Time and travels

Kia ora, dear readers! Many thanks for the kind and interesting responses to “On Complaining” (now universally accessible for £0). These responses have come from locations as diverse as New Zealand“Kia ora” is not only a citrusy soft-drink, but also a Maori greeting!—and Norway. (Here is the message I received from a reader in Norway: “Interesting article, but I will not read the book.”)

My personal correspondents will forgive me for being a bit slow with my personal correspondence, since I just got back from L.A., where I was interviewing an internationally renowned film director. This was my first time interviewing an internationally renowned film director. That said, the last time I was in L.A., I did interview a nationally renowned comedy-traffic expert, for the New Yorker, which proceeded not to publish the story for the next 15 months (and counting). They also have yet to publish the story I wrote for them in June, about some Russian church bells… even though those bells weighed 26 tons!  I guess they are waiting for a story about some bigger bells. 

Anyway… I’m going to postpone revealing the identity of the extremely interesting movie director, who I am writing about for an exciting new magazine called Snob, or should I say: Сноб.  But in the meantime, I will share with you my impressions of L.A. 

Here is my predominant impression from L.A: nobody walks anywhere. I walked some 2 miles along Ventura Blvd., the main commercial street in Studio City, between 7 and 10pm, and saw approximately ten people on foot: one jogger; one young person in a hooded sweatshirt, probably a criminal (and probably writing the same thing about me right now on a blog about his life and thoughts); and eight or so parking valets, in butler uniforms, standing outside restaurants. Some of these restaurants were really crowded. The metered parking spots were full. Six lanes of cars were whizzing by, racking up traffic points—and yet, the sidewalks were empty.

The offices of the extremely interesting but unnamed movie director, meanwhile, were quite nearby: up in the hills, 2.2 miles away from my hotel. I took a taxi there ($11), but decided to walk back, since it was downhill and scenic, and I didn’t have anything else to do for the next half hour. When I admitted as much to the interesting (and kindly) director, he was so alarmed that he said he would drive me back in his car. Then his staff became so alarmed that one of them immediately got on the phone and called me a taxi, while the other pulled me aside and offered to help me out with a few dollars: apparently, the only reason anyone walks in L.A. is that they don’t have taxi fare.

The taxi driver turned out to have once picked up Jean-Claude Van Damme (”the Muscles from Brussels”) from the airport.   

Speaking of airports, one of the high points of the trip was definitely the chance to sit back and catch up on SkyMall: that cultural “heterotopia” in which we find all our most futuristic and most nostalgic wishes “reified” in the form of consumer goods. This particular issue included such items as: a Classic (classic!) Ball-Shooting “Burp” Gun; a 16th-Century Italian Armor Sculpture with Halberd; the World’s Smallest Humanoid Robot; a home Arcade Claw Machine; a necklace in the shape of a Moebius strip; a coffee table in the shape of a Moebius strip; a giant cupcake pan, for baking giant cupcakes; and several personal and household devices using electromagnetic energy fields. For example the hand-held, USB-supported Electronic Feng-Shui Compass uses “the same technology used in aerospace guidance,” and “locates and calculates energy fields so quickly, [that] you align your physical surroundings to match your intentions.”

The electronic compass includes a rechargeable LiPo battery, which turns out to be a lithium-polymer battery, and not, as I initially surmised, a diabolical battery that runs Matrix-style on the decomposing body and immortal soul of the great premodern Chinese poet, Li Po.

It is also difficult not to be impressed by the Wine Accelerator, which uses a “powerful triangular-shaped magnetic field” to make your wine age faster. It’s like an amazing time-machine to the future, except only your wine can ride in it. Or maybe it’s like the picture of Dorian Gray, and this lady (below) is actually 150 years old, but manages to deflect all her age to her wine instead:


In case you can’t read the print under the wineglass, I magnified it:

It seems to me that, at some point computable by my mathematically gifted readers, the two times will converge, such that “n years ages drink n years.” And truly, as Li Po put it, “Who can tell the end of the endless changes of things?” Even the dog who squandered his twenties appeared, this time, in a slightly different guise…

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

5 Responses to “Time and travels”

  1. SW Foska Says:

    Do you mean bigger bells, or heavier ones?

  2. Elif Says:

    Well, tell me what kind you’ve got, and we’ll see if we can work something out.

  3. Tara Says:

    I rarely lol (literally), but this was too funny: “and not, as I initially surmised, a diabolical battery that runs Matrix-style on the decomposing body and immortal soul of the great premodern Chinese poet, Li Po.”


    The LRB never charged me for the article, hooray. I enjoyed the anecdotes about Sartre and Althusser, plus your imagining Roudinesco “as some hard-drinking cowboy who takes no stock in doctors or government because the county sheriff just wants him behind bars, who stands by his friends but knows all along that the days of real cowboys are over.” :)

    I’m totally behind on reading, but onward to your n+1 piece. I attended their party in Brooklyn last Friday and predictably, no one danced and no one was drunk.

  4. SW Foska Says:

    Dear Dr. Batuman, My personal bells (one at the door, one on the bicycle) neither weigh nor measure much. But since you yourself had adduced weight as the dominant criterion in campanarian literature, your inference that the New Yorkers had spurned your oeuvre on grounds of size rather than mass confused me.

  5. BenjaminL Says:

    Compliments on an excellent blog. About walking in L.A., that is quite true although as you must know not a novel thing to say. But in spite of the general truth of the statement, there are a good number of locations that do allow for pleasant walking amongst others who are also doing so — even if these areas are confined to a few blocks at most. Examples include:

    1) Vermont Ave. around Hollywood Blvd and Franklin Ave.
    2) Sunset Blvd. around Silver Lake Blvd.
    3) Melrose Ave. shopping
    4) Hollywood Blvd walk of fame
    5) Third St Promenade, Santa Monica
    6) downtown Beverly Hills
    7) Westwood around UCLA

    Worth a look, or rather, walk!

Leave a Reply

Refresh Image