Like a thousand times before

The thing about so-called “guilty pleasures” is that you’re supposed to be vaguely, or perhaps not so vaguely, apologetic about them: “Please forgive this lapse in judgment, for I am only human.”

I make no apologies for “It’s One of Those Nights,” a latter-day Partridge Family single that managed to creep into the very bottom of the Top 20 for two weeks in early 1972. Written by the always-quirky Tony Romeo, who penned their bazillion-seller “I Think I Love You,” this song, despite its teenybopper trappings, is as deep as any Jimmy Webb epic, possibly even way too grown-up for the image David Cassidy was projecting those days. (Still, Cassidy surely knew, which may be why he recut it for a solo album thirty years later.)

Weirdly, I never saw this particular clip on the actual Partridge Family TV show. Then again, I was always closer to radio than to television.

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In the allegedly Natural State

There are no naturist facilities in Arkansas, and under current law, there never can be:

Under Arkansas criminal statute §5-68-204, the state’s 59-year-old anti-nudism law, it is illegal for any “person, club, camp, corporation, partnership, association or organization to advocate, demonstrate, or promote nudism.”

If this tale is to be believed, that measure was passed out of pure spite:

On January 26, 1957, a man was arrested for being nude with friends ON HIS OWN PROPERTY. Not only was the property privately owned, it was in a remote area and fenced in. This shows he was going out of his way to ensure privacy for himself and his guests, and to ensure others would not be offended. Nonetheless, the Attorney General claimed the incident constituted “indecent exposure”. Fortunately, the man could not be charged because the indecent exposure law did not apply to an enclosed area on private property.

However, as a result of this incident, Arkansas legislators (unable to tolerate choices they did not agree with) decided it was better to criminalize First Amendment rights than to tolerate a form of recreation they did not understand.

Violations of this law are considered a Class A misdemeanor and are punishable by a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail. And wearing an orange jumpsuit, perhaps.

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The last unicorn?

Well, not as we know them. This isn’t an equine; if anything, the creature in this painting resembles a cross between a horse and a rhinoceros:

Elasmotherium sibiricum by Heinrich Harder

And it’s not as ancient as we thought, either:

For decades, scientists have estimated that the Siberian unicorn (Elasmotherium sibiricum) — a long-extinct species of mammal that looked more like a rhino than a horse — died out some 350,000 years ago, but a beautifully preserved skull found in Kazakhstan has completely overturned that assumption. Turns out, these incredible creatures were still around as recently as 29,000 years ago.

Not only were they incredible, they were incredibly big:

According to early descriptions, the Siberian unicorn stood at roughly 2 metres tall, was 4.5 metres long, and weighed about 4 tonnes. That’s closer to woolly mammoth-sized than horse-sized. Despite its very impressive stature, the unicorn probably was a grazer that ate mostly grass. So, if you want a correct image in your head, think of a fuzzy rhinoceros with one long, slender horn protruding from its face instead of a short, stubby one like today’s rhinos.

And if you saw something like this, you would not soon forget it — which may explain as well as anything else why stories of unicorns have persisted for so long.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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Adventures in commuting

A lot can happen in 10.7 miles, especially if you’re sleepy in the morning or weary in the afternoon, or, in my case, both of the above.

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Na, not really

The medical profession has long put the “odium” in “sodium.” I seldom add salt to anything, but I have a tendency to read while I eat, which detracts from the actual eating experience. So I’m probably not a candidate for this swell gadget, but I can think of lots of people who will be:

Japanese scientists are working on a solution in the form of a fork which is able to generate a salty taste by stimulating the tongue with electricity. The fork is being developed in Tokyo University’s Rekimoto Lab and is intended to allow those who must eat salt-free diets for their health to at least be able to enjoy the taste. It was trialled earlier in March as part of a project called “No Salt Restaurant” where a venue was offering a completely salt-free five course meal and proved to be a success.

The fork’s handle contains a rechargeable battery and electric circuit and when the user puts the fork into their mouth they simply have to press a button on the handle which applies a small electric charge to their tongue.

I suggest you not try it out on pizza.

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Simulated exhilaration

Today’s virtual reality is simultaneously utterly mind-boggling and wholly unpersuasive; you can crank up the “virtual” all you like and you’ll still fall short of “reality.” For now, anyway. And maybe, just maybe, for the rest of our days:

I get that the move is to make everything virtual, so we can all go live in our Tiny Houses and be happy with having no actual stuff, because then we can … have ‘experiences’? Which seems to be the big thing the tiny house people talk about. Well, I’m nearly 50. I’m learning I’m kind of physically fragile in some ways — I can’t canoe any more, I don’t like to camp, my balance is too poor for long-distance bicycle riding. I’m not a big fan of traveling to strange places (the logistics, when you are a single woman, can be complicated, unless you do tours). I don’t have a lot of friends to play music with or “game” with or go out dancing with … my comfort in life, honestly, is coming home at the end of the day to a nice, properly climate controlled house and sit in a comfortable chair and either read a book or knit or sew. Or play my piano, which is a by-God, acoustic, made-nearly-100-years-ago wood and wire piano that still requires tuning and can be temperamental when it’s humid. (Just like I can be, in fact)

I suspect that this No Actual Stuff stance is at least slightly informed by the notion that we don’t actually make Stuff where we can see it being made anymore; it’s all fabricated in some Stuff-Generating Facility in a featureless building ten thousand miles away. And so we compensate — inadequately.

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And here we are on Friday

I hadn’t even noticed, but it appears rebeccablackonline.com has been sent to the bit bucket. I’m guessing she’s reaching enough folks with social media — nearly 1.5 million Twitter followers, over 1.2 million YouTube subscribers, and God knows what elsewhere — that she doesn’t need any of that antiquated Web stuff.

That said, the occasional sponsor probably wouldn’t hurt:

Hollister specializes in apparel inspired by Southern California, so this is a perfectly sensible bid for attention, even while RB is sojourning in the U.K.

Also, we spotted her in the video for the Vamps’ “I Found a Girl,” a spiffy little pop tune about, well, finding a girl. Said girl, perhaps unfortunately for the finder, is not into guys.

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Dancing around laps

[Not to be confused with lap dancing.] Herewith, the tale of Jessica Gottlieb at the Las Vegas Speedway. She aches just like a woman, but she brakes just like Mario Andretti:

When you decide that Dream Racing is going to be part of your Las Vegas Vacation there is an optional shuttle that picks you up inside the shops at Crystals at City Center. There’s a big red Ferrari on display, you can’t miss it. Someone will check you in, make sure you have your driver’s license on you and then a driver will shuttle you there in a well maintained, impeccably cleaned van. My experience beginning at check in was that everyone spoke to my husband and then as an aside asked if I would be driving too. Uniformly they were stunned when I said yes and congratulated me on my decision to drive.

Apparently the default assumption at DR, as it is in too many other places, is that the woman is there to support her husband’s effort and nothing more. And, well:

Upon our arrival at the track while wearing the identical red wristband as my husband no one offered me a helmet. The assumption was that only my husband would be driving. As I grew more and more annoyed with the entire crew at Dream Racing my husband pulled me aside and said, “It’s not their fault. Look around.”

When I looked around the track I saw ten women. None of them were driving. They were there to watch their husbands. I will never understand this behavior.

I know several women who can outdrive me, and I think it would be seriously cool to have any of them absolutely crush my best lap time.

In this specific case, though, while he recorded the faster lap time, she hit the higher top speed, which seems consistent with her own estimation of her mad driving skillz: “My track driving is like my golf game, slightly better than novice but wildly enthusiastic.”

This is, incidentally, the same Jessica Gottlieb who thumbed down a weird-looking Italian sandal a few days back.

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And now, the news for spiders

This creature is not a spider. Once again, this creature is not a spider:

Scientists say a 305 million-year-old fossil is the closest relative to “true spiders” ever discovered — but is not itself a spider.

Easily pre-dating the dinosaurs, the 1.5cm creature lived alongside the oldest known ancestors of modern spiders but its lineage is now extinct.

The specimen was dug up decades ago in France but never identified, because its front half was encased in rock.

Now, researchers have made a detailed reconstruction using CT scans.

Their findings are reported in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“This fossil is the most closely related thing we have to a spider that isn’t a spider,” said first author Russell Garwood from the University of Manchester.

The non-spider, Idmonarachne brasieri, definitely has spider-like legs and jaws, but it is utterly lacking in spinnerets, so — no web.

Still, we’re talking very, very close:

“The earliest known spider is actually from the same fossil deposit — and it definitely has spinnerets. So what we’re actually looking at is an extinct lineage that split off the spider line some time before 305 million years ago, and those two have evolved in parallel.”

Except, you know, for that whole “dying out” thing.

(Via Fark.)

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Barrage sale

First thought: this game would be a heck of an audition for Sixth Man of the Year, with both the Thunder’s Enes Kanter and the Clippers’ Jamal Crawford in the hunt. This was before I found out that Doc Rivers had decided to rest J. J. Redick, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan. With that dread threesome left behind in Los Angeles, and with Paul Pierce injured and Blake Griffin still suspended, Crawford wouldn’t be coming off the bench: he started in the backcourt alongside Austin Rivers. And some strange synergy between Rivers and Crawford created something amazing in the first half, with the two combining for 40 of L.A.’s 69 points, each hitting four treys with such alacrity you had to wonder if the Thunder’s famed defense had been rested. Or if not that, you had to wonder how it was that OKC was shooting 58 percent, had four more rebounds, hadn’t missed a free throw (out of 11), and was still trailing by four.

Crawford and Rivers didn’t slow down much in the second half, either, though they did actually miss a trey here and there. With 40 seconds left and the score tied at 117, Wesley Johnson grabbed a Kevin Durant miss, and Russell Westbrook stole it back. Westbrook couldn’t knock down the shot, but a Steven Adams putback gave the Thunder an actual two-point lead. Rivers saw an opportunity for an almost-last-second layup, but the ball wouldn’t drop, and Westbrook took that one away. Then came the Last Gesture, and it was a beaut: to avoid drawing a foul in those last two seconds, Westbrook cast the ball skyward. Buzzer, W, cheers. 119-117, despite 32 from Crawford, 32 (a career high) from Rivers, and 48 Clipper points off the long ball (16-29). Season series ends at 3-1 OKC, and if third place in the West isn’t officially clinched, it’s pretty darn secure.

Oddly, with this profusion of scoring, there was only one double-double all night: Westbrook (of course), with 26 points and 11 assists. (Eight rebounds, so two away from the triple.) KD finished with 31, because of course he did.

Next outing: Sunday afternoon at Houston. The Rockets just fell out of the eighth playoff spot, and will have something to prove.

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Enjoyably broke

So saith The New York Times:

Whatever problems are associated with having too much money, a vast majority of New Yorkers do not have them: 87 percent of the city’s households reported wages under $100,000 in 2013, according to tax data released on Tuesday [pdf] by the city’s Independent Budget Office.

The average household had wage income of $51,876. Half the city’s 3.6 million households reported wages at or under the city median of $24,239.

Well, yeah, that’s what “median” means: half over, half under. Maybe the tricky word here is “wages,” because out here in the middle of Soonerland, where the living is breezy and housing can be afforded by mere mortals, the median household income [2014] is $47,004.

Disclosure: I am a mere mortal.

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Dick Deux

The Z Man seems persuaded that Ted Cruz is the second coming of Richard Milhous Nixon:

Cruz, like Nixon, is a guy you instinctively want to avoid. There was an alien aspect to Nixon that even his friends found to be off-putting. His enemies, of course, pounced on these things, hence the name “Tricky Dick.” Cruz has this same problem. His friends are not enthusiastic about him, but his enemies are very enthusiastic.

Nixon, like Cruz, was never embraced by the GOP. Eisenhower picked him as his VP, but treated him like bad odor. Ike was universally revered, but Nixon, despite his talents, was despised by the WASP elite of both parties. Democrats hated him for Alger Hiss and Republicans hated him for being low-class. The fact that Nixon was smarter and more knowledgeable about international affairs made things worse as he could not be dismissed as a rube.

Then again, in Nixon’s day, the GOP actually went to the trouble to appear as though they believed in something. Today they can hardly be bothered.

And then there’s that whole 19th-century ethos, explained by Severian:

Pick any 19th century president — the odds are you’ll find a weirdo with limited interpersonal skills. In the newsprint-and-telegraph media era, the President was basically just his party’s designated flak-catcher. Nixon was a Martin van Buren type — an ideas guy, an organizer, a wire-puller, who through a weird confluence of circumstances ended up as the nominee. It’s only the media era, and really the tv era, where you get the “imperial presidency” (in that jerkoff’s condescending but wonderful phrase) and all the hoopla and nonsense that goes along with it. As I’ve said before, Cruz would’ve cleaned up in the 19th century.

And Van Buren, who arrived at the White House from the Andrew Jackson administration — he was Andy’s second-term Vice President — caught plenty of flak just from the Panic of 1837. At any rate, the electorate was disinclined to elevate any sitting Veeps thereafter, including Nixon in 1960; the only one since to break through was Bush 41. (Joe Biden? Don’t get your hopes up.)

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Everything means less than zero

Jack Baruth works out the Equation for Greatness:

Acceptable talent (multiplied by) acceptable work ethic = nothing

Peerless talent x iffy work ethic = Axl Rose, Latrell Sprewell, Paul Chambers, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Acceptable talent x peerless work ethic = Dave Grohl, Larry Bird, Charlie Haden, John Le Carré

Peerless talent x peerless work ethic = Jimmy Page, Michael Jordan, John Coltrane, Samuel Johnson

I’m a tad higher on work ethic than on talent, perhaps, but neither is sufficiently noteworthy to budge the needle on the scale.

Weirdly, or perhaps not so weirdly, the two jazz albums I am most likely to spin at the drop of a hat — Miles’ Kind of Blue and Trane’s Blue Train — both feature Paul Chambers’ bass work.

And Jack reminds you that there’s a third factor, perhaps harder to quantify:

Adversity builds character, which builds excellence. If you struggle your entire life, you won’t give up when it’s time to struggle for your art. A miserable childhood produces restlessness and discontent, which taken together are the pilot light without which talent doesn’t burn brightly enough to be noticed. You’ve heard all of that. It might even be true.

The problem today is that too many of us consider our minor inconveniences and frustrations to be True Adversity. I know I do.

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Down in the boondocks

“People put me down,” sang Billy Joe Royal, “’cause that’s the side of town I was born in.” And maybe that’s good for his existing romantic relationship, given the problematic nature of relationships with wealthy guys:

Turns out, if you give a man some money, he’ll think his partner is less attractive.

Researchers based out of Beijing Normal University in China invited 182 heterosexual college students (121 women, 61 men) in committed relationships into the lab and primed them to feel either rich or poor using two different forms of a questionnaire about financial status. Afterwards, participants rated their satisfaction with their romantic partners across various attributes, including job prospects, family background, and physical attractiveness. The ratings were completed on a 1 to 9 scale (1 = does not match my ideal at all, 9 = completely matches my ideal). Subjects also answered demographic questions about gender, age, and monthly income.

When the researchers examined the subjects’ answers, they found that men primed to feel wealthy were less satisfied with their partners’ physical attractiveness than men primed to feel poor. The difference was highly significant, a full point on the 9-point scale.

The women? They displayed no differences. None.

The only explanation I can think of for this is Miss Cellania’s: “With a few more bucks, they think they can do better.”

Source: Li YM, Li J, Chan DK-S and Zhang B (2016) When Love Meets Money: Priming the Possession of Money Influences Mating Strategies. Front. Psychol. 7:387. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00387

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Continuous reassessment

Leonard Sullivan, the County Assessor, is expected to come up with a new value for every single parcel of land in the 700-odd square miles that make up this rectangular-looking county, every single year. It’s a tag-team deal: Sullivan issues his assessments in the spring, and County Treasurer Butch Freeman figures the tax bills in the fall.

In the twelve years I’ve been here, the value has been on a bit of a roller coaster: it rose markedly once I got here, for which I claim no credit whatsoever, and then it plunged during the Great Recession. Things have leveled out a bit since then. This year, Sullivan says that the palatial estate at Surlywood is worth 1.7 percent more than it was last year, which should not result in a whopping tax increase unless Freeman goes berserk or the Feds decide to foreclose on the County Jail, and the latter has apparently been ruled out until 2018 at the earliest.

Last year’s tax bill was a hair over $900; I will be surprised should it rise to $1000. (It’s been there before, though.)

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You need to let it go

Robert Stacy McCain offers advice to the younger fellows among us:

Do not ever imagine that you can evade a woman’s radar in terms of what she wants.

One way to be a loser is to waste your time trying to overcome a woman’s instantaneous default “no.” You could spend years arguing with losers on pickup artist (PUA) forums about tactics, but you are never going to change human nature. Every woman’s default response is “no,” and if you can’t cope with rejection — if you don’t learn to walk away the minute she signals disinterest — you are squandering valuable time and energy.

Some guys (the upper 10% or 15% of overall attractiveness) can score reliably enough in almost any pickup scenario that they don’t really need “tactics” at all. What the rest of you fellows must learn is to stop wasting time trying to convert a “no” to a “yes,” or brooding over your failures.

Guys, if you’re at a frat party, when you approach a girl, understand this: She has sized you up — evaluating you in terms of your desirability — before you even say a word to her. Therefore, if her response to your opening line is not a total green-light reaction, take it in stride and move on. Just remember there are 3.5 billion women on this planet.

Maintain your cool, young man. Don’t flip out, don’t get angry, and don’t let yourself become demoralized by the fact that this girl shot you down. Just keep on blowing down the road, Mister Breeze.

Perhaps needless to say, Meghan Trainor was available for comment, though not a favorable comment.

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