Flavor of the moment

Media fascination with Bruce Jenner seems to have evaporated with Jenner’s declaration of affinity with the Constitution and the GOP. These two items showed up more or less simultaneously in my Twitter timeline, and in fact, you’re seeing a screenshot from TweetDeck that illustrates that evaporation most economically:

Proximate tweets by Jen Richards and Bailey Jay

I suspect Jenner’s happy to have the camera pointed in some other direction.

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Kings X’ed

The other day, we lost Kingsmen singer Jack Ely, the definitive interpreter of “Louie Louie.” Now we’ve lost Benjamin Nelson, otherwise known as Ben E. King, and that’s at least as great a loss:

Ben E. King, the smooth, soulful baritone who led the Drifters on “There Goes My Baby,” “Save the Last Dance for Me” and other hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and as a solo artist recorded the classic singles “Spanish Harlem” and “Stand by Me,” died on Thursday in Hackensack, N.J. He was 76.

His lawyer, Judy Tint, said Mr. King, who lived in Teaneck, N.J., died at Hackensack University Medical Center after a brief illness, offering no further details.

King’s ascension to lead of the Drifters, an established R&B vocal group, was remarkable mostly for its suddenness: after original lead Clyde McPhatter departed, the group was indeed adrift, and manager George Treadwell, who owned the name, disposed of them and hired Harlem’s Five Crowns to be the new Drifters. “There Goes My Baby,” produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, was like nothing the old group had ever recorded: awash in enough strings for a Tchaikovsky festival, the song is mournful, lugubrious, every syllable dipped in agony. And then it’s over in a mere 2:17.

Ben hung around the Drifters for a while, then went solo. “Stand By Me,” written by King with the putative assistance of “Elmo Glick” (Leiber/Stoller in disguise), is indisputably one of the great songs of the era, maybe of the century; the hook, I think, is set when he sings “I won’t cry, I won’t cry,” and you wonder how it is that he isn’t crying at that point. Restraint is definitely called for under such circumstances; see, for instance, Tracy Chapman on The Late Show with David Letterman a couple of weeks ago, a rendition I’m almost certain King would have loved.

And now B. B. King, 89, no relation, is in hospice care at his home. When he goes — well, this is a trifecta I’d hoped never to see.

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Credibly blue

We have on occasion presented an outfit worn by the First Lady, mostly because her choices have sometimes seemed random: for every “Oh, this is lovely” I’ve breathed, there’s been a “What the fark was she thinking?”

Michelle Obama in Tadashi Shoji

While this is admittedly just about the least flattering pose I could find from this particular state dinner, FLOTUS here, I think, has chosen well:

While Michelle Obama is known, generally, for her lavish design choices — remember, for a moment, that $2000 sundress that looked like it had been purchased at Target — last night, possibly in response to criticism of the White House and DC media’s out-of-touch Correspondents’ Dinner performance, the First Lady instead chose a modest gown by Japanese-American designer Tadashi Shoji that would likely retail for around $700.

Part of this was protocol: His Excellency Shinzō Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, was the honoree, and Shoji was born in Japan, though he never did any serious fashion work until he moved to Los Angeles. And this isn’t quite the version Shoji showed on the runway — someone between there and here wisely added a lining — but this is a very nice blue, and it’s not being cluttered up with accessories. Besides, Shoji does texture well: consider, if you will, Octavia Spencer’s gown for the 2013 Academy Awards.

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Riding talky

Not that you were wondering, exactly, but since I seldom have passengers, this may be your one and only chance to find out what I’m thinking while I’m driving home.

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Inconceivably so

Holly Brockwell is 29 and quite determined not to have children; Britain’s National Health Service is equally determined not to sterilize her.

After stirring up that hornet’s nest in the Guardian, she decided to try a different megaphone: the Daily Mail. As usual with the Mail, the photographs are lovely and the comments are unreadable.

She says of the Mail experience:

[T]here are over 2,000 comments already and I did not in any sense read them all, because I still have to find time in the day to glare at children and milk the National Health Service dry. But here are some of my favourites, and my responses. Which I won’t be putting in the comments section, because that’s like trying to debate with a floor lamp.

I note for comparison purposes only that (1) I was sterilized the year I turned twenty-eight, but (2) I was married at the time and had already spawned the next generation, and (3) it was, unsurprisingly, a lot cheaper in 1981, even allowing for the relative simplicity of the procedure I had compared to the one she wants.

Still, I tend to take her side on general principle: biological destiny can go only so far. And the usual deployment of contraceptives made her quite ill, as was the case with the woman to whom I was married. (She’s 60 now and is much relieved not to have to think about such things.)

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Edge of seventeen plus one

Next month, Rebecca Black turns eighteen. What happens then, if anything happens then, is anyone’s guess, but this picture she sent up earlier this week indicates that glam is on her mind:

Twitter pic by and of Rebecca Black

Definitely doesn’t look thirteen — which she was when “Friday” went viral — anymore.

Disclosure: I cropped that photo a bit and lightened things up ever so slightly. This is the original as posted to Twitter.

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Hostel environment

What can we learn from this?

For some reason, it appears that building hotels next to city convention centers is a honey pot for politicians. I am not sure why, but my guess is that they spend hundreds of millions or billions on a convention center based on some visitation promises. When those promises don’t pan out, politicians blame it on the lack of a hotel, and then use public money for a hotel. When that does not pan out, I am not sure what is next. Probably a sports stadium. Then light rail. Then, ? It just keeps going and going.

Two examples are offered, in Phoenix and in Baltimore, where city-owned hotels next to convention centers have dropped tens of millions of dollars. This is, of course, easily explainable:

All the companies who chose not to build a hotel with private money obviously knew what they were doing, and only the political benefits of pandering the the public at large and a few special interests in specific made it seem like an attractive investment to city politicians. Which is all pretty unsurprising, since hotels have pretty much been built off every exit ramp in this country, so there seems to be no private inhibition towards building hotels — just towards building hotels in bad locations.

Which shows you how far behind the curve we are in the Big Breezy: we haven’t even selected our bad location. Yet.

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Many, many descendants

Say a prayer for the late Dorothy A. “Stella” Scrobola, who departed this life last week. We may presume she wasn’t alone at the time:

Clip from Mrs Scrobola's obituary mentioning a shitload of grandchildren

Whether said load is metric, we know not.

(Via Fark.)

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Insufficient flesh

Things have definitely changed since I was in school:

According to French media reports, a 15-year-old French Muslim girl was banned from her class twice for wearing a skirt that was too long, and therefore supposedly a conspicuous display of religion. France’s state secularism has led to very strict laws prohibiting students from wearing overtly religious symbols in institutions of education.

The student, identified as Sarah, already apparently removed her headscarf before entering the school, in accordance with French law. But her long skirt was deemed a “provocation,” and potential act of protest.

“The girl was not excluded, she was asked to come back with a neutral outfit,” a local official in the northeastern French town of Charleville-Mezieres, near the border with Belgium, told the AFP.

A social-media response:

The hashtag translates to “I wear my skirt as I like.” And a petition is up on change.org.

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Driving Mr. Jay Z

Um, excuse me. That’s Mr. Jaÿ-Z:

On the website of Jay-fronted streaming menace Tidal, Jay Z has suddenly become Jaÿ-Z — and only a few years after he quietly dropped the hyphen, too. He’s also started using Jaÿ-Z on recent Facebook posts.

Now, rather than a full-time name change, we suspect that this is a mere nod back to the cover art for Jay’s debut album Reasonable Doubt and the “Dead Presidents” single, both of which stylised his name as Jaÿ-Z… Jay has a Tidal-streaming concert on the way where he’ll perform his best B-sides and album cuts, so a temporary throwback makes sense.

And if a brand-name hip-hopper is going to deploy a gratuitous umlaut, better Jaÿ-Z than, um, Dïddy.

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Toward a hire purpose

Two things you should know here:

  • I haven’t updated my résumé in rather a long time;
  • I have, according to Windows, 247 fonts.

Not that all of those typefaces are equally useful to the job-hunter:

A résumé, that piece of paper designed to reflect your best self, is one of the places where people still tend to use typeface to express themselves. It does not always go well, according to people who spend a lot of time looking at fonts. Bloomberg asked three typography wonks which typefaces make a curriculum vitae look classiest, which should never, ever be seen by an employer, and whether emojis are fair game.

I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell you which (overly) popular typeface is verboten.

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Definitely a Taipei personality

Next to this, kissing a girl was child’s play:

Popstar Katy Perry took the stage in Taipei this week in a glittery dress covered with sunflowers, which happen to be the emblem of Taiwan’s anti-China protests last year. She also draped herself in the flag of the Republic of China (Taiwan), a symbol of the island’s continued separation from China, and one that is allegedly so unpalatable to Beijing that it was pulled from the 2012 Olympic Games arena.

As Perry took the stage at the Taipei Arena in the politically-charged costume, some members of the crowd were “moved to tears,” the Taiwanese newspaper Liberty Times Net reported — though it is far from clear if she intended to make a political statement.

I mean, maybe she just likes sunflowers:

It is entirely possible that, like musician Kenny G at the Hong Kong protests, Perry just bumbled into a situation that could infuriate the Chinese government and affect her net income for the rest of her life. China is a huge market for concerts and album sales, and the government has banned artists in the past who “threaten national sovereignty.”

The sunflower dress is part of a recurring theme, as a fan noted a week before the Taiwan show, and Perry has performed with a “sunflower” microphone since at least last June, when she appeared in Raleigh, N.C. with backup singers dressed as sunflowers.

Left Shark was not available for comment.

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It was here six hours ago

An occasional recurring theme in my nightmares is the inability to find my car. This actually happened to me once, at the Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City, circa 1979; however, after much backtracking and not so much sidetracking, I did eventually locate the miserable little sled, which puts me one up on this poor fellow:

A marathon runner who parked his car to take part in the Manchester race has been unable to find it — nine days after the event.

Jason Matthews, from Wolverhampton, left his black Saab 9-3 Sport somewhere near Old Trafford, but cannot remember exactly where.

The 40-year-old spent hours searching for the vehicle after running the race on Sunday, April 19, in a time of five hours and 11 minutes.

He even ended up walking back around some of the 26-mile course, before driving around in a taxi for 40 minutes and then going to a police station, all to no avail.

Eventually, he had to give up and get the train home to the Midlands. Mr Matthews has been unable to trace his car since.

Authorities in Manchester say the car has not been impounded or towed. He’s pretty sure it’s around somewhere and hasn’t been stolen.

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I’d call this a pro tip

I hadn’t seen it before. It’s a restaurant ticket, pretty much like any other, except that at the bottom it calculates the “suggested gratuity” for you at three fairly standard rates: 15 percent, 18 percent (“GREAT!”) and 20 percent (“WOW!!”) On the $43.50 check used as illustration, 20 percent is given as $7.99; since 20 percent of $43.50 is in fact $8.70, I’m assuming they’re figuring it before taxes. Me, I’d probably round it up to $9, because that’s just how I roll.

The chap who actually got this particular check, however, left quite a bit more:

It’s common to leave a nice tip for restaurant waitstaff who do a good job. But one man went above and beyond with his restaurant gratuity, leaving behind a $3,000 tip on a $43.50 check for a struggling waitress.

Mike, a resident in New York City, left the massive tip for a waitress who was facing some hard times. “This woman had been serving us for almost a year now. She’s a lovely individual, and she talked about how she was served an eviction notice last month,” Mike told ABC News.

Mike, who asked to remain anonymous, made the tip as part of the ReesSpecht Life foundation, a pay-it-forward movement started by teacher Ray Specht after the tragic death of his 22-month-old son. Mike asked the waitress to not “let ‘Pay it Forward’ end with you.”

Not all of us can afford to part with three grand on just such an occasion, but it’s heartening when someone can, and does.

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Turn that noise down

This describes me to the proverbial T:

If you’re worried about losing your love of new music, your fears are justified. That’s according to new research that finds listeners reach “maturity” around age 33. In other words, you’re done with discovering new music when you reach your mid-thirties.

The study compared multiple sets of data, including the age and gender of Spotify users, their parental status, and the overall popularity of artists. The study found that teenagers listen almost exclusively to the most popular artists, but their tastes evolve steeply into their mid-twenties, and then slowly until they level off in their mid-thirties.

I was 33 in 1986, and sure enough, the collection begins to tail off a year or two later: there is very little 1990s stuff on my shelves.

However, the trend reversed about ten years ago, basically for these two reasons:

  • I signed up for the iTunes Store, mostly because it had some odd tunes I’d never bothered to get on vinyl, and if there’s one thing the iTunes Store does well, it’s shove new stuff out there where you can see it;
  • I met Trini, who was not quite half my age, and she was happy to fill me in on newer stuff that I might like.

Whether this portends anything happening at age 66, I do not know.

(Hat tip: Erica Mauter.)

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He gotta go

The single greatest vocal performance in the history of rock and roll? Maybe not. But it’s right up there with the least forgettable, and it is right and proper that we not forget the man who did it:

Jack Ely, the lead singer of the Kingsmen who was best known for 1960s hit “Louie Louie,” has died aged 71.

His son Sean Ely said the singer died at home in Redmond, Oregon after a long battle with an illness.

Ely’s incoherent singing on “Louie Louie” led the FBI to investigate the famous track on the grounds that it might be obscene.

Ely had a falling out with the band shortly after the song was recorded and later trained horses in Oregon.

There are literally hundreds, possibly thousands, of recorded versions of “Louie Louie,” half a dozen of which made the pop charts, and none of which made any money, at least at first, for composer Richard Berry, who came up with this tune of tunes way back in 1957; he sold the rights for $750 a couple of years later so he could get married. The key, though, is “at first”:

Some time in the mid-Eighties, it seems, California Wine Cooler decided more young people could be induced to try the drink if “Louie Louie” were used on their commercial. On applying for permission to use the song, they found they needed Berry’s signature and asked Artists Rights, the American equivalent of the Performing Rights Society, to trace him. A smart lawyer from Artists Rights discovered Berry in the slums of south central LA, and mentioned the possibility of taking action to win back his song. The publishers settled meekly out of court, and have now been taken over by Windswept Music in a deal that makes Berry a millionaire. He thinks.

And none of those versions did more business than the Kingsmen’s, recorded a week before Paul Revere and the Raiders cut theirs, in the same Portland, Oregon studio. Jack Ely’s departure from the Kingsmen proved one thing: Lynn Easton, who controlled the band and the name, couldn’t come close to duplicating Ely’s sound. At some point, Easton quit trying and just lip-synced to Ely. A version of the Kingsmen still exists, with original member Mike Mitchell, and Dick Peterson, who came on board in 1963; I have no idea who’s singing it now.

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