Archive for July, 2015

A lot has rightfully been made of the killing of “Cecil” the lion in Zimbabwe by that Minnesota dentist who paid what to me is an exorbitant amount of money, but to him seems like it might just be a drop in the bucket in his pursuit of something he’s so passionate in practitioning.

A lot has unrightfully been made, as well.

Whether Walter Palmer, as he says, hunted and destroyed the creature personally knowing what he was doing was illegal or not is not for me to decide without all the facts. I tend to want to believe him when he says he was not aware, but that benefit of the doubt is tempered heavily by my inherent disdain for the “sport” of big game hunting and those who go to such lengths to participate in it.

At the same time I have little support for those e-vigilantes who are raging so vehemently and maliciously against him, making him the vilified posterboy of All Things Evil, until the next object of their derision comes along.

Where I stand is simple. I believe in innocence until proven guilty. Period. And I refrain from judging accordingly. And I believe in the sanctity of ALL living things. Period. The only time I will kill any creature is when it violates my “Don’t bother me and I won’t bother you” standard.

Case in point: Tuesday morning I came back from my morning walk with Susan and dog Ranger, and after making coffee and sitting back down at my desk to do my morning surf I felt something crawling on my left ear that I must’ve picked up somehow somewhere in route. Instinctively I swatted at it, and succeeded in knocking it onto my desk.

It was an ant. One, single, solitary ant. When I saw this, I felt a twinge of guilt for my kneejerk reaction, but, in fact, it had bothered me. Fortunately, whatever blow it took from me proved not to have harmed it in any way, and I stopped what I was doing to shepherd it onto a piece of paper where I then walked it out the front door to the porch and deposited it on the railing to go about its way.

Could I have squashed it and gone on with my life? Ultimately, after a period of shame and guilt, sure. But was it infinitely more fulfilling to demonstrate respect? Absolutely, yes.

Given my (increasingly distant) past of pedaling 6,000 miles-plus a year, I  had a totally doable resolution for 2015 last January: bike 2,015 miles. As of today I’ve logged… 38.39 miles. To put that in perspective, the last time I placed ass to saddle was January 6.

That few number of miles and that amount of time between rides is essentially criminal to me. To call it embarrassing is an understatement, but it’s not without a reason.

Fast-backward with me to December 2012. I was hip deep in my academy training Rio Hondo College. Lean and mean. Under 200 pounds. Going on four mile runs like they were walks around the block. At the same time the Glendale Trail Patrol for which I’d volunteered was about to have its official debut so I added in mountain biking to the physical activity equation via a series of practice rides in the Verdugos. I was thrilling myself making it all the way up the Brand Motorway from Brand Park without stopping.

SciaticaIt was at some point then that I tweaked my sciatic nerve, and I’m guessing it was from the sudden uptick of hard trail riding I was doing on a bike I hadn’t been on in awhile and whose geometry was far different from my street bike — and maybe aided by all the running, too. At least that’s the best explanation I could come up with.

Here’s the thing though, I didn’t notice the tweak until returning to the academy after a holiday break and getting back into physical training. There wasn’t actual pain so much as a deadness to my left leg. Running around the track it was like the foot was asleep and it took a concerted effort to minimize the amount of flopping around the foot would do as I’d run.

Quite disconcerting, to say the least.

I remember breaking off from a run and reporting the weird sensation to my training officer and he very gruffly thought I was using it as an excuse. “You either get it examined by a doctor and bring a medical diagnosis or you get your ass back on the track,” was the gist of his response.

Sir, yes sir. I got my ass back on the track.

Long story short, it got worse before it got better, leaving me fearing for a brief spell that I might have to withdraw from the academy. Not that such a thing was going to happen even if my leg fell off, but thankfully the numbness plateaued and was manageable going forward (and yes, that’s my excuse as to why I’ve never sought actual treatment for it from on o’ them medical perfeshunalz).

But a side effect was that I reeeeeeally minimized the mountain biking — and the road riding, too, to the point of quitting by attrition the Glendale Trail Patrol. I did jumpstart things by embarking on a “50 rides in 50 Days” crusade in the summer of 2014, but roughly six rides in that horrid dead-foot/leg sensation returned and I jumped off the bikes as quickly as I jumped on them. It didn’t help that I was no longer sub-200 pounds and/or not in the best condition of my life.

Then at the close of 2014, itching to ride and my leg feeling better I decided I could no longer stay away from my favorite way of commuting and exploring the city, and made that resolution.

Two commutes in, 38.39 total miles, it came back. Ultimately manageable as ever, but also as maddening as hell.

This past weekend I decided that maybe my 15-year-old 24-speed road bike might be the solution. Perhaps it was time to quit single-speed biking all over town as I’d proudly done these last nine years and instead retire to enjoy the luxury of being able to downshift on uphills rather than just grrrrrrrind it out and thus potentially anger the nerve. So Sunday I pulled my dust-covered  Giant OCR-3 roadster off the garage rack where it’s hung untouched for at least three years thinking I’d dust her off, tune her up and ride her to work Monday… only to find the front derailleur hanger that attaches to the seat tube had inexplicably cracked in half leaving the derailleur dangling and the bike unrideable.

Fortunately I found a bike website that sells replacement hangers and it’s been ordered, hopefully to arrive this weekend wherein I can install it and go for a test run around the neighborhood making sure everything is in working order — both bike and nerve. Fingers crossed.



ffPoint of order with regard to the headline/article (screengrabbed at right): I’d be amazed if a studio would dare to call for an embargo of reviews already written. Can you imagine 20th Century Fox ordering the Los Angeles Times not to print its theater critic’s column until the film’s actual release date? The Times would laugh.
What a studio can do (and what seems far more likely) is refuse to screen the film for critics until the release date (or the day before), who therefore then can’t write reviews in time to run prior to the film’s opening.
ff2Having said all that, even if every review was glowing I wouldn’t waste my time seeing this film either in the theater, three months from now when its available on-demand, or a year from now when HBO airs it for free. The reason being this literally is the very same story that was done a brief 10 years ago.
Has it really come to this that creativity is so extinct in Hollywood that a decade-old film is worth a redoing in its entirety. That a studio can just pointlessly slap a new cast, crew and effects together to retell something so recently done. Are they counting on attention deficit disorder being so prevalent in moviegoers that they won’t remember the version with Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans and Jessica Alba?
Maybe so. But for those of us with greater recall, as a frame of reference, imagine reading about a reboot this summer of “War of the Worlds” (which also came out in 2005) with, say, Mark Wahlberg in Tom Cruise’s role? 

imageLunch! First timer to Plan Check on Fairfax and I have to say, I’m impressed. The Smoked Fried Chicken is what lured me in and I can say wholeheartedly that it is glorious.

They have another location closer to home on Wilshire near downtown.  I’ll so be there. As in this Sunday after we take in a matinee of the next chapter of “Mission Impossible.”

imageProbably. And not that I would ever give even the most meticulously clean off-ramp panhandler money (though I have been known to hand out snacks or water to them on occasion). But still, even though I unbendingly consider them all low-grade con artists, I’d probably have a  scosh more respect for them if they’d at least police the litter around their base of operations.

thedropSo this is how I chose to watch “The Drop” last night. First I scanned through the on-demands available, and finding nothing that piqued my interest, I checked out what was on the 10 channels of HBO — but I knew already what was on HBO because practically all they’ve been showing this last few weeks/months is “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” “Ride Along,” and “Draft Day,” all of which I’ve seen and are not worth repeating (except maybe that scene in “A Million” when the block of ice crushes that guy and Seth McFarlane yells out in distress “That went south SO fast!” I could watch that a dozen times).

The same ol’ same ol’ lineup was broken up by some boxing which I’m always good for, and slotted after that was something called “The Drop,” which rang absolutely no bells whatsoever. None. I read the info blurb about some barkeep in Brooklyn and squinted at the tiny image of the poster at what I thought was Gene Hackman, and I was in. I could watch Gene Hackman watching a movie with Gene Hackman in it.

So I hit the record button on the remote, clicked on over to the boxing match in progress and watched a light-heavyweight boxer named Gonazalez dominate a boxer named Pascal only to get robbed by the judges of his victory, and then I watched a boxer named Kovalev put down a challenger named Mohammedi in four rounds. By then “The Drop” had started recording so we set that in motion.

Spoiler alert: Gene Hackman’s not in it. The face I thought was his in the thumbnail was actually James Gandolfini (in essentially his final film). My bad. Gandolfini’s costar? Tom Hardy, who you might remember for his turn in the lead role of The Best Film This summer “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The female lead is Noomi Rapace, who’s amazing.

They are completely brilliant as is every performer in a brilliantly brooding film based on a Dennis Lehane short story called “Animal Rescue,” which centers on a Brooklyn bar that serves as a money drop for the underworld that gets robbed. Gandolfini plays the proprietor beholden to the mob and Hardy is the quiet and lonely and seemingly dimwitted barkeep who’d probably gut you if you called him a “mixologist.” So would I. And he’s about as dimwitted as Einstein it turns out.

The film is appropriately dark and overloaded with wonderfully lyrical and smart dialogue all the while imbued with a sinister tension that never lets up right to the twist ending. Plus there’s an adorable puppy in it. Named Rocco. After Saint Rocco, patron saint of dogs. And falsely accused people.

This one snuck under my radar in its theatrical release. I’m so glad I lucked into and you will be too. Put it on your list.

matchIt wasn’t a single straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, more like the combined weight of  a thousand of them. But the last one dropped today, in the form of a shared post showing up in my feed from a “friend” (an acquaintance from high school who I said “Hi” to once in-person approximately 34 years ago) showing video, whose still image can be seen at right, of an organized and referee’d boxing match between an adult man and a grown kangaroo, presumably in some third-world country where people pay good money to support such an affirmation that we as a specie blow. While the kangaroo was certainly holding its own against its opponent, I winced at every one of said opponent’s blows that landed upon the misbegotten and be-gloved marsupial.

I wince a lot at what I’m shown on Facebook, and do so with the understanding and appreciation that people are different than I am. As the old saying goes, there is no disputing taste. But at the same time there’s not only no chance I’d ever want to know “What type of Cactus Are you? ClickHereNow!”  or “How Big An Ass Is Your Star Sign?” but stuff like that, whether it’s clickbaity, meaningless, off-putting or downright offensive makes me question the people sharing it with me. Is it unfair for me to attach significance to such worthlessness? Perhaps, but being an active practitioner of self censorship, it’s just a bit dismaying the number of people that vomit so much into the netiverse. For the record, it’s not that I’m not guilty of episodes of over-sharing, and it’s not like I don’t take some of those stupid surveys. It’s just that when I get through answering a series of questions to determine “What Bacteria Were You In Roman Times!?” I just keep that result to myself and move on.

So, back to that video. I think it was the ninth or tenth punch landing on or glancing off the harried creature when it dawned on me that I can’t stand being exposed to crap like this, the core of which being that there is no way in hell I would associate with purveyors of such wretchedness in real life and thus I resent being exposed to it online. Not only did I quit watching this reprehensibly exploitational bullshit of a poor animal, but at the same time I decided I had to find a way to prevent it or any myriad variations of such heinousness from assaulting my eyeballs ever again. And that way was to kill my Facebook account.

Without a moment’s hesitation and with an internal “I’m done!” I hopped up from the living room chair and jogged to my desktop where I googled “How to permanently delete a Facebook account” (not just nambily pambily “deactivating” it for the hundredth time — I wanted it dead), and went through the motions. When Facebook asked me one final time “Are you reeeeeeeallly suuuuuuuuuure you want to destroy everything we’ve built together?” I clicked the “OhYesIAm” button without hesitation. For the record the account stays “deactivated” for 14 days before going full bye-bye. Of course it does.

Then I went in and told my wife (who ironically, had only recently exponentially if still tentatively increased her use of Facebook) and we talked about it a bit. I told her about the kangaroo and about a few other examples of people and incidents that pissed me off. I explained that it was time for me to go beyond simply unfollowing or defriending specific individuals and scorch the freaking earth. She got it.

Then  — ha! — I came right back here to the desktop and made a new Facebook account; one that’s fresh out of the box, austere and battened down as best it can be — not all loaded with 267 followers and 340 followees, 98 percent of whom I’m about as poorly acquainted with as the aforementioned guy I met once last millennium who thinks subjecting a kangaroo to ridicule and abuse in front of a live audience is funny (which it isn’t; it fucking sucks).

Was throwing out the old account and immediately ushering in a new pared-down one a colossal waste of time? If you’re of a mind to want to think so then g’head. The good news is that this isn’t Facebook and I’m not going to live there anymore. I’m going to move back in and live here. This dusty old cobwebby blog is where I’ll be found going forward.  Strange thing, I used to reside here exclusively, using social media outlets as extensions, but for ease-of-use reasons and othersI can’t really figure out, I crossed over to Facebook gradually beginning a few years ago and it slowly took over as my preferred avenue for social media communication. I can’t really think of a day since that I haven’t pretty much regretted becoming embedded so deeply in one platform this last couple/three years to the virtual exclusion of all others.

One thing I should point out and of which I’m most excited: There’s no two-way communication here. You can’t click a link and buzzkill my joy at discovering something or support me for despising something else. I’ve turned the comments off because — and I’m being honest here — I don’t really give two beans about reactions to anything I’ve written. To be frank, if Facebook allowed me to shut off comments (and kill the maddening “Like” links, too) it would be infinitely more enjoyable a place. I can’t think of the last time a comment thread enhanced a dialogue or didn’t essentially waste my time. And in fact, there are popular topical blogs I used to haunt like a ghost but that I barely visit anymore because commenters can be such dicks. If I go visit those sites now, I read the articles and block any comments on the screen with my hand to avoid getting sucked in. What kind of life is that!? So in truth, I take satisfaction not only in people not being immediately able to tell me what they think, but also in having the strength to evict myself from a Facebook environment where people primarily seem to live and die by the number of “Likes” their posts get. Bottom line is, my email is listed in the header. You want to get hold of me and share your thoughts on something I’ve written, I’m easily enough gotten.

By and large I would hazard the demise of my old Facebook presence will go unnoticed by, oh I’d say roughly 98% of the people I followed or who followed me, and that’s as it should be. It’s the electronic equivalent of an Irish exit from a party where only a scattering of folks might look around at some point and realize I’ve disappeared. Most of them? They’ll know how to contact me electronically, or find me in person. Or if need be I’ll contact or find them.

Going forward, I’ll be experimenting linking to Facebook and/or Twitter whatever profound or pathetic postings (such as this) I’ll make here, instead of the other way around. This is homebase for me. Facebook’s the satellite now as it once again should be.