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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Saturday, 30 October 2004

Topic: Photos

Offline for another week or more...

When I got home from work on October 25, I discovered my cable was out. No television - no big loss. But no cable modem connection to the internet. I am writing this to you all from an internet caf? on Sunset, and they are charging me many dollars an hour to connect.

Comcast, my cable company, cannot work the issue when I am not home - and things are hot at work so I just cannot stay home. Well, Comcast did come here and try to figure out why all the lines into my Hollywood apartment are all quite dead - on Saturday afternoon, October 30.

They cannot fix the connection at all. There is a break in the service two floors below me. They need access to that unit and the manager is nowhere to be found. I will need to reschedule next weekend, or sometime when the manager is around to let them into that unit, and when I am here. The coordination is a bother and this could take weeks.

Just Above Sunset - the weekly virtual magazine - will take, using dial up, maybe two or three hours a page to load. Photos are impossible as they time out during load - the line disconnects even with special settings. I may build Just Above Sunset tomorrow from the internet caf? at ten to twelve dollars a half-hour for access, but at least I can work rather fast. I just have to put all the text and photos on floppy and lug them down there. That's where you will find this week's commentary.

No television for two or more weeks? Whatever. I missed the World Series. No big deal.

Sunday late, if I'm done in time, I will go to Good Guys and buy a satellite dish and arrange for installation so I get television back, and then I will contact SBC and buy DSL - that's high speed internet over the telephone lines. What's two hundred more a month? I can maybe get out of my long-term contract with Comcast if they agree they cannot offer me service.

Bah. Commentary and email will be scant.

This means no blogging, and the next issue of Just Above Sunset is iffy.

Needless to say, I will not be cruising the net and doing commentary. Such is life.

Oh yes, readers with too much time on their hands can, of course, contact Comcast and tell them what a sorry service company they are, but I suspect they won't care much.

But here's a Halloween picture - my nephew Neal and his wife Michelle send this along - that's their Nicholas born last December...

Posted by Alan at 16:38 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Monday, 25 October 2004

Topic: In these times...


When I got home from work this evening, October 25, I discovered my cable was out. No television - no big loss. But no cable modem connection to the internet. I am writing this to you all from an internet caf? on Sunset, and they are charging me many dollars an hour to connect.

Comcast, my cable company, cannot work the issue when I am not home - and things are hot at work so I just cannot stay home. The earliest Comcast can come here and try to figure out why all the lines into my Hollywood apartment are all quite dead is Saturday afternoon, October 30. I will be waiting here for them. Until then I will deal with the print media and NPR radio.

This means no blogging, and the next issue of Just Above Sunset will be the week after the election.

Needless to say, I will not be cruising the net and doing commentary. Such is life.

If I get the time I will look into ordering a satellite dish for television and the high-speed modem - as using landlines is, it seems, really, really unreliable. Comcast cannot at all guarantee any sort of reliable connection - this has happened before - and cannot fix problems easily.

So that's that. I should be back on line - unless the problem is unfixable - late Saturday afternoon, a bit more than five days from now.

Oh yes, readers with too much time on their hands can, of course, contact Comcast and tell them what a sorry service company they are, but I suspect they won't care much.

Posted by Alan at 20:26 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 24 October 2004

Topic: Photos

New items now on line...

This week's issues of Just Above Sunset - parent site to this web log - is now on line. That would be Volume 2, Number 42 for Sunday, October 24, 2004.

This week? In the feature article there is a discussion of that Republican television ad with the hungry wolves, and the dialog gets hot - vastly expanded from what originally appeared on this site. The current events items center on political epistemology - what is true and how do we know it is true and all that. Again, these extend what originally appeared here. Friends in Cincinnati and Paris discuss religion and its uses in the now extended Dialogs Concerning Natural Religion - and you will be surprised. And, as appeared here first, there is a follow-up to the idea that Bush had a little radio into his ear during the first debate, and why there was no follow-up on that in the mainstream media, with some points further clarified.

Exclusive to the weekly, Ric Erickson returns with a report on the ongoing presidential straw poll for expatriate Americans in Paris, at the legendary Harry's New York Bar in the 2e arrondissement - and Ric sends photos. Kerry is leading over there. And Ric in a second item discusses the use of English in France, which kind of got hot again last week.

Exclusive to the weekly too are Bob Patterson's two columns. The World's Laziest Journalist column takes on the New York Times (well, they did print his letter) and most everyone else, and the Book Wrangler visits a famous Los Angeles mystery bookstore.

And a special feature of the weekly magazine format (separate pages for photography) - a guest photographer shows us Paris as you have not seen it elsewhere. Local Hollywood photography is Sunrise over Sunset - and the pithy quotes are about art. So enjoy.

Here are the direct links.

Current Events ________

Political Advertisements: Never Cry Wolf

The New Community: Say what? Who are you going to believe? Me, or your own eyes?

Faith in Action: Everyone piles on as we move toward civil war, maybe ...

Dialogs Concerning Natural Religion: Not David Hume in the late eighteenth century, but Paris and Cincinnati this week...

Basic Facts: Here in the reality-based community ...

Follow-Up: The possibility that Bush was wired with a little radio into his ear during the first debate, and its implications ...

Our Man in Paris ________

Paris this Week: Kerry Gets the Edge At Harry's

Language: Le 'Must' Globish

Bob Patterson ________

WLJ Weekly: The World's Laziest Journalist - Alien Abduction or Breech of Security?

Book Wrangler: A book reviewer's Christmas season bonanza ...

Features ________

Guest Photography: C'est ? cause que tout doit finir que tout est si beau. (Paris candid shots)

Photography: Sunrise over Sunset Boulevard, October 24, 2004 (Hollywood)

Quotes: What is art?


And one of the arty photographs at the site....

Posted by Alan at 15:43 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 23 October 2004

Topic: Dissent

Follow-Up: The possibility that Bush was wired with a little radio into his ear during the first debate...

In the pages of Just Above Sunset the topic of whether Bush was wired with a little radio into his ear during the first debate was covered pretty thoroughly, with lots of quoted commentary and links, including a link to the Is Bush Wired website. For all that you can call up the item Irony from the 10 October issue to review the details

After that mid-month flurry of speculation - Was it true? - and commentary - If it was true what did it really mean about our leader? - the whole topic seemed to go away.

And Charlie Brooker wonders why.

See Dumb show
Charlie Brooker, The Guardian (UK), Saturday October 23, 2004

His opening reveals his leanings -
Heady times. The US election draws ever nearer, and while the rest of the world bangs its head against the floorboards screaming "Please God, not Bush!" the candidates clash head to head in a series of live televised debates. It's a bit like American Idol, but with terrifying global ramifications. You've got to laugh.

Or have you? Have you seen the debates? I urge you to do so.
Okay then, we see he's not a big Bush fan. Well, such fans are hard to come by outside the red states, and even harder to find in Western Europe, and even harder to find in the rest of the world.

So after some matters that only the UK folks care about Brooker comes to his main point - he was skeptical and then thought about it a bit more, and really does wonder. The emphases are mine.
... The internet's a-buzz with speculation that Bush has been wearing a wire, receiving help from some off-stage lackey. Screen grabs appearing to show a mysterious bulge in the centre of his back are being traded like Top Trumps. [That must be a British thing.] Prior to seeing the debate footage, I regarded this with healthy scepticism: the whole "wire" scandal was just wishful thinking on behalf of some amateur Michael Moores, I figured. And then I watched the footage.

Quite frankly, the man's either wired or mad. If it's the former, he should be flung out of office: tarred, feathered and kicked in the nuts. And if it's the latter, his behaviour goes beyond strange, and heads toward terrifying. He looks like he's listening to something we can't hear. He blinks, he mumbles, he lets a sentence trail off, starts a new one, then reverts back to whatever he was saying in the first place. Each time he recalls a statistic (either from memory or the voice in his head), he flashes us a dumb little smile, like a toddler proudly showing off its first bowel movement. Forgive me for employing the language of the playground, but the man's a tool.
A tool? Not a term much used on this side of the pond. But you get the idea.

But then Brooker turns on our fickle and feckless media. He's terrified, and puzzled.
So I sit there and I watch this and I start scratching my head, because I'm trying to work out why Bush is afforded any kind of credence or respect whatsoever in his native country. His performance is so transparently bizarre, so feeble and stumbling, it's a miracle he wasn't laughed off the stage. And then I start hunting around the internet, looking to see what the US media made of the whole "wire" debate. And they just let it die. They mentioned it in passing, called it a wacko conspiracy theory and moved on.

Yet whether it turns out to be true or not, right now it's certainly plausible - even if you discount the bulge photos and simply watch the president's ridiculous smirking face. Perhaps he isn't wired. Perhaps he's just gone gaga. If you don't ask the questions, you'll never know the truth.

The silence is all the more troubling since in the past the US news media has had no problem at all covering other wacko conspiracy theories, ones with far less evidence to support them. ...
Well, The Swift Boats Veteran for Truth had a lot of money and were well organized, and the press was impressed at having a narrative all set up for them and ready to go. The Is Bush Wired crowd presented some evidence, but no real narrative - no story - so given the press would have had to do some work at developing a story line that made this all hang together, nothing much came of it. That would be hard work. Hard work? You heard Bush whine about that in the first presidential debate. He doesn't like hard work. The press doesn't either. Present them with a fully formed story and they'll run with it. This? No, no digging. No investigative reporting. That's so Woodward and Bernstein - so last century. And investigative reporting isn't "fair and balanced" or something.

Oh well.

But Charlie Brooker isn't finished and moves on to larger issues... sort of. God and all that -
Throughout the debate, John Kerry, for his part, looks and sounds a bit like a haunted tree. But at least he's not a lying, sniggering, drink-driving, selfish, reckless, ignorant, dangerous, backward, drooling, twitching, blinking, mouse-faced little cheat. [Tell us what you really think, Charlie.] And besides, in a fight between a tree and a bush, I know who I'd favour.

On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?
Did Charlie just suggest assassination would be appropriate? It seems so. Over here, where John Ashcroft keeps us safe, such talk would land you in jail, probably without charges and for as long as the government wished. And maybe in far southeast Cuba at our facility there. You'd be disappeared. And most Americans, it seems now, would be just fine with that.

It also seems the British, or at least this one Brit, don't understand that free speech means you watch what you say in a public venue, in this case in a major newspaper - because Ashcroft and his minions are also watching what you say. One needs to be careful.

Ah, had I more readers I'd be worried at even pointing to this Guardian item. As it is now - with my sixty or so readers each day - no one cares what I point to and what I say. And too, we are all possessed of the freedom to click on opinion from the UK and elsewhere - so far - and that is a sort of freedom. Things aren't that bad.

But two things bother me about this Guardian piece.

First, I think this fellow is right about our media. Things fall away - as we have "readers" working radio and television, not reporters who do digging. Digging up "the story" is for the print media, when they get up the courage to do it, and when their editors allow it, bucking the corporate masters who expect profits.

And secondly, of course, one wonders what would happen if such an item appeared in a wide-circulation US newspaper - which, of course, would never happen. But say it did. There would be a firestorm, and possible arrests. You cannot say things like this. And that is most curious. We are the beacon of freedom in the world. We are. Here you can say anything you like - responsibly, of course.

Now I've got to think about the fine line between responsibility and timidity, or putting it another way, the line between lively, forceful writing and prose that don't offend or upset folks. Should one be allowed to shout "FIRE!" in a crowded theater? Is that what Brooker is doing? It doesn't seem so, but America has become a sort of crowded theater these days, full of edgy, frightened and angry people. Best not say what you think.

Why are things easier elsewhere? Here, this is a puzzlement.

Posted by Alan at 22:58 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 22 October 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Advertisements: Never Cry Wolf

Disclaimer: my first wife and I once had a pet rabbit, a Dutch Blue, we named Farley, after Farley Mowat. Who? That's the Canadian biologist who wrote Never Cry Wolf, a 1963 book about Mowat's adventures chronicling his investigation of a wolf pack for the Canadian government - which showed wolves were quite social animals and not much threat to anyone. No need to wipe them all out. The book was adapted into a moderately successful Disney movie of the same name in 1983, directed by Carroll Ballard and starring Charles Martin Smith, Brian Dennehy, and Zachary Ittimangnaq - an engaging Inuit fellow. The book was better than the film. And when I taught English back in the seventies I used the book as a primary text with younger students as it was quite well written, and had a bit to do about thinking carefully, observing and not jumping to conclusions.

But Mowat himself was, to some folks, a pain - one of those angry environmentalists. On April 24, 1985, United States immigration officials denied him entry into the United States. Up to that day Mowat had been blissfully unaware that he appeared as a suspected Communist or anarchist on the so-called Red Scare list, which dated back to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 - and you remember those days of the McCarthy hearings and the red scare. Mowat missed his speaking engagement at a biology conference at some American university or other. Of course outrage over Mowat's case in both the United States and Canada contributed to a major revision of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 - in 1990. Most curious. Naturalist? Communist? Whatever. Think of Mowat as a beta version of Jos? Bov? - and Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, has a photo of that Bov? fellow and some comments on that fellow here.

Mowat and Bov? aside, wolves are interesting critters. And now they have entered the last days of the political campaign. The Bush campaign has a a new television ad running in fourteen swing states, featuring wolves. Mowat wouldn't recognize these.

This television spot is an arty hand-held camera thing - dusk in a deep green forest. A wolf darts across your line of vision, then another, and then we see the whole pack on a grassy knoll, so to speak, and they rise and amble toward the camera. Leave rustle. The minor-key music swells, and a female voice intones these words -
In an increasingly dangerous world, even after the first terrorist attack on America, John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to slash America's intelligence operations. By six billion dollars. Cuts so deep, they would have weakened America's defenses. And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm.
Yeah, yeah. They is a coming for us all if we vote for Kerry.

Matthew Yglesias comments -
I like Kerry's health plan, his education plan, and his orientation on tax policy. I'm not so hot on his trade rhetoric, but Bush's policies on this score haven't been any better. The president's certainly mismanaged foreign policy a great deal and seems unwilling to learn from his mistakes. But when you get down to it, the fact is that if Kerry wins you're probably going to be... EATEN BY WOLVES!
And Brad DeLong adds this -
The real problem with this ad, I think, is that the real wolves shown are just not that scary. They look too much like German Shepherds, and each wolf by itself is too small to be convincing as a serious threat. Moreover, the wolves in the video shot at the end aren't hunting: they're hanging out in the meadow, and then being roused by the dinner bell...
In fact, they are kind of appealing, and most everyone likes big dogs. When I saw the ad I didn't think about the mortal danger we face if we elect John Kerry. I thought of my big, gawky, goofy dog from way back when, Lamar, who always looked sad when he finally figured out Farley-the-Rabbit really didn't want to play with him. Lamar didn't get it.

Do the Bush folks get it? These wolves in the ad look like they need a little love and acceptance, and a good meal followed by a long nap. Snakes would have been better, or a mean-looking overweight housecat like my Harriet. They could have used snakes or cats. No one much likes snakes, and most of my friends out here really don't like sly, sneaky, uncooperative, haughty housecats. Bad choice.

But I hear on the news the Bush ad folks test-marketed this spot and it polled well, so they went with it. I guess no one in the focus groups read Mowat's Never Cry Wolf - or saw the movie. And surely no one in the focus groups read Mowat's A Whale for the Killing. No doubt they were all Republicans - and not "save the whales" liberals.

Perhaps the ad will be effective. But I doubt it. The metaphor must have seemed apt, but the visuals are all wrong - the critters just look too much like the family beast snoozing in the next room. And too, there is a misunderstanding of wolves here, a misunderstanding of animal behaviors and basic the biological science - evidence of many decades.

A misunderstanding of basic science? The Bush folks are famous for that - global warming is not caused by anything we do and no one has really, really proved it's happening, and Bush publicly saying the jury is still out on that there evolution theory. He doesn't buy it.

And now his team gets it wrong about wolves.

It figures. And what does the "W" really stand for?



Note: Fred Kaplan here gives a more conventional analysis of the ad's argument - Kerry really didn't call for the massive cuts the ad says he called for. In fact, at the time, the Republican congressman hack that was just appointed to run the CIA, Porter Goss, called for similar cuts. But no one cares about all that.


Be very afraid...

Posted by Alan at 22:22 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 22 October 2004 22:43 PDT home

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