The uncreative process

[Dream sequence, 30 October 2014]

Third-world hellholes conform to no specification but one: for the well-to-do, they aren’t particularly hellish. So when I found myself a guest of The Only Really Nice Hotel In Town — “four stars,” said the guy down the street who sells Michelin tires — I had to wonder why, since I’m about as patrician as dirt, and not the fertile, loamy stuff for which you pay extra at the nursery either. Still, everyone seemed to know my name, and there was this one twelve-year-old girl who fancied herself in love with me, something that never happened when I was twelve, you may be absolutely certain.

It was difficult finding all my personal effects, which seemed to be scattered among several cubbyholes on the ground floor, though my car was neatly garaged. Weirdly, they had room for exactly four cars, though TORNHIT boasted nearly a hundred rooms. Everyone was just as deferential as they could possibly be, and I was growing increasingly puzzled when a lanky lad, I guessed twentyish, offered to show me something of considerable interest.

So we walked along the not-quite-ruined avenue, and within a couple of blocks we’d come upon an old-style record store: they had CDs of some current stuff along one wall, but the big draw was good old fashioned vinyl.

“Isn’t this great?” said the kid, gesturing toward a different wall.

I stared in disbelief. The titles were extracted from my old mix tapes, the artwork was similar if a tad jazzed up, and the biggest print on the jacket was reserved for my name. Despite my debatable command of the local language, I could make out the ad pitch: Own Them All! At least fifteen different titles were on display, and a few more were in a rack on an adjacent corner. We’re talking gatefold packages, 180-gram vinyl, the works.

“Of course, you have all these already,” said the kid.

I nodded. “Of course.”

The store owner saw us, rushed to our side, and some electronic device somewhere began serving up a track from the newest release. It didn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard before, let alone actually assembled. It was jagged, yet somehow mellow; it was scary fast, but somehow soothing. (Closest equivalent in the “real” world: a Taylor Swift cover of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music.) “It’s the best thing you’ve ever done!” said the storekeeper, not softly enough; in a matter of seconds we were mobbed.

When we got back to TORNHIT, a small number of fans had gathered to get my autograph on their copies of “my” records. Why they hadn’t done this at the store, I don’t know: inadequate planning, perhaps. Still, it was entertaining to interact with the fans, though I had to fake my way through a lot of answers that I simply didn’t know.

And then came dinnertime, and I discovered that I had misplaced — or that someone had appropriated — my white dinner jacket. “They’ll never know the difference,” I persuaded myself, and if indeed they did, well, they didn’t say a word.

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Splitters!

Another case where you can’t tell the players without a scorecard:

The Australian Progressive Party and the Australian Progressives went public within days of each other. The parties have superficial similarities and they have nearly identical names and website colour themes. They both claim nation-wide interest in a spread of state and federal seats. They want to appeal to a wide voter base by producing policies on a range of issues rather than being a one-issue party of protest. And both rely on grassroots members and donations to stay afloat.

The People’s Front of Judea was not available for comment.

(Via Tim Blair.)

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Attrition intensifies

And then there were eight. Russell Westbrook banged up his hand in the second quarter and did not return, the seventh Thunder player injured in this annus horribilis. (Suddenly, the signing of the relatively unheralded Lance Thomas to the 15th roster spot looks like yet another brilliant act of Prestidigitation.) If the remaining players had been able to control the ball, they might have pulled off the win, the mighty Clippers being slightly disorganized and otherwise looking like a team playing its first game of the season — which they were — and Scott Brooks suddenly looking like the world’s greatest manager of minutes. With :34 left, it was L.A. 89, OKC 88; the 27th Thunder turnover gave the ball back to the Clips, and Chris Paul promptly missed two free throws; OKC came up empty once more, and Blake Griffin sank two freebies to give the Clips a three-point lead. Nick Collison tossed up two in return, and J. J. Redick finalized the deal with two more: a Serge Ibaka trey at the buzzer went awry, and Los Angeles won it, 93-90.

Westbrook, while he was around, had two points and four assists in eight minutes. Sebastian Telfair looked better than he did last night — decent ball movement, timely free throws — but for him to get any rest, Perry Jones III once or twice found himself running the offense. Jones, fortunately, had a career night: a game-high 32 points and seven rebounds. With 17 from Ibaka and 11 from Telfair, you have to wonder what might have happened if the Thunder had hit some of the six free throws, or the fifteen treys, they missed.

Griffin, who fouled out in the last minute of the game, led the Clips with 23; CP3 had 22, and Jamal Crawford contributed 16 from the bench. L.A. lost most of the standard stat categories: shooting (43-39%), rebounds (47-33), assists (23-17). However, they turned it over only 12 times, and in this game, that was enough.

First home game is Saturday night against the Nuggets. Will anyone be recovered by then? Ask me at game time.

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Negative thrust

James Lileks, who’s had to take a lot of trips in those horrid aluminum tubes of death, probably won’t be won over by incidents like this:

Speaking of Frontier: worst website in the history of aviation, and that includes YTMND sites that show the Hindenburg exploding. Once you’ve checked in, a pop-up window offers you seats with more legroom. I declined. Next page loads: you have no assigned seats. You can get one at the airport or restart the check-in process. What a load of steaming codswaddle. Who designs a website that requires people to restart the entire process to perform the basic function of the purpose of using the website?

I mean, does upper management of the airline use the site? Of course not. Their staff does it for them. And if it’s hard for staff, well, they’re staff, and that’s why they’re there. If some conscientious member of Staff tells the boss that the website is ugly, old, and barely functional — just like some bosses, come to think of it — then perhaps the boss makes a note to bring it up in a meeting, whereupon someone will be tasked to form an exploratory committee, which will bring in all the stakeholders, and move forwards the end goal of arranging a mission statement, after which they can start to look for vendors to build the website. By then people are ordering mobile molecular-transmission units from Uber via a patch they wear on the underside of their earlobe.

Then again, it’s not just the online experience:

It’s an awful airline. They don’t nickle-and-dime you, though, I’ll grant them that. They twenty-and-fifty you.

They can get you to Oklahoma City, though, if you don’t mind a side trip down the Kessel Run.

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It needs to be 20% thirstier

Lisa has a Prius named Rainbow Dash, and it was perfectly fine until she moved out of Ponyville:

Whereas the Prius used to be perfectly fine for the usually slow traffic on Highway 101 then sleepy Route 37 up to Sonoma, now I’m doing the two hour plus drive up north on what must be the scariest freeway in Northern California. I start out on a quick spur of the 880 which local cops call Blood Alley because of all the accidents. Then I switch to the 680 where I seem to have a life-flashing-before-my-eyes event on every run. The problem is the huge number of trucks and tractor trailers on this road. Which means I, in my little fiberglass sardine can, am sharing road space with massive eight tired rigs at least ten times my size. In the Prius’s defense, let me say that it has fabulous visibility with a large windshield, super large (for its size) rear view mirrors and almost a 180 degree view to the rear through a large rear hatchback window and side windows. Let me tell you, you need that visibility. Because NOBODY can see a Prius. Even Subaru station wagons can’t see the Prius. So if you can’t get out of harm’s way, no one else is going to prevent that accident. And how bad would that accident be? Well, judging from the damage done at low speeds on my recent roadtrip, I don’t even want to contemplate what that car would look like after a 65-70 MPH impact. Although I’m all about the great gas mileage, I’m starting to wonder how much that will matter to me after I’m splattered on a concrete shoulder by a merging big rig.

The problem, of course, is that something taller and easier to see is likely to drink a whole lot more go-juice than a Prius:

I’ve spent more than a decade in Priusland. I’m nearly fainting at the gas mileage that the average car gets. Are you people really driving around thinking 30 or 35 MPG is good gas mileage?

In eight years and change, Gwendolyn has only twice returned as much as 30 mpg, and both times they were back East, where 93-octane fuel is more common than it is here in the Quarter-Mile-High City. Then again, she’s a solid highway cruiser, if not particularly tall, and her Blinding White paint may or may not enhance her visibility. (Rarity? But of course, darling.)

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From the “It could be worse” files

Vinny, via Tatyana, speculates on the impact of Ebola on the country in general and on New York City in particular:

Ebola outbreak creates havoc in our major cities, doctors and nurses flee for safety, and local population ends up tending for itself. This is what is now happening in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. Economic impact will be more substantial than the number of people actually sick with Ebola, and it will be a nightmare living in a major metropolitan area. Food supplies will run short and you can forget about going to the emergency room in case you break something, develop an asthma attack, or even have chest pains. If what you have is less likely to kill you than visiting an emergency room teeming with Ebola victims, then you best stay home. I think about 1000 victims in NYC will create such a scene. If you consider that the virus doubles its victims every 3 weeks and that we are now bringing about one new carrier each week to the U.S. (about ½ will go to NY JFK and Newark airports), we are anywhere from 30 to 12 weeks from such a hellish possibility if the virus continues to invade the human population at its current rate. Still this scenario remains limited to causing most of its damage in 2014 and 2015, with life returning to normal afterwards.

Ranking “best case” to “worst case” one to six, this is number three.

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You can’t get much more inauspicious

A few days back, I quoted both Bill Quick and @SwiftOnSecurity on the future of CurrentC, billed as a rival to ApplePay. Neither was what you’d call favorably impressed. But CurrentC has now taken the first step towards becoming a Real Payments Company. They’ve been hacked:

CurrentC, which is a mobile payment system backed by the Mercantile Exchange (MCX), sent out an email to its pilot users stating that an unauthorized third party had obtained email addresses of some of its users, the MCX confirmed to CNBC in an email statement.

“Within the last 36 hours, we learned that unauthorized third parties obtained the e-mail addresses of some of our CurrentC pilot program participants and individuals who had expressed interest in the app. Many of these email addresses are dummy accounts used for testing purposes only. The CurrentC app itself was not affected.”

This does not mean, of course, that no one will ever break into ApplePay; but when you’re trying to sign up clients, this is not the sort of wording you want on your prospectus.

(Via Matthew Green.)

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Far from upper crust

If you ask me, if you need this instruction, you’re too dumb to be eating pizza, or indeed anything else:

Open box before eating pizza

(Found by SnoopyTheGoon.)

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Welcome to 5-7-9

Not the mall store for “junior” sizes, but an unfortunate circumstance facing the Oklahoma City Thunder: five games in seven days with only nine players. To make matters worse — how could they be worse? — this stretch begins with a back-to-back on the West Coast. And as we all know, Portland’s hospitality, at least on their home court, is decidedly limited. Still, you play ’em as they come, and the OKC starting five was Westbrook, Roberson, Jones, Ibaka and Adams. Through three quarters, this sort of worked, with the Trail Blazers occasionally taking a small lead but the Thunder battling back: the final frame started with OKC up 77-75.

Then the Blazers ran 8-0 in just over two minutes, and things unwound. With 8:40 left, Russell Westbrook returned; three minutes later, he’d managed to go 1-4, and Portland was up 10. Quipped Royce Young: “If anything, I think Scott Brooks’ biggest mistake is not playing Kevin Durant a single minute tonight. I mean, what’s he thinking?” The Blazers were up 16 before Brooks waved the white flag, and the PDXers gave the starters, departing at 2:20, a standing O. They’d earned it. Portland 106, Oklahoma City 89, a nineteen-point shift in twelve minutes flat.

Of the OKC starters, Perry Jones perhaps came off the worst: he couldn’t play defense, but he couldn’t shoot either (1-9, 3 points). And while Westbrook still wound up with 38 points, it was distressingly evident that he’d have to do it alone: only Serge Ibaka (10 points, four blocks) and reserve forward Lance Thomas (7-10, 14 points) presented any offense. Meanwhile, all five Portland starters, plus sixth man Chris Kaman, hit double figures: LaMarcus Aldridge checked in with 27 (10-19), and Wesley Matthews added 22 (8-12). Telltale Statistic for the night: the Blazers, 2-15 from three-point land in the first half, went 9-14 in the second, with six coming in the fourth quarter while the Thunder were quieted to a low moan.

And just like that, it’s off to Los Angeles, to play the good team at the Staples Center. The Clippers, I suspect, will be even tougher.

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Almost rhymes with “vomit”

I have to admit, while I was sitting there watching Neil and Buzz traipsing about on the moon, it never would have occurred to me to ask what it smelled like, and if it had, well, given long-established family propensities, there inevitably would have been a response redolent of cheese, and green cheese at that. And being still a teenager, I’d probably have laughed at it.

Now this sort of question doesn’t seem so funny anymore, especially when there’s an actual answer:

A European spacecraft orbiting a distant comet has finally answered a question we’ve all been wondering: What does a comet smell like?

“It stinks,” says Kathrin Altwegg, a researcher at the University of Bern in Switzerland who runs an instrument called ROSINA that picked up the odor.

The European Space Agency has posted a full rundown of the comet’s BO on its website. The mix includes ammonia (NH3), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), formaldehyde (CH2O) and methanol (CH3OH).

Like the doo-doo room with the reek replete, as Frank Zappa once said.

Of course, anyone visiting the comet would be wearing a spacesuit (on top of that, the sense of smell is notoriously numb in space). Nevertheless, taking a whiff of this comet would be like sharing a horse barn with a drunk and a dozen rotten eggs.

The comet is currently hurtling towards the sun, which at least means it won’t be picking up any stray odors from Uranus. (You knew that was coming, right?)

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That’s not a knife

But it says it is:

Deputy shoots man with knife

I dunno. Maybe a bayonet worked its way loose?

(From Bad Newspaper via Miss Cellania.)

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This made me weepy

I can deal with cold, and I can deal with dark, but the combination of dark and cold wears on me after a while, and for “a while” read “two days at most.” It’s this damn brain chemistry, maybe:

Scientists say they have identified the underlying reason why some people are prone to the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

People with Sad have an unhelpful way of controlling the “happy” brain signalling compound serotonin during winter months, brain scans reveal.

As the nights draw in, production of a transporter protein ramps up in Sad, lowering available serotonin.

Apparently this is proper British usage, to capitalize (sorry: “capitalise”) only the first letter of the abbreviation. But it certainly reinforces the idea of, um, Sadness.

Lead researcher, Dr Brenda Mc Mahon, said: “We believe that we have found the dial the brain turns when it has to adjust serotonin to the changing seasons.

“The serotonin transporter (SERT) carries serotonin back into the nerve cells where it is not active — so the higher the SERT activity, the lower the activity of serotonin. Sunlight keeps this setting naturally low, but when the nights grow longer during the autumn, the SERT levels increase, resulting in diminishing active serotonin levels.

“Many individuals are not really affected by Sad, and we have found that these people don’t have this increase in SERT activity, so their active serotonin levels remain high throughout the winter.”

Mc Mahon is part of the Neurobiology Research Unit at the University of Copenhagen.

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T-Motionless

T-Mobile apparently has been asleep at the switch for the past few days. Sunday night they sent me the usual “your bill is ready” email, and this morning they sent me two text messages to that effect. This is pretty much the usual thing — well, one text message — except for this: the bill came out a week and a half ago. I’d already checked their Web site and put the payment through my bank’s online gizmo Friday night, before receiving any of their advisories.

And right on schedule, they sent me a third text today, this one to tell me that the payment was duly posted. It still wouldn’t have been late had I dawdled — the due date is generally around the 7th — but I’m the sort of person who duns creditors for not sending their bills in a timely manner. If it happens again next month, they will hear from me.

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Bear don’t care

New York state having successfully, so to speak, banned “tiger selfies,” it’s time for other governmental bodies to go and do as likewise as possible. Forest Service, that’s your cue:

We’ve officially arrived at the point where people need to be told taking ‘selfies’ with bears is a bad idea.

That’s according to officials with the U.S. Forest Service in charge of maintaining the popular Taylor Creek Visitor Center in South Lake Tahoe.

The creek is the site of a spectacular annual run of kokanee salmon, which also attracts hungry bears. And lately it’s also attracting lots of smart phone-wielding photographers desperate for unique social media profile photos.

Really, that should be “smartphone-wielding,” or maybe “smart-phone wielding,” but definitely not “smart phone-wielding.”

(Via Consumerist.)

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And other places she’s not

Since that South American Dusty Springfield cover went over pretty well, I’m tossing up another British Invasion tune with a south-of-the-border accent. Los Shain’s got together in 1963 in Peru, survived for five years, and then resurfaced for a series of concerts in 2005 as Los Nuevos Shain’s. The two mainstays of the band were vocalist Gerardo Manuel and guitarist Pico Ego Aguirre; Manuel isn’t heard on this track, but you get plenty of Aguirre, and licks from Lynn Stricklin on the Farfisa organ.

No, I don’t know why the apostrophe is where it is.

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Just a little bit flowery

Celine, the Shoe Girl, will every now and then show us something from her closet, or, in this case, a pair she actually designed:

Celine Ouaknine design for Betsey Johnson

This is, she reports, “one of the last pairs of shoes I designed for @xobetseyjohnson before Steve Madden bought her out and took over,” which would have been about 2010. She really enjoyed that gig, too:

Working with Betsey Johnson as her shoe designer was one of the best experiences of my life. It was a perfect fit! I got to make shoes with flowers and bows and over the top cuteness, and I was so happy doing that.

Over the top? Well, maybe over the top of the foot. I think it’s swell.

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