An echo of a final chord, still pianissimo

Last summer, Lou Teicher died; now Art Ferrante is gone.

The two of them were so much a unit that I feel no guilt about repeating the same bit for Ferrante that I did for Teicher:

Ferrante and Teicher had met at Juilliard; they teamed up in the mid-1940s as a sort of classical Dynamic Duo, and discovered some years later that they could sell zillions of records of motion-picture themes: “Jealous Lover,” a title you didn’t see on their 1960 single of that theme from The Apartment, made the Top Ten in Billboard, whose heady heights they would reach three times more. (Their biggest hit was “Exodus,” at Number Two.)

Working in pop, of course, gave them ample opportunity to jazz up the proceedings: you’d swear they did arpeggios that started on one keyboard and finished on the other, and maybe they did.

Without the benefit of the sort of orchestral backing they usually got on their recordings, here are Art and Lou taking on “Exodus” live.

(Thanks to Fillyjonk.)

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Each and every day of the year

There are those who will argue that women are somehow empowered by posing in one room while (most of) their clothing is in another. Donna will argue the contrary, thank you very much:

I walked around the vendors’ tables and came upon LOLA: Ladies of Liberty Alliance. They were selling a calendar featuring their prettiest members in various states of undress. WHY? WHY? “It’s empowering!” No. Diesel is empowering, this is just stupid. I am sorry. I support your right to do this but I have to question your sanity. Pose nearly nude and sell calendars — fine. Do it. I don’t care. But do you have to do it in the name of Liberty? Do you have to do it here? This is a political movement. Can’t we rise above this crazy urge to shake our boobies at all the unkempt Libertarian men?

Libertarian men, unkempt as they may be, aren’t the ones that need persuading.

Far be it from me to discourage any woman of any political persuasion from doffing her duds, but it’s always seemed to me that doing so for specifically political purposes has a tendency to trivialize whatever cause is being promoted. (And I’ve said so before.) Then again, were there a burgeoning small-l libertarian naturist movement, this might be just the ticket, since at least it’s on topic.

I may buy the calendar anyway, just, um, because.

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Are we MAPped out?

With MAPS 3 the talk of the town, I figured it was time to digest some of the fine print in the ShapardResearch poll conducted for the Gazette and KWTV earlier in the month. (PDF fans can read the whole thing here.) Not entirely random observations:

  • Whether they like the proposed projects or not, people lurve the Mayor; even the political independents, who have the least use for him, give Mick Cornett 61 percent approval.
  • Somehow, somewhere, they found thirteen liberal Republicans for the poll.
  • Conservative Democrats seem to be a bit less sanguine about the projects than conservative Republicans.
  • The convention center is definitely the least-liked of all the projects, and not just by me. Dealbreaker? Too early to tell.
  • Ward 2, where I live, was tied for the highest support for the streetcar system (57.1 percent), though were it to pass, it’s unlikely that any of the initial routes would make it more than a block or two into Ward 2.
  • Nobody’s quite sure how to finance a new county jail, which isn’t on the MAPS 3 list — but they’re sure they don’t want it to be paid for by an increase in the property tax.

The city and the official cheering committee will presumably start coughing up some details in the next few weeks.

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Still driven

Yutaka Katayama, who put Nissan on the American map fifty years ago as the first head of US operations, turned 100 this week, and, reports the Autoextremist, there are things he’d like to be doing differently these days:

Mr. K knocked the current 370Z in [an Automotive News] interview, saying, “First, it’s very heavy, and it’s also very expensive. I’d like to have a sports car like the Miata. The Miata is taking the place of the 240Z.”

On dealers: “Mr. [Carlos] Ghosn thinks he is making a car to make money. I was making an efficient car that can still earn money but also had the dealers in mind,” Katayama says. “You dealers are the first customers. So first you make the money. Then I can earn the money from you.”

Oh, and one more thing? Mr. K wants the Datsun name put back on the cars sold here in the U.S.

I could go for that, if they brought back something like the 240SX.

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Locked, out of stock and over a barrel

Smitty runs up against the deep, dark secret of American wireless marketing:

I had occasion to return my handset to the manufacturer today. I shipped the wee gadget off to Huntsville, AL for to see the phone doctor.

There is an AT&T shop near the mail joint, so I figured I’d go buy a cheap backup handset from my preferred vendor, slide in the SIM card, and have something to tide me over until my main handset returns.

Too sensible. This sort of reasoning will not be tolerated.

I explained my situation, picked out a decent handset and set about buying the thing. The sales guy said that there would be no refund on an unlocked phone. Store credit, sure, but no money back, since I’m not an AT&T customer. I trust my brand, so fine. He has me sign something explicitly stating that I understand this proviso, which I think a bit much, but I’m still trusting the creep.

So I bought the thing, and then he started to tell me about the unlocking process, to get it to work outside of AT&T. He couldn’t do that in the store, he had to call some service guy. Fine. Called up this guy, collected my contact information. They guy informed me that it’s going to be 72 hours before they can email me the magic code to unlock the phone.

It could be worse, though. Try this with a CDMA network provider. The phones aren’t technically locked, but they’re not truly unlocked either: they require something more than a string of characters to be made to work on somebody else’s network.

All sorts of Bad Deals characterize the American wireless biz. My own phone, as manufactured, has no problems with MP3 files, but the function has been crippled by orders of the network provider: you can’t use them for ringtones unless they themselves sold them to you. The alternative is (gag) WMA.

Says Smitty:

Your policy blows the grand wazoo, and people should find other vendors with less crappy policies.

Vendors, if pressed on the matter, will argue that it’s those crappy policies that keep them in business.

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How’s that new filter coming along?

Starting in 2010, Chrysler will ditch the traditional owner’s manual in favor of an abridged Quick Service (or something) Guide and a DVD.

I’m not quite sure how to take this. I am a vocal, unapologetic advocate of RTFM, but if people read the effing thing in the first place, which generally they don’t, I wouldn’t have to be nagging them about it. At least there’s a small chance they might actually watch the disc.

Then again, if you’re stranded in Permafrost, New Hampshire and the entire electrical system is hors de combat — well, they better have all the fuse locations printed somewhere.

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Objects may be less pretty than they appear

Some French politicians are calling for health warnings on possibly-Photoshopped pictures:

A group of 50 politicians want a new law stating published images must have bold printed notice stating they have been digitally enhanced.

Campaigning MP Valerie Boyer, of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party, said the wording should read: “Retouched photograph aimed at changing a person’s physical appearance”.

Well, yeah, that’s the idea. Continues Boyer:

Mrs Boyer said she wanted a fine of £30,000, or up to 50 per cent of the cost of the publicity campaign, for advertisers that break the law.

But she added: “It is not an attempt to damage creativity of photographers or publicity campaigns, but to advise the public on whether what they are seeing is real or not.”

I have my doubts about this, partly because there have been so many instances of fauxtography exposed in recent years that a lot of people are likely already skeptical of what they see, but mostly because I suspect that this law would institutionalize the practice: “As long as we add the disclaimer, we can do whatever we want with this picture.” The possibility that some girl might forgo a sandwich because of something she saw in Elle is ultimately insignificant by comparison.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Way before Waylon, Willie or Hank

The man’s name was Alexander C. Robertson, which somehow got turned into “Eck.” Born in 1887, he grew up in a fiddlin’ family, and took up the instrument on his own early on. At the 1922 Old Confederate Soldiers’ Reunion, Eck teamed up with fiddler Henry C. Gilliland, and they wowed the crowd, after which they headed for New York and what they hoped would be a recording session with Victor.

Victor had no experience recording country music, but then neither did anyone else at this point, so the ten tracks from those sessions, two duets by the pair and six by Eck alone, wound up being the first commercial country-music recordings ever. (Bill Monroe was ten years old in that summer of ’22.) Victor subsequently issued eight of the ten sides, the first of which was the duet of “Arkansas Traveler” and an Eck solo on “Sallie Gooden.” Eck never became a household name, though he continued to perform through his seventies, appearing at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. He died in 1975.

The relatively new MusicMaster Oldies blog has a profile of Eck Robertson and a stream of “Sallie Gooden” you can hear for yourself.

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Parental crankiness (2)

Last time, you’ll remember, visiting author Ellen Hopkins was given the cold shoulder by Norman Public Schools after one parent raised questions about her current novel Glass. Hopkins’ visit went on as scheduled, off school grounds: about 150 people showed up to hear her speak at a college in Moore.

And there was, unsurprisingly, a manifestation of the Law of Unexpected Consequences:

Students from other districts also attended after word spread on social media sites.

Nowhere in the world is there a rug big enough to accommodate everything everyone would like to sweep under it.

In the meantime, Banned Books Week will soon be upon us, and Ellen Hopkins has written a suitable Manifesto for the occasion.

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And you need a new filter, too

I realize that Britain is one big goldfish bowl these days — everywhere you go, you’re being watched — but this trick seems a little fishier than average:

An advertising campaign in the UK began using automated number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to identify passing vehicles and create personalized advertisements. The motor oil giant Castrol UK Limited [has] activated a set of five electronic billboards in London that flash an image of the exact type of Castrol-brand motor oil appropriate for the nearest vehicle.

“The right oil for your car is: Castrol Magnatec 5W-30 A1,” the advertisement reads for eight seconds as a Jaguar with the license plate 1DFL drives past.

Castrol’s trip to the Dark Side was made possible by two large, impersonal organizations:

The roadside digital billboards, seventeen feet wide and eight feet high, are owned by Clear Channel Outdoor. Castrol’s campaign added the license scanning technology which ties into the official UK Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) database. The agency provides private registration information to just about any company willing to pay the desired fee.

One other use of the DVLA database by Castrol: if you key your number plate at their Web site you’ll get the same sort of oil recommendation.

Says Stephen Green:

I can’t be the only one creeped out by this. It was cute/creepy in Minority Report when the advertisements tailored themselves to passersby, based on retinal scans. But in real life? Not so cute.

I suspect if they set up something like that over here — and you have to figure that they eventually will — the last thing the camera records some night will be a large blunt object, or maybe a small high-velocity object, aimed at its lens.

(Seen at The Truth About Cars.)

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The downside of high-speed rail

“The whole city would look like crap,” says Springfield Mayor Joe Quimby Tim Davlin.

Yeah, but people would get through that crap quickly.

(Via New Geography, which exercised enough restraint not to recommend a monorail instead.)

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DeVille to survive

General Motors was generally tight-lipped about which of its dealerships were going to be forced to close — unlike Chrysler, which published the entire list — so it’s not too amazing that the first we hear of a closing is the announcement that it’s not going to happen after all.

Bob Moore sells all manner of cars in and around this town, and has for years, though I’d bet most people in this town associate the name with Cadillac, which Moore sold through a downtown store for decades before relocating to the Broadway Distention. There was also a dealership in Norman, operated by Moore, which apparently was marked for extinction earlier this year.

And now unmarked: Moore apparently filed an appeal, and the General granted an indefinite stay of execution. I have to wonder how many other dealers have done the same — and whether it’s done any good.

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Without benefit of Genius

The iTunes shuffle just served up one of Eric Carmen’s Rachmaninoff rewrites, “All By Myself,” and then tried to follow it with a Raspberries hit, “Tonight,” on which Carmen sings lead. Fearing what might come next, I aborted the sequence. (Substitution: George Benson’s “Breezin’,” followed by “Leave It Alone” by Moist. I may have been better off with Raspberries.)

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Parental crankiness

Author Ellen Hopkins is happy to visit your school. From her Web site:

A major goal is reaching out to young adults through my novels, letting them know they’re not alone in their problems and discussing ways to make better decisions than my protagonists often do. There is help for kids caught up in drugs, abuse or thoughts of suicide.

“Not in my backyard,” says some unnamed Norman parent:

Author Ellen Hopkins was scheduled to speak to eighth-graders at Whittier Middle School today about her career, writing process and books.

Hopkins is the author of several New York Times best-selling books for young adults. She was notified Thursday her visit was canceled because a parent at the school requested a review of her book Glass.

The free-verse novel is the second in a series about a teen dealing with drug addiction. The novel is loosely based on Hopkins’ experience with her own daughter, who was addicted to methamphetamine.

Hopkins’ reaction:

Because the school superintendent not only pulled the books for review, he CANCELED my author visit. Wouldn’t even allow me to move to the high school. Seriously? What did that parent and he expect me to do? Go in with a live demonstration? Use the f-word? Talk about sex? I mean, you’ve got to be kidding. I’ve done hundreds of school visits. Pretty positive I’ve never corrupted a student. In fact, my talks inspire them. Arm them. Inform them. Yes, I tell my daughter’s story. Her cautionary tale. On the middle school level, I am totally sure I have stopped kids from ever considering drug use. What are these people really afraid of? That their kids will want to read my books?

The Oklahoman’s Sadie Mattox tells parents something that should be obvious, but isn’t:

[B]y all means, guide your child’s reading. However, your reading habits do not extend to the children of other people. Other people’s children are their own readers with their own minds and those minds do not belong to you. Reading is a deeply personal experience. That’s what makes it so wonderful and frightening. Leave it that way.

Hopkins will still be speaking, but not at any Norman school facility. The Trashwrap isn’t saying where, but they did say this:

Norman Public Schools is making an investment in hand sanitizer.

The school board announced Monday night that in about a week, every Norman classroom should have its own bottle of hand sanitizer to battle the H1N1 virus.

The cost is $6.70 per bottle, plus refills, but Roger Brown, assistant superintendent, said it’s worth every penny.

Next on the shopping list, I presume: brain sanitizer.

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There’s a reason we have airports

Certain coastal types like to refer to this particular slice of America as “flyover country,” but to no one’s surprise, they haven’t been paying attention:

The area where I lived was “oil country”, and when the international companies started rebuilding and developing Arabian oil, they came to my neighbors for expertise. Several of the people in our little town had spent up to ten years in Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Iraq.

Having spent more than half my life in the oil patch, I know whereof he speaks. But it’s been the second half, which means I missed out on this:

I had met and spoken to Muslims and Hindus before I ever encountered a Jew, or a Roman Catholic priest. Cubans and Central Americans were around with some regularity. It is a mistake to think “flyover country” isn’t connected to the rest of the world — it’s just that the part it’s connected to generally isn’t the elites and oligarchs that take part in “diplomacy”.

This is not to say that we can’t get a tad insular once in a while; but then again, so can the Hamptons or Pacific Palisades.

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Straitjacket optional

Bondage sandals by GivenchyFor some five years now I’ve been puzzling over the mystery of “bondage pants” — there have been, over the years, pants I found rather binding and/or confining, though I’m sure that’s not what they meant — but at least now I’ve seen the shoe that goes with them. Maybe.

Givenchy vends this particular sandal for $1150. It zips up the back, which more or less explains “How the fark do you get these on in the first place?” (Of course, if you routinely have $1150 to spend on sandals, you’ve already long since scienced out this particular question, or you figure you’ll manage, one way or another.) The heel runs 100 cm mm, a shade under four inches. Shoebunny snagged a photo of these being worn by singer Rihanna, and maybe they look better if they’re actually in use. I’d be too busy wondering if that top strap held some sort of electronic tracking device. Still, it could be worse: imagine something like this (1) as an oxford (2) in bismuth-subsalicylate pink. Givenchy already has.

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Links wanted, apply within

Once in a while, I’ll get an email from someone hoping to pick up a link to his current work, or from a promotional type who’s willing to send out a book in exchange for a review. I read almost all of this stuff, mostly out of curiosity: I continue to be mystified at the idea that I have any clout in blogdom. Sometimes I use the proffered link to come up with an article, since I live in constant fear of Having Nothing To Say; sometimes I don’t. It does not occur to me, however, to rail against the sender for having the unmitigated gall to darken my inbox with that crap: I figure, this is just one more way of trying to build an audience, however ineffective I might believe it to be, and at least they’re not cluttering up the joint with comment spam.

I have wondered from time to time if this was too lenient a policy, but it appears I’m not the only one who adheres to it:

The term “spam” was originally — and quite clearly — meant to apply to annoying, repetitive, and unsolicited Internet-based advertising — solicitations that want to persuade you to part with your money. “Here’s a Hot Stock Tip” is usually spam, as are “Buy Foreclosed Houses,” “Get 10,000 Twitter Followers,” and even “Eat at Joe’s Diner,” although I have nothing in particular against Joe.

I used to get a lot of Hot Stock Tips in email, though I don’t anymore for some inscrutable reason. (They still come in via fax, dammit.)

But someone posting a link to their article, blog, free newsletter, or website, without desiring that you pay them any money to do so, is in no way “spamming.” They are offering information and attempting to build an audience, the same way the Wall Street Journal or CNN or Oprah.com is, when they post and disseminate their latest articles.

I point out here that I’ve never gotten any traffic from Oprah. (I have gotten some traffic from CNN and the WSJ, though not a lot.)

The person or bot identifying him/itself as “Bill Bartmann,” though, who keeps leaving comment spam on the premises — he gets ruthlessly excised. The real Bill Bartmann has his own resources, should he need to get a message across, and none of them involve mysterious PCs somewhere in deepest Wheredafuqistan.

Disclosure: The author of the article quoted herein actually DMed me on Twitter with the link, along with a couple of other potential items of interest. I decided to use this one.

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Tweeting ourselves into numbness

I concede that I’ve worried a bit along these lines myself:

The more I see of Twitter and our push toward putting all of our lives on the internet, I wonder if fun moments at bars with friends really matter if they’re not captured on a digital camera and then immediately posted as a Twitpic. Can we really taste how great that pork sandwich is from Ko if we’re so worried about typing in to the hundreds of strangers following us, just how much the line was worth the wait?

What I’m looking for, I think, might be the parameters of this range: at one end, events too mundane or unimportant or uninteresting to tweet, and at the other, events sufficiently transcendent that trying to fit them into 140 characters is sheerest folly. Unfortunately, I have a surplus of the former, and a marked dearth of the latter — unless, of course, I’m completely misreading things, which is always a possibility.

Still, weighing everything on this scale exacts a price of its own:

I can’t help but think that we’re no longer capable of feeling in real-time. Rather, we are so caught up in our own self-importance that we don’t even know how to function without hiding behind our screens. Case in point: what can you really say when you meet someone at a bar who doesn’t take the opportunity to talk to you beyond a casual hello, but then later, (some way, somehow without a name or number), tracks you down on Match.com based on your picture alone and sends the message — “Was that you at the bar on Sunday night? Want to go out sometime?”

The likelihood of something like that happening to me is vanishingly small — if you arranged all the unlikely things I could theoretically find in my inbox someday, “Want to go out sometime?” ranks slightly below “We’re prepared to offer you a book deal” — but I have noticed in myself a tendency to stay behind the screen. One of the reasons I took all those road trips was to force myself out of that hiding place for brief periods.

But given my compulsion to document things as my days presumably wind down, I don’t want to find myself wondering “Did that really happen? I didn’t write anything about it.”

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Indoor varmints

Found in a comment at Little Miss Attila’s place:

I love talking to pest guys and have learned a lot from them. The guys I’ve talked to say that buildings are just built wrong with regard to pest management. Builders leave big gaping holes in walls that turn into mouse highways. My husband has gone all over our current rental house with that expanding foam stuff, filling up gaps around pipes under sinks, etc. However, for mouse management, I think they recommend some sort of metal product for filling gaps.

The only pest guy I talk to is the termite inspector, who’s due next month. (It’s not always a guy, either, but no matter.) I’m wondering, though, if this “built wrong” business is a chronological phenomenon: my own house, comfortably settling into some sort of middle age (61 years old), has rather few pests, and the ones that have actually shown up have all been of the six-legged variety. (Since they perform valuable cleanup chores, I don’t think of spiders as pests, unless of course they’re the size of a Buick.) And this year’s incursions have been vanishingly few. I don’t know whether this is due to environmental considerations, my own haphazard attempts at housekeeping, or sheer dumb luck.

Disclosure: I own one of those highly dubious devices that plugs into the wall and supposedly repels wee beasties. There doesn’t seem to be any hard evidence that they actually work, and I have no idea how I talked myself into buying the damn thing — “distracted by QVC hostess with nice legs” is my best guess — but at this point in time, I am disinclined to unplug it for testing purposes.

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Roger Ebert on credit-default obligations

Actually, I have no idea what Roger Ebert, the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, thinks about these arcane money manipulations, but he’s a good place to hang a metaphor:

Suppose Congress codified it into law that movie theaters could charge twice as much for any movie that Roger Ebert gave “three stars” or higher. In other words, Roger Ebert — the movie critic — is specifically mentioned in the bill, and given a sort of official, government-approved fiscal power to help determine movie-ticket prices by the sheer force of his proclamations.

First off: wouldn’t that be freaking ridiculous? Yet that’s what we have done with The Rating Agencies. Their proclamation that a security is “AAA”, for example, affects the legal capital requirements needed to be held against it. This fact alone is pretty much the only reason that “CDOs” even exist.

How would this work in real life? Here’s the release schedule from Metro-Goldman-Sachs:

Okay, so if the movie gets 2.5 stars or lower, you can charge $10; 3 stars or above, you can charge $20. Now along comes some enterprising theater owner who takes Transporter 2 (2.5 stars), splices a half hour of Schindler’s List (4 stars) onto the end of it, and calls the resulting 2-hour film a 3-star “movie” (on average). Now he can charge $20 per 2-hour bloc instead of only $10 for every 1.5-hour bloc, which is a nice improvement from his point of view.

This begins to happen more and more. Movies are spliced and diced just to get above the Ebert Threshold. Four-star movies are cut off by 25% and called three-star movies for the same price (to watch the last 25% you have to buy another ticket). Finally, movie studios start getting in bed with Ebert and sending him kickbacks, leading to Star inflation. People complain about all this. “This is absurd!” they say. And it is.

I don’t think Ebert is at all bribable in this way, but then his reputation is so colossal, comparatively speaking, that he isn’t likely to risk it for some short-term gain. Your Rating Services? Not so much.

Now, the interesting question is why it’s absurd. I’m not sure there’s a right answer and there seem to be two general schools of thought:

1. It’s absurd because Roger Ebert shouldn’t be allowed to just give four stars to any movie. Or to get kickbacks from movie studios. Generally, there needs to be better and stricter oversight of Roger Ebert. He should be called before a Congressional subcommittee. Meanwhile, there should be tighter controls, and more complicated mathematical formulas, regarding how a “three-star-on-average movie” can be created. Not just any movie can be sliced and diced like that. Some independent body should do some stress-testing of their own, perhaps, hiring the best PhD statisticians to build models of Movie Quality. Maybe the theater owner should be required to fill out more forms, pay some fees, take some licensing exams, etc. An independent regulatory body, with Presidential appointees ratified by Cognress, could be set up to oversee all this.

2. It was just absurd to give Roger Ebert’s movie reviews the force of law in the first place.

My sentiments are definitely with #2: the whole process by which these particular derivatives were, um, derived deserves Thumbs Down.

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