Sunday, October 30, 2005

LA Times Publishes - LA Cowboy! Billy Crystal, Neil Simon And Eli Broad Asked To Save Los Angeles!,0,2773623.story?coll=la-sunday-commentary

Yes, journalistic standards have plummeted so low at the Los Angeles Times, they have stooped to printing an Op-Ed piece by... LA Cowboy.

Oh, the shame of it!

And it's not even one of their Out-Of-The-Tent' features, either (which would then, of course need to be called, the 'Not-Even-In-This-Friggin' -Universe' feature), but as a regular Op-Ed piece in the Current section.

So go read it!

OK. Finished? Now despite the comedic tone of the piece, my intent is serious.

A major concern of Mayor Villaraigosa is how to stop the Convention Center from continuing to hemorrhage taxpayer's money.

Another civic concern we all share is that LA's hotel occupancy rates remaining low (though improving) at the same time hotel rates in New York have not only surpassed 9/11 figures, but they now have the highest ever occupancy rates according to the New York Times (not counting the WW II era, I presume) - 85%, which essentially means they are... full.

And among the many points I did not have space to make in my piece, is that in LA at night you can see the same movies you see anywhere else, attend the same concerts by the same artists that tour anywhere else in the country and go to bars and clubs and restaurants that are not all that different than what you find in every other major city.

But the big difference with both New York and London, is that every night you can choose from dozens of major Broadway (or... West End) plays and musicals you can not see anywhere else in the world.

And the over 4.5 billion dollars - yes, over FOUR BILLION dollars - that Broadway brings into the New York economy makes theater the single number one reason why tourists go to New York.

The frustrating thing for many of us downtown is that not only do we have a existing dozen Broadway style theaters only minutes from the convention center, but we also have all the producing - and performing - talent right here in LA to get them re-opened.

All it would take is for Disney to make a fraction of their commitment to theater in New York - to Los Angeles theater or for Neil Simon to adopt one theater in downtown for revivals of his plays or for Billy Crystal to do a run in a LA Broadway theater of his one man show or for Mel Brooks to bring the Producers - with its original cast - for a run in a LA Broadway theater - to re-start our once thriving commercial theater district.

So how can we make this to happen?

What are the exact, specific things that we need to do?

Well, more on this later today - but I just got an IM that my cell phone voice mail is now ... full, so I have to return some calls.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Getty Makes It Official! Inmates Running The Asylum!,0,4211559.story?page=2&track=morenews&coll=la-story-footer

Well, the Getty has decided to set-up an 'special' commission to investigate how Barry Munitz has been doing. The 'investigation' will concentrate on how Barry has been spending the Trust's money and how he has been handling the probe of allegedly illegal antiquities purchases by the Getty.

Heading the panel is John - I See No Evil - Bogs who, according to the Times, had read incriminating papers regarding the Getty's activities that other board members were never made aware of until the Times printed them.

Looking into my crystal ball, I foresee... this special committee... will not be investigating that particular alleged incident.

Also on this special commission are... well, read what the Times has to say:

Jason Felch and Robin Fields Times Staff Writer October 30, 2005

After months of mounting troubles, the J. Paul Getty Trust announced Saturday that its board of trustees had formed a special committee to investigate its acquisition of antiquities and its use of tax-exempt funds.

The committee, composed of five board members, will review issues related to an Italian criminal inquiry into allegedly looted antiquities and an investigation by the state attorney general into spending by the trust and its chief executive, Barry Munitz.

John Biggs, chairman of the trust's board and head of the new committee, said through a spokesman that the panel would also "review the institution's corporate governance, including policies and procedures, and then make whatever recommendations — if any — we feel are appropriate for the full board to consider."


In addition to Biggs and Bryson, the committee members will be Lloyd Cotsen, Jay Wintrob and Luis Nogales.

Cotsen, Wintrob and Nogales have links to Munitz.

Cotsen is a philanthropist, archeologist and former chief executive of Neutrogena Corp. Munitz sits on the board of Cotsen's family foundation. Nogales, the former president of Univision, sits with Munitz on the boards of AIG SunAmerica and KB Home. Wintrob is chief executive of AIG SunAmerica.

Sounds fair and balanced to me!

Watts Up With The New York Times?

A New York Sunday Times Real Estate Section article on the housing boom in Watts suggests a 1300 foot house sells for between 300,000 and 400,000. It also states that homes top out at around 400,000 in Watts. The article then states, quoting a real estate agent:

High crime rates, declining school systems and, until recently, lower property values have motivated people to move out. Ms. Arnold said places like Marina County, Bakersfield, Ontario and Riverside, all an hour or two from the city, are luring people away with houses twice the size for half the money.

So... that means that a 2600 foot home in Bakersfield, Ontario or Riverside would sell for between 150,000 and 200,000.

Uh - really?

Well, according to Coldwell Banker, in 2005 the average 2200 foot home (and not... 2600') in Bakersfield sold for... $407,000 and in the Riverside/Ontario area for $459,000.

See below link for my statistics.

And even if CB's criteria in this survey is a somewhat different than the mean or the average price of those communities (it appears to be weighted towards more upscale neighborhoods) - it is still clear those cities are not a lot cheaper than Watts, much less twice the house for half-the-price cheaper.

For example, even counting all sales at all square footages, the cheapest of the three areas is Bakersfield - and even there the average sales price in all areas is just under $300,000, far above the $150,000 to $200,000 range. And average-sized house in Bakersfield is a hell of a lot smaller than 2600 feet.

But what really puzzles me is - what low cost city called - Marina County - is located within a two hour drive of Los Angeles?

Since I assume the writer or the editor double checked any figures they were given before printing them, the NYT appears to be looking at summer 2005 figures for Watts and then the 1990's figures found in the 2000 census for the other areas. But even then, those figures would not back-up the premise.

The other possible reason for the disconnect is that some web sites show an city's average assessed value. And since any home which has not sold for many years will be still assessed at its long ago value in California, and since it takes time for properties to be reasessed even after selling, those numbers have no relation to what current values are.

But as for the comparative sales prices in.... Marina Valley - well, I'm still looking for it...


Just realized writer likely meant Moreno Valley!

And, yes, that rather remote area (east of March Air Force base) does have many people coming from the inner city areas of LA looking for affordable newer housing. But the average sales price is still in the $350,000 range; cheaper per square foot when it comes to the smallest Watts houses - due to the high land values in LA - but more comparable in the per square foot prices when it comes to larger houses in Watts.

Still, nothing remotely near the twice-the-house-at-half-the-price scenario.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Denial Isn't Just A River in Egypt - It Is Also A River In Los Angeles!,0,3509021.story?coll=la-home-headlines

At last Saturday's LA River Workshop, I had a long talk with the Terra Tech project head - whose name I, of course, do not recall, about the need to inject a little reality into the discussion. I was particularly concerned about the failure to address either the financial realities of funding the project and the lack of real world understanding of the immense problems in dealing with the health problems of the water in the river.

Granted this is at the very beginning of the process, but, still, it would have been helpful when everyone was expressing their utopian dreams, that the constraints the project faces hasd been more clearly laid out.

Below is the LA Times on the urban run-off we find in the LA River:

L.A. County Beaches Were State's Most Unhealthful This Summer

Despite cleanup efforts, bacterial counts were the highest in five years. Experts are baffled.

Kenneth R. Weiss Times Staff Writer October 27, 2005

Los Angeles County coastal waters this summer contained the highest levels of harmful bacteria measured during the last five years, accumulating more failing grades for human health standards than any other swimming beaches in California...

....None of this came as a surprise to surfers such as Cory Bleumling, a Cal State Northridge graduate student who recently experienced head congestion, chills and diarrhea after one surfing session.

"It's always a little nasty out here, a bit of funk," Bleumling said Wednesday, emerging from the surf at Malibu, a longboard tucked under his arm. Every time he paddles out, he said, there's some health risk. "It's like going to Mexico. You might get sick, or you might not."

The failing grades, compiled by nonprofit environmental group Heal the Bay, were recorded as Los Angeles County and its cities face a state deadline of July 31 to make waters healthful for swimming every day during the summer - or face hefty fines. The unhealthful conditions are blamed on multiple sources, including sewer spills, pet waste, fertilizer, oil and other pollution washing off lawns and pavement and ultimately into the sea....

... Relying mostly on state grants, local governments have already spent millions of dollars installing devices that divert and treat "urban slobber," the steady trickle of bacteria-laden water that runs down storm drains and creeks from urban centers.... Government officials and environmental activists have found this summer's high bacterial levels perplexing.

"It was, by far, the most polluted year we have ever seen in the past five years," said Gold, who helps analyze bacterial levels and grading of beaches from A to F.Gold said he initially blamed the failing grades on record rainfall. Raging storm water routinely overwhelms or breaks sewer lines, releasing raw sewage into the ocean.Storm-water runoff also augments the flow of urban pollutants into the ocean.

But other Southern California counties, from Santa Barbara to San Diego, also experienced record rainfall and still showed improvement this summer in keeping bacterial levels below federal and state health standards, Gold said. Furthermore, he said, the beaches with the highest bacterial counts were spiking off and on all summer, not just during the first months after the heavy winter rains...

And... finally...

Health officials recommend avoiding ocean waters within 100 yards of a flowing storm drain or stream.

Speaking Of The Obvious...

The recent drop-off in errors at the LA Times' editorial page has been so promising - I mean like two practically error free weeks! - I let one a week ago, go.

Well, actually... I was just too busy and way too damn lazy to get around to pointing out the major boner of calling ex-school board president Jose Huizar, the existing school board president.

Besides, anything that obvious would be instantly corrected.

Well... wrong!

Friday, October 28, 2005

City Council: An editorial Friday said Jose Huizar was president of the Los Angeles Board of Education. He stepped down from the presidency in July.

They also further confused the issue by saying the error occurred on a dateless 'Friday' unqualified by any modifier such as this or last - Friday ... just that it took place on a highly unspecific ... 'Friday'.

Plus - as has become more and more common - even after the correction had been posted on the correction's page - the correction has not still not been made in the actual article - where Jose is still - evidently - el presidente for life at the Los Angeles School Board.,0,5154733.story?coll=la-news-comment-editorials

The main candidates are Nick Pacheco, who represented the 14th for one term until Villaraigosa ousted him in 2003, and Jose Huizar, who is president of the Los Angeles Unified School District board .


Good News - Bad News.

The correction is now printed with the October 21st editorial. Good!

But the item telling us there was a correction made only a very, very brief run on the correction's page - somewhere around 1 AM or before - and then had... vanished... around dawn.
Now I am not certain if the correction only appeared last night because this correction was printed on the editorial page today (and I will have to wait until I find my free copy on the subway to see if it was), even though it might have been on the correction's page closer to the date of the actual error.

But even it it was, the editorial itself was not corrected until this morning. Lastly, the reason I can not tell if it was on the correction's page before, is because those corrections are not archived on the corrections page, a situation that needs to be... corrected.

The Obvious Declared - The Obvious!,1,174689.story?coll=la-headlines-california

For many years, there has begin no question in anyone's mind - except in Henry Waxman's, of course - that the technology to put a subway underground Wilshire Boulevard, existed.

But to give some political cover to the aging solon, a distinguished panel was last week gathered from around the country and they read some reports that they had likely already read. Yesterday, they then anounced what they (and everybody else) already knew.

But, hopefully, they got in some sightseeing before reviewing the facts for the two minutes necessary before they announced... it was possible to build the subway down Wilshire. It would be a shame if they had come all the way out here for... nothing.

Richard Fausset Times Staff Writer October 28, 2005

A westward extension of Los Angeles' Red Line subway can be safely built below Wilshire Boulevard despite the presence of dangerous underground gases, a panel of tunneling and transportation experts concluded Thursday.

"By following proper procedures and using appropriate technologies, the risk would be no greater than any other subway systems in the U.S.," the group concluded in a report to local transit officials.

The preliminary decision by the five-member panel, which was convened by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, could bolster Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's vision of building a subway to the beach.Currently, the subway runs between Union Station and North Hollywood.

Federal law bans using federal money to extend the Red Line. The law was introduced by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) after a 1985 methane explosion at a Fairfax-area clothing store. Concerns have also been raised about the presence of lethal hydrogen sulfide gas.

Earlier this month, Waxman said he would ask Congress to rescind the law if the panel concluded that tunneling was safe. On Thursday, Waxman said the conclusion was "encouraging," but said he would not seek to repeal the law until he had a chance to talk to panel members in the next few days.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Paging LACMA! The Getty Museum!! Eli Broad!!

There may be one final chance for the last Vermeer in private hands - and several other masterpieces...,0,1527200,print.story?coll=cl-calendar

Mike Boehm LA Times October 27th 2005

Wynn gallery to close. Quoting an unnamed source "close to" resort magnate Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas Sun has reported that Wynn is planning to close the small but select Wynn Collection gallery at the Wynn Las Vegas resort, perhaps to replace the art showcase with retail space. A Wynn spokeswoman, Denise Randazzo, said Wednesday that "we have not made any official decisions yet" on whether the gallery will close.

Just 14 paintings hang there, including Pablo Picasso's "Le Reve," a Rembrandt self-portrait and a recently acquired Vermeer. Admission was $15 when the resort opened six months ago, but was reduced last month to $6 for tourists, $3 for Nevada residents.

OK. Now Wynn has in the past parted with - one way or the other - a number of his finest paintings. Still, the closing of this gallery does not mean he will be selling some or all of these paintings.

Clearly, though, here is an opportunity for a LA institution to see if they can create an art-oriented attraction in the space that could both attract customers to Wynn's casinos and also provide the cultural/educational component he wants. The prize for that might be to pry some of those paintings off his walls.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Stay Tuned For December 26 Correction!

October 26 LA Times Correction Page

Money-laundering ring — A June 25 correction to an April 28 article about the investigation of an international money-laundering and drug-trafficking ring said that federal authorities had served a search warrant at the Brentwood home of Bijan Kohanzad. The warrant was served at Kohanzad's business in West Los Angeles.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Halloween Comes Early! Horror Fest On Channel Four News!

Tonight's KNBC early Halloween horror story:

First, the female anchor announced that that audience for a town hall meeting about the special election will be scientifically selected by a 'bona fide company'... yup, a real company. Not one of those 'fake' companies. Nothing about the company's qualifications - but it is a real company.

And then the male anchor only minutes later (hey, I couldn't find my remote in time) announced that both Antiquities curator Marian True and former Getty Museum Director Deborah Gribbon had left the Getty due to the antiquities looting scandal.

Uh - say what?

First, True was officially fired not because of the looted antiquities scandal - but because she accepted a loan from someone the Getty bought art from. Granted this could possibly not be the full story, but that is the reported story.

But as for Deborah Gribbon... she only left because of her disgust at how Barry Munitz was ruining the Getty. There was never a hint of her leaving for any other reason.

Local TV News!

Someone has to make the LA Times look good - and it's their job to do it!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

It's Official! New Times Buys Village Voice/LA Weekly Newspaper Group!

The New Times chain of weekly papers is taking over the Village Voice, LA Weekly, OC Weekly and three other papers to form a group of seventeen more-or-less alt weeklies. New Times CEO Jim Larkin will be CEO and Michael Lacey will be Executive Editor.

Much more at LAOBSERVED, the NY Times and the Washington Post.

One of the more interesting observations is in the Washington Post - quoting the new executive editor:

'Perfectly good journalism is commercially viable,' Lacey says. 'You have to give them well-written, well-reported stories. We don't need focus groups. We knew damn well that good stories sell, not people doing raving opinion pieces about how outraged they are. Blogs have made it completely unnecessary to have alternative newspapers fulfilling that role.'"


"New Times will export its brand of 'desert libertarianism on the rocks, with sprigs of neocon politics,' writes Bruce Brugmann, publisher of the rival San Francisco Bay Guardian..

What made New Times unique in its day in LA was its interest in going after any malefactors of any ideological stripe whether or not they agreed with their politics while at the Weekly - ideological purity was all that counted. Ironically, the LA Weekly has become a far, far better paper in the last few years with reporters like Robert Greene and Jeffrey Anderson who are only interested in where the bodies are buried - and not the political credentials of bodies.

And with a million blogs offering opinions, we can use some more papers willing to do the detailed investigations only a real newspaper can do. Off the top of my head, I can think of a half-dozen major stories New Times covered - that no one has touched since then.

So while I would prefer we still had both the Weekly and New Times fighting for readers, a combination of the two might make for a more interesting paper than either of them separately. It might also make it possible for one of the other two papers move up the food chain.

Daily News Interview With Getty Trust President Barry Munitz!

Getty Trust's Barry Munitz sets things straight...

... seems to suggest the Daily News agrees Munitz is setting the record straight in the below interview as compared to what LA Times has written about him. I suspect (hope) that is not what the Daily News had intended to infer.

Though controversy swirls around him, Getty Trust President and CEO Barry Munitz weathers the storm calmly.

In the past year, Deborah Gribbon, the director of the museum - the most visible part of the trust - resigned amid rumors of conflict with Munitz. Then an investigation by Italian officials resulted in the curator of antiquities, Marion True, being charged with conspiring to traffic in looted antiquities.

Earlier this month True resigned, not as a result of the charges but over a loan arranged in 1995 by one of the museum's main suppliers of antiquities so she could buy a vacation home in Greece.

In June, a lengthy article in The Los Angeles Times raised questions about the way Munitz runs the nonprofit organization that is worth around $9 billion. Munitz, who has an annual compensation package worth about $1.2 million, was accused of lavish spending of trust money on first-class travel and extravagant dining. He was also accused of OK'ing a real-estate deal with Eli Broad that gave the billionaire businessman a $700,000 break.

The portrait was one of a man with "grand appetites" who prospered while the museum was experiencing cutbacks.

On Friday, Munitz sat in a conference room on the Getty "campus," and, in his first extensive interview on the recent controversies, addressed these issues with Daily News columnist Mariel Garza and entertainment editor Rob Lowman.

There is much more to read at the above link. Then come back for my response.

First, if Munitz is correct in saying the now infamous Porsche is used only for official business and that he never personally uses it (which would mean it does not go home with him at night), he has a potentially valid point for its purchase. However, one of its main uses appears to be picking up and taking board members and other guests from the airport, including chauffeur service, it appears. I do not see why they can not transport themselves when they come to LA.

As for the Eli Broad real estate deal, I know the hazards in appraising hillside land with all the geological, slope density formula and easement problems - so Broad could have easily paid full market value for the property. And the person willing to pay the highest price is often the adjoining property owner. But more needs to be known for anyone to make that determination and the process by which the transaction was handled, was clearly flawed in at least appearance.
Some of what Munitz said about the difficulties in buying antiquities is true, but he ignores - and the Daily News appears not to ask - about all the incriminating documents hidden from the board and from authorities by him - and that is the case against Munitz, not the purchase of antiquities - or the purchase of much of anything for that matter since the Getty's collecting has dramatically declined under his reign.

Munitz also makes something of a case on his salary if you compare it to the salary of his predecessor, but not if you compare it with the heads of other non-profits.

As for his claim he is tightly controlled by a tough and vigilant board, it's nice to see his problems have not affected his sense of humor. Even several of his own board members have been quoted on how clueless they are on what is going on at the Getty and how documents have been withheld from them.

And while Munitz denies in the article using Getty money for personal uses, he was no asked any specific questions in the printed interview. He did, however, bring up and defend his use of first class travel with absolutely... breathtaking... arrogance:

If you talk to anybody who knows me, you won't find anyone who describes me as an extravagant-living person. ... Part of it is a question of interpretation. To somebody who's never flown first-class, first-class is an extravagance. ... Those are silly things to me. I do what I'm asked do.

Now granted the above quotes have some gaps in them, but it appears Munitz feels that anyone (such as the heads of almost all other non-profits) who thinks flying first class at the non-profits expense is extravagant is being silly, since they can not recognize it is not a luxury, but a necessity. But it doesn't matter anyway, since it's not his fault - he was only following orders.

But the big issue that I and many, if not most people, in the Los Angeles art community have with the Getty is the total failure of the Getty to build a major painting collection. This is particularly inexcusable when the last masterpieces by major artist after major artist are vanishing - forever - into public collections.

My only complaint about the LA Times series of article is that failed to hang Munitz for his only real crime against Los Angeles. While it is nice to have restoration projects around the world, education programs around the world and research around the world, there are endless needs for those projects and those needs will be there five, ten and a hundred years from now.

But there are only a limited number of paintings of the highest quality left to buy from private collections and the Getty has already squandered the opportunity to develop a world class collection. The only hope now is that it can somehow move up from a fourth rate collection to a third rate collection in the future.

But not if Barry Munitz remains at head of the Getty Trust.

Last Day Of EdgeFest Theater Festival!

At the above link are my choices for plays to see this Sunday at the LA Theater Center. Below is the link to Edge Fest:

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Last Day Of EdgeFest Theater Festival!

At the above link are my choices for plays to see this Sunday at the LA Theater Center. Below is the link to Edge Fest:

Friday, October 21, 2005

Los Angeles Times Wants To Know What We Think Of Them!

Well, at least they are asking us what we think of specific pages on the website.

A little box started appearing last night on the site and when you click on it, it becomes a large survey box asking you what you think of that page. I assume Kevin at LAOBSERVED will have more details later today.

UPDATE! You can create the little survey box on any page by looking for a pair of parenthesis lurking at the lower right hand corner of the page and then clicking on that. I used it to report that the link to the jobs report from the front page goes instead to the Air One ceremony at the Reagan Library.

I found that link to be... not useful.

Link now fixed.

Mixed Messages In LAT's Column One Today!!!,0,215135.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Interesting Column One in today's Los Angeles Times on how fast food is changing the diet - and health - of Mexicans - and how instant ramen noodles (largely manufactured in the LA area - which makes for a good local angle) are supplanting beans and rice as the national dish of Mexico due to its convenience and its low price.

Or... not.

Below are several excepts from the article:

Marla Dickerson Times Staff Writer October 21, 2005

COAMILPA, Mexico — Only 3 years old, Leon Gustavo Davila Hinojosa is still learning to speak Spanish. But the precocious youngster already knows a bit of Japanese: "Maruchan."That's a brand of instant ramen noodles that to him means lunch. Leon's grandmother stocks them in her tiny grocery store in this hamlet 40 miles southwest of the capital. The preschooler prefers his shrimp-flavor ramen with a dollop of liquid heat...

... As part of a food assistance program, the Mexican government distributes ramen to c.ommissaries in some of the most remote pockets of the country, where it is supplanting rice and beans on many tables.The product is so pervasive that a national newspaper recently dubbed Mexico "Maruchan Nation."Purveyors say you don't have to strain your noodle to figure out why. Nearly 60% of Mexico's workforce earns less than $13 a day. Instant ramen is a hot meal that fills stomachs, typically for less than 40 cents a serving ....

.... Nutritionists likewise are alarmed that instant ramen, a dish loaded with fat, carbohydrates and sodium, has become a cornerstone of the food pyramid.With the majority of the population now urbanized and on the go, Mexicans are embracing the convenience foods of their neighbors in the U.S. while abandoning some healthful traditions. The result is soaring levels of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, particularly among the poor....

.... The most economical version is sold in plastic-wrapped, dehydrated squares that consumers typically heat in saucepans on the stove. The average U.S. price is 14 cents per package, thanks to highly automated manufacturing in plants on American soil. Most of Mexico's ramen is imported and served in insulated, disposable cups, which drives the price up to about 35 cents...

.... in Latin America, Mexico is the noodle champ. Its consumers ate an average of 9.4 servings in 2004 ....

.... A cup of instant ramen costs 4 pesos, or about 37 cents in Diconsa-affiliated shops. A serving of beans costs pennies in comparison. Still, the average Mexican's consumption of frijoles has dropped by more than half since 1995, according to an agriculture trade group. Per capita consumption of tortillas has declined precipitously as well.....

Ok - so what does this all mean? Well - color this cowboy confused.

To begin with, it is clear sales of ramen are skyrocketing in Mexico. But is it responsible for the 50% drop in frijoles and a large drop in the consumption of tortillas?

I don't think so.

According to the article, the average Mexican eats 9.4 servings of ramen a year. Figuring three meals a day that comes out to about...1100 meals a year - not counting snacks. This means ramen is eaten at less the 1% of all meals in Mexico. However, if one factors in snacks and people who eat more than one serving at a meal and... well, you get the point.

If fast food is transforming the diet and the waistlines of Mexicans, something other than ramen is likely the prime driving factor. Also the statement that ramen is now a "cornerstone" of the Mexican food pyramid when it is eaten at only 9/10 of 1% of all meals is... well... to put it tactfully... salsa flavored male cow crap.

Lastly, as for saying that price is a major reason why ramen is so popular, if beans and rice are only 'pennies' (which to me reads three or four cents - less than a nickel and certainly well less than a dime) per serving, why is this the case if the prices given for ramen are between 35 cents and less than 40 cents a serving? I assume that statement is comparing ramen to other food choices, but those choices and their prices are never mentioned, so it is hard to know what to think.

Overall, an interesting, informative article on many levels, including some very well observed cultural ones; the only problem is that in trying to use the rise of ramen in Mexico to opine on a few larger issues, there are not simply not enough facts cited to support those claims.

Los Angeles Has FEWER Jobs Per Capita Than Any Major City In The Country!

First, thanks to Al's Morning Meeting at Poytner for the tip. A press release from the Census Bureau yesterday broke out the daytime population of each city in the country in contrast to its residential population, i.e., how many people are working in the city as opposed to people living in the city. Most cities have large inflows of workers during the day:

If it seems a little crowded on weekdays in cities like Washington, D.C.; Irvine, Calif.; Salt Lake City, Utah; or Orlando, Fla.; it's not your imagination. Among cities with 100,000 or more people, these four show the highest percentage increases in population during the day as opposed to their resident population.

The findings come from the first-ever U.S. Census Bureau estimates of the daytime population for all counties and more than 6,400 places across the country, based on Census 2000 data.

And where does Los Angeles rank? Among all major cities with daytime populations of over one million we rank... dead last. Time to get those economic development teams going in the Mayor's office. More from the report:

Among very small places, gains approached 300 percent in Tysons Corner, Va. (292 percent); and El Segundo, Calif. (288 percent).

Other highlights:

New York City has the largest estimated daytime population, at more than 8.5 million persons. The increase of more than half a million people over the nighttime population is bigger than that found in any other area. However, the 7 percent increase puts New York in the middle of the pack on percentage change among cities with more than a million residents.

The second highest numeric daytime increase is in Washington, D.C., where 410,000 workers boost the capital's population by 72 percent during normal business hours.

Other big cities with large daytime gains are Atlanta (62 percent), Tampa (48 percent) and Pittsburgh and Boston (both around 41 percent).

Typical examples of sizable expansion of daytime populations in small cities can be found in places such as Paramus, N.J.; Redmond, Wash.; and Beverly Hills, Calif., among others.

Los Angeles does not even rate a mention in the release.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Paging Michael Brand At The Getty! How To Expand Your Collecting Horizons!

Now that the Getty is probably shipping much of its collection back to Italy, and there has been some likely idle talk about developing collections that are more... ethnically... diverse - I have some good news. There is a prime buying opportunity in New York!

It Was Multicultural Before Multicultural Was Cool


I was flabbergasted when I saw "African Zion: The Sacred Art of Ethiopia" in New York City in 1994, the first big display of Ethiopian religious art to travel to North America. I had known this art only in intriguing bits and pieces. But the sight of a hundred blazingly colored icons and glinting metal crosses in one place was sensational. I remember its impact in aural as much as visual terms, as a kind of charged chanting, though no music was playing.

What was news to me was news to a lot of other people too, not to mention the city's art institutions. The show wasn't at the Metropolitan Museum or the Brooklyn Museum. It was at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. Famed for its library and archives, the Schomburg has an active gallery, though one unlikely to pull in the huge crowds that "African Zion" should have had. "Lucky Harlem," I thought at the time.

And now, lucky Midtown. The first major gallery sale exhibition of Ethiopian art in the United States opened yesterday at PaceWildenstein on East 57th Street. Organized by the London dealer Sam Fogg, it's a fierce, gorgeous, category-scrambling encounter.


... in the fifth century A.D., when Ethiopia was, with Rome and Persia, one of the superpowers of the ancient world, Ethiopian Orthodoxy became the state religion. Later Islam swept in, cutting the country off from the Byzantine world and adding its own cultural impulses. Influences from sub-Saharan Africa were subtle and constant.

These ingredients contributed to a church distinctive in its beliefs, worship and art. The most familiar and durable forms are openwork crosses of bronze or iron mounted on long staffs carried by priests.

Meant to be seen in pierced silhouette against the sky or candlelight, they became ever more elaborate and delicate hybrids of Byzantine and Islamic designs. The workmanship of the finest of them is beyond superb, rivaling pieces from the royal ateliers of the West Africa kingdom of Benin. And Mr. Fogg has fantastic examples dating from the 12th to the 19th century.

The real attraction, though, lies in icons and manuscripts, several dating from the late 15th and early 16th centuries, a high point in Ethiopian church art, which means in Christian art, period.

So here we have a case of where the Getty can have its art and eat it too; spectacular examples of early Christian art that directly relates to the European art already collected by the Getty, while also being influenced by African cultures. So rather than having to develop an entirely new brand, all this requires is a simple brand extension.

And having seen examples of this work in London in some private collections - I also know it's seriously cool. So break out the platinum card, Michael (assuming Barry hasn't maxxed it this month on Porsche payments, of course) and start shopping!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Wednesday Steve Lopez Skid Row Story!,0,625598,full.column

Yet another superb piece of story telling, fact finding and... understanding. Today Steve Lopez talks to ten of the many down and out in wheel chairs homeless on the Row. Each has a different story and, yet, each story is too often... the same story; stories from families Tolstoy never met.

Below is one man's life:

No. 4: John Yost, 79

He's a few beds away from Kenyon. His wife, an alcoholic, is out on the street. Yost's legs gave out on him 10 years ago, after he and his wife moved to San Bernardino from Lebanon, Pa. Nothing has gone their way since. One thing I should know about people in wheelchairs, he warns, is that not everybody who's got one needs it.

"They steal them," he says, from people who do. Then they use them as carts or try to sell them.

I look around for the mayor, who's talking to a young mother with three children. One boy is in a stroller he's too big for, crying his eyes out. The woman tells Villaraigosa she voted for him.

A few minutes later, Midnight Mission publicist Orlando Ward tells Villaraigosa that conditions on skid row are the worst he's seen in his seven years of working there. He sees mothers shooting up, and whereas one relatively docile gang used to control the drug trade, several gangs now compete, with bloodshed common. Ward knows of a guy on the street who sells dope he keeps hidden in his baby's diaper.

Villaraigosa's been doling out hugs at the mission, but Ward tells him to watch out. Disease is rampant, with a particularly nasty staph infection bouncing through prisons and shelters.

Several points. The Mayor has come down to see what Lopez is writing about, and that is important to report. But Lopez doesn't allow that to become the story, or even to allow him to intrude upon the story. The focus remains on those on the streets, and those on the front lines helping them.

Lopez also addresses the fact that some those in chairs are only trying to sell then. With more time, he would have seen how there are also the drug dealers who use them as covers for their drug dealing and drug addicts who use the chairs to beg for money, and then get up and push their chairs home.

Then there are those are not homeless and live in SRO's who have become obese, develop diabetes and then use motorized wheel chairs to more easily move around. Then that lack of any exercise adds to their weight problem and further worsens their disease.

All complications within an already too complicated narrative. But those people are in the minority of those you see in wheel chairs on the streets of Skid Row.

So the story rightfully focuses on those who find themselves - on top of drug, alcohol and mental problems - also having to deal with spending the rest of their lives in wheelchairs. Lastly, the article raises the specter of another calamity descending upon Skid Row - a deadly staph infection that has not gotten the attention it needs. But more on that later.

I have nothing else to say. Just read Lopez's article and if you have missed the first ones - they are all still on the LAT's website.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

End Times Are Nigh! Patterico Praises LA Times!

It's interesting that when the LA Times finally gets something right, its worst critics are the first to offer praise. Now if this could only happen more than once or twice a year...

Lopez is really getting to know Skid Row. He even learned what a - strawberry - is!
I go to Skid Row periodically, generally to visit the scene of a crime that I will be prosecuting - generally a drug sales crime. I am always accompanied by someone with a gun. In my suit, with my large digital camera, I tend to stand out.

As I walk around and snap pictures, I hear people calling out warnings to everyone in the surrounding area: the police are here; stop your drug-taking and drug sales for a few moments.

Some heed the advice, and some don't.

I have stood on a street corner at 5th and Main with narcotics officers - me in my suit with my camera around my neck - and watched as people shoot up and sell drugs on the opposite corner. When the drugs become available, it's like a feeding frenzy; 5-10 people come up within a minute and engage in quick hand-to-hand transactions lasting only seconds.

As I pointed out in his comments section, 5th and Main has cleaned up considerably since his last visit to the Nickel. The Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council initiated - but now independent - Gallery Row project has helped four galleries open at 5th and Main - and two more are coming. Soon after that, most of the stores and restaurants that were fronts for drug dealing were shut down on Main Street and the new 24/7 police cameras are being installed this and next month all along Main, Spring and Broadway.

By the end of the year, 5th and Main should be an almost drug free intersection.

Mayor Brokers Hotel Deal! Convention Hotel Lawsuit Dropped!,1,6706738,print.story?coll=la-headlines-california

Our activist Mayor is once again working miracles:

Richard Fausset Times Staff Writer October 18, 2005

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Monday that he has settled a dispute with the owners of the Bonaventure Hotel that threatened to derail plans for a newer hotel next to the unprofitable Los Angeles Convention Center.

The owners of the Bonaventure — a 1,354-room high-rise in the middle of downtown — had planned to fight the city's proposal to subsidize a competing hotel on downtown's south side.The Los Angeles City Council has agreed to provide the new hotel with up to $290 million in subsidies and loans to help breathe new life into the city-owned convention center, which receives a $20-million subsidy each year because it does not attract enough business.

The planned hotel, a Hilton, is envisioned as a key anchor to L.A. Live, a $1.7-billion "sports-entertainment" development that officials have likened to New York's Times Square.Tourism officials say the main problem facing the convention center is the dearth of nearby restaurants and hotel rooms.

But the city handouts seemed unfair to the owners of the Bonaventure, which is currently billed as "L.A.'s largest convention hotel." They challenged the deal in a lawsuit filed in April and were threatening to launch a petition drive for a ballot referendum to let voters decide the issue.Villaraigosa intervened last week, sitting down with all of the interested parties and helping them reach a compromise.

Under the terms of the agreement, the owners of the Bonaventure, who were worried about losing hotel customers, will have the option of converting up to 400 of their hotel rooms into residential condominiums. In exchange, the owners agreed to drop the lawsuit and proposed referendum. Organized labor got a guarantee that no jobs at the Bonaventure would be lost until three years after a condo conversion.

What is NOT addressed in this settlement - is what is going to be done to make Downtown LA attractive enough to tourists to make convention planners want to come here? More on that shortly.

But start thinking... Broadway...

Wayne C. Booth - Author Of 'Rhetoric Of Fiction' - Passes

I somehow missed this obit in the New York Times the other day:

MARGALIT FOX - New York Times

Wayne C. Booth, one of the pre-eminent literary critics of the second half of the 20th century, whose lifelong study of the art of rhetoric illuminated the means by which authors seduce, cajole and more than occasionally lie to their readers in the service of narrative, died yesterday morning at his home in Chicago. He was 84.


... to Professor Booth, literature was not so much words on paper as it was a complex ethical act. He saw the novel as a kind of compact between author and reader: intimate and rewarding, but rarely easy. At the crux of this compact lay rhetoric, the art of verbal persuasion.

The author's task, he argued, was to draw readers into the web of narrative and hold them there. The critic's task was to tease out the specific rhetorical devices - linguistic, stylistic, symbolic - by which this was accomplished. To describe the intricate, shifting dance between author and reader, he coined a number of critical terms that are now common parlance, among them "implied author" and "unreliable narrator.

If you are a writer of fiction, 'The Rhetoric Of Fiction' is mandatory reading to better understand your craft. If you are a reader of fiction, 'The Rhetoric Of Fiction' is mandatory reading just for the pure, raw, naked enjoyment of it.

Later LA Times obit does an excellent job of describing his major work:,1,987815.story?coll=la-news-obituaries

Mary Rourke Times Staff Writer October 14, 2005

In the book, Booth identified key aspects of storytelling and created terms that are now commonly used to discuss the craft. He referred to "the implied author" as one of three who write a novel. The first is the actual person who does the writing. Then there is the narrator who tells the story. The third is an "implied" presence that conveys irony, judgment and other guideposts throughout the story. The implied author serves as a companion for the reader, Booth said.

In the same book, he compared a "reliable narrator," one who seems to share the author's judgment, with an "unreliable narrator." One is trustworthy, while the other may lie or simply get things wrong.By dissecting fictional narration and looking at each component separately, Booth was able to show the complex communication between an author and a reader.

The book remains "the single most important American contribution to narrative theory," said Bill Brown, chairman of the English department at the University of Chicago. It is "a book that continues to be read, taught and fought about." Booth's writing and teaching demonstrate "how significant the act of literary analysis could and should be," Brown said.

Urban Planner Edmond Bacon Dead At 95!


Edmund N. Bacon, a leading postwar urban planner who remade much of Philadelphia, died on Friday at his home there. He was 95.


As the executive director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission from 1949 to 1970, Mr. Bacon had an impact on his native city that some have compared to that of Robert Moses during his long reign in New York.

He also signified a bygone era when urban planners were considered celebrities, like Mr. Bacon's youngest son, Kevin, the actor. In 1964 Mr. Bacon was featured on the cover of Time magazine for an issue commemorating urban renewal in America. In 1965 Life magazine devoted a cover story to his work. His 1967 book, "Design of Cities," is still considered a seminal text on contemporary urban planning.

His mark on Philadelphia was perhaps most evident in the planning of Penn Center, a huge development of Philadelphia's downtown core in the 1950's and 60's. The center, comprising offices and hotels, was the largest such project the city had seen since the 1920's.

In replacing the so-called Chinese Wall, a network of elevated railroad tracks that divided the city, Mr. Bacon would eventually establish a stronger east-west spine. He added buildings to the area around 30th Street Station at the western edge of Center City. Mr. Bacon's design concepts also led to the development of Market East, Penn's Landing, Society Hill, Independence Mall and the Far Northeast. "It mixed the bulldoze-and-rebuild philosophy of urban renewal with the tentative beginnings of the historic preservation movement," Paul Goldberger wrote in The New York Times in 1988.

The planner's work was not always seen as a success by critics. In 1998 Herbert Muschamp wrote in The New York Times that Penn Center was "reviled as a prime example of disastrous modern city planning: lamentable in the spare geometry of its buildings, its disregard for the vitality of the traditional street."

Bacon's biggest success was in building a livable residential downtown that worked. His finest legacy is Society Hill where he helped transform one of the city's oldest residential districts from a slum into a mixture of restored colonial, federal and Greek revival era homes, new townhouses and high rise apartment towers. The downside was that he also destroyed what would now be considered a priceless collection of Victorian buildings.

His biggest failure - to me, though - was not Penn Center so much - since that was a replacement of railroad yards, but his wholesale bulldozing of too much of the historic fabric of the city, particularly for the sterile Independence Mall that not only destroyed some colonial and federal buildings that did not fit into the desired narrative, but which also laid waste to many of Philadelphia's finest Victorian buildings, including two of Frank Furness's masterpieces.

Still, even with all that, Bacon was still a pioneer in historic preservation at a time when even the next generation of planners to follow him such Ed Logue were still bulldozing pretty much everything in sight in places like New Haven (and later, in Boston), other than the much later Wooster Square project.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Cowboy Bites Horse! A Defense Of... GASP!... Steve Lopez....

Yes, I know.

This is LACowboy.

You are at the correct URL.

And, no, Armageddon is not occurring.

I say this because if you regularly read me or even if you just read my last two posts about Steve Lopez - you know I believe the concept of Steve Lopez as a city columnist for the City of Los Angeles is an unfathomable cosmic joke; a tragic karmic payback for the sins of long dead city fathers.

And, no, for those misguided few still concerned about my mental or physical health - the hundreds of buckin' broncos who pile drove this poor old cowboy's head straight into the ground - are not the (sole) reason for this sudden... seeming... loss of reason.

The truth is - alas! - I must regretfully acknowledge - there is a deserved - if not even a honorable - place for (shudder) Steve Lopez in our local journalistic ecology.

There, I said it. And I have not been struck down by lightning.

So far.

To begin with, friends of mine from the City of Brotherly Love have always regaled me good things about Mr. Lopez and his writing. Until now, though, I of course assumed this was because he was now writing about Los Angeles - and not Philadelphia.

Exhibit 'A' for the defense follows:,0,7935626.column?coll=la-home-headlines

In this column, Lopez communicates not only his subject's odyssey, but also his own personal odyssey into the understanding of the difficulty of helping the homeless. The final - if unstated - revelation to Mr Lopez was that homelessness on Skid Row it is not (primarily) about housing or about the lack people who care enough to try and help them.

OK - hold on!

Before all the housing advocates jump down my throat, affordable housing is a very critical issue and one I will be addressing shortly in depth. But a lack of housing is not - primarily - why the majority of people on Skid Row... are on Skid Row.

But getting back to Steve (and since I am quite momentarily saying good things about him - I am sure he will not mind me using his first name), the above linked column is where I finally began to understand him as a writer.

Clearly, Steve Lopez has a remarkable talent for dealing with people as individuals.

And that is a rare gift.

Too many writers - like politicians - love people in the collective, but have a substantially harder time with them as flawed, quirky, individual... individuals. Steve, though, can not only accept them as who they are, but he can also clearly see their flaws even as he sings eloquently songs about uniqueness.

My pal Stevie can also- OK, this is getting way too familiar - Steve - can also superbly communicate who these people are to his readers - as rapidly declining as readers deservedly are at the LA Times - (sorry... can't help my scorpion-self) - and he then can also make certain you care about them even when he honestly presents you with their flaws.

Now, of course, my main problem with the leadership of the LA Times and with Mr. Lopez - OK, so much for name basis - is that they - and he - simply do not get... Los Angeles. Their DNA and our DNA - so far - are no match. And no amount of planted bloody gloves have so far made any case to the contrary.

Thus, when Mr. Lopez writes about city politics or state wide issues or, horror of horrors - the war in Iraq - I commence to shed massive amounts of brain cells.

But when - the good Steve - writes about the people of Skid Row as he did in Sunday's article...,0,4505894.column?coll=la-home-headlines

... and in today's article...,0,3994447.special?coll=la-home-headlines

... he is - as good as anyone writing anything anywhere.

I was particularly impressed on how he addressed the problem we have with the portable toilets - or portable death traps as we call them down here - and how they are used almost exclusively for drug dealing and prostitution. Luckily, he has an excellent guide in Captain Andy Smith who has been a Godsend to all of our collective communities.

Now, in Kevin Roderick's yesterday's post in LAOBSERVED...

... he expressed some deservedly well founded skepticism about Steve's - momentarily back to first name basis again, sorry for the confusion - Steve's choice of Skid Row as the subject for a five part series, since he clearly smelled the stench of prize bait. And I fully understand.

Every year, the LAT's latest P. Price entry always starts its always five part series on the front page and the blatantly political aspect of each series always messily vomits all over the front page of the paper.

But not this time.

As one who has observed first hand the history of Skid Row since the late 1950's and as one who has tried to work with members of that community on an individual basis, like many of us down here - I know the shock and the horror Steve Lopez now faces. We all understand the helplessness he feels in watching the unimaginable human tragedy surrounding him when he walks the streets of Skid Row.

We also know what it is like to see people finish drug rehab - only to be rehooked by local drug dealers with free heroin to re-enslave them, and not being able to help. We also realize what it is like to see people accept housing, only to end up on the streets within 24 hours - when their demons overcome them, and then not being able to help. We also know what it is like to see that person only days later with a swollen jaw and five less teeth after they had been beaten by someone else who lived on the street.

We also all know what it is like when we get the call or the word from the street that person... is now dead.

So now Steve Lopez, like too many of us down here, is experiencing these same emotions.

So, no, Kevin, this is one five part series that is not all about prizes.

These articles are Steve Lopez dealing with his emotions. It is about caring for the people he meets and talks to on the streets of Skid Row. It is about his wanting to do something, anything, to help while knowing the only thing he can do, is to as truthfully and as brutally honestly as possible, tell the citizens of Los Angeles what the hell is going on down here.


Sermon over.

And now that I've unburdened myself of that - and even with all that being true - why does a large part of me (hell, most of me, most of the time) still want to see Steve Lopez tarred, feathered - and ridden out of town on a rail?

Well, it's still that simple.

He and the LA Times simply do not know or understand this city.

The fact that the front page story on this important issue could have such a staggeringly stupid, bonehead error - that 10,000 people sleep on the streets of Skid Row every night is completely... inexcusable. And for anyone who has actually walked these streets to write something that detached from reality - is literally beyond belief.

So if Mr. Lopez does accept my not so gracious offer to walk with some of us who live here, he can not only do some actual reporting by counting the number of people who sleep on the streets of Skid Row at night, but by doing so - just maybe - he - and the people who run the LA Times - can finally also begin to understand why so many people in LA so hate the LA Times.

It is because the LA Times has so completely lost so touch with this city that nothing written in it about LA can be trusted by any of us as being factually correct. And that is why we are mad as Hell about the LA Times and Steve Lopez.

But at least Steve - for now - is working from his strengths. Rather than dealing with Los Angeles or the political in the abstract - he now makes the personal the political by dealing with this city on a person by person basis.

And as of today, no one anywhere is doing - or could do - any better job than he is at telling us about ourselves.

But, for God's sake...

Never, ever, let Steve Lopez - or anyone - at the LA Times anywhere near any 'fact' or 'statistic' without at least five people who do NOT work for the LA Times checking it out.

Now, is that too much to ask?

I didn't think so.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

It's Time For The Big Shoot-Out At The Media Corral! Lap Tops At Fifty Paces!

Now that it's clear that LA is not a big enough town for the both of us - it's time for one of us to get out of Dodge. My challenge to Steve Lopez is posted at the above link. For more details also see my below post.

Insanity Defense Only Possible Plea For Steve Lopez And The LA Times!,0,4505894.column?coll=la-story-footer

In today's column by Steve Lopez, following an excellent column he did last week - which I have not yet gotten around to addressing - and after a superb series of articles on the 'dumping' on Skid Row by the LA Times, this Philadelphia columnist visiting LA, states one of the most preposterous falsehoods ever told by a LA Times writer:

Roughly 10,000 people flop on skid row streets each night, up to half of them mentally ill. The landscape is relentlessly bleak, the stench of rotting trash and misery everywhere.

Now this quote is in an article based on five days he spent on Skid Row. Evidently, though, like too many recently arrived Times reporters, he was blindfolded the entire time, metaphorically if not physically.

First the minor point; there is a smell on some, but not all, parts of Skid Row. But it has little to do with rotting trash. The streets are swept very day and most sidewalks are washed almost every day. No trash is left long enough to rot. That the smell is from days or weeks old decomposing trash is simply not... true.

The smell that assaults one's olfactory senses on some parts of the Row is because not just the homeless but many other people in area use the public sidewalks as public restrooms.

But the real outrage is that if Lopez had spent even one night on Skid Row without his blindfold on - he would have realized there isn't even enough physical room on the sidewalks of Skid Row for 10,000 people to sleep every night.

That he could say anything this detached from reality without any of the editors realizing what he said was insane - proves how detached the LA Times is from this city.

To repeat, Steve Lopez did not say that 10,000 homeless people sleep every night on the streets of downtown.

He did not say that on Skid Row there are 10,000 homeless people, who sleep either on the streets or in shelters every night.

Both totally false statements, by the way.

Steve Lopez stated that 10,000 homeless people sleep - every night - on the streets of Skid Row.

The tragedy is when outsiders from back East who know nothing about Los Angeles and who appear to be incapable of ever learning anything about this city just make up 'facts' about what is happening down here - it only trivializes the seriousness of our problems. Maybe the best thing the LA Times could ever do for this city is to never again publish a single word about... Los Angeles.


To read my personal challenge to Steve Lopez to actually help me count the people sleeping on Skid Row go to:

Saturday, October 15, 2005

World Premier Play At Edgefest! Hit - Or Flop?

Starting today, I will be doing reviews of cultural events in Los Angeles over at LAVOICE.ORG. More on this later, but I have to run off to a meeting so just follow the link and read about an exciting play no one should miss. It plays tonight, this Sunday and next weekend. By the end of night of its premier last week, it already had offers to tour the country, so it may be awhile before LA will be able to see it again.

Here is the opening of the review:

Investing two hours in a new play is a risk. If the play is about race relations, gay rights, mental illness, sex and priests, we reach the red alert level. If you know the author, a rear row aisle seat is mandatory for quick escape.

After intermission, I relocated front row center.

First, to dispense with preliminaries, the play is onstage tonight (Oct. 15th), tomorrow and next weekend. Stop reading and buy tickets on-line. Once finished, come back and finish the review.



In Colin Cox's world premiere play, 'A Pebble In My Shoe: The Life and Times of John Shelby Spong', Stephen Wolfert plays the former Episcopal Bishop starting with his Southern childhood in the 1930's when he first confronted his and his society's prejudices

The rest of the review is below:

Friday, October 14, 2005

Mary Chaney - Artist, Downtown Activist - And Friend - Passes Away.,0,7925423.story?coll=la-home-obituaries

Below is a note I received from a close friend of Mary's:

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Mary Chaney this last Wednesday. Mary was a long-time resident of Downtown Los Angeles and activist for the community. A life-long professional artist, Mary fought for the inclusion of arts representatives in the formation of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC). She was active with LAPD Boosters and CPAB, overseeing improved communications and responsiveness between residential needs and our police department.

Mary worked as a documentary artist sketching from life in the courtroom as well as the streets. Her courtroom work has been broadcast by ABC, CNN, FOX, NBC, KTTV and Court TV. She covered cases such as the civil rights trial in the beating of Rodney King, the Steven Spielberg stalking, the O. J. Simpson civil trial, the Richard Miller "FBI Spy" trial, the Richard Ramirez "Night Stalker" trial, and the civil trial of Philippine President Marcos' wife, Imelda.

Ms. Chaney exhibited her courtroom sketches and illustrations in several Southern California exhibits including exhibits at Loyola Law School "The Classic Courtroom Trial" and the Federal Rodney King case "Justice on Trial". The Los Angeles Sheriffs' Art Documentary featured "The Badge and the Brush" and "My Mom Is In Jail" illustrations.

Her work has been published in several law reviews and is included in the Smithsonian American History Museum, the United States Air Force Art Collection, and the Los Angeles Downtown Art District website. Her quick and astute skills in sketching rendered a small book of portraits of those attending the post-9/11 gathering at City Hall for a Candlelight Vigil, the drawings later acknowledged with gratitude of support by Mayor Giuliani.

Mary will be remembered for her quick humor, hard work for social causes, steadfastness of purpose, and inspiration as an artist. Her passing is a great loss to our community.

A memorial mass will be held at the St. Francis Xavier Maryknoll Church in the Arts District at 10 am on Tuesday Oct. 18. The church it located on Hewitt St. near 3rd Street.


At the top of the page is now the link to the LA Times article about Mary's life:

Dennis McLellan October 16, 2005

Mary Chaney, a Los Angeles courtroom artist whose meticulous and delicate drawing style provided local and national television viewers with telling glimpses of high-profile trials, including that of "Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez and Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, has died.

She was 77. Chaney died Wednesday of cancer at her home in Los Angeles, according to her family. A commercial illustrator, Chaney launched her freelance career in the courtroom in the mid-1980s. Over the years, she provided sketches for ABC, NBC, CNN, Fox, KTTV, Court TV and other news outlets.


Born in Los Angeles in 1927, Chaney graduated from Otis Art Institute, Chouinard Art Institute and Loyola Marymount University. While raising her family in Huntington Park in the 1950s through the mid '70s, she converted her large laundry room into an art studio, where she painted, sculpted and did sketches of her children and neighbors. She also gave painting lessons to adults.

Chaney, who lived more than 20 years on Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles and could walk to work in the nearby courthouses, had a passion for the homeless and street people. She titled a series of her drawings of the homeless, which were exhibited in downtown Los Angeles in the '80s, "A Tender Dignity."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Blair Taylor New Head Of Urban League In Los Angeles!

From LA Observed:

The Los Angeles Urban League announced that Blair Taylor will be the group's new president and CEO, succeeding John Mack. Taylor is Executive Vice President of College Summit, a national college access initiative. He has also been president and CEO of COI/ICD, held positions at PepsiCo and IBM, and has an MBA in Marketing and Entrepreneurial Studies from UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management. He also had been an L.A. City Council deputy. Mack is retiring after leading the Los Angeles Urban League for thirty-six years.

While no one can replace John Mack, Blair Taylor is a more than worthy successor. All his life he has focused on the two critical needs of our urban society. Education and jobs. If we can get those two things right, then everything else will follow.,1,1342880.story?coll=la-headlines-california

Deserving Writer Wins Nobel! Pinter Pockets Prize!,0,83078.story?coll=la-home-headlines

In a shocking turn of events, the Noble Prize for literature has been awarded to a writer someone other than the Nobel members has read! After decades of sometimes obscure and even questionable choices (along with many very deserved awards, of course), the prize has been given to one of the greats of 20th century literature, playwright Harold Pinter.

Michael Muskal LA Times October 13, 2005

Harold Pinter, whose name has become a synonym for a unique space in the universe of drama, was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature today. Regarded as one of the most important British dramatic voices in the latter half of the 20th Century, Pinter, 75, is known for his sparse and thin style as well as his etched characters whose crystal patter cuts through the mood like diamond drill bits. Pinter "in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms," the Swedish Academy said in announcing the surprise award.


Last year's winner was Austrian feminist Elfriede Jelinek. Her selection drew such ire that a member of the academy attacked his colleagues for the choice. Knut Ahnlund, 82, resigned Tuesday after he wrote that the choice of Jelinek caused "irreparable damage" to the award's reputation.

Timothy Williams New York Times

In awarding the $1.3 million prize, the Swedish Academy said Mr. Pinter "uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms." The citation added, "Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles."

Influenced by James Joyce and Samuel Beckett - who became a friend -- Mr. Pinter wrote plays, particularly those during the 1960's, that veer unexpectedly from comedy to examinations of fear and evil. In his early plays, menace lurked just beneath the comedic surface of things - a style that became known as the "comedy of menace."

Mr. Pinter was born in London in 1930 to working class Jewish parents and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Central School for Speech and Drama. As a child, he grew up during the Blitz, and he and his family were forced to evacuate London for three years. That experience, he said later, informed his desire to work for peace.

As a teenager, he twice refused national military service, and was fined.

The irony here, of course, is that it was only millions of Americans and Brits going into military service that saved the world from Hitler and saved the last remnants of the Europe's Jewish population from concentration camps; camps that would not have existed if earlier military force had been used when Hitler had started his attacks on neighboring countries. And if other Brits and Americans did not serve, Pinter and his family would have been put to death in the concentration camps the Germans had planned for England.

There are, of course, no easy answers to the problems facing the world then - or now; but as brilliant as Pinter is at looking into human relationships like many artists, the complexities of the relationships among nations has never been of any interest to him; there was/is only black and white.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

LA Times Hires MORE New York Writers To Write About LA! Will The Madness Never Stop?

Kevin over at LAOBSERVED has the latest gossip on the never ending purge of everything LA from the LA Times. But first, the sole piece of good news; long time Times writer and LA resident Gregory Rodriguez will now have a weekly column in the Opinion/Current section. And no one more deserves a column than he does. The only bad part is that his column is in Current instead of the weekly paper where someone might actually find it and read it, but it's a start.

After that, it's all downhill.

First, the Opinion/Current section has a new articles editor - Sonni Efron - a foreign affairs specialist based in... Washington DC. And with so many readers fleeing the Times due to the paper's lack of foreign news coverage, this is, of course - the obvious way to counterbalance the Current section's current over coverage of local news

Second, New Yorker Joel Stein, having mined all he knows about Hollywood - his real life - and his fantasy life - will now cover everything else he knows in a new column. What he will do after next spring, has yet to be decided.

Third, the Times also hired an LA-based writer to do a column - and they actually mentioned she is an LA-based writer since that is considered such an oddity slightly down Spring Street. And she is... Meghan Daum.

Yup - that Meghan Daum. The one born and bred in the greater New York area. The one who hit the really big time after she left New York for Nebraska and wrote about the differences between New York and Nebraska.

That is our new 'LA-based'- writer of 12 - or is it 18 months? The good news for her is all she needs to do now is substitute LA for Nebraska - and she's got her first two years of columns down cold.

Now to be fair, she is not a good writer. She is a superb writer. As good as they come. And I will look forward to reading her every Sunday morning - though, in reality - it will, of course, be on-line on Saturday night.

But why - why?? - does the LA Times feel the only way to reach of the people of LA is to hire only new people from... New York City?

I guess the folks in Chicago are so ecstatic with the results so far - they figure, why mess with success?

Bizarre Editing Choice Of The Month At The LA Times!,0,6683877.story?page=2&coll=la-home-headlines

In the above article, the LA Times describes the destruction from the earthquake that hit Pakistan and India. The LA Times then lists the agencies looking for donations to help the victims of the quake . This quote is at the end of the story just before the plea from the LA Times to give money to these people:

"You are Christian or Jew?" he inquired, shouting to be heard over the Russian rescue crew's jackhammer. "We like Christians," he said, and his smile turned to a scowl, "more than Jews."

Now I'm not saying that what this man said is not newsworthy - but to use his statements as the lead into the list of agencies accepting money to help people like him... is, well - something that could only happen in the LA Times.

New LA Times Editorial Staff - New York Times - 3 LA Times - 1/2

The New York Times/Bloomberg take on the new hires/promotions since it cuts to the quick:


The Los Angeles Times yesterday named three senior editors to help run the newsroom, with one focusing principally on attracting more readers to the daily.

Dean Baquet, editor of The Times, named Leo C. Wolinsky managing editor, assigning him to address readership declines, the newspaper said. An investigative reporter, Doug Frantz, was named managing editor for news and John Montorio was named associate editor for features.


Mr. Baquet said Mr. Frantz would be in charge of day-to-day news-gathering functions, including foreign, national, metro, business, sports and science coverage. Mr. Montorio will direct the paper's feature sections.

OK - let me get this straight.

Ex-New York Times man Dean Baquet hires ex-New York Times man Doug Frantz to run all the news gathering for the LA Times. He then hires ex-New York Times man John Montorio to run all the feature sections for the LA Times. He then asks Californian Leo C. Wolinsky to solve the problem of why hundreds of thousands of people have stopped reading the Times because it has nothing to do with... Los Angeles.

That settles it! Dean Baquet is definitely on David Geffen's payroll! And I think we can all agree, Dean's worth ever single penny that Geffen is paying him.

Another Los Angeles Art Collection - Goes Back East!

Carol Vogel New York Times

The Museum of Modern Art has received a gift of 174 contemporary works from a Los Angeles real estate developer, including prime examples of paintings, sculptures and drawings by artists like Philip Guston, Vija Celmins and Christopher Wilmarth.

Since the late 1970's, the developer, Edward R. Broida, has been buying what he considered the best works by a small group of contemporary artists who were overlooked by more fashion-conscious collectors.

"At the time everyone thought I was crazy," Mr. Broida said in a telephone interview, "but the worm has turned." Prime examples of paintings by Guston, for example, are now in such demand that they are fetching upwards of a million dollars at auction. The entire gift is worth about $50 million, said a museum official who requested anonymity because it is a policy not to disclose the financial value of gifts.

These works not only help fill many gaps in the Modern's contemporary art collection, but also enlarge its previous holdings of certain artists. For example, Mr. Broida is giving the museum 36 works by Guston, including 12 paintings, 16 drawings and 8 prints dating from 1938 to 1980. Ann Temkin, a curator in the Modern's department of painting and sculpture, said that while the museum already had 12 paintings by Guston, "the extraordinary quality of Mr. Broida's gift transforms the collection, making it the greatest holdings of Guston in the world."


Now, Mr. Broida said, he is determined to give as much of his collection to public institutions as possible. He is in discussions with the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

He said he had not considered giving any of his collection to a Los Angeles museum. Of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, he said, "Their art eyes are so different from mine, the collection didn't fit." Of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, he said, "They are totally wrapped up with another large collection," referring to Eli Broad, the Los Angeles financier who is putting his vast collection of contemporary art in a new building that will be part of the museum.

So why are Los Angeles museums so incapable of developing relationships with Los Angeles collectors? For at least fifty years, major LA art collections have too often gone back east - or on the auction block - or both. Somehow our major art museums seem to repel LA collectors almost as much as the LA Times repels... LA readers. Now of course having a 'local' newspaper with zero sense of LA in its pages and no civic pride in LA doesn't help, but even the current sad state of the LA Times can't be blamed for this... completely.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

LA Times Crosses Line Between Editorial and Ads!

Clicked on LA TIMES website and saw a story headed 'DOES BASEBALL HAVE A NEW SCANDAL TO WORRY ABOUT?' - with a film-noirish photo of two baseball players in a locker room. MORE STORY was one link - the other was VIDEO.

I hit the MORE STORY link and... found this breaking 'story' was an ad for... milk. And even then, it was hard to tell for certain until one clinked one more link.

I then went back to the front page to see that in very tiny letters, this was labeled as an.. advertisement. Now this ad is on the middle box of the right hand side of the page and at least a half-dozen other ads rotate in that spot and none of them can be mistaken for anything other than an ad. This one, however, is designed to look exactly like a news story with no clue within it that it is an ad. And the layout is designed to take your eye straight to the links and away from the tiny advertisement banner on top of the box.

The clear intent is to defraud. And the Times gets paid every time one of us clicks on the ad thinking it is a news story.

Is The New York Times Takover Of The LA Times Now Official?

No, I don't mean the New York Times is buying the LA Times (they are too bright to do that), but the latest pod person from the New York Times may be hatching as we speak over of Spring Street. Kevin Roderick's morning post:

Whispers in the wind say that Times editor Dean Baquet could name his managing editor(s) today. Istanbul correspondent and leader of the Friends of Dean club Doug Frantz happens to be in town. Not predicting, just saying...

So I guess all this foolish talk about more local coverage and more local reporting is... well... just foolish talk.

Frantz and Dean first met up in Chicago and then worked together again at the New York Times. However, Frantz did spend some years reporting at the LA Times, so he has at least visited our city in the past. But if this appointment does happen, then there will again not be one person with any ties or extensive first hand knowledge of this city (much less born and raised and educated in LA) at the top of the food chain at the LA Times.

However, looking at this from a strictly journalistic POV - Frantz is an excellent writer and a superb investigative reporter. His expose of Scientology, the US arming of Iraq and many other investigative pieces bode well for his tenure here, even though he has made it clear that his heart is really in... Istanbul.,cotts,38413,6.html

His leaving the New York Times:

The pitchfork-and-torch mob from the Times newsroom got the right man but busted him for being a jerk when his real crime was tampering with the news. Douglas Frantz, the much-respected investigative reporter who left the Times after rumbling with the Raines administration, issues this indictment of his former boss in e-mail to Mnookin:

My sense was that Howell Raines was eager to have articles that supported the war-mongering out of Washington. ... He discouraged pieces that were at odds with the administration's position on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction and alleged links of Al Qaeda. Because of that, Judy Miller's reporting was encouraged by other senior editors at the paper, sometimes over the objections of other editors.


His parting words/thoughts when he quit the LA Times:

Another viewpoint on why he first left LA Times.

Troopergate never really developed "legs" as a major media story because it first broke in the right-wing American Spectator. We learn from Stewart that the Los Angeles Times had the story before the Spectator, but the paper's editor, Shelby Coffey, held it up until after the monthly scooped the daily. Coffey's actions so angered veteran investigative reporter Douglas Frantz that he eventually quit the paper, and is now with The New York Times. Stewart says he found the troopers "scrupulously accurate."

His investigative pieces have managed to annoy Scientologists, Armenians, the pro-Israel lobby, several presidents, even more newspaper editors, the right, the left and too many other groups to mention, so he must be doing something right.

He has also written at least eight books (most of them with his wife, Catherine Collins), three of which I have read and enjoyed.

Important Article In LA Times On Earthquake Safety!,1,4309360.story?coll=la-headlines-california

Sharon Bernstein October 11, 2005

Tens of thousands of older concrete buildings across California represent the state's largest remaining risk of serious damage in a major earthquake, seismic safety officials say. Constructed as department stores, schools, parking structures and office buildings from the 1930s through the early 1970s, these buildings typically consist of large, open lower stories held up by unreinforced or poorly reinforced concrete pillars.

After several collapsed in the 1971 San Fernando earthquake, seismic safety codes were upgraded to require that any new concrete buildings be better constructed. Many seismic experts say preexisting structures - known as non-ductile concrete buildings - need to be retrofitted to bring them up to current standards.

"It's well recognized within the earthquake professional community that many California non-ductile concrete buildings are at unacceptable risk of collapse in moderately strong shaking," said Thomas Heaton, professor of engineering seismology at Caltech.Because many of the older concrete buildings tend to be filled during the day with office workers, schoolchildren or people parking their cars, the death and injury toll from an earthquake that caused several of the structures to collapse could be staggering, said Heaton.

But building owners and business organizations have long fought efforts to require retrofits, arguing that the risk is overstated. And they say that in some cases, the cost of retrofits comes close to that of razing a building and starting over. Neither the state nor local governments have required that the structures be reinforced.

"If you're going to use a 'sky is falling' scenario, then maybe you can justify" a retrofit requirement, said Carol Schatz, president of the Central City Assn. "But if you're going to put a bunch of commercial property owners out of business in the process, what have you accomplished?"

Property owners and business associations opposed a proposal last year by City Councilmen Greig Smith and Alex Padilla to count the number of unreinforced concrete buildings in Los Angeles. The measure didn't make it out of a council committee.

"We met with a lot of opposition," said Smith, who saw that and a companion proposal as first steps toward developing a program to retrofit the city's non-ductile concrete buildings and unreinforced parking structures. Smith said he hoped to work with business groups to draft a proposal acceptable to the council.

I know I am going to make a lot of people I know unhappy, but there are few things more important to the long term safety of LA than this issue. There needs to be an inventory our unreinforced concrete buildings and a study of just how dangerous each of them is.

But then both the state and the city need to get creative. There is not a one solution that fits this problem. Fixing these potential deathtraps will need to be done on almost case-by-case basis.
Possibly the adaptive reuse ordinance can allow for many of the larger office buildings to be turned into condos. Maybe zoning variances and property tax abatements might make it possible for the buildings to be financially able to be either retrofitted - or redeveloped.

I know even back in 1965 when watched the great American Cement Building being built on Wilshire overlooking MacArthur Park, I wondered how safe it was, a worry that only increased when I saw the damage done to concrete buildings in the 1967 Caracas earthquake. But now that it has been converted into lofts, possibly it can become a template of how to reuse these buildings, of course it might have been built to much higher standards than normal due to who its owner was.

Lastly, some years ago there was considerable press about 1970's and 1980's office buildings with unsafe steel welds not being retrofitted quickly enough; but I have not read anything on that story for many years. Maybe an update might be in order from Sharon Bernstein on that subject.

Was it done - or not done?

PS - Proof-readers. I think Sharon meant 'companion proposal' and not 'compasion proposal', so I corrected in my version of the story.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Bombing In LA - Last Friday - And LA Times Scooped By - Everyone! LAT Also Ignores Terrorist Angle In Oklahoma Bombing!

I have to admit it had never even occurred to me to check to see if the LA Times covered this story - since everybody else had. But guess what - they didn't!

Mickey KausUpdated Monday, Oct. 10, 2005, at 11:11 PM PT

Dear Tribune Company: Can we have the massive layoffs now? Please? Can it be that an improvised explosive device was found and detonated by police on Friday near the University of California at Los Angeles and the story still has not made the Los Angeles Times? It looks that way. ... Note to LAT editor Dean Baquet: Whatever you do, don't run this bomb story. People might be interested! That's always dangerous. But if readers don't know about it then they won't be unnecessarily worried. ...

Also not covered in the LAT is the long breaking story that the Oklahoma 'depressed student' suicide bomber may have actually been a member of a terrorist cell.