Two wheels good, no wheels better?

Last week’s photo of Famke Janssen on a bicycle garnered, shall we say, mixed reviews, so I figured I’d balance things out with a photo of Famke Janssen not on a bicycle, but in a director’s chair.

Famke Janssen at Savannah Film Festival

This shot was taken at last week’s Savannah Film Festival, which screened Bringing Up Bobby, written, directed and co-produced by Janssen. The festival offered this synopsis:

Bringing Up Bobby is the story of a European con-artist, Olive, and her 10 year old American born son, Bobby, who find themselves in Oklahoma in an effort to escape her past and build a better future. Olive and Bobby blithely charm their way from one adventure to another until Olive’s criminal past catches up with her. Consequently, she must make a choice: continue with a life of crime or leave the person she loves most in an effort to give Bobby a proper chance in life.

And what better place to escape your past than in Oklahoma? Olive, you should know, is played by Milla Jovovich.

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Where the interaction is

That’s where Will doesn’t want to be. And here’s how he paid the water bill:

Our water bill goes to City Hall. But instead of dropping it off, I put a stamp on an envelope and dropped it off at the nearest drop-box.

Three guesses where the nearest drop-box is.

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Afternoon delete

About 3 pm every weekday, the yawns come fast and furious. I’ve always considered this a by-product of my screwy circadian rhythms: should I wake at 3 am, I’m likely going to be too hyper to get back to sleep, and left to my own devices, I’ll rapidly adjust to a 26-hour day, which is fine if I’m going to Bajor, but not useful in this part of the Alpha Quadrant.

Not that I’m at all alone with this condition:

I usually get around 6-1/2 to 7 hours each night. Even with a lot of sleep, I still can get drowsy in the afternoon.

After the little research I made on the condition, I realized the suggestion of a nap was missing. Otherwise, doing what the body is demanding is not an option. I’m guessing this is due to the fact it’s taboo in our society to sleep while at work.

Well, of course. Getting a nap might make you smarter, and we certainly can’t have that.

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What a wiki game you play

Brian J. Noggle, who wouldn’t be caught dead participating in a meme, has created a meme:

Go to your browser’s address bar and start typing en.wikipedia and report the five top results.

Deucedly clever, that. Here are mine, as of the time of typing this:

Explanations available on request, not that I expect any — and assuming I can think of any.

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Hermie don’t play dat

While Herman Cain vows to tough it out, Pejman Yousefzadeh figures the Cain Train is more or less permanently derailed:

[T]he allegations are succeeding in knocking the Cain campaign off of whatever game it once might have had, and any confidence that Herman Cain will be able to survive the Republican nomination contest — let alone a race against the veteran campaign squad that is bound and determined to get Barack Obama a second term in the White House — ought to be completely dissipated by now. Oh, I am sure that there remain some Cainiacs who hold out the last, desperate vestiges of hope that somehow, someway, their candidate will recover, Lazarus-like, capture the GOP nomination, and win the White House. But why should anyone put anymore stock into their tired, Baghdad Bobesque assurances that everything is all right, that the Cain campaign is walking on water (before turning it into wine), and that the former pizza executive has his opponents right where he wants them?

(Title swiped from Michele Grant; it was funnier when she said it.)

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Not your friends and not your benefits

Bill Quick, in a post from the summertime that bounced back into view, points out the basic structural problem with the current paradigm for so-called “employee benefits”:

Those “free” benefits are paid for by you with your much reduced salary. Is your employer one of those who notes on your paycheck all the “free” benefits they are so graciously bestowing on you? Well, add all that money directly to your own salary, and that’s how much you’d be earning without those “freebies.” Think you could shop around and do better than what your employer, GargantoCorp, is spending your money on for “your” benefits?

Assuming, of course, that GargantoCorp would actually raise salaries to compensate for freebies withdrawn, which in the current corporate climate seems unlikely.

That said, though, were the government’s thumb removed from the scales, I suspect I could find quite a nice package for way less than is being spent now on my ostensible behalf. Then again, when have you ever seen a spoiled child give up a toy willingly?

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Where it all goes (’11)

For the last few years, I’ve been breaking down the property tax I pay by recipient. The actual tax rate in my particular district rose by 2.84 percent; it’s the highest ever, or at least the highest since the beginning of the County Assessor’s online list, but not by much. Here’s who’s getting what, with what they got last year in brackets:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $141.26 [$142.27]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $548.87 [$524.90]
  • Metro Tech Center: $136.58 [$138.15]
  • Oklahoma County general: $107.23 [$110.34]
  • Countywide school levy: $36.60 [$37.02]
  • County Health Department: $22.90 [$23.17]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $45.97 [$46.50]
  • Total: $1039.41 [$1022.34]

Note that with one exception, everyone is making do on slightly less than they got last year.

The individual millages for each of these are listed here.

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None is left to protest

Joss Whedon explains why his low-fi production of Much Ado About Nothing will appeal to teens, quite apart from the fact that hey, it’s from Joss Whedon:

It is the first romantic comedy, in the modern sense. Two people who can’t stand each other who are perfect for each other. All the greats — His Girl Friday, The Cutting Edge — all the great romantic comedies have built off of that premise to some extent. There’s a lot of humor. There’s a lot of romance.

I think Beatrice is one of the great female characters that Shakespeare ever wrote. She is extraordinarily witty. And generally speaking, Benedick — he may get the last word in the play, but not generally around her.

There is an element where everybody behaves like a bunch of teenagers. Status is everything, and everyone’s always forming little cliques and either turning against or trying to help other people, and gossip nearly destroys Hero and tears everything apart. It is a very fraught little world that would be recognizable to anyone who’s ever been in a school.

There’s no formal distribution deal yet, but there is a Web site. Oh, and Nathan Fillion is playing Dogberry, if that matters, and of course it does.

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Crazy, stupid, fonts

For some reason, this strikes me as hilarious:

Ryan Gosling gives advice on kerning

A whole lot more of these at Typographer Ryan Gosling, which, tweets Reuters’ Felix Salmon, is “possibly the greatest website in the history of the internet.”

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Un-Satis-fied

Gael at Pop Culture Junk Mail points to a possible real-life model for the heartbroken Miss Havisham:

Eliza Emily Donnithorne (1827-1886) of Camperdown, Sydney, was jilted by her groom — who had the surname “Cuthbertson” — on her wedding day in 1846 and spent the rest of her life in a darkened house, her rotting wedding cake left as it was on the table, and with her front door kept permanently ajar in case her groom ever returned (although he died in 1852). She was widely considered at the time to be Dickens’ model for Miss Havisham, although this cannot be proven. Although Charles Dickens had a deep-seated interest in Australia, saw it as a place of opportunity and encouraged two of his sons to emigrate there, the writer never visited it himself, but it features in detail in many of his works, notably Great Expectations itself. He obtained his information on colonial life in New South Wales from two Sydney researchers. He also had numerous friends and acquaintances who settled in Australia who sent him letters detailing curious aspects of life in the colonies, knowing he could use it as source material for future novels. They could easily have conveyed the Donnithorne story to him. Australia features prominently in Great Expectations, and New South Wales is where Pip’s benefactor Abel Magwich made his fortune.

(Original source seems to have been here, now 404’ed; it’s been copied to Wikipedia.)

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VINtage

The thirty-year-old Vehicle Identification Number (you shouldn’t call it a “VIN number” unless you’re off to the ATM machine) is an alphanumeric string of marginal comprehensibility that, we are told, uniquely identifies every single motor vehicle on the planet.

Well, maybe, for vehicles 1981 and later. Before that, manufacturers issued their own serial numbers, which may or may not have made sense.

The serial number on this 1921 Bentley, sold at auction this year, made perfect sense: 3. That’s it: 3. It was the third chassis built by the company. (Coachwork was custom, of course.)

Just to make your eyes bug out, the last few moments of the auction have been posted to YouTube.

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To peaceably assemble

Three years before anyone deemed it necessary to Occupy places, Joe Sherlock had already anticipated much of the turmoil:

  • College was a good idea until everyone started matriculating. Universities have dumbed-down their educational programs (“Don’t Flunk The Customer!”) to the point where a sheepskin is meaningless. Too many college grads are morons. Employers know this and discount the value of a degree to the point where the cost of a BA — even from a low-cost state institution — will often never pay off.
  • People in skilled trades — electricians, plumbers, cabinetmakers, machinists, etc. — now make far better wages than most college grads.
  • Most of the unhappy people I’ve met are college graduates. My theory is that they were fed high expectations at the university (You’re special!) which have been largely unmet in the workplace. (No, you’re not.)
  • I’ve met very few depressed carpenters. Why? Because there is something especially fulfilling about creating with your hands. Something physical — more than just a CAD rendering. Getting paid good money for it helps with that happiness thing — someone ‘values’ your accomplishment.
  • While most cars, toasters and other appliances can no longer be repaired at home, there are still opportunities for manual creativity, whether it be modification of ordinary devices, making furniture or building a model train layout.

Handmade protest signs, unless they’re really good, don’t count.

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Now for some heavy rotation

When I was a kid playing with blocks, back in the Old Silurian period, I’d occasionally set up a simulated auto dashboard, with the 1 through 9 blocks arranged in a semicircle to serve as speedometer.

I figure you needed to know that before reading all this.

(And that this Autoblog article suggested it.)

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Put it down before you facepalm

Testy alpaca is testy:

Knitting Alpaca is tested

(Original here, and there’s more where that came from.)

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Looking for ten decimates

Ben Zimmer reviews the fifth-edition American Heritage Dictionary, which may or may not be the Last Print Dictionary Ever, but which, like its predecessors, is informed by a Usage Panel, people outside lexicography who work with words for a living. The panel doesn’t overrule the editors, but its members always have something to say. This time:

The often conservative pronouncements of the Usage Panel have never greatly interfered with the descriptive work of AHD’s lexicographers — who, after all, were the first to include the full panoply of vulgar four-letter words in 1969 (complete with careful etymological notes). Over the years, however, the panelists have grown less reactionary, and the notes derived from their opinions are more accepting of informal, not-quite-standard styles.

The new chair of the Usage Panel, Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, observes in his introductory essay that “resistance is melting” to formerly nettlesome usage points involving such words as “comprise,” “decimate,” “graduate,” “moot,” and “quote.” Pinker examined the survey responses to one item of particular interest to him: the rise of the irregular past-tense verb “snuck” at the expense of the regular “sneaked,” as discussed in his 1999 book, Words and Rules. He found that the shift has been precipitated not so much by a mellowing of the panelists as they grow older but by “an increasing number of younger panelists who have no problem with ‘snuck’.” Thus are innovations snuck into the language.

As for “moot,” it seems to have drifted from “open to debate” to “of no consequence,” nearly a reversal of its original meaning: after all, if it’s of no consequence, it’s barely worth debating, amirite? (And what are the chances that “amirite” merits an entry in AHD 5?) “Moot” isn’t the first word that’s gone that way, either: when I see “peruse” these days, it’s more likely to indicate “glance at perfunctorily” rather than its original “study in great detail.” Explaining how that snuck in is definitely above my pay grade.

I don’t expect AHD 5 to be quite as controversial as Webster’s Third New International, arguably the least-prescriptive dictionary on earth and reviled in some circles for abandoning that responsibility, but I have to figure that someone will find a reason to dislike it. Someone always does.

(Via Language Log.)

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Rah, rah, ree

Prepare to feel as though you’ve been hit in the knee. The very first cheerleaders, explains Michael Kaplan, were men:

These are liberal German nationalists of the 1830s, dreaming of a time when the repressive petty monarchies imposed on a great people by the cynical Congress of Vienna would be swept away in a surge of popular vigor and national virility, creating a single, democratic Germany under the red, black and gold. In preparation — realizing that, say, “Revolutionary Training Clubs” might attract official attention — they formed indoor sporting groups to strengthen mind and body for the struggle, practicing unarmed exercises to which they gave the classical name of gymnastik (though they stopped short of doing what the Greek word actually means: “that which is performed nude”).

When their glorious moment arrived in 1848, the revolutionary gymnasts bounded out of hiding — and were utterly defeated. Faced with certain death or prison, many chose emigration to America, where, as university graduates already knowing a foreign language, they quickly got jobs in the forest of new colleges springing up in the Midwest. Their indoor gymnastik seemed an ideal sport for institutions battling hard winters and tight budgets — and thereafter, who could be better to lead the new fad of massed cheering then men trained for rhythmic movement in a somewhat Germanic atmosphere?

And it took rather a long time for them to be replaced by women, unlike the case with, for instance, telephone operators:

When telephone companies began hiring operators, they chose teenage boys for the job. But the companies soon regretted their decision. Boys had done a great job working in telegraph offices. And they worked for low wages. But being a telephone operator was a tough job that required lots of patience — something the boys didn’t have. The boy operators quickly turned telephone offices upside down. They wrestled instead of worked. They pulled pranks on callers, and even cursed at them.

In 1878, the Boston Telephone Despatch company began hiring women operators instead. Women, the companies thought, would behave better than boys. Women had pleasant voices that customers — most of whom were men — would like. And because society did not treat women equally, they could be paid less and supervised more strictly than men.

The difference today, of course, is that former operators are still considered to be actual Serious People, while former cheerleaders, regardless of their credentials, are hardly ever taken seriously.

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