Unmapped territory

There exists a theory to the effect that we never actually forget anything: we merely misplace it. It goes something like this:

Near as I can figure, it only gets “lost” because we stop keeping track of it. There’s so much knowledge stored in that vast, disorganized warehouse of knowledge both useful and not, that the only way to get hold of any one piece of it when you want it is to keep the index up and running. But the way the brain works, the index consists of associations rather than actual location addresses like on, say, a computer hard drive.

Which is why when I’m trying to remember something and having trouble, I usually have to go back through what I was thinking about when the information got filed. Other times I may just have to give up and wait for something else to accidentally spark an association (which often happens just about the time I stop trying to remember it).

For a highly-unreliable system, this is actually pretty reliable. If there’s something I need to do tomorrow, I don’t write a note to myself; I leave something out of place. The next day, when I happen upon the anomaly, the connection is made.

I might also suggest that this propensity is of particular value to the blogger. There’s no way I can recall on demand the contents of the last 15,000 posts (which would go back to the fall of ’02 or so). But if something current happens to match up with something I once said, there’s the accidental spark, and the words will start to flow. You thought I was quoting myself for the sake of search-engine standings? No, just rebuilding my own internal not-really-an-index.

There’s one further complication, at least regarding my own memories: certain of them are tagged as Bad, things I’d just as soon not think about at all, and if one of them happens to be activated, the whole lot can come crashing down on me at once. Under those circumstances, the best I can do is to invoke the Scarlett O’Hara Temporal Displacement Method.

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Transportable cooler

Yesterday the Twitterverse was filled with snark about the Chevrolet Volt, the best of which was provided by Iowahawk. (“The Electric Government Kool-Aid Battery Acid 40 Mile Trip” is choice, maybe even prime.) I have no doubt that GM can move 10,000 of these in the first year: the last Chevy dealer in Hollywood probably has that many names on a waiting list. But inevitably, there are some things that this car — most contemporary cars, says Jonny Lieberman — won’t do well:

The Mercury also performed one other amazing feat, one that 99.9 percent of other modern cars simply can’t do as well. I went ahead and prepaid for a tank of gas. Meaning that if we returned the Grand Marquis on anything more than an eighth of a tank, they’d be getting both my money and my gas! As it happened, Connecticut experienced record-breaking heat that weekend — 100 degrees Fahrenheit and 100 percent humidity. So, we left the car idling all day with the A/C set to Max. Whenever any of us felt a heat stroke coming on, we’d simply dip into the near-frozen Grand Marquis for a quick cool down. And this may have been the sun talking, but after a few hours I swear the windows began icing up.

I am heartened by the fact that this took place in New England; had it been in Texas, the Thou Shalt Not Drive Much crowd would have dismissed it as being, well, Texan.

Personal note: My ex used to own a Grand Marquis, but traded it for a Ford Five Hundred, which line became the new Taurus. Why, yes, she was born in Texas. Why do you ask?

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Life during wartime

Scott “The Fat Guy” Chaffin, over at Facebook:

I miss the Cold War. Mutually-assured destruction focused the mind and put Americans on the moon, a still-unsurpassed achievement. Now, I have the luxury of listening to lectures about eating my broccoli and driving electric cars from My Betters. What I need is a damned frontier.

Don’t you worry about the Cold War. The Comintern is coming back. Unfortunately, it will be based in the District of Columbia. Lots of red-diaper babies out there.

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How to name your blog

Because, you know, it’s important:

Nothing against Glenn Reynolds or anything, seems like a good enough chap, but far as I can tell, he’s just some law professor from Tennessee. And he barely writes any actual commentary. Seeing his blog, and the traffic it gets, it’s entirely fair to shrug and say “I don’t get it”. So you’re left with the conclusion that his blog’s success has very little to do with any of the actual blogging, and everything to do with the fact that, way back when, he fortuitously and/or shrewdly decided to call his blog “Instapundit”, rather than, say, “Links From Tennessee” or “Law School Guy”. Because “Instapundit” was the hook that made that site what it is; seemingly, that’s all it took.

Heh. Indeed.®

There have been, over the years, names that were subtly functional: The Presurfer comes immediately to mind. And then there are those which seem to require an explanation, such as TYWKIWDBI, or perhaps Rhymes With Cars & Girls:

What does that even mean? And how on earth does it relate to the content? Doesn’t seem to. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue or easily conjure any images.

On the other hand, there are those that conjure plenty of images, such as Violins and Starships.

And I’m sure the name of this place has bewildered a few folks over the years, even though there’s an explanation posted, which was written in, and which reeks of, 1997.

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A sip of the new wine

For this one, I blame Brian Ibbott.

The genial host of the Coverville podcast almost always finds at least one track each episode that causes massive secretion in my WTF gland. In #692, it was “Billie Holiday” by Warpaint, which opens with a simple guitar tune and, of all things, the spelling out of the title. Dismissable, perhaps; the Bay City Rollers did the same shtick one Saturday.

But it wasn’t like that at all. A little more orchestration, really lovely three-part harmonies, and about two minutes in, the words seemed awfully familiar. I backed up the track, started again, and yep: Smokey Robinson, via Mary Wells. Clearly the most idiosyncratic take on “My Guy” since Sister Act. Since iTunes was already up and running, I dialed over to the store and found the six tracks of their Exquisite Corpse EP.

“Billie Holiday,” of course, had had a spike in sales, but I figured $5.94 wouldn’t break me, so I bought the entire shebang, and then basically sat there amazed for half an hour: Exquisite Corpse didn’t sound like anything else I’d ever heard. The band’s MySpace page describes them as “Psychedelic / Ghettotech / Melodramatic Popular Song,” and that will have to do for now. By no stretch of the imagination can this be considered background music: the band weaves fascinating sonic textures from deceptively-simple instrumental threads, and the sort of wretched excess that normally draws in the critics is blessedly absent. I’m not even going to pretend I understand all the words: even the stuff I already knew by heart seems inchoate, ethereal and vaguely threatening. While watching the video for “Elephants” it hit me: these are the anti-Mediæval Bæbes, however many centuries in the opposite direction, somehow projected into our own time for reasons unknown. If “beautiful” and “scary” seem to you to be part of the same continuum, you probably heard about this record before I did.

(Reviewed from purchased AAC files.)

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Now Acme pursues Wyly

The SEC gets medieval on a couple of non-Wall Street operators:

Sam and Charles Wyly, billionaire Texas brothers who gained prominence spending millions of dollars on conservative political causes, committed fraud by using secret overseas accounts to generate more than $550 million in profit through illegal stock trades, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Thursday.

The Wylys, who have been generous contributors to the Republican Party and GOP candidates, have spent the past several years facing questions, including from a Senate investigative committee, about whether they hid millions of dollars in tax shelters abroad. Through their lawyer, the Wylys denied all charges.

Jenn questions the timing:

Six years of investigation but the SEC doesn’t bring charges until the day that Charles Rangel is charged? I don’t think so. If they really had anything they would have charged sooner or they would wait a week to avoid the appearance that they were trying to distract from the Rangel investigation.

And what’s the point of tax shelters, if not to hide money? The tax system we have encourages — hell, practically demands — them. Of course, Treasury wants you to use their approved shelters rather than those horrible offshore operations, but the demand for shelters manifestly exceeds the supply, and we all know what the government understands about supply and demand. (Short version: well, technically, there can’t be a long version. Laws of physics, doncha know.)

Besides, the two situations aren’t strictly comparable. The Wylys occasionally create jobs; the Rangels of the world create only patronage.

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Escaping the double-bind

Scene from Topper Returns

In this scene, Roland Young is befuddled by Joan Blondell’s floating unmentionables in Topper Returns (1941). Admittedly, Cosmo Topper was rather easily befuddled, but you’d think after Thorne Smith’s novel and two previous films, he’d be used to invisible women by now.

And besides, how likely is it that they’re going to ask “Does this dress make me look fat?”

After the jump, a very visible Joan Blondell wearing rather less.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Magic and make-believe and an audience

Stacy McCain says I might skip this particular film festival:

Thursdays this summer at the Atlas Performing Arts Center [in Washington, D.C.] will be Gay 101 — a series of films one must see to be a card-carrying gay man. While most are not gay-themed, all are embraced by the gay and lesbian community. Classics such as All About Eve and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? will share the screen with campier choices including Mommie Dearest and Valley of the Dolls.

On the schedule, in this order: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Auntie Mame, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, La Cage Aux Folles, Valley of the Dolls, Where the Boys Are, All About Eve, Suddenly Last Summer, Cabaret, Mommie Dearest, Steel Magnolias.

Now the main reason I’d go to a film festival is to see something I haven’t seen before. And, well, except for Suddenly Last Summer, I’ve seen all of those. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

(Thanks to Bill Simpson for the title.)

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Quote of the week

Roberta X denounces a local activist type who apparently needed denouncing:

This time ’round, he’s irked. Irked at those horrid, horrid war-profiteers, like Blackwater(!)* and Northrup Grumman. Why, (he asks) do you know what they’ve done? For every U. S. solider, sailor, Marine or airman they’ve kept armed and alive, we’ve had to put up with unfilled potholes, with fewer police and teachers and mid-level bureaucrats; we’ve missed out on extra helpings of government cheese because of — sob! — Warbucks! Er, war bucks.

He calls this loss (a loss measured in the lives of soldiers, remember; though he does not) “opportunity cost.”

…Pray note that Fran never considers what opportunities were lost by taking that money out of your pocket, nor does he ever propose returning it to you. Oh, hells no. You’re a cash cow to him — just like you are to the current edition of the War Congress; the only diffo is what they want to spend your money on.

Me, I’m an “isolationist” in the manner of Rand: win the war, come home, proceed to buy low and sell high with anyone who’ll trade. But that’s never been a popular notion; not with the Hard Wilsonians (and haven’t they just got a chubbie for world-mending, and look how well it’s worked out doing that instead of shootin’ the bad guys and goin’ home) and not for the Sons of the Red Diaper, either. Both want to rob you blind for the Common Good — and both bitterly resent [when] their old foe gets funded.

And the footnote, as in the original:

* The astute reader, not being a newspaper columnist or an “international poverty attorney,” will be aware they’ve been Xe since October 2007.

I trust everyone here caught that almost immediately.

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You might call this timely: the 384th Carnival of the Vanities is indeed “CoTVing out of July”.

Not everything makes it out of July intact. USS Rhodes (DE-384), an Edsall-class destroyer escort built for World War II duty, was decommissioned in July ’63, and eventually sold for scrap.

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In a timely manner

Just did the WordPress 3.0.1 update. As is becoming the rule, the database backup takes about 12 times longer than the actual upgrade. Not that I’m inclined to skip said backup, which is now approaching 9 mb gzipped.

As always, if anything is broken, yell. I would.

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When Quinn the Governor gets here

Everybody’s gonna want to move:

Illinois, which is in its worst financial position ever, will raise the income-tax rate in January to address its deficit, Governor Pat Quinn’s budget director said.

Lawmakers will likely increase the personal tax to 5 percent from 3 percent, generating $6 billion of new revenue, the budget director, David Vaught, said in an interview.

This will probably be billed as a two-percent increase. It isn’t.

Perhaps they can blame this on Deficit Inattention Disorder:

The legislature failed to address the deficit this year because of the pending November election, [Vaught] said.

Obviously they have their priorities in order.

(Via E. M. Zanotti.)

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And oh, what heights we’ll hit

MissQ is not at all used to serious heels:

This week I ordered a beautiful pair of pumps to wear when I marry Mr. Perfect. Wearing sensible shoes on a special occasion is simply out of the question. Every girl knows that high heels make our legs look fabulous and since there will be photos, flats are not an option. I really didn’t even think twice about how high they were when I ordered them. Yesterday they arrived at my doorstep. They are 4½ inches high. Which is pretty freakin’ high. I put them on and wobbled around the living room. I am really not sure I can walk in these. I Googled tips for walking in 4½ inch heels and the only advice I found was on transvestite websites. Apparently, you really do have to have cojones to attempt to wear these things.

Either she didn’t come here, or that twenty-year-old picture of me in the pink jumper is still floating around.

Regardless, here’s the technique, as described by a born-double-X-chromosome woman:

  • Keep your legs close together.
  • Put one foot directly in front of the other.
  • Take short steps; don’t be in a hurry!

Meanwhile, MissQ continues to work on it:

After a little practice, I could almost walk on the carpet or on the cement sidewalk but the wood floor was too slippery to walk unless both my heel and toe came down simultaneously. This can be accomplished by either bending your knees like Pee Wee Herman dancing across the bar to “Tequila” (not attractive) or walking sideways like a jazz chasse step (not dignified). Maybe I should dig out my old tap shoes and twirling baton, light that baby on fire and really make an entrance?

Actually, I like that idea, but weddings tend to be full of flammable stuff.

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Fey, done up well

Tina Fey, on the way into (or out of) this year’s Comic-Con:

Tina Fey at Comic-Con

(Click for ridiculously hi-res version.)

Tina’s advice: “Until you’ve kissed someone through a hole in a Jawa costume, you haven’t really been to Comic-Con.” Um, I’ll take your word for it, darlin’.

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Feed me, see less

The guys at Hillbuzz are perplexed by the sudden lack of filth in the Gulf of Mexico:

Since oil is not a solid, but a liquid, like water, predicting where it ends up might be more complicated than looking for rubber ducks that were dumped off a large freighter (which happened in the 80s … and provided scientists [with] all sorts of data on how the currents worked and where debris in the oceans ends up). But, we just think it’s bizarre the “experts” are stumped on where all this oil is.

Well, actually, the rubber duck incident was in 1992, but let’s go on, shall we?

“It disappeared” or “something drank it” are not good enough answers.

Though, we’ve always said that eventually SOMETHING would evolve to eat petroleum products that are supposedly accumulating into a giant garbage dump in the middle of the Pacific. We saw a special once about this place that plastics supposedly go, that traps all sorts of animals who are too stupid to get out of the way. That’s where all of those plastic rings from soda packs are strangling all sorts of things, apparently. With all of that material out there, it just seems obvious that some kind of bacteria or critter would evolve to feast on all of it as a food source in due time. That’s what seems to happen to everything else in the ecosystem. Looking at the course of life on this planet, that’s happened time and time again where some pressure forced organisms to adapt, survive, and thrive.

Who knows? It might even work on the GOP.

Then again, we probably don’t want to encounter one of these theoretical creatures in the, um, flesh. After pondering for several minutes and realizing that what I’d come up with was basically tentacle porn starring Cthulhu, I figured I’d better change the subject.

So: how about those Sox?

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De-stinking badges

What prompted all this was a nifty piece at the Car Lust blog on one of the last gasps of Graham-Paige Motors, formally known as “Spirit of Motion” but for fairly obvious reasons referred to as “Sharknose.” It lost G-P a ton of money through 1940 and was abandoned, leaving the automaker with but a single model: the Hollywood, a variation on the old Cord Beverly, albeit converted to rear-wheel drive. The Cord dies were actually owned by Hupmobile, another dying marque, which was putting out its own version under the name “Skylark”; both Hollywood and Skylark were defunct after 1941.

The rest of the G-P story is pretty interesting — after returning to some semblance of profitability producing war hardware, Joseph W. Frazer took over the company, and in 1946 put G-P to work building the Frazer automobile, a twin to the Kaiser. G-P bailed out, selling its interests to Kaiser-Frazer, and went into the real-estate business, eventually taking the name of its major property: Madison Square Garden.

But what I wanted to harp on was “Hollywood” and “Skylark,” both of which were reused as model names in the Fifties by different automakers. Hudson’s two-door hardtop variant of the Wasp (1952-54) bore the Hollywood badge; Buick produced its first Skylark in 1953.

And it occurs to me that this process works better with automakers that are really most sincerely dead. Edsel, in its mercifully-brief three-year lifespan, offered seven series — four “cars” (sedans/hardtops/ragtops) and three wagons. Of those seven nameplates, four were ultimately revived: Citation (Chevrolet, 1980), Pacer (American Motors, 1975), Ranger (Ford, 1983, still in production), and Villager (Mercury, 1992).

Does this mean that somewhere down the line we’re going to see revivals of the Cutlass and the Fury and the Monterey and the Vue? I wouldn’t bet on it, but obviously weirder things have happened.

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