Role models?

There exists a site called I Write Like, which offers, in exchange for a brief commercial message about a software package, to read your text and compare its style, if any, to that of a Well-Known Author. I sent up three different chapters from three different stories and got three different results, which suggests, if nothing else, a general lack of stylistic consistency.

For the curious:

  • Chapter 6 of The Sparkle Chronicles: Dan Brown.
  • Chapter 1 of The way she used to be: Neil Gaiman.
  • Entirety of Dead Pony Flying: Anne Rice.

Then again, there are likely only a dozen or so possible responses by the algorithm: it’s unlikely that anyone using the site will be told that she writes like E. L. James or Sinclair Lewis or Laurence Sterne.

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Strange search-engine queries (358)

Google has a function called SafeSearch, which supposedly removes from your results anything that might cause you to gasp in horror. Fortunately for me, they have yet to implement a SaneSearch, which would presumably filter out all the material that shows up here on Monday morning.

What book is Sela Ward reading or read leatle?  I have no idea. And stop calling me Leatle.

“hype is the death of all sub-culture”:  True. But it’s also the birth of all sub-culture. What goes around, comes around.

gillian anderson chin:  In compliance with the standard for humans, a few inches below her mouth. (Jay Leno has an exemption.)

nadja auermann gal:  Well, she’s certainly not a guy.

say you love me you don’t have to mean it:  Department of Heartaches. Please hold.

where can i find tweety bird air fresheners in saint louis:  What are the chances this guy has a Sylvester decal on his quarter-panel?

14ee bust:  Something just seems wrong about that.

she didn’t like it:  Yeah, that’s what she said.

626 transmission whine no movement:  That would certainly make me whine.

96 mazda 626 transmission fails when?  The moment it hears you whine.

what makes 82 cents:  You or I, after taxes.

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Back to Circleville with you

You never know with these Indiana Pacers. They can’t score, supposedly; yet they shot a stirring 60 percent in the first half. Then you look at the Oklahoma City defense, and in those two quarters, you could see holes as bad as anything perforating May Avenue pavement. “Don’t do that,” Scott Brooks presumably said at the half, and for most of the second half, OKC didn’t do that, holding the Pacers to 37 points and nailing down a 104-93 win.

Despite the second-half defensive clampdown, all the Indiana starters made double figures, led by David West with 21. The bench, however, didn’t accomplish much, contributing only 20. Roy Hibbert, who isn’t having the kind of year you’d hope for from someone who expects to be the next Dwight Howard, had a ten-point night, right at his average, though he did make both his free throws, something Howard doesn’t always do.

To be fair, the Thunder didn’t shoot that much better: 49 versus 46 percent. But OKC spent a whole lot of time at the foul line, making 25 of 30. (The Pacers were 11-13.) And this season, you can generally assume that either Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant is going to take over in the fourth quarter. Tonight it was Westbrook, who recorded 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists and only two turnovers. (Ball control was better than average on both sides: OKC coughed up the rock nine times, the Pacers only seven.) Durant, despite hitting 9-24, still finished with 27. And Kevin Martin, who was all over the place in the first half, cooled down a bit in the second but still collected 24 for the night.

Next matchup is Wednesday, with the Pelicans Hornets coming in, followed Friday by the Virginians Kings. I should be able to catch at least one of those.

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The tragedy of the Fourth Font

What’s tragic about it, of course, is that it never should have happened in the first place:

Using more than three fonts is not a sign of talent; using more than three fonts is a sign of laziness and a sign that you simply own a “1,000 Great Fonts” disc. Using so many fonts doesn’t create more visual interest in a website or in a publication; it causes your eye to flit from font to font, never giving the eye a chance to take in what any of it says. A good designer allows the eye to rest and a rested eye can read, can appreciate.

Who knew there were a thousand great fonts?

(Disclosure: I have at hand, counting each variant and weight as one, 751 fonts. In practice, I may dig out twenty in a year’s time. On this page, I use, um, three.)

Obviously, something set me off. It was a professional organization’s newsletter. Completely assembled by an “experienced graphic designer”. Said designer does not even have their own website to display their handiwork or I’d send you there so you could point and giggle or shriek in horror. Said designer has another website, though, but I refuse to link to it since it’s so poorly designed (with all sorts of embedded players that start at the same time) it’ll crash even the hardiest of computers. It frightens me to think someone somewhere is paying such a person good money for work that has not evolved since 1985.

Of course, anyone can hang out his shingle as a “designer.” Then again, anyone who’s ever eaten in an Army mess knows to be suspicious of shingles.

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Classic motor cars

Some of these chassis require ancient Greece:

I was chatting with our bloggeress who mentioned she had rented a Honda Odyssey, and I wondered aloud why Honda had not made the Honda Iliad while they were at it.

Wouldn’t they have had to do the Iliad first?

A few other cars were similarly motivated: the now-defunct Pontiac Patroclus, and of course the trusty old Toyota Priam.

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Letting things slide

Cue Jack Jones and “Wives and Lovers,” and hear the Hyacinth Girl:

I know a lot of girls who think that it is their right and prerogative to relax their standards a bit after they’ve “secured” a male, and they could not be more wrong. You don’t have to maintain your birth weight throughout your entire life, or even look as “good” as you did in high school (I am so much better looking in my thirties than I was in my teens), but acting like you give a shit whether your partner finds you attractive is imperative. It’s a matter of respect. It says, “I still care what you think.” But a lot of women don’t really care what their partner thinks after a certain point, because a lot of women in our society feel they are entitled to do whatever the hell they want, and that no one — not even their partner — can say otherwise.

Then again, one could invert the gender references without necessarily changing the validity of the observation: Mr Davenport J. Spud, clutching his beer and watching the Bengals, is surely no more appealing than the becurlered hausfrau in the flannel robe.

And I suspect that if I’d maintained my birth weight — around 4 kg — for longer than a few months, I’d never have seen my first birthday, let alone my fifty-ninth.

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No cents whatsoever

“All my life I wanted to be someone. I guess I should have been more specific.” — Jane Wagner

A more-specific example of this:

Many years ago (1,413 to be exact), I worked for a small plastics company. I was up in the office wasting time and told the lady doing payroll to see if she could add a couple of extra zeroes to my paycheck that week. She laughed at my poor joke. Friday came and there to the right of the decimal were two perfectly penned zeroes in the third and fourth decimal places.

As anyone who’s heard the old joke about the genie and the three wishes can tell you, be careful what you ask for.

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Same old chestnuts to roast

The Christmas music on the radio starts in November, which means you have ample opportunity to get sick of it before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. (Which, just incidentally, was today.)

And it’s pretty much the same old thing:

A friend noted on Facebook this evening the following: “Listening to christmas music on the radio I realized that every carol and song has been recorded in every style and genre possible.”

It got me thinking — why ARE there no new Christmas songs? Why am I listening to the exact same Christmas music that my dad (and probably my grandfather) listened to at my age, and much younger? I’m pushing 40 and I can definitely tell I haven’t heard any new songs since I was five.

As one of my favorite Jews once said: “Tradition!” The holidays are not a time for pushing the envelope; the holidays are a time for retreating to the safe and comfortable.

But yes, there’s one relatively recent Christmas song they probably won’t play on the radio, and that would be this one:

It’s the new reason for the season.

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Life is so unFerragamo

Francis W. Porretto answers the question I’ve been asked several times: “What’s the deal with women’s shoes?”

It’s got nothing to do with Freud. The shoe is the quintessential outward expression of female sexuality, at both its highs and its lows. Note the trend in shoe purchases by any woman of ordinary means, married or unmarried: the more interested in (and amenable to) sex she is, the more shoes she’ll purchase per unit time, and the more overtly sexual they’ll be. When she’s “on the prowl,” she’ll go for the highest heels, the most daring cuts, and the most eye-catching materials. Once she’s mated, her shoe choices on any day will signal her man to what extent she’ll be receptive to his amorous advances. As she ages and her interest in sex wanes, she’ll take to wearing ever less sexy shoes, regardless of what her Significant Other might have to say about it.

Not having been on anyone’s romantic radar for any significant period of time in the last quarter-century, I can offer no personal data either to support or to refute this notion.

Apparently much of the shoe chatter this weekend was provoked by Ann Althouse’s analysis of a Katie Roiphe piece in Slate. Having only recently finished Roiphe’s essay collection In Praise of Messy Lives, I am persuaded that Roiphe likely went through all that tsuris in Slate to justify a purchase of her own; and having examined at great length the obligatory author photo on the flyleaf, I think it was a fine thing indeed that she did.

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Perpetual outrage is perpetual

Lauren Faust said that originally, she wanted My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to be set in Fillydelphia, and although Hasbro ultimately decided otherwise, equine geographical puns are literally all over the map of Equestria, from Manehattan all the way to Vanhoover. None of them has caused any discomfort greater than that usually associated with bad puns — until last week, when Twilight Sparkle, determined as always, informed her assistant Spike that:

I have to be at my best when [Princess Celestia] arrives with the delegates from Saddle Arabia.

Now arguably this is the worst such pun since “A Canterlot Wedding,” which, according to the promotional material, was preceded by a, um, bridle shower. They can’t all be gems. (And if they could, Spike would eat them.)

Anyway, here are the Princess and the delegates from Saddle Arabia:

M. A. Larson, who wrote that episode, tweeted the following in succession this morning:

Okay, cooler heads prevail. My tweets have been deleted and the guy has been blocked. Don’t know what’s worse, if he’s a troll or serious… Some dude telling me I’ve offended the entirety of the Arab world with a pun I made on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic… My tweets back were way too snarky, so I decided to delete them & block the guy. Either he’s a troll or has serious problems.

If I start seeing Jihad Jr. play sets at Target, then I’ll worry.

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Not so desperate

One nice thing about the Hollywood Walk of Fame: the ceremonies generally yield up some good photos, and I’m rather fond of this shot of Felicity Huffman, who turns 50 this weekend, which was taken at her induction on the 8th of March. (Maybe it’s the little black dress?)

Felicity Huffman on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

It wasn’t just her induction, either; husband William H. Macy was so honored simultaneously, only the second time that a couple went on the Walk together. (The first time, for those of you who need bar bets, was for director Richard Donner and his wife, producer Lauren Shuler Donner, in 2008.)

Huffman’s career path has been interesting: she spent much of her early career in stage dramas by David Mamet, but she’s probably better known for eight years of the TV series Desperate Housewives — or for her lead role in the 2005 film Transamerica.

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Fit for her

That is, the Honda Fit in its “She’s” configuration, one of several products being marketed to women that apparently don’t much impress Nancy Friedman. Says she:

How do we know this car is for women? Well, there’s a heart instead of an apostrophe in “She’s.” It’s available in pink or “eyeliner brown.” And it comes with a PlasmaCluster A/C system “that pumps out specially treated air that improves your skin.”

Eyeliner Brown, I assume, is Encyclopedia Brown’s teenage sister. (Last eyeliner I actually paid for was blue, but you don’t want to know about that.)

Also coming under scrutiny is Cadbury’s new Crispello chocolate-covered wafer, which they say is “a lighter way to eat chocolate.” Says Ms Friedman:

Because, as we know, women need a lot of coaxing to get over our well-documented hormone-linked aversion to chocolate.

I’m wondering if this is Cadbury’s answer to Nestlé’s XY-oriented Yorkie bar.

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Brushing off the Flakers

Let us stipulate that even de-Gasoled and Nashless, the Lakers are probably better than their sub-.500 record indicates; Los Angeles took a one-point lead in the first quarter. The Thunder responded with a 41-point second quarter to go up 14 at the half, and opened it up to 19 in the third quarter. The Lakers still did not die, closing to within four with 14 seconds left as the OKC defense developed an inexplicable case of late-game porosity. But L.A.’s last chance, a missed trey by Jodie Meeks, missed the rim, and the Thunder rolled up their sixteenth win in twenty tries, 114-108.

Telltale statistic: Hard as it may be to believe, Kobe Bryant collected two fouls in a 30-second span late in the fourth quarter. Twice. He finished with five. Being Kobe, he probably figured he had to get the stops in addition to the shots. (He finished with a stellar 35 points.) But for some reason, the Lakers have been better this season when Kobe is not being Kobe. I note with amusement that the suggestion in the Oklahoman this morning that the Thunder should play lots of Hack-a-Howard went for naught: the Dwightster, normally below 50 percent at the line, made five of seven on his way to 23 points. What’s more, Howard reeled in 18 rebounds, contributing substantially to the Lakers’ 45-36 edge in rebounding. And Meeks (17 points) pulled off the neat trick of earning six free throws from a mere two fouls. (He sank five of them.)

We will debate for years, or at least until breakfast, what happened to Russell Westbrook at halftime. Through the first two quarters, just about everything he touched turned to points: he had 27 by then. He finished with 33, which ain’t bad, but still, he looked like a man on a mission for one half and a man who was flailing about for a play for the other. Kevin Durant, meanwhile, was pocketing a comparatively easy-looking 36, 14 from the stripe. And at some point, Scott Brooks decided that having Serge Ibaka shoot over Dwight Howard was at least marginally more efficient than having Kendrick Perkins pester him. (Later, Ibaka got into it with Metta World Peace, but I don’t think there’s anyone past his rookie season who hasn’t gotten into it with Metta World Peace.)

But however it looked, the crowd demanded “Beat L.A.,” and L.A. was duly beaten. I suspect the Pacers, who’ll be here Sunday, might be just a hair tougher.

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Given Leeann’s gift for storytelling, you might suspect that once in a while she’s exaggerating for effect.

And you would be wrong. All sorts of Horrible and/or Demented Individuals show up at retail counters. And they don’t learn from their mistakes, either. For instance:

Police say the 29-year-old suspect walked into the Walmart in question, grabbed a backpack and filled it up with hygiene supplies and over the counter medicine, according to KXXV-TV.

Employees reportedly had no problem catching her, as she was wearing an ankle bracelet to monitor her whereabouts after she was caught stealing from that very same Walmart, and had been busted by the very same employees, twice before. They recognized her and didn’t let her leave the store with her loot.

You want a punchline? Try this one:

“In her case she didn’t steal food or anything that was a Christmas item, she just basically said she needed the items,” said a detective, noting that she wasn’t stealing Christmas gifts, which is a common occurrence during the holiday season.

Uncle Sugar isn’t subsidizing her? There’s a first.

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Quote of the week

I grind out a fair number of words around here, and on the side I’ve thrown together 53,032 words of fanfic. This massive body of work qualifies me to call myself — well, nothing, as Bill Quick explains:

Most people are horrible writers and have no hope of ever being anything but horrible. Even the ones who are dedicated enough to actually put out a few words are, for the most part, horrible. The people who put out lots of words, arrange them into finished products — books, stories, screenplays, even well-read blogs — are scarce as hen’s teeth. Scarcer. Because not only do you need to acquire the craft of writing (craft? who dat?), you need some sensitivity to the art of writing and then, at bottom, you have to have talent. I understand that within the American ethos there is something faintly … repulsive … about the notion that some intangible nobody can really quantify, something you may as well have been born with, makes you better than most other god-fearing Amurricans at doing something, but there it is.

I’d argue that I’m better at it now than I was sixteen years ago, but that doesn’t make me good at it.

Playing in the fanfic sandbox has been at times humbling. I don’t really think in long form — I have yet to produce a story over 20,000 words, though three of them could be reasonably combined into a single narrative in the 40k range — but I am surrounded by people who do this as easily as falling off a bandwagon, serving as a regular reminder of this particular inadequacy. (I have others.) Some of these folks might be good enough to make a living at this sort of thing. And if they do, they’ll probably run into the same issues Bill Quick does:

[P]ro writers (a pro, who gets paid for it, is almost by definition a writing success) get it from both directions: First, most folks think what they do is easy, and second, they resent that if it’s not easy, that’s because of some unfair advantage these mountebanks are born with.

And even in this sandbox, there are those who are unhappy with their lot. So what else is new?

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Thumbs newly recounted

Back in October, I produced what I didn’t actually call a Hater Index, which was calculated by dividing the number of dislikes on a given YouTube video by the number of likes. At the time, Rebecca Black’s first three singles were still over 1.0: more thumbs down than up. “Sing It,” however, had registered a definitely upbeat 0.52.

“Sing It” is holding at 0.52, a month and a half later; but “In Your Words” has settled down to a nice, comfortable 0.24: likes outnumber dislikes four to one. Said one commenter: “Rebecca Black, please make more songs. Every time you release a new song it seems like the haters gradually go away.”

Yep. The numbers so indicate.

Just for S&Gs, I looked up “It’s Thanksgiving,” the spiritual heir to “Friday”: it weighs in at a startling 7.29. And while “Friday” itself is still on the far side of 4.0, it’s garnered three million additional views in those six weeks, demonstrating both its staying power and the wisdom of RB’s business model.

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