Oct 29, 2008

America the Gift Shop

Phillip Toledano worked in advertising as a creative director for a decade before shifting gears to become a photographer. While doing some plum editorial jobs for the NY Times, Vanity Fair and New York Magazine, the Londoner also wracked up impressive work for his ad portfolio, culminating in an Absolut vodka shoot.

Now, he makes art meant to induce squirming as much as reflecting on truths we try to ignore-- or maybe a combination of both. One of his latest ventures in that mode is called America The Gift Shop, an installation project that transforms US foreign policy from the past eight years into ostensibly buyable objects. In an America on the brink of becoming a total consumer environment (if it hasn't reached that point already,) his pieces can be as unsettling as they are on target.

Abu Ghraib coffee table
, Phillip Toledano
Molded resin, plexiglass, 6', 2008

Oct 27, 2008

What I'm listening to

1. My Roots Go Down - The Seedy Seeds/Count the Days
2. You Are My Wonderful... Flower - Day2K/The Rockets
3. Bad Man's World - Jenny Lewis/Acid Tongue
4. LIttle Bird - Angus & Julia Stone/Just A Boy
5. The Rip - Portishead/Third
6. The Windmills of Your Mind - Dusty Springfield/Dusty in Memphis
7. Keep on Walking - Jem/Down To Earth
8. Best For Last - Adele/19

Oct 22, 2008

Excuse me?

Watch how Cindy flinches at the forbidden word. Ah, memories.

Change your underwear

Obama boxer briefs, marked down from $29 to just $7.49 per pair. Change you can believe in, from Andrew Christian.

I Met The Walrus

Jerry Levitan was 14 years old in 1969, when he snuck into John Lennon's hotel room in Toronto with a tape recorder and persuaded him to answer a few questions about peace. Lennon was, with Yoko Ono, his wife, to perform at a huge anti-Viet Nam War concert which was subsequently released as an album called Live Peace in Toronto.

Lennon and Ono were into heavy heroin use at that point, as Lennon revealed later. He recalled vomiting violently right before he went on stage, but he electrified the audience made up of worshipful Beatles fans who were also fervent anti-war protestors.

He gave Levitan the time and thoughtful answers at a time when the world needed people to look up to-- much like today and the message that Barack Obama is carrying to newer generations of minds hungry for ideas of promise, change and hope.

From the video's Youtube site:
Thirty-eight years later, Jerry has produced a film about it. Using the original interview recording as the soundtrack, director Josh Raskin has woven a visual narrative which tenderly romances Lennon's every word in a cascading flood of multipronged animation. Raskin marries the terrifyingly genius pen work of James Braithwaite with masterful digital illustration by Alex Kurina, resulting in a spell-binding vessel for Lennon's boundless wit, and timeless message.

Oct 21, 2008

Be prepared for zombies

With November 4th just two weeks away, you don’t want to be unprepared should zombies prevail. These fine forged steel blades were designed with one purpose in mind: Killing zombies. We here at CreepyLA suggest you don’t mess around and order one today.

Even with the economy in its current state, now is not the time to cut corners. Zombie Tools snottily explains their rationale:
It’s been estimate that around 600,000 people were killed with agricultural-grade machetes during the Rwandan genocidal war in the ’90s. We’ve seen the machetes used in Africa. They’re thin, cheap, Asian-made tools designed to chop vegetation. So we’re fairly confident that our blades, which are twice as thick, made from quality steel, much sharper and designed to cleave, will have no problem with a decomposing walking corpse.

Oct 10, 2008

I'm listening to dOP

More French electronica is washing up on my cyber shores in the form of dOP, a group whose members claim to be a former prison cook, an ex-pro soccer player and " a guy who sold stuff on the beach (cigarettes, condoms, drinks and chouchou). But now we only do music. And we're really happy about it."
Final question (from their recent RA interview:) Why do you sing in English?

To make more money.
Not to burst their bubble, but I scored Lighthouse, their EP released in March, as a download from Amie Street for 45 cents, but the price will undoubtedly rise as more people find them there. Their July release, I'm Just A Man, is only available on vinyl presently.

Make your own.

Oct 9, 2008

‘Vote NO on Prop 8′ fund-raiser this Sunday

Equality California and Love Honor Cherish are having a fund-raiser this Sunday October 12th aimed at defeating the anti-gay Proposition 8, a ballot measure this November that, if it were to pass, would deny same sex couples the right to marry in California by actually writing discrimination and bigotry into the California constitution.

The event will happen at the Mondrian Hotel’s Skybar in West Hollywood on Sunday from 6 PM to 9 PM. Tickets can be had for $100 and 100% of the ticket price goes to defeating Prop 8 on November 4th.

Money is urgently needed NOW. “Religious” conservative-backed Prop 8 supporters have far surpassed Equality California and other opponents of Prop 8 in fund-raising, pouring it into TV ads filled with outright lies and distortions aimed at appealing to ignorance and bigotry. ( Take a look at one of the ads.)

You can buy tickets here. And you can download a PDF of the invite here and see the long list of Angelenos, celebrated (you know, celebrities) and otherwise, who will be there.

If it’s at all within your means, it is a very worthwhile cause. I’m not saying everyone can afford it; but if you can afford $200 jeans and a $300 iPhone, then you can afford a donation to fight bigotry in California.

If a C-note is outside your budget, please give whatever you can at Equality California’s site or at No On Prop 8. We can’t allow victory to embolden backward zealots.

But whatever you do, VOTE NO on Prop 8 on November 4th.

Proposition 8 was placed on the ballot by the anti-gay “Protect Marriage” group, an affiliation of so called “religious” conservatives which claims to be seeking to “restore marriage” and “protect children,” according to the scant information on their web site explaining who they are. (There is no “about” link. Pretty telling, no?)

Their real intent is to deny basic rights to gay people. Marriage and children have nothing to do with the goal of these bigots.

Equality California
is a civil rights organization that advocates for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in California.

Love, Honor and Cherish is an independent, grassroots organization whose purpose is to defeat Proposition 8.

Standing up to bigots isn’t always cheap or easy (like me.) I’ll be there with the boyfriend in tow. Look for us and say “hello.” (He’s the cute redhead; I’m the silver-haired Slavic fox.)

Vote NO on Prop 8 Gala; Sunday, October 12, 2008, 6 to 10 p.m.; Skybar, Mondrian Hotel, 8440 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. Tickets $100.

May 22, 2008

Cellcam Journal - Paris

Early morning walk in the Marais...

Bike rental stations like this one are all over Paris. Pay at the kiosk, run your errands and return to any other station. The first hour and a half is free. Many major streets have dedicated bike lanes with raised barriers to keep cars out of them. It's an example of what $8.00-per-gallon gasoline can motivate in a city.

Getting ready for the breakfast crowd on Rue St-Antoine...

... and rotisserie chickens on the spits for the lunch crowd.

My hotel on Rue St-Paul had Hollywood-themed decor with movie posters from the '30s and '40s throughout.

Paris has a vibrant theater scene, comparable to NYC and London.

May 6, 2008


As a recent convert to Google's Reader for keeping up with favorite blogs, feeds and general time-wasting, I'm almost too happy to have new enabling software to keep me sitting and not exercising my heart and lungs.
Times is being offered in a full-featured free 14-day trial version (then $30) that makes a reader look like an Apple-style version of Huffington Post without all of the celebrity crap that pollutes that still vital site (C'mon Arianna, elitists like me and my elitist friends don't care a wit about elitist celebs.)

Of course you can customize it to be whatever you want, even a celeb news feeding frenzy. But please don't.

Speaking of time-wasting and elitists, Stuff White People Like, the blog, makes the leap from viral to mainstream marketing with the publication of SWPL, the book, by Random House, no less. Self-lacerating, self-mocking criticism of and by liberals that is cringingly spot on has convinced me that we latte-sippers do NOT deserve political power. Which has already begged the question, are elitists the New Outsiders?

(Alternate question: Is SWPL, The Musical inevitable?)

May 4, 2008

In LA: Freewayblogger keeps rolling

You can't tell there's a war going on in this country. But if you have one person in every city doing what I do, you wouldn't be able to drive anywhere without seeing protest against the war and the president. - Freewayblogger
A thought has been turning over and over in my mind lately about how invisible the Iraq War has become in this country, about how easy it has become to avoid and ignore it. It's still in the news and on blogs but major media has not made a sustained effort to keep it front and center, as always choosing instead to focus on non-issues like Obama's minister or Hillary's campaign style or the latest sex scandal involving politicians or, of course, celebrities.

Something struck me today in the print edition of the Post-Gazette that was quietly horrifying, a Dr. Strangelove-moment of an unsettling degree. On the weather page, I was reading through the temperature listings by city, a habit of mine, especially when I travel. What I noticed was the listing for Baghdad is in bold type, the only one that appears that way.

I thought of family members of those in the military and serving in Iraq and wondered how they felt each day as they looked at this information. I wondered what brought about the decision to do this at the paper. I didn't know whether to damn the Post-Gazette for reducing it to this or commend them for a quiet nod of empathy, as if they were saying, "We know you are worried" to the families.

The Bushies have succeeded in cowing the press and have made certain that the Iraq War remain their private affair. Media coverage of returning casualties is banned and what coverage there is of war protest is muted, if evident at all, as Jerome Sherman points out today in the Post-Gazette. But when I came across this Freewayblogger clip, it gave me hope that maybe the anti-war movement still has life in it, still has ways to carry their message to the public.

TOTH to Wooster Collective.

May 2, 2008

Cellcam Journal - Pittsburgh

I'm Dead by David Shrigley at Carnegie International, opening Sunday May 4th. Carnegie Museum, Oakland.

Kandors by Mike Kelley at Carnegie International. Carnegie Museum, Oakland.

Think pink for November. Semple St., Oakland.

Spookily empty Pittsburgh Airport upon my arrival 9:30PM Saturday night. Thanks a lot, US Airways!

May 1, 2008

Pittsburgh sootier than Los Angeles

The American Lung Association bestowed the title of nation's sootiest city upon Pittsburgh, pushing Los Angeles into the number two position. Today's Post-Gazette print edition has it as the main front page story with a suitably ominous photo of the pollution belching Clairton Coke Works, owned by US Steel.
The "State of the Air: 2008" report, which used U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air pollution data for 2004, 2005 and 2006, says aggressive emissions controls in the Los Angeles area have reduced year-round particle levels by about one-third over the last seven years, while Pittsburgh earned the top spot by making only marginal improvement.
County Health Dept. officials dispute the rating, saying it only pertains the Mon Valley due to the Clairton facility. The ALA says taking that out of the equation drops the Burgh's rating to 16th sootiest. Better, but no reason for celebrating.

The good news is that ground-level ozone levels continue to drop rapidly in Pittsburgh, from a ranking of 17 to 34 since 2005.

Clairton Coke Works, United States Steel Corporation; painting by Howard Fogg.

Apr 30, 2008

Savage observation

After enduring endlessly salacious, quivering coverage from the cable news crowd about the FLDS Jail Bate Fuck Fest in Texas, finally a voice of reason emerges.

As much as I have a problem believing that self-proclaimed-unqualified sexpert, so-gay-I-married-a-dude-in-Canada-and-we-bought-a-baby Dan Savage is, no lie, IN FAVOR of the Iraq War, kudos to him for laying it out thick and hard about those wearers of pastel dresses and elaborate tresses and those who are strangely quiet on their predicament.
When two dudes marry, the marriage-is-between-one-man-and-one-woman brigades crap their collective pants, vomit up ten thousand press releases, and run in circles screaming about all the hurricanes and earthquakes and unattractive haircuts that Our Loving Father™ is gonna rain down on our heads if we don't pry Adam off Steve right fucking now.

Well, the one-man-and-one-woman crowd has been strangely silent about this polygamist sect in Texas that's been all over the news. It appears that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been organizing marriages/statutory rapes between one man and dozens or more women and/or girls.

"Where's the outrage?" writes a reader, which prompted me to go looking for some outrage at the website of Concerned Women for America. There are more anti-gay-marriage press releases packed onto CWFA's website than there is fudge packed into all the homos in all the Sodoms in all of North America. But there's not one single word that I could find about these straight men in Texas violating the holy and sacred one-man-and-one-woman rule. What gives?
I'll tell you what gives, Daddy Man. The FLDS scandal doesn't meet the outrage threshold that can only be met if it involves hot homo sex. We can only hope for a NAMBLA chapter within the compound that maybe has not come to light (yet, fingers crossed) and thus for CWFA's rage to be ignited.

Drink like a Man...

As in Mansinthe, the new brand of absinthe "developed" by Marilyn Manson. I'm going to try to place an order with the PLCB for a case, just to see if it gets any sort of reaction.
A well-known absinthe enthusiast, Manson was very involved in the drink's development, constantly tasting samples and providing feedback.
Leave it to Uncrate to blow the horn on this one, as it were.

Apr 26, 2008

PLCB gets even more ridiculous

The absurd heights that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board can rise to never ceases to amaze and amuse me. Instead of bringing PA out of the Dark Ages (where it exists along with Utah when it comes to alcohol restriction) and allowing stores other than the ridiculous, government-run "state store" to sell wine and liquor, they have proposed putting wine vending machines in, as they put it, "grocery stores and malls."

Having just arrived in Pittsburgh after spending the past 6 weeks in Los Angeles, where virtually all supermarkets have a decent selection of wine and liquor, and even 7-11 Stores and Rite Aids stock the bare essentials in this respect--well, I guess I just plain forgot what it's like here.

In a Post-Gazette article worthy of The Onion, I guess this is the funniest part:
One of those briefed on the proposal was Wendell Young IV, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, whose members include state store clerks. Mr. Young said the kiosk "looks like a giant institutional Sub-Zero refrigerator" with high-tech security identification measures such as fingerprints and biometric readings.
To be fair, this is a teensy step forward for making wine more readily available-- at the same inflated, overtaxed prices one would pay at a state store. But the antiquated, quaint, obviously politically well-connected union is an aspect of this state that makes it into a laughing stock across the country.

Where's Henry Frick when you need him?

Apr 23, 2008

Cellcam Journal

Blek le Rat strikes; Sunset and Maltman, Silver Lake.

Form-follows-function bike rack; San Fernando Rd., Burbank.

Classic DIY emergency brake; Vermont Canyon Rd., Griffith Park.

Koonsian hydrant; East Palm Ave., Burbank.

Apr 22, 2008

Thunderbolt Fan goes green

In Sunday's Los Angeles Times, Erin Weinger embraces the true goddess spirit of going green in our forward thinking town. This is not your hippie grandma's Earth Day.
Not to be cynical, but what is Earth Day but a retail opportunity? This Tuesday, you can recycle, shop and gawk -- and save the planet!
Taking my cue, I compiled a green list of my own:

1. Check Los Angeles gas prices. Yikes!

2. Drive to Keihl's at the Grove where I can hopefully snag one of the free logo-ed canvas totes being given to the first 50 paying customers. I'll be dropping $70 on my favorite anti-wrinkle cream. Coincidentally, it's GREEN-- the actual color, not the process by which it's made. For all I know and don't really care, it's made from baby seals and diesel fuel. But my free tote will create the perception that I care.

3. Drive to the Whole Foods nearest me in Glendale, which I was informed does the highest volume in the Southland. They used to have a BBQ smoker outside but a recent ordinance snuffed it out. People who lived nearby were up in arms about having to smell delicious, savory smoked meat most of their waking hours. Have they ever heard about closing their windows and turning on the air conditioner?

A while ago, I grabbed some grub there and sat at their outdoor patio tables to eat it. When I finished, I took my empty containers to the big green recycling bin that is divided into three sections. The plastics section was so full that I couldn't stuff mine in. A WF employee on a break told me that all three openings in the bin went into the same box inside and that I could dispose of my garbage in any one of the three sections. And people say it's too much of an effort to recycle.

Anyway, Whole Foods is doing away with plastic bags as of today-- you know, Earth Day. They could have done it sooner but I've learned when it comes to branding, one word: synergy.

4. Symbolically support " A Day Without Driving" by taking it a step further; as in, "A Day Without Driving Without Air Conditioning."

5. Attend Earth Day street fair on Wilshire if it doesn't take forever to find parking.

6. Drive to video store, rent An Unreasonable Man, An Inconvenient Truth and Walk Hard (the one I'll actually watch.)

7. Check local group blogs to gauge the smugness of the fingerwagging about carbon footprints,flatulant cows, "sustainability," etc. [I just checked; surprisingly there's barely any mention of it today. I assume there will be a few obligatory "photo essays" after the fact.]

8. Have friends over for "green-grilled" steak-- we're only cooking them medium rare. It uses much less propane.

Apr 18, 2008

Nikki teases about Geffen and LA Times

I guess my OCD's radar is locked on the LA Times for the moment:

Nikki Finke, in her Deadline Hollywood column in this week's LA Weekly, thinks Geffen is still the owner-to-be of the dyspeptic (to some more than others) LA Times.
I’m told by a source that Geffen and Zell are back at the table. It’s all very hush-hush, but my source tells me, “Cash flow is not being met for the bankers, revenue is in free fall, and the potential liability on the [Sean] Combs story is huge. Sam feels he bought a bill of goods. Geffen is back in the mix, and he’s going to get it for a deep discount. They’re in serious discussions.”
But then she tortures with this:
Geffen, however, has been on his yacht, vacationing in the South Pacific, for weeks. And a Geffen insider insists that the DreamWorks partner and Zell haven’t spoken in months.
Stay tuned.

LA Times unsure of how to cover Zell?

Speaking of Zell (in the previous post) and the differences between the print and online editions, there is an article that covers a rather sleazy story involving the Chicago magnate. It comes off as if the writer, Tony Perry, is trying not to piss off the boss and get his ass fired, nor that of Nicholas Goldberg, LAT op-ed editor.

Read it and wince at the contortions in the final paragraphs like I did. Is it just me or did he prove his contrary argument?
"We recognize that we have a responsibility to cover Sam Zell when he makes news -- which we have done on the opinion pages and elsewhere in the paper," Goldberg said. "But we also feel that we shouldn't give him excessive coverage.

". . . We asked ourselves whether we would publish this op-ed piece about a mobile-home-park owner's battle with the county of San Diego if it was not about Sam Zell, and we decided we probably would not."
In today's print edition, this article appeared in the California section at the bottom of page 3. In today's online edition, it is the NINETEENTH item in the California|Local link-- way, way down the page. In the online version of the print edition (follow that?) it is buried even further so as to be virtually invisible to the way most people use the Internets for news.

One thing seems certain to me: If a major media owner is accused of throwing elderly tenants out of mobile homes parks in SoCal that he also owns, it's news, especially to the city that his paper serves.

LA Times - Print vs. online

I had a discussion with an LA Metblogger yesterday about our differing perceptions of the LA Times. He thinks it still sucks big time, I think it has improved over the past few months. The difference is, he only looks at the online edition whereas I only see the print edition via daily delivery (which is cheap by the way.)

After we parted, I looked at the online edition and found I would agree with him to an extent if it was the only version I saw too. What wrankles him is that the local coverage is sorely lacking. He's right; it often seems haphazard.

In a way, I can see this as an extension of how a lot of Angelenos regard their city and their place in it-- it's so damn big, who can keep track? (Answer: LAT.) The term "local" that LAT uses could be subdivided into specific areas and then mini-bureaus could be established that would cover them.

It would involve printing different versions for different areas. Other cities do it quite successfully but something tells me Zell, not of a journalism background to say the least, will not be ponying up for that sort of thing.

Apr 16, 2008

Sunset juncture?

"Brentwood-ization," or some similar term, is what an article in the Los Feliz Ledger called what is going on in Silver Lake now, with the list of empty shops and restaurants growing weekly, it seems. (Metblog's Will Campbell is keeping track.) One of the used furniture stores had a sign that said, "Landlord won't even negotiate." It's the pack mentality of local commercial landlords driving these closures. They smell Pinkberry money, I'm sure.

Sunset Junction has always struck me as being a bit soul-less and I mean that in a good way. I like soul-less. I'm always amused when I see shopper flotillas on weekends looking a bit let down as it dawns on them that it's less than they expected in a total-consumer-environment kind of way.

One recent afternoon, I watched (and waited, and waited,) as a group of four women in front of me on the coffee line at the high-end Intelligentsia cafe and who were all dolled up west side style, made a snap decision to relieve there shopping-deprived frustration by impulsively running around the cafe and snatching T-shirts, coffee mugs and coffee makers off the shelves in the middle of paying for four lattes.

It was a sudden mini-orgy of consumer lust that built to a climax of competitive credit card waving as they vied for the opportunity to pay for each other. It got me sooo hard-- and I'm gay, godammit!

Anyway, there are a couple cute, very niche-specific shops, for the sneaker and comics obsessed for example, but the Junction has not been a vibrant, bustling place for many years now, according to what I've heard about bakeries and groceries gone missing.

Too bad about Eat Well but they closed at 3PM and the service was slow. (I miss that Buddha Bowl though.) I read that the original owner sold the chain a couple years ago so he could open trendy bars Downtown. It's all a sign of the times, I'm afraid. CBGB in NYC is now a boutique. Other examples abound throughout major cities.

This same scenario will be playing out in Boyle Heights in 10 years. Or less.

Apr 15, 2008

Train in Vain - LA Metro

Where is everyone?

One recent weekday afternoon, my friend Rick, a born-and-bred Los Angelenista, took me on my first extended foray on the subway since I moved here. I met him at the Sunset-Vermont station and we took the red and gold lines to Pasadena (for tea, if you must know, and so he could show me his favorite secret courtyard.)

Being an ex-New Yorker, I was amazed at how clean and quiet the stations and trains were, as well as the frequency of trains. The trains were barely half full mid-afternoon, but he assured me that we would be coming back during rush hour when it would be "very crowded."

HA! During "rush hour" I kept asking him where everyone was and he kept saying, "In their cars," or, "This is busy! Look at all the people!"

I dryly observed, "Yeah, there are dozens of them."

"Why don't more people take the train?" I asked. He said, "Because a lot of people think it's only for poor people and everyone in LA is so class conscious. And insecure, at least the ones with money."

But really, the overriding reason is that the service areas are so small compared to the size of the city. I had to walk 30 minutes to get from my pad to the station.

Me thinks ongoing extension of the subway system would have a profoundly positive effect upon Los Angeles. It would provide that shared-social-sphere feeling, which exists in places like NYC or San Francisco, but is missing here because we are all in our own private little spheres-- you know, our cars.

Better mass transit would diminish the necessity for cars, tires and oil products. And it would finally thwart the oil and tire mega-corporations blindingly successful efforts to curtail, if not roll back further, any extension of the public transportation network.*

Yeah, like that's going to happen, but I can dream if I want to. And so can John von Kerczek, who's blog, Ditch the Car, Take the Metro makes it seem so plausible.

When I saw his map of proposed subway service for Los Angeles, I at first thought I was looking at one for London's Underground.

Wake up, Los Angelistadores!

*During our ride, Rick gave me a history lesson about tire companies and their role in ripping out the streetcar lines.

Apr 11, 2008

Cellcam Journal

Signs of the times in Silver Lake. The one in the background says "Bank repo."
Paging Tom LaBonge: Idling buses belching fumes in front of Griffith Observatory seem to be a regular feature these days. Why can't they stay in the parking lot with their engines off?
Subhuman species immortalized in plastic at Arclight shop.
Bush-wipe in window at Wacko.

Apr 10, 2008


Ø Since the growing perception is, at least among certain hopeful Angelenos, that Los Angeles is ascending to the top of the heap in the art world, I would expect this weekend's unimaginatively entitled Los Angeles Art Weekend event to come up with a snappier name that would befit that designation. (My suggestion is the title of this post.)

LA Times gave it a major nod by putting it on the cover of today's The Guide section but the article inside amounted to little more than a copy/paste of information on the event's site.

Ø The Downtown Artwalk happens today, noon to 9:00PM. It covers the galleries on the circle of Spring, 2nd, Main and 9th Streets, as well as few others nearby, including MOCA (free 5 to 8:00PM, closes at 8.) Too bad it doesn't include any of the Chinatown galleries. It should.

Ø LAT has gotten better at covering galleries that aren't on the west side, notably last week's twin features on Black Maria Gallery's Hollywood Apocalypse exhibit in Atwater Village and today's review of manipulated found photography by Nicole Belle at Found Gallery in Silver Lake.

Ø Chimera Frontiera opens on Saturday night at Junc/Giant Robot on Sunset in Silver Lake.

Untitled, from The Rev Sanchez Series by Nicole Belle/Found Gallery

Apr 9, 2008

From the pen of Charlton Heston

The LA Times ran a selection of excerpts from letters they had received over the years from Charlton Heston. He sounded off on topics mostly dealing with entertainment and politics.

From feeling threatened by Spike Lee to lamenting an unnamed female star's feeble grasp on the translation of "e pluribus unum" to gloating over how he "helped get Ice-T fired" after the rapper released Cop Killer, it's an interesting glimpse into his personality. Heston's reasoned rants humanized him for me, even though I deplored his politics.
The cultural and social fabric of the country is fraying around the edges... A while ago, I was at one of those silly "A-list" parties and fell into conversation on all this with a stunningly beautiful, famous star (not a bad actress, either) who said, "Well, look what it says on the dollar bill: 'e pluribus unum.' From one, many."

"Actually, you've got the Latin backward," I replied. "It translates, 'From many, one.' As in one nation . . . indivisible?" "No kidding?" she said, amazed. "Well . . . whatever." And there you have it. We live, increasingly, in a "well, whatever" nation. God help us all.

"Another Day in LA" by Joe Girandola, 2008
Duct tape on paper/image courtesy of Black Maria Gallery, from the current exhibit "Hollywood Apocalypse"

Apr 8, 2008

LA Times delivers free Starbucks

Today I got a present from the Seattle coffee behemoth tucked into my daily delivery of the LA Times: A card entitling me, every Wednesday through May 28th, to a free cup of Pike Place Roast, their "new daily brew" that they roast and grind fresh everyday.

No, I'm not shilling for Starbucks but a daily roasted and freshly ground coffee is a beautiful thing. And it's free. So to everyone who makes a habit of hating on the LA Times, Starbucks and puppies and kittens-- back off!

NYC report: Ouch, CBGB is now a boutique

Maybe I'm outing the consumerist side of myself by steering you to this sick, sad, sorry news on Uncrate, a site which, at times, is like cyber-crack to me.
315 Bowery is a well-known address to a lot of New Yorkers, as it was the location of iconic rock club CBGB for over 30 years. Now fashion designer John Varvatos is using the space as his newest boutique.
It reminds me of the time I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC to see the Rock Style exhibit at the Costume Institute a number of years ago. The two shocks I encountered there were: (1.) They had a pair of jeans that Bruce Springsteen wore on his Born in the USA tour-- and they were from Fiorucci. And (2.) the striped boat neck T-shirt that Patti Smith wore early in her career that I had assumed was a thrift store find was actually brand-spanking-new Dior Couture.

I could ramble on about branding, commodification, CBGB T-shirts being sold at Target and recently deceased owner Hilly Kristal's plans to relocate the club to Las Vegas, but I won't.

Apr 7, 2008

Feet fete

Fools for Feet, the current exhibit at Antebellum is all about the erotic nature of feet for some. If that's you and you're unaquainted with the surfeit of cultural contextualization available, this may be a starting point for you.

One could find a certain anti-synergy here with the recent poll question on LA Metblog asking, as part of their 64 Worst Things About LA campaign, which is worse, Starbucks or the ubiquity of year round flip-flops.

Maybe to the chagrin of those coming down hard on flip-flops, there is a blog, FLIPFLOPEROTIC, dedicated to the erotic angle of the revealing footwear. And they even have their own poll question for you to weigh in on.
I found myself continually staring at his feet. The flip-flops he was wearing drew attention to them. His feet were tanned and, I had to say, looked amazing plus the flips were cool. I had never thought of myself as a "foot guy" but I felt seriously turned on. I found myself wanting to get my hands, even my mouth on them...
Antebellum will be screening O Fantasma on Thursday, April 10th at 7:00PM. From Portugal, the film is a lurid journey of anonymous sex in mostly public places. Ho hum, welcome to LA. And should I mention that George Michael's tour passes through in June?

Photo by Miguel Angel Reyes

Apr 6, 2008

Dem bums

I was having an email chat today with my Met's-loving New Yorker gal pal Sue. I asked her what her take was on Brooklyn's beloved Dodgers being $tolen away by Los Angeles in 1958, in light of all of the news lately about this being the 50th anniversary of their move west. Notice how her disdain for that other NY team won't even allow her to capitalize their name.
It was a sad day in Brooklyn when the Dodgers moved. Dodger fans did all they could to keep them in Bklyn (got petitions signed, protested, etc). My mother sat outside the local supermarket getting signatures so she could send them to Dodgers management to try and keep the team in Bklyn.

The Dodgers were very loved and were a huge loss to NYC. That's why so many Met fans originated as Dodger fans. The Dodger fans were heart broken to lose "dem bums" (the teams nickname) and couldn't force themselves to cheer for the dreaded yanks so when the Mets came into town, they had their new team.

The Dodgers played a significant role in baseball history due to Jackie Robinson. They were the first team to have a black guy and Jackie's number (42) is posted in all stadiums today. He was responsible for breaking the color barrier in baseball and he is honored in all team's fields to date.

1955 was a great year as it was the first time that the Dodgers beat the yanks in an incredible series so you can imagine the devastation when fans were told they were moving to LA. Ebbets field was a beloved stadium and was to be torn down when the Dodgers left. The new Shea stadium is being modeled after Ebbets.

So much history...
Go Mets!

Apr 4, 2008

Another reason for expanding LA's subway: more street art opportunities

Maybe I'm just psyched for the Blek le Rat opening tomorrow night (see previous post) but here's some rather ingenious street art from NYC courtesy of the Wooster Collective site.
Every time we start to think that street art is starting to get a bit tired and boring, along - out of nowhere - comes something that reconnects us with why we fell in love with street art in the first place.

The story we heard at dinner tonight is that there's an artist who's been making these animals out of discarded plastic bags. He (or she) ties the bags to the ventilation grates above the subway lines so that when the subway rushes through underneath, the animal jumps up and springs to life.

Apr 3, 2008

Eastside Art Smart

Ø Subliminal Projects on Sunset in Echo Park has the first US solo exhibit by French graffiti artist Blek le Rat, opening on Saturday night.

How do I put this... hmm-- oh yeah, I know: This Is Huge.
A pioneer of graffiti writers in Europe, Blek le Rat was one of the first people to use stencils to make public art on the street using icons instead of writing his name.
So when you saw that iconic Rambo 12 ad on the side of every friggin' bus in SoCal a few months ago-- and you did, didn't you?-- know of the trail between Blek and Sly. He's the Warhol of graffiti.

Before this exhibit, the best way to see his work, aside from flying to Paris and a handful of other international cities, was on the exhaustively comprehensive Wooster Collective site, which has been documenting graffiti art from around the globe for several years.

Ø The Brewery Art Walk is this Saturday and Sunday. Not to be missed, bring your favorite LA naysayers, pour a few beers down their throats at the central cafe/water hole and then push them toward that '80s punk art street-trash/dress gallery, just past that really good used bookstore.

Ø Black Maria Gallery in Atwater Village, the little gallery that could, is all of a sudden busting out all over. Owner Zara Zeitountsian is passionate about her artists and her hard work over the past three years is finally coming to fruition with the Hollywood Apocalypse exhibit currently on display. It is a juried show of works based upon a prophetic painting that has only existed in the imagination of readers of the Nathaniel West novella, The Day of the Locust.

Yeah, there's the 1975 film version's Boschean-by-way-of-Munch rendering of the painting, but it's only the starting point for what's on view. Curated by writer and 3D artist Ray Zone, who came up with the concept for the exhibit, actress Patricia Arquette, La Luz de Jesus Gallery owner Billy Shire and actor and comic book publisher Thomas Jane will comprise the panel of judges.

The LA Times' "The Guide" section seemed positively giddy over the fact that it took a rather disdainful view of our savage town. But hey, the mirror has two faces, ya know what I mean?

Griffith Park is turning green

After last May's devastating fire that scorched over 800 acres, the hills were a palette of blacks, browns and grays. Now, almost a year later and after a few good rainfalls, nature is taking its course in transforming the bleak peaks with sprouting spring growth. I took the above shot from the Observatory parking lot.

So grab your hiking shoes or bike and come see the baby...

The $9 Cup o' Joe

Intelligentsia, the cafe at Sunset Junction, now has a daily selection of coffees by the cup that range from $2.50 to $9. I met my favorite LA blogger there a couple days ago and we both had the medium priced brew ($3.75.) It was every bit as good as the Moka Java I've grown fond of from Trader Joe's.

Intel (it's what the trendomorphs call it, I hear) has "tasting events" for the beans they've bought at auction-- only in LA... and other coffee savvy metrosexual havens too before long, I bet. It sounds pretentious and ridiculous, I know, but this is what a life of denial during wartime is like, early 21st century.

I'm all for a well made cup of coffee. I even consider myself a coffee snob. But I feel that how you make your coffee, as well as the lightness of the roast (as opposed to the darkness) has as much to do with it as the pedigree of the beans. It's no secret that a strong cup of Folgers will rival any high end coffee-- at least in my book, so maybe it is a secret.

Here's how much of a nut I am: I grind my Folgers to a finer grade before I pop it into my individual cup size Melitta cone and voila, a perfect cuppa when you're stranded in a trendy coffee deprived locale.

Mar 20, 2008

'Burgh pins hopes on donuts

Things must be pretty grim downtown when the Post-Gazette gets excited about a Dunkin Donuts going into Market Square, along with two other cafes, in addition to the Starbucks that's already there.

And a new bar "will serve French wines, cheese and pastry-type desserts." (When is a pastry not a pastry but only like a pastry? Are they referencing Claes Oldenburg?) According to the P-G, "the bar will be 'very upscale' with a 'definite Paris feel to it.'" This I've got to see.

Mar 15, 2008

The gays have landed... in Pittsburgh!

The good news in Saturday's Post-Gazette is that homosexuals are inundating Pittsburgh. The bad news is, that report was delivered by some homophobe congresslady from (get this) Oklahoma who seems to have stumbled upon some old episodes of Queer As Folk on LOGO. See what happens when you subscribe to the digital preferred tier on Comcast?
Who's going to break the news to Queer Eye for the Straight Girl candidate Rep. Sally Kern that Andy Warhol, the most influential artist of the 20th century, and a gay man to boot, was from Pittsburgh? More importantly, who will explain to her who Andy Warhol was?

Mar 14, 2008

Nixed visionary idea of the past

At the Carnegie Museum yesterday I came across an architectural drawing by Frank Lloyd Wright and Allen Lape Davison for a proposed twin bridges project for the Point in 1947. It was breathtaking in it's ambitions to re-envision and reinvent the defining feature of Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately, it met with what have now become all to familiar results in this city-- unless it involves yet another redundant sports facility or a certain casino project and the looming parking garage that will tower over it.
Twin Bridges Project for Point Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This drawing reflects Frank Lloyd Wright's plan to redesign the Point, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers converge to form the Ohio in downtown Pittsburgh. At the heart of Wright’s Point Park project was a civic center connected to the North and South sides of the city by bridges across the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. Each bridge had three levels: the lowest for trucks, the next for automobiles, and a garden for pedestrians on top. A tall concrete tower rising from the civic center anchored the "stayed cable" for the cantilevered bridges and served as an antenna for radio and television transmissions.

Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar Kaufmann, Sr., paid Wright $25,000 to rethink the Point. Between 1946 and 1948, numerous drawings flowed from Wright's office to Pittsburgh, many executed by the talented Allen Lape Davison, who had grown up in Pittsburgh, studied at Cornell, and then joined Wright's Taliesin Fellowship in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Wright's plan was visionary, and the presentation drawings were seductive; but city officials rejected the project. They concluded that the experimental nature of the technology was too costly, the traffic plan too segregated, and the proposal failed to reflect the historical significance of the Point as the site for both French and English outposts in the 1750s.

Mar 6, 2008

Clinton and Obama opening campaign offices

As to be expected, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are opening campaign offices in Pittsburgh. Of the two, Obama seems more in touch with the area by opening his in East Liberty. But for some odd reason, Clinton has chosen to open hers Downtown, which is a pretty dreary, desolate and uninteresting place. A much better choice would have been...well, just about any other place in the city limits. She could have gotten gutsy (and hip) and chosen, say, Lawrenceville or The Strip.

Mar 5, 2008

Culturally vulturally yours....

Ø WYEP's Third Thursdays continues tomorrow at their Southside studios. This month it's Pittsburgh brother duo Br'er Fox.

Ø On Friday, the Andy Warhol Museum's Good Fridays has Akron/Family, four self-proclaimed “extremely nice, sincere and well-mannered young men from rural America who moved to NYC in 2002 to make music,” whose sound falls into the vague freak-folk category.

Go a little early to see the Ron Mueck sculptures, by turns mesmerizing and creepy. A video monitor on the top floor of the exhibit has a cool documentary showing his process for making the pieces.

Ø If you want a taste of what it was like to go to the movies before the advent of multiplexes, stadium seating, obnoxious ads and blockbuster culture hijacked the cinema and drove it over the cliff of appeasing shareholders of major corporations, AND you still haven't seen Juno, which won the Oscar this year for best original screenplay, here's your chance.

The Oaks Theater
in Oakmont is running Juno again, due to its winning the naked little gold man and also owing to its ongoing popularity. The Oaks was renovated a few years back to its original 1938 splendor. It's like stepping back in time and you'll be glad for the existence of this venerable theater.

Ø Andre Previn returns to conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra this weekend. On Friday and Sunday, he brings his Harp Concerto written for the PSO's Gretchen Van Hoesen for his return to Heinz Hall. On Saturday, the performance is at Scottish Rite Cathedral in New Castle.

And while I'm on the subject, tickets for the PSO's June 26th performance with Isaac Hayes are on sale for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's 5th Annual Community Partners Concert.
The Community Partners Concert is an annual collaboration with other greater Pittsburgh non-profit organizations. When you purchase a ticket, you designate an organization to receive the revenue.

Ø LAST CHANCE: Closing Sunday, March 9th at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts is Bedazzled: Stars, Pagans and the Cosmos by Suzie Silver.

Working primarily in video and performance, Silver explores themes of obsession, mythology, gender, pop music, desire, and ritual in the eight videos presented in this show. They include live action and animation.

On Sunday, Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest screens at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' second installment of "Hooray for Screenwriters!" at the Regent Square Theater.

And now for some good news...

After being rocked by Pittsburgh's low ranking in a Pitt gender-equality-in-pay study yesterday, I was glad to see some positive news about the city in today's P-G. Patricia Lowry's forward-looking Places column is always a good source for stories about Pittsburgh moving forward.

Rothschild Doyno Architects recently moved their offices to Penn Avenue in the Strip, taking advantage of a new program that encourages businesses to "go green"
It's the first project to take advantage of a new low-interest Urban Redevelopment Authority loan for LEED buildings and is striving for LEED-Gold certification. The loan's interest rate decreases as the LEED certification level increases.

"There are a lot of concrete block industrial buildings around the city," Rothschild said. "If as a small business we can pull off a LEED-Gold, we could be an example for other small businesses."

Green features include natural light and ventilation, individual lighting controls, soy-based concrete stain, carpet tiles and windows of spectrally selective glass, which minimizes solar heat gain.
Without rewriting Lowry's entire column here, she also mentions the innovative direction taken by EDGE architects founder Dutch McDonald, as well as the grass-root advocacy group Preservation Pittsburgh's search for a board of directors. In all, it's promising news for the area.

Mar 4, 2008

Comcast vs. Verizon

Did anyone see this report on KDKA.com?

Have any stories to share about bundling phone, cable TV and Internet?

Gender pay gap embarrassment

A lot of the news about Pittsburgh's economic woes are local stories that don't travel far. But when the results of a major national study on gender-based pay inequity is released, it's a national story.

I heard it yesterday on NPR news but I didn't catch the numbers until I read today's Post-Gazette. It's bad:
Women make up 48 percent of the Pittsburgh area work force, yet female managers earned just 58.3 percent of local men and 89.5 percent of what women around the country made, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Women in management positions at local nonprofits fared only slightly better, earning 64.3 percent of their male counterparts.

This disparity can be attributed to a sluggish economy, stagnant population growth and a legacy of heavy industry, argued study co-authors Chris Briem and Sabina Deitrick of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Social and Urban Research.

Whatever it is, it's a saddening, deeply institutionalized indication of the backwardness of this once great city.

As Pittburgh gazes into its mirror searching to recognize its flaws, it must understand this is a BIG problem. It repells rather than attracts people to the area.

Mar 3, 2008

That damn casino

I wish I could think of something nice to say about... that... That THING, but I can't. As I was reading of the ongoing shifty machinations by Barden over the behemoth parking garage that will loom behind it, I was thinking instead of forcing him to scale back on size or put two stories underground as was specified in the original plans that were approved, why not DOUBLE the size of the garage. Make it as ugly as possible and teach Pittsburghers a lesson about giving an asset as valuable as prime waterfront location over to something as tacky as a casino.

Mar 1, 2008

PGH's Prodigal Sons & Daughters

There was an interesting piece in Saturday's Post-Gazette about a native's return to Pittsburgh. There are some parallels with my situation, the main one being "what is it about this place?" Growing up here, it gets under your skin. For me, however, getting out was a priority from the age of nine. At nineteen I moved to NYC and lived there for over two decades before moving to LA four years ago.

Now I'm back, more or less, with a wealth of perspective that could only be gained by living in a larger, more cosmopolitan city (or two.) And Pittsburgh is cool. Not in an easily identifiable way if you are looking for parallel experiences of places like NYC or LA or even Austin or Seattle.

It has many unique aspects that are peculiar and indigenous to the area, tied to its specific history. What's different here is there is no national media commodifying its cultural and social attributes. Local media and word of mouth are the conduits for this information, and they are pretty good at it too. But it stays local, giving it a certain cache, although a true Pittsburgher would never think of it in that way. (That's my innah Big City Perspective tawking.)

People don't flock to PGH "to make it big." But if you're looking for a liveable, low-key, ideally located medium-to-small city where, as the writer of the above mentioned article states, "normal" people can afford to own a home, then PGH is for you.

Of course it has its challenges too and it's still reeling from the steel industry's exodus a generation ago.

What's great to see is that the local blogosphere is thriving.

Burgh Blog, 2 Political Junkies, Burgh Diaspora, Angry Drunk Bureaucrat, Pop City and Pittsburgh Dish have got it covered.

However, the Pittsburgh edition of Metroblogging (a fairly heavily visited site in larger cities) seems to be a bust here.

Feb 19, 2008

Hey, Osama! Hands off Amtrak!

Faster than a speeding bullet train (you know,in Japan) Amtrak, the nation's leading passenger rail line (okay, it's the nation's only passenger rail line) issued notification that they are clamping down on possible terrorist attacks on their trains. Armed guards with bomb-sniffing dogs will patrol platforms and trains in Washington, DC's Union Station, performing random searches on passengers and their baggage.

Remember, it was little more than six years ago (that's only 72 months!) that terrorists used jumbo jets to bring down the World trade Center.

Amtrak officials said the rapid response was necessary to ensure they're dozens of passengers that their security and safety were of utmost importance.