but they do not set the fees. This system of price-fixing by Visa and MasterCard on behalf of thousands of banks has gone entirely unregulated.

Which is not to say that there’s a set fee regardless of conditions:

Fraud rates are far lower for PIN debit transactions than for signature debit transactions, but Visa and MasterCard set higher interchange fees for signature debit than for PIN ostensibly to cover the higher cost of fraud. Banks now urge cardholders to pay with signature in order to get the higher fees. For example, on April 21, 2010, the American Banker reported that your own bank sent a mailing to your debit customers that strongly suggested they should “always select” signature.

It’s not just Chase, either. I learned rather quickly that my own bank will decline PIN transactions, but will happily approve signature transactions for exactly the same amount.

And there’s this:

I recognize that Chase will likely see decreased revenue from interchange reform, but I urge you to keep some perspective. Last year Chase had $17.4 billion in profits — up 48 percent from the previous year — and a 15 percent profit margin. Your own personal compensation “jumped nearly 1,500 percent to $20.8 million in 2010” according to Reuters. In contrast, middle-class American families are struggling to get by in a tough economy — an economy that went south because of the banking industry’s unregulated excesses.

And if the idea of a Senate Democrat claiming to be on the side of “middle-class American families” seems to have the same resonance as the idea of fleas soliciting donations to the American Kennel Club, I’d remind you that blind squirrels aren’t exactly starving these days. I’d like to think that this is Durbin’s act of contrition for aiding and abetting the creation of the notion of Too Big To Fail. If so, he’s got lots of penance yet to do.

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Captain Obvious checks in

The Best Advice I Ever Got by Katie Couric

Presumably it was “Show some leg in the jacket photo.”

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Salted away

From last spring:

One bank around town (and most towns in this state, I surmise) offers a forced-savings deal: use your debit card or pay a bill with their online gizmo, and they’ll bump a quarter or two out of your checking account into savings. They’ll even match some of it (all of it for 90 days, then 5 percent). This won’t make anyone rich, but it helps out with the Pay Yourself First premise.

In the first year, those little 50-cent deposits added up to over $100, plus $32 worth of match. This isn’t everything I saved during the year by any means, but it’s nice to have.

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