Where the girl singers are

Duane Doobie of RadioInfo, on the present-day It Girl:

I think Taylor Swift is a lovely and talented young woman who makes appealing pop music in the long tradition of a seemingly endless string of similar artists that goes all the way back to the silly-but-effective teenage love songs that triggered the golden era of rock ‘n’ roll. She is every bit as good as Connie Francis, Lesley Gore, Helen Reddy and Olivia Newton-John in their heydays. Well, maybe.

Minor differences: Swift, until recently, wrote or co-wrote almost all of her own stuff: Gore had the peerless Quincy Jones producing her; Francis covered a much wider range of material, though I suspect this was her record company (MGM) throwing everything against the wall in the hopes of seeing something stick; weirdly, Newton-John was informed of her big break — her role in Grease — while at a party at Reddy’s house.

However, there is no way that I believe she or so many of the other big pop artists of today are truly resonating with the zeitgeist of the millions of young people presently coming of age.

I don’t give a damn how many “spins” these artists are getting on the centrally-controlled robotic radio stations of America. These numbers do not necessarily represent an organic, street level, grassroots reality. And THAT’S what has ALWAYS determined REAL success in radio — resonating with what large masses of people are really feeling in their day-to-day existence and deep inside their souls and psyches.

Except that large masses of people aren’t tuning into the same things. Take a look at the summer ratings book. Stations with ten, even eight shares are few and far between; where I live, even a seven is practically unheard of.

Of course, this was the plan all along for the centrally-controlled robotic radio stations of America: surround and control, engulf and devour. Want to snatch 0.2 away from your two competitors in the market? Put something obscure, or at least somewhat less overplayed, on your HD channel that no one listens to anyway, and then simulcast it on a hundred-watt translator somewhere in the middle of the dial.

The usual excuse is that Gen Y has a short attention span and can’t deal with anything more complex than chirpy girl singers. It ain’t necessarily so:

If Millennials are so riddled with ADD and limited by shallow concentration — why have they triggered the phenomenon of binge watching on the television side of media things?

And if they are so dumb — as implied by every attempt at music and radio geared by corporate media in the past couple of decades to attract their attention — that it would be considered suicidal to serve them up helpings of meaningful stuff, how do you explain the fact that successful television shows that have earned their loyalty are, in fact, complex as hell? Shows with multiple story lines and long arches that unfold over multiple seasons!

When TV is smarter and hipper than radio, something is very wrong with the world.

Still, winning the hearts and minds of Gen Y is not going to return us to those wonderful days of Top 40: there are too many niches, and niches within niches, and they are never, ever getting back together. Like, ever.

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Pity the needy corporation

I have been a member of the American Automobile Association for some twenty-odd years. I pay my Plus fee every year; I even follow the local incarnation on Twitter. What’s more, they follow me. You’d think this was enough interaction for both of us.

Then in comes an email that begins “It feels like we’ve grown apart.” I saw that in the preview pane, looked up at the subject bar, and there was this plaintive wail: “We’ve noticed… our emails are going unnoticed.” By “unnoticed,” they apparently mean that once a month they send me a metric buttload of links, none of which I ever click on.

If this is a scheme to get me to verify my email address — for which they did in fact provide a link — it’s a pretty pathetic one. And if it’s not, it’s even worse.

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Fark blurb of the week

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There was always the need

Even if Londoners of the Thirties didn’t know @jack:

I wonder how, or if, they checked it for spam.

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Gunning for the Russians

At least, someone in Denver who speaks Russian thinks we are.

SnoopyTheGoon translates, “with apologies for possibly garbled scientific terms”:

I shall explain why the monstrous genocide of Russians is happening. Russia owns most advanced technologies that allow to cure incurable diseases, even at a distance, multiple the agriculture produce and manage the weather and the geophysical processes. These technologies provide an unlimited access to energy, resources and food via the process of transmutation of quantum vacuum. There are scientists in Moscow that already extract gold from quantum dislocality. The Perestroika in USSR was created because of the Russian technological leadership. Russia has these technologies because indeed Russians are the root of civilization on this planet. Only Russians are able to return to life the technologies of our ancestors. If Russia will be destroyed, the civilization on this planet will be destroyed with it — by a nuclear war or simply by chip [implants] in the brain. The responsibility for humanity’s survival lies on us, on the Russians. We don’t have a choice besides victory.

I think this is basically a ploy to position Moscow for a good showing when the Nobel people work up an annual prize in alchemy — which, unlike “peace,” has something resembling a legitimate definition.

Still, I admit I love the concept. Gold from “quantum dislocality”? Call it “Schrödinger’s bullion.”

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Armed with 45s

Those of you who were taken aback at the fact that I worked a Blondie reference into a Spottings post presumably haven’t been around here very long: if a lyric comes into my head, it will almost always appear in the current post.

Even people who get paid to write stuff do this. K. C. Colwell, in Car and Driver‘s 2015 New Cars issue:

If the [BMW] M3 has been reduced to a parts-bin fluff job, well, then, God is dead and the war’s begun.

Alvin Tostig (Levon’s father) was not available for comment.

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Give us convenience

“Or give us death,” Jello Biafra might say. I don’t know if I’d go that far. But I’m back here in the office with the MP3s blasting, and I wonder: why am I not in the living room with the Big Stereo?

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Strange search-engine queries (448)

Lucky me, I got to fight with a server outage over the weekend, and therefore this week’s entries are not necessarily from, you know, this week. They’re still real, though, even if the links may have expired by now.

textbooks suck:  And not only that, but they cost six times as much as other books that suck.

wraith sentence about 750 to 2500 words using the pronoun i:  I think that I’d find that to be a pretty long sentence, I would, and I think that the wraiths would agree with me.

hes just a man:  You sure he wasn’t a wraith?

why aren’t unfrosted blueberry pop tarts available in california?  I’d guess it’s because they don’t meet emissions requirements. [burp]

publicity plan for a yogurt business:  “No crawly things. Ever.”

bubba the love sponge comments on mexican immigrants on 93.1:  Hey, as long as they aren’t eating up the yogurt.

appraisal of uneconomic remnant real estate parcels by a municipality in condemnation:  “You’re blighted! You hear that? Blighted! We’re gonna tear you down and put in a yogurt business!”

what willbe mybasic income a month as a lpn in new orleans:  About as much as you’d make dishing up frozen yogurt.

what transmission is in my ford probe:  Probably a broken one.

rebate check “positive id required” deposit:  Yeah, they wouldn’t want to hand over a buck-fifty to the wrong person, now would they?

dickweed polish:  Hmmm. I always thought he was Hungarian.

jim cantore boxers briefs:  If it ever gets to the point that we know, there will probably be an evacuation order.

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Read it later

This is Amba’s theory of procrastination, and it makes as much sense as any I’ve heard:

For us to do anything challenging, and particularly anything creative, our regular everyday self has to get out of the way, and it doesn’t want to.

Our regular everyday self wants the credit for the work, and the gratification of having done the work, but in fact it cannot and does not DO the work. For the work to happen, our regular everyday self not only has to sacrifice the petty, reliable pleasures with which it lines its cozy nest and shores itself up; it has to sacrifice itself. It has to go away. It has to cease to exist for an indefinite unbounded while, a little death that for all it knows might be the big death. For the regular everyday self, this is not only unpleasant, it’s terrifying. It will put up a fight for hours, for days. Procrastination is its rear-guard action. A miniature version of this battle must be fought at the entrance to every workout, every workday.

Disclosure: I probably should have posted this yesterday.

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Future dark

Carly Simon, 1972: “You flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia / To see the total eclipse of the sun.”

Yours truly, 2017: I’m driving my Infiniti (or whatever) up to Kansas City to see the total eclipse of the sun:

This is truly a great American eclipse because for the first time in 99 years, totality will sweep the nation from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Nearly everyone in the 48 contiguous states can reach this total solar eclipse within one day’s drive.

I have family in the Kansas City area, and it’s right on the edge of totality. It’s a win/win proposition all around, and I’m sure Carly won’t mind.

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And I’ll bet it was cold

A remarkable archaeological find:

What is believed to be the only wooden toilet seat to be found in the Roman Empire has been unearthed at Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall… There are many examples of stone and marble toilet seat benches from across the Roman Empire but this is believed to be the only surviving wooden seat, almost perfectly preserved in the anaerobic, oxygen free, conditions which exist at Vindolanda.

Ancient Roman toilet seat

Said Dr Andrew Birley, director of excavations at the Vindolanda site:

“Now we need to find the toilet that went with it as Roman loos are fascinating places to excavate as their drains often contain astonishing artefacts… Let’s face it, if you drop something down a Roman latrine you are unlikely to attempt to fish it out unless you are pretty brave or foolhardy.”

Discoveries at Vindolanda from latrines have included a baby boot, coins, a betrothal medallion, and a bronze lamp.

But one discovery has yet to be made:

Archaeologists now hope to find a spongia — the natural sponge on a stick which Romans used instead of toilet paper, and with over 100 years of archaeology remaining and the unique conditions for the preservation of such organic finds a discovery may be possible.

Judging by the photo, the seat was found in the Down position.


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Pascal updated

Joe Sherlock’s version of the Wager:

An agnostic friend once asked me, “How can you be sure there’s an afterlife?” I replied, “I’m not sure. But, there’s no downside to being a Believer. I mean, if it turns out that I’m wrong and there’s Nothing — if everything just Fades to Black, it’s not like a ghostly Nelson Muntz is going to appear and mockingly guffaw, “Haw Haw.”

Not precisely the same thought, but with much the same spirit.

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They don’t care a fig for Newton

The argument that one culture’s just as good as another fails to take into account that practitioners of one are using their heads for target practice:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that what goes up, eventually comes down.

Except in the reichlet of Gaza, and in most of the Arab/Muslim world.

When Muslims celebrate the beginning of a war, they fire their AK 47s into the air. When they celebrate the end of a war, they fire their AKs into the air. They blast away at weddings. They blast away when a Jew is kidnapped or murdered. Basically, they pull triggers at every opportunity.

Invariably, someone gets dead because bullets — surprise! — fall to the ground.

If this seems counterproductive — well, things aren’t going to change any time soon. A recent such incident:

As the cease-fire began in Gaza, Tuesday evening — it was supposed to start at 7 PM but rockets and mortar shells continued to fall in Israeli territory as late as 7:15 PM — the V Day celebrations erupted in Gaza, after 50 days of clashes.

As is common on such occasions, thousands flocked in the streets, with many shooting randomly in the air, because that’s how folks have been expressing happiness in this region since the invention of gunpowder.

And then people started to drop in the streets. According to tweets from Gaza, as many as 2 locals were killed from those gunshots, and at least 25 were injured.

Life is cheap; but ammo is even cheaper.

(Via The Texas Scribbler.)

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Saturday spottings (closer to home)

Doing as little as possible this weekend sounded like a pretty good idea to me, which may explain why all of today’s Spottings took place within one mile, from NW 43rd to NW 56th along May Avenue.

Late last year, the city announced a major repaving project along May, at a price tag of just under $1 million per mile. The section closest to me is done. There was, however, some additional unscheduled repair: shortly after completion, a sinkhole, roughly 1.3 lanes wide and just under a third of a block long, opened up on the west side at 44th. It pretty much had to be the refurbed roadbed, as the curb didn’t go much of anywhere. Admittedly, it wasn’t as exciting as, say, the car-swallowing monster at the National Corvette Museum, but so far as I know, May has eaten no cars — or bars, or guitars — and the hole was patched this week.

On the other side of the street, there’s a narrow strip of parkland that marks the western edge of the Mayfair Heights neighborhood. In recent months, it’s been made narrower, thanks to the addition of an actual sidewalk, something unheard of in what used to be a deep-suburban zone. All the concrete is in place; there are still a few road cones south of 47th, but it’s essentially complete from 36th to 47th.

Finally, there was this real-estate transaction:

SDI-Enterprise Plaza LLC from 1999 Enterprise Plaza LP, 5600 N May Ave., $10,450,000.

You might suspect that this involves a parcel called Enterprise Plaza, and indeed it does. It’s a property that I hardly ever notice; it’s tucked away in a corner behind the Holiday Inn Express. (The map at the link is wrong; the property is northeast of the May/Northwest Distressway interchange.) And the price — $110/square foot for Class B, or maybe B-plus, office space — seems a little steep, but then the County Assessor values it at $9.5 million, including the four acres of land on which it sits, so maybe this is just my eyes bugging out for no good reason: I’m manifestly not used to the idea of something just up the street from me selling for $10 million. (Incidentally, the previous owners had bought it for $6.1 million from TIAA-CREF back in 1999.)

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As real as it may seem

Former teen dream Debbie Gibson turns 44 this Sunday, and since I’ve been paying attention all along, I’m in a position to toss you a few not-entirely-random factoids regarding the Debster:

Oh, and she still dresses up nicely:

Debbie Gibson at Madison Square Garden

Of course, the main event for the evening was Rockets vs. Knicks, but hey: it’s exposure, and it’s New York exposure.

And because I think highly of this song, here’s Deb’s last official Billboard Hot 100 chart item: “Losin’ Myself,” a seriously moody number written by DG with Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers (Rythm Syndicate), which peaked at #86 in early 1993.

Too much too soon, maybe?

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Underbanks of the Ohio

“Unbanked” now has its own entry in Wikipedia, with the following unfuzzed definition:

The unbanked are adults who do not have their own bank accounts. Along with the underbanked, they may rely on alternative financial services for their financial needs, where these are available.

I have had a tendency to conflate “unbanked” and “underbanked,” which I suppose I should quit doing. If you’re underbanked, this is what your life is like:

The underbanked are people or businesses that have poor access to mainstream financial services normally offered by retail banks. The underbanked can be characterized by a strong reliance on non-traditional forms of finance and micro-finance often associated with disadvantaged and the poor, such as cheque cashers, loan sharks and pawnbrokers.

I demur on one count: loan sharks are hardly “non-traditional.” (Neither are pawnbrokers, come to think of it.)

And one possible reason to remain unbanked, underbanked, debanked, or whatever, is the continuing increase in retail bank fees. Since the end of 2013:

  • The average monthly maintenance fee has risen by 15 cents, to $12.69. This means that it costs the average customer more than $150 a year just to keep a checking account.
  • There are fewer free checking accounts, defined as those with no monthly maintenance fees. The percentage of checking accounts with no such fees dropped by about 1.5 percentage points, to 28 percent. This is the lowest percentage of free checking accounts measured by the survey since it began in 2009.
  • The average minimum balance required to qualify for a waiver of the monthly maintenance fee rose by $724.69, to $5,440.

And then we wonder why people are dealing with the likes of Green Dot. Of course, we also look down our noses at these folks, mostly because their demand for services means that, holy Hannah, they’ve opened up a check-cashing place where the florist used to be.

My monthly maintenance fee, I am told — I had to look it up — is $15. (It’s waived for the foreseeable future.) If I had to deal with that kind of fee, I’d be sorely tempted to move everything to an unbank (underbank?) like American Express Serve. Then again, I do a little more (but not much more) research than J. Random Consumer; if I’d done much more, you’d probably have seen the words “credit union” in here somewhere.

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