Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Rose of Dodger Stadium

WE are lurching into spring, drought, depressions and doom notwithstanding.

If you don't believe it, daylight savings time starts this weekend.

That means it's baseball season, a mystical place where, at least for the time being, we can find relief from a world of Obamas and Octomoms.

Out at Dodger Stadium, the season is defined by two words. And I don't mean double plays, line drives or outrageous prices.

I mean Vin Scully.

Vincent Edward Scully has been the mellifluous and knowledgeable voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers for nearly 60 years.

He has been named California Sportscaster of the Year 28 times, he received the Ford Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, was honored with a Life Achievement Emmy Award for sportscasting and induction into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995, and was named Broadcaster of the Century by the American Sportscasters Association in 2000.

He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame. There is talk of erecting a statue of him at Dodger Stadium.

Through the power of his voice, he has almost single handedly made the Dodgers one of the top drawing franchises in all of sport.

His popularity has crossed generational, economic and racial lines.

But he has been ignored by the Rose Parade.

If you've read this column in the past, you probably know that I've been on a three-year campaign to get Scully named grand marshal of the Rose Parade.

And the public agrees, if my mail is any indication.

So far I've come up a little short. In the last two years, the good folks at the Tournament of Roses have selected Emeril Legase, a TV chef whose career has deflated faster than a bad souffle, and Cloris Leachman, an 82-year-old actress whose most recent claim to fame was remaining upright on a couple of episodes of "Dancing With the Stars."

Vin Scully is a cut above the rest, which just so happens to be the 2010 Rose Parade theme.

Let's get a bandwagon going. E-mail tournament president Gary J. DiSano at rosepr@rosemail.org. Post on the tournament's Facebook page. Send them a copy of this column to: 391 South Orange Grove Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91184. Or call the tournament office at (626) 449-4100.

Play ball.

Despite two daughters, a wife, a sister and multiple nieces, I know next to nothing about women's fashions.

Most of what I've seen in print and on television seems a little out of touch with reality. Or maybe I just run with the wrong crowd.

Against this backdrop, my wife dragged me to a charity fashion show the other day, the first event of this kind I have ever witnessed.

I was exiled to a table with a bunch of other husbands, probably to make sure any comments I made didn't result in a socially awkward moment.

The models appeared to be about 7-feet tall, 6 feet of which were legs. They were poised and willowy, moving like so much warm maple syrup.

Rather like our new First Lady.

Michelle Obama is a Harvard Law School grad but for the first several weeks of her husband's administration, no one is asking what she thinks.

Instead, most of the conversation is about how she looks, a burden she shares, I suspect, with a lot of women.

But she is tall and graceful and appears to enjoy dressing the part, which makes her fair game to the fasionistas. Or fashion police, depending on your view. They've been waiting in the weeds since Jackie Kennedy occupied the White House.

Most recently, Ms. Obama was criticized for showing off her toned triceps and biceps in her first official photo as first lady.

"Post-Title IX arms," Robin Givhan called them in the Washington Post. Some are calling her choice of attire (she also wore a sleeveless dress to her husband's speech before a joint session of Congress), calling it too informal and out of season.

"Oh my God," Cindi Leive, Glamour editor, e-mailed the New York Times after the congressional episode. "The First Lady has bare arms in Congress, in February, at night!"

"The dress was so inappropriate for that occasion. This is not trend setting it is simply poor taste ... I was offended by the disregard for the other people in attendance. Good fashion is never offensive," huffed one reader.

I guess she should have worn a burqa.

Frankly, I never noticed that she wore a sleeveless dress. Had I noticed, I wouldn't have cared. And who makes up these rules, anyway?

But I did like the response from the White House: Social Secretary Desiree Rogers who said that Mrs. Obama's feeling is "If I want to wear no sleeves to hear my husband speak, that's what I'm going to do."

And for the record: In 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy wore a sleeveless black sheath to her husband' State of the Union address.

The Muzak Man

An icon of American pop culture is teetering on the edge of the economic collapse. And maybe that's a good thing.

Muzak Holdings, the maker of background music heard in elevators, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this past week.

If this is indeed The Day the Muzak Died, we will at last be free from decades of ear pollution that threatened to turn our brains to oatmeal.

No longer will we be subjected to romanticized versions of "Disco Inferno," "Stairway to Heaven" or "Mustang Sally" performed by the 101 Strings and endlessly piped into elevators, doctors offices, restrooms, grocery stores and bank lobbies.

No longer will we be put on hold for a half hour while some orchestra plays "The Sounds of Silence" or "Tired of Waiting for You."

In 1989, rocker Ted Nugent tried to buy the company for $10 million just so he could destroy it. One wag claimed the name was a combination of Music and Prozak.

For whatever else it may have been, Muzak had a dark soul. According to published reports, the company marketed a theory called "stimulus progression" which stated that a person's outlook could be altered with music.

Offices played 15-minute blocks of Muzak tracks that increased in tempo until the final song was so upbeat the workers found themselves happily toiling away when they normally would start to lag.

One man's manipulation is another man's brainwashing.

To give Muzak its due, it has in recent years moved away from the
"elevator music" approach to multiple specialized channels of music, including offering channels of commercially available recordings intended to match the targeted environment.

But live or die, the name Muzak will always be synonymous with music to slack your jaw by.

Pass me my I-Pod.

President Obama's speech to the nation in front of joint session of Congress Tuesday night was remarkable for two reasons.

First, it was a pep talk that Americans needed to hear. But at the conclusion of almost every sentence we were treated to the sight of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi leaping to her feet to lead the applause. She looked like a jack-in-the-box that landed on a whoopie cushion.

After a while, it became a distraction. I stopped watching the president and focused on Pelosi, wondering if she was going to break out a set of pompons. Enthusiasm is fine, and I know she had to sit next to Dick Cheney for two years. But next time, Nancy, fasten your seatbelt. It's going to be a long ride.

To hear tell it, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard showed up on Colorado Boulevard one recent morning, his chain saw glimmering in the sun, the stub of a half-chewed cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth, and, aided by a pack of hired goons, started chopping down ficus trees.

I don't necessarily subscribe to this view of events but there's no debating the heated level of rhetoric over the city's tree removal ordinance. The city recently approved a plan to remove three dozen ficus and carrotwood trees and replace them with palm and ginko trees.

Businesses in the area have complained that the ficus trees have caused costly repairs to sidewalks and sewers. And, more to the point, obscured signs. There's a lot of evidence to support this view. Santa Monica, among other cities, has been yanking ficus trees and replacing them for years.

Advocates say the trees provide needed shade and beauty. No argument there. You have to wonder if a little more study would have resulted in a better solution such as better maintenance, better replacement choices.

Several council members said they felt compelled to stick with the original removal plan, since it is part of a phased landscaping plan that dates back to 1996.

So what? Nobody was asking the council to repeal the Bill of Rights. Just reconsider an ordinance. It's too bad patience didn't carry the day.