Quote of the week

Jennifer Abel, on the failure of the Soviet Union:

The USSR did not die merely because it ran out of money; it died because Gorbachev wasn’t willing to kill however many people it took to maintain the fiction that the country worked. One article I read about the fall of the Soviet Union specifically mentioned food; the country’s crops that year weren’t enough to feed its people, and the government did not have enough money to import grain from overseas.

Gorbachev wasn’t willing to see millions die in a famine. Stalin engineered a famine to wipe out people he didn’t like.

Now, which of these guys more closely resembles the current American government?

I don’t think Obama — or any of the leading Republicans or Democrats in Congress — takes the Gorbachevian view “Our government should be kinder to its citizens than it used to be.” No, quite the opposite: Obama, far more than Bush/Cheney before him, actively works to make this country harsher, meaner, more punitive towards its own people, and neither Republicans nor Democrats do a damn thing to stop him. Indeed, if you do hear the word “moral” coming from a Republican, it’s only as an excuse to punish someone with a sex life he doesn’t like, and from a Democrat to criticize someone who smokes or eats too much. Our country grows meaner and less moral by the day: yes to torture, to hell with the fourth amendment, sexual assault is a precondition of modern travel, bombing civilians is perfectly fine, et cetera.

If sunlight is the best disinfectant, let us pray for solar flares.

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Patriots on board

According to Rand McNally and USA Today, the “most patriotic city” in the States is Rapid City, South Dakota, beating out Emporia, Kansas; Williamsburg, Virginia; Peachtree City, Georgia; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; and Clarksville, Tennessee.

I note in passing that Fort Leonard Wood is not a city, despite its size, and the adjoining towns of Waynesville and St. Robert are probably wondering why they weren’t mentioned. I was, however, somewhat gratified to see “Clarksvegas” getting some love; most people aren’t aware of it except to the extent that they’d heard there was a train there in the mid-Sixties.

Why Rapid City? I blame Gutzon Borglum.

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And even more orange

In Prokofiev’s satirical opera The Love for Three Oranges, from which you probably already know the March, a prince is cursed with exactly that obsessive affection: he will — he must — find those three zesty fruits.

Which fruits, incidentally, turn out to contain fairy princesses, albeit fragile ones: two of the three don’t make it out of their opening scene. I don’t have a picture of the third, but this will do for now:

Katie Cassidy in orange

This is Katie Cassidy, and if the last name rings a bell — yes, she’s David’s daughter. At twenty-four, she’s a very busy actress indeed: IMDb lists twenty credits for her, apart from the usual “Self” stuff.

Here, she’s resplendent in (yes!) orange from Hervé Léger by Max Azria. The heels come from Jimmy Choo; the almost-matching clutch, from Rebecca Minkoff.

And in the opera, the same witch who plants the enchantment on the prince, spiteful little trollop that she is, manages to turn the third princess into a Rodent of Unusual Size. I suspect this will not happen to Katie.

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And you thought your local radio was lousy

I pray in the name of The Real Don Steele that this is something of an exaggeration:

My father keeps his radio tuned to an oldies radio station with a really short playlist. In my limited listening (maybe two hours the entire trip, probably closer to half that), I heard three songs twice and this one three times.

“This one” is “Delta Dawn,” in which Tanya Tucker sounds a lot older than thirteen. You can follow the link for the other three.

Radio stations generally are not known for extensive playlists, but this seems a bit extreme, as though someone had hosed up a satellite feed and no one but the listeners noticed. On the other hand, the current state of radio is such that a twenty-song playlist probably wouldn’t stand out that much.

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Is this her moment?

Already eight digits’ worth of YouTube views on this, the new Rebecca Black single:

Points for catchiness, of course, and I find her sheer exuberance charming. And bonus props to whoever thought it was a good idea to borrow the synth splash from the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of “Always On My Mind.” But a few things seem off. The chorus is as insanely repetitive as you’d hope, but the verses seem awkwardly constructed: I get the impression that they wrote this to match her perceived range, and then discovered that they were off by a third. And the verse about “haters” is just superfluous: if you’re going to demonstrate your superiority to such, the only effective techniques are either (1) to ignore them altogether or (2) to go full Cee Lo Green on them. (If you saw this latter phrase at The Atlantic, well, that was me.)

In short, while I think it’s a worthy effort — and I’ve already anted up my buck-twenty-nine (!) at iTunes — I don’t think this is quite the vehicle to take her to two-hit wonder status. “Friday,” for all its Hyphenated-American cheese, was damned near iconic; “My Moment” is merely pretty.

Addendum: Rebekah Brooks’ version of “Friday”:

(Seen at Adfreak. Hat tip: Nancy Friedman.)

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Not exactly Summer’s Eve Ensler

Every now and then, someone wants to boldly go where no advertising has gone before. In this case, it’s sixty-second vagina monologues — actually, a handy substitute — to be aired on behalf of a douche manufacturer who, um, manufactures douches.

Once the serious hoo-ha begins, I anticipate some vertical frowns.

(Via the Consumerist.)

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Fark blurb of the week

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Can you change a trillion?

Even if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, argues Felix Salmon, Treasury will still be able to sell bonds:

[T]here will always be buyers, and there will always be buyers at yields very, very close to the secondary-market price for Treasury bonds. Treasury bonds are fungible, and to underscore that fact Treasury could easily just reopen old bond issuances instead of creating new ones. That would ensure that there was no way of telling the difference between bonds issued “legally” and bonds issued after the debt ceiling was breached.

Which is not to say that the debt ceiling should be completely ignored:

Even if Treasury can still sell bonds, however, that doesn’t mean for a minute that breaching the debt ceiling is something which should be considered possible for the purposes of the current negotiation. Tools like the 14th Amendment or even crazier loopholes like coin seignorage would be signs of the utter failure of the US political system and civil society. And that alone could mean the loss of America’s status as a safe haven and a reserve currency. The present value of such a loss? Much bigger than $2 trillion. (Coin seignorage, if you’re wondering, is the right that Treasury has to mint a couple of one-ounce, $1 trillion coins and deposit those coins in its account at the New York Fed. It could then withdraw cash from that Fed account to make all the payments it wanted.)

Wait a minute. Coins worth a trillion? This goes beyond Zimbabwe, all the way to the Triganic Pu, as described in Hitchhiker’s:

Its exchange rate of six ningis to one pu is simple, but since a ningi is a triangular rubber coin six thousand eight hundred miles along each side, no one has ever collected enough to own one pu.

Maybe Pejman Yousefzadeh was right all along:

All the debt ceiling’s presence has done is to bring about uncertainty when it comes to the question of whether to raise the debt ceiling… [W]hy not simply get rid of it?

Children believe in the Tooth Fairy; politicians believe in the debt ceiling. On the whole, the children behave far more maturely.

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More pounce to the ounce

Note to cat owners persons who live with cats:

It is your responsibility to see that Kitty gets appropriate background music.

An example for your edification and delectation:

(Via The Breda Fallacy.)

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FKKing decline

The Germans call it Freikörperkultur: “free body culture.” And it’s more than just “established”; it’s practically The Establishment, the first local FKK organization having been founded way back in the 1890s. But it appears that demographics are slowly doing it in:

“German society is changing and it’s not easy to be a naturist anymore,” said Kurt Fischer, president of the German FKK association (DFK). There are some 500,000 registered nudists and a total of seven million Germans sunbathe naked regularly. “But the numbers are unfortunately falling by about two percent each year.”

The German population is not shrinking, exactly, but whatever stability it has is due to immigration, and rather a lot of the current crop of immigrants disdain public nudity. (What’s German for “burqa”?)

And one woman pointed out that there’s another way in which the German population is not shrinking:

“In East Germany, there were a lot more people with attractive physiques,” said Brigitte, a retired dental assistant and avid naturist who asked that her full name not be used.

“But with the rise in prosperity a lot of people have come apart at the seams and they can’t show their bodies in public anymore. We’ve become a lot chubbier with all this prosperity. It’s not really very aesthetic anymore.”

Well, how about that: the German Democratic Republic was good for something after all.

(Sneaked into my email box by GradualDazzle.)

Addendum: “So their net biomass is staying about the same,” quips the Instant Man.

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Go with the Cover Flow

The young folks may be wondering why a CD or a phonograph record or a small batch of downloads is termed an “album,” and the answer is simply this: when records were 78 rpm, typically ten inches in diameter, and played for four or five minutes at most, the only way to sell a recording of a symphony or a Broadway show was to create a package of several discs, each in its own envelope, and then bind those envelopes together into, yes, an album.

Still, all these blank sleeves were boring: “Ridiculous,” said Alex Steinweiss. “The covers were brown, tan or green paper. They were not attractive, and lacked sales appeal.”

First cover art by Alex SteinweissDespite cost concerns, Columbia Records put Steinweiss, then a 22-year-old designer from the advertising department, to work on improving the appearance of those covers, and the first thing he came up with was this mock theater marquee for a Rodgers & Hart compilation. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Records/Sony Music; click to embiggen). The year was 1939, and Columbia had itself a hit. After working with the Navy in World War II, Steinweiss returned to Columbia as a freelancer and devised a sleeve for the label’s new plastic microgroove 33⅓-rpm Long Playing record, or as it was dubbed almost immediately, the LP.

Many years later, as we feed old songs into iTunes and wonder what sort of bizarre artwork Apple will find for us, we should remember Alex Steinweiss, who made it all possible. He left the record industry in the 1970s and began creating his own art; he died this week in Florida at 94.

(Via Kevin Walsh’s Facebook page.)

Update: Steinweiss’ status is challenged.

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Doesn’t quite rhyme with “doorhinge”

There was a spirited little discussion on orange shoes, and orange apparel in general, in this space a couple of summers ago, and I think we can safely say that not everyone is willing to wear something all that citrus-y. (Said the lovely Duyen Ky: “Orange should be reserved for road-hazard cones by federal law.”)

Giuseppe Zanotti Giuseppe for Christopher KaneWith that in mind, consider this tweet: “The most fantastic orange shoe evahhhh!” A TinyURL was attached, which I followed. The shoe in question is from Giuseppe Zanotti’s Giuseppe for Christopher Kane line, and, well, it is definitely orange. I haven’t decided whether I like this or not. The customers seem to have spoken, though: all but two sizes are sold out at this writing, and the price has been cut from nosebleed-level $875 to a merely sniffly $401.

Mundane stuff: 4½-inch heel, ½-inch platform, pretty much all leather, and made (of course) in Italy. Let’s see how this goes over with our panel of critics.

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A bit of elasticity

I have never had much faith in dashboard MPG readings, having seen both 60 and 6 mpg during the same trip in a borrowed Infiniti G35. Apparently Nissan hasn’t learned anything, according to Kim Reynolds at Motor Trend (8/11):

[T]he Leaf’s [range] display is virtually an info-slinky. Pull away from the charger with an indicated 106-mile range, and it’ll drop eight miles by the end of the block. I found myself finally ignoring the numbers and counting the remaining battery bar-graph segments, but even this is iffy as, per Mike Duoba of Argonne National Lab, “a battery is like a rubber bucket.”

The EV blog Electric Cars are for Girls attempts to explain this phenomenon:

Most of the confusion in the computer calculated range is that it constantly recalculates available range based on whether you’re going fast or slow or up or down hill. It figures that say you’re presently going up a two mile grade that your range based on that climb until your batteries are depleted. (It doesn’t know it’s only for two miles.) As soon as you reach the top and go down the other side it recalculates based on the down hill and your range goes back up again. You just have to understand how it thinks and you will get that light bulb moment and not worry.

Emphasis added. Okay, fair enough. Obviously Nissan can’t make these things psychic.

Then again, back to Reynolds in MT:

Unless you drive like a maniac, if the Volt’s display says it will go 37 miles in EV mode, it’ll deliver between 36 and 38.

What is Chevy doing right?

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Don’t ask him how it’s hanging

From this very space, five years ago:

Retired District Judge Donald Thompson has been sentenced to four years behind bars and fined $40,000 for various crimes against whatever public decency exists in an Oklahoma courtroom.

Actually, he was released after a mere twenty months, but he doesn’t seem to be able to stay out of trouble:

Bail was set at $76,500 for former Creek County judge Donald Thompson after his arrest early Tuesday morning on a variety of charges, including possession of a controlled dangerous substance.

Thompson was charged with driving under the influence, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription after a former felony conviction and possession of a controlled dangerous substance after a former felony conviction.

In addition to the Lortab, he also had an open container of beer, but that’s a misdemeanor.

None of these charges, of course, can be said to be anywhere near as interesting as the offenses that got him sent to the Big House in the first place.

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Sugar hiccup

Unless you think there’s some other explanation for this:

What were they thinking?

Hell, I’ve known better than that since I was Nehi to a grasshopper.

(Via FAIL Blog. Title pilfered from the Cocteau Twins.)

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I’m sure he’s a typography fan

After all, there’s no other reason to ask this:

What font does Alabama use on the driver license where it ask you how tall you are, sex, eyes and hair?

They do seem to start young these days.

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