Darkness looms

About 7:20 yesterday evening, I was watching the cold front come in — one of the unalloyed joys of living in this neck of the woods is that you can actually see the fronts arrive, as the winds shift around and the tree limbs alter their trajectories — when the air was filled with the unmistakable sound of electrical equipment exploding, and electrical power on this side of the street was killed stone dead.

Now I’ve seen power outages here before, as recently as last week. But this one was different somehow, and not for any electrical reasons. I’m working on a story, and one of the characters has only just explained that he’s going briefly into seclusion, because he knows a panic attack is coming on, and he doesn’t want his lovely bride to witness him at his worst just yet.

Then all of a sudden I’m at my worst. I didn’t start that way, but when the first crew arrived and announced that they could handle part of the problem, but we’d have to wait for the boys from Dover for the heavy stuff, I became despondent. And when the second crew spent five minutes on the curb, then vanished into the darkness, I was just about ready to tear my hair out. From the inside.

I sent three tweets from my still-charged cell phone, each one a little more despairing. This was the last: “I suppose this is how I will die — alone in the dark and abandoned.”

Which, unfortunately, is very much in character, and not for that fictional character either.

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Pumped-up Kickstarters

Taylor was a backer of that Kickstarter to finance a new Veronica Mars movie, and apparently she’s caught some flak about it:

Are you really going to give Millionaire Kristen Bell thirty-five of your precious dollars over a starving child in Africa?

Okay, first of all, there are children starving on other continents, too. Like, I’m at least 20% sure of that. And secondly, yes. I am giving $35 to Millionaire Kristen Bell, because in exchange for those $35, she’s going to play my favorite character of all time in a movie that doesn’t exist yet. I’m going to get to see that movie, legally, on my laptop as soon as it premieres. And I also get a nifty t-shirt to show the people of the Universe that I like it when snarky teenagers solve crimes.

This is because Kickstarter is not a charity. I’m a Big Fan of these Creators, so I gave them my Money in Exchange for Goods and Services that only they can provide. To me, it was worth $35 to ensure that this movie will exist. Furthermore, if the movie had funded through the traditional model, I still would have probably purchased the movie ticket, the DVD, and the t-shirt — all of which would have added up to more than $35, easily.

For the record, no one has yet put such a question to me, despite the half-dozen Kickstarters (and a couple of projects funded along similar lines) on which I’ve spent Actual Money, but this is the stock response I have prepared:

“Actually, my charity of choice helps the mentally deficient cope with today’s complex society. How much did you say you needed?”

It’s almost as satisfying as “Sphincter says what?”

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Whatever Lola plays

Today we get (1) a decidedly attractive concert pianist (2) who is not Yuja Wang. Sprawled on the Steinway here is Lola Astanova, 28, who hails from Tashkent, and who debuted at Carnegie Hall in 2012:

Lola Astanova

On her YouTube channel, you’ll find this performance of the eleventh of Scriabin’s twelve études, Op. 8.

Australia’s Limelight magazine last year named Astanova one of the Top 10 Style Icons in Classical Music. Whether classical music should have Style Icons in the first place is open for discussion.

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Beyond escape velocity

Reportedly, Westboro Baptist Church sent some of their traveling dillholes to picket in Thunder Alley. (I didn’t see any of them, but then I was sitting in the dark most of the night, a piece of electrical hardware on the next block having given out with an earth-shattering kaboom.) I console myself with the following notions: the Postal Service, in its infinite wisdom, has assigned Westboro a ZIP code beginning with 666, and whatever the lackeys of Fred Phelps could do, they couldn’t possibly do any more damage than the minions of Kevin McHale, who, after forcing a Game 5, now have forced a Game 6 by thrashing the Thunder in front of the home crowd. It got so bad in the fourth quarter, in fact, that Foreman Scotty (thank you, Berry Tramel) actually was desperate enough to call for the repeated fouling of Omer Asik, hoping that the tall Turk would toss up some bricks. Asik obliged with a 13-18 performance, several percentage points above his usual. Rockets 107, Thunder 100, and I’m surprised it was that close. (In fact, OKC was down 10, but Derek Fisher synchronized a trey with the horn.)

This happened, I believe, by the confluence of two events: Kevin Martin had a lousy night, and James Harden didn’t. In fact, Harden had about as unlousy a night as I’ve seen this year, hitting his first seven treys for 31 points. And K-Mart rates a Telltale Statistic: he shot a genuinely terrible 1-10 and still wound up +2 for the night. Speaking of guys named Kevin, Durant had 36 points through three quarters, and didn’t score in the fourth, though he did pick up a technical.

So what to do? Reggie Jackson’s baptism by fire doesn’t seem to have burned him out, and Serge Ibaka does seem to be stepping up his offensive game. But OKC’s perimeter defense was apparently guarding Deep Deuce; the Rockets made 14 of 35 treys. (The Thunder went an embarrassing 8-33.) All five Houston starters landed in double figures, and so did second point guard Aaron Brooks.

We are advised that nobody ever comes back from a 3-0 playoff deficit. Then again, nobody could run a mile in four minutes either.

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Don’t even look outside

An operation called NeighborhoodScout has issued a list of the 25 most dangerous neighborhoods in the nation, and the Top Three are all in Detroit:

The study by NeighborhoodScout.com analyzed FBI statistics from 17,000 local law enforcement agencies to pinpoint neighborhoods across the country with the highest predicted rates of violent crimes per 1,000 residents. Researchers drilled down deep into cities and towns to find specific census tract areas that had the highest rates of homicide, forcible rape, armed robbery and aggravated assault.

According to the study, the area east of the Barton-McFarland community in zip code 48204 is the most dangerous neighborhood in America.

The study said the chances of becoming a victim of violent crime in this west side community over the course of a year are one in seven.

In fact, Michigan dominates the list, with one more Detroit neighborhood, plus one each in Flint and Saginaw. Second place belongs to Memphis, which placed two on the list, plus one across the river in West Memphis, Arkansas. Also with multiple entries: St. Louis, Chicago, Houston and Indianapolis. And yes, there’s one in Tulsa: #24, bound by Peoria, US 75, and East 26th Street North. Your odds: one in fifteen.

Census tracts, used in the survey, do not necessarily correspond to neighborhood boundaries as locally defined. Here’s the complete Top 25.

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Sweeter than all the roses

In 1882, Joseph Emmet wrote a musical play called Fritz Among the Gypsies, which contained a lovely little song in waltz time, titled “Sweet Violets.” While the chorus survives, the original verses have long since been replaced by, um, other things. Here’s a relatively tame 1936 recording by the Sons of the Pioneers:

If you’ve reached a certain age, you remember this high-school cheer:

Rah, rah, ree,
Kick ‘em in the knee!
Rah, rah, rass,
Kick ‘em in the other knee!

The technical term for this is “mind rhyme”: you’re pretty sure you know what’s coming, and then they throw something else at you instead. In 1946, songwriter Benny Bell put together a variation on the “Sweet Violets” theme, which he called “Shaving Cream”:

By the 1970s, nobody remembered Benny Bell, or vocalist Paul Wynn, except for a West Coast musicologist named Barret Eugene Hansen. Fortunately, Hansen had access to the nation’s airwaves, and “Shaving Cream” was very much appropriate for Hansen’s radio program, which aired until 2010 as the Dr. Demento Show. (An online version continues.) Vanguard Records, then not yet the property of Lawrence Welk, reissued “Shaving Cream” on a 45 in early 1975; it made #30 in Billboard.

This particular musical style is far from dead, if not far from Montreal, whence hail Bowser and Blue, who recorded the scurrilous “Polka Dot Undies” in 1986. A live version follows:

“Vague innuendo,” indeed.

(Suggested by Fillyjonk, and she’s so, so sorry.)

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Sort of centered

“Computer, define the universe.”

“The universe is a circle approximately 800 miles in diameter.”

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WaterCon 5

This April was among the wettest in history, but one damp month doth not a drought dispel, so the city has announced some new water-usage restrictions, which are not yet in effect but which may be imposed should lake levels — six lakes, three in the city itself, constitute the local water supply — drop alarmingly.

The current condition, hereafter dubbed Stage 1, calls for odd/even watering restrictions, which we’ve had since mid-January and which will continue until further notice.

Stage 2 kicks in when the lakes are half-full or less: you get two days a week to water. If lake levels drop to 45 percent, you get only one day; at 40 percent, hand watering only; at 35 percent, not even that.

The details are here. I am not surprised that action is being taken at this time, though I figured they might want some sort of economic disincentive other than mere fines — say, a progressive (in the literal sense) pricing scheme, similar to the one adopted in Austin in 2011.

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Without that glassy-eyed stare

Earlier this week we heard from a Google Glass enthusiast. Today we hear from someone who won’t have anything to do with it:

I want to kill all those in the video, all those wearing the damn thing and able to instantaneously roll their eyeballs from tiny screen to the world in front of them, all those giving the clear-voice orders, all those effortlessly getting it.

It is a last drop in persistent, constant attack of Rhino, Revit, 3DMax, Cinema-designed nightmare, implemented in real life. Of twitting and FB-ing mutants transcribed into visual plane. Computer-modeling, implanted into brain. Robocop mentality.

I want to crawl under a rock and die.

I’ll take that as a negative reaction. In fact, the only way it could be much more negative would be if she, instead of crawling under that rock, lobbed it at the nearest Google Glass users, separating him from the matrix, or whatever the hell that thing is supposed to do.

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No potential seen

One of TTAC’s Best and Brightest, a fellow designated “AFX,” expresses his lack of interest in electric motor vehicles:

I don’t want an electric car that attracts hipster douchebags, cheap-assed middle aged nerdy white males, and women with mustaches. I want a real man’s car instead, two lanes wide, two blocks long, and burning hydrocarbons like God intended. If God had wanted us to drive electric cars he wouldn’t have killed off all those dinosaurs so we could have gasoline and diesel powered cars.

Electricity is for vacuum cleaners, tooth brushes, and can openers, NOT CARS.

I’ll have you know that my can opener runs off a hand crank, the way God intended. (Never mind about my electric toothbrush.)

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Hungry ad freaks, daddy

Fausta used to do weekly Mad Men updates, but no more: “I’m just not interested in the characters anymore.” Among the failings of this season’s characterizations: “Peggy’s living with Frank Zappa’s little brother.”

Now I’m imagining FZ doing an orchestral (sort of) suite based on Abe Drexler’s “Nuremberg on Madison Avenue.”

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Still a major accomplishment

The Bayou Renaissance Man found this then-unsourced item in email:

Letter about Lance Armstrong

The submitter to Reddit suggested that the Tricky in question was this Tricky, which I suppose is possible.

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Meanwhile, back on the shelf

“Stranded in the Jungle” by the Jayhawks came up in the shuffle the other day, and I got to wondering why I wound up with their version, and not that other one by the Cadets, or that other other one by the Gadabouts — because none of them corresponded exactly to my late-Fifties memory of the song.

So I did my darnedest to visualize the 45 label, which turned out not to be Flash (Jayhawks) or Modern (Cadets) or Mercury (Gadabouts), but an anonymous cover label called “18 Top Hits,” so named because they were packaged three to a bag, three songs to an EP side, no artist ever mentioned. I have no idea who did their version of “Stranded in the Jungle,” though that recording was pretty much steam-cleaned and pushed a couple of notches toward pop, away from R&B. (Which may explain why I wound up with the Jayhawks recording, which is pretty hard R&B despite its hilarious premise.) The arrangement, I recall, was closer to that used on the Cadets disc, though the vocals were whiter than white, whiter than Pat Boone’s shoes, and in a Pat-erific move, the line in the last verse about “the man ain’t no good” was rendered grammatically correct.

I remember exactly one other “18 Top Hits” recording, a cover of “Mutual Admiration Society,” from the 1956 musical Happy Hunting, on which Teresa Brewer had the hit.

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Unswept

When you’re down 3-0, you’ve got nothing to lose, and Houston, for the most part, played tonight as though they’d been informed that the Toyota Center would be set on fire after the horn. Oklahoma City had run up a 13-point lead late in the second quarter; the Rockets cut that to seven at halftime, and utterly flummoxed the Thunder in the third, jumping out to a seven-point lead of their own. If there’s a single stretch of playing time that epitomizes this game, it’s from 6:53, when James Harden had to sit after picking up his fifth foul, to 3:16, when OKC called its next-to-last time out. During this period, the Thunder gained essentially no ground. But no white flag was raised; at 1:42, Kevin Durant sank a trey, then rebounded a Harden miss and turned it into a dunk to pull OKC to within two, and that’s where it was at the end, 105-103, when a Reggie Jackson driving layup didn’t go and Serge Ibaka couldn’t stick it back.

So the Rockets live for another game, which will be Wednesday at the ‘Peake. Radio guy Matt Pinto made a crack about Harden’s non-standard double-double: 15 points, 10 turnovers. (More impressive: Chandler Parsons, 27 points, 10 rebounds; Omer Asik, 17 points, 14 boards.) Not quite so many treys — but a better completion ratio — for both sides: 12-27 for the Rockets, 11-25 for the Thunder.

As for Durant, you know that five-point burst I mentioned earlier? That gave him six for the quarter. Still, KD finished with 38 on 12-16 shooting, and Jackson, Kevin Martin and Derek Fisher (again!) made it into double figures, though I’d bet you anything Reggie wasn’t keeping count on that last drive to the rim.

And so it goes. See you day after tomorrow.

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Feline precision

Up to now, I’d been successfully ignoring Lana Del Rey. No more:

And yes, there’s a reason for that Jaguar F-Type.

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A distorted reality

Roger’s counting down his favorite Sixties albums, if you consider “Sixties” to be defined as 1961 through 1970. This definition is less eccentric than my own, which runs from November 1963 through May 1969, mostly for personal reasons, and anyway the 21st century started in 2001, not 2000, so there.

Reflections by Diana Ross and the SupremesAt #127 he lists Reflections, a 1968 Supremes LP, and notes:

There is this Motown compilation I have on LP, and I think it was Mary Wilson who said, in the intro, that the title tune is a “weird, weird song.”

Which indeed it is. “Reflections,” the single, issued with the portentous Motown catalog number of 1111, had all sorts of weirdness running through it: Atari-esque bloops and bleeps here and there (in the stereo mix, bouncing between the channels); billing revised to “Diana Ross and the Supremes,” which may or may not have had something to do with Florence Ballard’s dismissal; and an absolutely horrible edit right before the outro, presumably to keep the song from going over three minutes. (You can hear it here at about 2:36, which doesn’t correspond to the actual record time because of various YouTube matters.) Further, Motown’s star production trio, Brian and Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier, were about to head out the door; the Reflections LP contains their last three Supremes singles. (“Forever Came Today” is the last, and you can’t tell me that title didn’t mean something.) The full track, which Motown eventually put on a compilation CD in 2004, runs 3:18 and ends cold: no fade.

Then again, “1111″ matters mostly because Berry Gordy’s first actual hit for the Motown operation was actually licensed to another label: his sister Gwen’s Anna label, on which it was, yes, #1111. (The original release, on Tamla 54027, got some regional buzz, but Anna had national distribution courtesy of Chess.) I leave for the experts the question of why Tamla’s numbering system went 101, 102, 54022.

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