Notes on how things seem to me from out here in Hollywood... As seen from Just Above Sunset
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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Sunday, 15 February 2004

Topic: In these times...

New issue of JUST ABOVE SUNSET MAGAZINE now online!

No blogging today.

Sunday is the day I do final assembly and post the week's new issue of this: Just Above Sunset Magazine.

Check it out.

Much of what appears here is extended and expanded there, and you might like the detailed photographs of the seashells, but you may not.

Do visit.


I have a visitor for the next few days - my sister, up here in Los Angeles to do some serious shopping. We're talking Barney's and Sax's and Bloomingdale's and the shops on Robertson and at Sunset Plaza - - Nichole Miler and all that. But that's NOT where I need advice.

We just got back from The Grove and I see that on Friday the 20th at the Barnes and Noble down there Bill O'Reilly will be signing his new book and chatting with people. Now this is a short drive down the hill - in my neighborhood. Five minutes away. Should I go? If so, what should I say to him? What should I do?

Send suggestions to of course.

Posted by Alan at 21:17 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 14 February 2004

Topic: Oddities

A Valentine's Day Item - Presented Without Comment
Chocolate Obsession Leads to Physics Discovery
Fri February 13, 2004 06:11 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Princeton physicist Paul Chaikin's passion for M&M candies was so well known that his students played a sweet practical joke on him by leaving a 55-gallon drum of the candies in his office.

Little did they know that their prank would lead to a physics breakthrough.

The barrel full of the oblate little candies made Chaikin think about how well they packed in. A series of studies have shown they pack more tightly than perfect spheres -- something that surprises many physicists and Chaikin himself.

"It is a startling and wonderful result," said Sidney Nagel, a physicist at the University of Chicago. "One doesn't normally stop to think about this. If you did, you might have guessed what would happen, but you'd have guessed wrongly."

The issue of how particles pack together has intrigued scientists for centuries and has implications for fields such as the design of high-density ceramic materials for use in aerospace or other industries.

Chaikin and his colleague, chemist Salvatore Torquato, used the candies to investigate the physical and mathematical principles involved when particles are poured randomly into a vessel.

Writing in Friday's issue of the journal Science, they said they found that oblate spheroids -- such as plain M&Ms -- pack surprisingly more densely than regular spheres when poured randomly and shaken.

When poured in, they said, spheres occupy about 64 percent of the space in a container.
M&Ms manage to pack in at a density of about 68 percent.

"We just stretched a sphere and suddenly things changed dramatically," said Torquato.

"To me, it's remarkable that you can take this simple system with common candies and probe one of the deepest problems in condensed matter physics."

Mars Inc., which makes M&Ms, did not help sponsor the research although it donated 125 pounds of almond M&Ms to Chaikin, Princeton said in a statement.
It's not about love, but it will do.

Posted by Alan at 09:25 PST | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Topic: The Culture

Practicing Religion in These Times: Empty Rhetoric versus Actually Doing Something (if you can...)

In and earlier post Janet Jackson, Jesus and Newsweek I said some unkind things about religion. Sorry.

But then there's this.

See Ex-Ranger pleads guilty in abortion-bombing plot
Larry Lebowitz, The Miami Herald, February 13, 2004

The basics:
A former Army Ranger inspired by anti-abortion activists pleaded guilty Friday to devising a plot to blow up abortion clinics and gay bars nationwide.

Stephen John Jordi, an evangelical Christian from Coconut Creek with a flaming cross tattooed to his right forearm, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted firebombing.

In stark contrast to his agitated, grizzled appearance after his Nov. 11 arrest, Jordi was calm and clean-shaven during the brief hearing at U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale.

In return for the guilty plea, prosecutors John Schlesinger and Gerald Greenberg agreed to drop two other counts: spreading explosive information and possession of an unregistered firearm.
This evangelical Christian seems to be ready to God's work.

Yes, evangelical Christians claim to be about love, and justice in this world. This guy seems to be a little heavy on the justice side.

And how does one get to where Steve here got?
Estranged siblings said Jordi had become increasingly impassioned about a bombing campaign after the arrest of Eric Rudolph last May.

Rudolph, who is accused of orchestrating a bombing campaign against abortion clinics, gay bars and the Atlanta Olympics park, disappeared into the Appalachian Mountains for five years before he was captured last May.

Like Rudolph, Jordi was planning to embark on a firebombing campaign targeting abortion clinics, gay bars and churches that refused to take a tough stance against abortion.

Authorities said Jordi was banking on survival skills he learned in the Army so that he could hide in the mountains between bombings, like Rudolph.

Jordi also corresponded last year with Florida Death Row inmate Paul Hill, who was convicted for the 1994 murders of a Pensacola abortion doctor and his bodyguard.

Jordi and the informant flew to Starke to for Hill's execution on Sept. 3. They were photographed outside the prison with leading members of a militant anti-abortion group called The Army of God.
Well, The Army of God is a curious concept. Steve here thinks he is doing, or was attempting to do, God's will.

Yes, that's not how some others understand God's will. Some chat about love and tolerance.

This business about "purifying the world of evil" through the use of military skills is anomaly, pretty much - save for our official foreign policy these days.

Maybe at the end of Steve's prison term there's a place for him in the second Bush administration, somewhere in the State Department, once Colin Powell is shown the door. He's got the basic concepts down pat. Or maybe he'd fit in at Justice, working for John Ashcroft.

Hey, it's not like these ideas of his come out of nowhere. He's in tune with the zeitgeist.

Posted by Alan at 08:18 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 13 February 2004

You see the whole idea is differential diagnosis....

Religion is fascinating, and not opposed to science at all.

See Doctors, Priests Form Exorcism Commission
ROME (Reuters, Friday, February 13, 2004) - Faced with growing demand for exorcisms, Catholic Church leaders in the Italian city of Genoa have created a taskforce of doctors and priests to determine when the devil is at work and when psychiatric help is needed.

The team of three priests, one psychiatrist, one psychologist and one neurologist - dubbed the "anti-Satan pool" by Italian media - will work on a case-by-case basis, a local church official said in a telephone interview on Thursday.

"They'll meet on a regular basis to determine when there has been a case of demonic possession and call for an exorcist, or problems better cared for by a psychologist," said the official, who asked not to be named.
Well, that seems fair.

You see the whole idea is differential diagnosis. One needs to know the cause of the problem - a matter of etiology as they say. Then one can proceed.
For Catholics, exorcism is the casting out of what is believed to be an evil spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands.

One of the church's leading exorcists praised the initiative, saying medical experts are needed to rule out mental problems before spiritual work can begin.

"I never accept anyone who arrives without a medical certificate," Father Gabriele Amorth told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Not unreasonable, I guess.

And the Church is just doing its job. The Genoa taskforce was created by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. And while the Church does not often talk openly about exorcisms, Bertone said the need for them is there.

"It has become difficult to talk about Satan, but the signs of the devil are palpable," he told Corriere della Sera in comments published Thursday

Yep, your doctor may probe you with his fingers looking for palpable masses, but he or she could, it seems, find the devil. One never knows.

Posted by Alan at 10:22 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 13 February 2004 10:26 PST home

Thursday, 12 February 2004

Topic: Bush

Advice to the Sun King

Sire: For thirty years your ministers have violated all the ancient laws of the state so as to enhance you power. They have increased you revenues and expenditures to the infinite and have impoverished all of France for the luxury of your court. They have made you name odious.

For twenty years they have made the French nation intolerable to its neighbors by bloody wars. We have no allies because wanted only slaves. Meanwhile, your people are starving. Sedition is spreading and you are reduced to either letting it spread unpunished or resorting to massacring the people that you have driven to desperation.

- F?nelon to Louis XIV (c. 1694)

Just something I came across reading Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence : 500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present, Perennial (May 15, 2001), 912 pages, ISBN: 0060928832 (page 298)

Thirty Years? Twenty years? George Bush only needed three years.


My grand philosophical conclusion at the end of the day is that humanity does not divide into the rich and the poor, the privileged and the unprivileged, the clever and the stupid, the lucky and the unlucky or even into the happy and the unhappy. It divides into the nasty and the nice. Nasty people are humourless, bitter, self-pitying, resentful and mean. They are also, of course, invariably miserable. Saints may worry about them and even try to turn their sour natures, but those who do not aspire to saintliness are best advised to avoid them whenever possible, and give their aggression a good run for its money whenever it becomes unavoidable.

- Auberon Waugh, Will This Do?

Came across this at About Last Night.

Posted by Alan at 16:46 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

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