Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Neighborhood Councils Know The REAL Reason LA Has 90 Year Old Plus Water Mains Exploding - UPDATE

A lot of ink was spilled this morning on why Los Angeles hasn't rebuilt its decaying infrastructure after a good portion of  UCLA was flooded by water main break on Sunset Boulevard.  Most commentators - including  Jon Christensen and Mark Gold at LA OBSERVED - gave reasons why this has continued to be a problem - and discussed potential solutions to the problem.  None of them, however, addressed a major - if not even, the single major reason why the DWP has not replaced our oldest water mains - much less proposed any solution to that problem.

That reason was first made public clear back in 2007 after an internal audit by the DWP showed that if the DWP had to use their own employees - rather than those hired by an outside contractor -  it took both twice as long to do the work - and then also cost twice as much money - for the DWP crew to rebuild the truck line than if it had been done by the private contractor.

And the extra time and extra cost was not blamed on the skills or work ethic of the DWP workers.  It was attributed to the union designed work rules which were designed in a way that made the work take twice as long - and cost twice as much money.

But - other than Kerry Cavanaugh of Daily News which first reported the story - most of the media didn't follow up on this story - and there was no demand - from anyone - that something be done about the situation, other than by the neighborhood councils

This all happened not long after the neighborhood councils had already asked the City of LA do  an audit of millions of dollars the DWP and its rate payers gave to the union's private slush fund - and look at how long it's taken before the Mayor and the media are now - suddenly - also demanding the same audit we had asked for over seven years ago.

Hopefully, this time - the corrupt work rules situation can be addressed well before any new bond issue is written, much less put on the ballot to rebuild those water lines.  Because if it is not done now - before any bond issue is drafted - than that bond issue will be going down to defeat just as the solar energy proposal did once it became obvious that the rate payers were going to be ripped off by the main DWP union for hundreds of millions of dollars.

UPDATE - I decided to look for a mention in my blog about the Neighborhood Council's oversight of the secret 'educational foundation' that the DWP has millions of dollars to without any public disclosure about what happens with the money.  Well, it turns out the two stories are connected.

When the union finally agreed to allow some of the trunk lines to be built by far more productive private crews (at half the price and in half the time, if past practices are followed) - the union first insisted that a second DWP (and a far more expensive and far slower crew if the existing union work rules were followed) had to be created (which would further delay the work getting down and would reduce how much of the trunk line could be rebuilt) - and the union's second condition was that the DWP give even more money to their secret foundation.

A lot more money.  And not just once - but every year.

The union leadership dropped their demand for even more union members jobs if  - and only if - the DWP gave their secret foundation 2.1 million dollars - every year.  And that's what now really makes me want to know - what the hell are they doing with all that money?

And in the... seven years... since then - I'd also like to how many miles of trunk pipe have been replaced?  And how many miles still need to be replaced?  And how many miles have been done by DWP crews and how many have been done by private crews? And how much has the cost differential been?   And were the work rules reformed enough to allow the DWP crews to be cost competitive? And I'd really like to know when was the part of Sunset Boulevard that just blew up supposed to be replaced?  This inquiring cowboy wants to know all that - and a lot more.

Here is my link to the Daily News article.

And here is the Daily News Editorial that summed up the whole corrupt mess:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Daily News Editorial On DWP Scandal!

This is only the beginning of the examination of the contracting mess at the DWP. Lots more to come - and I have an article that will be published on CITYWATCH first thing Friday morning.

DWP blackmail
Public held hostage by utility's all-powerful union
Article Last Updated:04/18/2007 08:28:46 PM PDT

THE Department of Water and Power has a long-standing practice of misusing the public's money to benefit its employees, contractors and good friends - and then extracting more money from ratepayers to cover what was squandered.

There is only one word for this practice: blackmail.

That's exactly what happened this week.

A Daily News review of reconstructing the city's aging water pipes found that costs doubled when the department quit using outside contractors in favor of unionized in-house crews.

Not only did the DWP workers cost twice as much as private-company workers, but they took twice as long to do the same work.

Despite this revelation, the DWP Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to expand the number of in-house crews. The deal was called a compromise, but really it was nothing but surrender to extortionists.

The DWP employee union wields so much political power that all but a few dozen of the utility's executives are forced to join the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers. The IBEW's clout is so great that DWP workers earn as much as 30 percent more for the same work as their well-paid counterparts in other city agencies.

Unlike previous DWP

It was obvious to the board that water-pipe reconstruction was a job that should be outsourced. Just one comparison makes that clear: A $6.2 million proposal to install a 42-inch pipeline beneath Burbank Boulevard and White Oak Avenue in 250 days by a private company was ignored in favor of DWP crews, at the urging of the union. The job took 439 days to complete and cost $13.8 million.

This was not a difficult choice to make, unless you factor in political power at City Hall.

The result was that instead of dismantling the two DWP crews doing this work, a third one will be added. If there's any work left undone, private firms will be hired. Don't count on it.

If you wonder how the DWP can afford this kind of wasteful spending, look in the mirror. The public pays.

Last fall, after approving salary increases potentially twice those other city employees are getting, the City Council endorsed a DWP proposal for a 5.5 percent water-rate increase over two years. Those come on top of other recent rate increases and more are sure to come in the years ahead.

This water torture of the people of L.A. is just one more example of how the city government operates primarily for itself, its employees and their special interests, and not for the people.

We wouldn't pay blackmail to criminals, and we shouldn't pay blackmail to people who are supposed to be our public servants.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Down Under + Ancient Greece & Rome Invade Downtown LA's Last Boostore $1 Room!

Now that the long awaited final two volumes of the nine volume 1988  edition of the...

Australian Encyclopaedia 

have have finally turned up at

 The Last Bookstore

...   I have just put out over 100 books on Australia, New Zealand and the adjacent South Pacific in boxes since the 20,000 novels that are also coming in have filled up the rest of the shelves.   

And since I want to keep the 8 volumes of this very rare edition - since they appear to be the only set currently for sale in the US. So ask for me when you get here and I will show them to you if they are still for sale.  And the 100 books cover everything from film and TV to best selling novelists to politics and the social sciences to short story collections and wildlife  - and much much more.

And I also just put out ANOTHER 30 great books on ancient Greece and Rome of a quality we never, ever get up here.  So after you see Dwayne Johnson in the latest filmed version of Hercules - read all about the real world of 'real' Hercules.

Also - check out what else has recently showed up in One Dollar Room of The Last Bookstore at 5th  Spring in the heart of Historic Downtown Los Angeles:

  all things literary

  recent down priced books




Thursday, July 24, 2014

Latest Unbelievable Bargains in the One Dollar Room at The Last Bookstore

View of 1st floor of The Last Bookstore
Since my last posting, 2,000 more novels, short story collections and memoirs have arrived in the One Dollar Room in the second floor Labyrinth at The Last Bookstore where every book is still -  just one dollar.

Just shelved this morning are nineteen books (biographies, memoirs & diaries of close friends and criticism) on Ernest Hemingway or his work - or both, five books on Mark Twin/Samuel Clemens,  three copies of Christopher Sawyer-Laucannio's biography of Paul Bowles (An Invisible Spectator), nine books on or about Charles Dickens and his work, and that is just a hint of the riches recently added to our literary section.

Our books about books section has also just become the very temporary home of a number books about children 's literature - and several books about collecting of classic English children's books

Also recently received are a multitude of new poetry collections  - along with full books by or about Matthew Arnold, Ted Hughes, Edwin Muir, Delmore Schwartz, Carl Sandburg, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Seamus Heaney, James Joyce, Robinson Jeffers, Charles Swinburne, Charles Lamb, Gerald Locklin, the Ballads of Wordsworth and Coleridge and many others - plus two copies of Justin Kaplan's life of Walt Whitman.

But it is the 20,000 books - now arriving in the 24 box shipments shipped every day from the warehouse - that the real treasures are to be discovered.

These include hundreds of books - and authors - that have never, ever before been seen in the one dollar room - and which will soon never, ever be seen there again.

Included among them are seemingly endless numbers novels and short story collections that have won every major - and minor - literary award in the world from every country in the world that presents literary prizes - along with novels from almost every popular writer of the present and past and even prior centuries - and these books are daily arriving - and hourly departing.

So stop by The Last Bookstore at 5th & Spring in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles - located on two floors of the Spring Arts Tower - any day starting at 10 AM - and stay until we close at 10 PM every night except Friday & Saturday when we close at 11 PM and Sunday when we close at 9 PM.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Why Many Used Bookstore Are Closing - Including Brand Books

photo by David Allen
I didn't know Glendale's Brand Books was closing until Keven Roderick of LA Observed  linked to a story by Inland Valley Bulletin columnist David Allen.  And Kevin's post quoted one of  highlights of the column:
Brand Bookshop is one of my favorites, both for what it is and where it is. It’s a great used bookstore, open since 1985, with personality and a deep selection of 100,000 books. And it’s located on Brand Boulevard in Glendale, the downtown drag, with shops and restaurants all around and, across the street, the grand 1925 Art Deco Alex Theatre and a second used bookstore, Book Fellows. Best block in SoCal? Well, it’s not, but it’s in the running.

Brand, alas, is closing next month. Owner Jerome Joseph, who’s in his 80s, suffered a fall last year and can no longer run the business, according to a sad story in the Glendale News-Press, and his son, Noriaki Nakano, who’s 66, is ready to retire.
The store, at 231 N. Brand, never really made the transition to the Internet age, and up until a year or two ago still contacted customers (like me) by postcard to announce sales. I only visited once a year or so, but I usually bought something and sometimes sold something.
The interesting point is one of the self-confessed fans of the store has only visited every year or so - which could be construed as anything from once every year to once every year and a half - and  he usually - which might mean - say two out of every three visits - over a two to three year period - he bought... something.  Now I am, of course, grossly extrapolating what he said - but at most - by his own account - he might have bought some books something like twice over a 2 to 3 year period.  (And I am even worse.  After I gave up my car when I moved Downtown from Malibu, my trips to Brand dropped from once a month to zero trips in over ten years.)

Allen's numbers are, unfortunately, likely typical of many used book store customers, particularly those who do not live in the store's immediate neighborhood (I do not know where David Allen lives, but his newspaper is located in Ontario) - and those who have reached an age where their supply of books has long exceeded their places to neatly store them.

That's why larger vintage bookstores need to reach out to customers from an increasingly wider geographic area to maintain a steady patronage and they need to make their stores not just literary hubs but also social gathering points where you might find people who could prove to be as interesting as the books you are finding.  And every bookstore of any kind also needs to reach out to the younger generations who are still discovering new things they want to learn about - and who, even more importantly, still have room for books on their bookshelves.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jerry Janger, Husband, Father, Art Collector and Civic Patron, Passes Away

I just discovered art collector and civic patron Jerry Janger recently passed away at his home surrounded by his family including, Linda, his wife of 51 years.   They were once clients of mine and they were two of the classiest people I have ever had the honor to know.  Here is a link to where you can leave your condolences if you knew Jerry.

February 4, 1933 - July 13, 2014 Jerry died peacefully at home surrounded by his family on July 13, 2014 at the age of 81. He and his wife Linda just celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary on the 4th of July with all of their children and grandchildren. In addition to his adored wife Linda, he is survived by his loving children Jeffrey (Rachel), Lane, and Darren Janger, his precious grandchildren Javin, Flynn, Arielle and Moriah. He is also survived by his sisters Sylvia Wechter, Marsha Janger, sister-in-law and brother-in-law Audri and Stan Tendler, and many dear nieces, nephews and friends. Born and raised in Oklahoma, Jerry graduated from the University of Texas at the age of 20. During his senior year, his fraternity entered a photo of him in a nationwide Tuxedo Contest (Mr. Formal), which he won. The prize brought him to Los Angeles, where except for a two-year stint in the army, he lived for the rest of his life. Jerry became an attorney and never stopped practicing law. Along with his wife, he developed a passion for collecting contemporary art and derived great joy from the work itself and the relationships with artists, curators and fellow collectors. He was an active supporter and member of many organizations - The Hammer, LACMA, MOCA, LAX, Cal Arts, Project Angel Food, the Music Center and UCLA. Jerry was a loving and generous person and a man of his word who could always be counted on to lend a helping hand in challenging situations, or do pro-bono legal work for friends or organizations that he thought could use the help. His playful sense of humor and warm, engaging personality made him all the more fun. Above all, he loved his family and friends deeply and touched so many lives. We will miss him more than words can express but he will forever live in our hearts. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Hammer Museum (10899 Wilshire Blvd, L.A. 90024); UCLA Foundation - Dept of Urology (924 Westwood Blvd, L.A. 90095); or the
. Services will be held Tuesday July 15, 2014 at noon at Hillside Memorial Park.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on July 15, 2014

The $1 Room Welcomes Just Downpriced Books on Anicent Rome & Greece, the Civil War, all things Nautical & Boating, and much, much more!

Besides the several... thousand.... down priced literary, contemporary and even some classic novels arriving every week in the $1 Room at The Last Bookstore (along with over 50 short story collections) - a wide variety of non-fiction books have been reduced for immediate sale and now reside - albeit very temporally - in the Last Bookstore's renown Labyrinth where all fiction has now been alphabetized (except for the infamous wall of colored book covers, of course) and all the non-fiction has now been sorted into 50 different categories.  So stop by this Sunday - and we are open now - 10 AM and will remain open until 9 PM tonight and 10 PM every other night except Friday and Saturday when we close at 11 PM. 
And we're located at 453 S. Spring - at the corner of 5th & Spring in the historic Spring Arts Tower next door to the CB1 Gallery which is also open Sundays from 1 PM to 6 PM where today is the LAST day to see two shows that have received rave reviews from the critics.

Superb Essay on Why Not Only Zumthor's Design for LACMA is a Disaster - But Why Zumthor Himself is Wrong for LACMA - And Los Angeles! UPDATE at End!

Today's issue of LARB (The Los Angeles Review of Books - which you should be subscribing to if you aren't already) has a stunning take down of Peter Zumthor's disastrous design for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It is titled:

A U-Turn on Wilshire: Why Frank Gehry Should Design LACMA

And in it architect, teacher and critic, Joseph Giovannini, explains - in detail not just what is wrong with this design, but he then looks at Zumthor's entire career to demonstrate why he is the wrong architect for this job. And, finally, he goes into the reasons why Zumthor is simply not equipped with the specific skills a project of this size and complexity demands.  Other critics have danced around these issues, but only Giovannini has had the balls to come out and state - this Emperor has no clothes.  Concurrently, Giovannini makes an equally strong case why it is now time to give the project to Frank Gehry.  And I agree.

Now I do disagree with Giovannbini on the quality and usefulness of the original three building complex, but I completely agree with each of his objections to the Zumthor design, its proposed expansion over Wilshire Boulevard and I particularly agree with his detailed reasoning why Zumthor simply does not have the skill set - or the understanding of Los Angeles - to build a project of this complexity.

I also fully agree with his deserved praise of Michael Govan's tenure at LACMA - and agree Govan has done an incredible job revitalizing the entire institution.  But I also agree that the time has come for Govan to admit that Zumtor (as brilliant as his jewel box buildings in the Alps are)  simply is not right for LACMA - and that it is time to move on.

Here is the beginning of the article:
ADDING INSULT TO MEDIOCRITY, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art now proposes oozing the oil slick of a building that Swiss architect Peter Zumthor proposed a year ago for the museum campus across Wilshire to a site on a corner opposite. The long, sad tradition of architecture going so wrong at LACMA sees no sign of reversing itself — this is no Rialto Bridge swanning gracefully across Los Angeles’s foremost ceremonial boulevard, but a cross between a pod, a pancake, and a freeway overpass, in black concrete. Perhaps the whole LACMA site is architecturally cursed by the spirit of vengeful mastodons and saber-toothed tigers still trapped in the pits, as, one after another, architects seem to fall into the slough of despond. In this case Zumthor is said to have admitted the shape of the building was actually inspired by the tar pool, so his capitulation to the pits, even as a metaphor, is voluntary and self-inflicted.

The modification of the original plan to shift galleries south away from the tar pool across Wilshire was forced by the Page Museum to protect its still active and vulnerable paleontological site. But as revised, the new proposal only confirms and extends the original mistake, an amoeba-shaped design that LACMA made public in an exhibition last year, “The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA.” (The title of the show, incidentally, copied that of the first International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 1980.) The entire project, the original core proposal and its Wilshire extension, should be rethought before any commitment becomes irreversible, probably with a change of architect, possibly with a change of museological scope and mission. If the museum proposes spending $650 million to replace the existing buildings by William Pereira and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer, LACMA, Angelenos, and the collections deserve better.

Now go to the Los Angeles Review of Books and read the rest of the story:

Here was my response on Facebook to those skeptical of Frank Gehry being hired:
Frank Gehry has learned a lot over the years about how a building needs to connect to the ground and to the sidewalk. As just one recent example, his current plan for Grand Avenue is a vast improvement over his previous design. In addition, Gehry's company now knows how to design buildings that can be built within a budget. So I am confident he will do a far better job with LACMA than he would have 5 or 10 years ago.
But - to look at this from a strictly pragmatic POV - the only realistic way Govan and LACMA can step away from Zumthor - is to replace him with not just at an unquestionably greater architect, but by a hometown local hero who has been too often overlooked for major commissions while the rest of the world begs for his services. And the fact Gehry can design a project of this scale to meet a budget (something Zumthor has never even attempted) - and he has a company that will oversee that budget, gives LACMA even more justification - and street cred - for making the switch.  It will soon be clear it is the only financially prudent thing they can do.

Detailed Proof How the Russians Shot Down the Malaysian Plane

BLOOD ON PUTIN'S HANDS: A Russian SA-11 missile launcher, which was used to bring Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 down, was operated by a Russian crew, according to Ukrainian intelligence officials. Photo: AP

Most of the details have already been released about how the Russian missile launchers were brought into Ukraine by the Russians, how a Russian officer found the plane on radar, the moment the order was given to shoot it down, the exact words used by the rebels boasted they had shot down the plane, the social media post by the rebels bragging they had shot down the plane and - finally - the phone call when they realized - and admitted - that the plane that had been shot down - was a civilian plane.  Also well documented has been the removal of the missile launchers back into Russia - with one of the launchers now missing a single missile.

But the below article from the New York Post summaries all the relevant stories from multiple news sources and is - so far - the best blow by blow description I have seen of how Putin's Russia orchestrated this tragedy.  Here are the opening paragraphs:
Ukrainian officials said “irrefutable evidence” proves that Russia’s military operated the missile system that blew a Malaysia Airlines jet from the sky, killing 298 people.
“This terrorist act was committed with the help of the Russian Federation. We know clearly that the crew of this system were Russian citizens,” Vitaly Naida, Ukraine’s chief of counterintelligence, told reporters on Saturday.
The missile system was spirited into rebel-controlled Ukraine territory in pitch-black darkness at about 1 a.m. Thursday, Ukrainian intelligence sources told The Sunday Times of London.
The Buk missile system crossed the Russian border near the village of Sukhodolsk. By 9 a.m., it reached the city of Donetsk, a rebel stronghold and command center.
Ukrainian intelligence recorded phone calls between a Russian military intelligence officer, Sergei Nikolaevich Petrovskiy, and a rebel fighter.
“Where should we unload this cutie?” the rebel fighter asked.
“Is it what I’m thinking about?” replied Petrovskiy.
“Yes. Buk, Buk,” said the fighter.
Crews brought the system to a spot near the village of Pervomaysk, about 75 miles from Donetsk.

The missile shot up toward the Malaysian Boeing 777, which was 33,000 feet overhead — 1,000 feet above the no-fly zone imposed by Ukrainian aviation authorities.
Ukraine’s intelligence service posted on its Web site a picture of what it says is the contrail of the killer missile.
At first, the rebels were jubilant about their hit.
“We have just shot down a plane,” a rebel field commander said in a phone call to a Russian military officer that was recorded by Ukrainian intelligence.
Soon after that, Igor Girkin, the leader of the Donetsk People’ Army, boasted on a Russian social media Web site that his soldiers had shot down a Ukrainian plane.
“We did warn you — do not fly in our sky,” Girkin crowed.
But the rebels soon realized their mistake. “We have found the first 200 [dead],” a rebel reported to one of his superiors. He added: “We are 100 percent sure that it was a civilian plane.”
Girkin’s boast was soon pulled from the Internet.
Sometime after 11 p.m. that night — seven hours after the Boeing 777’s debris and its 298 passengers rained down on Ukrainian homes and fields — the rebels began moving the missile system back toward the Russian border.
Ukrainian intelligence says Russia pulled back two missile launchers — including the one used against Flight 17 — “to suppress evidence of its involvement in the terrorist act.”
For the rest of the article and more pictures, go to this link. Hopefully, those who have saying we should not be worried about Russia since the Cold War is over, will  realize ex-KGB agent Putin appears determined to resurrect the old USSR in more ways than just its geography.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Brilliant Overview of Putin's Ukraine Role. And This is a Must Read for Everyone.

While I haven't regularly read SLATE in years, after experiencing Anne Applebaum's - brilliant - and there is no other word to describe it - summary of what is really happening over there (which is a reprint of her Washington Post column), I will make certain not to miss another article by her.  Hopefully someone in  the White House will make certain President Obama reads this article.   Here are the opening paragraphs:

The downing of the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane has exposed the chaos in Ukraine as a real war. 

This tragedy offers Vladimir Putin an opportunity to get out of the messy disaster he has created in eastern Ukraine.
Photo by Alexei Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images
Before there is any further discussion of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, it’s important that one point be made absolutely clear: This plane crash is a result of the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, an operation deliberately designed to create legal, political, and military chaos. Without this chaos, a surface-to-air missile would not have been fired at a passenger plane.  
From the beginning, the Russian government did not send regular soldiers to Ukraine. Instead, it sent Russian mercenaries and security service operatives such as Igor Strelkov—the commander in chief in Donetsk and a Russian secret police colonel who fought in both Chechen wars—or Vladimir Antyufeyev, the Donetsk “deputy prime minister” who led the Latvian KGB’s attempt to overthrow the independent Latvian government back in 1991.

With the help of local thugs, these Russian security men besieged police stations, government offices, and other symbols of political authority, in order to delegitimize the Ukrainian state. In this task, they were assisted by the Russian government and by Russia’s state-controlled mass media, both of which still constantly denigrate Ukraine and its “Nazi” government. Just in the past week, Russian reporting on Ukraine reached a new pitch of hysteria, with fake stories about the supposed crucifixion of a child and an extraordinary documentary comparing the Ukrainian army’s defense of its own country with the Rwandan genocide
Into this ambiguous and unstable situation, the Russians cynically funneled a stream of heavy weapons: machine guns and artillery, and eventually tanks, armed personnel carriers, and anti-aircraft missiles. In recent days, the separatist forces were openly using MANPADS, and were also boasting of having taken down large Ukrainian transport planes, clearly with Russian specialist assistance. Indeed, Strelkov on Thursday afternoon boasted online of having taken down another military plane, before realizing that the plane in question was MH17. He removed the post. In late June, several different Russian media sources published photographs of BUK anti-aircraft missiles, which they said had been captured by the separatists—though they were probably outright gifts from Russia. These posts have also been removed.
This is the context within which a surface-to-air missile was aimed at a passenger plane: A lawless environment; irregular soldiers who might not be so good at reading radar; a nihilistic disregard for human life; scorn for international norms, rules, or standards. Just for the record: There weren’t any Ukrainian government-controlled anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine, because the separatists were not flying airplanes.
And for the rest of this must read article - go here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Special Saturday July 19th Morning Walking Tour of DTLA on How to Fix Los Angeles

Besides some of the usual history of Historic Downtown Los Angeles - at the request of two frequent visitors to Downtown, this  Saturday July 19th, I will preview my new tour on not just the history of DTLA - or what is happening in DTLA - but - also what SHOULD be happening to make Downtown - and Los Angeles to make them both a better place for everyone.

This one-time (for now) tour will start at 10 AM at The Last Bookstore in the Spring Arts Tower  - 453 S. Spring Street - at 10 AM - and run for 2 hours.  And we will be meeting at the 5th Street entrance to the store - which opens at 10 AM.  Saturday July 19th from 10 AM to 12 PM.  For reservations email or call 213-804-8396 anytime before 10 AM.
FOR MORE INFORMATION  - contact Brady Westwater at 213-804-8396 - or
All tours begin at THE LAST BOOKSTORE at 453 S. Spring Street in the Spring Arts Tower and will be led by long time Downtown resident Brady Westwater who, besides being involved with the Downtown LA Neighborhood Council, the Historic Downtown BID, Gallery Row, Art Walk, and the BOXeight and the CONCEPT Fashion Weeks, has brought over 150 businesses, artists and non-profit institutions to Downtown.  All tours are only $15 per person.  
Wyatt Earp

If you are a participant in 'Historic Downtown Los Angeles 101' Tour, you will see the first motion picture theater built,  the place where Babe Ruth signed his contract with the Yankees, the hotel where Charlie Chaplin lived when he made his early films (and the place where he made his Los Angeles vaudeville debut in 1910) - plus the homes and haunts of everyone from actor Nicholas Cage, the Black Dahlia, Rudolph Valentino, LA’s version of Jack the Ripper, President Teddy Roosevelt, the Night Stalker, western outlaw Emmet Dalton,  actor Ryan Gosling and more.  And you will also visit where O. J. Simpson bought his knife.

You’ll explore an intersection where all four buildings were often visited by gunfighter/sheriff Wyatt Earp since they were all built or occupied by friends of his from Tombstone during the shoot-out at the OK Corral.  At this intersection you will also discover what John Wayne, a prime minister of Italy, Houdini, Winston Churchill, boxer Jack Dempsey, Greta Garbo, President Woodrow Wilson and multiple Mexican boxing champions all had in common here.

You will also see where the first new lofts were opened, the places where Gallery Row and the Art Walk began and where Fashion Week returned to Downtown.  You will see many of the new boutiques, designer showrooms and stores that have recently opened in the area along with getting a sneak preview of what will soon be happening in the area.

Tickets for either tour are only $15 per person - free for children under 8 - and reservations can be made by calling Brady Westwater at 213-804-8396 or emailing  All credit card orders will be processed  at Last Bookstore and cash payments may be made at the start of the tour.   All proceeds will go towards the revitalization and the study of the history of the neighborhood.  
Lastly, future tours will feature specialized areas of interest such as architecture, art of all kinds, shopping and food, single streets, sports (from steer wrestling to luchador wrestlers to a Sumo wrestler), transportation, specific periods of history, the hidden Wild West history of Los Angeles, movie locations, Downtown after hours and many other aspects of the neighborhood. And custom designed can be developed by request  for groups of four or more.
We will also be soon starting weekday and evening tours on what it's like to live in Downtown Los Angeles. You will be introduced to the many of stores, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues (and often their owners, too) - along with being given previews of one of a kind special events - so you can get a feel for what it is like to live in Downtown Los Angeles.

We expect this tour to be popular with not only people considering moving to Downtown and people who work in Downtown and who would like to know what to do after hours in Downtown - but also to recent and even long established Downtown residents who want to know more about their neighborhood.

Monday, July 14, 2014

More Reasons Why Zumthor's LACMA Design Should Not Be Built

Two more voices have been added to the growing opinion that demolishing the original LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) buildings would be a mistake (as I stated here June 17th) and that building the Zumthor design could end up being a civic tragedy.

First, architecture and urban design professor/critic/writer, Witold Rybczynski, brilliantly supports the retention of the original three buildings to preserve LA's cultural history (even though he is not a big fan of the architecture) and because they have, even more importantly, created a great urban space.
Most art museums today resemble either palaces (if they are old), or upscale automobile showrooms (if they are new). This was neither. Groups of excited children played on the plaza, and clusters of teenagers wandered in off Wilshire Boulevard. The familiar mall-like atmosphere made this an unintimidating space; it was definitely not the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But it struck me that this vulgar (in the literal sense of the word) solution to an art museum succeeded in one important way. Because of its lack of pretension, this was a cheerful place in which people appeared decidedly at home.

A sense of place is an elusive quality, difficult to achieve, and not easy to maintain. It is the result not only of architectural forms but also of behavior, habit, and time. Learning to use what you have is as important as having the perfect building. That’s why it’s a shame to hear that LACMA has decided to wipe the slate clean and demolish all its older buildings, except the Goff pavilion. Why does Los Angeles, which has little enough history, feel the need to keep reinventing its surroundings?
Rybczynski also has problems with almost every part of the proposed Zumthor design.
It would be better to reconsider this wholesale demolition. Especially as the proposed replacement, designed by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, leaves much to be desired. It is a spreading building raised up on stilts; instead of a friendly plaza there is a dark and gloomy undercroft. The kidney shape is supposed to have something to do with the nearby La Brea Tar Pits, but it reminds me of a 1950s coffee table. Finished all in black, the proposed museum will be a somber presence among the palm trees on Wilshire Boulevard, as anomalous as a Calvinist preacher on a sunny Malibu beach. 
Next, Aaron Betsky, writing in Architect Magazine, both opposes the demolition of the existing campus and has considerably problems with Zumthor's design.
Does the Los Angeles County Museum of Art need to start over again? That is the question this institution is answering with a resounding, $650 million “yes.” They are proposing to tear down all of their original buildings, as well as a mid-1980s addition, and replace it with Peter Zumthor–designed, blobby behemoth they say will add 70,000 square feet of gallery space and create a coherent core in which they can pursue their mission.
When I visited LACMA to see this show, as well as the James Turrell exhibition (about which more later) and a few other offerings of what has, it was clear to me that this institution has, under the leadership of Michael Govan, become one of the liveliest and most innovative art museums in the country. The place was bustling. The cafĂ©, nestled under a canopy that shades LACMA’s central space, was packed; people were wandering from pavilion to pavilion, and the whole compound gave you the sense that there was something else to discover around the next corner or in the next building.

That is why I am wary of the notion of wiping most of this out to create a single, amoeba-shaped labyrinth of galleries lifted above street level and accessed through five separate cores. Through pure circumstance, LACMA has arrived at a state of vitality that is due, I would argue, not only to good leadership and programming, but also to the very messiness of its campus.

Betsky also questions why LACMA should spend... $650,000,000.... and only end up with 70,000 feet in additional space.
But together, these bits and pieces create a condensation of the Los Angeles landscape that is, if not high art, certainly typical in its sense of accretion of forms, images, and spaces that flow from indoor to outdoor again. It seems to me that it would be logical to keep going in this mode by adding on, renovating, and intensifying those qualities.

Would it really cost $650 million to fix leaks, add solar panels to the roofs, create 70,000 square feet of gallery space in additions or separate pavilions, and design effective wayfinding tools? Nor would such a strategy embody a lack of vision. In fact, I would argue that this kind of first-one-thing-then-another, modular, tactical, and renovation-focused way of making spaces is the wave of the future.

I will also admit that I do not quite understand the Zumthor design. Though I have loved just about every building of his I have ever seen, this attempt to turn the adjacent La Brea Tar Pints into a black piano nobile disassociated from the human-made city around it strikes me as odd, out of scale, and out of real context.

Both critics also praise Michael Govan for what he has done at LACMA - and I am Govan's biggest fan when it comes to his revitalization of LACMA - and they each praise the relatively small, coherent, logical, jewel box structures Zumthor has designed in Swiss Alps near his home. Four qualities totally lacking in his LACMA design.

And now - below is my entire original post on the six reasons why the Zumthor design can not and must not be built:

Kevin Roderick over at LA OBSERVED has the best round-up of articles on architect Peter Zumthor's latest revised design for a new LACMA; a design that now crosses Wilshire Boulevard and  incorporates part of the parking lot (and future LACMA development site) across the street.  This was done to lessen the building's impact on the tar pits in Hancock Park.  But by doing this, new problems have been created - two of which are large enough to - in my opinion - kill the project once they are properly considered.

 But there is a potential solution to this possible stalemate..  Build a new museum on the parking lot parcel - which eliminates the need to demolish any of the existing buildings at this time - and then decide what to do with the rest of the campus.

Below are the six reason why I feel this project will not go forward.  But it is really reason number 6 - and 5 to a lesser extent - that I feel will make the project impossible to construct.  But first read Kevin Roderick's summary.

1.  The original LACMA buildings - though not the great architecture they could have been if Mies van der Rohe had been selected - are increasingly emblematic of their time and are now an important part of our social and cultural heritage.  The complex is also reaching an age when the merits of its urban planning design and its architectural style are able to be better appreciated and evaluated.

The Anderson building is more problematic.  Its architecture is merely typical of hundreds of buildings of its time and its awkward siting disrupted the entrance to the original complex.  Still, with a new architect, the Anderson might be reconfigured to play another role or be totally remodeled/rebuilt to become part of  the new building design and possibly the new main entrance to the complex.

Ideally, the Bart Prince designed Pavilion for Japanese Art would also be kept.

2.  The proposed new building still remains a sprawling blob with no clear entrance and no obvious connection with either the sidewalk or the street.  It remains an alien object hovering over Wilshire; an object seemingly meant to be driven by - and driven under - but never actually entered.  It is the literal recreation of the old Los Angeles myth that LA is not a city but only 37 suburbs in search of a city. Now, granted, those who already regularly go to art museums will likely find the alien quality of the structure - towering above them on 30 foot silicon legs, intriguing.  But it is far less likely that those who already find art museums too intimidating will feel welcomed by this structure.

3.  The sprawling floor plan is a museum goers nightmare.  By going horizontal rather than vertical - besides eating up all the usable land on the existing site and destroying the viability of the site across the street - Zumthor makes navigating the museum much harder.

Tourists already suffering from museum feet after days of walking and locals who want to stop by for an hour to see some of their favorites will no longer be able to take an elevator in the Ahmanson or the Anderson and find what they want to see.  They will instead have to walk far longer distances to get from one part of the museum to the other.  This design is to museums what urban sprawl is to cities.

4.  The new building will still plunge everything under it into darkness.  But that shadow now also includes Wilshire Boulevard and the sidewalks  on both sides of the street.  Unlike the Getty or the present LACMA complex (which allow you to go out into the sunlight and the fresh air of a plaza between each building to refresh your palate), Zumthor rejects any interaction with the ground or the outside world other than viewing it from up high through windows.

5.  Unexpectedly, this latest plan also has the side affect of making any major future, logical expansion of the museum - close to impossible.  By having the building across Wilshire and incorporating the middle of the parcel across the street that LACMA had  bought for future development - Zumthor not only destroys what previous architects have built - but he also destroys the ability for LACMA to have any future architect develop a major building on the other site - or on any other part of the existing LACMA campus

And now that the May Company - which was originally going to be part of LACMA before it became the Hollywood Museum (one of the brilliant moves Michael Govan has made since taking the reins at LACMA) is gone and with the new building now being forced to sprawl over all the developable land on the other side of Wilshire, any major future expansion will have to occur on another site.

And since the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is only LA museum that collects the entire history of  art and in every possible medium from medieval armor to contemporary fashion to antique zoetropes - the only way it can compete for major donations for its dozens of different collections  - is by having the land for major donors to build the spaces needed to greatly expand those collections.

6.  Finally - here is the last - and most important - reason why this plan can never never be built.

Throughout history art has found itself under attack by those who oppose the culture it sprang from.  Al Queda's destruction of major cultural monuments in Afghanistan and the current destruction of  'offensive'  art and artifacts in Iraq are only two of many recent examples  And if LACMA  constructs a massive art museum over Wilshire Boulevard that millions of people will pass under each year -will  create not just a target  - but the perfect target imaginable for those who oppose the cultures that created that art.

All it will take is one person - a single Timothy McVeigh - or a solitary terrorist with misguided religious beliefs  -  to detonate a truck filled with explosives - or a portable bomb - while driving under LACMA to bring the building's connection over Wilshire tumbling down  And there is no way that type of attack can be prevented.

So by building a museum filled with thousands of years of Western (and non-Western) art over a major iconic road in the heart of a major city, LACMA will be creating a uniquely - and totally unnecessarily vulnerable -  target; a compelling, failure free target perfect for any international terrorist group  - or any single person - wanting to attack that culture.

And that alone is reason enough not to build this project.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Avalanche Hits The Last Bookstore! Yes, an Alvalanche of Literary Fiction at $1 Each!

I don't have time to go into the details right now since I am in danger  of drowning in the flood of fiction; fiction written by awarding winning authors (Nobel, Pulitzer, Man Booker. Faulkner, Neustadt, Franz Kafka, Goethe, European Union, Georg Muchner, German Book Prize, Sao Paulo, Leipzig Book Fair, American Academy, Aga Khan, Edgar Alan Poe, Bram Stoker. Hemingway Foundation/PEN, Hugo, Wallace Stevens, Prix Sorieres, Alan Paton, LA Times, Grand prix du Roman, Arthur Ellis, Lambda, James Jones, Whiting Prize, etc. - and those are just the awards won by the books in just one of the 500 boxes) that have just arrived in the - one dollar room. 

Yes, novels and short story collections by the leading authors of this and most of the last century can now had for a short time for just one dollar each - and hundreds more arriving every day at The Last Bookstore at 5th  Spring in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles at 5th & Spring.

Friday, July 04, 2014

A LA Cowboy Misses Cowboy Christmas

For those not familiar with the West,  the week before - and after - the Fourth of July is called the Cowboy Christmas. That is because there they are so many damn rodeos going on at one time that poor ole cowpokes don't know which one of them to unwrap first. So it is not uncommon for rodeo cowboys to hit half-a-dozen – or more – rodeos – in one week by sharing private planes – or splitting driving shifts in cram-packed extra-large pick-ups.
Now while I never did the rodeo cowboy thing – with a few exceptions – when I first hit the cowboy trail I did train bucking stock that we sold to stock contractors and we at times went to the rodeos to see how they performed… which brings us to today’s tale…
During my first Cowboy Christmas, one of the contractor’s bucking stock couldn’t make it from one rodeo to the next in time and my own personal horse – Mr. D – the buckinest horse that ever lived – just happened to be with me. So with it being a seller’s market in bucking broncs – I asked good old Mr. D if he would care to make his rodeo debut and he quickly gave me an eager snort - hell, yes.
The next few hours were mighty entertaining for all of us - and particularly, Mr. D, as we watched one cowboy after another go flying in near record times.
So we repeated this several times over the next few days. And it was a mighty sad Mr. D when we finally returned back to the ranch after our first Cowboy Christmas. The next year, however, due to small rodeo’s close proximity to a much larger rodeo – a couple cowboys who were in the money for that year’s championship showed up – and one of them got promptly throwed by Mr. D as soon as they cleared the chute.
Now as keeping a low profile was always our number one priority, with that kind of attention focused on my horse – we quickly broke camp and left – and returned to the ranch. 
The following year, we hit some smaller rodeos – making certain that no ranking cowboys would be there – but when one person moseyed over to us and asked us if this was the Cowboy Christmas horse… we quickly packed up and left, thus ending Mr. D’s rodeo career to both our regrets.
So now I am sitting in a loft in Downtown Los Angeles and Mr. D has long been grazing up in horse heaven.  But my mind today is far way in another time and another place where Mr. D and I are getting ready to celebrate our first Cowboy Christmas.
Because it is Cowboy Christmas and this cowboy is a long way from home.
This is a short version of the Cowboy Christmas story which will be in my upcoming book - "My Cowboy Years; a Memoir of Lives Too Short".