Thursday, September 25, 2008

LA Times Buzz on the Berkeley Bowl

Google News pointed me to the LA Times feature story on Berkeley Bowl, one of our local grocery stores with a justifably stellar reputation for its produce selection, quality, and price. (Back in 2001, I wrote about the store on Everything2 as a must-see destination in Berkeley)

Staff Writer John Glionna focuses as much on the antics of shoppers as much as the produce, and notes that the penalty at the Bowl for grazing (sampling foods before purchase) is being banned from the store, forever.

Today I learned (hat tip to the Daily Clog) that after it was published on Monday, Glionna heard from Berkeley Bowl owner Glenn Yasuda. According to Glionna's blog, Yasuda didn't like the tone Glionna took in the article, and banned him for life.

Glionna seems to take it in stride. Read the comments following his blog posting, though. I learned as much about Berkeley's reputation, culture, and recent history from these postings as anything I've ever read in all the time I've been living here.

In Case You Missed It: McCain Snubs Letterman

You may have seen this buzzing around the internet this morning. I stayed up to watch the show because of the buzz moving through Twitter last night, and wished I'd waited for the YouTube edits.

For those who aren't caught up: along with McCain's announcement that he was "suspending" his presidential campaign, he called David Letterman hours before his scheduled appearance and cancelled it, saying he had to rush back to Washington to deal with the economic crisis.

Not only was Letterman ruffled by the last-minute need to rejigger his show, but he was genuinely bothered by the implications of McCain's decision to suspend his campaign. He spent much of the show stuck on the issue.

Even *before* he learned (during his sitdown with Keith Olbermann) what McCain was actually doing at the time.

If you only have three minutes, here's a quick version from Air America:

But I'd recommend this nine minute edit, which gives you a better sense of how much talk of McCain's cancellation dominated the entire program. It also includes Letterman's disclaimer in which he spends a full minute lauding McCain for his heroic survival in North Vietnam.

A surreal and classic pop culture moment.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fictional advice for a real candidate

Maureen Dowd hands over her Sunday column to Aaron ("The West Wing") Sorkin, who dramatizes a meeting between Obama and a certain former president.
OBAMA I didn’t expect you to answer the door yourself.

BARTLET I didn’t expect you to be getting beat by John McCain and a LancĂ´me rep who thinks “The Flintstones” was based on a true story, so let’s call it even.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Got Cowbell?

SNL. 2000. Will Farrell. Christopher Walken. "More Cowbell" sketch.

Web. 2008. Your mp3 collection. A web developer with a lot of time on his hands. Cowbell.

Add cowbell to any mp3 file.

Also, add Christopher Walken.

 Make your own at 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Pro-Life Catholic and Barack Obama

Conservative and antiabortion legal scholar (and former head of the Office of Legal Counsel for Reagan and Bush I) Douglas Kmiec made waves last spring when he publicly endorsed Barack Obama over John McCain.

The clarity of thought expressed in his endorsement is remarkable, but it angered at least one Catholic priest enough to verbally shame him during mass and to deny him communion.

He recounts this story this week in an excerpt from his new book Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question About Barack Obama.
The irony of ironies was that my motivation for the endorsement was entirely Catholic. No, Obama doesn't share the Catholic faith, but he certainly campaigns like he does. As reflected in his book, the Senator is focused on the human person, on the common good, on the social justice of economic arrangement. All is so very Catholic.
Whether Obama and his base of support are able to capture the election in our current political and cultural environment remains to be seen. But I welcome any and all evidence of intellectual honesty and rigor in America.

Real clarity of thought (and LEARNING) on any issue of importance will always lead to accusations of hypocrisy and betrayal by those who would rather feel good about an issue than do good.


(Via Andrew Sullivan)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Insanity is: Skateboarding down Claremont Canyon

The shrinking of digital video cameras has allowed for the creation of new forms of cinema that would not have been possible otherwise. I make kids'-eye-view home movies, others toss their cameras in the air, still others hold cameras to their faces to create "POV" sex movies.

Skateboarding videos take up an entire wing of YouTube. Skaters have become increasingly skilled at performing tricks while holding small HD cameras, to capture footage inconceivable by Hollywood cinematographers and their enormous camera rigs.

This video manages to stand out from the crowd, simply by being UNBELIEVABLY FUCKING NUTS.

Two guys (Noah Sakamoto and Patrick Rizzo) in powder-blue suits and laughably insufficient head and hand protection, skateboard down Claremont Ave in the upper hills of Berkeley at speeds higher than I would probably drive (at one point they zoom past a car), all the while videotaping each other with an HD camera, outfitted with a fisheye lens.

If you can ignore the meaningless title ("Adam Kimmel presents: Claremont HD"), interminable opening credits, and opaque two-minute intro, you will be "treated" to two gravity-driven runs down the canyon that make street luge-ing seem positively serene in comparison.

Oh, and click through to Vimeo if you actually want to watch it in HD, full screen, so you too can clutch at your seat muttering bad idea bad idea bad idea bad idea BAD IDEA BAD IDEA BAD IDEA BAD BAD BAD IDEA.


(Via Kottke.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Les Misbarack

An improv company from LA pays homage to Obama. Or Les Mis. Or something:

Is it me, or does framing the election as the finale of Act I of Les Mis, seem to miss the point of both the campaign AND the musical?

It's been twenty years, so it's kinda hazy, but IIRC this song musical counterpoint threading together inner emotional monologues from disparate subplots and building to a thunderous was meant to musically browbeat the audience into an emotional frenzy-- not because anything was resolved in the story to this point, it wasn't, but because Schoenberg wanted the audience to stay for the second act.

(Also, I'm not sure but I think the tune keeps modulating and the chord progression never resolves until the very end of the four minutes)

Also, while it's framed here as a rallying point for the Obama campaign, in Act II of Les Mis, the mob on the barricades is abandoned by the people and they all realize they're going to be crushed like bugs and that their movement accomplished exactly nothing and then they all die. Maybe that's the point, but seeing as this is coming from an improv group I kinda think they didn't think that far ahead.

Especially because most of lyrics expressed here DON'T fit the visual narrative (a one location number? no way. And if McCain is Javert in what possible world does it make sense that Palin is Madame Thénardier?)

Okay, I've just spent way too much time on YouTube and Wikipedia fact-checking a musical I wasn't that interested in two decades ago just so I could confirm that
this new mashup squandered a key musical theatre geek callback: the marching in place of the actors.

Although I have to say it's growing on me. The fourth time around the video isn't so grating and I'm ready to dash out to the lobby to buy me one of them tricolour Cosette/Obama mashup t-shirts.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Particle Zoo: Subatomic Particle plushies

When Boingboing posted the photo below of the plush toy version of the as-yet-unconfirmed Higgs Boson particle, I thought it was a rushed attempt to capitalize on this past week's news from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), in which they flipped the switch on their massive 17-mile long particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider.

Turns out though, the Particle Zoo (a home-based business) has been offering plush physics particles, both real and imagined, since last year... you can get your proton, your electron, your neutron, quarks, leptons... and for the truly nerdy, the entire line is also available in their antimatter counterparts.

And, if you browse through the gallery at the Particle Zoo, you can see photos of various famous physicists with their plush particles, answering the question "What do you get a physicist for Christmas when he already has a Nobel Prize?"

Hats off to Particle Zookeeper Julie Peasley, the sole proprieter (and sole seamstress) of this venture.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Daily Show does journalism. Again.

The Daily Show spent a lot of its annual budget dispatching its sets, writers, and performers to Denver, CO and St. Paul, MN to cover the Democratic and Republican conventions.

But the sharpest segment of either week, as assembled by the writing and video research staff, could (and may) have been put together from the show's New York home base.

It leaves one wishing that "real" television news organizations were as quick or as skilled in retrieving footage from their voluminous archives.

Or as willing to call people on their bullshit.

Or go here