She don’t lie, she don’t lie

Wait a minute. Maybe she do lie:

The humble potato may be a good source of carbohydrates and vitamins, but few would turn to the vegetable in search of a high.

However, a man stopped by police on suspicion of taking narcotics in Brest, western France, turned out to be sniffing nothing other than mashed potato powder.

The attention of the police was aroused when they spotted two men, one of whom was holding his phone horizontally and appearing to sniff something. They were able to make out a white line on the surface of the phone, and suspected that the man was taking cocaine.

In a twist the late Roger Ebert would have characterized as part of an “idiot plot”:

[O]ne of the men had just bought some LSD from the other, who had offered him a line of cocaine as a “bonus.”

But the inquiries took a turn for the bizarre when the powder was formally examined. In a stroke of luck for the accused, he was let off when the powdery substance proved not to be cocaine, but mashed potato starch.

The vendor, meanwhile, was held for questioning over the LSD matter, since it is not illegal to snort spuds, even in France.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Quantum of smallish

Jack Baruth’s review of Spectre is worth your time no matter where you start reading it, but the paragraph I’m going to toss at you is the last one, simply because it makes more sense than I really wanted it to:

There is going to be a change in the future, however. No wonder Mr. Craig is eager to leave the role. He’s tired of doing these depressing, meaningless films where he has to frown the entire time. I’m ready for him to quit as well. But the Bond franchise has plenty of life left in it. Supposedly Idris Elba is the next Bond. That would please the mandatory-diversity crowd, to have a black Bond. But I think that Mr. Elba, with his sagging eyelids and morose disposition, is the wrong brother for the job. No, I think they need the other guy from The Wire: Wood Harris, who played Avon Barksdale. I’m ready for some Bond movies where Avon Barksdale kicks ass and drives cool cars and goes to casinos and whatnot. Those would be fun movies, and that’s what I want from the Bond franchise. After all, if I want to hear a story about a guy in his mid-forties coming to terms with his mortality and his sorrow and the consequences of his actions — shit, man, I can get that for free, you know?

Truth be told, most of us can’t help but get it, whether we want it or not.

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“Shed” is also a verb

Gale-force winds for much of Wednesday came awfully close to blowing my old metal shed off its concrete block. There wasn’t much of anything out there worth saving — a bottom-of-the-line broadcast spreader was about it — but the structure itself looks like about two and a half seconds before the end of a round of Jenga. Replacing it would cost somewhere around half my insurance deductible, so I’m waiting to see what the weekend brings before I contemplate this matter further.

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Downstairs thinking

The problem with not knowing everything, of course, is that you don’t know everything, and this puts you in a position of suffering the occasional bout of l’esprit de l’escalier: the perfect reply comes to you, yes, but not in a timely manner.

I’m pretty good at picking up on cultural references, perhaps a bit less adept at coming up with the best possible response. This often causes frustration, and not just for me:

I would like to believe that I’m one of the ones trying to carry forward that kind of knowledge, caring about that kind of stuff, and keep it alive, but honestly, I don’t really have anyone I’m passing it on to all that much. Often the allusions to historical things I make in class seem largely to be lost (do people, I mean people who aren’t history buffs, know much about the family of the last tsar and about familial transmission of hemophilia?) and I know from one of my classes last spring, I don’t DARE be too idiosyncratic because then people just giggle and pass notes.

There was a time, I believe, when having something zoom over your head at high speed would have been a catastrophic blow to your sense of self. [Facepalm, followed by “I knew that.”] As culture itself becomes fragmented, even atomized, it’s easier to excuse yourself with “I am not expected to know this,” which is the philosophical equivalent of “I was told there would be no math.” By the same token, actually catching something I am not expected to know carries a couple of nonrefundable, nondisposable egoboo points, perhaps enough to carry me through the next facepalm, and there’s always a next facepalm.

To a certain extent, we adjust ourselves to the audience we have; my own particular workplace is, well, not especially cerebral, and I have learned to confine my more challenging outbursts to these pages, or to Twitter. I do the spur-of-the-moment 140-character thing reasonably well, I think, though there are plenty of folks, many of whom I eagerly follow, who can type rings around me. But most of the time, the immediacy one might like is lacking, simply because none of the exchange is face-to-face; for all they know, I could be halfway down the stairs, or halfway across the county, already. Then again, if I’m slow coming up with a response, it’s probably just as well that I’m not there to be glared at.

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For many a Southern night

The late Ernest Kador, Jr., known forevermore as Ernie K-Doe, would tell you that he found his big hit, “Mother-in-Law,” in Allen Toussaint’s trash can. This is almost true: actually, K-Doe was already trying to record the song, several takes had gone awry, and Toussaint, frustrated, wadded up the sheet music and tossed it. Background singer Willie Hopper actually fished the song out of the trash, and they did one more take, which was the keeper.

Nobody’s really sure how many records out of New Orleans Toussaint wrote, or produced, or both; it’s got to be several hundred at least. In the 1970s, he started recording under his own name; his 1975 single “Southern Nights” proved to be highly influential.

Glen Campbell got a hit in 1977 with a steam-cleaned version, which I thought was pretty spiffy, but it’s not a patch on Toussaint’s original. And this was hardly the first time Toussaint’s music had crossed over to the pop market. Consider this Herb Alpert number, written by “Naomi Neville” (Toussaint’s mother’s name):

Allen Toussaint kept playing up to the very end of his life; a heart attack felled him Tuesday morning after a Monday-night concert in Madrid. A Spanish-language newspaper has video from the show, and he sounded fine; I’m guessing they needed a sideman in R&B Heaven.

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Not that I’m running out or anything

Sony, while it started selling VHS VCRs in the late 1980s, managed to keep its own Betamax system alive, sort of, until, um, March 2016:

Betamax: the punchline for over a decade’s worth of VHS-center[ed] comedy bits and most format wars. However, Sony’s Beta cassettes can still be bought in Japan. Just about. Sony’s announced that it’s finally, finally, finally stop selling the cassettes. No need to rush to Tokyo just yet, as you still have until next March to buy-up all the Betamax supplies you’ll never need — including a cleaning tape.

I still have some sealed Beta tapes from back in the day.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Local pony fan supported

From way back in the day:

The Brony Thank You Fund is now raising funds to start a permanent animation scholarship to Calarts, the school where such people as Lauren Faust, Craig McCracken, and Tim Burton got their start, among many, many others.

And we have, for the first time, a winner:

As folks may recall, the Brony Thank You Fund endowed a permanent scholarship at the California Institute of the Arts a year ago, the Derpy Hooves Scholarship in Character Animation. We have just been informed by CalArts that the first recipient is Thirla Alagala, a third-year student. She took the time to give a shout out in her Tumblr, complete with her own version of Derpy. She says that she’d love to hear from the brony community, and we look forward to seeing her in the credits of some great animation once she graduates!

Smiles? We got some. Pass the muffins.

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A 4-A family

In Selective Service parlance, classification 4-A means “registrant who has completed military service.” Not that we’re going to be drafted any time soon, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t pass the current physical anyway, but we’re just a bunch of happy veterans around here.

Or were, anyway. My mother was a sailor. My father was a sailor, and he was a soldier before that. Among the five children, you’d find a soldier (me), a soldier’s wife, a sailor, and two actual civilians. We’re pretty much awash in DD Forms 214. I remember those forms well; then again, in my capacity as an Army personnel clerk, I got to type rather a lot of them, including one with my name on it. And while 75C might not have been an aspirational MOS — I went through fairly-mundane clerk-typist (71B) training, despite already being a better typist than required — I’m pretty sure I would have made a rotten 71M (chaplain’s assistant).

Usually it doesn’t occur to me that I am in fact a veteran until Veterans Day rolls around; the very word, in the back of my mind, calls forth the image of someone battered and bruised, but still pushing forward. The Middle East, my final active-duty station, wasn’t much of a war zone in those days, or if it was, nobody knew about it; the mission, or at least a major portion of it, was to keep an eye on the late, unlamented Soviet Union, not enough kilometers to our north. (We were, of course, officially a “logistics” group.) It’s not like I was routinely getting a weapon pointed at me.

Then I remember that for every man in harm’s way, there were several men — and women — behind the scenes, supporting those missions. We’d been through the same basic combat training, and we knew that should the fan be struck by fecal matter, we wouldn’t have to go to the front: the front would come to us. (I got a lot more weapons practice in those days than I’m getting now, a situation I need to correct.)

Still, I’ve never felt as though I’d earned the “hero” badge: as Emerson says, the hero is not necessarily braver, but he’s braver five minutes longer. I’ve always wondered if I had it in me to hold out for those five minutes. (My brother Paul? You damn betcha. You told him he was going to parachute into hell to assassinate Lucifer, he’d have asked for a list of minor demons to take out while he was down there.) But maybe I have more gumption than I let on: historically, it’s the trivialities that have tripped me up, while I’ve more or less breezed through the big stuff. “Courage,” said counterculture scribe Ambrose Redmoon, “is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one’s fear.” Even if that’s just another way of putting the “ape” in “apricot,” it’s still pretty accurate.

This particular family is, physically anyway, somewhat diminished these days. But I take heart in the fact that, each in our own way, we came, we saw, and we kicked ass. It’s not something you have to be a veteran to appreciate — but it helps.

(Reposted from five years ago.)

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Distraught of Columbia

The worst-kept secret in the NBA is that the Washington Wizards would dearly love to snag hometown hero Kevin Durant when his current contract runs out. (Protocol requires that you not mention such things in public.) KD, not one to tip his hand, has given them no encouragement, which may or may not explain the scattering of boos during the first quarter tonight, while Durant was running the Wizards ragged. And then, suddenly, he wasn’t: after 17 minutes, 14 points and ten rebounds, KD, having strained a hamstring, took a seat. The Thunder really didn’t need him: it was 68-50 at halftime, and after a brief Washington rally to start the third quarter, OKC pretty much owned the Wizards the rest of the night, aided by a Russell Westbrook triple-double (again!) and major offensive production by Serge Ibaka and Dion Waiters. (Waiters posted a season-high 25.) The final was 125-101, which should tell you that this wasn’t a titanic defensive struggle.

The Wizards’ cause was not helped by the absence of Bradley Beal, who was held out of practice yesterday with shoulder problems. Gary Neal, starting in Beal’s place, proved to be a serviceable replacement — five Wizards, including Neal, made it to double figures — but in general, Washington was short on offense, shooting under 40 percent most of the night and under 20 percent on the long ball. (The Thunder didn’t miss a trey until the last shot of the first half.)

Meanwhile, in the Twitterverse, an account called @playmorrow2 appeared, intended to rally support for Anthony Morrow, who hasn’t been seen much this season; in mop-up duty tonight, he put up six shots, only one of which actually made it through the net. (Kyle Singler, usually accused of swiping Morrow’s minutes, scored eight on two treys and two free throws.) Still, the question that’s going to come up tonight is “Will Durant be back for Friday?” Don’t know just yet. Then again, Friday it’s the 76ers, who so far this season are 0 for whatever.

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Bassist points

Tom Hamilton, bass player for Aerosmith since the very beginning, writes to Car and Driver:

I was reading your fine magazine, as I have done for my entire adult life, when I came upon the article about the study of aerodynamics called “Aerosmithing” [September 2015].

I was puzzled and delighted at the same time as I wondered about the possible connection between that word and the name of my band. I think just for the fun of it, I’m going to conclude that the writer and the editor had us in mind when the title came to be. Maybe now we’ll make it into the dictionary!

I’d bet almost anything that Hamilton is right about the mag’s intentions; but inevitably, there came a squelch — in fact, the perfect squelch:

Dream on—Ed.

This is why I have been reading this fine magazine for [most of] my entire adult life.

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Several shades of Mary Jane

There exists a shoe line called “Irregular Choice,” and if ever there was truth in advertising, it’s in that name. Nancy Friedman, always alert to such things, pointed me in the general direction of that line, and this particular shoe seemed — well, I don’t know if “appropriate” is the word, but “timely” definitely fits:

Irregular Choice Avant Garde Gnome Lyric Heart Velvet Polka Dot HeelTo give it its full name, this is the Irregular Choice Avant Garde Gnome Lyric Heart Velvet Polka Dot Heel, and since you’re going to ask, the gnome is four inches tall. I think. I mean, it’s not like he’s slouching or anything, or at least he doesn’t look like he’s slouching, and one (okay, “I”) might well cherish verticality in a shoe heel.

I’m not sure who’s the intended market here — gnomismatists? mockers of holiday cheer? crushing-video fanatics? armpit fetishists? collectors of the unwearable? — but there are only a couple of sizes left, at $185, so clearly somebody liked this shoe at some point.

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Meanwhile in the dungeon

I know from nothing about the Final Fantasy game series, other than that it’s been around forever and the 15th (!) installment is due out next year. But a stray remark from a gamer got my attention:

Snowcloak’s music is so peaceful. I had forgotten it until now.

I took her at her word, went poking around, and turned up this:

From the description posted:

Oh what a soothing track. First run through of Snowcloak with all but the BGM muted. Such easy listening, oooye.

BGM, of course, stands for “Background Music.” The actual track is titled “The Warrens,” but it apparently never made it to the officially-released soundtrack albums. As a big fan of that slowly-shifting ambient stuff, I found it utterly wondrous.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Ginchier than thou

As the 1950s faded into the 1960s, Warner Bros. was messing around with the concept of synergy: they’d hired actress Connie Stevens for their TV series Hawaiian Eye, but they figured they could get even more mileage out of her at their nascent record company. Accordingly, they paired her up with then-cult hero Edd “Kookie” Byrnes from WB’s 77 Sunset Strip, with the following results:

Never was quite sure what Kookie meant by “You’re the ginchiest,” but surely Connie had no shortage of ginch:

Connie Stevens in what may be fake fur

The next year, Stevens got a solo hit — #3 in Billboard, one notch higher than the Kookie track — with the teen-dream ballad “Sixteen Reasons.”

Connie Stevens ages well

She would continue to score low-charting items through 1965, but her best record might have been “Keep Growing Strong,” which failed to catch fire in 1970:

Producer/cowriter Thom Bell, however, knew this song could be a hit, and a couple of years later it would be, with an established soul group and a new title.

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42nd and Deadness

It started some time around nine-thirty. The sysadmin hadn’t arrived yet, but the network guy was on it: nobody anywhere on our network had anything resembling Internet access. We’ve had some wonky hardware in the past, so he steeled himself to go rummaging around the switch panel, when a cry came down the line from the phone bank: no calls in or out. Since we’re a VoIP operation, the combination of the two problems meant only one of one thing: our Internet provider, the local cable company, had turned a deaf ear, or something, to us.

A cell call to the usual robot voice disclosed that yes, this is a problem in your area, and we expect it to be fixed by 11:45. It was not. The sysadmin, whose persistence exceeds mine by an order of magnitude, eventually made it past the usual choke points on the phone tree to an actual person, who said that about 400 customers were affected, and things should be back to normal by 1:00. “Well, it’s one o’clock somewhere,” I said.

Service was restored somewhere between five and six, long after most of us had bailed out for the day. I’m not particularly far behind on anything, but some of the other departments seem to be in deep kimchi, and El Jefe apparently had to endure a call (on his cell) from Camp Slobbovia asking what the fark was going on. I do not envy the man.

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Otherwise it’s fine

With one exception, I am pleased to endorse McGehee’s 2016 Presidential Campaign platform. That exception is item six:

A jobs program should benefit more than comedy writers and op-ed cartoonists.

Since Washington, pretty much by design, is not in much of a position to create any actual jobs — at best, all they can do is pad out the existing bureaucracy, which is the very antithesis of job creation — anything they do that benefits anyone other than comedy writers and op-ed cartoonists can’t be an actual jobs program.

See also the various “stimulus” programs, which stashed cash in the pockets of a concupiscent few members of the elite Donor Class at the expense of everyone else in the nation; this technique dates back decades and has never worked as advertised in any of its applications.

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