Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The LA Times, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and LAT Editor Dean Baquet.

Once the magnitude of the disaster became apparent, I was curious how the LA Times would handle the coverage under new editor, Dean Baquet.

This is because Baquet was born and raised in New Orleans. His heart is still there and it will always be there, as it should be. It is also where much of his family and many of his friends live. It is the one place that would always be special to him even if he was not a peripatetic newspaper man moving from town to town.

My curiosity was aroused because Michael Kinsley had recently turned the editorial section into a month long cheering section and bully pulpit for the control of malaria. This was notable because, at the same time, his wife had a very highly paid job with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Additionally, the eradication of malaria in Africa is one of the Foundation's major programs.

Also noteworthy, during the same month, the editorial pages remained largely silent on both Killer King and the Getty while the Times was filled with stories about the outrageous behavior at each institution.

Now with that shining example - how has the Time's coverage been affected by the new Editor?

The answer seems to be... barely at all.

If anything, just possibly (though unlikely), maybe very slightly less coverage, at the very beginning.

I was a little surprised by the Saturday paper which barely mentioned the threat to the Gulf Coast. But I was really amazed by the Sunday final edition. Even after the voluntary evacuation of the entire city of New Orleans and the realization that a potential Category 4 or 5 storm could hit - and flood - the city, thus creating unprecedented disaster - the story was still clear back on page 14 of the 'A' section.

Now partly that because foreign news is always covered in the first part of the 'A' section (unless the story starts on the front page), and all national news stories are stuck in the rear part of the section.

One of the many mysteries of the Times self-inflicted self-destruction is why 'A' section stories are not positioned in order or importance or reader interest, but by whether they take place in the US or overseas. This is why readers needed to read past a story about calypso singers libeling chickens before they could find a story about the possible destruction of one of the world's great cities. It is also one of the many reasons why readers are fleeing the LA Times.

But getting back to the Times' coverage of the disaster. It has been excellent. And there has been nothing in the degree or type of coverage that would indicate any special interest was being given the story. Plus the editorial page waited until today before even commenting on the disaster.

That's the good news. And it is good news.

But I have (of course) one caveat.

When he became editor, Dean Baquet said he wanted to get to know the city and the people in it. And, hopefully, he will soon make good on that promise.

But is it is a two way street. As the editor of the only major newspaper covering Los Angeles - we should get to know him. And I can think of no better time than now.

With New Orleans facing a disaster that none of us can even begin to understand - the obliteration (if, hopefully, only temporarily) of an entire city - I for one would like to know what his thoughts are and how it has affected him and his family and his friends back in New Orleans.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Worst Outrage in New Orleans.

During the last interview with the Mayor - I did not hear one word of ANY plan for the people who can not drive to get out of New Orleans. I assume there are some on the ground plans, but they certainly are not being adequately communicated to the press,

And just now a WDSU reporter is reporting seeing kids, as young as six and seven year old - on their own - with all their belongings in a plastic bag - begging drivers to take them out of the city. And when his news team left on the one bridge still open, there saw a line of the very old and the very young - people in wheel chairs - even more incredible - people being pushed on hospital gurneys - fleeing for their lives over the last bridge out of New Orleans.

The same reporter also gave an account of the gangs roaming and terrorizing the city.

We should all be asking - after all this time - why have buses and trucks not been commandeered to get the poor out of the city?

Why are the residents of New Orleans not being told HOW to get out of the city instead of just being told that they must get out of the city?

And when Mayor Nagin announced the new flooding of much of the rest of New Orleans in his latest interviews - why did he not offer any plan to get those with no resources of their own - to get out of the city?


Person at Tulane hospital gave an interview to WDSU describing a fishing boat filled with looters armed with guns patroling the streets and then she describing how looters were breaking into the doctor's cars in the hospital parking garage while they are trying to save lives.

But, Mayor Nagin still needs another night before he decides if it is appropriate to call for martial law citywide rather than in just some areas.


UPDATE - While I would like to move past examining the behavior of Mayor Nagin - it was just announced that a major hotel has been set afire - possibly by looters - after extensive coverage of the wide spread violence and looting in New Orleans. With that announcement, the newscasters continue to express bewilderment at why the Mayor has not yet called for martial law.


Mayor Nagin finally declared Martial Law last night as he always has had a right to and long after adjoinng parishes had made that declaration. And now that an organized evacuation is finally starting and troops are coming in to start what will be a very long process to regain order, there is nothing to say about this situation. Appropriate actions are starting - and only just starting - to protect the people of New Orleans. Now all we can do is make certain our local state and federal governments will be there for support during the many years it is going to take to rebuild New Orleans and the surrouding areas.

Bizarre Interview With Mayor Of New Orleans On WDSU TV!

Just listened to a rambling interview where the WDSU newscasters kept feeding the Mayor Nagin information about looting, fires set by looters - but he claimed that no such thing was happening. Then he was asked about the sand bagging that was supposed to stop the breech in the levee at noon their time, he said it was not done because the BlackHawk chopters never bothered to show up to pick up the sand bags! And he also said it was not until FOUR hours after the sand bags were supposed to be dropped that someone called him to tell him that they had not been dropped.

And it was the failure to stop that breech that caused the pump to be flooded which will cause the massive flooding of New Orleans that is to take place tonight. And all day there was supposedly a debate on how to stop the breech. It just seems incredible that some kind of plan would not have been put in place before hand.

And he was asked what was the chain of command in the making and executing of these life and death decisions, Mayor Nagin essentially said he had no idea.

Ok - is this guy certifiable or not?

Nagin just said that until today he still felt it would have only taken one to two weeks to have gotten things back to normal in the city! Even after all of yesterday's flooding! And this is, again, exactly what he had said only hours before the hurricane hit.

And now he is talking about some 6 to 8 week plan to get the city back to normal when everyone is saying it will take that much time just to get the water out... assuming it ever stops coming in, of course.


The Governor is holding a news conferrence where Army Corps is stating that sandbags were dropped, but that the flow was too strong and the breech to wide for it to work (as had been reportered earlier in the day, I might add). No one brought up the Mayor's claim that the helicopter - and he called it 'the' helicopter - that was supposed to drop the sandbags - may have been busy doing a resuce and so couldn't drop the sandbags.


Newscasters begin to question the Mayor's continued refusal to declare martial law citywide rather than in just some areas (despite looters attacking and even shooting (one) police officers, an event which the Mayor has downplayed) and his continued reluctance to come out strongly against looters. Sounds just like his delay in asking for a mandatory evacuation.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Early Lessons From New Orleans.

I realize that the height of a tragedy is not the ideal time for finger pointing or blame finding. But when New Orleans Mayor Nagin delayed - according to news reports - issuing a mandatory evacuation despite being asked by the President, the Governor and the hurricane experts, until he was practically ordered to - one can only wonder how many deaths his delay may have caused. And while I did not see his press conference when he made the request (where he supposedly acquitted himself well), I did see him on the later local news shows when he talked about the upcoming disaster so... calmly... that it was hard to take him seriously.

He did mention that there was mandatory evacuation, but in the news shows I watched, he never tried to sell the urgency of the evacuation; he never pleaded with or begged his citizens to leave and he never gave them numbers to call if they needed help in leaving; in fact, he spent more time talking about oil prices than he did about the evacuation.

And then he contradicted experts about how long it would take to get the city running again, even after a direct hit - I think two weeks was his guess for both water and electricity - and that staggeringly wrong assessment essentially told his audience that it really wasn't going to be that bad, that there really wasn't anything to really worry about from this hurricane. Plus Nagin also claimed that there was no real threat from toxic materials when one of the newscasters brought up that subject. I even recall how the newscasters had to literally drag information out of him that their viewers needed to hear from him.

Fortunately, other officials made the mandatory evacuation point far more effectively and that helped get the majority of the population to leave the city.

But still, even then, even after that lackluster performance, when the last minute stragglers were interviewed after leaving New Orleans - their most cited reason for leaving - was the Mayor's - long overdue - mandatory evacuation order, even without his proper selling of this message to his city. It then became clear to me how much trust the people in New Orleans had in him. So imagine how many more might have left had he been selling the message that they needed to get to higher and safer ground - now - hard - and non-stop.

And then the storm started and... Nagin seemingly vanished... and was not heard from for many hours. Luckily, though, the city was spared a direct hit and the winds dropped considerably even before then - sparing the city an unimaginable disaster that would have leveled the majority of ALL structures in the city and flooded the entire city, with tens of thousands of potential casualties.

Then the Mayor seemingly vanished again until one of the local TV stations felt they had to ask their viewers if they could reach him and ask him to call the station so he could let the citizens of New Orleans... know what was going on! It was the verbal equivalent of putting his face on a milk carton. Granted there were some communication problems - but look back on how Mayor Riordan and Mayor Giuliani handled the LA earthquake and the 9/11 disasters. They each effectively ran the rescue and relief efforts while they still effectively communicated with their citizens on a non-stop basis.

And then when Mayor Nagin finally made a re-appearance, he looked... shell shocked. He had a deer-in-the-headlights look and he at first just repeated what FEMA officials told him from their helicopter tours of the city - tours he did not even take with them. And a number of the things he said - seemed somewhat exaggerated, and I could be very wrong here - MIGHT even have been contradictory to what other people were saying. But he did very accurately convey a sense of the size of the disaster that had hit the city.

My point here is that had he conveyed that same sense of impending disaster BEFORE the storm, far more people might have evacuated.

But there is still another failing of the Mayor's that was made very clear in the coverage.

Both before and after the storm, time and time again in interviews, people said they wanted to leave, but that they could not; they said could not afford to leave, they said didn'’t have transportation or they said were just too old to handle any part of the situation.

My final question is - if everyone knew this day was coming, and since New Orleans has a high percentage of its population living in poverty and many poor elderly and infirm - how could there not have been an evacuation plan that effectively included them? Why was there no concerted and organized outreach plan prearranged to reach those communities? Why was there no plan for school buses and churches buses to take them to safety, even if just into local shelters? Why were the churches not more tied in this last minute effort, other than just sending them faxes? One reporter even said that churches were setting up ad-hoc shelters once they realized that there were not enough localized city shelters set-up for those who could not leave in their communities, since they are the social centers of each community in New Orleans.

Now I don't know how this could have all happened the way it did... but it is more and more clear that we can not wait until our big one hits before we develop a detailed plan on how very aspect of our response needs to be handled ; a plan that tries to anticipate every need and every possibility. We can't afford to happen here what just happened in New Orleans.


It is now almost 1 PM Wednesday August 3oth LA time and multiple levee breaks are rapidly flooding the entire city. I have only been watching coverage for a few hours, but one person has been conspicuously absent from all the TV coverage that I have seen so far; but it was just mentioned that the Mayor was been interviewed on radio earlier today, which, is of course, where most of the people of New Orleans will be getting their news for a long time.


4:20 PM Tuesday August 30th

Mayor announces that a major pump has failed and the attempt to fix the levee breaks has failed. All of New Orleans will now be flooded to five feet over sea level and since most of the city is below sea level, that means 8 - 20 feet of water in much of the city (luckily, though, some of the city is above sea level) within twelve hours.

The second hand TV-related advice of the Mayor was to either evacuate - or move to a higher floor in your building. Now I assume he means the latter only if you can not get to a shelter or get out of New Orleans - but that is not what was conveyed on either report I saw. And no infomation on how to get out of town or get to a shelter was being given on the TV reports I am hearing. Now I asume that information is being given out elsewhere, but... still...

Major Roman Mosaic Floor To Be Installed In Museum! Is It The... Getty?

Now since the Getty's major world class collection of Roman - and to a lesser extent - Greek antiquities, when a one of the great Roman floor mosaics came on the market a few years ago - with the Getty's resources, of course they ended up with it!


Well, no. Alas, as the New York Times' Geraldine Fabrikant, tells us, this masterpiece came on the market during the rein of Munitz the Mediocre, and thus... it ended up in Boston.

The mosaic floor was grand enough to grace an idyllic setting: a sprawling villa with sweeping views of the Mediterranean and the surrounding mountains near ancient Antioch. It was assembled cube by tiny cube around the third century A.D. in the villa's courtyard, and its wonders include rosy cherubs astride gamboling dolphins, their rods dangling in pursuit of darting fish.

The villa, known as the House of the Drinking Contest - for a mythological theme in another remarkable mosaic there - is no more. Only its foundation outlines remain, buried under farmland at a remote site in what is now southern Turkey.

But now, some 5,000 miles and 18 centuries away, the mosaic floor has gained a second life in a gallery at the Museum of Fine Arts here. Using special tools for slicing and chiseling, museum workers have already removed about 4,200 pounds of concrete that was poured onto the back of the mosaic for safe transport when it was originally removed from the site in Turkey.

As the conservators clean and restore the mosaic, piecing together the bits of glass and limestone known as tesserae and reproducing the border that once bound the floor's three panels, museum visitors are being treated to a ringside viewing.

"This is one of the few places in the world that you can actually see conservation work on Roman mosaics done in the public view," said Christine Kondoleon, the museum's George and Margo Behrakis curator of Greek and Roman Art.

The mosaic is one of some 300 floors that were uncovered in the Antioch area in the 1930's in a dig organized by Princeton University with help from the Louvre, Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Antioch was then part of Syria, and conservators say that local officials kept roughly half the find, which can be seen at the archaeological museum in Antakya, the modern name for Antioch, now in Turkey. The other museums divided up the bounty. (Princeton owns the mosaic with the drinking-contest theme.)

After traveling to Dumbarton Oaks, the mosaic, which then weighed 6,600 pounds with its concrete backing, remained in its shipping crates for 65 years in a shed outside the institution's main garden. Dumbarton Oaks "has always had a very limited amount of space," said Stephen Zwirn, its assistant curator of Byzantine art.

Intrigued by the floor's impeccable provenance, the Museum of Fine Arts negotiated a purchase in 2002. (Both institutions declined to specify the price.)

New Orleans Spared!

A last minute move to the east and a weakening of the storm spared New Orleans from a direct hit. Hopefully this will keep deaths among those who were left behind in the belated mandatory evcuation to a very minimum. And on the local TV coverage last night, many of those who had left at the last minute said it was only after the Mayor Nagin - at last - said that it was a mandatory evcuation that they decided to leave.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Live Internet Coverage Of Hurricane - And A Mayor Who Is Clueless!

Live coverage from CBS's New Orleans affiliate.

The thunderstorms have started in New Orleans, but - luckily - the almost empty roads are wide open for people to get out. Hopefully, the very belated evacuation order will be able to be enforced.

But now... as I am typing... in a live interview, while the Mayor does suggest that people go to shelters or leave the city... he is so laid back that he conveys absolutely ZERO sense of any urgency in his demeanor.

It is as if he is talking about a picnic that needs to be delayed because of a light rain storm.

Now the news anchors are literally having to PRY out of him how bad the post storm situation is to get people to realize why they have to get out of New Orleans. And when they try to talk to him about the toxic waste that could contaminate the city - he replies that will not be a problem and predicts that it will only take a couple weeks to pump put the water and get the water and electricity back on! Now... exactly how is this attitude going to convince people they have to leave New Orleans?

I can't believe it! Mayor Nagin is now talking about the affect of the storm on national oil supplies - which is the last thing that would be on my mind if I lived in New Orleans - and now he states that anyone who tries to get into a shelter after 6 PM - will be treated as a potential looter and not admitted!

(UPDATE - People will now be allowed another three hours to get out of town and they will not be treated as looters if they try to get into a shelter or get out of town.)

OK - now I have heard everything.

The mayor has just said that it was his decision NOT to order a mandatory evacuation before today because he wanted the outlying suburbs to have their mandatory evacuations before he ordered New Orleans to be evacuated!

It's... amazing.

Lastly, the Mayor also said there was no need to open any more shelters as there was more than enough space in the existing shelters. And... yet... his previously stated reason for not ordering mandatory evacuation (which he now claims was done so as to not inconvenience evacuations in the suburbs)... was because there were not enough shelters!

Again, go to my post, two posts back, on the lessons we need to learn from this.


AP wire story on what could happen if there is a direct hit. Again, the point I am making is that the Mayor of New Orleans - only hours ago - said it should only take a couple weeks to get the city up and running again - instead of him begging, pleading with people to get out of a city that might be about to come uninhabitable for a long time:

Hurricane Could Leave 1 Million Homeless

AP National Writer

5:52 PM PDT, August 28, 2005

When Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans on Monday, it could turn one of America's most charming cities into a vast cesspool tainted with toxic chemicals, human waste and even coffins released by floodwaters from the city's legendary cemeteries.

Experts have warned for years that the levees and pumps that usually keep New Orleans dry have no chance against a direct hit by a Category 5 storm.

That's exactly what Katrina was as it churned toward the city. With top winds of 165 mph and the power to lift sea level by as much as 28 feet above normal, the storm threatened an environmental disaster of biblical proportions, one that could leave more than 1 million people homeless.

"All indications are that this is absolutely worst-case scenario," Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, said Sunday afternoon.

The center's latest computer simulations indicate that by Tuesday, vast swaths of New Orleans could be under water up to 30 feet deep. In the French Quarter, the water could reach 20 feet, easily submerging the district's iconic cast-iron balconies and bars.

Estimates predict that 60 percent to 80 percent of the city's houses will be destroyed by wind. With the flood damage, most of the people who live in and around New Orleans could be homeless.

"We're talking about in essence having -- in the continental United States -- having a refugee camp of a million people," van Heerden said.

The Devastation New Orleans - And The Gulf Coast - May Face.

First, see my previous post on the lessons Los Angeles needs to learn from what is about to happen.

Second, the following very lightly condensed piece is from a weather service bulletin on what can be expected in the worst hit areas; hopefully the direct hit will miss New Orleans:





And... this does not even address what will happen in New Orleans if levees burst - and flood the city with up to twenty feet of water.

Lastly, if you read my previous post - all this might happen in a city where it took President Bush, the Governor of the state and, finally, direct federal intervention to get the Mayor to declare a mandatory evacution to get people out of the city; an evacuation order, I might add - that came far too late to be effective and which may cost hundreds if not thousands of people - their lives if Hurricane Katrina scores a direct hit on New Orleans.

UPDATE -- New York Times Coverage - IGNORES - the dispute over evacuation!

While the Miami Herald continues to cover the battle it took President Bush, the Governor of Louisiana and storm experts to - finally - force the Mayor of New Orleans to order mandatory evacuation - the New York Times takes a very... different... view:

The city's distinct terrain makes it particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, heavy rains and high winds of a hurricane. With more than a million people in its suburbs and center, the city is surrounded on three sides by water, and lies below sea level in a bowl-shaped basin. Pumps would fail if the storm surge of up to 25 feet overwhelmed the city's levees.

"That's why we are taking this unprecedented move," Mayor Ray Nagin said at a news conference that was broadcast live. "The storm surge most likely will topple our levee system."

Now, it was known long before Mayor Nagin took his "unprecedented move" that the levees of New Orleans will likely collapse - leaving the majority of the city uninhabitable - but the New York Times has chosen - at least at this time - not to report that the Mayor single-handedy - prevented this order from being declared until just hours before the storm hits.

More from USA TODAY -- in a JULY 2000 story, yet -- on why New Orleans needed a mandatory evacuation order as soon as it was clear that the levees were in serious danger - and long before this morning:

"A slow-moving Category 3 or any Category 4 or 5 hurricane passing within 20 or 30 miles of New Orleans would be devastating," Suhayda says.

The storm surge — water pushed into a mound by hurricane winds — would pour over the Pontchartrain levee and flood the city. A severe hurricane could push floodwaters inside the New Orleans bowl as high as 20-30 feet, covering most homes and the first three or four stories of buildings in the city, he says. "This brings a great risk of casualties."

In this type of scenario the metro area could be submerged for more than 10 weeks, says Walter S. Maestri, Director of Emergency Management for Jefferson Parish, which encompasses more than half of the city. In those 10 weeks, residents would need drinking water, food and a dry place to live.

Besides the major problems flooding would bring, there is also concern about a potentially explosive and deadly problem. Suhayda says flooding of the whole city could easily mix industrial and household chemicals into a toxic and volatile mix. Coupled with an estimated 100,000 tons of sediment, a cleanup could take several months. In the worst case scenario, the mix of toxic chemicals could make some areas of the city uninhabitable. "It could take several years for the city to recover fully, economically, from a strong hurricane," says Suhayda.

To make residents aware of the dangers New Orleans faces, Maestri and his staff visit churches, professional organizations and social clubs almost every week of the year to discuss the risks. They distribute videos to schools, libraries and even to video stores for free distribution to the public. They also provide information to the commercial mass media to make the public aware.

Maestri says that the public knows and understands the threat they face if a major hurricane was to strike near New Orleans. For instance, when Hurricane Georges threatened the Gulf Coast in 1998, an estimated 60 percent of the New Orleans population evacuated the city, Maestri says. It was the largest evacuation in U.S. history at the time, according to the National Weather Service. Even then, not everyone could get out, and the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans was used as a shelter for the first time. Fortunately for the city, Hurricane Georges, a Category 2 hurricane with winds near 110 mph, landed to the east in Biloxi, Miss.

Despite the difficulty in getting everyone out, Maestri says evacuation is the best policy for a city under sea level and not fully protected from storm surge and flooding. But he is concerned that he still might not have enough advance warning to evacuate all of New Orleans. Improvements in hurricane predictions during the last 30 years have made it possible for the National Hurricane Center to issue hurricane warnings 24 hours ahead of when a storm hits. But, Maestri says it takes nearly 72 hours to fully evacuate New Orleans.

Again, look at my previous post. We need to learn from what is about to happen to New Orleans. We need to be better prepared for our big one than New Orleans is for theirs.

Further update -- LA Times also ignores evacuation controversy, but Scott Gold does an excellent job in covering the chaos the lateness of the Mayor's mandatory order created, and how unprepared the city was to make it happen:

Tens of thousands of people had fled low-lying coastal areas in Louisiana and surrounding states earlier in the weekend, and many pockets of New Orleans were as they should be, officials said -- virtually deserted. But in other areas, the mayor's evacuation order prompted chaos.

Traffic was bumper-to-bumper and at a near standstill for 15 miles in any direction by noon. Fistfights broke out at convenience stores when managers tried to close; one convenience store clerk was forced to enlist a customer to lock and unlock the door to let the last customers out. Two dozen people were seen banging on the glass windows of a large hardware store, begging to come inside for plywood and other supplies.

In the heart of New Orleans, and eerie sense of dread had settled over the aged streets. New Orleans, while it is one of the more visited cities in the nation, is not a wealthy city, it was clear that thousands of people simply did not have the means to evacuate. One man sat forlornly on a street corner with a backpack and an umbrella. Another man walked down Canal Street carrying only a pillow.

Many tourists were also stranded; several people were seen weeping at Louis Armstrong International Airport, unable to get a flight out or a rental car.

Lastly -- coverage of this disaster shows how major newpapers can no longer cover these kind of events - even on-line.

While many reports can be found showing how the trafic jams of peole leaving the city are lessening - the New York Times still - quoting an old AP wire - states that the highways out of New Orleans are still gridlocked. And the LA Times has a photo caption saying that the roads are " jammed" heading out of New Orleans - and yet the AP photo it is attached to - shows light to moderate traffic going on that direction. This even though five minutes spent on-line, would have told both the New York and the LA Times the more accurate story.

There is one very important thing that photo does show, though.

It is not the highway or the physical infrastructure of New Orleans that can not handle the evacuation of the city - it is the political structure.

The Fate Of New Orleans - And What It Means For Los Angeles.

One of the great cities of the world is about be hit by the single most devastating natural disaster in our country's history... in less than 24 hours.

And yet, even though this day has been long talked about and long anticipated, there still had not been sufficient planning to even evacuate the citizens of New Orleans from the soon to be submerged city (or sufficient planning to mitigate the physical damage to the city) - even with the many days of advance warning.

But now that Hurricane Katrina is officially a Category 5 storm (and only three - yes, just 3 - hurricanes of this size have hit this country since the 1930's) with winds up to 175 miles an hour - and with the storm still increasing in size and strength - time has run out for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. They can now only deal with the affects of the lack of adequate planning.

So when I consider the damage that will occur to Los Angeles when we are some day hit by our 'big one' - with no warning or notice - I wonder how well equipped we are to deal with our equally long talked about and long anticipated earthquake.

Fortunately, we still have time to reflect - and hopefully act - upon that. Right now, though, all we can do is to be there to assist the people of New Orleans and the many other areas that are about to be hit by one of this country's worst disasters.


Only hours before the storm is about to strike, the Mayor of New Orleans - at the demand of federal officials - finally - announces a mandatory evacuation of the city!

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin declared a state of emergency Sunday morning and ordered a mandatory evacuation as Hurricane Katrina drew closer as a deadly Category 5 storm that threatens to swamp the city with 15 to 20 feet of water.

With an equally grim Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco beside him, Nagin ordered his below-sea-level city evacuated. More than 1.5 million people live in the metropolitan New Orleans area.

"I am this morning declaring that we will be doing a mandatory evacuation," Nagin said. "Every person is hereby ordered to evacuate the city of New Orleans."

People must try to leave the city, Nagin said, but if they cannot, they will have 10 shelters available throughout the city. The Super Dome will also be available as a last resort emergency shelter.

If the Super Dome fills with refugees, the city of New Orleans also will have the power to commandeer private buildings for emergency shelters, as well as the ability to commandeer vehicles to help people move out quickly. Nagin sent out faxes to churches to ask them to help people leave.

'"I wish I had better news for you but we are facing a storm that most of us have feared,'' Nagin said. "It's my hope that most people will get out. The city of New Orleans has never seen a hurricane of this strength hit it directly."

Blanco said she received a call from President Bush offering the support of the federal government and urging emergency officials to get people out of the city as soon as possible.

And from a Austin TV website version of the Bloomberg wire ....

Nagin said he hopes tourists have a hotel room and that "“it's a hotel room that's at least on the third floor and up."

He 'hopes' these things will happen, but as for his having taken any precautions to have made certain that these things will happen or as for his now ordering any present actions to ensure that they will...

And some more from Austin....

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said President Bush personally appealed for the mandatory evacuation.

And now back to the Miami Herald newspaper article...

Last night, Nagin was under considerable pressure by state officials and weather experts to evacuate the city, but he worried about the legality of ordering people out when New Orleans had few safe hurricane shelters for them to evacuate to.

The questions I would now be asking if I lived in New Orleans are... why are there not enough hurricane shelters? And how can there only be TEN shelters in the entire city? And why did the Mayor wait until just hours before the storm to fax, yes, fax and not call - churches to get involved in the evacuation? And why is it that - only now - hours before the storm hits... are privately owned buildings finally being considered as shelters?

And why was there no plan to evacuate the city - even with many days notice - if there are too few shelters?

And - lastly - and in some ways - most importantly - why is my Mayor worried about... his legal liability... when thousands of people's lives are at stake?

Also, National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield called Nagin at home last night and told him: get people out of New Orleans. Later, in an interview with television station WDSL, Mayfield said he wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing he didn't do all he could to warn people that this storm was the one everyone in New Orleans had feared for a generation.

Can you imagine? Even after President Bush personally urged that the City of New Orleans be evacuated and even after state officials and hurricane experts pressured the Mayor to evacuate the city - a federal official still had to call the Mayor of New Orleans at his home... the night before the storm hits... to essentially ORDER him to declare a mandatory evacuation of a city that could be buried under up to twenty feet of water?

Again, to repeat - he had to be TOLD to get people out of New Orleans!

Interestingly, only the Miami Herald seems to be covering this story with anything other than AP or Bloomberg wire re-writes - and only the Miami Herald - so far - seems to be covering what may turn out to be the biggest part of the story - how a Mayor fails his city when it needs his leadership most.

Hopefully, there is a recall provision in the New Orleans city charter.

But, the moral here is clear for Los Angeles. The time to prepare for disasters is... now... and not after it is too late.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Cult Of The Cycads!

No, The Cult Of The Cycads, is not the title of an obscure AIP (American Independent Pictures) flick or an early Roger Corman film. It is the title of an article in the New York Times about obsessive cycad collectors and the criminals who prey on them.

Now while I was more interested in palm trees and orchids (btw - does anyone have a copy of the classic - The Orchid Hunters - I can re-read?) during my earliest horticultural phases, I quickly fell under the spell of cycads in the very early 1970's jungles of Columbia (home, by the way, to the world's tallest palm tree - the Quindio Wax Palm, not that I need to tell anyone that, of course) and I once had quite a sizeable collection installed at one of the many places I have called home; a collection that if I owned now would support me quite handsomely for the rest of my life.

Now I don't know what is so... unsettling.... about unexpected flashbacks to one's previous lives; whether it is the sudden confronting of a part of one's life that once was so intense - but which is now totally extinguished - or if it is the abrupt bringing back of all the parts of one's life that co-existed.

But getting back to cycads... as a bizarre, prehistoric, not always conventionally attractive plant - why have they developed such a devoted group of collectors? And why are almost all of the hard core collectors - as the article states - men? In fact - why are almost ALL obsessive collectors, men - even in the gender balanced fields such as... gardening? Why are we men so hard-wired to categorize and collect?

More on this later.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Moronic Local TV News Shows Ignore News For Low Speed Car Chase!

The CBS, NBC and ABC 11 PM news shows have just dropped any pretense of news coverage by preempting the news for helicopter coverage of an unknown driver being chased by unknown police officers for unknown reasons. Not as frightening as Bill Mahler's 'humor' column in the below item, but... scary enough.

LA Times Opinion Section Jumps The Shark!,0,4805978.story?coll=la-home-headlines

It's finally happened! The never ending descent of the LA Times Opinion section has finally hit... rock bottom!

But Don't Let Me Burst Your Bubble

By Bill Maher August 26, 2005 You don't have to remember history, but you do have to remember Thursday. The bursting of the Nasdaq bubble was only five years ago. People lost a trillion dollars. And here we are today with real estate prices across the country that could aptly be compared to Courtney Love: irrationally high and about to collapse.

I don't want to say there's a housing bubble, but I had a refrigerator delivered this morning and a homeless guy offered me $3 million for the box. Not to burst your bubble, but all bubbles do burst. And we learned this
recently. It's not just that grandma was alive the last time it happened. You were alive. Eminem was on the radio. Just like now because, again, it wasn't that long ago.

You know, one argument hurled against marijuana use is that it affects your short-term memory. You know, one argument hurled against marijuana use is that it affects your short-term memory. If that's true, then a) Americans, b) the real estate market must be pretty high.

But let me correct one thing: not all Americans. This bubble isn't all across the country. Score one here for the red states, because it's apparently only in the savvy, liberal do-gooder coastal blue areas that greed and stupidity have taken over.

When real estate collapses, people will go bankrupt, which will take down the banks, which all along have really owned their homes, which will bring down the markets and then the dollar. And the GOP will win an election based on renaming Amtrak the Jesus Choo Choo and the whole thing will fester to the point where Plan B is to live in caves and barter.

Luckily for me all my money is tied up in Google, sunscreen and guns.

We're a nation swimming in debt, and when we reach our credit limits we artificially inflate the prices of our homes and borrow more. People are refinancing -— borrowing on the equity that doesn't really exist and will soon go down - to treat themselves to extravagances, like a full tank of gas.

And do you know who holds most of our national debt? Asians. The only thing standing between us and foreclosure is the fact that Angelina Jolie is holding most of their children.

But I digress. The point was about how supposedly intellectual, superior coastal elites are the ones dumping thousands into mortgages they can't afford, proving once and for all how much people will pay not to live in Kansas.

Well, that is kind of true. In a recent survey here in my beloved adopted state of California, nine out of 10 people said they had or would give up everything to live somewhere where they might see porn stars at the gas station.

There is more, but... you get the point.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Great California Design Show In Pasadena - In New York Times!!

Sick as a dog - but could not resist posting about this New York Times article by William L. Hamilton about a great California Design show that takes place at Pasadena's California Art Museum - but which closes this weekend!

What really stuns me is that I was somehow unaware this show even existed. Did the LA Times totally miss this? I did a quick search on their web-site and could not find it. But since I can barely even sit up or see, I can not even remotely vouch for the accuracy of that search. No matter! If the show is even one-tenth as good as it sounds - go see it!

The blockbuster show here right now is "Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

But for those interested in modern design, a small exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art could be the portal to equally amazing discoveries - an antechamber to lost riches of the last golden age of American design.

The museum's second design biennial, which will end on Sunday, is a juried selection of contemporary California design that includes examples from obvious suspects like Apple Computer in Cupertino and Oakley, the eyewear designer, in Foothill Ranch.

But in the spirit of a remarkable series of exhibitions called "California Design," mounted by the now defunct Pasadena Art Museum and its director, Eudorah M. Moore, from the 1950's to the 1970's, the biennial also includes independents like Lauren Saunders in Ventura, who knits paintings as pillows; Trina Turk, a fashion designer in Alhambra; Bluelounge Design, a four-man office in Pasadena that designs everything from footwear to furniture; and Osborn, an architectural firm in Glendale that developed a set of paint stencils able to reclad an elementary school building quickly, with energetic color and pattern.

This is California, where even the weather feels both fortuitous and designed.

"California has a sense of - why not, let's try it," Ms. Moore said in a telephone conversation last week. She said of her exhibitions, "There was a brilliant optimism to what people were making and doing, and I thought it was important to record it." The shows, which were hugely popular at the time, are now largely forgotten outside the state.

"California Design: The Legacy of West Coast Craft and Style," a book by Jo Lauria, an independent curator, and Suzanne Baizerman, a curator of craft and decorative arts at the Oakland Museum, to be published next month by Chronicle Books, will revisit Ms. Moore's work and California's midcentury moment in the sun.

With its integral interests in craft and design, from furnishings to products to environmental art, outdoors as well as indoors, and fashion, too, California's contribution to the American imagination at home is something so ubiquitous now as to seem commonplace. We call it lifestyle.

California, characterized by the pop culture it created in music and movies, insisted that design was pop culture too, there to be used by all, in its every aspect.

As Pasadena's current biennial makes clear, California as a force in design, relevant precisely because it is regional, is not a thing of the past. It is an endless summer. If globalization is now a fond idea for industry looking to design to increase sales, California designers and their output seem continuing proof of the potential of the local climate.

"If Columbus had discovered California, there wouldn't be an East Coast," said Gere Kavanaugh, a designer in Los Angeles whose clients have included Nissan, Hallmark, Max Factor and PepsiCo, and who was included in "California Design." Ms. Kavanaugh shared a studio with Frank Gehry, now one of the state's favorite sons, in the 1960's and 70's. "All the major car companies in the world have a design studio here, I mean every single one, whether Japanese or European," said Dominic Symons, who founded Bluelounge. "They do all the advance concepts out here, and you wonder why that is."

There is much more in the article (and don't miss the New York Times slide show!), but below is the contact info - and remember - the show closes this Sunday August 28th!

Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

$6 for Adults, $4 for seniors (65+) and Students with valid ID, free to Children under 12 and PMCA Museum members.
Museum tours: For reservations and information call: (626) 568-3665

The Museum is located at 490 East Union Street
Pasadena CA 91101.
tel. 626-568-3665 fax 626-568-3674
Parking is available at the Museum


New York's GUTTER blog... umimpressed by California design! The below quote is attached to the photo illustrating the New York Times article.

Now we know what you're thinking. You woke up this morning, eyes still bleary, groggy from a night chamfering the corners off that new tower model you've been preparing, hoping for a little sunshine from the Gray Lady. And then you picked up H&H, because where better to find a little frivolity, a little senseless, pointless, useless, time-wasting, dopey-assed, paisley-patterned insipitude? And they delivered. Big time. California style. There's really nothing more to say. So we won't say it.

Latest Celebrity Spotting In New Hot Downtown!


EVEN on a filthy, anonymous street in downtown L.A., people still know Joey Buttafuoco. As he waited for his ride outside Absolute Bail Bonds, minutes after getting out of jail last week, at least a half dozen former inmates approached Buttafuoco, shook his hand and wished him well. A squad car abruptly stopped in the middle of Vignes Street, where a smiling officer waved at Buttafuoco and they shouted pleasantries. The veteran jailbird spent six nights behind bars after his arrest for illegal possession of shotgun casings.

New York Times Can't Make Up Mind on West's Real Estate Boom/Bubble!

Don't like the housing outlook?

Wait 5 minutes.

The nation's long housing boom appears to be
losing steam...Often the fastest-growing region in recent years, the West last month experienced the biggest drop in number of homes sold - 7.5 percent - and prices in the region were flat. -Vikas Bajas, NYT, August 24, 2005

Sales of new homes rose at an unexpectedly brisk pace in July, the government reported today, appearing to contradict signs of a slowdown in another housing report released Tuesday. A big increase in the West drove new home sales up 6.5 percent in July, as median prices fell 7.1 percent, according to the Commerce Department. -Vikas Bajas,, August 24, 2005

Thanks to for the tip.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Breaking News In LA Times!!!,1,6216748.story?coll=la-headlines-california

Health officials have confirmed the first human case of West Nile virus in Sonoma County, in a 58-year-old Petaluma man who has fully recovered.

The man was believed to have contracted the disease while in Sacramento.

Now I can - finally - sleep at night again! Us Angelinos now only have to worry about first human West Nile case in... Stanislaus County!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

One Small Step Towards Literate Classical Music Audiences!,0,2513799,print.story?coll=cl-calendar

Ironically, the same day the New York Times totally ignores the LA Philharmonic in an article about declining audiences for classical music, the LA Times has a nice article about one step the LA Phil is taking to better educate itsgrowing audiences:

MOST of us have had the experience: Interrupting a conversation with our concert-going companion to grab a few hurried moments scanning the program notes. As the lights go down, we've had time to see in what year the composer was born, or whether the symphony was written for Napoleon or an obscure nobleman — and that's about it.

It's a bit like cramming for a particularly difficult college exam, and about as much fun.

Now the Los Angeles Philharmonic has come up with something it considers a solution to the problem: FastNotes, a brief set of program notes to be e-mailed free to interested parties a week or so before a concert. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, the notes will include links to iTunes and similar websites that will allow FastNotes subscribers to hear a brief passage of the music to be played.

Deborah Borda, the Philharmonic's president, says the computer terminal is a natural place to hit people with musical information. "Where are you more likely to be," she asks, "other than, in L.A., behind the wheel of your car?"

Joan Cumming, the orchestra's director of marketing, says she came up with the idea after speaking to members of the audience and sensing a need. (Of course, the Philharmonic also offers before-concert talks and puts some information on its website before concerts.)

Cumming says the service will be especially valuable for "Beethoven Unbound," the season-long concert series that will pair works by the most famous of all composers with compositions by such contemporary figures as Lindberg, Knussen and Dutilleux, on whom audiences might welcome a primer.

Whoever the composer, she says, "if people can hear a piece of music more than once, especially before they see it in concert, then they can say, 'Oh, I get it.' "

Borda hopes the notes will help give audiences a sense of how concert programs take shape and why she and music director Esa-Pekka Salonen decide to combine certain works and composers during the same evening. "It'll put a window on the juxtapositions, the interrelationships. On how we put the cocktail together — how much vermouth, how much gin, how many olives. You don't take a piece and just put it there: It has to make sense in context, intellectually but also aesthetically."

As of noon Wednesday — just a day after FastNotes had been announced — the service had already enrolled about 2,000 subscribers. The proof of the martini, of course, is in the tasting.

To sign up, go to

Saturday, August 20, 2005

New York Times Cultural Myopia Gone Wild!

Once again, the New York Times examines the decline of classical music audiences and the inability of symphony orchestras to fill their halls. And - once again - the continuing success of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in defying that trend is... completely ignored. But unlike the previous article when a small group of mainly non-West Coast elite orchestras were examined, now the LA Phil is almost the only orchestra NOT discussed. And if you think I am exaggerating - here is the list discussed in the article:

New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Miami Beach, St. Paul, Spokane, Brooklyn, Cincinnati, Fort Wayne, Houston, Omaha, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Duluth, New Jersey... and the Royal Scottish.

Amazingly, in an article describing what it takes to fill the seats at a classical music hall - the most successful example in defying the trend (Los Angeles) is... ignored.

Here are some quotes from the article:

Few major orchestras can fill their halls night after night. Over the decade that started with the 1993-94 season, according to the American Symphony Orchestra League, total attendance at 1,200 orchestras dropped from 30.7 million to 27.7 million, while the number of concerts rose from 27,000 to 37,000. Most major orchestras are earning less and spending more.

Crucially, subscriptions - a critical part of orchestra finances - are declining. And every subscription not renewed is yet one more batch of tickets that must be sold just to stay even. Single-ticket sales usually do not make up the difference.

Why are audiences shrinking? It's the great debate in the classical-music world, as pervasive a topic as race in South Africa or real estate in New York: Is the business of classical music as we know it dying?

Pessimists say it is at least on the decline, and blame a lack of music education, shorter attention spans, an image-obsessed culture and a vast new world of entertainment options. Another point of view says classical music is alive and well, with more listening than ever occurring at home or in the car. Maybe, this line of thought goes, the problem is not demand but supply: too many orchestras are playing too many concerts.

"It used to be orchestras had very small staffs and gave many fewer concerts," said Joseph Horowitz, the author of the recent book "Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall." "This is the nub of the issue. It's a surfeit of product that's causing many of the dysfunctions." That, he says, and the lack of charismatic music directors, amid an overabundance of marketing directors. (Most orchestras did not even have marketing departments until the 1970's. Today, a staff of a dozen is typical.) And there are always practical considerations like concertgoers in suburbs spreading ever farther from downtown concert halls, difficult parking and expensive tickets.

As for the solutions to this problem:

• At the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's "Classical Connections" series for the under-40 set, you can speed date, take salsa lessons or exchange résumés before the performance, a shortened concert with onstage commentary and occasional video.

• For six Friday nights, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra will play a traditional program for the first half of the evening, but then provide the choice of chamber music or jazz in the lobby for the second half.

• The New World Symphony, a high-level training orchestra in Miami Beach led by Michael Tilson Thomas, will play four 20-minute concerts in one evening, each on the hour, from 7 to 10.

• Under-30's attending a Spokane Symphony Beethoven concert will receive free "Beethoven Bash" T-shirts.

• The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's "Beyond the Score" series offers a "live documentary" on a major piece - film clips, an actor reading letters, comments from the conductor and musical examples from the orchestra - followed by a performance of the piece in the second half of the program.

• Peter Schickele, of P. D. Q. Bach infamy, will be the host of three short, early-starting concerts of old war horses at the otherwise reliably staid New York Philharmonic.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Homeless Men Attacked by Cowards With Baseball Bats.,0,3773535.story?coll=la-tot-promo&track=toppromo

First, the facts of the story and below that - some personal comments:

Two Inglewood men were arrested today for allegedly attacking two homeless men with baseball bats while they were sleeping on a street in downtown Los Angeles, Police Chief William J. Bratton said.

The suspects, William Orantes and Justin Brumfield, both 19, told officers they had recently seen the DVD "Bum Fights" -— in which homeless people are videotaped fighting each other ‚— and wanted to do some "bum bashing" of their own, police said.

... and...

About 1½ hours later, a private security guard saw two men beating a homeless man, Ernest Adams, with bats near 3rd and Flower streets. The guard followed the suspects, who had gotten into their car, and Los Angeles Police Department officers soon caught up with them.

Officers recovered two aluminum bats and a replica firearm from the car.

Adams, who was described as "elderly," was in critical condition at County-USC Medical Center with severe head trauma.

First, working on the problems of those living on the streets is one of the reasons I moved downtown. And, as an all too rare successful example, a week ago a person I have been working with for a long time, finally accepted the transitional housing I arranged for him until his post-drug rehab parole is up and he can move back with his brother in the Midwest and re-start his life.

But another person I have been working with for over six months has some mental problems that make it hard for him to accept the help he needs. So in a homelessness services meeting at the Union Rescue Mission yesterday, I spoke with the BID outreach team that has been trying to get him off the streets (at my request) so we could meet with him together later this week to convince him to move into the offered housing and he could be eligible for job placement.

Then, during a meeting at Jan Perry's office today, I obliquely mentioned him to two of Jan's aides since Jan was not there since she was at a press conference condemning the senseless attacks of the previous night.

I mention this because the man's name is... Ernest Adams. The man in the LA Times story now in critical condition in a hospital.

And I can only wonder if I had just pushed him a little harder, done a little more arguing with him over the past few months, that I might have persuaded him to move into the room that was already waiting for him.

But it also demonstrates that (as Steve Lopez has finally discovered), it is not the lack of housing that creates the majority of chronic homelessness. It is drug and substance abuse along with often serious mental and emotional problems. And it is only by dealing with these individuals as individuals and by taking the time to deal with their very specific and unique problems that we can help them.

LA Time's Most Error Filled Section Continues To Be - The Editorial Page!

Word for word there is not another section in any newspaper that should be more carefully fact checked than the newspaper's editorials, particularly since they take up a very small percentage of the words published in any paper. And yet - word for word - no other section in the LA Times has as many (often major) factual errors as does that section.

Whether it is the history of state's bond ratings or even where the water for LA comes from or a dozen other things that anyone who even casually follows the news should know - the LA Times editorial page simply can not get the facts correct. So the question one has to ask - since the LA Times so often bases their opinions on often inaccurate facts - why should anyone pay any attention to those opinions?

Below is just one day's corrections (thankfully not as serious or as brain dead as those in the very recent past) of that page:

An Aug. 3 editorial about the Central American Free Trade Agreement said Rep. Howard L. Berman is from West Hollywood. His headquarters is in Valley Village, and his district does not include West Hollywood.

Saudi Arabia: An editorial Friday about security issues in Saudi Arabia said 11 of the 15 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi. There were 19 hijackers, of whom 15 were Saudi.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Excellent Article By Mark Swed On State Of Classical Orchestras!,0,103874.story?coll=cl-calendar

In Sunday's LA Times' August 14th Calendar section, Mark Swed does a brief survey of the problems - and triumphs - of the leading symphonic orchestras in the United States and discovers the usual litany of problems - but he also finds ways to deal with those problems without the orchestra's selling their souls. Below is his summary:

What must not be forgotten, however, is that people like orchestras. Even the movies know that. Two of the summer's biggest blockbusters, "Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith" and "War of the Worlds," are unthinkable without John Williams' traditional orchestral scores. His music may be derivative of such 20th century composers as William Walton, but that traditional approach to scoring has been integral to the filmmaking of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg almost from the beginning of their spectacularly successful careers. From this fact alone, we can take hope.

But orchestras must continue to connect with their audiences. Nothing I heard from the old Big Five last season equaled the sensory thrill of Salonen conducting Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" at Disney Hall or of getting lost in the sex and spirituality of the Philharmonic's "Tristan Project." No one made as effective a cultural point as Tilson Thomas did in San Francisco when he devoted a captivating evening to examining the influence of Yiddish culture on American music.

The once Big Five are still big and could still be great. But big is not necessarily better. Fresh is better. Engaged is better. Rapport between orchestra and audience is better. Leading is better than following.

Times have changed. Capitals shift. Economies swing. The artistic climate is as unsettled as its meteorological counterpart. For the orchestra to survive, it must be flexible, true to itself and of its time and place. Everything else is fair game.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Getty Close To Naming New Director?

Well - that's what the New York Times has to say....

The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is in final negotiations with Michael Brand, the director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, to become its new director, a senior official involved in the talks for the Getty Museum said yesterday.

The official, who asked that he not be identified because negotiations were not completed, said an announcement could come as soon as this morning.

Mr. Brand could not be reached for comment yesterday.

A native of Canberra, Australia, Mr. Brand is a scholar of Indian art and architecture. He joined the Virginia Museum, in Richmond, in 2000 after serving four years as assistant director at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane.

Mr. Brand has been widely praised for his stewardship of the Richmond museum and is credited with burnishing its reputation as a regional museum of national stature. Despite a limited budget, he enlarged its collection, most notably with the purchase of "Venus and Cupid," by the 17-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi, for a thrifty $1.68 million.

The Getty has been without a director since last October, when Deborah Gribbon resigned after clashing publicly with the president of the Getty Trust, Barry Munitz, over the museum's artistic vision.

Earlier this month, officials at the trust confirmed that the California attorney general had opened an investigation into its finances, as well as the museum's acquisition of ancient artifacts that Italian authorities say were stolen.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Getty Makes News With -- Public Relations Efforts!,0,601688.story?track=widget

Fixing the rot at the top of the Getty Museum by the asleep-at-the wheel Getty Board seems to be less important than the drafting of highly expensive talking points about how there are no problems at the Getty by a gun-for-hire PR firm:

Sitrick's Century City-based firm represents a range of companies, magnates and sports franchises, including the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But he has become a signature presence in Los Angeles and beyond for his work for celebrities (Halle Berry, R. Kelly, Rush Limbaugh) and organizations (the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles) in crisis. Forbes magazine once called him "The Flack for When You're Under Attack."

Records show that his firm has charged the Getty up to $650 an hour to design strategies to respond to questions posed by the Times and other media outlets, draft letters to Times editors on behalf of Munitz and Getty board Chairman John Biggs, and confer with Munitz's chief of staff, Jill Murphy.

Sitrick's firm also coached friends of Munitz likely to be interviewed by the newspaper, creating "talking points" for former Paramount studio chief Sherry Lansing, records show.

Getty officials would not comment on why Sitrick was retained or on whether the board of trustees had approved his hiring or set limits on his fees.

Some experts called the Getty's spending on outside spin control an improper use of tax-exempt money. By law, nonprofits such as the Getty must use their resources for the public good.

"It's a sad day when a museum wants to spend that much money on crisis management instead of saying, 'Wait a minute, what are we doing wrong?'" said Marie Malaro, a former professor at George Washington University's museum studies program and the author of "Museum Governance: Mission, Ethics, Policy."

"Why do they bring somebody in to gloss things over? A crisis-management organization comes in not with the purpose of remedy, but with selling the public on the idea you're really good guys."

The article adds that these fees were on top of the compensation of just resigned in-house PR head, Pamela Johnson:

Arriving at the Getty in summer 2003, Johnson received a $127,500 signing bonus, records show. She was among the trust's highest-paid officers. In the fiscal year that ended June 2004, her total compensation was $318,261.

And you wonder why the Getty can't afford to buy any art....

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Is Hollywood's Historic Columbia Square Going To Be Demolished??,1,3479300.story?coll=la-headlines-california

Can it be true? In Bob Pool's story about the last radio station leaving Hollywood is the statement that....

And when Columbia Square is shut down next year, two more — KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KCAL-TV Channel 9 — will move to new headquarters being built in Studio City. That will leave just two television stations, KTLA-TV Channel 5 and KCET-TV Channel 28, in Tinseltown. After KCBS and KCAL depart, the Streamline Moderne building at 6121 Sunset Blvd. is expected to be demolished to make way for new development.

Then latter...

Community activist John Walsh said the group was also attempting to block the demolition of Columbia Square. Acquired 1½ years ago for $15 million by a partnership called Sungow Corp. and rented back to Infinity's parent company, Viacom, the structure is widely expected to be torn down so the site can be redeveloped. Alan Shuman, a Sungow partner, said there were "no plans at the moment" for the property, however. The most ardent supporters of Columbia Square concede that the broadcast center is probably doomed. Dan Gingold, who worked 18 years there as a television director for what is now KCBS-TV, is trying to piece together a video documentary about the place. "I don't think any one of us realized it was a wonderful Art Deco landmark that should be preserved in history. At this point, I think preservation is a lost cause," said Gingold of Sherman Oaks. George Nicholaw, who spent 36 years at KNX before leaving as general manager in 2003, said he mapped out a plan for preserving Columbia Square shortly after Viacom acquired the CBS stations. Under his proposal, a new building atop an underground parking garage at the rear of Columbia Square would have housed Infinity's seven local radio stations. That would have cleared the way for the 1938 building to be remodeled and used exclusively by KCBS-TV and sister-station KCAL-TV, he said. The two TV stations are scheduled to move to Studio City late next year. "That would have saved the building. I sent a presentation to New York but never heard back from them. I gave it a go. Columbia Square is a historical monument and part of Hollywood's history. It's a shame that they can't add on and expand it," said Nicholaw, a Hollywood resident.

If this is true, the city council needs to immediately declare these structures city historical monuments (if they are not already) and to then apply for state and federal protection. Between the history that has taken place in this complex (read the Times article) and the quality of the Streamline Moderne architecture, not to mention that it is one of the two acknowledged masterpieces by pioneer modernist architect, William Lescaze, these buildings far more than qualify for the national register, much less local protection.

Hopefully, Councilman Eric Garcetti (and near-by Tom LaBonge) and the Hollywood area Neighborhood Councils will get on this first thing tomorrow.


Just found on-line list of protected historic structures in LA - and somehow Columbia Square is not on it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

LA Philharmonic Commission Hit Of Tanglewood's Festival Of Contemporary Music!

The new Disney Hall is not the only reason the LA Phil is packing in the audiences and increasingly receiving worldwide attention:

Unquestionably the most immediate knockout of the series was the last piece performed, Steven Stucky's Second Concerto for Orchestra (2004), an electrifying display of orchestral fireworks that won the Pulitzer Prize this year. Composed for the Los Angeles Philharmonic to play in its new Walt Disney Concert Hall, the piece uses a large orchestra and keeps all its sections busy creating textures that shimmer, sizzle and seduce. And that's just its surface charm; Mr. Stucky uses all this, along with a rich lyricism, in the service of an imaginative structure with a set of wide-ranging variations at the center and no padding whatsoever.

The performance by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, led by Stefan Asbury, was polished and fully engaged.

Monday, August 08, 2005

New Hotel In Downtown LA Announced!

Though it undoubtedly has been reported elsewhere by now, I just ran across an item in tomorrow's New York Times that describes an unnamed building - which matches the description of the long vacant Embassy Hotel and Auditorium building at 851 S. Grand Avenue - as being the site of the latest hip boutique hotel in LA.

The Gansevoort in South Beach will have 240 rooms plus more than 300 condominium units. The Gansevoort in Los Angeles is being built in a domed 1914 landmark building with an 1,800-seat theater, a block from the Staples Center, and will feature a pool with glass walls visible from the street.

My question is - what are they going to do with the theater? I have also seen the theater as being listed with as many as 2300 seats in the past. Below is a link to two vintage photos:

Saturday, August 06, 2005

LA Times Editorial Page Strikes Again!

When I first read the below editorial - I was tempted to post something at the time, but I figured - why bother? If the LA Times after all these years still doesn't have a clue as to where our water comes from - why bother to educate them? It's not like it's the New York water system or something that they might actually care about.

Owens Valley:
A July 30 editorial said 70% of Los Angeles' water is provided by the Owens Valley aqueduct system. The aqueduct has supplied just under 44% of the city's water over the last 15 years. The remainder comes from the Metropolitan Water District and local wells.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Proof Positive That SOMEBODY Reads The LA TImes!

... but it's clearly not a proof reader! Trillion dollar sneaker sales??

Adidas-Reebok deal — A chart in Thursday's Business section with an article about Adidas-Salomon's proposed acquisition of Reebok International gave Adidas' 2004 sales as $7.06 trillion. It should have said $7.06 billion.

But my question on the below correction is - who blew the whistle? Are Iranian uranium technicians now subscribing to the LA Times?

Uranium processing
— A caption in Tuesday's Section A with an article about Iran's nuclear program said the photo showed technicians processing uranium at a plant in Esfahan. It could not be confirmed what the technicians were doing.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

DWP Labor Contract DOA at DWP Board Meeting!,0,918542.story?coll=la-home-local,1413,200~20954~2992955,00.html

The expected rubber stamp of the increasingly controversial contract between the DWP and the IBEW did not receive a second at today's board meeting. The contract will likely now not be voted upon until the new Mayor's Board of Commissioners comes into office, which is good news. Mayor Villaraigosa has already clearly stated that he is opposed to the terms of this contract and that its approval could have a financially devastating impact on all future labor negotiations between the City of Los Angeles and its other unions.

But now that a reconsideration of this contract will take place with the Mayor's own chosen representatives, Villaraigosa can now re-open negotiations and drive a more equitable bargain more in line with what other city employees are paid. Hopefully, the neighborhood councils will also receive adequate notice when the contract is going to be next considered. We first learned about the contract being voted on today in an the article in the Los Angeles Times.

Another Nail In The Sarcophagus Over At The Getty,1,680633.story?coll=la-headlines-california

First the LA Times and then the New York Times reports that the attorney general of California is investigating Barry Munitz's personal and other expenditures at the Getty over an eight year period. As usual, the Getty board has nothing to say beyond their previous statements of full support for Munitz's use of the Getty billions for everything but the building of a great art collection in Los Angeles. And, as usual, the LA Times' editorial page has yet to call for the resignation of Munitz and the majority of the members of the Getty board.

Monday, August 01, 2005

LA Times Media Critic David Shaw Dead At 62,0,5221127.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Long time LA Times writer - best known as the LAT's resident media critic, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize, died tonight of a brain tumor. While he took a lot of more or less good natured kidding about his recent statement that bloggers could not attain the degree of accuracy that the LA Times did with its five layers of filters and editors, that never diminished the respect most of us had for his passion about journalism, the Los Angeles Times, and Los Angeles.

The linked story does an excellent job covering his career and his life. I have nothing to add other than my condolences to his family and his friends.