Mitt sounds off

Mitt Romney, in an op-ed in The Detroit News:

The Obama administration needs to act now to divest itself of its ownership position in GM. The shares need to be sold in a responsible fashion and the proceeds turned over to the nation’s taxpayers.

We should not be back on a road like the one that brought us Freddie Mac and the housing crisis. It is a road with endless hazards. It is not the American way of making cars.

The dream of the Motor City is and always has been one of ideas, innovation, enterprise, and opportunity. It started with Henry Ford and continued with visionaries like William Durant, Walter Chrysler, and the Dodge Brothers. These giants never envisioned a role for government in their business, but relied on the hard work and commitment of private individuals.

Two observations:

  • The President could respond to Romney’s call for divestiture by pointing out that GM shares have been tanking of late, and that selling off at this point would result in even greater losses to the taxpayers;
  • Willard is probably the only person ever associated with the auto industry who referred to Billy Durant as “William.”

And you’ll note that Romney’s choice of “visionaries” includes all three Detroit automakers, lest he appear to be playing favorites.

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Special weather statement

Motown, by and large, was not your one-stop shop for Really Depressing Records: as Smokey Robinson once said (albeit in an HDH composition), “I Gotta Dance to Keep From Crying,” and even some downright mournful songs — think “7 Rooms of Gloom” — still have that Funk Brothers rhythmic kick.

Which is not to say that Motown couldn’t break your heart. Jimmy Ruffin came close with “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” about which I said many years ago:

Ruffin’s bad dream, if you take the lyrics at face value, is about nothing more than the consequences of a failed love affair: pretty horrible stuff, yes, but not enough to cause ongoing paralysis of the spirit. With some notable exceptions (can you say “Ophelia”?), most people survive this sort of thing.

The operative word here is “most.”

The Temptations did two really good songs on the subject of romantic desolation. “Since I Lost My Baby,” a Smokey confection, contains some excellent wordplay — “Fun is a bore / And with money I’m poor” — but our narrator is still, um, inclined to find her, which suggests hope, however faint.

That leaves the crown (of thorns) to “I Wish It Would Rain,” with a gorgeous Barrett Strong piano figure that telegraphs purest despair from the opening bar. The lyrics are by Roger Penzabene, based on a theme by Dee Clark: it’s not really tears you’re seeing. But while Clark is, for lack of a better term, generically sad, Penzabene’s words well up from the very depths of his soul. As it turns out, poor Roger was spinning out an autobiography: his wife had been unfaithful, yet he couldn’t let her go to save his life.

Norman Whitfield finished up the production in August 1967; Motown scheduled the release for the 30th of December. The next day — New Year’s Eve — Roger Penzabene killed himself. And in case you missed his point, the next Tempts single was called “I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You),” and it contained Roger’s very last lyric. Motown itself demonstrated its own ability to miss the point by subsequently shoving both these songs into a superfluous compilation series called The Good-Feeling Music of the Big Chill Generation.

(Disclosure: This has been kicking around in the back of my head literally for months. It didn’t quite force itself to the foreground until yesterday, when the song came pouring into the car on the way home; but I was damned if I was going to post this on Valentine’s Day.)

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How big a blowout was this? Ryan Reid, who’s been toiling in the D-League, was not only on hand but active, and he got to play. Four whole minutes. Within that first minute he got off a 14-foot jumper, and it went. You want weirder than that? Kendrick Perkins had six assists, more than Russell Westbrook — but fewer than Reggie Jackson. Of course, if all you want is a W, you got it: 111-85, the widest margin of victory the Thunder have come up with all season.

The Jazz didn’t look tired, particularly, despite being on the trailing edge of a back-to-back-to-back. But of their first sixteen shots, exactly one went through the net, and you have to figure that this didn’t encourage them much. Al Jefferson did manage 15 points, but it took him 19 shots to get there. Utah was fairly effective on the offensive glass — 19 rebounds therefrom, including six by rookie center Enes Kanter — but second chances didn’t translate into second-chance points: the Jazz got off 13 more shots but came up with ten fewer makes.

And speaking of Reggie Jackson, the new kid on the point had a career-high eight assists in 24 minutes, at least partially because Westbrook was stuck on the sidelines with four fouls early in the third. (Nobody on the floor played more than 30.) The Thunder bench was good for 49 points, 22 of which were contributed by James Harden, one more than Kevin Durant. OKC shot a sterling 54.5 percent, holding Utah to less than 36. And you have to figure Serge Ibaka’s place at the top of this year’s shot blockers won’t be jeopardized: he swatted half a dozen tonight and still rolled up 16 points.

So now we know what this team can do with three days’ rest. Not that they’ll have that luxury again for a couple of weeks: tomorrow night the Thunder are in Houston; Friday they start a five-game home stand that contains two back-to-backs, finishing with the Lakers — and who doesn’t want to finish with the Lakers? — before the next demi-vacation.

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A tale of even more woe

The phrase “star-crossed lovers” dates back to Shakespeare, circa 1597; he applied it to Juliet and her Romeo, whose every action seemed somehow to be thwarted by forces beyond their control. Personally, I always thought that the fault, dear readers, was not in their stars, but in themselves, that they were underage; but your mileage may vary.

Anyway, “star-crossed,” over the centuries, seems to have lost whatever direness it had. Nancy Friedman cites several examples, including this one:

A Boston restaurant, Tryst, is running a Valentine’s Day promotion that includes “the romantic Star Crossed Lovers” cocktail, meant to be enjoyed by two smitten people.

Were the promoters true to the term’s origin, it would be the last drink the lovers ever take; but “the ingredients do not include a vial of poison.”

Then again, it’s a restaurant called “Tryst.” Who is their intended clientele? Me and Mrs Jones?

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Find me a find

Number One (chronologically) granddaughter addressed her father’s utter lack of Valentines on this day as follows:

Dad, when you get a girlfriend make sure she is nice, cute, smart, good with kids, rich, and her name should be Kristine.

Just remember: if you thought you were picky, you’ve got nothing on this almost-nine-year-old girl.

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Now with eukaryotes!

Most of what I know about makeup, which is not a whole lot, was derived from following up magazine pieces. The problem with this is that much of what you see is beyond the budget of mere mortals, but they know you’re still going to look. Jessica Stone Levy certainly does:

Those of us too busy with things like kid-shlepping to luxuriate at spas for the perfect glow find ourselves going the Target or Walgreen’s route. And a quick magazine immersion provided me with some new and interesting names.

One such name is “Algenist,” billed as “Biotechnology from San Francisco.” One presumes biotechnology from Des Moines would not be impressive. Jessica hasn’t tried the stuff, but she did try the name out for size:

Pro: Sounds like alchemist, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

Con: Sounds like algae, and I don’t think I want that near my face.

I almost hate to tell her about the active ingredient therein:

Alguronic Acid is a group of complex polysaccharides, produced by specific strains of microalgae that function to protect and regenerate the microalgae cell. Algenist’s team developed a highly advanced process that allows us to grow microalgae and extract the highly functional Alguronic Acid compound.

So the name says it straight. And the compound in question was in fact discovered in San Francisco. You guys in Des Moines, try to keep up, okay?

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Picture me (or don’t)

There was a brief period when I was swapping out avatars on Twitter on what seemed to be a daily basis. The one I finally settled on is one I’d used earlier, with just a hint of — yes, I admit it — ‘shoppery.

Of course, what I look like doesn’t matter a whole lot. Get into the public eye, and suddenly it’s a Matter of Colossal Import. Here are three shots of author Virginia Postrel, a favorite in these parts, each intended for a different audience:

Three photos of Virginia Postrel

Her own discussion of the matter:

In real life, I look more or less like the photo on the left, which is a candid of me accepting the Bastiat Prize. (I’m well lit and well coiffed.) The middle photo is the one I use most of the time as my “official” portrait and is, except for reversing the hands, a characteristic post. (My hair no longer has those post-chemo curls.) The one on the right is my Bloomberg photo, for which I had professional hair and makeup and unknown amounts of retouching. But, most important, the photographer refused to let me smile. No “smirking Girls” at Bloomberg View! (For another contrast, check out Amity Shlaes at Bloomberg View, in a candid lecture shot, and on her own website.) The expression isn’t my resting or serious face either; it’s more attractive. So the picture looks like I’m an actress playing someone else — the same physiognomy but a different personality.

In the past, I have suggested that the ideal photo of me is one in which I do not actually appear, or in which I am generally unrecognizable. (“Who the hell is that?“) After a few hours of enduring a 1978 picture of myself, I decided to install The Bird (see sidebar) as the official Gravatar, which represents me fairly well without actually showing me. Then again, I’m not a particularly public person, and no one is going to ask me for an Official Photo anytime soon. (What, isn’t the passport shot good enough?) In the unlikely event that I become semi-famous, I reserve the right to modify this stance.

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Sharkskin to dye for

If GM’s Bill Mitchell had never designed anything but the ’63 Buick Riviera, he’d still be famous. In classic Detroit style, though, he was also what you’d call something of a character. This month (March) Automobile has a feature on Blaine Jenkins, who worked for the General under Mitchell, and in it is recounted a possibly apocryphal story from the days of the original Mako Shark concept Corvette, which I feel compelled to pass on here:

On a Caribbean fishing trip Mitchell caught a mako shark and then had it stuffed and mounted on his office wall. He then ordered the in-process concept car painted to exactly match his trophy fish.

Every attempt made to shade the paint on the car as subtly as the natural gradation on the shark was furiously rejected, which was a problem for Jenkins because he was considered the “color guy” for Chevrolet. As the story goes, the fish was taken down to the paint shop after-hours, the car was made to look as close to the taxidermist’s masterpiece as possible, and then the fish was sprayed with the same paint from the same gun so that it was identical.

Or, you know, not:

The car’s designer, Larry Shinoda, helped perpetuate the story, but the paint man in charge, Ed Ketterer, tells us that they never actually painted the fish.

Still, this is one of those stories of which they say, if it didn’t happen, well, dammit, it should have.

Interestingly, the Mako Shark article at Wikipedia recounts the story, with an interview with Larry Shinoda as its source.

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Not a word was heard from Shirley

John Forster’s “Entering Marion,” a truly classic Demented Disc — Dr Demento his own self said so — is perhaps not the best guide to driving in Massachusetts, but it still breaks me up every time I hear it.

I’d like to think Forster made enough money off that song to be able to move his life savings away from one of these questionable institutions:

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It’s all those red dots

TTAC commenter “hyundaivirgin” argues that once Japanese automakers built a reputation for reliability, there was no reason for them to pursue any other automotive goals, at least with respect to their American fleets:

Once the Japanese developed a reputation for reliability, it was natural they would attract the laziest, least-interested portion of the car-buying public, those who wanted a reliable car and thought bigger is better. With such a natural audience, it was inevitable that sedans would get bigger quickly and start adding non-driving features to keep up with each other in the highly competitive family car market. I may have wished for the Japanese manufacturers to pay more attention to styling and drivability, but since most people prefer size over nimbleness and gas was cheap until the mid-2000s, market forces inevitably caused the Japanese manufacturers to make their mainstream cars bigger and heavier, and worse to drive. Those who wanted a good drive would have to go to the premium divisions of Lexus, Infiniti or Acura, whose existence also allowed a stylistic split between expensive nice cars and cheap deliberately uglified cars. Not surprisingly, the only manufacturer who didn’t make their cars both big and ugly was Mazda, which didn’t have a premium division. The 626 and first-generation 6 were thus designed to the older Japanese ethic, smaller, lighter, more stylish, and more nimble than the Accord and Camry, but those failed in the market place when Mazda didn’t do the advertising necessary to convince Joe Public smaller could be better. Ironically Mazda seemed to have changed philosophy at precisely the wrong time and introduced a bloated second-generation 6 just when interest in smaller cars and higher mpg was returning.

This chap notes that he owned a ’00 626, which might have been my favorite car ever; it was on the light side (barely 3000 lb with the four-banger and the automatic, even less with a stick), and with decent tires it had an amazing amount of stick, provided you weren’t put off by nautical levels of body roll. It wasn’t especially fast, but it was game for just about anything. Nowadays you can’t sell a mid-sized sedan with 130 hp, because they all weigh 3500 lb or so and people doing “research” on the Internet have discovered that even the lowliest Corolla, one size class down, offers more ponies than that. (Okay, two more ponies. Some people get obsessive about their numbers.) My current ride is on the large side, and I feel every one of those extra 300 lb around a tight curve, but the latest version weighs 200 lb more than that, and most of it seems to be right over the front wheels.

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Some very good years

When George Burns was 85 or so, he quipped that if he made it to 100, he had it made: “Very few people die past that age.” (He made it, barely.) And Burns was always dapper: not for him the look of despair and decay and frailty that some of us in our younger days associated with that scary business of Getting Old. I’m learning to get away from that. Perhaps curiously, one of my teachers is a teenage fashionista:

One of my favoritest things in the world is Advanced Style, a street style blog by Ari Seth Cohen of elderly ladies with killer style. Last fashion week, we hosted a party in honor of these women together at the Ace Hotel, and it was really, really inspiring. It was really special to get to hear women with the most interesting style philosophies discuss it together, and guests seemed relieved to be at a non-gross party where people really were just interested in clothing and style and character and celebrating an unabashed enthusiasm for it; the kind of thing that, ironically, often gets lost during a time of year that’s supposed to be about fashion.

And at Advanced Style, I stumbled across the formidable Edith Drake:

Edith Drake in 2011

Mrs Drake is 90. Nine zero. She looks no more fragile than that metal fence.

Oh, yes, there’s a Mr Drake. He’s 92. He writes songs. (Cue Mr Sinatra.)

And as the ostensible Rookie points out:

Wrinkles and scars and imperfections are signs of life, not of being young and naive and sexy and nonthreatening, so if an aging woman doesn’t take measures to erase indications that she’s built character through experience, if she can no longer be viewed as a sex object or as recently discovered and relevant, she may as well just disappear. It’s subversive to age as these women do, making themselves present, because they want to be. I know now that I’d rather keep all my life scars and be erased for doing so than have to erase them myself.

I’ll need to bookmark this for the next time I start whining about 60, fercrissake.

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Aerial coverage

The back page of Parade yesterday contains a full-page advertisement for something called “Clear-Cast,” a “new razor-thin $47 invention [that] pulls in up to 953 crystal clear over-the-air digital TV shows Free with no monthly bills.”

If your immediate response is “Big deal, I can do that with a TV antenna,” I must point out that your average indoor TV antenna in these digital days costs way less than $47.

Here, though, is where it gets marginally entertaining:

Only callers who beat the 48-hour order deadline and provide the operator with the valid Free TV Claim Code listed above and live in one of the U.S. area zip codes that get Free TV will be permitted to get the Clear-Cast for just $47 and shipping (plus applicable sales tax in OH & FL) to pull in up to 953 crystal clear TV shows each year for Free with no monthly bills.

This gizmo would probably work better in Boston or Los Angeles than it would in Prairie Dog County, Nebraska — more local broadcast signals — except that for some reason (legal, perhaps?) all Massachusetts and California ZIP codes are listed as “Not available.”

And for some reason, this selfsame gizmo was being offered in New York state last year for $38.

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Strange search-engine queries (315)

In not quite sixteen years I have tossed not quite five million words onto this particular site; most of them have been indexed to a fare-thee-well by the Giants of Search, and lots of people land here every week, hoping to find something that corresponds to whatever interests them at that given moment. Me, I just hope it’s funny when they do.

lock britney spears how tacking to bad thins and shes life in 2012:  Leave Britney alone. You’ve obviously been hitting the mango juice again.

is fitflop ok in rome:  Maybe for milling around town, but not for an audience with the Pope.

reese witherspoon peanut butter:  Finally, a reason to give up Jif.

why 711 wont carry lottery tickets:  Cuts into their Slim Jim sales.

girl removes bra:  It’s not like she’s gonna let you do it for her, what with the telltale scent of Slim Jims on your breath.

degrees of suckage:  It got down to 18 degrees yesterday morning, which pretty definitely sucked.

which one of these isn’t a type of rock sedimentary igneous or gormless:  I think you’ll find that few rocks of any type have a substantial quantity of gorm.

give god damn suggestion?he scored almost 40 points!  When in doubt, blame the defense.

Banning Role Conspicuous Magazine Wrong Game Live Action Playing Solipsism Park International 1898:  Never mind that. Who scored almost 40 points?

birthday suitable work:  Well, “fry cook” is definitely out.

do male college students go to nude resorts in cancun:  What are the chances this was being asked by a female?

does sierra mist shrink your penis?  What are the chances this was being asked by a female?

should canada annex us:  What are the chances this was being asked by someone in Cancun?

mark twain zooey deschanel:  And I always thought Becky Thatcher was a blonde.

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Where there’s no “next door” next door

Most of us know the White House is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, though there’s no particular significance to the number: it’s right where 16th Street would intersect Pennsylvania, except that it doesn’t. (H Street is the terminus for this segment of 16th.) There’s nothing else of significance on the 1600 block anyway except Blair House, which is 1651. (The adjacent Lee House, at 1653, and two other townhouses have been subsumed by Blair.) And anyway, this is technically Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest; the street extends into the southeast quadrant of Washington. The address itself is not exactly iconic: in conversation or oratory, it’s always “The White House,” never “Sixteen Hundred.”

In Britain, things are different: “Number Ten” invariably refers to 10 Downing Street in the city of Westminster, the traditional residence of the Prime Minister. Over the years, Number Ten has been more fluid than the number suggests; at some point before 1787, 10 was actually 5 (though 6 probably did not turn out to be 9, pace Mr Hendrix). As is my wont, I got to wondering what else was on this street, specifically at 1 through 8.

No such addresses exist anymore: HM Government demolished everything east of Number Ten in the 1820s for the construction of government offices along Whitehall, though the westernmost section of that complex has an entrance along Downing Street and in 2001 was designated 9 Downing Street. It is the office of the Chief Whip, whose official residence remains at 12 Downing Street. (The original 9 shared a wall with 10; this is not the case today.)

Number 11 is the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; there’s an access door between 10 and 11, and indeed they can be considered one house with two entrances. In recent years, this has led to some minor dust-ups:

…there is no constitutional rule obliging the PM to move there and no one seems to much enjoy actually living there. The trouble is the upstairs layout, which includes one very nice four-room apartment with a large kitchen and airy dining room. Alas, it is located above No 11 and was the cause of a stand-off when Tony Blair invoked his primus inter pares status (and large family) to swipe it off the then childless Gordon Brown. David Cameron is continuing in the same tradition.

Then again, Cameron wasn’t actually screwing around with George Osborne, who at the time had chosen to remain in his home in Notting Hill, though a year after the 2010 elections Osborne moved to Downing Street — to Number 10.

Beyond 12 lies … nothing. The original 13 is now 12; 14 through 20 have long since been removed, and offices fronting on Whitehall and/or Parliament Street have taken the place of the higher numbers.

Still, wherever David Cameron or his successors may actually dwell, they’ll always be referred to in terms of Number 10. Her Majesty’s Government continues the tradition in cyberspace: the Web site for the PM’s office is, complete with a reproduction of the actual digits on the door, an icon in their own right. (Those digits, in fact, deserve a discussion of their own.) And there’s the inevitable Twitter account @number10gov.

One thing I suppose I’ll never know: whether John Lennon might have been fuming about something that had happened at Number Ten while he was intoning “Number nine… number nine… number nine…”

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Approximately half of this past week’s comment spam, duly sequestered by Akismet, has contained the mysterious word (or nonword) “acelenolysunci,” usually in this context:

long year acer trends show only 001 more acelenolysunci topics now pr[xx] in 2012

where x is an integer from 0 to 9. The subject matter of said spam varies, though both Coach bags and Timberland boots have been mentioned.

On an impulse, I took the word to Google, which shot back:

Did you mean: ace analysis

Rather a lot of these seem to have hit artists’ guestbooks.

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Scientists let their hair down

But they wouldn’t let you down, now, would they?

British scientists said on Friday that a “Rapunzel Number” may have helped them to crack a problem that has perplexed humanity since Leonardo da Vinci pondered it 500 years ago.

Scientists from the University of Cambridge and the University of Warwick said they had devised a “Ponytail Shape Equation,” which when calculated using the Rapunzel Number and a measure of the curliness of hair can be used to predict the shape of any ponytail.

Variables, please?

A short ponytail of springy hair, characterized by a low Rapunzel number, fans outward. A long ponytail with a high Rapunzel number hangs down, as the pull of gravity overwhelms the springiness.

Twilight Sparkle was not available for comment.

Oh, wait: yes, she was.

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