Saturday, April 16, 2011


I have, until today, hated going downtown. Downtown is hilly. It's urban. It's never temperate. Roads are one way. Transitioning from the 101 to the 10 is a nightmare. Parking is a bitch. Downtown sucks.

I was wrong. Downtown does not suck. Now that I've been a few times, for jury duty and such, I am no longer afraid of downtown. I took the red line (the LA subway!) to Pershing Square, walked up to the Central Library to grab some soundtracks they only had at that branch, then down to Main Street to Nickel Diner for lunch. Nickel Diner is famous for its maple-bacon doughnut. Since bacon is not my thing, I had a burger-meh-and a slice of s'mores cake. 'Cause if this goes by your table, you can't not order it. I justify it because I didn't have any fries.

It was very rich and the graham cracker is kind of tough to eat, so I suggest only getting it if you're quite hungry and have someone to share it with. And have a jackhammer.
Main Street is fantastic. I had time to kill before I had to be at the Downtown Independent, which was showing a film of the National Theatre run of Danny Boyle's Frankenstein. Between Nickel and the Independent there are two independent bookstores, Metropolis Books and the Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, as well as an art supply shop.
The Independent accidentally showed us the first 20 minutes or so of the wrong version of Frankenstein (we had come for Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature and Jonny Lee Miller as Victor Frankenstein, they showed us Cumberbatch as Victor and Miller as the creature--Cumberbatch is a better creature, I think). To apologize for the mishap, they gave us free popcorn and soda, which was great. I will definitely go back to the Independent.

So don't be scared of DTLA. Especially during the day. It may not be Beverly Hills or West Hollywood or even the Valley, but it's pretty damn cool all the same.

Monday, April 11, 2011

not wrong

My Pierley/Redford Dissociative Affect Diagnostic result: "Thoughtful to the extreme, you are often obsessed with perfection and the rules governing your own personal interests. Your world is black and white. You love to work within a logical system, such as language, computer programming, or mathematics. Manipulating a system that can be completely understood is a distinct pleasure to you, because of your confidence in the underlying veracity of your belief system. Because of your appreciation for logic and order, those who speak or think in a sloppy manner are apt to generate more than their share of wrath. Although very amiable, you are not drawn to friendships out of a sense of personal need. You are just as happy by yourself with a good book or puzzle. Because you are so involved with thought, you will on occasion have difficulty dealing with the day-to-day problems of a normal life. Taking out the trash, doing the dishes, these are often left until the last possible moment, if at all."

So, yeah. I wonder if how long it takes you to answer is part of the "diagnosis" -- that would make more sense.

Friday, April 8, 2011

literally versus literally

I've been reading Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists and am very, very into it. It's sort of like those employee bios on a company web site, and it's sort of like a compendium of short stories, and it's sort of like a fictional history of a newspaper, but all of them together but not.
In any event, I have one point of contention. In the book there's an anal editor, as all good editors should be, who includes in his newspaper's Bible an entry condoning any reporters who might use the word "literally" when speaking hyperbolically. Fair enough. In journalism, it's egregious. But I've seen this issue come up in the every day, which is a whole other matter. Indeed, to say "he literally jumped out of his skin" when no such grotesque occurrence happened is definitely technically wrong. And I am nothing if not a technical anal grammar nutcase.
There's a concept in linguistic anthropology in which meaning and usage are not subject to history or a dictionary but to common usage. The meaning of words alters as the culture sees fit. At this juncture, people use the word "literally" most commonly when they are not being literal. I think most people are aware of this and do so because the power of exaggerating and using the word literal in fact amplifies the exaggeration. "He jumped out of his skin" we obviously realize isn't literal, just a metaphor for someone reacting in a frightened manner. But to say "he literally jumped out of his skin" makes it seem like an even stronger reaction, as if the impossible metaphor nearly came into being. Whether this is the intention or not, or if it's just an automatic quirk of language, this is one of those commonalities to which I don't take offense. Dangling prepositions will bug me till the day I die, but I literally could not care less how the masses employ the adverb.
In summing up, I wish I had some kind of affirmative message to leave you with. I don't. Would you take two negative messages?
-- Woody Allen