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.