Los Angeles

Out With The Old

by on Jan.01, 2010, under Books, Los Angeles, Movies, Politics

In a gesture towards a clean slate, a fresh start, and a healthy digestive reaction to the upcoming bowl of black-eyed peas, here are four quick sketches for blog posts that I started to draft but never completed. Fly free, little half-born angels.

  • Great Daves of the 90′s. I read Infinite Jest as part of the Infinite Summer challenge, and David Foster Wallace’s twisting, reflexive, ouroborean self-consciousness took me back to the early 90′s. The middle year of my college career was marked by emerging consciousness of the fictions involved in pronouncements about Generation X, and the same kinds of impossibility around newness and protest that Kurt Cobain seemed to reel from in his final famous years. When Dave Eggers (whose Might magazine I had enjoyed) published A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, its hysterically self-aware style felt immediately familiar, and I put off reading it until a few years ago, when I devoured it quickly, enjoyably, and without surprise. Wallace, however, resonates with the maddening headaches of that young consciousness that everything you think is already always being said, programmed by a machine you may operate but never master. But by approaching these struggles through the character of Don Gately, a recovering alcoholic, and showing us his experience grappling with the seemingly empty but vitally true dogma of Alcoholics Anonymous, Wallace validated this familiar and vertiginous self-reflexivity while challenging and expanding it, using a feature of my upper-middle-class overeducated habits of mind to create sympathy for a broken, giant ex-con. Also noted: while I was obsessing over the meanings and traps of “Generation X” I bought a Malcolm X hat (purple X on white baseball cap) and Sharpied “Gen-” in front of the X, and added “Generation Next” to the back, a gesture which in retrospect was a bizarre fashion error.
  • Where The Wild Things Are. Where The Fantastic Mr. Fox presented a fetishization of material goods behind its trumpeted wildness, the Jonzes’ Eggers’s Sendak’s wild things are figurines in staging a Oedipal passage to adulthood. Lauren Ambrose’s monster KJ is a cool babysitter, providing a mother-figure who is also a safe object for the early stirrings of sexual desire (she swallows Max whole to protect him at one point, keeping him safe in a sticky cavernous interior). The movie’s exploration of childhood sets sail from the therapist’s couch, turning Max’s inchoate childhood rages (very well represented) into figures with names before the journey home — and into healthy adulthood — can start. A delightful adaptation of a childhood story to a therapy generation, Where The Wild Things Are was good but both HJ and I wished it wasn’t the definitive take. We wanted the magnificent sets and costumes put in the hands of two or three more writers, so they could play out their own versions of WTWTA against their own idiosyncracies.
  • Interzone. At the time, the Los Angeles City Council was considering the prohibition of medical marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of any residence. More typically, restricted uses will be prohibited close to schools, churches, parks and playgrounds–y’know, because the children are the future– but someone went and threw residences in there as well, leaving about two or three industrial districts where dispensaries could fill prescriptions. My proposal was for the creation of an L.A. Interzone, a la the portrayal of Tunis (?) in Naked Lunch, where head shops, dispensaries, sex offenders and strip clubs could all profitably locate.
  • Road Not Taken. I noticed that the people running to replace Paul Krekorian in the special election for California’s 43rd assembly district were all people that I knew and had come up with in L.A. politics. When I started working in City Hall I toyed with the idea of one day running for office, and if I had, it would be that election today. I made the choice not to seek elective office a long time before I got out of local politics entirely, but if I hadn’t, I could be out there today. Mutatis mutandis, I would have stacked up well. They’re a talented and friendly lot, and it should be an interesting race, but the Assembly today is no place for someone who wants to make a difference in California politics, sadly.

There. No more ideas! I’ll have to go see a movie or something. Big Josh, you back yet?

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The Graveyard of Anti-Imperialists

by on Dec.02, 2009, under Los Angeles, Politics

But we must also remember that the Afghans, menaced even though they are by the evil of the Afghans, are not blameless here. Have they sufficiently appreciated our efforts to kill them? No, they have not. Have they effectively and efficiently rebuilt their nation whenever we’ve had cause to blow it up? No, they have not. Have they become full and effective participants in the ongoing mission to kill them? No, they have not. It is long past time for the people of Afghanistan to step up their efforts to kill themselves, and not merely rely on American generosity to finish the job for them.

Fafblog

I want to scream against this war, but I don’t want to deal with traffic out to Westwood at 5.

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And If I Close The Window, It’ll Get Warm Outside?

by on Nov.13, 2009, under Los Angeles

John B. Cannon is exactly right about the unpleasantness of California winters:

Now the problem with California winters is that, since it never gets that cold, most houses are not properly constructed for heat conservation. They are poorly insulated. Windows often have gaps (and storm windows are not to be found). Instead of central heating, the average home in the Bay Area will have one or two rinky-dink wall heaters. What makes matters worse is that most native Californians are kind of macho about heating. They don’t think it should be on except for the two or three coldest days of the year, and they don’t even bother to close windows consistently. To me, an open window in November is an anomaly – not out of the question, but always to be remembered and closed at the earliest moment a nice day turns cold. I like being macho about going for long walks in the cold in Kansas. I hate being out-machoed (and therefore being what, weak and soft?) about feeling cold in my house in California.

I had a lovely November day today, as I made a cup of tea and broke my reading fast (more on that tomorrow) in the dim midafternoon and the need for a sweater. But soon it will be chilly inside all the time, when it should be toasty inside and chilly outside.

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Exciting

by on Oct.11, 2009, under Los Angeles

Tamara has show.

Main Gallery
October 17, 2009 — November 14, 2009

Reception: Saturday, October 17th, 5-7 pm

Rosamund Felsen Gallery is delighted to present our first solo exhibition of emerging artist Tamara Sussman. Tamara Sussman’s work is a richly layered combination of two practices: visual art and fiction writing. Her visual forms include photography, collage and installation. Her written stories, presented in the context of her photographs and collages, serve to amplify the aura of narratives that waiver beautifully between language and visuality.

Go!

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LA Labor Question

by on Oct.03, 2009, under Los Angeles

Thought I might put a question to this blog’s labor-friendly fellow travelers in Los Angeles about this story:

A landmark California hotel is shuttering its doors and laying off 250 union workers as it prepares to undergo two years of renovations. The problem for the union representing those 250 workers? The Hotel Bel-Air is refusing to rehire the workers in 2011 and UNITE-Here says they are using the renovations as a union busting tactic. … A federal mediator will be brought in to oversee further negotiations. Hotel Bel-Air is operated by the Dorchester Company which closed the Beverley Hills Hotel in 1992 for a similar two-year renovation project. When that luxury hotel reopened it replaced 300 union workers with non-union employees.

Is this a commonly-tried tactic? Obviously it worked at least once before, but I’m curious whether it’s something that’s been in the hotel-owner’s playbook for years or a newly emerging thing.

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Bates Motel

by on Sep.24, 2009, under Los Angeles

Sunset Pacific MOTEL

Curbed LA (via The Eastsider) says that the Board of Commissioners at the Department of Building and Safety voted to allow the demolition of the Sunset Pacific Motel.

The “Bates Motel” sits at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Bates Avenue in Silver Lake, and the shoe fits. When I started working in City Hall in 2001, it was a universal neighborhood complaint, and no amount of objection from the police and the community could get the motel owner to make it less of a nest of drugs and prostitution. After the city withdrew its conditional use permit in 2003, there was a short-lived attempt by the owner’s children to re-open it under new management. It was taken over for a period by Eastside impresario Dana Hollister, and while it wasn’t quite as much to start with as the Paramour or even the Brite Spot, we locals were excited at the prospect that she might bring a snazzy little hotel and spa to Silver Lake. Whether it was the economy or the Bates’ bones, that project never launched; the current Michigan-based owners sent a lawyer to register an objection at the hearing.A

A police officer working on the case back in 2002 told us that “it was the first time I’d ever seen the prostitutes come to us because they were afraid of the drug dealers.”

Image: Sunset Pacific MOTEL by Meltwater, on Flickr, under a Creative Commons license.

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Giga Granada Hills

by on Sep.05, 2009, under Los Angeles

There’s something a little freaky going on behind the doors of the inconspicuous suburban households of the San Fernando Valley. Blogger and friend L.J. Williamson discovers, in her own neighborhood… Buddhism.

When I rang the doorbell, I was greeted by a man wearing a flowing, saffon-colored Lakers T-shirt named Bill.

Read on for the most accurate description of meditation that this bemonkeyminded blogger has ever seen.

Also a treat: L.J. has a good eye for church signs.

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I Never Really Liked Cupcakes Anyway

by on Sep.04, 2009, under Los Angeles, New York

It’s very hard to keep them properly moist, so most places compensate with too much frosting. So if the crash comes, I won’t be sad.

If we have any readers outside of New York and L.A., has this unfortunate trend spread, or is it going to live and die in the homes of bad food ideas?

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Fire Season

by on Sep.01, 2009, under Los Angeles

View from P & M's balcony

View from P & M's balcony

Not two months after we started going out, HJ took me to a friend’s wedding in the Angeles National Forest. The forest gets most of its views from the return to Los Angeles through the Antelope Valley, where from the 5 freeway it appears brown and scrubby, but the wedding was in a hilltop grove, medium-close and green with pine trees. We danced on a big carpet set next to a generator-powered sound system and her friends scoped me out. I asked, “How many sentences can I start with ‘At my wedding…’” and she said “As many as you like as long as you’re open to another one,” and thus we got the ball rolling.

The forest will be considerably less green for a while. By Tuesday morning, the Station Fire had grown to 122,000 acres. The friends who got married there reported that their home in Big Tujunga Canyon was one of two remaining on their block, and they weren’t sure how remaining it was.

A giant pyrocumulus cloud has been standing over the basin, visible from just about everywhere:

Time Lapse Test: Station Fire from Eric Spiegelman on Vimeo. (via LAObserved)

It’s cloudy today, and when HJ left for work it was raining ash. Last night we sat with friends on their balcony with a good view of the flames and tried to figure out why California can’t prevent catastrophic forest fires. Would controlled burns help? If so, why aren’t they happening? My sense is that local property owners would not be enthusiastic about controlled burns — after all, the second google hit for “controlled burn California” returns an instance in which a controlled burn took 23 homes. The Angeles National Forest page on fuel management says that “Although the window for using prescribed fire (broadcast burning) is very narrow in southern California (winds, humidity and a variety of other factors have to be just right for this to be done safely), this method is sometimes used to remove hazardous fuels and improve habitat conditions for wildlife.” It may be the case that the technology of fire control is not the problem so much as the pattern of human settlement. And it may be that, counter-intuitively, the aftermath of a devastating fire may not be the best time to address that pattern.

Since I’m just starting in on the question and don’t have too much light to shine yet, policy-wise, here’s another time-lapse video. With more flames!

Station File Time Lapse #4 from Dan Finnerty on Vimeo.

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Followers of this blog’s prehistory will know that Bush tried to sell off fuels management to the timber industry.

READING LIST: Let Malibu Burn, Mike Davis.

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Sorry, Nurse, My Blood Pressure’s Unusually High This Evening

by on Aug.12, 2009, under Los Angeles, Politics

The Los Angeles Times:

Hundreds of people spent the night outside the Forum in Inglewood in hopes of getting free medical and dental care.

More than 2,000 sought services on the first day of the medical clinic — and hundreds were turned away. People were lined up Tuesday night, hoping to get in. The MTA announced it was extending service of Line 115 because of “overwhelming demand” for service to the clinic, which runs for eight days.

The Remote Area Medical Foundation is a trailer-equipped service that has staged health clinics in rural parts of the United States, Mexico and South America. It brought its health camp to urban Los Angeles County on Tuesday to begin a stint that the group’s officials described as its first foray into a major urban setting.

We are all Appalachia now. This would recall the time that Hugo Chavez sent heating oil via CITGO to poor New England families, except that the Remote Area Medical Foundation isn’t twitting the United States government. They’re just going where the poor people are, which happens to be, as Steve Lopez had it, “in the land of palm-shaded mansions.”

No, they’re not trying to make a political point. Is anyone? Certainly not the Democratic representatives who have been eaten alive in town halls over the past few days. These displays yield nothing but the vague hope that the cradle-to-grave racist id of the GOP will fly its freak flag too proudly and drive a few snobs into the reform camp.

I’m not dismissive of all types of political theatre, just of this defensive, too-clever prayer for backlash. The town halls were supposed to be an argument over health care. They have become an argument over town halls. A victory at this point would be getting people to shut up and behave, and it would be a hollow, procedural victory.

So why not stage the town hall meetings in traveling health clinics?

This would put members of Congress in the enviable position of bringing their constituents services they actually need. People who actually need better health insurance would wedge their way into the debate, which is currently dominated by an appeal to those who already enjoy health insurance and seek reassurance that reform won’t hurt them.

In the current scenario, the teabaggers yell “Don’t Kill Trig,” Organizing for America yells back, “Let Him Speak!”, and the media calls a pox on both their houses. A debate in a health care context, on the other hand, would require opponents of reform to make their case in front of people whose lives are at stake.

And who knows? Someone might catch a richly deserved cold.

Video: Sarah Palin only got it two-thirds right. It’s not “Death Panels,” it’s “Death Star Panels”.

UPDATE: Until someone runs with this idea, Cruickshank at Calitics advises you how to win a town hall.

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