It’s Saturday, and that means it is time for a tasty stew of the articles that caught my eye but didn’t form into a coherent theme of three or more articles:
- Women and their Bodies. This started out as a collection of two articles, but a third showed up this morning. The first article was an opinion piece from the Daily Beast on the uproar about Lena Dunham’s nudity on HBO’s Girls. The article (rightfully) called it: the male reporters didn’t want to see Dunham’s body all the time because it didn’t fit their ideal of beauty, whereas they had no problem with seeing the artificial bodies of the models and actresses in the other HBO shows. Dunham is right — we must learn to appreciate bodies (both male and female) for what they are, perfect or imperfect. We shouldn’t be shaming people because they aren’t perfect, and we shouldn’t be sexualizing everything. Related to that former point (shaming) is a report that if you shame people over their weight, guess what… they gain weight. Related to the latter point (sexualization) is this article about the war on Facebook against the nipple, whereas they have no problem showing graphic gore or violence.
- Bad News for Commuters. Although we’re not having a government shutdown, it’s not all good news. The commuter subsidy is dropping again, back to $130. Given that the subsidy provided for parking isn’t dropping, we’re seeing an effective discouragement of transit and ridesharing. Write your congresscritters.
- But Is It True? Stranger than life: Fox News is reporting that a man has killed Bigfoot and has proof. Stranger than life: Despite the fault since and a significant FTC refund order, Sensa still insists their product is a miracle weight loss tool. You know, I’ll believe the Bigfoot story before I believe in a miracle weight loss powder.
- Taking You To The Cleaners. Scientists have found a new … and legal … way to launder money. Yes, they specifically want to apply it to drug money, and other yucky filthy currency. The goal, it seems, is to remove the dirt, grime and other contaminants that make money degrade fast. You were thinking something else?
- It Won’t Ever Die. Blockbuster the video rental company may be dead, but that doesn’t mean the video store is dead. Some people don’t like to use the online approach; others just want to physically browse. For whatever reason, in a number of markets, the video store is alive and well. It’s now just gone back to being a mom and pop concern. I predict this is what will end up happening to the bookstore as well. Local is better — both for the video and the bookstore.
Today’s lunchtime news chum brings together a collection of stories that are all related through the notion of peeking behind the curtain to see something previously hidden:
- Yelp Reviewers. A Virginia court has ruled that Yelp must disclose the identities of people making anonymous reviews. The issue here is this: If you have been a customer of the establishment, it’s OK to tell the truth about your bad experience. If you’ve never patronized the place, making up a false bad experience is legal slander. The only way to determine which is which is to examine customer records, which requires real identities. What should you learn from this? Always speak the truth.
- You Might Find This of Interest. We’ve all seen them at the bottom of pages: the ads with stories also recommended for us, usually a little bit titillating or salacious. Where do these recommendations come from? Here’s the explanation, and how clicking on them keeps the infrastructure alive. Alas, the recommendation engine isn’t as strong as the one used by Amazon, or even the one used by Netflix.
- Internet in your Appliances. The big thing touted this week at CES is the “Internet of Things” (which is a poor name, but what can you do?). Everyone is spouting off on how having any and everything electronic interconnected over the Internet is a good thing. When you look behind the curtain, however, you discover how it isn’t as good as it appears, because all those devices are (a) horribly insecure, (b) rarely patched, and (c) if patches are issued, rarely updated. If you don’t believe me, answer me this: Have you updated the firmware on your laptop? Your router? Your printer? Your washing machine? Your automobile? Your thermostat? I think you begin to get the idea.
- The Last Mile. Nowadays, we take cross-country and international communications for granted. We can talk to anyone, anywhere. We can watch live video from anywhere. ’twasn’t always the case. Two interesting articles expose the history. The first article looks at the history of CATV (Community Antenna TV), which morphed into today’s cable TV. My only dispute with that article is that it mentions HBO as the first cable pay-for-movies service (which it was, starting in 1972), but fails to mention the equally important Z-Channel. The second article looks at the history of coast-to-coast broadcasting, which in the early days, was not easy at all. Both stories ultimately revolve around… coaxial cable.
- Baby, Its Cold Outside. Here’s a look behind the curtain at something you probably didn’t expect. On days the south pole reaches -100ºF, there is a tradition for researchers in the area to sit in a 200ºF sauna for a little while, and then run outside with only shoes, circle the South Pole, and return to the base. Yup, this is the tradition of the 300º Naked Antarctica Run.
Newspapers are cutting their staffs to the bone… and one of the first services to go is the fact checker. Articles move in a viral fashion around the net with loss of sourcing information, and of course, if it is on the net, it must be true. Here are three stories you may have seen recently… that aren’t true:
- Radiation from Fukushima is Killing Off Sea Life in California. Umm, no. Read this. These are just natural cycles with no connection to Japan.
- Kim Jong Un’s Uncle Was Thrown to the Dogs. Umm, no. Read this. It was a satirical article that went viral.
- Crop Circles in California are Caused by Aliens. Umm, no. Read this. It was a marketing stunt.
Today’s News Chum Stew is historical — that is, all the items have to do with history. Yes, that can make it a bit bland, but I think you’ll find a lot to chew on:
- History of a Dog. The news has been filled with articles about how dogs align with the magnetic field when they crap in your yard. But let’s consider another dog. The mighty Greyhound. Specifically, the Greyhound with lots of seats and lots of tires. Here’s a history of Greyhound Bus Lines.
- History of a Club. Specifically, the Mile-High club, which turns 100 this year. I’m going to be a gentleman, and not ask readers to show their membership cards.
- History of a Map. Actually, it’s more of an alternate history. The American History Guys over at Backstory Radio (one of the best history podcasts around) alerted me to this article about a man who constructed a map of how the US would look if all the state splits and secessions occurred. 248 members in the Senate, anyone? I don’t believe this would increase the number of members in the House, as that is capped.
- History of a Theatre. You’ve probably heard of the famous Laemmle: Carl Laemmle, who founded Universal Studios. His brother also got into the movies, but in a different way: He started the Laemmle Theater chain. After 75 years, the collection of theaters is still owned by the Laemmle family, is profitable, and slowly growing.
Any stew needs a little spice, so here’s a little flavor to perk things up:
- Potty Emergency! Speaking about the movies, they are getting longer and longer, the drinks are getting bigger and bigger, and we’re getting older and our bladders weaker and weaker. What to do? Don’t worry! There’s an app for that! Specifically, there’s an app that will vibrate your phone during those moments in a movie when it is safe to run out and go… and will even give you a plot summary for what you miss.
- Everyone Under 30 – Read This! Closing out on a slight history theme – here’s a list of 12 outdated items your parents owned that you should own too, even if they seem old-fashioned. Item No. 1: Stationary, so you can write actual letters. My daughter received a handwritten note from a roommate today, and just loved it.
Today’s news chum brings stories of a collection of battles, some old, some new, some borrowed, and some, umm, crimson:
- Don’t Be Cross. A number of years ago, Los Angeles had a battle. You see, the county logo had a cross on it, above the Hollywood Bowl. This offended those who felt it was indicating government sponsorship of religion (as opposed to a reflection of the actual cross that is lit in the hills above the bowl). So the seal we reworked to remove the cross, and instead have the San Gabriel Mission, and thousand of dollars were paid to change the seal everywhere. Now, two county supervisors want to return the cross to the seal, as the mission has had its cross restored. Seal battle, take two!
- Therein Lies a Tail. Another logo battle was taking place at the airport. This time, American Airlines was asking its employees to vote on the new livery for the tails of their aircraft. Note this wasn’t the corporate logo — they were sticking with the new one there. Here it is just the tail. So the results of the vote were announced today? The winner: the new tail livery of red, white, and blue. The AA Eagle is out. But don’t fret: They plan to keep the old logo alive on a few legacy aircraft, as US Airways has done with Piedmont, PSA, America West, and US Air. One wonders if they will do the same for the American legacy airlines: TWA, Air Cal, and Reno Air.
- Drawing Power from Nature. In the Owens Valley of California, nature has often provide power, be it via water, wind, or the sun. Much of this power has gone to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which
grabbed stole purchased the land during the aquaduct construction. Now an interesting battle is playing out. It seems that the City of Los Angeles wants to build a large solar array in the Owens Valley to harness the vast amount of sunlight there. The problem? It is visually within range of Manzanar, a very historic and sensitive site. So what is the right answer: side with history, or side with clean power.
- Represent! I’ve written in the past about how a number of Northern California counties want to secede from California because they believe their rural voices aren’t being heard. A different activist in California wants to address the representation problem in a different way. He feels that legislative districts are too big: some districts are larger than some states, in terms of population. So he wants to break them up and up and up until there are 12,000 legislators. Each would represent some small number of people. These would be (a) be paid very little, and (b) be tiered up the chain so work can actually get done. Does anyone really believe this will help the battle for representation?
- It’s a Dead Parrot. Up in the Bay Area, we have the battle going on between an Oakland Hospital and the parents of a brain-dead teen. They want to keep her on a ventilator until…. they never say. Most people think they just cannot accept her death. The thing is: if she is really brain-dead, keeping her on a ventilator doesn’t mean she’s alive.
- I’m My Own Grandfather. In Calabasas, another battle is going on: this time, it is between the new residents who want their fancy expensive mansions and sewer systems, and the older rural residents on septic systems that were there before Calabasas incorporated. It appears Calabasas is abusing the building code enforcement to force the rural residents out, to encumber their land, and to force them to put it up for sale (for developers to buy).
- What’s In A Name? And lastly, this will have you seeing red, or at least Crimson. An Alabama couple wants to name their newborn Crimson Tyde, and people are up in arms about it. While I agree it is a silly name, America is not the sort of country where there is a list of approved names for children (and, yes, there are such places — such as Germany, Sweden, and Iceland, and a number of other countries).
For the first news chum of the year, here is a late lunch posting of a few articles highlighting things we have lost, or are losing, as the year turns. I’m not going to mention the big ones — such as plastic grocery bags in the City of Los Angeles or new 40 or 60 watt incandescent light bulbs. However, these are important to some folks:
- An Acting Loss. In the last couple of days, we’ve lost a significant actor. I’m not referring to James Avery of Fresh Prince, but rather Michael Levine. Michael was a regular actor in the Santa Clarita area, at both Canyon Theatre Guild and at Repertory East Playhouse, where I met him. I will always remember his portrayal of the grandfather in Jewtopia, his direction of A Few Good Men, and his performances in dramas such as Proof, On Golden Pond, and To Kill a Mockingbird. As I’m an audience, not an actor or creative, I never had the pleasure of working with him, but I always enjoyed him on stage and when I talked to him before a show.
- A Dining Loss. Tonight, the penultimate Hamburger Hamlet closes as the Pasadena location is replaced by a – dare I say it – Dupars. I used to always love eating at the Hamlets in Palms, Brentwood, and Westwood — all long gone, and occasionally at the Pasadena and Sherman Oaks locations. I recall having the Rex Harrison, which was a fancy Bacon Cheeseburger, “Those Potatoes” (hashbrowns and sour cream), and wonderful French Onion soup. Lots of fond memories, but a dining style and menu that doesn’t resonate with many today. I’ll have to get down to Sherman Oaks while it still exists, and I won’t forget those sides. The closing has provoked a number of remembrance articles: LA Observed, LAist)
[*: There may still be an East Coast location in Crystal City VA; the one in Bethesda MD (if it is still open - Yelp is ambiguous) is essentially a Dupars. The website also lists a Larchmont (Los Angeles) location, but that closed in December. There may also be a "Hamburger Hamlet XP (Express)" location in NoHo.]
- A Television Loss. On 12/31/13, SoapNet ceased programming. Now, I never really watched the channel, but I do remember the heyday of both the daytime and the primetime soap operas. My grandmother loved to watch the soaps on NBC (I would watch them, as a kid, when she babysat). I remember the evening soaps — Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest, and others — and I still watch the new Dallas. The death of SoapNet is a harbinger of the death of the genre as originally constituted, although I guess one can find the equivalent on Lifetime Network.
For my last post of the year, I’m torn between two topics:
- Adaptive Reuse. I’ve seen two posts of late dealing with interesting adaptive reuse: the first having to do with the secret second life of old Pizza Huts, the second having to do with adaptive reuse of gas stations. I even thought about tying this to the story of a women who did adaptive reuse of husbands, climbing the social ladder in St. Louis until — surprise, surprise — she died and donated truckloads of money to foster family organizations (this being a story just ripe for a musical, but it’s too similar to Little Me).
- How Lucky We Are. I’ve been thinking of late about all the terrorist attacks and bombings in Russia. This thinking generally resolves around the fact of how lucky we are. Think about it: We’re in a country with lots and lots and lots of cuckoos, from tea party folks to conspiracy theorists to dominionists to …. And yet, with all these crazies, we aren’t having a lot of home-grown terrorist attacks and bombings. Sure, we’ve got the occasional shooting, but even these are typically delusional folks with depression, not an organized effort by an internal terrorist organization. For as polarized as America is (and it is very polarized), at least there still seems to be some boundaries that are not crossed.
But I just don’t know which topic I should write about? Perhaps both
Seriously, to all my readers — you have my wishes for a peaceful and happy new year, or at least one where you are somewhat healthy, and when you’re not, you heal fast. May your year be filled with critical thinking, good friends, better outcomes, less stress, and some modicum of financial security and calmness. Put the stress of 2013 behind you, and let’s all have a good 2014.
It’s the last Sunday of the year, and so I think you deserve some Saturday news chum stew, a day late. That’s what prompted the title to this post. However, looking at the articles, they all seem to relate to that notion: they are either past their time, or they are situations where there might not be enough cash, or both:
- Lick It and Stick It. If you aren’t already aware, postage rates are going up, “temporarily” (yeah, right), to 49c for the first ounce, and 21c for each additional ounce (forever stamps are still whatever the current rate is, so buy them now). Postcards will go to 34c. A number of other rates will also increase. The rates will supposedly go back down in 24 months, but I’ll believe that when I see it.
- Bookstores Gone But Not Forgotten. Kevin over at LA Observed has posted his list of bookstores that have closed in Southern California. We lost some biggies this year, including Cliff’s in Pasadena (which I thought would be around forever). I regret not getting over to Cliff’s before it closed.
- Breaking Away. A bunch of Northern California counties want to secede from California because they have no say in the legislature. Actually, they do have the same say as every other voter in the state; it just happens that most of the other voters live in the big urban areas. They seem to believe that their votes will make it so. What they forget is that it has to be approved by both the state legislature and congress. Further, they will need to pay for their share of the state-owned infrastructure and assume their share of the state’s debt… and being rural, they won’t generate enough taxes to pay for all of that plus the additional bureaucracy they will need for a new state’s government. Since the United States has been created, a state split has occurred only once, and that was during the Civil War (the Carolinas split before the revolution).
- Double-Chined Barbie. There is a meme going around Facebook encouraging production of a stereotypically obese Barbie with a double chin. While I certainly agree that having a Barbie with realistic proportions would be a good idea, and that having Barbies that look like real people (including skin colors and facial characteristics, as opposed to a colored-skin white Barbie), this mock-up is not the answer.