December 1, 2016

Sunset Strip

viper room

The Sunset Strip is the name given to the mile-and-a-half stretch of Sunset Boulevard that passes through West Hollywood, California. It extends from West Hollywood’s eastern border with Hollywood at Havenhurst Drive, to its western border with Beverly Hills at Sierra Drive. The Strip is probably the best-known portion of Sunset, embracing boutiques, restaurants, rock clubs, and nightclubs that are on the cutting edge of the entertainment industry. It is also known for its trademark array of huge, colorful billboards.

As the Strip lies outside of the Los Angeles city limits and was an unincorporated area under the jurisdiction of the County of Los Angeles, the area fell under the less-vigilant jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Department rather than the LAPD. It was illegal to gamble in the city, but legal in the county. This fostered the building of a rather wilder concentration of nightlife than Los Angeles would tolerate. Continue reading

November 29, 2016

Rolling Coal

kiss my gas

Rolling coal is the practice of modifying a diesel engine to increase the amount of fuel entering the engine in order to emit an under-aspirated sooty exhaust that visibly pollutes the air. It also may include the intentional removal of the particulate filter. Practitioners often additionally modify their vehicles by installing smoke switches and smoke stacks.

Rolling coal is a form of conspicuous air pollution, for entertainment or for protest. Some drivers intentionally trigger coal rolling in the presence of hybrid vehicles (a practice called ‘Prius repellent’) to taunt their drivers, who are perceived as being environmentally motivated in their vehicle choice. Coal rolling may also be triggered at foreign cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Users cite ‘American freedom’ and ‘a stand against rampant environmentalism’ as reasons for coal rolling. Continue reading

November 22, 2016

Naïve Realism

lee ross

bias blind spot

In social psychology, naïve realism is the human tendency to believe that we see the world around us objectively, and that people who disagree with us must be uninformed, irrational, or biased. It provides a theoretical basis for several other cognitive biases, which are systematic errors in thinking and decision-making.

Naïve realism causes people to exaggerate differences between themselves and others. Psychologists believe that it can spark and exacerbate conflict, as well as create barriers to negotiation through several different mechanisms.  Continue reading

November 20, 2016

Sanctuary City

sanctuary city by Mikey Burton

Sanctuary city‘ is an unofficial and sometimes pejorative term for a city that has deprioritized the enforcement of national immigration laws. Some so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ have adopted regulations prohibiting police or municipal employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status. Others decline to prosecute immigrants if they have committed no crime other than entering illegally. The designation has no precise legal meaning and is viewed negatively by some and positively by others. Toronto has been a declared sanctuary city since 2014. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to cut all federal funding for sanctuary cities on his first day in office.

Local governments in a few cities in the US began designating themselves as sanctuary cities during the 1980s. However, the term is often used incorrectly to describe trust acts or community policing policies that limit entanglement between local police and federal immigration authorities. The policy was first initiated in 1979 in Los Angeles, to prevent police from inquiring about the immigration status of arrestees. The internal policy, ‘Special Order 40,’ states: ‘Officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person. Officers shall not arrest nor book persons for violation of title 8, section 1325 of the United States Immigration code (Illegal Entry).’ Continue reading

November 16, 2016

May You Live In Interesting Times

interesting times

crisis

‘May you live in interesting times’ is an English expression purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. While seemingly a blessing, the expression is always used ironically, with the clear implication that ‘uninteresting times,’ of peace and tranquillity, are more life-enhancing than interesting ones, which from historical perspective usually include disorder and conflict.

Despite being so common in English as to be known as ‘the Chinese curse,’ the saying is apocryphal, and no actual Chinese source has ever been produced. The nearest related Chinese expression is usually translated as ‘Better to be a dog in a peaceful time, than to be a human in a chaotic (warring) period.’ The expression originates from a 1627 short story collection, ‘Stories to Awaken the World.’

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November 15, 2016

Steve Ditko

spiderman

steve ditko

Steve Ditko (b. 1927) is an American comic book artist and writer best known as the artist and co-creator, with Stan Lee, of ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Doctor Strange.’ As of mid-2012, Ditko continues to work at a studio in Manhattan’s Midtown West neighborhood. He has refused to give interviews or make public appearances since the 1960s, explaining in 1969 that, ‘When I do a job, it’s not my personality that I’m offering the readers but my artwork. It’s not what I’m like that counts; it’s what I did and how well it was done…. I produce a product, a comic art story. Steve Ditko is the brand name.’ He has, however, contributed numerous essays to Robin Snyder’s fanzine ‘The Comics.’

Ditko studied under ‘Batman’ artist Jerry Robinson in Manhattan at the Cartoonist and Illustrators School (later the School of Visual Arts). He began his professional career in 1953, working in the studio of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, beginning as an inker and coming under the influence of artist Mort Meskin. During this time, he then began his long association with Charlton Comics, where he did work in the genres of science fiction, horror, and mystery. He also co-created the superhero ‘Captain Atom’ in 1960. Continue reading

November 14, 2016

Snob

Duke of Bedford's Book of Snobs by Nicolas Bentley

A snob is a pejorative term for a person who believes there is a correlation between social status and human worth. The term also refers to a person who judges, stigmatizes others and believes that some people are inherently inferior to others result from the perception of beliefs, values, intellect, creativity, talent, wealth, occupation, education, ancestry, ethnicity, relationship, power, religion, physical strength, class, taste, prestige, beauty, nationality, and fame. The word ‘snobbery’ came into use the first time in England during the 1820s.

English social commentator William Hazlitt observed, in a culture where deference to class was accepted as a positive and unifying principle, ‘Fashion is gentility running away from vulgarity, and afraid of being overtaken by it,’ adding subversively, ‘It is a sign the two things are not very far apart.’ The English novelist Bulwer-Lytton remarked in passing, ‘Ideas travel upwards, manners downwards.’ It was not the deeply ingrained and fundamentally accepted idea of ‘one’s betters’ that has marked snobbery in traditional European and American culture, but ‘aping one’s betters.’ Continue reading

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November 12, 2016

Populism

trump sanders by Tom Bachtell

Populism is a political ideology that holds that virtuous citizens are mistreated by a small circle of elites, who can be overthrown if the people recognize the danger and work together. Populism depicts elites as trampling on the rights, values, and voice of the legitimate people.

Populist movements are found in many democratic nations. According to Cas Mudde, a Dutch political scientist who focuses on political extremism and populism in Europe: ‘Many observers have noted that populism is inherent to representative democracy; after all, do populists not juxtapose ‘the pure people’ against ‘the corrupt elite?” Continue reading

November 11, 2016

Don’t Mourn, Organize!

joe hill

Don’t mourn, organize!‘ is an expression often incorrectly supposed to be the last words spoken by labor activist and songwriter Joe Hill, who was charged with murder and executed in Utah in 1915. In truth, the expression is part of a telegram sent to Bill Haywood, the founding member and leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), in which Joe wrote, ‘Goodbye, Bill, I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!’ It wasn’t Joe’s last telegram; he sent another in which he implored Haywood, ‘Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.’

Since the death of Hill, the phrase has been used in association with other labor leaders’ deaths. The phrase has also been used in conjunction with a severe defeat and not the death of an individual.

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October 31, 2016

Tootsie Pop

shooting star indian

wise-owl

Tootsie Pops are hard candy lollipops filled with chocolate-flavored chewy Tootsie Rolls (a taffy-like candy that has been manufactured in the U.S. since 1907). They were invented in 1931 by Lukas R. ‘Luke’ Weisgram, an employee of The Sweets Company of America. The company changed its name to Tootsie Roll Industries in 1969.

Tootsie Pops are known for the catch phrase ‘How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?’ The phrase was first introduced in 1969 an animated commercial. In the original television ad, a questioning boy poses the question to a cow, a fox, a turtle and an owl. Each one of the first three animals tells the boy to ask someone else, explaining that they’d bite a Tootsie Pop every time they lick one. Eventually, he asks the owl, who starts licking it, but bites into the lollipop after only three licks, much to the chagrin of the boy, who gets the empty stick back. The commercial ends the same way, with various flavored Tootsie Pops unwrapped and being ‘licked away’ until being crunched in the center. Continue reading

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October 30, 2016

Staunton Chess Set

howard-staunton

The Staunton chess set is the style of chess pieces approved for competitions. Nathaniel Cook patented the design in the U.K. in 1849, and they are named after English chess master Howard Staunton. The first 500 sets were hand signed and numbered by Staunton. The pieces were first made available by games and sporting goods retailer Jaques of London and quickly became a standard. They have been used around the world since.

The increased interest in the game of chess, particularly in international play during the late 18th century and early 19th century, brought about a renewed demand for a more universal model for chess pieces. The variety and styles of the conventional form, begun in the 15th century, had expanded tremendously by the beginning of the nineteenth century. Conventional types popular during the period included the English ‘Barleycorn’ set, the French ‘Regence’ chess set, and the central ‘European.’ Most pieces were tall, easily tipped and cumbersome during play, but their major disadvantage was the similarity of the pieces within a set. A player’s unfamiliarity with an opponent’s set could alter the outcome of a game. Continue reading

October 26, 2016

Birdwell Beach Britches

birdwell

Birdwell, makers of Birdwell Beach Britches, is an American surf clothing company headquartered in Santa Ana, California. Founded by Carrie Birdwell Mann in 1961, the company manufactures and sells customized heavy-duty swimsuits, which are sold internationally. With four basic models, various fabrics, including Surfnyl, Tectyl, heavy nylon, sailcloth, and canvas, more than 40 colors, and various other options, the combinations that can be created are nearly endless. The company’s motto is ‘We don’t build 1000 things. We build one thing 1000 ways.’

The swimsuits themselves, which resemble board shorts, are paneled swimsuits, with waistbands resembling those of boxing trunks, always double-stitched, always with two layers of fabric. These shorts are known and favored among surfers, lifeguards, and paddleboarders, because of their quick-drying design and extreme durability; with an estimated 10 years for average use, and two to five years for more strenuous use. On all of the trunks there is a 2 square inch logo, of a stylized anthropomorphic surfboard, wearing, of course, Birdwell Beach Britches, nicknamed ‘Birdie.’