Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Columnist back from the brink

Via Romenesko, from the Chicago Sun-Times. Neil Steinberg begins this way:

THOSE COLUMNS I WROTE ABOUT MY HOME LIFE OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS WERE NOT A LIE. I really live in a rambling old house with a pair of eager, mischievous boys and a pretty, wisecracking wife. We really remodeled our kitchen on a pharaonic scale. We really have three cats.

But the stories in the newspapers (and on TV, and radio) last month were also true. I probably shouldn't say that. But you have come to expect a certain candor in this space and now does not seem the time to change. I got drunk and slapped my wife during an argument. I immediately knew it was a mistake -- I used to say that if I ever hit Edie, I would draw back a bloody stump, and that wasn't far from what happened. She called the cops, they came, clapped me into handcuffs and hauled me off to jail. When I asked her later why she had to have me arrested, she said, "Nobody hits me, buddy." Pithy as always.


The next day in court my wife made a statement that can be accurately condensed as "He drinks too much and needs help." When she had tried, again and again and again, to tell me that in previous years, I would always muster my charm, lie low a few days and wriggle out. Drinking was what I did, who I was, my comfort and my joy and I wasn't about to give it up for any lecturing wife. But after 14 sleepless hours behind bars, I passionately wanted to get out, and when the judge offered me the choice of going through the fine rehab program inside the Cook County Jail, or somewhere else outside, I eagerly opted for the latter.

Go to the link above for the rest.

The dream is alive

David Letterman has Starbucks coffee pumped directly to his desk.

In order to make this work, they need to insulate the tubing so the beverage remains hot on its journey.

From the Letterman site, via Starbucks Gossip, which, curiously is run by Jim Romenesko of the vastly more famous media site:

Dave is thirsting for some Starbucks coffee and tonight, to satisfy his desire, we rigged up something really special. From the Starbucks across the street and down the block, we have a direct link via 550 feet of clear plastic tubing. Dave has a spigot at his desk. The source is in Starbucks. The power to get the coffee from Starbucks to Dave's desk is supplied by a nitrogen tank at Starbucks. We turn on the camera at Starbucks and meet and greet Brad Simanski at the counter. ...

When all is ready, Brad the Barista turns on the power and Dave's decaf coffee is sent on its way. The camera follows the coffee leaving the n/e c/o 54th and Broadway. Across 54th is goes, then across Broadway, through the Ed Sullivan Theater doors, through the lobby, down the side of the theater and to the spigot. Dave turns on the faucet to enjoy a nice delicious cup of Starbucks. Complains the customer; "It's too cold." This technology is still in its infancy stage and portions still need to be worked out. Over all, though, a success. The coffee from Starbucks was a success. Big money was lost on this bit. No, not on the creating of the whole thing . . . but on the money bet that it wouldn't work. It was rehearsed once with a modicum of success. For the show, we were very happy with the results.

Robert Hilburn takes a buyout

L.A. Times music critic Robert Hilburn is taking a buyout but will still freelance for the paper, L.A. Observed reports.

Back in the days before the Web, in the late '70s, I looked to the Times and Hilburn for my pop-musical education and was introduced to the wonders of punk rock through its pages. Yes, in those days the Times was somewhat ahead of the curve. It was before the L.A. Weekly became a big force, and all the local clubs -- the Starwood, the Roxy, the Whisky -- would advertise in the Sunday Calendar.

The whole Dylan and Springsteen fixation was annoying yet amusing; it's been a newsroom game over the years to count the grafs until one of them is mentioned in just about any Hilburn story, no matter who or what the subject. Still, he remains a legend.

The most fascinating person of 2005


HRH Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, nee Camilla Parker Bowles, was named the most fascinating person of 2005 in the world of Barbara Walters on last night's prime-time special.

My pick, Jon Stewart, didn't even make the list. Well, I guess he was more fascinating last year.

I almost forgot the show was on and didn't start taping until the halfway point. Most of the interviews were EXTREMELY short, and there was no Camilla chat. Is that the way it always is with the "most fascinating person" -- no interview? That way they're not tipped off as to their fascination, I suppose.

Yeah, Camilla is plenty fascinating all right, having caught Prince Charles' eye some decades ago, not being suitable, but carrying on an affair for years and finally marrying him some years after the death of Princess Diana. Sure, the prince of Wales is pretty much an idiot, but she's gotta be comfortable with that, having known him all these years.

Here's the screwiest take on the list, from the Manufacturers Blog:

The Ten Most Fascinating People of 2005: Barbara Walters Misses the Boat

The Blogger-in-Chief was hesitant to write on this topic, so it looks like his humble apprentice gets the leftover scraps.

We were only just slightly annoyed when we turned on ABC last night to watch the Barbara Walters' (anybody remember Barbara WaWa?) special, "The Ten Most Fascinating People of 2005."

We waited in great anticipation through the entire hour-long special to see if she decided to lump a manufacturer--any manufacturer--into her list.


Here was her "list" of "fascinating people":

Dakota Fanning
Jamie Foxx
Condoleezza Rice
Teri Hatcher
Thomas Mesereau
Lance Armstrong
Beth Holloway-Twitty
Tom Cruise
Kanye West
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

Wup dee do. Kinda lame, if you ask us.

A couple questions:

Where are the manufacturers in that list? We only make everything that these "fascinating" people use everyday.

What was Barbara Walters' criteria?Perhaps these people were chosen because many are considered popular and "cool?" Manufacturers are cool too, ya know. We even make cool stuff. In fact, this blog has a whole section on Cool Stuff Being Made.

When was the last time Barbara Walters went on a plant tour? We think if she went on one, she'd surely find it fascinating.

Loyal readers of this blog (both of you) will recall that when People magazine listed their Hottest Beach Bodies we called for a boycott because not one manufacturer was included in that list.

Somebody should call for a boycott of Barbara Walters.

Any takers?

Oh, and Barbara, 2005 isn't over yet. There's still a month to go, by our count. Anytime you want to amend the list, we'll happily invite ourselves.

By the way, Cool Stuff Being Made is, indeed, cool. Today's movie is on makin' bacon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

L.A. Observed is back out of commission


L.A. Observed is back. The explanation herein. The world can continue to spin on its axis.

"Bandwidth limit exceeded," is the message I get when I go to L.A. Observed. Guess you can be too popular. Hope Kevin Roderick gets it sorted out soon -- it's like we're in the dark here.

Mack Reed elaborates and sympathizes at L.A. Voice.

This underscores the order I go in. Fire up the browser, go to L.A. Observed, then L.A. Voice, the two best sites for this particular city. And even though L.A. Voice is billed as a community of bloggers, it's pretty much Mack who pulls the freight. L.A. Observed is all Kevin, of course. A great job done by both gentlemen, and quite a public service as well.

Here in Van Nuys on leaf blowers

Andrew defends leaf blowers, on the grounds that they offer a tangible benefit along with their noise and pollution.

Our gardener (yes, we have a gardener, don't start with me), Larry, has a rather quiet leaf blower, but it's a blower nonetheless. I'm ambivalent -- those things sure do work -- but I also have a broom.

I also favor letting leaves stay where they fall and/or moving them into my compost bin. Composting is the best thing we can do to both fortify the garden and dispose of organic wastes (both yard and kitchen varieties) with maximum efficiency -- no truck needed to haul it away, all processing done by critters and micro-organisms.

I'm off track and not betting. So goodbye.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Holiday hell week

Any week that includes a "day off" holiday is HELL WEEK at the Daily News. For the privilege of having a day away, we spend an entire week inundated with extra work and earlier deadlines, no time to breathe.

And there's not enough free food here. Just as well, since I could stand to drop a few pounds. (I've gained 5 to 10 pounds since I returned here in 2002 for my most-recent Daily News stint. It's a long story, but I have worked here three separate times.)

So that's why posting is low to nonexistant at present. I know you all want to hear about my toilet repairs, why I'm pissed off about winshield wiper refills and how the dry weather is affecting the inside of my nose, but it'll have to wait.

Until then, all the best to you and yours for the happiest (blah, blah, blah) of Thanksgivings. Vegetarians that we are, we will be feasting on this, made by Ilene from the new Real Food Daily Cookbook.

The great Real Food Daily restaurant offers full Thanksgiving meals, praised in this case by Laist.
Alas, it's too late to order, but if you drop by in Santa Monica or West Hollywood, you can probably get yourself a nice plate of faux turkey breast, potatoes and more.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

L.A. Times cutting 85 jobs

L.A. Observed has the memo. L.A. Voice says it's going to hit the copy desk the hardest because LAT is heavier there than other Tribune Co. papers.

Deadline to apply for a "separation package" (a.k.a. buyout) is Nov. 25 (a.k.a. the day after Thanksgiving).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Orange Line: Honeymoon phase?

Daily News staffer Lisa Mascaro looks at the zeitgeist of the Orange Line, with Joel Kotkin offering the following:

The (Red Line) subway, Kotkin reminds, carries only a fraction of its projected ridership more than a decade after it opened.

"They go through an early honeymoon period where everyone takes it," Kotkin said about shiny-new commuter lines. "Try it in three months. When the Red Line started, there were all sorts of people in ties and jackets."

He thinks Orange Line supporters should see the busway for what it is - a cheap alternative to rail for transit-dependent people - and not fantasize that the Valley is a new center of world-class urbanity.

"We're not talking about sashaying on the Champs-Elysses," he said. "If people want to get all enthused about it, that's great. ... Cafes and dancing seals at every stop? That's not what you're going to get."

Forget the "dancing seals," but a lot could happen along the busway, both commercial and residential. And yes, your friends from Starbucks and Coffee Bean could be a part of it.

Kotkin doubts middle-class riders will trade their cars for buses in great numbers in the long run.

But he still thinks the Orange Line should be extended to crisscross the Valley and go out to Thousand Oaks - since busways are so much cheaper than rail lines. The Orange Line's original plans included similar north-south busways near Canoga Avenue and Van Nuys Boulevard.

Van Nuys Boulevard, especially, is primed for a busway. The street is WIDE because the famed Red Cars used to travel along tracks in the middle of the street. All MTA has to do is reclaim the median.

Now I know Zev Yaroslavsky is set on Canoga Avenue, but I think the second north-south busway should be on Reseda Boulevard.

On the Ventura Boulevard end, you would hit Tarzana and the Tarzana portion of Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center, then head by the park at Victory Boulevard (and the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, which is nowhere near Sherman Oaks, by the way), by a whole bunch of businesses, including the hub at Sherman Way and eventually up to California State University Northridge -- which is notoriously hard to reach by bus in a timely manner. After that, head up to the 118 Freeway.

Next candidate for an east-west line (besides Ventura Boulevard, which MUST be dealt with at some point) would be Nordhoff Street, which takes in Panorama City to the East, CSUN and the Northridge Mall farther West. Ideally it would head south where Nordhoff hits Corbin Avenue and eventually link to the Orange Line around Victory.

L.A. Times cuts itself, reports on it, too

The L.A. Times cuts its Outdoors section. Can't say I love reading about catching trout and bagging elk, but that seems ominous. Again, the Times seems to say more than it seemingly shoud, what with morale and all:

There will be further cuts at The Times in coming weeks, (Dean) Baquet said, but he declined to elaborate.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A painful play on words

The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley on Oprah:

She is a media mogul who is to self-improvement what Martha Stewart is to home entertaining, but Winfrey's multiple personalities -- celebrity confidante, self-help evangelist and benefactress to the needy -- are unmatched. She is her own version of a U.N. educational and cultural organization: "O"-nesco.


How about exchanging names first?

Seen on Craigslist: The hot brunette at Coffee Bean on Hollywood Blvd - m4w - 32

Nanny Nanny Nanny Nanny

How many nannies does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Seriously, if you want to know what's really going on out there, look here.

Opinions on the L.A. Times Opinion firings

No love lost at Laist. And Mack Reed of L.A. Voice is pro-Scheer but anti-Ramirez.

Mickey Kaus is pro-Ramirez and, curiously, both pro and extremely anti-Scheer at the same time:

I would have kept Robert Scheer, though. He's an annoying egomaniac, certain of his own authority even when he's wackily wrong. I remember him assuring me, shortly after 9/11, that we would discover it was the work of a rogue European cell and not Osama bin Laden. He once attacked my parents. (That was in the course of reviewing my book.) If I could press a magic button and end his career I probably would. But the op-ed page is a good place to explore alternative universes--that's better than just "piling on," as Maureen Dowd recently described her role. And Scheer is a skilled polemicist who's right more often than a stopped clock. (Though it's close, as Jackie Mason would say.)

Laist experiences the Orange Line

Laist rides the bus. Also with tips and some cool pictures. A quote:

The local papers can't get enough of The Orange Line. The Daily News ran what seems like their hundredth front page story on the new transitway today and the Times took it to the editorial page making the case for more parking at the orange line/red line transfer location. LAist rode the Orange line for the first time last week and was pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable the ride was. It felt a little like riding BART up north and gave us the opportunity to see parts of the valley we don't normally get to enjoy when we're in the car avoiding distracted cell phone drivers and aggressive red light runners along Victory Boulevard. The Route is actually pretty darn attractive.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Has a Pulitzer, gets fired anyway

I thought winning the Pulitzer Prize was a guarantee of lifelong employment and untold riches. But the L.A. Times is firing political cartoonist Michael Ramirez (emphasis below is mine, especially on the word "discontinuing"). One thing you gotta give the Times credit for is letting the two fired guys be quoted. You don't see that happening very often:

In a major shake-up of its editorial pages, the Los Angeles Times announced Thursday that it was discontinuing one of its most liberal columnists as well as its conservative editorial cartoonist.

Editorial Page Editor Andrés Martinez said that Robert Scheer, a Times reporter for 17 years before he began writing a column on the Op-Ed pages in 1993, will be dropped. Cartoonist Michael Ramirez, The Times' cartoonist since 1997, will leave the paper at the end of the year and will not be replaced.


Scheer and Ramirez said Thursday that they believed their strong political stances played a role in their dismissals.

Scheer said he thought The Times had grown tired of his liberal politics. "I've been a punching bag for Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh for years and I think the paper finally collapsed," he said. He said he and Ramirez "both had strong opinions and [I think] the owners think they can improve circulation by making the paper bland and safer."

Ramirez, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994, said: "I can't help but think it's also a philosophical parting of ways." He said he also believed his removal was partly due to budgetary concerns, as well as a desire to change the look of the editorial pages.

Ramirez's departure leaves The Times without a permanent staff editorial cartoonist. (Ramirez's predecessor, Paul Conrad, won three Pulitzer Prizes, two of them at The Times).

"You have a newspaper that has such a grand tradition of editorial cartooning," Ramirez said. "I think it makes a lesser product and I think the readers lose."


Ramirez's cartoons will continue to appear in The Times through December. After that, he said, his cartoons will continue to be syndicated by Copley News Service, which has distributed them since 1988.

I grew up with Paul Conrad's L.A. Times cartoons, and he formed and shaped my opinion of what a good editorial cartoon should be. There was a level of sophistication that was and is lacking in the work most other cartoonists -- and I had no idea because I only knew from Conrad, who won three Pulitzers.

And while I'm thinking about it, Paul Conrad is STILL drawing cartoons, but NOT for the L.A. Times. I'll have to look into the circumstances of his parting with the paper. Here's a particularly good example of Conrad's recent work and his Rosa Parks tribute.

Here's some of Ramirez's work. And Scheer's, which I confess I've never read. Was I the only person excited by Michael Kinsley's arrival and thunderous tenure (and then dismayed that it ended so quickly)?

But seriously folks, has a Pulitzer Prize winner ever been fired up until now? If so, I'd like to know.

And for those keeping score, the Daily News does employ a staff political cartoonist, Patrick O'Connor. You might've seen his GIANT BILLBOARD at the corner of Burbank Boulevard and Woodman Avenue a few months back.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Double Espresso

Coffee from Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf can be bitter and over-roasted. And it takes longer to drink than the 2-year-old will allow without constant pleas of "Have some," ... "Have some coffee" ... "I want coffee." She's 2, for the love of God. And I also have to be awake, at least a little bit, some of the time.

Enter my not-so-secret weapon. The double espresso.

Sure, it takes longer for them to make it (they have to shoot it out of the espresso machine, not just let it drip into a cup like regular coffee). But it's both economical ($1.85 or so$1.75 at the local Starbucks for a double), and with TWO SUGARS mixed in, you can drain it in one or two good swigs and begin to enjoy the caffeine high right away.

Call it the difference between snorting and shooting, if you will. I will.

Now, before the little one is three sips through her Trader Joe's individually boxed soy milk (with cool retractable straw), I'm ready to face the day, or the next few hours if it, anyway.

Espresso tip: Look for the crema on top -- you'll know it's been made right.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Our polling place changed

(If you want to understand Arnold, you have to see "Pumping Iron." It's all about winning and using psychological warfare to do so. Even when Arnold could win a bodybuilding competition (for which prize money was negligible, by the way) on his own physical merits, he felt both a need and compulsion to "psyche out" the other participants. Guess it's not working so well these days, but what the hell.)

Forget the neighbor's garage, a couple blocks down, with plenty of parking. Instead, for the "special election" we had to find a new polling place, in a largish apartment building's rec room. Not all that far away, but not much parking, either, so Ilene and I piled the girl into her stroller and hiked it over there first thing in the morning.

Just as we got there, a woman was in a tizzy about her pre-marked absentee ballot, on which she "made a mistake," as she said. Did she confuse Propositions 78 and 79? Easy enough to do. But did she have to get in front of us? Yes. And was her name in the same part of the alphabet (and same book of registered voters' names) as ours? Yes.

The other drama concerned the County-issued cell phone that the precinct workers couldn't get a signal on.

Anyhow, we Inka-Voted (we had discussed the issues on the 10-minute walk to the polling place -- about all the whole slate of issues merited) and left.

Even though I'm in "the media," I was surprised to find that Proposition 80 would have re-regulated the state's electric-power industry. I hadn't heard a thing about it, but considering the problems we've had with Enron and rolling blackouts (which, thankfully, didn't affect the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power), I figured some re-regulation would be a good idea.

Well, Prop. 80, along with everything but the LAUSD school bond, was defeated. I'm just shocked that there was a proposition that flew so far under the radar that I had no idea it was on the ballot until walking toward the polling place.

As to how I voted on everything else, I've been registered as "non-partisan" ever since I've been in the news business. Now I don't think that's a requirement, or even some kind of high moral ground on which to stand, but I just feel more comfortable that way as both a journalist AND a private citizen because I'm not happy with either the Democrats or Republicans. And the way our system is structured, minor parties are virtually shut out of any role in actually governing. Makes for a different kind of democracy than in Europe. Not better or worse, just different.

I could go on about how the collective political consciousness in the U.S. produces two parties that encompass the blended ideological soup of the electorate, pleasing a few and causing indifference or disgust in the rest, but I won't.

I digress.

Can't say I'm a fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I'd hoped for less big-money pandering on his part, but I can't see Gray (or is it Grey?) Davis or Cruz Bustamente doing any better. And I thought Arnold's close connection with former Gov. Pete Wilson was a plus. Not that I'm a fan of anti-immigrant measure Prop. 187, because I'm not, but I have a great admiration for Wilson due to his dogged determination more than anything. When I worked at the Glendale News-Press in the '90s, he'd come by on a regular basis, roll up the shirt sleeves, answer any question and plead for whatever was on his mind. Just the fact that he came to those little papers and wasn't full of BS stuck with me. I hoped Arnold would emulate Wilson more than he has, but what can you do?

Again I digress.

Nobody can think the California Legislature is working. I'm not sure if it was better before or after term limits, but anything that could be done to make the seats in the Assembly and Senate less safe for either party is OK by me, so I voted for Prop. 77. Had to go along with Prop. 79 (and against 78) because something has to be done about prescription drug costs. The whole buy-drugs-from-Canada thing is just a symptom of a system that's horribly out of whack, and, again, better to do something rather than nothing.

And even though I'm now a father, the whole Prop. 73 abortion-notification measure just isn't right. You hope a girl will tell her parents in such cases, but you don't have to have a law about it.

Love to tell you about the rest, but even I'm bored.


The ultimate car

Expect to see these in every other driveway in my neighborhood. Beginning in 2006 ...

Hybrid option for Camry -- America's Most Popular Car

Appealing to our patriotic tendencies, the car will be assembled in Kentucky (albeit of mostly Japanese parts).

Here's the pitch:

Camry is America's most popular car, with sales topping 425,000 units in 2004. A large number of buyers who might not otherwise choose a hybrid car will select the Camry Hybrid. These buyers will enjoy improved fuel efficiency, uncompromised performance and the most advanced hybrid system on the road: Hybrid Synergy Drive®.

Most of Camry Hybrid's electrical powertrain components will be imported from Japan, but the 4-cylinder engine will be assembled in Georgetown, Kentucky. As with all other Toyota vehicles featuring Hybrid Synergy Drive®, the Camry Hybrid powertrain will be engineered to achieve the model's specific performance specifications and to exceed buyer expectations.

The growing hybrid market
Camry Hybrid was born of Toyota's commitment to produce environmentally sensitive vehicles and the increasing market demand for hybrids. Toyota has sold more than 400,000 hybrid vehicles worldwide. The company is on target to produce 300,000 hybrid vehicles annually by 2005, and one million by the end of the decade. Camry Hybrid follows Prius and Highlander Hybrid as the third Toyota hybrid in the U.S. market.

Toyota will continue to release information about Camry Hybrid performance, specifications, options, price and first date of sale. Hybrid Synergy View will keep you up with the latest news!

Check out the U.S. Camry Hybrid launch announcement for more information.

Fun facts on this page: 425,000 Camrys sold in 2004, 500,000 hybrids sold worldwide by Toyota, with goal of 300,000 per year.

Our friends Brad and Lara are NOT seniors yet have a Prius AND a Camry. They live on the Westside, where seniors presumably drive other kinds of vehicles and thus don't understand the phenomenon that is the classic Camry driver.

The Most Fascinating People

The names of a select few of Barbara Walters' "Most Fascinating People" have trickled out, as Andrew reports on Here in Van Nuys. As I said there, who can remember the name of last year's "most fascinating person"? Last year's best-picture Oscar winner? Not that I've won anything ever or am thought of as "fascinating" by anybody, but these things have an incredible burst of power followed by quick amnesia.

Now back to the fascination. Presumably none of those currently mentioned are in the running for "Most Fascinating Person." Here's what we have so far:

NEW YORK (AP) - Tom Cruise, Teri Hatcher and Kanye West are among the names on Barbara Walters' list of the 10 most fascinating people of 2005.The list of the year's most prominent names in entertainment, politics and sports also includes Lance Armstrong, Michael Jackson's lawyer Tom Mesereau and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, ABC announced Monday.

"Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2005" will air Nov. 29 (10 p.m. EST). The No. 1 most fascinating person of the year will be revealed on the special, now in its 12th year.

Presumably the "most fascinating person" is not among these six, so that leaves four more "fascinating" people, with one of those "most fascinating." By process of elimination and elucidation, I will attempt to, at least, name Babs' No. 1, if not get a few of the others remaining on the list. Return her Nov. 30 to see how well I did -- and feel free to supply your picks in the comments.

They could be fascinating:

The politicians

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (long shot)

Arnold Schwarzenegger (long shot)

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (not as long, but still a long shot)

U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (good bet)

The activists

Cindy Sheehan (leading anti-Iraq War voice is a good bet)

Morgan Spurlock (the "Super Size Me" guy who's an advocate for the working class)

The anchors

Anderson Cooper (most-buzzed-about anchor of the moment)

Shepard Smith (defied Fox News conventional wisdom by critizing government during Katrina aftermath)

MY PICK FOR MOST FASCINATING: Jon Stewart (incredible buzz, best-selling books, the ear of the under-40 generation and the ability to get bow-tied talking heads yanked from all-news networks)

The Actors

Angelina Jolie (she stole a "world's sexiest man" candidate from one of "America's sweethearts" and is also intent on saving the world -- and not just by adopting children at a Mia Farrow-esque pace)

Charlize Theron (could repeat as Best Actress Oscar winner)

Jennifer Aniston (had "world's sexiest man" stolen by "world's sexiest woman" ... what does that make her? A freakin' martyr with patentable hair)


Gwen Stefani (she's being played in every boutique in L.A. Barbara Walters wants tutorial on how to pronounce, "Hollaback.")


Ashley Smith (the woman who kept a fugitive from killing her by quoting out of preacher Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life" ... and offering him some of her crystal meth, the latter of which she renounced after getting her own book deal)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Camrys can be dangerous to your health

Ilene said it much better than me (or is it I? We'll let the "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" lady sort that one out).

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A special corner

Yesterday's Orange Line crash, in what used to be Van Nuys but is now Valley Glen, made me think about the corner of Woodman Avenue and Oxnard Street. I grew up in what they call a "garden apartment" not far from there. That it was an apartment complex was clear. The "garden" part was due to the trees and ivy, through which we would run, playing army, with baseball bats doubling as rifles, the last gasps of Vietnam nowhere on our grubby radar.

Back to Woodman and Oxnard. That corner was the center of my known universe. There used to be more shops than there are now. Most of those on the northwest corner were bulldozed to make way for apartments and condos. I remember when gas cost 43 cents a gallon at the Mobil station (which is still a Mobil station).

We used to go to a small grocery store on the southeast corner (since replaced by a mini-mall with seemingly nothing to offer -- who needs a water store?). The butcher once gave me a hand-made sausage that looked like it had every kind of animal part on the farm in it. It was spicy. And don't get me started on where or what the casing came from. I would get Bazooka bubble gum, with those little Bazooka Joe cartoons, for 2 cents apiece and Topps baseball cards, with equally card-like gum, for a quarter a pack.

There was a beauty shop where my mother went weekly to get her hair done, a barbershop where I got my hair cut.

On the northwest corner, right next to the laundromat, there was liquor store where I got comic books to read while our clothes were spinning. On the other side was Phillip's TV, run by a quiet man named Phillip, who used to fix our set. Those TVs with tubes needed a lot of fixing. He even replaced the channel-changing knob a couple of times. (We barely had color, let alone a remote.) Not like today when you pretty much have a TV for 10 years with no trouble at all and throw it out when it stops working.

Remember those tube-testing machines they used to have at Sav-On and Thrifty? You'd pull your tubes from the set, take them to the drugstore and plug them into the appropriate socket. (I think they gave you little stick-on numbers so you'd know which tube came from which socket when you went to re-insert them in the back.) Then the machine's meter would tell you if the tube was good or bad. We weren't the type to even open the back of the TV set, lest we never get it working again. When I got a bit older, I'd take everything apart, but this was before I had access to a set of screwdrivers.

What's now the Matterhorn Chef restaurant used to be called Old Heidelberg. I've never eaten there -- Bavarian food wasn't and isn't something that appeals to the vegetarian in me. A funny place for a fancy-ish restaurant, but it's nice to know it's still there after all these years.

Orange Line vs. Camry

How did I know a Toyota Camry was involved?

The most serious crash occurred when a Woodland Hills woman, who is believed to have been talking on a cell phone, ran a red light at Woodman Avenue, officials said. Her Toyota Camry hit the bus and then spun around and hit it again before stopping, they said.

The woman suffered a serious injury, but was in good condition late Wednesday.

Fourteen people on the bus were sent to local hospitals but suffered only minor injuries.

What is it about senior citizens and Camrys? Remember The Camry Death March.

I got a little sentimental, if not weepy, when I saw an elderly couple rolling along this morning in what seniors used to drive: A Ford Taurus. This was an '80s model. Now there's the Ford Five Hundred for those who want a V8 with a lot of metal. The Chrysler 300 looks stylish. Honda Accord. Nissan Maxima.

But they all want a Camry.

Remember, I pass both Sherman Oaks Hospital and Kaiser-Permanente Woodland Hills every morning, so I have plenty of Camry exposure. And to the lady in Sherman Oaks with the perfectly-preserved orange 1970s Volvo -- DON'T CUT ACROSS THREE LANES OF TRAFFIC WITHOUT SIGNALING.

There, I feel better.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Major Orange Line accident

At Woodman Avenue and Oxnard Street. FifteenThirteen injured.

And I hear one of those is a fatality.No fatalities.

And there was a minor accident earlier in the day near Corbin Avenue.

Thanks for stopping by

Two hundred people took a look here after the L.A. Observed link. Whether it's the Metro Orange Line or what I ate for breakfast that intrigues you, thanks for your interest. This morning, I had Cheerios with Rice Dream rice milk, shared with the child. (Trader Joe's O's are actually better than General Mills' Cheerios, though Wal-Mart's generic rendition is much worse).

There was pie sitting out overnight in the Daily News newsroom, but it mysteriously disappeared. Guess some misguided person thought that pie can't last overnight without risking food-borne illness. I, for one, am willing to live a little dangerously, especially when it comes to pie.

Photo by Andy Holzman/Daily News

I don't have a lot of time, but I wanted to give a shout-out for Mike Teatreault, the Daily News' letters editor. Mike, who I had the pleasure of working with on the Features copy desk at one point in our Daily News careers, wrote a great Orange Line piece. He gives our oft-photographed mayor a good ribbing:

I was going to ride the bus on Saturday but I was afraid of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Not Antonio himself, but of Antonio's almost mystical ability to get his picture taken. Where there is Antonio, a camera will appear. I don't like to have my picture taken; a picture steals part of our souls. Look at the movie stars, look at the celebrities, look at the politicians.

Another quote:

The bus arrives a little more than two minutes after I do. I get on through the rear door, just behind the strange accordion thing that allows the bus to turn on a dime. The bus is almost full, but nobody is standing. Half of the seats face the center of the bus. I choose a seat facing the aisle.

It's the best seat for the second part of why I rode the bus. The Orange Line is my retirement plan. A lot of people are worried about the dangers of this busway: No intersection crossing gates. Poor placement of light signals. Poor placement of warning signs. Neighbors will be kept awake nights by the sound of buses bumping into cars, bicyclists and pedestrians.

What if they aren't just dogs-in-the-manger, sour-graping-it, light-rail chauvinists? I intend to be on the bus. Even a slow-motion accident, a tai-chi collision, will be sufficient for my retirement. I have my lawyer's business card in my wallet.

I am the only coat-and-tie person on the bus. Everybody else appears to labor for a living. There are no blondes going west; perhaps they ride east in the morning.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I made it on L.A. Observed

The king of L.A. bloggers name-checks me right here. Thanks, Kevin Roderick.

Also got a link from Andrew at Here in Van Nuys, who covers the same territory except with cooler original pictures.

(I will exit ass-kissing mode ... now)