Archive for Almost Yogurt

Al Sharif don’t like it

Apparently there is a protocol for assigning names to camels:

“Ibil” and “Hijen” are the most common names given to both genders and camels of all sizes. From these, new names branch out according to the size, development stage and characteristics of the camel.

Seems reasonable. More specifically:

“Al Mataya” or “Al Rahila” is a name given to a young camel that people can ride. “Al Shamlal” is for a camel that is light and fast, and “Al Sharif” is for a camel that is old, tired and slow.

Me, I’m just grateful that no one mentioned “My Humps.”

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Hang a right at Normandy

Joan Baez’ hilarious “Time Rag”, from 1977, contains this bit of fantasy:

I scribbled it down on the wall calendar
And wondered about my interviewer
Maybe he’d be just a real nice guy
Bright and sympathetic with a roving eye
We’d forget all about the assignment due
Formalities, photos, and the interview
We’d hop on into his big rent-a-car
Go for a lovely drive, not far … maybe France

Oh, yeah. Right across the Gulf Stream. Fortunately, we have good tires.

And yet the idea still has resonance:

I said, “I’m taking you out to dinner.”

“Great!” he said. “Where?”

“My favorite restaurant,” I said.

“GREAT!!!” he said. “Where?”

“It’s in France,” I said.

He was silent for a moment. “Oh … I guess we won’t be driving.”

“Actually,” I said, “we will.”

Admittedly, I’m still lame enough to think proposing on the Jumbotron is cool, but what the hell: why not drive to France? (They flew to Paris, rented a car, and drove six hours to a little Breton village called Dinan.)


Just zis guy, you know?

Laura Wattenberg at the Baby Names Blog was apparently conflicted over this particular name:

Is a two-headed alien a good enough reason to keep such an unlikely name in our baby name encyclopedia? My first instinct was no, but my husband disagreed. A certain sort of person, he argued, will indeed want to learn about the name Zaphod. He works for Google, so I accept his expertise on that “certain sort of person.” It made me wonder … has anyone actually named a baby in honor of Mr. Beeblebrox?

Sure enough, the U.K. is home to at least three Zaphods and even more boys with that middle name, all born since the Hitchhiker’s series premiered.

In terms of “geek purity,” the name has a great deal to recommend it, she says:

[T]he original Zaphod wasn’t some sleek, all-powerful force of light or darkness. He had a self-confident charm, but was voted “Worst Dressed Sentient Being in the Known Universe” seven times.

Having seen entirely too many Magic: The Gathering sessions in my day, I have to figure that Beeblebrox had to work really hard for that accolade.

And now I wonder if any of those young Zaphods were dubbed Zaphod the Fourth.


Empathy Diminution Syndrome

As expected, science is now working overtime on justifications for sending senior citizens to Shady Acres:

Scientists claim to have finally figured out why grandparents can be embarrassing. They did it by studying a group of over 60s watching The Office, the sitcom featuring Ricky Gervais as David Brent, a socially inept middle manager.

Psychologists found that older people were less adept at spotting Brent’s gaffes, which include him abandoning a wheelchair-bound woman in a stairwell during a fire alarm and failing to realise he cannot dance.

Compared to younger participants, the older volunteers were also less able to identifying the varying emotions of the other characters.

“Gaffes”? Those aren’t gaffes. Those are conscious — well, maybe not so conscious, in the case of his dancing ability or lack thereof — manifestations of Brent’s actual personality as written, which, to borrow a line from an American sitcom, was evidently acquired at the Jerk Store. It’s not like he’s suddenly casting a light on himself; he’s always like that.

I suppose, though, you have to have vast experience with other people to recognize such things, and the most efficacious method of acquiring that experience is to live long enough to have seen them already, as those of us who have been throwing away AARP membership offers for decades can tell you. It’s not that we can’t identify people’s emotions; it’s that we just don’t give that much of a damn. Now all of you, get off my lawn.

(Via Fark.)

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Graphic criticism

Old friend Joe Goodwin weighs in on a literary phenomenon:

Times for reading Twilight

“Kryptonite doesn’t bother me, either,” said Edward Cullen.

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Brow positioning

Class warriors seem to vector in from every section of the spectrum these days, but that’s no real surprise. Apparently sociologist Pierre Bourdieu figured out their trajectories back in the 1960s:

Bourdieu’s Distinction famously unmasked “good” or distinguished, educated taste as so much “cultural capital,” a mere panoply of status markers. To favor a more challenging type of book, a less strictly tonal sort of music, a less representational kind of painting — or, more to the point today, a less completely shitty grade of film product — mostly demonstrated that you came from a higher social class. And many Americans have come to agree. So when Al Gore said his favorite book was Stendhal’s Red and the Black, this could be boiled down to mean, You know what? I’m an upper-class guy who went to Harvard. Of course, everyone with power in America is an upper-class guy who went to Harvard. But this isn’t held to be the problem.

The noxious thing about the cultural elite is supposed to be its bad faith. Everyone else in America more or less forthrightly confesses that they’re trying to grab as much money as they can, and if somebody has meanwhile forced a liberal education on them, that doesn’t mean they’ve had to like it. Upon making their money, real Americans are furthermore honest enough to spend it on those things that evolution or God have programmed humans to sincerely enjoy. In winter recreation, this might be snowmobiling — genuine petroleum-burning fun! — as opposed to cross-country skiing, a tedious trial of aerobic virtue. In wintry Scandinavian literature, it might be Stieg Larsson rather than Knut Hamsun. Oppositions of the same kind — between untutored enjoyment and the acquired taste — can be generated endlessly, and are. Half the idea is that genuine, honest people differ not so much in their tastes as in their economic ability to indulge those tastes; there exists an oligarchy of money but no aristocracy of spirit. The other half is that less sincere people — elitists — lie to themselves and everybody else about what’s really in their red-meat hearts. Instead of saying I’m pleased with my superior class background, they pretend to like boring books, films, and sports.

There is plenty of bad faith to go around, you may be sure. We might amble our scruffy selves up to the counter at B&N with a copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in tow, and often as not there’s one person nearby who imagines a disconnect between reader and reading material. Of course, we’re only reading this because it’s been mentioned in the popular press, while he read it on the day of release. In Latvian translation, yet.

Which, of course, is consistent with Bourdieu, who argued that whatever working-class aesthetic exists is more or less forced to define itself in terms of the dominant — middle-brow and higher — aesthetic; in general, any popular A is at best some dumbed-down knockoff of some more literary, more desirable B. Pity the poor hipster who finds his favorite band on the radio: if everybody can hear them, they must have sold out, and therefore they suck.

I’m tempted to boil this down to an aphorism: Nobody eats arugula for the taste. It’s a status indicator, pure and simple. If you could get it in a salad at Wendy’s, no one would pay however many dollars a pound for it.

Advice Goddess Amy Alkon, who pointed me to this article, says:

When I got to New York (little rube me from a suburb in Michigan), I was determined to partake of Important Culture, and did I ever…going to all sorts of things, including the Joyce Theatre, to see modern dance. At some point, in my early 20s, I realized that I’d rather lie down in traffic on 18th Street than EVER see another modern dance piece. And I hate John Cage with a huge passion and think they should play his music for prisoners at Guantanamo to get them to talk.

I’ve actually been in a modern dance piece, a bit of experimental theatre when I was a young and impressionable college student with time to kill and electives to take. Ability to dance, you may be sure, was not a criterion for inclusion. Then again, it’s not like I went to Harvard or anything.

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We’re only trying to get us some peace

So you’ve found yourself a time machine. What do you do with it? If you said “Do something about Hitler,” you’re probably in the majority, but you’re not going to be in Mark Waters’ time-travel film:

According to Variety, Waters will direct Get Back, a time traveling film that will show just how far a pair of fans will go to keep their favorite band together.

The trade reports that the story of Get Back centers on two die hard Beatles fans, who discover a time machine and decide to prevent the meeting of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. They feel that their relationship is what caused the group to break up and they want to prevent it from ever happening. The screenplay was written by Chris McCoy.

Pablo Fanque rates this idea only “Fair.”

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It had to happen

Sanrio and Sephora have collaborated, kinda sorta, on a new cosmetic line, which presumably may help you look like this:

Model for Hello Kitty by Sephora

Yes, it’s the ubiquitous Hello Kitty, with the standard Signature Fragrance (1.7 ounces, $55, which sounds pricey but which is a heck of a lot cheaper than the stuff I wear), various goodies for your face, and typical accessories.

Although I question the legitimacy of a Hello Kitty lip gloss. I mean, Hello Kitty doesn’t even have lips.

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The time traveler’s mix

“It’s almost as if a thing must be marred by the past for it to matter,” says Zan McQuade:

You surround yourself with the sounds of the past, collected in the albums that lean against the wall, or tucked away as data on our computers. (Don’t we all try to leave on that jetplane.) The Byrds. Carole King. Al Bowlly. Petula Clark and Sam Cooke. The “when” is not important; all of it is just the right time to disappear to, just for a while.

Poor old Al Bowlly. He had had the vocal versatility of Bing Crosby, but damage to his throat eventually killed his career, and the Luftwaffe killed him outright in the Blitz.

You spend most of your waking hours trying to travel back in time. You obviously have yet to succeed, though you’re convinced you’ve come close. Glimpsed around the corner of another era. Are you lifting a dress off the rack in a vintage shop or touching the sleeve of a woman in 1959? If you close your eyes tight enough, are you listening to a recording of an audience clapping in a field in 1974, or are you in a field? Is it 1974?

Imagine yourself in 2005, reading this for the first time:

[T]he past never goes away. We have a path, a timeline, from which we do not deviate, but so does everything else. What we see as the present is simply the intersection of all those timelines: our own, those of our friends and families, the homes in which we live, the forests that were supplanted by the cities that now contain most of those homes. I’m not saying it’s possible to walk up my street and suddenly jump back into 1948 — the first Honda or Toyota you see would likely catch you in mid-jump and send you back where you came from — but I am saying that an awful lot of 1948 remains.

Were it actually possible to make the jump — well, see Jack Finney’s Time and Again, or Richard Matheson’s Bid Time Return. (The latter you may remember as Jeannot Szwarc’s 1980 film Somewhere in Time, in which Christopher Reeve departs the present and almost ends up with Jane Seymour in 1912.)

“Nothing dies unless it is forgotten completely,” says McQuade. Remind me to remember that.

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Hands on

The cloud may be a nice place to work, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to live there:

I think a lot of people do so much “virtual” work, where there’s nothing to be able to point to at the end of the day and say “I made that” (and that’s part of my periodical career frustration, I am sure. I need tangibility) that people want to do stuff like play instruments, or write poetry, or, heck, write blogs … so that the time they passed becomes visible, or at least can be experienced for a time (as with music, but then the tangible part is the learning, the improvement). And so they feel some sense of control in the world: putting THIS precise word exactly HERE. Building a dollhouse to your own exact architectural specifications. Going old-school photography and using film and a darkroom. We are made to use tools, and I think maybe we get a little sad when we feel too cut off from tools.

It’s even more so, I think, for those of us who are reluctant to define themselves in terms of their paid work; we feel the need to validate ourselves with something that’s ours alone. My poetry is lousy, and I haven’t made a serious attempt to play an instrument in nearly half a century — but I do have these three million (or so) words, and something resembling a reputation. Steve Lackmeyer of the Oklahoman tweeted so:

I do hope you know you’re partially to blame for how I’ve developed my side gig as a NewsOK blogger. You’re a bad influence.

Which beats the hell out of having no influence at all.

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Without even mentioning flying cars

Glenn Reynolds’ #4 bit of shtick, following “Heh,” “Indeed” and “Today at Amazon,” is “Faster, please,” intended to encourage the developers of that which is incredibly cool and/or incredibly useful. It’s an idea Lynn can get behind:

Scientific breakthroughs are one of my biggest pet peeves. You read about some amazing breakthrough that is going to change everything and you wait and wait … and nothing really changes. I’m ready for change. I want to see this wonderful new world they keep promising me and I want it now and I want it to be cheap enough that I can afford it. I don’t have an infinite number of years left to enjoy all this new stuff so come on! Let’s have it!

Just for the historical record, I once rigged up a Commodore 64 — I forget the program I used, but it ate a whole lot of RAM — to render what was then a full-screen (320 x 240, 16 colors) GIF file, which didn’t look at all like this:

Keyboard Cat is scowling

It took all night with that antediluvian hardware to pop up a picture that size.

Now if everything else in life advanced as quickly as graphic display, I’d be a little more content.

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Self-preservation act

If you’ve read this site for long enough, you’ve seen a full range of emotions from deepest, darkest despair to, um, let’s call it “marginally upbeat.” (If, as some have suspected, I’m actually bipolar, I’m certainly not symmetrical.)

I mention this because D. G. Myers, while composing a sendoff for the late Wilfrid Sheed, turned up this Sheed quote on commitment to one’s writing:

Writing survives everything, even the most paralyzing depression. Recently I came across something I had to write in this condition and found it surprisingly ingenious, like a chicken dancing with its head cut off. Technique can apparently cover for anything short of rigor mortis.

I’m not within screaming distance of Sheed’s league, you may be certain, but having gone through the archives on a regular basis, I am persuaded that my writing does not significantly deteriorate on those days when I’m despondent.

And Myers points out:

Only a certain kind of writer understands this, a writer for whom a high personal criterion of style is non-negotiable. If you never permit your style to flag, if you never lower your standards for the parts of speech, you might even endure the worst of patches.

So the next time someone asks me why I’ve been on this soapbox for fifteen years, I’ll simply point out that I’m trying to save my life.

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Pundits of yore

Roberta X recalls the golden days of the commentariat:

We used to have a host of ‘em, mostly men, who wielded typewriters and microphones like scalpels and engraver’s points; we had Buckley on the Right and Gore Vidal on the Left, at least, guys who composed on the fly in their own pedantic battle rap and if I thought they were both wrong on a lot of things, at least I knew what they thought. Their invective was a rapier, not a poisoned bludgeon, even when they were on the verge of fisticuffs.

Textual style, alas, does not make for Good Television, although I always found WFB’s Firing Line to be good fun, even when it was just waiting around for him to twist out some spectacular polysyllabic like “anfractuous” or “eleemosynary.” (Aside: The Firefox spellchecker approves of the latter, didn’t recognize the former.)

Only Vidal is left from that era:

Yeah, I loathe his politics (etc.) but I’ll still sit and listen to him talk — because he can put words together, the right words, properly assembled. Attractively, even. If he wants ‘em envenomed, he uses the better grades of venom for the job and applies the stuff with precision.

Today’s bludgeoneers — well, try to imagine any of them writing a decent novel.

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Pier review

Which is to say, they take your manuscript and throw it off the end of the pier:

The founding principle of the Journal of Universal Rejection (JofUR) is rejection. Universal rejection. That is to say, all submissions, regardless of quality, will be rejected.

Then again, there are advantages to submitting your work to them. For example:

You retain complete rights to your work, and are free to resubmit to other journals even before our review process is complete.

(Poached from Mrs Mason.)

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An overdue idea for saving libraries

Ryne Douglas Pearson comes up with an alternative funding mechanism for an institution too often running short of money:

I have an idea. It’s crazy. It takes giants like Amazon and Barnes & Noble and eBook distributors to partner with willing authors, and it goes something like this: bring your Kindle, your Nook, your iPad, your eReader of any kind and purchase your books using the WiFi of your favorite library. You’ll save 10% off the top from the advertised price, and another 10% of your purchase will go directly to THAT library. You get your book, Amazon and its kind get their sale, the author gets a reduced cut, and the library suddenly has a revenue stream.

This would take all kinds of machinations to work. Maybe the biggest would be the author agreeing to take a 20% cut, or the distributor and author splitting that. But what comes from that is a helping hand to help nurture the next generation of voracious readers.

Not being an author, I can’t tell you how well this would go over with people who actually (try to) make a living at it, though I remember a Big Record Company practically giving away prime tracks four decades ago:

We can get away with that low price because these celebrated artists and this benevolent record company have agreed not to make a profit on this venture. We (and they) feel it’s more important that these samples of musical joy be heard.

Said venture, which began in the late 1960s, survived into the early 1980s, though the “low price” wasn’t quite as low towards the end.

Still, the musicians gave up rather a lot more for those records than the authors presumably would be giving up for these libraries.

(Via this @ScrewyDecimal tweet.)

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Behold this, eyes

Another serendipitous (as in “I was looking for something else”) find, this one in LA Weekly:

A lifelong beauty outsider, [Toni Raiten-D'Antonio] was unequivocally informed by her family that she was ugly, and she has adopted that familial candor in a book about her struggle with beauty and the lack of it: Ugly as Sin. In its best moments, D’Antonio’s book cuts to the bone, stripping bare the searing pain that comes with the terror of aesthetic insufficiency, which most often originates in childhood’s unhealed wounds.

Gee, thanks, family. I thought I was supposed to be my harshest critic.

So I figured that if she has a book that gets noticed in LA Weekly, it’s not unreasonable to assume that she’s done a book tour, and that there are therefore publicity photos to be had.

Toni Raiten-D'Antonio publicity photoBingo. But what’s this? At the very least, I was expecting a nose the general shape of San Francisco’s Lombard Street, a replica of the lunar surface only partially masked by half an inch of foundation, and a nest of vipers for a coif. Sin, or at least this particular variety, is evidently a lot better-looking than we’ve been led to believe. Dear Toni’s Family: It appears she blossomed a bit after escaping your baneful influence.

From her bio:

Toni Raiten-D’Antonio, LCSW, is a well-known psychotherapist with a thriving private practice in Suffolk County, Long Island. She is a professor of psychology and social work at Empire State College. Prior to becoming a therapist she worked in television and theater as both a performer and producer. She has two daughters and lives in New York with her husband, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael D’Antonio.

Mirror, mirror on the wall: someday you will take a fall.

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To be held, privately

Hugh Hefner wants his bunny hutch back, or something:

Playboy Enterprises Inc. agreed to be taken private for $207 million by founder Hugh M. Hefner, who increased his bid to gain full control of the 58-year-old magazine publisher amid slumping circulation and losses.

Hefner, 84, is offering to buy the Class A stock and Class B shares he doesn’t already own for $6.15 per share, representing an 18 percent premium over the Class B closing price of $5.20 a share on Jan. 7, the company said in a statement [Monday].

Hef had previously offered $5.50 per share. A bid last summer from FriendFinder Networks, which owns rival Penthouse, apparently did not appeal to the Playboy board.

Playboy magazine these days is selling about a quarter as many copies as it did thirty years ago; the company apparently makes most of its money from its Web presence (largely behind a paywall) and licensing the Rabbit logo.


Is it better to lurk?

In 1998, the National Commission on Civic Renewal issued a paper called A Nation of Spectators: How Civic Disengagement Weakens America, And What We Can Do About It. I’ve singled out this one paragraph:

During the past generation, our families have come under intense pressure, and many have crumbled. Neighborhood and community ties have frayed. Many of our streets and public spaces have become unsafe. Our public schools are mediocre for most students, and catastrophic failures for many. Our character-forming institutions are enfeebled. Much of our popular culture is vulgar, violent, and mindless. Much of our public square is coarse and uncivil. Political participation is at depressed levels last seen in the 1920s. Public trust in our leaders and institutions has plunged.

On the other hand, today we have Social Media. Will that help? Start with a hypothetical:

What the hell would Facebook/Twitter look like on 9/11? I mean look, I’m not insensitive, but I certainly didn’t want to have information overload regarding yesterday’s tragedy. I think one of the greatest downfalls of the notion of expressing oneself is the great ability of having the tools to do so. Expressing oneself mattered more when it was hard. Nowadays a tragedy happens that, while sad, has a bandwagon effect similar to the principle of when a standing ovation happens at a concert you didn’t exactly care for.

If we tweet, if we click a Facebook Like button, are we actually engaged, as distinguished from that generation of spectators? Or are we just getting caught up in a whole lot of sound and fury?

I’m still not sure about all this. I have noticed this, though: when everyone else is all about the immediacy of the moment, I’m working to stay off topic. I haven’t decided whether this particular form of disengagement is a kick in society’s pants, an act of sheerest self-preservation, or somewhere in between.

(More motivation than you can imagine came from this tweet.)

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A slimmer, trimmer dinosaur

The Oklahoman has ditched its hideous Sunday TV supplement, replacing it with a marginally-shiny syndicated product called TV Weekly, which is actually available by individual subscription even if you don’t take the paper. In fact, if I’m reading the fine print correctly, getting it with the paper will actually cost you a few bucks; we’re talking 68 cents a week for a two-year subscription, and presumably it won’t be bundled in newsstand copies.

The Oregonian adopted this model last fall, and published a related FAQ section a month in advance. The Q we all want to ask:

Q: Why do I have to pay extra for the TV section?

A: The growth of on-screen listings has dramatically reduced the volume of advertising and readership of TV sections. Contracting with TV Weekly to provide our TV book allows us to provide a better TV book for those who want it. Many major newspapers have gone to some form of “opt in and pay” TV sections (rather than dropping the sections) and have found only about 10 percent to 20 percent of subscribers use the sections. By making this move, those readers who want a section can still get a good section for little cost.

And it’s a decent little tabloid for all that, though as Meredith Willson might say, it doesn’t know the territory: state broadcast listings are consolidated into Oklahoma City and Tulsa subgroups, though the Tulsa subgroup inexplicably includes stations in Lawton, Ada, and north Texas.

The bloody dismemberment of TV Guide makes me somewhat less than optimistic about the future of this arrangement. And I’d hate to be the guy who stands near the entrance to Crest Foods on weekends hawking Oklahoman subscriptions.

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Expurgation station

In the wake of Alan Gribben’s expurgation of Huckleberry Finn, D. G. Myers suggests some other possible targets:

In Chilly Scenes of Winter, Ann Beattie commits a double fault when she describes a character as a “fat oriental nurse.” This should be Gribbenized to read: “clinically overweight Asian American or Pacific Islander nurse.” And of course, when warning that Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises would become the next American classic to be Gribbenized, I completely forgot about Brett Ashley’s famous line: “You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch.” This must be changed. Brett must not be permitted to call herself a bitch. She must say something like this: “You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a self-empowered woman whose sexual freedom challenges masculine privilege to define women’s sexuality as ‘chaste’ or ‘promiscuous’ for the political purpose of controlling it.”

That was morality; things that made you disgusted afterward. No, that must be immorality.

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Parallel LOL

One of the foundations of this site, easily visible if you spend enough time looking, is Reusable Shtick; there are lots of fragments here and there which occasionally can be fused into something resembling a coherent post — with, perhaps, the exception of the search-engine stuff, which exists in a world of its own, shtickwise.

Then again, the best shtick is not only fun, but fungible: it works even when someone else is doing it. Clark Collis of Entertainment Weekly has, to my knowledge, never set virtual foot on these premises. However, this pair of adjacent listings in EW’s “What to Watch” (#1137, 1/14/11) would have fit right in with those strange search queries:

My Strange Addiction [TLC]
This week: a teen who eats detergent. Well, at least it’s low in fat.

Man v. Food: The Carnivore Chronicles [Travel]
This week: hot dogs and burgers. Well, at least they’re low in detergent.

Nicely done, Mr Collis.

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The author/brain connection

There are times when you look away from a book for a moment and think “Damn, I wish I’d said that. In fact, I think I could have said that.” You’ll quickly amend the thought ever so slightly, perhaps suspecting that the Karma Police will put you on a watchlist for thinking yourself on par with an author you admire, but the passage will stick in your mind. My own practice is to stop at that point and reread the passage out loud, just in case I missed something while jumping to whatever my conclusion might be.

Author Lionel Shriver is keenly aware of this sort of thing:

I’m convinced that it’s not so much that I’m so perceptive, but that occasionally I’m able to put into words what most of us think. That’s what makes it seem perceptive, but the talent is the getting it into words. Because when you say that your friend felt I had a direct pipeline to her head, that means that she had thought these things herself. One of the great satisfactions of fiction, when it works, is that you come across a passage that somehow articulates what you have already thought yourself, so that the author’s not ahead of you exactly, but has simply given you the facility to give the thought form.

It would have taken me several paragraphs, I think, maybe even several pages, to capture this:

[I]t had always been frustrating: if you put the two of them together — Lawrence’s discipline, intellect, and self-control, Ramsey’s eroticism, spontaneity, and abandon — you’d have the perfect man.

“I’ve sometimes wondered whether it really matters all that much, whom you choose to live with, or to marry,” she mused. “After all, there’s something wrong with everybody, isn’t there? Ultimately, we all settle.

“Oh, it matters,” he snorted readily.

Were I to tackle this subject I’d be wandering all around Robin Hood’s barn without actually getting anywhere.

That quoted passage, incidentally, is from Shriver’s 2007 novel The Post-Birthday World, which I finished reading over the weekend, and from which I quote the preface, in full:

“Nobody’s perfect.” — KNOWN FACT

Only Osgood Fielding III could have said it better.


W-2 review

Severian (in a comment at Freeberg’s) describes someone you also might know:

I have a good friend who, like all liberals, wants “Wall Street” to be “regulated.” I tried the old “which specific regulations would you like?” bit and he came back with stuff about executive compensation. Sad, but not surprising, since “not understanding how the labor market works” is just one phase of the grand liberal project of misunderstanding everything about basic economics until the end of time.

What was surprising, though, was his total lack of even the most basic financial knowledge. I’m not talking about the ability to price derivatives or discuss credit default swaps; I’m talking basics — as in, he really couldn’t understand how, if I bought a share of stock at $1 and sold it for $3, someone somewhere wasn’t getting screwed out of $2.

Although he’d happily tax you on that $2.

Executive compensation is based on the uncomplicated concept of “What can we get away with?” Always has been. TARP sought to correct this by imposing salary ceilings on recipients; recipients busted a nut to pay back TARP as quickly as possible to get out from under those ceilings. (This is an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences, Serendipity Subclause: it’s not common, but occasionally something stupid produces an acceptable result, or at least a result that wasn’t as bad as you could have predicted.)


I doubt that Alex Rodriguez, for example, really generates $300 million or whatever in revenue for the Yankees. But as a conservative I know that free markets include the right to make stupid decisions in the marketplace.

Or it could simply be that A-Rod is worth that much to the Yankees just to make sure he doesn’t fall into the hands of the [fill in name of hated rival team, probably the Red Sox].

There was a discussion locally to the effect that NBA players could not possibly be worth the amount they get. (The lowest-paid player on the Thunder roster, reserve forward D. J. White, makes $1,108,680 a year, and Oklahoma City is not known for overpaying people.) In vain it was argued that these dollars go to extremely few people — the NBA has no more than 450 roster spots — that the highest-paid players got that way because of perceived superiority, and that those salary levels exist because of collective bargaining between team owners and the Players’ Association. “Too high,” insisted the hardliners. I’m guessing they subscribe to the theory that at some point you’ve made enough money, and I infer that it’s okay with them if Washington tells you so — until the time that Washington tells them so, anyway.

For the record: I don’t really give a flying fish how much (or how little) someone is paid, except in the specific instance that “someone” = “me.” If some hedge-fund manager pulls down nine digits, how does that affect me in the slightest? If the answer is “Well, he doesn’t deserve that kind of money,” the only proper response is “Sez who?” Eventually, you find out who: what they want, evidently, is some sort of Federal Compensation Board, where “appropriate” salaries are determined, and from whom they presumably expect a raise, inasmuch as they’re so deserving and all. This is a slight variation on a theme previously noted by social critic Steve Sailer:

The most heartfelt articles by female journalists tend to be demands that social values be overturned in order that, Come the Revolution, the journalist herself will be considered hotter-looking.

As a rule, there are only two types of elitist: those who are part of an elite and believe they deserve to be, and those who are not part of an elite yet believe they deserve to be. And you can take that to the bank.

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Somewhere out there

Call it Lyndon, or call it Linden, but it’s still a pit:

It was the fourth habitable world found (at least by the NATO powers), the closest to Earth, the only planet “taken” by NATO during the Far Edge War and the third settled by USSF colonists. The climate’s pretty good, the local land life not especially varied or aggressive toward humans; “terraforming” has been no big deal, about like settling Ohio. Or more like Texas, minus the border issues: some challenges but the settlers rose to meet them. And had kids. A lot of kids. And indulged in various flavors of civic involvement most majorly.

Which was a bit of exposition from Roberta X’s I Work On A Starship, an actual dead-tree copy of which is on the way to my mailbox even as we speak. I’d downloaded an ebook version, which was less than $2, but I wanted something permanent for the library.

Maybe I’ll schlep it to the Hidden Frontier some year and get her to sign it.

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The kid’s nuts

From “Hey! Do This” in the current Gazette:

From 1994, the Oscar-nominated Farinelli is a biopic about Carlo Broschi, a famous, fawned-over singer castrated at childhood. Think of him as the 18th-century Justin Bieber as you watch the French/Italian film unspool at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 425 Couch.

Justin Bieber? Now that takes balls.

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The gratingest generation

Robert J. Samuelson, in Sunday’s WaPo:

There has been much brave talk recently, from Republicans and Democrats alike, about reducing budget deficits and controlling government spending. The trouble is that hardly anyone admits that accomplishing these goals must include making significant cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits for baby boomers.

Samuelson, at 65 a boomer himself, presumably could afford such cuts. I suspect that rather a lot of them couldn’t. Not that the rest of the country owes them a great deal:

The self-absorbed boomers have been catered to their entire existence. Think just about music. Without the boomers, we’d never have to hear Grace Slick screeching “Somebody to Love” again. Without the boomers, would Hewlett-Packard really use Melanie’s “Brand New Key” to sell web-accessible printers? Without boomers, who cares that the Beatles are on iTunes?

Then again:

Time for my confession: I was born in 1958 and am technically the trailing edge of the baby boom and I owned all the Melanie albums. So I am committing heresy by admitting the logic of Samuelson’s position. But seriously, if we choose to grandfather the baby-boomers, then we have grandfathered the problem.

Well, we are grandfathers and/or grandmothers.

It would be easier to deal with this, I suspect, were it possible to envision something resembling a shared sacrifice: everybody gives up something. Not that this can possibly happen in this political environment: both rich folks, who reportedly don’t pay enough taxes, and poor folks, who reportedly don’t pay any taxes, have Congressional types at their beck and call, sworn to making sure that those particular boats are never, ever rocked.

So if this doesn’t come out of entitlement spending, it’s got to come out of the bureaucrats’ budgets, and they won’t stand for that.

Disclosure: I own Melanie’s Candles in the Rain LP and a greatest-hits CD.


Protagonist resists

Insolent fictional characters! How dare they talk back?

All I want is control of my own plot. Freedom, I guess you’d call it. I want to be able to run and jump and frolic without it being a side effect of the clack of a typewriter. I don’t want to be chained to your stupid literary pretensions. I wouldn’t mind even if it were a good action story, with me rescuing ladies from dragons or gangsters, but it had to be one of these droll modernist things where nothing happens, where the entire point is bemoaning how futile life is and how unbelievably dull and lonely it is to be a modern person. I’d like a nice bit of flow, thank you, a building to a climax or series of climaxes in which the entire purpose is made clear. I want a point, damn it.

It occurs to me that I’ve expended an enormous number of pixels bemoaning how futile life is, not to mention the “unbelievably dull and lonely” bit, but no one is likely to accuse me of drollery.

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A point being stretched

“Exercise,” said Mark Twain, “is loathsome,” though his objections differed markedly from Robert Stacy McCain’s:

Fitness — typically running or weight training, but also cycling or any form of exercise requiring a gym membership — is intrinsically competitive, and thereby serves as a marker of superior status. The disciples of Fitness are engaged in a form of what Thorsten Veblen would have described as “invidious display.”

Said Veblen himself, in The Theory of the Leisure Class:

In order to gain and to hold the esteem of men it is not sufficient merely to possess wealth or power. The wealth or power must be put in evidence, for esteem is awarded only on evidence.

The Joneses, therefore, must be kept up with.

Veblen also had no use for churches, which may or may not have prompted McCain to this thought:

One cannot help but notice that the Cult of Fitness has risen during the same period that traditional religion in the West has declined. It is as if people have embraced physical righteousness in a society whose standards of moral or spiritual righteousness have become so ambiguous.

Still, I’d rather deal with them than with the seekers of environmental righteousness, not least because when they’re working out hard, they’re exhaling more precious carbon dioxide.

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Mistletoe the line

A few bits from Manhattan Infidel’s interview with Santa Claus:

MI: What’s the percentage of kids, on average, that are good?

Santa: It’s usually about 65-70%. Except for New Jersey of course. Only 25% of the kids in that state are good. I blame the Sopranos.

MI: What do you like best about your job?

Santa: Honestly? It has to be the MILFs. I meet a lot of MILFs on Christmas Eve. I mean a lot. I probably get more action that night than Derek Jeter gets all year.

MI: Doesn’t Mrs. Claus object?

Santa: Look. Mrs. Claus. God bless her. A wonderful woman. A provider. A soul mate. But we have an agreement. What happens on Christmas stays on Christmas.

“Mommy, I saw you!”

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Take that, varlet

I am, perhaps, a smidgen above average at the fine art of delivering an insult, though certainly no more than that; it’s too easy for me to fall back on clichés, pop-culture references, and Python excerpts. (Besides, does anyone’s father really smell of elderberries? Unless he’s really, really old, I mean.) And I am definitely not in the same league as Amy Sedaris.

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