Category Archives: Randomness

Kudos to Chris Matthews! Has the world gone topsy-turvy?

This is unbelievable. Amidst all the brouhaha over George Bush’s attack on Barack Obama in the Israeli Knesset was this hilarious (if grating) exchange between Hardball-host Chris Matthews and conservative pundit Kevin James. I never thought I’d be admiring Matthews twice in one year, let alone one week, but it has happened as he seized on James’ ignorance of world history (see his criticism of Bill O’Reilly’s perspective on race in America for more).

Many people already realize the saddening lack of historical knowledge in contemporary society, but for this cheerleader of the Bush regime — ostensibly expected to be somewhat well-educated if he’s attempting to articulate a political position in the mainstream media — to so blatantly lack understanding of modern world history still shocks me. It just saddens me, it really does, because thousands of American students and families will continue to eat this tripe up, to make such basic arguments without even knowing the circumstance upon which they are basing their opinion. Ugh, I’m getting ranty and this video (it takes a couple minutes to get to the good/horrible part) speaks for itself, but it’s just outstanding. While I don’t personally buy the appeasement comparison, I’d hope at least those making the argument realize at the very least that Chamberlain’s appeasement policy allowed Hitler to annex Czechoslovakia (amusing note: While writing Czechoslovakia, for some reason, I typed Poland. Who’s the idiot now? The egg is on my face. Oh I can only imagine what comments I’d have received).

Anyhow, I meant to publish this Friday and now this has probably been all over the Internet:

Siderodromophilia and other loves

This is why the Intertubes rock. How easy it is to delve off into tangents. Superficially, such tangential escapes may suggest a threat to concentration, but I see them more as starting point for ceaseless mental explorations. It allows one, to refer to another passion of mine and a conversation I recently had with a friend, to electronically clatter about the world like a pinball.

Here’s one adventure I took:

In compiling another post (I’d say earlier today, but it might happen to be posted after this … don’t you love distraction?) about a transit center proposed for Dodger Stadium, I wanted to refer to myself as a lover of train travel, and I wanted a word for it. I recalled how, a fear years ago, I penned an article for Citations, the newsletter for the Ventura County Bar Association, about lawyers and judges who love trains and remembered the word “Siderodromophilia” bandied about at the time. I don’t quite recall why it didn’t end up in the piece, but perhaps the subjects of my interviews were hesitant their colleagues would think when it came to trains, getting on meant getting off.

In writing my piece about the transit center, I wanted to employ a better word for train enthusiast than the phrase “train enthusiast.” So I tried to recall that word. I checked with my mother, who happens to be the editor of Citations, to see if she could recall what the word was (I couldn’t remember it exactly at that point in this journey). She pointed out a site called The Phobia List and suggested it should point me in the direction of the root word I needed. Searching for “trains” I found “Siderodromophobia,” the fear of train travel, railroads and train travel.From there, I replaced the “phobia” with “philia” in Google and learned “siderodromophilia” means “arousal from riding on trains.”

Yes, I enjoy trains, and there is a certain sensuality in the rhythmic motions (and let’s not mention stock footage and visual double entendres of trains entering tunnels), but that’s not what I was driving at, although there doesn’t seem to be a dictionary definition for simply enjoying trains.

Fortunately, Googling the word siderodromophilia wasn’t as disturbing as I’d feared (If there is a phobia for disgusting or plain trashy Google search results, I couldn’t find it on The Phobia List). What it did, however, was send me cascading around the Internet to some fascinating pages, pages of which I am now presently using to distract myself from my original blog entry about the transit center. Not, mind you pages about siderodromophilia, but pages discussing the act, especially a number of people’s surprise upon learning the word and one person’s amusement toward someone who identified himself as a siderodromophile and another discussion about the etymology of the word itself.

Also of note were a variety of slang dictionaries, many of which were focused on so-called “bizarre sexual practices.” I’ll leave the debates about how we discuss our desires, fantasies and turn-ons and what constitutes “bizarre” to blogs focused on sexuality. Because you can guess what happens if you put “sexuality blog” in Google, I’ll point you to two, erotica writer and educator Susie Bright’s Journal and Violet Blue’s Open Source Sex (If you need a warning, you may encounter nudity and various forms of arousal along the way, but these aren’t porn sites), from which you should be able to dive deeply into discussions and explorations of sex and its intersection with culture, society, politics and technology without losing sapiosexuality street cred (Speaking of which, try the purity test for people with large vocabularies — no, you don’t get to know my score).

Anyhow, I’m really slipping away from a point now, and that is the vast and quickly accessible wealth of information available on the Internet. Yeah, not exactly news, but in this day and age of search engine battles, social networking, narrow-casting, and audience fragmentation, it’s worth remembering that the opportunity in the Internet lies not in its commodification or packaging, but in its wide-open frontier-like nature.

How can one not be fascinated, amused and amazed by the fact that within minutes we can debate the changing possibilities for traversing our physical landscape to traipsing across the electronic landscape?

How can one not enjoy the passion for learning, for education, and for enlightenment a medium like this can spur. Yes, there are dark sides to those potentials in the risk of misinformation, distortion and inaccuracy, but the sheer possibility, I believe, outweighs the threat.

All roads lead to Dodger Stadium

Okay, so this may not be Ventura County related, not that most of my blog entries have tended that way anyhow, despite my intentions, but I couldn’t ignore this comment from a discussion on a transit center proposed as part of a refurbishment of Dodger Stadium announced today.

As some astute readers might know, or those who know the me behind the scenes, I’m a diehard Dodgers fan. I’m also a fan of things that go “choo-choo,” or at least, “clackety-clackety” (or whatever sound train wheels make). When it comes to actually getting to a Dodgers game there’s perhaps nothing more enticing than the opportunity to indulge some siderodromophilia.

Those who are familiar with Dodger Stadium know it is beyond a pain in the ass to drive there (insider tip: park your car off Sunset early, grab a beer and a game of Elvis Pinball at the Shortstop, then walk up the hill)

Commenter Charles hits the nail on the head though.

“This whole plan is about increasing their revenues. Parking lot fee revenue is ** chump change ** compared to the potential retail revenue they will realize with this project.

I think it is the responsibility of the City of LA to insist the Dodgers & Co. install a mass transit station … I’d ride a mass transit line that drops me off right behind center field….. where I could spend money at these beautiful new shops and restaurants.”

Charles isn’t alone. I would readily choose this option to get to a game, and I imagine many fans would, as well as casual Angelenos and Southern Californians who just want a nice day out. If Frank and Jamie McCourt genuinely want to endear themselves to the Greater Los Angeles Community, they could volunteer a little scratch up front for a lot of dough down the line.

That doesn’t exactly help Venturans, although the possibility to get to Dodgers games easily would hopefully mean renewed attention to expanding connections from Ventura County to L.A.’s transportation system. Even so, think of the revenue potential for Los Angeles if Ventura County residents drive to Warner Center and hop on the Orange Line to connect to the game, or drop their cars off at Universal City Walk to get to a red line subway leading to or near Dodger Stadium. Yes, it’s hard work and massive infrastructure development required, but a little ingenuity, sacrifice and the aforementioned work could go a long, long way.

A nation locked up

Thanks to a post from Liz Cox Barrett of the Columbia Journalism Review, I was made aware of a startling story in today’s New York Times. The story, titled “Inmate Count in U.S. dwarfs other nations“, reveals the startling news that although the U.S. is home to only 5 percent of the world’s population, it is also home to nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners.

Talk about nation of freedom.

Times reporter Adam Liptak reports how American courts sentence offenders to prison time for crimes that many countries would not, and how our prisoners are kept in jail longer. As Liptak reports, experts from other countries have expressed shock at the stark figures.

As our cover story by Butch Warner from last week illustrates, though, incarceration is a reality for many Americans — a reality that takes years to adjust and recover from. Recovery and restitution is, of course, not always possible, and so many who enter the prison system — for whatever reason — do not emerge unchanged.

Liptak’s article is a fascinating examination of these startling statistics. Naturally, the article explores the devastating impact the failed, yet ongoing, “War on drugs” has had on our society and the severe strain it has placed on our jails and prisons, a strain that, in my opinion, has weakened both the courts and the prison system’s ability to handle and process crimes that are truly a threat to society.

The article also points to another fact, however, one critics of the penal system may not readily address: crime has dropped as incarceration rates have risen.

Nevertheless, it is unclear from the sources citing those statistics in Liptak’s article, or from Liptak’s otherwise great reporting, where that drop in crime occurred. It would be interesting to delve further into those statistics and determine whether violent crime has dropped in conjunction with a rise in incarceration for those crimes, or if the drop in the overall crime rate had more to do with punishment for lesser crimes.

Either way, the report raises important questions about how our society operates.

The perils of municipal meetings

One of the newest videos circulating around the Internet is this one of a fracas during a Carson city council meeting.

Many people criticize the bickering at city council meetings throughout our fair county, but at least none of our local disputes have reached this level of immaturity. Then again, the bop on the head and the faked injury depicted in this video are indicative, symbolic perhaps, of the behavior deployed in letters to the editor, comment periods, negotiations and workshops far too often. The constructed — and poorly acted — reaction of the aggrieved (if anyone can honestly call it that) party in this video certainly evoke some of the paranoid rhetoric of certain players in local politics in Ventura County, indeed, of players from all sides of the issues.

Anyhow, it’s quite funny.

So many pennies, so little money

This morning I paid for 4 cents in stamps with four pennies. I so enjoy using my mason jar full of coins at the post office. The added benefit is that it keeps me using snail mail. Nonetheless, this is pretty ridiculous but quite amusing:

http://consumerist.com/354990/it-costs-134-million-to-make-80-million-in-pennies

Can’t wait to see the full 60 Minutes episode.

P.S. I’m frustrated that my keyboard no longer has a cents symbol on it (yes, I know I can insert the symbol, but come on, this is going to make me feel like a crotchety old man).