Thursday, September 30, 2010

Huell Takes A Trip

If you thought yesterday's sunset was a trip, get a load of this. Just had to share this with y'all.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In Appreciation Of The Sunset

You guys just don't know how good we got it here in Los Angeles.

No other place in America can view the setting sun like this. Only with a west-facing ocean where the low-lying orange sun illuminates the sea and makes the clouds glow with a multicolored lightshow from red to orange to purple can you see something like this. Sure, there are many other cities on the West Coast, but San Diego, Oakland and Seattle are obstructed by a peninsula to the west, and San Francisco is a city that largely faces north and east, and only the rich folk who live on the coastal end of Frisco can see it (Why else do they call that part of SF "The Sunset District?"). But here in Los Angeles, the egalitarian sky show is for all. We even named one of our most famous streets after it.

Today. September 29, the penultimate day of the ninth month of the year, and just two days after The Hottest Day Evar, many of us saw and gawked at rainbows, be they single or double, today, as a monsoon rain wet parts of the Southland. Many of us re-enacted or quoted that viral video. The rainbow was clearly today's star.

But while everyone was paying attention to the star of the show, another spectacular performance was playing out on the opposite side of the sky. The same monsoon rainclouds that gave us that rainbow action also lingered in the sky to reflect That Setting Sun. And there it was. The Militant took the top picture from The Militant Compound around 6:40 p.m. today.

The glowing orange sunset clouds were like an ethereal upside-down mountain range. But the show would only last for a while, as the chameleonic sky turned purple, then grey, and the sun would hide until another day (hey, that rhymes...).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hottest. Day. Evar.

After a Summer of bitching about unseasonably cold temps, after wistfully mourning the end of the Militant's favorite season at the onset of the Autumnal Equinox last week, after biking miles around town listening to Katy Perry's Summer anthem, "California Gurls" spill out of nearly every car stereo on the road, while wearing a jacket, we finally got ourselves a heat wave.

It was hot today.

Boy was it hot.

It was sooo hot in Los Angeles today, the food from the food trucks were cooking themselves. It was sooo hot in Los Angeles today, hipsters were advised to avoid vinyl record shops due to molten merchandise. It was sooo hot in Los Angeles today...

It was the hottest day ever recorded in Los Angeles history. "113 Dees Grees," as they used to say on KIIS-FM. When they used to play good music.

The Militant fondly remembers the previous hottest day - June 26, 1990. It was only 112 that day. Okay, he hardly remembered that day save for riding home in an RTD bus, which may or may not have had its air conditioning running. He did remember the Bell Biv Devoe tune, "Poison," though. Never trust a big butt and a smile, that girl is...Oh hey! The Militant digresses.

In the year 2030, when the Militant blogs (will they still have blogs then?) about that hot-ass day in 2010 when the weather hit 113, he will no doubt try to recall what he did on that day. And it will be quite a challenge, not because of the onset of old age, but because he spent most of the day...sleeping.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Screen & Green: Outdoor 'L.A.' Movies At Barnsdall Park

Yeah, the Militant has been blogging about public space quite a lot this week. But hey!

Looking for something to do tonight? Something that doesn't cost too much? Head over to the public space atop Olive Hill known as Barnsdall (Please don't pronounce it "Barnsdale" but "Barns-Doll") Art Park by Hollywood and Vermont before 7:30 p.m. for the third of their Outdoor 'L.A.' Movies series this month, where they screen four films from the past few decades that are set in, and feature the architecture and landscape of Los Angeles.

The Militant was there on the nocturnal outdoor cinema series' first night, coincidentally on Los Angeles' birthday on September 4, and saw 2009's 500 Days of Summer, a film that was shockingly similar to the Militant's life in unspecified ways...But he digresses. It was the perfect climate and vibe up there on the west lawn of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, attended by some 300-plus people. Yeah, there's a few hipsters there (It's just up the hill from Los Feliz Village after all), but the majority are more civilized, educated type folk. Best of all, the move starts right after the sun goes down, and the colorful glow of Hollywood Blvd can easily be seen to the west - the perfect backdrop.

Tonight, they're screening 1997's L.A. Confidential, the James Ellroy-penned crime drama set in the early 1950s starring a couple of Australian actors playing LAPD officers. Crikey!

The movie ain't free, but the $10 admission goes to the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation and their programs.

You're free to bring your own picnic a la Hollywood Bowl, or there's about three or four food trucks parked in the lot just north of the Hollyhock House. Parking is crazy since you know everyone else is gonna drive there, but take the (M) Red Line to the Vermont/Sunset station and walk up Barnsdall Avenue to the park entrance stairs, or just bike up there like the Militant did!

Missed tonight's film? Come check it next Saturday for the final screening of the series with 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Has The Public Space Revolution Begun?

Ever since the post-World War II years, Angelenos were pretty much content staying in their homes, with their big front lawns and big backyards. The region's expanse geography has often been named as a factor, but an even bigger factor was our built environment - the only places where people were seen en masse in a recreational setting - aside from the beach of course - was indoors, like shopping malls, or in paid-admission environments (Dodger Stadium, the Coliseum, the Rose Bowl, Magic Mountain, Disneyland).

The suburban-based postwar paradigm was a contrast to the way things used to be; Downtown Los Angeles in the 1930s was virtually indistinguishable from New York City or any other bustling city center. And the historic nucleus of our City is, after all, a public plaza. But the freeways, parking lots and tract homes from the late 1940s on changed things.

There have been exceptions: Melrose Avenue, Westwood Village circa early 1980s. Then in the '90s, more of these pedestrian pockets started to gain popularity, namely Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade and Old Town Pasadena.

In the 2000s, we've seen Hollywood and Downtown Los Angeles gain active street life and public open space (or publicly-accessible, privately owned space, i.e. Hollywood and Highland, LA Live).

Are we in the midst of a public space revolution in Los Angeles?

Today, as you may or may not know, is the fourth annual observance of Park[ing] Day LA, a day where parking spaces reserved for autos become reclaimed for the day in the form of public human activity spaces. The intent, as the activity's SF-based founders established, was to create a dialogue. The Militant covered Park[ing] Day LA extensively back in 2007 (and a following-day epilogue) and in 2008.

But it doesn't stop there -- Hollywood Community Studio's "Streets For Feet" demonstration will transform Hudson Avenue at Hollywood Blvd into a pedestrian plaza from today until Sunday, with a bevy of activities.

And earlier this week, as reported in this here blog, The Robert F. Kennedy Inspiration Park opened to the public right on Wilshire Blvd (in front of the Ambassador Hotel LAUSD's New RFK Community High School) in the form of trees, plants, grass, benches, a public art memorial and even jazz music.

But wait, there's more! The four-block long Civic Center Park in Downtown has recently begun construction and the ever-popular mobile gourmet food truck scene has shown 21st-century Angelenos how to (literally) go out to eat. More and more communities are holding their own weekly Farmers Markets and the increasingly-successful Downtown ArtWalk, and similar regional events, are turning that Missing Persons song into outdated nostalgia ("Words" and "Mental Hopscotch" will still rock for all eternity though).

The revolution will not be televised. It will be outside.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This ISS It: International Space Station Over Los Angeles!

On Tuesday night, an operative exuberantly Tweeted about the International Space Station's scheduled orbit over Los Angeles. The Militant Tweeted the info, and at least a few of you were able to see it. Blogger and Tweeter Highland Park 90042 was able to capture it flying over NELA.

Tuesday's fly-over was spectacular in that the spacecraft was able to reflect a lot of light from the setting sun, and its orbit was close to being directly over Los Angeles; it emerged from the northwestern sky at about 7:34 p.m. and the bright, non-blinking object flew in a straight diagonal line Full-On All The Way Across The Sky (Whoa! OMG! OMG! whooooo!!!!) until it faded above the southeast horizon. It was visible for a full four minutes.

The ISS flew over Los Angeles again on Wednesday night, orbiting somewhat more southwest of the City, but still visible from the West-Southwest sky for two minutes, making a dash under a bright crescent moon, finally disappearing from view over the Southern sky.

The Militant took a pic of it with his trusty Militant Cam, using the motion setting with the flash off and took the pic you see above. Of course, the Militant Compound is filled with lots of nifty technological thingamajigs, so he was able to enlarge the tiny dot to this:
(Click to Enlarge)

Cool, huh? You can easily make out the space station's solar panels on the left and right sides of the image. All from some 260 miles above Los Angeles!

Of course, the ISS is no stranger to this area. Many of its components and modules were built right here in Southern California, at companies like Boeing Aerospace in Huntington Beach and SpaceX in Hawthorne.

The ISS flies over Southern California fairly regularly, though broad daylight and cloud cover obviously hampers the viewing experience. Visit this site to find out when the ISS orbits over Los Angeles next!

Militant Update: RFK A-OK - Public Space After All!

Back in July, the Militant stumbled on a curiously new mini-park being finished up along Wilshire Blvd. Why, he even wrote a blog post about it!

After several weeks and much speculation, Robert F. Kennedy Inspiration Park is finally open to the public, having opened this week in conjunction with the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools just over the fence.

It looks like this other blog (which is run by another local blogger you may or may not know) covered the opening, but the Militant got to set foot in the park on Wednesday afternoon and test it out.

There was a uniformed security guard on the premises, but when the Militant walked his bike in, he didn't even flinch. Good sign (or is the Militant really that stealth?).

The park is adorned by a row of trees through the center over a patch of freshly-grown grass and native, drought-tolerant plants like the spiny blue festuca grass, frame the park's sections. A circumferential pedestrian dirt path lines each section.

The most interesting feature of the park? A speaker on the extreme west end of the park that pipes in -- jazz music! No, not 94.7 The Wave crap, but actual jazz music! Maybe as a crime deterrent. Maybe all our future public spaces, like the under-construction Civic Center Park, should have jazz music playing. Especially that classic Central Avenue and West Coast Cool Jazz sound that originated right here in Los Angeles. Awww yeah.

Despite what some of the comments in the Militant's July post about the park feared, there is no fence, steel or chain link, covering the park. Which is a good thing. Great cities have great monuments and great accessible public spaces -- even better when they're of a historical nature. Now, the Militant has yet another place to add to his list of locales he takes his out-of-town guests to. And you now do too.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

On Los Angeles' 229th Birthday, A Look Back Through Postcards

In the early 1990s, a younger, curious proto-Militant Angeleno used to look intently at the post card displays at the local Thrifty Drug & Discount Store (now, sadly, part of East Coast megaconglomerate Rite Aid). Usually the post cards are there for the interest of tourists to send home to loved ones, (usually to make them jealous). But this native local had a different reason for perusing them: During that time, the postcards, for the first time, depicted a new Los Angeles skyline, topped by the then-brand-new 73-story Library Tower smack dab in the middle. This was now a different-looking City than the one he knew as a kid.

Yes, postcards are unintentional historical markers. The Militant recently stumbled on A Tour of LA Through Vintage Postcards. The very simple HTML site shows scanned postcards of Los Angeles and its environs from the 1930s to the 1990s (though unfortunately none of the postcards are demarcated by year).

Most striking is that of Downtown Los Angeles. One picture (pictured right) shows a circa-1968 skyline, or lack thereof. The tallest building, which is under construction, is the 42-story 611 Place tower, then known as the Crocker Bank Tower, and later the AT&T Building. It was the tallest in the City until the ARCO Plaza twin towers were built in 1971. As you can also tell by the picture, smog was much worse back then and even back in 1968, the 101 Freeway was constantly jammed during evening rush hour.

But other aspects of Los Angeles haven't changed, or have hardly changed, like this postcard of the plaza at Union Station, or the Chinatown Central Plaza.

This view of MacArthur Park (listed in the site's "Westside LA" section, heh heh), is only slightly more verdant than the view we see today, albeit lacking the shimmering view of the modern skyline reflected in the lake.

And speaking of "Westside," apparently Westwood gets its own separate section on this site (perhaps the site was made by a proud Bruin alum). This 1930s-era view of Westwood Village resembles an early 20th-century World's Fair site.

You can spend the whole day looking at these photos, and when you're done, you can look at even more on this Old Los Angeles Postcards Flickr site. Like the saying goes, you don't know where you're going unless you know where you've been. An appropriate activity to do on our fine City's 229th birthday (in addition to a few previously mentioned...). Happy Birthday, Los Angeles!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Celebrate Los Angeles' 229th Birthday Weekend!

Whatup, Angelenos?! Tomorrow is Los Angeles' 229th birthday, and it's so huge, most businesses will be closed on Monday! Oh wait, it's a national holiday? OK, whatever. But here's some kick-ass events to celebrate your city's b-day!

Pobladores History Walk - 6 a.m. to 12 noon, San Gabriel Mission to Olvera Street. Every true Angeleno must do this at least once in their life! Re-enact the original 9-mile journey by our City's founders on foot (Bring comfortable shoes)! The walk was canceled for the first time last year due to the Station Fire, so if you were planning on doing it last year, now is your chance! The Militant did the walk in 2007 and had a great time (the blisters were a bitch though).

2nd Annual Leimert Park Village African Art & Music Festival - 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., 43rd St. and Degnan Ave, Leimert Park (also Sunday and Monday). Enjoy "The Soul of Los Angeles" with this three-day free festival featuring African and Africa-American music, arts, crafts and food. Last year's festival was a blast, and this year's should be even bigger!

Outdoor 'L.A.' Movies At Barnsdall Park - 7:30 p.m., Barnsdall Park, Hollywood. Cap off the day with this first-in-a-series outdoor screening of famous Los Angeles-based films at Barnsdall Park. Saturday night's featured film will be 2009's 500 Days Of Summer. Upcoming films are: Sept. 11: LA Story (1991); Sept. 18: LA Confidential (1997) and Sept 25: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988). The movies aren't free, they cost $10 a person, but the proceeds go to the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation and their programs.