By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
As it turns out, Mike Harrison, a commercial pilot by vocation and the head of the California-based LightGuard Systems, came up with the idea back in '91 after his friend hit and killed an elderly gentleman. Now "smart" crosswalks, which cost $30,000 per intersection, are being ordered for streets throughout the nation. In the Los Angeles area, they can be found in Glendale, Anaheim, Thousand Oaks and Santa Monica. There are two similar versions in West Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard.
But the ordering process is slow. As one LightGuard Systems employee remarked, "You're dealing with bureaucracy, unawareness and budget restraints. Truth is, until someone gets hit, the money doesn't go that way."
Well, perhaps I can serve as a someone.
ON STAGE: NPR Soundbites
I SAW A SMALL FLIER PASTED OUTSIDE MY banklast week promoting National Corporate Radio, a one-act satire of National Public Radio. As a sometime employee of NPR -- and a regular listener who would rather not hear Ketzel Levine blather on about what kind of garden she would plant on the site of the World Trade Center -- I am always up for a little public-radio bashing.
Still, I usually steer clear of lefty anti-corporate rants, even if I agree with what's being said, because they're usually so boring. In fact, when the message on the answering machine taking reservations for the performance thanked me "for not selling out," I almost didn't leave my name.
The theater sat about 30 people and was packed on a Tuesday night. Onstage was a table with two microphones, and to the right of the table, a standing microphone. The show consisted of a cast of rotating reporters and commentators speaking at the standing mic while the two hosts, an old-style lefty (Nader in 2004!) and a New Democrat (Clinton forever!) bickered at the table.
The plot was rather silly, but it didn't matter. During the first reporter's story, there was a soundbite from a press conference in which someone pretending to be John Ashcroft suddenly said, "I wrote a song about the terrorists," and began crooning "Don't fuck with America/We're the ones who fuck with youooo." But probably my favorite moment was a speech by President Bush -- using his actual voice -- carefully edited so that he said, in his most gratingly sincere way: "When the Cold War ended, some predicted that America would lead the world to peace. They were wrong. I have directed my national-security adviser and my homeland-security director to develop a joyless world. I will set forth the commitments essential to victory in our war against peace and safety and innocent life. When all of our military can continually locate and track America's best people with surveillance from air and space, warfare will be truly revolutionized. Our cause is necessary. Our cause is just. And no matter how long it takes, we will defeat freedom."
The audience applauded at the end of this, as if it were a real speech. For a room of people for whom NPR is sometimes hardly better than Fox News, it was thrilling to hear Bush actually say what every liberal is sure he means.
Derek Iverson, a slight young man with a brown beard and wire-framed glasses, who plays the Nader-loving host in the show and edited the Bush speeches with a friend who is a professional dialogue editor, also went after Warren Olney (host of KCRW's national show To the Pointas well as Which Way L.A.?) by writing some fake promos for the show. An announcer smoothly asked, "Are homosexuals fucking each other or is the state of Texas fucking them? Today on What's the Point?"
"He's a very good interviewer. I give him a lot of credit," Iverson said later. "But he's so objective it kind of freaks me out. I have to wonder if he has any opinion at all. Or if he's even human."
He paused for a second.
"That's not even an attack so much as an observation," he said.
Another performer, playing the host of Bookweasel, skewered the self-righteous geekiness of public radio with a rant against the movie version of The Lord of the Rings.
"As chancellor of the exchequer of the Elrond Society of North America, and vice chairperson of the annual Hobbits Day Blueberry Picking Festival, one might claim that I am a bit of a purist," he sniffed. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
Most of the performers' energy, though, was devoted to the creeping centrism and corporateness of public radio, and the audience seemed energized by that message.
Outside, after the show was over, people were buzzing as if they'd just seen the hot new movie at Sundance.
I asked Sandy Marr, a woman with a feather in her long hair, what she thought of the show.
"It was fabulous," she gushed. She's an activist for Pacifica. She said that except for Pacifica, there is no reliable media source for the left. Not even the L.A. Weekly, she told me pointedly. That's why we're in the political state we're in, she said.
"People need to come out and support people like Nader," she continued.