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    June 10, 2009

    GM is bankrupt but I got a new SUV...

    I'm not talking about a gas-guzzling, eco-doomsday SUV machine...
    I don't think my SUV is anywhere close to winning any kind of popularity contest in LA either.

    I'm talking about a Sustainable Utility Vehicle, as in bicycle baby! In fact, I do commute between home and the vanpool area with my SUV: that's about 10 minutes in the morning and about 15 minutes in the evening. You see, my SUV rides very high, just like those big hummers in music videos. In fact, I ride taller than most cars and medium-size SUVs around me because my SUV is a hybrid -- that's right! It's a full-featured, high-torque cross-over between a mountain bike and a race bike. This means it's got a bit of suspension in the front to smooth out over the potholes in LA's streets -- although the disk on my MacBook Pro laptop has a crash guard feature, I really don't want to take risks with this so the AAA-rating front-end suspension on my SUV is a really nice feature! At the same time, the folks at Helen's in Santa Monica advised me against lugging around the streets a mountain bike unless I really want to shape up to walk the catwalk. So I gave in to the cross-over hype and got myself a fancy Trek 7500 hybrid. With handlebar shifters, this light vehicle just zigs around traffic. With the ocean breeze blowing inland in the evening, I'm driving headwind which gives me an extra dose of much needed stress relief.

    Actually, Gabriel and I have the same bike. I reduced my car insurance to leisure driving: less than 50 miles per week! I can average easily one tank a month even on my car and now, my goal is to average 1 tank for 2 months. This year, we have no pay raises at JPL which effectively means a net salary decrease after inflation. PInching every penny matters and I really don't want to feel like being a sucker for billion-dollar profit oil companies anymore.

    So, what's good for the pocket book and for the heart can also be good for the environment. Now, if only we could increase the density of bicycle drivers in LA just enough for the average driver to take notice in our 5-minute attention span, then we might have a chance that we won't have to worry so much about loaded jerks driving around town with fancy sports cars, talking on their cellphone while at the same time edging us off the road. I mean -- is there any competition between a Porsche and a Trek 7500?

    Well, when I'm really frustrated after a tough day, I can tell you that crossing West-LA traffic to Santa Monica on a zippy hybrid bike can be almost as fast as what a spoiled-rich jerk driving a Porsche can achieve within legal driving conditions. It happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

    I was biking on a 1-lane construction stretch on National Blvd between Sepulveda & Sawtelle, the end of the construction zone where the road widens to 2 lanes again. At cold start from a green light, I can outrun a car ... for just a few seconds. Still, that's something to be proud of, sometimes. This time, it turns out that it must have pissed of some dude driving a high-end Porsche. Pedal to the metal, his car roared through the intersection. Man, these Germans really got motor engineering nailed to the perfection. Less than 2 miles later, I zig-zag through neighborhood side streets where I don't have to inhale so much toxic exhaust from congested boulevards. It just happened that as I passed by one of the side streets, I noticed that the Porsche that roared through National & Sawtelle just pulled into a driveway to excitement of kids waiting for their daddy to come home.

    Home sweet home vs. hybrid sweet humility. Isn't it amazing how many advantages there are to eco-friendly bicycle driving? It's even sweeter than beeping your zipcar with your iPhone.

    - Nicolas.

    April 22, 2008

    Third Rock From The Sun

    Earth Day was created for all of us to feel good about ourselves celebrating our planet, which we screw up over and over on a daily basis. It's like a big Mother's Day.
    Susan, from Got2BeGreen, right here on our blogroll, has a quite exciting post on cars and the Fair in San Diego for Environmentalists. Check her post out.

    Mine is more modest and I'll just post "Third Stone from the Sun, " as played by late Billie Ray Vaughn, tragically killed in a helicopter accident. The song was written by Jimi Hendrix. Enjoy politically correct Google 's YouTube (all decked out) as is the Google page. Neither guitarist needs further intro. And our del.icio.us links only get better each day.

    April 14, 2008

    Temperature Rising...

    We boast so much about SoCal weather one day we'd have to pay the price of the law of return.  Saturday and Sunday were so uncomfortably hot, applicants to U.S.C. may have had second thoughts about applying to go there. Nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit is a bit more than I am willing to take.

    Nothing can go bad that can't go worse. Our central air conditioning was out of order. Why would I have paid for air conditioning if it's not there when I need it? For heaven's sake, it was pure desperation, gnawing of teeth and all else Saint John foresaw in the Book of Revelations.

    Now, did anyone expect Barack Obama to trip like he did while still running in a primary? I truly felt sorry for the guy. I saw a photo of him the other day, the man is greying already; I guess Hillary can wear anyone off.

    Anyway, it's still tough to sit here; my feet are sore and swollen from yesterday. I hope all goes well with you readers, and hope to be back tomorrow. Hasta la vista, folks!

    December 15, 2007

    An Entertaining Production About "Stuff"

    Last I read, and I must confess that was a while ago, the world meting to review standards regarding our environment and climate change arrived at an impasse.

    Maybe the Commander-in-Chief could watch this presentation. It's a tip from the knitting circle, aka SAMOHI-Pals.

    It's a blend of animation and real people. Just click here for the full shebang.

    November 04, 2007

    Bye Bye Brasil - A Tribute to Anisio Medeiros

    Anisio Medeiros was my professor at Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, FAU-UFRJ.  He taught at the Escola de Belas Artes, too. A set designer, costume designer, art director and architect from Piauí, a state ridiculed before Acre took its place as motif of scorn, Anisio was a genius ahead of his time. And because I loved all films in which he worked, and heard viva voce his stories on how the set was designed (or improvised) or how the costumes were created from scratch, I dedicate this gathering of souvenirs to him.
    Bye Bye Brasil has been released here, with subtitles, not bad of a subtitling job, on DVD. Read the NY Times review by Vincent Canby at a click on Bye Bye Brasil above. The film is by Cacá Diegues, who belonged to Cinema Novo and made a cool transition to a Tropicalist æsthetic code in Bye Bye Brasil. Caravana Rolidei is a poor circus on wheels trio, then a quintet. The Rolidei is a phonetic version of Holiday. They seek towns where TV (Globo) hasn't arrived yet, the hypnotic power of a TV set worshiped up in the main square of little towns.

    The æsthetic motif of the costumes is great. A hairdo that twinkles with Xmas lights, the clothes of the poor, of the Native-Brazilians, all of it is political in a subtle way, sending us to the days when the Redeemer(coup d'état 64-85) built pharaonic roads, gold was found in the Amazon, but I am moving to the set design. Oh, well. The choices of places in Brazil is perfect: the riverbank town, the palm trees by the ocean, the burned and had Amazon (in 1980!) and Brasília, the destination of poor migrants straight into favelas.

    I don't want to spoil the film for you. All I want you to know is this is genius if you are interested in Brazil or Brasil.  Cacá Diegues bittersweet good-bye to a Brasil that becomes a Brazil and a Caravana Rolidei that becomes a Caravana Rolidey, with a y, letter inexistent in Portuguese, sum up the Tropicalist message: we devour the foreign products but spit out something different, the message of cultural cannibalism that knows no boundaries. Click here for a great article on this film.

    None of what you see in this film and in so many other ones would have been possible without Anisio Medeiros. I was a poor draftsperson with a pencil. He made me the model for our B&W classes. Scorning the Oiticica which follows anyone in the Oiticica family, he would announce to all,

    "We can't start the class without Tina Harris."

    I remembered him due to my cybertroubles with passwords and nicknames. He would tap the floor with one foot, impatiently, while I finally arrived, late as usual, holding a cigarette, ready for my modeling time. The best souvenirs I have of Anisio Medeiros are of his sharing with us how he designed scenes improvising, as in Macunaíma, where foam was modeled to look like meats in a gigantic black bean casserole. Others are catty gossip which dies with him and us, his fave students. Finally, I did learn a lot of tricks in color techniques, from the precise names of colors to how to obtain them. Watercolor is about transparency, pastels are about several layers over each one of them. It is impossible to replicate our color sessions. I cannot fathom students sitting under a freeway in a dangerous area of downtown in order to capture how luminous a poor area can look. Or on the streets of downtown Rio anywhere nowadays.

    I take my hat off to Anisio Medeiros, thank my schoolmate who refreshed some memories of him this morning and encourage you to watch this and all other films he participated in. A fine art director, genius in improvising, with peculiarities that make him a star in an era of constellation of architects teaching at FAU-UFRJ, Anisio Medeiros, wherever he is, for my friend remembered him today, too, will be tapping his shoe for a long wait, I hope,
    waiting for Tina Harris, some day, some time. Just a taste of Bye Bye Brazil for you.

    November 01, 2007

    Maka Maka, Hillary and Bills

    It's a bummer when lawyers are the only ones reading you. In addition, it's weird I use Firefox and all my readers are comig through Internet Explorer.
    I guess I should surrender and buy a Vista (with no view) or just insist, as my nature tells me to.
    Google lost nothing after losing an infinitesimal share of biz on Facebook, a kewl relationship site to Microsoft. Google just went ahead to announce Maka Maka, which reminds me of Tiki Tiki a drink at Trader Vic's a five star restaurant of the 50s. Really old for our standards here in Los Angeles.
    Maka Maka makes a lot of sense. After all, Macca, the Beatle, is the only in the newspapers, tabloids, cutting deals here and there. Who wants to read about HoneyPuss in long boots Patty Boyd ?  Or Eric Clapton's pathetic confessions of plagiarism?  My source on the latter is B12 Solipsism, beware, spreading confusion on the Net since www 1.0.
    I wish I had been a blogger in the 1990s instead of an educator. Then a blogger instead of a translator.  Here we are.

    Maka Maka is a way of virtual life. It's a sweet surrender to Mountain View.  More than  MySpace, Orkut or FaceBook, more than the Google Bar, Maka Maka will take care of every single aspect of your life.  All we need now is love between Google and Apple.  Every time I read left click I cringe.

    Hillary, my presidential candidate, also cringes at the idea of a left click. Left nada. This time she won't be the mousey brown-haired GOPer who watched Nixon's fall. She won't be the blondie feminist who adamantly declared 'I'm not the stand by your man type' while Mme. HW Bush gave away her favorite cookie recipes.

    Hillary will be tough as nails, setting aside those who are in her way, kinda of like Mountain View will with Maka Maka.  One of Hill's Bills is deeply involved in his former POTUS job, his library.  Another is a bill, immigration, in which she used the best of clintonism's -- It depends on what the definition of if is.  Her bills, money amassed during the campaign, are the target of all candidates, except her key bill.  Bill Aberdeen, the one imposed by the Brits on slave ships is history. If Barack Obama couldn't stand tall against BP why would he now?

    Bill Richardson, ahhh! That's my man. Rotund, Native-American, Spanish fluent, he looks just like me.  A former cabinet member for Bill POTUS, he can add he has experience building our image and is faithful to his political background.

    Like Google, Inc. couldn't care less if it is indeed IE the browser for Google Bar, at 600+ dollares/share one can afford t be less popular among its peers, and Maka Maka is coming. Hillary can laugh at the face of John Edwards, who lost his home state, playing a poor self-made man when in fact a millionaire insurance lawyer. Hillary Clinton is my person today and at the polls, for a better America, centered, supported by all the bills that matter and Bill Richardson, for vice-president, the governor of New Mexico.

    The beauty of it is -- Hillary doesn't really have a home state to lose. Really. Maka Maka for her, too.

    My Mac pleads Help! Tina Oiticica Harris, from center one-click MacBookPro.

    October 27, 2007

    Another Brown Sunset Day in Sunny California

    The verdict is out, loud and clear. We're having foreclosures and will have more, marching their way into the affluent westside.  Source: breakfast reading of the Los Angeles Times. Breakfast: fake bacon, fake egg, grapefruit, tomatoes and butter lettuce.  Some coffee.  I am exhausted. Already. Yesterday was an intensive day; productive yet exhausting.  We met about my mother;  about our son's special ed. needs, a meeting we had awaited to go our way for almost three years. The caveat in this wait is the inability of special ed. to cater to kids whose IQ is very high but are performing below their potential. We did some HW and the meeting went fine, in a mostly amiable ambiance.
    The last meeting was a stop worth stopping for. My gyn knows an endocrinologist whose methods combined to Weight Watchers group talk can reduce my weight, condition new eating habits and educate me towards a new perspective on food. This was a long meeting, filled in the end with a gift package.
    I can feel the pain of displacement here in California, the fires are still a possible threat. Natural disasters elsewhere are worse.  Talking of natural disasters, the talking heads were here, at the edge of the abyss, but prudently didn't step ahead.  A photo of grey noon, when snow-like specs filled the air. Click to enlarge, please.

    Continue reading "Another Brown Sunset Day in Sunny California" »

    October 25, 2007

    What Beautiful Sunset - Crepúsculo de Cubatão

    In the mid-eighties the hippest ever nightclub opened in Rio. Its name was "Crepúsculo de Cubatão," or Cubatão Sunset.  Cubatão, in São Paulo state, held the infamous claim to the Guiness Book of Records as one of the most polluted cities in the world.
    Ah, what sunsets it had -- and Los Angeles did too.

    I thought about "Crepúsculo de Cubatão" last night, as the sun set behind the trees and the sky was tinged reddish, orange, the sun the size of a supersizeme round party platter.  I have some cell. phone pictures to share here.

    The enterpreneur who named the club struck a genius chord. The club was all black, the drinks were kamikazes, really strong ones, the clientele consisted of Anglophones and beautiful Cariocas clad in black with a touch of metal. We called ourselves the "dark" movement or generation. The music was Joy Division, Killing Joke, Billy Idol,The Smiths, U2 and the likes. I guess when the concept reached the USA it was renamed "Goth." Rio most often received the music from the UK before the USA did. Here, when I went to the craziest frat party in my life, on Halloween, at all-male dorm Touton Hall, I was scorned and told they played American only.  That was 1985, the year of misconstrued "Born in the USA."

    Continue reading "What Beautiful Sunset - Crepúsculo de Cubatão" »

    October 24, 2007

    Californians are Unpatriotic -- via CNN's DejàVJay

    Howdy, partner. I'll try not to sound so fer shur Californian.  This was happenstance as I don't open blogs these days, I have been kind of unwell and busy about my private life, I'm sorry about that.
    I had just gone to my Google News page, realized the flares are blazing and our travails are treated as if they were show business.
    Check this old saw in the Daily Kos. I told you I am running behind.
    Unpatriotic Californians.

    As very patriotic Ronald Reagan, you know, the guy who brought down the Berlin Wall, all by himself, and Richard Nixon, whose presidential libraries are in unpatriotic Orange County, I hope this hopeless saw has at least an apology to us Americans in California.  All of us born or not in beautiful America.

    Later. I got to read for a while. On-line with big pictures.

    October 13, 2007

    Irony Lost: I Love L.A.

    I Love L.A. is a song written by the talented Randy Newman, who holds a record also-ran for the Academy Awards till he got an Oscar © for "Monsters,Inc."  One of his uncles, Alfred Newman, the composing music streak is with the Newmans, wrote "Conquest" -- one of the two well-known University of Southern California marching band staples, also a song of film soundtrack. Given USC's latest tournaments we should call Conquest how The West  Was Lost.  That quarterback from U of T was unforgettably hungry for the title; two years or three ago was it?

    The irony lost is read between the lines of the mordacity of Randy Newman's lyrics, in which he is criticizing our plethora of villages, Greater Los Angeles. Wikipedia says he feels ambivalent about Los Angeles. I guess we all love the sunny days when we can cruise by to the sound of the Beach Boys.  We cultivate our bermudas and slightly pampered manners, uncouth ignorant wannabes nouveau riche Los Angelinos that we are. Or plain obese immigrants ignorant of each other.

    Nic and I have been on a project of identification of the revitalization of downtown and south central.  Our first  homes were on and off USC campus, an area quite similar to the ghetto shown in "White Men Can't Jump."  The 1992 Rodney King riots created empty lots on Vermont past USC. Ours are long boulevards and avenues.  During the latest riots the media announced repeatedly there were no police on the street.  There was a party for Chief Gates.  Rodney King -- Can't we get along? -- lent his name to the riots of spring 1992.

    Continue reading "Irony Lost: I Love L.A." »