Dino would never tell

And besides, Betty was way cute.

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Je pars avec toi

Kevin Walsh, proprietor of Forgotten NY, occasionally posts classic hits (via YouTube) on Facebook, and the other day he got around to an old favorite from 1963: “I Will Follow Him,” by Little Peggy March.

Still, when I got around to compiling a Valentine’s Day Mix several years ago, I passed Peggy by in favor of the original French-language version by Petula Clark, which you can see here in what appears to be a Scopitone film.

These days, of course, most people probably remember the 1992 adaptation in Sister Act, which was splendid in its own right. But I’m here to tell you, Petula has been singing this song for almost fifty years, and she still sounds pretty darn good:

The Charlie Chaplin reference near the end is to “This Is My Song,” written by Chaplin for his 1967 film A Countess from Hong Kong, starring Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren; it was a smash hit for Petula and presumably was the next song on the program. It sounds something like this.

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The [blank] beneath my wings

Evidently, it’s a platform:

Prada wingtips from 2011 Spring-Summer

I haven’t quite decided what I think about this item from Prada’s 2011 Spring/Summer collection. From here up, this is a traditional wingtip, with all the traditional detailing in all the traditional places; from there down, it’s, um, less so. And as ShoeBlog says, “If Prada’s shoes don’t jump start the dreary weather, at least the colors will.” Whatever you may think of that orange stripe, it’s certainly not drab.

Maybe. After the jump, what they saw on the runway above those shoes:

Read the rest of this entry »

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The giant doodle flute

Remember that business about a picture being worth more or less a thousand words? It would probably take me a thousand words to explain this in full, so I’m pointing you to the appropriate picture.

If “appropriate” is the appropriate word, that is.

(Suggested by Breda.)

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The buck doesn’t even slow down these days

How is it that we have all these apologies floating around and not so much as a hint of actual repentance?

I hate it when a public official is forced to confront a scandal and says something like “I claim full responsibility” or “The buck stops here”. Much as I hate it when a celebrity faux-apologizes, a defendant reads off a lawyer-written bullet-list of regrets, anything that uses the rhetoric of apology to try to cap the well after a crime or misdeed, to “move on”.

“Boy, I’m glad that’s over.” Um, no, actually, it isn’t:

“Claiming full responsibility” should be a lifelong sentence. Not to wear a sackcloth and ashes or a scarlet letter, not to stand abashed before a hostile crowd repeating a memorized confession under the watchful eyes of minders. It should be a sentence to work tirelessly to make it right, and never give up until it is.

The worst thing about a society that has fully monetized liability is not that people lawyer up and withhold apologies until the attorneys have worked out just how much cash the guilty party owes. The worst thing is that we’ve amputated everything else from the idea of responsibility.

As though all aspects of guilt could be washed away by the writing of a sufficiently-large check.

At the link, Professor Burke suggests appropriate forms of penance for certain contemporary miscreants, including, yes, those two jerks who tormented Tyler Clementi.

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Umbrage by proxy

Britain’s grandiosely-named “Equality Act” has scores of provisions, some probably dumber than this:

It creates the controversial legal concept of “third party harassment”, under which workers will be able to sue over jokes and banter they find offensive — even if the comments are aimed at someone else and they weren’t there at the time the comments were made.

They can sue if they feel the comments “violate their dignity” or create an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.

Home Secretary Theresa May, Her Majesty’s Government’s enforcer, maintains:

“In these challenging economic times it’s more important than ever for employers to make the most of all the talent available. When a company reflects the society it serves, it’s better for the employer, the employees and the customers.”

Have you seen British society lately, Madame Secretary? What in it, exactly, is worth reflecting? Certainly not this effort to blow secondhand smoke up the kingdom’s ass.

This being from the Daily Mail, however, it seemed reasonable to seek out a second source, and the Beeb sums up several of the Act’s provisions, including the one under discussion:

“Can I now be held liable for harassment of an employee by the third party, such as a customer?”

Yes, but only “if you have failed to take reasonably practicable steps to prevent the harassment occurring,” explains [Matthew Tom, employment partner at Candey LLP].

He says that a “three strikes” rule applies, so you can’t be liable unless you know the employee has experienced third party harassment on at least two prior occasions, although not necessarily from the same source.

Jeebus. To insulate our customer-service personnel from the rudeness of customers, we’d have to disconnect the phones entirely, shut down the email server, and conduct everything via legal counsel. Not practical in a retail-services context. Customers, of course, are protected by (1) the fact that we’re supposed to stick to the script and (2) the fact that I don’t take their calls.

Still, the Law of Unintended Consequences suggests that the upshot of all this, rather than the “death of the office joke” as predicted by the Mail, will be the elevation of the thin-skinned to protected-class status. Barack Obama, whose depth is measured in nanometers, would probably like this just fine.

(Via Fark.)

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Fair to partly cloudy

Francis W. Porretto explains one reason why we resist overhauling the Tax Code:

This is the heart of the problem faced by the advocates of systems such as the Fair Tax. Smith wants to know what his tax burden will be under such a scheme. He knows what his load is today, but any new scheme comes with a degree of uncertainty: How high will the national sales tax be? What would prevent Congress from changing it arbitrarily, as it currently does the income tax? He can’t be sure of those things, or that he’s seeing all the “fine print.” The uncertainties, and his established reliance on the real-property deductions in the income tax law, predispose him away from such a sweeping change … even if, objectively, the new scheme would be to his advantage once it was in place.

Be it noted that I do in fact take advantage of the real-property deductions in the current income-tax law.

And with that in mind, let’s see what my tax burden might be under the FairTax proposal in its most recent form. Existing obligations — the mortgage and its escrow collections, my restructured debt — would not be subject to the tax; this excludes approximately $18,500 a year. Savings and investments would not be taxed; at the current (lowish) level of same, this would knock out another $2000. The so-called “prebate,” which excludes an income base at the poverty level so as to add a hair of progressivity to the system, excludes another $10,830. State and local taxes presumably would also be dropped off, cutting maybe $2500 more.

What’s left, I assume, is taxable once spent, and the tax on what’s left, based on the proposed 23 percent on the gross — 30 percent on the pre-tax figure — runs about $4000. Since my current Federal tax bite is on the far side of $7000 — approaching $9000 without the aforementioned real-property deductions — I calculate that under this particular set of assumptions, I would come out better under the FairTax in its first year; but even if the tax were enacted exactly as described by its proponents, the tax rate and “prebate” would be adjusted each subsequent year, based on the previous year’s revenues, so that advantage might be reduced or even eliminated.

So Smith has a reason to be concerned. He also, however, has an obligation to do the math.

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Among the good guys

Medium weirdness here yesterday: as usual, I’d publish a post, and as usual, the WordTwit plugin for WordPress would conjure up a shorter version of the URL and advise the Twitterverse that I had something new to read. Historically, I’ve been getting between 25 and 40 visits from each such post, which helps to maintain the fiction that this place is sort of popular.

Then the fallout began. Someone said that the proffered URL led to the wrong post; someone else got 404ed on a different one. I left word with BraveNewCode, publishers of WordTwit, that something was askew with their new release; within a couple of hours they’d sent me an updated version of the plugin which worked just fine. I sent them back a thumbs-up, and now that new version is available to all WordTwit users. I did notice, however, that now they have the option to tweet a URL that isn’t actually shortened but still works: the original WordPress permalink based on the ID number. I’ve shifted to that option, since it takes up little more room and requires less folderol behind the scenes.

Technical support too often seems to be neither technical nor supportive; I’m always grateful to folks like BraveNewCode who go out of their way to make my life online a little easier.

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Remind me to put a title on this

There are times when I think that anything worth doing is worth doing later. Then again, I hate like hell to have tasks stacking up on my plate, especially if everything has to be Just So. The link between procrastination and perfectionism has often been been explored, though this is the first explanation I’ve seen based on construal level theory:

When you picture getting started straight away the close temporal distance puts you in near mode, where you see all the detailed impediments to doing a perfect job. When you think of doing the task in the future some time, trade-offs and barriers vanish and the glorious final goal becomes more vivid. So it always seems like you will do a great job in the future, whereas right now progress is depressingly slow and complicated. This makes doing it in the future seem all the more of a good option if you are obsessed with perfection.

Unfortunately, I can’t figure out a good way to exploit this phenomenon in my own life. If the target date is T, I can’t persuade myself to focus on, say, T plus 2, when all this, thank God, will be behind me; I tend to think in terms of “How can I do this in half the time with half the sweat?” and spend roughly 50 percent of the allotted time trying to figure out a way to save 50 percent of the allotted time. This works about as well as you think it does.

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Quote of the week

Marko, on the discovery of a possible Class M planet merely twenty or so light-years away:

On the galactic scale, it’s in our cosmic driveway, so to speak. If we already have an Earth-like planet orbiting in the Goldilocks zone of a star so close by, then the statistical chances for our little blue pebble being the only life-supporting planet in the universe are about as great as the statistical chances of Kate Beckinsale coming up our driveway in the next ten minutes, wearing her skin-tight Underworld leather outfit, piloting a Ferrari with the suitcase compartment full of $100 bills, and bearing a note from my wife saying “Have A Fun Vacation, Honey.”


Kate Beckinsale in Underworld

That’s one scary-looking driveway there.

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Or it twought to be

So apparently it’s “tweet,” “twet,” “twutten.”

(Not to be confused with “hic, haec, hoc”: that’s a pronoun, dammit.)

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Andrew Ian Dodge lets us know in the title to the 393rd Carnival of the Vanities that autumn has arrived in earnest.

To a number of people I know, including my son and his wife, this fall has meant, means, among other things, writing a check for earnest money as part of the complicated process of buying a house. Had they been in the state of Oregon, so doing would have been governed by Chapter 393 of that state’s laws.

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Partially sage

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Its own pun-ishment

Despite Mr. Porretto’s suggestion that I have too much time on my hands, I continue to work long hours and strive to get something resembling an adequate quantity of sleep.

Besides, the ultimate goal of the punster is to come up with something as sick and twisted as this:

There was a boy of Italian parentage named Carbaggio, born in Germany. Feeling himself a misfit, with his dark curly hair among all those blond Nordic types, he tries to be even more German than the Germans. In late adolescence he flees to Paris, where he steals one of those brass miniatures of the Eiffel Tower. Arrested by the police, he is given a choice of going to jail or leaving the country. He boards the first outbound ship and arrives in New York. Thinking he would like a career in communications, he goes to the RCA building in Rockefeller Plaza, takes an elevator and walks into the office of General Sarnoff. Sarnoff tells him that the only job available is as a strikebreaker. The boy takes it. When the strike ends, he finds himself on a union blacklist. He goes to work making sonar equipment for a company owned by a man named Harris. After several years, his English has improved to the point where he gets a job as a disk jockey. His show is called Rock Time. He has fulfilled his destiny: he’s a routine Teuton, Eiffel-lootin’, Sarnoff goon from Harris Sonar, Rock Time Carbaggio.

Paul Desmond, who was twenty-nine the day I was born, came up with this classic bit of Parthenonsense shortly thereafter. Until such time as I can top this, I keep on keeping on.

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Only in my dreams

It appears, judging by her Web site, that Deborah Gibson is once again embracing her Debbie-ness.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but she looks awfully Deborah-esque here:

Deborah Gibson

Then again, she’s 40 now.

Oh, and the dress is by Alice and Olivia, the shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti, the occasion was a pre-screening reception for 3 Billion and Counting. [Warning: brief embedded audio.]

(Previous Debitude here.)

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Spacing it out

City Council voted this week to phase in a hike in water rates over the next four years, which, says the Oklahoman, will result in the present-day average bill of $42.63 rising to $47.52 by 2013, which I calculate is an increase of just under 11.5 percent.

Mayor Cornett is quoted as saying:

“We made the policy decision that people seemed to prefer to have a smaller increase each year rather than a large increase every three or four years.”

Especially, you know, after the 5-percent increase last year.

What’s going to perplex some people is where that “average” number came from. Who’s got a water bill for a mere $42.63? Not me. And I use very little water for a person who takes eight (sometimes nine) showers a week. The difference, of course, is that what we think of as the “water” bill also covers sewer and trash service, plus a “Drainage Fee … Due To Unfunded EPA Mandate” and, if opted in, a few bucks for the ambulance service. The last bill I got from the city was for $50.84, but only $14.15 of that was clearly for water service. Under the new schedule, this will presumably rise to $16 or so.

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