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Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Bits and Pieces
If it's "For Lease," then why is there no vacancy?
If there's "No Vacancy," then why is it for lease?
And if -- oh never mind...
After driving south across 420 miles of cold, hard, wintry asphalt -- leaving a quiet and bucolic-if-chilly rural semi-paradise to return to the Big Ugly City -- I hurtled down the chute of Highland Boulevard to find traffic packed up like an old junkie on a six week heroin bender. The horrendous tie-up seemed to stem from the sight of a military-style helicopter repeatedly talking off and landing on the roof of the Hollywood Radisson Hotel (attached like a Siamese Twin to the Kodak Theater -- home of the annual exercise in bloated, onanistic narcissism known as the Oscars), while a smaller chopper hovered nearby, apparently filming the spectacle.
Doubtless a movie or TV shoot. Hey, it’s Hollywood.
After three weeks of forty-something degree weather marked by rain and drizzle held at bay by the awesome power of burning firewood, it feels very odd indeed to once again be sweltering in the urban desert of Southern California. Here, the parched air and hot sun have turned winter into a memory. But if the weather is one thing (sweating in January?), getting re-acclimated to the fierce intensity of LA traffic is another beast altogether. Once behind the wheel, these people are clinically insane. Twenty miles-an-hour over the posted speed limit while yakking on a cell phone is standard operating procedure on the freeways, streets, and alleys of Los Angeles. Supposedly there’s a law against using a hand-held phone while driving in California, but I see no evidence of this in LA, where everyone from newly-licensed tweeners to gray-haired grannies can’t seem to drive around the block without dialing up a friend or relative in another city/state/nation.
My back-woods solution? Boost the penalty for the first offense to $500, then keep doubling the fine with each subsequent violation. If they don't pay, jerk their license and impound the car. That’ll learn ‘em – and meanwhile, the money from all those fines will help fill the yawning abyss of our once-Golden State’s budget deficit, while those who don't/can't/won't pay will have to do their cell-phone talking on the bus.
There’s nothing like three weeks in the quiet green countryside to turn a mild-mannered juicer into a proto-fascist ready to kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out...
Later that night I flicked on the Toob -- and there on our local PBS outlet was the surreal sight of James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti (backed by a full orchestra) standing together on a stage bathed in blue light singing “It’s a Man’s World.” A duet for the ages? Not exactly. As always, James Brown sounded great, but Pavarotti looked old, confused, and utterly out of his element – which he was. The brain trust responsible for this big-dollar fiasco was probably the same gang of philistines who had Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras – the original Three Tenors – close their memorable first concert belting out slop like “Oh Solo Mio.”
At least this more recent televised travesty didn’t ask the Godfather of Soul to sing Nessun Dorma. For that, we can be grateful.
There’s just no pleasing me in this bright new year, which means it must be time to get back to work. Wrangling heavy cable and hot lights will burn off all this holiday-induced rage at my fellow errant and demented humanoids -- but first the phone must ring. As of yet, it sits on my kitchen table as mute and full of mystery as a tiny black Sphinx. So while we all wait for our phones to ring, here’s a few links and/or samples from three writers I like a lot.
You too have doubtless already heard/read entirely too much about the sudden – if not unexpected -- lineup changes at NBC, but even if you’re beyond the saturation point on this subject, you owe it to yourself to read just one more. Kurt Sutter, the wonderfully outspoken showrunner of “Sons of Anarchy,” wrote a brilliant post on the Leno/Conan/NBC debacle, a situation that stewed and festered until the network finally puked it out all over the nice clean shirt of Jeff Zucker. I can’t think of a more deserving fellow, who – having created the mess in the first place through his own massive incompetence – promptly turned around and ordered someone else to clean it up. Klass act, Jeff.
Sutter’s post is definitely worth reading.
Who the hell is Chuck Klosterman?
I’d never heard of Chuck Klosterman before last weekend. It turns out he’s been writing with style and verve about sports, life, society, and other relevant subjects for a while now. How I missed him, I don’t know, but coming late to the party won’t stop me from saluting a guy who can write lines like: “The Super Bowl represents different things to different people. To some, it is akin to a secular holiday -- a drunken, three-hour Christmas for those who hate Jesus.”
That’s it – I’m hooked. A few Klosterman gems I stumbled across:
Everybody Knows This is Somewhere
Dying a Super Death
Taking Aim at the Final Four
Sports, politics, and the hateful nature of change
(Sample: “Frank Deford and Jim Rome both lean hard left on almost all social issues, but they openly loathe the proliferation of soccer. And that position is important: For all practical purposes, soccer is the sports equivalent of abortion; in America, hating (or embracing) soccer is the core litmus test for where you exist on the jocko-political continuum.”
I don't know about you, but I love a writer who can come up with a phrase like “the jocko-political continuum” in a context where it makes perfect sense.
Here’s a snippet from Mick LaSalle, senior film reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, pulled from his Sunday ”Ask Mick Q&A column.
"Dear Mick: Why do we heap awards of every kind upon movie stars for doing their job well, for which they receive absurd gobs of money and immense fame and attendant perks? Why not give a gold trophy to a plumber for unclogging your drain?
Gerald Nachman, San Francisco
Dear Jerry: It's supply and demand. Having a good plumber or a good accountant is essential, but we can usually find one if we look. But people who can do what, say, Marion Cotillard or George Clooney can do are rare. Remember "Broadcast News," and the rivalry between Albert Brooks, the news writer, and William Hurt, the newscaster? We might appreciate the Brooks character's sensitivity and intellect over the Hurt character's blankness, but the truth is, guys who can write good news copy are a lot more common than guys who can keep their cool while live on camera, and if you have to have both, you're going to have to pay the on-camera talent about 10 times more.
For a similar reason, the absolute worst-paying jobs are usually the most difficult, because anybody can do them, even if nobody wants to. So that's the economic argument. The emotional argument is that actors touch us in ways plumbers don't. An unclogged drain is a necessity, but we want more than necessities. We want "magic," as Blanche DuBois said - and we're grateful to the people who give it to us."
I can’t argue with that. May we all experience a little magic, and soon...