Fleischer than thou

Now you may say it’s spinach, and you may say the hell with it, but I’m willing to endure four minutes of Wilco to see a brand-new Popeye cartoon done up in the classic Fleischer Studios style:

The only really offputting aspect, I think, is the attempt to simulate digitally the somewhat-damaged look of Really Old Film.

(Via Uproxx.)

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World’s fastest scoreboard

This figured to be a high-scoring game, and Royce Young’s Pregame Primer observed astutely: “The Thunder need to hold [Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis] to something like a combined 12-30 for 40 points and not something like 18-35 for 60.” At the half, it seemed like this was within reach; between the two of them, they’d snarfed about five points. (By coincidence, the Thunder were up five at the time.) This couldn’t last — or could it? The Warriors pulled to within three a couple of times in the fourth quarter, before OKC started pulling away, and when the smoke cleared, the Thunder had run out to a 120-109 win.

Double-doubles all over the Thunder box: Kevin Durant had 37 points and 14 rebounds, Russell Westbrook 28 points and 11 assists, Serge Ibaka 20 points and 12 boards (but not even one block). James Harden started the third quarter, Thabo Sefolosha having messed up one foot; The Beard got 19 points in 35 minutes. Rebounds weren’t even close (53-34).

With Curry and Ellis held to 11-33 for 28 points, other Warriors stepped up. David Lee, always a threat, came up with 19 before fouling out; rookie swingman Klay Thompson led the bench with 14; Dorell Wright made 6 of 9 from three-point range for 23. In fact, Golden State tried a total of 28 treys on the night, making 12. (OKC managed only four of 17.) Nobody really took care of the ball: the Thunder turned it over 22 times, the Warriors 20. And it seemed like the happiest man on the court was Nate Robinson, bought out by the Thunder and then signed by Golden State; he got to play 14 minutes, which he wouldn’t have in Thunder blue, and got nine points, including a crowd-pleasing trey.

Still, here’s your telltale statistic: OKC, 42-88, 47.7 percent; GSW, 41-87, 47.1. The Thunder won this one from the foul line, hitting 32 of 37. (The Warriors went 15-19.)

Next two games are on the road: the Clippers on Monday, the Mavs on Wednesday, followed by one home game (against Memphis) on Thursday — then five more road games, all against the West, and not a pushover (okay, maybe the Kings) in the bunch.

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Manic Pixie Dream Girl Alert

I know, I know; these mythical creatures aren’t supposed to exist except on celluloid, generally played by either (1) Zooey Deschanel or (2) someone who looks vaguely like Zooey Deschanel; one generally tends to lump them together with other presumed-nonexistent creatures such as Rodents of Unusual Size.

Except for the minor detail that Andrea Greb knows one (an MPDG, not an ROUS):

N is, without a doubt, the happiest person I’ve ever met. She’s always smiling, always laughing and everything is always “AMAZING!” Sometimes I feel like she really shouldn’t exist, because she does seem to be the embodiment of a male fantasy — the pretty, socially functional computer programmer. As someone who went to an engineering school, I can tell you that cute girls who code are a rarity, and cute girls who code and like sunlight and have a consistently positive attitude about life? N’s the only one I’ve ever met.

For her to be a true MPDG, things must happen to her that simply don’t happen to other people. Check:

The first time she went to a concert by her favorite singer, the night ended with him singing her favorite song to her at the afterparty. The next time he was in town, he got her tickets to his sold out show, she got up on the stage and danced and he invited her back to his hotel, but she didn’t go, because not only is she cool, she is classy. She’s the kind of person that not only takes the bus (in southern California, no one uses public transportation!) but will meet a guy on the bus and manage to find and friend him on Facebook without ever talking to him, and when she finally does talk to him, he’ll ask her out and they’ll date for six months. She once met a guy from Craigslist to sell him a ticket to an event, realized after he had walked away that he was really cute and actually sprinted down the street after him to ask him out.

This sort of woman would take five, ten years off my life, I just know it. And I’d probably thank her for it.

Bonus punchline: Greb’s article appears on a site co-owned by Zooey Deschanel.

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Tenured anniversary

I wasn’t quite expecting this revelation from Fillyjonk:

It doesn’t seem like it’s been ten whole years. I remember why I started the blog. I had been following a few blogs — like the one called #!/usr/bin/girl (Which is apparently now on permanent hiatus; the last post I see was in 2009).

I still have that one bookmarked, and if you were here for the Big Host Move on New Year’s Eve 2001, you know why:

In addition to running Stormwerks, Zannah is part of the mysterious cabal (yes, I know, There Is No Cabal) called New Dream Network — one of whose partners is the aforementioned [WebRing founder] Sage Weil.

Being weary of old dreams myself, I duly signed on with New Dream Network’s DreamHost service. The price is a little higher than I’d been paying, but the package I bought should exceed my needs for some time to come. And I have to figure that any organization that has room for people like Sage and Zannah is probably worth the few extra cents.

Both of them have since moved on to Other Things. I note that Zannah is occasionally writing at Vox Machina, in case you missed her. (And isn’t this so much more useful than simply emailing someone a link?) My host account remains at DreamHost, now repriced to about half what it used to be.

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Which clips can I take?

Bill Genereux of TechIntersect put together this little montage of the short (so far) history of Rebecca Black:

YouTube, however, apparently found nothing to laugh at in Genereux’s video compilation:

It includes around a minute of Rebecca’s famous “Friday” song before moving into the parodies & spoofs and the YouTube copyright algorithms tagged it as infringing. I filed a counter-claim that it was an educational fair-use, it doesn’t use the entire video, and provides a commentary on the work. Ultimately, they restored my video online.

Note that this was an automated takedown, not a DMCA request from a copyright owner. Still:

In the digital world, you are already presumed guilty until proven innocent.

Expect things not to improve after the election.

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The fast and the fizziest

I have just finished reading Inside Coca-Cola by Neville Isdell with David Beasley (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2011), which I undertook mostly because I wanted to figure out what the hell happened to Coke after former chairman Roberto Goizueta died in 1997 and the company went into some sort of stasis field. Isdell, who’d started his career at a Coca-Cola outpost in Zambia back in 1966, did four years in Atlanta, and his book is a bit dishier than I expected. I knew, for instance, that Coke and Pepsi were bitter rivals, but I had no idea they were this bitter:

One of the first things I noted upon arriving in the Philippines [in the early 1980s] was that there was a game going on between Pepsi and Coke. Both companies were “stealing” each other’s bottles in an attempt to drain the competitor’s assets by forcing them to purchase more glass. Both companies had mounds of their opponent’s bottles stacked in vast fields. And because of the damp tropical climate, weeds soon covered the fields and rainwater — followed soon after by algae — filled the bottles.

What threw me, though, was the search for a new general counsel after Isdell took over in Atlanta in 2004 with Deval Patrick’s resignation already on the table:

The Boston Globe reported that Patrick had resigned after [Isdell’s predecessor Douglas] Daft reneged on a promise to approve an independent investigation into allegations that Coca-Cola hired right-wing death squads to terrorize union organizers in Colombia.

[BBC report on said allegations.]

Besides, Patrick was commuting from Boston, which can’t be fun. Then came this blockbuster:

We began the search for a new corporate counsel, seriously interviewing Eric Holder, the current U.S. attorney general, until he withdrew from consideration.

One may assume Eric Holder would not employ death squads, at least from the right wing.

As to what had happened to Coca-Cola after Goizueta, Isdell minces no words:

Doug Ivester … did not last long. He resigned as Chairman and CEO after slightly more than two years. Daft survived for more than four years, although frankly, he probably should have left earlier. I believe he stayed as long as he did, in part, because the board did not want to fact the grim reality that two successive choices for the top job had failed to get the company back on track.

And really, how do you follow a serious overachiever like Roberto Goizueta? Almost anyone, I suspect, would have been something of a letdown.

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Quote of the week

Jack Baruth quotes the oh-so-busted Kim Dotcom:

I grew up in Germany during a time without speed limits on our highways. I probably drove 500.000 kilometers, always at the maximum, and thats the kind of school required to win Gumball. But even with all of this experience I felt that I could hurt someone if I made a mistake. And after 10 years of extreme driving I decided to quit street racing. Most Gumball participants don’t know the limits of their cars and fail to avoid obvious dangers.

But that’s not the QOTW. This, by Baruth himself, is:

Thus spake Kim Schmitz, later known as “Kimble”, and then finally as “Kim Dotcom”, regarding his decision to stop participating in the Gumball Rally. As many TTAC readers know, Mr. Dotcom recently found out the hard way that there is one thing more consistently dangerous than “500,000 kilometers at the maximum”: endangering the fiscal interests of the corporations which own the United States Government lock, stock, and barrel. It’s one thing to be Roman Polanski yucking it up in Paris for three decades after he sodomized a child and fled the country. Quite another to allow someone to download Katy Perry’s newest CD without paying for it. That’s Justice, American Style.

And all that without SOPA, even.

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I hope there’s no matching hat

Weird boots by PradaI’m the first to admit that I don’t look all that carefully at all the new collections: the sheer volume makes my eyes glaze over. So I paid no attention to this limited-edition Mary Jane from Prada last summer: the color is nice, and I liked the oversized button, but no big deal, and models tend to have slightly weird-looking legs anyway. What’s more, the $1500 price tag seemed more extortionate than usual.

So it was Kim Priestap, not I, who noticed that there was in fact no model in this picture at all: that’s a boot terminating in a Mary Jane, and from a distance (or if you’re in a hurry) it looks for all the world like a prosthetic leg. “Can you get any creepier?” she asks. Trust me: couture houses know creepy like Ettore Boiardi knows canned spaghetti.

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It wasn’t always such a Harry situation

The Senate hasn’t actually passed a budget in over 1000 days, a period of time exceeding 13 Kim Kardashian marriages. There are those who say this indicates a lack of leadership on the part of Harry Reid, but it ain’t necessarily so:

Senator Reid, being a longtime Washington, D.C., fixture, knows that government budgets are meaningless. Spending can be shifted from one budgetary year to the next by simply moving it ahead one day and thus charging it to next year’s budget. It can be moved “off budget” completely and not counted against a year’s expenditures. Senator Reid is simply eliminating the middleman of pretending the government has a plan on how it spends money and going straight to the spending because he knows any claims that the government will spend money the way it says it will spend it are a sham.

Reid, you may remember, is a Democrat, but it’s hard to imagine a Republican in this role doing things much differently. (Well, maybe Rand Paul, but his chances of becoming Majority Leader are not that much greater than mine.)

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And your heart will fly away

This year marks the 100th anniversary of “Melody in A Major” by Chicago banker Charles Gates Dawes, later Vice-President under Calvin Coolidge and co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dawes reportedly was thoroughly sick of the song in his later years: not only was it played during his public appearances, but Fritz Kreisler (!) was using it as his closing number in concert. After Dawes’ death in 1951, lyricist Carl Sigman came up with some words for the tune, and several singers tried it on for size, the most successful being Tommy Edwards, whose recording for MGM crept into the Top Twenty.

In 1958, to cash in on that new “stereo” craze, MGM asked Edwards to recut the song, allegedly so they’d have a proper stereo version to release, which always struck me as odd, since MGM would become one of the most avid vendors of pseudo-stereo in the years to come. Whatever the motivation, Edwards was happy to oblige, and the new arrangement was several steps closer to R&B than the old one, which may or may not explain how it got to be Number One.

And in 1979, Van Morrison covered it on Into the Music; he’s pretty much owned the song ever since, and he still sings it in concert.

I think Vice-President Dawes would have been pleased.

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Low-end speakers

I discovered back in 1969 that I had no discernible talent for oratory, which apparently puts me on par with American political figures of today:

There are no more grand orators in America, and nothing could illustrate that better than the sometimes incoherent, woefully delivered remarks made in the days before and after [Martin Luther] King’s holiday. Attempting to analyze Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent address to the United Nations, writer Russell Shaw quotes a not-untypical muddled passage — one that reads like the first half of the “Barney” song, as explained to lobotomized apes — and writes, “With all due respect, what on earth does [it] mean? The strikingly confused venture into reasoning in this passage would provide rich material for a logician’s intellectual scalpel.”

On the other hand, Madame Secretary is hardly alone in her confusion:

If a recent GOP debate was notable for Newt Gingrich’s populist smackdown of the press, every candidate took a turn at tongue-tumbling and homina-homining his way through a response. Our current president — who, sans teleprompter, is as prone to stumble-stuttering as his predecessor — has not managed a memorable phrase since “yes we can.”

This is evidently a meaning of “homina” I hadn’t previously imagined.

So how far back do we have to go to find brilliance on the podium?

Perhaps the last great American orator was Bobby Kennedy; like King, he (and for that matter his brothers) understood the techniques of oratory: cadence, repetition, alliteration. But RFK also had the ability to extemporaneously pull poetry out at the appropriate moment, and insert it into his remarks in a way that was constructive, instructive, and ultimately bracing.

RFK’s five-minute speech in Indianapolis after the murder of Dr. King demonstrates several of those techniques admirably, and makes me wonder, forty-some-odd years after the fact, who among us would be capable of this much grace under that much pressure.

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Pirates, schmirates

An observation of mine from about eight years ago, when I was a mere lad of, um, fifty:

[A]lmost anyone of any age beyond twenty-five or so believes somewhere in his heart of hearts that everything that’s been inflicted on us by the music industry since he got out of college truly and deeply sucks.

I must here concede that this has now been proven untrue, kinda sorta:

In Copyright Protection, Technological Change, and the Quality of New Products: Evidence from Recorded Music Since Napster (NBER Working Paper No. 17503), Joel Waldfogel explores the possibility that technological changes in the music industry “may have altered the balance between technology and copyright law for digital products.” Despite music industry claims that digital piracy harms consumers by undercutting its revenues and reducing the amount of new music that it can bring to market, he constructs indexes of music quality based on critics’ best-of lists, airplay, and sales that show no evidence of a decline in music quality since Napster.

For those of you who missed it, Napster was set up in 1999, set upon in 2000, and set adrift in 2001. (The 2.0 version was a legitimate — i.e. licensed — music service, which was eventually absorbed into Rhapsody.)

What’s declined, of course, is the industry’s market share: it is no longer necessary to sign your life away for up to twenty years to get your music heard. (Lest you think this Never Happens, consider Rick Nelson, who, after a brief stint with Verve, wound up on Imperial for five years, then on US Decca for twenty, though MCA, then the successor to Decca, dropped him after thirteen.) And the buyers, I suspect, don’t care. I just noticed that I have purchased from the Null Corporation, Trent Reznor’s non-label label, pretty much their entire catalog, the last item acquired being the six-track EP by How To Destroy Angels, which I actually bought ($2 in Apple Lossless) while I was writing this.

Which is not to say I never put any coins in the industry’s cup. Susan Boyle is signed to SYCO, a joint venture between Simon Cowell and Sony, and her recordings come out in the States on Columbia. Classical pianist Yuja Wang records for Deutsche Grammophon. And even the odd single I fish out of the iTunes Store is usually part of one of the Big Three catalogs. None of these recordings can be said to deeply and truly suck — at least, not by me.

I will, however, raise an eyebrow at this:

Music is aired on radio less, and sells less, as it gets older; but if a vintage is better, it will receive more sales or airplay after accounting for such depreciation. Using data on the frequency with which songs originally released as early as 1960 were aired on the radio from 2004 to 2008, Waldfogel constructs an airplay-based vintage quality index suggesting that music quality rose from 1960 to 1970, fell until at least 1985, and rose substantially after 1999.

Using radio to judge the quality of music is rather like using toothpicks to judge the quality of furniture.

Aside to Nancy Friedman: I know that title technically should be “Pirates, shmirates,” but force of habit prevailed.

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No cakewalk

You might be forgiven for thinking that this would be another one of those nights when the Thunder starters didn’t have to set foot on the court in the fourth quarter: New Orleans had lost eight straight coming in, and Eric Gordon was still unwell.

Didn’t happen. The stalwart Hornet bench — who knew? — made a game of it early in the fourth; while New Orleans never actually caught up, they pulled to within two, and Scott Brooks wasn’t having any of that. Russell Westbrook, who up to then seemed to be having an off night, turned it on in the fourth, scoring 10 of his 14 points in the last frame, and OKC finished off the Bees, 101-91, going two-up in the three-game season series.

How stalwart? Of those 91 Hornet points, 49 came from the bench; Gustavo Ayón, who’d been playing in Spain before New Orleans bought out his contract, led the reserves with 16, increasing his NBA career points by a third in a single night. Carl Landry, the “official” sixth man, had 15, and Al-Farouq Aminu tacked on 11 more. (The only starter in double figures was Jarrett Jack, with 20.) The Hornets actually had a slight advantage on the boards (32-31) and went 20-21 from the foul line, 11 of them from Landry. I have to wonder what would have happened had Chris Kaman been available; he was inactive for some reason.

Still, this wasn’t enough to beat the Thunder. Kevin Durant turned in a Kevin Durant-like line: 25 points, seven rebounds, 7-7 from the line and 9-13 from the floor. James Harden managed 18 points on a mere five shots. (The Beard made nine of 10 free throws.) And Serge Ibaka was ferocious in the first quarter, albeit a bit less so later on. Glue guy Nick Collison, roughed up a bit in his last outing, didn’t look at all damaged tonight. And long-ball specialist Daequan Cook only took three shots, but he made them all.

A brief West Coast swing now begins: Golden State on Friday, the Clippers on Monday. Oh, joyous late-night roundball.

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On buying Volts

Bill Quick spurns the Chevrolet Volt — they’d have to pay him to take one, he says — which prompted regular commenter Lorenzo to note:

In an earlier age, it would have been a limited production Cadillac for a particular clientele at a high price, introducing technology that would trickle down later to the rest of the GM lineup. Had they done that, GM could have used the car to demonstrate their engineering chops in new tech, with small numbers that could be tended to more closely, as all new tech must be, and explained as “exclusive” service.

The General did in fact build a Cadillac version as a concept, under the ungainly name “Converj”; after hemming and hawing for many months, GM decided to add it to the Cadillac line as the “ELR,” not to be confused with ELO, at a price which is supposed to undercut Tesla’s Model S, which starts at $50k before you pick your battery pack.

Had they started with a Cadillac, I suspect they would have sold just as many — or just as few, depending on your perspective. And when this technology filtered down to Chevyland, it would have one built-in selling point: “Hey, this is like that Caddy, only 15 grand cheaper!” But now the Cadillac faithful won’t touch it, because it’s going to be a glitzed-up Chevy. Can you say “Cimarron”? (Said the guy who drives an Infiniti based on a five-grand-cheaper Nissan model.)

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All Googly and everything

More cookies than the Girl Scouts ever dreamed of, and they’re all for you:

For a while I wondered why Google wanted me to sign in. Now I wonder why I ever would. If you have Gmail and a personal YouTube account that simply must store what you watch and recommend new things and broadcast your choices hither and yon, and you use Google calendar and Google Plus and Google Clear and Google Bold (now with chipotle) and Google Whitening Google with Deep-cleansing Foaming Action, then I suppose it’s necessary to stay signed in.

And of course, they will pay you back for your loyalty by letting slip the Dogs of Infernal Memory:

The Web giant announced Tuesday that it plans to follow the activities of users across nearly all of its ubiquitous sites, including YouTube, Gmail and its leading search engine. Consumers won’t be able to opt out of the changes, which take effect March 1.

Le sigh. Remember “Don’t be evil”? Nowadays we’d settle for “Don’t be Facebook.”

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The new sucking sound

Keystone XL vs. wind power:

The Keystone XL pipeline would have provided 900,000 barrels of oil per day, roughly equivalent to 1.53 billion kw-hr per day. A typical wind turbine is 2MW nameplate capacity, but at best actually produces about 30% of this on average. This means that in a day it produces 2,000*.3*24 = 14,400 kw-hr of electricity. This means that the Keystone XL pipeline would have transported an amount of energy to the US equal to the output of 106,250 of those big utility-size wind turbines.

Looked at another way, the entire annual output of the US wind energy sector was about 75 terra-watt-hours per year or about 260 million kw-hr per day. This means that the Keystone XL pipeline would have carried energy equal to over 5 times the total output of wind power in the US.

Of course, converting that oil to electricity would involve losses of efficiency as well, no one in the administration (or on T. Boone Pickens’ speed-dial list) having yet figured out a way to suspend the laws of thermodynamics, but hey — the Chinese won’t be complaining.

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