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the skunks of los feliz
The proposed Exposition Light Rail Line moved one step closer to becoming a reality today, as the MTA board gave the Downtown-to-Westside line the green light.

The Expo Line will (if built as planned) follow an old street-car right of way, and will connect USC to downtown before running westward to a temporary terminus in Culver City. At some point in the future, if the stars align and the Feds keep the money flowing, the line would be extended westward to Santa Monica, finally creating that holy grail of L.A. transit geeks (of which I am one): a rail line to the beach.

Which is all very well.

However, I can't help but wonder if a better use of these funds might be a Red Line extension, which, until recently, had been a nonstarter, the third rail of L.A. transit politics, if you will (or even if you won't). Now, thanks to Councilmember Tom LaBonge's tireless efforts, the notion of a subway extension is no longer the laughable proposition it was just a year ago. And it is into this project that I think the MTA should be putting it's resources.

It's not that I'm against the Expo. If we had money to burn, I'd say let's burn it. But we don't. And the Expo line, which is being sold as a line to serve the Westside, will do little to alleviate traffic on the overburdened I-10 corridor. I mean, let's be honest: the alignment of the Expo Line takes it far south of the 10 except for one short stretch near the terminus in Culver City. Does anyone seriously think that commuters are going to drive past the 10, miles out of their way, to catch a Downtown train?

Unlikely, at best. Which begs the question: if this line will not reduce traffic on the 10, what's the point? Even when (if) the line is built out to Santa Monica, the benefits to commuters are unclear.

It seems to me that perhaps this line was (appropriately, at the time) conceived as an alternative to a Red Line extension, during the dark days when the subway was the whipping boy of everybody from Rep. Henry Waxman to County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Those days are gone.

Plans can be adjusted. It's not too late. The MTA should stop now to reconsider the Expo Line.
Who is Heavy Trash, and why are they building viewing platforms outside of L.A.-area gated communities? Well, they've erected a platform in Los Feliz, for those who would like to see for themselves.

Personally, gated communities don't bother me. I prefer to think of them as prison camps for paranoid rich people, rather than idyllic havens from the ills of urban life. If they (gated communitizens) want to stare at a wall all day, I say let 'em.

Still, those viewing stands are kinda cool.
Spoon rules.

(Another free download here).
Bush's touching pas de deux with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah notwithstanding, the desert kingdom has once again found itself at the center of controversy, as NBC news has uncovered an audiotape of the chief justice of the Kingdom's Supreme Judicial Council encouraging Saudi citizens to go to Iraq to fight the U.S.

Now, I think the Iraq war was a mistake, but I can't say that I like the idea of our "allies" in the House of Saud inciting their citizens to murder our servicemen and women. And, of course, this is not the first such incident. From their possible involvement in financially supporting the 9/11 hijackers, all the way down to this latest insult, the Saudis keep bitch-slapping us, and we keep taking it.

And how does Bush, the national security president, respond? With a little bit of old-fashioned Texas-style canoodling, that's how. He will do anything to keep the oil flowing. Fattening the pockets of his cronies in the oil industry is job one for W. Everything else, even the lives of our soldiers in Iraq, is secondary.
The Daily News has an excellent article on the continuing war between the Bus Riders Union and the MTA, a beef that is heating up again as the 1996 consent decree that forced the MTA to upgrade bus service comes to an end.

As the decree expires, expect the fur to fly as each side tries to make it's case for the future of the decree.

The BRU, having become quite accustomed to driving transit policy for the last decade, would like to extend the decree. The organization, as it's name would imply, prefers a buscentric solution to L.A.'s traffic woes. Here is a telling quote in the piece, from BRU organizer Deborah Orosz:

"If you take a couple of billion dollars, you could flood every freeway, every corridor, every canyon with buses that would come often, nights and weekends."

Yes, let's flood the streets with more busses! That will help traffic!

Well, not really. It would actually, in a nice piece of reverse classism, punish car owners for having the temerity to not be bus riders.

The MTA, rather unsurprisingly, is not in favor of an extension of the decree. They want to build rail, damn it, miles and miles of it, with hundreds of half-empty train cars ferrying people to everywhere in the city except where people want to go: malls, beaches, Dodger Stadium, and the airport.

Could these two groups put their heads together and come up with a compromise that works for all commuters? Yes, they could.

Will they? No, they won't.
More evidence of the much-rumored Google browser has bubbled up from the lower depths of the blogosphere.

Can it be true that Google is developing a Mozilla-based browser? All signs point to "yes", but we'll just have to watch this space and see.

In the meantime, you can see what Mozilla hath wrought in the name of Netscape here.

Welcome to a very special L.A. River edition of Skunks. Today, I'm linking to the City's excellent website dedicated to all things rio.

This baby's got it all: a watershed map, a link to the City's ambitious L.A. River Revitalization Plan, and an exhaustive list of river-related links.

Will the river ever realize it's potential as a bona-fide recreation and parks resource, as laid out in the plan? Well Grasshopper, all great journeys begin with a single step, or something like that.

Anyway, more on the river below.

The L.A. river is polluted, somewhat smelly, and mostly concrete. If you want to help change that sad state of affairs, you may want to make plans to attend the L.A. River Spring Cleanup on Saturday, May 7.

Brought to you by the good folks at Friends of the L.A. River, the GGPNC, and the Los Feliz Improvement Association, this event should be a disgusting, yet edifying experience for all who participate.

Just be sure to get your Hep A booster shot before you get near that funky-ass water.
Habemus Popem! Or Habames Papam!

Or Seig Heil!

Err, how did that slip in there? I mean sure, the new Pope is German, but isn't it a cheap shot to equate his nationality with being a National Socialist? Well, it would be if the Pope hadn't been a member of the Nazi Youth. Unfortunately, he was.

And, as an extra added bonus, he is on record as saying the sex scandals that rocked the American church were largely the product of media hysteria.

Well done, Cardinals!

World music fans (hell, music fans in general) will definitely want to check out Smithsonian Global Sound, an online store which features an incredible selection of music from all over the planet.

For just 99 cents a pop, you can download works by the Bukharan Jewish ensemble Shashmaqam, or Thorsteirin E. Thyodvisa's rendition of that all-time Icelandic classic "Hlidarendakoti (Rymur): Song of Greeting", or even recordings by the U.S. of A.'s very own Memphis Slim.

Very nice.
Violent crime in L.A. is down 27% (35% in the Valley) over last year, and yet, Villaraigosa has opened up a solid double-digit lead over Mayor Hahn, according to the latest polls.

Is it stating the obvious to say that Hahn is in deep trouble? Yes it is, but I'm going to say it anyway:

Hahn is in deep trouble. You know it's bad when he stirs himself from his usual somnolent stupor, and starts announcing "plans" to fix this or that city woe. Case in point is his tepid, half-baked scheme to fix the patient-killing King/Drew Medical Center: he wants to create what is essentially a City Surgeon General, in order to advocate for better health care facilities.

No matter that the troubled hospital is not run by the city. He's just trying to look like he's doing something, anything in office besides sleeping and engaging in widespread cronyism.

Too little, too late Mayor Hahn.

Even Magic Johnson has jumped ship, saying the Mayor "doesn't have the energy for the job".

Et tu, Magic? Et tu?

Yes sir, Hahn is definitely in deep trouble.

I just wanted to say thanks to everbody at bang. for a great improv learning experience.

I learned alot about making shit up on the spot, and for a writer, that's a good thing.

Unless you're Mitch Albom.
Southland hypochondriacs, beware: If the West Nile "epidemic" had you suspiciously eyeing crows, monitoring County vector reports, and suspecting every cough and cold as a harbinger of doom, Do Not read on.

Those of you who thrill to accounts of rare and deadly diseases that would not be out of place in science fiction films of the 1950's, please Do read on.

Doctors in Torrance are reporting an uptick in cases of the occasionally fatal, always terrifyingly named necrotizing fasciitis, otherwise known as flesh-eating disease.

This virulent little bacteria has developed quite a resistance to antibiotics, it seems, and has been reported in 14 patients at County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (none of whom, thankfully, have succumbed to the necrosis).

Creepy, huh?

One can hear the movie trailer announcer now, a voice booming out at an audience of small, crew-cutted boys in striped shirts, and jeans rolled up at the cuff:

"The most terrifying threat to Mankind comes not from Outer Space, or from the frigid wastes of Red Russia! It comes from a Microscopic beast with an insatiable appetite for Human Flesh, a beast that has risen from the overuse of that Modern Medical Marvel - antibiotics! Thrill! To the irony of Scientists laid low by their own creation! Chill! To the horrifying sight of the unfortunate victims of this Miniscule Monster! Feel! Your skin crawl with Terror - or is it the first signs of The Incredible Man-Eating Microbe? (Coming Soon to this Fine Theater)."
Amazing, but true: N.Y. admits that L.A. actually has something to teach the Big Apple about transit policy.

According to this New York Times piece, which Jessica from L.A. Ritz brought to my attention, N.Y.C.'s transit authority is studying L.A.'s Metro Rapid bus system in hopes of adapting it for the crowded streets of Gotham.

Seems New Yorkers can walk faster than the busses are able to run on Manhattan's clogged thoroughfares (which should come as no surprise, since New Yorkers are the fastest walkers on the planet), and MTA officials there are concerned that commuters will abandon the slow-moving, overcrowded rattletraps in favor of - well, the article doesn't mention any alternatives.

Anyway, the important thing is that when it comes to Rapid Busses, we rule. They still have better bagels, though.
Another chapter in the continuing saga of "Why I Hate the South, Even Though I'm From Down There (but not from Alabama, thank God)."
Attention identity thieves, stalkers, and just plain weirdos: There's a site on the web that offers one stop shopping for all your privacy bustin' needs.

Need someone's birthdate to complete that bogus credit application? They've got it.

Need someone's phone number so you can harrass them at your leisure? It's right here.

Need someone's address, complete with a satellite photo of their abode? Click here to begin planning your assault.

Want to have these assholes take your info off their site? Click here, and let the the invective fly.
Play ball!

It's opening day for most of baseball.

Got my fantasy teams squared away. Got my lucky Dodgers hat, which shall remain unwashed for it's working life, out and wore it on a hike to get it properly sweated in after it's long winter hiatus. Got my garlic fries mojo working. Passed my steroids screening test.

I'm ready to go, and so are my two favorite local baseball sites:

Want a well-written, intelligent approach to baseball? Then it's 6-4-2 you'll be wanting an RSS subscription to, boyo. Rob straddles the geographic divide between the L.A. Dodgers and the L.A. (snicker!) Angels of Anaheim, and gives them both equal play and expert analysis. He crunches the numbers so you don't have to.

Pissed off at the Dodgers for:

A) Hee-Seop Choi.
B) Keeping Tracy.
C) Raising parking prices.
D) All of the above?

Then browse to Dodger Blues, the home of long-suffering fans of the L.A. National League Baseball Club. Not for the faint of heart, this site is for people who like their baseball talk acerbic and expletive-laden, Leo Dorocher-style. Good stuff, and funny, too.

Pope who championed the "Culture of Life" put on public display in grotesque, death-cult fashion!

Get your photos of the Holy Father's corpse right here!


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