Quote of the week

There is a small, but not small enough, group of unindividuals — if that isn’t a word, it oughta be — who make a habit of asking things like “Do you really need this [allegedly frightening object]?” The correct answer, from Tam:

If we got rid of everything I found dangerous or scary, there wouldn’t be a stepladder or a clown left from sea to shining sea, and if we can’t legislate fear and danger out of life just to make me happy, then we can’t do it for you, either.

Disclosure: I own a stepladder.

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Get your lerts right here

Morgan Freeberg, on a popular email subject line:

I don’t want to see any e-mails with a subject line of

“ACCOUNT ALERT: Payment received”

“Account alert” is for something like “We think some scumbag out in Russia has stolen your identity and has charged half a billion dollars to your card” or “The FBI has contacted us about your account and informed us it is a matter of national security.”

Fortunately for my blood pressure, I generally get nothing like this: the only operation that ever sends me email to acknowledge a payment is Agent Premium News, and their message is low-key. T-Mobile and American Express send me canned text messages (and I opted in for Amex). Anything else of this sort is spam or worse, and will be dealt with accordingly.

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Future games

Not a whole lot going on in Rebecca Black-land, but she did manage some studio time this week, and the weekly Ask Rebecca segment was more crazed than usual, which I consider a Good Thing. Someone asked if she’d practiced signing her name a lot before she became famous. (Yes, but “who didn’t do that?”) She admitted to having a desire to do comedy, that an action film would be out of her “comfort zone” but would still be awesome, and she’s surfed once and will never, ever try that again.

Oh, and her set at Wildwood has apparently grown to six songs, which means at least two new ones, one of which will be the New Single (title and details not yet available), to be released more or less concurrently.

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It’s such a nice little word

But “like” doesn’t mean a thing in this crazy, mixed-up online world:

A BBC investigation suggests companies are wasting large sums of money on adverts to gain “likes” from Facebook members who have no real interest in their products.

It also appears many account holders who click on the links have lied about their personal details. A security expert has said some of the profiles appeared to be “fakes” run by computer programs to spread spam.

Gee, ya think?

In fact:

Earlier this year Facebook revealed that about 5-6% of its 901 million users might be fake — representing up to 54 million profiles.

Graham Cluley of the security firm Sophos said this was a major problem. “Spammers and malware authors can mass-produce false Facebook profiles to help them spread dangerous links and spam, and trick people into befriending them,” he said.

I will, of course, continue to believe in Twilight Sparkle.

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Beyond Brylcreem

Nancy Friedman reports on Crack, a “habit-forming hair fix”:

Its branding is thorough … [it's] “curiously addictive” and provides “instant gratification.”

And, she says, it lives up to its billing. What’s more, its promotional material (including this video) is a lot less grating than, say, Bed Head’s.

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Living up to its billing

It’s Friday the thirteenth. Someone kill me now.

I started the day with the discovery that my muffler ($700) is toast. I had two days’ worth of backlog to clear at work. I got within spitting distance of caught up, and then all the current stuff was changed. 2500 pages of reports to trash.

There is simply nothing good about this day. Had I a dagger, I’d be falling on it right now. Let the heirs buy the frigging muffler.

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Beater heaven

Which state cuts the most slack to owners of older motor vehicles? Steven Lang makes the case for Georgia:

In Georgia you can skip emissions if a vehicle is 25 years or older. A 1987 Acura Legend or Toyota Celica GT-S can have a nice and toasty oxygen sensor and the government couldn’t care less.

What’s that? You lost your title? Well, if that vehicle is 1985 or older, you don’t need one of those either.

Don’t want to pay ad valorem tax? Starting with vehicles purchased after March 1, 2013, our state will be implementing a one time title tax of 6.5%. After that the ad valorem remains zero until the politicians say otherwise.

So do you pay for anything for a truly old beater? There is a $20 fee for your annual tag decal. Or a $35 fee if you want an antique plate.

This “title tax” apparently replaces the sales tax, which is a ton of money on most cars anyway.

In Oklahoma, there is no sales tax on cars, but there is an excise tax of 3.25 percent, which must be paid at initial registration. For the moment, there is no emissions testing, though this happy circumstance can’t last forever. However, you darn well better have a title.

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An empty scrotum flapping in the breeze

For some unknown reason, my brother Paul was fond of that particular phrase, and I am deeply honored to have the opportunity, now that he is gone, to make use of it on a legitimate (sort of) post.

This was obtained from WANTYNU’s Facebook page:

Growacet testicular fortitude capsules

I’m assuming the usual health warnings — after four hours consult a physician, and don’t give to pregnant women — apply.

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On the way to Galactic Graft

There might be something in the world less useful than the United Nations — a clothing-optional beach along the Ross Ice Shelf, perhaps — but at least the devoted (and chilled) naturists aren’t trying their damnedest to pry money out of everyone to support their major mission, which seems to be avoiding paying tickets for New York malparkage.

One of their more risible proposals is a $25/tonne carbon tax, expected to bring in a quarter of a trillion dollars. Dave Schuler laughs even louder than I do:

$25 per tonne as measured by whom? I question their math (I think it would yield a lot more than that). I look forward to the UN’s extracting $176 billion per year from China. Imagine the UN bureaucrats’ surprise when China’s 7 billion metric tonnes per year of carbon dioxide suddenly becomes zero, literally with the stroke of a pen.

Note to Washington: You might want to stock up on those Chinese pens.

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They got some crazy little cable there

I have to believe there are more efficient ways to conduct industrial espionage:

What do you do when you’re an entrenched oligopoly and another player steps into your market? If you’re Time Warner Cable, you offer $50 gift cards to your Kansas City employees for information on the roll-out of Google Fiber, according to GigaOm. Time Warner has set up a phone hotline and an email address that will award three gift cards a week for employees that “[share] tips, rumors, and ramblings about Google Construction or launch activity…”

Given Google’s rumored 1-Gbps speed, about twenty times what cable systems can serve up, perhaps the only thing TWC needs to know is 400 East 9th Street, which is the location of the bankruptcy court.

(Via this Adam Gurri tweet.)

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Remade in the shade

NoOneOfAnyImport, miffed at the No Doubt cover version of “It’s My Life” (the Talk Talk song, not the Animals song, though frankly I’d like to hear Gwen Stefani do her best Eric Burdon some day), has announced a Worst Cover Song Evah contest. Presumed joke covers are usually too good to be the Worst, which eliminates, among others, the Gourds’ bluegrass version of “Gin and Juice” and pretty much the entire oeuvre of Richard Cheese.

Of the versions nominated, I’m thinking the Miley Cyrus rendition of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a cinch. Truth be told, I rather liked the Disturbed version of “Land of Confusion,” though this is not so much because it’s by Disturbed as it is the fact that Phil Collins doesn’t sing on it.

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Modest ambition

The musician known in some circles as MandoPony responds to a bit of criticism:

Tone is often lost or misconstrued over the internet, but it seemed to me that the person leaving the comment was insinuating that I was somehow “less” of an artist, or not quite deserving of praise, simply because I wasn’t pushing some sort of boundary with the music I made.

As though people were jamming the YouTube servers to hear Iannis Xenakis.

I’ll admit that I’m a pop musician. I make jazz, dubstep, bluegrass, Celtic, and rock music, sure — but I’m a pop musician at heart. Why? I enjoy writing simple, accessible songs that people easily and quickly identify with. I compose “meat-and-potatoes” music. It’s simple, it’s not cryptic, and it’s easy to “get”. And, hopefully, it’s fun and entertaining. I just want to bring a smile to someone’s face with my art. After they smile, they can move on with their lives and hopefully have a brighter day.

That’s seriously all I’m going for. Is that a bad thing? Am I less of an artist for having such lowly aspirations as to only hope to make someone happy?

You’re asking a guy with four Herman’s Hermits albums?

For a “simple, accessible song,” try on “I Am No Hero,” otherwise known as “Luna’s Theme.”

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From the Great Nonwhite North

Perhaps not everyone is prepared for a description like “Canada’s top R&B singer,” but surely it fits Deborah Cox, born in Toronto, who turns 38 tomorrow and who enjoyed this monster hit (#2 on Billboard‘s Hot 100, 14 weeks at #1 on their Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart) in 1998 and well into 1999:

She’s done three albums since One Wish, whence this came, the most recent being The Promise in 2008. (Sony put out a compilation in their S.O.U.L. series last year.) She’s still married to her high-school sweetheart, who manages her career. And every now and then she shows up on the red carpet:

Deborah Cox at a pre-Grammy party 2010

In this case, the official pre-Grammy gala in 2010. About the only place she doesn’t turn up much these days is Canada; she’s moved to the very un-Canada-like Miami, Florida.

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Nor any room for slush

There have been times when I’ve wished that Nissan had commanded its Jatco operation to bestow more than four gears on poor Gwendolyn, who is capable of even greater acceleration when she’s not wrestling against the ratios inflicted on her. For that matter, there’s a hot-rod SUV comparo in the current Car and Driver, assuming one accepts the idea of a hot-rod SUV, and the least-complicated slushbox represented is a 5-speed auto. The other competitors: six, seven, and eight.

It doesn’t stop there, either:

German transmission supplier ZF has a nine-speed automatic that will be introduced next year, and reports have said Hyundai is looking to pack ten forward gears into a forthcoming gearbox.

When do we reach the point of diminishing returns? Right about now:

ZF North American president Julio Caspari … tells Automotive News that the gear race is “close to the limit.” AN says Caspari thinks marketing may be a bigger factor than engineering when it comes to developing transmissions with additional gears, citing just an 11-percent difference between the best transmissions today and a theoretically perfect unit.

I wonder what they mean by “theoretically perfect.” No driveline loss? Not gonna happen. On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for the old two-speed Powerglide, even though I burned one up in my old Chevy Nova. (Rebuild: $175. Those were the days.)

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Evidently no one plucked it down

Cracked.com has served up for your amusement and mine a list of the 6 Most Needlessly Detailed Wikipedia Articles, one of which is the piece on Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 3, which runs to 24,053 words. Comments your Cracked author: “For a mere 1,774 words more, you could just read the damn play.”

If you want to just read the damn play, it’s right here. Bonus: the longest soliloquy in all of Shakespeare, spoken by Richard, son of York and Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III), which you really ought to hear spoken.

(Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

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You’re about to be Bilked

Cryptic letter from Charles Pergiel yesterday: “Name for the day: Acker Bilk.”

Well, I’m a day late, but here’s Acker Bilk, and he’s not playing “Stranger on the Shore,” either:

“Dardanella” was the lead track on Mr. Acker Bilk Requests, Part 2, a 1959 EP on the British Pye label; Reprise issued it in the States as a single in 1962, probably to swipe some of the thunder from “Stranger on the Shore,” which had just hit big for Atco. The tune itself dates to 1919.

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