Friday, November 24, 2006

L.A.-sized supermarkets

everything i'm about to say applies in the nth degree to outlying suburbia-esque cities like agoura hills, diamond bar and northridge (*shudder* *shudder* and *shudder*). but, as i try to avoid areas to the north, south and east of L.A. at all costs, and as i'm in L.A. right now, i will confine my comments to this city.

this post is connected to the one below in that i'm further exploring the theme of the american world being an elaborate put-on set up to convince us that everything is okay. nowhere is that more evident, i think, than in the gorgeous gleaming L.A.-sized supermarkets. the fact that i could drive to the supermarket with my daddy on a sunny thanksgiving day in a car blessedly full of gasoline, park in a gloriously large parking lot and stroll through 2-cart+ wide aisles stocked ceiling high with every good under the sun, even chanukah and kosher stuff for us reviled american jews, seemed a not minor miracle to me yesterday. in what universe is such a marvelous phenomenon possible? in the universe of the american west coast, that's where, where we're somehow protected from all the horrendous shit going on so that we can engage in the most wonderfully banal activities without (usually) giving them a second thought.

it did make me think that one of the reasons new york is better than L.A. is that life is harder or grittier or somethin. more real, ya know? and on that note, i present a poem of sorts that i wrote some years ago while i was in new york about coming home.


Coming home is like falling into a big waiting embrace that pulls you toward it and swallows you. But it’s a benign predator that sits patiently on the coast, stunning you its prey with a blissfully effective numbing poison; the victim descends blindly into the embrace and in a stupor allows its imminent digestion to take place without allotting it much importance or protest.

You could never explain why you liked home, conscious as you were beforehand of the slow, albeit painless death that awaited you in the west. Perhaps it was the very quality of disappearing that was so pleasing. Life went on, but without any care for what course of action should be taken, without any thought to the mundane events comprising each day. After all this life existed in the muffled cubicle of the coffin, or maybe in the stifling air of the theatre where you watched yourself perform in a play, cast in a role of unbelievable tediousness. Perhaps, with the sunshine a mere shroud for the sickening air, home was a cunning as well as deft killer. You in fact looked forward to some semblance of life, the fake trees, freeways, warmth, the beaches and marionette bars all painting a convincing picture of

But this time the allure of home needed little explanation. This time, the anesthetic sting would be an escape from the sensory relationships that were changing beyond any reach or effort. You needed your family, that unchanging bastion, to be cold, you needed the numbness to overwhelm you totally and without breach. Just please…now.

It’s true, people often told you you gave up and in too easily. Yes maybe, but. But sometimes it was just too simple, too simple and too good not to give in to the crushing force, that fathomless weight that allowed you to sleep. No one, not anyone, could accuse you of stagnating within your peaceful comfort. No, you inevitably went back to the painful gambles, yes, finally nearing total suffocation you always came back up for air. And now, for the first time, you realized clearly the pattern of home. And seeing it, you walked with a calm smile down the gangplank, its final edge in line with the horizon, and disappeared slowly into the expectant arms of the Pacific.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

the journalistic undertaking

involves a whoooole lotta hustling.
it sucks.
in fact, it's in a way counterintuitive to journalism itself, which is all about seeing things as they are and representing truth. hustling, networking, climbing a ladder, clawing past others, being first: all about bullshit. i'm not sure if i have it in me -- or if i want to. but then again who does? i suppose you put your conscience aside and play the game if you want it badly enough.

but then again what is "it," or what is "it" as i'm conceiving it to be? the readings in this month's Harper's -- about the overwhelming slums and cocaine trade in brazil, government corruption in hungary, about nagasaki and atomic bombs -- are kind of devastating, and then you turn to the Sunday Times Magazine, with its debut of "The Key" property magazine and movies to watch for, art reviews and shopping guides. none of it feels real.

i'm not saying that one kind of journalism is better than another, but that the purpose of most of it seems simply to reassure us that things are "normal" over here in the comfortable rooms where we're reading it. in other words, the subtext of any story is that if someone -- the journalist -- has the time and energy to hustle and report and write the story, and is actually making a living by providing it for you and me to read, and moreover has a glossy, nicely designed framework in which to present it, then things must be okay. and that's not even mentioning the "reality" reported in the stories all feels like an elaborate puppet show ruse put on to maintain the appearance that the world is in order for us, when i believe the true reality is that things, everything, can come apart at any moment. there's obviously no grand mastermind making it happen, but i do believe that is the cumulative effect, and i know i'm not the first person to have said so.

are we, or rather am i prepared to engage in this undertaking as a journalist? it's something worth thinking about.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Alert! Awesomeness on the Internet!

Today I will show, using a specific example, why print publications should not, I repeat, should NOT attempt rash expansions into "multimedia production" despite the mad, dare I say trendy rush to do so on their websites.

Forbes is a respectable publication -- or so, having never had the pleasure of watching the "Forbes Video Network," you might think.

I can just see the Forbes people sitting in a boardroom with their "ace" multimedia director, who is telling them that they must expand into video to be competitive. The big boss, David Andelman, responds that they have no budget for a broadcast professional and everyone responds to that sour pronouncement with a moment of silence. All of a sudden, faces brighten..."Hey...David, you could do it!" Yes, he could...but should he?

What we have here is an editor acting as "anchor" who's spent his entire career away from cameras and, to put it politely, has a face for radio. Alright, cheap shot, but the guy is so obviously a newbie at reading a teleprompter, it's painful to watch his eyes continuously wandering to just below eye level. People, the least you could do is stack that screen up on a couple phonebooks. For cryin' out loud!

Next, we have the ridiculous attempt at creating a "show" or broadcast news magazine that, in Andelman's words, "is all about security and terror." Yes, that's the tagline. It's awkward, sure, but the title is the real kicker. "Alert!" sounds like an awwwwwesome brainstorm out of Grover Cleveland High School's Freshman Journalism 101 class. And they've got the editing and backdrop to match -- note the moment when Andelman "cuts" to his guest. It's so obviously not a real time broadcast, from Andelman's hand positions, to his vocal tenor, to the timing of his first question, it's embarrassing. Andelman's guest, Ken, "corresponding from D.C.," looks like he went to Kinko's and had a big stand-up cardboard poster made of some vaguely Middle Eastern city to sit behind him. Andelman's weird bright orange backdrop at the Forbes Video Network "headquarters" isn't too hot either (though it does nicely match the "Alert!" logo).

The best part of all this is that in the yawn inducing 5-minute long interview, Ken essentially tells us nothing about security and terror. Except for the vaguely alarmist and fear inducing tone "Alert!" sounds by the very virtue of being called "Alert!", the only quasi-point this ex-NSA director makes is that Al Qaeda has the capacity to inflict some horrible online-based network attack. Forbes, of course, must dress that nugget up as "al Qaeda is able AND ready to strike on the Internet" (my caps).

Which all leads to one simple question: Why? Why, Forbes, why?

Part of the explanation, of cour$$$$e, is the great additional source of advertising revenue that "multimedia" represents for print publications ("Alert!" makes you sit through two of the same fucking ad, but tries to make the second one feel like a TV commercial break, which it doesn't), and god knows they need the money these days. But they've gone to such lengths of awfulness in this broadcast, making up a name for it, giving it a beat, finding a guest...and, they've put their frickin executive editor on the line just for a few extra bucks? I don't think so. They actually think -- stay with me here -- they actually think they are presenting a quality journalistic broadcast here. They can plead ignorance all they want, but the fact that they're rakin' in extra bucks for making you and me sit through this shit just isn't right. Take some of the cash, send your technology man to video editing school and get some skills in-house, or, better yet, hire an outside producer like me to help you. But for god's sake, make this better.

To be fair, I should mention that Forbes isn't alone and that wonderfully sad examples of attempts at "multimedia expansion" are resplendent on the Internet these days (instincts of self-preservation prevent me from naming names). But the Forbes Video Network reaches new heights. So watch it and enjoy...err, weep!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

thoughts for the day

goldfrapp is the hipster matchbox 20
mashups are hipster muzak

Friday, November 10, 2006

heeb pride

well, it's really more like zionist pride or somethin somethin, but i find it quite exceptional (though, knowing israel, unsurprising) that a technically "religious" country is able to provide basic protections for public assembly of the gay community. not only that, but the government essentially deemed banning such a display out of the question, though certain groups and leaders (all the way up to the vatican!) had vigorously demanded it. the region is so fucked up, certainly due in part to theocratic governments. israel is one too, to an extent, but somehow that doesn't manage to interfere with the most basic civil rights within its borders. it's an incredibly unique country, especially in the region.

it's so ironic that something like this would follow one of the most egregiously awful actions by the israeli military in recent memory. there's no question in my mind, and the support of gay rights proves that israel views human and civil rights as important. but then these things happen and it just pulls all of israel's moral high ground out from under them. in downtown new york last week, there were picketers in front of this israeli-owned coffee shop, aroma, handing out flyers and exhorting passers-by to counter "zionist apartheid" by not supporting the restaurant. the ridiculousness of targeting a business for political policies aside, it's always painful to see how people truly view israel as an evil entity -- not least because the country's actions sometimes support that assertion.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

james gieger - cab driver, jazz lovah

you know this jazz musician larry willis? i had him in my cab once. he had a CD coming out and i didn't even know about it. he didn't mention it. and then i heard about it, i said larry willis? is that the guy i had in my cab? yeah, i went out and bought it. then one time i had this couple in my car. it was loud back there, i could tell they were bickering about something, fighting about something, and i just tune them out and listen to the music up here, and then this larry willis song came on, it's called The Day You Left. i said man i hope they quiet down because i really wanted to listen to it. we were crossing the brooklyn bridge, and all of a sudden the cab is totally silent. i look back there. they were lost, man, i said, wah, it's too much that song, it's just too much. you know wynton marsalis? i had him in my cab. i have his office number. i can see wynton marsalis play any time i want. but that song, man, i don't know what he was thinking about when he wrote it. maybe it was about the day someone he loved left him.