Where have all the buyers gone?

Each week, The Week has a two-page spread called “Best Properties on the Market,” usually with six or seven homes (or whatever) scattered hither and yon, including price information and contact person. And at the end of the year there’s “Best Homes of the Year,” featuring earlier Best Properties and what happened to them.

This year, what happened to them is not pretty: of the seven Best, only two have sold, and of the five remaining, four have had their prices cut. The biggest drop: a 146-acre spread near Great Barrington, Massachusetts, including a four-bedroom house designed by Hugh Newell Jacobsen. The $4.9 million price tag has shrunk to $3,450,000. Wheeler & Taylor has the listing for this property. I don’t really expect any of you to show up in the Berkshires with a hatful of cash, but hey, I’m just doing my part for the realty-based community.

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A Wolf hunt of sorts

After the Orlando game, I said something to the effect that “the T-Wolves don’t figure to be the patsies they were last year.” And they didn’t; Minnesota was never out of this game — “a grinder from the start,” said radio guy Matt Pinto — until 0:03, when Kendrick Perkins put the kibosh on a Michael Beasley jumper and then calmly sank two free throws to put it just out of reach, 104-100.

This was Ricky Rubio’s debut, and whatever the Wolves wound up paying for him, it was worth it: the man is harder to track than the Higgs boson. He didn’t score a lot in 26 minutes — six points — but he served up six assists and pulled in five rebounds, eluding Thunder defenders all over the court. And while the Minnesota long-ball game was largely thwarted, Beasley and Kevin Love simply switched to shorter shots and rolled up 46 points between them. With this much going on, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were going to have to switch to Batman and Robin mode.

Which they did. KD had 33 points, Westbrook 28, and they drew fouls from all over, sinking all 15 of their free throws. Which is a good thing, because fouls were being called left and right all night — except when they weren’t. (Dallas expat J. J. Barea evidently is going for Best Supporting Actor.)

But look at this by quarter:

OKC  23  29  26  26  104
MIN  24  22  26  28  100

Nobody had time to dominate anyone else, not even the Dynamic Duos on both sides.

One night off, and then another back-to-back: at Memphis Wednesday, and at home against the Mavericks on Thursday. Here’s where we find out if last year’s Grizzlies were a fluke. (Hint: They weren’t.)

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And to think we mock Metta World Peace

The former Daniel Knox-Hewson, twenty-three, has changed his name via deed poll to Emperor Spiderman Gandalf Wolverine Skywalker Optimus Prime Goku Sonic Xavier Ryu Cloud Superman Heman Batman Thrash.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see his monogram. And the same goes for his best bud Baron Venom Balrog Sabretooth Vader Megatron Vegeta Robotnik Magneto Bison Sephiroth Lex Luthor Skeletor Joker Grind (previously the somewhat more prosaic Kelvin Borbage).

Whether these somewhat-contrived names will stand the test of time remains to be seen; no one, for instance, seems to remember composer Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern-schplenden-schlitter-crasscrenbon-fried-digger-dingle-dangle-dongle-dungle-burstein-von-knacker-thrasher-apple-banger-horowitz-ticolensic-grander-knotty-spelltinkle-grandlich-grumblemeyer-spelterwasser-kurstlich-himbleeisen-bahnwagen-gutenabend-bitte-ein-nürnburger-bratwustle-gerspurten-mitz-weimache-luber-hundsfut-gumberaber-shönedanker-kalbsfleisch-mittler-aucher von Hautkopft of Ulm.

(Note: “Metta World Peace” is the artist formerly known as Artest, as in Ron Artest, as in Los Angeles Lakers.)

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His name was never mud

First, The Song:

You wouldn’t know it from the mono clip, but that song was recorded in 10-track (!) way back when. The existing stereo mixdown is, um, kinda weird.

From the liner of the one and only Music Machine LP (Original Sound, 1966):

You have just purchased a most unique machine. It has five moving parts but uses no oil. It runs on high-octane acceptance. Its components are soul, unity, communication, and originality. It will never clang, rattle, ping, knock, hiss or break down. Occasionally it will hum, though intricate and precise are by no means delicate. From time to time, this machine may require a tune up, but at no expense of inconvenience to the consumer. Major or minor adjustments are possible only through the developing factories or Original Sound. These adjustments are unnecessary however, your machine is flexible yet solid and made to last.

Eventually, four of those five parts moved on, leaving Sean Bonniwell to carry on. He kept the Music Machine name, sticking his own in front of it, for one more album, then disappeared into soft-rock oblivion. (Yes, he could do that sort of thing; he’d started out as a Sensitive Folkie, after all.) An autobiography (Beyond the Garage) appeared in the 1990s.

The story apparently ended Saturday with Bonniwell’s death in California. I didn’t hear about it until Sunday, through this Holly Cara Price tweet. Music Machine bassist Keith Olsen went on to produce a few zillion albums; the other members seem to have dropped out of sight. Still, there’s The Song, and it’s not going away.

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We toll you once, we toll you twice

The Feds impose an excise tax of 18.4 cents on every gallon of gas. In the past, I’ve suggested that this might be bumped up a bit. A recent poll, though, indicates that I’m very much outnumbered:

58% prefer tolls to pay for new lanes or highways compared to 28% for increased gas tax, according to a recent Reason-Rupe (R-R) poll of 1,200 people. There’s 77% opposition to raising the federal gas tax and only 19% support. 65% of people think federal gas tax money is spent ineffectively to 23% who think it is well spent.

A clear majority according to the R-R poll support tolls — 59% — when they save drivers a “significant” amount of time. There’s 57% support for converting HOV lanes to HOT.

(Full report in PDF format here.)

Update: Not applicable in Georgia.

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Presenting the lovely Kitty White

Celebrity culture has grown to such an extent that anyone who’s ever had a word with Ryan Seacrest is now deemed a “star.” So it’s somewhat heartening to see that the editors of Elle’s Taiwan edition have given a cover to someone who is legitimately a household word:

Hello Kitty on the cover of Elle Taiwan

Considered vis-à-vis her main competition, Kitty is arguably not a sheer force of nature, but I suspect Kitty’s probably easier to dress than Miss Piggy, no small consideration for a fashion mag.

(Oh, and Kitty White is apparently her real name.)

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Strange search-engine queries (308)

It’s Boxing Day, so let’s pull back the cardboard flaps for just a moment and see what’s hiding in the server logs.

six pack precision:  You should insist upon it: after all, you paid for more than 5.87 units of beer.

wireless lace bra victoria’s secret:  Even with a double D, you should not expect 3G speeds.

partilly bra girl:  She’s the one with the, um, iPad.

“hype is the death of all”:  Were that the case, we’d never have made it to Super Bowl XLVII.

conjectulation -premature:  I’m sure there’s an ointment, or something, for that.

“why would we want to have a whole bunch”:  As the guy from Lay’s Potato Chips used to say, betcha can’t eat just one.

mitsubishi car spoilers:  Some say a car is spoiled just because it’s a Mitsubishi.

elvira wardrobe malfunction:  Hardly. That’s what they were originally designed to do.

gwen stefani tech:  You’ll notice that her wardrobe never malfunctions, either.

Wilderness Dreams Women’s Thongs & G-strings:  Methinks your subconscious is having a malfunction of its own.

landrover douchebags:  You’re more likely to see them in Range Rovers, actually.

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White Kryptonite

By no means is the Orlando Magic a one-man operation, but bottling up Dwight Howard puts that much more pressure on the rest of the roster, and in years gone by, the only way the Thunder could contain Howard was with the double-team. No more. Kendrick Perkins is one of the few centers who can go one-on-one with Howard, and while Superman got his usual allotment of rebounds — fifteen — he was held to a Clark Kent-like eleven points, and the Thunder sent the Magic home to the tune of 97-89.

Maybe Howard was distracted with all that trade talk. I don’t know. But Perk had no trouble getting his goat, at the expense of a technical. Other Magic men stepped up: Ryan Anderson hit six of twelve treys and reeled in ten boards, and Jameer Nelson had a pretty good night. But the second unit was fairly ineffective, with the exception of Von Wafer, brought in with nine minutes left, who hit both his shots from the field and five free throws. Probably a good thing he didn’t start.

Scott Brooks is still throwing curves through the rotation, bumping Kevin Durant to power forward now and then while finding minutes for ten players. Still, KD was out there for 37 minutes, pulling in 30 points, though he had a bad night at the foul line: six for eleven. Fortunately, James Harden, bidding for Sixth Man of the Year, took up the slack, hitting ten of twelve and contributing 19 points. (The entire Orlando bench had 25.) Interestingly, both KD and Russell Westbrook served up six assists; I’m thinking Brooks has finally gotten the word out on movement with and without the ball, since I don’t recall any moments when people were just standing there, an occasional issue last season.

This abbreviated season is going to be very wearying, I have a feeling. There are five games this week; even as we speak, the Thunder are headed north to Minnesota, where the T-Wolves don’t figure to be the patsies they were last year. Still, if we can take Superman, we ought to be able to take anyone.

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The peace process

(Note: Originally posted Christmas Day 2001.)

Most of the time, day or night, you can turn to one of the news channels and see footage of people killing one another, or heads of people talking about people killing one another. And if you do this often enough, you might conclude that peace as a concept is as remote as Neptune, and as unlikely to be reached in your lifetime.

And this conclusion works, sort of, if you are inclined to define “peace” as something contingent upon the absence of war. In which case, erase “Neptune” and replace with “Betelgeuse”: man’s inhumanity to man is a seemingly-permanent feature of the landscape, at least to the extent that man himself is a seemingly-permanent feature of the landscape.

But it’s not every man, on either end of that equation. Like so much else, peace, as a process, must begin with the individual. And peace on an individual level is more complicated. Life itself is fraught with conflict: things just refuse to fall into nice, neat little patterns we can follow by rote. At some point, we are faced with questions as basic as “Should I stay or should I go?” Can you just walk away? Sometimes you can. Sometimes you can’t.

When I was younger, so much younger than today, a radio station once had the temerity to follow John Lennon’s “Imagine” with his “Working Class Hero”, a mordantly bitter tune that demonstrated pretty convincingly, at least to me, that the lightest and brightest of dreams could — maybe even had to — coexist with fear and loathing and disillusionment. Finding a balance therein is, I think, one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and I suspect it will take me the rest of my days. But it’s a conflict from which I cannot walk away.

A short time later, I was in the Army, and during this time I had some cards made up which identified me as “Specialist, United States Peace Force.” Unofficial, of course. Some noted — some will note, even today — that I wore a uniform and carried a rifle (and sometimes more), and that by so doing, I belied my own self-description. I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t buy it now. The argument that you should never, ever strike first is awfully close to the argument that you should never, ever take vitamins. I don’t know any homeowner who will say, “Aw, let’s give the termites a chance.” If conscience demands, as it will, that we think things over before we commit ourselves to some frightful war in the Middle East, it demands also that we consider the consequences should we walk away.

Peace on the individual level: “Can you live with the decisions you have made?” I’m working on it. And thank you for working on it for yourself.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled greeting-card sentiment.

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As David E. reaches 4500 rpm

An item from Jack Baruth’s Christmas list:

Let’s get Car and Driver and Road & Track off the newsstands. And AutoWeek while you’re at it. Seriously. Those of us who remember these magazines in their prime (not that AutoWeek ever had a prime, but you get the idea) are just depressed by reading them now — and the younger drivers don’t care. Close their doors and give existing subscribers, none of whom paid more than $6.95 a year anyway, their choice of Grassroots Motorsports or Shaved Asians to finish out their terms. Reading these once-great magazines now produces the same uncomfortable feeling I had when I heard that Jaco Pastorius had died in a gutter. Let’s make the dignified choice.

Well, actually they found Jaco badly injured in a gutter; he died, comatose, ten days later. The bouncer who had bounced him thence served a brief jail term.

Oh, and I paid a whole ten bucks for C/D last time around. Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention.

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The 38th of Cunegonde

Last year, Russia cut back from eleven time zones to nine. These guys argue in favor of cutting back to zero:

[W]e recommend the abolition of all time zones, as well as of daylight savings time, and the adoption of atomic time — in particular, Greenwich Mean Time, or Universal Time, as it is called today. Like the adoption of a modern calendar, the embrace of Universal Time would be beneficial.

For example, the adoption of Universal Time would give new flexibility to economic management in the vast East-West expanse of Russia: everyone would know exactly what time it is everywhere, at every moment. Opening and closing times of businesses could be specified for every class of business and activity. If thought desirable, banks and financial institutions throughout the country could be required to open and to close each day at the same hour by the world time. This would mean that bank employees in the far East of Russia would start work with the sun well up in the sky, while bank employees in the far west of Russia would be at their desks before the sun has risen. But, across the country, they could conduct business with one another, all the working day.

Then again, the Chinese (does anybody else?) really know what time it is: the whole enormous land mass is considered to be in a single time zone (UTC+08:00), though it’s wide enough for five.

Messing with the clock, however, isn’t quite enough:

We propose a new calendar [pdf] that preserves the Sabbath, with no exceptions. That calendar is simple, religiously unobjectionable, business-friendly and identical year-to-year. There are, just as in [George] Eastman’s calendar, 364 days in each year. But, every five or six years (specifically, in the years 2015, 2020, 2026, 2032, 2037, 2043, 2048, 2054, 2060, 2065, 2071, 2076, 2082, 2088, 2093, 2099, 2105 … which have been chosen mathematically to minimize the new calendar’s drift with respect to the seasons), one extra full week (seven days, so that the Sabbath is unaffected) is inserted, at the end of the year. These extra seven days bring the calendar back into full synchrony with the seasons. In place of Eastman’s 13 months of 28 days, we prefer 4 identical quarters, each having two months of 30 days and a third month of 31 days.

Is this extra week to be dubbed December 32 through 38, or is it just, you know, there?

Of course, the true horror of this scheme, from my point of view, is that it makes February even longer, and who the hell needs that?

(Via Fausta’s blog. Title poached from the Firesign Theatre.)

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Still more songs in the key of me

The third collection of songs that made me what I am today, whatever that may be.

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And what a night it was

Monday night on Leno: Sandra Bullock, resplendent in what may be my favorite shade of blue, and Diablo Cody, almost certainly about to crack everyone up.

Sandra Bullock and Diablo Cody on the Tonight Show

This is one of those moments that plays hell with my Crush-O-Meter: I’m never quite sure which way it’s going to deflect.

Update: Laura asked about the shoes, so…

Sandra Bullock and Diablo Cody on the Tonight Show

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It would be really big

The Ed Sullivan Show has been gone forty years now, but if you’re old enough, and I am, you see both historical and mythological value in that Sunday-night staple. So does Rich Appel:

For nothing but kicks, I thought I’d put together a guest list for a typical hour of Sullivan in January 2012. Of course, these days it’d be in L.A.

  • Michael Bublé
  • Vova and Olga Galchenko (brother-sister juggling team)
  • LMFAO
  • Larry the Cable Guy
  • Criss Angel
  • Jackie Evancho
  • Cirque de Soleil
  • The Muppets
  • New Directions from Glee

Not sure how you’d top a guest list like that, but therein lies the challenge. It’s a good bet that one of the acts listed above wouldn’t get to perform, and Ed (or whoever) would have to run out at :59:40 and say: “We’re running a little late, so … goodnight!”

The Muppets, incidentally, appeared more than two dozen times on the original Sullivan show, starting in 1966, three years before Sesame Street.

Now if we could only find someone to spin plates to Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance.

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Mainstream mediocre

Richard Nixon once nominated a fellow named G. Harrold Carswell, then a judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, to the Supreme Court vacancy created by the resignation of Abe Fortas. Judge Carswell was perceived as perhaps not the brightest light in the judicial firmament; in fact, the word “mediocre” was attached to him early in the confirmation hearings, leading Senator Roman Hruska (R-NE) to complain:

“Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance? We can’t have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos.”

And that was [not quite] the last anyone heard of G. Harrold Carswell.

Perhaps invoking the spirit of Roman Hruska, Robert Stacy McCain expounds on the wonders of representative democracy:

This is the beauty of democracy, a tribute to our nation’s greatness, that even the dangerously deluded are entitled to representation in the halls of Congress, where courageous men and women like Ron Paul, Maxine Waters, Sheldon Whitehouse, Alan Grayson and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz are unfraid to Speak Truth to Power on behalf on their core constituencies of kooks.

Moonbats, perverts, goldbugs, socialists, feminists, Alec Baldwin, environmentalists, freaks, geeks, Keynesians, disco fans, dopeheads, sodomites, animal rights activists, neo-Nazis, James Wolcott, MSNBC viewers, Boston Globe subscribers, Daily Kos contributors, Janeane Garofalo, Paul Krugman, Sean Penn, Chris Matthews — dangerously deranged people who in any sane and responsible society would be confined to psychiatric institutions are here, in America, free to speak and write whatever manic nonsense erupts from their addled minds.

These brain-damaged freaks are also free to support with their money and votes whichever dimwitted nutjob, cynical charlatan or hateful demagogue they believe best represents their neurotic interests.

Two notes:

  • The man who did eventually succeed Abe Fortas — Harry Blackmun, confirmed by the Senate 94-zip — went mostly unnoticed on the Supreme Court until he wrote the opinion on Roe v. Wade;

  • I have acquired, over the years, a greater appreciation for disco.

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Charge more

Optional engines are still the rule rather than the exception in the American car market: almost everything passing itself off as a “family” sedan comes with a base inline-four, though a few grand extra will get you a V6 or at least a turbo for that four, and pickup buyers revel in their ability to select exactly the right engine for what they imagine are their needs.

The hybrids and the electrics, up to now, hadn’t offered such options. Tesla’s upcoming Model S has the same 300-kW (about 400 hp) motor throughout the line. However, Tesla will be offering three different battery packs: the larger the pack, the greater the range and the higher the performance. The base version ($50k after the Federal tax credit) gets a 40-kWh pack, reportedly good for 0-60 in 6.5 seconds and a range of 165 miles. Ante up another ten grand and get the 65-kWh pack, cutting 0.6 seconds off zero-to-sixty and extending range to 230 miles. Yet another ten grand will bring you the 85-kWh pack, bringing you to a 300-mile range and slicing 0-60 to 5.6. (There’s a “performance” version beyond that, with a high-performance inverter, that drops 0-60 into the mid-fours.) The best-selling pure-electric, the Nissan Leaf, comes with a modest 24-kWh battery pack; Chevrolet’s Volt carries 16 kWh.

All the Tesla battery packs will carry an 8-year warranty, though only the 85-kWh version specifies unlimited mileage.

(See also the pricing analysis at The Truth About Cars.)

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