Thursday, September 21, 2006

Coming out for the Office

Back in May I expressed concern over where they would go on "The Office" after the way last season ended, but after seeing tonight's premiere, I must say: It's just as good.

That's all. I apologize to the writers for doubting them.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The new thing for the web: paper

Last month The Onion started publishing an actual weekly paper, and (the best part) it's free (like LA Weekly or City Beat). Sure, it has ads, but that's fine; finally I will have something to peruse at lunch that I would read even if it wasn't free. (The weekly rags are not without their interesting sections, but they're on my radar because they're convenient--available on street corners around downtown--not because they're the epitome of entertainment and/or information.)

I must admit I rarely remember to check the Onion's website, even though I know I would find it entertaining if I did. Not everything there is great, but it's at least reasonably funny. And by virtue of having not read the website, what gets printed in the newsprint edition is new to me when it comes out.

I am too old school in my reading habits, relying still on the printed page. Heck, sometimes I'll even print out entries from what I do "read" online to read when I'm on the train or at lunch.

I'm not sure whether it's a matter of the computer monitor being a less-than-ideal conduit for reading material, or that when at the computer one feels compelled to do something (engage in an activity requiring interaction) and so it becomes more difficult to wrap the mind around merely reading words. Perhaps it's a matter of being accustomed to reading from books or magazines and needing to readjust to reading online. With email, for example, that has only ever been on the computer, so reading that there creates no need to reconcile anything in the mind about what one is doing and the medium on which one is doing it.

As far as I can tell, there are those who are inclined to read text-heavy pieces on the screen (be they websites or manuals or documents and there are those who aren't. I'm not sure what makes one more likely to be one or the other. It may be fascination with technology that gives one a greater proclivity toward the former. For the latter, I imagine it may revolve more around the tactile satisfaction derived from turning the page with what's printed on paper. There's that tiny sense of accomplishment by having made it through another 250 or so words; it's not the same as finishing the piece, of course, but there's some semblance of milestone having been reached along the way.

There's no way to put slip of paper between pages to mark how far one has read when one is reading on a screen. (And any technological methods for approximating that simply aren't the same.)

It is inevitable that as the medium for reading changes more and more to being a computer screen (particularly in a web-based format) rather than being paper (be it newsprint or glossy or 8.5 x 11 white), the style in which what is written will change. That is, because it's more difficult to read longer pieces on a monitor (perhaps because one is not inclined, but also because it's trickier to keep one's place), what is written will become more succinct. Certainly that has already started, but I'm talking about the long-term ramifications of that. It has been argued that television has had the effect of reducing our attention span; might the expansion of "publishing" only to the web, not on paper, cause us to fail to be able to read anything longer than a few paragraphs?

(And oh boy, how screwed will I be then! No one will even get this far.)

Might it change the way writing is taught in schools? It seems impossible it wouldn't have some effect on the educational system. (I'd rather not consider that in depth now, because I can sense you're already fading this deep into this post.)

This is not a good era for me, and it will only get worse. Yet I try to adapt. Here's what I'll do: Keep blathering on, but try to not blather quite so much. And here's what I suggest you do:
Print out these posts, and read them during your lunch. It's a compromise for this new paradigm, into which it's questionable how well I'll fit, but I'll try.

And recycle the paper when you're done! Never let it be said I have no concern for the future, even though the one that internet is steering us toward is destroying my readership's ability to pay attention to the end. While, admittedly, simultaneously facilitating that readership.

Ah, the irony.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Why do we need alternative energy when there's plenty of sulfurous gas emerging from the La Brea tarpits? Can't we harness that? May have to move the mastodons, admittedly...

(photo taken July 1, by yours truly, for those of you who need such details)

Effective politics: Automatic for the propositions

There's a proposition on the upcoming California ballot that is drawing more attention than even the gubernatorial race (I can't believe I spelled "gubernatorial" correctly on the first try—trust me, I did): Prop. 87. It apparently involves taxing oil companies for drilling in the state, and using the money for researching alternative energies, but apparently creating a new under-regulated bureaucracy for this research. The proponents and opponents are trying to pick apart the other's argument in their ads, as one would expect, and I admit up front that's the only thing I have to comment on: their ads.

What is most interesting to me is the skill of their marketing, especially on the pro side. This morning, as I put on my shoes, I watched a few minutes of TV, stopping on one of the local station's morning "news" program. And during a single commercial break—that is, during one set of commercials interrupting the program—I saw an ad by the opposing side (where they use an actor in a firefighter's jacket to explain what a bad idea the tax is), then another ad (I don't recall for what), and then an ad from the pro side that specifically refuted the claims made two commercials previous (even showing a close-up of the end of the prior ad, zooming in on the fine print that notes those who paid for the ad and showing the name of one of the major oil companies).

I thought to myself, Egad, how much do they pay to schedule their commercial so that the other side's message doesn't even get to linger longer than 30 seconds?

I am not suggesting it's the most clever argument on the pro side; of course the oil companies are behind the ads trying to convince the voters the proposition is bad, because from their perspective it is. When it comes to trying to convince the voters it's good, the pro side seems to rely heavily on implicitly punishing the oil companies because they made a $78 billion profit last year. The use of the money raised by the tax seems something of an afterthought; my impression of their argument for the proposition (as opposed to their argument against the opposition), based on seeing their other ad many times, was more or less: Hey, the oil companies can afford to be taxed so let's do it; they've been sticking it to you at the pump, so here's your chance to extract revenge. Oh, and eventually it may actually have some benefit for the environment.

That's probably effective enough to get it to pass. Whatever pangs of guilt many might feel over just taxing them for being profitable should be assuaged by the suggestion of what might come. There's no effort at trying to convince the people it's necessarily fair—they made that profit because the voters purchased their product, after all—but rather at appealing to their emotions, both base and altruistic.

I seems like those same people who tried to organize the don't-buy-gas-on-this-day events (that were probably fake) finally realized that wasn't going to happen and devoted their efforts to getting this on the ballot. Which is smart. Because this doesn't require them to make any sacrifice for the greater good, other than bother to actually go to their polling place.

That, of course, is more than those interested in either punishing the oil companies or in allowing them to keep their lucre have reason to expect from the average television viewer, but since it's not a matter of one side or the other getting a majority of the actual populace to vote for their side but to get a majority of those who bother to vote to cast ballots in their favor, so it's still worth their respective whiles to spend the money on such advertising. They certainly need not worry too much about the average viewer who will likely vote to bother reading the particulars of the proposition (and even if that average viewer tried to read said particulars, it's not likely even a college-educated individual could make heads or tails of what it would really entail, if passed, or what consequences may emerge from it failing to pass).

That is a hideously glib statement about the nature of the process. Still, I think it more or less valid. I don't think the point of politics is for the average person to understand it, and I think the average person is probably far happier not understanding it. I am, it should be obvious, not one with much of an optimistic belief about the process of governing. The role of those in power is not to do what's best for those being governed but to do what allows those in power to remain so, thus ostensible benefits for the governed is as effective as actual benefits for the governed (and the latter are probably more coincidental than intentional). I don't expect my elected officials to be working in my favor, and hence I am not disappointed when they don't do so.

But the people working for both sides of the Prop. 87 are doing one hell of a bang-up job. If they work this hard after the election, something might actually get done.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

TV Party: The Judas crib

While flipping around channels this afternoon (not much point in watching the Chargers destroy the Titans, even if Vince Young is playing), I caught an episode of MTV Cribs featuring baseball player Johnny Damon. According to the episode guide, it aired in April of 2005, which means it was filmed most likely some time after the end of the 2004 season, after he was part of the World Series winning Boston Red Sox.

In the episode, he takes a moment to spotlight a painting hanging in his house, imposing players from the Red Sox on to the famous painting of the Last Supper (prints of which are apparently for sale... still), where Damon is the one portraying Jesus. (I'm assuming he was proud to be part of the team, not as narcissistic as having it up in his own house might imply.) He later closes the segment, with his family taking their boat out on the lake next to their home, by exclaiming "Go Sox!"

As anyone who follows sports (not merely baseball) knows, after the end of the 2005 season, Damon signed with the New York Yankees (arch-rival of the Red Sox), which made him a betrayor in the eyes of Boston fans--a "Judas," if you will. (I didn't come up with that; I'm neither a Red Sox nor a Yankees fan.) I'm sure someone has already commented on how Damon was mis-represented in that painting, but it seems particularly embarrassing for him when watching the episode now (a mere year and a half later).

Mostly, watching his segment I found myself thinking, especially after he put such effort to get in the plug for his now-erstwhile team, that, given how MTV repeats its programming over and over (because, well, we're silly enough to watch it over and over), I wonder which he regrets more: turning his back on his beloved Sox, or allowing MTV to document that love for posterity?

Remember: It's best to keep one's personal life off of TV. (That's what blogs are for.)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Chasing grammar

Piggybacking on the last post, about the Snow Patrol "Chasing Cars" video:

Speaking of artistic intent: As noted, the video is filled with shots of the lead singer lying on the ground, the street, the train (yeesh), and as best I can tell, this is all to represent the lyrical content of the aforementioned chorus, wherein he suggests the best way to escape troubles is to assume a prone position.

It is: "If I lay here, if I just lay here, would you lie with me…" (emphasis mine).

However, "lay" is grammatically incorrect in this context (as he's not speaking in the past tense). If he said "Yesterday I lay here…" (which doesn't work with the sentiment being conveyed) or "If I lay myself down here…" then it would be right. There is proper usage when he says "would you lie with me…", so it appears he knows what is correct.

That said, no one gives a crap, because this is pop music, not a term paper; I fully concede that "lay" sounds better when sung in this song.

I suppose, being a former English major (hence the reason I know the proper use of "lie" and "lay"), I worry it's only a matter of time before no one gives a crap when this is done in term papers. (Obviously, it's too late for the internet here. This website, showing the longer, non-L.A., version of the video, doesn't bother with using the correct term in the introduction to the video: "The video features singer Gary Lightbody laying on the ground, overcome with emotion." It's not like it sounds better in this context. It's not being sung.)

It's not so much concern regarding the deterioration of the language (which is flawed in virtually every logical way possible, but I digress); I merely take some (most likely pathetic) validation from having bothered to learn which to use when (and I admit it is not easy to learn when the past tense of one verb is the present tense of another--one of the aforementioned flaws).

Subconsciously, I fear a world where what little knowledge I have is revealed to be completely worthless, thus because I had to learn it, future generations must continue to do so. Or more accurately, future English teachers must continue to pretend it's important to properly use "lie" and "lay" when one is not singing.

(Any term papers provided in audio format will need to have allowances made for use of poetic license in regard to grammar and syntax; those will be graded not only only the argument but on quality of tone and overall entertainment value, and quite possibly will be voted on in a nationally televised reality show. We can cross that proverbial bridge when we proverbially come to it.)

What it boils down to is this: Had nature blessed me with a good singing voice, I wouldn't give a crap about grammar either.

Chasing trains

It has long been my observation that there's something about seeing a place one frequents in a TV show (or movie) that, for those of us not in "the industry," seems to give one an unintentional sense of (for lack of a better term) tiny validation. Obviously those visual media exert a tremendous influence over our society, for better or for worse; given that even the least popular show on a basic cable channel (even that briefly aired John McEnroe talk show) gets seen by more people than most of us will even know, seeing a familiar location on the screen allows one to feel, perhaps for just a second, like one's non-descript little existence has been enhanced by the larger world seeing it. I know I've never been able to see a place I know well and refrain from mentioning to anyone within earshot how that's somewhere I go all the time.

While it's probably kind of pathetic to feel validated in even the slightest way over the remote connection to a creative work with which one had no involvement by the mere virtue of familiarity with the location for the shoot, surely that is exacerbated if the location is for a mere music video.

I'm not sure I feel this validation on a conscious level, but I do find myself compelled to tell you all about the latest instance of this I've discovered that applies to my non-descript little existence (because, at present, no one is around).

The Northern Irish (is that how to identify being from Northern Ireland?) band Snow Patrol's latest single, "Chasing Cars" (click to view a streamable copy) has a version of the video that was clearly shot in Los Angeles.

I found a longer version that does not have L.A. footage (again, click to view a streamable copy), and where singer Gary Lightbody has longer hair than in the one I see airing on TV (the one linked in the paragraph above), and where mostly he gets rained on while singing. I suspect they decided to give the singer a haircut and shoot one in make one more appealing to an American audience (perhaps the longer one is for Europe--maybe this blog would know, as it laments how the longer one is trying to make the band seem like Coldplay).

And what is more appealing to Americans than… subways?

Yes, in the video they shot a sequence in the downtown L.A. station of the Blue Line, the second-busiest light rail system in the country (really), and on one of its trains. The Blue Line, as some of you know, is how I've been commuting to work for the last seven years.

The thing is, that train line travels above ground for most of its 22-mile length, and only goes underground for about a half-mile (between the Staples Center and the skyscrapers of the "New Downtown" district), and hence is not actually a subway; there is another line, the Red Line, that is entirely underground (in fact, that one connects with the Blue Line at the station where they shot this) that they could have used—and, in fact, the cars on the Red Line are roomier, which would seem to be better for filming. Eh, what do I know about filming? That probably cost extra. (Presumably they shot this late at night, when the trains weren't running, but clearly they had to get someone to operate the train to come in. It all adds up, I'm sure.) I digress.

Most people wouldn't know the difference between Blue Line and Red Line trains, nor that it is only ostensibly a subway in the shot. They just see the train doors close, the train pull away from the platform (see poor screen capture below):
Then, switching to an interior shot, the camera slowing move up the aisle...
Until it hovers directly over the singer, who lies flat on the floor in the open area by the door, singing the lyrics.
(The chorus is: "If I lay here, if I just lay here, would you lie with me, and just forget the world?" Hence, the video is filled with shots of him lying on the ground and singing.)

Hence, most people wouldn't necessarily have the same visceral reaction that I do, because they haven't been on those trains twice a day, five days a week, for seven years. My reaction, after Hey, it's the Blue Line, is Egad, does he have any idea what has been on that floor? I'm not sure there are chemicals in existence that could get that filth clean enough that I would lie on it for any amount of money.

(Watching the sequence immediately after the train, I see him lying in what looks to be the hills of Elysian Park—not far from Dodger Stadium—but there they put a blanket beneath him. The hills, and the other spots he lies—the street, the top of the escalator—are ones I'd practically eat off of before lying on that train floor.)

Ignorance is bliss—well, really it's blissful—especially when one's personal experience doesn't ruin the artistic intent.

If only I lived somewhere that showed the longer version of the video, where I recognize none of the shooting locations... I would miss out on both the pathetic validation and the associated specific revulsion. Both of which I could live without.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Behold the world's newest cutie-pie: My friends Ian and Tracy had their baby. Well, mostly Tracy on the having part. And not having in the possessing sense.

Hmm. Really need to change that "having a baby" expression. "Bringing forth new life"? No. Well, we'll work on that.

Enter the photo

Guess where this is.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Steady as he goes... shopping for CDs

Last week I alluded to the Raconteurs performances at the VMAs with Lou Reed (and with Billy Gibbons). What I didn't mention was how my otherwise expansive collection lacked any Velvet Underground (or ZZTop). However, somehow I know more than just what I've bought; merely paying attention has taught me a bit (like what band Lou Reed was in), perhaps through a sort of rock 'n roll osmosis.

Last week I went to the Amoeba store in Hollywood to seek out the new Buzzcocks album. (Sure, it would have been better to have procured that disc before I saw them in concert last month, but it didn't work out that way.) However, I cannot go to that store and simply find one thing, pay for it, and leave; CD shopping is always an activity of significance, not a mere task.

Thus, while I did find the new disc from Pete and Steve and the guys (even found a used copy to save a few bucks), in the abbreviated version of shopping I did (I could not afford a serious trip)—which was about an hour in the store—I went up and down the used rock CD aisles, just glancing left and right to see what artist names on the tabs caught my eye; it was hardly a thorough search, and even when I did stop and look through the CDs available for a given artist, I restricted consideration to discs marked $6.99 or less. (That still permitted discs by Black Flag, Gomez, Neko Case, Uncle Tupelo, as well as two other Buzzcocks discs.)

No doubt thanks to seeing Jack White and the guys with Lou Reed, as I patrolled the used CDs I was inspired to seek out the tab for the Velvet Underground, and there was a copy of their first album (with the banana on the cover) and the meager Millennium Collection (a "greatest hits" collection). The song performed at the VMAs ("White Light, White Heat"), from their second album, was on the "hits" CD, but I wasn't sure I wanted that; it seems kind of half-assed to just listen to a smattering of an artist's more well-known work and feel as one knows them. And if I end up really liking the songs, I'll probably be inspired to get the full albums later. However, as I was already spending more than I should (although much less than I typically do when I go), I passed on both.

After a bit more searching, I started toward the check-out area. Something steered me to the new CDs section and the V area. Finding the Velvet Underground tab, I noticed that the first album was only $2 more than used (making the used one not a good deal). The second album was not to be found. I did find a different "Best Of" CD (which had more tracks than the aforementioned Millennium Collection, and no live tracks), and a more comprehensive retrospective two-disc collection (which was about twice as much as the "Best Of" one).

I hemmed and hawed a bit (figuratively speaking), and finally decided to get the "Best Of" from the new section; it was a compromise of having a decent number of tracks but without being more than I should spend. Which means I was succumbing to having just that smattering of their better-known material, resigning myself to only that dilettante-level familiarity.

Which means I'll probably later wish I got the two-disc collection.

Anyway, although I declared the performance at the VMAs to be entirely non-promotional, it did succeed in making a sale for Lou's old band.

What didn't even occur to me as I patrolled the used aisles, however, was to see if the Raconteurs CD was available (and I suspect it would have been). My girlfriend probably would have really liked that. But apparently I sped through the R's too quickly, and the only aspect of their performance that stuck with me was whose song they did, not who was doing it.

Perhaps when one of the Raconteurs songs is performed at the VMAs in 36 years and I go to a store I'll remember to pick up their album.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Phases of the Bowl

As summer's days draw closer to succumbing to autumn, I'll take this time to reflect (photographically speaking) on the many times this season that found my girlfriend and me at the Hollywood Bowl, presented in some modicum of sequential order that approximates an evening's experience.

Dvorak's Ninth Symphony, July 13, 7:02 pm

On the left, in the early evening, the green of the hills behind the Bowl are still easily seen as the orchestra is warming up.

7:03 pm

On the right, here's the same thing, just with a different exposure, so it looks much later, and the Hollywood sign is clearer in the background.

Uh, let's move on...

AR Rahman at "Bollywood Night", July 16, 7:34 pm

On the left we move a bit later in the evening, with the colored lights illuminating the inside of the shell.

Fantasia with fireworks (obviously), August 18, 9:47 pm

To the right we see what happens at some performances near the conclusion of the show: fireworks shoot from the top of the shell, distracting the audience from the orchestra.

10:10 pm

Back to the left, the show is over, the orchestra has left the stage, and we're shuffling our way out with the crowds. But here's a different angle on the shell (through the trees on the side farthest from the entrance).

(Not included here because it got its own entry last month, but which you can review by clicking here: Al Green.)

Monday, September 11, 2006


[I didn't plan on writing about this, but what else could be posted today?]

Damn bin Laden. Not merely because of what he planned and executed five years ago, but because of when he executed it. We can't think of this date inconspicuously ever again.

I suppose, if we take as a given that the terrorists were determined to carry out their insidious plot and that they were crafty enough to succeed (or the government was too inept to stop them), that some day would have become the day of infamous reference. It just turned out to be September 11th.

Had the attacks occurred, say, May 3rd, 2001, I don't imagine the last five years would have been the same in regards to how referencing the date--"9/11"--came to be used. For example, I just don't envision the administration mentioning "5/3" ("five-three") with the same efficacy as "nine-eleven" and it's a simple matter of meter.

Think of the sound of "nine-eleven," with its accented syllable followed by an unaccented one followed by another accented one and closing on another unaccented one ("trochaic" meter, for what it's worth). "Five-three" (beyond sounding like describing the height of a not particularly tall person) is simply two accented syllables, and two syllables cannot carry the same impact as four for this usage. (Two work better for insults, epithets, profane exclamations, etc.)

Even "May 3rd" is only two syllables; "September 11th" is six, and although the first three don't follow the trochaic pattern (it shifts to iambic meter, with the second, fourth, and last syllables accented), it has a flow when spoken that "May 3rd" never could. There's just something about more syllables that grants power to the words when invoked in the reverent (and somewhat exploitative) context that "9/11" came to be used.

I'm not suggesting bin Laden ruminated on how the sound of the way the day would be pronounced in English was a factor in deciding when to coordinate the attacks. It's undoubtedly an abjectly fortuitous coincidence for those who use the term (particularly those who, for the lack of a better term, do so for their benefit. As disgusting as it is to say, to think no one has benefited from the attacks strikes me as overly naïve).

I'm sure some would think me the most depraved person in this country for considering such matters of semantics in regards to a day five years ago when thousands of people died. But I'm not talking about the events of the day; there's nothing more to be said about those than they were horrible.

I must make clear I didn't know anyone who died in the attacks. The closest I can get is I think I may know someone who knew someone, but even that is not the same as actually knowing a victim of the attacks. The more direct effect on me came later, and has been happening every day since, but the commemoration of the day it happened does not have the same impact on me as it does on those who were there, or who lost someone they knew. It just doesn't.

In my opinion, it insults those people who did lose someone to suggest it could be the same for me. I can, at best, try to imagine how I would feel if it had been someone I knew who died in the attacks, or how horrific to be someone trapped in the upper floors of the towers before they collapsed, but that's pretending when it comes down to it. It's empathetic, and that's worthwhile, but it's not the same. It's not fair for me to presume my empathy is as real as what they went through (and continue to go through).

I'm not putting myself in that position. I'm thinking about something else. Perhaps it's a defense mechanism to protect my emotions from what it would be like to contemplate the awful, by being academic and distant. My reaction may differ from that of others, but it is what it is; if I am a monster because of being somewhat analytical, pretending to have a different reaction would only hide that, not make me less of a monster.

What is not up for debate is that the media ensures it is practically not permitted to think about anything else today. Considering any other topic on this day each year will not be allowed for many decades. Perhaps that's exactly as it should be, honoring those who died; perhaps it's an oppressive sorrow that contibutes to keeping people in fear. Maybe all of the above, and maybe it should be all of the above.

After five years of thinking about it, today what I thought (for better or for worse) was how the sound of the specific words "nine" followed by "eleven" have a power they never had five years and one day ago, and how they will never be simple numbers ever again.

Damn bin Laden.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Rolling and sometimes rocking

Last Sunday afternoon my girlfriend and I ventured out in the midday sun (like mad dogs and Englishmen) of Northridge (where the temperature hit 110 degrees). Why would we head to the Valley? Her nephew's 9th birthday celebration was being held at a roller skating rink in that town (and you better believe it was air conditioned).

Although most of the people skating were significantly younger, and despite all better judgment (considering that I hadn't been on skates in longer than I could remember—15 years? 20?), we intrepidly donned the rental wheeled footwear and headed out with the children and teens who clearly frequented the place.

Really, roller skating is not that difficult. Beyond avoiding the other skaters either zipping around or falling, the key is simply keeping one's weight (and center of gravity) slightly forward. That's it. However, that proved more difficult to keep in mind than would seem reasonable.

I will answer the obvious question up front: I fell down twice. All things considered, not bad. And those two instances happened because I got a bit cocky. After getting my bearings and achieving a state where I could not only keep my balance but get up some speed in the straight-aways, I started shifting my weight on the beat of the pop music the teenage disc jockey played, and trying to be rhythmic in my movements. And that's when I got too complacent and failed to obey rule #1 (keep weight forward) and succumbed to gravity's rule #1 (balance too far back sends one's weight backward). And of course, when on skates, falling backward sends one's arms flailing at one's sides, but they are useless at offering any absorption of the impact; that falls solely (and literally) on one's glutimus maximus.

On Monday I had a significant patch of purple on my derrière from my lapses in concentration. That's all we'll say about that.

Any athletic event you can walk away from (even if you can't sit down later) is a good one.

"Skate! Skate! Skate at the devil!"


The rink was "patrolled" by two teenagers (probably 18) dressed like football referees, in black and white vertically striped shirts. Their job appeared to be skating around and making sure those who fell down and stayed down were not seriously injured, and standing next to the fallen to act as a block for those still skating around in the mandated counterclockwise direction Although they were clearly more than proficient on skates, generally they didn't do anything too fancy; presumably they had to pay attention to a degree that didn't allow showing off.

However, shortly before an organized game was to begin, an older man (whom I presume was the manager—he looked older than me) appeared on the rink, and although he looked like a thinner Jason Alexander (and hence stood out from everyone else on that alone), he zoomed around the floor, cutting across the middle, crossing his feet, and acting like he was in a Diet Coke commercial. Which wouldn't bother me were it not for the fact that he cut me off twice—not so much that it made me fall or even stagger briefly, but such that it seemed (from my perspective) that he could have just as easily watched where he was going better, as it wasn't like anyone was actually impressed with his moves.

The other noteworthy aspect of the day, as far as I'm going to continue, came near the beginning of our time there (which started around 12:30, when it was just starting to pick up in the amount of people on the rink). The DJ played an obligatory safety message, where it noted the inherent risks of roller skating and mentioned the rules (no speed skating, no rough play, etc.). However, what caught my attention during the pre-recorded announcement was the reference to how the risk of injury was "all part of the sport of roller skating" (emphasis mine).


Wouldn't there need to be some sort of competition* to constitute a sport? I don't mean to get overly concerned with semantics, but I could barely pay attention to the rest of the message after that word choice drew me in to pondering the nature of the activity. (Notice I can't bring myself to go along with that designation.) I would have been less distracted had they called it the "art" of roller skating.

That, I presume, is what the manager fellow was attempting when he was out there.

* I'm sure those along the sides of the rink (too scared to get out there) were judging our performance (so to speak), but it's not like any scores were assigned (to my knowledge), and if so, they certainly weren't announced.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

"The domestication of the dog continued unabated"

Given that the blogosphere is, essentially, promoting what one likes (and, by implication, demonstrating to the rest of the world how one is cool, and to a lesser extent, why one should be admired), I will take this opportunity to jump on the bandwagon to laud two television shows that don't need my assistance in getting people to watch them. Specifically, I will mention two shows that created a series of "webisodes" (brief episodes of original material available only on the web) to keep us entertained through the 'net until the fall season kicks into high gear.

First is the American version of "The Office", where all ten webisodes are available. Sure, the show just won an Emmy for best comedy (how did "Two and a Half Men" lose again?), so I'm figuring you've heard of it, and either have chosen to watch it or you haven't.

Second is perhaps the least geeky science fiction show ever (but I'm not enough of a geek to offer a sufficient analysis of the entire genre), the new "Battlestar Galactica" (not to be confused with its predecessor from decades ago, which was amongst the cheesiest sci-fi programs--not that I didn't love it at the time), where its webisodes started last week and will continue throughout September (with new ones on Tuesdays and Thursdays).

Okay, really, this is just here to remind me to watch these webisodes. (Some people use post-it notes; I use something with hyperlinks.) Also, I feel compelled I don't delude myself with the belief that liking these shows makes me cool.

There's plenty of other things I employ occasionally to delude myself into believing I'm cool, but not the fact that I enjoy well-done expressions of others' creativity. That's just having the good sense to appreciate what's good.

It's nice to see the World Wide Web being used for something other than, as Homer Simpson once noted, telling us what some geek thinks about "Star Trek".

Speaking of Homer, if you haven't heard "The Simpsons" season premiere airs tomorrow (and bravo to Fox for not making us wait until November again), you're probably not all that interested in seeing it. (The series was actually pretty good last season, so I'm reasonably enthusiastic about this one.) And as it turns out, there is a preview that can be seen on their website--not quite a webisode, but a third of the episode, so not bad.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Return of the picture

Moon over the 2nd Street bridge, reflecting off the water surrounding the artificial island of Naples, in Long Beach, California. (Taken Wednesday, one night before the full moon.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

More real-life tales of the bizarre

Sometimes what's not good for business is what's good for business.

This evening I tried to go to an office supplies store (part of a chain that sponsored a major sports arena in Downtown Los Angeles). Well, I suppose I should concede that I did successfully go to the store. I drove to the shopping center with the store in question (and it was not a particularly large center—the store was the largest of all the shops there, which I believe in marketing terms makes it the "anchor" of the center) and parked directly in front of this store (with an empty space next to my car). I walked from my car to the front door, which opened automatically for me as I approached, and proceeded through it, which, I must admit, qualifies as entering the store. Thus, I did, in fact, go there.

Before I got even three steps inside, I was met by a greeter. I was taken aback slightly, as in all of my trips to office supplies stores I could not recall seeing a youth-impaired person stationed by the door to greet me, so it took me a second to grasp that she was an employee (or at least someone who had acquired a uniform and name tag). While it was good to see Wal-Mart hadn't snatched them all up, it was odd to be greeted as she did me.

She asked me, "Are you sure you want to come in here?"

After looking at her with some befuddlement, I then glanced deeper into the store. All of the check-out aisles had lines of, at a guess, at least 10 people waiting. At 8:20 p.m. On a Wednesday.

This was, in my experience, unusual.

The greeter then explained: "Back to school."

I nodded in acknowledgment, muttered that, in fact, I did not need to buy anything in the store that desperately, and exited the store.

After I returned to my car, it occurred to my that what was most unusual was not that apparently every parent in the neighborhood waited until the night before school was to start to drag their children to the store to stock up on what said children would need (like there's a need for anything on the first day), nor was it the implication that apparently Long Beach Unified was starting school on a Thursday (although I could be misinterpreting her explanation regarding that), but that an employee of the store actively discouraged me from shopping in the store.

And I sincerely appreciated it. In all likelihood, I will return to that store in a few days to acquire what I had in mind to purchase.

Unless, of course, that same woman is there to dissuade me again, in case it's still ridiculously busy.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Not doing it for the kids

[After ressurecting my laptop, I offer the following less-than-timely observation.]

Probably the best part—and perhaps the only good part—of last Thursday night's MTV VMA telecast was the Raconteurs, acting as the house band for the show, performing with guests Lou Reed (with whom they performed "White Light, White Heat"—as their first number, no less) and later Billy Gibbons on "Cheap Sunglasses" (one of their older, blues-based tracks, not something off Eliminator).

Not only were these good songs, performed out of sincere appreciation, but they clearly left the fans of Fall Out Boy and T.I . (and the other up-and-coming acts being celebrated) utterly baffled. (The only one who seemed excited was host Jack Black.)

There was nothing promotional about it (unlike the way performers are selected for the rest of the show, or for the Oscars, or for the Emmys—why is that not Emmies?—or for anything else on television). It was rock and motherfucking roll.