On getting one’s hopes up

Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

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They don’t care about him

It was just a matter of time, I suppose. This came in as a comment about 2:00 am:

I will surely miss Michael Jackson, he is really worthy of the name King of Pop and he is certainly one of the greatest musicians of all time…

Nothing wrong with that, I thought, until I pulled open the moderation queue and saw that the ostensible poster was named, um, “Body Detox Diets,” with a URL to match.

So now we’re getting Michael Jackson spam. You don’t want to know the way this makes me feel.

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They’re definitely getting down

What if there really is something to that slippery-slope business?

Um, just put it on my bill.

(So far as I know, the Swan Warden has not been notified.)

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On the light side

Virginia Postrel hates fake tans on principle:

I have what is known elsewhere in the Anglosphere as an English Rose complexion. My porcelain skin would have been a great hit in the 18th or 19th century. During my insecure teenage years in the 1970s, however, it was considered hideously pale. If you were a blonde like me, you were supposed to be tan like Farrah. But no amount of sunbathing would give me tawny skin. I didn’t even burn all that easily. My legs in particular seemed to reflect rather than absorb sunlight.

Sensibly, she came to grips with her albedo:

Fortunately, I was a nerd and bored silly by sunbathing. So I didn’t bother and thus arrived at middle age with few wrinkles and a low risk of skin cancer. As an adult, I even came to enjoy my unfashionably pale skin.

Myself, I’m not so bored silly by sunbathing, but then I don’t have Kate Winslet’s skin tone, either; keep me inside all year and I’ll look like I’ve just jumped out of a can of crescent rolls. Still, that’s better, or at least more explainable, than the prematurely-orange look that seems to be inevitable with fake tans.

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The first law of Disney

Bill Reinert is national manager of Toyota’s advanced technology group in the US. He’s a green sort of guy — fuel cells and carbon sequestration are both high on his wish list — but he’s also something of a realist, as Preston Lerner reports in Automobile (8/09):

“That’s the first law of Disney — wishing will make it so. I see it all the time from those Palo Alto types. They think the whole world is like a computer company, and they’re always trying to recreate the dot-com economy.”

And we all know how well that worked out. So here’s his push:

“I used to be a big 100-miles-per-gallon guy. But I realized that we’re above the level of diminishing returns at 50 miles per gallon. So why not make a whole bunch of 50-miles-per-gallon cars and put people who are driving 20-miles-per-gallon cars into them?”

Especially, you know, since Toyota happens to have an actual legitimate 50-mpg car already.

Still, movers and shakers and lawmakers and fakers are bedazzled by the idea of cars that run on moonbeams and copies of the Federal Register. It’s why they keep coming up with the same Mickey Mouse ideas.

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Twits, I suppose

This seems eminently logical to me:

Twitter is inherently based on a follower count. You follow people, people follow you. A decent number of followers is about 50-100. Yet some people on Twitter have 60-90 thousand.

Are these individuals celebrities? Have they made such monumental marks on society that thousands of people want access to their mind?

No. Most are Realtors from Florida. Self-proclaimed experts in social media, SEO, marketing.

In other words, nerdy douchebags.

Actually, the only contact I’ve ever had from a Florida Realtor was quite pleasant and non-spammy, but that was four whole years ago.

I got to a “decent number” in somewhere around 48 hours. I certainly don’t aspire to five hundred, though I’m not going to tell people to stay away, unless of course they’re nerdy douchebags.

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Watch that utility bill (2)

The second shoe has dropped.

Earlier this month, OKC Utilities inexplicably backed up everyone’s due date a day or three, causing consternation and confusion and late fees, perhaps not necessarily in that order.

Now comes the next piece of good news: they’re changing all the account numbers. I probably should have expected this — they outsourced this department several months ago — but I figured, if they didn’t do it then, they weren’t going to do it at all.

The new number, they tell me, “has only 12 digits, with no leading zeroes.” Which makes it different from, say, Congress, which contains a multitude of zeroes, some of whom are alleged to lead.

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O lady fare

What’s a quarter at a time like this?

And sure enough, there it was: $2.25. Not the usual two bucks even, which I’d half-hoped this particular station would still be charging. An extra twenty-five cents really isn’t that big a deal, and I knew that, even if the MTA screwed up and had kept a random station on the old fare, the mistake would be corrected soon enough, and I’d eventually be paying the full nine quarters for my near-daily rides on the No. 6, or F, or any other line I happen to need. Still, it all adds up, and even though it could have been much worse, I could do without the jacked-up transit costs.

But then, as I boarded the train, I got an up-close look at the prettiest Indian woman I’ve ever seen on the 6. And I promptly forgot about the extra coin I had to drop to get that view.

This almost sounds like a justification to drop everything and head for New York, except for one minor detail: the “prettiest Indian woman” I’ve ever seen was in, of all places, Fort Stockton, Texas.

Two point something cheers for, um, diversity.

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As though that were difficult

I wandered into Wikipedia’s list of Twitter applications, and several of them, such as Chirpr (where do they get these names? Kyrgyzstan?), operate on, says the chart, “Windows Vista or superior.” Isn’t almost anything superior to Windows Vista?

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The joys of Gibberish

In case you thought it was some kind of dead language or something:

The Gibbers are a small people, as ethnic groups go; most modern Gibbers and their country as well would fit comfortably inside a caravan of recreational vehicles heading up from Florida to see the grandkids over the summer holidays. But even with their demographic and geopolitical deficiencies, there is scarcely a capital city anywhere in the world where you will not find devotees of Gibberish. More than one modern politician has made a great name for him or her self for spouting nothing but the purest Gibberish in public, and the interested legal researcher can find whole passages in much of today’s proposed legislation written in Gibberish, usually without a convenient translation and usually found in the section where the pol whose bright idea this bit is explains just where the government is supposed to find the money to fund this idea. There’s nothing that will bring out the inner Gibber in any politician than an explanation of whose pocket the money is coming out of.

Gibberish has also become extremely popular in many other walks of life, such as the arts and the academy. One can seldom read a critical essay on modern art, for example, without finding long purplish patches of Gibberish explaining why the reader is too dumb to recognize a modern masterpiece when they see it, a phenomenon that occurred with great frequency as the latter half of the late and now unlamented twentieth century slid away towards a long overdue retirement. So much modern artistic criticism is written in Gibberish that it is difficult at times to tell the difference between a paean to the genius of Jackson Pollock or Andy Warhol and the New York City regulations regarding alternative side of the street parking during a prospective snow emergency.

One wonders how Mr Pollock would have dealt with an alternate-side-of-the-canvas ordinance, which, given New York’s current tendencies, is surely just a matter of time.

Of course, Gibberish has evolved somewhat from its frontier origins, but what language hasn’t? As they say in the Vatican, “Dictum ad tua mater.”

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Don’t keep on rockin’ me, baby

The song came up on the radio as I was sitting in the chair, and I muttered to the stylist (as much as I pay him, “barber” seems inadequate) “You know, they play the Steve Miller Band on the air more now than when they were actually popular.”

Younger folks are calling for rebellion:

Generation X needs its own Nostalgia takeover of the mass media.

How many more times must any person hear so much plap and flappily crap Boomer generation songs that weren’t even hits when they were first releasd, on mind-screamingly constant rotation, on so many f—— stations, all at the same time.

“Take It Easy”… what kind of message is that for a generation?

Only the idiots of the Boomer generation embraced the mass-media branded idiom of ‘Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out,’ though plenty in their ranks used it as excuse to bail on society, or hit cruise control into the next decade or three.

Of course, all this Boomer stuff still has one function: expediting parody.

(Suggested by JenX67.)

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Bad, possibly even dangerous

Don’t think of it as mere “recycling.” Think of it as the ultimate compilation album:

As the inquiry into Michael Jackson’s death continues, a cry has gone up from environmentalists concerned that plans to cremate the King of Pop will violate plastic disposal laws, and possibly release a toxic cloud that could create health problems for Los Angeles area residents.

“I really don’t believe anyone is thinking this through properly,” said Cal-Berkeley environmental scientist David Bergen. “Does anyone really know what the ratio of flesh to synthetic material was in the end? I’m guessing that once he starts to burn, he’s going to be the King of Snap, Crackle and Pop.”

Don’t wanna be startin’ nothin’.

(Via Kathy Shaidle.)

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Maybe I’ll pin this up at work

I found this [pdf] in the AAA’s Home & Away magazine, and I figure some of these points are worth mentioning in front of The Powers That Be:

An annual vacation can cut a person’s risk of heart attack by 50 percent.

I suspect this is workplace-variable. Then again, at 42nd and Treadmill, I suspect it’s closer to 90 percent.

Middle-aged men at high risk for coronary heart disease who take frequent annual vacations are 21% less likely to die of any cause and 32% less likely to die of their coronary heart disease.

Um, how frequent can they be if they’re “annual”? (I am not necessarily plagued by this risk factor: my one major heart problem has to do with wearing it on my sleeve.)

Blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of epinephrine — a stress hormone — decline on holidays of only one or two days.

Does this include weekends? Because Saturdays contain stresses of their own.

I can usually unwind on Sunday, but I was awakened around six yesterday morning by a thunderstorm, which motivated me to get outside and retrieve the Sunday paper before it turned into a heap of mush, and after an hour and a half of puttering around and not reading the paper at all, I went back to bed and stayed there for entirely too long.

Recuperation and improvement in exhaustion are facilitated by free time for one’s self, warmer (and sunnier) vacation locations, exercise during vacation, good sleep, and making new acquaintances, especially among vacationers reporting higher levels of work stress.

If I wanted “warmer (and sunnier),” I could just climb into the oven. Come to think of it, the first three World Tours sent me off in the general direction of New Jersey.

[A] study of almost 20,000 Canadians showed that physically-active leisure has been found to directly contribute to higher levels of physical and mental health — especially during times of stress.

Presumably this does not mean, though, that I should try to talk a Canadian into mowing my lawn. (I’m sure they’ve seen temperatures around 40°C before, except maybe in Nunavut, but I’m equally sure they didn’t like them.)

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No radio

You might expect this from a stripper econobox — say, Nissan’s bottom-of-the-line Versa — but from a $300k-plus Ferrari? It’s true, says Automobile Magazine (August, not on their Web site yet): the standard audio head unit for the new Scuderia Spider 16M, which lists for $313,350, is a 16-GB iPod Touch, which docks neatly into the dash. There’s a console-mounted volume control, but everything else is controlled by the iPod itself, assuming you have time to take your eyes off the road long enough to work those controls while whipping along at Ferrari-appropriate speeds.

Ferrari doesn’t chintz out on the speakers, mind you: they’re JBL, and, says the mag’s Jason Cammisa, they’re more than worthy, but:

[W]hen we asked for more information on the sound system, we were handed technical specifications on that magnificent 4.3-liter V-8. Point taken.

Obviously Ferrari has its priorities.

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Strange search-engine queries (178)

There’s a break in the heat and a pause in the disaster, so let’s go scrape out the log and see if there’s anything worth snickering about.

college females who go barefoot and nude everywhere:  I don’t remember any of these from when I was in college.

glittering generalities of megawati:  If they glitter enough, she might make it to “Gigawati.”

i haz a cheezburger banker cat denies ur loan:  He better watch it. The full wrath of the Kitteh Reinvestment Act could be brought down on his tail.

does sarah palin not wear hose?  Few of us get close enough to be sure.

opposite of “getting there is half the fun”:  See Bataan Death March.

why women pick losers:  Better selection.

exchange student nazgul university of central oklahoma:  I always wondered what Sauron was doing in Edmond, less than a day’s distance from Rivendell.

do women check out men’s penises on nude beaches?  Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. It’s no big thing.

ford recommendations for major transmission service:  They prefer you have it done after the warranty’s up.

two-thirds of the world’s vanilla:  Naw. It only seems that way because of globalization.

“teenage son” “sleeps nude”:  If he’s anything like me, he’ll still be doing it in his fifties.

canterbury tales bollocks bollocks:  Doesn’t matter. You still have to finish reading them before you can go for your A-levels.

where the f— is the transmission dipstick for a mazda 626:  If you don’t know where it is, there’s a good chance you don’t know how to read it either, dipstick.

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A fortune at your feet

I am normally not a fan of forced fashion irony, but I might make an exception for this shoe:

Moschino strap pumps

Says Shoeblog’s “galligator”:

Considering the ever-increasing prices of designer shoes, Moschino’s visual pun on shoe-bling and pricey styles falls more toward art than utility. I love it. What an apt commentary on the amounts we shoe-obsessed women can be convinced to pay for a beautiful shoe-crush.

That said, I rather like the shape of this shoe, and the front “coin” is engraved FUNNY MONEY!

Then again, it was spotted at Overstock.com, so I suspect we’ve seen the last, so to speak, of this particular shoe.

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Medium-speed rail

Don’t get your hopes up for “high” speed:

There has been a veritable parade of officials taking trips to Europe to check out high speed rail and tout its benefits to the public. The Midwest High Speed Rail Association put together a trip to Spain for its members. Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin took a trip to Spain as well. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was recently in France and did a photo-op featuring him in the cab of a TGV train.

But the rail systems proposed in the United States are NOTHING AT ALL like the ones in Spain or France. Those system travel at nearly 200MPH on dedicated, fully electrified trackage, with light trainsets, operating with an array of passenger amenities and 99%+ on time reliability. There is a grand total of one proposal in the whole US that is like this, namely California’s.

The proposed Midwest system is typical of what we see around the country. It would operate at a top speed of only 110MPH, half that of Europe, with average speeds much lower. Its travel time would be similar to driving, meaning door to door journey times would be worse. Worst of all, it would be operated by Amtrak.

Still, this is faster than the Heartland Flyer, which putters along at 79 mph in Oklahoma, dropping to 59 mph in Texas.

And in some states — not here yet — there’s another alternative already available:

If you want a 4-5 hour trip between Chicago and St. Louis, you can get it today cheaply, conveniently, and with wi-fi (are you listening Amtrak??????) on Megabus. Indeed, Megabus has proven popular from everyone from 60 year old Moms coming to visit their kids in Chicago to hipsters making road trips. Best of all, Megabus is here today, with no government spending.

Amtrak service from Chicago to St. Louis runs about 5½ hours; you can drive it (I-55) in 4:49, says Google Maps.

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You must look like this or else

This is a fairly tepid ballad, I suppose, but a couple of lines deserve mention:

And every magazine tells her she’s not good enough,
The pictures that she sees make her cry.

Literally so, it appears:

The girls in Teen Vogue and Seventeen all looked and seemed so perfect compared to me. My friends even looked perfect compared to me. I couldn’t take a facebook profile picture that looked half as good as my theirs. I began to cover up the school photos of me my mom had plastered all over the fridge. Walking the halls in school was pure torture because looking at some gorgeous girl I saw always made me feel like crap. In fact, I could see something beautiful in everyone around me except for myself.

There are times when I think the two worst inventions of mankind are voice mail and the airbrush.

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Twools of the twade

If I’m going to get all tweety, I might as well have some implements of construction.

The first thing I installed was WordTwit, which is a WordPress plugin that automagically (as distinguished from Automattically) tweets when a new post comes out here. It comes with its own URL shortener, which helps, given the space limitations.

Second was TweetDeck, which lost points for being an Adobe application, but which met my basic requirement: run in the background and scoop up all the appropriate material, accept anything I might want to send, and not bother me otherwise. Besides, I noticed Trent Reznor was using it, which almost cancels out the Adobitude.

And just to prove a point, to myself if nobody else, I laboriously punched out a text message and sent it up. My cell phone seems to have a dubious function called “Dispredictive Text Entry,” in which you try to guess what word it’s finally going to come up with when you quit thumbing the keys.

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Celluloid Soonerland

Larry Van Meter spots an anomaly in a Forties Western:

Unable to find a seat on the train, she is rescued by Jim Gardner, who owns the luxury car at the back of the train. Jim as it turns out is one of the new Oklahoma millionaires, having struck it rich in the oil fields of Sapulpa. He’s also a cad, clear to everyone except this “New Woman.” Gardner takes a shine to Catherine, gives her the nickname “Kitten,” and invites her to get off the train with him in Sapulpa. Now, maybe [director] Albert Rogell wasn’t paying attention during this scene, or maybe he had forgotten his Oklahoma geography, but the train from Cleveland to Kansas City doesn’t stop in Sapulpa. But maybe this is Oklahoma’s fate in the American cinema, an indeterminate place somewhere on the American map.

Which explains, sort of, the premise of Sooner Cinema: Oklahoma Goes to the Movies (Oklahoma City: Forty-Sixth Star Press, 2009), edited by Van Meter, which collects nineteen essays on the image of the Sooner State as portrayed in American film, from the days of silents to the present, with stops at Cimarron, The Grapes of Wrath and The Outsiders, just to name a few.

Telling a tale set in “an indeterminate place” has its advantages: you can make it up as you go along, as Albert Rogell did in 1943 while shooting In Old Oklahoma, which he actually shot in even-older Utah, and nobody will raise a fuss: for the 297 million Americans who don’t live here, Oklahoma could be as remote as Timbuktu. They know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is, well, kinda bland, when it isn’t openly hostile.

Sooner Cinema acknowledges this phenomenon without taking umbrage. Filmmakers tell stories, and sometimes those stories drown out considerations of place: those snowcapped mountains just outside McAlester in True Grit don’t resemble anything you or I have ever seen just outside McAlester. But True Grit‘s story wasn’t about Oklahoma so much as it was about the No Man’s Land it was once thought to be in the territorial days — and ultimately, it was about John Wayne, a man bigger than any No Man’s Land ever was. In this context, getting the facts straight about Oklahoma is a secondary, maybe tertiary, consideration. In fact, Hal Ashby’s Bound for Glory, a biography of Woody Guthrie, somehow manages not to mention Oklahoma at all.

Then again, being associated with a vague sort of mythology may work to Oklahoma’s advantage. Van Meter notes in his introduction:

[I]s there any Wyoming film that doesn’t show the Grand Tetons? or a Colorado film that doesn’t incorporate the Rockies? or a Hawaii film that doesn’t show a surfer? Oklahoma films aren’t compelled to show the state’s X to prove its Oklahoma-ness.

If you live here, and if you ever expect to have to explain to someone from New Jersey or New Brunswick or New Delhi what it’s like to live in Oklahoma, Sooner Cinema will make your task that much easier: you’ll know the difference between celluloid and reality, and you’ll be able to tell when that difference actually matters. And if this task somehow doesn’t fall to you, you’ll still have the pleasure of discovering some cinematic wonders set practically in your own back yard. If this be mythology, make the most of it.

(Review copy furnished by the publishers.)

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