Archive for Almost Yogurt

Not even the chair

“L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home,” sang Neil Diamond; “New York’s home, but it ain’t mine no more.” Francis W. Porretto will have none of that nonsense:

I’ve been advised to move out of New York, and I’ve contemplated it more than once. Other parts of the country are warmer, drier, less hagridden by welfare-state programs and their cost, and are friendlier to firearms and conservative convictions. All well and good. But they aren’t New York. They don’t have our conveniences, our facilities, our beauties, our up-and-at-’em work ethic, or our generally good humored “we’ll pick ourselves up by our own goddamn bootstraps” response to calamity. And they don’t — and won’t — have me.

The C.S.O. and I have been over this together. Yes, we agreed that this locale is expensive and has its trying aspects. But we have a saying around here: You get what you pay for. And we’ve decided that as long as our money holds out, so will we.

Uprooting yourself is something you do when you don’t really have that much of a connection. I tried that once. I won’t do that again.


Grow up already

There’s always been a lot of yammering about “separating the men from the boys,” but few ever get around to specifying the location of the line of demarcation. This is about as good a map as I’m likely to find:

I’ve never dealt with real gender-related ugliness (some women have gotten death threats online and such), but I’ve had a little frustration with it in real life. The stupid thing is, every MAN I’ve ever worked with has recognized I have a brain and know how to use it, and he has respected me for it. And I have worked with a lot of men in my life, both as colleagues and as students. I’m not quite sure how to approach — even if I need to — BOYS who can’t get that fact.

Perhaps it was just that simple, all along.


Totally unintellectual property

As are most such laws these days, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is designed to give the Really Stupid an advantage in a court of law, to the extent we have courts of law anymore.

What do I mean by “Really Stupid”? Here’s a blatant — yet not particularly unusual — example:

In an attempt to make it harder for people to find pirated copies of its movies, Paramount Pictures has tried to remove several uTorrent forum posts from Google’s search results. However, it turns out that none of the threads that were called out as unlawful actually link to copyright infringing material.

Just mentioning a word that’s in the title is apparently enough to upset Paramount’s little digital militia:

[A] user pointed out that he was “clueless” about something. This apparently rang alarm bells at Paramount’s content protection company who assumed that this person was referring to a pirated copy [of] the film Clueless.

Google’s response? According to TorrentFreak, they whitelisted the entire uTorrent domain. Apparently there’s only so much stupidity Google is willing to tolerate.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Seems legit-ish

Spotted these guys on Twitter earlier this week:

Don’t even think about copying anything off their Web site, though: they have most of the usual methods trapped out. I did, however, screen-print this little announcement:

We are a legitimate business, incorporated in the State of Florida

To borrow a phrase: “When the first thing they tell you is ‘We are a legitimate business,’ run like hell.”

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Prepared for the worst

When I got home today, I found a standard #10 envelope by the front door, hand-inscribed “Dear Neighbor.” I figured it had to deal with one of two things that someone must have seen: my faceplant by the curb this morning, which didn’t seem too worrisome — someone offering to help in the future, maybe? — or my brief(less) stargazing experience from last night, which probably wasn’t so good.

(There is a nonzero probability that someone may have murmured “Thank God, we thought we were the only ones!” Still, nonzero does not mean a long way from zero.)

Of course, it turns out to be neither, but a flyer, a much-photocopied cover letter from one “Jennifer R.”, and a pair of tickets to this:

International Youth Fellowship (IYF) USA and Gracias Choir will be back on the road to present the 2015 Gracias Christmas Cantata US Tour across 25 cities from September 19th to October 16th. Christmas Cantata features 3 dynamic stages filled with cherished carols, gorgeous sets, and an eternal message of hope wrapped in one huge, breathtaking show.

Admission to Christmas Cantata is FREE but each performance is first-come, first-served and seating is limited. So find a Christmas Cantata tour stop near you, and request your tickets now. You can also make a donation to our US Tour and reserve your seats without waiting in line!

Come celebrate the true meaning of Christmas with Gracias Choir and IYF: the birth of love, hope, and happiness in each and every one of hearts. #BringTheJoy

Everybody has a hashtag these days. [sniff]

The local showing is Saturday night (10/10) at 7 pm at the Civic.


The lark at break of day

Fortune and Men's Eyes by Jennifer HallI’ve had this particular album since it came out; I played it a couple of times, forgot about it for several years, but now and again something will happen to remind me about it and spur me to dig it out of the stacks. Yesterday another of those somethings took place, and I decided to follow up, since so far as I knew she never made another album.

Fortune and Men’s Eyes, a title borrowed from a Shakespeare sonnet, came out in 1987, produced by the reliable Alan Tarney; two singles were issued, one of which, “Ice Cream Days,” showed up in the soundtrack to Bright Lights, Big City in 1988. It’s a period piece in the best sense of the word:

Jennifer Hall, it turns out, is the daughter of British film director Sir Peter Hall and French actress/dancer Leslie Caron; she’s 57 now, and goes by Jenny Caron Hall — at least, for her artistic ventures: she’s done a fair amount of freelance writing for various English publications under the name Jenny Wilhide, the surname she shares with TV writer/producer Glenn Wilhide.

Really tangential: Wilhide’s grandfather Glenn Calvin Wilhide was director of design for Black & Decker.

Note: There exists a 1989 Eurodance number called “Don’t Say Goodbye,” credited simply to “Jennifer,” which sounds enough like JCH to justify its mention here.

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Shallow deep inside

After Robert Stacy McCain posted this news item, Thread Drift set in, and somewhere in the midst of it RSM offered this observation:

We should be ashamed of things that are shameful. Our aversion to feelings of shame is part of what prevents us from engaging in shameful behaviors, in the same way that feelings of pride and honor encourage us to strive for achievement. We need to step back and examine objectively the popular notion that there is a “true self” whose needs and desires always trump whatever we owe to others. I’ve noticed that the “true self” usually turns out to be a very selfish self, with no sense of social obligation or duty. Whereas the guy holding down a humdrum job to pay the bills for his wife and kids is not celebrated by the therapeutic culture, if he ditches it all to go in search of his “true self” — which quite often involves kinky sexual adventure — then this is applauded as personal growth.

The “true self” is usually imagined as living a more exciting life than the normal, ordinary person. And the Internet encourages the imagination of such a “true self” by providing forums where these Walter Mitty types gather to share their sense of excitement over their fantasies.

They might well learn from the example of Walter Mitty himself, who was, shall we say, decidedly unsuccessful in achieving his own fantasies. Mitty, in fact, is perhaps second only to Horatio Alger in misunderstood cultural memes; often as not, Alger’s heroes reached their goals by the application of good old-fashioned Dumb Luck.

The idea that one’s True Self is someone remarkably special is just about as specious as the claim by various fans of reincarnation that they themselves are the current version of someone famous; simple math and/or history should tell them that the vast majority of them spent their previous lives among the serfs, if not lower. A very wise man with a pipe and ridiculously sized forearms set forth the truth of the matter: “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.” So are we all.

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Angry birdbrains

The supply of outrage far exceeds the demand:

I think I’ve reached the point of outrage fatigue. Not my own, I’m not that often truly outraged about anything — other people’s outrage. There are also some things going on that I think truly ARE an outrage that seem not to get the attention that the sort of SWPL stuff that causes outrage. I suppose it’s easier to be outraged over where someone happens to shop than it is to be outraged over the treatment of the Syrian people by their government, or the truly shocking growth and spread of ISIS and what they are doing, or about what Putin is doing… Or for that matter, instead of a person being outraged over something like “food insecurity,” maybe they go work at a food bank or donate to programs that try to help raise people out of poverty to the point where they’re not “food insecure” any more. But it’s easier to froth and foam on Facebook or somewhere than to show up some place and go “I can help, what do you want me to do?” (And YES. I have seen my share of people who did hashtag activism and when they were asked about what they were actually DOING they kind of faded away…)

And you could ratchet up the standards a little higher. You’ll have no trouble finding kitchen help for a shelter on Thanksgiving Day. On a random afternoon in September? No offers, though the need is every bit as great.


Wrong sensors or something

I know exactly two things about gaydar: it does not seem unreasonable for such a phenomenon to exist — as I learned in low-level war games in the Army, being able to distinguish your partisans from potential enemies is a useful skill to possess — and I have essentially no capacity for making these judgment calls on the fly.

Bill Quick would agree on at least one of those points:

Gaydar doesn’t exist for straight people. But it is a fact of life for gay people. I’m not going to be 100% right, but over 55 years of experience, I’ve found I’m right about 95%+ of the time about guessing somebody’s sexuality. With other guys.

Not with the women, though. But they have their own version — galdar? — and I’ve been told it’s pretty damned accurate as well.

But straight people? They’re clueless. They might as well flip coins.

This is certainly consistent with my long-standing inability to read incoming signals, irrespective of sender and of sender’s motives if any.

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Blung forward

The best justification for bling I’m ever likely to see:

On a Facebook thread the other day, Straight Outta Compton (which I loved) was being discussed and a guy showed up and said he didn’t like hip hop, he said he had a “visceral reaction” to “the bling.”

But bling was (and always has been) a symbol of triumph/reveling in success/a signifier.

Nor is it a black thing, particularly:

Carl Perkins’ parents were sharecroppers. He sometimes worked from morning till night. He’d go to school, and would pick cotton before school and pick cotton after school. Poverty. And then — like with so many of these guys, then and now — he went from poverty to having money in a very VERY short period of time.

“Bling” is an upraised middle finger to the poverty in your past, a triumphant statement along the lines of “getta load-a what I just did, all by my damn SELF.” Of course you would want your wealth to be seen by all. What would be the point otherwise?

What, indeed? Just like there is no more fervent believer than the recent convert, there is no more willing spender than the recently poor. And it’s hard as hell to blame them for that, given society’s ongoing tendency to look down its nose at those on the bottom rungs:

All these guys — Carl Perkins, Sam Phillips — and all the blues artists who inspired them — dressed to the NINES the second they got a paycheck and would buy an entire head-to-toe pink suit and a bright red felt fedora, or an entire electric blue suit, or glittery rings and watches. Attention-getting. As Dave Marsh observed in his Elvis book (and it could apply to all these guys): what Elvis wanted, more than anything, was to be an “unignorable man.” This is what unremitting poverty does to a person, the shame it activates, and sometimes the determination. Bling is a message. Bling is a warning… It doesn’t just mean that you have “made it.” It means that you have made it OUT.

It’s not called Straight Outta Compton for nothing.

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Everything but existence

Karl Waldmann had it all: the talent, the drive, and the inspiration of purest Dada. What he may not have had was actual human life:

Kunsthaus Dresden, the city’s contemporary art gallery, has removed works by an artist named Karl Waldmann after the police announced it was investigating whether there ever was anyone with that name.

Waldmann, according to his biography [pdf] on the website of the virtual “Waldmann Museum,” was a German-born Dadaist who never exhibited any of his work and “disappeared” in 1958. A French journalist supposedly acquired all of his known oeuvre — more than 1,000 works — in a flea market in Berlin in 1989.

Doubts about Waldmann’s existence have flourished of late:

Late last month, the journalist Thomas Steinfeld wrote in the Süddeutsche Zeitung that Waldmann probably was an invention. No references to the artist can be found during his alleged lifetime, and none of the curators who have selected Waldmann’s works for their exhibitions have had any idea of the collages’ true provenance. Chemical analysis of the paper used in the collages has found chemicals that could only have been used since the 1940s, although the works’ style is firmly fixed in the first 30 years of the 20th century.

Steinfeld went so far as to say that the Waldmann portfolio ought to be locked up until its provenance can be determined. But it’s not like the works are causing any grief to their owners:

Indeed, this could be a victimless crime. Even if Waldmann never existed, the collages are not exactly fakes. They are anonymous creations that people buy because they like them — but more likely, because they are good conversation starters: a mysterious artist, echoes of Russian and German totalitarian pasts, Dadaism, Bauhaus.

And at €10,000 and up, they ought to be.

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Mount this, pal

You don’t see General Motors complaining about the name of that mountain in Alaska, do you?

[T]his most American of vehicles is named after a mountain in a park in a state that wasn’t even a state until after the Korean War. Nobody goes there, although it’s possible to be short-roped up the thing the same way the socialites are dragged up the side of Everest. I have no idea what the terrain around Denali looks like and neither do you. What matters is that it represents something beyond civilization:

“But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.”

That’s what Denali is: the territory ahead that we will never reach. Instead, we’ll stay at the office for another evening of forcible civilization and Starbucks. It’s all the better for being essentially useless and inhospitable, because that helps it remain just an idea and not a place you’d use your NetJets share to visit on a long weekend.

And after all, this sort of naming scheme for automobiles has been around for a long time, though certainly the ill-fated Lincoln Versailles has been forgotten by now.

After the mountain was Denali, but before it became Denali again, it was something else entirely:

No wonder, then, that the mountain is being renamed. We don’t deserve a Mount McKinley. McKinley was a winner. He protected American jobs and saved the economy and won a war and picked up Hawaii while he was at it. And when he died, the man he agreed to take as vice-president did a pretty decent job, too. We couldn’t use a guy like that nowadays; wouldn’t know what to do with him. So it’s perfectly reasonable to change Mount McKinley back to Mount Denali. Maybe Rainier will change back to Tacoma before you know it. That’s been in the works since 1921 or so, and it makes more sense. And it would free the name of Rainier to find its natural home: on the side of upscale Enclaves. Enclave Rainier. You know it makes sense. What better way to celebrate a class of vehicles, and of owners, that never looks up from the quotidian to the mountain, or, indeed, anything at all?

Buick, home of the Enclave, was — briefly — home of the Rainier. So all this stuff fits together far better than it has any right to.

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Violet thoughts

I’ve often felt like this:

He typed like a ninja with no arms, and the text flowed like a drop of blood down a katana blade sharpened with one of those automatic kitchen things you can buy on late-night television when you’re drunk but not too drunk to read off your 16-digit credit card number and security code.

This paragraph — by Alex Dering of Brooklyn — won a Dishonorable Mention in the Purple Prose division of this year’s Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, dedicated, as always, to “bad opening sentences to imaginary novels.” The 2015 winners list is now up.

I probably could not have equaled this feat, compelled as I am to point out that American Express cards have only 15 digits. (Oh, and a longer security code.)

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Life is too short to laugh

There’s one in every crowd: the guy who is SO SRS that he takes it as a sign of his personal superiority, which enables him to, say, bash Terry Pratchett for being funny and popular, which inevitably conflicts with the aforementioned SRSness.

One should, of course, object to this sort of thing on general principle:

Life is short. But it’s also unpleasant sometimes and an escape is often a nice thing. I’ve read my share of “literary” novels (I read One Hundred Years of Solitude years ago as part of a book club. I tried reading Grass’ The Tin Drum but couldn’t get into it very far.) A lot of the modern literary novels — at least, the ones that seem to win awards — that I’ve tried have disappointed me; they seem mainly to be Cavalcades of Dysfunction where no one seems to be trying to be better. I get that they’re great art but in a lot of cases when I read, I am looking for diversion or entertainment.

The problem is that Great Art, according to our current gatekeepers, is supposed to Make You Think. Indoctrination, pure and simple. It is unthinkable that you should read something because you damned well want to read something. From my own distant past:

I encountered an example of this disjuncture myself, as a high-school student earnestly blabbing away about a Jack Finney novel — no, not the one you’re thinking — and then being shot down by a teacher who wondered why I was bothering with this comparatively “accessible” stuff while dust accumulated on The Vicar of Wakefield.

And besides, if I need a grounding in Goldsmith, I can always see a production of She Stoops to Conquer; it’s probably going on somewhere even as we speak.

With that in mind, I bring you the good work of Lindley Armstrong Jones, the last century’s most eccentric interpreter of Bizet:

But comedy, like Rodney Dangerfield, gets no respect in this You Must Be Edified universe.

See also Francis W. Porretto, a man of small-c catholic tastes:

I’ve often been sneered at by persons who pretend to “higher standards.” While I can’t argue for my tastes — who can? — it’s often seemed to me that the devotees of those “higher standards” are more interested in elevating themselves over others than in what they claim to enjoy.

We have a winner.

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Last seen on the streets of Toledo


A New York City artist’s RedBall art installation has popped up around the world.

Brooklyn-based Kurt Perschke created the piece, which weighs 113 kilograms and stands 4.5 metres tall, in 2001. The project debuted in St. Louis, Mo.

Up to now, the ball has traveled far and wide, and has behaved itself. But a sudden storm in Toledo, Ohio motivated it to move out:

For the remainder of its stay, the ball was tied down.

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Downvotes galore

Author Elyse Salpeter grumbles about one-star book reviews on Amazon and such:

Most of the time if you see someone post a one star review they are either a troll (a person out to simply be vindictive to that author, or they just want to make a nasty statement to hurt someone). Why do I say this? Because if you READ the review, you’ll realize the reader many times NEVER even read the book, didn’t go more than two pages, reviews another book and mixed them up, or is upset that they thought they bought a romance and got a thriller. I kid you not. I’ve seen people give one star reviews because they bought a book in the wrong genre and are blaming the author. I saw another person give a book a one star review because they bought Book #5 or #6 in an epic series and were upset they didn’t know the history of the series because they never purchased the other previous novels.

Now, I’m not saying people aren’t entitled to say they hated a book, but make sure the review is solid. Is it poorly written? Filled with grammatical errors? Did they not like the plot or heroine? If there is a solid reason for that one star, okay, if not move on.

Some of these people have never even seen the book; they’re simply following instructions from whatever hive mind assimilated them.

I tend to be relatively forgiving myself — I’ve never given out a single-star review — but I’m also not convinced that I’m the final authority on such matters.

And anyway, it’s not just books:

People giving reviews for medications. The big thing I noticed is that most people claiming one star reviews over-medicated themselves each and every time and were trashing the products for the side effects. One medication said take 1-3 pills with lots of water. (and to START with one) These people went right ahead and claimed they took three pills and were upset they got very bad side effects like their insides were about to explode. Even when the packaging said that you should start with one, but you CAN take up to three if your symptoms keep persisting. I saw one star after one star review, all of these people took too much medication and then blamed the product. Others already have problems where they shouldn’t even take this product in the first place, others didn’t drink enough water, milk, food, with the medications and blamed the product. It’s odd to me that people will feel this need to post in this fashion. Where is their own responsibility in this? People must be participatory in their own healthcare issues. Be smart.

Which is odd, since a lot of those book reviewers, to me at least, seem insufficiently medicated.

You can imagine what sort of contumely (not to be confused with cilantro) is heaped upon recipes.

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Papa’s got a brand new blind bag

The matter only came up once. The cashier rang up the other items, came upon a My Little Pony toy, and asked, “For the grandchild?”

“No, actually, it’s mine,” I replied. An eyebrow was raised to bangs level, maybe a smidgen higher; but nothing more was said, and nothing since has been said.

So I wasn’t too flabbergasted when Target announced they were moving away from “gender-based” signage:

Over the past year, guests have raised important questions about a handful of signs in our stores that offer product suggestions based on gender. In some cases, like apparel, where there are fit and sizing differences, it makes sense. In others, it may not. Historically, guests have told us that sometimes — for example, when shopping for someone they don’t know well — signs that sort by brand, age or gender help them get ideas and find things faster. But we know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.

This may benefit the 13-year-old boy who shudders every time he enters the pink aisles full of Barbie and Dora. But that boy isn’t me, and I’m figuring Hasbro will take this in stride:

To stay alive in marketing is to stay ahead of the game. Target may not have shifted the game in any noticeable way, but it has definitely “planted the plunderseeds” for the future. It’s possible that Hasbro’s future toy designs will have a little less pink and white than today’s designs. It’s also possible that nothing is going to change, and Target might roll back their choice in the coming years if it makes shopping more confusing and unfavorable towards its customers. However I have faith that Target’s choice is the beginning of something huge. Whether it’s the discussion of the social stigmas surrounding children’s toys, or an outright challenge to those by one toy company at a time, I can’t wait for what happens next.

Trust me on this: if the kids are along for the shopping trip, they’ll find the toys they want, whether you want them to or not.

(If you’re not familiar with the concept of the blind bag, this will help.)

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Bigger than big game

One thing I hadn’t noticed about the great outcry over the dentist who killed that lion in Zimbabwe: pretty much all of the outcryers were your white middle-class types. And perhaps there’s a reason for that:

What was done to Cecil was barbaric. I have not seen people show anywhere near the interest in the conditions suffered by millions of Zimbabwean people that they have in one Zimbabwean lion, though. My heart finds it difficult to process this.

Out of sight, out of mind? No. Worse than that:

There is a reason why the aforementioned view seems to exist so much more predominantly in Caucasian people — a deep-seated and resonant reason. And it is one that you simply cannot understand if you walk through this world with fair skin, because it has never applied to you.

Black people, from the moment they were first encountered in Africa until this very day in 2015, have been compared to animals.

This is not something that has happened occasionally. It is not a rarity. It is something that has happened for hundreds of years. Every attempt by black people to stand up for their rights, to raise their voices, to show basic human frustration at a system that was designed to ensure their subjugation, to simply live their lives — has been met with “They’re a bunch of animals!” This justification was used to whip slaves in 1815, and it is used to shoot blacks in 2015.

And furthermore, most of those bleeding-heart middle-class whites are women:

In our society there is no life considered more precious than that of a white woman or girl. That isn’t my opinion. That is fact. Black men were lynched for even looking at one for too long. If you want to know who is valued most, look at 99% of the persons who become the 24-hour news cycle when they go missing or fall victim to violent crime. A white female disappears and it becomes a natural story. Meanwhile, black and brown women and girls vanish year after year while devastated loved ones sit and watch their disappearances garner nary a fraction of the media attention.

Black girls are not peaches-and-cream. They’re not considered the everydaughter. They’re not the girl-next-door.

On my block, at least, they’re the girl across the street.

But I can see some of this. And in some of the bewailings over Cecil’s death, I picked up a vibe resonating with noblesse oblige: it is our duty, as the favored ones, to take a stand on behalf of the less favored. Rather a lot of American political activity operates on that same frequency — and several of its odd harmonics.

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Land of perversity

A report that Tesla is losing about $4000 on each car it sells drew a dismissive comment to the effect that “people aren’t that stupid,” which prompted this eloquent response:

“Its just a car and people aren’t that stupid.”


We put 30″ rims on a Chevy Snailblazer.

Our favorite topping for a burger is another burger.

We can’t name even 10 of the people running the country.

I resent your implication that this country is intelligent.

Valerie Jarrett is running the country. Next!

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Road hard and put up with

Roberta X was talking about spiders, but there was a location mentioned, and it was at an intersection (Kessler Boulevard and College Avenue), which merited the following footnote:

By their titles, you are to be given to understand that these are Streets To Be Reckoned With, not to mention Navigated By, and Thoroughfares Of Standing indeed. I believe Avenues are outranked by Boulevards, which in turn are subordinate to Parkways — and Parkways answer only to the Almighty. Or the Street Department, which is almost the same thing when it comes to roads.

I live on a mere Street. It has no standing whatsoever, except in heavy rain, when for a few moments it has standing water. (It is, however, sufficiently irregular in surface to insure that said water will run off in any of a dozen different directions before almost making it to the storm drain on the next block.)

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Our fits grow ever hissier

Hydrogen? Stupidity? You could make a pretty good case for outrage as Single Most Common Element in the Universe, and there’s a reason for that:

Every single one of us, despite our best efforts, holds their own set of prejudices, biases, preferences, distastes and tilted priorities. We all think that we’re right, and people who oppose us are wrong. Even those of us who admit that they don’t know everything hold certain “truths” so near that they are guilty of this. The people who claim to be totally objective are usually the worst offenders.

Part of this is because, in our lifelong pursuit to know the difference between right and wrong, we all find ways to modify our criteria for determining what “right and wrong” is. Every single one of us has deeply-held beliefs that we apply to the behavior of others, but which we do not adhere to personally. This is an unavoidable flaw within us.

It’s part of being human. It is the Universal Double Standard. The Universal Double Standard is a key component of who we are. We can’t eliminate it. It’s what makes us individuals. However, we can recognize it and navigate around it in order to coexist with our fellow humans. It seems of late that we have forgotten how to agree to disagree. Nobody wants to ‘fess up to their own hypocrisies.

My own particular set of biases, for instance, states that one should do heavy rewrites rather than inflict multiple measures of pronoun-agreement failure on the reader. Then again, I’m also on record as being in favor of honoring individual persons’ preferred-pronoun requests, which can and will cause me syntactical problems in years to come. So basically, I asked for it.

Then again, at least I know when I’ve asked for it. And not that I have anything to brag about, particularly, but not everyone lives with this degree of self-awareness:

Humans enjoy being outraged. Outrage is bright and shiny and it keeps us from actually having to do anything. We can stamp our feet and huff and puff and post memes to Facebook to “make (fill in the blank generalized insult) heads explode.” When we do that, we don’t actually have to take any meaningful action or listen to opposing viewpoints or do anything more than roll over on the couch and fart. Religion may be the opiate of the masses, but outrage is the big, gooey, tooth-rotting candy of the masses. They love that stuff.

We Like something on Facebook, or we sign something on, and think we’ve actually Done Something. We have not. At best, we’ve thrown up a marker for the express purpose of signaling to the rest of the world that we are every bit as good as we think we are. I’m operating under the assumption that to every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction, and that it’s therefore reasonable to assume that there’s a counterpart to inaction as well: it is possible, I surmise, to be even more disconnected than I am.

This is not to say, of course, that I am blissfully free of elevated umbrage levels, as anyone who’s hung around here more than a week can easily discern. But merely glaring at things, I’m hoping, might result in less exacerbation than adding to the decibel level in the echo chambers would.

(Via Roger Green.)

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Drifting together

Charleston, West Virginia has been a two-newspaper town, kinda sorta. But it’s becoming less so:

The Charleston Gazette and Charleston Daily Mail have been your local source for news for more than a century.

The two newspapers operated independently for readers and advertisers until Jan. 1, 1958, when the owners merged the business, advertising, circulation and production departments into a single corporation.

The standard Joint Operating Agreement, common in many cities in an effort to keep two papers going. But this is where things change:

Beginning [Sunday], the two newspapers are combining newsroom functions with the exception of editorial page content.

That’s right, two editorial pages, presumably facing one another, with the Gazette on the left and the Daily Mail on the right, reflecting their positions on the political spectrum.

So: still a two-newspaper town? Not with one edition a day, I think. Then again, they’ve published a jointly-produced single edition on weekends for several years, and since both papers were morning papers, the last six people on earth who preferred afternoon editions will not be further affected. Besides, it’s a single ownership, albeit with one strange twist along the way:

On January 20, 2010, the Daily Gazette Company and the Justice Department settled relative to violations in the purchase of the Daily Mail and the Daily Gazette Company’s management of it. Under the terms of the settlement, the previous owner, the Media News Group, will hold a perpetual option to re-purchase 20% of the paper, will have two of five seats on the management board, and will determine the size of the budget for its news staff and choose its editorial content. Daily Gazette will be required to seek government permission to cease publication of the Daily Mail and the intellectual property of the paper will pass to the Media News Group should it ever be shut down.

So complete consolidation may still be a long way off.

(Via Andrew Brown.)

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Quote of the week

Morgan Freeberg is old enough to remember when fun was actually earned:

You start off with this lengthy and expansive list of things you have to do today, and you make a big enough dent by 4 or 5 in the afternoon that you can take a breather. That’s why a house involved in some level of luxury would have a “wet bar,” but this led to an associated stigma of alcoholism. Now the wet bar is something you see in a really old movie, maybe a Twilight Zone episode from the first couple seasons, because we’ve gotten rid of alcoholism and replaced it with addiction to marijuana, crack, meth and illegally-acquired prescription drugs, along with the legal stuff to do something about our made-up “learning disabilities.” The casualty in all this is not the addictive lifestyle; what we’ve gotten rid of is the idea that you start with the work, and finish with the leisure which is predicated on the work actually getting done. That’s been consigned to the ash heap of history, at least within this romper room stately pleasure dome we’ve constructed for ourselves.

I suspect most “lifestyles,” to scare-quote a word I’ve always hated, have their addictive aspects; anyone’s who’s seen my standard Saturday cuisine — fried chicken and RC Cola — might suspect some sort of psychological dependency. But that $10 worth of grub was made possible by actual toil, and while I’d never say I’m addicted to work, I would hate like hell to give up any of the things it buys me.

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A glimpse of the inevitable

Everybody, it seems, knows someone who’s bilingual, though it’s usually not ourselves. (I have fumbled through Spanish, French and Turkish, but I’m nowhere near fluent in any of them.) Demographics will alter the landscape, as it always does, but I didn’t really expect it to go this way:

Most Floridians support a Spanish language requirement for all public school students in Florida, according to a newly released survey.

The results show that 67 percent support requiring students in Florida to take Spanish, which came as a surprise to researchers at the Bureau of Economic Business Research at the University of Florida, which conducted the survey.

Admission to any of Florida’s state colleges and universities requires two consecutive years of some foreign language; it is not clear whether this policy would be amended if this mandate were imposed.

Being bilingual has cognitive and learning benefits, especially in young children, and it postpones the onset of dementia by two years in older people, according to Canadian researcher Ellen Bialystok.

Ahora usted me dice.

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Too lazy to cut and paste

Even the plagiarists are becoming indolent:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Is there a website online that will summarize text for free and make it like its in my own words?

Not only must it do the rewrite job for him, but it must do it for free. A three-toed sloth is Usain Bolt next to this clod.

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Altitude adjustments

Most of the time, what I wear to work doesn’t have a collar to speak of, as most six for [sale price] T-shirts don’t, but it’s always understood, at least by me, that if I did have a collar, it would be blue: I may have a tech job of at least moderate complexity, but I don’t sit around and watch things happen either.

This particular ethic seems to have settled fairly well upon the next generation as well, and that’s good, because I couldn’t pull off that whole helicopter thing:

Those who inhabit the affluent uplands of 21st-century America have problems the rest of us cannot imagine. When you’re near the top of the mountain, it’s a long way down, and there are limits to what elite parents can do to prevent their child from suffering the stigma of downward mobility. Money can buy a lot of things, but money alone will not inoculate your child against failure, especially if your idea of “success” requires your kid to have perfect grades, be senior class president, win the state science fair, be solo violinist in the school orchestra, and spend her summers helping famine victims in a Third World country. This results in an over-scheduled childhood, with parents in the role of Doctor Frankenstein and their child as a sort of laboratory experiment to produce the future Harvard student.

It’s probably just as well, then, that I applied to only one of the Ivies, and subsequently did not attend it.

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Don’t want to rush things

For the most part, I can support this decree:

When I become King of the World, Arbiter of Good Taste, and Prince of Land and Sea I shall decree that the Monday following a long holiday or vacation shall be a shortened work day, six hours instead of eight, so that one can ease back into the turmoil.

Just one question: are we chopping those two hours off the beginning of the day, or off the end? (Or are we trimming one hour on each side?)

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Quote of the week

We have Dueling Quotes this week. The topic is Moral Relativism, and Brian J. is here to tell you all about it:

Back when I was a young man majoring in English and philosophy at the university 1990-1994, I took sport in asking my compatriots in the English department to ask three morals. Not any morals, not even morals that the interrogated actually followed. Just three morals. The question tripped up most of them as they were enlightened in the ways of relativism and would not identify morals at all under threat of possibly being considered a prude somewhere. Now, friends, this is a Catholic (!) university, and the Christian faith has ten prominent morals specified in Exodus and hundreds in other bits of the Pentateuch. Most people could spell out at least three of the Ten Commandments even if they didn’t adhere to them or think they could. But oh so many of those adults would not or could not.

That was then. This is now, says Tam:

I grew up with Southern Baptist preachers warning me of the dangers of moral relativism, but the problem with modern Progressivism is its absolute lack of anything even like moral relativism. Bad things are bad, and there are no degrees of badness, except maybe a +5 badness modifier if the bad thing in question was done by a white dude, with an additional +3 if he spoke English.

It’s an odd moral calculus, where Victim Blaming is as bad as Victim Stoning. If you try going Godwin, they hasten to point out that the US had concentration camps in WWII, without acknowledging that there’s a pretty substantial difference of degree between a concentration camp where one leaves via the front gate versus one where the only exit is via the chimney.

Have things deteriorated that much since the early Nineties? (Answer: Yes.)

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General Lee speaking

As The Dukes of Hazzard vanishes from cable channels, the Friar gets what ought to be the final word:

Both TV Land and Country Music Television (CMT) were airing Dukes, but are no longer. TV Land will replace it with reruns of Bonanza, a series free of racism and noted for its enlightened portrayal of Chinese immigrant cooks.

Oh, and comparatively speaking:

For the record, I enjoy Bonanza much more than Dukes, because the latter is very very dumb and there’s only so much dumb Catherine Bach’s legs can erase.

If you’d like to test that latter assertion:

Catherine Bach suitably attired

Now: do you feel smarter? Even a little?

One more try:

Catherine Bach suitably attired

Brilliance surely is within your grasp.

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A costume they dare not shed

Some of us, as we’ve gotten older, are a tad less sharp and a good deal more Shar Pei:

What is happening is that our baby-boomers have gotten wrinkly. The revolutionary-minded generation has reached the age where its members are expected to be society’s wise, respected elders, to run things, to become our latest voices of institutionalized knowledge. But they lack the capacity to institutionalize knowledge, to preserve wisdom from previous generations, “old school” horse sense that younger kids can’t bring because this is the sort of thing that has to be … what’s the word. Evolved. Irony is, although the boomers are big on the idea of evolution, they can’t bring this because they’ve never believed in it. They’ve dedicated their lives to the premise that wisdom comes from the young, and the older generation is just a bunch of doddering old geriatrics standing in the way of progress. Now that’s them, and they don’t know how to react to it. And so they react by proffering a bunch of silly ideas, forgetting to ask themselves obvious, elementary questions that drew frenzied, obsessive contemplation by the older generations of years gone by: How does this make things better? What’s the precedent? What does this do to freedom for those who are not yet born?

And so even when they say freedom is what motivates them, the idea they end up pushing has to do with more rules. It looks like they don’t even know what it is.

Even revolution-obsessed John Lennon could figure that one out. What’s the quantitative difference between carrying pictures of Chairman Mao and wearing a Che T-shirt? Exactly.

Add this to the ongoing corroboration of Gurri’s Proposition: “There is no problem in the world, the solution to which isn’t the Baby Boomers dying.”

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