The Master would not approve

Then again, it’s probably not up to him:

Sitting in the number eight position on IMDB’s Bottom 100, with more user votes than any other film in the final ten, sits the Texas-born oddity Manos: The Hands of Fate, a “thriller” about a vacationing family who run afoul of Manos-worshipping pagans. If you’ve been wondering if we’d ever get to return to the delightful universe of Manos and its infamous knock-kneed manservant Torgo, well, you’re in luck! Manos: The Search for Valley Lodge is expected to shoot in 2011, according to Dread Central.

I guess I’d better start saving up for the inevitable RiffTrax.

(“Please, no,” says Dave.)

Addendum: Scarily-detailed recap here. (Courtesy of Smitty.)

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Hoping to roll over

Can we make it to the two-millionth visitor by the end of the month? There’s only a little over six thousand to go.

(I was just going to quote Tam and be done with it, but why should she have to do all the work around here?)

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Still a jump ahead

In the spring, I told you about Michelin’s Smart Jumper Cables, which incorporate a sensor to see which clamp is where and adjust the polarity accordingly, thereby making it impossible for you to hose up your electrical system by hooking them up backwards.

If you saw and thought “I want,” now you can get. Amazon carries them at around $27, which is a third off the $40 list, but just for today, they’re on Woot for $12.99 plus the usual $5 shipping.

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Gene? Therapy

The WaPo’s Gene Weingarten laments the decline of the headline:

In old newsrooms, headline writing was considered an art. This might seem like a stretch to you, but not to copy editors, who graduated from college with a degree in English literature, did their master’s thesis on intimations of mortality in the early works of Molière, and then spent the next 20 years making sure to change commas to semicolons in the absence of a conjunction.

The only really creative opportunity copy editors had was writing headlines, and they took it seriously. This gave the American press some brilliant and memorable moments, including this one, when the Senate failed to convict President Clinton: CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR; and this one, when a meteor missed Earth: KISS YOUR ASTEROID GOODBYE. There were also memorably wonderful flops, like the famous one on a food story about home canning: YOU CAN PUT PICKLES UP YOURSELF.

Newspapers still have headlines, of course, but they don’t seem to strive for greatness or to risk flopping anymore, because editors know that when the stories arrive on the Web, even the best headlines will be changed to something dull but utilitarian. That’s because, on the Web, headlines aren’t designed to catch readers’ eyes. They are designed for “search engine optimization,” meaning that readers who are looking for information about something will find the story, giving the newspaper a coveted “eyeball.” Putting well-known names in headlines is considered shrewd, even if creativity suffers.

It appears that former copy editor Dawn Eden got out of the business just in time.

And I may as well get this out of my system: “Search engine optimization” is the 21st-century version of phrenology. Everybody and his brother-in-law has some scheme to game the system; every other month or so, Google, which owns half the search market, duly upsets the system and thus all the games. Blather, rinse, repeat. Were I more desperate for traffic, and had I money to lavish on this site, I would be better served by simply hiring a practitioner of vodou; at worst, I’d only have to clean the chicken blood out of the database once in a while.

Meanwhile, I will continue to come up with the worst post (as distinguished from Post) titles around, and I hope Gene Weingarten gets to feeling better.

(Via Population Statistic.)

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Whatta heap

This doesn’t seem so unreasonable:

I have this dream of buying a car made in 1967, the year I was born. I’d drive it across country meeting up with Gen Xers along the way. I’d be like a circuit rider!

Hmmm. Never thought about that much myself. Let’s see. In 1967, the second-generation Buick Riviera was one year old: it wasn’t the game­changer that the ’63 had been, but it was almost as gorgeous, and it consumed highway miles with wild abandon. (Unfortunately, it consumed gasoline the same way.)

But I was fourteen in ’67, so I don’t get to play with the Riv: it’s gotta be a ’53. And no way on God’s green earth anyone is going to let me have a Skylark, despite my manifest desire to have people ask “Where are the portholes?”

I suppose I could go look for a Nash like Ruben’s, but I’d be afraid someone would hurl my best white shirts with the Mr B collar onto the lawn. Besides, all those Nashes had skirted front wheels, which gave them a turning circle slightly smaller than that of a school bus.

So I’d keep an eye peeled for any of the ’53 Studebakers, although the Starliner hardtop was the best-looking of the lot.

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The tire’s only flat on the bottom

Pundits predicted that when Rupert Murdoch got his paywall erected at The Times, traffic to the newspaper site would drop by 90 percent.

Well, it dropped — it dropped a lot — but not that much:

The data from Experian Hitwise, which monitors internet traffic, showed that in the week following the introduction of the paywall on 2 July, visits to the Times site fell to 33% of its pre-registration level.

So instead of losing nine-tenths of their online readers, they lost only two-thirds. Pyrrhus of Epirus, to the white courtesy phone, please.

Murdoch may argue that hey, this model works for the Wall Street Journal, but:

[I]t is accepted that readers are readier to pay for the kind of specialist data the WSJ produces.

The Times, I suspect, does not enjoy quite such a distinction.

(Via Norm Geras.)

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Certs to you

Found on the shelf this week: the Keebler (née Sunshine) Vienna Fingers cookie, with chocolate filling. I’ve been almost afraid to open the package, lest I undergo some variation on die Flabbergast.

And speaking of strange hybrids:

Alli by John Fluevog

It’s a Mary Jane! It’s a wing-tip! It’s two, two, two styles in one! There are, um, less-jarring color schemes, but at this level of WTF, you don’t much care. John Fluevog sells this little darling as “Alli” for $185, which is probably what you’d pay for two, two pair of shoes. Me, I think three straps would have been plenty.

(Via happy owner Phlegm Fatale.)

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Seven O

“How very strange to be seventy.” — Simon and Garfunkel, “Old Friends,” 1968.

“In my mind, I’m still 35 or so. Then I look in the mirror and realize the road behind is wider than the road ahead.”Mike McCarville, on the occasion of his 70th, 2010.

Cheer up, Mike. You’ll probably outlast all of us. In the meantime, have a cold one on me.

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Spare that pathetic sleazepuppy’s feelings

Now why in the flying fark would I need something like this?

ToneCheck is an email plug-in that checks the content of your emails for tone and alerts you to language that may be misunderstood or interpreted as particularly negative.

Let’s face it: Sometimes you send an email that you fully intend to convey anger or annoyance. But text communication is rife with misunderstandings, and often an email with perfectly pleasant intentions can lead to a lot of upset coworkers. That’s what ToneCheck aims to address.

How weird. Normally my email is considered to be utterly devoid of personality.

Besides, do I really need software to tell me that “Blow me, you pathetic, cringing toad” might be taken as “particularly negative”?

(Tweeted, presumably not at me specifically, here.)

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Oh, and how are the kids?

That film by Lisa Cholodenko, “in theaters now” as they say, is called The Kids Are All Right, which echoes, but does not precisely copy, the title of a classic song by the Who.

It was apparently the working title all along, and it stuck. Says the director:

I never thought we’d end up with it, but it just kept feeling resonant, so I thought, “You know, stick it on there and see if it passes, and if The Who is not going to sue me, then we’ll use it… [W]e liked the double entendre of it.”

Which suggests that “alright” and “all right” don’t actually mean the same thing:

What additional meaning does “all right” provide that would have been absent from “alright”? I don’t think it’s that “all the kids are right” in the film. After all, there are only two kids in question: the children of a lesbian couple who go in search of their biological father. Rather, as Cholodenko told the San Francisco Bay Guardian, “it’s sort of an ironic title, in the sense that the kids are kind of doing better than the moms.” She also suggests that it’s a form of social commentary responding to those who worry about gay people raising “psychologically healthy children”: “The kids are fine. Don’t worry about them. They’re just right.”

In case someone asks, there exists a good example of “all the kids are right,” in a song of that very title by Local H:

all the kids, they hold a grudge
their minds are logged onto the net
and all the kids, they hold a grudge
you fail them and they won’t forget it
all the kids, they’re tired and turn away
they saw what you did
you’re all wrong and all the kids are right

(Inspired, if that’s the word, by this Nancy Friedman tweet.)

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We want our ZEV

A chap using the handle “vin7619″ sends some advice to Nissan on how to market the Leaf, an all-electric zero-emissions vehicle:

Don’t be afraid to market to the mainstream by emphasizing handling, acceleration, and comfort. However, to appeal to this much bigger market, you have to make an economic argument and forget the save the world nonsense. Stress lower fuel costs and lower maintenance costs. Fund a survey that compares the costs of an EV versus ICE and throw lower maintenance costs into the equation (I haven’t seen this mentioned yet in comparisons sponsored by the traditional auto makers).

To some extent, Nissan understands this: the most recent print ad I saw for the Leaf was all about torque. (As rival Mazda is wont to say, “Zoom zoom.”) Suggestion: a pitch containing the phrase “fewer moving parts.” Heck, my car has two dozen presumably-pricey valves. Nobody likes replacing parts on modern-day Incomprehensimobiles.

Further suggestion: Since the Leaf is considered a zero-emissions vehicle — yeah, I know, all that electricity comes from a power plant somewhere — the main reason for the infamous Malfunction Indicator Light (aka “Check Engine Light”), failure to meet emissions specs, ceases to exist. If you hate the MIL as much as I do, you’ll see this as a sure-fire selling point.

As for our writer’s motivation, he’s up front about it:

In offering this advice, I’m not being altruistic. I want to see electric cars take over the world so we can tell the loose collection of mental patients in the Middle East to pound sand. I also want to make a lot of money on Nissan stock.

Works for me, at least until my next road trip. Maybe by then they’ll have chargers every few miles.

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She’s on a horse

This is Guinevere van Seenus, a name not even Thomas Pynchon could concoct, in a fairly modest shot:

Guinevere van Seenus

She’s done some decidedly less-modest stuff, such as a Daniel Jackson shoot for Dazed and Confused last October designed, it seemed to me, for maximum levels of creepiness. (Not safe for work, home, barn or basilica.)

If you care, she’s thirty-two and just shy of five foot ten.

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It was the big picture that got small

The shrinking of American education, as seen by Charles Hill (no relation):

When students come to a great university they want to answer big problems. Then they find that the social sciences, especially political science, reduce any problem to a small corner, only taking questions that can be addressed in a way that’s scientific and replicable. “You can only work,” students are told, “on this little thing over here.” That’s not the way education was in the Victorian era or in America in the early part of the twentieth century. But during the upheavals of the sixties, when the curriculum was changed, things got smaller. So as American involvement in the world got larger, our education was shrinking.

I expect to be starting on his Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010) soon. Those seeking an overview of the man are directed to Molly Worthen’s biography The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost: The Grand Strategy of Charles Hill (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005), which I found invaluable.

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Nor can this be unseen

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And speaking of coddled youth

Xavier Henry, drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies this summer, didn’t see any Summer League action:

Henry, on the command of his agent, Arn Tellem, decided to sit out summer league because he couldn’t come to terms on a contract. NBA rookies are slotted into a salary — a number that can be negotiated between 80 and 120 percent.

The Griz are offering Henry 100 percent of the rookie salary and have proposed that the additional 20 percent be earned through bonuses. Griz brass contend the incentives are easily attainable.

However, it has been customary for NBA lottery picks to receive 120 percent of the slotted salary without hurdles to leap.

I suspect this will be addressed in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The Griz want to pay him $1,683,500, with the possibility of $336,700 in easy bonus money; Henry wants it all up front. Either way, he’d be pulling the eighth highest salary on the team. And be it noted that Greivis Vasquez, the #28 pick, for whom rookie scale is a mere $863,300, was present and accounted for in Vegas for Summer League, despite not having signed his contract yet. (Another thing: Vasquez played four years of college ball at Maryland; Henry departed Kansas after one. Make of that what you will.)

Not that Grizzlies management are blameless: if the other 28 first-round picks are getting 120 percent, why are they quarreling over what is, by NBA standards, chump change? It’s hard to imagine that $336k makes that much difference, unless Memphis is fearing the luxury tax. (And given the deal they made with Rudy Gay, they might be.) But Henry can’t hold out too long: if he’s not signed by the 10th of January, the scale is reduced a bit each day thereafter. And if Grizzlies management want to make a fuss, they can renounce him, making him a free agent. Maybe someone else will want him — or maybe not. I dunno. OKC’s Sam Presti, probably even before this incident, would have docked Henry a couple points for attitude, and the fact that he played high-school ball at Putnam City and presumably has a built-in fan base here would count for exactly nothing.

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Your expectations may vary

My late-Sixties route to school: ride with the lady next door, who worked downtown, and walk the remaining three or four blocks.

My late-Sixties route from school: walk half a mile to the city bus stop, take the bus as far as it would go (about seven miles), walk the rest of the way (0.7 mile more).

Okay, it wasn’t uphill in the snow both ways, but it was enough, and occasionally I envied the handful of classmates who actually had cars. And one of them somehow possessed a ’63 Lincoln Continental. He gave me a ride in it once; I don’t think this was the circumstance which led me to whine at God “You know, it wouldn’t have hurt You to have made us rich,” but it could have been.

Which brings us to a more contemporary scene:

Boy: Mom — can I have some money for gas?

Mom: What? I gave you $35 earlier this week.

Boy: But this car needs premium!

I’d say something, but my car usually takes about $35 to fill up. With premium, yes.

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