Archive for Almost Yogurt

You hate me, you really hate me

Even a mere downturned thumb gives me a reaction something like this:

The beauty of the world is that we all have different personalities and tastes. It’s what makes us different, interesting. It’s what sets us apart from each other.

So why, then, does a bad review affect me like it does? I should appreciate the review for what it is, learn from it, grow from it, become a better person because of it. Instead, I take it to heart and then I go through what I like to call the “Five Phases of Bad Reviews”.

The influence of Kübler-Ross, I suspect: if it makes you feel like you just want to die, you get the same five stages of grief you’d have if you were dying, except that it’s at a lower level. At least, I hope it’s at a lower level.

And I admit up front that my usual order is 2, 3, 1, 4, 5. Go figure.

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The Grey Lady has another hit

And apparently it hasn’t affected her sense of timing:

It’s almost like she knew what she was doing or something.

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St. Jeff the Heretic

The following notice appeared on the back cover of Gilbert Magazine on behalf of its publisher, the American Chesterton Society:

AMAZON IS NOT AN APOSTOLATE

“With Amazon Prime, I get free shipping” is what we sometimes hear from friends of G. K. Chesterton. Amazon.com can certainly get you that book or DVD you’ve wanted for less. But free shipping, believe it or not, is expensive. It’s expensive because Amazon never has, and never will, run an apostolate dedicated to the greatest mind of the 20th century.

Amazon’s lower prices cannot replace an apostolate that cares about the mind and soul of your family. Neither will Amazon pretend it has any stake in the restoration of sanity, common sense and education as investments for a society desperately in need of the love of Christ or the profound commitment society owes to family life.

I may as well mention here that I have ordered material from ACS, and that I didn’t price-check it with the Great Bezos Machine beforehand. (Turns out they didn’t actually have it.)

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Tootsie in the sky with hijinks

Poster for 'Cockpit' (2012)As it happens, I wasn’t anywhere near New York City Thursday night, which is perhaps something of a pity, because I might have gotten to see a 2012 Swedish comedy with the unsubtle title Cockpit, as suggested by an apparently enthusiastic Tatyana:

After getting fired from his current job as a pilot, and dumped by his current wife, Valle seeks to find a new job. Out of desperation on the job market for male air pilots, he disguises himself as a woman in order to get a job at Silver, an airline seeking a female pilot. The dividing line between his female and male self, as well as his personal and love life, starts to blur to a point which he eventually is unable to handle.

Jonas Karlsson stars as Dustin Hoffman. And anyway, I suspect Tatyana would go to this event for reasons other than seeing weird Swedish variations on American film themes.

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There are also wardrobe adjustments

About three years ago, I posted an item about one Andrej Pejić, a rather androgynous fellow who actually looked really good in a print ad for a bra. I said at the time:

[Pejić is] arguably the prettiest six-foot-two blond(e) working the runway today. I’d argue that he sells the product remarkably well, inasmuch as it brings a figure with no actual bewbage at all up to an almost-solid B.

That figure has changed a bit since then: Pejić has added an A to her first name and has undergone sexual-reassignment surgery. Apparently this is what she always wanted:

I figured out who I was very early on — actually, at the age of 13, with the help of the Internet — so I knew that a transition, becoming a woman, was always something I needed to do. But it wasn’t possible at the time, and I put it off, and androgyny became a way of expressing my femininity without having to explain myself to people too much. Especially to my peers [who] couldn’t understand things like “trans” and gender identity. And then obviously the modeling thing came up, and I became this androgynous male model, and that was a big part of my growing up and my self-discovery. But I always kept in mind that, ultimately, my biggest dream was to be a girl. I wasn’t ready to talk about it before in a public way because I was scared that I would not be understood. I didn’t know if people would like me. But now I’m taking that step because I’m a little older — I’m 22 — and I think my story can help people. My goal is to give a human face to this struggle, and I feel like I have a responsibility.

Certainly this will make matters a bit simpler for the gatekeepers in modeling:

[W]hen I first moved to London. It was like, I’d walk into the boys’ casting, and they were like, “No … you don’t belong here.” And then at the girls’ casting, they were like, “Why are they sending us boys?” So it took time for everyone to get on board. It wasn’t all sweet sailing.

For the non-fashionista, the place you’re most likely to have seen Pejić is David Bowie’s 2013 video for “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” the existence of which offers up two layers of irony: Bowie’s own long-ago flirtation with androgyny, circa Ziggy Stardust, and the unexpected Woman of a Certain Age appearance of Tilda Swinton, who much of the time aspires to look like Conan O’Brien. As Ray Davies once said: “It’s a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world.”

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Turd-world problems

Remember when advertising for constipation remedies was restrained, even vague? Well, forget that crap:

Ad for Dulcolax

Copyranter explains where this came from:

Above is a new ad just pushed out the PR poop chute this week by McCann China. Dulcolax is one of the world’s leading laxative brands, made by $15 billion German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim.

The anthropomorphized “Shits” here are imprisoned in your anus, as you can see. The Shits have eyes. A couple of the Shits have boobs. Child Shits are present. One of the Shits, the one marking the days on the “prison” wall has been up your ass a long time. If you’ve ever had a colonic, you know this is accurate. Dulcolax will not save him.

And Copyranter has a lot more where that came from, so to speak.

Now I’m recalling George Carlin’s “Shoot”:

No one ever uses the word ‘shit’ really literally, y’know? … They have other words for that: doo-doo, ca-ca, poo-poo, and good old Number Two.

I suspect this assessment is dead in the water, and not the cleanest water either.

(Via Nancy Friedman.)

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Formerly known as “public servants”

An “ugly little question,” she says:

If I had 8 more inches of height, a deep voice, a full beard, and a set of nuts (sorry), would I be treated with more respect by random bureaucrats than I am currently?

I think the key word here is “random.” From my own vantage point (two inches shorter than specified), I’m finding that there are some genuinely warm and helpful people in various government offices — but that there are also some absolute termagants, malingerers and shitbirds, and you seldom have any control over what you get.

I’m not sure it’s a function of, well, function, either: of all the bureaucracies, the IRS is in perhaps the best possible position to mess up your life for all eternity, and yet there exist, I am told, a small number of IRS functionaries who aren’t actually trying to stick it to you — though it’s admittedly difficult to find them behind the phone tree.

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Thorina, Thorina

So Marvel wants Thor to be female? I’m fine with that. But the way they did it is a slap in two different faces:

As I understand it, and these are from the words of the creative team, Thor is not turning into a woman. If Thor were turning into a woman, I’d be more OK with this, as he’s a demigod. The rules are, always have been, and always should be, unclear on what limitations that can be placed on a demigod’s physiology. No, this is a character that is in Thor’s life, idolizes him, looks up to him, and when Thor is judged unworthy, he is stripped of his power, his hammer, and his name, and it is given to her instead. In my eyes, this is a total disrespect to both characters. You’re taking a character’s very birth name from him, the name given him by his mother and father (coincidentally, demigods themselves), and you’re giving it to someone else. Not even Loki, who slept with a horse, gave birth to a baby horse, and brought about Ragnarok, ever had his own name taken from him. You’re literally taking his identity away.

Then again, who else but Loki would want it?

And here’s the part where I don’t understand why more people concerned with diversity are upset. Why Joss Whedon and TheMarySue and all the other female-centric-viewpoint-friendly outlets aren’t rioting. You’re taking a woman, erasing her previous identity, and giving her a new one, based on an existing character. There was speculation for a bit that a previously existing female character, likely one of Marvel’s super-powered blondes, would take over. Honestly, being a fan of both Valkyrie and Ms/Captain Marvel (likely candidates to stand in for Thor, based on appearance and power levels), I am certainly hoping that is not the case. Both of these characters have a pretty rich history and stand on their own merits, and to have all of that taken away from them and just have “THOR” pasted over it would be pretty insulting. There’s a lot of really awesome pre-existing female characters in the Marvel U that I’m now worried about, because I want them to keep existing as who they are, and not having the identity of Thor pasted over theirs.

This, however, should be considered a warning:

[W]hy was this announced on The View? Since when was The View considered a source of comic book news?

At best, The View is a source of news that fails to reach the level of comic books, which is not the same thing. This tells me that Marvel doesn’t really give a crap about this; they just want Aggrieved Women to shut up, and they’re fool enough to think that this will do the trick.

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Came in like a Veecking ball

In 1979, Bill Veeck (as in “wreck”) came up with a wild promotion for his Chicago White Sox: “Disco Demolition Night,” in which fans were invited to bring their disco records to a massive bonfire to be held between the first and second halves of a doubleheader. Things got out of hand, and the Sox had to forfeit the nightcap to the visiting Detroit Tigers.

You might not think that this concept was ripe for a revival, but to borrow a phrase, you better belieb it:

“Like so many, we have taken special exception to Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus’s music along with his numerous run-ins with the law and her controversial performances,” said [Charleston] RiverDogs General Manager Dave Echols. “‘Disco Demolition 2′ is dedicated to the eradication of their dread musical disease, like the original Disco Demolition attempted to do. We are going to take Bieber and Cyrus’s merchandise and memorabilia, put it in a giant box, and blow it to smithereens. It is all in good fun, and we guarantee there won’t be a forfeit of a game.”

Fans that bring Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus items to the game will receive a $1 ticket. Video montages throughout the game will pump up the fans prior to the dramatic postgame demolition. In addition, the RiverDogs will no longer play Bieber and Cyrus music at Riley Park.

The Dogs sold out all 6000 seats, and while the fans were waiting to trash the pop starts, their team was edging past the Augusta Green Jackets, 9-7.

A group headed by Marvin Goldklang owns five teams in Minor League Baseball, including the Class A RiverDogs; Mike Veeck, son of Bill, is a partner. Mike’s son William “Night Train” Veeck is working in the White Sox organization.

(With thanks to Fishersville Mike.)

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Everyone’s a critic

Peter Grant, aka Bayou Renaissance Man, has written five books — the Maxwell Saga trilogy, the first book of the Laredo Wars series, and a memoir of his days as a prison chaplain. This puts him at least four point something up on the likes of, well, me. This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t post a review, but whatever the circumstances, I shouldn’t post a review as shoddy as this:

Comparing this atrocity to the work of Heinlien [sic] is like comparing festering garbage to a meal at a Michelin Star restaurant.

Without a doubt, the worst book I have ever attempted to read. The narrative has all the skill of a seventh grader writing about their summer vacation. I am offended that anyone had the gall to charge actual money for this pig slop. It was so wretched that I gave up on it after the second chapter. Do yourself a gargantuan favor and do not buy this trash masquerading as literature.

Grant, for his part, found it amusing:

I have a pretty good idea who wrote that review. If I (and others) are right, it’s someone who’s been identified as a troll by several other authors of my acquaintance, some of whom instantly remarked (when they learned about the review) that it has all the hallmarks of his grammar, vocabulary and phraseology. I don’t know for sure, but I thought most of you would find it as entertaining as I did.

I’ve always had this weird idea that if you’re going to act superior to someone, at some point you need to demonstrate some capacity for superiority. The troll isn’t born who could actually do that.

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Every man an artisan

Just another fad for hipsters? It’s much, much more:

The idea is that all the mindless manual labor which our ancestors spent all of history trying to escape is actually beneficial for you, whereas letting modern machinery do your drudgework, like, cheapens your basic essential humanity somehow. So forget modern, impersonal, factory-made mass-produced clothing; you’re not really “dressed” unless you’re wearing clothes you made yourself, using your own spinning wheel to spin your own thread out of fibers from your own pet sheep or gardenful of flax or cotton plants, then weaving those threads into cloth with your own loom.

This is, after all, The Way It Should Be:

Do what our ancestors did: be independent and self-sufficient, live a healthy, natural back-to-the-Earth lifestyle, spend years of repetitive labor producing a single piece of fabric, then drop dead by 35.

Think of your carbon footprint, man!

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When we wuz broke

We are told that really terrible living conditions, which today might be defined as having a two-generation-old iPhone, are dehumanizing and lead to violence. It wasn’t always so, says Ol’ Remus:

The Great Depression of the 1930s showed that hardship by itself produces little crime and may reduce it, contrary to ideological drum beating and the sensationalist press. One effect of hard times was to solidify family life, especially where holding the family together wasn’t a goal so much as a means, agricultural piecework for instance, or self-provided daycare. But in our time, career welfare has atomized millions of families by becoming the de facto head of household for several generations running. One conspicuous result is anonymous paternity, or at least uncertain paternity, a rarely mentioned result of which is a high rate of inadvertent inbreeding. Bottom line, a viable population was experimented upon because they could. And they did it badly.

Not that it could have been done well, the existing structure was too fragile to bear redirection. Nor did it need redirecting. In most things of importance it was both admirable and admired, at least by reasonable persons of good will. Improvements were happening, halting and incremental, but improvements nonetheless. In the event, it capsized, taking a lot of genuine progress with it. “Assistance” is now defended as an escalating bribe paid knowingly, if not cheerfully, to contain the wreckage.

As I’ve said before, the worst thing about the War on Poverty is that nobody bothered to plan an exit strategy. It might even have worked, had it been possible to administer it outside the bureaucracy; but bureaucracy, we have learned, cares only for its own perpetuation.

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So-called “childish things”

“I won’t grow up,” says the Disneyfied version of Peter Pan. In real life, we do, even if others don’t think so:

I will admit, I wonder sometimes “how long can you keep this up? It’s already ridiculous for a 40-something to still keep stuffed toys on her bed.” And I still occasionally hear in my head the echo of the incredulous response of someone whose opinion I valued at the time: “You’re buying a watch with Eeyore on it? What are you, EIGHT? That’s not going to help you at all when you go for job interviews.”

Well, I don’t know. I got a job, and tenure, and made full professor, all while wearing an Eeyore watch. And maybe, I don’t know, maybe the rules of what’s appropriate are being rewritten and no one will think it a big deal in the future that someone in her, I don’t know, fifties, still likes to watch cartoons or wear t-shirts with Snoopy on them or things like that.

As is often the case, C. S. Lewis has anticipated the issue, and finds it no issue at all:

Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

(From the essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children,” 1952.)

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It’s never too late to shut up

You’d think Wesley Crusher, of all people, would have realized that:

Recently, Mister [Wil] Wheaton committed the heinous crime of referring to someone as his “spirit animal.” Spirit animals, based on totemic beliefs, come from a number of different cultures throughout the world, but Tumblr seized on this and shredded Wheaton for appropriation of Native American culture. So of course, he did the smart thing by acknowledging people’s concerns privately and moving on with his life.

Nah, I’m kidding. He picked one of the less irate messages and replied to it with (and I hate using these words) copious amounts of White Guilt™, wallowing for forgiveness and cursing his ancestors. And of course, Tumblr saw how remorseful he was, and forgave him.

Nah, I’m kidding. His apology was dissected, and he was vilified even more with his own words. And so he got up and yelled back, and told people not to be a dick again, despite continuing on being a dick himself. This continued until a voice of reason, an actual Native woman herself, spoke up and politely asked all the White Saviours™ of Tumblr to stop telling her how to be offended, apologized to Wheaton for the kerfuffle, and explained that “Native Americans of all tribes pride themselves on being generous with our cultural iconography.”

Nah, he’s kidding. She denounced the living crap out of the White Saviours™ (below the jump for language considerations):

Read the rest of this entry »

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Quote of the week

Roberta X has had enough of our little pissing contests:

Once again, Larry Correia, John Scalzi and some nitwit I never heard of much are spatting. In a better world, I’d be able to say, “Boys! Go to your rooms,” but until I am elected Empress of All For Life, here’s a stopgap for the cheering hundreds, specifically those writing comments along the order of, “Yeah! $BAD _STUFF should happen to $GUY_I_DISAGREE_WITH! He’s bad and he should feel bad about it.”

Yeah, y’know what, Bucko? No. Not. This here is the United States of America and people are allowed to be right out there being WRONG, walking around and talking and spreading wrongness and bad advice everywhere. And dammit, that’s actually how most of us like it. Oh, we don’t want to sit next to ‘em on the bus, those wrong people who disagree with us, but if it’s the last seat left, we will, and most of the time, they’ll even scooch over a bit.

And unfuck you Left, Right or Center if you don’t like that. No, seriously: that attitude is The Real Problem. It’s the very same exact damn thing that led to riots by chariot-team boosters in Byzantium. I don’t expect it will change, really.

You can read some of the spattage for yourself if you’re so inclined. In the meantime, I await the rise of her empire.

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Times is on my side

“Times New Roman is not a comedy font.”

It does, however, have the ability to get out of its own way:

Then again:

Two satirical readings were selected from the New York Times. These readings (one addressing government issues, the other education policy) were each printed in Times New Roman and Arial fonts of the same size and presented in randomized order to 102 university students, who ranked the readings on a number of adjective descriptors. Analysis showed that satirical readings in Times New Roman were perceived as more funny and angry than those in Arial, the combination of emotional perception which is congruent with the definition of satire.

As always, not to be confused with Times New Viking.

(Suggested by Laughing Squid.)

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Nothing in between

We talked about thumbs up and thumbs down last week, and as a system, it has one thing going for it: simplicity. Consider this:

Interpreting reviews is an art form. Amazon is a great example of what I call the 1-5 phenomenon. You’ll see mostly one-star reviews and five-star reviews on most review systems. People seem unable to understand the foggy middle ground of 2–4. What is good? What is bad? What is really bad? Thumbs up and thumbs down, that simple pass-fail system, is much easier. Five stars review systems require work.

Reviews are subjective and if you’re a generally kind and generous person, if the item or experience was reasonably good, you’ll head towards five. The one star reviewer, however, has a finely honed sense of self-importance, both in what level they think their abilities of discernment are and in how they believe they deserve to be treated.

Out of curiosity, I looked at an Amazon product I’d reviewed. The overall score was 3.8, figured as follows:

    5 stars: 68
    4 stars: 17
    3 stars: 6
    2 stars: 6
    1 star: 24

Inasmuch as the product was an inkjet cartridge, you’d expect fives from those who got it to work, and ones from those who didn’t; twos, threes and fours are perhaps inexplicable. (I gave it a four, mostly because Amazon was selling it at very close to MSRP.)

I must admit, though, that I hadn’t delved into the psychology of it all quite this deeply:

So what is the mentality of a solid one-star reviewer?

Blackmail only. They have only one star to work with. Everything is judged on a negative scale.

Whether it’s Google Glass users trying to sabotage a restaurant that won’t allow them to wear the devices by leaving one-star reviews whether they ate there or not, the general tendency to be an ass and complainer and social media blackmailer, or using sockpuppet accounts to boost reviews, very little about the review and comment ability gives me much hope that the human race won’t be extinct in about three years.

I give this observation four stars out of a possible five. (I’d hate to give up entirely my tendency to be an ass and complainer.)

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Testing Turing’s test

Chatbots have been around forever, or at least since the birth of ELIZA back in the 1960s, and we all know how that worked out:

ELIZA’s key method of operation (copied by chatbot designers ever since) involves the recognition of cue words or phrases in the input, and the output of corresponding pre-prepared or pre-programmed responses that can move the conversation forward in an apparently meaningful way (e.g. by responding to any input that contains the word “MOTHER” with “TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR FAMILY”). Thus an illusion of understanding is generated, even though the processing involved has been merely superficial. ELIZA showed that such an illusion is surprisingly easy to generate, because human judges are so ready to give the benefit of the doubt when conversational responses are capable of being interpreted as “intelligent”. Thus the key technique here — which characterises a program as a chatbot rather than as a serious natural language processing system — is the production of responses that are sufficiently vague and non-specific that they can be understood as “intelligent” in a wide range of conversational contexts. The emphasis is typically on vagueness and unclarity, rather than any conveying of genuine information.

There are, of course, examples that don’t actually involve software. For instance:

Think of the way the average politician responds to the average reporter’s question about a scandal in which he or she is involved. The responses are in the form of regular human speech, but they are pre-scripted and designed to carry the form of human speech without fulfilling its function, i.e., explain why campaign contributions got spent at a strip joint. They are instead designed to divert attention from the scandal in the same way that a chatbot is designed to fool people that it is a real live incredibly attractive member of the opposite sex who wants to interact with you and lives just a few miles away.

Some people disparage lower-level members of the current administration as “Obamabots.” This is, however, exactly those members’ designated function; operatives have had this function in administrations nearly as long as there have been administrations.

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None of that girly stuff

One of the working definitions of “character actor” is “not the hero, but maybe the hero’s best friend”; as I recall, this was a common description of Ronald Reagan, affable on film but not awe-inspiring.

On this basis, almost every working woman in Hollywood is a character actor; she doesn’t get to be the hero, but she might be the hero’s girlfriend. In other words, nothing at all like real life:

We’ve become so used to Opinionated, Strategic Woman = Villain, and Beautiful Women = Piece of Ass With Perhaps Secondarily A Surprisingly Good Brain, that it’s hard to imagine an Oscar-style movie in which women like these are heroes, and in which their interactions have nothing at all to do with men. It’s totally rational that in the real world they could be. Women in the real world regularly kick ass in the sciences. They risk their lives photographing warzones. They spend a great deal of their time having nothing to say about men, weddings, menopause, periods, or their vaginas, and often can be found, you know, analyzing medieval marginalia, drafting policy arguments for politicians, and running through the park thinking about string theory.

You just won’t find them at the local octuplex:

Yet the movie versions of us — the mainstream Award Winning versions of us — are more typically found offscreen, coming on to serve the male world changers coffee, tie their neckties, support their ambitions, and look beautiful. We can be found bending over backwards in heels to show men how well we can shake it, while still maintaining the ability to raise small children, which startling capacity will, of course, help the male main character realize that he should be more emotionally available, and that he should also perhaps take some vengeful action against the things that have hurt the woman he loves.

We are told that this is because the single largest segment of the motion-picture audience is young men, and this is what they want to see, over and over and over again. And it’s not just movies, either:

[W]hen the novelist Mary Gordon spoke at a boys’ school, she learned that the students weren’t reading the Brontës, Austen or Woolf. Their teachers defended this by saying they were looking for works that boys could relate to. But at the girls’ school across the street, Gordon said, “no one would have dreamed of removing Huckleberry Finn or ‘Moby-Dick’ from the syllabus. As a woman writer, you get points if you include the ‘male’ world in your work, and you lose points if you omit it.”

There is, in fact, exactly one television series — not even enough to be a subgenre — in which the lads will turn out to see female characters doing it for themselves, with scarcely any references to males. Not that this is a harbinger of the future or anything; in fact, there are already signs of flankhurt.

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If I’m lying, I’m petrifying

Sony Pictures Animation has bought a project based on your favorite snake-haired female:

Antz writer Todd Alcott and producer Holly Golden sold the studio with a comedy pitch about a beautiful, young girl who transforms into Medusa, a gorgon whose gaze turns people to stone.

“I love the originality of it, the comedy take on Medusa,” Michelle Raimo-Kouyate, president of production at Sony Animation, told TheWrap. “The minute I heard it, it felt ingenious and clever and funny.”

The director attached to the project is Lauren Faust, developer of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which suggests a decidedly different spin on the old story:

Faust told TheWrap the movie will portray Medusa as a decent girl who irks the wrong goddess. After turning into a monster, she learns to embrace what makes her different.

This surely will bring all the boys to her yard: who hasn’t irked the wrong goddess at one time or another?

And in MLP:FiM, come to think of it, turning individuals to stone is routine: cockatrices roam the Everfree, and Discord used to spend his odd (and even) hours as an item of statuary in Celestia’s garden.

(Via The Mary Sue.)

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Somewhat newer Spice

At this level, I’m surprised it doesn’t have electrolytes:

I mean, whatever happened to good old aluminum chlorohydrate?

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The opposite of nostalgia

James Lileks is looking for a name for it:

What’s the word for an exaggerated dislike of a particular time? I know I am nostalgic for things I did not experience, and only see through the pop-culture elements left behind, which communicate incomplete and occasionally misleading messages. But I have antipathy for things I experienced at the fringe of adolescence — not because it was a bad time, or I didn’t like them then, but because they seem now to be the products of a culture that was getting cheap and lazy; it was full of gimcrack baubles turned out by an exhausted system that tried to adapt to the times, but had no strength to put forth any ideas or uphold any ideas that went before. The period from 1967 to 1975, with some stellar exceptions, was just a horrible time for everything, and you can reduce it all down to one middle-aged balding dude with wet hair plastered over his head in brown polyester pants and a mustard-yellow shirt approving one thing after the other because the kids will go for it.

I suspect we can generalize further: if anything worthwhile happened during your bête noire period, it happened in spite of that middle-aged balding dude.

My own “Oooh, take it away!” era runs roughly 1989 through about 1994 or so: it is delineated by changes in my own life, which had only just bottomed out and was in a tediously slow recovery, and by the fact that Mariah Carey was getting massive hit records by sounding like her record producer — Tommy Mottola, you may remember, lives on the road — had stuffed a live ferret into her pants.

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Casa del Frye sells

Cameron Frye, said Ferris Bueller once upon a time, is “so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up his ass, in two weeks you’d have a diamond.”

I suspect that this “tightness” was a function of the house he lived in, which, just incidentally, was sold:

After five stop-start years on the market — anyone, Bueller, anyone? — the sleek, glassy, modernist house in Highland Park where the coddled Ferrari owned by the dad of Ferris Bueller’s tightly wound buddy, Cameron, met its cliffside demise has finally found a taker. Per Crain’s Chicago Business, it sold for $1.06 million, much less than its original asking price of $2.35 million.

What happened? Did they find some Ferrari-colored diapers clogging up the water lines?

Then again, it did need some work. Though the house was an architectural stunner by Mies van der Rohe protégé A. James Speyer, a 2013 Chicago Magazine article described it as “problematic,” with “dated kitchen and bath fixtures” and walls that “were thin, some were in disrepair, and some of the rooms they enclosed were awkward.” Also, the property was comprised of two buildings that weren’t physically adjoined (the main house, which had four bedrooms, plus the car pavilion, which also had a kitchen and a bedroom), a hard sell in a city known for frigid winters.

On the upside, at least no one had to barf up a lung.

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Neither vile nor gossip

It doesn’t exactly take Malcolm Gladwell to predict that when there are four major automotive publications and only two owners, sooner or later there will be two major automotive publications and only two owners.

Two years ago, Road & Track’s southern-California offices were closed, and R&T had to more or less move in with Car and Driver. That was the first shoe. The second one, however, is a serious boot:

There’s been a big shakeup in the world of automotive media today, as Automobile’s parent company, Source Interlink, has shuttered the mag’s Ann Arbor, MI offices. Editor-In-Chief Jean Jennings has been fired, along with most of the publication’s staff. The news was confirmed by Jennings, who called it “business” in a conversation with Jalopnik.

Mike Floyd of Source Interlink-owned Motor Trend will reportedly take the helm at Automobile. Deputy Editor Joe DeMatio is expected to move to a Royal Oak, MI-based Source Interlink advertising office. According to Jennings, a few of the remaining employees will be relocating to Los Angeles, to be closer to Motor Trend.

I suspect this does not mean the actual death of Automobile, at least not yet: Source Interlink is rebranding as The Enthusiast Network, and they haven’t thrown Automobile off their brand-spanking-new Web site.

Still, I expect by 2020 there will be only Car and Driver and Motor Trend — and that at least one of them will have gone digital-only.

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Budding geniuses, every one

About a week and a half ago, I tossed up a link to a study which purported to claim that most Americans think themselves smarter than the norm. The norm being what it is, or what it seems to be, well, I keep wondering: how could they not? Razorbacker comes up with an explanation of how this might actually work:

I suspect this: the average American looks about himself (oh, alright, or herself) and sees so damned much touted as actual fact that he knows from personal experience to be a damnable lie, and he knows it to be a lie but one that is now unable to be mentioned in polite society. He looks at this and says, “There is either a fucking liar or a damned fool, and anyone but a dumbass knows it. Nobody else sees it, though. I must be smarter than the average bear.”

Once upon a time, I thought that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but facts belong to all. Now I understand that facts are not hard-and-fast, but shift like a river sand bar, moving this way and that, growing and shrinking, never the same from one day to the next.

Today, facts that don’t serve the desired narrative are not considered to be “facts” at all, which by no coincidence makes life much easier for those who desire power and are willing to say any damned thing that might prop up their position. Actual, verifiable truth is an obstacle at best. Fortunately for them, an appallingly large percentage of the population is willing to believe any damned thing.

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Songs that mattered

The Big Question on the back page of The Atlantic: “What is the most influential song of all time?” Lots of interesting answers, and two picked Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”: Rhett Miller of the Old 97s, which doesn’t surprise me, and Carly Rae Jepsen (“Call Me Maybe”), which does. Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! comes out for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the basis of sheer ubiquity: even old pharts like me know it. Still, I have to follow the lead of “Weird Al” Yankovic, who justifies the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” this way:

Not many people had the courage to equate the word with the bird back in those days, but now it’s a widely accepted fact.

Except, perhaps, by James Lileks.

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Ayapa, when the walls finally fell

From a couple of springs ago:

The Ayapaneco language, one of several dozen tongues indigenous to Mexico, is down to only two speakers, and they aren’t speaking to one another.

Well, they are now:

A centuries old language that was close to extinction has been saved after the last two speakers decided to end a feud that has lasted decades.

Manuel Segovia, 78, and Isidro Velazquez, 72, stopped speaking to each other after a disagreement and it was feared that Ayapaneco could die out.

Ayapaneco is spoken at Ayapa, a village six miles east of Comalcalco, in Tabasco, Mexico.

I had mentioned that work was continuing on a dictionary of Ayapaneco; Vodafone has jumped in with a Web site and an adopt-a-word program.

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Too much reality

DC Comics, on its covers anyway, happily promoted the war effort after Pearl Harbor; but as Francis W. Porretto reports, they drew the line at actually having Superman siding with the Allies:

A significant number of readers demanded to know why Superman didn’t participate in the war — on the side of the Allies, of course; the editors of DC Comics replied that their superhero believed the Allies could and should win the war through their own efforts, and that he could do better service to “truth, justice, and the American way” on the home front.

How they did this was exquisite:

DC needed a plausible plot device to allow Superman, and Clark Kent, to be outside of the draft and remain in Metropolis and not enter World War II, as most men were doing. In an interesting story, Clark Kent was drafted but failed his induction eye-exam, and was declared 4-F (undraftable) when he accidentally used his x-ray vision and read the eye chart in the next room. With this “error”, Kent and Superman were free to work “from the outside” to affect the war.

And it’s just as well. FWP again:

It gave me a chuckle even back then. A comic-book character is supposed to participate in a real-world war? Suppose the war didn’t eventuate as the comics would have it? What would that have done to the franchise? C’mon, boys and girls: this is just cheap, colorful, escapist entertainment!

Believe me, I know the perils of writing too much reality, to the extent that “reality” is definable in the My Little Pony universe, into such a matter: those of us who have toiled over real-time Twilight Sparkle stories were thrown for a cosmic loop at the end of the third season, when Twi, having resolved an Ancient Mystery, is unexpectedly promoted to royalty, and we were essentially given the option of adjusting our narratives accordingly or declaring the Alternate Universe tag in play. I chose the former, and it has complicated my life, or at least my story, immensely.

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American unexceptionalism

Those who thought Garrison Keillor was just being sly with that Lake Wobegon stuff — well, you think you’re pretty smart, don’t you?

Forget being smarter than a fifth-grader. Most Americans think they’re smarter than everyone else in the country.

Fifty-five percent of Americans think that they are smarter than the average American, according to a new survey by YouGov, a research organization that uses online polling. In other words, as YouGov cleverly points out, the average American thinks that he or she is smarter than the average American.

A humble 34 percent of citizens say they are about as smart as everyone else, while a dispirited 4 percent say they are less intelligent than most people.

Men (24 percent) are more likely than women (15 percent) to say they are “much more intelligent” than the average American. White people are more likely to say the same than Hispanic and black people.

Perhaps I’m not as white as I look:

I was able to finish my obligatory twelve years of schooling in a fraction over eight and a half. According to the template, I was supposed to go on for several years more, earn a bucketful of degrees, and step into a safe and secure future. But there always seemed to be something wrong with that scheme, and you could never have convinced me that I might have succeeded at it; whatever the test scores said, whatever the faculty evaluations claimed, I could not believe that any of it necessarily applied to me, or that I could rely on it when the chips were down.

I may not be precisely as dumb as a post, especially this post, but I am aware of my limitations, inasmuch as I run up against them with dire frequency.

Bill Quick has his own explanation for our high opinion of ourselves:

That’s because they’ve been told for decades that everybody is “equal,” and they’re dumb enough to believe it.

And James Taranto finds a problem with the methodology:

It’s obvious that produces a self-selected sample. There’s probably no way to know if the selection bias is toward above-average intelligence and strongly against below-average intelligence, but it’s certainly possible. At the very least, there is no reason to think YouGov polls capture the attitudes of “the average American.”

Then again, most people also seem to overestimate their driving ability, which certainly meets the definition of self-selection but which has little or nothing to do with equality.

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I do not like this “violence” scam

I do not think it’s worth a damn:

A Toronto citizen challenged the Dr. Seuss children’s classic Hop on Pop for encourag[ing] children to use violence against their fathers, Time reports.

The complainant asserted that Toronto’s public libraries should issue a formal apology to the fathers of Toronto, and then “pay for damages resulting from the book.”

The news came to light in a year-end report by the library system, which paid no damages, issued no apology and, in fact, allowed Hop on Pop to remain on library shelves, where it has been since 1963.

Obviously a “toque-wearing looney,” says the Friar.

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