8.27.2009

Our Angry Planet (2)

US Drought Monitor:

"In addition, San Antonio’s tally of 100-degree days continued to climb. San Antonio’s former 1998 annual record of 36 days with triple-digit heat was broken long ago; through August 25, there have been 56 days with highs of 100 degrees F or greater. Elsewhere in southern Texas, locations such as Corpus Christi and Victoria endured a 79th consecutive day (June 8 – August 25) with above-normal temperatures."
Via the excellent Jfleck.

8.26.2009

We have an electorate on whom TV ads work

That, to me, is the real problem, and the fact thatpoor people are therefore marginalized is the symptoms.

Fire season

Via LAist. From Runyon Canyon, maybe?

It begins.

This is not the smoke from the current fire, but it's like it -- these hot cloudless days are perfect fire weather, and because they're cloudless you can see the smoke start to drift in from distant points. In 2003 (I think it was) the sun was red all day from all the fires. It's apocalyptic here, I'm telling you.

Riddle me this, cable news

How is Ted Kennedy's death a developing story?

8.23.2009

Our Angry Planet

Greenland...coming soon to an ocean near you!

A Change in the Wind: Climate Change: Facing the Unpleasant Facts:
We have a phrase for those who deny the evidence that the climate is changing, taking us towards what Jim Hansen calls simply 'a different planet.' If we're polite, we call these people 'sceptics.' If we're angry, we call them 'deniers' or 'denialists.'

But we have no phrase for those people who know that the evidence is much worse than has been reported. Should we call them 'Believers?' 'Worriers?' 'Doomsters?'"

Or just...climate scientists?

Does the Federalist Society know what's in the Federalist?

Now that I'm unemployed (more on that later, perhaps) I'm going back to the side project and tidying up all the entries in the hope of putting it out as a self-published book -- yes, like a crazy person.


So here's some of the reading from January 11. It's from Federalist #2:
“Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of Government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights, in order to vest it with requisite powers.”
Whoa! I guess all politics is just a practical argument: where do we draw the line?

8.22.2009

Self-promo

I have a HuffPo piece up -- "The Obama Administration: A Text-Based Adventure"

UPDATE: Now posted here since it's not on the front page anymore:


It is November 8, 2008. You are in a room with doors to the left and right.

TURN LEFT

You leave the room. It is January 2009. You enter a room containing a sick economy, a printing press, and a small number of Senate Republicans.

PRINT MONEY

How much money?

800 BILLION DOLLARS

The Republicans don't like it.

TALK TO REPUBLICANS

"We want some of this money to be tax cuts."

BAD STIMULUS

"We don't care"

PRINT MONEY

"How much money?"

500 BILLION DOLLARS

The economy takes the money and feels a little better. There are doors to the left and right.

TURN RIGHT

You are in a room marked "Financial System." There is another printing press and a bunch of bankers.

TALK TO BANKERS

"That wrecked economy you saw back there? Our bad. Can we have some money anyway?"

PRINT MONEY

What are you going to do with this money?

GIVE TO BANKERS

There are some strings in your Executive Backpack. Do you want to use them?

NO THAT'S FINE

You give the money to the bankers. They spend some of it on hookers and blow and return to the room where the economy is, laughing maniacally. There are two doors to the left and right.

TURN RIGHT

You enter a room marked "Detainees". There is a illegally detained prisoner, some torture implements, the Senate Republicans, and a writ of habeus corpus.

USE WRIT

The Republicans don't like it.

TALK TO REPUBLICANS

"It is un-American to use something that Americans fought for."

DROP WRIT

The room now has an illegally detained prisoner, some torture implements, and the Senate Republicans.

MOVE PRISONER TO U.S.

The Republicans don't like it.

TALK TO REPUBLICANS

"We are afraid."

KEEP PRISONER THERE

There are doors to the left and right.

TURN RIGHT

You are in a room marked "Health Care Reform." It has a number of policy options and the United States House of Representatives, and the Senate Republicans. Would you like to choose a policy option?

NO

Would you like someone else to choose the policy option?

YES

Who? The United States House of Representatives or the Senate Republicans?

YES

That's not a choice.

I KNOW

The House has chosen anyway. The Republicans aren't happy.

TALK TO REPUBLICANS

"You're a terrorist."

TALK TO REPUBLICANS

"You're worse than Hitler."

TALK TO REPUBLICANS

There are people with guns hanging out with the Republicans.

TALK TO REPUBLICANS

Who say you're not a legitmate President. They seem mad.

TALK TO REPUBLICANS

There are doors to the left and right. The United States House of Representatives would like you to use the one on the left.

TURN RIGHT

8.21.2009

Take that, skinny dudes!



It's a sandwich with two breaded chicken breasts instead of bread! Memo to China: Forgive our debts or we will sit on you.

Russification

• Brutality, taser-style.

• Squalor, California-style.

Heatup Roundup: Bugs and Bags

The beetles are killing us on land

Plastics are killing us on sea..

One wonders

When the "Jimmy Carter: 30th Anniversary" patcheswill be sewn into the suits of the Obama administration.

Hobbyhorse!

You get to stay, Assembly. For now.

Harold Meyerson rides my very favorite public hobbyhorse this morning -- unicameral state legislatures:
In this spirit of reinvention, then, permit me a few modest queries: Why in the world do we have a two-house Legislature?

What does the state Senate do that the Assembly doesn't, and vice versa? In the name of fostering transparency, ending gridlock, curtailing backroom deals and creating a more responsive government, why doesn't California just abolish the Senate and create a larger Assembly?
Right! It would be one thing if State Senates did something different -- they weren't term-limited, or something. But as it is it's just a duplicate assembly. I think it would help voters, too, if they only had one state legislator to keep track of; it might add stakes to state elections which tend to fly under the radar. And it could happen if we have a constitutional convention in California (or CalConCon)!

O The Newspaper

This is the headline from which Chinatown was ripped!

As I age I find that eating too late in the evening keeps me up at night. So I find myself reading the LA Times...and, as I frequently discover, there's something great about coming across articles in the newspaper that you don't get on the bookmark-ridden, path-dependent internet.

Case in point: this article on clunkers by car columnist (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Dan Neil. Sample:k
On the block was a 1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, as wretched and routine a hunk of Detroit iron as ever freighted down an assembly line. Spot-welded together with the craftsmanship one might expect of unsupervised political prisoners, the Monte Carlo -- with a 402-cubic-inch V8 engine and four-barrel carburetor -- was and is a sidewalk-fumigating stink bomb, with no steering or handling to speak of, and brakes that are more rumor than fact.

This particular car was a cut above, with fine black Naugahyde and adhesive-backed wood-grain on the dash. Still, in my college days I could have bought Monte Carlos like this for $500 all day long. At Gooding, the car sold for $60,500. Good Lord. The clunkers of my youth have become classics.
I then thought it was going to be a piece about the cash-for-clunkers program, but instead Neil nominates his future classics, including the Pontiac Aztek for God's sake. Anyway, fun to come across in a way that you just can't get on the net.

Autre Temps, Autres Moeurs


Some LA news guy in the 70s.

8.20.2009

Mont d'Espoir or Mount Despair

Via Yglesias:

Jim Henley is in the grips of despair and I don’t think he even favors universal health care:

I’ve become a pessimist. I think our future is Argentinian: a nation’s elites can have very nice lives for themselves if the commonality is financially secure and healthy, but history shows that a nation’s elites can have very nice lives for themselves even if most people live crabbed, fretful existences. You just need more security guards or, if necessary, paramilitaries. Since the financial crisis of last year, we’ve seen that the FIRE sector will work overtime to redistribute wealth to itself while working overtime to keep from redistributing wealth elsewhere. I think that with the normalization of the filibuster in the Senate, we’ve just about completed a revolution-within-the-form that is a much bigger deal than Barack Obama’s personal failings. The government works perfectly well at ensuring the lifestyles of defense contractors and investment bankers. That is its purpose. America may have one more good bubble in it. Or we may go straight to villas and bodyguards for the comely daughters.

"Don't throw up your hands!" says Yglesias, but he lives in Washington (which is also the capital of Stockholm Syndrome, oddly enough) where everyone has to think that.

(NOTE: the title references this poem by my favorite poet.)

8.05.2009

Corruptions of Empire

Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, Dismantling the Empire:

"These massive concentrations of American military power outside the United States are not needed for our defense. They are, if anything, a prime contributor to our numerous conflicts with other countries. They are also unimaginably expensive. According to Anita Dancs, an analyst for the website Foreign Policy in Focus, the United States spends approximately $250 billion each year maintaining its global military presence. The sole purpose of this is to give us hegemony -- that is, control or dominance -- over as many nations on the planet as possible."

Back when I was doing the Project I complained that the Founders hated standing armies and ours goes without saying. But then they had studied empires and knew another one first-hand -- from the opposite end of the gun barrel, too.

Finally!

John Quincy Adams's Twitter feed.

(Via Brainiac, always in the tank for Boston-area political figures.

7.30.2009

(Irritated grunt)

I don't know much about politics, but I wish I didn't agree with Ian Welsh so much.

Dissent

Contra Brainiac, I didn't think this Nicholson Baker piece on the Kindle was all that well-written. It reminded me of the old New Yorker, the Mr. Shawn New Yorker, where paragraphs go like this:

There’s no Kindle of Jean Stafford, no Vladimir Nabokov, no “Flaubert’s Parrot,” no “Remains of the Day,” no “Perfume,” by Patrick Suskind, no Bharati Mukherjee, no Margaret Drabble, no Graham Greene except a radio script, no David Leavitt, no Bobbie Ann Mason’s “In Country,” no Pynchon, no Tim O’Brien, no “Swimming-Pool Library,” no Barbara Pym, no Saul Bellow, no Frederick Exley, no “World According to Garp,” no “Catch-22,” no “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” no “Portnoy’s Complaint,” no “Henry and Clara,” no Lorrie Moore, no “Edwin Mullhouse,” no “Clockwork Orange.”
There's also five paragraphs on how he opens the box. He did make me kind of not want the Kindle, though, and make me want an iPhone (since Kindle books read better on them, he says).

Annals of Capitalism

All of the Consumerist is Annals of Capitalism, really, but it shows you that your adversaries in the marketplace have paid legions of clever people to think up ways to bleed you dry:

Ever notice how the voicemail intro message that every cellphone company makes their customers use is really godawful long? 15-seconds, to be exact. ...These long messages are no accident. Cellphone companies have entire conferences devoted to getting you to spend more time on the cellphone, and these really long messages are one of their favorite tricks.

I'm still big, it's the pictures that got nonexistent

I don't know why this peeves me so:

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced yesterday that after four decades, they were ending their much-loved weekend film series, but hopes to reassure fans and patrons that they aren't abandoning film altogether, reports the LA Times.
LACMA's screenings--though many heavily attended and often involving discussions including actors, directors, and other personnel--have cost the museum millions, specifically "$1 million in losses over the last 10 years." Despite LA being an industry town, LACMA also noted "diminishing audiences," and, as a part of their overall strategy of reduction, decided, in the words of the museum's director, Michael Govan, "to stem [their] losses."
Well, let me count the ways:

1. They haven't lost millions. They've lost a million. Over 10 years. That's like a hundred thousand a year.
2. Even so, I wasn't aware that things in an Art Museum had to pay their own way. I thought the idea of an art museum was to preserve, and to continue the conversation about, the things we need to have. But it turns out an art museum is more like a television network. Is that why there's so much Jeff Koons in the new building?
3. It's also, as Mrs. D pointed out, unfair to accuse it of being unpopular if you've never done anything to make it be popular. LACMA gave zero promotion to its film series. It was never on one of the colorful banners on the front of the building. It was never even on a poster inside the building. It's actually hard to figure out where the Bing Theater even is. It's sort of like accusing your kid of not being a fast runner while forcing him to race in dress shoes.

UPDATE: Good pissed-off rant here.

7.29.2009

Too True, America's Worst Writer edition

Rob McMillian:

"There's something utterly, horribly inappropriate about Bill Plaschke being the one to announce Vin Scully's retirement; it's almost as if your alcoholic uncle who borrowed large and unpaid sums of money from your recently deceased father were allowed to also deliver the eulogy at his funeral."

Bad boss

That's so funny, we were just talking in the room about bad bosses, and from SoCal Minds here's a study talking about how they cost America $300 billion annually.

Our focus was on stealing credit and how some showrunners will insist on getting their name on scripts. I've had this happen to me where I wrote a draft, the showrunner rewrote it and made it too long, put his name on it, and then we had to cut out most of his stuff in the room to get it to time. At least that guy had done some work on it.

The corresponding study should be about whether it's really possible to be too much of an asshole in Hollywood, and, if so, how.

7.27.2009

I love LA in the winter, when it drizzles/I love LA in the summer, when it sizzles



Could Los Angeles be turning into Paris? Here's a transit post wondering that very thing:

The Paris that tourists know is compact city built mostly at a rather consistent 4-6 stories, with few high-rises; instead, as noted, the high-rise employment is in transit-oriented clusters on the edge of this area. Large expanses of Los Angeles are approaching similar density, and as in Paris, major high-rise employment+retail is grouped in several large clusters, not just "downtown LA" but also Glendale, Century City, Westwood/UCLA, etc. Paris is still denser than Los Angeles, and its high-rise centers are more transit-oriented, but the difference is not nearly as great as these cities' reputations would suggest. What's more, Los Angeles is still growing more internal density, while most of inner Paris is considered built-out. Los Angeles thus has many options to become even more like Paris if it chooses.
Of course, our waiters are annoying because they're too friendly.

This is one of the reasons I think building the subway down Wilshire will be a revolutionary act. It will begin the process of parts of LA seeing itself as a whole; which, of course, we're famous for not doing.

A good discussion of this at Streetsblog LA.

Schwarzenegger Bullshit Watch (25)

It's Been Too Longe

Meet The New Deck Chair, Same As The Old Deck Chair (TV Division)

So I see that Ben Silverman is out at NBC. Isn't the real problem here Zucker, though? It's possible that he might hire a programming genius and let him do his thing, but it hasn't happened yet.

I met an ex-NBC exec once and asked about the secret of Zucker's success. The reply was, "He always manages up." And NBC has done well enough in it's non-network enterprises (USA, the O-and-Os, etc.) But it used to have this great smart-but-accessible brand in comedy that's gone baby gone.

UPDATE: Nikki Finke is all over it with all five barrels.

7.25.2009

Is this country turning into fucking Russia?

One wonders.


This idea -- turning 4th Street into a bike-friendly street from Koreatown to Park La Brea -- is an excellent one. One of the things they say in the link is that they want to get the neighborhood on board, but if I lived there, I'd be all for it. Bicyclists mean eyes on the street which helps keep crime down, IMO -- even more so than cars because bicyclists are watching guys break into houses in "real time," so to speak. And it's not like they're super noisy like people Porsches.

I wish I had seen this on the Fourth of July because it makes me feel American

From Deadspin, described thusly:

"[My mom] was the photographer for a wedding a few weeks ago in Toledo, and between the ceremony and the reception, the wedding party just had to stop at their old high school stadium and play a game of pick-up football."


7.24.2009

And the neighbors! All they watch is soccer and Eastenders!

Vacant U.S. Homes Stats: The U.S. Has Room for U.K.:

"According to the latest data, the number of vacant U.S. homes touched 18.7-million in the second quarter. That is a daunting figure, of course, but it is more fun to put it in context. Assuming four people per household, the U.S. currently has enough surplus housing to put the entire population of the U.K., with room left over for Israel."
Via Odograph.

Echoes

This, written today:
...it would be wrong to see government policy toward black neighborhoods as a shadowy conspiracy to destroy black communities. It's much darker than that. The government represents the people, and thus one must see red-lining, housing segregation, and housing covenants not as the machinations of bureaucrats, but as a manifestation of popular will. My reading on Reconstruction has led me the same way. Rutherford B. Hays did not so much fail, as the country made a choice--we'd rather kill Indians and expand, then protect citizens from terrorism.

Reminded me of this written almost 40 years ago:
This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

7.22.2009

Usefulness of the LA Times

I've stopped grousing to myself about the LA Times; I'd rather it lived. All this let-us-hang-the-last-Graham-in-the-entrails-of-the-last-Sulzberger business you hear in the lefty blogosphere is understandable, I suppose; but when the papers go what they take with them can't be so easily replaced.


Like this article here:

A new study from UC Davis, to be published today, found that the number of winter chilling hours, essential to the flowering of orchards, has declined as much as 30% since 1950 in large swaths of the Central Valley, where most of the tree crops are grown.

Only 4% of the Central Valley is now suitable for apples, cherries and pears, all high-chill fruits that could once be grown in half the valley, according to the study.
Or this column about LAUSD:
"The power structure defends the status quo and says this is the best we can do," said Austin, whose mantra is that administrators and union bosses are out to protect their own interests before those of the children.

That will end, he said, when enough parents stand up and take charge.

It's going to be a little trickier than they're letting on. At most schools, parent involvement is minimal, and the challenges students bring into the classrooms are monumental.

But almost every day, there's more evidence that it's time for the kind of upheaval Austin is talking about.
Personally, I think stupid-teachers-and-bureaucrats is not a sufficient explanation of why the schools suck -- believe me, we have encountered both in our journey through LAUSD, although I have to say that they have been in the minority. Me, I blame the culture. Does what's going on in Washington strike you as the behavior of a people that values educated men and women? It's like decency -- we say we want it but really the porn smokestacks go 24/7.

Anyway, that's just page 2 and 3 of the dead-tree paper. I really ought to read more than the sports section from time to time.

7.20.2009

I agree with Vin Scully


On one-person broadcast booths:
"Red [Barber} always felt it was far more effective to have one man talking to one person. And the best way I could amplify that would be to say, if I wanted to sell this man a car, would it be more effective for me to talk directly to him about how good that car is? Or do I talk to you about how good the car is and he listens to the conversation? Well, I think you'd agree, head-on, one-on-one is better....

"So it's totally different. And I really think -- I don't mean to criticize them, but a lot of teams have lost something by not having one voice, one (where) you think of him. In the old days, I mean, if you said Yankees you thought of Mel Allen. There was no other. You thought of the Dodgers, you thought of Red Barber, period. The Giants, Russ Hodges. But it's not so much that way any more. It's diluted, because there's a lot of different people. And in my mind, they might have given up something by doing a local broadcast like a network game. I don't think it works."


Nowadays we call this "branding". I would also suspect that one great voice would be cheaper than two mediocre ones. Of course everyone is so used to two voices, how would we even tell if there were one great one?

(From an interview in the PE.)

7.19.2009

Killing it Kade style as I always do

One of my comedy writer friends turned me on to this -- the journal of a guy from Philly and his search for greatness. Actually, he's already found greatness, it's just getting everyone else to recognize it:

My crew’s pregames are always the best because we drink the best alcohol at the best places and get treated like kings, and since we are attending the top events in any town we are in, we discuss our plan of action, and who we want to avoid or sleep with that night. Everyone in Philly always follows our lead, and one person said to me last night, “I just call you to find out where the party is”, which tells me that I am a premiere socialite that everyone wants to gravitate around and enjoy the Arthur Kade experience.
Or
Everyone always asks me what I mean by “Kade Style”, and I don’t know that I can really define it by using words, but I will say it’s the definition of living an amazing life, where you get to experience things and places that most people don’t, and doing it in such an exclusive way that people are jealous, or the smart ones want to join and be part of it.

The big question we have is, is this an Andy Kaufman-like persona or is he actually like this? I used to think the former, but now I gravitate toward the latter, and it is tempting to cite Arthur Kade as the logical conclusion of teaching self-esteem in the schools.

Although I prefer the prose, oher people like the videos on the site. Here's one.



7.18.2009

Marc Haefele is making sense

It was a big win for LA Metblogs when they got him. Here he is on the kerfuffle over who's going to pay for the Jacko memorial service:

"For some reason, I recalled the 1980 funeral of Jean Paul Sartre. surely Jackson’s intellectual, if not musical, peer. At least 50,000 people turned out for the Wall Eyed One’s cortege. Did anyone in Paris’ Hotel de Ville gripe about the cost in flics? Or did they even calculate how much those costs were going to be offset by cafe, hotel and Metro revenues? No. A great, and very controversial, public figures had died. The city (and nation) owed him and paid its respects along with the security costs.

Paris was then and is now a city of class. This one, for now, isn’t. But you knew that."


One of the things that bums me out a little about L.A. is that people don't have enough of the sense that they're living in a great world city. Of course part of the point of L.A. is that you can live your life here free from the responsibility of being in a great world city. But the youth of L.A. is ending and I think it is time for us to step up and be as arrogant and provincial as New Yorkers or Parisians.

Assuming we can get the water, that is.

7.16.2009

Julius Shulman 1910-2009




I came late to his photos, but he really expressed something about Los Angeles. LAT slideshow here

How is Apollo 11 doing?

Find out.


(Via Kos

Noted with pleasure

I feel like blogging again. This is from the Guardian, on the Emmys:

Meanwhile the leading actress category appears to be a giant scenery chewing competition between Sally Field's weepy matriarch in Brothers & Sisters, Kyra Sedgwick's mannered performance in The Closer, Glenn Close's hammy lawyer in Damages and Holly Hunter's irritating and overwrought police detective in Saving Grace. Thank goodness that the brilliant Elizabeth Moss gets a nod for Mad Men or I might have begun to wonder if the Emmy voters think outstanding actress equals endless screeching, bizarre accents and copious amounts of screen-hogging.
I always wanted to call it the Award for Visible Acting.

5.12.2009

Once again back

Just when I was going to delete this whole blog, I feel like posting again; here I'm welcoming SoCal Minds to our cultural wasteland.

I won't post much, because I'm working four jobs (three of them paying (not counting parenting)). But I do need a place I can swear.

4.19.2009

Of course, when was this not true dept.

Obama’s Refusal to investigate torture tells us that America is a land of men, not laws | Ian Welsh:

"America, fundamentally, is not a nation of laws. It is a nation of men. If you’re important enough, you will not be held responsible for whatever you do—whether that’s lose trillions and destroy the economy, start an illegal war based on lies, or torture. That’s just the way it is. Obama and Bush, between them, have made this point crystal clear."

4.13.2009

More from me

Here at McSweeney's

The Fix We're In (Annals of Capitalism dept.)

Here and here. Money quote:

This isn’t just going to be about employment, though that is going to suck for the forseeable future, and will, in effect, never recover. It is also going to be about real income. Forget the headline CPI, the costs you pay are going to go up faster than your wages (which are probably going to deflate), and your assets are going to deflate. Riptide inflation, which catches you on both the up and downsides.

Real standards of living for median Americans are going to drop. It’s just that simple.

In 4 to 8 years, the Republicans will probably get back in again. They will do stupd things again. By the end of their orgy of looting and warring (which will be even worse than Obama’s) the country is going to be extremely damaged. Right now things could be fixed. They probably won’t be, because Barack Obama has no intention of fixing main street, but they could be. By the time the US gets its next real chance, well, this hole is going to be mighty mighty deep.

2.01.2009

My favorite thing about the Super Bowl

Is the ads that have to say "The Big Game".

1.19.2009

I completely agree

John Fleck quotes Ryan Avent:

"I have become increasingly pessimistic about our ability to address the climate change crisis. The dynamics are simply deadly — the most dangerous effects begin arriving after it’s too late to do anything about them — which leaves as our great hope the chance that a strong enough intellectual argument can be made to convince us all to challenge thousands of entrenched interests (among them our own) and significantly change the path of policy. Frankly, there’s nothing in our history that suggests this is possible. Time and again, slow-burning environmental crises have emerged to devastate civilizations. That we’re smart enough to see it coming and understand the mechanisms involved only renders our failure more tragic."

1.17.2009

Anecdote

From a Nation articleon George Plimpton:

"In 2003, while drinking at the bar of the Brook Club, Plimpton's blood pressure fell, and he collapsed on the floor. The paramedics recognized him and, while slapping his face, yelled, 'Hey, George! Wake up!'--at which point the maitre d' turned to them and declared, 'At the Brook Club, sir, we refer to him as Mr. Plimpton.'"

1.14.2009

I order you

To watch or Tivo this program. I won't say anything more, because enthusiasm destroys the delicate deadpan flower of its comedy.

1.13.2009

Suppertime

I know that the Mastersaid "There is no private house, (said he,) in which people can enjoy themselves so well, as at a capital tavern," and I see the point, but I had a good dinner tonight and sat at the table finishing my wine as my family got up and went about their evenings (or "up and went about their evenings"), and I felt superior to fine dining establishments. I was doing nothing for a moment; and to do nothing at a restaurant is to make a spectacle of yourself.

Orson Swindle up and observes something

Spencer Hall is possibly my favorite writer on the internets:

"One of our favorite grammatical constructions is “Up and [verb] ed.” It implies a sudden burst of wild or unpredictable behavior, like “After two quarters of mediocre football, Tim Tebow up and got the asskick stick out on Oklahoma.” Josh Jarboe just up and opened the Fulmer Cup season.

1.07.2009

A message for you from Patti Smith

Via Kit Stolz:

"How wonderful it is to be alive. So many people fighting to live. So many who won't make it. Not another Christmas. Not another cup of coffee.

What is the point of this missive? Perhaps nothing but a moment of reflection and an opportunity to wish the reader well. And since it is the center of the holidays I raise my cup and wish you all the best. Hard times are undoubtedly ahead but may we all face them with good humor, flexibility and resolve.

As we move into a new year we also move into the Chinese year of the ox. The ox is the sign of fortitude and hard work. Nothing will come easy; no quick returns, no fast cash, no high profile investing, no great losses. Prosperity through work. Work that strengthens the heart.

We can do that. Be oxen."

1.05.2009

Good news

This, honestly, should be on the front page. If solar power, which is still on the upward part of the R&D curve, is becoming as cheap as coal, then the days of "advanced society = digging stuff out of the ground and setting it on fire" are numbered. And if it becomes much cheaper then the things we can do with electricity (such as desalinization) increase.

Sempra solar energy project makes advances in costs - Los Angeles Times:

Sempra Generation, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy in San Diego, just took the wraps off a 10-megawatt solar farm in Nevada. That's small by industry standards, enough to light just 6,400 homes. But the ramifications are potentially huge.

"A veteran analyst has calculated that the facility can produce power at a cost of 7.5 cents a kilowatt-hour, less than the 9-cent benchmark for conventional electricity.

If that's so, it marks a milestone that renewable fans have longed for: 'grid parity,' in which electricity from the sun, wind or other green sources can meet or beat the price performance of such carbon-based fuels as coal and natural gas."

1.04.2009

Theory of comedy I

Much as I love spouting off on the politics, I won't fool myself -- I don't imagine I have anything of value to add, really, outside of my Red Tory instincts that we should massively increase government spending on Latin.

But I have worked in comedy for years so I think I should spout off more on that. So here's a Comedy Postulate:

Actors usually aren't funny until they're at least 25.

Sure, there's exceptions, and notice that I say "actors," not "standups." But I think one takes life very seriously in youth. Even writing a funny character at that age is a challenge if they're not drunks. We need a little mileage to break ourselves in, I think, to develop tendencies which we can then lampoon. Alan King used to say that comedy people had to be smart because you have to know what something is before you can know how to mock it. But that also applies to oneself, and self-knowledge is usually not given to the youthful, all their poems and songs to the contrary.

The other project

Has been has been put to bed. I'm proud of myself for finishing, and also disappointed that it didn't make me a better writer. I guess part of middle age is accepting the fact that this is the writer I am.

Anyway, I'm keeping the link up, because it's still worth a browse -- the classics, don't you know.