Archive for October, 2006

How’d He Do That?

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

So a couple days ago I decided to have some e-fun for Halloween. Specifically, I built a mock L.A. Times web page with a news feature headlined “Legend of the haunted Griffith Park picnic table” that I posted and linked to from Blogging.la:

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[click here to go to the complete story]

It’s not my first time with this type of gag. Back for April Fool’s Day last year I did a less-sophisticated rendering which told the strange and disgusting tale of a living and carnivorous 200-pound tumor that had escaped in the valley.

By “less sophisticated” I mean that this time I went a bit more intricate. Waaaaay more intricate. With the tumor piece I’d crafted a decent mimic page that looked real enough, but none of the links worked as I didn’t trouble with taking it to the next level and making all that crap active and so forth.

This time I went the extra pixels and did all that tedious stuff, which actually took more time to do than the writing of the tall tale that I pounded out over the course of a couple hours’ work last week and yesterday.

Brief backstory: I got the idea for this ghost story back when I first biked past the table’s location back in 2001. But when I found the scene still exactly the same earlier this year the gears started turning.

But the true catalyst that got it all going last week was the availability of the otherwise nonsensical domain: latirnes.com. Sure, it spells out l-a-t-i-r-n-e-s, but at a casual glance at a browser window’s address bar the “r” and the “n” look like an “m” and that can be perceived as latimes.com. Why is that a big deal? Well, when I did the tumor piece I basically had to load it up on my domain so that when the link on Blogging.la was clicked the page that opened up in a browser had an address that was http://www.wildbell.com/blahblahblah and that was a total gag killer right at the top.

This time I wanted the added authenticity. Not only would I do my best to follow the Times’ online style and format, but I’d make all the links live — and the icing way up top on the spoofcake would be the latirnesdotcom page address.

Of course all that realism didn’t stop me from sprinkling the piece with all sorts of hinty details as to its fake nature… from the “Norm Bates” byline to the post time of 10:31 p.m. (as in October 31) — even the map illustrator is none other than Michael Myers, the indestructible evildoer from all the Halloween films.

And I didn’t suffer with factual accuracy. As the civic-services-savvy L.A. City Nerd jovially pointed out in the comments on Blogging.la, I blew the story’s cover by referencing the city’s tree division when Griffith Park has its own forestry outfit.

Hell I barely spellchecked the thing.

I also didn’t bother expounding my original storyline, wherein investigation via mediums and seances uncovers that it isn’t Nancy and Rand who are haunting the place but rather the ghost of an Asian man who had been lynched up on that tree during the horrible Los Angeles Chinese Massacre of 1871 — and that it was his ghost who murdered Rand and Nancy.

Had I been even more obsessed I would’ve biked up there after dark and gotten creepy shakycam video of the crushed table a la Blair Witch.

Insetead, what you see is what you get. And I’m pleased with the result.

Now the more pertinent question might be why’d I do it? And the plain and simple reason is that I had fun. This last few weeks of job hunting and dwindling account balances have left me plenty of opportunity to doubt and dwell and doubt some more. However brief this frivolous endeavor’s respite, it did me good every time I giggled like a giddy school kid at everything from figuring out how to implant the LAT favicon in the address bar to making the photo windows pop-up.

The devil’s in the details, so they say. And I certainly enjoyed the dance. I hope you enjoy the finished product. Happy Halloween.

One Is Fun, But Two In A Row Is A Streak, Baby!

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Two words: Raiders Football.

[sound of crickets chirping]

Wow, do I know how to clear a blog or what!?

On those rare occasions I find people willing and eager to discuss football, I’m usually asked what my fave team is and then they follow up wondering how I can still love the Silver & Black after they skipped town back to Oakland in 1994.

It’s simple really: I loved the Raiders back when they were badboying it up north to begin with. I idolized Kenny Stabler, George Blanda, Cliff Branch, John Matuszak, John Madden, Fred Biletnikoff — Daryle freakin’ Lamonica!

Sure the team I was most loyal to when I was growing up was the Los Angeles Rams, but they broke my heart with their move to Anaheim and all I could muster when they marched to St. Louis was a bitter “good riddance.” So when Al Davis brought the Raiders south in the early ’80s it was all gravy. And a couple years later when they won a Super Bowl!? Win or lose, they had my loyalty for life.

Was I sad to see them skeedaddle back up to Northern California? Absolutely. Did I hold it against them? Maybe for a little bit — but certainly with nowhere near the grudge and disdain I have to this day for the Rams.

Fast forward to this last couple seasons since they were robbed of one Super Bowl against the Patriots and dismantled in the next one against Tampa Bay and man, they’ve sucked so bad these have been trying times. Up until a couple weeks ago I was reconciled to the potential of the Raiders going winless this season. WINLESS! 0 for 16. Yuck. But the couple games I watched were pathetic, a team beyond disarray.

Then came the October 22 win against Arizona and I’ll tell ya I was just thankful they proved me wrong. Even if they went 1-15 they still notched that single victory that would spare them the ignominy of being shut out entirely. And then came yesterday and dang if they didn’t defeat the winners of the last Super Bowl, Pittsburgh for their second consecutive.

Now go easy, I ain’t fooling myself. The Raiders may have taken two in a row but they were against teams in as much if not more confusion. I’m not getting any more than idiotic hopes up that Oakland has turned lemons to lemonade and found the answer that will drive them into the playoff. Oh hell no.

But I can’t deny the power of sport, and a Raider victory makes my Monday and my week that much better to enjoy.

Carving Party

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Susan and I aren’t frequent party givers… in fact the last time we had people over to the house for an organized thing was our post-wedding reception in June 2005. So when Susan said she wanted us to host a pumpkin carving party I was all for it, especially when she decided that the menu would feature her scrumptious pumpkin soup and a dessert of homemade pumpkin bread with “honey and spice buttercream” icing.

It was great to see Manny and Steve and Alice and Florie and Billy and their Isabella (who is already 3 years old!) and Rachel and Eric and after dinner we got down to some gourd-gutting that resulted in these four jacks:

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[click image to biggify]

From left: Susan went nicely stylized with a black cat made from stacking a pair of pumpkins spraypainted black. Alice’s stenciled witch was wicked and Steve’s more traditional lantern strikes an excellent balance of sinister and silly. Mine on the right… freeform at its WTF-ist. I really don’t know what I was going for. Jack Dempsey? Broderick Crawford? Who knows and who cares (though I did later add a couple pennies to give the eyes a bit more detail).

All I know is we had a blast catching up and hanging out with everyone.

Dead Can Dance

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

Last year my sweetie and I experienced Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s “Day of the Dead” celebration for the first time. For this year’s festivities we decked ourself out muertos-style.

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Flickr photoset from the evening is here.

Night & Day

Friday, October 27th, 2006

At the request of reader Paul to show our backyard vista in the daytime I went out this morning and just before 8:30 a.m. snapped this shot of it from the same vantage point as the ones taken a couple nights ago and seen in my previous post:

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In the daylight I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the removal of the trees a couple doors to the north now allow us to see the Griffith Observatory (as indicated by the left-most arrow). You’ll want to go check out the larger version up on Flickr here, though I’ll apologize in advance for my addiction to the anisotropic diffusion filter in Photoshop. I just love the illustrative effect it provides.

Cleared For Landing… Or Take-Off

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

The owners of the property two doors north of us just unblocked our view from the backyard by cutting down two large trees from their front yard, leaving Sunset Boulevard looking like a runway for any flights of fancy I might wish to take:

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[Larger sizes here and here]

Charmed, I’m Sure

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

I’m having some because I’m a caffeine addict, but I certainly don’t need any coffee right now. The remnants of the adrenaline that rushed through my system at 6:17 this morning is enough to keep me w-i-d-e awake. That’s when The Phoenix suffered a spectacular blowout of its rear innertube. In and of itself a flat tire ain’t typically spectacular. It happens to me with a certain regularity. But when you factor in that I was traveling downhill in the realm of 30-35 mph and on the curve of Silver Lake Boulevard just below the reservoir, that makes it a rare thing indeed. A rare “life flashing before your eyes” thing.
Perhaps rarer still is that contrary to all evidence and laws of physics I somehow managed to keep my, as they say: head up and wheels down. In other words, though I most decidedly could/would/should have, I did not fall. And it could’ve been a spectacular fall. On a descent at that rate of speed and at the tilted angle I was to the asphalt I picture something along the lines of the horrific “agony of defeat” spill taken by that ski jumper during every intro to ABC’s old Wide World of Sports. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but there’s little doubt it would have been a nasty slide/tumble full of abrasions and contusions and potentially worse.

Certainly I’d like to credit my vast experience as a cyclist as the defining factor for being able to see myself through the incident unscathed, but while that played a part, I know damn well it’s moreso because The Phoenix is a charmed machine. You can g’head and doubt that all you want, but it’s true. This is the second time that by all rights I should have solo-crashed. The first came during a Midnight Ridazz ride several months ago. I was traveling under an overpass somewhere near to Union Station and I’d unholstered my camera to get a picture. With my left hand loosely holding the bars and paying more attention to the photo op than to the road, I didn’t see the massive crevass-like pothole until I was in it. Coming out of the pit violently my casual grip on the bars was broken and the bike weaved sickeningly to the left as my upper body lurched forward until it was basically perpindicular to the top tube and at the level of the handlebars. Steering (if you call it that) with my left forearm and my chest, there was a frozen moment where I just waited for gravity and other decisive failure factors to kick in and bring me down in a mangling heap. I even remember looking at the ground and having the time to think “This is gonna be bad.” But then the front wheel swung back sickeningly to the right and I somehow managed to extricate myself to more of an upright position and regain my grip on the bar and miraculously steady the sway and continue rolling forward. Head up and wheels down. Still holding the camera in my right hand.

And I don’t use “miraculously” lightly. Thus neither do I do so with this morning’s event. By all accounts I should have fwumped to the pavement and scraped ass over teakettle for who knows how far. But instead after the catastrophic and immediate decompression of the rear innertube, the grace of God and some ginger and feathery navigation allowed me on The Phoenix’s fully floppy and entirely fishtailing rear to bring her to a full and complete stop some 200 feet away from the spot of the heart-stopping pop!

L.A. Voice’s Mack Reed, who I was riding with, rolled to a stop beside me a couple seconds later wide-eyed and in something of a state of disbelief, having watched the whole thing unfold while coming down the hill behind me. Our variations on “whoa!” and “holy crap!” eventually gave way to consideration of the possible causes (old tube, pinch flat, protruding spoke tip, sidewall failure), and in the middle of that a pair of pre-dawn walkers passed by who’d also witnessed the event. They were curious if I’d rolled over a bottle or some broken glass, but I told them that it didn’t feel like I’d hit anything.

Of the sound of the blowout, they said “We thought we’d been shot. It sounded like gunfire.”

Mack asked if I had what I needed to repair/replace the tube and while I had patches and a spare in my saddlebag, I told him I was just gonna throw in the towel and head home on foot. Shaking hands in sincere appreciation that I hadn’t stained the street with any of my blood his parting words to me were “Treat yourself to something nice today!”

Good advice.

A half-block down I met up with the walkers again and they asked how far I had to walk and I told them it wasn’t even a mile. One of them expressed his amazement that nothing bad happened and I related how right after the explosion my first thought was “Oh shit!” then for a brief moment the wobbles stabilized and I thought everything was going to be OK and then the wobbles returned even harder and as I fought to keep control of the bike I again doubted my chances of getting out uninjured all the way up until the moment I came to a complete stop and dismounted.

“Someone was watching over you,” he said.

Don’t I know it.