Probing analysis

Robert Stacy McCain, having made it to the thriving semi-metropolis of Spartanburg, South Carolina, noted in passing that he’s in an “econo-rental (a black Ford Probe, $86 for the weekend)”.

I must inform you that he didn’t go down there to take advantage of BMW Performance Center Delivery on a brand-spanking-new Bimmer. More’s the pity.

What’s remarkable here, I think, is that someone is still renting Ford Probes, which haven’t been made since 1997. They weren’t wretchedly built or anything — I had a ’93 Mazda 626, which was built off the same platform at the same UAW plant in Michigan — but no one thought of these cars as being exactly heirlooms, if you know what I mean; at the very least, I have to figure that by now the paint has oxidized and the valve-cover gasket has sprung at least one leak.

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Debt retirement

Once again seemingly out of step with the rest of the nation, Oklahoma has reduced its unfunded pension liability:

Pension reforms implemented earlier this year have reduced the state’s pension debt by $5.5 billion. This is the largest single-year debt reduction in Oklahoma history, lawmakers were informed [Thursday].

Thanks to recently enacted reforms, the unfunded liability of all the state pension plans has fallen from over $16 billion to $10.6 billion, officials announced.

This works out to an 11-percentage-point gain, from 56 percent funded to 67.

And what might those reforms be?

The reforms enacted this year included House Bill 2132, which requires a funding source before cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) can be granted, and several acts that increased the retirement age for future employees.

It’s probably unreasonable to expect another 11-point gain next year — for one thing, this would require investment results at least as good as the state’s asset managers got this year — but it’s clearly a step in the right direction, and it was done without declaring war on state employees.

(Grabbed from The McCarville Report.)

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Dr. Quinn takes care of herself

From last week’s Jack and Jill premiere in Hollywood, we’re happy to present Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg, better known these days as Jane Seymour:

Jane Seymour November 2011

The woman portrayed on the backdrop, I assume, is “Jill,” played by, um, Adam Sandler.

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In favor of fewer parts

Tam says up front that this particular bias of hers may not be entirely rational:

Differentials and CV joints are expensive to replace, and so the fewer of them the car has, reasons my hindbrain, the better off my finances will be down the road.

Doesn’t sound irrational to me. I used to argue that an inline engine was preferable to a vee-anything, if only because it had only one head gasket to blow. Then again, anyone who owned a 1980s Ford product with the cast-iron V6 with the aluminum heads might have said the same.

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Sheer exhaustion

Libby Coleman reports that the market for pantyhose apparently has bottomed out, so to speak:

For the last 15 years, sales have been going down, down, down, the victim of leg tanner, open-toed shoes, more casual dress codes, and the general fickleness of fashion. But in recent months, pantyhose makers have sighted just the faintest glimmer of hope. If hosiery sales were previously “hemorrhaging,” in the blunt words of independent retail analyst Marshal Cohen, now they have “kind of stabilized.” Buoyed by the news, the hosiery giant L’eggs has launched its first TV ad in nearly 15 years. The new ad first ran in the spring and is now back as part of an even bigger campaign for autumn, traditionally an important season for hosiery.

Here’s that new ad. Award points for originality or desperation as you wish:

The industry argues that there are good reasons to expect something of a market rebound:

[S]ome news outlets have argued that Kate Middleton, an avid wearer of hose, is helping revive the category by looking so damn good in them. Angela Hawkins, the director and general manager of hosiery at Hanesbrands Inc., which owns L’eggs, told me that pantyhose are coming back because “we are in a very feminine fashion cycle” dominated by dresses and skirts.

Contrariwise, there is the example of the First Lady:

“I stopped wearing pantyhose a long time ago because it was painful,” she said on The View… “Put ‘em on, rip ‘em — it’s inconvenient.”

Gossamer garments in general don’t have much of a lifespan, especially if there’s someone around who wants to remove them from you in a hurry.

I take no official position on this matter, though I’ll admit to a certain willingness to examine whatever evidence is made available.

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Syntax evasion

Whoever writes these top-of-the-front-page blurbs for the Oklahoman must be relying on a Random Phrase Generator of some sort:

Photo of Leonardo DiCaprio from the Oklahoman 11-11-11

A “fact-based person”? The official position of Hollywood, spiritual home of community-based reality, is that J. Edgar was a couple of electrets short of a microphone, IYKWIMAITYD.

Then again, as Ernestine once said, “There’s nothing like a Hoover when you’re dealing with dirt.” Or something like that.

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After which you can discount the ending

This goes back about nine years, but I hadn’t heard the term before, and I figure I can trust Neil Gaiman’s description:

Several people asking what I meant by “Plot Coupons”.

I think Nick Lowe (the Interzone film critic, not the rock star or the Marvel editor) was the first person to coin the term. It’s a very useful way of thinking about a particular type of structure of a story.

It’s the kind of story where the protagonist(s) is told to go and collect a bunch of objects. It’s a very good way into a world, because it takes you all over, looking for things. Often, early on, someone will say something like, “A thousand years ago, Estragon The Dark Clown, for reasons that will never be adequately explained in this book or its many sequels, placed his power in The Funny Hat of Doom, The Big Red Nose of Darkness, the Wig of Desmond, and the Revolving Bow Tie of Light. It has been written, that only when these four objects come together will a Saviour arise to save Clowntown. You, Beppo, you must take this map (helpfully printed in the front of the book for easy reference) and nip around the book obtaining these four things (each the object of veneration by a different culture, each guarded by very different groups of people) at great cost to yourself and to the supporting cast, and then you must bring them back here.”

Or, quoting Liam at Tragic Sans:

Note that “the author” can be substituted for “the Gods” in such a work: “The Gods decreed he would pursue this quest.” Right, mate. The author decreed he would pursue this quest until sufficient pages were filled to procure an advance.

Which sounds cruel, but as Nick Lowe (the rock star, not the Interzone film critic or the Marvel editor) says, you’ve gotta be cruel to be kind.

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Has this ever happened to you?

If you’ve written anything more complex than “Hello world!” it probably has:

Fuck Yeah Computer Science Major Penguin

Kind of like discovering a missed yarn over, 300 stitches after the fact.

(Original here: collect the whole set.)

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I’m (again) thinking R.B.

When Rebecca Black walked into ARK Music Factory, they offered her two songs. One of them, she said, was “about adult love,” and she turned it down because “I haven’t experienced that yet.” The other one, of course, was “Friday.”

Cover art for Person of InterestThe follow-up to “Friday,” “My Moment,” was based almost entirely on her experiences. So what do we make of the third single, “Person of Interest,” due out next week? She’s already spilled the beans — and apparently not refried beans, either — in an English-language interview with a mostly-Spanish TV network:

“It’s a love song but it’s not a love song. It’s about almost teenage crushes — when you’re not in love yet but you really like a guy — which I’m really excited about because I don’t think there are too many out like that.”

We have to assume that she’s been there and done that. Incidentally, there’s already a Wikipedia disambiguation page for the term “person of interest,” though the song isn’t officially listed thereupon; a query to “Person of Interest (Rebecca Black song)” tosses you onto the main Rebecca Black page. Of course, nine months ago nobody could have imagined a main Rebecca Black page on Wikipedia, let alone that some aging goob in the flyover zone would do a weekly news report about her — or that a corporate cousin to Consumer Reports would help solicit lyrics for yet another parody of “Friday.” Household-word status is at hand.

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Bread spread

I got an anguished note yesterday from Oklahomans for Liberty, whose mission is “to let Oklahomans know whether their lawmaker’s proposed legislation benefits the constitution they swore to uphold or if instead benefits the benefactors who have donated thousands to the legislator’s campaign coffers.”

It seems that they were startled to discover that Tulsa billionaire and all-around one-percenter George Kaiser, a known Obama “bundler,” had passed around some sizable sums to “so-called conservative legislators.”

My first reaction was “Geez, guys, lighten up. A lot of your left-wing plutocrats won’t give so much as a dollar to the GOP or anyone associated with it.”

I note that no one has yet called for a boycott — as distinguished from, say, an “occupation” — of Kaiser’s oil company or of his bank, so evidently this is mostly a reaction to Solyndra, a reflection of the Power of Bad Press. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt that George Kaiser has any of these legislators on speed-dial. (Governor Fallin, maybe.)

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Quote of the week

Andrea Harris, noting our dependence on the movies for conceptualizing occupations other than our own, provides a handy synopsis of Every Movie About Writers, Since Ever:

[T]he old writer hasn’t written anything in years and hates himself and is coasting on his past accomplishments but who cares he’s rich and famous and people call him a Writer and he has that goddamn WASP dream house with the book-lined library and it’s probably out in the woods somewhere on one of those lakes where rich white people live. Anyway, in this movie the Young Writer comes on the scene, and he’s Troubled, but Passionate, and he does a lot of intense frowning at tiny pieces of paper he’s scribbling on in a diner, and he pays for his coffee by writing a poem for the waitress’ son who has leukemia, and he makes Passionate Love to a quirkily beautiful young woman who will be played by Minnie Driver, and he enters the life of the Old Author and Shakes It Up.

I bet we could find a couple dozen books built on this particular template without having to look beyond Brian J. Noggle’s east-facing shelf.

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One among many (a repost)

I was standing on a mountaintop at the Edge of Nowhere, or so it seemed, staring into the face of the enemy, and I knew he was staring back.

Not that anything scary was about to happen. There was a rather large body of water between us, and even on the clearest of days I couldn’t see him and he couldn’t see me. Still, I knew he was there, and I assumed he knew I was there, and a few dozen other guys were making a list and checking it twice and delivering it to the commanding officer. They were doing their job, and I was doing mine.

And a few months later, that particular job came to an end; I left this post, a little older, maybe a little wiser, an unexpected medal added to my uniform, and after a few days of R&R — well, maybe some R, but not a whole lot of R, if you know what I mean — I reported back Stateside and was assigned to the Reserves for three more years.

This was before “Be all that you can be,” and I’ve never been sure I was all that I could have been. But we had a mission, and I was part of it, and I’d like to think that I had something to do with the fact that the enemy no longer exists.

That enemy, anyway.

On this day of remembrance, there are millions more with their own stories to tell. You’ve already heard mine.

(Originally posted 11/11/2004.)

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Patience, patrons

The new Northwest Library is getting an old, established name: the name of Patience Latting (1918-  ), who served as Mayor of Oklahoma City from 1971 to 1983 after four years on City Council.

The look of the Patience Latting Library, however, is anything but old and established. Metro Library System has put up some renderings and some work-in-progress photos.

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Quality is Service Pack 1

Ford has been booed loudly from several corners for its clunky MyFord Touch in-car software. When the announcement came down that there was going to be a major upgrade to the package, my first thought was “Well, that ought to clog up the dealer service departments for months.”

Maybe, or maybe not:

If you’re one of the 300,000 or so customers out there with MyFord Touch, you’re already on the list to receive a USB flash drive containing the update. You’ll be able to do it yourself or take it to any dealership.

Is it possible to brick an entire car? We’re about to find out.

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Swinus abossiculus

Willy Staley of The Awl is happy to offer several explanations for the McRib phenomenon, and this is the one I think is least unlikely:

[T]he sandwich has a cult following, but it’s not that popular. Like Star Trek, Arrested Development and that show about Jesus Christ returning to San Diego as a surfer, the McRib was short-lived because not enough people were interested in it, even though a small and vocal minority loved it dearly. And unlike these TV shows, which involve real actors and writers with careers to tend to, the McRib needs only hogs, pickles, onions and a vocal enough minority who demand the sandwich’s return, and will even promote it for free with websites, tweets and word-of-sauce-stained-mouth.

Besides, what other reason have I to go to Mickey D’s? McNuggets?

Incidentally, Boston Market’s frozen-foods division is selling a suspiciously McRib-like entree. Better grade, or at least higher recognizability, of mystery meat, but the sauce is downgraded a point for insufficient tang.

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Two wheels good, no wheels better?

Last week’s photo of Famke Janssen on a bicycle garnered, shall we say, mixed reviews, so I figured I’d balance things out with a photo of Famke Janssen not on a bicycle, but in a director’s chair.

Famke Janssen at Savannah Film Festival

This shot was taken at last week’s Savannah Film Festival, which screened Bringing Up Bobby, written, directed and co-produced by Janssen. The festival offered this synopsis:

Bringing Up Bobby is the story of a European con-artist, Olive, and her 10 year old American born son, Bobby, who find themselves in Oklahoma in an effort to escape her past and build a better future. Olive and Bobby blithely charm their way from one adventure to another until Olive’s criminal past catches up with her. Consequently, she must make a choice: continue with a life of crime or leave the person she loves most in an effort to give Bobby a proper chance in life.

And what better place to escape your past than in Oklahoma? Olive, you should know, is played by Milla Jovovich.

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