Attention horror

This being the Era of Unrelenting Umbrage, almost every Halloween costume you can imagine can and will offend someone. Repeat: “almost.” Not all:

Most Halloween costumes are actively upsetting to someone or another. My costume this year is Drowned Titanic Passenger. That’s in hella bad taste. I’ve seen costumes at parties which would freak one or other of my friends out — and badly — because of their triggers and phobias. But when you look over [Julia] Serano’s three reasons, actually they do not make sense in these cases. Upsetting and troubling, yes, but they are not bringing offence and disrespect to an important group in society; they are not appropriative. My costume doesn’t erase the original tragedy — it’s not rewriting what happened or being inaccurate. It’s not making any money. And it’s not demeaning to deceased passengers either. Finally — there isn’t a large group of people who will be harmed in the real world as a result of my dressing up. The passengers are all dead; as are their relatives; and the Titanic sinking has very little to do with present-day issues (in contrast, I would have a problem with a Jack The Ripper/Ripper victim costume, because sex workers are still disadvantaged, and intermittently murdered, in our society).

Despite this bit of innovation, it’s a whole holiday full of potential active upset:

Halloween is just not a great day for sensitive people. Isn’t that awful? A fun day like that, can’t help but shut out a whole lot of people.

Still, if the trend holds up, in twenty years every kid with a bucket, from Glasgow to the Galápagos, will be done up as R2-D2, simply because the only controversial aspect of the little vacuum-cleaneresque droid is that he (do droids have gender? Besides C-3PO, I mean) puts coins in George Lucas’ overstuffed pockets.

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Inalienable writes

Being prolific isn’t exactly an unalloyed joy:

My blog has multiple personalities. There’s the mommy blog where I write about birthday parties. The blog where I feature posts about Oklahoma. And, then there’s all the stuff I write about Generations X, Y and Z. All these topics vie for first position and I get frustrated and end up not writing anything at all. This has been happening a lot lately! There is no way to pull the competing topics together under one umbrella, which is why I’m considering adding sub-domains to

Of course, she’s organized and motivated. Being neither of those things, I accumulate tags and categories. There are fifty-six categories and over ten thousand tags; to give you an idea of how perplexing this can be, neither My Little Pony (166 posts) nor Zooey Deschanel (88 posts) rates a category. Yet.

And there’s this:

I don’t want to worry about whether or not every post is useful or entertaining.

Obviously I’m not worried about such things at all.

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And the harmony isn’t bad

Yours truly reporting in 2004:

NPR’s All Things Considered had an obituary for Billy Davis, 72, whom they identified as an advertising executive. Which indeed he was; he created that “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” bit for Coca-Cola that grabbed the attention of the tragically-hip types at NPR, and the “If you’ve got the time…” spot for Miller Beer.

The bit, yes; the song, not so much. And in fact, it wasn’t originally written as a Coke commercial:

And we should also credit adman Bill Backer, like Davis then attached to the Coca-Cola account at McCann-Erickson, who’s responsible for wanting to buy the world a Coke.

Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, of course, you know from zillions of hit records; they wrote “True Love and Apple Pie.” Susan Shirley made half a dozen singles before disappearing on the far side of the hill; you might like the wonderfully overproduced “Too Many Tears,” cut three years earlier, which was apparently her second single for Mercury UK, following a version of “The Sun Shines Out Of Your Shoes,” a cute Tony Hatch/Jackie Trent song I know from Petula Clark’s recording.

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It’s like a cold call, only cooler

From out of the blue comes an email from this fellow:

Hello, my name is Matthew Lane and I’m a Graphic + Web Designer in Los Angeles, originally from Portland, Oregon (yes, it is as strange and amazing as you’ve probably heard). I would love it if you checked out my work at and let me know if I can ever help out with any projects you might have use for me on (design related, no house cleaning or car washing requests, although I’m certainly not above it in an off month).

Dear Mr Lane: While your portfolio is pretty darn nice, I have to admit that if I happen to need any design work from someone originally from deepest Portlandia, I know just the person, just down the block. However, I’m happy to pass along your link to the readership, just in case.

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The girl next door

About five years ago, New York’s Nassau County decided to pitch itself as “The Island Next Door,” and appointed several tourism ambassadors, one of whom was singer/songwriter Ashanti, who was born 13 October 1980 in Glen Cove and grew up in Roslyn. This is what she wore to the announcement ceremony:

Ashanti back home

Not sure which is brighter: her smile or that dress.

Ashanti has also done a fair amount of acting: she joined the cast of Lifetime’s Army Wives for its seventh and final season (2012-13), playing Latasha Montclair, spouse of an Army corporal.

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Besides, deer can’t read

Officials in Minnesota are thinning out the herd of traffic-advisory signs:

The image of a leaping buck or the words “Deer crossing” on a ­yellow sign are so familiar on rural ­Minnesota roads that many drivers don’t even notice them. The same goes for “Slow, Children at Play” signs on city streets.

In Carver County, officials are removing them because, they say, there’s no evidence that they cause motorists to slow down, and could give parents a false sense of security.

“The signs that are out there need to be useful,” said Kate Miner, the county’s traffic engineer. “If we clutter our roadways with signs, it just kind of all becomes background noise after a while.”

And it’s not like you can get deer to cross where they’re supposed to, anyway.

MnDOT follows similar practices on state roads:

The reason, said MnDOT state signing engineer Heather Lott, is because there’s no evidence that they have reduced deer-vehicle crashes or caused drivers to slow down. The same is true for “Children at Play” signs, she said.

“Use of the signs in some areas would give the false impression that areas without signs do not have children and deer,” Lott said.

I can see that. If a deer takes out your car on a country road, two miles short of a deer-crossing sign, you’re probably going to think “How was I supposed to know there were deer here?”

(Via Fark.)

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Yo soy WaPo

Who knew? The Washington Post is actually getting a handle on how to deal with Twitter snark:

Washington Post Twitter screenshot

Here’s the full thread. (Via this Nu Wexler tweet.)

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Quote of the week

Street Fight’s Terry Heaton, on the assumptions made by those who would sell to us:

In their effort to influence and produce results, marketers are simply unable to demonstrate even a modicum of restraint when it comes to the line between useful and nuisance.

Operating within the soul of every marketer is the ridiculous assumption that people want or need to be bombarded by advertising, and that any invasion of their time or experience to “pass along” an attempt to influence is justified. If this were true, there would be no looming fight over DVRs, which allow viewers to skip ads. You have no inherent right to my eyeballs, and it is precisely this axiom that makes today’s instruments and gadgets so powerfully disruptive to the culture.

How so? We’re weary of running a relentless gauntlet of jumping, screaming, frantic warnings, hands grabbing, voices shouting, noise-making, disjointed movements, and the almost demonic reaching for our wallets coming from advertising. This is Madison Avenue’s idea of perfection, and the only way you can get there is to completely ignore the effect of advertising on the very people you’re trying to influence. The Web is, at core, a pull mechanism, not one that pushes. It’s why all those big projections of advertising “potential” have turned into a commodified “pennies for dollars” reality.

Lamar Outdoor, most often referenced here for referencing me, plays the DVR card pretty well: they have a billboard which reads “Can’t >> This Ad,” where the “>>” turns out to be the fast-forward button on a remote.

Still, billboards are purely a push medium, since the shortest distance between Point A and Point B puts them right in front of you. The Web does its best to push, but it doesn’t push very well: those thousands of slots that Veeblefetzer Industries bought on Bing won’t matter if your eyeballs are glued to Yahoo!

(Suggested by Doc Searls.)

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Remember that possibly apocryphal character who wanted half a million for his domain name? The prospective emptor might want to caveat a little more than usual:

In 2006, was sold for $1.5 million. Monthly traffic: 1,747 unique visitors. was sold in 2007 for $2.1 million, and draws in an eye-popping 1,049 people per month. brought 3 mil, and gets 1,346 — no stats on, though, which might be what people type when they’re boozy and thick-fingered. went for almost 10 mil in 2008, and doesn’t get more than 400 visitors a month. That just can’t be right, but that’s what says.

“Vodak” is also an occasional Farkism for “vodka,” but then again, Farkers, by their own admission, are boozy, if not necessarily thick-fingered.

I paid $35 for this domain in 1999. Monthly uniques: over 2,000.

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Tell St Peter at the Golden Gate

Mr Truman experiments with electronic cigarettes:

To be honest, I am not actually perfectly sanguine about the health potential of these things. They appear to be much, much safer than regular cigarettes. But I will be (pleasantly) surprised if we do not discover, at some point down the line, that vaping (“e-smoking”) doesn’t correlate with higher instances of throat and lung cancer. The throat scratchiness has not gone away. The chest feels better, but there is a persistent shortness of breath. Though I honestly have no problem that the lying scumbag tobacco companies were made to pay for their lies, I do feel like the smokers should have known better. Your body lets you know in every imaginable way that smoking is bad for you and it took a refusal to listen in order not to hear it. If I listen to my body now, what I hear is that this is an imperfect solution.

And one question that has puzzled me as a nonsmoker/nonvaper: Will these contraptions get the same sort of contumely routinely heaped upon Sir Walter Raleigh’s burning leaves?

That’s what I am concerned about, and the proposed regulations are already moving us in that direction. This is of particular concern to me because what finally got me to make the transition to ecigs is that I stopped treating them like regular cigarettes. My initial goal was to impose all of the same restrictions on vaping as I had imposed on smoking. This was a dead end. The only result of that exercise was that it became a cheap copy with the only advantage being that I didn’t have to deodorize every time I came back in and I didn’t have ash to contend with. It was only once I started allowing myself to vape indoors and try a multitude of flavors that I started seeing cigarettes more as an inconvenience rather than a superior product. As such, if we want people to make the transition from smoking to vaping — and we should — then we should give vaping a greater degree of latitude.

Already we seem to have more vapor outlets than cigar bars, for what that’s worth.

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Brush with danger

Dangerous expense, anyway:

They have a whole section with 47 different varieties. Do they have the original Crest paste that I grew up on? No, Crest stopped making that stuff years ago. Now you can’t buy toothpaste unless there is something special about it. The least expensive tube of Crest was $2.79. There was also a tube of Walgreens brand for under $2, but I couldn’t bring myself to be that cheap. Too many years of using Crest has got it firmly engraved in my brain. Score one for Madison Avenue.

I’d say something here, but I have a $50 toothbrush, as I’ve admitted before, so I really can’t gripe about $2.79 toothpaste.

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This sounds shaky

It’s supposedly the world’s most expensive vibrator:

Baci, a high-end lingerie designer brand name, enters the market with the world’s most expensive model.

Called the Minx and crafted by Shiri Zinn, one of the most elite and sought after lingerie designers in the world, the hefty $150 price tag is justified by features and design concepts not usually found in such a, shall we say, utility item?

According to a press release touting the revolutionary product, “The Minx Designer Vibrator is styled with the Baci brand in mind. Every vibrator displays 12 Swarovski crystals encircling a stainless steel end cap, as well as a detachable pink and black feather tail. Each comes in a handcrafted snakeskin box with satin lining, with ‘Shiri Zinn for Baci’ on the lid, stamped in silver.”

However, it has its plebeian side:

Powered by 2 ‘C’ batteries, the Minx designer vibrator boasts “a very strong, silent motor with variable speed control, allowing the user to dictate how strong she would like the sensations.”

Two lousy C batteries? For that kind of money it ought to have its own fusion reactor.

(Via Fark.)

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Quote of the week

In the November Car and Driver, P. J. O’Rourke recants:

Yes, 33 years ago in the pages of this magazine I called the 911 an “ass-engined Nazi slot car.” I apologize. Not that the 911’s powerplant doesn’t loom behind its transaxle. And not that the 911’s progenitor, Ferry Porsche, wasn’t a utility infielder on the wrong team during the last World War. And not that a mistaken lift of a 911’s throttle won’t result in Aurora Plastics model-racetrack ess-bend behavior, except in 1-1 scale taking out the whole back of the hobby shop. Besides, to be precise, I was referring to a 930 Turbo, with love-handle fenders and looking like it had backed into a cocktail waitress and driven off with her serving tray. But I’m sorry.

Eventually, P. J. fesses up: he bought one. A 964-series Carrera, vintage 1990. And he loves it, kinda sorta:

The interior is as cozy as a visit home to mom. She has a meth lab in my old bedroom.

Trail-braking bad?

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If the pony content seems even higher than usual, there’s a reason for it: it was three years ago today that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was unleashed upon us unsuspecting humans, and while I admit to not having noticed it until nearly the beginning of Season Two — well, you know what they say about the ardor of converts.

This song closed out Season Two, and more than once I’ve called upon it to dispel the blues. It’s not the actual last scene, but a video compilation of various scenes in that episode. And if two pony fans meet, perhaps through a dating service, and fall in love, you can be absolutely certain this song will be played at their wedding. So let’s get this party started:

May we all live happily ever after.

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Splurge overkill

Ars Technica, on the debacle that was, and continues to be,

The result of the headlong rush to October 1 was a system that had never been tested at anything like the load it experienced on its first day of operation (if it was tested with loads at all). Those looking for a reason for the site’s horrible performance on its first day had plenty of things to choose from.

First of all, there’s the front-end site itself. The first page of the registration process (once you get to it) has 2,099 lines of HTML code, but it also calls 56 JavaScript files and 11 CSS files. That’s not exactly optimal for heavy-load pages.

I know from “not exactly optimal,” inasmuch as I look at it every day. In my own defense, I never expect hundreds of thousands of visitors a day — the all-time record is 13,636 — and while it varies somewhat from day to day, the front page at this writing has 1,281 lines of HTML code, calls four scripts, and has a single CSS file.

(Via Daily Pundit.)

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You’ve got everything now

When last we left This Charming Charlie, Universal Music’s licensing types were making threatening noises about the horribleness of sticking Smiths lyrics into Peanuts panels.

Perhaps they should have asked the guy who wrote those lyrics:

Morrissey would like to stress that he has not been consulted over any takedown request to remove the Tumblr blog named ‘This Charming Charlie’.

Morrissey is represented by Warner-Chappell Publishing, and not Universal Music Publishing, (who have allegedly demanded that the lyrics be removed).

Morrissey is delighted and flattered by the Peanuts comic strip with its use of Morrissey-Smiths lyrics, and he hopes that the strips remain.

This is worth noting, if only for the phrase “Morrissey is delighted” — how often do you hear that?

Said the keeper of the blog:

I’m deeply honored that Morrissey spoke out on behalf of This Charming Charlie, although not surprised. Morrissey is not a stranger to fair use, and it was my extreme respect for his appropriation of words and images that led to this project in the first place. I’m glad he is able to see the humor in all of this, even if lawyers could not. Hopefully, this example will set a precedent for copyright laws in the future, and encourage others to express themselves and enrich our culture through free speech, parody and social critique.

Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before.

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