Monday, March 9, 2015

Funny thing happened at breakfast......Lump of smoldering lava

So, this morning I ditched my work out. I even ditched my extreme heart healthy diet. I went to that new bakery on Lincoln Avenue in Pasadena I heard was so good. I got there at 6:30 a.m. There were people inside working, the lights were on and the door was unlocked. I couldn't find ANYWHERE the sign that listed their hours. So I looked around and I got a piece of toast with lemon curd and almonds on it and a coffee. Seven bucks. Kinda steep.

The toast was exquisite. The coffee not as good as the not very great coffee at Altadena's Coffee Gallery. The music was load, beatless, brittle and annoying. not exactly techno, not exactly New Age, sometimes vaguely Peruvian, but really awful. I was finished by 7:15. I decided to hang out and sketch, in spite of the annoying music that made me want to thrust my  Staedtler stainless steel drafting pencil through my temple just to make it stop.

I wanted to see who hung out here, since local discussions about Gentrification were taking place and this joint for all it's up-scaleness was supporting a Black candidate for mayor. Perhaps a sign of  integration of the local mostly Black community and the new to me undesirable gentrifiers. A Black postman came in on his way to work, quickly got a coffee and ran off to work. Soon a white woman and her daughter arrived. then a white guy and an Asian man. I kept count from 6:30- 8:30 a.m. as to race and gender.

White 15 people

Asian 4 People

Black 1 man

Latino 1 man

Twenty two customers twelve of whom were women, nine of those were White Women, three were Asian women.

There were ten male customers, one Latino, one Black, one Asian.

The staff was actually more diverse than the clientele, a unusual situation to say the least, for Pasadena. The staff consisted of one Latina, one Latino, one Asian woman, one white male and one Black male.

As the music droned on I thought, "For the investment and staffing levels there are very few customers" Then I began to notice that none of the people around me had that indefinable look, that Dena way of dressing and carrying themselves, and that all the cars that came into the lot were black and German except one gold Volvo station wagon and my 1938 Buick. Odd, I thought.

As I was observing this and thinking again how wretched the music was and also thinking, I wonder have they managed to find the only form of modern music completely devoid of any African roots, is that an accident?", The white guy and Asian guy sitting at the table next to me were talking about real estate investment. Specifically they were discussion buying a block and when to raise the rents and evict the existing long term tenants. The one asked if it wouldn't be better to keep the tenants in place and slowly raise the rents and the other responded "Those Black businesses are marginal at best. Better to evict them first thing and get them out of our building."

So there was I, sitting in the heart of Pasadena's traditional Black neighborhood, surrounded by White and Asian people who didn't seem to be from here, where people were listening to African roots-less brittle modern music (no easy task to find, or endure) and casually, calmly and with enough volume that those sitting around could hear clearly, the intentional destruction of an entire local business community. It was a shocking moment that had me much more awake than the coffee, but that turned my sweet bready breakfast to a lump of bitter smoldering lava churning inside my intestines.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Strangling the Goose

This last Labor Day Weekend Jeanette and I attended the fiftieth Cinecon cineophile film festival held the last several years in the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. The films were great. Hollywood, not so much.

Probably billions of dollars have been spent to "revitalize" Hollywood Boulevard and Hollywood since I stopped volunteering at Centrum of Hollywood in 1980. Much of the money came from redevelopment agencies. There is, of course, a move afoot to re establish redevelopment agencies, those funnels through which mass quantities of taxpayer funds are shoved at well connected developers who promise to rid areas of "blight". Blight of course means all the small manufacturing, service, locally owned, non chain businesses and anybody who can't rent a condo for at least $4 grand a month. You, dear taxpayer, are the "blight" to be gotten rid of in favor of multinational corporations and wealthy retirees from out of state, state and municipal employees who get special lower rent rates, well connected (read campaign donors) landlords. There is no place for YOU here in the new Feudal State of California.

As bad as that all is, a walk down Hollywood Boulevard on any Saturday evening will be very educational to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. As one walks east from the corner of Hollywood and Highland, one will be walking past allys, facades and buildings where Chaplin and Lloyd once shot film, where Joan Crawford once went to balls dancing the Charleston and drinking illegal hootch, and where as late as 1990, small local neighborhood based and tourist based businesses that offered quality goods, once held on biting their nails.

One will notice while attempting to dodge a aimlessly walking crowd of people who don't seem to be doing anything but promenading, that the sidewalk, Hollywood's internationally famous "Walk of Fame" feels like a foot roller coaster. It's lumpy from trees poorly planted during the Woo years (no root control systems), from ground settling due to a carelessly built subway line, and ill considered underground condominium parking garages.

 It seems no one bothered with the underlaying geology while bulking up Hollywood. As DeMille pointed out in his retrospective book on Hollywood's early movie colony, at one time this area, Hollywood Boulevard, was a streambed, and that stream runs UNDERGROUND ALL YEAR LONG in a matrix of sand and gravel. Place new solid objects in that matrix and the water runs round it in a new direction and place, undermining the ground below the sidewalks.  This has been CLEARLY happening for a decade, but all officialdom pretends to not notice as they approve ever more dense and high condos, and newer bigger commercial projects. The sewer lines, water supply lines, and natural gas lines all run in this now disturbed moving matrix. It should not take a genius to figure out that these 100 year old bits of infrastructure may be damaged by the inevitable results of all this development. This weekend while I was walking to and from my motel to the film festival there were two emergency underground repairs. Last year there was one, and there were two the year before. So in the last three years I've spent 15 days in Hollywood and seen five emergency underground repairs in one half mile area. This was entirely foreseeable. At least one letter by yours truly was published in truncated form about this infrastructure issue in the LAT and was read by me at public hearings while the subway was under consideration. While I don't have a degree in geology, it seems my amateur knowledge was superior to those who certified EIRs saying "No Problem".

I point this out, not to say "I told you so" or to point out my manifest brilliance. I point it out because every Tuesday throughout California for the last thirty years and going on today, elected officials are betraying the trust the public has granted them by approving projects that risk the public health and safety.

Sure they do this in PART because of the campaign donations the special interests have given them, but there is another reason: California's local and State officials have over promised wages, benefits, and retirements, to the public employee unions that quite simply are out of the realm of reality, especially when compared to what's left of California's non governmental economy. The only way to begin to pay these outsized paychecks and benefits is to increase dramatically the taxation per acre of California land, and the only way to do that is through new building everywhere and driving out of the State through policy everyone whom is not fantastically wealthy.

So as the subsidized private sector mega developments go up where small developments are prohibited, through a system of bribery called the Conditional Use Permit process, and as these projects are always certified by "experts" to have little or no environmental impact, the environment and infrastructure of California constantly degrades as the wealthy developers and government employees ride a gravy train that is dooming all that once was the Golden State. They are strangling the goose.

Movie moguls seek yet another special privilege...

The movie business is going once again to the California State Legislature seeking another bribe, er ah tax break, to stay in California. Once again, they threaten without tax breaks they will leave California and take thousands of jobs with them. The hand wringing at every level of government local and State is indeed AMAZING to behold. Especially if you ever belonged to, or cared about, a industry that was worth more money to the State of California that the same legislature destroyed through regulation with complete callousness and contempt. You know, say radiator repair shops or fireplace manufacturers.......

Now I am not one who says the Movie/Television/Entertainment industries should not get a break, no it's just that the rest of us should have the tyrannical yoke of the California State legislature eased upon our necks. Does the California State Legislature care that it destroyed the California Furniture industry? Nope. Does the California State Legislature care that it's new cap and trade fuel regulations could move transportation trucking companies out of state and make the port of LA so expensive that Texas or a new port in Mexico would become viable economic options? Nope. Do they care that their tyrannical yoke is strangling California agriculture, the produce, nut and date basket of the world? Not at all. Those are not pretty people. They don't in the minds of the imbiciles elected to the legislature, improve the status and glamor of the legislators themselves. Hollywood matters, Almond producers, who are worth double Hollywood's value to the State economy, not so much.

At every level, at every moment of our lives there is a regulation passed by the legislature tat hobbles your life. It's killing the California economy, the California lifestyle and for you imbicile legislators, a word you can understand, the California BRAND. California is no longer seen by ANYONE as a golden state of opportunity where one can in any sense breathe free. it's  a place for stifling taxation and regulation.

So, yes, give the Film industry YET ANOTHER tax break, but lets look at regulation and give everyone else a break too.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gentrifuckation at 24 Hour Fitness

So this morning at 6:25 a.m. as I am checking into 24 hour fitness, Dominique, the young bright University student who has the morning shift and who I kid unmercifully about her straightened hair, says to me "Hey can I talk to you about something?" I'm being me concerned that somehow I have pissed her off without realizing it, but I say 'Sure." After everyone else is done checking in she says "Let me tell you what just happened"  "O.K."

"This lady came in Last week early in the morning. Rap music was playing on the speaker system"
"She asked me to please stop playing that "Ghetto Music" The Black guy checking in looked like he wanted to kill her and I shot him a quick "be cool brother" look."

'Lol does she know where she is?"

"Yeah like RIGHT?
So she came in right before the group you came in with this morning and rap was playing again on the music system. She was like "Who do I have to talk to so you will stop playing this Ghetto Music?"

(Laughs) "No Really? "

I thought about it the whole time I worked out on the treadmill. My heart rate was about 25 beats per minute higher than normal and I was working hard to stay calm and not get pissed. It really is no laughing matter.

The fact that a middle aged white woman can walk into a gym staffed about 40% by Black people, in a neighborhood populated by about 40% Black people, in a redevelopment allegedly built to employ black people, In a gym used by 40% Black people and demand an end to the playing of the current music enjoyed by most Black people under fifty, can only mean one thing: GENTRIFUCKATION has hit its second wave.

In the first wave the gentrifuckers are kind of hiding, sort of keeping their heads down low attempting to buy up the neighborhood with their friend and not arouse any ire of the local population. In the second wave, the gentrifuckers begin to feel their oats. they know they have reached CRITICAL MASS and now they will begin the direct assault on everything in the community they believe is not all white, uptight and in their groove. Rap is not to them all white. They don't want it in their world view. It must go.

That's where we are in West Altadena today.

While I have no love for Rap music (Or any music, actually, while I am working out), I think I am going to call the manager and tell him how much I love the early morning rap music. Maybe they can play some more later into the morning......Yes there are things worse than a music form that objectifies women and stereotypes men as criminals- The people who would if they could, remove e very black person from our community and every trace of Black culture, achievement and invention with them.

Since a Black man invented cardiac bypass surgery and I owe that my existence, I'm not down with that perspective.

So at 24 hour fitness at least, M N M and Jay Zee are my main men......

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Frank Lloyd Wright wasn't nearly expressive enough about museums.....

Frank Lloyd Wright had a well known dislike for museums his entire life. As an ARTIST he knew museums and their staffs saw art as static, lifeless, to be embalmed and entombed and therefore to them, priceless. Museums their staffs and petrified directors didn't see art as alive, breathing nd a part of EVERYDAY LIFE.

Today, Jeanette and I saw three exhibits and had this viewpoint driven directly home. The first exhibit was at LACMA and was a exhibit of the works of Calder. Things started off badly. I had to walk through the grounds, seeing the layers of incoherent remuddling. To an Organic Architect these layers of thoughtless incoherence are extremely annoying. But I wanted to see Calder's work, so I tried to shove down my annoyance.

Next we enter the pavilion, hand our tickets to the guard and I walked right up to a half size mock up of a Stabile. I stood within one pair of its five wings and was pointing out to Jeanette with my finger no closer that a respectable four inches to the steel the weld locations and lengths. Well I was about to that is till an officious security nimbot panicked rushed over and had a hissy fit that I was too close to the art object. I really TRIED to not get pissed, but I may has well left right then. I almost said, but my old age prevented me, "Are you fucking nuts? The full size is in a public park where pigeons shit on the top, people rub it, lean on it, lick it and fornicate at its base at night. The full size is in the weather where it RUSTS. Gimmie a BREAK, over precious twit." I didn't. Jeanette has endured enough embarrassment by my noting reality to people locked in dream states. Besides I just drove an hour and paid for two very overpriced tickets.

So I Stopped looking at the stable and went inside to see some mobiles. LACMA, being a museum hell bent on proving the accuracy of Frank Lloyd Wright's negative opinion of such institutions had displayed the mobiles in niches where they had almost no airflow acting upon them, so they did not act as they were designed to act and did not move constantly. They were STATIC. The almost eighty year old man next to me was pushing a woman my age in a wheelchair and stopped to show her the first mobile. Because it was totally out of the air flow it was static. The old man blew on it so it would MOVE as it of course was designed by Calder to do. A nearby security guard rushed over, almost knocked me and the old man down and instructed him in a urgent voice that blowing was prohibited. Again, I almost demanded my money back and left...

I spent the whole exhibit looking for the security assholes and exhaling as deep breaths as possible in the general direction of the mobiles. Many of them moved and were DELIGHTFUL in their motions. Calder made art for REGULAR people. His art even in the depression was AFFORDABLE. Yes he made huge stuff and complex bigger stuff, but Alexander Calder was a AMERICAN and he wanted to make art for EVERYONE. He wanted it approachable, he made it to be interactive with the environment and the viewer, he made it to DELIGHT those who saw it with its playfulness. He made a lot of it to be TOUCHED. All of this intention of Calder's is LOST on the bone brains who collect art and run museums.  To them the black thread on a mobile has no value if it isn't original. Oh my God !!! Heaven forbid the mobile MOVE and the thread need replaced! That would diminish the

V A L U E. Gag.

In the 1980's I had Greene and Greene clients who were art dealers. They paid me to restore two Calder mobiles, one pre war with color brushed on crudely, one post war with color sprayed on from a spray can. Both made with the urgency of creation, with what one would call "mistakes" like file marks and paint imperfections. I cleaned the rust off them, repainted areas as appropriate and re strung them as the strings had either broken or were on the verge. It seemed strange to see mobiles behind glass, in back of ropes, with anxious guards surrounding them. I held such things in my hands, I worked on them, I gave them life back. Now somehow, sadly they are too precious for anyone to blow on so their movement can be seen.

"To hell with LACMA. Sell off the collection. Build condos." I was pretty pissed.

SO I figured maybe walking into the photography exhibit would cheer me up. Of course photographs now are PRECIOUS.  And since the photographs are PRECIOUS the light level must be adjusted so low that no one can make out any detail in the image unless one stands four inches from them and of course if one gets any closer than a foot from them, you guessed it, the security bone brains start to hover, worry and tell one to step back. It was totally frustrating. Further, not a single Stieglitz to be found. No Heine, No Teske, a teensie bit of Ed Weston, but none of his breathtaking photos of fruit, veggies and ordinary household objects that give a whole new sight, none of his son Brets breathtaking work with reflecting water. Odd crappy 1970's neo retro color photos. One Maplethorpe, and none of his breathtaking color wash work. I mean if we are going to show 1970'/80's color, why not show something really good? Not at all a good exhibit as far as objects chosen and horribly displayed. Second or uh that dirty word, REPRODUCTION prints at a readable light level would have been better, one could have at least SEEN something without violating the sensibilities of the ever present security.

Mercifully, across the street, the A&D museum was showing a collection of reproduced Richard Neutra furniture. These were all pieces Neutra had designed for (oh shutter the thought) PRODUCTION, and most of them were produced in small lots during Neutra's lifetime.  A company is now reproducing them and these copies are as good and in most cases BETTER than the original production models. Amazingly, they can be sat upon. One can compare the fit of the chairs to ones body, can relate to them can discern the subtle differences between leather and cloth upholstery, can marvel at the visual sharpness of mitered corners and how they have been subtly eased so as to not be as sharp to the touch as they are to the eye.  Richard Neutra would have had his perfectionist eye pleased with each of these. That exhibit was worth the drive and they even gave you for the ten dollar price of admission a book on the furniture that will become in time a valuable collectors item....More museums should be run like this and more should have reproduction works that are not so precious that they can not be interacted with as designed.

A & D as a comparison to LACMA is proof ARCHITECTS should run museums....

Monday, February 3, 2014

On Making Altadena Walkable.....

There is a group in town that's wanting to get a study funded about how to make Altadena walkable. They are organizing to have this done so a grant can be written and funded. Myself I am kind of confused. I've lived in Altadena all my life. Its the most walked non gentrified non Uber developed place in Southern California. people are walking here all the time and walking everywhere,

It seems the good grant writer who is facilitating this group doesn't know that these studies have been done. We know the answers, the answers don't really change, and what's more, the answers are really the same town to town and place to place. That's because the people who do this have all been implementing the same strategies and methodologies since San Francisco redeveloped Ghirardelli Square in the early 1960s. In fact, way, way, way back in 1987, in the last Altadena Community Plan, every strategy for street improvement that leads to walkability was studied and discussed endlessly. A report was written with the strategies that would work on Mariposa where the land is flat and Lake Avenue where the land is steep. While the County of Los Angeles accepted the plan and even adopted it's findings regarding the Mariposa and Lake Avenue business areas, except for the installation of trash containers and regular servicing of them, in 2004, nothing has been done to implement that well thought out workable plan.

During the redevelopment of Lincoln Avenue, Eric Lloyd Wright and Taliesin Architects developed a plan that had cross axis on the commercial where the local shops would be down visible from the car pedestrian alleys, where there were European style plazas with seating and amenities at the intersections, where there were water elements and seating areas throughout the development and where there was to be adequate parking and pedestrian amenities on the street such as benches, trash containers, and art. Once the first developer, Harold James died, and he was replaced by Greg Galletley, Greg and Corde Corillo of the L.A. County Community Redevelopment Commission conspired together to downgrade the project. Galletley to increase his profits and Corillo because he didn't think a project that nice was needed for "those people, over there." They had willing help from the east side representatives of the Altadena Town Council and various not for profit groups in town that got donations from Galletley.  They destroyed one of the best designed commercial developments that would have ever been built in California and one that was when designed twenty years ahead of its time, instead we got an underparked oversized strip mall. But all is not lost. many of those amenities could still be provided, no further study needed.

There are a lot of great ideas. They have to be built within the fabric of State and County Codes. This is why diagonal parking, a idea popular with dreamers, will not work on lake and will not work on Lincoln.. There is neither the required width, sightlines, low actual speed, or lack of grade on those streets to have diagonal parking within the constraints of the law. And just IMAGINE the hell to pay if this idea popular with the fifty people who showed up to that meeting were implemented- the THOUSANDS of angry commuting Altadenan's filled with road rage as their commute to and from work is lengthened.

What makes business districts walkable are large amounts of virtually free  three to four hour parking spaces so people can explore and stroll; shade from trees and as important, shade from awnings or roof overhands that can also protect in bad weather, areas that are like plazas that can be used both to access places unseen from the perpendicular view of the street and to congregate in, seating, bright lighting at a level six foot and under, SIDEWALKS CLEAN OF TRASH,  storefronts that are maintained, and full of interesting shops, and hate to say it to the Teatotallers in Altadena, but one thing that gets people walking in commercial districts is Restaurants and bars that serve Alcohol and music venues. We know this. Architects have been doing this since the Leidesplein was built in Amsterdam 550 years ago. The studies for how to do most of this on Lincoln have already been done. We can eliminate the things that the bad first phase of Lincoln Crossing and the lack of redevelopment agency funds make impossible now, and implement the rest. It will require changing the County Code regarding Awnings and other structures overhanging the public section of the sidewalk.

There is some talk of getting sidewalks in the residential sections of Altadena. Historically, most Altadenan's have been adamant that they just don't want this. Perhaps some streets do, and if that's so, they should be done on a block by block basis with the same kid of approval process that speed bumps have. If we are going to have sidewalks anywhere in Altadena, lets not do it as hardscape poured concrete that rolls water off the land as if it's undesirable. Lets have porous pavers over a bed of sand and deep gravel with filter mesh so that our sidewalks put water back into the land instead of run it off like its undesirable. This too is not a new idea. it was first proposed and blocked 12 years ago, by not for profits that had other plans...Altadena if it implements this can be the first place in Southern California to do so.

To review: Don't fund another income stream for a grant writer, use the plans that have already been done, and with residential sidewalks have a block by block approval process and don't run the water off, store it in the ground.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

What's a News source

People keep asking me if I have heard the latest gossip or rumor or corporate/governmental propaganda pretending to be a news story on a website that pretends to be a news source. I always respond "No. I don't read that, it's not a news source." The questioner always looks confused. Afterall, these blogs and websites SAY they are news sources.... If I said I was Elvis would you believe me?

SO for those too young, or in their youths too unconcerned to know, there is a difference between a news source and a propaganda outlet. Here are a few pointers:

1. A blog or gossip rag has a point of view, and people that are on it's side and people who are enemies. The friends get unqualified support, the enemies get ignored or derided when doing something good, and flamed beyond all reason at every opportunity to be claimed to be doing something bad. News sources are different. They may have friends and a viewpoint BUT, they cover both sides of the story, and attempt to treat those two, or three, or five sides, with equal fairness or suspicion. The Iconoclast knows of A local blog touting itself as a news source that when reached with evidence of a really juicy wrongdoing by one of the writers friends said "Well there are two sides to a story" and then buried it. A REAL NEWS OUTLET won't do that. A real news source will go get both sides of that story and COVER IT, even if, or actually, especially if, it will kill a friends career.

2. A real news source will out the editors best friend, his wife, his kids, anyone for a story. Real news sources are devoted to this long lost idea called journalism, getting to the bottom of societies underbelly and shining a big 500,000 candle power light on it and taking a photograph.

3. If you happen to be a public figure, before a real news source publishes a negative story about you, they will at least show you the decency to know they are doing a story, and allow you to respond to what they see as the facts. A gossip rag fake news source, like A blog, will not.

4. If you are a public figure and a reporter calls you and asks for a quote and you tell them what you think, the reporter doesn't say "Well Gee we wrote the story and thought you would say something else" and when you explain why you didn't say something else and why you don't believe something else, they put your actual words together with dots.....and turn your thought around 180 degrees, what you have is NOT a News source. Especially if you complain to the publisher and they promote that reporter to City Editor. Ever.

5. Real news sources have multiple reporters, editors, and people who do research. Of course some gossip rags have the same, but generally a totally ersatz imitation news source is one guy with a computer.

6. Real new sources have people working at them who went to real journalism schools or have real degrees in disciplines subjects like science, history, art, music, architecture, not squishy degrees like communications, theology, general humanities and political science.

7. If its a real news source on the internet it also has a hard copy printed, a radio or television version. If its net only, sorry not a news source.

For those who are confused, the Altadena Iconoclast is NOT a news source its a personal opinion/observation/memories blog. Also for those still confused, there are only four local news outlets:

The Pasadena Weekly
Crown City News
the Pasadena Journal

Each of those way back in my public life published both favorable and unfavorable stories about me or things I was doing. Sometimes they even got it right.