Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I love art

And in this case, art is television, specifically Lost. Tonight I bought season 3 on DVD and watched the finale in preparation of tomorrow night's season premiere. FUCKING WOW!

That would be literally enough, yet also an incredible injustice if I left it merely at that.

Along with Battlestar Galactica and The Wire I can't think of another show that has so many well-developed, imperfect characters. Another show that demands so much of its audience yetLink rewards them so well. That has so many amazing actors who mesmerize on screen. And that refuses to underestimate its viewers thus providing them with complicated, at times even messy, exploration of philosophy, theology and truth. And is also funny and a great motherfucking ride.

Viva Lost!


Also, check this out ... L.A. Youth just celebrated its 20th anniversary and KTLA did a great little feature (though at 3:19 not little at all by broadcast standards) on our executive director, Donna Myrow, who founded the country's largest independent teen newspaper 20 years ago.

Friday, January 25, 2008

First new band recommendation of 2008

The Airborne Toxic Event.

I'm not sure how I feel about the name, which is kind of code for I am not a huge fan, but I love the song "Sometime Around Midnight." They would definitely qualify as "indie rock." I hear a little bit of a stripped down Arcade Fire, though the lead singer has a far less urgent-sounding voice than Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler.

They're almost finished with their month-long residency at Spaceland. I am going to try my damndest to be there Thursday. It's $8 so I don't have the money excuse for this one. I do have the school night excuse, but seeing as I've basically never used that in my life, I don't think that'll make its debut in my life.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What is this blog?

When I started blogging I wasn't exactly sure of my intent, but a large part of it was to have a place to catalog my life in Los Angeles. And I don't mean the day-to-day entries like "went shopping and boy was it cold in the freezer section" type observations. Blah would be the nice way to describe those blogs. But since I was sending out periodic mass e-mails of my funny, remarkable, moving experiences since moving here I figured why not post them to have some degree of posterity. Plus, blogging would give me a chance to keep up my writing chops at least a little and perhaps force me to record at least half of the things that I'd typically say to myself "I gotta tell everyone this" and then totally not share.

Here I am about two years after starting (all pre Oct 02 entries are backdated) and still nto exactly sure what I'm doing. The blog has been a combo of politics, sports, stories from my life (funny, sad, whatever), vent place, music and movie review site and various combinations there of. I'd like to type that I have a more focused point right now, but I don't. I hope though that each entry continues to have a point of some kind at least and that it doesn't degenerate into just a place to type out my mundane experiences.

Today's entry is just a collection of some amazing links and stories that make me really happy the Internet exists.

NPR's story about the human need for sleep. While listening to this in my car, I couldn't help but think of a colleague who is one of the lucky few who doesn't need more than six hours. I hate her a little. But seriously, this story makes me wonder about the place of achievement in humanity's collective life. The light bulb has been the biggest killer of sleep and probably overall life balance EVER.

A column by Poynter Institute writing coach/guru and all-around advocate for logic, thoughtfulness, freedom and art Roy Petere Clark discussing how political candidates have ruined the word "change."
In his piece, Clark quotes legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. The people cannot be safe without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe."

Another column by Clark, this one taking us all to task for eating on and feeding the vulture mentality toward the very pathetic and tragic (think ancient Greek meanings) of Britney Spears. Another way to think of it ... imagine that this was your daughter. How would you feel?

And yet a third column by Clark. This one is about coverage of cloning in the media. News broke yesterday that a lab in California had cloned a person for the purpose of creating a stem cell line. Clark asserts that we all need to be responsible, thoughtful, patient and open-minded. As an at-times crazy atheist liberal, I know that this is advice I need to heed as much as anyone.

When news about the FDA moving toward approving cloned meat as healthy to eat a great friend and I had an interesting exchange ...

On Jan 16, 2008 12:24 PM, Amy (who said that to her this was a gross idea, i responded that i didn't.) wrote:
Yeah, but I do think animals have souls. And since we don't have much idea of how cloning affects people and thier personalities/souls, we can't possibly know how it affects animals. Plus, I think animals are already treated so horrifically in factory farms, etc., that any perceived removal from 'real' status could lead to them being treated even worse. I'm totally ok with stem research, and with growing new body parts, but a whole sentient being is another thing completely. Manufactured life is creepy.

On 1/16/08, Mike wrote:
That's a good point about animal souls and animal commoditizing. But I also don't have nearly as huge a problem with human cloning. Not saying I think it should happen now or that we should clone tons more people for our over-populated world, but I don't find it to be this terrifying "Humans are playing God" concept, largely because I don't believe in God. So I don't have that spiritual crisis to overcome.

On Jan 16, 2008 1:00 PM, Amy wrote:
I do suspect there will be more athiests showing up to the clone meat buffet.
I need to work out my personal bioethics. In many ways I'm staunchly pro-life: I'm anti-death penalty, mostly vegetarian, I wouldn't get an abortion (now), and I can't kill bugs. I am pro-suicide and pro-right-to-die. I've put dying pets to sleep. I wouldn't want to be on life support, and I've often wondered how I'd handle a cancer diagnosis, or how I would feel if I need an organ transplant. I would definitely rather adopt a baby than be 'treated' for infertility. I don't think I could ever do IVF, but I give blood. It's a tangle.
I hope the cloning debate, if it becomes one, will challenge people to consider more carefully where their food comes from. Eating should be emotional - the whole purpose (i think, as more-or-less a secular christian) of sacrements is to remind people to be conscious about what they're doing, and to be present, and to ask questions, and to be grateful (or angry), and to connect with people and things outside of themselves, and to keep a constant sense of context and perspective. But, probably people won't give a fuck, especially if the clone meat is less expensive.

Me again:
What do you mean by "pro-suicide?"

I think everyone should examine their bioethics and ethics in general much more closely. We live too often in a world that forces people to think that they must always be pragmatic and make decisions case-by-case. Yes, that's important because adherence to idealism in the face of all else has led us to many horrible things (war in Iraq).

But at the same time, the pursuit of self-knowledge (which at its ultimate foundation is philosophy) is incredibly important. The older I get the more satisfied I am with my decision to major in philosophy. I fear that too many people don't even consider the notion of a personal system to make decisions. Sadly, too many academic philosophers won't allow for the irrationalism inherent in people, thus punishing a person for having internal contradictions within their systems.

Philosophy should instead be used to point out those contradictions and help a person resolve them—things like being pro-choice and anti-death penalty (me), or my mom who is anti-abortion (though OK in cases of rape or incest or life of the mother) and being pro-death penalty. My mom uses different parts of the Bible to justify each belief—Thou Shalt Not Kill and Eye for an Eye.

The difference between you and I on cloning seems to be rooted in your view of eating as a more sacred ritual and my view of it as physical sustenance necessary for the body to function. Not that you're ignorant of the science or that I'm ignoring the emotional connection, but if I'm understanding you right that's what I'm seeing. I see cloning as another amazing even stupendous advancement in science, much like nuclear energy—something that is an amazing end in itself but that also presents great opportunities for positive effects on humanity and horrible negative ones.

And regardless of my science-primary view, the examination of where things come from and the effects of method (i.e. what are the comprehensive effects of cloning on ethics, genetics, the environment, the economy, etc.) should be inherent in all ethical decision-making systems, religious, secular or what have you.

The greatest gift of the scientific method is that someone is supposed to be adaptable and willing to abandon that which they've held most certain in the face of new evidence. And that they'll always continue not only to be open to new evidence but to search for it.

OK, this rambled, sorry.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Musical temptation

Pretty much once I got to college R.E.M. became my favorite band. It started happening in early high school with the release of Out of Time; looking back, not the band's best work but Losing My Religion and Belong really hold up. (Side note, I saw Mike Mills at a restaurant the other night). It was Automatic for the People, which featured video after video in heavy rotation on MTV, especially Alternative Nation, that converted me.

"Nightswimming" (the sonic embodiement of cherished innocence and daring) is still in my top 2 favorite songs ever, along with Rilo Kiley's "Pictures of Success."

And for a few years after that they continued to be my IT band releasing great albums like Monster and New Adventures in Hi-Fi (largely overlooked in the catalog, but very strong). Then drummer Bill Berry decided to leave the band and the band's sound changed. Not that they were ever a hard-driving rock band, but with Up and Reveal a mellower R.E.M. emerged, I'm sure not coincidental with the members' aging. Despite the mellower vibe, they were decent albums, especially Reveal.

However, mellower but decent ended with Around the Sun, which kinda blows. It's BORING, perhaps the worst indictment against any art. Perhaps Michael Stipe was more focused on his political activism or other creative endeavours, but the formerly oblique lyrics gave way to unmoving platitudes. (If it weren't so late I'd look some up, perhaps I'll revise this entry).

Had the band of my incredibly impressionable college fire burned out? It couldn't be. I've seen them three times: 1995, 1999, 2003, and each time was significantly better. The 2003 show, which was in support of the band's greatest hits album, is one of my Top 10 shows ever probably. They clearly still had it in them when they were presenting great music.

So for the last few years, I've held out hope that something big was coming. One last hurrah. Dave has held that they had one great album left. As someone about my age and from a similar background, he also was a big fan who fell into a recent disillusionment. He's also Mr. Rolling Stones so he knows of aging bands chasing the dollar and going through the motions. Wow, I'm employing lots of cliches in my late-nightinshness.

Anyway, the good news is that all fall the band holed up in Ireland to work on Accelerate, which is due April 1. The buzz has been hot. They've plugged back in (some at least) and played a bunch of working rehearsals that got great reviews in Rolling Stone and in forums. This is promising too ...

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Work kicked more than my ass today/yesterday. I might have even grown tumors just so that I had extra body parts to get kicked. As I was driving home on a beyond empty stomach the only thing I was craving was halfway decent Scotch (that unnecessary capitalization is for the Wude). At my budget halfway decent was going to be my ceiling.

Despite having lived in Los Angeles for more than five years (longer than I've lived anywhere as an adult) I am extremely unfamiliar with liquor stores, save for some extremely sketchy operations that seem to have as many shadows and exterior loiterers as consumable spirits.

So on this drive home, which began after 10 p.m. because of a key-losing detour, I was merely on the lookout for neon lights. General rule of thumb, lit neon in a strip mall after 10 p.m. is a liquor store. The first lit neon that really catches my eye on Olympic Boulevard turns out to be a psychic. And for the first time in my life I am tempted. I really can't explain why ... but I'll concede that some recent turns (people having babies and venturing into more relationshipizing/domesticizing) has got me wondering about the future (probably with a capital F, which would be a whole other Wude-related tangent) were probably an influence.

Yet in the end, I chose Scotch (for me) over any psychics. After all, I'd rather spend $40+ on emotional mood alterers that will extend weeks or perhaps even months into the future without condition than a psychic who could leave me legitimately pissed off feeling ripped off the next day.

The other thing I chose tonight was about $22 worth of iTunes late-night indulgences. Stars concerts in November changed my life, I figured that the least I owed them was buying two live albums online. I don't think there's a band out there that tears into the raw heart of emotions like them. And they are also one of the few acts that has male and female lead singers that synergize off each other. I HEART Canada.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

It feels too early

But it's not really. Not when it comes to the Presidential election stuff. It (meaning New Hampshire and also Iowa) is too small and counts for too much. But so far after these two states have caucused/primaried it's Obama and Clinton in a horserace for the Dems and McCain, Romney and Huckabee for the Republicans.

I am feeling held hostage to the tyranny of the minority. There are more voters in Los Angeles County than those two states combined at least in gross numbers. And yet, by the time my fellow Californians it's possible that it won't even be a race anymore. And the California vote is just a few weeks away.

At the same time, I am in the middle of Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, former Baghdad bureau chief of the Washington Post and the reporter who probably spent more time on the ground in Iraq than anyone. As I read about how badly the Bush administration FUCKED things up by sending doznes of inexperienced "loyal Republicans" to build a new country out of the ashes of an invaders' war, I can't help but shudder to think that none of the Democrats have articulated the thinnest of plans to do anything in Iraq other than leave.

Yeah, I don't want to be there and every time I hear of a solider dying I am beyond thankful that the friends and associates of mine who have served in the military aren't there. But we FUCKED that country bringing civil war to its streets while devastating the infrastructure. And it seems like our desire for a fast departure has a hint of moral cowardice. As we are unwilling to truly help rebuild that which we destroyed.

Granted, it's not like I'm over there putting myself on the line and it's not like some of the Iraqis haven't acted corruptly. And meanwhile, our country is suffering with homelessness, teetering on recession, spiraling higher education costs, falling education standards in the public schools and myriad other problems that need money to fix. And I'm firing shots from the Ivory Tower across our government's bow because they're not acting in a way I have difficulty justifying even in the hypothetical.

I guess mostly this serves to reinforce my anger at President George W. Bush and the neoconfuckheads like Dick Cheney, Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld. They seemed to apply a far too simple Right/Might is right calculus to postwar Iraq and for generations we're gonna be left holding the bill.

When I finish Chandrasekaran's book, I'll write more about it and hopefully someone in the world will read this and buy it and do something far braver than me.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Can you overdose on vitamin C?

I sure as hell hope not, because I have been consuming copious amounts of citrus-supplied vitamin C to help my immune system ward off infection number 2 in the last 7 weeks. This sucks it. I get sick usually at most twice a year and usually just once. And here I am sick twice since Thanksgiving. Luckily in each case I haven't felt sick, merely full of phlegm in either my chest (first time) or head (this time).

But the illness + Tiger Woods 08 Wii golf + reading more (as per my New Year's goal) + working late deadlines = less blogging so far. Also there's been a dearth of good sports news and concerts and new album releases. Given my dedication to reading 20 books this year (non Harry Potter) I plan to blog much more literarily in 2008.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Ice Bowl Blog

1 p.m. EST Hockey outdoors live from Orchard Park, NY on NBC!!

I am excited and nervous that the Buffalo Sabres have been selected as hosts for the NHL's Winter Classic outdoor game. If you live in/grew up in what you feel is an underrated gem of a city/region and worship at the church of heartbroken sports fandom, then this is an opportunity to share the city's charms and passion.

Right now the snow is pouring down and it's expected to get heavier. The wind is gentle right now, but the meteorologist NBC's broadcast is employing says that it's gonna get stronger and the temps are supposed to drop into wind chills of the low 20s. Bob Costas said that's what you expecte in Buffalo in January. That's the first shot at Buffalo weather, but at least he said with a type of appreciation for what it adds to the environment.

I'm guessing that we're going to get at least 20 American Gladiators commercials, so far just one. But we just started the second commercial break.

1:16 EST I am hoping that at least 100,000 casual sports fans tune in and fall in love with hockey today. Perhaps the cheapening of the college football bowl season by the viral proliferation of the bowl games, will push casual sports fans to NBC's telecast (HD, if they're lucky). It does look great in HD. And I love seeing the Sabres classic blue and golds. If the Sabres win, I can't see not getting one of these Ice Bowl classic throwbacks.

So far Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby (the marketing focus and phenom) and winger Colby Armstrong and Sabres goalie Ryan Miller have been interviewed on TV. I am surprised that Miller talked, given that goalies are weird and often stay in mental cocoons on gamedays. But Ryan gets that this is a chance to be hockey ambassador.

One thing I'm not going to blog about ... how many times Crosby's name is mentioned or times he's shown on television. That might lead to carpal tunnel and/or a busted laptop.

1:20 p.m. Ronan Tynan, Irish tenor and HUGE Sabres fan, is about to sing God Bless America. I love this guy, even though he's a Yankee fan. Btw, I love "O, Canada." Kick me out Dick Cheney, but the Canadians have a better national anthem.

1:24 The game is about to start.

1:25 Colby Armstrong scores for the Penguins 21 seconds in. At least Crosby got the point for my fantasy team. As Ed Olczyk noted, the puck seems to be moving much slower on the ice because of the snow. It's not real hockey, which the purists have bitched about. But honestly, I don't care. Spectacle is a good thing sometimes.

1:32 OK, it's a real game. Now I just want the Sabres to start playing better and scoring and winning. They are 0-2-1 in their last three. And now they're killing a penalty.

1:36 Ryan Miller starred in an Amp energy drink commercial doing a Yo Momma slam battle with another goalie, sorta 8 Mile style. It wasn't bad. I hope Ryan's goaltending matches his performance in that commercial and the Sabres should be fine. Some shots on net would be nice, too.

1:43 They're taking a break to Zamboni the ice surface. Excellent idea. The ice is snow-covered. It's not really professional hockey right now. It really is more like pond hockey. I really like overusing the word really. During the last sequence Max Afinogenov, one of the fastest players in the league, looked like a regular skater circling around the net.

1:48 Each team seems to be settling in much more comfortably to the conditions. The players are skating up and down more smoothly and the teams are running plays. The Sabres recently took a long shot just after crossing the blue line. Good play. With the snow on the ice there's liable to be a weird bounce on a long shot.

1:49 Sabres killing their third penalty of the first period. Whatthefuck? It was a good call, but why are the Sabres being so undisciplined?

1:53 Ice doctors are still working on filling in a divet. It's slowing down the action, obviously, and the telecast. I hope any casual fans don't get bored with the slowdown. This is NOT hockey, but I still feel like it's worth it. This break is into it's fifth or sixth minute. We're now getting to listen to Mike Emrick talk about a week-and-a-half-old football game. We're back!

1:56 Great save by Miller on the deflected flutter shot. Four on four. I hope it's as exciting in the snow as it is on the smooth ice.

1:59 Sabres blow their first power play with missed shots from the point and broken sticks. Post has save two for the Sabres. The Sabres just missed a goal. I can't type fast enough.

2:08 The first period is over. I loved it. I wouldn't want to watch this every game; it's too slow, it's extra sloppy, it's not hockey, per se. But for a once-a-year celebratory event this is great. It's a too-often-minor-league-acting sport showing that it knows how to create spectacle. I am soooooo not close on the American Gladiators commercial prediction. I am sad. I am looking foward to this new show.

2:29 Sabres scored. They look great to start the second. Fast fast fast. Tim Connolly is sick creative. Some great hitting in this game. Btw, good to see the Sabres score. They'd scored only one goal in the last two games. They needed to get one to stop pressing.

2:40 Sabres are owning this period. Brian Campbell just delivered a crushing hit. Sign him now, Tom Golisano!

2:45 Another Penguins member getting interviewed, this time the coach. Why not Lindy Ruff, who is funny and smart? Well, maybe our coach would rather focus on the game than the television? I couldn't argue with that. The Penguins coach just said "puck" but it sounded a lot like "fuck."

2:52 So close. The Sabres continue to own this period. Thomas Vanek drove hard to the high slot and good things happened. He needs to live there. Max Afinogenov is still the fastest player on the ice.

2:54 Interference! Not called. Sabres still almost scored. Vanek's line is playing strong and fast. One weird thing about listening to Mike Emrick call the game is that he correctly pronounces Jaroslav Spacek's last name (SPA-check). Sabres announcer Rick Jeannerett pronounces it SPA-chuk.

2:59 I wanted the doughnut. The Sabres went almost the entire second period without giving up a shot. And they never gave up a good one. NBC analyst Darren Pang smartly pointed out that the Sabres cycling system of offense will struggle with the slow ice. The passes are slowed or held up by the snow dusting on the ice surface.

3:20 Third period starts. Each goals has been scored within the first 90 seconds of the start of a period, when the ice has been cleanest and fastest. Need to watch while typing. Quick scoring opportunity for the Penguins. Good glove save by Ryan Miller. Nice to see that he didn't get rusty during the no-work second period.

3:37 Not blogging much. Too into the game now. The Sabres need the two points. Good to see a strong game with lots of scoring opportunities and two finesse teams playing so physically.

3:53 I think NBC is doing a good job so far. Mike Emrick, Darren Pang and Ed Olczyk are bringing an energy, intelligence and enthusiasm to the telecast. I hope that everyone gets to watch this in HD, btw. The colors are brilliant. I worry that the last ice doctoring will kill both teams energy. Doesn't seem to have, though.

3:56 Action picking up. Jochen Hecht just did an amazing reach behind/spin around to clear the zone. I guess this "journeyman" German is worth having been re-signed. The flakes are HUGE on television, which means that the skating is slow. More ice doctoring. SNORE. I give credit to teh NHL and NBC for making sure that the broadcast team knows a lot about how the ice has been created at Ralph Wilson Stadium. They have insights to share during these breaks about why things are happening and they explain it. It's not so much to to ask broadcasters to know about stuff is it?

4:17 Overtime is about to start with the Sabres getting a 4-3 man-advantage for two minutes. I feel good. The Sabres closed the third period looking great with lots of scoring opps. There should be more space and more room to work with the slower ice.

4:20 Some great shots and saves on the power play. Early whistle just robbed us of a scoring chance. Vanek at least is off the ice; he needlessly extended his shift on the power play. Go Campbell whose with Pommer at the point. The Sabres are getting shots through, but no rebounds.

4:22 18 seconds left until the teams change sides during the first overtime (teams are changing at the halfway mark of OT so each team has the wind advantage/disadvantage). Pang and Olczyk point out that the Sabres should have pinched in closer on the PP and taken higher shots. I can't disagree with that.

4:23 The snow is soooo thick on the ice that you can see the puck trace a path in the ice as the players skate with it. About three or four rock back in my seat and scream "oooh" moments in the last minute of game time. Ty Conklin has looked very good in net for the Pens.

4:27 SHOOTOUT in heavy snow. This could end quickly or go on for hours. My friend Robbie says that Miller is the league's best breakaway goalie; I agree that he's great in these situations, but the Sabres lost their last shootout two games ago against the New Jersey Devils.

I am hoping for Vanek, Connolly and Afinogenov. Doesn't look like they bothered to clean the ice. It's Kotalik along with Connolly and Afinogenov.

• Kotalik scores on a raised wrister glove side. Miller standing up against Christiansen. Stoned on a forehand deke move. Miller at the angle.

• Connolly sweeps in and shoots it right into Conklin's chest with a forehand. Letang a D man comes in and beats Miller high on a backhand. Miller bought and flopped and left the upper 2/3 of the net open.

• Afinogenov stoned. Crosby ... scores and wins, Miller was unsuccessful in going for the poke check. Everything was great about this event, but the score. The fucking shitty part is that the Sabres are 0-2-2 in their last four.