Whenever love knocks

Songbird Clodagh Rodgers, who hailed from Northern Ireland, never scored a US hit, so her fame in the States is almost entirely due to this bit of silliness:

Pither: (voice over) What a strange turn this cycling tour has taken. Mr Gulliver appears to have lost his memory and far from being interested in safer food is now convinced that he is Clodagh Rogers, the young girl singer. I am taking him for medical attention.

Apparently being namechecked on Monty Python’s Flying Circus didn’t rate a mention on Ms Rodgers’ Wikipedia page. That said, I was always fond of her hit song “Jack in the Box,” which is one of those annoyingly-bouncy pop tunes that always seems to place well in the Eurovision song contest. (It came fourth in 1971.)

This, though, I did not know: “She also won the award for ‘The Best Legs’ in British showbusiness and insured her voice for one million pounds.”

Jack in the Box by Clodagh Rodgers on RCA Records

The voice isn’t bad, either.

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One Froggy afternoon

On the Wikipedia page for English author E. Nesbit, you’ll find a photograph of her gravesite, and a fellow crouching, stalker-like, beside the stone.

If F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre is to be believed — and I believed everything he ever told me, which was rather a lot, considering we never actually met — the croucher is MacIntyre himself.

Or, technically, was:

The F also stood for Froggy. That’s what fans in the rabid science-fiction world on the Internet called him: a witty and eloquent man prone to using obscure words and coining new ones, who published numerous books, articles and short stories to great acclaim and spun fantastic tales about his travels.

Both were vaporized June 25. In a dramatic farewell that could have come from Froggy’s pen, Mr. MacIntyre, according to fire officials, methodically set ablaze the contents of the apartment in Bensonhurst where he had lived for a quarter-century. First the flames consumed a lifetime of possessions; then they feasted on his weary flesh, ending his painful 59-year earthly existence. Born in Scotland, raised in Australia — or so he said, in his impeccable British regional accent — he now lies unclaimed in a Brooklyn morgue.

My first encounter with MacIntyre was by way of his 1995 proto-steampunk novel The Woman Between the Worlds, in which a woman identified as Vanessa Steele, though that could not be her real name, shows up at the office of a London tattoo artist. Or, rather, doesn’t show up: she can’t be seen in our, um, dimension, and she has a problem with that. I commented that it was “utterly unfilmable,” an opinion with which MacIntyre was happy to take exception.

We corresponded for a few years after that on various topics: American politics, the Grand Illusion stuff put on by magicians, and, yes, E. Nesbit. “I’d read E. Nesbit’s novels at a young impressionable age,” he said, “and found them enchanting.” But there was occasionally some subtle subtext:

In [The Story of the Amulet, 1906], the children make one time-trip into the future, but — in a high point (or, rather, a low point) of authorial wishful thinking — the future they visit is a Fabian socialist utopia, where HG Wells is the workers’ hero, and men no longer wear trousers.

Nesbit, of course, was a founder of the Fabian Society.

MacIntyre, in some ways, was what I might have aspired to be: he seemed to know everything. I was startled to find his byline on an IMDb article about 1960s cartoon rock duo the Beagles, whose “What More Can I Do?” is an enduring favorite of mine. Eventually we fell out of touch; I had no idea that he’d come to such a horrible end, and wouldn’t find out until Roberta X touched upon the subject a couple of months after his demise.

But he knew this Web site very well:

“I haven’t the faintest notion as to what Dustbury is; and even less notion as to what functional purpose Dustbury serves. The words ‘Dustbury’ and ‘psychopathia’ seem invariably conjoined.”

Now how can you argue with something like that?

Farewell, Froggy.

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Such a card

I’ve seen spam claiming to offer presumably-loaded ATM cards before, but the one that showed up yesterday is different: it had the “actual” card number in the subject line.

The ostensible sender is “Senate House®,” which is marginally amusing in its own right, as is the dubious “atm.com” domain. Instructions:

Accredited ATM Card(231) awarded for contract payment of $6.8MILLION USD.with Card Number; 4278xxxxxxxxxxxx has been allocated in your favor, contact Mrs. Linda Hills (mrslindahill@luckymail.com)with the following

And, of course, you’re supposed to supply all manner of biographical detail to the operation, which claims to be in, of all places, Lagos, capital of Nigeria. (Who would have known?) I’ve redacted the last twelve digits, lest someone get a wild hair and try this number on some unsuspecting storefront. I did, however, subject it to the Luhn test, which it passed. Still doesn’t make it a valid number, of course, and you’ll note that they didn’t bother to send the CVV code (which may or may not be required by a merchant) or the expiration date (which definitely will be).

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Fark blurb of the week

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And I shall continue to call him Brian

Whether that’s his name or not:

Tulsan Brian Bates is hoping the Admiral Twin Drive-in, which was destroyed in a recent fire, isn’t gone forever. “I hope it is rebuilt,” Bates writes. “I remember seeing my first PG movie there — Young Frankenstein — making myself nauseous by getting that free refill on the 32 oz. 7up, and I remember Mom saying something to Dad about the risque jokes going over my head. We’ve taken our kids to the Admiral Twin, too … The Admiral Twin was the last Tulsa theater from my childhood and youth still operating. The Continental, Will Rogers, Brook, Delman, Park Lane, Spectrum, Forum, Fox, Fontana, Annex 3/7, Southroads, Plaza 3, Village, Eleventh Street Drive In, 51 Drive In, Boman Twin, Williams Center, Woodland Hills — all closed, many of them demolished.”

Um, the Tulsan in question was Michael Bates. Brian Bates runs JohnTV.com in Oklahoma City. Whoever is running the op-ed page in the Oklahoman needs to get with the program.

(Why, yes, this is a repeat from July — and also from March.)

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It is, after all, after Labor Day

So instead of white, we find grey and black:

Grey and Black Suede Lace-Up Pump by Laura Amat

I have hope for this Laura Amat pump. The grey suede base is quite charming, the black-tie contraption perhaps a little less so, but the overall effect is Extremely Vague Retro, a decade other than your current one, though not necessarily one you’d recognize right off the bat. (1920s, maybe?) The color scheme, for me, makes up for the lack of chronological specificity, and besides, we’re going dancing, right?

The UK’s Large Size Designer Shoes storefront is featuring this pump for €149, a shade under $190. Available in 41-44, which is UK 8-11, which is US 10-13. If you know someone who has been screaming for years while squeezing into someone’s idea of a 9½, this might buy you a brief period of silence.

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Something different at steak

The Homeland store at May and Britton often has a guy in front of the meat department to hawk stuff, and Saturday he was pushing something called the Flat Iron Steak. A sample was proffered, and I pronounced it good; I asked for preparation directions, and he said that he usually just tossed it onto a George Foreman grill. Since George and I go way back, grillwise, that made the sale: I picked up this odd-looking little strip of something too thick to be jerky but seemingly too skinny to be a real steak.

And I tossed it onto the George Foreman grill, and it was good. Which led me to go look for why I hadn’t seen this particular cut before. This much we know:

The flat iron steak — also known as the top blade steak — is cut from deep within the shoulder muscle known as the chuck, traditionally used for roasts or ground beef.

“Although the cut is flavorful and relatively tender, the flat iron steak has a serious flaw in the middle of it. There is a tough piece of connective tissue running through the middle, but it can be removed to create an amazing cut of beef.”

Butchers tending to be a conservative lot, it was probably tricky to persuade them to cut this: it runs against the grain, so to speak. But Wikipedia hints that it’s big at the high-end steakeries:

Especially popular are flat irons from Wagyu beef, as a way for chefs to offer more affordable and profitable dishes featuring Wagyu or Kobe beef.

Not that I have any experience with that hyperpricey stuff, but the flat iron at the supermarket was $6.99 a pound, on a day when ribeyes and New York strips were selling for more than $10. And the same beef wouldn’t have brought more than $3.50 or $4 as a chuck roast, or $3 as ground chuck. No wonder they were happy to push it as a steak.

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The girl with something extra

This is apparently the new spokesfigure for an electronics retailer in Russia:

Media Markt indicia

MediaMarkt, based in Germany, has a talent for coming up with stuff like this: their German Web storefront bears the slogan “Ich bin doch nicht blöd” — “I am not stupid.”

Not being all that dumb myself, I totally recall at least one character like this before. And Copyranter, who turned up several images from this campaign, offers this translation, for which I am unable to vouch: “You will find more than you expect.” I figure that corrections and/or emendations are just a matter of time.

Eccentrica Gallumbits, meanwhile, was not available for comment.

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Architecture as date bait

We’ve already tackled this from one angle, the desirability (if any) of dating actual architects. Now famed human-relations expert Steve Sailer proposes that guys develop, or at least feign, an interest in the local buildings:

Architecture is aesthetic, yet manly. Not that many girls know much about architecture relative to their other aesthetic interests, but they are naggingly aware that they should know more. (Obviously, if you live in Chicago, you will have more to talk about than if you live in Palmdale, so your mileage may vary.) For example, the recent indie romantic-drama hit, 500 Days of Summer, uses architectural fandom, with LA’s rather spotty downtown carefully framed to look like downtown Chicago, as the basis for a rather nerdy young man’s appeal to Zooey Deschanel.

An interest in architecture also provides a high-minded excuse to talk about what every 20 or 30 something is actually fascinated by: real estate. What neighborhoods will go up in value, which ones down? Architecture appreciation provides an excuse to stroll around gentrifying but still slightly edgy neighborhoods on cheap dates.

In support of this premise, I note that one of the few social events to earn a permanent spot on my calendar is the local AIA’s annual Architecture Tour, and that Trini enjoys it greatly: between the two of us, we seem to ask the right questions and peer into the most interesting corners. Not that either of us think of it as a “cheap date,” necessarily.

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Pineapple Princess is pissed

And Tall Paul better watch his ass, too:

Annette with a gun

Bonus: Aaaand now: heeeeeeere’s Annette!

(Poster from Historic LOLs.)

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Toward a post-moral world

A question often posed to atheists: “In the absence of God, what is your basis for morality?” Joel Marks, having thought it over, has decided that he doesn’t need one:

I was struck by salient parallels between religion and morality, especially that both avail themselves of imperatives or commands, which are intended to apply universally. In the case of religion, and most obviously theism, these commands emanate from a Commander; “and this all people call God,” as Aquinas might have put it. The problem with theism is of course the shaky grounds for believing in God. But the problem with morality, I now maintain, is that it is in even worse shape than religion in this regard; for if there were a God, His issuing commands would make some kind of sense. But if there is no God, as of course atheists assert, then what sense could be made of there being commands of this sort? In sum, while theists take the obvious existence of moral commands to be a kind of proof of the existence of a Commander, i.e., God, I now take the non-existence of a Commander as a kind of proof that there are no Commands, i.e., morality.

Which is not to say that he can’t, or won’t, argue in favor of certain things and against others; but he has to rely on other factors to sell the deal:

[I]f I were conversing with another amoralist, how would I convince her of the rightness of my desires? Well, of course, I wouldn’t even try, since neither of us believes in right, or wrong. What I could do is take her through the same considerations that have moved me to my position and hope that her heartstrings were tuned in harmony with mine.

Dick Cleary at Viewpoint points out that Marks at least is being internally consistent:

[T]he atheists that Marks refers to as soft atheists live in an unsustainable tension. They want to hold on to moral judgment while also holding on to their atheism. As Marks has realized, it can’t be done. Unfortunately, of the two solutions available to him — reject atheism or reject morality — Marks has chosen the latter which, although consistent, strikes me as almost perverse.

As most of you know, I’m definitely — occasionally even defiantly — theist. On the other hand, I am not particularly disposed toward looking down my nose at atheists, who have presumably wrestled with the same questions as I have and yet have come to different conclusions.

This will get either no comments, or several dozen. (Consider that a matter of faith.)

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The inevitable Health Plan

A physician offers some non-medical medical advice to Bride of Rove, and by extension, to us all:

[T]here are going to be people who will not be able to get a doctor. If they can get a doctor the doctors hands will be tied as to what care he or she can provide. My advice to you is … don’t get sick. For the next thirty years or however many you have left, do.not.get.sick.

Easier said than done, perhaps. My brother, out of the hospital after three weeks of befuddling the experts, has apparently been diagnosed with an autosomal recessive genetic disorder which I, being a relative and all, get to add to my already-dizzying list of risk factors.

Samuel Butler, of course, anticipated this years ago:

“Prisoner at the bar, you have been accused of the great crime of labouring under pulmonary consumption, and after an impartial trial before a jury of your countrymen, you have been found guilty. Against the justice of the verdict I can say nothing: the evidence against you was conclusive, and it only remains for me to pass such a sentence upon you, as shall satisfy the ends of the law. That sentence must be a very severe one. It pains me much to see one who is yet so young, and whose prospects in life were otherwise so excellent, brought to this distressing condition by a constitution which I can only regard as radically vicious; but yours is no case for compassion: this is not your first offence: you have led a career of crime, and have only profited by the leniency shown you upon past occasions, to offend yet more seriously against the laws and institutions of your country. You were convicted of aggravated bronchitis last year: and I find that though you are now only twenty-three years old, you have been imprisoned on no less than fourteen occasions for illnesses of a more or less hateful character; in fact, it is not too much to say that you have spent the greater part of your life in a jail.

“It is all very well for you to say that you came of unhealthy parents, and had a severe accident in your childhood which permanently undermined your constitution; excuses such as these are the ordinary refuge of the criminal; but they cannot for one moment be listened to by the ear of justice.”

TB, or not TB: that is apparently no longer the question.

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Strange search-engine queries (241)

Once again, we sort through the server logs using the “Marginally Amusing” filter, and publish anything that’s caught. It’s a little like hunting for Asian carp, except we don’t need a czar.

my neighborhood is about:  Sixty-five years old, though it doesn’t look a day over 50.

naugahyde sentences:  Typically, the nauga is sentenced to be flayed until the hyde comes off in strips, which are then sewn onto recliners.

fits over peephole:  A really, really large eye.

you think therefore I am:  Um, I don’t think so.

explanation letter for general job disinterest or deliberate slowdown or decrease of efficiency:  “Dear Manager: Now do you understand why we didn’t want the TV in the break room tuned to C-Span?”

cheap canine dildo:  Oooh, a picky bitch.

am i losing my social skills:  We assumed you were under the banquet table because you’d lost a contact.

took 80 lorazepam and death didn’t happen:  This could be a sign of losing one’s social skills.

meeting date naked:  Unless you know each other to be naturists, this is generally a sign of losing one’s social skills.

vanishing clothes on women:  Did you check the floor on the opposite side of the bed?

you will wonder where the yellow went:  After a dye job, they resurfaced as Code Pink.

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Out of uniformity

Word came down yesterday that Skinbook, the social network for nudists which, like everything else involving naked people, had been purged from the sanitary servers at Ning, was not going to be revived, either on someone else’s facilities or on its own, in the form of an email from founder Karl Maddocks, which contained a rather startling confession:

As much as we have attempted over the past couple of years to bring together the naturist community and give the naturist lifestyle a positive public image, the treatment of my team here at Skinbook has finally made it clear (to myself at least) why this lifestyle is both fragmented from within and ostracized from without.

A perfunctory reading of the fora most days would have explained this quite nicely: different people want different things. Duh. The only thing the users — reportedly upwards of 8000 when the curtain came down — had in common was a willingness to go without clothing. There wasn’t even any agreement on whether it was appropriate to admit this in public.

The Nudiarist sums up the unwinding:

Just go back to why Skinbook was created in the first place, and you will see why it was doomed to failure. Maddocks explained, “We couldn’t communicate on MySpace and Facebook about nudism since we were all kind of embarrassed. So we said, ‘Let’s start our own forum and call it Skinbook.’ The rest is history.” People who are embarrassed by their own lifestyles have no business trying to become leaders.

This may be true: God knows our political class is utterly incapable of embarrassment.

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The Turks have weighed the options

Voters in Turkey today have been considering a package of twenty-six constitutional changes proposed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the second such package in three years. The 2007 reforms, which passed two to one, mostly involved the office of President, which previously was filled by a vote of the Grand National Assembly every five years and now will be submitted for popular vote every four years.

The new proposals, however, are much more extensive. Some of them would bring Turkey in line with European Union practices, with an eye toward eventual membership in the EU. The original package contained 27 amendments, though one, which would have made it more difficult for a political party to be forcibly dissolved, did not make it to the ballot.

There seemed to be some concern that Erdoğan wanted to stack the country’s highest courts:

Mr Erdoğan’s plans to enlarge membership of two top judicial bodies — the Constitutional Court and the Higher Council that appoints judges and prosecutors — have aroused particular concern because the judiciary is seen by secular Turks as the most important bulwark against creeping “Islamisation”, now that the military has retreated from politics.

“These are just regulations brought in by the AKP [Erdoğan’s Justice and Devlopment Party] to advance their own ideology,” argues Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the new leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

“They want to seize control of the judiciary and end the separation of powers that Turkey learned from Western countries.”

With about 99 percent of the votes counted, the package is passing easily, 58 to 42 percent.

Turkey’s current constitution dates to 12 September 1980, when a military junta seized power in Ankara, deposed Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel, and dissolved the Assembly. General elections were held again in 1983.

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Transaction not permitted

Bill Peschel, having once had a credit-card number heisted by persons unknown, suggests that cardholders be given the option to toggle off some common card uses:

For example, I’m reasonably certain that I would never, over the span of 10 minutes, transfer eight thousand dollars to any company, never mind a (presumable) company overseas. Call me unaware, but I can’t imagine anything short of a bizarre ransom demand by kidnappers that make me do that.

I have had at least one card, maybe two, compromised. (The “maybe” comes from a reported security leak at the Web host I used to use; I called the issuer and had that card canceled. No dubious charges ever turned up.)

Best of all from the credit card company’s point of view, they wouldn’t have to do much more than set up the rules. They already allow you access to your account. The card’s owner would be responsible for going into the account and flicking the switches off and on.

There is precedent for this. Issuers of some institutional, government or corporate purchasing cards check for the Merchant Category Code when an authorization is requested, and compare it to a list of approved MCCs. If there’s no match, the transaction may be declined, irrespective of available credit.

Alternatively, see if the kidnapper takes American Express. Amex is usually pretty good about coming down hard on fraudsters.

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