Saturday, April 28, 2007


Witnessed yesterday:

The first jacaranda blooms of the spring.*

(For those who missed it, please review last year's jacaranda project. For those who saw it and are trying to supress the memory of it, then, well, don't.)

Where did I spot this?

Where else? Yes, downtown L.A.

(Granted, spending five days a week there, with a row of jacaranda trees next to where I enter the office, it's not that surprising this would be the spot.)

(Yes, that tree is the same one featured in this shot from last year. However, it is the tree that bloomed first this year. I wish merely to make it clear I am not obsessed with this one single tree.)

("Obsession" is a bit strong a term, I think.)

What intrigued me (predictably): Of all the trees along that street, this one not only had a good number of blooms, it was the only tree with any blooms. At all.

(I didn't take any shots of the rest of the trees on the street. I have some consideration for you, gentle reader. Well, after this recent post about one tree blooming or not blooming while others around do or don't, I have learned to be considerate. Okay, I have learned, some of the time, to just let it go.)

They're trees. It happens.

And for this one, it has happened.

(Yep, you're not as excited as I am about that. And you're tired of these asides. So I'll note that I'm not planning a Jacaranda-palooza 2007 to put your mind at ease, and bid you good day.)

(I said good day, sir.)

* The first I'd seen, that is; I'm not suggesting this is the first tree to sprout the purple flowers anywhere.

Monday, April 23, 2007

What's this place?

Pictures like this:

have been posted on my photo site. Click here to check them out.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A day at the races

Going to the track. Playing the ponies. Call it what you will.

It's a tradition (for at least a couple years now) that, at some point in the late winter or early spring, the family treks out to Santa Anita. (This year's trek actually took place back in late February. I never claimed to be timely.)

My tradition is to place bets, watch the horses run around the oval-shaped track, generally seeing the one on which I bet not win. Typically, I get to cash one ticket during a day at the races—on a really good day, two tickets—and my winnings don't come close to recouping what I lost on all the other bets placed during the day.

It's a pattern to which I am accustomed.


My father and step-mother go many times a year. They study the racing papers intently, analyzing the data carefully before heading to the window to place their bets. As for us kids (I say about people in their 30s), we have a more capricious system for choosing which steeds get our support. We are not above putting $2 down on a 90-to-1 longshot just because it is a 90-to-1 longshot; even at Show money (third place), that could be lucrative. It rarely happens, of course, but for the casual fan of the sport it makes for a fanciful (read: delusional) moment when placing the bet.

As is probably apparent by this point, the parents tend to fare better than the kids.

This year started strangely auspicious for me; the bet I placed in the first race of the day came through, with my horse (somehow wagering $2 on it makes it "mine" for references purposes) coming in third, and me having the sufficient lack of confidence in it to only have placed a Show bet.

How did I pick this pseudo-winner? Before the race I wandered around the infield, taking mediocre photos of the fountain and of the grandstand*, then came back and walked in to the betting area (the mutuels), without having looked at the horses nor having even looked at their names in the program. I glanced at the big board overhead showing the current odds on each horse by their position number, found one that had what I considered mid-level odds (not one of the favorites, not a ridiculous longshot) that seemed to give me "a good feeling," then walked to the window and placed my bet accordingly.

As noted above, it usually only succeeds once or twice, but that doesn't stop me from relying on it.

My sister had bet on the same horse (named, it turned out, "Melinda's Fuse"), but she'd gone for Place, so she had just a little too much faith in it. I quipped that this would probably be the only ticket I'd cash all day, not so much to be pessimistic but as some roundabout attempt at trying to make her feel not so bad about just missing out. And history dictated that such a statement was not merely pessimistic but likely to be true.

For the next two races I proved prophetic in my estimation of my luck; my picks weren't coming "in the money" but they were jumping out to the lead at the beginning of the race (before being swallowed by the pack on the home stretch), so that seemed like something, to have at least tasted first place, even if only during the period that doesn't count. If there was some way to bet on who would lead initially, I would have cleaned up.

In the third race, as a matter of fact, I got my bet in just seconds before the bell sounded (indicating the gates had been opened, starting the race). That early-leading horse, on which I'd put $2, ended up coming in dead last at the finish line. If only the guy in line in front of me at the window had taken longer placing his bet I could have been too late to suffer that indignity.

With the fourth race I returned to winning ways, getting a small return on my investment (winning $3 from a $2 bet—woo-hoo, that almost paid for a soda), but this seemed nothing more than being thrown a tiny bone to disprove my earlier projection.


I wandered over to the paddocks and the circle where the jockeys mount the horses before riding out to the track to see if there were any good pictures to be taken. (There weren't. See the one on the right.) However, as I snapped away in futile hope of getting one of the riders on the equine racers as they passed, one of the horses made a very pronounced snort while nodding its head when it was right next to me, which I couldn't help but take as some kind of sign. (And for the record: I got no shots of this horse.)

However, when I made my way to the betting area, I saw that horse was one of the favorites, with low-paying odds. I knew enough about the wagering to know the only way to get a worthwhile return on such odds one has to bet larger amounts, and bet to Win. Filled with undue confidence, I put down $5 on that horse, with the only way I could get anything being if he came in first. To make myself feel better, I also put a tepid $2 Show bet on a semi-longshot (which had not displayed any sign to me).

Interestingly, during the race I found myself focusing on that other horse, and hardly noticed when my feisty (one on which I'd placed the $5 bet) crossing the finish line before the rest. I didn't exclaim with excitement but calmly noted to my father, seated next to me, how the horse essentially "told" me he would win. That netted me $16, and made the day the best I'd ever had at any track. And the day was only half over as far as the races went.

There was plenty of time left for me to squander the winnings.


I was well on my way to squandering those winnings. I got a bit more cavalier with my bets in the next few races, putting money on multiple horses, none of which were coming in. After seeing a 60-to-1 longshot come in third in the seventh race and pay out handsomely (although none of us in our group had anything riding on it, of course), in the eighth race I got really brave (which is to say, I got really stupid) and put $2 Show bets on not one, not two, but three ridiculous longshots (two of them had something like 80-to-1 odds, the other 50-to-1). Back at the seats, I discovered my girlfriend had done the same thing (we are so compatible). The folly of this move, however, is obvious: the odds of one longshot coming through were slim, but the odds of it happening in back-to-back races were astronomical.

Suffice it to say, none of them came anywhere close to coming in. That level of hubris could not possibly be rewarded by Fate.


Going in to the ninth race, the last one for which we were staying, I was up $8 (comparing how much I'd bet to how much I'd won). This was the first time ever I was likely to leave the track with more than I started out with. To mix it up, I was going to place an Exacta bet on horses 1 and 9, in that order, because they'd seemed feisty heading out to the starting gate. (Don't question my methods.) They were favorites, but if they came in the payout should still be reasonable. However, my sister, brother-in-law, and girlfriend all were giddy with making boxed Trifecta bets on various combinations of horses, and they beseeched me to join them in this venture.

Having no convictions, I jumped on the bandwagon.

So, fine, I thought, and as I waited in line for the betting window I selected #7 (for no logical reason) to join the previously chosen #1 and #9, and placed a $6 bet on those three to come in (in any order; as long as they comprise the top three finishers).

And just after I finished placing that bet, before I'd even been handed the ticket, my girlfriend chimed in with, "Put two dollars on number 2." So I placed another Show bet on the longshot at #2.

For those of you keeping track, you'll know that between the two bets I'd spent the $8 I had been up. So, at worst, I would leave having broken even, which would still prove my finest showing for a day at the races, but I had the chance to leave actually up, walking out with more than what I walked in with.

I'm not generally that good when it comes to gambling; it's not such that I've never made money but it is rare, and when it comes to betting on the ponies, this seemed like it might be the only chance I'd ever have to say I came out ahead (even if it was only two dollars ahead). And I risked all that on a bet I'd never placed before (the boxed trifecta) and a longshot I wasn't even planning to bet on.

The horses reach the starting gate. The bell rings and the gates open. The horses hurtle along the track, and both #1 and #9 are in the top four from the beginning. Then after the turn, into the home stretch, #9 just leaves the pack in his dust, cruising to a victory by something like 10 lengths. (See photo at left.) #1 holds on for a clear second place finish. And for third it looked like #7 somehow moved up and nosed out another horse at the wire.

I whooped in excitement at my apparent win, but then on the board the message read "Photo Finish for Third."

I knew I'd blown it, jinxing myself with my premature celebration. That was how these things always worked out for me in the past. If only I'd held my calm until the official results were announced then I had a chance of what I thought happened of being what actually happened, but my hubris would undoubtedly be my undoing.

Oh well. It still would be a good day of wagering for me, one without precedent.


That's all good and well, you're thinking. However, we weren't born yesterday; we know you're trying to misdirect us, so just tell us #7 came in third and you won so we can finish this tale. We have things to do.

Fair enough. Yes, the official results were 9-1-7. I had one more ticket to cash out.

And had I stuck with my original thought (a non-boxed exacta of #1 then #9) I would have lost out, having picked the top two but in the wrong order.

So, through nothing more than lucky guessing and lacking the will to resist peer pressure, I was being rewarded.


When I went back to the window and redeemed my ticket, the cashier casually pulled out eight dimes, three singles, three fives. And a one-hundred dollar bill. He was clearly unfazed by the amount. I'm sure for those who frequent the track that amount barely covers the amount they spend on beer for the day, but for me it seemed the resounding exclamation point on what would become the story of the day I not only came out ahead but won big.

This story.

I guess it's possible that the old adage could be true: Every Doug has his day. (Ba-dump-chink!)


Fine. Go do those things you need to do. Thanks for reading all the way to the end.

I'm still convinced that will be the last time that happens (me winning a big bet on a horse race). I'm not suggesting this incident somehow altered my entire outlook on the universe or anything…

* Some of those shots can be viewed by going to my photo site here.

The photo site

To accomodate all the photos that don't quite seem to fit in with this site, I am resurrecting my alternative site devoted to just pictures, and here is a link to an offering posted there that you won't see here.

(I know. I didn't realize things did or did not "fit" here, either.)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Bubble, bubble, toil and... tar

One of the smaller tar pits at the La Brea Tar Pits. Yes, the methane still bubbles up from underground.

No smoking while looking at this post, please.

(Yes, that includes bongs, too. Sorry, dudes.)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Limos at Sunset

Sunset, last Friday, near LAX (specifically here)

If you build it, they won't be able to get to it

This is the door to the public restrooms on the 4th floor in the Bonaventure hotel, as seen from the spiral stairs nearest it.

As per legal requirements, the men's room has a handicapped stall. (I can't speak to whether the women's room has one, but I assume so.)

This is the layout of the lower levels of the hotel directly opposite of that door. Notice the signs for the 3rd and 5th floor, which is where the elevators stop.

The elevators do not stop on the even numbered floor in the lower levels. (I don't know why; that's just what they do.)

There are no ramps between the floors on these lower levels. There are the four spiral staircases at the corners, and an escalator. Those are the only ways to get from either the 3rd or 5th floor to the 4th floor.

I'm sure there are restrooms accessible to those in wheelchairs, those who need the larger stalls when using the toilet, but this restroom on the 4th floor, with the handicapped stall, is (as best I can tell) inaccessible to wheelchairs.

You'd think that when they designed the building they would have noticed this. (I know they have to put the stall in the restroom, but why don't they have to put a ramp or elevator stop to that floor?)

There is so much I don't know about civic architecture...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Also sprach Doug, parts I - IX

[Alert to the reader: This post is really long. It may behoove you to print it out if you're not one for reading on the screen.]

I have long been aware of my own personal level of how much I am full of crap. It's not so much an aspiration toward that but the inevitable consequence of having an underdeveloped sense of inspiration; given how much effort I actually exert toward most tasks they turn out relatively well, but that's not to say they turn out great. At best, the results can be construed as a bit better than one might expect from the average person exerting the same level of effort.

That, for example, is not a particularly apt introduction for today's topic, but it is nonetheless my perception of the situation.


Another perception I have, based on feedback I have received (or not received, as it were): What readership the site has achieved over the years tends to be not particularly critical of what I post. I'm not suggesting that's surprising, all things considered; most of the readers are people who are acquainted with me in some way, and it stands to reason that they would be more forgiving of the areas wherein my being-full-of-crap are evidenced in what is posted. They're accustomed to it.

I get very few comments left on the posts, but I understand that what I post is not such that it would inspire much in the way of fist-pumping agreement or argumentative vitriol; people are not as likely to make the effort to comment on a rambling essay that leaves them slightly amused but ultimately ambivalent.

I don't get many comments from complete strangers that aren't ostensibly spam (if not out-and-out spam). The legitimate comments (and by that I mean ones where the person clearly read the post) left by strangers are always a delight, even though they rarely equate to gaining a new member of the audience.

[Wow. Could this intro drag on any more? Let's get to our topic, what say?]

Last month, on March 4, I got a comment from a stranger. I don't know who the person was, or even the gender, because the comment was attributed to Anonymous (and nothing in the text gave any indication of the writer's sex). The commenter noted only that he or she was an English teacher.

This comment proved different from those I have received from strangers in the past in two key ways:
1) It analyzed the punctuation I used from a critical standpoint, and (more important)
2) it was left in response to something I posted last September.

Yes, nearly six months prior to when the comment was made.

The post in question hadn't appeared on the main page (which shows about the last two month's worth) in quite some time. To scroll to it from there, one would have to click the link to show older posts twice. Suffice it to say that it's highly unusual for anyone, even an acquaintance, to read something that old.

I was intrigued.

The comments were in response to this post where I'd composed a glib and wry essay about a pop song where the singer used "lay" when grammatically he should have used "lie" (because he had no object). While the commenter expressed token agreement with that content, he/she took me to task over an improper use of "thus" in the middle of a compound sentence; I used it after a comma, when it should have followed a semicolon.

The thing is: I more or less knew that. Obviously it didn't occur to me at the time I composed it, nor did I review it that closely afterward to catch the faux pas. 1


The commenter segued from a tepid compliment of the "breakdown of the misuse of 'lie'/'lay'" to a statement about how, by virtue of having touched on a grammatical topic (although I think technically it would be more a question of word choice than of agreement of tense, but hey, let's not nitpick), I had opened myself to criticism.

My reaction: Every word I have ever written has left me open to criticism. Obviously he/she hadn't read the rest of the posts (at least not that closely). I imagine someone inclined to rip the pieces to shreds could have the proverbial field day.

In short: I was more surprised it took this long for someone to identify one of the myriad flaws to be found in the posts than I was that someone found one. 2


The commenter pointed out a mistake of mine, and he/she was fully justified in that. I had not abided all the rules of conventional usage while on the topic of not abiding one of the rules of conventional usage; that touched on a hint of hypocrisy, and that I would seek to eschew whenever possible.

Hypocrisy I thought I had eschewed with my wry conclusion (punchline) about how if I had a decent singing voice I wouldn't give a crap about grammar. I didn't think I was alleging the song was bad or somehow unworthy because the lyricist used "lay" when "lie" would have better followed the rules applied to term papers.

He wasn't writing a term paper.

I didn't think I was writing a term paper either. I'm not suggesting I would have been any more thorough in proofreading had I been writing a term paper, but I suspect I would have been more cautious about using the conjunctive adverb "thus" (and thereby avoided the likelihood of misusing it).

There's no point in trying to assuage the shame of having typed a comma when it should have been a semicolon. I'm not going to go back and change the post now.

The lesson is clear: Only those who are beyond reproach should even allude to how others may not have been beyond reproach. 3


Still, how freaking cool is it that someone read one of my posts six months after I put it out? I like to think that because many posts are not particularly concerned with current events they have the potential to remain of interest down the road, and perhaps this incident proves that.

It's never too late to discover how full of crap I was in the past.


Beating the dead horse a bit more: The commenter mentioned also how he/she found the "rampant" over-usage of commas to be more offensive than the misuse of lay/lie. I couldn't be sure whether he/she meant that as a dig against me (in light of misusing "thus" after a comma) or whether he/she was merely throwing out an example of a personal pet peeve. 4

When the proverbial push comes to the proverbial shove, my true error was not so much the failure to precede "thus" with a semicolon. That grammatical rule seems obscure enough that only the highly erudite (who are paying close attention) would even notice the mistake. Where I went awry in the pseudo-essay5 in question was alluding to having been an English major. While it is an accurate statement about my background, the connotation it draws in the mind of the reader (at least in the mind of the reader in question) is not one I would consider accurate when applied to me. The admission implies I wish to be identified as one who studied the language closely during his years at university. While I can say many things about my academic experience, I would not say that about my time on campus.

I may not have been the worse English major ever, I was far from the best. I didn't so much gain an extensive familiarity with the peculiarities of the language as I picked up what I needed to get through classes, and some of it stuck (for reasons that defy any explanation).

Frankly, calling myself "an English major" is merely shorthand for what I really am: a dilettante who got a degree from the English department of a state university. By no means would I ever claim to be an authority on English. I know what I know; I know what I had cause to know that has not slipped from mind.

That was, more or less, the thesis I intended6 for the pseudo-essay in question. I wasn't taking to task the artistic license of the songwriter but lamenting that the aspects of my education I hadn't forgotten affected my response to the artistic license of the songwriter, getting in the way of appreciating the emotional component of the lyric in a way that presumably wouldn't affect others.

To the extent I had a thesis, it would be something along the lines of: Egad, here's another way I am unlike regular people. Look how I cannot escape my own brain and just enjoy art for itself.

Knowledge may be power but intelligence is pain.


If anyone wonders why I compose these pseudo-essays and don't do much in the way of revision (or even proofreading), I present Exhibit A: parts I - V. Those were composed during two days (three train trips) worth of commuting to work, meandering around a topic that at the onset seemed to have a reasonably strong inspiration behind it--this commenter's nitpicking-- but that at the time I felt unusable for the site here (without serious revision, which we've established was unlikely). It was not that I was above exerting the effort; I lost interest in achieving what the effort might give. 7

Now, I have decided to be abjectly self-indulgent, and here we have this a quaint little tribute to my inadequacies to be read by a group of people probably not including the person who inspired the original idea.

The only potential enjoyment I'm likely to get from the act is from the composition. Revision and proofreading (you know, the sort of things an editor would spur) bring no pleasure, so once the pleasure of composition has expired what motivation have I to continue? The fear of regret later? Ha. That hurdle I overcame long ago. Were some reward coming later, that would be another thing, but after years of doing this I know the reward is in the now.

People who have been convinced that doing a good job is its own reward would dismiss my immediate gratification credo. I'm not trying to get their approval anyway.

By this point, the question of whether it was worthwhile to spend the time blathering on in a paltry justification of my inadequacies that the world doesn't see (in something that is utterly unfit for sharing), rather than putting effort into trying to revise the above into something that is sharp and trenchant and a delight to be admired through the ages?

I had no choice. Blathering on in this way is certainly pathetic, but it is what puts my mind at some modicum of ease when it is dismayed over how other efforts have not gone well.

In other words: Absolutely it was worth it. The enjoyment was not great, but it was better than frustration.


Revisiting the commenter: I have long believed that everyone's kneejerk reaction to anything written is whatever their individual insecurities inspire, not what their loftier mental capacities allow. In short, it matters little what I say; the reader will interpret the words primarily by whether the topic (or the word selection) touches upon any issue he/she has. Only when required to do so can the reader be expected to analyze the structure and the overall thesis and consider whether what was written was intended to elicit any such reaction.

Sometimes the insecurity manifests itself in the form of what the post in question ultimately discussed: the inability to overcome one's neuroses that color one's way of looking at the world. I was not "preaching" about the use of "lay" when proper grammar would dictate use of "lie"; I was lamenting how I couldn't help but notice the misuse, despite myself, and merely enjoy a pleasant little pop song.

That the commenter was similarly afflicted by his/her neurosis (viewing the written word in a constantly critical manner) and couldn't simply enjoy the wry little pseudo-essay, or at least acknowledge what I thought was a not-entirely-subtle tone of the tongue being in the cheek, makes him/her a sort of comrade. Not only that, he/she makes my point about the theory noted above.

To be absolutely clear: I am not criticizing him/her for being thusly afflicted; to do so would be the epitome of hypocrisy. And to be forthright I must admit that my initial reaction to the comment was more akin to defensiveness than to admiration. (I make my own point as well.) It was only after a few weeks that I could regard it with the sufficient level of emotional distance that I could recognize that even if he/she intended the comment to be snarky, he/she was putting him-/herself in the same boat.


The ancient Roman philosopher Seneca8 recommended (more or less) trying to anticipate what could go wrong so one could be mentally prepared and hence avoid frustration stemming from being caught off-guard. (I learned that from seeing part of a program on public television last month. I wish to be forthright so I am not mistaken for an intellectual later. 9)

I try to not lose sight of how half-assed these ruminations tend to be (and hence how much they suck to a lesser or greater degree). Only by taking any level of pride in the posts10 should I find any criticism of them to be worthy of defensiveness.

This particular scenario, however, was more an example of being surprised by an unprecedented act (someone reading a post from months ago without being directed to it) than being all that prideful of what I knocked out in about an hour on a Saturday afternoon (without much contemplation or deeper consideration); frankly, I'd forgotten I even bothered with attempting to use "thus" between two clauses, much less thought about whether it needed to be corrected.


I am completely full of crap. And knowing that keeps me from getting too upset about the fact that I'm completely full of crap.

Footnote-like stuff:
1 -
These are glorified first drafts. I don't highlight that fact, and I know it might be off-putting to the reader to see that admitted, but that's essentially what they are. Frankly, I would argue that the glory of the blogosphere is the immediacy of having an idea and posting it right away; it's not journalism, with editors and fact-checkers improving the result (and slowing the output).

That's not exactly what I do here, at least not all the time. I'm not so much going for immediacy but for getting out something I don't hate. (I compose more than I post, as frightening as that is to consider.) There are many times where I run out of steam to keep bashing away at the idea and for my own sanity must just let it go as is. It's not that I'm happy with the result but that I'm not so unhappy with it that I'll take it down.

For completely free entertainment, you could do worse.

2 -
The beauty of the blahg is not that it is free from typographical errors, poorly structured arguments, and humor that isn't funny; the beauty of the blahg is that all those elements are mine, not the result of an editor.

I seem to be trying to justify half-assed effort with some excuse about not having an editor, and then glorifying that half-assed effort as some sort of epitome of self-expression.

Only kind of. I'm not meaning to justify or glorify anything, but I'm not feeling what might otherwise seem the appropriate level of shame about the situation.

3 -
All that defensive posturing is the shame. It is true that no matter how well I claim to be open to criticism I am still subject to ego.

4 -
Therein lies the fun of leaving something open to interpretation. It becomes a test of how defensive I feel like getting. The initial inclination is toward taking it as a dig, but the intellect allows me to override that with dismissal of such intent, even if it serves only as ego-protecting delusion.

What good is a delusion if it isn't ego-protecting?

5 -
I know "pseudo" means "false" despite using it in this context to mean "approximate" (the common parlance for it these days); don't bother mentioning that in a comment. Unless you must.

6 -
Apparently I did a poor job of getting that into what was composed, or else I wouldn't be explaining it now. N'est pas?

7 -
You don't want to know how many trips it took to compose parts VI - IX.

It is true that virtually all o f this was originally composed on a beat-up old laptop whilst using public transportation, although knowing that aspect of its creation doesn't really enhance one's appreciation of it. Hey, by pulling back the curtain it allows you to discover most of what you didn't know is not particularly interesting.

8 -
Seneca the Elder? Seneca the Younger? I don't remember. Frankly, I'm amazed as much stuck with me as it did.

9 -
Yes, I am toying with you now, trying to elicit a reaction amongst those who would take offense at the suggestion that intellectualism is undesirable.

10 -
As noted in 1 above, posts that are ultimately first drafts of which I was not completely ashamed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Take me out to the Balls game

At the stadium, some players have intro music that gets played when their name is announced just before they come up to bat. To the best of my knowledge that the players themselves choose which song (portion thereof) gets played.

At the game the other day, I noticed some of these songs for the Dodger players. Nomar Garciaparra gets War's "Low Rider", for example. Another player (I cannot remember which one, but that may be for the best) had the opening riff of a particular song played as his intro music.

It was from AC/DC's famous Back in Black album. However, it was not the title track, or the popular "You Shook Me All Night Long".

It was this one:

"Given the Dog a Bone"

(For those of you unfamiliar with the song's lyrical content, you can read that here.)

Yes, it's about what you think it's about: Felatio. (Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and BJ's. Fun for the whole family.) Of course, when played prior to each at-bat, the song fades out before any of the words kick in, so no one who is unfamiliar with it would even know. Think Blue!

So while most of the crowd was eating their extra-long Dodger dogs oblivious to temporary irony, I was reminded of something that has long bothered me, because of my way of looking at things: the title. On the album it definitely reads "given" (as in the past participle of "give" or as an adjective), although the lyrics clearly indicate they mean "giving" (present tense of the verb).

Bon Scott may have drunk himself to death, but when he was the singer they could at least conjugate.


Maybe if we do the wave no one will notice. (I did participate in that, although I didn't stand up; I just kind of flung up my arms from my seat.)

More of Chavez Ravine

From the upper deck of Dodger Stadium:

In the hills to the north of the stadium.

(Not "Go Blue"--"Think Blue"; apparently it's not a cheer but a philosophy.)

Monday, April 16, 2007

42 was a 4

There was plenty of media coverage about yesterday's festivities at Dodger Stadium in honor of Jackie Robinson (on the 60th anniversary of his major league debut, back in Brooklyn), so I won't recap the whole thing. Having attended the game, I offer the following observation:

At no point did they show any highlights of him making a defensive play. There was the ubiquitous black & white footage of him stealing home plate (although even about that I'm not entirely sure how the umpire, positioned behind the catcher, could see whether Jackie's foot really touched the plate before the catcher tagged him; I'm not saying he wasn't safe, just wondering how the umpire had any angle to see one way or the other). There were scenes of him hitting home runs and tipping his cap as he rounded third, but not a single shot of him making a play as a second baseman. Surely over the course of his ten years in the majors he must have made a diving stop of a line drive or turned a double play (if they made double plays back then). Was he nothing more than a good hitter with speed who was nothing more than a passable player in the field? He won rookie of the year, and later MVP, so I suppose I figured he must have been at least okay with the glove.

(Of course, being a well-rounded player is not all that important when it comes to who garners votes for awards.)

To be clear: I'm not suggesting Jackie wasn't a well-rounded player; I'm suggesting the way he is portrayed historically leaves out certain aspects of the game.

It is true that Jackie was ultimately lauded for his ability to put up with the racist crap he had to endure; that he had skill with the bat or on the basepath, while worthy of winning awards for the season, would not get his number retired for every single team in the leagues (posthumously). Whether he ever fielded a routine ground ball is inconsequential when it comes down to why we remember him; it was not for what he could do that others could do, but for what he did that no one before him did: take the prejudice directed toward an entire race on his shoulders, becoming a lightning rod for ignorant hatred, and never lash back in anger, always turning the other cheek.

I'm certain I would not have been that strong, had I been in such a horrible position.

Still, despite knowing the various details of the important role he played in what would become the civil rights movement, during yesterday's festivities at the stadium I found myself thinking, Oh yeah, he played second base. His position in American society had overwhelmed (in my conscious mind) his position in the field.

If only some of the footage that gets shown when discussing him had shown him with a glove on standing on the appropriate side of the infield—I'm sure there must be some film somewhere in an archive at least—then I'm sure I would not have been so taken aback by being reminded of what would otherwise be an insignificant fact: that he was the Dodgers' second baseman*.

It's not the flashy stuff, I concede, but it seems like at some point over the past 40 years someone would have put something involving him wearing a glove. Maybe in a montage or something.

I'm just saying.

* Yes, I know (now, after more research) that he started at first base. And that he played shortstop in the Negro Leagues.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

No Anthony

Under the (4th St.) bridge downtown...

And for those who prefer a bit more conventional orientation...

(No heroin usage observed in all my years of walking past this point.)


Interesting sidenote: The upper side of this bridge has been used many times for TV commercials. The most recent example I can think of is one for Allstate featuring Dennis Haysbert, where he stands in the middle of the road at normal speed while cars whiz by at high speed.

If you can think of what I'm talking about from that shoddy description, you watch too much TV.

Who watches the Watchtower?

I should have identified them the second I got on the train. Three well-dressed white-haired older women sitting at one end of the car is something of an unusual thing during the morning commute. However, it still caught me a bit off-guard when one of them stopped next to me as I sat and started to put the headphones in my ears. It had been a while since ones such as them had been on a train with me.

She asked if I would like something to read and offered me a copy of the Watchtower. I politely declined, and she replied, "Not today then," and wished me a good day.

The funny thing about this incident: Had the item offered simply been left on the seat next to me when I sat down, with no one around, I may very well have picked it up. It's not so much that I'm that intrigued by what the Jehovah's Witnesses have published for its spiritual value; I have over the years collected a number of pieces of religious propaganda (although mostly small leaflets or pamphlets, not magazine-sized items), and this could certainly be considered for inclusion in my collection. While this has been done in a very detached, ironic context (it is fascinating what some have done in what is ostensibly an effort to promote their beliefs), I couldn't bring myself to take something from someone's earnest hand knowing that my reaction was the opposite.

Especially when I was about to press play on the player and hear Peter Murphy sing about Bela Legosi.

It is not my intent to disparage anyone's genuine beliefs, but the way they go about trying to convince those who non-believers (we'll call the audience that) sometimes seems like it was not thought through all that thoroughly.

Perhaps with sufficient faith one doesn't require marketing savvy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Somewhere on Sunset

This building is on Sunset Blvd., a little east of La Brea.

(Apparently it's pictures through gate fences time here. Second post of this kind in April.)

Song lyric du jour

Well I ain't no new messiah,
But I'm close enough for rock and roll.

- "Rockin' Into the Night", .38 Special, 1979

(Heard while having a burrito a Koo-Koo-Roo this afternoon. The music piped in is an interesting amalgam of tunes spanning from the '50s to the '90s. When I walked in Prince's "I Would Die 4 U" was playing. No metal or hip hop, but there is new wave and doo-wop.)


Is it still "new wave" when it's getting played on an oldies station?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I am still not calling this "Artoo goes postal" (a follow-up)

Ray left a comment in response to my R2-D2 mailbox photo post, speculating that the promotion would result in the U.S. Postal Service raising the cost of postage to cover what they undoubtedly spent in licensing fees to Lucasfilm. He referenced an article about how their sponsorship of the U.S. Tour de France team years ago proved to be more of a bust than a boom as evidence of how this likely would result in an increase.

I admit I didn't put that much thought into it. I saw a mailbox near the office, walked over on a break and snapped a few pics, and eventually got around to putting some up on the site here. I enjoyed the Star Wars films (the ones from 1977 - 1983 mostly), and found the decorated mailboxes amusing. That was as far as I'd thought it through.

I suppose my posting the shots with links to the promotional site is tacitly supporting the promotion, and therefore applauding the ploy by the Postal Service that will make it more expensive to mail letters. I didn't mean to suggest I thought that was good.

I pay most of my bills online, and typically I mail only a single envelope per month. When I buy a sheet of stamps it can last me until the price of postage goes up again. The effect of a price increase doesn't affect me that deeply, because my routine doesn't revolve around putting pieces of mail in boxes (whether they look like characters from Star Wars or not). However, I can certainly understand how such an increase in postage costs could make a big difference to someone who uses the mail system a lot.

Granted, it's probably because more and more people are going over to the side I'm on--mailing less and less (and therefore purchasing less postage)--that makes the Postal Service try these schemes like a cross-promotional tie-in with the anniversary of one of the strongest pop culture touchstones of this generation; they're grasping at anything that might get people to buy more stamps.

So I'm not sure whether I'm the problem because I contributed to promoting the scheme (and without getting a cut from anyone who benefits from it) or because I don't buy more stamps (thereby contributing to the circumstances leading to the scheme). And further, if I purchase a sheet of the Star Wars stamps promoted by the R2-D2 mailboxes, am I doing my part to help put the USPS back on track (and delay the need for future price increases for at least longer than would otherwise prove necessary) or am I only encouraging such ploys (and making them think they should explore more such promotions that they can use to justify raising postage rates again)?

I guess I can only conclude that Sith lords have infiltrated the highest levels of the USPS, and that by spotlighting in that post their attempts to appeal to a fond memory from childhood I fell prey to the allure of the Dark Side.

And I didn't even get a cool "Darth" name.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Art and tinkle

The central courtyard at the Getty Museum.
(But look--it's at a slight angle!)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Getting out the getting it on

From a block north of Hollywood Blvd.:

I thought I was taking an artsy shot through the posts of this fence. However, upon review, I got one of the myriad Scientology buildings (lower middle).

And the former Erotic Museum (lower left) that used to be open across the street.

Go ahead and click on this one.

For some reason I saw some delightful contrast in that, even though given that the Scientologists own a serious chunk of real estate in Hollywood, there's probably nothing about their beliefs that is inherently opposed to such displays.

Of course, now that I think about it, I'm not entirely sure why the Erotic Museum closed...

Friday, April 06, 2007

I am not calling this "Artoo goes postal"

Without meaning to be current, I find myself posting about something that is still on the border of being in-the-news: mailboxes.

As you've probably heard (because the media was all over this), last month the United States Postal Service put out special mailboxes decorated to look like R2-D2 to promote an upcoming set of Star Wars stamps (in honor of the 30th anniversary of A New Hope).

Yes, I know enough to identify the film that came out in 1977 as A New Hope rather than as "the first one" because, although it was the first movie to come out, it is, of course, the fourth episode in the storyline. (The last thing I need is to be lambasted by a nitpicky fan who comes across this post.)

No, I have no clever Star Wars-related pun to preface these pictures I took of the R2D2 postal unit. It's not that I probably couldn't think of one (or several), but I am quite certain that no matter what it was, someone else would have already come up with it.

So here you go:

With downtown L.A. in the background (and the sun hidden behind the office building where I work).

With the Disney Concert Hall in the background.

With the Museum of Contemporary Art in the background.

(If you're not a hardcore fan then you may not be aware of what the url on the mailboxes is for: You can vote here on which stamp should be featured for a first day promotion.)

I found this bit on the Star Wars site where if you click on the "Artoo Spotters" link it shows a slideshow of 170 photos of R2D2 mailboxes (generally with people standing next to them, in various shades of fanaticism--this is my favorite) from around the country. However, amongst those 170 pics there is not a single one of what I've photographed above.

In this flickr group of photos of the boxes, out of 149 shots, there's only one of the unit outside the Disney Concert Hall above. (Do the hardcore fans have some aversion to downtown L.A.?)

For those who may be trying to find the locations in my photos above: it's the northwest corner of the intersection of 2nd St. and Grand Ave. in Los Angeles. Yes, all three shots are of the same box, just from three different angles.

Eh, I'm sure you didn't fall for my Jedi mind tricks. (Aah! So close to making it through this post without a groan-inducing Star Wars reference!)


Here's a rather predictable skit from the Carson Daly show involving the R2D2 boxes.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Light in the dark places

Three shots of the same thing:

From directly above, close up.

From a few feet away, to the side.

And from below.

And the best part: You still have no idea what this is, do you?

A Doug moment

From last week's L.A. issue of The Onion newspaper (you know, the one I wrote about here), here's the fake tease on the front page:

When you're shopping at Staples, you can trust Doug's recommendations. I would.

It was like an annual thing: another follow-up

Back in February I spotlighted these trees in bloom, but by mid-March the white flowers were gone, and the trees were a more common green.

And here's the proof of the ephemeral bloomage, for no discernibly good reason:

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Where the sun doesn't shine even in the morning: a follow-up

Continuing the theme of unnecessary follow-ups to previous posts...

If you read this one from February featuring some unexpected shadows, you may not have believed that the area in question really got little or no direct sunlight during the day.

Okay. There's no way you read it that closely, and if you did, you probably didn't concern yourself with that assertion.

Nonetheless, to the left is a shot of the portion of 4th St., between Flower St. and Figueroa Ave., along the north side of the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown L.A. (from 48 stories up), about 10 a.m.

You can see the row of trees lining the sidewalk, and if you look closely (feel free to click on the picture to enlarge it), you'll notice that the way the lower portion of the hotel's design juts out it casts that stretch in shadow even when the sun is otherwise hitting the street next to it.

Whether that gives you a greater appreciation for how unusual are the shadows of the trees from the afternoon sunlight reflected off of other skyscrapers is another story, but with any luck it has given a bit more perspective on that prior post.

Why I'm bothering is a mystery that no amount of photos or follow-ups could ever possibly explain.

Monday, April 02, 2007

While tourists take pictures of the Walk of Fame

Hollywood Blvd. at Franklin Ave. in Hollywood.

Looks more like a hole than a trench to me, but I don't imagine Cal Trans has signs specifically for that.

(I particularly like the striped boards acting as a cover for the "trench"--very stable.)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A tree grows in Long Beach: The follow-up

Last month I reported on a couple trees along my walk home from the train station where one was well in bloom and the other was... not. It seemed as though the tree that had not bloomed was suffering from less fortunate circumstances than was the other. However, as of last week the underachieving tree has more than caught up:

And the other tree--the one that had sported such lovely blooms last month--is now a bit less impressive.

It's not who blooms first; it's who blooms best.
(Go ahead and gag about that hokey conclusion. I did. Not that it stopped me from composing it, of course.)

Also, it seemed appropriate to anthropomorphize the trees for that line. If you wish to lambast me for that, you see the Comments link below.