Archive for December, 2013

December 31, 2013

#69) Top 14 of ’14! (A goal and prediction)

What’s wrong with this picture?  Why am I writing about my Top 14 hikes of 2014 on New Years’ Eve 2013 – and on this blog, not Nobody Hikes in L.A. where such a list would belong?

It’s a prediction, readers.  I am attempting to manifest my destiny for 2014 by writing about what I hope will be my top 14 hikes of next year.  Will they happen?  Maybe, maybe not; maybe I’ll discover some better ones; who knows.  I thought it would be an interesting exercise, sort of like a time capsule.  And heck, it might give you, the readers–at least those of you interested in exploring Southern California’s natural landscape–some ideas.  The links are to existing reports about the hikes; the commentary is my own fudging.  Enjoy, and see you in 2014!

#14) South Mt. Hawkins Loop.  Great hike from Crystal Lake with excellent views of the San Gabriel high country and the L.A. Basin.

#13) Dripping Springs Trail.  Long hike in southwestern Riverside County and northern San Diego County, climbing the slope of Agua Tibia Mountain.

#12) Santa Cruz Island – El Montanon and High Point.  Challenging 8-mile loop to one of Santa Cruz Island’s highest points.  (I already have two hikes on Santa Cruz Island on NHLA, but this one would cover some new ground.)

#11) Combs Peak.  Remote desert summit in the northwestern corner of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

#10) South Fork Trail.  This trail climbs over 2,000 feet through a steep-walled gorge, as the scenery dramatically changes from high desert to forest.

#9) Santa Rosa Island – Black Mountain. Strenuous eight mile hike to the highest point on Santa Rosa Island.

#8) Alta Seca Bench. This hike explores the remote high country of the Santa Rosa Mountains, providing excellent views of the desert below.

#7) Santa Barbara Island.  Like San Miguel, this is one of the more remote islands in the Channel Islands National Park, known for its wide ocean views in all directions and springtime wildflowers.

#6 ) Nordhoff Peak.  Challenging summit in Ojai with excellent views of Ventura County.

#5) High Point/Palomar Mountain.  One of San Diego’s tallest and most scenic summits.  The hike takes you from the edges of the high desert to a thick pine forest.

#4) Pine Mountain.  After Baldy, this is one of the tallest summits in the Angeles National Forest, with excellent views of the high desert, the Cajon Pass and…oh yeah, Mt. Baldy.

#3) San Miguel Island.  The most remote island in the Channel Islands National Park, San Miguel sits on the edge of the open sea, at the mercy of the elements in a way that few other places are.  Highlights include the Caliche Forest and the Cabrillo memorial.

#2) San Bernardino Peak.  Excellent, challenging hike with phenomenal views all around.

#1) San Gorgonio Mountain.  Putting So Cal’s tallest mountain at #1 is about as hard a decision to make as placing Sandy Koufax on the pitcher’s mound of an all-Jewish all star baseball team.

Well, there are my hiking goals for 2014.  Happy new year everyone and best wishes for success, prosperity and peace.

December 30, 2013

#68) 14 Expressions I’d like to see retired for ’14

Three years ago, Lake Superior State University added “viral” and “epic” to their list of banished words.  At the risk of sounding like Lynne (“Eats, Shoots & Leaves”) Truss, I’ll put out my own list for 2014.  I’ll admit that this is a first world problem (a phrase which  might, along with FOMO, go on my 2015 list if I make one but doesn’t bug me enough to make this year’s cut) but I simply find these idioms, well, for lack of a better term, annoying.  Some of them don’t actually refer to the written or spoken word but to memes (see #13).  Without further ado:

#1) “….Said no one ever.”  This will still seem fresh and hip in 2014, said no one ever.

#2) “….Wait for it….” The problem is that most of the time “it” isn’t worth the wait.

#3) Putting. A. Period. After. Every. Word.

#4) “Wait, what?” I’ll admit that most people probably don’t find this expression nearly as annoying as I do.  In further disclosure I should probably say that the root of my annoyance with this phrase probably lies in having had it used on me by someone who’s checked out of one of my rants and is trying to find their way back in out of politeness.

#5) “Who knew?” This is another whose annoyance factor is somewhat hard to explain, so I’ll just leave it at this: my blog, my rules.

#6) “…Not so much.”  Only Borat is allowed to say this, just like he’s the only one who’s still allowed to still tell “NOT!” jokes.

#7) The word “Classy” has two, and only two, syllables.

#8) “(Bygone year) called; it wants its ____ back.”  I thought this one was already laid to rest until I saw it on a billboard.  I forget what product the advertisement was for and was thinking about trying to look it up but I don’t want to give them the free press.

#9) “I know, right?”  In my defense, I’m not the only blogger who has placed this on a list of expressions that should be laid to rest.  (See #2 on this list.)

#10) Any graphic using a witty comment and Gene Wilder.

#11) Any cartoon showing Batman bitch-slapping someone.

#12) I wish people used more hashtags on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. #saidnooneever

#13) Meme.

#14) Comparisons of anyone (even Hitler) to Rosa Parks.

In case you were wondering, which I realize you weren’t, I decided to leave “YOLO” off the list because  this shorthand expression for “You Only Live Once” is so ridiculous it’s actually pretty funny.  Furthermore, people often say “YOLO” right before doing something incredibly stupid which may well remove them from the gene pool; thus the phrase may actually make the world a better place.

So there you have it: my pet peeves.  Some people wish for world peace; some for the end of famine.  I wish for this.  If I’ve left out your favorite worn-out expression, let me know.

December 21, 2013

#67) Rosa Parks is the new Hitler

It’s official: Rosa Parks is the new Hitler.

By that, I don’t mean that she’s responsible for the slaughter of 11 million people or that she has a recognizable mustache.  What I mean is, like that of Hitler, Rosa Parks’s name has become a last resort for anyone about to lose a political argument.

It’s generally agreed that during a debate or discussion, if one side has to use Hitler to make their point, by proxy, they’ve admitted defeat.  There’s even a name for the act of bringing Hitler into an argument: Godwin’s Law.  Just as people seem to have no trouble comparing their enemies to Hitler, there’s an emerging trend to conveniently align oneself, or one’s allies, with the civil rights pioneer.  Early adopters were doing it at least as far back as 2001.  After Sandy Hook I had to “unfriend” someone for sharing a photo comparing Parks’s right to sit at the front of the bus with the right to own an AR-15The latest example of playing the “Parks card” comes from congressional candidate Ian Bayne (R-IL).  He compared the plight of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson–recently suspended by A&E, the channel that broadcasts the show, for making anti-gay remarks–to that of Parks: “In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians.”

On behalf of my fellow political independents who on any given issue usually take the side of whoever sounds the least crazy and desperate, I implore Bayne and his like-minded colleagues to lay low on this one.  Don’t make yourselves look nutty.  Last year the GOP lost what should have been an easy-win presidential election on social issues alone.   Insanity is, as the old saying goes, doing the same thing and expecting different results.

I happen to disagree with A&E’s decision to suspend Robertson, not because I sympathize with his sentiments–I don’t–but because he’s DOING WHAT HE’S SUPPOSED TO BE DOING.  If A&E is trying to earn points by showing Robertson and his family at the dinner table, heads bowed in prayer, they also need to accept the less attractive side of his Christianity.  Punishing  him for expressing homophobic views is akin to Indiana University’s firing of Bob Knight for having too many temper tantrums.  But comparing him to Rosa Parks comes off as a little bit self-important.  The very conservatives such as Bayne who embrace capitalism and preach personal responsibility should see Robertson’s suspension as a market response, not censorship.

Nancy Pelosi recently encouraged her colleagues to “embrace the suck.”  Let’s all make that a goal for 2014.  There are certain issues on which not everyone will see eye to eye; that’s a given.  But we have to start somewhere, and we can begin with making our discourse more civilized and literate.  Whatever the debate may be, let’s just agree to leave Hitler and Rosa Parks out of it.

December 13, 2013

#66) Embracing the Suck

Nancy Pelosi may be smarter than she looks.  In response to the latest federal government budget deal, the House Minority Leader encouraged her Democratic colleagues to “embrace the suck.”

What exactly does it mean to “embrace the suck?”  In this context, it’s about accepting circumstances and moving forward, acknowledging that things won’t always work out as you want.  In the political world, it could be interpreted as recognizing that while there will always be partisan bickering (and intra-partisan bickering), the job of all elected officials is to make America better. It can also refer to non-politicians who don’t see eye to eye but must work together: corporations; sports teams; musical groups; even friendships and marriages.

The use of “suck” as a noun may have its origins in the Marines; the phrase “welcome to the suck” was used frequently in the film “Jarhead.”  The suck is a situation that, well, sucks, but can also bring people together, as in the Marines.  While the suck might not be enjoyable while it’s going on, surviving it creates a bond among those who have experienced it.

The suck can definitely create positive results.  The tensions between John Lennon and Paul McCartney produced some of the Beatles’ best music.    Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant may hate each other, but they each won more rings together than separately.  The suck can also create personal growth and often those who overcome it can inspire others with their story.  If there was no suck, we wouldn’t enjoy the great moments of our lives.

Will Pelosi and her colleagues on both sides of the aisle embrace the suck?  Will the two parties start working together more efficiently and amicably in 2014?  There’s no way to know for sure, but in its own way, Pelosi’s phrase is a small step in the right direction.   Hopefully the suck will become an obstacle which both parties will work together to vanquish and not remain a response to a less than perfect situation.  All of us have to deal with the suck, regardless of our background.  Help in handling the suck can sometimes come from unlikely places.

December 8, 2013

#65) Lorde Have Mercy: Tackling another one of my New Years’ Resolutions

I only have three weeks to finish my New Years’ Resolutions project and one of the items was to “Read at least one article/blog post/etc. that contradicts [my] beliefs.”  I found one putting for the idea that Lorde, a teenager from New Zealand whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor and who has burned up the airwaves with her song “Royals” is the heir apparent to Nirvana.  The article can be found here.

I will concede the following: “Royals” is one of the few new songs I’ve heard recently that sounds different from everything else  and that if I had a teenage daughter I’d sure as hell rather have her see Lorde as a role model than say, Snooki.  However, the comparison between her and Nirvana is, to me, somewhat of a stretch and judging by some of the comments on the article, I’m not the only one.  In truth I’m not a huge Nirvana fan, probably due to timing in that they broke once I had irrevocably entered my jazz snob stage.  When my roommate told me that Cobain killed himself I said, “Who’s Kurt Cobain?”

But I digress.

Before reading the article, the main point on which I disagreed with Powers is: can anybody really be declared the next anyone else on the strength of one song?

Author Ann Powers argues her point vigorously.  She compares Cobain to a Molotov cocktail; Lorde to a virus, alluding to the fact that the former was explosive and the latter is stealthy; also perhaps referencing the modern connotation of the word “viral.”  Powers points out that just as Nirvana and the grunge movement was the antidote to bloated ’80s rock, Lorde is becoming at least to some the answer to “MileyMania.” Powers doesn’t go so far as to predict that Lorde will put New Zealand on the musical map the way Cobain et al did for Seattle, but she does point out that both Cobain and Lorde hail from places outside pop music’s “centers of power.”

Yet, despite her well thought-out case, I must simply agree to disagree with Powers.  At this point we just can’t tell if Lorde will become a leading voice of her generation or a one-hit-wonder.  I also can’t help but feel as if Powers is over thinking the room: at times she seems to want to use Lorde as a prism with which to view the world of 2013, dropping references to “The Hunger Games” and Trayvon Martin, discussing class warfare and other weighty topics.  She almost seems to write too well for her own good.

That said, the article fit my project guidelines nicely.  The best way to understand your own arguments is to learn those of the opposing side and as a purveyor of internet content (who’s overthinking the room now, D-Lock?) I am on the same team as others who do the same, even if our view points differ.  While I still don’t agree with Powers, I defend to the death her right to say that Lorde is the Nirvana of our times.

December 4, 2013

#64) The real reason Red Sox fans are upset about Jacoby Ellsbury

Red Sox fans aren’t upset about Jacoby Ellsbury signing with the Yankees; they just think they are.

Oh, they’re pissed, no doubt; at least if tweeting death wishes can be seen as a sign of being pissed.   But let’s take a step back here.  The Red Sox are the defending World Champions and have won more titles in the last decade than any other MLB team.  Many baseball pundits believe that Ellsbury isn’t worth what he wanted to be paid by the Red Sox and that the Yankees are overpaying him.  As Yogi Berra once said, in baseball, you don’t know nothin’, but it’s certainly plausible that the deal will have more of a net benefit for the Red Sox than the Yankees.

Granted, the fan who expressed hope that Ellsbury “get[s] herpes from Jeter and die[s]” might not represent the overall mentality of Red Sox Nation, but let’s face it, New Englanders can hold a grudge like nobody else (present company included).  But while the sense of outrage at having lost yet another player to the Yankees might have been justified ten years ago, before the Sox broke the “Curse of the Bambino”, it now comes off as a little bit petty.  From 1987 to 2001, no Boston/New England sports team won a championship, but since the Patriots’ victory in Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, the market has claimed more titles–8–than any other: three each for the Pats and Sox; one for the Celtics and one for the Bruins.  In the same time period L.A. has six (including the Anaheim teams) and New York has four (including the New Jersey Devils).  Boston fans have the look of the successful businessman who still resents the high school girlfriend who dumped him.

Be all that as it may, perhaps there’s a deeper explanation for why Sox fans are so outraged.  It could be that the recent wealth of Boston championships is actually the cause of the Nation’s animosity.  Before 2004, the line was always, “What are we going to do when the Sox actually win the World Series?”  It’s like prisoners who anticipate their release but once they’re actually on the outside, don’t know how to function.

My guess is that before long Sox fans will have forgotten about Ellsbury.  Sure, he’ll get some half-hearted boos when he comes to Fenway wearing pinstripes, but maybe he’s not the real problem.  Maybe Red Sox Nation misses the good old days.  Maybe they need Bucky Dent to hit the pop-fly home run.  Maybe they need Aaron Boone to hit the home run off Tim Wakefield.  And maybe, just maybe, they need the ball to go through Buckner’s legs.

December 3, 2013

#63) Apps I’ve paid for #2: Modern Hiker

Continuing the series of posts about applications I’ve purchased, I present the Modern Hiker smartphone app.  I bought this one both as a consumer and as a competitor; it’s been often suggested to me to look into creating an application for www.nobodyhikesinla.com.  I hoped that in addition to helping me more easily access the hikes displayed on the website, it would give me ideas for a possible NHLA mobile app.

Given that the app costs only $2, it would be hard to say that I didn’t get my money’s worth, but I would have liked to have seen more hikes listed on the app.  Modern Hiker has hundreds of hikes listed, but only the most popular are shown on the app – Solstice Canyon, Sturtevant Falls, Echo Mountain, the Bridge to Nowhere and Mt. Baldy to name a few.  There’s already so much information available about these hikes that the consumer would do just as well to look it up on a smartphone or print it out beforehand than to use the Modern Hiker app.  That said, I could see how the app would be useful to a novice hiker who isn’t familiar with Topanga State Park, the San Gabriel Mountains and the rest of L.A.’s outdoor areas.  It provides hike summaries, statistics and photos in a neat, fairly user-friendly package.

So far, the two apps I’ve paid for and then reviewed (this one and the Prince of Persia game, which I have still not won) have in common that no free counterpart exists.  Two dollars may be a lot for something that can just as easily be acquired for free, but when it’s the only choice, it doesn’t exactly break the bank.

December 2, 2013

#62) Testing the Test of Time: The Survival Instinct

Time is one of the hardest–and most widely respected–tests of the quality and validity of all things.  At some point, we’ve all said or heard someone say, “____ (did/didn’t) stand the test of time.”  Lately, however, I’ve been considering a puzzle: there are certain things that have survived time, yet are generally not considered to be of high quality.  High quality is a matter of opinion, of course, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume that most people don’t consider McDonald’s, Jerry Springer and Britney Spears to represent respectively the pinnacles of excellence in cuisine, television and music.  Yet all of the above have been household names for quite some time: more than half a century (McDonald’s) a near quarter century (Springer) and a solid decade and a half (Spears).  If these are not quality products, how have they been able to stand the test of time?  Two words: survival instinct.

Let’s start with Mickey Dee’s.  The Golden Arches appeal to our survival instinct on multiple levels.  First of all, as human beings, we are wired to crave high calorie foods: it goes back to our cave man ancestors, who didn’t know where or when they would find their next meal, so stocking up on calories was a matter of survival.  Being able to get food quickly is also important to the survival instinct, as does being able to stretch one’s dollar farther.

What of the masses that chant “Je-REE!  Je-REE!”?  More than one pundit has opined that reality TV’s appeal lies in its ability to let the viewer feel superior to the characters.  Nowhere is this more clear than in the Jerry Springer show.  One could make the leap that the need for humans to feel superior is an extension of the behavior of animals–rams, gorillas, roosters–whose survival and social standing depends on their ability to dominate.

One could argue that as of this writing, the appeal of Britney Spears is more than just that of a human trainwreck; that’s Miley Cyrus’s job.  Sure, she had her embarrassing tabloid moments, but unlike, say, Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan, Spears has proven that she doesn’t have to disappear to avoid disaster.  Thus she appeals to another facet of the human survival instinct: the identification with the underdog.  We still love Britney not because she entertains us with her drama, but because she’s survived it.  We all want to know that making mistakes is OK; that if we get back in the ring for another round, things will work out no matter how long the odds may seem.

So what do we do with all this?  How does any of this effect the life of you, the reader?  It probably doesn’t, in all fairness; it’s just interesting to consider that things that seem unappealing on the surface may have more of an impact on us than we realize.  I’m not saying that you need to watch Season 6 of “Springer” on Netflix, purchase front-row tickets to Britney Spears’ new show in Vegas or retrace Morgan “Super Size Me” Spurlock’s ill-fated McDonalds voyage.  Perhaps there are other ways to respond to our survival instinct.   But be that as it may, McDonald’s, Jerry Springer and Britney Spears have managed to become part of our culture, for better or worse.  Form follows function and while appealing to base instincts might not be the most elegant way to pass the test of time, it just might be the most reliable.