Monday, January 30, 2006

R.I.P., Nam June Paik

Fluxus man and video art pioneer Nam June Paik has died at the age of 74. I'm no expert on the subject, but any time I go to an art museum and see a video installation that seems cool instead of stupid, there's a good chance that it's one of Paik's.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Brangelina Mania!

So, I was just at Ralphs, and while waiting in the checkout line, I noticed no fewer than six, count 'em, six magazines with some combination of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Jennifer Aniston featured prominently on the cover. That was People, Us, Life & Style, OK!, InTouch, and Star. I didn't see any copies of the National Enquirer, but I can only guess. (Or, actually, I can check out their website. Yep.)

P.S. Those magazines are weekly, so the links for the current issue will only be good for a few days. But next week's covers will probably feature them, too.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

My least-favorite ballclub owner

Fidel Castro has an interesting take on defections.

"They have taken away a lot of the best pitchers, offering them millions of dollars," he added, referring to Cuban players who left for big-paying jobs in the major leagues.

Gosh, somehow all the other countries whose players get paid big bucks in the major leagues are still proud to wear their countries' names on their uniforms. Maybe if Castro says he's really, really sorry for treating his players like prisoners, then Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez might play for his team. Not likely.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Kanye West Poses as Jesus


I like Instapundit's suggestion that if West had balls, he'd pose as Muhammad.

Friday, January 20, 2006

One-Upping Che

Remember that Ali G episode where Bruno gets the fashionistas to talk about how stylish Osama bin Laden is? Now there's a Danish clothing company that's funnelling 5 euros to terrorist groups for each T-shirt it sells. At least these folks can call the dopes who walk around in Che Guevara T-shirts a bunch of poseurs.

Cuba's In

The U.S. Treasury Department has reversed its earlier decision and decided to let Cuba play in the World Baseball Classic. Yayyy! This is gonna be great.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cup o' Gold

You never know what you'll find at the 99 Cent Only Store. A couple years ago I actually found some shoe polish that dated back to 1973. Sometimes, you find something really good. A couple of days ago I found a Cup o' Gold in the checkout line for the low price of 3/99 cents. Cup o' Gold is a delicious chocolate candy cup that, according to the manufacturer's website, is an old California classic recently brought back onto the market. It's a big milk chocolate cup with a marshmallowey filling. The chocolate itself is big and thick, not the thin shell that covers a Reese's. The clever bit with it, though, is that the chocolate has bits of toasted coconut and almond in it. This makes it crunchier and gives it a richer flavor, which is a nice contrast to the gooey filling.

Now, I don't know if the fact that it was at the 99 Cent Only Store means that it's been discontinued or if that just means they've got a distribution deal there. But there it is. Try it out.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Let Cuba Play

The provisional rosters for the World Baseball Classic have been announced, and boy is this thing going to be awesome. The Dominican starting lineup is, man for man, possibly the most formidable murderer's row ever assembled. I think Team U.S.A. has more depth and generally better pitching, but of course, anything can happen in a short series (remember the U.S.'s ignominious knockout from the 2004 Olympics at the hands of Mexico?)

But at this point, we still don't know if Cuba will be allowed to play, and if they can't, what will happen with the tournament.

Jim Caple has a concise article outlining the idiocy of this U.S. Treasury Department policy. Of course, the biggest opportunity if Cuba plays is that we'll get to see the look on Castro's face when Cuba get its ass handed to it in an international competition where they have to compete against real players instead of chumps.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Frozen Durian Fruit Bar

So, have you heard of the durian? This is a big spiky fruit from Southeast Asia that some people love, but also has a reputation as being the most foul-tasting and foul-smelling fruit in existence. Up until tonight, I had never tried or even smelled one. My fiancee was at the 99 Ranch market, though, and decided to pick up some durian popsicles for me to try.

So, at first lick, it just tasted like ice. It was a popsicle, after all. But it was made with real durian, lots of it. This was a real frozen fruit bar. So I licked a little more, and it felt a bit custardy, and had something of a banana flavor. It wasn't bad. But then, it was still mostly frozen. Then, as I held it in my hand, suddenly I caught a whiff of something terrible. It was like onions, only it was coming from the fruit bar I was eating. Mind you, I think I have a pretty bad sense of smell. So I took a closer sniff. Yes, it was definitely the durian. I braved a tiny bite. Oh my. It was awful. How could a fruit taste like that? Even bad fruits at least have a taste recognizable as fruit. Not this one. It was like rotten bananas and burnt onions. I like bananas. I like onions. But not like this. It was so wrong. I had to wrap it up in a plastic bag before putting it in the trash.

So, I now have three durian fruit bars left. Would anybody in L.A. like any free durian fruit bars?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Against Valet Parking

I can't stand valet parking. Here's why.

1. I don't want those guys driving my car. It's my car. I know how to park it. They're invading my personal space. Furthermore, I've seen how they drive, and I've seen the cramped spaces they squeeze the cars into. If that's not a recipe for damaging my car, I don't know what is.

2. I can understand the need in certain situations, like a nightclub in a crowded area, but sometimes you see these jerks turn a perfectly adequate parking lot into a complicated cash cow.

3. What if I want to get something out of my trunk, take a look at some paperwork, brush my hair, etc. before getting out of my car? Sorry, I'd be holding up everybody else waiting in line.

4. Having to wait in line for valet parking. A more efficient use of the labor would be to have parking attendant direct us to open parking spaces, like they do at Disneyland.

5. And finally, these jerks are class traitors who reinforce social stratification based on wealth. They'll put the Ferrari or the Escalade right up in front waiting for you, but pity the schmoe with the 15-year-old Corolla that they have to retrieve from half a mile away. And incidentally, if I was the Ferrari owner, why should I pay these guys for driving my car up to me that's 20 feet away? And how would I know they hadn't taken it for a joyride without becoming a paranoid odometer-watcher?

KINGS AND QUEEN (Arnaud Desplechin, 2004)

I started up a Netflix account. Last night, via said service, I watched a DVD of Arnaud Desplechin's KINGS AND QUEEN. This is a long French movie about a woman who seems to have it all together but turns out to be a wreck and her ex-husband, who seems to be a wreck but turns out to be OK. That much you can get from the first ten minutes or so and the following 140 minutes is just the thing playing out, separated for no particular reason into three or four chapters with title cards.

This has been getting major love from some critics I respect, but I found it to be rather sub-revelatory and tedious, and full of scenes meticulously sprinkled with "quirkiness" that play out as just stupid. (E.g. the "accident" with the gun, the convenience-store robbery, Ismael getting committed, the fact that he's a classical musician who also listens to rap, etc.) Actually, a lot of the scenes that aren't particularly quirky are pretty stupid, too. And I'm sorry, but cross-cutting between two stories and a few jump cuts doesn't turn you into the second coming of Truffaut.

It also bugs me that everyone in the movie is an artist of some sort; she's a curator at a museum, her ex is a violist, and her father is a writer. Not that there's anything wrong with that per se, but it struck me as just being there as a modern version of the whole Aristotelian idea that we won't care about the characters unless they're noblemen. In certain French movies, it seems, the characters are writers or musicians or sculptors or whatever not because the movie has anything to say about writing or music or art, but just because it's shorthand for the character being "creative" or "passionate" or simply "somebody you should spend two and a half hours with in a theatre, rather than all those other poor schlubs."

Catherine Deneuve 6
Maurice Garrel 2 (UN COUER EN HIVER)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Pitfalls for Progressives

Normally I find the LA Weekly to be a self-absorbed snoozefest (especially when compared with its spunkier little brother the OC Weekly), but their "Zeitlist" issue of "Politics, Culture, and Ephemera" this past Thursday was full of entertaining things like the top ten things we learned about primates this year. I also thought their list of 5 Pitfalls for Progressives to Avoid in 2006 was pretty sound advice. Here's my condensed roundup of that list:
1. Angry is not an answer. "Democrats lose... because they don’t yet offer a clear and proactive enough alternative."
2. Bush bashing. "After five years, the point is made. Everyone convincible is convinced."
3. Knee-jerking to the Left. "An effective Democratic Party in 2006 and 2008 has to be ... [n]ot more leftist nor more centrist, but more populist. "
4. Leaving the anti-war movement leaderless. "Politics is all about the art of building coalitions — not about enforcing purity." Plus, ditch A.N.S.W.E.R.
5. Hillary Clinton.
I had a chat yesterday with a classmate of mine who works for the Democratic Party. We both agreed that if the Democrats want to win, they're going to need a candidate who's likable and can appeal to people beyond the "blue state" core. Also, they need a governor, not a Senator. So go after Bill Richardson in New Mexico, Mark Warner in Virginia, or Brian Schweitzer in Montana. Everybody else looks like a loser in a national election.

To elaborate on point #4 up there, I'm not even sure I'd call myself "anti-war." I was never opposed to the basic idea of a war to oust Saddam Hussein but I had and still have a lot of major issues with many of the decisions Bush had made and policies he's taken with the war. As for the outcome, I guess I'm more optimistic than those on the left and more pessimistic than those on the right.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Postal Mystery

On Saturday the L.A. Times had an interesting article about the Seventh Day Adventist influence in the City of Loma Linda. Buried in the article is this little gem:
Loma Linda is one of a handful of places across the country where mail is delivered Sunday, and not Saturday, in keeping with the Adventists' Sabbath and by arrangement with the Postal Service.

How can you leave me hanging like that? Where are the rest of these "handful" of places? Are they Adventist? Jewish? Is there some other reason? I searched the web last night for an answer, but all was fruitless. Can someone help me out here?

I did come across an interesting history/propaganda article article explaining how the post office used to be open on Sundays, and opining that a lack of Sunday mail service violates the separation of church and state. Man, some people will complain about anything.

More on the canonization of Tookie

I wouldn't point out this asinine comparison between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stanley "Tookie" Williams (found via Andrew Sullivan) except that the author, Renford Reese, is a professor at Cal Poly Pomona, the university where I'm getting my Master's degree (in a different subject, thankfully).

I like how he brings up the old "He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize" argument. Somehow I doubt the author gives George W. Bush the same deference, as he, too, is a Peace Prize nominee. Surely I don't need to point out that when MLK spent time in jail, it wasn't for gunning murdering four innocent people in robberies. And that when King worked for peace, civil rights, and nonviolence, that put him in danger, while Tookie spoke out against gangs (but never, of course, snitching on his fellow Crips) only when he had nothing to lose.

Come on, folks. You can't fight against the death penalty by claiming people on Death Row are saints. It just isn't true. And really, that's not an argument against capital punishment at all, just an argument for better enforcement of existing laws. The real argument is that we have to be better than the murderers. We don't need to kill people to maintain a safe, orderly, just society.

The price of stamps just went up

For some reason I didn't see very much publicity about the rate increase this time, but as of Sunday, January 8, first-class postage is 39 cents, plus 24 cents for each additional ounce. The post office says they'll have plenty of two-cent stamps available.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Rhino Westwood is closing, too

Last week I reported that Aron's Records on Highland is closing. Now the L.A. Times is reporting that the Rhino Records store in Westwood has abruptly closed, too. They'll be having a blow-out parking-lot sale on January 21/22. The store in Claremont (they seem to be run independently of each other; I have no idea what their relationship is) is still open.

Wanna buy a roller coaster?

Six Flags Astroworld in Houston closed back in October. Six Flags held on to some of the rides and equipment, presumably to move to their other parks, but they're auctioning off a lot this weekend. Included in the auction are three roller coasters (Greezed Lightnin' is pictured above, in a photo by Joe Schwartz of and a "Looping Starship" ride, which is like one of those swinging pirate ships, except that it swings all the way around (and doesn't look like a pirate ship). (By the way, how did pirate ships become the standard theming for that ride? Why not a viking ship? Or a cruise ship? Or heck, why even a boat? It isn't on water).

On a related note, I've heard that the Adventure City kiddie amusement park in Orange County will be closing down sometime later this year. I used to work just a couple miles from this place, and they've got a handful of attractions I'd be interested in (two small coasters and a petting zoo), but I never visited mostly because in a place so geared toward kids, a 32-year-old man hanging out by himself would look really creepy. Anyway, I hope their rides can find a good home when they close instead of ending up on a scrap heap. I've heard that their wild mouse coaster is pretty fun (photo above by Ric Turner, found on And maybe I can find somebody with kids to go there with and not look like a pervert.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

What planet is Scott Stantis living on?

Check out today's "Prickly City":
Differences of opinion or points of view are one thing. But what possible argument is there for Dick Cheney being some kind of compromise-minded middle-grounder on civil liberties vs. security? The Bush Administration's argument all along has been "This is what we need to do to protect us, and it's legal," essentially daring Congress, the courts, and the public to call them out on the unconstitutionality of their actions. Not once have I heard Bush or Cheney argue something along the lines of "Here is the balance we have struck to preserve liberties while protecting the country." It's always a matter of just asserting that anything is justifiable as long as it supposedly protects us. If Dick Cheney is defining your center, exactly who is at the extremes?

Update: Mike Benedetti provides a reasonable alternative interpretation of this strip in the comments section.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

My Cousin has Leukemia

A couple of days ago I found out that my cousin's 14-year-old daughter had just been diagnosed with leukemia. She's been admitted to the City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte and has already begun responding well to chemotherapy. She has an older sister whom they'll be testing to see if she's a bone marrow match. They say the chances of it going into remission are 75% if she gets the bone marrow, 50% without. In the meantime, she needs blood and platelets. I'm going in on Saturday to donate platelets. I used to donate blood regularly, but hadn't in a couple of years. This seems like a good opportunity to remind you that you should go to your local hospital and donate blood. It's a good thing to do and it really isn't that uncomfortable at all; I hardly feel it. If you'd like to donate directly to my cousin, her name is Nicole Schulz, she has A+ blood (blood type matching isn't necessary for platelet donations), and you'd have to go to the City of Hope. Here's their blood donor info. Keep her in your prayers.

Monday, January 02, 2006

SeaWorld Photos

And here are some photos from SeaWorld. I hadn't visited SeaWorld in over 20 years. The animals are pretty remarkable. I love penguins and went through the Penguin Encounter three times in a row. They have a new ride there called Journey to Atlantis which is pretty fun. It's a hybrid log flume/roller coaster, and even though the coaster part is very short, it's a well-thought-out ride with a lot of different elements and some good theming.

Legoland Photos

I'm trying out Flickr as a photo-hosting service. Already I can see an issue with the 20MB/month maximum bandwidth (about 25 photos from my camera), but organizing photos into sets and labelling them seems to be a breeze. Here's a set of photos from a trip to Legoland a few weeks ago. Those of you who recently hiked the American Discovery Trail through Maryland may be interested in the models of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

The Sleazy World of Gerhard Schroeder

Here's some commentary on a sleazy deal former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder got with the Russian state-controlled natural gas company. Basically it involves getting cozy with Vladimir Putin, conflict of interest, and screwing the Ukrainians for electing Victor Yushchenko.

Russia has now shut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine.