It’s Saturday morning. Time to put your feet up and read what laughingly passes for a newspaper these days — which, of course, means we have some media news chum for you:
- The Dress. The Dress. No, not that dress. Rather, this is a situation where dozens of female meteorologists (what used to be called “weather girls” or even derogatory terms) all have been observed wearing the same dress. The dress, a “Stretch Tunic Pencil Sheath Dress” sold on Amazon for $23, has been seen on at least 50 weather reports across the country. Jennifer Myers, a meteorologist from Dallas, Texas, posted a collage to Reddit showing several of the women sporting the ensemble. Dress of female meteorologists is restricted: they aren’t allowed to wear “distracting prints,” lace, anything green, short skirts, or cleavage-bearing shirts. Other than the humor of the inadvertent common uniform, a few observations. First, while looking into this story, I happened to click on the Amazon page. Big mistake. Now all the little Amazon ads that pop up everywhere are trying to sell me a dress. Second, with respect to local TV, I do find the dress of the weathercritters to be interesting. I often catch the weather on KTLA at 10pm, and their weathercaster, Vera Jimenez, often picks an unflattering outfit (the problem, by the way, is more the choice of color and the shortness of the skirt). Doesn’t affect the quality of her presentation any, but for some reason it is one of the few times where I comment to my wife on fashion (and it now has me wondering why I’m so petty in this one area). It sounds like TV newscritters are responsible for their on-air wardrobe, as opposed to the studio providing it.
- This is National Public Radio. Two articles related to NPR and NPR news. The first relates to demographics: it appears that the NPR audience is significantly aging, and NPR doesn’t know how to turn it around. This is a problem in a number of ways. First, the station funding model is one of subscribers, and subscribers come from pledge breaks, and pledge breaks come from listeners, and if the listeners are greying and dying off — what happens to your funding? Younger audiences do listen to a number of NPR programs, but they do so via direct streaming or podcasts, and thus support the podcast directly, not the station. They are exploring ways to turn this around (including the NPR One app), but so far it hasn’t made a dent. The second article relates to breaking news. Those of us who grew up with newsradio (cough, KNX, cough, KFWB) knew that entire programming days could go out the window when there was breaking news. NPR, on the other hand, doesn’t always take that approach for breaking news. They have a complicated approach to when they can go live, depending on staff, where they are in the “clock”, what they would be interrupting, etc.
- Los Angeles Times in the News. In yesterday’s news chum, I wrote about the buyouts that have occurred at the LA Times. I fretted about how they are decimating the reporting, and the once great paper was but a shadows of its former self. Yesterday a rumor surfaced about the possible sale of Tribune Publishing and the LA Times. The rumor, from Rupert Murdoch, has been subject to intense analysis and may or may not be true. I, for one, hope that it is. Los Angeles used to be a great newspaper community, from the LA Times to the Herald Examiner to the Valley Green Sheet to the Orange County Register to the VC Star to the San Diego Union Tribune. Now they are all gone, merged together, or otherwise diminished. It would be nice to see it come back, even a little.
Today’s news chum post brings a collection of stories about Los Angeles, and all things Los Angeles:
- The Feud. KCET has an interesting article on “the feud” — that is, the supposed ongoing rivalry between Southern and Northern California. KCET’s attitude: “get over it”. I would tend to agree. I’ve seen numerous people from Northern California who are disdainful of Southern California, making fun of all sorts of supposed and real attributes of Southern California folks. Southern California folks, however, don’t seem to have the same dislike of the area, finding it a very nice place to visit. There are dichotomies in California, but neither the Tehachapis or the SLO/KER/SBD northern county lines are not one of them.
- The Triforium. In a downtown mall that really isn’t a mall but a lunch hideaway for jurors, there exists a sculpture that doesn’t work. The Triforium, originally designed as a “‘polyphonoptic’ sculpture,” was intended by mosaic artist and sculptor Joseph Young to have its nearly 1,500 glass bulbs on the six-story structure light up “in synchrony to music from a 79-note glass bell carillon.” But it was ahead of its times, and never quite worked right. It became more of a mockery than an attraction. But that may be changing. A Triforium Refurbishment is in the works. United behind the present Triforium restoration project is a group including noted LA booster/explorer Tom Carroll from the Tom Explores Los Angeles web series, the group YACHT of the 5 Every Day app, the executive director of the Downtown LA Art Walk, and Councilmember Jose Huizar. According to their website for the undertaking, the group is hoping to refurbish the piece, updating its computer technology to something more modern—”a nimble and inexpensive computer system that can achieve Young’s original goals”—and replacing the bulbs with efficient LEDs. They’re also planning to create an app that would allow anyone to compose their own “polyphonoptic” music and send it to the Triforium to be played out of those ladybug-like speakers, offering a whole new opportunity for engagement with the sculpture. Would you like to help? Here’s more information.
- The Times. Los Angeles used to have a great paper: The Los Angeles Times. Local, with bureaus all over the world, it rivals the NY Times. Nowadays, it is a shadow of its formal self. Page count has dropped. Ad revenue has dropped. To compound matters, the Times has been saving money by downsizing, which makes the product worse, so revenue drops more, so they downsized more. The LA Times just completed another series of buyouts, and the people left Wednesday, and the draw-down of talent is significant. It’s got me questioning whether I still want to subscribe, but the other local papers face equally whittled staff and equally bleak prognoses. I’d consider the NY Times (where real journalism still exists), but (a) it’s New York, and (b) it exhibits such a paternalistic “look down the nose” attitude towards LA. SCPR/KPCC had an interesting take on the downsizing, as it looked at the changes in the Food section over the years. When one of the food editors who is leading started, “We needed a huge staff because, typically, the Food section was 70 to 80 pages every week, and during the holiday season we would publish two sections a week and sometimes those would be hundred-page sections.” These days, it is a lot smaller.
- The Traffic. Everyone talks about the traffic in LA. It is one of my fears for conference attendees in just over a week. We have horrible bottlenecks on our freeways. The problem is induced traffic. A freeway gets widened with a new mixed-use or HOV lane, and it speeds up. As a result, more people take the freeway (either through new jobs, or a return to solo driving)… and the traffic ends up worse. I’ve seen this firsthand: right after the 405 construction process ended, traffic was better. Now it’s worse: our drive home is more often over 100 minutes, as opposed to the previous 85. It’s just that the traffic is in a different place. So how do people get around it? Waze. But Waze is creating another raft of problems, because traffic, like water, will find a way. Waze is moving traffic to tiny city streets, many of which were not designed for that traffic load. Again, I see that everyday. I theorize that is why the left from Chatsworth onto Wilbur, which used to take 1-2 lights, now regularly takes 4-5 lights.
- The Airport. It is Thanksgiving weekend; one of the busiest traffic weekend. This drew out a number of articles on the historical LA Airport. We have an LA Magazine article on the origins as Mines Field, including a really neat map. Next we have a photo archive of the LA airport from the Mines Field days to the reconstruction in the 80s. Lastly, we have a history of the LA Airport Theme Building. I have this odd connection to the airport. I grew up near the airport, and had friends who lost their houses in the airport expansion to jet traffic in the mid-to-late 1960s. I attended synagogue on Airport Blvd, and never knew why that was the name — learning later that it was the main route into the “interim” terminal that was at Airport and Century. This was the terminal that was used after the Mines Field days, but before construction of the new LAX in the late 1950s. Here are more images. PS: While writing this, I discovered that the Hyatt hotel at Sepulveda and Century was the first Hyatt hotel.
Let’s end this week of news chum posts with song lyrics in the title with a very apropos song for a “news chum stew” post: Pete Seeger’s All Mixed Up. The point of the song is a timely lesson for all of those who profess hatred or refuse to permit in refuges:
There were no red-headed Irishmen
Before the Vikings landed in Ireland
How many Romans had dark curly hair
Before they brought slaves from Africa?
No race of man is completely pure,
Nor is anyone’s mind, that’s for sure
The winds mix the dust of every land,
And so will woman and man.
And now, on with the stew:
- These Poor Refuges, They Just Cause Trouble. Let’s start with the story of an immigrant refugee, a man who came to this country with nothing… and ended up not only as a founding father, but as a star on Broadway: Alexander Hamilton. We have two articles about this show: the first gives 20 things you might not have known about Hamilton; the second is about how the star of Hamilton is really… a woman.
- Women on Broadway. Let’s go with this women theme for a minute. December 3rd is when the updated version of The Wiz is presented live on NBC… and the producers have let us know what their next project will be: They are bringing Bombshell (from Smash) to Broadway.
- Girl… Scouts? This article raises a question that has oft been raised to me as President of a synagogue brotherhood: why do we still have brotherhoods and sisterhoods in congregations. If we are truly egalatarian, they seem archaic institution… especially in this era of trans-rights? We no longer see sex as binary, so why two organizations? What is the article? It seems that a group of girls in California have sued to become part of the Boy Scouts. (if the link doesn’t work, as NYT links might, do this search)
- Racism on Campus. This one saddens me. According to the Daily Cal at UC Berkely, a bunch of students have created a White Student Union page for Berkeley on Facebook (ETA: Subsequenty deleted). This comes on top of the Reply All episode that reexplored racism on campus in light of the MizzU incident. Sad to say, but much as we think racism and bigotry is dead, it isn’t. In fact, we’ve just created new ways for it to rear its ugly head. ETAA: This may have been a hoax, at least with respect to the WSU.
- Visible vs. Invisible. Here’s one that probably isn’t a surprise. With the drought in California, everyone was ripping out their lawns and replacing them with drought-friendly plants. But guess what? Although it was visible, it really didn’t save all that much water. Do you really want to save water? Do something invisible. Replace your toilets and your washing machine.
- No Duh. Here’s a no brainer: If you’re ordering takeout on Christmas or Christmas Eve, odds are that it is Chinese food.
- Music and Bicycling. Here’s an article about how cities are cracking down on distracted bicycling. Now, I’m all for safe bicycling. But I like to listen to my podcasts or music as I ride, just as I do in my car. Why can’t someone invent a bike helmet that can connect (either wired or bluetooth) to an iPod or MP3 player to play music and yet let you hear traffic noise.
- I Never Knew. Lastly, here’s something that surfaced today. Did you know there is a crochet museum in Joshua Tree?
Let’s continue the theme of using song lyrics. In Avenue Q, the characters sing of using a mixtape to send a signal. There’s a word in there that has transcended its origin: mixtape. We’ve moved far from the original notion of making a cassette with a mix of music; we’re in the brave new world of digital music. In this world, we don’t even know what music sounds like — “good enough” is good enough. Apple has given into this: they no longer have players with the capacity for lots of high-def music (I’ve bemoaned this before, and won’t bemoan it here). But mixtapes — and in particular — tapes — have given us the theme for this post (which was really keyed off the C-90 item). Cassettes came in a variety of sizes, but the most common were C-30, C-45, C-60, C-90, and if you were really brave, C-120s. So, here are some news chum items, in the sizes of cassettes:
Let’s continue the trend of using lyrics in titles, although many of us will start singing just from the title line alone. Let’s see if this helps:
You know I love that organic cooking
I always ask for more
And they call me Mr Natural
On down to the health food store
I only eat good sea salt
White sugar don’t touch my lips
And my friends is always begging me
To take them on macrobiotic trips
Yes, they are
Tonight’s collection of news chum has to do with the intertwined topics of food and medicine, including some studies that indicate that some of what we thought might be completely wrong:
- Oil Me Up. Oil Me Down. For years, what has been the mantra: Vegetable oil good. Butter bad. Grapeseed oil good for high heat. Olive oil best raw. Oh, and never never never go for that palm or coconut oil. Turns out, what we know about cooking with oils may be completely wrong. Based on some recent studies, scientists are now warning against the dangers of frying food in sunflower oil and corn oil over claims they release toxic chemicals linked to cancer. These leading scientists are now recommending food be fried in olive oil, coconut oil, butter or even lard. Scientists found that heating up vegetable oils led to the release of high concentrations of chemicals called aldehydes, which have been linked to illnesses including cancer, heart disease and dementia. This goes along with some other research that is showing that whole milk may be much better for you than low-fat or skim.
- GMO Salmon Safe. This week, the FDA approved consumption of genetically modified salmon. Now, I love salmon as much as the next guy, but even this gave me pause. Do I want to eat it? Turns out, genetically modified salmon appears actually to be safe to eat. The article goes through a number of the fears, including the complaint that it endangers consumers’ “personal health,” that it “could cause human allergies,” and that it’s been approved based on “insufficient safety testing.” In the case of GE plants, these scary what-if arguments are unfalsifiable, based on speculation about chemical properties and ever-expanding demands for longer study periods and bigger samples. The GE salmon was initially submitted for FDA approval 20 years ago. The agency declared it safe in 2010 and then spent another five years reviewing objections. Thursday’s statement says the FDA has concluded that the salmon is “safe to eat” and is “as nutritious as food from other non-GE Atlantic salmon.” It also says the genetic change is “safe for the fish itself.” There are loads of links in the Slate article, so decide for yourself.
- Overweight Bad? Here’s another study of interest that shows that being moderately overweight may not be as bad for your health as once thought. I’ll emphasize moderately. Being overweight is now believed to help protect patients with an increasingly long list of medical problems, including pneumonia, burns, stroke, cancer, hypertension, and heart disease. Researchers who have tried to show that the paradox is based on faulty data or reasoning have largely come up short. And while scientists do not yet agree on what the paradox means for health, most accept the evidence behind it. “It’s been shown consistently enough in different disease states,” says Gregg Fonarow, a cardiology researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. They aren’t sure why. My thoughts: it isn’t being overweight — it is really that we’re miscalculating what a healthy weight is. In fact, it could very well be that, just as in the next item, what is a healthy over- or under-weight value may vary by the individual.
- Diets are Individualistic. It turns out that what may be the best diet for one may not be the best diet for another. Researchers Eran Elinav and Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science have just published the results of a large, comprehensive study in the journal Cell that found people can metabolize the exact same foods in very different ways. What this means is that a healthy diet for one person may not be healthy for another person. Rather than recommend a cookie-cutter solution to weight problems, the researchers say, doctors could be more effective by recommending a personalized nutrition plan to a patient, based on the way that patient metabolizes certain foods. Again, this doesn’t surprise me: obesity and health is increasingly being shown to be dependent on our individual gut biome, which we’ve been systematically destroying.
- Bed May Be Bad. We start to move away from the food a bit now. Here’s an article on a study that sleeping in (as you do on the weekends) may be bad for you. Disruptions to routine sleeping patterns can increase the danger for developing metabolic diseases for example diabetes and heart disease, according to a brand new study. New research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh demonstrates that societal jetlag as basic as getting up late may also be bad for health. Social jetlag refers to a mismatch between an individual ‘s socially-imposed sleep program and their natural circadian rhythm. Researchers said societal jetlag is understood to relate to obesity and other cardiovascular conditions, yet the connection to healthy individuals is fresh. Doesn’t surprise me at all: I tend to get less migraines if I keep my sleep cycle regular.
- Potential New Migraine Preventative. Scientists may have finally come up with an effective migraine preventative. This is wonderful news. We’ve started to have drugs that can stop an attack in progress. Prevention? We’ve adapted blood pressure drugs (which I use), depression medications, epilepsy meds, and even Botox to try to prevent them. It doesn’t always work (I know I go through periods where I’ve got light migraines almost every other day). However, neurologists believe they have identified a hypersensitive nerve system that triggers the pain and are in the final stages of testing medicines that soothe its overly active cells. These are the first ever drugs specifically designed to prevent the crippling headaches before they start, and they could be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next year. If they deliver on the promise they have shown in studies conducted so far, which have involved around 1,300 patients, millions of headaches may never happen. The work focuses on the trigeminal nerve system, long known to be the brain’s primary pain pathway. Studies in animals indicated that in branches of the nerve that exit from the back of the brain and wrap around various parts of the face and head, overactive cells would respond to typically benign lights, sounds and smells by releasing chemicals that transmit pain signals and cause migraine. The heightened sensitivity of these cells may be inherited; 80 percent of migraine sufferers have a family history of the disorder. This makes sense to me: when my migraines started, I could touch near my nose and feel it around to the back of my neck — in other words, the trigeminal nerve was over-sensitive.
- Addressing Blood Pressure. Another concern of mine is blood pressure. I’m on a combination of meds to get it down, but I’m still routinely in the 140-130/90-80 range, and they now want a target of under 120/80. Here’s a great article I ran across on other things to do to lower blood pressure. I’m trying to lose weight and exercise, but it is hard when you’re getting home at 5:30p and want to have dinner by 8pm.
- The Brain GPS. I’ve always said that everyone is experts in remembering something, and my particular expertise is spatial and temporal. I can remember the layout of rooms I haven’t been in for 20 years. I have maps in my head and innately know where I am (except in the twisty maze of roads near John Wayne Airport). I invariably come back in the kitchen when there is just 10 seconds on the timer. Turns out: there is a brain GPS, and it helps with our memories. A recent animal study found that special brain cells that track an animal’s location also can track time and distance. This could explain how rat and human brains are able to organize memories according to where and when an event occurred. The cells, called grid cells, appear to be “laying down the sequence of space and time that provide a framework for events that are unfolding,” says Howard Eichenbaum, an author of the study and director of the Center for Memory and Brain at Boston University.
Going back to the song, have you figured it out yet. Perhaps some more will help:
Oh, but at night I stake out my strong box
That I keep under lock and key
And I take it off to my closet
Where nobody else can see
I open that door so slowly
Take a peek up north and south
Then I pull out a Hostess Twinkie
And I pop it in my mouth
Yeah, in the daytime I’m Mr Natural
Just as healthy as I can be
But at night I’m a junk food junkie
Good lord have pity on me
Speaking of Junk Food, how about a run for the border. In this case, I’m talking a specific Taco Bell, “Numero Uno”, which was saved from demolition and moved last night from Downey to Irvine. That is south of the border. Well, at least south of the Orange Curtain.
Today’s news chum post continues the trend of using a song lyric in the title. Does anyone recognize the song? If you figure it out (or cheat), I’ll note that even thought the line fits the post, the overall song doesn’t really. In any case, today’s post — focused on going nowhere — is about transportation in the news. Transportation, in fact, that may get us nowhere fast. Here are a few transportation articles I’ve corrected, while I eat my lunch…
- Subway Maps. I’m sure you’ve seen them by now — the various abstract subway maps that cities develop to try to explain their subway systems. Some work, some don’t. Here’s a good explanation of why designers can’t really stop redesigning them.
- I Know Where You Are. One thing modern computerization and GPS has given us is the ability to know where a subway car is on the track, permitting a countdown clock to show you when it will arrive. Well, except in New York City. The New York City Subway system does not have countdown clocks… because it has no idea where its trains actually are.
- Traffic on the 5s. Growing up in Los Angeles, you become dependent on the traffic reports. KNX 1070 had them on the 5s. KWFB, when it was doing news, had them on the 9s. They were essential for navigation. But today? The presence of traffic apps such as Waze and Google Maps had made over-the-air traffic reports less of a market factor, and they are starting to disappear. Of course, this doesn’t answer the question about using the phone when driving…
- Sure, We Have a Plan… Traffic in LA is horrendous, and recent research has shown that widening highways is not the answer. How do we improve things? Well, the Libertarian Research Foundation has a plan. They say bikes and buses are not the solution to traffic congestion—making more room for cars is. They have proposed a $700-billion plan to build an extensive network of new tunnels and expressways that they say would help free up some of the city’s most congested areas of traffic. The plan includes things like a 710-extension tunnel, a tunnel under downtown LA (just imagine the unexpected utility relocation costs there!), a tunnel under the Santa Monica Mountains, a tunnel under the Santa Susanna Mountains between LA and Palmdale… you get the idea.
- Looking back. Last week, I mentioned the AA Legacy Liveries. Here are photos of more airlines in liveries of older carriers.
I’m going to try clearing off my news chum links the old way for a while: a post a day. Today’s post groups together three links about Los Angeles:
- Los Angeles in Maps. My daughter unearthed this one: a link about an online exhibition from the Library of Congress with maps of Los Angeles. From the description: “The Library of Congress/Ira Gershwin Gallery presents historical maps of Los Angeles from the collections of the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division. These diverse works of craftsmanship, precision, and imagination provide a guide to some of the most remarkable stories of the city’s history: its discovery, its growth, and its industries, as seen by explorers, engineers, artists, residents, and boosters.”
- The The Tar Tar Pits. If you live in Los Angeles, you’ve been by the Department of Redundancy Department, that is, the La Brea Tar Pits. Did you ever wonder about those fiberglass sculptures in the middle of the tar, and how they got there? Wonder no more.
- Erasing Names. Maps are interesting creatures. Some people want to have the map as accurate as possible. Others want to intentionally hide information. In Los Angeles, the people living in Hollywood are fighting a battle with Google to keep the Hollywood Sign off of Google maps. Specifically, they want to erase the directions to the sign to keep people out of their neighborhoods. Here’s the little bit more: It’s not just Los Angeles. In Washington and Oregon, they are scrubbing maps of any offensive place names.
This has been a busy weekend, but I did want to at least start working down the collected articles. This post can be filed under the category of “Proud Father”, as it all has to do with Yiddish — my daughter’s speciality.
- Pop Up Exhibition. I would be remiss if I didn’t start with the news that the Magnes Library in Berkeley is doing a pop-up exhibition of my daughter’s research on Weds, December 2, from 12p to 1p. As the Magnes wrote: “ Through her knowledge of Yiddish she helped to create a flagship Digital Humanities project focusing on Yiddish books printed in California, held at The Magnes . Erin catalogued almost 100 volumes, and digitized title pages. By using the online platform, Findery as part of the Digital Programs of The Magnes, she subsequently created a literary map of Yiddish Los Angeles, which allows scholars to see that city’s hidden Yiddish heritage in a new light.” If you would like to see her Findery work, click here.
- Wearing It On Your Tush. Would you like to wear Yiddish. The Forward had a neat article on the rise of cheeky Yiddish wear. Quoting the Forward: “As a recent profile in The Guardian explains, the Unkosher Market line is perfect for that “self-deprecating Jewish hipster of mid-level means” in your life.” My daughter, I’m sure, wouldn’t like it — first, because I’m not sure she likes hipsters :-), and more importantly, she really thinks Yiddish is too beautiful and too significant a language to be reduced to the words we make fun of.
- So How Do I Learn Yiddish. Long ago, I promised my daughter I wouldn’t link to her tumblr. But recently she got that question — what are good Yiddish resources — so I’m going to cut and paste her response:
ay i don’t want to overwhelm you with things so here just a few things to get you started with…
1. yiddishpop is a great online language learning program and a very good starting place
2. once you get comfortable reading yiddish, reading the yiddish daily forward online is a great way to practice reading. if you dont know a word, click on it twice and a definition will pop up.
3. the world of yiddish online dictionaries. the best place to go is verterbukh which is a searchable online version of the beinfeld bochner dictionary, which is the most comprehensive. it’s not free, unless you can get it through a library which you’re a member of. or you can pay. another good place to look is this dictionary
4. here’s a useful link dump of yiddish resources from the university of kentucky
zol zayn mit mazel un zayt gezunt khevre!
Yiddish Books as PDF: