New Fireworks column up, here.

O why did I promise anything today? I should just put my feet up and have a beverage and a ceegar and enjoy the evening – but, come to think of it, my feet are up and I have a beverage (Reyka, rocks) and a ceegar and I am enjoying the evening. I did not know this, but apparently Reyka is the World’s First Green Vodka. It’s made from melted glacial water and distilled using geothermal heat. They kicked up the price three bucks this year, and I was considering switching to something else, but it really is an incomparable vodka, and it makes me feel better than drinking those vodkas made with ground-up polar bears.

Speaking of the environment: the clipboard people were in front fo the grocery store today, and just like last year and the year before, were asking if we had a minute for clean energy. Well, of course! I asked what was up, and she explained they were getting signatures for a petition to pressure Congress to give tax breaks to clean energy like wind and solar, instead of dirty energy, like coal and oil.

Instead of? I asked. Not along with? Because I’m in favor of doing everything.

No, she said, just clean energy.

“But we use coal and oil. We need coal and oil.”

Her response was so peculiar I wonder if she knew what she was saying:

“But we don’t have any more.”

You can’t argue with that; what’s the point? We don’t have any more. Fresh out of coal and absolutely skint on the hydrocarbons. Mind you, I’m in favor of wind power; it seems like a capital idea, and I read somewhere (can’t find the link) that a massive new blade-farm, or whatever they’re called, is going up in the southern part of the state. This article notes the downside: transmission lines. Not a downside for me – I remember as a kid being fascinated and slightly scared by the giant power towers, marching across the prairie, looking vaguely like skeletal robots complete with head and arms. They were controversial in the 70s, though, and I expect they might be so again, but this time, I'd guess the greeniousity of the power source will trump fears about invisible leaky cow-confusing electricity.

Prediction: in the next few years, Reddy Kilowatt will return. But he won't be red. Meet his brother:


Sweet Mother of God, it’s moving at 6 million MPH. (via lgf.)

Look familiar?

(Just spent a few minutes ff'ing through "Generations" to find a shot of the Nexus, and was reminded again how much that movie failed to nail almost every point it needed to nail. But it was still fun. And no one expected them to trash the D, if you know what I mean; that was, in context, for all like-minded geeks, a jaw-on-sternum thing to do. But to lose the ship to those two Klingon biatches - man, that rankled.) (Sorry. Been a while since I went there. I'll stop now.) (WHY DIDN'T THEY JUST DUMP THE WARP CORE? You're telling me there's NO PROCEDURE FOR A MANUAL CORE EJECTION? Phaser the struts, jump up on down on the sucker, tractor it out into deep space!) (Still love the saucer-crash sequence, though. Too bad everything else is a letdown.)

Speaking of slicing through the earth: This relates somewhat to the ongoing Wall-E debate that’s ripping the nation apart: the trailer for The Day the Earth Stood Still is out, and if you thought the WINGNUTS flipped out over WALL-E, wait for this. (Note on the WINGNUTS flipping out: one site noted, as proof of the unhinged nature of those batnut neocons, a Jonah Goldberg quote in which he expressed enjoyment of the film but was “annoyed” a bit by the Malthusian subtext. Man, when these people start to express annoyance that doesn’t ruin their total experience, they’ve completely lost it. Isn’t it amusing – and satisfying! – when our ideological opponents show themselves to find new subterranean levels of intellectual debasement every day?) (Additional note: to repeat what I said on the Bob Davis show yesterday, people who are annoyed by the premise of WALL-E - that the earth was polluted beyond habitation - could tell themselves it was because everyone broke their fluorescent bulbs and released too much toxic mercury.) (Additional additional note: we’re now up to seven compact fluorescent bulbs here at Jasperwood, all doing exterior duty except for the underground tunnel to the Batcave, and one hideous bulb in my Closet of Wonders. Two more slated to go up this weekend on exterior floods. Doing my part.) ANYWAY, the premise of the new “Day” seems to substitute humanity’s nuclear ambitions with its ecological unconcern; the aliens come down to tell us to stop polluting the planet, or they will destroy us.

This can’t be right. If it is true, the aliens can’t possibly be the heroes – why would they care? Wouldn’t it be better to show the dumb smooth apes how to generate limitless power in a clean fashion, instead of blowing us all up? It’s like we’re visited by terrorists from Galaxy First. How is this different from WALL-E? It’s the difference between subtext and text, between backstory for a parable, and the front-and-center plot for another round of hairshirt anti-humanism. If the film is as advertised, that is. I expect it is. If the aliens also land in China and Russia and India to deliver the same ultimatum, I'd be surprised. So, Gort, old pal, who should we threaten? Those guys over there who've drained entire lakes and poisoned hundreds of square miles with lead and nuclear waste through carelessness and drunken incompentence, or the part of the world newly infused with ecological consciousness? I think our choice is obvious. Set course for Washington. If they refuse our message, we will take out Seattle. Their percentage of grocery bags recylced or reused has dropped alarmingly.

The trailer doesn’t spell out the message, but Gort – played by Keanu Reeves – says “if the earth dies, you die. If you die, the earth lives.” Well, there’s a message we can all get behind. And if the film flops, you get the Malibu beach house. Seems win-win for everyone except, well, the poison-belching peons who will queue up for another sermon. Gentle cautionary tales are one thing; this groveling self-hatred is another. Same with the M. Night film that has the trees emitting pollen that makes us all kill ourselves – apparently the trees took a big wait-and-see attitude towards deforestation in the late 19th century, and finally decided to kill people when we were just starting to get the point.

Idea for a movie: a visionary president forms an elite squad of covert operatives who destroy polluting factories around the world. We’re talking the really Green Berets.

Incidentally, if you wander around Google you can find commentators who thought “The Incredibles” was a right-wing neo-Randian propaganda film, and “Cars” shamelessly promoted an unsustainable petroleum economy. There's always enough harrumphing to go around.

Shot the StribTV video yesterday. Much fun. We had no subject one hour until the scheduled shooting time, but then I thought we’d do something about the Starbucks closing. Ah, but what? Well, since it’s possible – just quite perhaps maybe possible – that they built too many stores, I could do a walk from one Starbucks in a local mall to another three minutes away, and I’d end up in front of the second one professing ignorance about why the chain was closing units. Ha ha, because they overbuilt.

So we went to the Mall to ask permission, and how do you think that worked out? Managerial default position: when in doubt, keep out the cameras. Hell, even when you’re certain, keep out the cameras. The manager was very sweet and nice and apologetic about it, but the company had a policy. It was a bookstore, incidentally, and the manager was a fan of my books. So I signed the copies they had on hand and left with no hard feelings. I felt bad for making her feel bad about saying no; wasn’t her fault. POLICY.

So we shot something else on the street in my neighborhood, and it worked even better. It’ll be up Monday. Three minutes, one take, no script: just get from one end of the block to the other and keep talking. I do love my job.

On the Hewitt show yesterday we were talking about the LA Times difficulties – alas, I can see why their readership has dipped a tad, since the last time I read the paper it was careful, thin, and dull; the national stuff was all tepid Received Wisdom, the international stuff was the standard assemblage of chattering bureaucrats Deeply Concerned about this and that, and the editorial page read like last week’s blogs.

Before we shovel newspapers into the ground, though, consider what will take their place. Blogs won’t do it. They’ll do some, but not all. The other day there was a gawdawful gang rape in town; anyone who wanted to reprint the police report could have written a story about it on their own. But the Strib sent a reporter to the house of one of the accused. Didn’t get a comment, but he might have gotten something – and perhaps the next time he will, because the next time this happens the paper will send out someone to talk to someone. I don’t see bloggers getting into their car and driving over to the accused’s house, knocking on the door and asking if anyone has a comment.

Is it necessary? Probably not, half the time, but now and then you get something that adds a kick to the story. You need people who do this for a living.

How many you need, that’s the issue nowadays. Or rather how many you can afford to need.

Last week we finally walked the redesign back a few paces. Killed the “Source” brand, which everyone hated, and brought back “Variety.” That’s it – swapped one name for the other, but it was one of the things people really missed. They couldn’t quite understand why we had killed a venerable burned-in brand with decades of goodwill for something new.


Anyway: it’s the Fourth. Walking the dog around the neighborhood tonight, I was thinking about the Fourth the year after 9/11, how we braced ourselves and expected . . . something. Now we don’t. It reminded me of something I saw downtown last week.

It’s a good day when you look up and see this . . .


 . . . and your first thought is how cool the picture might look. Your second thought is how your first thought wasn't about, you know, that. Larger version of the pic here.

Anyway, it's the Fourth. From a few years ago: some fireworks, set to Jackie Gleason music.


And just because it's been a while: old radio! This is the Fourth of July broadcast for "Calling All Cars" from July 4, 1934. Mass entertainment was much different 74 years ago. Chock full of insulting ethnic stereotypes, for one thing.

Have a great Fourth! We’ll see you Monday. And remember, new column, here.