What, me renew?

This is the current MAD subscription-renewal pitch:

We’ll get right to the point. We think you are extremely bright, refined, well-spoken, astute and talented. You, more than anyone we know (with the possible exception of everyone else to whom we’re sending this form letter) understands the true meaning of quality entertainment. In other words, we have absolutely no idea why you subscribed to MAD in the first place! But since you did, why stop now?

Methinks subscription manager Jeffrey Lozenge (that’s what it says) has toggled off his grammar checker, but you can’t have everything. The MAD fulfillment house is in Big Sandy, Texas, presumably the same folks who do Whole Dog Journal, Reason, and The Saturday Evening Post.

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Tired of this sort of thing

Joe Sherlock wheeled into Costco for some new treads. He won’t do that again:

When I picked up my car, I noticed that the very nice polished aluminum valve caps had been replaced by cheap bright green plastic ones.

I went back and asked, “Where are my valve caps?” I received the sheepish reply, “Ummmm… we didn’t know you wanted them.” Yeah, right. I’m sure that they were destined for a place of honor on an employee’s Chevy low-rider.

I have some spiffy aluminum valve caps, though not brand-specific.

But that’s not all they did to him:

All of the tire pressures were waaaaay off. And it took me over a half-hour just to clean rubbery gunk off my wheels with Goo-Gone cleaner. This is an example of disgraceful service and treatment.

Now I wish we had a Costco here, so I could refuse to take my car there.

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Yet the figures remain interesting

Various Web sites maintain galleries of News Babes, for the benefit of those of us who don’t give a flip about the reportage but might appreciate the occasional eye candy. Does this mean I don’t notice anomalies in the crawl? It does not mean that:

Fox and Friends screencap

Um, no. There has been no month ever in which 14.5 million vehicles were sold. What this report undoubtedly said was that the March figures were consistent with an annual rate, seasonally adjusted, of 14.5 million vehicles.

Update: And, in fact, it did say that.

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PR response of the year

Bloomberg News ran a piece a week ago that indicated Fiat, in its capacity as High Overlord of Chrysler, might be contemplating building Jeeps in China, and a phrase to the effect that they “may eventually make all their models in that country,” hinting at multiple lines, was apparently interpreted as meaning that Jeep was actually moving all its production to China.

Which they aren’t, as Chrysler is taking pains to point out:

There are times when the reading of a newswire report generates storms originated by a biased or predisposed approach.

On Oct. 22, 2012, at 11:10 a.m. ET, the Bloomberg News report “Fiat Says Jeep® Output May Return to China as Demand Rises” stated “Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. [Mike] Manley (President and CEO of the Jeep brand) referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.”

Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.

And just to hammer it home:

Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.

Of course, were it not for unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments, we’d have thirty blogs instead of thirty million.

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Recommended by Several Critics

It’s The Title: The Movie. Finally.

(As seen on FAIL Blog’s WIN!)

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Middle-school syndrome

“Middle school,” said Rebecca Black, “is not the best time in your life.”

“The worst years of our lives,” say Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen, and they propose a way to make it somewhat less awful: “give as much attention to emotions and values as they give to academics.”

How this works at a middle school in Providence:

At the start of every year, Paul Cuffee students come together to create and write the school’s social contract, which is a set of guiding principles to keep the school safe and running smoothly. Here’s this year’s version:

1. Respect the environment, yourself, and the community.
2. Cooperate: Teamwork makes the dream work.
3. Support each other even when the odds are against us.
4. Be yourself, do what you love, and try!
5. Be resilient: Fall 7 times, stand up 8.

When students do something — clogging a toilet, perhaps? — that falls outside these principles, middle school principal Nancy Cresser sits down with them and asks which one they think they’ve transgressed. “They know exactly which ones they’ve violated and they figure out how to fix it,” she says. Instead of storming off or pouting about the unfairness of the rules, Cresser says that Paul Cuffee students are OK with being held accountable. They’re the ones who created the rules, after all. So the students in question come up with a plan to fix what happened.

Social engineering? Sure. But at least it’s trying to foster a sense of accountability, which unfortunately isn’t quite as common as it used to be.

Then again, when Joanne Jacobs posted a link to this story, several commenters said that the basic problem with middle school is that it exists at all. One example:

One way to fix middle school is to eliminate it … it tends not to work, kids are treated like things to be feared vs being given leadership opportunities, mentoring, tutoring, opportunities in a K-8 school. The K-8 system works … it is the adults that have the issues and the students sense the fear.

I went through the K-8 cycle myself, though I am loath to consider any experience I may have had as baseline data. My kids went through middle school, and they seem relatively sane, at least compared to their old man. What about you?

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Hereafter “Fiero Girl”

By the time she’s legally able to drive, she might well have turned that collection of automotive detritus into a working car. (After the jump, because Turner serves up embeds s l o w l y sometimes.)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Harder even than diamond

On one level, I find this utterly charming:

Nokia 3360 or 3390 phone

And then I remember that I had one of these phones, and it took me nine years to break it, but I did break it.

Anyone want to guess how long I was married?

(Via Ask My Little Dashie.)

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Strange search-engine queries (352)

This is the usual weekly roundup of search strings used to reach this domain. It is, I think, safe to say that it should have no influence, one way or another, on anyone’s ladyparts.

tavi gevinson compare janis joplin:  Most obviously, Tavi has a smallish voice and is still alive; Janis had a big voice and, well, isn’t.

worldbestproduct:  If you ask me, a HVAC system that uses dirt for fuel.

where is the transmission solenoid located do u have a picture for 93 marquis:  You know, if you’re not sure where the part is located, you might want to let somebody else fix it.

women stripped my invisible force:  They do that. Get used to it.

friends dont let friends get nuked billboard dixie hwy and 183rd st:  Oh. Nuked. For a moment there I thought you said “naked.”

space time vortex with battery:  I should hope so. You’d have a devil of a time trying to keep it plugged into the wall.

how does machine catch shoplifters in metro karachi:  It draws them into a space-time vortex.

cracked anvil:  How large a crack? About the length and width of a coyote’s head, maybe?

Just print the attached PDF boarding pass virus:  Now why can’t all malware have simple instructions like that?

what is brain drifting:  See, for instance, any of the previous 20,000 or so posts.

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Old-school thinking

The old school, in this case, is the Electoral College, and it deserves a couple of cheers, says Garett Jones:

The electoral college, set forth in the U.S. Constitution, is a great tool for reducing social conflict across regions of the United States. You might think that’s a crazy claim — don’t we see maps of red and blue, and aren’t the red places — the places supporting the Republican — mostly in the South and Midwest? Indeed, and that pattern across regions is key to explaining how the electoral college defuses some social tension.

And if there’s anything of which we have a surplus in this largely stagnant economy, it’s social tension. Look what we’d have with a straight popular vote:

[I]t’s safe to say that if your state is polling 65% for a particular presidential candidate, neither candidate is likely to campaign there any time soon.

And that’s great news for social peace. We rarely hear too much about regional issues in the U.S. other than farmers vs. everyone else. But if the presidency was decided by majority rule, I’m sure we’d hear a lot more about regional differences. Could a presidential candidate get 75% of the votes in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida by promising broad-based Gulf Coast subsidies and a few other goodies? Could a candidate get 85% of California’s and New York’s votes partly by offering housing subsidies for people facing high housing costs?

I don’t know: But if we got rid of the electoral college and had a popularly elected president we’d sure have a chance to find out.

And we don’t want to, either:

As it stands, presidential candidates are trying to appeal to the median voter in each state across a large number of states. That’s how you get to be president. This reduces regional tensions because candidates are never trying to get 90% of the votes in a state. When you’re pitting 90% of one region of the country against 90% of another region of the country, you’re substantially raising the probability of social conflict. Too many civil wars are based on regional differences for this to be no big deal.

It would be well to remember that those who wail and gnash their teeth about the distribution of power are always making exactly the same argument: Group A, whom we disdain, needs to be disempowered for the benefit of Group B, whom we embrace. My own stance on this is simple: Groups A through Z inclusive should be told to STFU and GBTW, because groups, other than the states themselves and We The People, have no standing under the Constitution. And I’m getting to the point where I would much rather everyone were vaguely dissatisfied with the system as it is than have some ecstatically happy at the expense of everyone else.

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In the wake of Sandyfication

With the hurricane well on its way, Megan McArdle offers the following advice:

If you live in the Northeast, and you haven’t already, now would be a very good time to make sure that homeowner’s insurance is up to date.

And while she didn’t go this far, I will: do not be surprised when your premiums skyrocket. (Mine have nearly doubled in two years, and I was already paying more than you are.)

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Insanitary

Suzette spotted this placard while exiting a ladies’ room in Denver:

Restroom sign in Denver: Door lever treated with an antimicrobial coating for your protection

Now is this going to make you feel better because presumably you won’t be encountering any nasty stuff on the actual door handle, or is it going to make you feel worse because none of the other surfaces inside that room, many of which you touched, apparently had been so treated?

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Declining output

Francis W. Porretto announces that he is about to engage in “writerly triage”:

As I’ve committed to producing two more novels, I’ll be giving those efforts precedence. I’ll post essays here as often as my other commitments and burdens allow, but I fear that will be substantially less often than I have in the past.

Time, regrettably, is the one utterly unreplenishable natural resource. And I’ve noticed my own volume seems to be down a bit. Mr Porretto and I work different ends of the street, as it were — he crafts the long, elegant essay, while I do the quick-and-dirty sub-300-word stuff — but we’re both pressed for time, and the demands of earning a living aren’t going away any time soon.

Two thousand eleven, in fact, was the first year since 2004 in which I’d made fewer than 2,000 posts. (The record: 2,161, in 2005.) I’m on pace this year for a mere 1,919. (The number of Vents per year has been fixed at 48 since 1997.)

Then again, if I were to subdivide the Recent Fiction Experiment into 300-word chunks, well, that’s 42,000/300 = 140. That would bring me up to 2,159 for the year if I do no more stories. (Likelihood that I will do no more stories: next to nil.) So maybe my actual volume is not down so much after all.

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De-Bearded

Some thoughts about the Big Trade with the Rockets:

  • So much for the oft-rumored Kendrick Perkins amnesty. It’s been suggested that the only way the Thunder could possibly offer anything close to a max contract to James Harden would be to use the amnesty clause on Perk. And now they don’t have to.
  • Kevin Martin is a pretty damned good swingman in his own right, and his contract ($12.9 million) runs out after this season, so this is basically a rental.
  • Rookie Jeremy Lamb, a #12 pick out of UConn, is apparently being declared this year’s version of Daequan Cook, though he’ll probably get two-thirds the minutes. Then again, he gets paid two-thirds as much.
  • If Sam Presti were shipwrecked on a desert island, he’d still stockpile draft picks, and everyone knows it.

Still, this plays hell with everybody’s depth charts, and it indicates a touching amount of faith in Hasheem Thabeet, who now presumably climbs to the second string.

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Everybody Pylon

If you ever suspected that the chief beneficiary of ever-lengthened copyright protection would be the legal profession, go to the head of the class:

When settling previous intellectual disputes, Woody Allen has been able to produce esteemed men of letters to come to his defense (at least when Marshall McLuhan is hiding just off camera). But there is not much chance that William Faulkner will be able to speak up for him in this latest disagreement: Faulkner Literary Rights, the company that controls works by that Nobel Prize-winning author of The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying, has filed a lawsuit over Mr. Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris and what it says is that movie’s unauthorized use of a line from Faulkner’s book Requiem for a Nun.

The line, as spoken by Gil Pender (Owen Wilson): “The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.”

Faulkner, of course, was right. Sony Classics, Allen’s distributor, hopes to prove the lawyers are wrong.

(Via this Lauren Gilbert tweet.)

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Meanwhile, down in the stacks

I’ve had this picture for a while, and the more I look at it, the more it perplexes me.

Corinne Calvet at the bottom of the stairs

The lady in question is actress Corinne Calvet (1925-2001), and everything about the scene screams early 1960s: the hair, the dress, the camera angle, the numbers chiseled into the photograph for identification. Unfortunately, Calvet wasn’t doing a whole lot of acting in the early 1960s, and this doesn’t look much like it would fit into either Bluebeard’s Ten Honeymoons or Apache Uprising, her two main film roles in the 1960s, so I’m guessing this is from one of several appearances on the TV series Burke’s Law. (As usual with stuff like this, corrections are welcomed.)

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