Last year, there was a small confusion about a photo published on this site. In particular, a regular reader thought that “a ring previously displayed on DJ L’il Bit’s hand”:http://juniorbird.com/archive/003690.html was an engagement ring — a reasonable enough thought, since it’s a pretty ring, but I wouldn’t buy her a $35 ring from Overstock.com for that purpose. I thought that was worth clarifying, especially since… well, I’ll let the photo here speak for itself:
Now that is in fact an engagement ring. That is, the sentiment was entirely correct, just the timing was off. For those who prefer to investigate further, here is a close-up:
Another commenter said that we “‘hit the genetic lottery.’”:http://juniorbird.com/archive/003693.html. That’s not the only lottery I hit with DJ L’il Bit! I’m *happy*. I’m a-keepin’ her.
Growing up, we were always big on the family meal. Breakfast was in a nook behind our kitchen, at a yellow and white Formica table that just fit in the corner next to the basement stairs. When I was young, I would read the cereal boxes while my parents read their newspapers; I learned every ingredient and every serving suggestion and solved every puzzle on the back. While we weren’t a sugary-cereal household, my mom and I did have our own breakfast indulgence: back in the days before most people used skim milk, we’d pour whole milk on our cereal and then top it off with some half-and-half.
Of course, that was when I was young. Sometime in elementary school the selection changed: next to our varied flakes and occasional Life cereal appeared this small box, filled with something very dense: “Alpen”:http://ow.ly/4c6Z muesli. Instead of a bowl full of “Corn Bran”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrRE0Mvunvo, Alpen meant a couple of tablespoons of tan dust with oats in it, and my mother’s new skim milk on the top. Later, my father came back from a conference in Sweden, bringing a nifty viking ship model I liked to play with, and a reprehensible habit of putting his muesli on plain, unsweetened yogurt. The yogurt’s sour smell seemed to take over the whole sink when I washed the breakfast dishes, even more so when my mother picked up the yogurt habit too.
Alpen disappeared, and it was a while before “Mueslix”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNnHWVO9cx4 came on the scene, but somehow my parents persisted in ruining even something delicious like Cracklin’ Oat Bran by putting it on yogurt. I vowed that I would never ruin my cereal thus, and even stuck with whole milk into college.
So it is somewhat to my shock that I find myself having cereal with yogurt several mornings every week. I deceive myself that it’s not cereal with yogurt but instead a parfait, some special mixture of yogurt, honey, and granola; but let’s face it, I eat cereal with yogurt. The dollop of honey makes it nothing but sweetened cereal with yogurt. Worse, the cereal is either Grape Nuts or Kashi GoLean Crunch.
This is not what I thought adult meant. But it sure is tasty.
fn1. Is that Max von Sydow?
fn2. It’s not that I don’t like yogurt — I love it — or that I have a problem with plain yogurt — I eat it — just the yogurt/cereal combo always bothered me.
I blew a a big chunk of Friday evening reading the torture memos; probably not the kind of sunny-attitude stuff to start a weekend on. DJ L’il Bit had to drag me out of my melancholy. It was the kind of down you can only feel when you discover that it’s your country that is the bad guy on the Saturday morning cartoon. That said, I don’t feel bad that Obama’s done nothing so far.
If you haven’t read the “torture memos”:http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/olc_memos.html, I don’t honestly know if I can recommend them. Try the first one, maybe; it’s the shortest, and all of them are essentially about the same stuff — providing legal justification for a course of action already decided-upon.
Of course, that’s what a lot of the practice of law is: legally justifying a predetermined action. And, often, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that a responsible government would probably consider the question of torture at some length, after events such as 9/11 — I’m a big believer in not leaving questions unasked, even if you think you know the answer. But the answer to such a question should never be predetermined, as the answer to torture so clearly was.
The memos’ blatant nature certainly isn’t decreasing the cries for Obama to let loose the prosecutorial hounds. And, on its face, charging the torturers sounds like a good idea. When people act more like Cobra Commander than Colonel Hawk, you just know they’re un-American. But Obama has been nothing but pragmatic so far, and war crimes trials are anything but pragmatic. Gays in the military sounds reasonable enough too, but pursuing this policy basically killed Clinton’s first term. You pick: health care reform or war crimes trials?
And history shows that war crimes trials are polarizing; that’s why so many countries have turned away from them, favoring South Africa-style Truth and Reconciliation Commissions instead. These Commissions are charged with bringing to light what really happened; those who testify in front of them are typically given amnesty for what they testify to. The result is a full accounting of past misdeeds and, hopefully, a chance to learn from what happened. If the Democrats get together with the Libertarian wing of the Republicans, such a thing could happen.
(Hopefully, the Jane Harman thing will swing the pendulum back towards Libertarianism, for lawmakers at least.)
That just brings us full circle — back to the compromises made in the name of “security” during the last eight years. One thing that the memos do drive home is that our use of torture had nothing to do with security. I had no idea that we had actually used SERE as our *model* for interrogation techniques. That decision was ironic to say the least, since it turns out “SERE was designed to help our servicemen learn how to deal with torture”:http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10133 designed not to ferret out real information but, instead, to elicit _patently false_ confessions _for propaganda purposes_. Of course, if torture were an effective way to get out information about imminent terrorist attacks, then it would be a standard tool in the arsenal of law enforcement in Britain, which faced the IRA threat, and Spain, which is currently struggling with ETA. You’ll note that neither country was a prime receiver of exported terrorist talent thanks to our policy of extraordinary rendition, despite their decades-long fight against terrorists who slaughter innocents.
But, yet, the Bush administration opted for torture. And maybe that explains something that’s been nagging me — the intense dislike the Right has developed for subject matter experts over the last eight years. It just turns out that they have really incompetent subject matter experts on their side. Heck, if the subject matter experts I tend to look to were this incapable of basic analysis, I’d be suspicious too.
It’s tax season, and I’m as interested in how much the government is taking out of my pocket as the next guy. So I was intrigued to learn of a new “small business-focused ranking of state tax burdens”:http://www.sbecouncil.org/businesstaxindex2009/ from “_Wall Street Journal_ Small Business reporter Kelly Spors”:http://twitter.com/WSJSmallBiz. Now, I’ve started two businesses in famously high-tax California, and I’ve never found taxes to be a big enough problem that any of my time was justified in thinking about them rather than running the other parts of the business. But I know that a lot of businesses that have been around longer and are in more of a sustaining than a growth mode have real concerns about tax burdens, so I was looking forward to reading and learning from this report. Unfortunately, the ranking is comically sloppy.
My gig was watching Jonah Hill. From a distance, that is; I was in hidden surveillance. He hung out at an intersection in the city, with a brownstone at one corner, an art deco skyscraper at the next, a small copse of bamboo — in which I’d encamped myself — opposite from the brownstone, and a white brick industrial building at the other. At the bottom floor of the skyscraper were the comic book store and sub shop Jonah liked to hang out at. He was talking to Seth Rogen, who stood on a black metal balcony on the second floor o the white brick industrial building. I couldn’t hear them but I could see the laughs. I could also see Seth startle, stand straight up, and point as the four ninjas swooped out of the shadows and snatched poor Jonah.
The black-suited ninja threw a big burlap bag over Jonah, slung the chubby bundle over his shoulder, and ran off down the street; Seth was yelling and pointing, but the pedestrians had cleared out, and he was complaining to nobody but the three remaining ninjas. Their muscled arms bulging in their sleeveless uniforms, red ninja ran into the first floor of Seth’s building, then came bursting out the French doors behind him, pushing him over the balcony railing into the waiting arms of yellow- and white-suited ninjas and their big burlap bag. Soon those three were carrying him off, slung over their shoulders like a log.
I knew it was time to make my move; the ninjas had gotten Jonah, but maybe Seth had key information on Jonah in his place. If I moved fast, I could grab that information before the ninjas had dealt with Seth and Jonah and get away scot-free. So I ran into the white brick building.
Inside, I climbed a wide stairway to the second floor, where Seth had a lovely wooden roll-top desk and green felt carpet, with a pile of newspapers in the corner. I slammed the door shut behind me, so that I couldn’t be seen, and grabbed a few important-looking envelopes from the roll-top desk. I found a take-out menu jammed between a few newspapers and put that in my inside jacket pocket as well; then it came time to find my way out. I couldn’t go through the front door, because the ninjas would see me if they’d come back, and then I’d be in a burlap bag too. So I ran up the narrow stairs in the back of Seth’s apartment.
The third floor of the white brick building was utilitarian and empty, a u-shape around the staircase, with a window on each side. In the back was a short, half-story spiral staircase leading to a blond wood door. Obviously, the ninjas would think of the door first, so I couldn’t escape through there; I checked the windows.
Both looked good. The first one — covered by metal louvers — led to a couple of chimneys, easily wide enough for a foothold and with many handholds as well. The second one led out to a sloped roof; with long strips of metal running horizontally along its red tiles. It would be easiest to climb out this second window and climb up the roof, past where I could easily be seen, but only if the metal was strong and would carry my weight. Otherwise, the roof was steep and three stories is a long way down.
I didn’t know if the ninjas were back, but I didn’t want to find out either. The blond wood door was worth checking, at least. I turned back to look at it; it had turned 90 degrees clockwise and now opened parallel with the ground.
The door downstairs slammed shut — the red, yellow, white, and black ninjas, maybe? — and suddenly this blond wood door opened, a blue light leaking out. A woman’s hand reached with it, in a purple, frilly sleeve; “come on!” her voice followed. I grabbed her hand and she pulled me in.
LA has a major clothing industry (à la American Apparel) and everyone here dresses snappy-like, so I probably should’ve been to the “Garment District”:http://www.fashiondistrict.org/ more than two times since I came out here. There was that one time during college, when I think I expected to get some actual everyday clothes there and was, instead, baffled by the cheap t-shirts and couture. I also went on Saturday, to meet my extremely “talented friend”:http://jasminedelgado.com/ and walk around and shoot for a few hours. Because, you know, photography’s like everything else; the more you do it, the better you are at it.
A good shooting assignment is always followed by some tough editing, but I’ll admit that I love the editing part. Throwing out the chaff — about 50% of the whole — is easy enough, but what’s a real challenge is picking the cream from the milk. I got this shoot down from 160-some to 37, but there were 4 or 5 close-run things, and I might’ve kept too many architecture shots (more typical subject matter for me) and too few people and clothes shop. “You be the judge”:http://juniorbird.smugmug.com/gallery/7848772_kCuiL.
I was drawn to the people in the garment district as much as I was to the clothes. Maybe it was all the hard work on a Saturday morning? Of course, the bad part about photographing people on the street is that you don’t tend to realize what you just saw walking buy until they’re past you; that makes for a lot of photos of peoples’ backs. Occasionally they work out.
Of course, the clothes were something to look at too! By and large they ranged from tasteless to awful, but with such flair and confidence in style that, well, they were fun. The Russians didn’t want me shooting any of the fancy get-ups they had on their mannequins, even the ones out on the sidewalk, but I never got a single complaint from a Latino vendor. Anyway, there’s just so much panache below that I really want the one with the sunglasses.
Almost as good as the people is the stunning local means of conveyance, brightly-painted three-wheeled electric carts. Incredible-smelling electric carts they are too; who doesn’t want bacon-wrapped sausages with grilled onions and peppers? It was torture from breakfast until I left for a much lower-fat lunch on the Westside.
While the photo of the shop that sold nothing but tiaras didn’t come out well, accessories are well-represented downtown too. It’s hard to figure out how to shoot a lot of these things; either they’re behind glass and you’re fighting reflections, or they’re not fancily-merchandised and there’s no obvious shot. I suppose that means that I need to learn some composition. Anyway, I’m sorry that the photo of the gas mask bong didn’t come out.
Of course, for me, the lure of shooting architecture was irresistible. The Garment District is in the old-fashioned Downtown heart of LA, and we just don’t get enough good, classic, East Coast-style buildings on the Westside here. You know, the kind that were built with care by actual craftsmen, rather than just being the cheapest thing you can make with plywood and sheetrock. Sometimes makes me wish I lived Downtown.
But, then, if I lived Downtown, there’d be the issue with the sausages. It’s like when I decided not to go to “Penn”:http://www.upenn.edu/ because I knew I’d get fat off the cheese steaks.
Darn it, now I’m hungry again!
fn1. Formerly: Garment District. Now: Fashion District. Not sure it’s all that Women’s Wear Daily-ready…
fn2. Consider that metaphor mixed!
Inspired by my friend “Jasmine”:http://jasminedelgado.com/, I zipped up to Century City to see the “L8s Ang3les”:http://www.annenbergspaceforphotography.org/exhibitions/overview.asp show at the brand-new “Annenberg Space for Photography”:http://www.annenbergspaceforphotography.org/. L8s Ang3les is a show featuring 11 local photographers, especially some from the LA times; the Annenberg Space is a brand-new gallery trying to bring some culture to the antiseptic, wealth-filled skyscraper-land that is Century City.
The show itself was well worth seeing. Eleven photographers gives quite a variety of content and perspectives, which was both a strength and a weakness — there was something for everyone, but at times the focus and coherence of the show was lost. Still, there food for thought at least, with plenty of ideas for subject matter and techniques. So, good fun.
The gallery also featured a number of multimedia installations, in which we could see additional photos and even hear interviews with the artists talking about their work. I particularly enjoyed that latter movie, but, to be honest, the 6 or 7 total movies playing, plus two tables running “Microsoft Surface”:http://www.microsoft.com/SURFACE/Default.aspx, was just too much. That part wasn’t really browseable, more like watching a movie.
The gallery itself was gorgeous, with a curving wall dividing off the naturally-lighted area from the main multimedia installation:
Surprisingly enough, in a spacious back room that hosted one of the multimedia exhibits, there was even a kitchen, and bottles of wine:
The Annenberg Space is tucked inside a Century City skyscraper complex, at the corner of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation.
Like all of Century City, this area is a monument to engineering, although a few patches of grass try to make it all seem less sterile.
I’m excited to see what shows they have there next — and excited that there’s a photo gallery in such a photographable spot. It’s not as charming as the gallery district of Culver City, and it has the opposite look — engineering splendor vs. urban decay — but the Annenberg Space for Photography has a ton of potential.