Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thirteen Things To Keep You Awake At Night

Even if you're not a science freak - these 13 mysteries... about how little we know about ourselves and the world we live in.... is pretty cool.

Can Jordan Downs - Or The Los Angeles Housing Authority - Be Saved?

First, the good news. One of the most crime ridden, dangerous, gang run housing projects may be demolished and replaced with a mixed income community - including the existing residents. This is a project that has long been asked by all of the Watts residents I know.

The bad news is that this will all be done by the Los Angeles Housing Authority - the single most corrupt, dishonest and incompetent of the local government agencies. And from my every dealing and encounter with anyone at this agency, I can verify that the corruption and incompetence in this agency has run from the very top to the very bottom.

It is also filled with people who are not there to serve the people of Los Angeles or the people who live in its housing - but only to push their own political agendas.

Supposedly, the revolving door of new leadership at the top has improved the situation - but some time ago I gave up dealing with the agency - after being unable to find even a single honest or competent person to deal with - so I can't personally speak for the present situation.

But merely changing the people who run the agency won't even begin to fix all the problems of that agency and - so far - I have not seen the slightest internal interest in even investigating much less fixing those problems.

So the only hope for the residents of Watts, is that the private developer is insulated as much as possible from any dealings with the housing agency's staff. Below is a brief description of the project - with the rest of the LAT story at the above link.

L.A. officials envision revitalization for Jordan Downs housing project in Watts
The city is making plans to replace the 700 rundown units with a $1-billion mixed-use development, in hopes that bringing businesses to the area will reduce the influence of gangs.
By Ari B. Bloomekatz and Jessica Garrison

February 28, 2009

Los Angeles officials are embarking on a $1-billion plan to tear down the notorious Jordan Downs housing project and turn it into a "new urban village" -- an effort aimed at transforming the Watts neighborhood that would be one of the city's largest public works projects.

The city wants to replace the project's 700 dilapidated units, which were built more than half a century ago, with taller "mixed-use" buildings that would house not just low-income residents but also those paying market rates. The new development could include as many as 2,100 units.

By creating a denser community that serves people of different incomes, officials hope to draw businesses to the complex, such as coffee houses, supermarkets and eateries. Officials believe this would help reduce the influence of gangs in an area that has long been the base of the Grape Street Crips and create better lives for Watts residents. Included in the price tag is a proposal to turn Jordan High School into what officials describe as a cutting-edge model campus.

"This will have a transformative impact not just on the Jordan Downs housing project but on the surrounding community as well," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. "In order to make these communities thriving, you have to have a . . . retail component."

Already, L.A. officials have spent $31 million to purchase a 21-acre piece of land adjacent to the existing project on which they plan to expand. They have earmarked millions more for planning. The financing for the project would combine federal redevelopment money, state tax credits and private investments from retailers and developers of market-rate housing. Officials hope to get some money from President Obama's stimulus package and from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

City officials plan to hold their first meeting between the private planning firm they have hired, WRT-Solomon, and community members at Jordan Downs today.

What remains to be seen is whether Los Angeles and its housing authority, which until recently has been plagued by scandal and mismanagement, can carry out such a bold transformation, especially in such grim economic times. Past efforts to modernize Jordan Downs have ended badly, with housing officials fired or forced to resign amid allegations that they broke rules or embezzled funds.

City officials argue that they have turned the authority, the largest housing agency west of the Mississippi, around in recent years. And they argue that the bad economy actually helps their cause, because in tough times, private developers find government-funded projects a safer investment than the vagaries of the open market -- a point on which real estate experts agree.

Again, the rest of the story is at the above link.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Giant Theater Space Opening In Downtown Los Angeles!

I had heard the odd word about this project, but I had no idea it was of this scale- or this close to a public opening. Below is post by Sam Lubell at the ArchitectsNewspaper blog. Photos at the link above.

Last Saturday LA’s new X Repertory Theater Company (XRT) celebrated the opening of its mammoth headquarters—which they call Location X— on 1581 Industrial Street in the city’s Arts/Warehouse District. Members of the company spent weeks prior to the party sandblasting (yes, they did it themselves, respirators and all..) the 10,000 square foot former warehouse’s plaster walls to reveal gorgeous brick;and they’ve hired standout Venice firm Sander Architects to install mainstage and black box theaters, rehearsal rooms, offices, and a coffee bar/cabaret. The non-profit XRT, which officially opens on April 1, will be both a theater company and an acting school. Its space is one of several to recently open along the south edge of the Downtown Arts District, an atmospheric former wasteland that’s already the place to be for architecture school slackers and the rest of today’s Depression 2.0-era youth.

Posted by Sam Lubell: February 25th, 2009 under Other.

Why Are LACMA And MOCA Too Often Empty?

When you compare attendance figures of LA's two major contemporary and comprehensive art museums with their counterparts in New York and London - the difference is striking. Granted, they are much larger museums but even so when you are in them, it is rare that you will be even one room alone - much less in room after room in which you are the only person, as is too often the case at both MOCA and LACMA.

As for the reason why - as well as possible solutions - that is a subject for a later post. But below is one recent visitor's experience at LACMA:

posted by Beth Harris

The post below was co-written by Steven Zucker and Beth Harris
Spent the evening at LACMA , actually a small collection of museum buildings (including the new Broad Museum) separated by courtyards. The museums were all oddly empty. The exceptional exhibition of 20th century German Expressionism, a stunning new fabrication of Tony Smith’s Smoke, a terrific, if tiny Arts and Crafts exhibition, a well-represented collection of post-war American art, a European collection with some lovely canvases (including a great Gauguin), and two wondrous Serras were a treat but the empty galleries made us think perhaps the museum had closed and they had forgotten to shoo us out. Entrance to the museums was “pay as you wish” when we arrived in the early evening — so we knew the economy wasn’t the cause. Was everyone home watching Obama’s speech to congress?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Downtown Los Angeles Predicted To Be Among First Parts Of Nation To Recover From Recession!

According to WWW.GlobeSt.Com, Jack Kyser predicts Downtown Los Angeles will be one of the first areas of the nation to come out of the current business downturn.

And with the many new businesses moving to Historic Downtown along Main and Spring - and the number of existing businesses that are expanding - HIstoric Downtown is already leads the rest of Downtown.

For both last year and this year, we will have far more residents moving to the area - and far fewer vacant retail and restaurant spaces.

Forecast Sees Faster Downtown Recovery
By Bob Howard

LOS ANGELES-Downtown L.A. could start its recovery from the recession sooner than other parts of the county, the state and the nation, thanks to its transportation links, the new L.A. Convention Center hotel and its stable commercial real estate markets. That is the gist of a forecast by Jack Kyser, founding economist for the Kyser Center for Economic Research at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., which recently presented a regional forecast as well.

Kyser, who presented his Downtown outlook recently at the Central City Association’s Ninth Annual Downtown Los Angeles Economic Forecast, tells that Downtown is uniquely positioned to come out of the downturn for a number of reasons. For one, upcoming events like the opening of the Gold Line rail extension from Union Station into East L.A. and the opening early next year of the Los Angeles Convention Center hotel will bring more people to and from the city.

Kyser estimates that the number of room nights Downtown will climb to 400,000 in 2010 from 245,000 in 2009 with the opening of the Marriott Marquis and the Ritz Carlton, which will make Downtown more competitive for major business shows and conferences. The hotels will attract business visitors as well as their families, Kyser notes. With the Metrorail connections available from Downtown, "There are a lot of things for those family members to see and do when they come to Los Angeles," Kyser explains, such as catching a train to Universal Studios or taking the Blue Line to Long Beach to the Aquarium of the Pacific or cruises to Catalina. In addition, the Downtown freeway system provides access to Los Angeles International Airport, Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and other destinations.

Kyser cites the 1.1% vacancy rate in the Central L.A. industrial market and the county's overall 2.2% industrial vacancy as evidence of its strength. He points out that the office market, although it has weakened with office markets around the country, has not been hit as hard as many others. Downtown didn't have the exposure to the subprime lenders that caused such havoc in the Orange County office market, nor did it depend on the financial companies like those on the Westside of L.A., he explains. With office tenants now keeping an even keener eye on rents, the class A office rates offered in Downtown are attractive when compared to other areas of L.A. county including Hollywood, the West Side and Santa Monica, Kyser points out.

Although the recession will continue throughout 2009, Downtown will fare well in that its residential and worker demographics supporting Downtown businesses. The area currently has 39,000 residents with an average household income of $100,000 or more per year. Approximately 440,000 people also work in Downtown.

Commenting on Kyser's forecast, Carol Schatz, president and CEO of the Central City Association, says that the factors he outlines show that Downtown L.A. is "creating a strong and diverse economy." The Downtown renaissance is creating jobs and business opportunities as well as new housing, entertainment venues and options for shopping and dining, she adds.

Kyser expects to see a reversal of the downsizing that some law firms have undergone because of the slowing in mergers and acquisitions. The new business that will be generated by workouts, bankruptcies and the like should mean at least stability if not growth in the legal sector, which has long been a key office tenant base in Downtown.

Although his outlook for Downtown's recovery overall is positive, Kyser says that the road to recovery will include "some potholes along the way." He notes that many observers are concerned about the flood of residential product that has come on the market. A host of condominium projects have come on the market and found that there were not enough buyers, so some have been converted to apartments, he explains, and some projects--both condos and apartments--are still under construction.

"The concern is whether there will be enough demand over the next year or two," Kyser says of the Downtown housing market. A large part of the concern has to do with condos that came onto the market that are too expensive for most of the likely buyers Downtown. As Kyser explains, the main drivers of the Downtown housing market are "younger people who like a gritty environment and empty nesters who want the convenience," and both of those groups are usually looking for more moderately priced units.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Why I HATED The Oscar Show So Much - Or - Why PIXAR Should Produce The Oscars!

First. the above link goes to Nikke Finke's blog to show I am not alone in feeling the show was a failure

And I finally realized why I unexpectedly hated the show so much.

I liked the concept of almost everything they tried to do: the presentation order; the musical numbers (other than horrible singing over the obits you couldn't read due to bad direction); the idea of the set; the multiple presenters; and even the attempted style and tone.

My strong negative response was due to how far their execution fell from everything they tried to achieve. Other than the wonderful Tina Fey/Steve Martin presenter banter - the writing was stilted, the direction was confused, the set simply did not work in so many ways, the taped pieces were forced and the musical numbers were.... uniformly embarrassing.

It was just too easy to picture how much better every single part of the production, could have been when contrasted to what happened on the stage during the Slumdog production number and whenever the Slumdog winners were on the stage.

And as for Hugh Jackman - he was always professional, always in command of the stage - and he was never for a second a David Letterman or Whoopi Goldberg embarrassment. But he was also never for a moment a host who could hold together the show like Bob Hope, Johnny Carson - or Billy Crystal.

My solution? Next year have PIXAR produce the show.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Worst Oscar Show - Ever

This is not a TV show. This is the biggest mass suicide since Johnstown.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Los Angeles Times LA Neighborhood Maps Project Now On-Line!

After years of complaints from local bloggers - myself included - about the inability of the Los Angeles Times to get the names of our city's neighborhoods correct - or to even agree among themselves what any one neighborhood should be called - the Times now has a beta website up for Angelinos (a word which is, of course, spelled two different ways in this town) to debate what their neighborhoods should be called.

My comments in the article by Bob Pool are pretty much self-explanatory, but there were some underlying points I was trying to make. To begin with, different people call their neighborhoods by different names and many neighborhoods have been called different names at different times. This is an art and not a science.

But there are certain rules that should be followed. For one thing, in areas where the larger neighborhood does not have a commonly accepted name, expanding the boundaries of one of the sub-neighborhoods needs to be done very carefully.

Hancock Park is the poster child for that. Expanding it to include large parts of the former Mid-Wilshire (and Park Mile) district and parts of what are now Koreatown and Hollywood makes no sense. Hancock Park has large single family homes on large lots with exact boundaries defined by the subdivider. The same is true with the adjacent Windsor Square, which is also now part of Hancock Park.

In this case, the larger area needs to be called Mid-Wilshire or some other name that reflects the overall character of all the sub-neighborhood - and not the specific characteristics of the one sub-neighborhood.

The same problem occurs with moving the name Beverly Glen - which was originally a small lot subdivisions from the 1920's - with many much larger homes, too, and a newer planned community built in the mid/later 20th Century. Both of those characteristics are quite different from the nature of the former BHPO area now also called... Beverly Glen. Again, the larger name should correctly describe the larger area.

Finally, in the article, I took exception with taking a very distinct - and rather small area - Pico-Union - and expanding it far to the West - taking that name into areas that have nothing to do with the original neighborhood. Even I had to agree, though, that I had absolutely no idea what that area should be called, either. Just that it was not Pico-Union.

But I do want to commend the Times for taking the leadership on this issue (and, more specifically, reporter Bob Pool, California Editor David Lauter and LAT database Editor Doug Smith and his staff)and making it possible for us to have an open public debate on.... who we are and where we live.

Lastly, I have offered the neighborhood councils as a place where the debate can be started and I think the local home owners groups, neighborhood associations, block clubs and chambers of commerce should join in.

So let the debate being!

L.A. neighborhoods, you're on the map
In a city where one block is considered Hancock Park and the next Hollywood, The Times unveils an online map of the boundaries of 87 communities. If you don't like what you see, submit changes.
By Bob Pool

February 19, 2009

Nevermind where we're going. Question is: Where are we now?

"We're in Woodland Hills," said Anthony Tholberg as he stood outside his home late last week and mulled over that question.

Tholberg, 23, grew up in the mid-century modern house in the 19800 block of Friar Street. No wonder he was puzzled when he was handed a copy of a new map that labeled his 54-home enclave as being in the community of Winnetka.

The Los Angeles Times is unveiling the new map of neighborhoods today on its website at Years in the making, it is designed to be a tool that will allow reporters and editors to be consistent when describing neighborhoods in news stories in a city that sometimes seems to change the names like most people change socks.

Dorothy Parker famously said Los Angeles was "72 suburbs in search of a city," so it's not surprising that residents take their neighborhood names so seriously. Those designations are part tradition and history -- but also part economic and political. Many residents see big differences in property value if you live in tony Hancock Park as opposed to more working-class Mid-City.

In the Valley, there's a grand tradition of seceding from traditional neighborhoods. Parts of gritty Van Nuys have become Valley Glen and Lake Balboa, while a portion of Canoga Park re-christened itself West Hills.

For its new map, The Times listed Winnetka, not Woodland Hills, as Tholberg's community. The dividing line followed Topham Street and the new Orange Line busway where they bear south from Woodland Hills' long-standing northern boundary, Victory Boulevard.

"We're going to keep calling ourselves Woodland Hills here," predicted the college student. "Our mail is addressed Woodland Hills and that's what everybody's always called it. We've always considered the intersection of Victory and Corbin as where Woodland Hills, Tarzana, Reseda and Canoga Park meet."

The "Canoga Park" that Tholberg referred to is labeled Winnetka too on The Times' map.

Fortunately, those who disagree with the map have a chance to persuade the newspaper's mapmakers to reconsider. Readers can use the interactive website to redraw any section of the map they feel is incorrect and submit the alteration for editors' consideration. And editors may be busy.

In Highland Park, the map uses Avenue 50 as the dividing line between that community and next-door Mount Washington. That may have plopped hundreds of homes and businesses into Mount Washington by mistake, according to locals.

"I think a lot of people in Mount Washington will be upset by this. It's going to hurt their real estate values," said David Robles, a 34-year-old math coach at Aldama Elementary School. The Times map says his campus is in Mount Washington.

"We're in Highland Park," he said. "A lot of people around here would love to be in Mount Washington, but they're not."

Robles and others at the school said the boundary should be at the base of the hill that gives Mount Washington its name.

Across town, salesman John Kim stood outside his apartment on Manhattan Place a few steps from Melrose Avenue and shook his head at the newspaper's map. It said he lives in Hancock Park.

"This should be Koreatown," said Kim, a 10-year resident of the area. "Hancock Park is a nice area. My landlord jokes this is the 'Koreatown Ghetto.' To me, Hancock Park doesn't start until past Wilcox. Koreatown should go west to Arlington."

Up the street, carwash cashier Leyda Pena suggested that the neighborhood should be considered Hollywood instead of Hancock Park. "The map shows Hollywood is on the other side of the street," she said, pointing to the north side of Melrose. "We should be too."

Pena said she lives in South-Central Los Angeles, an area The Times' map initially didn't recognize as a neighborhood. Instead, it broke South Los Angeles into places such as Exposition Park, Leimert Park, West Vernon, Harvard Park, Green Meadows and Vermont Vista.

Why is neighborhood naming so difficult? The city of Los Angeles has posted hundreds of blue street signs denoting scores of neighborhoods -- from Little Ethiopia to Little Tokyo to Little Armenia. But the city has never drawn the official boundaries of each district.

Los Angeles activist Brady Westwater, who in the past has been a vocal critic of what he has considered the misnaming of neighborhoods in news stories, acknowledged that nailing down names that everyone will agree on will be difficult.

"The first lynch mob is going to be coming down the hill down Beverly Glen Boulevard," he predicted as he studied the preliminary map. The area the newspaper is calling Beverly Glen includes upscale areas north of Beverly Hills that use a Beverly Hills mailing address.

"You'll also get some blowback from Van Nuys -- it's been chopped up. For some reason Pico-Union is being pushed west. No way west of Hoover can be considered Pico-Union."

Westwood historian Greg Fischer, who since the late 1980s has researched original Los Angeles subdivision tract names and sparked a campaign to memorialize them around town with officials city signs, noted that the neighborhood of Little Tokyo is missing from The Times' map.

"If Chinatown is there, Little Tokyo would certainly seem to have a place," Fischer said. "Rancho Park is not really a good name. It's actually 'South Westwood.' Beverly Glen is very suspect -- 'Beverly Crest' would probably be better."

There will be space for recognition of original housing tract names in a "sub-neighborhood" list that will be attached to each of the 87 communities the Times' map recognizes. Eventually, the map may become an electronic entryway to detailed neighborhood information -- crime statistics, census information, economic data and links to Times stories, said Times Database Editor Doug Smith, the map project's coordinator.

Smith, a veteran Times reporter, said the map was compiled with information drawn from such references as a mid-1990s mayor's office map, a 2001 Times map that plotted potholes in the city, the Thomas Guide, U.S. census tracts and Times staffers' personal experience and knowledge.

"To be honest, it's more seat-of-the-pants than scientific," Smith said. "We didn't go to original Spanish land grant maps. The authority is the collective wisdom of the L.A. Times."

California Editor David Lauter, who pushed to give readers an opportunity to review and comment on the project, urged that the map's basic communities be limited to 100. He said "sub-neighborhoods" could list historic or ceremonial names found in the city.

There was lengthy debate over many districts. "Mount Olympus" or "Hollywood Hills West?" Where does Porter Ranch end and Chatsworth begin?

Web designer Ben Welsh wondered whether a small section of the Los Feliz area should be singled out as a neighborhood that locals know as Franklin Hills. Cautioned researcher Maloy Moore: "I've met people who are very adamant that they live in Franklin Hills, not Los Feliz."

Smith said adjustments will continue to be made to the map when readers and users submit convincing arguments and as demographics and situations change.

Even as Smith spoke, his colleagues were incorporating some of Westwater's suggestions and rethinking such decisions as the use of the South-Central Los Angeles name.

"This will be a work in progress," Smith said.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Excellent Article On Coming Crisis In Russia

What is happening today in Russia is only the beginning of their crisis - and ours. This is the best summary I have yet seen.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

OMG! More Hot News From Pravada! Hairy Yeti Women Seducing Russian Men!

Normally, I only read the financial news in Pravda - but once I followed the cat's eyes photos - I discovered the fascinating world of Pravda's inner National Enquirer. And, no, this is not an 'Onion' version of Pravda. It's the real deal:

Weird hairy females seduce hot-blooded Caucasian men
17.12.2008 Source: Pravda.Ru URL:

A sensational incident took place in the Chegemsky Gorge of the Northern Caucasus. Researchers found evidence to prove the existence of Bigfoot in the area. Local residents say that Yeti females – people refer to these weird creatures as the Almasty – come into contact with humans and even attempted to have a sexual intercourse with local men.

People say that they have had quite a number of encounters with yeti in the area around the town of Elbrus.

“There are many deserted barns over there with boulders and woods around. They most often spot the Almasty there. They come to town from there,” local resident Adelgery Tilov said.

The settlement of Elbrus is entirely surrounded by woods and mountains. Each resident has seen the Bigfoot at least once in a lifetime. Moreover, local women know some men, who communicate with the Almasty, with their females, to be more precise.

“A yeti female looks like a gorilla, of course, but she can definitely temp a man,” one of the elders, Kazi Khajiyev said. “The Almasty can bewitch a man. They say that a man, whom a wild woman tries to seduce, sees not the hairy ape-like creature, but the woman that he wants to see. It is something like hypnosis,” the man said.

The locals try to avoid a sudden meeting with the yeti. They traditionally put some of their food and drinks outside every night after dinner to feed the wild creatures.

“A wild human being is a human being, that is why we try to get along with them. My grandfather used to tell me that the Almasty have always lived here. They increased their population after the Balkars deserted their villages. The Almasty took their homes, that’s why they let humans see them so often nowadays,” Adilgery Tilov said.

Adilgery says that fire is the ultimate attraction to the yeti. Most of the encounters occur when people sit by the fire.

“I had to go to a neighboring village one summer day. I was supposed to stay there for a night so I accommodated myself in a deserted barn. I made a fire near the barn and fell asleep. I opened my eyes very early in the morning and saw someone sitting by the fire. A female yeti was giving me a very thoughtful look. She was not tall, a bit more than one meter in height. She was black and her fur was all messy . I was scared to death, and was lying there still, thinking what she was going to do next. She stayed there for about ten more minutes, got up and vanished in the woods,” the man said.

“Wild man does not like to be bothered. If someone offends the Almasty, they may respond in the most terrible way. One summer day children were playing games in our village. A wild woman was sitting not very far from the kids, basking in the sun. One of the boys ran up to the woman and pulled her by the fur. She did not move, but gave the boy a fierce look. The boy died from a strange disease several days later,” Tilov said.

Many locals say that the Almasty can cast an evil spell on humans. Nafisat Boziyeva is one of those who suffered from such a curse.

“I knew the story from my early childhood, but it could never occur to me that the story was true. It happened before the revolution. One of our ancestors encountered a wild woman in the woods. They developed affection to each other, and he even brought her to the village as if she was his wife. It was obviously a shock for the villagers. Many women were openly laughing at the wild female, and so she cursed them. There were several women of our clan among the cursed. Many of our female descendants have never been able to have their own families since then. They become either unhappily married or spend the whole life alone,” the woman said.

© 1999-2006. «PRAVDA.Ru». When reproducing our materials in whole or in part, hyperlink to PRAVDA.Ru should be made. The opinions and views of the authors do not always coincide with the point of view of PRAVDA.Ru's editors.

Even Pravda Has A Cat Photo Album On Its Website!

It's a far cry from.... - but the Russian paper of record now features a link to photos of cat's eyes on its website.