Archive for June 2007

It’s time to play Guess the Format

The sale of ABC Radio to Citadel is scheduled to close next week, and the FCC approved the deal on condition that Citadel spin off eleven radio stations. Two of them are in this market: KKWD (Wild 104.9) and KINB (La Indomable 105.3). The stations will be transferred to something called “The Last Bastion Station Trust,” headed by Elliott Evers, and Mr Evers has been given his marching orders [link goes to a Microsoft Word file] as follows:

We [the FCC] will impose a condition requiring that Citadel Broadcasting’s divestiture of the 11 stations to LBST pursuant to the Trust Application occur prior to or simultaneously with the consummation of Citadel Broadcasting’s transfer of control. LBST is strongly encouraged to take reasonable steps to market the stations to any “eligible entity,” which often includes businesses owned by women and minorities. LBST is further encouraged to consummate the sale of all of the stations within six months of the consummation date. If LBST is unable to do so, it must provide the Commission with a copy of the confidential report referenced in Section 4(g) of the Form of Trust Agreement submitted with the Trust Application. With that condition in place, we find that the proposed merger transaction complies with the Act and the Rules and serves the public interest, convenience, and necessity.

Not incidentally, the transfer will eliminate the need for Citadel’s ongoing waiver of market-concentration rules to continue to operate Chisholm Trail Broadcasting’s KQOB (Bob FM 96.9) under a local-marketing agreement.

So what happens to these two smallish stations? (And now you know why the Sports Animal was moved from 104.9 to 97.9, swapping with Wild, some months back.) Nothing, at first; but sooner or later, Evers is going to have to find buyers, and those buyers may not wish to maintain the existing formats, especially since both stations fall well into the bottom half of the local ratings.

In the meantime, if you’re a minority or a female (or both), you are encouraged — “strongly,” yet — to put in a bid.

Update, one year later: Citadel is reacquiring KKWD with the FCC’s blessing.

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Have you seen this person?

Sya has:

Sometimes I stumble upon a blogger waxing on and on about how long he/she has been blogging and knows all the tricks in the book and is now a hardened veteran of the blogosphere. Then I check the archives and it only goes back for a couple of months.

Says this eleven-year veteran: “There’s a book? With tricks?

Funny thing about that learning curve: the more you know, the longer it gets. That light at the end of the tunnel? A tear in the fabric of space/time, caused by a MySQL error.

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Don’t call us, we’ll call you

Around 1960, PacTel installed a phone booth in the middle of the Mojave Desert, about 70 miles from Las Vegas, not particularly close to Zzyzx Road. In 1997, the booth gained a measure of Net notoriety when a Web site devoted to it sprang up. The site, and then the booth, picked up traffic; in 2000 the booth was taken down at the request of the National Park Service, citing environmental concerns stemming from that traffic. The site, however, lived on, and eventually filmmaker John Putch dropped by:

I was in Vegas — I don’t know, must have been 2000, or right when the booth was removed or something — and I read an article in the Sun-Times, or whatever the Vegas paper is. It was the first I’d ever heard of it. I thought the article was really interesting. Typically, the booth is gone now, and I didn’t get a chance to see it or look at it or call it or anything. So I got home and I started looking it up on the web and I found [the] site — and everybody else’s, the blogs or whatever — and I just read a whole mess of shit on it. I guess what interested me were the same things that interested other people, and that was just this wonder aspect of it, that people actually connect, strangers so far away, and the best part is that you’re in a weird, surreal setting, you know?

And so it came to pass that John Putch, on a budget of $38,469.49, brought forth Mojave Phone Booth, the movie, which played tonight at deadCENTER. And this is exactly the point he wanted to make: that people, strangers so far away, actually do connect in that weird, surreal setting. I’ve always thought that communication was far easier once you detach yourself as much as possible from the everyday, and Mojave Phone Booth is an object lesson in that detachment: the characters who would never discuss matters with the people closest to them will willingly talk to Greta, whoever she may be — altruist? therapist? the voice of God? — at the other end of the line.

The script, by Putch and Jerry Rapp, pulls off the difficult task of getting inside these characters without making them into caricatures. In the wrong hands, this could have been the sort of overwrought melodrama that gives away all its secrets in the trailer. Instead, the details accumulate, slowly but surely, the complexities unfolding, the stories unexpectedly intertwining. And this version of Las Vegas, the city these people flee to find a voice in the desert, is decidedly blue-collar and downscale: that fabled nightlife is a job, nothing more.

That reference to the budget, incidentally, isn’t an apologia: it’s a boast. Mojave Phone Booth is beautifully shot, its desert scenes balanced on the edge between compelling and disturbing, its Vegas scenes appropriately glitz-free. And the thread of hope which connects its characters proves, ultimately, to be far stronger than it seems.

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Everywhere you look there’s a radius

There’s only one thing that bothers me particularly about the deadCENTER Film Festival, running through this weekend in downtown Oklahoma City: it is impossible to see everything being offered and still hold down a day job — at least, a day job like mine, in which the 40-hour mark is reached on Friday morning (or in the case of this week, Thursday afternoon). That said, though, the Festival has grown considerably in its seven years, big enough to have actual staff, and the 140 or so films that are being screened across downtown — there are half a dozen different venues — will be seen by a few thousand folks who’d never get to see them otherwise, which is a Good Thing in spite of any minor inconveniences I might suffer.

I did learn in prior years that peeling off a few bucks (this year it’s $8) for each and every screening is a major pain; this year I was prescient enough to snag a Screening Pass ($50) in advance. (Well, actually, I got two, inasmuch as I hate to go alone.) I might not attend as many as seven screenings this year, so this saves me no money, but the convenience is considerable, and there’s always the Support Your Local [insert name of cultural organization] factor.

Last night at the Harkins, there were some, um, technical difficulties at one screening, which caused some mild tittering (and, briefly, some serious aural discomfort) among audience members. Once underway, though, there were no further glitches. And as low-level moviehouse catastrophes go, this sort of thing beats the hell out of falling ceiling tiles.

Addendum: Dwight and Sarah are trying to attend as many events as possible and are duly posting their adventures.

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Sponsored by eHardly

I am shocked … shocked! … to find that there is deception in the online-dating market:

According to Women’s Health, online date seekers lie about their height, weight and age; the men outranking the women as liars.

After a little more poking around, I came up with this survey:

This study will be published in an upcoming Proceedings of Computer/Human Interaction (April 2007), an annual peer-reviewed journal, to be released this spring during a Computer/Human Interaction conference in San Jose, Calif.

Using a new method that measured the actual difference between profile information and reality, the study revealed that men systematically overestimated their height, while women more commonly underestimated their weight, said Jeffrey Hancock, an assistant professor of communication and the lead author on this study. “Surprisingly, age-related deception was minimal and did not differ by gender,” he said.

About 52.6 percent of the men in the study lied about their height, as did 39 percent of the women. Slightly more women lied about their weight (64.1 percent) than did men (60.5 percent). When it came to age, 24.3 percent of the men were untruthful, compared with 13.1 percent of the women.

Things I wonder about:

  • It seems unlikely that a man would understate his height. But why would a woman fudge this statistic? Would a woman of six feet think she’d stand a better chance at five-ten? Does four-eleven get rounded up to five-one?
  • Apparently the likelihood of finding an accurate weight on a dating site is rather low. (I avoid the question myself by not owning a scale.)
  • Do the people who misrepresent their ages invariably do so by shaving off a few years, or are there some who might actually put on a year or two? (I’m imagining a 21-year-old who, fearful of being dismissed as immature, might choose to appear as 23 or 24. And it’s probably a guy, since if he’s anything like me, he’ll be immature until he’s 50.)

Still, these are comparatively white lies:

Any girl can overlook the fact that he lied about being a McDreamy and is instead a bald, tubby, midget man as long as he isn’t kickinit with another.

I wish to state for the record that I am not a midget.

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Oh, hello, Kwyjibo

So many spammers are using email addresses that look like bad Scrabble racks, it’s almost news to see one that looks like a name these days.

Well, sort of a name. I got something this morning from gwendolyneroticprosopopoeia at, which, if it isn’t a real address, darn well ought to be.

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Family entertainment

Contrary to popular belief, it ain’t all Ozzie and Harriet down here:

BITCH the movie has been on the “circuit” for about half a year now, and played its fair share of festivals. Anyone who’s seen the film knows, it’s full of gratuitous punching, threatening gender neutrality, offensive non-colored movieness, and the sensual kissing of Mexicans. Not to mention abortion jokes. Ohhh, the abortion jokes.

Surprisingly, BITCH has played, almost exclusively, at southern US festivals and in fact, has never won a festival award that wasn’t in a Red State.

And this might seem puzzling:

If these states are such ubiquitously conservative, bible-thumping theocracies, why do Southerners seem to like BITCH the movie the most? BITCH the person thinks maybe there is a higher concentration of frustrated, creative, free-thinking individuals living in the south than anyone realizes. Even Southerners.

As your basic Southern (yes, I was born near Chicago, but I grew up in South Carolina fercrissake) right-wing death beast, I am compelled to admit that I thought BITCH the movie was flat wonderful, that I laughed a whole lot, that I was sitting right across from writer/director Lilah Vandenburgh during the screening and I’m sure she caught me doing a spit take during that line about VH1’s 50 Most Important Bands for Poseurs. (Vandenburgh, incidentally, despite her gentle, kindly, JCPenney Petites vibe, can almost certainly kick my ass, and I expect her to threaten to do so when she reads this.)

And as a general rule, the only people around here who have their lips pressed to Dr. Dobson’s derrière are the politicians, and we have no respect for them anyway.

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A success out here in the Styx

Artist Sandow Birk, it seems, had stumbled across an old copy of Dante’s 14th-century Divine Comedy, with illustrations by Gustave Doré. At some point Birk noted that Doré’s engravings, while true to Dante’s story, inevitably reflected a mid-19th-century sensibility as well, and maybe it’s just possible to update the tale enough to reflect life at the beginning of the 21st. Working with writer Marcus Sanders, Birk, over a three-year period, completed the entire Comedy in three (of course) volumes, each presented as an art exhibition alongside his original drawings.

Sean Meredith knew Sandow Birk: the director had translated Birk’s In Smog and Thunder, a tale of a Civil War between Northern and Southern California, into a 45-minute film back in 2003. And the Inferno, the first section of Dante’s trilogy, seemed a natural. But a full-fledged CGI epic would cost zillions. Paul Zaloom, who had worked with Birk and Meredith on the Smog and Thunder project, and who knows puppets as well as anyone, suggested that the film be done in the style of Victorian “toy theatre,” which would require a few hundred puppets but which could use Birk’s drawings as sets.

Dante’s Inferno, the film, premiered at Slamdance this past winter, and if you were wondering if the contemporary references mar the story, the answer is no: the original structure of the Inferno is not tampered with, and the punishments, updates notwithstanding, still are designed to fit the sins. And the look of it is simply marvelous: the fact that you’re viewing a bunch of cardboard cutouts mounted on sticks doesn’t occur to you at all after the first couple of minutes, and Birk’s drawings on the big screen are, well, fiendishly clever. James Cromwell is the voice of Virgil, and he conveys wisdom, world-weariness, and occasional irritation, just as he should; Dermot Mulroney’s Dante, appropriately, manages to sound simultaneously headstrong and scared spitless. It’s a marvelous piece of work, gritty yet somehow uplifting; it was the last screening I caught at deadCENTER, and I can’t think of a better finish to a splendid festival.

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Sort of hosed

Open-toe stockingsI am a big fan of both shortish skirts and strappy sandals, as I have probably mentioned entirely too often, but I don’t quite get this open-at-the-toe hosiery, despite its construction of some “revolutionary Japanese yarn” that’s supposed to keep you cool, thereby eliminating the major objection to hosiery in the summertime. A commenter noted: “The end of the stocking never coincides with the shape of your shoe, so you end up looking even dorkier than before,” which seems logical to me. Maybe this would make more sense if it were cut off around the ankle, if you happened to own a pair of ankle-strap shoes. Moreover, if we’re to believe some of the advertising these days, there are lots of women who will willingly put a lot of leg on display, but please, please don’t look at their feet; they’re never, ever going to consider wearing something like this. (And a not-so-perfunctory informal survey during this weekend’s wandering about between film screenings didn’t turn up a single person who really ought to wear it.)

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Beater resurgent

Every month Automobile magazine reports on an auto auction, and I am somehow delighted to see some love for a car generally regarded as unlovable: at Barrett-Jackson in Palm Beach this spring, a ’76 Ford Pinto (!) brought $12,650. And it wasn’t a limited-edition sports model, either: it was a standard three-door hatchback (Ford preferred to call it a “coupe”) with the base 2.3-liter four-banger and a three-speed automatic and barely 7000 miles on the clock. “This was one of the most talked-about cars of the entire weekend,” reports Automobile’s Dave Kinney; maybe they were talking about the gas tank. Then again, Pintos, being small, light rear-drivers, make pretty decent vintage racers, though I can’t imagine someone turning an almost-new car into a racer when there are plenty of old boilers out there which would require little more work and cost lots less money.

Still: twelve thousand dollars. For a Ford Pinto. Adjusted for inflation, this is right about what it sold for in 1976.

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The customer is always …

How you complete that sentence probably depends on whether you’ve worked any substantial time in retail. I haven’t, so I tend to think in terms of “… drunk” or ” … retarded,” based on the last few phone calls that the irritated customer-service people (our customer-service people are always irritated, and having worked the phones myself a few months, I don’t blame them) told me about. Others with more experience tend to be a bit less kind in their descriptions:

I can’t even count the number of times that I have had a customer come in with the misconception that they are right about everything, even though they have never received either the formal education to back up their claim, or any information regarding their claim.

We have some of that too, though we usually don’t have someone else to blame:

Just because you think that software created by Microsoft is an issue caused by the retail store, does not mean that we are responsible. If you were to read the fine print, you would understand, and therefore be educated to the fact, that in this instance Microsoft would be the one you need to contact for resolution, not the retail store.

I went looking through my own desktop box, and under Control Panel / System / General I found a Support Information box, which tells me exactly whom to call and when they’re open. Perhaps other manufacturers — this box was a custom job from PC Club — aren’t quite as forthcoming about their support options. On the other hand, people, I suspect, will bring stuff back to the store for any reason whatsoever, no matter whose fault it is. Your dog peed on your keyboard? Demand a replacement. (It occurs to me that someone is now going to sue a hardware manufacturer for selling components that are not urine-resistant and failing to warn in BIG RED LETTERS that one should not whiz on one’s computer. My apologies to the defendant.)

It’s things like this that make me appreciate Woot:

If you buy something you don’t end up liking or you have what marketing people call “buyer’s remorse,” sell it on eBay. It’s likely you’ll make money doing this and save everyone a hassle. If the item doesn’t work, find out what you’re doing wrong. Yes, we know you think the item is bad, but it’s probably your fault.

They’ll take it back if it’s really, truly defective, but if you’re just a bonehead — well, you’ve given me another way to complete that sentence.

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Temporary prophylaxis

Some fellator of diseased goats has set up a crapload of Yahoo! Groups for the purpose of spamming blogs with drug-sale offers; I’ve received rather a lot of TrackBack spam from his sorry ass. I sent a terms-of-service complaint to Yahoo! which, judging by the response, was not understood — or maybe Yahoo! doesn’t consider this a TOS violation. Until such time as they excise this particular dingleberry, you might want to consider blocking as much Yahoo! Groups traffic as is technically feasible.

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Strange search-engine queries (71)

Once a week, I pick up ye olde SiteMeter, turn it upside down, and look at what falls out. Some of it, you get to look at.

foxwoods AND prostitution:  Both can cost you a lot of money in the long run.

the three stooges msdos download:  On the other hand, Shemp used a Mac.

repressing crossdress:  First, see if your outfit needs pressing. If it’s still crinkled, you may have to repress it.

“hannity in a dress”:  Probably needs ironing, too.

how do you make gatorade:  Step 1: Catch a gator.

thumbs up george bush:  Another reason not to shake hands with Karl Rove.

gilligan nude fake:  You better believe it, little buddy.

horny + immature:  Been there, been that.

first dorkmobile:  The 1950 Nash Rambler.

Dick Cheney is cooler than Hunter S. Thompson:  I dunno. Dr. Thompson is dead, so he’s probably not generating a whole lot of heat.

red beetles and doritos:  What, are you too cheap to buy salsa?

ten sexual turn ons for married women:  If I knew any of those I might still be married.

“Maureen Dowd” dustbury:  Suddenly I feel a cold chill.

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The highest standards of personal conduct

Never let it be said that Hillary can’t overlook a little thing like impeachment. Remember Alcee Hastings?

You know, put his girlfriend (disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court) on to the public payroll, investigated for ethics violations, disgraced former judge currently being investigated by both the Florida and Federal Elections Commissions, so guilty of extorting a $150,000 bribe that even John Conyers voted to convict and impeach him, stripping him of his spot on the Federal bench (though, to be fair, he was acquitted at his criminal trial, though he did commit perjury and manufacture evidence), Alcee Hastings?

Yeah, that guy.

Well, he’s just been appointed Co-Chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential Campaign.

It’s enough to make you want Scooter Libby on the Supreme Court.

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I think that I can take it

Jimmy Webb has given, maybe, the last interview on “MacArthur Park”:

In mid-1965, I was absolutely besotted with my girlfriend at the time. MacArthur Park was where we met for lunch and paddleboat rides and feeding the ducks. She worked across the street at a life insurance company. I also wrote “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” about her, but I never even got as far as Riverside. But I lost her. She married some other guy. We’re still friends. Her name is Susan Ronstadt.

Any relation to Linda Ronstadt? A cousin, says Webb.

And no, he wasn’t trying to be florid and metaphorical:

Those lyrics were all very real to me; there was nothing psychedelic about it to me. The cake, it was an available object. It was what I saw in the park at the birthday parties. But people have very strong reactions to the song. There’s been a lot of intellectual venom.

Count me as insufficiently venomous. I’ve always been fond of this song, over the top as it is; when Richard Harris died in 2002, I quipped that his voice sounded like W. H. Auden’s face, “like a wedding-cake left in the rain.” And yes, “Weird Al” Yankovic made fun of it: still, if you listen to “Jurassic Park,” you’ll hear that Yankovic went to considerable effort to replicate Webb’s original arrangement, even the Hal Blaine drum fill in the last verse. You don’t take that kind of care with something you don’t respect.

Besides, it’s still better than “Seasons in the Sun.”

(Via Fark.)

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To everything there is a season

Attila Girl contemplates the toeless hose I brought up yesterday, and she doesn’t buy the premise:

Look: stockings are one thing, and are fine between consenting adults. But panty hose of any type are not sexy. They are meant for one purpose, and one purpose only: to attenuate one’s lack of tan/unevenness of skin tone.

If the environment you are going into is so casual that you can wave your bare toes around, you have no business [wearing] panty hose of any sort.

Or, if the environment requires panty hose, you shouldn’t be showing off your lovely pedicure.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, I suspect, understands this premise: the wire services have carried zillions of photos of her in shortish — but not too shortish — dresses, but you never, ever see her in sandals. Nor is this a Republican phenomenon; for all I know, Nancy Pelosi may knock around in Birkenstocks at home, but in her capacity as Speaker, she’s conservatively shod.

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I don’t really want to stop the show

But I thought you might like to know: not everyone thinks Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, inflicted on the world forty years ago this month, is the greatest thing since plastic waffles. I’ve long argued that not only is it not the Best LP Ever, it’s not even the best Beatles LP ever.

This is now almost sort of quantifiable. Dave Thompson writes in Goldmine (#702, 22 June 2007):

Aliens … have just landed, and, handing you a blank CD-R, have demanded to know what the fuss was all about. “Make us,” they insist in their funny squeaky voices, “a disc containing the very best of Beatle band.” How much Sgt. Pepper would you include on that?

Fact: With close to 20 officially sanctioned Beatles compilations spread out before you, just four — and that includes the historical overviews 1967-1970 and Anthology 2, and the revised Yellow Submarine soundtrack, none of which had any choice in the matter — feature Pepper tunes. That leaves one song, “She’s Leaving Home,” on one album, Love Songs, to convey the majesty of the “All Time Greatest Album” to anybody who simply requires an LP full of Beatles.

Even last year’s Love (an album, by the way, that would have probably been a lot better if it wasn’t simply an inferior rehash of the 1982 UK Top 10 hit “Beatles Movie Medley”) found room for only five flakes of Pepper. By comparison, Abbey Road is covered by seven, the White Album by nine, and even the American Magical Mystery Tour LP by four.

Or, as Jim DeRogatis once said:

Sgt. Pepper’s… [is] a bloated and baroque failed concept album that takes a generation of Baby Boomers back to the best shindig of their lives, a time when they were young and free and full of possibilities, yadda yadda yadda, you just had to be there. But all of that has little or nothing to do with the actual sounds on the album.

Take that, Mr. Kite.

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Finally, a reason to upgrade

Does Vista support the USBeer port?

PC Keg

(Swiped from Steph Waller.)

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Yes, but is she hot?

Terry Teachout muses:

In America, only pretty young women become movie stars. Middle-aged male actors who are unattractive — or at least Bogart-ugly — can and do play romantic leads, but no actress who is much short of beautiful or much older than thirty has much chance of seeing her name above the title of a big-budget movie, save as part of a package deal. This harsh reality is, of course, a flagrant and fundamental contradiction of all that the members of the film industry hold most politically dear. I sometimes wonder whether one of the reasons why Hollywood is so liberal might be that its male inhabitants are secretly ashamed of the sexual double standard by which they live. They will sign any petition, contribute lavishly to any sympathetic-sounding candidate, perform any act of political penance — anything, in fact, but sleep with an ordinary-looking woman of a certain age, much less cast her as the love interest in a major motion picture.

This does not, of course, explain why Hollywood females are similarly positioned to the left, unless they’ve been told that’s their good side. And I suspect that there are legions of Lotharios Lite who will sleep with anyone who breathes, and possibly with those who don’t.

Mort Sahl anticipated this decades ago. “Liberals,” he said, “feel unworthy of their possessions.”

And then he added, “Conservatives feel they deserve everything they’ve stolen.”

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Trepidation alert

You’ll notice that there have been no announcements regarding World Tour ’07. The reason for this is twofold:

  1. In the past I have done a better job of ignoring budgetary limitations than I’m doing today, and it doesn’t help that Gwendolyn’s last trip to the shop cost somewhere around 55 percent of the projected cost of the tour. Yes, I have plastic to spare, but there’s that little matter of paying it back.
  2. I’m still apparently a tad skittish after the abrupt ending of World Tour ’06, even though it proved not to be the abrupt ending of me, as some might have expected.

Yet somehow I feel I have to go, in the manner of the kid who falls off the bicycle: if I don’t do it now, or at least soon, I’ll never do it again, and we can’t have that, can we?

So I’m thinking in terms of a smaller jaunt — say, 2500 miles or so instead of the usual 4000-plus — over ten or eleven days instead of sixteen or seventeen. Training wheels. That sort of thing.

First actual vacation day is the 9th of July. I hope to — I had better — have something to announce by then.

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Let there be crap

And there was crap, and the crap was as follows:

  • Targus Travel Accessory Pouch (retail value $30.00)
  • Magnetic “Shake” Flashlight ($9.99)
  • Belkin Patriotic Mouse Pad ($1.00)
  • Logitech EasyFit Connector ($3.00)
  • Heart-shaped “Cupid” clock (2″x2″) ($5.00)

And the actual retail price of this Showcase Barrel O’ Crud is $48.99 $3.00.

Plus $5.00 shipping.

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Did they say if it goes “Poof”?

The more I think about this, the sillier it sounds:

A Berkeley watchdog organization that tracks military spending said it uncovered a strange U.S. military proposal to create a hormone bomb that could purportedly turn enemy soldiers into homosexuals and make them more interested in sex than fighting.

Pentagon officials on Friday confirmed to CBS 5 [KPIX San Francisco] that military leaders had considered, and then subsquently rejected, building the so-called “Gay Bomb.”

When I was in the Army, most of us were more interested in sex than fighting, and we weren’t even gay. (Maybe a few exceptions: we didn’t ask, and they didn’t tell, and that was that.)

How would this, um, stuff work?

The notion was that a chemical that would probably be pleasant in the human body in low quantities could be identified, and by virtue of either breathing or having their skin exposed to this chemical, the notion was that soliders would become gay.

Geez. A Pentagon body spray. And, being from the Pentagon, it would probably be $900 an ounce.

Terry asks the right question: “Would it be detected by gaydar?”

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All in good humor

News Item: An Oklahoma City ice-cream man has been charged with indecent exposure after giving a would-be customer a look at his undone zipper on the city’s south side.

Top Ten Verbal Responses to Indecent Exposure by Ice-Cream Men:

  1. Hey, that ain’t a Popsicle® stick!
  2. At this point, I don’t care if you are happy to see me.
  3. How long before it melts?
  4. Let me guess: joint venture with Der Wienerschnitzel?
  5. Um, no thanks, no frozen yogurt.
  6. Which one’s Ben and which one’s Jerry?
  7. This is no way to compete with Dairy Queen.
  8. Yes, I’m sure the Health Department does require you to carry a thermometer — but not there.
  9. Froze solid, did it?
  10. So that’s what they mean by “soft-serve.”

May you all enjoy a month of sundaes.

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Personalized wring

There’s a Do Not Call Registry, but you drop off after five years, and anyone with Caller ID (and rather a lot of people without it) can tell you that the Registry is more honored in the breach.

Which means a permanent solution is something like this:

First executive order to leave my desk when I become President will be specifying the death penalty without trial or appeal for telemarketing, and I’ll insist on attending every execution in person so that I may get the full pleasure from listening to them screaming in pain and unholy terror as they’re systematically dismembered with a rusty folding knife.

I’ve got a whole database to upload come Inauguration Day.

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Nobody’s perfect

Back in 2004, I had occasion to quote Cynthia Heimel thusly:

We have no faith in ourselves. I have never met a woman, who, deep down in her core, really believes she has great legs. And if she suspects she might have great legs, then she’s convinced she has a shrill voice and no neck.

Cynthia, meet Lionel Shriver:

My legs are lovely.

And not because I’m athletic. The most fetching parts of our bodies came that way in the box. I am merely fortunate. The sculptural rhythm to these narrow ankles, full calves, and slender knees is not of my making. (Since the fundamental shapes of all our bodies are neither to our credit nor our fault, it’s peculiar that we ever conflate our looks and our selves.) After all, when someone else is generous and tasteful enough to give you well-proportioned wine glasses for Christmas, the appropriate response is gratitude, not arrogance. So for me to submit that I was blessed with fine stemware is not a boast. All that falls within my power is to ruin them — to drop the glasses on the floor.

Ms Shriver clearly has a neck, and her voice is in no wise shrill. Then again:

I could mock my teeth, which stain so badly after a single cup of coffee that they might have been unearthed from an archaeological dig.

(Via Jenny Davidson.)

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245 revisited

From the first of June:

Don’t you know, if you dance, you dance ’til a quarter to three, you’ll knock it off about 2:45.

Daddy G isn’t in attendance, but Kehaar is around somewhere, and where he is, there will be the Carnival of the Vanities #245. (He is around somewhere, right?)

Yes, he is.

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Let’s see: Hybrids get good mileage. Diesels get good mileage. How about — a hybrid diesel?

Peugeot plans to be the first manufacturer to offer a small family car with a diesel-electric hybrid power unit. It will be a version of the new 308, revealed last week, and will be on sale before the end of the decade.

The Peugeot diesel hybrid promises to average better than 70mpg and have the lowest carbon-dioxide emissions of any car other than a pure electric. Peugeot boss Frédéric St Geours last week declined to give a price for the 308 diesel hybrid, saying “all the work going on now is to reduce the cost.”

Assuming these gallons are Imperial, as you might expect from a British writeup, we’re looking at 58 miles per gallon from this little Frenchmobile should it ever come to the States. Not that I expect it to: Peugeot bailed out of the US market at the beginning of the 1990s.

(Via AutoblogGreen.)

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Bang the Drum all day

Kurt Hochenauer (you know him from Okie Funk) devotes his op-ed space in the Gazette this week to one of the more risible events in recent Oklahoma City history: the kerfuffle over The Tin Drum, ten years ago this month.

DocHoc recalls:

In June 1997, Bob Anderson — head of Oklahomans for Children and Families, an ultraconservative “family” organization — took the movie to local police authorities, complaining the film was obscene. The police took the movie to [Oklahoma County District Judge Richard] Freeman to get a ruling on the issue.

Directed by Volker Schlöndorff, the 1979 film depicts the life of the child Oskar, who refuses to grow up beyond the age of 3 or give up the tin drum he plays annoyingly throughout his life until he wills himself to grow. The film is based on Günter Grass’ brilliant, Nobel Prize-winning novel of the same title. In the film, which criticizes Nazis, Oskar has sex with a young woman. The sex scene is a simulated, under-the-covers encounter, extremely tame by contemporary standards. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and the Cannes Film Festival Palm d’Or award.

Amazingly, Freeman met Anderson’s freakish demands (who in the world would even watch the overly symbolic and subtitled movie in Oklahoma?) and ruled a section of the movie obscene. The tragic farce escalated when police officers seized copies of the film from a library, six video stores and three people, one of whom was Michael Camfield, a staff member with the local American Civil Liberties Union. Camfield later sued over the incident but lost his case.

Freeman’s ruling was overturned, of course, but not before Oklahoma City became the laughingstock of the entire world as news spread. The incident became the basis for an excellent documentary, Banned in Oklahoma, which is included on The Tin Drum DVD. Directed and produced by former University of Oklahoma professor Gary D. Rhodes, it redeemed the state’s reputation to some extent.

Ah, if only we’d had blogs back in 1997!

Oh, wait:

Relying on something he’d heard on “Christian talk radio” (just in case you thought there couldn’t be anything worse than regular talk radio), he had one of his underlings check out the one copy of the film owned by the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City, which was then duly turned over to the police. Did Mr Anderson actually watch the film? Of course not. He’s not interested in anything other than his own perverted sexual obsession, his pathological need to control other people’s sex lives, even fictional ones.

And storm troopers, you’ll remember from history, never travel alone. Oklahoma County District Judge Richard Freeman, who has given out conflicting stories on whether he has seen the film himself, decided that the film was legally obscene, and the cops went to video stores to get the names of people who had rented the film, then to those people’s homes to confiscate the tapes. If this sounds bizarre to you, well, the power structure in this part of the world has always had its head in close proximity to its colon. In 1961, steps were taken in Oklahoma City to ban Mad magazine, which resulted in an epic court battle featuring an appearance by legendary Mad publisher William M. Gaines himself. Charges from both sides were eventually dropped after Gaines and his chief adversary agreed that this teapot didn’t justify the tempest.

I bring this up mostly to amplify Dr Hochenauer’s last paragraph:

On the 10th anniversary of the ruling, the question remains whether future censorship fiascoes lie in waiting: Could it happen again?

Jesus, I hope not. And there exist palpable disincentives: in March 1999 City Council and DA Bob Macy wound up forking over more than half a million dollars to settle lawsuits stemming from the police seizures of the video. Some of us have long memories, and for the rest of us, there are search engines.

Useful linkage: Charles Oliver’s report from Reason (October 1997). This was before the settlements, but there’s still a money quote: “The courts will eventually decide if authorities there have been too zealous in their pursuit of smut, and the city’s younger citizens will, like Oskar, have a chance to consider if the adults around them are mad.”

Addendum, 22 June: Michael Camfield, the ACLU staffer quoted in Dr Hochenauer’s piece, sent a letter to the Gazette questioning the “lost his case” bit:

At a trial in August of 1999, a federal jury awarded me $2,500 in damages due to the defendants’ violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act. Unfortunately, the jury determined that the police did not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable seizures.

Split decision, maybe.

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Blight refractions

In Missouri, at least, saying it’s so doesn’t make it so:

The Missouri Supreme Court narrowed the bounds of eminent domain Tuesday in rejecting the Centene Plaza plan for downtown Clayton and raising the bar for taking private property.

The upscale city failed to prove that property in the 7700 block of Forsyth Boulevard was blighted, the judges ruled in a 6-1 decision favoring landowners who fought condemnation.

Under the ruling, developers who seek to use condemnation to take land from other private owners will have to give proof that the property is not only old or of obsolete design but that it impacts health and safety as well.

Brian J. Noggle approves:

This is very good news for property owners. Now they cannot be thrown out for owning uncool buildings or not producing the maximum level of revenue possible (at least, not until another court determines that “impacts health and safety” means “doesn’t provide sales tax revenue that funds local EMT services”).

Given lawmakers’ ability to find justification for damn near anything in the Constitution’s Commerce clause, I am not entirely reassured.

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Plumb assignment

Evidently I’m out of the mainstream on matters like this:

I do want to point out that being known as “the chick who fixed the toilet” — no matter how heroic at the moment it might seem, and no matter how grateful your fellow students are — is not a cool thing. It certainly did not help me in the date department.

I suppose this might put off the sort of guy whose ego is fed by being “needed” for various mundane functions, but that’s the best place for him: off.

To quote Robert A. Heinlein:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

You’ll note that at no time does he make any gender reference.

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Feeling spent

The City Council has agreed on a budget of $757.8 million for 2007-08, about $1400 per resident; it’s a decrease of $1.2 million from the previous fiscal year.

I was wondering how this compared with other cities, so I hit up a few Web sites. For instance: New York City spends $60 billion a year, about $7500 per resident. And I found this announcement at the City of Detroit site:

Your home could be taken from you if you have not paid your 2003 or prior years property taxes. You must act before March 31, 2007, to keep your property!

Which invites two questions:

  1. It takes Wayne County, Michigan four years to seize property for unpaid taxes?
  2. Isn’t this June already?

I’m starting to feel a little better about my $1400. And anyway, no two cities provide exactly the same level of services, so comparing budgets is probably not useful in the first place.

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Which one’s Pink?

Why, the girl, silly:

Not so long ago, pink was a colour reserved for little girls. It was the colour of Barbie and bubblegum, of plastic tat that parents were pestered into buying, of pre-teen bedrooms and pocket-money accessories.

Then, suddenly, it was everywhere — and being targeted at grown women. Next month, for instance, sees the launch of Fly Pink, a “boutique airline designed especially for women” which plans to operate from Liverpool’s John Lennon airport. The airline will offer flights to Paris for “shopping breaks” in customised pink planes, and, to complete the experience, will also provide pink champagne and complementary manicures before take-off.

Cate Sevilla objects:

Fly Pink is making massive assumptions about women, and forget that not all women like pink, or manicures, or shopping breaks in Paris. How can we expect the rest of society to stop stereotyping women if we can’t even stop stereotyping ourselves?

Hey, I live in a pink house, and not one of Mellencamp’s either.

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On the taking of exceptions

Sarah pans a film, and then feels some sort of Critic’s Remorse:

I realize that my opinions are my own, and I stand by them, but I still can never quite dispel that twinge of guilt when I say something not-so-nice. At the same time, however, I strongly believe in being honest. It just kind of blows when honesty and niceness come into conflict.

A good blogger wouldn’t care. A good blogger would think that his or her opinion was the right one, and everyone who disagreed could go to hell.

I, of course, disagree, so I’ll go pack my Kevlar undies for the trip to the hot nether regions.

More seriously: I am never absolutely certain about whether my opinion (as distinguished from my occasional recitation of facts, another matter entirely) is “the right one”; all I can do is make the pitch and attempt to defend it. Sometimes I have been successful; sometimes I haven’t made my case at all.

I am, however, quite unapologetic about whatever opinions I have, and over the years I’ve built up a substantial (if not entirely ironclad yet) resistance to guilt-trippers, finger-pointers, and all the other tedious hyphenates whose self-ascribed moral authority demands that I be chastised for whatever putative heresy I’ve espoused. And whether they go to hell or not is, frankly, a matter of no concern: so long as they’re out of earshot, I see no compelling reason to inflict them on the long-suffering staff at One Brimstone Place.

Or, as I say around the office: “I may not always be right, but I am never wrong.”

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Not that it’s, like, dead or anything

Pete Vonder Haar covered the deadCENTER Film Festival for Film Threat: you’ll want to read his perfectly cromulent wrap-up report.

Regarding a certain Lower Bricktown sub-landmark, Pete says:

Nothing says haute cuisine like Toby Keith. I was tempted to enter, but a little voice inside my head — faint in aspect, like a little child — said, “If you go into that place, the motor cortex of your brain and I will loosen your sphincter while you sleep. And we’ve got the basal ganglia on our side.”

I’ll, um, keep that in mind.

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Prolonging that new-car smell

Automobile’s New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman has just acquired a brand-new 1967 Volvo 122S wagon.

Yes, really. It had never been titled — it was still on the Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin — and the odometer showed a mere 80 miles.

And I have to admit, had I made this purchase, I might not have been quite this astute:

The next thing you do when you buy a forty-year-old Volvo with no miles on it is call Dan Johnson in Volvo’s press department and ask if his company would like to honor the warranty, which, theoretically, hasn’t begun to run, because the car had never been registered. And, being the smart PR guy, he agrees, mindful that (1) there can’t be a dangerous precedent to set, as there aren’t too many ancient Volvos still on their MSOs and (2) the applicable 1967 warranty — six months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first — doesn’t come close to Volvo’s generous coverage package, circa 2007 — four years or 50,000 miles.

Incidentally, once Kitman registered the Volvo in New Jersey, he had to have it inspected, and inasmuch as the car was after all forty years old, there were some things that had to be replaced, like, for instance, the fuel tank. Which wasn’t covered under Volvo’s 1967 warranty.

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Quote of the week

This actually dates back to the 17th of April, but I’ve only just seen it. Reprinted in full for contextual reasons, and beware of expletives:

I was thinking about the shootings today — in particular, the reason why people choose to go crazy in the places they do. I understand the Columbine shootings because the kids who attended the high school directly outcast Klebold and Harris, but why colleges? The Dawson College shootings last year in Quebec performed by that stupid goth guy and this one today make me wonder why people choose colleges? People in college don’t really pick on certain people, and there’s no real hierarchy — there’s no one specific group to blame for your anger! Not only that, but probably more importantly, it’s cliché. School shootings are stupid for their own good reasons, but this idea of choosing educational institutions is getting old. Why?! Why schools? I’m not against flipping out and shooting a bunch of people, but make sure they deserve it. Why doesn’t anyone go shithouse and shoot up the Westboro Baptist Church during a Sunday sermon? (Or better yet, during a protest at a gay troop’s funeral.) Why not storm into a war profiteering corporation and shoot up their CEO? For the love of God, there are so many more people that deserve to be killed other than people trying to get an education. Go to Alabama and just start shooting. You’ll probably hit someone that deserves it, and they’ll probably have guns themselves, so you won’t have [to] end up popping a cap in your own head when you’re done with your rampage.

BTW, when I go on my rampage (and let’s be honest, I probably will) I’m going to do it at a zoo because I want everyone to know that I’m that fucking crazy. I’m going to kill a giraffe and machete a gorilla in the throat. I’ll throw myself into the eagle cage for my suicide. Because, metaphorically, it means America killed me. And you know what? I’ll die fucking famous and crazy with the best Wikipedia entry ever. Because let’s face it, we’re all going to judge our life by the Wikipedia entry we leave behind. And I want my “Tom Goes to the Mayor” icon on my tombstone.

[The original contained a link to Westboro Baptist Church, which I refuse on general principle to acknowledge via linkage.]

I have my doubts that this fellow would actually take a machete to a gorilla — from what I’ve been given to understand, he cringes when he sticks a fork in a steak — but then again, I don’t work for Dell. And now, neither does he:

You can read the post and understand why it raised concern, but you can also truly understand what I wrote and discern that I was speaking against violence and that I was being my strangely humorous self again. Dell HR did not see it this way, and I am now no longer employed by them. I was never given any official policies regarding blogs; all I knew was that any Dell documents marked “Confidential” and personal customer information shouldn’t be spoken of outside of company facilities. Although the post was written before I was employed with Dell, that it mentioned shootings, and that I made an obviously tongue-in-cheek reference to me going on a rampage at a zoo — a zoo — where animals are kept; Dell regarded it as a threat to safety. I’m not sure what their investigation included over the past few days, but I wonder if they really have a better understanding of me because of it. Did they look at my criminal history — which only includes some speeding tickets? Possibly. Did they call any of my friends, family, or past and current co-workers? Probably not. If they had, I wouldn’t be here writing this because I know my friends and co-workers know that I’m a pretty good person.

So here I am — a person who’s done right his entire life. Never done drugs or been drunk because he listened to the DARE officers in grade school. A person who’s made it a priority to maintain a good credit rating so he can achieve “The ‘Merican Dream” and buy [a] bunch of crap for his own happiness. I try to learn everything I can about technology so I can move higher and higher up the technology career ladder. But I’m crazy in the eyes of some corporate HR people. I have a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. I spent four years of my life studying ethics and morality, yet I’m regarded as someone who might not have value for human life.

A search for “dooced by dell” produced no results.

It will soon.

Update, 10 pm: Apparently this guy’s whole site has been taken down.

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They don’t wear sweaters, either

With apologies to both Art and Artie Barnes:

Snake heads, snake heads,
Neatly-severed snake heads,
Snake heads, snake heads,
Eat them up, yum.


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Applauding the inactivists

Sometimes doing nothing is the right thing. From last month:

As with the Stateside version, the UK’s [Freedom of Information act] has a number of exemptions, including the sort of things one might expect to be protected under the Official Secrets Act.

And Parliament itself is about to be exempted from FOI rules: incoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he will not block a bill granting the exemption to MPs. The Commons has already voted to send the measure on to the House of Lords.

And what did the upper chamber do with it? Nothing:

I’ve never really been a fan of the House of Lords but am thankful that that second chamber has denied the passage of the bill to exempt MPs from the Freedom of Information act. The bill needed somebody to sponsor it in the Lords but by the end of yesterday’s proceeding nobody had stepped forward to do so and so the bill is effectively scuppered.

And a fine bit of scupperisation it was, too.

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Somewhere, William Hung is laughing

And I don’t blame him:

Musician Mariah Carey has been named the worst singer of all time by British entertainment magazine The Word. The “Heartbreaker” singer was labelled a “proper tune butcher” by the anonymous writer of the piece.

The article reads, “(Carey is) clearly the worst thing to happen to popular music since (disgraced British pop mogul) Jonathan King. All technique, gallons of surgery gloop, and not an atom of soul anywhere.”

Geez, and I sort of liked Jonathan King, at least before he revised “Hooked on a Feeling.”

And I bet that “gloop” is more sugary than surgery.

(Via Fark.)

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The nine billion names of sildenafil citrate

Actually, there are a lot more than that, and there are times when I think I’ve seen every last one of them in my inbox.

(Via Tinkerty Tonk.)

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