Perhaps someone can pass this

Not actually a course, yet. Wasting time on the internet: a syllabus:

What I Did For Love: Taste, Evaluation, and Aesthetics in American Culture

“I don’t know art, but I know what I like,” goes the disclaimer. In this writing-intensive part-workshop, part-seminar, we will seek to unpack the relationship between “art” and “what I like” by examining a variety of cultural objects together with accounts of “taste.” What are the uses of an art that nobody likes? Could “annoyance” be an aesthetic principle? What is the role of money in taste? What are the ethics of aesthetics? Under what circumstances is an aesthetic pleasure “guilty”? When should the appreciation of art works be a matter of disinterested judgment, and when a matter of passionate engagement? Does “love” blind? What is the difference between a “fan” and a “critic”? What are the affordances and limits of the “formulaic” and the “generic”?

Four weeks of this course will be devoted to workshopping students’ critical writing, examining the roles of description, praise, blame, analysis, and enthusiasm in writing about culture. Students will also maintain a course blog. For the final assignment, students are encouraged to pitch their writing to an appropriately chosen publication.

I mention purely in passing that “Arms So Freezy: Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ as Radical Text” will be introduced in Week 8.

Said Natalia Cecire, who wrote this syllabus: “Posting it on my blog was actually the wasting time on the internet part.”

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It was either that or “Vista 3″

Yours truly, just last week:

Windows, say the wags, runs the opposite of Star Trek films: the odd-numbered versions are good, the even-numbered versions (like Vista, which was 6) not so good.

Obviously Microsoft is aware of this phenomenon:

Windows 8 is tanking harder than Microsoft is comfortable discussing in public, and the latest release, Windows 8.1, which is a substantial and free upgrade with major improvements over the original release, is in use on less than 25 million PCs at the moment. That’s a disaster, and Threshold [the next major release] needs to strike a better balance between meeting the needs of over a billion traditional PC users while enticing users to adopt this new Windows on new types of personal computing devices. In short, it needs to be everything that Windows 8 is not…

To distance itself from the Windows 8 debacle, Microsoft is currently planning to drop the Windows 8 name and brand this next release as Windows 9. That could change, but that’s the current thinking.

Will the Start Menu return? It just might.

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The relentless spammer

Someone identified as “Cynde Delaina” at upjnkwgcv-at-gmail.com dropped a couple of fairly useless comments my way Friday night. After verifying that the URL she claimed didn’t go anywhere, I tossed them; she followed with twenty-one more, from six different IP addresses, and then another couple of dozen overnight before letting up some time Saturday afternoon. If you see her in your spam trap, you may be assured that she’s not worth keeping.

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No one ever steals “YIELD”

An observation from World Tour ’04, along US Highway 2 in Montana:

[T]he last milepost in the state is Mile 667. If there’s a post for Mile 666, I didn’t see it, and believe me, I looked.

Something similar seems to be happening in the Stoned State to the south:

Thieves have been stealing the 420 mile marker sign so often, the state’s transportation department has changed it to “419.99” in an effort to try and stop the problem.

A photo of the 419.99 mile marker sign, which is about 148 miles on Interstate 70 east of Denver, began circulating on twitter through the @JournalistsLike twitter account on Friday.

“So this is our way to test it out. So far it’s working,” said Amy Ford, a spokesperson with the Colorado Department of Transportation. “It’s a traffic safety thing. It’s a helpful thing to have these signs on the road. But people kept ripping them off.”

The last time I was in Memphis, I did see one actual sign for Elvis Presley Boulevard — but it was mounted about two and a half times higher up the pole than usual.

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What the Bucks?

First-qusrter score: Oklahoma City 14, Milwaukee 10. We had better quarters than that when I was in high school, and we played 8-minute quarters. It was 38-35 at the half, and Bucks center Larry Sanders was gone, having tried to tear Steven Adams’ face off. Inscrutably, the Thunder scored more points in the third quarter than in the first and second combined — and yet the Bucks, every time they looked utterly vanquished, put together decent-sized runs, usually involving O. J. Mayo and/or Luke Ridnour, to stay in it. (In that third quarter, they even took the lead a couple of times.) Milwaukee couldn’t sustain the pace in the fourth quarter, though, and the Thunder won it 101-85. Not often, I note, do you hit the century mark after a 14-point first quarter.

Serge Ibaka, for some reason, shines against the Deer: he picked up 17 points and 17 rebounds tonight, one of two Thunder double-doubles. (The other? Kevin Durant, with 33 points and ten boards.) The slumping reserves did not slump tonight: Jeremy Lamb knocked down 17 off the bench, and Derek Fisher added ten more. Even Thabo Sefolosha, who’s had trouble stuffing the net of late, came up with 14. Then again, Reggie Jackson went 1-8 for the night. Still, you have to be thrilled on any night when Kendrick Perkins gets more blocks than Ibaka — and Serge had his usual three.

Unsurprisingly, Mayo and Ridnour led Milwaukee in scoring, with 16 each. Only two starters made double figures, also guards: Brandon Knight and Giannis Antetokounmpo, each with 13. (Antetokounmpo, I am told, is the youngest player in the NBA, having just turned 19 last month.) The Buck reserves actually outscored the starters, 43-42. And while radio guy Matt Pinto made a lot of noise about Milwaukee’s unexpected prowess beyond the arc, the Bucks ended up with 12 makes in 31 tries; the Thunder made 10 of 25, a couple of percentage points higher.

Weirdly, there’s no Sunday game this week. The next outing is Tuesday at Memphis, then to Houston on Thursday.

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Still not bogged down

Three years ago today, I noted that it was then Amanda Peet’s 39th birthday. Different picture, albeit from the same era, today:

Amanda Peet in InStyle

Besides, I liked the quote:

I feel like I should be in a Shakespeare play in this dress, but a screwy one — like Sid and Nancy do “Ophelia”.

Before that opportunity presents itself, though, she’s doing an 8-episode series for HBO called Togetherness.

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Saturday spottings (tales of the unexpected)

Relatively nice Saturdays are not all that common in January — the fact that we’ve had two of them so far, out of a possible two, is pretty remarkable — so I stretched out my errands a bit today. This ranks among the worse ideas I’ve had lately, since traffic almost everywhere was heavy.

How heavy was it, you ask? I figured there was no chance of getting out of the Shell station at 63rd and May alive, so after filling up (a plausible $3.229 for V-Power), I backed up a hair and threaded my way through a curb cut to what used to be French Market Mall. It was a decidedly better approach to May, but it still took about four minutes to crawl the half a block to the intersection — and there were absolutely no parking spaces to be had anywhere near Sprouts, in front of the store, at the bookstore to its north, or at the auto-parts place to its south. “Woe unto ye,” I didn’t exactly say, and headed on.

Westbound on 63rd, I spotted a Lincoln Town Car with the tag LINTON2. “Wonder what LINTON1 looked like?” I mused. About ten seconds later, LINTON1 actually pulled in front of me: one of those Lincoln MK jobs, though I couldn’t tell you which one, since they all look like Fords to me. They continued on parallel paths for a while before #1 turned off.

The last stop on the way, as usual, was Crest Foods. Routinely they print the name of the checker on the register tape; this time, the cashier wrote the name of the sacker across the top. I’m not sure why, but since I never have any issues with the sackers, I’m not going to worry about it either.

Reconstruction of May Avenue from 36th to Britton, as mentioned last fall, is apparently about to begin: both sides of the street from 36th to past 47th were lined with those taller, skinnier traffic cones, about 20 percent of which had been knocked down, perhaps by wind, perhaps by people grown impatient waiting for the bus. I think it’s safe to predict that traffic will not improve any time soon.

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Perhaps not so by-God stubborn after all

Remember that plan to make the Iowa State Fair totally cashless? Totally withdrawn:

The Iowa State Fair board gave the people what they wanted Thursday when it shelved plans for a cashless system for food and one attraction at the 2014 fair.

The backlash against the plan was immediate. People flooded social media with howls of protest, and some threatened to boycott the fair. On Wednesday, Gov. Terry Branstad weighed in by suggesting the fair board listen to people’s concerns.

State Fair CEO Gary Slater says the plan never got a fair (sorry about that) hearing:

Fair officials don’t believe the move would result in long waits for tickets. Despite this, [Slater] said most of this week’s clamor was based on unfounded anger that customers would have to suffer through long lines. “When you don’t get the opportunity to say that in a social media world … it just backs you into a corner,” Slater said. “You don’t have much power, you don’t have much ability to get the real story out there, because everybody thinks you’re trying to get them.”

Is there any reason why they shouldn’t think that?

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Fark blurb of the week

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Designed to disturb

Amazingly, there have been items at the Consumer Electronics Show that were less plausible than a hair dryer that moisturizes or a Crock-Pot with Wi-Fi. This one definitely disturbs me:

Internet-enabled toothbrush

I figure I’m electrified enough with a Sonicare, which needs to be charged maybe three or four times a year and which doesn’t require an app.

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Quote of the week

We used to call them “grammar schools.” Grammar, of course, is no longer au courant as an area of study, inasmuch as it presumes that some people’s language might be superior to the language of others. But that’s not the greatest loss:

The problem is one of fundamentals. American schools — grammar schools — once taught the fundamentals of the American approach to government: individual freedom; constitutionally limited government; the sanctity of free enterprise and private property; the guarantees of the Bill of Rights. Schoolchildren learned about the insights of John Locke and Adam Smith, and why they constituted important advances in human thought. Without those things, comprehending the American way of governance sufficiently well to articulate it is impossible — and a large majority of Americans lacks those things today.

He who lacks appreciation for the moral imperative and the practical case for freedom will fall back to other “values.” He’ll defend whatever crumbs he can beg from the Omnipotent State as his “by right,” even if they must be snatched from the mouths of persons just like him. He might never discover what he’s been denied. He might never learn the principles that built the country he inherited … and which he and so many others lack the wit, and possibly the will, to sustain.

I would add only that those who survive a secondary education these days are likely no wiser than those who learned nothing in the primary.

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Now shut your duct

The title here pretty much says it all: “Bus driver contests termination after Hello Kitty duct tape incident.”

Let’s look at that incident:

A bus driver will no longer be transporting students to and from Surry Elementary School after she was accused of putting Hello Kitty duct tape on students’ mouths.

Surry Elementary School principal Cathy Lewis said she became aware of the issue on Nov. 6 when two fourth graders came off the bus complaining that they were silenced with duct tape even though they weren’t the loudest students on the bus.

Lewis said she was shocked and immediately asked the bus company, First Student, that employs the driver, to investigate.

In fact, this duct tape is almost certainly Duck® tape, sold in ten- and twenty-yard rolls.

I wonder if any of these kids will be scarred once they realize that what was put over their mouths was an image of a character who has no mouth.

Warning: Those Bangor Daily News links may ask you some demographic question before letting you read.

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Glued to the showroom floor

Autoblog has compiled a list of the Worst-Selling Vehicles of 2013. To get on this list, a car or truck must have been priced under $100,000 — no limited-edition supercars, thank you very much — and must have been on sale for the entire year. The best-seller of the bunch moved fewer than 2,000 copies; it was the only domestic, and the only truck, in the bunch — and, oddly, it was up a couple of percentage points from 2012.

But enough about the Escalade EXT. What you want to know is the identity of the Absolutely Worst, and it’s an Acura, though not the RL sedan so roundly rejected by Canadians. Instead, it’s the ZDX sport-utility, spun off the successful MDX, offering less space at a higher price. In 2012, Acura moved 775 of them, versus more than 50,000 of its brandmate; in 2013, they unloaded a mere 361. Still, this is hardly the worst-selling car ever.

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Going to eleven

Nothing Tufnel about it: that just happens to be the number of questions being asked. (Blame Roger.)

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This stuff’s made in … Mexico?

It’s a tradition of long standing to mock purveyors of ostensible Mexican food who hail from, um, places where one might not expect to find purveyors of ostensible Mexican food.

I am amused to note, therefore, that Taco Bell’s branded supermarket-package taco shells, produced under license by Kraft Foods, are, according to the box, made in Mexico. In terms of flavor or quality control, it seems to make no difference; but by now, they could be making taco shells in Saskatchewan and nobody except ad agencies and obsessives like me would ever notice.

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Clankity-clank

Even a team strongly identified with defense, as the Thunder is, has to score now and then. When they don’t, well, it’s not pretty, and by “not pretty” I mean a thousand million times worse than horrible plug-ugly. In the first 14 minutes of the second half, OKC scored 15 points. Let me repeat that: fifteen points in fourteen minutes. At the time, Denver was up 25, without the services of either Danilo Gallinari or Wilson Chandler. None of the Thunder starters reported for fourth-quarter duty, Scott Brooks having decided that the bench needed the practice. Brian Shaw made no such decision for the Nuggets. In some weird form of Basketball Karma, Denver managed only seven points in the first ten minutes of the fourth quarter, but it was too late to make any difference; the Nuggets eased out of the building with a 101-88 win.

You want a Telltale Statistic? Try this one on for size: Ty Lawson had fourteen assists. Eleven Thunder players combined managed only eleven. Lawson also scored 16 points. Randy Foye hit six of nine treys on the way to 24 points. (The Thunder in aggregate made six of 24.) Evan Fournier headed the Denver bench with 19.

It was another case of Kevin Durant Can’t Do Everything, Guys. He knocked out 30 points in 28 minutes; Reggie Jackson, still trying to be something more than Westbrook Lite, gathered 13, and Derek Fisher tossed up four treys in eight tries for 12. (Which means that Thunder players not named Derek Fisher were 2-16 from beyond the arc.) Serge Ibaka was back, collecting his usual ten rebounds and three blocks, but he went 3-11 from the floor, and he was hardly the worst. (That would be Jeremy Lamb, who went 1-12.)

It’s tempting to say “Oh, well, at least we can beat up on the Bucks Saturday night.” At the moment, I’m thinking Milwaukee is about due for a win.

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