Quote of the week

Roberta X on civility, or the occasional lack thereof:

What is clear is once anyone has become so convinced that one of the two halves of the Running Things Party comprises every human vice and ill (and no few I had previously thought limited to the animal kingdom), then there’s no further reason to talk. The attitude itself is what gives rise to purges and pogroms, killing fields and death marches — no matter who espouses it or what virtues they ascribe to themselves and their supposed peers, or even practice. Persons who speak like that will murder you — or hand you over to be used up and killed — if they even suspect you might be a member of a group they loathe; and they will sleep soundly that night. Left, right, center; amoral and “practical” or rigidly moral and unworldly, it doesn’t matter: once that level of dehumanizing rhetoric has infected someone’s mind, they are like an armed landmine. (And at the same time, they are pathetic causalities for whom little can be done.)

Not wishing to land on anyone’s causality (or casualty) list, I keep careful track of my ills and vices; this serves as a useful reminder that I am not necessarily all that and a bag of chips. And the chips are probably stale by now anyway.

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Agent Orange reports in

Lynn contemplates this year’s Pantone Color of the Year, Tangerine Tango, and reminds us that she wasn’t crazy about the name they gave to last year’s color:

Last year’s color of the year was “Honeysuckle”, a lovely pink that was in no way related to the actual color of real honeysuckles, which everyone knows are yellow and white, and occasionally red. I spent all year wanting to have a Talk with the colorblind and/or mentally challenged person or persons who picked and named 2011′s color of the year. Tangerine Tango is a bit disappointing as an orange. (Or is it. There are several different shades of orange in the photos on the Pantone site.) I don’t like it as well as last year’s color of the year but I am glad that whole “Honeysuckle” travesty is over.

Not everyone, of course, defends orange:

There were a number of orange discussions there last year which made me crave something orange. The fact that some people think it’s a terrible color only makes it more attractive to me. It’s a rebellious, in-your-face color and though I’m not an in-your-face kind of person I do definitely have a rebellious side.

How rebellious? At least this much:

Web colour orange, defined as FFA500, is the only named colour defined in CSS that is not also defined in HTML 4.01.

Viktor Yushchenko was not available for comment.

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Rabbit, hat separated

As so often has been the case, there was a statistic to dangle in the players’ (and the fans’) faces: the Thunder had won exactly zero games in Orlando since, well, ever, and after three quarters of this one, the Magic were up eleven. But Thunder fans have learned never to abandon their seats or their TV sets under such conditions, and once again, a rather porous defense suddenly toughened up in the final frame. It is a measure of something that the Magic got off two treys in the last few seconds, and yet the Thunder still won this one, 105-102.

And OKC did this without seriously incapacitating Dwight Howard; Kendrick Perkins basically fought Howard to a draw, and yet Superman still bagged 33 points on 14-20 shooting. (Perk had the edge in rebounds, 11-9.) What’s more, all the other Orlando starters finished in double figures. But the Magic reserves were conspicuous by their insignificance: J. J. Redick, for instance, got one shot to fall all night.

But here’s the pivotal point: Russell Westbrook rolled his ankle with about five minutes left, and played for the next four and a half minutes as though nothing had happened, exiting to the locker room only when he thought the game was safely salted away. (The Blue Blur, +10 for the night, had a double-double, 29 points and 10 dimes.) That taller guy who gets all the shots? Kevin Durant went 12-21 from the floor and cashed nine consecutive free throws for 38 points. And James Harden, all by himself, outscored the entire Orlando bench. Stan Van Gundy, who threw in everything up to and including a 2-3 zone in those final few minutes, must be wondering what hit him. (We know what broke his zone: Royal Ivey hoisted a trey in the face of it.)

So that’s seven straight, the second-longest streak in the league — Miami has won eight in a row, but tonight they’re in Portland, where good teams often go to die — and Atlanta coming up, followed by five games at home. We live in, as the old curse says, interesting times.

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Matters of great import

Okay, some of those imports weren’t all that great, but hey, at least I got to drive them.

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Suppose it gets on your lawn

The American Water Works Association, as I recall usually worth $150 and mortgageable for $75, advises that some water bills may triple over the next couple of years due to infrastructure repairs and improvements:

Currently, the average household water bill is about $335 per year, according to the non-profit, which focuses on drinking water quality and supply.

Small, rural communities are likely to be hit the hardest because there are fewer people to share the expenses of infrastructure projects. Families in these areas are likely to see their bills jump between $300 and $550 per year due to infrastructure repairs and expansion costs.

My water bill runs about $16-20 a month, though I think it’s a safe bet it’s not going any lower. (City utilities, of course, also include sewer, refuse, and other stuff, insuring that I will get no change back from a $50 bill in any given month.)

Not really spelled out: how much of those “expansion costs” will be incurred while existing supplies literally dry up. A friend down in the southwest corner of the state noted that the local lake is down 12 feet from normal; on the national Drought Monitor, they’re somewhere between Extreme and Egregious.

(Via the Consumerist.)

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Mr Jones

LP by Davy Jones before joining the MonkeesA blurb from the liner notes of David Jones, the eponymous LP by, um, David Jones, circa 1965:

Already an established television, stage, and singing star in his native England, David Jones goes on to win new laurels as a recording star with “What Are We Going to Do?” As a young fellow whose chosen ambition was originally to become a top race jockey, David was side-tracked by a spectacular career in the field of entertainment purely as the result of a part-time radio job. Old goals aside, David has set his sights on becoming a top international star of records, stage, television, and films. When you listen to this exciting new album there will be no doubt in your mind that David is well on his way to reaching that goal … and soon!

“What Are We Going to Do?” and two other singles from the LP stiffed in the marketplace, though Jones would become a top international star soon enough. (Do not confuse with Davie Jones, who had already cut a single of the old standard “Liza Jane,” but who eventually decided that he’d be better off with a different name.)

Of course, Jones, who could sing and did passably well on the drums, was picked for the Monkees because he was, um, cute: “I loved the Monkees growing up and Davy was Bieber swoosh before Bieber.” The Columbia Pictures brain trust, in fact, was loath to give Jones the lead on any of the band’s singles, and when he finally got one, it was canceled due to some backroom finagling. (Short version: Don Kirshner had picked the song; the Monkees were rather sick of other people, especially Kirshner, picking their songs; Kirshner put out the song anyway without Columbia’s knowledge; Columbia sacked Kirshner and pulled the record.) However, it still wound up in the TV show, even if it never made it to an album until the Greatest Hits compilation:

Oh, and Davy Jones did finally chart a solo single — in 1971. Of course, he was never forgotten, and he won’t be.

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The least of the West

Bill Quick has a category called “EuroPenises,” which is dedicated, not to the dongs and prongs, but to the “assholes and dumbasses of Europe.” Whatever the anatomical inconsistencies involved, some people absolutely adore those folks on the Continent:

[W]hy do Democrats in government always want things to be like Europe? They’re like those fraternity geeks who come back from one semester abroad drunk on a bar floor in Dublin and suddenly it’s all Nutella on their toaster waffles and insisting that its pronounced BARTH-e-lona and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes. Like Europe is sooooo awesome. Sure, they gave us good stuff — pizza, Pilgrims, half of the French army in our time of need and several opportunities to acquire exciting new sexually transmitted diseases while we were supposed to be fighting wars — but they also have questionable hygiene, smaller roads, crazier people and fanny packs. Not everything Europe does is fantastic, and I’d venture that paying $6 per litre of gasoline is something even Europeans would gladly trade us for.

For an example of the upside of Europeans, the Italians, who gave Nutella to the world, knew what to do with fascists, and they’re making money off Chrysler, which is more that your American private-equity capitalists ever did.

I think the Democrats in question are simply confused by the European Union: they think it’s something like SEIU, only with better potluck lunches.

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Darnell lays it down

Darnell Mayberry, who pounds the Thunder beat for The Oklahoman, hasn’t been screaming about this, so I thought I’d mention it.

First, read this: Russell Westbrook’s journey from community center gyms to the NBA All-Star Game.

Did you like it?

It won last year’s Feature award by the Professional Basketball Writers of America, as announced by PBWA President Doug Smith during this year’s All-Star Weekend.

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Having one’s Phil

We knew the Sixers were good. What we probably didn’t know, and didn’t want to imagine, is how bad the Thunder could be: in the third quarter in the City of Brotherly Boos, OKC managed to miss 18 of 20 shots, scoring a miserable ten points in twelve minutes. The combination of the two should have been an easy Philly win, but the Thunder put together a 15-4 run in the last five minutes, courtesy of some serious defense. It would have been easier, I suggest, had OKC not missed a ton of free throws in the process, but what counts is what’s on the board at the horn, and we’ll take it: OKC 92, Philadelphia 88.

This game was marked by lots of second chances — the Thunder had 19 offensive rebounds, the Sixers 13 — but few actual second-chance points. Despite six players in double figures, Philly shot only 41 percent; still, this was better than the Thunder, which struggled to 38.5 percent after a 50-percent first half and that horrific third quarter. Those who argue that Elton Brand is past his sell-by date should note that the almost-33-year-old forward rolled up a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds). And third-year shooting guard Jodie Meeks, a game-high +13 for the night, is streaky but fun to watch.

Nick Collison, back from a bout with contusions, played almost twenty minutes; he didn’t score, but he happily gathered in half a dozen rebounds. The Big Guns got their prescribed points — Russell Westbrook 22 along with 13 boards (!), Kevin Durant with 23 — and James Harden once again paced the bench with 16. If you picked the first of March for the date Kendrick Perkins gets hit with a suspension, you just might be right about that; as of tonight, he’s got one technical to go before the hammer comes down, and what are the chances he’s not going to get it against Orlando?

But that’s tomorrow, followed by a game in Atlanta on Saturday and then a five-game home stand.

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Rimsky business

It’s not so much that “Flight of the Bumblebee” is fast, exactly, but gawd, that’s a lot of sixteenth notes. It’s been played in as little as 53 seconds — wondrously enough, by a fellow named Eric Speed — but you know, I think this is probably fast enough:

And no, I was not cruising YouTube looking for “Yuja Wang” + “spaghetti straps.” But I do believe in serendipity.

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Discount for cache

The one good thing about this Oklahoman editorial, which attempts to persuade supporters of Rick Santorum to cross over to the Mitt Side, is that it doesn’t actually use the word “electable,” a term I don’t ever want to hear again without a leading D: “Damn, that [name of entirely-too-cute female] is certainly delectable.”

Unfortunately, it does say this:

Mitt Romney doesn’t have Reagan’s cache. No one does.

I’m reasonably certain that anything Ronnie had cached away, Nancy inherited.

And if they meant to say “cachet,” well, it’s a funny thing about editorials: they never seem to have actual editors.

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No longer current

While we’re all cursing the ever-increasing price of gasoline, Bertel Schmitt has snagged a picture of what he describes as “Leaf’s Grandfather”: tucked away in a corner of Nissan’s Tech Center is a pure-electric vehicle, circa 1950.

It is not technically a Nissan; the Tama Electric Car Company, which built this nifty, if slow, box, was formed from the remains of the Tachikawa Aircraft Company, which (surprise!) got out of the aircraft business after 1945. Tama eventually became Prince Motor Company; Nissan bought it in 1966. (Nissan fanboys will perhaps be shocked to hear that the fabled Skyline was originally a Prince product.) Schmitt quotes the following numbers: cruising range, 96.3 km (almost 60 miles), top speed 35.2 km/hr (22 mph). You could probably get more than 60 miles out of the current Nissan Leaf if you kept the speed down.

Still undetermined, at least by me: if Tama was named for IJN Tama, a Kuma-class light cruiser sunk by the US Navy in 1944.

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X marks the spot

What? Somebody actually found some treasure at the bottom of the sea?

Coins worth nearly half a billion dollars finally arrived in Spain on Saturday after lying in a sunken warship for more than 200 years and following a five-year legal battle between the Spanish government and a salvage company.

The Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a 49-gun navy frigate, set sail from the coast of Peru — then a colony of Spain — with coins to help replenish the Spanish treasury’s coffers.

In 1804, British warships attacked as the frigate was approaching the Spanish port of Cádiz and the ship went down, with 249 killed.

Oh, and there was a second legal battle, which didn’t last so long:

On Thursday, the Peruvian government made an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to block transfer of the treasure to give Peru more time to make arguments in U.S. federal court about its claim to being the rightful owner. But that appeal was denied Friday by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Peru had argued the gold and silver on the ship was mined, refined and minted in its territory.

And there’s this:

[O]ne does wonder why Spain is asking for the treasure back when they had 200 years to salvage it themselves but didn’t bother…

Or maybe one doesn’t. This way, they didn’t have to do any of the heavy lifting.

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Exhibit number two

Think it’s hard to set up a small business in the States? You should try it in Greece:

“Most stores begin operating after receiving only the approval regarding their brand name, as the bureaucracy involved takes such a long time to complete that it is simply impossible to keep up with the operational costs, such as paying rent on obligatory headquarters, without making any sales,” said [Fotis] Antonopoulos.

Antonopoulos and his partners spent hours collecting papers from tax offices, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the municipal service where the company is based, the health inspector’s office, the fire department and banks. At the health department, they were told that all the shareholders of the company would have to provide chest X-rays, and, in the most surreal demand of all, stool samples.

This cries out for Yakov Smirnoff: “In socialist Greece, you give government crap!”

So let’s say this little Greek storefront, which sells cosmetics and other products derived from olive oil, wants to do some Web business in the US. What happens then?

“I contacted the FDA and they sent us an e-mail with directions immediately. I filled in an online form and was done in five minutes. We received the approval 24 hours after making our application.”

American bureaucrats: the world’s finest. Count on it.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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As pretty does

Susan Friery - Boston Globe photoThis lovely lady is Susan Friery, from Newburyport, Massachusetts, aka Miss January in a 2009 “Beautiful Lawyers” charity calendar distributed in metropolitan Boston. Here’s what The Boston Globe said about her at the time:

Susan, a medical consultant and senior associate for Kreindler & Kreindler, handles a variety of mass disaster, personal injury, and medical malpractice litigation. She has worked on hundreds of 9/11 World Trade Center cases, as well as on the settlement for the Pan Am Lockerbie terrorist plan bombing.

Susan loves yoga and volunteers at charities such as Habitat for Humanity.

That was then. Now she’s been suspended from the Massachusetts bar for two years:

According to court documents, Friery joined the law firm in August 1986 as a part-time paralegal and medical consultant. By that time, she had taken four semesters of medical courses in pathology at SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine and received training to become a morgue technician, among other disciplines. However, Friery left the program in 1985 without a degree.

But when applying for a position at the New York law firm, she falsely claimed she had graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in New York.

That was in 1993. And evidently everyone was fooled:

By 1998, the law firm had included Friery’s alleged medical credentials in web-based advertising.

But it was not until last August, months after her resignation from the firm, that Friery admitted she had not obtained a medical degree. Up until that point, the firm had no idea she had been passing herself off as a medical doctor.

Not that I would ever suggest that she got away with it because she was so gosh-darn cute.

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Opportunity missed

Nancy Friedman’s Leap Day update has all kinds of neat stuff for the 29th of February, including the handy word “intercalary,” which I think I’ve actually said out loud once in my life. (And I mispronounced it, too.)

This jumped out at me:

[T]here was a movie called Leap Year starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. It was a modest box-office success despite a barrage of negative reviews. In a mysterious bit of poor timing, the movie was released not in a leap year but in 2010.

This sounds like something I might want to see — romances with bizarre obstacles have been right up my alley at least since Brigadoon — and it reminds me of another mysterious bit of poor timing, nearly half a century ago.

Robin Ward’s “Wonderful Summer,” from 1963, is a classic teen-romance tune. You weren’t supposed to know that Jacqueline O’Donnell, who sang it, was married and had a child; the producers cranked up the speed to make her sound fifteen and wistful. (If you were here in 2006, you might remember how some of us cranked down the speed to make her sound like Brian Wilson.) That isn’t the problem, though. The whole idea of “Wonderful Summer” was “Well, it’s back to school, at least we have our memories.” This is the sort of record you put out in mid-August so that everyone is singing along over the Labor Day weekend. For reasons unknown, it came out in mid-October.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. Ward recorded a lovely follow-up called “Winter’s Here,” which inexplicably was released on the 29th of February, 1964. “Wonderful Summer” had somehow made it to #14 in Billboard; “Winter’s Here” bubbled under, and I mean way under, at #123, and was promptly forgotten, never to be heard again — except maybe here.

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Tibial pursuit

Matt Stopera of Buzzfeed observed that “Angelina Jolie’s leg was the only exciting thing that happened at the Oscars,” which prompted me to go through the archives, and this turned up:

Angelina Jolie for GQ

Actually, you were just bullshot. The reason you’re getting this 2005 shot from GQ (thank you, Yariv Milchan) is that the leg in question — the right one — now has its own Twitter account, and, well, this is one of its niftier appearances, if you ask me, though there is of course no reason why you should.

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He was only Tasing you

The folks at Amnesty International have been collecting data on deaths by Taser and similar devices — in the States, anyway — and since 2001, they’ve counted 500 deaths due to weapons set to Stun.

And where are you most likely to get Tased to death?

Amnesty International recorded the largest number of deaths following the use of Tasers in California (92), followed by Florida (65), and Texas (37). The Oklahoma City Police Department led all law enforcement agencies in deaths (7) following by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, Harris County Sheriff’s (Tx), Phoenix, Az and San Jose, Ca., all with six deaths.

Now California, Florida and Texas rank first, fourth and second respectively in population, so those numbers don’t seem too far out of whack, but you have to wonder what’s happening around town to push the OCPD, the smallest of the agencies listed, to push the buttons.

(Via This Land Press.)

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Inaudible Saabs

Jack Baruth argues that Lexus, having raised the bar for near-luxury vehicles with a reskinned Camry, is ultimately responsible for killing Saab, and contrasts the two marques:

The Saab story includes airplanes, rally drivers, turbochargers, iconoclastic personalities, and more than half a century of fabulous designs. The Lexus story is this: it’s a Toyota for people too snobbish or fearful to be seen in a Toyota. Saabs have been wonderful, frisky, characterful companions for a very long time. People cry when their Saabs are towed away for the last time. Nobody’s ever cried over a Lexus, except possibly when they received a repair bill for their out-of-warranty second-gen LS400. Saab was real. Lexus is fake. Simple as that.

Or is it that simple? Saab has been a fraud and a fake for nearly twenty years, selling second-rate cars on dimly remembered glories. Meanwhile, Lexus has been continually building the cars their customers want, always fresh, nearly always reliable, always sold and serviced with a smile. Saab’s better future was perpetually around the corner; meanwhile, the next Lexus was completed on time and plopped, Harvest-Gold-colored, on a calmly rotating showroom turntable. Ask any Saab enthusiast about the brand and they will tell you about the 900 SPG, but ask a Lexus owner about his car and he will tell you he likes it. What is real, and what is no longer relevant?

Perhaps it’s just that mystique hasn’t counted for much in the actual cash register since Mercury tried to sell a car by that name. Daimler spent more than a decade trying to stir up demand for an S-Class Benz at triple the price under a brand name no one had seen for forty-odd years; occasionally someone dusts off a sort-of-classic nameplate from the days of American iron, there is sound and fury, but nothing to drive; I’m guessing that for every thousand self-described Alfa Romeo fans on automotive message boards, Alfa will eventually sell about 14 cars. There’s no money in dreams, maybe. Or perhaps it’s just that everybody making cars has decided that they want to grow up and be Toyota. Which is relevant, but no fun. And yet I may end up owning an Anodyne Antiseptic Avalon, simply because it’s the closest thing to what I drive now.

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Subprimates

Having a personal philosophy, Lemony Snicket once said, is like having a pet marmoset: “It may be very attractive when you acquire it, but there may be situations when it will not come in handy at all.”

For example:

(Considered, curiously, a Music FAIL. Previous marmoset moments here and here.)

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