Thursday, October 29, 2009

My 2nd favorite story from The Oregonian (so far this week)

photo-montage ©Barry Shapiro 2009

I liked the original headline for this article much better, but in our world of the 24 hour news cycle nothing stays the same as it was. I can't even find a link to the original article/headline. I think the new (for now) headline is much weaker.

Oh, and my top favorite story from the Oregonian so far this week? The paper has announced their new publisher will be Christian Anderson III, formerly publisher and CEO of the Orange County Register. Can you say fair and balanced? NOT!

Hit-and-run driver claimed he didn't see 6-foot-tall orange rabbit on the pedicab
By Aimee Green, The Oregonian
October 28, 2009, 8:58PM

Pedicab driver Kate Altermatt still can't believe the driver of a Mercedes didn't see her pedaling down Northwest Fourth Avenue last Easter. Altermatt, who is 6 feet tall, was wearing a bright orange bunny suit, and the Cascadia Pedicab was lit up with reflectors and a blinking red light.

"I was very visible," she said.

The crash sent her flying and totaled the pedicab. She lay stunned on the pavement for a minute, then walked over to the driver's side window. She said she smelled alcohol on his breath.

"He was like '$100! $100 and I leave,'" Altermatt recalled. "And I was like, no. I started screaming. I said 'You're drunk! You're going to go to jail! I don't want your money!'"

Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Altermatt finally got to confront the driver, who testified that he didn't see the pedicab because he was fumbling for a dropped cell phone.

After a daylong trial, Judge Karin Immergut found Edward Cespedes-Rodriguez guilty of hit-and-run driving for leaving the scene of the crash.

But Immergut cleared the 34-year-old Southwest Portland man of recklessly endangering another person. That disappointed Altermatt, who testified that Cespedes-Rodriguez looked her in the eye and intentionally hit her a second time as he sped away sometime after 2 a.m. April 12.

Altermatt said a second pedicab operator tried to get Cespedes-Rodriguez to step out of his car. Instead, Altermatt said, the driver jerked the car into reverse and backed half a block onto Davis Street. She said she and the other pedicab driver, Damon Kelly, managed to step in front of the car, and that's when Cespedes-Rodriguez stepped on the gas.

Altermatt testified that she rolled over the hood of the car, later suffering soreness to her head, shoulder and thigh and a jammed finger. She also said that Kelly, who didn't appear in court to testify, rolled over the hood, too. In the process, he must have cracked the windshield with the brass knuckles he was carrying for protection.

Defense attorney David Lesh tried to discredit Altermatt's testimony by questioning why Kelly didn't appear in court to testify. Portland police Officer Susan Abrahamson said she wrote in her report that Kelly told her he wasn't struck by the car, but that he hit the car as it was leaving the scene.

Lesh accused Kelly of bashing Cespedes-Rodriguez's car, causing $5,000 worth of damage. Lesh argued that his client had to choose between two evils -- sticking around to exchange information or fleeing for his own safety.

In the end, the judge agreed, saying the dents and cracked windshield must have been caused by someone purposely striking the car.

But the judge said Cespedes-Rodriguez could still have stopped his car at a safe distance and notified the police. He faces a penalty ranging from probation to up to one year in jail when sentenced next month.

Cespedes-Rodriguez was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in 2005, but he entered a diversion program that required treatment, and a judge dismissed the case in 2006.

Prosecutors didn't charge Cespedes-Rodriguez with drunken driving for the April 2009 crash. Deputy district attorney Michael Schmidt said Cespedes-Rodriguez twice dodged the attempts of police to contact him later on the day of the crash, so no alcohol test could be taken. Authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in June.

"He hit somebody. He panicked because he was worried he was under the influence of alcohol," Schmidt said.

Altermatt said pursuing criminal charges against Cespedes-Rodriguez has been a struggle from the beginning. After the incident, when she ran to a nearby Portland police officer, she said, he dismissed her pleas for help. Perhaps, she thinks, because she was wearing a bunny suit.

About 45 minutes after the incident, she found another cop, who took a report.

Altermatt said the reason she pressed for prosecution was because she felt that Cespedes-Rodriguez treated her like a piece of garbage -- something that could be run over without another thought.

"This is probably the worst thing that has happened to me - being intentionally run over by a car. I felt like a Burger King bag."

-- Aimee Green

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This just in...

To counter concerns raised in front page article in the New York Times today, the President has appointed Lisa Leslie of the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks "Czarina of Half-Court Equality." According to the newspaper, the concerns have been raised by equal rights spokespeople and liberal bloggers that the President is running his administration like a "frat house" and has not included any women in basketball games.

Not really.

But I do think that this might be the most inane charge against the President yet. In the past, he has fluffed off accusations by Fox News and has made earnest though unnecessary attempts to "reach across the aisle." The charge of sexist exclusion, however, is coming from the left... or so the New York Times' article would have its readers believe.

If you've been following this blog, you no doubt know I took issue with the Times a few weeks ago for a misleading piece in the business section. Today's article also is a bit misleading. It seems the person who has raised concerns about the all male basketball game is Savannah Guthrie, NBC White House correspondent.

According to the Christian Science Monitor's website, Guthrie "asked him (the President) if his preference for all-male hoops sends the wrong signal. Or as she put it, 'Some people might look at it and say, Gosh, there’s the old boys club again.’

That’s something the president dismisses.

'I gotta say, I think this is bunk,' Obama told Guthrie. 'Basically, the House of Representatives has a basketball game and they had wanted to play here at the White House court and we invited them.'”

So, in addition to being a foreign-born, Muslim socialist with Nazi leanings, hell-bent on tax and spend policies, the President is a sexist.

The CSM article goes on: "Comparing the topic to flaky 'balloon boy' coverage, (MSNBC host Joe) Scarborough told Guthrie, 'Speaking for all men — that was bunk. That question was bunk. What were you thinking?'

'This is a really interesting issue,' Guthrie began.

'No, it’s not,' Scarborough interrupted.

(insert Monty Python's "Argument Clinic" routine here)

Guthrie explained that the disagreement over the issue seemed to break down across gender lines. 'Most men I talk to say, What’s the big deal? So a guy can’t play basketball?' she said. 'But many, many serious thinking women say, Let’s call this for it is: This is a networking opportunity. This is a political event.'"

And this is when my head starts to explode...
painting by Keith Haring

... oh, and the Yankees won the AL championship tonight, aided in no small part to sloppy defensive playing by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (don't get me started). Another reason for my head exploding.

* * *

postscript (10.26.09) In the broadcast dead-zone of post-sports wrap-up late Sunday night, CNN moderated two "experts" on the male-dominated basketball fracas and all it infers. I can't help but think CNN has too many hours to fill with "news." As it is, just as MTV used to be Music Television, showing music videos with veejays, Headline News used to focus on news-- they're now filling their schedule with Nancy George and Entertainment. But I digress...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

why facebook is probably not such a good idea for me

exhibit A: Alison Lohman

exhibit B: Alison Lohman
(revealing in a wet black T-shirt)
in "Drag Me To Hell"

So we got the movie "Drag Me To Hell" from Netflix, based on the fact that it got good reviews and Sam Raimi is supposed to be a good director in the genre and blah blah blah. The fact of the matter is, it is a terrible movie. It has one saving grace, and that is Alison Lohman. She of the full eyebrows, perfect lips and, uh, other attributes, none of which Justin Long, the Mac guy in the ads and the male lead in the movie can hold a candle (or anything else) to. Alison is, in short, dreamy.

Maybe it's me, but facebook leads one to wander. Old girlfriends, high school sweethearts... and even (barely) post-pubescent movie starlets.

Alison is on facebook. Twice. In different places. I only wrote to her on one of them. I tried to keep my erectile dysfunction to myself as well as my juvenile crush-like feelings, but okay... I wrote to her. Great acting. Bad vehicle. Love you. Will rent every other damned thing you've been in. No, I'm not stalking you, but it all comes across as a mix of The Lovin' Spoonful (a Younger Girl) and Root Boy Slim and his Sex Change Band (I'm Not Too Old For You). Nabakov meets TMZ in a messy, compromised position.

But I digress.

The point is, my thinly disguised gushiness is now on facebook for all the world, including old girlfriends and high school sweethearts, to see. I outed myself as a closet adolescent, living in the body of a pathetic old man. What is thrown on facebook is there for all of perpetuity, or for as long as Al Gore decides to leave the internet up and running.

Please Al, pull the plug. I made a mistake. I revealed myself. I can't hit erase and soon everyone from Roman Polanski (God bless his incarcerated 74 year-old ass) to my wife will find out that I am a sexual retard.

Alison, I love you, I scream as they cart me away to virtual jail.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The case to reopen all the mental institutions in Oregon-- part one.

Portland, Oregon is a bit of a schizophrenic city. In February of this year, BusinessWeek ranked Portland as the unhappiest out of the fifty largest cities in the country. It also ranked it first in depresssion and 12th in suicides. The accompanying article reported that "The Oregon suicide and drug and alcohol help lines received 71% more calls in January 2009 than it did the previous January, including more calls from people having suicidal thoughts because of severe financial stress."

getting warmer

Then, there is the number of homeless in the Rose City, that is not only high but comprised of loud and indignant people who demand housing and employment. Maybe I should try demanding a job instead of just looking for work. See how far I get. Portland likes to think of itself as Austin with weather. Bumper stickers abound imploring we KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD. Oh, and the weather? BusinessWeek claims the 222 days of rain contribute to Portland's premier unhappiness level.

And just think, only 7 more months of this.

Portland also has sort of a reputation for having a bright, educated and well-read population. It is home to the largest independent bookstore in the country-- Powell's City of Books, where, before entering the store, you are invariably assaulted by homeless people trying to sell you their newspaper or ask for a plain old handout. I know what your thinking. How do homeless people publish a newspaper? Maybe that' another part of the weirdness.

Portland is the 29th largest city in the country, squarely situated between Las Vegas and Louisville, Kentucky, with a little more than half a million residents. Doesn't sound like much, but it accounts for about 42% of the population of the entire state of Oregon. Interesting, but what does it mean?

Well, I'm getting to that.

Portland, like a lot of other cities around the country, has only one daily newspaper. The Oregonian. They try real hard to be fair and balanced, just like what Fox News says about itself. They used to have a columnist named David Reinhard, who, for all the world, seemed like a right-wing plant-- at the paper and in print--just to raise the blood temperature of clear thinking readers. He was to the right of Atilla, and possessed that right wing characteristic of condescending hubris. Is that redundant or does 'condescending' reinforce 'hubris?' He retired from the paper a while back, admitting to have gotten tired of the verbal assaults he had to endure from pinko-commie, wet-behind-the-ears, pansy-ass liberals. Maybe he took to the woods and became a survivalist. Maybe he fetches coffee for Rush or Doc Savage.

But the paper continues its attempt at balance, especially on the Opinion page. One day you'll find Charles Krauthammer and the next you can read E.J. Dionne, and so on. And the same effort goes into picking which readers' letters to print.

Yesterday, the scales seemed a little tipped to the right.

Out of eight letters published on the subject of President Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, three were in favor. Of the five that weren't, one, written by a Michael Trigoboff, of Tigard wrote that, "The Nobel Committee would have been more honest if they had built a giant gold statue of Obama and sacrificed a few virgins at its feet."

And who said the right wing has no sense of humor?

I nearly fell off the floor when I read that one. Nearly, I say, because I saved my spill for the letter from Marion Bogden, of Corbett, Oregon.

Corbett has a population of about 4,000. It's about 95% white and looks, from the map to be pretty rural, resting about 25 miles west of Portland. According to, the income is above the state average and the renting percentage is below. Still things and folks can certainly fall through the cracks. I found at least one trailer park in Corbett in a cursory Google search. I can't imagine that some people with a Corbett zip code don't live back off some of the roads, deep in the woods. There are a lot of woods surrounding Corbett.

I found a picture of two of what I imagine Ms. Bogden looks like...

my impression of Marion Bogden

Marion may not be doing meth... THIS WEEK! She may not be a skanky white-trash whore whose blackened teeth are hanging on by diseased threads. She could actually be clean and sober... and as big as a house, wearing inappropriately revealing clothing and stuffing Doritos in her mouth constantly while glued to Springer or Morrie, keeping up with Jon and Kate or whoever's life is currently in shambles and splattered all over the tabloids and TV. She may not have tattoos on her upper arms and ankles, nor have a navel ring embedded somewhere deep in the recesses of her fat belly. She may not be able to pack her entire wardrobe in a Safeway plastic bag. She may not fuck for drugs while listening to Rush or Glen or Doc Savage on the AM radio. She may not live in a trailer, broken down in the woods with her skinny-ass burnout "man," clad in dirty camo and a constant 5 '0 clock shadow. She may have graduated high school. She may not be a hick, although, given the general population in Oregon, the likelihood is extremely high. Hicks, like zombies, roam the outskirts of the city and the outlet malls. I've seen them in Salem and that's the fucking state capitol. I've sworn at them under my breath just for being hicks and contributing to global warming and the eventual death of the planet from their foul breath and toxic stupidity. Maybe Marion reads the paper. Maybe not. She must have gotten a hold of a copy recently and wrote in. Maybe she emailed from the library. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt. From a distance...

"In 1939, Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Y'all knew that, right?"

Her words, exactly. The "Y'all" is verbatim. I swear on my mother's eyes. Which, I think only an Italian could have come up with, but that's another story. And Lord knows, I don't want to besmirch the Italians. Especially, when I'm in the midst of a rant against offensively stupid white people.

Come to think of it, after rereading her words, I don't see Marion as one of those ubiquitous overweight Aryan women that seem to populate Oregon like spawning salmon. She has to be rail thin, kept alive with mean drugs and a meaner streak against anyone not like her, which is mostly everyone I know. In this America, it's them against us. And they're louder, angrier and armed. They like to call themselves teabaggers and patriots. They carry signs and placards with President Obama defiled with a Hitler mustache and posters imploring him to follow Ted Kennedy over the rainbow. I've written about the loss of dignity and the animus that has infected the vox populi. But it seems to be getting worse by the day. The anger and hostility and the complete lack of respect for the president is both shameful and frightening.

I not only have trouble imagining someone writing the kind of obscene filth that Ms. Bogden did, I have a more difficult time comprehending why the Oregonian would see fit to print it.

Oh, and for the record, Adolf Hitler, was indeed nominated once in 1939. E.G.C. Brandt, a member of the Swedish parliament nominated der Feuherer, before changing his mind. The nomination was withdrawn in a letter dated 1 February 1939. So, technically, Hitler wasn't nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Y'all knew that, right?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Official End of Summer

My beloved Red Sox went down 3 straight against the Angels. And so begins a long, long winter. I now find myself torn between rooting for the Angels to beat the Yankees or a world series between the Bronx Bombers and the former residents of Brooklyn's Ebbets Field. It would be an exciting series, to be sure. I just don't think my heart will be in it.

See you in the spring, Heidi...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Gray Lady Down

I have often made reference to my thinking that I am a bit of a Luddite. I guess what I mean is that I am a selective Luddite. I have embraced the iPod, for example, over discs (though I still bemoan the long-ago sale of most of my vinyl). I shoot with digital cameras and can't really bear the thought of shooting film. Hell, I even use a computer. But I have been slow to abandon print media. Reading a newspaper is ingrained in me. I seem to have AADD (acquired attention deficit disorder) when I try to read the news on the internet. I'v also noticed it's affected my regular reading. I'm skipping sentences in books, and magazine articles. I need to hit the mental REBOOT button and get properly rewired for the time before the Information superhighway. Does anyone call it that anymore?

One of my other quirks is--and here is a case of biting the hand that is allowing me this forum-- I don't trust everything I read on the internet. Anyone can blog. Not everyone can be a journalist. There are blogs that have real live journalists with credentials. But a lot don't. I have always accepted as a given that those that write for a newspaper have not only the credentials but a code of ethics to be fair, accurate and as objective as possible. Not quite a Hippocratic oath but an adherence and belief in honesty and comprehensiveness. Alas, it is not the case. Now, along with questioning the existence of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, I must question what I read in The New York Times... the Gray Lady.

Now I know that in recent years there have been charges and admissions of plagiarism, sloppiness and unchecked sources at the Times. But what I found in Sunday's Times was tantamount to omissions and indifference. Not punishable offenses, certainly, but enough to make me question what I read in the paper and whether or not I should save my sheckels for a more reliable source of news. Is Mad Magazine still being published?

Some may think I am making much out of nothing, but an article on the front page of the Sunday Times' Business Section doesn't seem like nothing to me.

The article in question is "Where the Hotel is the Hub-- In Hollywood, the Big Names are Opting for Class, Not Flash." (10/4/2009)

It is (ostensibly) an article about the Sunset Tower hotel in Los Angeles, its policy of protecting its superstar guests from reporters, the papparazzi and so on, and its owner Jeff Klein.

Jeff Klein–"New York society brat turned serious hotelier and restaurateur."

The article, written by Brooks Barnes, states that, "The Sunset Tower, perched on the Sunset Strip, has oscillated between a well-heeled apartment building and a hotel — of various names — since opening in 1929. It was not an immediate hit in its latest form. People didn’t quite know how to take its quiet elegance. And by the way, who was this bubbly but neurotic New Yorker running it?"

Mr. Barnes answers that compelling question after a bit of background on the hotel's history: "As Mr. Klein likes to say, the property has “good bones.” Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross, Howard Hughes and Bugsy Siegel have all called it home at various times. Legend has it that John Wayne kept a cow on his balcony.

But by the 1980s, the 15-story building had fallen into disrepair. Mr. Klein and a business partner, the developer Peter Krulewitch, bought it for $18.5 million and spent about $15 million redecorating."

Now, would you assume that Mr. Klein and his business partner bought the property for $18.5 million in the '80's? If you did, I think it is quite understandable. But for those who know, know that about twenty years' worth of history was omitted. It was the last paragraph that prompted me to write to the New York Times.

"I was more than a little taken aback at reading the article "Where the Hotel is the Hub" in the Sunday New York Times' Business section. Either Brooks Barnes, the author was misinformed, got dazzled by the “New York society brat” who “owns” the Sunset Tower Hotel, or he just didn’t do his research."

I quoted the paragraph, verbatim, and then finished by writing, "In the mid-80’s the Sunset Tower did indeed go through a major renovation/restoration, but not under the auspices of Mr. Klein. It opened as the St. James’s Club. I know— I designed all the printed materials, from menus to matchbooks while a freelance graphic designer in Los Angeles. It changed hands and names in the 90’s when it became the Argyle. It was under that name and ownership that Tim Robbins was seen on the outdoor cafĂ© in the film, “The Player.” The photograph of Mr. Klein in the article shows him resting on a railing... installed when the hotel was the St. James’s Club."

I concluded by writing, "Mr. Barnes might do well to go to for a very brief history of the building. And the Times might do well to do a bit more fact-checking."

Lo and behold, I received a reply from Mr. Barnes:

pipsqueak celebrity profiler, Brooks Barnes

Dear Mr. Shapiro,

Thank you for your letter about the Sunset Tower article (10-4-09). We take claims of inaccuracy extremely seriously.

The facts of the article are correct. By the 1980s, the hotel had fallen into disrepair; Mr. Klein and a business partner bought it in 2004 for $18.5 million and spent $15 million redecorating.

As you point out, the 80-year-old property has gone through multiple renovations over the years, including the one involving the St. James name. In weighing whether to include this information, we looked at length and focus. This was a story about Jeff Klein and the hotel’s current form, and a decision was ultimately made: We had to live without paragraphs recounting more details of the property’s construction history.

It would certainly have been nice to include the information – we try very hard to give readers a full accounting of the subject matter – and we probably would have given unlimited space.

Thank you again for your careful reading.

The "dilapidated" Sunset Tower apartment building in the process of becoming the St. James's Club, Los Angeles.

Which entry is The Sunset Tower and which is The Argyle?

So, the article on the front page of The New York Sunday Times was a fluff piece on "socialite" Jeff Klein. It wasn't about the hotel at all. I started thinking I missed something.

Maybe I'm living in Gotham and Jeff Klein is the Jewish Bruce Wayne. He may not be cut or talk in a whisper like Christian Bale, but I can almost see him in a Batman outfit. But shouldn't this piece have been in the Style Section, along with wedding announcements and hip bars?

Not like I thought it would do any good, but I wrote back to Mr. Barnes: Thank you for your response.

While the facts of the article may indeed be correct, they do not give readers a “full accounting of the subject matter.”

I am still a bit troubled by the inference that “By the 1980s, the hotel had fallen into disrepair; Mr. Klein and a business partner bought it in 2004 for $18.5 million” gives. It implies the building lay dormant for twenty odd years and Mr. Klein and Mr. Krulewitch salvaged it and restored it from its state of “disrepair.” This is simply a false and misleading inference. I don’t know the cost of the St. James’s Club investment in the property, but it was they that brought the building back from the shambles it was in, reducing it to a skeleton so that it could be both structurally reinforced and reconfigured from an apartment building to a hotel.

As you say, the article was about Jeff Klein and the hotel in its current form. If that is/was the case, all references to costs and history should have been excluded. By mentioning dates and costs, however, the omission of the St. James’s Club and the Argyle distorts the role of Mr. Klein, making his investment and contribution to the current condition of the building somewhat less impressive. The fact remains that he and his partner would have had to spend much more had St. James’s Club never existed, or for that matter, the Argyle. An additional line or two would have sufficed."

And there it sits. A trivial matter, perhaps, but less has caused me undue strife. T?here have been times when I have been reading a crime novel and the protagonist takes the safety off his revolver. I have stopped reading at that point. The author simply has such little regard for his reader that he has chosen not to be accurate. There was one book, by Robert Ferrigno, that I stopped reading after finding a half dozen such inaccuracies. I wrote him an email. Oddly, I never heard from him. Learning that Mr. Barnes wrote a piece about Brangelina's twins for People Magazine didn't surprise me. Nor that, according to the New York Observer (who's tagline is "Nothing Sacred but the Truth.") Mr. Barnes "offered a hard-hitting A1 investigative report on how Angelina Jolie manipulates the press... "

Where are the Pulitzers when you need them?

I found a couple other celebrity profiles Mr. Barnes has written.

And so it goes, yet another example that we are blithely plunging into a cultural abyss, led by the likes of Harvey Levin and TMZ, the fetid interest in Jon and Kate and God knows who else... and the New York Times seems to be picking up the rear. Cue REM... again.