Monday, March 24, 2008

The NY Times Catches Up With My Groundbreaking Trend of Staying in Cheap LA Hotels

Hey, this guy sounds a lot like me:
There was a time, on my frequent trips to the West Coast, when I used to stay at chic West Hollywood hotels, in rooms furnished with designer bottled waters, vinyl beanbag chairs and all manner of pay-per-view television entertainments. Each morning I proudly strode past fitness rooms, spas and barbershops I never visited, and each night I went to bed contentedly knowing that the hotel bar was packed with the sorts of people who would never give me the time of day.

Now, though, with the slumping economy, such sumptuous amenities are as much a relic of the past as the Brown Derby restaurant. Now when I travel to the West Coast, my center of gravity is shifted miles to the east, away from Sunset Boulevard to a far less alluring side of Los Angeles. I can usually be found at one of several low-cost motels in the city’s Koreatown and Thai Town neighborhoods, where the 101 meets Western Avenue and where glamorous expectation meets economic reality.

I know, reporting on the Travelodge as some sort of post-ironic hipster discovery is kind of ridiculous, but I've had the same experience. Bootie LA brings me down maybe once every couple months, and my hipster lodging of choice was the Standard Downtown. Rates there used to be as low as $119 a night, booked online with enough advance warning, and I felt like a rock star, with the Holzer in the lobby and Jose Gonzalez on the stereo on the roof deck. The minimalist rooms were just my style, and upon returning from the DJ gig, half-drunk, at 3:30am, room service was always available with a very tasty burger and fries. Granted, I was usually spending about as much on the whole deal as I was making at the gigs, but whatever, it was a vacation, right?

But things change. First, no longer having the disposable income of my good old LIVE 105 job means budget concerns are paramount; second, rates at the hotel seem to rarely go below $200/night these days; and third, I've stayed a couple non-hipster places and they're really not so bad. My discount hotel of choice is currently the Comfort Inn Sunset, and at about $90/night, it's not like it's free, but I'm saving money on a whole bunch of other things: parking, for one, which is free, and secured, under the hotel, and late-night room service, whose absence forces me to grab a tasty burrito at one of the late-night joints down the street rather than spend $25 on a burger. The rooms are recently renovated, and while the lights all use the worst, flickery fluorescent bulbs, it's pleasant enough, and the times I've stayed there my room faced the building next door, so no street noise from Sunset.

While I've done some work at the desk like the NY Times guy (and utilized the free wifi), part of the appeal for me is that the no-frills room really urges one to get out on the town. The hotel's location a quick drive from Silverlake means tons of cool restaurants and shops are right nearby, and of course Bootie LA at the Echo is just a few blocks the other direction. Since there's no waiting for a dipshit model-turned-valet to get your rental car, heading out is pretty easy.

I'll be interested to see if the Hollywood-area resurgence (a new W hotel is going in right at Hollywood and Vine) will trickle down to the more budget-minded hipster, and we'll see hotels spring up that are no-frills but, you know, cool. I've always lamented that the fantastic Ace Hotel in Seattle (and now Portland) doesn't have a location in every city: while some people might be put off by the hostel-like "bathrooms down the hall" concept, those bathrooms are spotless, like minimalist white labs, and there's a whole row of them -- I never had to wait, ever, and never felt weird about it. These rooms are still just $99/night. But hey, their website says they're opening new Aces in New York and Palm Springs; I'll be interested to see if they keep the low-price but high-style concept. In the meantime, hello, Comfort Inn across from the donuts-and-Thai-food place!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

One More Reason Obama is the Right Choice for Democrats: Nebraska Goes Purple

I was leaning towards Obama all through last year, but skeptical of the "cult of personality" that seemed to be accumulating around him; Hillary's work in the senate had really impressed me, despite the fact that the Clinton circus drives me up the wall. So, I waited until Iowa, and then I watched his victory speech.

I kind of got a little choked up, and what I realized is that inspiration, in and of itself, isn't something to be cynically tossed aside, like I'd been doing; and that in fact, it's not Obama's otherworldly brilliance that impressed me, but his normalcy. It's almost as if politics squeezes the normalcy out of a person, almost inevitably, but in Obama we have a chance for a politician who's still kind of a regular human being.

Of course, Hillary's actions post-Iowa only cemented my feelings: Bill's disgusting outbursts blew my mind, and her campaign's dismissiveness of all of Obama's wins was bafflingly idiotic. Putting aside my deep reservations about electing a former first lady (are we freaking Argentina?) and the establishment of American political dynasties, that dismissiveness of red (or small) states struck me as reason enough to vote for Obama instead: not only is ignoring, say, Wisconsin a terrible strategy for winning the White House, it also serves to hold down the Democratic slate in other races. It's something Kos calls the "50-state strategy," and it's absolutely essential to overturning the Rove-created juggernaut of solid red states and entrenched 49/49 national splits in national elections, and in breaking through in state and local elections in traditional Republican strongholds. Now, we have some proof of how this might look in the general election against McCain in the fall.

Survey USA has compiled polls from individual states pitting both Clinton and Obama against McCain, and the results are fascinating.

First up, the hypothetical Clinton-McCain matchup:

Clinton ekes out a victory, grabbing both Florida and Ohio, which seems kind of far-fetched to me, but whatever. Now, here's Obama's map:

It's not only a more decisive win, but a more interesting and safer one: he brings it in without either Florida or Pennsylvania. And what, pray tell, is all that stripey business going on in my home state of Nebraska?!

If you're not familiar with the Cornhusker State's strange governmental practices, not only do we have a kooky unicameral legislature, since 1996 we also split presidential electoral votes by congressional district. It's never been tested in the three elections since then, because all three districts (1-Lincoln & Eastern counties, 2-Omaha, and 3-the Western 2/3 of the state) have always been reliably Bushy (or, uh, Dole-y).

But not only does the SurveyUSA Nebraska poll puts a potential Obama/McCain matchup at only 42-45% statewide, rendering the whole state a "tossup" (!!), it actually shows Obama beating McCain in both CD1 and 2: 44-42 in Lincoln, 45-43 in Omaha, compared to Clinton's 31-59 and 30-54 losses in both districts. This would give Obama 2 of NE's 5 electoral votes. Not only is it mind-blowing, considering Nebraska had the 2nd highest margin for Bush in 2004 outside of Wyoming (that's right, more than Texas), but also, strategically, it's rulebook-shattering: it's easy to imagine another close election where one or two electoral votes might make the difference, and if a couple of those might come from Nebraska, all bets are off.

Who knows what could happen between now and the election in November; these points could be completely moot. But I do know that Hillary Clinton offers zero hope whatsoever to rewrite the rulebook about how national elections work in the US, and would serve only to reinforce the same old red state/blue state dichotomy that the Rove strategy has proven to win, every time.

And sure, McCain seems like a good guy, but a) if he appoints another Scalia like he says he will, fuck him, and b) you know for a fact he'll govern more conservatively than he, uh, senatored, considering everybody's watching out for him to be "too liberal," so he'll overreact to the right. Plus he'll pick a far-right dipshit to be his VP and then probably die in office, giving us President Ridge or (shudder) Huckabee. You can respect his war service (and sense of humor) without wanting any of that crap.

New Music: 3face

Okay, we get it, two-face, three-face. Of course don't forget No Face:

He was super scary but then nice. But really, if you think about it, we've all got way more than three faces, even. Sometimes I'm Mopey Ben, other times I'm Drunk Ben, often I'm Curious Ben, a lot of the time I'm Worried Ben. The one thing I'm not really ever is Party Ben; thus the irony. But I think I could come up with at least seven primary faces, so from now on please refer to me as "7face."

Anyway, I heard this on a Sinden show from Kiss FM I downloaded. This guy may have four less faces than me, but he made a nice song. Actually he made an okay song and then it got a spectacular remix. The Four Tops sample is pretty inspired:

...but mostly I just like those ringing, propulsive chords, like I wrote about over on The Rifferoonie; it's a proper counterpoint to the oddly chirpy sample chorus, intense and urgent, futuristic.

3face, Nasty Jack, Nolay, Scorcher, Tinchy Stryder & Wretch 32 - "Different World" (All Star Remix)

3face MySpace (har)

3face interview