Columnist back from the brink

Via Romenesko, from the Chicago Sun-Times. Neil Steinberg begins this way:

THOSE COLUMNS I WROTE ABOUT MY HOME LIFE OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS WERE NOT A LIE. I really live in a rambling old house with a pair of eager, mischievous boys and a pretty, wisecracking wife. We really remodeled our kitchen on a pharaonic scale. We really have three cats.

But the stories in the newspapers (and on TV, and radio) last month were also true. I probably shouldn’t say that. But you have come to expect a certain candor in this space and now does not seem the time to change. I got drunk and slapped my wife during an argument. I immediately knew it was a mistake — I used to say that if I ever hit Edie, I would draw back a bloody stump, and that wasn’t far from what happened. She called the cops, they came, clapped me into handcuffs and hauled me off to jail. When I asked her later why she had to have me arrested, she said, “Nobody hits me, buddy.” Pithy as always.


The next day in court my wife made a statement that can be accurately condensed as “He drinks too much and needs help.” When she had tried, again and again and again, to tell me that in previous years, I would always muster my charm, lie low a few days and wriggle out. Drinking was what I did, who I was, my comfort and my joy and I wasn’t about to give it up for any lecturing wife. But after 14 sleepless hours behind bars, I passionately wanted to get out, and when the judge offered me the choice of going through the fine rehab program inside the Cook County Jail, or somewhere else outside, I eagerly opted for the latter.

Go to the link above for the rest.

The dream is alive

David Letterman has Starbucks coffee pumped directly to his desk.

In order to make this work, they need to insulate the tubing so the beverage remains hot on its journey.

From the Letterman site, via Starbucks Gossip, which, curiously is run by Jim Romenesko of the vastly more famous media site:

Dave is thirsting for some Starbucks coffee and tonight, to satisfy his desire, we rigged up something really special. From the Starbucks across the street and down the block, we have a direct link via 550 feet of clear plastic tubing. Dave has a spigot at his desk. The source is in Starbucks. The power to get the coffee from Starbucks to Dave’s desk is supplied by a nitrogen tank at Starbucks. We turn on the camera at Starbucks and meet and greet Brad Simanski at the counter. …

When all is ready, Brad the Barista turns on the power and Dave’s decaf coffee is sent on its way. The camera follows the coffee leaving the n/e c/o 54th and Broadway. Across 54th is goes, then across Broadway, through the Ed Sullivan Theater doors, through the lobby, down the side of the theater and to the spigot. Dave turns on the faucet to enjoy a nice delicious cup of Starbucks. Complains the customer; “It’s too cold.” This technology is still in its infancy stage and portions still need to be worked out. Over all, though, a success. The coffee from Starbucks was a success. Big money was lost on this bit. No, not on the creating of the whole thing . . . but on the money bet that it wouldn’t work. It was rehearsed once with a modicum of success. For the show, we were very happy with the results.

Robert Hilburn takes a buyout

L.A. Times music critic Robert Hilburn is taking a buyout but will still freelance for the paper, L.A. Observed reports.

Back in the days before the Web, in the late ’70s, I looked to the Times and Hilburn for my pop-musical education and was introduced to the wonders of punk rock through its pages. Yes, in those days the Times was somewhat ahead of the curve. It was before the L.A. Weekly became a big force, and all the local clubs — the Starwood, the Roxy, the Whisky — would advertise in the Sunday Calendar.

The whole Dylan and Springsteen fixation was annoying yet amusing; it’s been a newsroom game over the years to count the grafs until one of them is mentioned in just about any Hilburn story, no matter who or what the subject. Still, he remains a legend.

The most fascinating person of 2005


HRH Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, nee Camilla Parker Bowles, was named the most fascinating person of 2005 in the world of Barbara Walters on last night’s prime-time special.

My pick, Jon Stewart, didn’t even make the list. Well, I guess he was more fascinating last year.

I almost forgot the show was on and didn’t start taping until the halfway point. Most of the interviews were EXTREMELY short, and there was no Camilla chat. Is that the way it always is with the “most fascinating person” — no interview? That way they’re not tipped off as to their fascination, I suppose.

Yeah, Camilla is plenty fascinating all right, having caught Prince Charles’ eye some decades ago, not being suitable, but carrying on an affair for years and finally marrying him some years after the death of Princess Diana. Sure, the prince of Wales is pretty much an idiot, but she’s gotta be comfortable with that, having known him all these years.

Here’s the screwiest take on the list, from the Manufacturers Blog:

The Ten Most Fascinating People of 2005: Barbara Walters Misses the Boat

The Blogger-in-Chief was hesitant to write on this topic, so it looks like his humble apprentice gets the leftover scraps.

We were only just slightly annoyed when we turned on ABC last night to watch the Barbara Walters’ (anybody remember Barbara WaWa?) special, “The Ten Most Fascinating People of 2005.”

We waited in great anticipation through the entire hour-long special to see if she decided to lump a manufacturer–any manufacturer–into her list.


Here was her “list” of “fascinating people”:

Dakota Fanning
Jamie Foxx
Condoleezza Rice
Teri Hatcher
Thomas Mesereau
Lance Armstrong
Beth Holloway-Twitty
Tom Cruise
Kanye West
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

Wup dee do. Kinda lame, if you ask us.

A couple questions:

Where are the manufacturers in that list? We only make everything that these “fascinating” people use everyday.

What was Barbara Walters’ criteria?Perhaps these people were chosen because many are considered popular and “cool?” Manufacturers are cool too, ya know. We even make cool stuff. In fact, this blog has a whole section on Cool Stuff Being Made.

When was the last time Barbara Walters went on a plant tour? We think if she went on one, she’d surely find it fascinating.

Loyal readers of this blog (both of you) will recall that when People magazine listed their Hottest Beach Bodies we called for a boycott because not one manufacturer was included in that list.

Somebody should call for a boycott of Barbara Walters.

Any takers?

Oh, and Barbara, 2005 isn’t over yet. There’s still a month to go, by our count. Anytime you want to amend the list, we’ll happily invite ourselves.

By the way, Cool Stuff Being Made is, indeed, cool. Today’s movie is on makin’ bacon.

L.A. Observed is back out of commission


L.A. Observed is back. The explanation herein. The world can continue to spin on its axis.

“Bandwidth limit exceeded,” is the message I get when I go to L.A. Observed. Guess you can be too popular. Hope Kevin Roderick gets it sorted out soon — it’s like we’re in the dark here.

Mack Reed elaborates and sympathizes at L.A. Voice.

This underscores the order I go in. Fire up the browser, go to L.A. Observed, then L.A. Voice, the two best sites for this particular city. And even though L.A. Voice is billed as a community of bloggers, it’s pretty much Mack who pulls the freight. L.A. Observed is all Kevin, of course. A great job done by both gentlemen, and quite a public service as well.

Here in Van Nuys on leaf blowers

Andrew defends leaf blowers, on the grounds that they offer a tangible benefit along with their noise and pollution.

Our gardener (yes, we have a gardener, don’t start with me), Larry, has a rather quiet leaf blower, but it’s a blower nonetheless. I’m ambivalent — those things sure do work — but I also have a broom.

I also favor letting leaves stay where they fall and/or moving them into my compost bin. Composting is the best thing we can do to both fortify the garden and dispose of organic wastes (both yard and kitchen varieties) with maximum efficiency — no truck needed to haul it away, all processing done by critters and micro-organisms.

I’m off track and not betting. So goodbye.

Holiday hell week

Any week that includes a “day off” holiday is HELL WEEK at the Daily News. For the privilege of having a day away, we spend an entire week inundated with extra work and earlier deadlines, no time to breathe.

And there’s not enough free food here. Just as well, since I could stand to drop a few pounds. (I’ve gained 5 to 10 pounds since I returned here in 2002 for my most-recent Daily News stint. It’s a long story, but I have worked here three separate times.)

So that’s why posting is low to nonexistant at present. I know you all want to hear about my toilet repairs, why I’m pissed off about winshield wiper refills and how the dry weather is affecting the inside of my nose, but it’ll have to wait.

Until then, all the best to you and yours for the happiest (blah, blah, blah) of Thanksgivings. Vegetarians that we are, we will be feasting on this, made by Ilene from the new Real Food Daily Cookbook.

The great Real Food Daily restaurant offers full Thanksgiving meals, praised in this case by Laist.
Alas, it’s too late to order, but if you drop by in Santa Monica or West Hollywood, you can probably get yourself a nice plate of faux turkey breast, potatoes and more.

Orange Line: Honeymoon phase?

Daily News staffer Lisa Mascaro looks at the zeitgeist of the Orange Line, with Joel Kotkin offering the following:

The (Red Line) subway, Kotkin reminds, carries only a fraction of its projected ridership more than a decade after it opened.

“They go through an early honeymoon period where everyone takes it,” Kotkin said about shiny-new commuter lines. “Try it in three months. When the Red Line started, there were all sorts of people in ties and jackets.”

He thinks Orange Line supporters should see the busway for what it is – a cheap alternative to rail for transit-dependent people – and not fantasize that the Valley is a new center of world-class urbanity.

“We’re not talking about sashaying on the Champs-Elysses,” he said. “If people want to get all enthused about it, that’s great. … Cafes and dancing seals at every stop? That’s not what you’re going to get.”

Forget the “dancing seals,” but a lot could happen along the busway, both commercial and residential. And yes, your friends from Starbucks and Coffee Bean could be a part of it.

Kotkin doubts middle-class riders will trade their cars for buses in great numbers in the long run.

But he still thinks the Orange Line should be extended to crisscross the Valley and go out to Thousand Oaks – since busways are so much cheaper than rail lines. The Orange Line’s original plans included similar north-south busways near Canoga Avenue and Van Nuys Boulevard.

Van Nuys Boulevard, especially, is primed for a busway. The street is WIDE because the famed Red Cars used to travel along tracks in the middle of the street. All MTA has to do is reclaim the median.

Now I know Zev Yaroslavsky is set on Canoga Avenue, but I think the second north-south busway should be on Reseda Boulevard.

On the Ventura Boulevard end, you would hit Tarzana and the Tarzana portion of Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center, then head by the park at Victory Boulevard (and the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, which is nowhere near Sherman Oaks, by the way), by a whole bunch of businesses, including the hub at Sherman Way and eventually up to California State University Northridge — which is notoriously hard to reach by bus in a timely manner. After that, head up to the 118 Freeway.

Next candidate for an east-west line (besides Ventura Boulevard, which MUST be dealt with at some point) would be Nordhoff Street, which takes in Panorama City to the East, CSUN and the Northridge Mall farther West. Ideally it would head south where Nordhoff hits Corbin Avenue and eventually link to the Orange Line around Victory.