One among many

Eric S. Raymond joins the National Rifle Association, and explains why:

I joined because the state-worshiping thugs on the other side are doubling down, and they still own most of the media and the machinery of the Federal government. After decades of pretending that they only wanted soi-disant “common-sense” legislation aimed at specific problems around the edges of gun policy, the Democratic Party is now openly talking of outright gun confiscation. The usual suspects in the national press are obediently amplifying their propaganda.

Some things you do for substantive effect — giving money to the SAF so Alan Gura can win another case is like that. Some things you do less for effect than as as a signal of pushback intended to create political momentum and demoralize the other side; joining the NRA is like that.

Gura, you may remember, argued Heller v. DC before the Supreme Court, largely without NRA support. And Raymond’s surely right about that “pushback” business: you can yack all day about the Second Amendment Foundation on, say, Twitter, and never draw a dissenting word; but the moment you mention the NRA, the rotating blades are struck by fecal matter.

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The queen of tragedy

For me, this began with a piece on TTAC about the decline of CD players in new cars. The thread proved to be a fertile one for practitioners of the “You’ve probably never heard of them” comment, although one such mention did actually arouse a grateful-sounding response:

That made me google [Akina] Nakamori whom I’d never heard of. Watched a YouTube of “Shipwreck” and was astonished to hear a J-pop singer who didn’t sound like one of the Fruity Oaty Bar voices.

This caught my attention, of course, and I immediately dialed over:

“Shipwreck” dates to 1989, by which time Nakamori had been a name brand in the Japanese pop market for seven years. Says Generasia of her:

As a singer Nakamori came to be known for her mature yet rebellious style and powerhouse vocals, but also for her ever changing image both visually and musically as opposed to the conservative J-Pop scene. Nakamori is also known as “the queen of tragedy” because most of her songs have a serious or sad tone unlike the normal happy and carefree sound heard in pop music. She was highly success from her debut to 1989, when she attempted suicide after a failed romance with Kondo Masahiko and due to stress induced by the invasive tabloid media. Even though she has never regained the same success, she has still managed to carry on a steady career.

Akina Nakamori in red

Akina Nakamori portrait

And at 50, she’s not going away any time soon:

Akina Nakamori in 2015

Last summer she cut “Unfixable,” one of her few English-language releases.

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Every existence has a bane

This isn’t mine, but it’s awfully damned close:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How can I create a free website with domain name?

We have produced an entire subculture of people who want things of value and who don’t want to pay for them. I really think the Prince of Darkness (curses be unto him) is going to have to build on an addition to hell to make room for them all.

Yeah, I hear you: “It’s probably just a kid.” Kids with no sense of propriety or property grow up to be adults with no sense of propriety or property. There aren’t enough roads to Damascus for all of them to wake up in time.

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Strange search-engine queries (518)

Okay, buoys and gulls, the holidays are behind us and receding quickly. Time to get back to work.

seoul station:  You’re listening to Kpop.

your mom tells you to charge a price of 25 cents for each bracelet. since the marginal cost of making a bracelet is also 25 cents, this price will _____:  Be approved by the government, which doesn’t know any better.

“received the verification code, you will be able to choose a new password for your account.” malingering:  Now there’s a memorable, if weakish, password.

not superman:  That describes all of us, more or less.

expressionengine discussion forum – version swoon:  If you asked me to install a forum running on Expression Engine, I’d probably swoon.

get this tub of shit down to the infirmary symmetrical:  And it damn well better be balanced when it gets there.

say hello to longer legs:  With pleasure.

eight-year-old trey stands in front of a group of kids and says, “i am smart”. which of the following is the most plausible reaction to this incident:  C. And your mother dresses you funny.

my sprained ankle family blog:  Like I’ve always said, you can write about anything.

micah buys a used car for $10,000 and spends $200 on a new radio that is made in the u.s. the end result of these two transactions is:  An endless thump-thump-thumping.

1 cock is not enough:  Stacy Brown got two.

dishardening:  It’s twice as bad with Stacy Brown.

leo worries all of the time. he worries about his money, his children, and his dog. his muscles are always tense and sore, he has trouble sleeping, is often irritable, and has difficulty concentrating. leo’s symptoms sound most like:  America 2016.

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With which to frighten the children

Perhaps the most perverse collection of nursery rhymes ever is Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames: The D’Antin Manuscript (1967), and if you read the French-ish part of the title, you get a clue as to how these verses were created.

In case that’s not enough of a clue, and it probably isn’t, here’s how it works:

  1. Choose an English nursery rhyme
  2. Speak said nursery rhyme in an incredibly thick, Monty Python-esque French accent
  3. Write down this homophonic translation, so the words mean something in French, but not the context (forming a nonsense poem in French)
  4. Back translate the French into English (forming a nonsense poem in English)

The example provided is “Humpty Dumpty,” which goes something like this:

Humpty Dumpty
Sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty
Had a great fall.
All the king’s horses
And all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty
Together again.

Which sounds vaguely like this French verse, if you hold your jaw just right:

Un petit d’un petit
S’étonne aux Halles
Un petit d’un petit
Ah! degrés te fallent
Indolent qui ne sort cesse
Indolent qui ne se mène
Qu’importe un petit
Tout gai de Reguennes.

Now translate this French back into English:

A little one of a little one
Was surprised at the Market
A little one of a little one
Oh, degrees you needed!
Lazy is he who never goes out
Lazy is he who is not led
Who cares about a little one
All happy with Reguennes.

Now I’m wondering how well this would work as a wartime cipher. Surely it wasn’t the intention of author Luis d’Antin van Rooten, who published this book in 1967.

(Via Marion Grace Woolley.)

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Before they see anything else

Last month, I read a perfectly sweet little romantic comedy called Strangely, Incredibly Good by Canadian author Heather Grace Stewart. (Review here.) This is the cover art:

Original cover art of Strangely, Incredibly Good

Um, scratch that. As of the New Year, this is the cover art:

Current cover art of Strangely, Incredibly Good

I am not one to complain about this sort of thing — nice, if impractical, shoes, after all — but I did drop a note to the author, since we’re on speaking terms in the Twitter sense: “I wonder if maybe there’s a small core of models who pose for all those body parts on chicklit covers.”

Said she: “bet they make a better living than I do,” followed by a string of emojis.

Now Stewart has a publisher, so presumably this was their idea. If you’re publishing your own book, and you’re loath to contribute to the 20 percent (I’m guessing) of all genre fiction aimed at women that’s decorated with pictures from Here Down — well, you can always go prefab:

Premade cover art for an ebook

The details:

With a beautiful woman staring out over a body of water toward a distant city skyline, this cover had an adventurous, anticipatory feel to it. The touch of vintage sophistication adds an air of mystery and makes this a great cover for your next romance or chick lit novel.

This was offered for $89. The manufacturer says that they will sell each template only once, so there aren’t going to be fifteen identical-looking covers in the Kindle Store. And some of their offerings are decidedly less, um, conservative than this one.

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Optional at extra, extra cost

Is this the most expensive automotive option ever? (Betteridge says no.) Jared Gall reports for Car and Driver (February):

[T]he coolest (and most appalling) thing in the [Bentley] Bentayga interior is the optional Breitling clock set atop the dashboard. It’s available in either white or rose gold, with a face of black or white mother-of-pearl, and studded with eight diamonds. Cost? 150,000 euros, or about $160,000. Only a handful of craftspeople make the clocks, which take three months apiece. That exclusivity guarantees that Bentley will sell the four it can offer every year.

The Bentayga is Bentley’s first-ever sport-utility vehicle; they plan to make 5500 of them each year at a base price of $231,825. Not one of them will actually cost that little, of course.

And if you go searching for this little bauble, you’ll discover that Breitling is also making a watch and a desk clock for Bentley, neither included with your purchase of a new Bentayga.

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Oh, like you’ve ever been bobulated

A theme bar about nothing? Could this work?

George Costanza once said if he owned a company he would be so loved by his employees they would “have huge pictures of me up the walls and in their home, like Lenin.” Well, George never got around to owning that company, but a bar has opened in Melbourne that pays tribute to him in a way that even the Soviet leader would have envied.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that “George’s Bar” opened in the hip Fitzroy area of Australia’s second city on New Year’s eve, and as the name suggests it is inspired by the iconic Seinfeld character played so memorably by Jason Alexander. The owners told SMH that the idea for the bar came as they “really like Seinfeld.”

“George Costanza suits a bar in a lot of ways. The humor around George works,” said co-owner and operator Dave Barrett. The bar is decorated with pictures of Costanza and some of his nuggets of wisdom are emblazoned on the wall including classic lines like “It’s not a lie if you believe it” and “Everyone must like me, I must be liked.”

Yawn. Call me when there’s a Jason Alexander-inspired bar dedicated to Duckman.

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To stab, or not to stab

If you were thinking that things were awfully gory on TV and in the movies these days, well, you may be assured that this is Not News in any sense of the word: William Shakespeare was wont to include a bit of the old ultra-violence now and then, and he’s been gone for 400 years. And he had all sorts of ways of killing people off:

Distribution of deaths in the plays of William Shakespeare

At the link, an interactive version of this chart, with numbers of iterations for each death. And there’s this:

As accustomed as we are to thinking of contemporary entertainments like Game of Thrones as especially gratuitous, the whole of Shakespeare’s corpus, writes Alice Vincent at The Telegraph, is “more gory” than even HBO’s squirm-worthy fantasy epic, featuring a total of 74 deaths in 37 plays to Game of Thrones’ 61 in 50 episodes.

Not that George R. R. Martin is keeping count. (At least, I don’t think he is.)

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Insufficient sting

West-centric sports pages persist in wondering how it is that, for instance, the Thunder, which has dominated its conference rivals, can barely break even against the East. Charlotte, tenth place in the East, was supposed to be a patsy, especially with Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist sidelined for the duration, and Nicolas Batum a late scratch. But the Hornets were 17-15 coming in, half a game out of a playoff slot; this is not the stuff of which patsies are made. So I wasn’t at all surprised when the Bees, down twelve at halftime, rattled off ten points in a row to start the third quarter. But the Thunder deployed some serious defense, including 15 blocks — three from Enes Kanter, no less — and eventually walked away from the Hornets, 109-90.

Lineup adjustments by the Hornets were a mixed bag. Kemba Walker, not unexpectedly, led all scorers with 32, and Jeremy Lin, pressed into starting at the two, added 15; but the rest of the starters were held to 21, and the depleted bench managed only 22. Charlotte shot a woeful 34.5 percent. Oklahoma City, in the meantime, hit 45 percent, and Kevin Durant showed flashes of Durantitude with 29 points and 11 rebounds; five other Thundermen hit double figures. And if you like free throws, this was the game for you: 54 fouls were committed, 27 by each side (not counting two technicals), and the Hornets made 26 out of 34, the Thunder 30 of 37. I was wondering how well Charlotte native Anthony Morrow would do against a hometown crowd. (He did fine: 4-9 for 12 points, all of them on treys.) And the only question, toward the end, was this: would Russell Westbrook get a steal, extending his league-leading streak to 37 games? He would.

The Thunder are back home Monday against the Kings, and Wednesday against the Grizzlies; there follows a three-game road trip, visiting Portland, the Lakers (again!) and Minnesota.

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Still unforgettable

Congestive heart failure has a way of lurking in the background for God knows how long and then suddenly lowering the boom. So it was with Natalie Cole, taken from us on New Year’s Eve at sixty-five. If it was unexpected, and it was, well, she didn’t look sick recently:

Natalie Cole sitting on the porch

Natalie Cole sitting on the patio

And could she still sing, you ask? You needn’t have asked. In 2013 she cut her last studio album, a collection of Latin standards (Natalie Cole en español) which topped the Latin chart, just missed the top of the Jazz chart, and even crept into the top half of the Billboard 200. The niftiest track, I think, was the five-minute medley enclosed by Tito Puente’s “Oye como va,” which was energetic as anything she’d ever done. But this is the track people clamored for: a version of “Acércate más” (“Come Closer to Me”) in which she’s accompanied by her father.

And if her intonation is better than his — neither of them spoke Spanish — no one’s going to say a word.

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It’s an annual darn event

Too late for 2015, but it’ll be back:

One day a year, visitors to the Saishōji Temple in Ashikaga are invited to shed their stoicism and politeness for a night of cathartic cursing. At the akutare matsuri (“rowdiness festival”), also called akutai matsuri (“festival of abusive language”), held annually on New Year’s Eve, hundreds of worshippers make the forty-minute trek up the mountain to the temple, shouting insults and epithets along the way.

Then again, shedding that politeness doesn’t come easy to the Japanese:

Although all potential targets of these insults are fair game, the curses themselves are typically mild, especially by Strong Language standards. The insult of choice is usually “bakayarō!” — loosely translated to “you idiot!”

I’m just imagining how this sort of festival would play in, oh, New Jersey.

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Golden Gate status: open

Maybe you don’t spend any time wondering what would happen if, say, the Steve Miller Band were actually Dutch, but that’s where I came in:

Recorded in 1980, this song got a Stateside release the following year, along with the album Watts in a Tank, and it climbed to #25. (In Canada, always hipper albeit 90 degrees out of phase, it was a solid Number One.) A version of the band still exists, though “Diesel” has been respelled as “Deazol.”

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Quote of the week

Jack Baruth’s last post for 2015 was nominally about hookers, but a section on avoiding the appearance of hooking had more, shall we say, universal applicability:

I’m in a pretty decent team at my current contract but I’ve worked places where I thought everybody in the department would be primarily useful as a kidney or liver donor. I had a boss a few years ago, a director of the company, who was this sort of grinning nonentity. He lifted weights as his sole hobby, so he had a head that looked like Ron Howard’s on this really wide neck, and he always had this stupid look on his face like he’d just been given an extra ride on a children’s Ferris wheel or something. Every single thing he ever said was either a deliberate lie or a gross misrepresentation of events.

The day finally came when I went into a meeting with him, lost my temper, and said, “You’re an idiot and a wannabe tough guy and I have complete and total contempt for you. Everybody who works for you thinks you’re too stupid to be allowed to take a bath by yourself. When you’re in a weight room by yourself, you’re not the smartest object there.” Let me tell you, that was immensely satisfying and I’ll never forget the look on his face as I proceeded from there to call him out in the most forthright terms possible for ninety full seconds. The reader will not be surprised to hear that I didn’t work there the following day, although it sure as hell wasn’t the last day I collected a check from the firm.

That little diatribe probably cost me a quarter-million bucks in salary and deferred compensation. I know it cost me my “Cadillac” health insurance. But it was worth it. By the time I was done with him I’d wiped the smile off his face. That’s a moment that I’d have been proud to have my son witness. But most of my days are pretty ordinary. I go to work. I go home. They pay me. It’s a living.

A lot of us swear by those last four brief sentences, even if occasionally we swear at their implications.

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Fore and aft

It is de rigueur to sum up the previous year, and speculate on the new one, on this first day of January. I trust you won’t mind if I fail to comply with this cultural imperative except in the most superficial sense.

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She was there, man

I have — I admit it — a tendency toward fanboy squee. However, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to this point:

At this point I have to imagine her staring in disbelief, and then carefully crafting the only response that makes sense:

I hasten to point out that this Crash was the 2004 film by Paul Haggis, not the 1996 film by David Cronenberg; had I been in that latter movie, I surely would have suppressed the memory by now.

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