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Exit ArchiveArchive for August, 2006

To all three of my readers:

I will be away until next Wednesday, so it will be silent here for a while. Now that John’s busy on his own blogging endeavors, I guess that means the Forum will be dead until then.

The good news is that I’m going to Lake Powell again, so I may have another photo page up sometime after I get back. Boo-yeah!

PC, Angel, and Devil

Some new Mac and PC ads are out now. I enjoyed the original ones, but this new one in particular is quite funny. (If that link ends up not working, look for the “Angel/Devil” ad from the first link.)

It’s also strangely surreal. Here we have a man playing a computer, who then suffers from the traditional human conflict of good vs. evil as represented by a devil and an angel, who are, we assume, also computers. The man/computer is jealous of the other man, a Mac, and his first thought is to rip up the pretty book the man/Mac made all on his own. That a computer would want to do such a petty, human thing, even though it is played by a human—because it is played by a human—is amusing. This also provides a slight implication that the man/computer is crazy. The man/computer’s confusion over the presence of his conscious is a cherry on top.

All this makes the point of the ad secondary. The ad is entertaining first and foremost. Yet the message is there, and supported by the whole exercise. Very well done.

I really, really want to say this ad is brilliant, but I’m afraid I’ll be called names.

“Fun. We tried that once. It was nothing but pain and frustration.”

Okay, screw it… it’s brilliant!

I just got done watching Super Size Me. The movie was very good, and it has me thinking more deeply about some of the food choices I have already taken steps to fix in my own life.

However, that’s not why I’m here tonight. No, there was a part early on in the film where an interviewee is talking about how it’s socially acceptable to chastise someone in a public place for smoking, and not for being overweight. His point was that someone was being told off in public about how horrible smoking is for you and that the smoker should quit, while no one went up to the overweight person to tell them off about how bad overeating is.

While perhaps I’m taking his point and skewing it, I think perhaps what has become publicly acceptable is what has become publicly unacceptable: smoking. Because smoking in public is now not acceptable (in general), that person the man in the movie was talking about was able to go up to the smoker and say, “You shouldn’t do that. It’s bad for you.” That will never happen with the obesity issue for a couple important reasons.

The first and most obvious reason is that smoking befouls the social space. One cigarette can turn a large, clean room into a smelly one. One cigarette can turn a pleasant outdoor meal into a nasty, polluted one if the breeze is blowing the right way. Ignoring the factors of public health and the costs society has to pay for those who die of smoking-related illnesses, whether a person chooses to smoke is up to them, and it’s not up to strangers to tell them otherwise. EXCEPT when that person chooses to do it in a public place where many people gather. Their smoking is not contained within their body, but wafts out to affect their entire surroundings. It’s downright rude to smoke in such situations. Screw their health, they need a lesson in propriety.

As obesity continues to grow (sorry…) in the U.S., we certainly have cause to worry about medical costs to society, just as we do for smoking-related illnesses. However, unlike smoking, obesity does not have a casual effect on others. Many people may find obesity unsightly, but that’s not the same as filling a room with the smoke from one cigarette. There will never be laws banning overweight people from public places.

There are many touchy topics that come up when talking about obesity, and I’m sure, if anyone wanted to try and take the other side on this one, we’d see some of the arguments. But none of them are specific to obesity. A thin person might smell just as bad as an overweight person, for example, or even worse. An overweight person might, in fact, smell just fine and have perfect hygiene. But a smoker, when they smoke, no matter what their hygiene, religious beliefs, political affiliations, manner of dress, or hair color, sends that smoke out so everyone else has to deal with it.

The second of the couple of important reasons is that smoking is, truly, a choice. Yes, eating right is a choice as well, but in this case, food is involved. People have to eat to survive. Because the landscape is littered with easier, cheaper, unhealthy choices, eating healthy food is quite difficult to do. There is no good reason to smoke; it is a purely extraneous activity. Smokers choose to smoke. Addiction to nicotine may keep a majority of smokers from quitting, but the entire activity is not a requirement for biological survival.

Eating-related obesity can also be an addiction, and it may even be a choice as well. But it is linked to a function we have to do to live. A fat, messy, sloppy eater might be a disgusting sight to someone, but if the room is filled with obese people, not all of them, and probably none of them, will be eating like pigs. If the room is filled with people smoking, all of them will be filling the room with smoke.

So there’s my poorly-worded point for today. I thought it was silly for the guy in the movie to compare public smoking to public obesity in the way he did. As health issues, they are both important and, in the end, do affect society. But as for being called out on them in public by someone who just happens to be passing is silly. Neither the smoker nor the overweight person should be told by someone they don’t know how dangerous their habits are.

Okay, now you should go read what TAM has to say about smoking. It’s much funnier than this post, and that makes it more of value to the modern blog reader.

(Oh, look. It’s the second time I’ve linked to Robb’s post. It must really be a quality post.)

Thanks to Robb’s recent post, I got to do a little reading on this horrible girlie band whose two members just happen to be fraternal twin white supremacists. Good lord!

I did seek out their site, but I won’t link to it here, following Robb’s wise lead. I’m not even going to say the name of the band. They don’t deserve any more Google hits. I will link to an article that was in GQ: “Minor Threat.” You can go from there if you want. Or from Robb’s post.

The hypocritical viewpoints of white supremacists, or really any racist, always shine so clearly when you simply let them speak for themselves. The article linked above is nicely neutral, something that is generally missing from journalism these days. The two moronic teens, Lamb and Lynx, demonstrate their ignorance and stupidity just by opening their mouths. As does their mother, April.

Here are some amusing (or are they scary?) quotes form the article. Though I was tempted to put in my own comments after each quote, I will let these close-minded nitwits speak for themselves.

* * * * * *

“I think, you know, if there was a war between the races,” [Lamb] says tentatively, “hopefully everybody will get their own little space. And that’s basically what we want, you know? So we don’t have to live with the other groups.”

How would they feel about a race war? “I don’t really know,” Lynx says dreamily.

“I think I would be glad,” Lamb says.

“Not about the war,” Lynx interjects, and Lamb quickly revises her answer.

In any event, neither one will be strapping on an assault rifle anytime soon. “I’m a girl!” Lamb says with a honking laugh. “I think the boys should be fighting and the girls stay home!”

“And make babies!” Lynx puts in

* * * * * *

[April complains] the grocery stores are going downhill. “They cater to certain foods I guess Hispanics want. Like, I guess Mexicans eat cactuses. And they’ll be selling those candles with paintings on the side? It’s like a Third World marketplace.”

* * * * * *

The more pressing issue, however, is what has happened on their block. Not long ago, a Mexican family moved in. “The other day, they were washing their car right out on the street,” April fumes. “They sit in their garage with the garage door wide open, just drinking beer. Just watch: You come back here in five years, the whole block will be mestizo.”

Later, I drive around the subdivision, but I don’t see any open garage doors or beer drinking. Every house is dead quiet and looks exactly the same.

* * * * * *

As for [Rudolf] Hess, the Gaedes see him, along with the rest of the Third Reich, as horribly misunderstood. “People want to depict everything that happened in World War II Germany as marching around killing Jews,” April says. “They don’t want to understand how the whole ideology of National Socialism is really a beautiful thing. I mean, it really is.”

* * * * * *

“I’m sure the Germans killed a lot of people,” April concedes. “But Stalin killed a lot of people, and the U.S. government killed a lot of people, too. Look, the lies concerning Adolf Hitler have become so bizarre. But think about it: He was a human being. Even if you believed in the final Solution, he’d still be a human being. The man’s been vilified.”

I point out that Jews have been vilified, too. Hitler, Jews—we’re all human, right? Well, no. “It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?” she replies. “I mean, they’ve been kicked out of every country in Europe. The history of the persecution—or prosecution—of the Jews didn’t start with Adolf Hitler. Now, why do you think that is?”

[...]

I’m Jewish myself—a fact April has already informed me she “kind of figured, from your nose”—but I manage a grin.

“Oh, my back just popped!” Lamb exclaims. “My God, did you hear that?”

* * * * * *

Lamb and Lynx clamber out of April’s minivan and carry their gear into a local recording studio to work on their new album. [...] April has asked me not to reveal the name of the studio—the last time they recorded, she says, the engineer got death threats. “It’s unbelievable to me how intolerant these people are,” she says.

* * * * * *

And that’s that. I would love it if these people would go find “their own little space.” They can’t have this one called America. Where can they go that isn’t already inhabited by others? Hmm… There are islands of garbage out in the Pacific that they can have. They can call it the Archipelago of White Trashlvania.

What a busy day for posts. And though this will once again preempt the hilarious OK Go treadmill video, I have to say something.

I’ve taken Bruce Tinsley to task before regarding his inability to be funny. For a comic strip writer, that’s what I would call a huge liability. And though he’s extremely conservative, and extreme conservatives simply don’t have it in them to be humorous (so goes my theory), he’s not alone in his poor humor on the funny pages. Hell, that stupid La Cucaracha comic is atrocious—head-banging-on-the-table atrocious—and it’s very liberal.

But I digress.

Here, look at the Mallard Fillmore from this Monday:

Mallard Fillmore Shoot the Baby

Yes, as you can see, not funny. But it’s also a bit infuriating, because that’s what happens when conservatives get a hold of anything complicated: They take a simplistic detail and use it as their talking point.

Of course Hezbollah, a terrorist, guerrilla operation, hides among the civilians of Lebanon. That’s how rats live. When you are fighting a huge power, like Israel or the U.S., and those huge powers have absolutely nothing in their hearts for you but, at the very best, dismissiveness, you really have no choice. If the U.S. got somehow taken over by, oh, I don’t know, an evil oligarchical government run by large companies and their friends, and that evil government began to, oh, I don’t know, chip away at the freedoms of its citizens until that government became, in the end, no better than the dictators and kings it still purported to loathe, and such events led to, oh, I don’t know, more subversive or violent oppression of the people… well, I imagine all patriotic countrymen who wanted to fight for the freedom that they were being denied would become, in effect, a terrorist, guerrilla operation. The oligarchy itself would waste no breath without calling the freedom fighters terrorists.

What’s so ignorant and ridiculous about the cartoon is that, were muggers to pull such a stunt with babies and other innocent people, the cops would not shoot at him. Or, rather, they should not shoot at him. Sure, that means the mugger has, for now, outsmarted the cops. But taking hostages is not anything new. It’s not like no mugger has ever hidden behind an innocent before.

Without being able to simply shoot the mugger, which is an extreme solution to begin with, the cops would have to rely on other means. Negotiation, perhaps. Or, as the movies like to show us, negotiation to buy time until another solution could be found. Suppose negotiation or another more covert way of apprehending the mugger were to fail and the mugger killed the baby before either killing himself or then being caught or shot by the cops… Who’s at fault for killing the baby? The mugger. If, while the mugger holds the child, the cops go in regardless, guns blazing, with the excuse that it is the only way to get this rat, then it is more likely the baby will die at their hands. In that scenario, who’s the one at fault? Law enforcement wold be at fault.

Those who choose to attack the mugger with the baby at risk and those who support people who make such violent decisions would claim it was the fault of the mugger for putting the baby in harm’s way in the first place. That kind of reasoning is slow-witted at best, calculatingly cruel at the worst. That sort of propaganda is no better than the mugger claiming that the police shooting at him were targeting the child.

In the Lebanon–Israel conflict, which still seems to be on hold, thank God, Israel was making the simplistic, inhumane, inelegant, cruel, and foolhardy choice in dealing with the rockets Hezbollah was firing into their country. They invaded a sovereign nation (the same thing we did in Iraq) to get at a military group that was, as anyone could have told them, not able to be destroyed with military might. If Israel really wants to destroy Hezbollah, they have to make measured, thoughtful, political choices. Hezbollah did not mainly arise out of brute force. It arose out of political and social circumstance. The only way to come close to destroying them militarily would be to nuke the entire region, and even then the annihilation of Hezbollah would not be assured.

The news is riddled now with stories of Hezbollah providing large cash payouts to people who suffered losses in the Israel attack. Harry Shearer, on Le Show, made an aside about how curious it was that Hezbollah was helping to repair the damage of the war while, in the U.S., our government isn’t doing anything tangible for the victims of hurricane Katrina. The point is that Hezbollah wins the hearts and minds of the people with a mix of propaganda and truly helpful financial and infrastructure contributions.

Israel gained nothing by destroying southern Lebanon for a month, and in fact will suffer political fallout from their foolishness. Just as the U.S. has gained nothing and lost much by having destroyed Iraq. Imagine how much more potent a non-military solution would have been in both Lebanon and Iraq. Were the U.S. to have worked for Saddam’s ouster through various well-placed and useful outlays of money and humanitarian aid, just think how much stronger our image would be. Such “soft power” solutions would not completely eradicate terrorism or resistance to the U.S., but it would lessen it and its attractiveness.

The trouble with such plans is that they take many, many years or even decades to bear fruit. Hawks don’t have any patience. Not until a war has begun, the justification for their existence is finally playing out, and all the friends of the government are raking in the cash from the building and selling of arms, are the hawks patient. Why should we accept that the military “war on terror” is going to be a long and hard one when it is unlikely to produce any good result? Why is it not more desirable to wage that long war with the morals and intelligence that are supposed to be the hallmarks of an advanced democratic civilization?

In the end, though Israel can claim they were not targeting innocent children, they certainly were. They knew that they would be killing many a civilian to get at the few rats that were hiding in their midst. Hezbollah can claim that Israel was purposefully targeting innocent children, even though they knew that, by being a target, they were in fact taking those innocent children hostage.

Who should have killed the children? Israel? Hezbollah? Should Israel have killed an exponentially larger number of civilians in a month than Hezbollah killed by launching the occasional, random rocket into Israel? Hezbollah’s rockets before the conflict were designed to kill civilians, but this is no excuse for Israel to retaliate in the same manner. In war, a baby killer is still a baby killer, no matter what the excuse.

To boil this all down to a mugger with a baby strapped to his front does nothing to enlighten, inform, or engage. It is not a sad truth or factoid, it is not a clever way to prove how evil Hezbollah is. It’s merely stupid. And it’s not even funny.

Therefore, I can only conclude what the headline here states: The Bruce Tinsley is an idiot.

Thank you, and good night!

You may have noticed a new clump of little icons at the bottom of each post. These, in case you are unaware, are links to various social bookmarking and content websites. What the hell is that? Let me tell you, in as brief a way as possible.

Digg and reddit are sites that accept links to content on the Web. As you browse Digg or reddit, you vote on which articles you like. The more votes, the higher up the list it goes. Many items have gained a new Net-based notoriety this way, especially on Digg.

del.icio.us and Furl are public bookmark sites. Here, you add bookmarks from any website to your account and share them with the universe. Then you can see how many other people like the same sites you do.

Technorati is like blog central. You can keep track of your favorite blogs, who’s linking to what, which topics are most popular, and any number of other interesting things.

Because it’s not in very good taste to promote your own work on these sites, I’m providing the links so that readers can more easily share the humor, passion, and drama of The Wren Forum. It’s a kind of passive–aggressive self-promotion, you see. Because there are too many of these new social sharing websites, I had to choose the ones I thought were most used. If you feel I should add one, let me know and I’ll check into it.

Enough of that, then. Since I seem to have preempted my previous post, which was much more amusing and worthwhile, I shall send you there now. Go! Go to my previous post!

I must be the last person in the universe to have seen this, but in case I’m not, and you are, here’s OK Go’s excellent video for their really catchy song, “Here It Goes Again.”

If you enjoyed that—how could you have not?—you can see some other videos at the OK Go site. The one for “A Million Ways” is another extremely fun dance vid.

The sane amongst us know that the recent security measures in airports that keep us from bringing liquids onto planes are about the stupidest “security” edicts to come our way in just about forever. I’ll be flying in a few weeks, and I’m honestly not sure how it’s all supposed to work, us not being allowed to bring liquids and gels onto planes. I mean, will I have to check my pens into the hold? They contain liquid. How about my bladder? Couldn’t I be storing one benign part of a magical liquid explosive in there?

If you have doubts about the viability of exploding an airplane using methods as purportedly planned by the recent London arrestees, or, more importantly, if you don’t have doubts, please to read an enlightening article in The Register: Mass Murder in the Skies: Was the Plot Feasible?

Hooray. While Judge Anna Diggs Taylor will no doubt be childishly labeled an “activist judge” by the current idiots in power, her ruling today that the NSA warrantless domestic wiretapping program is illegal and has to be stopped right away is another slim ray of happy sunshine for those who think said idiots should be thrown in jail forever and ever.

The decision is already being appealed, so we’ll see what happens, but for now, things are finally going the way they should.

You may feel that, following my cereal post, I have no right to speak out against an overabundance of variety. Yet take a peek at this, won’t you? This is the sight that greets the casual toothpaste shopper of a day:

Too Many Toothpastes!

That, friends, was the toothpaste section at Target as seen at noon today. What’s more is that this is only the COLGATE section of the toothpaste section! I feel the picture does not do justice to the bewildering array of choices avalanching upon the consumer, so here’s a little recording of me reading off the flavors and kinds.

Yes, I was doing that on my phone as people were shopping around me. I imagined they would believe I was a simpleton boyfriend listing the toothpastes over the phone to my girlfriend because, had I come home with the wrong kind… Well, you know what girlfriends are like.

Now, despite the audio-visual aids, I still do not feel I have impressed upon you, gentle reader, the true scope of Colgate’s offerings. Text is often mightier than multimedia, so here, cobbled from various lists off the Colgate website, is their current spate of toothpaste options (all ®s and â„¢s removed to, ironically, dispense with clutter):

Cavity Protection Great Regular Flavor
Cavity Protection Winterfresh Gel
Total Whitening Paste
Total Whitening Gel
Total Clean Mint Paste
Total Mint Stripe Gel
Total Advanced Fresh Gel
Total 2in1 Advanced Fresh Gel
Max Fresh Cinnamint Tube
Max Fresh Cinnamint Bottle
Max Fresh Cool Mint Tube
Max Fresh Cool Mint Bottle
Max Fresh Clean Mint Tube
Max Fresh Clean Mint Bottle
2in1 Oxygen Whitening Cool Mint
2in1 Whitening with Tartar Control
2in1 Icy Blast Whitening Gel
2in1 Kids Bubble Gum
2in1 Kids Watermelon
Tartar Control Whitening Crisp Mint Paste
Tartar Control Whitening Cool Mint Gel
Sensitive Maximum Strength Plus Whitening Fresh Stripe
Fresh Confidence with Whitening Gel
Luminous Crystal Clean Mint
Luminous Paradise Fresh
Luminous Cinnamint
Simply White Advanced Whitening Spearmint
Simply White Advanced Whitening Sparkling Mint
Sparkling White Mint Zing
Sparkling White Cinnamon Spice
Sparkling White Vanilla Mint
Baking Soda & Peroxide Fresh Mint Stripe Paste
Baking Soda & Peroxide Whitening Oxygen Bubbles Brisk Mint Paste
Baking Soda & Peroxide Whitening Oxygen Bubbles Frosty Mint Striped Gel
Dora the Explorer Mild Bubble Fruit
SpongeBob SquarePants Bubble Fruit
Barbie Sparkling Bubble Fruit

If you find yourself flummoxed by this vast register, the Colgate site has a handy dentifrice interface for choosing which of their 37 breeds will suit you.

Me? I still use the original Colgate—now called, simply, “Cavity Protection Great Regular Flavor.” Though the “Baking Soda & Peroxide Whitening Oxygen Bubbles Brisk Mint Paste” sounds nice. Or maybe I’ll start using Crest. After all, they have 42 kinds of toothpaste. I applaud that commitment to consumer choice!

I know I love cereal, but this is ridiculous:

Cereal Bounty

Most of the cereals are easily recognizable, a couple aren’t, and two unmarked bags add a dash of mystery. Therefore, the first person to post a comment listing what each of the 14 boxes or bags of cereal is will win a box of the cereal of their choice, sent directly to them at any postal address. And when I say “of their choice,” I mean of their choice. It does not have to be shown in the picture. (Though it has to be available in the States. Nothing wacky from Japan, please!)

If any of the items in a list are too vague, I will ask for clarification.

I’m serious. List away! Who wouldn’t want free cereal?

HINT: Click on the picture for a larger version.

Wowzers!

(Live from the phone!)

Look at these insanely good seats! This will be the closest I’ve ever sat to the stage at the Hollywood Bowl. And those cannon… Yes, it’s Tchaikovsky night.

(Live from the phone!)

I’m in the middle of another post that I started on Thursday but have not had the time or energy to finish, so, really, I should not be writing this. But I have to, because it’s a truth I’ve noticed and want to bring up.

I was just reading an article in Dwell about how transportation shapes American cities.

While critics insist that the West Side Highway will have to be rebuilt to accommodate future traffic needs, Wiley-Schwartz argues that traffic needs are created by the creation of roads and parking.

L.A. is, as everyone knows, car-centric. The 405 is currently undergoing a widening from just north of my exit, Wilshire, southward toward LAX. The new lane they are adding in each direction is going to be for carpools only. Oh, and for registered hybrid vehicles. It’s the final piece of the south 405 that does not have a carpool lane. (For those of you outside L.A., yes, we put an article in front of the freeway number out here. It took some getting used to, believe me!)

I think carpool lanes are just about the stupidest things in the modern world. Their original purpose of getting people to ride together and thus ease traffic, pollution, and save gas is, without question from where I sit in traffic each day, a horrible failure. People don’t change their mode of transportation so that they may use the carpool lanes; they use the carpool lanes if their mode of transportation just happens to allow them to do so.

In 1998, New Jersey removed some of their carpool lanes (or High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes… HOV lanes) because they failed on two of three criteria established by the Federal government. Boy, when I heard about that back then, how I wished they’d do the same thing here!

I take the 405 every day to and from work. It is a notoriously crowded freeway. What’s sad is knowing that we’re enduring a few years of worse traffic caused by heavy construction so that a single new lane in each direction will be completed that will in no way ease congestion, lower pollution, or reduce gas consumption. I have often wondered how less often traffic would be jammed if a full lane of traffic were opened for every driver to use.

However, when I think about what Wiley-Schwartz said, I have to wonder if it would really matter in the long run whether another full-use lane is opened on the 405 or not. The cars will always be there, and so will the traffic. Since moving here in 1994, my constant thinking about increasing the capacity of the freeways in L.A., how that would be accomplished, how prohibitive the costs would be, and how much it would ease traffic if somehow it could be done, has always been tempered by the thought that, really, the last thing L.A. or any city anywhere needs is the environmental degradation and urban ugliness brought on by fatter freeways. Just seeing the unattractive results of the widening of the 405 over the last several months has made me realize what a waste of space a freeway really is.

Believe it or not, freeways are not why I started this post in the first place. I was gonna talk about surface-street traffic. Let’s go back to Dwell:

[Wiley-Schwartz] visits neighborhood groups who think that the way to solve parking problems is to add parking. [...] “People just don’t get that if you build faster roads and you build more parking, there will be faster roads and more parking,” he says.

I have lived in L.A. long enough to see the creation of several new shopping mega-centers. I daren’t call them malls, as they are hardly that. Anyone who’s visited The Grove, an attractive shopping offshoot of the Farmers Market, knows that most of these new constructions are so much more than malls. There’s Hollywood and Highland, an ugly and difficult-to-navigate blotch that features shops, movie theaters, restaurants, a bowling alley, and the Kodak Theatre, where the Oscars are held. There’s Sunset and Vine, another ugly and uninviting place to eat, shop, or, in this case, live. There’s the addition to the Cinerama Dome that houses Arclight Cinemas, a gym, a culinary school, and lots of unsold space. There’s the Empire Center, a sprawling heat-infested asphalt and corrugated metal eyesore in Burbank. There’s the new clump of shops at Santa Monica and La Brea.

In every single one of these locations, despite some effort on the part of the city where each is located, traffic has become worse. Highland always had it’s problems, what with the Hollywood Bowl and all, but now you can be assured of a slow drive down that street most times of the day. I used to take 3rd street to cut quickly across town going to or from Hollywood, but thanks to The Grove, I can’t do that anymore. Driving in the vicinity of the Empire Center means running into long lines of cars.

Maybe this is not exactly what Wiley-Schwartz was saying, but it fits into the same category, I believe. In every instance of the creation of these new, multi-use coagulations, people arrive like flies to an outhouse. The Empire Center, for example, is a huge place. Gigantic! Yet as soon as it opened, boom, the parking lots got full, the stores crowded, and restaurants packed. All this without an apparent lag in the popularity of other consumer-centric playgrounds like downtown Burbank or Toluca Lake. How does this happen? Where do the people come from? Were they all sitting at home before this shopping paradise opened?

If you build a big, multi-use structure, there will be crowds. And crowds cause traffic, especially in L.A., where the only way to get anywhere is to drive. Perhaps the planning commissions and governments and guilds and leagues did their best to plan for this traffic. Or perhaps they didn’t. They should all have known that the boost in traffic is inevitable. Yet there are other new structures going up. There’s a huge one in Glendale, next to the ugly Galleria mall, that will make the traffic on Brand even worse than the hit-every-red-light disaster it already is. A mixed-use thingy is planned for West Hollywood, also on Santa Monica. That boulevard already sucks to drive on, so a bunch of new stores, restaurants, and apartments will only make it worse.

In my own neighborhood, a similar project is underway, though this one is skewed mostly toward condos. Oh, and it’s friggin’ 24 floors! With 79 condo units! And office space! And retail and restaurant space! I first heard about the project from a cab driver, via the touching tale of how the owner of the little liquor store at one corner of the property—the liquor store where I bought my parents a bottle of Dom Perignon one year for Christmas—was asking a selling price for his land that the developer thought was too high. The cabbie said the liquor store owner was asking so much because of the air space the high rise was going to need. Smart!

Not long after this mobile lesson in current local affairs, I started seeing “Going Out of Business” signs in the windows of the shops at that corner. Then, finally, one of those signs popped up at the liquor store. Did he get his price, or did he get shafted? Whatever the case, the whole parcel of land is now abandoned and ready for demolition/construction. I simply can not wait for the traffic in my own neighborhood to get worse than it already is, both during the building of the high rise and afterward, when people stream from all those new residents and businesses to and from other residences and businesses. Parking is definitely going to get even worse.

How can traffic be fixed? Can it? When cities like L.A. continue to grow, what can be done? When you expand the issue outward to the whole of human population, how can there be any fix for crowding and inconvenience and noise and mess and TRAFFIC?

Wiley-Schwartz and others with his mindset have it right, but no one cares about what they have to say. Like anything else, money is the only thing that matters to the people who make the decisions, and people are too lazy to change their habits anyway. My God, I’m guilty of that myself! I live here, don’t I? As long as I choose to live in a huge city like this, I’ll have to expect more congestive hives of commerce and more wastefully useless widening of freeways.

* * * * * *

Once again, I took what was going to be a short posting and turned it into a book. One good thing is I finally got down to researching the high rise that’s going up a block-and-a-half from me. For your fun and delight, I present some of the links here now.

October 2001: Original developer petitions for the project

July 2003: Land sold to new developer

July 2004: New developer at the Brentwood Community Council

December 2004: Approval by Los Angeles City Council

August 2005: Changes and liquor store capitulation

I simply have not had the time or taken the time to post recent thoughts up here, which is a shame. So today, I have some tidbits.

1) Israel is wrong and, like the U.S. invading Iraq, is making their own situation worse by killing, maiming, and destroying the lives of thousands of innocent people. (Okay, the civilian death toll so far is over 1,000, but trust me, it’s only going to get worse. As if 1,000 is some kind of acceptable number.)

2) Dog owners should be aware that after taking their dog for a walk and picking up the mess in a plastic bag, some people might not be so keen to have you touch them or anything until that hand has been washed. Though plastic is a wonderful barrier, the thought that that hand just grabbed some poop is enough to require a washing. And you never know if a tiny hole is present! You never know!

3) I want to see Little Miss Sunshine again. Were I still doing movie reviews, I would have complimented its originality, cleverness, and charmingality. The fact that Little Miss Sunshine is the only summer movie I’ve seen so far that I will be making an effort to see again says something about the quality of said summer movies.

4) Also, please wash your hands after major dog playing/petting if you want to then use those hands for an amorous human encounter.

5) I added new navigation buttons to The Wren Forum. For some reason, they suddenly worked, whereas before, I could not get them to. Hmm. The ones at the top ruin the design slightly, but are convenient. I do not know if anyone cares.

6) Joe Lieberman lost the Democratic primary in Connecticut yesterday. Hooray. He’s nasty. For someone who says he’s progressive, he’s sure done a lot of extremely non-progressive things in his time. He’s now running as an independent, and I hope he loses bad.

7) I found a mushroom growing out of my bathroom ceiling today, right where a new water leak has materialized. Great. I have to call my landlord again about that leak. So I’m done with this post.

This… THIS is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long, long time. Oh, my, yes. Funny.

After recently complaining that the quality of The Onion has been in decline, I was very happy to see this funny story today:

Bush Grants Self Permission to Grant More Power to Self

There’s still some gold in them thar hills.

Uh, Coinstar, change IS cash.

ADDENDUM: After sending this snapshot from my phone this morning, the Coinstar machine at the Sav-On— er, CVS on Hollywood Way failed to give me the iTunes voucher I’d specifically gone in to get, and instead spat out a cash voucher, minus the annoying fee I specifically tried to avoid by specifically searching for this machine online that specifically doles out iTunes vouchers without that fee.

A deep sigh ensued. Time to embark on another painful voyage through the frowns and drowned dreams that drift like ghosts within the murky and churning waters of American Corporate Customer Service.

“Oh, I’m very sorry. What was the fee? We’ll send you a check for that amount.”

Another deep sigh, this time one of relief. I could not get my iTunes voucher, but that’s okay. The full price of my coins was enough for me. Thanks, nice Coinstar lady.

Now my coins have been turned into CASH! Maybe I’ll donate it to the Coinstar Marketing Department Rudimentary English Useage Education Program.