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the skunks of los feliz
The Save the Derby coalition has fired off an email update, and you can read it here in the Official Skunks Docu Dump.

Some highlights:

- An update on efforts to have the Derby named a Historic Cultural Monument.

- The announcement of a grass-roots effort to "oppose, as appropriate, radical changes in zoning or height restrictions that would permit massive, oversized development".

Also, the GGPNC website has pulled together tons of documents, pics, stories, and other info relating to the fight to preserve the Derby. Especially instructive are the results of a survey taken by the GGPNC at the November 10 neighborhood meeting, and for sheer entertainment value it's hard to beat the transcribed public comments from that same meeting.

My favorite? This from JP on Rodney:


And lastly, have you checked out the Save the Derby's video podcast? If you weren't able to make the November 10 meeting, you can relive the magic here.
The Orange Line's initial safety woes seem to be behind it, and ridership has been much stronger than the MTA's lowball projections, but one question remains unanswered - is the Orange Line improving traffic flow across the Valley?

Remember, that's the way the line was sold to the public. It was put forth as a way to alleviate the brutal freeway commute across the Valley floor, a way to begin to untangle the gridlock of the east-west Valley commute.

Is it accomplishing that? Is it luring a sizable number of Valley commuters out of their cars? Reports of half-empty park-and-ride lots provide part of the answer. The other part of the answer can be inferred by the lack of news stories trumpeting the ease with which traffic is now flowing across the Valley - stories that are MIA because it simply ain't so.

What the line may actually have done is to shift bus-riders from one route to another, albeit a more comfortable and reliable route. That's not necessarily a bad thing: L.A. busses could use a little more comfort and reliability.

But that's not why the Orange Line was built. It was built to alleviate traffic in the Valley, to pull people out of their cars, and to free up freeway capacity.

That, is has not done.
Life is funny:

I used to work at a talent agency, way back in the mists of time (okay, two years ago). I'm not particularly proud of that, but a fella's got to eat, right?

The agency business is bizarre (and sad, and stressful) - you have this whole stable of actors, some of whom have been with the agency for years, who call you often, keep you posted on their latest play, short film, class, or contact made ("Hey, I saw Joe Blake at the Ralph's on Olympic, and so I just went up to him, you know, very politely, and introduced myself to him. Then I saw on the breakdowns that he was casting a new AOL spot. Can you call and pitch me, since he knows me now?"). God bless 'em, they can be almost childlike in their hopefulness.

So, you get to know them, and you like most of them. I mean, you're pulling for them - they work, you get paid, right? And, truthfully, you become emotionally invested in them on some strange level.

(Okay. By now you're probably wondering how this all relates to the lede - "Life is funny", remember? Fair enough. Bear with me for a few more grafs, and we'll get there together.)

It's not surprising, then, that after I left the agency, during the long, hard winter of my unemployment, my mind would often drift back to the those folks on my old phone list. What were they doing? Who booked a pilot? Who got a drop letter? Did anyone of them remember me, even vaguely, whether for good ("You booked it!"), or for ill ("Come pick up your headshots")?

Then I'd mentally shrug and go back to worrying about paying my rent.

But Hollywood is a small town, interconnected and insular, and I'd bump into them here and there, or see a name in the trades, or spot a familiar face milking an under 5 appearance on Friends for all it was worth. Still do, as a matter of fact.

Like today: I'm sitting in the office, idly Googling "Los Feliz" (I do it so you won't have to), reading about yet another hiker who tried to take on Mt. Baldy and instead received a major schooling from Ma Nature, and I suddenly realize that not only do I know this person from my days in the agency salt mines, but she lives in Los Feliz. Then I vaguely remember seeing a news piece on the incident (which echoed a fear I have - somehow getting lost on a hike, and having my "rescue" aired live on KCAL, to my great embarrassment, and the unbridled hilarity of my friends).

The newspaper piece mines the irony of the unfortunate woman's situation (seems she went for a birthday hike, which almost became her last birthday present to herself), and contains this telling, and poignant, observation:

"S------, who is an actress, declined to state her age..."

Good girl. You may have just cheated death, but you know that your name will be in the paper, along with the fact that you are an actress, and goddamn if you're going to let some producer out there read your age. Not gonna happen.

And it was then that I had one of those meta moments, where you become acutely aware that living in L.A. is like living inside some kind of great echo chamber, where your life is on a constant feedback loop in which people, places, and events are thrown back at you by the media, or the TV, or the movies.

We're all fair game here, and we accept it. Hell, we love it. Disorientation addiction, maybe. Or maybe we're all just media whores, even (or perhaps especially) those people who claim to revile the shallowness of L.A.

And now here was this woman I used to know, who had inadvertently become a news subject, and I was consuming that news, a voyeuristic observer of her brush with death.

Which brings me (finally!) around to the central thesis of this piece (which I'm starting to think may never - possibly should never - see the light of day): life is funny. It's completely random, and random events, by their very nature, will sometimes cluster together in seemingly meaningful ways. What the fuck does it all mean? Nothing!

Like a Paul Thomas Anderson film it just sort of happens, and for a minute you think "Oho - this is headed somewhere meaningful!", but then it doesn't. It just sort of peters out, and then frogs fall into a parking lot in the Valley, and all you can think is "Hey! That's the Sears on Laurel Canyon!", or whatever.

But isn't it great?
Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we can turn our attention to the next Great American holiday ritual: buying lots of stuff in order to keep our consumer economy going (thereby creating bad service industry jobs, and enriching companies like Wal-Mart, who enrich the Chinese at the expense of American workers, who have no recourse but to take bad service industry jobs).

But why focus on the negative? Just because our economy is trapped in a death spiral of crappy jobs, huge Federal deficits, and overwhelming consumer debt (keep financing those plasma TV's people - China needs those jobs you're creating!), doesn't mean that we should forget the children.

The holidays are all about the children... right?

Unfortunately, due to the vagaries of the global economy (see above), some children are left out of the gluttonous orgy of consumption that we call Christmas. While their peers unwrap Xbox 360's and PSP's, they consider themselves lucky to receive the 21st century equivalent of a lump of coal: a woefully outdated analog information distribution device, formerly known as a "book".

These unfortunates are left behind, Halo-less, adrift in a sea of Wi-Fi without a network card, lacking even dial-up fer Chrissakes. But you don't have to let that happen. You have the power (and the high credit rating) to do something about it.

Max out your credit cards for the kids. Buy that ridiculously overpriced hunk of cutting edge technology you've been salivating over since last year's E3. Take it to one of the following locations and donate it to the children. Write the whole thing off as a charitable donation.

Everybody will be happy, from the CEO's and stockholders of the credit card companies to the lowliest peasant in China.

Especially the kids.

- The DWP Festival of Lights will, as always, have collection boxes at either end of the Festival route. Bring your unwrapped toys (or consumer electronics) and drop them off, all without getting out of your car!

- The LAFD Spark of Love Toy Drive is in full swing, as well. Gift collection boxes are located at area Sav-On stores, on Metrolink's Holiday Toy Express Train, and at your neighborhood fire station.

- Councilmember Tom LaBonge will be holding a Holiday Reception on Friday, December 2nd at the CD4 HQ. You can twist the good councilmember's ear about those potholes on your street, sample the wares of the Toluca Lake merchant community (refreshments will be served!), and drop off an unwrapped toy.

For the kids.
I figured out a use for Google Base: it's a document dump!

Click here to read Councilmember Tom LaBonge's letter in response to the efforts of Save the Derby and other L.A. preservationists to stop Adler Realty from demolishing the Derby to make way for condos.
ABC7 has added an "Ask the Mayor" segment to it's Eyewitness Newsmakers feature, wherein viewers like you (yes, YOU!) can send in a question for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to answer on-air.

Does this mean Hizzoner has dusted the KCAL/KCBS media monolith in favor of the Mouse House media monolith? Dunno, but if KCAL/KCBS still hosts a similar segment, they've very effectively buried the link somewhere in the schmancy new design of their website (Best new feature: hard-hitting polls that allow viewers like you - yes, YOU! - to voice your opinion. In today's poll, you say "Earthquakes" scare you more than "Hurricanes"! Who knew?).
The proposed Red Line extension received a boost from an independent peer review board's finding this week that tunneling below the methane fields along Wilshire Corridor could be safely accomplished with the use of newly developed technology.

Next stop? Getting Rep. Henry Waxman on board.

In other transit notes:

- The MTA and the city take a mulligan on Orange Line safety, and start "experimenting" with new safety measures, including adding strobe lights to the MetroLiner busses, lowering warning signs, and tweaking traffic lights at busway-surface street intersections. No crossing gates, though.

- Click here to see an interview with the Foothill Extension Gold Line Construction Authority Board Chairman John Blickenstaff. It provides an excellent overview of where the Foothill Extension stands, as well as the many challenges it faces.

Photo courtesy of Metro.
It's a little known fact that our corner of L.A. played host to a number of "aerodromes" during the first half of the last century, when air travel was a more romantic (and dangerous) proposition than is the case today.

This excellent site by Paul Freeman collects historical information, photos, and updated information on each site, including where to find visible remnants of the airfields.

Especially interesting are the articles recounting the histories of the Griffith Park Aerodrome and the Grand Central Airport in Glendale (for more on Grand Central, including pics of it's magnificent Terminal building, click here.) The Aerodrome is completely gone, subsumed beneath the present site of the L.A. Zoo, but the Grand Central Terminal still remains as the property of the Walt Disney Company, which has committed to restoring the structure by 2015 (click here for PreserveLA's article on preservation issues related to the Terminal).
This may not be the most exciting event I've ever posted about, but cut me some slack: the holiday slowdown has already begun, and I've got gigs of bandwidth to fill.

Anyway, the L.A. Bureau of Engineering will be holding a meeting regarding the Griffith Observatory Exterior Restroom Project on Monday, November 21 at 3:00 p.m, to be held at the Griffith Observatory Satellite (otherwise known as "that trailer across from the Zoo").

What is the Griffith Observatory Exterior Restroom Project? Dunno (Porta-potties? Latrine trenches?). If someone in the viewing area knows, I'd love (love!) to hear about it.
The L.A. Zoo's elephant exhibit has once again become the center of controversy. As construction on the new viewing area drags on (and on), the health of Gita, one of the Zoo's elephants, has degraded to what some vets are calling a terminal condition. That's not surprising: Gita and her partner Ruby have been confined to a barn while the new exhibit is being prepared.

Mayor Villaraigosa, who supported closing the exhibit before he opposed it, is attempting to fence-sit on this issue. He should do the humane thing, stop construction (or repurpose it), and send these elephants to a sanctuary where they can live out the remainder of their lives in comfort and dignity.

UPDATED: To sign a petition urging Mayor Villaraigosa to relocate L.A.'s elephants to a sanctuary, click here.

Vidcap from KNBC.
Lookout liberal weenies and nattering nabobs of negativism, everywhere: Bush is on the counterattack!

Says W (in a speech punctuated by a vicious series of karate chops on his podium):

"While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began."


I'm a little confused. Lessee here:

A) It's okay to criticize the President's deeply wrong decision to go to war.
B) It's okay to criticize his bungled war effort.
C) It's not okay to analyze how he made his decision or enumerate the ways in which his battlefield "planning" has failed.

So it's okay to say he's a dipshit, but not why? Or maybe he means that the fact that he's a dipshit is so self-evident that supporting arguments are superfluous. Perhaps he's hoping that the two contradictory elements of this statement will challenge each other to a linguistic cage-match to be held in a dank fight club somewhere in Juarez, participle vs. participle in a sweat-soaked battle royale that will end in death for both unfortunately phrased non-truths, thereby canceling each other out and leaving Bush re-established as a strong, omniscient leader who never makes mistakes (or never admits them, anyway).

Most likely, though, he doesn't know what the hell he means: he's just readin' from a card on which the words are spelled out phonetically, the better for him to stammer them out without having to engage the one functioning neuron he has left.

His internal logic, which suffers from more inconsistencies than the last three Star Wars movies combined, has been revealed as so much gobbledygook. It's the logic of doublespeak, awkward euphemism, and mangled metaphors. No one believes anything he says anymore. It's nonsense.

The only one who doesn't realize that is him.
I think they heard us.

Adler Realty sent their minions to Los Feliz tonight, and an auditorium full off pissed-off residents told them in no uncertain terms that their development, as currently planned, is a non-starter.

Rebecca Goodman of Save the Derby got medieval on their asses with a PowerPoint presentation that spelled out what the loss of the Derby would mean for Los Feliz.

Jay Platt of the L.A. Conservancy gave a point by point refutation of the company's ridiculous claim that the Derby's structure has been so altered over the years as to render it historically insignificant.

The crowd jeered the Adler group's hilarious description of the project as "emulating the traditional Spanish-Colonial style", their traffic mitigation "plan" (which amounts to road widening, and not much else), and their assertion that this gigantic complex (half a city block, with a total floor area of 150,000 square feet) would somehow be good for Los Feliz.

All in all, not a good night for the Adler people. I almost felt sorry for them.


Councilmember Tom LaBonge heard us, too. He heard the voters say that we don't want to lose the Derby to a beige stucco box with 400 parking places. His planning advisor is on record as saying that the Councilmember supports saving the Derby structure. Hopefully Mr. LaBonge will continue his great work as an advocate for neighborhoods on the City Council, and fully get behind this effort.

After the meeting my friend Anna (representing San Pedro!) and I headed over to the Derby for a drink at the after party. The bouncer told us if we stuck around long enough, we'd get a taste of Japanese hip-hop, live. To me that was Exhibit A in the argument against tearing down the Derby: where else can you go from swing to Japanese hip-hop in the space of one week?

I briefly spoke to Rebecca before I left and, in true Derby fashion, she sipped a Cosmopolitan while she animatedly recapped the night's events. She and the rest of the Save the Derby volunteers were excited about tonight's turnout, optimistic about the progress of their fight, and definitely ready to keep pressing forward in their effort to preserve the building they love so well.

Los Feliz is behind them.
Earnestness can be deadly.

To take something seriously, to care deeply about something, can seem naive, and put in print (or on a blog) it more often than not just sounds preachy.

Didactic. Boring.


But hey, some things are important. There are things in life that are irreplaceable. A person you love, your favorite book, the view from Mt. Hollywood: things that are our anchor points as we toss and struggle in the turbulent slipstream of passing time.

A building can be one of those anchors. A physical link between generations, an intrinsic component of a city's sense of place, a place to commune with the shades of those who came before, and to leave your imprint for those who will come after. A concrete and wood handhold onto which we mortals can cling for the short time we are here, and feel a sense of permanence, feel a part of a continuum of being, if only for a moment.

Not to get all metaphysical and (shudder) earnest, but some buildings so embody who we are, where we came from, and the place that we call home that to lose them is to lose part of ourselves. They inform our lives, and shelter and inspire our activities.

The Derby is such a place. We go there to get drunk in the aftermath of a bad breakup. We go to there to dance away another crappy week at the office. We go there to pretend that it's 1942 and we're Humphrey Bogart or Lauren Bacall. We go there to be in a crowd, to laugh, and forget that one day our laughter will be stilled.

It is a cornerstone of our neighborhood, and of our city. To lose it is to weaken the foundation of Los Angeles, the place and the idea, the dream that was and is. Let's not allow that to happen.

Pic lifted from Save the Derby.
Just when you thought (or fervently prayed) that the Reggie the Alligator story had finally played itself out, comes word that Steve Irwin, crocodile hunter and baby-dangler extraordinaire, has set his sights on capturing the elusive reptile.

No word yet on whether the antic antipodean will attempt to lure the creature to his doom by dangling an infant from a giant rusty hook.
NFL commish Paul Tagliabue is swinging through California this week, meeting with state and local officials as part of the renewed effort to bring a pro football team to the Southland.

Now, having the NFL return to L.A. would be a good thing (unless the Raiders moved back or city leaders let the league loot the treasury in exchange for them deigning to grant us a team).

I guess my only concern is that the proposed changes to the Los Angeles Coliseum, which are necessary to add the luxury boxes and other amenities required by the NFL, may end up altering the historic structure beyond all recognition.

During my trip to Chicago last weekend, I had a chance to see firsthand what an ill-conceived adaptive reuse of a historic football stadium looks like. Soldier Field (see above) was a storied, yet indisputably antiquated, stadium. In 2002, construction began on a new seating bowl inside of the historic structure.

Once construction was completed, the famous colonnades, which have borne witness to clashes of gridiron giants since 1924, were completely overshadowed by a huge aluminum seating bowl. The jarring effect of the ultra-modern bowl crammed into the neo-classical remains of the original structure cannot be overstated. It looks like a flying saucer shoe-horned into the ruins of a Greek temple: inelegant and obtrusive.

It may now be a great place to see and play football, but it is not the historic structure that the adaptive reuse allegedly set out to preserve.

I hope that L.A. officials will learn from the mistakes of the Chicago team, and seek an adaptive reuse design that truly preserves the historical integrity of the Coliseum.
Okay, people.

The moment is almost upon us.

Be at the Derby Neighborhood Meeting tomorrow night.

7:00 p.m.

Our Mother of Good Counsel Church, Multipurpose Building.

To get everybody fired up, I leave you with the words of the Bard:

"In peace there 's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger:
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect."

'Nuff said.
Caleefornyah to Arnold: "Drop Dead"
After a hair-raising series of near misses during Orange Line shakedown runs (including an incident during Mayor Villaraigosa's first trip on the new line), officials downplayed any safety concerns surrounding the busway's ungated right of way.

Unfortunately, only 5 days into routine operation, the Orange Line has suffered a serious accident, as a car collided with one of the huge Metro Liner busses, injuring as many as 10 people.

Details are sketchy, but it seems that the mixture of surface street traffic and speeding Orange Line busses may be more volatile than advertised.
I don't usually cover charity events, but every woman I talked to about Step Up Women's Network (not to mention my co-worker, who was on the board before she became a mom) vouched for their good deeds, and all-around positive influence on young women.

So, even though it's scheduled for the same night as the big Derby meeting (Nov.10, Our Mother of Good Counsel), let me draw your attention to their upcoming Red Carpet Boutique at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

According to the Step Up presser:

“Our theme will include red carpets throughout, velvet ropes and butlers passing out hor d'oeuvres by Star Chef Jeff Armstrong on silver platters. An anticipated 500 + guests, including celebrities, media, socialites and trend-setters will walk the red carpet into a world of glamour and prestige. Guests will shop more than 40 cutting-edge designers, nibble on hor d'oeuvres, sip complimentary cocktails by Fiji, Izze and Jake's Fault Wine , enjoy music from L.A.'s hottest deejays, unwind at our plush mobile spa, and receive complimentary cosmetic, health and wellness make-overs.”

Sounds like a full evening. Of course you could swing by the Derby meeting before the Boutique, thereby killing two activism birds with one stone, and appreciably pushing your kharma over into the "good" range.

For more info, or to register, click here.
If it's Tuesday, it's time for Transit Notes:

- It may be too early to call the Orange Line a bust, but hundreds of unused parking places at MTA lots would seem to indicate that Valley commuters are not exactly rushing to abandon their cars in favor of the busway.

- Metro is holding it's first Exposition Line community meeting tomorrow night from 5-8 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Culver City, followed quickly by a repeat performance on Thursday at the West Los Angeles Church. Will the neighborhoods buy into Metro's vision of east-west rail? We'll see.

- The Gold Line extension is experiencing your typical MTA construction problems: discovering human remains during excavation operations, and finding out (after construction begins) that a school lies right in the middle of the line's planned right of way.

- On the other end of the Gold Line, NIMBY-ism begins to rear it's ugly head along the proposed route of the Foothill Extension.


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