Nick and Val

Finding the right words to give a proper sendoff to the late Nickolas Ashford, who died this week at seventy, has been unusually difficult, perhaps because I kept coming back to, or perhaps stumbling over, “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” an ode to drinking in the afternoon (and maybe earlier) cut by Ray Charles in 1966 before Ashford and wife Valerie Simpson became integrated into the mighty Motown machine. Brother Ray got a #1 on the R&B charts from it, but you never hear it on the radio. (Here’s a nifty live version by Chicago’s very own Chris Gelbuda.)

I admitted on Twitter, though, that my favorite Ashford & Simpson song was “California Soul,” a big hit for the 5th Dimension — on Johnny Rivers’ Soul City label — in ’68. Not that Berry Gordy was going to let that go unanswered: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell put out their own version, sort of — except that Tammi was already spiraling downward, and if she’s on that record at all, she’s being spelled by Valerie Simpson herself.

What we need here in this space, though, is A&S together. Let’s dial back to 2008:

A basic state of matter, indeed.

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A case of the gimmes

Well, maybe not a whole case, but one at a time over a period of several months:

A woman who is accused of stealing thousands of dollars worth of items from Quail Springs Mall in recent months said Tuesday she is “addicted to money and clothes” and has been stealing for almost three decades.

Well, actually, there were two of them. Teamwork, doncha know.

And who do you think is enabling this antisocial outburst? Why, the merchants, of course:

“That’s the store letting us get all that stuff. They didn’t do their job. I’ve been boosting stuff since I was 15.”

The cops, fortunately, were doing their job.

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Trackside at the Great Race of Yith

And yes, the article is longer than this: “Reading This Loathsome Article Regarding A Tedious Yahoo Press Release About Autobytel’s Ridiculous Featured Article Concerning AutoPacific’s Meaningless Awards May Inadvertently Summon Cthulhu”.

It’s worth reading for the fake press releases, which are well-nigh indistinguishable from real press releases.

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Would you drink this fracking stuff?

Evidently somebody would:

In a speech at the conference presented by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Halliburton Co. CEO Dave Lesar talked about addressing public concerns about hydraulic fracturing, which extracts natural gas by blasting a mix of water, chemicals and sand underground.

He raised a container of Halliburton’s new fracking fluid made from materials sourced from the food industry, then called a fellow executive to demonstrate how safe it was by drinking it, two attendees said.

What the person drank apparently was CleanStim, which when Halliburton announced it in November was undergoing field trials. A Halliburton spokeswoman didn’t respond to a question asking how that executive is doing now or who he is.

Not that anyone would ever fake up a demonstration like that or anything.

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It’s a Mr Death, he’s come about the reaping

Is this Hyundai spot, reportedly banned in the Netherlands, the creepiest automotive advertisement ever? (I’m sufficiently spooked to put it after the jump.)

Read the rest of this entry »

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The Blount truth

Something I found rather amusing, from Roy Blount Jr.’s amazing wordfest Alphabetter Juice: or, The Joy of Text (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011):

Gnu is probably from the Hottentot. But then Hottentot is considered (OED) “both archaic and offensive: the word Khoekhoe is now usually used in its place.” Hottentot may have come from a Dutch word meaning stammerer, stutterer — typical imperialistic insensitivity. To be fair, that can work both ways. According to Dennis Tedlock, editor of 2000 Years of Mayan Literature, the name Yucatán came about when a Spanish explorer asked some locals what the name of that area was, and he misheard what he took to be their reply. “What they actually said was k’iu’tan, which means ‘The way he talks is funny’.”

But the niftiest aspect of this paragraph? It falls in the middle of an exploration of the word knee. And I thought I went off on odd tangents from time to time.

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Poseur alert

This pretty well speaks for itself:

Would it be possible to do a 2003 to 2008 G35 sedan rear end conversion?

I’m looking at getting a 2003 G35 sedan but I want the back to look like a 2008 model. I would just buy a 2008 model but I’m on a budget. Also could I swap the 2003 G35 sedan front end with a 2010 G37? If it’s possible to do either of these conversions what part’s would I need and what would be the estimated price not including labor?

Were I this hard up to impress my friends, I hope someone would have the audacity to tell me to get new friends.

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Blurbese waxing

The Universal Translator is applied to book reviews for the first time:

Ever wonder what editors, publishers and critics mean when they describe books as “lyrical,” “provocative” or “ripped from the headlines”? Let industry veterans explain it to you.

“lyrical” = “not much happens” (Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press)

“provocative” = “about race/religion” (Mark Athitakis, critic)

“ripped from the headlines” = “no original plot line” (Jacqueline Deval, author and publicist)

At least three dozen more await you at the link.

(Via this Nancy Friedman tweet.)

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Strike that pose

I may have mentioned once or twice that I browse the fashion mags, sometimes for blogfodder, sometimes for background, and sometimes just to look at the pictures.

And in those pictures, there are women (and occasionally men) contorted into positions that, were you to see actual people in them, you’d find curious or peculiar or perhaps even alarming, as Yolanda Domínguez demonstrates here:

Stills and background (en español) here.

(Via this Carly Rose Jackson tweet.)

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The best-unlaid plans

Some nimrod spammed Roberta X with this tedious example of just-below-the-navel gazing:

I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?

American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.

Yeah, yeah, we get it. Your anaconda don’t want none. (Little worm’s probably in hibernation due to lack of nourishment.) As you might expect, this was preceded by a URL which I see no reason to mention here, though he’s easy enough to find. (Hint: It’s not

There are, I propose, precisely two ways in which he could have reached this conclusion:

  • It corresponds to his own actual dating experience, in which case he should probably wonder how come he’s consistently attracted to all these unworthy individuals; or
  • It does not correspond to his own actual dating experience, in which case the data were presumably obtained via rectal extraction.

More subtle than I’d ever be, Roberta X simply replied: “Boycott away, dood! Please.

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Meanwhile in Arkansas

This story is disturbing for several reasons:

An 18-year-old named Kymberly Wimberly graduated from McGehee Secondary School in Arkansas several weeks ago. Even though she had the highest G.P.A. in her graduating class, she wasn’t allowed to be the sole valedictorian — perhaps because she’s black. The school named a white student with a lower G.P.A. as co-valedictorian. Kymberly is now suing the school district.

This case is formally Wimberly v. McGehee School District et al. Plaintiff’s name is given as Kymberly L. Wimberly; I’m guessing her middle name isn’t “Limberly.” Do not confuse with Kimberly Wimberly or Kimberley Wimberley, or anyone you know named McGehee.

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The desktop is dead

Or maybe it’s just headed for niche status:

There are many who still use typewriters and listen to vinyl (which has even enjoyed a resurgence of late) and just this week a music group released their material on VHS tape (OK that’s just nostalgia for a past they never experienced similar to the rise in small music labels that release music on compact cassette only). These items have moved from the mainstream to the niche. Few are ever truly dead.

So what becomes of the old tower?

The home server for those that prefer not to trust the cloud? The dusty home of digital memories?

I have admittedly little faith in the cloud, which is why I feel compelled to back up this site on a regular basis: the WordPress database (about 52 MB right now) is backed up once a week and right before any version changes, and I have copies of every static page and (I think) every single graphic. (We’re talking a couple of gigabytes, max.) I’m currently revising the backup plan for all my other stuff. For the moment, commodity drive space is cheaper than fancy mobile contraptions.

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For all you speed demons out there

USA Today purports to list the five fastest highways in the States, as determined by INRIX, “a traffic firm that analyzes GPS data.” The second-fastest of the lot is Oklahoma 33 “In both directions Northwest of Oklahoma City,” where 95th-percentile traffic is running at 83 mph and INRIX has recorded a top speed of 87.

Jeffro, who sent me this, expressed some doubts. I noted that I’d routinely seen 75-plus on 33. Still, something here doesn’t add up. INRIX cites a corridor of 24 miles. SH 33 runs well over 200 miles, so the trick here is to find a 24-mile section that runs close to OKC. The most likely candidate would be the stretch from I-35 to US 177, Guthrie to south of Stillwater, which isn’t technically northwest of OKC, but perhaps close enough.

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Vicky with a Y

Allow me to present Vassiliki, Baroness von Ruffin, who turns sixty-two today:

Vicky Leandros

A recording artist at sixteen, Vicky Leandros, daughter of Greek composer Leo Leandros, took fourth place in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1967, representing Luxembourg, with a song you probably know better in an instrumental version:

She would win five years later with “Après toi.”

From 2006 to 2008, she was deputy mayor of the Greek city of Piraeus. More recently, she appeared in the Euro Friends Song Contest, billed as “a search for the ultimate Eurovision song.”

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Sad news from 34th and Vine

Even if Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller had never done anything else besides write “Hound Dog” for Elvis Presley, they’d still be ranked among the top songwriters and producers of the rock era.

This despite the fact that they didn’t actually write it for Elvis; Big Mama Thornton got her hands on it first, back in 1952. Supposedly, Leiber didn’t much like the Presley rearrangement, produced by RCA Victor’s Steve Sholes, but he had no objection to collecting his cut of the songwriter royalties. (Johnny Otis is listed as a third writer on Thornton’s record; Otis produced the session.)

Leiber and Stoller met in Los Angeles in 1950, a couple of white kids with a taste for black music, and decided they had something to contribute to the repertoire. After a couple of years of kicking around, they started getting some hits, and with Lester Sill (later partner to Phil Spector), they set up Spark Records and cut their own sides. Atlantic bought up Spark, ostensibly to obtain the Robins, but also hired L&S as staff producers — while still allowing them to do outside work. (Sill, for his part, wound up as the second syllable of Philles Records, the first being Phil Spector.) The Robins mutated into the Coasters; L&S began working with the reconstituted Drifters, with Ben E. King on lead.

It’s a measure of how close Leiber and Stoller were that Wikipedia gives them a combined entry. Generally, Stoller wrote the music, Leiber the lyrics, though once in a while they threw you a curve: “Stand By Me,” a Ben E. King solo classic, was written, said the label, by King and “Elmo Glick,” which I’d always assumed was a gesture to acknowledge King as the originator of the song, but Glick turns up on several L&S records.

Leiber is gone now, cardiopulmonary failure at 78; Stoller, six weeks older, is still with us. Their songs, of course, will outlast us all.

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Unmentioned in the fine print

This Reuters story, or variations thereof, can be found all over the place:

General Motors Co. is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit over a suspension problem on more than 400,000 Chevrolet Impalas from the 2007 and 2008 model years, saying it should not be responsible for repairs because the flaw predated its bankruptcy.

The lawsuit, filed on June 29 by Donna Trusky of Blakely, Pennsylvania, contended that her Impala suffered from faulty rear spindle rods, causing her rear tires to wear out after just 6,000 miles.

Seeking class-action status and alleging breach of warranty, the lawsuit demands that GM fix the rods, saying that it had done so on Impala police vehicles.

But in a recent filing with the U.S. District Court in Detroit, GM noted that the cars were made by its predecessor General Motors Corp, now called Motors Liquidation Co or “Old GM,” before its 2009 bankruptcy and federal bailout.

The current company, called “New GM,” said it did not assume responsibility under the reorganization to fix the Impala problem, but only to make repairs “subject to conditions and limitations” in express written warranties. In essence, the automaker said, Trusky sued the wrong entity.

“New GM’s warranty obligations for vehicles sold by Old GM are limited to the express terms and conditions in the Old GM written warranties on a going-forward basis,” wrote Benjamin Jeffers, a lawyer for GM. “New GM did not assume responsibility for Old GM’s design choices, conduct, or alleged breaches of liability under the warranty.”

David Fink, Trusky’s lawyer, declined to comment.

Here’s what no one seems to be mentioning: the basic warranty on ’07-’08 Chevrolets was three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. Except for a handful of leftovers that hung around while the ’09s were being shipped, all these cars are out of warranty; neither Old GM nor New GM is necessarily required to fix this issue, unless there is a formal recall under the auspices of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As of this writing, no such recall has been announced; there’s not even an investigation going on.

Mrs Trusky, it appears, did bring up the issue before the warranty ran out (February ’11 in her case). From The Detroit News:

[She] bought a new Impala in February 2008 and said the tires wore out within 6,000 miles.

Her GM dealer replaced the tires and provided an alignment, but didn’t disclose the spindle rod issue, she said.

According to the suit, GM issued a service bulletin in 2008 for police versions of the Impala.

Last November, Trusky couldn’t pass an annual inspection without getting another set of rear tires — even though the vehicle had fewer than 25,000 miles.

So the second set of tires lasted three times longer than the first. What can we conclude from that? Not a whole lot, really, considering that police versions of the Impala don’t have the same rear suspension bits as the civilian cars.

Ultimately, though, I have to side with commenter “geeber” at TTAC:

This is one of those “lose-lose” scenarios from a public relations standpoint. In a lawsuit such as this, GM will naturally throw every argument into its brief as to why the lawsuit should be dismissed. One of the arguments, of course, relates to the bankruptcy filing, and, if precedent is followed, it will likely stick.

This does not necessarily mean that GM won’t fix Impalas built before 2009. One would hope that GM would agree to this, to at least promote customer goodwill. Given that most of these cars were sold as either police cars or fleet specials, the exposure to retail customers should be minimal, so going the extra mile to make those customers happy shouldn’t break the bank.

If anything, getting the lawsuit dismissed could ensure that GM’s money is spent actually fixing the problem as opposed to paying plaintiff’s attorneys fees.

Which suggests to me that GM, while it won’t come out of this smelling like a rose, might avoid a more-unpleasant stench by manning up and asking for NHTSA to step in.

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