Life as a series of small thwartings

My ex-wife’s younger sister died yesterday.

It was no surprise to anyone: she’d been ailing for some time, and checked into a hospice for her few remaining days. This bothered me a great deal, not so much for the tenuous familial connection to me, but for the fact that she was the youngest of three. (I was married to the middle child. More than that I shall not say.)

It tears me up when someone younger than I am checks out of this plane of existence. (I know, I know: “better place.” Well, that’s the way I’ve always heard it should be.) Given that I had four younger siblings, three of whom are gone, this too is no surprise.

This is not a family that dawdles. They’d already made the funeral arrangements, so it was a simple matter of picking a date, and the date they picked is tomorrow, the 18th. I can’t do fourteen hours of driving in eighteen hours, so I can’t go.

At least I can send flowers, right? No, wait: in lieu of, they request a donation to the hospice. Okay, I can do that. As it happens, an actual American Express gift card landed on my doorstep yesterday; instead of agonizing over what to do with it, I’ll just run it through the donation box. The Lord worketh in mysterious ways, and all that.

However, no ways are more mysterious than those of online storefronts. I got through their donation page well enough, until the bottom: “Expiration date.” I didn’t even chuckle. Card expires: June 2021. I pulled down the year-selection box, and it quits at 2020.

And come to think of it, does Amex really think it’s going to take nine years to burn off a two-digit balance?

Fare thee well, lovely lady. Even if it’s not a better world, it’s surely better organized.

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Pick a circle, any circle

Further evidence that anything — anything at all — can be ponified:

This, mind you, from a chap who wrote a story called Sweetie Crush.

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Hello, Dalí

Even surrealists have to pay the bills now and then, which may explain why Salvador Dalí, arguably past his artistic prime, did a series of illustrations for the Bryans line of hosiery. This particular example is dated 1947:

Salvador Dali for Bryans

I’ve seen most of the series, and this one is perhaps a tad less disturbing than most. Bryan Hosiery Mills, out of Chattanooga, was still around in the Sixties to renew their trademark registration, but they’ve since faded away.

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It never occurred to us

I’m not on Medicare, but I must admit to having toed the Official Line on this matter before:

My mother called me this morning to tell me that a 76-year-old friend of hers had gone to her doctor to get a B-12 shot. She was told her insurance (Medicare) didn’t cover that any more. Her friend was incensed and left without getting the shot… So many people are conditioned to follow the “orders” of the third parties, including government payers.

“The pharmacist will only fill 30 days at a time of my medicine because that’s all Medicare will pay for.” I don’t know how many times I have heard that.

“How much would it be for you to pay for a 6 month supply out of your pocket?” I ask.

“Didn’t think about asking.”

Just for the record, six months’ worth of the stuff I take runs from $24 to $552 (the one drug still on patent, for which I currently pay $150). I have no idea if I’d be able to get quantity discounts for any of them, though it would hardly seem to matter for something that costs a mere four bucks a month.

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Justice metered out

James Lileks tries out the new parking meters in Dinkytown:

Parked at one of the new meters, which is a really nifty thing. You don’t pay at your car. You memorize a five-digit number, walk to the middle of the block, put in your money, then walk back past your car, realize you got one of the numbers wrong because your short-term memory is what was I talking about? or because you read the wrong pole. Then you go back and feed the meter again. The amusing thing, in a bitterly unfunny sort of way, is that the terminal accepted a number that did not exist on the street. It’s programmed to take anything. Or, I paid for half an hour for someone downtown. In which case you’re welcome.

The New World Order, Malparkage Division, thanks you for your support.

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All those laboring fans

Mark Alger, who knows something about putting words together, argues the case for fanfiction:

I would argue that a great deal of what is discouraged by copyright holders as infringement is not. But they generally have the deep pockets and big guns and can, to a certain extent, muscle the smaller fish out of commercial exploitation of “their” ideas. But, by all reports, 50 Shades is “thinly-veiled.” If so, the veil covers a multitude of sins, and the weight of the fabric is of no moment — it is a new work and, morally at least, must be judged as wholly original.

And, I suspect, that Stephenie Meyer knows that it hasn’t really done Twilight any harm, and, indeed, may enhance the brand.

I wonder how many Fifty Shades of Grey readers are even aware of the book’s origin as a serial Twilight fanfic. Meyer, for her part, has not been complaining:

“Good on [E. L. James] — she’s doing well. That’s great!”

Without Meyer’s novel, Fifty Shades might not exist. “It might not exist in the exact form that it’s in,” Meyer said. “Obviously, [she] had a story in her, and so it would’ve come out in some other way.”

I must note here that the title Fifty Shades of Hay has shown up on several items, including, yes, a My Little Pony fanfic. Thus the alleged ripoff is itself ripped off. In contemporary remix culture, this is the rule, not the exception, and we should probably get used to it already.

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Twin-spin of the week

The iTunes Shuffle served up this yummy combo yesterday: “I Took a Chance” by the Vinyl Kings, a dead ringer for the Beatles’ cover of Buddy Holly’s “Words of Love,” followed by Jessica Lea Mayfield’s version of, yes, “Words of Love,” off one of those Starbucks Sweetheart discs.

Okay, we can’t call it iTuring yet, but we’re getting close.

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Sparkle in shrine

A common complaint from bronydom is having to keep one’s My Little Pony obsession under wraps, lest there be unpleasant feedback from relatives, coworkers, or soon-to-be-former friends. As some of you have discerned, I tend toward the Better Blatant Than Latent side of the spectrum, especially in pony matters. I did not, however, expect what happened yesterday.

I have mentioned before, not necessarily in jest, that my Inner Child is probably a nine-year-old girl. Toward the very end of yesterday’s shift, an actual nine-year-old girl — I didn’t ask her to verify, but she wasn’t trying to look like a teenager, so nine is plausible enough, though I’m willing to believe ten or even eleven — wandered into my department and offered me some hand-drawn pictures of Twilight Sparkle, since I’m such a big fan and all.

Drawings of Twilight Sparkle

And we proceeded to run down everything we knew about all things Equestria, including the inevitable Best Pony discussion (she holds out for Fluttershy), whether Rainbow Dash was originally intended to be a stallion instead of a mare (no, it’s just the way she wears her mane), and why pegasi shouldn’t wear dresses. Were it not for my basso not-so-profundo, you might have thought it was a couple of nine-year-old girls chatting.

Yes, I’m okay with that. Now if I could just persuade Twilight to decipher the instructions on that ridiculous sort-of-programmable thermostat.

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It’s just tracks

Having failed to persuade anyone other than clueless members of Congress — but I repeat myself — that the impending Death of the Music Industry is the fault of those evil downloaders, said Industry perhaps should consider the idea that no one really gives a rat’s rump anymore:

Bill Gibson proposes that music has become “achronous,” that is, beyond time. For today’s youth, music is something on their music appliance, and has no real historical niche. I would add that the only exception to that — and it is a jarring one — is live concerts featuring dinosaur rockers. You can plug your JebusPhone’s speakers into your ears and watch an old Dick Clark, Ed Sullivan, or MTV video, and feel seemless young with your faves. Or, if you are young today, you can imagine that music is as young as you are.

Not being one of today’s youth, I react the same way to 1965 stuff now that I did in, well, 1965. I picked that specific year because it was the first year I spent my own money on music. The last one, I suppose, will be the one where I begin the everlasting dirt nap.

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An underserved market

Roger’s discourse on the not-yet-dead Esso trademark, owned by what used to be Standard Oil of New Jersey and is now ExxonMobil, ends with this fascinating tale:

In 1936, a “Harlem postal employee and civic leader named Victor H. Green” developed The Negro Motorist Green Book: An International Travel Guide … abbreviated, simply, as the “Green Book.” Those who needed to know about it knew about it. To much of the rest of America it was invisible, and by 1964 [when the Civil Rights Act was passed], when the last edition was published, it slipped through the cracks into history…

“The 15,000 copies Green eventually printed each year were sold as a marketing tool not just to black-owned businesses but to the white marketplace, implying that it made good economic sense to take advantage of the growing affluence and mobility of African Americans. Esso stations, unusual in franchising to African Americans, were a popular place to pick one up.”

Mr Green was on to something. Nicholas Dreystadt was in charge of Cadillac service for General Motors during the worst days of the Great Depression, and he advanced what was then a novel theory:

Cadillac was after the prestige market, and part of its strategy to capture that market was its refusal to sell to African-Americans. Despite this official discrimination, Dreystadt had noted that an astonishing number of customers at the service departments consisted of members of the nation’s tiny African-American elite: the boxers, singers, doctors and lawyers who earned large incomes despite the flourishing Jim Crow atmosphere of the 1930s. Most status symbols were not available to these people. They couldn’t live in fancy neighborhoods or patronize fancy nightclubs. But getting around Cadillac’s policy of refusing to sell was easy: They just paid white men to front for them.

Dreystadt urged the executive committee to go after this market. Why should a bunch of white front men get several hundred dollars each when that profit could flow to General Motors? The board bought his reasoning, and in 1934 Cadillac sales increased by 70%, and the division actually broke even.

One thing about old Jim Crow: he wasn’t worth a damn as an economist.

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Not that she asked me or anything

Lynn requests that you not use this kind of language in her presence:

A sentence I would very much like to never have to hear or read again is, “You wouldn’t ask a man that question.”

That question is this question:

MODERATOR 1: Okay. Which designers do you prefer?

SECRETARY CLINTON: What designers of clothes?

MODERATOR 1: Yes.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Would you ever ask a man that question? (Laughter.) (Applause.)

MODERATOR 1: Probably not. Probably not. (Applause.)

Or, as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) once snapped at a reporter asking something of similar import: “You would never write about Chuck Schumer’s shoes.”

Says Lynn:

Reporters are notorious for asking inappropriate, irrelevant and just plain lame questions but people are interested in the personal lives of our leaders and since men and women are different that means different questions for men and women. If you don’t feel that it’s an appropriate time for a particular question the better response would be to say, “I would rather talk about the issues,” or “I would rather talk about [a specific issue].”

My own instinct is to yell out “NEXT!” approximately 3 dB louder than, say, Scott Lucas of Local H at the very end of “All the Kids Are Right.”

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Think of it as nine bucks an inch

Behold the most expensive wiener on earth:

Capitol Dawg specialty hot dog

One hundred forty-five dollars and forty-nine cents (for now, plus tax) fetches you the California Capitol City Dawg, constructed as follows:

Served on a foccacia roll, the world’s most expensive hot dog is an 18-inch beef frank topped with Swedish moose cheese, Italian white truffle butter, French mustard, garlic-herb mayonnaise, smoked maple bacon from New Hampshire and local balsamic vinaigrette.

Note that that’s French mustard, not French’s mustard.

Incidentally, this is highly atypical of the usual fare at Sacramento’s Capitol Dawg, most of whose dawgs run $4 to $6.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Once again, a national Halleday

It’s been two years since I put up a picture of Halle Berry, but the occasion is the same: it’s her birthday. (Then again, do you really need a reason?) This particular shot comes from a profile in the March ’11 Ebony, in which she’s wearing something insubstantial by Alberta Ferretti:

Halle Berry in Ebony

If you prefer Ms Berry in something more substantial by Alberta Ferretti, here you go.

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Perhaps they didn’t think this through

Chrysler’s 300 sedan is about one size class larger than my aspirations, but damn, it’s a sweet piece to look at these days, and maybe I’ll get a chance to get some proper seat time in a 300 between now and whenever. In the meantime, following a reasonably favorable TTAC review, a commenter has pointed out a possible drawback to the Majestic Mopar:

Q: Which features can only be controlled with the touchscreen?
A: The heated seats and steering wheel.

Q: When do you use them?
A: In the winter.

Q: What do you wear during winter?
A: Gloves.

Q: What doesn’t work when you wear gloves?
A: A touchscreen.

Q: Which features can only be controlled with the touchscreen?
A: The heated seats and steering wheel.

And so on, and so on, and scooby-dooby-doo. You’d think someone in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, Frozen North might have noticed this.

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As you may already know by now

I got a press release on this, embargoed until 5 pm Monday, but several hours before that the news was all over the place, so I’ll just link to the official announcement:

KOSU, the NPR station serving Oklahoma City at 91.7FM, Tulsa at 107.5FM and Stillwater at 88.3FM, will increase its audience services by adding new news/talk and music programs effective Monday, August 20, 2012. At the heart of KOSU’s schedule is a content partnership with The Spy, which produces original shows and brings a wide array of independent music to listeners. The Spy also engages in local partnerships that serve to educate the community and further the local culture.

“The Spy has done a tremendous job of tapping into the pulse of the community to provide a vibrant venue for music genres that are completely underserved in our state,” said Kelly Burley, KOSU Director. “Through our partnership, we look forward to amplifying what The Spy does best as we create more uniquely Oklahoma experiences for public radio listeners.”

Shorter version: KOSU will be simulcasting (presumably minus ad slots) The Spy’s evening and overnight programs, instead of whatever the hell they’re doing now. (Oh, right: classical music, which will now be demoted to the HD2 channel and a stream.) Still, getting Ferris and friends on actual radio, and with some measurable ERP instead of their former peashooter out in Los Boondocks, must be considered a boon.

Still: this must be some definition of “embargoed” that I missed back in Vocabulary Building and Maintenance. I had planned something for 5:01 yesterday afternoon, but scrapped it by noon after seeing the news all over my tweetstream.

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How she did

Earlier this month, I happened to mention that a friend of mine had put together, and was starring in, her very first play. A trip to Toronto was out of the question, but I did watch for the reviews, and here’s the first one:

Violent be Violet is a dark, disturbing surge of emotional extremes touching on the very delicate subject of mental illness. It is a performance at this year’s SummerWorks that will leave plenty of room for discussion and reflection, something that is sure to stay with you for a while.

Fourteen years ago, Violet (Tanisha Taitt) became the only survivor of a bloody massacre of her classmates, killing the murderer in her own defense.

The tragedy haunts her to this day, at age 36, and severely affects not only her life but the life of her family — her mother Yolande (Sandi Ross), brother Amos (Peter Bailey) — and Sister Genevieve (Sarah Dodd), her former Psych professor now a nun. Her internal battle spirals out of control culminating to the truth behind the massacre.

Not the sort of thing you’re going to be humming on the way out of the theater. But Tanisha pulls it off:

It’s not an easy production to watch, especially if the topic of mental illness hits close to home. Much applause to Taitt (also serving as playwright) who is unapologetic and is relentless in the torrent of emotions she unleashes for the audience to soak in. You feel for Violet, you feel a lot for her and your heart reaches out to her family who only want her to recover but end up triggering her outbursts accidentally.

Dammit, maybe I should have found a way to Toronto.

Her next project: working on V-Day.

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