Archive for Almost Yogurt

Advice to the youngsters

Asked for advice by a recent grad who says he’s hauling in 60k a year after taxes but continues to occupy his parents’ basement, Bark M. comes up with an eminently sensible set of proposals:

  1. Move out from your parents’ house into a nice, upscale apartment for about $1200/month.
  2. Allocate about $400/month for groceries, and another $400/month for utilities.
  3. Get some silk sheets.
  4. Download Tinder.
  5. Spend lots of money on alcohol and dating. Get laid as much as possible. You’re only young and single once.
  6. Give yourself about $900/month to spend on a car, including insurance.
  7. Save a grand each month since an H-1B worker who lied about his certifications on his application will replace you at your tech job.

Some of these, I suspect, were delivered with tongue in cheek.

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Everything means less than zero

Jack Baruth works out the Equation for Greatness:

Acceptable talent (multiplied by) acceptable work ethic = nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No, the other third day

The Eastern Orthodox church celebrates Easter this year, not today, but on the first of May. This is partly due to the fact that the Orthodox rite is still derived from the Julian calendar, which has been getting farther and farther out of sync with the Gregorian calendar for the last four centuries and odd. Will this situation ever change? Well, it might:

The heads of the Christian churches are close to sealing a deal to fix the date of Easter, the Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed, ending more than a thousand years of confusion and debate.

The Church of England’s Archbishop of Canterbury Most Reverend Justin Welby said the agreed date would be either the second or third Sunday of April.

He expected to make the change within 5-10 years, though he admitted that churches have been trying to agree on a date without success since the tenth century.

Archbishop Welby, Pope Francis, the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (head of the Greek Orthodox church) are all working towards a common date, he said.

This does not necessarily portend a reunification of the separate bodies of Christianity, but it still seems like a promising development.

(Via @BethAnnesBest.)

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From the book of Romans Go Home

Monty Python’s Life of Brian turned out to be so gosh-darn amusing that several multitudes at the time, the time being 1979, assumed the film must be blasphemous, and some of them got actual form letters from Python, which closed this way:

We are aware that certain organizations have been circulating misinformation on these points and are sorry that you have been misled. We hope you will go see the film yourself and come to your own conclusions about its virtues and defects. In any case, we hope you find it funny.

This statement is not approved by the Judean People’s Front People’s Front of Judea.

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Non-linear learning

This seems eminently, well, normal, at least to me:

I’m also having a little easier time with some of the piano stuff. Maybe these things go by cycles? Maybe for a while you are just kind of dull and stupid about things, and then that resolves, and you get better at it? I never seem to progress at anything smoothly — I struggle for a while and then suddenly it becomes easy for a while until I struggle again.

Just about everything I’ve learned has dragged me through that particular pattern: up a bit, a plateau, up a bit more, lather, rinse, repeat. Perhaps they call it a “learning curve,” not because it’s necessarily curved, but because it’s so seldom a straight line.

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Old man, don’t look at my life

I’m not sure which perplexed my children more: the fact that I’ve written some My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfiction, or the fact that some sections of it skirt the boundary between PG-13 and R. As a rule, kids are appalled by anything remotely sexual connected to the parental units, and this had the potential to become Exhibit A:

When, at a family gathering, I was gleefully ushered into the study and asked if I’d mind reading some draft pages of a novel he’d been writing, I had no idea of the horror awaiting me. To the contrary, I was genuinely excited. It was only a few days later, as I was perusing the pages, that I discovered he had written full-blown dad-erotica.

Please tell me that’s not an established genre.

Belinda Blinked, a racy novel about the sexual exploits of pots and pans sales director Belinda Blumenthal, is a departure for my dad. A millennial before his time, he’s donned many guises and worn many hats, from salesman to builder, teacher to geologist. But this was his first outing as a writer, and as such he was forced to go down the self-publishing route. I mean, who would ever publish such dreck? Making it available on iTunes and Kindle for a couple of quid seemed innocuous enough. The risk of anyone I knew reading it was slim to zero, especially given the creative pen name he’d adopted: Rocky Flintstone.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that no one should be subjected to the sexual fantasies of their 60-year-old father.

Then again, the book did contain redeeming social value:

Not Steinbeck genius, but my goodness it’s better than E.L. James. For one thing, there’s never a dull moment. For all the points Dad misses on his mission to arouse, Belinda Blinked makes up for in downright hilarity. It’s that naive kind of funny, that magical brand of humour that can only be born from a complete lack of awareness. The sex is random and misguided, with choice quotes including “her breasts hung like pomegranates” and “he grabbed her cervix.” If my three sisters and I didn’t exist, I’d genuinely question whether my dad had ever had sex.

Just to prove I’m not quoting these things to make my own stuff look better, here we have Twilight Sparkle complaining about her coltfriend to Rarity:

Twilight shook her head. “Maybe I did read too many of those silly stories.”

“Then answer me this: What do those fictional stallions have that Brush doesn’t?”

“It’s not what they have,” said Twilight. “It’s what they do, and when they do it. They take the initiative. They nod in your direction, they say Now, and you can’t help but follow.”

“And he doesn’t do that?”

Twilight sighed. “I’ll be working late on something, and I’ll be bored out of my mind, and he’ll come up behind me. But he won’t really approach. And if I turn around, he’ll look away and then leave the room. Just once I’d like him to tell me to put down that bucking book and come to bed already.”

Rarity’s face lit up. “Oh, you do have the proper instincts after all!”

“I do?”

“Of course you do. You shouldn’t have to do all the work. If he wants you, he should have to put some effort into getting you.”

Twilight frowned. “Last night, I thought he was really going to. He climbed up to the observatory. He never climbs up to the observatory. We talked, he was very sweet, and then suddenly he was gone.”

“Did you give him any indication that you were in the mood?”

“Dammit, I was in heat!” Twilight yelled. “How much indication does he need?”

“Oh, my,” said Rarity. “Then again, you are his first pony. He may not have learned all the subtle signals of estrus.”

“Believe me,” Twilight snickered, “they’re not all that subtle. Mine aren’t, anyway.”

Maybe I need to read Belinda Blinked. For reference, of course.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Selfie unesteemed

In fact, Malaysian officials think the selfie could be downright dangerous:

According to Harian Metro, CyberSecurity Malaysia communications officer Jazannul Azriq Aripin said there were reported cases of “bomoh” or local shamans purportedly using pictures on social media site such as Facebook to supposedly hex their victims.

“Do not be surprised if the ‘bomoh’ themselves are getting smarter and they may have installed wireless broadband to launch their black magic,” he told the local Malay daily.

“So, avoid uploading pictures of yourself to avoid the threat of black magic.”

He did not elaborate on what occurred in the cases he cited or how “black magic” worked online.

Then again, just being on Facebook might be bad juju of a sort.

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To kill a golden goose

One thing about the estate of the late Harper Lee: they move quickly, if occasionally incomprehensibly:

The New Republic has obtained an email from Hachette Book Group, sent on Friday, March 4 to booksellers across the country, revealing that Lee’s estate will no longer allow publication of the mass-market paperback edition of To Kill a Mockingbird.

According to the email, which a number of booksellers in multiple states have confirmed that they received a variation of, no other publisher will be able to produce the edition either, meaning there will no longer be a mass-market version of To Kill a Mockingbird available in the United States.

One immediately assumes this decision is dollar-driven, and perhaps it is:

While Hachette only published the mass-market paperback of To Kill a Mockingbird, HarperCollins publishes the trade paperback, hardcover, and special editions of To Kill a Mockingbird, and also published Go Set a Watchman last year. Asked for comment, a spokesperson for HarperCollins, which publishes the trade paperback edition of To Kill a Mockingbird said that the company “will continue to publish the editions that we have.” HarperCollins’s editions of To Kill a Mockingbird ranges in price between $14.99 and $35.

Why does this matter? Mass-market books are significantly cheaper than their trade paperback counterparts. Hachette’s mass-market paperback of TKAM retails for $8.99, while the trade paperbacks published by Hachette’s rival HarperCollins go for $14.99 and $16.99. Unsurprisingly, the more accessible mass-market paperback sells significantly more copies than the trade paperback: According to Nielsen BookScan, the mass-market paperback edition of To Kill a Mockingbird has sold 55,376 copies since January 1, 2016, while HarperCollins’s trade paperback editions have sold 22,554 copies over the same period.

John Scalzi speculates that this action will “make sure this book is no longer taught,” what with the additional cost of six dollars per student. Truth be told, I wasn’t aware that mass-market paperbacks were being used in classrooms; back in the last century when I was actually reading things for class, we always got the trade paperbacks. (Hardcover, of course, was out of the question.)

I am sorely tempted to order one of Hachette’s last remaining books from Amazon, which is offering it to Prime members for $5.89. (It’s $10.99 on the Kindle.)

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Not dead the way you know it

If you’ve ever seen it, you don’t need to be reminded here, but just in case:

Manos: The Hands of Fate, made in 1966 by a Texas fertilizer salesman, is a legendarily awful movie about a vacationing family that stumbles upon the creepy Valley Lodge and ends up falling into a cult of ladies in gauzy underwear and a guy with a hand fetish.

It was filmed with a silent camera, so all the dialogue is dubbed. One actress broke her leg, so her character was reduced to that of a randy teen making out in a car. Poor henchman Torgo (late actor John Reynolds) was supposed to be a satyr, but just looked like a sad dude with giant knees.

Manos would have died a quiet death but for its 1993 discovery by Mystery Science Theater 3000. The cult comedy show famous for overlaying comic dialogue on bad movies catapulted it to bad-movie fame with a legendary episode. And in 2012, the three MST3K alums who formed a similar group, Rifftrax, aired Manos in hundreds of theaters around the US, with fresh jokes mocking the movie.

And now comes an even fresher punchline:

Jackey Neyman Jones, who played little Debbie in Manos, is hoping to bring the infamous movie back with a Kickstarter campaign for a tongue-in-cheek sequel, Manos Returns.

Says she in the Kickstarter pitch:

We see MANOS Returns as a companion piece to the original MANOS. It’s a comedic horror film set in a world where MANOS and his cult are real and dangerous. There will be jokes and references to the original film, of course, but our characters take everything that happens to them seriously and will react accordingly. MANOS Returns will feature many of the characters from the original MANOS, and we will introduce some new characters along with the old.

When we say MANOS Returns will be “tongue-in-cheek,” we mean “funny.” We plan for our movie to be both funny and scary. We think that’s the best way to both honor the original and embrace all the reasons why people are still fascinated by it today. Think Cabin in the Woods or Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, (thanks @MovieVigilante), not Birdemic 2.

I should probably be pleased to admit that I never even saw the first Birdemic.

Deadline is the first of March; the Kickstarter is only a couple of thousand dollars short of reaching its goal. And yes, I helped.

I swear by the knees of Torgo, that’s the original Master, Tom Neyman.

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I blame Lord Byron

Now here’s a comparison I didn’t come up with, but probably should have. The Byronic hero as Sexy Douchecanoe:

Rochester is rich and arrogant and moody as hell, and he has peculiar ideas on how to court a woman, including disguising himself as a gypsy to try and uncover Jane’s secret feelings towards him, while also attempting to incite jealousy by lying to Jane about his supposed engagement with Blanche Ingram. He’s very secretive, too, as people tend to be when they’ve indefinitely imprisoned their mad wives upstairs in the attic.

Reading Jane Eyre wasn’t actually a tortuous affair, mostly because I rather liked Jane and, to my surprise, found that she displayed a surprising amount of power and agency in their relationship, despite the inequality of their social positions. (It also helps that Rochester is not quite as terrible to Jane on a day-to-day basis as some of the other men I’ll discuss today.) Yet I was still quite happy to see that, despite loving him, Jane leaves Mr. Rochester after finding out about Bertha, showing a welcome amount of self-respect that, unfortunately, goes by the wayside when she returns to our brooding hero at the end of the story. Rather conveniently, poor Bertha has died in Jane’s absence; meanwhile, according to every analysis I’ve ever read, Rochester is wholly redeemed of his faults and deeds when, during a fire, he loses his sight and one hand saving his servants’ lives, something that might mean more to me if his servants had been the people he’d wronged in the first place. Rochester does absolutely nothing to atone to Jane for how he treated her, and thus I find myself completely unmoved by their supposedly happy ending. He has done nothing to deserve her love, loyalty, or care.

Moving out on the “Worse than Rochester” axis, we find Maxim de Winter of Rebecca:

This novel was definitely a challenge to read, what with the way I had to keep taking breaks to hit my head against a desk as the second Mrs. de Winter trembles and quavers and continuously obsesses over whether her husband is still in love with his dead wife. I understand that Maxim saved our unnamed narrator from a lousy living situation with her former employer and all, but her complete lack of self-esteem and refusal to stand up for herself is just maddening. Still, you’d like to think if something will clue you into the fact that your husband doesn’t deserve you, it’s finding out that he shot and killed his first wife.

It’s almost enough to make you want to set fire to Manderley.

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Mere preference

I have been known to annoy Yahoo! Answers’ bevy of unpaid cultural critics — and if ever there were people who deserved to be unpaid, it’s those people — by restating their original statement: “Shorter version: How dare you like something I don’t like?”

Expand this beyond mere entertainment choices, and you have something like this:

I do think “virtues” — which are often things that require effort on a person’s part, and are often things that go unnoticed and unsung — are harder, and are not as visible in our culture right now — as “morals,” or at least the sort of “public morals” that allows a person to snark at another, unknown person because that person is fat. Or because that person smokes. Or because that person dresses badly. Or whatever. It can even devolve into true stupidity — Lynn talked the other day about “how everything becomes a little war” and it is, exhaustingly so, like that. Even down to the “best” flavor or brand of ice cream. Or what television shows (if any — and that’s a whole OTHER Western Front) are worth watching. And again: it’s easy for a person to justify their choices in life by running down someone else’s, or telling that person they are bad, stupid, or wrong for the choices they make. And I just want to wave my arms around like a demented Kermit the Frog and scream “STOP IT! STOP. IT.” Because it just makes everyone feel worse, and doesn’t actually solve any problems.

I have, more than once, defended my stance by saying “I’m sixty years old and don’t have to give a ruddy rat’s ass about anyone else’s opinions.” Which is true enough; the tragedy, perhaps, is that it didn’t occur to me to say something like that at twenty-two.

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More of the pre-post-Hef era

You already know what I think of the new, somewhat more buttoned up Playboy. Vice asked some collectors what they think, and, well, what you see is what you get:

“Whether it’s desperation or not, I don’t think it’s a great move because you expect nudity in Playboy. Now, maybe parameters need to be clear because I understand Playboy Brazil and Germany are keeping the nudity. Without the nudity you could argue it’s like French fries without ketchup. There’s a magazine here, Horse and Hound, you’re not just going to call it Hound magazine. People expect it.”

There are, I must point out, people who dip their fries in mayonnaise, and I’m not the one to tell them they’re wrong. (They are wrong, of course, but I’m not the one to tell them that.)

“I feel that it’s time at this cultural moment. The value of the magazine was never entirely about the nudity; it was always a major part of it, you know, founded to be that. But the way that things have evolved, with print giving way to digital, it’s the time to make that transition if you’re going to make it at all. And there’s enough merit in the magazine over the years to make it possible. The new editorial direction they’ve taken in the last couple of years has been a lot more progressive. I stopped my subscription in the 90s, but now I sort of wish I was still a subscriber. During Hefner’s Viagra years, it was sort of like, Jesus Christ. But now it’s a home for a lot of good, progressive writing.”

You can get a lot of bad progressive writing for a whole lot less than $7.99 a copy.

“Good for them. Not having to take your clothes off to get somewhere in LA? That’s great. One more reason not to take your clothes off to get somewhere.”

And if it were really an integral part of the star-making machinery, we’d remember more than a handful of the Playmates’ names, wouldn’t we?

Not sure how many issues the last two collectors have, but that first guy, the one who knows Horse and Hound, has 866, which implies the presence of a few duplicates, the magazine being only 63 years old and now down to ten issues a year. (Before you ask: I have just over 400.)

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The pre-post-Hef era

I have now seen the first issue of Playboy 2.0 — technically, Volume 63, Number 2 — and there are three conclusions to be drawn:

  1. Looks a lot like Maxim.
  2. Looks a whole lot like Maxim.
  3. Looks so much like Maxim that I wouldn’t be surprised if Maxim sued.

Seriously. Not only has Playboy installed the larger page size Maxim implemented last year, the House That Hef Built has also shifted the emphasis, Maxim-like, toward more guy gadgets and stuff and away from female bits: more AT&T, less TT&A. Most of the magazine’s most enduring, if occasionally least endearing, columns have been swept away: I won’t miss the Party Jokes, and the opposing “Men” and “Women” pages have been declining for years, though I did enjoy “Raw Data” and I truly regret the passing of the Playboy Advisor. (The Advisor, at least, seems to be available on the Web.)

On an almost-positive note, the Playmate Data Sheet is no longer called that, and is no longer rendered in the young lady’s handwriting, but it does offer some social-media contacts. (Follow Miss March 2016 on Twitter at @dreelovechild.) And photo director Rebecca H. Black, who has presided over recent improvements in the product imaging, remains.

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Temptation acknowledged

This is not the nearest library to me, but it’s in the system, and hey, I’ve done worse things in my life:

January 4, 2016, is the first day to submit entries to the Southern Oaks Library Fan-Fiction Fan-Art contest. Fan art may be any medium and contain original characters, but must contain copyrighted characters as the main theme. Similar rules apply to fan fiction. The last day to submit your work is Sunday, March 20 at 6:00pm, 2016. The announcement party is at Southern Oaks Library, 6900 S Walker Ave. OKC 73139 on Saturday, March 26, 2016 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

These are the fanfic rules:

  • Only one entry per contestant in the Fan Fiction category.
  • Fan Fiction may include original characters, but Fan Fiction must contain a copyrighted character in the main plot. If you have questions contact Southern Oaks Library.
  • Fan Fiction cannot be longer than 3,000 words.
  • Fan Fiction is not restricted to any age category or genre.
  • Entries can be submitted at Southern Oaks Library or through email to jhilbert – at – metrolibrary.org.
  • Use only your own work. You will be disqualified if you are found plagiarizing.
  • Fan Fiction must include a disclaimer. For a disclaimer form ask at the Southern Oaks information desk.

Hmmmm. Dead Pony Flying checks in at 2,071 words. And hey, I can disclaim with the best of them.

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Perhaps not for browsers

If you tend to spend hours upon hours in the bookstore, this is probably not for you:

September 2014: Yoshiyuki Morioka, a bookseller who had been running a store in Tokyo, Japan for 10 years, had a curious thought. Lots of customers, it seemed, dropped in during book launches and other events to buy the same title; others often appeared overwhelmed by all the extra variety. So why not start a bookstore that only sold one book at a time?

Now, Morioka Shoten — Morioka’s new venture that threw open its doors in Tokyo’s trendy Ginza shopping district in May 2015 — operates around that very principle. The store stocks multiple copies of only one carefully selected tome each week, aiming to maximize the joy and intimacy of book-buying for enthusiastic readers. Morioka Shoten has been dubbed both an “anti-Amazon” and a “minimalist solution” to the crippling indecision that customers tend to face when standing among the teetering shelves of traditional bookstores.

Among Morioka’s previously-stocked items:

Books that have been displayed so far include Swedish-Finnish author Tove Jansson’s The True Deceiver, Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, and works from well-known Japanese writers like Mimei Ogawa and Akito Akagi. Each title is displayed for six days in a row — Tuesday to Sunday — and then swapped out for a new book.

Sales so far: about 2,000 books. It isn’t Amazon, but it’s not bad for fewer than 50 titles.

(Via Fark.)

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Teetering on the brink of reality

Last fall, you possibly might recall, I ponied up for a Kickstarter to build an all-romance-novel bookstore in Los Angeles, because guilty pleasures are as least as worthy of support as any other kind.

And voilà:

Grand opening of the Ripped Bodice in Culver City, California

Well, they could have done it without me — there were 598 other backers — but I wanted to be a part of it, so to speak.

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The crumbum’s rush

Severian on The Catcher in the Rye:

Since it’s one of those books certain people can’t help bringing up, it’s great for helping me avoid human toothaches. If you liked Catcher, I hate you. If you consider yourself “the Holden Caulfield of ____,” I want to strangle you with your school tie. I thought Holden Caulfield was a pretentious little shit who needed nothing more in this world than a good beating, back when I myself was a pretentious little shit in desperate need of a good beating. Luckily, I got mine; the folks who like Catcher never did.

For all you Catcher-haters, I recommend the antidote: Frank Portman’s King Dork, in which you’ll be pleased to see that teenage protagonist Tom Henderson (also known as King Dork, Hender-fag, Chi-mo and Sheepie) is filled with loathing at the very thought of Catcher.

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Ununiquely unstyled

New Title 1Unmage of Bridge by Daniel PenwellThe James Joyce-on-Quaaludes title of this new Daniel Penwell novel is almost enough to justify reading the damned thing. Repeat: almost. Bill Peschel, I assure you, is not recommending it:

While cruising Amazon looking for new thrillers, I came across a series of books by “Daniel Penwell” that suggest the coming robot overlords need to tweak their writing algorithm a tad.

Eight books were published by “Penwell” during the last week of January, with titles evocative (The Flame’s Runelord; The Mayfair Cavern) and odd (Annal of School; Abyss of File) which sounds like it came from the same list that gave us Quantum of Solace.

Amazon is asking $6.99 for its Kindleized version, and while it’s true that I’ve paid more for arguably less — I own a copy of the highly dubious Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea — I’m not sure I want to know more than what’s in the blurb:

Not so long ago, a regular high-school woman was handed a wood cat figurine by her deceased grandma just who really was into miracle. Whoops, she just dropped they, but oh we-why did a tremendously good looking and nearly nude man just emerge from that figurine? And just why do he meow?

I frankly am not that much into miracle.

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Netflix and chafe

(Note: This ran in the Chicago Tribune in late December. The Oklahoman picked it up yesterday.)

It’s almost 8 p.m. on a Sunday as you pour a glass of wine and settle into the couch to watch The Good Wife. It’s your weekly ritual.

Your significant other, meanwhile, is in the basement watching Homeland, which airs at the same time.

Couples are bound to have varied tastes in television, but what if it starts to pull the two of you apart? One of you keeps binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy in the living room while the other lies in bed watching Sons of Anarchy.

“When couples spend what little time they have to hang out together in separate rooms watching their own programs, they often lose their sense of intimacy and connection,” said John Sovec, a psychotherapist in Pasadena, Calif.

This apparently has been going on for about as long as multiple TV sets have been a thing; the only reason it never affected me was simply that we — for those few years when I was part of a couple — had only the one set.

Still, doesn’t at least part of the definition of “couple” imply doing things together?

Dr Sovec says a single set should suffice:

“One TV is enough,” Sovec said, recommending that couples who can’t agree on what to watch should consider using a DVR. Decide which shows you must watch in real time, plan accordingly and record the rest. Watch Scandal one week and Thursday Night Football the next. (Although, admittedly, recording sporting events to watch later might be a tough sell.)

Then again, if both are on Twitter or even Facebook, the chance of seeing SPOILERS! is probably quadrupled.

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Too much monkey business

A proposed replacement for Curious George:

If I had art talent, I’d do a series of children’s stories called Chuy the Chupacabra. It would be a lot like Curious George, except that it would treat children about the intricacies of interaction with the government. Instead of an episode where George goes to the pancake supper and starts making pancakes when he shouldn’t but everything ends happily and he’s invited to make pancakes again next year, Chuy will make tacos and someone is going to call the Health Department and the Taco Festival will be canceled and lawsuits will cause the organization throwing the benefit to have to shutter its doors.

Might as well get the youngsters prepared for Harsh Reality.

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To my everlasting horror

Trump Temptation by Elijah DanielThe following statements should have been obvious, but I admit to having given the matter no thought up to now:

  1. There exists Donald Trump fanfiction.
  2. There exists sexually explicit Donald Trump fanfiction.

As Dave Barry is wont to say, I am not making this up:

He was a billionaire, I was a bellboy, can I make it anymore obvious?

It all started one fateful afternoon in summer of 2012. I was working as a bellboy at the Trump Hotel in Hong Kong on an internship program. This was my first time in a big city. It was all I could have ever dreamed of, and more. But little did I know, it was all about to change.

I think I’d have bought it just for the Avril Lavigne reference.

At a buck ninety-nine for ten pages, it’s a rather pricey sort of prank, but what the hell. This is my Amazon review:

Amazingly scurrilous and vulgar, and therefore perfect for the subject matter at hand. And it’s short enough to enjoy in between — um, never mind, let’s not get too specific here. Suffice it to say that Trump fanfiction was inevitable, even (especially?) from nonfans, and this one delivers a cohesive story in full compliance with the infamous Rule 34.

At the time I submitted that review, the average was 4.7 stars out of five. We are truly doomed.

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Quote of the week

Columnist Cal Thomas would like you to watch Finding Your Roots (PBS: check local listings), which is, he says, “the best and most compelling television you will ever see:”

The greatest contribution of this show is that it helps viewers see beyond externals — such as race and politics — and into the hearts and minds of the guests where their real selves reside. My personal favorite in the opening program is Donna Brazile, a longtime liberal Democratic activist and an African-American, with whom I am acquainted. I wanted to measure my reaction to someone who holds political views opposite my own.

In addition to revealing to Brazile the source of her unusual name, Gates also discovered a female ancestor who, at age 14, was sold as a slave to a white man. Brazile shakes her head in sadness and begins to cry. At that moment she turns herself inside out and we realize Brazile’s depth of character has nothing to do with the political views she holds. Most importantly it reminds her and viewers that her ancestor’s value as a human being had nothing to do with the price put on her by a slave auctioneer.

And he quotes series creator Henry Louis Gates Jr.:

In a press release, Gates says, “We can’t truly know ourselves until we know something of our origins.” His goal is to “inspire people to find out more about their own personal family stories, and spark an interest among young people in genetics, anthropology, history and the pursuit of science.”

We may not be sure where we’re going; but it’s important to know where we came from.

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Grown pains

“It’s never too late,” said Tom Robbins somewhere in the novel Still Life with Woodpecker, “to have a happy childhood.” Robert Stacy McCain, following up to a piece called “Marriage Matters,” notes that some people reject the very idea:

Since the phrase “dysfunctional family” become popular about 25 years ago, it has been used to condemn nearly all families. Basically, it gives young people an excuse for not becoming responsible adults: “I was raised in a dysfunctional family.” It leads to the belief that if your parents were less than ideal, or if your childhood was not perfect, you are a victim of society and entitled to whine and complain about your failures, for which you are not responsible. And this is bullshit. Your parents don’t have to be perfect to be good parents, and your childhood doesn’t have to be perfect to qualify as a happy childhood.

Parents, as a rule, are not perfect, and they’ll tell you so — eventually. Most of the ones I’ve met have basically felt that child-raising, at least at first, is like being thrown into the deep end of the pool and having someone yell “Swim, dammit!” at you. Certainly that was my reaction.

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The obvious goes ungrasped

No other explanation makes any sense:

The whole point of fanfiction is to infringe on the intellectual-property rights of people who can’t see that this is the One True Pairing. Maybe they’re a Second Party rather than a Third.

Time for this again:

The Shipping Department is taking notes.

(Via @SpinsterAndCat.)

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With which to frighten the children

Perhaps the most perverse collection of nursery rhymes ever is Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames: The D’Antin Manuscript (1967), and if you read the French-ish part of the title, you get a clue as to how these verses were created.

In case that’s not enough of a clue, and it probably isn’t, here’s how it works:

  1. Choose an English nursery rhyme
  2. Speak said nursery rhyme in an incredibly thick, Monty Python-esque French accent
  3. Write down this homophonic translation, so the words mean something in French, but not the context (forming a nonsense poem in French)
  4. Back translate the French into English (forming a nonsense poem in English)

The example provided is “Humpty Dumpty,” which goes something like this:

Humpty Dumpty
Sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty
Had a great fall.
All the king’s horses
And all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty
Together again.

Which sounds vaguely like this French verse, if you hold your jaw just right:

Un petit d’un petit
S’étonne aux Halles
Un petit d’un petit
Ah! degrés te fallent
Indolent qui ne sort cesse
Indolent qui ne se mène
Qu’importe un petit
Tout gai de Reguennes.

Now translate this French back into English:

A little one of a little one
Was surprised at the Market
A little one of a little one
Oh, degrees you needed!
Lazy is he who never goes out
Lazy is he who is not led
Who cares about a little one
All happy with Reguennes.

Now I’m wondering how well this would work as a wartime cipher. Surely it wasn’t the intention of author Luis d’Antin van Rooten, who published this book in 1967.

(Via Marion Grace Woolley.)

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Before they see anything else

Last month, I read a perfectly sweet little romantic comedy called Strangely, Incredibly Good by Canadian author Heather Grace Stewart. (Review here.) This is the cover art:

Original cover art of Strangely, Incredibly Good

Um, scratch that. As of the New Year, this is the cover art:

Current cover art of Strangely, Incredibly Good

I am not one to complain about this sort of thing — nice, if impractical, shoes, after all — but I did drop a note to the author, since we’re on speaking terms in the Twitter sense: “I wonder if maybe there’s a small core of models who pose for all those body parts on chicklit covers.”

Said she: “bet they make a better living than I do,” followed by a string of emojis.

Now Stewart has a publisher, so presumably this was their idea. If you’re publishing your own book, and you’re loath to contribute to the 20 percent (I’m guessing) of all genre fiction aimed at women that’s decorated with pictures from Here Down — well, you can always go prefab:

Premade cover art for an ebook

The details:

With a beautiful woman staring out over a body of water toward a distant city skyline, this cover had an adventurous, anticipatory feel to it. The touch of vintage sophistication adds an air of mystery and makes this a great cover for your next romance or chick lit novel.

This was offered for $89. The manufacturer says that they will sell each template only once, so there aren’t going to be fifteen identical-looking covers in the Kindle Store. And some of their offerings are decidedly less, um, conservative than this one.

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Oh, like you’ve ever been bobulated

A theme bar about nothing? Could this work?

George Costanza once said if he owned a company he would be so loved by his employees they would “have huge pictures of me up the walls and in their home, like Lenin.” Well, George never got around to owning that company, but a bar has opened in Melbourne that pays tribute to him in a way that even the Soviet leader would have envied.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that “George’s Bar” opened in the hip Fitzroy area of Australia’s second city on New Year’s eve, and as the name suggests it is inspired by the iconic Seinfeld character played so memorably by Jason Alexander. The owners told SMH that the idea for the bar came as they “really like Seinfeld.”

“George Costanza suits a bar in a lot of ways. The humor around George works,” said co-owner and operator Dave Barrett. The bar is decorated with pictures of Costanza and some of his nuggets of wisdom are emblazoned on the wall including classic lines like “It’s not a lie if you believe it” and “Everyone must like me, I must be liked.”

Yawn. Call me when there’s a Jason Alexander-inspired bar dedicated to Duckman.

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To stab, or not to stab

If you were thinking that things were awfully gory on TV and in the movies these days, well, you may be assured that this is Not News in any sense of the word: William Shakespeare was wont to include a bit of the old ultra-violence now and then, and he’s been gone for 400 years. And he had all sorts of ways of killing people off:

Distribution of deaths in the plays of William Shakespeare

At the link, an interactive version of this chart, with numbers of iterations for each death. And there’s this:

As accustomed as we are to thinking of contemporary entertainments like Game of Thrones as especially gratuitous, the whole of Shakespeare’s corpus, writes Alice Vincent at The Telegraph, is “more gory” than even HBO’s squirm-worthy fantasy epic, featuring a total of 74 deaths in 37 plays to Game of Thrones’ 61 in 50 episodes.

Not that George R. R. Martin is keeping count. (At least, I don’t think he is.)

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I learned it from you

The bar defining parenthood has been set so low in recent years it might as well be sitting on the ground:

The present generation of American parents commits innumerable sins against its children. Many of them are sins of omission. We fail to teach them about right and wrong, and how to know them. We fail to talk with them about values: where they originate, why they matter, and what one must do to preserve and defend them. We don’t bother to explain the seven virtues — for those who were poorly reared: faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude — and why they’re good, or the seven capital sins — lust, vanity, gluttony, envy, wrath, greed, and sloth — and why they’re terribly dangerous. We retreat from discussions about the natures of mass appeal, popularity, peer pressure, obsession, and the worship of persons and things. Don’t bother us now, Junior; we have to respond to these important text messages, right after we finish our game of Bejeweled.

Some of this, I assume, derives from our own failures to meet the highest standards. (And we do fail, make no mistake about it.) But “maybe they won’t do this if we don’t mention it to them” has worked in a handful of fictional works, and nowhere else on the planet.

Worse, it’s easy to induct Junior into the same isolation bubble:

As bad as all that is, it can easily be made worse. Just give Junior a smartphone. Initiate him into the mysteries of “absent presence,” and what makes it so much more comfortable than attending to the persons and things around him. Especially the most annoying of those persons, the ones clustered most closely around him, the ones who constrain him from moment to moment, whom he can’t wait to disown: his family.

Which you won’t think about when the wireless company offers a multiline deal for a seemingly great rate.

Still, the worst sin we commit against the youngsters is to assume that the public schools, for which we pay rather a lot of money, will take care of those Basic Education Needs. They will do nothing of the sort, and it will become necessary to un-teach some of the more heinous things that they’re taught.

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Just another number

Asks the person in shadows: “My IQ is 131. Can I get into MIT?”

Ten answers on Quora so far, but this is the one that resonates with me, from Doc Searls:

You don’t have an IQ. Nobody does, because intelligence isn’t a quotient. It is the most personal of all human characteristics, and is as different in all of us as our faces and voices.

For the nothing it’s worth, my known IQ scores have an eighty point range. (Got most of ’em from my Mom, who taught in the same school system.) All they measured, if anything, was how tired or awake I was, and how much I enjoyed or hated being tested at some point in time. And none of them mattered, except to those attempting to classify me — and all of them failed.

Remember, that’s what IQ tests are for: classifying people.

There are pundits who will take issue with Doc’s explanation, arguing that classification of this sort is exactly the tool they’re looking for, but for the nothing it’s worth, I spread several scores over a 60-point range, and I couldn’t tell you which one, if any, was “accurate.” It certainly didn’t seem to have much bearing on subsequent education or employment.

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