Thursday, February 28, 2008

Live from New York... a coming want ad

If one thing recently became clear about the prospect of an Obama presidency, it is this: If the Illinois senator gets the Democratic nomination and then in November accumulates more electoral college votes than any other party's nominee, "Saturday Night Live" will have no choice but to find someone who can do a decent Barack impression.

The opening skit of the first show after the writers strike saddled Fred Armisen with the task of playing Obama, but the actor's attempt at mimicking the senator's voice was so ineffectual that the writers deftly gave him not that many lines. While that was enough to get through the skit, and may be sufficient for the few shows left they'll attempt before the summer break, it won't cut it for the next four years.

(Assuming SNL stays on the air that long, yes.)

This may help explain why host Tina Fey seemed to tout Clinton's candidacy during the Weekend Update segment. She may have a personal preference for the former first lady, but she may also be trying to give her erstwhile W.U. co-host Amy Poehler the gig: portraying Hillary in every skit about the White House resident for the next four years.

There are many sides to one's political inclinations.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Prickles


Yep. More tree pictures posted. Here. The sooner you click over and look the sooner the novelty will wear off. In theory.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Break in the rain


This is only one in a series of shots. See the rest here on my useless photo site. (Sure, you'll be encouraging this sort of behavior, but it could be worse.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Seeing stars

Walking home from the train station this evening I walked right past the red carpet area for the upcoming Academy Award ceremony. The area was surrounded by tourists snapping photos of each other in front of the large Oscar statues decorating the covered portion of Hollywood Boulevard outside the Kodak Theater. However, I didn't even glance over at them, much less bother to take out my camera and take a single shot; it's the same thing as last year. (And every entertainment reporter who is out here for the Oscars is broadcasting from this spot, so if you have watched any news in the last few days you've seen what it looks like, whether I have photos or not.)

As I continued on the way home I glanced up at the night sky. The clouds had moved on after a couple days of rain, which had cleared away the usual haze of smog. I noticed a speck of light in the darkness overhead, and then another, and then another. I paused and looked up for almost a full minutes; I was able to identify the stars in the Little Dipper.

The tourists outside the Kodak were interested in something they don't see every day; half a mile away, so was I.

(If there was any chance my camera would get a decent shot of stars, I certainly would have taken a picture of them. But for those of you who live outside of L.A., you probably already know what they look like.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Westerburg'ed

In case you were wondering, the movie Heathers--the 1989 black comedy filled with, oh, you know, lots of death--is now officially "family" entertainment.

Evidence: ABC Family Channel aired it last weekend. And surely they are the arbiters of what constitutes "wholesome" programming, right? I mean, they show The 700 Club.

Come to think of it, I do kind of see the connection between Heathers and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (an ABC Family staple); both are more or less coming-of-age tales, and both have, uh, pants.

Time makes everything tame.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Penumbra



All I have to say at this time is: Photographing a lunar eclipse is very different from shooting a "normal" moon.

Very.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This post is most definitely NOT the next Sex and the City

Like (as far as I can tell) everyone else, I don't watch The Wire. Despite how good it apparently is, I'm hard-pressed to try to fit another show into an already pretty-full schedule.

It's on its fifth season anyway. That's not just tacking an hour into the week's TV viewing; that's a project unto itself.

Something I did sit through: The premiere episodes of Cashmere Mafia and Lipstick Jungle (and yes, you can safely conclude from the phrasing "sit through" rather than "watch" or "view" that I didn't watch the second week episodes). My fiancée had recorded them and played them while I was also in the room, and I did not leave the room while the episodes played.

I'm not suggesting I'm in their target demographic, but I consider myself a demographic of one who is willing to watch a show if it's good. I will also keep watching a show that isn't completely good if it has some other appeal.

(That is not suggesting I watch every show that is good; as noted above, The Wire simply never got into my viewing schedule.)

And as I've already parenthetically mentioned, I didn't sit through a subsequent episode. The thing is: I'm pretty sure that she (the one who actively watched them) didn't bother to record the next week, and I assure you that my opinion would not have dissuaded her if she thought they were worth continuing to watch.

Obviously both were touted as heir to the title of "the next Sex and the City" for their connections to that show's heritage, but having actually watched Sex back in its day (not avidly, but I saw a majority of the episodes)—that is, when it was on cable—I definitely didn't get the impression that either would acquire the crown.

Perhaps it's the fact that what worked only worked under the more liberal standards on cable. But mostly I think Sex was a quaint half-hour comedy, not an hour-long whatever they are.

I'm not saying I am giving either a thorough analysis; I fully admit this is just a glib reaction. But the thing is: That's what I give any show. Either it strikes my fancy or it doesn't. Sometimes I give a show more of a chance than it deserves (Alias--which, yes, I somehow watched all the way to the end... and the reason I'll never trust another J.J. Abrams project), and sometimes shows get the there's-nothing-else-on-while-I'm-eating-dinner pass, but ultimately it comes down to a simple matter of appealing or not.

With these, however, it wasn't just that they were new shows that weren't that good; they were ridiculously over-promoted shows that weren't good. If they didn't have so much to live up to (which may also be a function of their debuting during the writers strike), they probably wouldn't have so far to fall.

Anyway, if I had to pick which was less off-putting for me, I guess I'd go with Cashmere. But if I need something to fill a couple hours a week, I can go rent the DVDs of The Wire.

Useless TV list

A completely non-comprehensive list of shows I actively look forward to (for whatever reason that's the case), presently on TV (or at least were before the writers strike), in no particular order, based merely on what came to mind:

The Simpsons, How I Met Your Mother, Chuck, The Office, 30 Rock, Monk, Psych, Battlestar Galactica, Weeds, Entourage

This is not to suggest these are by any means the "best" of what's on the tube, nor everything I do watch. But let's not drag this out further...

~

Using that euphemism brings up a question: How long after flat screen TVs become the norm will the term "the tube" cease to be used to refer to television--given that it will more or less be outdated? And what will replace it?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another brick in the...

More photos posted over on my photo site.


(Why do I separate them onto a different site? Can't let too many words get mixed up with too many pictures.)

Tomorrowland-ish

Much as this looks like it will be a ride at Disneyland, this structure will actually become LAUSD Central High School #9.


To see more, see this post on the photo site.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Of Frogs and Horror

Last week a new reader (found through a link on one of my Aminus photoblog posts) left a comment on the photo site. Seeing that someone has left a comment is certainly a pleasant moment, but obviously I don't compose something about every single comment left (only about 75% of them).

This one was different. It was not a comment about the post in question (which was merely a photo taken a few weeks ago). It was a comment about my Blogger profile.

Oh yeah. I did spend a small amount of time a few years ago entering some items in the various fields that are on the profile. I didn't make much of concerted effort to paint a complete picture (as it were), but I felt some compulsion at the time to have something there if someone looked. I have left it as is for all this time.

His comment was a clever and amusing remark on the inclusion of two films I listed in the "Favorite Movies" category: The Muppet Movie and Apocalypse Now. He gave me an award for liking the two most diametrically opposite films ever (or something to that effect). (In response I made a joke about how "The Rainbow Connection" was going to be the ending of the latter until Paul Williams sold it to the former.)

(1979 was apparently a good year for me, movie-wise. Although I didn't see the latter movie until many years later, being only 11 at the time.)

I can see as how it could seem incongruous to like what is regarded as light, family fare, and a heavy meditation on the depths to which the soul can sink. Of course, I'm someone who in a single CD-buying trip purchased albums by the Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Dead Kennedys (both of which I still have), so clearly I'm not one who feels any need to conform to one prescribed genre.

I imagine the issue (to the extent there is one--and really there isn't one, but let's go with this anyway) is more that we are inclined to look for patterns, to be able to find similarities that reveal whether we specifically like the same sort of things as someone else or if we specifically dislike the sort of things that some else likes. And if we can easily conclude that we share likes we can eschew the difficult and protracted process of figuring out who the person really is and jump straight to giving him or her the benefit of the doubt, and choose to be more inclined to give a crap about what he or she says, thinks, and what else he/she likes that we don't already like. Or conversely, if we actively despise the likes of someone, we can feel a bit more justified in dismissing whatever he has to say or think or whatever other crap he's into. Not that we intrinsically will dismiss him, but if we don't have the time to devote to making an informed decision, we can use our knowledge of certain preferences on his part to assuage any guilt we may subconsciously inflict upon ourselves about doing so.

However, if there's no obvious pattern one way or the other (perhaps some of the likes are okay and some are very not okay), that makes for having to make a conscious decision, judging which ones seem to carry more weight, rather than being able to rely on subconscious conclusions.

Of course, if you're not the sort of person who can enjoy equally the work of Jim Henson and of Francis Ford Coppola—not necessarily simultaneously, but when the mood strikes—then you probably haven't kept reading this far. Which would more or less be proving the pseudo-theory about why such things matter in the first place.

And just so we're clear: It's absolutely fine that someone who doesn't like the same things I like gave up on this long ago. I'm not kidding. I do not mean to imply that people wanting to take this route is bad. It's not necessarily ideal, of course, but it's certainly preferable (in my opinion) that someone factor in at least some hint of someone's personality (to the extent that what one lists as favorite movies qualifies as revealing deeper personality traits) in deciding whether to regard or disregard another, rather than do so based on cosmetic similarities or dissimilarities (such as if the other looks the same or different).

Whether I seem to condone this or not, it's what's happening anyway; undoubtedly we're acting on unconscious or subconscious cues all the time. With this, there's some modicum of cognition involved, so it approaches more of a "reasoned" response.

It is entirely possible that you could enjoy both Kermit and Kurtz as well, but you think that this theory of mine is crap. It probably is. I make no claims to the contrary. Frankly, I prefer the notion that just because we may share certain entertainment preferences that we are not mere carbon copies of each other personality-wise.

I assure you: I am far more disturbed by the thought of a world where everyone is just like me than by a world where virtually no one is. How dull.

I suppose I should take a moment to clarify that, to the extent I am able to be aware of what motivates me to like something, having tastes that seem "diverse" by some relative standard does not make me better than someone in whose tastes a pattern may be more easily discerned. It makes me different from that person, but no better, no worse. At least not on the basis of that alone. Taking into account all aspects of us as people, I'm almost certainly worse (or at least I must assume so, because I know my flaws and shortcomings intimately).

But the thesis here is focused on not making an overall determination of another human's worth but on whether we should choose to spend some of our valuable free time reading his inane ramblings or glancing at the photos he took. Even limiting the scope of this to the web, there's more of that than anybody could peruse if that's all one did day and night, every day one was alive. Choices must be made.

And if you chose to read this all the way to the end, that's a far better determining factor in whether I'd give a crap about what you have to say or think than if your two favorite movies of all time happen to be, in fact, The Muppet Movie and Apocalypse Now.

~

(The above completely ignores the more important element to the equation. It's not merely enough to like the same things, but to like them for the same reason. There's lots of different reasons to like something, and some of them could be almost incompatible. But we're not going down that path.)

~

As always, thanks for reading all the way to the end, for those of you who did.

Lesser

I heard something once that went something like, "If you want to make God laugh, make a plan." The gist was that nothing amuses whatever you believe the power in the universe to be like us mortals aspiring to something; we delude ourselves with notions that we have control over events in our lives, despite all evidence to the contrary.

We are remarkable in our ability to overlook that evidence. I'll give us that.

Here's the thing: When our aspirations are thwarted, it's more comforting to believe that the universe is conspiring against us, either out of spite or vindictiveness or to spare us from making what would otherwise be mistakes on our part than it is to think that we're simply recurrently unlucky for absolutely no reason.

Better a petty deity who messes with us for amusement than no deity at all to blame.

~

Yeah, that's not the only way to interpret when plans don't go as hoped. But that whole "God doesn't close a door without opening a window" optimism angle has been done to death (and some of the time that's what I believe).

What? Must every post be upbeat? Really?

Surely your religious beliefs can withstand this nonsense...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hole-y

More beautiful sights have been posted on the photo site.

Song lyrics du jour (Happy Valentine's Day)

Woke up depressed
I left for work
You have a good day
It’s not your fault
I know it hurts

Remember, I love you, love you

- Soundgarden, "I Awake"

(What? You were expecting "Big Dumb Sex"?)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fun with semantics

If a "loner" is one who tends to be alone (either through preference or circumstance), why is a "stranger" merely someone who is not known (and who may or may not be strange at all)?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Song lyric du jour

"There's no time for dreams when commerce calls"
- The Jam, "Burning Sky"

Monday, February 11, 2008

Leave a message at the beep

Nothing is more apt to persuade someone who has left an asinine comment on a message board that he was wrong than using the phrase "you are a douche bag" to conclude your counter-argument.

Better still is too make "douchebag" into a single term. That's twisting the rhetorical knife.

Bestest ever. For all time. Right this minute.

I am not much of a follower of sports, but I do occasionally flip by Sports Center to catch highlights. Sometimes at lunch I'll be someplace with a TV set to the midday ESPN shows and I'll see the commentators debating topics. Even after the conflict of the game is over, they continue by arguing things such as: whether that catch in the fourth quarter was the greatest in Super Bowl history, and whether the Giants defeating the Patriots was the greatest upset ever.

Unlike the actual game, there is no definitive end whereby a victor is crowned in these arguments; ESPN can hold a poll on its website where many, many people around the country vote and a particular opinion is identified as the most popular, but it's not as though those with another opinion are forced to stop having that opinion. The debate can rage on indefinitely. Without end. It stops not because a clock reaches 0:00 but because the people involved move on to some other topic to argue.

This is why there shouldn't be 24-hour channels devoted to any one topic. That's too many hours to fill.

~

We do love watching TV that purports to be definitive about completely subjective topics, like declaring what was the greatest [insert topic here] of all time. Like with politics, we need some method of determining whether we are like the majority of people (or at least the majority of people participating in whatever debate is at hand), and when we are not, we get the satisfaction of feeling justified in believing the people who participated are idiots.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Don't root for me, Argentina

Pertinent information that I admit with some reluctance: Ever since I registered to vote (a couple decades ago) my political affiliation has been a lack thereof; I have been in the decline-to-state category. In past years when I was asked to what party I belonged and I replied I had none, almost without exception the person with whom I was speaking would then note that I didn't get to vote in the primary election.

As though I was unaware of that.

I would nod in pale acknowledgment of the person's statement, and try to move the conversation in another direction. Invariably such people were thinking in us-and-them terms, and I was thinking in me-and-everybody-else terms, so we had no common ground for debate. I fully accepted their desire to vote in the primaries, but it seemed that desire paralyzed their mind from accepting my lack of desire to be involved in that.

I would vote in November. (Never for the person who got elected, but I'd vote in the general election. In 2004 I even tried to give support to Kerry, and well, we saw how that turned out.) I allowed the die-hard politicos have their say in the primary; I would make up my mind from amongst who they chose.

~

This year, as a non-partisan voter, I had the opportunity to participate in the Democratic Party primary election (which, for the first time ever, was part of the vaunted "Super Tuesday"). Thus, the whole rationale that had been presented to me over and over in the past about party affiliation was only applicable if I had any interest in helping the Republicans choose. Which I did not.

However, on the side that was letting me take part, I did have something of a preference. This unusual sensation, combined with opportunity, inspired me to request a Democratic ballot when I got to my polling place (minutes before they were to close). And I got to punch one more hole in the ballot than I otherwise would have (on the non-partisan ballot). Woo-hoo.

In under 90 minutes the news was already calling the state. For the candidate whose hole I did not punch.

And thus you may understand why the opportunity to vote in a primary never held much sway in trying to persuade me to affiliate myself with a particular party. On the surface, the primary election was merely another chance to see the candidate I supported not get supported by a majority of other voters (and I get plenty of that from the general election), but deeper it revealed that my support seemed to be a curse. I'm not saying I understand how it works, but once was a fluke, twice was coincidence, and five times is an undeniable pattern.

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the supporters of an Illinois senator. I brought my curse to bear in something that I shouldn't have been part of in the first place. I assure you I won't stick my nose in there again in 2012.

~

I should also say to the fans of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants: You're welcome.

Although I was kind of rooting for your team (as the underdog), I never believed they had a chance. Even as the game wore on, and the Giants were outplaying the Patriots, I was convinced that Tom Brady and company again would be hoisting the Lombardi trophy when all was said and done. They wouldn't deserve it, of course, but that was beside the point.

However, it seems my utter lack of faith in Eli Manning and "the G-Men" was sufficient to allow them to pull out their last minute victory.

~

Ah, if only I could harness this negative influence in some lucrative way. However, I am certain that it only "works" by genuinely believing (or genuinely not believing, as the case may be) in what I'm supporting; if I asked for payment to root for the opposition, in a sporting contest or political election, in a ploy to achieve the desired outcome (victory for the other side), undoubtedly Fate would see right through that.

I can't fake it. Heck, I don't know how I do it, but I'm sure I can't fake it.

~~~

Update on February 15:
At my polling place they didn't tell me about this extra bubble on the ballot I apparently needed to fill in for my vote to count (as a non-partisan). Hence, that further proves that my mere act of attempting to vote for one candidate is enough to influence others to vote for the other candidate in larger numbers. My vote need not count to have power over the universe.

Yowza.

Green

What is this?

You'll have to check out the photo site to find out.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

This place has got everything

Completely unnecessary and ridiculously specific Blue Brothers trivia question:

In the 1980 film, there's a well-known car chase that takes place inside a shopping mall.

No, not what was the mall where that was filmed. That's too obscure.

What store does Elwood first crash their car into?

And what is the line of dialogue spoken just before Elwood crashes their car through the wall?

~

If you just happened to know the answer, you are a bigger fan of the movie than I am. I fully admit I only know that because the movie's on HBO right now and I just saw that scene a short while ago. I've seen the movie many times, but even that's the level of detail that my brain feels no compulsion to maintain.

But if you must know, see the comments.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Mitt-out you

In case you didn't see it last night...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Song lyric du jour

"If I had a dime for every time I said something stupid, I'd have 63 dollars to spend as I please"
- Best Kissers in the World, "Melanie"

Monday, February 04, 2008

Lombardi

In the wake of a very exciting Super Bowl, what else is there to do but post pictures of flowers on the photo site?

Oh yeah! This ranunculus is going to Disneyland!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Hideous... maybe

Background:
Olvera Street at El Pueblo de Los Angeles is filled with stands selling items (as far as I can tell) of ostensible Mexican cultural origin: wrestler masks, leather goods, little guitars, sour candies. (That's not saying all the items are necessarily made in Mexico; some are probably from China.) The street is lined with taco stands and Mexican restaurants. In a city that has a great deal of Mexican culture, it is a highly concentrated dose.

Of course, it is also heavily geared toward tourists.

Amongst all the shops and restaurants is a little place selling churros.
The name of said establishment: Mr. Churro.



Okay, now that we've set the scene...

Every time I go to Olvera Street and see its sign, I am struck by the same thought; no matter how many times I have seen it, my kneejerk reaction is the same:

Shouldn't it be called "Señor Churro"? Would that not be a better reflection of Mexican culture, using the Spanish word for "mister"?

Of course, I am thinking this as one who is not of Mexican ancestry, but growing up in this city has (I like to think) developed at least some sensitivity to Mexican-American culture. I don't imagine I'd even notice the "mister" rather than "señor" otherwise.

Of course, I then must admit my distance from Mexican-American culture, and concede that maybe calling it "señor" might seem more of an affectation, that it would be more of a phony method of appearing Mexican for the tourists.

Of course, it's entirely possible that it's attempting to appeal to said tourists (the ones who aren't necessarily as familiar with Mexican-American culture in L.A.—inasmuch as Olvera Street represents that) was the motivation for using the English (Americanized) "mister." Or maybe it's attempting to acknowledge the America part of "Mexican-American"; one word in English and one word in Spanish, combining in a nod to both countries.

And it's entirely possible that another vendor already snagged the "Señor Churro" moniker so the proprietor in question didn't have that as an option.

In the end, I can't figure out whether to even have the "señor" versus "mister" thought—and to have it recurrently, even time I go there—is an indication of being culturally sensitive or being culturally insensitive. Not that it matters to anyone, but I think that because I can't seem to come to a conclusion I am doomed to keep having this extremely minor dilemma each time I visit there.

I should note that the dilemma of the quandary is abated (until the next visit) by simply purchasing a tasty treat at the Mr. Churro establishment and taking a bite.

If only all my neuroses were so easily assuaged.

(My neuroses are only ever assuaged temporarily, if at all.)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Juno'd out (ration be damned!)

This is undoubtedly transferred frustration from other areas of my life manifesting itself, but I find myself feeling thusly:

I am over Juno.

It was a reasonably clever little pseudo-indie movie that caught on bigger than it should have. A month ago I reacted to that thusly: Good for it.

And it even got an Oscar nomination. It has no chance of winning Best Picture, but with such a movie, it really is a victory to even be thought of. That's should have been zenith of its buzz, and left at that.

However, now I am sick of it. It's not that the movie itself changed, but the ridiculous over-marketing that is being done has turned me on it. Not only have the commercials for it become way too ubiquitous, but they're making way too much of the fact that, wow, it got nominated.

This evening on the walk home I saw a flatbed truck that was painted orange with the Juno logo and the back was a big diorama of her bedroom, complete with a cardboard cutout of Ellen Page, and the Moldy Peaches song over a loudspeaker.

Not merely a mobile billboard. A freakin' life-size diorama!

And that put me on the edge. I'm not entirely sure why.

But then when I got home and saw Ellen Page on the cover of the new Entertainment Weekly, with the issue's cover story devoted to "The little movie that did," I lost it. I grabbed the magazine and flung it across the room. I then subjected my fiancee to an impromptu profanity-filled rant about how sick I was of Juno (including the recommendation that the marketing people should be shot in the head immediately).

When I remarked on how it wouldn't win anything, she suggested it had a chance at Best Screenplay. I retorted that I was now actively rooting against it in that and every category. All because the over-marketing had taken a good thing and ruined it.

I know that's the role of marketing people! Don't think I don't know that! Doesn't mean I can't be annoyed by it once in a while.

There's so much in life that starts out sucking. Must everything that doesn't suck initially get sucked into that vortex?

Of course. But I guess I didn't need to be reminded of that by a passing truck.

And as this earlier post of mine noted, the movie had already been ruined for me by another non-creative source when I saw it in the theater. One should only have to suffer a movie being ruined once.

~

I did pick up the magazine and place it back on the table.

My fiancee is a wonderfully patient woman.