The essence of sixty

British writer/critic AA Gill points out that contrary to popular sloganeering, sixty is not the new anything:

A contemporary of mine, after a number of marriages, found a girlfriend less than half his age of a transcendent pneumatic beauty who hung on his every word — and dumped her after a couple of months. Why, I asked — she was perfect! “Too many things we didn’t have in common,” he said sadly. Like what? “Well, the Eighties.”

There’s rue for you. And here’s some for me:

Last year, for the first time, a young girl, French, offered me her seat on a crowded bus. I was surprised at how deeply I resented her. Health looms over the elderly like a threatening monsoon. No ache is innocuous. No lump or discoloured, sagging patch of body is ignorable except our toenails, which become the most sordidly repellent things in all nature. We covertly examine ourselves and our effluvia for the premonition of the dark humour that will carry us away. There is no such thing as a routine checkup. They are all life-or-death appointments.

Doctors start all their sentences with “It’s only … ” But we’re not fooled. This generation is also the one that lingers longest over its departure. Death came to our grandparents with a clutched chest and a searing pain. For us it’s a slow, humiliating series of it’s onlys. What we worry about is dementia, a condition that did not exist in the popular lexicon when I was a child. Mind you, we also thought cancer was as shaming as divorce. Now Alzheimer’s is our abiding fear, the thing we can’t forget.

I have often wondered if I am “prolific,” as they say, as the inevitable consequence of a desire to maximize my output before the time comes when I cannot put out anything.

(Via Kathy Shaidle.)

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The lines are drawn

Sometimes you cherish the easy questions. “Do Americans have the right to free parking?” Well, no: nobody, I suggest, properly has a right to anything that anyone else has to pay for.

Still, there are those who remain unpersuaded by this argument:

In Los Angeles, activists have been organizing for months under the banner of The Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative. They argue that the city takes advantage of its citizens to ameliorate its budget problems. The Los Angeles Times reports that an average L.A. parking ticket costs $68, and that money secured from parking fines has grown from about $110 million in 2003 to almost $161 million this year. Activists are now seeking to cap non-public safety related parking fines at $23.

Activists in Keene, New Hampshire, are fighting for more than just a decreased financial penalty; they want parking fines eliminated altogether. Although there is free parking in Keene after 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and all day on Sunday [pdf], libertarian activists involved in the Free Keene campaign are not satisfied. To demonstrate their discontent, they are feeding expired meters before tickets can be issued, and have allegedly prevented the city from issuing more than 4,000 parking tickets since 2009. They also have taken to harassing parking enforcement officers.

What the hell kind of “libertarian” thinks parking at a meter they do not own is a “right”?

A Washington Post (!) reporter actually seems to understand some of this:

The ostensible policy goal of parking tickets isn’t really to generate municipal revenue — it’s to manage the supply of a public asset. If parking is plentiful and cheap, people will use tons of it. If the cost of violating parking regulations is low on top of that, the city has even less leverage over how curb space should be used for the public good. Maybe a cheap parking spot feels good for the individual parker, but a city overrun by parking — where there’s little incentive to invest in alternative transportation, among other things — probably doesn’t feel like somewhere you’d want to live.

Of course, once you’ve seen some Family Truckster on stilts making six passes through the lot at Lowe’s looking for a space within 50 feet of the building, you begin to despair. Or at least I do.

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Whatever the market will bear

Behold: 160 trillion Zimbabwean dollars, in a set of three bills:

10, 50 and 100 trillion dollar Zimbabwean notes

This is being promoted as an Educational Product: a merchant is selling sets of three bills, exactly like this, through Amazon for $22.99 with (why not?) free shipping. This is actually a great deal more than face value at their 2008 issuance. In mid-November, the Zimbabwean inflation rate was calculated at 79,600,000,000 percent — per month.

On the reasonable basis that yes, it could happen here, a brief summary of how it happened there:

In 2007, the government declared inflation illegal. Anyone who raised the prices for goods and services was subject to arrest.

This is well within the mental capacity of the US Congress.

In January 2009, acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa lifted the restriction to use only Zimbabwean dollars. This too acknowledged what many were already doing. Citizens were allowed to use the US dollar, the euro, and the South African rand. However, teachers and civil servants were still being paid in Zimbabwean dollars. Even though their salaries were in the trillions per month, this amounted to around US$1, or half the daily bus fare. The government also used a restriction on bank withdrawals to try to limit the amount of money that was in circulation. It limited cash withdrawals to $Z500,000, which was around US$0.25.

And finally:

In 2009, the government abandoned printing Zimbabwean dollars at all. This implicitly solved the chronic problem of lack of confidence in the Zimbabwean dollar, and compelled people to use the foreign currency of their choice. As of 2014, Zimbabwe still uses a combination of foreign currencies, mostly US dollars, and the economy is still in a slump.

This was, I must point out, only the second worst hyperinflation in history; the Hungarians replaced the pengő on 1 August 1946 with the forint, which was deemed to be worth 4 x 1029 pengő, and you could get an actual US buck for 11.44 forints. (After 68 years, said actual US buck is now worth about 225 forints.)

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Up from wherever

Tony Woodlief on the Littlest Immigrants:

I don’t think they love their children any less than I love my own, which tells me something about what their lives must be like, to send their babies away. Their children stream northward in droves — as many as 60,000 this year — and we don’t want them. We don’t want their skin lesions and their hungry bellies, we don’t want their parents and aunts and uncles likely to follow, we don’t want them taking our jobs and clogging our classrooms and driving without insurance on our roads. We have no place for them in our country and certainly not in our hearts.

And yet:

What if, instead of greeting the federal agents with protest signs, we greeted them with petitions? Give us these children. We will feed them, we will clothe them, we will give them shelter. We will teach them and we will pray over them. Their parents, God help them, sent them away, and now here we stand to make good on the faith or hope or desperation in which those mothers and fathers sent them forth. Give us these children, and we will find a way. We will show mercy, because while we can scarcely agree between ourselves on anything else, we agree that the kingdom of heaven includes a hand stretched out in love.

It’s utterly impractical, I know. But how have we done so far, Christians, with practicality? For Christ’s sake, let’s not be known for our practicality.

Yeah, I know, I know: we’re being played for chumps by our wicked (no other word applies) government. Think in terms of a Higher Authority.

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I have no idea if she’s brassy

When Robert Stacy McCain invented Rule 5 back in 2009, part of his rationale was this:

All politics all the time gets boring after a while. Observant readers will notice that the headlines at Hot Air often feature silly celebrity tabloid stuff and News Of The Weird. Even a stone political junkie cannot subsist on a 24/7 diet of politics. The occasional joke, the occasional hot babe, the occasional joke about a hot babe — it’s a safety valve to make sure we don’t become humorless right-wing clones of those Democratic Underground moonbats.

I’ve never been all politics all the time, but five years later, I can usually count on about 100 extra visitors from whatever hot-babe pictures I can come up with, which is a decent bump if you’re averaging a couple thousand a week. Besides, I do try to challenge myself to come up with something interesting to say, the Zooeypaloozas aside.

None of which really explains how I stumbled across Turkish actress Tuba Büyüküstün, whom I simply had to write about because (1) she’s gorgeous and (2) it’s her birthday and (3) “Tuba” is actually her middle name and (4) did you see all those umlauts?

From the Turkish edition of Elle, December 2012:

Tuba Büyüküstün in Elle Turkey 12/12

Tuba Büyüküstün in Elle Turkey 12/12

Also from Elle, a year earlier, she accepts a Style Award. She’s obviously pregnant in the video; she gave birth to twin girls in January 2012. (She’s married to Turkish actor Onur Saylak.)

Oh, her actual first name is Hatice, and she’s thirty-two today. And yes, this is the second time I’ve reported on a Turkish actress this week. Like I said, I retain a certain fondness for the place.

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Orkut out

Google has decreed that Orkut, a ten-year-old social network created by one of its staffers, must die:

Ten years ago, Orkut was Google’s first foray into social networking. Built as a “20 percent” project, Orkut communities started conversations, and forged connections, that had never existed before. Orkut helped shape life online before people really knew what “social networking” was.

Over the past decade, YouTube, Blogger and Google+ have taken off, with communities springing up in every corner of the world. Because the growth of these communities has outpaced Orkut’s growth, we’ve decided to bid Orkut farewell (or, tchau). We’ll be focusing our energy and resources on making these other social platforms as amazing as possible for everyone who uses them.

Orkut is in fact a week and a half older than Facebook.

It’s “tchau,” of course, because nearly half of Orkut’s users were Brazilian; in 2008, in recognition of this fact, Google moved management of Orkut to its Brazilian outpost in Belo Horizonte. I suspect that this is why about 15 percent of the spam I get is in Portuguese.

Incidentally, Orkut was named after its founder: Orkut Büyükkökten, a Google software engineer and product manager, who came up with the idea during his 20% time, another Google concept on its deathbed.

Orkut is no longer accepting new memberships, and the service will be closed at the end of September, though Google says the community archives will be preserved online.

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Would you like to swing on a star?

Well, you know, that kind of depends on exactly what we’re swinging on:

It might seem like some sort of troll, but “Putin Is A Dickhead” is now an officially registered star after a group of Ukrainian astronomers got together with some pro-Ukraine activists to cement Putin’s status in the cosmos.

Depending on who’s doing the translation, “Putin-Huilo” might conceivably mean the Russian strongman is something other than a “dickhead” — but certainly nothing nicer-sounding.

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What with this being Friday and all

Rebecca Black, interviewed at VidCon this past week, on what’s next and why you don’t ever read the comments:

How to keep your water bottle from sliding off your lap was apparently not part of the discussion.

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Hello, Ottawa

This idea from Roberta X gets thumbs up from me:

I’ll be excoriated for this, but the inhabitants of U.S. and Canada ought to celebrate July 2 and 3, the days between Canada Day and Independence Day, as “Co-dependence Days,” in which we consider all that we love and loathe about our neighbor. We share the longest border in the world without armies watching one another over it, about 2/3 of a common language and all manner of customs, habits and entertainments — and we share them about the same way fraternal twins between the ages of seven and twelve share the back seat of [a] car over the course of a day-long excursion.

Forced proximity does that to people.

And no, we probably won’t be doing this with the Mexicans, whose Independence Day doesn’t come until the 16th of September.

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Jenny sets the lineup

How could this possibly go wrong?

It is, of course, right and proper that the Designated Hitter, an abomination unto the Lord, is assigned the number zero.

The Tigers were not amused, however, and blasted Rays pitcher Erik Bedard for six runs on eight hits in two innings, pocketing an 8-1 win at home and dropping Tampa Bay further into the cellar. (Weirdly, the Rays have identical road and home records: they’re 19-25 either way.)

And no, that Squeeze song wouldn’t work: you’d have to send two players into the order twice.

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Quote of the week

Your humble narrator, having previously contemplated continuing shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund, has recommended an increase in the fuel tax, one of the less intrusive options available.

Congressmen don’t think like that. Jack Baruth quotes one, and gets at the heart of the matter:

“If all we did was set this up to collect the road fee, that’s actually a more expensive way to collect the fee. The gas tax is actually a very inexpensive tax to collect. But if we are able to have a platform that does all these other things, to share the costs, and give people a richer transportation experience, I think people will voluntarily make that transition.”

We’re missing all the air quotes, I think, let’s put them back in:

I “think” people will “voluntarily” make that “transition”

When you read “voluntarily” in modern wonk-speak, you can take that to mean “Any amount of resistance short of facing down the Bureau of Land Management with the local redneck militia,” and that’s what it means here as well. The motorists of America will be given a single option: GPS-based usage tracking tied to a central payment account that will also be debited for parking and traffic tickets. It’s perfectly easy to imagine a speed camera just sitting by the site of the road dinging every motorist who goes by at 1mph over the limit a nice, round five hundred bucks. And why not?

Naturally, the same government that manages to lose all the incriminating IRS emails will keep solid-gold-permanent records of your travels until the end of time. If they do it with the justly-reviled public-private partnership, those records will be sold to Equifax and your insurance company as well. With your travel and your Carnivore records, the government knows exactly who and what you are. In real time, they’ll be able to understand your entire life. Imagine the day when driving to an oncology clinic results in a sit-down with your company’s HR representative to discuss your future with the company. Or the day when your employer can simply buy a list of your whereabouts sorted to its particular interest. Or the day when parking your car outside a gun store every Sunday and walking across the street for ice cream results in the ATF visiting your house to discuss your gun-nut tendencies. Or the day when driving through known drug-sales areas results in a SWAT team tossing a flashbang into your child’s crib.

Note the ludicrous phrase “richer transportation experience.” Any “richer” experience, as defined in DC-speak, makes you poorer by definition: not only are the results not favorable to you, but you have to pay for them in the first place.

“Oh, Jack, you teatard anarchist commie libertarian,” you’re sighing. “How else are they supposed to address the Highway Fund problem?” Well, I would suggest that destroying the last vestiges of privacy and liberty in this country are not any less meaningful than keeping up the pace of road construction. I would also suggest that it’s not my job to come up with ideas as to how the government can easily accomplish its goals without trampling its citizens underfoot. But since you asked, I’ll come up with one: A ten percent tariff on cheap goods imported from China would add 50% to the existing Highway Fund tax level, enough to address all concerns for the foreseeable future.

Assuming, of course, you could get the idiots in Washington to spend it on that, as opposed to any of the useless crap they’d want to spend it on.

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Meanwhile in Widgetville

Twitter has rolled out a new font for its Web site and for the widget down there on the sidebar, which I first saw yesterday since I seldom have any reason to go to the Web site. The dread details:

The new font is Gotham Narrow SSm. Gotham tends to be a popular font across the Internet and was used in Barack Obama’s campaign. The new logo for One World Trade Center also uses a Gotham variant.

The major selling point — for the non-Narrow version anyway — appears to be the circular capital O.

I like it, but I don’t think I like it enough to write a large check for it.

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Buy here, pay forever

About six months ago, I said something about the “opening” of the Cuban new-car market, which at the time seemed less like an actual market opening and more like the introduction of new sources of graft for the regime. Halfway through Year One, it’s been, let us say, less than a roaring success:

Reuters reports that because of the markup, only 50 cars and four motorcycles left the 11 nationalized lots in Cuba during the first six months of 2014, netting a total of $1.28 million USD in new car sales.

You remember the markup, don’t you?

In one example cited by the news organization, a Havana Peugeot dealership wanted $91,000 for a 2013 206, and $262,000 for a 506 of similar vintage, which makes the government’s goal of investing 75 percent of all new-car sales into public transportation easier said than done; most state workers make the equivalent of $20 USD per month.

“But Cuba has free health care!” I hear you cry. Enjoy your walk to the emergency room.

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Turn it up

California singer/songwriter Sabrina Lentini, last mentioned here, put out a very nice EP, a stripped-down girl-and-her-guitar set called No Price for Love. She took gigs wherever she could get them, and eventually tried out for American Idol; 212 performers were offered tickets to Hollywood, and she made it to the top 48 before being culled. And she got an idea for a second EP to be somewhat unlike the first:

This time, I want to breathe even more life into my songs. I’m ready to be “AMPLIFIED!” I’m so excited to add amazing musicians, producers, and creativity. I have so many songs that I’ve written since the last EP, and I just cannot wait to share them with you all!

But this takes money, which she calculated as $1500 for each of five tracks — and started up an IndieGoGo campaign that ended Tuesday with $7620 in the kitty, 101.6 percent of the goal.

In the meantime, it’s summer, she’s out of school, and she’s working, with eight appearances in July alone, all within a couple of hours of her Orange County home. (Two, in fact, are on the same day: the fifth, around noon on the Huntington Beach pier, followed by an early-evening show up in Ojai. I hope the traffic is bearable.) Here’s a clip from a Long Beach appearance, in which she performs the Pistol Annies’ “Hell on Heels”:

Amps, schmamps: there’s a lot of life left in the girl-with-her-guitar scene.

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Dried-up spring

Some minor objections to the text here, from some bogus individual identified as “Lourdes” (!) linking back to some questionable Facebook profile:

The very heart of your writing while apipraeng reasonable at first, did not settle perfectly with me after some time. Somewhere throughout the sentences you actually managed to make me a believer but only for a while. I still have a problem with your leaps in logic and one might do well to help fill in those breaks. In the event that you can accomplish that, I will undoubtedly end up being fascinated.

I’m guessing that “praeng” is the name of the API that produced this boilerplate, because no actual human with any knowledge of the language would spell “appearing” that way.

IP is 159.255.2.137. Feel free to ban it, because nothing useful is ever going to come from there.

Update: The next spammer was kinder:

What a data of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious experience concerning unexpected emotions.

Exactly the kind of preserveness I’d like to preserve.

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Fark blurb of the week

Rolf Harris convicted of having young girls tie his kangaroo down.

(Linked to this. Check the shed for suspiciously tanned hides.)

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