Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Final thoughts on fireworks

I don’t remember this ever happening before in Los Angeles.  On July 5th there was so much residual smoke from the previous day’s fireworks that the general air quality was hazardous. 


How insane is that? 


Oh, and home fireworks are illegal in LA County.   And yet, enough of them were set off to turn the entire city into an ashtray.


Where I live they were going off until 1:00 in the morning. 


I feel so bad for pets.   How many of these revelers scared the shit out of their beloved cats and dogs? 


I don’t get it for so many reasons.  First off, they’re dangerous.   They’re also not cheap.  As thrills go they’re pretty quick.  And finally, what the hell are you possibly celebrating?   This is the darkest, bleakest period I’ve experienced in my whole life.   So what is there to celebrate?  It’s like if Germany held a victory parade right after V-E Day. 


The point is, when home fireworks are banned it is for your own safety.   It is not a punitive action.   For the life of me I will never understand how self-preservation has become a political dividing line.   It’s not ideology, it’s common sense.   Taking precautions to save yourself and your loved ones should be the most bi-partisan issue there is.   If there’s still a United States in a hundred years, I think history will record this period as the time America lost its mind. 


Asking you to be safe and take care of yourself is not asking you to vote Democratic. 


But getting back to fireworks because I’m not going to change anyone’s mind with reason. 


I used to love going to city parks on the 4th of July and seeing the fireworks show with friends and family.   Once I became a baseball announcer fireworks meant it was hard to do the postgame show – although I must admit I had fun with it.  One time when I was with the Mariners we were on the road and they were shooting off fireworks.  I came on the air and said, “Live from Beirut, it’s the out-of-town scoreboard.   In the American League, Minnesota beat Detroit 3-2, Texas over Oakland 7-4, (BOOM!), oh no, they just got our embassy, and Boston edged Baltimore 2-1.” 


So I miss going to fireworks shows too.   And you have to physically go to fireworks shows.  Staying home this 4th of July (like I’ve stayed home every night for the last 17 weeks), I came across the Macy’s Fireworks show on NBC.  Is there anything more mind-numbing boring than watching fireworks on television?  The Yule Log is more entertaining.  

You gotta be in the venue that it happens. 


It’s now three days after the 4th.   Home fireworks have continued every night and I suspect tonight will be more of the same.  I don’t mean to be an old guy, but if someone wanted to fire a bottle rocket from my property I would tell him to get off my lawn. 


James Van Hise said...

I didn't understand this until I was older but as a child my brother, myself and my mother would go watch the fireworks every July 4th, but my father never went along. Only later did I understand that this World War Two vet who fought in Europe (and who never talked about it) did not see fireworks as entertainment, but as a grim reminder of the war he'd been in. I wonder how many other vets don't view fireworks as entertainment?

Tom Asher said...

Agreed completely...

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I'm surprised that you had and are still having ka-booms in your neighborhood. I've always envisioned you living near UCLA in the high rent district, not near the Westwood bomb range. I would expect your neighbors to be a little older and more sedate.

As to what we're celebrating, it's 1776, not 2020. It's Washington and Jefferson and Franklin, not Trump and McConnell.


AlaskaRay said...

It’s the risk that makes it desirable. Many people love taking stupid, unnecessary risks to make their lives more interesting. In fact, the most common last words spoken here in Virginia are, “Hey, y’all, watch this.”

Don Graf said...

Nothing says Celebrate America like igniting Chinese Fireworks.

Mibbitmaker said...

Yes, not seeing the fireworks in person just isn't the same.

But my Inna Gadda Da Vida idea from the other thread does (for me, at least) make the Macy's on-TV version an experience. All that's needed is a good sized flat screen HD TV, computer on YouTube (or other source of music), Headphones (optional, though they do enhance the experience). I'd forgotten about turning the lights off, to whatever degree is possible.

Unlike last year, when the song ran out and the fireworks didn't, I just started the song over again until the light show was finished. Probably not advisable when listening to the song alone.

As far as the Yule Log is concerned... the one I've caught these days include the random presence of either puppies, kitties, or both (I think there were even rabbits at one point) throughout. Probably an admission that the log itself is, indeed, boring. But watching their shenanigans while adding a running commentary a la Mystery Science Theater 3000 does make for some fun. For a little while, anyway.

RF Burns said...

Interesting take on the LA DIY fireworks...aerial video of the city shot by KTLA, which a Twitter user set to the "Blade Runner" theme:


Here in the not-Deep South, heart of Trump Country (ugh), it has been revealing to read NextDoor conversations about people shooting off (illegal) fireworks. The people who dared to complain about the noise scaring pets and setting off Afghan/Iraq war vets with PTSD, have been shouted down as unpatriotic, anti-Americans, and anti-"FREEDOM".

Cedricstudio said...

When I was a kid every 4th of July we watched our Grandpa light off fireworks and we played with sparklers. It’s one of my favorite memories. I now have three kids and we light off (legal) fireworks in our driveway every year, at a reasonable hour (dusk, not 1am). I make sure to do so responsibly and keep the kids at a distance, and they absolutely love it. I would hate to have to give up the joy on their faces or lose those holiday memories.

Also, this might not be a popular opinion but I think our society is seeking to shelter and protect kids to their detriment. Small bits of risk now and then can be very healthy for kids. Obviously no responsible parent should put their kids in imminent danger but I think watching adults model for them, or maybe even guide them through, a proper handling of a little danger can help them learn how to properly manage risk and give them confidence and courage that they might otherwise have to develop later in life when the stakes are a lot higher. For me, fireworks fall into that category. I would much rather teach my kids how to handle hazardous things properly than have them live in fear of ever stepping outside their comfort zone.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Cedricstudio: That's why we teach kids to cross streets, cook, drive (eventually), and wash their hands - so they can handle the risks of daily life. I can't really see when in life knowing how to handle fireworks is an essential skill.

I'd like fireworks a lot more if they were silent.

Troy McClure said...

You're optimistic, Ken. I'm not sure there'll be a United States in four years.

brian t said...

There's a picture online here, a long exposure of LA fireworks on the 4th. There sure were a lot of them ..!

Liggie said...

When I was a teenager, our family set off some low-powered fireworks in our backyard. Pogo, the next-door neighbor's spaniel, came over and tried to put them out with her paws. She actually never got her paws on the fireworks, and they were low-powered enough that they wouldn't have done damage, but the fact that she willingly got them withing inches of the fireworks as a protective instinct was quite impressive.

blinky said...

Decades of Republican propaganda have resulted in the widespread belief that ones own Personal Freedom trumps everything else.
The fireworks are one example. Who cares if your house burns down, I like big booms.
All the snowflake Karens who cry when they are asked to wear a mask in public.
Not taking any action on climate change because it is inconvenient.
...on and on and on.

Viscount Manzeppi said...

Is there anything more mind numbing than watching fireworks on TV?

Yes. Watching golf on TV. Or watching golf, period.

I've never understood the appeal of home fireworks. Light a firecracker. It goes pop. Lather, rinse, repeat. Always seemed like nothing but a waste of a hard-earned paycheck to me.

YEKIMI said...

It seems to me that a lot of people have watched the movie Idiocracy and decide "You know, I want the United States to be just...like....THAT!"

And for those who don't know what Idiocracy is: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387808/

Mike Bloodworth said...

We had the same problem in the San Fernando Valley. The residual smoke was so thick it was almost like a fog.

I love fireworks. When I worked in Anaheim I used to go up on the roof of our building to watch Disneyland's fireworks show every night. One 4th the Angeles were at home, so I got to see their display as well.
If I lived in Kentucky (I believe fireworks are still legal there) I'd probably be playing with bottle rockets.

It's easy to point fingers, but in my neighborhood and surrounding areas the overwhelming majority of offenders were NOT the types of people that support Trump. In fact, just the opposite.

Risk taking is in our DNA. From hunting the wooly mammoth to Magellan to going to the moon, humans have always "pushed the envelope."
And in this case people are going stir crazy. They need some kind of release. Unfortunately, this 4th of July those under house arrest chose to buy and fire off illegal fireworks.

Anonymous -30-, YES.
Cedricstudio, YES.
Blinky, (Censored)

I agree about about watching fireworks on TV, even HD. But I would choose to watch golf over baseball, (Except for the playoffs) soccer or cricket.


Kevin from VA said...

Blinky, I couldn't agree more. Also, Happy 80th Ringo!

Rhoda Lexington said...

Completely agree. We have the same issue here in Vancouver (especially around Halloween), and I've never understood it.

ReticentRabbit said...

Hey Ken...one sentence in your post especially jumped out at me: "This is the darkest, bleakest period I’ve experienced in my whole life." I was born in the late seventies and have no firsthand experience of 1968, but my understanding is that it was also just an awful, awful year for the United States...the Democratic Convention descending into protests and riots, the MLK & RFK assassinations, Vietnam at its absolute worst, a president leaving office despondent and exhausted, and the arrival of Tricky Dick in the White House. At least the music was better.

Is 2020 really the worst?

By Ken Levine said...

It is far worse than 1968. A hundred times worse.

Charles Bryan said...

In 1968 was indeed awful, but no pandemic and we at least had the Apollo missions for nice distractions.

Although we did sort of live with all-out nuclear war in the backs of our minds. Hrm. Have we had a GOOD year since winning WW2?

Troy McClure said...

I agree with Ken. I wasn't born then but I know that Republicans weren't telling the people that journalists are the enemy, the president wasn't accusing a Democrat of committing a murder, and vast swathes of the public weren't virulently anti science.

Plus, it's the year that gave us 2001: A Space Odyssey and Rosemary's Baby. This year we've had Sonic the Hedgehog and Dolittle.

Buttermilk Sky said...

"Is there anything more mind-numbing boring than watching fireworks on television?"

Yes. Watching the movie 1776. Not one memorable song, nobody who can sing except John Cullum, and it's three hours long. Spoiler alert: they declare independence.

tavm said...

I actually like 1776. Along with Cullum, other eventual TV stars appear: James Noble, Ken Howard, and William Daniels (you know, "St. Elsewhere", "Boy Meets World", and that car in "Knight Rider"?). Oh, and Gweneth Paltrow's mom, Blyth Danner, also appears as Martha Jefferson. I also love Yankee Doodle Dandy with James Cagney as George M. Cohan which he won the Oscar for. So what if some of what is presented of his life is fictional? It was just so well made. I've also seen the real Cohan in The Phantom President. It wasn't bad. And then there's Stars and Stripes Forever, a partially fictional story of John Philip Sousa, played by Clifton Webb. Robert Wagner plays one of the fictional characters. It's still an enjoyable musical bio.

Hogne B. Pettersen said...

Here in Norway we send up fireworks on New Year's Eve. And we have the same debate every year: Should we ban personal fireworks, and only have public fireworks, arranged by your municipality. Every New Years Day there are stories on the news about people getting their eyes blown out or destroyed, and even people losing limbs. And of course: The inevitable house fires.

In some towns in Norway, they have forbidden fireworks because of too many wooden buildings, or simply because people are idiots. I stopped buying personal fireworks back in 95. At that time I had reached a level of maturity where I saw the insanity of it. I do love fireworks, though, but in a show setting or something like that.

Sean said...

I had a similar conversation with a 70 to 80 year old woman 3 years ago. Face to face it went well and peacefully. The outcome was --it's just fireworks. If that's the worst thing happening in your life then you're doing fine.

It's a much nicer life when you can smooth over, forgive, let things go, take it easy, get perspective, make more things none of your business etc., etc.

At the end of the day it's just fireworks.


MikeN said...

Charles, there WAS a pandemic in 1968. Hong Kong flu killed tens of thousands in the US alone and over a million worldwide.

Is this fireworks thing in LA an annual deal, or something that was abnormal for this year? If it is just this year, I would conclude it is the result of not doing a public fireworks show. People replaced it with their own version, and probably had lower quality fireworks leaving more residue. Cities can do them over water.

Mike Bloodworth said...

P.S. And of course, the WNBA.


Derek said...

There are a million things that we are legally allowed to do even though they're not safe for ourselves or others. Not sure why fireworks should have a law against them. That said, I haven't ever in my life bought any fireworks except for some of those little pop things you throw on the ground. And I agree with you about the strange attraction: I haven't seen a fireworks show or gone to a park or someone's house to see their show for, I think, 11 years; you're right, it's just not that fun as an adult, though there probably will always be a thrill for those who've never seen them.

Seems like the celebrations are being continued this year for at least a couple reasons. First, they're traditional. This is not, in and of itself, a good reason, but it's like any other tradition. People just don't want to give them up. Secondly, Americans are fucking bored these days. Also not a great reason--it shows how blessed we've been to grow up in this country, when there are so many frivolous things like sports and concerts and vacations to spend money on. The problem is that we've become accustomed to that lifestyle, and now we're at 3 months ad counting of having most of those things gone from our lives.

I was fine with the fireworks going off on the 4th in my townhouse complex (and all the surrounding complexes) this year, since it was a Saturday and most people don't have to work on Sunday. Honestly, I think the celebration should be on a Friday or Saturday every year. The problem as I see it is the fireworks going for a week before and a week after, keeping pets and toddlers howling and sometimes even waking me ;)

Not sure what your last sentence is getting at--there is nothing unreasonable about not wanting other people lighting fireworks from your property. Lots of those demonic and idiotic Republicans (as well as other non-Democrats) would agree with you on that one! THE HORROR!!!

No said...

"Asking you to be safe and take care of yourself is not asking you to vote Democratic."

I would argue that it is.

As much as I don't want to engage in the bullshit Republican culture wars, we must acknowledge that public safety issues--masks right now--are being used as political weapons by the right to make it seem like taking care of safety is somehow a tool of the left. If we believe that, we're lost as a society.

StoicJim said...

I blame my generation, the Hippies (I'm 63). It was all this "drop out, hang out, do whatever you feel like" nonsense. Civic responsibility, a sense of being part of a community was exchanged for a laser focus on self and what made you feel good as the primary thing. This isn't some "old-man rant". I found a list of basic high school civics lessons from 1948 and you'd think it was some Soviet-era diatribe against "our freedoms".

It's pathetic.