Sort of bubbly

Singer Colbie Caillat turns 28 today. She wasn’t planning to get into the music business, despite family connections — father Ken is an A-list producer, best known for his work with the late-Seventies version (the one that sold all the records) of Fleetwood Mac — but at eleven decided she wanted to sing. She sold several zillion copies of “Bubbly,” a trifle more soulful than your average sunny California pop.

Colbie Caillat

In the last-aired episode of NBC’s short-lived The Playboy Club series, Colbie played Lesley Gore and sang “It’s My Party,” which strikes me as a trifle odd, if only because the series was set in 1961 and “Party” didn’t come out until 1963. (British singer Helen Shapiro cut the first version of the song in Nashville — with Grady Martin and the Jordanaires, yet! — and Phil Spector, having heard the original demo, was keen to cut a version with the Crystals, or with someone he could pass off as the Crystals, but we’re still talking ’63.) For a California girl, Colbie does a decent job replicating East Coast girl-group sounds.

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Wandering eyes

Cue Del Reeves and his song about the girl wearing nothing but a smile and a towel in the picture on the billboard in the field near the big ol’ highway:

That was 1965. This is 2013:

In many public schools, there are dress codes that prohibit students from wearing tank-tops, tube tops, and shorts that are deemed “too short,” as these could distract male students.

If men can be this easily distracted by women’s bodies, then this raises a variety of safety concerns.

Many busy highways have billboards that use sexually suggestive imagery of women’s bodies.

Women also often go about their everyday lives near roadways wearing tanktops and short shorts.

If straight men (and men of other sexual orientations who are attracted to women) can be distracted by the mere sight of a woman’s thigh, then it is a public safety hazard to allow them to operate vehicles that weigh thousands of pounds at up to 75mph past these inevitable distractions.

This has, at this writing, nearly 10,000 signatures at

(Via Joanna Blackhart.)

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Really old tech

I mentioned last week that I still had a fax machine, which in no way prompted Yahoo!’s Rob Walker to ask tech writers what antediluvian tech might be hanging around their premises. A couple of them struck a chord with me:

Alexis Madrigal: “We have one of those magical devices that lets you play an iPod through the tape deck (how do those work?) — but it makes a horrible screeching noise when it gets hot.” That leaves the CD player and terrestrial radio: “We seem to rotate between the same three CDs we burned or borrowed some time ago, and the local NPR affiliate.”

I have one of those magical devices myself. I’ve never heard it make a horrible screeching noise. (Yet.)

Nicholas Carr: “The ‘device’ that feels most outdated to me is my blog,” says Carr. “When I started the thing, in 2005, the personal blog was the iconic expression of ‘new media’; having one put you in the oxymoronic category of journalist-hipster. But the action has moved away from blogs, to the more conversational social networks like Twitter and their bite-sized bulletins. To be a blogger today makes you feel a little like Norma Desmond after silent movies were replaced by talkies: ‘I’m still big; it’s the internet that got small!'”

Hmpf. I was new media before new media was new media.

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A kick in the aspirations

Various and sundry corporate finagling has resulted in the four major auto mags being owned by two publishers: Motor Trend and Automobile by Source Interlink, Car and Driver and Road & Track by Hearst. You don’t have to be Warren Buffett to see the merger and/or consolidation possibilities, and indeed an outfit called 24/7 Wall Street is predicting the imminent demise of R&T.

Thoughts by TTAC commenter CJinSD:

All of these magazines write their reviews to the benefit of their advertisers instead of their readers. The only other recurring theme is expensive cars as porn. Why do they have fresh specs for every engine offering and trim level of every $60K and up car and occasionally run a one page “drive” review of models that outsell them all? Do they think their readers are all looking for clues how to spend their $300 a month option budget on their new Porsche Boxsters? Is that the dream demographic they want to present to their advertisers? The classiest products advertized with any regularity are cargo liners for CUVs, discounted tires, and radar detectors. Chinese collectibles and male inadequacy products may appeal to German car buyers, but there aren’t enough of them to justify expensive ads.

The readers don’t want to know about cars they see three abreast on the freeway every day: they want to know about dream cars, cars they can buy if they win the lotto, cars that will serve as their delayed reward for having suffered all those years with a ’99 Corolla. It’s all about the Higher Level. It’s why Cosmo’s cover story is never “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with your sex life.” And Lamborghini doesn’t have to advertise in these mags because hey, they’re freaking Lamborghini, anything they do gets covered automatically as a matter of editorial judgment, based on the fact that the readers want to know about dream cars.

CAFE is poised to set us back to 1978. People are going to need auto journalism with a consumerist bent, much as we had from these dinosaurs thirty years ago. They were far from perfect then in their unwillingness to condemn technologies that bit buyers, but they were far better at reviewing mass market cars than they are now. Consumer Reports is probably better positioned to hire some people that can write than the buff books are to start writing about the realities of their advertisers’ products.

Then again, CR originally positioned itself as the oracle to the Automobile As Appliance submarket, and while we have since learned that not only do they not hate cars, they drive the living whee out of them, their target reader is still the person whose greatest fear is “Will this break down on me?” That person won’t care whether Sedan X garnered more points than Crossover Y in testing: he’s peering into long lines of red — or, yes, black — dots. Which is as reasonable a criterion for selecting a car as any other; but it’s not a place the buff books, which get extended experience with only a handful of cars, have any reason to be.

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Juice box

This is the sort of thing for which Glenn Reynolds would say “Faster, please”:

In my new book, I have a storyline involving one of those Edison-level geniuses who pops up every once in a while and remakes some major aspect of human life. In this case, the character invents a package that involves photovoltaic paint and a lightweight battery capable of storing up to 20 kiloamphours of power, a package that weighs less then 40 pounds including batteries and the PV paint. The notion is that you could spray your roof — or your entire house — with the stuff, hook up the battery storage system, and remove yourself from the electrical grid entirely.

That’s a heck of a charge. Assuming you need 100-amp electrical service, a battery this size could run things for a week or so without any input from the solar grid at all, assuming temperatures more like San Diego than Saskatchewan. (At least, this is how I remember the math: 20,000 Ah/100 A = 200 hours.)

This, of course, assumes they’d actually let you do that:

I hadn’t considered it for the book — the wrinkle doesn’t really fit into this part of the story, although it might figure into the sequel — but that sort of development would likely be violently opposed by the powers who control the grid in all its manifestations. It moves the command Let there be light from the hands of all the various collectives that make up the current lines of supply into the hands of the individual. As such, it would be a deadly threat to those who wield those reins of power and control today.

Faster, please.

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Even the scars have a soundtrack

First we’ll start the music:

This is the story. There are times when I believe that the only way to avoid making the same mistake twice is to avoid making it once. But that’s not going to happen, is it?

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Now get dressed and move along

Said I when the Fawlty Towers motel in Cocoa Beach went clothing-optional last year: “If this won’t work in Florida, it won’t work anywhere.”

Perhaps it won’t work anywhere after all:

The bare-fleshed idea’s flaws were exposed by chilly weather, said Paul Hodge, the owner. “That really didn’t work out too well. All those cold spells during the winter: Who wants to go naked when it’s cold?” Hodge asked.

After revenues continued to flounder, Fawlty Towers reverted last week to a traditional, clothed resort. And the hotel is up for sale for $2.9 million.

Which seems like a lot for 32 rooms, but hey, it’s Florida. Even when it’s cold outside.

(Via Nudiarist.)

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Strange search-engine queries (382)

Perhaps you have today off. (This is probably why.) But duty goes ever on, as it must, and here are today’s wacky search strings.

nudism foto 1980god.:  I mean, God hardly needs pictures of skinny-dippers, amirite?

defective rate:  This is what you’ll probably really get from Rachel from Card Services.

dallas december2002 picketline bookstore plano picket dallas:  In other news, Plano has at least one bookstore.

The stoplight had just changed and a 1900 Cadillac has entered the intersection, heading north at 3.8, when it was struck by a 800 eastbound Volkswagen. The cars stuck together and slide to:  The front door of a bookstore in Plano.

can you add distronic cruise:  See your nearest authorized Mercedes-Benz retailer. There’s one in Plano.

miserabilist guide:  If you want to be miserable, all you have to do is read the news.

african woman huge naked big sexy ass shaking date /startpage/n:   I’m sure there’s something in the iTunes Store EULA about this sort of thing.

disengagement vent:  There’s almost got to be a Jefferies Tube joke here somewhere.

two dollars bills plastic cold:  Hence the phrase “cold cash.”

“mary fallin” “nice rack”:  You should see her Cabinet.

mozilla anal:  Yes, I admit it, Firefox can be a pain in the ass.

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Decoration Day

Spring 1868. General John A. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, a support organization founded by veterans for veterans, issues the following as General Order No. 11:

The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

This wasn’t the first Memorial Day, technically; the townspeople of Waterloo, New York had inaugurated just such an observance two years earlier. But General Logan’s call to honor fallen soldiers resounded nationally, and five thousand turned out at Arlington National Cemetery on the thirtieth of May, placing flowers and placards and gifts on the resting places of twenty thousand.

Two years later, General Logan spoke at Arlington, and this is part of what he said:

This Memorial Day, on which we decorate their graves with the tokens of love and affection, is no idle ceremony with us, to pass away an hour; but it brings back to our minds in all their vividness the fearful conflicts of that terrible war in which they fell as victims… Let us, then, all unite in the solemn feelings of the hour, and tender with our flowers the warmest sympathies of our souls! Let us revive our patriotism and love of country by this act, and strengthen our loyalty by the example of the noble dead around us…

I come from a family with strong ties to the military. Both my parents were sailors, and my father had served in the Army before joining the Navy. A brother served in the Navy; a sister took on the duties of a soldier’s wife. But it took me rather a long time to understand the “noble dead”; I knew nothing of death except that it was a scary prospect, and I didn’t see nobility as being part of the package.

The first inkling of what it meant came during Basic Combat Training in 1972. I was eighteen, grossly immature, and generally scared spitless. The guys with the funny hats who dragged us out of bed at 0500, well, they were just an obstacle, to be endured and then to be forgotten.

Except that they knew things. They weren’t scholars issuing position papers from ivory towers; they were men who had Been There, who had faced real enemies, and who had come back to show us pathetic slobs how to face real enemies ourselves. There were things you did, and there were things you did not do, if you expected to come back yourself. And since we were all green as hell and totally lacking in life experience, what we wanted more than anything else was to be able to come back.

So we learned. We fired (just as important, we cleaned) our weapons, we studied simple tactics, we got used to sleeping with the rocks and the ticks, we got to the point where we weren’t as embarrassingly bad as we had been a couple of months earlier. And the NCOs, who up to then had never been satisfied with our performance, pronounced themselves satisfied: we were going to be all right.

Most of us did come back. But some did not, and we found ourselves grieving for them and for their families, because we knew that it could just have easily have been us. Their sacrifice was received and found worthy. Noble, even.

I thought about this during the dedication of the World War II Memorial this week, especially when that old soldier Bob Dole explained why it was happening:

What we dedicate today is not a memorial to war. Rather, it is a tribute to the physical and moral courage that makes heroes out of farm and city boys and that inspired Americans in every generation to lay down their lives for people they will never meet, for ideals that make life itself worth living.

I hope, as I slide into old-soldier status myself, that I’ve done my best to live up to those ideals.

(Originally posted 30 May 2004.)

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Down here on the ground

Have you ever wanted to scream “You’re not helping!” at someone? It’s like that.

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Unneeded assistance

Just landed in the spam trap:

I discovered your [post identification redacted] page and noticed you could have a lot more traffic. I have found that the key to running a website is making sure the visitors you are getting are interested in your subject matter. There is a company that you can get traffic from and they let you try it for free. I managed to get over 300 targetted visitors to day to my website.

I get 300 visitors a day without having to target a damned thing. Why should I fork out to some vendor of Digital Snake Oil (Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.)?

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Today’s numbers racket

Everything you ever hated about the Financial Industry in one brief anecdote:

The check was for $6,000, an amount this sow never saw in her life. She was always overdrawn on her accounts, had well over $1,000 in fees, and was just a miserable, pathetic, excuse for a human being. But what made this great was just how obvious it was she had printed this check off of a cheap ink-jet printer.

My solution was simple — call the cops and get this vermin arrested for passing fake checks.

But oh, no. Not for the staff nor my boss. How did we know it was fake? How did we know she purposely printed this off? Besides (and pay attention to this) we needed her late and overdraft fees because those (despite never being paid) made this a profitable account.

Yep. Meets the technical definition of an asset, even if for all intents and purposes it is clearly anything but. Somewhere in the ether are a couple of quadrillions worth of complicated derivatives with all the tangible value of unicorn farts — believe me, I know from unicorn farts — that are, for the moment, being carried as assets. How long can this go on? So long as everyone agrees that these are actually assets and doesn’t try anything foolish like, oh, trying to cash them out.

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From the Not Happening files

So last night, while I should have been heading for the sack, I found an interesting little plugin which would list every single tag used on this site. I’d planned to give it its own page and a link up top; you click on that and you get an index of sorts, whether you’re looking for something mentioned only once (rather a lot of these) or more than five hundred times (Thunder-related stuff). In fact, I installed it briefly, and the results were at least acceptable.

But there’s one minor problem: there are ten thousand tags. (The number has climbed as high as 10,001; recent paring has whittled it back to 9,990, and considering it was 9,800 in September, I can’t complain too much.) It’s not exactly like indexing an encyclopedia, but it’s tedious, and it takes a heck of a long time to load. So I disposed of that idea, and also killed off the Tag Cloud I’d had hidden elsewhere, as it was kind of silly, as those things almost always are.

I might have gone along with it had it been possible to limit the listings to, say, things that had at least two mentions, which would have cut down the size of the display by half. (Which tells you what kind of concentration level I must have, if there are 5000 topics here that have been mentioned only once.) There apparently is a hack for this, but I couldn’t get it to work, so I set the idea aside. For now, anyway.

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Lost without translation

When New York City’s classical station, WQXR, moved down the dial, it also gave up some of its service area. A couple of translators in the fringe area have helped a bit, but station management has other plans as well:

New York Public Radio has acquired 90.3 WDFH Ossining, NY from Hudson Valley Community Radio for $400,000.

Then again, this isn’t a big signal boost — yet:

WDFH currently operates with 53 watts at 145 meters. As part of the asset purchase agreement, NYPR has agreed to file with the FCC an application to increase power to 250 watts. FCC approval of that application is a condition of the sale to close.

The main WQXR signal is only 610 watts, but it has the advantage of 416-meter height — on top of the Empire State Building, that is. The current 53-watt version of WDFH makes it almost all the way to Mount Vernon.

(Via a Doc Searls link pile.)

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Third time’s the charm, and then some

Volume 3 by She & HimThe fourth album by She & Him is called Volume 3, a title which perhaps is curious for its use of the digit instead of spelling out the number as they did in two previous albums, not including the obligatory Christmas album, which I bought but did not review, inasmuch as it didn’t really fit into whatever grand scheme Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward were planning, except of course for (what else could it be?) World Domination.

Based on the evidence of Volume 3, I’m ready to hand over the premises. The eleven ZD originals here show serious growth in her songwriting chops, plus a certain amount of unexpected faithfulness to one of my own guiding principles: love is composed of the magical and the mundane, not necessarily in equal quantities. As an object lesson, see track eight, “Together,” arguably ZD’s drippiest bit of romantic tomfoolery since the tearful “Sentimental Heart” on Volume One, which somehow remains grounded: she (mostly) keeps the quaver out of her voice, and not even the shimmering strings that come in during the instrumental break (nice touch, Mister Ward, sir) can drag it over to the weepy end of the scale.

As always, S&H have selected some unexpected covers: Blondie’s “Sunday Girl,” a track from Parallel Lines which was never released Stateside as a single; “Baby,” the B-side of Ellie Greenwich’s demo-turned-single “You Don’t Know”; and the early-Fifties torch song “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” mostly remembered today as a mid-Sixties soul single by Mel Carter. Deschanel’s reading of “Hold Me” is heavy on the torch.

And as always, Ward’s production is simultaneously impeccable and unobtrusive, and his instrumental work is always appropriate. (He also sings a bit, mostly on “Baby.”) Nicely, he cuts off the strings-and-choir reprise of “I Could Have Been Your Girl” at the close, right before you begin to wonder why it’s there in the first place.

I admit to speculating a bit as to whether any of these songs were intended to recall ZD’s recent split from Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard. Maybe a little: “I’m stronger than the picture that you took before you left” (from “Turn to White”) sounds ever so slightly accusative. But that’s about it: if there’s sadness here, and there is, it’s a generic, and possibly more universal, sadness. And that, too, is a component of love, though determining whether it’s part of the magic or part of the mundane is way above my pay grade.

(Previously discussed: Volume One; Volume Two. Reviewed from my own purchased copy.)

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Corner of Desolation Row and Positively 4th Street

Now this is nifty: a map of every place mentioned in a Bob Dylan song.

And there are a lot of such places, believe me.

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