Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thursday Night Blues


I just noticed that the wine I was drinking last night was called "Praxis". WTF? I'm now drinking something called "The Lackey", a Shiraz from Australia. The bottle had no cork, but a screw-off cap.

As we tumble steadily toward another recession, as the Antarctic ice thins, and I get ready to go to bed to wake up in time to show up and hand over another day to my taskmasters (I am really wishing I had taken my own advice last year to invest in uranium), I thought it was a good time to look back at anthropologist Marshall Sahlins' seminal essay on the economics of the hunter-gatherer society:
The hunter, one is tempted to say, is "uneconomic man". At least as concerns non subsistence goods, he is the reverse of that standard caricature immortalised in any General Principles of Economics, page one. His wants are scarce and his means (in relation) plentiful. Consequently he is "comparatively free of material pressures", has "no sense of possession", shows "an undeveloped sense of property", is "completely indifferent to any material pressures", manifests a "lack of interest" in developing his technological equipment.
From "The Original Affluent Society". Sometimes "progress" is a lot of bullshit. That may just be "The Lackey" speaking, of course.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Wednesday in the Spring of 2007


On the couch, after a long day at work, slightly buzzed on red wine and Casa Bianca pizza (L.A.'s best!), watching Hillary addressing a meeting of the AFL-CIO on C-Span and thinking that, yeah, okay, she would probably be a decent president. She would appoint excellent judges. She would probably have a decent foreign policy. She would have Bill by her side . . . . What am I thinking? I must be drunk. She did raise a whole crapload of money out here in L.A. last week. She is getting slightly better at delivering a speech. Bill Richardson was up right before her, and Edwards before him. Richardson should probably be taken more seriously as a contender, given his experience as a chief executive and as an ambassador to the U.N. and negotiator with various hostile leaders through the years. I like Edwards, too, but he still strikes me as a bit of lightweight, though I agree with his focus on social justice and his forthright repudiation of his previous support for the war (in contrast to Hillary).

Okay, now I've tuned Hillary out. She's throwing out a lot of red meat to the union. There's no building or crescendo with Hillary. It's like a relentless, mechanical plateau, in her odd, unplaceable staccato accent

Update: I'm sobered up now and back to thinking Hillary would be a disaster as a general election candidate. And I'm still unhappy with her for her contorted and insincere positions on the war. Run, Al, run!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Please, more water



It's raining here in L.A. Thank God.

Now that I'm addicted to the sunlight, I could feel myself getting a little down today as it stayed dark and overcast, drizzling all day.

But L.A. is beautiful after rain.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Real things fade



The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight bleaches colors by blasting away certain molecular bonds that are necessary to create the impression of color. I don't fully understand this, but there it is.

Chemical bleach appears to operate in a sort of similar fashion (i.e., changing the double bonds of chromophores into single bonds, thus altering the optical properties of molecules, rendering them colorless).

Of course, digital images projected with electricity would apparently never fade. For example, the colors on this blog, given the appropriate power source and mode of projection, should never fade. That's an interesting and weird aspect of digital media that I had never really thought about before. I could leave Octopus Grigori in the blinding Eagle Rock sunlight for days and it wouldn't fade at all. Of course, this is just another aspect of the irreality of this medium, its intangibility and weirdness. It's continuously new, and therefore, somehow never quite real.

Los Angeles



From Wikipedia:
Los Angeles is home to adherents of many religions, and has over 100 Christian denominations, with Roman Catholicism being the largest due to the high numbers of Hispanic, Filipino, and Irish Americans.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles leads the largest archdiocese in the country. Roger Cardinal Mahony oversaw construction of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, completed in 2002 at the north end of downtown. The Los Angeles Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is their second-largest temple and is located in West Los Angeles. L.A. had a wave of Mormon settlers in the 1860s to generate a fairly large community of members of that church.

Los Angeles is home to the third largest population of Jewish people in the United States. Many synagogues of the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist movements can be found throughout the city. Most are located in the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles. The area in West LA around Fairfax and Pico Boulevards contains a large amount of Orthodox Jews. The oldest synagogue in Los Angeles is the Breed Street Shul in East Los Angeles, which is being renovated.

The Azusa Street Revival (1906–1909) in Los Angeles was a key milestone in the history of the Pentecostal movement. Not long after Christian Fundamentalism received its name and crucial promotion in Los Angeles. In 1909, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (B.I.O.L.A. now Biola University) published and widely distributed a set of books called The Fundamentals, which presented a defense of the traditional conservative interpretation of the Bible. The term fundamentalism is derived from these books.

In the 1920s, Aimee Semple McPherson established a thriving evangelical ministry, with her Angelus Temple in Echo Park open to both black and white church members of the Foursquare Church. Billy Graham became a celebrity during a successful revival campaign in Los Angeles in 1949. Herbert W. Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God used to have its headquarters in nearby Pasadena, now in Glendale. Until his death in 2005, Dr. Gene Scott was based near downtown. The Metropolitan Community Church, a fellowship of Christian congregations with a focus on outreach to gays and lesbians, was started in Los Angeles in 1968 by Troy Perry. Jack Chick, of "Chick Tracts", was born in Boyle Heights and lived in the area most of his life.

Because of Los Angeles' large multi-ethnic population, there are numerous organizations in the area representing a wide variety of faiths, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Bahá'í, various Eastern Orthodox Churches, Sufism and others. Immigrants from Asia for example, have formed a number of significant Buddhist congregations making the city home to the biggest variety of Buddhists in the world. There are over 300 temples in Los Angeles. Los Angeles has been a destination for Swamis and Gurus since as early as 1900, including Paramahansa Yogananda (1920). The Self-Realization Fellowship is headquartered in Hollywood and has a private park in Pacific Palisades. Los Angeles is the home to a number of Neopagans, as well as adherents of various other mystical religions. One wing of the Theosophist movement is centered in Los Angeles, and another is in neighboring Pasadena. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi founded the Transcendental Meditation movement in Los Angeles in the late 1950s. The Kabbalah Centre is in the city. The Church of Scientology has had a presence in Los Angeles since it opened February 18, 1954, and it has several churches, museums, and recruiting sites in the area, most notably the Celebrity Centre in Hollywood, in fact the world's largest community of Scientologists can be found in LA.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Saturday

Each week is madness and anxiety these days. Oh well. Dwarfs, or little people, are apparently back in vogue. Today is the busiest day of the year for dwarfs in the entertainment business (think leprechauns):
Dwarfs have played special roles for centuries, from participating in religious rites in ancient Egypt to being jesters in medieval courts and more recently as featured attractions in circus side shows.

Now, dwarfs are not just party fare; they're also on widely distributed shows — as figures of fun — including bits on the Howard Stern and Jimmy Kimmel talk shows. A little people's fight on "Jerry Springer" has become a YouTube favorite.
See also this interesting piece on the role of dwarfs in ancient Egypt. Anyway, I need to get some Lucky Charms and wear some green.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Temple Mount


artist's rendition of the underground chambers of the Temple Mount

One of the most famous and disputed places in the world: the Temple Mount. The current platform of the Temple Mount, on which the Dome of the Rock is located, and Al Aqsa mosque, is a physical manifestation of the manner in which Islam, Christianity, and Judaism built upon one another over time.


Mohammed's night journey

Indeed, the site is sacred to Muslims not only because of Mohammed's night journey, but because the site was holy to Christians and Jews. Jesus, David, and Solomon are all considered prophets in Islam; moreover, the site was one of the first places where the "people of the book" began to worship one god.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Saturday in L.A.



There really is nothing that I know of quite like a sunny Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. It's fantastically comfortable and peaceful-seeming, yet somehow empty and desolate. Maybe it's our desert location: you're not supposed to see a lot of activity: live things are hiding in shade, behind rocks, under the scrub. Or maybe I've been reading too much Raymond Chandler lately.

Anyhow, slowly but surely I can feel myself becoming addicted to sunlight. Our entire city, plopped down in the desert, is almost continuously blasted by sunlight. The rays bleach everything: all the store signs along Colorado in Eagle Rock look ancient because the colors have been zapped away by the sun. All the reds are weak pinks. This continuous southern desert sunlight must do something to a person.

The really frightening thing is that we're currently experiencing the driest year in L.A. history. So no break in the sunshine anywhere in the near future.

To my friends back East: please send water.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Dodge Intrepid 1993-2004



The Dodge Intrepid. A beautiful, "stunningly modern and widely acclaimed" vehicle. Discontinued in 2004. Rest in peace.

More Harm Than Good?



As you've probably seen, the NYT Magazine ran an article this Sunday that suggested that religious belief may have granted humans certain evolutionary advantages such as, for example, group cohesion, group fitness, etc.

Of course, after surveying Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim groups at each others' throats around the world, some might argue that religion is in fact the source of much of the world's ills today. The group cohesion that comes with religious belief often seems to rely on the creation of an outside realm of others: strangers and enemies against which a group stands in opposition. (Here it may be interesting to consider the deep connections between religiosity and nationalism. Nationalism, of course, is another way to create group cohesion, usually at terrible costs.)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mound Culture



The mysterious Serpent Mound of Ohio. Mound building was extensive across pre-1492 North America; no one is quite sure what the mounds were for. Interestingly, mound-building was a key feature of pre-historic Japanese culture.