In lieu of actual inspiration

There used to be a Webzine called Inspire, which I don’t remember ever seeing; it was, apparently, celebrity culture for women 18-21. Anyway, they’ve abandoned the name, presumably for one or both of the following reasons:

  • The arrival in July of a print magazine called Inspire, which reportedly was published by Al-Qaeda;
  • Their own move into print, starting with the September issue.

The new magazine will be called, for reasons I cannot fathom, Zooey. It has, so far as I can tell, no connection to anyone actually named Zooey. Not that I’d be paying attention to something like that.

Still, I wish them well, because — well, how can I not?

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A few more years of evolution

The next shoe is no shoe at all:

Overstepping by Julie Rrap

I don’t see this catching on with the Sex and the City crowd.

Anyway, this originated as a print by Australian artist Julie Rrap. I found this description in an education kit for a Rrap exhibition put on by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney [pdf] a couple of years ago:

Overstepping is a large format, glossy digital image in which the artist’s feet sprout into fleshy high heels. The visual realism of the feet indicates they “belong to a real woman… We are simultaneously given both a sense of style and of exquisite pain. No woman who has ever worn stilettos can look at Overstepping without wincing. This single image has it all. It describes the female body and the way it is fragmented and manipulated in the interests of appearance as well as the personal cost of those transformations.”

The readers at If Shoes Could Kill were almost uniformly horrified, which may have been the artist’s point all along.

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Barns unennobled

Never been to a dressbarn store, for reasons that should be obvious, but the name has its charms, which were echoed in its slogan: “Live within your means. Dress beyond them.”

Wall Street types, however, don’t seem to respond to the same sort of stimuli as us regular folks, who might wear tennis shoes or an occasional python boot, and so Dress Barn, Inc. (NASDAQ: DBRN), which owns two other brands, is seeking to change the corporate name to the faceless, uninteresting “Ascena Retail Group.”

There are good and bad explanations for this move, both emanating from CFO Armand Correia. The good one:

The name change also allows the company to buy brands that aren’t necessarily in the same industry, he said.

The bad one:

The retailer chose Ascena, after consulting with outside experts, because it’s reminiscent of the word “ascend.”

Right. “Honey, does this dress make my ascend look big?”

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Second-best historical marker ever

Reported to be “on the outside wall of a gas station” in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands:

Historical marker of sorts

(Via Oddly Specific. The best historical marker ever is here.)

Addendum: You might like this one even better.

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Chances are

Several times before, I have made reference to unusually-appropriate or unexpectedly-amusing juxtapositions of songs on the work box, which contains an iTunes install of some 5,650 tracks. The mathematics of the process would seem pretty simple, as Tam notes:

So I’m driving down the freeway yesterday, listening to Moby’s cover of “New Dawn Fades” on the iPod, best known as the tune from the Heat soundtrack playing when Hanna pulls over McAuley, and the next song the thing offers up in shuffle mode is the original Joy Division recording of “New Dawn Fades”. What are the odds of that?

After reflection, she determined that it was 1/512, which implies 512 tracks on the iPod. In comments, TJIC noted that since this can happen in two ways — cover followed by original, or original followed by cover — we’re looking at more like 2/512, or 1/256.

Which makes perfect sense if the shuffle is perfectly random. Given the fact that computers generally don’t do a bang-up job on randomness in the first place, I figure there’s some chink in its armor.

A 2007 experiment conducted under the auspices of Cnet seemed to suggest that commercial considerations were a factor: “Artists and singles purchased through iTunes were played more frequently than those that were not.” I haven’t noticed any such tendency, though my own shuffle contains fewer than 150 tracks actually purchased from the iTunes Store. (There are about as many tracks bought from Amazon’s MP3 storefront, which the Amazon installer automagically moves into iTunes after purchase; I haven’t noticed any favoritism one way or another with these items.)

What I’m wondering about, though, is if the shuffle has enough smarts to select the beginning of song B because it goes well with the ending of song A. In my mix-tape days, I put out well over 300 cassettes, and in my opinion, the two best transitions I ever did were:

  • Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” to Badfinger’s “Day After Day”;
  • Petula Clark’s “Kiss Me Goodbye” to Jimi Hendrix’ “Purple Haze”.

The shuffle has indeed coughed up one of these. “Sir Duke” was playing, and I observed, “Ideally, the next track to come up would be ‘Day After Day’.”

Which began, right on cue. I am going to rip “Kiss Me Goodbye” today and add it to the playlist, to see what happens.

My own preferences will tend to complicate the mathematics: I run a floating playlist called “Randomator” (!) which pulls 500 nonclassical tracks based on, depending on the mood of the moment, either least-recent airing or fewest plays. The list remains at 500; one song is played, the next one takes its place. For least-recent airing, this is pretty simple, but for fewest plays, it’s a little more complex, because no song has more than 23 plays at the moment, meaning lots of ties. And the shuffle breaks ties, apparently, in reverse order by artist’s name: the “5” Royales and the 5th Dimension, then the 4 Seasons, more numbers through 10cc or 10 Years, and then ZZ Top, Warren Zevon, and so on, all the way up to Abba. (Before you ask: Aaron Neville is sorted with the N’s.) And this confounds me: I might be in some particular mood and will find the song that just came up incompatible with that mood, so I’ll press the Next button. The shuffle, often as not, will bring it back within six hours.

And I still haven’t figured out how that Genius gizmo works, though I admit to being impressed with the machinations that produce the Genius Mixes. I freely concede everything that people hate about iTunes: it’s slow to load, it’s cumbersome to operate, and it chews up memory faster than stoners wolf down Cheetos. But having gotten a handle on most of its features, I wouldn’t be without it — at work, anyway. At home, I seldom have the urge to run nine or ten hours of continuous music.

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What hath Peter Pan wrought?

No, not the peanut butter; the boy who wouldn’t grow up and who now seems to dominate the culture.

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Strange search-engine queries (238)

Another week, another trip through the referral logs, another round of “Somebody was actually looking for that?” Well, yes, somebody was. Life is like that sometimes.

who in the hell sends out those deceased inheritance spams?  Same people who send all the other spams: lazy, good-for-nothing SOBs who want maximum return on minimum effort.

“haul bituminous anthracite”:  That’s what we need to do with spammers: put them to work in a coal mine.

olive oyl nude:  Well, Swee’Pea had to come from somewhere.

tall and tan and young and lovely nudist:  Unless you happen to be at Ipanema, nudists tend to look like everyone else: not that tall, not that young, not that lovely. Although they do usually tan pretty well.

Larry Derryberry hairy fairy query:  We knew Mr Derryberry, who was the state Attorney General for eight years; he was not, so far as we could tell, all that hairy, and nothing about him seemed particularly fairylike.

kevin calvey indecent exposure:  Do I detect an attempt at rumormongering, just before the runoff election? Because I’m not aware of any such incident.

what partially lists to one side?  RMS Titanic did, though not for long.

too pretty to get hired:  We’ll never know, because we didn’t hire them.

is the sentence the alarm is loud conclusive or observation:  If the next sentence is “Turn off that goddamn alarm,” we may conclude that it was intended to be conclusive.

Proposed General Motors IPO Stock symbol:  Unfortunately, “BFD” has already been used.

“reflects an optimism that makes Pollyanna look positively Kafkaesque”:  I have the only result for this search, it being a direct quote from me, so I’m puzzled as to why anyone would be looking for it. (It wasn’t, I note, the person of whom I said it, unless she’s vacationing three time zones away.)

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The faux château is so about to go

Is the McMansion dead in the koi pond? Not entirely, I’m sure, but the trend is toward smaller and (maybe) less garish:

In its latest report on home-buying trends, real-estate site Trulia declares: “The McMansion Era Is Over.”

Just 9 percent of the people surveyed by Trulia said their ideal home size was over 3,200 square feet. Meanwhile, more than one-third said their ideal size was under 2,000 feet.

“That’s something that would’ve been unbelievable just a few years back,” said Pete Flint, CEO and co-founder of Trulia. “Americans are moving away from McMansions.”

We’re not crowding ourselves into rabbit warrens, exactly, but we definitely seem to be downsizing a bit:

Trulia graph on home sizes by decade

I note with some amusement that my own house, built in 1948, is a hair bigger than the stated average for the 1950s.

Now why is this happening? The less-than-inspiring condition of the economy surely is a contributing factor, and Pete Flint argues that the F-word has put a scare into folks:

“This is absolutely a long-term effect,” he said. “Think of families with small children who’ve been foreclosed upon … When these teenagers are in a position to buy a home, they won’t want to go through these experiences they saw their parents go through.”

Oh, that F-word.

After renting for a decade or so, my son, his wife and their three children are buying a place in an early-1960s neighborhood east of Kansas City, a house that, per Trulia’s graph, was smallish even for that era. Still, better that than something they might not really be able to afford. I don’t think they ever aspired to a McMansion. Certainly I never did.

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Ulla la

Almost every reference to Ulla Herrin on the Web comes back to this photo:

Ulla Herrin, 1950

According to Vintage Scans, this shot is from the February 1950 issue of Beauty Parade, a magazine published by Robert Harrison, creator of Confidential.

I might point out that this is hardly Venus’ usual fur. And who am I to object to fantasy-based ravishment, anyway?

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Carya: heavy load

In the kitchen last night, I was dousing a couple of chicken breasts with one of those commercial sauces ostensibly imbued with hickory smoke, and I got to wondering: how much hickory wood goes to make stuff — tool handles, flooring, sporting goods — and how much ends up in the barbecue pit?

I subsequently expended much of my vaunted GoogleFu trying to get something resembling an answer, but couldn’t come up with anything much more than this:

Carya tomentosa (Mockernut hickory, mockernut, white hickory, whiteheart hickory, hognut, bullnut) is a tree in the Juglandaceae or Walnut family. It is the most abundant of the hickories. It is long lived, sometimes reaching the age of 500 years. A high percentage of the wood is used for products where strength, hardness, and flexibility are needed. It makes an excellent fuelwood, too.

This suggests that furniture outweighs flavoring in the current scheme of things, which is fine with me. I didn’t follow up on the nuts, but I figure sooner or later some wise guy will want them ground up and blended into a cocktail: it’s a hickory daiquiri, Doc.

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It’s the 387th edition of Carnival of the Vanities, titled “CoTVing to Spamalot.”

Certainly we get a lot of spam. I got several spams this week offering me various pharmaceutical products, including the classic combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen you may know as “Lortab” or “Vicodin.” The last batch of these I actually got prescribed — I’m not about to send an order to these characters in “Canada,” since God only knows where these storefronts really are located — were imprinted with the number 387.

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There goes your $2.81 from AdSense

If you’re in Philadelphia and you run a blog, the city may be sending you a bill:

Even though small-time bloggers aren’t exactly raking in the dough, the city requires privilege licenses for any business engaged in any “activity for profit,” says tax attorney Michael Mandale of Center City law firm Mandale Kaufmann. This applies “whether or not they earned a profit during the preceding year,” he adds.

So even if your blog collects a handful of hits a day, as long as there’s the potential for it to be lucrative — and, as Mandale points out, most hosting sites set aside space for bloggers to sell advertising — the city thinks you should cut it a check. According to Andrea Mannino of the Philadelphia Department of Revenue, in fact, simply choosing the option to make money from ads — regardless of how much or little money is actually generated — qualifies a blog as a business.

The license costs $300, though you can buy a short-term (one year) license for $50.

Presumably next on Philly’s agenda: taxing lemonade stands.

(Tweeted by Marc Parent.)

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Updating that Sixties soul

Frank Wilson was part of the team when Motown set up its West Coast office in 1965; eventually he relocated to Detroit and contributed his mad production skillz to all manner of Hitsville hits, including “Love Child,” the Supremes’ first attempt at social commentary, and “Up the Ladder to the Roof,” one of the memorable post-Diana Ross Supremes hits they don’t play on the radio anymore.

Which brings us to a memorable non-hit: the one record issued under Wilson’s own name, briefly in the catalog as Soul 35019, produced by Hal Davis and Marc Gordon. Wikipedia picks up the story of “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)”:

Supposedly 250 demo 45s were pressed, but by that time Frank Wilson decided he would rather focus on producing and had the demos trashed. Somehow at least two known copies survived, one of which fetched over £25,000 in May 2009.

Because of the scarcity of the original single and the high quality of the music (it was one of the most popular records in the Northern Soul movement), it has been championed as one of the rarest and most valuable records in history.

It’s a remarkable record, not only for its distillation of mid-Sixties Motown style, but for its sheer exuberance; this is, above all else, a happy record. (You can hear it here.) The closest thing I’ve heard to it in recent years hasn’t actually been released yet; what’s more, it’s a vicious dis of a former lover, which would seem to eliminate exuberance, or at least the positive aspect thereof, as a factor. But I’d bet anything Cee Lo Green, the chunkier half of Gnarls Barkley, has heard Frank Wilson’s song. (It’s gotta be the vibes, right?) Here’s Green’s tune: it’s not safe for work or anywhere you might have to explain things to someone, but I defy you to get it out of your head once it’s there.

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Yeah, right

Sarcasm, says the Coyote, doesn’t work on the Web:

Think of a couple of sarcastic comments, like “Boy that Joe Arpaio is sure a friend of civil rights” or “wow, that Cynthia McKinney is one sharp legislator.” The problem is that on the web, there are likely any number of people arguing, quite seriously, that Arpaio is the greatest friend the Constitution ever had or that McKinney is a bastion of well-reasoned, sober deliberation. We are getting to the day that without regularly reading an author on the web, it is virtually impossible to be sure a given remark is sarcasm.

Obviously the W3C needs to work a <SARC> tag into HTML 6.

Hey, it’s easier than trying to expand the character set.

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Is this a 4Runner of something?

One of those weird stories plucked from the Matrix:

On 2 September 2008, Leslie Russell gave birth to a baby girl in the front passenger seat of a Toyota Camry parked outside the University of Chicago Medical center (with the help of a pediatrician who happened to be walking by). She named the baby girl Claire Camryn — Camryn after the Camry.

This may be the only time in history someone really should have been driving a Dodge Avenger instead.

And should young Claire (a name I’d like to see more of, incidentally) eventually question her mother about this:

“If she’s upset with me later, I’ll tell her she’s lucky she wasn’t born in a Daewoo!”

Let’s not get Mitsubitchy here.

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Pair ungrown

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but Jennifer Aniston will really hurt you:

Jen appeared on Regis and Kelly [Thursday] morning when Regis asked her about her recent Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot where she channeled Barbra Streisand.

Regis said, “You’re playing dress up.” Jen replied, “Yes, I play dress up. I do it for a living, like a retard.”

Jen’s unfortunate simile drew a strong reaction from actual retards:

Members of The Arc, a nonprofit advocate for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, are very angry by the comment. CEO Peter Berns released the following statement:

“She is using language that is offensive to a large segment of the population in this country. We estimate that there are probably in excess of 5 million people in the country with intellectual disabilities, and when you think about all of them, their family members and friends, you’re talking about tens of millions of people who find the use of that term to be really offensive. Every time folks hear that word, it kind of reminds them of all the discrimination and oppression they’ve experienced in their lives. Even if it wasn’t intended to insult them, that is the effect of it.”

As apparently the only person in America who has never experienced discrimination and/or oppression — or perhaps I was too retarded to notice it — I find myself without any highly-paid advocates at all, and therefore have to muddle through by myself.

Of course, before there was “retard,” there were, in decreasing order of IQ, “moron,” “imbecile” and “idiot.” These terms, however, are now generally restricted to politicians, television pundits, “nonprofit advocates,” and other folks who for whatever reason cannot, or dare not, escape the prison of their middle-school memories.

There exists no right to go through life without being offended. If there were, we’d have exterminated ourselves centuries ago, trying to defend it. If I learned anything in the Home for the Bewildered — yes, children, I spent time in a mental hospital, please note the utter lack of trauma inherent in that disclosure — it’s that outside influences damage our self-images only when we let them. And if I’d made up my mind to be hurt about something, I’d hope to God it was something more important than a throwaway remark on Regis and Kelly.

(Also: see Troglopundit on “the R word.”)

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