The Other End of Sunset

Saturday, June 13, 2009

More than this

Wake up in the morning,
See your sunrise.
Does it go down?
--Fleetwood Mac

Hello again, my OtherEnders. For those of you playing along more regularly, guess where I am?

Yes, I'm on an airplane.

I'm headed North, to Alaska. My journey today is a voyage of discovery. Discovering history, bears, and trains. To find, and to lose, a childhood and a set of dreams. Seeking the boogeyman, and angels. And people, some good, some bad.

And some without teeth.

I'm also in search of some good weather -- ironically, the weather in Fairbanks when we land will be nicer than the weather in LA when we left. Yup, I'm going to *ALASKA* to find sun.

SL is asleep, as always, curled up entirely in her seat, with an eyeshade on. It's cold on the plane, and there are no blankets -- because "they took them out, after the flu, you know, and haven't given them back yet" according to the flight attendant -- so she's shivering lightly. Her blonde hair is pulled up in a bun, as is her wont, but a few tendrils curl around her mouth, as if she is tasting them. She's not sleeping well.

I've done more traveling after finishing my bit part in the Night of the Long Knives than I did during it. But most of this travel has been for fun, and much of it has involved motorcycles. And, so far, nothing has required my passport, although that will change soon.

He's a sensitive type.
His intentions are clear,
he wants to be well liked.
--Counting Crows

I know I wrote about my trip to San Diego. I can't remember what else, if anything, I've written about, so let's have a brief trip down memory lane.

I love deserts, and there are some lovely ones near LA, so we've made a few motorcycle trips out.

We rode to Death Valley. It was 102 degrees when we got there, and 60 when we left 2 days later. The wind on the way home was so strong that I had the motorcycle in a lean to the right the entire trip. I tucked the bike in next to 18 wheelers when I could do so safely, since they blocked the brutal winds for a bit. When we got home, my right shoulder hurt from maintaining the lean.

Being in Death Valley was really fun. I'd never been there, so it was all new to me. We did some sightseeing, including going to a ghost town. The people left the town less than 100 years ago, and yet the entire place was destroyed, roofs caved in, walls collapsed. The entire place was pulling an excellent Ozymandius imitation.

The next week, we rode to Joshua Tree. I think I've written about that trip. We stayed in a little 2 room hotel at the north Gate of the Park. The little city that guards the gate looks like every dive town I know, with tattoo parlors, gun shops, teeny grocery stores that sell more MadDog 20/20 than juice, and people who, mostly, don't meet your eyes. They are hiding from something, running from something, sometimes themselves.

And the ones who look at you are predators. There is a lot of prey that finds itself in towns like that.

Joshua Tree National Park is fabulous. The top half is a high desert covered with thousands of Joshua trees, as far as you can see, and rock formations erupting from the earth in "unnatural" ways. The bottom half is a lower desert, with warmer temperatures, and desert rock mountains.

And JR, but that's a different story.

We spent a couple of days in the Park, saw loads of pretty things, and said hello to JR. Then we rode back. And the wind picked up again.


Clearly a case for
corn flakes and classics
--Elton John

Do you remember those things you used to be able to buy from that electronics store -- I think it was Staples -- the "easy" button? It was a battery powered big red button -- looking all the world like the emergency shut down button on every piece of electronics -- and when you pushed it, it yelled "That was easy!"

It's fun for the first few times, and then it becomes annoying. When others around you find it annoying, it gets fun again for a few times.

But after that it's just annoying. Plus I often had bruises on my arm where someone nearby (and annoyed), punched me in the upper arm. I bruise easily, poor me.

Anyway, wouldn't it be fun if you could program the thing to play some MP3 sound? No, I don't mean a song, I mean someone's recorded voice saying "That was stupid!" or "You're funny looking!" or "Stop punching my arm!"

If I were a better electrician/circuit board handyman, I could make it do so. But I don't know how to modify the button. And it's easier to program it as a little computer application.

Tragic, isn't it, the death of the physical.

We are fools to have won
--Dire Straits

The lady behind me on the plane is cleaning her hands with those towelettes ... compulsively. I wouldn't care except for the fact that they stink. And she's reading "Jesus Object Lessons".

Apparently, Christ didn't use proper punctuation.

And I wonder what object lessons might be applied? Avoid cruciate experiences? Don't play with nails? Be nice to fallen women?

Somewhere, my soul is being covered in kindling. I guess that's okay, as long as one knows it.

Make each impression
a little bit stronger

My book is done. My coauthor (Jim) and I shipped it off to "production" this week. It hits the street in March of 2010.

It's very cool, well written (if I say so myself), and filled with song lyrics.

I'm going to start describing it, sharing bits and pieces, and starting a discussion about the content soon. Please watch this space! I'm very excited for people to begin reading the work. Coming soon to a bookstore near you (and Amazon, naturally).

There's something about the
Southland in the springtime
-- Indigo Girls

I got to hang out at the start of the LA Marathon a couple of weeks ago. My friend, The Surgeon, was running in the race, despite not having trained for it.

I spent the start of the race standing right under the starter's flag. (Thanks Russ!) The start was amazing. I've never seen the like -- it was a sea of humanity, breaking over the rocks of the streets of downtown Los Angeles. As I stood there, the runners flowed by me, starting the run. It took more than 20 minutes for all the runners to pass. I started taking pictures on my phone of the start, but found myself overwhelmed with the weight of the mass of humanity running.

It felt like an evening that you spend on an open sea shore, listening to the waves break, over and over again, on the rocks just up the coast from you. It's a profound feeling, making you feel smaller, less central, less relevant.

I'm pretty sure that it's good for me to feel that way sometimes. Not because I pretend to be especially central to anything of note. Rather, because feeling smaller makes my problems seem proportionally smaller, less central, less relevant.

SL, The Lawyer, and I sat on some company's sign, out in front of a building, directly next to the finish line. We watched the wheelchair entrants pass, and cheered until our voices were hoarse. We watched students running to raise funds for their schools finish. We watched people cry as they passed the finish line, and others yell for joy. We watched one man cross the finish line who had leg cramps that were so intense that he could only move two steps, and then had to pause, take another two, and so forth.

The determination of that sea of humanity also reminds me of the sea shore.

And yes, The Surgeon finished, and barely looked winded.

I got some money
I saved
Enough to get underway
--Melissa Etheridge

I have decided to stop watching CNN.

Conway, where I grew up, had cable television relatively early -- for example, I remember the day when MTV came on, and yes, I saw the Buggles video... although I didn't like it.

I recall CNN coming together, and the controversies about CNN reporters getting access to the White House press room, and how the traditional media all said that there was no way a 24 hour news network could survive.

And yet it did, producing amazing journalists (Christiane Amanpour, anyone?), and great in depth coverage (the puppet opera, generally known as the impeachment trial).

I remember when CNN2 hit the airways. I loved the format of a 30 minute top news summary, with some random stuff mixed in, like a few minutes of entertainment news. Of course, the marketing people ultimately got the lame "CNN2" name rebranded as "Headline News".

And somewhere along the line, journalism as a profession died. Or, if not dead, at least entered a semi-vegetative state.

CNN spent 2 hours each night for an entire week recently interviewing the top several American Idol contestants.

I have nothing against AI, and think it's great to see people chasing their dreams. But there were two American journalists on trial in North Korea at the time. They were convicted of espionage. Perhaps that would be a more important story?

At some point, CNN became Bread and Circus. No, not the organic store that you find in the Boston area (thanks John!). Nope, think Romanic history. When did we decide that news isn't worth the airtime?

OK, if CNN has become fluff weekly, then surely there is somewhere else to turn? Well, there's always FOX News... but I think I do prefer my news fair, and balanced, for real.

LA is the land of the world's worst local news coverage, and I'm not compelled by the half-hour national news shows.

I listen to NPR in the afternoons, giving me my longer interpretive news stories, but it's not news, exactly. And I haven't yet figured out the radio equivalent of TiVo, and am not necessarily in my car at that particular time period.

OK, I'm overstating here -- I mostly listen to NPR via their RSS feed to Google Reader, but, still, it's not ideal for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that I read faster than I listen.

OK, now, somewhere out there Q is hopping up and down, screaming "what about newspapers and magazines?!?!"

He's saying that, of course, because he is the last gasp of literate reporting in a particular well regarded news magazine. He certainly represents an overwhelming majority of the human-computational-capacity of that magazine... and a measurable component of the same measure for all news magazines. But that's irrelevant right now.

So, let's read newspapers, shall we? I'm not smart enough to read the New York Times, although the coverage is pretty terrific. The LA Times has good articles as well (and, no, not only on acting).

Have you read the SF Chronicle lately? Yeah, me neither. Have you seen any great reporters getting raises lately? Yeah, me neither. One of the best newspaper journalists I have ever known isn't writing for the paper anymore (he's editing the web version, so it's close, but I'm trying to make a point here!)

This is home
--Sheryl Crow

I get much of my news from bloggers these days. In other words, I'm reading news "analysis" from people who know no more about journalism than... well ... me. You are, after all, reading my blog, yes?

And, no, I don't intend to begin telling the news. I'm more of a People's Historian than a journalist.

I've given loads of talks in my time about the incredible advantages of the democratization of information, about how important it is that everyone can tell their stories, and how the only difference between a revolution and civil war is who won (since history is written by the winners).

I think that is all true. I want to hear authentic voices on stories, especially stories about things with which I share no context. I want to hear the voices of people who aren't like me, especially those who wouldn't like me.

I love freedom of speech. (Let's have a golf clap for the folks who crafted the bill of rights, please).

The legend grows
About how you got lost
but you made your way back home
--The Killers

// Sidenote: And while I'm on the topic, did I really hear a constitutional lawyer, on CNN, advocating prior restraint to prevent "lone wolf" attacks like that piece of violence done at the Holocaust Museum last week?

Wow, I must be losing touch. Seriously? Stop them from talking because we don't like what they say?

I despise white supremacists. I think the folks that deny the Holocaust should get off the rock. I don't believe that Jesus cares about your sex life or your marriage.

And I'd give every bit of me to ensure that those cretins can talk.

Prior restraint? Wow. I don't want to be restrained next. //

The problem with the democratization of information is that most people can't write. And many can't think.

Apropos of nothing at all, when did Ashton Kutcher become the voice of reason and forethought about social media? (Extra points for anyone who follows this joke).

In the cacophony of citizen reporters -- like me -- how do you find the pearls, the things that will make you better, smarter, more rounded? Where does Watergate get reported, and does anyone listen? Who points out that "airport security" is an oxymoron? Who writes some thought-provoking piece about the total energy expended making a hybrid car like mine? Who is speaking truth to power?

And who tells us that the wolf is, indeed, at the door?

In a world of ubiquitous "news", I fear the profession of journalism will become less a community of practice, and more a commons. With the tragedy being the likely reduction of economic value of professional journalism, playing out in salary reductions and layoffs of great journalists. I think being a journalist is a hard life -- if it doesn't pay, or if we don't have desks for them, will they write anyway? Or will they all become PR people at some major company?

I want everyone to write, to sing, to shout, to celebrate, to damn, to love, to mourn. I want everyone to do so publicly, or privately. I want them to share, or not. I want to live in a world filled with disparate voices.

And I want to be able to have a cup of coffee at Blue Jam on Melrose, reading a newspaper that helps me make sense of the Symphony of Humanity.

I want professional journalism: Not the CNN of today, but the CNN2 of yesterday.

With comics, of course.

Please leave the business section in the taxi so I can read it. And extra thanks for circling the good articles.

// Side note, 2: To all the physicists out there, a question. Does a Faraday cage cast an EMF shadow in the same way a lightning rod casts a lightning shadow? Thanks. //