Thursday, April 27, 2006


I'm off to the windy city tomorrow. See ya next week.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Correction re: Lost

Tonight's episode of Lost isn't really new, as previously posted. I think it's one of those annoying recap episodes.

I Talk Like Californian

What does it mean to have a "California accent?" Does it mean that you sound stoned? Or dim? When I lived in NYC, people would tell me that I sounded like I was from California. I would sometimes wonder if they were taking a jab at me, but mostly I didn't care.

Here is some info on what might constitute the typical California accent:
In the speech of white people in California, as in many parts of the west, the vowels of hock and hawk, cot and caught, are pronounced the same—so awesome rhymes with possum. Also notable is the movement of the vowels in boot and boat (called back vowels because they are pronounced in the back of the mouth). These vowels all have a tendency to move forward in the mouth, so that the vowel in dude or spoon (as in gag me with a ...) sounds a little like the word you, or the vowel in pure or cute. Also, boat and loan often sound like bewt and lewn—or eeeeuuw.


Innovative developments in the stereotypical California linguistic system may be so new as to be restricted to certain speech settings, with the most extreme pronunciations evident only in peer-group youth interactions. It is precisely these interactions that are the crux of stylistic development, and that is why linguists in California are spending considerable energy studying young people. One of the innovative developments in white English of Californians is the use of the discourse marker "I’m like," or "she’s like" to introduce quoted speech, as in "I’m like, 'where have you been?'" This quotative is particularly useful because it does not require the quote to be of actual speech (as "she said" would, for instance). A shrug, a sigh, or any of a number of other expressive sounds as well as speech can follow it. Lately in California, "I’m all" or "she’s all" has also become a contender for this function. We know that the quotative "be all" is not common in the speech of young New Yorkers, for example, while "be like" is. This allows us to infer that "be all" might be a newer development and that it may also be native to, or at least most advanced in, California.
Note that the above commentary is about a study on white Californians (who make up less than 50% of the state population). There are other notable accents/dialects, including Chicano English, valley girl and surfer dude.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ana Lucia Goes to the Pokey

Long time readers of the Chanchow know that I cannot stand Ana Lucia or the punk who plays her on Lost. (this and that.) You may recall that said punk, Michelle Rodriguez, was cited for drunk driving in Hawaii a few months ago. The update is that Rodriguez is choosing to pay a $500 fine and spend five days in jail, rather than do 240 hours of community service. I really, really hope this means we will be seeing less of Ana Lucia.

Note: New episode of Lost tomorrow.

Need Pants

I'm starting to worry that people at my work are realizing that I only wear three different pairs of pants and five shirts. It wasn't always like this. Not so long ago, I had maybe seven decent pairs of pants and lots of shirts.

The pants are easy to explain. After a few winters in NYC, some of my pants developed salt rings around the hems. Disgusting, I know. I haven't thrown them out yet, but at least I've stopped wearing them. After all, somebody would notice, right? Even if nobody does, I know they're there and that's bad enough. As for the shirts, half of them are a little too wacky for me now. Maybe I'm in a temporary non-wacky phase, but I can't bring myself to wear shirts with a Q-bert design on them.

Long story short-- I need to go shopping. But the idea of looking for work clothes makes me want to go home and take a nap. What could be more boring than going to the suit section of J. Crew or Banana Republic? Oh wait, I can't go there because they don't carry petites in the store. I hate trying on pants because it makes me feel short and lumpy. So I guess it's internet shopping for me. At least it'll spare me the fitting room.

Constitutional Requirements Aside

This would be good:

Clinton - Obama
Giuiliani - Schwarzenegger

Monday, April 24, 2006

Clogs Meet Jelly Shoes

According to the LA Times, "Crocs" are catching on in California. I haven't seen any yet, but maybe I'll start noticing them now.
California has always had a soft spot for ugly shoes.

Birkenstocks and Tevas have caught on here, fortifying the state's reputation as a haven for gimmicky fashion. Not everyone thinks Ugg boots are ugly, but even people who do seem to wear them.

Now come Crocs. They're rubbery. They're garish. They're a lightweight sandal-clog hybrid, and if a Niwot, Colo.-based company has its way, they're about to be omnipresent in the Southland...

Initially imagined for boating, Crocs have snagged a wider-than-expected following of fans, including children and chief executives. Made from a shiny resin, in colors that can be described as relentlessly cheerful, they are the rare fashion statement that can be hosed off. And weighing just 6 ounces apiece, they don't bog you down.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Death Valley

We stopped for coffee in Trono (above),
an old borax-processing town between LA and Death Valley.

Mr. Octopus and I celebrated Earth Day by driving 270 miles to Death Valley National Park. I'd like to think that visiting national parkland and being in the wilderness makes up for all the gas we used to get there.

Some facts about the park: It's the largest national park outside of Alaska. Herbert Hoover designated Death Valley as a national monument in 1932; Congress passed a bill that made it a national park in 1994. In the late nineteenth century, certain areas were mined for borax, a boron compound used in detergents, disinfectants and pesticides, among other things. Chinese laborers were brought from San Francisco to mine for borax and twenty-mule teams hauled the borax over 160 miles to the nearest town. During the Depression, the CCC built roads and buildings within the park. Some of these buildings were later used to house Japanese during WWII.

Barrack-like structures built by the CCC.
Later functioned as a Japanese internment camp.

Badwater. The lowest point in the western hemisphere (282 feet below sea level). The white stuff is accumulated salts.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

If They Mated

Well, they have mated. According to Conan O'Brien, this is what TomKitten may grow up to look like. I'm scared.

Keep on Truckin'

Justice Stevens turns 86 today.
In the closing decade of the Rehnquist court, Stevens was the senior liberal justice. As such, when there was a split decision, he was often the senior justice on one side and was thereby entitled to assign the writing of the opinion. He almost always writes a dissenting opinion when in dissent and writes concurring opinions more often than most other justices historically. He also has an affinity for bowties, which, as one biography points out, "in its way is a dissenting opinion."

Even though Justice Stevens will be 86 years old by the end of the current term of the Court he has not shown any hints of opting for retirement. On the contrary, Stevens actively participates in questioning during the oral arguments before the Court and still plays tennis regularly. His possible retirement is a highly debated topic in legal and political circles in the U.S. Justice Stevens would be almost 89 years old if he remains on the court until the end of Bush's term in 2009.
From Wiki.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Grove

There is a fair number of things to see if you're visiting LA. The Getty. Hollywood sign. Venice Boardwalk. Universal Studios. Huntington Gardens. Disney Concert Hall. Third Street Promenade. The list goes on. But somehow visitors often end up at a place called "The Grove," and, not only that, they really enjoy it.

The Grove is an outdoor mall, not far from the dumpy Beverly Center. The Grove is new, spic and span. For lack of a better description, imagine what a mall would look like if it were designed by people from Disneyland and The Truman Show. It's a little world unto itself. A nice, sweet oasis of a fake town, smack in the middle of otherwise chaotic and sprawling LA. There's a trolley that runs through town. There's a Bellagio-esque water fountain that spouts to theme music. The shops are at "street level," and there are windows above the shops masquerading as people's apartments or something. It's a weird place.

Still, people love it. It's not because the shops are that great (they aren't). I think it must be because much of LA is run down and not very pleasing to the eye. And to come to The Grove is to see something new, clean, a touch suburban. That must be comforting.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Quality Reality TV

KOCE (Orange County public tv) has been showing Frontier House. I originally caught it on PBS a few years back when I was living in NYC. It's still good the second time around.

Frontier House is a reality tv series in which three modern families go to Montana to live like homesteaders circa 1883. They are there for six months and live as authentically as possible-- building their own log cabins, wearing 1883 clothes, using outhouses, churning butter, washing clothes by hand, and so on. Each and every family member has to pitch in. At the end of their stay, a historian comes in to judge whether any of them would survive the winter.

The families are a real hoot. There are the Clunes-- rich folks who left behind a fancy lifestyle in Malibu, CA. The Glenns-- middle class folks from Tennessee. And the Brooks-- newlyweds from Boston who held their wedding during the course of filming (above). The Brooks are pretty laid back, but the Clunes and the Glenns don't get along. The drama between them isn't overdramatized, but it's enough to be entertaining and revealing (and sometimes annoying). It's a fascinating look at how 21st century folks cope without modern amenities.

Some quotes from the series:
Four foot by about twelve or fifteen foot. It wouldn’t even fit the books in our house.
- Mark Glenn, speaking of their Prairie Schooner wagon

Neighboring is a lost art in our society. We’re such a mobile culture, it’s rare to really get to know your neighbors or invest any great deal of energy into the art of neighboring.
- Nate Brooks

I feel like I’m growing up a lot here because like before like if I was in Temecula or California or wherever I used to live like I wouldn’t do anything. I would just sit on my butt and watch TV and I was just a lazy person. But like now that I’m actually doing work I feel like a better person. Like you know I’m actually doing something to help other people.
- Tracy Clune (kid)
Quotes made by the people about two months after they returned to normal life:
In modern life there’s almost too much to choose from so I’m not really sure what to do… We could do anything. We could get a Masters in anything and recreate ourselves and become anything, make any amount of money, have any amount of kids. It’s overwhelming. You know, I’m not sure exactly which one to pick.
- Kristen Brooks

You’re a man or a woman working hard in the twenty-first century and your kids don’t know what it is that you do. It’s seamless. They’re isolated from it. And that’s sad… I realized that more so than ever since I’ve been back. But in five months in 1883 I got more satisfaction, more accomplishment, more appreciation than I did my entire career beforehand.
- Gordon Clune

I think the year 2001 is kind of boring. Every day I always say I’m bored and my parents get mad at me for it. But there’s nothing to do. There’s just nothing to do here. You get kind of tired of going to the mall every day. And you get kind of tired of doing nothing all day.
- Tracy Clune (kid)
p.s. Frontier House is available on DVD in case it's not being shown on your local PBS station.

Monday, April 17, 2006

What's Worse

Sunday evening
Monday morning?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Crazy TomKat

I'm starting to think that Tom Cruise isn't a real person. When you see him in interviews his eyes are intensely vacant; he looks like he's bubbling with anger and will explode at any moment. When he laughs his face scrunches up and he looks constipated. He must be a very advanced robot from outer space. One day smoke will start coming out of his head and the springs in his joints will pop out.

TomKat have been holding seminars about Kat's pregnancy. I would pay good money to sit in on one of those. Alas, I'm not a Scientologist, so I probably wouldn't make it past the gate. I'm starting to think Nicole must've been a nut to have stayed married to this dude for so long. From AP:
Tom Cruise has taken the impending birth of his first child with fiancee Katie Holmes to another level.

"We've been doing seminars with the family just to educate them," the 43-year-old star of the upcoming "Mission: Impossible III" film tells GQ magazine in its May issue, on newsstands April 25.

"Running seminars so we can understand what Kate's going through, and for Kate to understand it. Things like how to take care of a pregnant woman and get ready for the birth.

"It's just kind of becoming a fun game of learning. We've also been studying what happens after the birth and how to take care of the baby."

Cruise says his children, 11-year-old Connor and 13-year-old Isabella - from his marriage to Nicole Kidman - will help take care of the baby.

"The kids will have different responsibilities and run in shifts. They're going to help on every level," he tells the magazine.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

LA Food

Where Disneyland meets Middle Eastern food:
St. Vincent Alley in downtown LA

LA is a fantastic place for ethnic food. The variety is astounding and the prices are reasonable. I used to disdain strip malls, but now I know better. A dumpy strip mall can quite possibly be home to the best Thai food you'll ever eat. The old adage couldn't be more true here: don't judge a book by its cover. Here are some restaurants we've eaten at in the last week or two: Farid on St. Vincent Alley (Persian), Merkato (Ethiopian), Zankou Chicken (Armenian), Daikokuya Ramen (Japanese), Agra (Indian), Il Capriccio (Italian), Sanamluang (Thai), Jake's (hamburgers), El Gran Burrito (Mexican). That's a lot of eating out, you say. Indeed, it is.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

La Brea Tar Pits

What LA may have looked like 40,000 years ago

During the last ice age, LA was a land of bubbling asphalt and roaming mammoths, mastodon, saber toothed cats, ground sloths, and other bizarre creatures. LA wasn't covered in ice, but it was about 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit cooler and 10% more humid than it is today. The asphalt trapped these big animals and their remains became part of a hardened matrix of soil, sand and other sediment. In the early twentieth century, after LA was settled by homesteaders, scientists began excavating the area and realized that the fossils weren't of modern animals (as was previously thought), but prehistoric, extinct animals.

Today, La Brea Tar Pits, in the middle of LA, is home to a fun and interactive museum. A standard field trip destination for the elementary and middle school set, little kids ooh and aah at the thirteen foot tall Columbian Mammoth and plug their noses as they walk past the tar-smelling quarry. Excavation continues onsite and scientists are still discovering new species.

Columbian Mammoth

From left: American Mastodon (baby and adult) and Yesterday's Camel

Pit 91



I wish I had gone to the gym with Mr. Octopus yesterday. If I had, I might be on my way to being cast as Lucy Liu's little sister in the next Charlie's Angels. For details, click here.

In case you don't get the reference:
J.T. -> Cameron Diaz -> Charlie's Angels -> Lucy Liu -> me.

Friday, April 7, 2006

Ask a Mexican

Oh what fun. There is a witty column in the OC Weekly called Ask a Mexican. That's right. The columnist, Gustavo Arellano, was recently interviewed on public radio. His father came to the U.S. illegally, hidden in the trunk of a Chevy. Now his father is against illegal immigration. Who says Mexicans don't assimilate?

An amusing exchange from Ask a Mexican:
Dear Mexican,

Why do Mexicans steal fruit from trees that aren’t theirs? At my job a tree hangs over the wall, and they climb for the fruit.

-With a Chiquita Banana Between His Legs

Dear Gabacho,

Nothing—not walls, the brutal sun, or lack of bathroom breaks and potable water—will stop a Mexican from picking fruits and vegetables. It’s Pavlovian, Chiquita Banana: if a Mexican sees an apple, they climb the tree and pick it. Strawberries? Kneel down and pull. What you should be concerned about is the looming crop crisis predicted in the Dec. 5 business section of the Los Angeles Times. A story that day reported that Western Growers, an Irvine-based trade group whose members grow 90 percent of the nation’s winter crops, will only fill half of the 50,000 field hand positions they need this season thanks to our country’s tightening immigration policies. “Come January, we could see lettuce rotting in the fields because there will be no one to pick it,” one El Centro grower fretted to Times reporter Jerry Hirsch. So make sure to thank the next Mexican who steals lemons or potatoes from your yard, Chiquita Banana: the fruit or vegetable that Mexican steals means one less illegal immigrant big business needs.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Who Needs to Go?

I thought last night's episode of Lost totally sucked. I don't care about Hurley anymore. Other than the numbers, he really doesn't matter. He's not funny. I'm not interested in his food obsession, guilt complex or prior institutionalization. I don't care for Libby either (her face is weird). Anyways. WEAK!

I read somewhere that somebody "significant" is going to die before the season is over. Let's take a survey of who you think it will be. Sorry for being so bleak. I'm in a punchy mood.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Page Turners

The Da Vinci Code came out in paperback over the weekend and I picked up a copy at a bookstore in Palm Springs. I was looking for a good book, one that I would actually finish reading, and that's exactly what I got. It was as if I devoured the book. I finished it last night, all 480+ pages of it. It wasn't the best book I've ever read, but it was a real page turner, and in this day and age, when it's hard to focus your attention on anything for more than a couple minutes, a page turner is a rare treat. So I ask you: do you have any page turners to recommend? Spare me the literary epics because I won't finish them. No War and Peace or Absalom, Absalom. For now, I'm looking for fun, entertaining and engrossing.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

National Parks Rock!

Part of the fun of going to national parks is getting the brochure. I was admiring our collection the other day, putting them in alphabetical order, then reverse alphabetical order, then random, then back in alphabetical order. I like how they have a uniform design-- black band over a panaramic shot of the park.

The National Parks Pass that we bought on our cross-country trip last year expires in August. I'd like to see Death Valley and Glacier before then. There's something very calming about going to a national park. Even for a city mouse like me. The people in the parks are happier and friendlier. Your day job seems insignificant. It's just you and the sun or the cave or the sand...

Monday, April 3, 2006

Joshua Tree

We went to Joshua Tree National Park on Sunday. Just a couple hours east of LA, Joshua Tree is like a different world. Desert, cacti, rounded boulders.

Cabazon, CA

On our way back from Joshua Tree, we stopped at the Wheel Inn in Cabazon. Cabazon is home to a pretty good outlet mall, but we skipped the mall for what our Road Food book called "the Great American Truck Stop." The food wasn't very good, but it had enough kitschy allure to make up for it. Wheel Inn opened as a counter and a couple tables back in 1964 and has a couple dinosaurs out back (remember Pee Wee's Big Adventure?). Some shots of the place.