Sunday, September 30, 2007

Swerving Away From The Action

It was a sunny, warm early autumnal Sunday, which was just fine for the Militant as he still wishes it were Summer and not Fall. Close enough.

So there was some event called the Swerve Festival going on this weekend at various locales, including Barnsdall Park, where the Militant had to attend to some covert Militant activities, totally unrelated to the festival. The Militant was never really clear what this festival was all about, but according to the website, it's described as, " a new annual festival dedicated to celebrating West Coast creative culture and its community inspired by art, film, music and action sports." Which is odd, as the Militant - a Southern California native - considers himself interested in an unspecified number of those activities, yet never found much in this festival that really interested him. He did see some sort of environmentally-oriented exhibit (pictured above), which included an ethanol-powered grill that cooked popcorn which was for sale, a long row of decorated recycling bins and a set of stationary bicycles that recharged car batteries. The Militant thinks eco-stuff, as long as it's not too paleskinned hippy-dippy-flower- power in nature, is totally cool, as there's a purpose behind it, but nothing else looked that interesting, really. And there was hardly anyone in the park, which had much more vibrant atmosphere the previous weekend when it hosted Thai Cultural Day in the exact same space, so perhaps this festival didn't gain much local interest after all.

To be fair to the Swerve folks, though, there were a whole lot of other events happening this weekend, so maybe it was hard to get that captive audience. Hey, timing is everything. And perhaps this being the n00b phase for this particular festival, it takes time, and a reputation, to grow. But maybe next time they could be a little more focused on their theme or purpose. Over the past few months, the Militant attended the Feast of San Gennaro, Thai Cultural Day, FPAC , an arts festival in Little Armenia and the Lotus Festival to sample and learn more about the Italian, Thai, Filipino, Armenian and Asian/Pacific Islander cultures, respectively. The Militant still wasn't clear what kind of culture, theme or focus was being represented at Swerve.

Bussin' It West

The Militant hung out with an out-of-state operative visiting town for the weekend, who wanted to try out the (M) Orange Line busway for the first time (the operative quite enjoyed it) and rode the (M) Red Line subway towards the general vicinity of the Militant's compound. The Militant wanted the operative, a pizza connoisseur, to try out his favorite pizzeria, and since the operative already was in possession of a Metro Day Pass, the Militant recommended they ride Metro Rapid 704 to La Cienega Ave. The westbound bus was rather packed on a Sunday early afternoon, much to the surprise of both the Militant and the operative, who flew into town from a nearby state. After alighting at their destination and walking three blocks south, they sampled some slices of pie. which is normally quite good and currently subjected to various online accolades. Unfortunately, the re-heated slices were left in the oven a bit too long that they were slightly charred and worst of all, the namesake owner was not on the premises, which, according to various foodie types, partaking in a conversation with is part of the experience. The pizza was "good, but not amazing," according to the operative. But the operative was open to trying out the place again.

On the 704 ride back, after the operative showed the Militant some digital camera pics taken in the Central California coast over the weekend, the name "Atascadero" was a key word for another rider, a somewhat raggedy man in his 60s, to join in the conversation. He went on to mention that he spent time at the state hospital in that Central Coast town and once met serial killer John Wayne Gacy there. The operative continued the conversation with awkward fascination while the Militant politely nodded, but while writing this entry the Militant discovered that Gacy was never institutionalized there and in fact lived (and was subsequently imprisoned) in Illinois. Guess people can be so broken, so isolated, that they'd say anything for a conversation. Though the other rider wasn't threatening in any way, it's telling to see how mental illness might just become this country's downfall, affecting people from the very poor to the very rich.

But at least for today, the sun still shone for everyone who wanted to be under it.

Il Miliziano Takes on la Festa di San Gennaro

After being held captive for the past few years at Carusoville's Main Street, the 6th annual Italian Feast of San Gennaro returned to Hollywood this year and the Militant, accompanied by an unspecified number of Militant Operatives hopped on the (M) to check it out.

The feast event, started by comedian and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel (who is actually of Italian and German ancestry) is a smaller and much younger iteration of the one in NYC's Little Italy, which in itself is a smaller and much much younger iteration of the one in Naples, Italy, is a celebration of Italian culture, food and tradition (and not, as another local blog site calls it, a "Cheese Feast"). The feast, which is actually observed on September 19, honors the eponymous patron Saint of Naples, a third-century early Catholic martyr whose preserved dried blood is said to miraculously liquefy on the feast day.

On that note, let's get right to the food! There was a long row of food booths - all festooned with red, white and green banners -- set up on Hawthorne Avenue, just south of The Boulevard and west of Highland Avenue which had local vendors serving everything from the Militant's favorite pizza to the Militant's not-so-favorite pizza, gelato from Beverly Hills' Il Cono, cannoli (sponsored by the LAPD -- the Militant didn't forget the cannoli), biscotti, cappuccino, ravioli and some real buono Italian ices from Marrazito's in Santa Clarita. The Militant was in the mood for some mozzarella goodness that wasn't a pizza, so naturally he made a beeline towards the booth selling calzones -- but finding out, much to the Militant's chagrin -- that they had already run out.

The Militant and his operatives proceeded to raid the Precious Cheese sponsor tent which gave out free samples of salads, cheese slices and cheese spreads. Ultimately, the Militant settled on a vendor selling Italian sausage and pepper sandwiches -- but the bread had just run out, so he had to do with the sausage and peppers sandwich minus the "sandwich" aspect. Damn! Don't tease me bro!

Militant Operative Blackbird reported that many of the food lines were ridiculously long, so any of the shorter lines took first priority for us. Ironically for the Militant, the largely nonexistent Italian Ice line became the most rewarding food item at the festival. He might have to make a trek out to Santa Clarita sometime to add to his Ethnic Iced Dessert Quest reports.

Elsewhere in the festival was a large bar area, a bingo tent, carnival rides, a midway with festival games and a huge entertainment stage which had singers perform primarily '40s-era swing music made popular by Italian American artists such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. The main festival area, aside from the Hawthorne Avenue food tents and children's play area, was situated in a parking lot behind Disney's El Capitan Theatre and, not coincidentally, the theatre/studio next door which is home to Kimmel's ABC network late-night talk show.

The Militant, though, was pleased to see a little-noticed display of the history of Italian Americans in Los Angeles from the 1800s to today. It largely pointed out immigration by Italian region, the familiar Mediterranean climate of Southern California as a draw for Italians, settlements such as our old Little Italy north of Downtown and San Pedro, among others, famous Italian Angelenos (or, in the Italian context, Angelinos) such as Watts Towers creator Simon Rodia and painter Leo Politi, and even overlooked historical facts, such as how Italians found much in common culturally with the Latino community, and also how Italian Americans were ostracized nearly as much as Japanese Americans were during World War II and that Los Angeles is the fourth-largest Italian city in the United States. Though much more assimilated than today's Asian and Latino immigrants, the Italian American community, through its traits, arts and customs, offer somewhat of a glimpse into the future of today's immigrant groups.

Livin' The Life

The Militant's journey to the festival on Saturday night proved to the Militant how much he takes the Hollywood area for granted. He got to hop onto a subway train, do some errands along the way, got back on the train to head to the festival and experience the vibrant pedestrian scene along The Boulevard. No parking, or wasting time hunting for parking, or even getting caught in the virtual parking lot that is The Boulevard. Meanwhile, others likewise took advantage of this enough that the Militant actually had to wait in line to buy his return Metro ticket and mix with a crowd of people waiting for the train at the Hollywood/Highland station platform (pictured right). The future is here already, and those suburban fools (who apparently have much disdain for a city they really have little real knowledge of) just don't know what they're missing. Ciao!

The Italian Feast of San Gennaro, located on Highland Ave at Hawthorne Blvd, continues until Sunday. Admission is $5.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Silver Lake Kind of Day

The Militant ventured out on two wheels on a warm early Fall Saturday to nearby Silver Lake (remember, two words, not one...) where he discovered he had landed in the middle of a bevy of events for the community. A one-day only trial DASH shuttle bus service ran, free of charge, to test out a proposed Silver Lake DASH route and to provide intra-community transit to various events on a day the community dubbed, "Silver Lake Day." The circular bus route took riders to the groundbreaking ceremony of LAPL's new Silver Lake Branch Library on Glendale and Silver Lake boulevards, the Silver Lake Farmer's Market on Sunset and Griffith Park and two polling places for an election of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council - at Micheltorena St. Elementary School and Bellevue Recreation Center (of course, the fact that the actual vehicles used in the service were those vapid faux-"trolleys" irked the Militant, who staunchly believes that buses should look like buses and not made to "cross-dress" into cutesy wannbe trolleys -- which lack steel wheels that run on actual tracks and an electrical pickup trolley pole (which is what an actual "trolley" is named after), but since it was just for a day only, the Militant will let it slide).

The Militant, being a community-minded kinda dude, was curious as to this election and decided to drop by and check it out at the Bellevue site. A side room of the rec center was converted into a polling place (pictured right). From the looks of things, it was primarily longtime community folk who participated in the voting process and not the everyday Silverlake [sic] gentrohipster types usually seen roaming Sunset Junction and getting their Intelligentsia Coffee on. Of course, the hipsters probably think they're "too cool" to care about the neighborhood in anything beyond a superficial manner anyway, so no big loss there. The Militant cannot divulge whether or not he was a qualified stakeholder of the neighborhood council and participated in the election, but hypothetically speaking, if he indeed was, he would have no doubt casted his vote. Of course, like one of his trusted Silver Lake-based militant operatives, the Militant would only vote for candidates that would spell the community's name properly.

Friday, September 28, 2007

At Least We Got Free Blankets

Though the Militant has already coped with the death of the Dodgers' postseason hopes, he still had one more game to go to on Thursday night, courtesy of Militia operative Blackbird and a friend of his. Of course the Dodgers lost to the Rockies 4-10, courtesy of starting pitcher Esteban Looza and the Las Vegas 51s. It might as well have been the Rockies playing against the 51s.

It was a totally depressing atmosphere, even to the point of Olmedo Saenz -- once a pinch hitter that offered a glimmer of hope to the games -- getting a "yeah, whatever" from the Militant whenever he stepped up to the plate. Looks like no one at The Stadium this year got to see that "Saenz Killer Tomato" parody ketchup bottle graphic they used to flash on the Diamondvision screen back when he was a good pinch-hitter. Even the usual canned "Charge!" cheers, the spirited three-boom clap or the en-masse "Let's Go Dod-gers!" five-clap chant was either missing or done in meager amounts. To make matters worse, the concession stand sold the Militant a Louisiana Hot Link dog with an undersized bun. WTF? Even his Gordon Biersch Garlic Fries, was lacking in the usual amount of garlicky goop slathered on top of it.


The only silver lining in this pale blue cloud was seeing '70s/early '80s-era Dodger greats Steve Garvey, Ron Cey and Dusty Baker (now free from wearing the uniform of some lame team) throw out the ceremonial first pitch(es) (pictured left). That, and free fleece "LA" logo blankets given to the first 50,000 fans (which, in its rolled-up form, made a great lumbar cushion in those plastic seats).

But the Militant saw this season go full circle, beginning with a Rockies game on Opening Day and ending with a Rockies game...and racking up an "L" in both. At least the Militant doesn't have to hear Dodger Stadium PA announcer Eric Smith announce uber-annoying Rockies player names like "Troy Tulowitzki," "Ryan Spilborghs" or "Yorvit Torrealba" for the next several months. Eugh. Annoying!

As depressing and futile as it was, the Militant will make it loud and clear that he arrives before the National Anthem and sticks around until the very end, win or lose. So to all of you transplant types holding broad brushes who diss all Los Angeles Dodgers fans for "arriving in the 3rd and leaving in the 7th," Suck it and STFU.

And to those of you who perpetuate the stereotype, you can suck it with them.

The Militant Angeleno may be disappointed and angry at this year's Dodger team, especially at what it has become, but he will always be a True Blue Dodger Fan. And don't you damn forget it.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Overlooked Los Angeles: The Militant's Crack Addiction

The Militant will admit something to you, the loyal MA reader. The Militant is a crack addict, and scours the city in search of crack. He knows where to find crack in many of our streets, yet is intensely intrigued when he hears of new places in which to find crack.

Okay, okay, not that kind of crack. The Militant is talking about...track crack -- the visible remnants of paved-over railway track, usually from Red Car or Yellow Car routes, which pop up out of the asphalt every so often.

The picture above shows one example of track crack at the corner of Heliotrope Drive and Rosewood Ave, in the far northern edge of Koreatown. At this corner, the sidewalk slopes down into street level where the tracks seemingly enter Rosewood Community Garden. There are actually two sets of tracks, with one set only faintly visible in front of the yellow arrow sign in the background. The garden was once the right-of-way for the H-line of the Los Angeles Railway Yellow Cars. The line ran from Melrose and Western, zig-zaging southeast towards the Westlake district, to Downtown and ending in South Los Angeles at the present-day intersection of Wall St. and Gage Ave. The unusual width of streets like Rampart Blvd. are attributed to the existence of this particular line.

Some track crack can only be seen come re-paving time, when the City of Los Angeles' Bureau of Street Services scrapes away the old asphalt and lays down a new layer. Streets like Pico Blvd. and 3rd St. still have the narrow three-and-a-half feet wide Yellow Car rails fully intact below the asphalt and are in full view during the resurfacing phase.

Other locations, like Monroe Street, just west of Vermont Ave., which cuts across Los Angeles City College still very much reveal some crack, this time belonging to the V-line of the Yellow Cars. The line's eventual conversion from rail to bus was obvious for years, as this end of the route was, until just recently, a layover zone for the Metro Local line 11 bus (which was canceled this past June).

Could some of this embedded track be used again? Perhaps. A group of people in the Angelino Heights neighborhood are vying to scrape off the pavement and resurrect a Yellow Car shuttle line along Edgeware Road. In fact, the group already owns an old streetcar, sitting in a neighborhood backyard, waiting for renovation and possible re-animation in the 21st century.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The 2007 Dodgers: As Seen Through the Kübler-Ross Model

As any True Blue Dodger Fan knows, the 2007 Dodgers are officially out of the playoff race. No playoff ticket sales, no National League Division Series, not even the expected elimination from the aforementioned Series. No, there is no more.
Having trouble coping? Don't worry, the Militant had trouble coping as well. In fact, he still is still uneasy at the notion that the Dodgers are done for the year, especially when once upon a time they were predicted by many sportswriters to win the National League West division.

So come cope with The Militant, using the Kübler-Ross Grief Model:

1. Denial.

The Dodgers still have a chance right? Yeah, just watch, the Padres, Rockies and Phillies are all gonna go on a losing streak for the remainder of the season and our Dodgers are gonna SURGE! The Wild Card ALWAYS goes to the World Series, and the champion is ALWAYS the hottest team going in! YEAH! You better believe it!

2. Anger.

!@#$%^& Grady Little! !@#$%^& Ned Colletti! !@#$%^& Frank McCourt! !@#$%^& Brett Tomko for costing us so many games! !@#$%^& Furcal for getting injured at the beginning and end of the season! !@#$%^& Randy Wolf for being on the DL! !@#$%^& Jason Schmidt for getting injured! !@#$%^& Randy Wolf and Jason Schmidt! !@#$%^& Nomar for being teh sux0r this season! !@#$%^& Olmedo Saenz for his .185 batting average this year! !@#$%^& Wilson Betemit, wherever he is now! !@#$%^& Brad Penny for not winning 20 games! !@#$%^& Takashi Saito for blowing four saves! !@#$%^& that guy in Reserve 17 for throwing that 99 Cents Only Store Beachball at the Militant's head! !@#$%^& that new parking plan and the $15 fee! !@#$%^& the Carnation malt vendor for not returning the correct change! !@#$%^& the restroom for not having any running water the last time the Militant went to a game! !@#$%^& the rest of the NL West! !@#$%^&*()_+|AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3. Bargaining.

Dear Great Dodger in the Sky, we would be better fans if you could please let us see another baseball championship in Los Angeles. Wait! No! Not that one! Hey! Wait!!!!!!

4. Depression.

The Militant ceases to blog for a number of days, goes to an event, says, "Meh"...The Militant now chooses to get his radio news from KNX 1070 instead of that other station. But why even listen to the news? The news is all about pain and suffering anyway...Now time for the Militant Angel-emo to pout, put on some eyeliner and take a self-portrait for his MySpace.

5. Acceptance.

The Dodgers are officially out of the playoff race. The Militant will go to a game this week, but just to enjoy a Dodger Dog, maybe even go to Fan Appreciation Day just to win some prizes. And hey, next year is the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers in Los Angeles, complete with a Rose Parade float on New Year's Day and a 20-year reunion of the 1988 World Championship team (!@#$%^&, it's been THAT long?!). Hellooo, 2008!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bangkok Park: Thai Cultural Day

The local Thai community was blessed with a sunny post-precipitation Sunday as Thai Cultural Day took place at Barnsdall (not "Barnsdale") Park in East Hollywood. The event, in its 14th year, was organized by the Venice-based Thai Community Arts and Cultural Center and featured community booths, clothing, imported products, dance performances, artistic displays (including fruit carving art, pictured left), historical re-enactments and food.

The capitol and prime city of Thailand is known to outsiders as "Bangkok" but its proper name is "Krung Thep," which is short for, "Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit." The largest Thai community outside of Thailand is in a city commonly referred to (often disrespectfully) as "L.A." but its proper name is "Los Angeles," which is short for "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles del Rio Porciúncula."

Both cities' names, in their respective languages of origin, mean "The City of Angels."

In this particular City of Angels, there are over 80,000 people of Thai descent. In addition to Thai Town, the community is distributed into various pockets, including North Hollywood, Orange County, the Westside and the Pomona Valley/Eastern San Gabriel Valley area.

At the festival, there were likenesses of Thailand's American-born (Cambridge, MA) monarch, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej on blocks of ice (pictured right) or on canvas. Middle-aged Thai women hawked and bargained over silk clothing and high-school and college-aged Thai American youth just hung out. There was even a historical re-enactment display of 16th-century Siam with actors dressed as Portugese traders, who, despite their presence in the country, never colonized it. The trade eventually influenced many facets of Thai culture, such as the import of spices from India and Arabia and chili peppers from Mexico, which made its eventual imprint on Thai cuisine. Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that was never colonized by a foreign nation.

As endemic to any cultural festival, there was a food booth, but it sorely paled in comparison in terms of value to the much-missed Wat Thai weekend food court - a $5 "combo" at the festival got you a small bowl of rice and a meager, arbitrarily-selected chicken curry dish, despite having abundance of other dishes available. Oh well. At least no one can accuse the Militant of not supporting the cause.

On a better note, there was even a cultural tourism walking tour of Thai Town organized by LACommons. the Militant isn't allowed to report on whether or not he joined the tour, but operative reports revealed that the tourgoers learned a lot about the neighborhood, Thai cuisine (including the Thai concept of "yum," which is the balance of the four elements of Thai food flavors: spicy, sour, sweet and salty) and even stuffed themselves on generous amounts of free chow (and their inherent yum factor), courtesy of Hollywood Thai and Red Corner Asia.

A couple of the Militant's operatives were spotted at Thai Cultural Day, most notably Blackbird and Stingray. And perhaps the "bonus" reward to being there at the festival was the view of the Westside from Barnsdall Park's Great Lawn (pictured left).

Culture, a great view of the city and a recently-rainwashed sunny day in the City of Angels -- days like this the Militant lives for. But then again, it's just another day in the life of the Militant.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Uprooted! (And The Far East Journey)

The Militant performed some operations of a classified nature in the Hollywood area on a rainy Saturday. No doubt, the much-anticipated downpour wreaked much meteorologically- related havoc on the city, such as an expected post-burn mudslide in Griffith Park. Likewise, the Militant, who just picked up a whole rotisserie chicken (con garlic paste goodness) on Saturday afternoon from the original Zankou was stumped to find more effects of the recent precipitation branch out into places he wouldn't normally bark at (pictured right). Yes, a tree went down at a Metro Local bus stop on Normandie Ave. at Sunset Blvd.

The Militant Ventures East of the 15 - STOP THE PRESSES!

The aforementioned chicken (and its accompanying immensely addictive trademark garlic paste) was purchased as a potluck item for a small party out in The Far East, a.k.a. the IE a.k.a. the Inland Empire, a.k.a the sticks. The Militant, who normally doesn't venture east of the 15, had to relent at least for this one day as a dude named Phil, a fellow member of a certain online forum the Militant frequents, invited some of his fellow Southern California-area forum denizens for a little party/BBQ at Phil's place in Glen Avon in Riverside County. Dreading a torrential trek in the rain (no, the Militant didn't bike there, LOL) and inevitable lane closures and sigalerts along the 60, it wasn't that bad and in fact not a drop of rain fell as he ventured way out east.

The party took place in Phil's backyard, which was a reasonably elongated piece of property in a humble neighborhood of single-story ranch-style homes, including a house next door (pictured left) that had horse stables (!) The normally hot and dusty nature of Riverside county was muted today by the recent rains and the cooler temperatures, which made for a pretty-looking sunset that illuminated the Martian-like hills nearby. Like the Militant's Chowhound meet adventure back in July this was a similar event where the Militant (known under a different name in this particular forum), exited the realm of virtual anonymity and entered the plane of visible, tangible existence. But unlike the July foodie meet, the Militant had no previously-known friends present and had to make some new ones there. He approached the host, who was gracious, hospitable and appreciative and before not too long met others who recognized his username.

Why all this trouble and a 55-mile trip to The Far East? Aside from natural curiosity, the Militant wanted to combat the effects of technology eroding healthy human contact and instead use technology as a means to forge friendships and relationships with other humans. It was a pleasant, jovial, drama-free affair (though not without offline gossip about a certain other forum user who possessed less-than-stellar interpersonal skills and was not welcome to the event).

The Militant, like the others in that forum, loves technology. But the Militant, like the others in that forum who attended the get-together, makes it a point to be in touch with his humanity.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Park(ing) Day:The Epilogue

The first Park(ing) Day in Los Angeles is now history -- but what an effort. Over 40 sites were made in various communities, with the majority in the dense center of the city, which is likely a sign that Los Angeles has more of a center than most people give it credit for. Most of the sites were built or designed by artists, urban planning students/academics or architects. But a noticeable amount of plain old community folk got involved, including one neighborhood council, which was the only one in the city forward- thinking (and dare the Militant say, "militant") enough to create not one but two parking sites.

The Militant was involved in an unspecified number of "park"s on Friday, and though he cannot divulge which one(s), he can describe, via his network of operatives, which ones he knew of. One park in Larchmont Village was composed of sod and borrowed plants from a local nursery strategically placed in front of the City-owned parking lot which drew lunchtime visitors and children into its sketchbook. Another located near Wilshire and Western consisted of balloons on a patch of astroturf. A Thai Town "park" had a trailer and a makeshift astroturf campground while one not so far away in front of Los Angeles City College had a canopy, potted plants, a swinging bench and a kiddie pool. Some of the more ambitious sites were in Downtown, with one on Main Street comprised of native tall grasses and a bench made of bales of hay. The granddaddy of them all was one on Traction Avenue in the Arts District which took over an entire traffic island with sod and wooden pallets and invited kids from a Little Tokyo preschool to come play.

The problem the Militant found with the parks, including his own, was that though many passers-by supported the idea, they didn't quite get it. They didn't hang out in the parks, instead viewing it as something more akin to performance art or some sort of protest.

The day ended with an after-party at Public Counsel's parking structure (originally planned in the lot but moved to the structure due to the impending rain) in the Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown area. The party wasn't very happening, but the Militant was able to chat with fellow "park"-makers and see about three other "parks" re-located there (pictured left). A number of the partygoers decided to live out the childhoods they never really had by scrawling chalk drawings on the parking structure floor. Um, yeah. So unlike the Earth, Wind and Fire song, this 21st night of September wasn't that memorable.

Park(ing) Day was observed in over 40 cities across the United States, with Frisco boasting the largest number of parks (over 50), Los Angeles in an impressive second place with over 40 and NYC taking the bronze medal with over 20. In Seattle, the local press has already opened up the issue of funding for more parks in that city.

Today's Los Angeles Times Article on Park(ing) Day made much ado on the journalistic angle of conflict: white activists invading on predominantly Latino neighborhoods (which was largely true, but definitely not in the case of the Militant's park(s)); people in automobiles at odds with "park"-builders, etc.

But the media never reported the other stories: That the City of Los Angeles' Parking Enforcement did not cite any of the "park"-builders and in fact were keenly aware of the day's activities. Furthermore, according to an operative, one of the Parking Enforcement officers even said, "You oughtta do this twice a year!"

Movements usually start out small, awkwardly and with much criticism and derision. Park(ing) Day was no exception. But in the inevitably denser, more urban Los Angeles of tomorrow, planners and local governments will have to be more creative in re-defining the paradigm of public space. Granted, it probably won't come in the form of a parking space, but you just might be surprised.

Was it worth it? Hellyeah. And the Militant already has some plans for Park(ing) Day LA 2008.

Top photo courtesy of Militia member Blackbird.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Doin' It In The Park...

Over 40 street parking spaces - from Van Nuys to Long Beach, Westwood to Pasadena - will be converted into temporary parkspaces on Friday as part of Park(ing) Day L.A., an event described as a "grassroots effort reclaiming public space in our streets." Numerous operatives of the Militant informed him that the purpose of the event, which started a couple years ago in Frisco, was to create a dialogue on the use of urban public space, being that more space in our cities have been devoted to automobiles than to people. The Militant was so sold on this when he first heard about it from community-minded operatives that he attended some meetings held in very secret Militant-style quarters to gain more information and insight on this event. The Militant has been quite active in the creation of an unspecified number of these 42+ parks and has been devoting some of his time recently to some Militant-style strategic confabs regarding this very Militant operation.

Public space is important to Los Angeles as any potential open space is being (or has already been) gobbled up by developers and even the Los Angeles Unified School District (who in their infinite bureaucratic wisdom, claim their school sites can be potential open spaces for surrounding communities - shyyyeahfuggingright - like a kid who spends 35 hours a week on the school grounds would really want to spend their weekend there). The Militant doesn't mind the densification of Los Angeles, though blind densification without any regard to creating or improving infrastructure -- be it utilities, transportation or recreation -- doesn't make for good planning, nor happy urban inhabitants. Even for the developers' sake: They're not gonna make much money if people ultimately don't find these developments desirable places to live or shop.

Though affluent NIMBYS and members of the cranky, rotting GHP clamor for more parking lots and facilities (specifically so people won't park in their streets), they neglect to realize that cities were meant for humans, not cars (though they might have a point, as the Militant doesn't consider affluent NIMBYs nor GHP-types to be full-fledged human beings anyway). One of the Militant's operatives said it best: "We have homeless people, but there are no homeless cars."

The Park(ing) Day L.A. website has some interesting (and thought-provoking) statistics and factoids on ticker-tape scroll at the top of its page, pointing out some very stark socioeconomic disparities with regard to various demographic groups and their access to open space. No, Hollywood can't become a bunch of farms and ranches anymore, but we can has sum parkz.

So check out the map on the Park(ing) Day L.A. site and drop by the park (or parks) nearest to you (the majority of them are (M)etro-accessible). Maybe even spend your lunch hour there if you can. Support these guerrilla urban planners who are doin' it , not just here in Los Angeles, but in places like Frisco, NYC, Washington D.C., Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Miami and others - and worldwide in places like London, Berlin, Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, Melbourne and more.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Enough Already?

Fall is approaching - you can see it in all the advertisements for all the new television shows making their debut for the Fall Season, all starring a bunch of white people whom the East Coast-based media powers that control us all (well, most of us) believe you should be caring about.

While biking up Cahug-Na Ave on Tuesday afternoon, right on the corner of The Boulevard, the Militant happened on an entire south and west wall of a business, gaudily clad in ad-wrap (pictured right). The south wall carried the name of the TV show coming to the CW (the Militant won't be a mouthpiece for the networks, so find it out yourself) while the west wall was emblazoned with large photos of its Caucasian cast placed in the archways.

Similarly, a block south on Cahug-Na and Selma avenues was another south/west-facing advertisement for some new NBC shows with their own Anglo actors. This time it was a tarp stretched out on the second floor above Caffé, Etc.

Oh and BTW, no, the Militant didn't cause that little event on The Boulevard on Tuesday.

Now, Sunset Strip billboard ads are an institution. Ads can inform and entertain. Even buswrap ads have become part of the urban landscape. The Militant isn't against all ads. In fact, he'd love to see more on the subway -- it forms a contemporary motif that plays itself out in front of you and documents itself over time. Sure companies can and should get creative in promoting themselves, but, like all things, it can go too far. Water is good for you, but you can still drown in it.

Can't a building just be...a building?

Worse yet, the Daily News just did a story on parking stripe ads for a certain ABC show starring a bunch of white people (okay and one, not that one, the other one). So yeah, when you're hauling your groceries into your minivan at Ralphs, you're reminded to to tune in every Sunday night.

Does it really work?

The Militant is sure that many people are now trained to just tune it all out. They see an ad and become apathetic to whatever is being sold. We also learn to tune out other annoyances, like dumping our junk mail straight to the blue bin (tip: anything in the mail with a return address from "Wilmington, DE" is junk mail. Even if you have friends and relatives there - into the blue bin it goes. Hey, better safe than sorry). Also, when our landline phone rings, 90% of the time it's a telemarketer. The Militant just picks up the receiver and hangs it up right away when his landline phone rings. A legitimate caller would make another attempt to call you back.

Of course, there are those who fall for such annoyances hook, line and sinker. Guess they make the world go 'round, eh?

Perhaps one day we'll be so steeped in ads ("Hey look, there's a dog food ad on my cuticle!") that the raw aerosol lines of a graffiti tag would be a welcome sight, relatively speaking...who knows.

Perhaps this is all just a part of that 21st Century malaise. But that's a topic for another day.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

O Blogger, Where Art Thou?

Though the Militant hasn't posted since Saturday, he is alive and well and blogging again, albeit with an uncharacteristically succinct post. However, many (the Militant assumes many) are wondering what happened to the other great anonymous Los Angeles blogger, Los Angeles City Nerd (pictured left -- Disclaimer: Portrait is only a dramatization and not intended to depict the actual City Nerd).

The Nerd's whereabouts were in question after an absence of nearly two weeks in late July-early August. Many loyal readers noticed the Nerd isn't as prolific nowadays. Now the Nerd's page reads, "This blog is open to invited readers only."

Has the Nerd gone all Hollywood club VIP on us? Has the Nerd been beaten up and delivered a wedgie by Los Angeles City Jock (lol, there's no such blog, it just looks kinda cool to have a hyperlink there)? Site redesign? Alien abduction? Subpoena?

Or worse: Was the Nerd's identity revealed?

Lest you think there's some blue state-red state/Dodgers-Giants/ Great Taste-Less Filling/ Tupac-Biggie Smalls/ Paul Dateh-Miri Ben-Ari rivalry between us, the Militant will assure you that is simply not true. Though the Militant and the Nerd don't exactly hang out at Lakers games, Downtown bars or even The Huntington Library together (though it's possible the Militant and the Nerd might have crossed paths earlier this month, hmmm), without the Nerd, there would be no Militant.

Though "Los Angeles City Jock" would be an AWESOME name for a sports blog...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday In The Parks


The Militant was able to check out the Beverly Union Park grand opening in Historic Filipinotown after all, as his accident injuries have healed faster than expected. Even still, as an extra precaution, an unspecified number of militia decoy operatives were deployed to "cover" the event so as to confuse and/or distract anyone present who might deduce who the Militant is.

But when the Militant arrived, the formerly idle plot of land was alive with families from the community present, children running around, playing on swings and jungle gyms, volunteers doling out free pizza, water and cookies and the sound of cumbia music throbbing from a P.A. system, under a sunny and warm - but not uncomfortably hot - late summer Saturday in Los Angeles. Nestled between a view of the looming Downtown Los Angeles skyline and a large Filipino history mural, Beverly Union Park suddenly became a crown jewel in the neighborhood, a place where not only kids can play but families can barbecue or have a picnic - places more well-to-do communities undoubtedly take for granted (especially in HOA-controlled communities, where the happiness of children is strictly prohibited for the sake of preserving property values).

The Militant chatted with a staff member from the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to build and run new city parks where the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks could not.She told the Militant that the park was planned and designed by members of the community who offered their input. Furthermore, the park is also operated and maintained by members of the community, who also are paid for their work, further stimulating economic development in the neighborhood. The Militant also chatted with a Belmont High School teacher and one of the parents in the community and found out about their individual perspectives of and activities in their community.

Echoes of Shared Cultures

After briefly consulting via phone with one of his operatives, the Militant was informed that there was a cultural festival in nearby Echo Park. Because the Militant supports both parks and cultural events, he proceeded due north on Glendale Blvd.

Of course upon arrival the Militant surveyed the lotus bed and noticed that though there was new growth since July, it still was hardly 1/3 of its full capacity.

The festival was a Filipino regional fiesta held in honor of a patron saint, the American version of one held every September in the eastern Philippines. According to one of the people in the festival, the Echo Park version, celebrated by immigrants from that particular region of the country, has been an annual tradition for 36 years. Unlike the FPAC festival which the Militant went to last weekend, this one is largely attended and organized by older-generation immigrant Filipinos and their families to coincide with a feast day. But also unlike last weekend's festival, the food here was free! The Militant took out his wallet when a woman in a booth offered him a piece of cake and a can of iced tea. But the Militant learned that in such fiestas in the Philippines, total strangers are welcomed into people's homes and offered that sort of hospitality. Unfortunately, the Militant had learned from a festivalgoer that most of the food had already run out earlier in the day.

The Militant did discover a group of four Latinos roaming the festival site with much curiosity, no doubt already discovering the similarities of Filipinos to that of their culture. The Militant soon sat in on a conversation between two 50-something-aged men, one of them from the Philippines, the other from El Salvador. The latter was in the neighborhood as he and his wife visit her elderly parents, who live nearby, each weekend and the festival piqued their interest. The former has been attending the festival for the past 20-plus years with his wife and children, who were elsewhere in the park at the moment.

The two men had a conversation about their cultural similarities -- everything from their patron saint fiestas to their Catholic faith to the after-effects of Spanish colonialism to family traditions and the roles of the elderly, political corruption and the weakening economy in their respective countries. The Militant found this fascinating -- where the evil East Coast mainstream media emphasizes on cultural differences and tension between ethnic groups, the Militant, right before him sees two people engaging in an enlightening chat on their cultural similarities.

The Militant found this so refreshing and fascinating, he joined in on the conversation. It was quite a sight to see, with three people of different ethnicities -- Filipino, El Salvadoran and Unspecified -- sharing the experiences of their own cultures and each learning from them. Can't everyone else be like this everyday?

The two gentlemen asked each other their names. The El Salvadoran said his name was "José." The Filipino said his name was "Joe."

"We have the same name!" Joe exclaimed.

Throughout their conversation he held a rolled-up goldenrod-colored t-shirt of the fiesta event that was given to him by the organizers. Joe told José that he was more than welcome to come back next year -- on the third Saturday of September -- to his festival. José said that it was close to El Salvador's independence day, which was today, September 15. Then before he left, Joe gave José his fiesta t-shirt.

"I want you to have this, so you'll remember," said Joe.

Because this festival was borne from religious tradition, there was a Catholic Mass held in the tent where there were karaoke and dance entertainment earlier in the day. Already acclimated to Filipino hospitality, José and his wife decided to join the 150 or so people and one duck (pictured left) for the service, conducted in English.

The Militant rode home on his bike along Sunset, and even rode past the same site where just three days prior he took his spill. This time, there was no insect, and even if there were, the Militant would simply pull over and flick it off.

There are lessons to be learned every day in this city, both simple ones and difficult ones, in its parks and on its streets, but the one constant is that learning never ends.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Park Grows in Hi-Fi

The Militant is all about more parks and open space for the people, especially as developers and the LAUSD are grabbing up every single open parcel of land we got (and just wait after the next big quake when lots of properties get condemned...).

So the Militant is pleased when one of his City-staffer operatives informed him of the grand opening this Saturday of Beverly Union Park in Historic Filipinotown, just a few blocks west of Belmont High School (no, not that Belmont) at 1644 W. Beverly Blvd, by Union Avenue.

The park, a project of Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust and Council President Eric Garcetti replaces an old community garden and is situated next to a large mural by artist Eliseo Art Silva depicting figures and events in Filipino American history. The park sports a children's jungle gym area, basketball courts and open space.

Saturday's park dedication will (in addition to the expected speeches by a multitude of civic officials who like to take credit for it), FREE FOOD, martial arts demonstrations, arts and crafts and Filipino and Latino entertainment. The festivities run from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

If you live nearby, whether you live in Silverlake, Historicfilipinotown, Picounion, Echopark or even Downtownlosangeles, please pay the park a visit for the Militant as he heals from his recent injury (getting a little better...),

Thursday, September 13, 2007

When the Hero Takes a Fall

Bicycle Safety Lesson #313: When a large insect lands on your arm, pull over and stop before attempting to flick it off.

Being a Militant Angeleno has its advantages -- you get to see the city the way other's don't (or can't). A Militant hardly gets stuck in traffic, since a militant uses alternate methods of transportation, and even when a militant is driving, a militant knows all the shortcuts.

But being a Militant definitely has its risks. Last night while the Militant was riding solo along Sunset Blvd in Silver_Lake on the well-marked bike lane, the Militant suddenly noticed that a large insect landed on his left forearm. Having been exposed to jungle combat, the Militant is usually not squeamish about bugs, but this one was HUGE - it was either a moth, a large cricket or some yet-unknown species of insect which employs biting/blood sucking/stinging as a defense mechanism. The Militant instantly though of the latter.

So he shaked off his left arm, but to no avail. The insect was still there, perhaps feeling the resistance, was ready to bite or insert its sharp proboscis or stinging mechanism into the Militant's epidermis. Imagining that for a split second, the Militant, in a most knee-jerk reaction, took his right hand off of the handlebar and slapped his left forearm and...

[Cue Matrix-like "bullet time" slo-mo visual effect and droning breakbeat music score]

The handlebars of the Militant's bicycle turned off-course, then the forces of the Earth's gravity sent the Militant towards the ground, as his bicycle parted ways with his body, temporarily becoming airborne from the kinetic energy imparted by the separating motion. The Militant's bicycle landed on the hard Sunset Blvd asphalt, as did the Militant, who used his palms to break his fall as he landed face down onto the street.


Fortunately, there was no crunching sound, nor thud, nor screaming in excruciating pain, but he did feel the breaking and swelling of his blood vessels in his right leg, which bared a raw round scrape, and in his top lip, which was both bleeding slightly and at the same time was swollen from the inside due to the force of the Militant's front teeth being forced against it. And yes, the Militant was wearing his helmet.

He always does.

Even in the shower and when he goes to sleep.

Just kidding.

[End Matrix-like "bullet time" slo-mo visual effect and fade droning breakbeat music score]

The Militant dabbed his bleeding lip with a tissue and doused it with his water bottle, while passing by the Silverlake [sic] hipsters spooning their powdered-flavor base Pazzo Gelato on the sidewalk, too cool to care about another human being's welfare to even utter a default, "Dude, you alright?" (but what else does the Militant expect). This militant warrior was wounded, but still strong enough to make it back to the compound to rest and prepare himself for the onset of even more aches which would come his way come morning.

And does it ache. The Militant's right arm doesn't seem to straighten out normally due to the inflamation of his joints. He might have to sit out this Friday night's Midnight Ridazz ride to the Santa Monica Pier as he's placed on the 15-day DL. Typing is definitely not as comfortable.

Lest one of you readers read this and go, "ZOMG! Biking is so dangerous! I better not bike and stick to driving!" (Shyeah, right, like no one has ever been in a car accident...). But the Militant has been able to avoid a bike accident in 20 years (when he had a similar stupid accident (didn't involve a bug though) but back then he did not wear a helmet, which resulted in a minor brain hemorrhage and a week's stay in the hospital).

The Militant is keenly safe and aware and unlike some Midnight Ridazz kooks, he prefers not to ride inebriated (oh they'll love that in Beverly Hills). So the only reason why this happened?

It's them again.

The bug of unknown origin was most likely a mechanical man-made device or holograph designed specifically to distract me from the road, resulting in this accident, thus keeping the Militant off his bicycle to perform his militant activities. Yes, they would rather see the Miitant living in the monotonous suburban sprawl of The Far East, driving 25 minutes from his cookie-cutter Lennar-manufactured home just to visit the nearest Chick-Fil-A drivethru.

And because of the Militant's reputation, his enemies, no doubt connected to clandestine organizations run by the hegemonic East Coast media plotted their "Operation Militant Spill" on the streets of Silver_Lake, in front of an audience of hipsters, who were paid by these powers that be to partake in some free entertainment for their pleasure (because premeditated bicycle accidents are the new performance art). But the Militant is flattered that he is enough of a threat to his enemies that he was worth their time to try to stop. But they can't stop this Militant, oh no.

The Militant will ride again. And don't you damn forget it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Foreign Correspondence: Seattle Gets Berry Original

With all this talk of the impending expansion of the Pinkberry frozen yogurt empire both here in California and Out East, one would expect to see the chain (or one of its other So Cal-based competitors) pop up elsewhere.

One of the Militant's trusted Seattle-based operatives/militia members recently informed the Militant that in up the Emerald City, apparently they couldn't wait for all that, so they started their own.

The recently-relocated operative informed the Militant of the spotting of a new fro-yo store in his new Capitol Hill hood (apparently, the operative once described, the Seattle equivalent of Silver_Lake).

The name? "Crazyberry."

The Militant lapsed into LOL mode for at least a minute.

The operative also tipped the Militant off to a Seattle-based blog entry that described Seattleites' apparent "Pinkberry envy" (wait, don't those Washingtonians hate anything and everything that is California?) and mentioned yet another fro-yo ripoff: "Yoberry."
The Militant gets a kick out of all this, especially if and when P-berry moves into the Puget Sound region and enters a market already saturated with imitators, while Red Mango plays further damage control and pushes its "Originator" mantra even further.

According to a well-respected ice cream maker in Los Angeles who is also an operative of the Militant, these "Nonfat Italian frozen yogurt" chains are a joke, since the nightly cleaning and maintenance of the yogurt dispensing machines is extremely costly and labor-intensive (he told the Militant that it takes about an hour and a half each night to properly clean the machines) and that setting up shop in chic, high-lease areas will bite their asses in the end.

And besides, the ice cream maker operative quipped, "They don't even have that stuff in Italy."

Photo Credit: Crazyberry in Seattle, WA by Valleypinoy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Militant's Street Art Debut



Inspiration hits the Militant.

It all started when the Militant wanted to do a simple "Now and Then" comparison shot of Sanborn Junction (a.k.a. Sunset Junction; the former was what the Pacific Electric Railway actually called it). Unfortunately, after the Militant checked the "Now" picture taken on Monday, it didn't capture the same sort of perspective as the original. Perhaps, because he didn't have the original on him to compare it to. Duh.

So the next day, the Militant was ready, printout of the original pic in hand, the slightly crumpled paper folded in half, complete with web URL printed at the top of the page, flapping gently from the wind. But when it was time to take the picture, the little digital cam screen read: "NO CARD."

The Militant hates when that happens.

But suddenly he had an idea. So he returned to the compound, downloaded the original late 1940s-era picture and did some art magic. Some cardboard, some gluestick, some stapled yarn.

Later in the day, he makes the third attempt - proverbially, "the charm," correct? He snaps his "Now" picture, but notices an increased police car presence on the street. You know what the date is (The Militant is not a ter'rist). So he rides for a bit and ends up a little further down Sunset to make his return. Coast is clea...oops wait...okay, coast is clear now so he hangs the yarn on a protruding rusty nail that has probably been on the telephone pole when the wee Militant rode past the area on the RTD.

And there it is. A photo of the original, late 1940s junction with a Red Car in it. And a message inscribed, reading:

"Silver_Lake History Indicates the Presence of Streetcars" - complete with a quasi-subliminal message illustrated by the choice highlighting of certain letters in that sentence.

So there it is, on the northwest corner of Sunset and Sanborn, where Santa Monica boulevard ends its 14-mile journey from the sea:

Stop by for a look, hopefully if it's still there.

Militant Update: 9/12/07 - Okay, which one of you grabbed it?

Nothing to Show For It a.k.a. The "Notenkyu" Ride a.k.a. Try Again Later

Militant keeping it short this time...Took obligatory local area bike ride Tuesday...Northern edge of K-Town to visit a certain Angelena who worked there, not there today. Took a nice little pic (pictured left, wanna guess where?)...Rode into Historic Filipinotown, took some neighborhood pics, require further Militant research, did some additional research for The Quest, not completely satisfied with the specimen...Rode into Silver_Lake, through Sunset and into The Junction (hipster shield engaged), was looking for some camo threads. $30 for a pair of camo pants? Notenkyu. Walked past that coffee place everyone's talking about - notenkyu. Tried to take a "today" pic of this place, wasn't completely satisfied with the results (will make another attempt soon), rode past ridiculously expensive condos, notenkyu. Went back home. Attended to some business at the Militant's satellite post. Had some sort of meeting of a classified nature. Later accompanied militia member and drove to a celebrated quasi-Westside mess hall to discuss strategies of said classified operation and partake in the consumption of wedge-shaped rations of Apennine origin (TENKYU!).


Tenkyu for clicking.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Lima. Oscar. Lima.

The 2007 Hipster Olympics.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Little Bit of The Philippines By The Sea: FPAC 2007

The Militant, tending to non-blog-related activities over the past few days, ended his Militant hiatus on Saturday as he carpooled with an unspecified number of his Filipino operatives to the 16th Annual Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC ("F-pack"), as the Militant's operatives pronounce it) in San Pedro's Point Fermin Park, the southernmost point in the City of Los Angeles, and, as one of the operatives half-jokingly pointed out, the closest part of Los Angeles to the Philippines - a Southeast Asian archipelago some 7,000 miles across the Pacific.

With over 262,000 Filipinos in Los Angeles County, the ethnic group also comprises the second largest nationality immigrating to the United States (after Mexico) and is the largest Asian ethnic group in California, a state which boasts a little more than half of the two million-plus Filipinos in America.

Unlike most ethnic festivals, FPAC does not coincide with a national holiday but rather was organized by predominantly 2nd-generation Filipinos who grew up in the US to showcase their cultural traditions through various disciplines of the arts. The festival actually started in 1992 at Los Angeles City College, then moved down to Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro a couple years later, finally arriving at its current home in 2001.

The festival site, located on the grassy area next to the Point Fermin Lighthouse on cliffs overlooking the Pacific, was a fine spot for a festival, and the mildly warm and breezy late Summer weather was a far cry from the blistering mugginess that plagued the Southland just one week prior. When the Militant and his operatives arrived around noontime, it was already abuzz with so much action, the Militant had a difficult time focusing on things. The main elements, though, were two stages which featured mostly live music and ethnic dance performances, a "Culinary Pavilion" which featured cooking demonstrations of Filipino cuisine, an adjacent food court and a row of tents that ran the perimeter that housed everything from ethnic-pride t-shirts to nonprofit group outreach booths. Though the crowd was obviously predominantly Filipino, there were a fair number of blacks, whites, Latinos and other Asians there to take in the Filipino culture as well. It also attracted visitors who encompassed the entire age spectrum.

The operatives mainly spent their time hanging out with friends they literally ran into by walking the festival grounds. To the Militant's surprise, he even ran into various operatives he knew as well. There were even a few surprise guests who dropped by, such as the Goodyear Blimp (er, flying overhead...not making an unexpected landing) and even (according to one of the operatives), Mike of Franklin Avenue fame, family in tow (if that was him, then little did he know he walked in close proximity past the Militant...heh heh).

The highlights for the Militant included Room to Improv, an improvisational comedy troupe with a clever name, the Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble (pictured at the top of the article), who played traditional gong music from the Southern Philippines, a screening of a documentary film called World on a String, which detailed the yo-yo's Philippine origins and some great free food samples, such as sisig (sizzling, seasoned, parts) and spam-burgers and vacuum-packaged samples (spam-ples?) from the SPAM truck (apparently, Filipinos really love SPAM).

FPAC continues on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Admission is $5. Get some SPAM (and some culture as well) while it lasts.

Goodness Gracious Great Broadway Fire!

Terrorism? Plane crash? Tanker truck explosion? Like many in the Southland, the Militant saw a large, dark plume of smoke, stretching for miles, emanating off the side of the Harbor Freeway on Saturday evening. While heading back to his compound from San Pedro in a carpool with his operatives, the Militant, sitting in the rear passenger seat, was able to snap these pictures of the conflagration (pictured left) from the 110..

According to news reports, an 85-year old two story industrial building caught ablaze at the corner of 57th St. and South Broadway (near Slauson Ave.) in South Los Angeles, just a block east of the 110. The cause of the fire is still not yet known. Over 100 LAFD firefighters were on the scene to fight the blaze, which emitted a huge dark grey plume of smoke spreading for several miles eastward and was visible from nearly everywhere in the Los Angeles Basin (pictured right). The number of injuries and/or casualties from the fire is not yet known.

Militant Update: Flammable materials stored too close to fluorescent lighting fixtures started the fire in a carpet and tile store. The fire caused nearly $4 million in damages. Aside from non-life-threatening injuries to the carpet store owner, no one was hurt.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Go Retro: Universal Studios

Today's "Go Retro" is Universal Studios. No, not today's Universal Studios Hollywood, but just plain Universal Studios (complete with groovy-looking purple sign in fancy script, pictured right), back when it was a one-of-a-kind theme park and studio. Designed to wow overseas as well as backwater American tourists who have never seen this "movie magic" thing before, the Militant found enjoyment in the park not at the tour, but at the tourist's reactions to the tour (i.e. people screaming at the latex Jaws head mounted on a track under the man-made lake).

Like many things, the rides and attractions have changed over the years. Gone are the vocoder-speaking OG Cylon Centurions who stand guard in front of the old Battlestar Galactica attraction, for example. More recently, the Back to the Future Ride has used up its last jigowatt, to be replaced by The Simpsons Ride by next Spring.

But back in the 70s, long before there was a CityWalk or an Amphitheater or even a Cineplex, it was just a studio and a theme park, damnit. Back then, during the midway point in your tour, the buses would make a pitstop and visitors could order overpriced food at a concession stand and pose for pictures by some oversized props to pay homage to the Studios' '50s-era film The Incredible Shrinking Man. Tourgoers once posed by a much-larger-than-life-sized telephone, camera, park bench, human hand holding lipstick (or was it a bullet ?) and a shelf of books, just like a where a young Militant (pictured left) once did.

Which brings to mind a closing thought -- are the attractions in Universal Studios (Hollywood, Florida, Japan, Uzbekistan, Antarctica or elsewhere) meant to celebrate and honor the Studios' work and legacy, or reflect (aside from a token Frankenstein or Feivel The Mouse walking around) the current pop culture?