Archive for Almost Yogurt

Lyft and separate

Says the guy at Lyft: “By 2025, private car ownership will all but end in major U.S. cities.”

James Lileks demurs: “That’s 9 years away. Let me just put down a marker here and say no.”

And there are perfectly understandable reasons to say no. Says the guy at Lyft:

Cities of the future must be built around people, not vehicles. They should be defined by communities and connections, not pavement and parking spots. They need common spaces where culture can thrive — and where new ideas can be shared in the very places where cars previously stood parked and empty.

Not happening, says Lileks:

Now, I’m all in favor of replacing surface parking lots downtown with housing and offices, providing they build ramps to accommodate the cars driven by private citizens. In nine years I am not going to Lyft or Uber to work, or to shopping in the evening or weekends. I will drive because I like to. The suburbs are not going to do away with the parking lots outside of malls and big-box stores, and build big apartment buildings where Culture Can Thrive. If everyone sells their cars and the streets no longer have parked cars, no one is going to drag a chair into the street and SHARE NEW IDEAS where cars “previously stood parked and empty.” There are no new ideas that are going unshared because there’s a parking lot on the edge of downtown.

Magical thinking, informed by Lyft’s need to keep the vulture capitalists happy, and reinforced by nonsense like this:

Technology has redefined entire industries around a simple reality: you no longer need to own a product to enjoy its benefits. With Netflix and streaming services, DVD ownership became obsolete. Spotify has made it unnecessary to own CDs and MP3s.

Yeah, right, says Lileks:

Until you don’t have a connection or the service goes away or the studio removes the movie.

Or, to use another example, you are inexplicably blacklisted from using the Lyft fleet for reasons they do not explain, and cannot be appealed.

Yeah, it costs me more than two grand a year to keep a motor vehicle for my own use. But that’s the point: it’s for my own use. And I resent the idea that I need to throw in my lot with the Social Arbiters for the sake of some nebulous “civic” good that mostly benefits corporations with connections.

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If it seems to fit, you must submit

Amanda has completed an item from her short-term — there’s also a long-term — bucket list:

This one was kinda scary. Last night I submitted a piece of writing to a poetry journal and I’m like, freaked. In no way, shape, or form do I believe that this piece of writing will be published. It’s not that good. But I did it because I want to start submitting more writing on a frequent basis, and the only way to do that is, well, to do it. But it does feel kind of raw to give out pieces of work to people and ask for their blessings on it. It’s like saying, “Hey! Here is a piece of my most vulnerable self! Tell me if it’s worth anything or if it’s stupid and I should never try this again!” So there’s that. I’m trying to learn how to be okay with putting my writing out there even though it feels like I’m opening up myself in a frightfully open way. This blog is helping with that some.

This is the sort of thing one has to applaud. I have always suspected that all the poets who got published on the first try this century could fit into a single elevator. I can’t possibly pass myself off as a poet, but I do know something about putting writing out there, having done it for pretty much half my life. (I was doing online stuff 11 years before I put this place online, and that was more than 20 years ago.) And even if it does occasionally feel kind of raw, it’s something you have to do now and then.

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Among the meteor myths

This seemingly goofy Russian film came out in March:

I say “seemingly” because I have no command of the Russian language. It’s pretty broad physical comedy, though; various family members, affected by a meteorite that crashed through the house, seem to exhibit a variety of weird superpowers — so long as they’re in proximity to one another. Unfortunately, they decide to put those powers to, um, work.

I sat through most of its 95 minutes, and it wasn’t terrible, exactly, but my expectations were admittedly not very high. The semi-invisible girl, however, was kind of cute, and a sequel has already been announced.

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I’ve seen this road before

Chevrolet’s Find New Roads site evaluates you, or at least me (and Doc Searls), on perceived positivity, as calculated from recent social-media statuses. Out of a possible 200 points, I scored a whopping 71; the average, they say, is about 114.

The Social Personality Summary is pretty much spot on:

You are skeptical, somewhat inconsiderate and unconventional.

You are independent: you have a strong desire to have time to yourself. You are reserved: you are a private person and don’t let many people in. And you are philosophical: you are open to and intrigued by new ideas and love to explore them.

Experiences that give a sense of discovery hold some appeal to you.

You are relatively unconcerned with both tradition and achieving success. You care more about making your own path than following what others have done. And you make decisions with little regard for how they show off your talents.

This was followed by the suggestion of a New Road: take up a musical instrument. Color me, um, skeptical.

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Was it worth it?

The first nine years don’t count: The Price Is Right, once a humdrum Bill Cullen-hosted game show on NBC (and briefly on ABC), died a horrible death in 1965 and did not return until 1972, when Bob Barker, borrowed from Truth or Consequences, headed up a whole new version, which begins its 45th season this week.

Yahoo! has a brief history of the post-’72 show, including a few statistics like this:

The first prizing game ever played was Any Number, which is still played today. It was played for a Chevrolet Vega worth $2,746, which became the first car ever given away.

And Any Number has hardly changed at all:

Cars, of course, have gotten much more expensive since 1972, though this is more a function of inflation than anything else; $2,746 then is $15,809 today.

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Quote of the week

Many of the horrible things that happened to this country in recent years started at the nonexistent 704 Hauser Street in Queens:

For those too young to remember, or too old to remember, Rob Reiner is famous for having played the character “Meathead” on the popular 70’s TV show All In The Family. The show was supposed to mock traditional Americans, particularly blue collar Americans, but the public received it mostly as a celebration of normal people at a time when normals were under assault from liberals, hippies and various other degenerates. Rob Reiner’s character came to represent what had gone wrong with the country.

Meathead was a loudmouth know-it-all boomer, who enjoyed lecturing his father-in-law about the terribleness of America and the men that had made the country. The irony was that Meathead lived off the people he ridiculed. Archie, the patriarch, worked and paid the bills while his daughter and son-in-law lived in his house. It was a perfect metaphor for what was happening in the country. The parasites were determined to kill the host, but in the mean time they were perfectly willing to enjoy the fruits the host had accumulated.

Years ago, the great Paul Gottfried remarked that the country had long been taken over by the Meathead generation and their ethics. The Archie Bunkers were all gone. By that he meant traditional working and middle class America had been lost and the country was now run by fashionable liberals, who occupied the first ruling elite in history to be actively working to destroy the foundation on which it rests. Look around the culture and all the high ground is occupied by degenerate boomers, who carry on as if it is still 1968.

There is, as there almost always is, an upside:

That means if you are a young alt-right trouble maker, you only have another decade or so to put up with degenerates like Rob Reiner. This realization may be at the heart of the hysteria we see in the ruling class. Rasping geezers like Hillary Clinton look around and see their time is just about done. They also see that what is forming up behind them is a giant cultural eraser, ready to rub out any trace of what her cohort leaves behind. Her “Basket of Deplorables” are young dudes and dudettes in hazmat suits, ready for cleanup.

I will, however, insist that Reiner’s magnum opus, This Is Spinal Tap, be preserved for posterity. Nobody, with the possible exception of Paul Ehrlich, is wrong all the time.

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Serious girl power

Hilde Lysiak writes in the September Orange Street News:

On July 28th, I met Malala Yousafzai. It was amazing getting to meet her! She used to live in a place where people thought girls can’t be educated. But she stood up to the government and got her education, anyway. One day, when she was on the way home from school, she was shot. After that, she moved to the U.K. and has not been able to go back to her home in Pakistan since.

“Without knowledge,” says Hilde, “people can’t be free.” After noting that some people objected to a newspaper run by a nine-year-old girl, she’s putting her money where her mouth is:

[T]his month, I am donating all the advertising money I collect to the Malala Fund which “works to secure girls’ rights to a minimum of 12 years of quality education, particularly in the Global South.”

This isn’t a huge sum — given her rate card, I figure it’s in the low- to mid-three figures — but I always take Hilde Lysiak seriously.

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The unexpected leading lady

Just a bit of historical perspective:

Charley’s Aunt is a farce in three acts written by Brandon Thomas. It broke all historic records for plays of any kind, with an original London run of 1,466 performances.

The play was first performed at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds in February 1892. It was produced by former D’Oyly Carte Opera Company actor W. S. Penley, a friend of Thomas, who appeared in the principal role of Lord Fancourt Babberley, an undergraduate whose friends Jack and Charley persuade him to impersonate the latter’s aunt. The piece was a success, and it then opened in London at the Royalty Theatre on 21 December 1892 and quickly transferred to the larger Globe Theatre on 30 January 1893 to complete its record-breaking run.

The play was a success on Broadway in 1893, where it had another long run. It also toured internationally and has been revived continually and adapted for films and musicals.

In 1941, 20th Century-Fox saw fit to film a version of Charley’s Aunt with Jack Benny:

Charley's Aunt poster

I wonder if Fox was a bit unsure about this picture early on; they were pushing it as the lead film in a package. They also put out this film short:

They needn’t have worried. It was a fair-sized hit.

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Season’s change

What we can expect, starting this week:

By this evening the retailers will be in full holiday season mode, shilling Halloween. Before the candy corn is even stale the first Christmas advertising will crop up. Ready or not, here it comes. Clothing stores have been stocked with sweaters and coats for a month. Worse, shoppers will soon be wearing them. No more tight tank tops and short shorts. On the bright side the shapely ladies will be wearing tight jeans and boots.

Given the usual progress of these things, I expect all the Valentine’s Day crap to show up a few days after Thanksgiving.

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Quivering behind the lectern

Jenny Boylan describes the “sheer terror” of teaching for the first time:

I came to teaching relatively late in life, and I was nearly 30 before I first faced a room full of students. I was so frightened that first day at Colby College, back in 1988: Would my students like me? What if they found out I was a total fraud? I rehearsed my opening lecture again and again before classes began, a lecture that wasn’t much more than, “Here is the syllabus.”

By time I faced the students, of course, I was over-prepared, and the hour passed by in seconds. It took me another month to loosen up, and longer than that to learn the lesson that in retrospect should have been obvious from the beginning — that having a sense of humor, which had been such an obstacle for me as a student, turned out to be an asset for a teacher. It was with a sense of wonder that I realized — somewhere in October — that I was a good teacher, that I’d finally found, after nearly ten years in the workforce, a job I had a talent for. It was almost — but not quite — enough for me to forget the weeks and weeks of sheer terror that had afflicted me in August.

I have learned in recent years that Dr. Boylan’s command of pop-cultural ephemera is on par with, and possibly superior to, mine, and I’m pretty darn good at it.

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Fear is in control

I think I might be among the poster children for this phenomenon:

Some of us are becoming hyper-aware of every moment of fear or disappointment or grief or sadness to a debilitating degree.

Years ago I went on a road trip with some friends travelling from concert to concert around Ontario. Just before leaving, the driver of the wreck we were travelling in was cautioned to make sure it didn’t overheat. Just that one word of warning from a random bystander sent us to the side of the road every couple of hours to open the hood and stare inside. The temperature gage never got anywhere close to the danger zone, but every time it moved, we had to pull over. Sometimes too much attention can be as bad as not enough.

This sounds like me. I am aware of where the temperature gauge is supposed to sit, and when it doesn’t sit there, I immediately start budgeting for a cooling-system repair.

After thousands of years of stoically forging ahead despite flashes of anxiety, in just 70 years we’ve shifted to a point in which every fluctuation in mood might be fodder for medical help. Instead of ignoring nervousness or sadness, we fixate on them, allowing them room to blossom, like a scab that won’t heal because we can’t leave it alone. Sometimes hyperawareness of anxiety can make it much worse until it becomes paralyzing and pleasurable events become mired in painful feelings of stress. Can something actually be enjoyable if we’re barrelling through a sea of tumults, trembling with a heartbeat that is curiously inaudible to others in order to just get through it all? Does it really make sense to feel the fear and do it anyway when the dread of doing it might override the pleasure of having it done?

I am definitely being hindered in the so-called “healing process” by this: even trivial stuff scares me.

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Sort of soft-boiled

This year’s winner in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is William “Barry” Brockett of Tallahassee, for this bit of noirishness:

Even from the hall, the overpowering stench told me the dingy caramel glow in his office would be from a ten-thousand-cigarette layer of nicotine baked on a naked bulb hanging from a frayed wire in the center of a likely cracked and water-stained ceiling, but I was broke, he was cheap, and I had to find her.

Honestly, I preferred, or maybe just disliked less, this Crime/Detective winner:

She walked toward me with her high heels clacking like an out-of-balance ceiling fan set on low, smiling as though about to spit pus from a dental abscess, and I knew right away that she was going to leave me feeling like I had used a wood rasp to cure my hemorrhoids.

Courtesy of Charles Caldwell, Leesville, Louisiana.

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And surly to rise

Turns out that Grumpy Cat was right all along:

The truth is, pondering the worst has some clear advantages. Cranks may be superior negotiators, more discerning decision-makers and cut their risk of having a heart attack. Cynics can expect more stable marriages, higher earnings and longer lives — though, of course, they’ll anticipate the opposite.

Good moods on the other hand come with substantial risks — sapping your drive, dimming attention to detail and making you simultaneously gullible and selfish. Positivity is also known to encourage binge drinking, overeating and unsafe sex.

At the centre of it all is the notion our feelings are adaptive: anger, sadness and pessimism aren’t divine cruelty or sheer random bad luck — they evolved to serve useful functions and help us thrive.

And no, you should not suppress these things for the sake of camaraderie or whatever:

[I]n 2010 a team of scientists decided to take a look. They surveyed a group of 644 patients with coronary artery disease to determine their levels of anger, suppressed anger and tendency to experience distress, and followed them for between five and ten years to see what happened next.

Over the course of the study, 20% experienced a major cardiac event and 9% percent died. Initially it looked like both anger and suppressed anger increased the likelihood of having a heart attack. But after controlling for other factors, the researchers realised anger had no impact — while suppressing it increased the chances of having a heart attack by nearly three-fold.

I suspect this is why I am not a cardiac patient after all these years of surliness.

(Via Scott Kiekbusch.)

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Blake, move away from there!

Haven’t we seen something like this before?

Fox has given a pilot presentation order to Okies of Bel Air, an animated comedy executive produced by Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin. The project, written by writer-comedian Sean O’Connor (The Late Late Show), hails from Imagine TV and 20th Century Fox TV. It borrows some elements from Griffin’s life.

In the vein of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Beverly Hillbillies, Okies of Bel Air is the story of a family of humble Oklahoma catfish farmers who, after their basketball prodigy son is chosen first overall in the NBA draft, pack up and move to the tony enclave of Bel Air, where they’ll struggle to preserve their down-home sensibilities amidst a vast cultural wasteland where Kardashian reigns supreme and pressed juice is considered a viable alternative to childhood vaccinations.

Oklahoma native Griffin was selected as the first overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2009 NBA draft, moving from his home state to LA.

Nice to know there’s still gold in them thar cultural stereotypes.

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Consider this a reminder

From Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, via Fillyjonk:

There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.

To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue.

To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside. If one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend the week end in town astride a radiator.

We’re about as far from a February blizzard as we can get, but it never hurts to think upon the things we take for granted. To further quote Mr Leopold:

Civilization has so cluttered this elemental man-earth relationship with gadgets and middlemen that awareness of it is growing dim. We fancy that industry supports us, forgetting what supports industry.

Yep.

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You can’t do this with delivery drones

The Friar drops in at one of the remaining Hastings stores:

A family was shopping, and one of the children, a girl of about eight or nine, had been given one of the books she would be getting with the family purchase. She dropped to the floor in a cross-legged second and dove in, immediately engrossed in whatever story she held while the others browsed.

Jeff Bezos will never be able to sell that, no matter what technology comes under his company’s command.

It will, however, be interesting to watch him try.

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Modern-day logic

And really, this does work on a Philosophy 101 level:

You are curious whether your butt is big or small. Unfortunately, you lack the ability to accurately assess the size of butts. Fortunately, there are three rappers before you. You are of their preferred gender, so they are willing to collectively entertain exactly one yes-or-no question from you, to which they will each give an answer.

One rapper likes big butts and cannot lie. One rapper likes small butts and always lies. One rapper likes all butts but shares your inability to assess butt size, and will answer yes or no at random if asked whether a butt is big or small. You do not know which rapper is which. All the rappers know all other facts relevant to the situation, including everyone’s identity and butt preferences.

Before you are able to ask your question, one rapper receives a booty call (the size of the booty is unknown to you) and leaves the room. The other two rappers remain and are willing to pronounce on your question. You still do not know who any of the rappers are.

To determine the size of your butt, what question should you ask them? (You may assume that all butts can be classified as either big or small and ignore contextual factors, e.g. from the presence of Oakland booty.)

(Via Chris Lawrence.)

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Justify your existence

And there had better be some dollar signs in that justfication, too:

Someone I follow on Twitter posted a photograph from one of those truly beautiful European libraries and made a comment about how he could “carry around more books on my phone” and it seems to me that that’s a big part of the malaise of our times — or at least, the malaise I am feeling. That the beautiful and the aesthetic are slowly being replaced by the functional but ugly, and no one seems to think that losing those aesthetics don’t in some way impoverish us. I once referred to it as “the gradual crappification of everything” — how some nice groceries close up and are replaced by wal-marts with bad management and surly employees and tvs at the end of every aisle blaring ads, how it’s no longer “profitable” for students to do anything outside of technical or STEM degrees, so the humanities are in decline or are derided, that instead of lovely places being appreciated people complain about how the space could be “better used more efficiently” or something like that.

And I admit, sometimes I feel like we will someday be surrounded by nothing but concrete-box buildings, noise, and greyness, and very few people will ask, “Why are we here? Isn’t this an unpleasant state of being?” because everyone will have been convinced that this is The New Normal and it is all we merit, because anything else is “unprofitable” and therefore not worth it. Or that it’s somehow all we deserve because we are awful. And I don’t know, yeah, humans are awful but having an awful world around us doesn’t exactly encourage us to be better.

There are times when my impending demise bothers me less than usual, and this is one of them.

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You gotta believe

Well, kinda sorta:

Never could deal with those Nothing Is Real types.

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She knew you were trouble when you walked in

This is, or is about to be anyway, an actual book:

Taylor Swift, Girl Detective

The title, of course, is a misheard lyric (from “Blank Space,” if you’re keeping score). And we’re telling you this on background:

Written by Larissa Zageris and illustrated by Kitty Curran in the style of the Nancy Drew series, the book is about an out of work actress in New York City who finds threatening messages on her skinny mocha Starbucks drinks. (It’s not authorized by Swift, but according to the creators, the pop star followed the Tumblr for the book.)

Why’d they choose Taylor Swift as the heroine? “Her publicity is focused more on her own derring-doishness and accomplishments than her sex appeal, much like a modern day Nancy Drew,” Kitty Curran tells TIME. “She also used to dress exactly like Nancy Drew, though now she looks maybe more like the updated 80s version.” In the story, Swift makes a mischievous face a lot, and Lorde serves as her muscle. “While Lorde is a badass, she is so ethereal and poetic in her ways that making her the tough one in the book just seemed hilarious to us. We also needed a good foil for the more poised, level-headed detective figure of Taylor Swift and she fit the bill perfectly,” Curran said. Someone should give these two a mystery award for nailing Lorde’s exasperated face.

I somehow missed the Kickstarter for this book, so I have to hope that they run off some copies for the general public.

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This story broke on Wenzdhi

There were 12 girls in this country, born between 1969 and 1972, named “Toosdhi.” Where the heck did this come from? Says the expert, it was the late-Sixties TV series It Takes a Thief:

In “To Catch a Roaring Lion,” which first aired on the very last day of 1968, main character Alexander Mundy (played by Robert Wagner) is sent to the fictional African country of Zambutiko to recover a set of ancient scrolls. In Zambutiko, Mundy meets Toosdhi Mboto (played by Denise Nicholas).

The following dialogue ensues:

“As with your name, it’s spelled differently. T-o-o-s-d-h-i. Toosdhi Mboto. My identification.”

“I don’t think I can read this out here, the sun is so bright. Why don’t we go to some dark spot, with rum in it.”

“I will be your personal guide while you’re here, Mr. Mundy.”

“You can call me Al.”

Paul Simon would have called her Betty.

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A quiet, normal(ish) life

It seems unlikely, especially these days, but it’s more common than you think:

99.99% of all people (in the Western World anyway. I’m not going to speculate on the rest of the world) never shoot anybody. Because there is a certain random element to how people grow, there are always going to be some who are not well suited to life in our society. Among those is a small percentage who are going to lash out with varying degrees of effectiveness.

I don’t think any kind of mass palliative educational program is going to help. A program that identified individuals who might pose a possible threat, and tracked them might help. But such a program could easily be abused, and I’m not sure we have a reliable method of identifying a dangerous person before they start shooting.

Then again, we don’t track worth a damn. (Which, in the Surveillance State, might be a good thing.)

We could dope everyone up so they were nice obedient sheep, but even then things might not go so well. Get enough sheep going in one direction and any sheep in their way are liable to get trampled.

And heaven help us if those sheep learn to shoot.

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I find your lack of fragrance disturbing

There is, of course, a solution:

[I]f you’ve ever thought to yourself, “How I long to smell like a Jedi,” here’s your chance. Lifetime Fragrances, a perfume manufacturer in Germany, now offers a line of Star Wars perfumes and colognes.

Eau de toilette Jedi is described as a woody-aromatic scent that “exudes positive energy.”

For those who’ve turned to the Dark Side, eau de toilette Empire has an oriental-woody scent.

The lone scent aimed at women, Amidala, is described as a fruity-oriental fragrance, mixing notes of green apple, patchouli, vanilla and musk, among others.

If the scents don’t sell you, perhaps the bottle design will do it. All three fragrances are sold in what look like lightsaber hilts — black and red for Empire, blue and silver for Jedi, and a very C-3P0 gold and silver for Amidala.

Bad news: They’re not selling these outside Germany yet, so you’ll have to make a small detour before setting off on the Kessel Run.

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Many ticks of the clock

Growing older has its annoyances, particularly in the slow yet seemingly endless disintegration of one’s physical self. Still, there are things to celebrate about it, especially for women:

What about the benefits of finally not caring what other people think about you and how you do stuff? What about not giving a fig about dressing up for men but instead caring passionately about dressing up for yourself? What about those creative projects and business ventures that you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the time or the confidence to do? What about your deeply intimate and lasting friendships that you know will last you until you die? What about your gorgeous relationships with your children or other people’s children? What about the relaxation you feel about making love? Finally. what about discovering the value of the simple sides to life — gardens, nature, animals, meandering, holidays?

Still, there’s something that stings about this paragraph:

It was Marilyn Monroe’s birthday recently, and one of my Facebook friends wrote: “Marilyn would have been 90 today and everyone would have been complaining that she didn’t look 25.”

Yeah. The time to look twenty-five is when you’re seventeen.

(Just kidding. I think.)

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What to do about HB2

North Carolina’s HB2 has gotten to the point where it has its own Wikipedia page:

The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, officially called An Act to Provide for Single-sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom and Changing Facilities in Schools and Public Agencies and to Create Statewide Consistency in Regulation of Employment and Public Accommodations, but commonly known as House Bill 2 or HB2, is an act passed in the U.S. state of North Carolina in 2016. It has been described as the most anti-LGBT legislation in the United States, while proponents call it “common sense” legislation.

One contentious element of the law eliminates anti-discrimination protections for gay, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, and intersex people, and legislates that in government buildings, individuals may only use restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. This has been criticized because it prevents transgender people who do not or cannot alter their birth certificates from using the restroom consistent with their gender identity: in North Carolina, only people who undergo sex reassignment surgery can change the sex on their birth certificates, and outside jurisdictions have different rules, some more restrictive. The legislation changes the definition of sex in the state’s anti-discrimination law to “the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.”

The act also prohibits municipalities in North Carolina from enacting anti-discrimination policies, setting a local minimum wage, regulating child labor, or making certain regulations for city workers. The legislation also removes the statutory and common-law private right of action to enforce state anti-discrimination statutes in state courts.

The most immediate result: performers are avoiding North Carolina the way they used to avoid Sun City. There has been backlash against backlash, of course. But there is one man who dares to take the middle path, and that man is “Weird Al” Yankovic:

Like many other entertainers on the road this summer, I wrestled with the decision about whether or not to cancel my North Carolina concert dates in protest of the controversial HB2 bill. It was definitely not an easy choice, but I have decided to honor the dates, as I don’t want to punish my fans (most of whom, I’d like to believe, also have a big problem with unfair, discriminatory legislation). I will be donating my personal fee from the June 18 Greensboro show to the Human Rights Campaign (www.hrc.org), America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.

When sensible compromises are found, Weird Al will find them.

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A child across the seas

The Small Kindness humanitarian organisation requests your attention for a moment:

As the world’s TV attention and news programs focus on the masses, commenting on the millions of refugees filling Europe, the real human tragedy and story of one single life is missed.

Our video focuses on the suffering of just one solitary boy who wants to go back home, but loses his life while searching for humanity. The campaign #YouAreNotAlone calls on us all to reach out and support these innocent of war.

The video is by Small Kindness founder Yusuf, otherwise The Artist Formerly Known As Cat Stevens:

It’s not quite the same voice that sang to Lady D’Arbanville four decades and odd ago, but it’s still compelling.

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Turn on your radio

Ontogeny might not recapitulate phylogeny the way we once thought, or at least the way Ernst Haeckel thought, but pop music parallels a whole lot of cultural evolution:

When there’s war, either actual or likely, you get nice bright shiny happy music — rock in the 50s and 60s, disco in the 70s, techno in the 80s, hedonistic tween pop now. But when things are great — as in the 1990s — you get songs about how awful everything is (grunge, nu metal). The only caveat here is that you have to look at what’s actually on the charts, not just what you think is going to be there — Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane never sniffed the top 10, and the only Doors songs to do so were treacly pop crap like “Touch Me.” Acidy stuff was there, but most “Sixties” music shared chart space with, and usually lost out to, crap like “Harper Valley PTA” and “Sugar Sugar” (the top song of 1969, the very year of Woodstock!).

“Somebody to Love” hit #5 in Billboard, and “White Rabbit” made it to #8, which may explain why Surrealistic Pillow, the Airplane album that contained them both, topped out at #3. However, this was a short-lived phenomenon at best; JA’s third-biggest hit, “The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil,” stopped two slots short of the Top 40, and nothing else came close to that. (We will pretend not to notice “We Built This City,” an inexplicable #1 for the de-Jeffersoned “Starship” in 1985.) The chart history of Jimi Hendrix contains no zingers, even brief ones: Hendrix’ much-loved reworking of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” stalled at #20, and “Purple Haze,” which everyone thought of as Jimi’s Big Hit, died at #65.

And while viewing that last paragraph, you should keep in mind that I have always had a taste for treacly pop crap, dating back at least as far as, oh, “Johnny Angel.”

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Preview of coming excrescence

From earlier this year:

The following statements should have been obvious, but I admit to having given the matter no thought up to now:

  1. There exists Donald Trump fanfiction.
  2. There exists sexually explicit Donald Trump fanfiction.

To which we can now add:

  1. There will be a motion picture based on sexually explicit Donald Trump fanfiction.

Yes, really:

Earlier this year, [Elijah] Daniel was a little drunk and messing around on Twitter. He joked that he was going to write an erotic story about Donald Trump. The tweet got a positive response, so Daniel figured he’d open up another bottle of wine and take a few hours and bang something out. By the next morning, Daniel had completed Trump Temptation: The Billionaire and The Bellboy, a 21-page send up of both the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and E.L. James’s guilty-pleasure kink-fest Fifty Shades of Grey.

The book was a hit, becoming a best-seller on Amazon within 48 hours. He posted the story on the online publishing platform Wattpad, where it attracted over a million readers. Now, Daniel has teamed with gay porn studio NakedSword to turn Trump Temptation into a feature film.

Have I read this book? Um, yeah.

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Burnishing the image

There is apparently only so much Slocum one person can put up with:

James Awesome name announcement

Rainbow Miriam Dash was not available for comment.

(Via Bad Newspaper.)

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Rise to vote, sir

Now here’s an ambition I can respect:

Two English novels are palindromic in formSatire: Veritas by David Stephens (1980, 58,795 letters), and Dr Awkward & Olson in Oslo by Lawrence Levine (1986, 31,954 words) — but not having read either of them, I have no idea whether their narratives make sense. I have, however, read Demetri Martin’s palindromic poem “Dammit I’m Mad” — so can you — and it teeters on the edge of comprehensibility.

Perhaps easier would be a string of multiple palindromes, like this:

What it lacks in emotional purity, it makes up for in, um, some way or another.

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