A pocketful of mumbles

Over at Roger’s, the case is made for “The Boxer” as the finest record in the Simon and Garfunkel oeuvre:

Very few major artists could get away with the opening line to this song, but Simon’s delivery not only suspends mundane reality, it welcomes the listener into a story so matter-of-factly that one simply assumes its authenticity. Garfunkel’s intimate, intuitive harmony is so finely crafted and performed that it’s nearly transparent; like the guitars, it focuses attention on the song, rather than itself. The inclusion of the bass harmonica compliments and emphasizes the narrative so well, that it achieves an aura of inevitability.

Roger, incidentally, says he didn’t write that: a spammer, he says, left it, and he decided to make use of it. I conclude that he gets higher-quality spammers than I do.

Incidentally, even people who don’t particularly care for S&G endorse “The Boxer.” Dave Marsh, circa 1988, considered it the 801st best song of the rock era:

More than any of their other sixties collaborations, “The Boxer” remains a record, meaning its gimmicks mainly outweigh its pretensions, that the performance brings the composition to life, and that filtering in the orchestration toward the end actually works as something other than a post-Beatles pop convention.

Which is something you’d never say of, for instance, “A Simple Desultory Philippic.”

“The Boxer” is, you should know, one of my top three S&G tracks, alongside “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her,” which makes no damn sense at all but which brings a chill every time I hear it, and the non-LP “You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies,” by far the nastiest lyric Simon ever aimed at anyone in those days, which is probably why it was buried on the B-side of “Fakin’ It.” They did play it live in New York in 1967, though Simon said at the time that it wasn’t finished yet.

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We got shakin’ in the barn

Whose barn? What barn? Darn near everybody’s barn in this part of the world. At 10:53 an earthquake tentatively estimated at 5.2 struck, rattling all manner of things and the people sitting near them. (My monitor almost did a half-gainer off the desk.)

The epicenter was between Sparks and Davenport, about 45 miles east of Oklahoma City. The Twitterverse reported rumbles as far away as Fort Worth and Kansas City.

I dutifully turned in a report to the US Geological Survey, though I have to tell you, I had to go back and redo several fields: I was shaking myself for the first few minutes.

Update: USGS now says 5.6.

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NaBloPoMo: so-so

These days, we’re told that we need a content creation strategy, whatever the heck that’s supposed to be, and you can’t have a strategy without some sort of gimmick: hence there exists a National Blog Posting Month.

The Friar describes his own experience:

November is the month bloggers are encouraged to post every day; it has some squashed-together name but I can never remember it. I’ve done that the last couple of years, but last year, when December 1 came around, I thought I might try to continue the schedule and see how far I could take it. Today’s post means I have posted at least one entry every day for a year. I haven’t done that much continuous writing since I worked for the newspaper.

Of course, having a life can get in the way:

So when I was going to be at church camp, I could pre-write a few posts and set them up to show up one a day. Some may call that cheating, to which I have to reply, there’s a rulebook for this? And, bite me.

Disclosure: At any given moment, I generally have one to five posts in the can, ready to go. (At one point last week, I had nine.) This enables me to dole them out on a schedule that creates the impression that I do this all day, every day, which is obviously not true since I have a day job for 45-50 hours a week and I really don’t have time to write at work. Almost all the stuff you see here Monday will have been written Sunday, possibly even on Saturday.

Still, I do manage to squeeze out at least one post a day, and have done so since, let’s see, June 23, 2000. So my personal “content creation strategy” is actually health-related: should I miss a day, you should probably assume that something horrible has happened to me. In fact, this may be the only way anyone would know, given my tendency to play my real-life cards close to the vest.

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Onatopp of two wheels

Somebody, somewhere, is imagining Famke Janssen on a bicycle. If it’s you, then this is what you’re looking for:

Famke Janssen riding a bicycle

So far as I can tell, this dates to mid-August, but she’s been an avid cyclist for some time.

And today she’s 46 years old, which seems as improbable to me as it might to you.

(Title source, in case you missed it.)

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Copywrong 2011

I grumble a lot about Yahoo! Answers, but I continue to hang out there, generally confining myself to subjects I know something about, motivated by the fact that there are lots of people even dumber than I am.

Which is why this is so dispiriting:

A growing number of college presidents and faculty are concerned about student plagiarism in the Internet age. But the questions raised by this analysis go beyond ethics. Wouldn’t professors be disheartened to learn that a significant share of students are harvesting their facts not from an old-fashioned encyclopedia but from Yahoo Answers?

Y!A, apparently, is second only to Wikipedia as a source of, um, “borrowed content,” despite this:

On this site … accuracy is determined by a popular vote. Fact and opinion dwell side by side.

Disclosure: I got a Best Answer this week for something I answered a year ago; the answer turned out to be wrong after all — the company changed its plans — but it’s too late to do anything about it now.

(Via Fark.)

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Across the state from Anthony Weiner

It was just yesterday that I snapped up this quotation:

The lack of creativity and innovation in these accusations leads me to believe we’re definitely dealing with a GOP inside job. Liberals always get way better stuff, like that time you were trolling Chuck E. Cheese in a tiger costume holding a bottle of Maker’s Mark.

Then again, once in a blue moon — and in this case, in a blue stateRepublicans find something with marginal entertainment value:

A Monroe County [New York] legislator running for re-election on Tuesday has admitted that he posted naked photos of himself on a personal website.

C. Stephen Eckel removed two of the photos Friday after 13WHAM’s Sean Carroll questioned Eckel about the photographs. Eckel confirmed he took the photos, which he describes as artistic.

Well, yeah, he would. Then again, he has served as adjunct professor of photography at a local community college, and God knows they don’t pay adjuncts enough to hire models.

Eckel’s official statement:

“Today, we have seen Monroe County Republicans stoop to a new low in order to distract the public from the real issues facing county taxpayers — the crushing property tax burden, need for jobs and the culture of corruption that has plagued county government. My opponent has run a negative smear campaign that has distorted the facts.”

First question: are there positive smear campaigns?

I didn’t see any references to it, or to much of anything, on his opponent’s Web site, which is bland to the max, though said opponent does contribute the expected sound bite to the story.

However, Eckel’s claim (in the video) that he didn’t realize these shots were so easily Googleable makes him look like a hopeless naïf. Were I running GOP campaigns in the Rochester area, that’s the angle I’d be hitting.

(Via this nudiarist tweet.)

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Surrounded by the best

Last month I tossed out what might have seemed to be a throwaway line about living “in a Neighborhood of the Year nominee.”

Well, now you can amend “nominee” to read “winner.”

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Everybody’s a critic

Now how am I going to resist a title like 7 Words I Never Want To See In Your Blog Posts?

Actually, this really isn’t a list of words: it’s a list of this one guy’s particular bêtes noires, and most of it seems pretty inarguable, except for this:

Putting Two Spaces After Periods — Argue with me all you want, but this is no longer necessary. If you want the long explanation, check out this article in Slate, but for our purposes, let’s just say it’s an antiquated rule based on type-faces available to printers at the time and has no bearing on our writing today. This habit took me a few weeks to break, but there is absolutely no reason why you should be putting two spaces after every period in your blog writing anymore. Stop it.

In fact, I do this routinely, and no one has ever said a word, and do you know why? Because browsers take out extraneous spaces: “[i]f you write 10 spaces in your text, the browser will remove 9 of them, before displaying the page.” So I’ll type the same way I’ve typed for the last forty-odd years, thank you very much.

Incidentally, if you look at the link, it says “8 Words I Never Want [To] See.” Which means he took one out. Anyone want to guess what it might have been, or declare what it should have been?

(Via this Prof KRG tweet.)

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We so insighted

Even fans of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” might grouse about the generally low production values and lack of polish in the original video. (What do you want for four grand, anyway?) Her third single, “Person of Interest,” due later this month, apparently will offer no such unpretentiousness:

Hey, at least it isn’t “O Fortuna.”

And this “Friday”-related item is too weird not to pass on:

Screenshot from Friday by Rebecca Black

The Facebook text affixed thereto:

This picture is from a music video. Do you see what’s circled? I bet you didn’t before I told you. The government went into deep investigation on this picture. That girl died in that house in 1887. This picture has been cursed. Now that you have seen that girl, she will visit you. Repost to save your life. Don’t take any chances.

At least fifteen thousand people did exactly that.

Says Rebecca in response:


And I’m pretty sure Anaheim Hills as we know it didn’t exist in 1887.

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Up on Cripple Creek

Having suffered from it myself, I recognized this syndrome at once:

I’m reading Dustbury this morning which leads to What do you do with a drunken sailor? which I haven’t heard in a zillion years, which leads me to the Roud Folk Song Index, which leads to my making a list of all the tunes I recognize from the list in Wikipedia. The full list has a zillion entries, but the Wikipedia page only lists about 750. Most of them I have never heard of, but then I see one I had forgotten about, which leads to looking at the next page, which leads to another tune I had forgotten about, and so I ended up reading all the way to the end.

To encourage further exploration, here are factoids regarding a few of the songs he mentions:

  • Olivia Newton-John recorded “Banks of the Ohio” back in 1971. It was a hit in Britain and Australia, but not in the States, even in Ohio. (On the other hand, her cover of Dylan’s “If Not For You” went over well Stateside.)
  • Johnny and the Hurricanes reworked “Blue-Tail Fly” into the rockin’ “Beatnik Fly.”
  • Speaking of the Blue-Tail Fly, Tom Lehrer used it to poke fun at “The Folk-Song Army,” who regard “innocuous” folk songs with scorn: “The folks who sing ‘em have no social conscience / Why, they don’t even care if Jimmie crack corn.”
  • “There Was a Crooked Man,” retitled “Don’t Let the Rain Come Down,” was a 1964 hit for the Serendipity Singers.
  • Allan Sherman contributed this bit:

    On top of old Smokey
    All covered with hair
    Of course I’m referring
    To Smokey the Bear

    It’s in the same medley as this classic.

  • A record of “My Bonnie” was the first waxing involving the Beatles, though on that late-’61 disk they were serving as backup for singer Tony Sheridan. (The B-side: “The Saints,” as in “when The Saints go marching in.”) This wasn’t the first rock version, though: Duane Eddy twanged his way through something he called “Bonnie Came Back,” which charted in early 1960. That Sheridan/Beatles thing remained buried in the US until 1964, when suddenly anything the Beatles had had anything to do with became eminently salable.

Incidentally, the Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek” — “a drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one” — has no discernible connection to the old Appalachian folk number.

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Quote of the week

The lovely and talented Emily from Naked DC analyzes this whole Herman Cain kerfuffle:

This is all kinds of super lame. Unless there’s a sex toy or an intern or a cigar or, for that matter, like thirty women he’s been hanging around with privately on the campaign trail, this really isn’t going to matter. Plus, it’s not like anyone was under the impression Herman Cain was making it to the big leagues, anyway. It doesn’t really make sense to keep hammering at this story unless someone’s really trying to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Justin Bieber is having a better day in terms of sex scandals.

Incidentally, she’s not about to blame Democrats for this:

The lack of creativity and innovation in these accusations leads me to believe we’re definitely dealing with a GOP inside job. Liberals always get way better stuff, like that time you were trolling Chuck E. Cheese in a tiger costume holding a bottle of Maker’s Mark, not that time you got a little too close to your secretary and threatened to get all crazy.

Not to mention the fact that I’ve never had a secretary, but let’s not mention that fact.

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Army of dampness

A handy tip before the Apocalypse:

Bill's Marine

(Seen, obviously, at FAIL Blog’s WIN!)

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The one after 808

Urban (we’re talking Brooklyn here) librarian Screwy Decimal sends along an entry to a “Library of the Future” essay contest, an entry that didn’t make it into the finals, but which has a definite air of finality to it. I’ll lift just this one paragraph:

The poetry section will be the cruelest area in the library. In this section there exists no blood-hungry character, but an endless maze constructed of stone bricks. There is no roof. When one looks up there is an empty black sky without a moon that never changes, in other words it will always midnight. The atmosphere will bring upon different emotions that continuously shifts as well as endless thoughts about things such as the meaning of life and the values of nature etc. In the darkness of the maze, one would hear a young girl endlessly singing a lullaby until one who is in the maze reaches the point of madness and extreme boredom. What worst is that time will flow very quickly in this area because it is not parallel to the outside world. Before one knows it, one minute in the outside world will be one hundred years in the poetry section of the library. This area will bring upon despair.

I’m betting that twenty years from now, this poor soul will be hoisting a slightly-adulterated bottle of water in the Teachers’ Lounge and grumbling about how no one appreciates Matthew frickin’ Arnold anymore.

Note: Were old man Melvil here to read this, he’d point out that those poetry anthologies should probably be shelved at 808.81, and maybe I shouldn’t be making Beatles jokes in the twenty-first century. Lotta nerve for a guy who died 80 years ago.

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A comfort in these trying times

Occupy Oakland would like you to know that they “do not support the defecation of public property.”

So if you find something crappy in town, it’s not their fault.

(Original photo taken by Nancy Friedman.)

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Apparently it’s more advanced

The surfer dudes who host this site sent along this bit of news in their monthly (and, lately, on time, which is miraculous enough) newsletter:

For over a year now the “DreamHost 101″ section of our newsletter has been highlighting little-known account features that many customers didn’t even know existed.

The problem is that the title “DreamHost 101″ isn’t particularly descriptive. It could mean anything, really! The 101 could refer to California’s Hollywood Freeway, an animated movie about dogs, or to the number that comes after 100. You just don’t know. It’s confusing.

This month, to clear up all ambiguity, we’re rechristening DreamHost 101. It’s now “DreamHost WTF”. The WTF stands for “What’s That Feature?” Obviously. Now there will be no confusion whatsoever.

But of course.

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Pass the Listerine

Facebook has taken it upon itself to make Lists for me, presumably based on an examination of my profile, the patterns by which I read, the phases of the moon, and their need for advertising revenue, not necessarily in that order. I had a few Lists, but evidently they won’t rest until everyone on my friends list (about 150, which is pretty close to the max if you ask Dunbar) appears in some List.

Inasmuch as my most recent stint in school was some time in the last century, I’m not finding a whole lot of material in school-based Lists. Specialized interests make more sense, but they haven’t gotten to that point yet, and I’m rather hoping they don’t.

What I really dread, though, is that they’ll somehow come up with a List of “Women After Whom You Have Lusted Vainly From Time To Time,” and that it might be somewhat accurate.

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