L.A. legend: Edward Ruscha has been a driving force in the world of contemporary art in Los Angeles for more than four decades. "Edward Ruscha: Editions 1959-1999" presents a retrospective of the artist's entire printmaking career, from his first woodcut in the '50s to his latest lithographs. From June 4 through Aug. 27 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Information: (323) 857-6000.

Rattle & Ravel: Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Ravel's "L'Enfant et les Sortil & #269;ges" and Mahler's Symphony No. 4. From May 25 through 28 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Information: (323) 850-2000.

Sushi 101: In anticipation of the upcoming book "Sushi for Dummies," the Japan America Society presents a hands-on class on how to make sushi. Eat what you make at the lesson-and-dinner program. May 18 at the Holiday Inn Torrance. Information: (213) 627-6217.

Ancient antics:

A Noise Within

theater troupe presents one of Shakespeare's late plays, "Cymbeline," a tragic-comedy romance set in ancient Britain and Rome. Through June 18 at the

Luckman Fine Arts Complex on the Campus of Cal State L.A. Information: (323) 224-6420.

Mitch Albom


For years, I have been trying to get my mother into computers.

"You can e-mail me," I say.

"I can call you on the phone," she says.

"You can send pictures," I say.

"I can visit you in person," she says.

Once again, as with pretty much everything in life, Mother is proving to know best.

We recently got a dose of just how frightening computer life can be when "the love bug" virus started somewhere in Asia, spread quickly throughout Europe and North America, and interrupted, disrupted or rendered totally useless entire households, offices and corporations.

From the average Joe to companies as large as Ford, Estee Lauder and even, if you can believe it, Microsoft, there was collapse and panic. The problem was quickly dubbed the fastest-moving, most havoc-wreaking, most widespread computer virus ever.

Imagine. A single e-mail. You click it open and it's like accidentally swallowing arsenic. Nothing you can do. It begins infecting your system almost instantly, shutting down e-mails, destroying graphic and music files, and worst of all automatically sending its poison self to everyone in your address book, under your name.

Of course, the irony is that it begins with three little words: "I Love You."

Now, if you received an envelope that read, "From A Stranger," you would not open it. If it read, "A Message From Some Lonely, Demented, Evil-Minded, Button-Pushing Geek," you wouldn't open it, right?

But when a message begins, "I Love You," who can resist? We all want to be loved. We all like the idea that someone out there thinks we're special.

And the more we get into computers, the more we embrace home offices, telecommuting and video conferencing, the more we distance ourselves from one another physically and emotionally, so that we needn't see anyone in the course of a day if we don't want to. In the process, the idea of someone loving us becomes ever more appealing.

And the quicker we might be to open a message that promises love even if it comes to us via a screen.

Whoever created this virus knew that. Somewhere out there maybe in some dank basement, maybe some midnight office, maybe some back room at a factory under a dimly lit bulb some twisted computer whiz worked on this bug, pressed a few buttons and sat back to watch.

There was little to gain. Nothing financial. Nothing held for ransom. Whoever did this, as one computer security expert told me, "did it for bragging rights."

Bragging rights, and a delight in destruction. As an arsonist watches his fire, as a serial killer collects his newspaper clippings, so, too, does a hacker revel in his technological carnage.

This time, in the name of "love."

Is it any wonder older citizens, like my mother, see no lure to the new technology? Think of all the things you have to worry about these days that didn't exist just a few years ago:

You used to worry about the guy on the subway stealing your wallet. Now, from anywhere in the world, they can go into your computer and steal your identity.

You used to worry about your kids talking to strangers on the street corner. Now they can be in their bedroom, chatting online with a killer.

You used to worry that a spark might fly from your furnace and start a fire. Now you worry about clicking the wrong e-mail and shutting down your computer world which, these days, could mean everything from your job to your bank account.

So maybe my mother has it right. You trust what you can see and hear. You trust the faces you know in front of you.

Isn't it a sad state of affairs that, as the virus spread last week, bosses were racing through offices warning employees, "Don't be fooled! Don't open that message! You are not loved!"

All the technology in the world won't eliminate the world's most basic need. And the saddest part of last week's techno-crisis is that whoever invented a virus named for love, obviously never got enough of it.

Mitch Albom is the author of the best-selling book, "Tuesdays With Morrie."

Roving Eye

Drive past the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills and you're bound to see a bunch of sleek Audi 8s parked outside.

It's part of a unique arrangement the hotel has with Audi to provide the cars to guests free of charge.

There's just one hitch.

The lucky guests have to stay in one of the hotel's poshest suites before they get to slip behind the wheel of the black, all-aluminum beauties. And the tab for those rooms starts at $1,100 a night.

The program started earlier this year as a promotion for the German carmaker, which for years languished behind Mercedes Benz and BMW as the Teutonic choice of U.S. buyers.

Through the Peninsula program the only one of its kind in the country Audi gets access to big spenders who essentially test drive the cars and hopefully spread the word.

Four guests have gone as far as buying one of the A8s, which start at $62,000.

"We targeted the Peninsula because we wanted a venue that was consistent with the style and sophistication of the A8, our top-of-the-line car," said Stephanie Horton, a spokeswoman for Audi.

Drivers should beware, however, when cruising down Wilshire Boulevard. The A8's top speed is 130 mph, and it will go from zero to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds.

With those numbers, there may soon be a lot of police cars cruising near the hotel as well.

Frank Swertlow

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