You have to work so hard to be good

Andrea Harris figures out Bella Swan’s motivation in the Twilight series:

The author wanted her heroine to be a “good” person so people would admire her, but she (the author) is neither a good writer or a person with more than the shallowest insight into human relations. Thus, she thinks that the way to show the goodness of her character is to make Bella “humble” and “unpretentious” and that the way to do that is to show how much Bella hates shallow, ostentatious things like parties, expensive cars, and people being nice to her. Really. Of course, the author wants it both ways, so she has the heroine take these things anyway, but makes sure that the heroine is not happy to receive them.

This may be why I don’t connect with the series premise: I may be humble, but I’m not particularly unpretentious. Nor am I, um, crepuscular.

On the other hand, some songs from the soundtracks of the various Twilight films have earned my attention, so at least there’s that. (Example: “Heavy in Your Arms” by Florence and the Machine, which runs under the closing credits of Eclipse.)

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Accessorize with matching valve caps

Two years ago, the Obama administration slapped a stiff tariff on Chinese tires, a move that was viewed with some concern by the two remaining US-based tire manufacturers; one of them, Cooper, actually came out in opposition to the tariff, though you have to assume that this is because they have fresh new Chinese production facilities. (And don’t forget, China is now a bigger auto market than the US.)

The tariff is scheduled to expire in 2012, though it may be extended. Either way, I don’t expect to see any of these here at home:

Rainbow Tires from China

In this case, I suspect, black is the new black. Though I admit I’d crack a smile if someone showed up with blue tires — especially if they were whitewalls.

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Digitally remastered, so to speak

Artie Wayne may have uncovered a big fat conspiracy:

After watching the VH1 Video Countdown this week I noticed an alarming trend. Four of the female divas in the top ten are a little overweight and three of them are using special optic effects to make them look slimmer. Britney Spears has gone to the extreme in her new video “Criminal,” and at times I thought I was watching Taylor Swift! Katy Perry uses the same thinning effect in “The One That Got Away,” and Adele uses it on “Someone Like You.”

[YouTube links added by me.]

I watched “Someone Like You,” and I don’t think it’s post-production finagling. Artifact of the lens, maybe: you can see some distortion around the edges here and there. And maybe it’s the shadowing that makes her look a little more gaunt than she did in “Chasing Pavements,” three years ago.

As for Britney, she’s gained and lost so many pounds over the years that I don’t think she actually has a default size anymore.

Still, Artie Wayne pays way more attention to these things than I do, so I am not about to dismiss his concerns out of hand. As he says: “I’ve seen candid paparazzi photos of them all.”

Oh, and the fourth, unprocessed diva? Kelly Clarkson.

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Hoisting a few with Captain Petard

Pop open a DVD these days, and something like this — which you can’t bypass — gets into your face:

And the guy who wrote the music didn’t get paid for it, either:

It all started back in 2006, when the Hollywood-funded anti-piracy group BREIN reportedly asked musician Melchior Rietveldt to compose music for an anti-piracy video. The video in question was to be shown at a local film festival, and under these strict conditions the composer accepted the job.

However, according to a report from Pownews the anti-piracy ad was recycled for various other purposes without the composer’s permission. When Rietveldt bought a Harry Potter DVD early 2007, he noticed that the campaign video with his music was on it. And this was no isolated incident.

The composer now claims that his work has been used on tens of millions of Dutch DVDs, without him receiving any compensation for it. According to Rietveldt’s financial advisor, the total sum in missed revenue amounts to at least a million euros ($1,300,000).

And that’s just from the Netherlands; this video clip has seemingly been shoehorned into DVDs from Kyrgyzstan to Kashmir. There’s nothing to connect BREIN itself to the, um, piracy, but somebody stuck it to Rietveldt.

Laws against that sort of thing? Of course. But look what happened when the composer sought help from his performing-rights agency:

Soon after he discovered the unauthorized distribution of his music Rietveldt alerted the local music royalty collecting agency Buma/Stemra. The composer demanded compensation, but to his frustration he heard very little from Buma/Stemra and he certainly didn’t receive any royalties.

Earlier this year, however, a breakthrough seemed to loom on the horizon when Buma/Stemra board member Jochem Gerrits contacted the composer with an interesting proposal … the composer had to assign the track in question to the music publishing catalogue of Gerrits, who owns High Fashion Music. In addition to this, the music boss demanded 33% of all the money set to be recouped as a result of his efforts.

Which, if nothing else, demonstrates that watchers pretty much always have to be watched.

(Via this Bill Peschel tweet.)

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Fark blurb of the week

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Bulbalypse now

Brenda Becker writes on Facebook:

Ah, compact fluorescents. The light bulb for when you want that MOODY effect when you flip a switch … slowly, the gloam spreads over the area as you stumble into your front hallway, relishing those achingly long seconds of darkness while the cat escapes, your elderly relative crashes, and you knock over a vase. Then there’s their ability to mysteriously destroy light fixtures — they’ve killed several of ours. And of course the long life span that justifies their average cost of $40 a bulb or something … why, we’ve had several that didn’t want us to get bored, and released themselves from this life after only weeks. But above all, there is … the glorious, bleached-bone, washed-out color of that eco-licious light. Even from outside, your rooms will have a nice, edgy, horror-movie vibe instead of that cliche’d, Thomas-Kinkaid welcoming glow of bad ol’ tungsten. BRING IT ON — I WANNA LOOK LIKE A ZOMBIE!

I think everyone who originally voted for it, regardless of party affiliation, should be awarded a single CFL — Colonic Fluorescent Lamp — curlicue type, to be administered rectally on C-Span with a twist of the wrist.

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It’s no face like Chrome

So after telling Mozilla to cram Firefoxes 4 through 7 inclusive, I finally broke down and installed version 8.0.1, mostly because the entreaties are becoming a bit louder and if they’re going to force it on me, as I suspect they would if they had half a chance, I want it done sometime other than late Sunday night.

For the moment, I’m giving it the not-too-coveted Doesn’t Entirely Suck award, since (1) it hasn’t actually crashed on me yet, something I couldn’t say of 3.6.N, where N=damn near anything, and (2) it appears to have something resembling speed on some of the more cluttered sites out there. (My speed-test site of late has been stay lovely, since I can count on it to load a couple of dozen animated GIFs and at least one audio file every time.)

On the downside, the right-click menu has been altered — “open in new tab” is now on top, rather than in second place, which I’ll have to get used to, and “view source” has disappeared from its usual spot in the menu, moving to Tools/Web Developer. (Ctrl-U also works, but both open a new window, and there are times when I’d rather have a tab.) Worse, at least in terms of my own specific usage pattern, is that the History dropdown (as opposed to the full-fledged box) allows neither new window nor new tab: you click on something in there and it overwrites your current tab. And the little search box, while it remains set to Wikipedia — there are several other sites built in, and others can be added — no longer offers autocompleted search suggestions. Still, it’s probably better than Chrome, if only because Google extends less of a hook into my data, though Chrome has apparently passed Firefox in the battle for second place in the Browser Wars, behind a certain Microsoft product which, says Bill Quick, demonstrates that “40% of global computer users are so tech-clueless they can’t install a better browser.”

But if Mozilla continues to screw around with Firefox for no good reason — well, Safari, so good.

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Space and other frontiers

Brian J., as is his wont, offers this suggestion to NASA, totally free of charge:

If it’s planning on a Martian mission but it’s concerned about the conditions in small enclosed spaces for long periods of time and the effect on a person, NASA should just recruit young Manhattanites who might even pay for the privilege of doubling the size of their apartments to 300 square feet.

As I believe I’ve mentioned once before, my single-car garage measures out at 290 square feet. I don’t think I’d particularly want to live there. (It does have hot and cold running water, unless it’s below zero outside, but there’s only a small space heater.)

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Quote of the week

You want to run for President? Are you out of your cotton-picking fabric-creating mind?

Not only is there the burden of governing a superpower in an explosive world, but our manic media ensures that, if you’re a Republican candidate, you’ll be subject to routine, public colonoscopies, while if you’re a Democratic candidate, you receive the kind of fawning sycophancy that created the same delusions of grandeur that drove many European monarchs mad.

Any job description for the job of president in 2012 should end with the words “only megalomaniacs need apply.”

Had I written this, it might not be quite so pithy, but it also would not contain the qualifier “in 2012.”

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Hard hat not pictured

We open with a quote from Robert Stacy McCain’s original Rule 5 piece:

It’s not just guys who enjoy staring at pictures of hotties. If you’ve ever picked up Cosmo or Glamour, you realize that chicks enjoy looking at pretty girls, too. (NTTAWWT.) Maybe it’s the vicious catty she-thinks-she’s-all-that factor, or the schadenfreude of watching a human trainwreck like Britney Spears, but no one can argue that celebrity babes generate traffic.

So I’m thinking: do they have to be celebrity babes? How about a reasonably public figure who is not actually in showbiz?

Okay, there’s an NBA connection, kinda sorta, involving the soon-to-be-relocating New Jersey Brooklyn Nets. Background:

The Atlantic Yards project [in Brooklyn] cleared a major hurdle … when New York State was granted the right to use eminent domain for the development. The project has had a long political history pitting the developer, Forest City Ratner, against local groups, and an equally interesting design history.

MaryAnne Gilmartin, Executive Vice-President of Forest City Ratner, is in charge of the Atlantic Yards development. Gilmartin has spent 15 years at Forest City. Doesn’t seem to have worn her down much:

MaryAnne Gilmartin

In general, I am not a big fan of eminent domain, but obviously I am easily distracted.

(Original photo from this Jenna Goudreau article for Forbes.)

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One piece at a time, as it were

A friend of mine, after running up against the fact that old cars that aren’t worth a lot still need maintenance, got rid of her ’94 Honda Accord and bought a somewhat newer Nissan Altima. It occurs to me that maybe she should have parted it out, since that’s what the professional thieves do:

Of the 52,000 Honda Accords stolen in 2010, more than 44,000 were 1990s models. Less than 6,000 were made in the 2000s.

When the pieces are broken out, the parts are worth more than the cars. The fuel line for a 1994 Honda goes for about $375, the air conditioner compressor sells for around $350, and an antilock brake part sells for around $450. Just those three parts $1,175. Comparatively, Kelley Blue Book says an excellent condition four-door 1994 Honda Accord is valued at around $1,900.

I’d like to know what “antilock brake part” can be had for $450. I can get two brand-new wheel sensors for that kind of money. (Never mind what the control module costs.) Maybe I should inquire at the nearest chop shop.

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And the leftovers were duly divided

You may remember this from early 2007:

The lawsuit is about the price cardholders of Visa-, MasterCard-, or Diners Club-branded payment cards were charged to make transactions in a foreign currency, or with a foreign merchant, between February 1, 1996 and November 8, 2006. Plaintiffs challenge how the prices of credit and debit/ATM card foreign transactions were set and disclosed, including claims that Visa, MasterCard, their member banks, and Diners Club conspired to set and conceal fees, typically of 1-3% of foreign transactions, and that Visa and MasterCard inflated their base exchange rates before applying these fees. The Defendants include Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club, Bank of America, Bank One/First USA, Chase, Citibank, MBNA, HSBC/Household, and Washington Mutual/Providian.

Some of those defendants, you’ll note, no longer exist as separate entities. I mentioned later that year that I was turning in a claim form; the expected payback was somewhere around $25.

Four years (almost to the day) after that post, a check for $18.04 arrived. Says the fine print: “All refund amounts are reduced because the full amount of all the claims exceeds the amount in the settlement fund.” You may be absolutely certain that the attorneys’ fees were not reduced in the slightest.

Still, it’s eighteen bucks and change, which, given the usual pitiful settlements in class-action suits — typically, $5 off something you wouldn’t buy in the first place — counts as a legitimate win. And apparently there is a second suit, for which I may already be enrolled as a member of the aggrieved class, inasmuch as they sent me instructions on how to exclude myself from same. We’ll see if any more dollars drop on my doorstep in 2015.

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Make and model, not necessarily in that order

The product specialist at the auto show may in fact be a lovely woman, but she’s not there to serve as eye candy. (Okay, she’s not there just to serve as eye candy.) She’s got to know the product line cold, if only to stay ahead of the wise guys who think they can stump her. (See, for instance, this one, who epitomizes the current standard.)

Turn the clock back a few decades, and there’s less emphasis on product knowledge and more emphasis on being decorative. Mandated clothing was generally either scanty or scantier. And Curbside Classic has photographic evidence of one particular show where two of the young ladies — well, okay, they might have been wearing earrings. Hard to tell at this distance.

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NME kills the video stars

Okay, they haven’t actually slain anyone, but their list of the 50 worst music videos ever is filled with, shall we say, some fairly harsh language.

This is what they had to say about “Friday”:

Perhaps it was the £5 budget special effects or maybe the fact that there were dental braces everywhere we looked or even the bratty stage school kids pretending to drive around in a car. Black herself came across as kind of sweet and naive, but the sense of an evil puppet master behind the scenes controlling everything couldn’t be escaped. In the end, there was so much to dislike it was quite overwhelming. This was the equivalent of repeatedly getting bitten on the ankles by a yappy dog.

Rebecca Black comes out for NOH8This not-especially-kind review is not, of course, the circumstance that led Rebecca Black to pose for the photograph at left. (This is.) And I’m reasonably certain that if she’s crying at all, it’s in the classic Liberace fashion: all the way to the bank. However, I note with some amusement that of NME’s three least favorite videos, two involve songs mentioned on this very site: “Friday,” of course, and Susan Boyle’s cover of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day,” which wasn’t necessarily a Friday at all. (I have not heard the Kings of Leon track they disparaged, but then I figure if I need to, I would have no trouble coming up with reasons to disparage Kings of Leon on my own.)

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You want tofu with that?

One of the more amusing stories of late involves McDonald’s to-the-letter interpretation of a San Francisco ordinance that forbids eateries to give away toys: Mickey D has started charging a dime for the little plastic (or whatever) tchotchke, which is then donated to the Ronald McDonald House. The Board of Supervisors, I think it’s safe to assume, is on par with other governmental bodies when it comes to dealing with the Law of Unintended Consequences.

The Consumerist version of the story drew this comment from one “squinko esq.”:

Anyone who doesn’t feed their children organic, free-trade, gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free meals made fresh from scratch for every single meal is a fucking monster. Children shouldn’t be allowed to eat anything that might possibly taste good, nor should they be allowed to play with cheap plastic toys. Handmade, hypoallergenic crafts made from sustainable sources that don’t have sharp corners and don’t promote the cisgendered, heteronormative, neurotypical White patriarchy is good enough for my kids and should be good enough for everyone else’s.

Question: Did “squinko” miss anything there?

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Yes, I do get shoe spam

Just a few excerpts from a very long piece which occasionally lapses into (I’m assuming) Russian:

Footwear on weighty to a scamp — how correctly to choose these sex pumps?

Obvious women like to look soberly in footwear on высокогом a heel. Anyhow, there are certain secrets about which each the missis should advised of, carrying these sexual pumps. Here some of them as a last resort to offer on correctly.

Tough and roughcast surfaces

If you force planned prowl in greensward the oldest clear-sightedness will talk to you to push footwear on intoxication to a heel. As places with rough and unjust surfaces or a formless party line are iffy reasonably, as you could lose easily balance, effective on these surfaces. By itself, you would not like to winding up with an anklebone or bruises if you secure fallen, after all so? So record unswerving that you punctiliously know where you go and outfit in order footwear also in behalf of each one by one entranced case. This acuteness takes place also for the sake places with a estimable amount of a snitch, external parks and woods. To you good palpate of feet and extensive relax in return feet after such walks can be demanded.

This advice is, I think, reasonably iffy. There’s also a reference to what to do when confronted with “apertures of drainage for the benefit of water.”

(That string of Cyrillic characters will probably look like hell in any character set other than UTF-8).

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