Friday, June 29, 2007

Um

Remember when there were posts here almost daily?

I'm not sure whether to look back at those days fondly or shamefully.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Glib assertion du jour

Success is a measure of how well one can contort one's self to be what others expect, or of how well one can eventually get others to contort themselves to one's incorrigibility.

It's all about deft compromise or the utter lack thereof.

[Discuss.]

Song lyric du jour

"If you say nothing, that's something I understand."
- The Replacements, "When It Began"

Friday, June 22, 2007

Pimped ride

Over on Hollywood Blvd., the premiere for Ratatouille goes on, but around the back of the theaters, they close off an entire block for the limos to park.

There is no forgetting one is in Hollywood.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

XXXpensive

Open letter to the publishers of the LA X…Press newspaper regarding their pricing policies:

Dear sirs/madams/hermaphrodites,

For many years I have passed the boxes of your publication located on the streets of metropolitan Los Angeles and the surrounding environs (especially in the portion of L.A. identified as Hollywood, which I know is where your offices are located, having also passed them). The ubiquity of the boxes certainly makes a statement about the level of dedication you devote to making your product available as much as possible. Although I do not consider myself to be in your target demographic, as I am not inclined to get a massage from someone with a both sets of genitalia, I have long been performing a certain unintentional monitoring your weekly publications. So, to the extent that your efforts have provided a formidable presence in the marketplace (so to speak), you have succeeded in making the public aware of what you offer. Bravo on that count.

However, I couldn't help but notice rather dramatic disparities in the pricing structure of the papers in the boxes, and I fear this is adversely affecting your profit potential. For example, on Sunset Boulevard, not far from your offices, I saw a box where the slot for payment identified the price at 25 cents.
Certainly a reasonable price for a publication with four-color covers at least intermittently featuring women who are not completely unattractive. However, not even 50 feet down the street is another box with an open cover that offers the exact same issue for free.
Not only that, but the free box is in slightly better condition (if you overlook the graffiti); with the graffiti covering the window on the first box and the scuffed paint, it is practically directing potential customers to keep walking and go to the somewhat less off-putting second box to get it free. There you have just lost a quarter, and that's just on one issue.

I think it imprudent to mix the "teaser" free boxes and the pay boxes in such proximity, but if you insist, it seems you should invest the effort to make the pay boxes more attractive. I think the sort of person who would be seeking companionship offered in your pages is probably aesthetically inclined, and thus would be drawn to a more presentable box, and that any costs would be more than recouped down the road.

Farther away, in downtown L.A., the boxes are generally not in much better shape than the aforementioned pay box, but on those the price is listed at 50 cents—and it's written with black permanent marker, which just makes it look unprofessional, and hardly justifies doubling the price. (Even if it is still cheaper than the competition right next to your box.)
I understand it's farther for your delivery personnel to go to stock the boxes, but this is clearly working against your profitability. Your customers who cannot get to Hollywood deserve better if they must pay more, but I think charging more there is casting your policies in a bad light for those who travel to both locations. Surely you must realize that your potential readership is mobile, but they shouldn't have to drive that far to get a fair price.

Speaking of traveling, I will also point out that down in Long Beach your boxes are in similarly poor shape and there the price noted is all the may up to 75 cents (again, in sloppily composed marker).
I'm not sure what message you are trying to send to the denizens of that beach community, but at triple the cost of the same product available elsewhere, I can only conclude you do not think they are not that observant, but do not overestimate the effect of sun screen on their ability to pay attention; you will not sell very many there. I grasp that you must try to make more per copy to compensate, but ultimately you are shooting yourself in the proverbial foot in the customer aggravation caused by not having a more uniform price point.

Certainly, you make some money from the ads for adult entertainers that make up the majority of your pages, but imagine what improvements you could make to the editorial staff if you sold more copies. I don't mean to be overly critical, but on the one issue I actually read, the copy editor really left much to be desired when it came to the grammatically challenged TV reviews and editorial pieces. Clearly you strive to be taken more seriously from a journalistic standpoint, but the only way you'll lure writers who can use punctuation properly is to be able to pay higher than what I presume is the going rate of a free lap dance.

Obviously you are doing well enough that you have continued to publish, week after week, for many years now. However, I cannot help but think you are destined for bigger things, and these shoddy pricing practices are ultimately keeping you stuck in the rut in which you find yourselves. The necessary steps are easy, but you must be willing to take them.

I hope you will consider these suggestions carefully. I believe they could catapult you to the point where non-transvestite strippers would advertise in your publication (although there should always be room for the transvestites; they have been the backbone of your support, at least as far as I could tell from that one issue I read years ago). I trust you will not allow the fact that I have only one set of genitals to cause you to dismiss the recommendations I have made.

Best wishes,

Doug

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Working class enunciation

On the new benefit album, Instant Karma, Green Day does a cover of "Working Class Hero" which, to be honest, I find at best tolerable).

Green DayWorking Class Hero

Listening to it on the radio, I could swear Billie Joe was singing (during the chorus) "A working class hero is something to beer"—a distinct "eer" sound at the end of the line—even though I was reasonably certain the line should end with "something to be." I wasn't sure if he was putting some kind of spin on it, like mixing "be" and "fear," but I found it off-putting nonetheless.

Then in the review in Entertainment Weekly, the reviewer harped on the same thing. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a moment of validation when I read that.

It's not that I need outside forces to justify my reactions to art, but sometimes it's nice to know I'm not hearing things that aren't there.

Chalking it up


















Shots from this morning taken at the Pasadena Chalk Festival uploaded to the photo site. Have a look.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Better than digging a ditch


If you want to figure out what the heck I've photographed above, check out this post on the photo site.

Go on. You know you're weary from reading all the words on this site. Enjoy simply looking at pictures for a moment.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Here and there

The other day I walked past the entrance to Grauman's Chinese in Hollywood, and rather than just being annoyed by all the tourists, I took a closer look at the statues by the door:


And I thought, That looks vaguely familiar. Where might I have seen something like that?








Oh yeah. At the Imperial Palace (aka the Forbidden City) in Beijing, during my trip to China in 2003.








Both have: tourists.

Now let's pan out a bit and see if you can distinguish the two sites:









































In case you are having difficulty identifying which is which, here's a hint: The Imperial Palace does not have someone in a bad Chewbacca costume out front.


The Chewbacca in Beijing is much better.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Biting the hand that types

On the "Good Food" program on KCRW that aired this morning, a correspondent (Laura Avery ) interviewed Kelly Courtney, chef of a restaurant in Encino (apparently called Firefly). The interview was conducted at the farmer's market, so the chef was speaking extemporaneously.

In speaking about a recipe (I missed the beginning of what she was explaining, so I cannot say exactly what it was), she mentioned putting grated slices of a particular type of cheese (I did not catch the name of that either) on top of the finished dish (whatever it was), commenting afterward that the cheese was "ambiguous" with it.

That was the moment I started paying attention (and what prompted me to jot down the names, explaining how I was so specific in the first paragraph), rather than just sort of having the radio on in the background.

I am not an avid listener of "Good Food" (the only reason I heard what I did was because the show came on after "This American Life"), but I seen a reasonable amount of programming on Food Network, so I have at least a passing familiarity with the sort of adjectives that are typically used to describe the way one element of a recipe contributes to the overall taste, which did not (in my experience) include "ambiguous."

Initially, I thought the chef misused "ambiguous" in that context, intending a term more along the lines of "innocuous" (to indicate that the cheese did not draw attention to itself but subtly enhanced the dish). My knee-jerk reaction: Another instance of an ostensibly intelligent person who lazily applies one term when another term that actually connotes the intended meaning is available.

However, reviewing the possible meanings for "ambiguous" it can denote being "indistinct" and that, I imagine one could make a case, was what the chef intended to indicate about the taste. It could seem even poetic, in a way.

Also, the peculiarities of the brain do not always allow one to retrieve the information that is desired at the moment it is needed. I know that sometimes I am trying to think of a word that means exactly what I am trying to say, but my mind gives me nothing more than confirmation that I do, in fact, know the word, but does not give me the word. It may give me a word that is similar in association, but not the word. Thus, it is entirely possible that the chef knew the distinction between "ambiguous" and "innocuous" but at that moment, with the reporter's microphone in her face, focused on the specifics of the recipe, that her brain merely offered her "ambiguous" as an applicable adjective.

I concluded that she did misapply that term, due either to failure to learn better terms or to temporary brain malfunction (so to speak), but to focus on such a faux pas and consider that contributing to the devolution of English is to grant a level of influence to an NPR program that is undoubtedly underserved. If people paid attention in school or otherwise developed a vocabulary that was reinforced in their lives, an off-the-cuff remark from a local radio food show interview is unlikely to make them start misusing those words; if they did not know the distinction in the first place, expecting a show about food (a sensual pleasure, not an intellectual one) to educate them is unrealistic.

Perhaps you were hoping I'd harp on a single mistake as emblematic of a larger problem (in this case, with language), with snarky disdain. However, even as one who invested the time to distinguish the connotation of "ambiguous" from the connotation of "innocuous" (and therefore could feel justified to offer such criticism), that would be complaining about someone using a term in the wrong context by taking that mistake out of context.

While that certainly could be fun (and I've certainly done that in the past), and it would be easy enough for me to present such a criticism and avoid hypocrisy by the implication of self-awareness of using hypocrisy in an ironic way (and those who were paying close attention, pausing to consider what I meant before having a knee-jerk reaction to the ostensible hypocrisy, might think it mildly clever), I am not doing that.

Deconstructing why I might be inclined to that, it seems clear it would merely be something to do to make me feel better about the fact that no one is interviewing me. About that I shouldn't feel bad in the first place, for a rather obvious reason: Were I interviewed, it is almost a certainty my brain would give me a wrong word when I was answering a question, and someone listening would indignantly get offended about how I was destroying English, and likely post a rant about it on his blog.

Like the world needs that.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Random Ruling

The Onion's AV Club had a series where they'd interview musicians or authors or minor celebrities by having the person play the first few songs that come up on his/her iPod played by random selection of the device. The person would see what song came up and then have an opportunity to briefly explain why the track is included or to offer some association he/she has with the song or apologize. The idea is that this offers insight into the interviewee's personality by identifying some songs he/she got at some point.

Yeah, that's about right. Everything one needs to know about a person can be gleaned from a glimpse into his/her music collection.

It boils down to this: These hectic times don't allow us time to figure out whether we like people by getting an overall picture of their individual personalities. We're too busy watching videos of guys humping ottomans on YouTube to invest time in such foolish pursuits. We need a quick method of peering into the nature of people we don't actually know and gauge their worth by virtue of whether their tastes match ours. If their three songs are ones we like, they are worthy; if any of their three songs are ones we hate, they are idiots; if we don't recognize any of their three songs (or haven't even heard of the artists), they are elitist bastards.

Any previous opinion we may have had of these people are immediately replaced with this judgment, only to be replaced if we see another Random Rules-type interview in the future where those three songs are sufficiently better or worse to revise our opinion.

I do not have an iPod, therefore I will not be interviewed, and therefore the public shall have no opinion of me one way or the other. Which is just as well.

Where there's smoke...

Scenes from today's Hope for Firefighters event in downtown L.A., like this:

have been posted over on the photo site.

Expecting

You know how all the reviews of Knocked Up say it's good?

They're right.

[Thus ends my report.]

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Snakes on a train

When someone nearby on the train who has the volume on their portable music device cranked up so high that I can hear it bleeding out from their earbuds, even above the sound coming through my headphones, I appreciate it when he bobs his head in rhythm with the screeching beats. It allows me to identify the target for my silent disdain, rather than merely wishing ill upon everyone in the car (that's not right).

The way I see it: If you're going to be an oblivious asshole, at least have the decency to be open about it.

That way I know for whom to buy a pair of headphones that don't suck so bad and actually keeps the sound focused on just him. Then with the full volume blasting into only his ears, it will expedite the inevitable deafness that will make pointless him wearing any headphones at all. However, after I've done that, if he could hurry up and lose his hearing quickly enough that I can return the headphones, it would be uncharacteristically considerate of him, and I'll no longer consider him worthy of hate.

I'll even teach him the sign language I know. (Let's hope he wants to learn how to order beer, wine, whiskey, or vodka.)

There's always a way to resolve these situations without resorting to violence.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Passing



Above the stairs down from Hollywood and Highland center to Grauman's Chinese Theater is this ad for the LA Weekly, featuring shots of Elliot Smith and NWA.

And directly below that: the Build-a-Bear store.

Eh, Ice Cube is making family-friendly movies; there's no contrast.





[This can also be found on the useless photo site, along with pictures you won't see here.]

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Spinnin'

The parking garage in the building where I work is underground. The entrance and exit are at the highest level. The levels in the garage are joined by spiral ramp.

A few weeks ago I happened to drive in (rather than taking the train) and ended up working late.

As I was walking to my car (parked on the lowest level, of course), I noticed no one was around, no cars were leaving, and I grabbed the camera from my bag and jumped in to the entrance to the ramp at the very bottom of the spiral.

I pointed the camera upward a took a few shots (listening for any oncoming cars). Quickly it became obvious: This is not a photogenic spot.


Oh well. Not all ideas turn out to be good ones.

A career of pleasantry

The other day I saw this link on the Yahoo home page (which, admittedly, I did not read other than a brief glance at the article before using it as a prompt for the glib pseudo-essay that follows below, but now hardly seemed the time to start allowing research to get in the way of wry observations offered with self-deprecation, as though that makes it better--oh, wait, we were in the middle of a sentence, weren't we?) wherein the writer (a career consultant with books to sell) suggested that being likable is beneficial to your job success.

I fail to see how that explains Donald Trump, but I digress before I start.

What little I recalled of the glance at the text before launching into is a reference to a study wherein the conclusion was that people would rather work with someone who is incompetent but likable than someone competent but unpleasant. And I am again struck by the thought: Who are these people they're surveying for these studies? And who continues to finance these studies? That's the sort of study that someone incompetent but likable would perform to prove he deserves to keep his job.

As I noted in the recent post about the curse of competence, another study concluded the incompetent lack the awareness to discern incompetence, but we'll grant that the incompetent can tell whether someone is (in their opinion) "likable." Therefore the incompetent who were surveyed would lack the frame of reference to identify who was competent and who was not; they would know only who was pleasant to them and who was not. Of course we all prefer to deal with people who are pleasant, and that's the only trait they could identify successfully, so that the study concluded likability was more important than competence tells us something about those studied. They are not the ones actually getting anything done.

Although some people are just continually curmudgeonly, I'd argue that most behavior is situational in what causes it. Thus, the less-desirable (according to the study) competent but unpleasant people are probably responding to something in the environment that makes them. And what might be driving the competent to the point of having a less than sunny disposition?

"Um, dealing with the incompetence of others in the workplace?"

Show me "Dealing with the incompetent"! [Ding] Number one answer! (Imagine that being said as Richard Dawson, by the way.)

The incompetent have no choice but to be pleasant; it's a defense mechanism. When the competent are cleaning up their messes, the incompetent must mitigate their culpability (to the extent they understand what they did wrong) by smiling and being nice, so they don't have acts of violence perpetrated upon them.

And I didn't even need to perform a lengthy study to figure out that much.

I'm sorry but "Google" as a verb sounds like it should be bad (or at least illicit)

I would take a moment to thank Google for increasing traffic to my little site here on Thursday. I would, except it appears to have been an error on their part, so all I can say to all the people who inadvertently visited here on that day: Sorry I didn't have a picture of the Last Supper.

When checking the site meter I noticed a dramatic (like four times usual) spike in visitors on the 31st of May. Considering that all I posted around there were links to my photo site, I found this odd. Upon reviewing the details of the visits, I found many of them were referred by Google. Specifically (from what I can tell), from people clicking on a link for an image of Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" that should have taken them to a site that does reproductions of famous paintings.

Judging from the length of stay for each of these hits (0 seconds), none of those who clicked and hit part of my site stayed--and I cannot blame them; I would have hit the Back button immediately myself.

I will note that to the image in question I did link in this post, but I never had the image here. (Heck, that post wasn't even about the painting; it was merely an allusion.) However, the part of the site to which visitors from Google were directed was to the category page for that post, not even to that specific post. Apparently, however, that was sufficient to make this site where Google thought searchers should go, although only for a day.

When I did a search for images of the Last Supper and saw one with the site name I saw mentioned in the referring URL in question, it was today pointing to a different site that had nothing to do with the painting either. It's quite possible that site had a link to the same image somewhere on it; I didn't bother to check.

I'm not one to bite the hand that feeds (given Google's ownership of Blogger) but I suddenly find myself more inclined to search using Ask's vaunted algorithm.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Domestication of the dog?


For those who don't recognize the quote on the new title (above):

Homer (leading into a flashback):
Listen carefully and my words will shape images as clear as any TV show... It was a tumultuous time for our nation: the clear beverage craze gave us all a reason to live. The information superhighway showed the average person what some nerd thinks about Star Trek. And the domestication of the dog continued unabated.

The Simpsons episode 2F10, "And Maggie Makes Three" (aired January 22, 1995)

(Thanks to The Simpsons Archive. Find the full page for that Simpsons quote here.)