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log entries
February 2002


 

Friday, 1 February 2002, 7:30 pm

The trick this morning was to fix one's gaze north by northeast and focus on the treetops. With none of those pesky clouds in the way, there was actual sunlight for a change, and the thousands of dancing lights from every ice-covered branch (which was, to be sure, every branch) made for an inspiring vision — provided you didn't follow the line of trees directly east, which would be blinding in the most literal sense. Unfortunately, this was followed by work.

And while we're talking about work, let me say this: "anger management", if you ask me, is an oxymoron on the level of "jumbo shrimp"; if you can actually manage it, it hardly qualifies as anger. And on Fridays, when the elements and the dimwits conspire to make my work day as long as possible, nothing whatsoever is manageable.

Saturday, 2 February 2002, 1:00 pm

I missed the news; did Dick Cheney see his shadow this morning? (Muchas gracias: Glenn Reynolds, InstaPundit.com.)

Over at Autoextremist.com, they're rethinking their $2.50-a-week tariff. Head Extremist Peter Michael DeLorenzo says:

"We will return to being a pay site again as soon as we come up with an alternative that works for us and doesn't terminally piss-off our readers."

And it doesn't hurt that the Chrysler Group, despite getting reamed as badly as any other automaker in AE's pages over the last couple of years, has opted to kick a few (somewhere in five figures) dollars into the AE coffers.

In other news, the host at my other site is discontinuing CGI access for its bottom-feeder plans, which has prompted me to relocate my message board to these premises. (This actually happened three days ago, but it took me that long to get the damn thing to work properly.) And I have pretty much given up trying to keep up with everyone's changing fortunes, so Your 15 minutes are up... has been redesigned and reoriented. (This actually happened three days ago, but...oh, never mind.)

Sunday, 3 February 2002, 2:25 pm

Conservatives insist that the media have a liberal bias; liberals contend that the media, being big business, inevitably favor conservatism. Both of these arguments seem to hinge primarily upon whose ox is being gored, or bushed, at that particular moment. Eric Burns of Fox News Watch views it differently. Says Burns, the Big Media tailor their stories with less regard to political orientation than to the perceived (and, at least where I live, easily verifiable) limitations of the audience: toward simplicity to the point of dumbing-down, and toward sensationalism in preference to sensibility.

Folks on the left who are not inclined to think highly of anything said by a Fox News operative may carp, and indeed I weary of the incessant "fair and balanced" mantra that Fox News claims for itself on the apparent presumption that the average viewer can't distinguish between reporting and commentary, but I think Burns has nailed it: by and large, We The People get the news we deserve. And this, more than anything else, explains the continuing growth of Small Media, both in print and on the Net, while major newspapers aren't going anywhere (and miserable smaller papers like The Daily Oklahoman are in free-fall) and TV ratings remain stagnant. (Fox News actually beat out CNN in January, but most of their gains seemed to be at the expense of MSNBC, which has gone from a poor third to barely on the scale.)

Today's Life Lesson: Expenses from the holidays have come back to bite me, and so I restructured my bill-paying schedule this past month to compensate. Unfortunately, one particular check might be going out too late, owing to my failure to read due dates correctly. No problem, I thought, I'll just run this one through the bank's online-payment system.

Which, of course, is down for unscheduled maintenance.

Monday, 4 February 2002, 6:40 pm

The ice has melted and the power is being restored all over Oklahoma, so naturally it's time for another damned snowstorm. The Weather Guys are promising six to eight inches. Of course, one should never believe any specific promise of inches from guys, but I'm in no mood for any of this stuff — not that anyone consults me.

So I blow off the Super Bowl and it turns out to be an actual contest for once, and what's more, the Patriots, the closest thing the NFL has to the Boston Red Sox, actually win it. How many more miracles will I miss? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 5 February 2002, 5:05 pm

Attorneys for John Walker Lindh, America's homegrown Taliban, have requested that he be freed on bail while awaiting trial. In a related development, a story on hades.org confirms that a number of residents therein have petitioned for ice water.

And speaking of ice water, we're awash in it. The Weather Guys, true to form, have backed off on their snowfall estimates — I suspect they fear that if the weather turns out worse than forecast, some nimrod will sue, or worse — but the stuff continues to fall, and my spirits along with it. (Did I mention that I hate winter?)

Wednesday, 6 February 2002, 5:30 pm

First it was early this morning, then it was noon, then it was midafternoon. They still don't know when the snow is going to quit. And the Weather Channel is making noises about another storm in the middle of next week. Were I given to mysticism, I'd be inclined to think that it was payback to this state for its inveterate sanctimony.

Despite its vaunted independence, 42nd and Treadmill is utterly in thrall to corporate sponsors, and when the sponsor's boots arrive, all tongues are expected to assume the position. The owners of the biggest boots of all, after casually blowing off our four-week lead time, have demanded something that, for the sake of one of their overblown spectacles, must be completed in four days. I'm beginning to think that we'd be better off being absorbed by Enron.

Laurence (I wouldn't dream of calling him "Larry") Simon's File 13 is busily establishing one of the highest brilliance-to-BS ratios in all of blogdom. The whole site is worth your time, but I most strenuously recommend his deconstruction of the New Post-Hippocratic Oath, and the Ballad of Ken Lay, set to a possibly-recognizable theme by the Ramones. I wish to hell I could write like that.

Thursday, 7 February 2002, 5:20 pm

Sunshine! I almost didn't recognize it at first. With temperatures hovering in the middle 40s this afternoon, conditions were just this side of bearable. Remind me not to get my hopes up too high.

Boot-Smooching Update: We got the artwork (via FedEx) from the Big Sponsor today, and guess what? It doesn't fit any of our extant templates. The sysadmin came up with the eminently-sensible idea of going to larger-sized paper stock, which dovetails nicely with my desire to bill these clowns the maximum number of dollars possible.

And does anyone pay attention anymore? The powers that be, recognizing that this has been a rough month so far at 42nd and Treadmill, have ordained a Mardi Gras-like celebration for next week. The layout of the place makes selecting a good parade route difficult, but that's not much of a problem. What is startling is the casual suggestion on the poster to "Toss beads at your co-workers". Toss beads? Are they out of their gourds? Does anyone on staff have any idea of the implications of this gesture? And, more to the point, are they going to bring in some temps for the occasion, so at least there will be more than a handful of, um, beadworthy individuals?

Friday, 8 February 2002, 7:00 pm

Big sign at Walgreen's drug store today: "We Have All Your Valentine's Day Needs". Well, yeah, I suppose. I suspect it would be a lot easier to get through Valentine's Day if I had drugs.

In the past couple of weeks, I've seen an upsurge of spammage trying to interest me in various penny stocks; over the period 29 January through ten minutes ago, I've received no fewer than twenty-one such things, and what's more, it's the same half-dozen stocks over and over again. I wouldn't even spend Ken Lay's money on this stuff. But being the spiteful so-and-so I am, I am persuaded that getting the gory details into the search engines is, in the long run, a Good Thing. If you'd like to get a glance, the material is posted to my, er, affiliate site, with the subtle title of Stocks from Hell.

First of the Mardi Gras decorations went up today. Evidently they're serious. According to the poster, this is the "1st Annual" such fest, which prompted the sysadmin to point out, quite correctly, that if it's the first, it can't very well be Annual — at least, not until next year at this time. And you thought network operations were hazardous to brain cells.

Saturday, 9 February 2002, 11:25 am

The Beach Boys, backed up by a Chuck Berry-style guitar riff, used to sing about "Fun, Fun, Fun", and while they never quite define what it is, I am reasonably certain that it is not removing the base of a broken light bulb from a ceiling fixture — unless, of course, the power is left on.

Henry Kloss has died, and while this may mean nothing to most of you, I'm taking it fairly hard. Kloss, an engineer trained at MIT, did arguably as much as anyone for the science of high fidelity, and what's more, he did so without forgetting that music is more than just easily-organized numbers. Among other things, Kloss was present at the creation of the acoustic-suspension bookshelf speaker (Acoustic Research's AR-1, 1952, with initial design work by Edgar Villchur and detail work by Kloss), and went on to create the first really good table radio (the KLH Model Eight, 1960), the first compact stereo system (the KLH Model Eleven, 1961), the first cassette deck to use the now-ubiquitous Dolby noise-reduction system (the KLH Model Forty, 1968), the first truly high-fidelity cassette deck (the Advent 201, 1971), and the first table radio with a built-in subwoofer (the Cambridge Soundworks Model 88, 1999). A pair of Kloss' KLH Model Thirty-Eight speakers, made in the middle Seventies, are part of my home system to this very day. Henry Kloss never quite retired; after he sold his interests in Cambridge Soundworks, he came up with yet another table-radio design, available from Tivoli Audio as the Model One in mono and the Model Two (!) in stereo. He was only seventy-two; we can only imagine what he might have come up with next.

And what's so important about table radios? Simply this: the AM/FM sections of almost all contemporary receivers are an afterthought, a cheap circuit thrown in so the manufacturer can say "Yeah, we have that." It wasn't always this way, but the increasing integration of video into audio systems means that older sound-delivery systems like FM (and worse, AM) get short shrift. And while it's difficult even to care about radio in these centralized, corporatized times, there are still interesting stations scattered about the country, and their fans deserve better than they're getting. Which is why I have two Cambridge Soundworks Model 88s, just in case we get some interesting radio here in the flyover zone, or if I finally get off my tail and move to some place with more climate and less weather.

Sunday, 10 February 2002, 1:10 pm

Well, I got over that last virus just in time to catch a new one, and this one comes with all the goodies: fever, fatigue, gastric distress, dizziness. I am convinced that if ever I had an immune system, it's gone down the tubes.

Our health-insurance arrangements at 42nd and Treadmill run for one year only, expiring January 31, so the first week of February is spent largely trying to figure out what coverages got dropped this time. (God, or certain individuals who identify strongly with Him, forbid we should have any added.) There aren't that many changes this year, for once, although the prescription plan is now tied to a formulary and if one's physician has the temerity to prescribe something not on the list, the co-payment is duly doubled. Of course, we're supposed to be grateful that these myrmidons of cost control are on the job, telling us what is and what is not appropriate treatment, doing their part to keep America's health-care decisions out of the hands of a bunch of unelected government bureaucrats.

It appears that for the first time in two decades, I will get an actual Federal income-tax refund, albeit small. Approximately one quarter of it will have to be sent to the State of Oklahoma, which suffers from the delusion that I'm wealthy.

Sunday, 10 February 2002, 5:30 pm

Looks like I'm going to have to start drinking more Dr Pepper.

Pam Gardner, vice-president of business operations for the Houston Astros baseball club:

"The Houston Astros have been materially and adversely affected by the negative public perception and media scrutiny resulting from Enron's alleged bad business practices and bankruptcy.''

Well, the bankruptcy isn't "alleged", and the bad business practices are in the process of being quantified, but geez, Pam, nobody put a gun to your head and told you to take $100 million from Enron.

And the Sports Wonk asserts:

"Take this hint, Pam: If you leave the 'Enron' in Enron Field you'd always have something to blame your team's bad playoff record and shabby attendance on."

Makes sense to me.

Monday, 11 February 2002, 6:45 pm

The record industry worries (well beyond the point of paranoia, if you ask me) about diminished sales due to rampant piracy, and they would not at all be happy to hear that I'd paid a visit to the MP3 groups on Usenet. Of course, the stuff I look for costs them zero sales, since it's generally obscure pop and R&B singles that died a miserable death on the charts and aren't about to be reissued, lest they take shelf space away from Britney and Ja Rule.

What I'm finding lately, though, is a great deal of hostility toward something called yEnc, which is an alternative to the usual encoding methods used to cram binaries into the seven-bit structure of Usenet. The author of yEnc, Jürgen Helbing, claims that it reduces the size of encoded files — and, therefore, the time it takes to transfer those files — by cutting down the overhead and taking advantage of the fact that present-day news servers really can handle eight bits at a time, not just seven. The main objection to yEnc, so far as I can tell, is that it's not built into most people's newsreaders. (It's not built into mine; I have used Agent for many years.) Still, I was able to snag a quick-and-dirty yEnc decoder (price: zilch) and turn the raw gibberish into an actual sound file with little difficulty, and I noticed that it was probably twenty, maybe twenty-five percent less gibberish than usual. I don't know if this is the future of binary encoding on Usenet, but I have enough sense not to complain when getting something for essentially nothing takes one extra step.

And while we're on the subject of improved economy, it finally dawned on me today that I was getting voice mail from my wireless provider as a freebie and that I was getting voice mail from the Big Phone Company for seven bucks a month. Obviously one of these had to go, and now it has.

Tuesday, 12 February 2002, 6:30 pm

What makes a head of lettuce worth $2.09? Apart from the fact that it's the middle of winter (and just try to imagine what I'm paying for nectarines these days), this scrawny-looking little spheroid was tagged "Certified Organic". Precisely who issues the certificates for this, I don't know. On the other hand, it was a shade of green that looked like lettuce instead of dime-store potholders, and despite its lack of bulk, it yielded up precisely the same number of salads as its inflated non-organic brethren at two-thirds the price. And more important, the stuff actually seemed to resist wilting; I didn't have to throw away anything but the core, and the last leaves were as sturdy as the first. I hope they have some more of these at the store, and that they haven't gone up to $3.

Ken Lay invoked the Fifth Amendment today. In other news, the sun is expected to rise in the east tomorrow.

And I have one unused set of beads from today's Mardi Gras festivities at work. I also discovered that I do an extremely poor voice impression of Fats Domino, though if the light is bad I can simulate the look just fine.

Wednesday, 13 February 2002, 6:20 pm

Those of you who think of me as an overbearing, rude, insufferable, cold-hearted bastard should note that on this date, in a year very long ago, my parents were married, so at least one of those words should be stricken.

The less-than-wonderful Shays-Meehan campaign-reform bill now staggering through Congress can be viewed as a response to Enron, but it's not in any way a useful response. The sums Enron poured into Congressional pockets were staggering enough in their own right, but scarcely anyone in Washington lifted a finger to help the embattled weasels...er, um, corporation. For the amount of quo they proffered, Enron got damned little quid. The new to-hell-with-renewables energy plan? Well, maybe. But do you really think the Administration wouldn't have gone this way anyway? You can take Bush out of the oil patch, but you can't take the oil patch out of Bush.

Is everybody on the planet sending those crappy electronic greeting cards tonight? I can't get a connection faster than 21600 bps from anyone, and what I do get lasts a matter of seconds.

Thursday, 14 February 2002, 5:10 pm

Lost: One heart, somewhat used, many miles from here. Mostly intact, though signs of breakage are clearly visible. Capacity at present unknown. By most reasonable accounting, not especially bright; occasionally willful and/or stubborn; responsive only under limited circumstances. Only fair sense of direction. Given to bouts of pointless murmuring. If found, please discard — by now it is of no use to anyone.

Friday, 15 February 2002, 6:40 pm

A study just released suggests that the conventional wisdom about getting eight hours of sleep a night might be an hour or so on the high side; a range of 6.5 to 7 seemed to work just fine for the study participants, at least the ones who survived. Since about the best I can do, even with artificial destimulants, is about four hours — following which, I thrash about for the rest of the night, waking just about every hour in an effort to escape a decidedly unpleasant dream — I conclude that I have only about two-thirds the insomnia I thought I had. Not that I'm going to rest any easier with this knowledge.

Quote of the Day: Ken Layne, dissing the fear-of-foreign-customs shtick that led Saudi Arabia to ban references to Valentine's Day:

"Man, I have got to stop blindly following worthless foreign customs, too.

"I better give up the foreign filth: red wine from Italy and Spain, salsa with my breakfast, these Camel Lights with their evil 'Turkish & Domestic Blend,' this Sony computer from Japan, all these books by Russian and French and English writers, all the dirty Jew stuff (New York Times, Bob Dylan, bagels, etc.), the Kraut 'Christmas trees' every year and that pre-Nazi music by Wagner and Mahler, Cinco de Mayo, vodka, sushi, my Australian publisher, the Pakistani tea my wife likes to make, the European pagan rituals of Easter eggs and fertility bunnies, and that useless Asian math (I never understood algebra anyway).

"Once I get all this rotten stuff piled up in the yard, it will all be burned ... if I can find a cigarette lighter that was made in the U.S.A."

Saturday, 16 February 2002, 4:40 pm

The Sony Classical issue (CK 85397) of piano solos by American composer William Joel (1949-    ), performed by the British/Korean pianist Richard Hyung-Ki Joo, is, unlike almost every other Sony title sold at or near full price, utterly bereft of liner notes, and the cover art is a bland reproduction of one of those old G. Schirmer music books, right down to the quotation from Horace ("Laborum dulce lenimen"). Music should speak for itself, but this is ridiculous. Fortunately for those of us who are new to Mr Joel's oeuvre, he is fairly easily categorized: he's an unabashed romantic. And he has thoughtfully added explanations to titles otherwise undescriptive; for example, the three-part Suite, Op. 8, is billed as "Star-Crossed". What appeals most, I think, is the sheer ebullience of the music, which makes perfect sense for a composer born into a New York state of mind. And Mr Joo gives these pieces the shimmer they deserve, though it would be interesting to hear the composer (also under contract to Sony, I understand) play them himself.

I wouldn't swear to it, but from the looks of things, they're building a bypass alongside old 66 just east of Edmond. The real question, of course, is whether it actually goes through the town limits of Arcadia, and if so, if it will become the same inglorious sort of speed trap as the existing road.

Sunday, 17 February 2002, 4:50 pm

Stupid Question of the Day: Any custom CD I do is issued in an edition of three copies: one archival, one for the office, and one for traveling purposes. Booklets and whatnot are duly printed in the same quantity. Am I anal-retentive enough to throw away the entire print run because of one misspelled name?

(Yeah, that's what I thought you'd think. My apologies to Bill Pursell. With an S.)

Target's carpet cleaner works surprisingly well on automotive floor mats, at least the crummy ones for which they charge ninety bucks at the dealership.

Monday, 18 February 2002, 6:00 pm

This being my forty-ninth year, it can be inferred that somewhere around seven years of my life has taken place on Monday. I do not find this statistic comforting in the least.

Also pertinent to my forty-ninth year is the mid-life crisis, a spate of delightfully disenlightened self-interest, which the estimable David Brooks justifies (in The Atlantic Monthly, March 2002) thusly:

"There is a bogus Tocqueville quotation floating around out there (politicians like to cite it) to the effect that America is great because America is good. In truth, America is great because America is bad. Ours is the most vibrant nation because it is the most childish, and therefore the most creative and daring. Over the years thousands of immature pioneers have dreamed dreams of incredible superficiality, and out of their dreams have come the institutions — rock music, Hollywood, message T-shirts — that helped to make this country what it is today. We neglect this spirit of inspired immaturity at our own peril."

She Who Must Not Be Named, who at 45 looked 30 and acted 15, is undoubtedly nodding her head and breaking into a grin as she contemplates the possibility of a 60/not quite 40/not quite 20 matrix, and the sun shines over the Eastern Seaboard once more.

Tuesday, 19 February 2002, 5:20 pm

Today I announced that I would accept a transfer to the Cleveland office.

This isn't as cut-and-dried as it sounds. For one thing, we don't actually have a Cleveland office, nor is one on the drawing board. However, this is the one geographical direction in which we might show some actual growth at some point: we've about reached saturation point in the Central and Mountain time zones, and we already have a substantial West Coast presence. So if it's in the cards for us to expand again, we may, I argued, be well-served by an office in or around Cleveland.

While I admit to a certain fondness for northeastern Ohio, I also admit to ulterior motives. As the late Frank Zappa was annoyed enough to point out, the two elements most prevalent in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity, and, well, we're not exactly overrun with hydrogen these days; there are offices in which you can actually hear your IQ drop as you enter. I figure, therefore, that reducing my proximity to this brain-cell black hole can only help my ongoing campaign to preserve some measure of intelligence as I approach my dotage.

Wednesday, 20 February 2002, 6:00 pm

So far, Really Big Media have brought us:

I suppose it's about time the FCC got rid of that tedious public-interest business anyway. Mass media are for making the maximum number of dollars while pumping out as much crap as the traffic will bear; any other objective is secondary. Maybe tertiary. And you'll notice nobody pushing for an end to the television-ownership cap is promising anything other than that "We will get much, much bigger." I remind them (not that any of them are actually listening) that hubris is followed inexorably by Nemesis.

Thursday, 21 February 2002, 6:00 pm

Back in the Paleozoic era of cyberspace — this would be, oh, the middle Eighties or so — one of the local BBS mavens was a soft-spoken (if not particularly soft-typing) gent known as The Dragon. If you had one of those idiot software packages that assumed every designation comprising two words was a name, you might have greeted him "Good morning, The," and he was kind enough to wait until you were out of earshot before he denounced you as a complete and utter moron. Unfortunately, I was definitely the C. and U. M. type in those days, but Dragon tolerated me because I could put together complete sentences on the first try, a quality in which he was very much interested because he had a shelf full of fiction just waiting to be polished up and printed. I read a few samples, but his gift for storytelling was far greater than anything I possessed, and I said something to the effect that "Surely you can sell some of this."

Nowadays, Brian A. Hopkins sells almost all of it, and while he probably doesn't make enough from it to give up his day job yet, his name on a dark fantasy or horror title guarantees one hell of a ride. And that name is all over the recommendations (call them pre-nominations) for the '01 Bram Stoker Awards. (He won a Stoker in '00, for The Licking Valley Coon Hunters Club.) I had, of course, nothing to do with BAH's success, but I'm happy to scream it from the housetops for the benefit of my small cohort of readers, some of whom, I am given to understand, have been known to buy books and such.

Friday, 22 February 2002, 8:15 pm

The Net generates its own pastimes, and one of the wackier (or perhaps, well, smackier) ones has been dubbed either Googlewhacking or, alternatively, Googlesmacking. Either way, the first half denotes that highly-regarded search engine; to play the game, you must construct, preferably with two or three relatively common words, a search that, when sent through Google, will hit only one of the roughly two billion pages in their index.

I have to assume that someone was doing the whack/smack to this site last night, because I can think of no other reason anyone would search for "polyp incendiary joy". And of course, posting the magic phrase here will disqualify it in the future, once the Googlebot pays its weekly visit; what's more, I sent this (and some other non-smack searches that showed up in my referrer logs) to the audience-participation site Disturbing Search Requests, presuming that the readers will find these things as discomfiting as I do.

A former coworker dropped by 42nd and Treadmill today, to wave at old friends and show off her brace of two-year-olds, although it was late enough in the day that the boys would obviously have rather been somewhere — anywhere — else. (So would I, but that's another story.) What I found particularly vexing about this young woman's life is the fact that she is presently spouseless; the one she had, she says, couldn't deal with being the number-three guy in her life. Sheesh. A mother should put the kids first, or she has no business being in the baby-production game in the first place, and if you ask me, any guy who doesn't understand this is going to rate at least a 6.8 on the Sphincter Scale.

Saturday, 23 February 2002, 10:30 am

The Wall Street Journal has this to say on the killing of Daniel Pearl, their man in Pakistan.

Charles M. Jones died yesterday at 89, having had far more influence on world culture than he ever imagined; his epic Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner battles will provide both amusement value and political metaphor for years to come.

A genius of a different kind, Australian journalist Tim Blair, present at a Melbourne cartoon festival circa 1988, recorded for posterity Chuck Jones' explanation of the origins of Bugs Bunny the Bullfighter:

"A Warner Brothers executive marched into our studio one day and told us, 'Gentlemen, there is nothing funny about bullfighting. Nothing funny at all! I never want to see you people make a cartoon about bullfighting.' And then he left. Up to that point, none of us had even considered making a bullfighting cartoon."

A brief taste of spring this weekend before we go back into the icebox, and why am I sitting here typing when I could be outside?

Sunday, 24 February 2002, 4:30 pm

Some time around ten o'clock last night, I broke into sobs, and they wouldn't go away for nearly two hours, dissipating only when I forced myself into the unpleasant task of programming a six-year-old VCR without the instruction manual, which at least diverted my concentration away from the usual sources of desolation and despair.

The ten or eleven people in this end of town who make a point of avoiding Wal-Mart will recite, on cue, the reasons why the nation's largest retailer somehow belongs in the Axis of Evil alongside the likes of North Korea. (Not that any of them have ever tried to buy anything from North Korea, but no matter.) I stay clear of the place simply because it's too damned crowded: I have no desire to spend an hour of my ever-diminishing free time to save nine cents on light bulbs. Which is basically how I found myself at a K mart this afternoon, my first trip since the chain's history was rewritten to include a Chapter 11.

While the place wasn't exactly packed, there was enough business to keep 40 percent of the checkout lanes open, about what I usually find at the nearest Target on a Sunday afternoon. Finding things was harder, I thought, than it needed to be, although this may be simply a function of personal unfamiliarity. And if the staff thought their days were numbered, they didn't show it, though their cutesy "Customers Rule!" badges struck me as unnecessarily jejeune. Then again, I have always believed that the level of servility displayed by retail staff should be directly proportional to price points; if I'm paying $500 for a jacket, I expect to be on the receiving end of roughly ten times more sucking up than if I'm buying one for $50. (I will test this empirically in the unlikely event that I am ever in a position to pay $500 for a jacket.)

And yes, I was in and out in about eight minutes, light bulbs and all.

Monday, 25 February 2002, 6:20 pm

I hadn't spun Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night" for some time, and I'm not sure why; while Frank's Capitol sides still rule, there are plenty of gems among his Reprise recordings, and this is one of the shinier examples. And no, I've never seen the jewel-caper film which "Strangers" serves as outro, but this song contains images enough for a whole multiplex full of movies, and the record is propelled by the finest L.A. studio craftsmen, including one of those unmistakable Hal Blaine drum parts.

Which is probably why I started writing this bit; I was listening to the instrumental break, and I thought, "Damn, that sounds just like Hal Blaine on the drums there." Of course, I had to verify this, and I wound up playing the record four times through and digging around the shelves for other Sinatra recordings of similar vintage. The semi-creative process at work, I guess. And while "lovers at first sight, in love forever" probably doesn't describe any likely future for me, this is one dream I refuse to let die.

The canonical list of the three biggest lies may vary slightly — once, in a fit of spooneristic fury, I recounted two of them as "The check is in your mouth" and "I won't come in the mail" — but surely there has to be room somewhere for "Click here to be removed from future mailings."

Tuesday, 26 February 2002, 5:55 pm

Ken Layne is the guest blogger at FoxNews.com today, and he has some decidedly unkind words for the recording industry:

"The record industry has squandered the faith of its artists and its customers. We all grew up hearing music for free on the radio and teevee and now we can save it via the Internet. When we like something, we'll pay to have our own copy — or to see the artist play live. Few will weep when the Record Industry collapses."

The industry insists that what's killing it is piracy, but Layne demurs:

"A quick glance at last week's pop charts shows the industry is lost. Nothing against country singer Alan Jackson and prolific 1970s hitmaker Barry Manilow, but when these guys are at the top of the February 2002 pop charts — the same charts where Britney and N'Sync live — we're looking at a record and radio industry on the ropes. They can't sell what they're supposed to sell."

Or, in other words, a substantial segment of the audience has developed an immunity to music-industry promotions: no matter what the Big Five shove out there, aided and abetted by the schlockmeisters of commercial radio, these consumers buy what they damned well please, and they treat the ominous rumblings of the RIAA as just so much borborygmus. A new business model will arise — it always does — but the carnage between now and then will be something to behold.

Wednesday, 27 February 2002, 7:15 pm

One of the more annoying aspects of working at 42nd and Treadmill (and believe me, were I so inclined, I could fill up this log with examples of such for the next six or seven years) is having to endure the bogus joie de vivre exhibited by the big shots during periods of serious crunch. Well, sure, they're happy; they stand to make big bucks from all this. Those of us down here in the Department of Wage Slaves don't get anything out of it unless we work ourselves into a lather for the usual time and a half, which costs more in composure than it earns (after taxes) in income, but we're expected to play along just the same. Needless to say, I turn up the Surly knob to a minimum of 9.5 during these periods, in the (usually) vain hope that I will be left the hell alone to get some work done.

And, what's more, our receptionist is getting married, adding yet another statistic to support my conviction that all the good ones are taken. (I hasten to point out that this does not imply that all the taken ones are good.)

Brief Weather Announcement: This morning's low of 10 degrees Fahrenheit breaks a 40-year-old record for this date.

Thursday, 28 February 2002, 6:55 pm

The best thing about February, really, is that three-fourths of the time, more or less, it's gone in four weeks. My thanks to those emperors of Rome who, in their infinite wisdom, saw to it that February would never have thirty days — or worse, thirty-one.

Ginger Stampley, on standardized tests in schools:

"Sure, standardized tests are a crock. Or at the very most, they're a learnable skill set, as proven by the success of Kaplan and Princeton at SAT prep. That they are mindless and dumb, I will not debate either. The teachers I know who give them describe them as indignifying and designed to make kids hate them.
"But here's the ugly little secret: they are also fine preparation for adult life. Doing stupid things that we hate because they are part of the routine of work is a major part of adult employment."

In my section of 42nd and Treadmill, it runs about 90, maybe 92 percent.

 


 | Copyright © 2002 by Charles G. Hill