Sunday, November 20, 2005

Disaster in Los Angeles

I'm reposting this LOL-worthy "news story" from a couple of months ago. It was suggested that since I live in the area, a man-on-the-street eyewitness view of the situation would be useful... so the addition at the end is mine:

No electricity for 26 minutes. 'This is our Tsunami.'

By Joshua Gates. Actor. Photographer. Victim.

LOS ANGELES, CA, September 12, 2005 - Horror and disbelief swept through the greater Hollywood area this afternoon as a minor power-outage turned the city into a virtual war zone and local residents struggled to deal with the devastating aftermath.

The outage struck at 1:35 PM, during L.A.'s busy afternoon coffee and Pilates rush hour. Traffic lights fell dark, local gyms and sushi restaurants were without power for nearly 30 minutes, and many businesses were illuminated only by the light of the sun and its blistering 78 degree heat. "It was horrible," said out of work actor and voice-over artist Rick Shea. "I was in a Jamba Juice on Melrose when it hit and the blenders simply shut down. A woman lunged for my Berry Lime Sublime and after that, well, it got pretty ugly."

In the ensuing panic, local radio stations broadcasted conflicting reports as to exactly which local businesses would be offering relief supplies. Almost 100 people flocked to the Starbucks at Santa Monica and La Brea only to find helpless baristas, no hot coffee, and a totally meager selection of baked goods. "My mother is 83 years old and we heard on the radio that this Starbucks was going to be up and running. If she doesn't get a venti Arabian Mocha Sanani, I don't know what's going to happen to her, I really don't." said Lucinda Merino of Los Feliz. To make matters worse, those few people who did manage to get coffee were further thwarted by a total lack of artificial sweeteners on site.

"Sugar in the Raw? Are you frigging kidding me?" sobbed local homosexual and avid salsa dancer Enrique Santoro. "I'm on the South Beach Diet and my insulin levels are going to go crazy if I use this. Why isn't the rest of the country doing something?"

Deteriorating conditions will force authorities to evacuate the thousands of people at local Quiznos, movie theaters, and upscale shopping centers, including the The Beverly Center, where a policeman told CNN unrest was escalating. The officer expressed concern that the situation could worsen overnight after patrons defaced multiple "So You Think you Can Dance" posters, looted a Baby Gap, and demanded free makeovers en masse at a MAC cosmetics store during the afternoon.

At least 2,000 refugees, a majority of them beautiful, will travel in a limo convoy to Beverly Hills starting this evening and will be sheltered at the 8-year-old Spago on North Canon where soft omelettes with confit bacon and Hudson Valley foie gras was being airlifted in by The National Guard.

Honorary Mayor of Hollywood Johnny Grant told a group of embedded reporters at a Koo Koo Roo Chicken restaurant on Larchmont that, "the scope and scale of this disaster is almost too much to comprehend. Local carwashes are at a stand-still, the tram tour at Universal Studios has been on hold for almost an hour now and I've been waiting for a rotisserie leg and thigh with a side of greens beans for upwards of 15 minutes. This truly is our Tsunami."

"We want to accommodate those people suffering in the Beverly Center as quickly as possible for the simple reason they have been through a horrible ordeal," Grant said.

"We need water. We need edamame. We need low-carb bread," said Martha Owens, 49, who was one of the thousands trapped in the Beverly Center when the escalators stopped moving. "They need to start sending somebody through here."

Along miles of coastline, the power simply surged, causing writers to lose upwards of a page of original screenplay material, causing Direct TV service to work only intermittently, and forcing local residents to walk outside and look helplessly at the Pacific from their ocean view decks. "I can hardly begin to put this experience into words," said longtime 'Two and a Half Men' writer John Edlestein. "I was just getting into my rhythm and making some real headway on a scene where Charlie Sheen parties with a busload of female volleyball players when my Power Book crapped out. I have nothing. Simply, nothing."

Delivering his weekly radio address live from the White House, President Bush announced he was deploying more than 7,000 additional active-duty troops to the region. He comforted victims and praised relief workers. "But despite their best efforts, the magnitude of responding to a crisis over a disaster area this sunny and trendy has created tremendous problems," he said. "The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in the Hollywood Hills, and that is unacceptable."

To add to the disaster Governor Schwartznegger was heard to say "I'm glad I'm in Sacramento," and Mayor Hahn hasn't been seen or heard from in three years......I think his name is Hahn?!?

Newscaster "Jim" called on me for an eyewitness report:

Well, Jim, reports from the ground are still sporatic. As you can see from the people milling around behind me, the scene here at this Home Depot is one of unbridled chaos. A text-message phone cascade fueled a rumor that the electricity was actually still on, but all of the lightbulbs in everyone's house had simultaneously burned out.

Friends and Family converged, first at the local Rite-Aids and Ralphses but creditcard readers were on the fritz and panic ensued as thousands of Angelenos made their way through streets -- uncontrolled by traffic signals -- to ever larger home-products stores. [empty Avian water bottle flies across the view] Hey! knock it off! [shakes fist] That five cent CALIFORNIA REFUND VALUE could save your life some day!

[sticks microphone out to bystander]
How are you coping with the disaster?

[bystander puts down surfboard in order to gesticulate toward hair] Dude! Just check it out!

[gasps] Sweet Mary on a GutBuster 2000®!! The hair dryer must have shut off mid-cycle! Your do is in an awful state!

[another man steps into view, proffering business card] I'm a lawyer, maybe I can help [they walk off, arm in arm, lawyer making reassuring sounds] ...permanent damage... ...looking at maybe 1.5 mil there...

Jim, I'm just getting word about a major problem developing at a local arcade [puts finger to ear,nodss] uh hum... [grimaces, then looks horrified] Pope in a Popsicle!! Really??? Is that Confirmed???? [looks back at the camera] I'm sorry to report that a local youth has been hospitalized when the Dance-Dance -Revolution machine stopped suddenly. His feet will not move... some sort of paralysis... no wait... [finger to ear again] One of the ambulance crew is humming the disco remix of Puff the Magic Dragon and the boy appears to be coming out of it. Well, that's Good News!

[finger to ear again] Now I'm hearing that the orderly evacuation of the city has been stalled... something about the freeways... there is a HUGE line of cars and SUVs filling all seventeen lanes of the northbound 405 and not moving at all..., another hybrid driver in the carpool lane has been shot dead..., and a mudslide is covering a section of PCH... Can we get a live shot of that, Jim, from the Channel Five Eyewitness News Eye-in-the-Sky NewsCopter Seven Featuring Weather Babe Joanna Banes in Revealing Lingerie?... [grimaces. whispers:] Well Christ on a Crutch! Just cut to some archival footage of the same thing last week! Do I need to tell you everything?

Oh! The humanity! Back to you, Jim.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Pride and Prejudice

I've seen the BBC six-hour mini-series a number of times, and I always enjoy it. It is especially fine to sit with my wife and teenage daughter and wait for the favorite parts and sympathize with the characters, discuss the finer points of that peculiar English society, crack-wise at moments when levity is acceptable, and so forth.

I finally read the book and was amazed at how closely the mini-series matched it. There are only a very few inconsequential differences, though some literary fine points (such as the "narrator's" sometimes snide remarks) are of necessity missing, while the screenplay also adds a very few bonus lines to scenes that help the viewer understand things.

I'm looking forward to the new movie (staring Keira Knightly. But I can't imagine that they could do Jane Austen's book justice in only two hours, and anyway, how could it possibly be any good without Colin Firth as Darcy?

For what it's worth, here is my Pride and Prejudice Quiz ala-Dan.

Pride and Prejudice Quiz

1) If you were to encounter George Wickham in Brighton or perhaps the streets of London, would you:
  a) Inquire after his health.
  b) Curtsy, admire his demeanor, and continue on.
  c) Kick him squarely in the yarbles.

2) Darcy's income is £______ per year
  Bingley's income is £______ or £______ per year (perhaps more, according to Mrs. Bennet)
  Wickham was given £______ in lieu of his "Living" He also had £______ from another endowment.
  The agreement stipulated that Mr. Bennet was to pay (only) £______ per year to the Wickhams.
  Wickham left Brighton with debts on the order of £______
  Georgiana's fortune: £______
  Lady Catherine de Bourgh has a chimney-piece that cost no less than £______

3) A bunch of girl lions hanging around a handsome guy lion is called a _______

4) Who lives where:
  Pemberley in Derbyshire __________
  Lambton __________
  Netherfield ___________
  Rosings _________
  Gracechurch Street (near Cheapside) _____
  Meryton ______
  Longbourn House in Hertfordshire _____

5) If you had this once-in-a-lifetime chance to go to Brighton where the regiment was now stationed, you would:
  a) flirt, flirt, flirt.
  b) elope to Scotland.
  c) do a bit of sea-bathing.
  d) consult with your sensible older sister, you idiot.

6) The name of a city in Texas is ______________

7) If you happened across Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy at a Netherfield ball, you would:
  a) Curtsy and inquire after the health of his sister.
  b) Brashly introduce yourself and tell him that his aunt was quite well yesterday se'nnight.
  c) You would avoid going to the ball altogether, for unstated reasons.
  d) Do him, right then and there, on the ballroom floor.

8) Mr. Bennet and Mr. Bingley might be seen together shooting...
  a) Cranberry Jello-O® shooters.
  b) A gram of uncut Mexican black-tar heroin.
  c) A BBC mini-series.
  d) birds.

9) On the subject of music, Lady de Bourgh...
  a) ...said. "Had I ever learned to play, I would be a great proficient."
  b) ...advised. "Practice, practice, practice. Then make yourself available for Weddings and Bar Mitzvahs"

10) An 'entail' is:
  a) A legal technicality by which a scummy shirt-tail relative ends up with your family estate.
  b) When there is a severe shortage of Y-chromosomes in your progeny.
  c) A type of dark yeasty brew quaffed by Tolkien's perambulating trees.

11) You find that Lizzy is badly shaken after reading a letter from Jane. You should...
  a) Quickly exit the room, leaving her thinking that you are gone forever.
  b) Discard your foolish English pride and wrap your manly arms around her to give her strength and comfort.
  c) Ardently admire her, then immediately commence with the tongue kissing.

My commentary on P&P

I'd like to make a few observations about Lizzy. I consider her to be a true heroine of literature for many reasons, but particularly for this:

Early on, she formed an opinion and was thoroughly convinced of its truth. But when she was presented with new information, she mentally replayed everything she had heard and seen in the light of that new information and, incredibly, she was able to change her opinion, even reverse that early opinion. That is a truly amazing, admirable capacity.

I also liked that she could make fun of herself. When asked when she changed her opinion, she says "It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley." Jane scoffs, knowing it is a joke and the reader knows she is laughing at herself.

There was another scene that made a new impact on me when I read it:
Wickham is at Longbourn after being forced to marry Lydia. Lizzy has a private conversation with him and she has the great opportunity -- she can rake him over the coals, put him down, and nail him to the wall... but she does NOT. She pushes near the edge ("I did hear, too, that there was a time, when sermon-making was not so palatable to you as it seems to be at present") but then defuses the awkwardness and lets him off the hook, saying "Come, Mr. Wickham, we are brother and sister, you know. Do not let us quarrel about the past."

The image I formed is something like a "human social calculator." The book just describes the conversation, so it is all implied, but it appears to me that she (probably intuitively) analyzes all the good and all the bad that could come about if she drives home the knife, and realizes that there is nothing to gain. And by remaining silent, she proves to us that she has overcome her pride. Again, a very admirable human quality.