Saturday, March 31, 2007

Podcast Picks of the Week - In Our Time and Great Speeches in History

In Our Time
Run Time: 42:00

Hosted by Melvyn Bragg, In Our Time is a roundtable discussion centered around a weekly topic. This week was anaesthetics - their history, their use, their possible futures (at the very end of the podcast). The opening quote from Charles Darwin describing the horror of surgery before anaesthetics is worth a listen alone.

The podcast can be found on iTunes and here:

Great Speeches in History
What To the Slave is the Fourth of July (by Frederick Douglass)
Run Time: 11:44

A truly eye opening and humbling podcast bringing to light the struggles and mindset of the African-American community during the Civil War.

The podcast can be found on iTunes and here:

More selected podcasts can be found at The Podcast Pundit

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"What's your problem?"

...Is a webcast with Jonah Goldberg of the National Review and Peter Beinart of The New Republic - talking politics and - sit down - they are actually talking! Talking like two men having a conversation. Holy freakin' amazing!

I've been reading Golberg since the late 90s when he was writing columns online on the Clinton impeachment. He used to write about conservatism and politics and pepper his thoughts with Simpsons references and the like.

I don't know too much about Beinart, but whenever I saw him on TV I thought, "now there's a reasonable guy." He's liberal but hawkish on foreign policy, or at least that's how I perceived his politics.

Anyway, as you can see, I'm excited about this. Here's the first episode, get in on the ground floor, or while it lasts.

Debut episode

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bring Your Heaters to Hollywood.

Saturday night a friend and her friend flaked out on me and my friend, my friend being the friend I invited because my friend (the girl) had a best friend (an alleged girl) visiting town. Such is the way out here. One assumes people are more reliable elsewhere but then again the grass is always greener.

So I end up going to a chic bar for a friend-of-a-friend's birthday. I have a confession to make - I am not good at dressing myself. Not the function of putting clothes on, but of choosing what to wear.

Hollywood usually has four or five "in" styles going, yet it seems the patrons of any one establishment decide on a particular style, like as if an email blast went out the day before, saying something like, "tomorrow night no trucker hats folks, we're going with the Mao hat and retro sport coat."

Whenever I choose slick producer wanna-be (Ken Cole shirt, clean-shaven, with Diesels), everybody else has gone dirty white trash ($50 T-shirt, scruff, and jeans with holes). I go scruff, they go classy, and I feel like the scumbag who didn't shave.

I created a rule within the first few months of living out here: When going out to Hollywood always bring a pack of cigarettes (even though I don't smoke.)

A. Because it seemed like girls were always asking me for a cigarette and/or light.
B. Requires further explanation.

For me, going out in Hollywood requires a long drive. The long drives demands a prohibition of alcohol. It is just too long of a drive to have more than a drink or two. Therefore, unlike the neighborhood bar, in Hollywood one finds themselves in long stints with nothing to do.

For one can only do so much at a bar. There are a finite number of moves. One can try talking to friends/group, and nod politely, even though no one can hear a word over the music. There's attempts at talking to strangers with the same result, only without the politeness. One can also go to the bathroom, go to the bar (two trip limit), check their cell phone, make a call, or have a smoke.

The last two are key since it gets you out of the bar, although making a call is soo Hollywood you really have to be beyond self-absorbed to pull it off without looking self-absorbed.

So Saturday night I ignored The Rule and paid for it. For why make rules if you don't follow them?

After returning from the bathroom, I found I used my two drink passes and my friend was nodding to acquaintances politely while I had nothing to do except walk outside, up the street, into a cockroach-infested liquor shop to buy a pack of heaters. By the time I got back to the bar my buddy was outside and the night was over. At least it was something to do.

Let's finally do some otoh botoh.

Hat tip to @U2

Otoh: Ad Age, "Costly Red Campaign Reaps Meager $18 Million"

Botoh: Independent, "The Big Question: Does the RED campaign help big Western brands more than Africa?"

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"I could murder a Guinness"

Wait for it...

Hat tip:@U2 blog

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Brawndo and Paris Hilton

Outside this blog the question has been posed, "How can multi-billion dollar multi-national corporations make such obvious mistakes yet stay in business?

Here's my thoughts.

Corporations are like the aristocracy of the business world. They sit at the top of the heap and everybody knows it, and in most cases nobody knows why. Take the Hiltons for instance, we all know the name, and we all at some point know somebody named Hilton opened up a few hotels, bought a few more, and next thing you know they're godjillionaires.

Same for our contemporary corporations. We all know what Michael Dell did with personal computers, but a generation from now the name Dell will be just as disconnected from its founder as the name Hilton. Keep in mind PR, advertising, and marketing departments enable this process by creating a brand - dehumanizing the name and creating an experience. You hear De Beers and you think about shadow people proposing in Rome, not some dude in Africa paying bills by selling rocks.

So along with name recognition comes of course huge influxes of capital - not just cash, but all kinds of capital, intellectual, name/brand-recognition, which is a sort of emotional capital.

In life, money does not buy you happiness, true enough. In business, capital does not buy you success. But in both cases, an influx of each can get you out of jail free a few times.

Take a normal guy in his twenties, a few years out of school, working hard on a career. And maybe he's a few grand in debt from getting his teeth drilled one too many times. Say this guy gets pulled over on a Saturday night after having one too many. He is f*cked. There's no way around it. A. He might lose his car and have to find a way to work on time - impossible to pull-off without anyone knowing what happened. Or B. he might pay a $1000 fine. That's it. He's out of commission for a few years. (Clearly, I'm not saying people shouldn't get pulled over for drinking, I'm just saying how it is.)

Now Paris Hilton gets a D.U.I. No problem. In fact, the ratings to her reality show go up. She probably sells a few more albums. No car? Take the town car. $1,000 fine? Do you take Amex?

And this is how it goes. Corporations make decisions that have everybody spinning their heads, yet they truck on. Smaller businesses, like the lower classes, have little room for error, and that is not fair. And that is life. But, I think, it's good to know.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Note to The Girl Who Never Calls Back.

Full disclaimer: When it comes to returning phone calls, I am not reliable - as my friends, under light interrogation, would confess.

I often say "I'll call ya" in much the same way we say "See ya later" knowing full well that we will not see that person anytime soon. It's a polite way to say goodbye.

I cannot remember, though, ever telling someone, a stranger no less, that "I'll call you back in an hour" and then never call. Why so specific? Why not just let me off easy?

I have and continue to meet The Girl Who Never Calls back (after specifically telling me she will most definitely call back) many times now, and I'm beginning to think this a form of karma punishment.

Come to think of it, I would trade this type of girl for either The Girl Who Didn't Show, or the Girl Who Doesn't Email. For at least with the former she's trying to prove a point - she found a more exciting night, and the latter, well nobody cares about email.

But to not call back means there was something mediocre catching her attention, like a repeat of the "Real World" or something.

In fact, it's times like these that I dearly miss The Girl Who Gives Fake Numbers.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Neon Bible.

Arcade Fire has a new album out, their second, called Neon Bible. I was ecstatic to hear this as I wore the old one out. Usually I'm on top of this stuff, or someone around reminds me.

That said, I hear of the new album, click over to New Music Express to read the review. Reading the review is not necessary since I have decided to buy the album. But if the review is glowing then I get to feel cool and fashionable for a few extra hours. If the review is scolding then I get to feel righteous and indignant, for what do they know about my tastes? Those elitists who can never be content, etc...

In fact the review could have been written in a different language and I would still have purchased the album. And in fact it was, kinda.

A lot written in pop mags these days, to borrow from Orwell, is "saying a lot without saying anything at all."

Here's a snippet from the review, about the song titled, Antichrist Television Blues:

"...while the fantastic blue-collar factory rattle of "(Antichrist Television Blues)" is a vibrant exposé of 9/11 paranoia from the point of view of a terrified stage parent that also, crucially, manages to rock like Bruce Springsteen doing the dirty boogaloo with a teenage Courteney Cox. In hell, obviously."

Obviously this writer is talented. I'm awestruck by the juxtaposition of images. But what do we know about the song? This is akin to the Director who tries for amazing shots. The audience walks out of theater saying, "Those upside down shots of the mirror from the dog's point-of-view were amazing." Great, but did you like the story?

(If you're involved in the story you do not notice the shot, you live the shot with the Hero of the story. As you go in for the kiss on a first date you do not notice the color of lipstick she's wearing - for to notice takes you out of the moment.)

The critic, an expert in the field, is hired to express his opinion.

The problem here is everyone can have an opinion on music, and therefore the critic must distinguish himself from the masses by creating surreal imagery. "Sure you can write about a song, but you cannot write like this." I suppose the Editor compounds the problem, for the critic that says, "Take my word, this is a keeper" doesn't seem to fly for the gatekeepers of what's cool and fashionable. To them, the words have to be as glossy as the advertisements.

Yet, one man's take is exactly what I'm looking for.

Maybe, however, it's just really hard to write about music, since if the feelings and emotions and themes of the song could be crystallized in words, it would cease to be music - and would therefore be fiction.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


So recently my RAZR V3 cellphone decided not to charge. Specifically, it decided not to recognize the charger, and therefore died. I bought a cell about five years after everyone else. I don't talk on it much. But the idea of "missing that one call," whether it be from work or a drunk ex-girlfriend was enough to initiate a run to the nearest Verizon wireless.

The Santa Monica store was open until 9 PM. I arrived at 8:30 PM, and was surprised to learn that the "restaurant rule" applies. The restaurant rule warns of arriving at a restaurant a half-hour before closing. An hour is usually enough... usually.

Here's the scene: Two cellphone technicians, young girls, one probably going to school part-time, the other probably enjoying the idea of attending school part-time at sometime in the not-so near future. Two customers - me, and a twenty-something local girl wearing all black and looking disheveled. I would have to label her as a transplant, as native Angelanos, especially on the Westside, do not overtly signal their frustration.

(I believe this resonates from the surf culture, where the cardinal sin is not to show anger and thereby bring down the vibe of the rest of the group. The Westsider, when expecting conflict, will instead play it cool as long as possible until provoked by a personal attack, so they can claim a righteous justification for their anger. Just a thought.)

I hand the clerk my phone and she says she could replace it and my battery for fifty bucks. I say fine. "What a great customer you are," she says, "I wish all customers were like you!" This is for saying OK to the fact that I'm going to have to pay for a phone that's past warranty, I then understood why they're so anxious to leave.

As for the girl next to me, her phone is also out of warranty and she also has to pay - boom! Throws a fit, you could tell she was prepared, "this is the 4th phone blah blah blah." Next thing you know, here's come the manager, who was promoted to his position because of his rare but critical talent - the ability to speak softly.

Now at this point I notice the irate girl has a huge bag disguised as a purse, and this bag is stuffed with crap. Beware the big bag. I swear, it denotes bad news. The person with the big bag obviously cannot plan for the day. So to make up for this deficiency, decides to pack life supplies for every possible situation, and is therefore unprepared for routine situations.

This reminds me of a supervisor I had once who carried two big bags plus a purse to work everyday. One of them was filled with binders filled with paperwork presumably for the project at-hand. But the project did not require binders of paperwork, it was a website. Websites require code. The abundance of the former and the absence of the latter gives you an idea of how the project went.

I add that my supervisor was also afraid of computers. Apparently they chose to crash randomly and consistently in her presence.

A computer crash resulted in a loss of email which was her excuse for a lack of productivity. She believed that if she crashed another computer management would fire her. I dunno if this was true, but she believed it. So as a fail safe, she printed every email she received and archived them in binders.

Consider the moment when someone in the office says, "Didn't you get my email?" We all know it. Sometimes we did, sometimes we didn't. Upon hearing this, my supervisor would dive into her binders "Yes, yes, I have it here... somewhere," and would produce the email on paper 10 minutes after it was no longer relevant.

She later sued the company for sexual harassment and settled for a boatload of cash. Apparently she kept a written record of all her superiors' nasty remarks, which, as is now apparent, must have been the other bag.

So, beware the big bags - not the original point of this post but we'll run with it.


My old Hermosa Beach roommate, since married and relocated back East to be nearer his beloved Red Sox and in-laws, sent me an email saying he can't believe Lenny Dykstra is writing for the The I half-expected to click over and see some tech-hippy* blab about "how to save."**

But no, it's really number # 4 Lenny Dykstra, who is writing a stock column for

I was way into Nails. In August of '90 he was chasing .400, and the local paper printed a "Dykstra Watch" on the cover of the sports page. I'd clip them out and post them above my bed.

My older brother saw me doing this and was intrigued - not in the sense of, "My kid brother is crazy," but more like "if he's doing it, then his friends are probably doing it, and we could make money from it." So, barely teenagers, we brainstormed, and decided to tweak the classic 50s chant, "I like Ike!" to "I like Dykes!"

Brilliant, we thought. It'd fit on buttons, bumperstickers, hats - and, most importantly, would appeal kids and grown-ups alike.

We approached the folks for funding and were promptly vetoed on the grounds that we would understand in a few years.


* Hereby defined as one who works in a stuffy-collar industry, but since he works for the "Internet" division of the company in said industry, he attempts to portray the boring data in a cool way - which only makes it more boring to read. I'll post a good example some time.

** There's only one way to save - as much as you can, all the time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A most obvious observation.

Women are incessantly on their cell phones. A most obvious observation for sure, but last night, in a mere matter of an hour, I witnessed 3 women talking on their cell phones. So what? I know, hang with me here.

I walk into a Mexican restaurant at 10 PM for dinner. It's a Tuesday night. A cute girl walks in and orders take out. We're the only ones in the place, save the cashier - a grandmotherly woman presumably named Rosa (the restaurant is called Rosa's), and two servers. The girl sits two tables from me and begins gabbing away.

This is where you say, "Yeah, so?" And I respond, "10 o'clock on a Tuesday at a divey (but yummy) Mexican joint in Hermosa, I wanna meet this girl." (Odds are she's single. If she were with a boyfriend they'd be eating out together. And no single girl eats out by herself in much the same ways guys do. You never see one sitting at the breakfast bar of a diner, a. because they don't want to be seen alone, b. it's not really safe to be alone at seedy joints with gloriously fatty food, and c. they don't want to be seen alone eating gloriously fatty food.)

Anyway, I at least wanted to catch her eye... maybe chat her up, get her number, make plans for the weekend... er I at least wanted the opportunity to do all of the above but wuss out at the last minute and regret it later. But the cell was a slap in the face. It was an electronic bodyguard which both shielded her from the world around her, and made it impotent to act.

Later, as if part of a film montage, driving home I'm stopped at a light to see a woman walking - on the phone. Car pulls up next to me, literally like a fast pan to the left, blond - on the phone.

I think women are increasingly living in two worlds - The Life, i.e. where they work and live and enjoy various planned activities; and The Phone. And everything else in between doesn't exist.