Theta, Goddess of Television

What Happened to the Promise?

What Happened to the Promise?

Back in the 1970s, the first truly great television channel was born. It was called the Z Channel, and it was available only through Theta Cable Television, a subsidiary of TelePrompTer Corporation. Here was a channel made for film freaks such as myself. I could watch not only popular films, but film classics, including French, Italian, and Japanese classics with subtitles.

The trucks belonging to Theta Cable bore the following logo, of which I could find only this very imperfect example on the Internet:

Theta, Goddess of Television

Theta, Goddess of Television

The Z Channel ended badly with a murder/suicide when program director Jerry Harvey shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself.

Around then, the Z Channel segued into the Sports Channel, which interrupted their movies with Stanley Cub playoffs. I remember calling my cable provider and demanding to cancel the hockey channel. They knew what I was talking about.

There were other hopeful beginnings, such as Headline News, CNN, Bravo, TNT, and even MTV at the beginning. Now the only cable channel of any worth is Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which still has no advertising, and which shows films uncut and unscanned (i.e., letterbox versions). As far as I am concerned, the rest is mostly sports (way, way too much sports), right wing news, and celebrity gossip. I would be in heaven if all that mattered to me were Kim Kardashian’s ass and how the Cubs are faring against the Hornets. Oh, yes, and Benghazi!

Cable television was once a land of promise. Then, I suppose, Eve ate the apple; and we were all drummed out of paradise.



Donald Sterling, Slumlord Billionaire

Donald Sterling, Slumlord Billionaire

By now the news is all over America: Donald Sterling, billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has been suspended for life from any association with the NBA and fined $2.5 million. That last bit is just chump change for the slumlord and sports team owner.

The racist comments he made to his “girlfriend” V. Stiviano (left, above) is the ostensible reason he is being punished. But, alas, Mr. Sterling has done far worse than that. In a 2009 piece for ESPN Magazine, Jamilah King wrote the following:

So according to the testimony of tenants, Sterling employees made life difficult for residents in some of his new buildings. They refused rent checks, then accused renters of nonpayment. They refused to do repairs for black tenants and harassed them with surprise inspections, threatening residents with eviction for alleged violations of building rules.

When Sterling first bought the Ardmore, he remarked on its odor to [property supervisor Sumner] Davenport. “That’s because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they’re not clean,” he said, according to Davenport’s testimony. “And it’s because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day.” He added: “So we have to get them out of here.” Shortly after, construction work caused a serious leak at the complex. When Davenport surveyed the damage, she found an elderly woman, Kandynce Jones, wading through several inches of water in Apartment 121. Jones was paralyzed on the right side and legally blind. She took medication for high blood pressure and to thin a clot in her leg. Still, she was remarkably cheerful, showing Davenport pictures of her children, even as some of her belongings floated around her.

Jones had repeatedly walked to the apartment manager’s office to plead for assistance, according to sworn testimony given by her daughter Ebony Jones in the Housing Rights Center case. Kandynce Jones’ refrigerator dripped, her dishwasher was broken, and her apartment was always cold. Now it had flooded. Davenport reported what she saw to Sterling, and according to her testimony, he asked: “Is she one of those black people that stink?” When Davenport told Sterling that Jones wanted to be reimbursed for the water damage and compensated for her ruined property, he replied: “I am not going to do that. Just evict the bitch.”

I see the troubles that are now besetting Sterling as just the beginning of the destruction of whatever reputation he has managed to salvage. Of course, that may not matter to him. But as Shakespeare once wrote in Hamlet: “Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool no where but in ’s own house.”


With Martine at Huntington

My First REAL Weekend After Tax Season

My First REAL Weekend After Tax Season

After the beginning of February, Martine and I really didn’t go places. We pretty much stayed at home, me to psychologically prep myself for those horrible Monday mornings in tax season, after having worked both Saturday and Sunday, Martine to endure. Then, no sooner did tax season end than I found myself in the emergency room at UCLA Santa Monica Hospital with an Addisonian Crisis. This weekend, we finally went somewhere, to the Huntington Gardens and Museum, of which we are members.

It’s a good thing I wore my hiking shoes, because we put in several miles walking through the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, not to mention the herb and cactus garden. And in between, we saw the rose garden and relaxed by the lily ponds, looking at ducks and turtles.

Afterwards, I took Martine to her favorite restaurant in Southern California, Sevan Chicken in Glendale at the corner of Glenoaks and Kensington. It’s not particularly famous, but it has the best Armenian rotisserie chicken around, beating even Zankou Chicken for the honors.

Tomorrow, Martine travels to Sacramento for a few days to see her dentist and visit the grave of her mother and brother. I wanted to make sure she had her favorite dark meat rotisserie chicken before setting out.



Snowballs from Hell

Mammillaria geminispina

Mammillaria geminispina

There they were, looking like snowballs Martine and I could pick up and toss at each other. But they were not snowballs, but a kind of cactus from Mexico called Mammillaria geminispina, which is native to the states of Veracruz and Hidalgo. The little red flowers make them look even more innocent and pick-up-able. They join the Cholla family of cacti, especially the notorious “Teddy Bear” Cholla with its fuzzy look and barbed spines.

The Mammillaria at Huntington Gardens in San Marino, California, are just one of thousands of reasons why the cactus garden there is one of the best in the world. Just when you think you know what a cactus should look like, you see specimens from Bolivia or Namibia that take you back to Square One.

According to a sign near the Mammillaria, “It forms large mounds, a strategy which retains moisture beneath the plant and discourages grazing. Its dense white spines reflect heat.” And, if anyone wants to pick them up, they are welcome to do so. The First Aid Station is only a third of a mile away.


Bad Luck With Restaurants

Sambar and Idlis

Sambar and Idlis

Los Angeles has its very own India community in Artesia, just off the Pioneer Blvd. exit on he 91 Freeway. Martine and I decided to eat lunch there and shop at the nearby Stater Brothers Supermarket. So we went to Woodlands Restaurant, which specializes in South Indian (or, to be even more specific, Keralan) cuisine. I knew I was taking a chance with Martine, because she prefers standard North Indian cuisine. While I was having a great meal with sambar (a kind of spicy vegetarian soup) and idlis (little rice “flying saucers”) and a tasty glass of salt lassi, Martine was trying all the dishes that worked for her at her favorite North Indian restaurants. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for her here: the chicken was cold, the rice pudding was hot and watery, and so on and so forth.

Add to that the fact that, not being a cook and having any real food sense, Martine usually has difficulties in the dishes she selects at restaurants. At any given restaurant—and only if she were well familiar with it—she will typically select only one, or at the most two, dishes. Since I have more food smarts, I can usually please myself at places she winds up hating. It’s a pity, because I would like to go back to Woodlands one of these days to try their uppamav, a delightful South Indian dish made with Cream of Wheat!


Yes, But …

Pope (Soon To Be Saint) John Paul II

Pope (Soon To Be Saint) John Paul II

This week’s upcoming canonization of two Twentieth Century popes has many people hot under the collar. Although he did not succeed in cleaning up the child abuse mess among the Catholic clergy, I think he was an outstanding human being. His forgiveness of Mehmet Ali Agca, who came close to assassinating him on May 13, 1981, shows him to have been a real Christian.

While listening to the radio on the way to work this morning, I heard the usual complaints about his having done nothing to punish Cardinal Roger Mahony for reassigning guilty priest-predators to new parishes. This is an administrative matter, and Mahony; while certainly in the wrong, did not come under papal purview at this level. This is a problem across the entire Catholic world, with entire seminaries devoted to producing gay priests who are likely to molest the children of parishioners. At a time when the number of young people with religious callings is rapidly dwindling, many in Rome are afraid to stage what would amount to a major purge of religious.

Ultimately, the culprit is priestly celibacy. For hundreds of years, priests have not been allowed to marry in the Roman Catholic Church; but it is not forbidden among the Eastern Rites who do allow their clergy to marry. These include the West Syrian (Maronite), Armenian, Byzantine, and East Syrian rites, all of which recognize the authority of the Pope. I have always thought that the Church will ultimately change its mind on this score. Doing so would be attended with problems of its own, such as the right of priestly widows and children to inherit church property, which might put them into conflict with the laws of various countries.

But the Orthodox Churches have managed all these years, so it is not inconceivable that the Catholics will ultimately follow suit.

Looking back at what I have written above, I am somewhat disturbed that I have been criticizing John Paul more for the times in which he lived than in what he could and could not accomplish with the Roman Curia. I’m utterly delighted that the church turned to Communist Poland for its new pontiff, and that John Paul had such a major role in putting an end to the Communist Blight. He was a good man, and anyone who chooses to emulate him could not go wrong.


Wretched Excess

I Must Apologize ...

I Must Apologize …

My last two postings—about the Koch Brothers and Cliven Bundy—are classic examples of (1) wretched excess and (2) lowering the level of political discourse by several notches. Not that I wouldn’t like to see those low-grade villains get their come-uppance, but it is just not worth overstating the obvious. I fell into the trap set by social conservatives of responding with knee-jerk outrage to acts of arrant stupidity.

There is no point to it: We are surrounded by a sea of retardation. Among our fellow Americans are millions of people whose combined brainpower isn’t enough to strike a match. The news media are there to capture every stupid phrase or gesture and magnify it until it comes to us with an unreal sense of urgency.

When I do this—in fact almost whenever I write about politics—I feel dirty. I have said this before, but now I am coming to realize that it’s all a sick game. Whenever I react in some knee-jerk fashion, I am doing my cause no good. The main thing is to show up at the polls, and when necessary, contribute a few dollars to my side.

I plan to move from Duh Drive as soon as possible … and stay away.

A Hero I Wouldn’t Wish Upon a Dog

Thye GOP Loves Nevada Ranchers

The GOP Loves Nevada Ranchers

If it weren’t so pathetic, I would laugh at Cliven Bundy and other GOP folk heroes like Joe the Plumber (remember him?). It never seems to take very long before the “Cliven” turns into a “Cloven Hoof,” around the time he opens his mouth in front of the news media.

Let’s face it: Rancher Bundy is a tax cheat and, in the process, a Federal Government nullifier. He makes a big thing about paying his taxes to the county but doesn’t appear to recognize that there are fees for grazing on Federal lands—lands that have been Federally owned since the conclusion of the War with Mexico.

Is it any surprise that the latest GOP folk hero rhapsodizes about the good old days of slavery? He knows his audience, and he will keep braying like an ass until, quite suddenly, everyone will be fed up with him and he will be seen as just another embarrassment to the Government Optional Party.


Kicking Back at the Kochs

Paging Captain Boycott!

Paging Captain Boycott!

I am so tired of the Koch Brothers’ attempts to turn this country into a grey oligarchy that I thought the best thing to do would be to boycott, to the maximum extent possible, their products and services.Thanks to websites such as KochWatch.Org, it is now possible to see some of what makes the Brothers the rich bastards that they are. Their main consumer products are put out under the Georgia-Pacific logo and include:

Vanity Fair
Angel Soft
Quilted Northern
Soft N Gentle
Mardi Gras
DensArmor Plus
Tough Rock Demak Up
Bumper Harvest
Food Shop Sandwich Wrap

Under the Investa subsidiary, the main Koch products are:

Cool Max
Solar max

And this is just a small sample. Most of the Koch Evil Empire is in business-to-business services that don’t impact us at the supermarket and which we are unlikely to use. Still, I think it’s a good idea to hit these billionaire clowns where they live, in the wallet.

According to Forbes, there’s even a Smart Phone app for scanning a UPC to determine whether the product in question is from the Kochs.



Killing Batteries

Leif Pettersen

Leif Pettersen

There are some bloggers I have been following for several years. One of them is Leif Pettersen, whose Killing Batteries blog is the best blog I’ve read by a professional travel writer. He has written extensively for Lonely Planet (I believe his is their top writer on Romania and Moldova) as well as other places. According to his personal website:

Leif Pettersen is a freelance writer, humorist, world traveler, polyglot, “slightly caustic” blogger and wino from Minneapolis, Minn. He has traveled through 51 countries and lived in Spain, Romania and Italy.

Pettersen has been a juggler since he was 12 years old, loves chocolate, hates pickles, types with exactly four fingers, and can escape from a straitjacket. He has not vomited since 1993, making him a consummate travel journalist and excellent party guest.

Take a look at his travelogue and tell me if you know anyone who is as well traveled as he is.

As for his Killing Batteries blog site, it’s best to skip some of the “syndicated” material up top and look at the references under “All Time Popular Posts.” From these, you can find links to some of the postings that turned me into an avid follower of his work.