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Gnamma #25 - Undoing Los Angeles
"I spent the weekend in Los Angeles, as a place to work a little bit but mostly see friends and re-center myself in my favorite city.

I find myself having to justify an affinity for LA nearly anywhere I go (but especially in the Bay). My parents were confused when I moved, but I think that their understandings were rooted in memories of what LA was portrayed to be through the 1992 race riots and before the Clean Air Act had really kicked into gear—slightly more apocalyptic.

The social world I lived in before the moving West was full of Northeast Ivy League bullshit and otherwise inherited from my parents (cerebral, university-centric). This sphere did not seem to think much of Los Angeles, probably because its cultural production is not seen as high-brow enough to be accepted by Brahmin standards. Or maybe because Los Angeles makes little sense, from an urban planning perspective if your reference points are Boston, New York, DC. Or maybe because LA's legendary vapidity is assumed to create an intellectual wasteland of vice and appearance.

I read Geoff Manaugh's post about Los Angeles [http://bldgblog.com/2007/10/greater-los-angeles/ ] just a couple days before I moved to the city (having never been before), and can't imagine a better tone-setting read. It celebrates how you can find anything in LA if you drive around the right block. In this vein, I've enjoyed collecting quips about what I call "LA Phenomenology" [https://www.are.na/lukas-w/la-phenomenology ]—how can a short paragraph speak to the deep plurality, dynamism, and strangeness of this place?

I found most critiques of LA to be both true and not true, which is one of the reasons I became intellectually attached to the place. LA is incredible at self-narratizing, which leads to a wonderful weave of narrative and reality in the city—where the line between the two becomes irrelevant. Lots of people have opinions about what LA "is" and how LA "feels," and these could seem true or false depending on how far you drive along the freeway. I don't mean to deny that every city has plurality within it; my particular experience of Los Angeles' forced me to reconsider my terms of engagement with a city. LA forced me to slow down to the pace that the freeways permit and meet it on its own terms, closely examining my assumptions about the place versus what was actually going on, in front of my eyes: a highly navigable city full of thoughtful people, deep roots, and fascinating ecology.

(I need to credit at least some people in furthering these thoughts. My friend Tristan has been my primary influence on theorizing Los Angeles. One of my first conversations on the subject was at a cafe in La Jolla with Sascha Pohflepp, who passed away recently. He welcomed me warmly to the bizarreness of Southern California and was the first to tell me about Reyner Banham—I am so thankful that our paths crossed.)

A discussion I've had a few times in the Bay revolves around Northern vs. Southern California water rights. In order to supply drinking water to their populations, San Diego and Los Angeles share an artificial watershed that is 1.5 times the area of the state of California [https://www.are.na/block/1912858 ]. ("Artificial Watershed" here being the combined natural watershed and area that delivers water via hydraulic infrastructure to the place.) They are sucking the Owens Valley and Colorado River dry. Northern California, just by being more rainy but also having more proximity to Sierran snowpack, has much smaller artificial watershed. Northern California views Southern California as parasitic as it pulls precious water down the Aqueduct that otherwise could have stayed where it was, upholding ecological or hydrological process rather than fulfilling urban uses.

Of course, we can't undo Los Angeles. Southern California is fully terraformed, home to millions, and a key cultural player—cutting the water supply would be an extreme human rights abuse. Sustainability in water and otherwise will be some difficult ongoing complex of cultural shifts, technology, policy, and luck. "Sustainable Cities" are both slippery to define and difficult to achieve—is a sustainable Los Angeles one that is affordable? That has enough water? That produces zero waste? That celebrates a diverse population? All of the above and more, of course, I hope, but hard triage decisions are upon us.

I found Los Angeles lovely not because it "works" in the sense of how Monocle magazine thinks a pleasant city should work, but because I reframed its demonstrated dysfunction (celebrity-centric culture, ignored public transit, punishingly walkable streets, landlord-as-investor model) as fertile symptoms of the difficulty of making a city address its own reality and be livable. Perhaps I love Los Angeles because I feel like if LA can make it, anywhere can.

Getting gas at the Arco on Figueroa where the 5 and 110, and Arroyo Seco and LA River, meet,
Lukas"
losangeles  lukaswinklerprins  geoffmanaugh  2019  cities  socal  california  norcal  saschaphflepp  place 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Shade
[via: https://twitter.com/shannonmattern/status/1122670547777871874

who concludes…
https://twitter.com/shannonmattern/status/1122685558688485376
"🌴Imagine what LA could do if it tied street enhancement to a comprehensive program of shade creation: widening the sidewalks, undergrounding powerlines, cutting bigger tree wells, planting leafy, drought-resistant trees, + making room for arcades, galleries, + bus shelters.🌳"]

"All you have to do is scoot across a satellite map of the Los Angeles Basin to see the tremendous shade disparity. Leafy neighborhoods are tucked in hillside canyons and built around golf courses. High modernist homes embrace the sun as it flickers through labor-intensive thickets of eucalyptus. Awnings, paseos, and mature ficus trees shade high-end shopping districts. In the oceanfront city of Santa Monica, which has a dedicated municipal tree plan and a staff of public foresters, all 302 bus stops have been outfitted with fixed steel parasols (“blue spots”) that block the sun. 9 Meanwhile, in the Los Angeles flats, there are vast gray expanses — playgrounds, parking lots, and wide roads — with almost no trees. Transit riders bake at unsheltered bus stops. The homeless take refuge in tunnels and under highway overpasses; some chain their tarps and tents to fences on Skid Row and wait out the day in the shadows of buildings across the street.

Shade is often understood as a luxury amenity, lending calm to courtyards and tree-lined boulevards, cooling and obscuring jewel boxes and glass cubes. But as deadly, hundred-degree heatwaves become commonplace, we have to learn to see shade as a civic resource that is shared by all. In the shade, overheated bodies return to equilibrium. Blood circulation improves. People think clearly. They see better. In a physiological sense, they are themselves again. For people vulnerable to heat stress and exhaustion — outdoor workers, the elderly, the homeless — that can be the difference between life and death. Shade is thus an index of inequality, a requirement for public health, and a mandate for urban planners and designers.

A few years back, Los Angeles passed sweeping revisions to the general plan meant to encourage residents to walk, bike, and take more buses and trains. But as Angelenos step out of their cars, they are discovering that many streets offer little relief from the oppressive sunshine. Not everyone has the stamina to wait out the heat at an unprotected bus stop, or the money to duck into an air-conditioned cafe. 11 When we understand shade as a public resource — a kind of infrastructure, even — we can have better discussions about how to create it and distribute it fairly.

Yet cultural values complicate the provision of shade. Los Angeles is a low-rise city whose residents prize open air and sunshine. 12 They show up at planning meetings to protest tall buildings that would block views or darken sunbathing decks, and police urge residents in high-crime neighborhoods to cut down trees that hide drug dealing and prostitution. Shade trees are designed out of parks to discourage loitering and turf wars, and designed off streets where traffic engineers demand wide lanes and high visibility. Diffuse sunlight is rare in many parts of Los Angeles. You might trace this back to a cultural obsession with shadows and spotlights, drawing a line from Hollywood noir — in which long shadows and unlit corners represent the criminal underworld — to the contemporary politics of surveillance. 13 The light reveals what hides in the dark.

When I think of Los Angeles, I picture Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village, a streetcar suburb converted into a ten-lane automobile moonscape. People say they like this street for its wall of low-slung, pre-war storefronts, home to record stores and restaurants. To me, it’s a never-ending, vertiginous tunnel of light. I squint to avoid the glare from the white stucco walls, bare pavement, and car windows. From a climate perspective, bright surfaces are good; they absorb fewer sun rays and lessen the urban heat-island effect. But on an unshaded street they can also concentrate and intensify local sunlight."



"At one time, they did. “Shade was integral, and incorporated into the urban design of southern California up until the 1930s,” Davis said. “If you go to most of the older agricultural towns … the downtown streets were arcaded. They had the equivalent of awnings over the sidewalk.” Rancho homes had sleeping porches and shade trees, and buildings were oriented to keep their occupants cool. The original settlement of Los Angeles conformed roughly to the Law of the Indies, a royal ordinance that required streets to be laid out at a 45-degree angle, ensuring access to sun in the winter and shade in the summer. Spanish adobes were built around a central courtyard cooled by awnings and plants. 15 As the city grew, the California bungalow — a low, rectangular house, with wide eaves, inspired by British Indian hill stations — became popular with the middle class. “During the 1920s, they were actually prefabricated in factories,” Davis said. “There are tens of thousands of bungalows, particularly along the Alameda corridor … that were manufactured by Pacific Ready-Cut Homes, which advertised itself as the Henry Ford of home construction.” 16

All that changed with the advent of cheap electricity. In 1936, the Los Angeles Bureau of Power and Light completed a 266-mile high-voltage transmission line from Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam), which could supply 70 percent of the city’s power at low cost. Southern Californians bought mass-produced housing with electric heating and air conditioning. By the end of World War II, there were nearly 4 million people living in Los Angeles County, and the new neighborhoods were organized around driveways and parking lots. Parts of the city, Davis said, became “virtually treeless deserts.”"



"It’s easy to see how this hostile design reflected the values of the peak automobile era, but there is more going on here. The destruction of urban refuge was part of a long-term strategy to discourage gay cruising, drug use, and other “shady” activities downtown. In 1964, business owners sponsored another redesign that was intended, in the hyperbolic words of the Los Angeles Times, to finally clear out the “deviates and criminals.” The city removed the perimeter benches and culled even more palms and shade trees, so that office workers and shoppers could move through the park without being “accosted by derelicts and ‘bums.’” Sunlight was weaponized. “Before long, pedestrians will be walking through, instead of avoiding, Pershing Square,” the Times declared. “And that is why parks are built.” 19"



"High-concept architecture is one way to transform the shadescape of Los Angeles. Street trees are another. Unfortunately, the city’s most ubiquitous tree — the iconic Washington robusta, or Mexican fan palm — is about as useful in that respect as a telephone pole.

Palm trees have been identified with southern California since 1893, when Canary Island date palms — the fatter, stouter cousin — were displayed at the Chicago World’s Fair. On the trunk of one of those palms, boosters posted the daily temperatures at a San Diego beach, and the tree itself came to stand for “sunshine and soft air.” In his indispensable history, Trees in Paradise, Jared Farmer traces the palm’s transformation from a symbol of a healthy climate to a symbol of glamour, via its association with Hollywood. 26

Despite that early fame, palm trees did not really take over Los Angeles until the 1930s, when a citywide program set tens of thousands of palms along new or recently expanded roads. They were the ideal tree for an automobile landscape. Hardy, cheap, and able to grow anywhere, palm trees are basically weeds. Their shallow roots curl up into a ball, so they can be plugged into small pavement cuts without entangling underground sewer and water mains or buckling sidewalks. As Farmer puts it, palms are “symbiotic infrastructure,” beautifying the city without making a mess. Plus, as Mary Pickford once pointed out, the slender trunks don’t block the view of storefronts, which makes them ideal for window-shopping from the driver’s seat. The city’s first forester, L. Glenn Hall, planted more than 25,000 palm trees in 1931 alone. 27

Hall’s vision, though, was more ambitious than that. He planned to landscape all of Los Angeles’s roads with 1.2 million street trees. Tall palms, like Washingtonia robusta, would go on major thoroughfares, and side streets would be lined with elm, pine, red maple, liquidambar, ash, and sycamore. A Depression-era stimulus package provided enough funds to employ 400 men for six months. But the forestry department put the burden of watering and maintenance on property owners, and soon it charged for cutting new tree wells, too. Owners weren’t interested. So Hall concentrated his efforts on the 28 major boulevards that would serve the 1932 Olympics — including the now-iconic Ventura, Wilshire, Figueroa, Vermont, Western, and Crenshaw — and committed the city to pay for five years of tree maintenance. That may well have bankrupted the tree planting program, and before long the city was urging property owners to take on all costs, including the trees themselves.

This history partly explains the shade disparity in Los Angeles today. Consider the physical dimensions of a major city street in Hall’s time. Between the expanding road and narrowing sidewalks was an open strip of grass, three to ten feet wide, known as the parkway. Having rejected a comprehensive parks system, Los Angeles relied on these roadside strips to plant its urban forest, but over time the parkways were diminished by various agencies in the name of civic improvements — chiefly, road widening. 29 And the stewardship of these spaces was always ambiguous. The parkways are public land, owned and regulated by the … [more]
losangeles  trees  shade  history  palmtrees  urbanplanning  electricity  inequality  2019  sambloch  mikedavis  urban  urbanism  cars  transportation  disparity  streets  values  culture  pedestrians  walking  heat  light  socal  california  design  landscape  wealth  sidewalks  publictransit  transit  privacy  reynerbanham  surveillance  sun  sunshine  climatechange  sustainability  energy  ericgarcetti  antoniovillaraigosa  environment  realestate  law  legal  cities  civics 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Gradients are everywhere from Facebook to the New York Times - Vox
"Here’s why The Daily, Coachella, and Facebook all use backgrounds that look like a sunset."



"What it is: A digital or print effect where one color fades into another. Typically rendered in soft or pastel tones.

Where it is: Gradients are seemingly everywhere in media and marketing. They are part of a suite of Facebook status backdrops introduced in 2017 and the branding for the New York Times’ popular podcast The Daily, which displays a yellow to blue gradient.

Gradients have taken over Coachella’s app and website (if you watch carefully, the colors shift). Ally’s billboard in A Star Is Born is a full-on gradient, and so was the branding for the Oscars ceremony that recognized Lady Gaga.

On Instagram, they provide a product backdrop for popular Korean beauty brand Glow, and have been embraced by indie magazines Gossamer and Anxy — both designed by Berkeley studio Anagraph.

On the luxury front, Brooklyn wallpaper company Calico has released an entire collection of gradient wallpapers called Aurora. Meanwhile, Spanish fashion house Loewe has introduced a version of their trendy Elephant bag in a spectrum of pink to yellow.

Are gradients drinkable? Heck yes, they are. Seltzer startup Recess has gone all-in on gradients in their branding.

Why you’re seeing it everywhere: Gradients are the confluence of three different trends: Light and Space art, vaporwave, and bisexual lighting.

In the art and design world, Light and Space — developed in the 1960s and ’70s — has been experiencing a revival thanks to its Instagramability. Light and Space pioneer James Turrell has been embraced by celebrities like Beyoncé, Drake, and Kanye West. Drake’s Hotline Bling video was inspired by Turrell’s light-infused rooms called Ganzfelds. The Kardashian-Jenner-West crew posted an Instagram in front of one of Turrell’s works in Los Angeles. (I was yelled at by security for taking a picture there but it’s fine.)

[image]

Most recently, West donated $10 million dollars to the artist.

James Turrell’s works come with a warning because the visitor quickly loses all depth perception. Soft gradients are alluring because they cut through the noise of social media, but they also are disorienting. The Twitter bot soft landscapes operates on a similar principle, but some days the landscape all but disappears.

“It’s nice to see calming things amongst all of the social ramifications of Instagram,” says Rion Harmon of Day Job, the design firm of record for Recess. Harmon compares the Recess branding to a sunset so beautiful you can’t help but stare (or take a picture) however busy you are. Changes to the sky are even more pronounced in Los Angeles, where Harmon’s studio is now based. “The quality of light in LA is something miraculous,” he says. The Light and Space movement was also started in Southern California, and it’s in the DNA of Coachella.

Gradients might be a manifestation of longing for sunshine and surf. But they also belong to the placeless digital citizen. 1980s and ’90s kids may remember messing around in Microsoft Paint and Powerpoint as a child, filling in shapes with these same gradients. It’s no surprise that this design effect is part of the technological nostalgia that fuels the vaporwave movement.

Vaporwave is a musical and aesthetic movement (started in the early 2010s) that spliced ambient music, advertising, and imagery from when the internet started. Gradient artwork shared by the clothing brand Public Space is vaporwave. So is this meme posted by direct-to-consumer health startup Hers.

[image]

When Facebook rolled out gradient status backgrounds in 2017, they knew what they were doing. “They have so much data into how the world works,” says Kerry Flynn, platforms reporter at Digiday. “They had a slow rollout to the color gradients … Obviously they could have pulled the plug anytime.”

Flynn goes on to explain that Facebook realized they had become their own worst enemy. There was so much information on their platform that personal sharing was down and they had to make it novel again. “Facebook wants our personal data, as much as possible. Hence, colorful backgrounds that encourage me to post information about myself and for my friends to ‘Like’ it and comment,” she says.

It’s ironic that in order to do so, Facebook borrowed from a digital texture most millennials associate with a time before Facebook. But it also mimics a current trend in film and television: bisexual lighting.

As Know Your Meme explains, “bisexual lighting is a slang in the queer community for neon lighting with high emphasis on pinks, purples, and blues in film.” These pinks, purples and blues often fade into one another — appearing like a gradient when rendered in two dimensions. Bisexual lighting shows up in the futuristic genre cyberpunk, which imagines an era in which high technology and low technology combine and cities are neon-bathed, landmarkless Gothams. (Overlapping with vaporwave.) Mainstream examples of cyberpunk include Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, and Black Mirror (specifically the “San Junipero” episode). Hotline Bling makes the list of examples for bisexual lighting; the gradients come full circle.

Tati Pastukhova, co-founder of interactive art space ARTECHOUSE, says gradients have become more popular as computer display quality increases. She says the appeal of gradients is “the illusion of dimension, and giving 2-D designs 3-D appeal.” ARTECHOUSE is full of light-based digital installations, but visitors naturally gravitate toward what is most photogenic — including, unexpectedly, the soft lighting the space installed along their staircase for safety reasons.

[image]

Before gradients, neon lettering was the Instagram lighting aesthetic du jour. Gradients are wordless — like saying Live Laugh Love with just colors. “There’s an inherent progression in gradients, you are being taken through something. Like that progression of Live Laugh Love. Of starting at one point and ending at another point. Evoking that visually is something people are very drawn to,” says Taylor Lorenz, a staff writer at the Atlantic who covers internet culture.

Gradients are also boundaryless. In 2016, artist Wolfgang Tillmans used gradients in his anti-Brexit poster campaign. Through gradients, designers have found the perfect metaphor for subjectivity in an era when even the word “fact” is up for debate. “Gradients are a visual manifestation of all of these different spectrums that we live on,” including those of politics, gender, and sexuality, says Lorenz. “Before, I think we lived in a binary world. [Gradients are] a very modern representation of the world.”

At the very least, gradients offer an opportunity to self-soothe.

Calico co-founder Nick Cope says the Aurora collection is often used in meditation rooms. He and his wife have installed it across from their bed at home. “The design was created to immerse viewers in waves and washes of tranquil atmospheric color,” Cope says, adding, “Regardless of the weather, we wake up to a sunrise every morning.”"

[See also:
"Is 'bisexual lighting' a new cinematic phenomenon?"
https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-43765856 ]
color  gradients  design  socialmedia  jamesturrell  2019  light  space  perception  neon  desig  graphicdesign  ux  ui  wolfgangtillmans  nickcope  meditation  colors  tatipastukhova  artechouse  computing  bisexuallighting  lighting  queer  knowyourmeme  pink  purple  blue  cyberpunk  future  technology  hightechnology  lowtechnology  vaporwave  bladerunner  ghostintheshell  blackmirror  sanjunipero  hotlinebling  kerryflynn  facebook  microsoftpaint  rionharmon  sunsets  california  socal  losangeles  coachella  depthperception  ganzfelds  drake  kanyewest  beyoncé  anagraph  ladygaga  daisyalioto 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Revisiting Mike Davis' case for letting Malibu burn - Los Angeles Times
"During fire season, I always think about Mike Davis, author of one of the most — pardon the pun — incendiary essays in the annals of SoCal letters: “The Case for Letting Malibu Burn.” I return to this chapter from his book “Ecology of Fear” any time that the Santa Ana winds howl and thousands flee raging infernos — a ritual that used to happen every couple of years but now seems to happen every couple of months.

“The Case for Letting Malibu Burn” is a powerhouse of history, science, Marxist analysis — and a certain amount of trolling. Its main point is that Southern Californians will never accept that fire is not only common here, but part of our ecology going back centuries. To spend millions saving homes in areas never meant for neighborhoods and power lines is not just folly, but a waste of public resources.

This time around, as California burned from the north to the south, I checked in via email with Davis, now professor emeritus at UC Riverside. He’s best known for his literary double whammy against Los Angeles exceptionalism: 1990’s “City of Quartz” and 1998’s “Ecology of Fear.” Those books made the Los Angeles of “Chinatown” seem as sinister as Mayberry. Davis’ tales of racism, poverty, corruption and other sins — backed by copious footnotes — inspired a generation of radical historians and writers, including yours truly. He also riled an army of detractors who so hated his apocalyptic warnings that they ridiculed everything from his scholarship to his marriages to the fact that he was born in Fontana.

But as the years go on, Davis’ bleak words read more like revelations than rants. Just as he argued, we build deeper into canyons and foothills, daring Mother Nature to give us her best shot — and then are shocked when she does.

The Woolsey fire has already scorched more than 96,000 acres in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, destroying 435 structures in Malibu and other cities. It’s yet another “fire of the century” for the beach city.

“Maybe 10 or 20 years ago, you stayed in your homes when there was a fire and you were able to protect them,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said during a news conference this weekend. “We’re entering a new normal. Things are not the way they were 10 years ago.”

In other words, we now live in Mike Davis’ world. He has ascended to the pantheon of Golden State visionary authors like Helen Hunt Jackson, Upton Sinclair and Carey McWilliams who held up a mirror to us that we have ignored at our own peril.

“The Case for Letting Malibu Burn” depicted Malibu and other wealthy cities built in the boonies as created not for “love of the great outdoors or frontier rusticity,” but rather as “thickets of privacy” against L.A.’s working classes and people of color.

We enable this white flight into the mountains, he argued, by not just allowing development where there shouldn’t be any, but also subsidizing those affected by the inevitable wildfire in the form of cheap fire insurance and squadrons of first responders deployed around the clock at the hint of an ember.

He went through a litany of Malibu blazes over the last century, concluding with the Old Topanga blaze of 1993 — which consumed about 18,000 acres but destroyed 323 structures. Throw in climate change, Davis noted in a version of his essay that appeared in the L.A. Weekly, and the catastrophe “marked a qualitative escalation in fire danger, if not the actual emergence of a new, post-suburban fire regime.”

And, almost exactly 25 years later, here we are again.

Davis’ work on Malibu’s flames has aged far better than the criticism of it. Chapman University urban studies fellow Joel Kotkin, for instance, said of “Ecology of Fear” back in the 1990s that it “basically mugs Los Angeles” and is “truly nauseating stuff.” Yet by 2007, Kotkin told the Economist, in an article about the fires that fall that wreaked havoc from San Diego to Santa Barbara, that “nature still has a lot of power” in the once-unspoiled areas where we build homes — which is what Davis contended all along.

Then there’s former Malibu real estate agent Brady Westwater, who refashioned himself as a downtown L.A. booster. You couldn’t write about “Ecology of Fear” for years without mentioning Westwater, who hounded reporters with screeds and stats about Davis’ real and alleged errors until the press finally began to cite him as a legitimate critic.

In his own 1998 essay (whose titled described Davis as a “purposefully misleading liar”), Westwater predicted that “fire damage will decrease over the years” in Malibu because of better infrastructure and better-built homes. Of the Old Topanga disaster, he plainly declared: “That kind of fire can never happen again.”

And yet here we are again.

Davis remains persona non grata in Malibu, from Neptune’s Net to Pepperdine University. Malibuites took “The Case…” as a direct attack on their beliefs and ways of life.

Davis takes no satisfaction in seeing his analysis come true all over again. But the author, who’s recovering from cancer, stands by what he wrote.

“I’m infamous for suggesting that the broader public should not have to pay a cent to protect or rebuild mansions on sites that will inevitably burn every 20 or 25 years,” he told me. “My opinion hasn’t changed.”"
mikedavis  2018  malibu  losangeles  california  fires  whiteflight  suburbs  nature  wildfires  socal  class  race  racism  development  1990s  1993  1998  bradywestwater  helenhuntjackson  uptonsinclair  careymcwilliams  joelkotkin  inequality 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Maintenance — Cultural Anthropology
"Designed worlds are produced and maintained by human labor. As such, maintenance labor is a key site through which ethnographers might rethink the design of our own research.

* * *

Living in Ladera Heights
The black Beverly Hills
Domesticated paradise
Palm trees and pools
The water’s blue
Swallow a pill
Keepin’ it surreal

—Frank Ocean

In “Sweet Life,” the artist Frank Ocean sings of the affluent Los Angeles black enclave of Ladera Heights. He describes life for the city’s young middle-class black inhabitants as insulated and undisturbed: the sweet life.

A meter shift in Ocean’s vocals and music encroaches on the fiction of this “domesticated paradise.” The veneer of an unblemished pool and of svelte skirted Mexican palms is undone by the song’s chorus: “You’ve had a landscaper and a housekeeper since you were born.” Ocean’s analysis of a black middle-class subject works to make visible immigrant maintenance labor.

In Ramiro Gomez’s acclaimed series of artworks Happy Hills, the serenity of affluent West Los Angeles is similarly recast by making visible the unmarked labor of Latina and Latino immigrant laborers. Gomez, who worked as a nanny, plants life-sized cardboard cutouts of gardeners on the sidewalk hedges of Beverly Hills mansions and inserts domestic workers into the immaculate kitchens shown in the pages of magazines like Better Homes and Gardens.

Gomez and Ocean make palpable the relationship across Los Angeles’s suburbs between affluent and working-class, leisured and laboring subjects. In their works, disparate social and material worlds overlap by making explicit the maintenance labor performed by workers who are themselves alienated from the very places they enrich.

* * *

How is maintenance work, which is to say life-creating and time-freeing labor (such as the domestic and gardening labor of Latina and Latino immigrant workers), a site from which to theorize ethnography and design?

Maintenance, as Ocean and Gomez highlight, is the work of fiction. It is the repeated labor that creates a neat story about the way things naturally appear to be. Ethnography—as the practice of approaching material reality—is itself a practice of repetition, from repeated travels to the field and reconsulting with field notes to the writing and rewriting of a supposed reality. Maintenance labor, like ethnographic narratives, produce an image of the way things supposedly are by erasing the trace of its constant reworking; that is to say, it makes invisible the labor necessary for its construction. In the case of maintenance work, as Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo (2014) argues, labor is made invisible through its gendering and racialization. In the case of ethnography, on the other hand, the author works to remove their labor from the frame so as to represent an unvarnished texture of cultural difference. Or, as Kamala Visweswaran (1994, 1) puts it, the supposed division between fiction and ethnography “breaks down if we consider that ethnography, like fiction, constructs existing or possible worlds, all the while retaining the idea of an alternate ‘made’ world.”

Maintenance, for gardeners and domestic workers, involves the constant reworking of a lawn or the repeated wiping down of a kitchen counter—week after week, sometimes day after day. Conceiving of maintenance as the material accumulation of labor, resulting in well-fed plants or well-fed children, echoes what Keith Murphy and George Marcus (2013, 258) identify as “the complex processes” that designers and ethnographers undertake, which are “almost entirely obscured by the form of their products.” For maintenance, as for design and ethnography, the final products “receive most of the attention from those who consume them” (Murphy and Marcus 2013, 258). Yet there is a surplus contained in the seemingly invisible labor of maintenance.

For Latina and Latino immigrant gardeners, maintenance also means mantenimiento, a practice of organizing days into routes (rutas) and labor sites into divisions of labor shaped by differences in legal status, ethnicity, age, and ability between gardening company owners and their ayudantes or peónes (hired helpers). Mantenimiento reveals a practice of working around the designs of affluent gated neighborhoods, congested Southern California highways, imperatives of state exclusion, and the demands of homeowners and their plants. Mantenimiento challenges the naturalization of racialized and gendered labor, which forecloses the possibility of certain subjects being represented and casts laborers’ repeated reworkings as exacting and skilled labor.

Maintenance is the constant repetition of life-creating labor. As Kalindi Vora (2015) notes, reproductive and affective labor also contains traces of workers’ life activity that, although alienated from the laborers’ social world in order to enrich the lives of others, may retain a collection of stories and affective connections that happen in the service of others’ needs and that, for gardeners and domestic workers, occur in homes designed for others. Sometimes laborers take in excess of the demands of their labor, whether this occurs in the form of a gardener taking a botón of a succulent to reshape the landscape of their own or a domestic worker building a bond with an employer’s child; mantenimiento is attuned to the life that occurs in places where it is said not to exist.

* * *

My interest in maintenance as a concept that raises questions about ethnography and design arises from my experiences as a gardener and longtime manager of a small gardening company in Orange County. As a researcher, the parallels between my own repeated practices of maintenance labor and the repeated practices I employ in representing gardening laborers’ sociality are tethered to laborers’ careful design of their labor and lives."
maintenance  salvadorzárate  ethnography  design  anthropology  2018  via:shannon_mattern  labor  work  domesticworkers  gardening  gardeners  latinos  us  california  frankocean  laderaheights  losangeles  beverlyhills  westlosangeles  fiction  spanish  español  kalindivora  kamalavisweswaran  keithmurphy  georgemarcus  pierrettehondahneu-sotelo  socal 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Explore the Era (Map) » Pacific Standard Time at the Getty
"Delve into the postwar Los Angeles art world in this online archive, which provides additional material related to the exhibitions on view at the Getty Center. Learn about hipsters and happenings, and the venues across the city where all the action took place through images from the archives and first-hand accounts with the artists."
socal  california  art  losangeles  artschools  pacificstandardtime  maps  mapping  midcentury  1950s  1960s  1970s 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Lynell George Sings Los Angeles – Boom California
"Rooted in personal experience, George catalogs the changing landscape, delving deeply into the city’s shifting districts and ever-evolving zeitgeist coming to rise because of these shifts. A lifetime of covering her hometown is distilled into eleven meticulous essays complemented perfectly by her own poignant, original photography. One of the key themes of this collection, as she states in the text, is that there are “‘many’ Los Angeleses swarming, each with stories that [tend to]) remain in the margins, territories that could only be accessed by someone familiar with its history and layout.” Another key idea she hammers home is that the Los Angeles depicted “on television or in the movies didn’t jibe with what [she] encountered daily, no matter where [she] lived.”

Quite simply, George knows Los Angeles better than almost anyone. City of Quartz author Mike Davis stated to me in an email late April that “L.A.’s written image has always been a predictable mixture of hyperbole, cliché and outsider ignorance, with boosterism and fear as two sides of the same coin. Lynell George comes from a different place entirely. With subtle love she explores the everyday to discover the extraordinary: the creative and rebellious spirits of the neighborhoods, the schools, and the true (not fake) bohemias. She truly sings Los Angeles.”

Mike Sonksen

In the last few years, dozens of articles and think-pieces composed by cultural critics and urban pundits have discussed rising rents across Los Angeles accompanied by the transforming local landscape and built environment. Many of these pieces approach the city from a distant, more theoretical standpoint. The native Angeleno journalist Lynell George provides a much more personal and an even deeper perspective on shifts across Los Angeles because she’s been covering the terrain longer than just about anybody. Her new book of essays and photographs from Angel City Press, After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame,[1] examines and explicates Los Angeles in search of place and belonging with an uncanny verisimilitude.

Rooted in personal experience, George catalogs the changing landscape, delving deeply into the city’s shifting districts and ever-evolving zeitgeist coming to rise because of these shifts. A lifetime of covering her hometown is distilled into eleven meticulous essays complemented perfectly by her own poignant, original photography. One of the key themes of this collection, as she states in the text, is that there are “‘many’ Los Angeleses swarming, each with stories that [tend to]) remain in the margins, territories that could only be accessed by someone familiar with its history and layout.” Another key idea she hammers home is that the Los Angeles depicted “on television or in the movies didn’t jibe with what [she] encountered daily, no matter where [she] lived.”

Quite simply, George knows Los Angeles better than almost anyone. City of Quartz author Mike Davis stated to me in an email late April that “L.A.’s written image has always been a predictable mixture of hyperbole, cliché and outsider ignorance, with boosterism and fear as two sides of the same coin. Lynell George comes from a different place entirely. With subtle love she explores the everyday to discover the extraordinary: the creative and rebellious spirits of the neighborhoods, the schools, and the true (not fake) bohemias. She truly sings Los Angeles.”

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The Many Los Angeleses

As Davis notes, George’s forte is revealing the many Los Angeleses and she’s been doing this for over three decades. A former staff writer at both the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly, her writing has won many awards over the years, even a 2018 Grammy Award for Best Album Notes for writing the liner notes, “The Stomp Comes to the Strip,” for the six-CD set, Otis Redding Live at the Whisky A Go Go. In 2017, George also won the Alan Jutzi Fellowship from the Huntington Library for her work with the Octavia E. Butler archive.

Her first book, No Crystal Stair, published by Verso in 1992 peeled back the false facades of South Central Los Angeles to reveal the faces of the city: the mothers, fathers, extended families, the churches, the schools, and legions of teachers and social workers in the district that walked the walk. Her behind the scenes portraits of community pillars like community organizer and youth advocate Levi Kingston, jazz musician John Carter, filmmaker Charles Burnett, the Marcus Garvey School, and the Ward AME Church showed the real South Central Los Angeles, not the exaggerated misrepresentation that mass media promoted in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Her early essays are meticulously reported and stand the test of time. This new collection carries this spirit even further, matching her poetic prose with her equally skilled photography. There’s an organic unity in After/Image that radiates from every page.

Lynell George was born in Hollywood, raised in the Crenshaw District, and then moved to Culver City just before adolescence. Her parents were both teachers around inner-city Los Angeles and her father eventually became a principal. Both of her parents migrated to Los Angeles for opportunity during the early 1950s, the last wave of the Great Migration. Her father was from Pennsylvania and her mother, Louisiana.

After/Image revisits her formative years to paint an in-depth portrait of not only Black L.A.’s transformation, but the city at large. “The black L.A. where I grew up in the ’70s,” she writes, “was a territory built of dreams and defeats. A work-in-progress that was still being shaped by the unrest of the ’60s and the outsized dreams of our forebears.” After/Image maps these territories, “both physical and of the mind.”

After graduating from Culver City High School, she attended Loyola Marymount University (LMU) and studied with the great Los Angeles novelist Carolyn See. See praised her work right from the beginning. “Carolyn was a Mentor,” George tells me. “She was the first to suggest in college that I send one of the pieces I wrote for her class to either the Weekly or the L.A. Reader. Ten years later, that piece (or part of that piece), ended up being part of an essay in the Pantheon collection, Sex, Death and God in L.A.,[2] and entirely by chance, Carolyn had an essay in the same volume as well.”

After graduating from LMU, George went to graduate school for Creative Writing at San Francisco State. While in San Francisco, she met the novelist, essayist and professor Leonard Michaels. Michaels helped her sort out if she should continue in the Masters’ Creative Writing Program or take the leap of leaving grad school. “He gave me advice about what a writer should do: ‘Read. Write. Find someone who you trust to read and critique your work,’” she recalled. “He encouraged me to stay open to the world.” George ended up staying in San Francisco for only a year when a summer internship back home at the LA Weekly became a job opportunity. She listened to Michaels’ advice and sooner than later, she was doing cover stories for the Weekly.

A Pioneer of Los Angeles Journalism

For about seven years George was a staff writer at the Weekly and eventually went on to become a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times for fifteen years. George was one of the first writers in the city to cover the rise of Leimert Park as an artistic enclave in the late 1980s and the first writer to spotlight the district in the LA Weekly. She also pioneered coverage for important topics like the Black and Korean Alliances before the 1992 uprisings happened and dozens of other issues that are now more widely discussed like public versus private schools, Black filmmakers, and gentrification.

These were the glory days of the LA Weekly and George was printed along with important L.A. voices like Wanda Coleman, Ruben Martinez, and Mike Davis, all of whom she became close confidantes with. She met Coleman sometime in the late 1980s and they remained in touch all the way until 2013 when the legendary poet and writer passed. Coleman even introduced Lynell to her brother George Evans and the artist Michael Massenberg, both of whom George has had fruitful collaborations with in recent years. “Wanda was a special force in my life,” George confides. “She was a solid sounding board and sat down with me to make sure that I paid attention to whom and what was around me. She always alerted me to good stories, good people I needed to know or have around me.”

Though Coleman was nearly two decades older than George, they shared many commonalities like both being African American women writers from South Los Angeles with parents who came to Los Angeles during the Great Migration, though Coleman’s parents were in the first wave and George’s at the end. “[Wanda] was a letter writer,” George remembers, “and I still have those notes, postcards and double-spaced typewritten letters she’d drop in the mail.” Their last meeting, shortly before Coleman passed “was a ‘lunch’ that went for seven hours. It was more than a lunch, it was a seminar—in research, history, writing, life, and of course Los Angeles. I’ll never forget it.”

Like Wanda Coleman, George has lived almost her entire life in Los Angeles County. In her adulthood, George lived in Echo Park and Pasadena. Though some of After/Image is autobiographical, it is a larger meditation on the rapid changes sweeping Southern California in the last few decades.

Throughout the text, George converses with a variety of local experts like Lila Higgins from the Natural History Museum who muses on the once-ample green space across the city now developed. The chapter with Higgins, “Urban Wild,” explains how Southern California is “a hotspot of biodiversity,” and what we need to do to preserve local ecosystems and restore the Los Angeles River… [more]
lynellgeorge  losangeles  history  california  2018  mikedavis  race  racism  1970s  books  toread  photography  crenshaw  culvercity  jamesrojas  nancyuyemura  evelynyoshimura  wandacoleman  pasadena  echopark  socal  laweekly  leonardmichaels  leimertpark  rubenmartinez  greatmigration 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Los Angeles, Houston and the appeal of the hard-to-read city
"This is not going to be a column about all the things the New York Times got wrong about the Los Angeles Times in its recent front-page story by Tim Arango and Adam Nagourney, "A Paper Tears Apart in a City That Never Quite Came Together." It is not, for the most part, going to be about all the things the New York Times got wrong (or simply failed to mention) about Los Angeles itself in that article, which argued that recent turmoil at this newspaper is emblematic of the city's broader lack of support for its major institutions. Plenty of smart people have already weighed in on both fronts.

And yes, every word in the previous sentence links to one of those smart people. Here are a couple more for good measure. When Josh Kun, Carolina Miranda, Daniel Hernandez, David Ulin, Alissa Walker, Matthew Kang and Carolyn Kellogg are united in knocking your analysis of Los Angeles, it might, you know, be a sign.

Anyway. This is going to be a column, instead, about something slightly different: about the legibility (and illegibility) of cities more generally. About how we react — as reporters and critics and simply as people — when we're confronted with a city that doesn't make sense to us right away.

Ten days or so before that story appeared, I spent a long weekend in Houston, meeting up with three old friends ostensibly to see the Warriors, the NBA team I grew up rooting for, play the Rockets — but also just to hang out and eat barbecue and visit the Menil, my favorite museum building in America (just edging out another Texas landmark, the Kimbell in Fort Worth).

Houston is casually written off even more often than Los Angeles, which is saying something. Now the fourth largest city in the country in population — and gaining on third-place Chicago — it's an unruly place in terms of its urbanism, a place that (as Los Angeles once did) has room, or makes room, for a wide spectrum of architectural production, from the innovative to the ugly. Like Los Angeles, it's a city that invested heavily in freeways and other car-centric infrastructure last century and remains, in many neighborhoods, a terrible place to walk.

It's long been a place people go to reinvent themselves, to get rich or to disappear. The flip side of its great tolerance is a certain lack of cohesion, a difficulty in articulating a set of common civic goals. (Here's where I concede that the instinct behind the New York Times piece on L.A., if little about its execution, was perfectly reasonable.) As is the case in Los Angeles, the greatest thing and the worst thing about Houston are one and the same: Nobody cares what anybody else is doing. Freedom in both places sometimes trumps community. It also tends to trump stale donor-class taste.

Roughly one in four residents of Houston's Harris County is foreign-born, a rate nearly as high as those in New York and Los Angeles. Houston's relationship with Dallas, the third biggest city in Texas, is something like L.A.'s with San Francisco; the southern city in each pair is less decorous, less fixed in its civic identity and (at the moment, at least) entirely more vital.

I've been to Houston five or six times; I like spending time there largely because I don't know it as well as I'd like to. That's another way of saying that while I'm there, I'm reminded of the way in which much of the world interacts with and judges Los Angeles, from a position of alienation and even ignorance. I just happen to enjoy that sensation more than most people do.

If I had to put my finger on what unites Houston and Los Angeles, it is a certain elusiveness as urban object. Both cities are opaque and hard to read. What is Houston? Where does it begin and end? Does it have a center? Does it need one? It's tough to say, even when you're there — even when you're looking directly at it.

The same has been said of Los Angeles since its earliest days. Something Carey McWilliams noted about L.A. in 1946 — that it is a place fundamentally ad hoc in spirit, "a gigantic improvisation" — is perhaps even more true of Houston. Before you can pin either city down, you notice that it's wriggled out of your grasp.

People who are accustomed to making quick sense of the world, to ordering it into neat and sharply defined categories, tend to be flummoxed by both places. And reporters at the New York Times are certainly used to making quick sense of the world. If there's one reason the paper keeps getting Los Angeles so spectacularly wrong, I think that's it. Smart, accomplished people don't like being made to feel out of their depth. Los Angeles makes out-of-town reporters feel out of their depth from their first day here.

Their reaction to that feeling, paradoxically enough, is very often to attempt to write that feeling away — to conquer that sense of dislocation by producing a story that sets out to explain Los Angeles in its entirety. Because it's a challenge, maybe, or because they simply can't be convinced, despite all the evidence right in front of them, that Los Angeles, as cities go, is an especially tough nut to crack.

Plenty of journalists have left Los Angeles over the years and moved to New York to work for the New York Times; none of them, as far as I know, has attempted, after two or three months on the job, to write a piece explaining What New York City Means. I can think of many New Yorkers — each of them highly credentialed academically or journalistically or both, which is perhaps the root of the problem — who have come to Los Angeles and tried to pull off that same trick here.

That tendency — to attempt the moon shot, the overarching analysis, too soon — is equal parts hubris and panic. It usually goes about as well as it went this time around for Arango, not incidentally a brand-new arrival in the New York Times bureau here, and Nagourney.

Among the most dedicated scholars of Houston's urban form in recent years has been Lars Lerup, former dean of the Rice University School of Architecture. In his new book of essays, "The Continuous City," he argues that the first step in understanding Houston and cities like it is to begin with a certain humility about the nature and scale of the task.

This kind of city has grown so large — in economic and environmental as well as physical reach — that it begins to stretch beyond our field of vision. The best way to grasp it, according to Lerup, is to understand that it is not Manhattan, Boston, San Francisco or Chicago — to recognize it instead as "a vast field with no distinct borders."

"The old city was a discrete object sitting on a Tuscan hill surrounded by a collectively constructed wall; the new city is everywhere," he writes. "Only when we accept that we can only attain a partial understanding can work begin."

Lerup stresses that huge, spread-out cities like Houston — which he also calls "distributed cities," places where "the spiky downtown is just a blip in the flatness" — have long been tough to read, in part because they are "always in the throes of change." But the relationship between urbanization and climate change has added a new layer of complexity, because big metro regions and their pollution are exacerbating the ecological crisis. The city now "owns everything" and must answer for everything, "even the raging hurricane bearing down on its coast." The vast city has grown vaster still.

If there's one place I part ways with Lerup, it has to do with his insistence that "few conceptual tools have evolved" to help us grapple with the distributed city and its meanings. At least in the case of Los Angeles, the literature on this score is richer, going back many decades, than even many locals realize.

There's not only McWilliams' superb, clear-eyed book "Southern California: An Island on the Land," which I would make required reading for every new hire if I were running the Los Angeles bureau of the New York Times. (Especially the part where McWilliams admits that he hated Los Angeles when he arrived and that it took him "seven long years of exile" to understand and appreciate the city. Seven years! And that was with a brain bigger and more nimble than most.) There's also architect Charles Moore's 1984 guidebook, "City Observed: Los Angeles," which he wrote with Peter Becker and Regula Campbell.

Right at the beginning, Moore, as if to anticipate Lerup, reminds his readers that L.A. is "altogether different from the compact old centers of Manhattan and Boston." (It is not a discrete object sitting on a Tuscan hill.) Making sense of it, as a result, requires "an altogether different plan of attack."

That simple bit of advice is the only one journalists newly arrived in Los Angeles really need to get started on the right foot. It's also one those journalists have been ignoring for 34 years and counting."
houston  losangeles  cities  illegibility  vitality  urban  urbanism  nyc  christopherhawthorne  2018  socal  california  larlerup  manhattan  boston  sanfrancisco  chicago  nytimes  careymcwilliams  joshkun  carolinamiranda  danielhernandez  davidulin  latimes  alissawalker  matthewkang  carolynkellogg  timarango  adamnagourney  elitism  legibility  population  place  identity  elusiveness  hubris  panic  urbanization  climatechange  complexity  charlesmoore 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Southern California’s Uncanny, Inevitable Yuletide Fires | The New Yorker
"Who or what is causing these outbreaks? There are two schools of thought. Those who study historical fire patterns argue that the sources of ignition are irrelevant. The fundamental fire equation in California has three variables: the fuel mass, including the age and dryness of brush; the extent of residential and other development into chaparral and forest ecologies; and the intensity of the wind. Wildfire, in other words, “happens” with or without human assistance, although traditional Smokey-the-Bear-type fire prevention, which reduced the frequency of fires and thus preserved unnaturally large areas of old brush, made great firestorms more likely. Today this irony is fully understood by fire professionals, but their efforts to reduce fuel accumulation through controlled burns comes up against the ever-increasing presence of residential development in foothills and mountains. For one thing, homeowners have hungry lawyers who love to sue public agencies after a burn goes wild or simply generates too much unhealthy smoke.

The other school of thought focusses on chronic sources of ignition. The Witch Creek fire, to take only one example, was caused by an arcing power line in the San Diego backcountry. San Diego Gas and Electric, while insisting that the blaze was an act of God, eventually paid out two billion dollars in damages to fire victims. (The utility’s attempt to shift part of that cost to ratepayers was recently defeated in court.) Poorly maintained power lines are prime suspects in some of this fall’s fire outbreaks as well. And there is the additional worry that terrorists, domestic or international, may someday become part of the fire cycle. A friend of mine, a world-renowned authority on wildfire, once told me about a nightmare he has during periods of high fire danger, in which a single, determined arsonist, with a map and a cigarette lighter, rides a motorcycle.

News coverage of great conflagrations runs in the well-worn grooves of cliché and sensationalism. Needless to say, the hoi polloi in incinerated trailer parks or tract homes get no more traction in headlines than the forgotten and uncounted victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The destruction of celebrity property, on the other hand, is always on the front page, and last week it looked like a few burning super-mansions in Bel Air and the phony fire threat to the Getty (one of the most fireproof structures on Earth) would dominate the news. Then came the tragic story of racehorses at the San Luis Rey Downs training facility, in San Diego County, and most people instantly forgot about the plight of Rupert Murdoch’s Bel Air vineyard.

At San Luis Rey, workers, together with the professional trainers, refused to flee the Lilac (or Bonsall) fire until the danger became acute and one trainer was set ablaze (he’s still in critical condition). Approximately fifty horses burned to death, but, thanks to the courage of their caretakers, many of them Mexican immigrants, hundreds more escaped. A photograph of these thoroughbreds desperately galloping to safety is currently among the most iconic of the myriad fire images on the Internet.

There’s an even more uncanny aspect to the Lilac fire, which is that it was described in detail in a forgotten 1956 novel by the science-fiction author Ward Moore. Moore lived in Bonsall at some point in the late nineteen-forties or early fifties, amid a hundred or so chicken ranchers, horse breeders, avocado growers, and their employees. His novel “Cloud by Day” portrayed an intolerant little community organized by a hierarchy of bigotry—against Jews, radicals, Mexicans, and blacks, in ascending order—that is reluctantly forced to unite to survive an apocalyptic Santa Ana fire approaching from the east. The geography of his fictional inferno (he provides a map), and his strikingly precise description of its dynamics, prefigure the current fire in amazing detail. When I first pondered this example of fiction prophesizing an actual event, I thought that the coincidence must be fantastically improbable. But, the truth is, if you write a story about a fire and set it anywhere in Southern California, someday it will come true."
mikedavis  socal  losangeles  2917  california  fires  wardmoore  1956  nature  urban  urbanism 
december 2017 by robertogreco
California Today: North vs. South, That Fading Rivalry - The New York Times
"California was once defined by the differences between Northern California and Southern California. But as the state grows and becomes more prosperous, has that begun to change? That question was put to Conor Dougherty, a Times reporter in San Francisco who grew up in the Bay Area, and Adam Nagourney, who moved to Los Angeles seven years ago to run our bureau there.

What do you think differentiates the northern and southern parts of the state and what makes them similar these days? Send us your thoughts at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

Conor: Adam, I think that the classic NorCal/SoCal rivalry is fading. More than a decade ago when I was living in Los Angeles I went and saw a fabulous art exhibit about a fictional war about San Francisco and L.A. I just can’t imagine that today.

Adam: Hey Conor. As a transplant, I defer to you, of course. Well somewhat. The rivalry might be fading. Still, I have to say the Bay Area seems strikingly different to me from Los Angeles, in terms of attitudes, sensibilities, and, to a lesser extent politics. (Different shades of blue).

Conor: It used to be San Francisco was the union town while Southern California gave us Ronald Reagan. Today, the entire state is run by Democrats. When I was a kid, L.A. was the big bad city that stole our water. One thing that’s softened the rivalry, I think, is the growth of the tech industry. How can you resent Hollywood when your companies are trying to eat it?

Adam: The difference I notice, and maybe this is because of the history of San Francisco — the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, and the cultural turmoil in the Haight and the Castro — is that politics there have always been more intense and a bit more left. Political interest in Los Angeles has always been more intense than New Yorkers (just kidding, Mom!) might think, though I don’t think it’s quite as intense as San Francisco. (Or wasn’t that is, until last year’s presidential election).

Conor: Fair enough. In the ’90s people said the NorCal/SoCal rivalry was mostly a one-sided affair in which people in San Francisco were jealous of L.A.’s status as a global capital and people in L.A. thought San Franciscans were cute. But now, with the growth of the tech industry, S.F. is taking on Hollywood and the Bay Area has become a Los Angeles-like slurb with 405-grade traffic. My overall argument comes down to this: In various ways, San Francisco and L.A. are a lot more alike now, and that makes L.A. hard to hate."
conordougherty  adamnagourney  california  socal  norcal  losangeles  sanfrancisco  bayarea  rivalry  culture  hollywood  siliconvalley  influence  2017 
december 2017 by robertogreco
California Today: A Chronicler of the State, in His Own Words - The New York Times
"Here are just a few highlights from Mr. Starr’s prose and interviews:

On recurring natural disasters (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 31, 1993)
Southern California has used technology to materialize an imagined society of garden cities and suburbs. Now and then, it must pay a price for its reordering of the environment.

On diversity (San Diego Union-Tribune, Sept. 10, 2000):
Is there any people on the planet, any language, any religion not represented in California this very morning? ... This diversity, then, is the persistent DNA code of California.

On California’s rising Latino population (New York Times, March 31, 2001):
The Anglo hegemony was only an intermittent phase in California’s arc of identity, extending from the arrival of the Spanish.

On the Central Valley (“Coast of Dreams,” 2004):
Mesopotamia, the rice fields of China, the Po Valley: the Central Valley stood in a long line of irrigation cultures which had, in turn, given birth to civilization itself.

On California at the millennium (“California: A History,” 2005):
California had long since become one of the prisms through which the American people, for better and for worse, could glimpse their future.

On the drought (The New York Times, April 4, 2005):
Mother Nature didn’t intend for 40 million people to live here.

On the Golden Gate Bridge (“Golden Gate,” 2010):
Like the Parthenon, the Golden Gate Bridge seems Platonic in its perfection, as if the harmonies and resolutions of creation as understood by mathematics and abstract thought have been effortlessly materialized through engineering design.
"
kevinstarr  california  diversity  socal  demographics  technology  history  identity  2017  2010  2005  2004  2001  2000  1993  drought  environment  goldengatebridge  engineering  infrastructure  mesopotamia  irrigation  civilization  society  latinos  future 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Raina Telgemeier's Graphic Novel 'Ghosts' Takes On A Tough Topic For Children : NPR
"Raina Telgemeier's new graphic novel Ghosts is about death. But it's written for children.

Telgemeier tells NPR's books editor Barrie Hardymon that stories serve as a way to begin difficult conversations. "Stories are such a powerful way of communicating ideas and in comforting people," she says.

Telgemeier has been writing and drawing graphic novels for years. Her 2010 memoir Smile recounts what it was like to be teased by other children face after losing two front teeth in sixth grade and wearing "embarrassing headgear," braces and "even a retainer with fake teeth attached."

In 2012, Telgemeier's Drama told a "colorful tale of teenage intrigue, but this time the mad crushes and mood swings take place among the stage crew of a middle-school theater production," said NPR's Glen Weldon, who called it "an unabashedly sunny, funny and warmhearted read."

Her latest graphic novel Ghosts is about two sisters, middle-schooler Catrina and little sister Maya, who has the incurable lung disease cystic fibrosis. Their family has just moved to a new town on the Northern California coast where their parents hope the cool sea air will help Maya breathe.

The town turns out to be full of ghosts — and Maya wants nothing more than to befriend them, though her older sister can't accept that Maya may soon join them. The story carries themes of acceptance, packed with imagery of the town, its ghosts and its Day of the Dead celebrations.

Telgemeier talked with NPR's Barrie Hardymon about broaching difficult topics with children, why she likes skeletons, and the similarities between characters and real people in her life."

[See also: https://boingboing.net/2016/10/04/ghosts-raina-telgemeier-upbea.html

"YA graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier is a force of nature; her Babysitters Club graphic novels are witty and smart and snappy; her standalone graphic novels are even better, but her latest, Ghosts, is her best to date: an improbably upbeat story about death, assimilation and cystic fibrosis.

Catrina doesn't want to move to Bahia de la Luna in Northern California; she's a So-Cal kid and she loves her middle-school friends. But the sun only shines 62 days a year in Bahia de la Luna, and that's important for the health of her little sister, Maya, who has cystic fibrosis.

Realistically, everyone knows that Maya's illness will kill her someday, and maybe someday soon. Practically speaking, they put it behind them, adapt, try strategies for making the most of their time together. So they move to foggy northern California, where Cat and Maya go looking for friends -- and find them, sorta.

Carlos is a local kid in Catrina's grade, and he specializes in giving ghost tours. That's fertile ground, because there are really ghosts in Bahia de la Luna, who come through in the thin places, like the old Spanish Mission, and who are decidedly friendly -- and, if you can give them a little of your breath, they get decidedly lively. The problem is that Maya doesn't have any breath to give -- her first encounter with the friendly spirits sends her to the hospital.

Catrina tries to make it work. She makes more friends, stays clear of the ghosts, gets settled in at school. But the ghosts won't stay clear of her -- they keep manifesting around the house, where Maya is now on a respirator full-time.

The change of location, and the family's friendships with Carlos's family, triggers a long-overdue discussion with Maya and Cat's mother about her own Mexican heritage, the difficult times she had with her mom, and how much of their family heritage disappeared when their grandmother died.

As Halloween and the Dia de los Muertos approach, all of the story's threads begin to gather, heading for a conclusion that seems like it could be wrenching and/or terrifying -- but rather than going for a cheap scare or cheap tears, Telgemeier pulls off an ending that is emotionally complicated, nuanced, and, if it's a little sad, it's also equally joyous. It's a stupendously executed tale, and handles difficult themes related to culture, assimilation and chronic illness in children, and when I finished reading it to my eight-year-old yesterday, we were both riveted."]
classideas  graphicnovels  rainatelgemeier  death  2016  ghosts  california  norcal  books  socal 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Dinner, Disrupted - The New York Times
"The tech-boom economy also infects everyone inside and outside of it with both dreams of striking it rich and fears of getting priced out of town. That’s why chefs don’t just open that one restaurant they’ve always dreamed about. They invent catchy new restaurant “concepts” and borrow mountains of money to create dining rooms that end up with no human touch and food that looks remarkably similar to Instagram photographs of dishes created by trendsetters like Mr. Kinch and Mr. Patterson.

“The concern,” Ms. Borden told me, “is that when the economy slows, who is going to survive? We’re already seeing quicker openings and closings because restaurants open with so much debt” — hundreds of thousands to a million dollars or more, from construction and months of astronomical rent before anyone sells a single $17 grilled-octopus appetizer — “that if you’re not full from Day 1, it’s really hard to stay open.”

The net effect is an ever-more frantic pursuit of eye-catching innovation and, as everyone trades in whispers about a cooling venture-capital market, a mounting fear that a restaurant apocalypse is nigh. As Mr. Patterson explained, “The food has never been better and the business climate has never been worse and so we are speeding toward a cliff.”

One delicious irony, for Californians of a certain age, is the inversion of an old joke about Northern Californians hating the superficial glitz of Los Angeles and Los Angelenos never thinking much about Northern California. This made sense for the mid-to-late 20th century, when the entertainment and defense industries secured Southern California’s place at the center of West Coast economic power. Now Los Angeles is where San Franciscans move when they can’t afford Oakland. Every young artist and musician I meet in San Francisco tells me that he or she wants to move south for cheap rent and a better creative scene.

And while San Francisco restaurant culture is driven by Michelin stars, Los Angeles isn’t even included in the Michelin guide. Sure, Los Angeles has expensive restaurants, but its biggest food celebrities are Jonathan Gold, a critic famous for supporting affordable eateries, and Roy Choi, king of the food trucks.

Sang Yoon, the chef and owner of Lukshon in Culver City, sees it as a difference between hyper-glorification of the chef and the farm in Northern California and, in Los Angeles, celebration of middle-class immigrant culture. “Half the restaurants I go to, I don’t know who the chef is! It’s not so personality-driven,” he said. “In L.A., we can celebrate a cuisine and not rouge it up.”

Mr. Choi explained it to me like this: “All these mom-and-pop restaurants that really are California cuisine and that have been here for 30 years cooking for their own community are now filled with patrons they’ve never seen before because of social media and instead of becoming angry or skeptical, they’ve embraced it — that’s the soul of a cook, you never discriminate against the people eating your food nor do you judge them, you are so happy they have arrived. And their food is getting even better.”

In yet another sweet twist, the pop-cultural reach of Mr. Choi and Mr. Gold has Los Angelenos teaching San Franciscans left out of the gold rush how to find fellow travelers. Last week, my friend Wen Shen recommended an affordable Vietnamese place called Yummy Yummy in the unpretentious Inner Sunset neighborhood. A wall-mounted video monitor played scenes of daily life in Vietnam, where I have never been. I felt as if I had come home, mostly because, race and ethnicity aside, Yummy Yummy’s clientele appeared to be blessedly middle class. I also liked it when our waiter saw me fumbling with a rice-paper wrap for the lemongrass shrimp and said, in the most common of California languages, that I should roll it up “just like a burrito.”"
food  california  losangeles  sanfrancisco  2016  money  economics  losgatos  sangyoon  chefs  jonathangold  oakland  socal  norcal  power  labor  inequality  roychoi 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Ken Schwencke Maps the Swimming Pools of Los Angeles County - CityLab
"Peering out over Los Angeles from an airplane window, it’s hard to miss the swimming pools. Hundreds of thousands of sparkling blue blobs patch the county’s landscape—though not evenly.

In Southern California, where both space and water are getting rarer by the day, pool ownership rates are a “decent proxy for neighborhood wealth,” writes the journalist and mapmaker Ken Schwencke, who has mapped this familiar story of chlorinated class politics at the data-visualization site The Thrust. Visitors can click and roam endlessly through aerial views of L.A. pools (thinking, maybe, of John Cheever’s famous short story, “The Swimmer,” which forever linked suburban pools with delusions of class hierarchy.)

Sifting through statistics from the L.A. County Assessor’s Office, Schwencke found that L.A. county contains roughly 250,000 swimming pools, 96 percent of which are attached to single-family homes. All told, 18 percent of homes countywide have a pool, and most of them are in more affluent suburban areas, such as the Hollywood Hills and the large swathes of the San Fernando Valley. Schwencke tells CityLab via email that fully 87 percent of homes in Hidden Hills (home to the Kardashians) have pools, while Bel Air and Beverly Hills are at 66 and 60 percent, respectively. But in neighborhoods south and east of downtown L.A., such as MacArthur park and Vermont Vista, ”you can go for blocks without seeing a private pool,” Schwencke writes. “Some of the ones that [do exist], are filled with refuse.”

Pool ownership isn’t just about money; it’s also about race. Across the country, desegregation played an important role in the rise of private swimming pools after 1950, as the historian Jeff Wiltse argues in his 2007 book, Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America:

Although many whites abandoned desegregated public pools, most did not stop swimming. Instead, they built private pools, both club and residential, and swam in them … . Suburbanites organized private club pools rather than fund public pools because club pools enabled them to control the class and racial composition of swimmers, whereas public pools did not.

It would be even better if Schwencke’s map tool included more data on income and racial make-up in pool-dense and pool-sparse neighborhoods across L.A. But virtually diving in and out of the county’s swimming spots still makes for a powerful exercise. Also check out the map of L.A. pool density that Schwencke shared with CityLab, at top."
maps  mapping  losangeles  swimmingpools  swimming  race  class  money  inequality  socal  kenschwencke  data 
may 2016 by robertogreco
On the Edge | Boom: A Journal of California
"To understand why the Dutch photographer Marie-José Jongerius wanted to photograph in the American Far West—in particular that part of it that runs from Los Angeles inland to Las Vegas, south to Tijuana, and north up through the Central Valley of California—it helps to know something about boundaries and contrast. To know why it’s important to behold her work, it’s critical to know about how that dividing line of sight is not a two-dimensional geometrical figure, but a four-dimensional zone we label the liminal.

Eighty percent of everything we know about the world comes through our eyes, such a vast amount of information (100 million bits per second) that the brain is forced to throw away 90 percent of what hits the surface of the eye, transmitting only 10 percent to the brain for processing. That one-tenth of the world is what we see, the light triaged into about two dozen basic shapes. Circles, ovals, rectilinear shapes such as squares, polygons such as triangles, and then more ambiguously, right angles and arcs. Everything we see in the world is assembled from those shapes, which are made by lines that create the inside and the outside, the left and right, the top and bottom. We are upright bilaterally symmetrical animals, and we organize the information received accordingly. What the lines define around vertical and horizontal axes is boundary contrast, perhaps the second oldest visual notion we own after undifferentiated light and dark. It’s a recognition of line that separates us from the cognition of plants.

Boundaries in the environment are what we tend to move along, as they are rich with information, food, and consequently danger. The edge of the forest where it becomes a meadow is where we find the small animals that are natural human prey. They hide in the safety of the forest, but when they creep and hop and run out into the meadow for food, they become visible and vulnerable. We aren’t so different from the raptors that fly overhead, seeking the same visual information and food source. It’s along the borders and boundaries of the world where photographers can often be found shooting, as well.

The human eye roves about a landscape in staccato movements called saccades. A saccade is a very quick sampling several times a second of what is in front of us; it allows us to identify where we are and what’s around us. Saccades follow general priorities in a rough order: What fits in, what’s anomalous, what displays the bilateral symmetry that can mean friend or foe, what’s in motion and in what direction. When we look at a photograph of a landscape, our eyes tend to follow that same prioritized pattern.

The landscape in which we are most secure while scoping out what’s in our environment is one where we can see and not be seen, and you can see how artists throughout history have intuited that scheme and used it. Claude Lorrain framed his landscapes in the 1600s with dark foliage in the forefront, the view of the artist and viewer alike peering out across the boundary of sanctuary and into the sunlit meadows and ponds beyond. American landscape artists three hundred years later were still using the same format, whether it was Thomas Cole along the Hudson River, Frederic Church in the Andes, or Albert Bierstadt in the Rocky Mountains. Anthropologists call this a conceal-and-reveal, or a refuge-and-prospect landscape. It’s our ancestral home, as well as the design of a contemporary living room, the drapes forming a natural screen from around which we peer onto the street.

The human gaze, whether in the landscape or looking at a picture of a landscape, follows rules shaped by our physical relation to the world, and when an artist takes us out to the edge of where our human neurophysiology is comfortable—out from behind the trees or curtains and into places where boundaries become ambiguous—both our unease and levels of alertness are heightened. When we enter the in-between place, where a line assumes three spatial and dimensions and time as a boundary zone—the liminal—we’re aware that we, too, could become prey, if not to actual threat, then to unnamed fears.

The edge of the shade cast by a tree is seldom a sharp edge, but instead a blurred line caused by the fractal arrangement of leaves overhead, the dappling of sunlight through a permeable crown of foliage, and limbs moving in the breeze. Daylight does not terminate in sudden darkness, even in the tropics where the sun seems to drop like a stone into the ocean; there is always a series of twilights—a civil twilight, a nautical twilight, an astronomical twilight. During the civil stage, the first planets and brightest stars appear. The second stage sees the horizon disappear from view to the navigator. The third is that time of the faintest reflected light high in the atmosphere when we think it’s dark, but it isn’t quite yet.

These are temporal zones of ambiguity that give us pause, and, along with the spatial ones, they have their parallels in everything from literature to architecture. Science fiction horror stories are rife with twilights when the world turns strange. Houses have anterooms, and cities have bridges and sidewalks, places where passage is made but people seldom live. Those people who inhabit such domains are referred to as the homeless. Purgatory is another shaded place of indeterminacy, a rite of passage. This is what is meant by the liminal, where the zone between states means to be both inside and outside, up and down, left and right—and yet none of those things. That is where Marie-José Jongerius searches for her images. The name of her project, Edge of the Experiment, was chosen for a reason.

When Joseph Campbell wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he was working from the work done by the French ethnographer Arnold van Gennep, who in his book The Rites of Passage (1909) described the process of liminaire, the deliberate dislocation of your normal senses into a liminal state of confusion and openness through which pretechnological peoples would pass during initiation rituals in order to gain adulthood or sacred knowledge. The anthropologist Victor Turner (1920–1983), who expanded Gennep’s research, studied rituals and rites among the Ndembu tribe of Zambia. He noted how the experience of an ambiguous zone can lead to paradigm shifts for contemporary individuals as well as tribespeople and postulated that the theater was a liminal space too, suspension of reality during the performance enabling the audience to undergo a transformation.
To work as a writer with photographers in the field, when they are concentrating so hard they cannot talk, is to become entranced with the landscape, to participate in a shared trance.

Making art is a kind of ritual and never more so than for the photographer setting up a tripod and her 4×5 large-format Crown Graphic field camera, framing the view on the ground glass and bringing it into focus, selecting the moment to trip the shutter. Repeated over and over again, especially for those photographers who also do commercial work, such as Jongerius, it becomes an automatic yet hyper-alert, almost Zen-like discipline. To work as a writer with photographers in the field, when they are concentrating so hard they cannot talk, is to become yourself entranced with the landscape, to participate in a shared trance. To couple that mental discipline with a zone of visual ambiguity, a liminal space, is to risk taking your cognition where it hasn’t been before. This is the terrain where Jongerius is happiest."
photography  marie-joséjongerius  california  socal  lasvagas  losangeles  tijuana  liminality  liminal  williamlfox  borders  boundaries  border  landscape  josephcampbell  arnoldvangennep  victorturner  claudelorrain  albertbierstadt  thomascole  fredericchurch  centralvalley  liminalspaces 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Artbound Episode: The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto | Los Angeles | Artbound | KCET
"Artbound episode "The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto" delves into a new theory of the Black aesthetic in the 21st century. Created in collaboration with the award-winning creative studio Ways and Means, along with artist and filmmaker Martine Syms, the hour-long special examines the tension between conventional channels of media distribution and the Black imagination.

Through a close reading of works by four Southern California artists engaged with problems of representation, the program walks through their artistic and creative processes as well as inspirations. In-depth interviews with novelist Tisa Bryant, musician/producer Delroy Edwards, film programmer Erin Christovale and visual artist Nicole Miller are featured."
2015  afrofuturism  martinesyms  art  nicolemiller  tisabryant  delroyedwards  erinchristovale  blackart  muisc  video  california  socal  losangeles 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Peter J. Westwick on Aerospace in Southern California | The ICW Blog
"The Aerospace History Project, under the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, is an effort to document the history of the aerospace industry in Southern California and the economic, cultural, and physical effects on the region and beyond. The project collects the papers and oral histories of key individuals and institutions across the aerospace industry, creating a permanent, central resource.

The Director of the Aerospace History Project, Peter J. Westwick, is Assistant Research Professor in the History Department at the University of Southern California. He received his BA in physics and PhD in history from UC Berkeley, and has taught at Yale and Caltech. His research focuses on the history of science and technology in the twentieth century U.S. He is the author of several books including Into the Black: JPL and the American Space Program, 1976-2004, and The National Labs: Science in an American System, 1947-1974. He is also editor of Blue Sky Metropolis: The Aerospace Century in Southern California.

In the following interview, Peter reveals how he became involved with aerospace history, some of the most interesting things he came across while working with the Aerospace History Project, and current projects."
california  socal  aerospace  2015  peterwastwick  economics  culture  environment  aerospaceindustry  jpl  skunkworks  lockheed  shermmullin  harveychristen  benrich  claencejohnson  pasadena  huntingtonarchives  planetarysociety  tomjones  alhibbs  caltech  charlesgilmore  lymangilmore  grassvalley  history  kellyjohnson 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The California Incline — The California Sunday Magazine
"I first learned about the California Incline in Carolyn See’s novel Making History, which I read not long after moving to Southern California in 1991. It wasn’t the portrayal that struck me. See describes the road in the most pragmatic terms: an abbreviated slope of blacktop, a quarter of a mile in length, tacked onto the Santa Monica palisades, slipping downward to the Pacific Coast Highway. What I found compelling was that name. The California Incline. The very phrase suggested possibility, gateway to the Pacific, dividing line between the ocean and the coast. As a newcomer, I wanted a piece of history, a story in which I might fit. This is what we do in Los Angeles: make myth out of landmarks that might otherwise seem banal, even dreary, and invest them with gravity. The desire was driven further by a second novel, Dorothy B. Hughes’s 1947 noir In a Lonely Place, which opens with a psychopath trailing a woman down the Incline on a fog-drenched night. The scene dripped with atmosphere, so much atmosphere that I could not help but be disappointed by the Incline in real life. Built in 1930, it was already a relic by the time I saw it, the hillside underneath eroding, concrete deco railing crumbling and pocked with age.

This, of course, was as it should be, although I did not understand that until later on. It took having children, setting down roots, to shake off the myths of Southern California and immerse myself in its enduring daily life. When my kids were young, we used to drive the Incline every time we found ourselves in Santa Monica, delighting at the stomach-dropping churn when I would turn left off Ocean Avenue and accelerate, the Pacific glinting blue-white through the windshield, across the slanted surface of the road. The experience brought back a whisper of my childhood, a hill not far from where my grandparents lived in Connecticut that my father liked to take at equivalent speed. Driving the Incline, I would recall sitting in the back seat, the anticipation of the rise and then the sharp descent, and smile at the way the generations had eclipsed. The roads may have been different, one bounded by pine woods and the other not especially bounded at all, but the Incline left me with the sense that I was now a part of a place.

Transplants have to stay somewhere for a while to make it theirs. For me, the Incline has become a shabby-chic monument to this idea. Now it is closed for reconstruction, and I worry about what will be left when work is done. Will it still resemble the landmark I invested with weight, the road I drove with my children? Will I recognize it, recognize my memories, or will all that be erased? Southern California, its critics like to insist, is a landscape of forgetting, but I no longer believe this to be the case. Rather, like the Incline, it is a landscape of association, in which the connections we make, our attachments, are what render us native."
california  davidulin  2015  californiaincline  socal  losangeles  santamonica  pacificcoasthighway 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The 5, the 101, the 405: Why Southern Californians Love Saying 'the' Before Freeway Numbers | LA as Subject | SoCal Focus | KCET
"Southern Californians have a distinctive -- "Saturday Night Live's" Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig might say funny -- way of giving directions. To get from Santa Monica to Hollywood, take the 10 to the 110 to the 101. Burbank to San Diego? The 134 to the 5. And, if you can, always avoid the 405.

Why the definite articles? After all, a resident of the Bay Area enjoys coastal drives along "101" or takes "80 east" to Sacramento. Most of North America, in fact, omits the "the" before route numbers.

The answer begins with the region's early embrace of the freeway. Long before the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 gave most U.S. cities their first freeways, Los Angeles had built several. These weren't simply extensions of federal interstate highways through the city; they were local routes, engineered to carry local traffic and (partly) paid for by local funds. It only made sense that, as they opened one by one, they'd get local names, ones that succinctly denoted their route or destination. The freeway through the Cahuenga Pass thus became the Cahuenga Pass Freeway, and Angelenos knew the freeway to San Bernardino as the San Bernardino Freeway.

State highway officials did affix route numbers to these freeways. But clarity dictated that Southern Californians continue to use their descriptive names. In their early years, most Los Angeles-area freeways bore signs for multiple numbered highway routes. The Pasadena Freeway, for example, was Route 6, 66, and 99, all at once. The Harbor Freeway carried both Route 6 and Route 11. The Hollywood, Route 66 and 101. Who wouldn't prefer the simplicity of a name over a confusing array of numbers?

Soon a shorthand emerged for describing a route through the city. Joan Didion captured this Southern California vernacular in "Play It As It Lays" (1970), in which Maria "drove the San Diego to the Harbor, the Harbor up to the Hollywood, the Hollywood to the Golden State, the Santa Monica, the Santa Ana, the Pasadena, the Ventura."

How, then, did that morph into "the 405 to the 110, the 110 up to the 101, the 101 to the 5, the 10, the 5, the 110, the 134"?

Two developments convinced Southern Californians to refer to freeways by number rather than name. In 1964, the state simplified its highway numbering system, ensuring that, with few exceptions, each freeway would bear only one route number. Around the same time, a flurry of new construction added unfamiliar freeway names to the region's road maps. Drivers found it easier to learn new numbers like the 605 or the 91 rather than new names like the San Gabriel River Freeway or the Redondo Beach Freeway.

Although the transition was gradual -- numbers only eclipsed names in common usage in the late 1970s, and Caltrans still included the old names in signage through the 1990s -- Southern Californians eventually joined the rest of North America in referring to freeways by number. But when they did, they retained their old habit of prefixing a definite article, the, giving rise to a regional idiom that still confounds and amuses outsiders today."
socal  freeways  losangeles  sandiego  language  history  transportation  cars  names  naming  roads 
november 2015 by robertogreco
America Deserta | Artbound | Shows | KCET
""Artbound" travels to Southern California's desert regions in this episode featuring the landscape painting and video art of visual artist Diane Best, whose work personifies the creative spirit found throughout the Joshua Tree region; the Coachella artists the Date Farmers who infuse abstract expressionism with a politically charged, pop culture update; a draw-in with Hillary Mushkin's Incendiary Traces at the 29 Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center that challenges participants to become conscious of militarized landscapes.

We also examine the superadobe construction techniques of Cal-Earth, whose experimental designs are challenging the ubiquitous cookie-cutter suburban communities in the urbanized southwestern Mojave Desert; Jackrabbit Homesteads and the cultural legacy of the Small Tract Act in Southern California's Morongo Basin; the eclectic practice of Joshua Tree's "Art Queen Shari Elf"; and a performance by Rodrigo Amarante."
deserts  art  california  socal  coachella  joshuatree  2015  datefarmers  hillarymushkin  cal-earth  rodrigoamarante  jackrabbithomesteads  artbound  mojavedesert  dianebest  29palms  military  militarization 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Los Angeles vs. New York City - The Atlantic
"For millions, New York is undeniably the best city.

And L.A. is the best city for millions, too. I'll happily share some of the comparative advantages that it offers for the sake of the would-be transplants who value such things. We've already remarked upon weather, though winters without frozen water falling from the sky by the metric ton are just the beginning. In L.A., no one yearns for a place "to summer," a subject that seems near and dear to the perennially-aspirational Style section set, because soaking humidity doesn't pervade the city in June, July, and August. Rich and poor happily "summer" at their regular house or apartment (though come autumn, transplants miss watching the leaves die).

And it isn't just the weather that's better here. So is the light. Long after Lawrence Weschler had moved to New York he found himself entranced by a shot of his former city on TV. "That's the light I keep telling you girls about!" he exclaimed to his wife and daughter. "That light: the late-afternoon light of Los Angeles–golden pink off the bay through the smog and onto the palm fronds. A light I've found myself pining for every day of the nearly two decades since I left Southern California."

Then there's what locals here call "the beach," stretching miles and miles down the western edge of our city. If you're the sort that best comprehends Los Angeles through questionable analogies to New York City you might think of this gorgeous seascape as a bigger, partly aquatic High Line. Of course, not everyone likes to surf or scuba dive or kayak or standup paddle or lounge on sand reading US Weekly. But we've also got mountains, canyons, and deserts. Hiking in nature here is more convenient by about the same factor as traveling by subway is less convenient.

Angelenos care very little where you went to college and not at all where you went to prep school. In fact, if an East Coaster tries to name-drop a prep school Angelenos will assume that they're talking about an obscure college; the notion of anyone name-dropping a high school is beyond our Southern California comprehension.

Octogenarian movie stars are our idea of "old money."

As for the food, if your favorite standby is pizza, Puerto Rican, or Italian, stay put. But if you cook at home, or salivate over Mexican, Thai, Korean, sushi, ramen, burgers, or anything that's better with avocado, come hither. You'll eat better than in NYC for far less.

For the flip-flop wearer, Los Angeles is a city where practically no restaurant or bar will turn you away, an approach that strikes most of us as a feature.

Then there's our perspective on the good life.

"When I describe my West Coast existence (sunshine! avocados! etc.) to some New Yorkers," Ann Friedman once wrote in New York, "they acknowledge that they really like California, too, but could never move there because they’d get too 'soft.' At first this confused me, but after hearing it a few times, I’ve come to believe that a lot of people equate comfort with complacency, calmness with laziness. If you’re happy, you’re not working hard enough. You’ve stopped striving."

Los Angeles is a place where one can strive while happy. One doesn't trade away ambition so much as a unit or two of invigoration: On that metric, the pace isn't frenetic enough to match New York; much seems less urgent in L.A., for better and worse. In Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, a biography of the artist Robert Irwin, the subject's youth in World War II-era Los Angeles is covered. One passage captures a particular relationship that many in this city have to events outside it. Irwin is showing his interviewer spots where he cruised around L.A. as a teen:

[quote]

In my experience there are two kinds of people who thrive in Los Angeles. The first tend to have the same disposition as did Bob Irwin: "Look. Look at it here. Look at how it is: calm, sunny, the palm trees. What is there to get all fucking upset about?" Then there are the people (as likely to be New Yorkers as anyone) who aren't themselves chill in that way but are happiest in proximity to people who are. If you're neither type Los Angeles isn't for you. If you come anyway, please bring bagels."

[See also this response to the NYTimes LA article:
“Leaving New York and Also Technology: Why I left New York and also technology”
http://www.theawl.com/2015/05/leaving-new-york-and-also-technology ]
losangeles  nyc  socal  colinfriedersdorf  california  lawrenceweschler  robertirwin  qualityoflife  annfriedman  2015 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Monomania L.A. | Artbound | KCET
"Through a series of short films and articles, Monomania L.A. profiles five L.A. as Subject collectors who have turned a monomaniacal obsession with a particular aspect of Southern California history into a public resource. These collectors have documented disparate subjects -- the California orange, sci-fi reading circles, political graphics, a Mexican rancho, African American photographers--but their stories share one thing in common: a passion for history that has enriched our understanding of Southern California's past."
losangeles  history  collections  race  agriculture  sciencefiction  scifi  politics  design  art  photography  socal  monomaniala 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Taking Space: A Documentary
"Taking Space is a documentary that aims to highlight the different ways in which collectively operated spaces function, especially during times of intense struggle and pressure.

The film focuses on three spaces located across Southern California: The Ché Café, Bridgetown DIY and Blood Orange Infoshop. In making this documentary, we hope to not only shed light on the music, art and culture that these spaces help to create for their communities, but also to expose the processes, conflicts and compromises that are involved with building and working in spaces that rely on non-hierarchical organizing models.

Much of the film centers on the decades long conflict between The Ché Café and the University of Southern California San Diego - a conflict that continues to this day.

We are working dilligently towards finishing this documentary project and hope to have it out by April 2015."

[direct link to trailer: https://vimeo.com/122128443 ]
checafe  sandiego  california  documentary  ucsd  bloodorangeinfoshop  danieltorresmiandareilly  cameronhughes  collectives  openstudioproject  lcproject  socal  losangeles  riverside  bridgetowndiy 
march 2015 by robertogreco
From the series Dogs Chasing My Car in the Desert,... - robertogreco {tumblr}
[self-bookmarking for easier retrieval thanks to the superior tagging features of Pinboard]

"From the series Dogs Chasing My Car in the Desert, John Divola, 1996-1998
From 1995 to 1998, I worked on a series of photographs of isolated houses in the desert at the east-end of the Morongo Valley in Southern California. As I meandered through the desert, a dog would occasionally chase my car. Sometime in 1996 I began to bring along a 35mm camera equipped with a motor drive and loaded with a fast and grainy black-and-white film. The process was simple; when I saw a dog coming toward the car I would pre-focus the camera and set the exposure. With one hand on the steering wheel, I would hold the camera out the window and expose anywhere from a few frames to a complete roll of film. I’ll admit that I was not above turning around and taking a second pass in front of a house with an enthusiastic dog. Contemplating a dog chasing a car invites any number of metaphors and juxtapositions: culture and nature, the domestic and the wild, love and hate, joy and fear, the heroic and the idiotic. It could be viewed as a visceral and kinetic dance. Here we have two vectors and velocities, that of a dog and that of a car and, seeing that a camera will never capture reality and that a dog will never catch a car, evidence of devotion to a hopeless enterprise.

That’s quoting Divola from the Amazon page for the book of the same title. See also Divola’s Dog Sequences (Look inside the book here.) and “John Sevigny: On John Divola’s Dogs Chasing My Car in the Desert.” (via referencescout)"
dogs  animals  photography  human-animalrelationships  human-animalrelations  cameras  johndivola  deserts  socal  california  multispecies 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Third Los Angeles Project | Occidental College | The Liberal Arts College in Los Angeles
"A series of public conversations examining a city moving into a dramatically new phase in its civic development.

Los Angeles, as it finally builds a comprehensive public transit system and pays serious attention to its long-neglected civic realm, is in the midst of profound reinvention. Or perhaps it’s better to call it a profound identity crisis. Either way, the old clichés about L.A. clearly no longer apply. This is a city trying, and often struggling, to define a post-suburban identity.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that all of the things that L.A. is aiming to add (and in fact grew infamous around the world for lacking) in the post-war years -- mass transit, places to walk, civic architecture, forward-looking urban planning, innovative multifamily housing -- it actually produced in enviable quantities in the early decades of the 20th century. Contemporary L.A. also shares with that earlier city an anxiety about the environment, in contrast to the confidence about controlling nature that shaped Los Angeles in the post-war decades.

In the most basic sense, that’s why we’re calling the initiative the Third Los Angeles Project. We are not just entering a new phase. We are also rediscovering the virtues and challenges of an earlier one -- and acknowledging the full sweep of L.A.’s modern history.

In the First Los Angeles, stretching roughly from the city’s first population boom in the 1880s through 1940, a city growing at an exponential pace built a major transit network and innovative civic architecture.

In the Second Los Angeles, covering the period from 1940 to the turn of the millennium, we pursued a hugely ambitious experiment in building suburbia –- a privatized, car-dominated landscape –- at a metropolitan scale.

Now we are on the cusp of a new era. In a series of six public events, some on the Occidental College campus and others elsewhere, the Third Los Angeles Project will explore and explain this new city.

The Third Los Angeles Project is a unique collaboration between Occidental College, Southern California Public Radio and Christopher Hawthorne, professor of practice in the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental, as well as architecture critic at the Los Angeles Times since 2004. A corresponding academic course is running concurrent with the public events.

All events are open to the public and free of charge. Register by clicking on any of the events below:

Welcome to the Third Los Angeles - Thursday, Feb. 12, 7:30 PM
The series kicks off with an introduction to the goals and central themes of the Third Los Angeles project.

Post-Immigrant Los Angeles - Wednesday, Feb. 18, 7:30 PM
Immigration to Southern California peaked in 1990, and we’ve now entered a post-immigrant phase, with foreign-born residents likely to be more financially and culturally stable and better connected than they were a generation ago.

City of Quartz at 25 - Wednesday, Mar. 4, 7:30 PM
Arguably the most important book written about Los Angeles in the last four decades -- and easily the most controversial -- City of Quartz is about to turn 25.

A Debate over the New LACMA - Wednesday, Mar. 25, 7:30 PM
Architect Peter Zumthor’s plan to radically redesign the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has divided critics and architects in L.A. like no other proposal in recent memory.

The Future of the Single-Family House: New Housing Models for Los Angeles - Wednesday, Apr. 8, 7:30 PM
At once vulnerable and inviolate, a disappearing architectural species and the most protected building type in the city, the single-family house continues to play an outsize role in debates over architecture, planning and growth in Los Angeles."
losangeles  christopher  hawthorne  events  future  history  occidentalcollege  immigration  socal  urban  urbanism  cities  2015  cityofquartz  mikedavis  peterzumthor  development  transportation  transit  suburbia  housing  infilling  masstransit  architecture  thordlosangeles  futures  lacma 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Koreatown's cool old buildings point to L.A.'s future - LA Times
"If K-town increasingly resembles an empire on the march, gobbling up new territory by the week, it is not an empire made of bricks and mortar. It is a net draped over the existing cityscape, a net of signage and light, easily stretched and infinitely expandable. It fills, cloaks or remakes spaces in the city others had abandoned or forgotten about.

In a city that has often demolished even its best-known landmarks, that makes it both an anomaly and a suggestion of the L.A. to come. Threaded through a neighborhood that in demographic terms is mostly Latino, well served by subway and bus lines, K-town is a thriving, charismatic advertisement for a more intensely urban Los Angeles.

It is also a reflection of a city whose immigrants are more settled than ever before, increasingly gaining the clout to shape public and private architecture.

We think of Southern California as region of immigrants, and for good reason: 36% of the Los Angeles County population was born outside the U.S., a figure three times the national average.

But immigration to L.A. County peaked in 1990. The foreign-born population is older, better connected socially and more financially stable than it's ever been. A recent study found that just 5% of children here are immigrants but that a remarkable 60% have at least one immigrant parent.

As debates over legal and illegal immigration continue to roil Washington, the rest of the country looks to Los Angeles to catch a glimpse of its cultural future, to see how a metropolitan region, over many decades, has dealt with profound demographic change.

And when L.A. wants to see its own future along those lines? It looks to Koreatown.

The first Korean immigrants to Southern California, a small group that included a number of Presbyterian evangelists, arrived in the late 19th century, settling first on Bunker Hill and later near USC. In the 1960s, thanks to relaxed federal immigration rules, Koreans began arriving in much larger numbers.

Many found housing or opened businesses in the once-glamorous mid-Wilshire area. Rents were cheap, and there was a stock of impressive architecture, including Art Deco buildings wrapped in terra cotta and postwar towers of glass and steel.

"The buildings were not in great shape," said Katherine Yungmee Kim, author of a recent book on Koreatown. "And some of them are still not in great shape. But they're intensely beautiful.""
losangeles  california  koreatown  history  urban  urbanism  2014  urbanplanning  cities  immigration  socal  christopherhawthorne 
december 2014 by robertogreco
How Arcadia is remaking itself as a magnet for Chinese money - LA Times
"Most Los Angeles architects are lucky if they complete two or three houses by their early 30s.

Thirty-one-year-old Philip Chan, who runs a firm in Arcadia called PDS Studio, has already seen more than 75 of his residential designs built across the San Gabriel Valley.

He's still not the best-known designer in Arcadia. That title belongs to Robert Tong, 54, founder of the equally prolific firm Sanyao International.

A growing architectural rivalry between the two men is a key part of a construction wave that is radically remaking Arcadia. Blocks that were once sleepy, with single-story ranch houses from the 1940s set comfortably back from the street, are now lined with bloated villas pushed near the front of their lots as if clamoring for attention.

Chan and Tong, whose names are featured in San Gabriel Valley real estate listings as prominently as Frank Gehry's is on the Westside, tailor their showy Mediterranean-style houses to appeal to wealthy Chinese buyers, many looking to park some of their money here or to enroll their children in American schools.

In the last year alone, more than 90 houses have sold for more than $2.5 million in Arcadia, a city of 56,000 that sits just east of Pasadena at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Prices in Arcadia are up more than 39% from their peak in 2007 before the housing downturn. The city, now 60% Asian, has become more expensive than Calabasas, the suburban enclave that is home to Justin Bieber and the Kardashians. It's become known as the "Chinese Beverly Hills."

What's happening in Arcadia is less about big new houses and startling sales figures than how new patterns of immigration are transforming the architecture of Southern California. New arrivals from China are not victims of change, as they were when Southern California's original Chinatown was razed in the 1930s to make way for Union Station.

This time around they're the ones with the economic power. The architectural landscape is being remade not to displace them but as a magnet for their money.

When you drive around Arcadia, the vast amount of residential construction suggests an architectural free-for-all. Dust produced by work crews rises behind chain-link fences wrapped in green fabric — the telltale sign that a big new house is going up. The fabric is often covered with banners advertising home-theater specialists or signs reading, "We buy land and older houses.""
arcadia  losangeles  2014  cities  china  california  christopherhawthorne  socal 
december 2014 by robertogreco
'Latino Urbanism' influences a Los Angeles in flux - LA Times
"Work crews in recent weeks have made major design changes to Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, widening the sidewalks and adding planters, chairs and round cafe tables with bright-red umbrellas where rows of parked cars used to be. The upgrades aim to make the street as welcoming to pedestrians as drivers.

They're also superfluous: the urban-planning equivalent of carrying coals to Newcastle. Broadway has for several decades been among the most popular and vital walking streets in Southern California, one typically crowded with Latino shoppers, including many recent immigrants from Mexico.

What's more, Broadway's makeover — which arrives just as some of its discount stores are being replaced in a wave of gentrification by upscale boutiques — happens to take many of its design cues from street life in Latin American cities.

The redesign suggests just how many politicians and policymakers in Southern California are finding inspiration in Latino Urbanism, a term that describes the range of ad hoc ways in which immigrants from Mexico and Central and South America have remade pockets of American cities to feel at least a little like the places they left behind.

Planners are adding parks and bike lanes to major streets but also pushing to loosen outdated restrictions, so that murals can be painted in the arts district and street vendors selling tortas or sliced fruit can operate legally. Temporary events like the popular CicLAvia open-streets festival, patterned after a program in Bogota, Colombia, are spurring permanent urban-design changes that challenge the dominance of cars.

"We're seeing what had been a series of informal activities become more formalized," said James Rojas, a city planning consultant and East L.A. native who coined the term "Latino Urbanism."

Rojas sees the influence across the region, from Santa Monica along the coast to Pasadena in the foothills, and especially in Los Angeles itself. "There's a whole official design lexicon that is borrowed from lessons about how Latinos design their homes and interact with their neighborhoods," he said.

The result is that Los Angeles, long a Latino city culturally and demographically, is beginning to resemble a Latino city in terms of how its streets and public spaces are designed. Latino Urbanism, largely the study of how immigrants use Los Angeles, is increasingly reflected in how Los Angeles looks.

What the shift means for immigrants themselves — particularly in quickly gentrifying neighborhoods like downtown or Boyle Heights — is a separate and deeply fraught question.

For decades in Los Angeles, Latinos have carved out space for entrepreneurial and community-minded activities in a city organized around the freeway and the private house. Largely renters without the connections or capital to remake the architecture of the city, immigrants have found ways to modify an established, largely suburban metropolis around the edges to make it more hospitable and sociable.

In the process they've blurred the line between public and private space that earlier generations of L.A. residents tried to draw as indelibly as possible.

In a neighborhood remade by Latino immigrants, signs are mostly hand-painted, whether they announce an accountant's office or a nail salon. The walls of grocery stores are covered with pictogram-like drawings of milk jugs and boxes of detergent.

Fences are less barriers than thresholds (or impromptu storefronts). Parks are crowded on the weekends, but so are front yards, as birthday parties and other celebrations spill toward the street."



"In some fundamental ways, though, the political establishment's growing embrace of Latino Urbanism is consistent with the cultural history of Southern California. Despite the dominance of car culture over the last half-century, it is remarkable how many of our most successful corridors celebrate walking and some version of sidewalk commerce, authentic or expensively faked, whether it's Olvera Street, the Grove, Disneyland's Main Street, U.S.A., or Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade.

After decades of building walkable private enclaves — hugely popular escapes from the rule of the automobile — we are finally turning to the design of the streets and sidewalks themselves.

In Los Angeles, a city with deeper Latin roots than Anglo ones, a street remade to mimic Latino Urbanism is a slice of the city both reinventing itself and looking back to some important first principles."
losangeles  2014  urbanism  urban  latinamerica  cities  urbanplanning  california  christopherhawthorne  socal 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Social Practice | Artbound | Shows | KCET
"Artbound explores Social Practice arts throughout Southern California. Featuring Olga Koumoundouros' occupation of foreclosed homes in Los Angeles; The Workers' Rug/La Alfombra Del Trabajador, an art project by day laborers, organizers affiliated with IDEPSCA, artist Katie Bachler and Jade Thacker, and the Craft and Folk Art Museum; Public Matters' Market Makeover project addressing the "grocery gap" in "food deserts," areas that have limited access to quality, healthy food; the collective Fallen Fruit, who map local public fruit trees, encouraging us to rethink our relationship to food and public space; and a performance by Moses Sumney."
socialpractice  art  socialpracticeart  california  socal  losangeles  fallenfruit  olgakoumoundouros  jadethacker  katiebachler  mosessumney  craftandfolkartmuseum  folkart  foreclosures  2014 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Toward a Poetics of Skateboarding | The American Reader
"But for all of its private jargon, skateboarding’s poetry has never been linguistic. It is forever embodied and also, though this is difficult to speak of seriously, spiritual. How else to explain its appearance in Uganda without even a single retail outlet to support it? In fact, the only conveyable language of skateboarding, outside of participation and socialization in the activity itself, has always been spoken through film.

In broad terms, skate media splits time between documentation and advertisement, and their commercial evolution has skewed ever more crass and spectacular. Recent work from select video artists, however, attempts to confront the activity’s basic mystery and meaningful meaninglessness. Non-skateboarders have tended not to look very closely at these films. They mostly do not care. Skateboarders meanwhile care far too much to care exactly why. In any case, it’s here that an attempt toward a poetics of skateboarding must begin."



"Nor can we call such an effort unselfish. My own struggle with the mystery of skateboarding began five years ago, fifteen after I first stepped onto a board, when I began work on my second novel. The problem I encountered was that none of skateboarding’s confectionary can or should be dismissed. Speaking technically and contra Ian Mackaye, skateboarding today is a sport and a hobby both, along with countless other things: a therapy, an obsession, a conservative anti-drug. In its basic meaninglessness, skateboarding has become the tool that takes the shape of whoever’s hand it’s in."



"What in those first years had fit awkwardly into a de facto rubric of athletics—a sport to be timed and judged for athletic merit—became in the 1970s something more rhetorical. The ethos was the punk scavenging of revolution by way of repurposing. Whatever prefigurations of the object we had seen, never before had they been deployed creatively. To speak in China Mieville’s terms, what emerged was something counterposed to the comfort of the uncanny. The activity, new, unrecognized, and bounded only by imagination, was abcanny."



"While the basic spirit of skateboarding might have remained constant since the addition of polyurethane, the marketplace around it quite obviously has not. Now and once again the importance of skateboarding in our time is on the increase. Today, it is on Fox. It is on ESPN with real-time algorithms for evaluating tricks. Once more the marketplace would have us comprehend skateboarding as a sport.

We know on first glance that skateboarding, in its dominant form of street activity, stands apart from ball and net athletics. It seems uninterested, too, in velocity and stopwatch performances. But the first challenge to the rubric of sport begins even lower, at a semiotic level. You and I could, if we wanted, go and shoot lazy jumpshots on a netless schoolyard hoop, or go to the driving range and smack buckets of balls into the green void. We can take our gloves to the park and throw grounders and pop flies and apply tags to invisible runners. But for any of these to qualify as “basketball,” “golf,” or “baseball,” we would require the structure of competition and order of rules.

Systems such as these have no bearing on skateboarding, of which even the most negligible acts, no matter how brief or private, simply are skateboarding. Consider: between my home and the nearest skatepark is a well-paved boulevard with sewer caps embedded into the blacktop every half block or so. A source of joy for me is to push down this boulevard and pop tiny ollies over these sewer caps, sometimes barely scraping my tail, other times popping hard and pulling my knees up to my chest. These are not tricks proper, just ways to see and engage with the street’s reality. This is not, as athletes might call it, practice; I am not training for a future event. It is travel, yes, but the joy has little to do with the scenery or distance covered. In the purview of skate competition, this pushing down the boulevard, the single most fun I have in any given day, is not a scorable act of skateboarding. It is worth zero and it is worth everything.

In a world increasingly data-driven and surveilled, skateboarding lives beneath scoring and resists all datazation by establishing everything as a performance. It deflects the surveillance state by its primal devotion to documenting and sharing itself, monitoring every possible development, repetition, and failure. It pre-empts the onslaught of observation by embracing it. To pre-empt is to deflect, but also to admit defeat. Luckily, skateboarders are shameless—in this way, they’re the perfect actors to play the role of themselves.

Our potential heuristic now approaches what literary and cultural theorists today speak of, with a smirk, as the so-called authentic self. But a skater, whether standing on his stage, behind a camera, or at a keyboard, sees and thinks and performs precisely as what and who he is. What other memberships function in this or a similar manner? Parenthood. Romantic partnership. Citizenship. Does artistry?

***

To date, the most complete attempt to theorize skateboarding has been Iain Borden’s Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the Body (Berg, 2001). Borden, a Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture at The Bartlett, University College London, treats the activity of skateboarding as a Lefebvrian practice with a potential to become its own sort of architecture: not of construction, but by the “production of space, time, and social being.” He traces the history of skateboarding into the 1990s’ street skating movement, and speaks of the way this “oppositional subculture” rethinks architecture “as a set of discrete features and elements…recomposing it through new speeds, spaces and times.” The gears of capitalism create spaces in which behavior is prescribed and easily accounted for. Skateboarding’s opposition is thus a compositional process, partially of the individual body, which is recomposed against the “intense scopic determinations of modernist space,” and partially of a deeper critique of urban life: “production not as the production of things but of play, desires and actions.”"



"By contrast, today’s most compelling skateboarding films aim to capture not only the play of skateboarding, but enact what Borden calls the “positive dialectic that restlessly searches for new possibilities of representing, imagining and living our lives.” The “Panoramic Series” from Philip Evans, for example, relieves the actor from the full burden of attention. Here Evans follows Phil Zwijsen through his hometown of Antwerp:"



"The skater, Austyn Gillette, appears only after the environmental context, resulting in a portrait not of one or the other, but both. The subject is, as skateboarding’s always has been in practice, the interactions between city and individual body. Alongside recent work by Mike Manzoori, Evan Schiefelbine and select others, these films find energy beyond the progressive trickery of athletics, or the documentation of extant geographies. They combine the skateboarder’s practice—creative, productive—with a distinctly non-skateboarding meta-awareness of the activity’s potential for meaning. Their grounding within the geist of skateboarding is obvious: there is nothing a skater spots more quickly than the fraud, or tourist. These are films made by skateboarders who have lived within the activity’s world, and who choose to leverage the activity as a tool to understand itself. How long, they ask, must a toy endure before it becomes something else? What does it become, and does this mean it has ceased to be a toy?"



"Roberto Bolaño called surrealism “something convulsive and vague, that familiar amorphous thing.” If indeed there is ever to be a poetics of skateboarding, familiarity will have to play a role. Suvin argued that science fiction’s value lay in its ability to effect cognitive estrangement. Campbell’s film documents and creates ostranenie by the re-presentation of a familiar world as captured by, and portrayed through, the glance of the radical dreamer. In fact, what Cuatros does better than any film I’ve seen is remind us that skateboarding’s heuristic usefulness is ontological. Its topos is not that there is a world inside the world, but rather: there is a world the exact shape and texture of the world that you know laid seamlessly over top of it, and you, for some reason, fail to see how beautiful it can be.

Convulsive, vague, and conveyed by slidy looks. Campbell’s subject is our ineffable, binding thing, that lurking, trembling essence that he can only render by images and motions of the surreal. The artist whose art was born from skateboarding has made an object about skateboarding that conveys this birth and mode of being. Skateboarding infects the filmmaker infects the musicians infects the viewer. Viewer goes out skating. Skateboarding is self-perpetuating in this way. It is always itself and something else, it is infectious, it is comprehensive and sublatable to the core. This is how the infinite comes to be—once born, skateboarding can never now die.

But the dreamscape of Cuatros Sueños Pequeños is not an expression of this infinity. Rather, it is mimetic. What world is this?, asks the skateboarder. A familiar one we have seen so many times that it’s rendered unseeable. More importantly, what is to be done in it? The answer, like Campbell’s film, is incoherent, and thank goodness. The answer is anything at all."
skating  skateboarding  skateboards  quantification  measurement  urban  urbanism  surveillance  iainborden  meaning  film  video  robertobolaño  thomascampbell  cuatrosueñospequeños  performance  datazation  repetition  monitoring  failure  documentation  process  capitalism  henrilefebvre  space  place  play  culture  movement  infectiousness  inspiration  feral  ecosystems  socialbeing  time  architecture  landscape  kylebeachy  understanding  experience  robertzemeckis  pontusalv  punk  metrics  schematics  markets  poetics  filmmaking  darkosuvin  sciencefiction  ianmackaye  technology  history  circumstance  california  socal  sports  chinamieville  abcanny  zines  creativity  competition  commercialization  commercialism  commoditization  diy  systems  rules  revolution  resistance  practice  authenticity  artistry  philipevans  philzwijsen  colinkennedy  stasis  motion  austyngillette  mikemanzoori  evanschiefelbine  javiermendizabal  madarsapse  dondelillo  cities  meaninglessness  participation  participatory  democracy  tribes  belonging  identity  spirituality  social  socializati 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Utopias Of SoCal, A Guide From Llano Del Rio Collective | Los Angeles, I'm Yours
"I would call Los Angeles a utopia. It’s so grand and open and friendly and calm while being constantly sunny that it just feels like a dream environment. It’s no wonder that so many idealistic communities and thinkers have been born out of the city: all we know is the perfect and the wonderful—and we’d hope to spread that enlightenment to others.

Llano Del Rio Collective, a guide making group of artists concerned with expanding the minds of Angelenos, has tapped into this idea and has mapped it in a very special way. They’ve created Utopias Of SoCal, a fold out illustrated map that details past and present (and maybe even future) points of utopian attraction. The piece serves to capture the culture of local idealism and point you toward finding this peace around town.

Utopias features illustrations by Erin Schneider with texts from the collective (and Erin as well). The idea of this guide comes from the group’s finding the book California’s Utopian Colonies by Robert V. Hine. The book highlights cults, communes, and intentional communities in the state and defined what they really were, that they shared similar ways of thinking and relied on the land in a way others were not. Llano has put out this publication in the hopes that you will be able to find out about these utopias and that you can “start your own ideal state.”

The collective also have found such a vast, perpetually topical subject in utopias. They’ve found the Gay Liberation Front and Highland Park Chicana/o Arts. There was even something called The Hog Farm, a hippie community who created light shows and (literally) liked to clown. A few notable entries will catch the eye, like CalArts, the Self Realization Fellowship, and The Source Family. You’ll also look twice when you see Llano del Rio on the list: the group borrows their namesake from a 1914 to 1918 group of utopians that swelled to a thousand members at one point and dedicated themselves to “cooperation rather than competition.”

Utopias Of SoCal is a brilliant little local map and certainly a celebration of local oddity. It definitely will definitely have you learning about the city and seeing a bunch of new things that you probably didn’t know existed. The work is available, for free, to locals at many stores or you can email Llano to get a copy of your own: learn more about that here. The group also have a residency at SMMOA, where they are doing various programs around this map: learn about that here."
losangeles  utopia  maps  mapping  socal 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Report Finds Los Angeles at Risk of Decline - NYTimes.com
"From the 73-story skyscraper that just broke ground downtown (the tallest in the West), to the blizzard of office, shopping and apartment complexes rising from there to the Pacific, construction is bustling in Los Angeles. Home prices are up, and the foreclosure rate is declining. Crime is down. There is a new mayor in City Hall. In many ways, Los Angeles, like many once-beleaguered cities across the nation, seems on the upswing.

Yet at this presumed moment of promise and potential, Los Angeles is enduring a series of blows that have challenged its self-esteem and even its long-term stability. Some appear more symbolic, like the departure of “The Tonight Show” for New York, followed by the plaintive appeal by Mayor Eric M. Garcetti that CBS move “The Late Show” to Los Angeles when David Letterman retires next year. Others are beyond its control, such as the disconcerting wave of earthquakes that have rumbled the region in recent weeks, reminding residents of how unprepared Southern California is for a cataclysmic temblor.

But the most worrisome blow by far is a scathing verdict on Los Angeles’s civic health that was delivered in a one-two punch — the second on Wednesday — by a committee of lawyers, developers, labor leaders and former elected officials who make up something of the Old Guard here. The Los Angeles 2020 Commission presented a catalog of failings that it said were a unique burden to the city: widespread poverty and job stagnation, huge municipal pension obligations, a struggling port and tourism industry and paralyzing traffic that would not be eased even with a continuing multibillion-dollar mass transit initiative."
2014  losangeles  decline  socal  california  cities  stagnation  poverty  unemployment  costofliving  tourism  traffic 
april 2014 by robertogreco
The Tuba Takes Its Spotlight In Mexican Bandas : NPR
"Traditional Mexican music, known as 'banda,' has been popular in Southern California for decades. And now, the tuba has gone from carrying the bass line in the back of the band, to stepping out front and leading dance trains. Host Michel Martin speaks with musician Jesse Tucker and Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Quinones, who has been covering the tuba revolution."

[via: http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/los-angeles/alison-o-daniel-the-tuba-thieves.html ]
music  tubas  samquinones  banda  socal  california  mexico  losangeles  2012 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Light, Love, and Los Angeles — A Year of Wednesdays — Medium
"What do I miss most about Orange County? There’s the warmth and the light (and I miss those most of all), but alongside those: The food and the proximity to LA. OC has the best sushi I’ve ever eaten in my life, and so many izakaya. Amazing Vietnamese food. Southern California’s tacos are better than Northern California’s, end of argument. Even more than that: During my time in OC, I cooked and baked more than I ever have in my life, and I discovered photography when I lived in a condo that was full of light. I spent a lot of time outside, and whenever I could I escaped to LA, where I learned to explore that giant city bit by bit.

Being in LA this past weekend for the first time since 2011 reminded me how much I love Southern California, and how wonderful LA is. It also reminded me how the air can be warm in a particular way, about the quality of the light that creates a perfect glow while also defining the shadows, about wanting to explore little by little. So here we go: words, images, tastes, sounds. A year of Wednesdays."

[Also posted here: http://ohheygreat.tumblr.com/post/71916102889/light-love-and-los-angeles ]
orangecounty  losangeles  2014  leahreich  light  food  socal  california 
march 2014 by robertogreco
The L.A. Aqueduct at 100 - Los Angeles Times
"For 100 years, the Los Angeles Aqueduct has delivered water to a thirsty city, wending its way for more than 200 miles from the Owens Valley, through canyons and deserts, down to the modern metropolis. A feat of engineering and a product of political maneuvering, it nurtured the region's growth while leaving conflict in its wake."
california  history  water  socal  owensvalley  losangeles  aqueduct  2013 
october 2013 by robertogreco
"Way Beyond Anything We've Done Before": Building The World Of "Grand Theft Auto V"
"How the hell did a studio in Edinburgh build the most ambitious digital recreation of Southern California ever attempted? To find out, we asked Aaron Garbut, the man behind the look and feel of every modern Grand Theft Auto."
california  losangeles  socal  2013  videogames  aarongarbut  games  gaming  gta  grandtheftauto  worldbuilding 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Exhibitions — FORM and LANDSCAPE
"The Southern California Edison archive holds a jaw-dropping array of 70,000 images; these date from the late nineteenth century through the early 1970s and are accessible at The Huntington. At once a record of electrification of the Los Angeles Basin, the collection is also – as the photo essays which constitute this exhibition so aptly demonstrate – a visual narrative of change in and on the built landscapes of greater Los Angeles during a key three or four generations of explosive metropolitan expansion. As the Huntington’s descriptive commentary notes, the archive documents dozens of Edison projects, as well as “employee gatherings, streetscapes, billboards, agricultural and other industries, exhibitions, small businesses, sports and recreational facilities, electrical appliances, education and promotional efforts, advertisements, suburban development, and a host of other topics. In short, the archive offers a twentieth century vision of better living through electrification.” All this is demonstrably true, 70,000 times over. The visual gamut runs from the prosaic to the just plain odd, and everywhere else in between."
california  electricity  photography  archives  socal  losangeles  history 
july 2013 by robertogreco
SOC(i)AL: Art + People | Artbound | KCET
"A series of discussions around LA about Socially Engaged Art, September to November 2012. Instigated by Anne Bray of Freewaves.org. Say passé to the sculpture in the square; the leading edge of public art is changing. Art is passing from isolation, to intervention, to participation, to engagement, to integration. SOCAL SOCIAL: Art + People is a free, public series of roundtable discussions and weekend events that explores socially engaged art in Southern California from East to West. Join the dialogue with SoCal artists, scholars, activists, and administrators as we think about socially engaged art in relation to zoning, technology, ethics, food, ritual, performance, gentrification, museums, democracy, nature and art support structures in the here-and-now. Where is our collective dialogic imagination now? The series of individually produced events takes place at venues across L.A., instigated by Anne Bray as part of Freewaves.org, promoted by media partner ForYourArt, interviewed by Sue Bell Yank at Artbound in advance of each event and summarized there by a different person after each event. As many of the talks as permissible will be audio recorded and posted on Artbound."
freewaves  artbound  losangeles  sociallyengagedart  art  openstudioproject  lcproject  social  socalsocial  annebray  socal 
june 2013 by robertogreco
My Right Turn at the Intersection of Good Ideas | PlaceMakers
"Setting the context, this is what Bill Fulton, preeminent planner / writer / Mayor of Ventura, writes and thinks about the state of California planning today:
The entire planning business in California is changing, and I cannot quite predict where we are headed. So many of the conditions we have lived with for the past generation or two are changing. Real estate development is flat and we can’t predict when the market’s coming back, meaning we can’t use development to leverage needed change in our communities – nor use developer money to fund our practices. Local government revenue is flat and probably going down – meaning advance planning in California is extremely dependent right now on state and federal money, which could dry up anytime. And, of course, nobody knows what’s going to happen with redevelopment in the long run. Cities are on the verge of bankruptcy, planning departments are being rolled up, and planners are out on the street.
In the short run, all these things are harmful to the profession and to California’s communities as well. But it’s possible that some kind of shakeout and rethinking of how planning works in this state is long overdue. Maybe we’ve become too dependent on the same ol’-same ol’ – tax-increment funds, developer impact fees, and so forth. Maybe it’s time to find a new model – one where the local governments play a smaller or at least different role, and developers and nonprofit organizations play a bigger one.

No argument there. And look where it fits with this NGO model presented by architect Teddy Cruz:
Our projects primarily engage the micro scale of the neighborhood, transforming it into the urban laboratory of the 21st century. The forces of control at play across the most trafficked checkpoint in the world has provoked the small border neighborhoods that surround it to construct alternative urbanisms of transgression that infiltrate themselves beyond the property line in the form of non-conforming spatial and entrepreneurial practices. A migrant, small scale activism that alters the rigidity of discriminatory urban planning of the American metropolis, and search for new modes of social sustainability and affordability. The political and economic processes behind this social activism bring new meaning to the role of the informal in the contemporary city. What is interesting here is not the ‘image’ of the informal but the instrumentality of its operational socio-economic and political procedures. The counter economic and social organizational practices produced by non-profit social service organizations (turned micro-developers of alternative housing prototypes and public infrastructure at the scale of the parcel) within these neighborhoods are creating alternative sites of negotiation and collaboration. They effectively search to transform top-down legislature and lending structures, in order to generate a new brand of bottom-up social and economic justice that can bridge the political equator.

An interesting convergence. Now allow me to add my ‘Community Character Corner‘ synopsis, which heroically attempts to bridge the brilliant points of both these perspectives together…"
2011  teddcruz  billfulton  california  sandiego  planning  urbanplanning  urbanism  neighborhoods  small  border  borders  transgression  migration  socialactivism  informal  affordability  sustainability  policy  politics  economics  cities  housing  collaboration  bottom-up  top-down  politicalequator  entrepreneurship  change  covernment  redevelopment  ventura  socal  howardblackson 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Huell Howser Archives at Chapman University
"Welcome to the Huell Howser California’s Gold Archive, a special collection of Huell Howser’s entire California’s Gold television series, presented by Chapman University.

To look for a specific episode or just view the library, you can do a keyword search or search by season.

Have fun and howdy!"
california'sgold  socal  tv  television  chapmanuniversity  archives  travel  history  california  huellhowser 
january 2013 by robertogreco
Advice on moving to Los Angeles | Derek Sivers
"1. It’s not really a city. …
2. … People talk about themselves a lot because they feel they have to, for survival, for self-promotion. …
3. Avoid the highways and take the backroads…
4. Get into nature often. …
5. Every culture values different things… In LA, it’s who you know. …
6. Not just LA but California is the most optimistic place on earth. The side-effects of this can confuse outsiders. When you say, “Will you come to my event?” or, “Want to help with this project?” - they will almost always say yes, full of enthusiasm, and actually 100% sincere, fully intending to be there, to help, whatever. They honestly and optimistically think that they will be there and do it… they reluctantly “flake”… Don’t get bitter and write them off…

As with any place, if you really want to experience it, don’t just sneer and condemn it, dive in and live it like a local…

It may feel fake, but faking it is fine. (Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “You are whatever you pretend to be.”)…"

[via: http://tumblr.austinkleon.com/post/22541615704 ]
self-promotion  culture  2012  howwelive  overcommitted  optimism  socal  california  flakiness  advice  cities  losangeles  dereksivers 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Swimming with the stars - Five-Minute Museum - Salon.com
"When I started thinking about it … I realized that in many ways, in the post-war period, Southern California was the ideal of what the American dream was going to look like. At the center of that was the swimming pool, and suburban expansion, and the concept of everybody living in this place that didn’t have the danger of nature, but had all the benefits of the natural landscape. A place that was away from the city, but at the same time felt domesticated. I started thinking about the pool as the central icon of that both real and imaginary place. And it grew from there."
daniellcornell  cindysherman  highculture  popularculture  backyards  suburbia  suburbs  hollywood  nature  design  architecture  art  palmspringsartmuseum  barbarakruger  davidhockney  pacificstandardtime  photography  2012  southerncalifornia  socal  california  swimmingpools 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Reading L.A.: The once and future Plaza, nature in the city - latimes.com
"Promoting more events like ArroyoFest seems crucial in helping Angelenos define mobility in a new way. And, as Gottlieb points out, the kind of thinking that will be required to reimagine the freeway for 21st century Los Angeles is the same kind of thinking that helped create the city and its infrastructure in the first place. He reminds us in the book that the great Carey McWilliams -- one of the first authors we met in Reading L.A. -- described Los Angeles as "a land of magical improvisation."

Redefining or even repurposing the freeways of Los Angeles -- on a permanent rather than merely temporary basis -- may require the biggest and most creative improvisation of all."
improvisation  density  socal  change  transmobility  personalmobility  mobility  future  urbanism  urban  2012  history  books  cities  losangeles 
january 2012 by robertogreco
The Struggle to Define L.A.'s Transitional Moment - Design - The Atlantic Cities
"“If we can agree that the city has been linked with suburban development and private mobility, and those two things are both either being called into question or breaking down to some degree, what happens next? How do we establish some kind of identity for a post-suburban future?” Hawthorne says. “And that doesn’t mean the freeways are going away or cars are going away or single family houses for that matter, it just means that those things won’t define the character of the city in the way that they have.”

Just what that character will be is as much shaped by the transition underway as by our understanding of the city. For Hawthorne, this year-long literary trip has bolstered his perception of the city as a product of its past. But, he says, even the most overarching  studies of the city can’t and don’t describe what is emerging in the L.A. of today."
urbanism  change  density  transportation  cities  urban  books  christopherhawthorne  2012  transition  socal  transmobility  personalmobility  future  history  nateberg  losangeles 
january 2012 by robertogreco
An LA-centric take on modernism - Salon.com
"Forget the Rose Parade; the real reason to be in LA right now is “Pacific Standard Time”… the arts program, not just the zone.

A six-month “happening” that kicked off in October, PST is the largest collaborative art project ever undertaken in Southern California. More than 60 museums, galleries and other institutions allow us to immerse ourselves in the various creative scenes that were exploding and expanding all around Los Angeles from the 1940s through to the ’80s.

PST’s primary focus is on the fine arts, but the exhibitions and events offer plenty for the design-minded as well. There are also scads of show catalogs for the print-oriented to peruse.

Here’s a sampling of a few of the lavishly illustrated books recently published in conjunction with all the events."
designhistory  arthistory  history  california  socal  books  2011  design  art  losangeles  pacificstandardtime 
december 2011 by robertogreco
Explore the Era (Browse the Archive) » Pacific Standard Time at the Getty
"Delve into the postwar Los Angeles art world in this online archive, which provides additional material related to the exhibitions on view at the Getty Center. Learn about hipsters and happenings, and the venues across the city where all the action took place through images from the archives and first-hand accounts with the artists."
history  arthistory  art  pacificstandardtime  losangeles  getty  2011  1940s  1950s  1960s  1970s  modernism  socal 
december 2011 by robertogreco
The energy, and expense, of bringing water to the Southland - latimes.com
"The twin forces of power costs and climate-change regulations are threatening Southern California's long love affair with imported water, forcing the region to consider more mundane sources closer to home."
southland  southerncalifornia  california  water  aqueducts  infrastructure  socal  2011  losangeles  sandiego 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Charles and Ray Eames' living room makes an interim home at LACMA - latimes.com
"The midcentury legends' untouched living room is relocated and reassembled, piece by piece, at LACMA for the exhibition 'California Design, 1930-1965: Living In a Modern Way.'"

"For the uninitiated, seeing how the Eameses lived may be a surprise. Their living room does not resemble the type of rigorously formal space that people today expect in a modern house from the era. Even though the Eames House is a wonderfully calibrated exercise in steel, glass and cement panel, the idea of replicating such formalism on the interior was anathema to its owners. If anything, their architecture is forced to take a back seat to their extraordinarily diverse collection of objects."

[More (note Pinboard breaks these URLs, so cut and paste them if you want to check them out): http://www.latimes.com/features/home/la-hm-eames-house-restoration-20110924,0,3009062.story AND http://www.latimes.com/features/home/la-hm-landmark-houses-eames-photos,0,4909958.photogallery AND http://www.latimes.com/features/home/la-hm-landmark-houses-eames-house,0,1245657.htmlstory ]
eames  losangeles  timelapse  socal  california  design  2011 
october 2011 by robertogreco
Food | KCET
Nice redesign  of the KCET food page
kcet  food  socal  losangeles  cooking  restaurants  recipes  srg  glvo 
september 2011 by robertogreco
SOCAL FOOD
"KCET.org’s Tumblr about food in Los Angeles and Southern California. We've mixed our own pics and posts, with others that we have found on the web."
food  blogs  kcet  socal  california  restaurants  cooking  losangeles  sandiego  srg  glvo 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Californian freeways: Carmageddon | The Economist
"A European might ask why people don’t bicycle instead, or take a bus or train. Yes, Los Angeles does have a weighty document, the “2010 Bicycle Plan”, but nobody believes it will do more than the two previous, and equally grandiose, bike visions, proclaimed in the 1970s and 1990s. As for buses, they do exist, but only the poor seem to be on them and routes are being cancelled for budgetary reasons. Los Angeles’s mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, also has a pet underground project, called the “subway to the sea”. But the general rule seems to be that public transport in Los Angeles has a great future, and always will."
losangeles  cars  carculture  publictransit  masstransit  freeways  the405  2011  carmageddon  california  socal 
july 2011 by robertogreco
James Enos talks about Clairemont on Vimeo
His informal presentation on the critique of Clairemont from Pecha Kucha on April 20th. The piece discussed in his rant is currently on show at MCASD in La Jolla's "Here Not There" opening.
1951  tracthomes  clairemont  jamesenos  informal  sandiego  architecture  herenotthere  mcasd  pechakucha  housing  alterations  art  design  vernacular  entitlement  dwellmagazine  dwell  clairemonterasure  suburbs  suburbia  parametricarchitecture  juxtaposition  realestate  commentary  tracthousing  criticalpractice  whatwewant  socal  buildingboom  southpark  humor 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Liz Kuball › California Vernacular
"When you move out to California from back east, you come for a reason… what you find when you get here is that things aren’t what you thought they’d be. There’s some of what you expected…But there’s more: houses w/ cacti & succulents in place of the green lawns you grew up w/; women in bikinis climbing ladders; trees groomed in an archway, the expected path btwn them blocked by a gateless chain-link fence. You answer an ad on craigslist for a used car & find yourself in a boxed-in car lot in Van Nuys & go for pie at Du-par’s afterward, because pie makes sense when you’re on Ventura Boulevard & it’s 95 degrees & the car wasn’t what the ad said it would be. & you’d think that, after all this, you’d become disillusioned & go back home, & some do, of course, but many more of us stay & instead of growing bitter, we hang on—hang on to a world that, to us, is even more fantastic than the one we thought we’d find, because it’s real in its absurdity & because we have stories to tell."
california  losangeles  sandiego  cv  lizkuball  place  surprise  socal  absurdity  reality  photography  disillusionment 
june 2011 by robertogreco
In the Eastern Coachella Valley, Residents Are Struggling to Breathe - Environment - GOOD
"Probably the most disgusting and offensive of all the environmental abuses in the ECV is something locals have begun calling “Mt. San Diego.” Far from a majestic rock formation, however, Mt. San Diego is instead a massive tower of human waste that was shuttled into the ECV from San Diego—hence the name—and dumped onto tribal land from 1989 until 1994, when a federal order put an end to the practice. According to witness testimonials, the mountain once stood about 50-feet high, but it’s diminished quite a bit. Still, residents say the heap of feces continues to emit a noxious odor in the hot desert wind, and it sits just a few miles away from the St. Anthony Mobile Home Park.

Interestingly, the EPA now lists Mt. San Diego as being one of its “major accomplishments” in the area, boasting “[The California Integrated Waste Management Board] completed its cleanup of the Mt. San Diego Dump site in April 2007.”"

[See also: http://www.epa.gov/region9/tribal/torres-martinez/gallery.html ]
thermal  coachella  california  socal  sandiego  via:javierarbona  environment  epa  torresmartinez 
april 2011 by robertogreco
California English - Wikipedia
"California English (or Californian, Californian English) is a dialect of the English language spoken in California.[1] California is home to a highly diverse population, which is reflected in the historical and continuing development of California English."

[Of particular interest is "freeway nomenclature" of Northern and Southern California: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_English#Freeway_nomenclature

[via: http://latimes.tumblr.com/post/4102291799/10-freeway ]
language  english  california  linguistics  dialects  accents  vocabulary  usage  phonology  nocal  socal  losangeles  sanfrancisco  sandiego  orangecounty  inlandempire  freeways  carculture  cars 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Rick Steves Europe: Travel with Rick Steves: Program Archives
"The Rhine family of Salem, Oregon explains how they came closer together and what they learned while immersing themselves in a variety of cultures. Also, Rick checks in with a Lonely Planet author who has tips on finding the world, and family fun, in Southern California, and listeners send us their haiku about Seattle."
travel  parenting  books  unschooling  homeschool  children  learning  education  ricksteves  socal  california  losangeles 
august 2010 by robertogreco
alien california - a gallery on Flickr
"i have some vague ideas about how a lot of science fiction tv shows are based in southern california, so location shooting for "alien" planets often features california landscapes.<br />
<br />
maybe eventually i'll elaborate on this."
classideas  california  brittagustafson  photography  fiction  space  sciencefiction  scifi  galleries  landscape  socal  tv  television  tcsnmy 
august 2010 by robertogreco
joshua beck and tom reiner: the wave
"american team joshua beck and tom reiner are one of the semi finalists in the safe trestles competition to design a pathway for san onofre state beach, california.
sanonofre  beachaccess  california  socal  design  landscape  architecture 
may 2010 by robertogreco
Lifeguard Tower / Lazar Design Build | ArchDaily
"His latest home, The Lifeguard Tower, rises three stories high on a corner lot with an expansive view of Hermosa Beach. The architecture is comprised of three trapezoidal structures, one atop the other. From the base, the residence narrows as it reaches the “look-out” tower room that gives onto a picturesque,1,600-square-foot grass-covered entertainment and dining deck facing the ocean. At night, the tower glows like a beacon of light, as it is beautifully illuminated through multiple windows that surround the structure. Although the 3,400-square-foot home is contemporary in spirit, it takes its inspiration from the classic old architecture and lifeguard towers of Maine and Cape Cod, where Lazar spent the summers of his childhood."
homes  architecture  design  hermosabeach  socal  lifeguardtowers 
april 2010 by robertogreco
Crash Space
"Crash Space is a hackerspace in Los Angeles, and is part of the growing global hackerspace movement. We are a collection of hackers, programmers, builders, makers, artists and people who generally like to break things and see what new things we can build with the pieces. We meet regularly at our physical location in Culver City.

Crash Space is generally open to members only, with the exception of regularly scheduled classes and occasional events. Our Mailing List is open to anyone and we invite you to join and say Hi. You can also check out our flickr group to see what we are up to."
losangeles  hackerspaces  hackercollective  lcproject  hackers  make  diy  arduino  seanbonner  electronics  hacking  space  socal  sandiego  culvercity 
february 2010 by robertogreco
Mid-century modern San Diego - a set on Flickr
"Shots of architectural treasures from the mid-20th century around my home town."
sandiego  lajolla  california  socal  architecture  design  photography  flickr  homes  modernism 
january 2010 by robertogreco
More heat, humidity coming to southern California, scientists predict | csmonitor.com
"Since 1990, heat waves with high humidity have increased in both frequency and intensity in southern California."
california  socal  climate  sandiego  losangeles  humity  weather  climatechange  heat  humidity 
october 2009 by robertogreco
Inventing LA: The Chandlers and Their Times | PBS
"No single family has dominated any major region of the country as the Chandlers have dominated Southern California. They did not so much foster the growth of Los Angeles as invent it."
losangeles  kcet  documentary  chandlers  socal  california  history 
october 2009 by robertogreco
Federal aid eyed for rail projects
"A long-running effort to improve the region's busiest stretch of railway is picking up steam.

The San Diego Association of Governments, the county's long-range planning agency, is seeking $377 million in federal stimulus money to revamp the coastal track between San Clemente and downtown San Diego.

Hoping to spur the economy, federal officials are preparing to give out $8 billion to expand high-speed and intercity rail systems nationwide. SANDAG believes it can make a strong argument for a chunk of it.

Jack Dale, chairman of the agency's transportation panel, said the improvements would bolster rail service and take more cars off Interstate 5."
sandiego  trains  rail  money  government  infrastructure  transportation  orangecounty  socal  amtrak  delmar  sanclemente  surfliner 
september 2009 by robertogreco
Water: A California Story
"In San Diego, we import 80–90% of our water from the Colorado River and northern California. An estimated 19% of California’s energy use relates to water collection, transportation, and treatment. Using water = using energy = CO2 emissions = climate change

Water: A California Story features photos, maps, video, and hands-on activities, natural history specimens, live animals, and more. Tips and resources for water conservation on a local and regional level are also shared."

[tips: http://www.sdnhm.org/exhibits/water/tips.html]
sandiego  water  history  conservation  tcsnmy  science  ecology  sustainability  nature  sdnhm  exhibits  socal  california 
april 2009 by robertogreco
Today's Office - Jan Chipchase - Future Perfect
"In some cities you learn how to drive; in LA you learn how to drive by."
losangeles  socal  janchipchase  driving 
march 2009 by robertogreco
In defense of L.A. architecture | Features | City Life | Los Angeles | Decider
"Nothing compares to the adrenaline rush and self-satisfaction in successfully playing devil’s advocate. Which is to say, why is everybody always ragging on Los Angeles as being a total architectural wasteland? Wouldn’t it feel good to shut up the haters? Here's Decider’s arsenal of feel-good rebuttals for whenever a naysayer volleys the tired notion that all L.A. architecture is an eyesore."
losangeles  architecture  design  california  socal  rudolphschindler  richardneutra  culvercity  ericowenmoss  johnlautner  chemosphere 
march 2009 by robertogreco
things magazine: Magical realms and children's books
"the journey into past memories is frequently marred with disappointment, and unsurprisingly, it was a shock to revisit the house in adulthood - and be surprised by the small scale, the harshness of the house's appearance, the newly-built houses that filled the garden and the neatly manicured flower beds. But although revisiting the spaces created within children's books appears to be a similarly risky journey, books retain their personal voice and sense of intimate scale ... Sadly, it becomes increasingly apparent that as we grow older, the physical spaces we held dear as children have become integrated with our everyday, mundane existences. Transgressions become limited by laws and rules and spaces become property, with onerous implications of trespass and theft. Perhaps only children's literature provides us with a satisfying journey back into a murky past clouded with the knowledge of subsequent experience, for now we know that rules were not made to be broken."
books  children  space  memory  architecture  storytelling  thingsmagazine  magicalrealms  childrenliterature  glvo  casestudyhomes  losangeles  socal  modernism  design  childhood 
november 2008 by robertogreco
After Shock: What Happens Next Is Up to You...
"After Shock is the world's first massively collaborative disaster simulation, about a major earthquake affecting much of Southern California. Starting Nov 13, 2008, you'll experience the earthquake as if it's really occurring, and what happens next? How do we survive? Can our region recover and rebuild? - will be up to you."
iftf  earthquakes  simulation  disasters  tcsnmy  socal  classideas  simulations 
october 2008 by robertogreco
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