Build more crap!

John A. Johansen, to the Oklahoman’s Steve Lackmeyer, a few years back:

It’s not beautiful to others who are looking for something past as an expression of beauty. But I have relieved myself of the burdens of accepted beauty. It would have killed anything left of my process.

I don’t know. Beauty “accepted” by me stretches over a long range; something that makes me say “Holy flurking schnit, did they really build that?” is invariably well within that range.

And now that Johansen is gone and presumably ready to rotate about his axis when Stage Center is torn down, Lackmeyer muses:

Somewhere there must be a middle ground in all this. Do we really want to be a city where architecture consists of Walmarts, McDonald’s and tilt-up concrete office buildings? Will anyone look at Harkins Theater in Lower Bricktown in 30 years and cry when it’s torn down? Yet we also know, such forgettable architecture is also very friendly to occupants — cost efficient to heat and cool, easy on maintenance, not a big deal to tear down and rebuild.

It’s too late to build anything that stands the test of time. We don’t even know how long the test of time actually takes, fercrissake. A perfunctory look through local message boards tells you exactly what people want: big pointy things that will look good during the bumpers of NBA telecasts. Oh, and they want the beleaguered First National Center to go residential so they can move in. I believe them about as much as I believe the putative auto enthusiasts who swear they’re just dying for a diesel-powered station wagon with a stick shift.

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Snakes in the main

Derek Kreindler’s lyrical paean to the ’13 Ford Shelby GT500 ends about like this:

The performance is astounding but irrelevant. The styling can be had on a $22,000 Mustang V6. A better drive can arguably be had with a Boss 302. But nowhere else can you give such a middle finger to the zeitgeist. It doesn’t want to check in via Foursquare at the Mexican-Korean fusion place. It doesn’t care about Car Free Sundays, or dubstep music or the newest celebrity chef. Exploding away from a stop light, hanging out the window, with a cigarette between our lips, without fear of the cops, or fear of another day of indentured servitude unpaid internships, or having to compose a response to the latest text message from our significant other. Morals are relative, the middle class is shrinking, God is dead, our lives are lived in public, and a small part of us yearns for an era we never knew, where marriage, 2.5 kids, and a mortgage was not only attainable, but attained early. We’ve never had more freedom or opportunities, but we still find ourselves yearning for a past era, where things weren’t as fluid or permissive; it’s why we throw Mad Men themed dress-up parties where the guys get a free pass to make misogynistic remarks, pinch the girls’ rears and watch them giggle with guilty glee as they hand out baked treats and push feminism into the attics of their psyche.

The orgiastic past may recede before us, but this car — our one link to that bygone epoch — keeps getting better and better.

I don’t get invited to parties of that sort, but I understand this perfectly well. Not that 662 horsepower requires a hell of a lot of explanation.

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Doyled again

I was sorting through a folder called “miscpix,” which of late seems to be filling up with pony stuff, and happened upon this item, dated 2003, which I inexplicably have never posted:

Damhnait Doyle

This is Damhnait Doyle, arguably the best singer ever to come out of Labrador City. (From what I’ve heard, neither snowy owls nor caribou come off as particularly musical.) Apparently she had this posted on her Web site about the time her third album, Davnet, came out; a cutout from it was worked into the cover art. (Old-timers around here may remember me complaining about some rude copy-protection scheme on the CD.)

From that very album, here’s track two, “Another California Song.”

She’s done group work since, with Shaye and with The Heartbroken, but only one solo album in the interim: Lights Down Low (2008), which features a languid, torch-y cover of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me.”

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The right to bear spray

This is a perfectly lovely set of photos taken this month in Glacier National Park, and the mood is interrupted only once, by a placard containing the words “Entering Grizzly Country” and a silhouette of a can of, um, bear spray, which seems to be your basic capiscum-based pepper spray in a dose presumably designed for grizzlies, anent which: “Bear mace is legal across the USA. It can be purchased even in Hawaii, New York, or Massachusetts, where standard pepper sprays are illegal.”

“Your Honor, I swear, I thought it was a bear.” You know it’s happened.

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What, me renew?

This is the current MAD subscription-renewal pitch:

We’ll get right to the point. We think you are extremely bright, refined, well-spoken, astute and talented. You, more than anyone we know (with the possible exception of everyone else to whom we’re sending this form letter) understands the true meaning of quality entertainment. In other words, we have absolutely no idea why you subscribed to MAD in the first place! But since you did, why stop now?

Methinks subscription manager Jeffrey Lozenge (that’s what it says) has toggled off his grammar checker, but you can’t have everything. The MAD fulfillment house is in Big Sandy, Texas, presumably the same folks who do Whole Dog Journal, Reason, and The Saturday Evening Post.

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Tired of this sort of thing

Joe Sherlock wheeled into Costco for some new treads. He won’t do that again:

When I picked up my car, I noticed that the very nice polished aluminum valve caps had been replaced by cheap bright green plastic ones.

I went back and asked, “Where are my valve caps?” I received the sheepish reply, “Ummmm… we didn’t know you wanted them.” Yeah, right. I’m sure that they were destined for a place of honor on an employee’s Chevy low-rider.

I have some spiffy aluminum valve caps, though not brand-specific.

But that’s not all they did to him:

All of the tire pressures were waaaaay off. And it took me over a half-hour just to clean rubbery gunk off my wheels with Goo-Gone cleaner. This is an example of disgraceful service and treatment.

Now I wish we had a Costco here, so I could refuse to take my car there.

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Yet the figures remain interesting

Various Web sites maintain galleries of News Babes, for the benefit of those of us who don’t give a flip about the reportage but might appreciate the occasional eye candy. Does this mean I don’t notice anomalies in the crawl? It does not mean that:

Fox and Friends screencap

Um, no. There has been no month ever in which 14.5 million vehicles were sold. What this report undoubtedly said was that the March figures were consistent with an annual rate, seasonally adjusted, of 14.5 million vehicles.

Update: And, in fact, it did say that.

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PR response of the year

Bloomberg News ran a piece a week ago that indicated Fiat, in its capacity as High Overlord of Chrysler, might be contemplating building Jeeps in China, and a phrase to the effect that they “may eventually make all their models in that country,” hinting at multiple lines, was apparently interpreted as meaning that Jeep was actually moving all its production to China.

Which they aren’t, as Chrysler is taking pains to point out:

There are times when the reading of a newswire report generates storms originated by a biased or predisposed approach.

On Oct. 22, 2012, at 11:10 a.m. ET, the Bloomberg News report “Fiat Says Jeep® Output May Return to China as Demand Rises” stated “Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. [Mike] Manley (President and CEO of the Jeep brand) referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.”

Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.

And just to hammer it home:

Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.

Of course, were it not for unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments, we’d have thirty blogs instead of thirty million.

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Recommended by Several Critics

It’s The Title: The Movie. Finally.

(As seen on FAIL Blog’s WIN!)

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Middle-school syndrome

“Middle school,” said Rebecca Black, “is not the best time in your life.”

“The worst years of our lives,” say Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen, and they propose a way to make it somewhat less awful: “give as much attention to emotions and values as they give to academics.”

How this works at a middle school in Providence:

At the start of every year, Paul Cuffee students come together to create and write the school’s social contract, which is a set of guiding principles to keep the school safe and running smoothly. Here’s this year’s version:

1. Respect the environment, yourself, and the community.
2. Cooperate: Teamwork makes the dream work.
3. Support each other even when the odds are against us.
4. Be yourself, do what you love, and try!
5. Be resilient: Fall 7 times, stand up 8.

When students do something — clogging a toilet, perhaps? — that falls outside these principles, middle school principal Nancy Cresser sits down with them and asks which one they think they’ve transgressed. “They know exactly which ones they’ve violated and they figure out how to fix it,” she says. Instead of storming off or pouting about the unfairness of the rules, Cresser says that Paul Cuffee students are OK with being held accountable. They’re the ones who created the rules, after all. So the students in question come up with a plan to fix what happened.

Social engineering? Sure. But at least it’s trying to foster a sense of accountability, which unfortunately isn’t quite as common as it used to be.

Then again, when Joanne Jacobs posted a link to this story, several commenters said that the basic problem with middle school is that it exists at all. One example:

One way to fix middle school is to eliminate it … it tends not to work, kids are treated like things to be feared vs being given leadership opportunities, mentoring, tutoring, opportunities in a K-8 school. The K-8 system works … it is the adults that have the issues and the students sense the fear.

I went through the K-8 cycle myself, though I am loath to consider any experience I may have had as baseline data. My kids went through middle school, and they seem relatively sane, at least compared to their old man. What about you?

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Hereafter “Fiero Girl”

By the time she’s legally able to drive, she might well have turned that collection of automotive detritus into a working car. (After the jump, because Turner serves up embeds s l o w l y sometimes.)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Harder even than diamond

On one level, I find this utterly charming:

Nokia 3360 or 3390 phone

And then I remember that I had one of these phones, and it took me nine years to break it, but I did break it.

Anyone want to guess how long I was married?

(Via Ask My Little Dashie.)

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Strange search-engine queries (352)

This is the usual weekly roundup of search strings used to reach this domain. It is, I think, safe to say that it should have no influence, one way or another, on anyone’s ladyparts.

tavi gevinson compare janis joplin:  Most obviously, Tavi has a smallish voice and is still alive; Janis had a big voice and, well, isn’t.

worldbestproduct:  If you ask me, a HVAC system that uses dirt for fuel.

where is the transmission solenoid located do u have a picture for 93 marquis:  You know, if you’re not sure where the part is located, you might want to let somebody else fix it.

women stripped my invisible force:  They do that. Get used to it.

friends dont let friends get nuked billboard dixie hwy and 183rd st:  Oh. Nuked. For a moment there I thought you said “naked.”

space time vortex with battery:  I should hope so. You’d have a devil of a time trying to keep it plugged into the wall.

how does machine catch shoplifters in metro karachi:  It draws them into a space-time vortex.

cracked anvil:  How large a crack? About the length and width of a coyote’s head, maybe?

Just print the attached PDF boarding pass virus:  Now why can’t all malware have simple instructions like that?

what is brain drifting:  See, for instance, any of the previous 20,000 or so posts.

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Old-school thinking

The old school, in this case, is the Electoral College, and it deserves a couple of cheers, says Garett Jones:

The electoral college, set forth in the U.S. Constitution, is a great tool for reducing social conflict across regions of the United States. You might think that’s a crazy claim — don’t we see maps of red and blue, and aren’t the red places — the places supporting the Republican — mostly in the South and Midwest? Indeed, and that pattern across regions is key to explaining how the electoral college defuses some social tension.

And if there’s anything of which we have a surplus in this largely stagnant economy, it’s social tension. Look what we’d have with a straight popular vote:

[I]t’s safe to say that if your state is polling 65% for a particular presidential candidate, neither candidate is likely to campaign there any time soon.

And that’s great news for social peace. We rarely hear too much about regional issues in the U.S. other than farmers vs. everyone else. But if the presidency was decided by majority rule, I’m sure we’d hear a lot more about regional differences. Could a presidential candidate get 75% of the votes in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida by promising broad-based Gulf Coast subsidies and a few other goodies? Could a candidate get 85% of California’s and New York’s votes partly by offering housing subsidies for people facing high housing costs?

I don’t know: But if we got rid of the electoral college and had a popularly elected president we’d sure have a chance to find out.

And we don’t want to, either:

As it stands, presidential candidates are trying to appeal to the median voter in each state across a large number of states. That’s how you get to be president. This reduces regional tensions because candidates are never trying to get 90% of the votes in a state. When you’re pitting 90% of one region of the country against 90% of another region of the country, you’re substantially raising the probability of social conflict. Too many civil wars are based on regional differences for this to be no big deal.

It would be well to remember that those who wail and gnash their teeth about the distribution of power are always making exactly the same argument: Group A, whom we disdain, needs to be disempowered for the benefit of Group B, whom we embrace. My own stance on this is simple: Groups A through Z inclusive should be told to STFU and GBTW, because groups, other than the states themselves and We The People, have no standing under the Constitution. And I’m getting to the point where I would much rather everyone were vaguely dissatisfied with the system as it is than have some ecstatically happy at the expense of everyone else.

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In the wake of Sandyfication

With the hurricane well on its way, Megan McArdle offers the following advice:

If you live in the Northeast, and you haven’t already, now would be a very good time to make sure that homeowner’s insurance is up to date.

And while she didn’t go this far, I will: do not be surprised when your premiums skyrocket. (Mine have nearly doubled in two years, and I was already paying more than you are.)

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Suzette spotted this placard while exiting a ladies’ room in Denver:

Restroom sign in Denver: Door lever treated with an antimicrobial coating for your protection

Now is this going to make you feel better because presumably you won’t be encountering any nasty stuff on the actual door handle, or is it going to make you feel worse because none of the other surfaces inside that room, many of which you touched, apparently had been so treated?

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