Government at every level in every nation contains large numbers of individuals who wish to indulge their oh-so-not-plebeian tastes at the expense of taxpayers. Since this is common knowledge, it is de rigueur for government to trot out for public consumption examples of “Look how we’re saving your money!” For instance, consider this Honda CR-V police vehicle in Fengchenggang, Guangxi Province, China:

Ceci ne pas une Honda CR-V

The CR-V is an economical little cruiser, produced for the Chinese market by a joint venture of Honda and Dongfeng, which costs somewhere around 200k yuan (let’s call it $30k). If this vehicle seems a little large to you for a CR-V, pat yourself on the back: despite the Honda indicia front and rear, this is in fact a Mercedes-Benz ML 350, built either in Alabama or in Mexico, which in China sells for 900k yuan, plus the price of a couple of Honda badges installed by the local cops, presumably in the dead of night.

The good folks of the province did not take this lying down:

Citizens of Fengchenggang were not to be fooled and posted pics of the Benz CR-V on the internet where ‘netizens’ had a field day ridiculing the local government as hard as they could. Best part: the police flatly denied they made any changes to their car.

Thomas L. Friedman was not available for comment.

(Via Autoblog.)

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All you gotta do is ask

The Southern Girl, transplanted to the Midwest, happily finds that some things haven’t changed a whit:

Midwesterners are nice and friendly. So are Southerners. The key here is that both Midwesterners and Southerners are nice and friendly to strangers. Some might say that this is because manners are a major part of the Southern culture of child rearing. It is, after all, the land of mam, sir, please, thank you, and help someone when you can. At my house this also included wear your slip and pantyhose (this one was a hard one to accomplish and the easiest to abandon), cross your legs at the ankle, chew with your mouth shut (now one of my personal pet peeves, ick), and keep your elbows off the table.

But when it comes to making friends, in the South, striking up a conversation with a total stranger at anytime and anywhere is totally normal and often encouraged.

Fortunately, this works pretty well with Hoosiers too:

Since moving to Indiana, talking to strangers has been my primary method for finding the best grocery store, the best park, the best art event, the best fundraisers, the best farmers’ market, the best restaurants, the most fun places to hang out at night, the best festivals, the best lakes, the best shopping … I could go on. I love talking. Also, so far, most people have initiated the conversations with me (often based on my accent and then why I left the South), which is very nice and relaxing. I do not have to do all the work.

There are, of course, self-described Hick-Free Zones scattered throughout the land. I’ve wandered into a few of them. When spotted, I’ll usually dial a little more magnolia into my voice, just to let the denizens thereof think they’ve accomplished something. (It’s the polite thing to do, doncha know.) It’s not my job to open their hearts; it’s my job to keep mine from closing.

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Pawlenty of nothing

I don’t know how the rest of you feel about it, but one factor I look for in political candidates, irrespective of party affiliation, is Failure To Crawl. The moment you start toadying, you are dead to me.

Yeah, Tim Pawlenty, I’m looking at you:

While Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty spent the day campaigning in Iowa, his campaign co-chairman Vin Weber told The Hill newspaper Wednesday that Michele Bachmann’s strengths in Iowa include hometown appeal, ideological appeal and, “I hate to say it, but she’s got a little sex appeal, too.” Weber later apologized.

T-Paw didn’t throw Weber under the bus, exactly, but he did indicate some familiarity with the heat shields:

“I don’t believe that he or anyone else should use a reference to somebody’s sex appeal to judge their fitness for office,” Pawlenty said. “It’s a wrong statement, and he apologized and I’m glad that he did it.”

Never did knee jerk so quickly. Note that Weber didn’t say anything about Bachmann’s “fitness for office”; he said something about her perceived electability, a characteristic utterly unrelated. (Don’t think so? Where were you during the Obama administration?)

And just how much further can this sort of thing go, anyway?

Have we really sunk this far into the demented world of hypersensitivity? Seriously, how long will it be until we are afraid to say anything to anyone, about anything without running by a lawyer first?

Newspeak doubleplusgood. Shut piehole.

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Today’s public-service announcement

After deleting the eleventy-thousandth “male-enhancement” spiel from the inbox, and reflecting on the fact that there must be actual buyers of junk treatments, else there would be no sellers, I offer the following bit of wisdom to any of you poor shlubs who might have thought, even once, of responding to these silly pitches:

Your problem isn’t lack of length. Your problem is lack of depth.

And you can’t fix that by clicking on a link.

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Heat doth make madmen of us all

Which includes the computers that display the weather, apparently:

NewsOK weather graphic 3:50 pm 9 July 2011

This was snagged from NewsOK about ten minutes ago. Right now, the thought of an actual wind chill would be almost heartening — but no, not gonna happen, not with 24 hours of daylight every day. (The earth’s axis must have shifted further than we thought.)

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Seems legit

Fillyjonk explains her fondness for Internet memes:

I love them. I know some people think they’re stupid, or certain ones are overdone, or whatever. But I think I love them for a very specific reason related to my sense of humor. I am that kind of person who will carry a joke a little too far, who will be laughing over a repetition of it even after other people have found it, well, repetitious. (For example: I still find Rickrolls pretty funny, though I think the “cool people” probably are going “2007 called; they want their meme back.”)

“X called; they want their Y back” is, of course, a popular snowclone.

It’s always seemed to me is that the appeal of these things is at least partially attributable to their amazing ability to annoy the hell out of the Y SO SRS? types who clutter up our days. And those who have endured my shtick for the last decade and a half know that the beatings will continue until the equines are resurrected.

I think also I find incongruities — things that shouldn’t go together, but that someone thinks to put together — extremely funny.

Rebecca Black in a physics question

Now that one I couldn’t resist.

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Employee of the month?

Probably not. This is Jennifer Love Hewitt at the Hollywood premiere of Horrible Bosses, just barely on the red carpet at Grauman’s Chinese:

Jennifer Love Hewitt almost off the red carpet

Perhaps she thought someone might remember Blake Lively in this same Herve Leger bandage dress, circa 2009.

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I’ll take Brand Positioning for $1000, Alex

Joe Sherlock (scroll to Friday, July 8, until the archive links go into effect) relates this bit of automotive potpourri from Jeopardy!:

Host Alex Trebek asked a contestant the identity of the luxury auto brand whose logo depicts a stylized calipers. She didn’t know the answer.

When told it was Acura, the contestant replied incredulously, “Acura’s a luxury brand!?”

If there was a graphic, I hope it was right side up.

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Quote of the week

From Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business by Bob Lutz (Portfolio Penguin, 2011), a snapshot of the Old GM, featuring a piece of voice-recognition technology that was mercifully euthanized before it was inflicted on Buick buyers:

I will never forget that drive through downtown Milford, Michigan, and the engineer sitting next to me probably won’t forget it either. At his urging, I asked for “more cold air.” “No, no!” he said. “You have to scroll verbally. First say ‘climate control.’ When the car says ‘climate control,’ you say ‘blower.’ When the car repeats ‘blower,’ you say ‘up one.’ Same with temperature.” Of course, it wasn’t that easy, and a comedy of errors ensued. I did the best I could, trying to remember the sequence. So fixated did I become with the marvels of voice-input technology that I casually cruised through two red lights, nearly causing an accident each time.”

“Scroll verbally”? Screw that. The only way this could be worse would be if you had to text the car to get it to do something.

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Sitting in the back for the moment

Not a whole lot going on in Rebecca Black Land; she’s back from vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, and while everyone waits on that EP, she’s set up her own YouTube channel (which, “Friday” being still in dispute, is quite empty for now), and she’s taking questions at a Buzznet blog.

Meanwhile, I scooped this out of her Facebook fan page:

“Going into the studio has been amazing. I just want to prove to everyone I can do it. I’m not some rich kid whose parents paid for her to have success. That’s not me. I want to be a real artist with a real career. The record is coming out so cool. I’m doing a ballad, a dance song with a little bit of a Latin flair to it. And, the lyrics will be a little more challenging. It’ll sound completely different from ‘Friday’ because there’s not a crap load of auto tune in my voice,” laughs Rebecca.

Of course, there were a few people — enough to get it to #58 in Billboard, anyway — who actually liked “Friday.”

And there’s James Lileks, who here discusses with his daughter what might happen if the cereal RB’s gotta have somehow failed to materialize:

“What would befall her if she doesn’t have cereal? She says she has to have it, but that suggests consequences if she doesn’t. Why not a PopTart?”

“It doesn’t fit the lyrics.”

“Anything fits. ‘Bagel, bagel, gotta have my cream cheese.'”

Don’t ask what the young lady formerly known as Gnat had for breakfast.

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Points off the curve

Arrows of Desire by Emma BlairThe blurb for Emma Blair’s 2008 romance Arrows of Desire:

When Steve is killed during enemy action, Beth is devastated. They were due to elope to Gretna Green the following week, and their happiness was complete with the news that Beth is pregnant. But now, alone and unmarried and with a baby on the way, Beth must survive by herself in war-torn Glasgow. When Beth meets handsome Canadian Gene, a friendship begins; for the first time since Steve’s death Beth finds happiness. When Gene asks her to marry him and live with him on his farm in Canada, Beth seizes the opportunity of a better life for her and her child. But it doesn’t take Beth long to realise that Gene hasn’t told her the whole truth and that the farm doesn’t belong to just him — his sister Loretta lives there too. And Loretta makes it very clear that Beth isn’t welcome and that she will stop at nothing — even murder — to get rid of her.

Blair’s first romance, Where No Man Cries, appeared in 1982. Sixteen years later, Emma Blair was (more or less voluntarily) unmasked as Iain Blair, a large, burly Scotsman who’d had no luck in the mystery market and decided to try a different genre altogether. He died Sunday at the age of sixty-nine.

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Fake insincerity

Real insincerity is amusing enough, but the version being fabricated for comment spam is simply way over the top. An example, snagged by Akismet this week:

You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

How stupid? He, by whom I mean “cheap air jordan 13,” presumably a unit of a botnet, hung this on a post about Packard automatic transmissions. I wouldn’t mind going after his heart — with a crossbow.

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We don’t talk about such things

The line immediately before that, of course, was “What is the crime rate in this neighborhood?”

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This week, Andrew Ian Dodge is proud to present a “Rumbling” Carnival of the Vanities, the 429th in the series.

Speaking of rumbling, this car did its share:

Ford Mustang Boss 429

This is, of course, the semi-legendary Boss Mustang 429, which wasn’t as gosh-darn fast as everyone believed, mainly because Ford built this engine for NASCAR and had to sell at least 500 copies of it to get it approved, but the darn thing wouldn’t fit very well in the ‘Stang’s nose, meaning the intake and exhaust it got were unduly restrictive. Damn laws of physics. (Picture borrowed from

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Not quite e-nough

Some of the real-world financial aspects of publishing for the Kindle, from Rob O’Hara:

Amazon advertises that authors keep 70% of the proceeds from each eBook sale, but that only applies to books priced at $2.99 and above. For us 99-cent bottom feeders, it’s 35%. That means for each $0.99 electronic copy of Commodork I sell through Amazon, I only make 34 cents. Combine that with the fact that Paypal charges .35 per transaction, and you can quickly see I’m not exactly rolling in the dough on this endeavor. All I can do is “pray Lord Vader doesn’t alter the deal further.”

Accordingly, he’s raising the price of the Kindle version to $2.99, while simultaneously, he’s cutting the price of a non-DRMed PDF version from his Web site from $4.99 to $2.99, which leads to some musing on how to deal with aggrieved buyers who paid the higher price:

Option #4: Contact all the people that just bought Commodork for $0.99 on Amazon and ask them to Paypal $2 to the people that paid me $4.99 for the book.

For the record, I have Commodork in its actual dead-tree edition. Cost me something like $20.

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Barely Maricoping

While Clark Matthews, whose A/C has been on the fritz, can easily justify referring to this place as “The Gates of Hell,” I must point out here that we got nothing on the PHX:

Years ago, I had to stay in Phoenix for a week during July. The good news was that they were practically giving hotel rooms away. The bad news was that there was a reason for that: no one who wasn’t forced to be there at that time of year would ever willingly choose to go.

When I made the reservation, I asked the clerk what time the weather cooled off somewhat. His answer was, “Around Thanksgiving.”

This week in Phoenix: highs around 105-110, lows in the upper 80s. Last Thanksgiving in Oklahoma City: high 43, low 28, a trace of snowfall.

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