For now, we will pretend not to look

Harry Reid’s assessment of Kirsten Gillibrand as “the hottest member” of the Senate was not exactly well-received, because one’s appearance is purely superficial, doncha know. The trouble with that stance is that it’s not in the nature of beauty to remain purely superficial:

We’re more complicated than that. We are too sensitive to other cues. We get to know people in too many other ways. We fall in love. In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf describes a conversation between a couple. The man is saying, “You’re so beautiful.” And the woman is frustrated because she thinks he thinks that mostly because he loves her. And once he loves her, “you’re beautiful” just means “I love you,” and is therefore devalued. Because all of the value has been co-opted by the idea of objective, loveless beauty. The kind that can be universally recognized. The kind that makes the man fall in love in the first place, without knowing anything else about the woman.

The relationship between Reid and Gillibrand, I assume, is based purely upon need, as in “I need your vote.”

Jane Austen, of course, has been here before:

When Mr. Darcy sees Elizabeth Bennet for the first time in Pride and Prejudice (one of the funniest, most sarcastic, and most playful books ever written), he doesn’t think she’s very attractive. “She is tolerable,” he says. “But not handsome enough to tempt me.” Her sister, everyone agrees, is much, much better looking. But then Mr. Darcy sees a little more of Elizabeth’s personality. He hears her laugh a few more times. He encounters her after she’s been running through the mud in a very unladylike (but very daring and excitingly independent-minded) manner. And he begins to change his mind. By the end of the book, he thinks she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. Who cares if Darcy thought Elizabeth was hot when he met her? Well, I do, because that would make for a much less interesting story.

And when you get right down to it, we are attracted to different things, a fact lost on the promoters of beauty pageants, who have an unerring knack for finding several dozen women who look almost exactly alike.

When I saw Lord of the Rings, I thought that Samwise Gamgee was the hottest guy in the movies. Hands down. There were a bunch of girls who kept talking about Legolas, and I had no idea why. I mean, he was fine looking, but Sam — he was on a totally different level. Sturdy, manly, sweet, kind, expressive. And I have friends who think that skinny, practically malnourished, slightly bedraggled hipster look is the sexiest look that has ever been invented, and wonder aloud why it took guys so long to start wearing really, really tight jeans. We can’t seem to agree.

Then again, I figure I would have stood the best (by which is meant “least bad”) chance with Mary Bennet — until she actually opened her mouth.

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A man’s reach should exceed his grass

As a matter of fact, I am trying out a new lawn service.

It ain’t these guys, though:

(Despite a recommendation from TLO, even.)

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Noises on

I have yet to see a Chevrolet Cruze in the flesh sheetmetal, but I am assured that the sound system therein is at least adequate, because a GM audio engineer has a ten-song test routine to give it the maximum workout.

Three of these tracks I own, and could use to test Gwendolyn’s Bose box, but truth be told, I get most of my stereo evaluation from a single song: “Point of No Return” by Nu Shooz — you already knew I was a fan of the Shooz — which I acquired on vinyl via the Poolside LP, and later on a 12-inch single. Both tormented my phono cartridge, with seemingly every high-frequency percussive known to man and a solid bottom end from the usual synthesized sources. Getting this on CD, of course, was a no-brainer.

This squoze-down YouTubed version doesn’t quite do it justice, but it gives you the idea. And it beats the hell out of having to hear “Hotel California” again.

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An unusually large Carnival of the Vanities, the 392nd in the series, bears the title “Thank CoTV autumn is finally here.”

After a particularly-wearying summer, I have to agree. Not that everyone is all that crazy about the fall: it was in the fall, in fact, that Sir Walter Raleigh’s head tumbled into the basket. Sir Walter, it appears, was accused of connivance in the so-called Main Plot against James I; James, rather than order his execution, instead imprisoned him in the Tower of London. Upon his release, Raleigh assembled a expedition which attacked a Spanish outpost in Venezuela; the Spanish ambassador, Diego Sarmiento de Acuña, 1st Count of Gondomar, demanded Raleigh’s head as a price for keeping the peace with Spain, and James, who by then was quite cozy with Gondomar, acceded to the demand. It was the fall of 1618, which was, of course, 392 years ago, and 350 years before John Lennon got the idea of cursing Raleigh.

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Rich guys? We got some

We got your billionaires right here: seven of them, according to the current Forbes 400 list. One fellow who hasn’t been there before: Joseph W. Craft III, CEO of Alliance Resource Partners, a Tulsa-based coal producer. (They don’t actually produce any coal in Tulsa.)

Our wealthiest Oklahoman remains George Kaiser, the bigger half of Kaiser-Francis Oil and the force behind Bank of Oklahoma: the K-Man comes in at 29th on the list with $9.4 billion. (BOk Financial, last I looked, was a top-50 bank holding company.) And before you ask, exactly one of the seven is not engaged in energy production: David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby.

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One of these must be you

All the text is in the title: Squiggles, Trees, Ribbons and Spirals: My Collection of Women’s Health, Beauty and Support Group Logos as the Stages of Life in Semi-Particular Order.

Shana Moulton put this together for a series called [IMG MGMT], and if your first thought is “Damn, it took a long time to load a whole bunch of graphics that look pretty much alike,” then she’s done her job.

(Via the Consumerist.)

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What is this $#*!?

Actually, the more pertinent question is “Where is this $#*!?”

In an effort to turn a popular Twitter feed into a broadcast comedy, CBS has given $#*! My Dad Says a rather un-DVR-friendly title.

It seems DVR designers quite understandably never suspected that a network would launch a TV show that started with the word “$#*!.”

There may be a way to find such symbols within the DVR interface, but a casual survey of customers subscribing to a few different video services found nobody who could manage to type the first word of the title.

Are people going to have to watch this show live, so to speak? Holy $#*!

(Via Population Statistic.)

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Attention fail

Apparently men aren’t quite as observant as they’d like to think they are:

Researchers at Northumbria University in England conducted a study using 3-D motion-capture technology. During the experiment, males observed the figures of females between the ages of 18 and 35 walking with or without high heels on.

Despite the fact that wearing heels changes a woman’s posture and height in a way that presumably amps up their attractiveness, the men in the experiment couldn’t tell the difference between a woman who was wearing heels and one who was not (unless the heels themselves were visible).

First question: Which way are they walking? Unless they’re headed right for you, it seems to me you’re bound to notice something like this.

Or maybe that’s the catch. After all, I’ve never seen them headed right for me.

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The Bach of numbers

This paragraph sent me off in several directions at once, which I suppose proves that I spend too much time thinking about too many things that may or may not be related to one another.

I once had a friend who disdained Bach, who claimed his music was “too mathematical” for them. I don’t know about that — it was the precision and the order that I always loved so much. Maybe I’m excessively left-brained (to use a concept that’s apparently recently been discredited), but I like that order.

For some reason, this called to mind a rant — I forget the ranter, but it was a classical reviewer contributing to Stereo Review — objecting to the electronic transcriptions of piano works by Debussy recorded by Isao Tomita in 1974. (The album, given the unidiomatic title Snowflakes are Dancing, was an enormous hit, which likely annoyed the reviewer even more.)

The music of Bach is indestructible, argued the reviewer, no matter what horrible things are done to it with synthesizers. (I assume this was a shot at the staggeringly-popular Switched-On Bach and sequels by Wendy Carlos.) You can’t do that with Debussy, though: it’s all mood and emotion, and the machines can’t replicate that no matter how many transistors are pressed into service.

But then you have to ask: is there no mood or emotion in Bach? Is this the origin of the complaint that he is too mathematical? Or is it a response to something else entirely? Baroque composers occasionally would write out only the basic outline of a piece, assuming that the performer would add embellishments and whatnot on the fly. Bach, as a general rule, didn’t do this: he spelled out lines and counterpoint very carefully. (But then there’s the second movement of Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, in which he provides only two chords; you’re on your own after that.)

And there’s the fact that so much of what Bach wrote was religious (Lutheran, mostly) in nature. Not everyone is going to be comfortable with that sort of thing: someone walked into the office today while I was blasting Bernstein’s Kaddish, and gave me this horrified “I had no idea” look. And I suspect that for the listener who views God as a concept by which he measures his pain, Bach’s calculus might actually be painful.

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Another frabjous Day

In case Felicia Day didn’t do it for you, we’ll back up a couple of generations:

Doris Day doing her best Ruth Etting

This of course is Doris Day, circa 1955, in what appears to be a shot from Love Me or Leave Me, a somewhat-fictionalized version of the life of singer Ruth Etting. This particular portrait seems to be flopped from a poster of the time — or the poster was flopped from the portrait.

Are there more Days to come? Stay tuned.

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Stylish nihilish

Andrea Harris has known people like this, and so have you, and so have I:

Their most important relationship is who they are sleeping with (not necessarily a spouse) or if they have kids that’s the most important relationship. Friendships come and go, none of them serious or dependable. If you aren’t having sex with that person or they haven’t come out of your womb/issued from your seed you don’t have to really care about them. However, status is very important. Friendship is replaced with constant jockeying for power. Among Obama’s crowd of rich liberals it’s the sort of SWPL games like who has the best collection of folk art to show how multicultural they are, or how many ethnic restaurants they go to per week, or have they traded in their Volvo for a Prius yet. Really rich people of this group get a pass, though; they can own all the land yachts they want because they have enough money to donate to the right Dem pols.

On the off-chance that you’re the last person on the Net who doesn’t comprehend “SWPL,” this is where it came from.

Most of the leftish people I know aren’t like this, but then they aren’t particularly rich, either. I’m wondering if income beyond X, where the value of X is open to debate, should be considered a risk factor for asshatitude.

And I also wonder how it is that the Obama administration managed to come up with such a dense (in several senses) concentration of these folks — “fellow travelers,” you might say. They’re definitely susceptible to this syndrome:

It’s all about high school in the end. Also you can impress your fellow not-jocks with your bravery and toughness without actually doing something disturbingly physical like fighting.

For a time, anyway. Maybe two times, if you’re awfully lucky.

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We got your Snobs right here, tovarisch

File this under “Hey, it could work”:

Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is bringing his $100 million Snob media project to the United States as he seeks to attract a “global audience” for the New Jersey Nets basketball team.

Snob magazine, aimed at “the elite of Russia,” will start selling in the United States on Wednesday at a cover price of $8 and without translation into English, Prokhorov said. Snob also runs an invitation-only social network and live events.

“We will see some marketing geared toward tapping into Snob to generate basketball fans and tapping into the Nets to generate Snob subscribers,” Prokhorov, 45, said in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg. “We are looking into the possibilities here.”

Stefan Bondy of the Daily News explains the meaning of “Snob”:

In Russian, S.N.O.B. is an acronym for the Russian words accomplished, independent, educated and thriving.

If this seems somehow anticlimactic, you haven’t seen the B-minus picture H.O.T.S.

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Becoming immovable

Looks like I picked the right day to give up server-grinding Perl scripts:

Video ad network VideoEgg has announced that it has agreed to acquire blogging pioneer Six Apart, the company behind TypePad and Movable Type. As part of the acquisition, both companies will drop their names and be renamed SAY Media.

Because that’s exactly whom you want masterminding a blog platform: a video ad network.

I switched from a manually-coded blog to Movable Type in 2002; I stayed with it for six years and at least as many upgrades. (I still have a 4.x install around here somewhere.) It was nice while it lasted, but towards the end it was taking way too much time to rebuild static files, and I never could persuade it to do dynamic posts with my ancient 2.x templates, so I switched to WordPress. (The MT posts from 2002 to September 2006 are still out there as static pages; the last two years’ worth were imported into WordPress.)

And I paste this more in sorrow than in anger:

From what we’ve seen before, we bet it won’t take long for resources to be allocated towards the advertising network and away from Movable Type. It will be the beginning of the degradation of a platform that has already lost much of its relevance, despite hosting The Huffington Post and major blogs from ABC, the BBC and others.

Still, it’s not like anything lasts forever, although MT’s Rebuild Entire Site command came pretty close for a while.

(Hat tip: DonnaTechDesigns. Incidentally, she uses WordPress.)

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Premium undeaded

Ethnobotanist Wade Davis, author of The Serpent and the Rainbow, has argued that the secret ingredient in zombie creation is tetrodotoxin, and he still thinks so today:

“Tetrodotoxin turns out to be a very big molecule that blocks sodium channels in the nerves, bringing on peripheral paralysis, dramatically low metabolic rates and yet consciousness is retained until the moment of death,” said Davis.

After a bokor has placed the tetrodotoxin into someone’s body, and that person is pronounced dead and subsequently buried, the bokor reportedly unearths the body and applies a chemical paste to keep the unfortunate victim in a zombified, trancelike state.

Presumably, this “undead” person is then used as the bokor’s slave labor.

Well, it is a fairly big molecule, or at least it’s a big job to call it by name: IUPAC refers to it as octahydro-12-(hydroxymethyl)-2-imino-5,9:7,10a-dimethano-10aH-[1,3]dioxocino[6,5-d]pyrimidine-4,7,10,11,12-pentol. But apparently that stuff won’t do the job alone.

Me, I just want them to stay off my lawn.

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A truly tepid cauldron

The last witch to which I gave more than perfunctory attention was Samantha Stephens, and I had good reason for that. Christine O’Donnell? Not so much. Maybe not this little, but still, not so much:

Speaking as about a red-dirt, black-clay, gun-hugging, Jesus-loving, Constitutional-demanding mustachioed redneck with enough ammo in my garage to cause Bill F***ing Maher to faint, I can’t find myself possibly giving one lousy Mexican centavo about what is uttered in the Evil Dwarf’s presence on a show distinctly labeled Politically Incorrect, in which youthful persons of the teevee-lens seeking variety are encouraged to sit around and utter vapid bullshit for the poli-dorks sitting at home watching a show called Politically Incorrect.

I watched the show a few times before it was axed in 2002 — a year before Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, as it happens — and this much I remember: Maher was never as funny as Salem Saberhagen.

Besides, if I ever need to know anything about witchcraft, I know exactly whom I’m going to ask.

In the meantime, there’s this assessment from Nick Gillespie:

If believing ridiculous things is a bar to serving in the Senate, then I’m guessing fully 50 to 95 percent of the chamber should be calling U-Haul right about now.

We should be so lucky.

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Doesn’t even match the keyboard

An operation called Mod Cloth thinks you’ll fork over $130-plus for the so-called Blog Writer Dress. I’m thinking you probably won’t:

As a full-time blog writer, you know that there’s no reason to sacrifice ease in the name of style when you’re swanning around for hours with your laptop in tow. This loose-fitting babydoll dress makes a perfect match of both with its functional button front, cuffed short sleeves, and dark grey trim.

Supposedly, you match this up with a fitted blazer, grey tights and heels, and you’re dressed to kill, or at least to save that first draft.

I expect that someone will buy this — probably to write it off as a business expense — but I don’t see this catching on, even as a rival to pajamas.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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