Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Reel around the fountain

Capturing the show of the fountain at Cal Plaza, Downtown L.A. (some time last week, when the days were crisp, not wet). I'm not sure whether the slightly askew angle is artistic or just poor camera work. Possibly both.

(Yes, the title of this post is a reference to a song by the Smiths, you clever 80s hipster you.)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Photo interlude... spoon!

Killing some time waiting for dinner at McCormick & Schmick's in Pasadena, I captured the reflection of the ceiling light in this spoon.

(What? You want more of that nonsense from the last two posts?)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

World's worst blog entry, part 2

Where were we?

I think it may be best to continue with the notion of getting one’s jollies by the mere acts one performs, not from expectations that those acts might eventually lead to enjoyment. It’s not merely taking the easy way out, it’s wonderfully pragmatic. I’m not suggesting that one should refuse to sacrifice now to achieve larger long-term goals; I’m suggesting one learn to enjoy the sacrifice so it doesn’t seem sacrificial, and don’t build too much expectation on whether the long-term goal will actually bring enjoyment. (It may or may not, and if it does, enjoy it then.)

Show, don’t tell. I’m telling. That’s all that’s happening here. This is not exemplary writing. However, for those who don’t like to have to pay attention—and let’s face it, that’s a pretty significant portion of the population we’re talking about—this pedantic summary may seem the only part of this drivel that they can handle. (No offense. Oh wait. We’ve already covered how whether I mean offense or not is immaterial in light of how it’s you who must choose to be offended. I recommend you choose to not be offended, if you can.)

If you’ve seen the movie Bull Durham, you may recall the scene where catcher Crash Davis (pre-Waterworld Kevin Costner) offers advice to the batter to not dig in too deep in the batter’s box, because, regarding the pitching of Nuke LaLoosh (pre-activism Tim Robbins), he notes, “I don’t know where it’s going. I really don’t.”

That’s often what I could say about these essays when I start them.

Let’s turn this on the audience. Won’t that be fun? I must take into some account, when composing these things, what the reader is likely to think in response. Mostly I am concerned the parts that are (in my mind) obviously sarcastic will have been a bit too subtle, and that I’ll come off as an uncaring berserker. It’s not that I am worried about being seen as an uncaring berserker—because, heck, some of the time, to be fair, I probably am—but the audience to which I suppose I must be trying to appeal (at least subconsciously) is not those who would proudly declare themselves to be uncaring berserkers. (The occasional berserker or sheepishly uncaring, sure, they’re fine.)

Sometimes I have a mild intention about what I want the reader to come away with after reading, but rarely am I trying to be persuasive, so with many of these I am just throwing out some anecdote or silly rant or random thought with more-or-less the express intention of seeing what the readers will make of it. Or maybe I’m full of crap. Either is equally likely.

Regardless of whether I’m attempting any level of manipulation or seeking extraordinarily mild controversy, the opinion I hold of this transaction is this: I cannot control how the reader will interpret what I say. I can explain something down to the most mundane level in an effort to attempt to make clear my thesis, but the communication works equally on both the part of the writer and the reader, and the reader brings to whatever I say his or her own experiences and prejudices and sense of humor; I cannot anticipate what those are in all possible cases. Nor would I want to. Still, for example, when I quipped obliquely about suicide in part 1 (and I was encouraging that one not kill one’s self in the allusion), if you felt uncomfortable in some way, the reaction was yours, not what I elicited. I won’t begrudge you for having your hang-ups if you won’t blame me for unintentionally poking at them.

I suck; you suck. Let’s change the alphabet. (That last part is an inside joke for my own amusement, but for fans of George Carlin’s A Place For My Stuff album, that’s from where it comes.)

Where were we? Oh, like either of us cares. Perhaps you enjoyed reading this, perhaps I got some modicum of enjoyment out of having provided it for you to read. I’ll try to convince myself I did on my end. If there’s nothing tomorrow, then you’ll know I didn’t break the habit of not enjoying it. I won’t have considered my time to be sufficiently idle. And that won’t be your fault. But if there’s nothing here then, I refuse to feel guilty about failing to provide you with it; it’s not like you can’t find some other way to pass the time. This is the internet, for crying out loud.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Worst blog posting ever, part 1

The internet is the bailiwick of the idle. You really must have a job you don’t like, or at least one that doesn’t take up much of your time to accomplish whatever they require of you to warrant your paycheck. You must not watch a lot of TV. Or at least you can multitask and surf while viewing. (It’s true that neither TV nor the ‘net takes up much of one’s attention, so it’s not out of the question that those so inclined presumably can “accomplish” both simultaneously.) You are of the opinion it’s of some importance to keep up with news or “news” or gossip, or to find egregiously humiliating video of others’ misfortune. You want to seem intelligent to those around you, or to those other places in the e-enabled world, by passing along what you have figured out (or think you have), denying others the joy of figuring it out for themselves. You’re trying to get people to think you’re hot by putting suggestive photos on your MySpace page.

You are not me. If you have a website or a blog, I assure you I’m not reading it with any regularity. It’s the height of hypocrisy for me to expect others to read my drivel (at least without me beseeching them with reminder e-mails), and as I have no desire to be a hypocrite, I have no such expectation.

I have to get whatever I’m going to get out of posting from the mere act of doing so; the delusion is that doing so helps maintain the friendships with those I don’t see or talk with that often. It doesn’t actually do that, I know, so it’s not a particularly effective delusion. That’s what little I can use to motivate myself to spend time putting thought—some, at least—and effort—some, at least—into composing whatever I can further delude myself into thinking my girlfriend and my brother-in-law will find interesting.

I have to keep it semi-upbeat, because no one wants to read any despondent crap. Your life is bad enough as it is, in one way or another, and you certainly have no interest in reading me vent… unless I make it mildly amusing, with some ironic twist at the end. I understand that’s the tacit arrangement; you bother to give me some of the time you’re on the ‘net, getting away from whatever you should be doing that’s more important but that you don’t feel like doing, and I give you two minutes of distraction (sometimes longer); beyond that, you assuage any guilt you might otherwise impose on yourself when I send you an e-mail reminding you that, hey, if you’re so inclined, there’s stuff here you may not have read yet.

You really shouldn’t bother with feeling guilty, I assure you. It accomplishes nothing. I don’t feel guilty about not reading your website. I’m not proud of it, of course, and it’s not indicative of me not considering it worthwhile; it’s just not something I habitually do. Were I to feel guilty, it wouldn’t alter my habits. It might make me feel bad for a while, and to make some effort to read it for a few days, but eventually (and in not too long) I’d get over it and fall back to what I am accustomed to doing. I think it would be a hideous disservice to you to even pretend otherwise. Where my self-delusional stage ends is when it comes to believing the patterns of how I conduct myself will suddenly be changed—especially if only to placate your ego.

I implore you: Do not alter the patterns of how you conduct yourself to placate my ego. Sincerely I tell you: it isn’t necessary. Do what makes you happy. If reading this every so often grants you any semblance thereof, proceed; if it doesn’t, spend your time in some other way that does. I assure you that’s what subconsciously motivates me.

I don’t enjoy doing this. Some of the time I enjoy having done it. (As one of my professors in college once said, “No one likes writing; people like having written.”) I get my fair share of happiness doing other things. This does not have to be that thing for me. If it’s your thing, splendid. Whatever keeps you from putting a pistol in your mouth or slitting your wrists is what you should keep doing.

Sure, I’ll allude to suicide in a nonchalant manner. I’m not inclined to kill myself, so I have detachment. If you are so inclined, or if you know/knew someone who is/was, that’s unfortunate, but I’m not going to suppress that aspect of myself on the off-chance it offends others. I don’t seek to offend others, but to be offended requires you to take offense, not that you inherently must be offended.

I digress.

This hasn’t been a good distraction, I admit. For that I apologize. There was a reason I titled this as I did. I suppose you didn’t consider that adequate warning, and based on previous entries I concede you weren’t off-base to expect it to be ironic.

Life is full of hard lessons.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Splendor in the grass, or something

Holy cow! I haven't put up a picture in--what? three days? Allow me to rectify that with this shot taken recently. Where else would it be but Downtown L.A.?

This overlooks the park on the southeast corner of Bunker Hill, with City Hall in the background. (But look how nicely the trees frame it.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


It's really quaint the way I occasionally delude myself into thinking it matters whether I post anything here or not. Quaint.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Zeppelin, not Led

Yet another shot including a blimp. This one was circling the Staples Center on the day of the Grammies last week, as seen through the lattice-work atop the 7th & Fig shopping center.

Why nothing about the Grammies? Spent more time looking at the blimp than watching the show. Sorry.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

AUC: What's love got to do with it?

Love rocks.

Rather than compose something new about the impending romantic observation (Tuesday), I bring you classic Doug touching on the subject (as it origially appeared, complete with any imperfections).

The following was my inaugural column in the Long Beach Union, the student-run newspaper at California State University Long Beach, published February 20, 1996. Despite being the first one, it was identified with the banner...

Another Useless Column

"True love is the greatest thing in the world, except for cough drops. Everybody knows that."
- William Goldman, The Princess Bride
[Read the book--it's slightly different from the film.]

I don’t know the story behind Valentine’s Day, although I think it involved somebody getting his head cut off or something. I do know that on The Simpsons, Lisa gave Ralph Wiggum a card out of pity, and it ended with Ralph being emotionally destroyed before the end of the episode, all because of a little misinterpretation of Lisa’s intentions.

The lesson here: Love should not be given out inconsiderately (Like, on the other hand, should be dispensed like paper towels in the restroom).

Still, every February 14th, we make a public spectacle of this most private emotional connection.

Whether you had a Valentine or not, I’m sure you noticed last Wednesday was Valentine’s Day. It is terribly well marketed. Hallmark stores had entire sections of the shop devoted to lace-bordered cards. Restaurants and nightclubs ran promotions to lure couples in their establishments for the evening. And this is just the tip of the commercialization iceburg.

Capitalism more or less thrives on the exploitation of holidays for business. A lot of people are trying to make money that other people have been convinced they should spend. That’s the game. I’m jealous; I wish I could have that kind of influence.

Florists have imbedded their wares into the public consciousness particularly well. They had to call in extra help for all the deliveries. At work, several of the women received flowers. I even heard of some women who platonically gave flowers to other women who had no significant other to send them. What is it about flowers? To quote a female Union staffer, “Women just like flowers; I don’t know why.” None of the men in the office got flowers; this is a practice that still hasn’t caught on. Granted, women probably know it’s a wasted expression. If someone ever figures out how to convince men to like flowers, that person will be rich beyond belief, providing they sell flowers.

(To digress briefly, personally, I’ve never liked the symbolism of cut flowers. They’re dead. You can delay the inevitable by putting them in fizzy water, but their beauty is ephemeral. Symbolically, I think a better gift is a potted plant that will live as long as it is cared for.)

Of course, there is no inherent sexism to the marketing of Valentine’s Day, and certainly not when it comes to jewelry. I heard radio ad for a merchant that had cleverly hidden a diamond ring in a box of chocolates, so “she” won’t [sic] discern the nature of the gift until it was opened, at which time should would give “you” a big kiss and the world would stop rotating for those few moments. Clearly, this could apply equally well to the heterosexual male or lesbian demographics. Smart advertisers leave the gender ambiguous. (Over in Japan, there is a day when women give gifts to men, and a separate day when the roles are reversed. Imagine the marketing potential! I’m not sure when Japanese homosexuals celebrate.)

Say, could they be hinting that men will receive “compensation” in other ways, and therefore don’t need material gifts? Nah, couldn’t be.

Society is what it is; nothing is to be blamed on February 14th.

All this quibbling aside, I object only to the forced sense of obligation that has permeated our culture. Why must we expect things from our significant others just because the calendar says Valentine’s Day? Why do we have to make those who have no sweethearts feel like social lepers on Valentine’s Day?

I’ve been in love, madly, deeply. I know that when it’s real, it is its own reward. I believe it should be celebrated every day, in small but significant ways b the parties involved. The little smile, the comforting hug, the covering each other in whipped cream.

I also know that when you lose it, it hurts. A lot. So for your own sake, be careful. Remember the lesson of Ralph Wiggum.

For the record, I know there are plenty of women who lavish material gifts on their special someone, even send flowers. The stereotype exists, and it seems a lot of people take it seriously.

But hey, it’s a free country (sort of), so do what you want.

Some people may look to Bed of Roses or some such film as their Hollywood model for how love should be; I admire Homer and Marge. Sure, he screws up—that’s his defining characteristic—but he means well, and most importantly, he loves her and she loves him. No matter what. Well, at least by the end of the episode.

[Note: The first postings noted in the archives on the right include other columns from this period, despite the 1999 date.]

Friday, February 10, 2006

Grammies or whammies?

On a completely unrelated note, I noticed that the White Stripes' album Get Behind Me Satan won a Grammy for Best Alternative Album.

I didn't watch much of the Grammies, but there is the Internet to find out such things. What I did watch was a tape of last night's The Daily Show (because a leak in the ceiling caused a short in the smoke detector which caused it to blare hideously yesterday at 5:30 a.m., so I was a bit tuckered by the time it aired at 11:00 p.m.) during which there was a commercial promoting this very same album. I had seen this commercial previously (and in fact, the band performed on the Daily Show a while back--the show's first musical guest--to promote the album.

I have not seen commercials for the others in the category (The Arcade Fire, Beck, Death Cab For Cutie, Franz Ferdinand). I'm just saying.

Some people might think advertising on basic cable to be a sign that the album isn't selling as well as expected, which is probably the case, but I like to think it just means their label likes them more than do the labels for the other artists nominated. Or they like recouping their investment. (Note: I have no idea how much money V2 has spent on the band or their promotion. Pure glib conjecture.)

My take: The White Stripes were never meant to be this popular. I've seen them the last two times they toured, and they put on phenomenal live shows. However, the people who were screaming out for "Seven Nation Army" during Jack's twenty-minute blues jam really need to be culled from their fan base.

So screw you, Grammy voters; you're not helping by giving them awards that are revered by the people who don't like good music. You're just contributing to their demise. Not a dip from unnecessary popularity--a rise to a stratosphere in which they don't belong, and from which they will only plummit.

(Wow. That went in a totally different direction than I thought it would. Oh well.)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Up and down, with a side of rice

The water flowing down the sculptures in front of 601 South Figueroa Street, looking up at the towering building behind.

I'm not suggesting this is groundbreaking photography here, people. Heck, these are barely noteworthy compared to a great deal of just what's on flickr.com. The digital camera era has taken the difficulty out of taking and sharing one's pictures, allowing us (me) to delude ourselves (myself) into thinking we're (I'm) photographers. But dag nammit, I walked several blocks around downtown L.A. yesterday on my lunch hour, and this makes me feel as though I accomplished more than just eating falafal.

The alternative is my blathering on about football or commercials (which I may still do--there's just been plenty of that in the media this week already, for some reason); consider yourselves spared. For now.

(Why are there never any people in these pictures I post? Buildings and trees and sunsets don't get embarrassed.)

("Dag nammit"? I'm channeling an old prospector apparently.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

If only they were being ironic...

Another recent fortune cookie fortune:

I'm not entirely sure if my high school English teachers would allow me to declare the following to be oxymoronic were I to do so in a term paper (and were I still in high school), but I could probably make a case for it: "You are a connoisseur of food and drink" coming from the restaurant "Panda Express".

That aside, one cannot help but wonder what the original draft of the fortune (to the extent it's a "fortune") said. I suspect before it was edited, the composer of this one, perhaps having a bad day at the office (or wherever it is he works), wrote:
If you are a connoisseur of food and drink like you think you are, you shouldn't be eating here.

However, there's no way that would make it past the boss. It's not so much that it's potentially insulting to both the company and to the customer; it's that it's true.

Truth is the last thing anyone wants to encounter in a fortune cookie.

Still, the boss, needing to pump out a lot of these fortunes, wasn't going to let the kernel of worthwhile delusion go to waste. Gotta admire that lemonade-out-of-lemons attitude, I suppose.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I don't care what the groundhog said, it's looking like spring in L.A.

The trees outside the office are blooming.
(What kind of trees? I don't know. Do I sound like a botanist in these posts or something?)

Enjoy the pictures.
(If you know what they are, leave that info in a comment. Thanks.)

[Yes, that's the Bonaventure Hotel in the background.]

[Close-up of the flowers.]

(I know; you're thinking, Has this turned into a photo blog? No, you're not that lucky.)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Fuzzy games

Can you identify these L.A. landmarks (through the smog), photographed from 48 stories up? (Click on each to get a bigger view.)

(Are you thinking blue?)

(There ain't gold in them thar hills.)

Give up? Yeesh, you're not much for games, are you?

[It's Dodger Stadium (behind the trees and parking lot), and the Hollywood sign.]

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Look, up in the sky...

Sunset over the rooftops (and the hills of Palos Verdes) from my patio, with... a blimp.

What? You were expecting something about groundhogs? Fine, he saw his shadow. Enjoy the six weeks of winter.