And the moon was yellow

The thing that always struck me about Lloyd Price’s version of “Stagger Lee” — if you haven’t heard it lately, see Nicole’s almost frighteningly detailed history of the song — is that it’s downright jubilant: not only does Mr. Lee shoot Billy without discernible consequences, but the background singers are egging him on (“Go Stagger Lee!”) all the while. Furthermore, not only did Dick Clark refuse to allow it on the sanitary stage of American Bandstand, but for the next couple of decades, urban BMFs of this sort were expected to come to a Bad End. (See, for instance, the case of Leroy Brown.) Then again, the cleaned-up, Clark-approved version has been utterly ignored ever since; covers by everyone from Wilson Pickett to Tommy Roe have stuck to Price’s first telling of the story.

From Nicole’s notes:

The versions in which he takes over Hell from the devil also likely come from the perception that Lee was black and a black man strong enough to do all of that would have quickly become a folk hero to an oppressed minority population, who, although having been freed from slavery 30 years prior [to the original incident, which dated to 1895], were still laboring under Jim Crow laws. A trickster type of character would appeal to people in less than optimum conditions who saw no path to change.

Exactly so. In fact, Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers actually named his son after Stagger Lee, and cited Lee as a civil-rights hero on par with, for instance, his Panther co-founder Huey Newton. But there’s this:

Standin’ on the gallows,
Stack O’Lee did cuss,
The judge said let’s kill him
Before he kills some of us.

So sang Mississippi John Hurt in 1928. It would be thirty years before Mr. Lee was allowed to get away with it, and, well, a lot can happen in thirty years.

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Candid cams

If you’re old enough, you may remember the old flathead engines with the valves positioned on the side of the block; modern overhead-valve engines with pushrods were a bit more complicated, but they allowed for higher compression ratios, something that mattered a great deal in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I’ve never owned a car with a flathead mill, and I retain a certain fondness for pushrods, inasmuch as the first car I could call my own was a Chevrolet, a make which had actually started building OHV engines in 1929, a mere 37 years before my little Nova with the 230. But my last three rides have had double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, something I tend to think of as a relatively recent innovation.

And of course I’m wrong. In fact, the DOHC configuration was first used in a car a hundred years ago this week: a racer driven by Georges Boillot of the Peugeot team, equipped with a 7.6-liter DOHC four, won the French Grand Prix (Grand Prix de l’ACF) on 26 June 1912, easily beating a 14-liter Fiat S74s and suggesting that there might indeed be a replacement for displacement. The next year, Jules Goux, driving a modified version of the Peugeot — down to 7.3 liters — won the Indy 500, leading for 138 of the 200 laps.

Not that this layout is ideal or anything: of the three DOHC cars I’ve owned, only one had a torque peak anywhere in the lower half of the tach, if you can call 130 lb-ft a peak. Or, for that matter, torque.

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Performing the traditional Friday rite

Rebecca Black in concert? Is this even possible? Short answer: yes. It’s going to happen in August, on the Jersey shore. (No, not on a Friday, though.)

On this Friday, which is to say today, RB put in an appearance at VidCon: she wasn’t on the original guest list, but she evidently drew a crowd at some sort of booth.

Rebecca Black at the Part of Me premiere 26 June 2012Earlier in the week, interviewed on the red carpet at the premiere of old pal Katy Perry’s Part of Me, RB allowed that she was “recording an album right now,” and that “it’s a little bit different than what I have put out so far.” Not that she’s going to let any secrets slip at this point in her career.

(Parenthetically: I must grumble here that by the time I turned fifteen, I’d pretty much had the construction “different than” beaten out of me [figuratively, anyway] by a succession of teachers of English, all of whom thought it was a barbarism. Then again, when I turned fifteen, Orange County’s previous superstar, Richard Nixon, had just been elected President. To contemporary kids, this might as well have been in the days of the dinosaur.)

I will, of course, put on my fanboy hat and haunt iTunes until this album actually shows up.

(Here’s the full-sized photo, by Jason Merritt/Getty Images.)

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Mandatory contact cleaner

There has been butthurt on a galactic scale in response to the Zuckerborg’s most recent Neat Idea: the replacement of your email address, as listed in your Facebook profile, with I wish to state for the record that I don’t really give a flying fish, for the following reasons:

  • The vast majority of my FB friends already know at least one address at which they can reach me — four of the five I maintain have been active for over a decade — and presumably don’t need to hunt down the profile page;
  • I can always use it as a spam trap if I have to.

I can’t really feel personally affronted by this action: I learned a long time ago that I was the product, not the customer. And once in a while I do look at my Facebook messages, though I admit I don’t always peer into the mysterious “Other” folder.

(Provoked, sort of, by Teresa.)

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Well, frick

Instead of “frack,” which seems to upset people:

It was hypothesized by the Public Policy Research Lab [at LSU] that the actual word “Fracking” may have a negative connotation that is separate from the environmental concerns that often accompany discussions of the process. Due to the harsh consonant sounds in the word itself, and an undeniable similarity to a certain other four letter word starting with the letter “F”, it seemed plausible that some of the negative public sentiment about “Fracking” may result from how unpleasant the word itself sounds.

In order to test this hypothesis the Public Policy Research Lab placed two randomly assigned blocks of questions into the 2012 Louisiana Survey. Half of the respondents got one block, half got the other. One block contained questions about “Fracking” and used the word “Fracking” while the other block of near-identical questions … used a description of the “Fracking” process without actually using the words “Fracking” or “Fracturing.”

Apparently using that particular F-word reduces support for the process:

Comparison of responses to the 2012 Louisiana Survey

Still, I can see myself adapting this research to the vernacular: “What the hell kind of fracking response (or, for that matter, non-fracking response) was that?”

(Via Language Log.)

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Watch where you tread

You of course remember the Gadsden flag, with its rattlesnake ready to take on any and all trespassers. It dates to the 1770s, and still shows up now and then in American political discourse. If we didn’t have Gadsden, we’d have — what? Lileks offers an alternative:

“Get off my lawn” isn’t just an expression of a joyless old juiceless dude shaking his whittlin’ kinfe at some kids cutting across the lawn, it’s the basis of how you see the relationship between the individual and the state. See this? My lawn? Get off it. By which I mean don’t put a carbon tax on my lawn mower. Don’t ask for tax dollars for a program to raise consciousness about alternative grasses. Don’t regard my tenure on the lawn as transiton and conditional because you know it can be taken away if I don’t pay the taxes. (House = castle / lawn = moat)

And of late, we lawnowners might be well advised to keep a rattlesnake or two on hand, just because.

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This is no time to facepalm

If your childhood self used to think that germs came from, um, Germany, here’s just the Canadian story you need:

A hand sanitizer meant to protect people from germs is being recalled because of bacterial contamination, Health Canada said Thursday.

Kimberly-Clark is recalling its Kleenex-brand Luxury Foam Hand Sanitizer after company testing detected bacteria that may pose serious health risks to people with weakened immune systems, especially those with the lung disorder cystic fibrosis.

The microorganism involved is Burkholderia cepacia, which is not only nasty but downright durable: “The bacterium is so hardy, it has been found to persist in betadine (a common topical antiseptic).”

(Via Fark, where it got the IRONIC tag.)

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Keep me in a daydream

The label here is slightly misleading: this is a Stevie Wonder set (at the Toronto Jazz Fest), and Monáe doesn’t actually come in until about halfway through. Still, this is pretty close to an answered prayer, inasmuch as it’s been a long time since The ArchAndroid, and hey, it’s Stevie.

The place I got this also has two original songs from Monáe’s own set, which make me wonder (sorry) about the two albums she’s supposed to be releasing this year.

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We will, we will, track you

I’m really surprised it took this long. The Currently Reading sorta-widget down there in the sidebar (it’s available here) gets its jacket photos and such through Amazon Web Services, and serves up, among other things, an Amazon link if you exhibit enough interest in a title to click on it. It’s been up for several months now, and apparently Amazon just noticed I was signed up for AWS, because they sent me half a dozen suggestions based on a book I’d featured in the widget.

That book was Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel The Marriage Plot, and these are the suggestions:

  • Chad Harbach: The Art of Fielding
  • Téa Obreht: The Tiger’s Wife
  • David Levithan: The Lover’s Dictionary
  • Russell Banks: Lost Memory of Skin
  • Haruki Murakami: 1Q84
  • Julian Barnes: The Sense of an Ending

All of these look like they have some potential. (I’ve read about the Harbach novel and the Murakami trilogy, but have yet to read them for myself.) I’m putting this up as a reminder to myself, mostly.

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Slightly wild Rice

Australian Olympic swimmer Stephanie Rice caused some mild consternation when she snapped a photo of herself in a swimsuit and duly sent it up to Twitter. Admittedly, it’s not a competition swimsuit, but it’s not all that racy. (You can see it on Instagram.)

In 2008, Rice won three gold medals — 200- and 400-meter individual medleys and 200-meter freestyle medley — and set world records for all three. And occasionally she doesn’t wear a swimsuit at all:

Stephanie Rice

Two of those three records have since been broken — the 400-meter remains intact — so she’s got her work cut out for her in London.

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Tech advice of the week

And it’s pretty simple, really:

No matter what Microsoft representatives tell you, no matter what Microsoft writes on their support pages, DO NOT EVEN ATTEMPT TO USE AN XP COMPUTER TO DOWNLOAD WINDOWS 7.

Capitalization as in the original.

One reason for this:

The first software that needs to be downloaded and installed on an XP computer is supposedly .net 2.0. Remember that I’d just installed all the Microsoft updates on the XP laptop? It seems that .net 2.0 is “incompatible” with the version now on my laptop which was .net 3.? I think. Does Microsoft never update these pages? Does Microsoft think I’m going to uninstall a newer version of their software to install an older version so that I can download and use the latest version? And possibly screw up the one relatively full-featured computer I have working?

And we all know what I think of .NET, although somehow I have gotten 2.0 and 3.5 to coexist. (Versions below 2.0 are now supported only by whoever does installs for Cthulhu.)

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Behold the sacred tablet

And until further notice, thou shalt accept no substitute:

A court has banned sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in the US while it decides on the firm’s patent dispute with Apple.

Apple has claimed that Samsung infringed its design patent and copied the look of its popular device, the iPad. The Samsung tablet is considered by most analysts as the biggest rival to Apple’s iPad.

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 II (!), now reaching stores, is not included in the ban; Apple will have to set aside $2.6 million to compensate Samsung for lost sales should Apple lose the case, which will be tried in California beginning in late July.

Microsoft, whose Surface tablet is yet to go into production, will presumably find something to sue somebody over.

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Funnel be had

They don’t get a whole lot of tornadoes in Florida, but what they do get is reported on in an all-too-familiar manner:

Weather porn is the local news caster’s dream. Indeed, even some national news types love it too. Dan Rather made his bones covering a hurricane, and Geraldo doesn’t usually miss an opportunity to stand out in the wind & rain and look like a bigger fool than usual. Weather porn is big and dramatic, and even when death is involved it avoids the nastiness of talking about psycho-killers, child molesters, the deranged and the political. And once they get their fix of Act of God Drama they can go back to the regular stuff with a happy little glean in their eyes. So in the next few months when you see a newscaster reporting some grotesque of a story political or criminal (not mutually exclusive) with a twinkle in their eye, you’ll know that some locale just got the stuffing kicked out of it by weather in the previous weeks.

A note to certain locals: There is no reason on God’s brownish-of-late earth that the words “HEAT DOME” have to be displayed in letters a state and a half high.

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Fawning adulation

From the Vintage Hosiery folder, here’s a WWII-era magazine blurb for the Georgia-based Shaleen brand, not at all apologizing for the fact that the Armed Forces had commandeered (so to speak) the nation’s nylon for the war effort:

Shaleen nylons advertisement circa 1944

These deer appeared in Shaleen ads over several years, and even after their retirement, you could still see one in the round corporate logo. (The motto around the circle: “It’s the lasting beauty of them.”) The mill itself, however, didn’t last, and was shut down in the early 1950s; the facility was renovated and turned into classrooms for Georgia’s Columbus College (now Columbus State University), which opened in 1958.

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Tartuffe beats the heat

Michael Bloomberg, last week:

When temperatures hit the high 90s a week ago, Bloomberg visited the Bronx Works senior center and called on New Yorkers to turn off “all non-essential appliances.”

“It only takes a couple of minutes to cool off a room,” he said at the time.

And what is an Essential Appliance? This:

The New York Post has uncovered a dirty little secret about the supposed environmentally-clean NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The mayor apparently doesn’t like to enter a hot car, but his city has the toughest anti-idling laws in the country. So, naturally, his underlings rig a window air conditioning unit to hang out his SUV’s window while it sits.

“Let them drink soda,” said Marie Antoinette. “But sixteen ounces only.”

(Via this Kathleen McKinley tweet.)

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140 or fight

Smitty, who’s done some A-level tweeting in his day, reminds us:

[Twitter i]s just a means to an end: communication. Bemoaning the constraints of the form is like whining about the rules of the sonnet.

I am not one of those people who resents having to fit something into a size or a pattern. One of the reasons those early Motown records were so great was that they were short enough to get out of their own way: until Marvin Gaye’s version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” the Gordy machine routinely chopped ‘em down to less than three minutes. Those editing jobs were sometimes clumsy, sometimes worse than that — see, for instance, the Supremes’ “Reflections” or “I’m Ready for Love” by Martha and the Vandellas — but rules is rules.

Of course, having once written an almost-sonnet, I’m not likely to grumble about having to make things conform to a specific format.

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