Quote of the week

Remember when you were so important that Time actually named you Person of the Year? At that particular moment in history, media elites declared that the Voice of the People was finally being heard, and utopia was just a hop, a skip and a jump away.

Well, now they’ve heard that Voice, and they don’t like it, not one bit:

The response to [Shane] McEntee’s sad death captures how web users are viewed at the end of 2012: not as grown-up contributors to public debate but as the destroyers of public debate, even of lives, whose strong views are really just “intimidation”, whose arguments are a form of “terrorising”, and whose access to web-based debate is not a right after all, but apparently a “privilege”. Don’t you all know how lucky you are to have been allowed on to the rarefied plane of political and media debate? Strangely, both the old fawning over web users and the new demonisation of web-users are driven by the same thing: the aloofness of the opinion-forming classes. A few years back, sensing they were massively estranged from the public, politicians and the commentariat sought to engage with us via the web, in a largely phoney, flimsy fashion; now, recognising that they are still estranged from the public, more so than ever in fact, these same opinion-makers denounce us as trolls and write off web-based political engagement as a gigantic failed experiment. They have opted to stew in their aloofness, rather than address it.

Funny thing about stew: it invites people to stir the pot. Then again, anyone who’s spent enough time in a kitchen — in other words, anyone who can take the heat — already knows that.

Comments (2)

Boyle’s law of dating

Singer Susan Boyle, blessed with plenty of volume, feels the pressure of being single, but while she’ll do anything for love, she won’t do this:

The 51-year-old admits she wants to find love with her soulmate, but the no-nonsense star won’t be signing up to modern ways of finding romance. In fact, SuBo insists she will never look for love online, because she thinks she might get murdered.

“Internet dating? Are you having a laugh?” she scoffs at the suggestion. “Knowing my luck I’d go out on a date and you’d find my limbs scattered around various Blackburn dustbins! I believe in letting things happen naturally and not shopping for a man on the internet. If my soulmate is out there then I will find him but it won’t be on a computer.”

As regards her recent show-tune collection, it’s worth your while, although the attempt to make Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” sound even more detached than usual really doesn’t work. Better are the two duets with Donny Osmond: “All I Ask of You,” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom, and “This is the Moment,” from Jekyll & Hyde.

Comments off

Repetitive motions

Robert Stacy McCain goes meta-analytical on us:

[N]othing is so fresh and original that it can’t grow stale, or be replaced by imitations. If you are no longer having success producing the same thing you were producing 10 or 15 years ago, consider the possibility that you have failed to adjust efficiently to changes in the market.

I’d mention that I’m producing the same thing I was producing 10 or 15 years ago, and I’m having exactly the same level of success, which is Not A Whole Hell Of A Lot. Then again, I expected something closer to zero, so I’m not about to complain.

Perhaps it’s wiser always to assume the worst going in. I would have been delighted beyond belief to get 100 readers for that first goofy pony novella. (I am, after all, competing with about 50,000 other scribes, a substantial percentage of which have actual talent.) By the end of the month, I’ll have gotten my 1000th reader.

Then again, I have no particular desire to circulate among the high and/or mighty, which suggests I’m somewhere between 60 and 120 degrees out of phase with the rest of the world.

Comments off

This will never fly

Coyote Blog’s tax proposal, which will of course go nowhere:

1. Eliminate all deductions in the individual income tax code.

2. Eliminate the corporate income tax.

3. Tax capital gains and dividends as regular income.

4. Eliminate the death tax as well as the write-up of asset values at death.

There is also a 4a: until the program is properly restructured, the Medicare tax will have to rise a bit.

Some exposition on 3:

I know there is all sorts of literature that supposedly promotes a lower capital gains tax as an economic positive. Frankly, I don’t trust it any more than any other literature genned up to promote special tax breaks to any group because that group is supposedly economically more important. In my mind, a lower capital gains tax rate (which means a higher regular income tax rate) is just another way of government expressing an artificial preference for one economic activity over another.

In anything resembling a free society, we shouldn’t have to give two-thirds of a damn what the government claims to “prefer.” Not that they care to remember such minor details, but they’re supposed to be working for us, not the other way around. Washington, D.C. should look as barren as pre-Bakken North Dakota is supposed to have been.

Comments (3)

The singin’ rage

I didn’t actually buy any records until 1965, but long before that, the family acknowledged that some of the stuff on the premises would appeal to me, and would occasionally allow me to crank them up myself.

At some point, I came across a Patti Page single with a bad pun for a title, on an old Mercury 78. What caught me, though, was not the title — I didn’t become a purveyor of bad puns until my teens — but a reference on the label: “Vocal by: Patti Page, Patti Page, Patti Page.”

(After typing that, I decided it would be appropriate to find a scan of that label, but I no longer have the 78, though I do have a later blue-label 45 reissue. Turns out I did remember it correctly, apart from punctuation.)

Okay, fine: overdubs. Circa 1960, when I found this record, that was No Big Deal. But in 1951, it was still kind of amazing: Les Paul had only just raised it to an artform, and Patti had been doing this as early as 1947, with a two-vocal-track version of “Confess,” produced by technophile Mitch Miller.

It was much later that I discovered that the reason she looked like a good ol’ country girl from Oklahoma was having been born a good ol’ country girl from Oklahoma, named Clara Ann Fowler. And it showed, even in unearthly environments like Las Vegas:

Patti Page in Las Vegas 1955

What used to be Second Street in Claremore, her home town, was renamed Patti Page Boulevard many years ago. They remembered. And so should you, now that she’s gone.

Comments (2)

Fark blurb of the week

Comments (1)

The crappiest day of your life

If you’re writing a memoir — and if so, why? — your audience doesn’t want sweetness and light:

The author Phillip Lopate complains that the problem with confessional writing is that people don’t confess enough. And I agree. The biggest mistake new writers make is going to the computer wearing a three-piece suit. They craft love letters about their wonderful parents, spouses, children and they share upbeat anecdotal slices of life. This rarely inspires brilliance or self-insight. Drama, conflict and tension are more compelling, especially when the piece starts with your “I” narrator about to fall off a cliff (metaphorically, of course). It’s counterintuitive, but qualities that make you likable and popular in real life — good looks, wild success, happy marriage, lovely home, healthy confidence — will make a reader despise you. The more of a wreck you are from the start, the more the audience is hooked.

So I’m a few yards ahead of the starter’s block. So far, so good. Now what?

But remember, a litany of bitterness will not suffice. My rule for first person nonfiction is: question, challenge and trash yourself more than anyone else. My favorite essays begin with emotional devastation and conclude with surprising metamorphosis.

Hmmm. I haven’t had any substantial experience with redemption since the days of S&H Green Stamps. Or if I did, I didn’t recognize it. (Does that count as trashing myself?)

Comments (4)

Delayed payback

If P. J. Carlesimo can continue to coax performances like this out of Brooklyn, he can count on losing that “interim” qualifier: Dem Nets pounded the living crap out of the Oklahoma City Thunder, coached by Scott Brooks, who replaced, um, P. J. Carlesimo way back when. We’re talking a 14-point lead after the first quarter, which grew to 23 in the second. One does not do this to OKC, and not quite halfway through the fourth frame, the Thunder had evened it up, 85-85. The final, however, was 110-93, which answers Billy Preston’s eternal question: “Will it go round in circles?” Yep. The same defensive lapses that gave the Nets the early lead gave the Nets the late lead. The only thing less likely would be, oh, Kevin Durant getting broomed. Which he did.

Then again, it wasn’t just KD’s manifest frustration. The Nets managed to earn twenty-one free throws in that fourth quarter, and hit all but one. Worse, the Nets shot better from beyond the arc (53 percent) than within it (49). Joe Johnson rattled down 33 points, with Brook Lopez adding 25 and Deron Williams 19. D-Will also had 13 assists. Reggie Evans, who wasn’t on hand for the OKC win in Brooklyn in December, wasn’t a factor tonight, with Kris Humphries and Andray Blatche taking up the slack. (Your Telltale Statistic for the night: only one Net was a net minus, rookie point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who played less than ten minutes. For OKC, only one player was a plus: Hasheem Thabeet, who played less than ten minutes.)

There was some carping about Kendrick Perkins, who wasn’t an offensive force at all, but who did clear 11 boards, about a third of the Thunder’s total. And Russell Westbrook was just this side of sparkling: 26 points on 11-19 shooting, 10 dimes. And Durant had twenty-seven before being shown the thumb. It wasn’t Kevin Martin’s night, either: 3-10 for 11 points. Then again, all three of those makes were 3-pointers. Still, the one pair of numbers Carlesimo’s former assistant is going to stress tomorrow at practice is this: twenty turnovers for thirty Net points. And the best comment of the night comes from satirical tweeter “Scott Brooks’ Tie”: “Thunder drop to 1-13 when playing a game in the same building PJ Carlesimo is a head coach.” Well played, SBT.

The Sixers will be here Friday. I suspect they’re not as worried as they might have been, oh, three hours ago.

Comments (2)


Someone out of my distant past left this status update on Facebook yesterday:

For years I’ve been eating 12 green grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve to ensure good luck. Last night, AFTER going through the ritual for yet another time, I discovered WHY the results haven’t been outstanding. Ignacio directed me to an online article that explained that it is necessary to wear RED UNDERWEAR while eating the grapes.

Which is basically true, at least in Spain:

As midnight nears on Nochevieja, or “old night,” the last day of the year, the entire country gathers in front of television screens or in town squares, clutching a small bowl of green grapes and wearing red underwear.

But wait! There’s more:

If scoffing grapes at midnight isn’t strange enough, convention says you must do so while wearing red ropa interior, or underwear — a bra, a sock, a garter, whatever. And — stranger yet — the undergarment should be given to you by someone else.

Maria, the stall owner, reminded me not to forget a third traditional lucky charm to accompany red underwear and grapes: drop a gold ring into my celebratory glass of cava (local champagne-style bubbly from Catalunya). “Just don’t swallow it!” That would, no doubt, be a harbinger of bad luck.

Mulligans, alas, are not available. From that Facebook status:

Since it was too late for a redo, I doubled up on collard greens, hoppin’ john and pork roast today.

Which Southerners will recognize as a different approach to achieving the same goal.

Comments (4)

Devil resells the hindmost

I hasten to add that this is not a Hasbro product:

Moxie Girlz Kellan

This is, however, a real extension of the existing Moxie Girlz line, from those wonderful folks who brought you Bratz. (What’z with all the Z’z?) You’ve already seen Kellan’s unicorn; Lexa’s bunny craps glitter, and Avery’s koala defecates jewels.

Members of the Church of Gaia who insisted that we could power motor vehicles with unicorn dung will be disappointed to learn that they’d have to buy several dozen Kellan dolls just to get across town.

(Via FAIL Blog.)

Comments (4)

From the Manila folder

Manuel V. Pangilinan, in his capacity as head of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, is the closest equivalent in the Philippines to the NBA’s David Stern — except that Stern doesn’t own a telephone company or a TV network.

That said, MVP, as they call him, wants to be a small player in the Big Show:

Pangilinan said in an interview with reporters that he is seriously looking at offers for him to invest between five percent and 10 percent in an NBA team.

He refused to divulge the names of the teams but hinted that he is looking at a team in the Western [Conference] of the NBA.

This is not the first time he’s put out feelers, either:

Pangilinan confirmed reports that he was looking at a majority stake in an offer to join a group of investors that was supposed to take over the struggling Sacramento Kings in the NBA.

The group of investors was organized by retired former NBA All-Star Chris Webber, who was part of the Kings from 1998 to 2005.

The Kings continue to struggle, but nothing has come of the Webber group’s offer yet.

Comments off

A googol of Googles

It’s Spend-O-Rama time in Washington, as it has been for several decades now, and this is why it will continue:

We noticed from a report on the recent Japanese election that “Google” is now used as an accounting term. The company being currently valued at some par amount in trillions or quadrillions of yen, the degree of “quantitative easing” (i.e. money to be created ex nihilo) the Bank of Japan is now compelled to provide overnight against its own better judgement in light of the election result was expressed as, “six Googles.”

But why not eight? Or twelve? Why not create one hundred Googles of fresh, new, imaginary money? The people have spoken for more zeroes, & why are more zeroes being denied?

Which demonstrates, I suppose, that Mencken was right.

Comments off

Porpoisefully engineered

The late Douglas Adams on dolphins:

Man has always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much … the wheel, New York, wars and so on … while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man … for precisely the same reason.

Was this, perhaps, an intelligent design?

I got this idea in my head that this is exactly what dolphins were designed to do. That is, they are genetically engineered creatures. A long time ago (10,000 years? 100,000 years? A million years?) a previous civilization on this planet got involved in a conflict and decided they needed some underwater people (beings?) for some kind of work. Exploring maybe, or spying, or maybe even mine detection, and so they created dolphins.

On the other fin, it strikes me as equally plausible that the dolphins may have created us:

Yes, I know there isn’t any evidence of such a thing, but then we don’t have much evidence of anything from a million years ago. There may not have been any people like us, but that’s not to say there weren’t people of some kind out wandering around, picking fights with their neighbors, and cooking up elaborate schemes to do them in.

I’m starting to believe that this is a defining characteristic, once you get about this far [gesticulates] up the food chain.

Comments off

Lessons learned

Comments off

Off their feed

The death of Feedburner, hinted at a few months ago, can’t come too soon for Maggie:

I am beginning 2013 without a Feedburner account. My account was officially deleted this morning, January 1, 2013. A few days ago I explained in a post that an anti-virus program located in Moscow, Russia (Kaspersky) is telling readers that Maggie’s Notebook is a dangerous place to visit. Readers running Kaspersky on their computers received various messages from them, blaming some connection to Feedburner, my avatar (the Liberty Bell, no worries now a new version even though they look the same) and phishing (can you imagine my site a phishing site???). I know there were other concerned readers who abandoned ship and moved on. Some received a warning when visiting blogs which link to Maggie’s Notebook. Some took the time to tell the blog owner about it, and they alerted me.

This doesn’t seem to be Kaspersky’s fault. A comment by one of Maggie’s readers:

Kaspersky has a huge reputation in the AntiVirus market. They are at the top of the list for most geeks out there. I work as an IT person, and if I visit your [site] during the day, it has to go through not only a scan by our AntiVirus software (VIPRE), but also our firewall software (SonicWall) … neither has found anything. The firewall would have blocked the site totally if it found anything.

My guess is that it is pulling a false find. It does happen at one time or another … these companies are constantly updating their definitions, and sometimes they aren’t tested thoroughly.

We have installed SonicWall at 42nd and Treadmill, and among my regular reads, the site that it dislikes most is … um, mine. The firewall has since received slightly modified instructions.

The usual pattern has been that when Google buys a product line with the intention of killing it, they start upgrading their own competing product, and only then signal the demise of the product they acquired. I haven’t heard that any improvements have been made in Google Reader, so I’m guessing that they’re hoping that everyone will read feeds in Chrome. Good luck with that: at this writing, I have 206 subscribers using Safari (!), and 39 on Chrome.

Comments (4)

Hemidemisemipanic mode

You may remember this from the end of November, way back in 2012:

I discovered that every last post — 12,700 of them — had been sheared of its category and tag information. Worse yet, the View All Posts function in the WordPress admin showed no posts to view. Despite this, permalinks were working and comments were being posted.

When it happened again, I literally cut and pasted my first support ticket into a new one. The problem was readdressed, but the tech suggested that if it continued to recur, I should consider moving to a server with more space, inasmuch as I’m running six sites off this account. After thinking this over for about 3.5 CPU cycles, I requested such a move, which was completed that evening. I have no reason to think readers will be affected by this, but if you see something acting sillier than usual (besides me), please let me know.

Comments off