The jacket illustration looked fine

The Chicago Public Library is holding a three-week amnesty for those scofflaws with overdue books, even waiving the maximum $10 fine, and so far, they’ve retrieved at least one classic:

A Chicago-area woman wanted to return an overdue copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray to the Chicago Public Library, but first she wanted to be sure she wouldn’t go to jail.

That’s because the book, a rare limited edition of the Oscar Wilde novel, was checked out in 1934. Harlean Hoffman Vision found it in her late mother’s possessions, with a Chicago Public Library stamp.

A previous CPL amnesty, in 1992, saw the return of 77,000 items.

(Via Fark.)

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The size of their packages

Suzette’s checklist for New Motor Vehicles:

Here’s my list of must haves:

  • in-dash navigation
  • auto-dimming mirror

Here’s my list of absolute no-nos:

  • leather seats

As for anything else, meh:

Sure 12-speaker surround sound would be nice but I won’t wither without it. Panoramic sun roof? I have a sun roof in my current car and you know what happens when I open it? THE SUN SHINES RIGHT ON ME. Ew. So I never open it. Heated steering wheel? Heated seats? Never gonna use them. When will they offer cooling seats? That I might invest in.

When will they offer cooled seats? Is 1996 good for you?

On the other hand, this isn’t good for anybody actually wanting to buy a car:

[F]or this car if you want the package that has the navigation in it, you are required to get the package that has the leather seats. Is that bullshit or what? And there’s no getting around it.

It’s times like these that I am grateful to Messrs. Rand and McNally.

If anyone cares, my current ride has the auto-dim mirror and, yes, leather seats; they designed the dash before they developed the nav, so the little pop-up box on the dash where the nav is supposed to live is officially designated a storage compartment. It is theoretically possible to buy the OEM part and have it retrofitted, but for that kind of money I could buy a TomTom, a TomTom, and several other Toms.

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A little less rigor in that mortis

This particular New York Times piece starts with a possibly misleading statistic:

Since 1900, the life expectancy of Americans has jumped to just shy of 80 from 47 years.

I suspect that much of that gain has been at the younger end of the spectrum: while infant mortality has more or less leveled off lately, it was much higher a hundred years ago.

Still, we (which, for the moment, includes me) are living longer these days, and Rand Simberg raises a valid point:

Of course, it’s one thing to say you only want to live to be eighty when it’s a theoretical issue, decades from now. A lot of those people change their minds when the time actually approaches.

Not so many decades, for some of us. And since my father died at 79, I’d kind of like to improve on that number. My mother never made it to fifty.

I don’t think I’ll have a whole lot to say about it, though, since old parts wear out, and new parts cost — I almost said “an arm and a leg,” but that wouldn’t do, would it?

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A niche, scratched

Even more thoughts on this business of writing, while I contemplate whether I have any business being in it.

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Rumer has it

On the basis of this snapshot, Rumer Willis, daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, has at least two bags of it, plus a case of coconut water.

Rumer Willis outside Whole Foods

And no, that’s not her Toyota minivan.

Willis, now 24, shows up occasionally on TV, most recently as a novice drug dealer in the Comedy Central sitcom Workaholics.

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Tracking spam

As though tracking cookies weren’t annoying enough. This showed up in today’s barrage of email:

Your blog post on offers the same submit as another article author but i much like your far better.

Roger, of course, had nothing whatever to do with this, except to the extent that he had a blog and allowed me to leave a comment thereupon. Still, the idea that the bastiges have figured out another vector for their crap is disheartening.

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Open the door, Richard

Based on a post from yesterday, Fillyjonk has come up with the term priapiumcephaly, which combines scientific lingo for “genitalia” and “head.” It’s almost a certainty that you know at least one individual who can be described in those terms. And while using seven syllables to express an idea that requires only two goes somewhat against my grain, I have to admit that the derivation of this term was sufficiently elegant to leave me with the classic coprophagic grin.

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Keys to success

The story was nifty enough — Paul McCartney spent rather a lot of money to have one of Motown’s studio pianos, an 1877 Steinway, refurbished — and he and Berry Gordy will be playing it at a New York charity event before it’s returned to Motown’s Detroit museum.

First thought: “Money (That’s What I Want),” the first real Motown hit, with a remarkable piano part. Could it have been this very piano, played by Gordy himself? Second thought: Didn’t John sing all the Beatles’ Motown covers?

Well, yes to John, no to the piano (or to Gordy, who didn’t actually play piano on Barrett Strong’s session). In fact, this instrument was a late addition to Gordy’s empire:

[The] piano made its way to Motown when the studio acquired Golden World Records in 1967, a facility that was redubbed Motown Studio B.

Aha! Now this is a story I’ve told before:

[I]rked that the Funk Brothers house band was moonlighting for Eddie Wingate’s small family of Detroit labels, and unable to persuade them to stop doing so, Gordy wrote a large check to Wingate, ostensibly to acquire Edwin Starr’s contract, and bade him go away.

So if you want to hear Exactly That Piano, you need only dial up Starr’s classic “Agent Double-O-Soul,” recorded for Wingate’s Ric-Tic label.

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In the usual Friday spot

I catch occasional flak for being an avowed Rebecca Black fan. (Not as much as I catch for being a My Little Pony fan, but that’s another matter.) I usually argue something to the effect that for something resembling an authentic teenage experience, you might as well go to an actual teenager, and the four RB singles to date, even if she didn’t score much in the way of writing credits, come off as fun, non-angsty adolescent fun, something I could use more of in these days of morose pop.

But is she influential? “Not so much,” I’d have said, and then I saw this, um, remarkable whatever-it-is by Taylor freaking Swift. (I’d have done the embed, but it seems to load about fifteen different modules from all over the map, and it’s slower than a tax refund in May, so you’ll have to click for yourself if you want to see it.)

Sheesh. Rebecca Black could have sung this, were she not so insistent on making records that reflect the reality of her actual existence. And geez, it’s catchy. But it’s about as country as Katy Perry. (And is that a Kathy Beth Terry lookalike I see at the bar?)

Addendum: Speaking of Kathy Beth, Max Martin co-wrote both “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” and that Swift thing.

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Obvious title resisted

And believe me, it was hard:

How’s this for a head turner? A tiny new species of fish from Vietnam sports its genitalia on its noggin.

Phallostethus cuulong is only the 22nd known species of its family, Phallostethidae, all of which bear their copulatory organs just behind their mouths.

It’s not the easiest thing in the world to spot these critters, since they’re only a couple of centimeters long and they tend to inhabit places low on your Ideal Vacation list:

The new species was identified via measurements of nine specimens found during a field survey in shallow river waters in Vietnam’s Mekong Basin — just the sort of brackish coastal habitat priapiumfish typically call home.

Such habitats have undergone heavy development in Vietnam in recent decades, but the fish have proved highly resilient and seem to have adapted to modern life. Scientists have even collected priapiumfish “in a ditch on the side of the road.”

Hey, you gotta go to where the organisms are, not where you’d like them to be.

(Via Dave Schuler, who knew organisms like this in college.)

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Sad songs say so

This story has been kicking around all week, and I’ve basically been ignoring it while playing the most upbeat stuff I can find. (Well, except for Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You,” which is upbeat only if you have Baal on speed-dial, but I do have to watch my glucose levels.)

The gist of the matter:

A recent study published in the journal Psychology Of Aesthetics, Creativity, And The Arts looked at over 1,000 Top 40 songs from five decades, and found that, increasingly over the years, more songs have used minor chords and slower tempos, which researchers say proves that popular music has taken a turn for the negative. (Happy-sounding songs tend to have a fast tempo in major mode, after all.)

Of course, it’s all about the hipsterism:

The researchers speculate all this is due to the rise of consumerism and individualism in the culture, which they claim “produces a demand for more choice” among producers and consumers who want to demonstrate “sophistication in their taste.” As it is, purely happy songs like Abba’s “Waterloo” can sound “naïve and slightly juvenile” to today’s all-grown-up pop radio listeners. Acts that use emotional ambiguity, meanwhile, are seen as attempting to convey depth or seriousness, rather than just pure froth.

“Waterloo,” of course, is a song about resignation — might as well face it, I’m addicted to you — but it’s just so damned jaunty.

Continuing the There’s Always Room for Cello theme from this post, here’s a transcription of my favorite song from “A Canterlot Wedding,” just because it sounds more sombre than it really is:

And besides, ponies.

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Quote of the week

KingShamus watches MSNBC, and the next line is normally “so you don’t have to,” but the ratings suggest you already know that. It’s dull, junior-varsity stuff, he says:

For all intents and purposes, Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes are catty community college wymyns studies profs desperately trying to out-Marx each other. Over at the other end of the faculty lounge, the Basketweaving department co-chairs Chris Matthews and Tom Brokaw are debating whether Premier Obama should next nationalize America’s Fig Newton Manufacturing Base or the Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning-Industrial Complex. Apple-polisher extraordinaire and student body punching bag Ezra Klein is tugging at Toure’s leg, pleading with him to be his black friend. In the meantime, adjunct lecturer Ed Schultz knocks back his fifth Jack-n-Coke before noon while angrily jabbing his finger at the Young Republican who dared to question him during his Economics class.

MSNBC is every college student’s most boring moments — crappy teachers, horrible subjects, lame classmates — distilled and refined into a potent televised package of tedium. If that sounds like a rip-roaring party to you, then knock yourself out. To most people, it resembles nothing less than the second circle of Hell.

Maddow is easily the smartest of the bunch, but how hard is it to be smarter than Chris “Mr. Tingly” Matthews? And anyway, Fig Newtons are already under the control of the National Biscuit Company Nabisco Kraft Mondelēz.

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Gimme a D

This is perfectly clean, in case you b minor:

Lame hashtag joke

(Snatched from the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Facebook page.)

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Love, love me don’t

While Ann Romney might possibly have earned some Brownie points for her husband with that semi-stirring speech of hers at the 2012 Republican convention, its sheer popularity is more than a little disquieting:

Love? Most of us want love, to be sure. Some theorists claim that we need to love and be loved — that unless we succeed in loving and winning the love of another, we’ll shrivel neurologically and die miserably. But love isn’t a commodity for the acquisition of which we should turn to politics.

Ann Romney’s disquisition on love, on the love of mothers, and so forth might very well have been necessary to persuade undecided mush-heads that come November 6, her husband should be their choice. But to my mind, that speaks rather poorly of America. It suggests that we’ve forgotten completely about the imperative of respect and the terrible danger that emanates from any and every form of government. Political “love” is no support to American virtues. It’s far more likely to be used as a justification for aggressive intrusions on our rights, in the name of “what’s good for you.”

Winston Smith eventually learned to love Big Brother, after all. (We will not at this time get into the degree of neurological shriveling required to name an otherwise faceless state one’s Best Friend Forever.)

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More than I can say

This is actually two, two, TWO gripes in one, but I didn’t want to break up the paragraph, so here’s at least some of Scott’s explanation for not doling out the free ice cream this week:

I also took a week off partly because generating content over rural cellular service, the 21st century equivalent of 300 baud dial-up, is bloody well painful in this here age of endless javascript loading up six social networking site feeds so you can see what the rest of the world is dribbling out and drooling over. Speaking of which, does it irritate no one else that sports, live sports, regularly devotes time away from the live sport you’ve tuned in to watch in order to have a hairdo read 140-character messages, which are also helpfully displayed on the screen, from the idiot masses about that sporting event? No? I guess it’s just me.

This latter, of course, is what I consider further justification for sports on the radio.

Along these lines, more than once (which I suppose equals “twice”) I’ve discussed the possibility of a @42ndAndTreadmill Twitter account with the sysadmin, and a few days back he allowed that he was planning on doing some experimenting with the Twitter API so the thing could be fully automated. I pointed out that we couldn’t automate everything, inasmuch as inevitably some folks would want to tweet back at us, and he decided that maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all.

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Not content

Funny thing: the first ads for Infiniti, which wouldn’t show you anything so gauche as an actual car, are now better remembered than the cars they failed to show. (In fact, apparently they’re so well remembered that no one has bothered to post them to YouTube.) Eventually Nissan figured out that they ought to show a car once in a while, even if the message was muddled otherwise.

Mazda, however, hasn’t had a really memorable TV spot since the old rotary days. I’m not sure what to think of this one, but I definitely approve the music (and the musicians).

Ray Davies should be smiling as he cashes his check.

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