One of the hazards of living in this strange part of the country is the constant conflict of interests. This curious region is inhabited by both the very rich and the very poor. Despite their best efforts, the rich cannot seem to eradicate the working class from the county. This plays havoc on the local television stations who want to appeal to all of the people locally. While one might be sympathetic with their situation — trying to serve such a diverse crowd –it is unfortunately impossible when they constantly make such bad decisions.

The current trend seems to be to break into any show for “news” about any celebrity event, even when the station has no information at all, and much better information has been available for an hour online. They don’t just say the message and return to programming, but they keep the camera on their vapid talking head who makes a mess of trying to sound dramatic while repeating the same dull non-information over and over.

For instance, it evidently merited an hour of breaking coverage to inform the breathless world about the genetic ancestry of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby. The anti-climatic end to a national game of “Mystery Date” in which all of the possibilities were “the Loser”. Does it really spike your channel’s ratings to be one of a hundred information outlets? Are there really that many nail salons and hairdressers all watching right now? Does anyone else care?

Television out here is delayed 3 hours from the time everyone else gets to see it. It makes the new push for having a show “web community” less effective here, since the forums and blogs all fire up talking about the latest episode hours before it even airs here. The added irony that makes me laugh is that the shows are mostly filmed out here, and the actually community of people who contribute to the show are kept from contributing to the “web community” by that wicked trick of the Earth’s rotation.

This can lead to utter disasters, such as the one that struck the Angry Fiancee. It has, much to her disappointment, been announced that this is the final season of The Gilmore Girls. This was announced with only a few episodes left, and watching those became a big priority for her. If the show were broadcast at the same time across the country, the episode would have aired here normally. However, since it was delayed three hours, the coverage was broken into by coverage of a local brush fire. She hoped that the break would take two minutes, then return to show, but they kept circling their helicopter over the fire for hours. The only news they had to say was “Griffith Park is on fire. If you live in Los Feliz and the fireman haven’t pulled you from your house already, please run away from the flames.” I’m sure the residents of that neighborhood appreciated this channel repeating that in a dull uninventive way all night, especially since their power had already been lost three hours previously.

I think the key for modern TV directors is to look in their book and read the whole “interruption” script. There are two lines:

1) “We interrupt this program to bring you this important announcement.”
This should now quickly mention things like ‘The President has died, the country has been attacked, or the Germans have unconditionally surrendered’. Short of that, any message should be run as a crawl on the bottom of the screen.
2) (This is the most important part) “We now return you to your regularly schedule program already in progress
Return me to my regularly scheduled program! I cannot understate how important this is! I don’t watch your channel to see a fire in Griffith Park. If I wanted to see that, I would walk outside and look at it myself. It’s on a big hill, and clearly visible to everyone.

This is why your channel gets zero ratings around here, and you have to beg Warner Bros to let you run the only decent show you schedule (which has now finished it’s run). This is why your channel couldn’t even sustain a tele-novella — the single most popular television format in the Western Hemisphere! Return me to my regularly scheduled program!

And so now I’m forced to deal with the other channels in town that, while not making quite the novice mistake of that particular channel, mix and match their programming in a way that guarantees that no single person watches their channel all day. For instance, they scheduled NHL hockey just before the Preakness. The current fad of cross-promoting your shows means that during the intermission breaks from top-level hockey — that most genteel of hobbies — they cut away to the rough and tumble blue-collar beer-chugging world of million dollar horse racing. Not so much the racing itself, but the discussion of the current crop of fashions that are on display around the track.

Since this particular hockey game ended in overtime, and there is no greater joy to a hockey fan than overtime hockey in the playoffs, one would expect the program manager to stay with hockey and switch to the Preakness once the sudden death goal was scored. Especially since the horseracing coverage consists of two hours of stalling before the actual two minute race. They couldn’t spare 10 minutes from their “tributes to past horses” and “interviews with a horse hair French-braid specialist” to let the viewers who have already invested two hours into the game watch the actual finish of it? Nope. On to the boring horse manure.

Of course, as I finish writing this, the channel did cut into the middle of an interview with “breaking news” showing the final 5 seconds of the hockey game. As if any hockey fans were still watching this channel, and hadn’t thrown a chair through their TV in frustration already anyway.

The winter sports here are drawing to a close – basketball, men’s volleyball, and local elections. I decided that I should pay more attention to the local governance of these simple folks who surround me, and perhaps that would unlock the secret logic the drives them forward in directions that are so unthinkable to a common-sense citizen in the old country. I’ve found that even in their local governance policies these people start with their heads in the wrong place.

Lately, the local politics of my quaint hamlet have stunk like horse manure. Oh, I would that that were only a figure of speech. Burbank, CA, for historical reasons, has an area of town where most of the houses have a horse stable attached. If you think people are strange when they’re way too interested in their pets, you’ve never seen horse owners. And nothing brings a community together like all sharing the same ridiculous interest.

When their quiet, peaceful neighborhood was threatened by the invasion of an evil big-box retailer, they banded together and mounted an All-American grassroots effort to show the overbearing city council that they meant business. Well, they meant business for the council that is – they didn’t mean business for the retailer. That, they were trying to prevent.

This sounds like a familiar enough story, except that this is California. This is Burbank. This is the Rancho Equestrian District. What would normally be cries of ‘The extra traffic will endanger the children in our little subdivision – think of the children’ became Californicated into: ‘There will be wine tastings, so drunken drivers will endanger us as we ride around the RanchoThink of the Horses!’ (Burbank Leader – sorry for the login)

The usual cries of our quaint little mom & pop shops will be replaced by boring huge store” were Californicated into: “it’s replacing a uniquely Burbank business” (The current tenant of the building to be replaced is Captions, Inc – providers of closed-captioning, credits, subtitles, and translations)

The semi-usual cries of “We don’t want that evil, socially irresponsible corporation infecting our town’s policy of social justice and low environmental-impact” ring somewhat hollow when the big-box chain store moving in is Whole Foods. Yeah. That Whole Foods – organic granola is always half-off.

Only in California would you have a ridiculous situation like this. The skeleton outline seems reasonable, but when you have a bunch of rich, homogenously white wanna-be ranchers in the middle of the LA sprawl whose idea of a grassroots effort involves have each one of their lawyers threaten to sue the city complain about the removal of an historic cottage industry of a closed captioning studio in order to bring in the evil big box retailer of fine organic groceries, wines, and other healthy foods, the odds that the folks back in the old country will believe me when I tell them are just astronomically low.

These are the people that annoy me on my walk to work. Their sprinklers are watering their little postage stamp lawns every day of the year. Their sidewalks are frequently covered in excess manure. And on days when I have to get up at dawn to hit the office early, there’s a little smart-aleck rooster next to my office who feels he has to remind me of that fact.

On the other hand, I’ve got no big need for a Whole Foods. I’ve got no dog in this fight. This is Burbank – the “normal” grocery store has a massive organic food section. If I need to impress a vegan, there are two Trader Joe’s within 10 minutes of here. If I badly need to locate something to eat that inconvenienced no animals, I know where I can find some well-watered grass.

I’m just an observer trying to make sense of it all. This is the biggest thing going on in town right now. In the old country we often saw reports of these people and their bickering ways spreading to national affairs. They would often try to cast their opponent as being the privileged favorite, then argue that everyone should only listen to the oppressed minority – establishing a tyranny of the minority. It’s interesting to see their methods turned on each other, and coming to a complete stalemate.

The developer ceded the latest round, but he ceded in a way that allows him to return next time stronger that they can possibly imagine. Possibly in a glowing ghostly aura. The glow might be due to the extra-healthy foods.