Sleeper awakes

A look at some of some of the stuff my dreams are made of, and also some ingredients that were left out of the mix.

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Turkey going to pieces

The front page of today’s edition of Taraf, a left-of-center (according to Wikipedia, anyway) newspaper published in Turkey, circulation around 80,000, is full of penguins. Now you should know that Taraf has locked horns with the Turkish military before, and is not exactly beloved of the Erdoğan government either.

But what you want to know is “What’s with the penguins?” This is what’s with the penguins:

Data surveillance? Where have I heard that?

If you haven’t been keeping up, here’s the BBC timeline so far:

31 May: Protests begin in Gezi Park over plans to redevelop one of Istanbul’s few green spaces

3 June: Protesters establish camps with makeshift facilities from libraries to food centres

4-10 June: Protests widen into show of anti-government dissent in towns and cities across Turkey; clashes between police and demonstrators

11/12 June: Night of clashes see riot police disperse anti-government demonstrators in Taksim Square, which adjoins Gezi Park; camps in the park remain

13 June: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issues a “final warning” to protesters to leave Gezi Park

14 June: Government agrees to suspend Gezi Park redevelopment plans until a court rules on the issue, PM holds talks with members of a key protest group

15 June: Police move in, clearing protesters from Gezi Park

But that’s not the whole story either. Again, the Beeb reports:

What began as a demonstration by environmentalists has mushroomed into something far bigger: a fight by disparate groups for greater freedom in Turkey and a preservation of the country’s secular order.

They see a government with an authoritarian, neo-Islamist agenda: the highest number of journalists in the world in prison, restrictions on alcohol sales, massive construction projects prioritised over human rights.

“This is not an Arab spring”, one protester, Melis Behlil, told me.

“We have free elections here. But the problem is that the person elected doesn’t listen to us.”

“The person elected doesn’t listen to us”? Where have I heard that?

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Lest the flood subside

Who wants open borders? Why, the rich who want to get richer, says the Crimson Reach, but not for the obvious reasons like cheap labor:

Notice that the places with the highest and (to the rest of the country) nominally-shocking house prices tend to all be places in which wealthy people live but with lots of lower-class people, including immigrants, in close proximity. Manhattan. The SF Bay Area. The Washington DC area. In all those places one finds huge disparity and stratification by class and (yes) race, geographically close but distinctly separate. Accordingly, in all those places one sees bidding wars to pay 2-3x to live in Good Location X (with “good schools”, wink) rather than 5-miles-away Bad Location Y.

Who does this help, most of all? The people who already own the “good locations”. Such people have a direct financial stake in making the “bad location” all the more badder so that the “good location” they own, automatically scarce as it is, gets only more valuable and in demand by people fleeing and scared of the “bad locations”.

This is probably less of a factor in Manhattan — all five boroughs are served by the New York City Department of Education, though there will be variations even then — but the same thing happens on a smaller scale in mid-sized metro areas too: if you duplicated a $250k Deer Creek house at, say, 36th and Post, you’d be hard-pressed to get anyone to pay more than $150k for it.

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Four legs better

If you ask me, the colossal joke about Equestria Girls, the mostly-human theatrical spinoff from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, is that it’s been booked in exactly one moviehouse in the entire state. In Stillwater, for Celestia’s sake.

Not that I’m thinking the film is going to be terrible or anything. Some extraordinarily talented folks brought us MLP:FiM, and by and large they’re the same folks behind EqG. So I’d expect, at the very least, technical proficiency throughout, and several really spiffy scenes.

National media, by and large, have been hostile, as they have been for all three seasons of the television series, mostly because they profess to be horrified that there is an audience for it outside the target market, by which they mean, um, guys. They’ll forgive the adult women in the fandom, maybe, but woe unto you, bearers of the Y chromosome. (I once called out Breitbart contributor Kurt Schlichter on some related point; he was apparently shocked to see such a thing in his tweetstream, but to give him credit, he kept his cool during the subsequent discussion, unlike a few of his putative acolytes.) Apart from the Hub itself, the only television source that’s generally pony-friendly is WTVY, the CBS affiliate in Dothan, Alabama; I am told that this is because there’s an actual brony on the news staff.

But nothing the ponies did in 65 episodes is quite so heinous as what their miniskirted teenage-girl counterparts do in 65 minutes, for several reasons:

  • The aforementioned miniskirts;
  • They’re all kind of on the thin side;
  • [insert “ponies of color” joke here].

Equestria Girls

Role models, doncha know. And it’s not like the, um, girls are being slutty or anything; it’s just that We Don’t Like This.

I’m not enthusiastic about it either, for the same reason I don’t particularly want to see a version of The Tempest with an all-marmoset cast. I realize that Hasbro, knowing that MLP is one of its few reliable gold mines of late, would like to extend the brand; then again, not all brand extensions are successful or even desirable. Be assured, though, that my little ponies — it says “My” right there on the label — are, and always will be, quadrupeds.

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Silverton in orange

From closing night at this year’s Festival de Télévision de Monte Carlo, we bring you Bitsie Tulloch, who plays Juliette Silverton in the NBC series Grimm. I haven’t gotten an ID on the dress yet, but boy, is it orange.

Bitsie Tulloch in Monte Carlo

Around the 22nd of November, you can see Bitsie in Parkland, a Peter Landesman film set in and around the Dallas hospital of that name shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. She’s playing Abraham Zapruder’s receptionist, who helped him with his 8mm movie camera when the ill-fated motorcade came through Dealey Plaza, and who was later called as a witness during the investigation. Zapruder, you should know, is played by Paul Giamatti.

(With thanks to Go Fug Yourself.)

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Brand distention

“In whose world,” asks Gael of Pop Culture Junk Mail, “did this sound like a good idea?”

Watermelon Oreo

To get this to work for me, Nestlé is going to have to update Nesquik, the milk-flavoring powder formerly known as Nestlé’s Quik, with a Fried Chicken flavor.

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Meanwhile in Largeville

Jack Baruth, like me “a lumbering elephant among sleek greyhounds,” has finally figured out why the semi-supersized men’s wear is always sold out:

[S]omewhere, in a deep bunker, there’s a Secret Cabal Of Chunky Clothes Horses. A room full of 240-pound, six-foot-two men, laughing, joking, comparing their newest Kiton jackets and Zanella pants. And whenever something in their size comes up for sale, they act in a coordinated manner to sweep the entire inventory off the shelves in minutes. They’re great guys, these Star Chamber hiphopapotamuses, able to tell the difference between Super 120s and Super 180s with a flick of the thumb, always interested in full-thickness mother-of-pearl buttons and sterling-silver collar stays, tucking Marol shirts into their spreading waistlines and using Alden alligator belts to cinch up the resulting mess. They’re always one step ahead of me, laughing as I pick up the stuff they’re too sophisticated or tasteful to buy.

I’d like to think I’d balk at paying $300 for Zanella pants, though I wonder what it’s going to be like when Nordstrom opens its Rack not quite two miles from me.

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Meanwhile in Smallville

Have you learned nothing, Clark Kent?

Seriously? Someone who has lived in Kansas for their entire life says “Hide under the underpass” when the tornado is coming? Seriously?

And you can’t use the excuse that you were trolling General Zod, either.

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Call me Ishkabibble

This should end well:

Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute is working on a new ebook DRM dubbed SiDiM that would prevent piracy by changing the actual text of a story, swapping out words to make individualized copies that could be tracked by the original owner of the ebook.

Reports about the work first popped up on German blogs this week, with one blogger revealing examples that include changing wordings like “invisible” to “not visible” and “unhealthy” to “not healthy.” Other examples included sentences in which the order of words was changed, or in which hyphens were added to words.

I have to figure that Fraunhofer, the inventor of MP3 file compression, knows its way around a digital file — but any lock can be broken. Then again, this isn’t technically a lock.

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It’s past, but is it prologue?

The dextrosphere seems interested in stirring up a tempest about this revelation:

The former host of “Erotica Night” at a Baltimore bookstore will be the first-ever female No. 2 official at the CIA… 20 years ago, [Avril Danica] Haines opened and co-owned Adrian’s Book Café in the Baltimore waterfront neighborhood of Fells Point. She opened Adrian’s after dropping out of a graduate program in physics at Johns Hopkins University. The store featured regular “Erotica Nights.” including dinner and a series of readings by guests of published work or their own prose, according to a 1995 report in the Baltimore Sun; couples could attend for $30, while singles paid $17.

Color me unimpressed, though not so much as Kathy Shaidle is:

Shouldn’t we be thrilled that at least this broad ran a business of some kind once, unlike 90% of Obama staffers and appointees?

Based on that consideration, Haines, rather than John Kerry’s brother, should be running Commerce.

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Switching lanes

How low-budget was the video for “Friday”? It was shot at Rebecca Black’s home in Anaheim Hills, with prop expenditures of approximately zero.

Except that while announcing that the family is moving out, she admitted that the bus stop was fake.

I think I speak for everyone here when I say “Duh.”

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Finally, another argument for smartphones

Last month, post-Chávez Venezuela, apparently in no better condition than pre-post-Chávez Venezuela, ran out of toilet paper and had to import several million rolls in what may be reasonably described as a hurry.

Supplies are still short, and there’s still plenty of caca in Caracas, but now there’s an app for that:

The new programme, launched last week, uses crowdsourcing technology to enable users to let each other know which supermarkets still have stocks of the tissue.

Called Abasteceme — “Supply Me” in English — the free Android app has already been downloaded more than 12,000 times.

Fausta reminds us:

Think about the wasted manpower and talent in a country where the government’s mismanagement has caused the country to run out of toilet paper.

Then again, this is what Comrade Hugo aspired to: a blending of the best of the old Soviet Union and the new-ish Zimbabwe.

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Finally, an argument for smartphones

Or a potential argument, anyway, pending this particular development:

“I’ve wanted someone to create a Taser app for some time now,” I said to the rest of the group. “It would be something you’d download on a friend’s phone unbeknownst to them. Then, you could Taser them by using the control portion of the app at your end. Most people carry their cell phones on their person. It would work, though be quite a battery drain.”

“It sounds like you’ve been giving this some thought.”

“Yes. I think many people would be interested in it.”

Really, the only way this could be better is if you could download it to a non-friend’s phone by pointing it in his general direction while he’s standing there demonstrating why he’s not your friend.

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Quote of the week

John Naughton in the Guardian, on the cost of those “free” online services:

When the history of our time comes to be written, people will marvel at the way that billions of people were seduced into the kind of one-sided agreements they have struck with outfits such as Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple. In the case of Facebook, the historical analogy that comes immediately to mind is sharecropping — the agricultural system in which a landowner allowed tenants to use his land in return for a share of the crops produced on it and which was once a staple of the southern states of the US. Its virtual equivalent is the Facebook system: a billion people till Master Zuckerberg’s land, creating all the content that is then harvested by him and his advertiser buddies. The only difference is that on Facebook the sharecroppers don’t get any share of the proceeds. They’re just croppers.

And here’s the really weird bit: the croppers are absurdly pleased with their lot. They get to post photographs of themselves drunk, sober, recumbent and upside-down. They get to “Like” their friends’ jokes and status updates and to organise parties and social events without having to use obsolete media such as email. And in the process they “pay” for this entertainment with their privacy and their personal data, apparently without batting an eyelid. Like I said: weird.

One assumes that these folks are happy with the deal. Now if the Big Zuckowski puts together an archive that barfs your status updates back at you exactly twenty years later — well, a little mortification is good for the soul.

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For which I claim full credit

Last week, I bought a set of shiny new Cooper CS4 tires for Gwendolyn, and industrialists in India were evidently watching:

India’s Apollo Tyres [will] acquire Cooper, of Findlay, Ohio, for about $2.5 billion, or $35 a share. That would be a 43% premium to Cooper’s Tuesday close at $24.56.

Apollo is reported to be the 15th largest tire manufacturer worldwide, and Cooper the 11th; the combined company will rank seventh.

The sensible part of this deal, if you ask me — and why should you? — is that the existing Apollo and Cooper markets have hardly any overlap: Apollo does most of its business in India, and Cooper is almost entirely American-based, though it does own the British firm Avon Tyres.

Note: Not intended as an attempt to sell securities.

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24-pin salute

When I was a lad, we had only nine pins, and we liked it:

According to research firm NPD, Americans bought just less than 20,000 brand-new dot matrix printers in 2012. You can still find an entire channel on Amazon.com for dot matrix printers with pricing starting at a lofty $205, more than double the least expensive inkjet.

So why would anyone want to use the best printing technology of 1983 in 2013? Apparently, many point-of-sale, warehouse inventory and other business systems still require carbon copy and multipart forms that work only with the hard impact of a dot matrix printhead and its continuous tractor feed. And, really, who can blame businesses for not modernizing their processes to use inkjet, laser or thermal printing? They’ve only had a couple of decades to think about it.

How about “The next level up is severely retarded and insists on multipart forms”? Does that work for you? Because it’s a reality for me.

And you’d be surprised how fast the least expensive inkjet goes through $205 worth of replacement cartridges — unless, of course, you own one.

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