Quote of the week

Said I earlier today: “You can’t hide from Possibly Upsetting Things all your life, though God knows some people try awfully hard.”

I yield to this man’s superior knowledge of the subject:

Like a lot of black folks in my generation, I felt that it was my responsibility to become more attuned to racial sensibility — to achieve a higher level of sensitivity to those people and conditions that might lead to oppression. It was a constant theme in my youth during which the very term “black” was coined and people questioned having been “Negro”. During that time as well, many of us went from passive observation to active participation in both directions. In 1967 many of us were adamant about looking for “safe space” and determined that could not be found anywhere at all in the USA. We looked to Cuba, to Brazil, to Ghana. Similarly during the Vietnam war, many looked to Canada as an escape route. But in the end we found, even through assassinations and jailing, that racial integration in America was the far superior road for practical and moral reasons. It was not simple, it was not easy. It was worth it.

Said James Brown in 1969: “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing; open up the door, I’ll get it myself.” Today, that position has been completely inverted:

It is frighteningly disturbing that this generation of students has chosen to ignore the achievements of crossover and gone to greater extremes of racial sensitivity in their demands for resignations. I can’t imagine college universities now having the stomach to even listen to Richard Pryor or George Carlin, two of the many whose humor brought us together in the 70s. Indeed today’s students seem to have lost all sense of humor. I can only speculate this comes from a poor interpretation of what they expected that we went through or what others before us did. We sought the guarantees of the Constitution and we also wanted to escape small places and move about freely. Listen to the students at Little Rock High School. Remember Charlayne Hunter. Study James Farmer. They worked to end segregation, not to hide from insults or even injuries. What is clear to me is that far too many Americans expect from oppositional politics what can only be achieved from actual friendship, which is mutual respect and admiration. What a sad result. Finally calling someone a “racist” has nothing to do with what someone actually believes, but one’s position in an artificial political war. This fight is not about crime and punishment, it’s not even about the law. It’s a tawdry catfight over bourgeois privileges between bourgeois actors who desperately seek to inherit the imprimatur of Civil Rights struggle. My ass.

Which is, of course, not to say that all the brouhaha on campus is wholly unprovoked. But contemporary claims by college students of being oppressed and downtrodden sometimes seem downright laughable.

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Isolation play

There are times when you simply have to get away from it all:

[A] lot has been made of the whole “safe spaces” thing on college campuses. And yeah, I see the ridicule for people wanting the entire world to be a safe space, because there’s no way that that’s possible. And yet, at the same time: don’t we all have places or things we retreat to for a while, when the world gets to be too much? I mean, Camp David exists. There was a “Fortress of Solitude” for Superman (at least in the movies). One of my circles of friends jokes a lot about “blanket forts” even as we recognize we do have to go out into the world and be adults and do the hard things. I’m not sure there’s anything so awful about once in a while retreating to a blanket fort (or the equivalent). The problem comes when you want to be there all the time.

Yea, verily. You can’t hide from Possibly Upsetting Things all your life, though God knows some people try awfully hard.

Regarding the Fortress:

The concept and name “Fortress of Solitude” first appeared in the Doc Savage pulps in the 1930s and 1940s. Doc Savage built his Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic and retreated to it alone in order to make new scientific or medical breakthroughs, and to store dangerous technology and other secrets. Superman’s original Silver Age Fortress, as it appeared in 1958, was also located in the Arctic and served similar purposes. Built into the side of a steep cliff, the Fortress was accessible through a large gold-colored door with a giant keyhole, which required an enormous key to open it. The arrow-shaped key was so large that only Superman (or another Kryptonian such as Supergirl) could lift it; when not in use, the key sat on a perch outside of the Fortress, where it appeared to be an aircraft path marker. This was until a helicopter pilot followed the direction of the arrow straight to the entrance of the Fortress, forcing Superman to develop a cloak to camouflage the entrance and key (which now hung on brackets on its side beside the door) and to ensure the Fortress’s secrecy.

Perhaps not as nifty, or as photogenic, as the Fortress in the first Superman film, which rises from a single crystal carried by Clark Kent to an ice field for no reason he could comprehend at the time, but it’s a premise I have to respect.

Twilight Sparkle, of course, has a Book Fort.

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The knuckle-buster discount

It costs less to assemble furniture yourself, provided you value neither your time nor your sanity:

[I]t’s a glass-topped computer desk I bought at Staples. The instructions were entirely in cartoons. Several of the puzzle pieces were unlabeled. I had to take a partial assembly apart three times. Perhaps the most aggravating aspects of the thing concerned a pair of mislabeled legs and two TOP stickers that were attached to the bottoms of the pieces so labeled … but with nearly invisible arrows pointing to their other sides.

In a rare sop to the sardonic side of such torments, there was a package in the kit that contains two miscellaneous bolts of different sizes and a self-tapping screw, none of which have any part in the assembly. It’s labeled EXTRA HARDWARE. Clearly, someone at the factory has both a sense of humor and a relative who’s endured this sort of agony.

So basically, IKEA without the legendary Scandinavian whimsy.

My own desk is an ancient castoff from someone’s garage, perforated on its right by several mysterious circles which I sometimes think are bullet holes. Certainly moving it into this house twelve years ago, which required a great deal of disassembly to get it through the front door, motivated some of us to want to shoot the damned thing.

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One step toward Red

I don’t know anyone who’s signed up for YouTube’s Red service, which allows consumption of, one assumes, mass quantities of media for a monthly subscription fee. And up to this point, YouTube’s actual revenues from yours truly equaled the proverbial goose egg. Still, some things are worth paying for, and as an experiment — and in my capacity as a longtime non-subscriber to Discovery Family, which the cable company has pushed out to some far-distant Nosebleed Tier — I put up some coin of the realm yesterday to watch the newest episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, a show-business fable titled “The Mane Attraction,” ever-so-slightly based on George du Maurier’s Trilby. (The manipulative manager is named “Svengallop,” fercryingoutloud.) We’re talking $1.99, or $2.99 for actual HD. Mostly, I was curious to see how convoluted paying for an episode would be.

As it happens, the answer to that was “Not very,” since I already had a Google Wallet specified: two buttons, and the deed was done. (Your mileage may vary.) They are offering a season ticket — 26 episodes for approximately the price of ten — so I may do that for Season Six. After all, one must support the content creators at some level, and paying the cable company an extra $200 a year is not a level I’d consider useful.

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I wouldn’t have thought this possible

Did the iTunes Store actually run out of Adele’s 25?

I’m guessing this is from Apple’s UK outpost, what with the price quoted in sterling. But this still doesn’t explain how it could be sold out; I mean, it’s not like digital files take up so much warehouse space. Is there a specific allocation of licenses to each iTunes operation? (I checked the US location last night, and it was willing to sell, albeit at $10.99.)

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This started when I happened upon a photo of Taraji P. Henson, and wondered, not for the first time: “What’s the P for?”

Says Wikipedia, it’s “Penda,” a Swahili word meaning “love.” (“Taraji” apparently means “hope.”) Her education was remarkable: she studied electrical engineering at North Carolina A&T, and graduated from Howard seven years later with a BFA in drama. (And I thought my career path was, um, unusual.)

Taraji P. Henson takes a break

Henson has done a couple of saucy ads for PETA, of which this is perhaps the more modest:

Taraji P. Henson for PETA

And sometimes she’s not quite so buttoned up:

Taraji P. Henson at VH1's Big In 2015

That’s the picture that caught my eye. But what I really wanted you to see was this bit that never quite made it to Saturday Night Live:

Nothing at all like Cookie Lyon in Empire, right?

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Latest snooze

I am not a morning person, in the sense that Death Valley is not a water park. Not that I’m claiming any of these characteristics, mind you:

When you’re getting up at 6 am, you’re usually passing out by nine, which means you’re already tired by five. You may start your day with a burst of energy, but by mid-afternoon you’re already checked out.

Early risers are, in fact, screwing themselves over for the second part of the day.

Researchers at the University of Liege in Belgium examined 15 “extreme early risers” and 15 “extreme night owls.” They measured the participants’ brain activity after they first woke up and then once again 10.5 hours later.

Both the night owls and the early birds had the same level of productivity when they first woke up. Ten hours later, however, early birds had “lower activity in brain regions linked to attention and the circadian master clock, compared to night owls.”

Weekdays, I get up a hair before six, and I can sustain pretty well until nine. By ten-thirty, though, I’m pretty much inert, and it takes lunch to revive me.

Weekends, I sleep as late as I dare, which is usually somewhere between 10:30 and noon. So the pattern is fixed, no matter how much I actually seem to deviate from it.

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A dime’s worth of difference

Of course, adjusted for inflation, it’s worth nothing at all:

A Bernie Sanders type has been running for president every four years for the last six decades. Sixties flower children had Gene McCarthy; George McGovern was the kumbayah kid of the 1970s; Ralph Nader captured the moonbat imagination in the 80s and 90s; Dennis Kucinich and his “Department of Peace” hung around in the Bush years … but those guys were all third- or -fourth-party jokes (except McGovern, I guess, though he should have been; the dude carried one state against Tricky Dick Nixon. In 1972). It’s only now that a Sanders type — an honest-to-god Socialist, running on out-and-proud Socialism — is finally viable.

Now, before you rush in to tell me that’s because Hillary Clinton is the lousiest, most corrupt candidate this side of Robert Mugabe, please note that she still leads most Republicans in most nationwide polls. And before you rush in to tell me that’s because the GOP’s candidates are also historically awful, please note that the leader of that pathetic pack may well be Ben Carson … and if it’s not, it’s Donald Trump.

The American electorate, in other words, is living in fantasyland. Nobody even pretends to be voting for a competent elected official. How could they? The only candidate with significant electoral experience is Sanders, and a Chicago city alderman makes bigger budget decisions, affecting way more people, than a Vermont senator. Hillary Clinton spends most of her free time dodging subpoenas from her limited government service, and Carson and Trump have never been elected to anything, anywhere. As late as 1992, the American public would’ve laughed itself into an aneurysm at the proposition that any of these clowns, or all of them combined Voltron-like into one uber-clown, could possibly be qualified for the Presidency of the United States.

And in 1992, we embraced chameleon Bill Clinton, all things to everyone. We should have run away when we had the chance.

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Sometimes stroked, always bored

P. J. O’Rourke once noted that pickup trucks tended to have eight cylinders, which was too many, or four cylinders, which was not enough. This would seems to be an argument for six cylinders, a happy medium if you will, but actual cars, as distinguished from trucks, to the extent that you can distinguish them from trucks (curse you, crossovers), seem to be migrating to four-bangers, a phenomenon which, to Jack Baruth, is just this side of hellish:

As a design, the inline-four is both banal and inadequate. The intake hangs off one side and the exhaust off the other, so when you open the hood it looks unbalanced and cheap. ​Enlarged to modern two-liter-plus proportions, this lack of balance makes it want to shake itself to death. At idle it rattles; at full revs it moans. Instead of the dual-megaphone mufflers associated with powerful V8s, the most efficient four-cylinder exhaust is a massive coffee can hanging off one side of the bumper.

Defending the fart can? Horrors!

Yet the unloved inline-four plows on. It’s cheap to make, cheap to modify. It fits in everything from a small motorcycle to a 5-Series BMW. It can be turbocharged to serve as a poor replacement for a more colorful six. This strategy, employed by the high-end German manufacturers and the Koreans alike, makes it easier to pass CO2-related regulations. So what if the resulting concoction sounds like a paint shaker? You muffle it to death and then play a fake engine sound through the stereo. Nobody knows the difference.

I am told that a hybrid system with an inline four is destined for the BMW 7-series, which just seems wrong for a car that can also be had with a V-12 fercrissake.

And fake engine noises, say I, are an abomination unto the Lord: if He had wanted us to waste our audio systems on such things He would have made AM the dominant form of radio.


Every time you buy a car that has something besides the ubiquitous inline-four, you are striking a blow for automotive character. You’re making a statement that you want steak, not Spam.

In my life I have owned six cars with a total of thirty cylinders: a straight six, two V-6s, and three inline fours. Then again, the budget doesn’t permit me to eat a whole hell of a lot of steak.

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School of Hard Knicks

Nobody expects the New York Knicks. Their chief weapon is surprise: how does such a motley-looking bunch, airily dismissed as Carmelo Anthony and however many dwarfs, manage to be so totally dominant for forty-seven minutes? Well, there’s defense, of which they had an abundance — for almost the entire night the Thunder shot well under 40 percent — and there’s offense, of which they had more than enough, what with knocking down 12 of 20 three-pointers. New York led by as many as 16 early in the fourth quarter; Oklahoma City whittled that lead down to four with a minute left, to three with 12 seconds left, and two trey attempts on the last possession failed, giving the Knicks the win, 93-90.

Then again, the failure of trey attempts is at the very heart of this loss: the Thunder put up 29 three-pointers, and 26 missed. Ten and a fraction percent. Somehow this managed to eclipse dominant positions on the boards (49-36) and in the paint (52-16). A 34-point night from Russell Westbrook and a double-double from Enes Kanter (11 points, 13 boards) went more or less for naught. Meanwhile, Melo played like Melo, José Calderón showed signs of life, and if Robin Lopez made just the one shot from the floor — well, he hasn’t missed a free throw all season.

Billy Donovan continues to mix up the lineup. Tonight he started Dion Waiters on the wing and shuffled Andre Roberson to the frontcourt; Waiters, after a slow beginning, managed to serve up 15 points, while Roberson had two points and four fouls. This apparently is not the Durant-less solution he was looking for, and there’s no indication KD will be back Sunday to play the Mavericks, or Monday to take on the Jazz. Meanwhile, this comment from the field:

Yep. Wouldn’t doubt it for a minute.

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What is this bouncy thing?

Few things online go viral faster than Formerly Tortured Animals; one I remember from not too long ago involved an elephant released from the concrete bunker where he’d spent most of his life, and then discovering the wonderfulness of grass. You never saw a critter so blissfully happy.

Although this bull terrier comes close:

“Sleep? On something like this? Are you kidding me?”

And that look at the end: “This is okay, isn’t it?”

(Via HelloGiggles.)

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Epidermis of inhuman thinness

Not that I needed another reason not to vote for this ridiculous individual or anything:

In what appears to be a first for a serious presidential contender, Hillary Clinton’s campaign is going after five comedians who made fun of the former Secretary of State in standup skits at a popular Hollywood comedy club.

She’s not a “serious presidential contender.” She expects the job to be handed to her, because [reasons].

A video of the short performance, which is less than three minutes, is posted on the website of the renowned club, Laugh Factory, and the Clinton campaign has tried to censor it. Besides demanding that the video be taken down, the Clinton campaign has demanded the personal contact information of the performers that appear in the recording. This is no laughing matter for club owner Jamie Masada, a comedy guru who opened Laugh Factory more than three decades ago and has been instrumental in launching the careers of many famous comics. “They threatened me,” Masada told Judicial Watch. ‘I have received complaints before but never a call like this, threatening to put me out of business if I don’t cut the video.”

If I’m Bernie Sanders, I’m passing along this story to the entire freaking world.

Disclaimer: I am not Bernie Sanders. Just the same, I’m passing along this story.

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Runaround Sioux

The kerfuffle over the names of the athletic teams at the University of North Dakota is apparently over:

Then again, there may be an explanation after all:

Dan Snyder to the red discourtesy phone, please.

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Murdered out

This did not give me a sugar rush:

A meme going around compares Syrian refugees to jelly beans:

“If i gave you a bag of 50000 jellybeans and told you 100 are poisonous, you wouldn’t accept them right? Then why would we accept 50000 refugees if some of them are bad?”

I like jelly beans and numbers so I did a back of the envelope calculation. In the US there are about 15,000 murders per year. Most murderers kill only one person. Even serial killers kill only 2.8 people on average. Thus, 15,000 is also approximately the number of murderers in a year.

A bit more number-juggling, and this is the conclusion:

The current US population is 322 million so there are .0023 murderers per capita or 2.33 murderers per 1000 or 116 murderers per 50,000 people in the United States. Put differently, about 116 American babies out of every 50,000 will grow up to murder someone… In contrast, only 100 of the 50000 jelly beans were poisonous.

It helps, perhaps, to know that neither murderous Americans nor poisonous jelly beans are what you’d call evenly distributed. However, someone doesn’t become a murderer until he actually commits a murder, and just how lethal are those jelly beans, anyway?

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No shortage of nerve

Surviving Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols — partner in crime Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001 — would like his guns back, please:

Domestic terrorist Terry Nichols wants more than a dozen guns seized in the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing returned.

He says they had nothing to do with the bombing, and he wants his family to have them for the money the weapons are worth.

From his maximum security prison cell in Colorado, Nichols said he wants 13 guns in that currently are in federal custody, including handguns, rifles and a shotgun, to be turned over to one of his two ex-wives or to his sister.

The Feds, of course, disagree:

Federal authorities say the guns should not be released from FBI custody because someone might use them in a copycat crime. Instead, the feds want to destroy the guns and give Nichols credit for their fair market value of $7,000.

Not that the credit would do him or his family much good:

It would go toward the $14.5 million he owes in restitution.

Yeah, that’ll help.

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Small and Gawky

The restructuring at Gawker Media — basically, Gawker itself is going all politics, all the time, and some of the “lesser” brands are being shed — is likely no surprise to Robert Stacy McCain:

If Nick Denton could outsource Gawker’s editorial work to Guatemalan peasants working in squalid huts for a few pesos a day, I’m sure he wouldn’t hesitate to do so. There is no feasible limit to Nick Denton’s unscrupulous greed, and this is why investors put their money into Gawker media, because they trust Nick will be absolutely ruthless in his quest to make a dollar, and “diversity” is only of interest to Gawker’s investors if it somehow impacts Nick’s ability to produce revenue.

For myself, I thought it was odd that, having sold off an actual political blog a couple of restructurings ago, they’d now try to recreate one:

Wonkette editor/publisher Rebecca Schoenkopf begs to differ:

Hello, Gawker sirs, don’t mind us, we’re just a couple of country mice over here in the corner eating this tiny crust of bread. You remember us, Wonkette? We are the politics blog that sprang from your loins (gross) and which you then sold almost immediately because you couldn’t figure out how to make money from politics. (Have you asked Newsmax for some pointers? I hear they got a real good list.) So this other guy, who was not us, bought it from you, and four years later he realized American politics was rotting his wanderer’s soul, so he went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came back.

Which is how I came to be the owner, publisher and editrix of this teeny-tiny little politics place, which never hurt nobody, nobody at all. And here you are, and under your new editor — who used to be the editor of us, SMALL PUBLISHING WORLD — you are retooling into a “politics” site.

Really? Are you sure? Because while we’ve tripled our revenues and quintupled our staff in the past three years because it turns out I am awesome at capitalism and asking for money from readers like you, that actually means we’ve gone from “just-me” to “five.” I am pretty sure all Politico’s money comes from that godawful Newsletter Sponsored By Whatever Blackwater’s Called This Week. And Newsmax’s cheddar, while YOOOGE, comes from the fleecing of homebound, ill crackers. You do not want to sell cancer cures made of cinnamon do you? DO YOU?

As good a description of Ken Layne’s apostasy as I’ve yet heard, and the whole (read it all if you dare) is hilarious enough to justify my assertion.

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