Imported from Bohemia

Lambskin sandals by ChanelThe Wall Street Journal, for some inscrutable reason, was featuring this bizarre sandal by Chanel in a piece about “The New Bohemians,” whoever they may be. It’s not very pretty, but it compensates by being fiendishly complicated: I suppose it’s theoretically possible to design a shoe that would take longer to put on than these do, and, as I’ve noted before, I yield to no one in my fondness for strappy sandals — but too much of a good thing too often yields a thing less good. And if you ask me, the only thing worse than a thing less good is a thing less good that costs something like $2,175. (Okay, it’s made out of lambskin fercrissake, but face it: at this stage of advanced fugliness, you start to feel a lot more sympathy for the poor underaged ungulate who gave his life for no discernible benefit.)

Fausta, with the tango in her soul and the legs to die for, looked at these, and what she remembered was not the classic hippie-chick vibe that’s supposedly being celebrated by those WSJ goobers, but something, um, entirely different.

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I’m sorry, I don’t understand that

Over the years, voice-recognition technology has improved from “completely farking useless” to “mostly farking useless,” which is not, in my opinion, a major gain. Part of the problem is that it’s hard to isolate voices from background noise, and besides, not all of us speak as though we’d been through several years of television-network-level de-accenting.

But there’s a larger issue involved:

[M]any times, what I and many people may say to our computers is anatomically and theologically impossible.

And perhaps inadvisable. Someday — probably Tuesday — some poor slob on Windows 11 (or so) is going to be served up a dozen Microsoft patches, after which an all-too-familiar dialog box will appear, and he’ll yell “Reboot, my ass!”

You think Redmond will cover his medical bills? Not a chance.

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He’s right here waiting

Note to self: Do not piss off Richard Marx:

As I wrote in a story last week on the Morning News, Marx — the Chicago-born singer best known for the 1980s soft-rock hits “Hold On to the Nights” and “Right Here Waiting” — demanded a sit-down with me after I called him “shameless” in a blog post for a local TV station’s news site.

“Would you say that to my face?” he emailed me. “Let’s find out. I’ll meet you anywhere in the city, any time. I don’t travel again until the end of the week. Let’s hash this out like men.”

And oh, the hash that followed.

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Learn your gozintas

A study indicates that math is easier if you’ve memorized the easy stuff:

Students who excel at math use rote memory to solve simple arithmetic problems, while weak students calculate, concludes a new study, “Why Mental Arithmetic Counts” [pdf], published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

This works also for those of us who are well past the study stage: you’d be surprised how often I have to remember routine two- or even three-digit multiplication products.

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Do it again, just a little bit slower

Well, technically, it doesn’t have to be slower.

It was Trini who introduced me to Coverville, a semi-weekly (mostly) podcast by Brian Ibbott, devoted to the propagation of new — new to me, anyway — versions of old songs. I think I started listening around episode #510 or thereabouts; there have been more than 400 since, and I’ve discovered lots of fun stuff.

The usual term here is “cover versions,” but purists of a certain stripe prefer to restrict “cover” to a version made at approximately the same time as the original with the specific intention of going after a different market niche: everything else is a “remake.” Since most of this expropriation in the early days of rock and roll consisted of white acts redoing black R&B originals, and often as not placing higher on the charts, the R word is routinely trotted out. I demur, and always have:

Rock orthodoxy holds that black R&B = good, while white attempts at same = somewhere between pathetic and insulting. This pronouncement today is considered every bit as obvious as, say, there being four other guys in the Dave Clark Five; after all, Alan Freed never played those awful white cover versions. The argument can usually be summed up in two words: Pat Boone.

And it can always be refuted by pointing to, for instance, the Diamonds’ “Little Darlin’,” a decided improvement over the Gladiolas’ original, or the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout,” which isn’t even in the same universe as what the Top Notes had recorded earlier. John Lennon learned this song, though, from the Isley Brothers’ cover, which originated as an effort by Bert Berns to show that upstart Phil Spector what’s what. (And speaking of the Isley Brothers, they cut a very sharp cover of “Love the One You’re With.”)

Michele Catalano distinguishes covers and remakes differently in her list of the 10 Best Cover Songs and Remakes. A cover is just a cover, but a remake is a remodeling:

I’ve always said, if you’re going to remake a song then really remake it. Don’t just re-record what the original artist put down. Take that song and make it your own. Turn it on its head. It’s even better when an artist takes a song completely out of their genre and does something spectacular with it.

The archetype here, perhaps, is Jimi Hendrix’ utter transformation of Bob Dylan’s acoustic — and rather wan — “All Along the Watchtower.” Eventually, Dylan himself was working bits of the Hendrix rearrangement into his live shows.

There was a brief scandal this week, when the cast of Glee unleashed a version of “Baby Got Back” in an arrangement that owed a lot to Jonathan Coulton’s alt-country revamping. Coulton, for his part, is wondering just how much is owed.

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Lose the glove or the fist

Jeff Brokaw has decided that Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With” doesn’t suck as much as he thought it did:

I used to despise the lyrics to this song too — and it is kind of a mess musically, too. But on closer listening, I decided it is not about cheating while your girlfriend is away, it is about a guy who’d been dumped, and so he figures, correctly, that pining for a former love (or “bitch” as the case may be) that dumped you is a poor choice when there is another young lady right next to you.

I believe this interpretation to be correct, though it would be interesting to find out the state of Stills’ on-again-off-again relationship with Judy Collins at the time he wrote it. And anyway, he didn’t make up the conditional in the chorus: that was a Billy Preston concoction.

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Whatever she’s having

Like rather a lot of models, Annalise Braakensiek is tall: officially, five feet, ten and a half inches. Unlike rather a lot of models, she’s a tad top-heavy, which fact motivated her to design a lingerie line a few years back. And it’s green, she says:

“No toxic ink, organic cotton, organic bamboo, sustainable produce, the swingtags are recycled cardboard and even attached with organic twine. As eco-friendly as I can possibly make it.”

Which I guess one should expect from a lady of Norwegian extraction who grew up on a commune in New South Wales.

I have no idea if she’s wearing her own creations here:

Annalise Braakensiek

Annalise turned 40 last month. She’s presumably done something with her hair since then.

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Cuban embargoed

After three quarters, it was Oklahoma City 81, Dallas 72. The Mavericks bench, understandably, saw this as intolerable, and in six minutes they’d made up the entire deficit and then some. A brief period of teeter-totter, and then Kevin Durant, who’d gone cold earlier in the quarter, started drawing fouls; he made eight free throws in the last two minutes, butting the Thunder up three. Vince Carter dunked with seven seconds left to close the gap to one; Russell Westbrook followed with two more free throws. O. J. Mayo came through with a trey at :02.3, tying it at 105, and Durant’s 20-footer went awry.

Of course, the Thunder love overtime. At :16.5, Durant made a 13-foot jumper to go up two; Westbrook added a free throw at :02.7; Carter got off the last shot, which fell short, and it was OKC 117, Dallas 114 at the horn.

It was good to see Dirk back; it was even better to see him not doing particularly well. Nowitzki was 5-19 for 18 points, though he did knock down eight of nine free throws. Mayo, always better at home than on the road, went 6-16 to get his 18 points. But the stats-gathering guy was Carter, 29 off the bench, a season high. The entire Thunder bench had only 21, versus 49 for the Mavs. (Elton Brand had the one Dallas double-double, with ten points and 13 boards.)

Then again, even 49 pales beside Durant’s career high: 52 points, 13-31 from the floor but 21-21 from the stripe. Throw in 31 from Westbrook and suddenly you’re not worried so much about scoring, although Serge Ibaka did come up with some timely moves, 11 points and 14 rebounds. OKC dominated the glass, 53-46, 18-11 offensive, though they were outshot by the Mavs, 45-41 percent.

(Oh, you wanted a Telltale Statistic? Durant, despite those 52 points, was -1 for the night. Tough crowd in Dallas, let me tell you. Mark Cuban sets the stage well.)

This was the first game of six on the road. And look what’s coming up: the Nuggets on Sunday, the Clippers on Tuesday, the Warriors on Wednesday, the Kings on Friday and the Lakers on the following Sunday. It’s gonna be a long month.

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Quote of the week

Michele Catalano, on the joys of having your Twitter follower list decimated:

At some point after I all but ditched twitter, I realized I missed it, and had a little heart-to-heart with myself about it. What good was twitter for me? What did I enjoy about it before the million followers (which had now “dwindled” to about 920,000)? What was twitter good for.

Well, it was good for making friends, meeting new people, discovering how many talented people are hanging around the internet, getting to do stuff with some of those talented people, having friends to visit wherever we travel, telling offensive, horrible jokes and letting a million people know when I’ve gotten my period.

There it was. I joined twitter for the conversation, for the ability to connect with people who enjoyed the same warped sense of humor, people who liked hockey and baseball, people who enjoyed talking about music and people who liked to banter back and forth, to engage.

My own interests vary a bit, but my motivations are precisely the same, apart from that whole “period” bit.

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An Australian newspaper tries out Facebook Graph Search, and says it’s “taken the pain and skill out of searching for people worthy of a public shaming.”

Among those people, says the paper, are Rebecca Black fans:

Facebook Search screenshot featuring people who like Rebecca Black

“The identity of these Rebecca Black fans have been protected. For shame, people.”

Last I looked, there were 168,383 of us, not all of whom saw her last Friday on Ricki Lake’s show. (Although the clip to watch is this one, in which she says nothing but makes some curious faces.)

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Where do I apply?

On my Facebook page, I describe my position as “Lead Lackey.” There being no subordinate lackeys, or minions even, this is not particularly impressive. Then again, I wasn’t smart enough to get the Chinese to do the scut work for me:

[A] U.S. developer actually did find a way to fool everyone at his company into thinking he was working, while in fact outsourcing his entire job to China.

Andrew Valentine wrote up the case study for Verizon, and the story apparently caused such a furor it temporarily crashed the Verizon servers.

Eventually the loafer was caught:

[T]he BBC notes the ingenious scam came to light after the employee’s company asked for an audit to investigate “anomalous activity on its virtual private network (VPN) logs” that pointed to an active VPN connection between Shenyang, China, and the employee’s workstation that appeared to be operational for months.

Should have had his flunky (or flunkies) work up a floating botnet to blur the trail, if you ask me.

(Trini sent me this, knowing what it would do to my blood pressure.)

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Early adopter cashes in

Yours truly on the then-inchoate promises of wind power, early 2004:

It’s hard to see any downside to this program. Granted, there are summer days in Oklahoma when the temperature is around 100 degrees and there isn’t enough wind to motivate a tumbleweed, let alone spin a turbine, but my A/C doesn’t care where the amps come from. And from my political point of view, it’s still a boon: it’s an environmental gesture that will actually accomplish something without a great deal of lifestyle adjustment, the Saudis don’t make a dime off it, and if some passing bird is shredded over Woodward, it will annoy PETA.

Eight years later, OG&E sends me a present:

With your help we are closer to reaching our company goal of not building incremental fossil-fuel power generation until the year 2020 or beyond. We value you as a customer and because of your lasting commitment to have wind power, we want you to have this reusable OG&E Wind Power tote as a thank you.

Guess I’ll go hug a tree. (There are a dozen on the premises.)

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And here’s MacGyver with the seven-day

You might think that TV weather guys are utterly helpless in the absence of those fancy computer displays.

Not necessarily:

Imagine if he’d had some duct tape.

(Via TV Spy.)

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The next round-up

Jeffro, pumping some diesel, clicks off the pump with 137.001 gallons showing, and asks if we’re similarly OCD:

Just to make it easier to calculate my account balances, I pump my own gas to the nearest dime.

Are you picky — do you “round it off,” or do you just run until it clicks off and call it good?

Weirdly enough, I run until it clicks, and then enough to bring it up to the next dime. And then I go home, calculate mpg, and sob: it’s winter, so instead of my usual 21-22 mpg, I’m barely over 20. In the interest of improving my statistics, I’ve been buying the same grade at the same station for the last several months. I figure I’m taking about a 3-percent hit using E10. Then again, the best tank I ever scored was running the superslab through Midwestern cornfields on 93-octane E10, breaking the 31-mpg barrier. (EPA sticker: 20/28 original; 17/25 revised.)

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The mind’s eye, decelerated

When I raved about BT’s album If the Stars Are Eternal So Are You and I last summer, it never occurred to me that there might be video worthy of it. So I was surprised at the visual feast conjured up for “13 Angels On My Broken Windowsill”: “You don’t need visuals: the brain provides its own,” I had said.

Now comes something even less likely: a video for “Our Dark Garden,” a pure mood piece.

The description:

From a concept by BT, ‘A Million Stars’ director Christopher Andrew executed a ‘macro time-lapse journey’ for the final music video, combining time-lapse photography and slow motion HD-footage over the course of six months. From April to September 2012 over 350,000 stills were taken, day and night, in Christopher’s backyard in Gloucester, MA. Produced by Stoptime341 Productions.

I’ve provided the embed here, but you really need to see this on a wider screen.

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Miserable kayaksoaker

If you’ve been reading this stuff for a year, you have at least a passing familiarity with the term “douchecanoe,” though I admittedly didn’t provide anything resembling a taxonomy of the subspecies. For that, you need LeeAnn’s description of just such a barge, a former coworker with delusions of adequacy:

In the past months, Scooter has been a revered member of the Armed Forces, a manager of a motorcycle shop, a bounty hunter, a feared and respected repo man, a member of Cirque Du Soleil, a secret agent, a bank manager, the inventor of the Grumpy Cat meme, and has had 312 girlfriends, all of whom still are obsessed with him. Scooter also maintains, despite the fact that everyone heard BossMan go ballistic and fire his sorry ass, that he quit to pursue a degree in criminology.

Scooter is well on his way to being a politician, we have all agreed.

At the very least, we need to check his cap size.

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