Give the people what they want

And you’ll wind up resenting it, and them:

[T]he two top draws of hits on my insightful, scathing political commentary blog are pictures of unattractive female celebrities doing stupid shite.

Note to self: Cut back on the insight and the scathe.

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Even less grip to be gotten

Last week I complained about a proposed California tire-labeling regulation which emphasized low rolling resistance, for what I thought was a very good reason:

[T]ires with low rolling resistance have less actual road grip, pretty much by definition.

The Feds have now gotten into the act, and they’re selling the same brand of nonsense as those misbegotten Californians. The difference? Washington tacitly admits it. Behold their sample:

NHTSA sample tire rating

Obviously the work of Super Geniuses. (This screenshot is located on my server, just in case someone in D.C. tries to flush it down the memory hole.)

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It’s that new tessellation defense

FreeDarko’s current mock NBA draft suggests Wake Forest combo guard Jeff Teague for the Thunder’s #25 pick. Clearly they understand the Zeitgeist at the Ford:

Like most players on OKC, Teague has no clear position. It’s tempting to say they need someone who can bring clarity to the lineup, but that could introduce an entirely new set of problems, like a glaucoma patient who smokes medicinal pot only to end up suffering from really bad paranoia. Better to stick with someone who isn’t even sure if he’s playing point or shooting guard from possession to possession and confuse the opponent even more. This isn’t versatility — it’s the new Escher.

Right now we’ve got someone trying to figure out a way to turn the opponents’ bucket into a Klein bottle.

(Spotted by Jax Raging Bile Duct. Say it again: “Jax Raging Bile Duct.”)

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Should be some extra space in Q

Twenty-six drawers, no waiting:

Alphabet Chest by Kent and London

Glorious, isn’t it? The only downside I can see, apart from not having £2700 (plus God knows what for freight) to spare, is that I know I’d try to keep things in the appropriate drawer: boxers in B, socks in S, and things I can’t possibly recognize after all these years in X.

Not that anyone should be surprised that I exhibit signs of OCD.

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Day and night, night and day

My favorite Gene Pitney record begins with a ferocious drum roll, mighty enough to throw your heart off its rhythm — and if it doesn’t, the words will:

It hurts to be in love
When the only one you love
Turns out to be someone
Who’s not in love with you

It hurts to love her so
When deep down inside you know
She will never want you
No matter what you do

How good a record? Neil Sedaka put this out, perhaps as a favor to old writing partner Howard Greenfield, who penned this with Helen Miller; RCA Victor refused to release it, complaining that it wasn’t done in-house. Gene’s version, as it happens, is exactly Sedaka’s, with Neil’s voice scraped off and a brief organ bit overdubbed. “Don’t change a thing!” someone at Musicor, Pitney’s label, must have said.

How good a description? Viewed through the prism of Grey’s Anatomy, perhaps too good:

O’Malley followed the path that a lot of us do. He at once acknowledged that she was out of his league and so didn’t make his move but then did not acknowledge that the next move was his… the move away. Moving out of the apartment or trying to tackle his futile emotions. The romantic in all of us says that love is not something that can be contained, but to say that of O’Malley is also to say that of Meredith. The main difference being that she at least had a shot at her dream at one point.

There is supposed to be a romantic tragedy behind the love of the unattainable. I think that popular entertainment presents us with it so often (and make it love actualized sometimes) because we can all relate to it. But I view it as a truly destructive force. The inability to get someone out of your mind or to let a former lover go is one of the greatest sources of self-inflicted misery I’ve seen in those around me in my somewhat privileged life. It’s human and to some extent unavoidable, but I find Hollywood’s exaltation of this impulse to be problematic. I’ve complained before about how Hollywood misleads men by making them think that persistence counts. But it misleads women into thinking that men will come around, too. And it misleads all of us into thinking that there is something beautiful about unrequited love and dreaming the impossible (Mc)Dream(y).

There isn’t.

Once in a while, though, it makes a really good record. For some of us, that’s going to have to be enough.

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Pretty flies for the PETA guys

By now everyone’s heard it: PETA wouldn’t hurt a fly, and they damned sure don’t want the President doing it.

Before I call shenanigans, I want an answer to this:

Does anybody have any invoices from PETA offices for pest control?

Roaches, ants, mice… anything that shows that a PETA office has paid to have animals more pesky and annoying than flies killed?

Then again, they can always do it themselves.

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Leveling the paying field

There exists, says Andy, a “screw-the-rich-guy mindset”:

I saw it at Maaco, Corvette repairs/painting, automatically 50% higher. Rationalized by “Corvette owners are more particular, and we will [have] more issues with them, besides they have too much money. I see it at our house, “big brick house, clay tiles, I can replace your 200 linear feet of gutters for $20,000″.

Unless you’re using, say, Equatorial Guinea as a benchmark, I am not any kind of rich guy. I wonder, though, if Gwendolyn’s spa days cost a heck of a lot more than I’d be shelling out had I bought a workaday Nissan Maxima instead.

I’m thinking maybe not. The labor rate might well be a smidgen higher, but parts is parts, and Maxima parts generally cost about the same as I30 parts. Perhaps more to the point, though, is the fact that the local dealership is dualed with Porsche/Audi. Which means, if you think about it, that Infiniti is their budget brand. If anyone’s getting soaked, it’s the guy with the Cayenne Turbo.

And at the moment, I don’t need new guttering, saints be praised.

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Quote of the week

Is this what’s troubling you, cousin?

You got scammed by Bernie Madoff? You bought Citi at $54 a share and now it’s at $3 a share? You mortgaged yourself to the max for a new Vegas condo in 2005, based on your salary at a development company that got wiped out when the Vegas real-estate boom evaporated in 2007?

Whose fault is all that, huh? Why is it the job of the federal government to cover the economy in foam Nerf padding like a McDonald’s Playland so that you never suffer for your own financial stupidity?

Liberals want to make the financial sector so “safe” that I could hand my paycheck to my 10-year-old son, let him invest it in Nintendo games and baseball cards, and still be guaranteed a profit.

I am not quite as hopeful as Mr. McCain. In the not-so-distant future, the federal Fun Czar (just wait) will contrive to have all Game X Change stores unionized, which will push up the prices, and if a member of your World of Warcraft guild sells something at an auction house in Azeroth, the IRS will be expecting a cut.

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Beyond Twitter

How much more can the national attention span shrink? This much:

I just really have to wonder, what’s next? Soon there will be a website where you write everything you ate that day or maybe you’ll have to write the first word that pops into your mind every 30 seconds. I’m being ridiculous, I know, or am I? I could be right and then we’ll see who gets the last laugh.

Of course, if she is right, the elapsed time between first and last laughs is likely to be only a minute or so.

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OMG TXT $

Consumers Union, the group that puts out Consumer Reports, says you’re paying too much for text messages:

As CU has noted, less than four years ago rates to send a text message were 10 cents per text at the nation’s four big wireless carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Each company then raised rates to 15 cents, then to 20 cents.

To CU, these text-message rates, along with exclusivity deals for certain cell phones, exemplify the need for “more oversight” into the wireless marketplace, to “determine if government intervention is necessary.”

But note, from the same article:

Prices are discounted heavily for text messages bought in monthly bundles that typically run into the hundreds.

You have to figure that people who do tons of text are already signed up for these bundles, and the rest of us don’t need them:

Right now, if some emergency absolutely demands I send somebody a text message I can do it, though I’ll likely pay around a quarter to send just a few lousy letters to the receiving phone. Still, 25 cents every so often is still cheaper than 20 or 30 dollars a month for an unlimited text messaging plan I’d certainly never use.

Disclosure: My current plan includes 50 texts per month at no additional charge. The number of months I’ve exceeded this is, um, zero. (I think the largest number of texts I had in any thirty-day period was 11. Trini can do that in thirty minutes. She has an unlimited text package, you may be sure.)

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339

The 339th edition of Carnival of the Vanities is titled “Broken Steel,” a topic of considerable interest to me, since at my advanced age I tend to worry about breaking myself and then winding up in, for instance, this Comet 339 steel wheelchair for an extended period.

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Caturday matinay

It’s I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL.

Srsly. It’s at FringeNYC this summer. I suspect Critical Cat will be critical.

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A book at bedtime

At one of those humongous book outlets, I snagged something called The World’s Worst Weapons by Martin J. Dougherty (New York: Metro Books, 2007), and it reinforces my belief that we’re not all that efficient at killing each other.

“Worst” seems to be beyond cavil for at least some of the entries: by the time I was issued an actual M16, they’d supposedly fixed the tendency for the plastic barrel shroud to crack in cold weather, but the rifle’s resistance to dirt was as lousy as ever. (Are the AR-15s like that?)

Dougherty gives good understatement, too. On the Italian Glisenti M1910 pistol, he says:

The detachable left side of the weapon was meant as a convenience. It tended to detach itself when the weapon was fired, however, and this was not a well-liked feature.

I suspect, though, that Tam has read this, and perhaps has already decided that the guy is talking through his nunchaku.

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She dissed a girl, and she liked it

What’s wrong with this picture?

Katy Perry is suing an Australian fashion designer bearing the same name as her. Despite having a minor difference in their names’ spelling, Katie Perry found herself the subject of a lawsuit filed by the “Hot N Cold” singer.

The Australian Katie, who has a Katie Perry luxury loungewear label set up two years ago, launched a trademark application for her brand last September, which the American Katy found displeasing. The designer received a letter from the singer’s Queensland lawyer last week, telling her to stop trading.

Let’s compare birth certificates, shall we? The American Katy is named Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson; the Aussie Katie is named Katie Jane Perry.

Bill Wyman was not available for comment.

(Via Agent Bedhead.)

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Put on your Oxfords and dance

Jacqueline hopes to make the world a better, or at least more grammatical, place:

If you’ve ever read scientists’ unedited writing then you can probably imagine my pain. The passive verb tenses, the nominalizations, the convoluted run-on sentences so stuffed full of technical terms that I can’t tell where the compound adjectives end and the compound nouns begin … they make my brain melt.

It could be worse. They could be writing in Spanish, which, according to a wise Latina, has no adjectives at all.

A journey of a thousand miles, of course, begins with a single step, so here is hers:

When I first began working here, only one of the four writers in my department consistently used the serial comma. The other three would accept my edits when I imposed it onto their writing, but they kept sending me drafts in which it was omitted.

So I decided to make evangelizing the serial comma my personal mission. I explained to them why the serial comma was the superior choice for clarity. I wrote the classic “To my parents, Ayn Rand and God” example on their whiteboards to demonstrate why omitting it was confusing. I complained about how I can’t tell how many items are in a list if I’m unfamiliar with the terms and they don’t use the serial comma.

If you’re not familiar with the term, listen up:

[T]he comma separates items (including the last from the next-to-last) in a list of more than two — e.g.: “The Joneses, the Smiths, and the Nelsons.” In this position, it’s called, variously, the serial comma, the Oxford comma, or the Harvard comma. Whether to include the serial comma has sparked many arguments. But it’s easily answered in favor of inclusion because omitting the final comma may cause ambiguities, whereas including it never will — e.g.: “A and B, C and D, E and F[,] and G and H.” When the members are compound, calling for and within themselves, clarity demands the final comma.

Unless you thought God and Ayn Rand actually had a child together, of course, in which case you’ll be forgiven if you exhibit indifference, as is common in popular music: the Monkees released two consecutive albums that could have used this extra bit of punctuation, but didn’t. (Then again, to quote Neil Sedaka, “Down doo-bee doo down down,,”.)

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Mötley Crüe gets by with two

Mimi Smartypants makes a possibly-astute observation about fundamental American tastes:

[Y]esterday all of my cookbooks fell off of their kitchen-window-ledge shelf … and as I labored to set things right I noticed that under the large title CRÈME BRÛLÉE the tagline read, “America’s Favorite Dessert.” Which I think is stretching the truth an awful lot, because nothing with three different diacritical marks is ever going to be America’s Favorite anything.

So GM can forget about renaming its largest-selling brand “Chévrölèt,” I’m assuming.

(Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

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Watch that utility bill

Sunday night, which was the 14th, I got out the checkbook so I could pay the water bill, which is always due on the 17th.

Except this month, when it was due on the 15th. Obviously I’m not going to be mailing in a check Monday morning if it’s due that same day.

So I used the city’s online-payment service that evening; they sent me an email receipt the next morning, which is all very well and good. By then I’d already circulated a warning to the neighborhood, since we’re all on the same billing cycle.

But was it just us? I asked around over the next couple of days, and of those who’d recently received a bill, yes, they’d had two days shaved off their due date.

So if you’re on Oklahoma City utility billing, you might want to take a look at your bill. And I wonder if this has anything to do with the arrival of the $3.65 billing for TotalCare ambulance service in October.

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This was a test

Keely by Circa Joan & DavidThe idea: fire up the Zappos Map, and report on the first pair of shoes appearing that was priced under $100.

Which was this: Keely, from Joan & David’s Circa line, a leather slingback with an “antique-like ornament” at the toe and a sturdy-looking four-inch heel. Black, dark brown and ivory versions are available, but I liked this medium red, probably because, well, it’s red and it affects something in the limbic system. That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it. And the “under $100″ criterion was met, but barely: current Zappos price is $98.95.

And while I’m on the subject: Four inches? When I was growing up and studying mail-order catalogs — when I was a kid I once snagged a Sears, Roebuck spring/summer book and circled every single item I wanted for my house when I grew up, which gives you an idea of how assiduous these studies were — I never saw, or at least I don’t remember seeing, anything taller than about 2¾ inches. Then again, this was the 1960s after all.

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Barely comprehensible

Mike was sufficiently amused by the term “birthday suit” to go hunting down its origins, but he is not entirely persuaded by what he found:

I stumbled upon a page from Dictionary.com. The site explains that “in 18th-century Britain this term originally referred to the clothes one wore on the king’s birthday. Later it was jocularly transferred to bare skin, alluding to the condition of a newborn baby.” Jackpot. Well, kind of. I still had no idea why an expression that once referred to clothes worn to impress a royal became a synonym for nudity.

I wonder if it has anything to do with the Emperor’s new clothes.

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Horning in

Dan Rather, in a moment of shining lucidity, once noted that “Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn’t block traffic.” Residents of the City of New York, I have long believed, were quintessentially American in this regard. As I noted during World Tour ’02:

I executed a fair number of what I would normally consider to be startling moves in traffic, operating under the assumption that New Yorkers wouldn’t care what kind of crap I pulled so long as I didn’t inconvenience them in so doing. From the absence of horns sounded in anger rather than sorrow (and with WQXR on the radio, I’d have heard them had they been sounded), I must conclude I was right.

But that was then, and this is now:

New York has unseated Miami as the least courteous city, according to the fourth annual In the Driver’s Seat Road Rage Survey, commissioned by AutoVantage, a leading national auto club. The Big Apple moved up from its No. 3 ranking last year to claim the distinction. Rounding out the five worst cities for road rage are Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Atlanta and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

The survey also named a new city as the most courteous. Portland, Ore., took the top spot, moving up from No. 2 last year. It was followed by Cleveland, Baltimore, Sacramento and Pittsburgh.

I’ve never driven in Portland, but I’ll vouch for Cleveland: despite a nonexistent road-repair budget, a baffling grid — 18th and Euclid to 81st and Euclid (which I actually drove one evening) is less than 2.5 miles — and the presence of money-grubbing enclaves like Linndale, driving through northeast Ohio was always a breeze for me.

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