Archive for Almost Yogurt

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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I ain’t ‘fraid of no downvote

The response to the first trailer from the Ghostbusters reboot was so negative that Sony spent a few bucks making another one:

That first trailer drew three downvotes per upvote. This one is getting four.

Still, if these are the second-string jokes, they can forget about billing this as a comedy.

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Without filtration

At first, I thought this was just another Sign of the Times:

The Houston Chronicle has apologized after publishing an article that directly quoted broken English from Houston Astros outfielder Carlos Gomez.

In the article written on May 4, Brian T. Smith placed much of the blame for the Astros’ early struggles on Gomez.

And what did Smith say Gomez said?

“For the last year and this year, I not really do much for this team. The fans be angry. They be disappointed,” said Gomez as he roamed center field against the team with which he spent 2008-09.

I suppose I could point out that baseball been berry, berry good to Gomez, but actually we’ve been here before, a hell of a lot earlier than any SNL catchphrases. The setup:

We pick up the story from H. Allen Smith, live from 1934:

You may remember that Mr. Baer struck Mr. Carnera with great force and great frequency around the face and head. When the Italian giant reached the dressing room he had large lumps all over his forehead, and his jaws were swollen. They took his ring clothes off and propped him up on a rubbing table, and he kept looking around the room without apparently seeing anything. His handlers faded back and left him sitting there beneath the light. Nobody made a move to do anything, so I stepped up to him.

“Did he hit you hard?” I asked him.

He stared at me for a full minute. Then his lips moved.

“Holy Jesus!” he said.

“Do you want to fight him again?”

“Holy Jesus!” mumbled Carnera.

“Do you think you could lick him if you fought him again?”

“Holy Jesus!”

“Does your head hurt?”

“Holy Jesus!”

“Do you think Baer can lick Schmeling?”

“Holy Jesus!”

At this point half a dozen or so of Carnera’s proprietors came crashing in, and the press was ordered out of the place. I was well satisfied. It was one of the most revealing interviews I had ever had. I was quite startled, however, the next day when I picked up the papers to see what the sports writers had to say about it. One of them quoted Carnera as having said:

“Max’s blows were very hard. He hurt me several times — I have to admit that. But I sincerely believe that I could defeat him and I would like to have another chance. I want to regain the championship.”

Carnera couldn’t have uttered those thirty-eight words in that sequence if he had gone four years to Harvard. Yet the other sports writers had composed the same sort of sheep dip with slight variations.

Boxing been very, very good to Primo Carnera. And Baer had licked Max Schmeling — the year before.

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Literary inversion

Now here’s a pitch I’m surprised I hadn’t seen before:

Currently:

  • Classic literature is filled with memorable male protagonists
  • These works of art contribute to patriarchal gender norms
  • Everyone grows up reading about worlds where men have the knowledge, adventure, power, and personal struggle

It doesn’t have to be that way!

“Call me Trishna,” begins their Melville rewrite. And rewriting is what they do: they take an old classic (and, of course, public-domain) novel with a male protagonist and flip the genders throughout. I spent a few bucks on their inversion of H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Woman, so to speak, and while there was an occasional failure of whatever search-and-replace scheme they were using, it’s still a very good story, and it’s not really any less believable with Grisella instead of Griffin. I would expect this to be the case with others in their ongoing series, though I expect the main audience to be the hardcore feminist for whom everything on earth is the fault of those tall guys with the dangly bits. Consider this an amusing side theater in the Gender Wars, and feel free to give the stories a try if you’re curious. (Frankly, I’m keen to see A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman, probably not by Joyce James, due out this summer.)

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McQuestion McAnswered

In the wake of Boaty McBoatface, Katy Waldman — not, you’ll note, Katy McKaterson — traces the origin of this odd bit of name construction:

By the time Adam Sandler introduced a creature called Fatty McGee on his double platinum comedy album They’re All Gonna Laugh at You in 1993, the parodic “Mc” had absorbed some bite from its association with McDonalds. In the ’80s and ’90s, a dismissive Mc often prefaced “something that is of mass appeal, a standardized or bland variety,” says the OED. In 1986, the sociologist Amitai Etzioni coined the word “McJob” to describe what the novelist Douglas Coupland would later immortalize in Generation X as “a low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low benefit, no-future job in the service sector.” Like a McDonald’s hamburger, such positions were cheap, ubiquitous, and un-nourishing. A glib and pandering best-seller was a “McThriller.” A meretricious construction project was a “McMansion.” (Even today, couples in Hong Kong can get McMarried at a fast food outlet for about $1,300.)

But the Internet didn’t take up the “X-y McXerson” construction in earnest until 2001, according to lexicographer Ben Zimmer: “The first [Usenet] appearance of Hottie McHotterson (on rec.games.video.sony),” Zimmer writes, beat out “Fatty McFatterson, Stiffy McStifferson, Drinky McDrinkerson, Jewy McJewerson, etc.” Zimmer also notes a cornucopia of deprecative McNicknames for George W. Bush, including “Chimpy McBunnypants,” “Drinky McCokeSpoon,” and “Smirky McWarHardon.”

Apparently I picked up on this construction for the first time in 2010, in a reference to James Lileks:

Of course, if you do as much scanning as Lileks — but no. No one does as much scanning as Lileks. He’s the original Scanny McScannerton. He could probably justify an industrial-strength scanner that would make Great-gramma throw up her dentures in despair, but they’d make him pay industry-level prices for it, and I suspect he’d like to feed the family once in a while.

I’m surprised nothing along these lines has showed up in the cloud of effluent surrounding the 2016 general election; apparently Donald Trump prefers the name “John” [warning: autostart video], but that’s about it so far.

(Via Heather Froelich.)

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Level perspective

There are some things we just don’t think about, because we don’t see them quite the same way. An example from yesterday’s tweetstream:

Frazer describes herself as a “wheelchair and chocolate user,” which seems sensible enough to me.

I really need to work something like this into a pony story, inasmuch as one of my recurring characters is a stallion about 9 hands who used to be a guy about 6 feet.

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I guess I’m gonna call

For some reason, this trailer is widely hated:

Seriously. After 30 million views, it has three times as many downvotes as upvotes. This is Rebecca Black-level rejection, and early Rebecca Black at that; her post-“Friday” material is doing far better.

Look, I saw the original Ghostbusters. And having seen two subsequent cartoon versions, only one of which was actually related to it, I figure the intellectual property has already been sufficiently slimed; this can’t possibly be any worse.

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Wrongly wronged

“There is no ‘try’,” said Yoda, and to some extent we have followed what we thought was the advice of the wizened Jedi Master: things we tried, but couldn’t get to work, will not be mentioned if we can possibly help it.

We may be doing it wrong:

A Princeton psychology professor has come up with a way to show people that that their “invisible” failures and setbacks are as important as their successes.

Johannes Haushofer, a Princeton professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, posted a CV of failures in an attempt to “balance the record” and “provide some perspective.” He was inspired by a 2010 Nature article by Melanie Stefan, a lecturer at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. She suggested that keeping a visible record of your rejected applications can help others to deal with setbacks.

The document is divided in six parts including: “Degree programs I did not get into,” “Academic positions and fellowships I did not get,” “Research funding I did not get” among others.

At the very least, this practice would fill in any perceived gaps in one’s own CV: if you have one entry every four or five years, some people will think you haven’t been doing anything between entries. Still, approve, Yoda would not.

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Serious pony

There has been a great deal of flapdoodle in recent years over the Hugo Awards, and the politicization of same. I can’t be sure if politics were involved in this nomination — I’m thinking a definite maybe — but just the same, there it is, up for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form):

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: “The Cutie Map” Parts 1 and 2 written by Scott Sonneborn, M.A. Larson, and Meghan McCarthy, directed by Jayson Thiessen and Jim Miller (DHX Media / Vancouver; Hasbro Studios)

This Season Five opener was downright jaw-dropping, and if you don’t believe me, just ask Starlight Glimmer.

(The complete list of finalists.)

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Kneel before Scheherazade

Master the art, and more than a thousand and one wondrous nights shall be yours:

Guys: Are your pick-up lines no longer working? Well, here’s a new approach you may want to try. Go over to that attractive woman, introduce yourself, and tell her in a quiet but authoritative voice: It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon…

That’s right: Spin a yarn. Newly published research finds women view men as more attractive potential long-term mates if they are good storytellers.

“Stories are not just mere conversation,” write Melanie Green of the University of Buffalo and John Donahue of the University of North Carolina. “Storytelling ability appears to increase (a man’s) perceived status, and thus helps men attract long-term partners.”

As a Bard with -6 Charisma, I am not likely to achieve results of this type.

What’s more, this is not supposed to work in the opposite direction. Per the abstract:

Results suggested that only women’s attractiveness assessments of men as a long-term date increased for good storytellers. Storytelling ability did not affect men’s ratings of women nor did it affect ratings of short-term partners.

Color me “outlier.” Then again, I may be remembering Sir Richard Burton’s description of Scheherazade:

[She] had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples and instances of bygone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred.

Wiser than I, surely. Still, one of us has to be the brains of the operation, and I’m not particularly adept at it.

(Via Fark.)

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A tuck everlasting?

David Mandel, new showrunner for HBO’s political comedy Veep, officially denied in Entertainment Weekly (#1411/12) that the series will do any Trumpazoid material this season:

For those wondering if Veep will address the orange-haired candidate in the room… “I will say this as clearly as possible. There is no Donald Trump, and there is no Donald Trump character,” Mandel says with a laugh. So can Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) make America great again? “I think she can,” Mandel says. “She certainly can make hats and shirts, if nothing else. Also, she has a giant penis.”

Who knew that The Actress Formerly Known As Elaine Benes was packing yuge sausage? Certainly not I.

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Oh, Rochester!

This clipping was going around the Jack Benny Fan Club Facebook page this past weekend:

1939 clipping from a Hollywood trade paper reviewing a show by Eddie Anderson

It surely is a measure of something that Mr. Anderson, who had started playing Rochester on the Jack Benny program only two years before, was so totally identified with that role, despite having appeared in at least two dozen films by 1939. (Then again, he was uncredited in most of them.)

And if “Negro comic” doesn’t make your eyes roll, consider the term “sepians.”

Many years later, “Rochester” was apparently still widely believed to be a real person:

Among the most highly paid performers of his time, Anderson invested wisely and became extremely wealthy. Until the 1950s, Anderson was the highest paid African-American actor, receiving an annual salary of $100,000. In 1962, Anderson was on Ebony magazine’s list of the 100 wealthiest African-Americans. Despite this, he was so strongly identified with the “Rochester” role that many listeners of the radio program mistakenly persisted in the belief that he was Benny’s actual valet. One such listener drove Benny to distraction when he sent him a scolding letter concerning Rochester’s alleged pay, and then sent another letter to Anderson, which urged him to sue Benny. In reality, Anderson did well enough to have his own valet.

Jack Benny, for what it’s worth, was never a cheapskate; that was just part of the character he played.

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He made it after all

The true hero of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, contends Lileks, was Ted Baxter:

He was a silly puffed-up man, and yes he was cheap and vain. But he was a decent fellow. I’ve said this before, but Ted’s the real hero of the show. Lou was a grumpy curmudgeon wounded by divorce. Murray was a pill, his sarcasm masking the fact that he knew exactly how small his skill-set really was, which is why he was working at the low-rated station; Mary couldn’t keep a boyfriend for more than two episodes, which may have been a clue to something in her personality we never saw on the show.

Ted, on the other hand, got married, stayed married, adopted a Vietnamese orphan, was utterly enthusiastic about life in general, and kept his job. There are times you fear you’re really Ted, and then there are times you think: could be worse.

And better yet, no one ever told him he had spunk.

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Advice to the youngsters

Asked for advice by a recent grad who says he’s hauling in 60k a year after taxes but continues to occupy his parents’ basement, Bark M. comes up with an eminently sensible set of proposals:

  1. Move out from your parents’ house into a nice, upscale apartment for about $1200/month.
  2. Allocate about $400/month for groceries, and another $400/month for utilities.
  3. Get some silk sheets.
  4. Download Tinder.
  5. Spend lots of money on alcohol and dating. Get laid as much as possible. You’re only young and single once.
  6. Give yourself about $900/month to spend on a car, including insurance.
  7. Save a grand each month since an H-1B worker who lied about his certifications on his application will replace you at your tech job.

Some of these, I suspect, were delivered with tongue in cheek.

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Everything means less than zero

Jack Baruth works out the Equation for Greatness:

Acceptable talent (multiplied by) acceptable work ethic = nothing

Peerless talent x iffy work ethic = Axl Rose, Latrell Sprewell, Paul Chambers, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Acceptable talent x peerless work ethic = Dave Grohl, Larry Bird, Charlie Haden, John Le Carré

Peerless talent x peerless work ethic = Jimmy Page, Michael Jordan, John Coltrane, Samuel Johnson

I’m a tad higher on work ethic than on talent, perhaps, but neither is sufficiently noteworthy to budge the needle on the scale.

Weirdly, or perhaps not so weirdly, the two jazz albums I am most likely to spin at the drop of a hat — Miles’ Kind of Blue and Trane’s Blue Train — both feature Paul Chambers’ bass work.

And Jack reminds you that there’s a third factor, perhaps harder to quantify:

Adversity builds character, which builds excellence. If you struggle your entire life, you won’t give up when it’s time to struggle for your art. A miserable childhood produces restlessness and discontent, which taken together are the pilot light without which talent doesn’t burn brightly enough to be noticed. You’ve heard all of that. It might even be true.

The problem today is that too many of us consider our minor inconveniences and frustrations to be True Adversity. I know I do.

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No, the other third day

The Eastern Orthodox church celebrates Easter this year, not today, but on the first of May. This is partly due to the fact that the Orthodox rite is still derived from the Julian calendar, which has been getting farther and farther out of sync with the Gregorian calendar for the last four centuries and odd. Will this situation ever change? Well, it might:

The heads of the Christian churches are close to sealing a deal to fix the date of Easter, the Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed, ending more than a thousand years of confusion and debate.

The Church of England’s Archbishop of Canterbury Most Reverend Justin Welby said the agreed date would be either the second or third Sunday of April.

He expected to make the change within 5-10 years, though he admitted that churches have been trying to agree on a date without success since the tenth century.

Archbishop Welby, Pope Francis, the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (head of the Greek Orthodox church) are all working towards a common date, he said.

This does not necessarily portend a reunification of the separate bodies of Christianity, but it still seems like a promising development.

(Via @BethAnnesBest.)

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From the book of Romans Go Home

Monty Python’s Life of Brian turned out to be so gosh-darn amusing that several multitudes at the time, the time being 1979, assumed the film must be blasphemous, and some of them got actual form letters from Python, which closed this way:

We are aware that certain organizations have been circulating misinformation on these points and are sorry that you have been misled. We hope you will go see the film yourself and come to your own conclusions about its virtues and defects. In any case, we hope you find it funny.

This statement is not approved by the Judean People’s Front People’s Front of Judea.

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Non-linear learning

This seems eminently, well, normal, at least to me:

I’m also having a little easier time with some of the piano stuff. Maybe these things go by cycles? Maybe for a while you are just kind of dull and stupid about things, and then that resolves, and you get better at it? I never seem to progress at anything smoothly — I struggle for a while and then suddenly it becomes easy for a while until I struggle again.

Just about everything I’ve learned has dragged me through that particular pattern: up a bit, a plateau, up a bit more, lather, rinse, repeat. Perhaps they call it a “learning curve,” not because it’s necessarily curved, but because it’s so seldom a straight line.

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Old man, don’t look at my life

I’m not sure which perplexed my children more: the fact that I’ve written some My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfiction, or the fact that some sections of it skirt the boundary between PG-13 and R. As a rule, kids are appalled by anything remotely sexual connected to the parental units, and this had the potential to become Exhibit A:

When, at a family gathering, I was gleefully ushered into the study and asked if I’d mind reading some draft pages of a novel he’d been writing, I had no idea of the horror awaiting me. To the contrary, I was genuinely excited. It was only a few days later, as I was perusing the pages, that I discovered he had written full-blown dad-erotica.

Please tell me that’s not an established genre.

Belinda Blinked, a racy novel about the sexual exploits of pots and pans sales director Belinda Blumenthal, is a departure for my dad. A millennial before his time, he’s donned many guises and worn many hats, from salesman to builder, teacher to geologist. But this was his first outing as a writer, and as such he was forced to go down the self-publishing route. I mean, who would ever publish such dreck? Making it available on iTunes and Kindle for a couple of quid seemed innocuous enough. The risk of anyone I knew reading it was slim to zero, especially given the creative pen name he’d adopted: Rocky Flintstone.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that no one should be subjected to the sexual fantasies of their 60-year-old father.

Then again, the book did contain redeeming social value:

Not Steinbeck genius, but my goodness it’s better than E.L. James. For one thing, there’s never a dull moment. For all the points Dad misses on his mission to arouse, Belinda Blinked makes up for in downright hilarity. It’s that naive kind of funny, that magical brand of humour that can only be born from a complete lack of awareness. The sex is random and misguided, with choice quotes including “her breasts hung like pomegranates” and “he grabbed her cervix.” If my three sisters and I didn’t exist, I’d genuinely question whether my dad had ever had sex.

Just to prove I’m not quoting these things to make my own stuff look better, here we have Twilight Sparkle complaining about her coltfriend to Rarity:

Twilight shook her head. “Maybe I did read too many of those silly stories.”

“Then answer me this: What do those fictional stallions have that Brush doesn’t?”

“It’s not what they have,” said Twilight. “It’s what they do, and when they do it. They take the initiative. They nod in your direction, they say Now, and you can’t help but follow.”

“And he doesn’t do that?”

Twilight sighed. “I’ll be working late on something, and I’ll be bored out of my mind, and he’ll come up behind me. But he won’t really approach. And if I turn around, he’ll look away and then leave the room. Just once I’d like him to tell me to put down that bucking book and come to bed already.”

Rarity’s face lit up. “Oh, you do have the proper instincts after all!”

“I do?”

“Of course you do. You shouldn’t have to do all the work. If he wants you, he should have to put some effort into getting you.”

Twilight frowned. “Last night, I thought he was really going to. He climbed up to the observatory. He never climbs up to the observatory. We talked, he was very sweet, and then suddenly he was gone.”

“Did you give him any indication that you were in the mood?”

“Dammit, I was in heat!” Twilight yelled. “How much indication does he need?”

“Oh, my,” said Rarity. “Then again, you are his first pony. He may not have learned all the subtle signals of estrus.”

“Believe me,” Twilight snickered, “they’re not all that subtle. Mine aren’t, anyway.”

Maybe I need to read Belinda Blinked. For reference, of course.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Selfie unesteemed

In fact, Malaysian officials think the selfie could be downright dangerous:

According to Harian Metro, CyberSecurity Malaysia communications officer Jazannul Azriq Aripin said there were reported cases of “bomoh” or local shamans purportedly using pictures on social media site such as Facebook to supposedly hex their victims.

“Do not be surprised if the ‘bomoh’ themselves are getting smarter and they may have installed wireless broadband to launch their black magic,” he told the local Malay daily.

“So, avoid uploading pictures of yourself to avoid the threat of black magic.”

He did not elaborate on what occurred in the cases he cited or how “black magic” worked online.

Then again, just being on Facebook might be bad juju of a sort.

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