August 2003 Archives

CHARLES BRONSON DEAD

The obituaries say Charles Bronson was 81 at his death today. 81. I had no idea he was that old. He was one of those guys whose age you couldn't pin down- he appeared to be born in his forties. The weathered face, the graying hair... he could have been any age forty and over.

But 81? Nah, Charles Bronson wasn't 81. He's frozen in time at 52, getting vengeance in "Death Wish." That's the good thing about a) film, and b) getting off stage when it's the right time. We who remember him- by that, I mean we who will be the last generations to remember him before he fades into the distant past like so many before him- will remember the angry, craggy-faced guy avenging his wife's murder and daughter's rape. That's the moment in time we'll remember. What he looked like and sounded like and was like at 81 won't be remembered. He'll be permanently the guy in "Death Wish," or those spaghetti westerns, or "The Dirty Dozen."

There are worse things than that. Take Jerry Lewis, for example, still before the cameras tonight despite whatever is causing him to blow up to epic proportions, unrecognizeable- if you didn't KNOW it was Jerry, you wouldn't KNOW, you know what I mean? And we'll remember him not as the young crew-cut cutup interrupting Dino, but as this guy, the guy who didn't know when it was time to step aside and leave the memories alone.

It's better to go when you're still ahead. While Charles Bronson made movies after "Death Wish" (including the many crappy sequels), nobody saw them, nobody remembers them, his image survived them. Whether he intended to disappear or not (and from all accounts, his inactivity was not voluntary), he leaves a moving picture of Dorian Gray behind. You couldn't script it better.


THE BUSTAMANTE CAMPAIGN'S HOUSE ORGAN

I was going to go off on the L.A. Times' blatant electioneering for Cruz Bustamante, and I was ready to tear apart the paper's Saturday coverage of Bustamante's little MEChA problem- a page 1 paean to the humble greatness that is our Lieutenant Governor, with an article on the jump explaining that MEChA is a harmless and probably beneficial social group, citing only Bustamante and MEChA supporters.

But Kaus got there first, and concisely, with links to the truth, as inadvertently offered by MEChA itself. So go there.

LABOR DAY WEEKEND- DAY 1

Woke up, worked, ran, showered, ate, went to movie ("Freaky Friday"!), went to Starbucks, went to post office, went to library, rented movies, came home, worked, ate, watched some of Phillies-Mets game, worked.

Mundane, surely, but my kind of mundane.


Top Tips for Weekend Fun

At lunch, it seemed like a good idea to duck into the video store to pick up some DVDs for the weekend. We haven't planned any getaways, so it's prime DVD-watching time. Unfortunately, there wasn't a single video we either hadn't already seen or didn't suck, so we left emptyhanded. However, one video on the shelf caught my eye. I couldn't decide whether it was a sign of the death of civilization or, quite possibly, the greatest film ever made. Or both.

"Delta Delta Die."

How could I have ever missed this one?

Well, for one thing, it went direct to video. For another, it was there on VHS only, no DVD yet. And they only had one copy. But "Delta Delta Die"! Starring Julie Strain and Brinke Stevens! THE Julie Strain and Brinke Stevens, B-movie legends, the kind of "actresses" whose head shots and glamour poses are somewhere in the files of everybody- not just casting directors- in Hollywood! And get this- it's about CANNIBALISTIC SORORITY GIRLS! Evidently, one of the scenes involves a girl punished for- I kid you not- "eating of the penis."

Like I said, it could very well be the greatest movie ever.

But I couldn't bring myself to rent it. I'm careful what I rent. You never know when you'll be up for a big job, like President or Prime Minister or manager of the Dodgers, and they'll call up your video rental list and there among the Disney movies and Gary Cooper westerns they'll find "Delta Delta Die" and just like that, you're disqualified and end up eating half a can of Alpo every day.

You rent it.


Melted

Took hours to fix various Movable Type-related problems, so my mind's fairly fried. It didn't help that my friend John was back on the air at KFI this afternoon and on fire against the driver's licenses-for-illegals issue and the Cruz B. MEChA problem- I was ready to march on Sacramento by the time he was done. And it definitely didn't help that the Phillies got swept by Montreal- it's 1964 again, except there's a whole month left and after all these losses, they're still in the race. And Chico Ruiz, God rest his soul, didn't steal home.

I told you my mind was shot. I'll be better tomorrow. Really.


I know, I know...

Tiny type in the new setup. I'll probably switch to a better template soon. In the meantime, use your browser's "View>Text Size" setting to make it more readable. That might not work, actually, so, I dunno, use a magnifying glass or something.

Geez, do I hafta do EVERYTHING around here?

Eureka!

I think... no, I KNOW I got Moveable Type to work.

If you see this, I did.

We had a nice dinner

We had a nice dinner tonight: nachos 'n' a car chase. It was a stereotypical L.A. moment- Mexican food and a police pursuit on TV. Can't beat that for an all-around good time.

This one was odd- the driver took care to stop at red lights, signal for turns, and was tremendously courteous for someone trying to escape from a hit-and-run on Venice Blvd. I think I know why Southern Californians like to watch these things, too. It's the thrill of recognition that this dangerous incident is happening right here, right now, could actually come RIGHT UP YOUR STREET, the sirens and lights and police choppers and TV news choppers converging on your neighborhood and putting your house on TV. Call the folks back east, honey, we're on the TV!

So far, we haven't been "on the TV"- we're too remote for that- but some of the chases, like this evening's, take place in familiar areas. This one was mostly centered in the Marina del Rey/Culver City/Palms area where I once worked. I recognized all the streets ("hey, there's the Del Taco I used to stop at before work!" "That's Sepulveda northbound. Next light is the entrance to Fox Hills Mall"). And I got the momentary thrill L.A. people get when that happens- but for an accident of good timing, I COULD HAVE BEEN IN THE MIDDLE OF IT.

Humans do that. We revel in near-death experiences, the "I was once on that same flight, 6 years ago" and "I visited the World Trade Center once" anecdotes that provide us with some connection to a traumatic event. It reminds us of the randomness of life and death and reaffirms that, once again, we beat the devil. (For some people, that's not enough- this chase, like many others, featured people running out onto the shoulder waving at the passing van, yelling and gesturing and getting off on the momentary celebrity- "see that idiot who almost got run over by the van? That was me!")

So we enjoyed the chase, like all good Angelenos do. We got to recognize the scenery, second-guess the cops ("can't they just lob some tear gas into the van when it stops?"), laugh at the clueless commentary of the news anchors pressed into a play-by-play position. It's entertainment for the city that provides everyone else their entertainment. And, for almost 90 minutes, we neither heard nor uttered a word about the recall. It would be irresponsible to suggest that we needed this chase, but, hey, nobody got hurt and nobody mentioned Arnold. Win-win.

Mars is going to be

Mars is going to be really close to Earth tonight. For all I know, there's a huge red object hovering directly over my backyard right now, and little green Ray Walston-like men with antennae and tinfoil jumpsuits are close enough to dive into our pool.

What does it say about me that I don't really care?

Oh, I'll go out into the driveway and look for a second. I'll see a bright thing up there, think "that's Mars," and go inside to watch TV. I just don't get all that worked up over these once-in-several-lifetime events. I don't rush to see comets, I don't ooh and aah over weather anomalies. They don't do anything for me. Mars, close? OK, fine, yup, there it is.

Sorry. Not really interested. Next!

Oh, for... Do I have

Oh, for...

Do I have to go over this again?

There is no excuse for deliberately murdering any civilians, let alone children.

The Orlando Sentinel, like most other news organizations, clearly disagrees.

Here's the paper's Manning Pynn in response to letter writers complaining that the paper refuses to call Hamas and Islamic Jihad "terrorists," preferring the neutral term "militants" instead:

    The term "terrorist" certainly expresses judgment: It imputes to the person or organization being described the motive of trying to instill fear. "Militant" seems to me much more neutral. And that may be why the Sentinel, despite its style committee's decision, continues to use that term to describe Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Because, ostensibly, it's important to be neutral about the murder of children.

And then:

    I'm afraid that the horse is out of the barn on the labeling of al-Qaeda. Although journalists strive to avoid expressing bias in reporting the news, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, so shocked Americans -- including the news media -- that they almost universally applied the term "terrorism" to what had happened. I don't think the Sentinel will retreat from that.

"Afraid"? There's a problem with calling the hijackers "terrorists," or the events of 9/11 "terrorism"? Do you have to have common decency and sense surgically removed to work for the Orlando Sentinel?

    Does that mean, though, that we should extend that judgment to all attacks on civilians?

Yes. Yes, it does.

Let me repeat- these "militants" DELIBERATELY KILL INNOCENT CIVILIANS. They MURDER CHILDREN. Anyone who can find an excuse to justify their acts needs to reexamine his or her humanity.

Pynn manages to find an "impartial" observer to back him up on this:

    Sami Qubty, president of the Arab-American Community Center of Central Florida, doesn't think so.

    A pacifist Palestinian who holds dual American and Israeli citizenship, he contends that the suicide bombers -- whose tactic he abhors -- differ from al-Qaeda in this regard: "They're resisting occupation."

    Qubty acknowledged that suicide bombings resemble terrorism but likened them to the actions of Israelis "when they go out and shoot a missile and kill innocent bystanders."

    By that standard, of course, any nation at war could be labeled "terrorist" when attacks take civilian lives.

Which is why it's an illegitimate standard- Pynn clearly does not understand the difference between inadvertent civilian deaths, aka "collateral damage," in war and deliberate targeting of civilians for murder. Using this reasoning, the Washington sniper and someone involved in a purely accidental car wreck are morally equivalent. Pynn recognizes that this is problematic, but since it's a necessary result of the paper's adherence to a warped standard of "impartiality," he and the paper would rather just not use the term "terrorist," WHETHER OR NOT IT'S ACCURATE.

Pynn's conclusion:

    I won't presume to resolve the Middle East crisis here. It is tragic and involves acts I regard as terrorism.

    But my belief -- and those of others who recoil at the violence -- doesn't warrant further injecting judgmental terms into impartial news reporting.

Calling what Hamas does, what Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah and al Qaeda do, "militancy" is not impartial. It is a refusal to recognize a basic element of morality, of humanity. It is the acceptance of the murder of civilians- of children- as a political option, not as murder. Someday, I hope Manning Pynn has the opportunity to explain to people who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks, in the "suicide bombings" in Israel, in the Bali bombing and in the Lockerbie explosion and the Olympic massacre that none of those things should be called "terrorism" in the papers, lest the terrorists- er, militants- be insulted. In the meantime, the news media will continue to pull its punches in the name of an impartiality it does not really have.

The sprinklers are working again.

The sprinklers are working again.

There are several rites of passage for those aspiring to adulthood. Home ownership is one. Mortgages, car loans, kids, taxes- all signs you're not a kid anymore.

Big home repairs, well, now we're talking adulthood. When you're a kid, daddy and mommy take care of everything. Something breaks- YOU break something- and it's magically repaired. Daddy may curse a little, but it's fixed and you never find out how it exactly how it's done. A little older, college, something happens, someone from the custodial staff shows up to patch it up, you're all good. Apartments, you call the super; rental houses, you call the landlord.

And then there's a deed in your name. You break it, you bought it.

Our house was built about 50 years ago, updated a little but still, essentially, what was here when the peninsula was still essentially scrub on rock with the occasional landslide to liven things up. The road had only recently been punched through; Marineland a few blocks away was new, but it wasn't yet suburbia, just a distant fringe area awaiting better roads and the 405 and 110 freeways to connect it to Los Angeles and civilization. The neighborhood was surrounded by rock and dirt and ocean. Now, it's surrounded by houses and palms and roads and, er, rock and dirt and ocean. But the house itself is, with a few alterations, what it was in the early 50s.

All of that is to say: old houses break. Sewer lines break, patios break, the slab under the garage breaks. You replace the roof, the driveway, the pool motor, and each time you swallow hard, you pull out your checkbook, your nuts retract and you curse like Daddy.

You ARE Daddy now.

My biggest adult home repair moment to date was the sewer main line problem, when the contents of our pipes began to back up into the alley behind my office and we discovered that roots had dislocated the line. Daddy, the sewers backed up, can you fix it? Er, no, but a plumber can, and he'll make you pay for it. Damage: thousands of dollars and a dug-up front lawn, plus the measure of emasculation that accompanies the inability to fix something, that helplessness most commonly felt at the car repair shop.

I'm fairly handy around the house, as it turns out. And, as the sprinkler guy said, I had the right idea when I replaced the solenoid and the controller. (Pause for you to be impressed that I even know what a solenoid is, let alone be able to replace it AND install a new controller, whatever that is) But the problem was something I could not diagnose or fix myself, and that's when I feel helpless, and I feel the judgmental eye of the repairman, who is undoubtedly thinking "hah! You bourgeois nancy boy with your fancy car and your uncalloused hands! You who has never worked an honest day in your life! You think you are so much better than I, yet you are unable to make this simple repair, while I, the laborer upon which you look down, will bail you out and charge you an exhorbitant fee to do so!"

Or something to that effect.

Actually, this time, the repair guy wasn't too judgmental, at least not outwardly so, and the damage to our finances stayed firmly in the low three figures, so we escaped for now. But there will be a next time. I will feel the wrath of the electrician, the plumber, the heating guy. And each time will be one more reminder that Dad won't bail me out, the janitor won't fix the problem, the landlord isn't available. I am the Dad, the janitor, the landlord.

The adult.

Sometimes, life is like a

Sometimes, life is like a lame standup comic's routine. Went to a movie, plenty of empty seats, we have two on the aisle in a short 5 seat row, couple walks in, sit right next to us. Didn't leave the customary buffer zone seat between us.

All I needed was some 6'10" guy in a sombrero to sit in front of me to complete the 1950's sitcom scenario.

I was squirming during the whole movie. Why did he sit in THAT seat? Why didn't he move one seat over? Why didn't they go to a more empty row? This is why I like DVDs and satellite- no people. Public situations would be better without other people. No crowds at the mall, no race for good seats at the movies, no waiting for tables at restaurants. No traffic, no noise. All I need is for everyone else to stay home when we want to go out. Simple.

Or we can stay home. That might be a little easier.

Beautiful day today. Walking along

Beautiful day today. Walking along the beach at Redondo, looking at the waves and the sand and the rollerbladers and skate punks and palm trees, I remembered once again why we decided, after years of moving from town to town ("up and down the dial..." literally), we decided it would stop right here.

You spend the whole week getting agitated over "suicide bombings" and recalls and taxes and gas prices, and then in a matter of moments it all melts away in the sunshine. And you remember that, despite everything you see in the news, life's pretty damn good.

It would figure that I'd

It would figure that I'd buy a car that a) runs on premium gas and b) has a 20 gallon tank at a time when gas prices are c) spiraling out of control. Today's fill-up- about three-quarters of a tank- came to $30., which was a bargain- it was Costco gas, at least 10 cents (and in some cases, much more) cheaper per gallon than your Mobils and 76es ad Shells.

I guess that driving trip to Vancouver's probably going to have to wait.

Each fill-up is another entry in the grand Guess What I Paid for Gas Competition. It comes up in phone conversations with family, it comes up while idly chatting with the Lotto ticket seller, it comes up over dinner- "I filled up the Volvo today and guess what it cost me? Thirty bucks." "Really? That's nothing- I filled up today and..."

Right now, fall short of $40. and I'm not impressed.

The reasons for the price hike appear to be that a pipeline burst and limited deliveries to Phoenix, and that, um, well, actually, the gas companies can jack up the price at will and people will pay whatever it says on the pump. I mean, you live in L.A., you gotta drive. I just wonder what happened to all that Iraqi oil that's now pumping out of the wells there- wasn't the war supposed to be "all about the oiiiiilllll"? That's what Janeane Garofalo said, so it must be true.

Whatever. We're looking at $2.50/gallon for premium at some pumps right now, and $3. just ahead. I'm looking at walking. Barefoot. Sneakers are getting expensive, too.

Some people don't know how

Some people don't know how to pick their fights.

Today's Don Quixote is Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, whose defiance of the federal courts over that Ten Commandments monument at the courthouse is, for some people, big news. It must be, because it's leading the news at CNN and Fox. Very controversial, very important.

OK, not important. Controversial but not important.

Let's first note that the actual contents of the Ten Commandments aren't terribly controversial. I'm God, no blaspheming, show up for church, respect your parents, no murder, no adultery, don't steal, don't gossip, don't do your neighbor's wife, don't get all jealous and stuff over material crap. Pretty benign, and you can kinda ignore the first three if you're an atheist. Not a bad set of rules, nothing that should freak anyone out.

Then, let's note that it IS religion, and it's kinda unseemly to stick religion into a public place, constitution or no constitution. If you're Christian, you wouldn't want a monument to Allah there. You get the idea.

Finally, the most critical element to your understanding of the complex issues behind this case: it doesn't matter.

The monument's existence doesn't affect the jurisprudence in the courthouse, not any more than the bibles used for swearing in witnesses affect it. It's just... there. On the other hand, if it's removed, it won't change the jurisprudence, either. The monument doesn't change anything by its presence, and it doesn't remove anything by its absence. It just is.

So I see people, including the Chief Justice, ready to go to prison rather than allow the thing to be removed. I see people treating the ruling as a major victory for their interests. And I see a total loss of perspective. Ask yourself this: in what way does the existence or removal of that monument change the course of your- anybody's- life?

It doesn't.

And that's not to say that the commandments themselves don't matter- they do- or that some of the people passing through couldn't use a dose of Thou Shalt Not in their lives- they do. But they're not gonna get that from a monument. It's not the Bible, folks. It's just a monument. Take it away, leave it, carry it around like the Stanley Cup, whatever you want- just don't bother me about it. I have more important things on which to spend my energy, like the new Bullwinkle DVD. Hey, you have your religion, I have mine.

You may have been following

You may have been following the stories about the murdered French actress and her under-suspicion boyfriend, the lead singer of a popular rock group. There was yet another article about it in the Hollywood Reporter- here it is if you need it. Somewhere in the middle of the article, there's this:

    The shock was all the greater because Noir Desir do not have a wild reputation as hotel-wreckers living on the fringes of society. The band, whose last album sold more than 1 million copies in France, hails from the bourgeois French city of Bordeaux. Politically on the left, it has a long history of playing benefit shows and supporting causes, whether pro-Palestinian or against France's extreme-right Front National party. Cantat, a published poet had a broadly positive image and was seen as a role model by some fans, who find subtle meaning in his lyrics.

Hold on there. "Pro-Palestinian"?

That explains everything.

People who are pro-Palestinian in Europe are quick to defend Palestinians whenever another suicide bombing takes place. It's that yes-it's-sad-when-civilians-die-but-you-have-to-understand-the-reasons-for-it attitude. A bus full of families dies? That's nothing compared to the suffering of the Palestinian blah blah blah.

Understand this: Palestinian "freedom fighters" kill children. Deliberately.

They put their own children on the front lines, in harm's way, as human shields.

They kill children. Did I say that already? I have to say it again. They KILL CHILDREN. DELIBERATELY. The bombers are HEROES to them.

They KILL CHILDREN.

So this guy is a passionate defender of the Palestinians, and he may have murdered his girlfriend. The connection isn't too distant. It's the Left's dirty little secret- they've condoned, turned a blind eye to, even celebrated flat-out murder. And then one of their own does something like this, and they're shocked. They shouldn't be. If you can excuse murdering children, you can excuse anything.

Your details. Your application. Wicked

Your details.

Your application.

Wicked screensaver.

Thank you!

What a day. What a g-ddamn day. Well over a thousand- a THOUSAND!- worm e-mails and counting. Every time I checked the inbox, another hundred or so e-mails were waiting: "Re:Your details." "Re:wicked screensaver." "Re:Approved." "Thank you!"

Imagine if you really wanted to send a thank-you e-mail to someone today. You'd be sending it straight to the trash can.

On the bright side, the annoying habit of these worms (there are evidently two making the rounds) to lift e-mail addresses from infected computers' address books has one beneficial effect- I now have personal e-mail addresses for people whose e-mail addresses aren't public knowledge, including a couple of extremely high-placed radio and cable executives. Not that I'll use them. Not yet, anyway. That would be gauche.

What struck me, however, was this: the worm occupied virtually all office workers' attention all day. It was huge- I wrote "The Letter" e-mail for All Access about it and immediately received notes from similarly afflicted folks- and it actually impacted people's lives. But where was the news coverage? There was virtually none before very late in the day, late in the afternoon, on the wires, and most newspaper web sites had nothing. CNN buried it- I couldn't find it there. Nothing on Fox. The New York Times didn't cover it, although you could find the Dow Jones/AP story with some digging there.

And that's what the problem with the news media is. It's not bias- oh, there's bias, but that's not the real problem. The trouble is that editors and reporters have no idea what regular people are up to. They don't put themselves in the shoes of the average guy, working in a cubicle or at a construction site, pounding away with a jackhammer or on a keyboard, thinking about the mortgage and the kids' education and what's on TV tonight and the zillion e-mails he had to spend a half hour deleting while they threatened to overload his computer. They don't know what real people care about, because they don't know too many. They know...

...each other.

If you edit the New York Times, do you hang out with the guys at the bar watching the Giants? If you're a pundit at CNN, are you likely to know what it's like to work in a cubicle farm for embarrassingly low wages and try to support a family on that? Do you know what normal people have to deal with on a daily basis? Probably not. You know the barista at Starbucks, the friends who share your joy at finding a nice Two Buck Chuck's Merlot at Trader Joe's. You live someplace among people like yourself, people with the same education, the same economic status, the same politics as you. And you don't know any other life, not as a participant. You've always been this way, through suburban high schools and private colleges and j-school. You wouldn't have gotten to this level spending time any other way with any other people. After all, you don't network with dry cleaners and forklift drivers and accountants and assistant managers at ShopRite.

So when something comes along that affects those "other" people, it isn't important, not like the big, important issues like Iraq and Israel or the juicy true-crime stories like the Peterson trial or Kobe. Let the tech reporters handle it. No rush. And that's how millions of people worldwide found themselves snowed under a pile of worm e-mails and the biggest media outlets somehow missed the story. It wasn't on their radar. It wasn't important. YOU'RE not important.

Sorry, bud. Oh, are you still interested in the blackout? We have some stories about that now. Better late than never.

On TV right now, there's

On TV right now, there's some show about, well, I haven't been paying attention long enough to figure that out, but it had a segment about the man who invented sliced bread.

Didn't know there WAS a guy who invented sliced bread, did you?

There was such a man. He invented the bread slicer. Before him, nobody could figure out how to do that without cutting the bread manually (and irregularly). He did it and changed the world. "The greatest thing since sliced bread"- that phrase tells you how great his achievement was. Anyone said that around him, he'd swell with pride.

He invented sliced bread.

He changed the world.

His name?

I have no idea.

And neither do you.

And thereby lies an essential fact of life, something about which I've been thinking about lately: I don't matter. Neither do you. Nor does anyone. Oh, I'm not saying that life is pointless or meaningless, but think about it. If the guy who invented the invention that the world holds up as the paragon of achievement, the guy who came up with the "greatest thing," is completely and utterly unknown and forgotten, what does that say about the rest of us?

I guess I've been feeling mortal lately- I've been dealing with life insurance issues, and wills, too. One of the will provisions allows for an epitaph, and instructions for your grave marker. I don't have an epitaph ready and I don't care about the headstone, either. Once I'm gone, it doesn't matter- whatever makes my family happy is fine with me. But I don't want to end up like, well, everyone else and become just a name on a rock that provides the people who take rubbings from tombstones a new one for their collections. I'd love to think that I'll leave more of a legacy, but I've kinda wasted time on that, and no more than a handful of people out of billions make the kind of mark that lasts centuries, let alone millenia. Unless I discover a new inhabited planet and name it after myself before I'm through, that ain't me. Or you.

So I've been particularly cheery lately. My religious friends would tell me that this life is merely a way station on the road towards something greater and more meaningful, and they may very well be right. I hope so. But if not, I can take comfort that I'm not alone. I'm at least as famous as the guy who invented sliced bread. That oughta count for something.

Why, yes, as a matter

Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I DID make it back, none the worse for having spent a cross-country flight on a plane the DirecTV system on which was malfunctioning.

I like there. I love here. Here's home.

It wasn't a wedding. They

It wasn't a wedding. They weren't families, plural.

One family, one big, wet, sloppy reunion. The worst just turned out to be the noise and the complete takeover of the pool, the capacity of which exceeded any state or federal guidelines. Last night, looking forward to a 4 am wakeup call to catch a flight back home, the screaming continued well past bedtime. I pulled a pillow over my head and prayed until I lost consciousness.

Presently, I'm in the airport, sitting at an empty gate, waiting to get home. I don't mind travel much, but travel without Fran is weird- I'm just used to having her to share everything with. It's good to know, though, that she's at the other end of this trip, she and Ella the World's Most Famous Cat, waiting patiently to play fetch with her little foam soccer balls.

Ella, that is. Fran doesn't play fetch.

See you in L.A.

I'm in a hotel. I'm

I'm in a hotel.

I'm tired. Very tired.

The place has apparently been booked for a wedding involving families raised by wolves.

This is not good.

Screaming mobs of people, adults and children. People shoving their way into the elevator when you're trying to get out. One kid with a guitar running through the hall followed by a kid holding a boom box over his head.

This is gonna be SOME night.

Oh, come on. If I

Oh, come on.

If I hear one more person pronouncing how this blackout shows modern man's helplessness in the face of an interruption of technology, I'm gonna slap someone with a candle holder.

It is not helplessness. It is an inconvenience. Modern man is inconvenienced when the power goes out. 19th century man was inconvenienced when the horse got sick or the buggy hitch broke. Cavemen were inconvenienced when their clubs broke. This is not new, and it's not a disaster. People lose a half day and it's supposed to be symbolic. Symbolic? It was symbolic of a hemmorhoid. Pain in the ass. Not a sweeping indictment of reliance on technology.

Memo to pundits: get a generator and shut the hell up.

Made it. That's my office

Made it.

That's my office for the morning. That's my computer in front. My iced tea lemonade is off screen.

Unfortunately, the weather sucks.

First off, I am not

First off, I am not the best air traveler. I'm not the worst, either. I just want to take off, fly, and land safely and quickly. I don't want to be stuck at an airport for hours while waiting for the aircraft to finally show up, crammed into a tight seat, fed inedible "food," and dumped at the destination hours behind schedule. I just want to blink and be there, less "Star Trek" beaming than "Bewitched" nose-twitching. I like travel, but the process I can do without.

So I have to catch a red-eye tonight. Red-eyes are good in one way- you don't waste any useable daytime hours flying. The bad thing is that on Thursday early morning, I'll stagger off the plane, not having slept for more than 20 minutes at a time, drag the carry-on to the rental car shuttle, and find myself in the middle of another city's rush hour, driving an unfamiliar car, listening to unfamiliar radio shows on a radio with all the presets set to stations en espanol.

Oh, yeah, did I mention it's going to be raining?

I'm flying into an epic storm tonight. This is a "tonight's top story" storm, a "keeping a close watch" storm, a "severe flood warnings in all local counties" storm. This is one where you're watching TV and they cover half the screen with alerts and maps and blinking red things. Every weather hack on TV there is orgasming at the sight of the radar map. And they all say the same thing: high winds, torrential rain all night and into the morning. And I'm flying into it.

That's assuming, of course, that they don't divert us. I'm not relishing the prospect of awakening from a fitful nap to hear either "we're going to be running into a little turbulence while we descend, so everyone please fasten your seat belts and remove the prayer card from the seat pocket in front of you" or "we're going to be landing 800 miles north of our intended destination- there'll be buses waiting to take you there." Either way, it's not good, but that's the price you pay for having the temerity to be a human who wants to fly.

You want to fly? Hah! If God wanted us to fly, he'd have given us wings. And better in-flight meals.

So it's off to the airport in a few hours. More tomorrow. I hope.

In the midst of one

In the midst of one of those usual endless back-and-forth discussions on the letters page of the Romanesko journalists' trade site, in a debate on using digital vs. analog recorders for interviews and press conferences, a reporter felt the need to say this:

    I use an MZ-NF810, because I like a radio for my commute (NPR, not Howard Stern).

NPR, not Howard Stern.

Why did he say that?

People who listen to things like NPR want you to know it. They want you to know that they're smarter than the great unwashed, that they're educated and worldly and concerned not with trivialities like celebrities and sex and true crime, but instead with the barley famine in Kajagoogoostan and the political turmoil in Outer Jibip and the civil war in New Wherever. No entertainment on THEIR morning commute- no, sir, just serious discussion of important events. Entertainment is reserved for weekends, when you might hear one of those chuckle-inducing Garrison Keillor monologues or a slap-happy game show like "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me" where all the panelists are, well, you know, one of US. But the radio dial stops at 91.9.

I, on the other hand, must be a moron, because I don't care about those deep, chin-scratching, pipe-puffing political discussions. I don't care about the scandal threatening to topple the Social Christian Conservative Democratic Liberal Party in Ermabombeckistan, or the wrangling between the majority and minority on the House Grain Silo Exterior Red Paint Subcommittee. I admit it. I don't care.

Because it doesn't matter to me. It will never matter. It has nothing to do with me or my life. I will not be affected, will not benefit or be damaged by it, can live my entire life free from the need to know any of it. And I don't need to go to a cocktail party with like-minded friends conducting a serious discussion- nay, verbal fisticuffs!- over it. I need impress no one with my knowledge of the kind of things NPR discusses. (Also, they tend to be flat out wrong on a lot of things, because they come at things from one angle (guess which)) In short, neither I nor anyone else who isn't likely to be named an Ambassador or run for the Senate needs that information.

Howard Stern, on the other hand, is entertaining. THAT I need.

I admit to listening to your garden variety "shock jocks," your right-wing talk radio ranters, your in-depth radio arguments over the Chargers' chances in the AFC this year. I read the New York Post. I watch mindless sitcoms and pro sports. I sometimes even eat at McDonalds, get a drink at Starbucks, buy books at chain bookstores, buy my soap and underwear at Wal-Mart. I have no need to announce any of that, but if this reporter thinks it's important to announce your radio listening habits as a signal of intelligence, well, call me a moron- I may be one- but at least I spend the morning laughing while that guy's wasting time and brain cells on things he'll never need to know.

When it's time to look back on life, I think I'll prefer having laughed a lot to having been lectured to by some tweedy highbrow Journalist on a tweedy pseudo-highbrow radio network. Most people would. Let that guy and his friends laugh at the little people. I'm happy to be little. It's more fun.

As noted below, I wrote

As noted below, I wrote a column on the recall.

Another column on the recall.

Yet more on the recall.

Recall.

Believe me, maybe it's better that Blogger ate the column, never to allow it to see the light of day. (I wonder if it was posted to someone ELSE's blog. I hope so. I hope it posted to a totally unrelated, apolitical blog, maybe a Britney Spears Fan Club blog. Confusion is king.)

I'm in one of my moods again, suffering from news overload. The New York Times had an article this morning suggesting that as a reason that network news ratings are in the toilet, but I don't think that's quite right- it underestimates the impact of cable news networks and the simple fact that those network evening news programs are wholly unnecessary in an age when you can get news instantly on the Net, on cable, on your cell phone. But screw the network news shows, and screw the cable news shows, and screw newspapers and magazines and everything.

I don't want to hear it right now.

Recall, war, taxes, crime... I need a vacation. I do nothing BUT read and comment on the news. That's what I do for a living, and it's what I do here. But sometimes you need to come up for air, and I'm having a hard time finding the surface lately. (And as an independent contractor, I don't get vacation- gotta work for the money)

I want to spend some time with the mindless. I want Lucy reruns and Dontrelle Willis on the mound. I want Wally Cleaver twisting to the "Twist Station" on the transistor radio. I want a swing set in the yard, a basketball hoop in the driveway, "Caddyshack" and "Slap Shot" on DVD. I want a world of pure, simple pleasure, no worries, no bills, no news.

Ain't gonna happen. I know. But it's what I need.

Nooooooonnnan! Luuuuucy, I'm Home! Hey, Wally!

Aaaahhh.

I'm goin' to TV Land.

An entire commentary on the

An entire commentary on the recall just got eaten by Blogger.

Have I mentioned how much Blogger sucks?

Maybe I ought to give Moveable Type another chance. Last time, it refused to install properly, refusing to "see" the index page. No matter what I did, no dice. I gotta take some time and try and get it to work.

Anything's better than this.

And maybe I'll learn to type the things in another program first.

No entries this weekend- too

No entries this weekend- too annoyed, too busy. I'd explain, but I'll let you speculate and move on. Let it suffice to say... grrrrrrrrrr.

Almost midnight. It's almost midnight,

Almost midnight. It's almost midnight, and I realize I can't do what I used to do, which was stay out late- yes, for me 11:45 is late- without uncontrollable yawning. I was, as mentioned yesterday, over at Jimmy Kimmel's show (in the green room, not the audience- the green room there rules so much the L.A. Times ran a story about it being the in place for celebrities to hang), and after all that, my head is a little... light.

This is when I remember I'm not 21 anymore. There's a limit to my stamina, and this, unfortunately, is it. Which is a particularly convoluted way of saying look, I'm too tired, I'll talk to you tomorrow. And that's what I'm gonna do. 'Night.

Plug: watch "Late Night with

Plug: watch "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" early Friday morning (12:35 am ET/PT) and enjoy a set by the comic genius Greg Behrendt, then go to gregbehrendt.com and buy his new standup CD "Uncool," which a) is hysterically funny, and b) thanks me on the CD cover, my second such shout-out (the first: The Regular Guys' "American Beauties"). Meanwhile, if you watch Jimmy Kimmel that night instead, look carefully at the audience and you may see me. It's kind of like a "Where's Waldo" of the TV world.

Arnold's running. I don't really

Arnold's running.

I don't really know what to say about it, because he's really an unknown quantity- you're really voting for an image, not policy. You'll be hearing two trains of thought about this, the "this is an embarrassment to California" strain and the "just like Reagan" thread. Neither is apt. I don't think that, even if he's elected, having this guy as Governor is more embarrassing than, say, Gov. Jesse Ventura or Rep. Gopher or Congressman Cooter. And in each of those cases, there was nothing illegitimate about their tenures, however successful or disappointing. They're just guys. So is Arnold. He's also no Reagan, as far as we can tell. For one thing, it's not as easy to understand what he's saying. For another, Arnold's a real Hollywood star who's only dabbled in politics, Reagan a journeyman actor (and, after a strong start, a disappointment consigned to hosting TV western anthologies) who dove deeply into politics decades before he ran for Governor.

So this is really a case of first impression. What will really be interesting is if Gray Davis uses his deep pockets and considerable dirty-campaigning experience to try and attack/smear Schwarzenegger, which is almost a lock to happen. I don't know that you can damage Arnold Schwarzenegger with that kind of thing, but we're about to find out.

Politics as spectator sport. Pull up a chair, grab some popcorn and Twizzlers, and enjoy the fireworks.

Today's Newsday had a story

Today's Newsday had a story about a school bus driver arrested for DUI:

    A bus driver who was on his way to pick up children at a summer camp in Nissequogue was arrested Tuesday on a charge of drunken driving, Suffolk police said. Police spotted William Kennedy, 51, of 199B Newcastle Ct., Ridge, "weaving from lane to lane," as he headed west on the Long Island Expressway, Highway Patrol Captain Dennis Caine said.

Let me tell you about Kindly Old Mr. Bates.

Kindly Old Mr. Bates was the driver of the school bus I rode to day camp when I was very young. My sister and I would be shuttled from home to West Paterson and back on this bus, about a 20 minute ride each way.

It was 20 minutes of sheer terror.

Here's how Kindly Old Mr. Bates (he had to be pushing 70 at the time, which would make him just about dead by now) drove his route: at high speed, faster on extremely winding country lanes, He took corners at around 50 mph that you'd be afraid to go around at 25 in your car. He accelerated down hills until, I swear, sparks flew off the chassis. If a road was straight, he'd weave. And he created his own roads.

No, really. There was a new neighborhood up at the top of a hill. You had to drive way around the back of the hill from the main road, then drive up the only paved, graded road to the new homes. That's the route Kindly Old Mr. Bates took to get to those houses. That's not how he got back to the main road. Instead, he'd drive the bus straight past the barricades at the end of the road, drive right off the road, and take the bus down an incredibly steep hill. No road, just rocks. There wasn't even a dirt path worn into the hillside. He MADE his own path. At about 60 mph. Facing down.

With a busful of little kids, including us.

I really don't know why we didn't blow the whistle on Kindly Old Mr. Bates. We knew he was driving like a maniac. We knew he was probably well-lubricated. We should have said something. But we were kids. We didn't.

If I had kids today, I'd drive. Slowly.

The post that previously appeared

The post that previously appeared in this space has been deleted. The item was intended as opinion and did not intend to imply any criminal activity or other wrongdoing by the law firm of Glaser � Jenkins LLP and/or the plaintiffs in the Ladies� Night discrimination case, Alfred Rava and Steven Surrey; to the best of my knowledge, no criminal or actionable activity has been engaged in by any of the parties, and no such implication was intended or should be inferred from the item. Further information about the lawsuits and the plaintiffs� position in the case can be obtained through Erik Jenkins, Esq. at (858) 812-5614.

We went to the San

We went to the San Diego Wild Animal Park today- my sister's in town and she'd never gone there, and, I don't know, I guess we all felt that going to a place filled with wild animals on a 90 degree day would make some sense.

Do you know of any other place where the distinct odor of fecal matter is not just accepted but expected? I mean, besides a bathroom or a Detroit Tigers game? You step past the turnstile, that smell hits you, and instead of turning and running and gagging, you think, yep, I'm at the zoo, all right.

At least you're too far from the gorillas to have any flung at you.

Anyway, I decided to take a picture of my sister every time she emerged from the restroom. Needless to say, she was perturbed. And I realized that, well, here we are, adults now, decades removed from childhood, yet when we're together, we revert to our former selves, ranking on each other, pulling pranks, being goofy kids.

I missed that.

Sometimes, it's good to remind yourself of the part of you that you put away when the jobs and the mortgages and the marriages and the responsibilities took over. Hey, look, 13 year old Perry and 15 year old Joan are back, calling each other rude names by the flamingo pond and telling embarrassing stories involving bodily functions over lunch.

Welcome back, kids.

We went to the San

We went to the San Diego Wild Animal Park today- my sister's in town and she'd never gone there, and, I don't know, I guess we all felt that going to a place filled with wild animals on a 90 degree day would make some sense.

Do you know of any other place where the distinct odor of fecal matter is not just accepted but expected? I mean, besides a bathroom or a Detroit Tigers game? You step past the turnstile, that smell hits you, and instead of turning and running and gagging, you think, yep, I'm at the zoo, all right.

At least you're too far from the gorillas to have any flung at you.

Anyway, I decided to take a picture of my sister every time she emerged from the restroom. Needless to say, she was perturbed. And I realized that, well, here we are, adults now, decades removed from childhood, yet when we're together, we revert to our former selves, ranking on each other, pulling pranks, being goofy kids.

I missed that.

Sometimes, it's good to remind yourself of the part of you that you put away when the jobs and the mortgages and the marriages and the responsibilities took over. Hey, look, 13 year old Perry and 15 year old Joan are back, calling each other rude names by the flamingo pond and telling embarrassing stories involving bodily functions over lunch.

Welcome back, kids.

MAKER, Krups Coffee, died August

MAKER, Krups Coffee, died August 1, 2003 in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA after a brief illness at 13. Survived by Microwave Oven, Toaster, Blender, Can Opener. Services will be private with burial at the Wilmington Dump. The family requests that donations in lieu of flowers be sent to the Juan Valdez Memorial Fund.

So the coffee maker craps out, and Fran says we need a new one, because her last pot came out cold. I thought, hey, Starbucks and Coffee Bean are making tons of cash selling iced coffee, but this didn't amuse her. I also made the mistake of saying I thought that the machine hadn't lasted that long, but she noted that it was a wedding gift.

What do I know? I don't drink coffee.

Time for a new coffee maker. I like to think I know at least a little about everything, but coffee makers aren't in my area of expertise, so I did a little research and found that Krups and Braun are fairly highly regarded, which sounded fine to me. Fran said she's still a little hesitant to buy those brands, considering their history, but I pointed out that my mother, a Holocaust survivor, owned several German branded items made by companies whose hands were dirty in that regard. She even had a Volkswagen, Hitler's own version of the Dodge Neon. And, after all, we'd had the old Krups for 13 years without lightning strikes or any other sign from the heavens, so I didn't see the problem. Faced with that kind of logic, Fran agreed and we trundled off to Macy's to look at coffee makers.

Here's what I learned: a) all coffee makers appear to be pretty much the same to me, with the exception of b) timer function and c) price. They don't make too many of the good ol' squarish kind anymore, either- they all look like they've been shoved through the Michael Graves Target design processor, with carafes- not pots, you understand- shaped like teardrops and fitting snugly in the little custom gap where they become damn near impossible to remove when they're full of hot liquid and nearly as hard to get back in there. We looked at about a dozen nearly identical machines before we settled on... another Krups. We got one in the middle of the price range. With stuff like this, you almost have to just blindly assume that the more expensive a maker is, the better it is. That may not be true. For all I know, the company just stuffs the same coffee maker into different boxes. Looked like that to me.

I was relieved to find that the machine does not require a degree in electrical engineering to operate it. Everything's labeled in either plain English ("Off." "On.") or pseudo-international-symbol icons that became understandable with a brief look at the manual (ohhh, that's supposed to be a CLOCK. Now I get it). And after running a plain-water cycle a couple of times with only one hot-water-splashing-everywhere mishap, the coffee maker- the NEW coffee maker- was all set to go. But what about the old one? Old faithful, ready with a potful and a smile every morning for the last 13 years? Fran wrapped it up to be thrown away, and I felt a little sad, a familiar face abandoned at the first sign of trouble. And then I remembered those Ikea commercials with the lamp in the rain and the Teutonic guy: you're being silly, it's just a coffee maker. Coffee makers don't have feelings. The new one is much better.

Fran tells me it makes a good cup of coffee. I wouldn't know. I don't drink coffee.

!^^%$@@%$! I just typed a

!^^%$@@%$!

I just typed a long column about coffee and the Holocaust and stuff, and for some reason Internet #@%$#! Explorer flaked out and it's gone. Too $%^&&! late. I'll write it another time. Shorthand version: we got a coffee pot. My sister's visiting us tomorrow, first time here. I gotta go.

^%$#^%$*&!

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