9.28.2006

Cleaning out my net news wire...

I don't know when I'll be able to post a lot, for reasons discussed earlier this evening, so here's some stuff that's been lying around for the past few days...

• Yglesias on the cocktail of public policy (how we must cut the Hogarthian gin of capitalism with the Continential-style vermouth finesse of socialism).

• I've always liked Long Beach. I'm glad to see things picking up there.

• The Oil Drum is often super-engineery, so when they have a post with the hippie-ish title of Burning Buried Sunshine you notice it. Short answer: as a species, we've stopped living off the interest and are dipping into the capital.

Pilotblogging: Is the single-camera comedy fully theorized?

Help me help you

This was one of the scripts I liked the best in the spring; the ending is a little different, somehow (I no longer have the script), but it's pretty much there. But all the way through I was thinking to myself, why is this single-camera? Subsequent chat has confirmed that I was not alone in this thought.

The benefits of single-camera are obvious: more movie-type shots, elaborate setups, no idiot crowd hooting at people kissing, and a general increase in pace. There's also a certain underplaying, deadpan kind of joke you can't do in multi-camera (cf., again and again, The Office). It's great to be able to write a scene where you don't have to cross your B story in, with all that entails -- justifications of why they happened to come over, and why they happen to be leaving just in time for the A story discussion to resume.

On the other hand a certain kind of super-theatrical tone is lost in single camera. Help Me Help You is about a therapy group, so it's like a summit of Kooky Karacters. Maybe it's because you associate such K.K.s with multi-cam, but in some ways I felt their over-the-topness wasn't landing enough (and I think the actors are all really good, so it's not a performance issue).

I don't know why they're not shooting this multi-cam without a studio audience, is all.

Another thing that hurts it is ABC's insistence of three commercial breaks, which means you have to find three act breaks in your story. Act breaks are like crying children demanding delicious plot twists. Three crying children in a half-hour are difficult to satisfy. Maybe it's okay in drama, where dramatic, commercial-spanning developments are part of the job, but it really fights rhythm and pace, two of the ineffable allies of comedy.

I don't know when I'll get to Ugly Betty, but I'm eager to see it.

They passed

Pitched my ass off, too. At least I got a free coffee out of it. Communication will necessarily be sporadic, as scrambling must begin.

Now I really feel unemployed.

I apologize

for not doing more yesterday, but I am too busy crafting diversions for my fellow subjects of our military-industrial-infotainment state.

BUT IF ANYTHING EVER DESERVED ALL CAPS IT WAS THIS TORTURE BILL. HERE'S JIM HENLEY:

My personal domestic politics analyst insisted to me tonight that the Democrats are still going to win one or both houses of Congress this year. I disbelieve her, but even if she is right, all it means is that a Democratic Party that has already ceded the principle that “our security depends on hiding people away and torturing them” will take power. That party will not have the self-confidence or ambition to spend political capital undoing what it allowed this week to be done. That party will be able to provide a nice living for its officials, do a tidy business in fundraising and maybe push marginal tax rates up a point or raise the gas mileage requirements on new cars - in a country whose official policy is that “our security depends on hiding people away and torturing them.” It will not be a party that opposes anything worth opposing. It will not be a party that can sustain majority support for an alternate philosophy of governance. In important ways it will hardly even count as a second party. And that’s the pleasant scenario.

There is, as they say, a lot of ruin in a nation. I expect the yoke of our weirdly Brezhnevite future to fall relatively mildly on most necks for quite awhile, including mine. People like me and all the other cranks with blogs are fundamentally unimportant, and the genius of one-party rule in this country is, so far, to let the unimportant slide. There remains an escalation problem. Four years ago, the “crises” were a rush vote on a manufactured war and the creation of a new bureaucracy. Two years ago it was the imperative not to admit that the manufactured war was pointless and counterproductive. This time it’s the overpowering need to hide whoever the executive claims is a terrorist away and torture them. Next time, if the economy is a little worse and the people a little more restless, what will it take? And the time after that? We can’t say. We can only say that Republicans will slaver and Democrats will whicker, shuffle and, finally, shrink.

9.27.2006

BUSH'S COMMA-SLASH-DOG WHISTLE

WHY HAS NO ONE REMARKED ON THIS EXCEPT LANGUAGE LOG?

HOW YOU KNOW SOMEONE IS A KICKER

THEY WEAR A WATCH DURING AN NFL GAME. (VIA UNI WATCH

ALL CAPS WEDNESDAY 2

WON'T HAVE MUCH TIME FOR RANTING TODAY CAUSE I HAVE TO DRAG MY ASS ALL OVER TOWN. SO THE ONLY ALL CAPS ACTIVITY TODAY WILL BE ME CURSING AT OTHER DRIVERS AND SINGING ALONG TO, I DON'T KNOW, LOU RAWLS.

9.26.2006

If the United States

were a promotional giveaway, it would without a doubt be Bubblehead Night.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2)

I never really had a guilty pleasure -- as far as TV goes, anyway -- until now. It's all I can do not to liveblog it, but 1) I don't watch it live, and 2) I think that leads to a terminal snarkiness that will be commented on negatively by one of the characters on "Studio 60". We already know what Aaron Sorkin thinks about reality shows, the New York Times, and bloggers. Next week expect Bradley Whitford to direct an elaborately grammatical jibe against people who get in the express lane with 16 items.

See, I'm snarking again.

But seriously, Gilbert & Sullivan? And nobody says, even lovingly, that that's a wee bit, I don't know, twee? I have worked with some show queens, gay and straight, and we wouldn't dream of foisting "I've Got A Little List" on in prime-time. Well, we would dream of it.

If "Studio 60" show is in prime time. If it is not in prime time, then the network president -- to say nothing of her corporate boss -- is spending too much time on it.

Anyway, I just lap it up, enjoying the notes of contempt that Aaron Sorkin has for me and other TV lifers, since the message of the show is that there's nothing wrong with television that can't be cured by replacing its current workers with people from superior mediums like film and theater.

I feel some more snark coming on, so I'll stop, at least till next week.

Naked guy at Starbucks

I used to live near this Starbucks. It surprises me not at all. Actually it's a pretty benign occurence.

That said Whitley Heights is a cool little enclave, one of the most uber-20s you can find out around here. And you can walk to the Bowl (although they cracked down on parking there and walking to the Bowl, which is too bad; the view from the Whitley Heights steps of Hollywood Heights in the evening is kinda magical).

Schwarzenegger Bullshit Watch (23)

Dude hasn't sold his Hummers after all.

He's going to win anyway, since the Democrats are running Flat Stanley, but it's worth pointing out that we have an unusually good bullshit artist at the helm around here.

Manolo on the Presidents' Hair

Excerpt:8.

Chester A. Arthur — Short but with the marvelous wavy texture. And those mutton chops! Alone they are enough to make the ladies in the parlor swoon onto their fainting couches.

9.25.2006

Cleaning out my net news wire...

I'm still in the midst of pitch mania, but here's some bulletlicious love:

Annals of Capitalism:

In the first sanction of its kind, California's top HMO regulator fined Blue Cross on Thursday for illegally canceling a woman's medical policy because she did not disclose corrective surgery she had 23 years earlier.

The $200,000 fine might not be the last resulting from the state's investigation of allegations that insurers dump sick policyholders to avoid paying claims, said Cindy Ehnes, director of the Department of Managed Health Care.
• I quite enjoyed this Alex Ross appreciation of Lorriane Hunt Lieberson. I can confirm that her "Ich Habe Genug" on Nonesuch is stark and beautiful. (I also like it when he listened to Mozart in chronological order. )

• What's life like when you work for Disney? Like this:
I once was on a standards committee with a Disney TV executive who was convinced that every time Disney broadcasted an old show, the copyright clock started over for that program -- so if you put a 50 year old cartoon on TV, it would get another 95 years of fresh copyright.

• I don't do as much climate blogging as I used to, because more people are paying attention, but here are some recent links explaining why ethanol is bullshit, why plug-in hybrids may also be bullshit, and yet another reason why we're fucked; I'm not a maximal pessimist, like Billmon or James Lovelock, but things are going to get worse before they get better.

But enough with the decline and disaster and disappointment of our republic and our climate! I've got comedy to write!

9.24.2006

Sports: Jesus fails to come to aid of believers

Americans lose Ryder Cup, probably to papists. Let's face it: God is resting on his laurels, sportswise, since He created Federer.

In other sports news, Off Wing tells us that Tie Domi might be first man of Canada? That would be a fair fight if we still had Barbara Bush.

I like Rob McMillin best when he's cranky

Here, on the "Game of Shadows" thing. I miss his old blog, he was really cranky about public policy (but who isn't, these days?)

Schwarzenegger Bullshit Watch (22)

From Green LA Girl. I'd reprint it myself but I can't copy the links for some reason. You do the work for a change. It's like I barely have enough time to get drunk around here anymmore!

9.23.2006

Torture and the one-party state

The torture thing is depressing. It's depressing for this reason (it will turn Americans into thugs), and it's depressing for this reason (we will never be able to correct the mistakes we will surely make), and it's depressing for this reason (it will drive out the very people we need the most). But for me it's also depressing because it's proven that we live in a one-party state. My party, the Democrats, laid down like dogs. For which they will still be treated like Emmanuel Goldstein, by the way.

I regret to inform myself that the Greens were right: we don't have an opposition, we just have hardliners and moderates among the ruling faction.

It's a soft one-party state, because we can still bitch about it and spend the rest of the day watching college football, instead of being hauled into jail. But you watch -- within 20 years people will forget that this torture is only meant for foreigners. Why should the terrorists be the only ones who get to be tortured, when we've got all these dangerous black people right here at home? It's like what we did to the Indians -- little by little, generation by generation, it turned into a near-genocide.

Add torture

Probably I am an ordinary middle-class
believer in individual rights, the word
"freedom" is simple to me, it doesn't mean
the freedom of any class in particular.
Politically naive, with an average
education (brief moments of clear vision
are its main nourishment), I remember
the blazing appeal of that fire which parches
the lips of the thirsty crowd and burns
books and chars the skin of cities. I used to sing
those songs and I know how great it is
to run with others; later, by myself,
with the taste of ashes in my mouth, I heard
the lie's ironic voice and the choir screaming
and when I touched my head I could feel
the arched skull of my country, its hard edge.

-- "Fire," Adam Zagajewski (I found it here.)

BREAKING: Jesus wants America to win Ryder Cup

Here. Because country clubs are exactly the side of the tracks you expect Jesus to be on!

9.22.2006

Word

I Dislike Your Favorite Team:

It is truly heartwarming to see the rejuvenated Super Dome standing as a monument to the American can-do spirit of cooperation and perseverance. It is hard to imagine another economically advanced society coming together to refurbish an athletic facility so quickly in order to cater to the needs of both millionaire athletes and multi-billionaire owners, and to entertain the indigent and unemployed. The effected region is truly on its way back to its rightful rank of 49th and 50th among the United States in most meaningful measures of human development.

One suggestion though, this commentator believes this symbol of the American ethos should be renamed the Freedom Dome in order to do justice to the noble legacy of this great society, and to remember those minorities who used this authentically multi-purpose facility as a make-shift morgue.

9.21.2006

Exactly the opposite?

It's exactly what I would've thought. I believe there's even been a Simpson joke about it -- or, if not, there should have been.

Life in the People's Republic of S.M.

Digby tells you why it's good

My voice is tired

from all the shouting. Still, it's good to let the crazies out once in a while.

I have a pitch I have to work on so things will be light the next few days.

9.20.2006

I AGREE WITH KEVIN RODERICK

CONCERNING THE LA TIMES:

[THE] paper makes a ton of money — about 20% return a year — but is hemorrhaging print readers and advertisers who see the value of the Times readership eroding. So how does Chicago want him to turn it around? By ensuring that his product will be less appealing to readers, instead of more. Fewer good stories, ugly ads on section fronts instead of bold reader-friendly design, scaled-back offerings throughout — good luck with that.

POST OF PISSEDNESS

GEORGE BUSH PISSES ME OFF, OF COURSE. IT PISSES ME OFF THAT MY RELATIONSHIP TO GEORGE BUSH IS SIMILAR TO MY RELATIONSHIP TO ESPN – WHAT’S IN THEIR INTEREST IS NOT IN MY INTEREST AND THERE ‘S FUCK ALL I CAN DO ABOUT IT.

OH, AND IT PISSES ME OFF HOW MUCH PEOPLE CARE ABOUT THE NFL. DON’T THEY SEE IT’S BORING AND POINTLESS? I KNOW, ALL SPORTS ARE ULTIMATELY BORING AND POINTLESS. BUT OTHER SPORTS AREN’T AS BOUND UP WITH THIS KIND OF BULLSHIT AMERICANIST HEGEMONY. PLUS THE FUCKING COMMERCIALS ARE ALL ABOUT HOW GREAT IT IS THAT YOU’RE WATCHING FOOTBALL, BUT YOU’RE JUST WATCHING THE FUCKING COMMERICALS.

THE FACT THAT GOD KEPT MY PILOTS FROM BEING PICKED UP PISSES ME OFF ALSO.

OUR LAVISHLY COMPENSATED EXECUTIVE CLASS THOUGHT THAT THE BEST WAY TO SERVE THIS COUNTRY WAS TO CUT THEIR OWN TAXES AND BUILD GOLF COURSES WITH BIG HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS AROUND THEM. I FIND THIS OFF-PISSING. ALSO UNDEMOCRATIC.

PLUS PEOPLE DON’T HARDLY USE THEIR TURN SIGNALS ANYMORE. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?

LINKS

THIS IS ALL CAPS WORTHY. SO IS THIS. SO IS, OF ALL THINGS, GREGG EASTERBROOK:

Bad enough is the matter of executives insisting what they receive be called "compensation." Workers get wages, white-collar employees get salaries and executives get "compensation," as if they were lofty philantrophists. Keep in mind Orwell's maxim that we cannot think clearly about things unless we call them what they are. By insisting their pay be referred to using a silly euphemism, executives make it harder to think clearly about their excesses...

Next, consider that executive income usually is rubber-stamped by boards of directors whose members may be engaged in self-dealings with the firm, or who have a self-interest in rising CEO pay. As Julie Creswell noted in the New York Times, "Five of the six active Home Depot board members are current or former chief executives of public corporations … CEOs benefit from one another's pay increases, because compensation packages are often based on surveys detailing what their peers are making."...The board members know the more they inflate CEO pay, the more they themselves will be able to pilfer from their own shareholders...

Recently the Business Roundtable released a study purporting to show that CEO pay rose 9.6 percent annually from 1995-2005, while stockholder returns rose 9.9 percent in the same period. So things aren't so bad, eh? The Business Roundtable said the study "sets the record straight." The Business Roundtable is, by its own description, "an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies." As Gretchen Morgenson, dean of Wall Street journalists, laid it out in the New York Times, the study systematically understated the income of CEOs in two ways. First, the numbers exclude dividends received by CEOs on restricted stock holdings, and this is often a big chunk of executive income. Second, Morgenson wrote, "The study counts only the value of the options and restricted stock received by executives on the dates the awards were made."

That renders the study about as truthful as an Enron balance sheet. Suppose I award you an option for a share of Tuesday Morning Quarterback Enterprises, on a day the stock is selling for $10. Naturally the value of my company skyrockets -- based on hat and T-shirt sales, perhaps. The stock price hits $50, you exercise the option, sell the share at $50 and realize a $40 gain. According to the Business Roundtable you made $10. Include the value of gains on stock options and restricted grants, Morgenson found, and CEO pay increased far faster than shareholder returns in the last decade. Now guess who the chairman of the Business Roundtable was when the "sets the record straight" study was being prepared: Hank McKinnell of Pfizer. How does it serve the interests of CEOs for their trade association to be blatantly dishonest toward the public about CEO pay? Unless the Business Roundtable is saying that CEOs as a group wish to deceive the public.
ANNALS OF CAPITALISM. (DIDN'T ALL CAPS HIM, BUT THINK HOW MUCH MORE POWERFUL IT WOULD'VE BEEN.)

MANIFESTO

WE LIVE IN AN ALL CAPS WORLD. AT EVERY TURN IN THE ROAD, THE SHRILL AND THE SCREWY AND THE SWEATY SURROUND US. IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO FIGHT IT WITH SANITY AND GRACE. WE'RE NOT CAPABLE OF THAT ANYWAY. THE PERIODIC SENTENCES OF THE 18TH CENTURY, LIKE ITS COCKAMAMIE IDEA OF REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT, ARE PART OF THE LAUGHABLE PRETELEVISED ERA. WE HAD FREEDOM, AND WE USED IT TO DESIGN CLOTHES THAT MAKE YOUR ASS LEGIBLE.

IF YOU CAN'T BEAT THEM, JOIN THEM ON ALL CAPS WEDNESDAY. IT'S TIME TO LET YOUR INNER

"YOU BROKE MY HEART AND NOW I HOPE A SHARP SHARD OF MY BROKEN HEART GETS STEPPED ON BY THE FOOT OF YOUR HEART I LOVE HATE YOU ANGELA ANGELA ANGELA"
OUT. NO TYPOS, PLEASE

WELCOME TO ALL CAPS WEDNESDAY

I'M GOING TO BED.

I SAID, I'M GOING TO BED, ALRIGHT, MA? GEEZ!

(THIS MIGHT BE FUN.)

9.19.2006

On the streets where I live

Enjoy this Franklin Avenue post about favorite L.A. streets, saluting one of the small everyday delights of city life.

Pilot blogging: The Breckin Meyer Effect

So the thing I noticed in "The Class" is that they have a nice guy with no funny lines in the middle of the show. I call this the Breckin Meyer effect because there was some goddamn show in which Breckin Meyer was assigned this unhappy duty -- being the regular guy who had nothing funny to do. Shows with a nice guy in the middle of them tend to have a hard go of it. I will use math to show why:

Nice = uninteresting.

Yet it’s easier than you’d think to fall into this trap, because nice is also relateable. All shows must be relateable. More seriously, a show that has all crazy people in it is just as tedious to watch as the nice-guy show, except it's more irritating, which I'm worried the quirky-with-a-capital-K characters are going to be in The Class. Again, though, and I can't emphasize this enough, you can't really tell from the pilot. Here's a show with about 8 people on the billboard -- there's no way these characters are fully fleshed out yet. Also, with such a big cast, minutes are at a premium, just like in the NBA. So you can't blame an actor for throwing up crazy quirky threes in an effort to get on the score sheet.

Also, where are they going to hold this sitcom? I don't see a homebase anywhere. Are we following them on their separate stories, or is every scene at the guy's house going to begin with a character having to tell us why they came over?

Okay, now I've made myself depressed about the path I chose for myself. Like the members of The Class, I've got a lot to learn.

The existential threat

is, I think, climate change. And while some others agree, I am a little disappointed that the blogs didn't show more love for Gore's speech yesterday. (Here's a more skeptical take.) I guess we are fouling our nest sufficiently imperceptibly that it's not causing panic.

On the other hand, you know, nuclear war. I guess I'd choose the climate-change apocalypse over the Cheney-based one.

TOMORROW IS ALL CAPS WEDNESDAY

To amuse myself tomorrow I'm going to write ALL CAPS. Because sometimes the EMOTION gets TOO MUCH and you just have to EXPRESS YOURSELF IN ALL CAPS.

Of course, if my agent suddenly tells me that I have to go meet with some dude from the Groundlings, ALL BETS ARE OFF. But otherwise, SEE YOU THERE.

A musical bleg

A chef friend of mine is getting married, and I want to make a mix CD with songs that have food in the title -- e.g., "You're Not The Only Oyster In The Stew" (Fats Waller). I'm not fussy about genre. Any suggestions?

I don't even need to read the article

Yahoo! News - "Rachael Ray Show" potentially annoying

9.18.2006

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

(Part of an ongoing effort to watch pilots this year so I can know how I fucked up my career. )

Notes:

• I agree with everything Judd Hirsch mentions in his speech, except that I also believe in brevity.

• But if TV has encoarsenified everyone, I hardly think a satirical sketch show will point us to the road back to classiness. I mean, I love the Daily Show, but it's not like it's not coarse.

• I loved how our writing team is at the prestigious Writers' Guild Awards. I shouldn't snigger, but snigger I do; honestly, how am I ever going to outgrow my self-hate as a TV writer if I don't also hate other TV writers? At least Sorkin had the accurate detail of there being no press.

• Amanda Peet: warning track power. But you can't always tell by pilots.

• Ultimately I am always bumped by the very thing that I think people love about Sorkinworld: that people talk in these complicated Dr. Johnson-esque sentences. I understand how that's appealing, it's just not for me. I like it better when characters talk like Bugs Bunny.

• Oh, and the awesome thing about having Judd Hirsch deliver the you-fucking-morons speech is this famous (among writers, anyway) story:

With only a few episodes written and the main charaters barely established, the executives felt that the scripts were already focusing too much on secondary players. “But it’s supposed to be an evolving ensemble comedy,” [Kevin] Curran told the group, like Taxi. “Maybe so,” parried one of the excutives, “but there’s a difference. Taxi had Judd Nelson.” Curran could not contain himself: “It was Judd Hirsch, you fucking moron.” In short order, production on Circus was suspended, and Curran was gone.

They go too far!

I was agnostic, if you will, about Benedict's remarks, except to note that you must get into undiplomatic when you're pushing around professors of theology for twenty years. But now I'm all on his side:

While some Muslims were mollified by his explanation for the speech made in Germany last Tuesday, others remained furious.

"We tell the worshipper of the cross (the Pope) that you and the West will be defeated, as is the case in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya," said a Web statement by the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella group led by Iraq's branch of al Qaeda.

"We shall break the cross and spill the wine," said the statement, posted on Sunday on an Internet site often used by al Qaeda and other militant groups.
Two reactions:
1. Break, if you must, my old, gray cross, but spare my two-buck Chuck, he said.
2. To me it sounds like a sitcom setup: "'Break the cross and spill the wine?' Whew! I thought you were going to kill me! (THEN) Oh."

Everything they taught you about education is wrong

What college you go to doesn't matter.

Homework doesn't matter for the wee ones.

Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day.

Money quote on college (from Michael Wolff's review):

That a top high school student may also be among the market’s extreme and grotesque creations — i.e., an adolescent who accepts authority, willingly does absurd amounts of homework, is respectful of his or her college guidance counselor, listens to his or her parents and is a dedicated standardized-test-taker to boot — doesn’t seem to occur to Golden. He’s on the side of the upper-middle-class grind and suck-up
On homework, there's two that go together. First, Kevin Drum:
...simple socioeconomic inequality is such an overwhelming factor that everything else combined is barely a blip on the radar.
And from Slate:
Eli's homework seems like an imposition when I measure it against running around the playground or playing card games or building with blocks or talking to his little brother.In response to this, Cooper delicately suggested that my idea of a childhood afternoon well-spent is idealized and elitist. Maybe so. But the argument that homework is a net benefit for most kids has a big weakness. When homework boosts achievement, it mostly boosts the achievement of affluent students. They're the ones whose parents are most likely to make them do the assignments, and who have the education to explain and help.
Enjoy your Russia!

Blogger beta

I moved to blogger beta because I'm having so much fun playing with the template, as you can see. If I ever hit on one that seems desirable, please let me know. I probably won't stop, because I'm as fidgety as a nine-year-old after his first espresso, but I'll appreciate it.

9.17.2006

This place is turning into fucking Russia

with a casual, can't-be-bothered attitude about future disasters.

Most L.A. Buildings Not Checked for Damage From Northridge Quake

...Seismic experts and others have been pressing government officials for more inspections.

"Every structural engineer will tell you they need to be inspected," said David Cocke, a structural engineer and a spokesman for the Structural Engineers Assn. of Southern California.

But Cocke said the expense — and the liability issues raised if a building is found to have problems — have made retrofitting these structures a political hot potato[...]

Several of the region's biggest developers — including Maguire Properties, which owns the U.S. Bank building, and the Thomas Co., which owns Arco Plaza — did not respond to repeated requests for interviews.

"Society needs to decide that it's important to us to get rid of those buildings or fix them," said James Malley, the structural engineer who conducted the FEMA survey of quake-damaged buildings in Los Angeles.

Without inspecting the welds on all 1,500 steel buildings, Malley and others said, the severity of the risk won't be known until the next earthquake. Malley, past president of the Structural Engineers Assn. of California, is more concerned than city officials about the risk of building failure with another quake.

"If they are damaged, they may have been weakened, and the second one could take [one] down," Malley said.

Sunday sports blogging: two notes on Auburn

1. Auburn's home uniforms are really great, very classic.

2. I think that every effort will be made to privilege Auburn over USC this year, to make up for 2003. I look forward to the howls of outrage in the letters to the LA Times sports section (still my favorite part of the paper), if this is the case.

3. And also this, about USC screwing its students who want to attend its games. I think it's the great-cheeses-of-Europe level rot that college football causes in its institutions that makes me love it so.

9.16.2006

Saturday ant blogging!

I got some (some!) of these Argentine ants in my kitchen, so this breakthrough in turning the little fuckers against themselves is good news:

In California, the species has formed a massive supercolony that stretches from San Diego to Sonoma, wreaking havoc on wildlife, citrus crops and countless kitchens.

The glue that unites the ants is their scent, a hydrocarbon-laced secretion that coats their exoskeletons and enables the insects to identify one another as friends. Unlike their South American cousins, whose myriad body odors incite family feuds with millions of casualties, California's Argentine ants emit a laid-back, surfer dude-type aroma.

But researchers at UCI think they've discovered the six-legged insect's Achilles' heels.

In a laboratory not far from the bronze statue of UCI's anteater mascot, biologist Neil Tsutsui and chemist Kenneth Shea recently created a synthetic version of the Californian ant scent, then tweaked the ingredients slightly and transferred the concoction onto ants serving as guinea pigs.

Like cheap cologne, the new scent offended nearly every other ant in the room. One whiff and they began tearing their suddenly strange-smelling comrades to shreds.
Congress has a pretty good chance of being like this, after the midterms.

Prop 89

One of the reasons I'm for Angelides is his support of the campaign finance initiative -- which, predicatably, he has made nothing of. It probably won't pass, but it definitely won't pass if goo-goo types like the LA Times don't get behind it. Regrettably, that is not the case, as Kevin Drum (the former Calpundit) outlines here -- while giving a good defense of the bill.

My views on drinking are backed by science

See Martini Republic, who add:


Remember our adage: drink less, but better. But whatever you do, drink.

9.14.2006

Good luck with that

More from the annals of loudmouth racist and Los Angeles King Sean Avery:

Avery, whose season was filled with controversial comments and tirades that finally got him suspended by the team, has a one-year contract and is on "double-secret probation," according to Lombardi. Avery is trying to clean up his image, having hired a personal publicist who has worked for comedian Andy Dick.

9.13.2006

Sports notes

Tom Verducci writes:

But Liriano and Santana, especially if the Twins can have them lined up to start the Division Series, loom over this postseason the way Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did in 2001. Arizona's aces started 11 of the team's 17 postseason games that year, culminating with both of them pitching in the World Series clincher. It didn't matter that the Diamondbacks used Albie Lopez, Miguel Batista and Brian Anderson to cover the six games Johnson and Schilling could not start.
Really? When you're a rookie who's been shut down for a month in the middle of a pennant race, I don't see how you can loom. I scoff. That's not to say he's not a good pitcher. But I don't see him running out there on two days rest and stuff, which, in the postseason, is basic looming.

• I enjoyed this article about how Hustlin' Bob Huggins has already helped to Kansas State University:
Wow. K-State went from zero to $12.3 million on the swooshometer before Huggins even coached his first practice. And according to Huggins' contract, the school only has to give him a $125,000 annual cut of that haul....K-State knew it risked a hit to its rep by hiring Huggins, given his checkered past. It admitted as much by putting a clause in his contract that he could be fired for committing "an act that causes material injury to the university's reputation." From a business standpoint, however, the hire was no gamble. The Wildcats have already taken it straight to the bank.
What I like about the article is, no tut-tutting. There's no, this isn't what a university is for, all that stuff. It's more an attitude of, "college sports are a big business, we made it a big business, we prefer our educational institutions when they're slightly perverted by the pursuit of amusement, now let's go to the numbers." If only Frank Deford (say) would be as grown up!

On My Blog

I realized that my blog is like a sad pizza-by-the-slice operation, the kind that you can only guess stays open because it's laundering money for the mob.

9.11.2006

Blogger slow today

No doubt because of everyone trying to jostle to the front with their memories of 9/11.

Schwarzenegger Bullshit Watch (21)

With Bills in the Balance, Arnold Hauls In Checks:

"As legislators were approving more than 1,000 bills in August, Schwarzenegger was crossing the state, and the country, soliciting campaign cash. Now, as he decides whether to sign those bills into law or nix them with a veto, he will be cashing checks from scores of contributors whose interests intersect with legislation.[...] Last week alone, the Republican governor held five fundraisers, including two on Friday in the Central Valley, two in Los Angeles and one in suburban Sacramento. He has scheduled at least 22 such events this month.

'This is exactly the kind of practice he said he was going to Sacramento to end,' said Angelides consultant Bill Carrick.

As a candidate in the 2003 recall campaign, Schwarzenegger called for fundraising blackout periods covering times when weighty decisions were being made. The proposal was a swipe at then-Gov. Gray Davis — the man Schwarzenegger ousted — who used the months when he was signing bills as prime fundraising season.

Schwarzenegger never followed through on his own idea."

9.06.2006

The Smell of Curried Favor In The Air

CBS hires Rush Limbaugh.

The Disney 9-11 movie.

Is there a pending FCC ruling I'm not aware of? Backs to be scratched?

"I don't want to denigrate Kerry... but from a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal. Because the Republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on.... from a Viacom standpoint, we believe the election of a Republican administration is better for our company." -- Sumner Redstone

UPDATE: Then this from Variety (sub. req.):

Cablers and broadcasters are contributing the most entertainment industry money to 2006 election campaigns, latest figures show.[...]

Cablers and broadcasters have had several contentious issues before Congress this year, most notably involving the telecommunications reform legislation, which is still pending in the Senate, and a fine-boosting indecency bill, which already has been signed into law.

The industry's favorite politician, at least in terms of giving money, continues to be Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who had taken in more than $531,000 as of the end of June, the most recent reporting date.

A seemingly unlikely recipient of industry money has been Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), who has been attacking the "Hollywood values" of his challenger, James Webb, a decorated Vietnam War veteran as well as a former Reagan administration official, bestselling author and occasional screenwriter.
The article also says that Democrats (or "Dems") are receiving more than Republicans, but maybe these are more like in-kind donations.

9.05.2006

Tangentially related to the previous post

But really about Steve Irwin. I was looking for this yesterday, too.

Reinforcing your prejudices about the University of Florida

From the Gainesville Sun:
Proofreaders at the University of Florida appear to have failed the Pepsi challenge.

UF has called off a massive giveaway of Gator T-shirts, paid for by Pepsi, upon realizing that Roman numerals intended to denote the year "2006" on the shirts actually translated into "26" in standard Arabic numerals.

9.04.2006

School's in!

And I was almost unboundedly grateful until I remembered the homework wars that are to come. Fortunately for me, I now know that I'm fighting in vain, via this Salon article (Premium, I think):

"I had an eye-opening interview with Harris Cooper at Duke University. He looked at 180 studies on homework and found that there was only a very tiny correlation between homework and achievement in elementary school, measured either in grades or on achievement tests; a minor correlation in middle school; and still only a moderate correlation in high school. And after kids started doing more than two hours a night, [even the moderate correlation] plummeted. It's very counterintuitive. It's hard to get parents and teachers to accept; you think more has to be better. Not true."
Naturally I have a crackpot theory about all this homework: that the amount and complexity of it -- which practically demands parental help, at least at my kids' elementary school, at least if you have boys -- is a function of smaller family size. You'd never be able to get away with it if everybody had six or so kids like they did, even in my day. The parents, toughened by having six or so kids, would murder the administrators.

This theory does not preclude the obvious reason there's so much homework nowadays: i.e., we take all our anxiety about societal problems and dump them on the schools in lieu of solving them.

For Labor Day

From the Waco Brothers:

Plenty tough union made

from the country to the town
police and bosses held us down
back at the start when the ground was laid
plenty tough and union made

i don't think the king woke up one morning
said the people should be better paid (no!)
things were bad but things got changed
plenty tough and union made

plenty tough and union made
one long struggle day by day
that's how we got to live this way
plenty tough and union made

risked a lot to live like humans
locked out, beaten and defamed
no one said it was gonna be easy
plenty tough and union made

cowards cringe and traitors sneer
like the class war never happened here
but don't forget as the future fades
plenty tough and union made

plenty tough and union made
one long struggle day by day
that's how we got to live this way
plenty tough and union made

9.03.2006

It's not every day you see a run-on sentence in a big newspaper, but then we all know that the "Hot Properties" copy is filed directly by realtors who

are known for many things, but not, generally, for their sentence structure, although there could be exceptions, of course. Anyway, here
it is:

"She [Priscilla Presley] sold the estate because she hardly used it during her 12 years of ownership, despite putting much of her creative self into redesigning the interiors so that it became what she calls 'a country-English farmhouse on a grand scale.'"
Also (and wonderfully), that's a country-English farmhouse, not the kind you see in, like, Manchester.

Schwarzenegger Bullshit Watch (20)

Today: Schwarzenegger wants no Bush help

Earlier this year: Schwarzenegger brings Bush strategist to 2006 campaign.

Yes! More LA Transit Wonkery (Drinking Divison)

Green LA Girl says:

Since the population density around the proposed Expo line’s already dense, ridership’ll likely rise quickly — and remain high even on the weekends. People could, say, shop in the jewelry district or party at The Standard Downtown, then safely take the light rail home.
Excellent point. Think of what a good drinking city this could be if people didn't have to drive home, especially in the areas of tropical/warm weather cocktails. I, for one, eagerly await it.

9.02.2006

Opium Harvest at Record Level in Afghanistan

So you know it's going to be an awesome time at the Afghanistan State Fair this year, at which, I believe, Chuck Mangione is appearing.

My favorite part of The NYT article describes this pro-active response from the Bush Administration:

"a State Department spokeswoman, Joanne Moore[...] pointed to a fact sheet on the department’s Web site that outlined efforts to support Afghanistan’s counternarcotics campaign."
That'll learn 'em.

Speaking of Peter McFerrin

Clueless and Slightly Slack:?:

"One thing that clearly distinguishes European transit systems from American ones is the former's greater emphasis on operational improvements. American transit systems historically have received massive capital subsidies from the federal government but relatively low operating subsidies, meaning that they overinvest in new-build rail lines of dubious utility (think: MARTA, suburban BART lines, the Gold Line here) but don't bother to make sure that the buses and trains are on time, clean, safe, comfortable, and cheap. It is little wonder that despite tens of billions of dollars of transit investment over the past several decades, transit's ridership share has fallen even within American central cities. Los Angeles' abundance of used car lots--?SU TRABAJO ES SU CREDITO!--strongly testifies to just how desperate working-class Angelenos are to get off the bus. By comparison, European transit operators have paid far more attention to making sure that people will actually want to ride their buses and trams, so that they won't automatically buy ancient beaters and clog up the streets as soon as they get that €0.50 raise."

Belated blog day shoutouts

From Green LA Girl I learn that Thursday I should have listed 5 blogs I enjoy. Well, better late than &c. &c. Here goes:

Climate: I used to blog on climate a lot, because I thought this was a huge issue that no one was paying attention to, but now attention is paid so that gives me an excuse to be lazy! Almost every day, a good climate blog is born, these days. A good, if dry, overview of the state of play can be found at Science and Politics of Global Climate Change (See, I told you it was dry.) I'm also fond of the Ventura-based Kit Stolz and SF (I believe) based Brian Schmidt.

Sports: Everybody knows, or ought to, about The Mighty MJD and Paul Lukas's blog about uniforms. I also like the super-cranky Tom Benjamin, who can't quit the NHL nicotine.

LA: New York is a newspaper town, to have a newspaper defined what it is to be a New Yorker. Will blogs do the same for LA, now an awkward teen? The LA City Nerd is on the case. Even nerdier are Mitch Glaser's and Peter McFerrin's city planning blogs.

That's more than five, and I had more, but I have to run. That'll get you started.

Miscellany

Catching up with a few things from NetNewsWire:

• Against authenticity: Alex Ross in a post on Dylan:

Dylan meets Thelonious Monk and identifies himself as a folksinger, to which Monk repies, "We all play folk music." Which reminds me of what Edward Elgar said when the likes of Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams started insisting that English composers should use native folk tunes: "I am folk music."

Green LA Girl for Phil Angelides. (See also this. The fact that no one knows about these is typical Democratic fuckups, if you ask me.

• I really need to be blogging more: Bob Cringely on my unemployed future:
As production and marketing costs and capital requirements decline, the entertainment advantage is being lost to smart kids who are closer to the market and lack mortgages and child support payments... the video sharing market of today would allow a Frank Caliendo to rise to the top and make a good living even if MADtv had never existed, which is the scariest lesson of all for Hollywood's talent gatekeepers.

It isn't that Hollywood is dying, but being reborn with a new skeleton and muscles. And while the studios and networks hope to still provide the brains to drive this new entity, that is very doubtful. Not all smart people drive Range Rovers and live in L.A.

9.01.2006

Schwarzenegger Bullshit Watch (19)

I am happy that our imported bullshit artist governor signed the global warming bill, but in the last analysis I have to agree with The Poor Man:

"Ah-nuld is nothing. He is (barely) an actor, employed by right-wing interests to serve as a charismatic, if unintelligible, facade. If you want to know what he stands for, what he really believes in, remember all the bullshit he put up in that bullshit special election last year - all of which was designed to decrease the political power of Democratic constituencies and/or hand out money to reliable Republican interests. That’s what he stands for, and all this touchy-feely bipartisanship, as well as his now-forgotten crypto-racist pandering, is a means to that end. He is a Bush-Cheney Republican, through and through. I’m sorry if you don’t like hearing it, but that’s the real."
My own feeling is that Schwarzengger is more an opportunist like Nixon, the red-baiter who started EPA, and not so much a believer in false theories like Bush/Cheney.

Observation on Disneyland

Disneyland must be the best place in the world to have a heart attack. Think about it: hundreds of humongous fat-ass people are waddling through the Magic Kingdom -- you have to think that some of them will topple over from time to time. They must have sets of paddles stashed every 200 feet or so, in order to prevent the buzz of the little ones from being harshed.

There's also a little smoking area at Disneyland, near where the Tom Sawyer rafts take off. I wish I had taken a picture of it. I find it hilarious for some reason I can't put my finger on.