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Just a little bit longer

Strung out.

There's one room that's remained timeless and untouched all my life: the main gallery of the Huntington Library. It's a serene and (to my mind) perfectly skylit room with the familiar Gainsborough Blue Boy and Lawrence Pinkie and the energetic Constable and the viola-da-gamba-professor Karl Fredrich Abel (who performed concerts with Bach's son Johann Christian) with his mellow dog and Ms. Siddons as the Tragic Muse. Remember discovering that the portrait of a Spencer in the hall was a relative of Princess Di? The painting placement has been stable in the room for at least fifty years.

Now the gallery has been upgraded, and it sounds like some of the paintings have been shuffled too, with Blue Boy and Pinkie displacing the old spots on the wall occupied by Ms. Siddons and the Constable, according to the Pasadena Star-News.

But now the iconic pair are gazing at each other from further away. They've been re-hung on the end walls of the long Art Gallery, now covered in dark green damask to give new depth to the grand-manner portraiture lining it as before.

Thanks to a (rarely seen) moment of acquisition genius by a tasteful robber baron, these paintings are inextricably linked to each other in the public's mind. Shouldn't they face each other on the shortest axis possible rather than the longest one?

The change seems merely gratuitous.

The refurbished gallery will open next Wednesday. O tempora, o mores!

City at Noon: Surf's Up, Call 9-1-1

JM, Hermosa sunset, 9.2.08

Good news: In the weird wind, surf's up, 3-7, careful for rip tides.

Bad news: Our beaches are the worst in the State. Again.

Morning Eye-Opener


How craven is Clinton? Her campaign debt is now $31 million, according to reports released last night after her phyrric victory in Kentucky.

g The Kodak Theater is getting recognizably snubbed by producers. American Idol opted for LA Live!'s new Nokia Theater near the Staples Center for its final two shows this year, after a long run at the Kodak. Similarly, the Emmys have signed on for the Nokia. The Grammys will go to the Staples Center; on occasion they've been in New York. It cost Kodak $75 million for the naming rights to the Kodak Theater, and you don't hear of the place much more than once a year when the Oscars are there.

g NoHo streets were blazing with gunfire again last night around sundown, and host perhaps to car-to-car gunfire as well. Two murders, more attempted in North Hollywood. How does the Times cover it? Stuff on Manson tops the local news page.

[I know a lot of people from the Daily News look at this blog. You might want to tell someone: The Daily News site isn't reading right through Firefox on a Powerbook. It may not be reading correctly on other Mac browsers. The problem appears to be with pop-ups, which are naturally blocked, leaving a ton of white space between the banner and the text.]

g Capitol Weekly notes that House Rep. Laura Richardson's Sacto home has gone into default. LAObserved suggests she's a deadbeat. She now owes more principal on the home than the place is worth. The Rep has recused herself on House mortgage bailout legislation matters.

g A community activist at Ron Kaye's blog says that the Watts Task Force is succeeding in quelling gang involvement, and in part credits Councilwoman Janice Hahn's challenge to the community to define intervention. The opening of the CRA's Watts office is also credited to the Task Force.

City at Noon: Council quiet about foreclosure bill

The Senate Banking Committee has passed by a very wide margin a compromise bill that could enable about half a million at-risk homeowners across the country to trade ARMs for fixed government-backed loans.

City Council has barked quite about the mortgage default numbers. Now that a credible bill that could help up to 5,000 City of LA homeowners---far more than any locally proposed package---seems on the verge of sailing through the Senate, what does the City have to say?

Morning Eye-Opener

In with a bang and out with a whimper: the City budget passes Council without any tough decisions being made. The Mayor declares victory. There's a $300 million deficit built into it.

g The first City Supportive Housing loan to any group building apartments for the homeless went to L.A. Family Housing. They'll build sixty units for the homeless in Sun Valley. The project will knock the City's homeless numbers down from 50,000 to 49,940.

Or from 70,000 to 69,940. Or 10,000 to 9,940. We don't have an accurate homeless census so we don't know. For census taking, homeless count homeless and are encouraged to pad the numbers. One thing is certain: the numbers are high enough that any homeless housing project is a lottery.

g Celeste Fremon joins growing ranks of gang observers who are convinced that the murder of Jamiel Shaw Jr. was not race related but gang-affiliation related. She notes that two other notable observers, Annette Stark and Najee Ali have reversed themselves on earlier judgments.

g High lead levels at an LAUSD site on Virgil. "'This wouldn't be happening on the Westside,' said Virgil teacher Theodora Beltson."

More Simulated Urbanism coming your way

Angelenic took special interest in the "Concerto" project at Ninth and Fig a few months ago; especially intriguing to the blog was the proposed 14-storey graphic panels on the sides of both 30-storey buildings. The graphic panels suggested Blade Runner LA to both developer and blog.

The buildings haven't topped out yet, but Angelenic revisits with a followup construction post. There's still plenty of enthusiasm for the supergraphics.

This is already a very strange metropolis architecturally, and it's getting stranger all the time. The simulated urbanism in contained environments like The Grove and Americana at Brand, as well as developments like the Medici etc. and lots of local trolley-styled jitneys, all look to the past, and treat urbanism as though it were simple town square or euro nostalgia. Meanwhile, when the City's builders look to build for the future, they take their cues from not from utopian visions, but from dystopian visions, such as Blade Runner and the dark fleet spaceships that suggested 100 Main. New York is guilty too, as the backdrop buildings of Grand Theft Auto IV demonstrate. There is no architectural vision of the future that is merely pleasant; I suppose the architecture is more honest unto the people who live here than we would like it to be.

Also: USC's new architecture dean and nutcase Quingyung Ma is profiled in this months' Dwell., one of the few articles they put online.

Baja slips further into turmoil

More American tragedy in Baja: four Americans, including a woman, slain execution style near Rosarito Beach.

The comments to KNBC's story, far more incendiary than anything permissible at most blogs, demonstrate both how far Mexico's policing ability has slipped in recent months and how much Anglo-Americans fear Mexico's inability to police itself adequately.

g PREVIOUS ITEM (April 28)
Could Mexican-American relations have had a worse two weeks? It started with the Absolut ad agency's reconquista map. Anti-kidnapping units were found to be kidnapping tourists themselves. A Mexican official visiting Washington stole Blackberries from the White House. And the final immense bloodbath in teejay, San Diego's sister city, where the dead were laid out on a maquiladora road. Things are not well within the already schizo relationship between the two countries that are more different to each other than any that share a 1,000 mile-plus border in the world.

City at Noon: Hooray for Hollywood!

JM, Hooray for Hollywood and Hillhurst, 5.19.08

Noted: Ashlee Simpson, whoever that is, got married and told the wedding guests that she was pregnant. And that's the news, live from Hollywood.

Morning Eye-Opener

If you're looking to gain some bearings on local politics quickly, read this Orlov roundup: "Times are bleaker than bleak for LA Republicans," etc. Antonio and Council expecting a hard time in asking the voters for more money in November, Zev as always calling for further study on something, Ridley-Thomas registering Obama voters, the usual bedlam in the 40th AD, problems at BONC and DONE, etc. It used to be that good blog writing sounded like good newspaper writing; now, it's more like the better newspaper writing gets, the more it sounds like good blog writing.

g If you follow State politics, the Sacto Bee's Dan Weintraub also writes roundups like this, roundups that get to lots of core issues and key conflicts quickly.

g Everyone has an opinion on keeping animals caged animals in zoos. It's about time that the animals themselves were heard from. An orangutan tried to escape from the LA Zoo this weekend. He was very polite about it.

g The Former Fishwrap Of Record, ever fearless in its local coverage, now tries to blow the cover off of...the California roll. How hard would it be to do a bona fide expose on photo tickets, complete with Council vote records and memos? Everyone knows the City shaved time on the yellow lights to collect more revenue. Even so, the Times is tentative, fiddling with the right-turn offenders, even employing the blogger's trick of adding a question mark to the head when you're not really sure...

g Speaking of the FFOR, if you missed the sourcing background of the Fleischman Hillard / DWP billing story when it was fresh and new, and you somehow care about it, someone left a comment up at Ron Kaye's blog describing some of it. The post says that a key whistleblower was the daughter of a former Times senior editor, and hired at FH by another former Times senior editor, who now spins for UCLA. The stories the Times (ceaselessly) ran about FH billing mentioned neither fact, but it seems worthwhile knowing and stowing.

g Keep checking on your daily rounds---it's a lot of fun over there. And if the local news is sounding more and more like a MayorSam Hotsheet or Exclusive, you can guess that that blog has more influence than is comfortable for most.

Sunday Morning Mimosa

A parolee fired three rifle shots outside of a Catholic Church at a festival in Granada Hills. His apparent motive was striking back at his ex-girlfriend over custody of their son. His ex-girlfriend was wounded in the assault.

Fernando Diaz Jr. is being held in the Van Nuys Police Station on a lot of bail. A restraining order had been issued against him.

The incident should at minimum resolve the custody dispute, anyway.

g This "opinion" by DJ Waldie on LA transit is virtually opinion-free. Busses are crowded and slow! Who knew? (They also are in NYC and Paris.) He's sort of right but sort of wrong about most drivers not calling the stops; in fact, on most twelve minute-map busses, a recording calls the stops. Any stop on "Hollywood" is even given a special cadence all its own by the voice-over; more simulated urbanism from a town that doesn't really seem to want to know what urbanism is.

g Speaking of simulated urbanism, the examples of trolley bus at the Grove (accident last Friday), the short life of the Holly Trolley, and the limbo of Angel's Flight all demonstrate that jitney-styled transit in LA is not essential, it's simply nostalgic, and we don't have forward thoughts on short transit, but retro thoughts on it.

g Add the Library to the list of Departments that won't really be cutting back after all. The overstated org "Save LAPL" reports that a whopping 36.5 jobs have been saved (about half a job per branch), and there will be no special Sunday closures, so your well-fed librarians can continue to graze through the weekends. The book budget is restored too. "More than 1300 people visited this website and sent passionate messages of support for the Library, messages that went directly to the Mayor, the Budget & Finance Committee of the City Council, and the City Librarian!" MayorSam get more daily visits from Minutemen than that...

Morning Eye-Opener

The Downtown News is first fishwrap out of the chute on the Parks/Ridley-Thomas race. The Downtown News endorses Mark Ridley-Thomas. Their endorsement does not dis Bernard Parks; it says that there's much to like about Parks as well. This is one of the most issues-driven, weightiest endorsement editorials you'll see in print.

g Also in the Downtown News, something I missed this week, and I suspect a lot of people did: Robert Rauschenberg died on Monday, at age 82. I remember as a freshman in college standing in MoMA's new exhibition wing and seeing 34 Rauschenberg's depicting of the thirty-four cantos of Dante's Inferno, the epic I happened to be reading at the time for Columbia's fabled humanities class. (Back then, MoMA was free on Wednesdays, and I went every Wednesday, especially to see Guernica, because there was talk that it would be going back to Spain soon). So it was with some appreciation that I read that MoCA here in LA rather than MoMA in NYC now possesses the series. Still, it seems that eight of the thirty-four are on display at MoMA right now. The NYTimes calls the series shadowy---I found it more playful.

g The housing crisis affects our city's overcrowded animal shelter problem, as people forced into rentals may move into buildings hostile to pets, the Daily News says. "Pet surrenders" are spiking across the nation.

Local Monets

JM, Jacaranda petals, sidewalk, Rodney, 5.16.08

JM, Jacaranda petals, Rodney, 5.16.08

click images to enlarge

City at Noon: Another Department Head, Navigating by GPS

I've much criticized Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's penchant for hiring out-of-towners of dubious talent for critical city positions, thereby making key City appointments beholden to his wishes alone. It's reached stratospheric awfulness in the persons of Gloria Jeffs and Gail "GPS" Goldberg, but...

Here's the sad story on yet another Department head who needs GPS to get around town: Olga "GPS" Garay, head of Cultural Affairs.
"On my first 10 days working here last year, I got so lost I was practically crying," she says, turning down the jazz station she normally listens to. Typically, this is a story she tells on herself, not the least embarrassed. "I got one of those GPS things and I told it where I wanted to go. But nothing happened!"

She continues, straight-faced. "So I called the emergency GPS number and spoke to this guy," who couldn't believe she was talking to the device. She throws back her head and cackles: "I'm like a mental midget!"

It's hard to believe the town's current culture czarina could be even modestly effective without knowing the long history and cultural legacy of the Department itself, the Croton years, the Nodal years, the Maggie years, the inherent tensions with Rec and Parks, the diminishing role of the Cultural Heritage Commission, etc. It's hard to believe a cultural grants program could be run effectively, and not simply as the Mayor's personal slush fund, with an out-of-towner at the helm. But more and more, the City's Department of Cultural Affairs is becoming just that, with a department head who can only smile and say, "Who and how much, boss?" when shaping the City's cultural destiny.

Morning Eye-Opener

Left, an NYC skyscraper. Right, a Liberty City skyscraper in Grand Theft Auto IV. Check the whole series of thirty such knockoffs at flickr. And then marvel at the fact that some nerd has enough time not only to play the game, but to source its animation too.

g LAPD depute jefe Michael Moore tells the Daily News that an injunction against the San Fers would control them. But Richard Alarcon takes the opportunity to sound like a crazy man. As though injunction requests are public relations events, he thinks the City Attorney's motion "doesn't take notice of all the good things that are going on in the community." His equally unbalanced claim that "most residents are more afraid of foreclosure than they are of gang members" is of course an outright lie, as most residents are renters, but renters and homeowners alike fear gangs.

g Ron Prentice will be the fundie point-person on the anti-gay marriage initiative. Here's his LA Times Dust-Up from last summer on the issue. It's hostile. California's demographics have changed substantially since 2000, even since 2004; the Christian right's rhetoric hasn't.

g Notes on the sidebar: Larry Mantle and Warren Olney's shows are streamed over the Internet. If you think of it, you can click to them from the sidebar now, where they get special call-outs.

Small brushfire in Griffith Park

If you're wondering how severe the brushfire in Griffith Park is, I'd have to say: not very.

Tiny wisps of white smoke streaking the sky in the southwest side of the park, west of the Observatory. Last year's fire was heaviest north and northeast of the Observatory.

There are a few helicopters in the sky but at this point the fire looks to be under an acre in size and under control.

Gay Marriage Scorecard

Four years ago, Gavin Newsom opened the door. Today, the California State Supreme Court sealed the deal.

Pundits hoping to assign blame in overturn of the State's ban against gay marriages are going to be profoundly disappointed. Republican lite Arnie's appointment voted AGAINST the overturning of the 2000 initiative banning gay marriage. But two appointments of Republican Governor Wilson and one of Republican Governor Deukmejian joined the sole Democratic appointment on the SC in overturning the ban.
  • Ronald M. George, (1991), Chief Justice (Wilson - R) FOR
  • Marvin R. Baxter, (1991), Associate Justice (Wilson - R) AGAINST
  • Ming W. Chin, (1996), Associate Justice (Wilson - R) AGAINST
  • Carol A. Corrigan, (2006), Associate Justice (Schwarzenegger - R) AGAINST
  • Joyce L. Kennard, (1989), Associate Justice (Deukmejian - R) FOR
  • Carlos R. Moreno, (2001), Associate Justice (Davis - D) FOR
  • Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, (1994), Associate Justice (Wilson - R) FOR
It should be hard to call a Court "activist" when six of seven judges were appointed by Republicans.

City at Lunch: $2.38

JM, dos con todo, 5.13.08

What you get for $2.38 at El Sauz, Chevy Chase and San Fernando, Glendale---the taco stand in street-hassle's logo. Jalapeno, dos tacos de asada con todo, radishes and lemon wedge.

g El Sauz, Yelped. "Excellent burritos and tortas but at the little yellow shack titled Sauz Taco you need to get the tacos, even if just a couple on the side."

g El Sauz, The Great Taco Hunt. "These asada tacos were what Los Angeles is all about."

Morning Eye-Opener

JM, Backgammon, Glendale, 5.13.08

For the first time, Arnold opens the door to new taxes, Orlov and Harrison Sheppard report.

g You've likely already heard by now that the Mayor's first choice for CAO, Marcus Allen, has lost interest. Rest assured that anyone who turns down a civil service job because of money has an insufficient sense of civitas to perform it.

g But in LA these days, nobody seems to want to be of service to LA anymore unless they're shown the money. Even Ugly Betty's leaving. That sucking sound you hear is the sound of 150 Angelenos losing their jobs on the show.

g I've never been quite able to figure out what it is that makes the Sagebrush Cantina the Sagebrush Cantina. But this obit explains it all: it was owner Bob McCord's force of personality. If you've been there more than once, you'll recognize the face instantly.

g Jamiel Shaw Sr. is becoming LA's Cindy Sheehan [ed. for sp.]. He's too incautious, and by politicizing his deceased son, he'll likely soon be obliged to encounter real political flak in return. But his charge that District Attorney Michelle Hanisee threatened to depict Jamiel Jr. as a gangster unless Shaw stopped pushing for hate crime prosecution is certainly intriguing and even worth investigating itself. Of course, that's exactly what happened. Hanisee is now off the case.

g Planners say we'll need 32 billion more gallons of water a year here in LA 2030. And that's only to sober up Gail Goldberg.

photo essayette: Atwater

click images to enlarge

JM, Duck in Mulholland Fountain, 5.14.08

JM, Pedestrian Bridge, LA River, 5.14.08

JM, Girl waiting on a 780, Riverside and Los Feliz, 5.13.08

FOLAR, the Friends of the L.A. River, is sponsoring a Great River Clean-Up day this Saturday , May 17, from 9 a.m. to noon at 12 different locations. Mine's at Los Feliz Beach; click this webpage for a link to one close to you.

City at Noon: Print Ponders Faux Fox Hahn Hackjob

JM, Garage mural, Fairbanks Pl., Echo Park, 4.30.08

We had the story on Fox's flawed attack on Councilwoman Janice Hahn two weeks ago, and wondered when print would get around to it, and someone in print did finally get around to it.

street-hassle, 5.1.08
The Fox news "exclusive" will go on for a second night, and if the second is anything like the first, expect print to ponder what the hell's going on....But beyond that big first-night of Fox sucker-punching, the interview with the disgruntled cops had to take the prize. These are people who are about to sue the City. We should expect these to state a fair case, and take their word for blanket statements they are making about how the Los Angeles Police Department perceives Hahn's intervention efforts?
Daily Breeze, 5.14.08:
But a review of the Fox 11 News story found major flaws that undermine its central allegations....The story was largely based on the allegations of two Los Angeles Police Department officers who contend that Hahn pressured the department to remove them from their foot beats in Watts due to complaints about their aggressive tactics.
This is what happens when you base news on would-be plaintiffs' interviews alone. The FoxNews ed should have seen that.

UPDATE: Orlov notes it too at the Daily News's blog.

UPDATE II: Ron Kaye too.

Morning Eye-Opener

JM, Simulating Urbanism: Americana at Brand, 4.29.08

Moby blogs late-nite from LAX: " the lounge is filled with chinese businessmen eating noodles out of styrofoam bowls and sade (shar-day, remember her?)is playing on the lounge stereo. we're en route to monterey, mexico." Cool. Attention Kareem: this is what a celeb blog should be.

Can you believe the LAUSD is thinking about asking us for more money??!! They're building schools in meridians, they're taking a decade to build some of them, and they want more. How's this for a lead-in to a pitch for more cash: "Even though we are building 132 schools..."

Steve Lopez notes it when local officials like Admiral Brewer read his newspaper. Similarly, we note it when things from the blogosphere pop up in his column without acknowledgment. But if the Admiral really wanted to start communicating with people, he'd talk to bloggers, who are way better dialed into the grassroots (e.g., Neighborhood Councils, No 2 Home Depot movement, CityWatch, etc.) than the former fishwrap of record. We know who people get opinions from; it's not Steve Lopez, to whom they turn for compelling stories, but not for persuasive political polemics.

Markland notes that Matt Welch is in town to talk John McCain. Through Zocalo, the feed-the-hungry lecture series that people sort of show up to for the catering. I liked what Markland had to say about the potential "nightmare ticket": McCain/Clinton. I don't think that one would stand a chance, but McCain/Powell might.


Alarm bells are going off tonight at the RNC. There have been three special elections in the House in which Republicans have left office, and all three have been won by Democrats. This warning came last week when the GOP had lost two of two but still looked to the first Mississippi district, which Bush carried by 25 points in 2004, as a win. They lost that one too tonight. When Travis Childers is sworn in, Demos will control the House by a whopping 37 Reps: 236-199.

The GOP blogosphere is peddling to the increasingly disgruntled base the fact that Childers isn't exactly as liberal as Barack Obama. That may be true, but the GOP smear machine in this formerly-GOP-safe district threw unadulterated Jeremiah Wright at Travis Childers---and Childers won anyway.

This is what's really causing the GOP to wet their britches tonight: in a district that's easily among the 25% most conservative in the country, the Wright stuff was the wrong stuff. Combine that with the fact that McCain is pulling 77% in states in which he's purportedly unopposed, and there is enormous danger ahead for the GOP.

"I'm so over you, Andruw Jones"

And other afternoon linkage.

Karen Bass is the new Speaker of the Assembly. Right away, she's looking for bipartisan support on raising tax revenue. Good luck. She'll be termed out in 2010. Not a career pol, she deserves all kudos.

WeHo ubernanny Mike Feuer wants the State to make an ignition interlock breathalyzer mandatory on anyone convicted of a point-oh-eight or above. It's currently installed at the judge's discretion. I'd check his contributors list if I had time.

If you wonder if spam is big business, myspace says it just won nearly a quarter of a billion dollar verdict in a fight over it.

I'm so over you, Andruw Jones, and four other things, from the utterly irreverent Dodger blog Sons of Steve Garvey.

Morning Eye-Opener

Joseph Mailander elsewhereemail

The City responds to the overtime story in the Daily News. But what I wonder: why didn't Laura Chick's office identify this problem? She is so busy sticking her nose into everyone's accounting, and sometimes it seems for political purposes---how is it that she never issued this kind of report? The Daily News had to fight---through her office---for the data.

g A cranky org named Friends of the Taxpayer takes a similar line of inquiry. "The Dailey [sic] News obtained this information under the California Public Records Act. That’s great but this information should be continuously and readily available to all, no request or breaking through bureaucratic red tape required, so that Los Angeles taxpayers can see how their money is spent – just as over 15 ENTIRE states have done or are in the process of doing."

g Why would the former fishwrap of record even bother reviewing James Frey's awful book when they miss so much great local fiction? Oh, I remember: Russ Stanton needs to "capture eyeballs."

g Here's a book they should review: John Shannon's The Devils of Bakersfield. A book which actually took some courage to write.

g While I love reading comments and they are part of the whole purpose of the blog, sometimes I am disappointed in the commenters here, and yesterday was one of those days. When you make me take the time to read comments not only for content but for deletion as well, you cut against your own purposes: the more you bicker with each other, the less the comments get read; eventually you'll make your case to nobody at all, instead of the readers of a well-trafficked blog. You can interact with me all you want, and my email address couldn't be any more available; but if you are here to harass each other, then I have to do what works best for the blog, even for your own voices.

Yesterday I had to take the comments completely offline. Someone had taken the trouble to fake a post as a newsmaker. I did not enjoy being obliged to confirm whether the post was a hoax or not, but I had to do the responsible thing and do so. It blew a tire in part of my day; if I had blown a tire in yours, I suspect you'd be fairly upset. Try to get your acts together and not to mess with mine.

g That said, comments can also be golden. A reader wrote yesterday, Why doesn't the City promote carpooling more? No kidding. The Mayor and all Councilpeople should commute with a constituent into downtown one day a week. They might learn how people are actually experiencing this City.

City at Noon: Gail Goldberg makes $200K and doesn't know where Los Feliz is

JM, Goldberg & Bernstein with some commoners, 1.17.08

Our City's Planning jefe Gail Goldberg makes over $200K a year, according to the Daily News's City salary database.

It's a funny salary, considering how much she pleads that her hands are tied to accomplish the will of the people in so many matters, like growth, say, or Sunland Tujunga's Home Depot kerfluffle. And that she seems to have problems getting from downtown to Los Feliz without a map. And how the Weekly doesn't seem to think she can plan a cup of coffee.

Her salary means she made $500 by noon today and will make $500 more by 5 p.m. tonight. In between, she'll open doors and roll out welcome mats to as many developers and contractors as possible, in the name of "smart growth," while the City gets more congested by the day.

It's a pretty good salary for the former homemaker who only studied planning late in life and got to apprentice in San Diego thanks to a sex scandal.

If you're wondering, the other half of her song and dance team, Ken Bernstein, who manages five people, takes home $140,000 for heading up the Planning Department's Office of Historic Resources.

Morning Eye-Opener

Can you believe that someone with a long bus commute now drives a car? Where does the Times find fascinating stories like these?

Fabian Nunez yields his Speaker of the Assembly post to Karen Bass this week, as he's termed out in December. The former fishwrap of record boldly says his legacy is mixed.

Some readers have been telling me that they've noticed changes at the Daily News since Ron Kaye's departure. Their complaint is that the news is fluffier. But the paper's focus on City of LA workers remains sharp, and their delving into City OT could register on the voter's radar if they push the budget shortfall as City-induced, and you aren't going to get stories like this, featured this way, in the Times.

What should we call that budget "deficit" anyway? It seems a bit like spin merely to call it a deficit, when spending in fact is going up so much. Why not call it the "unfunded increase"?

City wonks: I know some of you don't get over to Mayor Sam's second site regularly, but there's a good memo up there from a consultant on what things are like inside DONE.

Word comes from Sunland Tujunga that Home Depot will present their plans for the notorious K-Mart site to the community tonight at 7 p.m. at North Valley City Hall, 7747 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga. The public is invited---and it has been.

Jacobs' LA, unauthorized

Jacobs, unauthorized

Angeleno writer Rodger Jacobs has cried the beloved country as an LA exile since September 2006, first depositing himself in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, then on an especially arid side of Las Vegas, where he patiently tends to an often uncooperative ailing mother while tattooing a keyboard with blog entries, fiction, poems, and book reviews.

Ten days ago, he returned to LA for the first time since his departure. The chronicle of his visit is an intriguing mix of artistry and sentiment, as Jacobs now experiences LA both as insider and outsider.

Starting with his approach on I-15, LA's Via Appia. Jacobs and his travelling companion, the Missterious Miss L (whom I would later meet on this trip as well) witness an accident, and the accident has a different kind of backdrop than the ones we know from years ago...

Moments earlier, before the driver of the Lincoln Navigator flew all four tires into the sand after clipping the bumper of a vehicle in the number two lane, I had noted a waterpark at the side of the road, a watersports-themed activity park in the middle of the goddamn Mojave Desert. Look, I say to Miss L, there are no cars in the parking lot and the ferris wheel is idle. Whose genius marketing scheme was this?

With the table thus set, and thus braced for LA, Jacobs is ready to do business with the bane of all expat existence---storage. His unit is on Los Feliz Boulevard, walking distance from his favorite bars.

The roughly 30 file-size boxes in the 10×10 storage locker are primarily filled with books. The first editions and signed editions were the first to make the cut for retrieval. All of the Nathanael West was snagged, as well as critical volumes on his work. Ditto Scott Fitzgerald. Modern Library editions of Kafka, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald. Almost forgot Fitzgerald’s The Crack-Up but located it inside a box next to a hardback of James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential; the latter most definitely did not make the cut.

My daughter’s baby albums were placed on the retrieval list, of course, but a biography of Malcolm Lowry was not. CDs by Ry Cooder, R.E.M., and Black-Eyed Peas jumped into the outgoing box but two boxes of movies on VHS are going to be left for history to deal with.

There's an entry about the hookup I also discussed last weekend, at the Tam, with Jacobs, California Faultline's David Markland, novelist John Shannon, the Missterious Miss L, and me. Then there's an entry called Combat Mission, about another trip beyond another gate---how similar are the architecture and "landscaping" of storage units to that of sound stages!---and who hasn't experienced this overdramatized LA version of Torschlußpanik at one time or another?

The gate began to close. I ran to the gate keypad. The Jeep was rapidly approaching but the margin for escape from the lot was decreasing with every creak of the gate’s closing.

8787 STAR
It's an LA rite of passage: striving to enter by the narrowing gate.

Finally, his work nearly done, Jacobs turns to his own hotel. From seven stories up, he spots a woman in the hotel's courtyard.

It was that sort of courtyard. A California courtyard. A Los Angeles courtyard.

And there was a woman in that courtyard. She wore a solid black dress and clutched a red purse to her bosom with one hand. With the other hand, she gestured frantically in the air as she engaged in animated discussion with a squat white-haired elderly gentleman in a dark sportcoat and slacks. The woman in the black dress with the red purse, it appeared from my limited vantage point, was no one’s idea of youth either.

I have now known Rodger Jacobs for about four years---a college degree's worth of time. His body of work crosses classes, crowds, cultures; it's not the Authorized Version, and that's its special place: it's LA, unauthorized and unrepentant. For fiction, he will squeeze a character named Bukowski next to a cartoon figure, perchance Pinocchio or Woody Woodpecker; as a critic, he snarks in a way that gives more rise to laughter than bitterness, even if the first anecdote he turns to is a desperately private one. He does not suffer fools gladly, and these tend to feel sheepish on approach. His blog Carver's Dog is his best yet, and he has put together many. He's had run-ins everywhere, and he is joyously indifferent to your judgment. Among people of our City who know the City yet don't drive around too much, you can have DJ Waldie, I'll take Rodger Jacobs; way more fun over here, and there's something new every day.

Griffith Park, a year later

JM, Wildflowers, fire damage, downtown, a year later, 5.7.08

Joseph Mailander elsewhereemail

all images click to enlarge

One year ago today, as the Griffith Park Fire surged to its greatest extent to the southeast, I came in from the balcony and wrote a post: Griffith Park Fire Surges Southeast. We have a great view of the Park, and I could easily see the fire had engulfed my favorite hiking trail and part of the Park: the trail up from the Vermont Canyon Tennis Courts. The trail goes up about a third of a mile, forks, and if you take the left rim you end up in the redwood grove opposite the Greek Theater.

Looking back at the post and walking the trail today for the first time in the past year, I had a chance to see what kind of progress has been made in this critical section of the Park. I also took some photos. And when I got home, I had a chance to revisit what I had written a year ago, some of which I'll excerpt in this post.

Balcony, binos: as of 8 PM, the fire seems to extend from about a hundred yards east of Dante's View behind the Observatory, then dips down by the bird sanctuary and all the way up the ridge opposite the Amphitheater and back down to the Vermont Canyon tennis courts, then jumps a second (or maybe third) ridge and disappears down into the Atwater side. It's hard to say whether or not homes have been threatened, but it's certainly at its lowest points on the southeast side of the hills that it's been all day, and residents of Los Feliz can easily see 50' + flames, sometimes 100', with sudden bursts of flame erupting at formerly beloved points along the Griffith Park trails.

Indeed. This photo from the west rim of the trail, looking east, shows the fire line, still very much evident even a full year later, and how the fire rimmed the tennis complex.

From the west rim of the tennis trail, you wrap around a bend and are looking west at Griffith Observatory and the Greek Theater from an elevated view. Last year I also said:

It's almost worthless, as far as I can tell, to watch the TV coverage. I keep going inside to check it out and they show all these telescoped shots of the fire behind the Observatory. The fire is nowhere near the Observatory---at its closest it was about 3/8 of a mile away from it. In fact, it is threatening Commonwealth Avenue, about 3/4 mile east of the Observatory.

Again spot on. Take a look at this composite shot, and click to enlarge. It shows Mt. Hollywood from a side view rather than a straight on view. The green you see is Mt. Hollywood dipping into Vermont Canyon. You'll note nothing is burned until you get very far up Mt. Hollywood, on the extreme right of the composite photo.

Then you drop from there, that path on the far right, into Vermont Canyon and the redwood grove. Last year I made a simple wish:
I hope the redwood grove opposite the Greek isn't gone.

Redwoods are tough. The fire did indeed dip into their grove. But the old growth generally survived. It was the younger trees that burned. Take a look at how it looks a year after.

I also said last year, a few days after the fire, that Tom LaBonge lacked the sufficient gravitas to repair the Park. A year later, he's made good on my observation.

A year later, I also don't understand any of the City's decisions---any of them. Not the decision to hydromulch at a cost of $2 million, even though the hydromulch itself cost nothing. Not the decision to let the burned brush on the trails fend for itself rather than clear some of it around the trails. Not the decision to keep chainlink gates on the entrance to some of the trails. Not the decision to let anything that can grow grow, including pernicious weeds, some six feet tall, along the trails. It's like nobody can decide anything.

A year later, it's like nobody really wants a Park---except, of course, the people least equipped to make it a Park again, and entrusted to the fewest resources: Park Rangers, hikers, neighbors, and passionate volunteers. A year later, it's like politicians view the Park as a dumping ground for all their idiotic, money-grubbing ideas: raising fees on golf, selling the naming rights to the great franchises, cutting the Rangers' budget. A year later, nothing in the Park is sacred anymore, though there will undoubtably be lots of political chest-thumping today, by a lot of lying kleptocrats who couldn't tell a redwood from a dogwood.

Morning Eye-Opener

Joseph Mailander elsewhereemail

BongHwan Kim
dispels the notion of never taking an interim position: he'll be installed as General Manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment by City Council today. He holds a Master's degree in public administration from Harvard. He was a Korean-African American relations specialist before civil service, once co-chair of the Korean-Black Alliance, exec director of the MultiCultural Collaborative, and has taught a class on the 1992 riot at UCLA. He has friends in both the Mayor's office and in the ACLU, so that should also dispel the notion of DONE as a glorified homeowners association.

I hope it wasn't new top ed Carolina Garcia who chose this yawner to be the top story today at the Daily News. "Court System Swamped by Trust Reviews"---jeez, nine-tenths of your readers don't know what a trust review is...

Of course, the problems are only more hilarious on Spring Street. Regarding the former fishwrap of record, Kevin almost stated some personal opinions in a general Times rant softy focused on the target-rich environment that is Lee Abrams.

But at least this clarification makes more sense than some of Abrams' previous messages. Still to be clarified — and it's crucial because they are in competition — is which "soul" and electric identity should inform the paper's future? The non-white city of upwardly aspiring immigrants that shapes almost everything in L.A. except media coverage? The mostly white Downtown-to-Westside niche that drives the local media today? The relatively few wired yuppies the Times' website and entertainment coverage increasingly target? Or the millions beyond L.A. in the SoCal suburbs who look to Downtown for approximately nothing in the way of culture, lifestyle or soul? I don't know...
OK, he doesn't know. But the rant was pretty good, sketching out possible souls. It does not, however, entertain the notion that the Times' doesn't have have a soul by design. That would be my own theory. As I keep saying, it's an abomination to hear an editor boasting about links from Drudge and traffic to pet blogs---and David Markland's Tam O'Shanter question "Where is LOS ANGELES in the online mix?" is all that really needs to be asked. Kevin wants the paper to have a soul, but in fact it already has one: it's the soul of a puta who suddenly thinks there might be a few more bucks in being leered at rather than admired.

And it's owned by one who leers rather than admires, so that figures.

Do you ever think the people downtown get a little carried away with the hype: Debbie Kim, a producer at Fox, sorta guest blogged for skidrowdude and raves about downtown and her Higgins Building.

"And our building faces this changing of the guard, as a constant representative of our new community. "The Higgins Building is the headquarters of the people of the New Downtown Los Angeles. And behind us is the rest of the new downtown neighbors looking to us for leadership. We are at the helm, the driver seat of our growing neighborhood. We have huge influence over what happens here for decades to come. That’s quite a charge... "

It reminds me of Rumsfeld talking about Old Europe and New Europe.

Cinco de Mayo

JM, Lynn, Cinco de Mayo 2008, 5.5.08

Joseph Mailander elsewhereemail

There's really only one story around here today: after seven months away, Lynn went back to work.

I don't need to tell you much more; you probably already know what and where and who and how. You know about her hard hard surgery October 4 and the diagnosis. You know how we chose to talk about it, not as crusaders, but simply as a part of life, a part that certainly demands an enormous amount of attention, but yet should remain in our opinion simply one dimension of life to manage. You know how while ovarian cancer is a stiff sentence, it's no longer a hopeless one, and how treatment is still evolving, and word about it is finally beginning to get out. You know about her five-and-a-half months of double-dose chemotherapy. You know how fearlessly she's faced her malady. You know how through it all it was she was the one with all the strength while we lesser others were simply obliged to marvel.

Five years ago, I did a series of photographs of Lynn going to work. They were all pretty much like this one: no matter the morning, no matter the circumstances, Lynn always runs everything, does everything, achieves everything, and wants to do it all and carry it all herself. And that was the point of the series: Lynn takes time to look great, dress great, and still does more in a day than most of us can dream of doing in a week.

I find it especially rich that today that on the way out, she thought at the last second to pick up the empty bottle of champagne a local editor thoughtfully brought over yesterday. While ending chemo was one celebration for Lynn, going back to work is cause for another; the path she's walked has always been incredible and exemplary, but these past seven months especially so. Have a great Cinco, and thanks for your best thoughts through it all!

Pub scrawl

Busy day; early on over scones, we're presented with a Chinese painting of birds in wisteria; then champagne brunch with an editor and his wife and daughter; finally, hooking up with Rodger Jacobs, who blew in from Vegas and landed at the Tam O'Shanter for a few hours. Jacobs is a head-of-the-table type, and flanking him were David Markland, John Shannon, and the missterious Miss L. Were your ears burning?

We all have our gripes; the table talk is the usual mashup of promise and knowing better. The former fishwrap of record hasn't reviewed John Shannon's latest book; it's only his tenth in the Jack Liffey oeuvre, so you wonder what the hell they're doing. Yet I also hear from someone, can't remember who, that pretentious local blogger Mark Sarvas eked out a first work, and was fairly savaged in the New York Times today, That works for me fine. You wish, though, that it had been a real book they reviewed; in print, something that shouldn't get looked at always displaces something that should.

Markland is 35; I don't quite yet hear the feeling in his conversation that I hear from the others. The feeling is the feeling you get when you sit down with other writers, look at them, they look at you, and after a few stories, everyone asks themselves, "How can it be so perpetually fragile, this vocation?" The gouache of decomposition and recomposition that is a writer's ordinary life drives conversation; you haul out what you know about so-and-so, even what you know about yourself, braving your own fragility. These aren't engineers comparing torsions or doctors talking illness; writers talk mostly about ups and downs, rarely about ins and outs.

What is most fascinating is the thing that nearly kills, but doesn't. When you leave college, you suppose that your life will be defined by what you write; no, it is defined by your own personal comedies and tragedies; writers tell stories, know stories, feel stories, and are obliged even to live them, too. It's always good to hear them spontaneously erupt, unadorned by the polish of text.

Morning Eye-Opener

JM, Off Sunset, Silver Lake, 4.30.08

Joseph Mailander elsewhereemail

The suicide rate among veterans is unbearably high and a national disgrace. The Department of Defense, however, has its eye on divesting itself of the VA grounds. It seems the Vets deserve more and better use of the grounds, perhaps for special programs, perhaps simply as sanctuary, but certainly not a quick sale to a developer. Keith Jeffreys of the Citizens for Veterans Rights lays out his case for preserving the land for vets in CityWatch.

In my appearance on Which Way LA yesterday, I suggested that City of LA General Managers needed to play more hardball with the Mayor than they presently are willing to do. Jack Kyser seemed anxious, even overanxious, to talk about the budget as being about a "deficit"---in fact, the budget is larger than last years', and the entire "deficit" across the departments comes from the Mayor's zeal for fulfilling his campaign promise of delivering 1,000 more cops. My opinion: General Managers need to say to the Mayor, "We did nothing to precipitate this: it's your own political ambition that is cutting my budget, for the sake of fulfilling your promise. Take it to the voters yourself, not to my Department." I also said that the idea of the City selling naming rights of parks and buildings had little upside and lots of downside. Kyser generally agreed with that.

Tranquilo: International Workers Day marches were smaller and took on more of a carnival atmosphere as they marched down la calle séptima, which seemed to work for the City. The Spanish-language morning deejays played far less of a hyping role than previously.

Conflict is necessary at times, but politics really benefit from taking place in a relaxed, carnival atmosphere in which the possibility of growth looks safe. Throw in the interstellar antipodes of Justice for Janitors, Betty Pleasant, John and Ken, the No2HomeDepot fight, ZumaDogg, and the MayorSam blog into the mix; you see real politics breaking out in almost all parts of the City, giving the town's mini-mayors fits everywhere (one suspects that we are going to see a similar outbreak over Griffith Park soon).

But look carefully at the efforts of the various compass points and you find it's the groups that have a sense of humor and an ironic sense of self that are most succeeding. That's because, absent adequate mainstream media coverage of local politics, the politically savvy have resorted to creating carnival and spectacle to get attention. Simply put, the political mobilizers who are more fun don't look like their a menace to the City when mainstream media finally gets around to noticing them, and they look like safe places to belong. The community meeting filled with shouts and roars usually disintegrates quickly; the one that doesn't seem too demanding of your time, and maybe even a bit of fun to attend, you'll go to that one again.

There's a good book on the topic I often tout: it's Stephen Duncombe's Dream: Re-Imagining Politics in an Age of Fantasy. The premise of the book is that liberals need to draw from the uber-culture of fantasy and spectacle---things about culture they typically spurn---and create "ethical spectacles" of their own. The righties wear goofy shirts and generally clown around when they assemble to mobilize politically; the left needs to find its analogous behaviors, rather than refute them.

Fox and the Crips, redux

JM, Garage mural, Fairbanks Pl., Echo Park, 4.30.08

The Fox news "exclusive" will go on for a second night, and if the second is anything like the first, expect print to ponder what the hell's going on. A gangster in a gang program gets busted, and to the Hawthorne PD he says, almost incongruently, "I know Janice Hahn." It's the way a teenager's mind works: when you are about to be sent to the concrete chateau, don't you name drop the most famous person you've ever met? And this is presented as Janice Hahn's fault?

But beyond that big first-night of Fox sucker-punching, the interview with the disgruntled cops had to take the prize. These are people who are about to sue the City. We should expect these to state a fair case, and take their word for blanket statements they are making about how the Los Angeles Police Department perceives Hahn's intervention efforts?

So what's up with Fox's sensationalizing of this rather mundane and woefully slanted story? A gangster at a not-for-profit gets accused of a cold case crime; two cops can't stand their reassignment so they get an idea to shake down the City; a jouno finds a scapegoat, the Councilwoman who has some of the toughest housing project gang problems to solve in the whole City. Councilwoman Hahn believes in God and forgiveness; she talks to gangsters of every stripe; she goes to community weddings, community funerals, consoles the grieving. She already wears a cross around her neck, always; she shouldn't have to wear a media albatross too.