Saturday, July 23, 2005

Why Does the LA Times Have Up To THREE Different Temperature Forecasts on Its Web Page?

And this happens on a regular basis.

1. 2-day Forecast for my zip code Downtown
Sat 80°|66°
Chance of a Thunderstorm
Sun 77°|65°

Then - there is my CURRENT Saturday Temperature:

10:47 Downtown 82 degrees

UPDATE! Now 85 degrees - with 80 degree forecast.

2. Five Day Forecast - Saturday and Sunday for Downtown
92° | 68° 89° | 67°

3. Area wide forecast for Saturday and Sunday is below. But if it's either going to be 92 downtown today - or 80 downtown today - as it says above - then it seems very unlikley that it will be in the 70's at the beach or in lower to mid 90's in the Valley and places like Riverside as it says below. Not impossible, but this still seems like an entirely different set of temperatures than the above two that already contradict each other.

Today...Partly cloudy. A chance of showers and thunderstorms this afternoon. Highs from the 70s at the beaches to the lower to mid 90s inland. Chance of precipitation 30 percent.

Tonight...Partly cloudy with a 30 percent of showers and thunderstorms. Lows in the 60s to lower 70s.

Sunday...Partly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs from the 70s at the beaches to the lower 90s inland.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Frank Gehry Story Most E-Mailed Story In Today's LA Times! Read It!,0,6213588.story?coll=cl-home-more-channels

And read my comments two posts ago....

John Carroll Blames Everyone But Himself For LA Times Circulation Collapse!

In today's Columbia Journalism Review (link courtesy of Romenesko), soon be to be former Editor of the Los Angeles Times John Carroll lists five reasons why the LA Times is losing readers faster than any other major newspaper in the country.

And guess what - content is not one of them! In fact, not a single one of the five reasons is anything he has control over!

Paul McLeary: One of the reasons the Los Angeles Times represents a puzzling -- even disturbing -- case study for the rest of us is the striking disparity between its journalistic performance (13 Pultizer prizes in five years) and its circulation performance (daily readership down 6.5 percent and Sunday readership down 7.9 percent in just the past 12 months). You must have felt at times like the gladiator who keeps vanquishing foes in the arena, yet every time he looks up at the bleachers, people are filing out the exits. As the guy who lived that paradox, do you have any insights into it to share?

John Carroll: I believe content had nothing to do with the circulation decline; if anything, the decline was mitigated by our content. Where does the blame lie? The list is long: 1. The scandal at Newsday, which prompted both our internal auditors and the Audit Bureau of Circulation to disallow certain types of sales that were previously considered legitimate. 2. The advent of the "do not call" list, which stymied our phone sales. 3. The reduction of the newspaper's cost base by more than $130 million annually, which cut the strength of marketing and promotion efforts, among others. 4. Issues on the business side that recently prompted the appointment of new directors of circulation and marketing. 5. And, of course, increased competition for readers' time. That's only a partial list.

Well, talk about the ultimate softball question! I mean, "...the gladiator who keeps vanquishing foes in the arena..." Excuse me while I visit my local vomitorium....

OK - that feels much better.

Nothing like a hard hitting journalist who asks the tough questions!

And, of course, no where in the interview is the subject even broached that the rapid decline in local content and the purging of Los Angeles voices from the paper might have anything to do with local readers fleeing in droves from the paper. Now the writer does bring up Mickey Kaus' complaint about the paper's increasingly stiff, East Coast writing style, but the concept that content might actually mean something to the readers of the LA Times, is completely ignored.

UPDATE! LAObserved also addresses the content, we don't need no stinkin' content claim.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Absolutely BRILLIANT Article On Frank Gehry And Grand Avenue In The... LA TIMES???,0,6213588.story?coll=cl-home-more-channels

Shortly after the Anti-Christ ascended at the LA Times (dooming that paper into the hell fires of everlasting perdition), LAT architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne blows the doors off the dying paper with an amazing critique of Frank Gehry, star architects, contemporary urban development and an array of related issues.

In fact, there are at least twenty different subjects that Hawthorne masterfully touches upon in this article, elegantly tying them all together into one insighful package. And there is not one snarky remark, no interjection of himself, no cheap shots, no political correctness - and no grandstanding.

Furthermore, working without a net, he even delves into arcane local political/cultural matters ... and comes out unscathed! Plus, as a final, unexpected, bonus - he also gets everything not just right - but devastatingly right!

Finally - and you'll love this - he even - very gently - corrects one of the many errors in the recent Editorial Page story on Frank Gehry! Errors, of course which, the LA Times will never admit to.

So how does this jibe with my oft-staked viewpoint that the biggest downfall of the LA Times is its wholesale importation of out-of-town talent and its ignoring of LA born and bred writers who actually know the territory?

Well, there are times when it works - and this is one of them.

The difference is that Hawthorne - unique among recent LAT imports, is willing to delve into the community, do his homework and then engage the city head-on. So even though he got most everything wrong in his recent SCI-Arc (and the name of the school was still written incorrectly on the website last time I looked) article, he was still willing to tackle the controversy in a way that no other LA Times writer would ever do.

But this time, he gets it all right.

So read the article - and not just once. There's a lot to savor and a lot to think about.

LA Times Gets Resume Of Old Editor -- WRONG!

Just like the La Times got the hometown and homestate of the new Publisher (both of which were nowhere near LA, of course) wrong - for NINE days - at least the LA Times finally discovered that they got the biography of their old Editor wrong.

Ooops! They didn't! Someone else discovered that!

But does the LA Times at least admit to the error on the now changed page?

Of course not!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

LA Times to Los Angeles - DROP DEAD!

Any hope of the LA Times making even the smallest effort to connect with the citizens of Los Angeles vanished today when New York Times clone Dean Baquet was made Editor. The enemy has won. The voices of this city have been silenced forever by out-of-towners who know nothing about this city - and care even less.

All we can do now is wait the for the once proud paper to die the slow, agonizing death it so justly deserves. So if you have not yet stopped your subscription - or canceled your ads, now is the time to do so. It is the least we can all do to show a little pride in our city.

(Cowboy Correction! I had mistakenly typed in publisher instead of editor when I first posted this, but an alert reader pointed out my error.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Does Anyone At The LA Times Know ANYTHING About LA? Editorial Page Blunders Again!,0,279418.story?coll=la-home-oped

After getting California's bond ratings history under Governor Schwarzenegger dead wrong - and then getting the Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's record even more staggeringly wrong - the LA Times Editorial Page now gets something more local... equally dead wrong.

See below:

This may be Gehry's first realized skyscraper, though not the first he has designed. Currently Southern California's favorite son, Gehry was spurned as the new financial-district spires of Los Angeles grew over several decades. He did his most acclaimed pre-Disney work for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain (the building that put the sagging industrial city on the international tourism map).

First, the more technical point - several skyscrapers Gehry has or is designing around the world may more likely be built before the one on Grand Avenue, though it could still be the first. But the real blunder is that they stated that his work on the Guggenheim Museum was done BEFORE his work on Disney Hall.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.


Gehry's essential design - which greatly prefigured the Guggenheim - was done a number of years BEFORE he did the design of Bilbao. Now granted Bilbao was built before Disney due to financing problems in LA, but the creative design work was done long BEFORE the Guggenheim, and not after, as anyone who lives in LA would/should know.

But, of course, since no one at the top of the masthead of the LA Times was anywhere near LA back then, none of them has any of idea about anything that happened in this city longer ago than say.... five minutes ago.

And that is the biggest tragedy of the LA Times, and this city.


In a piece of wonderful irony - looking into the files of the LA Times - even the architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune - Blair Kamin - writing in the LA Times recognizes that the Disney Hall design was done before Bilbao.

The origins of Disney Hall reach back to 1987, when the now-deceased Lillian Disney made a $50 million gift for a new concert hall in honor of her late husband, Walt, who was born in Chicago on Dec. 5, 1901, in a simple frame cottage at 2156 N. Tripp Ave.

A year later, Gehry won a design competition for the project, which would replace the neighboring Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. But a spiraling budget and management problems almost scuttled the effort. A groundbreaking for the hall wasn't held until late 1999. Miraculously, though, Gehry's original design concept survived and has become better with tweaking.

And in 'Art In America' - to put a finer point on this:

Disney Hall may have been built out of historic sequence--its design was begun several years before the Guggenheim Bilbao (1991-97) but finished six years after, in late 2003--yet it is culturally more significant because Disney Hall was the site of invention, the building that inaugurated Gehry's long, rich series of curvilinear structures that have repositioned the art of architecture and raised the bar of the discipline.

Two more quibbles. First, the LAT's Editorial Page seems to be unaware that the long awaited new Ralph's Supermarket is already under construction in the heart of downtown; hence any new one will NOT be the badly needed supermarket:

If Gehry isn't chosen, it is expected that he will have something to say about that and other buildings in the mixed development (including a badly needed downtown grocery store).

And as for the painting of Eli Broad as the villain in the Disney Hall story....

(Gehry's) fights with philanthropist and former housing developer Eli Broad over the adjacent Disney Hall, for instance, were legendary. In the end, Gehry out-waited Broad and essentially got the daring design he wanted.

... that is more than a little dishonest.

While they did fight over the costs of aspects of the design, if it wasn't for Eli Broad's leadership and his shaming of the elite of LA into paying for the building, Gehry's design would have likely never been built. But, of course, that all happened long before the current leadership of the Times was in LA.

Does Anyone Proofread Anything Before It Gets Printed At The LA Times?,0,541908.story?coll=cl-calendar

In an otherwise excellent review of Basquiat's ground breaking work now on display at MOCA, Christopher Knight gets a little... carried away....

The color Basquiat brought to art wasn't just in his paintings, it was in his skin. As recently as 1982, when the painter exploded simultaneously onto the art scenes in New York, Los Angeles, Zurich and Rome, the established art world was lily white, not to mention heterosexual, closeted and male. For all of Conceptualism's necessary social and political wrangling, which began to bubble up in the late 1950s, Basquiat understood that Pop is what possessed the power to change the actual landscape. That's one reason he and his pal Andy Warhol - 32 years his senior - formed such a strong bond. Today an Afro-Puerto Rican-American artist wouldn't turn a head. For that we have Basquiat's acutely subversive art to thank.

Yeah... right.

Does anyone actually believe that if Basquiat had not done his paintings, that a mixed race artist today would be an amazing, head turning sight? May I please see a show of hands?

No one?

Not... one single person?

I thought so.

And openly gay major artists (Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, David Hockney, Keith Haring, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg... to name just a few) and woman artists (Eva Hesse, Elizabeth Murray, Dianne Arbus, Judy Chicago, Helen Frankenthaler, Louise Bourgeois, Susan Rothenberg, Barbara Kruger, Lee Bontecou, Sandy Skoglund, Laurie Anderson, Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman.... again just to name a very, very few) were hardly the oddities in or before 1982 New York that Knight would have one believe. It is a shame is that an excellent overview of such a major artist is trivialized by such politically correct but intellectually dishonest off-the-cuff remarks.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

LA Times Opinion Section Gets Something Right!,0,5618142.story

Yeah, I know they are still trying to con us into calling it the... Current Section, but... seriously... does anyone think that name will stick?

I didn't think so.

So, anyway, the Opinion Section tomorrow is going to ask our opinion about something that has something to do with... Los Angeles! My God, does the editor and the publisher know about this?

Plus, unlike the wikitorial disaster (the legend of which has now reached Hindenburgian proportions in the retelling) - they are actually going to structure feedback in a way that can create serious civic engagement. I just hope that no one in Chicago finds out about this - and puts a stop to it!

Pump genius into our park

By Martin Kaplan
Martin Kaplan is associate dean of the USC Annenberg School and director of The Norman Lear Center (, which studies the impact of entertainment on society.

July 17, 2005

The announcement last week that architect Frank O. Gehry has been asked to design a 40- to 50-story skyscraper, to be built in the space next to his Disney Hall as part of downtown Los Angeles' $1.8-billion Grand Avenue project, offers a new opportunity for the city to focus on the park that will be created in the Gehry building's shadows.

Running from City Hall to the top of Bunker Hill, the 16-acre space will be "the new front lawn of the city," its proponents say ‚— "our Central Park." The Related Cos., developers of the Grand Avenue project, will pay for the park with a $50-million lease advance on the land underlying the project. Long before the sure-to-be iconic Gehry building was announced, the park-to-be had attracted a wish list of civic hopes, including cultural performances, political gatherings, farmers markets and pickup sports games.

But will it rise to those hopes? Are those the boldest proposals this city has to offer? And are the developer's focus groups really the best way to find the best suggestions?

My bet is that it's not too late to bust things open for an eruption of creative energy, to ventilate and galvanize and democratize the design process, to invite citizens of Los Angeles, architecture fans, design junkies and imagineers from around the world to brainstorm truly breakthrough ideas for our 21st century civic space.

Architecture is a kind of public theater. You playwrights and screenwriters, you set designers and choreographers, you producers and impresarios — what could you do with Los Angeles as a stage?

And how about you Hollywood lighting designers — how would you create drama without turning us into Las Vegas?

David Rockwell, you're a master of narrative architecture. What story could the design of our park tell?

Bran Ferrin, Bill Mitchell, Adam Powell and you other digital wizards out there: How could our park use Wi-Fi, HyperSonic Sound, pod-casting and the other cool tech in your toolkit to turn the public sphere into an information commons, a knowledge network, a virtual performance space?

The city's artists must have plenty of ideas, from subversive to sublime. Robbie Conal? Ed Ruscha? Robert Graham? MekOne?

And where are all the visionary urbanists? Manuel Castells? Witold Rybczynski? Norman Klein? Kevin Starr? How about conceiving a park for this era when the boundaries between work and leisure, entertainment and politics, consumption and citizenship have never been more porous.

Elizabeth Moule, Stefanos Polyzoides and you other New Urbanists: Isn't the Grand Avenue park a matchless opportunity for your movement to strut its stuff?

What about all you professors and students of architecture, planning and landscape design? Surely you could build on or better the 50 international proposals for a Los Angeles Civic Park solicited by the LA H* Urban Bureau, a group of artists and architects, in 2003.

And go to the article to read more. Then go to the second LA Times link:,0,91239.story

July 17, 2005

Downtown's asphalt is our backyard, so The Times Opinion Manufacturing Division has embraced the accompanying essay's call for a new round of brainstorming about what to do with the 16-acre park that will be the Grand Avenue project's centerpiece.

Strong entries will appear on the Lear Center website ‚— .

Current's website ‚— ‚— will link to that site and the strongest submissions will appear in these pages.

Contributors will not be compensated, and they will retain all rights to their proposals.

Proposals, from teams or individuals, should restrict themselves to the park's planned footprint and can address landscape design, technology, transportation Â… virtually any aspect of the park, big or small.

They can take the form of text, drawings, photographs and/or Web-friendly content such as animations or virtual tours.

Theoretical discussions are welcome, but only as elements of proposals.

If you think redeveloping downtown is a bad idea, this is not for you.

Present Grand Avenue plans, public comments and other resources are linked at . Submit entries by e-mail to or mail them to the Norman Lear Center, USC, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0281.

Brilliant, huh? But not just for the obvious reason of having a fomat that might actually... work. The true genius is that by limiting the scope of the project to the park instead of a free-for-all over the entire Grand Avenue project, this makes it possible to have a reasonable, real world discussion on a very specific issue.

Ironically, though, this very specificity also opens up the implications of the discussion. So even though this debate is limited to this one park - it still opens an entire debate about public spaces in all of Los Angeles - and asks the question - what should urban public spaces in the 21st Century be!

Wow! Pretty heady stuff, huh?

OK - citizens of LA - it's now up to you!

Friday, July 15, 2005

New York Times DiscoversTime Travel! See Below Book Review On-Line Today - July 15th!

July 24, 2005

'The Secret Man': The Insider

IN the spring of 1976 I took myself to the first available screening of ''All the President's Men,'' and sat enthralled in the darkness as Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman and Jason Robards portrayed the men I only wished I could be. When the lights came up at the conclusion, I discovered several of my journalistic colleagues dotted around the cinema, slumped thoughtfully in their seats. Our eyes met glancingly: we all knew what we were covertly thinking. If only. . . . And one day. . .

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Slightly More Recent Media Scandal! New York Times Can't Make Up Its Mind!!

July 13, 2005

May Trade Deficit Shows Slight Improvement

The nation's trade deficit shrunk markedly in May as a drop in oil prices offset increases in imports of other products, the government reported today.

I mean - do I really have to say... anything? 'Shrunk markedly' vs. 'slight improvement'?

Like, has anyone ever considered distributing... dictionaries... to the editors at the New York Times?

But I guess the new mantra over at the NY Times is if the facts in the story don't support your view - hell, just make up some new facts for the headline!

And then in the e-mail version - more fact free editing:

BUSINESS | July 13, 2005 May Trade Deficit Shows Slight Improvement By VIKAS BAJAJ The U.S. trade deficit narrowed unexpectedly in May to $55.3 billion as exports rose slightly to a new record and imports retreated a bit.

OK - so the original story said the trade deficit 'shrunk markedly', then one editor's headline said - 'slight improvement' and now the e-mail editor uses the words - 'narrowed', 'slightly' and 'a bit'.

Clearly no editorial bias here, folks!

Breaking News!

If the story does not fit the headline - the story must be changed to fit the headline! My lead quote at the top came from the front page teaser for the story. That teaser has now been changed to the following:

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed unexpectedly in May to $55.3 billion as exports rose slightly to a new record and imports retreated a bit.

So now the story on the lead page of the website drops 'shrunk markedly' for 'narrowed' - but the story it links to - is still what the writer had written. Now as the original story may shortly be sent to reeducation camp for political enlightenment - below is the top part story as it now appears. It will be curious to see what it ends up being by the time all the editors get finished with it.

July 13, 2005

May Trade Deficit Shows Slight Improvement

The nation's trade deficit shrunk markedly in May as a drop in oil prices offset increases in imports of other products, the government reported today.

The United States imported $55.3 billion in goods and services more than it exported, down from $56.9 billion in April and far from a peak of $60.1 billion in February, according to the Commerce Department. Economists were expecting a deficit of $57 billion.

Exports increased less than 1 percent, to $106.9 billion, while imports fell $1.4 billion, to $162.2 billion.

The trade deficit came on the same day that the Bush administration slashed its estimate of the federal budget deficit for fiscal 2005 to $333 billion, down $94 billion from an earlier forecast. The lower deficit numbers were cited by the White House as evidence that its policies have helped the economy.

"It's a sign that our economy is strong, and it's a sign that our tax relief plan, our pro-growth policies, are working," Mr. Bush said after a cabinet meeting in Washington today.


July 14, 2005

Trade Gap Narrowed in May; Trend Seen as Short-Lived

Major Media Scandal! 1906 Book On LA Publishes FRAUDULENT image of... Alexandria Hotel!!

First thanks to the ever vigilant Kevin at for the tip about and David Bullock's photos from a 1906 book on Los Angeles. Kevin in particular mentions the Alexandria Hotel illustration. But when I looked at it last night - the proportions looked all wrong. Then I realized that this architect's drawing showed the building to be far larger than the existing hotel, much less the original building before the two annexes were built.

Now I am still not certain which side of the hotel is being shown; the short side matches the window scheme on the 5th Street side, but the long side shows it going clear to the next street, all along Spring. But even what is shown would not reach that far.

Then I remembered that where the Broadway/Spring Arcade Building (which is now being lofted) now stands, was once Mercantile Place - a real street before it became an covered pedestrian mall. So it is likely that when the Alex was first designed, it was going to extend clear from 5th and Spring to Spring and Mercantile.

The only other option is that the long side shown is supposed to be from 5th and Spring to 5th and Broadway. But I will need to do a little more research before I can confirm which is correct.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Body Count Rises At Killer King/Drew! Even The Dead Are Not Safe!!,1,5877645.story?page=1&coll=la-headlines-california

Now that the LA Times has - finally - gotten the courage to call for a shut down and then immediate re-opening of Killer King/Drew with new managers and a new staff, the editorial page needs to keep the heat on to protect the residents of South Los Angeles. The most horrifying aspects of these endless stories is that it often takes months before the truth accidentally slips out - which means that many, many more incidents are likely happening that no one will ever know about.

A seriously ill patient died at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center after nurses failed to respond "for an extended period" to audio alarms signaling his distress — the seventh death in two years in which staffers have virtually ignored vital sign monitors, Los Angeles County health officials said Tuesday.

The incident, which took place in March, was one of four reported to the county Board of Supervisors in the last week in which patients allegedly received questionable care. Three of the cases occurred over four days last month.


"It's just one thing after another, with the eyes of the world on this hospital," said Supervisor Don Knabe. "It is outrageous. How many times can you say the word publicly? You can yell, scream, jump up and down, but things don't seem to change."

In the March incident, a patient in the cardiac unit was attached to a monitor so that his vital signs could be tracked constantly. According to a health department memo sent to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, none of the four nurses on the unit responded when alarms signaled that the patient was in distress. By the time one of them noticed the patient's condition, he could not be resuscitated.

Health officials said they did not learn of the incident until more than two months later, when a tipster alerted them.

Officials declined to provide further details of the case, but it was reminiscent of six other deaths in monitoring units since July 2003. In some of those cases, nurses were found not just to have neglected patients as they were dying, but to have turned down audio monitors or lied about their actions on patient charts. Several of the nurses have been fired. One nurse, who recently had her state nursing license revoked, wrote on a chart that a patient was not in distress, even though the woman's heart had stopped.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Treasure Hunting In The LA Times!,0,4502785.story?coll=la-home-outdoors

Every once in a while - and, granted it is only once in a very great while - the LA Times has an article about Los Angeles that can only be told by someone with a long connection with what the city is... and once was; an article that connects with the collective conscious - and unconscious of the city.

Today's LA Times example is Ann Japenga's, 'The End of a Golden Age'.

The end of a golden age

When did we, Coronado's children, lose the treasure-hunt bug?


July 12, 2005

WHEN I WAS growing up in the San Gabriel Valley in the late 1960s, people still believed in treasure. My parents took my three siblings and me gold panning on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, and families all over Southern California stashed sluice boxes in their station wagons for impromptu prospecting jaunts to the Mojave.

Rock-hounding and gold-seeking were nearly as popular as stamp collecting in those days. We tore maps to buried treasure out of magazines and studied stories about dehydrated prospectors who stumbled into town muttering "Black Butte" or some such clue with their last breath, all the while clutching a scrap of bandanna concealing a lump of gold.

Collectively, we believed there was something of value out there in the dirt, be it fossils, gems or relics.

I never thought about those teenage treasure trips again until I moved to Palm Springs a few years ago and found legends of loot up every canyon. I heard stories of Gus Lederer, the well-loved Corn Springs prospector who baked hotcakes for his 18 burros each morning. Then there are Peg Leg's lost gold, the Lost Pearl Ship of the Desert, treasure caves guarded by balanced rocks and an endless number of forgotten mines.

In fact, when an index to Desert magazine - a now defunct compendium to the desert and a valuable resource to us desert folk - was published recently, it contained no fewer than 11 pages of entries under "Lost Mines and Treasure," a glut that prompted the editor to ask: "Could there be more things lost in the desert than found?"

The treasures lost in the 1960s are for the most part still up for grabs, but there's one big difference today: The treasure seekers are gone.

Some of my earliest memories are looking for actinolite (a green crystalline mineral) in the great wash near our cabin in Wrightwood, and hunting for rare minerals to fill up my Dana collection in old mine tailings, and digging for purple bottles in the trash dumps of old ghost towns, careful to always fill in the holes and to never disturb the old buildings or anything in them.

Later, in high school, I searched the Superstition Mountains for the 'Lost Dutchman's Mine' and in the summer between high school and UCLA, I tramped the Pajarito Mountains on the Arizona/Mexico border in search of a long vanished Spanish mining town, using old photographs from the 1920's.

I never found the town, but I did find centuries old, lichen covered mining trails and in trying to discover more, ended up exchanging stories of the supernatural with Carlos Castaneda back at UCLA where I become the first person to read his doctoral thesis, 'The Teachings of Don Juan'.

But even more than the conventional treasures I searched for, I discovered what this country felt like when the first white men found it and how it was to be truly alone, the only man within 20 or 30 or even 50 miles. And then, one night in the Owens Valley, I discovered a group of fellow seekers, looking for their own 19th century treasure, and then spent ten years with them searching for it - and finding it until the one day it all ended.

Yes, Ann Japenga is right.

The treasure seekers of our generation are long gone, and will never return. But hopefully, there are other treasure seekers, in other places, looking for their own treasures and discovering that, as we finally did, that it is the search that is the best treasure of all.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

New LA Times Current Section! Prime Rib Or ...Hamburger Helper? Where's The Beef??

As I said earlier today - after the wickitorial disaster of trying to engage the people of LA through a major international issue rather than an issue that affects our every day lives - it would seem unimaginable that the LA Times could make the same mistake a second time.

But they did.

The overriding subject they choose to launch this feature was... terrorism.

Now as it turns out - with the Thursday bombings in London - terrorism has suddenly became a hot topic again. And the lead story became the most e-mailed story in the LA Times today (though I doubt if it was as nearly well read in the print section due to the design problems with the printed section).

And I should state that the articles chosen were well thought out and they were written by a variety of expert commentators. But each of those articles could have just as easily been found in the NY Times, the Washington Post, any news magazine, the Wall Street Journal - or any of a dozen other sources.

But what about the stories that only an LA based paper would cover? What about stories that affect those of us who actually live in LA on a day to day basis? Why not launch the new section with a focus on... Los Angeles?

Well, because then, it wouldn't be the LA Times.

As for the rest of the pieces, there was Joel Stein attacking Harry Potter books - which of course is an easy way to drive traffic to any site. The problem though is that his unsure mix of satire, often, but not always failed comedy and trying to make serious points never quite seems to come off as intended. He always seems to be straining for affect rather than being concerned about actual content

Dennis Prager's column on Jews as the Chosen People is another sure fire subject, but it needed to be much longer to really tackle all the subjects he tried to address. I am also not really sure what it is I was supposed to walk away from with after reading the piece. Laurence Leamer's article on Arnold and the media, however, was just long enough to make his points.

As for Govindini Murty's piece on how Hollywood elites are making movies that offend half of the country, I do agree that there are audiences that Hollywood is clearly missing, but I feel that declining ticket sales have as much to do with legal DVD sales and cheap pirated DVD's and computer video streams that arrive before a film even opens. It is, again, a subject that needs more space to really do justice to.

The most successful feature, as usual, was the OUTSIDE THE TENT piece. This week it was by Jamie Court of the misleadingly named Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. Below are his best points:

The valuable real estate of the "letters to the editor" section - the only place for readers to speak - is regularly carved out so editorial writers can comment on "Editorials Elsewhere." As if anyone cares what the Los Angeles Times has to say about what the Washington Post has to say?

The new "Thinking Out Loud" feature - "an experiment in making up our minds in public" - often has been nothing but a group blog. To let editorial writers "think aloud" about traffic, for instance, all letters to the editor were canceled on June 16. Apparently the mundane details of editorial writers' commutes - including graphics of their departure and arrival times - held more import than a day of readers' commentaries about the news.

Editorial analysis will also be abandoned for the editorial page's new "SoCal Life" feature - allowing writers to "reflect on life in this region." Editorials are usually devoted to the rough and tumble of policy and social issues, not why it's so hard to find a nanny.

One senses a preference for talking heads from editor and onetime "Crossfire" host Michael Kinsley, who oversees the editorial page, op-ed and Current. Editorial Page Editor Andrés Martinez recently told the New York Times: "Michael does like to ask questions, such as, 'In today's world, what is the continuing relevance of a newspaper editorial board?' "

Relevance is not, however, injecting more personality onto the page, as Martinez and Kinsley have done by each writing a column of personal opinion every week on the op-ed page - which once stood for "opposite the editorial page." Now it's a colony of it. Beyond that, The Times has increased from three to 11 the number of regular columnists that inhabit the daily op-ed page. That narrows the space for community voices and first-person accounts.

Nearly all the new columnists could be bloggers in that they have a common way of conversing about conventional wisdom rather than presenting original points of view. If I wanted to hear Margaret Carlson's June retread of well-traveled headlines on President Bush and the Republican Party, I would watch her on CNN.

Lastly, after reviewing the new section, one fact remains. After reading all these articles and all these opinions - what action items did we walk away with? What changes might people make in their lives or in their communities after reading the new 'Current' section? What real affect might anything said in the 'Current' section have on anyone's life?

The answer is... none.

And if it for that reason that this section - along with the rest of the LA Times - remains completely and utterly irrelevant to the daily life of this city.

But at least they're trying! And that does mean a lot. But LA Times still has to find a way to find out from the people who actually read their paper - what they want to see in that paper.

New LA Times Current Section. Pass? Fail? Incomplete? First, Layout, Design - And That New... Title!!!

First, the title. Current. Editor Bob Sipchen admits that the new title of the Opinion section is, "bland in an AL Gore sort of way..."


It is bland in a younger brother of Al Gore who no one ever remembers kind of way. I also keep typing it as 'Currents' as in the 'Currents' feature in the New York Times. And unlike Opinion or Business or Entertainment - it intuitively tells you nothing about what is in the section. And it simply does not roll off the tongue. Can you really imagine people saying - did you read that article in Current last Sunday?

So... back to square one on that.

Second, graphic design.

Page 1 - When you first pull out the section, all you see is too much type crammed together that is too hard to read and the top half of a drawing that is totally unreadable. There is no reason why anyone would want to open this section based on what is above the fold. So most people will just set it aside, at least at first.

If you are going to keep the new format - the top teasers need to be far easier to read (and snappier) and far more bullet point. Plus the name 'Current' needs to be a less thick typeface with a much more... contemporary font. It is simply too heavy and not even remotely current in feel or style.

And the thick black lines that separate articles are... way too thick and black. Rather than separating stories, your eyes go to them rather than... to what is on either side of the bar. The thick bars overpower the too small type (and weak fonts) on either side of them, detracting from the design

And, going back to the design above the fold of the first page, the only thing that might get you to open the section - is the word 'terrorism' - and that is done in a too light too hard to read red type and, again, the font is way too thick to pop off the page. Plus, again, it is overpowered by the thick black bar.

Below the fold of the front page, the 'By The Numbers' column is hard to read due to the sentences being broken into little, itty bitty, tiny little lines. And it takes a moment to realize that the story is not appended to either of the stories on either side of it.

Page 2 - The three tiny little columns down the middle of the page with only 2 or 3 words per line... are totally impossible to read. Surely this will immediately be seen as a big mistake and whoever designed them... publicly executed.

Page 3 - God, are those long, little columns annoying as Hell. Whoever designed them should like rot in Hell for like... all eternity.

Page 4 -The redo of the Editorial page is a complete disaster. Every single change makes the editorials far, far hard to read (of course - can that really be a bad thing?).

I feel like I am reading a book meant for four- year-olds - and not very bright four-year-olds at that. Letters part is OK, though.

Page 5 - Other than thick black lines sucking all the oxygen off the page, the layout here works.

Page 6 - 'Shelf Life' column would still work better as a horizontal than a vertical piece, but at least it is readable, unlike other long, skinny columns. Illustration well done - but does not give a quick read, and is not memorable like a great editorial cartoon. More art than editorial. Same could be said of front page art. Good art - unsuccessful editorial. Rest of page is fine.

Next... content...

LA Times Supreme Court Web Blog!

It is now pushing noon and the web blog that is part of the new Current (former LAT Opinion) section has a grand total of two - that's 2! - responses on it. Nothing like picking a topic (if Supreme Court nominees should be asked specific policy questions during the confirmation process) that really engages the citizens of this city on a daily basis to get a full scale debate going!

UPDATE!! It is closing in on Midnight - and there are only six comments on the entire blog! And since one of them is from a sub-literate who can barely form a sentence - and two of them are responses to tell her that she is a moron - that leaves only three real responses. Ironically, one of the six articles is written by blogger Eugene Volokh, who got fifteen comments on his post on his blog about his post in the LA Times!

New LA Times Current/Former Opinion Section - Doesn't Totally Suck! But - Still Fails To Engage The Citizens Of Los Angeles!!

OK, so we now have a new Current section that is far superior to the old Opinion section. And I will shortly address why it is in some ways, superior... in concept, if not execution.

But... and here is there is one very big 'but' here - the entire new section virtually ignores Los Angeles! I mean there is not ONE article in the new format that talks about the problems of City of Los Angeles in the entire freakin' section!! (And... please... do not count Joel Stein babbling about himself as being about issues facing LA)

To go back to the recent disaster that was the wickitorial feature, that concept was doomed by the brain dead idea to take the one issue (the war in Iraq) that could generate only heat and no light, the one issue on which people's minds were already make up on, and the one issue with which hardly anyone in LA had any direct, first hand knowledge or experience. To then chose that subject to inaugurate a open dialogue among the citizen's of LA clearly shows the need to open up those hermetically sealed windows at the LA Times and let some fresh air in.

Anyone who lives in a world where impressing the New York Times is not the most important thing in your life would have known what was going to happen.

But now, to make a similar mistake a SECOND time - and to start off this new dialogue with the citizens of LA with a section that completely ignores LA for exclusively foreign and national and statewide policy issues, my God - what are those people breathing/smoking in that building?

LA Times - FINALLY - Does The Right Thing On King/Drew!

Below is the long awaited editorial in today's Sunday paper:


An attractive King/Drew

July 10, 2005 It's easy to see why the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors would be tempted to turn the long-troubled Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center over to a private, nonprofit corporation. The supervisors need only look at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood to see a model that works. Just three miles from the county-owned King/Drew, the Catholic hospital serves a similar community of desperately poor and sick patients. There the comparison stops. The Daughters of Charity Health System has a reputation for running very good hospitals. The county has a reputation for utterly mismanaging King/Drew, and has for decades. But here's the conundrum: What nonprofit group with a reputation worth losing is going to risk taking on the inattentive nurses and negligent doctors whose medical errors have cost King/Drew its accreditation and some patients their lives? For years, King/Drew's defenders blamed the hospital's problems on the challenges of serving such an impoverished community and on the county's stingy funding. St. Francis' success disproves the first, and a yearlong Times investigation showed that the county spends far more per patient at King/Drew than any of its other hospitals. Instead, the root of King/Drew's problems lay in the tendency of everyone involved — supervisors, health department officials, hospital employees and community supporters — to put politics before patient care, to treat the facility founded after the Watts riots as a job bank, not a hospital. Over the last two years, the supervisors have at last begun confronting the continuing crisis, first by sending in a team of top managers from other county hospitals and more recently by spending millions of dollars on a company that specializes in hospital turnarounds. But each small gain seems to be followed by new setbacks, such as the recent federal inspection that cited yet more medical errors, misconduct and another troubling death. The supervisors continue to try to fix a model that just hasn't worked. To make progress, they must first end the hospital's relationship with the private and equally troubled Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. Then downsize King hospital to a smaller, more limited community hospital that concentrates on patient care, not teaching and research. The notion that it takes a teaching hospital to lure physicians to poor urban areas was true before managed care, but now doctors are more accustomed to working on contract. Attracting a new group of physicians would go a long way to changing a culture that for too long has put politics and jobs before patients. It's the kind of real reform that could make King/Drew an attractive prospect for a private takeover.

Using a simple, clear, direct sentences, the LA Times elegantly lays out the problems at King/Drew and then clearly identifies the only possible solutions to the problems that have plagued that institution - and the surrounding community - for decades. In other words, the LA Times editorial staff has finally grown some balls.

The only question now is, why did they wait so long to take a position on this? Why did so many people have to die and so many people have to receive totally inadequate medical attention before the editors of the LA Times would break their year's long silence on these much needed reforms?

The answer, I think is clear. In no other community other than South Los Angeles would the Times have remained silent for so long. Hopefully, though, this will no longer be the case.

Friday, July 08, 2005

LA Times Gives LA Cowboy Massive Heart Attack!!,0,3234065.story?coll=la-home-headlines&track=hppromobox

Well... OK.... so maybe it wasn't exactly all that massive.

And, well... maybe it wasn't exactly quite a heart attack.

But... after this poor ole cowboy had just gotten back to his lair after doing fifty (that's... 50) laps in the pool at Bally's Hollywood - to then force him to run ten blocks, including up to the very top of Bunker Hill... for nothing.... well... his poor ole heart was sure thumpin' somethin' awful. See below:

Swing time The Lucky Stars, one of L.A.'s leading western swing bands, continues to uphold Spade Cooley's musical tradition, playing shows throughout July: 7-10 p.m. Friday at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A., free. (213) 972-3660 7-9:30 p.m. July 29 the Farmers Market, 6333 W. 3rd St., L.A., free. More info: 8:30 p.m. July 31 at the Derby, 4500 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Feliz, $15. (323) 663-8979

I mean... free cowboy swing - like, how could this cowboy miss that? Especially... the free part. But after crawling back to my den, I then looked that at the Lucky Stars' website - and it turned out that it was not THIS Friday as the Times clearly implied (liars!) but - NEXT Friday, July 15th.

I might add that when I clicked on the Music Center link (prior to starting my marathon run) all it gave me was... the Music Center... and nothing about this free (and did I yet mention this event is... free?) event.

But at least all you cowgirls will know where this cowboy will be next Friday night beteeen 7 and 10.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

New York Times Discovers LA Art Scene!

The fact it has taken me this long to comment on a July 3rd New York Times story about the LA art scene, tells the story in itself.

I can remember back in the early 1990's when Art News did their Big LA/California issue. I was standing around in some gallery's back room while we watched faxed copies of the article - fresh off the press in New York - arriving. And as someone made copies of the pages as they appeared and handed them out - almost the first thing that anyone said was, " My God - It's all about us!"

And she was right. Many of those mentioned were in that room at that moment and virtually all of us knew each other and most of us saw each other several nights a week on the circuit - Tommy Solomon's Garage, Sue Spaid's Gallery, Food House, Bliss, Domestic Setting, Bennet Roberts, Three Day Weekend, Post, TRI (which I think was capitalized, but I am not sure now any more than I can say with certainty how many Laura's - five? - were in that even then famous show) - along with the slightly older more established galleries.

The LA art world then was a relatively small one and very incestuous one - in all them meanings of the word - and having many of our artist friends and gallery owners recognized in a semi-major New York art magazine was a big deal.

Cut to today, and this latest New York overview of the LA art world has created barely a ripple. The gallery scene is now far larger and it is increasingly spread all over the city. LA's art schools (even down in Irvine) virtually all have international reputations and the numbers of working artists is far larger, far too many for everyone to know each other any more. And as for recognition in New York (or London or Cologne, for that matter), today it is a given for an LA artists today to show in New York as major NYC galleries scoop up LA artists before they are even out of art school and, often, before they have even had their first LA solo show.

But I suspect, that even with all these new levels of sophistication - that some of the people named when reading that article will exclaim - "My God - It's all about us!"

LA Time Reporter Performs Faith Healing Miracle! Returns Hollywood Brown Derby Building... From The Dead!!,0,5847753.story?coll=cl-home-more-channels

In a review of a new nightclub - Basque - on the site of the much lamented - The Deep - the LA Times mentions that this was also the site of the famous Hollywood Brown Derby.

Nothing puts an olive in a martini faster than jiggling girls behind two-way mirrors, and Deep was the club with the most cheesecake. So when new owners Brad and Dave Weida decided to take over and retool the infamous spot at the corner of Hollywood and Vine (once a Brown Derby) under the new moniker Basque, they made sure they stocked it with plenty of go-go dancers.

Now will miracles never cease!

I say this because not only was the Hollywood Brown Derby demolished after the last major earthquake, making this building's posthumous reappearance miraculous enough, but in an equally spectacular piece of LA Times legerdemain, the LA Times also moved this magically reconstructed building from 1628 N. Vine to 1707 N. Vine!

Ah... the power of the press!!!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

How The Getty Dissed The Duccio! And Continued Silence From The LA Times Editorial Board!!

An article in the current NEW YORKER magazine details both the history and the recent purchase of the last major Duccio in private hands by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It also explains that the Getty Museum refused to even make an offer on this masterpiece. What it doesn't explain is why Getty Trust's Board of Directors allows Barry Munitz, director of the Munitz, I mean, the Getty Trust, to use the Getty's funds to buy himself international friends and influence instead of building a major art collection in Los Angeles.

Christiansen had this and a lot more information in mind last fall, when Philippe de Montebello, the Metropolitan's director, returned from vacation and was immediately shown the Duccio transparency. When he heard what the asking price was, he sort of blanched, and said, "Where am I going to find the money?," Christiansen recalls.

"But you know Philippe. If he wants something, and the trustees know he wants it. I had no doubt that the funds could be found. In twenty-eight years as the Met's director, de Montebello has acquired, along with countless works of art, a huge reservoir of suave personal authority. "I was just smitten by the transparency, as anyone would be," he told me, and I decided we had to go and look at this picture."

This meant going to the London office of Christie's, where the Duccio was held. "I knew it was something we could pull off and something we must pull off," he said. "After all, the Met is the institution that bought the Velázquez 's Juan de Pareja in 1970, for $5.5 million and Rembrandt's "Aristotle with a Bust of Homer," in 1961, for $2.3 million.

He didn't mention Jasper Johns's "White Flag" for which the Met paid something more than twenty million dollars in 1998 - the museum's most expensive acquisition until Duccio. Auction records keep being broken for more than that, of course; Picasso's Rose Period "Boy with a Pipe" went for a hundred and four million dollars at Sotheby's in 2004. For de Montebello, the Duccio's price was almost incidental. "It's not what you pay for the important things that people remember," he said. "But, if you don't buy them, it's forever, and that's unacceptable."

The Duccio was being offered not only to the Met. The Getty Museum, in Los Angeles, had already turned it down, reportedly because of the price. This struck Christiansen as ironic, because the price was so clearly predicated on the fifty-five million dollars that the Getty had agreed to pay, two years earlier, for Raphael's small, perfectly preserved "Madonna of the Pinks."

The British government temporarily denied that picture an export permit, to give English buyers a chance to come up with the necessary funds; they did, and the Raphael is now in London's National Gallery. (There would be no export problems for the Duccio, because its owners were Belgian, and the relatively lenient Belgian laws on exporting art apply mainly to architecture and furniture.) The Met's only serious rival at this point was the Louvre. The Louvre, like the Metropolitan, had no Duccio to anchor its glorious collection of early Italian art, and its acquisition money, from museum funds and private sources as well as from the French government, were eminently tappable.

De Montebello, Christiansen, and Dorothy Mahon, the museum's head of paintings conservation, flew to London on September 24th. They spent two hours with the little painting. They held it in their hands, and examined the surface with a ten-inch magnifier. Its state of preservation amazed them. The colors of all Renaissance paintings have altered to some degree over time, especially the blues, which often become formless black shapes with no visible definition.

In this case, the modelling of the folds in the Virgin's deep-blue mantle was largely intact. Duccio had used a high-quality blue made from azurite, Mahon told me later, after she and her colleagues had analyzed the picture in the Met's conservation studio. "The buildup was so skillfully done," Mahon said, "with different colors of azurite and then lead white in the final one." (White is more resistant to chemical change than dark colors are.)

Seeing the painting at Christie's was enough to convince de Montebello. "There was not an ounce of doubt in my mind about it," he told me. A sense of urgency - he was aware that his colleagues at the Louvre had already been to see the painting - led him to make an offer on the spot, an offer that was, he indicated, close to the asking price.

Now, as for what the LA Times Editorial Board has to say about any of this....

Well, since this is a subject that directly affects Los Angeles, it said nothing - of course!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Why The New York Times Is Cooler Than The LA Times!,1,3830104.story?page=2&coll=la-news-science

Both the LA Times and the New York Times covered an 'impactor' scoring a direct hit on a comet deep in space last night. Both of them also described how the mission was a complete success. Both also discussed how it would enable scientists (including local scientists at JPL) to discover the make-up of a comet. Both papers also emphasized a secondary aspect of the story.

And therein lies our sad, sad story. First the New York Times:

An added reason to probe comets is that they, along with rocky asteroids, pose the threat of hitting the Earth and causing cataclysmic damage. Potential planetary defense requires knowing more about these objects in hopes of deflecting or destroying dangerous ones, experts say.

Pretty cool, huh? I know that was the first thing that popped into my mind - could this prove once and for all that we could stop a killer comet or asteroid from crashing into the earth - or was this just the stuff of science fiction. I mean, only the entire future of the human race depends on having this technology.

And now the LA Times:

"We want to understand how the inside is different from what we see from the ground," said Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland, who proposed the mission and is in charge of it. "That will then allow us to understand what came to Earth from comets."


I mean this is a event that was actually partially orchestrated here - JPL in Pasadena - the science-fiction and film capitol of the world - and the LAT blows the one cool part of the story? They don't even ask - much less answer - the one - hell, the only - question that anyone hearing about his even would want to know?


WWW.MSN.COM has the news you really want to know about blowing up comets and saving planet earth!!

No danger to Earth
Collisions with objects such as comets and asteroids are thought to have sparked mass extinctions on Earth in the ancient past, including the disappearance of the dinosaurs. Scientists emphasized that Comet Tempel 1 poses no threat to Earth — and that the Impactor blast, though spectacular, had essentially no effect on the comet's course. However, A'Hearn said the mission could represent one small step toward heading off a catastrophic cometary collision if and when the time came.

"The knowledge that comes out of this Â… is important to understanding how to deflect a comet," he told reporters.

So we haven't quite yet found how to stop a comet or asteriod from destroying earth - but at least now we know how to hit one and what happens when we do hit it.

I know I'll sleep easier tonight!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Did LA Times Editorial Page Totally Blow Another Editorial - Seriously Big Time??

Supreme Court decisions are not my field of expertise, but Patterico has this field covered, so I would believe him over the LA Times Editorial Page... any day. See below:


L.A. Times Needs a New Fact-Checker for Those Editorials
Filed under: Dog Trainer, Judiciary - Patterico @ 11:27 pm

Today's L.A. Times editorial on Justice O'Connor opens with this statement:

One fact sums up Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's pivotal role on the Supreme Court and the enormity of her resignation - she alone was in the majority of every one of the court's 13 5-4 decisions this last term.

Wow. That's really impressive. Except for one small problem ... there were 24 5-4 decisions this Term, not 13 - and Justice O'Connor was in the minority in quite a few of those cases.

Why Can't The LA Times Tell The Truth About Its Mistakes?

First, thanks to Mickey Kaus of KAUSFILES for the above link.

The linked post describes how the LA Times totally screwed up on their reporting a law passed by the Riverside Board of Supervisors. Here is what Mickey Kaus has to say:

Speaking of real-world facts, Conor Friedersdorf catches the LAT reporting on the front page about a legislative event--the approval of an anti-Sudafed provision in Riverside--that didn't actually happen. The paper then weaseled out of printing a correction. ... When I do that I get nasty emails! ... True, even diligent reporters can get it wrong. But was the LAT diligent? There are two bylines on the initial story but no evidence that either reporter actually attended the meeting at which the controversial law was voted on. ... Yes, it would be terrible for Southern California if we lost this valuable civic resource!

After reading the two versions of the story in the linked post, it is clear the LA Times reported on what the proposed ordinance was originally going to be, but as they (apparently) didn't actually attend the meeting, they didn't realize that a totally different ordinance was actually voted on. Kind of like, say... reporting on what happened at a sporting event before the sporting event happened and then discovering that the people who had said they were going to be there, were not there.

Sounds familiar?

But did the LA Times print a retraction saying that totally screwed the pooch on this one? Did they apologize to their readers on the front page for a publishing a totally false front page story?

Yeah, right.

Now when I read the next day's cover-up, I mean, follow-up story at the time, I have to admit that I was confused as hell as to what had actually happened. And guess what - that was the whole point! To keep us from realizing that they had pulled a Mitch Albom.

However, there is a big difference between when Albom did and the LA Times is trying to pull off. All Mitch Albom did was to write a story in advance (due to the deadlines of his column) about a game he did not attend in which two players were going to be in the stands, but ended up not attending.

That, however, had no impact on the real story that was being told.

Here, though, the LA Times wrote a story on a front page event - and then got the facts totally wrong since the reporters - presumably - not only did not bother to attend the meeting, but also - apparently - never bothered to follow up with interviews after the meeting.

And yet not only will the LA Times not apologize for this error - they won't even admit it!

LA Times Overly Harsh On LA Phil? You Be The Judge!,0,6901155.story

The first linked story in the LA Times describes how the LA Phil is still a tough ticket to score in the new Disney Hall. The second story questions the LA Times 'slant' of the story. The main point made is:

Using Good News The Wrong Way

In a recent article of the Los Angeles Times by Christopher Reynolds, the increase in the number of tickets sold by the Los Angeles Philharmonic certainly paints the organization is a positive light.

The article points out that over the past three years, the orchestra has increased the number of tickets it sells (181,457 in 2002-2003 season to 302,428 in the 2004-2005 season) along with expanding the number of performances it offers (from 98 in the 2002-2003 season to 165 in the 2004-2005 season).

Using those figures, the LA Phil has experienced an overall increase in ticket sales of approximately 16%. That is absolutely good news and the LA Phil should be very proud of their accomplishments. In a perfect world, the LA Phil will continue to enjoy attendance figures of 95% or better without having to reduce their number of performances for years to come.

This is certainly good news for the LA Phil, a double digit increase in overall ticket sales over the past few years while also increasing the number of overall performances is a wonderful accomplishment.

So how can such good news get used in a negative way?

For the simple reason that the article seems to imply that in order to improve its 60% capacity rate, the LAP built their new hall with 831 less seats (or a 27% reduction in the number of available seats). Keep in mind the article does not state that overtly, but that's what I inferred

Now I did not get that implication when I first read the article, and I am not certain if I see that implication now. What do you think? But what really puzzles me is how ticket sales going from 181,457 to 302, 428.... is a 16% increase?

UPDATE! The 16% was a now corrected typo. It was a 66% increase.

More On New York Times Cultural Myopia!

On June 24th, I commented on a New York Times article about the threatened death of the classical music audience and I most gently (by LA Cowboy standards, anyway, as I left the writer's entrails mostly intact) chided it for not looking at examples that contradicted its thesis, particularly when it came to looking at non-New York examples. It turns out I am not the only one to take exception with this article, even though they did it from a slightly different - but just as valid - perspective.

Drew McManus, whose superb BLOG on symphony orchestras ( , I just discovered thanks to a vigilant reader of LA COWBOY, has the following (in part) to say:

Case in point, the recent article by Anne Midgette in the 06/26/05 edition of the New York Times. Overall, it is a well written, thoughtful article which examines some of the trends for large orchestra in major metropolitan areas across the U.S. Unfortunately, it also makes it very easy for readers to draw universal associations between what's happening at some the largest budget orchestras in the country (Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Boston) and every other orchestra in the business as though what's happening in those groups is what’s happening everywhere.

Granted, this is the NYT and it makes perfect sense to focus their articles on what’s happening in New York, but I wish thier editors wouldn't approve articles which draw universal connections between what may be happening in New York and the rest of the country (at least with orchestras anyway). Everyone would be better served if they took more of a local approach or made the distinction between any connection between trends for the New York Philharmonic and say, the Nashville Symphony.

For example, the article examines classical music from a “supply and demand” viewpoint almost always an unadvisable idea in my opinion),

“All over the Western world, the alarm is sounding that classical music is in trouble. Orchestra subscription sales are dropping widely, in some cases by as much as two percentage points a year. Ensembles are not balancing their budgets. Audiences are getting older; young people are turned off by classical music.

Is it true that people don't want classical music anymore? Or is it just a question of how to give it to them? And is it even possible - heresy of heresies - that they are being given too much of it?

By their very nature, orchestras cannot follow the laws of supply and demand. Major orchestras give their musicians contracts for 52 weeks a year, then have to figure out how to occupy them. This is one reason orchestras have summer festivals in the first place: to give the musicians something to do.”

Unfortunately, this is an over simplistic view of how the orchestral side of classical music functions. Furthermore, it completely disregards what’s happening in other orchestras which demonstrate trends which are opposite of some of those which are detailed in the article.

It also assumes the current “demand” for what a few of the big budget orchestras deliver is representative of the rest of the country. Fortunately, there are some real examples of organizations where they are more concerned with expanding the demand for classical music rather than sit back and bemoan 60% capacity rates with the scrutiny applied in the NYT article.

Here’s a series of examples using three orchestras of varying budget size:

In Los Angeles, the Philharmonic has expanded their number of primary venue concerts from 98 in the 2002-2003 season to 165 in the 2004-2005 season. Within that same period, they’ve experienced a 16% increase in overall ticket sales. Granted, they did move into the luxurious new Disney Hall, but keep in mind that it was built in the same neighborhood as their old venue. This fact indicates they didn’t have to go foraging for new patrons in neighboring communities, attend summer festivals, or carpetbag their way into a community where an orchestra recently collapsed just to give their musicians something to do; the audience was there all along.

Latest City Commission Appointments! What You Won't Find in The LA Times!!

While the LA Times reports that the new Mayor has appointed (and de-appointed) a number of commissioners - only the Los Angeles Business Journal tells us who they are!

In one of his first official acts, Villaraigosa followed through on a campaign pledge to remove any lobbyists from city boards and commissions.

Three of the commissioners – Dominick Rubalcava (Water & Power), Mike Roos (Recreation and Parks) and Ronald Stone (Neighborhoods) – had already submitted letters of resignation to Villaraigosa. His letters to the other two – Carol Schatz (Convention and Exhibition Center Authority) and Irene Camarena (Status of Women) – ended their terms as of Friday.

Villaraigosa also made three appointments to the Board of Public Works: Cynthia Ruiz, Paula Daniels and Dave Sickler. Ruiz, a longtime friend and adviser to Villaraigosa, had served on the board for over a year until former Mayor James Hahn removed her last year.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Still More On SCI-Arc!!

In today's on-line edition of the Downtown News, Sam Hall Kaplan announces the worst kept secret in downtown - that he - among others - have been working to resolve the SCI-Arc/Richard Meruelo faux-sitzkrieg of the past few months. The bizarre claims (made in a newspaper whose name I will not mention) that SCI-Arc would be driven out of its home - or that Meruelo was an enemy of the school can now be clearly seen as falsehoods they were.

While a tough businessman, Meruelo also has a passionate love for this city and he always planned to make SCI-Arc the center of this project.

But if SCI-Arc did blunder with its foolish lawsuit, Meruelo did not help his case with his 'proposed' fifty story towers on the site. They were all too clearly, merely... stalking horses. I think my words when he showed me the plans was it was the most insane project I had ever seen; though there is the possibility I used somewhat stronger language.

But now that the ill-advised lawsuit has been dismissed, the real work can be gotten to. Creating a great urban project and a permanent home for SCI-Arc - in the Arts District, where it belongs.

Amazing Photographer I Never Heard Of Before!

Go to the NY Times July 1st New York gallery reviews and scroll down to Elizabeth Heyert's review; read it, then click on the slide show further up the page. Her photograph is the 7th slide down.

Heyert took the photos in a Harlem mortuary where the dead are laid out in all their finery, expressing their lives as both how they were - and as how they would have liked them to have been. While no reference is made to the King Tut exhibit here at LACMA, the parallels are obvious.

Powerful, haunting, beautiful work.

UPDATE! More on Elizabeth Heyert at:

Insufficient LA Times Correction!

In the below LAT correction, the LA Times corrects their inability to tell Chino from.. Cornona - hey, they both start with... 'C'! ... among other things...

Friday, July 1, 2005
Older prisoners A Los Angeles Times Magazine article Sunday about the increasing number of elderly prisoners in California prisons incorrectly stated that former Gov. Gray Davis said that murderers would leave prison during his term only "in a pine box." Although others have characterized his policy in this way, Davis did not actually make this remark. Also, the article incorrectly referred to the location of the California Institution for Women. It is in Chino, not Corona.

Also the dumb-as-a-post-hole-error I spotted (but was too busy to post on due to the new LACOWBOY project semi-crawling along), was corrected - but insufficiently, so:

In addition, the article incorrectly stated that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger "is on exactly the same page" as Davis when it comes to releasing murderers. The governor, in fact, has granted parole to 84 convicted murderers whose sentences made them eligible for release, whereas Davis allowed five to be paroled.

The part they are missing is that Arnold paroled 84 murders in well under a year - while Davis only paroled five in almost FIVE years. Pretty big difference - huh? But not to the LA Times.