Think linear

On the late Dick Clark’s musical scale, I would rate my dancing ability at about a 45: I will probably not knock anyone over, but that’s about as much praise as I can muster. (That said, there exist people in this very town who have seen me dance, and I don’t think I’ve bribed all of them. Yet.) That said, I’m not inclined to resort to the Easy Alternative:

Line dancing is to “real dancing” as checkers is to chess, or as Go Fish is to five card stud. It’s repetitive and takes up valuable space on the dance floor. I do understand its attraction though. Line dancing is easy enough to do after you’ve had a few too many beer-a-ritas, and it’s also a dance that ladies can do without having to worry about klutzy guys grinding on their toes. Having said that, I must confess a certain fondness for the Cumbia — or at least the Mexican version that’s popular in our area — which is really just line dancing that moves around the floor, although it provides more improvisational freedom than the strict choreography of line dancing.

Well, maybe I’d consider the Madison.

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Definitely real

If Amy Winehouse were still with us, and if she could have been pushed about a half-step toward Aretha-style gospel, we might have wound up with Rebecca Ferguson, born this date in 1986, the runner-up on the seventh season of the British series The X Factor, losing to Matt Cardle but beating out latter-day boy band One Direction. She sounds something like this:

And she looks pretty good in almost-orange:

Rebecca Ferguson at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Speaking of One Direction, Ferguson briefly dated Zayn Malik of 1D, six years her junior.

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I want one in black metallic

The new issue of Automobile has a feature on Singer Vehicle Design, whose slogan says it all: “Restored · Reimagined · Reborn.”

Statement of purpose:

Our work involves taking a customer’s existing vehicle and performing both restorative work and cutting-edge modifications to update the car’s performance, aesthetics and modern-day usability in an attempt to optimize its strengths while preserving the essence and magic of the original.

The vehicle featured in the magazine article (apparently not yet posted on automobilemag.com) was a 1991 Porsche 911 (type 964), Singer’s fourth restoration job, featuring a blueprinted flat six custom-built by Cosworth, complete with a bespoke engine-control unit, and a carbon-fiber bodyshell that all by itself runs over fifty grand. (Only the steel doors remain.) At $375,000, this is a tad rich for my blood, but there’s something viscerally delightful about a twenty-year-old car that can run with its newest brandmates.

And Singer’s Web site is likely the only automotive site on earth with background music written by the owner: “Don’t Change” is from Rob Dickinson’s 2005 album Fresh Wine for the Horses, his first solo effort after five albums as front man for alt-rock band Catherine Wheel. (“Singer,” of course, was Dickinson’s previous occupation.)

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Individually packaged

Stereogum reports on a curious statistic from the record industry:

As of two weeks ago, old albums outsold new ones for the first time since Nielsen Soundscan started tracking U.S. album sales, back in 1991. The first half of 2012 brought sales of 76.6 million catalog albums (i.e, albums released more than 18 months ago) as opposed [to] 73.9 million current albums. Some of the best-selling catalog albums are fairly recent beasts that won’t go away (Adele’s 19, Taylor Swift’s Speak Now); some are ancient classics that should be carved into Mount Rushmore (Dark Side Of The Moon, Licensed To Ill).

The interesting aspect of this, to me anyway, is the idea that anything released over a year and a half ago is by definition no longer current.

James Furbush of the Sly Oyster, fascinated by these numbers, wonders:

Are younger people just resorting to streaming music on Spotify, illegally downloading it, or purchases directly from places like Bandcamp or Kickstarter?

I can’t speak for younger people, not having been such for many years, but I buy stuff from Bandcamp all the time — most recently this — and I’m pretty sure the SoundScan guys don’t pay any attention to it.

But the most-likely explanation for this phenomenon, I suggest, is that the singles culture that existed in the pre-Beatles era has clawed its way back. Used to be, you heard a track you liked, you went out and bought the 45, because you knew the album was likely to consist of two singles, the B-sides thereof, and half a dozen filler pieces — if the single was on the album at all, which it wasn’t always. Sinatra’s usually weren’t. A lot of acts never even got an album until they’d managed a hit single.

The Presleyterians complicated the matter. After “Heartbreak Hotel” broke big for Elvis, RCA Victor planned an album, which turned out to be part new filler material, part unreleased Sun stuff, and “Blue Suede Shoes” as the lead track. “Hotel” wasn’t on it. Furthermore, RCA got the bright idea of releasing the entire album as six simultaneous 45s, and on the same day a new single. Kids with meager budgets, which at the time were all of them, bought “Blue Suede Shoes,” bringing it up to #20, and ignored the other singles, including the new one, a cover of Jesse Stone’s formidable “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” The album eventually sold a million, because after all it was Elvis fercryingoutloud.

And now, of course, you can cherry-pick the tunes you want and leave the rest of the album tracks on the virtual shelf. Good for your collection; perhaps not so good for the guys compiling album-sales statistics.

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I hear TSA is hiring

And this guy sounds like he’s perfect for the job:

A registered sex offender from Brooklyn has been arrested on charges he groped a New Jersey woman aboard a PATH train on two occasions, Port Authority police said.

Gian Verdelli, 61, was arrested Monday in Jersey City by undercover officers, who identified him by using a cell phone photo the 28-year woman took of her alleged attacker after a July 3 incident. She said the same man had also groped her on June 30.

And talk about your dedication to duty:

Verdelli had 168 prior arrests, the majority of which were for sexual offenses, officials said.

Thank God he didn’t do something horrible like buy a Big Gulp.

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Somehow less than cool

The motion picture Frozen won’t be released for another 16 months, though the IMDb listing will tell you that it’s a Walt Disney production based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen.

Disney, in fact, will tell you everything about the movie except why they changed the original title, which Laura will explain:

The … film was given a boring generic name, like Tangled (2010), because of the fear little boys wouldn’t want to see a movie called The Snow Queen.

Lauren Faust was not available for comment.

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Somewhere west of Laramie

Exactly where you don’t want to be, supposedly, if your car breaks down:

According to a summertime state-by-state ranking of repair costs researched by auto diagnostic company CarMD, Wyoming drivers “paid 17 percent more than the U.S. average for overall repairs, including 19% more for labor and 15% more for parts.” The average cost in the state: $389.18, about $100 higher than the cheapest states.

This makes no sense until you note that “overall repairs,” in this context, will include only those repairs motivated by the dreaded Malfunction Indicator Light. (“Check your engine, sir?”) And the next four most expensive states are also out West, which gives away the secret:

The higher average out West can partially be attributed to higher amounts of airborne dust: by putting off replacing air filters in Western states, vehicle owners put their vehicles’ mass air flow sensors at risk. On average, this is a $400 repair.

On my car, the air filter is a 15k replacement item that costs about $20; the MAF sensor runs a cool $488.

The title, of course, comes from this famous 1923 auto ad:

1923 Jordan Playboy as seen in the Saturday Evening Post

I have no idea what an air filter for this thing might cost.

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Fashion girl

It says so on YouTube, so it must be so: The Platform has issued a video called “Sh*t Fashion Girls Say on the Internet,” and the two fashion girls involved are the estimable Man Repeller and the increasingly visible Rebecca Black, interviewed briefly by the sui generis P’Trique. Becky (!) is game, but she’s going to have to up her game to get into the Repeller’s league.

Also this week, RB announced that she’d recorded the final track for that upcoming album, which she says is probably her favorite song of the bunch, and answered the Twitter hashtag #MyLastWordsBeforeIDie with the following: “I left a million dollars in the…”

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Fark blurb of the week

Dong hopes huge blow job will attract Siemens.

(Linked to this. And take a look at the end of that URL.)

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Title of the week

Smitty came up with this gem: “Ancient Commenter Solomon On The Topic Of Paint Huffers, Or Harry Reid, Insofar As A Difference Is Discernable.”

Yes, it’s that Solomon. And spellcheck insists that the last word should be “discernible,” which is the way I learned it back in the Pleistocene era, but then spellcheck couldn’t deal with “huffers” either. (Inasmuch as I somehow have a couple of friends at the Huffington Post, I am not about to use “huffers” as a pejorative for HuffPo writers, so don’t ask.)

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No colors anymore

You want your American Express card to turn black:

In 1999 American Express announced the introduction of its Centurion™ card. Available only by invitation to selected Platinum card members, this black credit card promises to simplify the lives of the harried rich. In exchange for its hefty annual fee (initially $1,000 US, but now $2,500), cardholders receive automatic upgrades on fifteen of the world’s leading airlines. They also receive assistance in securing hard-to-come-by tickets for popular events, reservations at trendy restaurants, and shopping for Christmas gifts. Someone from the service will even call to remind cardholders of upcoming anniversaries. It is akin to having a personal concierge always on call.

“There had been rumors going around that we had this ultra-exclusive black card for elite customers,” says Doug Smith, director of American Express Europe. “It wasn’t true, but we decided to capitalize on the idea anyway.”

Daily Finance notes that the Black Card is not a credit card, but a charge card, like the original Amex, and must be paid off in full every month:

That may be one of the secrets to the success of the world’s wealthiest: They pay off their plastic in full every month. In other words, they live within their means, which is a great approach to managing your finances, whether “your means” enable you to buy a Bentley, or just pay the $10 admission fee to see one at a car show.

I mention this because of a throwaway line in Motor Trend’s New Car Guide (9/12):

Cool Fact: 6 percent of AMEX Black Card holders own a Hyundai.

And not this one, either.

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Switches, not snitches

My own “smart meter,” according to the electric company, reports back to them on a regular basis and enables them to spam me send me timely power-usage notifications and to keep track of consumption on a minute-by-minute basis, in case I get around to signing up for a time-based rate, which at the moment I haven’t.

Maybe they’re different down around Houston:

Thelma Taormina didn’t want a new electric meter, and she went to great lengths to keep her old one.

When a worker showed up at her northwest Harris County home to install a smart meter, she grabbed her gun.

The worker, understandably, backed off.

Mrs T explained thusly:

“Our constitution allows us not to have that kind of intrusion on our personal privacy,” she said. “They’ll be able to tell if you are running your computer, air conditioner, whatever it is.”

It’s July. It’s your air conditioner. I can tell that and I’m not even on your electric line.

(Via the Consumerist.)

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Not a speck of cereal

And believe me, I looked:

Bacon ipsum dolor sit amet aliqua excepteur swine, magna duis ea velit tenderloin meatloaf. Nostrud shoulder commodo, dolore swine ad exercitation. Incididunt dolor deserunt est aliquip short ribs in ball tip. Ribeye est shank kielbasa beef qui.

Ea beef voluptate ut. Pork belly ut exercitation laboris eiusmod. Ham hock beef short ribs beef ribs, ea sed incididunt pastrami officia tenderloin strip steak jerky irure shankle. Spare ribs shankle flank adipisicing et anim in, mollit sausage boudin.

Ea short ribs beef ribs magna non est, irure biltong. Rump proident pork belly nostrud, in aliqua incididunt non capicola. Spare ribs minim capicola aliquip, short ribs t-bone beef sed nisi cillum ullamco sint. Ullamco chuck est minim pork belly. Fatback ham jowl, dolor velit id biltong nostrud chuck proident laboris filet mignon pig chicken et.

(Generated by Bacon Ipsum, some time after Monday Evening.)

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Non-D scripts

When I first had the unmitigated gall to stick Facebook share buttons on individual posts — I still haven’t done it on the front page, and likely won’t — I noted that the FB script merely displayed a logo, and I added the term “Share” to the template manually.

Facebook has since glued the word “Share” to the button, which meant that all 12,000-odd posts in this database had “Share” on either side of the logo. It didn’t take long to fix the template, so the posts will be corrected as the cached copies expire, but FB’s text size for “Share” is smaller than my default and therefore smaller than the “Tweet this” text next to the Twitter button on the next line, so I had to tweak that as well, but they still didn’t match exactly. Finally, I decided if we’re going to have dissimilar styles, we’re going to have completely dissimilar styles, and I installed the officially licensed Tweet Button. (Which is bigger, so nyah.)

I suppose there’s a way to do this for Google+, but Google prides itself on its incomprehensible documentation, so I’m not considering giving them a button any time soon.

Update: Got the Google+ to work. On the first try, even.

Further update: Also got the newer FB button, since the old one is facing extinction.

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Even more muffler stuff

Presuming you’ve read this already, I figure this is a reasonable companion piece thereto:

You’ve been using it for years and you realize it’s getting a little worn. It’s developed a few little quirks, but it still gets you where you want to go, so you keep driving it until one day a wheel falls off and you say “oh, poop”, or something similar and you finally break down and spend some money to get it fixed. And now after it’s been repaired you realize just how badly broken it was because your car drives like brand new now and you can’t believe how much smoother it is and you wonder why you didn’t get it fixed earlier.

The noise level in my car has been rising for about a year and a half, actually, though it didn’t occur to me that it might be exhaust-related until I came down the driveway too fast and heard the telltale sound of banging metal from somewhere behind the back seat. And I didn’t actually get around to having it fixed until the noise got really bad, and I mean slammed-Civic-with-fart-can bad.

Of course, in the afternoon I can’t enjoy the (relative) silence, because the A/C is trying desperately to deal with temperatures around 100, which means fan speed cranked to the max.

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Art as an organizing principle

Lileks writes from beautiful downtown Helsinki:

There’s a stylistic similarity to the other grand structures — they belong to Europe, the 18th and 19th and early 20th centuries; they speak of the old orders, the sustaining culture, the organizing principles and assumptions. This place above is the modern world, anywhere, rootless, vague, inert, remote. Oh, it’s interesting. But the heart doesn’t sing upon seeing it. The building on the right is the modern museum, and the tour guide said that when it opened most people were disinclined to like its contents, but Finns, being curious and interested in what’s new and wanting to talk about what everyone else is talking about, went there regularly. Not because they want to, but because there’s an assumption that this is what thinking people do. They go to art museums to see abstract things, “and if it makes you have a reaction,” she said, “then that is what art does.”

Actually, that would seem to depend on the nature of the reaction:

A bird flew into our veranda today, tried to get out, hit its head on the glass, defecated, and threw up a minnow. That was a reaction.

Even now, the Institute for Contemporary Postmodernism, or something like that, is trying to acquire the legal rights to that very ex-fish.

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