Synthetic sentiment

Note to spammers: While a line like “I’m a long time watcher and I just believed I’d drop by and say hello there for your very first time” seems innocent enough, and might actually get approved by unwary admins, dropping that same message eleven times in less than two hours pretty much gives the game away, don’t you think? (Hint: no, you don’t.)

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Not available at retail

The Yardbirds used to say that “cars and girls are easy come by in this day and age,” and while this doesn’t match my own personal experience, well, hey, I’m not a rock star either.

With that in mind, here’s a car and a girl you can’t have: Canadian model Jessica Stam in a Mercedes-Benz concept car.

Jessica Stam in the Concept A-Class by Mercedes-Benz

Actually, you might have a shot at the car: this particular Mercedes is supposed to indicate the design direction for the new A-Class, which up to now has been a rather dowdy sort of vanlet at the bottom of the line. (It’s even front-wheel-drive, fercrissake.) And when you get right down to it, there are worse things in life than you and the girl next door hitting the road with a CD full of Jeff Beck tunes.

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I write the songs that make the whole world (yawn)

When songwriter Lee Pockriss died, I made mention of it with a link to a New York Times story, about which a contributor to the Spectropop mailing list says:

It’s not normal for the New York Times to write about the passing of a songwriter. In order for it to happen, the songwriter either had to have had a boatload of big hits OR only one hit that had a HUGE impact on popular culture.

This article about Pockriss would not be there if it weren’t for “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” Just like the recent article on Paul Leka wouldn’t have appeared if it weren’t for “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye).”

I remember being surprised to see Irwin Levine, one of my favorite songwriters, get an obituary in the New York Times, but realized that with all the great songs he had written, he was ONLY in there because he co-wrote “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree”.

With that in mind, let me drop a few titles on behalf of these guys: “Johnny Angel,” “Calcutta” (Pockriss); “Green Tambourine”, “Will You Be Staying After Sunday” [production only] (Leka); “This Diamond Ring” [with Al Kooper], “Knock Three Times” (Levine).

And this, alas, is true:

I guess we should be grateful when songwriters get any recognition at all. I would say that 99% of people think that songs fall out of the sky, but the truth is that 99% of people don’t even think at all about where songs come from. Nor do they care. This is stunning to people like us, but it’s the truth. Try asking the average person what the little names in parentheses under the song titles are, on CDs or records. Seriously, if you haven’t tried this, do it. You’ll be amazed.

I was gratified to see a one-percenter show up in the search logs last week looking for the appropriate credits for Rebecca Black’s “Person of Interest,” which, having never been released on a CD, doesn’t even have the little names in parentheses.

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Dimly seen

This, of course, was one of the finer moments in the too-short life of Jimi Hendrix:

Under a proposed new Indiana law, this would be illegal.

As is usually the case with legislation today, this measure, as Francis Scott Key used to say, “fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses.”

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It’s Friday, except in Samoa

A seriously wonderful headline: Samoa Skips Over Last Friday of 2011, Rebecca Black Not Pleased. I have to admit, it was funny when she tweeted that.

Rebecca Black at the Today Show setAnd somewhere between home and 30 Rock — she appeared on NBC’s Today Show on, of all days, Thursday — she got to meet Zooey Deschanel. If you thought for a moment there was a chance I wasn’t going to notice something like that, you haven’t been reading this stuff for very long. I have no idea what brought those two together, but obviously it did happen, despite the total absence of, um, pictures.

As for “Friday,” if you couldn’t stand the original, perhaps you’ll like the remake:

“When we re-recorded it, I talked to my producer and said, ‘I want this to sound like we’re on the beach with friends, someone’s got a guitar, there’s drums’ … I love it.”

Wait, what? Oh, don’t be silly. All beaches have drums, don’t they?

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The Debilitator

How in the world did Hugo Chávez end up with cancer? At long last, Pejman Yousefzadeh explains the whole sordid affair:

You might as well know the whole story, gentle readers, so here it is: In between my day job (used to maintain my cover, you understand), blogging, eating, sleeping, visiting friends, reading books, spending time with family, watching movies, and going out to eat with loved and liked ones, I have been toiling away in my secret lair — bought and paid for by my neocon masters, naturally — to create a form of cancer that can be contracted by Latin American dictators freedom fighters who oppress their own people, and demolish their own economies toil ceaselessly to free their nations from outdated imperialist notions of “liberty,” “progress,” and “economic prosperity.” I had hoped that I could see this project to fruition without anyone on the outside being the wiser, but my plans have been foiled by the Venezuelan tyrant heroic leader and his lunatic pronouncements penetrating intellect.

The only problem with this is now we’re going to be suspicious every time Hu Jintao Kim Jong-un Vladimir Putin Michael Bloomberg comes down with a head cold. (Note: Hu’s on first.)

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Coming soon: the all-new Codpiece V-8

Mazda of late has released a series of automobiles with arguably goofy expressions, and apparently this one Dude can’t take it anymore:

This Mazda says, “I’m a little boy!”

Cars are statements of manhood. They are typically your second most expensive purchase, if you don’t own a business. Often they are your first big expense. A car is a statement of how you fit into your community as a man. Claiming that a car is not a statement of manhood is perfectly fine, if you are not a man.

Evolution clearly defines perfect manhood. It has for eons. Societies have arose understanding the importance of it, and societies have failed misunderstanding the importance of it. A culture with a -0.2 birth rate is a failure. That would be Japan.

A culture that supposes that manhood is debateable is a dying one floundering for excuses why its men are not growing up, moving out of their parents house, or making families. The Kawaii culture that has developed in Japan over the past 30 years challenges that culture’s survival.

The apocolyse [sic] isn’t a fiery horseman with a sword — it is a 40 year old overweight single man dressed in Winnie-the-Pooh jammies gaming in his mother’s basement, shunning traditional manhood. Manhood ain’t for sissies. That’s why there are bars!

We need to celebrate our manhood by taking up the manly responsibilities our forefathers proudly gave us. Fitting into traditional roles has kept our society strong. Waffling and whining with excuses about changing times fails to address our biological destinies as men.

Our rides should reflect those basic needs.

No argument from me on “excuses about changing times.” To quote G. K. Chesterton from a hundred years ago:

[An] imbecilic habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but not another. Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the twelfth century, but is not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot be believed on Tuesdays. You might as well say of a view of the cosmos that it was suitable to half-past three, but not suitable to half-past four. What a man can believe depends on his philosophy, not upon the clock or the century.

I'm Pinkie Pie - Your Argument Is InvalidOn the other hand, Dude, the idea that a man of any time and date can seriously believe in the automobile as a “statement of manhood” is almost giggle-inducing. (I’ll believe it of boys, sure; they don’t know any better. Yet.) I mean, if it’s an extension of your, um, self, what’s to be gained by admitting up front, so to speak, that you’re sporting an extension? If your car is what’s getting you laid, you might want to contemplate the quality of babes you’re attracting. (Note: Does not apply to Jack Baruth.) Real men, as always, drive whatever they damn well please, and they take no crap from people worried about their image.

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Taunting the champions

Radio guy Matt Pinto and TV chap Grant Long couldn’t agree on whether Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was out of his gourd for pulling Dirk Nowitzki in favor of Vince Carter with a bit over three minutes left. First possession, Carter hits a jumper from about 18 feet; second possession, Carter’s out, Dirk’s in. I was thinking Carlisle was working some mind games, but a minute and a half later, Dirk drew a T after complaining about an offensive foul, so maybe Carlisle was seeing the veins on Nowitzki’s forehead before anyone else. (There were six technicals tonight, which, given the level of ferocity on display, was no surprise.) The Thunder were up five with 46 seconds left, but Dallas drilled two treys, and with 1.4 seconds left, that would seem to be it. “Like heck,” said Kevin Durant, and rainbowed the inbound into the bucket at the buzzer. OKC 104, Dallas 102, and I swear I could hear the screams in the arena from four miles away.

Weird numbers on display again. The Thunder shot 58.7 percent, which is phenomenal; they turned the ball over 26 times, which is horrendous. (Rebounds were even at 38.) Russell Westbrook was back on track; perhaps more important, so was Serge Ibaka, who had been comparatively ineffective in the first three games of the season. The X factor, here, though, was the OKC bench, which apparently has a new rule forbidding letting the opposition gain any ground. I, of course, approve.

And then there was Dirk. He was, for the most part, his usual Dirkish self, dropping in 29 points including ten free throws, and snagging ten rebounds to boot. The Thunder have basically figured out that if you bottle up everyone else, it doesn’t hurt to let Dirk be Dirk. (And while he had 29, Durant had 30 — of which the biggest were those three at the horn.)

So it’s 4-0 after five days. The Mavs, who haven’t won in five tries (two preseason), will get a chance for revenge Monday on their home court. In between, the Thunder will look directly into the Suns on Saturday.

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Crush resistance

Contrary to popular belief, I was never a teenage girl, but I can relate:

An evil little voice in my head keeps whispering “boy-crazy,” which really disturbs me, because it implies immaturity and unhealthiness. Crushes can be a wonderful and fun part of who I am and how I value certain special people, but right now it’s messing with my self-respect.

Not to worry, says Tavi:

[I]f it helps you feel less alone or whatever, myself and most of my friends — all smart, funny, interesting people — usually have multiple crushes at any given time. And teenage years are the best time to be boy-crazy, anyway. Way, way better to have a Jordan Catalano-type obsession now than when you’re an adult and the stakes of important things to think about are a little higher. I mean, just watch an episode of My So-Called Life. Angela is smart, but not even she is safe from the annoying fartness of hormones. At the VERY LEAST, having a crush means you can fully identify with and appreciate stuff like My So-Called Life, or “Thirteen” by Big Star.

Props, of course, for acknowledging the greatness of “Thirteen,” which came out when I was 19 and achieved complete and utter invisibility in the marketplace. (The Big Star album #1 Record, whence “Thirteen” came, probably sells better now than it did when it was new.) But the real draw here is the curious phrase “annoying fartness”; even if it’s a typo, it’s practically meme-worthy.

Disclosure: I have seen every episode of My So-Called Life. Then again, there were only nineteen of them.

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Paging Snake Plissken

Bill Quick contemplates a Washington lockout, modeled after the recent NFL and NBA work stoppages, but then does a solid one-eighty:

I got a better idea, come to think on it. Don’t lock them out; build a wall around the cesspool and just lock them in. Don’t let them out, don’t let anyone else in. Make them like the Lil’ Kims have made North Korea, nothing but a dark spot when seen from space.

After ten years, open the wall. Let’s see just who came out on top. Would the ‘best and brightest’ that are pushing and pulling the levers of power now prevail, or might it be the ‘underclass’ that run the city once you get away from the halls of power?

For what it’s worth, I’m putting my quatloos on the Morlocks.

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Civic misbehavior

When the Feds came up with fuel-economy ratings, they also came up with an all-purpose disclaimer: “Your mileage may vary.” And it will, unless your regular driving happens to coincide precisely with the EPA’s standard test cycle.

Or there simply could be something wrong with the car:

Heather Peters is an angry consumer who knows she has little chance of winning a war with Honda Motor Co. and its army of high-priced lawyers.

The Los Angeles resident is miffed that her 2006 Honda Civic hybrid doesn’t get its claimed fuel economy. And she isn’t satisfied with a proposed class-action lawsuit settlement that would give trial lawyers $8.5 million while Civic owners would get as little as $100 and rebate coupons for the purchase of a new vehicle.

With few exceptions, class-action lawsuits are conducted for the benefit of attorneys, but you already knew that, right?

On Jan. 3 she’ll take her case to Small Claims Court in Torrance, where California law prohibits Honda from bringing an attorney. She’s asking for the maximum of $10,000 to compensate her for spending much more on gasoline than expected. Honda said the Civic would get about 50 miles per gallon, but because of technical problems the car gets closer to 30 mpg.

Now the original sticker on an ’06 Civic Hybrid said 49 city/51 highway, which is indeed 50 combined. (The formula revision in ’08 says 40/42; owners reporting to fueleconomy.gov say they’re getting about 45, with a range from 30 to 72.) In this case, Honda says there’s a technical issue:

Honda has acknowledged that the battery on 2006 through 2008 Civic hybrids “may deteriorate and eventually fail” earlier than expected. When the battery pack can’t be charged to full capacity, the car relies on the gas engine more and fuel economy suffers.

Apparently this was a problem on earlier models as well:

The hybrid battery in the Honda Civic Hybrid is covered by a 8 year/80,000 mile warranty, but many people are now exceeding that mileage. It is becoming obvious that all HCHs and Insights, will eventually develop battery problems. Batteries seem to be lasting an average of seven years.

Replacement battery packs run around $3000.

I am definitely torn on this matter. On one level, if there’s an acknowledged problem, and apparently there is, Honda should step up and replace the deteriorating battery packs. But I worry that some people are going to see this and think that their failure to get EPA numbers is always actionable.

Note: I have one reader who admits to owning an ’06 Civic Hybrid. She says she gets mid-50s on level roads between 55 and 60 mph. Doesn’t sound like her battery pack has gone to hell — yet.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

Update, 2 February: She won.

Further update, 9 May: Reversed on appeal.

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Never say “Bite me” to Santa

Payback will be swift and merciless:

Elf Cutlets in Wine

(Via Criggo, which finds far more of these items than you’d think possible.)

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What your definition of Griz is

All sorts of weirdness connected with this game, not least the fact that Yahoo! Sports, where I usually get my box-score numbers, called this one as a final with four and a half minutes left. At the time, it was Thunder 89, Grizzlies 81. There was, of course, no way Memphis was going to lose this by eight, not with its entire frontcourt in double-double territory and with Russell Westbrook unable to buy, or even rent, a bucket. With a minute left, the Griz were down by two, 92-90. With five seconds left, the Griz were still down by two, 94-92. Westbrook drew a foul and sank both free throws; Zack Randolph responded with a trey; Kevin Durant drew a foul and dropped in two more points, and a Hail Mary by Z-Bo fell short at the buzzer, OKC escaping with a 98-95 win.

The Griz pulled down 49 boards, 19 off the offensive glass, well ahead of the Thunder. What Memphis didn’t have was a long-distance attack: sixteen 3-point attempts produced only six points. They also didn’t have Mike Conley, who rolled an ankle 24 seconds in; Jeremy Pargo filled in admirably well. Meanwhile, OKC was putting up three-balls all over the place, hitting 10 of 25, which is only 40 percent, but considering the Thunder shot only 37.7 percent, 40 seems miraculous. (Memphis was only slightly better, at 39.1.)

And I’m not kidding about Westbrook, who finished with four points, all from the stripe; he was 0-13 from the floor. On the upside, James Harden hit 20 for the first time this season, Kendrick Perkins had 10, and deadeye Daequan Cook went 3-4 from somewhere across the Mississippi in less than 15 minutes. Durant? Thirty-two. About his season average so far.

After this, the Mavericks (the Mavericks?) are going to look like a breather. But that’s tomorrow night in the Gas Chamber. I trust Yahoo! won’t post the score in the middle of the afternoon.

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No Volts for Mitt

Mitt Romney is not impressed with the Chevrolet Volt:

If you want to know exactly what Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney thinks about the Chevrolet Volt, listen to his laugh before he answers a question about the car posed to him during a radio interview on WRKO in Boston recently. Romney was asked what he thought about the car, and he responded with a dismissive-sounding laugh by labeling the plug-in hybrid an “idea whose time has not come.” He later explained that his attitude is proved correct by the Volt’s low sales numbers. Whatever the reason, he clearly does not approve of the car.

This from a man who can’t build up any additional market share in his own political party. It is to laugh.

The last Chevy so politicized was the Corvair, half a century ago, and it suffered from the same problem: nobody liked it but the buyers. I suspect the Volt story will play out the same way, with all manner of yammering in the air while GM quietly fixes any lingering issues with the machine — but of course by then it will be too late.

If Aunt Mittunia wants my vote, he’ll rechannel his wrath towards those Washington hotheads who don’t know anything about cars except that they want to regulate them.

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Potential Congressman alert

This guy seems to have precisely the level of brainpower they’re looking for:

Screenshot from Yahoo! Answers

For that matter, as long as you’re trying to download some RAM, why don’t you see if you can download one of those big terabyte drives? Shouldn’t take you more than, oh, when did Starfleet get those replicators anyway?

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O blessed inertia

While Congress was busy tossing brickbats and whatnot these past few weeks, they were also not renewing the tax credit for corn-based ethanol:

The United States has ended a 30-year tax subsidy for corn-based ethanol that cost taxpayers $6 billion annually, and ended a tariff on imported Brazilian ethanol.

Congress adjourned for the year on Friday, failing to extend the tax break that’s drawn a wide variety of critics on Capitol Hill, including Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Critics also have included environmentalists, frozen food producers, ranchers and others.

The policies have helped shift millions of tons of corn from feedlots, dinner tables and other products into gas tanks.

As much as $45 billion may have been poured into this particular rathole since 1980, to the tune of 45 cents per gallon.

The mandate for renewable fuels, however, has not been rolled back, and is scheduled to more than double by 2022, so the actual effect on your local gas station is not at all clear just yet, especially since that Brazilian ethanol is derived, not from corn, but from sugar cane.

(Via Autoblog.)

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