Forward Into the Past

2010_0506_scott_pearce_left_handThis is a Fujitsu S 7210. Over the last 10 or 15 years, I have been brand loyal to Fujitsu, other than the occasional ThinkPad dalliance. This laptop features a powerful processor, 4GB of RAM, and a nice screen. I’ve had it since late last summer, and more than once I have been tempted to write of my disappointment and frustration – but I’m glad I didn’t. This is a great laptop, and I expect it to be at least as useful as the many other fine Fujitsu laptops I’ve enjoyed over the years.

How nice. So why bother writing about it? Who cares? Well, maybe nobody cares, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to join the crowd of people who express public contempt for Microsoft Vista. I thought, fine, I’ll just upgrade to Windows 7. I got an upgrade disc at a faculty discount, but it wouldn’t work! I experimented with Ubuntu, which finally failed – and brought down Windows with it!

One day I hope to reject Windows in favor of an open-source operating system. For now, however, I must say Ubuntu has done me a huge favor! It forced me to reformat my hard drive and start over. This photo proves that an external web cam is up and running under Windows XP.

I love Fujitsu laptops! As for Microsoft operating systems…

Pocket Radios

Radios Then and NowThese radios are essentially the same – except the one on the left is 35 years old and the one on the right is newly bought today. I still remember the day in the spring of 1975 that I first got the radio on the left (Sony TFM-3750W). I was 16, and I had my dad’s highly fashionable and powerful vehicle. I drove myself and my new radio to West Hollywood Park and listened to part of a Dodgers game before going for a swim. Back in the mid-1970’s, I spent quite a bit of time riding RTD buses in Los Angeles; it was a great relief to be able to listen to the radio with a tiny earphone. Back in the day, this old radio was tuned to KHJ and KMET a lot of the time, and in the late 1970’s I used to listen to tape-delay broadcasts of my coverage of Pacific University football on KUIK in Hillsboro, Oregon. The new radio receives stations from the same bands, through a slightly smaller and less resonant speaker.  It receives more stations and is light and portable. This model (Sony ICF-S10) is quite similar to an even earlier model my folks had in the late 1960’s. I’ve always liked having a cheap little radio around…actually, I’ve always liked to have a dozen or more radios of various sizes and shapes and purposes.

Tomato Flower That’s more than en2010_0501_tiny_flower1ough consumerism for now. No doubt you are well-pleased to have spent precious moments of your life thinking about transistor radios over the decades. That’s not something everybody gets to do every day, is it?

Spring is bringing some lovely little flowers. So2010_0501_tiny_flower2me, like the nice tomato flowers to the far left, are going to end up on the dinner table. Others, such as the other tiny and treacherous  flowers you see, are destined to be ‘eliminated.’

In the Dark with Strangers

Avatar TicketWe spent several hours (and $34.50) at the local suburban multiplex this afternoon, watching a talking picture called Avatar. I grew up in Hollywood. I’ve been  involved in the arts since I was about a month old. I figure I know plenty about the picture business and media criticism.

Avatar is the most accurate and sensitive portrayal of the US Military since that classic documentary Dr. Strangelove.

Avatar tells the story of a blue-skinned tribal race on an alien planet.  Earth forces invade because they want to take a valuable mineral, a vast concentration of which lies beneath ground the native people hold sacred. This mineral has a stupid movie name too, something like “reallyrareium.” A US Marine takes the place of his dead scientist twin brother in a program to put human consciousness into the cloned bodies of blue-skinned indigenous people.

This US Marine ‘goes native’ and marries the Chief’s daughter. At the end of the picture the sexy native alien princess kills the ultra-racist military leader by shooting him in the chest with two poison-tipped arrows. Native forces combine with the life forces of the planet and a lot of cool animated alien animals to destroy the high-tech  military force and send them packing back to their (our) home planet.

I see the movie as a retelling of the Native American tale, but this time with the natives repelling the coarse, godless invaders. It’s a feel-good story for the whole family. Plus, it has the greatest actress of our generation, Sigorney Weaver.

Don’t buy into the hype that the producers have reinvented cinema or done anything more than create a really fun cartoon/live action hybrid motion picture.  Yes, it’s a compelling movie experience. Even an innovative, fun movie like this, one with a message I find uplifting and satisfying on many levels, doesn’t really capture me. The pictures are better in radio drama, or in the written word. Avatar is a hyper-violent film with a lot of chase scenes and computer-animated battle. Doesn’t that description match many, many movies? How many last-minute rescues and dangerous near-falls from high places are we supposed to pay to watch each year?

“Theater of the imagination” is more powerful than talking pictures.

When did they start playing 15 minutes of commercials before the 15 minutes of previews? The worst couple of minutes of this horrible stretch of force-fed commercialism was the overtly Nazi offering from our United States National Guard. I’ll bet Leni Riefenstahl is smiling up at all of us from Hell, content that her contribution to the visual arts and her national ideology have found a comfortable (if unsafe) home. My reaction when I sat in the dark with strangers, watching this highly-produced bit of domestic propaganda, was that we’re all being prepared for the regular presence of American troops on our streets. I feel safer already, don’t you?

One has to pause for a moment to consider the mixed messages we received at the Ultra Star Cinema this afternoon. On the one hand, we were offered the US National Guard as a place to devote our love, loyalty, fidelity, honor, respect, goodness, Americanism and apple pie-ism. Then in the feature picture we saw the US Military presented as a bunch of racist mass-murders who feel they “have to fight terror with terror.” I suppose in a sense this is progress: at least the movie didn’t have a hero like Col. Mike Kirby, saying, “Out here, due process is a bullet.” (Lines like that one go to the bad guys in this picture.)

Avatar is a good movie, but it is not worth $34.50 for two adults and one child. See it, but don’t pay retail the way I did!

Contracts Hypothetical

The bar examination is at the end of July. If you’re preparing for the exam, why are you fooling around on-line instead of doing something useful? Nevermind.

For those of you who aren’t veterans of what passes for a legal education today, here’s a bit of legal lingo for you. We study the law in part by looking at hypothetical stories, where the facts present legal issues. We call these stories “fact patterns” because it makes us feel better about spending a fortune to go over simple stories word-by-word, kind of like first graders.

Got it? “Fact pattern” = little story with legal issues. Cool.  Here’s today’s Contracts Fact Pattern!

Mama goes shopping and scrutinizes everything. Here is how her shopping went.

Mama: “I don’t like the looks of this whitefish.”

Merchant: “Lady, for looks you don’t buy whitefish, you buy goldfish.”

Mama: “Oy, and this chicken, it has a broken leg.”

Merchant: “Look lady, you gonna eat it or dance with it?”

Mama: “And before you weigh the meat, take out the bones.”

Merchant: “Lady, I buy with bones, you’ll buy with bones.”

Mama: “I don’t pay with bones.”

Merchant: “All right, no bones.”

Mama: “Thank you, you are a gentleman. Now put the bones in a separate bag for soup. And never mind the meat. I don’t like your meat anyhow.”

1.  Have the parties formed a binding contract? Discuss.

2.  Assume for the purposes of this question only that Mama is a “merchant” under the UCC. Would that make it more likely that Mama and Merchant entered into a binding contract? Discuss.

If elite law schools did more good than harm, John Yoo wouldn’t be a free man, much less a faculty member at a fancy law school…but don’t think about that. Instead, think about fact patterns.

Piano Wrestler

The United States Navy has got one of the best and most entertaining “safety first”websites. You can spend the better part of several working days going through these pictures, and their literate, charming captions. Below the image is the US Naval Safety Center’s caption. Great job, sailors!

2009_0617_piano_wrestler

Yes, we know it is so tempting. Pianos are heavy and so darn awkward, and given the looks of this semi-demolished house, the stairways may be questionable. But honestly, is this the best you can do—a half-Nelson and poor footing on a moving piece of machinery? Why not just tie the darn thing on and let it take its own chances?

On the plus side, nice hat.

Here’s another of their images, which they entitle:

Location, Location, Location

2009_0617_location_location1

Star Trek 2009 and 1968

Even Better Than The Real Thing

Alexis and I went to see the new Star Trek movie. We loved it. I went into the theater looking for a movie that would deliver the idealistic creative spirit of The Original Series – extra-terrestrial green-skinned belly dancers! When a nearly-naked green-skinned woman from Orion made her appearance early in the movie, I knew the people behind this picture understood Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy and were living up to its high principle.

For what it’s worth, I judge this new movie to be substantially better than almost all of the hundreds of episodes of TV and the many hours of movies that make up the Star Trek catalog. The cast in this picture is much better than the original. The script is better. Personally, I’d cut about 15 minutes of video game action sequences, but who am I to quibble with Artists who appreciate the value of buxom green aliens?

My mom worked on Star Trek from 1966 through 2004. This movie is the first Star Trek show to come out after her death. I’m sure she would have enjoyed it.

I got to hang out on the sets of The Original Series back in the 60’s, and my parents and I attended the Star Trek Christmas party in December, 1968. I was 10 years old. I got to sit in Captain Kirk’s chair and stand on the transporter pads. The whole cast was there, boozing it up and enjoying themselves in a melancholy way – the show had been cancelled (for the second time) and everybody there knew that this third season would be the last. If anybody at that party in 1968 had promised the group that the show would be more popular than ever in 2009, their car keys would have been confiscated.

James Doohan called me over to his table. “Well, young Scotty, I guess your mom is letting you stay up past your bedtime to be with us…”

The most memorable part of the evening, aside from walking around all of the sets, was being with the cast and crew as they showed the collected blooper reel on a projector and screen. I’d never seen anything like it. Although these three clips aren’t complete, they’re highly entertaining. Watch for yourself and enjoy!

Parts One Two Three

It Pays to Look Old

It pays to get old!

Going to the movies is not my favorite activity. Growing up in Hollywood and hanging out on movie lots left me more than a little unimpressed with the picture business…but I do enjoy a good movie, and “Frost Nixon” qualifies. I figure Tricky Dick would like this movie, because he is portrayed by one of the most attractive old men in show business today.

But wait! The important thing about this experience at the movies can be seen in the fine print of this ticket. Look right above the big number 8.  This is a Senior Ticket!

It pays to look older than you are. They stopped carding me shortly after I got my first driver’s license, which was most convenient. Now I’m getting the Senior Discount the the movies without even asking for it. Who says people don’t respect their elders?

1971 Hornet Sportabout

'71 Hornet in September '72

Not many people remember American Motors, (AMC). This is a car company that went broke and died out years before it became fashionable.  Behold a not-in-showroom-condition ’71 Hornet Sportabout.

My friends and I used to refer to this car as the “Silver Rolls”. What this car lacked in looks it made up for by being distinctly uncomfortable. Seeing this car makes me smile – for all its shortcomings, it still brings back memories of adolescent freedom. Yes, I remember back in June of 1977, driving north on Cahuenga towards Franklin, listening to the Young Marquis and Stanley on KROQ AM play “Back in the Saddle” by Aerosmith, along with Sparks and the Ramones. There was one speaker set into the middle of the top of the dashboard.

My dad crash tested this car in September of 1972.  My mom and I were in the car with him; it was a typical family affair. We were going up the narrow and twisty Hollyridge Drive in the Hollywood Hills at dusk. As my dad drove around a blind curve, a teenager in a stolen Cadillac hit the front corner on the driver’s side. It turned out that the Hornet could take a punch.

This car lived a surprisingly long and expensive life. After that, my parents drove Hondas.

Vote McGovern 1972

1972 McGovern Campaign Poster

We begin 2009 with a Presidential innaguration coming up and hundreds of millions of people all around the world yearning for peace.

Here’s a campaign poster that has been on the wall since I was 13 years old. See the big burning pile of American wealth behind Mr. Nixon? We’ve been stoking that fire ever since, sadly.

Mr. Obama has promised to spend more, not less, on war. What a tragic waste.

Venerable Coffee Mug

Coffee Mug with Cats

Coffee mugs are some of the most common drug paraphernalia around. Here we have a friendly, feline-oriented mug that dates from 1980. Today, 28 years later, you can see that the mug is doing its usual splendid job: exploiting the forces of gravity to keep hot coffee contained within its walls. You can also see that the mug is sitting on a granite counter tonight. This mug spent many years on more humble surfaces.

Grundig Mini World 100 PE

This is the finest pocket radio ever made.

It is the Grundig 100 PE. It gets AM, FM stereo, and six shortwave bands. Here is a little gadget that achieves fantastic performance within a small package powered by two rechargeable AA batteries. Sure, it could use a fine-tuning control, but for what it is this radio is just about all you could hope for.

The fidelity on all bands is good, and with headphones it rivals far more expensive competitors. This radio has been on some long trips with me over the years.

Today I’m using it to follow the fires that are consuming thousands of acres throughout southern California. Right now it is tuned to KNX 1070, Los Angeles.

Half The Pressure Twice The Speed

This is my pencil. It is the legendary Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602. All discriminating writers recognize that this is the finest pencil ever produced. It is the Stradivarius of pencils. One of the reasons my ideas are so clever is that I’m using a better writing implement than most people.

Of course, not one of the thousands of words I’ve written on-line has been written with this pencil, or any other analog word-inscriber. Too bad Eberhard Faber never went into the keyboard business.

O.B. Welcomes You To Behave

Ocean Beach Welcomes You To Behave

Ocean Beach is one of the saner places in San Diego County.

You’ll notice that the alcohol ban is a new sticker attached to the sign. That’s because San Diego has prohibited alcohol at the beach. You see, the local cops have a tradition of rioting when too many people gather in one place to have fun.

Because the police can’t control themselves, the local authorities have chosen to control the public instead.

This is one more sign of a society that has lost confidence in itself. Day by day, we become less free and more reliant on silly rules and brute force.

Strike a blow for freedom! Smuggle beer and cigarettes to the beach! Take your dog for a walk after 9:00 in the morning! Don’t be afraid to live a little.

Modern America defines liberty as the freedom to do exactly as we are told. Too bad.

UPDATE: At a recent election, SD voters decided to continue to ban alcohol at the beach. The beach communities voted against extending the ban.