Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Have a happy whatever holiday you're celebrating

The holiday couldn't have been nicer from the moment the sun crept over the Cuesta ridge...
The few folks strolling through downtown SLO all nodded at each other or called out Christmas greetings. The churches gave a concert of carols every hour on the hours.
There was plenty of ham and sparkling cider, garlic potatoes and garlic bread; a delicious peach and blueberry pie with ice cream for dessert.
Friends exchanged holidays messages via text, Myspace, phone and even old school face to face.
My nieces and nephews were all in the Bay Area, so we didn't have the little ones chasing the cats up one staircase and down the other around in a circle. The cats amused themselves playing with the bows from the presents; they could have probably used the excercise from being chased. The little ones will get their presents on the Epiphany and Al-Hijra.
If this seems a rather mundane, unremarkable post, perhaps it's because not every entry can be as remarkable as Samuel Pepys.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... thanks to Rod

Rod just did the holiday windows of the BodyBuilder Gym in Silver Lake; click on the header at top to see them (and the other amazing stuff he does).

...And he still has time available in case you think that it's too late to decorate your windows, too!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Whither goest the Presidio of San Francisco?

The debate swirling around a proposed art museum for the Presidio of San Francisco is but the latest chapter in a story as old as The City regarding land use and abuse that makes for an engaging study for urban historians, urban planners, students of architecture and urban geography and anyone interested in San Francisco. Being that it is about San Francisco, a city which sparks an emotional chord with people the world over --even if they have never been there-- makes this all the more intriguing.

For the purpose of keeping these thoughts at less than book length, I'll refer you to the AIA Guide to San Francisco, which should give you the proper backstory and context for this latest incident in the City's cultural history.

The issue, in brief, is the donation of the funding for the construction of the Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio to house the priceless and peerless art collection of Don and Doris Fisher. The proposed site for the museum is at the end of the parade ground of the Main Post of the Presidio --in effect, the prime locus of the entire 1,491 acres of the Presidio
nearly as prominent as the Lincoln Memorial in relation to the Mall in Washington, D.C. The proposed museum site would entail the removing of a less-than-historic bowling alley; yet its modern design will bear no architectural relationship to the historic structures which line the parade ground. While Fisher has gone to great lengths to keep the museum from bearing his name directly, it will serve as his personal monument to the City for generations to come. Don Fisher also has a longstanding connection with the Presidio Trust, responsible for the future of the park.

For more than a century, how the history of the Presidio would be preserved for future generations has been studied, discussed, argued over, and committeed possibly more than any other piece of urban space in the United States.
The byzantine politics concerning the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and its mandate unique among national parks to become financially self-sufficient has a role in this little drama. There are passions and egos at play --of developers, civic-minded leaders, and a billionaire or two. The person responsible for the landscaping of the Presidio can't even so much as propose the chopping down of a single tree (even to save the forest) with raising the ire of some citizens of the City.

I should disclose that my family has long, personal ties to the Presidio as well. Two of my siblings were born at Letterman Hospital, now the main campus for George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic.
A cousin once lived in one of the Officer's Quarters that are now leased to the fortunate few. For most of my life, I have hiked its trails, shopped at the commissary, wandered among the decaying barracks and marveled at the breathtaking views of the Golden Gate.

Plans for fully realizing the potential of the parade ground, as with so many other well-intentioned projects, were curtailed by the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. Many other projects are already in various stages of planning, negotiation or actual construction. The design of the museum is actually quite nice and well received in principle by museums, architects and urban planners nationwide. It is inconceivable that the Fisher collection should end up anywhere but in San Francisco, yet it has been argued that real estate to house a site suitable for the collection is prohibitively expensive anywhere else in the City.

In time, the controversy around the proposed museum will find a place among so many similar changes to the urban landscape in so many cities the world over, wherein a reviled project becomes an integral part of the City's landscape. Perhaps the citizens of the city will declare this a worthy project in the perfect location (although the decision is decidedly less than democratic; most residents of the City probably don't even know or care who the current members of the Presidio Trust are).

I would only suggest that for those who are able to waste no time visiting the Main Post of the Presidio, and wander around the stately buildings, listening to the whispers of ghosts from the past.
To delay a visit will result in a lost opportunity to experience the Presidio as it presently is. Of course, the Presidio as with all corners of the City, has undergone constant change since the earliest days of the City's existence.

I myself don't claim to have a direct say in the outcome of this debate, as I currently live in the city far to the South of San Francisco that dare not speak its name. Yet I, as with anyone who who has ever considered themselves a San Franciscan, would be remiss in my fidelity to the City were I not to
chime in; and I will, as will all San Franciscans past, present and future, live with whatever consequences result. It is scarcely the worst that could happen to the site, given the past history of the City. As with the Sutro Tower or the Transamerica Building --or even the grid of the City's streets once thought illogical-- there may well come a day when it will be will inconceivable for San Franciscans to not imagine having the museum grace the Presidio in the proposed form.

Monday, December 03, 2007

There was a reason that the Presidio was saved from developers

If you didn't get to see the fireworks over the Golden Gate on the Fourth of July, you can still catch some tonight at the Presidio Officers' Club when the designs for the 100,000 square foot pile of sugar cubes that will house the museum for the Don and Doris Fisher collection will be discussed.

They might as well tear down the last of San Francisco's 14,000 Victorians while they're at it --not that developers haven't tried.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Fusion Nov 30 - Dec 2

Scarcely a reason for why I'm posting so infrequently, but I've seen more films this week than I've seen all year. Damn good ones, too.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My birthday roadtrip

We're heading up Pacific Coast Highway for a birthday roadtrip on Sunday to San Luis Obispo. The first stop is Duke's in Ventura for brunch, then we'll pop over to the Channel Islands farmers market before we hit Main Street. Hopefully, we'll get to visit Abednego Book Shoppe, the Book Rack, Last Chapter Bookshop, Bank of Books, Books on Main, and finally the Calico Cat Bookshop.

Then we head inland to Ojai and Bart's Books, hopefully stopping at Dennison Park for the famous view of "Shangri-La" before returning to the coast via Casitas Pass Road.

The next stop is Carpinteria and Ponce a Time Books, followed by the Tecolote Book Shop in Montecito.

I get to spend more time in Santa Barbara more than anywhere else along the Central Coast, so I'll try to limit myself to just a few choice stops. From Lost Horizon Bookstore we'll hop down to the Book Den (reportedly the oldest bookstore in California), the over to the Paperback Exchange. Then it's on to Goleta and the Paperback Alley and the Front Page before hitting the Isla Vista Bookstore in Isla Vista. Then we'll head back over to State Street and Chaucer's Books, before going up the San Marcos Pass Road.

For some reason, I have it in me to visit the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge; with any luck we'll get there when the late afternoon light is just right. As long as I'm soaking in atmosphere, it's off to Solvang and the Book Loft, home of the Hans Christian Andersen Museum.

If there's still time, we'll turn off Highway 101 in Grover Beach to visit Nan's Pre-Owned Books, then passing by the Monarch Butterfly Grove alongside Pacific Coast Highway.

With any luck, we'll arrive in San Luis Obispo in time for the closing party of the Language of the Heart Poetry Festival at Linnea's Cafe on Garden Street before arriving at the folks.

It isn't likely we'll make every stop on the itinerary; that way we'll be sure to have something left over for the next trek.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What I'll be doing for my birthday

November 17th is the National Support Your Independents Day... and the Great LA Walk down Pico Blvd!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Remember the people in charge of your security are the same ones who run FEMA

Take the Cosco Busan to the Olympics! Just don't check your e-mail while you're in China, or you may find yourself a guest of the Chinese government in a manner you hadn't planned ---better wear a hazmat suit, and bring any food or drink you want to consume with you as well...

Another Santa Ana is whipping across Southern California. Without the fires, the air is much cleaner, but the views of the mountainsides are more than a little disheartening.

It has been good for the strikers (if a tad hot) though.... Want to bring Hollywood to its knees? (Do snakes have knees?) Why not forge an alliance between the striking writers and the gardeners, housekeepers and nannies. If the immigrant workforce in LA joined forces with the WGA even Rupert Murdoch would be freaking out.

At least the LAPD has come to their senses and decided against "mapping" (or whatever their spin doctors are calling it this minute) Muslim communities in Los Angeles.

On January 28, 1982, the Turkish Consul General was assassinated in Los Angeles by Armenian extremists, who have never been low key when it comes to their feelings about the Turks; if other people get caught in the crossfire, they're considered merely acceptable collateral damage. Yet the LAPD has never mentioned "mapping" the Armenian communities in the city, nor the Turks, "for their protection" (I believe that was part of the official rationale for rounding up the Americans of Japanese descent during World War II).

When it comes down to it, the LAPD probably backed off due to the sheer logistics. LA has had their fair share of radical sympathizers and supporters from Northern Ireland (ask anyone whose been in London over the past 25 years about how serious that is!), and a lot of Irish people. There is a substantial Spanish population (those radical Basques), and LA is home to the largest Ethiopian community in the United States. Less visible than in Miami or New York are the Colombian and Venezualan communities. And if the Chinese Consulate had their way, the LAPD would be keeping close tabs on the Chinese American community (who are protesting the float from China in the New Years Day Rose Parade). There's a huge Indonesian comunity here, too, although the American news doesn't seem to have much time to report on the ongoing civil war there.

And there isn't enough time or space to recount the reasons that they should be mapping the English communities.
There are still enough gay folk around who remember how the LAPD used to operate when it came to the gay community, too. From long before Stonewall (read Stuart Timmons and Lillian Faderman's "Gay LA") through the AIDS activism of the 80s and 90s, there was a lot of bumping heads, to put it mildly. Now that I think about it, I remember when the LAPD was caught with illegal files on minority teenagers that they had been ordered by the courts to destroy. And I couldn't not mention those pesky Americans, while I'm at it, who are causing mayhem all over the planet.

The only solution would be for the LAPD to keep close tabs on everybody. Not that Cheney and his gang haven't tried. The LAPD has long been known to have the most sophisticated intelligence system of any police force in the United States since the days of the Communist witch hunts.

Enough so, in fact, that I would take any official announcement that they are reconsidering their "mapping" of Muslim communities with a grain of salt. Very bitter salt.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

One of these things is not like the other...

The networks are almost acting like suicide bombers, willing to destroy themselves in order to keep a few paltry dollars out of the hands of the writers as new media is developed.

Ironically, that same new media will be the prime venue for entertainment as original programming declines in quality and quantity.

The headline that grabbed my attention this week was about the 15,000 (!) Americans on the no-fly list who shouldn't be there and the government doesn't seem to be able to figure out who should or shouldn't be allowed to fly. They aren't trying to keep us from leaving the country, are they? With the falling dollar, they've made it even more difficult for foreign tourists to get visas to come here to spend their money as the US becomes a travel bargain. Are they trying to shoot our economy in the foot?

Locally, the news that the LAPD is trying to profile and map Muslim communities in Los Angeles hasn't been getting nearly the attention from civil libertarians it should.

And all the while, the Chinese are poisoning our kids, spilling oil in San Francisco Bay, and generally tripping up our economy...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A City on Strike

Bands of people walk together and speak conspiratorially, or with dread, or a detached bemusement.

The elderly at the market are at a remove from the immediacy of the crisis. They gossip and chat and mutter amongst themselves the same as always; one might think they were oblivious to what is going on all around us.

Workmen stand or slouch uncomfortably idle. If they were working, they would pray for such a break. Now it is all they can do, and they can do nothing but wait for the work that will not come.

A Rolls Royce glides by, the driver on the phone putting on a show typical of those who like to presume themselves aristocratic. Normally he would be stuck in a long line of traffic, yet today he makes it seem as though he had the traffic cleared for his convenience.

I surf the news channels, taking account of who reports on the troubles, or how; and mull its significance.

There are a number of unimportant news items that I suspect would not have been aired filling the broadcasts; they only serve to draw attention to what is not being said.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Support the Writers: Turn Off Your Television!

A Hollywood Writer's home

A Hollywood producer's home

How the studios would like to pay their employees

Thursday, November 01, 2007


The Navy dropped a bomb from an F/A-18C Hornet fighter jet on the resort community of Virginia Beach, Virginia this week, damaging a warehouse.

Since they haven't proudly trotted out the evidence for us to see, we might safely presume that no weapons of mass destruction were found.

Some of those rogue states nervously watching the US military might have notched up their alert status. After all, we did invade Virginia once before...

When stuff like this happens, it gets me to thinking that it was probably a good thing that President Bush (allegedly) spent his National Guard service partying while someone else forged his attendance records. For all of us. The thought of Dubya anywhere near guns, bombs and planes, especially during his college partying years, boggles the mind with the potential for damage that might have incurred.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What's next... War is Peace?

Now that the dust is starting to settle and at least one head is rolling following the phony FEMA press conference, I'm thinking that the Bush administration probably provided an invaluable service to journalism instructors everywhere. Of course, one hopes that it will always fall under the category of what not to do.

The news item that slipped by most of the English language media that most concerns me is the report that US Border Patrol agents were at the evacuation centers in Southern California looking for people without documents.

For those of you not in California, remember that a million people at one time or another had to flee the fires --at times leaving with no more than the shirts on their backs, sometimes in the dead of night. lf you were to turn your pockets inside out at this very moment, how would you be able to prove that you were in the country legally?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"I find it tedious to detail the savagery of the enemy..." -Ann Coulter*

NPR reported today on the proliferation of cluster bombs used in the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah rebels in Lebanon.

Most Americans are as yet unaware that the US government was the source of these cluster bombs as part of our $2.2 billion support in military aid. That's $21 for every man, woman and child in the United States.

So you, as it would turn out, are a terrorist. At the least, you --through your government-- are the reason that 'they' hate us. Among the most noted manufacturer of cluster bombs in the US is Alliant Techsystems of Hopkins, Minnesota. Their product doesn't exactly fall out under the category of Minnesota nice, does it?

As it turns out, most of the unexploded ordnance is about the size of a D battery.
In Viet Nam, some 300 people are still being killed every year from unexploded cluster bombs-- 30 years after the war ended! There are millions of them, scattered in fields and roads and even around houses, schools and hospitals, all over the world in over 70 countries. And all this time you thought the US was just giving out powdered milk or candy bars.

For those of you not faint of heart who can stomach the gruesome sight of children with amputated limbs, click on the header at the top for a link to the Cluster Munition Coalition.

*as quoted by the LA Times during remarks made Wednesday at USC. Ann Coulter was wearing that same old tired past-its-expiration date black cocktail dress that she's worn once too many times.
Halloween isn't until next week! Is that a Freudian cry for help or what? Seriously, girl, that dress is like week-old fish! The vampire drag queen prostitutes in my neighborhood dress better. Someone needs to do an intervention on her, but that's a subject for another day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Turn off a light tonight, and pick up a book on November 1

My first thought was to suggest that fans send in their own scripts for their favorite television programs in light of the looming writers' strike.

Now, however, I'm more inclined to suggest that we all teach the giant conglomerates that own the networks a lesson by turning off the television set altogether, and pick up a book. Better yet, go to a reading at your local independent bookstore or library. Heck, do both. This is America, after all, and more is better.

The LA Public Library is offering an incredible array of lectures, readings, panels, performances and exhibitions. ALOUD at Central Library has enough going on over the next few months that I wont miss watching television ...maybe by then they'll have even caught up on filming all the Lost episodes for the season.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lights Out LA

Image: Dark Sky Association

This Saturday night, between 8 and 9 pm, the lights will go out in buildings across the country -and around the world- to focus on light pollution and energy conservation. Hopefully, I'll get home from the Miracle Mile Art Walk in time before the trannie prostitute goblins come out in my neighborhood (everyday is Halloween in Hollywood)!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ah, shucks, we've insulted China

So the Chinese have let it be known that they are insulted that the United States is once again honoring the Dalai Lama.

We, of course, are not the least bit insulted that there is no such thing as human rights in the People's Republic of China. That the organs of political prisoners are being sold to patients around the world. That they've tried (not on purpose, of course) to poison us with tens of millions of tainted products in the last couple of years --including foodstuffs. That they've somehow bribed the International Olympic Committee to host a travesty of an Olympic Games (ironic, isn't it, that athletes suspected of doping are subject to greater sanctions). That shortly after the I-35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, a bridge collapsed in China with hundreds of fatalities (think about that when you sit your ass down in one of their brand new stadiums if you should decide to attend the aforementioned games). And --this is my favorite-- one of their generals openly bragged how they could paralyze the entire United States with a push of a button, bringing down our entire power grid. Actually, as a child of the cold war era, I'm kind of glad that the computer age now makes those pesky ICBMs completely obsolete.


I've been zapping in and out of the parrallel universe created by delving into The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Putting down the book for a moment to hear on NPR about China being insulted strikes me as the height of absurdity. But then, I live in the most absurd of cities in the most absurd of countries in what must count as one of the most absurd of times in human history. I have to limit --severely-- my news intake these days because the doings of this human race on this planet is so absurd that it belies explanation. If there were to be contact with another form of intelligent life in the universe, how the heck could we explain ourselves? How we are conducting ourselves on Earth these days makes as much sense as the grammatical laws of the English language.

This is why I also have to limit my caffeine intake. And maybe take a nap. And when I wake up, sanity and order will have been restored.

Yeah, right.

Monday, October 15, 2007

On a foggy day like today...

Thanks to the fog, it felt like passing through the Laguna Honda Forest today. Amazing how many born-and-raised San Franciscans have never even gone by Laguna Honda, much least stopped there. Mention it, and most people will assume you mean the hospital.

If you ever doubted that San Francisco is a mystical, magical city, then go by there when the fog is swirling. You'd swear you stepped into the enchanted forest of A Midsummmers' Night Dream.

Since today called for some retail therapy, I treated myself to a book that had been long out of print that appeared without warning at Skylight Bookstore, an architectural study of Miami Beach Ocean Drive by ciudadcity.

Click on the header at top to learn more about Laguna Honda and impress your know-it-all-friends in the City with what you've learned of the history hidden-in-plain-sight.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

So, Turkey has a problem with the word "genocide"

Accused of, admitted to, or accounted with genocide:*

The Congo
The Dominican Republic
El Salvador
The Netherlands
Republic of South Africa
The United Kingdom
United States

*a very incomplete, partial list

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Aliens in America

I admit that I've become rather superstitious when it comes to talking about my favorites among new shows, but the new CW comedy, Aliens in America, needs all the buzz it can get.

NPR reported this morning that the pilot had a less than promising market share; yet it has been screened with great success around the country for a variety of community groups and even in college classes. And it's funny, clever and smart. And thought provoking.

Maybe, just maybe, Americans will stop for a moment to think about some of their less-than-well-founded ideas about other peoples. Perhaps they will even think about what other people around the world think of Americans --and why. And perhaps, if we can all share a laugh together, it will be a step in the right direction to getting people to understand each other.

At any rate, the folks behind Aliens in America have created something that helps television live up to its potential. They have every reason to be proud of what they've done.

A note of caution to the paparazzi

When Elizabeth I got pissed off, she imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots in this tower for nearly a year...

Now that Elizabeth II is mad at the paparazzi for chasing Prince William, they would do well to remember that the torture equipment reportedly is still in good working order.

Friday, September 28, 2007

William Donnelly's Painted Alice at the Elephant Stageworks

Sphere presents the West Coast premiere of William Donnelly's Painted Alice at the Elephant Stageworks, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Saturday, September 29 marks the beginning of Banned Books Week; on Sunday, the West Hollywood Book Fair will take place in West Hollywood Park.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Milk from Scotland... who knew?

My snippy rant, continued

Photo: LA Episcopal Diocese

This morning on NPR, the mixed ruling came down about All Saints Church in Pasadena and their ongoing troubles with the IRS, who seem to think the church overstepped the line into political advocacy during a sermon last year.

My mood lightened somewhat when I heard the rant by the college football coach against reporters. I wonder what tune he'd sing if the local media just decided, okay, you say we don't know how to report on sports, so we'll just unplug all media coverage of your university's athletic teams -and that goes for broadcasting the games as well. I wonder how long he'd be able to hold on to his salary, which I'm certain is likely to be more than, say, teachers as a rule.

Come to think of it, if the IRS really wanted to find some funds to help with the national debt, why don't they start investigating the tax returns of big-name college athletic directors and coaches, of which some of that little club make a lot of money. NASCAR style, Halliburton style money.

Just a thought...

Friday, September 21, 2007

My end of summer rant

So bin Laden wants to call Pakistani President Musharraf an infidel because he attacked the Red Mosque?

How very convenient that he overlooked his own role in the attack or destruction of numerous mosques in Pakistan, Afghanistan and even on the seventh floor of the World Trade Center itself.

Doesn't that make Osama bin Laden, then, an infidel?

Americans should note that while the intent of the attack on the World Trade Center was to strike at our economic system, the world-wide fallout of the sub-prime lending crisis would indicate that the greed of some Americans did more to accomplish the goals of Al Qaeda than Al Qaeda.

doubt that we'll be rounding up unscrupulous home lenders and shipping them off to Guantanamo any time soon, though.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

This is why people hate going Downtown

The question is, was this film made by San Franciscans who hate Los Angeles, or somebody who got really ticked off at their bank fees?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11, 2007

This morning on the news, there was a clip of Rep. Nancy Pelosi speaking where she referred to the victims of 9/11 as all being American. ln fact, citizens of over 90 countries were among those who died. There was one thing that they all shared in common, however: they were human beings.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pentagon to US: "It isn't like you'd miss those states anyway if we had accidently armed those bombs"

"I have seem the enemy, and he is us"

I'm not a pilot, but I seem to recall seeing in my Dad's pre-flight checklist from back in the day, that the flight crew would have noticed something like nuclear warheads hanging from the wings. And while they've gone to great lengths to minimize the danger posed to the United States from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico by the nuclear warheads, how many more mistakes would it have taken to arm them? Just imagine the friendly fire toll by the conventional explosions that would have occurred, plus any background radiation from the damaged bombs. Darn! There goes Des Moines! Oops! Kansas City! Uh, oh; Little Rock!

With a military like this, who needs terrorists?

Maybe they just don't train 'em like they used to.

...On a lighter note, I wonder if
next Mattel will announce a recall of the Bush administration for being coated with lead paint?

Miyoshi Umeki, 1929 - 2007

Miyoshi Umeki, the first Asian to win an Academy Award, has passed away at the age of 78. She was regarded by many as one of the trailblazers for accurate and dignified portrayals of people of color on stage, movies and television. Most boomers will remember her as "Mrs. Livingstone," the housekeeper on "The Courtship of Eddie's Father."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

"The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman

As I read this book over the Labor Day weekend, no book I have read in recent memory have I had so many people come up to me and ask about it. Many heard Weisman interviewed while on tour, as had I, or had read reviews of the book.

It is an engrossing read, at once both terrifying and hopeful. Most of all, it reminded me of just how small a piece of the planet --and the universe-- the human race is. Yet a part of it we are, and The Wold Without Us served to encourage me to think of the impact that each of us has on the planet we live on, with each and every seemingly insignificant decision we might make as we go about our daily lives.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A shoulda-woulda-coulda I'll regret for a long time

I made my list of some 80-odd favorite landmarks on both sides of the Bay, and ran from one to the other in a mad attempt to win my own scavenger hunt of memories...

One place I didn't make it to, but assumed would be there the next time I was in the City, was Red's Java House.

Now comes word that the Port of San Francisco is raising their rent five times over, thus ensuring that the best darn burger and cuppa coffee (and one of the best secret places to watch a sunrise when the East Bay is clear of fog) will be, no more.

There just wan't enough time to revisit all the places I knew in the City, I tried to tell myself. Choices had to be made; priorities to be followed. How was I to know?

If you've never been to Red's, or if you have, but not lately, you better get down there quick and enjoy one of those quintessential local experiences that is all too soon about to become a part of the past. And you'll get a damn good burger, too.

Then you will have the dubious honor of belonging to that illustruous club which can say with pride, "Ah, you should have been here back when..."

Saturday, August 04, 2007

At least the Port of Los Angeles is safe... from reporters

The LA Airport police have already had their time in the spotlight wasting the public's dime (actually, about 10 million or so dimes). How ironic then, that right after Chief Bratton complained that the allocations for Homeland Security from the Feds shortchanging Los Angeles, some goon with the Port police should beat up what must be the smallest woman reporter in LA --on camera, of course. The sound of that thud as she hit the container sounded like a linebacker making a bone-smashing tackle.

I guess the Port will need those extra funds so they can beat up radio and print media as well.

The LA media has chased the story of the Mayor and his relationship squabbles to the exclusion of virtually everything else happening at City Hall. It can't be that slow of a news day, guys. And I seriously doubt that people in LA are that interested in the Mayor's marriage problems.

The questions hurled at the Mayor on Friday would have flunked me out of J-School. They weren't even worthy of paparazzi swarming around the latest celebrity scandal. Not even on Fox News. That said, no politician gets the privilege of control of what the press will cover (or not). But watching that goon smash that little woman against the cargo container might do more to hurt Mayor Villaraigosa's political standing than his impending divorce and relationship with a reporter.

At this rate, we can expect the police in Los Angeles to bash a reporter again about November 5th. And I'm not even gonna bring up the UCLA campus police incident inquiry. Oops --too late, I just did.

The distance from La City Hall to Terminal Island is about the same as from Miami City Hall to the Homestead airfield. That's a long way to go for a non-story. Aren't we glad that nothing more important or pressing was happening anywhere else in Los Angeles?

This was enough to make me relieved that I'm not on staff with a news outlet these days. However, what has me really concerned is, who's covering --or uncovering-- the real news stories while the LA media act like they've overdosed on South Park?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fiesta Sol Benefit

On Saturday, August 25th, The Wall-Las Memorias in Los Angeles will hold a benefit pool party as part of their ongoing effort to support the Casa Hogar Las Memorias hospice in Tijuana, Mexico. Since 1998, Casa Hogar has served over 2,000 men, women and children living with HIV. For more information visit their website at http://www.myspace.com/fiestasol or call 323/257-1056, ext. 33.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How to visit San Francisco

Residents of the City are famous for not being in agreement on anything, or at the very least, for being against whatever everyone else in the country is for. One point that visitors and residents alike may find common ground is that the best way to truly experience San Francisco is to immediately park your car. Better yet, don't bring it at all, now that the BART efficiently transports you from the airport to the heart of the City irrespective of the weather.

This, however, deprives you of the singular experience of crossing the Bay Bridge and being treated to any of a thousand-and-one different versions of her at first glimpse.
Istanbul, Venice or Manhattan may be among that tier of cities which share the honor of greeting the traveller with such a mixture of pomp coupled with nature's own theatrical flourish, but it is San Francisco that will have the unparalleled choice of vestments with which to seduce you. From the moment the morning sun rises above the Oakland Hills and throws its golden rays against the gleaming city, to the twinkling of a million tiny lights that signal from the other side of the bay by night; pulling you in while shrouded in any number of shades of silhouette, mysteriously wrapped in its signature fog, which may be pouring in through the Golden Gate and over the hills in a wondrous spectacle without peer.

One may experience all that from the ferry, true, yet still you are deprived of the split-second moment when a small rectangular sign formally and crisply informs you in its official civil service capacity that you have just entered the City and County of San Francisco.

While driving on the Golden Gate Bridge is and of itself a singular pleasure, it pales to walking mid span along the eastern deck, with the swirling waters of the bay visible beneath you and the elegant deco towers soaring above. You might even be treated to witnessing a ship slide into the bay or out to sea, accompanied by the bray of sea lions and perhaps even the bellow of a fog horn.

There is that one particular block of Lombard Street which the City offers as an amusing paean to the automobile, but that, too, may be better experienced on foot, especially as the number of waiting cars lined up for blocks continuously multiplies.

Wear comfortable shoes for walking, and don't neglect a pair for climbing streets where the sidewalks become stairs; or for the truly adventurous, the paths that may precipitously ascend and incredulously demand you almost crawl on hands and knees to descend.The promise is always fulfilled that as breathtaking the climb, so too the view. If a journey begins shrouded in swirling mists that it is no trick seem to hum and whisper to you, have confidence that with a dramatic flourish the fog will rise or part or dissolve before you to present you the treasure concealed within its folds.

A necessary prelude to the view from the top of Coit Tower is an appreciation to the murals that wind around the interior corridor. Enter City Hall and crane your neck at the dome from within and you scarcely need to be reminded that it rises higher above you than that of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Don't delay meandering among the timeworn buildings of the Presidio as they slumber seemingly forgotten by time, for even now the work to reimagine new uses for them is taking place that will remove the experience of strolling through the past. It will be left to the citadel that guards the entrance to the Golden Gate while tucked partially underneath the Golden Gate Bridge to assure the visitor that it is all from another time.

At the eastern edge of the Presidio, experience the ancient majesty of the Palace of Fine Arts, as beguiling in sunshine as it is bewitching at night. When the fog dances around the building it will create a dream for you alone.

Walk from Fort Point along the Coastal Trail that faces away from the City to Lands End, on to to the ruins of the Sutro Baths, through Sutro Heights Park and along the aptly named Great Highway to the Dutch Windmill and the Beach Chalet to tour the almost forgotten quaint museum on the ground floor.

Visit the Laguna Honda when the mist is lurking there; explore the nearby trails of Mount Sutro. I won't dissuade you from succumbing to the wiles of Twin Peaks; the gusts atop the summit that seem as if they could pick you up and hurl you over the City and out to sea are the equal of any man-made amusement park's rollercoaster. Return late at night, though, to watch Coit Tower in the distance disappear before your eyes when the lights are shut off. Don't neglect, however, the climbs seldom frequented by visitors (or even locals) to the tops of Buena Vista Park, Corona Heights, Tank Hill or Kite Hill.

Few visitors to the Mission Dolores take the time to stroll through what remains of the mission's cemetery --the only burial ground in the City other than on the Presidio-- and fewer yet ever visit the Columbarium.

Prepare to be wowed by the opulence of the Palace Hotel Garden Court, a none-too-subtle reminder that the dot-commers were not the first ostentatious rich in the City. Save your appetite for Red's Java Hut at Pier 30, howvever, for the quintessential San Francisco meal.

I could not, would not, possiby divulge all of the places to experience the real San Francisco. Some must remain secret, others you will discover on your own. Some you will chose not to uncover, as an archeologist leaves part of a site undisturbed for the future. If you are fortunate (even above and beyond being granted the gift of visiting the City in the first place) as to have a local San Franciscan as your guide, possibly you will be treated to other haunts of the City. Some are as in plaint sight as Lotta's Fountain after the earthquake and fire of 1906. Others more ethereal will be visible for but a moment, revealed to you as would the secrets of a lover. That is what San Francisco will become to you.

No matter how much of the City is revealed to you or you think you know, you will always be aware there is some mystery left unknown.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It only takes a tiny corner of...

It's dangerous business, to visit the past expecting to find it as one thought it to be. Inevitably there is the shock and disappointment and realization, that, not only are things not as one remembers, but it may call into question as to whether they ever were.

From Tank Hill and Kite Hill to strolling along the streets and lanes of The City; from the highest vantage point to along the very shore of the Bay, there was plenty which was familiar and belonged uniquely to The City, even as particular landmarks and cafes and shops have disappeared or have been altered beyond recognition. This is a place, mind you, whose very edge has been pushed out far beyond its original
shorelines; a city leveled and rebuilt more times than even most natives are aware.

The fondest icons of The City such as the Transamerica Pyramid or Sutro Tower were themselves initially spurned by the local citizenry, just as they fought long and hard to retain the foghorns that bellowed across the Bay long after they had been rendered obsolete.

The City is in turmoil yet again over ambitious plans to build enough to make the current skyline virtually unrecognizable. Preservationists and the advocates of livable neighborhoods once again are sounding their call to arms. The piers and breakwaters are crumbling away as I write, and the means to save them remain ethereal as ever. Deep beneath the surface, the San Andreas fault bides its time before it throws all of the best laid plans to ashes as it has so many times before.

Yet the silhouette of The City approaching the Bay Bridge remains as magical and alluring as ever. The fog continues to pour over the hills in the afternoon, giving even the most dependable of views an ever shifting and evolving appearance. Millions of visitors still flock to leave their hearts there. The denizens remain as cynical and enamored as they ever were, passionate about their tiny piece of this great big world and comfortable in the knowledge that God has shown favor on them for granting them the rare privilege of living there.

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans," by Jean Pfaezer

You can keep your Steven King. This is the scariest book I've read in a while, and it's all true!

Pfaezler, a professor formerly at Cal State Chico, researched the ugly side of California history that the state, local Chamber of Commerce or visitor's bureau would just as soon you didn't read.

A lot of what she documents wasn't so much hidden, but ignored when it came time to recounting the "official" histories of many California communities.

It's a book you'll want to read with all the lights on and doors bolted.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Okay, Arnold, do you want the Mel Gibson or Isaiah Washington suite at the foot-in-mouth rehab?

Gov. Arnold Scharzenegger, who has done nothing to stop runaway production from leaving California to set up shop in Canada or other states, has basically told Spanish language media that they should drink the kool-aid. speaking before the convention of National Association of Spanish Journalists, Arnold exhorted Spanish speakers, "You've got to turn off the Spanish television set." Sacramento seems to be unaware of the financial benefits of California being the center of Spanish language media. For being such a savvy businessman, he seems rather willing to stick it to the entertainment media.
Perhaps he is unaware that Los Angeles, not Miami (yet), is the center of the Spanish language media. 38 million people -more than the entire population of Canada- watch Spanish language media in the US. 60% of bilingual households are cited as preferring Spanish language media, even though they may speak English outside the home.
Arnold also said, "...when I came to this country, I very rarely spoke German to anyone." Gee, Arnold, is that because not that many people in the US speak German?
The Latino vote is largely credited with giving Schwarzenegger, who had no previous political experience, his gubernatorial win. I guess he isn't running for office again. And he ought not to expect Spanish language media to carry any of his movies anymore, either. That goes for all of Latin America, too.
And when is he ever going to get around to learning how to say, "California?"

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Just because I've not been posting doesn't mean I've just been sitting around the house...

One thing after another has kept me from posting; but I've not been sitting around going crazy over it.

The Getty just opened an exhibition of Manet's The Bar at the Follies Bergere. They've given it the royal treatment, with a room all to itself. Hard to believe that this painting is now 125 years old!

I took myself on an 'urban road trip' at the beginning of June, logging a total of 138 miles beginning and ending at my front door. I began with the centennial celebration of the Port of Los Angeles, which took me around some streets I haven't seen in decades. A definitive highlight was being able to climb to the top of the restored Point Fermin Lighthouse. The coastal fog obscured Santa Catalina Island, but it was a treat, all the same. I think it might have been the first time I've actually climbed to the top of a lighthouse!

I try to watch myself from opening my mouth on such excursions when not absolutely necessary (nobody wants to be that know-it-all on the tour bus who butts in on the tour guide). The employees of the POLA had scant knowledge of some of the sites, such as the former Fort MacArthur reservation, now home to the Angel's Gate Cultural Center, the Korean Friendship Bell and museum, the Fort MacArthur museum, youth hostel and marine animal rescue station. As it turned out, a number of the folks on the tour were locals of the port area, so we were all able to swap various stories about some of the sites.

Sadly, the tour didn't include a trip over the Vincent Thomas Bridge, although there are several monuments to mark the location of East San Pedro's Japanese-American fishing village and the fishing industry.
Few Angelenos know of the existence of an entire community on Terminal Island that was shipped off to the Manzanar Relocation Center during World War II. Not only has every trace of the community been bulldozed, but virtually the entire Long Beach Naval Shipyard is gone; all across Terminal Island there is new construction as the port enlarges both the shipping container facilities and provides more slips for pleasure craft. The map they provided each participant with did, however, include a history of the fishing village among the many historic sites not covered on the tour. At last, there is more inclusion of one of the more shameful parts of American history --and Los Angeles history-- getting acknowledged.

After touring around San Pedro and Wilmington, it was on to the second Culver City Art Walk. This year there was 150% increase in the number of galleries over last year. The town is definitely on the art scene radar, now. It wouldn't be incorrect to say that Culver City has become quite an art town --not bad, considering it was practically an urban no-man's land just a few years ago.

Sunday I took in the Los Feliz Village Street Fair and the second annual Lummis Day in Highland Park.

...And there were a number of events I didn't even have time to get to ...yet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Jimmy Carter was right ...but does anyone in the US government understand the implications of this (even off the record)?

Every statement of indignation by the Bush administration only underscores how spot-on his assessment is. It isn't like Carter is some crackpot off the street, after all.

And the MTA would appear to be trying to destroy mass transit in Southern California... just as millions of drivers begin to seriously contemplate giving up their gas-guzzling cars.

I guess it's official: we're going to Hell in a tacky knock-off handbag that doesn't match our shoes.

No more Veronica Mars. No more Gilmore Girls. So The CW wants to prove they can mismanage their best assets as good as ABC, eh? Lost is drifting aimlessly somewhere in the South Pacific (who has a pool to bet it gets cancelled before they get off the island?), and no word yet if Jericho will receive a reprieve. I guess that's a hint for me to get back to my reading.

On a "lighter" note: only thirteen months after I suggested Annie Proulx for "One City, One Book,"
Frontiers magazine came to the amazing discovery while in Denver about the nationwide program, and have chosen "Light Before Day," by Christopher Rice as their first annual Summer Book. Japhy Grant has a great cover story on Christopher Rice in the June 5, 2007, Frontiers, and there's a link to Christopher Rice's website on the left. Rice is a Lambda Literary Award winning author of three novels; his fourth, "Blind Fall," will be released next year. "Light Before Day" was chosen in part because it is set in West Hollywood, but beware: it's not a book for the squeemish. You'll want to leave the lights on and don't let anybody tap you on the shoulder from behind while you're reading!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Quite a Spring day this is turning out to be

First came word that Donald Trump was fired. Then the news that Jerry Falwell was on his way to spending the rest of all eternity ...someplace really hot (no, not Boca Raton).

Almost makes up for the fact that tonight is the series finale of the Gilmore Girls.

When I went to vote today, I had to wake up the poll worker; I was but only the sixth person to caste my ballot today. If youth is truly wasted on the young, I might think sometimes that Democracy is wasted on Americans.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Bad cops - no donuts

As long as the LAPD is busting foreign little old ladies over the heads, perhaps Queen Elizabeth might want to skip LA on her itinerary. For that matter, the city can kiss their bid for the Olympics goodbye.

What really ticks me off about the May Day melee, is that for a week, the mayor and other officials begged schoolchildren to stay in school and miss the downtown march, and go to the rally in MacArthur Park instead.

Maybe we should send those "elite" Metro cops to Baghdad... oh, and someone remind those Iraqi "insurgents" that they shouldn't go around killing Indian citizens when they have an itchy trigger finger on their nuclear missles. Ya think?

To end on a lighter note, congratulations are in order to Naomi Hirahara for winning the Edgar Award.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Greetings from the police state of Los Angeles!

Whatever gripes I might have about the current state of journalism, at least I don't go around clubbing reporters or shooting them with rubber bullets. The LAPD veterans still don't seem to understand that their behavior looks like it came from the worst of the dictatorships around the world.
Kudos to Beth Dunlop for her inimitable insight into the saga of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, on the heals of her riff on the Carnival Center, in the March and April editions of Ocean Drive. Few and far between are the architectural critics who can so knowledgeably champion responsible development. Architectural criticism is so much more than commenting on the veneer. In Miami, to be against the construction of yet another crass condo tower in a flat real estate market ...well, it's nothing short of treason. Barbara Capitman would be proud.
If you still had dry eyes at the end of last night's Gilmore Girls, then get outta my kitchen! And Veronica Mars is back, too! How cool is that? Gee... am I allowed to be watching this? VM has been one of the best written programs on television as far as I'm concerned, so excuse me if I don't watch anything where a contestant can get voted off.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

We Have Met The Enemy, and He Is Us!

After a point, I turned off the endless coverage of the Virginia Tech tragedy as it kept repeating the same information over and over, yet totally ignoring certain salient points.

The relatively
few quotes from the writings of the young man responsible for the tragedy seem to point to his having been victimized at some point in his youth. This does not excuse his actions, or shift the blame in any way, but there is something in that which needs to be looked into and addressed.

100 per cent of all shootings are commited by humans.
This should make the Martians very nervous. That the alleged perpetrator of this tragedy was an immigrant overlooks that he had been in the United States since he was eight years old. Not even our Founding Fathers would escape the suspicious label of immigrant under those parameters. Timothy McVeigh was not an immigrant (unless you ask a Native American). Was it any more or less relevant that he was a suburban-raised youth? An English major?

A number of the security experts weighing in have called for the need to create barriers for campuses to define their perimeters. One expert even went so far as to suggest that there should be but a single entrance/exit for college campuses. It would appear to me that the majority of campus shootings have actually been committed by a member of the campus community, thus a barrier in most cases would not prevent a perpetrator from committing the act, nor address the root cause. Furthermore, the possibility of panic and number of casualties might very well escalate were there no easy way for people to evacuate easily..

I'm all for getting rid of guns... all guns. Handguns, automatic weapons, nukes, you name it. Everybody's. I'd like to live in a world where armies had nothing more than Rice Krispies to hurl at each other, yet humans in their ingenuity have even figured how to turn airplanes into weapons of destruction. And don't get me started on tobacco.

To exist, in and of itself, is a potential pre-existing condition for our non-existence. Yet it seems counter intuitive to be pro-active by preemptively non-existing in order to prevent our non-existence.


On an entirely different note, who'd have thought that in the end, Richard Gere would stick a metaphorical gerbil up his own butt? One would think that after all his advocacy on behalf of
the Tibetan people, he'd be a little more familiar with Indian customs and etiquette.