Small is the new big

So says HipHarpist Deborah Henson-Conant, and she should know:

The harp I have today has shrunk from an ornate 75lb, 6-foot tall musical edifice into an 11-pound carbon fibre powerhouse I can strap on with a simple harness.

Not quite a pocket-sized baby grand, but close enough, right? And she’s confident that this will push the instrument in a whole new direction:

My vision of the instrument had been so strong from the beginning that now that I finally have it, it seems self-evident to me. It’s taken other people to point out that I’m in the midst of an historical moment with this instrument. It’s like living through the ’40s when Les Paul made the first electric guitar — only this is the first commercially produced carbon fibre electric harp.

Not that she’s comparing herself to Les Paul or anything. And there were electric guitars before Paul; it’s just that they were basically acoustic guitars with pickups, which presented problems with feedback and couldn’t do anything resembling sustain. Alan Stivell made a Paul-esque solid-body electric harp some twenty years ago, but it didn’t really fit into his traditional Celtic/Breton repertoire. French harpmaker Camac took up the cause, and they’re offering a signature Deborah Henson-Conant model. Think of it as the harp equivalent of the Gibson Les Paul.

(If you wonder how I happened upon this lady and her music, read this.)

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By these marks

In which you get a peek into my secret ballot; or, “Elections, of course, endorse, endorse.”

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American motors

From the “Baby, you can drive my car” files, a very young Sarah Heath (later Palin) in front of the family’s 1967 Rambler:

Sarah and the Sedan

Note the scratched-up forearm, perhaps from wrestling with caribou.

(Via The Truth About Cars, which extracted this photo, plus one of an older Sarah in front of an early-Seventies Mustang, from an MSNBC slidehow, prompting the following thought: “Can Sarah Palin drive a stick?” Shows you where my mind is at.)

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Strange search-engine queries (247)

What we do here is to sort through about four thousand lines of server logs and snip out anything resembling a search string that might elicit a few cheap laffs. Please note that at no point in this process is Juan Williams consulted.

september 2001: scientist disappears after inventing invisibility formula:  People get rather irate if you test this stuff on animals, for some reason.

joan blondell breasts wobbled:  Well, of course. They were real.

“starship troopers” “brain sucking” story fetish:  As usual with such concepts, the operative word is “sucking.”

japanese enormous melons:  Somehow I have a feeling this guy wasn’t looking for information on Pacific Rim produce.

ultra-slut-body-detergent:  Not everything comes clean with a washing.

andy rooney on pork rinds:  This is a serving suggestion only. Personally, I think a bed of rice and a handful of Brussels sprouts might be more appropriate.

cliches disguised as a “guy questions his sexuality”:  Current practice calls for the clichés to go undisguised, so as to make a Teachable Moment out of the experience.

2002 maxima spark plugs 600 dollars:  Um, no. Spark plugs run $12 each. Now if they changed out your ignition coils, they’re $100 each, and you have six of them.

cars for douche bags:  Test #1: Did you pay $600 for spark plugs?

streetwalkers in Tulsa,ok:  You kidding me? Everybody in Tulsa drives.

kathy lee gifford and preparation h:  I think we’re talking about entirely different pains, albeit a common location.

charles hill golden girls:  Please note that Bea Arthur was much taller than I.

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Annual out-forking

This is the time of year when we start anticipating our property-tax bills and the Trepidation Meter starts deflecting rightward. We already know what we’re going to be taxed on — the Assessor publishes the taxable values in the spring — but the actual tax rate isn’t determined until fall.

And while they haven’t published the rate yet, a little down-digging into the Assessor’s Web site turns up a place where the new rate is already in use, and in my district it’s 114.33, up from 113.44 last year. This will increase the taxes on the palatial estate at Surlywood by $18.40.

Since I’ve been here, the market value of the house has risen by a third; the tax rate has bobbed up and down, and while 114.33 is the highest it’s been, the lowest (for 2008) was 106.08, so we’re talking a fairly-narrow range here. The Assessor’s online records go back to 1983, at which time the tax rate was 83.63; the tax rate has therefore risen 37 percent in 37 years. Market values, of course, have risen faster, especially considering that the local real-estate market in the early 1980s was in a deep, dark hole.

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Bin fully laden

I decided yesterday to pitch out about three years’ worth of old magazines, and rather than toss them into the trash, I opted to haul them to the nearest Paper Retriever, a large green (of course) bin located at various schools and churches around town. The idea is that a recycler (specifically, these guys) will come and pick up the detritus and pay the organization for collecting it.

Last time I’d done this, I’d gone to Sequoyah School on 36th, but I noticed on the commute home this past week that St. Stephen’s, a Presbyterian church on 50th, had installed a Retriever, and they’re closer to me, so I headed out to their parking lot.

And the bin, as tall as I and even wider, was full. My normal procedure is to insert the container (usually a copy-paper box) into the opening, turn it 135 degrees, and then withdraw the container. There wasn’t enough room for the box; I barely managed to cram the contents of a single grocery bag into the space remaining. Either the Retriever hasn’t retrieved here lately, or there’s been a sudden upsurge in paper recycling in these parts.

So I drove off to Sequoyah, where the remaining paper (two boxes, three bags) was consigned to the bin.

Tangential arachnid story: When I went out to the car to load up all this stuff, there was a small black spider crawling across the spoiler. I generally prefer not to bother spiders, but this was work, dammit, so up came the trunk lid. It took me three trips to finish the job. I pulled down the lid, and there was the spider, still doing its slow crawl.

And despite occasional raindrops and 25-mph winds, the spider was still there when I got to St. Stephen’s, though at some point during the unloading attempt it departed.

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Kitty going mobile

“Eve never pleases me,” sang the Brothers Gibb, “and Kitty can.”

In fact, Kitty will even let you drive:

smart fortwo with Hello Kitty package

In an effort to boost sales, the importers of the smart car have introduced various “Expressions” packages, including custom paint and vehicle wraps. Among the latter are Hello Kitty designs licensed by Sanrio and reproduced on 3M vinyl. Pricing starts at $1,700.

I suppose an Eve package would have completely unadorned body panels.

(Via Jezebel.)

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Subprime time

A plastic bag containing the following was left at my door, and presumably elsewhere in the neighborhood:

  • A flyer for Western Union’s brand of prepaid Visa and/or MasterCard, in English and in Spanish.
  • A Western Union flyer explaining how to avoid consumer fraud.
  • A flyer for another brand of prepaid Visa and/or MasterCard, again in English and in Spanish. (The terms are somewhat different from Western Union’s.)
  • A flyer for one of these phone-company resellers that target low-income users with the so-called Lifeline plan.
  • A flyer for the organization that presumably assembled this package in the first place: a payday-loan joint about a mile and three-quarters up the road. Also, a balloon with their name on it.

I’m guessing that they’re trying to build up some clientele before Walmart takes over the entire “unbanked” market.

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Situation wanted

As the Todd Seavey Incident circulates its way through the tubes, Stacy McCain points out the grievous mistake Seavey made before he ever went off on his ex-girlfriend during that C-Span panel discussion:

Join the French Foreign Legion or a convent or throw yourself off a bridge, but don’t ever post a personal ad. Or answer one.

It’s creepy and/or desperate and/or delusional.

If you are single and have trouble meeting people in real life, who are you going to meet via a personal ad, except other people who have trouble meeting people in real life?

And what kind of people have trouble meeting people in real life? Losers, that’s who.

Here’s where the delusional part comes in: These are losers trying to convince themselves (and other people) that they’re not actually losers. They suffer from the delusion that they’re undiscovered winners.

All the losing they’ve done? Just a streak of bad luck. People (that is to say, people who actually know them) don’t recognize their true wonderfulness, and so they figure they’ll have better luck impressing complete strangers who don’t know what total losers they actually are.

I’m trying to decide whether this seems unduly harsh. In general, I’m persuaded that at some point, interpersonal chemistry can actually trump the perception of loserdom, though real-life examples of same, especially in my real life, are vanishingly few.

Besides, there are lots of factors contributing to having “trouble meeting people” other than lack of desirability. Scheduling is one: if I work my fingers to the bone, and I do, it’s hardly surprising that I don’t meet any bony-fingers fans. And while I’m not overly shy — instead of clamming up in the canonical fashion, I speak up and promptly piss away 30 IQ points — I’ve known people who might well be perfectly charming but who couldn’t break the ice if you spotted them two flamethrowers and a pickax. It’s easier to dismiss them as “losers,” I suppose.

And if Frank farging Sinatra can be faced with the possibility of the French Foreign Legion, what chance do the rest of us have?

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Won’t someone please buy this house?

It’s a couple of blocks from me; the owners are setting forth on a New Adventure, or some such business, back east, and the old house can’t very well go with them.

(Warning: Embedded noises that approximate musicality, plus the dreaded Flash Babe at the opening.)

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Or I could just click on Like

The Social Network CDThe Null Corporation is Trent Reznor’s not-really-a-label label, and its most recent release was the soundtrack (by Reznor and Atticus Ross) to David Fincher’s film The Social Network. It was available in several formats, including a freebie five-track sampler and a complete $5 download package; I went up one step to the actual physical CD ($8 plus shipping), which was released last week and which arrived Thursday afternoon. I’d already heard it, of course; NullCorp threw in a 460-MB download, which included all 19 tracks, in MP3 and in Apple Lossless.

After a second hearing — the first one left me more or less speechless, or at least typeless — I think I’ve gotten a handle on it. If you’re a Reznor fan, much of it will sound familiar; a couple of these tracks (“A Familiar Taste” and “Magnetic”) were expansions of tracks on Reznor’s earlier Ghosts I-IV set, also featuring Ross. It’s generally closer to dark ambient than to industrial, with the notable exceptions of a recasting of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” which builds to a satisfyingly-crunchified crescendo, and the opener, “Hand Covers Bruise,” which ranks as arguably the creepiest Track One since Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks soundtrack. “Hand Covers Bruise,” in fact, is a definitive NIN-style title, as is “The Gentle Hum of Anxiety.” I haven’t decided whether I like this better than Ghosts or not, and I haven’t figured out exactly how to distinguish between Ross’ contributions and Reznor’s, but maybe that doesn’t matter.

Which leaves one question: What does it say about Facebook when a film about its creation is scored by the likes of Trent Reznor?

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A pirate looks at eleven

This is the oldest of the grandchildren: Becky’s son Nick, who turns 11 in about two and a half weeks, and who hasn’t had a picture on here in some time. (I blame his mom, at least in her presence.)

Nick Havlik 2010

Exactly what he’s been pirating, I am not at liberty to say.

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And you thought they were just poets

Sya discloses the setting of her November NaNoWriMo novel:

Well, think of the 1970s western lifestyle and its design aesthetic (or lack thereof). Now put that into space. Yep. Put on your shades cause there’s going to be sparkly uniforms, mustachioed aliens, shag-carpeted captain’s chairs, and Vogon-grade disco dancing for good measure.

Which, now that I think about it, is probably not too different from the way we’d have seen Star Trek, the Original Series, had it not been picked up until 1973 or so. By then, Eero Saarinen’s Tulip Chair, for instance, would have been deemed Old Hat and no longer usable as a stand-in for an artifact from the future.

Speaking of the future:

I suspect the future will be at the same time as banal as today and something so different that we cannot even yet imagine.

Perhaps there’s a Law of Conservation of Banality, and the quantity in the universe remains more or less constant despite our best efforts.

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Ford out of your future

News Item: As of Thursday, the arena’s name has changed to Oklahoma City Arena. The naming rights deal with Oklahoma Ford Dealers has run out. The Thunder is in discussions with others who might like an NBA arena named for them. Until a new deal is done, the arena will carry the rather generic temporary title.

Top Ten rejected names for The Arena Formerly Known As The Ford Center:

  1. Lincoln-Mercury Center
  2. Del Rancho Arena Supreme
  3. Frank Deford Center
  4. Not the Arcadia Round Barn
  5. Mick Cornett’s ShinyDome
  6. [“Hey, we gotta work Bricktown into this somewhere!”]
  7. One Hundred Decibel Place
  8. Chuck Norris Roundhouse
  9. KeyArena 2
  10. The Durantoplex

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A Swank photo

Hilary Swank won her first Academy Award for Boys Don’t Cry, in which she played a young man who’d been raised as a girl. She disappeared so deeply into this role that I remember wondering if maybe “Hilary,” which used to be a boy’s name way back when, still might be.

Um, no, not in this case:

Hilary Swank

As that guy on SNL used to say: “ACTING!”

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Fainting with damn praise

A spammer left this semi-hilarious bit of nonsense in the Akismet trap:

What a wonderful blog. I invest hours on the internet reading blogs, about tons of different subjects. I have to to begin with give kudos to whoever created your web site and second of all to you for writing what i can only describe as an post. I honestly believe there is a skill to writing articles that only several posses and to be truthful you have it. The combination of informative and quality content is definitely very rare with the big quantity of blogs on the internet.

The real gem here, of course, is “…writing what i can only describe as an post.” Because, you know, that’s what it was.

I have to assume that this was translated from Spammer to English by someone who speaks only Shyriiwook.

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