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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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Tuesday, 9 August 2005

Topic: Breaking News

Breaking News: A Hollywood Fire

Sometimes the news just comes to you. Tuesday, August 9, just before six in the evening here in Hollywood, as the light got long, the neighborhood was filled with the sound of helicopters in the air and sirens on the ground. Here, one block below Hollywood Boulevard and one block above Sunset Boulevard, one gets used to a low-flying helicopter now and then, hanging around for fifteen or twenty minutes, fifty feet up and making lots of noise. (There is a bit of crime here.) But six helicopters?

Glancing out the window, I see we have a serious brushfire up in Nichols Canyon, less than a mile away. The red and whites are dropping water, and the news choppers are grouping themselves a few thousand feet above them.

By the way, Don Smith sent same-day breaking-news photos from that metro fire in Paris - see last weekend's Just Above Sunset here - and now there are these from this fire in the Hollywood Hills.

A collection of nineteen Hollywood Hills fire shots is in a photo album here. The fire was pretty much out by eight, as it got dark.


The start of the fire as seen from balcony off the living room...

From the second bedroom (office) window, using the telephoto lens ...

Dropping water ...

Another spectator ...

Posted by Alan at 21:11 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 10 August 2005 09:15 PDT home

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Changes: Attempting Significance

As mentioned elsewhere there was that poll to find the one hundred songs, movies, television shows and books that "changed the world" - in the opinion of musicians, actors and industry experts. In the poll, conducted by the UK magazine Uncut, Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" (1965) won, Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" came in second, third was the Beatles' "She Loves You" and the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" was fourth.

But the Stones are roaring back in some sort of attempt to change the world, or at least to be engaged in the world. In a Newsweek puff piece in the August 15 issue - Satisfaction Guaranteed: They're not exactly a boy band, but there's no denying the bad-boy appeal of the Rolling Stones. Now they're back - again - with a new CD and tour… - we get a human-interest insider profile of what they're up to. On the surface that would be a new album, A Bigger Bang, to be released on September 5 - proceeded by the single, "Streets Of Love" on August 22. The tour begins in Boston on August 21.

This is newsworthy? One paragraph seems to be. This one has a whole lot of folks on the right up in arms -
Jagger and Richards say they worked together more closely on "A Bigger Bang" than they have in years, partly because Watts, the only other original Stone, was battling throat cancer. "We were sitting across the table looking at each other," says Richards, "like, 'You. Me. That's all there is.' It was all built on two acoustic guitars, and in such a sparse and stripped-down way that if you tried to elaborate on it later you'd lose the whole essence of it." The Stones' new music sounds more spontaneous than most of their recent efforts, and Jagger sounds angrier than he has in years. Since the band's last studio album, Jagger has ended his 23-year relationship with wife Jerry Hall, and was taken to court over an illegitimate child he fathered with a Brazilian model, which may explain such lyrics as "Oh no! Not you again, f---ing up my life/It was bad the first time around/Better take my own advice." But the most searing moment, on a song called "Sweet Neo Con," isn't personal but political. "You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite/You call yourself a patriot, well I think you're full of s--t." "It is direct," Jagger says with a laugh. "Keith said [he breaks into a dead-on Keith imitation], 'It's not really metaphorical.' I think he's a bit worried because he lives in the U.S." Jagger smiles. "But I don't."
It's not really metaphorical? Oh crap.

Of course the tabloid-right site Drudge Report has a full page headline: "JAGGER ROCKS BUSH, RICE: 'HOW COME YOU'RE SO WRONG, MY SWEET NEO-CON'" - yes, in all caps, in black, thirty-six point bold Ariel font. Matt is upset:
Ready to drop in the coming weeks, a new Bush-bashing tune from the ROLLING STONES: "Sweet Neo Con."

"It is direct," Mick Jagger says with a laugh to fresh editions of NEWSWEEK.

The full lyric also mocks National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

News about the song surfaced a few weeks ago with many expecting that it would not make the finally cut on the new CD, A BIGGER BANG.

... Jagger once vowed not to comment on the political process in the United States.

"I feel very much at home in America. I've spent half my adult life here. I have many personal feelings. But I'm from the school that considers it impolite to comment on other people's elections. Now if I had the vote - and I should have, as I pay so much in taxes - I would have a lot to say."

Now with the elections long over, the tongue is unleashed!
Yep, Jagger is an ungrateful fraud, says Matt. How could he do this?

As you recall, Matt Drudge is the fellow who broke the Monica Lewinsky story. He has a nose for what outrages the moral right. The kinds of things he's recently noted? AGUILERA: 'PREGNANT SPEARS' CAREER IS DOOMED', 'Let's safeguard socialism': Karaoke Craze in N. Korea, Poll: Western Canadians considering separation... (it's that gay marriage thing), Giant Blue Statue Of 'Sesame Street's' Big Bird On Man's House Upsets Neighborhood... and so on.

Matt is an excitable fellow. And who knows what he will make of this:
The worlds of music and football will collide this year as the legendary Rolling Stones will partner with the NFL and ABC for a season-long campaign, it was announced today. The Rolling Stones will help kick off the 2005 season from their "A Bigger Bang" world tour with footage from their concert in Detroit as part of the "NFL Opening Kickoff 2005" - a one-hour pre-game special on ABC at 8:00 p.m., ET/PT, Thursday, September 8.

ABC will feature music and video footage of The Rolling Stones throughout the 2005 season in its "Monday Night Football" promotional campaigns and in-game highlight and tease packages. The campaign will feature new music from their highly anticipated CD, "A Bigger Bang," to be released on Virgin Records on September 6, along with hits from their incredible catalog.
Yes, NFL football is right up there with NASCAR in the cultural pantheon of "what is really significant" in the red states. ABC is owned by the Disney Corporation, as in Disneyland, Disney World and all that - the essence of what America is about. Just walk down the flawless Main Street USA at the original Disneyland in Anaheim for sense of that. And they hired Jagger to do promos? Did they know about the new album and that one new song?

Monday evening I found myself in Anaheim with friends at "Downtown Disney" - fake New Orleans food at a fake New Orleans restaurant. A giant complex with everything from a massive Lego store to a giant ESPN sports bar (ESPN is part of Disney too). Thousand of families milling about under the monorail to Disneyland - little kids with their new toys, street musicians hired by the Disney folks (the solo guitarist with his Gypsy-Kings-in-a-box synthesizer was amusing), fireworks at dusk, and wholesomeness everywhere. I cannot imagine Mick Jagger's new tune about Bush and the crew piped in, come September.

Someone at Disney-ABC wasn't paying attention.

But then, perhaps in the next Uncut poll The Stones will rank higher in the listings.

The Rolling Stones seem to have finally gone political.

Well, things change. Specifically, things very British change, as in this noted in the New York Daily News:
James Bond's new ride in his next movie, "Casino Royale," is likely to leave fans feeling a bit like the superspy's favorite vodka martini - shaken, not stirred.

That's because Bond will be at the wheel of a cheap Fiat Panda, a Polish-made econo-box that sells for about $15,000 and goes from zero to 60 mph ... eventually.

Not only is it a far cry from the luxurious - and fast - sports cars 007 typically favors (the Aston Martin V-12 Vanquish is just one example), a Fiat flack said the Panda signals a stunning lifestyle change for the skirt-chasing secret agent.

"We've seen James Bond always with beautiful women and luxury cars," Lapo Elkann said. "But maybe now he will get married, have children ... and will need a Panda!"

While Pierce Brosnan, who has played Bond since 1995, hasn't officially signed on for "Casino Royale," he apparently digs the Panda. "Pierce Brosnan was so enthusiastic about the car that he immediately bought one," Elkann said. Of course, Bond's Panda will be tricked out with deadly high-tech gizmos not found on the popular proletarian model in Europe ...
Oh no!

Pierce Brosnan lives just up the way in Malibu. Just Above Sunset has been doing photography there recently (see this, this and this) and we saw no Fiat Panda anywhere, but we do note here you can rent Pierce Brosnan's beach house in Malibu for July or August. Perhaps the Fiat Panda is in the garage, but at a hundred grand a month, it's hard to be that curious.

So James Bond will now drive a Fiat, and Mick Jagger gets all left-wing political. What a world.

Posted by Alan at 15:00 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 August 2005 15:03 PDT home

Monday, 8 August 2005

Topic: Announcements

Nothing Monday

A day off from commentary, as the day was spent with and out-of-town visitor, and dinner down in Anaheim and and a long drive back.

A big zero -

Posted by Alan at 23:36 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 7 August 2005

Topic: Iraq

Letter from Baghdad

July 31 in Semantics: Thucydides got it right a long time ago… you would find a long discussion of how our government had decided to change how we discuss what we are doing around the world. The Global War on Terror (GWOT) was to become the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism (GSAVE) - a change in terms to better capture what we were doing. Yes, it was awkward, but not a bad idea. Precision is nice.

But GSAVE has gone the way of the great auk. We're back to GWOT. Disregard GSAVE. It’s dead. It's extinct. How that came about was covered Sunday, August 7, here. Folks got a bit ahead of themselves.

Major Cook in Baghdad has some thoughts:
Hey everyone, just hopping around the Net and had to dig in a little. For those who don't know, I am Alan's nephew.

As a soldier and an officer I prefer GWOT. Not because, as some of you may think, I am a warmonger and like the word "war" - but, because it defines what we are doing. Really Total Wars (like WWI and WWII) are Global Struggles - so why try to define it by its title? If people are too naive or uneducated to think that what we are doing is "global" and stretches from offensive military action, to election support, to eroding the terrorist's support base, to handing out toothbrushes and soccer balls in Mosul Iraq - then they are short-sighted and short-minded.

My personal opinion is that we need the commitment associated with a Total War - and that is not what the American Public nor much of the rest of the International communities want to give to the GWOT. Without that commitment, we might as well send invitations to Al Qaeda and Ansar Al Sunna (or/and while you have your pen out maybe Hezbollah) to come to America and attack us there.

So, anyway, I like that GWOT thing as long as it comes with all the bells and whistles.

Major Brian Cook, US Army
Baghdad, Iraq
156 days to go.
My reply?
Thanks for the comment. Heck, they change the name and then change their minds. Geez. GWOT was fine with me, even if General Myers was uncomfortable with it. GSAVE just wasn't right, somehow.

As I used to teach general semantics the names folks choose for things always interest me. Yes, it's what you do, not so much what you call it. I guess we could call the whole business WWD - What We Do. But damn, that's just too vague.

I'll work on some alternatives.
Major Cook will be back here in Southern California on a fifteen-day leave starting around Labor Day. I'm not sure I'll have any ideas even by then.

As you recall, the idea is we're not fighting "terror" - as that's a tactic an enemy uses, and not the enemy itself. As General Myers himself pointed out, that's like saying WWII was "a war on submarines." No, we were fighting the fascist powers in Europe - Germany and Italy - and that Hitler fellow, and then fighting Japanese take-over-the-world imperialism. They used submarines, and so did we.

But whatever the name of the enemy is it has to be catchy, and sum everything up nicely. So drop this "terror" word? And use what?

We don't want to call it a war on Islam, and somehow a war on "Radical Islam" cuts too close too. Some have suggested a war on Islamacists (huh?) or a war Islamofascists (sounds too much like a carnival thing?) - but clearly "terror" and "terrorists" makes too vague an enemy - as some Irish fellows would fit here, and Basque folks, and folks in the new republics south of Russia, and the Tamil Tigers in Ceylon, and so on. We’re not fighting all of them. We need to be selective.

As is often said, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter - we ourselves didn't exactly play by the rules against the British in the 1770s after all. Dick Cheney himself, as a congressman way back when, famously held onto the position for years that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. Now Mandela is a grandfatherly hero. Some say when we dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, then another on Nagasaki, and wiped out hundred of thousands of civilians, that was terrorism. Curtis LeMay, the man who ordered the firebombing of Tokyo, wiping out a third of the city, said if we had lost the war he would probably be tried as a war criminal. A war on "terror" presents problems.

So let's be selective and precise.

Is this a war on backward states that are troublesome, and happen to have a lot of oil? Is it a war on states at all? Is this a war on a stateless movement that wants us out of the Middle East, along with any number of the governments in power there now? Is this a war not against one thing in particular but for a finite resource, oil? No, that's too crude. (Bad pun.)

No, we seem to be up against an angry international movement, not tied to any formal government in any particular country, with a list of grievances all tied up with getting the west out of the Middle East entirely, with anger at everything that has happened or been done to the Palestinians since 1947, and with a demand for the freedom to practice a strict and repressive form of Islam all over the Middle East, where they say the folks want just that. They're saying, "Just go away and let us be." We say no. Oil and Israel seem curiously bound up with all this. We cannot abandon an ally we pretty much created, and we need the oil. There's a lot over there, so they have us over a barrel. (Another bad pun.) We cannot walk away from Israel. But they want to force the issues, with terror as the most effective tool they can find.

How do you sum up all that? We are fighting a loose, stateless confederation very angry people who feel they have been wronged, and may have been, and also may be quite crazy and know nothing of how the world really works. And they're pretty good at acts of terrorism. And they don't use submarines.

How do we name our enemy? And if we cannot name our enemy with some precision, then how do we win, or know when we have won?

Note this from Associated Press, Sunday, August 7 -
The mother of a fallen U.S. soldier who is holding a roadside peace vigil near President Bush's ranch shares the same grief as relatives mourning the deaths of Ohio Marines, yet their views about the war differ.

"I'm angry. I want the troops home," Cindy Sheehan, 48, of Vacaville, Calif., who staged a protest that she vowed on Sunday to continue until she can personally ask Bush: "Why did you kill my son? What did my son die for?"
Well, he died in the Iraq subset of the larger war against a loose, stateless confederation very angry people who feel they have been wronged, and may have been, and also may be quite crazy and know nothing of how the world really works, and are pretty good at acts of terrorism, and don't use submarines. How Iraq is involved in this? Let's see - no trace of WMD like we thought and no real connection to or support for the loose confederation, al Qaeda or whomever, like we thought - but now we have this general idea that a democracy there would help things, even if it turns out to be run by a group of fundamentalist Shiite guys who are all cozy with the fundamentalist Shiite Iraq bad guys....

I'm not sure she'd be happy with that.

But Major Cook is right about the W in GWOT - you don't have to worry about calling it a war, or a struggle, as long as you understand it's more than battles or sniping, and includes everything from criminal gumshoe work to PR, and from forensic accounting to trace the flow of funds to being the good guys and winning some trust. But it isn't easy, whatever it is.

I guess we could call the whole business WWD - What We Do.

Posted by Alan at 22:19 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Announcements

Sunday Redirection

Today's commentary isn't here, but actually over at Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this daily web log. This issue is Volume 3, Number 32 for the week of Sunday, August 7, 2005 - in magazine format with a ton of photographs.

This week, Mike McCahill is back, and "Our Man in London" lets us know the mood there right now. It's not pretty. From Paris, three pages of photos from Don Smith of Left Bank Lens, including late breaking shots of that fire in the Metro. One of the quotes this week is from J. A. Wheeler - "If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day." Yep. So you will find two pages of photos from a ride on the Goodyear blimp, and a column on that from Bob Patterson. Of course the quotes this week are on flying.

Bob Patterson is back with his WLJ column, this time on lying, and also wrangling up recent books.

The eight items in current events cover the big stories of the week - Bolton to the UN and the strange happenings with the fellow nominated for the Supreme Court. Are we closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and are we changing our minds about what to call the war, again? Instead of bombings in London this time we get a videotaped message? Lots of troubling stories, including that sleeping bag technique where you die. And why did the conservative heavyweight on CNN storm off the set and get suspended?

Features? Something on Czech humor and something on global warming, and a short item on the results of a poll on which pop songs "changed the word."

Some of these are extended versions of what appeared here first in draft form.

Direct links to specific pages -

Current Events ________________

Nominees: Bolton In and Roberts in the Wings (what about that Catholicism?)
The Nominee: Roberts Did What? (How's your "Gay-Dar" working?)
Fanning the Flames: An Official Endorsement of Magic Thinking
Propaganda: The Tale of the Tape
Midweek: Trouble Brewing (and the Sleeping Bag of Death)
Extralegal Detention: Gitmo, Gutmo
Follow Up: Back to the War on Terror (What's in a name?)
Walking Out: Novak Loses It

Features ________________

Our Man in London: Crashes and Bangs
Cancelled Czech: Cimrman Finally Gets His Due?
Cultural Notes: Changing the World, One Song at a Time
Global Warming: Is This Weep-Silently-Apologize-To-Your-Children-And-Throw-Yourself-Out-A-Window Depressing?

Bob Patterson ________________

WLJ Weekly: from the desk of the World's Laziest Journalist - Is there a new national pastime?
Book Wrangler: Gleichschaltung
On the Scene: Up, Up and Away… [the ride in the Goodyear blimp explained]

Our Eye on Paris ________________

Our Eye on Paris (1): The Unusual
Our Eye on Paris (2): Candid
Our Eye on Paris (3): Breaking News

Local Photography ________________

Surreal Vehicle: The Goodyear Blimp
Aerial Photography: Long Beach and Los Angeles Harbor from a Blimp

The Usual ________________

Quotes for the week of August, 2005 - On Flying
Links and Recommendations: A New Photo Album, A Ride in the Goodyear Blimp (50 photos)

Production Notes:

1.) The masthead at Just Above Sunset has changed. It used to read "Just Above Sunset Magazine" but now the term "magazine" has been dropped. The masthead on each page now reads "Just Above Sunset" and no more. Of course it's not really a magazine in the traditional sense - but in a general way it sort of is one in format and intention. Why drop the term? The problem is that my tracking software, when showing me the search terms people use to find the site, tells me people find my site when looking for a hard copy magazine called Sunset - "Your guide to life in the West. Great ideas for home, travel, food, and garden in the thriteen western US states. Entertaining, outdoor living, gardening…" and so forth. (My mother and her brother used to read it all the time.) I wouldn't want to be accused of using the good name of that magazine to attract readers. And there is also Sunset Magazine, published from 1889 to 1998 by Stanford University Libraries. Having the word "sunset" and "magazine" together on each page made me feel guilty. I'm not trying to "use" the audience of either magazine.

2.) Just Above Sunset is hosted by Earthlink and built using their drag-and-drop site-building software called Trellix. Using Trellix I hit the "post to web" button Saturday night just before midnight and got some sleep. When I got up at five Sunday morning everything looked fine, but when I tested the site it was showing "access denied" to all users. Sometime in the middle of the night there was a hiccup and the index that controls all the internal linking just disappeared. At dawn I reposted and by seven Pacific Time it was working again. Sorry about the seven-hour gap in access. Don Smith in Paris was the first to notice this. Drat.

Posted by Alan at 18:59 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 7 August 2005 19:02 PDT home

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