Just to make an experience point

One reason Dungeons & Dragons is still around after all these years — 2014 is D&D’s 40th anniversary — is that the premise is almost infinitely extensible, limited only by imagination. Erin Palette, whose site I wandered onto in search of something else, presents a recent variation on the theme:

A young wizard discovers an ancient prophecy which states that, within two days, the deposed Goddess of the Moon — who has been imprisoned for a thousand years due to a failed coup against her older sister, the Goddess of the Sun — will escape her imprisonment, vanquish her sister, and cover the lands in everlasting night!

This young wizard tries to tell everyone of the impending apocalypse, but being a young student, is ignored and instead given menial tasks to perform. Lo and behold, the prophecy does come to pass, and the student knows that the only way to defeat the Moon Goddess and reinstate the rule of the benevolent Sun Goddess is to find and utilize an ancient artifact. To that end, she recruits a diverse group of individuals with conflicting personalities but complementary skills.

Pure D&D. And also the first episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

If you’d like to DM in this universe, here is a set of pony alignments:

My Little Pony D&D alignments

Further exposition here. And this conclusion seems inarguable: “Equestria: half Dark Sun, half Gamma World. If that doesn’t get your gamer juices flowing there’s something wrong with you.”

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Miss you

The French language has no direct equivalent for the English title “Ms.”, and rather than come up with a new word, la République has decided to get rid of one of the older ones:

Up until now French women have been asked to identify themselves on administrative forms either as a married “madame”, or a “mademoiselle” — a term used for unmarried young women.

Having to make that choice is deemed sexist by many because men are always referred to as “monsieur”, whether they are married or not.

The Prime Minister’s office has now instructed authorities to only use the term “madame” in a move Solidarity Minister Roselyne Bachelot said would “end a form of discrimination”.

In other news, France has a Solidarity Minister.

Still, I find it hard to disagree with Mme Bachelot: it’s not like they’re going to make up a new term for unmarried men.

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And yet another Friday is upon us

Rebecca Black at the Grammy AwardsHaters, as the phrase goes, gonna hate. This point-blank question showed up on Yahoo! Answers: “Can someone tell me why the **** Rebecca Black was in the Grammy Awards?” This surprises someone? Whether anyone believes it or not, she is part of the music industry these days, and one of the less exasperating parts at that; it’s not at all hard to believe that someone got her added to the invitation list. And besides, by now she does red-carpet stuff pretty well. I’m not expecting the ten points for Best Answer, but I call ‘em the way I see ‘em. (Photo at right by Andrew Evans/PR Photos, shrunk and cropped to fit this format. Larger version here.)

Did I say “part of the music industry”? William Patry’s book How to Fix Copyright (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) acknowledges her existence and proclaims her outsider status:

Creativity by the Great Unwashed is said not to be creativity at all, and if permitted, the large corporations who manufacture superstars argue, such platforms will crowd out quality works — that is, superstars’ products. Superstars themselves come to believe in the marketing hype. In a statement that defines irony, the Walt Disney-created product Miley Cyrus dismissed thirteen-year-old songwriter and performer Rebecca Black (whose song “Friday” achieved a worldwide audience thanks to YouTube) by claiming, “It should be harder to be an artist. You shouldn’t just be able to put a song on YouTube and go out on tour.”

Inasmuch as RB has exactly one-third of a writing credit (for “Person of Interest”), I think it’s probably too early to characterize her as a songwriter, though I’m willing to bet it’s just a matter of time. (She’ll be 15 in June.) And anyway, whatever Miley said seems to have been taken completely out of context. Still, Patry is quite correct: if there’s anything any industry hates, it’s outside competition.

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Lost and foundry

If all goes well, Chattanooga, Tennessee will be the first city in the nation to have its own specific typeface:

Around the world, only a few hundred people make a living as fulltime typeface designers. Two of them happen to live in Chattanooga, Tennessee, population 167,000, where they’ve embarked on an ambitious project to distill the city’s artistic and entrepreneurial spirit into a font called Chatype. The goal is to help the city and its businesses forge a distinct and cohesive identity through custom typeface, sending a visual message to the world that Chattanooga — a rapidly growing city in the midst of a creative renaissance — is “more than just your average Southern town.”

And it would help if it didn’t look too much like VAG Rounded, since (1) it would seem like a gesture toward Volkswagen, whose typeface this used to be and who’s rapidly becoming a major employer in Chattanooga, and (2) everybody and his brother-in-law is using it for stuff these days. (It doesn’t.)

In general, I am weary of obvious attempts at branding, but this is about as subtle as branding gets; I think something like this would actually work here, were it possible to persuade City Council to think about something other than blowing a third of a billion dollars on a convention center at a time when no one can afford to go anywhere. Still, it could backfire:

OKC in Antique Olive

I mean, I like this, but I think I’d get tired of seeing it everywhere, and it would never play in, say, Stockyards City.

OKC in Clearface

Too bland?

OKC in SooperFresh

Well, we have had some earthquakes lately.

OKC in Comic Sans

I wouldn’t wish this on Tulsa.

OKC in Nadianne

Not bland enough.

I have to believe, though, that somewhere in town someone has an idea better than these.

(Via this Annemarie Dooling tweet. Title swiped from Popeye — the sailor, not the chicken joint.)

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Drink pink

No, wait. Don’t drink pink:

My respect for you, however, goes out the window if you order a drink that is the color pink. I mean it. Don’t order anything pink! It takes a real man to wear a pink sweater or shirt, not to drink a cosmo or grass skirt.

So saith Cara Costillo, who tendeth bar at Coyote Ugly in Bricktown, according to Playboy (3/12).

Disclosure: I live in a pink house, and I’ll drink what I damn well please.

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Back to the lake with you

They may not even be the best team in L.A. anymore, let alone the West, but the Lakers still have mystique on their side. The Thunder, however, have learned to ignore such considerations, and Loud City was happy to help sweep Kobe Bryant and friends off the premises, 100-85.

Dealing with Kobe is always a problem, and Scott Brooks chose to address it by having James Harden stick to him like Fifties cellophane; Bryant got his 24 points, but it took him 24 shots to get it. The tall guys — Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol — were their usual efficient selves, though seldom at the same time. But the Lakers’ plight can be summed up in a single incident: inside the 2:00 mark, a brief altercation broke out, and noted pacifist Metta World Peace got T’d up.

Kevin Durant? Thirty-three points on 22 shots. And if Bynum got a double-double, which he did, well, so did Serge Ibaka, and Ibaka was +17 for the night, higher than anyone except KD. The Thunder had a small edge in rebounding (44-41), a bigger one in taking the ball away (nine blocks and seven steals, versus two and five), and perhaps the biggest in bench scoring (28-11; Harden had 16 all by his lonesome). Russell Westbrook, who you’ll remember is Not Really A Point Guard, had half a dozen dimes tonight, more than anyone else except, um, Kevin Durant.

But best of all, it was the Lakers. Everyone loves to beat the Lakers. They have tradition, they have history, and for the moment they have second place in the Pacific.

The All-Star break now ensues.

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Bitter and static-clingy

Once again, Lamar Outdoor has kindly favored me with a giant billboard containing one of my tweets, but I’m damned if I can figure out why they chose this one:

Lamar outdoor tweet billboard

I mean, just consider the text:

Found a dryer sheet in the hallway. All kinds of possibilities present themselves, none of them interesting.

Admittedly, it was an office hallway, but it takes more imagination than I have to come up with an entertaining explanation for the presence of the discarded sheet.

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Gormless Old Party

“Is this really the best the Republican field has to offer?” asks Sarah Hoyt, and then answers:

It’s … complicated.

First of all, yes, to an extent this is the best. This is generational. Again, the republicans who are now in the generation to run for office were of the “country club” or “Socialism but slower” school. If you read the literature of the time, this is part of what we as a society — and to an extent worldwide — believed and thought, then. That society could be perfected and improved. That man was infinitely moldable. Some of the ideas that created the statist monsters of mid-twentieth century were still around when these people went through elementary. We’re all time travelers, filled with old as well as new ideas.

And if there’s anything that characterizes 21st-century schizoid man, it’s mold. Lots of it. Growing all over the damn place. He’ll even brag on it: “But I’m a real fungi!”

Second, to another extent, of course it isn’t. There are people who are far better but they’re not running. Some never ran. I think this is because the smarter people who could run know the next president is sort of a sacrifice. We’re killing him so the crops will grow again. Oh, not literally (I hope) but in effect. With what’s about to hit us in the field of economics, the best the next president can hope for is squeaking a second term by the skin of his teeth AND being remembered with admiration in a hundred years. But the next president is going to have to cut all goodies drastically and p*ss off everyone. And we’re going to make him eat live toads for it for the remainder of his natural life. (Metaphorically speaking, I hope. Poor toads.)

Which perhaps constitutes an argument for Newt Gingrich, who often looks like he just polished off a couple of live toads.

But no, she’s casting her lot with Der Mittster:

Romney is the one left I — personally — think will do the least damage.

But I will tell you, friends, at this point to tell which Republican will do the least damage, you need a high-resolution electronic microscope. I don’t despise anyone who thinks one of the other two moral midgets is better. At this point we’re not even weighing grains of sand, but particles of dust.

Or possibly, um, mold spores.

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White car can’t be jumped

Tesla Roadster in whiteWhat could be more exasperating than bricking your $500 phone? Answer: bricking your $100,000 car:

Tesla Motors’ lineup of all-electric vehicles — its existing Roadster, almost certainly its impending Model S, and possibly its future Model X — apparently suffer from a severe limitation that can largely destroy the value of the vehicle. If the battery is ever totally discharged, the owner is left with what Tesla describes as a “brick”: a completely immobile vehicle that cannot be started or even pushed down the street. The only known remedy is for the owner to pay Tesla approximately $40,000 to replace the entire battery.

Before you ask: no, the color of the paint job has nothing to do with the condition and everything to do with my need for a snappy title.

But yes, a few unfortunate Tesla owners have wound up with six-figure paperweights:

Of the approximately 2,200 Roadsters sold to date, a regional service manager for Tesla stated he was personally aware of at least five cases of Tesla Roadsters being “bricked” due to battery depletion. It is unknown if there are additional cases in other regions or countries.

(Via Jalopnik.)

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Thoroughly Scroogled

Scroogle, the anonymizing search engine that scraped Google results so you didn’t have to, has bitten the dust, says the Reg:

As we reported last week, the website was out of action and displaying a message during the most recent outage that blamed Google for “temporarily blocking” Scroogle’s server.

It turns out the site, which routinely scraped the Chocolate Factory’s search results for the best part of a decade, has been closed down by Brandt.

The final nail in the coffin came not because of action taken by Google to once again attempt to banish the site from the interwebs, but due to the number of DDoS attacks that hit Scroogle, rendering the site utterly useless.

Daniel Brandt, operator of Scroogle, says it was just a matter of time:

“Scroogle.org is gone forever,” Mr. Brandt wrote. “Even if all my DDoS problems had never started in December, Scroogle was already getting squeezed from Google’s throttling, and was already dying. It might have lasted another six months if I hadn’t lost seven servers from DDoS, but that’s about all.”

Observant readers may have already noticed that I’d reinstated Scroogle’s box on the sidebar once I’d gotten out of Google’s doghouse; it was replaced with a regular Google search box last week.

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Meanwhile, behind the curtain

We’ve been down this yellow brick road before. In 1985, Disney put out a film called Return to Oz, based on the second and third Oz books by L. Frank Baum. (The first book, of course, was out of the question, having been used for the 1939 MGM Oz film.) There was only one intellectual-property skirmish, and ultimately Disney paid MGM for the right to give Dorothy a pair of ruby slippers.

Now Disney’s about to reboot the Oz series, and Warner Bros., which controls the MGM original, is wary, says The Hollywood Reporter:

In October, Warner Bros. very quietly filed a trademark registration on “The Great and Powerful Oz.”

Why is this newsworthy? Well, Disney’s coming reboot of the story, directed by Sam Raimi and starring James Franco, is titled Oz, the Great and Powerful. Warners filed its trademark registration only one week after Disney had filed its own.

Warners lost that battle, having been a week late, but they might ultimately win the war. Said the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last year:

We agree with the district court’s conclusion that Dorothy, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind, and Tom and Jerry each exhibit “consistent, widely identifiable traits” in the films that are sufficiently distinctive to merit character protection under the respective film copyrights…

I do believe in law, I do, I do, I do, I do…

(Via Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings.)

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The pluck of the Irish

Apparently the major topic of conversation before the game was the fact that the Celtics had never lost to the Thunder in Oklahoma City; the Thundermen had been pretty effective in Beantown, but they’d always folded at home. And before this had time to sink in, Boston was out to a ten-point lead. Then, eight and half minutes in, OKC went on a crushing 28-2 run, eventually jumping to a 72-49 halftime lead. The lead grew to 27 before the Celtics slowly started fighting back. And then it wasn’t so slowly: eventually that lead was whittled down to six. Fortunately, the Thunder suddenly remembered how to close out games, and bounced back to a 119-104 win.

In the absence of the suspended Rajon Rondo, Boston started Avery Bradley at the point; he was decently effective before fouling out late. All five starting Celtics wound up in double digits — Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen had 23, 23 and 21 respectively — but the Boston bench combined managed only nine.

Telltale statistic: the Thunder had only two turnovers in the first half, but twelve in the second. And then there were the fourth-quarter technicals: one on Kendrick Perkins as he fouled out — one can only imagine what he said — one on Serge Ibaka, and even one on Kevin Durant. Despite the miscues, the OKC numbers were pretty decent: 50 percent shooting, 9 of 19 treys, and plus-11 on the boards. Once again, Russell Westbrook took more shots than KD; once again, nobody cared. (Westbrook had 31 points, Durant 28, and both had six assists.) Still, any game in which Daequan Cook has to play 39 minutes has something askew, although DC14 did knock down 17 points. James Harden was back in charge of the second unit, and picked up 17 points and a +23 overall, best on the court.

The only question remaining now before the All-Star break is whether the Lakers will sleepwalk through tomorrow night or actually go through the motions.

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Everyone’s a critic

In case you were wondering “What’s the best way to process criticism?” here’s the answer, from a comic artist:

The funny thing about the internet is that it made everyone a critic, and it made everyone an expert. Amazing right!

The first time you see someone tear your comic apart it’s like a punch in the gut. The hundredth time you see it? No big deal. All the same, even when you know better, there are days when a load of people will say “good job!” and then one person says something shitty and you feel like garbage. Hey, it happens! Don’t worry about it. The bad things people have called my comics could fill the Salty Sailor’s Dictionary of Swear Phrases. Not a present I’d give to my mom. I said this before about online critics, I’ll say it again: remember that on the internet you can go to a place that reviews Citizen Kane and underneath it someone will have written “this is the most overrated piece of shit on planet Earth.” Then remember that whoever said that doesn’t matter.

(Via R. Francis Smith.)

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The opposite of specs

Corrective lenses? Well, yeah, but even if we make you wear them to drive, we don’t actually want to see them on your license:

Oklahoma now makes people who wear glasses take their glasses off for their drivers license or ID photo. I absolutely do not look like me without my glasses. I did wear makeup today so I wouldn’t look like I don’t have any eyelashes but the photo is hideous anyway. The good thing about it is that on the license it came out so washed out you can barely tell it’s a face. (They show you the photo on a screen before they print the license.) I know everyone’s DL photo is hideous but a a few years ago I actually had one that was pretty decent so now I have higher expectations.

At least they don’t object if you smile, unlike some places I could name.

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Unexpectedly Alevated

“Weird Al” Yankovic let it be known (via Twitpic) that he would be on 30 Rock, and, well, I was so moved that I left a question for him.

Which drew this response:

Screen shot from TweetDeck: A Fey accompli, is it?

I may never filter that TweetDeck column again.

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Dolled up, so to speak

The cosmetics industry apparently has only one hope of expansion, and the target is someone who never needed this stuff before:

The New York Times recently had an article about make-up for the “tweens” and their younger sisters.

Since tweens run generally 9 to 12, their younger sisters will be no older than 8.

The article talked about “the tween beauty sophisticate” to whom anti-aging [sic] products were being pitched. (What? They don’t want 7-year-olds to look like they’re 8? And yet they want them to wear makeup?!) Most cosmetic users start at age 10, it reported. A favorite item, “created” by the 15-year-old daughter of that master of good taste Madonna, is a package of four eye shadows and a black liner called “Smoky and Sexy.” (Yeah — how many of you moms and dads want your kids to look “sexy”?) A new Disney character-themed beauty line will be introduced by Target and Willa Cosmetics, “aimed at the 7 to 14 set,” was created by a mom “looking for beauty options for her 8-year-old daughter.” (Italics, mine.)

Apparently “presentable,” the standard for youngsters back in the Jurassic period when I was growing up, is no longer enough. There is, of course, an official justification for all this:

“Some girls are hitting puberty at 9 or 10 years old. They’re popping up with pimples. It makes them self-conscious. And that’s why we have a concealer that covers up acne,” says one marketing wizard. Whatever happened to Clearasil? And exactly where are those pimples? On the eyelids? The lips?

I dunno about the rest of you, but I am not prepared for fourth-graders wearing lip gloss, nor am I enthusiastic about the effect this sort of thing might have on J. Random Humbert.

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