Southern California environment news and trends

Song of the Week: "Santa Ana Winds," about an LA arsonist


This view from NASA's Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer shows the pattern of airborne dust stirred up by Santa Ana winds on February 9, 2002. (via JPL)

Maybe you thought you were free and clear of Pacific Swell making any more songs of the week. In which case you would be wrong. I’m off to a slow start in 2012, but at least it's a good start. I don't know where you were New Year's Eve, but I was in Hollywood, wondering if a German guy was going to torch my car and if I left anything important in there. 

The first song of the year is about a southern California arsonist. It’s called “Santa Ana Winds.” You can listen to it at the website of the band called Sons of Bill

Ain’t no one to blame
we all look the same
and it’s maybe just the course of evolution
and it surely seems to me that predictability 
is quickly becoming something you can count on
when all through the night as the headlights shine so bright 
and they’re staring at me like I’m to blame
rolling in and out of LA county and they’re calling out my name
they’re calling out my name
…at the end Santa Ana winds are going straight to my head
when the sun comes up there won’t be no tomorrow 
in the valley of the dead in the valley of the dead


Song of the Week: Squid, Kraken, Octopus...Oasis?


I'd like to be, under the sea, because the Kraken always seem to eat the ships.

I'm picking a Song of the Week for Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid. It's the first nonfiction book I finished in a while. (I have trouble starting them, even, these days. They feel like homework, in a way fiction does not. Nonfiction writers, it's not your fault.) And I liked it enough to call up Wendy Williams and interview her about it before she gave a talk on squid in Long Beach on Wednesday.

Obviously, I thought of Ringo Starr's only important song. I have never especially loved Octopus's Garden, though: too precious. But Ringo somehow reminded me of Oasis, and their delightful mid-19-nineties habit of hanging a lantern on their resemblances to The Beatles. Like, their song "Whatever." At the end of that song, their chord structure even reminded themselves of The Beatles, and so it just made sense for Noel Gallagher to break out into Ringo's grownup children's song.


Song of the Week, from MGMT, because we're feelin' electric

Molly Peterson/KPCC

FYI, this is just the bottom part of the electric car. Nobody killed this one.

Hey did you know there's an Auto Show in LA this week? Kidding. But between the story I reported with my girl Shereen Marisol Meraji that first aired on Madeleine's show this morning, and the discussions of fuel efficiency, I gotta say, I'm feelin' electric. (Unrelated trivia: did you know that's the original name of the musical Next to Normal?)

I think over at Debord Report Matt is making it clear that it's not EXACTLY the electric car's year over at the Convention Center, even if the Prius is having a Multiplicity moment. The Green Car Journal's car of the year award went to a compressed natural gas car. Ford won "automotive green marketer of the year" for incorporating miles per gallon into its advertising…still not quite miles per charge. Granted, the car industry likes to give itself more awards than a middle school of millenials, so they can't all mean something, but from my brief wanderings around the exhibition halls, it all looks sort of familiar. You can take this with a grain of salt, since I'm not a 10-year-old Matt Debord or his progeny, but if the auto show were a wine, it would have dominant top notes of shine and carpeting, middle notes of women in spandex and the increasingly-plasticky sound of a car door closing, and bottom notes of leather and gasoline.


Song of the Week, for Keystone XL & the tar sands: U2's "MLK"

Various Activist Groups Protest Outside Obama Fundraiser

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Hundreds of protestors from a wide variety of activist groups staged protests outside of the W Hotel where President Obama was holding a $7,500 per person fundraiser.

Yesterday the U.S. State Department said it would delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline in order to seek more information about it. " As a result of this process, particularly given the concentration of concerns regarding the environmental sensitivities of the current proposed route through the Sand Hills area of Nebraska, the Department has determined it needs to undertake an in-depth assessment of potential alternative routes in Nebraska."

Back in August, when more than a thousand people got arrested protesting this decision in front of the White House, I wrote about a group of people from California who joined that protest. I found it unusual and intriguing that so many people would take such a specific protest action with a clearly articulated goal. Environmentalists in the US have often had strong opinions. They haven't often succeeded in getting a large and mainstream chunk of people to do something about it. (And cite MLK in the process.) 


Song of the Week: "Great Atomic Power," for San Onofre

Mercer 1518

David McNew/Getty Images

Are you, are you ready, for that great atomic power?

Clearly the song of the week is for the ammonia spill at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. But picking a song that gestures at risk assessment and nuclear power is harder than you might think.

Nuclear power tends to be referenced in protest songs, and protest songs tend to suck. David Hajdu, the music critic for The New Republic, blogged about nuclear songs, songs about war and nuclear power, after Fukushima. For his favorite he picked Gil Scott-Heron (which, I like me some Gil Scott-Heron, but there's a terrible about 2 minutes you have to get through on the youtube video appended to Hajdu's blog where you wonder when you got onto the S.S. No-nuke's cruise ship lounge). 

I like the Louvin Brothers' classic, "Great Atomic Power." I got introduced to it by Uncle Tupelo in the nineties. Remember when Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar were in the same band? No, nobody does, but it happened.