Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Tuesday Top Five Returns with a new spin
Yeah, that's right. I had another one of those furloughs from the blog. Another week or so where I just go on walkabout and don't pay any attention to my regular posting diet. I could apologize from now until doomsday, but would that get you your regular blog entries?
No, sir, it wouldn't.
Which is why I'm back with a new kind of Tuesday Top Five . . . Top Five Excuses I've Got. Silly, you say? Obnoxious, maybe? Well, sure. But how many times have you endured some blogger or newspaper columnist just going on and on about how hard it is to write a column? Or about whether Kobe Bryant will patch things up with the Lakers ownership? Or whether Lindsay's last rehab tour was a waste of money?
So here we go. Five halfway decent excuses for why I haven't been writing:
5. Strange Questions Being Asked At My Office. So, as most of you know, I've recently moved my daytime operations (aka, the Job) from Casa del Wieland in Los Feliz to an office space in Korea Town. It's been great so far. I like being able to get out of the house, and I even missed the commute - which I know sounds crazy for one living out here in the City of Angels - but seriously, a 15-minute drive down Vermont Avenue works perfectly. In the morning, it's just the right amount of ESPN radio. In the evening, it's decompression from a long day.
But offices yield strange conversations from time to time. Like today, when one of my co-workers, having read a review of Warren Ellis' novel in the LA Times, started the following one with me --
Co-Worker: Hey, English major. You studied English, right.
Me: Yeah. Sort of.
Co-Worker: What's polyamorous mean?
Apparently the word had been used to describe one of Ellis' characters. Now look, I know what it means. I even have a number of synonyms bouncing around inside my skull. Things like slutty and promiscuous, and stuff like that. But I'm in an office now (at the YMCA, for God's sake - where we're building strong kids and families every day!), so I have to watch my tongue.
Only how do you describe "slutty" in an office without offending someone? Or getting written up in some way? It's unnerving. More to the point, when you say this --
"It means - ahem - one who has a lot of partners."
And the other person says this --
"You mean like a lot of dancing partners?"
What do you do? What DO YOU DO?
Yeah, I know, it's a rotten excuse. So let's try this one . . .
4) Going to Hawaii at the end of the week. That's right. Our Woman in LA and I are taking off for the land of Magnum P.I. on Friday after a Thursday night stop-over in San Francisco. And we're not even packed.
See that picture at the top of the post? That's where we're going. But we haven't bought the travel-sized toiletries yet. Busy, busy, busy!
Could you blog at a time like this? What's that? I am blogging at a time like this. Sigh.
3) I'm extremely nervous about the potential expansion of the Big Ten. As regular readers know, Our Man in LA - like virtually everyone else who grew up in states bordering the Great Lakes - went to college at a school in the Big Ten. I've followed the conference practically since birth, even though I had the audacity to attend a school other than the ones favored by either my father's side of the family or my mother's side.
It turns out that next year, the Big Ten - which has always been one of the most, if not the most, popular college sports conferences - will launch its own cable network. In the beginning, they'll mostly broadcast sports like soccer, hockey, and swimming. Then the occasional football or basketball games featuring lesser teams will start to appear (think Northwestern v. Minnesota in . . . well, really almost anything).
Finally, the big stuff will end up there. Ohio State-Michigan in football. Indiana-Illinois in basketball. You get the picture.
To pull it off, the Big Ten is looking to expand, adding another university to the fold. This makes me a little sad, of course, because they already have 11 members despite being "ten." Adding a 12th member, well . . . the mind reels.
Of course, it's not the first time the conference has talked of doing this. Usually the discussion is focused on Notre Dame or Missouri or someplace like that. Something that sort of fits. Yokels from Ohio will throw out things like the University of Cincinnati or the University of Louisville, even though they don't really fit. Yokels from Pennsylvania will talk about why the University of Pittsburgh should join, and if you disagree, they'll say --
"Dan Marino went there! I'll fight ya!"
But none of these fine institutions are in the Big Ten's sights these days. Nope. They're looking East - to the likes of Syracuse (home of the Orangemen) and Rutgers (home of the Scarlet Knights, and neighbors to my brother- and sister-in-law). Sure these schools are pretty far East, but that'll be good for Penn State, the Big Ten argues.
By the way, above #3, that's the Syracuse Orange. His name's Otto. Seriously.
Oh yeah, and either one of them would help deliver the New York market to the Big Ten Network. Which, you know, is a consolation for stretching the Conference from its usual hunting grounds in the Midwest.
New York's no Des Moines, I grant you, but . . . forget it. It's not even that funny a joke.
So how could I . . . OK, next excuse.
2) I'm only 200 pages into the latest Harry Potter, and I want to finish before Thursday.
There's actually no joke here. Steph had the book last week in New York, and I got started last night. Don't tell me any spoilers. I won't believe you. I went to two spoiler sites before the book came out, and they told me diametrically opposed things.
So seriously, as soon as I finish this post, or at least my work day, it's back to reading.
So there's really only one excuse left. And it's this:
1. I turned 35 last week, and I'm still recovering.
Others have written about this, and I'm afraid I can't do it justice. Plus, there are pictures if you follow this link here.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Special Guest Writer! Put on your Ranting Shoes for this one!
At this point, it's a surprise to exactly . . . ahem . . . nobody that Our Man in LA can't always keep up with the grind of the daily blog posts. From time to time, I have to depend on the kindness of friends and relatives with a desire to put their voices out into the Internet ether.
Hence, today's lecturer, Rob Schumann. By the way, that's a photo of Rob (circa 1998) above, courtesy of Moecain.com.
Why did I choose Rob for this mammoth duty? Well, for one, he brings a distinct voice. For two, he's ranting about politics, and any time I can have someone else who shares my liberal views spout off, I'm all in.
For three, he's one of my only friends that doesn't have a blog to call his own.
So here's Rob (now in Italic form!):
Did you see Sicko?
On a hunch, I checked out Conservapedia's "definition" of Universal Health Care and thought I'd attach it for you. It's rather humorous.
(Editor's note: here's what Conservapedia says about Universal Health Care -- in bold.)
On Friday, June 29th, 2007, the new Michael Moore movie, 'Sicko', was released in the United States.
The movie is full of lies and propaganda regarding the supposed benefits of a system and uses extreme cases in both the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France in order to generate highly specific, false comparisons in order to persuade the viewer.
There are many Bible references which refute any advocation of Universal Health Care:
Thou shalt not steal (Exodus 20:15)
Cursed is the man who moves his neighbor’s boundary stone (Deuteronomy 27:17)
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat (II Thessalonians 3:10)
What Mr. Moore fails to realize, and what perhaps the people of every industrialized nation in the world except for the Great and Glorious nation of America fail to realize, is that it is unmistakably stated in the Bible that a person's property rights must be respected by others, lest they endure the fiery pits of hell. What he advocates here, not only the forced subjugation of our will by the government in order to take from the righteous and give to the weak and lazy sinner, but that already agreed upon contracts between individuals and corporations be broken just so that these individuals can receive "necessary care" that they "cannot afford" because they do not have the "means."
Those who are truly righteous in the eyes of the Lord labor hard, hard indeed, for their gains, and those who are genuinely deserving of miracles will have worked hard enough to be able to afford them. It is an insult to ask these same people to sacrifice themselves in order to appease those who commit one of the seven deadliest sins: sloth.
These people, these communists and fascists, who claim to be for the good of mankind, in clear opposition to everything right in holy in this world, simply have one quality: selfishness. They would rather see their expenses paid for by someone else rather than themselves. So those who have worked hard enough to be fortunate in the eyes of God shall facilitate the sins of others. Indeed, this is true lies at their absolute worst.
If one reads Luke 4:1-13, they would know that Jesus refused control of the political kingdoms of earth because it is a sin to have other gods above god. Also Jesus knew that true virtue is in the voluntary compassion of people to one another. Why should corporations sacrifice their profits while they are already doing so much to help the people of the world: providing them jobs which sustain them, and allow them to pay for what health care they can afford, day care, and mortgages. Also, as we know from his original campaign Our Leader encourages "compassionate conservatism", so the government is already promoting what is right. Those who advocate Mr. Moore's policies should consider being charitable themselves, rather than expecting the fortunate to do it for them.
Free universal health care is against everything God stands for, and thus must be prevented. Man is not meant to depend on the generosity of other man, thus leading him into temptation and sinking into depths of depravity. Due to this, the glorious free market capitalist stance that our country currently takes on this matter is Right and Just.
(Editor's note: Normally, Our Man in LA would say something like, "Mmmm, smells like fascism to me" or "How ironic is it that the only people who really believe in government-mandated survival of the fittest are the very people who don't want Darwinism taught in public schools?" But this is Rob's rant. Onward - in Italics!)
I don't know enough about the whole situation to make a firm judgment, and that's why I want to go with Heather just because she works in the medical field and has a better grasp of things. Now I know that Michael Moore takes extreme examples (duh!) but the basic points are still there: why shouldn't every citizen of the US get health coverage? It shouldn't compromise the level of care you're going to get, and you should still be able to get 2nd opinions, etc.... The specialized doctors will still be able to make their big bucks.
I love when people try to assume that Universal Heath Care means we're trying to give free care to illegal immigrants. Ughhhh. As much of a liberal as I am, I'm not someone out there saying that illegal immigrants should get SS benefits or be privy to free health care. We should try to make them legal citizens so that they can pay taxes and be...well...citizens. They didn't break the law any more than every other person who drives more than 55 on the highway, or anyone who ever drank alcohol before they were 21 years old.
Do you ever listen to Laura Ingraham? Total Conservative Nutjob on the radio... Comes on and reads a story about a carload of people that got into a chase and got into an accident killing 3 people. Horrible story...Turns out the driver and passengers were illegal immigrants, and she has the CAHONEYS to say "this is what happens when we just let them in...they don't pay attention to our rules, don't have insurance, and this is what happens." It was all I could do to not scream! Like LEGAL citizens don't drive like assholes every 5 minutes and cause accidents, killing people.
But back to health care (I really need to rant I guess...I need a blog...ha!), how is it possible that people's basic argument is "we shouldn't just be charitable and provide health care for those who cannot afford it." Who the F actually feels that way? I mean...did you see one of the BIBLE verses they attached trying to defend against universal health care: "Thou Shalt Not Steal." WTF?!?! How? Wha-?? HUH?!?!
Ughhhhh....I could go on, but I think I'm done blowing off steam for the moment.
Our Man in LA here. Really, there's much, much more. Once you get a good Shoes started, you just can't stop him. So we may have him back tomorrow. Tune in here.
And yes, I'll try to find a more embarrassing photo for the second rant.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Nothing like a fake city to get the party started . . .
I haven't written much about comics lately. It seems like politics have taken over this space for a lot of the last several months. But I was compelled to write after I saw this site.
It'll take you to another blog dedicated to discussion and ridicule of the various fictional cities and towns of the DC Comics universe, debating what happened to them, what super heroes live there now (since they've been more or less abandoned), and so on. There's also a lot of space dedicated to the sexual identity of obscure Golden Age super-hero Black Condor (who was, in his secret ID, a United States Senator).
Feel free to respond to that as you will.
As for the fake cities, I love this kind of discussion. You see, a great deal of debate exists online and elsewhere about the geographic locations of the made-up cities where the super-heroes dwell. While I never weigh in (because I guess that would cross some kind of line), I enjoy reading comics geeks raging about where their fave heroes live.
For example, we've all heard of Metropolis, right? It's where Superman lives, and it's usually considered to be modeled on New York. According to DC Comics, Clark Kent grew up in Smallville (which is supposedly in Kansas), and then he moved to Metropolis . . . which is in Delaware.
Rage, rage, rage against the dying of the four-color light!
Likewise, we know that Batman lives in Gotham City, which is also based on New York (though the new movies shoot their locations in Chicago, and hell, Metropolis and Gotham couldn't possibly be in the same place, right?!!?!). Anyway, DC Comics says Gotham's in Jersey, not far from Atlantic City.
There are tons of other fictional cities - which gives the geek population more time to rage. There's Central City, where the Flash used to live, which might be in Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, or Kansas. Reports vary. There's Keystone City, where he lives now, which might be in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kansas, or . . . well, it doesn't matter.
Then there's Coast City, which is sort of LA and Santa Barbara mashed together, but that doesn't stop the geeks online from occasionally arguing that it must - MUST - be on the gulf coast of Florida, Bama, or Texas. Or Star City, home of Green Arrow, which has been placed alternately by DC Comics as a stand-in for Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, three cities that have . . . not a whole lot in common.
This site also refers to a few lesser-known "fictionopolises", like:
1) New Venice - ostensibly a Florida city where Aquaman used to hang out, and where all the roads are canals;
2) Midway City - Hawkman's old home, which . . . well, frankly has nothing particularly interesting to say about it. I've seen it depicted as being somewhere in the upper Midwest - Michigan, Illinois, or Wisconsin.
3) Civic City - where the Justice Society hung out during World War II, which might be in Pennsylvania, but really, nobody knows.
4) Federal City - which sounds like Washington, DC, but isn't . . . but I don't know why.
5) Middletown - where the Martian Manhunter lived. This might be in Colorado. And really, that makes sense! Who wouldn't put a semi-nude green super hero with a cape in the middle of Colorado?
There are more, but I don't need to fan these flames any more than they've already gone. And sorry, I can't answer questions about why no super-heroes live in your hometown. Yes, I know that there are no heroes to speak of in the Southeast or Southwest, and that the Midwest's hero population is thinning.
Or is it? Where should these cities be??
Dude, if we can start this debate on my blog, I'll be forever grateful.
Transit for the masses whether they use it or not
I took the L.A. Subway for the first time last week. Sure, I had heretofore held steady with the belief that the Metro line, despite having stops in my neighborhood, really only existed so that action heroes like Jack Bauer and the Keanu Reeves character in SPEED could fight bad guys there. But over the years, friends have taken it without incident, and Our Man in LA felt like he should give it a spin.
The decision, FYI, coincides with my decision to work at home less and move into the YMCA of the USA's Los Angeles offices, which are in Koreatown at New Hampshire and Wilshire.
K-Town's one of those LA neighborhoods that the tourists don't know much about, but it's a super-cool enclave, complete with some of LA's coolest architecture, decent bars and restaurants, and a cool nightlife. When Our Woman in LA drives home at night from the West Side, she swears by the couple of miles down the Wilshire corridor in K-Town. At night, the billboards light up, the mega-tron TVs alight on the sides of skyscrapers. People are out on the streets. You don't feel like you're in the United States anymore. It's a cool drive that reminds you that you're in a big city.
New Hampshire and Wilshire also happens to be three subway stops from our neighborhood, so there's another reason for the mass transit.
So what's the verdict? How did the LA Metro stack up?
Pretty well, actually. There are pros and cons, but I'd do it again. Consider some pros:
1) It really is fast. Sure, I was only on for three stops, but it literally took me under ten minutes to go from Vermont and Wilshire to Vermont and Sunset.
2) It's pretty cheap. $1.25 for a ticket's a good deal.
3) Public art. The two Vermont stations I spent the most time in were loaded with public art. Sculptures and murals by local artists. Moreover, the stations themselves are clean, architecturally sound, and user-friendly.
4) Trains really come every five minutes during peak times. And the cars are crowded and clean. Some of my friends have compared it favorably to the train system in Toronto. Never been to that one, but it held its own with New York, Boston, and Chicago.
There are cons, of course. LA's subway is the 9th most-used in the country (thought the light rail is third most-used, according to the fine folks at Wikipedia). As for the cons:
1) I'm not sure how they monitor ticket sales. This isn't a huge problem for me, but I bought a ticket that nobody took, and then I got on. No turnstiles, card checker machines, or porters on the train, as far as I can tell. Which makes it something of an honor system train. Not sure if that works.
2) Here's the big one: Even though it works perfect for Our Man in LA right now, the train doesn't go everywhere that it needs to. For the LA Metro system (which includes both subway and light rail) to really serve the city, it's got to go to at least half a dozen places it doesn't serve right now. Like where? How about Santa Monica, Westwood, Century City, Culver City, Venice, and - the biggest one of all - LAX. That's right. It doesn't go to the airport. Or really anywhere on the West Side. There is a line that goes from downtown to Redondo Beach, south of the airport - and you can take a bus from there. But that sort of eliminates the point.
Right now, the train's great if you live and work in downtown LA, K-Town, MacArthur Park, Hollywood, Los Feliz, the Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach or points in between. West of Western and you're pretty well out of luck.
I figure the city'll get there eventually. There are existing rail lines from before the days of the freeways, and they could be converted for light rail. Someday - hopefully sooner than later - there'll be rail lines that will take you to all the airports (LAX, Ontario, Long Beach, Burbank, etc), as well as Dodger games and the ocean. Till then I'll take it to and from work.
You know, on days when I don't sleep too late and have to drive.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
It just might be a Top Five . . . but who's counting
Between being a bad blogger and very busy in every other segment of my life, I realize that I haven't done a real TUESDAY TOP FIVE in months and months. But truth be told, I'm not sure I have five things to trumpet this week. But it's Tuesday, and I'm feeling guilty, so . . .
Well, we'll just call this STUFF I'M VIBING ON (unless there actually are five, in which case, we'll return to the original title). So here we go . . .
FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS - Have to say I was more than a little worried about what to watch on TV this summer, and it's been kind of a dismal year for comedy on the small screen (THE OFFICE notwithstanding). Until I saw this.
Oh my freaking God! So funny! The story of Jemaine and Brett, ex-pats from New Zealand trying to make it as a band in New York. It's shot like a rock video from the 80s, and each episode makes me laugh out loud.
Give them a listen. Try "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room"; "Inner City Pressure"; or "She's so Hot! BOOM!"
If you're truly bold, there's a lot more on Youtube.
Just outstanding. Anyway, moving on . . .
BASEBALL - Even though it's always been pretty far down my list of sports hierarchy (below college and pro football and college and pro basketball), I've been really getting into America's pasttime this season.
Probably it's that both the Angels and Dodgers are doing great. I tend to be pretty fairweather about the game, so it helps to have two teams within an hour of me that win more than they lose. Plus, the Angels employ the rally monkey, and you know that can only lead to good.
Our Woman in LA already has promised that we'll hit at least a game or two more this season, which may mean that even she's getting behind the baseball jones. I would say more, but I don't want to wreck it.
CITY OF TINY LIGHTS by Patrick Neate. Great hard-boiled murder mystery in the tradition of Hammett, Chandler and MacDonald. Only it takes place in modern London. And the private eye hails from India by way of Uganda, and he fought the Soviets as part of the mujahadeen in Afghanistan. The caper moves along fast, incorporating murdered members of Parliament, terrorist wannabes, surgically-enhanced prostitutes, and a Herculean number of references to the game of Cricket.
Good stuff. Worth the read.
FIREFLY - The canceled Joss Whedon show. I'll admit, it took me the first disc to get into it, but when the show takes flight, it really rocks.
I know what you've heard. It's a western in space, with the characters occasionally speaking Chinese. It sounds weird. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it's Joss Freakin' Whedon, for one. And his brand of humor and action really shines through once you get going.
Also, for the comics fans out there, it's definitely Joss' wind-up to start writing the X-Men for Marvel. All the cast regulars correspond pretty easily to stalwart characters from Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Unlike the movies, the Wolverine type - a tough guy called Jayne - isn't the focus. Instead it's on the Cyclops of the bunch - Captain Mal Reynolds (played by Nathan Fillon, late of BUFFY).
For what it's worth, Fillon's great. And he should have played Cyclops in the X-Men films. Personality-wise, he would have seemed a good foil for Hugh Jackman's scenery-chewing Wolverine.
I'm just saying.
So what is that? Four? Then the title sticks: "STUFF I'M VIBING ON."
Monday, July 02, 2007
My rating won't hurt my box office!
Good news, folks!
There's a site out there called:
Basically, it's a ratings system for blogs. And at the encouragement of one of my friends, I submitted Our Man in LA for review.
I'm a PG. That's right. Some material not suitable for children. Keep that in mind the next time you're dying to have Junior read one of my rants. I'm not dangerous, but I just might be inappropriate. I'm just saying.
For the record, I'm not even sure what movies are PG anymore. But I do know that there's virtually no audience members who'll get turned away from Our Man in LA, and isn't that really what we all need and want?
So what kept me from the family-friendly G rating, you might be wondering?
Basically, I have - in the past several months - used the word "gun" 5 times (usually to suggest that we have more control over these weapons); the word "steal" 2 times (not sure why); and the word "suck" 2 times.
Dude! Doesn't it suck when someone steals your gun? Steal, steal, steal. Gun, gun, gun. Suck, suck, sucking suck.
Wonder if I'm PG-13 now.
Hanging with a certain Dane . . . and I don't mean Cook
Maybe it's just that I've lived almost three years in the city responsible for most of the pop culture in the 21st century, but I always scoff at the people who decry the kind of art you see on movie or TV screens, the folks who rage against rock music or rap or whatever.
Basically, anyone who believes that modern culture is no match for the classics, well, let's agree to disagree. If Shakespeare was alive today, he'd be writing in Hollywood . . . probably with his own show on HBO. Mozart or Beethoven? Dude, we'd all be crowding into stadiums to see their concert. People would wear T-shirts advertising the tour dates of whatever the 21st century version of the 5th symphony would be.
If you want to ask me about opera . . . well, I have no answer for you. The less time spent thinking about opera, the better.
None of which is to say that I reject the classics, either. There's some good stuff in there. Which is one of the reasons that Our Woman in LA and I ventured out last night to the Hollywood Forever Cemetary to see a production of Hamlet.
(The other reason was that this production featured Eric Hunicutt, the guy who introduced my bride and me, as Gildenstern).
Fun show all around. There's something to be said for a ghost story told in one of the world's best known cemetaries - final resting place of Douglas Fairbanks, Jayne Mansfield, Tyrone Power, virtually all of old Hollywood . . . and, of course, of Joey Ramone.
The locale brought a certain eerie quality to the show. It was cold and damp last night (by cold, of course, I mean the upper 60s). There was an open grave. When Ophelia drowns herself toward the end, the actress actually threw herself into a reflecting pool just 100 yards from the Fairbanks tomb (which served as the tomb of Hamlet's father for the production).
Always fun to go see a friend in a show, but this one made for a particularly good time. I'd been itching to get out to the cemetary (they show movies there in the summer and around Halloween), and this was a great first visit. The wife and I are headed back in a few months when the same group puts up MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.
But seriously, now, in Hamlet, you've got an obsessive young man seeking revenge for his father's death, plus ghosts, sword fights, a couple of femme fatales, and comic relief characters who bite it on the way to England. You're telling me this isn't multiplex material?