Friday, March 27, 2009

Venice Beach Glass Master

This guy is from one of the Caribbean Islands and his thing is jumping bear-foot onto broken bottles. If the photo doesn't convey the full menace of that pile in front of the chair, I can tell you that it was mostly whiskey, vodka and gin bottles and they were fresh broken by the star on the scene. It's not some kind of Hollywood prop phony bottles. He comes down right on them with both feet, no half-stepping, no falling off to the side. It's a great act.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Asian Los Angeles

The other day I went out for dim-sum with my son (back, left) and a couple of his friends. I know the fellow with the hat for over fifteen years now, he's a good man, a good DJ, and a fine chef too. That's his new girlfriends on his elbow. That's his mom on the other elbow. Mom was born in Hong Kong; son born in San Francisco; second friend born in Taiwan. All are now firmly culturally American, with English language skills that are probably greater than the average "real" American, plus varying abilities to speak Chinese. (The girlfriend was born here, but she's lived in China and is also bi-lingual.)

People complain these days about immigrants, but in my experience any of the world's people make fine Americans. Asians in particular seem to love it here and fit in very easily. As far as I'm concerned, we have a lot of work to do here and I welcome you if you want to help us. Besides, we all came from somewhere, only the time frame varies.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunset, Los Angeles, March 22, 2009

We had some rain earlier today, and it really cleaned the air. It blew out all of the polution and left us with something very natural and clear.

The Chicken Fried Steak Problem

March 11, 2009

Once upon a time, I had a great Chicken Fried Steak. I was driving through Texas on Route 10 at a unique moment in Twentieth Century weather history: January, 1985 saw the greatest accumulations of snow in the area since 1898. They were trying to clear the road with graders, having no dedicated snow removal equipment, and I’m sure that none of us were really surprised that the graders only graded the snow, leaving a very nicely graded foot and a half of it to be crushed into a sheet of ice by the trucks. Not being a natural daredevil, I decided to stop for the day. The diner of the motel was a nice little place. I saw Chicken Fried Steak on the menu, I’d heard of it but had never eaten it. Wow, what a revelation.

That particular example was perfect in every detail. Some kind of skirt steak or other, pounded thin, floured, salted and peppered, and fried in the manner of fried chicken. Perfect. With perfectly delicious, scratch made white gravy. That was it, though. Since that first, fortuitous encounter, I have never again found a great Chicken Fried Steak.

I tried again tonight, at the diner of my motel here in Gila Bend, Arizona. The menu said, “genuine Black Angus beef,” so I gave it a try. I’m sure the description was accurate, but it must have been some kind of Black Angus Salisbury steak patty, which is the typical kitchen solution for commercial enterprises with their little hearts set on anything that can be duplicated day after day without too much talent or trouble. That and gravy from a can.

That first Chicken Fried Steak cannot have been the only decent example in the country. I’m sure that lots of places in the Southwest serve a great Chicken Fried Steak. I give up trying to find it though. Until I get a fabulous recommendation from someone who has a license to have an opinion I am suspending my interest in the dish.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The 912 Project: Treason In A Psych Ward

There’s this guy, Glenn Beck, maybe you’ve heard of him, and he has this new thing, The 9/12 Project, with which he humbly offers to assist Real Americans in taking back our great country from those who would take it from us. Evidently the country has suddenly become infested with elected officials who are trampling on the great principles and values of our beloved Founding Fathers.

There is a big problem in his approach. Mr. Beck and his ilk have for the last eight years blindly supported a fascist clique that really did want to take our great country away from us and give it to the underlying corporate reality by actively destroying our Constitutional rights and reducing our hard won freedoms and by stealing our money and property and the money and property of our children. Now all of a sudden these New Patriots of Glenn Limbo Beckistan de la Hannityville expect us to believe that our new president and our newly Democratic congress are the real enemies, and that if we would only join together in opposing everything that this newly elected American government tries to do we can return America to some imagined greatness that is now lost to us.

Remember, those previous beloved geniuses are the ones that allowed insurance companies to go into the banking business, and allowed banks to go into the insurance business. We know how that worked out, and it was obviously a stupid idea to begin with, what were they thinking? That was about 2000. That little bit of legislation was the single most irresponsible act of government since Hitler invaded Russia. But now a chorus of TV stars want us to believe that it’s the new guys that are ruining everything.

Mr. Beck, along with other great patriots like Mr. Limbo, and Mr. O’Reilly, and Mr. “Torture is a Christian Virtue” Hannity, want us to “take America back!”

Lots of people are listening to this unmitigated bullshit. Messrs Limbo and O’Reilly have huge fan followings, and Mr. Beck is rapidly catching up with their popularity. The comments posted on the 912 Project website are terrifying in their stupidity. It is a real danger to our shared future that so many people can be swayed by such unsupported piffle.

I’m talking to myself here, I know it. I have no readership to speak of, and what readership I have probably doesn’t need me to explain the danger of these things. But lets remember, what these men are selling is advertising on their networks, and they are getting very rich doing it. In the process, they are also selling treason, and in very direct language too. Their anti-everything rhetoric is sedition, plain and simple. They should be prosecuted under the Patriot Act that they love so much, and it wouldn’t be that hard either. I hate to tell you, but post-Patriot Act it’s, “Viginia, there ain’t no probable cause.” These guys go around talking about “cells” of patriots “surrounding” those who would take our country away from us, and they like the idea of the “cells” arming themselves for a battle to take America back. As their champion, Chuck Norris, says, they are espousing “Black Belt Patriotism,” and quoting that guy who said something like, “there comes a time, you know, when tyranny must be sent packing . . .” They’re talking about the tyranny of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama, that’s what has them so afraid for the future of America. It should be a joke but it is only monumentally sad.

And the thing to remember is that none of them believe in the truth of a word that they are saying. This is an act, for money, they are the same as the Flying Walendas, they discovered a talent in themselves and they are exploiting it for money. For mere money they are cheerfully sowing the seeds of hatred and treason, with no actual interest in the outcome, beyond of course a life of luxury and a lavish retirement plan for themselves, in which they have a powerful sense of entitlement.

Let’s see where this thing goes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Silence

Some people might like it, but I'll apologize anyway. I've been traveling.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Oscar Wilde Quote

The great man said:

"Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not."

Godzilla v. Afrirampo

My money’s on Afrirampo.

A new-ish Japanese music ensemble came to my attention today. They live at the intersection of Cornelius Street and 5,6,7,8’s Avenue, very close to the Melt-Banana Overpass. If you like the three Japanese music ensembles* mentioned in the previous sentence, you will love Afrirampo. If not, no guarantees.

It is conceivable that you will love them either way. This is a two woman act. They are very nice looking. They are charismatic and endearing. Their music features jumping.

I have been hooked to this musical thread since the Seventies, the days of the Sadistic Mika Band and Pink Lady, and my opinion should be understood in that light.

*I suppose that technically Cornelius is a solo act.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Another Gaming Analogy For Life

Last night I reconnected with a friend that I had worked with more than thirty years ago. As we talked about our children, who had all mysteriously grown into adults in the interim, the subject of mentors came up, with overtones of the availability of good career advice and the making of smart career choices. Here, I realized, life was once again like the game of poker.

If you and I sit across the table from one another and play one game of cut-the-cards, high card wins, the results are completely subject to the laws of chance. If, on the other hand, we sit down with a group of six or seven players, and play a serious poker game for at least four hours, chance, the chance of getting the winning hand, is completely driven from the scene. Each player will get the cards sometimes, and the odds are that everyone will get an equal distribution of the good and bad hands over time. The results, however, will always be that the good players come out ahead, the mediocre players will always finish in the break-even zone, and the lousy players will always go home broke. The good players know it when they get the good cards, and their greater understanding of the game allows them to work any hand to its greatest advantage.

Whenever the subject of mentors comes up, my reaction is to bemoan the apparent lack of job related angels in my life. I would have loved, I internally cry in my beer, to have had some successful practitioner take an interest in my progress and serve as a mentor in my efforts at one thing or another. I’ve bounced around a lot, and there were opportunities for this to happen. But I suddenly realized that it had happened, I had been close to good mentoring opportunities in the same way that one of the poker players could be close to the good cards. Some of these instances I kind of remember but didn’t understand at the time, and it had probably been about to happen on other occasions as well.

Like the bad poker players, I didn’t realize it when I had been presented with the good cards, or I had known it but backed off for some reason. Like the bad poker players, my own personality was a factor that limited my success.

Well, one more thing about life finally understood. I am, of course, tempted to think of it as being “understood too late.” That would be my personality interfering once again with any potential success that I might still achieve. So maybe I should just be happy with the insight and keep my eyes open for anyone who may wish to encourage me in some new endeavor.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ernie and Bert Death Metal: The Internet At Its Finest

Death metal music is inherently funny, so it's no surprise that watching Ernie and Bert try their hand is hysterically funny.

Mi Ranchito, Mexican Food Veracruzando Par Excellence!

I’m in L.A. for a visit, and last evening I enjoyed the local cuisine at Mi Ranchito. After a few years of Thai food, it all seemed a little much.

I considered getting some impossibly small portion of something, but then I figured that I was on vacation and this would be my last opportunity for a year or so to get an old favorite, so what the heck. I had carnitas, with rice and beans, pico de gallo, and guacamole, with tortillas of course, plus a Mexican beer (“XX”). It was all very good, Mi Ranchito is the real deal, but afterwards I could hardly walk. Upon arriving home, I went to sleep almost immediately.

It was worth it. That was a meal that you couldn’t find in BKK. I’ve had “Mexican” food in Asia, but I’ve given it up because it’s always so disappointing. Although Mexican cooks in Los Angeles’ Thai restaurant kitchens seem to do fine with Thai food, Thai cooks in BKK’s Mexican restaurants don’t seem to get it at all.

I should stick with Thai food, which is generally available and very good in Los Angeles. Thai food is not only delicious, it’s easy on the stomach. In Thailand, I avoid Farang food like it was plague infested blankets, except for the odd pizza, and some of them are very odd indeed.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bait-And-Switch In Modern Intercontinental Air Travel

Airports in general are impersonal places. Most travelers and staff keep their game faces on and look straight ahead. People may connect a little in the bar, but even there it’s usually simple chatter with the bartender. The odds of real conversation are much better in the smoking rooms.

“Oh! Menthol! Can I trade for one of mine?” (Followed by a conversation.)

“Excuse . . . (gestures for a light).” (Followed by a conversation.)

Cigarettes are a shared adversity, smokers all understand that. The Germans would say we’ve all stolen horses together. The modern world correctly hates us. Want proof? In Thailand, you can sell them, but you can’t advertise them and in all retail locations they must be completely out of sight. In Taiwan, it’s even worse. At least in Thailand the airports still have smoking rooms. In Taiwan, smoking has almost been criminalized. Things like that are more easily done in police states.

I just flew Eva Air from BKK to L.A. My wife had recently done the same thing, also on Eva, and she’d found the entire experience somehow deficient. No offer of wine, no drinks, she didn’t like the food. Maybe I’m easier to please. I thought the food was pretty good. I asked for wine, and sure enough they had it on the cart. Luckily for me I’m no wine-snob, I was fine with the well chilled box-wine. I asked for a few drinks too, and I got them fast enough, although on the short flight to Taipei I got a scotch on the rocks instead of the vodka I’d asked for. That’s a small matter, I enjoyed it anyway.

The Eva stewardesses were efficient, very pleasant to deal with, and very easy on the eyes. Maybe they weren’t like the all-Miss-Universe crews of Singapore Airlines, but they were all pretty women.

One thing the flights of myself and my wife had in common: the entertainment system completely crapped out during the long leg of the flight. On her flight, it was only a few complete rows; on my flight the entire plane went dark. These new systems are a great blessing to the long distance traveler. A choice of thirty movies or so, lots of TV shows, literally hundreds of musical alternatives, it can really ease the pain of fourteen hours in the same chair. It’s amazing to me that there is not more of a hue and cry when it goes out. And this seems to happen all the time, it’s happened to me before.

So the lawyer in me wonders, why don’t we demand and receive a few hundred dollars refund when this happens? Certainly it’s part of what we pay for, what we pay extra for. We could have taken some shitty budget airline and been stuck on an ancient plane watching a movie projected on a beige wall, but we spent the extra money for Eva Air. Certainly it was a material term of our contract, part of our bargained for exchange, and when the airline failed to perform on that term they breached the contract in a material way. So why no return of money?

I’m quite serious. It’s the old bait-and-switch.