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After the Show

You can park down the alley, or you can park at the lot on Cahuenga, or even street park if you're lucky.  I prefer to park offsite, because part of the fun of going to Hotel Cafe is to walk up and down the alley that frames the cool part of Cahuenga south of Hollywood so nicely.  Inside, you'll catch a packed house most nights; last night I also caught a noted music journalist texting near the sound board between sets.  Last night we were at Hotel Cafe to track down Ruby Friedman again, who decided to blast one more run-through of new material before entering the studio with it.  All systems go; she was spot on last night, closing with After the Show--she always finds a way to close with something that stays in your head for a couple of days.  The doors to Hotel Cafe, distressed by honest-to-god back-alley distress, and gated like a bordello, work for me too.  After the Show clip here at YouTube.

Sunset on Sunset

Foot forward, straight ahead.

Sancho on Sunset


Sancho Gallery on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park used to be Bandit Gallery up to about two years ago.   A self-described freedom station, Sancho has also been shut down by Rampart cops before, for playing music too loudly, in the middle of the afternoon--right there on Sunset, half a block east of Echo Park Boulevard.  What?  Here came Centaur ArtCollective's MOVE LA--?--three weeks ago--the concept seems a mere irony at this point--whether it's raves, Sunset Junction, or late night parties, immovable LA is positively hostile to music that drops more than the width of a sidewalk outside of building--no matter the time of day or the noise of the street itself.  But the scene yesterday at Sancho was less raucous than the Boulevard itself, and my wife and I argued about whether that piece on the left was a unitard or not.  Art music style--menace one and you menace them all--don't any of our civil servants know that by now?

At CityWatch this week

My column at CityWatch this week was on the disturbing tendency of the three Mayoral candidates in civic government to distance themselves from serious media inquiry.  This follows the debilitating Villaraigosa pattern rather than the grand example of Bradley.  Austin Beutner and Kevin James have been far more generous with access, often anxious to submit to dialogs regarding difficult civic questions with media and citizens; Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel and Jan Perry not so much.

Things you won't buy at Wal-Mart Chinatown

Photo: yours truly, High Fidelity Records, Hillhurst

Well, our civic Mothers of Invention have cooked up another.  Someone bypassed actual media and leaked to the usual suspects that Wal-Mart is making a mini-play for Chinatown.  "Major fight looms!" they--those people who keep shaking you down for cash, and doing for you...well, what, exactly?--insist.  Now if you care to, you get to sit back and watch all the civic money-grabbers trip over themselves hoping to score a little pocket change representing you in this coming manufactured battle, and maybe pocketing some for themselves along the way.  You never get to see a nickel of how your money is spent, do you--so here's what I say: forget 'em, just go out, party, and buy a couple of vinyl albums.  The absolute best way to say no to Wal-Mart is to buy things from places that are not Wal-Mart.  Now that would be a "New Economy"!

Sunset Local

Even so, despite it all, you don't have to try too hard to recall the reasons to live here.  Here's a woman with a nice dog at Local on Sunset in Silver Lake.  About 2:30 on one of our recent glorious late-February afternoons.  Don't you love the weather?

Occupy Genoa

Plácido as Boccanegra - photo Catherine Ashomore.
I'm not sure that many classical audiophiles sit around at home listening to Simon Boccanegra (now at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for three more performances, through March 4) very often; indeed, its first performance in New York only came as recently as 1999.  There wasn't a single recording of it made in the whole 1960's.  Nonetheless, they probably should.  This "underrated masterpiece" among Verdi's political operas has received more frequent stagings in very recent years, and that is in good part thanks to the interest of LA Opera's own Plácido Domingo, who as a newly-minted (then at age 69) baritone in the title role helped bring it to the Met two years ago, and now has brought it here.

If the work has been a later-days pursuit to Plácido, it was also double troubling to Verdi himself, who wrote an earlier version first performed in 1857, then lived a grand life, then retired from composing, and then extensively reconfigured the opera again nearly a quarter-century later.

The superstar stature of Plácido of course brings with it other wonderful people too.  While Plácido is Plácido, exactly what you'd expect, (two years older yet likely more dynamic, more convincing, and now simply more comfortable than he was with the role in New York, perhaps now unafraid to cheat a little--a very ordinary evolution, in truth, even for an extraordinary presence) soprano Ana María Martínez, who has been coming to LA for warhorses like Traviata and Boheme for over a decade, was perfection as Amelia in the performance I saw last night, and so was the accomplished tenor Stefano Secco as Gabriele Adorno.  These singers are so chiseled, voracious and accomplished that they ultimately fetch nearly as much love as Plácido in very the end.  And Vitalij Kowaljow certainly works well here,  but it's almost comic at times to see Vitalij Kowaljow back here after his role as Wotan in the Ring cycle...indeed there are moments in the prologue and first act, which is low and lugubrious, that the longwave, get-ready-for-an-hour-of-this rumblings of Wagner do come to mind.

The sets are clean, spare, and classic--so clean and classic, the column capitals are of no order.  There is Roman script on the walls in some scenes where Domingo is regal as Doge, and graffiti on walls in the Prologue where he still has pirate roots, and again when the plebs are plotting against him rather than with him.  The stage is raked and that helps not only the visibility but also, here, the vanishing feel like you're watching the opera unfold in one of those neoclassical Italian paintings that were primarily exercises in perspective.

Maestro James Conlon does his usual yeoman's job of handling the orchestra and also the now very well-attended pre-concert talk.  "Don't worry about those bells--we won't be starting on time anyway," he tells about three hundred of us as he mops up his thoughts on the First Act and hastily issues some spoilers for the end.  (I was very glad to learn about the bass clarinet solo as harbinger of curse--the only such use, apparently, in all of Verdi, as well as to tie some phrases to the far more familiar Dies Irae in Verdi's Requiem).  When, hours later, Plácido/Boccanegra does indeed finally collapse, after thirty minutes of rambling the stage with and without canes, poisoned by labor, by love, by nobility, and by that special kind of opera poison that works just slowly enough, nobody can possibly feel cheated by Conlon's spoiler alert, I'll tell you that.

Remaining performances are:  Sunday, February 26 at 2:00 p.m. / Thursday March 1 at 7:30 p.m. / Sunday March 4 at 2 p.m.

Lenten garlands

The degree to which social media has altered the way we lead our lives was best documented to me this past Ash Wednesday, when three of my Facebook friends solemnly announced that they aspired to give up or cut back on their use of social media for Lent.

This struck me as something even more than a complete capitulation to the addictive quality of social media. In fact, it told me that social media was now so compelling to people that they even would use social media itself to announce their rejection of it.

After all--you never hear of anyone walking into a candy shop to announce they're cutting out sweets for Lent. Nor do you find many topers walking into a bar to plead their plans for Lenten abstinence.

Recognizing this, in the past few months I too have steadily migrated to Facebook and Twitter, and like to use this place more and more to express what I see around our city. What I do here has become more of a visual record than a textual one.

I still write longer peaces at places where readers like to read. Last week, I started originating a column at Ken Draper's CityWatchLA. Formerly, they had repopulated some content from this blog over there. Now, I am glad to write things for them directly.

And on Facebook and Twitter, I also write civic discourse as well as make some cultural observations.
I'm also pleased to note that the online release of my 2005 book The Plasma of Terror has found a good place with readers. Almost every day, someone writes me to tell me that they're enjoying the book, and for me, those are the most enjoyable dialogs to have of all. The longer the work, the longer the view, and I'm very grateful to have readers in so many different communities and so many different environments who muse and fret on LA life and how it relates to a larger cosmos.

Myself, I won't be giving up social media for Lent. Lent typically spreads across a season in which I typically prefer to add, rather than subtract. In fact, there's one thing I'm doing more of lately, like so many others around LA these days. I'm riding my bicycle--a Jurassic-era department store derailleur that isn't likely worth much more than the lock I use to secure it. It gets me to Sunset, anyway. So I'll see you here and there!

Peace and boat drinks,

Joseph Mailander

Plácido in the City

courtesy LA Opera

I like opera and I like writing about it.  A few years back, it appeared that LA Opera was on the ropes--economic troubles and more, mostly brought on by the stresses of staging a new Ring.  But a couple of outstanding sparks the subsequent season--for me, most notably, Nino Machaidze, both in  Il Turco in Italia and Roméo et Juliette--righted the vessel in a big hurry.  Now there's a hot ticket opera in production, Simon Boccanegra, the story of an unlikely raider trying to hold a whole failing city together (any parallels to real life in LA are far from arbitrary, I'm sure), with Plácido himself in the starring role.  Plácido first sang this baritone role (his first ever) two years ago, at the Met, while the Ring at home was reaching the rinse cycle.  There are still some tickets to-night, I believe, and next Thursday there's a meet-and-greet with admission, after the performance. . Remaining performances are: tonight at 7:30 p.m. / Sunday, February 26 at 2:00 p.m. / Thursday March 1 at 7:30 p.m. / Sunday March 4 at 2 p.m.

Wildbell's wild ride

No kidding. Nice clip nice bebop. My friend Will Campbell has been doing this Watts Happening cycle tour from around these parts to around those parts. Note the gear: helmets, kids. My wife reminds me too, every day, now that I'm cycling again.  The thing about wildbell is: you need a helmet when you play golf with him too.

Dance like an Egyptian

Top photo by PAUL ANTICO,; other two by yours truly.

After you take the elevator up the fifty-one stories, after you take in the galactic view of the four-level interchange in the waiting room, after your designation of Greek or Roman, you follow follow the Heidi Duckler Dance Theater from room to room in a corporate penthouse to watch the madcap antics and musical frissons of Duckler's latest jumble of riffs, this on ancient Egypt: Cleopatra, CEO.  It's like nothing else of recent date; it's like the old Tamara at the Hollywood American Legion Hall early '80s--and part of the trick is the way the audience itself is choreographed, starting with their herding into the lobby of the Paul Hastings Tower at 515 Flower (never have a hundred people been chaperoned by strangers in such an efficient an orderly way, but that's what you expect of superior choreographers).   Room to room, fabric to fabric, and genre to genre, the Duckler troupe provide a spectacle that doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus.  Everyone from the break-dancing, attache-case toting Senate to the street-fighting Ninjas are excellent, but the star of the show is sultry, tireless, sparkling Johanna Sapakie, late of Cirque du Soleil's most recent Vegas romp, who trounces her role with both ballerina finesse and acrobatic dazzle and flirts with the guys and for the ninety minutes you're watching is no doubt the sexiest beast of the Nile and even of Caesar's vast world.  I've not seen any dance this enjoyable in years, and have been waiting for it forever--it has no analog in recent dance offerings, more parallel to something like Wooster Group.  Did I mention the soprano in the kitchen cupboard? This is what dancing downtown should be, most of all: thrilling, voyeurist, fun to watch.  Shows remaining: today (Saturday), February 18, 2012 - 8PM / Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 7PM / Friday, February 24, 2012 - 8PM / Saturday, February 25, 2012 - 8PM.  I may go again if I can.

Lenny on My Mind

"Hey, you got socks on?" he asked me once again this morning. It's only the five hundredth time he's asked.  Well, one time, about twenty years ago, he didn't, and I called him on it. Ever since, he's checked to make sure I am rocking the argyles or at least sanis.  But this morning, my friend Lenny Bluett finally sat still long enough for me to nab a photo with him. An LA treasure, the jazz and cabaret icon variously also known as the pianist who could have had the piano part in Casablanca had he been anything less than a gentleman, Lenny, age 91 darlin', has taken nearly every breakfast for the past twenty years at my local donut shop, Daily Donuts on Hillhurst--where he was again this morning, pouring over an LA Weekly. He's been also known to sing on cruise ships in the Mediterranean, and Morocco is his favorite port o' call. He's shipping out to Morroco again on February 27--this time by jet--so you've got only a few days to catch him at Daily Donuts before he's off again.

All I know is that this should stop here, with this post.  I reserve the right to add more, of course.

But I have felt like giving up writing about city politics for a while--and now I am doing so.  It's not that I've spent myself.  Are you kidding? I usually write 1,000 words before coffee, and I know how good they are.  But there are many good reasons for stopping this nonsense...

At the top, I turned 55 last week and at this stupendous age I don't need the aggravation of dealing with the kinds of people I have been obliged to deal with anymore.  Another is, I simply don't feel like sharing much of what I feel anymore, either--no matter how well you craft an opinion around a truth, there are whole machines out there devoted to crushing it with lies lies lies, and these despicable machines make the truth a lot more permeable than it needs to be.  A third reason--very important, this one--is that following LA politics presently is like being assigned to a bad baseball team that finds a way to lose three times out of five, yet plays endless four-hour games every night anyway.  It's just not fun.

And certainly a key reason to stop writing about local politics is that media around town who also do so often lift from this site wholesale.  I am always glad to help, but also always circumspect of those who help themselves without asking, especially those who don't even have the grace to send me a holiday card or occasional thank you. Reading other media, in fact, mostly makes me sick.  This is not a secret.

It's been bad around town for a long time.  But the kind of stories we've seen locally of late--they're complete contamination narratives, and the city is only further contaminating itself by failing to deal with them directly.  Both bad redistricting and pedophilia scandals indeed lead to contamination of all kinds, now and in the future.  Poor us--already so messed up politically, only heading for a trainwreck, and nobody in media cares, they're too busy punching clocks and penning advertorials.

Over the past year, by simple proximity, I've cultivated the kind of contempt for our politicians and our media that is simply unhealthy to live with for extended periods.  So get ready for a tack to meet a thirty-degree windshift.  I'll be not writing much here anymore about city politics--thank the gods for that.  I'll be writing about arts and culture, maybe here and certainly elsewhere, and perchance a little more sporadically.  I simply need to cut away from they awful political life of the city.  You probably do too.  Let's stay vigilant--even snide--but not beat our heads against a wall either.

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And thanks to CityWatch for reprinting this piece of mine from the weekend, on LA's vapid political responses to the LAUSD molestation scandals.   It is in this scandal most of all in which we have learned that LA has, quite literally, been tricked senseless by its irresponsible overlords and would-be overlords.

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Another UPDATE: thank you to a few people who were hopeful that I might write about the City more. It turns out I will--I will still write occasional columns for CityWatch LA, where my "Mailander's musings" column has been running for over a year now.   It will continue to run there.  That online magazine is the City's most dependable and comprehensive opinion journal, period.  I've always been very thankful to have been esteemed by that publication in particular, and this new arrangement will enable me to devote more space and time to arts and culture and nightlife here.

City of Cowards

Last week, something terrible happened to the City I have called home for so long. In fact, it was so terrible that something in me fairly died with contempt, with disgust to watch it.

For last week, I saw almost all of our so-called "leaders"--including the five who want to be our next Mayor, and one who wants to be our next District Atttorney--go absolutely voiceless in the face of the greatest public school catastrophe of a decade, anywhere.

At Penn State, they were willing to dismiss ancient, ailing icon Joe Paterno on very short order.  In LA, nobody's willing to dismiss a superintendent, a board member, a principal, or even a janitor without labored discussions.

It doesn't matter that some of this happened, technically, outside the city limits, or that the politicians, technically, have no direct jurisdiction over the City of LA's LAUSD schools.  This is a catastrophe of public schooling that directly affects 600,000 voiceless children do who reside within the City of Los Angeles, as well as all their parents.  The shocking result of fifteen years of Riordan-Broad-Villaraigosa educational reform is that the school district certainly doesn't have the courage, nor even the competence, to protect children.  These are children who not only face certain emotional damage for years, if not life, but who very likely have even be put at a public health risk by sexual predators, even while the District failed to shut schools down long after public health was threatened by predatory acts.

And confronted with the problems, the district just washed its hands and handed all the important decisions over to law enforcement--who are no more qualified to handle public health problems, nor emotional health problems, than cowardly politicians are.  (Of course, our lying, self-aggrandizing, City Attorney, now hoping to raft his own incompetence into higher office still, has washed his hands too.)

Do yo know why those five Mayoral candidates in particular have been voiceless throughout this crisis? Because they've been afraid of alienating billionaire Broad, multimillionaire Riordan, Mayor Villaraigosa's ailing political machine, a few various unions and contractors, and all the others who have manipulated our schools to this outcome for the past fifteen years.

Garcetti, Greuel, Beutner, James, and Perry are all afraid of getting in the way of the "reform" efforts of those corporate clowns and order-taking political machines, none of whom have ever had a moment's classroom experience in education themselves.  (UPDATE/Note: James's statement on "Unspeakable crimes, an outraged community" is here; his office tells me this statement is from February 7, immediately after the scandal broke).  They are afraid of those who brought us the likes of those who control the District today--and who also, if they all stick their heads in the sand long enough, might assist one or more of their own campaigns.

These people should be calling--loudly--for the immediate resignation of Superintendent John Deasy, Board of Trustees President Monica Garcia, Board member Nury Martinez, and every other Board member and principal who declared themselves content to be following the orders of law enforcement rather than take measures to protect children at our schools.

Of the five mayoral candidates--not one of them deserves to be Mayor. Not one of the five. There was no courage on display anywhere in this city last week, only cowardice. That's what made me sick by last Friday, and it didn't get any better this weekend.

EARLIER: Order-taking: the top problem at LAUSD

"The CRA as we know it is dead"

Don't watch it--it's dull and not journalism--it's an infomercial.  Nothing on the two largest issues presently facing LA: redistricting and the molestation scandals at LAUSD schools.  It mostly sounds like the Councilmembers got to script the interview.  Still...

Here's KABC roundtable on Los Angeles, led by Adrienne Alpert, with the new top team in Council: Wesson, Reyes and LaBonge.  Short notes: budget is top priority.  Reyes, clean-shaven, wants to shave the deficit too.  "The City is a City of great neighborhoods," LaBonge says.  He wants a public-private partnership over the Zoo.

Adrienne asks about the CRA, wonders about liability to development.  "At this point it's important for us to recognize that the CRA as we know it is dead," Wesson pronounces.  Reyes says that we need to challenge our State officials about public housing and economic development.  LaBonge disagrees with Yaroslavsky that CRA's "got greedy."  He uses downtown as an exemplar and says he's "sad it's gone."

City budget, 6-12% cuts coming to departments.  Wesson says that the CAO will announce soon that the deficit is not as bad as we thought, and that we've cut everything we can.  "We really need to re-invent city government and the way that we deliver services."  "One of the reasons we've survived up to this point is that they [the unions] have been allies, not adversaries," Wesson adds.

Dr. Pickel as ratepayer advocate will not look at the present DWP adjustment, and Wesson offers a tortured explanation.  "Water and power helped build this city," LaBonge adds gratuitously.

The Zoo comes up.  "We need the money for the public safety," LaBonge, the man who spent $47 million to house one elephant, now says he's for public-private partnerships.  "In the country, there's 356 Zoos--most all of them have public-private partnerships," he insists.  Wesson is circumspect, anticipating "one of the best conversations" that we've had in the city. 

Advertising in city parks? "I'm a yes," Wesson says.  "I'm a no," LaBonge says.  This passes for controversial debate.

Coffee and notes

To-day, I can take a bit of a break, but in the morning I'll sit down again with Kevin James, the candidate for Mayor whom the former fishwrap of record doesn't seem to esteem very well.  But what an exhausting week it's been.  (I also hear that John Shallman is, predictably, mucking up the Wendy Greuel campaign, even as he's long glommed onto talentless moneybags DA candidate Carmen Trutanich too--a candidate so talentless they had to hold him out of the election cycle as long as they possibly could).  Our Mayor Villaraigosa has been bolstering the national cause for immigrant rights even as his house is on fire at home as three more molestation stories came up out of his LAUSD and redistricting complaints are widespread.  Meanwhile, Patt Morrison picked up some threads heard here long ago and asked Michelle Rhee, presently on tour with the Mayor too, if she's a teacher-basher.  (Last year, Rhee was supposed to lead an editorial panel at a national scholastic journalism press conference--when she suddenly backed out, they tapped yours truly, I'm pleased to say).  Riordan, Broad, and Villaraigosa, in fact, having made such a botch of things locally, were nowhere to be found as their own blown-up laboratory the LAUSD went up in all-consuming flames last week.  Nor was Villaraigosa called on the carpet by any mainstream media for assembling the kind of local redistricting efforts that will preserve the dwindling power base of the local Latino pol machine.  It will be fun, I predict, to talk to James about redistricting especially.

Order-taking: the top problem at LAUSD.

Perhaps more than anything else, the most recent statement of LAUSD Board member Nury Martinez demonstrates what's wrong with the District, and why it's beleaguered now by so many child abuse complaints. Martinez says in a presser today:
When the complaints against this teacher were lodged in the Spring of last year, the case was immediately referred to the Los Angeles Police Department who initiated an investigation. The teacher was removed from Telfair in April. At that time, LAUSD was ordered by LAPD to not go forward with any internal investigation and to not release any information concerning the case. I am informed that each of this teacher's former students was interviewed by LAPD. Paul William Chapel was arrested and stripped of his teaching credential in October of last year. He is currently incarcerated and is awaiting trial for the last four months.
Well. Red bold is hers. But Nury should know that the reason that the LAPD wants to dictate the terms of any investigation is because they want to investigate things to death before they make any arrests. And that doesn't help children who are at risk presently.

If we had school administrators who actually knew what they were doing, they would turn around and say this:
LAPD, are you nuts? We have the lives of children at stake. We're taking action right now, and investigating the whole school right now, even if you feel you can't. We're talking to parents right now.  Sorry about your own investigation, but we can't take any chances. We can't afford to wait for you.
But nobody elected to LAUSD school board has enough knowledge, competence, or guts to do that--as they didn't at Miramonte. No, the top administrators at the District are too used to taking orders from the Charter school proponents to issue any orders of their own. In fact, thanks to Riordan, Broad, and Villaraigosa, we have a district of order-takers, rather than of real educational administrators. These accusations are only going to get worse.

Latino Mayor, Polyglot Pueblo

Antonio Villaraigosa got an award in Washington DC yesterday from his top La Raza redistricter, even while stumping for the Obama Administration on immigration reform.  The "national organization" plotting LA's political future operates out of an Avon building next to an auto tech shop.  By Antonio's award givers' statistical reckoning, Rita Hayworth and Raquel Welch count as Latino too. 

"The lines of tribe shall soon dissolve," President Barack Obama said in his promising inaugural.  He seemed to transcend race, if only for the moment, and most of us thought he meant it.

But the lines of tribe were far from dissolving in DC yesterday, where our local La Raza redistricters were putting on a full show for the benefit of national media.  Our player Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, was in Washington dutifully making a speech on immigration handed to him by the Obama administration, and also grabbing a doorprize from a national Latino organization of elected officials on the same day.

And what a coincidence it was: the "national" Latino organization from which the Mayor grabbed his award is very the same organization from which he grabbed his president for LA's redistricting commission: Arturo Vargas of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

The fact that our Mayor had to go to DC to receive his prize while performing his patriotic duty is rather ironic in itself, because Vargas's gifting org is headquartered right here in LA, in the shadow of the downtown mesh of 10 and 110.  In fact, this "national headquarters" is in an Avon office building on Washington near the freeway, right next to an auto tech service building.  That's it in the photo above, behind the trees and the empty parking lot with the truck in the front.

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Meanwhile, back in our own pueblo, Zacatecas-born Councilman Jose Huizar, not likely to self-deport anytime soon as Mitt Romney might hope,  squared off against Councilmember Jan Perry over whether or not Huizar's district should be able to annex the big enchilada that is Perry's downtown. 

In his last election, Huizar was a sound choice over casa-flipper Rudy Martinez early last year. At minimum, Huizar knows how the City works.  But Huizar also has a long string of failure in his own district involving precisely the kind of development issues that challenge Perry's downtown all the time.

Huizar had big plans for his district when he came to Council.  Almost none have panned out.  He failed to develop a Biotech center in East LA.  He failed to bring a Clean Tech site to his side of the arts district.  He failed to develop the old Sears property.  He had not worked well with the CRA prior to the agency's de-chartering.  He has failed in five years even to identify starting and ending points for his pet project, the Broadway Trolley.  To think of him lording this kind of unproductive insouciance over Bunker Hill is more than unsettling.

But Huizar listened to the Mayor on the redistricting commission and nominated another tough demographer / La Raza Latino to the City's redistricting commission: Antonio Sanchez.  Most Anglo Councilmembers did not think to nominate people who actually knew what they were doing when drawing maps--the two Paul Ks, for instance, rewarded people who don't have any special demographic background, and newbie Councilmember Englander did the same.  But all the Latino members of Council nominated accomplished demographers.

In fact, much of the explosive growth in Latino census figures over the past decade derives from new categorizations of who might be considered Latino--which is, of course, a whole lot of us.  It is so many, in fact, that the category may be meaningless to all except Univision marketers trying to sell advertising, and redistricters trying to rationalize the inclusion of non-Hispanic whites into Hispanic-dominated districts.

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For its statistical purposes, Vargas's organization identifies anyone with any Latino-Iberian heritage, say, a Portugese or Spanish parent on either side, or even a single Dominican grandparent, as Latino.  (For example, by Vargas's way of counting lines of tribe, not only are Cameron Diaz and Martin Sheen Latinos, but Rita Hayworth, Karen Valentine and Raquel Welch all are as well).  Not even the US Census itself recognizes such inclusions.

And for the purposes of carving up the future LA, the more formidable you can make Latino headcounts--whether they're Jose Huizar Latinos or Rita Hayworth Latinos--the better.

While the Obama administration turns to Mayor Villaraigosa to draw distinctions between Republicans and Democrats on immigration issues, the La Raza redistricting land grabs in various Council Districts around town are devoted to two purposes: to consolidate Latino power in Los Angeles (and thereby keep alive an increasingly failing political machine); and to annex key business corridors in order to build better cases for spending more city tax dollars in lower-middle-class districts.

The irony is--especially should LA continue to gentrify through the decade--the strategy puts more bona fide Latino interests themselves at considerable peril.  It is possible, for instance, that by annexing downtown, Jose Huizar's district could become an non-Hispanic white dominated district.  And there is certainly the possibility that by annexing Sunland-Tujunga, which has a strong identity, into Alarcon's district, which is donut-shaped and has no center, that the influence of the new annex may shift the balance of the district from Latino west to Anglo east in a decade's time.

Carmen Trutanich, "I am a liar" campaigns launch simultaneously

Carmen Trutanich is in the race for District Attorney, and the Alan Jackson campaign gets a leg up immediately:
In response to Carmen Trutanich’s announcement that he is abandoning his responsibilities as City Attorney and promise not to seek higher office, the Jackson campaign has designed and submitted a full page newspaper advertisement for placement in every major daily newspaper in Los Angeles as per the terms of Trutanich’s signed and sworn “Pledge to Serve.” Trutanich’s announcement comes on the heels of being caught by the LA Times lying about his support from the law enforcement community.

The order was submitted and requested that the bill be mailed to Carmen Trutanich.

The pledge stipulates that the advertisement must be a full page, have a picture of Trutanich, a copy of the pledge and use large print with the words “I AM A LIAR.”

“Even though he broke his word to the people of Los Angeles, I’m sure Trutanich plans to honor his sworn and signed pledge by purchasing the ads but we thought, ‘why not make this easy for him,’” said Jackson’s strategist, John S. Thomas.

Thomas continued, “Don’t worry, we won’t charge Trutanich for the design and placement of the ad. It’s on the house.”
The Times reports the "I am a liar" meme too...for free.  Other than that, not much happening today.

Sunset Cycle Crochet

So I turned 55 and I have been doing all these things to indicate to myself that I am not really 55 but rather as young as you are. One of these things has been to use my Jurassic Derailleur as local transportation rather than occasional recreation. I took it down Griffith Park Boulevard this morning to meet the nice woman from REDCAT at Cafe Casbah and here is where I parked just like the people half my age do it.  Look closely and you'll note that someone has left some crocheted fittings around the bicycle rack tube so that your bicycle doesn't get scratched and nicked when you lock it up.  It doesn't matter with the Jurassic Derailleur but it might matter with your newest most favored frame.  ("I'm cracking frames," Stephen Box once told me, and he's in his fifties too.)  I don't want to crack frames or anything, and Griffith Park Boulevard is one of the most gentle of rides on this gentle breeze of a day or any day when the sun is so Apollonian.  Bike lanes up and down from Sunset and on up past Hyperion.  Griffith Park Boulevard and the Jurassic Derailleur--a good ride, even without taped handlebars.

Cascando Redux


why bother with these people

all over;

why not be anonymous.

didn't know that hyperion bridge
could be so long and empty even after the super bowl, the fried chicken
and tattoos, it was father mark's birthday too
at club tee gee, where the bartender
wasn't feeling very well after limping over
from the roost where he worked three years


locked away in your everything box
are probably some cards i sent you
maybe even a painting, you
can't bear to look, you
can't bear to write, you
like the control of never

tell me how terrifying it is
when they don't love you
everybody is terrified, terrified of that
the busblog too, probably
kerouac, terrified,
beckett, terrified,
proust, terrified,
and all the angels and saints
and people on facebook and the twitter
and even gisele


unless they love you

Splice the Mainbrace

"It's not a yacht, it's a boat," the Mayor says. It's worth a million and it's costing almost that again to keep shipshape. Who's on board? Oh, people like Rusty Millar, of Eric Garcetti's pet neighborhood council--you know, the same people who helped kill Sunset Junction over a chunk of change that couldn't keep a boat afloat for three months. Also the Jonathan Club, UCLA, Morongo tribalists, and...of course...the Mayor's internsWatch the hilarious KCBS expose.

The Audacity of La Raza Redistricting

Exemplary Echo Park census tract from data compiled by LA Eastsider.

"The participation of the Los Angeles Latino community in the process of redistricting has been extremely low," this editorial at La Opinion says--with a straight face.

Indeed, Latino community participation has been low--because as the drafts have been drawn, Latinos have nothing to complain about.

In fact, the people who draw the lines have drawn them all in such a way that Latino districts absorb more gringos without threatening their existing demographic tilt at all.

From Sunland-Tujunga to Hollywood to Downtown, small but sizable communities that skew more Anglo than Latino have been annexed into Latino-dominated districts.  It's the same kind of La Raza redistricting that has given Latinos an over-representation in the State Assembly.

There's good reason for the pro-Latino bias in redistricting: the Mayor's nominee to head the commission, Arturo Vargas. Vargas is Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).  But there's far more to the story than that.

Many Anglo Councilmembers, such as Paul Krekorian and Paul Koretz, appointed weak commission members who were much absorbed with other things--Krekorian's, in fact, barely knew the district at all, and Koretz's, David Roberti, has spent his entire political career involved with State-level rather than City-level politics.  Conversely, Latino Councilmembers appointed Latino-centric sharks like Mike Trujillo (by Alarcon) and Jose Cornejo (by Cardenas), longtime Villaraigosa order-takers who still believe in the Eastside Latino Machine, despite its recent failures.

How did we get here, when LA's population isn't really changing all that much?

The interests of balanced, affinity-based representation no longer carve up the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, or the State of California after a census.  This ProPublica piece, published in late December, proves as much.

But the truth is that affinity-based representation hasn't been a part of the view of most our best-known politicians for some time.  Instead, the interests of a peculiar kind of redistricting not found elsewhere in America--call it La Raza Redistricting--dominates the local redistricting zeitgeist at State and City level within the bailiwick of Los Angeles.  The practitioners, drawing mostly from partisan, agenda-driven materials provided to them by MALDEF and the William C. Velasquez Institute, are by no means exclusively Latino; but they do use shopworn, outmoded Latino political and demographic myths to advance their cause, which is closely wed to Democratic Party gaming of the process in the City and the State.

The myths the La Raza Redistricters use to advance their cause are two: they insist that the City of Los Angeles is growing, and they insist that as it grows, it is becoming more Latino-multicultural all the time.

Neither premise is true at our civic level.  The City is not growing in any appreciable way whatsoever, in fact; it is more like a kaleidoscope, shifting patterns but not colors, and generally displacing low rentals for pricey ones, while giving lip-service to affordable housing efforts that are more of a lottery for the remaining poor than a policy for all.  The City's ethnic saturation point has long ago been reached--likely around 2003 and 2004.  But the La Raza Redistricters at MALDEF and WCVI who ply and play the redistricting appointments at both the City and State level pretend these things are true for the sake of extending Latino-tilting Democratic power.

LAUSD Enrollments by year
How far off base are these myths, so readily swallowed as conventional wisdom even by Valley Republicans?

Consider this: even with more Mexicans here than any city outside of Mexico City, with more Salvadorans here than in any city outside of El Salvador, &c.,  Los Angeles still didn't appreciably grow in population in any way over the past decade.  Two and six-tenths percent growth over the past decade is almost exactly a quarter of one percent a year.  Of course, had the Mayor not pushed the census count up so aggressively with a big PR campaign in 2009--which was, in fact, cheating--LA would have actually shown population loss from 2000 to 2010.

And the institution that most widely services all these people who are not arriving--the LAUSD--has been shrinking in enrollment numbers since 2003--this year dropping to 1999 levels--despite building 160 new schools over the past decade.

So where's all this Latino growth in this pueblo? If the City isn't growing in population--and if the local public school district is shrinking in size--where are all these booming Latino communities?

Despite all this, top Democratic Party officials and the La Raza Redistricters continue to dominate the process of drawing our lines, as they did in 2001 with tools provided them by WCVI and MALDEF in hand.  They're able to do this in part because every other Democratic group from Labor to local chambers of commerce hopes to meld the Latinos into whatever they're selling themselves, and hand them half the keys to their own shrinking pueblos for the sake of hanging onto majority party power.

This doesn't work, is not working, hasn't worked, will not work for the city, as now people of all cultures leave Los Angeles in parallel numbers.  Not only that, the maps generate the kind of representation that prioritizes government services over job creation--hurting us all.

At the heart of the sleight-of-hand is the fuzziness surrounding the definition of "Latino" itself.  All the studies WCVI and MALDEF issue suggest that Latino populations are exploding everywhere.  It's good for Democrats and it's good for Univision--but is it true?

Defining what constitutes a "Latino" or a "Hispanic" is not even reliably done by the U.S. Census--and there is no other measure.

The 2010 Census lists "Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin" and "White persons" and "White persons not Hispanic" categories.  Simply trying to identify the "difference" between ethnicities (Filipino? German-Mexican? Mestizo-American?) let alone track reliable numbers in a city that offers sanctuary to immigrants is all but impossible.

But our hardcore myth panderers continue to herd people by their likelihood to vote for people with diacritical marks in their surnames rather than the affinities found in their neighborhoods.

As a consequence, we're not even losing white-flight Anglo talent to Seattle and Portland and Irvine anymore; those middle managers have mostly long gone pursuing their opportunities elsewhere.  With a crop of legislators more interested in baseline services than securing better jobs, now we're losing top Latino talent too--to Colorado, North Carolina and Massachusetts--even as La Raza Redistricters continue to promote the false case that Latinos form a consistent, amorphous, ever-growing underclass here.

La Raza Redistricters do not only include the Mayor, his cousin John Perez, Richard Alarcon, Maria Elena Durazo, Monica Garcia, Jose Huizar, &c.  They include Nancy Pelosi, Eric Garcetti, Madeline Janis, Julie Butcher, Janice Hahn.

These redistricters are, in short, devoting all of LA's potentially transformational redistricting energy to planning for a more Latino-dominated, more multicultural future--a future that gives no demographic evidence of ever arriving.

NOTE: A significant part of this post originally appeared here.

Reform itself has corrupted LAUSD

None of the State's top education "reformers" knew anything about education when they began tinkering with it to suit the purposes of a handful of billionaires.

"If you're a molester, you go where you perceive the lowest-hanging fruit to be," a confessed child molester chillingly tells the camera in a Catholic-produced film from five years ago.  He encourages administrations to look for people like himself: unmarried adults who were always looking for excuses to be alone with children.

That's the composite, and that's who LAUSD should have been looking at when the first LAUSD employee went to jail on molestation charges.

Now there is a third molestation charge in the LAUSD, and it also turns out that there was a violator at Miramonte seven years ago.

A priest once told me, in the middle of the Catholic church's own crisis years, that men who never felt called to be priests at all began showing up as priesthood candidates in the 1970s.  They did so because they knew that once the church was afraid of diminishing vocations after the sexual revolution--and indeed, it was vastly diminished--it began to become more and more thinly stretched with regards to policing itself.

What we now have is something similar--a group (who knows how large) who began to show up at the LAUSD when Mayor Riordan--a man who learned everything he knows about education from billionaires--began to "reform" the district by bashing teachers and district alike in the early 1990s.  Mayor Hahn, conversely, knew that the Mayor's role was not school oversight, but Mayor Villaraigosa gladly took up Riordan's billionaire "cause," and has continued to stretch the district to its elastic limit.

It must have made most staff and even some of the reformers cringe to read the Board's statement about the scandal yesterday, in which it said "The District takes each and every reported act of criminal and administrative misconduct seriously, and we will continue to work with law enforcement to ensure the safety and security of our students and campuses." (This CNN report certainly speaks otherwise--assaults on students, restraining orders, and the District did nothing).

Ever since Riordan's manipulations, and certainly all through Villaraigosa's mayoralty, the nation's largest school district has become more and more thinly stretched when it comes to personnel. (There has been abundant money available for physical plant as the educational charlatans duped the people with bonds passed in the name of education but that really went to contractors and developers outside of the district, indeed outside of the city).  Everybody has been focusing on a new agenda, and nobody was really focused on protecting children--often pushing the concerns of actual educators aside, or dismissing them as insufficiently consistent with a corporate-minded reform.  All players--as I have said before--have been interested only in stretching the resources of the district to make it bend to their will, and few have ever had the interests of children in mind.  It's showing now, and I suspect now that this terrifying thing is very far from over.

EARLIER: Riordan, Broad, the Eastside Latino Machine, and the Legacy of District 5


Hyperion is largely a street that connects other streets, and as quickly as possible--it starts out life as Fountain, serves as the demarcation between Silver Lake and Los Feliz, spills over the river and the freeway, and culminates ignominiously at a tense fusion with Glendale Boulevard, which itself turns into Brand even while a tributary jots out towards Forest Lawn and the old four corners point of some Spanish ranchos.  Nobody dreams of putting speed bumps on Hyperion, or slowing it down, even though the street is very rough on cyclists, pedestrians, and even motorists.

The lofts recently built on Rowena off of Griffith Park Boulevard make lots of sense--they are on a street that it already dense but also controlled by adequate parking, and never seems to clog up.  On another Pleasant Valley Sunday the sandwich boards come out.  And there are stabs at street art in this neighborhood, especially editorializing on consumer culture, which in Los Feliz is a little more modest than elsewhere.  South of the Griffith Park there are faux-empty storefronts--bottom is the weird weathered-plywood side of Barbarella--which has to my taste one of the best tuna tartare appetizers in the city.

Night out

"New York's alright if you like saxophones," quoth Christian to me last night, more than a little maliciously, between Camels, between two recognizably LA sets.  D'accord.  His beta records, vurrry indie, lusciously LA in the old Reprise/PIP Building on Highland, Sinatra gold in the necessary room, tossed a party last night at the Home Office for a few of their artists.  Some are on their way to the alt/indie side of SxSW (yes, there's still an alt/indie side there, molto vibrato, in fact) and some are on their way via EMI and some are simply on their way.  Ruby Friedman Orchestra slammed home her set with Shooting Stars, a proto-Firework swordfishtrombone-and-synthesized power anthem that incidentally honors all the venue's legacies from nightclub jazz to progressive present.  Mom was proud in the crowd. And who's that in the parking lot strutting past the failing Firestone sign? Didn't get a name.

Grandstanding clown sues Northern Trust

Maybe our grandstanding City Attorney didn't get enough bang for his buck when he haplessly sued Deutsche Bank. Or maybe he felt he was taking too much heat for applying excessive bail against the downtown Occupiers that Eric Garcetti had promised could "stay as long as you need to." But now Carmen Trutanich has decided to bring suit against Northern Trust--a stuffy trust bank not known for assembling flighty products or mishandling money--for "mishandling" City pension assets.

You know--in other words, the City agreed to invest in investments that went down, and now feels a need to blame someone else. Nearly every institution in America that pursued too aggressive funds management strategies would like someone else to blame too, but not everyone else in America has an idle and capricious phalanx of slavish attorneys available to them.  Carmen Trutanich feels that there must certainly be some malfeasance involved on the banking side, rather than the investor side.

Thus far, the only two news hounds I've seen aggregating the City Attorney's presser are Kevin Roderick and Rick Orlov, who have dutifully obliged Carmen the Clown with today's fifteen minutes without comment from critics. Thank you guys--I appreciate knowing about it. But I doubt anyone else will touch this story as straight "news", as by now people mostly know that the whole point of any Trutanich suit accompanied by a presser seems to be to grab a day's headlines and keep the Clown's name in print. Not much chance for this suit landing LA any cash either.

UPDATE: The City Maven links to a fuller description of the suit at Bloomberg, in which losses were attributed to investment in instruments "whose revenue was based upon mortgage-origination, or subprime mortgage loans, or the housing market itself."  Northern Trust says “The city attorney’s suit, brought years after the losses were incurred, is based solely on hindsight and is premised on the legally deficient claim that Northern Trust should have predicted these unprecedented events even though the markets as a whole had not.”

The statute of limitations on a breach of fiduciary duty in California is ordinarily four years.  If the breach is not based on a specific statute, the limitations runs in two years.

How badly has school reform failed our children?

These three educational "reformers" had absolutely no training in education before they started meddling with our schools.

It turns out that the teacher who is alleged of committing twenty-three felonies involving child abuse had been accused of molestation charges once before, in 1994.

Think of all of our fraudulent school "reformers" and their distracting efforts over the past two decades--namely Riordan, Broad, and Villaraigosa--and how not one of them took a single step towards ensuring, even while molestation cases were running rampant at Catholic schools, that our administrators could take some simple measures partnering with law enforcement to make sure that this kind of behavior could not take place at a public school.

No answers, only questions:

Why couldn't the Sheriff's Department share such important information with the LAUSD?

What happened to school nurses as watchdogs for such criminal activities on campus?

Why aren't all the school reformers of the past two decades talking about what they've done to protect the children from the kind of degradation to which they were allegedly subjected in the monster's classroom?

And most chillingly:

Are there any guarantees in place that such activity isn't still being conducted at other LAUSD schools?

Riordan, Broad, the Eastside Latino Machine, and the Legacy of District 5
A new round of teacher bashing at the LA Times

Pravda on Spring Street (Researchers fault LA Times teacher-ranking methods)

And The MediaBistro is where, exactly?

Actual writer, with fawning admirer.

My my, such a snarky public face that The MediaBistro thing puts forth here in LA--and yet here in LA, nobody is even around to own it.

There was a MediaBistro/FishbowlLA party last night at the vastly underutilized space known as The Falcon on Sunset. This was a very odd party: in fact, the hosts weren't even there. Nor was any kind of ordinary media party gratuity; I saw but one puny pizza dispersed to a ravished group of kappa kappas the whole time as nervous would-be scribes wondered who was buying drinks for whom.

Would-be, yes.  Now, at FishBowlLA parties of five and six years ago, you used to see a lot of writers. I mean, actual, decrepit, bankrupt, insouciant, mugs-away writers.

I hadn't been for a while, but I went last night. And now you see a lot, future writers.

It was very dark in the foyer at The Falcon--a fireplace and fairy lights provided some vague ambient lighting--in fact, it was so dark that you couldn't take photographs unless you were rocking a flash, and who wants to do that--who, I mean, other than Ed Padgett?

Oh yes, Ed Padgett, a man who won't say no when it comes to operating machinery, was the de facto photographer, because the actual one didn't show up either. I wanted to get a photo of an actual writer too, but stranded without a flash, I had to go out on the curb to do it.

Governor takes next step in tidying up CRA

This has been in the works not for months, but for years. Governor Brown has appointed a three-person successor agency to tidy up the CRA's outstanding business. The members of the august board are:

  • Timothy McOsker, a partner at Mayer Brown who was chief of staff for former Mayor James Hahn;
  • Nelson Rising, former chairman of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and longstanding downtown clever boots; and
  • Mee Semcken, a former city council liaison for the Los Angeles redevelopment agency, and wife of (Roski) Majestic Realty agent provocateur John Semcken.

The situation on the ground for developers whose projects involve entitlements remains untidy, but land sharks are at the ready.

Print media burying LAUSD lewd teacher story

A host of oddities on the front page of the former fishwrap of record's above-the-fold front page today--and never mind the ad wrapper. The lead story is a humdrum cash payment story that's three weeks old--that's oddity one.  In fact, the LA Weekly had that as a second-tier news blog item twenty-two days ago. (I found it such a trite item, in fact, I mentioned it at the time).

The story that did the most brisk business last night--and the one that certainly has the most chilling ramifications--the LAUSD lewd teacher story--is above the fold, mercifully, but precisely situated in such a way that you can't even see it from most quick views on the street.

These things don't matter so much anymore--except that they are very telling with regards to how editors view stories. In today's case, an already old, utterly untroubling story about the Coliseum and cash money is esteemed as more important to our lives than a story that has the capacity to take down the whole present administrative organization of the nation's largest school district.

At minimum, the LAUSD lewd teacher story certainly has the power to sell papers--the already stale Coliseum story, not at all. So we really see the true colors of the paper in this bizarre editorial decision.  These decisions are ultimately the new editor's, former news schlub Davan Maharaj.  This is only a guess, but I suspect that he too, like Russ Stanton before him, is only too eager to please the ugly jackal pack of pols and corporate hoodlums who worked so hard to manipulate public opinion against schools to best suit their own corporate purposes.  Now that these hoodlums have pretty much accomplished all they wanted to, they are obliged to control the damage they've done to the District as best they can, and newspapers are still in compliance mode.

Worst of all--how is it that the reformer's voices have suddenly gone mute in the wake of this new scandal, which vastly outshines all of their concerns about LAUSD to-date? These days, school reform means kicking the present administration out, and the present administration is already the obliging handmaiden of Eli Broad, Dick Riordan, Antonio Villaraigosa, and all the other fraudulent educators who tinkered with education even though they weren't educators themselves.  To cause too much of a fuss over the abuse of a few dozen impoverished Latino students would upset the apple cart these "reformers" have worked so hard to install over the past decade.  That's why this hard-to-hide story is being soft-pedaled today, despite the public's acute interest in it.

Riordan, Broad, the Eastside Latino Machine, and the Legacy of District 5
A new round of teacher bashing at the LA Times

As Roma Burns
Pravda on Spring Street (Researchers fault LA Times teacher-ranking methods)
When life gives you lemons
Lopez jumps on "Scapegoat the Teacher" bandwagon


Ordinary, Januarys commence with extraordinary promise, but this past one early on was beyond extraordinary.  We gained all the relief of purging a dismal civic year, LA 2011, even by the end of the first week.   The weather remained joyous, sometimes even summery.

But things got tricky, trickier...and bad times swelled.  Some grizzly murders again begged to open questions regarding the competence of the LAPD's homicide unit.  The Redistricting Commission weighed in and mostly surrendered entrenched communities to districts dominated by anonymity.  The new Council President took to his job by throwing his weight around in the most petty, least responsible way possible, marginalizing enemies and stroking anyone who would stroke him.  Then there was this horrific story out of LAUSD at the end of the month, capsizing absolutely everything.  By last night, again, it was obvious we were living in the same old awful city with the same old problems and the same awful, awful people in charge.

One thing that our civic leaders have persistently demonstrated throughout this squandering of early-year promise is that they really don't give a damn what people want. They are mostly interested in manipulating civic opinion rather than serving it, and when they are not manipulating opinion as best they can, they are interested in their in the next office, the next office, the next office.

The media? Oh, dear.  They report mostly the perfectly banal: how much money a candidate raised, and typically give the more powerful side of a conflict the greatest ear.  They now print advertorials all over their papers, not only on their opinion pages.

There is something enormously, endemically flawed about Antonio Villaraigosa's Los Angeles, where so few can, and so few are encouraged, to rise above the fray and do the right thing.  I'm not sure anyone of our current players has the courage to fix any part of it.  It is increasingly difficult merely to write about it.