Monday, May 25, 2009

Thank You, Rupert, for Making The Post What it is Today

Graphic from The Post's story DOG STAYS BY ODOR OF THE COURT on May 24.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jeremy Clarkson on the Honda Insight

Jeremy Clarkson's review of the new Honda Insight hybrid is that special sort of bad review, one that's a delight to read regardless of any knowledge or interest in the thing reviewed. It hits two separate pleasure centers in my brain: The one that reacts to articulate and creative bad-mouthing and another that lights up at the misfortune of popular people or things.

Jeremy Clarkson is one of the three hosts of the BBC's car show, Top Gear, a show so entertaining and well-produced, that you wonder when American TV is going to knock it off and fuck it up. What's so uniquely British about the show, and why it can never be made so well in the States, is that the hosts are not afraid to say that a car sucks. Whether it's a new Ferrari or a new Ford, they will give very candid and thoughtful reviews.

First, a quick background on the car. If the Insight is Honda's answer to the Toyota Prius, it's more a muttered reply. While the Prius gets 51 mpg city and 48 highway, the Insight gets less: 40 mpg city and 43 mpg highway. But it costs less and has a shiny new ad blitz on TV.

"Much has been written about the Insight," writes Clarkson in the Times Online. "We’ve been told how much carbon dioxide it produces, how its dashboard encourages frugal driving by glowing green when you’re easy on the throttle and how it is the dawn of all things."

But how is it to drive?
"It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more."
The problems are myriad and systemic, he says, so it isn't easy to isolate them. The "constant variable transmission," or CVT, makes the car seem as if it has a slipping clutch. The engine sounds:
"worse than someone else’s crying baby on an airliner. It’s worse than the sound of your parachute failing to open. Really, to get an idea of how awful it is, you’d have to sit a dog on a ham slicer."
He continues:
"Because the Honda has two motors, one that runs on petrol and one that runs on batteries, it is more expensive to make than a car that has one. But since the whole point of this car is that it could be sold for less than Toyota’s Smugmobile, the engineers have plainly peeled the suspension components to the bone. The result is a ride that beggars belief."
If Clarkson's right about all of this, the celebrations for a new era of hybrid trnasport are premature. It's nearly greenwashing. The technology just isn't quite there yet, and we're probably better off buying diesels, or better yet, converting diesels to bio-diesels. Is it really better to ditch a perfectly good used car for a brand new Prius or Insight? Doubtful. But a whole lot of people who don't like cars much anyway can feel like they're helping.


Monday, May 18, 2009

These woven webs are on a section of chainlink under a bridge in Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

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Quote of the Day: Anna Wintour

“I had just been on a trip to Minnesota where I can only kindly describe most of the people that I saw as little houses, and I just felt like there’s such an epidemic of obesity in the United States. And for some reason everyone focuses on anorexia ... We need to spend money, time, and education on teaching people to eat, exercise, and take care of themselves in a healthier way.”
Anna Wintour is the editor of Vogue and perhaps the most powerful person in fashion. She bad-mouthed my home state on yesterday's episode of 60 Minutes.

Yes, she's a hostile stick figure with hair like a starched curtain framing alien eyes above a skeletal nose, and yes I resent the likes of her singling out the 30th fattest state in the nation as an example. (Mississippi ranked worst, West Virginia second and Alabama third.)

But if she's saying that Americans are overweight and do not care much about the way they dress, she's right. We in America dress more for comfort and, paradoxically, prefer clothes that are made for action even while we languish indoors. We like track suits and running shoes for things like riding on planes and shuffling through malls.

Then again, have you seen models these days? Even in menswear runway shows, they're long and skinny with big heads like Tim Burton characters. We don't talk about anorexia and bulimia nearly as much as we talk about obesity, and maybe we should change that. In fact, Anna Wintour could change that herself.

The video here (which I haven't embedded because it starts automatically -- very irritating) doesn't show the anti-Minnesota bit -- that was in another clip that CBS has removed from the Internet.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quote of the Day: Maurice Jarre

"One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head that only I can hear."
Although many news sources have attributed that quote to the French composer Maurice Jarre, it's actually the result of an Irish student's Wikipedia experiment. It worked.

Shortly after Oscar-winning composer Maurice Jarre died in March, 22-year-old Dublin student Shane Fitzgerald posted the quote on Wikipedia to see if journalists would check sources or use shortcuts.

Fitzgerald wrote an indignant editorial in last Thursday's edition of the Irish Times after the media failed to notice its mistakes.

"While I expected online blogs and maybe some smaller papers to use the quote," Fitzgerald wrote, "I did not think it would have a major impact. I was wrong. Quality newspapers in England, India, America and as far away as Australia had my words in their reports of Jarre’s death. I was shocked that highly respected newspapers would use material from Wikipedia without first sourcing and referencing it properly."

And of course, once one reputable paper uses the quote, it becomes legitimized. That and the fact that Fitzgerald kept reposting it worked against the Wikipedia editors, who purged it from the entry multiple times.

The Guardian was one paper that admitted its mistake in a piece by readers' editor Siobhain Butterworth, who wrote,
"Fitzgerald's timing could not have been better. He added the fake quote shortly after the composer died and just as writers were working on his obituaries. The Guardian commissioned an obituary writer on the morning of 30 March, giving him only a few hours to produce a substantial piece on Jarre's life for the following day's paper. He was not the only one taken in by the hoax - the quote was recycled in several other obituaries published in print and on the web. Fitzgerald told me that he'd looked for something (or someone) journalists would be under pressure to write about quickly. Jarre's death was 'the right example, at the right time', he said."


Friday, May 08, 2009

Air Force One

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

This Just in: Obama's Mother Saved From Purgatory

Thank God. According to Politico, Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham--who died in 1995--was baptised posthumously by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Baptising dead people is a common practice for the Mormons, who believe that it's the only way to help good people who didn't get the chance to hear the "good news" while alive into heaven. A Church statement e-mailed to Politico said:
"The offering of baptism to our deceased ancestors is a sacred practice to us and it is counter to Church policy for a Church member to submit names for baptism for persons to whom they are not related. The Church is looking into the circumstances of how this happened and does not yet have all the facts. However, this is a serious matter and we are treating it as such."
This practice got the Church into big trouble PR-wise when it came out that they had been baptising Jews who died in the Holocaust.

Apparently the Church stopped doing it after a formal complaint was lodged in 1994 by Holocaust survivor Ernest W. Michel and the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.

Michel found out that his parents, who did not survive the Holocaust, were baptised by the Mormons years after their deaths. "I was incensed that my parents who were killed in Auschwitz were now listed as members of the Mormon faith," Michel told the New York Times.

The Times described the ceremony in a 1995 article:
"Although little known outside Mormon circles, 'baptism for the dead,' in which a church member stands in for a deceased person, is a main tenet of Mormonism. The church teaches that such ceremonies were performed in the early Christian church and work to help extend Mormon membership not just to the living, but also to the dead, who exist in what the church calls 'the spirit world.'

In Mormon theology, all people, living and dead, possess 'free agency,' and may either accept or reject church membership, even if they are baptized by proxy.

Ceremonies take place in the faith's 46 temples. A church member is immersed in a baptismal font as names of the deceased are read. The names of those to be baptized are taken from the church's genealogical archives, which contain approximately two billion names.

Elder Brough, who is executive director of the church's Family History Department, said church rules obligated members to perform genealogical research so they could baptize their ancestors, thus allowing the extended families to reunite in heaven."

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Quote of the Day: Trent Reznor

"I'll voice the same issue I had with Wal-Mart years ago, which is a matter of consistency and hypocrisy. Wal-Mart went on a rampage years ago insisting all music they carry be censored of all profanity and 'clean' versions be made for them to carry. Bands (including Nirvana) tripped over themselves editing out words, changing album art, etc to meet Wal-Mart's standards of decency -- because Wal-Mart sells a lot of records.

"NIN refused, and you'll notice a pretty empty NIN section at any Wal-Mart. My reasoning was this: I can understand if you want the moral posturing of not having any 'indecent' material for sale - but you could literally turn around 180 degrees from where the NIN record would be and purchase the film 'Scarface' completely uncensored, or buy a copy of Grand Theft Auto where you can be rewarded for beating up prostitutes.

"How does that make sense?"
That's Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, as quoted in the New York Daily News after Apple banned his iPhone app. The reason? Because the app apparently contains a podcast of the NIN song "The Downward Spiral," which can be bought on iTunes anyway.

RIP Dom DeLuise

The comedian Dom DeLuise died yesterday. He was 75.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Chrysler's Future Past

Listen to this car start up -- it sounds like an airplane. Or maybe it sounds exactly the way a car that looks this way should. It was created in 1955 for Chrysler by the Italian coachbuilder Ghia and designed by Giovanni Savonuzzi. It was designed for a gas turbine engine, but it never had one until Scott Grundfor, who bought it for $125,000 about eight years ago, put one in it.

[via Jalopnik]


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