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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The newest sort-of-singing sensation

What do the following records have in common?

  • Bee Gees, “Saw a New Morning”
  • Elton John, “Border Song”
  • Parliament, “Chocolate City”
  • The Supremes, “Let Me Go the Right Way”
  • Traffic, “Paper Sun”

Answer after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Time for an egg cream

The lands controlled by Otto I the Great (936-973), once his power was acknowledged by Pope John XII in 962, were known generally as the Holy Roman Empire, despite the following facts:

  • It wasn’t an empire: at best, it was a loose confederation of tribal duchies.
  • It wasn’t Roman: Otto, after all, had been Duke of Saxony and King of Germany.
  • It wasn’t holy: after a year as Emperor, Otto, seeing a threat from John, convened a synod of bishops and deposed him, replacing him with Leo VIII, who apparently wasn’t even a bishop.

Voltaire, perhaps anticipating Linda Richman, pointed out this minor nomenclatural inconsistency (in Essai sur l’histoire générale et sur les mœurs et l’esprit des nations, if you’re keeping score), but Otto was long gone by the time Voltaire’s essay appeared, as would be the Empire itself half a century later.

This sort of thing recurs constantly. Claudio “Drake Floyd” Fragasso’s 1990 horror film Troll 2 features exactly 0 trolls. And FX is readying a series called Terriers which, you guessed it, is pretty much devoid of terriers:

I was excited for about five minutes until I found out there is nary a terrier in the series. In fact there is a bulldog in the pilot episode. And occasionally the dreaded Jack Russell shows up in the teaser for the series.

So it turns out the series really has nothing to do with terriers. It’s about two down-on-their-luck schmucks turned private eyes. I’m going to give it a chance because it features the always amusing Donal Logue and that sexy guy who played the Cajun serial killer in the first season of True Blood. But really.

My baseline example for such things has lately been Kid Rock, who is not a kid and who does not rock.

(Aside: You want to know why I get so many bizarre search queries? Because I do posts like this that wander all over the freaking map.)

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Deadly Viper content unknown

Those of you lucky enough to have your lunches, take them with you, preferably in this:

Kill Bill lunchbox

It is not clear whether this contains relief or regret.

(As the phrase goes, Found in Mom’s Basement.)

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You like this too much

An item from Playboy’s “Raw Data,” September:

According to law firms specializing in divorce, about twenty percent of divorce petitions make some reference to evidence of spousal misbehavior on Facebook.

Dear God, I hope it isn’t on FarmVille.

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Quote of the week

It dates back four score and seven years, yet it has dated not a whit:

The modern mind is merely a blank about the philosophy of toleration, and the average agnostic of modern times has really had no notion of what he meant by religious liberty and equality. He took his own ethics as self-evident, and enforced them. Then he was horribly shocked if he heard of anybody else, Moslem or Christian, taking his ethics as self-evident and enforcing them.

From “The Mirror of Christ,” the eighth chapter in G. K. Chesterton’s St. Francis of Assisi, 1923.

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The great credit crunch

As explained by Tim Cavanaugh:

Credit froze because all over the country defaults on mortgages, car loans, student loans and credit cards were reaching historical highs. Letting Lehman die was Henry Paulson’s single act of courage, and he followed it up by doing what he does best: soiling his Depends and scaring the children with wild tales about the bank failures, derivative defaults and lover’s lane murderers that would be unleashed if the taxpayers didn’t give a trillion dollars to the largest banks on the planet. The entire ethical structure of the free market was destroyed so that Sheila Bair could be spared the inconvenience of euthanizing crippled, syphilitic ghouls like Citigroup and Bank of America.

Funny thing: when the mood strikes them, even crippled, syphilitic ghouls can rouse themselves enough to become actively malevolent scum.

Perhaps we could take a lead from the Canadians:

Canadian banks, it turns out, weathered the financial storm much more effectively than American banks did. The reason: Canadian mortgages, unlike American ones, legally required robust guarantees, usually a 20 percent down payment. That helped keep homeowners from running away from their mortgage payments when things turned south, as happened in the United States. Canada and the U.S., it’s worth noting, still have the same percentage of homeowners — roughly 67 percent — meaning that the American incentives that favored risky bank behavior failed to increase ownership levels.

I got into the palatial estate at Surlywood with decidedly less than 20 percent down. But while I’m hardly an example of excellent cash flow, I’ve never come close to defaulting on the mortgage. Nor is the bank — a moderately-sized regional bank, neither crippled nor syphilitic — likely to be worried, since the property, the taxman assures them, is worth half again what is owed on the note. (We never had much of a bubble, so we didn’t have much of a bust at the end of it.)

Afterthought: Rewind to that phrase “when things turned south.” Would they ever say something like that in Canada?

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It’s the Reverse Shrink Ray!

Apple informed me of a QuickTime update last night, and I went ahead and installed it, on the basis that they’re going to keep telling me about it until I get it done. No particular issues, and I did check to make sure my Pro registration was intact; then I cut it off the desktop and shipped it off to a folder called Installs. Apparently there was a previous file there named QuickTimeInstaller.exe; do I want to overwrite it? I did, but not before noticing that the old version was, literally, old: we’re talking 2002, maybe. Five hundred kilobytes or so. The installer for 7.6.7 was 33.5 megabytes.

And of course, this reminded me of the early 1990s, when 33.5 mb would have been half my disk space. My first non-Commodore box was an XT clone with an NEC processor (10 MHz!), 40- and 20-mb Seagate drives, and a whopping 1.6 mb of RAM. (This latter resided partly on Intel’s Above Board, a full-length card crammed to the max with 256k RAM chips. Lots of them.) Now it takes 30 mb on a Debian Linux server on the Left Coast for me to type this.

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Booze R Us

Perhaps not coming soon from Marko Kloos Productions, which is a shame, because I would so watch this:

Title: “Distillation Station”

Genre: Children’s Television (Pre-K)

Logline: The zany adventures of Mister Hooch and his friends, as they hang out at Distillation Station and have run-ins with the grumpy old Temperance who lives across the street.

You must read the cast list.

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A faint whiff of rodent

The city of Tulsa is suing the state of Oklahoma over this year’s House Bill 2359, which gives the Oklahoma Tax Commission the exclusive right to collect sales and use tax in the state.

We’ll jump right to the punchline:

State lawmakers passed HB 2359 on the final day of this year’s session, but before the governor signed it into law, the city of Tulsa had signed a contract with an Alabama firm to handle the collections.

To quote a NewsOK commenter on this story: “Wonder which politician is related to the owner(s) of that private firm…”

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Old school, new wheels

The message — um, “The Message” — is clear.

(Seen at Autoblog.)

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