The two towers

Bad altitude: “Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.” So begins High-Rise, the last of J.G. Ballard’s treatises on urban dystopia (Crash and Concrete Island being its predecessors), in which a high-rise building’s tenants tear up the social contract and begin engaging in full-fledged intramural warfare.

Although the image of a successful young professional noshing on the freshly roasted haunch of a neighbor’s Alsatian may not be the stuff that marketing dreams are made of, Bites can’t help thinking of Ballard’s prescient novel whenever another ad for Sacramento’s proposed twin towers appears on the horizon.

You’ve probably seen the ads for The Towers by now: billboards on which twin high-rises ascend from the clouds, complemented by one of three catchy slogans (“An Address with Altitude,” “The Place to Be in Sacramento” and—Bites’ personal favorite—“Where Donald Would Live”).

Never mind the sheer hubris that comes with building twin towers anywhere in the aftermath of 9/11. It’s the Donald reference that Bites really finds baffling. Call us cynical or call us realists, but Bites just doesn’t see Donald Trump settling down in Sacramento anytime soon. How about an ad for “Where Osama Would Aim” instead?

Then again, maybe this is just what downtown Sacramento really needs—not one, but two 53-story towers, each standing twice as tall as its surrounding neighbors. After all, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of massages, maid service and all those other amenities that, according to The Towers’ Web site, traditionally are reserved “for the privileged few”?

In any event, it will be a few years before The Towers become a reality, during which time we’re all encouraged to place a deposit on our favorite floor plan and ensure our residence in a building where condo units will be selling for as much as a million dollars each.

And don’t worry too much about that whole dog-eating thing. Ballard would be the first to admit that the collapse of his fictional high-rise was due in large part to a disparity in tenant incomes. Sounds like The Towers won’t have to worry about that.

Dumbing down? There was a time when the idea of “working smarter” was all the rage among business gurus and management consultants. But that time appears to have come to an end here in Sacramento—or, at least, that’s how it looked when an anonymous tipster sent Bites a government form titled “Health and Human Services Agency Bill Analysis Guidelines.” The form instructs employees—in a warning that’s underlined, centered and printed completely in capital letters—to “write analysis at the 6th grade level.” And, lest that caution go unheeded, a manager/supervisor checklist asks overseers to sign off on a host of important questions, including: “Is the analysis written at the grade school level?”

So, what gives? Is it possible that state workers currently are reading at a grade-school level? Not at Health and Human Services, said spokeswoman Nicole Evans, who insisted her agency has no grade-school-writing requirement. Turns out the guidelines are actually an internal document from the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.

“Man, I’ve just struggled with this issue for years,” said the department’s chief deputy, Thomas Powers, whose intent is to keep internal documents jargon-free. Fair enough, but grade-school level? “I’ve gotta tell you,” said Powers, “I’ve worked for a lot of administrations, I’ve worked for two different attorney generals, and they all say the same thing: Will you people please write clear, so people can understand it?”

Errant death knell: Just when you thought local commercial television couldn’t get any goofier, along comes Channel 10’s coverage of last Friday’s Kings game, during which a message flashed on the screen, breaking the news that the pope was dead. The only problem, of course, was that said pontiff was still alive, if not kicking. Kings broadcaster Grant Napear was left with the unenviable task of explaining that news of the pope’s death was, in fact, premature. Napear quickly attributed the error to an “errant graphic.”