Archive for August 2011

You could call it an analogy

TurboTax Timmy doth inspire us all, it seems:

April 19th, 2011 — “Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said Tuesday there is ‘no risk’ the U.S. will lose its top credit rating amid a new analysis that revised its outlook on American debt to ‘negative’.”

In another similar risk-free move, I decided to go without the condom. The way I figure it, when will I be in Haiti again?

If I’d issued KingShamus a MasterCard, I’d be raising his limit right about now, just for that.

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Font of every blessing

Okay, not every blessing, but this works for me:

Zooey Deschanel and Katy Perry

(From meme-meme.org. Previous my-don’t-they-look-alike coverage here.)

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Ten years after

So I’m looking through the very first posts by Glenn Reynolds, who’s been at the Instapundit soapbox for ten years now, presumably taking time out for meals, though I’m damned if I can figure where he finds the opportunity, and I wonder: “What was I saying back then?”

Apparently this:

Thumbs up to this moderately-newfangled chip-repair service for automotive windshields. As World Tour fans will recall, I caught a meteorite or something while passing between the Carolinas on I-95. A Charleston glass shop balked at repairing the hole, saying that it was too close to the line of sight; South Carolina law is apparently fairly finicky about repairable and non-repairable zones. I balked at replacing the windshield, reasoning that I had a couple thousand miles to go, and what’s to prevent me from catching another freaking projectile? There were no further falling rocks, and I resolved to ignore the little dent — until today, when I watched a repair job being performed on a coworker’s vehicle, and I was sufficiently impressed to ask the young lady doing the deed if she could make time for my car next. She could, and all that remains is a faint semicircle surrounding a tiny zit, low enough on the glass that I actually have to look for it to see it. A shorter driver might not be so lucky, but while I’ve lost an inch or two off my waist, I’m not likely to lose that much off my height, so that’s not my problem.

Thumbs down to whatever demons are automagically summoned when you have to install a HP DeskJet on an IBM ThinkPad, especially if it’s going to be running through a USB port. (No, it’s not a Windows 95 box, but thanks for asking.) I am sorely tempted to blow off this USB stuff and make the end user deal with a parallel port, the way God (or at least Centronics) intended.

Oh, and there was Vent #256 that week.

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The weather up there

Elaine Dove, height 1.75 meters, on this peculiar condition they call “tallness”:

In our culture, tallness equates in the eyes of many with social dominance. Tall men are the guys that seemingly everyone wants to either be or be with in both gay and straight world. Whether we consciously do so or not, we turn to tall men as some kind of symbol of competence, masculinity, protectiveness and confidence.

But tall women? Where do we fit into that? Are we less feminine because we tower, less approachable because our natural sight line is over the heads of many? Can I get away with the same assertive behavior a shorter woman would display without being regarded as bitchy, overly aggressive, demanding? I’ve noticed that my shorter female friends often get complimented by being called “cute” or “adorable.” As I can best recall, the only men who ever described me this way were all 6’4 or taller. Leaving aside the question of whether “cute” is even a desirable way to be described, I wonder if my cuteness occurs in a pretty predictable ratio to the height differential between myself and a man. I’ve also noticed that men 6’4 and over tend to make a beeline for me in social situations where we could meet one another. Maybe they’re tired of displacing discs in their necks to kiss a woman.

As we’ve seen before, “cute” tends to imply “childlike” and yes, even “adorable,” neither of which you can easily stick to your taller folk unless you’re actually trying to mock them, which as a rule will not enhance your chance of dating them. (See also “feisty,” which, as the phrase goes, has never been applied to anyone over six feet except in the National Basketball Association.)

My own perception is not particularly reliable. I can usually suss out four foot nine, having once dated someone of that height; however, I tend to read anyone 5’10” or taller as being taller than I am. (Tallest woman I ever met admitted to 6’2″, and may have been taller than that; she could definitely look me in the bald spot. She did not, however, seem lacking in femininity.)

Being tall doesn’t necessarily make me more confident, though I’ve learned that others perceive me that way regardless of how I’m feeling on the inside. Let’s face it, the discussion about tallness is often not the easiest one for women to have — especially with men.

It’s apparently not easy for the adolescent girl, either, given the number of message-board postings that boil down to “HELP! I’m freakishly tall! When does it stop?”

Still, I can’t help but think that anyone at either end of any bell curve you care to name is going to be at least a little bit self-conscious about being there.

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Stoking that star-making machinery

For no reason I can fathom, I got an email from a member of this band, who sent me a YouTube link. “We’re trying to play decent pop music,” he said, “not some of the garbage that is being put out right now.”

Well, one man’s garbage is another man’s garland, but what the hell. Here’s Whos On Third with “I’m Under You”:

Not much in the way of visuals yet, since they’re unsigned and don’t have a budget for a video even, but this song is pleasantly bouncy, sort of a heavier take on the Hudson Brothers’ “Rendezvous,” which is overdue for a revival, even an oblique one.

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Moguls of mercy

Capitalism isn’t compassionate? Damn right it isn’t, says Ric Locke:

Capitalism contains not one atom of compassion. That’s the whole f*ing point.

The Universe isn’t compassionate. If the Sun should produce a massive solar flare, wiping out all life on Earth and Harry Reid, it would be because some particle zigged when we would have preferred it to zag. The particle wouldn’t give a damn because it doesn’t have a damn to give; neither it nor the gazillions that follow it to produce a disaster (for us) would have any compassion, because they don’t have anything to be compassionate with. The flare would propagate through interplanetary space as directed by conditions as existing without exhibiting or encountering a scintilla of thought, let alone compassion, and would wash over the planet according to the inexorable Laws of the Universe.

Now if we actually had some of that, instead of an incessant flow of rent-seekers pestering Washington on behalf of the undeserving — and I mean everyone from General Electric to J. Random Crackhead — we might actually be better off.

There are, admittedly, a few areas I’d just as soon not see turned over to the market: see, for instance, Debra Satz, Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), in which “noxious” markets are defined and, I think, reasonably condemned. Some of the “noxious” list: child labor, organ trafficking, and indentured servitude.

But beyond controlling these outliers, having the government’s thumb on the scale for every transaction down to and including lemonade stands doesn’t come close to anyone’s definition of capitalism or of compassion.

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What 800 number?

You want to complain, complain on Facebook:

“Based on what I’ve seen in 90 days, I can realize that this is something we are going to have to deal with in the future. As opposed to operators or help desks just waiting for a customer to complain, we need to have a Facebook presence to solve issues before they get bigger, and take a more proactive role in identifying consumer issues or question.”

So saith Erich Marx, director of Marketing Communications for Nissan North America, who apparently has a staff of 15 who do nothing but watch social media all day and/or all of the night.

I have my doubts. I do read the Infiniti page on Facebook, and it’s largely filled with concept-car teases and low-level market research; I can’t see bringing them into the picture if I’m stuck by the side of the road. (Then again, I’m not above sending off a tweet if I have a bar’s worth of cell service.)

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Better all the time

“Can’t get no worse,” sniffed Lennon, but then he wasn’t around to see this:

General Revenue Fund collections showed moderate growth in July, Office of State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger said Monday. He also announced that the deposit into the state’s Rainy Day Fund will be $30 million more than originally expected.

“A final reconciliation of all sources contributing to the General Revenue Fund raised the deposit into the Rainy Day Fund to $249.2 million, compared with last month’s estimate of approximately $219 million,” Doerflinger said.

Meanwhile, total GRF collections for the first month of the 2012 fiscal year came in at $385 million, more than enough for agencies to pay state bills for August.

Nothing quite as comforting as having almost a quarter-billion to spare. Then again, it wasn’t so long ago — 2009, specifically — that there was almost $600 million stashed away in what is officially called the Constitutional Reserve Fund. Unlike some other governments we could name, Oklahoma isn’t allowed to run a deficit, so the Fund was repeatedly raided, and the balance dropped to $2.03. That’s two dollars and three cents, which won’t get you so much as a footlong cheese coney from Sonic.

This does not mean we’re out of the woods exactly, and I’m not holding my breath waiting for Washington to borrow some more money to hand out in the guise of “stimulus,” but things look a lot less queasy this summer than they did last summer, not that we’re going to be awash in cash for FY 13 or anything like that.

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Even more jobs lost

Apparently the Mexican drug cartels are grabbing an increasing percentage of the methamphetamine market, and in so doing, they’re tearing at the Hyacinth Girl’s heartstrings:

I cannot help but feel terrible for the Mom & Pop meth labs that are no doubt getting evicted from their trailers as we speak. They can’t make the rent, kids. Our dependence on foreign meth is killing the industry. Thousands of white trash families will be forced to make legitimate welfare claims.

The humanity! Pock-marked, RAID-scented borderline schizophrenics will be holding up the line at the liquor store, using their EBT cards to buy some Wild Turkey to fill the void left by the demise of their meth manufacturing careers. Now they’ll be back to fixing screen doors and perfectly functional bikes at midnight, ’cause they ain’t gonna have nothin else to do.

Where is our compassion now?

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Verbal phish

Someone claiming to be representing the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network — and how sweet it is to know that financial crimes are actually being enforced these days — sent out a laugher of an email. Sum allegedly being held: $3.5 million. Means of acquisition: call their 800 number.

Yes, really:

The number to call is 1-8009359935 (if you are outside United States dial +1 follow with the 10 digits). Listen to the instructions carefully and proceed with caution by pressing at every request button 1,# until you reach to the point where you are requested to punch in the Account Number punch in 001042940, this is the federation’s consolidated account accommodating your payment funds at the moment, the loans and grants balances (L&G.B). After this, you would be requested to punch in the access code number and lastly punch in carefully (access code: 00334000) by way of a voice reconfirmation of your account particulars. This simply means confirming you as the beneficiary of the said account that will permit us to complete payment to you accordingly.

And where is this account, exactly?

The aforementioned fund above is currently deposited with our United States Federation accounts with JP Morgan Chase Bank for security measures in order to secure fund from lost and avert any future transfer/payment delays such as those urgly experience you got your self-involved in the past years with representatives and some ghost bank officials in Africa.

Urgly, indeed.

This might have been slightly less implausible had it not clearly stated in the header that it was sent from test@zjvcc.edu.cn, an address that’s all over the Web as a source of Dubious Stuff.

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Let us now unpraise famous men

Last month, playing off a New York Times obituary, I did a sendoff for designer Alex Steinweiss, credited as the inventor of the record-album cover.

Said credit may have been a tad premature. Appended to the JazzTimes obituary for Steinweiss:

According to two emails received by JazzTimes following the publication of this news item, from Cary Ginell and Michael Biel, Steinweiss did not actually invent the album cover. Wrote Biel, “There were some notable artistic jazz album covers prior to Steinweiss. Two albums by Lee Wiley, Willie the Lion Smith, Bessie Smith, Blackbirds revival cast, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Symposium of Swing, are just a few of the jazz albums with illustrated covers that came out before Steinweiss, let alone over a hundred others of all types.”

Biel declined to toot his own horn, but Ginell reported that Biel had made a presentation at last year’s Association for Recorded Sound Collections conference in New Orleans, in which he exhibited actual photographs of pre-Steinweiss cover art. (The conference abstract [pdf] contains Biel’s own executive summary.) Said Biel:

Record collectors and archivists know that this isn’t true, but the writers who are promoting these tales and elevating Steinweiss to mythical proportions are exclusively noncollectors or are limited to CDs and LPs.

Or, in my case, perhaps too willing to believe The New York Times.

(Shout-out to old CompuServe pal Jeff Tamarkin, who wrote — and then updated — the JazzTimes version of the Steinweiss obit.)

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Teenage != wasteland

In case you think I’ve been expending far too much time and space on modestly-talented adolescent singers of late, please allow me to (perhaps) introduce you to Jasmine van den Bogaerde, fifteen as of last May, who performs under the unassuming name “Birdy.” She’s put out a total of two singles so far, both covers, both lovely. This is the second:

For comparison, here’s the original by the xx.

Incidentally, you’ve heard of one other person with this surname: Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde, better known as Dirk Bogarde, great-uncle to Birdy.

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I, motor-noter

For 2012, Honda drops “Accord” from the name of its gilded-turd Crosstour. Had they been wise, they’d have dropped “Honda” also, and tried to pass off this misshapen monstrosity as the spawn of some lesser automaker. (I hear SsangYong is looking for product.) In the meantime, there are two new colors, neither of which will help, and some new buttons on the dash allegedly integrated into the existing fecalcomania. There’s also an optional rear-view camera, positioned in such a way that you’ll never see the look on your face as you realize that you just peeled off thirty-five large for the Pontiac Aztek’s kid brother.

(Actually, I have no particular axe to grind with this model; I’m just trying my hand at this little pastime.)

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Meanwhile in Ward 9

Oh, wait: we don’t have a Ward 9. However, Oklahoma City has redrawn the existing eight wards to correspond to population growth and shifts, and a public meeting was held yesterday to gauge input.

Ward 4’s Pete White, as always, thinks we should be going to a 10-ward system, and he brought it up at the meeting. Brittany Novotny sent up a snapshot of White’s current thinking on the matter, which actually doesn’t look that much unlike the actual eight-ward map being proposed. Then again, it really couldn’t, given the shape of the city’s corporate limits, which suggests the sort of creature that might pester Beowulf — once.

Me, I think we’d be better served by twelve wards. That’s still nearly 50,000 people per ward. (Tulsa, with two-thirds the population of Oklahoma City, has nine wards.) Then again, you may remember what happened when I tossed this topic to former Ward 2 councilman Sam Bowman, five years ago:

Bowman pointed out, as [Pete] White had, that the existing arrangement was perhaps insufficiently diverse, and suggested that it might be possible to redraw the lines to produce something resembling a majority-Hispanic ward and take some of the sheer vastness out of White’s Ward 4. There is, though, said Bowman, not much support for expanding the Council right now. If it’s going to happen, I suspect it will be in 2011, after the new Census figures come out and they have to redraw the boundaries anyway.

Would you believe 2021?

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Oh, that magic feeling

One should always know where to go. Back in February, I pointed you towards Abbey Road, and noted that in addition to the canonical English thoroughfare with the zebra crossing, there were streets of this name in The Village, about three miles from me, and in Syracuse, New York.

Be advised that there is also an Abbey Road in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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Little douche coupe

Remember when Brian Wilson’s songs were devoted to the likes of “Tach it up, buddy, gonna shut you down”?

Volkswagen has a different idea:

But damn, you can’t beat that German engineering.

(Via Autoblog Green. See also “Blue is the new green” from June.)

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Burch bark

Wednesday morning, Nancy Friedman tweeted: “Hey, who’re you calling a loafer?” A link followed, and I wound up here:

Nancy by Tory BurchThis is “Nancy,” a traditional loafer by Tory Burch, in a nifty Bordeaux color. (There’s also a black.) The hardware is a little more elaborate than usual, but not what I’d call obtrusive, and the heel is stacked to a moderate ¾ inch. Does this loafer fit with Burch’s bohemian-chic image? I’m thinking it’s maybe a little on the conservative side, but not so much to make you think she’s been drinking from the Brooks Brothers cup. For the sake of something or other, I’ll pretend not to have seen the $250 price tag. (Feel free to click to embiggen.)

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I shocked the sheriff

Well, actually, that’s a stretch. Mostly, this chap seems to have annoyed the deputies, and before them, one clergyman:

David Ford, a 50-year-old Tennessee man was jailed Tuesday after he was allegedly found naked in a storm drain, hiding from police.

According to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were dispatched after a pastor reported seeing a naked man run across a parking lot and then hide in a storm drain — completely naked.

In Ford’s defense, not everyone can inspire a writer to use the word “naked” three times in two sentences.

Still, he was apparently only charged with burglary, and will likely be extended the sort of leniency that this bonehead won’t get once he’s caught:

My boyfriend of two years isn’t overtly weird; he’s actually a really nice, normal guy, but he has this “hobby” of going for walks totally naked. We live in Vermont, where this is actually legal. I tell him that women find this upsetting, but he is really turned on by being seen naked by them and has no intention of stopping.

Actually, that’s not the problem. (Were it legal here, I’d be tempted to do a couple of laps around the block in my birthday suit, were this not the hottest summer this side of Mercury.) This is:

He says that when he doesn’t have a girlfriend, he masturbates while walking.

I’d say that tilts him way into the “overtly weird” classification; I’m pretty sure those Vermont women have no desire to see him strumming his sitar. Couldn’t he try something a bit less aggressive while walking, like, say, chewing gum?

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Faster than the speed of dark

The thing you have to remember is that arriving at work at 6:30 in the morning (which, this time of year, is 17 minutes before sunrise, no thanks to DST), as I often do, does not automatically give me my choice of parking spaces: at best, I’m the fourth or fifth person to arrive, and I’m too far down the org chart to rate a reserved spot. (That said, nobody’s fighting me for the spot I usually take, which is the one closest to the septic tank.)

There was a crowd of about eight this morning, and most of them were sitting outside. It didn’t take long to figure out why: the place was deader than a Tim Pawlenty joke book. No electricity in the entire plant. I sent up a tweet to that effect via text message and then called the sysadmin, who was aware of the problem: he’d actually been there before me, taken down the Big Boxen, and gone home to take care of what that same four o’clock thunderstorm had done to his place, whatever that may have been. (It is not like me to press for details at a time like this.) At least one UPS was hors de combat, although it had probably turned to crap some time before and this was its first opportunity to exhibit its crapularity.

I did a brief calculation and decided that the day wouldn’t be a total loss if the juice were restored by nine. At 8:59, up come the lights. Where was this pinpoint accuracy when I was betting on the ponies at Suffolk Downs?

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Quote of the week

Jennifer and family have had to make a few adjustments:

As you all know, my husband was laid off from the regular workforce last year. Rather than join the hordes of ambling zombies unemployed, he started his own business making the finest custom leather holsters that money can buy. That made our household budget … err … complicated for a while. So we switched to a cheap bourbon and ate a lot more chicken instead of fresh fish and steaks. We changed date night from a nice dinner out to a rented movie and take-out. It’s what normal households do when faced with a budget shortfall, you make cuts and sacrifices. We’re about to pay off our car, then 2 small credit card balances, and the loan for the sewing machine (CD secured), and then all we will be left with will be the mortgage. Rather than attempt to spend and borrow our way into prosperity, we buckled down and made some tough choices. What is so wrong with expecting our government to do the same?

It’s a concept utterly beyond their comprehension: you’d have better luck getting a couple of ducks to dance the pas de deux from La fille mal gardée.

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And someday comes afterwards

Just when you think you’ve seen Andy Warhol over in the corner peering at his stopwatch, you discover that Rebecca Black has managed to prolong, yet again, her moment.

Rebecca Black at the 2011 Teen Choice AwardsLadies and gentlemen — ladies and gentlemen between the ages of 13 and 19 inclusive, anyway — meet your Choice Web Star for 2011. Now one can argue about the machinery behind the Teen Choice Awards — I’m inclined to agree with author Jennifer Donnelly that they really need a category for books — but I figure that this proves, once and for all, that Rebecca Black has a fan base. She also has someone fairly astute picking out her wardrobe: that little chiffon-y number in cobalt blue, while apparently not from a big-name couture house, is decidedly slick without being even slightly outré, although I must quote from this Tumblr: “The dress she was wearing is almost identical to the dress I have to wear to my sister’s wedding (bridesmaids dress) minus the design on her shoulder.” And you know, there are worse things in life than buying off the rack at Bloomingdale’s.

That was Sunday. This is what came afterwards: a shot on NBC’s America’s Got Talent on Wednesday night, followed by a few minutes on a primetime version of ABC’s Nightline, in which it was revealed that she’s now being homeschooled. (You can see both appearances on EW’s PopWatch.) The Teen Choice Awards were on Fox. Well, CBS, what do you have to say for yourself?

[crickets]

Nothing from the Eyeball. How about you, Katy Perry?

That’s the spirit. (Recorded Friday, 5 August.)

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All for gnawed

Oh, damn, the Internet is down again. Is it a denial-of-service attack? A failure of the grid? Did somebody find out Justin Bieber’s secret Twitter account?

Actually, there’s a one-in-six chance that the problem is squirrel-related, says the guy from backbone provider Level 3:

While we can try to reason with humans and publicize our underground cable, there is nothing we can do about our next biggest pain in the rear, and that’s squirrels! Of all the animals in the whole world, almost all of our animal damage comes from this furry little nut eater. Squirrel chews account for a whopping 17% of our damages so far this year! But let me add that it is down from 28% just last year and it continues to decrease since we added cable guards to our plant. Honestly, I don’t understand what the big attraction is or why they feel compelled to gnaw through cables. Our guys in the field have given this some thought and jokingly suspect the cable manufacturers of using peanut oil in the sheathing.

I suspect a squirrel, if hungry enough, will chew on anything up to and including a steel-belted radial.

(Via the Consumerist.)

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Not just an Uther name

There’s a letter to Vanity Fair this month taking James Wolcott to task for trotting out the old, deprecated “nudist colony” nomenclature:

The word “colony” is perhaps just a little too bacterial and leprous.

I might not have noticed this — usually the sight of the name “Wolcott” causeth mine eyes to glaze over — but it was signed by someone named Vixii Pendragon, and I have to admit, there’s something to love about a world where someone can be named Vixii Pendragon. (And by the way, Jimbo, it’s “resorts” and/or “communities.”)

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You’re supposed to be taking notes

Maxim generally isn’t my first choice for academic reference, but once in a while they drop something into an article (as distinguished from a pictorial) that grabs my attention.

This was part of an ostensible back-to-school (September, after all) piece:

The hottest female professor: According to ratemyprofessor.com, Jean-Marie Dauplaise, associate professor of English at University of Wisconsin-Stout.

I made a perfunctory search for pictures, vowing not to hit her Facebook or LinkedIn pages, but really, what was more interesting was UW-Stout. I’ve never lived in Wisconsin, but surely by now I’d have heard of a town called Stout.

Um, no. The school, established in 1891 in Menomonie, is named in honor of founder James Huff Stout. It is the only school in the UW system named for a person.

Dr Dauplaise, incidentally, also serves on the faculty of the Hong Kong campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design. (Something else I wasn’t aware of.)

If nothing else, this little exercise demonstrates that I apparently don’t have the patience to do more than perfunctory girl-watching, Rule 5 and similar goofiness notwithstanding.

And now I’m sorry I missed this event:

Plum Brandy by Manet“Intoxicating Images of Feminine Ambiguity: Zola, Manet and the Brandy Plum” is the title of a Women’s History session to be held from 12:15-1:15 p.m., Friday, April 30 in the White Pine Room of the Memorial Student Center. Jean-Marie Dauplaise, of UW-Stout’s English and philosophy department, will discuss how Manet uses 19th century Parisian ideas concerning feminine identity, sexuality and liquor consumption to engage the viewer/reader of his painting, titled “Plum Brandy,” in playing “narrative games” similar to those found in realist/naturalist fiction of the era.

Keep in mind that my major accomplishment in visual arts was to be able to distinguish between Manet and Monet at least fifty-one percent of the time.

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Fark blurb of the week

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It’s how you make it short

Some of you may have noticed the Twitter widget in the sidebar, which lists in reverse-chronological order my last dozen tweets. (I’ve varied it from 10 to 16 at a time, but 12 seems to be the semi-sweet spot.) For a while, I was sending up the “Newly posted:” stuff, which hawks the blogfodder over here, with something resembling the actual URL, but eventually decided I’d start using bit.ly as a URL shortener for these, especially since I was already using it for other links I was posting.

A year and a half ago, I was using a different service entirely: tr.im. I switched after they went to API-only:

TweetDeck used to support tr.im, but dropped it after the alleged coronation of bit.ly as the Sort of Official URL Shortener of Twitter.

As of last month, tr.im is no.mo.re.

But Twitter (which incidentally now owns TweetDeck) eventually decided to run its own shortener, and you’ll notice that the links in the widget go to t.co, even though they were submitted through bit.ly. If you read my tweetstream through twitter.com, the bit.ly links are intact, meaning that they’re translating this just for the widget.

None of this creates any particular problem for the user, except to the extent that it takes longer to bring up those t.co links, which have to be handed back to bit.ly, but it’s still an irritant. Interestingly, TweetDeck allows a choice of shorteners, but t.co isn’t on the list, though presumably you can use it by selecting “Other.”

At the other extreme, HugeURL seems to have died on the vine, but ReallyHugeURL.com has risen to take its place. The one URL with which I tested it was blown up by a factor of twelve.

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Somehow this seems integernormative

Ron Bailey of Reason turns up an odd — or maybe an even — bit of research:

“Are numbers gendered?”
By Wilkie, James E. B.; Bodenhausen, Galen V.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Jul 18, 2011, No Pagination Specified.

We examined the possibility that nonsocial, highly generic concepts are gendered. Specifically, we investigated the gender connotations of Arabic numerals. Across several experiments, we show that the number 1 and other odd numbers are associated with masculinity, whereas the number 2 and other even numbers are associated with femininity, in ways that influence judgments of stimuli arbitrarily paired with numerical cues; specifically, babies’ faces and foreign names were more likely to be judged as “male” when paired with odd versus even numbers. The power of logically irrelevant numerical stimuli to connote masculinity or femininity reflects the pervasiveness of gender as a social scaffolding for generating understandings of abstract concepts.

The number zero, of course, is associated with [political “leader” of your choice].

“Now if 6 turned out to be 9, I don’t mind, I don’t mind.” — James Marshall Hendrix (1942-1970)

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And stay away from those monkey bars

The definition of “medical history” seems to be expanding of late, as Jennifer found out at the pediatrician’s office:

I filled out all the normal, pertinent details. Family history, allergies, etc. Then I get to a section about exposure risks. Alright, I get the whole lead paint concern. And knowing if there are pets can help diagnose allergy problems. Then a question about whether or not I’m concerned about violence in the home. Wha?

Wonder what would happen if you tacked on a footnote: “No, I am not concerned; in fact, I delight in the prospect.”

It gets weirder after that:

[T]here is a section there where they ask “Are there guns in the home?” and gives a “No” or “Yes” check box.

Understand that nowhere on the form does it indicate that you can decline to answer. I declined to answer on the basis of context. Clearly, every box checked “yes” is supposed to raise some kind of red flag. I also declined to fill in whether or not I am concerned about his Tobacco use, Sexual activity, or Aggressive behavior (I’m not), nor did I share his computer hours, video game hours, or TV hours. Honestly, I don’t think any of that is the pediatrician’s business. I didn’t make an issue out of it. I just didn’t fill it out. Personally, I’d like to know what they are doing with that kind of data before I provide it.

Off the top of my head, I’d guess that all this becomes a batch of data points to be used to justify the adoption of even more intrusive questions in years to come, as American medicine mutates into a horrendous hybrid of the Excruciatingly Corporate and the Ruthlessly Political.

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Saint James’ place

Tomorrow, Susan Saint James becomes (theoretically) eligible for Social Security. In recognition of her 65th birthday, here she is in a still from the Seventies TV series McMillan and Wife:

Susan Saint James in McMillan and Wife

And here she is, being honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008:

Susan Saint James on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

She is officially retired, but I have the feeling we haven’t seen the last of her.

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There she was, just a-walkin’ down the street

And you promptly plowed into a light pole, you nitwit:

The scorching heatwave in early July caused road accidents to soar because male drivers were distracted by women’s skimpy outfits, according to insurance claim figures.

The latest statistics show that 29 per cent of men admitted being distracted by short skirts and low-cut tops in the Summer weather, leading to record numbers of accidents on the roads.

The obligatory Psychological Explanation:

Behavioural psychologist Donna Dawson explained: “Research shows that men are far more easily distracted behind the wheel than women.

“Men are more visually orientated and so distractions such as an attractive woman walking down the street can quickly take their attention away from driving and the job in hand.”

Me, I work diligently to avoid being orientated if there’s at least a reasonable possibility of being oriented instead.

And this is, of course, a purely-British phenomenon: it doesn’t happen where I live, because whatever scantily-clad women we have on the roads are in their own cars and therefore difficult to ogle. Believe me, I’ve tried.

(Snarfed from Jeffro’s Facebook page.)

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Worst. Cover. Ever.

This weekend, Rolling Stone is looking for the Worst Cover Song of All Time, and given the sheer length of All Time, there are no doubt thousands of nominees, though I wouldn’t include, for instance, No Doubt’s version of “It’s My Life,” which wasn’t half bad, despite the fact that something about Gwen Stefani’s voice grates on me.

For me, the situation is complicated by the fact that Trini was fond of sending me cover versions, most of which were quite good, and by my devotion to Brian Ibbott’s podcast Coverville, where I’ve heard a lot of good ones, and inevitably a few that made my skin crawl.

Since I don’t go out of my way to find really bad remakes, I can’t think of one that truly deserves dishonoring as The Worst, though the following annoy me enough not to play very much, if not enough to move me to delete them from the pile:

  • The Dead Kennedys’ “I Fought the Law” is properly energetic, though Jello Biafra felt compelled to rewrite it to refer to the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone, and his narrative is too elliptical to fit in the structure of a traditionally-styled rocker. (On the other hand, the DKs did a bang-up job on “Take This Job and Shove It,” which they manage to finish off in a mere 85 seconds.)
  • Harry Nilsson’s oft-covered “One,” the first substantial hit by Three Dog Night, was turned into a vaguely-industrial screamfest by Richard Patrick, who got it onto the soundtrack of the film The X-Files, credited to Patrick’s band Filter, though apparently no other member of Filter appears on the track.
  • “Big Yellow Taxi” was never my favorite Joni Mitchell song. That said, an ad-hoc aggregation called the Neighborhood put out a cover version based on the dubious premise that the best part of “Taxi” was the bop vocal. (In the “video” you can see the jacket for an old various-artists LP, a copy of which I have.)
  • Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” is technically not a cover, but structurally it’s a mashup of “Werewolves of London” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” neither of which deserved this sort of treatment, which includes a chorus in which “things” is rhymed with, um, “things.”
  • And while I don’t think either of them have put it out on record yet, neither Miley Cyrus nor Hannah Montana have any business singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” (I don’t actually have a copy of this.)

Your own suggestions will be appreciated.

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It’s supersized!

Ezra Dyer of Automobile got a piece published in The New York Times, of all places, and while it conforms, vaguely, to the Gray Lady’s Engines Are Evil narrative, it’s still pretty funny, at least if you’ve never owned a heavy-duty pickup of your own. A sample:

Besides the obvious area of fuel economy — good luck coaxing a number that begins with a “2” — these trucks pose day-to-day challenges. Drive-through automatic-teller machines are a problem, as your cash will probably come out on the same plane as the Power Wagon’s floorboards. Many parking garages will be off limits, the architects having failed to anticipate the citizenry’s taste for two-story transportation. And your trips to the service station will be frequent and painful. You know how gas pumps shut off automatically when your tab reaches $100? No? Well, you’ll find out.

This comment of mine from four years ago may or may not be relevant:

Ford sent over an F-650 (!) to Automobile magazine a few years back, and the female contingent (including then editor-in-chief Jean Jennings) swooned, while the guys shook their heads in disbelief. Jennings even had the temerity to write about dismounting in a skirt, which event apparently drew a crowd in Ann Arbor.

Since then, Jennings has returned to that position — of editor-in-chief, I mean — so Dyer presumably reports to her. If she says anything and I hear about it, I’ll pass it on.

(Spotted at The Truth About Cars.)

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Tailgated by the Balrog

Hyundai Accent with vanity plate

One does not simply drive into Mordor.

(Via That Will Buff Out.)

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Lessons from Ottawa

The Canadians went through the same financial crisis that we did back in ought-eight. Canada, however, is not teetering on the brink of financial disaster. Then again, unlike their neighbors to the south, they comprehend the word “budget.”

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Strange search-engine queries (289)

This is the weekly feature where we turn our attention to whatever marginally-humorous stuff we can find in the referral section of the system log. In a recent straw poll, 42.7 percent of readers preferred actual straw, but you can’t have everything.

joy behar is very unpopular:  Not so. Very uninformed, yes; very unappealing, maybe; but very unpopular, no.

you look squelched:  Yeah, I’m all out of anti-squelching fluid, and the liquor stores don’t open until 9 this morning.

burberry lab coat:  As if laboratory assistants were paid enough to afford such things.

you think therefore I am:  Um, I don’t think so.

she got ten twenty thirty in her song:  So she’s going like sixty, then?

Jessica Simpson in Pantyhose:  And you didn’t see this? (Includes bonus Joy Behar content.)

too pretty to work:  This describes approximately none of the most recent batch of London rioters.

Stephanie Zimbalist sneezes:  Doesn’t everyone?

terms we no longer use:  “Budget surplus” comes immediately to mind.

i love you a bushel and a peck zooey deschanel:  People and their insane crushes. Sheesh.

does kim k wear spanx booty booster shorts?  People and their insane crushes. Sheesh.

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Displeased, Mr. Postman

“Every day I go to my mailbox and put 98% of its contents directly into the recycle bin,” says this one aggrieved postal customer:

The USPS is a garbage-spamming environmental disaster that solicits money from companies to do direct marketing, offers no opt-out features, and every day drives tens of thousands of polluting vehicles to stuff unwanted paper into mailboxes across the country.

In addition to its monopoly, the post office is one of the most unpleasant retail locations anyone could imagine — filthy counters, grudging employees, and long lines.

Guy’s obviously never been to a Walmart Supercenter on the first of the month.

There’s an upside to this, though: pesky vendors are wasting tremendous sums of money for minimal return. AARP alone has spent upwards of $100 just on me, and that’s a hundred bucks that won’t end up in the hot little hands of some Congressional hack.

(Via this Jeff Jarvis tweet.)

Addendum: “USPS: an idea whose time is gone.”

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Exposed pianist

Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times seemed more than vaguely perturbed by the appearance of Yuja Wang at the Hollywood Bowl, mainly because the young Chinese pianist was wearing this:

Yuja Wang in Los Angeles, July 2011

What Swed said:

Her dress … was so short and tight that had there been any less of it, the Bowl might have been forced to restrict admission to any music lover under 18 not accompanied by an adult. Had her heels been any higher, walking, to say nothing of her sensitive pedaling, would have been unfeasible. The infernal helicopters that brazenly buzz the Bowl seemed, on this night, like long-necked paparazzi wanting a good look.

I have to side here with Anne Midgette of The Washington Post, who finds the outfit defensible and then some:

I love formality at times, but wish there were more variety in classical music presentation (and this is something that many presenters are actively working on). But even if you do think that classical music calls for restraint, you can hardly claim that the Hollywood Bowl is exactly a bastion of decorum, or even of good taste. Wang, furthermore, was performing one of the flashiest concertos in the repertory, the Rachmaninoff 3. From some points of view, her dress was perfectly suited to the occasion.

For comparison, here’s a more formal setting: the 2010 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, in which Wang, similarly attired, plays solo piano works by Alexander Scriabin:

I spent approximately fifteen seconds wondering how she was going to work the pedals in those heels. Afterwards, none of that extraneous stuff mattered.

Midgette points out:

I would probably have mentioned the dress too. But one of a critic’s jobs is providing reasonable context, and to me the tone of this particular discussion comes far too close to a schoolmarmish wagging of the finger about what we do and don’t do in the classical temple.

And during the days when I had season tickets to the symphony, rather a lot of us in the upper orchestra didn’t actually wear ties. I’m sure there was somebody who had a problem with that, but it clearly wasn’t the Maestro.

(Photo by Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times.)

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Paging John Jacob Jingleheimer Rodriguez

Not everybody is thrilled with the Google+ real-names-only policy; the estimable nakedjen, who has blogged under that name for several years, tweeted her frustration: “Raise your hand, Internet, if that’s the ONLY way you’ve ever known me.”

While keeping one hand in the air, I found this advice from Marcel:

An important element to keeping a secret is not letting anyone know you have one. If you are going to use a pseudonym, it follows that the best pseudonym would be a common … name other than your own. Choose a given name and a compatible surname: Jacob Miller, Alejandro Martinez, Mohammad Khan, whatever is suitable to the environment, and move on. You’ve been Mighty Thundarrr since you went online back in ’98? Take the opportunity to change, and get a fresh email address while you’re at it.

People will complain this makes it hard for others to find them. That’s largely the point for me. Why then would I use Google+? I most likely would not, and will not unless there’s some compelling reason, and the loss of privacy is balanced by some gain. If I did, I’d use my own name, or else some common name. I would not use Goofy Gonif or Bigbird777 and then complain that Google+ was repressing my freedom of expression when the enforce their terms of service.

I started phasing out most of my pseudonyms in the late 1980s; separate personas turned out to be too high-maintenance a luxury. (I’ve kept one, which shows up on several message boards to this day, but there’s no fabricated persona involved.) Then again, nakedjen doesn’t have a fabricated persona either: she is what she is.

The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal sees the Google+ edict as an inversion of reality:

[I]n real life, we expect very few statements to be public, persistent, and attached to your real identity. Basically, only people talking on television or to the media can expect such treatment. And even then, the vast majority of their statements don’t become part of the searchable Internet.

Online, Google and Facebook require an inversion of this assumed norm. Every statement you make on Google Plus or Facebook is persistent and strongly attached to your real identity through your name.

And if nobody hears it now, maybe someone will hear it a couple of years down the road, when you perhaps don’t want it heard. I once got a request from a person whom I had quoted extensively in a post: he’d been overtaken by events in real life, and some of this stuff he didn’t want attached to his name. I agonized briefly over this, then rewrote the post to omit anything traceable. Social networks, of course, can’t be bothered to do this sort of thing.

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Surly to rise

Product of Surly Brewing CompanyLast weekend, a friend in the Twin Cities dropped the phrase “Surly buttercream,” which was received here at the palatial estate at Surlywood with a wide-eyed “Huh?” She explained to the ignorant questioner — that would be me — that “Surly” is in fact a local brewer.

Even better, Surly Brewing Company, of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, has a whole line of grumpy-sounding brews, including the spring-only Schadenfreude, a dark lager, and a year-round oat-based brown ale called Bender. And there’s the inevitable iPhone app to find the nearest watering hole dispensing those Surly brews.

I am, you may be sure, uncomfortable with the idea of declaring a beer I can’t even taste the Official Brew of Surlywood, but on the other hand, what else is there? At least it gives me another excuse to return to the Twin Cities. (Last time I was there, I had the kids in tow, which mandated Reasonably Responsible Behavior.)

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Bags? See Room 101

As O’Brien pointed out, there’s a Worst Thing In The World for each and every one of us, even if it’s only a cheap woven nylon purse:

Specifically, it’s the noise made by someone scritching their fingernails over the surface of those purses, the ones that you find on the racks at Claire’s and TJ Maxx. Sometimes there’s a hologram effect switching the image on the front of the purse from a butterfly to a tiger, or from the Biebs singing “Baby Baby” to the Biebs singing whatever that other song is. Something about the combination of texture and noise and petroleum based products in those purses makes me gag a little bit to even describe in words.

As a result of my irrational fear, I don’t trust myself to set foot in the purse department of a discount clothing store, for fear of encountering another shopper who may be idly running her fingernails across the purses’ surface, insensitive to the evil that lurks within.

Goodness. Now I’m creeped out a bit, even though I’ve been inoculated against Bieber Fever. Fortunately, the likelihood I’ll accidentally pass by a TJ Maxx — or a Claire’s, something which seems to appear only in enclosed malls — is relatively tiny.

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