1 December 2005
Former State Representative Bill Graves (R-Dystopia) says he'll run for the 5th District Congressional seat being vacated by Ernest Istook, who's seeking the Governor's job.
In a state where we often find ourselves trying to explain that not every conservative Christian is a loony theocrat who wants to stick Jesus in your ear and any other inconvenient orifice, we try to avoid mentioning Graves, who, though he didn't invent that stereotype, works as hard as anyone on earth to earn it.
Proximity to Graves is probably harmful to one's higher brain functions; fortunately, I don't live in his district, and he'll be term-limited into oblivion soon enough.
Also fortunately, Graves doesn't have much of a base outside of a small gaggle of witch-burners and such, and there are already three GOP candidates in the race, none of whom he's likely to be able to beat in the primary; still, now that I am in District 5, it behooves me to help keep the ballot clean of embarrassments. (I have never, for instance, voted for Istook.)
Just shut up and sign, okay?
This is not good:
A person went to the [Tulsa] post office and a petition was presented for he/she to sign. The top petition page was for the TABOR (Tax Payer Bill of Rights) and all indications were that was the petition being signed. HOWEVER, THE ACTUAL PETITION WAS FOR THE COUNCILOR AT LARGE PROPOSAL. That, folks, is lower in life forms than dung beetles. So, if you are asked to sign a petition, just refuse unless you read everything completely and know for a fact exactly what you are signing.
In fairness to dung beetles, they never really had a choice in the matter.
Unlike these guys:
Title 34, Oklahoma Statute 3.1, says signature collectors must be citizens of the State of Oklahoma. Violations of that statute can be fined $1000.00 plus 1 year in jail for each offense. Two of the signature gatherers were from out of state and ran away when asked to provide identification.
A TABOR petition came through here the other day; I ignored it. I'm thinking maybe I should have looked it over after all.
Voting has yet to begin in the 2005 Weblog Awards
On the other hand, Beth has proposed Badblog Awards for this year, and I suspect that the decisions to be made won't be quite so difficult.
(Disclosure: I was nominated for one of the WAs; the list of finalists has not been posted, but I have no reason to think I might have made it to the finals.)
(Found at the Cotillion Ball.)
Update, 4 December: It appears I spoke too soon.
As the GOP establishes itself as the Party of Big Government (the Democrats remain the Party of Frickin' Huge Government), the lines are starting to blur, so this makes a certain amount of sense:
I'm beginning to think perhaps we need to get rid of the label Democrat and Republican. Those terms seem to mean less and less as time moves forward.
In a sort-of "truth in advertising" policy, we would have two political parties: The "Mama-Knows-Best" party and the "Just-Cut-Your-Damn-Hair-And-Get-A-Job" party.
The MKB would wrap each voter in a loving cocoon of security and safety. Well, it must be safe and secure cause you can't see outside the cocoon to see what is going on. In the MKB-led country, you would never need to worry about having to make those painful decisions about finance and religion. Of course, it is a very expensive cocoon, but you really shouldn't worry your little plebeian head about that.
The JCYDHAGAJ party wouldn't pay for much and wants you out of the house pretty quick. Cause they're tired of your lazy ass hanging around all day while they're out working their fingers to the bone. Life can be brutal and tough in the JCYDHAGAJ-led country, but, strangely enough, the country as a whole seems to get more done than the MKB-led country.
Incidentally, these descriptions don't necessarily correspond to our existing party alignments:
The Christian Right? MKB. Most leftists and statists? MKB.
Libertarians and small government Republicans? JCYDHAGAJ. Old School Democrats (Zell Miller)? JCYDHAGAJ.
I surmise some elements of the Christian right will object to putting Mama in charge after all, that's Dad's job, isn't it? but there's plenty of time to fine-tune the titles before the bumper stickers get printed.
Oklahoma winds can blow in any direction, but the vector you're most likely to experience is the one that deposits the maximum amount of debris on your premises.
One of the Lower Superiors/Higher Peons [choose one] wandered by yesterday with a paycheck he'd spotted near the front door to the Treadmill Avenue entrance. Not one of ours, no; this bore the name of one of the big restaurant chains, and was made payable to a chap in Edmond, who apparently had scribbled something resembling his name in the usual space for endorsements.
The L. S./H. P. noted that he'd informed the local manager, and that they'd told him that it was definitely a counterfeit. I'm guessing that the chap presented it for cash somewhere down the road, and the clerk refused to accept it, probably because the signature was imprinted in the same font as the rest of the document: computerized payroll checks tend to have images of actual signatures. So the perp discarded the evidence he probably didn't literally toss it to the four winds, but they got it anyway and, one assumes, moved on.
I looked it over, and spotted one other flaw: they'd gotten the hidden watermark correct, but the obligatory reference to it on the front managed to misspell "watermark," which didn't help. And for the sheer hell of it, I sent the address of the "employee" to a USPS database, which informed me that such address did not exist.
In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor incident at best, but it's always rewarding to see the Bad Guys lose one.
Along came Jones
You might remember this:
You talk too much
You worry me to death
You talk too much
You even worry my pet
Joe Jones, born in New Orleans in 1926, once claimed to have been the first black petty officer in the Navy. I don't know about that, but after WWII, he formed his own band in the Crescent City, which lasted until B. B. King came to town and hired Jones to be part of his band and eventually assistant bandleader.
King and Jones went their separate ways about the time Jones put out his first single, "Adam Bit the Apple," a remake of an old jump blues by Big Joe Turner. Released by Capitol in 1954, it went nowhere, but Jones kept busy with session work. Sylvia Vanderpool got him a deal with Roulette, which led to "You Talk Too Much" in 1960, produced by New Orleans legend Harold Battiste. As Roulette 4304, it hit #3 on the pop charts; reportedly, there were two other versions in the can that Joe recorded for other labels, and inevitably, there was a cover version, by Frankie ("Sea Cruise") Ford.
Like many recording acts, Joe Jones made a lot of money for his label and not a lot for himself. He also made a lot of money for Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller and George Goldner, owners of the Red Bird label, by bringing to them a New Orleans girl group called the Dixie Cups, who had several huge hits in the middle 1960s. Eventually Jones settled in Los Angeles, opened a music-publishing house, and vowed to do right by his writers; he also assisted other R&B performers who had made hits but no money, by helping them recoup the rights to their material.
Joe Jones is gone now a quadruple bypass proved too much for the man.
(Jones' other chart single, from 1961, was the original version of "California Sun", later a pounding surf hit for the Rivieras.)
2 December 2005
Empty the ashtray while you're at it
Having a radio/CD player in your car has adverse effects on fuel economy, says Diane, and upon reading the first line, I reasoned it out: well, there is that small increment of additional weight, and if you open the windows to inflict your miserable taste in music on the rest of the world, you do serious damage to your aerodynamics. (People with good musical taste don't blast it across two lanes for some reason.)
But no, it's nothing so complex:
I found myself this morning driving around the block so I could listen to the end of the song that was playing on the radio.
You know, if this gets around, it could kill off NPR's Driveway Moments altogether.
Mrs Frisby nods from the corner
Lindsay Beyerstein defends one of the less-highly-regarded species:
[A]s a New Yorker, I know that affection for rats is an important step towards accepting the world as it is. These little guys kick ass. They're smart and they're tough and nobody wants to eat them. We should all be so lucky.
For some reason, this kicked off an earworm: "Rats in My Room," a bizarre little number made famous by Leona Anderson on Ernie Kovacs' TV show and subsequently recorded by outfits ranging from NRBQ to King Uszniewicz and His Uszniewicz-Tones.
(Actually, the reason was probably as simple as this: how often do I get to mention King Uszniewicz and His Uszniewicz-Tones?)
You need not wonder why
No time left for more-extensive blogging, says Dan Paden:
I marvel at bloggers who can do all this and still keep up with a seemingly endless list of blogs. They are either way smarter than I am (always a possibility!), or way more caffeinated than I am (not likely!), or they are neglecting something they shouldn't. Sleep, perhaps.
D. I have vastly greater experience with high-speed reading than I do with, say, RSS feed aggregators.
However, I don't claim to be keeping up; I'm content to keep from falling behind any further. (I would like to be able to work on the 26-hour Bajoran day, which is actually more compatible with my circadian rhythms than the 24-hour version prevailing here on Sol III, though 28 might be pushing it.)
What brought this on, anyway?
What got me started on this post was an attitude I've perceived possibly mistakenly on the part of some bloggers lately, much to the effect that if they encountered error, a particular sort of error, in the blogosphere, they were obligated in some fashion to try to correct it, or at least to respond to it.
I assure Mr Paden that he is not mistaken. (Which is, of course, why I am posting this: to try to correct it, or at least to respond to it.)
Actually, there is a smattering of folks out there just waiting with a Gotcha! the moment you do one of the following:
Sharp-eyed observers of human behavior, even some of the more myopic ones, will immediately notice that this pattern existed long before blogging, and will no doubt persist long beyond the time when they finally drain the fluid from the jar containing Glenn Reynolds' preserved brain.
But the basic question remains:
So how do you determine what things to blog about? Well, I can't speak for others, but I either blog about what's on my mind right now, or I blog on things that I think will be useful or interesting to the very small circle of readers I have. And even though it sometimes chaps my hide and frosts my soul to do so, I just don't fool with anything else. I ain't got the time.
Remind me to pick up a can of that soul frosting at the supermarket.
Actually, I think this is true of all of us. Nobody writes about everything; we have to pare it down somewhere. If there's a role model here, it's Joe Miller, who boiled his reportorial mission down to four words: "I cover the waterfront."
We're talking history here
I know zilch (well, this much) about this group, but this photo of them was apparently the first photo ever published on the World Wide Web.
And you thought I was an old-timer.
Mister Snitch on Maureen Dowd, as found at skippy the bush kangaroo:
[A]ll I see are issues, issues, issues. And big feet. She portrays herself as a litmus test a good man will want her, a fool will fail to appreciate her. What she fails to address is that a good man will simply see that there are countless far better options available to him.
Of course, "big feet" can mean only one thing for a woman: larger-than-average shoes.
(And skippy wasn't exactly kind to her, either; if you're a confirmed Dowdophobe, or even if you're not, read the original post.)
Such a deal, I tell you
I usually send the junk mail to the nearest trash bag if it's a credit-card solicitation or something similar I do some physical damage to it first but this one, with "Second Request" in its own envelope window, looked like a promising prospect for mockery.
Your current mortgage of [fairly accurate estimate of amount owing] on your property located at [address redacted] may be at risk of prime rate increases that could be devastating to your bottom line.
Example: With a first mortgage of [fairly accurate estimate of amount owing] and revolving debt up to [fairly accurate estimate of amount owing], you could have one new low monthly payment of [utterly implausible figure]. This is an adjustable rate mortgage, but you don't have to worry.
That turnip truck that just rounded the corner? Someone may have fallen off of it, but not I.
We got your hypertension right here
A full house at the Ford got to witness some scary stuff tonight. At one point in the second quarter, the Hornets led the 76ers by fourteen points; at the end of the third quarter, the Sixers were up by one.
It wound up Hornets 88, Sixers 86, with Allen Iverson missing a three-pointer right before the buzzer. These Bees are going to give me a coronary, I swear. (Iverson snagged 34 points anyway.) Now 8-7, the Hornets will head out on a two-game road trip against division opponents (Dallas Saturday, Memphis on Tuesday) before returning next Wednesday to take on the Celtics.
3 December 2005
Fatuous Flashback 10
Recession? Well, it's not, polls notwithstanding, but if there were, I suppose they could try to blame me:
[T]he one person you cannot escape is the marketer. So long as you are perceived as having cash, or exploitable amounts of credit, you're a target. What you have is never good enough. You've got to keep up with the Joneses.
Personally, I always thought it would be much more fun, not to mention a lot less expensive, to drag the Joneses down to my level. Of course, they don't want to go. It flies in the face of everything they've been taught. Those who don't do their part to keep the economic machine humming are viewed as cranks or curmudgeons or communists.
(From Vent #80, 7 December 1997.)
Changes coming at the Brick
Baseball's Winter Meetings start Monday in Dallas, and lots of deals will be made, but a few things have already happened that are pertinent to the RedHawks.
For one thing, Bobby Jones, who has managed the 'Hawks for the last four years, will be joining the parent Texas Rangers as first-base coach; his replacement is Tim Ireland, who has managed the Rangers' Double-A clubs and whose teams made the playoffs seven out of twelve years.
There's also a new pitching coach at the Brick: Andy Hawkins, who pitched for ten seasons in the majors. His lifetime record is an indifferent 84-91, but he's remembered for two accomplishments, one significant, one, um, less so.
The Tigers beat the Padres 4-1 in the 1984 World Series; Hawkins, in relief, got the win for San Diego, the only Series game the Padres have ever won.
In 1990 at Comiskey, Hawkins, starting for the Yankees, pitched seven innings of no-hit ball. In the eighth, he retired the first two batters, but then things started to go to hell:
Scoreless through seven and a half, it was now White Sox 4, Yankees 0, and Hawkins still hadn't given up a hit. When the Bronx Bombers bombed out in the top of the ninth, that was the final; Hawkins got the loss despite having pitched a legitimate no-hitter. (It was later de-legitimized by a redefinition of "no-hitter" by the Gods of Baseball.)
Last year's RedHawks had the best record 80-63 in the Pacific Coast League; however, they lost in the first round of playoffs to Nashville, who in turn was beaten by Sacramento for the league championship.
More reliable than wrinkles
David Gillies explains:
You know you're getting old when it's 9.30 and instead of chatting to the amazingly cute girl next to you you're thinking, "if I finish up this beer I can be in bed by ten."
And worse, the idea of being in bed with the aforementioned amazingly cute girl doesn't even occur to you.
Some assembly required
Cue Neil Young:
My life is changing in so many ways
I don't know who to trust anymore
There's a shadow running thru my days
Like a beggar going from door to door.
I was thinking that maybe I'd get a maid
There are people who to this day believe Neil Young was some sort of male chauvinist pig for writing this song, mostly because they focus on that second verse without paying any attention to the first. In context, it's clearly more sorrowful than sexist, even allowing for the fact that Neil would sound mournful singing the likes of "Walking on Sunshine," but even if a W-2 form is involved, it's still the master/servant dynamic, and therefore, in our "enlightened" age, it must be horribly wrong. (Call me when Hollywood leftists start taking out their own trash.)
On the other hand, no one, myself included, is going to complain about this idle musing of Laura's:
[I]t's time for science to invent a robot. I'm thinking a cute guy, who looks about my age, slim, wears western attire, knows horses, is loving, warm, good in bed, knows how to listen, can cook, etc.... He would know how to snuggle, wouldn't mind helping with housework, and doesn't ever get depressed or angry.
Then, on those days I feel the need to be alone, I could turn him off.
I'm willing to bet, though, that were I to express a desire for a girlbot of comparable complexity and capacities, I'd catch all kinds of hell.
Addendum, 4 December: I found this on a LiveJournal:
Problems usually arise when one party to union mangles definitions: when husband (lover/living partner) expect his counterpart in love / cohabitation to perform service jobs unpaid, as part of "good wife / child rearer / soulmate" character. Part of Victorian atavism: a provider husband and housekeeping wife. Again, an honest arrangement, basically a barter of skills.
Too often, however, despite realities of contemporary life, when both partners work outside of home, only one party is expected and not only in her partner's eyes to do a second shift as cleaner / cook / decorator / nanny / tutor etc. I heard someone who express her dissatisfaction with this extra unpaid work load to be called "unkind" and even "unfeminine" by her long-time partner.
Of course, different people come to different domestic arrangements; attitude-wise I find one example to be ideal: Lileks family.
When I was married, things weren't precisely egalitarian, but my cooking and accounting skills were inferior to hers, so I assumed more responsibility for cleaning and laundry, at which I was reasonably competent.
I think both of us would have appreciated some mechanical assistance.
One down, were it true
From Crawford and Cutler's Shackle Report, this possibly-apocryphal story:
With release of her book Are Men Necessary? and its companion article in The New York Times Magazine, witticist Maureen Dowd obliterated any sign of her rival, blogster Arianna Huffington, last month.
Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., the publisher of the Times, who answers to the name of Pinch, said, "There is, as you know, room in America for only one woman pundit at a time, and our sources, who declined to be identified due to their being me, determined that it should be our woman pundit, even though none of us want to marry her."
Not that anyone's having any problems mocking Arianna. Or, for that matter, MoDo.
They said it wouldn't last
And it didn't. The Hornets scored exactly zero in the first three and a half minutes in Dallas, and while they managed to squeak to within one point in the third quarter, they never got the lead, and the Mavericks pulled away at the end, 97-88.
Dirk Nowitzki poured in 30, twenty-two in the second half, to power that fourth-quarter run. Chris Paul had a good night 25 points and six rebounds and Speedy Claxton scored 21 from off the bench, but it wasn't enough.
The Bees, now 8-8, head next for Memphis, who likely won't be any easier than the Mavs, who improved to 11-5.
4 December 2005
Scratching off Christmas
You'd think this would be innocuous enough, even secular enough for anyone at this time of year. You would, however, be wrong:
The teachers and their students came up with the theme of the gift of education money from the lottery. The teachers gathered discarded, cancelled lottery tickets from convenience stores. The kids cut ornaments from the discarded tickets and even folded and cut some of the tickets into three-dimensional mathematical shapes. They cut the top tree star out of a lottery poster. Ping pong balls with numbers carefully written to mimic the big lottery drawing balls were strung together with twine and bows to complete the decoration. After school on Wednesday, the church across the street provided vans to take the kids up to the State Capitol to decorate the tree allocated for our school.
The Capitol was abuzz with excitement as children from schools from all over the state decorated their trees as we decorated ours. The Governor and his wife went from tree to tree and posed with the students from the different schools. Our children excitedly gathered around the Governor, the Mrs. and Santa Claus to get their pictures taken. We were so proud of our tree and our creative theme.
Then not all hell, but a significant fraction thereof, broke loose:
[A radio] reporter accused us of having our children sell lottery tickets. We were accused of an inappropriate display to publicize the lottery. We were accused of a lot of heinous things. What had started out as a clever idea turned out to be a sinister plot to undermine the morality of our culture.
When our annual event was over that afternoon, I called the state representative whom the radio station (and subsequently the television station) told us had called them about the tree. I apologized to him for having caused such heart burn. I explained that we had no intention of making a political statement and would gladly remove the tree. I did not wish this nastiness to besmirch our children or embarrass our Governor who had allowed the children of our state to decorate Capitol Christmas trees. I hope our controversy will not ruin this event for all the children and schools.
I am no great fan of the lottery, and have spent the sum of $0 on tickets thus far. But I am even less enthusiastic about the idea of disillusioning fifth-graders for the sake of an irrelevant political point, and I do mean irrelevant; the lottery was voted on and passed and is now part of the law, there is no organized opposition to it and this would be one spectacularly stupid way to start one. What's next? County option?
It is an axiom of American politics that those who most loudly proclaim the need to protect the children from one thing or another are invariably those who are most willing to use those children as political pawns. And we wonder why we're raising a generation of cynics.
Addendum, 5 December: AP wire story on this incident.
Addendum, 7 December: Follow-up.
A presumption of sleaze
The Republican Party would like you to know that it, unlike its major competitor, doesn't round up felons or people from some other jurisdiction or the deceased on election day.
They would also like you to think that they, the Grand Old Party, are above such things. An example:
Attorneys for an accused conspirator in a 2002 Republican phone-jamming scandal want no suggestions made in an upcoming trial that the Republican National Committee or its U.S. Senate campaign affiliate paid for the illegal operation.
The request for special jury instructions to that effect and for deletions on certain documents was made yesterday by the RNC-paid lawyers for former RNC official James Tobin.
Which you might think is odd, since prosecutors weren't planning to suggest that:
[U.S. District Court Judge Steven J.] McAuliffe said that undisputed evidence shows a $15,600 check to pay for hundreds of hang-up calls to Democratic and union get-out-the-vote phone banks on election day morning, 2002, was drawn on the New Hampshire Republican State Committee's war chest.
Andrew Levchuck, the justice department prosecutor, said the RNC and NRSC contributed about $200,000 to the state committee prior to the election, but said he intends to present no evidence suggesting any of it was for the express purpose of funding the phone jam.
McAuliffe wanted to know why, then, Tobin's attorneys were concerned about it.
You know, it might just have something to do with the fact that the RNC has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Tobin's defense so far.
If this is taking the moral high road, I'd hate to see the back-alleys.
(Via Jay Tea.)
Update, 16 December: Tobin is convicted on two of the three charges.
Go ahead and bid, we don't care
Last month I noted that it seemed odd that Tulsa would select the same management company for its arena and convention center SMG that is used by Oklahoma City. At the time, I said that "having the four largest venues in the state under a single management strikes me as at least potentially counterproductive." An addendum, courtesy of Chris Medlock of the Tulsa City Council, suggested that productivity, at least to the Tulsa power structure, is secondary to the peddling of influence.
And Medlock was right: the bidding process was rigged, and the fix was in from the very beginning.
When you use your public office for personal gain, you're supposed to go through the motions of making it look like you have the best interests of your constituents at heart. This is covered in the very first week of Graft 101; apparently Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune was absent that day.
I swear (ka-ching!)
McGehee is one of those people who throws a quarter in the cuss jar whenever he utters something that lands on the far side of acceptable vernacular.
McGehee, of course, is a private citizen. When the government establishes a cuss jar, it costs a lot more than twenty-five cents:
Bad words are costing Hartford (CT) Public and Bulkeley high schoolers $103 each.
Police officers assigned to the schools have fined about two dozen students for cursing in a new program to curtail unruly behavior. The joint effort by school and police officials targets students who swear while defying teachers and administrators.
Eric Berlin notes:
When the police are involved in the day-to-day workings of your school, that's probably not a good sign.
I'm curious as to how they determined the amount of the, um, contribution, which is 412 times as much as is assessed chez McGehee, an amount I have no reason to believe is unusually low. Proportionately, the Hartford action is actually more costly than war procurement: not even Halliburton in all its splendor could get away with charging $3,708 for a nine-dollar hammer.
SMS to me
My cell phone qualifies as ancient on the contemporary scale, and that's fine with me; it's all I need. It even does text messages, which is probably more than I need:
Personally, I think the Blackberry is the second-silliest handheld communication idea ever, behind only cell-phone text messaging. ("If only there was some way I could use this cell phone to get a message to my friend, who also has a cell phone." The very first text message I ever saw someone send? "Call Me." I am not kidding.)
Remember, folks: Email is only one third of the Computing Triad. Until a gizmo can also handle games and porn, it won't catch on.
The next step, I suppose, is to be able to place calls via the iPod Video. (I don't have one of those either.)
My phony phortune
It had been a week since I'd slid into BlogShares, and it took me a while to realize what had happened.
Call it "Black Friday," because that's when it took place. The Game Gods decided that with top players' war chests up in the quadrillions, there was no chance of any mere mortals ascending the heights, and besides, the Ideas Commodities were overpriced. And so it came to pass that the currency crashed and burned, and B$10,000 old became B$1 new. Existing stock holdings remained intact, but the bottom dropped out of purely-speculative ventures.
Not everyone was happy with the change, and I admit to being taken aback when I saw that my B$2 trillion had perforce dropped to B$200 million, but inasmuch as everyone got the same treatment, and if there had been clues telegraphed about it I didn't log on often enough to catch them, I'm not about to complain. Besides, it's had the salutary effect of dragging me to the site more often to try to rebuild my holdings, which may have been the whole idea in the first place.
To my utter amazement, I'm up for one of those gosh-darn Weblog Awards, in the 1001-1750 (via TTLB) category.
What I find most amusing about this, apart from (1) being nominated in the first place and (2) actually getting to the finals, is the fact that N. Z. Bear tweaked the Ecosystem shortly after the Awards guys looked up all these numbers, and as a result some of the nominees in this category no longer fit into this category; in fact, of the first four I looked at besides my own, three had moved either up or down far enough to escape this range entirely.
Not that this matters, particularly. You have to have some arbitrary benchmark, and as long as it's consistently applied throughout, I have no complaint.
As always with these things, I urge you to read as many of the nominees as possible before casting your votes. (Warning: The voting system assumes you have Macromedia Flash 7 or higher.)
5 December 2005
Testing my Flux capacitor
Before I look into the future, though, I must reconcile two conflicting visions thereof, both of which emanate from legitimate visionaries. (Placement is by time posted, earlier first.)
There's this one:
Aeon Flux, starring Charlize Theron and Marton Csokas, based on the dark, chaotic animated fantasies of Peter Chung, is a great movie.
And there's this one:
If nothing else (and there won't be) Aeon Flux will have the distinction of being the worst movie this year to star two Best Actress Academy Award winners.
Theoretically, I suppose, these two possibilities need not be mutually exclusive, but in the Real World", in which Sturgeon's Law governs all sort-of-artistic endeavors, I suspect that at least one of these observations may be, if not incorrect, certainly inconsistent with my own findings.
Which I will eventually have to find, of course, if only out of an excessive fondness for Charlize Theron.
Some of us can read
Of the 69 American cities with populations of 250,000 or more, Oklahoma City is, says this survey, the 38th most literate. (Seattle is at the top; Stockton, California, the bottom.)
Components of this scale:
A fairly middling showing, except for the Net-usage level, a new consideration for this year's survey, and given some of what's on the Net, I'd wonder if that criterion should be given so much weight. Incidentally, we pulled 49th last year in Libraries, which indicates either some substantial gains or a major tweak in the methodology.
Tulsa, which made Top 15 in both Educational Level and Libraries, scored 24th overall, tied with Tampa; their worst showing, which will surprise no one who has read this, is in Newspaper Circulation 48th, tied with Wichita.
Compared with last year, Oklahoma City is up one notch, despite the poor Net showing, and Tulsa is down three.
Let there be talking points
Virginia Postrel muses on her book sales:
Lately, I've been fretting over The Substance of Style's respectable but unspectacular sales (roughly 18,000 copies in hardback, now out of print, and 12,000 copies so far in paperback). One problem seems to be that, while the book has enthusiastic fans, it has gotten minimal word of mouth. Why? Professor Postrel's cheery explanation: "The people who like your stuff don't have any friends."
Maybe my friends don't read the stuff I do. I did mention the book here a couple of years ago, though as an arbiter of contemporary culture I rank somewhere below Heckle and/or Jeckle and presumably don't have a whole lot of clout in the marketplace.
Then again, it could be a simpler issue. From the very same paragraph I quoted in that 2003 post:
People have always decorated their homes. But the aesthetic quality and variety of home interiors have increased dramatically. Furnishings once reserved for rich aficionados are now the stuff of middle-class life.
Given present-day Big Media insistence that the gap between rich and poor is an ever-widening chasm, and that we're teetering on the brink of economic collapse, it's likely not in their best interest to acknowledge that the lifestyles of the nonrich and unfamous not only don't actually suck but might conceivably be improving.
Perhaps more than the turf is artificial
In NFL Week 12, the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-7, and Steelers sources are claiming that the Colts amplified the crowd noise in the RCA Dome and fed it back through the Dome's PA system during Steeler possessions, making it difficult for Pittsburgh players to hear the count and contributing to a number of false-start penalties.
Ed Bouchette, who writes the "Steelers Insider" column for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, elaborates:
The Colts were pumping in noise, I can tell you that. They had extra microphones spread around the stadium and they took that noise from the fans, put it back in through the PA and that's why it was so loud.
The NFL says it has not received an official complaint; such actions would be a violation of NFL rules.
I wonder what they'd think of Loud City, in the upper reaches of the Ford Center.
(Via Ravenwood's Universe.)
No 8-tracks, though
The holiday catalog from J&R has arrived, and as always, it's crammed full of neat techie stuff that I don't really need but am always tempted to buy anyway.
Page 22 is labeled "Media," and they've got CDs and two or three flavors of recordable DVDs and tape for digital camcorders and even Sony MiniDiscs.
And in the midst of all this is a number I know well: L-750.
Migod, it's actual Beta tape! From Sony, with the Betamax logo and everything, and a $3.99 price tag. Considering the last consumer Betamax for the US market came out in 1993, this would seem incredible. (Then again, I bought my last Beta machine in 1997.) But production continued in other markets, notably Japan which matters, since Japan, like the US, uses NTSC video and the very last Betamax was produced in 2002. And I must admit that the idea that you can still get tapes for what is technically a thirty-year-old system has a certain visceral appeal; it's like finding a stash of Kaiser-Frazer parts.
Saltier than Lot's wife
Yes, I'm aware that there are scenes of fierce eroticism in the Old Testament, but do I really want to see them in full color on a calendar?
Well, um, maybe.
(Via Sexoteric Blog; I wouldn't recommend opening up any of these links in the presence of coworkers.)
As though leaves weren't enough
The winds have changed direction almost every day since Thanksgiving, which means a wider variety of debris blowing into the yard. Most of the time, I don't really care how it got there; I pick it up, toss it into the trash, and that's the end of it.
But there has to be some sort of story about how a ClearBlue Easy Pregnancy Test stick, still in its wrapper one end was torn slightly, but not enough to remove the product wound up beside my mulberry tree.
Not that I particularly want to hear that story, mind you.
6 December 2005
You're gorgeous, we hate you
For no reason I can fathom, I got about 150 visitors yesterday looking for stuff about Harvard librarian Desiree Goodwin, whose claim to fame was filing a discrimination suit against the university. (I wrote about her a few times, first here, last here.)
While trying to figure out how she'd managed to score a few seconds of fame beyond the canonical 15 minutes, I turned up this report on a Wisconsin study which asserts that "sexy-looking females face intense office contempt and hostility if they're in management positions," and which referenced Goodwin's unsuccessful suit against Harvard.
I tend to steer clear of office politics when I can, but it seems at least possible to me that the aforementioned SLFs might face hostility even if they're not in management positions. Then again, half the human race, myself included, is below average in appearance, so maybe I'm the wrong person to take up this topic.
Addendum, 9 December: The demand increases; I respond with a photograph.
A tip of the green eyeshade
A shout-out this morning to Geitner Simmons, who, I have only recently learned, is now the Editorial Page Editor of the Omaha World-Herald, and who, as I have known for some time, is a regular reader of this very page.
Mr Simmons has a personal blog, devoted to history, regionalism and culture, called Regions of Mind. If you haven't already, give him a look; he's got an interesting piece this week on how urban sprawl is not a purely-American phenomenon.
Lord Kelvin snickers in the afterlife
Temperatures have been distinctly below normal for most of the last week, and are about to become more so; moreover, we're expecting snow not a blizzard or anything, but not a mere dusting either to drop upon us tomorrow.
Which wouldn't be a big deal, of course, except that local media are anxious to impress upon us the severity of it all, largely because it's been nine or ten months since we had any winter precipitation at all and they assume that we've totally forgotten what it's like in the interim.
Then there's this:
Snow is on the way, forecasters predict, and highs this week are expected to be in the 20s half of what they normally are.
Emphasis added. This is the first really compelling argument for the adoption of the metric system I've seen in some time: with the normal high for this time of year about 10 degrees Celsius and the expected high tomorrow about -8, nobody is going to look at those numbers and conclude that it's going to be twice as cold as usual. (Comparing to absolute zero, the only way to obtain a meaningful comparison, the difference is about six percent, regardless of whose temperature scale you use.)
And you know, I'm not even grumbling about the farging snow: we haven't had any measurable precipitation in this neck of the woods since Halloween.
Hmmm. I just spun over to Lileks, and he said this:
Note: the current temperature, as I write, is Two. In an hour it will be One. The temperature will drop fifty percent! (Note: yes, I know, as measured against Absolute Zero this is not the case. But it already feels like Absolute Zero, so spare me the emails.)
Maybe that's the proper attitude.
How I miss Poulan Weedeater
College bowl games used to have names. Now they have sponsors and naming rights and horrid mashups like this:
God forbid bloggers should become sponsors:
How long until we see a Cotton Pajamas Media Bowl?
Only if they let Goldstein live-blog it. From his den.
Always first with the least
This item got Farked last night:
TULSA, Okla. (AP) An Oklahoma Transportation Authority engineer is hoping an odd speed limit will get the attention of drivers, and slow them down in construction zones.
Jarry Slaughter has posted speed limit signs of 17 miles per hour at three toll plazas that are under construction at Stroud, Vinita and Afton.
From the last day of World Tour '05, which would be the 19th of July:
[S]ome Roads Scholar working the exits up in the northeast has come up with a new wrinkle: the speed limit just beyond the Afton/Vinita exit from the Will Rogers Turnpike is 17 mph. I guess this is as fast as you can go and still get the attention of Baron von Tollbooth.
We now return to our usual level of humility.
No acrostics in Islamabad
The government of Pakistan is removing a poem from English-language textbooks used in state schools because the first letter of each line, in sequence, spells out PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH.
An official for the Ministry of Education explains:
We have decided to delete the poem from the book, published by the National Book Foundation (NBF) and prescribed for the federal board students of intermediate [English]. It will be stretching the matter too far to assert that the poem was inserted in the book deliberately to enumerate the qualities of the American president.
In other words: "We don't know if it was intentional, but we're taking no chances."
Pakistan deregulated textbook publishing in 2004, opening the market to new publishers; the anonymous poem, titled "The Leader," appeared in a text that was approved earlier this year. It goes like this:
Patient and steady with all he must bear,
Ready to accept every challenge with care,
Easy in manner, yet solid as steel,
Strong in his faith, refreshingly real,
Isn't afraid to propose what is bold,
Doesn't conform to the usual mold,
Eyes that have foresight, for hindsight won't do,
Never back down when he sees what is true,
Tells it all straight, and means it all too,
Going forward and knowing he's right,
Even when doubted for why he would fight,
Over and over he makes his case clear,
Reaching to touch the ones who won't hear,
Growing in strength, he won't be unnerved,
Ever assuring he'll stand by his word,
Wanting the world to join his firm stand,
Bracing for war, but praying for peace,
Using his power so evil will cease:
So much a leader and worthy of trust,
Here stands a man who will do what he must.
Certainly the scansion could use a little help.
An angle I hadn't considered
Alex Bensky does not believe:
There is no "Maureen Dowd"; the construct is just an elaborate joke played by the Times editorial board.
Which leads to the next question: who's that playing MoDo on the talk-show circuit? I'm betting on Klinkenborg.
(One of miriam's ideas.)
Hot times in Memphis
If the Grizzlies play for the rest of the season like they did tonight, they'll win the division: they didn't do much of anything wrong.
The Hornets didn't do much of anything right, which is why they lost at Memphis, 89-73; it's the Grizzlies' sixth straight win, and the Bees' second straight loss.
The Celtics come to town tomorrow, and there should be snow to greet them.
7 December 2005
Quote of the week
Democratic National Committee Vice-Chair Susan Turnbull, asked by Neil Cavuto if Iraq, as Turnbull's boss Howard Dean suggested, was like Vietnam, responded: "How is it not like Vietnam?"
The answer, from Matt Drachenberg, commenting at protein wisdom:
I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing average rainfall per year and the lack of good hookers.
Seems about right to me.
A pox on both your houses
The flap over Christmas and other minor skirmishes in the culture wars are basically a product of an "unholy collusion," says Eric Scheie:
There used to be a more or less secular form of God, but over the years champions of secular atheism such as the ACLU in unholy collusion with certain religious conservatives worked relentlessly to purged this workable compromise from the schools and even from the founding. This has radicalized the debate into two very shrill camps: those who scream "God" when they mean fundamentalism, and those who scream "secular!" when they mean atheism. In my view, it's increasingly hopeless.
Pat Robertson types and ACLU types have done more for each other than they have for the country. The fact that enemies often obtain leverage from their enemies is a simple enough concept that I suppose an economist or mathematician could reduce it to a formula.
It's a perfect setup: each demonizes the other and requests funding to sustain the fight, and the cycle repeats indefinitely. The only way to break the cycle is for the general public to tell one side or the other (or, preferably in my view, both sides) to go to hell, or the secular equivalent thereof.
In pinball we call this "tilt"
Assuming you actually have an Xbox 360, you might be well advised to leave it in one place:
If you couldn't resist the lure of Microsoft's new Xbox 360 game console, do yourself a favor and don't move it while it's on. Even though a selling point of the new console is that it can be oriented either horizontally or vertically, turning it from one position to the other while it is on will cause the game disc inside to be gouged. Big scratches on your new $60 game and the smell of burnt plastic.
It's nice to know that Microsoft, having mastered the art of cantankerous, less-than-robust software, is now applying that expertise to its hardware.
Maybe someone set him up
Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune, explaining his city's less-than-wonderful crime rate:
More police officers mean more arrests mean a higher crime rate.
This guy is turning into the Marion Barry of the Midwest. (Well, I suppose we'll have to catch him buying crack first.)
This qualifies as a reasonable question:
I haven't blogged for ::gulp:: four days??
How is it that I don't blog and my stats are up through the roof?
Zen master Mister Snitch! sees it this way:
The secret of blogging is not to blog at all.
For those of us already entangled in the web, perhaps the most rational approach is to keep one finger on the Delete button.
In this area we have both an 84 Lumber store and a Lumber 2 store; I always wondered what would happen if the two firms merged.
Of course, for my current 168 fix, I go to the 168th Carnival of the Vanities, hosted by Denali Flavors, with just that subtle hint of moose.
Rush to trash
Dr Jan follows up on the infamous Lotto Tree:
Everyone was in a complete uproar about this; so I went from place to place and calmed and rebuked everyone from freaking out. It was just about this time that I made morning announcements and during our state mandated moment of silence (and yes I really do love that time each morning because I do take the opportunity to pray ... and you can imagine what I was praying about this morning), things seemed to kind of turn around. We quit thinking about the mess and just got right on with business; and our business is about teaching the kids how to read, write, and problem solve.
The fifth grade teachers began to use all these events to teach their students about the political process. They read and talked about the lottery legislation. They were able to give tangible evidence how perspective is everything in a story and how we all had a different perspective. The teachers were able to take this disappointing event and make a lasting contribution to the children's understanding of point of view. We harbored no ill will. We did not "sell" the lottery or even support it; we simply taught about the legislation and the proposed effect on public education in Oklahoma. We let the negativity go.
If nothing else, there's a new entry on the kids' vocabulary list: Grandstanding. As products of the Oklahoma Legislature go, it's second in volume, ranking just above Bad Bills but below Desperate Pleas for Attention. (Remember this for Social Studies, if they still teach Social Studies anywhere on earth.)
(Previous coverage here.)
Could I borrow some bandwidth?
You know, this could work:
Speakeasy has a program where you can share your connection with your neighbors. They handle the billing, you handle the admin headaches. You get your bill reduced. So you can go get that $120 1.5 megabit connection, split it 4 ways and be spending 30 bucks a month for high speed goodness. Admittedly during peak time you might be splitting bandwidth, but that's no big deal, and that is the same as a cable modem in any case.
And besides, you've already learned how much admin sucketh by installing your own wireless network; how much worse can it get just adding on a few more users?
White flags from the Blue Oval
Dear Bill Ford:
GLBT counts for a hell of a lot more in the marketplace than AFA.
Sixty-four years, post-infamy
Doc Searls on the importance of this date:
Most of us who grew up in the 1950s, didn't know our parents were The Greatest Generation. We just wished they'd quit harping about growing up in the Depression. ("When I was your age, we walked ten miles to school in the snow...")
Those two subjects, The War and The Depression, gave our parents enormous moral authority, as well as a boundless supply of instructive stories at the dinner table.
We didn't appreciate it much at the time. Now that so many of the old folks are going or gone, we do.
I'm a few years younger than Doc just a few but I know just what he means.
As a member of the Largest Generation, I didn't have as much riding on my shoulders, but I have the satisfaction of knowing I put forth some effort of my own.
(Revised a couple of times.)
Pretending to be handy
It occurs to me that the optimum time for replacing a toilet flapper is not the day when the incoming water is at its coldest.
(Yes, I did shut off the valve. It's still cold inside that tank.)
Bossed from Bosstown
Not quite a sellout, but almost 18,753 officially despite weather which can be charitably described as "uncomfortable." Still, this game is played indoors, which doesn't explain why the Hornets' shooting was so cold tonight. The Celtics trounced the Bees, 101-87, leaving both teams at 8-10 and putting an end to a three-game winning streak at the Ford. David West led all scorers with 29, but it takes five guys to play this game.
This is definitely a rough month. Coming up: another West Coast tour, starting with Portland on Friday night.
8 December 2005
Which means, more or less, "armchair of love," and this is it, even if, as Sean Thomas writes, it looks like "a commode for an incontinent Chinese warlord."
Edward VII apparently had a contraption like this designed for use with threesomes and moresomes, which I suppose is further evidence that it's good to be the king. Me, I can't imagine either the logistics or the trigonometry.
MoDo made over
The New York Times has apparently replaced Maureen Dowd's old headshot with a new one. Does it make any difference? Gawker opines:
The old one, with its dark background and pursed lips, said, "I'm mysterious and witty." And the new one, with a white background and tousled hair? Just one thing: "Marry me!"
I don't know. The new photo might be good for Casual Friday, but I'm not convinced she's comfy when she's casual.
What the Chamber has in mind
Last night, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce held its annual banquet, and Chairman Fred Hall announced that one thing he wants for the new year is a new, or at least revised, county government.
After the abolition of the Oklahoma County Budget Board last January, a move widely viewed as payback for the county's addition of sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination rules, power in the county was essentially consolidated in a bloc of two Commissioners. Rep. Mike Shelton (D-OKC) subsequently offered a bill to let the state's two largest counties operate under home rule rather than under the state's county model; it didn't go anywhere. The Chamber, said Hall, will push for similar legislation in 2006.
Also on the agenda, initiatives more typical of a Chamber of Commerce: "branding" the city, expanding health-science and aerospace, tort reform, and elimination of the state income tax. (What would replace it? Who knows?)
Books of Chronicles
La Shawn Barber, usually seen in her Corner, has put together Fantasy Fiction for Christians, just in time for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; there will also be Harry Potter discussions, and whatever else happens to fit into the format.
Double-nickel: still dead
Better transportation is faster, safer and cheaper.
Ten years ago today, we took a step toward the first two of those goals by repealing the national 55-mph speed limit inflicted upon us in the 1970s. For more than two decades this example of government meddling at its most fatuous stifled traffic, ostensibly in the name of saving fuel as a result of OPEC's oil embargo; when the embargo was lifted, the speed limit remained, justified this time as a safety measure. And the government was serious: they even mandated that speedometers in motor vehicles give special prominence to 55, and that no readings over 85 mph be permitted. (Which, of course, in yet another example of the inexorable Law of Unintended Consequences, led to a lot of people speeding over 85 just to see what would happen.)
Ten years after repeal, traffic is moving faster, to the extent that higher traffic levels permit it to move faster, and the death rate continues to decline. It's arguable whether we're saving any money with the higher limits time is worth something, I contend but as Loaf's Law says, two out of three ain't bad.
The Gas Game (December)
In case you missed the introduction, this is an effort to see if I was either prescient or stupid when I opted not to take advantage of Oklahoma Natural Gas's Voluntary Fixed Price rate of $8.393 per dekatherm.
Right now, I'm running closer to the latter:
The really disturbing statistic is the fact that the meter for the December bill was read on the last day of November, before the beginning of the current cold snap.
Still got ten months to take up the slack, though.
9 December 2005
What were once vices are now habits
About two years ago, Lyric Theatre, having done mainstream musicals since the dawn of time, put a tentative toe into some different waters. The "Second Stage" project, as it was known then, was dedicated to the possibility that the alleged archconservative theatrical audience of Oklahoma City was neither all that conservative nor particularly arch.
Accordingly, Second Stage put on Pageant: The Musical Comedy Beauty Contest, a wickedly funny and deeply bitchy send-up of all such competitions, featuring six beautiful women and, yes, an all-male cast. (I saw that production, and wrote about it here.) Pageant was a definite hit, and it was just a matter of time before they brought it back.
Not that Lyric is giving up on the likes of Beauty and the Beast, of course. But clearly someone on 16th Street realizes that you can get an audience without having to show them corn as high as an elephant's eye.
God and the UFCW
Here's the script:
Our faith teaches us "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
If these are our values, then ask yourself: should people of faith shop at Wal-Mart this holiday season?
When Wal-Mart repeatedly broke child labor laws, is being sued by 1.5 million women for discrimination, and over 600,000 Wal-Mart workers and their families have no company health care?
If these are Wal-Mart's values should people of faith shop at Wal-Mart?
This spot is running in six states, including Oklahoma.
I'm guessing I was absent the day they covered the Biblical requirement for health insurance, but that's a minor issue compared to this:
"Out of our religious heritage comes the recognition that we are not allowed to deprive people of their God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In this respect the Wal-Mart form of business represents plantation capitalism; the few become very wealthy and the many become poorer," stated Reverend James Lawson of Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, CA.
They're depriving people of life, liberty and so forth? Is something going on at Associates meetings that I don't know about?
I admit to being a bit perplexed by this "Where would Jesus shop?" premise. I think we can safely conclude that JC opposed commerce in the Temple, but beyond that, it's hard to be sure.
On the other hand, Paul lectured the Thessalonians thusly (New KJV):
For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
And we're awash in busybodies these days, says Dan Fogelman of Wal-Mart:
Truly, many Americans are deeply offended that union leadership would use religion as just another tactic in the negative attack campaign against a company that donates more money to good works than any other company in America.
"Deeply offended?" I'm not. Then again, I rather strongly suspect that if the United Food and Commercial Workers had negotiated a contract with Bentonville that gave Wal-Mart Associates exactly what they're getting now, we wouldn't be seeing any of this.
Virtue is its own punishment
Pope Benedict XVI disagrees:
Man nurtures the suspicion that God, at the end of the day, takes something away from his life, that God is a competitor who limits our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we will have set him aside.
There emerges in us the suspicion that the person who doesn't sin at all is basically a boring person, that something is lacking in his life, the dramatic dimension of being autonomous, that the freedom to say 'no' belongs to real human beings.
I must point out here that occasional sin hasn't made me any less boring.
Besides, as E. M. Zanotti notes, "There is only so much debauchery you can take."
And, well, most of the time I wouldn't even recognize a bauch.
Pictured here is Desiree Goodwin, fortysomething Harvard librarian, who sued the university charging discrimination: I titled my first post about her "I'm too sexy for my desk". Inasmuch as this is a hot story on job-finding Web sites this week I've had over 900 hits so far from people looking for, if not her story, certainly her picture the least I can do is oblige. (Oh, what we won't go through for more traffic.)
Addendum: Pertinent quote from her LISNews interview:
I think that the perception that librarians are conservative, homogeneous, and out of touch will be ultimately harmful to us, and if [we] don't change that image we will be left behind as society evolves.
I'm guessing that she means "conservative" as in "mossback," not in its contemporary political context; the American Library Association tends to veer somewhat leftward.
Cavalcade of Trolls
We've all seen them: exemplars of moral twerpitude who clutter up your comment sections (though usually not mine, for some inscrutable reason) with drivel ranging from arguable to "Arrrgghhh!"
Well, okay, we haven't seen them in the literal sense only their residue.
But Julie R. Neidlinger, who sees more than most of us, unmasks the miscreants once and for all.
Your DA wants deadbeats
One major revenue source for local prosecutors in this state is collecting on bad checks, which typically bring in $140 or so per item. So it's no surprise that Cleveland County DA Tim Kuykendall was unhappy to hear that Wal-Mart may start turning over bad checks to collection agencies rather than to district attorneys.
Kuykendall says that his office brings in about $1.5 million per year, half of which comes from bad-check charges; half of those come from Wal-Mart, about $384,000 worth in 2004.
No bed of roses
Definitely a nailbiter at Portland tonight: with two seconds left the Blazers tied it up at 89 and sent it into overtime, then won it in the extra five minutes while the Hornets failed to drop a single field goal until the final buzzer. The final was 98-95, the fourth loss in a row for the Bees.
Sunday to Sacramento, then Monday at Phoenix. Like I said, a rough month.
10 December 2005
Fatuous Flashback 11
In the midst of the second-coldest December on record:
This morning about a quarter to seven, I stood outside and tried to pay attention.
It was 45 minutes before dawn. Traffic was conspicuous by its absence schools were closed for a second day and a blanket of white covered everything in sight. It was eerily quiet; even the ubiquitous Oklahoma wind was taking it easy for once. Shapes too familiar to notice at other times had acquired seemingly-random new contours.
And I thought about a similar time, almost a quarter-century ago, a time when the snow was piled up past my heart, and I didn't care because I'd just given it away for what I had thought would be eternity.
And I thought about how hope dissolves into failure, how the pure white of snow disappears under the dirty grey of our tires and our shoes and our disappointment.
And then, of course, I went inside and complained about this damn winter.
(From this untitled entry, 14 December 2000.)
You will be assimilated
Resistance will be overcome with large quantities of cash.
The Chesapeake Energy campus in Oklahoma City continues to grow; last week the company bought two office buildings along the south side of NW 63rd near Shartel. At the present rate of expansion, they should hit the Broadway Extension some time in early 2011.
Here's a guy who provides his own motive force for acceleration.
Of course, like any rational person, he hates winter, but as we keep telling ourselves, it's only temporary.
Monday, Monday, so good to me
Well, certainly not to me, personally, but you get the idea.
The city utility bill just arrived, and with it a copy of City News, a single-sheet handout that usually doesn't have anything I feel like discussing here. The operative word, of course, is "usually."
Oklahoma City offices, says City News, will be closed on the following days:
For five points, on which of those days, if any, will the city pick up trash?
Today in disconcert
I've seen a lot of strange things through a windshield before, but never this: guys actually working on the mechanism of an automated car wash, while someone (yes, 'twas I) was in said car wash with the sprayers and whatnot going full tilt.
Entertainment like this almost makes up for the dismal gas-mileage result (22.0 mpg) from the previous tank, which I blame on the single-digit weather of midweek.
(Got down to 3 Fahrenheit, yet here Thursday morning after a Wednesday that never made it out of the teens, and yes, there was some of that white stuff too. The real thrill, though, was Wednesday afternoon, when I was giving a coworker a ride home, and the windshield froze over. On the inside. As Billy Crystal was wont to say, "I hate when that happens.")
The chronicles of Smarmia
Tam says it isn't so:
[T]here is no truth to the rumor that I am writing a retrospective on the Bill Clinton / Hillary Clinton / Monica Lewinsky scandal entitled The Lyin', The Bitch And The Wardrobe.
Further comment from me would obviously be superfluous.
And it's deep, too
A moment of, well, laughter, because he would have insisted: Richard Pryor has died at sixty-five, and who among us ever would have imagined that he'd live to sixty-five? The man was so much larger than life you just knew that life wouldn't put up with that sort of insolence for long.
And the best thing is, it wasn't that damned multiple sclerosis that got him: it was a good old-fashioned heart attack. (Which puts him ahead of George Carlin, four to three.)
For when pink just won't do
Now there's Code Red: Women For The Troops.
(Warning: Lots of voices when you arrive.)
11 December 2005
Why city schools matter
Tom Lindley's column in this morning's Oklahoman takes a look at Wilson School, north of downtown, and how it's coming back from the brink:
Since 1997, test scores at the school have risen from below the 45th percentile-range in reading and math to 84 percent and 88 percent, respectively, with the help of a curriculum that uses visual arts, drama and music to teach reading and math skills.
Teachers volunteered to work an extra half-hour each day so there is time to tailor the curriculum for each level of learning.
The volunteers include parents, alumni and neighborhood friends whose latest fund-raising effort is ambitious. The goal is to raise almost $700,000 to ensure enough classroom space to support the arts-based curriculum in Wilson's $3.6 million MAPS for Kids makeover, which will get under way next year.
The hope is that if the formula works at Wilson, where some kids go home to mansions and others to homeless shelters and where almost all the ethnic groups in Oklahoma City intersect, maybe it can hasten the return of the middle class to other neighborhoods.
The important thing here is that the good stuff at Wilson started happening before the facelifts and such. New facilities are wonderful (and, in the case of Wilson, long overdue) to have, but a prettier shell doesn't in and of itself necessarily indicate a better egg.
Still, MAPS for Kids was a vote of confidence by city taxpayers, and that confidence is showing up in test scores and in the Academic Performance Index; city schools know they're just one sector of the education marketplace, and they have responded, not by grumbling about the competition or by pointing to dark forces that presumably seek to undermine them, but by actually competing.
However, the fight for urban public education is not solely about finding a way to increase public school enrollment and economic diversity.
It also is about returning inner-city schools to a level of excellence they enjoyed decades ago, and it is about using diversity as a building block, not a wedge.
After all, when they dubbed the program "MAPS for Kids," they didn't specify colors.
XXVIII through XXX
The New World Man suggests three Constitutional amendments:
1. I would repeal the 22nd Amendment's term limits for the President. I would provide for more candidates each year by requiring the Senate to nominate one of its members, and governors to nominate one of their number, for President, then letting the political parties nominate others, including the incumbent if they want. I would get minor parties in the door by providing for six debates by law, with participation open to any candidate who gets a certain number of signatures on a nationwide petition. I would require any participant in these debates to be on the ballot for President in every state.
I would provide that candidates for President could only take donations from persons, and must publicize the names and amounts as soon as the check is cashed. There would be no limit to the amount of a donation, but everyone (including the candidate's opponents, who would make sure the public knew) would know exactly where it came from. Finally, I would expand the number of electors to three times the number of Congressmen and Senators a state is entitled to and award electors proportionately to the popular vote in the state no more winner take all.
While my state has unusually difficult ballot access, I don't think I want the Federal government in charge of regulating something that has always been considered a proper state function. And I'm guessing that the tripling of electors is an attempt to avoid fractions when the proportional electoral votes are doled out, an idea about which I have my doubts.
As to the question of repealing the 22nd itself, I'd rather not have spite (in this case, originally directed at FDR) enshrined in the law of the land. If we're going to have term limits on a national level, let them be on the Congress, where a small percentage of lame ducks every second year will scarcely be noticed.
2. I would keep direct election of Senators, on the theory that I don't want to contract the franchise in the Constitution. But I would provide that a Senator could be recalled by vote of the state legislature and replaced by the sitting governor of the state. Hopefully, this would accomplish a couple things. It would make Senators more interested in doing what their constituents elected them to do; but the recall power would not be abused if the sitting governor had to take his/her place and a special election for governor had to ensue.
I looked askance at this, but he explains further:
I want to be able to recall Senators because they're awfully difficult to unseat themselves. I don't like the 17th Amendment, but as I say, I like the idea of amending the constitution to give people less power to vote even less. The idea isn't to get rid of underperforming Senators, though that's a feature, it's to keep their feet to the fire and incentivize them to represent their states. Does Sen. Ted Stevens act so intractable in the face of significant opposition in his own state to his "bridge to nowhere" if Alaska's legislature can recall him, for example?
This would work in Oklahoma only if someone were able to clone Brad Henry.
Inasmuch as state voters do vote for their governor and legislators, I don't think that repealing the 17th would actually give people "less power to vote."
3. I would provide that Congress' power to enforce the 14th Amendment includes the exclusive right to determine whether a state law violates it, and that no federal court may strike down, nullify or substantially revise a state law as violative of that amendment.
Of these three, this is the one I like best, and were I to make a wish list of my own, this one would be on it. (Besides, it's consonant with the text of the 14th: "Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.") Congress, unlike the federal courts, is answerable to the electorate. And you'd scarcely hear another whimper about "activist judges" and such.
The last word in OETA: Authority
This past summer I endorsed this prescription by Doc Searls:
Commercial radio and television have a huge (and problematic) split between customers (advertisers) and consumers (viewers and listeners). Yet, for some dumb reason (too many staffers coming over from the growing labor pool of laid-off commercial broadcast marketers?), public broadcasting has looked to commercial broadcasting as an ideal model. Rather than make it easier than ever for its consumers to become customers, and for its customers to become more involved with the stations, public broadcasting whored itself to underwriters and other "sponsors."
Maybe that's an unkind characterization, but there's a follow-the-money effect at work here. As dependence on federal money shrinks, commercial sponsors take up the slack. There is a natural drift of energy toward pleasing those advertisers (which is what they are), and away from customers that really matter: paying listeners and viewers. In other words, public broadcasting has been doing its best to behave like commercial broadcasting. Not helpful.
Regarding our own (so to speak) PBS facilities, Matt Deatherage notes:
OETA is rich because it turns the purpose of public broadcasting as upside-down as it can and still call itself "public broadcasting." OETA is rich because it made sure it wouldn't run programs giving progressive Oklahomans a voice if what they said might annoy people with deep pockets.
Of course, the most grievous problem with OETA is that it's an entity of the state, subject to legislative oversight, and legislators in this state are rather easily spooked (cf. "Scratching off Christmas"). I frankly don't see how we can expect any changes in OETA's practices unless it can be slid out from under the twitchy eye of government and into the control of a private foundation, the way most PBS affiliates nationwide are operated; the new service will still have to go hat in hand to donors, but at least it won't have to answer to 23rd and Lincoln.
Possible compromise: Let OETA continue to run the statewide network of LPTV translators and the two full-power outlets in Cheyenne and Eufaula, and spin off the Oklahoma City and Tulsa stations to local operators. The hard part, needless to say, is convincing the legislature that this would be a Good Thing.
A general dearth of wise men
Goldie Hawn, way back in the days of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In:
Why don't they move Christmas to July, when the stores aren't so crowded?
If you're feeling overwhelmed by the holidays, though, make sure you're blaming the right person:
Our current holiday problem started when Constantine decided that a holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus would be just the thing to make himself look good on The O'Reilly Factor. There was, however, one small problem: no one knew when Jesus was born. The Gospels simply say that the birth occurred when Quirinius was the governor of Syria. This might have been enough information in the hands of a competent archivist to pinpoint a likely date, but competent archivists were hard to find in ancient Rome due to the Roman mob's insatiable appetite for watching overweight, middle-aged clerical types with 2.7 kids and a mortgage try to stab each other to death with quill pens in the Coliseum.
Constantine, having no solid information to work with, asked the Senate and the people of Rome what they thought of July 15th as the date for Christmas. The Senate and the people of Rome, mindful of the fact that Constantine had the bad habit of feeding people who disagreed with him to lions and tigers and bears, oh my, for the entertainment of the people in the cheap seats, told Constantine that July 15th was a wonderful idea. Roman retailers, on the other hand, mindful of losing the 4th of July and Bastille Day sales, told him that while his idea was wonderful, it would be even more wonderful at some other time of the year. One clever gent who owned a shoe store on the Appian Way suggested, after giving the matter some thought, that the Emperor make December 25th the date for his new holiday.
Then someone, possibly the shoemaker who first suggested the idea of the 25th, or maybe his brother no one could really tell them apart told the Emperor something that emperors, as a class, love to hear: he was emperor, therefore he could put the holiday anywhere he felt like putting it. And so he did, on the 25th day of December, the high burden of historical and theological proof bending slightly in deference to Constantine's need for campaign contributions.
On the positive side of the ledger, this account doesn't put all the blame on Hallmark, which need only claim responsibility for those other 129 days a year when we're supposed to spend money we don't have on things we don't need for people we can't stand.
How Sonic can you get?
The headquarters of the Sonic drive-in restaurant chain is right here in the Big Breezy.
Now think of the possible sports tie-ins:
The Seattle SuperSonics could be the next NBA franchise to relocate when their lease expires in 2010, if the Washington state legislature votes against funding to either renovate KeyArena or build a new venue.
The Sonics want a commitment for funding to be made in 2006, because they said it takes four to seven years for the necessary planning and construction to be completed. The Sonics' concerns were addressed last week at a news conference when they disclosed the franchise has lost $58 million since 2001.
And it's not getting any better, either:
Sonics officials said if they sold out all 41 home dates, including all 58 suites purchased at KeyArena this season, they still would lose money under their current business model.
What's this got to do with Oklahoma City? Plenty. If the Hornets return to New Orleans, as everyone involved swears they will, this is the most likely spot the Sonics will end up: team support here is running well beyond original expectations, and NBA Commissioner David Stern would much prefer to have another team move here than to deal with angry Hornets fans in Louisiana.
This calls for cherry limeades all around.
It's good to be the Kings
At least tonight, when Sacramento got revenge for its loss in Oklahoma City earlier this season: the lead traded hands half a dozen times, but the Kings pulled away from the Hornets late in the fourth, winning it 110-100. The Bees, now 8-12, have lost five straight.
Tomorrow night: at Phoenix, before returning to Oklahoma City on Wednesday to take on the Clippers, and then heading to Louisiana for a rematch with the Suns at Baton Rouge. Winning any of these could be considered a moral victory at this point.
Russ Eisenstein, the studio host for the Hornets network, had an interesting halftime feature on Sean Banks and the rest of the 66ers, the D-League squad in Tulsa, although what made it most interesting was Eisenstein's misidentification of that tall guy standing by an oil well as the "Golden Miner."
12 December 2005
Things I learned this weekend
Of course, I'll share.
Thanks to all who contributed to this knowledge expansion.
The referral which wasn't there
I'm picking up occasional traffic from Talking Points Memo's TPMCafe, from Daily Kos, and from The Washington Monthly, not because they have any particular interest in anything said here, but because Beyond Belief Media, distributor of The God Who Wasn't There, has taken out ads for the film on all three sites, and the text of the ad consists largely of linked quotations from reviews including the title of mine, which leads it off.
Assuming Beyond Belief continues to use this ad for a while, I should be able to track where they're placing it. I am, of course, not particularly surprised to see that they're going for liberal sites first.
E911 election tomorrow
You will be asked to approve a 50-cent (at least in central Oklahoma) monthly fee, which will be used to pay for an upgraded 911 Phase II system which can automatically track wireless calls, a function beyond the capacity of the existing 911 system.
The promoters have posted this FAQ file; I've covered the issue here. In your area of the state, the provisions may vary slightly.
Warm up the fryer
Finally, the last word on Stanley "Tookie" Williams.
And if it's not the last word, it should be. Pertinent quote:
I submit that "Tookie" is very proud of his legacy. He just doesn't want to die for it and for the next few hours is doing everything he can think of to keep from dying for it, with the help of those who are prone to believing the lies of psychopaths: the gullible, the ignorant and the stupid.
I am not what you'd call a big fan of capital punishment. However, I am also not keen on the notion that people with X amount of celebrity, where X > [more than you or me], should somehow be exempt from it.
A little bit softer now
Yes, you can dance to the Isley Brothers' "Shout."
Doesn't mean you should.
Well, TTLB reports that I finally dropped below the Large Mammal threshold today. (It was just a matter of time.)
Besides, I look like I have a pouch, so Marsupialhood is probably more appropriate anyway.
Making life, you know, a little gnarlier
Feed your favorite site (or, duh, this one) through Valley URL at The '80s Server. It is, like, oh my gawd, just totally bitchin'.
(Via the totally studly Fred First.)
Signs of extreme boredom
This one I have to admire:
I just sent a PJL job to all the network printers to change their LCD displays to read "INSERT COIN."
What I want to know: Did anyone approach the sysadmin and ask if s/he had change for a buck?
No doormat, she
Christine Craft was a news anchor at KMBC-TV in Kansas City in 1981, when the station decided to fill her spot with someone else, reasoning that she was, in their words, "too unattractive, too old and not deferential [enough] to men." She was thirty-six years old, and I don't remember her being unattractive; I mentioned her briefly in Vent #38, back in early 1997.
Today I got a note from Ms Craft, who is inevitably older, utterly unconcerned with her appearance, and still not deferential to men. One of the men she doesn't defer to is Arnold Schwarzenegger; Craft, from her perch at the Sacramento affiliate of Air America, is happy to tweak the Governator when she can. Since she left KC, she got her law degree, decided she preferred radio to television among other things, less makeup and, she says, she discovered Rush Limbaugh. Since strains of "Where are they now?" run through my head on a regular basis, I was happy to hear from her; if you're curious, this story from this past summer fills you in on what she's all about these days.
The time they got to Phoenix
The Suns, slightly dimmed by injuries, trailed most of the night, yet made a tremendous run in the last couple of minutes. But what the heck: the Hornets got away with a road win against a team with a far better record, and how often do you get to see that? NO/OKC 91, Phoenix 87, and they'll come back to the Ford only three games below .500. The Clippers will arrive Wednesday, followed by a rematch with the Suns Friday at Baton Rouge.
13 December 2005
The place to be
The Warrior Monk remembers Gene McCarthy, and another iconoclast from the opposite side of the field:
I can't help noticing at least some similarity with another politician whose bid for the White House famously failed in the 1960s: Barry Goldwater. They started from opposite ideological poles and antagonistic parties, but over time their contrarianism seemed to push them toward idiosyncratic spots in a sparsely populated middle region from which they might have been just close enough to shake hands.
I suspect that "middle region" has thinned out even further over the years.
Walk through the kindling
Which, these days, is just about anything organic outside: the total rainfall since Halloween is a meager 0.01 inch. (Last week's snowfall was two-tenths of an inch: it started out impressively, then petered out the moment people got home from work.)
The state's had a burn ban for most of this period; dry vegetation and the usual Oklahoma winds make for nasty wildfires. There's supposed to be a shower or two today, but I'll believe it when I see it.
What happens when there's no more rhyme?
If you weren't feeling just a trifle ancient already, consider this: late-Eighties teen-dream Debbie Gibson is now thirty-five years old.
Not that her, um, advanced age gives her any excuse to dress like this. Even a black silk ninja uniform would be an improvement.
Update, 14 December: This isn't an improvement.
Wash it down with De Beers
It's a diamond-studded fruitcake, and, well, yeah, I know, you can find those any day of the week on Sunset, but this one is edible.
With the exception of the precious stones, of course.
(Found among Diane's Stuff.)
New Jersey volt fraud
"Hello, this is PSE&G. We've just noticed that we haven't read your electric meter since 1998 and we will be sending you an updated bill just as soon as we possibly can."
And just in time for Christmas, too.
(Via Mister Snitch!)
Now with 60 percent more feed
If you subscribe to the dustbury.com RSS feed, you will now get the twenty-four most recent items instead of fifteen.
We got your lofts right here
"Here," in this case, means NW 12th and Harvey, where a couple of buildings formerly comprising one end of Wesley Hospital are now gutted and awaiting condominium conversion. (The nearby Wesley Retirement Village, which occupies the hospital's main building, will not be affected.)
The new owners of the Harvey Lofts, who have other central-city residential developments in the works, hope to have at least some of the 16 units for sale by spring; the smallest, around 800 square feet, will be priced at $100,000.
The taxman won't go away
Even when he's been told to:
Phone customers are due $9 billion in tax refunds and a 3% cut in wireless phone and long-distance bills, according to a series of federal court decisions. But the federal government continues to collect the tax and requires so much paperwork for refunds that only big corporations are likely to benefit.
On Friday, a court in Washington, D.C., became the third federal appeals court since May to void the tax. Two other federal appeals courts, covering seven states, have ruled the tax unlawful, and cases are pending elsewhere in the nation's 13 appeals courts. In all, nine federal courts have ruled that a 3% federal tax doesn't apply to phone calls that are priced only by how long a person talks not by how far the call travels.
That means cellular phones, Internet phone service and about one-third of long distance calls would be exempt from the tax. The wireless industry estimates that consumers would save about $4.5 billion a year. Taxpayers also would be due three years of refunds about $9 billion.
So what's the problem?
An appeals court decision in May voided the law in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The government did not appeal but continues to require phone companies to collect the tax in those states and pass it on to the federal government.
"It sounds absurd, but the law is written so that the government can keep collecting a tax even though it's been ruled unlawful," says Hank Levine, a lawyer representing businesses that challenged the tax. Federal law makes it nearly impossible to get an injunction to stop the government from collecting a tax, he says.
And is it worth your trouble?
The average consumer would be entitled to a refund about the size of the average $49.52 monthly bill paid by the USA's 195 million wireless subscribers. However, consumers would be required to seek refunds individually, documenting how much they paid each quarter in separate claims.
The time limit for refunds is three years. A person entitled to a $50 refund would have to fill out forms a dozen times to get the three years' worth of refunds permitted under tax law. Collecting records and preparing the form would take about seven hours.
It is, of course, purely coincidental that I am mentioning this on a day when an election is being held in 28 counties in Oklahoma to authorize a 50-cent-per-month tax to pay for Enhanced 911 Phase II.
Thwarting the three-year-old shopper
Now this is scary: Food Marketing Aimed at Kids Influences Poor Nutritional Choices, says the Institute of Medicine. What can be done about it?
Food, beverage, and restaurant companies, as well as the entertainment and marketing industries, should expand, strengthen, and enforce their standards for marketing practices. For example, licensed characters, such as popular cartoon characters, should be used only to promote products that support healthful diets, the committee said. The industries should work with health officials and consumer groups to develop an industrywide rating system and labeling that convey the nutritional quality of foods and beverages in a consistent and effective fashion. The Children's Advertising Review Unit a group created and financed by the industry to monitor advertising directed toward children should expand and apply its voluntary guidelines to newer forms of marketing, such as Internet and wireless phone advertising and product placement. The media and entertainment industries should incorporate storylines that promote healthful eating into programs, films, and games. The government should consider the use of awards and tax incentives that encourage companies to develop and promote healthier products for young people.
What's missing in the above prescription?
If you have children, you are.
(Via David Fleck.)
14 December 2005
On the verge of desiccation
I know a dry spell when I see one:
I was unprepared for marriage when I tied the knot at 24 with an equally unprepared woman. We stayed married for twelve years. Our dysfunctions remained dormant as we fought side-by-side thru countless non-marriage-related battles. We were a hell of a team as long as we had a common enemy. However, once we were both out of college, working well-paying jobs, and focusing on the future, things got easy. Too easy. Without those common enemies, our marriage got stale and fell apart. As did the few relationships I was involved in after the divorce.
I didn't make it to twelve years, but I do have the "Been there, done that" T-shirt.
And I do recall a few things that sound like this:
I miss having the interaction of another person in my life. I know how to deal with myself and my quirks. (Well, most of them...) Being with another is what's missing. I miss the companionship and the conflict and the commiserating and the sharing of Sunday morning breakfast. Life just like a relationship brings about a swirling river of difficult sacrifices, unexpected complications, and competing demands. At least in a relationship, there's a woman on the other bank of that river!! I've long ago thrown off the notion of blissful abandon, where nobody says the wrong thing, where nobody gets their feelings hurt, where nothing goes awry. That's the stuff of Hollywood and the (pulp) literary world. I'm much more pragmatic about love and relationships at my semi-advanced age. A healthy relationship should be equal parts romance, individuality, and mutually-beneficial business arrangement. To make it all work requires effort, optimism, patience, and occasional mumbling to oneself in the basement.
Then again, I said to someone at the shop today:
Most of my love life seems to have been covered in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; if I need to go through that sort of thing ever again, I'll just buy the damn DVD.
Maybe I'm getting too old for pragmatism.
Everybody say Yeah
Well, they did, at least those who showed up at the polls: the 50-cent fee for E911 Phase II was approved in Central Oklahoma by 3-1 margins or better. Voters in Norman, Edmond and Mid-Del schools also approved bond issues for building improvements and such.
In the Tulsa area, the "4 to Fix the County" initiatives passed, though not by huge margins.
Statewide results are here.
Weird little contretemps at the City Council meeting yesterday. The Urban League is pushing for a cluster of 44 duplexes near NE 26th and Laird, a couple of blocks north of the Governor's Mansion, and the Council agreed to support it, giving the League a leg up when it tries to secure affordable-housing tax credits from the state's Housing Finance Agency. Willa Johnson, who represents Ward 7 on the Council, was on board with the proposal.
Enter Lenardo Smith, president of the Capitol View Neighborhood Association, and one-time candidate for Johnson's Council seat. He spoke against the complex, saying that they didn't need any more rental units in the area. Johnson shot back:
I appreciate your fervor and your passion about denying people an opportunity to live in an area where they might not be able to buy a home. I have fought for the last 13 years folks that come before this council talking about not wanting "those folks" in their neighborhood.
Smith's Association has rehabilitated three homes in the area for resale and would like to do more; Smith says he'd like to see more programs to help lower-income families buy homes instead of renting.
The Urban League's Valerie Thompson says that yes, these are rental units, but the 44 duplexes are intended as intermediate steps to home ownership:
We could build 100-plus apartment units, but we are choosing not to do that. We want to help people who are not in a position to own a home today establish a credit history, establish some equity to be able to purchase their own home.
How they will establish equity from a stack of rent receipts is unclear to me.
I'm not quite sure what to make of all this. Philosophically, I'm with Lenardo Smith: all else being equal, we should be encouraging people to buy rather than to rent, and I've seen the Association's show house, which was inexpensive yet spiffy. But is all else equal? I can't really blame Willa Johnson for her reaction: it's hardly news when residents of an area are worried about an influx of, um, "those folks."
On the upside, at least no one will be able to play the race card.
Is a review necessary?
Yes, I have now read Maureen Dowd's Are Men Necessary? (Short answer: Yes, at least sometimes.)
I haven't reviewed it here because, well, there's not much to it: I got the distinct impression that coming up with actual transitional material to fill in the Marianas Trench-sized gaps between the original Dowd columns that make up the bulk of the book was a lot lower on MoDo's to-do list than, say, finding a suitable pulp-fiction cover design.
Which is not to say that there was nothing worthwhile in it; but that which was worthwhile, I believe, came off as merely incidental to the intent of the book. In fact, suggests the Anchoress, Dowd wrote the wrong book altogether:
I hope you will try to write the book you should have written this time around. A book that should not contain the words "men" or "me" or "Bush" at all, and it should not contain a single reference to a movie, or television or pop music. Because honey, you need to focus on something different you need to break out of your rut, and your unhealthy obsessions.
Write a book about the three women whom you clearly loved and admired and miss. Write a book about your mother, and Katharine Graham, and Mary McGrory.
Because I have to tell you, in the whole silly exercise of Are Men Necessary?, the only time you were readable, likable and still clearly in control of your pen was when you were writing about these three women, and you made the reader want to read more.
Absolutely true. This isn't much material a mere handful of pages but this is where Dowd shines, where she's more concerned with getting the story told than with maintaining the standard snark level, where she comes across as someone who still has ideals and is grateful to those who imparted them to her.
People (not just you, Snitch) ask me why I bother with Maureen Dowd at all. My stock response has been that I see her as sort of a kindred spirit: fiftyish, certified smartass, and utterly clueless about the ways and means of love how could I not pay attention to someone like that? But I was going back through some of the archives this week, and reread some of the stuff I wrote where sneers took a back seat to sense here's a particularly good example and it occurred to me that perhaps MoDo and I, in addition to having most of the same weaknesses, might also have one or two of the same strengths. (A tongue-in-cheek review of same came out here last month.)
Or it could be simply this, as the Anchoress says:
Somewhere in your Catholic background, you learned about gifts and how they are used. You have one, and you've been wasting it on worldly and fleeting things. Write something out of love. It will last, as love does.
Something to add to my to-do list, I see.
Thirteen squared; also, the number of nonequivalent starting hands in Texas Hold'em, and a moderately-scary highway in Tulsa.
It's week #169 for the Carnival of the Vanities, hosted this week by Multiple Mentality, and given a comfortable blanket of Whedon fleece.
You can have it, I don't want it
I guess they didn't love it anyway: Six Flags, Inc.'s attempt to auction itself off, and perhaps thereby thwart a takeover bid by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, closed with no bids received.
Mark Shapiro has now eased into the CEO's chair, replacing Kieran Burke; new faces on the Six Flags board include former Interpublic chairman Michael Kassan, consultant / NFL quarterback / presidential candidate Jack Kemp, and Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
No word yet as to when the Six Flags corporate offices will be moved out of Oklahoma City.
Thirty and holding
David Kent's third Department Thirty book, The Blackjack Conspiracy, is out now, and the author will sign copies Saturday afternoon at 1 at Best of Books in Edmond (1313 E. Danforth, west of Bryant). I may have to slip up that way myself, since I unaccountably haven't picked up this title yet.
Not pretty, but we'll take it
Maybe it's easier to beat the first-place teams after all. And it helps to run up a twenty-point lead early; even with the usual Hornets fourth-quarter drought and a couple of technicals Jackson Vroman was actually tossed from the game the Bees made life miserable for the Los Angeles Clippers, 102-89.
We'll find out whether this works Friday night in Baton Rouge, where the 10-12 Hornets, who won at Phoenix on Monday, will have to take on the Suns again.
Attendance at the Ford was a modest 17,490, but the decibel level was as high as ever.
15 December 2005
It was fun while it lasted
Oh, I'll get over it.
It's always post time
Mitch Berg was absolutely flabbergasted:
"The New Lineup" was the 6,000th post on this blog.
What really blows my mind is that my 5,000th post was last May 30th; I've done a thousand in six months.
I need a life, don't I?
I looked at that, and yes, I thought, "Mitch, you need a life," but I was still musing: a thousand entries in six months? Geez, and I thought I was overdoing it.
And then I was foolish enough to count backward 1000 entries of my own, and wound up here.
On the 24th of July.
Which means I've done a thousand entries in less than five months.
Which means, I guess, that however badly Mitch may need a life, I need one 20 percent worse.
Advent? They make speakers, right?
At least in my neck of the woods, the so-called War on Christmas has been a bit oversold, probably because (1) there is an abundance of actual Christians, some of whom qualify as "practicing," and (2) there is a general recognition that the, um, "holiday season" is as inclusive a cultural event as exists in Western civilization.
Even the atheists can join in:
While Christians celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas time, the holiday has developed into a Western tradition with many aspects as faithful Christians lament utterly devoid of religious content. Many devout Christians some sport bumper stickers of Santa Claus crossed out with a big X feel that for large segments of society, the meaning of Christmas has become watered down to a godless excess of presents, food, and glittery lights.
It has. Isn't it wonderful?
Atheists like me can go to church concerts to rejoice in the glorious music of the season, delight in picking out special gifts for family and friends, and wish everyone a "Merry Christmas."
But it's much more than a gorgefest with angel decorations. Just because atheists don't believe in a God in Heaven doesn't mean we can't embrace the Christmas message of brotherhood and peace on earth. While we don't believe in the supernatural, we can recognize Christianity's invaluable contribution to human love. That is worthy of celebration every year.
Of course, if you're one of those folks to whom the very mention of Christianity evokes either Pat "I control hurricanes" Robertson or the Spanish Inquisition*, you've probably already gotten your stockings in a wad. Fear of coal, I guess.
I'm as much of a Scrooge as the next guy. However, what differentiates me from that next guy is the fact that I don't consider it a moral imperative to tear down something that appeals to a lot of people in the hopes of currying favor with a few. (First person who says "multiculturalism" is penalized five points for signs of incipient brain death: if we're all in this together, as the It Takes a Village types insist, we do not benefit by going out of our way to emphasize the differences.)
Here's just some of what's going on around town this December. And trust me, no one is going to ask you for a baptismal certificate at any of these locations.
(With thanks to Alan Sullivan.)
* Nobody expected this.
On the block
NBA trading season starts today, and Hornets reserve guard Arvydas Macijauskas, who has played only 26 minutes this year, will probably be glad to go.
Coach Byron Scott says only that the team needs a little more size and more scoring off the bench and that if it were up to him, he wouldn't want to see a deal for Pacers guard Ron Artest:
I always thought I could coach anybody. I don't know about Ron, though. Unbelievable talent, nobody's denying that. I don't want to mess up our chemistry. Ron Artest, as great a player as he is, he scares me.
Assuming Artest remains with the Pacers and avoids both injury and suspension, the Hornets will have to tangle with him twice this season.
The nerve of some people
Marc was going through some old boxes at his mom's house, and found a pocket-sized New Testament that appeared to be at least half a century old. He popped it open, and this was waiting on the first page, dated 25 January 1941:
To the Armed Forces:
As Commander-in-Chief I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the Armed Forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration. It is a fountain of strength and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul.
Very sincerely yours,
No one would dare offer any such thing today to our "men of many faiths and diverse origins."
The best of contrarians
You think someone like John McCain is a maverick? Consider the case of Edward William Proxmire, Senator from Wisconsin, who managed to annoy both Republicans and his fellow Democrats for thirty years, and who died today at the age of 90.
Proxmire came to the Senate in 1957 to finish the balance of Joe McCarthy's term, which should have been a clue. One indication of his dedication: for nearly twenty years, every day the Senate was in session, he gave a speech in favor of the UN's anti-genocide treaty, which went largely ignored until Ronald Reagan made it a campaign issue in 1984. (The Senate finally approved the treaty, and President Reagan signed it in 1988.)
But Proxmire is best remembered as the most frugal American this side of Jack Benny. In 1975, he began issuing his Golden Fleece Awards to examples of government spending he considered particularly egregious. These were seldom received well: the second such award went jointly to NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research for "spending ... $500,000 to determine why monkeys clench their jaws," and researcher Dr Ronald Hutchinson, feeling he was being held up to public ridicule, sued Proxmire; the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which decided that Hutchinson and his staff were not public figures according to the usual definitions and that the Senator had defamed them. The Senate paid Hutchinson a settlement, which Proxmire reimbursed.
Proxmire's tightness with a dollar extended to his own reelection: his typical campaign budget was in the low three figures.
"The original Porkbuster," says Michelle Malkin, and this time she's right on the mark. Boy, do we need him now.
Something's wrong with this picture
News aggregator Topix.net has apparently decided that I am a "news source," which, if nothing else, demonstrates the folly of relying too heavily on algorithms.
In a camper on a lake
Yeah, that'll be the day.
(Cue the Crickets)
The gift you know can't fail
It was just a matter of time: the B.C. Clark jingle as a ringtone.
If you'd rather have, um, some other format, this is the page for you.
(Number of times I have sung this in public: one.)
16 December 2005
Return of the Saints?
New Orleans may be getting their football team back next year:
[NFL Players' Association executive director Gene] Upshaw met with Saints players in San Antonio and said he wants to have them return to their training facility in Metairie and split their eight home games between Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge and the Superdome, if possible, players said.
"The impression I got from [Upshaw] is we'd be back next year in New Orleans and play four games in the Superdome and four games in Baton Rouge," Saints defensive end Darren Howard said. "He didn't say it like that, but that's the impression I got.
"I guess that's what he's arguing for and the commissioner is pushing for. If I had to guess, if I had to put my money on it, I think we'll be back in New Orleans next year. But it's all hearsay until it happens."
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue hasn't said anything officially yet, but this sounds very much like getting the team ready to come home.
How does this affect the Crescent City's other major sports squad? Ron Hitley at Hornets247.com (he doesn't do permalinks, so look for 15 December 10:47 am, "Links and Random Shizzle") says it will hurt:
The Saints will always get more love in N.O., and with them back in town, there's less appreciation for pro basketball.
Which would tend to support sportswriter David Aldridge's premise:
The truth of the matter is that it was a tough go for the Hornets in New Orleans before the hurricane. Like Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio, Texas; and Memphis and Oklahoma City, for that matter New Orleans might be too small to support two major-league teams. The more established Saints have four decades of history in New Orleans, and the benefits to a city of having an NFL team, frankly, are greater than those of having an NBA team.
With the New Orleans market now smaller by a quarter, maybe a third, it's clearly not going to be any easier.
Hornets owner George Shinn and NBA Commissioner David Stern still say that the Bees will go back to New Orleans. And that's exactly what they should say. But a lot can happen between Now and Then. Meanwhile, says Hitley:
The NBA fans of Oklahoma shouldn't worry though. If the Hornets move back to N.O., they'll have the Oklahoma City Sonics to root for. Has a surprisingly nice ring to it.
Quote of the week
Kim Du Toit, urging that the USA PATRIOT Act not be renewed:
When the government's jackboot is stepping on your face, the boot's manufacturer is of no consequence.
So whether your house is invaded with a no-knock warrant, or your laptop computer is seized and examined without a warrant, it's of little matter to you whether this is being done under the auspices of Drugs or Terrorism.
And you should not assume that it can't happen to you: armed with this act, the government doesn't have to be nice to you unless, of course, you are a terrorist.
It's what's in the groove that counts
Steve H. is considering buying a turntable, and it's not because he's an unrepentant vinyl junkie either:
[T]he music industry is run by imbeciles. There is a ton of music out there that you still can't buy on CDs, twenty years after they hit the market. It's amazing how little we do to preserve our culture. When the vinyl is gone, the music will be gone. A lot of it already is. That's a crime.
And what will he do with that vinyl?
If I get the turntable, maybe I'll be able to eBay the music I like on vinyl and then remaster it myself and put it on CDs. Then I can put the LPs in a vault and forget about them.
McLuhan doesn't apply to music: the medium is not the message. If CDs and DVDs and whatnot are someday driven from the market and we wind up with wax cylinders again, somehow we'll manage.
Everything returns again
Remind me to send a Christmas gift to Desiree Goodwin: the woman, quite unintentionally, spins my SiteMeter faster than anyone else on earth, including both Olsen twins, separately or in tandem.
CNN.com reprints this CareerBuilder piece titled "Are you too sexy for your job?" and jumps right into the stuff of urban legend:
Harvard librarian Desiree Goodwin, who holds two advanced degrees from Cornell University, charged that she was passed over for promotion 16 times because of her attire and physical attractiveness. Goodwin claimed the jobs she sought were given to women with less experience and education and that a supervisor told her she was perceived as a "pretty girl" who wore "sexy outfits."
There's one factor CNN isn't telling you, but she will:
"Did you feel that it was your looks, or [your] race that were more of an impediment to your being promoted?"
I think it was my race that was more of an impediment, and that closely ties in to my appearance. It is because there are very strong cultural biases against black people, and the higher we rise in the socio-economic ranks the more visible we become, and the more we will be judged for our appearance and expression of gender. Race is a concept that is based on appearance, and tied to how rewards will be distributed in our society. Black people feel more pressure to appear conformist, which we can interpret as conservative, in order to rise in the corporate world, and white people, especially in academia are not subject to the same restrictions to the same degree that we are.
It's impossible to determine whether Goodwin's case would have come out differently had she been a beautiful white woman instead of a beautiful black woman, but it's clear that she considered race and appearance separate but interconnected issues: for CNN (and CareerBuilder) to characterize her case as a simple matter of "too sexy" strikes me as a bit disingenuous.
(If you must have a picture, go here.)
Where have all the TypePads gone?
Okay, what's the deal with TypePad? Every TP site I've looked at today has been reset to Saturday morning.
The most likely explanation would seem to be that they crashed big-time and the latest backup they had was from the 10th, but that can't be it, can it?
Update: Well, I was close.
Fourth from the bottom
Not surprising, really.
Then again, when last I did this sort of thing, I was third from the bottom.
At this rate, I should be a shoo-in for 2031.
Sit on a potato pan, Otis
A palindrome is a sequence which, when reversed, is identical, give or take word spacing, capitalization, and other relative trivialities.
I had thought that not much had been happening on the palindrome front, though "Weird Al" Yankovic put together a nifty collection of them in a Dylan pastiche called "Bob" a couple of years back.
How wrong I was. The classic "A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!" is seven words long; with (in)judicious use of computerized word lists, it's been expanded to 17,259 words. Not the easiest sentence fragment to parse, but it's pretty good for a rotary gyrator.
(Via Damn Interesting.)
Ken Neal hates you
He'll probably hate me after this, if he doesn't already, but the amount of sleep I plan to lose over it can be measured in nanoseconds.
Ken Neal, for those of you who aren't familiar with him, is the flapper in the toilet that is the Tulsa World, and I suspect he's been exposed to too many toxic chemicals at editorial-board meetings, judging by this email he sent to the South Tulsa Citizens Coalition, which had the temerity to oppose something the World wanted passed:
Let's see now: After months of rhetoric and barrels of ink and who knows how much arm-twisting, you convinced 58 per cent to vote against ["4 to Fix the County"]. Even if you weren't there, the vote would have probably been about 50-50. So much for your influence. And let's don't forget: the motive for opposition to 4 to Fix was "if you don't do what we want in our neighborhood, then we are against everything in the county." Great citizenship, don't you think?
Translation: "Nanny nanny boo boo."
And people wonder why the World is held in such bad, um, odor these days or perhaps they don't.
(Courtesy of Steven Roemerman.)
The Suns are avenged
In spectacular fashion, at that, putting together a 37-10 (!) fourth quarter to more than erase a big Hornets lead and drop the Bees, 101-88, in front of a small (not quite 7500) but vocal crowd in Baton Rouge; clearly this was payback for the Hornets' victory at Phoenix earlier this week.
Once again, the Hornets fail to put together a three-game winning streak, and they drop to 10-13; the Spurs show up at the Ford Sunday night.
17 December 2005
Fatuous Flashback 12
Santa Claus is a monopoly, says a federal judge:
1. While nothing in existing antitrust law specifically forbids Santa Claus to give away gifts at no cost to the recipient, the sheer volume of gifts emanating from Claus' North Pole compound simply overwhelms all other sources; consumers are forced to accept that the vast majority of gifts they receive will come either from Santa Claus, or from subordinate Clauses acting as surrogates under license.
2. Though Chanukah and Kwanzaa survive and even thrive in the current marketplace, their partisans are subjected to considerable pressure by the Claus operation. Further, while no one questions the viability of Chanukah, which has a long history of its own, or of Kwanzaa, which is newer but which has the backing of an enthusiastic minority of consumers, relatively few of Santa Claus' customers can be expected to convert to these alternatives, which have substantially different system requirements. Santa Claus thus retains market share by reason of sheer inertia.
3. Constant advertising by Santa Claus and by Claus affiliates, concentrated in the last five weeks of the year when retail sales are the highest, serves to create artificial demand for the very gifts which Santa Claus distributes. Chanukah and Kwanzaa, in an effort to remain visible during these periods, have staked out positions near the edges of the Claus campaigns Chanukah's peak period, while it fluctuates somewhat, is often near the beginning of the Claus blitz, as it was in 1999, while Kwanzaa opts for positioning itself toward the end but in between, consumers are deluged with wave after wave of Santa Claus material.
(From Vent #177, 18 December 1999.)
Where the brows are
The yawning chasm between "literary" and "genre" or "popular" fiction certainly it makes me yawn has prompted this spirited commentary from Lynn:
[I]t seems to me that the problem with today's artsy-fartsy academics in general, whether the subject is literature, music or visual art, is that they are trying to control history in a way that past masters never would have dreamed of. They want absolute control of what ends up in The Canon instead of just letting history follow its natural course.
Of course, they won't get it: the audience and the pundits are ever at odds.
In a way, the scorn for popular literature and other popular entertainment is understandable. There is a lot of popular trash being created and thanks to modern technology we have the means to broadly distribute all of it and to preserve it for future generations regardless of whether or not it is worthy of preservation. A vast majority of people have no concept of quality and no patience for works that do not make an immediate impression. But the academics have gone too far. They do not only scorn trash; they broadly dismiss everything popular or even known at all by ordinary people. Meanwhile they are creating trash of their own and demanding that we all simply accept it as superior merely because they say so.
I don't think it's necessarily that the vast majority has no concept of quality; more likely, it's simply that they haven't gotten around to expanding their horizons beyond the lowest-common-denominator stuff that the most massive of mass media prefer to shovel in their direction. And even providers of pop culture have been known to aspire to something better, or at least less ephemeral:
The Sony Classical issue (CK 85397) of piano solos by American composer William Joel (1949- ), performed by the British/Korean pianist Richard Hyung-Ki Joo, is, unlike almost every other Sony title sold at or near full price, utterly bereft of liner notes, and the cover art is a bland reproduction of one of those old G. Schirmer music books, right down to the quotation from Horace ("Laborum dulce lenimen"). Music should speak for itself, but this is ridiculous. Fortunately for those of us who are new to Mr Joel's oeuvre, he is fairly easily categorized: he's an unabashed romantic. And he has thoughtfully added explanations to titles otherwise undescriptive; for example, the three-part Suite, Op. 8, is billed as "Star-Crossed". What appeals most, I think, is the sheer ebullience of the music, which makes perfect sense for a composer born into a New York state of mind. And Mr Joo gives these pieces the shimmer they deserve, though it would be interesting to hear the composer (also under contract to Sony, I understand) play them himself.
It's not the first time the uptown girl wound up as Muse to a downtown man.
For this and other reasons, I am wary of assuming too much of an anti-elitist posture, as Donald Pittenger explains:
I don't like the reflexive negative reaction of the Art Establishment to popular, financially-successful artists such as [Thomas] Kinkade, Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell.
So far as I'm concerned, nearly all Establishment-anointed Post-Modern art is pretentious or silly, if it can be called art at all (more on this in future posts). This means I don't take Establishment criticism seriously. But I also have to guard against being reflexive myself, trying to like what they hate.
He's not a Kinkade fan, though there's this:
On the personal level, Kinkade married his childhood sweetheart and fathered four daughters. He is deeply religious and has used his art for charitable fund-raising. For artsy-intellectoids, what's not to hate?
It should be remembered, moreover, that this particular elite isn't especially monolithic: there are schools and sub-schools and squabbling groups who ultimately agree on only two things: artists don't get enough respect, and geez, how can anyone pay actual money for a freaking Kinkade print?
I hesitate to say that culture is becoming democratized, because it's always been democratized: the audience votes with its checkbook. And though popularity is no guarantor of quality, neither is obscurity.
Settling at Six Flags
New Six Flags, Inc. CEO Mark Shapiro will be paid $1.05 million a year, about what his predecessor, Kieran Burke, earned as base salary though Burke will get more than $9 million in bonuses and severance as he heads out the door.
Meanwhile, Rep. Ernest Istook says he's met with David Pauken, who sits at the right hand of Six Flags' new chairman Dan Snyder, and Pauken says there has been no decision made as yet on whether to continue to maintain the corporate offices in Oklahoma City or to consolidate them with the New York financial office. About three dozen people work for Six Flags corporate in Oklahoma City, not including the staff of the two local parks (Frontier City and White Water Bay) owned by Six Flags.
Saturday spottings (wet ones)
Winter rain, pretty much by definition, is colder than any other rain you're likely to encounter, but it has one saving grace: so long as it's falling, you have no snow issues. And yes, there were occasional snowflakes in the mix this afternoon, but they were a distinct (not to say "white") minority. Besides, this is the most rain we've had in weeks; since the first official day of fall there has been less than an inch and a half, not to mention a smidgen of snow that melted down to Barely Damp.
I spent some of the day up in Edmond, to sample some of that soul-sucking conformity that, we are told, characterizes American suburbia, and it occurred to me somewhere west of Bryant on Second that it was the traffic, not the conformity, that was most likely to let the air out of one's soul. There are, nonetheless, a couple of things about Edmond (but only a couple) that bug me: too many streets called Oak Something or Something Oak, and too many houses with that fake-stucco stuff, which is to homebuilding what polyester is to wardrobes. (This latter, of course, is hardly unique to Edmond.)
The main reason I was there, though, I've already told you about: to snag a copy of the new David Kent thriller, The Blackjack Conspiracy, preferably while Kent was on hand to sign it. I did catch him offguard with one of my patented irrelevant questions: "So how long before you lose the radio voice?"
He blinked for a moment, then smiled and said: "It took me years to get it; it may take just as long to lose it."
Bookstores, of course, love these little signing parties, if only because they tend to attract characters like me who have never once left a bookstore carrying only one book. (Today: four books, $70.) And it's always nice to have something to read while it's raining or worse outside.
Does your team blow?
ESPN and the research firm Markitecture polled fans of the 92 major-league teams in baseball, football and basketball hockey was given a pass because they didn't have a season last year and all the data would presumably be stale and then ranked 91 of them (the NBA Charlotte Bobcats get an incomplete because they're so new) from best to worst according to the following criteria:
Bang for the Buck: Revenues directly from fans divided by wins in the past three years
Fan Relations: Ease of access to players, coaches & management
Ownership: Honesty; loyalty to players and city
Affordability: Price of tickets, parking and concessions
Stadium Experience: Friendliness of environment; quality of game-day promotions
Players: Effort on the field; likability off it
Coach/Manager: Strong on-field leadership
Championships: Titles already won or expected soon
Based on these criteria, the San Antonio Spurs, who finished no worse than sixth in any category and at the top in two, are the nation's premier major-league sports franchise. Another NBA club, the Detroit Pistons, placed second; the top-rated NFL team was the Pittsburgh Steelers (third) and the top-rated MLB team was the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (fifth).
Whither the Hornets? Keeping in mind survey lead time, which means that nothing that has happened in Oklahoma City is a factor, the Bugs are regarded this way:
One could argue that last year's 18-64 record doesn't augur well for playoff potential, I suppose. Then again, Hornets TV guy Bob Licht says with a straight face that this year's Bees are on track to finish 42-40, which surely would be good enough for a playoff berth, inasmuch as eight out of 15 teams in each division will qualify.
Oh, and the absolute bottom of the sports barrel? The New Orleans Saints, who finished nowhere above 60th in any category and came in dead last in ownership. Tom Benson, call your PR man.
Please insert Blahnik disk to continue
Would this be considered a "stereorail"?
18 December 2005
All we are saying is give dreck a chance
Coming in Spring '06: the first officially-licensed John Lennon Action Figure. (It would have been here for Happy Xmas '05, but they had to find time to get Yoko into the studio and record an unearthly shriek for the Low Battery signal.)
For an extra $49.95 you can get a special Collector's Base, made of good Norwegian wood.
(In the position of honor among Diane's Stuff.)
Touching is extra
Should local merchants charge a "browsing fee"?
[S]ome malls are so full of really awful stores that it's just not fun to shop there. For example, the best of our three local malls (I use the word "best" very advisedly) has eighteen sneaker stores, thirty-six visor-hat stores, twelve "rave" type of clothing stores, a Sears, a Target, bunches of Limiteds and Gaps, a Filenes, a Best Buy, and an Old Navy. I'm exaggerating the numbers but the proportions are right and the downscaleness is notable.
For a place like that, they should pay you.
Then again, there's this scenario:
The only way many of us can do fabulous shopping is to shop online. Which removes the immediacy, the touching and seeing, and the fun adrenaline rush of really good search-and-find shopping. And it's unfair to the local merchants who make huge efforts but can't lower their prices. Only a small proportion of our shopping dollars are spent locally any more. We check out things like books and digital cameras in local stores feel them, see them, weigh them, etc. then get wider choices and better prices plus get them delivered into our hands by buying online. It's logical and understandable but seems economically and ethically icky.
My rule of thumb: if someone from the store has actually assisted with the examination of the product, that someone gets the sale if I buy. (It doesn't hurt that if it's something I really want, I know I'll really hate waiting for it.) Time should be considered part of the price: having something in two minutes can justify a premium over having it in two days.
Then again, I place a fairly high value on convenience: it is wholly unlike me to drive four miles up the road to save three cents a gallon on unleaded. Your mileage may vary.
At the Festival of St. Vinton of Cerf
The Web has made it possible for me to express myself in ways that, little more than a decade ago, were out of reach of all but a few. It's allowed me to find friends and kindred spirits I'd never otherwise have known. And it's renewed my conviction that the great majority of Americans really are the tolerant, decent, agreeable sorts I'd always believed them to be.
The Church really should nominate a patron saint of the Internet Protocols.
I think this is being assigned to Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636), the "Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages," though I doubt that his name was passed on to I. F. Stone, who published a weekly (later biweekly) newsletter which, as much as any 20th-century publication, is an inspiration for the 21st-century blog.
Cool nightwear for hot flashes
Not that I'll be buying any of this stuff any time soon, but this makes a certain amount of sense to me:
The various inventors of this new sleepwear all seem to have had essentially the same eureka moment on a night when they started getting hot flashes of their own. They were all active and fit women, with years of experience with perspiration. And they realized that the temperature fluctuations of menopause called for the same wicking fabrics as running, hiking or exercising in the gym.
(Via Boinky, who quips: "No wonder ... Maureen Dowd can't find anyone to sleep with her.")
Spurred to greatness
The SRO crowd 19,297, about 0.5 percent above Ford Center capacity got to look at the defending NBA champs, which is always fun; what was more fun was watching the mighty San Antonio Spurs actually getting beaten by the Hornets, 89-76.
For a change, the Bees didn't fall apart in the fourth, outscoring the Spurs 29-14 in the final stanza, getting double-digit scoring from five players and just missing the triple-double from Chris Paul, who got 17 points, 12 boards and 9 assists.
Now 11-13, the Hornets hit the road for the frozen North, for a rematch with the Timberwolves and a first look at Milwaukee's Bucks.
19 December 2005
Axls of wheezing
No feeling in the serpentine anymore?
[W]hen does a rock and roll band go from being rebellious to being sports rock? Is there some sort of timeline that I don't know about? Does rebellion carry an expiration date? Because when I was a young lady in the eighth grade, listening to Guns N' Roses was the rebellious antidote to Belinda Carlisle and Whitney Houston.
They were even the antidote to Poison and Whitesnake because by late 1987 everyone liked those guys so we early adopters of Guns N' Roses were a smug bunch indeed. And now that first shining star in the Guns N' Roses story is the entrance music for football teams.
On the other hand, "Welcome to the Jungle" is easier to justify as a Sports Rocker than, say, "Sweet Caroline".
Total Weight Watchers points: 0
Not that I particularly wanted to know, but here's the nutritional value of one's lovin' spoonful.
Except, of course, for the Recommended Daily Allowance.
Actual New Orleans sports
While the Hornets were beating the Spurs in Oklahoma City and the Saints were losing to the Panthers in Baton Rouge, there was a basketball game in the city of New Orleans.
It wasn't a big game, particularly the women of Tulane beat Central Connecticut State 72-60 but it was the first actual sporting event in the Big Easy since, well, you know when. Admission was free, and about 800 showed up.
The fauxtility of it all
Ed Batista introduces the poster child for "fauxtilitarian design":
Hummer is taking out full-page ads for the Alpha, which features the "Duramax 6600 Turbo Diesel" engine and the "Allison 1000" transmission, making it "the new benchmark in off-road exotic vehicles." It's a new benchmark, alright the very latest in phony utility. It's fauxtilitarian!
The Alpha, I should point out, is the latest version of the original H1, the Hummer spun off from the military HMMWV, which in its civilian guise serves mostly to stick a thumb in the Sierra Club's eye; it is too big and too unwieldy (yet, amazingly, too cramped) to serve as a good suburban-assault vehicle). Worse, it costs around $130,000. You can be certain that no one is buying this for its rock-pounding prowess:
[W]hen Hummer's touting the "Duramax 6600" on the back of the Wine Spectator (see the Dec. 15 issue), well, fauxtility has officially exhausted itself as an aesthetic. I'm expecting a return to flashy superficiality any day now.
We'll know the cycle is complete when we see Robert Parker ratings for diesel fuel.
(Via Doc Searls.)
And their practitioners never leave the house
The more I read about this Web 2.0 business, the more I think it's some sort of mass delusion, a bizarre masturbatory frenzy that, had it the flexibility, would quickly devolve into endless (and solitary, one assumes) sessions of autofellatio.
Which, says Go Flock Yourself, is not quite accurate it's already there:
And, as they say, you've only heard the half of it.
From the top shelf
Mister Snitch! is taking nominees for Best Post of 2005 for a special year-end round-up of the 100 best.
Submissions are due by 30 December. Anybody who dares submit anything of mine had better be prepared to explain why.
I want an old drug
Carrie McLaren from Stay Free! on something I've seen before:
After two weeks of suffering through my annual bout of sinusitis/tonsilitis, I recently buckled and talked to my doctor about getting some antibiotics. I asked for Augmentin it's worked well for me in the past... and that's what he prescribed: a 14-day supply of Augmentin XR 1000 MG.
When I go to pick up my meds, the pharmacist informs me that my insurer HIP will only authorize a 10-day supply at one time. In order to get the remaining pills, I'll have to wait until I finish the first batch and come back again. Why on earth does HIP have such a policy? Is the drug not approved for the formulary? Nope, it's there. Is 10 days the standard dosage? No, the standard dosage is either 14 or 28 days.
No, the reason HIP covers less than a full supply is because it wants two co-payments out of me. At $30 each, that makes the drug $60. This not only makes the drug unduly expensive, but it encourages patients not to take their full course of antibiotics.... which, if you know anything about antibiotics, is dangerous from a public health perspective, because it can lead to drug-resistant bacteria.
Drug plans are full of neat little tricks like that. I have to contrive every year to have the stuff I take every day come close to running out right before the World Tour, because CFI Care [not its real initials] won't cover a refill if they think you have as much as a third of your last bottle remaining. Can I just buy two refills the month before, at twice the price? No, sorry, it doesn't work that way.
During last fall's illness, I was prescribed a rather massive dose of Augmentin: I think it was
(Via The Consumerist.)
Update, 28 December: Apparently Augmentin in this variety is only prescribed for ten days. The original post has been updated accordingly.
Weezer lead singer Rivers Cuomo says he's remained celibate for two and a half years, and that it's not particularly difficult:
Abstinence doesn't require as much self-discipline anymore. We never had any serious groupies, anyway. Our generation got screwed.
Or didn't get screwed, as the case may be.
To all you guys who started garage bands in the hopes of meeting girls: you have my deepest sympathies.
They call me the Seeker
Joy is where you find it.
I just wish that didn't inevitably happen to be the last place I think to look.
It has to be. Just like your keychain is in the last place you look because once you find it, you don't have to look anymore.
Keychains, and for that matter joy, can be misplaced; but the principle still applies.
20 December 2005
I won't dance, don't ask me
Fortunately, we still have Fred and Ginger, and better yet, we have them on the big screen: Swing Time will be shown at the Noble Theatre at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art Thursday and Friday at 7:30.
Dr Mutharika, your PCs are here
Computers for Africa? Great idea, Mr Gates, says Time.
Or maybe there are more pressing needs:
I would offer pencils and paper, mops and brooms: the schools I have seen in Malawi need them badly. I would not send more teachers. I would expect Malawians themselves to stay and teach. There ought to be an insistence in the form of a bond, or a solemn promise, for Africans trained in medicine and education at the state's expense to work in their own countries.
Malawi was in my time a lush wooded country of three million people. It is now an eroded and deforested land of 12 million; its rivers are clogged with sediment and every year it is subjected to destructive floods. The trees that had kept it whole were cut for fuel and to clear land for subsistence crops. Malawi had two presidents in its first 40 years, the first a megalomaniac who called himself the messiah, the second a swindler whose first official act was to put his face on the money. Last year the new man, Bingu wa Mutharika, inaugurated his regime by announcing that he was going to buy a fleet of Maybachs, one of the most expensive cars in the world.
If past experience is at all a guide, you've got to figure that this Bingu fellow is going to intercept anything coming into Lilongwe that looks like it might be worth something.
Building the hive mind
To no one's surprise, Hornets owner George Shinn is seeking local investors for the team.
Team president Paul Mott says that the prospectus will be out next month, and that the minimum buy-in per investor will be two percent, estimated at $4-6 million.
Absolutely no one is saying so, but this looks like the first step toward establishing the Hornets permanently in Oklahoma City. Shinn says that if the team moves back to New Orleans, he will buy back local investors who want out.
If I didn't know better and technically, I don't I'd think Shinn was trying to create something similar to the ownership structure of the San Antonio Spurs, which was designed specifically to insulate the team from relocation threats.
Eloise's 8-year-old is becoming suspicious of this whole Santa Claus scam, even going so far as to demand of the babysitter how it is that all these items, putatively sourced from the North Pole, nonetheless bear Target tags.
It's simple, explained the sitter, wise beyond her years: that's so if you get an identical item from someone else, you can return Santa's gift to the store.
I tell you, it's this sort of ingenuity that guarantees the Claus operation's continued market dominance.
Paging Randy Terrill
Mr Terrill, in case you've forgotten, is the state legislator whose BVDs were so horribly knotted by the infamous Lotto Tree.
I wonder what he'd think of the Lawrence, Kansas Fetus Tree.
Someone's in the kitchen with Donna
If you're like me, food is very high on the list of things you like to eat, so you might want to note that there's a new annex to Donnaville featuring Actual Recipes tried and tested by the Lady D herself.
From Kofi to Bill?
Parag Khanna of the Brookings Institution, in the January Harper's, presents a case for Bill Clinton as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations:
It may seem ironic to suggest Clinton as a manager, given that he ran one of the fastest and loosest White Houses in American history. No shortage of Clinton-haters would point to his personal indiscretions and ask why he is any better than Ruud Lubbers. Furthermore, it was under Clinton's watch and Kofi Annan's as head of peacekeeping that the United States balked in Somalia, waffled on the Balkans, and prevaricated on Rwanda. Yet not only has Clinton been forgiven; he continues to be seen as a source of hope. Simply watching any clip of the man in action overseas will demonstrate that America today has not one single citizen even remotely approaching his ability to develop a rapport with foreign leaders and there is no replacement in sight. The choice for President Bush, therefore, is not betwen any American and a non-American but between Bill Clinton and a non-American. Given Bush's patriotic instincts, this should be no choice at all. President Bush must be made to realize that changing the secretary-general is intimately linked to changing the U.N.'s culture and to reconciling the world body with the U.S. Certainly Clinton would use the bully pulpit to try to force the Bush Administration to respect international norms, but Bush would still be doing his party a big favor, particularly if Hillary runs for the White House in 2008. As she seeks to build a political dynasty in Washington to counter the Bushes', having Bill Clinton at the U.N. would eliminate Republicans' concerns about having him back at the White House, even as First Man to Hillary. Democrats are desperate for some kind of influence on foreign policy, and Republicans are obsessed with a U.N. cleanup. There is no credible competition for the job from Asia or any other region, and many countries are seeking a candidate who could counter [U.S. Ambassador John] Bolton's wrath. With the U.N. itself so desperate to find a comprehensive mandate for the future, the combination of so many colliding interests yields only one compromise greater than another lowest common denominator and he already lives in New York.
[Link added by me.]
A few things come to mind:
I'm not saying I think this is a wonderful idea, but the more I think about it, the less I dislike it. I suspect I may be quite alone in this judgment, though. (If I had my way? Maybe Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.)
Well, I (almost) never
How Slut-o-Meter works:
Slut-o-meter evaluates the promiscuity of the subject you enter by comparing the number of Google search results with and without "safe-search" enabled. A complete slut would return unsafe results and no safe results. Alternatively, a clean name should produce the same number of safe and unsafe results.
The exact formula is here. Applying it to the mysterious word "dustbury," we obtain promiscuity (as of this writing) of 5.42 percent.
(Via Majikthise, which scores 6.02 percent.)
Addendum, 22 December: Frank Wilson (book-review editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer) would like to know: "What can you make of something that rates Henry James sluttier than Tolstoy and Kerouac?" I figure it was transfixed by The Turn of the Screw.
21 December 2005
It probably would be a good idea to go back through my Amazon.com Wish List and delete the stuff I actually have now.
Another ally for Amex
In the fall of 2004, I reported that American Express and Discover were now free to seek alliances with banks that also issued Visa and/or MasterCard, and that MBNA, since acquired by Bank of America, would be the first financial institution to do so.
Citibank has joined the club: Citi will be issuing American Express cards later this month, and by mid-January will have a full suite of Amex-branded card products.
As with the MBNA Amex products, I suspect these will be of interest mostly to customers who have a working relationship with the institution already, since it's not particularly difficult to get an Amex card from American Express itself.
Update, 7:40 pm: American Express has confirmed that Bank of America, separately from the B of A/MBNA merger, will issue Amex cards of its own.
In a handy take-home size
I've always said that you shouldn't have to wade through hundreds of blog posts just to get a simple list of left-wing talking points, and apart from the inexplicable absence of the word "hegemony," this broadside is probably as good a list as you're going to find at least, between now and lunchtime.
(Via Lileks, who's eating at his desk today.)
Interstate 170 through Baltimore no longer exists: originally intended as a spur from I-70 to downtown, about a mile and a quarter of the road was actually built before plans to bring I-70 into Charm City limits and connect it to I-95 were abandoned. The stretch is now considered part of US 40. (Found at AARoads.com; by coincidence, "AA" is 170 in hex.)
And this is the 170th edition of Carnival of the Vanities, hosted by Ravenwood's Universe just in time for [fill in name of holiday].
Goes great with yellow cake
Wash it down with a cuppa Joe: Valerie Flame Hot Sauce.
I'd order a case for Judith Miller, but MoDo might get mad at me.
Skippy reviews King Kong:
it's a poorly-written, over-long, terribly miscast plagiaristic remake. but other than that, it's fantastic!
Maybe that's why it's doing such indifferent box-office business: the multiplexes of late are awash in poorly-written, over-long, terribly miscast plagiaristic remakes, and this one just doesn't stand out.
I'd rather believe that than this, anyway.
True out-of-the-box thinking
Auto parts from Japan arrive at Honda's Marysville, Ohio plant in huge shipping containers. Sending them back empty is not particularly difficult, but it costs money, so Honda built a plant next door to process, of all things, soybeans.
Really. The Autoextremist reports that Honda has been buying soybeans from a couple hundred Ohio farmers (there are a few in Michigan also) at about a buck above the going rate per bushel, then ships them back to Japan in those cargo containers. Honda's willing to pay that premium because they insist on beans with high uniformity and with no genetic modifications, in accordance with the demands of the Japanese market. Last year Honda's Harmony Agricultural Products In Ohio division exported nearly a million bushels of soybeans and made about $10 million in the process, a brilliant example of a profitable niche market developed to avoid an expense.
Every form is sacred
Neil Bryant served in the Oregon state senate for eight years, then joined the state's university system as a lobbyist. Earlier this year, Governor Ted Kulongoski nominated Bryant for a seat on the board of Oregon Health & Science University, and Bryant was duly sent the state's three pages of paperwork.
One question on the form was "Do you have a disability?" Possibly with twinkle in eye, definitely with tongue in cheek, Bryant filled in the nature of his disability: "white/male".
Hilarity did not ensue. Kulongoski got Bryant on the phone and asked him "What were you thinking?" Bryant has since requested that his nomination be withdrawn.
Having once completed a "Race" blank with "Mile Relay," I feel for the guy.
(Snagged from NRO's The Corner.)
Climbing the food chain
N.Z. Bear has decided that I'm back among the Large Mammals.
Easy go, easy come, or something like that.
It's cold in Minnesota this time of year, but not as cold as the Hornets; the Timberwolves could have phoned it in, 88-69, and it wasn't as close as it sounds. (At one point in the third, the Wolves were up by thirty-two points.) The Bees shot a dismal 32.5 percent, not quite the worst in team history but close.
With the game out of reach in the last quarter, first the Bees and then the Wolves turned matters over to their bench-dwellers, and Arvydas Macijauskas, who must have been wondering if he was ever going to get to play again, scored six points, bringing his season total to 14.
The Hornets, now 11-14, will take on the Bucks in Milwaukee on Friday.
Addendum: The Oklahoman tossed in this line:
The 69 points bested the team's previous season-low of 73, set back on Dec. 6 at Memphis.
Under the circumstances, I think this should have been "The 69 points worsted the team's previous season-low of 73."
What's that? Huh? No, we don't have any wool. Go see the Black Sheep. He usually has three bags around this time of year.
22 December 2005
Tulsa wants an orchestra
And three years after the demise of the Philharmonic, it looks like they may get one: a new Tulsa Symphony Orchestra is forming, and hopes to raise $1 million by the end of the year. The new TSO will have about 70 members; director Tim McFadden is a member of the executive board of AFM Local 94.
There will be no throwing of stones
Glass walls? Sure, why not? The Urban Design Commission has signed off on a plan to rework 1101 North Broadway, a 1920s Buick dealership, into high-zoot apartments under the name "Chandelier Building" which, you have to admit, has more pizazz than "National Pawn-A-Car," the last occupant of the building. The developers will add three stories on the back, which is where those glass walls will come in.
The inspiration, says one of the developers, is New York's Hudson Hotel, which, say its owners, represents "the next generation of Cheap Chic stylish, democratic, affordable, young at heart and utterly cool." Well, okay, if you say so. "Affordable," of course, is in the wallet of the beholder. But I never quarrel with "utterly cool."
Can't we all just get in line?
The People's Republic of Boulder, like the rest of Colorado, has open enrollment in its public schools, and apparently it's preventing the materialization of a perfectly-integrated multiracial utopia:
School segregation has been a subject of discussion and embarrassment for the past five years in Boulder, a community that considers itself the most progressive in the state.
"For a liberal community, we aren't looking so liberal in the white flight we've experienced from some schools in the last 10 years," says [outgoing School Board President Julie] Phillips, who was barred by term limits from seeking a third term on the school board.
The increasing segregation of Boulder schools was highlighted in a 2000 study by University of Colorado education school professors Kenneth Howe and Margaret Eisenhart.
"Whites are disproportionately requesting open enrollment in schools with high test scores; Latinos are disproportionately requesting open enrollment in bilingual schools," Howe and Eisenhart wrote.
The nerve. How dare they request things disproportionately?
But Boulder isn't taking this lying down:
[Superintendent George] Garcia says the district can't do anything about the state's open enrollment law, but a citizen task force in June suggested several strategies to disperse the district's students more equitably.
That could include enrollment targets for minorities and economically disadvantaged students at Boulder schools. The targets would be achieved through enrollment caps and preferences.
La Shawn Barber calls this song exactly what it is:
So, 50 years beyond government-mandated segregation, we've come full circle. The government is still in the illegal business of categorizing citizens by race and coercing people to conform to their hare-brained scheme of racial balance, an empty and scandalous policy that will cause resentment among all races and force whites (and other groups) to send their kids to private or parochial schools.
Good luck with all that.
Not particularly apropos of this, I have been reading Joanne Jacobs' book Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the School That Beat the Odds, the history of a charter high school in San Jose, California that takes the least-promising ninth-graders in town, yet sends all its graduates to four-year colleges. Not everyone makes it through, but those that do, do well. When you have a mission like this, considerations like "racial balance" fade into insignificance.
May I see your fake ID, please?
For a topic billed as "intelligent design," it certainly generates a lot of unintelligent discussion.
McGehee attempts to improve the odds:
I remember reading about "Intelligent Design" as a concept back in the 1990s. It is not new.
Even back then, while it was still under the radar of sensible people, it was already under attack as "creationism" even though those who were talking about it then were not creationists. But the detractors made enough noise that it brought the creationists into the picture and they decided since the "evolutionists" were agin it, that meant they oughta be for it. And that's when the people who first brought it up lost control of the concept.
What I recognize as "Intelligent Design" was formed back then before it became a cause célèbre of those who think the Genesis timeline of six days (and a day of rest) must mean six 24-hour days (and a 24-hour day of rest) and had nothing to say about the mechanics of evolution except that it takes more faith to credit it all to "accident" than to "not an accident." Indeed, the fact that the universe does indeed abide by these natural laws, and that these laws, seemingly implemented in a heartbeat at the moment when time and space began, made possible such a multivaried and beautiful universe, and one in which not only life could arise, but intelligent life, was all itself being held out as a pretty good argument for an intelligent designer. ID was never meant to be science, but a philosophical response to what science has shown.
And so it came to pass that the concept was inappropriately appropriated, and the label was pasted on Creationism v.2:
What offended its detractors, I think, is that it does indeed require more faith to credit it all to accident than otherwise and that meant ID was challenging that faith.
Since the most recent challenge to that faith had indeed been "creation science" an oxymoron of monumental proportions and since the Holy Church of Divine Accident had defeated that challenge, of course the counter-attack followed the same strategy.
This battle percolated on the back burner for several years, only emerging into the public eye relatively recently, as former "creation science" advocates hijacked the label of "Intelligent Design" for yet another attack on evolution.
My own thinking along these matters has been something like "God made the soup, and what happened after that depends on which bowl it wound up in," which would seem to be at least somewhat consistent with McGehee's description of original ID and generally contrary to the new, usurped ID. My idea of a proper biology class would point out that evolution explains some phenomena extremely well, others not so well, and that science is always subject to change as new information is received but never subject to change by popular vote. (Otherwise, this being December, I'd be out campaigning for more global warming.)
This is just so wrong
Then again, it's not like I've never poached anything from somebody else's comment section before.
The Top Ten Rejected Titles for Brokeback Mountain:
Thanks to Tom, Bart and Ace.
Where the hell are the flying cars?
Um, here, actually.
Meanwhile, The Consumerist would like to know:
What products, created by the movie industry at the behest of paying corporations, would you actually like to see produced?
The C-ist makes a good case for the hi-tech Nike hi-tops worn by Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future II. I'm going to have to think this over very carefully.
Girls just want to have axes
At first I was appalled; then I was amused; finally, I decided, "Why the heck not?"
Why, indeed? Here's the Fender Hello Kitty Stratocaster.
(Beret tip to Dean Esmay.)
A solid position, sort of
I've mentioned once or twice that buying off OG&E's wind farm was becoming cheaper than buying the regular gridstuff, largely because said regular gridstuff is obtained by burning natural gas, which costs more than a supermodel's body parts these days.
OG&E, in a letter to its wind customers, is now acknowledging this fact, and notes that in its new rate schedule, the $2/100-kw wind price will be lowered by, um, a dollar ninety.
This puts me ahead $11.40 a month before other changes to the rate schedule are figured in, or almost enough to cover what I'm losing on ONG's gas billing.
Addendum: And I'm quite sure that OG&E is serious about this wind business; they've signed on to a deal to build a new 120-megawatt wind farm, which could be on line in a year.
23 December 2005
Not to be confused with Title IX
Titles are a relatively new phenomenon: the classical shelf is full of things called "Symphony No. 4" and such, and motion pictures often don't get a title until well into the production phase, often designated at that point as "Untitled So-and-So Project," naming a director or perhaps a star. (Then there's Untitled: A Love Story, which I've mentioned before.)
A few albums on the pop side have been designated as untitled, including one by the Byrds. The fourth Led Zeppelin album is technically entitled in Druidic runes, though it's usually referred to as IV or Zoso or That Thing With "Stairway" On It. But some albums and at least one single get their titles from their record-company catalog numbers.
This was perhaps easiest to do with instrumentals, which give you no words to draw a title from: Memphis bandleader Willie Mitchell had a fair-sized hit in 1964 with "20-75," issued on Hi 2075. (Five years later, he put out a track called "30-60-90"; this was Hi 2154. Apparently you can only pull this trick once.)
The first album I know of that followed this scheme was Peter, Paul and Mary's 1967 LP Album 1700 (Warner Bros. 1700). Nothing in John Court's poem-as-liner-notes suggests any particular reason why, so I assume they did it just for a lark. (1700 was a big hit, too, with two singles: "I Dig Rock and Roll Music" and a cover of John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane", which wasn't actually put out on a 45 until 1969.)
On the other hand, Brewer and Shipley's ST-11261 (Capitol ST-11261, 1974) was so named, they say, because the record company treated it like so much product. This does not seem to be the case with Dave Davies' AFL1-3603 (RCA AFL1-3603, 1980): Nipper's minions appear to be pretty supportive. Then again, the cover art shows Dave with his head replaced by a bar code.
Which brings us to Yes and 90125 (Atco 90125, 1983). So far as I can figure, the motivation here was to sound as little as possible like previous progfests like Tales from Topographic Oceans; it was a smash hit (the single "Owner of a Lonely Heart" helped) and spawned a concert-album follow-up, 9012 Live. At least one source once claimed that "90125" is the ZIP code for Warner Bros. Records in Burbank, which is neither true nor relevant.
I once thought that, were I to own a record label, I would number the releases in the Fibonacci sequence. This idea quickly turned sour when I realized that the first two releases would perforce both be numbered 1, and 2 would be the third release.
Metris Companies, a major credit-card issuer catering to the less-than-bucks-up market I have one of their titanium cards sitting in a drawer somewhere has been acquired by HSBC, which is a Pacific Rim operation (Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corp.) which also owns, among other things, the old Household Finance Company, its one-time rival Beneficial, and what used to be called Marine Midland Bank up in Buffalo.
Metris has a customer-service center in Tulsa, one reason I kept this account open; I expect that office to be closed shortly.
Where is this place again?
Michael Bates, writing in Urban Tulsa Weekly, on buildings as icons, and how the new BOk Center doesn't measure up:
[Architect Cesar] Pelli's design fails as an icon because it is not distinctive. It's arena-shaped, it's built with steel, concrete, and lots of glass, and it looks like millions of other modern buildings, just differently arranged. It doesn't draw on any symbol that would bring to mind Tulsa or Oklahoma or even the United States. It could be anywhere in the world, and so it brings to mind nowhere.
Although Pelli claims that he used Native American and Art Deco elements, they aren't apparent. The shape of the building is reminiscent of a QuikTrip coffee lid, but that's the nearest connection to Tulsa's heritage that I can find.
Oklahoma City's Ford Center isn't particularly iconic either, but it's intended to fit into an existing urban environment, not to anchor a new one.
She's just not that into you
Been here, seen some of this:
A woman has a close male friend. This means that he is probably interested in her, which is why he hangs around so much. She sees him strictly as a friend. This always starts out with, you're a great guy, but I don't like you in that way. This is roughly the equivalent for the guy of going to a job interview and the company saying, You have a great resume, you have all the qualifications we are looking for, but we're not going to hire you. We will, however, use your resume as the basis for comparison for all other applicants. But, we're going to hire somebody who is far less qualified and is probably an alcoholic. And if he doesn't work out, we'll hire somebody else, but still not you. In fact, we will never hire you. But we will call you from time to time to complain about the person that we hired.
(Via Scipio by way of Chris Lawrence.)
Your tax shekels at work
Truly a scary headline:
INFANT DISCOVERED IN BARN, CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES LAUNCH PROBE
Nazareth Carpenter Being Held On Charges Involving Underage Mother
And while the government is on a roll:
The owner of the barn is also being held for questioning. The manager of Bethlehem Inn faces possible revocation of his license for violating health and safety regulations by allowing people to stay in the stable. Civil authorities are also investigating the zoning violations involved in maintaining livestock in a commercially-zoned district.
(a bow to Accidental Deb)
The second of March, 1962, and the Warriors have beaten the Knicks, 169-147.
Then again, the Knicks were witnessing history in the making: Wilt Chamberlain, all by himself, put in 100 of those 169 points for Philadelphia, and forty-odd years later, no one has quite come close.
Annika thinks it may be coming:
After Kobe drops 62 on the Mavs in only three quarters, you gotta wonder if Wilt's record might be in danger.
Well, it's possible, I suppose.
If Kobe wanted to, against the right defense, he could get to 101. Unlike Wilt, Kobe is almost automatic at the line, and he's got the advantage of a three point shot that didn't exist in 1962.
True enough: Chamberlain was a crummy free-throw shooter (his career record at the line was a fairly terrible .511, though he made 28 of 32 on the Big Night), and every one of those 36 field goals he sank was for two points.
Sixty-two points in 33 minutes (Bryant sat out the fourth quarter, presumably with Phil Jackson's approval) works out to about 90 in forty-eight, a tad short of a hundred, but who besides Kobe is even close these days?
Senate lauds air, condemns rhinoviruses
I don't know which is more annoying: the fact that the House of Representatives thought it necessary to pass a resolution "protecting the symbols and traditions of Christmas," or the idea that I should care who voted against it.
I suppose, though, it's nice to know that there aren't any important issues to deal with.
The lead changed hands more than a dozen times, but finally Milwaukee, led by Michael Redd's 36 points, pulled away from the Hornets and won it, 101-94, dropping the Bees to 11-15.
Chris Paul and David West were pretty hot 24 and 27 points respectively but overall the Hornets shot only 39 percent.
Four days off, then one game at the Ford, against the Rockets Wednesday, before a quick trip to San Antonio.
24 December 2005
Fatuous Flashback 13
Close encounter of the historical kind:
[O]ut in Albertson's parking lot this morning, I had a nice little talk with your basic cute redhead (if one's definition of "cute redhead" is sufficiently extensible to include a birthdate before the World War, and I mean the first one) in a humongous early-80s Buick. Very spunky, for all you Lou Grant fans, and to belie the stereotype of older drivers in ancient American iron, she had demonstrably better visual acuity than I. I doubt I'll live that long, but if it should be so decreed by the powers that be, I hope I have as much energy as she does. (Cripes, I wish I had that much now.)
(From this untitled entry, 23 December 2000.)
Vestments of white
"Catholic feast days are almost always depressing," says E. M. Zanotti, and Christmas, despite having spread far beyond Catholicism, may be the bleakest of all:
Mary, likely only about 14 at the time, was a child having a child: the kind of unexpected situtation that we, here and now, might automatically suggest abortion for. Just days after her giving birth in secret, Herod, in an effort to pre-empt the prophecy, kills off hundreds of innocent children, thinking that Jesus was among them. Through the ordeal, the players in the Christmas pageant endure some of the worst that society has to offer discrimination, aggression, and genocide with only a crucifixion and death to look toward.
But then, there's this:
Christmas comes without ribbons, it comes without tags. In the bleak midwinter, when the snow has just become annoying and the temperatures are dipping below the freezing mark, when the days are the shortest, and the sky is overcast, the trees barren, in the bleakest moment in world history, surrounded by pain and suffering and the worst of the human condition, Christmas was, and is, a beacon of hope, a reminder that our time in this place is only temporary. After all, if He helped us out once, He can help us out again.
Another reason not to fear the Newdows of today, or the Newerdows of tomorrow.
Who's your Dada?
Lawrence, Kansas Mayor Boog Highberger has proclaimed International Dada Month, and what's more, he's not adhering to that hopelessly-square business about having it one continuous month: it will begin 4 February 2006, end on 26 October, and occupy randomly-selected days in between.
The proclamation includes a classic line from German Dadaist poet Hugo Ball: "zimzim urallala zimzim urallala zimzim zanzibar zimzalla zam."
Which, you know, is about what you'd want to hear from a guy named "Boog."
Donna, should she be wandering around Lawrence, is prepared:
When I think of [Salvador] Dali, I think of a man who had a sense of humor. This was not in evidence in the audio tour or any of the written pieces within the exhibition. It was simply surreal how seriously they handled his surrealism. "In this piece, the young poet is depicted with a lobster on his head, which offers us Freudian insight into Dali's own juxtapositioning of ...." C'mon guys, there's a freakin' lobster on this kid's head... now that is FUNNY! It's okay to laugh.
At the time, I mentioned that Dali had done some advertising work for feminine unmentionables, which is kinda goofy in itself.
And maybe His Boogness is attuned to this level of surreality:
Highberger said his motivation isn't quite as complicated. "It might just be a prank," [he] said.
Punk'd by the Mayor! (Memo to Mick Cornett: Feel free to wear a lobster on your head at the next Council meeting.)
And anyway, it's not like this ululation about "urallala" is utterly foreign to us: as Richard Penniman was wont to say, "Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom."
(Suggested by Fark.)
Dan Lovejoy got the Official Surlywood Tour this afternoon, and brought over lots of yummy stuff of the sort that gets Stern Looks from physicians with charts in their hands.
Between that and the arrival yesterday of Wampy's World-Class Fruitcake (guaranteed yummy, no matter how impossible that may seem), I figure any mass I lost in the preceding 51 weeks will be regained in the next 51 hours.
The last surviving stereotype
In some far-flung future, no one expects gay men to lisp and/or mince, evangelical Christians to get bent out of shape about s*x, men to scratch themselves with whichever hand is free, or women to swear off oral sex once married.
But we'll still have letters to Glamour like this one in the January '06 issue:
I want a sexy, un-librarian updo for New Year's Eve. Help!
(Why is he reading Glamour, you ask? Well, they had an article on "Women Who Blog." The article about Salma Hayek wasn't even noticed. Not even the picture where she's half-wearing a DKNY sweater.)
25 December 2005
The smallest gift of all
A holiday open thread. Let there be tidings of comfort and joy and whatever else fits the scene.
The gospels of John and Mark don't spend any time on the birth of Jesus; what we know, mostly, comes from Matthew and especially from Luke.
What we tend to forget is that many other accounts were written which aren't part of the Scriptural canon. One of the more interesting versions is the one appearing in the Protevangelium of James, attributed to the half-brother of Jesus. This seems unlikely, since James was put to death about AD 62, before the writing of either Matthew's or Luke's gospel, and James clearly draws from both; the Protevangelium was probably written about 150. (By general agreement, Mark's gospel was the first written: it dates to 70 or so. Keep in mind that the actual birth of Jesus was before AD 1, perhaps in the early autumn of 5 BC.)
The Glittering Eye today reprints three Nativity scenes, one from James and two later editions, which obviously don't replace the canonical versions, but do represent the thinking of some early Christians, a useful reminder that then, just as now, not everyone fell into doctrinal lockstep.
Yet another drop-in (2nd followup)
KWEY-FM in Weatherford would seem to have it pretty good; they're the only FM in town, they pump out 100,000 watts all over western Oklahoma, and they've got an AM facility to boot.
So why would they want to make themselves over as a lowly 6,000-watt rimshooter in Blanchard?
From a few months later:
The application is in, and it's even lowlier than I thought: the request is for 1,000 watts at 244 meters, about the same stick height as they have now. They're still short-spaced to KQOB (at 96.9; KWEY's application is for its existing 97.3 frequency) by about nine miles, though. (Translation: They don't meet the usual FCC spacing requirements for stations this close together on the dial, and must demonstrate to the Commission's satisfaction that there will be no excessive interference.)
The Feds have indeed granted a construction permit for the 1,000-watt facility, and Tyler Media, which owns four other radio stations in this market, all but one of them moved in from somewhere else, has purchased the station for a reported $1 million. New calls KOJK have been applied for. (This, at least, supports my speculation in the original post: "I'm thinking that maybe they want to sell this station, and they don't think they'll get a buyer out there in Weatherford.")
Still, there remains the question of what Tyler will do with the facility, and so far, they haven't said anything.
I draw the line at plaid
On the off-chance that someone out there is annoyed because Santa wears that red suit the North Pole wasn't a red state, last I looked, but you never can tell with some people here's Santa in blue.
What a difference a year makes
This week last year:
This week this year:
What's the difference? Last year, there was this.
26 December 2005
Here are two guys with a commitment of sorts to charity:
We, James Hong and Josh Blumenstock, hereby make a personal promise to you that we will give 10% of whatever we make over $100,000 each year to charity.
We're making this commitment because we think it will help make the world a better place, and we're encouraging people to make the same promise to themselves and to their friends.
A laudable idea, though Erica asks:
Yay for grassroots effort and all, but if you make $100k can't you already afford to give a good 10% out of that?
Jacqueline seems to think so, and at the moment she makes quite a bit below $100k:
Christians give 10% of their income to their church, and they seem to be doing pretty well in the world domination department. Which got me thinking, what if we ALL gave 10% of our incomes to support our favorite causes or charity? What would the world look like then?
Well, not all Christians do that, and I don't think it's required, but it certainly strikes me as praiseworthy.
The Tax History Project has copies of recent Presidential tax returns; on impulse, I took a peek at the 2004 numbers. George W. and Laura W. Bush reported an adjusted gross income of $784,219, and deducted charitable contributions of $77,785, which is 9.92 percent. Close enough to 10 percent, I'd say. (Closer than I got, I admit.)
Who listens to this ****?
Rich Appel reports in issue #100 of Hz So Good:
Curse those Grammys. For the first time in the history of music's most prestigious award, four of the five Record of the Year nominees Gorillaz' "Feel Good Inc.," Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," Gwen's "Hollaback Girl" and Kanye's "Gold Digger" contain curse words in their lyrics. Only Mariah's "We Belong Together" is swear-free. I say they bring back Andy Williams to sing them all lyrics-intact on awards night.
It wouldn't be quite as cool as having been able to persuade Anne Murray to sing "Blame Canada" during the Oscars, but you know, it would be good to see Andy again.
(You can get Hz So Good monthly by emailing Rich at audiot.savant at verizon.net.)
And I haven't moved an inch
One of my complaints from last spring:
GeoURL is back up, now in version 2.0, and if you track this site, you will be told that it is "Near Nichols Hills, OK, United States."
Well, yeah, I suppose that's true in the grand scheme of things, a mile and a half (the distance from Surlywood to Outabounds) qualifies as "near" but since I'm actually in Oklahoma City, wouldn't it have made more sense just to have positioned me there?
Was I heard? Now if you track this site, you will be told that it is "Near The Village, OK, United States."
I am actually farther from The Village than I am from Nichols Hills.
(Yes, I checked the longitude/latitude parameters: they're correct.)
The hook, I think, was the dishes.
My mother died in 1977; my father subsequently remarried, and they're still together. One inevitable consequence of such things is the gradual separation of "her stuff" from "our stuff," and sooner or later "her stuff" is banished to the grey nothingness of memory which means, often as not, the garage.
Which is how my brother and I wound up in the garage this afternoon sorting through boxes of stuff, including, yes, dishes. This was a set of china that had been handed down one generation, maybe two, already; presumably it would be highly prized. And actually, he prized it more highly than I; the twisting-vines motif always gave me a slight case of the creeps, and undoubtedly contributed to various incidents of "So why won't you eat your vegetables?" ("They look like they're being eaten by kudzu" was deemed Not Acceptable as a response.) I suspect that at least part of my vast ketchup consumption in those days was motivated by the urge to cover up the pattern the best I could. Which is a shame, because it's really quite lovely; however, I always preferred to see it in the cabinet, behind glass, where I didn't have to eat off it. So he wound up with the bulk of that set, and I got some of a later, crummier set which has 1970s avocado all over it, easier for me to tune out mentally. (It should be pointed out here that more often than not, we wound up eating off some plastic stuff that gloried in its plasticity; I claim no credit for this.)
Eventually, he's also going to end up with the cabinet, mostly because his lovely bride insists. I made off with a couple of side tables, a brace of mahogany Madonna (I suppose) busts, and a salad set that was in better shape than my own, which isn't too bad a haul.
Sans more than serif
Can we call them "dongbats"? Dynamo Dave discovers Smutty Fonts, which I suppose proves that you're never too old to kern.
[Insert "caps lock" joke here]
27 December 2005
It was just a matter of time
No, you can't have a copy.
"I wrote this," he said
Herewith, a bit of instruction by Stephen Koch: it's from his The Modern Library Writer's Workshop.
As for the claim that the reader can't follow multiple or shifting points of view, it is simply false on its face. The whole history of the novel is testimony to the contrary, from Jane Austen to Thomas Pynchon. In masterpiece after masterpiece, the narrative point of view readily changes from page to page, or even from sentence to sentence and only delights as it does so. In fact, one of prose fiction's grandest strengths, which it exercises for once in effortless superiority over all other narrative media, including the movies, is its ability to dart in and out of any character's mind at will. To forgo this splendid artistic advantage in the name of some pallid academic theory is really madness.
Chapter to chapter, of course, is no big deal; page to page can be followed if you're paying attention, and certainly you should be; but sentence to sentence? Maybe it's just me, but I don't think I should have to keep a scorecard along the edge of my bookmark. Then again, my own talent for writing fiction is extremely limited, and perhaps this limitation somehow creeps into my reading capacity though I must admit that I seldom have trouble following Charlie Kaufman movies, which are about as linear as a Klein bottle.
(Via Deeanne Gist at Romancing the Blog.)
One of the great mysteries of life
How is it that I can take one day off work and come back two days behind?
That weird fiscal-responsibility business
In 1994, Blanchard voters approved a one-cent sales tax to pay off a 40-year Federal loan to cover the cost of running a 15-mile water line to connect to Oklahoma City's water system. The idea was that at the end of the 40 years, the tax would duly expire.
But Blanchard's growth since 1994 has been greater than anticipated, and the city has announced that the loan is now almost completely paid off; the city attorney says that February revenues will cover the last of it, and once that's done, the Oklahoma Tax Commission, which collects the tax, will be directed to stop doing so.
I bring up stuff like this from time to time to remind people that not everyone in a government office carries the Spendthrift Gene.
The sadness of the Democrats
Power Line's John Hinderaker points to this Quinnipiac University poll, and finds an oddity:
Q.: Do you think 2005 was better or worse than 2004 for you personally?
Note that the question was not about the direction of the country, or about any aspect of current affairs; respondents were asked how 2005 was for "you personally." It's a generally accepted fact, I think, that Republicans tend to be happier and more optimistic people than Democrats. Still, I find these results astonishing. The only apparent explanation is that Democrats not just the activists and political junkies, but millions and millions of Democrats were so depressed over President Bush's re-election that they perceived 2005 as a bad year for them "personally."
Even if these poll numbers are fairly accurate, this strikes me as something of a stretch.
By whom is this "fact" of greater happiness within the GOP "generally accepted"? Donald Sensing reported on a 2004 poll which seems to support that premise, but he doubted that the differences were significant; I suspect that even if they are significant, they're not enough to explain this huge difference in the Quinnipiac study.
So we're supposed to believe, basically, that vast numbers of Democrats took their drubbing at the polls personally and are somewhere between uncomfortable and despondent about it. This doesn't sound like any Democrats I know personally, but then I live in Oklahoma; perhaps we have less of a tendency to whine.
(For the record: 2005 was better for me personally, though mostly in areas considered intangible; my finances were largely unchanged from the year before. I am a Democrat, albeit substantially to the right of the party's base.)
Let's do it (let's fix this house)
Cole Porter's early childhood home in Peru, Indiana is getting a makeover at the hands of its new owners, the Ole Olsen Memorial Theatre, which will turn the 18-room house into part museum, part B&B.
The repairs will cost about $105,000; donations have been received for about half that sum so far.
There's a restoration blog, which for the moment has its newest posts at the bottom.
They said it wouldn't last.
The second weekly Carnival of Nothing has received nothing, says creator Sean Gleeson, from literally thousands of bloggers, testimony to Mr Gleeson's unique (and uniquely clear) vision.
Tales of the Demon Eel
Bill Peschel singles out some of the worst descriptions of oral sex in contemporary fiction, leading me to the inevitable conclusion that sometimes it's better to keep one's mouth shut.
Or something like that.
(No pictures, but probably not especially safe for work either.)
28 December 2005
Please let me off this grid
Alameda County, California assigns addresses based on how far a building is from downtown Oakland, which is the county seat. You might not think, even if you lived in semi-remote Hayward and had a number like 22071 on your front door, that this would be a big deal.
You would, of course, be wrong. Developers have complained to Hayward municipal government that these ginormous numbers could be costing them sales because all these digits increase the likelihood that some of them would be considered unlucky under the rules of feng shui.
Kidding? Of course not:
Real estate agent Lisa Coen, of nearby Pleasanton, who also runs a feng shui consulting firm, said she has advised developers on how to make homes attractive to buyers who would not want to live at the end of a cul-de-sac or where a door opens onto a staircase.
"It does matter to some people. It really does matter," Coen said. "They won't buy a house ... if the number's not right."
And apparently she does practice what she preaches. Her feng shui consulting firm is located at number 326, which is a good thing:
Six is also very auspicious, not only because it has the same sound as "profitable" or "luk" in Cantonese but also because 6 is twice 3 and 3 is a lucky primary number since it takes a minimum of 3 points to create a geometrical shape. Three is the beginning of all things and twice 3, that is 6, means progress and doubling of everything that you started with. For the same reason the three digit numbers 326 and 666 are also popular with the Chinese.
Disclosure: My own address, balanced between yin and yang, is just fine.
(Via Kipper, who sitteth at the right hand of Xrlq.)
It's been a long year
And apparently it's going to be literally so: in an effort to keep the rotation of the Earth and the atomic clocks in sync, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service will add one second to the very end of 2005.
The last time the Paris-based IERS twiddled with the clock was in 1998; a mid-year correction was made in 1997.
The dropping of the ball will be timed accordingly; revelers are advised to take note.
Take this yolk from me
Where in the nursery rhyme does it say Humpty Dumpty is an egg?
Actually, I'm inclined to blame this on Lewis Carroll, though Carroll's description sounds like Dumpty is less than happy with the characterization:
"And how exactly like an egg he is!" she said aloud, standing with her hands ready to catch him, for she was every moment expecting him to fall.
"It's very provoking," Humpty Dumpty said after a long silence, looking away from Alice as he spoke, "to be called an egg very!"
Of course, there's always a story behind a nursery rhyme, and sometimes it's even true.
Not relevant but thrown in anyway: Sylvan N. Goldman (1898-1984), who headed the Standard Foods/Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain in Oklahoma City, invented the shopping cart in 1937.
Rock down to Electric Avenue
In 1990, the city of McAlester, Oklahoma renamed a major thoroughfare Gene Stipe Boulevard, after a local lawyer who had served in the state Senate for four decades.
Two years ago, after pleading guilty to federal charges of funneling money illegally into an associate's Congressional race and subsequently laundering the funds, Stipe resigned from the Senate in disgrace, was fined a gazillion dollars, and gave up his law license.
Earlier this year, five hundred McAlester residents submitted a petition to get Stipe's name off the street signs, and yesterday the City Council voted 5-2 to do just that; the street will revert to its previous name of Electric Avenue.
A friend of Stipe's said he'd see to it that Mayor Don Lewis was turned out of office at the next election.
Three years ago, I reported on the death of Dr. Earl Leathen Warrick, a founder of Dow Corning and the developer of Silly Putty.
Since that time, I've gotten regular traffic from people wanting to know how to get the stuff ("3179 Dilatant Compound") in bulk from the factory, but I claim no credit for this:
Not long ago, I walked by the desk of software engineer JJ Furman, and saw that he had made an interesting addition to his desk: a large blob of Silly Putty, about the size of a grapefruit. Intrigued, I asked how he'd gotten so much of the stuff. The answer? A bulk order directly from the manufacturer! Of course.
I knew then that I wanted some, and it dawned on me that I probably wasn't the only one. So I set out to place a really, really big bulk order. An email went out to cohorts. Their orders came in. Three weeks later, I had an eighth of a ton of Silly Putty delivered to my desk.
You gotta love it.
(Noticed by Mister Snitch!)
This is the bottom section of an ad being circulated by PajamasMedia; I caught it at Protein Wisdom. Where they meant to link is here; the URL given in the ad leads to a parked / squatted-upon / splogged [choose one] domain. By coincidence, I had a post about this bank last week, which is probably why I noticed this little anomaly in the first place. (Alternate title, rejected partly for reasons of taste, but mostly because I'd used it before: Dyslexia warns without striking.)
If you're heading north, exit 171 (Chestnut Ridge Road, northbound only) is the next-to-last exit from the Garden State Parkway; this blog might be written from somewhere nearby.
On a less Jerseycentric note, Carnival of the Vanities #171 is hosted this week by ChickenSoup4TheDamned. I assume it's at least warm.
Tracy McGrady missed the last Hornets-Rockets game, and I was wondering: Is T-Mac that good?
He's that good. He picked up 38 points; combine that with 26 from Stromile Swift off the bench, and you'd think Houston would have won it in a walk. But the Bees prevailed, 92-90, with six players in double figures, and a welcome return to form for J. R. Smith, who dropped in 16 points. David West and Rasual Butler each scored 15, Butler snagging three treys in four attempts.
Empty seats? Not a one.
The Hornets, now 12-15, are off to San Antonio for another crack at the Spurs tomorrow night, and then back to the Ford for a week with four games: Dallas, Charlotte, Miami and Portland.
29 December 2005
Boomtown on the Missouri
There's a billboard on Classen near 13th which reads Oklahoma City: Capital of the New Century, and there's nothing wrong with a little braggadocio here and there, but while we're getting used to laurels, we have to remember not to rest on them.
Consider for a moment that other city that starts with O:
In less than a decade, Omaha has transformed its downtown and riverfront, sculpting a skyline, constructing top-attraction entertainment venues, embracing the Missouri River, propelling the city beyond the promise of Leahy Mall's urban park and the bustling Old Market.
Always a business-oriented city hungry for growth and focused on development with laser intensity, Omaha aimed high, reached for momentum and found critical mass.
In 1996, business and government leaders devised a 33-block redevelopment plan they hoped would lead to $1 billion in construction within 10 years.
What they got was more than $2 billion in public and private projects.
We talk a lot about Tulsa and Kansas City, but let's not underestimate Omaha.
Defective products, I guess
Oklahoma State Trooper Nikky Joe Green was murdered two years ago by meth-head Ricky Ray Malone; a mobile meth lab was found in Malone's car.
Green's widow has now filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Malone and against the manufacturers and sellers of the cold-remedy tablets Malone used in his traveling lab. Linda Green charges that the stores knew the tabs were being used to produce meth, and that the drug companies know ways to keep pseudoephedrine from being extracted to produce meth, but deliberately don't use them.
It was Nik Green's death that prompted the state, in the spring of 2004, to enact stricter controls on the drugs in question; Malone is presently parked on Death Row at Big Mac.
Still, I'm wondering if it's possible to sue concrete companies if a Mob informant is found in the river wearing cement overshoes.
This Google query came in this morning:
How old is this person? In two years she'll be twice as old as she was five years ago.
I know Google can do arithmetic, but I wasn't aware that they could solve equations for x. (And if they could, there would have been no reason to send this poor shlub to my site.)
By the way, she's twelve.
Paris Hilton: not a golddigger
A clamdigger, maybe.
(Bless you, Lawren.)
Doing a slow burn
The armchair shrink speaks:
Guys argue that women tend to stew and hold grudges more, sometimes popping up to blow the whistle on a man's bad behavior years later, like a missile out of the night, as Alan Simpson said of Anita Hill.
Yet look at Cheney and Rummy. Their steroid-infused power grabs stem from their years stewing in the Ford White House, a time when they felt emasculated because they were stripped of prerogatives.
They're men, Maureen. They're not necessary at all. Remember?
As DCeiver might say, "Meh."
Working on that productivity
The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel seems to be upset that the Hornets, as a team, are worth a mere $225 million, less than any other NBA team, according to the annual Forbes tabulation. Considering that the two smallest markets with NBA activity are the Bees' regular home and their temporary home and considering that the hapless Knicks and the marginally-hapful Lakers, in the top two markets, place one-two on the Forbes list methinks Mr. Tramel doth protest too much. And the #30 Hornets only lost a couple of million dollars last year; the #29 Portland Trailblazers (worth a stirring $227 million) hemorrhage almost that much cash in a month, and have been for years.
Besides, Forbes has a more interesting chart: Player Relative Productivity Score, in which the 100 highest-paid NBA players are rated in terms of performance versus salary over the past three years. The Hornets, down in Poverty Row, have only two of them, but both are well ahead of the Forbes average: Desmond Mason ($7.2 million a year) comes in at 117, and P. J. Brown ($8 million) at a startling 157, seventh in the league. If nothing else, George Shinn would seem to be getting (some of) his money's worth. (The cellar-dweller player name withheld in case his mom is reading scored a pitiful 29; at the other end, Chauncey Billups of the Pistons, apparently underpaid at $5.9 million, comes in with a score of 189.)
And consider this: the Knicks, top of the NBA financial heap, are worth $543 million, three times annual revenues. The allegedly bottom-feeder Bees are worth $225 million, 2.88 times revenues. If we could get Madison Square Garden ticket prices at the Ford Center but never mind, let's not go there. (Heck, we couldn't afford to go there.)
Forget the Alamo
"This isn't a message in a bottle," said radio color guy Gerry Vaillancourt, and indeed it wasn't; the Spurs made it clear from halfway through the first period that they were not going to lose to the Hornets again, especially in front of the hometown folks.
If there's an upside to the 111-84 debacle, it was the chance to give the usual bench-dwellers an outing: both Arvydas Macijauskas and Maciej Lampe got some playing time. (Macas hit a trey, even; Lampe didn't score, but picked up a couple of boards.)
The Mavericks visit the Ford Center on New Year's Eve.
30 December 2005
Time to re-up
Just paid the 2006 hosting bill. (The domain is paid for through 2007.)
Apparently I'm going to be here awhile.
Every third word out of the National Weather Service these days is "FIRE," and when you've gotten a quarter-inch of rain in two months and winds are whipping up over dried-out and dormant vegetation, it should surprise no one: we're living in a tinderbox, and it won't take much to set it off. Along I-35 south of NE 36th there's a scorched embankment, half a mile long; I wonder if maybe someone pulled onto the shoulder, his muffler was dragging the ground, and suddenly it's like Popeil's Pocket Inferno.
Boinky seemed perturbed that I hadn't brought up this subject, but then grassfires during drought (or "drouth," as some would have it) are about as rare as gas after broccoli. And while temperatures of late have been well above seasonal averages, it wasn't so long ago that we were basking in Arctic breezes; the month of December will go into the record books as just about normal. For the dyed-in-the-wool Oklahoman, this is no news.
Other things to do in a drought
Three 10-year-old boys from down Durant way broke into the local middle school and ran amok, fooling around with the athletic equipment, swiping snacks from the cafeteria, pounding dents into the gym floor, and generally acting like morons.
Trust me on this: "Do not take off your clothes in front of a surveillance camera."
Because... you asked for it!
Andrew "Adam Slushpilitz" Krucoff, guest-editing at Gawker during the slowest news week of the year, put in this earnest request to readers:
Hang tight and please send in tips, including pics of your mom. I haven't the foggiest clue about what's going on with New York, media, or pop culture these days.
Dawn Eden, occasional topic at Gawker, duly forwarded a pic of her mom.
(I'm assuming that the photo was not taken during the brief period she lived in Galveston.)
Adventures in the Urban Zone
I take this Table for One business very seriously: I truly hate eating alone, and when I have to, which is 99-point-something percent of the time, I'll either grind something out in the kitchen or grab a sack at the drive-through. Neither of these circumstances gives me any credibility as a food critic. (If you have to ask someone where you should eat, ask Sean Gleeson.)
Then again, 99-point-something is not a hundred, and when Dan Lovejoy suggested "Let's do lunch," and was willing to let me pick the location, I got to weigh two criteria "What's different?" and "What haven't I seen yet?" and came up with the idea of Café do Brasil, which vacated its old spot in the Victoria Building (18th and Classen) some months back and has now resurfaced at 11th and Walker.
The atmosphere, as you might expect, is cheerily-controlled chaos; among the proffered soups du jour was the ineffable "Cream of Something," which I decided I might want to pass up. What I did get was the Plato Sao Paulo, which is a bed of rice and black beans about yea high, overlaid with strips of chicken breast, diced red onions and tomatoes. Simple but effective. Dan tried out one of the specialty pies. We traded stories of perfidy at work, and pronounced ourselves quite full when the check (less than $20) came.
Not quite on the way back home, I remembered something that I'd read about in one of Downtown OKC's Skyline Snapshots:
Located at NE 7th Street and Oklahoma Avenue this 2150 square foot urban loft residence lies amidst a definitively resurging area. With the convenience of downtown accessibility and the proximity to Automobile Alley, Deep Deuce and Bricktown, this modern designed home embodies urban living while capitalizing on the Oklahoma City skyline views. The clarity and openness of its plan, flexible spatial organization, balanced proportions and outdoor living spaces truly exemplify the client's desire for a dwelling/studio concept. The easily adaptable, functionally flexible home is site specific with directionally framed views always providing a connection to the outdoors.
Status: Designed by J3 Architecture, this private residence is currently under construction with completion expected in March 2006.
So I drove to 33 NE 7th to see what was up, and while evidence of that definitive resurging is presently conspicuous by its absence, I am prepared to assert that even in its unfinished state, this is one cool-looking house, and I am prepared to envy the client who is undoubtedly paying big bucks for it.
On the cheap
While Thomas Sowell is usually among the sanest columnists around, he has seriously misfired with this Townhall item:
I don't make a million dollars a year but I think every member of Congress should be paid at least that much. It's not because those turkeys in Washington deserve it. It's because we deserve a lot better people than we have in Congress.
The cost of paying every member of Congress a million dollars a year is absolutely trivial compared to the vast amounts of the taxpayers' money wasted by cheap politicians doing things to get themselves re-elected. You could pay every member of Congress a million dollars a year for a century for less money than it costs to run the Department of Agriculture for one year.
On the face of it, this would seem to be a good argument for cutting Agriculture's budget.
But Sowell seems to be assuming that we have cheap politicians because anyone who's any good is working elsewhere:
You are not going to get the most highly skilled or intelligent people in the country, people with real-world experience, while offering them one-tenth or less of what such people can earn in the private sector.
Base pay for a Congressman in 2005 was $162,100, which will rise to $165,200 next year under a 1989 law which provides for an automatic annual cost-of-living increase unless Congress should vote to decline it. Considering how ingeniously this anticipated and circumvented the 27th Amendment, Sowell is clearly underestimating Congress' smarts.
Besides, there is scant evidence to support the premise that someone earning a million a year is less corruptible than someone making a meager $165k. Scribe points out:
While I won't quibble with Sowell on his comment that "we deserve a lot of better people than we have in Congress," I don't think a bigger salary will solve the problems of corruption in our government. The majority of our current Congressmen are already better off than most Americans.
If anything, you'd probably have to bribe them more to be able to get their attention.
Francis W. Porretto notes:
In the overwhelming majority of instances, persons pursue the positions they seek principally for their intrinsic satisfactions: the specifics of the work they hope to do. Extrinsic rewards such as money have a lesser part in their decisions.
The problem is not that we're failing to bid an adequate amount that would secure us the services of adequately wise and prudent officials; it's that we've failed to grapple successfully with the power of the libido dominandi itself.
And I propose a hypothetical question.
Suppose someone poking around the Library of Congress found an old document which, when analyzed, proved to be a legitimately-passed bill which fixed the compensation of Representatives and Senators in perpetuity at one dollar per year.
How many of them would resign their seats in response to this massive pay cut?
When Vin Diesel just won't do
While Oklahoma City isn't the cultural wasteland you've been told, there's a definite dearth of art-house motion-picture fare here: only the AMC at Quail Springs and the Harkins in Bricktown even bother with smaller films, which means that if they pass on something, you have to hope that it's picked up for a couple nights by the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, or that it plays in Tulsa.
The Oklahoma Gazette reports that the new Warren Theatre planned for Moore will devote two of its 20 screens to art films, which, if it comes off, will alleviate this problem.
And if it doesn't, here's an idea from Delaware:
[In an] arrangement between the Rehoboth Beach Film Society and The Movies at Midway, the 14-screen multiplex that is the premier movie location for Delaware's Cape Region .... beginning January 6, 2006, Theater 14 will be the home of the RBFS' Art House Theater. The RBFS will handle the programming for this screen, with a mission to bring to the Cape Region the best of independent, foreign, and other worthy films that might not otherwise be available around here.
Now that's ingenious. (Our thanks to Fritz Schranck, who serves as a member of the RBFS board.)
31 December 2005
Fatuous Flashback 14
Why customer-service people cry:
If you run a business, you presumably already know this: twenty percent of the clients generate eighty percent of the work. This wouldn't be such a big deal if they also produced 80 percent of the revenue, but seldom (if ever) does it work out that way. Some things, no matter how you rationalize them, are simply not worth the time and/or effort. This is a notion I have cherished for many years; until the late 90s, there was even a vestigial hint of it floating around 42nd and Treadmill.
No more. What passes itself off as "customer empowerment" these days is mostly an excuse for people to let their Inner Asshole grow and develop. When they say "Jump!" it's not enough to reply "How high?" anymore; you must come up with something like "So long as we're up here, feel free to beat us about the gonads with a sharp stick." God forbid anyone in a position to write a check should be treated with anything other than the most excruciating obsequiousness. Undoubtedly this contributes to my lowly status on various corporate ladders over the years, since I continue to believe that a schmuck is a schmuck is a schmuck, and I don't give a flying fish how many dollars he's prepared to spend to prove it.
(From this untitled entry, 28 December 2001.)
Speaking of independent film
The Oklahoma City chapter of Amnesty International has put together a package of seven films which will be screened the weekend of 14/15 January at the Norick Downtown Library. No admission will be charged; AI hopes to attract some new members and do the classic awareness-raising thing.
Here's the schedule:
Saturday, 14 January:
12:00: Dreaming of Tibet
1:30: Arms for the Poor
2:00: On the Frontlines: Child Soldiers in the D.R.C.*
2:45: Slavery: A Global Investigation
Sunday, 15 January:
1:30: The Day My God Died
3:15: Something Between Her Hands
3:45: Dual Injustice: Femicide and Torture in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua
* Democratic Republic of Congo.
Both ends against the rest of us
Let's see if I understand this:
The ACLU is asking the Attorney General for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate whether President Bush violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Okay, fine. Now is this the same ACLU which filed an amicus brief in 2002 claiming that FISA was itself unconstitutional?
Um, can we have a little consistency here, guys? I mean, besides the "Bush Is Always Wrong" meme.
(Found at Strata-Sphere through Stop the ACLU.)
It all starts here, so to speak
Since the Arts Council of Oklahoma City devised Opening Night back in 1987, the number of folks who show up at the city's biggest nighttime party has generally been increasing, a trend I attribute to global warming. (Hey, it's December out there, at least until midnight.) My rule of thumb for guesstimating the crowd has been: take the temperature at sunset, in degrees Fahrenheit, and multiply by a thousand. This year, therefore, we should have about 55,000 folks milling about downtown.
This rule, of course, collapses when the temperature is near zero: even if glaciers are advancing down Broadway, there will still be a hardcore of partiers at Opening Night. And there's one new variable this year: Mavericks vs. Hornets at the Ford Center, which starts an hour earlier than the usual 7 pm (actually, closer to 7:12) tipoff, so as to give roundball fans some extra time to hit the streets.
The Opening Night events begin at 7 pm, and one button for six bucks gets you into as many of them as the laws of physics allow.
Update, the morning after: The Oklahoman reports about 65,000 people showed up.
Here's a new ploy from the scammers: a fake eBay message claiming that you haven't paid for an item won at auction, and providing a handy link to communicate with the upset seller. (Nice touch: "Responses sent using email will not reach the eBay member. Use the Respond Now button below to respond to this message.")
Of course, that button actually takes you to a non-eBay site which steals your ID information, in this case 1st2respond.net. (Incidentally, the address and telephone number given in Whois do not match up; the LAX area is not in area code 661. I'm guessing here that the domain registrar, namecheap.com, is there, but the phone number is an answering service somewhere else.)
Incidentally, this is the item mentioned in the scam; it was in fact paid for, and the buyer was given positive feedback by the seller.
Update, 2 January: Got another one, this time with the domain 1host4profit.com.
The best a girl can get?
Two months after my original posting, I continue to get search-engine traffic for Angela McNeany, who won a Gillette competition earlier this year for the Best Legs in America.
On the semi-honorable basis that (1) a few more visitors won't hurt me and (2) it took me a while to locate an actual photo of the young lady, I am taking this opportunity to give you a look. And while I'm not about to claim that I'm disappointed or anything, I must state for the record that I've seen better.
In fact, I've seen readers of this site better.
Dallas had beaten the Hornets fifteen times in a row. For a couple of seconds, it looked like the streak might come to an end, but no: Mavs 95, Bees 90, and it took a heroic rally in the waning moments to get it that close.
The Hornets actually outshot the Mavericks, but missed too many free throws. Worse, at some point during halftime Dirk Nowitzki, then a meager 2-11 from the field, got his mojo back, finishing with 24 points.
Next game is Monday against the 10-20 Charlotte Bobcats; the Hornets (who, you'll remember, started out in Charlotte) are now 12-17.
Some lube for that slippery slope
Andrea Harris predicts Drumstick Mountain:
If I were gay I'd be insulted by the schmaltzy strings and gloppy voiceovers emitting ridiculously fulsome praise of this film (Heath Ledger is better at everything than Jesus!, and it's going to get every prize in the universe including the Nobel Peace Prize and the Proxima Centauri Gamma Irridium Star of Intra-Galactic Excellence). Then again, I still think of gay people as examples of wit, charm, and fashion, but that apparently hasn't been true since Noel Coward died. Gays are now Just Folks, and are expected to tear up and reach for the hanky when one male movie actor makes googoo eyes at another male movie actor as the violins swell, just the way 99% of my sex does when they watch pinky goo crap like Bridges of Madison County. The only thing keeping pedophiles from getting this treatment is the Catholic priest scandal; when the church gets rid of the teen-altar-boy robe-lifters in its ranks I wouldn't be surprised if the next Hollywood "art" blockbuster will feature the doomed romance of a middle-aged adult with a preteen (or younger?) child. Or maybe they'll tackle incest first, who knows? We're running out of things to do with our genitals, so I can only hope they'll stop before they get to the insertion of inanimate objects, or man-chicken relations. Don't believe me? Then you haven't been paying attention for the last thirty years.
This particularly fowl act has already been filmed, by John Waters in Pink Flamingos way back in 1972. (The poor bird is subsequently killed and eaten.)
Come to think of it, there's also an incest scene: son gets hummer from mom. (This is well after he's done the chicken.)
This leaves February/December romances. (Nicole Kidman insists that there was nothing sexual about that bathtub scene with a 10-year-old boy in Birth.) Oh, and "inanimate objects," though there's been enough wooden acting in the last couple of decades to make that moot.
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