Considering the source

Joseph Epstein has a book out called Gossip (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) which covers various aspects of the snooper/blabber matrix, though the one most pertinent to us at the moment might be his discussion of the Internet variation on the theme:

As far as I know, I have never been directly gossiped about on the Internet. I live, after all, a dullish life that does not provide much fodder for exotic gossip. But I have been insulted innumerable times online, as has anyone who writes for the general public, and insults not made to your face but with the capacity to be instantly widespread are an indirect form of gossip. Stendhal said that to write a book is to risk being shot at in public. But until the Internet, one didn’t know all the tender places in which one could be shot. And there is no redress, not really, not likely, not ever, not so long as the Internet remains the playground of the too often pathological and the Valhalla of the unvalorous, where the unqualified and the outright foolish can say what they please about whom they please, which in the end amounts, as Molly Haskell has it, to “democracy’s revenge on democracy.”

Does Epstein call for regulations? Well, maybe:

Meanwhile, until such time as laws governing behavior in cyberspace are made, or at least an etiquette for Internet behavior is developed, we are all potential Internet victims.

My valor is perhaps debatable, but I would definitely prefer people behaving themselves to people being ordered to behave themselves, purely as a matter of principle. The problem, as I see it, is that J. Random Googler doesn’t always have a way to evaluate what he encounters: it could be complete and utter BS or God’s Own Truth, and there’s no reliable mechanism for determining which is which.

In the meantime, I’m thinking there are distinct advantages to living a dullish life, one of which is keeping down the chatter.

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Live from Bacon Center

Do pets evaluate pet food on the basis of appearance? Maybe, maybe not. But I’d bet the resident humanoids do, which can lead to uncomfortable situations like this:

So I was cleaning out my jacket pockets as I got home from the cigar lounge tonight, looking for my cell phone, which I haven’t seen since before I left to go there, and sitting on my desk next to me is a beggin strip.

It looks like fake bacon. Tofu bacon. Turkey bacon. It looks ALmost like bacon.

In fact, it looks JUST enough like bacon that it’s triggering my bacon center.

And it’s sitting there.

On my desk.

Staring.

At me.

He did not give in to the temptation. The scary part, of course, is that there exists a possibility for temptation in the first place. Certainly no one is going to look at Alpo and think “Dinty Moore.”

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Knicks knocked knicely

I have to admit, I still grin a bit when I see “New York at Oklahoma City” on the NBA schedule; the steadily-shrinking podunkularity of my adopted home town continues to impress. And it’s the only meeting with the Knicks this year — the foreshortened schedule cut out a lot of East/West games to preserve conference and division matchups — which probably doesn’t bother the Knicks too much, since they were down 70-47 at the half and Scott Brooks pulled his starters in the third quarter, sending the Carmelo Anthony-less Brickerbockers back to Gotham with a 104-92 drubbing. (Obviously Brooks doesn’t believe in running up the score on a vanquished opponent.)

With lots of garbage time available, there wasn’t a single DNP-CD; Renaldo Balkman did his darnedest to make a game of it in the fourth, running up 12 points in the final 12 minutes, and in fact five Knicks finished in double figures, but none of them managed more than 14 minutes. With ‘Melo out, Bill Walker got the start, and he was simply overwhelmed.

Batman and Robin swapped utility belts this time around: Russell Westbrook led the Thunder in both assists (8) and rebounds (also 8), and tossed in 21 points, while Kevin Durant was visible mostly as a shooter, rolling up 28 points on 10-13 shooting. There was an anxious moment early on, when Westbrook apparently stepped on Mike Bibby and did something weird to his ankle; however, he was back within half a minute of game time, showing no ill effects. And something happened to Reggie Jackson in the fourth; James Harden replaced him for the rest of the game. (Harden, incidentally, had a season-high 24 points.)

Some aspects of this game were not pretty. We’re talking 41 turnovers (Thunder 21, Knicks 20), and 45 fouls, not counting the T dropped on Amar’e Stoudemire. Brooks’ post-game statement didn’t seem too concerned, though, and you didn’t hear Loud City complaining about it.

The upcoming three-game tour of Eastern clubs will take all week, something closer to normal scheduling: it starts Monday night in Boston. (Next home game is one week later, against the Pistons.)

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On the nature trail

One evening Emma Thompson opened the door of her home in Scotland, and there stood a policeman, reporting that “a dog walker had called the police to say he had seen ‘a naked man, about 50 years old’ walking on her land in the afternoon.

At precisely the right moment twelve-year-old Gaia chimed in from from the top of the stairs: “Wasn’t that about the time that you came up from the river, mum?”

Said Thompson of the incident:

“Making the connection, I could see the same thing happening to the policeman. And I could see him, as he backed off, and I was thinking, he’s going to go back to the station and he’s going to say, ‘You see that Emma Thompson? Her tits must be so low that from a distance they read as testicles’.”

Um, no, they’re not.

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A hole/pigeon imbalance

Docjim505, over at Tam’s place, on the handing out of labels:

The problem of defining left, right, conservative, and liberal comes up a good bit around election time. People (especially the lackwits in MiniTru) like nice, tidy labels and categories: this or that person is “conservative” or “progressive”.

Especially if their contribution to Teh Narrative is dependent on such tagging — and apparently it always is. Of course, it fails:

Another problem is that most people aren’t rabid on any position. Hence, they may consider themselves pro-2A but support “sensible” gun control. They may consider themselves liberal but support the War on Drugs. Etc. In the final analysis, they just want things to run smoothly: for their families, houses and businesses to be safe; for grandma not to be cold or hungry; for the kids to be off the streets during the day (and if they actually learn something, hurrah!); for the trains to run on time; for taxes not to be too high; and to be left the hell alone. They’ll vote for whomever convincingly promises to do these things, and labels be damned.

I have the simplest possible stance on gun control — I keep my guns under control, and expect you to do the same — and as for the Drug Warriors, I find their lack of faith in Charles Darwin disturbing. (We could get rid of meth-heads in no time: identify them, send them a two-pound package, and then fill out the death certificates. Most of them won’t last long enough to share any of it, let alone offer any for resale.) But beyond that, I’m one of those guys who just wants things to run smoothly, though unlike a few of my peers, I have a pretty good idea of what that takes, and some of it is a lot more complicated than it sounds.

That said, any tax that supports a governmental function not authorized by the Constitution is “too high” by definition.

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Maybe they’ll even look at it

A new voter ID arrived yesterday from the County Election Board, and since I hadn’t changed anything about my registration, it took me a couple of moments to figure out why: after the Census, all sorts of district lines were redrawn, and while I’m still represented by the same old crew, I’m in a new precinct. (Goodbye, 453; hello, 195.)

The new cards also list those districts by number, which is nice. From my own:

US Rep:  5  Senate:  40  House:  87  Cnty Comm:  1

Everyone in the same precinct should have the same numbers, of course.

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Just short of perfect

Under scrutiny: Jennifer Lawrence, perhaps best known as Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone, for which she got an Academy Award nomination, at this week’s People’s Choice Awards. At least part of the reason you’re seeing this here is that I’m enthralled by this little cobalt-blue number conjured up by Viktor & Rolf:

Jennifer Lawrence in Viktor & Rolf

I even like the shoes — Sergio Rossi — except for one minor detail:

Jennifer Lawrence in Sergio Rossi shoes

I mean, these are about a size and a half too big for her.

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Nor can I get any satisfaction

A line from Stan Freberg’s “Elderly Man River”: “He must know something, but he doesn’t say anything.”

If that brings out your inner Tweedly, you’re on stage, doing Grammarian’s Karaoke:

We expect (and even demand) that poets will stretch and bend the language —  we call it poetic license, and we issue those licenses right and left… So why don’t we extend the same privilege to song lyrics?

Perhaps it’s because poems, unlike popular songs, aren’t in heavy rotation: you may be disturbed by the words of the poem, but you’re not going to hear them once every other hour for the next three weeks. Song lyrics, however, tend to drill themselves into your head.

Or it may simply be this:

[T]hese days, we expect our popular entertainment (unlike poetry, which we no longer consider popular) to be smooth and easily digestible, and any lump in the lyrical oatmeal sticks in our craws. The wrong word sounds a wrong note, if you will; to some listeners, it’s just as jarring.

Sometimes it gives us a chance to free-associate. For years my head has been playing a mashup of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” with Treasure of the Sierra Madre: “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges…”

(Via Wordnik.)

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Quote of the week

Michigan, alone among the 57 states, has a ten-cent container-deposit law — five cents seems to be the maximum elsewhere — and apparently this is high enough to motivate your friendly neighborhood derelict to go poking around in people’s trash bins in hopes of finding some easy dimes:

It is bad enough to find my trash in my own yard, but a few weeks ago, I was infuriated to discover my “reject” bottles (which lack the magical Michigan label) thrown onto the lawn of the nearest lot where there is a street light! The picker obviously couldn’t read the label in front of my house as it was too dark, but once he saw that they weren’t redeemable, he just figured he’d throw them wherever he was. I hate having to pick up my bottles (trust me, I know they’re mine, as it’s a beer not sold in Michigan which I buy as a special treat) from a neighbor’s yard, and I hate whoever the hell did this. I would love to see whoever it is punished. But there never can or will be any sort of legal punishment, because derelicts who commit summary quality of life offenses are one of the classes exempt from the law. In order to be arrested for things like littering or taking a leak (or even a dump) in public, you have to be middle class and capable of showing up in court and paying the fine. Otherwise the cops won’t bother. And not only is there no incentive for them to bother with a filthy derelict, there are major disincentives. For starters, the guy will stink up the officer’s nice police car and maybe throw up in it, or give the officer bedbugs or lice. And if the officer were dumb enough to write a citation, the derelict will most likely never show up, never pay the fine, and the likely result would be that the officer would learn from his superiors (unofficially and off the record, of course) that if he wants to be promoted, he’d best not mess with “the homeless.” Or illegal aliens, and other exempt classes.

That’s the funny thing about the Law of Unintended Consequences: it requires no separate enforcement mechanism.

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Nest egg insufficiently laid

The guys who handle my 401(k) evidently use ScareMonger™ software to produce their projections: they’re now claiming that if I’m to have the same none-too-comfortable existence after retirement, I need to be socking away somewhere around 127 percent of my income. This, needless to say, is not an option.

Then again, interest rates are in the toilet, the Fed having decided that it’s more important for Goldman Sachs to be able to suck down dollars through a straw than it is for sad sacks like me to be able to stash them away. I have a smallish money-market account in the far corner, but I haven’t tossed it any coin in recent years, simply because the returns were so poor. And “coin” is the operative word; last year, in fact, the account lost one cent.

However, I did show a positive return (even before employer match) for the year; the biggest percentage gain, ironically, came from a since-closed Goldman Sachs large-cap fund.

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Although technically it isn’t “Good” Friday

Once in a while, I will answer Rebecca Black-related questions on Yahoo! Answers, on the (mostly) honorable basis that I’ve already looked all this stuff up myself, and hey, why shouldn’t I share? Besides, the amount of misinformation being circulated is positively (or negatively) staggering; there was a brief flurry of suicide references earlier this month.

I was not, however, prepared for this: What does God think of Rebecca Black?

Several answers came in, but I seemed to be wandering in the desert. Then, just as I was about to give up in despair, a book arrived at my desk. The Last Testament: A Memoir by God [with David Javerbaum] (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011) actually addresses the question. From 1,400 Years of Sanctitude 22:14:

I have gleaned much from Numa Numa Guy; I have rolled my eyes at “Double Rainbow” (though I appreciated its numerous shout-outs); I have reeled in horror at 2 Girls 1 Cup, and I have seen Rebecca Black do her level best to help remove the phrase “Thank God It’s Friday” from the popular lexicon.

Which, you may be certain, He approves. Same book, 3:8-9:

The worst is Friday, for that is the day I am forced to hear myself endlessly and mistakenly thanked. Thank not me; thank Frigg, the Norse goddess of love, ye unwitting pagans.

It’s official: Rebecca Black is doing the Lord’s work. Expect a harp arrangement of “Friday” some time in the next millennium.

And by “the next millennium,” I mean last year sometime:

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Transcontinental trash

It takes a certain warped genius to send out junk mail in an envelope that looks for all the world like it contains a W-2 form — in January, of course. Inasmuch as I already have my W-2 for 2011, I could easily have justified consigning it to the circular file, but curiosity won out. (The terrorists have won.)

Inside was a “VA Mortgage Payment Reduction Notice,” offering me some sort of refinancing offer that is “guaranteed by the Veterans Benefit Administration.” There is, it appears, no such agency: a va.gov page identified as such redirects to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, which is at 810 Vermont Avenue NW in Washington and has a proper government ZIP code: 20420. (The Feds run 20200 through 20599.) This, um, Notice has a return address of 2020 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, 20006, which according to the Oracle of Google is shared by, among others, Comcast, Hmong National Development, and World Net Daily.

Punchline: I don’t even have a VA mortgage. Nor is it FHA, Fannie, Freddie, or any of those F-ers. I do have, however, the ability to read the postage-meter imprint, and this particular example of tree waste was mailed, not from the District of Columbia, but somewhere near the Columbia River, from deepest Portlandia.

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Having been carded

Suze Orman has introduced something called the Approved Card, which appears to be a prepaid debit card with fewer fees than usual. The response from moneybloggers has been something less than entirely favorable:

All she was trying to do was launch a prepaid debit card that charges slightly fewer exorbitant fees than the competition, and sort of reports your spending habits to credit bureaus but not really. Then a whole bunch of “idiot” personal finance bloggers began ganging up on her on Twitter, and she had no choice but to lash out and remind them that they’re not real journalists.

This sounds like my own brand of idiocy, so I’ll suggest that if you must have a prepaid debit card, the one to have comes from American Express, which, as I’ve noted before, has only two fees:

  • If you refill it with cash, you go through GreenDot, which costs $4.95;
  • Second ATM withdrawal of the month costs $2 (not including any fees imposed by the owner of the ATM).

And depending on your predilection, there may be another advantage to going Amex: there are lots of places who don’t take it, so you may have an opportunity to rethink that impulse purchase.

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Fark blurbs of the week

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Something like training wheels

This town is not exactly world-famous for its “green” initiatives, but occasionally something happens here to gladden the hearts of treehuggers:

Bicycle lanes included in downtown Oklahoma City’s Project 180 could get a workout in short order by users of a shared-bike program called Spokies.

The program should launch this spring, Jennifer Gooden, the city’s sustainability director, told the Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday. Federal grant money paid for 95 bicycles to be placed at six stations downtown.

How much will it cost to borrow a bike? That hasn’t been decided yet:

People will be able to use automatic kiosks to check out bikes. The cost hasn’t been determined, but there will be plans to suit everyone from a one-time user who needs a bicycle for a half-hour to someone who lives downtown and rides the bikes often.

With downtown residency on the rise, this may actually be an idea whose time has come. (The one bicycle shop in Automobile Alley — once there were two — is actually flourishing these days.)

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How things haven’t improved

Andrea Harris, child of the 1970s, is not at all impressed by these years starting with 2:

[S]omehow we went from the relatively free-wheeling Seventies to the restricted, drugged, and psychotherapied 21st Century. We have “men’s rights” websites whining that women who don’t wear high heels and makeup aren’t “feminine,” when the idea that to be “feminine” a woman had to wear makeup and high heels is a recent development in fashion, not a basic trope of human nature.

Your MRA guys seem persuaded that women should simply fall into their laps. (Prepositions may vary.) Few remember, or will admit, that for most of recorded history it was the male who was prettied up for public consumption.

We have everyone and their dog getting a tattoo.

I remain tatless after all these year. Also dogless.

Everyone but me is on Facebook and has ten thousand “friends.”

Well, 150, anyway.

Everyone is either a treehugging hippy crap leftist Democrat who thinks the rich “1%” should pay everyone else’s bills, or a gun-hugging, Bible-flogging, commie-hating, sky-and-earth-polluting, globe-warming redneck Republican who thinks rich people should be able to do whatever they want with their money including piling it on the lawns of their mansions and setting it on fire. And if you beg to differ from either position one iota you’re a traitor and a fake.

The real GOP rednecks don’t have money to burn. Then again, since on the worldwide scale I qualify as one of the hated One Percent — well, maybe I’ll set my lawn on fire. It will make life a little more difficult for the weeds, and for any would-be Occupiers.

People are so neurotic about drugs that everyone, even non-smokers, act as if they’re having a continuous nic-fit.

It takes several dozen tablets and caplets and pills (oh, my!) to keep me going another week.

And everyone — everyone — links to the UK sensationalist tabloid The Daily Mail as if it were an objectively reported newspaper for proof of their positions.

As I did above.

Beyond that, we’re living in “interesting times,” which was either a Chinese or a Persian curse.

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