Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

The Freakonomics of UC raising tuition

I'm currently reading Freakonomics, so I was interested to see an entry on the Freakonomics blog at the New York Times' Web site about the increase in undergraduate fees at the University of California. Ian Ayres, who's also been a commentator for Marketplace, takes a contrarian point of view as Freakonomics often does, arguing for why the increase may not be such a bad thing for students.

Freakonomics Blog: Why California’s Tuition Hike Might Be a Good Thing


Nostalgia for the obsolete

The new book Obsolete by Anna Jane Grossman takes a look at things going obsolete within our lifetimes. The book includes 100 essays on fading subjects, such as mix tapes, camera film, and writing letters.

It seems that the amount of time before something becomes nostalgic is growing shorter. I personally lamented once popular Web site hosting service GeoCities being shut down recently, remembering my early online adventures building horrible Web sites using GeoCities.

It's also interesting to see how, as something's usefulness declines, our affection for it grows. This isn't to say that these objects are useless. I was talking with a friend the other night who bought a typewriter rather than using a word processor, expressing a love for the tactile level it brings to writing. A photographer friend still carries an $11 plastic camera, which when his fancy professional camera's battery died and his backup had gone AWOL, he used to complete a recent photo shoot.


Bratton versus Colbert

Former LAPD chief Bill Bratton is about to face an even more probing audience than he's found in Los Angeles. No, I'm not talking about his new New York City security consultant job, I'm talking about Bratton going toe-to-toe with America's top pundit, Stephen Colbert.

Bratton appears on Thursday's episode of Comedy Central's Colbert Report, adding another notable to the long list of public figures who've sparred with the comedian on his faux news program. My DVR's already set.

(Via L.A. Observed)


Defining the 2000s

I was talking with a friend the other night about the way our culture seems to be becoming more homogeneous. We talked about the distinctive, definable styles of the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, into the early '90s, but found our ability to pin down what has defined style since becoming fuzzier. Is this just due to our proximity to the times, or has the ubiquity of mass media, and particularly the Internet, led to an evening out of our culture?

In the tradition of long lists of stuff blogs like Stuff White People Like, one blogger has set to defining what the current decade has been about in his blog You AUGHT To Remember. He's counting down the top 100 "trends, fashions, memes, personalities and ideas that shaped the first decade of the 21st Century." I expect we'll be seeing more and more efforts like this as our decade comes to a close in less than two months.


Hiking: Griffith Park and Taylor Mitchell

So, I'm going hiking tonight in Griffith Park for a special pre-Halloween hike. As my hiking group's Web site describes it, "Bring glow sticks, bracelets, headbands, or whatever other glowing or blinking accessories you can get your hands on and we'll scare and glow our way around the trails and then through the dark and eerie ruins of the old zoo." I was very excited about this. I then decided to go on the Internet.

What should I happen to come across but this: "Teenage folk singer Taylor Mitchell killed by coyotes." The first paragraph:

"A teenage folk singer has died after being set upon by two coyotes as she hiked alone in a national park in Nova Scotia."

It's a tragic story, and I hesitate to even write about this, and wonder if I'm being sensitive to the situation. From my own limited perspective, it's one that puts a little fright into a late night hike at a park known for its coyotes. Of course, as the article notes, coyotes are generally shy, and I'll also be hiking with a large group. Still, I suppose it's natural to have a little fright going into Halloween.