Keeping the General on a leash

There are few people of whom you can say “Even when he’s right, he’s wrong,” and one of them is Ralph Nader, who has decided that General Motors ought to postpone its stock offering, currently scheduled for next week; he and three like-minded meddlers dispatched a letter to the President requesting that the sale be delayed indefinitely.

The Detroit News quotes Nader:

“It’s the same old arrogant GM. There’s no sense of gratitude that they wouldn’t exist without the government, without the taxpayers.”

That much, I’ll give him. Besides, it was just Nader in the interview; there was no mention of the other co-conspirators, one of whom is Joan Claybrook, one of the dimmer bulbs ever to occupy the back seat of a motor-pool sedan, whose major contribution to Western civilization has been the notion that people won’t drive fast if you limit the numbers on auto speedometers.

And this bit from the letter sounds Claybrookian, if not precisely Orwellian:

“As majority shareholder in GM, the United States has the ability to direct or influence the company’s investment decisions. As the U.S. reduces its share, so its capacity to influence such decisions diminishes.”

It must really frost them that Washington doesn’t own a piece of Ford.

Actually, there is a perfectly good reason not to sell off a bunch of GM stock right now, and it did get mentioned in the letter: the Feds stand to lose a fair chunk of change on this first sale. (A Detroit News estimate says up to $5.4 billion.) I have no doubt that GM is tired of having Washington looking over its shoulder, but inasmuch as I stand to lose eighteen bucks on the deal — $5.4 billion split 300 million ways — I’d just as soon they waited a while longer.

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Sorrowful news

Way back in 1993, I wrote this:

Henryk Górecki is in his sixtieth year; he has always been associated with the avant-garde wing of contemporary music, the guys who produce the dry, academic, utterly uninvolving stuff that gets grants. But Górecki’s Third Symphony, written in 1976, cuts to the heart of the matter almost from the first bar. And it requires no difficulty to see why he chose his subject matter — the Polish town of Katowice, where he was educated and where his family still lives, is one of those anonymous cities in the Silesians that will forever be overshadowed by its neighbor Oswiecim. The Germans called it Auschwitz.

Górecki’s other works, I suspect, will forever be overshadowed by that Third Symphony, which in the early Nineties became close to a household word, thanks to a recording featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw, which, issued here in the States on Nonesuch, reportedly was selling ten thousand copies a day at its peak. Most classical albums don’t sell ten thousand copies ever. And unlike your usual crossover hits, this isn’t your Relentlessly Upbeat baroque-y stuff: it’s subtitled the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs for a reason.

Here’s the second movement, lento e largo—tranquillissimo:

Henryk Górecki died in Katowice Friday. He was seventy-six.

(With thanks to the Anchoress.)

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Not your father’s minority leader

A timely tweet from CTIronman:

The Dems justification for keeping Pelosi= GM’s reason 10 yrs ago for keeping Oldsmobile. The few customers we still have like it

It would be well to remember that in December 2000, the General did an about-face; Oldsmobile was taken out behind the woodshed and shot through the head, though it would take four years — the last Alero came off the line in 2004 — to die.

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Discerning readers, I assume

I gave up reading Condé Nast Traveler several years ago, about the time it occurred to me that all the hotels I’ve ever stayed in, combined, might be hard-pressed to total five stars. So I didn’t participate in this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards, though it would have been nice to have attended the actual award ceremony, just to have caught a glimpse of Angie Harmon:

Angie Harmon at RCA

(Click to embiggen past all understanding.) That feathered sheath, from Naeem Khan’s Spring ’10 collection, is simply gorgeous; the shoes, I think, are by Sergio Rossi.

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I was not programmed to respond in this area

Harry Mudd, that old lecher, would have appreciated this, I think. Over at Diary of a Nudist, there are scans from the 1967 Oakdale Guest Ranch 3rd Miss Nude Universe Pageant, which I need hardly point out may not be welcomed at your workplace, and while that vintage barely-post-Mad Men flavor is very much in evidence, there was one thing I really wasn’t anticipating: every contestant is in fact wearing something other than the little “Norman, coordinate” pendant with her identifying number.

And that something? Shoes. Nothing outlandish — medium heels, some open at the toe, some closed, all of course period-correct for 1967 — but still: shoes. Not that I’m complaining. Then again, I never saw anything like this back in the Sixties, what with leading a sheltered life and all, and eventually I soured on the concept of pageants in general except as comic fodder, so I have no frame of reference here.

On the other hand, my fourteen-year-old self, were he confronted with something like this in ’67, might quote Mr Chekov: “This place is even better than Leningrad!”

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Study in purple

Oklahoma County Precinct 453, where I’ve lived for seven years, is the area bounded by Northwest Expressway, I-44, and May Avenue; in a nation of red and blue, it’s always seemed kinda purple to me.

The State Election Board has now released precinct-level data to the general public (hat tip: Michael Bates), so I figured it was time I did some parsing.

The GOP swept all the statewide races this year, but they failed to sweep 453, where Democrat Jari Askins was preferred over Republican Mary Fallin in the race for Governor, 639-567; Steve Burrage outpolled Gary Jones for State Auditor, 667-510; and Kim Holland had a 711-475 lead over John Doak for Insurance Commissioner.

Precinct 453 rejected three of the State Questions: 744, 754, and 756. While 756 carried statewide, it failed in this precinct by one vote. And here’s the real clincher for purple status, in House District 87: Dana Orwig (D) 589, Jason Nelson (R) 589.

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Won’t you be my Niebuhr?

You know the words, now follow the flow:

The Serenity Prayer attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr

(Via GraphJam.)

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Blazers II: Electric Boogaloo

Eight days ago, the Thunder squeezed out a win at Portland’s Rose Garden, to the tune of 107-106. It requires no great imagination to figure that the Trail Blazers would be looking for payback. But this game was as much of a see-saw as any you’ve seen, with no fewer than sixteen lead changes. With ten seconds left, OKC was up 110-108; Rudy Fernandez back-rimmed a wide-open trey, Russell Westbrook came up with the loose ball at the buzzer, and that was that.

In fact, Westbrook made “that was that” his business all night; he knocked down 36 points, a career high. (Kevin Durant had 34; Jeff Green is still missing in action.) The Thunder actually shot 54.8 percent, a welcome change. What’s more, they put up twelve treys and managed to hit six of them.

Fernandez had had the hot hand earlier, so Portland’s last play was at least defensible. (Speaking of Fernandez, he wound up with 15 points, one more than the entire Oklahoma City bench, which explains why all the Thunder starters played 33 minutes or more.) And Nicolas Batum had a season-high 21; Brandon Roy, obviously playing at less than 100 percent, still made 24. I’m happy we don’t have to see these guys again until March.

Then again, the next two games aren’t exactly gimmes: Sunday against the Spurs at the Dorf Center, followed by Monday at Utah. Still, the Thunder are starting to show signs of being able to play at the .600 level, and they’re going to have to do that and better to nail down a playoff spot.

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Back to Bonneville

In September, Worldwide Auctions sent some classic cars (forty-two of seventy-four offered) to new homes, and one of them was a lovely 1960 Pontiac Bonneville convertible, which was mentioned in Dave Kinney’s auction report in the December Automobile, and which immediately caught my eye.

Four years before the GTO was unleashed, this particular Bonnie had three deuces and a four-speed and a 389, and a spectacular (for 1960) sticker of $5640, about forty grand today. Unsurprisingly, it was stuffed with every option imaginable, and some that aren’t. Herewith, the list, as recorded by Kinney:

Factory options include Circ-L-Aire heater and A/C, Wonder Touch power steering and brakes, Wonder Bar radio, Sepra-Phonic rear speaker, power windows, bucket seats, Guide-Matic headlight dimmer, backup lights, sideview mirror, visor vanity mirror, windshield washer, and E-Z-Eye tinted glass.

The real marvel, if only for its name, is Sepra-Phonic. We’re still talking Spector-approved mono here, of course, but this was a popular option, and in fact the lure of a rear speaker led me to take a drill to the rear deck of my old ’66 Chevy. The General had thoughtfully provided a cutout in the middle, but I decided that I wanted some actual stereo spread, and from left to right, not back to front. The result was not especially pretty, but the sound bordered on acceptable, which for one’s first car is the absolute minimum one should tolerate.

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399

Andrew Ian Dodge in his infinite wisdom has dedicated the 399th Carnival of the Vanities to “the poor sods trapped in CCHQ yesterday,” CCHQ being the headquarters of Britain’s Conservative Party in London, S.W.1.

Had the Tories 399 seats in Parliament, they wouldn’t have had to form a coalition government, but CCHQ is acutely aware of that and therefore I don’t need to mention it here. So I’ll throw in a reference to party chair The Right Honourable The Baroness Warsi, PC, who serves as Minister Without Portfolio in David Cameron’s Cabinet, and who argued in September that one reason the Conservatives did not win a majority of seats was outright electoral fraud, mostly on behalf of Labour.

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Quote of the week

TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott, arguing against the principle, in basketball and elsewhere, that everything in life can be boiled down to statistics:

Minerals, the most inert and immovable of things, are two-thirds the result of all these little organisms running around, falling in love, and doing all the silly and un-rocklike things we do. The mighty white cliffs of Dover wouldn’t have even existed were it not for all those plankton. Skin cells falling off our bodies right now might be mashed up, stepped on, carried away, and reprocessed into some totemic future equivalent of the Grand Canyon or Empire State Building.

It’s getting tougher to believe in static things at all. If those enormous cliffs are themselves depend on a process that involves all those whimsical little organisms, it’s kind of hard to believe that much of anything is really still. It’s hard to believe that anything is “like a rock” in the way we are used to thinking about that phrase. If you watch for enough years, just about any darned thing can change.

That does not mean jack about the NBA — except, just a little, doesn’t it make you a little suspicious of anyone peddling the idea that everything that matters could be explained simply? The crosscurrents of life result in the tremendous rocks, for crying out loud.

Perhaps it could be explained simply, had we access to all the information. Unfortunately, that privilege is not available to us at this time/in this place [choose one or more].

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There’s an app for that?

Well, no, not yet. But there ought to be:

Augmented Reality Available Girl Locator

I’m reasonably certain this could be easily adapted to locate guys as well.

Also suggested: an app that determines whether you need a shower. Then again, if you’re wondering if you need a shower, you need a shower. Trust me.

(Suggested by the Consumerist.)

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Call answered

If there’s a blog equivalent of “radio silence,” Smitty will be maintaining it for the next year or so: a Navy reservist, he’s been called up, and he’ll be storming the beach at Kabul next month. (Okay, “beach” may not be the word. Doesn’t matter at this point.)

Some of his parting words:

The exceptional American dedication to individualism, the ideals of the Constitution, and the courageous soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in whose bigger footsteps I follow make it all worth it. I’ve benefitted so much from the American people, educationally and otherwise. Thus, it’s with a sense of gratitude to you that I depart on this set of orders, finishing out my Navy Reserve career in active duty style.

From an old Army man to a seasoned Navy officer, a heartfelt salute.

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4MAL REQ 4 U

University communications are apparently now replete with txtspk:

A professor friend told a story just this week about receiving an e-mail including a student excuse and “FML.” This, obviously, is not appropriate.

I also recently received an e-mail from a journalism senior that included this type of abbreviated communication. I ignored the first case, although I thought it was highly inappropriate, and responded to the student’s concern. The next e-mail was practically incoherent because it contained so many of these abbreviations. I felt like I need a codebook to read it. I was offended. I hit delete.

I think I’d have sent back “tl;dr,” but then that’s just me.

Anyway, a stand is being taken:

[I]f a student wants to ask a question of their faculty, adviser, mentor, boss, professional reference, etc., they should use professional language — no matter how informal the communication method might be. Using informal language in these types of communications sends a message, and it’s not positive.

Bonus points for proper pronoun agreement, where appropriate.

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Hence the word “Marvel”

Dear God, another Zooey story, and this time Peter Parker is involved:

Deschanel would reportedly star in the Spider-Man reboot as Elizabeth “Betty” Brant, the assistant to Peter’s fast-talking, hard-edged boss J. Jonah Jameson at the Daily Bugle. Actress Elizabeth Banks dyed her blonde locks brown to play the character in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, but Miss Brant was never a major player in those films. Showbiz Spy indicates that that could change in [Marc] Webb’s reboot and claims that the director has “big plans” for the character and “wants a strong performer to carry the role and Zooey fits the bill perfectly. The role is hers if she wants it.”

At least it’s not Katy Perry.

(Via Fark.)

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We’d all hate to see the plan

Ted Rall (!) fomenting revolution? It is to laugh. And Ric Locke does:

If you intend to engage in violent revolution, history and experience hath shewn that there are two irreducible requirements:

1) You must provide yourself with arms, and have both the skill and fortitude to use them;

2) You must suborn the Army, and attract its leadership to promotion of the Cause.

Now the chances that leftazoids of the Rall stripe (three guesses where said stripe is, and bonus points for the RGB color code) will be able to pull this off are next to nil. They have next to no influence in the armed services, except among the Truly Disgruntled, but the real failure comes in that first item:

[P]eople who go directly into Cheyne-Stokes breathing when a lapel flops open to reveal a perfectly legal .38 Special being carried by a person who has been better “vetted” for responsibility than the average police officer are unlikely to successfully take up arms.

Bottom line: You’re better off carrying those pictures of Chairman Mao.

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