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the skunks of los feliz
What a tragedy they've suffered in Southeast Asia.

50,000 dead in a matter of seconds: it's an utterly heartbreaking, almost incomprehensible disaster.

Here's a list of agencies that are mobilizing to help the victims.
Usually, when I'm out of town in some arctic clime (see pics at right), I miss the weather back home.

Not today.

Silverlake.com may be dead, but Silverlake still has a neighborhood website that has a comprehensive links page, a truly excellent collection of historic pics of the reservoir and surroundings, and a disappointing (blank, actually) community news page.

And did I mention that the pics are stellar? For those of you in the Los Feliz viewing area click here for this aerial view of the neighborhood, circa 1922. Things have definitely changed, but the familiar pattern of the streets allowed me to find the structure that once stood on the site of my apartment building.

Also of note: pics of the movie studios that once housed Mack Sennett, Walt Disney, and others, from the time when this corner of L.A. was the epicenter of the industry.
Bush's poll numbers have dropped steadily since he won re-election, as the reality of a second term has sunk in amongst a rapidly souring electorate. That's no surprise: he didn't have a clue before, and his handling of Rumsfeld's "hillbilly armor" debacle proves he didn't suddenly sprout a functioning brain stem in the intervening weeks since Election Day.

Unfortunately the U.S. Constitution has no provisions for an electoral do-over. Buyer's remorse will get despondent voters who are slowly realizing their mistake exactly this: jack squat. In the famous words of Colin Powell: "You break it, you own it."

So enjoy your President, Ohio. Keep a stiff upper lip, Florida. Don't you fret now, Nevada.

You wanted resolve, and you got it, along with 4 more years worth of swaggering ineptitude.

No thanks for dragging the rest of us along with you.

This building on Vermont, just north of Finley, always goes just a little kitsch-crazy around Christmas. This is but a sampling of the cheery Yuletide gimcracks festooned across the grounds. Of course, this little slice o' the North Pole right here in Southern California must be experienced at night for the full, cheesy (yet potentially heartwarming, depending on how maudlin you become during the holidays) effect.

As for myself, this kind of display arouses mixed emotions. On one hand, I applaud the anonymous designer for his/her complete, unapologetic lack of restraint (not to mention taste). On the other hand, this kind of treacly crap contributes to Christmas' suffocating aura of forced smiles and phony bonhomie, sending the less religious (or downright heathen) amongst us straight to the spiked eggnog, fingers in ears to ward off yet another rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

LAPD brought it's Santa in the Crosswalk sting to Los Feliz today, sending the jolly, red-suited guy back and forth across Vermont between the Post Office and Fred 62 in order to test motorist compliance with the crosswalk rules.

The motorists, and this is no surprise to anyone who walks in Los Feliz, failed miserably. According to a reliable witness (Cami, of course), the cops netted 3 non-right-of-way-yielding scofflaws within minutes of each other.

I have to say that the crosswalk there is not well designated, but the sting does point out the fact that people cutting through the neighborhood to the 5 do not, as a rule, concern themselves with the safety of pedestrians, or anyone else for that matter.

Rush hour along Vermont and it's many side streets is a noisy, dangerous affair, a mechanistic grind of stop signs run, horns blown, brakes screeched, and curses shouted. It's a madhouse, truly.

I mean, if you won't stop for St. Nick, who are you gonna stop for?

The Griffith Observatory good news: A couple of very large donations have put the Observatory's renovation and expansion fundraising program over the top, ensuring the completion of the ambitious construction project which has shuttered the landmark since January 2002.

The Griffith Observatory bad news: The Observatory is not set to reopen until May 14, 2006! What's a space geek/sunset watcher like me supposed to do for the next year and a half? Can we at least get the grounds open sooner than that? My bench is calling me! I can see my apartment from there, and everything.

Ah, who am I kidding? My bench is long gone, removed to make room for the new-fangled glass-walled restaurant. Maybe the new benches will be even better, with better views of the basin ( no chain-link fence blocking the vista).


We'll find out in 2006.

Note: Photo from the Observatory website, wherein can be found a chronological gallery of construction photos, as well as a construction site webcam.

Mayor Hahn's LAX "Modernization" Plan won City Council approval last week, so neighbors of the airport, people who use the airport, people who use the 405, hell, almost everybody in L.A. will be affected by this huge public works/pork project in one way or another.

The one potential silver lining that may help to alleviate the inevitable increase in traffic around LAX? Councilmember LaBonge's successful attempt to insert a provision into the plan that would extend the Green Line into the airport proper, thereby creating a direct rail link that should finally give travelers a cost-effective, convenient alternative to driving.

James Ellroy took his "devil-dog" schtick to Skylight Books this week, in support of his newest book, Destination: Morgue! He can be relied upon to snarl and curse and praise the L.A.P.D., behavior which makes for great copy, (especially for the Toronto Star reporter who writes admiringly of Ellroy's tough guy persona), but has begun to supercede his writing.

Whether you love him, hate him, or used to love him and now hate him, James Ellroy was, for a time, the best chronicler of L.A.'s underbelly since maybe Raymond Chandler (who Ellroy disses for lax plotting, which was never the point of Chandler's work anyway). I devoured his books after my first trip out here, before I had decided to actually make the move, and his work has forever colored the way I view my new home.

His more recent works have devolved (in my mind) into shallow self-caricature, page after page of one sentence paragraphs and ever more hyper-stylized dialogue. Still, I pull out my copy of The Black Dahlia every now and again, dive into the expertly crafted story, and hope DePalma doesn't trash it.
Silverlaker.com is no more. When/why did that happen?
If you like the movie Chinatown (and what self-respecting Angeleno doesn't?), here's an interesting article on the film's 30 year reunion. Most of the principals were there, sans Roman Polanski, natch, who's still on the lam from a child-sex charge, and they shared some interesting behind- the-scenes stories.

I love this movie. I love it because of it's painstaking recreation of L.A. in the 30's, a sun-kissed town that was still a frontier in so many ways. The scene in which Gittes and his operative paddle about on Echo Park lake while spying on a suspected adulterer makes me wish (even more than usual) that I could see L.A. back then, just for a day. An L.A. before freeways, before smog, before , even, the San Fernando Valley was transformed from a idyllic citrus orchard into a sprawling wasteland of ranch homes and strip malls.

Of course, Los Angeles was not a Edenic paradise then, anymore than now. This city attracts a certain type of person who, like the film's Mulholland avatar Noah Cross, view the acquisition of power as an end which jusitfies any means. They're still working for the DWP, or the studios, or the big developers, or in City Hall.

They're as endemic to Los Angeles as the coyotes who prowl the hills, the hawks that patrol the skies, or the corrupt police who turn their heads as they pocket a bribe. They'll always be with us, as unmovable as the San Gabriel mountains.

The movie's famous last line says it all: "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
This weather truly rocks. I love to call people back East on days like today, nonchalantly dropping lines like: "Yeah, it's probably right around 80 today. Sun's shining. Got my t-shirt and shorts on. How's the weather there?"

'Course, in the back of my mind is the uncomfortable knowledge that I will soon be traveling to Ohio to see Cami's family for a good, old-fashioned Red State X-mas.

The forecast?

Bitter cold, with biting winds howling off Lake Erie and whipping snow into your face, much like a graffiti-removal team sandblasting a 101 overpass.

And did I mention bitter cold?

But for now, thankfully, I'm safe and warm in L.A.

From the "Just Because They're After You, It Don't Mean You're Not Paranoid" Department:

Apparently the criminal masterminds behind the international Jihadist movement have decided to try to cause jetliners to crash by shining laser beams into the eyes of the flight crew during the landing process.

Amongst the constant stream of ominous warnings emanating from Washington, cautioning of ever more far-fetched Rube Goldbergesque plots to attack us, this has got to be one of the most bizarre (not to mention ineffective).

It makes me wonder what evil plot will next be revealed by the creative thinkers at the Department of Homeland Security. Lessee, why not terrorists plotting to fire frozen turkeys out of an air cannon and into the jet intakes of airborne 747's? How about Islamists scattering banana peels along the runway? Basque separatists coordinating with the Arcturian UFO Forces to beam the flight crew right out of the cockpit?

It kills me that this kind of crap is being taken seriously, when the real threat to air safety is the fact that the Bush administration has bowed to air cargo carriers and refused to require the screening of cargo on passenger flights. When you fly, just inches below your feet are boxes upon boxes of cargo that could easily contain a bomb, and not one of those boxes is ever inspected. How long will it be before some nutjob with a grudge and a pound of plastic explosives (perhaps purloined from the Paris police) exploits that vulnerability?

Instead of focusing on that threat, I'm sure the TSA will start issuing Anti-Laser Beam Goggles to flight crews.

That'll show those raygun totin' heathens who's boss.
If you (like me) have a surplus of new, unwrapped toys just lying around the house, the Los Angeles Fire Department will gladly take them off your hands and make sure a needy kid gets his/her grubbies on 'em.

During their Spark of Love Toy Drive, you can drop toys off at any SoCal fire station.

Also accepting toys on behalf of the LAFD:

- Sav-on Drugs

- Metrolink's Holiday Toy Express Train

- LA DWP Holiday Light Festival and Traffic Jam

The Los Feliz station is located at 1601 Hillhurst Avenue.

You can use this locator to find your local fire station, if you are outside our broadcast area.
Metro has posted separate pages dedicated to the five "service sectors" it has carved out of its service area. The move is aimed at improving service across its sprawling jurisdiction by reducing the layers of bureaucracy between Metro and its riders (for more information on the Westside/Central sector, which serves Los Feliz amongst other neighborhoods, click here).

Under the Projects link on this page, I also found a page dedicated to the proposed Mid-City/Exposition Line LRT project. According to a timeline there, the line would break ground in 2006 with buildout to the temporary Culver City terminus complete by 2010.

Unfortunately, as much as I hate to admit, I'm not sure this project will help alleviate congestion in the Wilshire corridor. Under the current alignment the line will run well south of Wilshire: in fact it will run south of the 10. It's hard to imagine commuters taking the LRT only to have to transfer to a bus, and travel past the 10, to reach their Miracle Mile office. In truth, it will probably still be more convenient for them to drive.

Metro should just get up the backbone to push for an extension of the Red Line down Wilshire (something Councilmember LaBonge is behind). No other cross-town fixed-rail project makes as much sense.

I attended the Santa Fe Film Festival this past weekend, and had a great time. The film fest's lineup was interesting (saw Kontroll, which was very popular amongst festival-goers), and I ran into Mark Landsman, whose AFI short Skylab (shameless plug) I worked on. Nice guy, and the film turned out great.

I also discovered some things about Santa Fe while I was there:

1) The people are very, very friendly (almost too friendly, in a small-town, all up in your business kind of way).

2) It gets really, really cold there during the winter.

3) All food served within the city limits contains, or is smothered in, cheese.

It is a beautiful town, in one of my favorite states, and seeing the mountains and mesas blanketed with snow was truly spectacular.

The scenery along the way, as seen from the plane, was not shabby either (see pics at right).

LACMA will be hosting King Tut's treasures this summer, and it's only gonna cost you around $30 to get your chance to ogle the late pharoah's eye-popping array of gold jewelry. Some people are complaining about the high price, but you can count me among those who will gladly plunk down my money for the chance to see this stuff. After all, it's either that, or fly to Egypt to see the artifacts in situ (which would cost roughly 100 times what LACMA will be charging). And let's face it, the boy king has always been all about the money, as Steve Martin famously sang:

"Now, if I'd known
they'd line up just to see him,
I'd trade in all my money
And bought me a museum.
King Tut!"

The only bummer? The mummy itself ain't making the trip, which kinda takes a little of the whole "Curse of King Tut's Tomb" thrill out of it. Still: King Tut!

Organizers aren't wasting any time separating mummy crazy Angelenos from their money. Tickets are already available online, believe it or not.
The New York Times is reporting that the SEC is just now getting around to suspending trading of DrKoop.com and WebVan.com stocks. Apparently, both dot-com bubble casualties are being kept on life support in the hopes of being picked off by bargain hunters looking to jumpstart a public offering, or some such convoluted capitalistic plot.

Anyway, the whole thing kinda got me misty-eyed about the heady days of yore, when overpaid IT geeks right out of college spent their work days cashing in stock options and playing video games, instead of developing a realistic business model.

I had a sudden urge to order a bunch of groceries on the web, follow up with a toy-buying binge, and bring it on home with a visit to the hilarious hijinks on Z.com.

I had to settle for Ghost Sites: The Museum of E-Failure.

They're all there: 1click-vacation.com, Kozmo.com, and, of course, nrrd-e-grrlz.com.

Damn, now I'm getting all nostalgic for riot grrls.

Famed Japanese film monster Godzilla celebrates by belching acidic smoke, after receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

No word yet on whether Godzooky, his erstwhile son (with whom the giant lizard had a falling out following the failure of their show The Godzilla Power Hour) , was in attendance.


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