A very large number indeed

Infinity by Against the CurrentThe reason I know of this band is because I pay way more attention than average — the average for people aged 60-up, anyway — to current pop and indie stuff, and one of the regular readers, having long noted this tendency of mine, pointed me towards girl singer Chrissy Costanza, who fronted a band out of Poughkeepsie, New York called Against the Current, which at the time included a relative of his. Costanza proved to be a worthy (and prolific!) Twitter read, and when they announced an EP to be released today, I hung out beside the iTunes Store with Amex in hand.

It was a wise move. The five tracks of Infinity have a freshness to them, the sort that manages to elude most of the stuff on the radio, and Costanza has enough of a voice to eschew most of the usual processing. “Infinity,” the single, and “Another You (Another Way)” are the stronger tracks, but there’s not a dud in the bunch. In American Bandstand parlance, I’d give it an 88: it’s got plenty of beat, it’s highly danceable, and the songs aren’t instantly forgettable. I have no idea how many of you listen to this kind of thing, but if you do, I’m happy to recommend it. (If you’d like a preview, there’s a lyric video of “Infinity” that’s gotten over 200,000 views this month.)

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Budding geniuses, every one

About a week and a half ago, I tossed up a link to a study which purported to claim that most Americans think themselves smarter than the norm. The norm being what it is, or what it seems to be, well, I keep wondering: how could they not? Razorbacker comes up with an explanation of how this might actually work:

I suspect this: the average American looks about himself (oh, alright, or herself) and sees so damned much touted as actual fact that he knows from personal experience to be a damnable lie, and he knows it to be a lie but one that is now unable to be mentioned in polite society. He looks at this and says, “There is either a fucking liar or a damned fool, and anyone but a dumbass knows it. Nobody else sees it, though. I must be smarter than the average bear.”

Once upon a time, I thought that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but facts belong to all. Now I understand that facts are not hard-and-fast, but shift like a river sand bar, moving this way and that, growing and shrinking, never the same from one day to the next.

Today, facts that don’t serve the desired narrative are not considered to be “facts” at all, which by no coincidence makes life much easier for those who desire power and are willing to say any damned thing that might prop up their position. Actual, verifiable truth is an obstacle at best. Fortunately for them, an appallingly large percentage of the population is willing to believe any damned thing.

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Pretty fly for a White girl

Priscilla White became Cilla Black purely by accident. A featured vocalist with several Liverpool bands, she’d managed to work herself up to a mention in Mersey Beat, about which founder/publisher Bill Harry recalls:

I remember going down to the State Ballroom one evening when I was putting the first issue together and asking Cilla if she had the fashion column she promised me. She was with her mate Pat Davies and Cass & the Cassanovers were on stage. When I got back to the office I began working on the copy of the first issue and then began to type out a story on Cilla. When it came down to putting down her surname, my mind went blank. I knew it was a colour, but forgot which one. I took out the piece of paper with Cilla’s fashion column in it, but she hadn’t signed it. The column was all about colours in fashion and went from white to black. Looking at it, I decided on the black. I was wrong. Her name was Cilla White! After Mersey Beat was published, Cilla came into the office and told me I’d got her surname wrong — but she liked it so much she decided to call herself Cilla Black from now on!

Her career managed by Brian Epstein, her records produced by George Martin — for Parlophone, natch — Cilla became a major star in Britain and a television fixture.

Cilla Black on British television

Lots of middle-Sixties pop stars were on the wane by the end of the decade, but not Cilla. Her 1969 album Surround Yourself with Cilla was ostensibly so titled because it was never issued in mono:

Surround Yourself With Cilla

Or you might listen to the final track:

Her last UK chart item was a 1993 duet with Dusty Springfield titled “Heart and Soul” — not the Tin Pan Alley standard — which, like all her records, went largely unheard in the States, except for this one:

“You’re My World” crept onto Billboard at #26; the follow-up, “It’s For You,” a Lennon/McCartney (of course) number, died at #79.

Cilla Black is 71 today, and still all over British television. Meanwhile, her 1960s self abides: ITV is shooting a three-part TV series about her rise to fame, which will star acclaimed actor Sheridan Smith.

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When auctions were merely awkward

Jack Baruth recalls the early days of eBay:

If I didn’t get in on the ground floor to eBay, I was close; I’ve been a member since Feb 15, 1999, about two years after it became practical to buy anything on the site and well before it became part of the American vocabulary. In the first few years, I sold a bunch of vintage BMX parts and bought a variety of old Atari computers. It’s fair to say that I am deeply ambivalent about eBay: it’s raised the price of old books into the stratosphere while simultaneously adding a $250 transaction fee to most vintage guitar sales. On the other hand, it’s enabled me to find and purchase items that I’d have never found otherwise. You have to take the good with the bad; yes, you can now actually find a brand-new Atari 1200XL, but it will cost you.

Transaction history having been truncated in recent years, I’ve had to comb through my email archive to determine my first item, which was acquired in June 1999: a collection of various Debbie Gibson ephemera. (I had then been a Debfan for about eleven years; I remain one to this day.) I’ve never actually sold anything. I have won, however, enough actual auctions to have earned myself 161 solid-whatever-color-it-is feedback points, without a single negative.

I admit that I did my part in forcing up the price of old books in those days. But a combination of boredom and penury weaned me off the site; I think I’ve returned twice this year, and one of those visits was to change my password. (Mine was, I think, even lamer than Jack’s.)

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Zoned out

“Dolce far niente,” said the Italians: sweet to be doing nothing. That is, when it isn’t actually killing you:

There is such a thing as too much free time. When after forty-five years of wage labor you’re suddenly freed of external demands on your attention and energy, it’s easy to lapse into immobile torpor. It might be the #1 cause of death in retirees.

Fortunately, there still exist internal demands on my attention and energy, and while they’re not likely to be quite so demanding or to be compensated in the least, I have more than sufficient motivation not to plop myself on the sofa for days at a time.

(Technically, my sofa, which is wide enough to seat three if they’re really good friends, is considered a loveseat, built for two. You may write your own joke here.)

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Save your lectures, pal

Being one of those people who persists in keeping the mail client set to No Graphics Ever, I’m used to getting great heaping wads of text prefaced by “You must use an HTML-capable mail client to view this message correctly.” Were it not for the fact that it would do no good, I would happily crank up the autoresponder: “I have no intention of viewing this message, correctly or otherwise. Now FOAD.”

Something called “OnlineDatingInternetCorkboard” apparently didn’t pay their boilerplate license this time around, because what they sent me is this:

Not Able Too understand the advertisement below due to no images showing Better redirect here.

As you may have already figured, we’re not gonna take it. And as Tommy once said, “You know where to put the cork.”

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We pathetic hicks

How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm — oh, wait, they’ve already figured out that the farm is exactly where they want to be:

I’ve sat through far too many discussions where people who are far less traveled than I have made judgment calls on rural people. I have traveled all around this country and all around the world because I liked to go, because I liked to see and do new things, and because I loved the confrontation of new. And yet, I always loved coming back home to the farm.

Not out of fear. Not out of ignorance. But because I loved it, what it meant, what it stood for, and the people you find living in the rural community there.

And their definition of “rural,” I suggest, is risible: I live in a city of six hundred thousand, with six hundred thousand more in the ‘burbs, and people still ask me if I have running water Out There.

For whatever reason, folks who haven’t traveled much outside of an urban setting still see the fact that they live in a contained geographical area with a lot of different people as giving them a more valid opinion. Don’t confuse having lots of ethnic restaurants in a five-block radius as the same experience of going to a country and seeing much more than the food and politics of a people group.

See also, um, yours truly, 2006:

For my part, I’m quite unapologetic about who I am and where I’m from, and I’m sorry if you can’t deal with it. While it is indeed true that there is no single place in the Sooner State from which you can swing a dead cat and hit restaurants of twenty-seven different ethnicities, and that there is no surplus of waifish Goth girls with art-history degrees, not everyone — not even everyone of college age — aspires to live inside a Bertolucci film.

And I’m a transplant, fergoshsakes. Any roots I have in this place started at most one generation above.

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Belt and suspenders

Teresa Peschel explains that it takes more than just a fence:

Why do you need a fence and a hedge? Fences and hedges work together. The fence acts as a placeholder while the hedge grows up around it. The fence tells people where the property line is. The fence corrals kids and dogs. When the hedge grows up, the fence still blocks access through any holes and makes it that much harder to push through the shrubbery.

Hence the title. I have neither kids nor dogs living here at the moment, but this makes a whole lot of sense, though I have enough trees out back to cover approximately 80 percent of the fence.

While local zoning won’t allow me this sort of thing, the best option is one of the cheapest:

Why aluminum chain link? I will state upfront that it is utilitarian in appearance. It is also not expensive considering that it will last forever and is pretty much maintenance-free. Wooden fences have to be regularly restained or repainted, and rotted posts and sections replaced. Plastic fencing looks very nice: at first! However, it eventually gets brittle and breaks. Unlike wood, it can’t be repaired. Broken sections must be replaced and plastic will break. Wrought-iron is beautiful, must be repainted occasionally and is stunningly expensive. Even better and even more expensive is a 6-foot masonry wall topped with broken glass. Even if we could have afforded this, the township would never have gone for it.

I have a few fence panels that need to be replaced, especially since they’re not among the areas covered adequately by trees. (Three of them were knocked flat by springtime winds.) I admit to having contemplated stone all around the house, though the cost was daunting and I probably wouldn’t have been sensible enough to opt for the broken glass.

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A colonel of truth?

What the world needs now is — love, sweet love? No? How about an index of places that serve fried chicken?

Because there’s a lot of variation in fried chicken — bone-in or otherwise, skin on or otherwise, battered or dusted or crumbed, flavored or just chicken-flavored, and the classic question of pan-fried or deep-fried. So just knowing if a restaurant is, in general, good or not, doesn’t tell you much about the chicken. A very fine restaurant that sells peppery battered chicken is not my chicken place, though it might be someone else’s.

Of the major chains, I remain partial to Popeye’s, though, all else being equal, I’d just as soon grab an eight-piece bag from one of the local supermarkets, which will serve just as well (and just as many) for well under ten bucks.

Still, what we need is information like this:

How could you know, if you’re not told, that the crust on the skinless “put a bird on it” chicken at The Original in Portland has some weird magical ingredient that makes it taste rather as if it isn’t skinless?

Now that, I’d like to see. And taste.

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Strange search-engine queries (434)

Monday morning finds me busy at work thoroughly zonked after the weekend, and it’s time once again for a trip through the logs in search of cheap blogfodder.

Fiorello LaGuardia fill a pothole quote:  It was something like “There’s no Democratic or Republican way to fill a pothole.” Here in Oklahoma City, where municipal elections are nonpartisan, there’s no way to fill a pothole, period.

Deep web rulez, imao:  Yeah? Where’d you get the link?

what happen if throttle position coming fail in ford mondeo?  Generally, if fail is coming, you stop going.

whos older derrick fisher or tim duncan:  Fisher’s older, though not by much compared to the dinosaurs who walked the earth in those days.

julio iglesias facism:  See, for example, his hit “To All the Proles I’ve Exploited Before.”

overfilling ford cd4e transmission:  Simple. Just pour in the required quantity of ATF, and then don’t stop.

common cents cheat codes:  Giving up so soon?

All work and no play may make Jim a dull boy, but no work and all play makes jim all kinds of a jackass:  You may know Jim, but most assuredly you don’t know jack.

what fails inside 4eat automatic transmission:  Internal parts only. Isn’t that convenient?

if we do not learn by heart, the heart does not feel the rhythms of poetry as echoes or variations of its own insistent beat  Similarly, if we go Googling for passages rather than write our own, the gradebook does not feel the sensation of an A, or sometimes merely a B.

mane six discovering r34:  I wouldn’t wish that on anypony.

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And some gave all

Still they come, the dreams, brief glimpses of what might have been.

The war had been going on, we knew — they hadn’t told us, since it wasn’t “critical to the mission” — for nearly seventeen (“officially,” eleven) years. For all we knew, it had eleven or even seventeen years left to run, and if you were eighteen, as I was, that was close enough to eternity to bring you up short. None of us, cringing in our marginally awake state at 0430, knew what to expect: all we knew was that some of us would be sent to the front, and not all of us would come back.

But first, there was training. Lots of it. We learned some possibly useful skills — my own company proved to be particularly ingenious in dealing with the recapture of escaped partisans, and if I did indeed throw like a girl, only seven of my sixty test grenades failed to hit the target — and we learned to hurry up and wait, to stand there awaiting orders, and to not waste time thinking when those orders were given.

And then it was all done and new orders were cut and eventually I was sent to the other side of the world, where it was probably unlikely that I would be shot at, but it didn’t make any difference in the grand scheme of things: there was a mission, and I would be doing my level best to make sure of the success of the mission, Sir.

It’s forty years later and I still think about the ones who didn’t come back. They had faces, they had names, and several of them, I am told, drew resting places as near to nowhere as can exist on this planet. I grin when I think of some of the gallows humor produced in the wake of the war:

Six Phases of a Military Operation

    1. Enthusiasm.
    2. Disillusionment.
    3. Panic.
    4. Search for the guilty.
    5. Punishment of the innocent.
    6. Praise and honor for the non participant.

And then the grin vanishes, erased by the knowledge that the humor only barely concealed the truth of the matter.

It could have been me. The luck of the draw, the whim of the Almighty, whatever, it could have just as easily gone the other way. I’m not sure which bothers me more: the fact that we lost so many, or the fear that we won’t be able to mobilize anyone if something serious should happen.

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Ibakalypse now

Earlier this weekend, as reported by the Spurs guy from the San Antonio Express-News:

Well, he didn’t say when. Number 9 was out there for the tip, and while he got shuttled in and out of the game for occasional calf maintenance, Serge had a very Serge-like line: 6-7 for 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 30 minutes. Halfway through the fourth quarter with the Thunder up 17, the Spurs conceded the matter, and the reserves, eventually including (yes!) Hasheem Thabeet, mopped up, giving Oklahoma City its first win in the series, 106-97.

Brooks, who never screws with his starting lineup, screwed with his starting lineup, installing Reggie Jackson on the other wing in lieu of Thabo Sefolosha. Jackson, who got more minutes (37) than anyone, tossed up a few too many errant treys (1-6), but he turned in a solid performance otherwise, with 15 points and five assists. The KD and Russ Show was worth watching, with Westbrook knocking down 26 points and Durant 25, and 18 rebounds between them. The Thunder dominance of the boards was total: 52-36, with Steven Adams grabbing nine of them. Both Sefolosha and Nick Collison, who had been fairly well throttled by San Antonio in the first two games, drew DNP-CD, suggesting that Brooks is trying to make a point.

Certainly the Spurs got the point. Manu Ginobili was his usual seemingly unstoppable self, six of nine from beyond Boerne to lead San Antonio with 23, and Tim Duncan plucked 16 from wherever it is he keeps them, but Kawhi Leonard (10 points), Tony Parker (nine) and Danny Green (eight) were all below par, knocking the Spurs’ shooting percentage below 40. And while the Spurs still have the advantage in ball movement, it’s shrunk a bit: 22 assists and 16 turnovers versus 17 and 18.

Game 4 picks up Tuesday night in OKC. The crowd will want a repeat of what they saw tonight, and I suspect they don’t care what Scott Brooks wears.

(Title by Spencer Ackerman.)

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Try our new Boondocks app

Can you really call it “wilderness” if there’s Wi-Fi?

I know it’s a losing battle, but I’m against WiFi in the wilderness. When Parks Canada announced plans to make wireless internet available in up to 150 national parks over the next three years, I was bummed out. I’m not terribly outdoorsy — I only like camping when the sun is stupidly hot and the kybo isn’t too gross — and most days I consider social media an informative good time. But just once in a while, I’d like to be thrilled by the all-encompassing serenity of drifting over a majestic lake using only the power of my own puny biceps. The instant I upload a shot of a mother moose and her calf, I’ll be checking my e-mail, setting up meetings, and spoiling the mood.

Yes, I know: some people want to keep in touch, and just think of the possibilities for rescue! Still, forty-odd years after I learned the implications of the word “bivouac,” I’m inclined to keep the inside inside, and the outside as far outside as possible.

(Via this Susan Wright-Boucher tweet.)

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Mr. Rodger’s neighborhood

Surprisingly, the population is fairly dense, for several definitions of “dense.”

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It’s never “just a house”

Lisa bids farewell to an old friend in San Francisco:

[W]e have to hand it over to the real star of the show: my little 1892 Queen Anne Victorian. She’s the Helen Mirren of houses. She’s done a lot of living and some of it shows in wrinkles and things that sag just a little bit. But she’s got great bones, more class than ladies a quarter of her age, and a lot of attitude. This staging is just a new dress for her and she’s rocking it — as she has through the decades. Vale, little Noe Victorian. I hope whoever buys you loves you and cares for you as much as we did. But you went through some horrendous re-muddles in the 70s and you survived that to be brought back to your former beauty. You’ve been through two of the most devastating earthquakes in U.S. history and you are still standing. You’ve seen fashions change and come around and you are still stylish.

Cue the Gloria Gaynor. You will survive.

The stupid locks, of course, will be changed.

At some point, someone — most assuredly, not I — will be called upon to dispose of my little Mid-Century Modern ranch (born 1948). I can only hope that its next occupant sees to it that its spirit is preserved, although zoning will help.

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Meatcam!

Arby’s has just wrapped up its first 13-hour commercial, which is intended to remind you that the brisket in their Brisket Sandwich is actually smoked in a proper smoker for exactly that length of time. It’s not, admittedly, particularly scintillating, unless you get off on watching meat:

In the dialogue-free commercial, a brisket is placed in a smoker that has been fitted with a glass window and internal light, and it cooks on the screen in one uncut shot. Finally, the brisket is removed from the smoker and Neville Craw, Arby’s corporate executive chef (only his arms and apron-clad torso are seen), slices off some and assembles the sandwich, which includes smoked Gouda cheese, crispy fried onions and barbecue sauce.

The live-TV airing on channel 6.2 in Duluth — Guinness insisted it be carried somewhere on actual television to qualify for Longest Commercial honors — will be followed by a Webcast at www.13hourbrisket.com on Wednesday, starting 8 am Central.

How this compares in excitement level to, say, the Yule-log broadcasts at Christmas, remains to be seen.

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