Get it while it’s last

Brook Benton, dealing with a man with a long cigar in “Hit Record,” in 1962: “Well, he made me sign the paper for twenty years.” And Benton wasn’t kidding: Rick Nelson’s contract with Decca, starting in 1963, was originally for twenty years, though MCA, successor to Decca, dropped him after thirteen.

Mandatory Fun by Weird Al YankovicI mention this because “Weird Al” Yankovic signed a record contract in 1982 which only just now, 32 years later, has been completed. This does not mean he’s through with recording, but Mandatory Fun may be the last full-length Al album ever: the man’s at his best with topical material, and it’s hard to be topical with two or three years between album releases. So the coming scarcity of Yankovic long-players would be reason enough to snap it up, I think; fortunately, there’s enough good stuff here to justify your ten-buck outlay (or your eighteen-buck outlay for the vinyl version, which comes out next month).

Yankovic’s promotional campaign was unusual: no single, but eight videos to be released over the first week of release, each of which was put together with a Web partner because Sony wasn’t about to fork over a ton of money for someone who hadn’t put out an album in three years and who had had only one Top Ten single ever (“White & Nerdy,” 2006, which made #9). Everybody loved “Word Crimes,” a reworking of Robin Thicke’s utterly awful “Blurred Lines,” partly because of the brilliant kinetic-typography video, partly because everyone loves to play the More Grammatical Than Thou card, but mostly, I think, because the rewrite was so much better than the original. And “Foil,” a parody of Lorde’s “Royals” with aluminum at its heart, was downright weird, which never hurts.

Deserving of more note: “Mission Statement,” which is what Crosby, Stills and Nash, with or without Young, would sound like if they were present-day buzzword-driven corporate consultants, and “First World Problems,” a Pixies sendup with Al doing his best (and not at all bad) Black Francis and Amanda Palmer in the role of Kim Deal. The polka medley, as always, is delightful, with wholly unexpected transitions and no bleep in “Thrift Shop.” And you won’t miss much by ripping just the first 11 songs: the 12th, “Jackson Park Express,” is a pretty acoustical tune, à la early-Seventies Cat Stevens, over which is laid a genuinely creepy boy-meets-girl story that takes nine minutes to go nowhere.

Note: Amazon.com put this out as a download, just for this weekend, for $5.99. If you find Mandatory Fun compelling and don’t object to the sheer intangibility of downloads, you’ll find it more so at four dollars off.

Comments (6)




She’d be fine in this town

In the US, it seems like if you can count the sides on a STOP sign and promise to learn how to parallel-park some day, you can get a driver’s license: we don’t even care if you’re an actual citizen. It appears, though, that things are a little tougher in Jolly Old:

A 28-year-old woman has spent £3,410 on driving theory tests and still not passed, data has revealed.

The woman, from Southwark, south east London, has sat the test a record 110 times, according to results of a Freedom of Information request published in the MailOnline.

And they won’t let her behind the wheel until she passes the written test, which I have to assume isn’t the easiest thing on earth:

The driving theory tests costs learners £31 a time to take and is made up of multiple choice questions and a hazard perception test. The national pass rate is 65.4 per cent.

The fee for the actual behind-the-wheel test is £62 on weekdays, £75 evenings, weekends or bank holidays. (American DMVs please copy. It is not necessary that everyone in the farging office be home in time to watch Jeopardy!) A chap from Stoke-on-Trent finally passed it on his 37th try; there’s one woman from Horsforth who has yet to pass after 32 attempts.

(Via Autoblog.)

Comments (3)




A hint of thirst

First she was Agnes Monica Muljoto, which was quickly shortened to simply “Agnes Monica,” under which name the Indonesian singer released several albums, the last of which was a best-of package called Agnes Is My Name. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t; she resurfaced as “Agnez Mo,” perhaps in the interest of getting some recognition in the States. I think I’d recognize someone like this:

Agnez Mo in 12/13 Regard Magazine

That business about “Coke Bottle” in the text refers to this:

Something of a departure, I think, from her earlier image:

Agnez Mo

Of course, I’m old enough to remember when “Coke Bottle” described cars:

Chevrolet Camaro

And it’s not like Agnez is some sort of throwback, either. In a weird sort of marketing innovation, the aforementioned Agnes Is My Name compilation was distributed through KFC locations in Indonesia: you could buy it separately, or it could be thrown in with the purchase of a combo meal. The album moved about a million copies.

(Now that I think about it, though, it’s probably a good thing that the album came out before the “Coke Bottle” single, inasmuch as the 400-odd KFC stores in Indonesia sell Pepsi.)

Comments off




Meanwhile in the background

Now I feel like I’ve been caught out:

Many older women complain about feeling invisible — no one turns a head when we walk into a room. As Linda Grant writes in The Thoughtful Dresser, “I have watched the eyes of men sweep a room and find that apart from the girl crossing her legs, over there, it is empty. After a certain age, women are invisible. Without a sexual stimulus, many men cannot process in the visual/conceptual portion of their brains that a woman is present.”

There is, I suspect, a reasonable chance that if the guy who just entered the room is actively searching for sexual stimuli, most of the women would just as soon not be noticed at all, at least by the likes of him. Then again, there are those who would argue that any man entering the room will first scan for eye candy before getting down to business, and I’m not in a position to offer myself as a counterexample, at least not honestly.

There exists a subversion of this trope in fiction, the most recent example I’ve seen being Jeanne Ray’s Calling Invisible Women (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012). In this novel, a fiftysomething woman literally vanishes, first piecemeal, then completely; but the men in her life — her husband, her son, the guys in the neighborhood — don’t even notice.

Comments (6)




Arch nemeses

Once upon a time, there was a guest on David Letterman’s show — don’t remember if it was on NBC or CBS — who was billed as having the perfect foot, the standard by which shoemakers judge their lasts. I remember very little about her except her size, which was either a 6 or a 6½, decidedly smaller than average, and I speak as someone who (for a short time) dated a woman who wore a size 4.

Shoemakers are having to spend more on materials today, it appears:

U.S. shoe makers including Stuart Weitzman and Cole Haan report average sizes are creeping up. And retailers are watching the extended-size market carefully. Nordstrom has seen strong sales of larger sizes, says Anne Egan, national merchandise manager for salon shoes. It has held special in-store events for extended-size customers, including women who wear up to a size 14 and men who wear up to a size 20. Long Tall Sally, a U.K.-based apparel and footwear retailer that gets almost half its sales from North America, sells the most shoes in U.S. sizes 12 and 13, says Chief Executive Andrew Shapin. Size 15, added earlier this year, now makes up 10% of its footwear business.

I’m hoping this means that a men’s size 14 will soon be common enough to stock in places that don’t routinely charge me three figures a pair — and then I think of Shaquille O’Neal, always reported as size 22, who now claims to wear a 23. (And truth be told, I might be a candidate for 15s now, or at least an additional E on my 14s.)

Comments (4)




711 craps out

For those around here who might not remember the original referendum from ten years ago, the text of the measure enacted by Oklahoma State Question 711, now picking up speed on its presumably inevitable roll to the dustbin:

(a.) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. Neither this Constitution nor any other provision of law shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

(b.) A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another state shall not be recognized as valid and binding in this state as of the date of the marriage.

(c.) Any person knowingly issuing a marriage license in violation of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

This is what I said at the time:

Inasmuch as same-sex marriages are already illegal in this state, this measure is superfluous; more to the point, while there are perfectly logical reasons to oppose them which don’t imply that the opponent is necessarily some horrid hidebound bigot, I don’t like the idea of establishing a precedent that in the future could be used by horrid hidebound bigots for some nefarious purpose — this isn’t a chainsaw, it’s a bludgeon — and that reason alone is enough for me to vote No on 711.

That slippery slope can go in several different directions, you know?

Anyway, no licenses are yet being issued, and nothing is final, even by the dubious political definition of “final.”

Comments off




Lost our lease, everyone must go

The 66ers will move farther down Route 66:

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s NBA Development League affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers, will be moving to Oklahoma City, the Thunder announced today.

The 66ers have played home games the last two seasons at the SpiritBank Event Center in Bixby, Okla., but team officials were notified recently that the facility will no longer offer arena space for lease. The move will take place prior to the start of the D-League regular season, which begins in mid-November and extends through early April.

In Tulsa, the 66ers drew about 2400 per game, slightly below midpack among D-League teams. (This past season, the team finished 24-26, which is also, um, slightly below midpack, though fifth in the six-team Central Division.)

I’m just surprised no one offered to move them to Seattle.

Comments (3)




Just how Prime is Optimus, anyway?

I guess this is how we find out:

Imagine whatever metamorphoses you’d like. I’m trying not to.

Comments (2)




On schedule

Since someone asked (using the Tumblr Ask function), Rebecca Black explained what’s been going on with her schooling for the past three years. First, the question as put:

after dropping out, did you actually ‘homeschool’ or hang around doin almost barely anything somewhat educational in your room (like i’ve been doing these recent months)? im a highschool dropout same age as you, just thought even tho it looks all cool and good on the outside, everyone got their own struggles but all others see is the problems, and maybe you have some of your own. private answer me if you want to. i’d like to know you a lil better.

Her reply:

I never “dropped out” of high school. I was always taking a full load of classes, but I took them online. I still had all the different teachers and classes. I did this for my freshman and sophomore years, and then went back to public high school for my junior year, and will continue that for my senior year as well, as I didn’t want to miss out on a “high school experience” completely.

I’m not one to support dropping out, that’s honestly never even been a reasonable option for my family and myself. I never dropped out of high school, I’m not graduating early, no GED, CHSPE, I’ll be graduating this next year with my class!

And that would seem to be that.

Comments off




No, he did it

The Verizon/Netflix dustup continues with fingers pointing in both directions. Are there any semi-disinterested third parties who could comment? Why, yes, there are:

David Young, Vice President, Verizon Regulatory Affairs recently published a blog post suggesting that Netflix themselves are responsible for the streaming slowdowns Netflix’s customers have been seeing. But his attempt at deception has backfired. He has clearly admitted that Verizon is deliberately constraining capacity from network providers like Level 3 who were chosen by Netflix to deliver video content requested by Verizon’s own paying broadband consumers.

His explanation for Netflix’s on-screen congestion messages contains a nice little diagram. The diagram shows a lovely uncongested Verizon network, conveniently color-coded in green. It shows a network that has lots of unused capacity at the most busy time of the day. Think about that for a moment: Lots of unused capacity. So point number one is that Verizon has freely admitted that [it] has the ability to deliver lots of Netflix streams to broadband customers requesting them, at no extra cost. But, for some reason, Verizon has decided that it prefers not to deliver these streams, even though its subscribers have paid it to do so.

Take, for example, the connection in Los Angeles:

All of the Verizon FiOS customers in Southern California likely get some of their content through this interconnection location. It is in a single building. And boils down to a router Level 3 owns, a router Verizon owns and four 10Gbps Ethernet ports on each router. A small cable runs between each of those ports to connect them together.

Verizon has confirmed that everything between that router in their network and their subscribers is uncongested — in fact has plenty of capacity sitting there waiting to be used. Above, I confirmed exactly the same thing for the Level 3 network. So in fact, we could fix this congestion in about five minutes simply by connecting up more 10Gbps ports on those routers. Simple. Something we’ve been asking Verizon to do for many, many months, and something other providers regularly do in similar circumstances. But Verizon has refused. So Verizon, not Level 3 or Netflix, causes the congestion. Why is that? Maybe they can’t afford a new port card because they’ve run out — even though these cards are very cheap, just a few thousand dollars for each 10 Gbps card which could support 5,000 streams or more. If that’s the case, we’ll buy one for them. Maybe they can’t afford the small piece of cable between our two ports. If that’s the case, we’ll provide it. Heck, we’ll even install it.

I subscribe to neither Verizon services nor to Netflix, but this issue is of interest to me because my Web services provider is in Los Angeles, and they have to hand off to a third-party provider like Level 3 — though not Level 3 itself, specifically, according to the last tracert I ran — before my local ISP can pick it up.

(Via SwiftOnSecurity.)

Comments (2)




Necessary unroughness

Are your sheets fitted to your lifestyle? And what the heck does that mean, anyway?

There was thought-provoking news for lovers this month. It was reported that people who sleep naked have happier relationships. In a survey of 1,000 Britons, 57% of naked sleepers reported feeling “happy” in love, the most in any group. The cotton-promoting body that commissioned the study explained its findings with all the creepy gravitas of Peter Stringfellow giving a physics lecture: “Bedding can feel extremely soft against the skin, encouraging openness and intimacy between couples and ultimately increasing happiness.”

Not having heard Mr Stringfellow’s creepy gravitas before, I went dialing around YouTube and came up with a party political broadcast supporting a UKIP candidate. Comparison verified.

If this is true, not only does it mean that nocturnal nudists are happier in love, it also means that’s because they’re the kind of insatiate bonobos who become aroused at the mere caress of a flat sheet from Debenhams. I can’t help having my doubts.

After roughly, or smoothly, 45 years of sleeping in the buff, mostly unaroused, I am similarly doubtful. But I’m willing to entertain this hypothesis:

Speaking of which, surely fun is the real key to a happy relationship? Not, like, sheets, as the people who are selling sheets seem so keen to suggest. Perhaps (stay with me on this) people who sleep naked are pretty relaxed, generally quite happy with themselves. Glass-half-full types who greet a clipboard-wielding surveyor with a cheery “Of course I’ve got a few minutes to answer some questions about my sleeping habits! Nothing could be more delightful!” rather than desperately trying to avoid eye contact or pretending their mobile is ringing. Maybe such people have happy relationships, are more apt to describe them that way, and it’s nothing to do with how naked they are.

On the other hand, if you’re some cheap so-and-so who buys sheets with a thread count in the single digits, you deserve the abrasion you’re getting.

(Via Nudiarist.)

Comments off




Ottawa Five-O

Turning 50 was no big deal for me: I’d just bought this house, and while the move was a pain in many asses, it was a one-time thing. Then again, I’m not a Canadian woman:

In the spring, my doctor handed me an envelope decorated with a cluster of bright balloons and the words “Happy Birthday!”

Alas, this deceptively cheerful package concealed the usual tips on diet and exercise, plus requisition forms for all the annual medical tests I’d be getting from now on.

The mammogram is bad enough. I got my first one before having my doubts about the procedure confirmed, and now I’m stuck in the “Ontario Breast Screening Program” because “free” “health” “care.”

But now I also have to get blood work for cholesterol (how 1970s!), glucose and a bunch of other things, plus an ECG.

The worst part: I need to send little swabs of poo through the mail. (Although it could be worse: it could be my job to open those envelopes. And a special shout-out to my Facebook friend for sharing her “float a Chinet dessert plate in the toilet” trick.)

It’s all part of the splendor and pageantry of turning 50.

For what it’s worth, I had my first colorectal screening in my late forties, and I didn’t have to send anyone any poo. Downside: I had to write a check with four digits before the decimal point, which was worse.

Comments (4)




They just said Hi

And then there was this one line:

It is better that the other processed rubbish on the market.

In other news, there are quality standards for processed rubbish.

Oh, they did throw in a link, to some .pl site with a page called “oprah.html,” which all by itself is enough to raise the storm flags.

Comments (1)




Everyone’s a critic

Peter Grant, aka Bayou Renaissance Man, has written five books — the Maxwell Saga trilogy, the first book of the Laredo Wars series, and a memoir of his days as a prison chaplain. This puts him at least four point something up on the likes of, well, me. This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t post a review, but whatever the circumstances, I shouldn’t post a review as shoddy as this:

Comparing this atrocity to the work of Heinlien [sic] is like comparing festering garbage to a meal at a Michelin Star restaurant.

Without a doubt, the worst book I have ever attempted to read. The narrative has all the skill of a seventh grader writing about their summer vacation. I am offended that anyone had the gall to charge actual money for this pig slop. It was so wretched that I gave up on it after the second chapter. Do yourself a gargantuan favor and do not buy this trash masquerading as literature.

Grant, for his part, found it amusing:

I have a pretty good idea who wrote that review. If I (and others) are right, it’s someone who’s been identified as a troll by several other authors of my acquaintance, some of whom instantly remarked (when they learned about the review) that it has all the hallmarks of his grammar, vocabulary and phraseology. I don’t know for sure, but I thought most of you would find it as entertaining as I did.

I’ve always had this weird idea that if you’re going to act superior to someone, at some point you need to demonstrate some capacity for superiority. The troll isn’t born who could actually do that.

Comments (5)




El Q

I found this ad on the Fark Politics tab, which I suppose makes sense, inasmuch as pretty much all public policy these days calls for spending money, and many of the recipients — not to mention many of the dispensers of said cash — are decidedly challenged by actual English:

Banner ad for Infiniti Q50 in Spanish

Then again, I have to wonder what I’d been reading to be sent this particular ad in the first place.

Comments off




Backup on the front line

We in the Brotherhood of Bytes — which, despite its name, contains a fair number of sisters — hold this truth to be self-evident:

Businesses are predicated on dividing work into little bitty pieces, each of which are simple and obvious.

Working with computers requires a higher level of abstract thinking. This is something most businessmen do not understand and do not know how to handle.

Some actually seem to resent it. (We don’t have this problem at 42nd and Treadmill, largely because we tend to lack the tendency to remind people of our indispensability.)

Of course, this doesn’t mean that any of us have any business running a business, either.

Computer geeks that keep the virtual gears turning smoothly have no such visible value. If things are working smoothly, well, we must not need the computer geeks.

I think the key is to manufacture a crisis every so often and then make a big show of having to work extremely hard to put things right.

I’ve never had to manufacture a crisis. And truth be told, I’d just as soon make it look easy, and give the users the sense of “Aw, crap, how come I can’t learn that?”

Comments (3)