Archive for December 2011

You gonna tell him he can’t?

Hello Kitty Visa card issued to a Chuck Norris

I didn’t think so.

(Via FAILBlog’s WIN!)

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More people who should die

I’m making a list, excerpting it twice.

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Label corrections

Just a few of the Hairpin’s “More-Accurate Bath & Body Works Fragrance Names,” just in time for the holidays:

  • Pop Tarts for Dinner, Again
  • I’ve Been Listening to the Same Taylor Swift Song on Repeat Since Yesterday
  • All I’ve Eaten Today Are Six Almonds and Some Cheetos Dust
  • I Ran Out of Deodorant

What’s the antithesis of “tantalizing,” anyway?

(Swiped from Michele Catalano’s Facebook page.)

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Quote of the week

In response to this incident, Tam goes for Bhumibol’s Out or Die:

Is this what we shot all those damned redcoats for? So some foreign king can charge an American citizen with lèse majesté?

Teddy Roosevelt would have landed marines already. That fascist Wilson would have sent Black Jack Pershing at the head of a column of cavalry. (Er, metaphorically, at least, since Thailand’s rather a swim, even for a cavalry horse.) Heck, even that yuppie farmer Tommy J would have had the U.S.S. Constitution delivering broadsides in the mouth of the Chao Praya by now.

I expect the present-day White House to issue an apology any minute now.

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Venn in the course of human events

The busiest day this site has ever seen came from a swiped Venn diagram, so you should not be surprised that I am not at all averse to poaching another, this one from the estimable Steven Wildish:

Venn diagram by Steven Wildish

A significant fraction thereof can be legitimately considered Unexpected.

(Fished out of the Cheese Aisle and sent my way by Gradual Dazzle.)

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Hey kids, what day is it?

From Know Your Meme’s year-end roundup:

The Californian teenage girl Rebecca Black’s rise to national fame with her autotuned pop single “Friday” was a moment of realization for many aspiring singers and producers: you don’t necessarily have to be the best at what you do to be famous. Originally uploaded in early February, the video began receiving massive exposure on hubsites like YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr after coverage by The Daily What on March 11th, 2011. Within a week, the video gained over 10 million views and the digital single entered the top 100 on iTunes. Following a round of Black’s news media appearances, “Friday” was endorsed by several celebrities, including Nick Jonas, Justin Bieber, Stephen Colbert and Snoop Dogg.

Rebecca herself tends to credit Tosh.0 for the breakout, though TDW certainly was a factor, and the fact that TDW is under common ownership with Know Your Meme is purely a coincidence, right? (Nope. Chuck Testa.)

This, however, perplexes me:

Screen shot of tweet from a Miley Cyrus fan

Yeah. You remember J. Robert “Robby” Montana, don’t you?

RB responds:

I see tweets like this, and it makes me so frustrated. I really like Miley, so it’s frustrating that people would make up things like this to make someone look bad. Please don’t believe all of the rumors about anyone. 99.9% of the time it’s gossip, and is created to eliminate boredom and give people something to talk about.

If you hear a rumor about me, and you don’t see it come out of my mouth, see it written by me here on tumblr or on my twitter (@MsRebeccaBlack) it most likely isn’t true.

Incidentally, there was a story earlier in the year about how Miley had dissed Rebecca — but apparently that didn’t happen either.

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It’s your nickel

If you own a share of Ford Motor Company stock, anyway:

Ford shareholders will receive a dividend of 5 cents a share next March 1, the first dividend the automaker has made in more than five years, the company said [Thursday].

It is the first dividend paid by any Detroit automaker on common stock since July 2008 when General Motors suspended its 25 cents dividend. The new GM did resume paying a 64.7-cents a share dividend last March on its Series B convertible preferred shares.

With about 4 billion shares outstanding, the dividend will cost Ford about $200 million per quarter.

Both S&P and Moody’s recently raised Ford’s credit rating: it’s still below “investment-grade,” but only a little. And Ford’s massive $26 billion mountain of debt at the end of 2008 has shrunk by half.

(Via Autoblog.)

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There’s such a thing as too much planning

Or perhaps too much procrastinating. Can’t really tell with this one:

The regional court in the western city of Osnabrück said the defendant, identified only as 57-year-old Siegfried K., arrived at the bank branch … with a toy gun in May. He seized a female “hostage” in the lobby of the building to demand a €10,000 ($13,483) ransom from bank employees.

Under the general heading of “Well, there’s your problem”:

“This plan failed however due to the fact that the building has not held a bank for more than a decade but rather a physiotherapy practice,” the court said in a statement.

Bild [newspaper] said the bank had moved out 17 years ago.

And it’s probably just as well that Sieggy brought only the toy gun; had he a sword, he’d have broken it for sure.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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May be used as a bloatation device

An anguished tweet that came down the line yesterday:

Why is it that every time there’s a new version of a software package, they add all kinds of extra crap that sludges up the functionality that people originally bought it for? If cars were like software, 2012 models would do laundry, cook bbq, and play the zither — badly.

Okay, technically that was two tweets, as you probably guessed from the length of it, but I’ll worry about that later. Right now I have to go ask the man at Nissan — the third man, probably — if there’s an OEM zither attachment for my car.

(Normally I credit these, but this is what you call a Protected Tweet, and I am disinclined to break the tweeter’s privacy, especially on some other platform.)

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Spent watt?

Em contemplates the cost of electricity:

There’s an interesting poll on Slashdot that asks what people are paying for their electricity per kWh (kilowatt hour). There seems to be a wide latitude of energy prices across North America and that contrasts starkly with the sort of cartel-a-like prices we seem to pay in the UK though it’s not an entirely accurate picture as many in North America are charged generation, transmission and distribution prices in addition to the given per kWh price (I assume that’s similar to the standing charge that many UK energy providers employ).

I was interested to see how common lower priced first tier pricing for the first x number of kWhs is rather than the insane reverse situation that occurs in the UK where the first x number of kWhs are often charged at a higher rate thus low consumption is penalised because that majority of a low energy use bill would be charged at the first tier higher rate. In the UK some are literally charged a premium for their frugality or energy efficiency.

No doubt she’d be perplexed by the rates I pay, which are lowish by North American standards, more so by British, but which change three times a year.

(Following is from the 2009 OG&E tariffs, which are current as of this writing.)

  • Customer charge: $13.00 (£8.30) per month.
  • Summer (June through September): $0.084 (£0.054) per kWh up to 1400 kWh; $0.0968 (£0.0622) thereafter.
  • Winter (November through April): $0.084 (£0.054) per kWh up to 600 kWh; $0.0471 (£0.030) thereafter.
  • May and October: $0.084 (£0.054) per kWh.

A chart I checked from the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change — quit laughing, dammit — says that in 2010, the average customer paid £366 ($569) for 3300 kWh, which is about 17 cents per kWh. From December ’10 through November ’11 I used a startling 9194 kWh, though half of that was rolled up in just three months, and it’s probably obvious which three months. Incidentally, almost all of this was at the 8.4-cent rate, plus taxes, franchise fee, and my bird-shredder subscription.

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Even in his youth

The cover of Mad #513, on sale Real Soon Now:

Cover of Mad 513

Bonus points if you can explain the title.

(The Idiotical.com is the Mad blog.)

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Someone to see

Or maybe someone not to see: Felicity Jones has signed to play Nelly Ternan, secret mistress to Charles Dickens, in Ralph Fiennes’ adaptation of Claire Tomalin’s Ternan biography, The Invisible Woman, due out in 2013.

Jones, twenty-eight, isn’t exactly known for period pieces, but here she is doing Shakespeare:

Felicity Jones in The Tempest

Specifically, she’s playing Miranda in Julie Taymor’s slightly revisionist take on The Tempest (2010). (How slightly? Well, Miranda’s book-drowning magician parent is played by Helen Mirren.)

Claire Tomalin, incidentally, has a new biography of Charles Dickens on the shelves.

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Gianni on the spot

They do things differently in Italy. Here, we’re having to repave roads to take care of the potholes that appear after snow, rain, sometimes even fog. Rome, however, has different priorities:

Mayor Gianni Alemanno has announced plans to begin a makeover on Via del Corso, one of Rome’s central streets. The plan is to smooth the sidewalks and roads to make walking along them less dangerous “especially for women in heels.”

While much of the street will be filled with new cobblestones, some of the high traffic areas used by public transportation will be covered in asphalt.

Mayor Alemanno stressed the importance of maintaining Rome’s history and personality by preserving the cobblestone streets. He explained that the new modern cobblestones would be set and sealed in a base of concrete to prevent irregular depressions.

Travel writer Annemarie Dooling (she runs Frill Seeker Diary) comments on Facebook: “I am very clearly missing the Italian gene that thinks this is okay.”

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Iffy culty

So there’s a book coming out called 100 Cult Films, and while some of the selections are at least somewhat arguable, hey, it’s an easy way to gin up a meme, right? I have boldfaced those I’ve actually seen:

    2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick, 1968
    Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988
    Angel of Vengeance, Abel Ferrara, 1981
    Bad Taste, Peter Jackson, 1987
    Baise-moi, Virginie Despentes, Coralie Trinh Thi, 2000
    Begotten, E. Elias Merhige, 1991
    Behind the Green Door, Artie Mitchell, Jim Mitchell, 1972
    La belle et la bête, Jean Cocteau, 1946
    Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Russ Meyer, 1970
    The Big Lebowski, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, 1998
    Blade Runner, Ridley Scott, 1982
    Blue Sunshine, Jeff Lieberman, 1978
    Brazil, Terry Gilliam, 1985
    Bride of Frankenstein, James Whale, 1935
    The Brood, David Cronenberg, 1979
    Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Robert Wiene, 1920
    Café Flesh, Stephen Sayadian, 1982
    Cannibal Holocaust, Ruggero Deodato, 1979
    Casablanca, Michael Curtiz, 1942
    Un chien andalou, Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, 1928
    Coffy, Jack Hill, 1973
    Daughters of Darkness, Harry Kümel, 1971
    Dawn of the Dead, George A. Romero, 1978
    Deadly Weapons, Doris Wishman, 1974
    Debbie Does Dallas, Jim Clark, 1978
    Deep Red, Dario Argento, 1975
    Dirty Dancing, Emile Ardolino, 1987
    Django, Sergio Corbucci, 1966
    Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly, 2001
    Don’t Torture a Duckling, Lucio Fulci, 1972
    Edward Scissorhands, Tim Burton, 1990
    Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, Aristide Massaccesi, 1977
    Emmanuelle, Just Jaeckin, 1974
    Enter the Dragon, Robert Clouse, 1973
    Eraserhead, David Lynch, 1977
    The Evil Dead, Sam Raimi, 1981
    Fight Club, David Fincher, 1999
    Flaming Creatures, Jack Smith, 1963
    Freak Orlando, Ulrike Ottinger, 1981
    Freaks, Tod Browning, 1932
    Ginger Snaps, John Fawcett, 2000
    The Gods Must Be Crazy, Jamie Uys, 1981
    Godzilla, Ishirô Honda, 1954
    The Harder They Come, Perry Henzell, 1972
    Harold and Maude, Hal Ashby, 1971
    Häxan, Benjamin Christensen, 1922
    Hellraiser, Clive Barker, 1987
    The Holy Mountain, Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973
    The House with the Laughing Windows, Pupi Avati, 1976
    I Walked with a Zombie, Jacques Tourneur, 1943
    Ichi the Killer, Takashi Miike, 2001
    In Bruges, Martin McDonagh, 2008
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Don Siegel, 1956
    Invocation of My Demon Brother, Kenneth Anger, 1969
    It’s a Wonderful Life, Frank Capra, 1946
    The Killer, John Woo, 1989
    Lady Terminator, H. Tjut Djalil, 1988
    The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson, 2001-3 (2 of 3)
    Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, George Miller, 1981
    Man Bites Dog, Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde, 1992
    Manos, the Hands of Fate, Harold P. Warren, 1966
    The Masque of the Red Death, Roger Corman, 1964
    Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, 1975
    Near Dark, Kathryn Bigelow, 1987
    Nekromantik, Jörg Buttgereit, 1987
    Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero, 1968
    Pink Flamingos, John Waters, 1972
    Piranha, Joe Dante, 1978
    Plan 9 from Outer Space, Edward D. Wood Jr, 1959
    Re-Animator, Stuart Gordon, 1985
    Reefer Madness, Louis Gasnier, 1936
    Repo Man, Alex Cox, 1984
    Ringu, Hideo Nakata, 1998
    The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Jim Sharman, 1975
    Rome Armed to the Teeth, Umberto Lenzi, 1976
    The Room, Tommy Wiseau, 2003
    Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975
    She Killed in Ecstasy, Jesús Franco, 1971
    Showgirls, Paul Verhoeven, 1995
    Soul Vengeance, Jamaa Fanaka, 1975
    The Sound of Music, Robert Wise, 1965
    Star Wars, George Lucas, 1977-2005 (3 of 6)
    Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, Todd Haynes, 1988
    Suspiria, Dario Argento, 1977
    Tank Girl, Rachel Talalay, 1995
    Tetsuo, Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989
    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tobe Hooper, 1974
    This Is Spinal Tap, Rob Reiner, 1984
    Thriller: A Cruel Picture, Bo Arne Vibenius, 1974
    Thundercrack!, Curt McDowell, 1975
    El Topo, Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970
    The Toxic Avenger, Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman, 1984
    Two-Lane Blacktop, Monte Hellman, 1971
    Two Thousand Maniacs!, Herschell Gordon Lewis, 1964
    The Vanishing, George Sluizer, 1988
    Videodrome, David Cronenberg, 1983
    The Warriors, Walter Hill, 1979
    Witchfinder General, Michael Reeves, 1968
    Withnail & I, Bruce Robinson, 1987
    The Wizard of Oz, Victor Fleming, 1939

I admit to having once rented Café Flesh and then not actually watching it.

(Seen at Jennifer’s, though she says Peter started it, which is in fact true.)

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Through mansions of glory in suicide machines

My own tastes, politically, run toward the kamikaze model, though Andrew J. Patrick argues that this isn’t such a good idea, owing to the presence of what he calls the “mushy middle”:

The Kamikazes were a powerful weapon in the hands of the Japanese. They were scary. They sunk lots of ships. They affected the outcome of the war not one iota, because destroying the enemy does nothing unless you can force him back. If we were to somehow elect Ron Paul, Ron Paul would busily construct himself to demolishing every last addition to the federal bureaucracy since the Jackson Administration. And unless he had the American people on his side every step of the way, he’d be gone in a quatrain of years, and his Democratic successor would put everything back, and more, even faster.

Proposed (and mushily ambiguous) compromise: demolish everything back to the Johnson administration.

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Libby back on the label

When Premiere ceased to exist as a magazine in early 2007, about all the send-off I could come up with was this:

The truly sad part, of course, is that this puts Libby Gelman-Waxner out of a job.

And now, suddenly, in Entertainment Weekly (#1185), with the same old title (“If you ask me…”), look who’s back:

I stopped writing my column, not just because Premiere went under but due to a crippling personal depression caused by Jennifer Aniston’s inability to hold a man. Jennifer is so beautiful and talented, but her spray tan became like a terror-alert thermometer, growing richer and more burnished as each no-good celebrity boyfriend hit the road. But now, thank God, Jennifer is happy and in love and wrapping those featherweight scarves many times around her neck, and so the time is right for me to once again bring joy and insight into the lives of my bereft fans, and to prove what everyone who’s ever gone online already knows: that I is the most important word in any language, followed by me, mine, oeuvre, vision, Goobers, and the question “Why would I go see a movie called Melancholia when Immortals features Henry Cavill in a leather diaper?”

Love ya, Libby. Glad to see you back, on whatever schedule EW hath decreed. (And just when I was wondering if I was crazy for buying another year and a half of this mag, too.)

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Today’s least-timely news leak

For some reason, this was number one in the news feed:

German maritime archaeologists claimed to have found a urinal used by Kaiser Wilhelm II lying on the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

The piece of porcelain history was discovered in the wreck of the Udine, a light-cruiser which was sunk in the First World War by the Royal Navy, that now lies 28 nautical miles off the German island of Rugen.

“It was sunk by the British in 1915,” said Reinhard Oser, the archaeologist leading the expedition. “We managed to take some great photographs, and made this unusual discovery.”

Kaiser Bill’s batman was not available for comment.

(Via Christopher Johnson.)

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Perhaps a timely tune

RCA EP by Amalia MendozaWhen this EP sleeve showed up on the LP Cover Lover site, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who thought this, but apparently I’m the only one who had the temerity to tweet it: “My name is Amalia Mendoza. You bought my album. Prepare to die.” (It did earn an actual retweet, though.)

Pop-culture in-jokes aside, Amalia Mendoza was a major name in the Mexican genre known as ranchera, and on the evidence of this 1995 appearance, when she was in her seventies, she deserved to be. (“La Tariácuri” is a nickname she inherited from her brothers’ musical group, Trio Tariácuri, which in turn had been named for a figure in Tarascan history.)

“Amarga Navidad” — “Bitter Christmas” — which she recorded on the very EP pictured, is a standard of the genre, written by the wonderfully prolific (over a thousand songs, says Wikipedia) José Alfredo Jiménez.

And what’s up with that dagger, anyway? “Puñalada Trapera” means, more or less literally, “Knife in the Back.” You can probably guess what that song is about. (Hear it here.)

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This sucker is tall

I mean, really, 48 feet?

Sports Illustrated screen shot

We’re talking serious defense here, guys.

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Strange search-engine queries (306)

December tends to be low on blog traffic anyway, and being snubbed by Google doesn’t help in the least, but, as the phrase goes, you carry on regardless.

famous ten sentences about of jhunjhunu:  Were they that famous, you could probably write about ten sentences on your own, don’t you think?

worlds funniest cats:  On the other hand, cats don’t think we’re amusing in the slightest, especially if we’ve been less than attentive to our primary purpose, which is of course fawning over cats.

Electronic Youth Debbie Gibson:  Um, no. That was Electric Youth. Although if someone comes up with an electronic Deb-bot some time in the near future, you know where to find me.

words to start sentences with becides with:  What say we get the words correct before we start trying to make sentences out of them?

piture of mazda 626 cronon manual transmittion:  See above on getting words correct.

power shift here we go:  Guy’s obviously suffering from torque pique.

fakekrab:  Now wait a minute. Fake crab is “krab.” So basically we’re looking, not for real fake crab, but for fake fake crab. Sheesh. No wonder we’re crabby.

“indoor naturism”:  Almost as much fun as the outdoor variety, but it doesn’t do a thing for your Vitamin D levels.

chris in okc nancy’s lighthouse fight last night:  Assuming this actually happened, you might want to check Facebook — or Bros.

carousel “as long as someone alive remembers”:  And if not, there’s always the cached copy.

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No suitable thermometer exists

The basic problem with making a list of “the hottest women of all time” is that, well, it’s going to be biased toward those we see every day and against those whom we’ve never seen at all because they died in the 1840s or the 1440s or in 40 BC or whenever. There has already been backlash of a sort from blogdom: neo-neocon — fairly hot in her own right, I suspect — asks “Are you kidding?” and Morgan Freeberg makes a list of women not on the list who ought to be there ahead of Jennifer Aniston.

I’m arguing a slightly different point: Jennifer Aniston isn’t even the hottest woman of all time named Jennifer.

Exhibit A:

Jennifer O'Neill

With, um, supporting documentation.

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DJ on a chip

I’m not above listening to dance tracks in the car — it’s not like I’m going to go dancing, after all — but this unnerves me just a little:

Autoblog explains, sort of:

Pioneer is set to introduce a new functionality to a few of its stereos — including the much-hyped AppRadio — that mixes the songs on your iPhone, iPod or USB drive on the fly.

By measuring beats per minute and other data, MIXTRAX can supposedly beat-match and add effects and transitions into songs to create a seamless mix, all while animating the cover art to match the tempo.

Well, as long as you don’t have to keep punching buttons to get the desired effect. We have enough distractions already.

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Do not reMitt at this time

Cover of The Week magazineThe cover of this week’s US edition of The Week shows a robot Mitt Romney “blowing a circuit,” and the accompanying story says out front that Romney’s nomination can no longer be considered inevitable. Ric Locke offers this explanation why:

He chooses to appeal to the media gatekeepers, and thereby chooses that I (and a lot of people) will stay home rather than voting for him. Choose the action, choose the consequences.

And this particular consequence, says Locke, also explains the rise of Newt Gingrich and the persistence of Ron Paul:

Whatever else can be said of those two, it is impossible to visualize either of them performing the full proskynesis on the sidewalk in front of 620 Eighth, piteously imploring Pinch & Co. to say something nice about them. The primary difference between McCain and Romney in that respect is that John would try hard to build a wall of bystanders to prevent public notice, whereas Mitt would call in the cameras before heading for New York.

Not that John McCain had any problems sucking up or anything.

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Thorne Smith, line one, please

It was Turnabout, back in 1931, that set the tone for all the subsequent body-switching (or whatever) stories to come. Smith’s original story was made into a movie in 1940, then a short-lived TV series (1979) starring John Schuck as Sharon Gless, or something like that. (For the moment, we won’t mention a certain episode of Star Trek.)

Of course, nothing says you can’t swap individuals of the same gender; in fact, it’s actually an older premise, dating to F. Anstey’s 1882 Vice Versa, which interchanges father and son. (Mother and daughter, you’ll remember, were swapped out in Freaky Friday.) Best buds were transposed this year in The Change-Up.

Which brings us to the case of two women who aren’t exactly friends, in Kevin Bleau’s musical If You Want My Body:

[It] tells the story of Mildred, a rich but overweight lawyer who yearns for her first relationship. Annelies, a slim dancer, is about to be evicted from her studio. The women make a deal with witch Lorana to swap their brains into each other’s bodies. Annelies’s brain will lose 50 pounds from Mildred’s body. Then Lorana will return the brains to the original bodies and Mildred will pay both women. The women question their philosophies on life as they “walk a mile in each other’s bodies.”

Act II is playing tonight in Boston, with David Reiffel directing, which is why I’m bringing it up now.

(Via this Deborah Henson-Conant tweet.)

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Determining the Envy Quotient

I really can’t see any other useful information obtainable by surveys like this:

Gallup has surveyed Americans to ask what they believe the cutoff for being “rich” should be. The median response was that a person would need to make at least $150,000 to be considered rich.

Only 15 percent of respondents specified a threshold of $1 million or more. Still, this is an income figure, not a wealth figure, which may be why the Times didn’t bother to mention Gallup’s question on how much in the way of savings and investments it takes to make one rich, for which the median was indeed $1 million.

The trouble with all such surveys is that they’re all based on money, and money, these days, is based mostly on wishful thinking: It’s not worth anything except to the extent that the Fed says it is. But pollsters will not be able to quantify my own answer, which would go something like this:

“Yesterday I had to write a check to the garage-door repairman to replace a broken spring. Is this check in any danger of bouncing? No. Will this expense throw me out of the current budget? No. Will this expense impair my ability to do other things I’d hoped to do this month? Yes.”

You can see the pattern here: keep escalating the conditions until one of them applies. Stopping on the third question implies something not exactly poverty, but well short of wealth. How much would I have to have backstopping my current income to keep worries at an absolute minimum? (I have just defined “wealth,” at least according to my lights.) It would have to be enough to restore my current, um, lifestyle with no discernible compromises — twice. (Because after the first restoration, I’d be on edge about every little thing.) I am loath to declare a dollar amount, if only because some of what is lost is time, and I can’t buy that for any number of dollars.

(Suggested by Half Sigma.)

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And who are we this week?

Nancy Friedman reports on The Contractor Formerly Known As The Contractor Formerly Known As Blackwater:

Blackwater, the controversial security contractor that changed its name to Xe (pronounced “zee”) in February 2009, announced [Monday] that it’s changing its name yet again: to Academi. Or, as the company’s press release prefers to call it, ACADEMI.

Three names in less than three years? There’s got to be something else going on here besides being bored with the letterhead, and of course there is:

One of those “extraordinary changes,” unmentioned in the release, was the departure in 2010 of Blackwater founder Erik Prince. Prince moved on to Abu Dhabi, where he created a mercenary army for the crown prince. Other changes at Blackwater/Xe/Academi include the composition of the board, whose members now include Bush Administration Attorney General John Ashcroft. Ashcroft is serving as the company’s “ethics adviser.”

And besides, “Qwikster” was already taken.

Note: Having refined my own thinking on this subject, I think a more descriptive name might be, oh, “Global MFs,” which conceivably might be available by the time Blaxemi, or whoever the hell they are, are ready for the next name change in January 2013.

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Surely he must be mad!

Well, let’s just say he’s not pleased:

A scientist denied the love of a selfish, gold-digging woman decides to end it all … and take us all with him by plunging the earth into the sun.

Meanwhile, his dowdy assistant … but never mind. Read the whole thing. It’s a twelve-page comic from 1950; it’ll be over with quickly enough. And don’t call him Shirley.

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Title of the month

I’ve had a few that I liked, but I haven’t come close to topping this one from Lynn: “Men Are From Lowe’s — Women Are From Macy’s.”

Especially since, unlike some of mine, her title is actually relevant to the post. Useful excerpt:

Men will come right out and tell you what they want — model numbers and everything. Don’t be shy about asking. He would rather get what he wants than to be surprised. Women also will tell you what they want but they’re more subtle about it. In fact, your wife or girlfriend has been telling you all year what she wants; you just weren’t paying attention. If you have to ask you’re probably in trouble.

Read and heed.

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Where did this come from?

De-Chapeau’d in Deschutes brings back an old favorite:

You would think they’d never seen snow before the way they react when there’s a storm coming in. It’s a weird phenomenon that strikes whenever more than five inches of snow is predicted around here. People start acting as if they had lived in pure sunshine and heat the whole time. OMG! White stuff falling from the sky! We’re all gonna DIE! Please. You all drive Lincoln Navigators and Hummers with twelve-wheel drive. The town will clear the roads within 24 hours and your kids will be pelting the toddler across the street with snowballs within two.

The magical phrase around here is “freezing rain,” and it doesn’t matter how many driven wheels you have when that stuff shows up.

Incidentally, the above paragraph is from:

(a perennial favorite rant of blogs and email forwarders. source unknown, slightly edited.)

Assuming I sourced it correctly when I posted it four years ago, this is the work of ex-blogger Michele Catalano.

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Part of your complete breakfast

In general, my work hours of late make it difficult to pay attention to any of the TV morning shows, so I managed to go for a rather long period of time without noticing this person:

Chiquinquirá Delgado

Chiquinquirá Delgado, thirty-nine, is currently a host on Univision’s morning show ¡Despierta América! and has done some film work, including this Sergio Briones film that somehow escaped the eye of IMDb. In her younger days, she was first runner-up to Miss Venezuela 1990.

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Right past me

Oklahoma City government has its own TV channel — channel 20 on Cox Cable, or on okc.gov if you install Microsoft Silverlight, which I’d rather not, thank you very much.

As of yesterday, channel 20 has moved, and yet it hasn’t [pdf]:

Effective December 13, 2011, education and government access channels in Oklahoma will be converted from an analog format to a digital format.

Which means either you get a box for the top of the set or a TV that can tune QAM, or you’re out of luck:

Cox is required to provide capacity for access programming on its TV Starter package. However, there is no obligation that educational or government channels be transmitted in a particular format (analog or digital). Cox’s TV Starter package is composed of both digital and analog channels, and all such channels are transmitted to every subscriber as part of the package.

Eventually, of course, all the analog stuff will be thrown away, so as to make more room for more channels I don’t need. (The Hub, I note, is three tiers up from where my current service ends.) And why didn’t I notice this before?

Cox has made several efforts to notify our customers about this transition including a bill message, web update and a notice in the Oklahoman.

This is where I admit that (1) I get a paperless bill from these guys and (2) I never read anything past the amount due, which is, as it should be, on page 1.

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Retention to detail

Melanie Sherman reminds us that what we remember we did is not necessarily what others remember we did:

Something that was so unimportant that you don’t even remember it, can color a person’s entire perception of you for years to come. What brought this to mind was a co-worker’s story not long ago, when I was training a new person. Someone I’d worked with for years said to the new employee, “Oh, Melanie is a good person to have train you. She knows how to make you feel at home.”

I stared at her, puzzled. I couldn’t remember ever making an effort to make someone “feel at home.”

Sounds like me, kinda sorta. But then this happened:

“It was my first day, and Melanie was showing me how to do the invoicing. I was very nervous, and at some point I opened my mouth and my gum fell out.”

You’d think I’d remember that.

Of course, this is a positive reflection. The Inner Magpie promptly brought forth a negative reflection I’d seen about a third of a century ago. No, it wasn’t one of mine: it was an installment of Mule’s Diner, a comic drawn by Stan Mack for the old National Lampoon.

The original strip wasn’t to be found on the Web, but I turned up a “semi-short story” by Jeffrey Sears which turns out to be a retelling of that very tale in prose form. The protagonist had hoped he’d lived down a certain incident which he thought was unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

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Hear me now

I’ve watched this three times in the last three days, and each time it seems a little more moving. Reason enough, I think, to bring it here.

So far as I can tell, this was from a 2003 appearance on BET’s Def Poetry, a spinoff from Russell Simmons’ original Def Comedy Jam.

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Chariots of the – Gawd!

The problem with any sequential list of, say, the 100 Worst Cars of All Time is that while it may be easy to rattle off the ten Worst of the Worst — once again, no love for Pontiac’s misshapen Aztek — positioning from Number 11 on down is of necessity somewhat arbitrary. (Is the Ford Gran Torino Elite really twenty-three rungs up from the Hyundai Excel?)

Still, snark potential abides in such lists. Number 88, the Ford Aspire:

Built by Kia, sold by Ford and ignored by everyone. Basically a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine and four wheels bolted to a prison cell.

Now that’s descriptive.

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Marx, Lenin, and herpes

Dr. G. Keith Smith on the subject of, um, a social disease:

For years I have resented the desire of socialists (yes, they are on both sides of the aisle) to use Uncle Sam to confiscate my earnings and the future earnings of my children. Now I am thinking about things differently. You see, while I resent “sharing” property against my will, what I have come to understand is that it is the justification for this confiscation that commands resentment. Basically, others are sharing with me against my will: their problems, not their wealth. It occurs to me that this is the essence of socialism. One person’s problem is everyone’s problem. Your problems are mine, mine are yours. Embracing this concept precedes the theft necessary to “tidy things up,” to make things fair, to treat another’s problems. I wonder now if that should be the focus of property rights advocates, the denial of this concept, or, “your problems are yours, not mine.” After all, private property is secure once this problem sharing paradigm is rejected. Sharing problems with others that want no part of it is like giving someone tuberculosis or a venereal disease. I think this is a perfect analogy and therefore, I will henceforth refer to socialism as “gonorrhea socialism,” as this loaded phrase inevitably leads one to the faulty premise.

Then again, property-rights advocates have their hands full already, what with having to deal with taxation, Kelo, and “occupants.”

And Carnac, having read the title, opens the envelope: “Name three things you can’t seem to get rid of no matter what.”

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Garbage in

Does anyone really know where these retail sales forecasts come from?

I’ve arrived at the opinion that retail sales forecasts are determined by throwing dice. If you read the job number statistics, projected sales reports and other boilerhoused documents used for arriving at these forecasts, you realize the projected numbers are created from data that is as reliable as dice. So, a smart man would throw some dice, or flip a coin to make the determination. I know I would; why waste the time?

Then again, just because a number has passed from the realm of projection into the valley of statistics doesn’t mean all of a sudden you can trust it.

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Blue Font of Death

It is pretty much common knowledge that the much-derided Comic Sans MS typeface originated at Microsoft — just look at the name — and while Redmond has dropped it into every Windows since 95, there’s really been no major effort to promote it. Which is perhaps just as well, because then we’d have visual excrescences like this:

Blue Screen of Death rendered in Comic Sans MS

Which is just fine with the folks behind the Comic Sans Project, which seeks to replace all those Other Fonts because “Helvetica is sooo 2011.”

(First seen in this Elysa Rice tweet.)

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More toast science

Last year I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out if there might be an actual reason for specifying a single-slice slot in the standard toaster. (Short version: one slot does work better than the other.) However, I did not attempt to answer a question of arguably greater importance: is the toast more likely to land buttered-side down?

The answer, as it happens, is Yes:

Aston University’s Robert Matthews got a thousand children to conduct 21,000 toast drops. He proved not only that it is possible to use child labor in such a way that it seems whimsical and sweet, but that the toast, spiraling through space as it drops off the edge of a table or a plate, will land butter-side down sixty-two percent of the time. Some experiments show an even higher rate of buttered floor than that.

The launch apparently induces a degree of roll:

If it has rolled more than ninety degrees but less than two hundred seventy degrees, it will land butter-side down. It turns out that the average table height gives it time to turn just enough that it’s between these two angles, but not enough that it can turn past two seventy degrees and land butter-side up again.

Matthews won an Ig Nobel Prize for his research.

(Via Fark.)

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Tempest in a B-cup

Andrej Pejic for HEMAThe Dutch retail chain HEMA advises that its new Mega Push-Up bra is good for two full cup sizes, not an inconsiderable accomplishment in this era of Cleavage über Alles, and is happy to draw attention to it by showing you the model in the red dress.

I am duly impressed, especially since the model in the red dress is a guy: Andrej Pejić, twenty years old, arguably the prettiest six-foot-two blond(e) working the runway today. I’d argue that he sells the product remarkably well, inasmuch as it brings a figure with no actual bewbage at all up to an almost-solid B.

To add to the It’s Complicated matrix: FHM named Pejić to their list of the 100 Sexiest Women in the World for 2011, ranking him 98th — ahead of Lady Gaga. (They insist it was an accident.)

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Quote of the week

Ann Coulter brings up one of those Newter Than Thou moments from history:

After Gingrich had been speaker for a brief two years, the Republican House voted 395-28 to reprimand him and fine him $300,000 for ethics violations.

(Sen. Bob Dole loaned Gingrich the money in what was called the first instance of an airbag being saved by a person.)

Bob Dole, incidentally, wonders why nobody’s mentioning Bob Dole’s tendency toward illeism anymore.

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