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LA Thanksgiving

I loathe the way you call
attention to yourself — you deserve it
when you’re ignored! You do. Who can stand
someone so persistently brash? Your gaudy flash —
I don't esteem myself like this.
You are so flawed. I have to step out, embarrassed…

You know, it’s only because of all that drama
that they cheer for all your troubles.
The stories they promote about you are
mostly about your wickedness.
They won’t acknowledge your intelligence
your highbrow side at all.  They want you to be
tinsel and seasonless palms, nothing more. 
They’re so persistent at it, you
believe these things about yourself.

Sometimes I believe them too. I have not been
faithful to your generous patience, nor
the anonymous comforts that you give.
You lure people with promises to lives
you later fix in post. I forget the way
you present, dutifully through our endless spats,
those carne asada quesadillas,
your quiet stunners of street art,
your Salonens and Sunset queens,
splenetic catastrophes, quirky intersections,
civil rights, sunny fashions, urban dread,
your west coast cool, your endless makeovers
(gifts to the world, which is ever
in need of makeovers) — and most of all,
the way you slink through neighborhoods,
quietly modern and linear, like nobody else.

So, so what if you’re a siren after all?
Those who hear the call will laugh
along with you, this inside joke we have:
Though everyone falls from Eden — a garden
of fruit, branches, and the wicked — you
are an Eden without repentance, closest to
the true in human hearts, as gardens are.

Perry needs to crib a bit more

Last night before a stunned Venice Neighborhood Council, Councilmember and mayoral candidate Jan Perry was asked what the size of the City budget was, and was unable to come up with a number on her own, a reader reports.

That may at minimum explain why Perry and other Council candidates needed notes today even when dealing with softball-lobbing Jim Newton in a makeshift debate at UCLA.

Clinton on local sports show

"And how do you spell 'D-Fish'?"

President Clinton called in today on The Loose Cannons, Fox's local afternoon sports radio show, with Pat O'Brien, Steve Hartman and Vic the Brick Jacobs.

He was on the show to tout his own book Back to Work: Why We Need a Smart Government for a Strong Economy, but he also gave an analysis of LSU/Arkansas, predicting that if they if the Razorbacks get past Mississippi State they'll have a good shot in LSU too.  Clinton also reports that his mother-in-law, the recently deceased Dorothy Rodham, was a great Keith Richards fan.

"We've obviously failed"

Williamsburg in Los Angeles.

The young political consultant nodded along politely.  I unspooled my own experience to him; I have endured New York City's time of troubles in the late 1970's.  Now, that was a city that was in a political and economic mess.  Trash wasn't picked up sometimes for a few weeks.  Toll booth workers went on strike.  Subway fares went up, and up again.  The murder rate was through the roof; there weren't just murders every day, there were murders on the subway every day.  There was no way for the city to pay anything...

How did we cope? We didn't.  Mostly, we tuned it all out and made art and culture.  And everyone else, they were doing it too.  The City at that time produced what it would become known for--in arts and culture.  Pavarotti.  Richard Serra.  CBGBs.  &c.  It was dilapidated and decadent.  However they were going to fix the city, it was their business.  We were going to have our city life anyway.

The young pol asked for the check.  It came--two coffees over two hours.  "Whatever we're doing politically, we've obviously failed," I said.  "Just look at San Pedro--an open race, all those candidates--and even there we can't crack 15% of the voters [NOTE: City Clerk final total is 18%].  But maybe we're not failing culturally.  So I'm trying to reach people with culture right now.  Like that piece on Playa Vista I's really a chance for someone to see what's happened to a part of the city.  And that piece I did for Zocalo on Los Feliz, and the quiet one on downtown."

"New York took some bad turns in solving its crisis too," I said.  "The city sanitized itself, but it produced Williamsburg too, some yuppie haven, a kind of re-enactment of revitalization.  NYC and LA, both have too few homeowners.  We have little Williamsburgs, they're spread all throughout the city.   To give them credit, the Latino councilmembers excepting Garcetti seem to worry about the number of owner-occupied homes available to own in their districts.  But the Anglos and Blacks don't, and Garcetti doesn't."

 "What's the ratio in NY?" the consultant asked.

"It's about the same as in LA, about 60-40 rentals to homes.  It's 50-50 in healthy cities, and in healthy parts of the city.  Young couples there can't find real affordable housing either.  But here, people who should be finding a starter home are forced to rent way longer than they should be.  The city just keeps building rentals and pretending the city is growing, even though the city already has enough rentals to last for two decades and hasn't grown for one."

"Doesn't Garcetti think about these things?"

"He must, but I don't understand why he hasn't been more interested in making more homes to own in his district.  Instead, he and the Mayor went off on an affordable housing and transit hub rental binge.  But if affordable housing as the city practices it really worked--it's been around for twenty years now--wouldn't the city already have enough of the stuff by now? Every affordable housing project is really just a redevelopment project--which raises prices in neighborhoods instead of lowers them--and a little lottery for about fifty to two-hundred Section 8 people to win.  Really, developers are the only winners.  We're about two steps away from Cleveland--Cleveland with a movie colony."

Report: OccupyLA becoming class distinct

Maybe an unnamed NPR editor slanted it this way, maybe the reporter sought the kind of story she wanted to tell.  But you get a feeling from this audio report on Occupy LA that the protesters are drawing up class distinctions among themselves and don't really know what they're protesting anymore.

Also: a hundred protesters, on hearing of the crackdown in New York last night, marched to the Nokia Theater and back, and the City issued a tactical alert.  If you find it interesting that the city worries more about protesters marching on the Nokia Theater than it does about protesters buying nickel bags at City Hall, so do I.


Robert Reich: Another #OWS One-Frame Gag
The former Secretary of Labor takes to the streets to try to revive an old banking act that was obsolete years before Congress made it so.

Occupy Fatigue
Civic leaders were pals to the revolution--now they're worried about the mess it makes. 

Council and OccupyLA: tango or fistfight?
Council readies a tepid motion to back the Occupiers; should the Occupiers take it gladly, or redouble their protest? 

Art Walk not so lucky as OccupyLA
Free Ponchos for the protesters, but a big bill for the locals.

Down Dog Protesting

Going to the protest? Bring your yoga togs.

Your grandstanding Mayor and City Council

Running for their photo ops. 

Garcetti grabs onto OccupyLA coattails

Alarcon Meets-&-Greets OccupyLA

A City Councilman happens to have a banking resolution in pocket that may please Occupiers. 

From Crown to Liberty to...Zuccotti

It was a crown jewel of it's a privatized park. 

OccupyLA: small, "peaceful and stable"

Underwhelming crowds to launch the mixed-bag protesting.

Fields of Dreams

Jon Regardie in the Downtown News this week called for the city to consider or even contemplate the Dodgers moving to still disenfranchised Farmer's Field.

The city presently only knows one major league baseball stadium, the present one, erected at the very beginning of the era when ballparks ceased to be gritty, street-level ballparks and became oversized, antiseptic stadia instead; Regardie wonders if a sequence of events involving AEG might unfold that enables us to know something new entirely, maybe neither a ballpark nor a stadium but a baseball...field.

I have strong magazine memories of Forbes Field and Crosely Field, which even at the time we let go of them seemed part of a past that we let go of with enormous remorse.  (I'm not certain if Regardie was recalling the time when the word "field" naturally appended to the name of a ballpark, as was also the case with Ebbets Field and of course remains the case with Wrigley Field--but by this common semantic tic alone, Farmers Field may be a natural as a baseball host).

The return to ballparks with a more urban feel to them began in earnest in the late 1980s, and the LA Times own architecture critic in the mid-1970s, John Pastier, was at the vanguard of the movement that paid some architectural homage to the old ballparks.  One imagines that if AEG were to become involved with the Dodgers, the field would not become a throwback park like Camden Yard but something new entirely.

It's admittedly hard to imagine a Chavez Ravine without a mound on which Koufax stood; I'm sure there is a natural repugnance for long-standing Dodger apologists to imagine life without Dodger Stadium, but it is also true that in five years, the Dodgers will have been in their present facility for as long as they played at Ebbets.

...But as for me, never a strong Dodger apologist...

The present stadium with its ceaseless noise and blinking bands of lights have cheapened the hallowed grass and dirt and the feel of the sport anyways.

The Regardie plan also calls sticking affordable housing somewhere, as a kind of civic reparation for psychic damage done two generations ago; I'm not for that, but otherwise I don't mind the idea at all. 

Wendy trumps Jan

On a day that Jan Perry releases the kind of endorsement that may or may not raise $100, Wendy has released the kind of fundraising letter that can raise $500K.  With Spielberg, Geffen and The Golden Retriever on board, Wendy should bounce Jan Perry out of the race very soon. What was the name of the guy who endorsed Jan Perry today? I already forgot. A former Assemblyman, wasn't he?


Yesterday I was at the Luma Lofts downtown.  There's a deck with a pool on the fourth floor between two towers.  The deck has bamboo and silk floss trees.  The trees and bamboo are in's slightly removed from your space.  The silk floss trees still have lots of green leaves on them--at home, mine doesn't this time of year.

There's a docile spill fountain with large Mexican pebbles in the base.  There are a few scattered heat lamps but they are standing in the middle of nowhere; they aren't even near any chairs.

The south end of the deck, beyond the pool, offers a good view to the south...and these days the sun is setting as much south as it is west.  If the sun was setting, it really was time to go.

After the event, I walked up Hope to the Metro.  Hope is not much of a street for pedestrians; it was deserted from Olympic up to Seventh.  The trains on Sunday were crowded; in every car there was standing room only.  The wrong train came first, but I took it for two stops anyway, transferring at Wilshire and Vermont.

When I entered the next train, I was obliged to pass a man with a parrot on one shoulder and a cockatoo on the other.  He had tattoos on his arms and the designs incorporated lots of tropical birds.  Sometimes he offered a finger for the cockatoo to nibble.  I wondered what the seemingly wise cockatoo was thinking as he felt the train jerk and speed and slow and stop.  A young man wore a shirt that said "Smart Handsome Mexican."  He had a pronounced pair of lipstick lip traces on his neck and I couldn't tell if they were a tattoo or a fresh arrival.

The human and winged threesome got off at Vermont and Santa Monica.  I got off at the next stop.  It was now dark.  I've taken this walk home so many times, I even know how many steps it is (2400).  It's almost a quarter of the minimum amount of steps I like to make sure to take in a day (10000).

At one point during my time downtown, I passed a sign on the side of another loft building that said URBAN RENTAL LIVING. The sign made me laugh but it also made me melancholy.

Might Playa Vista be good for something?

Yesterday my wife and I went to see a community art exhibition in the community center in Playa Vista pretentiously known as The CenterPointe Club.  (L. noted to me the community center's carpet was knocked off a Mackintosh design--indeed, the site bills itself as "Frank Lloyd Wright inspired" and the contemporaries are often linked).  Spouse's godmother Barbara was exhibiting and she greeted us at the door; her husband Jack was obliged to come down the hill to Playa Vista too when we showed up, which threatened to make him grumpy as it tore him away from a UCLA game.  He sportingly betrayed no grumpiness on arrival.

[Clicking around Playa Vista Living's site, you find some real oddities, by the way.  Apparently, most buyers are significantly under water there--there's a page devoted to "Successfully selling in Playa Vista" and one titled "Do you qualify for a short sale?" and also one titled "Mortgage solutions."  Shouldn't the occupiers be here? Maybe San Pedro's Joe Buscaino, reported to be significantly under water himself, can give these people some pointers if he gets elected to the $173,000 a year job of Councilmember].

We learned on entering that Barbara herself took best of show.  It's not her first.  One of her other paintings sold to a neighbor--a neighbor, that most potentially ferocious of all art critics.

Something I immediately found curious was that the exhibition was sponsored by the Culver City Art Group--Culver City, recognizably not a part of the City of Los Angeles as Playa Vista is.  The group does an annual show in November of each year--last night was the sixteenth--and many artists in the adjacent City of LA sleepy hollow of Westchester belong to it, so many, in fact, that it made sense for the group to exhibit outside of Culver City proper.  This is the first year that the exhibition was held at Playa Vista.

At the exhibition was a longtime friend, John August Swanson, one of LA's best known, who now resides in Westchester after spending most of his adult working life in Los Feliz.  Louis Stephen Gadal, who often paints maritime subjects, was also on hand.  The exhibition must have been attended by over five hundred people through the course of a single day.

Many of the attendees and exhibitors were what we falsely call of "retirement" age, all working very devotedly in their own imperturbable manner.  Mostly, they don't live in Playa Vista, but do enjoy coming down the hill from Westchester to the new development  They don't generate art that finds favor with LA's publicity-driven gallery scene, but their careers are supported by significant economic forces nonetheless.  It occurred to me again how this is the kind of event that government agencies and Cultural Affairs departments should be far more supportive of than they presently are.

Walking around the exhibit I felt more like a conspirator than a critic, successfully ducking the media avalanche of commercial noise attendant to the collector-fluffing goings-on of Pacific Daylight Time for yet another weekend.  I also reminded myself that LA County is moving a rock to LACMA for $10 million, and that LA's Downtown Art Walk recently received a bill from the mayor's cultural killjoy, Andrea Alarcon for apparently being too successful.  I also wondered if Arts for LA, a top local arts lobby, which receives sustained support from our City's Department of Cultural Affairs, supported this stripe of art event too.  And I wondered if the single art "event" of moving the rock will eclipse what the County spends in aggregate on community events such as the one at Playa Vista.

But I also learned how most of the artists in another of Barbara's groups, which ordinarily exhibits at the Westchester Community Center, vastly preferred the community room at Playa Vista, where there's a knock-off Mackintosh carpet, commodious seating for presentations, and a far less institutional vibe.  So it may yet prove that Playa Vista, the long-planned, environmentally-challenging, long-suffering, economy-draining development on the former Hughes site, is good for something.

One thing is going right in town

We really have a blessing in town, a profound distraction from the tedium of political life and antidote to the slapdash ceaseless joke-panels that make up the purportedly important Pacific Daylight Time as well as all the counterfeit celebrity chicanery to which our purportedly important media subjects us.

The blessing is named Nino Machaidze, and I loved her in Il Turco in Italia in the spring.  But now she's in LA Opera's production of Romeo et Juliette, and for this relief much thanks.  A review of mine of this production is over at LA Opus.  I went Wednesday--as I did with her other recent production here, I hope to try to go again.

Scribe dismisses 9/11 novelists as ambulance chasers

D'Souza in studio

I sent a note to Tony D'Souza, author of a drug trafficking novel called Mule, this morning, following his appearance on Michael Silverblatt's KCRW show Bookworm, and I think I should send it out to the readers here as well.  The note went something like this.

I really wasn't fussy to hear him call people who wrote 9/11 novels "ambulance chasers" and even suggest they were in it for some commercial success.

His precise quote at 26:15--in fact, it's the last thing he says in the interview, is:

What I feel, you know, proudest about my book, is that writers can be ambulance chasers--we all know that. A moment can come of, you know, 9/11 or the Wars in Iraq or whatever it is, and a bunch of writers [emph. his] will jump on board trying to capitalize on that, and I have no guilt on my conscience about trying to capitalize on the Great Recession because we have lived it, we have lived it as we struggled through it like everyone else.  And so I feel I had a right to write this book.
My own belief is that in most cases, writers who wrote 9/11 novels were not jumping on board of any trend.  They were trying to understand something about our culture and the transformations that were happening in America immediately subsequent to the event.  They simply felt themselves to be writers who thought that the most politically and socially inverting event of our American lives deserved the kind of scrutiny in fiction that we afford other subjects.

I know I went on to write mine, I was thinking, "Things are changing really fast, and I could barely stand myself as a writer if I didn't write something about this."

I had hoped that D'Souza would revisit his opinion on this, but no luck there.  He wrote to me:
I'm sorry I offended you and that you were caught up in my sweeping generalization. I stand by my point, however. Writers can be the very worst sorts of ambulance chasers extant in this world, even elbowing lawyers out of the way in their drunken, egoistic hustle for money. From novelists, to poets, to memoirists, to non-fiction journos, they are out there, their track shoes on, chasing the ambulance of the story. 'It will sell! It will sell! It will sell!' whirling like maniacal laughter in their heads. Maybe not you in 'The Plasma of Terror...
Well.  As for novelists "capitalizing" on 9/11--there couldn't be a topic that's presently more commercially toxic to readers under forty.  In fact, my 9/11 novel is the only novel of mine that I have never even considered submitting to a commercial mill.

I doubt that the general public will be ready to read about the run-up and aftermath of 9/11 even for another decade.  We're still too much involved with the often terrifying political, cultural, and social consequences of all the changes that followed.

Los Feliz, living people, living places

I've lived in Los Feliz for over twenty years.  Zócalo asked me to contribute something about this fact.  I responded with a piece they called "The Mailbox that Vanished, and Other Tales."  If you read a piece of mine this year, you might like to make it this one, especially if you're trying to make peace with all this damn technology in your life.

That's my photo of Fred 62 there, too.  It used to be George's...

Retail and Wholesale

Man of the moment - Mike Trujillo.

BUSCAINO 4,751 29% - FURUTANI 3,644 22% - WILSON 1,960 12% - MCOSKER 1,618 9.91%

It was a wholesale shellacking of an early favorite.  Like it or not, last night's big winner in Los Angeles was Joe Buscaino's consultant Mike Trujillo (profiled here).  Vilified by local media just last March, written off by many, and even running out of money late, he still brought Buscaino in as the top vote getter in Council District 15.  He had already crushed Pat McOsker and John Shallman early in the race, and McOsker never recovered.  Trujillo's team caused trouble among for McOsker's team by them fight for endorsements they should have easily bagged early, and then locked in enough mail-in votes to assure his candidate a dance in the runoff.

Retail politics also work in San Pedro, and Buscaino was selling them better than others.  Nonetheless, it's disturbing to all, Tru included, that the top vote-getter couldn't crack 5,000 in a district with 100,000 voters.  That's under 50 votes a precinct--out of over 1,000 potential voters a precinct.  It makes you wonder if precinct captains might be the ticket in future open seat City Council races.

The big loser locally was John Shallman, who phoned it in for yet another paycheck, even at one point recycling one mailer from an old campaign.  He didn't even finish third--he finished a bad fourth, not even fetching 10%--Stephen Box territory.  Shallman doesn't work the blogosphere, and as long as he doesn't have a savvier sidekick along for the ride, he will continued to get buried early in races because of it.  With decreasing local media interest in local races, blogosphere sets early trends, and in truth his candidate lost early on.

Either Shallman will change or more people will get wise.  But last night's result probably gives Parke Skelton, another old-school type, pause as well.  While Trujillo was giving the McOsker team fits in August and laying Buscaino's ground game and working anyone willing to be worked, Skelton was on a three week vacation and unreachable even by his own office people.

Shallman's successful handling of Mitch Englander last year was flukish as Englander raised more than enough money early and he also had another adult on board in the personage of his uncle.  Shallman's 2009 stand-alone handling of Chris Essel was far more representative of who he has become--until last night.

Also losing last night: The Los Angeles Times.  The candidate they endorsed, Gordon Teuber, finished a dismal 6th, way, way out of the money.

Los Angeles Plays Itself

Get started. I watched four segments of Thom Andersen's three hour film-essay masterpiece Los Angeles Plays Itself in one sitting. A truly sustaining and intelligently narrated film, somewhat in the spirit of The Clock.  And don't tell anyone it's up on YouTube again.  One problem: it didn't make me like LA any more than presently.  Eight years after its non-release, I still didn't revive any nostalgic feelings for this burnt-out bulb.

Lost in San Pedro


"A newspaper should have no friends." Joseph Pulitzer

I'm sure I got that tenet of wisdom right, anyway.

What follows is not award winning coverage, nor even journalism at all; it's writing about the political life of the City, such as it is.  As I said on another election eve in March: I am not an editor, or a blogger, or even a journalist; I'm a writer. And this is what I believe writers must do vis-a-vis politics: they must work to inform and occasionally to transform the way people perceive the very environments, tangible and virtual, of the places they call home. Against this measure, I will gladly put up my own record as a writer and a citizen in matters involving our present civic election.

So what follows is indeed a summary with links to everything I wrote about the open seat race in Council District 15--San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor Gateway--to-date. And sure, I'll stand it up against anyone else's paid coverage, even though I did it untethered to either editor or salary, in otherwise idle hours, and even paid for my own onion rings along the way.

The campaign started like the Calgary Stampede but ended like a candy-assed harness race. The first brahma out of the chute was Pat McOsker; now Joe Buscaino's team is predicting finishing first.  McOsker looked like he might provide a barrel of laughs at first but he became so humdrum that issues themselves disappeared from the race.  Buscaino is a boll weevil Bush-Republican-turned-Democrat who's been running for this seat for two years.

The Times endorsed an aide to the former Councilmember, but characteristically endorsed him too late to make any kind of difference.  The Daily Breeze, which covered the race as minimally the Times did, did not endorse.  These newspapers have paid staffs and actually bitch and moan about how thinly they are stretched; stretched so thinly that they can't even offer as meaningful coverage as every unpaid political blogger in LA can offer.  These Council Districts are nearly the size of Pittsburgh or St. Louis, and we can't get local media to express much interest in them.  And then when they do, they blow the coverage of immediate issues in the race entirely.

There were not one but two former Councilmembers in this race (one failed to qualify!) and neither figure to break even fifteen percent, although Rudy Svorinich may come close. It was disappointing to see a race that began wide open and wild break into tedium and answer to machine politics in the end.  I liked Rebecca Chambliss most among the candidates, and said so a few times.

Nonetheless, I can't wait to file this one away for good.  I'll lay it in the archives next to March 2011, &c.  And on Wednesday, LA will wake up and mostly like find the same old same old on display in the runoff. And that goes for print media too: it was weak, weak, weak.

Anyway, here's what I said about this race along the way.  It may indeed have carved a few fillets from this turkey of a race here and there.

Make no bones: it was meant to.  The winners tomorrow, so bought off they might as well be wearing NASCAR driving suits, are only poised to take LA with its real unemployment rate nearing 20% and its public safety obsessive politics still closer to Cleveland than it's ever been before.  And commercial media was party to it all, and let it all happen, yet again, yet again, as it busied itself with other things.

A near-endorsement: Rebecca Chambliss
Not a lot of money backing her, but a lot of what LA could use right now.

Two contenders turning tables in San Pedro
Rebecca Chambliss and Joe Buscaino are giving the top two moneybags fits in San Pedro.

Furutani considers arts, language optional
The Mayor's pet candidate, a former education adviser to Fabien Nunez, seeks an immigrant-friendly public school curriculum that allows a student to substitute vocational education for arts and foreign language requirements.

Millionaire fire captain hitting Chambliss too
A fire captain who won a large judgement from the City that antagonized some women is hurling tweets at Rebecca Chambliss.

GOP Buscaino supporter stalks street-hassle
John S. Stammreich, the only living politician in California to lose a race to a deceased woman, hits street-hassle with more than a dozen tweets in a few hours, and doesn't get much right in any of them.

Joe Buscaino, doing well
Reports that candidate Buscaino, an LA cop and candidate well-liked in San Pedro, is significantly under water in his $600K property.

Brash with a backbone
A profile of candidate Rebecca Chambliss.

Has time passed Rudy by?
Svornich's relationship to Bisno Development has become a problem for the former Councilman candidate.

Dissatisfied UFLACs urge SEIU 721 not to vote for McOsker
Some in the candidate's own union break ranks.

Bucket brigade douses McOsker momentum
The candidate fails to nab the endorsement of the union he heads.

Orlov: Firefighters urge McOsker to step down
The Daily News reports that firefighters are not pleased that their union boss is running for Council.

McOsker campaign off to predictable start
The surly side of the candidate.

Where are the women in San Pedro?
Someone had to ask, so I did.

Shallman, McOsker leap at chance for CD 15
The duo files papers even while the outgoing Councilmember prepares for her mother's funeral.

Nick Nuch for CD15 rumors swirl
Son of Nuch in San Pedro?

Expo Line early run

Supervisor Zev introduces LA to the Expo Line, which should be operational by the end of the year, and making connecting points to USC and Exposition Park by rail possible at last.

Jacobs' new blog

Rodger Jacobs - Photo: Penelope Fortier

Rodger Jacobs has a new blog.  It's called "Bleeding on the Page."  That's where you can find it.  Jacobs says of his new blog.
Bleeding on the Page in the Middle of a Nervous Breakdown is the journal of a working writer, most specifically following the journey of the screenplay “Q” as it works its way from the page and to whatever fate it earns or deserves.
 Ominously, the first two posts are "Blood on the Tracks" and "We're heading into a very serious night."

Robert Reich: another #OWS one-frame gag

#OWS runs on quick-hit one-frame gags in social media -- now Robert Reich is playing along.

"Because people only buy one thing at a time, you can only sell one thing at a time" is a good marketing dictum.  Part of the confusion created by Occupy Wall Street is similar to the confusion being offered by the Republican Party: too many things are being sold at once.  In the former instance, it's tough to bag exactly what's being sold: one minute it's corporate greed, the next it's BofA, the next it's Mark Zuckerberg.  Tea Partiers brandished bumper stickers, but Occupy Wall Streeters, a little more hip than that, often has the political content of a scapegoating one-frame gag.

So Robert Reich came to #OWS Los Angeles Saturday offering a "teach-in"--and the stuff of the teach-in reads like a series of one-frame gags worthy of a new Simpsons episode.  Sounding a lot like a firebrand reformer, he said that the movement would not end and that nobody would be able to stop it.

Reich's ideas on what's happening in Occupy Wall Street are strongly, in Reich's view, anti-big bank.  Here they are, distilled: bring back Glass-Steagell.  Applauding seals include Van Jones.

Average Americans may not know what "Glass Steagell"--which the Clinton Administration eroded more than any other--is, but at least the concept of bringing back an old piece of outmoded legislation is one you can draw with a crayon.

Reich is talking down to his audience, way down.  In fact, he's relying on its ignorance--and not only about Glass-Steagell.  "After the banks made wildly risky bets with our money, we bailed them out," he says, for instance, very speedily.

You're thinking that it was today's banks that made those wildly risky bets.  No, it was, in particular, CountryWide, IndyMac, Washington Mutual, and Wachovia.  It was then Bush administration Federal regulators who then begged today's more solid monoliths--Wells, BofA, Citi, and Chase--to take the broken newbies in.

So here's the irony: these latter banks were, ironically, among the banks that were in a position to take bad banks in precisely because they did not make wildly risky bets even when the Clinton and Bush administrations gave them green lights to do so.

In Reich, there's no difference between retail banking, investment banking, commercial banking--it's all just "a bank" and Glass Steagell will fix it.

Bringing back Glass Steagell may be something that we can understand in general, but it's really not a fix for what happened.  (AIG, for instance, the greatest of institutional villains, faced few compliance issues involving Glass-Steagell, and was insuring products it should not have insured in the late 1990s, before Glass-Steagell's final erosion).  The truth is that Glass Steagell was already not operative law much in the Clinton administration at all.  It was a persistent, not a sudden, erosion.

The fix is, in fact, fairly accomplished; it's just that it has proved so costly.  But blaming today's top banks for the Clinton-Bush era catastrophe is like blaming a stingy aunt for taking in a nephew who has gambling debts that menaced the whole community.  It really wasn't the fault of the stingy aunt for incurring the debts, and we probably shouldn't blame her in particular for taking in her prodigal nephew.  The best message that Reich or anyone else could take to OWS is this: learn from the past, but don't borrow from it.  Foot forward, move ahead.

White Noise

Getting together for drinks here in the neighborhood tonight with a New York friend and long-standing NYU prof, Stephen Duncombe, who's in town for a program at the Getty today. His books are always fascinating and prescient, but this latest one he edited--White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race--is a simply stupendous read for those of us who were slamming with irony at CBGB and Stardust Ballroom while recognizing there was often something not quoite roight about it all too. "Critical punk pedagogy at its finest."

Stephen Duncombe
Through some enormous luck which I am nonetheless reticent to call "privilege," I had a chance to catch some of punk and especially New Wave in its three most seminal cities, New York, LA and the Bay Area, in the mid and late 1970s.  I didn't go to these places in search of the music--I went in search of people--but the music was a key element of the appeal of every spot.  In all this music, punk and New Wave alike, there was an ironic subcurrent; although the sentiment of the audiences was towards inclusiveness, the lyrics were often color-coded and even the music was too, in fact, even when it was at its best, the music was ironically specific to ethnicity.  Think The Tubes White Punks on Dope, X's Los Angeles, &c.  It was sometimes hard to know where the satire left off and the demands began, a fact to which Duncombe's co-editor Maxwell Tremblay testifies persistently in his half of the forward.

The supervising editor, Duncombe, is certainly a man who anticipates our political theater well.  Duncombe's book Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy, which I've been telling readers here about for a very long time, seemed to anticipate the Obama campaign to a chilling degree--those who know the book feel like the campaign might have even lifted a page or two (I know I've been lifting ideas from it since I first broke the spine).  Now this book, which borrows its title from a Clash anthem, comes at the precise time of masked suburban angst in the #OWS effort, which could definitely use a soundtrack to explain what its democratic councils thus far haven't.  (And Duncombe has indeed been popping up at Occupy Wall Street marches, as his Facebook friends can attest--I think he gets tagged in more photos there than anyone else I know there.)

Duncombe's book, fascinating as it is, leaves room for more.  I have long wished that someone--even me?--would write a book about the spaces in which this music unfolded.  For to me the spaces seemed perfectly tailored to the music, as the music was to the scene.  Who can recall Iggy in LA in the late 1970's without thinking of him crawling in the accessible rafters of the Stardust Ballroom? That was indeed a white riot.

Googlers in Venice

Google relocates to a building in Venice.  Don't know how many jobs it creates, as the relocation is largely an amalgamation of existing spaces, but it's seen as good news for LA.

The move has Austin Beutner's fingerprints all over it, according to Venice LA Patch.

Since those initial meetings, the city has reclassified Internet companies out of a higher, media company tax bracket and created a three-year "tax holiday" for new or relocating companies in the city, said former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Austin Beutner, who resigned in the spring to launch his own mayoral campaign.

"My aspiration would be to have Los Angeles become known as a world center of creative content, not just in traditional platforms but in newer platforms," Beutner told Patch.

The phrase "creative content" may be the key to the success of Silicon Beach, a term which has come to signify the burgeoning Internet businesses along the western edge of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles combines intellectual capital, a diverse community and a history of creative enterprise, Beutner said. "Combined, those three things are pretty powerful."
Other mayoral candidates were apparently unavailable for comment, and it's easy to understand why: most of them, like Council President Eric Garcetti, are beholden to the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, an organization devoid of actual economists, which thinks boycotting Amazon for not paying taxes they don't even owe is a sound economic idea.

The Weekly's bad timing

It's the final days of the race in Council District 15, which includes San Pedro, Wilmington, and Harbor Gateway.  And the LA Weekly puts together a piece on the race that doesn't mention a single issue immediately affecting the District.  As this is the publication's last print piece possible before the election, that's a vast disappointment.

While Hillel Aron nimbly covers the matching funds angle in the race, this angle would have been much more effectively covered after the election, when conclusions could actually be drawn about how effectively the City Hall triple-matching funds scheme has served the voters.

The piece is in fact a nice piece of reporting that puts the funding issue into a broader perspective.  But it addresses an issue entirely tangential to the race, even at a time when the public is even thirsty to sort out the claims of various mailers and learn more about whom to vote for.

In short, the piece was not really of service to the voters in any timely way, and they would have been far better served by such a piece after November 8 than immediately before it.

For information on actual issues in the race, please refer to my coverage over the past three months.

Catching up on opinions

Here are some scattered opinions of mine.  Take them and please leave them.  They are worth what you paid for.

I don't know that the above video is going to help Occupy LA.  I think in fact that it could hurt the movement.  It looks almost exactly like one of those videos they show on local news broadcasts to make strikers look silly.  There's no message, except one that claims "We support a general strike."  Whatever that might be.

Joan Didion lost her way a while back, but now it's run to farce.  Perhaps she was emboldened enough by the critical acclaim--which is to say, commercial critical acclaim--of her first semi-tragic memoir to write yet another.  (How many memoirs does a person get, anyway?)  She professes to engage academics, specifically the academics of grief, in her memorializing, but late in life she has sidestepped the greatest academic finding of all: the one in gerontology that indicates that happy people in their twilight years write "generative" narratives about their lives, in which they celebrate their creations (which, in a way, this latest work does, even if you don't hear it in her interview voice), but unhappy people write "contamination" narratives, in which they try to rationalize every pitfall (which this latest work certainly does).  Didion's contamination track started long ago--but can one make a whole late career of such empathy-seeking? I expected a much different career arc from a woman who so long ago at Vogue wrote such a masterful essay on the subject of "self-respect," which memorably concluded that not every light in life is a green one.  Then again, I should have known better, expecting something different from the New York commercial mill, which doles out whatever it thinks we must be in the mood for, so long as it has a recognizable name attached.  Even when it means allowing a scribe in twilight to make a commodity of grief.

For some reason, John Cage is an ongoing part of local conversation.  That's OK, but the conversation is all wrong.  Cage of course was a writer--if you think he was a composer, simply try to call to mind the air of a single tune he "composed."  I'm absolutely certain that people to whom he means something identify more with something he wrote than something he composed.  He was certainly an artful dodger as a writer, and ran to New York the second he figured out that he might be able to make a life there.  There is a lot of scribbling going on around town that has this entirely upside-down.

Did you know that SF Mayoral candidate Joanna Rees had an emergency full hysterectomy last week and only missed 24 hours of her campaign? You might safely call Rees one of the one-percent, rather than the ninety-nine percent, but sometimes the one percent are high achievers in every way, not just financially.  I have liked her from the time I've followed her, and I understand she's a close third in that race and closing hard with four days left.

And speaking of elections--what is local pr guy Ed Headington thinking, presuming to run for State Assembly after having done--exactly what? The man has ever been the obliging publicist, servicing others with photos and copy.  That's not leadership.  It's like mellow Mike Deaver suddenly running for US Senate.  Ed must think--like Stephen Box--that he's the smartest man in the room wherever he goes, and that that singular quality must certainly make for an Assemblymember.  Good luck reaching even Box-level numbers.

Oakland turns violent

The reports from Oakland yesterday and last night were not promising. The New York Times said that:

A roving group of about 100 mostly young men broke from the main group of protesters in a central plaza and roamed through downtown streets spraying graffiti, burning garbage and breaking windows. The police said some in the group briefly occupied a building on 16th Street near the port.

After warning the group to clear the building, which according to local media reports was vacant, officers in riot gear fired tear gas and bean bag rounds shortly after midnight local time. Dozens of protesters “wielding shields” were arrested, the police said; the building was cleared by around 2 a.m.

The spasm of violence early Thursday morning came after thousands of Occupy Oakland protesters had expanded their anti-Wall Street demonstrations on Wednesday, marching through downtown, picketing banks and swarming the port. By early evening, port authorities said maritime operations there were effectively shut down.

“Maritime area operations will resume when it is safe and secure to do so,” port officials said in a statement, asking marchers to “allow your fellow 99% to get home safe to their families.”

The people who cheered the vandalizing of the bank earlier in the day numbered far more than 100.

Far from NeoChick

Commercial publishing is just like everything else in commercial America: increasingly despotic, tethered to the irreal, unsustainable, hopelessly corporate.

Fortunately I keep close enough to books and stories and literary people to feel good about some things that go on elsewhere in America that remain unfiltered and unblemished by New York City's commercial mills. Here are three writers I know who have been much informed by the process and who have much informed my own thoughts through the past few seasons.

Bucking considerable odds against, Adrienne Wilson turns out serene manuscripts and photographs up the coast in Santa Barbara. She completed a novel last year that is still in the pipeline and which I've read, and I'm not going to say too much about other than it is dreamy and escapist yet deals with deep psychological constructions and that I liked it very much. She also gave two coming novels of mine very careful and even heroic edits. She is a veteran of the McCaw wars of the early part of the last decade. You can follow her enterprise through Nanowrimo here at her site vbonnaire, Valentine Bonnaire being a nom-de-pixel for her perfumed erotica.

I sat down to interview Maria Armoudian shortly after she appeared at the LA Press Club last summer--for one of the greatest turnouts that organization has ever had. In some ways, I'm still reeling from the conversation. Maria's book Kill the Messenger was one of the top reads of my summer; it picked up for me where William Grieder left off, as a worldly, rigorously structured bromide against global media's often too-flippant notion of what may and what may not be genocide. If you're in media, you should get continuing education credit for reading this book; to me it was worth about eight to twelve units. Maria's robustly noisemaking KPFK Sunday at noon show Insighters is but one dimension of this tough yet occasionally wistful writer and musician; she's also involved in local politics, having been appointed by Mayor Villaraigosa to two civic commissions. Kill the Messenger is published by Prometheus Books, which is New York but respectably distanced from Manhattan, in Amherst near Buffalo.

Utahna Faith is an elliptical writing siren, editor, longtime friend, and, sure, muse in New Orleans. A flash fiction practitioner, she published the beloved zine NOLA in the early part of the last decade and also brought me to Paris-based 3 a.m. magazine in 2000. She is a fabulous correspondent, I assure you.

With writing like this from people like this, I don't know who the hell cares about Joan Didion's memoirs, chick lit, Eat Pray Love or Girls in Trucks. Our reading lives, ourselves.

Choosing Beggars Wisely

Among the admittedly impoverished--who is the real begger here?

The Los Angeles Review of Books...or expat LA icon Rodger Jacobs?

The LARB, most recently hitching its wagon to "enterpreneur of anxiety" Joan Didion, screams:


Now, that's real live begging, even from a crew that's mostly dialed in to dependable paychecks otherwise.

Conversely, Rodger Jacobs, in ill health, and who hasn't drawn a consistent paycheck in over a decade, celebrates:

Thanks to Old Mack I had a granola bar for breakfast and Lela enjoyed a V-8 juice, the first food we’ve had since Saturday evening and, due to other needs, the rest of the bucks on Pay Pal have been spent, leaving us confronting another evening without any kind of supper. Tomorrow morning some frozen funds on Pay Pal will be lifted but until then we’re without even the slightest bit of nutrition.

And so it goes …

We have a list of local eateries that deliver in North Beach and take CC orders either online or via phone order if anyone can assist — and we’re not particular. Food is food when you’re malnourished and ill.

Yes, you could give $10 to help keep the overstuffed sacks of dung at LARB--whatever that is--going.

Or you could give $10 to help unsalaried scribe Rodger Jacobs buy a six of Modelo and a pack of Camels, and help keep Rodger and Lela going too.

You could do both or you could do neither. As for me, I know who I'd give to. Rodger Jacobs has entertained me over the years about fifty times more than the overstuffed Riverside beggars at LARB. PayPal Jacobs today at


Jacobs facing really tough times

Times scribe insists poor are eating cake
Your love offering 7/8ths living
Writers and other strangers
Jacobs v. Ulin
Sunday, bookchat Sunday
A book to review
Pub scrawl

Zac's Altar

They keep handing out awards for local scribes--and as you probably know, local scribes pat themselves on the back quite a bit while handing them out.

But it has now been a year-and-a-half since the saddest day of so many lives, and despite all these awards-hungry scribes in town, one of the saddest stories of the past two years still remains largely untold.

No, we still don't have a scribe in town who has mustered enough curiosity and fortitude to tell the full tale of what happened the night unarmed, much loved, and squeaky-clean Granada High honor student Zac Champommier was shot and killed by Sheriff's deputies and a DEA agent in a dark parking lot behind Mexicali on Ventura Boulevard.

Nor has there been much progress towards a settlement in Zac's case.

Nor has Sheriff Baca--otherwise under so much scrutiny for behavior towards prisoners by awards-seeking scribes--been subjected to media scrutiny for the way his department has handled this particular matter.

In short, nothing much has happened in the past year, when my associate Debbie Cortez Lopez built this Dia De Los Muertos altar for Zac.

Maybe it was a gesture hopeful of magic, or maybe it was a labor of love. So let us revisit the day, the photo, the altar, the grief once more, in the hope that a meaningful step towards Justice for Zac might unfold before yet another Dia De Los Muertos comes around again.


Zac Champommier remembrance planned for Friday

Champommier inquiry barely underway

In Memoriam Zac Champommier
Kids Disclose Name of Man Deputies Shot and Killed