A tad less MAD

MAD magazine, formerly published eight times a year, then published twelve times a year, will now be published four times a year:

The venerable humor magazine today announced that starting with issue #500 in April, it will move to a quarterly publication schedule from its current monthly.

Editor John Ficarra explains:

“The feedback we’ve gotten from readers is that only every third issue of MAD is funny, so we’ve decided to just publish those.”

Got it. To save even more money, the spin-offs MAD Kids and MAD Classics will be buried, perhaps alongside the late MAD founder William M. Gaines, who presumably has been rotating on his axis for some time now.

Then again, Gaines might have liked #498, the cover of which shows, instead of Alfred E. Neuman, a decidedly-worried Barack Obama.

(Via Fark.)

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Jinx suspected

There’s got to be some explanation for this. The Los Angeles Clippers’ bench was conspicuous by its lack of bench players, most of whom had to start, what with Chris Kaman, Zach Randolph, Marcus Camby and Baron Davis all sidelined with injuries. What’s more, Mardy Collins went down with a pulled hamstring in the first quarter, leaving a total of eight to fill out 48 minutes. And none of that mattered: the M*A*S*H-unit atmosphere of the Staples Center evidently inspired the battered Clippers to play way above their pay grade, as Eric Gordon tossed in 41 points, his career high, and Al Thornton 34 more to give their hometown crowd a 107-104 victory, the third time the Clips have had the Thunder’s number this season.

It’s not like Oklahoma City didn’t bring out the big guns, either: the Kevin Durant Show was good for 46 points, a total he’s never seen before. What’s more, KD outshot the entire L.A. squad at the charity stripe, sinking 24 of 26, and he pulled down 15 rebounds to boot. But Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook both had off nights, and nobody on the team could hold on to the ball: the Thunder committed 18 turnovers, which you can’t do on a night when the opponents only give up seven.

The Clips admittedly didn’t rebound much, but they had other assets: wily veteran Ricky Davis, while he only scored one point, managed to serve up 11 assists, and L.A. knocked down 11 of 19 treys, a better percentage than they managed for their two-point shots. Then there was little-used Cheikh Samb, the Senegalese center who’d played maybe nine minutes all year; in 22 minutes he blocked three shots, hauled in 8 boards, and even scored a bucket. No doubt he was happy to get the time.

So concludes this West Coast trip, at 1-1. Back to the Ford on Monday for the Nets, and Wednesday for the under-new-management Grizzlies, and we won’t have to see the Clippers again until the last game of the season.

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Lady in red

I know Morgan Freeberg is already bored with “What is Michelle wearing?” stuff, but a bit of fashion chatter always brightens up this place, so I’ll drop down one spot on the Line of Succession and present Jill Biden in Reem Acra:

Jill Biden in Reem Acra

Now this is quite a lovely dress. It lacks the train that Mrs O was trailing that night, but I generally don’t have much use for trains that don’t have “Burlington Northern” painted on the side. And while Dr Biden is on the petite side, she doesn’t look swallowed up by her gown: with no visual references in sight, you’d have no idea how tall she isn’t.

Then there’s the question of whether a Woman of a Certain Age has any business going strapless. The answer, I’m simply going to crib from Style Spy:

I’ll grant you, not all 57-year old women can still pull off a strapless gown; but Dr. Biden can and I don’t see why she shouldn’t. But my goodness, the teeth-gnashing over her exposed shoulders! Yeah. The nerve of her, being a 57-year old, a grandmother, and still having a sexual presence! Hussy! Jezebel!!

This is a very modest version of strapless, no cleavage or heaving bosom, and the skirt is beyond reproach.

Besides, it gets a smile out of Joe, and we all know how important his smile is.

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3 to be free

Last month, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Oklahoma law that barred nonresidents from circulating petitions, thereby overturning the convictions of Paul Jacob, Rick Carpenter and Susan Johnson, often described as the Oklahoma 3, proponents of the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights. (This is the section being struck.)

Attorney General Drew Edmondson, having been rebuffed in his effort to get a rehearing at the 10th Circuit, has now announced that the state will not appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, and that charges against Jacob, Carpenter and Johnson will be duly dropped.

Paul Jacob’s statement is here.

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A stimulus plan that might actually work

Disarming in its simplicity, confident in its transparency — it’s the Vodkapundit Stimulus Plan, and it costs only $1 billion. It goes like this:

Give me a billion — just one single little tiny billion — and I can get twenty guys adding a new wing to my house in under a month. Twenty guys will get work directly. An architect will have to draw up the plans. The county will get money for approving them. I’ll be forever paying extra property taxes, helping to educate children in my community, so that they can have more-productive futures. And they’ll pay more in taxes, too.

Timber suppliers will get extra business, and maybe take on an extra employee or two. Same with people who make copper and nails and travertine tiles and sauna rooms big enough for, say, half a dozen strippers and myself all at once.

And so that you won’t even need to thank me for my efforts, I’ll just pocket any leftover money, mmmkay?

Ever-mindful of the value of a free-enterprise system, I just want to say this:

“Hell, I could do that for a measly $840 million.”

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You again?

There are those who wonder why I don’t actively campaign for the Okie Blog Awards, and why I actually seem to discourage people from voting for me. And the fact is, apart from my utter embarrassment at being selected for anything, I’ve already won two of them — I got Best Writing in 2005, and Best Overall in 2006 — and the idea that I should bust a gut to prove that I’ve “still got it” merely makes me wonder what “it” was I had in the first place.

So I can appreciate this declaration by Steph Waller:

This year I made a statement (albeit a small one) with my vote. I refused to vote for any blog that has won three times in a row in a particular category. Other blog awards follow this policy and I think it’s only fair.

I thought this over, and wondered if I was actually contributing to the problem with my nominations. So I split-screened my 2007 and 2008 nominee lists — I haven’t yet done my final 2008 ballot, and as Mike knows, I tend to dawdle — and compared notes.

The result: I nominated exactly two blogs in ’08 that I’d also nominated in ’07, and only one in the same category.

So I will content myself with the notion that while I may not be part of the solution, I don’t seem to be a substantial part of the problem — that problem, anyway.

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The love for three oranges

Actually, two would definitely be sufficient, Prokofiev (and presumably Carlo Gozzi) notwithstanding.

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Quote of the week

Robert Stacy McCain, on Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road and the subsequent Sam Mendes film, starting with the declaration that Yates was an intellectual:

[T]he intellectual’s instinctive hatred of “rural idiocy” / bourgeois conformity / small-town Babbitry is so nearly universal that it’s neither a cliche nor a stereotype, it is merely a fact.

Intellectuals love the city life, except when they’re engaged in noble-savage fantasies about far-away primitivism. The intellectual can simultaneously romanticize the aboriginal tribesmen he sees in National Geographic while denouncing as hopelessly backward the people of Brentwood, Tenn., or Cumming, Ga. — and he never even notices the contradiction, because there is no one in his urban intellectual coterie who thinks differently.

It’s a free country, and you are free to hate suburbia and suburbanites, if that makes you happy. But your hatred of suburbia does not make you superior, and it is the intellectual’s sense of superiority that informs his anti-suburban prejudice.

I intend to keep this handy next time one of the local hipsters spouts off about something within two miles of the city core that’s just “not urban enough.”

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For the proverbial Last Meal

I was afraid to put a photo here, lest I find myself licking an LCD screen at some point.

So check this one out yourself: the Chocolate Brownie of Death.

More precisely:

[A] chocolate brownie topped with chocolate mousse and a black currant gelée.

The actual recipe has gone begging for the better part of four years now, but I can dream, can’t I?

(Via Chocolate Bytes.)

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Call for William Morris

The former Secretary of State has done exactly that, according to Defamer:

Condoleezza Rice has signed with WMA, who’ll negotiate books, speaking engagements, and For Condoleezza or Money, a potential reality show in which a mansion full of horny twentysomethings would compete for her love.

I have my doubts about the latter, but, like Princess Sparkle Pony, I’d pay to see that.

Among other pols represented by William Morris: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Byron Dorgan, Sen. Jim Webb and former Sen. Fred Thompson.

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Blundering heard

Britney Spears is sending a Sooper-Sekrit Message, says a group of the perennially perturbed:

The Parents Television Council is warning parents about the Britney Spears song “If U Seek Amy” and urging radio stations not to broadcast it because the nonprofit organization believes it “would violate the broadcast indecency law” if aired between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Saying the title phrase quickly out loud produces a sound akin to spelling out the F-word, said PTC president Tim Winter. “There is no misinterpreting the lyrics to this song, and it’s certainly not about a girl named Amy,” he said of the track, the third single from Spears’ new Jive album, Circus.

Where were these putatively-sensitive souls back in 1982 when April Wine put out a song called “If You See Kay”?

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Gumming up the works

Because inaugural balls don’t lend themselves to commercial exploitation:

Joe Biden's Inaugural Teeth

Apparently this is sort of serious.

(Via Virginia Postrel.)

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The 318th Carnival of the Vanities has been dubbed “Obamessiah” by Andrew Ian Dodge. I don’t know how messianic the President really is, but there’s some Biblical antecedent for “318″: see Genesis 14, in which Abram, having heard that Lot, the son of his brother Haran, had been captured by Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, in a sweep through Sodom and Gomorrah, assembled an army of 318 of his servants to retrieve him.

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Life is a rollercoaster that we all ride

As a general rule, when you have half a dozen lead changes in the first quarter, things can be expected to get hairy. And when the first quarter ends with a buzzer-beater that doesn’t in fact beat the buzzer — well, you get the idea.

It was a startling 72-68 at the half, suggesting that if Scott Brooks had told his troops to slow it down, it didn’t work, or at least, not up to that point; Golden State held the Thunder to a meager 17 points in the third to go up by six.

But Oklahoma City stormed back with 33 points in the fourth, the last two of which came on a last-second Jeff Green bank shot after the Warriors had gone up by one. OKC 122, Golden State 121, and the Thunder are 2-1 against the Oakland booty this season.

Most of this flurry of activity took place with the same bunch of players: Brooks rotated only eight, and nine Warriors suited up. (Usual starting center Andris Biedrins had to sit with a wrist issue.) Lots of points and fewer players means big numbers for some players: Stephen Jackson had 29, Kelenna Azubuike 21, and Corey Maggette got 26 from off the bench.

Same for the Thunder guys: Russell Westbrook came up with 30, Kevin Durant with 27 (and 12 boards), Jeff Green with 26, including the, um, buzzer-beater. Don Nelson was not impressed: “I believe he shot it so poorly it went in.” Doesn’t matter, does it, Don?

The Clippers are next, and maybe I’ll be able to stay up for that one.

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Sick Puppy Dept.

Somehow this doesn’t seem too damn funny:

A man who was upset with the Social Security Administration went to the new Oklahoma City federal building about 12:30 p.m. today and left one or two handwritten notes claiming to have bombs, officials said.

Employees in the federal building just north of downtown Oklahoma City were evacuated and police blocked off surrounding streets for 12 blocks.

And we all know what happened to the old federal building.

But there is a punchline: the local Social Security office isn’t even in the federal building.

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Carnage the magnificent

Back in the fall, when the stock market was in free fall, I endorsed what I called the Ostrich Theory of Investing, derived from this notion by Megan McArdle:

I have no idea what’s going on with any of my equity investments, because that is not short term money that I need to keep my eye on.

If you look you will get upset, and you will be tempted to do something stupid. I can’t guarantee that the market won’t drop further and you won’t regret having held on. But as a general rule, selling into a massive liquidity crisis is a pretty bad idea. Selling in a panic because your assets just dropped 30% is almost certainly a bad idea.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, that very day, dropped 504 points to 9447. (Closing today was 8228, so things have not done so well in the interim.) At that time, I vowed not to look at my 401(k):

I am fairly decently hedged; I doubt I’ve lost that much. (At the end of the year they will send me a statement and I will know for sure, but I’m not going to spend my odd hours on their Web site getting up-to-the-minute bad news.)

The statement has now been received and opened. And no, I didn’t lose 30 percent. In fact, I didn’t lose 20 percent. (It was a hair under 19 percent.) Not inspiring, but not as horrible as I might have feared, and not enough to make me want to shoot myself for such godawful investment choices; in fact, of the six current accounts, two actually made money, though obviously not enough to offset the losses in the other four. And I take a certain grim satisfaction in this: one particular account to which I am no longer making active contributions, but which still contained a small balance (about $2,000), was devoted to shares in the investment-management firm itself, and it fell by 65 percent. Shows you how much they know, right?

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The fine art of resurfacing

As is often the case around here, the story to be told isn’t the story I was working on.

An old favorite sprang up in the iTunes shuffle this morning: “The Cheater” by Bob Kuban and the In-Men, featuring the voice of Walter Scott, a #12 hit in 1966, and one with a scary twist:

Walter Scott mysteriously disappeared. He was last seen walking out his two story home near St. Peters [Missouri] at 7:05 PM, December 27, 1983. On April 10, 1987, his badly decomposed, bound body was found floating face down in a cistern. Scott had been shot in the back. Scott’s second wife, JoAnn (Calceterra), pled guilty to hindering prosecution in his murder. She received a five year sentence. And JoAnn’s boyfriend (whom she married in 1986), James H. Williams Sr., was found guilty of two counts of capital murder in the deaths of his previous wife, Sharon Williams, and Walter Scott. James Williams received two life terms without the possibility of parole (affirmed by the Missouri Court of Appeals, April 4, 1995). And Walter Scott still sings, “Tough luck for the Cheater(s), Too bad for the fool-hearted clown(s).”

As the song played, I decided to run an image search for a shot of the original LP jacket on the long-dormant Musicland label, and found, to my surprise, a shot of a 3¾-ips tape box, issued by GRT. Who knew this had come out on open-reel tape?

I’d collected pre-recorded reels for a while, though the format was declining throughout the 1970s and was basically dead in the 1980s. The last keeper of the flame, specializing in high-quality classical transfers, was the comparatively-tiny — next to GRT and Ampex and such — Barclay-Crocker, and of course, I got to wondering, whatever happened to them?

The flame was apparently kept through 1986, and then after maintaining radio silence for a few years, the company resurfaced as a vendor of shaving and bath products, of all things.

If nothing else, this illustrates a point I’ve been making for years: blogging is basically a form of trigonometry. Every time there’s an angle, there’s a tangent.

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Was that a torch I saw passing?

The possibly-pseudonymous Skullturf Q. Beavispants has compiled a list of people who are older than President Obama, from Carl Lewis to “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Of course, the one that perturbs me the most isn’t on Beavispants’ list at all: me.

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Squelch of the month

Reported by Jay Nordlinger, and administered by Amir Taheri:

[Taheri] was in a room with the editor of Le Monde, who was denouncing America as the source of all evil (basically). Taheri said to him, “If it weren’t for America, your newspaper would be called Die Welt.

That oughta leave a mark.

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Time to get out the vote

2008 Okie Blog AwardsFirst, the good news about the 2008 Okie Blog Awards: if I’ve counted correctly, there are 117 nominations in all, which makes for some serious competition in most of the categories. Even more exciting: there are ten categories (out of a possible twelve) in which I’m not mentioned. I consider this a persuasive demonstration of the refined taste and good judgment of the Oklahoma blogging community. (As for the other two, well, you can’t lose ‘em all.)

Votes will be taken through the 7th of February.

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