Fark blurb of the week

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In the name of consistency

After waxing lyrical, sort of, on the subject of the Little Black Dress earlier this week, I decided I probably ought to show you one. Not that you’ve never seen one before, of course, but because I get about a twelve-percent traffic bump if I come up with two Fabulous Babes in a week instead of one.

With that in mind, here’s Penélope Cruz in a wool-blend LBD by L’Wren Scott, outside the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York:

Penelope Cruz in black

Not too little, you’ll note. Then again, I’m pretty sure Letterman liked the outfit.

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The search of a lifetime

The blog Well Hello There Lover has now completed 365 letters to someone who may or may not materialize in real life. (I mentioned this enterprise last fall.)

As a general believer in the idea of messages in bottles, and as a retired member (emeritus) of the Hopeless Romantics League of the Galaxy, I of course prefer that the individual in question actually show up.

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Positive feedback from Methuselah

Got a nice little note from eBay last night, reminding me that it was my anniversary, and that there were all sorts of deals not necessarily related to that fact, into which I might want to look.

I hadn’t even noticed. Which anniversary? I thought, and then saw the answer farther down the page.

Twelfth.

Ye gods, I’ve been on eBay since 1999? Yes, it’s true: in my absurd email archives I found auction-related correspondence dated as early as June ’99, so I must have signed up that April.

As members of Congress can undoubtedly testify, time flies when you’re spending money.

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Penalty kick

If there’s one thing worse than murdering scum, it’s methodical murdering scum:

A 20-year-old Canadian man methodically stalked and tracked a Westmont woman before killing her Wednesday night in Oak Brook — even stopping to reload his gun and continue shooting during the attack.

DuPage County Judge Michael Wolfe denied bail Thursday for Dmitry Smirnov of Surrey, British Columbia, who is charged with the first-degree murder of Jitka Vesel, 36.

How methodical was he? This much:

[State's Attorney Robert] Berlin said Smirnov had done research on the Internet to determine if Illinois had the death penalty, deciding to go through with Vesel’s murder when he discovered it does not.

It is arguable as to whether the presence of capital punishment has any deterrent value; its absence, however, seems utterly to lack it.

(From a Facebook friend in the Land of Lincoln, or, in perhaps happier times at Ford Chicago Assembly, the Land of Lincoln-Mercury.)

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It’s Friday, Friday

Which means it’s time for your Rebecca Black update of the week. And it’s a doozy:

Glee’s prom episode will include a cover of Rebecca Black’s infamous YouTube hit “Friday,” and Vulture can confirm that and reveal an opposite-sex twist: The ode to fun, sitting in the backseat, fun, and fun will be sung by Kevin McHale, Chord Overstreet, and Mark Salling.

Because, you know, nothing says you’ve arrived, back seat or front, like being referenced on Glee.

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Formal bowtie

I spent a few seconds yesterday behind a very old Chevy with this emblem on its tail:

Old Suburban logo

The font suggests fun of a sort. But that was then. Today — Chevy, y so srs?

New Suburban logo

What is this, a squad car for General Zod? Lighten up, guys.

(Old logo found here; new one off a dealer lot.)

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Quote of the week

In Oklahoma City, we have something called the Litter Blitz; similar programs exist in other cities in the state. And they all have the same problem:

The thing that frustrates me a bit about the trash-off days is that the population of people who PICK UP trash, and the population of people who TOSS OUT trash from their cars are two different populations.

And this frustration leads to screaming (voicelessly, of course) into the sky:

“Oh (not very nice word). That’s right, just throw your (another not very nice word) trash out of your car. Go about your (yet another not very nice word) merry lives; there will ALWAYS be someone who comes behind you and takes on the (and another not very nice word) responsibility and picks up your trash, both literal and figurative, for you.”

Unfortunately, this principle, or more precisely lack of principle, is almost infinitely extensible into other aspects of life.

I keep hoping for the day when some lunkhead lobs a cup out the window, and the concealed cop on speed watch suddenly comes to life and shoots out the miscreant’s tires — or worse.

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Ayapa, when the walls held

The Ayapaneco language, one of several dozen tongues indigenous to Mexico, is down to only two speakers, and they aren’t speaking to one another:

There are just two people left who can speak it fluently — but they refuse to talk to each other. Manuel Segovia, 75, and Isidro Velazquez, 69, live 500 metres apart in the village of Ayapa in the tropical lowlands of the southern state of Tabasco. It is not clear whether there is a long-buried argument behind their mutual avoidance, but people who know them say they have never really enjoyed each other’s company.

The decline was presumably inevitable:

Its demise was sealed by the advent of education in Spanish in the mid 20th century, which for several decades included the explicit prohibition on indigenous children speaking anything else. Urbanisation and migration from the 1970s then ensured the break-up of the core group of speakers concentrated in the village.

Work continues on a dictionary of Ayapaneco.

(Via Geekosystem.)

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So uncomplicated

Admittedly, it’s the same five districts and the same Congressmen, so the redistricting required by the Census was apparently pretty painless: Rep. Danny Morgan (D-Prague), vice-chair of the House Redistricting Committee, says that a deal has been reached and the enabling legislation is on its way.

So far as I can tell, I remain in District 5, represented by freshman James Lankford (R-OKC).

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Mash notes

Nicole, on Evan Williams’ distilled spirits:

It wasn’t horribly expensive and it is in the list of the last name alcohol you probably shouldn’t be on a first name basis with (Jack, Julian & Evan).

Jack, of course, everyone knows, but I had to think a bit about Julian. Eventually I came up with Julian Van Winkle III, who runs the Old Rip Van Winkle distillery, which suggests that Nicole’s tastes might be just a hair more refined than mine. (Then again, I did my serious drinking in the NCO Club, where quantity tended to overshadow quality.)

George Dickel, incidentally, was not available for comment.

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Salted away

From last spring:

One bank around town (and most towns in this state, I surmise) offers a forced-savings deal: use your debit card or pay a bill with their online gizmo, and they’ll bump a quarter or two out of your checking account into savings. They’ll even match some of it (all of it for 90 days, then 5 percent). This won’t make anyone rich, but it helps out with the Pay Yourself First premise.

In the first year, those little 50-cent deposits added up to over $100, plus $32 worth of match. This isn’t everything I saved during the year by any means, but it’s nice to have.

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Captain Obvious checks in

The Best Advice I Ever Got by Katie Couric

Presumably it was “Show some leg in the jacket photo.”

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Money for nothing

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) have been engaging in a war of words of late, with Dimon denouncing Durbin’s amendment to the Dodd-Frank Financial Finagling Act, which calls for a review of debit-card interchange fees, as “price-fixing at its worst.” Durbin has now responded:

For years, card-issuing banks like Chase have agreed to let the Visa and MasterCard duopoly fix the interchange fee rates that banks receive from merchants each time a debit card is swiped. The banks get the fees but they do not set the fees. This system of price-fixing by Visa and MasterCard on behalf of thousands of banks has gone entirely unregulated.

Which is not to say that there’s a set fee regardless of conditions:

Fraud rates are far lower for PIN debit transactions than for signature debit transactions, but Visa and MasterCard set higher interchange fees for signature debit than for PIN ostensibly to cover the higher cost of fraud. Banks now urge cardholders to pay with signature in order to get the higher fees. For example, on April 21, 2010, the American Banker reported that your own bank sent a mailing to your debit customers that strongly suggested they should “always select” signature.

It’s not just Chase, either. I learned rather quickly that my own bank will decline PIN transactions, but will happily approve signature transactions for exactly the same amount.

And there’s this:

I recognize that Chase will likely see decreased revenue from interchange reform, but I urge you to keep some perspective. Last year Chase had $17.4 billion in profits — up 48 percent from the previous year — and a 15 percent profit margin. Your own personal compensation “jumped nearly 1,500 percent to $20.8 million in 2010″ according to Reuters. In contrast, middle-class American families are struggling to get by in a tough economy — an economy that went south because of the banking industry’s unregulated excesses.

And if the idea of a Senate Democrat claiming to be on the side of “middle-class American families” seems to have the same resonance as the idea of fleas soliciting donations to the American Kennel Club, I’d remind you that blind squirrels aren’t exactly starving these days. I’d like to think that this is Durbin’s act of contrition for aiding and abetting the creation of the notion of Too Big To Fail. If so, he’s got lots of penance yet to do.

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Who’s that shoe?

If I seem puzzled by the names applied to some of the shoes mentioned here, it’s because I have no idea where said names came from: it’s as though they just fell out of the sky.

Which, of course, can’t possibly be true, and it isn’t. Nancy Friedman, doing a guest post for the Manolo, explains that some brands have very specific reasons for selecting those names. Ferragamo, for instance:

With Ferragamo, if a shoe doesn’t have a letter-of-the-season name, you know it’s either (a) a perennial, like the ever-popular Audrey (named for Audrey Hepburn), or (b) an item from a previous season that may have a discounted price.

And the letter for spring ’11, she says, is D. This wedge, for instance, is “Domizia”:

Domizia by Ferragamo

Also available in black, it’s a modest 3 cm tall, and has a leather hook gizmo across the upper. While it’s still current, it’s $450.

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And that makes 82

The Milwaukee Bucks, perhaps contrary to the expectations in the Large Round Building tonight, did not exhibit any of that Deer-in-the-headlights meandering one might expect of a team with 47 losses. In fact, they led by three at the half and put together a 9-0 run near the end of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 96; Scott Brooks, having vowed to play the starters around 20 minutes or so, wasn’t about to put them back in with 23 seconds left, and we had a wholly-unanticipated overtime. The Bucks, despite not being used to scoring this much, did not falter, and they won it 110-106, to the bewilderment of the crowd, locking the Thunder into the #4 seed and setting up the first round of the playoffs against fifth-place Denver.

This was a game where nobody scored a lot, but a lot of people scored: Milwaukee had eight players in double figures, OKC six. (Russell Westbrook led all scorers with 20.) Only one double-double: Nazr Mohammed, with 12 points and 10 rebounds. The Thunder were awash in rebounds, collecting 52 while the Bucks could grab only 34. But the Thunder also turned the ball over two dozen times, and Milwaukee was happy to capitalize on those mistakes to the tune of 27 points.

It may not have mattered: the only way the Thunder were going to move up in the seeding would have been if the Mavericks lost to New Orleans, which they didn’t. And there were stats to accumulate: Kevin Durant won the scoring title, and nobody blocked more shots this year than Serge Ibaka. But this is a hell of a way to go into the first round of the post-season.

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Where the gripes of Roth are stored

I’ve heard a few variations on this theme lately:

I just wrote the biggest check of my life ever to the IRS. (I converted an IRA from standard to Roth this past year. Now watch as the tax code gets replaced with a national consumption tax the year I decide to retire…)

That latter, I suspect, she may not have to worry about. So long as there are power-mad politicians who wish to hand out favors to some and punish others — so long as there are politicians, in other words — we’ll continue to have what Dave Barry once called a “tax code … the size and weight of the Budweiser Clydesdales.”

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Any color you like

The sheer number of references on this site will tell you in no time flat that “I am a major, and unrepentant, fan of the classic Little Black Dress, and variations thereupon.” Which may seem odd, since I never actually saw one in real life until I was well into my twenties, but then I had probably watched too many old movies up to that point.

For those of you (if any) who are unclear on the concept, a tutorial on the subject:

The “LBD” is a basic, and slightly sexy go-to dress that can easily go from casual to fancy, without too much effort. A good little black dress shouldn’t be too fussy, revealing, slinky, or fragile. Also, a little secret … It doesn’t actually have to be BLACK. These days, a little black dress can get away with being navy or dark grey, and still serve the same purpose. You want something that you can throw on anytime and know that you’ll be ready for any event, without feeling overdressed.

Which is admittedly a lot to ask of a garment. On the other hand, if chosen with proper disdain for That Which Is Trendy Right This Minute, it will serve you well for many seasons.

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Fevered prow

Leadership from the White House? Not supposed to work that way, points out the Curmudgeon Emeritus:

The closest the Constitution comes to such a concept is here [Article II, Section 3]:

“He shall…recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;”

But literally any American citizen has the exact same “power.”

The notion of government “leadership” is appropriate to a parliamentary scheme such as Britain’s, where the chief executive is chosen by the majority coalition in the legislature. Such systems are designed for activist government, wherein the idea is to enable the legislature to move forward, without hindrance, and to have the executive in concert with it ab initio. The American system is diametrically opposed to government activism. It’s founded on the premise that government action ought to be slow and difficult.

So it’s perhaps a blessing in disguise that the White House is so often occupied by persons with some, if not all, of the leadership qualities of a recently-discharged shift supervisor at Taco Bell.

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Bad girl gone worse?

Donald Douglas apparently has some problems with Rihanna’s video for “S&M,” and quotes The Closing of the American Mind author Allan Bloom:

Bloom warned that rock and roll — and the Walkman and MTV commercial culture within which it was embedded by the 1980s — was “life made into a nonstop, commercially prepackaged masturbational fantasy.”

I looked at the video, and yeah, it’s a bit raunchy, but on the other hand, it has Perez Hilton on a leash and (briefly) wearing a ball gag. If that’s not redeeming social value, what is?

(See also this earlier ode to the pleasuring of oneself.)

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