In the usual Friday spot

I catch occasional flak for being an avowed Rebecca Black fan. (Not as much as I catch for being a My Little Pony fan, but that’s another matter.) I usually argue something to the effect that for something resembling an authentic teenage experience, you might as well go to an actual teenager, and the four RB singles to date, even if she didn’t score much in the way of writing credits, come off as fun, non-angsty adolescent fun, something I could use more of in these days of morose pop.

But is she influential? “Not so much,” I’d have said, and then I saw this, um, remarkable whatever-it-is by Taylor freaking Swift. (I’d have done the embed, but it seems to load about fifteen different modules from all over the map, and it’s slower than a tax refund in May, so you’ll have to click for yourself if you want to see it.)

Sheesh. Rebecca Black could have sung this, were she not so insistent on making records that reflect the reality of her actual existence. And geez, it’s catchy. But it’s about as country as Katy Perry. (And is that a Kathy Beth Terry lookalike I see at the bar?)

Addendum: Speaking of Kathy Beth, Max Martin co-wrote both “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” and that Swift thing.

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Obvious title resisted

And believe me, it was hard:

How’s this for a head turner? A tiny new species of fish from Vietnam sports its genitalia on its noggin.

Phallostethus cuulong is only the 22nd known species of its family, Phallostethidae, all of which bear their copulatory organs just behind their mouths.

It’s not the easiest thing in the world to spot these critters, since they’re only a couple of centimeters long and they tend to inhabit places low on your Ideal Vacation list:

The new species was identified via measurements of nine specimens found during a field survey in shallow river waters in Vietnam’s Mekong Basin — just the sort of brackish coastal habitat priapiumfish typically call home.

Such habitats have undergone heavy development in Vietnam in recent decades, but the fish have proved highly resilient and seem to have adapted to modern life. Scientists have even collected priapiumfish “in a ditch on the side of the road.”

Hey, you gotta go to where the organisms are, not where you’d like them to be.

(Via Dave Schuler, who knew organisms like this in college.)

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Sad songs say so

This story has been kicking around all week, and I’ve basically been ignoring it while playing the most upbeat stuff I can find. (Well, except for Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You,” which is upbeat only if you have Baal on speed-dial, but I do have to watch my glucose levels.)

The gist of the matter:

A recent study published in the journal Psychology Of Aesthetics, Creativity, And The Arts looked at over 1,000 Top 40 songs from five decades, and found that, increasingly over the years, more songs have used minor chords and slower tempos, which researchers say proves that popular music has taken a turn for the negative. (Happy-sounding songs tend to have a fast tempo in major mode, after all.)

Of course, it’s all about the hipsterism:

The researchers speculate all this is due to the rise of consumerism and individualism in the culture, which they claim “produces a demand for more choice” among producers and consumers who want to demonstrate “sophistication in their taste.” As it is, purely happy songs like Abba’s “Waterloo” can sound “naïve and slightly juvenile” to today’s all-grown-up pop radio listeners. Acts that use emotional ambiguity, meanwhile, are seen as attempting to convey depth or seriousness, rather than just pure froth.

“Waterloo,” of course, is a song about resignation — might as well face it, I’m addicted to you — but it’s just so damned jaunty.

Continuing the There’s Always Room for Cello theme from this post, here’s a transcription of my favorite song from “A Canterlot Wedding,” just because it sounds more sombre than it really is:

And besides, ponies.

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Quote of the week

KingShamus watches MSNBC, and the next line is normally “so you don’t have to,” but the ratings suggest you already know that. It’s dull, junior-varsity stuff, he says:

For all intents and purposes, Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes are catty community college wymyns studies profs desperately trying to out-Marx each other. Over at the other end of the faculty lounge, the Basketweaving department co-chairs Chris Matthews and Tom Brokaw are debating whether Premier Obama should next nationalize America’s Fig Newton Manufacturing Base or the Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning-Industrial Complex. Apple-polisher extraordinaire and student body punching bag Ezra Klein is tugging at Toure’s leg, pleading with him to be his black friend. In the meantime, adjunct lecturer Ed Schultz knocks back his fifth Jack-n-Coke before noon while angrily jabbing his finger at the Young Republican who dared to question him during his Economics class.

MSNBC is every college student’s most boring moments — crappy teachers, horrible subjects, lame classmates — distilled and refined into a potent televised package of tedium. If that sounds like a rip-roaring party to you, then knock yourself out. To most people, it resembles nothing less than the second circle of Hell.

Maddow is easily the smartest of the bunch, but how hard is it to be smarter than Chris “Mr. Tingly” Matthews? And anyway, Fig Newtons are already under the control of the National Biscuit Company Nabisco Kraft Mondelēz.

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Gimme a D

This is perfectly clean, in case you b minor:

Lame hashtag joke

(Snatched from the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Facebook page.)

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Love, love me don’t

While Ann Romney might possibly have earned some Brownie points for her husband with that semi-stirring speech of hers at the 2012 Republican convention, its sheer popularity is more than a little disquieting:

Love? Most of us want love, to be sure. Some theorists claim that we need to love and be loved — that unless we succeed in loving and winning the love of another, we’ll shrivel neurologically and die miserably. But love isn’t a commodity for the acquisition of which we should turn to politics.

Ann Romney’s disquisition on love, on the love of mothers, and so forth might very well have been necessary to persuade undecided mush-heads that come November 6, her husband should be their choice. But to my mind, that speaks rather poorly of America. It suggests that we’ve forgotten completely about the imperative of respect and the terrible danger that emanates from any and every form of government. Political “love” is no support to American virtues. It’s far more likely to be used as a justification for aggressive intrusions on our rights, in the name of “what’s good for you.”

Winston Smith eventually learned to love Big Brother, after all. (We will not at this time get into the degree of neurological shriveling required to name an otherwise faceless state one’s Best Friend Forever.)

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More than I can say

This is actually two, two, TWO gripes in one, but I didn’t want to break up the paragraph, so here’s at least some of Scott’s explanation for not doling out the free ice cream this week:

I also took a week off partly because generating content over rural cellular service, the 21st century equivalent of 300 baud dial-up, is bloody well painful in this here age of endless javascript loading up six social networking site feeds so you can see what the rest of the world is dribbling out and drooling over. Speaking of which, does it irritate no one else that sports, live sports, regularly devotes time away from the live sport you’ve tuned in to watch in order to have a hairdo read 140-character messages, which are also helpfully displayed on the screen, from the idiot masses about that sporting event? No? I guess it’s just me.

This latter, of course, is what I consider further justification for sports on the radio.

Along these lines, more than once (which I suppose equals “twice”) I’ve discussed the possibility of a @42ndAndTreadmill Twitter account with the sysadmin, and a few days back he allowed that he was planning on doing some experimenting with the Twitter API so the thing could be fully automated. I pointed out that we couldn’t automate everything, inasmuch as inevitably some folks would want to tweet back at us, and he decided that maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all.

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Not content

Funny thing: the first ads for Infiniti, which wouldn’t show you anything so gauche as an actual car, are now better remembered than the cars they failed to show. (In fact, apparently they’re so well remembered that no one has bothered to post them to YouTube.) Eventually Nissan figured out that they ought to show a car once in a while, even if the message was muddled otherwise.

Mazda, however, hasn’t had a really memorable TV spot since the old rotary days. I’m not sure what to think of this one, but I definitely approve the music (and the musicians).

Ray Davies should be smiling as he cashes his check.

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I walk the dinosaur

Big Blue is producing a new flavor of Big Iron:

IBM has unveiled a mainframe computer it hopes will help head off competition from lower cost PC-based servers. It said the zEnterprise EC12 had cost $1bn (£633m) to develop, producing a machine with processing cores 25% more powerful than earlier models. The re-designed machine also had better security and data-analytics tools than older models, said IBM.

Of course, there’s a hitch:

The launch comes at a time when, analysts say, the mainframe market is experiencing a long-term decline.

I haven’t worked on an IBM mainframe since System/370, which dates back to the Old Silurian, but I retain a certain perverse fondness for the creature despite its ridiculously huge footprint. (The current midrange I tend is larger than I, but unlike me, it has a whole lot of usable empty space.) Just don’t ask me to rewrite your JCL.

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World’s best product placement

From my 2001 World Tour log, an event for which I wish I hadn’t packed the camera in the trunk:

[S]omewhere near Effingham, Illinois, I spotted a tractor/trailer rig bearing the logo of Xerox. Right behind it was (yes!) another one.

Casey Cornett, manifestly, is more prepared than I:

Twitpic by Casey Cornett

If Tim McGraw — or, for that matter, “Tim McGraw” — had been on the radio at that moment, it would have been perfect.

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Popped culture

Brian J. finds a fulcrum under the record shelf:

[N]ote the tipping point in one’s music appreciation as demonstrated by the content of one’s musical library. At some point, and not some point when one’s body sags anywhere, that one will discover that more of the artists in his or her musical library are dead, many of old age and not drug overdoses or suicide at 28, than are alive. I’ve passed that tipping point already.

Despite being a regular Sagatha Christie, I haven’t done any such thing. Then again, since I already own just about any recording worth having between 1961 and 1972 (your mileage may vary), I might as well listen to the new stuff.

And besides, it’s 27 when they croak. Except Keith Richards, who will eventually know WALL-E personally.

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Under surveillance by the Food Police

“Absolutely everything, except a few roots, leaves and seeds from the forest primeval, is bad for you,” says Lynn. I dunno. Murmuring pines aren’t known for their food value, and hemlock — well, ask Socrates when he comes back from break.

Still, this seems pretty inarguable:

[W]hat I really hate is how this stuff gets into my head. I resolve to ignore it all and just eat sensibly but then I go to buy groceries and I can’t keep from thinking about the latest set of “rules” we’re supposed to follow and I feel like there’s nothing I can buy that’s safe. So I just buy what I always buy and worry that I’m bringing poison home to feed to my family.

I alternate between “The advice will change again next month so just ignore it,” and “There must be something to this; they can’t be completely making it up.”

“They can’t be making it up”? Of course they can. The worst tyrant is the thoughtful tyrant. The second-biggest problem, after the aforementioned tyranny, is the notion that if we just follow a few simple rules everything will work out fine. Two minutes on Google will give you counterexamples galore.

Mark my words: if we are ever smart enough to get rid of this stupid ethanol mandate, “they” will suddenly announce hitherto-undiscovered benefits to high-fructose corn syrup, because “their” gravy train is a hell of a lot more important than your gravy.

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Off the bubble

What I know about K-pop would almost, but not quite, fill a thimble. However, somebody in passing mentioned Kim Hyun-a’s “Bubble Pop” and how it had gotten insane numbers of views on YouTube, so I looked it up, and, well, it has some nice synthetic charm, if perhaps not as intellectually stimulating as, say, your average Rebecca Black video.

She is definitely sorta cute:

Kim Hyun-a

Which may or may not explain how she ended up in an updated version of PSY’s “Gangnam Style”:

On second thought, I probably don’t need any explanations.

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Up setting

My last two attempts at short fiction were admittedly on the talky side. This is because I can’t possibly write descriptive passages this good:

The skies were blue, blue, blue. I saw only one very small puffy white cloud … to the east. It was slightly mushroom in shape, indicating that perhaps a group of extremist mountain goats had detonated a suppository-sized nuclear device. But I didn’t see anything on the news about it.

The permanent link is here, once the first of the month arrives; for now, go here and scroll to the 27th.

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Approximately six Devons

The downside of building up, up, up? More stairs than you ever imagined, not to mention the potential problem with elevators:

A mile-high skyscraper, for example, is possible with modern design techniques and some small projected advances in building material. But the elevator to the top would have to be a speed demon in order to make the trip in a useful time frame. Remember, it has to go a full mile. At 10 mph, it would take six minutes. Not so long, perhaps, but I’m going to bet not many people are keen on the idea of standing in an elevator for six minutes. If the elevator ran at 20 mph, then it would make the base-to-summit trip in about three minutes, and according to the infallible internet, most elevators in tall buildings run about 22 mph with slowdowns as they approach the destination floor.

Given the general reaction of people stuck at 10 mph horizontally — I-35 south provides numerous examples of same every workday — I suspect they will not like it much going vertically.

For myself, I don’t get seriously claustrophobic — Trini can verify this — for about the first thirty stories. Anything much above that, though, and I expect the subconscious to dig up something primal and wave it in my face, with results no one wants to observe. Especially me.

And you know, “Approximately Six Devons” might have been a good Bob Dylan title, circa Bringing It All Back Home.

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Probably lacking in bodaciousness

Something just landed in my inbox from “TATA LOAN SERVICE.” Immediate thought: you can borrow those now?

I suspect there is no connection to India’s Tata Group, manufacturers of the Tata Nano. (Say that fast three times.)

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