April 30, 2005

In the movie Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg creates a scene where the mother of the title character gets the horrible news about her other sons by showing a convoy of automobiles converging on her house, each carrying a representative of the military who will inform her that her children have died in the service of their country. According to the LA Times, such a scene was an anachronism: the military didn't start that practice until Vietnam, for the most part sending telegrams in earlier wars. The entire procedure of notifying the next of kin is quite moving, with the military assuming a responsibility for the lives of its own that one wishes the rest of the government would emulate.

April 29, 2005

Pajama Party: Perhaps I'm missing something, but this sounds like it might be a pretty good idea. In the tradition of United Artists Films, a number of uberbloggers have decided to pool their resources and create the New Media version of U.S. Steel, a conglomerate that will do to blogs what AOL did to the Internet, transforming Our Thing from a hobbyist's playground into a grand entrepreneurial venture. The idea is to aggregate the muscle of some of the more popular websites into something more attractive for big-time advertisers, creating an economy of scale that would allow smaller sites affiliated with the big boys (such as the site you're reading) to wet their beaks, as it were. In addition, they hope to create a blogger "news service" that would provide better access to a wider range of websites, particularly overseas. In short, a mighty ambitious calling.

I have no idea whether these people will ultimately make a fortune, but I'm pretty certain that a business along these lines will inevitably succeed. Someone will eventually bring together the independent blogger and corporate advertiser, and it makes sense that the first people willing to travel into this brave new world are proprietors of websites that already reach hundreds of thousands of readers. The fact that many of them are conservatives (but not all; one of the prime movers is an editor at The Nation) has no relevance; who even knows what politics the creators of E-Bay or Amazon have. This isn't a liberal or conservative idea; it's the future.

April 28, 2005

Noel Gallagher?
Bono, on Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin:
When told recently that Martin would eventually like to take U2's place, Bono seemed flattered. "Well, they may be the ones to do it," he said. "They have the legs to go a long way if they keep their concentration. Chris is a songwriter in the high British line of Paul McCartney and Ray Davies and Noel Gallagher.
I assume the Gallagher reference is Bono's little joke, like a baseball manager saying that "Milton Bradley is in the high line of great power hitters, of Henry Aaron and Ted Williams and Willie Aikens."

Anyways, what is with Robert Hilburn's obsession with British rock groups? At least three times a year, the LA Times rock critic will hype some Brit (ie., The Jesus and Mary Chain, Blur, Prodigy, Coldplay, etc.) as being the next Great White Hope, the group or singer that will reestablish British hegemony over the pop music scene in America, and end the collective slump that nation has had since the mid-80's. It's become as boring as his biannual column debating which '70's icon belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and, surprise, surprise, the predicted British Invasion never seems to take root much beyond the teenagers of Pacific Palisades or Rolling Hills Estates. Hilburn reminds me of the old farts in my youth who used to predict that rock 'n roll was just a passing fad, and that Big Bands were going to make a comeback, sure enough. Just give it a rest.
Blair Lied.
Something to think about when the "nuclear option" gets debated: more than half the members of the U.S. Senate won election to that body by margins greater than twenty percent of the vote, and most of the Senators who won by less than ten percent were Republicans.
Usually an overlooked tournament staffed by NHL underachievers and foreign "stars" not good enough to play in the league, the Hockey World Championships begin Saturday in Vienna with an unusually deep pool of talent. For the couple of dozen hockey fans still left, it will present a unique opportunity to watch some of the stars we knew and loved back when they still played the sport in North America.
Sith Happens: Silent Bob loves Revenge of the Sith !!

April 27, 2005

Frumpishly cute actress Maggie Gyllenhaal* is one of the select cabal of celebrities hired to blog on the upcoming Arianna Huffington website, and she's already proven her New Media bona fides by making an asinine remark about America's "responsibility" for 9/11. I can't defend the substance of her remark, which is tantamount to saying that the victims of any warcrime bear some responsibilty for their injury. What I admire, though, is the fact that when the s*** hit the fan, she didn't back down, or claim that she was misquoted, or in any way avoid responsibility for the tenor of her remarks. If she's willing to piss off a large chunk of the population by speaking her mind, and not have her site run by her publicist, the way most celebrity blogs have been, her blog might actually be worth reading.

*Class of '95, Harvard-Westlake

April 26, 2005

As I suspected, the real Gannon Scandal wasn't that he got to playact as a "reporter" in the White House, but that someone in the White House allowed him to use that dodge for other purposes. Secret Service records show that Mr. Guckert paid dozens of visits to the White House on days when there were no scheduled press briefings, and other times failed to check out after visiting, contrary to policy concerning day passes. Either the Secret Service is the world's most incompetent law enforcement agency, or Guckert was seeing somebody important.
McDiarmid Watch: Benedict XVI--Jedi or Sith? You make the call....

April 25, 2005

OK, in the alternative universe depicted on 24, there has been a massive train wreck, the kidnapping of the Secretary of Defense, a nuclear meltdown, a Downtown blackout, and the shooting down of Air Force One, and with it the near-killing of the President, all occurring within a sixteen-hour period in the greater Los Angeles Area. This comes in the wake of other recent nightmares, in which terrorists have blown a plane out of the sky, tried to assasinate a Presidential candidate, detonated a nuclear warhead in the Mojave Desert, and unleashed a deadly bioweapon in a local hotel.

Yet tonight, the villain, Habib Marwan, somehow managed to find a club just east of Downtown that was still open, with resiliant local patrons drinking, dancing, and partying like it's 1999, oblivious to the fact that several 9/11-events have once again happened in our community, all on the same day. I suppose if Bauer just tortures the club owner, we could get to the bottom of this.

April 24, 2005

This afternoon I attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which is said to be the largest of its type in this country. It's a two-day festival, and most of the panels I would have wanted to attend occurred yesterday, but seein' is how the NFL Draft conflicted, I would rather have followed the Odyssey of Aaron Rodgers than hear Hugh Hewitt bloviate about the Brave New World of the blogosphere (and btw, is there anything more laughable than a blogger whose motto is "Democrats must be destroyed" opining about moral deficits in his opponents; anyone who encounters the violent partisanship of his blog comes away with the clear impression that the compassionate message of Jesus Christ is not one that has left much of a mark on his life). So today was the day I visited the Kingdom of Wooden.

The Festival is spread out over the enormous campus, with much of the space devoted to a wide assortment of book publishers. There are anywhere from 10 to 15 panels going on at once, and obtaining tickets beforehand (they are free) is necessary to assure oneself of a seat, although stand-by seating is available for the early bird. There are also readings by noted authors, such as Walter Mosley, that are open to the public, as well as an assortment of stages and a food court (one served a pretty decent BBQ tri-tip). Unless you plan to walk over a mile, it is suggested that you avail yourself of the free shuttle buses from the campus parking lots. If you are unfamiliar with UCLA, you should use some of your free time to check out where your next panel is going to take place.

I managed to attend two panels. The first appealed to the former history major in me, a panel on the art of the biography, where a number of writers explained the process of creating compelling stories about historical figures as disparate as Marie Curie, J.K. Galbraith and the daughters of George III. The second panel was a discussion of whether the U.S. is making the world "safe for democracy", and, if so, whether the way we are going about doing so is the optimal method over the long haul. Held in the cavernous Royce Hall, the discussion, while enlightening, was marred by the propensity of the audience members to applaud like trained seals every time one of the panelists appealed to their prejudices, which, in this audience, were decidedly left-of-center. The beneficiary of much of the audience's love was one Amy Goodman, who co-hosts a public radio show, and who seems to have a soft spot for the former Haitian weakman leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide , who is a prime example of how the current fetishization of "democracy" by Clintonites and neo-cons alike is one limited to preserving the legitimacy of Third World elites, rather than creating just and prosperous societies.

The gabfest I really wanted to see, a discussion with Vanity Fair writer (and blogger) James Wolcott, turned out to be one of the more popular panels. I had crashed another panel, with former GE CEO Jack Welch, to hook up with a friend, the lovely, ambitious Natalie Panossian, and I figured that I accomplish the same across campus. No such luck; the stand-by line snaked around the building, and the relatively tiny auditorium where Wolcott spoke could not accomodate the high demand for seating. My loss.