Monday, July 30, 2007

Don't Believe Da Hype(rion)

The Militant has often said that driving in Los Angeles is like watching a movie, while walking or biking in the city is like seeing a play. The Militant might have lived in the same city all his life, but he has seen the chronological changes over the years. The people of the city are the actors in the play and the streets set the scenes. Over time, these scenes have even changed their roles, or at the very least have framed different scenes using the same props.

One such street is Hyperion Avenue, straddling the line between Silver Lake and Los Feliz. Both places today are known as hipster heaven (or hell, depending on your perspective), but in the Militant's younger years, they were known as places where older folks lived (Los Feliz was jokingly known back in the '80s as "Menopauseville"). Starting at the end of Fountain Avenue and ending where Glendale Blvd. crosses the river, at 1.5 miles, Hyperion is one of those streets that didn't have to be individually named, but since someone thought up the idea, they might as well have chosen a 19th Century poem by John Keats.

Today the Militant enjoyed his two-wheeled play for today by passing the newly-installed stoplights on the jammed and risky 3-way intersection of Hyperion and Monon St. (pictured above). Though still fresh out of the box and still fragrant with that new stoplight smell, the lights were yet to be put in operation, possibly waiting a large dedication ceremony by area councilman Tom LaBonge, who would no doubt proclaim that such a day would be "A great day for Los-Anga-les."

Pedaling north towards the AWV, the Militant approached the famous Hyperion Bridge, or so he once thought it was named so. The Militant recalled, in his high school years, the day the bridge was blocked off for some on-location filming shoot, only to see it a year later in this film which he saw at the Cinerama Dome. But before reaching the actual bridge, there stood a copper plaque on a retaining wall (pictured right). It lists the various politicos and city officials of the day when the bridge opened in 1927. The first three lines of the plaque read:

WAVERLY APPROACH
GLENDALE-HYPERION VIADUCT
GEO. E. CRYER, MAYOR

Of course no one speeding by at 40 miles per hour in their car could read the text on the plaque, much less know it even exists (the two-foot wide pedestrian-hostile excuse for a sidewalk that straddles the retaining wall isn't much help either). Mayor Cryer was best known (at least to the five of us who care about Los Angeles history - Mr. Howser, Ms. Rasmussen, Will Campbell, The City Nerd and yours truly) as the mayor who brought us today's City Hall. But other sources have linked him to an organized crime mob that ran gambling and prostitution rings in the Roaring '20s. Which got this Militant wondering, if Angelenos don't even recall a mayoral administration of 80 years ago, would the Los Angeles of 2087 even know that the mayor of 80 years past banged a television news reporter if they saw "MAYOR ANTONIO R. VILLARAIGOSA" on some heavily-oxidized and graffiti-tagged (the taggers of the future will use lasers (laser-tagged?) -- you heard it here first...) copper plaque? Would they even know what a "television" was? Or perhaps the people whose names are emblazoned on dedicational plaques are keenly aware of such things, and that the plaques are the only objective indicators of their legacy?

Perhaps, this Militant believes, that the common-knowledge ignorance and disregard of Los Angeles history is intentional.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Militant Avoids Trap!

The Militant, ever low-key, has taken pleasure in anonymously enjoying, and writing about, this city -- incognito, but on Saturday night there was a very real, potentially serious threat to his anonymity.

It all started last week when a local artist emailed the Militant a press release of an art event he and a partner were staging in Echo Park on Saturday. Neither the actual concept nor the location was exactly clear, but from what the Militant understood, there would be an oversized cardboard box on display in the park, disposable cameras would be handed out and visitors would interactively partake in the display, and musical entertainment in the form of a DJ and live band would be provided. Sounded interesting, and the Militant wanted to support some local non-gentrohipster artists in doing something unique not only in the community, but for the community, and coming away with something nice and unique to write about. But when the Militant arrived, he saw nothing. No box, or anything even related to cardboard. There was a family birthday party on the picnic tables of the park and locals taking a stroll around the lake (by the way, two weeks after the Lotus Festival, still no progress on the growth of the lotus bed). The Militant even scoured all corners of the park but still found nothing.

The Militant, who relies on his instincts, suddenly sensed a moment of Ackbarian warning and came to the following conclusion: this art event was a staged trap organized by a larger conspiratorial force to get the Militant to a public event and somehow uncover his identity (assumingly through kidnapping, extortion, torture or all of the above). There was probably some van parked on the street with a mobile control center inside, monitoring the Militant's every move with the aid of piezo-electric bugs and night-vision cameras. But the Militant was able to rapidly flee the scene, unharmed, before they even had a chance to capture me.

The Militant will, from now on, have to be even more cautious and vigilant when he goes out in public. Short of wearing masks (the Militant will under no circumstances submit to cosmetic surgery, just in case you were wondering...I mean, that's just sooo un-Militant), perhaps he should double the number of operative decoys in his militia who he assigns to attend public events. Either way, whoever you are, you couldn't catch me this time, fools!!! =P

OMG, THE MILITANT TOUCHED AN iPHONE TODAY!
While visiting Farmer's Market to conduct Militant research on his Iced Dessert report, he passed by The Apple Store at The Grove and saw a table full of people, all clamoring to get their dirtly little hands on the iPhone. The Militant was able to hold one himself (pictured, left - no the Militant doesn't have some bizzare skin condition, he just pixelated his fingers so that whoever is trying to get him cannot make out the Militant's fingerprints from the picture). The instant access of GoogleMaps and YouTube were impressive, though a little confusing in terms of zooming on the former, but the Militant also noticed that one can easily wear out their fingers by constantly touching and sliding on the iPhone's touchscreen, not to mention getting one's sweat and oils all over it. And as an iPod user, this thing is gonna get scratched, you just know it. Is the iPhone cool? Hellyeah. Is the iPhone awesome? Hellyeah. Does the Militant need one? Hellno. At least the Militant won't get iPhowned, like one Dallas woman did.

If the 'Pod is any indication, the Militant believes that five years from now the iPhone (not to mention the inevitable iPhone Mini and iPhone Nano) will be affordable enough that they'll be just as ubiquitous as iPods today.

Final Thoughts - The Grove
Much has been talked about the artificial urban environment of The Grove, as well as Universal Citywalk and perhaps LA Live! - the Militant saw throngs of people either shopping, eating, heading to the movies or just chilling on a Saturday afternoon, the kind of thing you'd want your tourist relatives to see. The Militant does believe though that this might all just be a dress rehearsal for the real deal we've yet to see in the future Los Angeles. Remember, just 20 years ago we were confined to indoor malls. Things happen quickly here. Perhaps places like Grand Avenue Park and the Militant's favorite project, the Hollywood Freeway Central Park will prove our worth in the years to come.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ethnic Iced Dessert Quest - Part 2: Ice Kachang...ka-CHING!

Relax, the Militant Angeleno has not suddenly turned all food blog on you. This is just the second installment in a series to explore ethnic iced desserts found in restaurants around Los Angeles. It's summer, after all. Today the Militant was willing to suffer brain freeze, for you, the reader, in order to present to you ice kachang from Singapore...

The island nation of Singapore (which, as the Militant mentioned recently, can fit inside the San Fernando Valley) is often misunderstood by most Americans. More famous for banning chewing gum and caning spoiled American teenagers, the greatest cultural exposure to Singapore by Americans has probably been the recent flick, Pirates of the Carribbean: At World's End. But in addition to being a Militant Angeleno, the Militant is a Militant Traveler as well, busting stereotypes and preconceived notions to seek what's real. The Singapore he found was high-tech, full of lush tropical greenery, has a few kick-ass shopping malls with nothing but computer/electronics stores, is freaking hot and humid all year long and the biggest discovery of all: has the most awesomest food in the world.

Speaking of the latter two, the country boasts several ice desserts, most of them derived from the traditions of the country's next-door neighbor, Malaysia (which the Militant has actually walked to from Singapore). The most well-known one is ice kachang.

Meaning "ice beans," ice kachang in its most basic form consists of shaved ice and sweet red beans. But different versions found around the island also contain (and come in various combinations thereof) sweet corn, jelly cubes, slices of Southeast Asian fruits like jackfruit or durian and sweetened evaporated milk. Like its Korean cousin binsgu, it's a shaved ice treat enjoyed in the hot weather months. But unlike Korea, Singapore, located just miles north of the equator, has about 12 of them, so ice kachang is enjoyed year-round.

Modern Singapore has fancy restaurants just like any cosmopolitan city. But the real food is found in hawker centres (also known as "hawker stalls"). To the American eye, they just look like busy, steamy, semi-outdoor food courts, but this is truly where it's at in The Lion City. The quality of the food (Singapore's health ministry also employs Los Angeles County-like restaurant letter grades) defies its amazingly inexpensive price, which is the main reason the Militant has visited Singapore more than once.

Because of Singapore's first-world economy and the level of English fluency (it is one of the four official languages of the country, along with Mandarin, Malay and Tamil), there is no Singaporean enclave in Los Angeles (mainly because there's like 14 Singaporeans living in the entire United States), but locally, ice kachang can be best found at Singapore's Banana Leaf, located in our legendary Farmer's Market in the Fairfax District. But the Militant believes SBL couldn't be at a more appropriate place, as Farmer's Market is basically the Los Angeles version of a hawker centre, still lending an authentic feel to the place. Located towards the 3rd street side of the market, SBL also has amazingly awesome Singaporean dishes like roti paratha, nasi goreng, mee goreng, rojak salad, beef rendang...Whoa! Stop! Wait! Hold on! The Militant must take a moment to cease salivating...

...Okay, the Militant is back. Where was I? Oh yeah, ice kachang. Singapore's Banana Leaf describes their version of the icy dessert as, "Crushed ice, jackfruit, sweet beans, evaporated milk and rose syrup." But the Militant noticed some chewy green jelly cubes mixed in as well. The Militant had his ice kachang on a warm, Saturday evening just coming out of work. But his glorious dish of ice kachang was starting to melt faster than a polar ice cap, so he quickly picked up the slices of jackfruit, dug into the ice, (AAAARGH! BRAINFREEZE!!) revealing the red beans (AAAARGH! BRAINFREEZE AGAIN!!) embedded underneath like buried treasure. The jackfruit slices were a bold declaration of the dish's Southeast Asian origin, which set it apart from the earlier-featured Korean bingsu of the northern latitudes.

Not unlike other stalls in Farmer's Market, the place has a counter with a menu display. But it does have its own set of tables, or rather one table row, which is nicely decorated with a batik pattern tablecloth, accompanied by rattan chairs.

Perhaps the young lady sitting on the other side of the table should have had some ice kachang, as she briefly prior to suffering a heat-related fainting spell (she was okay later on with a little help from the SBL staff and her friend). Just like in Singapore, on a hot summer's day, the rule of law is that this has to be eaten ASAP and on the spot. If not, you'll get caned (actually, you won't, but you'll just end up with a watery slush).

Other sources of ice kachang can be found in the area's Malaysian restaurants, like Yazmin in Alhambra and West Covina's Penang. The Militant also welcomes reader-submitted suggestions on where to find ice kachang.

Ice Kachang (Singapore)

Singapore's Banana Leaf in Farmer's Market
6333 W. 3rd St.
Fairfax District

Item: Ice Kachang, $4.55

Ethnic Iced Dessert Quest - Part 1: Bingsu Bada-Bing!

Most appropriate for summertime, this is the first in a series by the Militant Angeleno to feature the diverse array of ethnic iced desserts available in the Los Angeles area. Yeah sure, ice cream, gelato and fro-yo get all the press these days, but the Militant does not like to follow the crowd. Desserts based on ice are found in the cuisines of many different cultures around the world, and are not limited to Slurpees, Icees, Sno-Cones or Italian ices. From Korea to Singapore to The Philippines to Thailand to Japan to Taiwan (The Militant is even gathering some research on Latino iced deserts as well), The Militant will take you there, without even leaving town. GET CULTURED!

Before Pinkberry served the first customer on Huntley Drive, there was Red Mango. But before Red Mango served the first customers on the streets of Seoul (incidentally their USA site is devoid of any references to their Korean roots for some reason), there was the Korean shaved ice dessert called bingsu (also spelled "patbingsu," "patbingsoo," "binsu" or "binsoo"). Popular in the hot, summer months, it consists of a mound of shaved ice, topped with fruits (usually bananas, strawberries and kiwi), jelly, sweet red beans, syrup, mini-rice cakes (no, not the dry, crunchy ones you find at Trader Joes, more like Japanese mochi - but some Koreans (or Coreans, rather) hate it when they get referenced to Japan, long story...), cereal (Fruity Pebbles is a popular topping...see where I'm getting at now?), doused in condensed milk and sometimes topped with a scoop of ice cream. Ergo, the Pinkberry variant is more or less a simplified, "nonfat" version of bingsu. P'berry even serves a $7+ "Shave Ice" selection that is pretty much bingsu with frozen yogurt (Which the Militant actually finds to be the most enjoyable thing at P'berry, try it sometime).

Locally, bingsu can be found in...Little Ethiopia (just kidding). It's in Koreatown, of course and the most obvious place is Ice Kiss Cafe, located on west 6th Street (which incidentally boasts a Pinkberry, a Kiwiberri and a SnowBerry all within a one-mile stretch) and Kenmore Ave. The place also serves pastries, coffee, tea, boba and a small selection of soup and food items, but the main thing is bingsu (which is not referred to as such in the menu). Their eponymous "Ice Kiss" (pictured above) is the full-fledged bingsu here, which fits the aforementioned description, but they also offer simpler varieties, including red bean and green tea. And not to be left behind, yes, you can has fro-yo.

For a Militant like me who just came off of a 4-mile bike ride after seeing The Simpsons Movie, bingsu really hit the spot on a warm summer's evening. For the uninitiated, bingsu's (and that of most every other Asian shaved ice dessert) contents were made to be mixed around with a spoon, rather than just eaten sequentially (that's no fun). As with all of these kinds of shaved ice deserts, it's all about the contrasts in texture: The smooth texture of the fruits against the creamy texture of the strawberry ice cream against the more slushy texture of the ice against the dry, crunchy texture of the Fruity Pebbles. Call it a symphony, call it gestalt, whatever...it works. And it's delicious.

There have been more than a few reservations by bingsu connoisseurs on the Yelp.com site which complained about the freshness of the fruit, which was true of the banana, but it wasn't enough to dampen the Militant's experience. Besides, I'm a Militant, not a full-fledged foodie, so please bear with me.

The small-but-cozy-establishment features mostly outdoor patio seating, which is most appropo for a July night like this. The clientele, aside from the Militant, was mostly Korean/Korean American teenagers to young adults, though a couple of Latinos were enjoying their desserts here as well. While the Militant enjoyed an Ice Kiss in a glass bowl sized for one ($6.99), The bingsu also comes in larger, dog-bowl sized (come to think of it, they look just like real dogbowls) containers, made to be shared in a group. Way more chill than the club-like environment of P'berry just a snowball's throw distance away, the outdoor cafe setting lent a pleasant urban feel to the place, as opposed to the glass-enclosed confines of You-Know-What-Berry. The Militant even gave extra points for the convenience of the sidewalk horseshoe just outside where he was able to park his bike.

For those seeking bingsu elsewhere, most "Cafes" in Koreatown serve bingsu/shave ice deserts. Among them the nearby Mr. Coffee on 6th and Western (in the same minimall as SnowBerry). Unconfirmed Militant sources also point to the Koreatown Plaza food court further south on Western. The Militant welcomes reader comments on other local bingsu spots.

Bingsu (South Korea)

Ice Kiss Cafe
3407 W 6th St (at Kenmore)
Koreatown

Item: Ice Kiss (for one), $7.

The Militant's Review: 'The Simpsons Movie'

So The Militant got to go see The Simpsons Movie after all on the evening of opening day at The Arclight. As a self-professed Simpsons geek, it was more of a cultural event than anything else. The movie was funny and entertaining, though the Militant was expecting a little more, even noticing that nearly all of the subplots were done in previous episodes in some form or another (though that might have been intentional as an homage to the series...but after 18 years of episodes, storylines have become cyclical), overall the plot (which also was somewhat derived) stuck to Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie as the primary characters with most everyone else more or less delivering least one token gag. The producers used the movie format to not only show a little more on the sides, but to get away with more kinds of humor or references on the bigscreen with a PG-13 (Or is that a SPIDER PG-13?) than they could even do on FOX.

But back to the cultural experience, it turned the usual adventures of Our Favorite Family (which is normally enjoyed alone or with a living room full of family or friends) into an even larger, communal experience, with hundreds of people laughing at pretty much the same gags you are. That in itself is worth the value of the movie alone.

The Militant gives The Simpsons Movie 8 out of 10 clenched fists.

And oh yeah, Mr. Burns dies at the end.





(Just kidding).

Friday, July 27, 2007

On 7-27-07, The Militant's Picture Is Revealed...In Simpsonized Form!

As promised, here is a picture of the Militant for all the world to see...Of course, the Militant didn't promise a *photograph* but this is a picture of what the Militant may (or may not) look like. In true showbiz media fashion, the Militant reeled you all in with a teaser -- complete with numerical date. The Simpsonization of the Militant's apparent likeness (Or might this be an intended front to distract one from recognizing the real likeness of the Militant?) is no doubt relevant to the date, as today marks the release of The Simpsons Movie.

As many American cities named Springfield lobbied to be the real "Springfield" for the movie's world premiere, as any diehard Simpson fan would know, Springfield is really an amalgam of different cities in the U.S. Still, that never stopped Springfield from having a Hollywood-like "SPRINGFIELD" sign and a Griffith-like domed observatory in its hills. Of course, it never hurt that the animation studio that produces The Simpsons is located in Burbank (previously in Valley Village), and even the studio that produced the Tracey Ullman Show's prototype Simpsons shorts and the first few seasons is located in the heart of Hollywood. Also, having native Angeleno Harry Shearer in the cast, doing the voices of everyone from Montgomery Burns to Ned Flanders to Kent Brockman (who was based largely on the late, great Los Angeles news anchor Jerry Dunphy) makes this Militant say, "Woo-Hoo!"

But for the Militant, the greatest Los Angeles moment in The Simpsons was when the only live-action part of an episode was actually filmed here.
In Episode 3F04 (1995's Treehouse of Horror VI), Homer enters the 3rd dimension and ends up in our 3-D world, ultimately forgetting his inter-dimensional trip by walking into an "Erotic Cakes" store, filmed on-location along a set of storefronts on Ventura Blvd. near Ventura Canyon Ave. in Sherman Oaks:


Homer drops into the 818 in 1995's Halloween episode.

The Simpsons have been not only the mirror, but the instigator of pop culture for nearly the past two decades. Only time will tell whether "Spider Pig" will be as ingrained into the lexicon of Simpsonalia as "The Stonecutters Song."


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Militant Update: Battle of the Hip-Hop Violinists!

It seems as though the Militant's favorite Hip- Hop Violinist (and LAist's as well) Paul Dateh has been in a bit of legal trouble, as he's been slapped with a Cease-And-Desist Order from the lawyer of NY-based hip-hop violin player Miri Ben-Ari, who apparently has trademarked the phrase "The Hip-Hop Violinist." Ben-Ari has apparently had a bigger brush with fame, having guested on recordings with the likes of Wyclef, Alicia Keys and Kanye West. Of course, the fact that Angeleno artist Dateh is West Coast and Ben-Ari is East Coast is not lost on the Militant at all, which therein, to take a cue from how B-boys, MCs, DJs and graffiti artists determine who's got da skillz, lies the most hip-hop of all solutions to this dilemma: HIP-HOP VIOLIN BATTLE!!!

Though the Militant is obviously geographically biased - the fact that someone has trademarked the phrase "The Hip-Hop Violinist" and has hired suited attorneys to guard the usage of such a phrase - is as far from being hip hop as one can get. I mean, seriously, did DJ Kool Herc ever trademark the phrase, "The Hip-Hop DJ?" In other words, Ben-Ari be wack (Besides, her over-polished ish sounds more at home at 94.7 The Wave than something played on a pair of Technics 1200s)!

Of course, money talks in the industry game...Maybe the more street-cred Dateh can use the phrase, "Da Hip-Hop Violinist" to avoid a court appearance.

But still, a battle would still be mad dope.

The Militant Goes To The Valley

The Militant paid a visit to the San Fernando Valley for the first time since inaugurating this here blog. Yes, the Militant drove his car this time, because one of the purposes had something to with routine auto maintenance in North Hills (kind of hard to do if you didn't bring your car), and also the transport of unspecified Militant cargo to a destination in the foothills of Encino later that evening. But all was consistent with the Militant's "Car-Lite" rules; the trip was over 10 miles from home, so it warranted auto travel. Besides, the entire trip was still conscious of saving gas and mileage as the Militant, having had the Encino destination on his calendar for over a month, purposely scheduled the North Hills appointment on the same day to avoid taking multiple trips to The Valley, thus accomplishing the goal of saving gas, mileage and money.

Though many have ridiculed or disdained The Valley as some suburban wasteland, the Militant has an admitted sentimental fondness to it, for personal reasons. Though the Militant has never lived in the 818, and has never planned on living there, given a choice between The Valley, the SGV, The IE or the Antelope Valley, The Militant would choose the 818 in a heartbeat. Say what you will about The Valley, it still has way more flavor than the Inland Empire will ever have. The Militant would even rather live in The Valley than in the Westside...(At least The Valley has mass transit...).

On this July Wednesday, the temperature in the 91343 zip code area was a scorching 95 degrees. The Militant, while waiting for his car maintenance, and stuck at a waiting room without a complete newspaper nor a notebook to write on, decided to take a walk outside. So he left the air-conditioned confines of the unspecified auto dealership waiting room and crossed Sepulveda Blvd, walking past the cars stopped at the intersection with their air conditioner systems buzzing and whirring loudly. The Militant wanted to do what the Militant usually does when he takes a walk to an unfamiliar place: mapping. The Militant's stroll through The Community Formerly Known As Sepulveda yielded a taco joint here, a Mexican mariscos restaurant there, an old-school minimall, a new-school minimall, a Panda Express with a drive-thru, another minimall. After barely a block, the Militant decided it was too damn hot to walk any further...and headed back. Crossing Sepulveda again, a large Coca-Cola billboard loomed not too far up the street. Aimed to those who habla espaƱol, the billboard read, "¿Tienes Sed?" (Are you thirsty?), and the little voice in the Militant's head (the same one that told him to start this here blog) said, "Si!"

But The Militant realized something during his two-block walk: Compared to the sidewalks on The Other Side Of The Hill, they're wider, cleaner and in much better condition...yet no one walks in The Valley (save for Downtown Burbank, NoHo Arts District, Toluca Lake, Ventura Blvd in ShOaks and that little stretch of Reseda by Cal State Northridge). Perhaps The Valley should just give the sidewalks in the remainder of the area to Hollywood, Silver_Lake, Koreatown, Echo Park or The Real Eastside. I mean, it's not like the rest of the Valley folks really use 'em.

But 'tis true, The Valley is sprawling, where after the car maintenance, The Militant made an attempt to visit one of his operatives who works at a store on Reseda, south of Nordhoff. But the store was hard to locate for some reason (the pressure of traffic made it hard to slow down) and the mission was aborted, so the Militant headed straight to his Encino destination. That whole trek was 14 miles -- roughly the same distance from Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica Beach! The Valley (345 square miles) can easily fit the entire nation of Singapore (292 square miles) with room to spare.

But The Militant will visit The Valley again before the summer ends - If biking by the beach during the day is his #1 summertime joy, then biking at night in The Valley is #2. The weather is perfect, the streets are nice and wide, there's no traffic. The Valley really feels like a different place when you explore it like that. The Militant also longs for those nights when the Santa Anas make the palm trees of The Valley sway crazily, causing their fronds to bristle against each other hard enough that it makes a soothing sound not unlike that of the surf.

Like, fer sure.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Chow Meets Chow

The Militant showed his face on Tuesday night at a live meetup of foodies from the Chowhound Los Angeles Area message boards. It was the first time the Militant did one of these "meets" in a long time. The Militant is old enough to have engaged in a now-archaic form of online communication called a Bulletin Board System during his college days (think of it as a dialup local text-only version of the net...okay, you probably can't even fathom such a thing, but they existed) where they would have regular "meets" off-line where people would meet each other in person. The fact that Chowhound also employed the term "handle" instead of "username" or "screenname" was an added nostalgic bonus.

The Chowhounders met up at the chic taqueria Malo in Silver_Lake where we got to dig into the restaurant's trademark ground beef and pickle fried tacos, in addition to some other modernized Mexican fare. Pretty good (despite the consensus of the online Chowhounders), and not just because the food and drinks were on the house. The Chow.com organizers (who work for CNET) even gave away free Chowhound swag in the form of t-shirts (from that silky American Apparel stock) and some canvas bags.

But far surpassing the food was that the Militant got to meet some really cool Chowhounders there (for the sake of fairness and privacy, the Militant will not identify in this blog who he met - and he expects any other Chowhounder reading this to observe the mutual hush-hush, if you know what I'm sayin'), which was totally contrary to what he initially thought they would be, having closed down the browser window in disgust after reading one too many overtly snobbish reviews, especially from NY immigrants who somehow believe Chinese food was invented in Manhattan.

Most of the Chowhounders there appeared to be in their mid-30s and older and of upper-middle income and higher. More than half were white, with a considerable number of Asians, and a small number of Latinos. Only one person there appeared to be of African American heritage.
A couple people were retired and that being a foodie was their "hobby" while a few actually worked in the culinary/restaurant industry. Surprisingly, very few 20-somethings and and even fewer hipster-types (Oh, they're easy to spot, trust me) were there.

But overall everyone seemed to be pleased to be in each other's company. The easy icebreaker was the revelation of people's handles through nametags (i.e. "Oh, you're Chowzilla? I thought you were a dude! Nice to finally meet you!") and though most of the talk gravitated towards eateries (the event became a live, in-person iteration of the message board), people inevitably wanted to get to know about the lives of each other.

The Anonymous Militant can feel the pangs of irony when he says that the Internet really needs that frequent "personal feel" where people of like minds or at least similar interests can meet face-to-face as actual human beings. And in this era of flame.wars and the like, events where internet users can see each other as not only as real living personalities, but any sort of negative objectification on the part of certain people beforehand would likely be greatly diminished.

So will there be a Militant Angeleno meetup anytime soon?

The answer is LOL.

The Roof, The Roof, The Roof Is On Fire...
After the Militant's foodie meetup, he happened to see a towering column of thick smoke near his next destination, looming above the 10 Freeway. It was a warehouse fire on Adams and La Brea in the Mid-City area just below The 10. No homes were in danger, but no fewer than five Los Angeles Fire Department ladder companies were at the scene as Adams Blvd. was shut down at La Brea. The building on fire was a business called P.C. Sets, which according to one local, builds props and sets for film and TV studios. Another neighborhood local told the Militant that several nondescript buildings in the neighborhood without even so much as a sign outside are companies that build props or supply equipment to the studios in Hollywood, The Valley or Culver City. They are located in the Mid-City area for their lower lease rates. The cause of the fire was not yet known, but arson investigators were on the scene. No occupant was known to have been killed or injured but an LAFD firefighter who was on the roof fell through and suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns as well as broken bones after an intense rescue operation by his fellow firefighters. He is recovering at Cedars-Sinai.

For those of you who have never witnessed a firefighting scene, the LAFD operates like clockwork and the amount of diligent and spontaneous teamwork demonstrated is something that just has to be seen to be believed.

That entire stretch of the north side of Adams Blvd. from La Brea Ave. to Redondo Ave. is slated to be redeveloped into a large retail development with a public open space element. It is part of the City of Los Angeles' Community Redevelopment Agency Mid-City Recovery Redevelopment Project.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Non-Volunteer State

The Militant picked this up weeks ago, but decided to hold off on it until he got a few events out of the way. On LA's Homeless Blog earlier this month there was an entry referring to a Daily News article on how Los Angeles residents are less inclined to volunteer. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, only 22% of Angelenos (likely of the non-militant ilk) were likely to volunteer in their community, compared to 29% of San Franciscans and San Diegans and 27% in the state capital and the former state capital (San Jose). The Golden State gave an average of 25%. There were no comparisons mentioned to NY, Illinois, Texas or even the Volunteer State itself, Tennessee. The article questioned why volunteerism among Angelenos was so low, citing traffic, the cost of living or even general apathy to the point where people have given up because they haven't seen any results or change.

Though not debating the blog entry, this Militant, who was raised with a volunteer ethic, and the majority of his circle of friends as well as operatives, have been known to volunteer for various causes or activities.

The Militant will give the real reason.

In short, people come to California, or most specifically Los Angeles, to take, not to give. This is a place where people come "out here" to "reinvent themselves" (run away from their past) and "make it big" or "be a star" (eyes rolling). Most of them have no interest in improving the quality of life "out here" (that seemingly innocuous phrase immediately communicates disownership), since it's not their hometown anyway?

The Militant will throw out the big analogy here. Los Angeles is like a tree. No, not a palm tree, but an orange tree, if you will. People have come from all over the country and all over the world to this tree to pick and savor the sweet fruit it bears, for its fruit is unlike that of any other tree. But after picking its fruit, the people soon discovered the fruit had become bitter, malformed, and the tree was no longer healthy. Seeing this, they left the tree alone and went for another tree to pick at its fruit.

What the people failed to realize was that the tree had started to deteriorate -- because no one bothered to care for it. No one watered it, no one helped make the soil fertile, no one helped clear the tree of pests and parasites.

What you get out of the tree is what you put into it. What you get out of Los Angeles is what you give to it. Ask not what your city can do for you, oh you know the rest.

The Militant knows many out there are laughing and will continue to whine and complain, only to move to where life will be more convenient for them. Good riddance, I say. Revitalization begins from within. In the meantime, I'll be training some more militants for our revolution...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Villaraigosa So Far...

Call it a progress report, or some spin for this city to prove Da Mayor has been doing more than just Mirthala Salinas, but a 40-page document from the Mayor's Office entitled Midterm Report 2005-2007: Delivering Results for Los Angeles was released last week and personally handed to various community leaders from around the city at a meeting this past weekend by Deputy Mayor Larry Frank. (The Militant was able to obtain a copy, but the report is available online as a .pdf in the link above). The report enumerates various accomplishments and works-in-progress from Mayor Villar. In the report:

• Sidewalks repaired: 145 miles
• Streets resurfaced: 425 miles
• Potholes filled: 540,833
• Trees trimmed: 147, 209
• Graffiti removed: 35 million sq feet
• New parks opened: 10
• Recreation facilities opened: 20
• New fire stations & training facilities opened: 6
• New libraries opened: 6

In the works-in-progress department, the report indicated that 300 of the 1,000 new LAPD officers promised by Villaraigosa have been added to the force, and according to Frank, 98,000 of the one million trees promised by El Alcalde have been planted (They can reach their goal by re-greening Griffith Park alone). Frank also admittedly attributed the pothole-filling progress to our recent lack of rain (water helps erode the integrity of asphalt), and jokingly stated that "we might run out of potholes to fill."

But Frank mentioned some interesting factoids on Los Angeles regarding energy and the environment that were news to this Militant, mainly that 60% of Los Angeles' (population: 4,000,000) electricity comes from a coal plant in the Great Basin town of Delta, Utah (population: 3,200). Further Militant research indicated that, according to the town history, "Delta is rather unusual among the primarily agricultural towns in the state, since it was founded in the twentieth century and owed virtually nothing regarding its establishment to direction from the general hierarchy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." The power plant (pictured above) is part of the Intermountain Power Project and run by the Intermountain Power Agency. Seventy-five percent of its power goes to Southern California, which, besides Los Angeles, also juices-up the cities of Anaheim, Riverside, Pasadena, Burbank and Glendale (The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, whose stadium once sold its naming rights to an energy company, has their Triple-A Minor League affiliate based in Utah. Coincidence?). Frank mentioned that the Mayor more than doubled the amount of renewable energy sold by the DWP - from 3% to a whopping 8%. Frank did mention to the community leaders (and not mentioned in the report) that the City is working out some deal with companies in China to create training and manufacturing opportunities to build solar energy panels locally. Fingers crossed...

Shield Us From Destruction!
The Militant finds humor in repetition, cliches, the predictable. So on Saturday on his way to the Pilibos School in Little Armenia for the LACommons event he spotted one of those little FilmLA filming notices posted in front of an apartment building for a shoot on Tuesday. Gee, that's cool they're filming in this neighborhood, I just hope it's anything but The Shiel...D'oh!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Getting 'Hye' in Little Armenia

The 'ist gave you a glimpse, The Nerd told you about the event, now The Militant takes you there. On Saturday the good folks at LACommons in conjunction with the Armenian Center for the Arts organized a small festival and artwalk tour on the streets of E-Ho called, A Taste of Pomegranate: Sampling Art in Little Armenia. Named after one of the most culturally-significant fruits grown in Armenia, the event gave tourgoers some flavor of Armenian American art while at the same getting them Hye (FYI, "Hye" is Armenian for "Armenian" - now that you know that, be prepared for the "Hye" puns from here on out...).

The walking tour visited various Armenian businesses along Hollywood, Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards,
some of which were turned into makeshift art galleries for the day. Roughly half a dozen arwtorks were displayed at each gallery stop and the GenX/Y-aged artists made presentations and answered questions for the visitors. Artists included paintings by Arpine Aleksanyan (pictured above) whose works contained iconic cultural Armenian images of pomegranates and Masis (a.k.a Mt. Ararat), and Sophia Gasparian, whose manga-influenced paintings on wood eschewed the likenesses of fruits and mountains in favor of more politically-oriented images from the perspective of a person raised in oppressive Soviet-era Armenia, where maintaining one's ethnic identity was a subversive act. The tourgoers were a diverse mix of Armenian Americans maintaining touch with their culture and non-Armenians (including a good number of Asians in this particular group), curious about gaining some Hye-r learning.

After two hours of walking in the hot July sun, a small festival took place at Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School (a.k.a. System of A Down's alma mater), which featured traditional Hye dance and music performances, such as oud player John Bilezikjian and his band (pictured right). There was even an unveiling of a public art mural, "Opening Eyes," done by local Armenian youths, which will soon be installed at Panos Pastry on Hollywood Blvd. The mural celebrated the ethnic diversity of the East Hollywood/Little Armenia community, though this Militant was just a wee bit miffed that a certain unspecified foreign language spoken by a good number in the community was not represented in the mural.

While many gathered and danced to Bilezikjian's music (pictured left), the festival also featured a mini-exhibit of black-and-white photographs by Ara Oshagan, who took pictures of the local Armenian American community from 2000-2004. This Militant, though not Armenian, was still able to Hye-ly identify with the photos, as there are many parallels between the images of daily life of the Armenian community and his own unspecified ethnic group. Best of all, true to the event's name and a great antidote to the hot weather, pomegranate-flavored snow cones were sold at the mini-fest at Pilibos School.

Though the Militant's compound was mere shouting distance away from much of the tour, the Militant was able to see his own 'hood through a different set of eyes, even learning more about the Armenian community, such as the cultural importance of Armenian American banquet halls, lavishly-decorated venues frequently rented for large, family-heavy events like birthdays, baptisms, anniversaries, graduations and wedding receptions (which make Greek nuptial celebrations as dull as a courthouse ceremony by comparison). The Militant even got to meet some cool folk during the tour, and even shared some of his own knowledge and experiences from his own unspecified culture. Because learning and exchange are some of the Hye-est forms of militancy.

The End of an Era

Friday was the day when the Militant's local cell tower changed its carrier ID signal to "AT&T" from the previous "CINGULAR." Always interesting, since AT&T, no, wait, I mean at&t was formerly Cingular Wireless, which bought the old AT&T Wireless. Cingular, for those of you who kept track over the years, started out as Pacific Bell Wireless, which is not to be confused with PacTel Cellular, which became AirTouch Cellular, which eventually became Verizon. Y'all still with me? Hey, that's just telesis -- progress, intelligently planned.

What's Goin' On: The Militant Calendar
As a public service, the Militant has declared the start of The Militant Calendar (no, it's nothing like the Julian or Gregorian (Gregorian?) calendar), a schedule of upcoming events listed on the right-hand column of this here blog that the Militant himself (or his network of clones and/or decoys and/or operatives) may or may not attend, and if attending, the Militant may or may not write a report thereof in this here blog. Got that? The Militant is open to calendar submissions via his gmail address (militantangeleno). However, his criteria for inclusion into the calendar is as highly secretive as his identity, so please do not take it personally if your event is not added to The Militant Calendar. One major tip: If your submitted event is predominantly gentrohipster in nature, then it ain't gonna be on The Militant Calendar. But then you already have many, many, many other ways of finding out that info, right?

Friday, July 20, 2007

MA Extra: Dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock


The Funk of 40,000 Inmates

The Militant got this YouTube link forwarded to him by a San Diego-based member of his militant network. It depicts several orange-suited inmates (plus one who got to dress up like a girl) 8,000 miles across the Pacific re-enacting the dance sequence of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video
(which, according to my Militant knowledge, was filmed here in Los Angeles in an industrial alley along Union Pacific Ave. in The Real Eastside). The inmates belong to Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, which is located in the Philippines' second largest city, in the southern/central part of that country. No sooner than four hours later the Militant sees this video forwarded, IM'ed, blogged or MySpace Bulletined by so many people that it bears some further explanation (because the Militant is all about digging beneath the surface): CPDRC is a minimum-security prison with a mission. According to one of its administrators, the prison's approach to rehabilitation is "discipline, physical fitness, dismantling of the culture of corruption and preemptive decongestion." Wow, they actually teach something to those prisoners there -- what a concept. Those dancin' prisoners of CPDRC have done much more as well, including the "Algorithm March" from Japan (made popular by a children's TV show on NHK), which can be seen here, performed 967 strong.

Go Retro: From Fishbeck to Fish Heads


A snippet of an Eyewitness News broadcast from 2/2/80

Oftentimes, the Militant will be up to his usual militant business, walking down the street or attending some community meeting when a sudden, a random Ghost of Los Angeles Past will haunt him, like shopping at Zody's or going on a family trip to Busch Gardens in Van Nuys. The Militant is certainly not alone, as fellow native and blogger Will Campbell (whom I may or may not have met in person) has referenced The Akron in a recent post. Nothing strikes up nostalgic joy from the natives (and confusion or disinterest from the transplants) like retro Los Angeles references. Go Retro!

Before Doppler Radar, before chroma-key and even before Dallas Raines' eternal tan, was Channel 7's colorful meteorologist Dr. George Fishbeck. He was part of KABC's all-star Eyewitness News lineup of Jerry Dunphy, Christine Lund and Dr. George Fishbeck in the '70s/early '80s -- which was the local news equivalent of the Garvey-Lopes-Russell-Cey Dodger infield. Fishbeck, wearing his trademark spectacles and bow tie, was like everybody's teacher/papa/grandpa, eloquently and passionately working in normally-dull terms like "marine layer" and "westerly winds" into our consciousness like a suspense-filled good-old campfire story. When this Militant first heard of the word "drought," Dr. George told us what it was, how it affected us and how we should conserve water, and everyone listened to him. Today, no one even comes close, not even Fritz Coleman's quasi-standup schtick.

The YouTube clip above shows an Eyewitness News broadcast from a rainy Southern California day back on February 2, 1980.

Demented Angelenos: Barnes & Barnes
This Militant's favorite Sunday night pastime back in the early-mid '80s was to tune to 94.7 KMET and listen to the Dr. Demento Show, which moved to the old 97.1 KLSX (back when they played music...) after KMET's demise into the realm of New Age and Smooth Jazz that is KTWV, which occupies that frequency today. Dr. D's show was definitely born in SoCal, having originated at KPCC-FM out of Pasadena City College before moving to the Mighty Met. The show also featured some very demented Angelenos, from the classic Felix Figueroa and His Orchestra's "Pico and Sepulveda" to Barett Hansen's gift to the world, Lynwood's own "Weird Al" Yankovic. But perhaps the most well-known and heavily played song on Dr. D's show was the abstract and absurd "Fish Heads" from Los Angeles' own Barnes and Barnes. The duo of Art and Artie Barnes (a.k.a. Robert Haimer and Bill Mumy; the latter played Will Robinson on TV's Lost In Space) who still exist today, were not only novelty music legends, but multimedia pioneers as well, having directed their own music videos years before MTV even began plotting the murder of the radio star. Their video to "Fish Heads" also features a younger Bill Paxton. Interestingly, now that fish heads are a common delicacy in various ethnic restaurants around the Southland and that cappuccino is no longer found exclusively at Italian restaurants (not to mention the word "Oriental" has since fallen out of favor when referring to a group of people), neither this song nor its video is as abstractly weird as it was back in 1979 when it was released. But it's still cool anyway.

To a world more familiar with Barnes and Noble, the Militant presents Barnes and Barnes' classic, "Fish Heads" (note the old Pan Pacific Auditorium and the Downtown Industrial District playing cameo roles):


Eat them up, yum!

Militant Update: Metro Toilet at VSM: Still Waiting
Upon learning of the new automatic pay toilet in the vicinity of the Militant's compound at Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, The Militant was all set with a quarter and his digital camera to leak the process of using such a contraption in the name of blogdom. But alas, some three weeks after first mentioning it on this blog, the toilet remains pretty much in the same state as it was back then, with no work crew in sight. What's holding it up? That just pisses this Militant off. To the wiz who's responsible for such a delay, you're in trouble.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Visiting...with the Militant Angeleno

The Militant would like to take this opportunity to admit one of his many daydreams/goals/aspirations to the blog-reading public: To one day be Huell Howser's successor upon his retirement or demise (Lest you be concerned, the Militant has absolutely no intention of expediting the latter...I said I'm Militant, not psycho!). Granted, there will be no doubt that the producers at KCET would have serious reservations about my militant attitude, but on the other hand, if Channel 28 is known for having aired Masterpiece Theatre during my youth but now shows rock concerts, there could be hope for this Militant yet. Until then, this Militant will have to live out his dream on the series of tubes called the Internet. So welcome to the first installment of Visiting...with the Militant Angeleno.

The Boxer's Wild: Wild Card Boxing Club, Hollywood
Just mere blocks south of the World's Most Famous Intersection and stacked atop a nondescript aging minimall stands a powerhouse of professional boxing's history and future: The Wild Card Boxing Club, packing a punch in the center ring of Hollywood. Owned and established by renowned boxing trainer Freddie Roach, an Irish American second-generation former boxer from Massachusetts who has since gone on to train Iron Mike Tyson, Angeleno golden boy Oscar de La Hoya and Philippine pehnom Manny Pacquiao. The room is heavily decorated with framed and unframed photographs, fight posters and magazine clippings of the above fighters and an his diverse clientele over the years, including posters and photos of Roach's own boxing days. The place is a literal United Nations of boxing, with flags of the USA, Ireland, Italy, Russia, South Korea, the Philippines, Ukraine, Scotland and Australia adorning the walls, and boxers from or possessing roots in other countries such as Mexico and Armenia are seen busily jumping rope, punching on bags, doing sit-ups or sparring in the ring. The diversity in this gym doesn't look too much different than the city that buzzes outside its musty, noisy quarters. There are even a few female boxers in training here as well. During our visit we saw Philippine boxer Rey "Boom Boom" Bautista (black trunks) sparring in the ring as part of the training regimen for his upcoming title fight on August 11 in Sacramento. Louie, can you get a shot of that (pictured above)? "Dominate, Boom Boom, dominate!" shouted Bautista's assistant trainer as the fighter jabbed his sparring partner seconds before electronic bell tones signaled the end of a simulated round.

While the nearby sound stages crank out movies and television shows, this production house in the heart of Hollywood is cranking out today's newest prize fighters.

Shadows of Transit Past: Vineyard Junction, Mid-City
People driving along Venice Boulevard in Mid-City Los Angeles have no doubt seen an unexpected overpass just yards from San Vicente Blvd. What many people don't know is that the immediate area carries a lot of history for Los Angeles' transportation past. The overpass, which carries West Street, was built so that it could be grade-separated from not only Venice Blvd but the Pacific Electric Red Car trolleys which rolled there in the early 20th century. In fact, the eastbound lanes of Venice used to carry both directions of auto traffic while today's westbound lanes carried the Red Car right of way., which is why the overpass over the westbound lanes has a higher clearance than the eastbound lanes. Back in the day the place was called Vineyard Junction, which was a major interchange point for our trolley systems. The tracks diverged at San Vicente and trolleys coming from Downtown Los Angeles could either continue to Venice beach on the eponymous boulevard, or dash over to Santa Monica on San Vicente. Just a few yards north of the junction was the Pico/Rimpau "Loop" of the Los Angeles Railway's Yellow Cars, the narrower street trolleys that ran primarily in Los Angeles city proper. This was the western terminus of the "P" line which traversed Pico Blvd. towards Downtown.

In 1913 Vineyard Junction was the site of the worst accident in the history of the Pacific Electric, where one train collided with the rear-end of another on July 13 of that year, killing 14 and injuring 200.

The line to Santa Monica was abandoned in 1940, the line to Venice ended in 1950 and the "P" line trolleys said adios in 1963. The junction was also previously the site of a large Sears store as well as a few industrial buildings and inevitably, the area had become blighted.

Today, it is the site of a CIM Group retail development which now sports a Wells Fargo branch, a Foot Locker and yes, a Starbucks. But wait, there's more! A Lowe's home improvement center is coming in the near future, but on this smogless Wedensday evening with the sun calling it a day and the purplish silhouette of the San Gabriel mountains looming in the distance to the northeast, it remained a vacant pit on the property.

The trolleys are long gone, but the "loop" infrastructure remained as a transit center for RTD (now Metro) buses and the eastern terminus of the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus local lines until recently, when CIM built a replacement transit center several yards towards the west on San Vicente Blvd., at no cost to the transit agencies.

Incidentally, the Pacific Electric originally planned a subway line from the Ambassador Hotel to Vineyard Junction, with property purchased and rights of way secured, but the plan ultimately failed to see reality, especially during a period when the old railway was approaching its decline. More recently, the junction was planned in the 1990s as an eventual Metro Red Line (well, they called that branch the Orange Line, which is the Purple Line now, got it?) stop on the now-defunct Mid-City alignment which was meant to circumvent the once-feared gaseous subterrain of Miracle Mile. Now that the Wilshire tunneling ban will soon be defunct itself it only means that Horny Tony's Purple Line will eventually thrust faster and faster into a deep tunnel and climax in Santa Mirth, er, I mean Monica.

Uhh...I think the KCET folks closed the browser window already. There goes my audition.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Leave It To Levitt - MacPark Strikes Up The Band(shell)

MacArthur Park has been melting in the dark for several years. But years of all that sweet, green icing flowing down and cakes being left out in the rain caused the folks at the City and the Mortimer Levitt Foundation to say that they don't think they could take it and found a new recipe for the unused bandshell at the park's northwestern corner, by 6th Street and Park View Ave. On Wednesday, August 8, the new, refurbished and renamed Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles will be unveiled, after it took so long to bake it. Like the 4-year old Levitt Pavilion in Pasadena and several others across the country, the LPLA will be an outdoor performance venue that shares the foundation's vision of funding communities that want free concerts under the stars. There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by the expected group of politicos who like to take credit for it at 6:30 p.m. on the 8th, with the inaugural concert at 7 p.m. Performing that evening will be the band May Melee and the Rubber Bullets.

Okay, just kidding with that one. Especially to the LAPD Senior Lead Officer who told me about the August opening event on Tuesday.

But once regarded as the hellhole of all urban ills in Los Angeles, the park has really seen a gradual upturn in recent history. The renovation of the park and the opening of the (M) Red Line subway station across the street back in 1993 was a modest start (along with the associated public re-discovery of Langers Deli). The opening of Mama's Hot Tamales Cafe earlier this decade brought some more momentum, as with the more recent and likewise acclaimed Chichen Itza (No Homer, I said Chichen Itza, not "Chicken Pizza...") Restaurant on the opposite end of MacPark, the missing link in the equation is the park itself. The bandshell has seen much finer days in the past, hosting big band, jazz and salsa concerts. This Militant, as a wee young teen, even had his first-ever band's first-ever gig in the bandshell during the independence day celebration of a certain unspecified foreign country back in 198x.

The new LPLA will have concerts 5 nights a week from August to October (and May to October come '08 and henceforth) featuring World, Dance, Latin, Children's and Roots (Jazz, Blues, R&B) music. This Militant is big on overcoming urban fears and perceptions to make things better, so when the music starts a-playin' at MacPark, whether on bike or via subway, the Militant will be there...and he hopes you will be, too.

Sometimes You Wanna Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name
On Monday evening, the Militant had another one of his adventures in his Not-Really-Eastside community, and this time it had nothing to do with a car, a train, a bus or even a bike. It was all on foot. See, the Militant was walking to his nearest popular local ice cream or gelato or nonfat frozen yogurt joint when he unexpectedly, by chance, ran into friend and fellow active community member "A." The Militant told "A" about what he was doing, so "A" joined the Militant and walked down the block to the popular local ice cream or gelato or nonfat yogurt joint. The Militant and "A" got their ice cream/gelato/nonfat fro-yo and had a productive chat about the community. When all of a sudden, across the street, unexpectedly, by chance, comes walking in friends and fellow active community members "B" and "C." So "B" and "C" join "A" and the Militant, hanging out on the sidewalk tables and talk about the community, gossip and some recent movies. After a while, "B" and "C" leave to go home, and "A" tells the Militant about some dream business plan he had to open an Eastern European-style beer kiosk business locally. Well all this talk about beer got the Militant suddenly craving for one, so he suggested to "A" that they continue their conversation a short distance away at this new establishment that this Militant passed off as some gentrified pub place that had some nice microbrews on tap. So as the Militant ordered a beer each for himself and "A," and an appetizer item. The dude at the counter asked The Militant his name for the food order and The Militant said, "[censored]." The counter dude said, "Hey, you're [censored] [censored], right?" The Militant assumed Dude At The Counter knows him from his community activities when Dude continued and explained that he knew the Militant Angeleno some 10 years ago as a customer support acquaintance. The Militant didn't recognize the face, but he certainly did remember the name. So The Militant asks Counter Dude, "So, you work here now?" Counter Dude replied, "Work here? This is my business!"

So unexpectedly, by chance, The Militant runs into an acquaintance from 10 years back who runs this establishment that The Militant originally passed off as some faceless bastion of gentrification. But being that this businessowner is someone he knows personally, who also knows other people he knows personally, the perception has changed. It's no longer an establishment to be feared or reluctantly patronized, but this is someone I know, who's trying his hand at running a business relatively unique to the neighborhood and that The Militant is more than welcome here.

Ultimately experiences like this remind the Militant that Los Angeles is really just a small town (albeit with an awful lot of concrete), and that though the Militant has made it his mission to open people's eyes and make people learn, sometimes, just sometimes, the Militant has to have his own eyes open so he can learn too.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Lotus 1-2-3: 2007 Lotus Festival Coverage, Day 3

So the Militant got some Lotus Fest action for the third and final day on Sunday and might I say I was all Lotus'ed out. This time the Militant arrived earlier in the day and drove there in his car (Gasp! Long story, but it's been a good couple of weeks since the Militant visited a gas station, so all is still okay). Fortunately, the Militant knew the both the Festival and the Echo Park neighborhood well enough that he was able to easily score a parking space nearby.

Arriving at around 1:30 p.m., the place was sweltering, enough that the Festival staff set up a large water vapor fan aimed at the main stage audience (where the Militant found himself being cooled down periodically). Enough that he took advantage of that Starbucks van that blasted U2 music all day and gave out free Frappuccino shots. He also tried a couple bars of those kulfi ice cream (2 bars for $3; good stuff!) next to the Children's Stage.

Having seen most of the sights on Saturday, Sunday at Lotus Fest was more a hang-out day, watching friends and other acts perform and running into other friends as well. In addition to seeing the Militant's soulful friends Elson and the Soul Barkada funk out in trio mode (nice Isley Brothers cover BTW), he also caught another trio, Sharp Three, whose bassist, Kai Kurosawa, played a 24-stringed oddity called a "BearTracks." Later in the evening, the People's Core Xkrima Close Quarter Combat Institute (say that five times fast) did a neato demonstration showing martial arts approaches to gain the upper hand at being held by gun, knife or physical assault. And to close the day, Hawaiian music duo Moana set the mood and gave a final "Aloha!" to the festival as the sun went down. The Militant caught Mr. Take My Picture himself, Gary Leonard, taking a picture of the act (pictured left).

Other local bloggers have been quick to notice the lack of Lotuses growing in the Echo Park lotus bed. The Militant wanted to get down to the bottom of this, so he spoke to one of the Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks Department staffers who organized the festival. She told the Militant that last year (with the bed at half capacity during the festival), the bed was in full bloom in August. But the Militant told her he looked closely at the empty portions of the pond and found no evidence of future growth through the shallow, murky waters. She explained that it might have been due to not just this winter's cold spell but possibly insecticide that was sprayed in the park a few months ago (!!! That might also explain the dead red-eared slider turtle spotted floating in the water, mercy mercy me...). OMG, They Killed The Lotuses!

The Militant spent the final minutes of the festival hanging out with friends in the food court area, getting one last bite to eat. If you're into cheap eats, this is the place to be, with food plates being either massively discounted or sold with larger quantities -- they need to get rid of the stuff. One Filipino food stand even gave away free lumpia eggrolls in their final minutes. But one LAPD officer told crowds hanging out eating at barely past 8 p.m. that they had to leave the festival. Funny, I thought this was a public city park, and all Los Angeles city parks are open until 10 p.m. Of course, none of us Lotus Festivalgoers wanted to see any rubber bullets fly, so...

Enough Lotus for 2007. Be back next year!

Obligatory Dodgers Corner
On a day that looked like a Throwaway Sunday (a.k.a. Tomko is pitching), The Boys In Blue pulled off a 5-3 victory and a sweep of the Frisco Gnats (and their 11th straight victory in Telecommunications Company Park). Best of all, it rendered Mr. Asterisk hitless throughout the entire series, which caused him to quip, postgame: ""It's an embarrassment to be wearing this fux0ring uniform." O RLY?

Immediately following the game, Telecommunications Company Park management fired-off an intra-agency memo to its entire janitorial staff and told them they can go home early. Why? Because the place had already been swept.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lotus Have a Good Time: 2007 Lotus Festival Coverage, Day 2

The Militant digs the Lotus Festival because it represents Los Angeles at its best: a cultural festival enjoyed by people of all cultures and ages, under a perfect summer day set to a backdrop of a lake with the Downtown skyline looming not so far away. The Militant only caught the last few hours of the festival on Saturday from 7 p.m. onward, but it was enough to capture the whole feel of the fest. It was a true community event as The Militant spotted in the crowd friends, acquaintances and even local photog extraordinaire Gary Leonard, tripod in tow. The Militant treated himself to a combo meal from one of the Indonesian food booths. Unfortunately missing from this year was the Wok Popcorn (What?! It's not Lotus Festival without Wok Popcorn!) and those loud and crazy USC students selling Okinawan-style dangos. For those seeking the cool and icy, there were booths selling Hawaiian shaved ice, Filipino halo-halo, South Asian kulfi bars and Dippin' Dots, the supposed "ice cream of the future" (Hmm, it's already the future now and I don't see Dippin' Dots anywhere else...). The real ice cream of the future, Nonfat Frozen Yogurt, was nowhere to be seen, but you can safely wager that at least one booth will be there next year (Lotusberry, anyone?).

The stunted growth of the lotus bed wasn't too bad of a damper on the day's festivities. The Saturday entertainment program, which focused on traditional Asian/Pacific Islander dance, music and martial arts demonstrations reportedly ran a little late as the first act failed to show up. But otherwise they entertained as well as educated. The Militant caught a Japanese swordfighting demonstration by Westside Kendo Dojo and the perennial Saturday closers, the taiko drum ensemble Yoki Daiko. The multicultural reach of the acts was best exemplified by the latter playing hip-hop rhythms on taiko drums in one number, while an amateur rapper in the audience started waving his arm to the rhythm and spitted out some freestyle rhymes in front of his friends.

The crowd of some 20,000 people soon formed a ring around the lake as they waited anxiously for several minutes to see the big fireworks display begin. The blue, green and purple glow of inexpensive knock-off lightsaber toys popular with the kids this year provided a ground-level light show in the interim. It only took one echoing "BOOM!" from the display put on by Rialto-based Pyro Spectaculars to amaze the crowd. Their display easily put their previous week's 4th of July Dodger Stadium fireworks show to shame with state-of-the-art pyrotechnics that resembled dancing fireflies and glitter, in addition to more traditional bang-burst fireworks.

Sunday is the last day to catch the 2007 Lotus Festival, if you haven't been there already. The Militant would also like to plug the 2:55 p.m. performance of his friend's band on the main stage. The Militant Angeleno will definitely be there in person. Visit the Lotus Festival website for satellite parking/shuttle information or take Metro Bus lines 2, 4 or 92 to the Park Ave. stop. Or perhaps, you can go Militant-style and ride your bike...

Militant Angeleno Turns One Month Old
This very blog made its very first post exactly one month ago today. In that short amount of time the Militant has made a sudden infiltration into the local blog scene, and theres much more militancy to come. The Militant would like to thank his rival guerrilla factions in the Los Angeles metroblogging scene for their props (and various disagreements over the definition of "The Eastside" -- except for viewfromaloft, who's got it right) and most especially you (No, not you, the one over there...yeah, you!) for your continued readership and interest. Fight The Oppressive East Coast Colonialist Powers, Go Dodgers and Stay Militant, Angelenos!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Low on Lotus: 2007 Lotus Festival Coverage, Day 1

Friday night marked the start of the 30th Lotus Festival (not the "30th annual" - it actually started 35 years ago but due to budget cuts there were no Lotus Festivals in 1978-79 and 1986-1988), with a first-time-ever twilight jazz concert to get things warmed up. Only a few merchandise booths were open, and the food court and "Flower Island" booths lay dormant. The concert featured three jazz acts - none of which had any connection to Asian/Pacific Islander culture, but hey, there ain't nothin' wrong with jazz. The Militant arrived in time to catch the Cross Hart Jazz Experience lay down the gamut from bebop to jazz-funk, and even spotted an old friend from way back among one of the bandmembers. Right after the concert was a brief fireworks display which made Echo Park literally live up to its name (wisely, they're saving the big show for Saturday night).
The unfortunate thing was, as shown in the photo above, the dearth of the festival's namesake. What is normally known as the largest lotus bed outside of Asia didn't have much to show for it this year, with a meager row of lotuses lining the western shore. Damn you, global warming! (Actually, lotus flowers normally thrive in warmer climates). But Saturday is where the fun really begins, with musical and dance performances, dragon boat races, wok popcorn and neighborhood gentro-hipsters whining why none of the vendors in the food court serve vegan food (Tsk, tsk, y'all don't get it...)

The Cross Hart Jazz Experience provides the jazzy sundown vibe.


One of China's greatest contributions to the world lights up the lake
and echoes throughout the park.



Ridazz Wanted
After the last firework popped and after his chat with his jazz musician friend from way back, this Militant hopped on his bike and headed due west on Sunset, when he passed another bicyclist on the opposite side of the street who shouted, "Midnight Ridazz!" and the Militant replying, "Where?" and hearing the answer, "Down the street, Sunset and Echo Park!" So the Militant made a u-turn and ended up in the parking lot of one of the last five Pioneer Chicken stands in the world where a gradually-growing mass of handlebars, wheels, spokes and frames convened under the golden glow of sodium lights. This soon became my first full-fledged Midnight Ridazz ride (fatigue after a Critical Mass ride in late April caused the Militant to bow out of the MR ride before it began). This Friday the 13th ride started with an LAPD SUV apparently looking to spoil the fun of over 500 ridazz, but luckily on this night, the cops were there to guarantee our safety by blocking off intersections and reminding us not to ride on the streets British-style. The under-20-mile ride, in perhaps the greatest of night weather conditions, snaked from Echo Park to Historic Filipinotown to MacArthur Park to Koreatown to Pico-Union to the Byzantine-Latino Quarter to West Adams to Downtown to Chinatown to the Arts District to Boyle Heights (in The Real Eastside), through the industrial district back to Downtown and Echo Park. In many ways it was a nocturnal version of the Acura L.A. Bike Tour, (right down to approaching Downtown on the 6th Street Viaduct) which the Militant rode back in March after a seven-year hiatus.

The Militant observed that the overwhelming majority of the ridazz were of the white velohipster crowd, yet there were a good number of Asians and Latinos in the pack. But out of the sesqui-mil tally there were only three ridazz of black descent. What exactly is keepin' more of the brothaz and sistaz from bein' ridazz?

Ultimately the sheer quantity of ridazz became a human invincibility shield, allowing people to be out in the open in neighborhoods and areas most of them wouldn't dare caught being in otherwise. Residents curiously peeked outside windows and stood on balconies and fire escapes to see the crowd, ultimately cheering them on. Riding around MacArthur Park or through the dank alleys of the industrial district on the east bank of the Los Angeles River was suddenly no big deal (though the foul smell of the Vernon meat packing plants that wafted up the river was perhaps the low point here), these ridazz have taken them over.

Happy Birthday, Metro Rail!
Today, Bastille Day, marks the 17th anniversary of the opening of the Metro Blue Line, the first of what are now five lines in Los Angeles' Metro Rail system. The Militant still clearly remembers that hot summer Saturday in 1990 when the shiny Japanese-built light rail train emerged from the Flower Street tunnel amidst a blue-colored fog and blue confetti, and arrived at Pico Station, which, for the first seven months of operation, was the northern terminus of the Blue Line. A dedication ceremony took place on the Pico Station platform, where VIPs sat (including Mayor Tom Bradley sitting not far from the then-brown-haired future Mayor Jim Hahn). Bleachers were erected across Flower Street, where members of the public waved blue pom-poms handed out to them, soon getting in a long line to ride this new-fangled contraption to Anaheim Street in Long Beach (the southern loop stations did not open until September '90). Today, the Blue Line, now with repainted trains, all devoid of the color blue, is an emo teen, shuttling from north to south and back, from the lows of the subway tunnel to the highs of the bridge over the 710 freeway, carrying 70,000 passengers a day.

Fro-Yo, Oh No!
It looks like Echo Park isn't immune from the Fro-Yo Cold War as this banner was seen at the corner of Alvarado St. and Sunset Blvd. Minus one point for using the name of a color; plus one point for not using any alteration of the word "berry."