At this point I should probably retire

The last of the six chapters of The Sparkle Chronicles has been posted on FIMFiction. Unless something remarkable happens — for instance, getting promoted to the Featured Box, which seems exceedingly unlikely given its less-than-superior reception — I can pretty much leave it alone from here on out.

Which leads to the next dilemma. This is my first actual piece of fiction, ever, to go beyond short-story length. (Word count: 18,582.) Do I have another one inside me anywhere? I honestly don’t know. I am, for now, putting off the question with a jest: “This is my first story in 58 years. I liked it so much I’m going to do one every 58 years from now on.”

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Uno, dos, tres, vaya

You can listen to this town’s two and a half (one’s an AM daytimer) Spanish-language radio stations for days and never hear a single note of Mexican electropop. Not that I would have noticed, since I had no idea Mexican electropop even existed.

To further your education, or mine anyway, I give you Mexican electropop band Belanova, doing a tune from their 2007 album Fantasía Pop which for some reason was given an English title.

Denisse Guerrero Flores has been the voice of Belanova for twelve of her thirty-two (as of Wednesday) years. And most of the time, she was dressed something like this:

Denisse Guerrero

I have relatives surnamed Guerrero, though I suspect Denisse Guerrero is not one of them.

Note: Firefox’s spellchecker actually does not choke on “Guerrero.” Bravo.

Further note: I also have relatives surnamed Bravo.

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Decision-making simplified

I really should put this up as a Lesson From Life: “No matter what you do, there’s someone else who’s done more of it.”

Several summers ago, I mentioned that after a charity donation, I’d pared my shoe collection down to a mere eight pairs; it’s now further shrunk, to seven.

Did I find someone with six pairs? Five, even? Would you believe — two?

(And you know, if you own only two pairs of shoes, at least one of them really ought to be Docs.)

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Built unaffordable tough

Steven Lang comes up with a tough question here:

Who is more capable of gathering the long-term returns? A manufacturer who plans for the demise of a machine somewhere between years 12 and 15? Or one that can make that year 12 car drive like it is nearly brand new, and gets that customer back in the door for regular maintenance with spouse, children and friends in tow.

That extra profit up front and long-term commitment can make all the difference. A $7000 net profit push in North America can be immediately invested in the products for the emerging markets of the here and now. The manufacturer eliminates competition for that customer as well, receives a far higher profit than before, and the apathetic owner gets to solve another financial uncertainty.

Said customer, I submit, would need to be coming through the door on a regular basis to make those twelve years possible. Even the Toyota Corolla, a near-bulletproof box containing absolutely no untried and untested technology, can’t stand years and years of neglect.

Would I pay an extra $7000 to get twelve years out of a car? My current ride is a 2000 model; it’s already twelve years old. I’ve had it for six of those years. And maintenance on it has cost me, well, around $7000. Still, it’s in decent shape: another two or three grand would make it almost indistinguishable from a new car, except for the fact that it doesn’t have the de rigueur droop-snoot/butt-in-the-air stance mandated by CAFE — or a Bluetooth connection, but I don’t want to talk to you when I’m driving anyway.

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Only available in Demo

Hot Air has been fulminating about an iPhone app developed for the Obama campaign which can identify registered Democrats in any given location, possibly excluding Chicago-area cemeteries.

The end-user types in his current location. The app returns a Google map of the area that flags households with one or more registered Democrats. Clicking on one of the blue flags reveals the first name, last initial, age, and gender of Democratic voters who live there.

Inasmuch as this information is hardly secret, and campaigns get lists from the Election Board on a regular basis, I’m not sure what Hot Air is steamed about, though they did say this:

The question is why Obama for America thinks the average man on the street should have it at his fingertips.

Were the average man on the street a Republican, he too could have an app like this, were it not for the fact that your average GOP higher-up has the technical smarts of — well, your average GOP higher-up, who still marvels that a VCR can change to Daylight Saving Time in the spring. And I question any and all GOP get-out-the-vote strategies, based on personal experience: I always get a visit from the Democratic candidate for our House district, while the Republican politely leaves me a card, and is never heard from again. It’s as though the GOP is too embarrassed to sell the product.

(Via Don Quixote.)

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Mrs Butterworth, line one, please

I don’t know what’s more remarkable: the punchline at the bottom of the demotivational, or the fact that the device in question actually exists.

Keyboard Waffles

(Originally from Very Demotivational; several friends have circulated it in recent weeks.)

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At least it wasn’t fruit-flavored

If you ask me, testosterone ain’t what it used to be:

Jonathan Weaver and his colleagues at the University of South Florida report that threatening a man’s sense of manhood makes him myopic and more prone to take risks, particularly in a public situation. The findings suggest that being surrounded by their sweaty, swaggering alpha-male peers may have provided just the kind of threatening environment to encourage bankers to become short-sighted risk-takers.

For an initial study, the masculinity of 19 heterosexual male university students was threatened by having them product test a pink bottle of “Sweet Pea” fruit-scented hand lotion; 19 others acted as a comparison group and tested a power drill. Ostensibly as part of a separate study, all the men were then filmed playing a gambling game. They started with $5 and had five chances to bet between $0 and $1 on whether a die roll would turn up odds or evens, with the potential to win or lose the amount they gambled. Over the course of the first four bets, the men who’d had their masculinity challenged tended to bet larger amounts; they also bet the maximum possible amount more often.

Let me see if I have this straight. A bottle of fruit-scented hand lotion is now sufficient to threaten a male university student’s masculinity? What would a Hello Kitty power sander do to those poor boys?

No wonder the Y chromosome is threatened with extinction.

(Via the presumably studly Will Truman.)

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In the lead-off spot

Melanie Sherman attends a writers’ conference, and learns something about opening lines:

I chose a class taught by Lois Leveen called “Crafting Compelling Opening Lines.”

She made us write an opening line for a book which included a nurse, and a homeless man in a hospital setting. The opening line I came up with was so lame I wouldn’t even want to read it to my critique group:

The scraggly man lurched into the scrub room, blood gushing from his arm, and grabbed the nurse’s shoulder.

Actually, this might work, if you’re doing a story titled Scraggly Man.

I don’t write enough fiction to have anything resembling a strong opinion on these matters, but I follow two rules:

  • No one is ever going to top “Call me Ishmael”;
  • If someone sends in your opening line to the Bulwer-Lytton contest, you’re doing it wrong.

For the sake of argument, or the sake of lack of argument, here, once again, is the opening line to my most recent project:

Finding a glass bottle in the driveway was nothing particularly unusual, though it’s far more common to turn up a bottle made of plastic, typically reeking of the sort of cheap booze appreciated only by cheap boozehounds on foot.

It is, I think, remarkable only in the context of the universe for which it was written.

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Strange search-engine queries (340)

Once again, we plunge into the logs in search of wacky search strings for your Monday-morning amusement. Not every one of these can win the gold medal, of course, but we think that they’ve all tried their hardest to be the best possible representative of whatever strange and scary perversions have evidently overwhelmed their creators.

you look like my first husband pickup line:  But that trick never works!

saturn employees (shares) OR (shareholders):  OR (unemployment statistics).

manly occupations:  Well, working for Saturn is out.

duck-like quacking during the boxer simon and garfield record:  A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. And who’s this Garfield guy, anyway?

“stop signs” “oklahoma city”:  Yes, we have them. You’ll often see a car slow down almost imperceptibly before passing one.

bra landfill:  You’ll recognize it by the twin heaps towering over the horizon.

is i-35 from des moines to kansas city flat:  Not pancake flat, but not exactly a ride around the mountaintops either.

politicians with nice legs:  This almost certainly leaves out Arlen Specter.

What’s the Green Giant jingle:  Bros before Ho, ho, hos.

i miss allen ludden:  You and me both. Not to mention Betty White.

i miss taco bell beefy tostada:  So do I, but it could never replace Allen Ludden.

styrofoam anvil:  Now mandated by OSHA for strenuous physical activity such as road-runner pursuit.

what is miami like:  Having never been there, I must defer to the judgment of Laura Jane Grace.

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Attack of the Metro gnomes

Microsoft had dubbed its new tiled interface for Windows Phone and Windows 8 “Metro.” From a promotional piece:

Metro is our code name for our design language. We call it Metro because it’s modern and clean. It’s fast and it’s in motion. It’s about content and typography. And it’s entirely authentic.

And it’s entirely unnamed again:

A potential trademark dispute has forced Microsoft to drop the Metro name for Windows 8’s blocky, tile-based interface.

Talks with an “important European partner” have brought about the change according to internal memos seen by tech news site The Verge.

The partner is believed to be German retail giant Metro AG.

Tip to Redmond’s nomenclature specialists: “Snapple” won’t work either.

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You should really just relax

For your post-Movie Sign unwinding, here’s a Mystery Science Theater 3000 headboard:

MST3K headboard

We have been warned.

(Via FAIL Blog’s WIN!)

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Probably not called “iCrash”

Apple senior VP Phil Schiller, testifying in their lawsuit against Samsung, said that after the success of the iPod, Apple was looking for another product category to reinvent:

“This really changed everybody’s view of Apple both inside and outside the company,” Schiller said on Friday, resuming testimony that began toward the end of the day on Tuesday.

People suggested all kinds of things Apple could do, Schiller recalled: “Make a camera, make a car, crazy stuff.”

They did, in fact, make a camera, and a pretty good one; it’s sitting in your iPhone as we speak. But a car? You can guess how that would work out.

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Meanwhile in New Canada

Toronto’s SummerWorks would like you to know the following:

As the largest juried festival in Canada featuring predominantly New Canadian plays, SummerWorks looks to program a festival that uniquely reflects Toronto and Canada’s cultural zeitgeist.

I’m not quite sure what a New Canadian play is, but a friend of mine has written one, so I must pay attention:

[W]e all understand what it is to experience family dysfunction. Sometimes it is barely a ripple and fleeting, sometimes it’s a tsunami and seemingly neverending. But those waves, regardless of their intensity, are part of our most prized relationships.

Tanisha Taitt and I go back to the late 1990s, when we were trading musical ideas on Usenet. I said of a song collection of hers in 2004:

Think Joni Mitchell halfway between Blue and Mingus, then overlay with a streetwise Laura Nyro-esque feel for the language, and you have some idea of what Tanisha is about: strongly confessional, yet always giving the impression that there are secrets still to be revealed.

Shortly thereafter, she began working in Toronto-area theater in just about every capacity there is; this is the first play she’s written. I wish her the very best of luck.

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Law stinks

I can’t possibly sum this up any better than did the Farker who submitted the story:

J. Geils sues J. Geils for using the name J. Geils while J. Geils goes on tour despite not having J. Geils in the band. J. Geils unavailable for comment, but J. Geils was willing to discuss the lawsuit.

From the linked article:

The lawsuit says that band members Richard Salwitz, Danny Klein, Peter Wolf and Seth Justman had “planned and conspired” to exclude [John] Geils from performing with them under the J. Geils Band name on a recently announced tour.

The band members had planned 11 concerts without Geils as “The J. Geils Band,” beginning August 25 in Syracuse, New York.

Mr Salwitz is the fellow you remember as Magic Dick. Incidentally, Klein fronts a J. Geils cover band called Danny Klein’s Full House.

Even more incidentally, how come I remember J.’s first name as “Jerome,” which of course it isn’t? Did I see a messed-up news story somewhere? (Answer: Not just me, apparently.)

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Ginger snapped

In 1998, Geri Halliwell unexpectedly quit the Spice Girls, saying she was totally exhausted; the rest of the group continued without her for a couple of years, then went on “indefinite hiatus.”

“Indefinite” turned out to mean six years. This photo of The Singer Formerly Known As Ginger Spice was taken in the summer of ’09, after a reunion tour had been cut short:

Geri Halliwell

In addition to her occasional Spice duties, Halliwell has written a series of children’s books about nine-year-old Ugenia Lavender, whom she described as her “inner brat.” Geri turns 40 on Monday.

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She took me half the way there

Joe’s metaphor for the weather up in Indiana:

You remember that PT chick from your randy youth. She goes on a date, gives a few lingering kisses, lets you fondle her boobage through her tight sweater. The next date she shows a little thigh and leaves you excited, overheated, and wanting more. The “more” is never delivered. That is the way Mother Nature has been lately. She darkens the sky with some clouds. Sometimes she brings on the wind and thunder, but never more than a light mist of rain. She teases us with that long soaking we need, but laughs as we get all excited for nothing.

Apart from the fact that no such chick appeared at any time during my decidedly unrandy youth, this description works pretty well down here on the scorched Plains: the oh-so-slight chance of rain yesterday morning dissipated almost as quickly as you could point and say “Were those clouds?” and we still wound up with a record for the, um, century. Since 1891 we’ve hit 113 degrees F, which may or may not mean “Fahrenheit,” exactly twice: 11 August 1936 and 3 August 2012.

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