He was dreaming when he said this

And normally, I’d be inclined to forgive him for going astray with it, but The Artist Currently Known As Prince seems to have a problem with cover versions:

“There’s this thing called compulsory licensing law that allows artists through the record companies to take your music at will without your permission. And that doesn’t exist in any other art form, be it books, movies — There’s only one version of Law & Order. There’s several versions of ‘Kiss’ and ‘Purple Rain’.”

On what planet is there only one version of Law & Order? Dick Wolf has come up with every variation short of L&O: PDQ.

Fact is, though, you or I or even Dick Wolf could do a version of, say, “1999,” and as long as Prince gets paid, it’s legal. I’m guessing Prince’s objections probably don’t extend to the “getting paid” part of it.

Tommy James, meanwhile, was not available for comment.

(Via Fark.)

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Put those brooms away

Okay, it’s not going to be a sweep. Think of it as an opportunity to put away the Nuggets in front of the home crowd. Then again, my own prediction for this series: “Thunder in 6, but the two they’re gonna lose will be seriously ugly.” This one definitely lacked prettiness, especially starting late in the third quarter with OKC up two, followed by an 11-0 Denver run. The Thunder would whittle that nine-point lead down to two — three times — but the Nuggets picked up the win, 104-101, forcing a Game 5 on Wednesday.

And three times in those waning moments Russell Westbrook put up a Hail Mary from beyond the arc. Mary, however, was at the Grizzlies/Spurs game, and heard him not, most especially on that buzzer-beater for the tie. Westbrook still finished with 30, but he went 0-7 on treys. (Which means that the rest of the team was a highly-respectable 7-12.) The Thunder shot a bit better — 44.3 to 38.6 percent — and Kevin Durant, who had more luck from distance, brought down 31 points, but this game was close enough that almost every single miscue, and there were plenty of them, could earn part of the blame.

Meanwhile, Ty Lawson was rolling up 27 points, Danilo Gallinari was coming out of his shell, and J. R. Smith was summoned for spot shooting. (Smith led all bench players with 15.) The Nuggets put up 44 from the foul line; 13 went astray, which is actually a little better than they’d been doing. (Thunder went 24-31, which wasn’t.) But the numbers matter less than the execution, and tonight, Denver did it just a little bit better.

Thunder in six? If they fall apart Wednesday night. Let’s hope not.

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Rehashes R Us

Last spring, I cast an aspersion or two at the idea of socks with sandals, especially high-fashion (and presumably high-dollar) sandals, a notion the readership generally was not inclined to embrace, especially with serious sox.

Kara Scodelario from here downNow this isn’t a sandal. It’s a pump with peep toe — from Christian Louboutin, yet, though it’s hard to detect the red — and those are some presumably non-serious socks, based on the perhaps-arguable notion that the shoes run £385, not an inconsiderable sum, and the socks come from the Marks and Sparks bargain bin, three pair for £2. For some reason (the color scheme, perhaps?), I find this particular combination somehow risible. Then again, I’m inclined to find the entire outfit, such as it is, somehow risible.

(The full photo is here. The young lady on the stool is Kara Scodelario. I thought of tossing this into the Rule 5 bin, but she looked far too bored. The shot comes from the UK version of InStyle, last July.)

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Without getting bunched up

I am one of those all-torso types, six feet tall and a fraction but only 28 inches worth of inseam, which makes automotive selection a trifle problematic, since I don’t require as much legroom as your average six-footer, but I need NBA-worthy headroom. In fact, in 2000 I rejected a car I was test-driving because I banged my head on the sunshade; I bought an otherwise-identical model that lacked a sunroof altogether. Curiously, my current ride has the dreaded hole up top, but it’s recessed, thereby buying me some critically-needed space.

Hardly anyone sweats headroom, though: everyone seems to want to know about legroom, especially those who are destined for the back seat. My own personal criterion — can a female passenger of more or less normal proportions cross her legs in any of the three outboard positions? — is obviously useless, since I have female passengers about as often as I go to the dentist, but at least there are numbers to rely on. The Truth About Cars has calculated an index for the six best-selling D-segment (“mid-sized”) cars, the sum of advertised legroom in front and advertised legroom in back, and they’re all pretty close. In fact, the difference between first place (Hyundai Sonata) and last (Ford Fusion) is only seven tenths of an inch: 80.1 versus 79.4.

My own car has been described as cavernous by some, so I went and checked its papers. Up front, 43.9, with 36.2 in back, which comes to 80.1. (Yes, the seat can be moved, but the sum should remain constant.) Apparently there’s a very definite benchmark for cars in this segment, and woe betide the automaker who stints on space.

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Not to be confused with Publix

I am frankly surprised that no one has proposed this before:

Residents of each county would pay taxes on their properties. A huge chunk of these tax receipts would then be spent by government officials on building and operating supermarkets. County residents, depending upon their specific residential addresses, would be assigned to a particular supermarket. Each family could then get its weekly allotment of groceries for “free.” (Department of Supermarket officials would no doubt be charged with the responsibility for determining the proper amounts and kinds of groceries that families of different kinds and sizes are entitled to receive.) Except in rare circumstances, no family would be allowed to patronize a “public” supermarket outside of its district.

They could have this up and running in, oh, five years or so.

(Via this Carly Rose Jackson tweet.)

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Black and deep desires

Sheila O’Malley gets to the heart of the Scottish play, and it’s a very dark heart indeed:

Macbeth is nihilistic in a way that Shakespeare’s other tragedies are not, with their piercing moments at the end of mercy, revelation, and awareness of all that is lost (Lear’s “never, never, never, never”, and Hamlet’s “the rest is silence” being primary examples of the characters’ sudden tragic understanding of how they and they alone are responsible.) But with Macbeth, he chops his way to the top, he is haunted along the way by the leering Ghost of Banquo, he loses his marbles, and finally loses his own head, and nobody feels bad about it, because he’s already murdered anyone who would give a shite, and they have a new King now, “long live the King of Scotland”.

Titus Andronicus, you say? I don’t think so. Admittedly, I’ve only seen it staged once, and that for television; but Titus struck me as a series of set pieces more than as a coherent story. Harold Bloom once said that the ideal director for Titus would be Mel Brooks. (It’s good to be the tragedian.)

This is not to say, though, that Macbeth is exactly straightforward in its presentation:

It is effed up, and I love it dearly. It is also, if you think about it, quite realistic. Brutally so. Often, with such murdering psychopath leaders, there is no moral. It’s like coming into contact in the wild with a grizzly bear or a cobra or some other terribly dangerous predator. The grizzly bear isn’t operating out of malevolence, he is acting according to his own nature (phone call for Timothy Treadwell). The only appropriate response if you are being attacked by a wild animal is to find a way to kill it dead. The same is true, sorry to say, with leaders like Pol Pot, or Idi Amin, or Stalin. You can try to turn yourself inside out rationalizing their behavior, and saying “they had some good ideas at first, but it all went wrong” — as nitwits continuously do. But sometimes, sorry to say, people are just dangerous douchebags and they need to be put down. Power cannot be trusted in the hands of just anyone, and history is full of the monsters to prove it. Macbeth is about that. Macbeth knows what power does. Macbeth knows what the possibility of power unleashes in those who want it. And so, once the walls are soaked in blood, everyone can sit around and say, “Phew, we got rid of that sonofabitch”, but at what cost? What does it mean? What do we learn from Macbeth? Think before you answer that too readily. There is a mystery at the heart of that play, or, maybe it’s best to say the play has a heart of darkness that actors/directors have been fascinated by/repelled by/drawn to for centuries. Trying to figure it out is one of the main reason to even put on a play at all.

Idi Amin, you’ll remember, actually proclaimed himself to be the King of Scotland.

The single scariest aspect of Macbeth, at least to me as a callow high-school youth back in the Jurassic period, was that I couldn’t tell who was more villainous: the man with his name in the title, or the woman who let it slip that “Had he not resembled / My father as he slept, I had done’t.” And in those days, proper allocation of blame was still considered essential. It didn’t exactly put me off the fairer sex, whom I didn’t understand anyway; but I spent too much time wondering what I could be pushed into doing under an influence similarly dire.

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Strange search-engine queries (273)

Gas may be up to four dollars a gallon now, but weird search strings are still a dime a dozen.

anne v cubs:  Bet on Anne.

woodstock 3 days of peeps and music:  That’s funny, I just finished 3 days of Peeps.

homemade viagra:  Never tried it, but somehow I suspect it involves spray starch.

reinvention puritanism:  Never tried it, but somehow I suspect it involves spray starch.

does 404 area code have cachet:  Hint: Searcher’s IP traces to Tucker, Georgia, out in 770.

what does a boxed d mean in a automatic transmission?  It means you’re too lazy to find a copy of the owner’s manual.

instantaneous bonding:  (1) Mother with newborn. (2) Finger with Super Glue.

how to get on a fracking crew:  First you have to fill out the fracking application.

bombard round rock:  Isn’t traffic on Interstate 35 bad enough already?

where do you see the web five years from now:  On a much smaller screen than this, unless Apple brings out a three-foot-wide iPad, which they won’t.

That’ll be 8.3 cents, please. Or send a few coins to Brian J.

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Unexceptional

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Meanwhile on Baltic Avenue

In critiquing the Fed’s “quantitative easing” programs, Robert Stacy McCain asks the putatively-rhetorical question: “What Interest Rate Would You Charge Yourself for a Loan of Monopoly Money?”

If one stipulates that the actual rules of Monopoly® are to be followed, then the answer is clear: 10 percent. From said rules:

In order to lift the mortgage, the owner must pay the Bank the amount of the mortgage plus 10% interest. When all the properties of a color-group are no longer mortgaged the owner may begin to buy back houses at full price.

The player who mortgages property retains possession of it and no other player may secure it by lifting the mortgage from the Bank. However, the owner may sell this mortgaged property to another player at any agreed price. The new owner may lift the mortgage at once, if he wishes, by paying off the mortgage plus 10% interest to the Bank. If he does not lift the mortgage at once he must pay the Bank 10% interest when he buys the property and if he lifts the mortgage later he must pay an additional 10% interest as well as the amount of the mortgage to the Bank.

It is worthy of note here that Monopoly®, having had no input from ostensibly well-meaning Congressmen and other miscreants, allows a mortgage for precisely one-half the value of the property, and not one dollar more: you may own, say, Park Place, worth $350, but when you turn that deed over, you discover that you can borrow only $175 against it, for which you must subsequently pay back $193.

Some have questioned whether we should have a central bank at all. The example of Monopoly® tells us that we can have a central bank, so long as it doesn’t make up the rules as it goes along — and so long as it doesn’t throw money away under the guise of Free Parking.

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Fabulous Philadelphians floundering

The Philadelphia Orchestra plays Richard StraussThe Philadelphia Orchestra’s descent into Chapter 11 was not entirely unexpected — cultural institutions with large budgets in all parts of the country have been finding themselves short on funds for several years now — but there’s still something disheartening about it. Opening statements before the bankruptcy court, however, don’t sound particularly hostile:

Lawyers for management and musicians had agreed a few minutes before the start of Wednesday’s hearing that the afternoon’s proceedings would not include a motion by management to impose a new contract on musicians. Negotiations for a new deal with the players continue, as do all concerts.

Much of the hearing was devoted to procedural matters, but both sides quickly outlined one of the central issues in the case: Whether the orchestra, which is seeking to wipe the slate clean on tens of millions of dollars that it may be obligated to pay for the musicians’ pension plans, could be compelled to use some of its $140 million in endowment to satisfy that obligation.

Precisely what the orchestra wants was announced by chairman Richard Worley:

“The debtors seek in the Chapter 11 process to achieve the following outcomes: (1) relief from pension obligations, (2) relief from current contractual obligations to Peter Nero and others, (3) renegotiated contractual agreements with [Kimmel Center Inc.], (4) a new collective bargaining agreement with Local 77 [the musicians], and (5) a court-approved plan with all these elements that will attract donor support.”

Nero conducts the Philly Pops, which is nominally separate from the Philadelphia Orchestra but which is included in the Chapter 11 petition under its corporate name of Encore Series Inc. As of now, no 2011-12 season has been announced for the Pops.

(Cover art by Jim Flora, via LPCover Lover.)

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Addicted to spuds

I’m looking at the back of the bag, and it has a nice little “GLUTEN FREE” badge containing a stylized wheat straw.

It’s a bag of potato chips.

Now potatoes, to the best of my knowledge, don’t contain gluten, and never have; this is like bragging on paint without carbohydrates. I suspect that people with celiac disease probably know this.

Still, I went to the producer’s Web site, and discovered that this particular variety claims only a gluten level below 20 ppm, which I assume is safe for those sensitive to gluten. (Corrections — I know I have readers with such sensitivities — will be welcomed.) There’s a separate list of “Products Not Containing Gluten Ingredients,” though it contains a caution to the effect that they haven’t actually been tested.

(Title, of course, from Weird Al. Incidentally, if you use the Wikipedia gadget in Firefox 3.x, simply typing a double quote into the search box suggests “Weird Al” Yankovic.)

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Artisan, schmartisan

Patti finds many “artisan” labels in a nearby Starbucks. In fact, maybe too many:

Aren’t we making that word redundant through overuse? Are we trying to pretend that the little sandwiches are not made in some food preparation facility and brought here by a truck? And it’s just egg and cheese and bacon and a roll. This is not difficult enough to require a master-level of craft.

On the upside, at least it wasn’t Spam, egg, sausage and Spam.

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Wielding a mile-high club

Through the first nine and a half minutes of the fourth quarter, the Denver Nuggets had scored a total of seven points on 2-15 shooting, prompting radio guy Matt Pinto to ask if maybe George Karl was missing Carmelo Anthony right about now. The Nuggets picked up the pace after that, and pulled to within one with 14.6 seconds left on J. R. Smith’s second trey in a row. Serge Ibaka dunked four seconds later; once again, Smith got the call, and this time James Harden got the swat. Oklahoma City 97, Denver 94, and if Karl’s wondering anything, it’s how come he’s lost five times to this team in three weeks.

A few hints from the box score: Denver shot 37.2 percent, were outrebounded 49-43, missed 15 points at the foul line, and nobody scored more than 15 anywhere. The return of Arron Afflalo should have helped, and indeed he sank his first three shots, but he wound up 4-12 for the night. Even getting the Thunder into foul trouble early on didn’t make much difference.

Not that OKC made it all look easy. The Thunder shot even worse — 36.2 percent — and missed three of four foul shots in the last minute. But Ibaka had a night like you wouldn’t believe: 22 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks, nearly overshadowing Kevin Durant (26 points and three blocks) and Russell Westbrook (23 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists). Still, you ask any of those guys, and they’ll tell you Harden was the one who came up big.

So it’s 3-0. If you thought things were crazy tonight, just wait until Monday, when the Nuggets have to go for broke.

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Bernanke-panke

Evidently Washington missed a few days of Econ 101, so Tam sums up the material that didn’t sink in:

See, when you churn out freshly-printed dollars at a brisker clip than P&G churns out Charmin, then those dollars become worth less, eventually reaching the point where the space between those two words is no longer needed.

Me, I suspect that some of our Beltway bandits are looking forward to becoming trillionaires: why should Zimbabwe have all the cool titles?

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Worthy recluse

The trailer explains it all, which of course means it doesn’t explain a thing:

“Jandek” is his name, except that it’s not technically his name. Corwood Industries is indeed his record label, we think. At the time Jandek on Corwood was released, Corwood had put out 32 albums; there are now more than sixty, including several recent live sets. If it makes no sense to you that a man who assiduously avoided the limelight for decades would suddenly go on stage — it probably made no sense to anyone who participated in the documentary, which was filmed before any such appearances — well, some enigmas are designed to be endless. Reviewer Jason Ankeny quipped about that first live show: “Satan donned his winter coat.”

Finding a genre for Jandek is finding the grandmother of a stray cat: you may have seen that fur before, but you shouldn’t assume too much from it. “You may not get all the answers you want,” said the representative from Corwood. “It’s better that way.” So I’ve never been sure if the man and his ragged-yet-wispy voice and his unorthodox guitar tunings and his melancholy-to-suicidal lyrics are windows into a tortured soul, or they’re something he puts on like an expensive pair of cuff links. I am sure, however, that he wants it that way, just as he wanted that first album (Ready for the House, 1978) to bear the curious catalog number 0739 — hey, at least it’s not a frigging Universal Product Code — and just as he wanted to appear as open to the public as possible without giving away any secrets. That latter quality, in fact, reminds me of me.

The documentary Jandek on Corwood never shows Jandek at all, although it’s clearly his voice in that 1985 telephone interview with writer John Trubee. (Previous John Trubee reference here.) He didn’t at all sound like a guy who would say “I passed by the building that you live in / And I wanted to die.” On the other hand, I am considered downright upbeat for a person who once planned to cut his own brake lines. So I make no assumptions except the obvious one: few of us lead lives entirely free of demons, wherever their origin. Most of the time I shy away from this level of scary intensity, feeling I have enough problems already. But even the most frightening landscape has its compelling aspects — if it didn’t, you wouldn’t pay enough attention to be frightened, right? — and there are times when I’m willing to pass by the building that Jandek lives in, wherever the hell, or wherever in hell, that is.

(Disclosure: Review copy purchased at retail.)

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Checking in with Charity Backsplash

When I was a young modemer at the dawn of online time, I worked up a female persona, about whom perhaps the less said the better. It’s not like I invented the idea, though:

Did you know that, as a 16-year-old, Ben Franklin wrote letters to The New-England Courant posing as a middle-aged widow named Silence Dogood?

One thing I (or she, anyway) had in common with Mrs Dogood: unexpected attention from persons of the male persuasion.

We don’t give our youngsters the names of virtues quite as often as we used to, though you’ll still encounter the occasional Faith or Hope. What you will probably not see, though, is a name like Praise-God Barebone (1598?-1679), arguably the most famous member of the first post-Rump Parliament, which somehow never managed to retain the name of “Nominated Assembly.” To give you an idea of how hard-core Praise-God was, he named his son something along the lines of Hath Christ Not Died for Thee Thou Wouldst Be Damned Barebone. Nothing required the poor lad to retain that name, and he went through his adult life as Nicholas Barbon. Still, he’s remembered more for his cumbersome handle than for his one major accomplishment: he was a founder of the first fire-insurance company, circa 1680.

And then there was Patience Latting, who served twelve years (1971-1983) as mayor of Oklahoma City, and Patience and Prudence McIntyre, singing sisters who scored several hits in the middle 1950s, including the nonpareil “Gonna Get Along Without You Now.” (Because I can: here’s Zooey Deschanel singing it.)

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