Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Letter to Mayor Garcetti about the LAPD

I wrote this letter to the Mayor of Los Angeles and plan to deliver it to his office today.

Dear Mayor Garcetti:

I was appalled to read the editorial by LAPD officer Sunil Dutta in the Washington Post today (attached). As a six-year City of Los Angeles employee myself I found it shameful that an Internal Affairs officer whose duties involve investigating the misbehavior of other police officers would have such a distorted view of the proper relationship between the police and the citizenry they are supposed to serve.

Officer Dutta begins innocuously, describing ideal encounters with the police and showing how good law enforcement work can defuse charged situations. But then he asserts that when the police use force, it's the fault of the citizen for not properly respecting the officer. This has it completely backwards. Respect is earned, you can't demand it, and you sure as hell can't beat people up if they don't give it to you.

Dutta wants to have it both ways; he wants to say that he respects our rights, but he also seems to think that as a cop he rules the streets and that our rights under the Constitution somehow end if we dare to challenge his authority. That's not how rights work. What Dutta doesn't understand is that disrespecting a police officer is not a crime and that the Bill of Rights is there to protect unpopular speech and unpopular people from the abuses of authority figures like the LAPD.

Many police officers do exemplary, professional work. But there are also many who are merely bullies with a badge, a gun, and a baton. They have forgotten that their role is to enforce the law and serve the community, and instead have twisted themselves into thinking that the duty lies with the community to serve the cop's desire to feel powerful and that the law is whatever they say it is.

It is up to civilian elected officials—who are supposed to be in charge of the police—to make it absolutely clear that this behavior, and the attitude that leads to this behavior, must be changed to rebuild trust between the community and the police. As Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, I hope that you are also appalled by Officer Dutta's editorial, and that you work with Chief Beck on eradicating these abuses from the LAPD.


Adam Villani

Sunday, June 02, 2013

My CD Leaderboard

I just alphabetized my CD collection for the first time since maybe 2005 or 2006. Nobody's asking, but just for the sake of curiosity I tallied things up to make a leaderboard of which artists (or composers) I have the most CDs by. The rules I went by were to (a) only count CDs and (b) to count all CDs equally. So multi-disc sets counted for each disc, singles, bootlegs, live, greatest hits, duplicates, etc. all counted equally. What did not count was appearances on multi-artist compilations. I've sorted things by primary artist but also added notes on solo releases or other related acts parenthetically. I've listed every artist with totals of 10 or above.
  • 43 Depeche Mode (+ 3 solo = 46) [Lots of singles] 
  • 35 Philip Glass [as composer] 
  • 33 Yes (+ 4 ABWH + 2 other solo = 39) 
  • 32 Guided By Voices (+ 1 solo = 33) 
  • 31 Björk (+ 2 with bands = 33) [lots of singles] 
  • 30 Genesis (+ 26 Peter Gabriel + 2 Phil Collins = 58) 
  • 30 Pink Floyd (+ 2 tribute + 7 solo = 39) 
  • 28 Beatles (+ 6 solo = 34) 
  • 28 Richard D. James (incl. 17 as Aphex Twin, 10 under other names, 1 collaboration) 
  • 26 Peter Gabriel (+ see above for Genesis) 
  • 24 Chemical Brothers 
  • 24 Flaming Lips 
  • 23 Prince (+ 1 tribute = 24) 
  • 21 Rush 
  • 20 Einstürzende Neubauten (+ 1 solo = 21) 
  • 20 The Orb 
  • 19 Steve Reich [as composer] 
  • 19 Led Zeppelin 
  • 18 David Bowie 
  • 17 New Order (+ 4 Joy Division + 2 related acts = 23) 
  • 17 Jefferson Airplane (+ 3 solo/Jefferson Starship = 20)
  • 17 The Cure 
  • 16 The Who 
  • 16 Beck 
  • 16 Brian Eno (includes many collaborations)  
  • 15 Kraftwerk (+ 2 tribute = 17) 
  • 15 Neil Young (+ 2 CSNY + 2 Buffalo Springfield = 19) 
  • 15 Orbital 
  • 14 Fleetwood Mac (+ 3 solo = 17) 
  • 13 Autechre 
  • 13 Moby
  • 12 King Crimson (+ 4 Fripp + 3 Belew = 19) 
  • 12 Animal Collective (+ 4 solo = 16)
  • 11 Oingo Boingo (+ 1 solo = 12) 
  • 11 John Adams [as composer] 
  • 11 Radiohead 
  • 11 Underworld 
  • 11 Stevie Wonder 
  • 10 U2 (+1 Passengers = 11) 
  • 10 Beastie Boys 
  • 10 Moody Blues 
  • 10 Pizzicato Five 
  • 10 Velvet Underground 
  • 10 Glenn Gould [as performer]
  • 9 Morrissey (+ 4 Smiths = 13)
So there you go.

Monday, June 07, 2010

June 8, 2010 California Voter Guide

Instead of telling you how I think you should vote, I'm just going to share and consolidate some links to voter guides from different newspapers across the state. For some of these, the web page I linked to just lists their recommendations, but then you click on the particular race or ballot measure to read the editorial on why they made that endorsement.

Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Daily News
Long Beach Press-Telegram
Sacramento Bee
San Francisco Chronicle
San Diego Union-Tribune
San Jose Mercury-News - they also have a comprehensive guide profiling many candidates but not giving endorsements.
Orange County Register
Oakland Tribune
Riverside Press-Enterprise: Ballot Measures, Elected Officials
Fresno Bee

I suppose if I were so inclined, I could put together some kind of a spreadsheet showing what the different papers had recommended for each race, but I'd rather go out today (it's my furlough day).

(I have no idea what the original source of the painting was. I found it by doing a Google image search for "Vote.")

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Paul Simon, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover"

OK, the first thing most people will notice about this video is Paul Simon's hideous mustache. The second thing they'll notice is that it's a great song. The third thing you might notice, as you don't see them until late in the clip, is that the audience seems to display, in the words of a commenter on another blog, all the enthusiasm of a class at an Economics lecture.

But the real reason I'm posting this is to point out how this song is a case of false advertising. It's all set up to make you think it's going to be one of those "list songs" like "88 Lines About 44 Women" or "We Didn't Start the Fire." Our good pal Paul Simon is going to list 50 different ways one might leave one's lover, right? Wrong! Simon only gets around to naming maybe 5 ways to leave your lover, depending on how you count (is “Don’t need to discuss much” a distinct way of leaving one's lover, or is it just a corollary to “Hop on the bus, Gus?”)

When do we get to hear the other 45 ways, Paul? We've been waiting 35 years.

Incidentally, that Nails video I linked to is pretty freaky, and probably not safe for work unless you work for National Geographic.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Teens 'n' the Environment

Hey, I'm back! First blog update in three months!

So, today at the City Hall Farmers' Market, some debate team students from Santee Education Complex south of downtown had set up "SMEELA," the Santee Mini Environmental Expo of Los Angeles. What this was is that several tables were set up with representatives from environmental organizations like Treepeople and government agencies like the South Coast AQMD. So, it was a nice way to get some info about environmental stuff going on in the City; I'm considering going on a tree-planting trip with the Treepeople. Also, the more mentions the kids get on blogs, the more points they get toward a competition to win a trip to the U.N. So, go Santee!

This reminds me of how much more environmentally aware kids are these days. There is actually an Advanced Placement test in Environmental Science now; until recently I didn't even know they even offered that subejct in high school at all.

When I was a teenager it was a major chore just to recycle, having to separate our waste ourselves and haul things over to Cal State Long Beach. Nowadays, in most cities you can just toss anything recyclable in a blue bin, and you should be able to recycle more than you throw away. Plus, there's all sorts of ways to save energy in your home, save water on plumbing, and generate electricity without polluting the air.

You probably know I'm a city planner, but what I do specifically is work on Environmental Impact Reports, making sure CEQA documents get written and processed properly in the City of L.A. So as much as there are a lot of things that need to be done, I'm also quite aware of how much progress we've made over the last decade. The City of L.A., for example, has grown from 3 to 4 million people over the last 20 years, but in total we're actually using less water now.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Beatles - 2

So, everybody's talking about the Beatles today because of the release of The Beatles: Rock Band (which my wife says is on its way from Amazon) and their remastered CD catalogue. While the remastered CD catalogue is tempting, I already own everything in it in non-remastered form, and it's not $180 tempting to my non-audiophile ears. Anyway, the Beatles are going to be acquiring a lot of new fans soon, so my mind wanders back to the always-fun parlor game of figuring out how to re-compile the Beatles' catalogue.

This parlor game is engaging because there's such a long history behind it. Capitol Records famously "butchered" the Beatles' releases through 1966 by rearranging (and remastering) the tracks from the Beatles' original British releases into shorter albums that also made room for the hit singles left off of the LPs in the British market. Since the Beatles broke up in 1970, record companies have opened up the archives and repackaged already-available material every few years, often making a lot of money in the process. Recently, the mid-90s Anthology series sent three double CD collections of decades-old material to the top of the charts, and the greatest-hits album 1 became the best-selling album of 2000 worldwide.

I thought the success of 1 provided an obvious opportunity for a followup that never materialized, which I'll call 2. The compilers of 1 went the high-concept route and simply presented all 27 songs that hit #1 on the charts in either the US or the UK. That approach avoids the inevitable arguments about what to include, but the Beatles' catalogue is so rich that I think there's easily enough strong material to make a superb second volume of greatest hits.

The track list here would be a lot more subjective, but there are several singles that would be absolute no-brainers to include, like "Strawberry Fields Forever" or "Revolution." Plus some albums --- Sgt. Pepper, for example --- had no singles released from them, so they're completely absent from 1. One list to start with would be the 27 tracks from the 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 compilations that didn't land on 1 (and which would conveniently result in a 77:12 CD). But it would be no fun to just do that, and regardless, I'm still puzzled why they decided to put "Old Brown Shoe" on 1967-1970.

Keeping in mind that this would be for the casual listener interested in getting deeper into the Beatles' catalogue without shelling out for all 13 albums (plus Past Masters), and keeping it to 27 tracks for simplicity's sake (I'm not going to total up the run times), here's what I would put on my theoretical 2 compilation:
1. I Saw Her Standing There* (from Please Please Me)
2. Please Please Me (Please Please Me)
3. Twist and Shout* (Please Please Me)
4. All My Loving (With the Beatles)
5. And I Love Her (A Hard Day's Night)
6. No Reply* (Beatles for Sale)
7. I'm Down* (B-side to "Help"!)
8. You've Got to Hide Your Love Away (Help!)
9. Drive My Car (Rubber Soul)
10. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) (Rubber Soul)
11. Nowhere Man (Rubber Soul)
12. Michelle (Rubber Soul)
13. In My Life (Rubber Soul)
14. Taxman* (Revolver)
15. Strawberry Fields Forever (double-A-sided single with "Penny Lane," later on Magical Mystery Tour)
16. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Sgt. Pepper)
17. With a Little Help from My Friends (Sgt. Pepper)
18. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (Sgt. Pepper)
19. A Day in the Life (Sgt. Pepper)
20. I Am the Walrus (Magical Mystery Tour)
21. Revolution (double-A-sided single with "Hey Jude")
22. Back in the U.S.S.R. (White Album)
23. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (White Album)
24. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (White Album)
25. Birthday* (White Album)
26. Here Comes the Sun (Abbey Road)
27. Across the Universe (Let it Be)

I hope that would fit on one CD. The tracks marked with asterisks weren't on the 1962-1966 or 1967-1970 compilations. These take the place of, from those compilations, "Girl," "The Fool on the Hill," "Magical Mystery Tour," "Don't Let Me Down," "Old Brown Shoe," and "Octopus's Garden." I know, it's heavy on certain albums (especially Rubber Soul), but that's partially due to what made it onto 1.

So what do you think? Do my selections make sense? Would a casual listener get a good feel for what the Beatles were about if they had this and 1? Am I just imagining that "I'm Down" was a popular song, or was its awareness only at a level commensurate with other Beatles B-sides of the era?

UPDATE (9/10/09): I'm thinking maybe I'd drop "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," "I'm Down," and "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" and replace them with "If I Fell," "Blackbird," and "Helter Skelter." Maybe. Just a thought. UPDATE (9/11/09): Or maybe "Roll Over Beethoven."

UPDATE (9/11/09): Okay, I went ahead and totaled up the run times. If this site is to be believed, then my original listing of 27 songs runs 80:03, too long for a CD. But if you replace the two Help!-era songs and "Ob-la-di Ob-la-da" with "Roll Over Beethoven," "If I Fell," and "Blackbird," you get 79:38, which should fit on a high-density CD as long as the gaps between the songs are negligible.

Friday, August 21, 2009

This Boggles My Mind

Robert Zemeckis is planning to re-make Yellow Submarine. This cannot be a good idea.
Incidentally, I think the new songs the Beatles released for Yellow Submarine are some of their most underrated work. One of the long-time Beatles parlor games to try to imagine what a single-disc White Album (as George Martin would have preferred it) would have consisted of. Google "single-disc white album Beatles" and you'll get a whole bunch of attempts; most simply approach the task as whittling away half of the album's tracks into something catchier and less noodly than the actual classic album the Beatles released.

Several years ago, though, I found online a much more detailed approach to the problem that I unfortunately cannot seem to find now. On this particular site, instead of just imagining that the Beatles would throw away half of the songs on the double album, they tried to figure out how those songs would have been released in a single-disc White Album world. They started with the Yellow Submarine soundtrack being instead released as a sort of "Songs from Yellow Submarine and other songs," with the first side identical to the original release's, and the second side using songs from the White Album that would fit better with the tone of the Yellow Submarine tunes. Unfortunately, I don't remember which songs they chose, but their picks seemed to make sense. Then they figured that "Revolution 9" would have ended up on a Plastic Ono Band release (sounds reasonable) and that a couple of other tracks would have made for a good single (remember that the Beatles frequently released songs on singles that weren't featured on the original British albums). Or maybe they split up the double-A-sided "Hey Jude"/"Revolution" single and chose a couple of other songs as B-sides to those monster hits.

Anyway, I don't remember which songs they picked for what, but I do remember that their reasoning was sound and that the end result would have been pretty good --- Yellow Submarine would have become a much better album, and the remaining White Album (maybe keeping the title A Doll's House) would have still been pretty good. A fun parlor game, but in the end, I think the Beatles were right to release the White Album as a double disc. The material's weird and unconventional and is a great example of the whole being more than the sum of its parts, as the odder songs seem better when seen in context as the result of a fruitful bunch of experimental studio sessions.

On a related note, I've long thought that one of the most successful and revered double albums of all time, Pink Floyd's The Wall, would have better had Roger Waters not made the "Wall" metaphor so danged literal and cut it down to about 50 to 55 minutes. That's a bit long for a single LP, but somehow Genesis pulled off releasing Duke as a 55-minute LP in 1980. Anyway, my idea is basically just to keep the good songs. There's no real reason for anybody to listen to Waters' wallowing whining in "Don't Leave Me Now," for example. And "The Trial" sounded cool to me in high school but is just too obvious now. Songs like "Vera Lynn" and "Bring the Boys Back Home" make some sense in the context of the movie but just make the album drag.