Pumped-down pumps

Out here, we call this particular rhetorical technique “Stream of Conoco”:

Democrats can get excited about gas prices dropping.
Except gas prices dropped before the 2008 election also.
Dropped from record highs also.
Didn’t help Republicans much.

Perhaps the pols have finally figured out that if you take credit for something improving, you get the blame for it when it deteriorates.

Naw. Couldn’t be. And anyway, every 15-cent drop saves me around $4 a month, which is nice to have but which doesn’t exactly stimulate the ol’ wallet, if you know what I mean.

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Now pay up already

Chocolat is a text editor for Mac OS X. As is the case with many programs, it’s offered on a trial basis, after which, if you expect to continue using it, you must fork over the asking price. Otherwise, you are faced with this horrifying screen:

Registration screen for Chocolat that threatens users with Comic Sans

Now that’s just cruel.

(Via FAIL Blog’s WIN!)

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Shelby remembered

Carroll Shelby, in his last year of Formula One competition, drove a race-prepped version of Aston Martin’s DB4 for erstwhile AM owner David Brown. Astons at the time ran highly-tuned DOHC inline sixes, which apparently did not impress Shelby in the least.

AC Cobra 260When Shelby decided to get into construction in 1961, he wrote to AC Cars in Britain and asked them if they could modify their existing Ace roadster to accommodate a proper American-style V8. AC, which had been using Bristol’s six, a prewar BMW design, was in the process of switching to an English Ford six, and they told Shelby they could. Shelby then hit up Chevrolet, who turned him down flat. Ford, however, would talk to him, and they offered an updated version of their Windsor V8, bored out to 260 cubic inches. Shelby ordered up a chassis, and the transatlantic assembly line was created: AC would do the bodywork, then ship the carcass to Shelby’s West Coast facility, where the powertrain would be installed.

Seventy-five of these cars, christened “Cobra,” were built, priced at $5995; Shelby then switched to the new Windsor 289. The Cobra proved to be a sturdy and successful racer, so naturally it had to be improved upon; the chassis was stretched and strengthened, and Shelby, now enthusiastically supported by Ford, received a supply of the FE V8, a monster with 427 cubes.

Lee Iacocca, who had enlisted Shelby’s assistance in producing a line of high-performance Mustangs, eventually landed at Chrysler, and he persuaded Shelby to follow him. By then, pretty much everything Mopar was either already or about to be front-wheel drive, but no matter. The Shelby-modified Dodge Omni GLH (“Goes Like Hell”) offered 146 ponies to drag around a mere 2300 pounds, at a time when comparably-sized cars had maybe 90 or 100 at most. (A GLHS followed, with 175.)

Jack Baruth gave Shelby, who died Thursday, the following sendoff:

Although his final years were beset by scandal and an increasingly Byzantine series of lawsuits against everyone from “cloners” to his own fan club, the man’s contributions to the art, science, and passion of hauling ass in affordable cars are undeniable.

Even if some of them aren’t quite so affordable anymore.

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Saturday spottings (jazzy)

Trini had never before seen one of the Symphony Show Houses, a deficiency I had vowed to remedy, and so today we set out for the 2012 edition, billed modestly as a “Jazz Age Manor,” smack in the middle of Heritage Hills at 15th and Walker.

2012 Symphony Show House

The 1925 Tudor Revival house, says the taxman, covers 8518 square feet, though it seems like more, what with six bedrooms, six full baths and three half-baths, and God knows how many stairs. (Yes, I climbed them all.) Each of the twenty-eight (I think) rooms has been done up by local design pros, and while obviously not everything on the inside is pure Roaring Twenties — I’m pretty sure Jacuzzi wasn’t doing hot tubs back then — what we were looking for was some semblance of Gracious Living, which for the moment we define as “what we’d do after cashing the lotto tickets.” I was most struck by some of the newly-applied wall finishes, some of which I wouldn’t mind seeing in my own modest digs.

Here’s their television spot:

The Symphony Show House will be open through the 20th of May. (Exterior photo courtesy of Leonard Sullivan; photography was not allowed inside the house.)

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Maybe they thought it was New Coke

Somewhere in Cherokee County, Georgia, are men who don’t understand the difference between “meth” and “methodical”:

[I]f the two “suspects” were trying to produce meth, they weren’t following the right recipe, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday afternoon.

“Although the suspects likely thought they could produce methamphetamine and actually had some of the items required to make the drug, it would have been impossible for them to produce methamphetamine,” said Lt. Jay Baker. “There was no Ephedrine, a required ingredient to methamphetamine, located at the home.”

Perhaps they were working up one of those Mock Apple Pies you see on a box of Ritz® crackers.

The Fark headline for this is classic: “There’s ordinary dumb. There’s ‘busted for cooking meth’ dumb. And then there’s ‘busted for trying to cook meth without even having the right ingredients’ dumb.”

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More than six strings

Legendary HipHarpist Deborah Henson-Conant, a favorite in these parts, is now learning guitar, sort of:

Steve Vai, a Berklee alumnus, came up with this course, offered online by his alma mater, and it’s a natural for DHC, who has long been coaxing amazing noises out of her harp. Besides which, she’s actually going to be in Vai’s touring band starting this fall, so what better time to brush up on some of Vai’s limpid licks?

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Meanwhile in Butcher Holler

Zooey Deschanel and Loretta Lynn at the Ryman AuditoriumYour eyes do not deceive you: that’s Zooey Deschanel and Loretta Lynn on stage at the Ryman, doing “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and thereby hangs a tale:

[Loretta] Lynn made the announcement mid-concert at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Thursday night (5/10) by inviting Deschanel on stage for a duet of the title song.

“Well, there’s a little girl back stage that’s going to do the play of Coal Miner’s Daughter on Broadway,” Lynn said. “Zooey, where you at, honey?”

You should probably not get in line right away for tickets — this production is still technically in the planning stage — but I’ve got to believe that things will move pretty quickly, if only to make sure that Loretta, now 80, gets to see it herself.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided that the Loretta Lynn song I’d most like to hear Zooey sing is “One’s On The Way,” not least because it was written by, of all people, Shel Silverstein.

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Backhooved compliment

A few days ago, PJTV’s Trifecta, presumably for lack of any news, decided to dump on us non-female pony fans, although the tone of said dump was not too haranguing as these things go, and Stephen “Vodkapundit” Green admitted to having hit up a Brony Name Generator to find (un)suitable pony names for Scott Ott and Bill Whittle. (First reaction from this quarter: “There’s a brony name generator?”)

It’s not like any of these guys would actually have sat through an episode of MLP:FiM, of course. Scott “Majestic Comet” Ott, seeing a possible problem with this stance, decided that maybe he ought to see an episode, and while he hasn’t become a fan, he has recanted a bit:

Now I have watched one. It’s not badly written, and does have a bit of social commentary in it that’s engaging even for an adult. The humor didn’t make me laugh much, but then I watched only this episode. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste.

Come to think of it, the episode he watched (“Green Isn’t Your Color”) wasn’t one of my favorites; it certainly wouldn’t have been the starting point I’d have recommended, but it’s not like anyone listens to me.

Majestic Comet, though, has evidently made his peace with bronydom:

Although it is not devoid of redeeming cultural value, I’m still mystified by adult males who would flock to a convention without daughters. But then, I’m not a convention kind of guy. I thought the Republican National Convention was a ridiculous show by immature pretenders who I felt sure must have something better to do with their lives.

Fortunately, such a spectacle comes along only every four years or so.

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Comparable worth, as it were

Hugh Laurie, in Entertainment Weekly (#1207, 5/18), contemplating his role on House now that the series is ending, makes a vague reference to how much he was paid:

“My salary … was undeniably mad — the sort of money that should only be paid to people who destroy Earth-bound asteroids, or invent a method for converting journalists into clean energy.”

I just wish he hadn’t said “clean”; I was all ready to propose a scheme to dispose of The New York Times, based on the notion that the Old Gray Lady is, um, anthracite gray.

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Chasing chimeras

“Investments” used to mean equities; you bought stocks, or maybe bonds. Nowadays there are all manner of options out there, some of which make no sense except in the context of purest Las Vegas bookmaking: leverage, amalgamate, and leverage some more, until you own something that not even fanciful woodland pixies would find plausibly tangible. Eventually, of course, something like this must happen:

After the market closed Thursday, JPMorgan told regulators it lost about $2 billion tied to synthetic credit securities. The wrong-way bet was taken by its chief investment office, which the bank uses to help manage its trading risks.

“Since March 31, 2012, CIO [chief investment office] has had significant mark-to-market losses in its synthetic credit portfolio, and this portfolio has proven to be riskier, more volatile and less effective as an economic hedge than the firm previously believed,” the investment bank said in a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“This is not how we want to run a business,” said JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

Sure it is. Robert J. Samuelson called Wall Street out on this kind of thing two years ago:

If buyers and sellers can be found, we’ll create and trade almost anything, no matter how dubious. Precisely this mind-set justified the packaging of reckless and fraudulent “subprime” mortgages into securities. Hardly anyone examined the worth of the underlying loans. Judgment was missing.

And now a couple of billion dollars are missing — which, you may be certain, JPMC will write off on next year’s tax return.

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Consider it sung

It’s been a weird May for Rebecca Black, what with the Occutards making — or fantasizing about — a threat against her, and the usual round of public appearances to promote the new single “Sing It,” which dropped Tuesday approximately an hour before I showed up online, 99 cents in hand.

It goes like this:

The video, of course, is a collection of cinematic clichés, as most music videos are. But this may be the best pure singing Rebecca’s ever done, and while “Sing It” isn’t quite as anthemic as “Friday,” it’s just about as catchy, which helps matters considerably. What’s more, as of last night, fewer than 30 percent of YouTube viewers had given it thumbs down, despite ample opportunity to do so. And regular readers here will note that she’s stuck to her guns: no drippy romance songs yet. (And no credits either, though I’ve put in a request; you’d think Amazon could handle a couple of extra MP3 tag entries, fercryingoutloud.) The only really jarring bit comes at the very end, where it seems to stop cold about one beat before it needs to, which is hardly necessary in a song that runs only 2:48. (It is, indeed, shorter than her previous releases.)

For the last word, I yield to Amy Sciarretto from PopCrush:

Black carries herself much more confidently now. She looks as though she has grown up and is having fun. All the Internet hate and the backlash didn’t break her spirit. Her music is a bit more mature, too. No, it’s not stands-the-test-of-time pop music, nor will it ever be. But it’s not going to make your ears bleed, either.

Me, I want to see her back on the charts, just to annoy the haters.

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Start here

Andrea Harris runs down that list of 100 best opening lines from novels, and decides that maybe they aren’t the best. (Okay, some of them are downright terrible and/or embarrassing.)

I was, however, gratified to see my Favorite Novel Ever in the #82 slot. (Yes, it’s worth reading.) And I thought I’d throw in a few others that I’ve found compelling — which doesn’t necessarily imply “beautiful” — over the past few years:

  • “There are houses in London that keep to themselves and say nothing when strangers walk by.” — F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre, The Woman Between the Worlds (1994)
  • “I knew we were unfit for one another the night we were watching Casablanca.” — James Lileks, Mr. Obvious (1995)
  • “Bad monkey wammerjammer.” — Penn Jillette, Sock (2004)
  • “I searched for sleep curled up in my quilt — the one made for me at my birth by my paternal grandmother’s own hands.” — Dorothea Benton Frank, Sullivan’s Island (1999)
  • “It started with a book.” — Frank Portman, King Dork (2006)
  • “If his life—along with those of so many agents faithful to the Cause—didn’t hang in the balance, James Locke knew he would turn and escape Lord Pembroke’s study as silently as he had entered.” — Donna MacMeans, The Trouble with Moonlight (2008)

About the only thing these books have in common is that I paid to own copies thereof, and I saw reason to go to the second line and beyond. As the phrase goes, your mileage may vary.

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Doing the Wiig walk

The Fug Girls, unlike some individuals I could name, don’t mind orange at all, and were delighted to see five orange gowns at the Met Ball. (Right about now, Lynn should start feeling vindicated.) And I like this one, a Stella McCartney job sported by Kristen Wiig:

Kristen Wiig in Stella McCartney

The shoes (also Stella’s) are somewhat meh, but otherwise this is pretty spiffy, not unlike Wiig herself.

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A calculated move

Denver beat the Lakers in Los Angeles Tuesday night, forcing a sixth game in that first-round series, but this is the weird aspect of it:

The Lakers were privately seething after seeing the Nuggets use a laptop computer in their huddle during a 20-second timeout with 19.9 seconds left to play.

The computer apparently belonged to an assistant coach sitting behind the bench with it. NBA rules forbid the use of such devices in the huddle, which won’t change the final score but can carry a hefty fine of up to $250,000.

Anyone know if the Staples Center has free Wi-Fi?

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When the spirit moves you

From the Things I Never Knew file, courtesy of Dave Schuler:

The keynote speaker, apparently a last minute replacement for the chap who was scheduled to be the keynote speaker, was the senior senator from New York, Charles Schumer. He was a confident and reasonably entertaining speaker. Mostly he talked about himself, not terribly surprising for a US senator.

He told us that his first job was operating a mimeograph machine in a very small, closed room. I think this may explain a lot. If you’re old enough to remember mimeographs, you probably know what I mean.

I am, and I do, though I had more space available. One of my Army duties was schlepping recently-cut orders, many of which I’d had to type myself, up to the Forms Room, a metal building about the size of a two-car garage which held at least one copy of every DA form from 1 to 2496 and maybe some others, where resided an offset press and a mimeograph. The mimeo was a lot less messy, but the offset produced better copy, and on cold days generated almost enough heat to take the chill off the place.

However, I must point out that the mimeograph didn’t produce much in the way of mind-altering fumes, unlike its cousin the Ditto machine, which was revered in places like, say, Ridgemont High; which means that there must be some other explanation for Chuck Schumer.

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Playing the percentages

The blogger known as Bookworm, who lives in gorgeous Marin County, California, spotted this rolling contradiction in a local parking lot (emphasis presumably added):

Lexus SC allegedly owned by a member of the 99 percent

She assures us, though, that the owner of said vehicle is very likely to be a pleasant, agreeable person.

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