Someone to depend on

Cover art for Santana IVThe first three Santana albums, two of which were titled Santana — for clarity, one of them is known commonly as Santana III — constituted an amazing body of work, much of which remains essential to the Classic Rock format today, four and a half decades after the fact. The blending of hard-rock tropes with Latin rhythms, with Carlos Santana’s guitar dancing on top, made for a remarkably satisfying musical experience, and I still pull out these records — particularly the second, Abraxas — on a regular basis.

So you could have knocked me over with a feather when I learned that that original Santana lineup would be issuing a new album, with the unsubtle title Santana IV. I turned in a preorder with dizzying speed, and waited to see what what would happen.

And now that it’s happened? Well, it’s pretty much as billed: a worthy continuation of the sounds Santana made famous. At various points in this 75-minute showcase, you’ll hear echoes of the things you heard before; Carlos still plays an amazingly liquid guitar, and the reconstituted band has forgotten none of the tricks it deployed way back when. (The only missing player from the Golden Era is percussionist José “Chepito” Areas.) What Santana IV doesn’t do is take you to places you’ve never been before: if you’re familiar with the band, you’ll know what’s going on every step of the way. This wasn’t the case with, say, Abraxas, where the improbable fusion of British blues to Hungarian jazz — in a single track! — not only pushed your Good Listening button but actually jacked up your sense of wonder.

So you’ve been here before. If this was one of your favorite vacation spots, welcome back: things are just the way you remember them. (Ronald Isley contributes a couple of hypersmooth lead vocals.) If you missed this band the first time around, this is almost as good an introduction as the original Santana albums. But if you weren’t that crazy about them before, this is not going to be your giant step into the fandom — though you may like the lead single, “Anywhere You Want to Go”, which encapsulates much of what’s going on.

Disclosure: Purchased at retail.

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Strange search-engine queries (535)

This weekly feature looks for the best of recent search strings that brought Web surfers to this site — and, of course, promptly discards them in favor of the worst.

used datsun whitfield for sale:  Whitfield? Is that like a Sentra?

what kind of sexy, audacious, political, scatological comedy was considered fit material for translation or publication only in recent times?  Yeah, right. “Sexy” is about as “audacious” these days as the weather report in San Diego.

“lowe’s” “smut”:  Some of those tools have, um, power.

matt derives all of his utility from consuming milkshakes; he devotes his entire $20 allowance to milkshakes each week. suppose the price of milkshakes rise from $2 to $4. compute matt’s equivalent variation (ev) of this price increase:  Trust me, there will be blood.

martha’s milkshake company buys earthquake insurance from the stable ground insurance company. based on this purchase, economists would conclude that:  Matt has been drinking her milkshake, and hang the price.

jane’s candy shack was a quaint shop, in a small town, with high end items that never attracted many customers. its failure was probably attributable to failure to:  Offer milkshakes at half price.

water cooled smartphone:  Probably not intentionally so.

j has an accidental death and dismemberment policy with a principal sum of $50,000. while trimming the hedges, j cuts off one of his fingers. what is the maximum j will receive from his policy?  The insurance company will happily give him the finger.

a horrible experience of unbearable length:  The next political debate.

in this clip, we see 13-month-old felana trying to climb up the wrong end of a slide repeatedly. if she succeeds in this and similar endeavors, this will help her to:  Break her fool neck.

my gummy bear dies my unicorn ran away:  But you still have Bernie.

barry is a young gay man living in grand forks, iowa. barry has been “outed” by some kids in his class. according to research, what is barry likely facing because of this event?  A couple of unexpected prom invitations.

fingering doesnt work:  Geez, and I thought I was inept.

lino’s grandmother always said, “feed a fever; starve a cold.” why would it be advisable to increase calories when experiencing a fever?  Well, fingering doesn’t work.

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Good clean fun

Unexpectedly, the Monkees — the Monkees! — put out two singles in 1987, one of which (“Heart and Soul,” and no, not that “Heart and Soul”) crawled into the lower reaches of the Hot 100. And that was the end of that, right?

You are wrong, daydream believer:

This wasn’t exactly the same lineup that appeared on the Pool It! album in ’87; Michael Nesmith has returned, and Davy Jones has gone on to Rock and Roll Heaven. Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz? Present.

This particular song was written by Rivers Cuomo of Weezer. And song sources are all over the map: there’s one by Nez, one by Tork, one by Dolenz with Adam Schlesinger — the Fountains of Wayne frontman also produced — and, perhaps inevitably, one by Neil Diamond and one by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Not so inevitably: songs by Harry Nilsson, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, and a joint effort by Paul Weller (!) and Noel Gallagher (!!).

Good Times! is due out on the 27th from Rhino, which owns the rights to all those old Monkees records you would never, ever bring yourself to discard.

(Since you asked, “Good Clean Fun” is a 1969 Monkees single, written by Nesmith, that also crawled into the lower reaches of the Hot 100.)

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A consummation he will surely miss

Gary Welsh at Advance Indiana calls the state Republican primary for Donald Trump:

If I’m not around to see the vote results, my prediction is that Trump wins Indiana with just shy of 50% of the vote, but he will carry every single congressional district and sweep the delegate race — assuming the party-chosen delegates honor their rules-bound commitment to support the winner on the first ballot. Most of those delegates favored John Kasich at the time they were chosen. Only two of the delegates named by state party officials publicly declared their support for Trump, although some have indicated they would feel obligated to support the voters’ wishes.

What’s surprising here is that opening phrase: “If I’m not around to see the vote results.” Because he won’t be:

Prominent Indianapolis blogger Gary Welsh has died, according to Indianapolis police, who say they are investigating the death as a “tragic suicide.”

Welsh, 53, wrote the widely followed conservative blog Advance Indiana, which he launched more than a decade ago. He also was a practicing attorney.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s incident report says officers were dispatched to the Lockerbie Glove Factory Lofts, 430 N. Park Ave., before 8 a.m. Sunday after receiving a report of a person found shot in the stairwell of the building. The witnesses who called 911 reported that a gun was next to the body.

That last post went up just after noon on Friday. I didn’t see anything in the preceding week’s worth of posts to suggest that this was coming.

(Via Aaron M. Renn.)

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The smallest possible victory

In the Battle of the Century, it’s Man vs. Bathroom Fixture!

Spoiler: See below.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Everdeen possibilities

Reportedly, Jennifer Lawrence is having trouble getting dates, and Francis W. Porretto suggests some reasons why:

Quite a lot of “regular” men would never dare to approach a major star like Jennifer Lawrence. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the men in her “peer group” — i.e., other celebrities — are users and untrustworthy philandering assholes with vacuum for brains. Fame can do that to you.

Still to be determined: whether showbiz makes assholes of people, or if assholes are somehow drawn to showbiz.

A good man will have a career of his own. How many such would be willing to abandon their careers for a shot at the affections of a celebrity? Celebrities are notoriously flighty, which is part of the reason most celebrity romances are brief and go down in flames. That’s what made Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward so noteworthy.

See also Swift, T.: “So it’s gonna be forever / Or it’s gonna go down in flames.”

Then there’s the admittedly atypical example of Carl Dean, who runs an asphalt-paving operation in Nashville; he’s been married to Dolly Parton since May 1966. Then again, Dolly was still a long way from superstardom in May 1966. Maybe that’s the trick for the J-Laws out there: fall in love before you get your Entertainment Weekly cover.

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An idea sprouts in Brussels

Belgium, which needs to get at least another decade out of its nuclear power plants, will address the possibility of catastrophic failure proactively, sort of:

The Belgian government has agreed to distribute iodine pills to the country’s entire population as a nuclear safety precaution.

Health Minister Maggie De Block said current rules requiring pills to be given within 20km (12 miles) of a reactor should be increased to 100km.

Belgium’s neighbours have criticised the state of its nuclear reactors.

However, the minister said the change was as a result of the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

An earthquake led to a tsunami and all three reactor cores largely melted down.

“Every country has updated its plans for a nuclear emergency,” Ms De Block told Belgian TV.

And after Fukushima, the Japanese government handed out these same pills, intended to block radioactive isotopes of iodine from lodging in the thyroid gland, a potential cause of thyroid cancer.

As for the state of the Belgian reactors, well, it’s been better:

[German] Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks called for the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors to be taken offline because of a report by Germany’s independent Reactor Safety Commission.

They were temporarily shut in 2012 when defects were found in the walls of the reactors’ pressure vessels.

It may be 2017 before the pills get into the hands, and thence into the mouths, of the Belgian citizenry.

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Wrongly wronged

“There is no ‘try’,” said Yoda, and to some extent we have followed what we thought was the advice of the wizened Jedi Master: things we tried, but couldn’t get to work, will not be mentioned if we can possibly help it.

We may be doing it wrong:

A Princeton psychology professor has come up with a way to show people that that their “invisible” failures and setbacks are as important as their successes.

Johannes Haushofer, a Princeton professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, posted a CV of failures in an attempt to “balance the record” and “provide some perspective.” He was inspired by a 2010 Nature article by Melanie Stefan, a lecturer at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. She suggested that keeping a visible record of your rejected applications can help others to deal with setbacks.

The document is divided in six parts including: “Degree programs I did not get into,” “Academic positions and fellowships I did not get,” “Research funding I did not get” among others.

At the very least, this practice would fill in any perceived gaps in one’s own CV: if you have one entry every four or five years, some people will think you haven’t been doing anything between entries. Still, approve, Yoda would not.

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Torched and then some

Everyone pretty much figured that the Spurs would come out breathing fire. What they didn’t figure was the temperature of that fire, which would turn out to be somewhere between Texas fire ants — dipped in sriracha, no less — and a Bessemer converter. After the first quarter, it was 43-20, and things would only deteriorate after that. Now one could reasonably expect that some of the calls, or lack of calls, would go the home team’s way, the home team having won 40 of 41 during the regular season; however, I don’t think anyone anticipated that the Spurs would be hitting better than 60 percent of their shots all night. There is dominance, and there is being crushed like, well, a Texas fire ant. Tonight, the Thunder were flattened under San Antonio’s sneakers, 124-92, and you have to wonder what sort of adjustments are going to have to be made for Game 2 on Monday.

At the very least, OKC is going to have to figure out some way to contain LaMarcus Aldridge, who went 18-23 for 38 points in less than 30 minutes. (Thirty-eight points, by coincidence, is twice the production of the Thunder’s leading scorer, Serge Ibaka, who managed 19.) And maybe they’ll have to glue Danny Green to the near end of the floor; Green was 5-6 from beyond the arc and took only one other shot. The Spurs certainly seem to have figured out how to render Enes Kanter relatively ineffective. And any night in which Kevin Durant finishes -31 (16 points on 6-15 from the floor) would seem to be devoid of hopeful signs.

Still, this is only Game 1. This is about as badly as the Thunder spanked the Mavs in that Game 1, and Dallas came back to win Game 2. I wouldn’t recommend going beyond that for an example, though, since the Mavs dropped the next three. And I can’t really deny this:

Right now, though, I’m trying to remember what it’s like for the Thunder to have a 12-point lead.

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Redeeming social value

The Oklahoman Scissortales page 30 April 2016Earlier this year, Ted Cruz won the GOP primary in this state, and I assume the Oklahoman is fine with that, since they tend to tilt a bit rightward, as does Cruz. Still, a person in page-turning mode, as I was this afternoon, might have been taken aback by this image on the editorial page.

It took a moment, but: “Oh. I get it.”

The paragraph, complete:

Donald Trump has struggled to convince Americans to support his presidential candidacy, as evidenced by his poor showing in many polls. Notably, he typically falls below 50 percent support even in polls of Republican voters, despite dominating the news cycle for months and notching up plurality wins in many primaries. But others are unintentionally providing reason to support Trump for president: If he is elected, some Hollywood lightweights promise to leave the country. That list includes Lena Dunham, Jon Stewart and Rosie O’Donnell. Dunham recently declared, “I know a lot of people have been threatening to do this, but I really will. I know a lovely place in Vancouver and I can get my work done from there.” When asked about those comments during a Fox News interview, Trump responded, “That would be a great thing for our country.” No doubt, many Americans agree with Trump on that point.

Note to travel agents: You are not going to make a killing on all these celebrities who claim they’re going to leave the country, no matter what they claim.

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It’s not rocket science

And, well, Dolly Singh is not actually a rocket scientist, though she did work at Elon Musk’s SpaceX for five years as Head of Talent Acquisition, which tells me that she’d know a rocket scientist if she saw one. So I take this quote seriously:

To me, when you’re surrounded by some of the smartest people on the planet, building some of the biggest and most badass machines on this world, the idea that my shoes are such crap became really obnoxiously unbearable.

Women, in case you hadn’t noticed, do have a tendency to take shoes seriously.

Dolly Singh explains it all

Dolly Singh poses on a wing

So Dolly Singh vowed to create some shoes that were not crap. After leaving SpaceX, she did a stint at Oculus VR, the virtual-reality outfit, since acquired by Facebook, before striking out on her own with Thesis Couture. From their current lookbook:

Our mission is to decouple beauty and pain, and show just how sexy smart can be.

Sleek, sophisticated curves on the outside, cutting edge technology on the inside.

A prototype, with the Thesis-designed underpinnings:

Prototype Thesis Couture shoe

“Our patented design,” says Thesis, “is engineered to redistribute load, minimize impact shock, and reduce fatigue.”

Which you have to figure would be the priorities for a woman who is going to wear heels No Matter What.

Dolly Singh not saving lives

The shoes aren’t on sale yet, and they’ll be pricey when they are. But such is the way of technological advance.

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Shortable stock

It is no secret that Twitter is losing money hand over fist. It’s easy, I suppose, to blame corporate governance, such as it is, but maybe there’s something else at work:

My thought is that for every new person who tries to express coherent thoughts in bursts of 140 characters or less, at least one current user discovers that even when it can be done no one is interested and quits. Apparently there is a limit to the number of people who figure the best response to a watered-down oversimplified knee-jerk reaction to an event or statement is to squawk out another one.

If nothing else, this would explain user growth, of which they have had essentially none.

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The original Hipster

Roger happened to mention “Who Put the Benzedrine in Mrs Murphy’s Ovaltine?” this week, which is a great song because (1) it’s funny as hell while being utterly unrespectable in 1940s culture and (2) it sold several thousand more copies in 1975 as part of a Dr. Demento compilation album. This suggested that maybe it’s time to look at Harry the Hipster Gibson himself, born Harry Raab in the Bronx in 1915:

Yes, folks, that’s a Fellow of the Juilliard School, and the graduate school at that.

The Hipster continued to make records until 1989, like this jaunty little tune about Shirley MacLaine; tormented by congestive heart failure in 1991, he got his revenge on the failing organ by shooting it and thus himself.

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There’s a Start button here somewhere

Presenting the Apple Watch running, um, Windows 95:

The chap who did it explains one of the pitfalls:

Apple’s WatchKit SDK wasn’t good enough, since it doesn’t allow you to access user touch locations directly — it only lets you use Apple’s stock controls. Long story short, it’s possible to patch certain files within a WatchKit app to load your own application code rather than Apple’s.

And there is this minor detail:

Due to the fact that it is emulated (not virtualized), it takes about an hour to boot.

This is about twice as long as it took for an old Win95 box of mine to boot after its Cyrix 5×86 CPU melted down. Of course, the miraculous thing is that it would boot at all.

(Via The Verge.)

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Beyond even death itself

In her younger days, my daughter indicated that at some point in her life she’d like to manage a death-metal band. (Without going too much into the details, allow me to stipulate that she came close once.) It is, I have since learned, more flexible a genre than I had thought: for instance, it’s possible for a death-metal band to cover Raffi’s “Bananaphone.”

I was not aware, however, that death metal could stretch to include John Cage’s greatest hit:

In 2000, Will Hermes wrote beautifully of the monumental work 4’33” that “Cage gave musicians aesthetic permission, spiritual encouragement even, to go beyond the tonalities of standard instrumentation and engage with the infinite possibilities of sound.” So here we are, 64 years after its debut performance by pianist David Tudor, and the death-metal band Dead Territory — its members clad in raver pants, or a Slipknot T-shirt, or wielding Jackson and B.C. Rich guitars — has covered the composition that sets upon the wonder of silence.

Fair warning: the drummer gets in some stick work before the formal beginning of the score.

Side note: Raffi’s cowriter on “Bananaphone” was Michael Creber, father of voice-actress Michelle Creber, known in pony circles as Apple Bloom.

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It’s all about the Tubmans

Occasional media hype notwithstanding, I have yet to encounter any serious objections to putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill; I certainly don’t have any. I have seen some studied indifference, though:

This makes me no never mind. I rarely use cash any more and I can’t remember the last time I had a twenty in my wallet. If the government wanted an African-American in that slot, I would have opted for Martin Luther King or even Jackie Robinson. Say what you want, both men changed this country for the better.

Do you want to keep Andrew Jackson around? Put him on the half-dollar coin which the US still insists on minting for some reason; the only reason Kennedy’s on there is because he got his brains blown out in Dallas back in ’63.

The half-dollar exists mostly, I believe, as a unit of measure for hail: it neatly splits the difference between quarter-size hail and ping-pong ball-size hail. I haven’t actually seen a half-dollar actually being used as money, such as it is, in years.

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