Archive for July 2011

We don’t talk about such things

The line immediately before that, of course, was “What is the crime rate in this neighborhood?”

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Fake insincerity

Real insincerity is amusing enough, but the version being fabricated for comment spam is simply way over the top. An example, snagged by Akismet this week:

You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

How stupid? He, by whom I mean “cheap air jordan 13,” presumably a unit of a botnet, hung this on a post about Packard automatic transmissions. I wouldn’t mind going after his heart — with a crossbow.

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Points off the curve

Arrows of Desire by Emma BlairThe blurb for Emma Blair’s 2008 romance Arrows of Desire:

When Steve is killed during enemy action, Beth is devastated. They were due to elope to Gretna Green the following week, and their happiness was complete with the news that Beth is pregnant. But now, alone and unmarried and with a baby on the way, Beth must survive by herself in war-torn Glasgow. When Beth meets handsome Canadian Gene, a friendship begins; for the first time since Steve’s death Beth finds happiness. When Gene asks her to marry him and live with him on his farm in Canada, Beth seizes the opportunity of a better life for her and her child. But it doesn’t take Beth long to realise that Gene hasn’t told her the whole truth and that the farm doesn’t belong to just him — his sister Loretta lives there too. And Loretta makes it very clear that Beth isn’t welcome and that she will stop at nothing — even murder — to get rid of her.

Blair’s first romance, Where No Man Cries, appeared in 1982. Sixteen years later, Emma Blair was (more or less voluntarily) unmasked as Iain Blair, a large, burly Scotsman who’d had no luck in the mystery market and decided to try a different genre altogether. He died Sunday at the age of sixty-nine.

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Sitting in the back for the moment

Not a whole lot going on in Rebecca Black Land; she’s back from vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, and while everyone waits on that EP, she’s set up her own YouTube channel (which, “Friday” being still in dispute, is quite empty for now), and she’s taking questions at a Buzznet blog.

Meanwhile, I scooped this out of her Facebook fan page:

“Going into the studio has been amazing. I just want to prove to everyone I can do it. I’m not some rich kid whose parents paid for her to have success. That’s not me. I want to be a real artist with a real career. The record is coming out so cool. I’m doing a ballad, a dance song with a little bit of a Latin flair to it. And, the lyrics will be a little more challenging. It’ll sound completely different from ‘Friday’ because there’s not a crap load of auto tune in my voice,” laughs Rebecca.

Of course, there were a few people — enough to get it to #58 in Billboard, anyway — who actually liked “Friday.”

And there’s James Lileks, who here discusses with his daughter what might happen if the cereal RB’s gotta have somehow failed to materialize:

“What would befall her if she doesn’t have cereal? She says she has to have it, but that suggests consequences if she doesn’t. Why not a PopTart?”

“It doesn’t fit the lyrics.”

“Anything fits. ‘Bagel, bagel, gotta have my cream cheese.'”

Don’t ask what the young lady formerly known as Gnat had for breakfast.

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Quote of the week

From Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business by Bob Lutz (Portfolio Penguin, 2011), a snapshot of the Old GM, featuring a piece of voice-recognition technology that was mercifully euthanized before it was inflicted on Buick buyers:

I will never forget that drive through downtown Milford, Michigan, and the engineer sitting next to me probably won’t forget it either. At his urging, I asked for “more cold air.” “No, no!” he said. “You have to scroll verbally. First say ‘climate control.’ When the car says ‘climate control,’ you say ‘blower.’ When the car repeats ‘blower,’ you say ‘up one.’ Same with temperature.” Of course, it wasn’t that easy, and a comedy of errors ensued. I did the best I could, trying to remember the sequence. So fixated did I become with the marvels of voice-input technology that I casually cruised through two red lights, nearly causing an accident each time.”

“Scroll verbally”? Screw that. The only way this could be worse would be if you had to text the car to get it to do something.

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I’ll take Brand Positioning for $1000, Alex

Joe Sherlock (scroll to Friday, July 8, until the archive links go into effect) relates this bit of automotive potpourri from Jeopardy!:

Host Alex Trebek asked a contestant the identity of the luxury auto brand whose logo depicts a stylized calipers. She didn’t know the answer.

When told it was Acura, the contestant replied incredulously, “Acura’s a luxury brand!?”

If there was a graphic, I hope it was right side up.

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Employee of the month?

Probably not. This is Jennifer Love Hewitt at the Hollywood premiere of Horrible Bosses, just barely on the red carpet at Grauman’s Chinese:

Jennifer Love Hewitt almost off the red carpet

Perhaps she thought someone might remember Blake Lively in this same Herve Leger bandage dress, circa 2009.

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Seems legit

Fillyjonk explains her fondness for Internet memes:

I love them. I know some people think they’re stupid, or certain ones are overdone, or whatever. But I think I love them for a very specific reason related to my sense of humor. I am that kind of person who will carry a joke a little too far, who will be laughing over a repetition of it even after other people have found it, well, repetitious. (For example: I still find Rickrolls pretty funny, though I think the “cool people” probably are going “2007 called; they want their meme back.”)

“X called; they want their Y back” is, of course, a popular snowclone.

It’s always seemed to me is that the appeal of these things is at least partially attributable to their amazing ability to annoy the hell out of the Y SO SRS? types who clutter up our days. And those who have endured my shtick for the last decade and a half know that the beatings will continue until the equines are resurrected.

I think also I find incongruities — things that shouldn’t go together, but that someone thinks to put together — extremely funny.

Rebecca Black in a physics question

Now that one I couldn’t resist.

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Heat doth make madmen of us all

Which includes the computers that display the weather, apparently:

NewsOK weather graphic 3:50 pm 9 July 2011

This was snagged from NewsOK about ten minutes ago. Right now, the thought of an actual wind chill would be almost heartening — but no, not gonna happen, not with 24 hours of daylight every day. (The earth’s axis must have shifted further than we thought.)

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Today’s public-service announcement

After deleting the eleventy-thousandth “male-enhancement” spiel from the inbox, and reflecting on the fact that there must be actual buyers of junk treatments, else there would be no sellers, I offer the following bit of wisdom to any of you poor shlubs who might have thought, even once, of responding to these silly pitches:

Your problem isn’t lack of length. Your problem is lack of depth.

And you can’t fix that by clicking on a link.

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Pawlenty of nothing

I don’t know how the rest of you feel about it, but one factor I look for in political candidates, irrespective of party affiliation, is Failure To Crawl. The moment you start toadying, you are dead to me.

Yeah, Tim Pawlenty, I’m looking at you:

While Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty spent the day campaigning in Iowa, his campaign co-chairman Vin Weber told The Hill newspaper Wednesday that Michele Bachmann’s strengths in Iowa include hometown appeal, ideological appeal and, “I hate to say it, but she’s got a little sex appeal, too.” Weber later apologized.

T-Paw didn’t throw Weber under the bus, exactly, but he did indicate some familiarity with the heat shields:

“I don’t believe that he or anyone else should use a reference to somebody’s sex appeal to judge their fitness for office,” Pawlenty said. “It’s a wrong statement, and he apologized and I’m glad that he did it.”

Never did knee jerk so quickly. Note that Weber didn’t say anything about Bachmann’s “fitness for office”; he said something about her perceived electability, a characteristic utterly unrelated. (Don’t think so? Where were you during the Obama administration?)

And just how much further can this sort of thing go, anyway?

Have we really sunk this far into the demented world of hypersensitivity? Seriously, how long will it be until we are afraid to say anything to anyone, about anything without running by a lawyer first?

Newspeak doubleplusgood. Shut piehole.

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All you gotta do is ask

The Southern Girl, transplanted to the Midwest, happily finds that some things haven’t changed a whit:

Midwesterners are nice and friendly. So are Southerners. The key here is that both Midwesterners and Southerners are nice and friendly to strangers. Some might say that this is because manners are a major part of the Southern culture of child rearing. It is, after all, the land of mam, sir, please, thank you, and help someone when you can. At my house this also included wear your slip and pantyhose (this one was a hard one to accomplish and the easiest to abandon), cross your legs at the ankle, chew with your mouth shut (now one of my personal pet peeves, ick), and keep your elbows off the table.

But when it comes to making friends, in the South, striking up a conversation with a total stranger at anytime and anywhere is totally normal and often encouraged.

Fortunately, this works pretty well with Hoosiers too:

Since moving to Indiana, talking to strangers has been my primary method for finding the best grocery store, the best park, the best art event, the best fundraisers, the best farmers’ market, the best restaurants, the most fun places to hang out at night, the best festivals, the best lakes, the best shopping … I could go on. I love talking. Also, so far, most people have initiated the conversations with me (often based on my accent and then why I left the South), which is very nice and relaxing. I do not have to do all the work.

There are, of course, self-described Hick-Free Zones scattered throughout the land. I’ve wandered into a few of them. When spotted, I’ll usually dial a little more magnolia into my voice, just to let the denizens thereof think they’ve accomplished something. (It’s the polite thing to do, doncha know.) It’s not my job to open their hearts; it’s my job to keep mine from closing.

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Government at every level in every nation contains large numbers of individuals who wish to indulge their oh-so-not-plebeian tastes at the expense of taxpayers. Since this is common knowledge, it is de rigueur for government to trot out for public consumption examples of “Look how we’re saving your money!” For instance, consider this Honda CR-V police vehicle in Fengchenggang, Guangxi Province, China:

Ceci ne pas une Honda CR-V

The CR-V is an economical little cruiser, produced for the Chinese market by a joint venture of Honda and Dongfeng, which costs somewhere around 200k yuan (let’s call it $30k). If this vehicle seems a little large to you for a CR-V, pat yourself on the back: despite the Honda indicia front and rear, this is in fact a Mercedes-Benz ML 350, built either in Alabama or in Mexico, which in China sells for 900k yuan, plus the price of a couple of Honda badges installed by the local cops, presumably in the dead of night.

The good folks of the province did not take this lying down:

Citizens of Fengchenggang were not to be fooled and posted pics of the Benz CR-V on the internet where ‘netizens’ had a field day ridiculing the local government as hard as they could. Best part: the police flatly denied they made any changes to their car.

Thomas L. Friedman was not available for comment.

(Via Autoblog.)

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Moderate encroachment

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, rival TV sites were playing a game:

The colorful NBC peacock, KTSM’s primetime anchor team and its station theme — “First.Live.Local” — boldly occupied the majority of the KVIA website leader board and multiple banner ads drowned out our own ABC-7 logos.

How can such a thing happen, you ask?

It turns out that KTSM had purchased what’s known in the trade as “remnant” advertising through Google Adsense. Remnant also stands for “remainder” advertising and it refers to advertising space that a media company has been unable to sell.

“This was not a sneak attack, just an anomaly of the tech world we live in,” said the KTSM general manager, and I believe him. Which is not to say that such things can’t possibly happen otherwise.

The Channel 2 Auction was an annual Boston event, a fundraiser for PBS affiliate WGBH, broadcast every June from 1966 through 2007, after which it moved to the Internet. Local businesses and individuals would donate stuff, and proceeds from the sale of said stuff would go to keeping WGBH on the air. One year (pretty much had to be 1973, because that was the only summer I was in New England), then-CBS affiliate WNAC (now WHDH), channel 7, a poor third in the local ratings, offered a package of advertising spots for auction by channel 2. To their dismay, the high bidder was independent station WKBG (now WLVI), channel 56. To their credit, WNAC did not renege on the deal, and channel 56 promos were seen on channel 7 for the next couple of months. Weirdly, both stations are now co-owned, though 7 currently carries NBC and 56 the CW.

Now if Bing starts buying Google AdSense spots, I’m going to worry.

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Pentode the wet socket

Running a classic Marshall amp, unsurprisingly, requires some classic amp parts now and then:

This time I noticed a purple glow in the back, and I thought, hey, that’s kind of cool… A little research tells us that the purple glow is ionized air that has leaked into our vacuum, so it looks like we are going to need a set of power amplifier tubes after all.

The tubes in question are 6CA7 (RETMA) or EL34 (Mullard-Philips); they have a nominal heater voltage of 6.3V, and a decently-matched set of four can produce something like 100 watts.

Marshall had been using EL34s all along, but vacuum tubes were becoming harder to come by, and in the 1980s Marshall introduced a line of amps based on the easier-to-find 6550 tube; a decade later, though, former Soviet-bloc countries began building tubes, and Marshall returned to the EL34. These tubes are usually sold in matched pairs, at prices ranging from under $30 to nearly $200.

The replacement tubes selected for this amp were Svetlanas, about which a dealer says: “For guitar players that need an EL34 tube and play classic rock music we don’t think you can find a better tube.” Now that’s heartening.

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Strange search-engine queries (284)

And once again, it’s time to sort through this week’s site logs and find the funniest, or most pathetic, or whatever, search strings; it’s a lot of work, but it beats having to come up with something original.

party buses “leave a comment”:  These days, a common comment to the party is “How come you’re throwing me under the bus?”

bore and stroke horsepower:  I’ve discovered that it doesn’t matter how much horsepower I put into the stroke if she’s still bored.

vanishing ray girls clothes:  If you really want to perform a public service, make a whole Abercrombie & Fitch store vanish.

“wine while it is warm:”  Because, you know, J. Random Wineaux doesn’t have access to chilling facilities.

nudism 101:  I presume this is the part where they explain the dress code.

I was told you could hear KOMA radio in the pacific ocean:  If you’re actually in the ocean at the moment, your list of pressing needs probably doesn’t include radio entertainment.

“new heat index”:  But it’s the same old heat.

norman is a nit wit:  Yeah, that’s what they say in Blanchard.

what is fine for running toll booth on creek turn pike:  I recommend any Lamborghini model. They’ll have a hell of a time chasing you down with those old Crown Victorias.

making methamphetamine from 134a:  It was 110 degrees on Saturday. Wasting good refrigerant on meth is the height, or maybe the depth, of stupidity.

“for the last several years” does it need a comma:  No, but it needs a hell of a lot more specificity.

most likely place a mazda 626 would leak transmission fluid:  Onto your garage floor.

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Ed Ames to please

This song for some reason has been haunting me of late:

This was not as successful as “My Cup Runneth Over,” which it superficially resembles; it’s certainly less happy.

And I’d kind of like to hear the French-language version — titled “Tu As Beau Sourire” (“You Have a Beautiful Smile”), which Claudine Longet recorded in that same wondrous year of 1967, but not so much that I’d spend $60 for a copy of the now-rare vinyl. (A Japanese CD reissue is showing up on Amazon for $115.)

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Tennis, everyone

I hate like hell to side with Comcast on anything, but this bothers me:

The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau has told an administrative law judge that he should mandate Tennis Channel carriage on a “widely viewed” — though not necessarily most widely penetrated — Comcast tier and fine the cable operator the maximum for that program carriage rule violation.

Comcast’s grievous offense here, it appears, consists of actually owning sports channels:

The bureau recommends that the judge force Comcast to carry the channel “across Comcast’s cable systems nationwide on a broadly distributed tier” within the next 30 days and at a price on par with Golf Channel or Versus, both of which are owned by Comcast. The FCC’s program-access rules prevent cable operators from favoring co-owned channels over similar, non-affiliated channels.

The prescribed fine is $375,000.

What I want to know is this: where the hell was the bureau when Comcast was acquiring everything in sight, up to and including NBC Universal, the previous owners of Golf Channel and Versus? Hands in their pockets, and never mind where they keep their thumbs.

The FCC utters a lot of “competition” talk, but never do they do anything that would actually encourage competition; they rubber-stamp mergers, they reinforce monopolies — how many cable companies can you get? — and they’ve willingly handed over almost the entirety of American broadcasting to a handful of conglomerates to whom “local service” means “you can get the same Disney crap that the big cities do.” The Internet is busy finishing off what’s left of broadcast. In a sensible world, the FCC would die with it.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Two wheels good, four wheels better?

The City of New York now has several hundred miles of bicycle lanes, and not everyone is happy about that, a situation which seems to perplex Joe Bob Briggs:

Why the heck do people hate bicycle lanes so much? I’ve been asking random people this question for a week, and you get the impression that a lot of folks who have never navigated a bike through the city consider the bike lanes elitist, hipsterish, and just fruity in general. The average man on the street gets especially annoyed by cycling gear, like pointy orange DayGlo helmets and purple thigh-enhancing spandex pants, as though the bike lane is some kind of Easter Parade for Tour de France wannabes named Esteban.

Then again:

When I was a 19-year-old college student, I used to bike 22 miles roundtrip from Albertslund, Denmark, where I lived, to downtown Copenhagen, where the university was, without ever riding on a public street or — get this — even crossing a street with automobiles. In the greater Copenhagen area they have dedicated bike interstates. These roads are about 15 feet wide and they go under and over the automobile roads. So Janette Sadik-Khan went and found the guy that designed that system, gave him a consulting deal, and now they’re finding all these new ways to separate cars from bicycles.

Janette Sadik-Khan, in case you didn’t recognize the name, is currently the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation of the City of New York, or, as the New York Post’s Andrea Peyser calls her, “the psycho bike lady.”

The way I see it, even if you buy P. J. O’Rourke’s denunciation of the bicycle as “the perfect way to go nowhere while carrying nothing,” shouldn’t you want those cyclists routed somewhere out of your way?

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Meanwhile in Rumbek

A report from the scene in South Sudan, dated just before independence:

The national anthem of South Sudan is everywhere, on the radio when I wake up in the morning, on the breath of uniformed children on their way to school and set as every other person’s ringtone. I haven’t learnt the words yet, but the boys in the family I am staying with have been studying them dutifully for the last week so I think that base is covered. In the afternoon you cannot move in town for all the groups of school children.

Rumbek was the original administrative center of South Sudan; the government was later moved to Juba, which now serves as the capital of the independent Republic of South Sudan.

And this is the national anthem:

I think. There are several different versions up on YouTube, suggesting that the words have been rewritten several times. The song, to coin a phrase, remains the same.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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Sheer and sheer alike

Boston Globe columnist Beth Teitell, musing about the Duchess of Cambridge’s wardrobe selections of late, finds herself questioning the wisdom of fashionistas:

Kate, Duchess of CambridgeThere she was getting off a Royal Canadian Air Force plane in Canada, looking polished in a navy lace overlay dress, a coordinating clutch — and sheer hose. And there she was greeting adoring fans in Ottawa, looking lovely in a cream dress from Reiss, red shoes — and sheer hose. OK, I know she’s traveling with her hairdresser and spends more on a single clutch than I do on my entire handbag wardrobe, but I found myself thinking that maybe if I just wore stockings things would happen for me, too.

Blasphemy! I hear you cry. And yet:

American women understandably rejoiced when the fashion gods freed us from stockings, but it turns out that the only thing worse than being forced to wear stockings in summer is not being allowed to wear stockings in summer.

Then again, it was 110°F in Oklahoma City Saturday. Hosiery of the non-sock variety was nowhere to be seen until well after dark, if then. Meanwhile, the Duchess is simply following protocol.

Jezebel’s Margaret Hartmann observes:

Now I own a few pairs of stockings and like to wear them when faced with blisters, frigid temperatures or particularly clingy dresses. I also tend to break them out for extremely formal affairs, and I’d count any day you’re addressed as “Duchess” as a formal occasion. But I’m not particularly attached to pantyhose. I’m just hoping (probably in vain) that Kate manages to make stockings slightly more acceptable, thus putting an end to the feuding over what leg attire a woman chooses on a given day.

This is the point at which I am required to mention that the usual garb at 42nd and Treadmill is T-shirts and jeans, and that sigh you just heard may represent either relief or frustration. Or both.

(Via Broke & Beautiful, which finds the newsworthiness of it all just slightly risible.)

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As opposed to Cimoc Snas

There now exists a Dyslexia (or Dyslexie) font, intended for better readability by the dyslectics among us. The theory behind it: too many letters look too much alike, and that by introducing distinct variations among similar letters, we can make the text easier to read.

How it works:

(From Quipsologies by way of this Costa Tsiokos tweet.)

Addendum: “The real question is whether there will ever be a cure for Stacy McCain’s Luddism,” says Smitty.

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Surfer dudes pick Big Kahuna

Yes, the very surfer dudes who have hosted this site for about a decade have actually gone out and hired a proper CEO:

DreamHost, a global full-service web hosting company, has selected Simon Anderson as its Chief Executive Officer. Simon is the first person to fill the CEO role in a full-time capacity at DreamHost in the company’s thirteen-year history.

DreamHost co-founder Josh Jones will step down from his interim CEO position to become an advisor to Simon alongside DreamHost’s three other co-founders, Dallas Kashuba, Michael Rodriguez, and Sage Weil, all of whom have given their enthusiastic approval to integrate Simon’s powerful Australian accent and movie-star jawline into the DreamHost workplace.

Said integration may take a little longer than usual:

“Please do not send out this press release,” said Simon when asked for comment. “I’m serious. I may not be your boss until the 11th, but I will remember this.” Raising his voice to be heard among the rising din of laughter from the board Simon then went on to protest, “Seriously guys, this is not something to joke about. I’m here to build the business by seeking out unique partnership opportunities, positioning DreamHost to be a true innovator in the traditional and cloud hosting ecosystems, and exploiting the multitudes of next-gen technology that we’ve got cooking in the DreamHost labs. I simply cannot do that if silly press releases like this make me out to be some kind of superhuman demigod.” Simon was then treated to thunderous applause by all within earshot before placing his head in his hands and resigning himself to the fact that he had, in fact, inherited a business run by lunatics.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, evidently.

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That’s what she said, only not quite

Sunday, Los Angeles Times columnist Patt Morrison complained about the seeming lack of civic spirit exhibited by Zooey Deschanel at BAFTA’s Brits to Watch event on Saturday:

To my friend and former Times colleague Claudia Puig, now the USA Today critic and film writer, Ms. Deschanel worried aloud that the neighborhood around the fabulously restored Belasco Theatre might look shabby to the regal couple. “I just don’t want them to see the worst of L.A.,” said Deschanel.

Excuse me? Downtown, the worst of L.A.?

What, Ms. Deschanel, you don’t have any homeless people there near your Westside home? Or does that not count, because they’re on the beach, not the sidewalks?

Apart from the fact that ZD doesn’t live on the Westside — well, let her speak for herself:

[T]he quote from USA TODAY that you used as the foundation of your piece was taken completely out of context. I NEVER said that Downtown LA was “the worst of LA”. I did make a reference to a parking lot adjacent to the theater that had a lot of trash in it in an attempt to be humorous. I simply said, “It’s funny they brought royalty here, there is a parking lot with trash around the corner.” It wasn’t an opinion. It was true. There was indeed a parking lot with trash around the corner. I thought that the juxtaposition of British Royalty and trash was amusing in a high-brow + low-brow sort of way, but I never said that I, personally, didn’t like downtown, the Royals, or even trash.

Maybe she thought that one particular location in downtown L.A. was the worst: say, around First and Spring.

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Does your garbage misbehave?

This has been on the bottom of OKC utility bills for several years, and it continues to strike me as funny. The bill always ends with the next couple of dates to set out bulk waste — in my neighborhood, it’s the first Wednesday of the month — and then this warning:

Bulk waste set out more than 3 days early may be fined up to $500.

Trust me on this: bulk waste isn’t listening and doesn’t respond well to threats.

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Nor does “dress of color” work

Yet another reason why you can’t trust spearchuckers spellcheckers:

Some multicultural zealot among the editing caste had programmed the computer system’s spell checker to change every use of the word “black” to the more politically-correct “African American.”

Which, naturally enough, immediately resulted in a screwup. The phrase “little black cocktail dress” in a fashion article was changed to “little African-American cocktail dress.”

So as to add some Google juice to this unfortunate turn of phrase, here’s the lovely Kerry Washington in what is not precisely a little African-American cocktail dress:

Kerry Washington in Louis Vuitton

Blazer and feathered skirt by Louis Vuitton. Scene: Essence luncheon in Beverly Hills, February 2009.

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In a head-to-head comparo (one of six) in the August ’11 issue, Car and Driver recommends the Chevrolet Volt over the Lexus CT200h hybrid, and scribe Aaron Robinson demonstrates his mastery of the fine art known as Praising With Faint Damns:

Lord knows, it’s not gorgeous. And the cockpit’s tall, square screens and touch-sensitive buttons look like the designers locked themselves up with a Commodore PET, a Betamax, and the original Tron on loop.

But it’s not often that you get to park pioneering propulsion technology in your garage.

Robinson, that rotter, has now given me the urge to see one of these contraptions for myself, even though I’ve seen the pictures. Then again, how was he to know that I’ve owned several Commodore machines and still have a Betamax and a copy (on laserdisc, yet!) of Tron?

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Fill in the blanks, I suppose

How is Zappos going to get you to notice that they’re now selling other apparel besides shoes? Apparently by showing you someone not wearing it:

Zappos: More Than Shoes

Three ads of this general nature will be appearing in magazines this summer. All feature female models, though we are assured that there will be men appearing in some of Zappos’ Web ads.

There is precedent of a sort for this: at least a decade ago, Abercrombie & Fitch’s catalog showed a lot of their clothes not being worn by their models.

(Via this nudiarist tweet.)

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How far we have fallen

Or, more precisely, how far we have refused to raise ourselves in recent times:

We used to have an SST. No more. We revolutionized astronomy with the Hubble. Its replacement, the Webb, has been cancelled. We used to visit the vacuum of perpetual night in a spacecraft straight out of Amazing Stories — and the last one will shortly make its last flight. The International Space Station is scheduled for “deorbiting” in the next ten years. There is no plan to replace it. Humanity, which once crossed oceans in hilariously tiny boats, has turned inward, and instead of reaching for the stars, now stares morosely at the ground, its shoulders bent in a shrug of despair. No more vision, no more courage, no more faith in our own destiny.

Yeah, but look! We have twirly light bulbs!

How this happened, says commenter “drobviousso” at Daily Pundit:

Sometime, something great happens. The moon landing. The atomic bomb. Even the interstate highway system were all great advancements brought to you [by] Uncle Sam (apple pie not included).

But then Uncle Sam gets complacent. We haven’t had an infrastructure improvement worth noting in my entire lifetime. NIMBYism is keeping our cleanest, cheapest source of energy out of reach. And we are retiring a shuttle that came out the same year as the Fleetwood V-8-6-4, with nothing to replace it.

These days, even our apple pie is fake.

Addendum: Andrea Harris notes:

Perhaps science fiction is to blame. As long as outer space shows us a pretty but empty face, we’ll be content with using our imagination to populate the stars while we stay right here on Earth. In space no one can hear your sigh of disappointment.

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Thinning the basic repertoire

Bryan Townsend, on the seemingly-irreversible decline of classical music in contemporary culture:

[A] lot of people, through lack of exposure, or from too much exposure to the ear-deadening horrors of most popular music, simply cannot appreciate classical music. This is ok, much like the monasteries in the dark ages of Europe, we few will preserve the essence of civilization during our dark ages. One day there will come a Renaissance. In the meantime, the power and essence of classical music will become purified and concentrated. Do you know why we only have seven plays by Aeschylus and seven by Sophocles? They wrote many more. But the scholars, grammarians and monks of Byzantium and the monasteries copied and preserved only those works chosen as being the best. They did this for more than a thousand years…

Still, that makes 3011 look awfully grim:

I sincerely hope that it won’t be that long before classical music comes back into its own. But who knows? I can just see a blogger of the far future saying “do you know why we only have seven symphonies by Haydn and seven by Mozart and seven by Beethoven?”

I don’t expect things to get quite that bad. For one thing, for us to lose a whole lot of Mozart, for instance, we’d pretty much have to lose Köchel’s catalog too, and I have to believe there’d be enough Persistent Completists out there who’d wonder about all those missing numbers once K. 626 (the Requiem in D minor) turned up somewhere. This phenomenon already exists in pop music: there are the so-called Whitburn collectors, who seek to own every record that ever charted, based on Joel Whitburn’s Record Research series, and a lot of otherwise-unavailable source material is keyed to Whitburn’s index, which has conveniently (for users, if not for Billboard, which licensed Whitburn’s work) been converted to spreadsheet format.

And besides, the correct number of symphonies to have is nine.

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You can’t make me

WordPress Head of Bug Creation (says so right here) Matt Mullenweg crows a little bit, and who can blame him?

As noted on TNW and Adweek, yesterday [10 July] we passed over 50,000,000 websites, blogs, portfolios, stores, pet projects, and of course cat websites powered by WordPress.

On the stats page Mullenweg quotes there’s this parenthetical note: “we host about half.”

Now comes this announcement for the other half:

After more than a million downloads of WordPress 3.2, we’re now releasing WordPress 3.2.1 into the wild.

Do the math. This is an admission, albeit oblique, that close to 24 million WordPress users are still using versions prior to 3.2.

No wonder they nag you in the Dashboard. (Unless, of course, you’re using a really old version which lacks the nag feature.)

Disclosure: I installed 3.2.1 last night.

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Blue screen of defecation

News Item: Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft who has morphed into the world’s best-known philanthropist, wants to reinvent the toilet.

Top Ten ways a Bill Gates-designed toilet would be different:

  1. Occasionally crashes for no discernible reason
  2. Every week it seems a little heavier
  3. Changing the flapper requires remote reactivation
  4. On Tuesday night you have to flush at least twice whether you used it or not
  5. You can use a third-party handle, but you have to leave the original one in place
  6. After several years plumbers will refuse to work on it
  7. Steve Jobs will rush out an iJohn for twice the price
  8. Confusion about the term “American Standard”
  9. Can’t remember the most recent seat position
  10. You never know what’s downloading

(Inspired by SteveF at Daily Pundit.)

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It’s not like they were condemned to the streets

A little-known provision of the previous collective-bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players will provide some money to the players during the lockout:

The escrow funds — representing eight percent of each NBA player’s salary — are held back each season to ensure that the players’ share of basketball-related income does not exceed the contractually agreed-upon percentage, currently 57 percent. This year, for the first time since the system was introduced in the collective bargaining agreement that came out of the 1998-99 lockout, the cut to players will fall short, sources with the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association confirmed.

When a final audit is completed later this month, the players will have been paid less than 57 percent of BRI and will be due the entire $160 million. It’s the first time the players will have the full escrow returned, a union spokesman said.

The owners, of course, hope to have that percentage adjusted downward in the next CBA. In the meantime, Serge Ibaka, one of the lower-paid Thundermen, will be getting a check for 0.08 x 1204200 = $96,336. Less taxes, of course.

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Oh, I just remembered

Memory jogMargate is in the northern portion of Broward County, Florida, so we can safely assume that had this been a Fark item (which it may have been; I didn’t go searching the Farkives), it would have had a FLORIDA tag. As to which of the two is actually dumber, I’d have to say that the scale is probably not reliable at the far end, and it’s a pretty safe bet that both of these characters belong at that end, to the extent that they belong anywhere at all — except, of course, that they clearly belong in Florida, which remains the only state to have its own Fark tag.

A perfunctory Google search of “sex with one’s ex” produces, um, “about 69 results.” I think I’m just going to leave it at that.

(A Criggo special served up by Miss Cellania.)

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There’s something about Ronald

This goes back at least as far as 2006, maybe earlier, but there’s still something offputting, even coulrophobia-inducing, about it:

(Seen at Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

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We need an Abhor button

I know there are lots of you who won’t get near Facebook, and this will definitely not talk you into it:

Facebook, with all its users, its clunky user interfaces, questionable privacy settings that are buried and default to “here, take my social security number”, people making pages for things like “I eat Cheerios with vinegar while wearing wool socks on the veranda” and then having 12,000 people “like” it…

The word “like” has never come to mean so little. I’m looking for the word “loathe.”

Inasmuch as I have stuck my name on The Official Petition to Establish “Hella” as the SI Prefix for 1027, I probably shouldn’t say a word here.

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Hammer time

Mike Hammer, that is. Murrells Inlet, on the South Carolina coast, is putting up signage on US 17 Business, proclaiming it the Mickey Spillane 17 Waterfront Highway.

This was Spillane’s last home: he’d flown over the Grand Strand as an Army Air Corps pilot in World War II, and vowed that he’d live there some day.

The Mickey, as it’s inevitably going to be called, runs for three miles along the coast, leaving Georgetown County at Garden City, near the projected terminus for an eventual extension (like when hell freezes over) of Interstate 74.

(Via Fishersville Mike.)

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You gotta keep ’em separated

ConocoPhillips, the fusion of Continental Oil and Phillips Petroleum, is about to de-fuse:

ConocoPhillips, the nation’s third-largest oil company, said Thursday that it will split itself into two separate publicly traded companies and its CEO and Chairman Jim Mulva plans to retire once the transaction is complete.

This particular act of mitosis will yield a refining/marketing company and a production/exploration company as its offspring.

No successors have been named for Jim Mulva, but I’m expecting someone named Celeste or Dolores to be on the candidate list.

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Meanwhile at 1900 MHz

I’ve never owned a Windows-based phone, but I imagine that when they die, they die in a manner similarly to the way my Nokia did: white power-up screen, then fade to black, then back to white, then back to black, repeat once more, and then assumption of paperweight status.

So I was in the T-Mo store yesterday afternoon, exploring options, of which I had basically one and a half: get a new phone, and do I want a new contract or not?

“It’ll be at least eighteen months,” I said to the clerk, “before the Death Star takes over.”

He nodded sadly. “I am not looking forward to that.”

So I have a shiny new LG flipper, which if anything is a step down from the old one: there’s no place for a MicroSD card, so people will be spared my “Friday” ringtone. (For now.) To the Big T’s credit, they didn’t segregate the Phones For Cheap Bastards: this one was right in the middle of the display. And I apparently had had the foresight to copy most of my contacts to the SIM card, because I lost only a handful. And my contract goes into its eleventh and twelfth years, because these people have yet to shaft me for anything substantial, which is practically unheard of in the wireless business.

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Quote of the week

Lynn has figured out a way to deal with our reprehensibles representatives in these trying times:

[A] mob of angry Americans barricades all the exits of the House and Senate chambers and refuses to let our lawmakers leave until they come to an agreement on the current debt problem. We not only do not allow them to leave, we do not allow them to have anything to eat nor anything to drink but tap water. Bathroom visits? Absolutely not. This shouldn’t take more than a few hours and besides, I imagine that peeing one’s pants would be a very humbling experience and nobody needs humbling more than the members of Congress.

I dunno. Some of those guys may have learned to filibuster from the likes of Strom Thurmond, who probably could have gotten into Guinness if they’d had a category for Bladder Control, Greatest.

And besides, once they realized they weren’t going anywhere, the first thing they’d do would be to kill the C-Span feed, so we couldn’t enjoy their discomfiture.

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