Cutting a goddess down to size

Well, we finally have a source for that Hello Kitty vodka seen here last spring. As suspected, it’s a fabrication; as not suspected, it’s part of a collection by artist Anna Utopia Giordano, who specializes in messing with her audience’s heads digitally. There’s also a Barbie vodka and a Lego tequila, and now I understand why the top of the bottle was cropped out.

A more recent project, “Venus,” is on exhibit at Museum Het Valkhof in the Netherlands. You all know Venus: she’s your fire, what’s your desire? And she’s been portrayed, often in paintings long considered masterpieces, generally naked as the day she was born — and blessed with a certain sufficiency of flesh generally incomprehensible in these days when Beautiful and Emaciated walk arm in lath-thin arm. What to do? Giordano to the rescue, applying to the goddess the very same Photoshop techniques routinely used in fashion magazines. In Botticelli’s half-shell work, for instance, Venus has gotten an obvious tummy tuck and smoothing of her thighs and upper arms, while going up about half a cup size.

Then again, not all Renaissance painters rendered women as, um, fleshy. Jonathan Jones points out in the Guardian:

[T]here are Renaissance nudes that are just as skinny as any fashion designer could demand. The German painter Lucas Cranach the Elder portrayed strikingly thin and narrow-waisted nudes. His Venus believed you could never be too bony or wear too many hats. But he was a close friend of Martin Luther, and believed the body to be a vessel of sin. Those sensual Italians had a more abundant and generous idea of beauty.

Peter Paul Rubens was not available for comment.

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Seize the day and everything adjacent

Shut up, serfs, your betters have the floor:

Some years ago, I spoke against a proposed town ordinance that would have granted the town the power to confiscate items found in a private home’s yard and fine the owner. I pointed out that that would amount to an arbitrary seizure power, extending to anything ever found outside the home’s front door. The town’s attorney immediately rose to protest that “we would never use it like that!” They were only interested in eliminating “eyesores” that were upsetting one or two querulous residents.

“We would never use it like that,” as lies go, ranks right up there with “The check is in your mouth” and “I won’t come in the mail.” And just in case you might have thought otherwise:

[T]he town council’s decision … was to pass the ordinance in the dead of night, at a secret session.

A governmental unit operating at that level of chicanery is far worse than a mere eyesore.

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Perhaps shooting in B&W would help

The bicycle lane on a 1.5-mile stretch of Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles is painted a vivid neon green, which would seem to be a Good Thing, unless you’re making movies:

[T]he bike path still rankles location scouts and filmmakers, who see it as another hurdle to filming in Los Angeles.

Their concern: The bright color would be a distraction to viewers, doesn’t belong in period movies and makes it harder for L.A. to do what it does best: play other cities.

“As we all know, unlike other major cities, our downtown footprint is very small and limited and we’ve used this stretch for [an] ‘anywhere in the world’ big city for years and it is vital to us for many projects,” Ed Duffy, business agent for Teamsters Local 399, which represents location managers, wrote in a recent email to members.

According to Duffy, the office of Mayor Villaraigosa had issued a statement saying the paint on Spring between 3rd and 9th would be allowed to fade in the California sun, but apparently the city is, um, backpedaling.

(Via this Ryan Baker tweet.)

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Strange search-engine queries (374)

No fooling: these are actual search strings that landed unwary Web surfers on this very site during the past seven days or so. We may never know their motivations, and in some cases we may never want to know.

business loans make your text blogger.bold.italic and more with HTML tags:  If you need to take out a loan to edit your template, you’re in worse shape than I thought.

i’m convinced comma:  No. I’m convinced period. A comma signals that you might not be so sure.

opposite of joyride:  “Commute.”

her boss an attorney demanded she wear 5 inch heel pumps and figure altering girdle:  And she, the new kid in the steno pool with an MA in art history, thought this was utterly unreasonable.

are you comfortable or uncomfortable in a disorderly environment?  That depends. Who made it disorderly in the first place?

any lawsuits against nissan leaf:  What kind of lame-o sues a car?

returned rolled back odometer to nissan:  What, you didn’t even sue?

nissan sylphy gearbox problem symtoms:  Never mind all that careful diagnostic stuff. Sue ‘em.

ants crawling up sink:  If you wait long enough, eventually they’ll crawl down.

zooey deschanel pussy pics:  Sure. You try getting her to move that damn cat.

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Decades of standing in the corner

Pyongyang presents a puzzle, for which we have yet to find a solution — which does not at all imply that there’s a solution to be found:

North Korea engages in so little conventional interaction with other nations that you have to wonder if they really understand the idea of what is considered acceptable behavior at the grownup table. Kim Il Sung’s philosophy of “Juche” has created a nation where the national mindset makes the most ardent isolationist of a Bircher look like a frothing transnationalist one-worlder; armed with nukes, the DPRK becomes the geopolitical equivalent of the profoundly autistic young man with the body of a linebacker and the emotional continence of a three-year-old.

The effect is certainly the same: we will underestimate, perhaps by several standard deviations, the effort it will require to subdue the inevitable rampage, and we will mistakenly assume that we will be able to do so without suffering damage ourselves.

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Me gotta go

Now this seems like the sort of story they used to call “glurge” over at Snopes, with the minor difference that it’s actually true:

Forty-five years ago, Yank Barry was belting out “Louie, Louie” with iconic band The Kingsmen. Cut to 2013, and he’s a third-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee with very real prospects of joining the ranks of past winners including The Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa.

“I was very surprised. It was gratifying,” Barry, 65, told FOX411′s Pop Tarts column of his nomination, which was presented to him by boxer and Filipino political figure, Manny Pacquiáo following his recent visit to the Philippines working with victims from a typhoon that hit the nation late last year and killed over one thousand people. “It is not often that I am left speechless, but this was one of them. It’s overwhelming to think about.”

Given the Nobel committee’s somewhat questionable track record — Yasser Arafat, fercrissake? — giving the award to Barry would be a small step on the path to righteousness.

But do the math. Forty-five years ago, it was 1968, five years after “Louie Louie.” The Kingsmen’s last chart record — “Bo Diddley Bach,” the most non-garage song they’d done up to that point, which bubbled way under at #128 — came out in late 1967, before Yank Barry officially joined the group. Most assuredly he sang “Louie Louie” live with the band at some point, and I’m pretty sure he sang on the band’s last couple of recordings for Wand, but he had nothing to do with that big hit record, which was sung by Jack Ely.

(Via Fark.)

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The further adventures of Rockbox

After living with Rockbox as the alternative operating system for my Sansa Clip Zip for a week, I’m prepared to give it unqualified praise in the wrong sense: I am not at all qualified to pass judgment one way or another on the merits of the system.

The last copy of the manual I downloaded runs 221 pages, approximately eleven times the size of SanDisk’s Quick Start Guide, half of which is safety precautions and EULA. The Rockbox guys, to their credit, assume from the getgo that I am not actually an idiot; then again, they’ve never met me and wouldn’t know me from Yahoo Serious.

My needs are absurdly simple: I want the machine to play my 5000-item playlist in no particular order, with approximately the same volume level on every track. The latter is no problem, since I have affixed ReplayGain tags to every single file; it’s not perfect, but it works reasonably well, and it avoids the alternative: horrid compression.

Still, the options are downright daunting, and while there’s a text editor of sorts on the premises, I am klutzy enough using 12 phone keys to produce text; you don’t want to see me with a machine that has only seven keys, one of which is OFF. In the end, it was easier to connect the little box to the PC with Sansa’s oh-so-generous 9½-inch USB cable, pull over the appropriate files, and tweak as needed.

I crashed it once. It recovered nicely after being allowed to sit with its power off for two minutes. I figure, if that’s the most damage I can do, I’m in like Flynn used to be.

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Gone too soon

As epitaphs go, this would have been one of the best ever: “Richard Griffiths. Actor. Born 1947. Died 2947.”

Actually, he died on the 29th of March 2013, but you can’t blame the guy for trying. And I love this quote:

“Everybody my age should be issued with a 2lb fresh salmon,” he told an interviewer before the play opened. “If you see someone young, beautiful and happy, you should slap them as hard as you can with it. When they ask, ‘Why did you do that?’, you say, ‘Because, you lucky young bastard, you don’t know how fortunate you are.’ And they don’t…”

The play in question was Equus, which opened in 2007, the year Griffiths turned, um, sixty.

Excuse me while I fetch a fish.

(Via Tim Blair.)

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Deer caught in headlights

The third quarter in Milwaukee was sufficiently horrible — the Bucks dominated, 37-27 — to bring back unpleasant memories of last night in Minnesota. In fact, your friendly neighborhood cervids ran out to a five-point lead early in the fourth, which situation apparently made something click inside various Thunder heads. Oklahoma City promptly ran off ten straight points to invert the differential, followed by a 9-2 run; at the horn, it was 109-99, and radio guy Matt Pinto had already lost his voice. Allergies, he said.

That stellar final frame made for some nice-looking numbers on the box, like 53 percent shooting. Russell Westbrook, who stole the ball from Monta Ellis with 20 seconds left to finish the job, came up with a triple-double: 23 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists. Oh, and that was his third steal. Kevin Durant knocked down 30. Serge Ibaka (16 points) came up with eight blocks, moving him farther in front of Larry Sanders for the season blocking title. (Sanders, who posted a double-double — 12 points, 10 rebounds — had nary a swat.) Thirty-three points were coaxed out of the Thunder bench, with both Kevin Martin and Nick Collison in double figures, but the name to know was Derek Fisher. Yes, he made just one shot all night; but he bedeviled the Bucks something fierce in that fourth quarter. (Fisher was +12, second only to Durant’s +19.)

The Bucks did not shoot well — 38 percent — though they were pretty efficient from outside, nailing 12 of 29 treys. (The Thunder were a woeful 4-16.) Still, Ersan İlyasova was pretty close to On Fire, hitting 12-22 for 29 points and gathering 14 boards. Ekpe Udoh contributed a double-double from the bench. The real problem for Milwaukee, though, was that the Thunder pretty much shut down their starting guards: Ellis and Brandon Jennings went a combined 6-30 for 17 points.

Still, the Bucks, barring a miracle in Philadelphia, are going to the playoffs, where they will be butchered, frozen, and then thrown away by the Miami Heat. Maybe. Meanwhile, the Thunder have only two games next week, but they’re killers, and what’s more, they’re less than 24 hours apart: at home against San Antonio Thursday, and then a visit to the Pacers, currently #3 in the East. Much may be settled by next weekend.

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Seabiscuit and gravy

Someone styling herself “Jennifer” went on this mini-rant on Yahoo! Answers:

Is Governor Mary Fallin Unethical?
Yes she is, and has passed legislation which allow the killing of innocent animals to be processed for meat and served in our nations restaurants! Cows have been used as a source of meat as well as chicken and hogs for many years, but you don’t kill noble domestic creatures and serve them in restaurants!!! What’s next the slaughter of dogs and cats? This governor needs to step down! She is totally inhumane toward animals by allowing this legislation. She has also passed legislation that would allow the use of drones to spy on law abiding citizens. She’s apparently all for the Patriot Act and believes the rights of others should be violated as well as there privacy! What if I’m naked in my house and a perverted man who is operating the drones sees me? Do you think he will remove the drones? No! If he’s a man, he’ll wanna see a beautiful girl naked! This is a violation of MY PERSONAL PRIVACY!!! What if the drones photograph me naked? and what if I find those pictures on the internet? Guess who’s gonna be sued? That’s right the state of Oklahoma for allowing these drones to be violate my personal privacy!

Two words, honey: “Venetian blinds.”

Now if you want to complain about Fallin’s politically-motivated backflip on health-care exchanges, I am there. And I admit to being uncomfortable with equines in the stew, but at least they’re not going into my bowl.

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Get off my register

After I admitted to some ambivalence regarding those so-called senior discounts, Roger, never one to mince words, declared them just this side of unsustainable:

There are all these nifty benefits to getting older. The thresholds vary, but one can get lots of stuff at a savings, especially services, such as at restaurants and transportation. (But are they legal? Apparently, even though they are discriminatory against the younguns.)

Frankly, I think retailers are crazy to maintain these “senior” discounts. The boomer generation is HUGE in numbers in the United States and will likely live longer than their parents, to boot; this must be an economic drain on some businesses, and will continue to be so for quite a while.

As Herb Stein said, if something can’t go on forever, it won’t. Eventually somebody will decide that 75 is the new 55, and the threshold for nifty benefits will shift upwards a notch or three. By then AARP will be mass-mailing 27-year-olds.

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Can C789 be far behind?

Bankrupt battery maker A123 Systems, last seen rushing into the arms of Chinese conglomerate Wanxiang Group, has announced a name change — to “B456.” Yes, really:

As part of A123′s bankruptcy proceedings dating to last October, it was required to change its name in order to be purchased by Chinese company Wanxiang. According to the Detroit Free Press, as part of a March 22, 2013 filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, A123 declared that its new name is B456.

Oh, it gets better:

We’re not sure if anyone at A123 realized the irony — B456 is also the model number for a fire extinguisher made by Amerex that happens to be good for “energized electrical equipment.”

“They’re always changing corporation names,” Grace Slick observes.

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Quote of the week

David Warren wrote this on the day before Good Friday:

[E]ven within quite “mainstream” Christian folds, Christ is reduced to an abstraction. The Gospel Christ is too particular, the times call for a more generic Christ, who will treat everyone the same. For a Christ who will not be objectionable to the State authorities; who will mind his own business & not create a disturbance. A democratic Christ, who will bless everyone equally, & preach multicultural homogeneity if he must preach at all. A Christ who would not have to be crucified, whose case would never come before Pontius Pilate, because he would never offend anyone. A nice Christ, who embodies niceness, & looks the other way whenever something he doesn’t like is happening. Not man in the image of God, but God in the image of man: a Christ we have made for ourselves, & given a liberal education, so that he does not speak of demons & the like, but only in terms of scientific theory. For we are nice people, & we do not want to hear about demons. We have no theory for that.

And please, would this Christ not rise from the dead. That is terribly disruptive.

This may be why I get along fairly well with atheists: their lack of belief, often as not, turns out to be the product of actual conviction.

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Here be Wolves

Judge Radar said it best: “If anyone is near Will Rogers Airport, please look for the Thunder’s Defense, so we can express-ship it to Milwaukee for tomorrow night.” Not that they had any offense either; in ten minutes of the fourth quarter they’d managed to produce only ten points. And if they’d brought lunch, Nikola Peković would have eaten it: the big Montenegrin collected 15 rebounds, seven of them offensive, and scored 22 points on 10-16 shooting. Minnesota moved into the lead early in the second quarter and never gave it up, sending the Thunder on their way to deepest Wisconsin in wound-licking mode, soundly beaten 101-93.

The key here: 21 second-chance points by the Wolves, while the Thunder were going one-and-done much of the night. Kevin Durant, who scored 36 tonight, could have gone for 50, maybe 60, if he’d gotten some help, but farther down the box score we see Russell Westbrook with 18 and the entire OKC bench with 17. Exactly four of those came from Kevin Martin, who went 1-9. Then again, Derek Fisher actually made a shot, so all’s right with the world.

Meanwhile, Ricky Rubio, not always the most polished of guards, was sleek and shiny much of the night, snagging 17 points and four steals. The Wolves pulled off 10 steals in all, twice as many as the Thunder, though Serge Ibaka owns the shot-blocking franchise around here, having batted away five, while Andrei Kirilenko executed Minnesota’s only swat. I note in passing that perennial pest J. J. Barea somehow was held to six, but the Wolves’ reserves did contribute 33 points to the cause.

Bottom line: the Wolves were okay, maybe a little better than that, but the Thunder seemed to have phoned it in. Maybe even faxed it in. The Bucks await tomorrow night, for more marbles than you might think. (At this writing, the Spurs were beating the Clippers, though not by much.)

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Think about fun

You know what it is, and the UK’s Intellectual Property Office has been looking into the oft-maligned art of parody. Some of their conclusions:

Parody is a significant consumer activity: On average, there are 24 user-generated parodies available for each original video of a charting single. 25% are target parodies, 31% are weapon parodies and 21% are self-parodies (where the parody maker criticised themselves).

YouTube, asked for “rebecca black friday parody,” claimed 316,000 results. It only seems like that many.

The potential for reputational harm in the observed sample is limited: Only 1.5% of all parodies sampled took a directly negative stance. This is where Rebecca Black’s “Friday” comes in. While there was a “disproportionately negative response from parodists”, the empirical evidence suggested that even highly negative parodies did not harm the original work. It is advantageous to a video to attract parodies, even critical ones.

If the makers of all those “316,000″ parodies of “Friday” watched it only once, that’s still a tidy sum for RB.

There exists a small but growing market for skilled user-generated content: Parody videos located in this study generated up to £2 million in revenue for Google in 2011, a portion of which was shared with the creators.

I’ve mentioned this up before. It remains the one “Friday” parody I actually paid to add to the collection:

A definite Palpatine with cheese.

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Somewhat put out

Not that you’d remember after ten years, but my agent and I traipsed through ten properties before I decided to buy the eleventh, which is now of course the palatial estate at Surlywood. For the record, this is what I thought of the tenth:

This place was a foreclosure, and it had been suggested in earlier discussions that despite what you see on those TV infomercials, there’s not a lot of benefit to buying these things; apparently, once informed that they’re about to be dispossessed, the occupants avenge themselves by trashing the premises. It was certainly the case here: non-functional appliances were scattered about, the window treatments were more trick than treat, and someone had made off with a couple of downspouts, fercrissake. This will be a beautiful home for someone someday — provided that someone is willing to spend half again the purchase price to restore its dignity. I’m not.

Have things improved in the last decade? Of course not:

When people have little incentive to behave well, and when nobody is watching, what do people do? The last few years have given us millions of opportunities to answer that question as people living in foreclosed homes decided whether to leave those homes in decent condition or to instead pour concrete down the drain.

Warren Meyer notes at Coyote Blog:

These folks are lucky to live in the US — we have the most lenient home mortgage system in the world. Very, very few other countries in the world have no-recourse mortgages where one can walk away only with a ding on their credit record, without even a personal bankruptcy. Almost anyplace else, they would be facing years of garnishments for whatever losses on the loan the bank had after they sold the home.

One could argue, I suppose, that a system that would lend me money is too lenient by definition. Still, despite qualifications that could fairly have been described as marginal, I got the loan, and I’ve never come close to foreclosure; I’ve never even been stuck with a late charge.

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