A triumph of the spoils system

Residents of any of the 57 states will happily testify that they have the worst drivers in the nation, and finding egregious examples thereof is child’s play.

For instance, there’s Sheila Burgess:

[She has] had 32 entries on her driving record since 1984.

Those included seven accidents, four speeding violations, two failure-to-stop-for-an-officer citation and one failure-to-wear-a-seat-belt mark.

She’s been on leave from work lately, recovering from a head injury sustained in a one-car accident this past summer. It appears, though, that she’s about to lose her job as Massachusetts’ Director of Highway Safety.

Oh, you wonder how she got this job? Wonder no more:

Burgess is a former fund-raising consultant to high-profile Democratic candidates for public office, including Congressman James McGovern, whose office said on Friday that McGovern asked the newly elected [Deval] Patrick administration in 2007 to hire Burgess, but without suggesting a specific role for her. She is paid $87,000 annually.

I wonder what percentage of that goes to auto insurance.

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I can go for that (no can do)

One of the things that irks me about Halloween is the so-called “fun size” candy bar; as has been pointed out elsewhere, if it were truly “fun” it would be about the size of a loaf of bread.

That said, Fun Size is the title of a film released the weekend before Halloween this year under the auspices of Nickelodeon, which would be worth mentioning just because it carried an actual PG-13 rating, unheard of for Nick’s theatrical releases, but I bring it up here to show you this picture of star Victoria Justice, in Toronto at MuchMusic HQ to promote the film, circa 17 October.

Victoria Justice at MuchMusic

Of course, VJ is insanely cute, but what demanded the inclusion of this picture was her T-shirt, featuring the jacket art for the Daryl Hall/John Oates album Private Eyes, released a mere eleven and a half years before her birth.

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Negative nutrition

Dave Schuler’s annotated list of the ingredients in Hostess Twinkies begins, as all such lists should, with the most prominent ingredient:

Enriched wheat flour is wheat flour from which most of the nutrients have been removed. We make a lot of it here but some is also imported from Canada, Australia, and elsewhere.

Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. Most of the nutrients indeed have been removed; however, a few of them — certainly not all — have been added back in.

And anyway, it’s all in the description. I saw a box of taco shells the other day that boasted “Whole Grain Corn.”

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Message out of a bottle

My Mushy Side — which I’m beginning to think is my front — got all misty about this:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, amid a mess of displaced personal items, a miracle has emerged: 57 vintage love letters were discovered [Thursday] in the debris. Even more surprising is how they found their way to Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey — and that they’re still legible.

The vintage in question: 1942 through 1948.

It was a 14-year-old boy who stumbled upon the soggy notes as he sifted through remnants of belongings along the shore with his mother.

Mom tracked down the original recipient, who’s now 91, and is returning them to her. Apparently she hasn’t seen them in years, and the sender died in 1991.

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Speak your mind, so to speak

For those keeping score, the first day of continuous daily updates here was 23 June 2000. (Number of days missed so far: 0.)

It was just over two years later that I managed to integrate a comment system, which is a neat trick, considering the whole thing was coded by hand. It was clunky enough that after two months I gave up the idea and installed Movable Type, which incorporated its own comment mechanism.

Then again, getting a comment system installed was relatively high on my list of priorities. It’s at the bottom of Kathy Shaidle’s:

[O]ne of the reasons I don’t have comments is because, frankly, by definition just under half the population is below average, and I do not want lesser people cluttering up my blog with evidence of their poor reading comprehension, cliches, limited cultural reference points, junk science, faux outrage, blowhardyness and inability to think logically or even add and subtract simple sums.

Yeah. If I need that kind of clutter I can write it myself. (And from the looks of things, I occasionally do.)

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Well enough not left alone

You may remember this from last month:

Prada Bicolor Rubber Oxford

If you saw that and asked yourself “Self, how could Prada possibly top — or bottom — that?” your answer is below the fold:

Read the rest of this entry »

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A third-rate burglary

So I got to the office at six-thirty or so yesterday, and I couldn’t open my door. And then I looked down and saw this:

Evidence of burglary

He did not gain entrance, but he chewed up a lot of door trim. Some other offices in the building were not quite so resistant to forcible entry.

At least a few moments that morning were spent in contemplation of how much the cleanup bill would have been had I been there to perforate the miserable sumbitch.

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Take a bow, Norma Jean

The December issue of Playboy has Marilyn Monroe on the cover. Now the blonde and the mag go back a long time together — MM was the very first “Sweetheart of the Month,” before Hef decided on “Playmate” as the descriptor — and by “long time,” I mean to the fall of 1953, which I am bound to believe is a long time for personal chronological reasons.

And if the pictures are No Big Deal anymore, people still have something to say about Marilyn. The John Updike commentary I assume is a reprint, inasmuch as he’s been dead for three years, but I don’t remember seeing the Roger Ebert article before, and his last paragraph may be the best thing about the pictorial:

If Marilyn had lived into old age, what might she have become? An elderly parody of herself? I believe she was too intelligent. I believe — or hope — she would have quietly disappeared, as another great star, Doris Day, has chosen to do. Her legacy would never die. From everything I sensed when I saw that first photo and all of her movies, I believe she would have become a sweet little old lady and a good friend.

With that in mind, this is probably my favorite MM picture ever: it’s a press gathering at her house in March 1956, and the balance between sultry and goofy has seldom been so perfect. Her, I can believe as a little old lady of eighty-six.

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Hitting the Brixton

Brian J., motivated by the sound of Eddy Grant, rocks down to Electric Avenue, and gets engrossed by the history thereof:

The song itself refers to the 1981 Brixton Riots, a “confrontation” between residents of Brixton and the police. The Wikipedia entry gives you a full panoply of excuses for the riot, but it’s the usual economically depressed populace of a one race reacts violently to the death of one of their own that they blame on members of the police who are of a different race.

Me, I always wondered if Grant’s 1982 record, a #2 hit in both the US and the UK, had anything to do with Montgomery Ward’s reboot of its appliance and electronics department as “Electric Avenue” three years later, which provided a decade-long boost to the store’s revenues, though the chain didn’t have long to live after that, and died unceremoniously in 2000. (The wards.com Web storefront, now in its second incarnation, dates to 2004.)

Eddy Grant, of course, had been around for a while; his group The Equals crept into the Top 40 in 1968 with a song called “Baby Come Back.”

In 1984 he turned out a theme song for Robert Zemeckis’ film Romancing the Stone, which wasn’t used, except for a teensy bit of the instrumental break halfway through.

Aside: For some reason we have a shopping center in this town called Brixton Square. I hasten to add that it has never had a Montgomery Ward store.

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Don’t even fly over

Tulsa, says Self magazine, is the single most unhealthy city for women in the entire country, and at first I thought it might be the disproportionate number of douchebags roaming Brookside, but no: “Poor habits, high disease risk and life expectancy is falling,” they say. (OKC finished tenth, not that I’m inclined to brag.)

Methodology, so to speak:

We polled a panel of experts to find out which factors most affect a woman’s ability to live her healthiest. The panel considered 58 criteria, including rates of disease such as cancer and depression; factors that affect access to health care, such as the percentage of women covered by insurance; environmental and community measures, such as air quality and crime rates; and the prevalence of habits such as exercise, good diet and smoking. Bert Sperling of Portland, Oregon, founder of BestPlaces.net, helped us gather the most recent and authoritative data for 100 of the nation’s largest metropolitan statistical areas, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Numbers are age-adjusted where applicable and women-specific where available. We used the panel’s input to weigh each criterion, and Sperling helped us crunch the numbers.

One of their data sources is the NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, which I suspect just might skew their definition of “health care,” but hey, nobody asked me. All such lists, no matter what the criteria or the cultural/political angle, are inevitably slanted toward the direction the “researchers” want them to be: “We want to say X, so we need numbers that add up to Y.”

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Regarding Kurt Cobain

A piece I wrote in 1994, without the benefit of eighteen years of hindsight and/or accumulated cynicism.

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Strange search-engine queries (355)

Time once again for another trip through the wilderness of search strings, in the hope of finding something amusing, since it’s apparently too much to hope that there’s a box of Twinkies hiding in the system log.

krispy kreme effect:  More noticeable in the absence of Twinkies, you may be sure.

what brought this on:  Rainy days and Mondays always bring this on.

sarah downs harvey kurtzman:  Rainy days and Sarah always bring Harv down.

sexual letter of a gilrl to a guy on how shebwill make love to him:  And he probably doesn’t care that she can’t spell, either.

“white men have an obligation”:  Actually, they often have several.

I videotaped my next door neighbor walks nude:  This is not one of your obligations, Whitey.

who owns walgreens at 23rd and classen:  Hint: It ain’t CVS.

do automatic transmissions have a flux capacitor:  This poor soul just spent $450 for muffler bearings.

architectural indigest:  For instance, building a White Castle next door to the Louvre.

logger sells a load of wood for 100.00:  Yeah, that sounds like a load.

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Shooting at the walls

Games with the Golden State Warriors are not 83-81 grinders; they are aerial ballets with balls flying every which way. This was true under Don Nelson, it was true under Keith Smart, and it’s apparently true with Mark Jackson running the show. The Thunder won this one, 119-109, but they had to shoot 51 percent to do it; the Warriors were almost two percentage points better.

And Golden State stuck pretty much to the plan: score a lot and wait for the opposing defense to develop holes. OKC was happy to oblige them, giving up 27 points in the third quarter and 36in the fourth. The only way you beat something like this is to keep putting the ball up and make sure it falls through the net, which the Thunder did well, tossing up 20 from beyond the arc, 13 of which went. Kevin Martin got five of seven all by himself — except, of course, that he really didn’t do it all by himself, what with the Thunder in recent weeks having discovered the joys of ball movement. OKC, in fact, racked up 31 dimes, ten of them going to Kevin Durant, who logged his first-ever triple-double (25 points, 13 rebounds). Seven more came from the Good Russell Westbrook, with 30 points, five steals, and a single solitary turnover. K-Mart led the bench with 23, and Serge Ibaka is becoming an offensive force: he’s been averaging almost 15 points per game, and he had 16 tonight.

The perennial thorn in the side, Stephen Curry, was his usual sharp self, producing 22 points and 4-8 on treys. Reliable David Lee dropped in 19 more, and the Warriors’ two quality Sixth Men (should one be Seventh?), Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, led the bench with 14 and 12. Rookie center Festus Ezeli got the start: in fairly limited minutes, he snagged five points and five boards, and looked like he was having fun, which never hurts.

There will be only limited time to enjoy this win, though: the Clippers will be here Wednesday, and the Thunder beat the Clippers exactly once last year in four tries. And Black Friday looks more like Green, as in Jeff Green, as in the Boston Celtics, whom the Thunder must face at the Garden — followed by the 76ers on Saturday.

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Well, this explains everything

For some inscrutable reason, I got more response out of this than anything else I put up on Twitter this past weekend:

Why I Am Single from GraphJam

Perhaps that massive expanse of purple is a trifle intimidating.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Twilight Sparkle.

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Where it all goes (’12)

There’s really only one good thing about stagnant or declining property values: in a properly designed property-tax system, one’s tax bill should remain the same or even go down. And indeed mine went down this year, following the double whammy of a calculated $4500 drop in value — all attributable to the house, since the figure assumed for the land on which it sits remains unchanged — and an unexpected 2.87-mill decrease from last year’s record-high tax rate. What I’m paying for, with last year’s numbers in brackets:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $133.46 [$141.26]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $494.54 [$548.87]
  • Metro Tech Center: $128.87 [$136.58]
  • Oklahoma County general: $100.43 [$107.23]
  • Countywide school levy: $34.53 [$36.60]
  • County Health Department: $21.60 [$22.90]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $43.37 [$45.97]
  • Total: $956.80 [$1039.41]

For the curious: the County Assessor considers the palatial estate at Surlywood to be worth about $3500 less than what Zillow does.

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No scrubs

This is happening today in Brooklyn:

Hurricane Sandy may have preempted one NYC Marathon but it has precipitated another — the world’s first ever record washing marathon! Yes, join us at the Brooklyn Bowl as we tackle a truckload of wet wax from the label with the able stable — New York’s own NORTON RECORDS, which was totally trashed, bashed and flooded by the wrath and fury of Sandy! Get in on it as thirteen of the nation’s top disc jockeys blast their best, while lucky YOU joins the loud crowd lathering and buffing our Sandy-soaked footlongs back into action! Free admission but B.Y.O.R.G. — Bring Your Own Rubber Gloves … and rolls of hi-klass paper towels! Teams of clean freaks will work with record washers provided by the acclaimed Discwasher Company of Pittsburgh, while others will use the time tested soapy sponge method. Learn a trade! And know that you have participated in saving the wildest wax in the world. As you know, Hurricane Sandy destroyed the contents of the Red Hook based Norton Records warehouse, soaking everything within. Time is not on our side as we strip off and discard wet jackets, and wash, dry and resleeve the recordings of the Sonics, Link Wray, Hasil Adkins, Jack Starr, Bloodshot Bill, Esquerita, Daddy Long Legs, King Uszniewicz and hundreds of artists whose shouts and stomps have come into your homes and hearts via the Norton label. Kudos to the beautiful BROOKLYN BOWL for setting the pins up for the first ever NORTON RECORDS WASH-A-THON — enjoy their food, beverages, great sound system … plus break for BOWLING after the WASH-A-THON!

Brooklyn Bowl is at 61 Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg, between North 11th and 12th.

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