Archive for 2010 January

I’m a member of an endangered species — a journalist

It's a small story, as mine often are, but I'm not going to apologize for making a living reporting and writing. Here's a heartwarming local story, thanks to the Star, with nice pics by Joe Garcia. 


A quote from Maria: “Oh man, I wish I could hug all the people who helped me that aren’t here today.” 

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Walking with the dogs at sunset


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How bad for the environment could one plastic bottle be?

WASHINGTON—Wishing to dispose of the empty plastic container, and
failing to spot a recycling bin nearby, an estimated 30 million
Americans asked themselves Monday how bad throwing away a single bottle
of water could really be.

"It's fine, it's fine," thought Maine native Sheila Hodge, echoing
the exact sentiments of Chicago-area resident Phillip Ragowski, recent
Florida transplant Margaret Lowery, and Kansas City business owner
McMillan, as they tossed the polyethylene terephthalate object into an
awaiting trash can. "It's just one bottle. And I'm usually pretty good
about this sort of thing."

"Not a big deal," continued roughly one-tenth of the nation's population.

From The Onion, of course. For the rest of the all-too-hilarious story, click here.

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Let Poetry Die (and be reborn again, outside academia)

So argues a New England poet:

I love poetry.

But as far as the public is concerned, poetry died with the modernists.

No poets ever filled their shoes. And though there remain a number
of minor masters and one hit wonders, few passing pedestrians could
name a poet from the last 50 to 60 years – let alone the same
poet, let alone the title of a poem, let alone a first line. Even
though I’ve never watched a single game of ice hockey from beginning to
end, I know who Wayne Gretzky is. And even though I’ve never watched
more than two holes of golf, I know  that Tiger Woods is not just a
gifted philanderer, but a great golfer.

Ask anyone to name a novelist of the last half century and names will come tumbling.

How about JK Rowling?

Ask anyone to name a contemporary poet and you will be lucky to
scrape by with John Ashbery, notwithstanding his much ballyhooed publication in  Library of America.  I know because I’ve asked friends, acquaintances and perfect strangers. Try it yourself.

Patrick Gillespie is right. I encourage you to read his whole essay, which has not a whiff of pretension to it, just plain good sense, but here (below) is another example of a non-academic poet, a Russian named Vera Pavlova, recently published in Poetry magazine. (Which is relevant because the magazine and foundation are at the center of Gillespie's argument.)

Poetry is a terrific publication, but every year, I swear to God, the best issue is the spring translation issue…probably because foreign poets are not supported by the academia industry, so they must be heard and appreciated by the public, if they are to be heard at all. 

Heck, Pavlova has even been known to put out poetry by text, or so the rumor goes. And my God, does she write sexily. When was the last time you heard that from an academic?

Here's an example, from her If There Is Something to Desire:

Tenderly on a tender surface
the best of my lines are written
with the tip of my tongue on your palate,
on your chest in tiny letters
on your belly…
but darling, I wrote them
may I erase with my lips
your exclamation mark?


(translation by Steven Seymour)

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Some good rain…and a “blown forecast”

Ventura County is now at about 200% of normal rainfall for this time of year, twenty inches in our immediate area, which is wonderful, but, as Emily Green and others have pointed out, comes nowhere near the 1 to 1.5 inches of rain an hour predicted for Wednesday of last week. 

In Green's post, forecaster extraordinaire Bill Patzert calls it a "blown forecast," but sympathizes with the National Weather Service. As Yogi Berra famously said:

It's not easy to make predictions, especially about the future.

But the funny thing is, although these storms came in nowhere near what the NWS warned, and were nothing like the "war" mentioned in posts below, no one seems to care. We're all too grateful.

Thank God for the rain. It's lovely to see the streams running again, to hear a few frogs beginning to croak at night, to feel the softness of the ground beneath our feet, and smell the richness of the earth. 

I'll leave it at that…with a picture, for those who might miss the often-soft winters of SoCal….


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Football gladiators (regardless of sex)

From the inimitable Jessica Hagy, of Indexed, an appropriate post for a football-heavy day:

Actually, professional football seems about the right sport for the USA today. War-like, rule-obsessed, tending towards blow-out wins, perfect for TV — what better sport for a nation glued together by electronic media?

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Matt the Electrican mocks weather weenies of Phoenix

Went to see a gifted Austin folkie named Matt the Electrician at a "house concert" last night. (He got his name because he took up a building trade to support his music habit, which fortunately has developed well enough to support him and his family, now.) But he's still wry and funny, with a rasky on-key voice to support his unique songs. With one exception none of the ones he played show up on the LaLa, so I went with his story about the streaking "Valedictorian," which gives an idea of his warm, memorable style.

But first! He played Phoenix on Thursday night, and had a little story about the "weather weenies" out there, who sound possibly even more wussy than the Californians. 

Matt said that he and his guitar wiz partner Scrappy were heading for the gig at a coffee house, listening to a classic rock station on the radio. He said:

It's drizzling outside, barely raining, and there's not even a lot of water collected on the ground. And the classic rock DJ comes on the air, and she says the Governor just declared a state of emergency. She says it's really bad out there, and tells everybody just stay home!

Fortunately he said a number of Phoenicians ignored the "emergency" and came out and had a good time at the gig. The house party, for forty so folks in a friends' living room, turned out to be plenty fun for us too.  Who needs cover charges, Ticketmaster, crowds, etc. Just visit with great musicians at home…

Here's Matt:


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Accuweather: Storm is “war on the Southwest”

Oh, c'mon. Now Accuweather is just getting silly:

The last and strongest in the train of Pacific storms will unleash a new round of flooding rain, mudslides,
feet of mountain snow, damaging winds and severe thunderstorms on California and the Southwest into Friday.

Is is an all out weather war being waged by the atmosphere on the

A rainstorm is "war?" Think the plants and the land and the streams and the fish will disagree…hell, I know they would. When do steelhead migrate into the backcountry? When the water is high, often during storms. This makes their life possible.

Jeez. Does this below look like "war" to you? Because it looks like some happy green plants to me.


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Rainy weather in SoCal: Overfeared?

Is it just my imagination, or are people — including authorities like the National Weather Service — overly frightened of rain?

Take a look at the latest "storm warming," copied from the NWS via the Ventura County Star:


In fact, warnings yesterday of an inch or more of rain an hour have turned out to be wildly overstated.

According to the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, our area has had a total of about four inches of rain in the last five days.

Which, folks, in the midst of a drought, is good news

(Yes, a few trees and rocks fell on various roads, a sinkhole opened at one spot in the county, some roads were closed, and surf crested the Ventura County Pier. But nobody was hurt, not even a homeless guy sleeping under the bridge by the Santa Clara River, against the advice of police.)

Now we are told by the authorities that "showers" are a "threat!"

And, apparently, "isolated thunderstorms" should make us hide under the bed.

It's good to be prepared, but this level of fear is ridiculous. Yes, occasionally it rains in SoCal, and sometimes it even floods. But in our current drought, those of us not living directly below badly burned slopes should welcome precipitation and even thunderstorms with delight.

Just as a reminder, here's what NOAA says the southwest looks like, as a percentage of normal precip, this water year. 


The drought is not over. We need every drop of rain we can get. The question is — can we use this rainfall wisely, or will we just rush it to the sea as usual?

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Kate McGarrigle (talk to me of Mendocino)

Kate McGarrigle, of the McGarrigle sisters, writer and singer of many a great song, died yesterday of liver cancer. Linda Ronstadt, who recorded some of the sisters' songs (and had a monster hit with their "Heart Like a Wheel") had a very nice quote about them in the Los Angeles Times:

"They had a vibe when you went to see them," Ronstadt said. "You felt
privileged that you were invited into their living room — it wasn't
like they had gone on stage and they were performing. It was like you
were invited inside this secret world they shared together. It felt
like they were just continuing the conversation they'd started while
they were doing the breakfast dishes that morning."

That's exactly right. My wife and I were fortunate to see the two sisters and some of their friends and relations perform in Los Angeles about twenty years ago. The two had an almost unconscious relationship to the audience — as if they were performing as much for each other, as they always had. Fascinating.

And Kate's Talk to Me of Mendocino is surely one of the most beautiful pop songs ever written…

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