A retcon job?

I’ll admit to perhaps being a bit overly fond of Derpy Hooves — heck, I have a picture of Equestria’s Clumsiest Pony at the office — so I’m not particularly happy to hear that the newly-arrived downloadable ($2.99) iTunes version of “The Last Roundup,” the episode of MLP:FIM that gave her both her name and her admission to MLP canon, has been edited after the fact, and oafishly at that: partially correcting her, um, “vision issue,” replacing her voice with something a bit more generic-sounding, and redubbing the line in which Rainbow Dash addresses her so that her name is never mentioned.

Consensus seems to be that this is Hasbro-originated malfeasance. I’m not so sure: when I think high-handed interference, I tend to think Apple, and the fact that existing copies of the DVD on which this episode is included contain the original cartoon as first shown on the Hub would seem to support this notion. But it doesn’t really matter who did it; it was definitely done. And if you ask me, it’s like reediting The Honeymooners to put Ed Norton in a desk job, lest someone be upset by the idea of sewer workers in this day and age.

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Truer blood

So far as I know, my blood type is a fairly ordinary A-positive; testing in the military, followed by several donations, has never indicated anything else. Which might be odd, since my father claimed to have had some oddball string of antigens, and “there are only nine of us in the country, and we have to know each other’s locations at all times.” I couldn’t tell you if this condition was heritable, except to the extent that I didn’t get it.

And after he passed on, I didn’t think about it anymore, until this cropped up:

While blood transfusion problems due to Langereis and Junior blood types are rare worldwide, several ethnic populations are at risk, [Dr Bryan] Ballif [University of Vermont] notes. “More than 50,000 Japanese are thought to be Junior negative and may encounter blood transfusion problems or mother-fetus incompatibility,” he writes.

But the molecular basis of these two blood types has remained a mystery — until now.

In the February issue of Nature Genetics, Ballif and his colleagues report on their discovery of two proteins on red blood cells responsible for these lesser-known blood types.

Note that these types have been known for years; it’s just that researchers had no idea where they came from, or how to test reliably for them.

I’m still not sure which of several dozen rare blood types might have been circulating in the family. Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore — or maybe I’ll find out that it does, at the worst possible time.

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Strange to the last

Goldfinger by Billy StrangeThis was the 6th album I ever bought, in the fall of 1965; the local Top 40 outlet was playing the heck out of the title track, though it never broke above #55 nationally. Still, it was Billy Strange’s biggest hit single; his only previous chart item was, of all things, a cover of Monty Norman’s and/or John Barry’s James Bond theme, which landed at #58 the year before.

At the time, I wasn’t up on Strange’s studio work, though Wink Martindale, who wrote the liner notes, clued me in:

[Strange] was a guitar plater on my first Dot record, “Deck of Cards,” which turned out to be a million seller… His ability to adapt his very “commercial” sound and style is reflected in the hundreds of record companies who continually demand that Billy handle the guitar work on their records.

There’s no telling how many sessions he did. One that gets no mention on his Wikipedia page was Phil Spector’s 1962 deconstruction of “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,” by Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, featuring a fearsome lead vocal by Darlene Love and, courtesy of Strange, one of the most distorted guitar solos in history. When he wasn’t playing, he was arranging: all those Nancy Sinatra songs, with or without Lee Hazlewood, were Strange concoctions. And sometimes he did both: see, for instance, the Partridge Family’s ineffable “I Think I Love You.” (The official discography is really, really long.)

WFMU gave him a proper sendoff when he died on Wednesday, and noted:

Unlike some of his contemporaries dabbling in the solo-instro LP racket (Al Caiola et al), Strange’s LPs were not generic.

Which I learned early on. The very last track on Goldfinger was the most amped-up version of Elmer Bernstein’s theme from Man with the Golden Arm you’ll ever hear. Very unlike Wink Martindale’s recitation about a GI busted for playing cards in church, but such was the range of Billy Strange.

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Just to make an experience point

One reason Dungeons & Dragons is still around after all these years — 2014 is D&D’s 40th anniversary — is that the premise is almost infinitely extensible, limited only by imagination. Erin Palette, whose site I wandered onto in search of something else, presents a recent variation on the theme:

A young wizard discovers an ancient prophecy which states that, within two days, the deposed Goddess of the Moon — who has been imprisoned for a thousand years due to a failed coup against her older sister, the Goddess of the Sun — will escape her imprisonment, vanquish her sister, and cover the lands in everlasting night!

This young wizard tries to tell everyone of the impending apocalypse, but being a young student, is ignored and instead given menial tasks to perform. Lo and behold, the prophecy does come to pass, and the student knows that the only way to defeat the Moon Goddess and reinstate the rule of the benevolent Sun Goddess is to find and utilize an ancient artifact. To that end, she recruits a diverse group of individuals with conflicting personalities but complementary skills.

Pure D&D. And also the first episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

If you’d like to DM in this universe, here is a set of pony alignments:

My Little Pony D&D alignments

Further exposition here. And this conclusion seems inarguable: “Equestria: half Dark Sun, half Gamma World. If that doesn’t get your gamer juices flowing there’s something wrong with you.”

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Miss you

The French language has no direct equivalent for the English title “Ms.”, and rather than come up with a new word, la République has decided to get rid of one of the older ones:

Up until now French women have been asked to identify themselves on administrative forms either as a married “madame”, or a “mademoiselle” — a term used for unmarried young women.

Having to make that choice is deemed sexist by many because men are always referred to as “monsieur”, whether they are married or not.

The Prime Minister’s office has now instructed authorities to only use the term “madame” in a move Solidarity Minister Roselyne Bachelot said would “end a form of discrimination”.

In other news, France has a Solidarity Minister.

Still, I find it hard to disagree with Mme Bachelot: it’s not like they’re going to make up a new term for unmarried men.

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And yet another Friday is upon us

Rebecca Black at the Grammy AwardsHaters, as the phrase goes, gonna hate. This point-blank question showed up on Yahoo! Answers: “Can someone tell me why the **** Rebecca Black was in the Grammy Awards?” This surprises someone? Whether anyone believes it or not, she is part of the music industry these days, and one of the less exasperating parts at that; it’s not at all hard to believe that someone got her added to the invitation list. And besides, by now she does red-carpet stuff pretty well. I’m not expecting the ten points for Best Answer, but I call ’em the way I see ’em. (Photo at right by Andrew Evans/PR Photos, shrunk and cropped to fit this format. Larger version here.)

Did I say “part of the music industry”? William Patry’s book How to Fix Copyright (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) acknowledges her existence and proclaims her outsider status:

Creativity by the Great Unwashed is said not to be creativity at all, and if permitted, the large corporations who manufacture superstars argue, such platforms will crowd out quality works — that is, superstars’ products. Superstars themselves come to believe in the marketing hype. In a statement that defines irony, the Walt Disney-created product Miley Cyrus dismissed thirteen-year-old songwriter and performer Rebecca Black (whose song “Friday” achieved a worldwide audience thanks to YouTube) by claiming, “It should be harder to be an artist. You shouldn’t just be able to put a song on YouTube and go out on tour.”

Inasmuch as RB has exactly one-third of a writing credit (for “Person of Interest”), I think it’s probably too early to characterize her as a songwriter, though I’m willing to bet it’s just a matter of time. (She’ll be 15 in June.) And anyway, whatever Miley said seems to have been taken completely out of context. Still, Patry is quite correct: if there’s anything any industry hates, it’s outside competition.

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Lost and foundry

If all goes well, Chattanooga, Tennessee will be the first city in the nation to have its own specific typeface:

Around the world, only a few hundred people make a living as fulltime typeface designers. Two of them happen to live in Chattanooga, Tennessee, population 167,000, where they’ve embarked on an ambitious project to distill the city’s artistic and entrepreneurial spirit into a font called Chatype. The goal is to help the city and its businesses forge a distinct and cohesive identity through custom typeface, sending a visual message to the world that Chattanooga — a rapidly growing city in the midst of a creative renaissance — is “more than just your average Southern town.”

And it would help if it didn’t look too much like VAG Rounded, since (1) it would seem like a gesture toward Volkswagen, whose typeface this used to be and who’s rapidly becoming a major employer in Chattanooga, and (2) everybody and his brother-in-law is using it for stuff these days. (It doesn’t.)

In general, I am weary of obvious attempts at branding, but this is about as subtle as branding gets; I think something like this would actually work here, were it possible to persuade City Council to think about something other than blowing a third of a billion dollars on a convention center at a time when no one can afford to go anywhere. Still, it could backfire:

OKC in Antique Olive

I mean, I like this, but I think I’d get tired of seeing it everywhere, and it would never play in, say, Stockyards City.

OKC in Clearface

Too bland?

OKC in SooperFresh

Well, we have had some earthquakes lately.

OKC in Comic Sans

I wouldn’t wish this on Tulsa.

OKC in Nadianne

Not bland enough.

I have to believe, though, that somewhere in town someone has an idea better than these.

(Via this Annemarie Dooling tweet. Title swiped from Popeye — the sailor, not the chicken joint.)

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Drink pink

No, wait. Don’t drink pink:

My respect for you, however, goes out the window if you order a drink that is the color pink. I mean it. Don’t order anything pink! It takes a real man to wear a pink sweater or shirt, not to drink a cosmo or grass skirt.

So saith Cara Costillo, who tendeth bar at Coyote Ugly in Bricktown, according to Playboy (3/12).

Disclosure: I live in a pink house, and I’ll drink what I damn well please.

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Back to the lake with you

They may not even be the best team in L.A. anymore, let alone the West, but the Lakers still have mystique on their side. The Thunder, however, have learned to ignore such considerations, and Loud City was happy to help sweep Kobe Bryant and friends off the premises, 100-85.

Dealing with Kobe is always a problem, and Scott Brooks chose to address it by having James Harden stick to him like Fifties cellophane; Bryant got his 24 points, but it took him 24 shots to get it. The tall guys — Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol — were their usual efficient selves, though seldom at the same time. But the Lakers’ plight can be summed up in a single incident: inside the 2:00 mark, a brief altercation broke out, and noted pacifist Metta World Peace got T’d up.

Kevin Durant? Thirty-three points on 22 shots. And if Bynum got a double-double, which he did, well, so did Serge Ibaka, and Ibaka was +17 for the night, higher than anyone except KD. The Thunder had a small edge in rebounding (44-41), a bigger one in taking the ball away (nine blocks and seven steals, versus two and five), and perhaps the biggest in bench scoring (28-11; Harden had 16 all by his lonesome). Russell Westbrook, who you’ll remember is Not Really A Point Guard, had half a dozen dimes tonight, more than anyone else except, um, Kevin Durant.

But best of all, it was the Lakers. Everyone loves to beat the Lakers. They have tradition, they have history, and for the moment they have second place in the Pacific.

The All-Star break now ensues.

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Bitter and static-clingy

Once again, Lamar Outdoor has kindly favored me with a giant billboard containing one of my tweets, but I’m damned if I can figure out why they chose this one:

Lamar outdoor tweet billboard

I mean, just consider the text:

Found a dryer sheet in the hallway. All kinds of possibilities present themselves, none of them interesting.

Admittedly, it was an office hallway, but it takes more imagination than I have to come up with an entertaining explanation for the presence of the discarded sheet.

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Gormless Old Party

“Is this really the best the Republican field has to offer?” asks Sarah Hoyt, and then answers:

It’s … complicated.

First of all, yes, to an extent this is the best. This is generational. Again, the republicans who are now in the generation to run for office were of the “country club” or “Socialism but slower” school. If you read the literature of the time, this is part of what we as a society — and to an extent worldwide — believed and thought, then. That society could be perfected and improved. That man was infinitely moldable. Some of the ideas that created the statist monsters of mid-twentieth century were still around when these people went through elementary. We’re all time travelers, filled with old as well as new ideas.

And if there’s anything that characterizes 21st-century schizoid man, it’s mold. Lots of it. Growing all over the damn place. He’ll even brag on it: “But I’m a real fungi!”

Second, to another extent, of course it isn’t. There are people who are far better but they’re not running. Some never ran. I think this is because the smarter people who could run know the next president is sort of a sacrifice. We’re killing him so the crops will grow again. Oh, not literally (I hope) but in effect. With what’s about to hit us in the field of economics, the best the next president can hope for is squeaking a second term by the skin of his teeth AND being remembered with admiration in a hundred years. But the next president is going to have to cut all goodies drastically and p*ss off everyone. And we’re going to make him eat live toads for it for the remainder of his natural life. (Metaphorically speaking, I hope. Poor toads.)

Which perhaps constitutes an argument for Newt Gingrich, who often looks like he just polished off a couple of live toads.

But no, she’s casting her lot with Der Mittster:

Romney is the one left I — personally — think will do the least damage.

But I will tell you, friends, at this point to tell which Republican will do the least damage, you need a high-resolution electronic microscope. I don’t despise anyone who thinks one of the other two moral midgets is better. At this point we’re not even weighing grains of sand, but particles of dust.

Or possibly, um, mold spores.

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White car can’t be jumped

Tesla Roadster in whiteWhat could be more exasperating than bricking your $500 phone? Answer: bricking your $100,000 car:

Tesla Motors’ lineup of all-electric vehicles — its existing Roadster, almost certainly its impending Model S, and possibly its future Model X — apparently suffer from a severe limitation that can largely destroy the value of the vehicle. If the battery is ever totally discharged, the owner is left with what Tesla describes as a “brick”: a completely immobile vehicle that cannot be started or even pushed down the street. The only known remedy is for the owner to pay Tesla approximately $40,000 to replace the entire battery.

Before you ask: no, the color of the paint job has nothing to do with the condition and everything to do with my need for a snappy title.

But yes, a few unfortunate Tesla owners have wound up with six-figure paperweights:

Of the approximately 2,200 Roadsters sold to date, a regional service manager for Tesla stated he was personally aware of at least five cases of Tesla Roadsters being “bricked” due to battery depletion. It is unknown if there are additional cases in other regions or countries.

(Via Jalopnik.)

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Thoroughly Scroogled

Scroogle, the anonymizing search engine that scraped Google results so you didn’t have to, has bitten the dust, says the Reg:

As we reported last week, the website was out of action and displaying a message during the most recent outage that blamed Google for “temporarily blocking” Scroogle’s server.

It turns out the site, which routinely scraped the Chocolate Factory’s search results for the best part of a decade, has been closed down by Brandt.

The final nail in the coffin came not because of action taken by Google to once again attempt to banish the site from the interwebs, but due to the number of DDoS attacks that hit Scroogle, rendering the site utterly useless.

Daniel Brandt, operator of Scroogle, says it was just a matter of time:

“Scroogle.org is gone forever,” Mr. Brandt wrote. “Even if all my DDoS problems had never started in December, Scroogle was already getting squeezed from Google’s throttling, and was already dying. It might have lasted another six months if I hadn’t lost seven servers from DDoS, but that’s about all.”

Observant readers may have already noticed that I’d reinstated Scroogle’s box on the sidebar once I’d gotten out of Google’s doghouse; it was replaced with a regular Google search box last week.

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Meanwhile, behind the curtain

We’ve been down this yellow brick road before. In 1985, Disney put out a film called Return to Oz, based on the second and third Oz books by L. Frank Baum. (The first book, of course, was out of the question, having been used for the 1939 MGM Oz film.) There was only one intellectual-property skirmish, and ultimately Disney paid MGM for the right to give Dorothy a pair of ruby slippers.

Now Disney’s about to reboot the Oz series, and Warner Bros., which controls the MGM original, is wary, says The Hollywood Reporter:

In October, Warner Bros. very quietly filed a trademark registration on “The Great and Powerful Oz.”

Why is this newsworthy? Well, Disney’s coming reboot of the story, directed by Sam Raimi and starring James Franco, is titled Oz, the Great and Powerful. Warners filed its trademark registration only one week after Disney had filed its own.

Warners lost that battle, having been a week late, but they might ultimately win the war. Said the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last year:

We agree with the district court’s conclusion that Dorothy, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind, and Tom and Jerry each exhibit “consistent, widely identifiable traits” in the films that are sufficiently distinctive to merit character protection under the respective film copyrights…

I do believe in law, I do, I do, I do, I do…

(Via Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings.)

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The pluck of the Irish

Apparently the major topic of conversation before the game was the fact that the Celtics had never lost to the Thunder in Oklahoma City; the Thundermen had been pretty effective in Beantown, but they’d always folded at home. And before this had time to sink in, Boston was out to a ten-point lead. Then, eight and half minutes in, OKC went on a crushing 28-2 run, eventually jumping to a 72-49 halftime lead. The lead grew to 27 before the Celtics slowly started fighting back. And then it wasn’t so slowly: eventually that lead was whittled down to six. Fortunately, the Thunder suddenly remembered how to close out games, and bounced back to a 119-104 win.

In the absence of the suspended Rajon Rondo, Boston started Avery Bradley at the point; he was decently effective before fouling out late. All five starting Celtics wound up in double digits — Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen had 23, 23 and 21 respectively — but the Boston bench combined managed only nine.

Telltale statistic: the Thunder had only two turnovers in the first half, but twelve in the second. And then there were the fourth-quarter technicals: one on Kendrick Perkins as he fouled out — one can only imagine what he said — one on Serge Ibaka, and even one on Kevin Durant. Despite the miscues, the OKC numbers were pretty decent: 50 percent shooting, 9 of 19 treys, and plus-11 on the boards. Once again, Russell Westbrook took more shots than KD; once again, nobody cared. (Westbrook had 31 points, Durant 28, and both had six assists.) Still, any game in which Daequan Cook has to play 39 minutes has something askew, although DC14 did knock down 17 points. James Harden was back in charge of the second unit, and picked up 17 points and a +23 overall, best on the court.

The only question remaining now before the All-Star break is whether the Lakers will sleepwalk through tomorrow night or actually go through the motions.

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Everyone’s a critic

In case you were wondering “What’s the best way to process criticism?” here’s the answer, from a comic artist:

The funny thing about the internet is that it made everyone a critic, and it made everyone an expert. Amazing right!

The first time you see someone tear your comic apart it’s like a punch in the gut. The hundredth time you see it? No big deal. All the same, even when you know better, there are days when a load of people will say “good job!” and then one person says something shitty and you feel like garbage. Hey, it happens! Don’t worry about it. The bad things people have called my comics could fill the Salty Sailor’s Dictionary of Swear Phrases. Not a present I’d give to my mom. I said this before about online critics, I’ll say it again: remember that on the internet you can go to a place that reviews Citizen Kane and underneath it someone will have written “this is the most overrated piece of shit on planet Earth.” Then remember that whoever said that doesn’t matter.

(Via R. Francis Smith.)

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