Thursday, October 26, 2006

Voy Viajando

Three days and counting:
10 nights (including el Dia de los Muertos)
in San Miguel de Allende.

Informed Golden State Voter: An Update

OK. I think I'm leaning toward voting for all the bond measures on the California ballot. I know the blogosphere was on edge waiting for this news.

I guess the clincher was seeing how it's projected that with all these new bonds, the state's debt-service ratio ("DSR" for you wannabe economists who enjoy acronyms) will peak at about 6% of state revenues (see handy graph below).

Shit, if my DSR were 6%, I'd spring out of bed dancing every goddamn morning.

Start sellin' da bonds!

As Alan mentioned, aren't these decisions what we elect representatives for? I had to spend a whole HOUR looking at my voter guide last night.

Just don't get me started on the "Sex Offender" and "Abortion Notification" propositions...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Nobody's Business but Los Ucranianos

So, is it chicken Kyiv now?
Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Ukrainian capital of Kiev is now Kyiv, as far as the U.S. government is concerned.

About half of Ukraine’s 47 million people are Russian speakers, and Kiev is the Russian spelling.

The State Department says the spelling change has nothing to do with American hopes of wooing the one-time Soviet republic more into the Western orbit.

Einigkeit, Recht, Freiheit... und wählen

Down. With. Props.

It's my familiar refrain: What the hell is a California voter to do? Why the hell do we have all these Propositii and Measures on the ballots?

How do the masses decide these things? Shit, this pro-proletarian is scared, since NPR recently broadcast some random interviews with residents of Washington D.C. about the population of the USA and people gave answers like "2 million" and "15 million". I hate to sound all uppity and snobbish about this, but how the hell do we expect these same kinds of people to make fiscal and legal decisions? Holy crap.

I mean, look at all this:

  • 1A: Transportation Funding Protection. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.
  • 1B: Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security Bond Act of 2006.
  • 1C: Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act of 2006.
  • 1D: Kindergarten–University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2006.
  • 1E: Disaster Preparedness and Flood Prevention Bond Act of 2006.
  • 83: Sex Offenders. Sexually Violent Predators. Punishment, Residence Restrictions and Monitoring. Initiative Statute.
  • 84: Water Quality, Safety and Supply. Flood Control. Natural Resource Protection. Park Improvements. Bonds. Initiative Statute.
  • 85: Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.
  • 86: Tax on Cigarettes. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
  • 87: Alternative Energy. Research, Production, Incentives. Tax on California Oil Producers. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
  • 88: Education Funding. Real Property Parcel Tax. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
  • 89: Political Campaigns. Public Financing. Corporate Tax Increase. Campaign Contribution and Expenditure Limits. Initiative Statute.
  • 90: Government Acquisition, Regulation of Private Property. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Good thing I don't have cable TV: thus, I can spend my evenings kicked back with a cup of Darjeeling, reading my hefty "Voter Guide" instead of watching Nip/Tuck or Project Runway (damn, is the season over!?).

My biggest dilemmas are the bond acts. Bonds, Bonds, Bonds.

Public Education Facilities? Flood Prevention? Emergency Shelters? Who can vote against those! I guess it just worries me that it seems like interest payments on these bonds will only dig the state into a deeper and deeper budget crisis. How much interest is assessed on almost $40-billion of bonds over thirty years? Do we just assume the state economy will grow at a pace that will more than allow payment of all this interest?

Am I just plain thinking too hard? Will I hold my nose, check all the bond "YES" boxes on my absentee ballot, and let some future wonks worry about the fiscal impact? Probably.

Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times recently wrote a great column describing all the federal income tax sucked out of California, but not returned via federal funding. Apparently, the disparity between our tax contribution and federal funds returned has gotten worse over the last ten years. Obviously, I realize there are reasons why a "rich" state often subsidizes poorer ones (I'm usually all about the wealth redistribution), but Lopez makes some good points about whether California is getting the federal shaft in some ways, especially when we're floating all these bond acts.

In the end, if I vote for all this, I figure it's just someone else's future I'm mortgaging. Fuck the voter guide. Pass the Netflix.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Soujouk, Mouhamara.... and a Cherry

I realized on Friday that there are some things I really love about Los Angeles.

Bob & I had driven down for an evening event, and, after doing some research earlier in the week, I suggested that we have dinner beforehand at Marouch, a Lebanese-Armenian restaurant in "East Hollywood," also known as Little Armenia.

The restaurant was nice enough for a hole in the wall nestled in a strip mall that resembles the one you see above (which is actually across the street), but the food was great. I had been anticipating ordering frogs' legs in garlic and olive oil, since the last (and only) time I had them was over eleven years ago at a Lebanese place in Ghana. However, we settled on "Meza for two," plus an side order of "Mouhamara," which is described as "crushed walnuts mixed with hot red pepper paste and olive oil." One of the highlights of the meza were the Armenian sausages, "soujouk" (or "sugok," as spelled by Marouch), as seen in the example below:

Of course, anyone who knows me knows that I loves me some ethnic cuisine. It helped me realize that I love L.A. for the same reason that I love suburban New Jersey, or the outskirts of San Jose, or certain parts of San Francisco: there's something unaffected about all the ethnic businesses and neighborhoods. I realize they don't exist as urban Disneylands just for gentrified folks to get their glutton on. The "seedier" ethnic neighborhoods are sort of the "anti-Los Angeles." People are really in the business of living and working without a lot of the bullshit pretense that you see on Melrose or Ocean Ave.

And then it was on to (sorta) the bullshit pretense neighborhood: the Ahmanson Theater, to see Doubt with Cherry Jones. We got there early, and it was nice to walk around the theater complex that includes the Mark Taper Forum and the LA Opera. I also got to walk down to Gehry's Disney Concert Hall again, which really is one of the great works of modern architecture. Too bad the same cannot exactly be said for the recent Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels across the way.

I enjoyed Doubt, but somehow not as much as I thought I might. Cherry Jones was fabulous; I'm a fan, having seen her on stage once before, in Imaginary Friends with Swoosie Kurtz, a couple of years ago in New York.

The play also raised some really interesting questions, and everything wasn't tidily summed up in the end (of course, I dislike tidy summaries). However, it also felt like there were false notes in the whole production, such as the scene between Jones's Sister Aloysius and the mother of one of the schoolboys (wonderfully acted by Adriane Lenox). Maybe I need to become more comfortable with the whole "artifice" of dramaturgy; often much action and dialogue in plays seems incredibly contrived and artificial to me. I think I've read accounts of how ironic it is that modern audiences (of which I'm counting myself a member) find more of a crisper sense of "reality" and "authenticity" in film than in stage drama. I need to think more about that.