Thug life

November 18th, 2007 § Comments off § permalink

According to a recent study, I live in the fourth-most dangerous city in the United States. How delightful.

On the other hand, if I really cared about safety, apparently I would move to Mission Viejo. Thanks, but no thanks.

A fucking brilliant formulation

October 21st, 2007 § Comments off § permalink

From a Steven Pinker essay on the emotional power of swearing:

As it happens, most expletives aren’t genuine adverbs, either. One study notes that, while you can say That’s too fucking bad, you can’t say That’s too very bad. Also, as linguist Geoffrey Nunberg pointed out, while you can imagine the dialogue How brilliant was it? Very, you would never hear the dialogue How brilliant was it? Fucking.

If the government trusts them, maybe I could

October 7th, 2007 § Comments off § permalink

When one of my friends mentioned that it was Fleet Week in San Francisco, and that the Blue Angels would therefore be coming to town, I immediately got on the highest horse I could locate on such short notice. “It’s unconscionable,” I complained. “Does it make any sense for jet fighters to fly in close formation above a densely-populated city? No, it does not. Can you imagine if an accident happened? I don’t think I could ever watch the Blue Angels. I’d feel horribly guilty.”

By the time I wound up in San Francisco this afternoon, I had forgotten this conversation entirely. So it came as a complete surprise when, as I walked south along the Embarcadero, I heard a thunderous roar overhead. Looking up, I saw four jets arcing through the sky in a diamond formation, maybe a half-wingspan apart; they swung out over the water, then curved around and flew over the Financial District.

I still think it’s completely reckless to conduct an air show above downtown San Francisco. However, I am forced to concede that it is also totally awesome.

I am not Shakespeare, nor was meant to be

September 26th, 2007 § One comment § permalink

I cannot say how long this has been so, but lately I have found that when I think,
my thoughts are in iambic—what’s the word? Pentameter; that’s it. And I am vexed
by all the sing-song thoughts that I must think because of this affliction most bizarre.

How can I keep blank verse out of my head? I’d be most grateful, readers of my blog, if you could help me end this nasty curse.

I do it to myself, I do, and that’s what really hurts

September 23rd, 2007 § Comments off § permalink

A coworker walked up to me as I stood in front of our office’s supply board, writing an order for yellow legal pads. She noticed that I was taking the time to copy the appropriate product number from the supply catalog, which, in theory, we are always supposed to do and, in practice, almost nobody ever does.

“Do you need a special kind of legal pad or something?” my coworker asked me.

“Well,” I told her, “if I don’t specify which ones to order, I find that we usually wind up getting white legal pads, or legal pads printed on really crummy paper.”

She stared at me for a moment before saying, “Sometimes it must be really hard to be you.”

Me, I want a hula hoop

August 11th, 2007 § Comments off § permalink

A woman next door is trying to summon her son by repeatedly calling his name, which is “Alvin.” It’s all I can do to keep from throwing open my window and singing “Christmas, Christmas time is here…

Liberation hydrology

July 30th, 2007 § Comments off § permalink

BLDGBLOG‘s Geoff Manaugh hits one out of the park with his assessment of scientists’ maps showing, for example, how much of Florida will be obliterated by rising sea levels during the next century:

[T]hese things are actually so evocative, and so imaginatively stimulating, that it’s hard not to get at least a tiny thrill at the idea that you might get to see these things happen.

Nothing against Miami, but all of south Florida under several meters of water? With Cape Canaveral lost under a subtropical lagoon and St. Petersburg an archipelago?

The problem, it seems, is that climate change scientists, in describing these unearthly terrestrial reorganizations, are science fictionalizing, so to speak, our everyday existence. …

It could be called liberation hydrology.

Climate change becomes an adventure—the becoming-science-fiction of everyday life.

Bay Area traffic update!

May 4th, 2007 § Comments off § permalink

(OAKLAND, CA)—As freeway traffic continues to move smoothly in the East Bay following the partial collapse of the MacArthur Maze, Bay Area city planning consultants are being forced to recant their earlier predictions of chaotic, months-long traffic congestion.

“Look, I was wrong, okay?” said one consultant, who requested anonymity. “I guess I underestimated people’s willingness to ride transit or telecommute. Kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it, whether we really need those freeways anym—mmph!”

The consultant was interrupted when freeway engineers clapped their hands over his mouth and dragged him to an undisclosed location, where he was found guilty of “thoughtcrimes against the beloved Interstate Highway System and our American Way of Life.” Officials said that he will be released after he has renounced his “pro-bicycle heresies.”

Newsflash!

April 29th, 2007 § Comments off § permalink

(OAKLAND, CA)—Bay Area city planning consultants are fuming over a Sunday morning explosion that destroyed parts of the MacArthur Maze, according to a well-placed source.

“Aaarrrgghhh,” said the consultant, who requested anonymity. “I can’t go to any of my client meetings without getting on the freeway. And now traffic on every single freeway in the East Bay is going to be a disaster for, like, months.”

“Dammit,” the consultant added.

When asked whether the Bay Area’s freeways are likely to be damaged further in the near future, the Hayward Fault declined to comment, then chuckled ominously.

The Milias Hotel

March 5th, 2007 § Comments off § permalink

Joan Didion, in Where I Was From:

There used to be on the main street through Gilroy, a farm town in Santa Clara County that billed itself as “The Garlic Capital of the World,” a two- or three-story hotel, the Milias, where the dining room off the lobby had a black-and-white tiled floor and fans and potted palm trees and, in the opinion of my father, short ribs so succulent that they were worth a stop on any drive between Sacramento and the Monterey Peninsula. I remember sitting with him in the comparative cool of the Milias dining room (any claim of “cool” was at that time comparative, air conditioning not yet having taken widespread hold in Santa Clara County), eating short ribs and the cherries from his old-fashioned bourbon cocktail, the singular musky smell of garlic being grown and picked and processed permeating even the heavy linen napkins.

I am unsure at what point the Milias Hotel vanished (probably about the time Santa Clara County started being called Silicon Valley), but it did, and the “farm town” vanished too, Gilroy having reinvented itself as a sprawl of commuter subdivisions for San Jose and the tech industry. In the summer of 2001, a local resident named Michael Bonfante opened a ninety-million-dollar theme park in Gilroy, “Bonfante Gardens,” the attractions of which were designed to suggest the agricultural: stage shows with singing tomatoes, rides offering the possibility of being spun in a giant garlic bulb or swung from a thirty-nine-foot high mushroom. The intention behind Bonfante Gardens, according to its creator, was “to show how the county was in the 1950s and 1960s.” The owner of a neighboring property was interviewed by The New York Times on the subject of Bonfante Gardens. “If it gets to be Disneyland, I am going to hate it,” she said. “Right now it is pretty and beautiful. But who knows? Someone who has been here as long as I have has mixed feelings.”

This interviewee, according to the Times, had been a resident of Gilroy, in other words “been here,” for fifteen years. If fifteen years seems somewhat short of the long-time settlement suggested by “someone who has been here as long as I have,” consider this: when my brother and I applied to change the zoning from agricultural to residential on a ranch we owned east of Sacramento, one of the most active opponents to the change, a man who spoke passionately to the folly of so altering the nature of the area, had moved to California only six months before, which suggested that he was living on a street that existed only because somebody else had developed a ranch. Discussion of how California has “changed,” then, tends locally to define the more ideal California as that which existed at whatever past point the speaker first saw it: Gilroy as it was in the 1960s and Gilroy as it was fifteen years ago and Gilroy as it was when my father and I ate short ribs at the Milias Hotel are three pictures with virtually no overlap, a hologram that dematerializes as I drive though it.