Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Looks Familiar

The music video to Blu & Exile's "Soul Amazing." Check it, yo.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


It began with a TV broadcast.

The reading of the verdict.

The helicopter view of Florence and Normandie.

The first reports of looting.

The first sign of fire.

Reginald Denny.

More looting.

More signs of fire.

Signs of looting and fire heading north.

A Parker Center protest.

Police cars being overturned.

Palm trees burning alongside the 101 Downtown.

More signs of looting and fire.

Koreatown shop owners standing atop their businesses, rifle in hand.

"Can we all just get along?"

Looting and fire -- in one's neighborhood -- right before one's eyes.

Smoke filling the air.

Staying indoors.

The police car situated down the street.

Family members breaking down and crying.

Final exams postponed.

What's going on here?

What is happening to my City?

Is this for real?

This is madness!

Oneself breaking down and crying.

We need an earthquake - NOW - just so everyone will stop.

That is what the Militant recalls from April 29-May 2, 1992. The event known as an uprising, a rebellion, a civil disobedience, an urban disturbance, a melee, an insurrection, a riot -- depending on one's cultural, geographical and sociopolitical perspective, was something the Militant will never forget, yet he kind of wants to.

He is keenly aware, just as he was aware back then, than many do not, could not and will not understand. They think it's just "California people being themselves." They think it's just "L.A. getting what it deserves" (they probably selectively forgot that other such events happened in several other American cities on 4/29/92 as well). They will never understand.

A good percentage of people reading this were not here when it happened, or maybe not of the age where they could comprehend what happened. But it did.

The Militant would not condone any of the actions, he has more sense than that. But looking back, it was the breaking point of a society that tended to wallow in naive content. A wake-up call. It was part of a process. Like the Oklahoma City bombing three years later or the multiple terrorist acts in the East Coast nine years later, it meant reality was no longer knocking at our door - it was busting it down.

So what now, 16 years later?

Many people contend "There's gonna be another one." The Militant wonders whether they're just guessing, or actually hoping. The Militant doesn't think so, at least not on the same scale. 1992 was also the birthdate of the World Wide Web, and in less than 10 years it would become a mainstream phenomena. Now it's a part of daily life. Heck, you're on it right now.

No, teh Int3rw3bz isn't gonna stave off another riot, but people are less and less in the dark regarding information and self-expression. Blogs and forums and the like won't save the world per se, but perhaps the pent-up anger that got unleashed in '92 could have been prevented if people had a common means to express themselves. Granted, not everyone has the luxury of the web (though you'd be surprised, the Militant knows for a fact that more and more low-income people have access to the Internet than you would assume). But the web is starting to leave the stationary computer realm and go mobile - on our phones or other devices. It is becoming more accessible.

The Militant also believes communities - and the perception of communities - have changed since 1992. When the fires finally burned out and actor Edward James Olmos invited citizens to go outside and help clean up the mess, the Militant was instantly inspired. The awesomeness of that spirit of involvement seemed to overshadow the ruckus of the previous few days. This spirit of cooperation, of involvement soon grew into the love and care of our communities that never really existed before.

Others may think this whole obsession with identifying with communities and neighborhoods, be it Westside, Eastside (both the wrong one and right one), NELA, Downtown, Silver_Lake, Silverlake, Boyle Heights, Palms, Sherman Oaks, Harbor City, Garvanza, Atwater Village, Pacoima, etc. etc. is "Too East Coast." No, it's a process. People are starting to take stock in their communities, they are starting to frame them. What was one ambiguous "city" that wasn't really a city is becoming more like a real city. We're a young city, remember that. Comparing Los Angeles to New York or Paris or Tokyo is like comparing a teenager to a bunch of senior citizens and asking, "Who's smarter?" To many the answer may be obvious, but the younger one can still have the opportunity to grow and learn, whereas the older ones will always be set in their ways.

More importantly, from the perspective of this lifelong Angeleno, pre-1992, people took their neighborhoods for granted. They enjoyed life and when things went wrong, they didn't really give much of a care. Post-1992, people are making an effort to improve their quality of life. Countless non-profit agencies dedicated to improving of communities, be they regional, socioeconomic, ethnic/cultural or other demographic, have started up. Citizen groups dedicated to community improvement, safety or beautification have also started up. The Militant definitely got more involved after '92. He never understood why until he realized that it was all part of the changed psyche of the city. Yes, you cynical hating transplants, of course not everyone wants to get involved, but the level of involvement that exists today is something that never happened in the '60s or '70s or '80s. Each and every one of the Militant's operatives - he is proud to say - are community-minded people who are involved, be it local government, academia, neighborhood councils, non-profits, etc. They are definitely doing things. Are you?

Things are not perfect, of course, especially in this current economic situation nationwide. The event that sparked on 4/29/92 was tragic...yet, perhaps a necessary evil. What happened isn't necessarily justified. But it happened, and we must use our experience in a constructive manner. As Angelenos, we should own our own perspective of history and point to that event not from the perspective of hate, embarrassment or shame, but as an important lesson to all, that we should get off our asses and get involved.

Stay Militant, Angelenos. Truly.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A River Ran Through It: In Search Of Sacatela Creek

A late 1920s-era photo from the LAPL Photo Database shows an aerial view of Sacatela Creek (upper-right corner) in what is now the Koreatown area. The tracks that cross it are part of the "H" Line of the Yellow Cars. The street running towards the top is 1st St; the street towards the left is Bimini Place and the street towards the bottom is 2nd St. The large building is the Bimini Baths.

It all started last week during the Wilshire Center Urf Day festival, when the Militant mentioned that the Los Angeles Eco-Village had a historical display of what their neighborhood looked like in years past. The Militant saw the same picture as above and was incredibly curious about this "Sacatale" [sic] Creek that was in the caption.

According to this 2006 LA Weekly article, Sacatela Creek ran from its source in Los Feliz's Franklin Hills south through to Koreatown. Like the Los Angeles River, it was tamed by being converted into a storm drain, and the creek bed filled in 1930. The Shakespeare Bridge on Franklin Avenue and the Myra Ave. Bridge on Sunset Blvd were originally built to cross the creek. The storm drain still carries water today.

The Militant plotted it out on da Gmapz Pudomiter here:

Like Richard Dreyfus' Roy Neary character from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Militant was suddenly obsessed with finding out more on this lost part of our geology, even to the point of creating a model of the creek out of mashed potatoes (Okay, only kidding there, but that almost happened...)

But the Militant decided to do a little militant investigation and rode his bike to retrace the route of the old creek and to reveal any evidence of its existence. So here goes.

In Los Feliz, the creek began in the little valley under the Shakespeare Bridge (pictured left), built in 1926 when there was still a body of water running underneath. A storm drain opening lies right there at the end of Monon St. The creek continued south underneath where the Lycee International de Los Angeles and Prospect Studios (formerly KABC-TV's Studios) stand today. It then ran under where Myra Avenue runs, which is flanked between two inclines. The street is broken up by Thomas Starr King Middle School, which - surprise - has storm drain openings on the north and south ends of its campus.

The southern end of the school faces a continued Myra Ave., which, according to this 1929 photo, once ran uninterrupted before the school expanded. Look towards the bottom end of Myra and you'll see a little bit of the Sacatela Creek bed.

The creek then ran through today's Myra Avenue (now flanked by the Laguna and Sunset at Silver Lake condos) which runs underneath a bridge which carries Sunset Blvd. - a bridge constructed to cross over the creek (pictured right).

The diagonally-running street ends at the intersection of Hoover St. and Santa Monica Blvd. in East Hollywood. Here, a recently-constructed apartment complex stands at the corner.

Further Militant research reveals that this apartment (pictured left) is an affordable family housing complex run by a local Filipino non-profit agency that opened in 2004 and that the design of its corner structure is inspired by a typical rural Philippine bamboo hut. The name of the complex? Sacatela Village Apartments.


The rest of the creek's path was difficult to discern at this point, so the Militant only had topographical clues to work from. Obviously gravitational forces make it difficult for water to travel up in elevation, so the lowest point in the area was the assumed path of the creek. With nearby Hoover St. to the east being of a higher elevation, the creek could only flow slightly west of here.

To the southwest lies Dayton Heights Elementary School, just south of Melrose Ave. The Militant doesn't know what the big deal is with all these schools along the creek's path, though perhaps it was an attractive place to put an institute of learning. The lowest point in this area is Madison Ave., which dead-ends at the 101 Freeway. And what do we see here at the end of the cul-de-sac?

Yo, it's not just a storm drain, but A BIG MUTHA OF A STORM DRAIN! And here's the best part...
The big mutha of an opening allowed the Militant to reach his Militant Cam inside and take a snap. Here, the sound of trickling water accompanied by the cool, musty scent of algae greets the curious observer.

Behold, for we have found it...Sacatela Creek.

At the other side of the freeway is a similar storm drain facility and Madison Avenue continues again, past the PATH homeless shelter and crossing Beverly Blvd. Speaking of which, the LA Weekly article also mentioned the intersection of Beverly, Silver Lake, Virgil and Temple as a former body of water. Silver Lake Blvd. was once a creek itself, and the Temple St. bridge which crosses over it is yet another reminder of a street's riparian origins.

Across Beverly, the Militant spots an orange DWP truck parked on the street and a couple crewmen climbing in and out of a manhole cover.

Going south, the creek crosses yet another school - Virgil Middle School - and at the lowpoint of 1st St. we see yet another storm drain grille. Madison Ave. dead-ends (here, pictured right, water seems to percolate out of nowhere...hmmm....) at a berm upon which stands an apartment complex, which is exactly where the visible creek is situated in the 1920s photo at the top of this post - which means the land its built on is just fill, and might not be a good place to be during a big earthquake. Just sayin'.

The water spot is most likely a remnant of Bimini Springs, upon which a large early 20th-century bath house was built and was a famous local resort spot, attracting Hollywood celebrities and the like and was served directly by a Yellow Car line. Eco-Village residents described the history of the baths, which were segregated until after World War II, but then closed down in 1950 when whites stopped coming because they didn't want to swim with teh c010r3d. Hmph.

Today, Bimini Slough Ecology Park, located next door to the Bresee Foundation's offices on Bimini Place recreates the feel of Sacatela via a man-made creek, adorned with native flora.

The creek ran south-southwest, behind the Ralphs Supermarket, the Shatto 39 Lanes bowling alley and the Islamic Center of Southern California, then running west between Wilshire and 6th St.

The constant flooding of 6th and Mariposa (pictured left, circa 1920s) was one of the reasons for turning the creek into a storm drain. Sound familiar?

Today, the 6th and Mariposa intersection is home to "DWP Distribution Station 61" and, until recently, an establishment called "Creekside Cafe."

There's been talk, from Eco-Village resident activists and even Cal Poly Pomona planning students, of digging up (known as "daylighting") Sacatela Creek as part of the the process of taking our region's topography back to da old school. Interesting concept, though the LAUSD will probably be the first to cry foul, with four school properties (to date at know the land-grabbin' LAUSD!) built right through the creek's path. Maybe after the Big One, we'll talk about it. Maybe the Big One will cause the creek to daylight itself.

Nevertheless, this is an example of not only man-made history, but natural history, being torn down (in this case, encased in concrete and filled in). But knowledge and awareness of history nevertheless enriches the Angeleno and puts both memories of the past and visions for the future into perspective. For what once was is sometimes better than what never was, and what could be will always be better than what is.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Guitar Here Row

For guitar- playing Angelenos (no, not the ones who sling those guitar-shaped video game controllers around their necks and press colored buttons), the 7400 block of Sunset Blvd, at the corner of Gardner St., is familiar territory. They can name a Benjamin Buford "Bubba" Blue-type litany of anything and everything guitar-related in the neighborhood: From the rustic acoustic realm of Valdez Guitars to a couple vintage used axe boutiques to manufacturer outlets for the Carvin and Mesa Boogie brands to the big multi-instrument chain emporiums of Sam Ash and the monolithic dark-grey flagship store for the Guitar Center chain (pictured above).

As the Militant rode through the area on his bike on Friday, he wondered, but for why, of all places in the City, is there such a curious concentration of six-string stores? Is this stretch of Sunset specifically zoned for the sale of fretted, stringed instruments? Was there an influx of guitar slingers who immigrated here and formed their own community?

Let's go back to the late 1940s, back when Pacific Electric Red Cars ran diagonally (the oddly-shaped parking lots on the northeast and southwest corners are remnants of the old Red Car right-of way, pictured right) through Gardner Junction, as it was known back then, from Hollywood Boulevard to a place called Sherman (now known as WeHo). A certain guitar-playing Midwesterner moved into the neighborhood from NYC. But he was no ordinary guitar player. He was a renaissance man of sorts, not only tinkering with strings and things, but building circuits and other gadgets. He was known at the time for backing up his musical and matrimonial partner, singer Mary Ford. Hie name was (and still is, he's pushing 93 these days) Les Paul.

Paul, in addition to his guitar playing skills, is also an inventor, being one of the pioneers in developing multi-track recording, which allowed musicians to record separate layers of instruments at their own convenience, rather than recording everything all at once. He also invented various musical audio effects, which are still used by musicians and recording engineers today. And he wasn't that bad of a luthier, either. Heck, a well-known electric guitar he invented bears his name.

Paul not only lived in the Gardner Junction neighborhood, but he set up his own laboratory in his garage. Musical instrument manufacturers and retailers, many of whom were personal associates of Paul, wanted to be in close proximity to his lab, so they set up shop along Sunset.

The stores remained even after Paul packed his bags and returned to the East Coast. In 1959, electronic organ salesman Wayne Mitchell opened a store on "Guitar Row" called "The Organ Center." A few years later, as Beatlemania invaded America, he sold Vox brand guitars and accessories and renamed it "The Vox Center." A few years later, he renamed it, "Guitar Center," which operated directly across the street from the current store. The modern-day Guitar Center edifice opened in 1985 and sports the "Rockwalk," a tourist attraction of sorts featuring the handprints of famous rock musicians.

Even the nearby stores do not escape the guitar/music pedigree of their neighbors: Thai restaurant Toi on Sunset is adorned with rock & roll memorabilia and sports the slogan, "Rockin' Thai Food!" The Ralphs supermarket a few blocks east is commonly referred as "Rock N Roll Ralphs" due to an unusually high ratio of rock musician clientele there. And next door to Guitar Center is the Sunset Grill burger stand, where rocker Don Henley watched the working girls go by and immortalized the experience in a 1984 hit song.

Stay Militant, and Rock On!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dodger Stadium's 'Next 50' Plan: The Militant Weighs In

As any True Blue fan may or may not have heard by now, Dodger owner Frank McCourt on Thursday outlined a plan to renovate The Stadium with numerous cosmetic improvements to the surrounding lot by the 2012 season, and a commitment to keep the Dodgers there for the next 50 years (and Dodger games are what an 80-something Militant looks forward to doing in the 2050s).

The plan includes more greenery around The Stadium (they already added some to the bullpens this year), environmentally-friendly design, a "grand entryway" towards center field, two large structures behind the Pavilions featuring shops, restaurants and a museum, constructed perimeter plazas and vistas of Downtown and Hollywood and underground parking structures.

So basically these improvements give it all the trappings of a modern, HOK-designed new stadium with the dark green seats that every other city seems to have built, without messing too much with The Stadium.

Oh yeah, and no clear plan to bring transit in.

But let's break it down for a bit:

Shawin' Green: The 2000 additional trees planned as a "Green Necklace" for The Stadium is greatly needed for the entire Chavez Ravine area, as the large expanse of asphalt parking lot creates a micro-climate some 10 or so degrees higher than surrounding areas - a definite urban heat island that, in the heat of summer, impacts the surrounding Elysian and Echo Park areas, and perhaps even has a measurable effect on the trajectory of a hit baseball. But no tree species have been specified as of yet, so word is still out as to the water consumption of this new greenery.

Eco-Park: According to the plan, this means, "sustainable design practices like recycling, conservation, energy efficiency and the use of quality, durable products." The plan also calls for The Stadium to achieve a LEED Silver Certification rating. Sounds good, only time will tell how all this gets implemented.

Look At Me, I Can Be Centerfield: This "main entrance" (pictured left) concept was unexpected, though a neato idea for using that dead storage space behind the P.A. speaker structure. Besides, where is the main entrance to The Stadium, really? The front office entrance is in left field club level, while the main ticket office is behind Top Deck.

Pavilions Place: Perhaps the most significant structural change to The Stadium is the construction of mall-like structures behind the Pavilions. Not only do they provide a place for Dodger fans to hang out before and after the games (and possibly, as the plan boasts, also during the off-season), but perhaps in time Dodger fans will get rid of the "Leaving the game by the 7th inning" stigma, which is a phenomena that happens in nearly all baseball stadia, but is painfully evident in Dodger Stadium as its the only MLB ballpark that has a clear view of the parking lot. These new structures will cover the video of the parking lot while still preserving the view of Elysian Park and the San Gabriel Mountains. And as for the Pavilions themselves, the first visible change in the renovation plan will happen as early as the 2009 season, as the outfield stands will be crowned with brand-new HD-quality scoreboards.

View From A Lot: The Stadium's parking lot is admittedly one of the best places in town to ogle the Downtown skyline, so finally they are institutionalizing this vista by constructing plazas, balconies and terraces to take in the view. There are also structural changes to the direct perimeter of The Stadium to grant people a view of the field from just outside the walls, akin to the outfield park area behind San Diego's Kittly Litter Field.

So what does this all mean, and where's the money coming from?

For nearly the past half-century, The Stadium was just a sports venue rising from a field of asphalt, sitting atop a knoll overlooking the city. Ever since Oriole Park at Camden Yards triggered an era of new baseball urbanism, isolated stadiums fell out of favor and the yearning was for a more integrated destination that would feed off of, as well as support the surrounding neighborhoods.

Our Stadium at the Ravine presented a unique problem: It is an isolated structure, with a topographical hindrance that keeps it an auto-centric destination by which fixed transit is relatively unfeasible. Yet its relative isolation is also its greatest strength, namely the awe-inspiring views of both the manmade (Downtown) and the natural (the mountains).

It's a given that ticket and parking prices will rise accordingly to fund this ambitious half-a-billion-dollar undertaking. But would profits from the next four seasons really cover all that? Consider this equation: Housing Shortage + Big Expanse of Private Land Owned By Someone With A Real Estate Development Background = $$. Underground parking structures will supplant the existing parking arrangement, leaving lots of spare room for - yes - possible development. Whether McCourt plants to develop the spare land himself or sell it to other developers remains to be seen.

But not that it's necessarily a bad thing -- which brings us to the transit issue. Seeing that he cannot move The Stadium to the city, it's likely he'll bring the city to The Stadium. In time, people will live (what comes around, goes around in Chavez Ravine, eh?) and work by the Stadium, which will eventually justify building a fixed-guideway transit project (read: Metro Rail) to serve The Stadium, as it will likely no longer be an April-though-October isolated sports venue, but a living part of the City.

If the Militant's predictions ring true, then, play ball!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Big March in Little Armenia

If you had your craving for Zankou Chicken today only to find their doors closed, there's good reason.

Every April 24, Armenian businesses in Little Armenia, Glendale, Pasadena, North Hollywood and elsewhere close down for the day to observe the Armenian Genocide, a series of mass killings of some 1.5 million Armenians in the early 20th century by the Ottoman Turkish Empire.

Though the Genocide ranged for a number of years (between 8 and 29, depending on scholars), April 24 is recognized as a day or remembrance in the community as on this day in 1915, around 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Istanbul were rounded up, taken out to the desert and stoned to death, making it easier for the Ottomans to mass-exterminate the rest of the Armenian community. Without the intellectuals and leaders, many of the remaining Armenians, misled into believing they would be safely relocated or drafted into World War I, were easily killed off.

Decades later, as a direct result of the Genocide, most of the surviving Armenians went off to Greece, Persia, Lebanon, France, Russia and the United States. The Boston area is where the American end of the diaspora first settled, and soon spread to farming communities such as Fresno, CA. From there they arrived in the city to form the community that exists today.

At around 11 a.m. this morning, some 30,000-plus Armenian Americans of all ages, most clad in black, marched through the major streets of Little Armenia, waved flags, banners and signs and chanted slogans like, "1915 Never Again!" "Shame on Turkey!" "Turkey Run, Turkey Hide, Turkey Is Guilty of Genocide!" "We Want Justice!" and the equivalent in their native language. They were led by chant-leaders riding in PA-equipped pickup trucks that slowly rolled along the march route and fellow pedestrians shouting through megaphones. Several hundred more, circling the neighborhood in search of parking (the Militant got there easily on his bike, of course), used the time to cruise around in their cars, nearly all of them adorned with blue-red-and-orange Armenian-flags.

Their concern and anger is rooted in a singular 93-year-long frustration: That the Turkish government of today still refuses to admit the Genocide ever happened. Unlike modern Germany, who long ago atoned for its Nazi sins during the Holocaust, the Turkish government simply wouldn't budge. Which makes the issue even more complex than making a simple token apology: Today's post-9/11 America likewise refuses to exacerbate an issue that could risk losing one of their few allies in the Islamic world. But of course, had Turkey dealt with the Genocide issue been dealt with years ago, that wouldn't be an issue today.

Earlier this week, the Militant had a long conversation with one of his trusted Armenian operatives to talk about the issue and to get his thoughts. Like many things, nothing is simple.

The Operative did the march years ago, but doesn't much care for it today. Not that he doesn't share their sentiment -- the operative is very proud of his Hye heritage -- but that he felt it sends a wrong message.

"Many of my non-Armenian friends ask whether we won a soccer championship. I don't like how it portrays us. It's almost like a party atmosphere. I prefer the march to be a silent one," the Operative said.

But then it goes even further than that.

The operative recalled when another non-Armenian friend of his witnessed the march.

"She said, 'I see so much hatred there.' Is this how we solve the issue?" The Operative said.

To a passer-by, it does look like a classic case of long-running ethnic strife: Iranian vs. Iraqi, Catholic Irish vs. Protestant Irish, Korean vs. Japanese, Palestinian vs. Jew, et. al. But the Operative explained it wasn't even as cut-and-dry as that. The average Turk recognizes the Genocide. Turkish intellectuals recognize the Genocide (at times, that action costs them their lives). The Operative also explained that hundreds of Turks were killed in the Genocide as well -- because they refused to kill Armenians. It is the government that does not budge. But, the Operative added, many Armenians today easily overlook that.

The Operative told the Militant a story a few years ago when he worked at an unspecified book store. A female customer with an Armenian surname (fyi to those that don't know, generally ends with the letters "-ian" or "-yan") on her credit card made a purchase at his register. He said he ttempted to speak to her in Armenian but met a, "Sorry, I am not Armenian" reply. She went on to explain that she was in fact Turkish, who happened to be married to an Armenian.

The Operative gave her a pretty generous discount on her purchase. He recalled that she asked him, "Why are you doing this for me?"

"It is because we are neighbors," replied the Operative, who sent her off with an embrace. Tears of gratefulness and relief proceeded to fill her eyes.

Nearly a century later, as an entire community marches in the streets again and long-standing cultural sentiments refuse to budge, an individual can go much further and make a difference with a simple gesture.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day Festival: Wilshire Goes Car-Free

Drawn by the streetlight banners that hung over this City's other great boulevard in the past several weeks, the Militant made it down to the first-ever Wilshire Center Earth Day / Car Free Day Festival on Tuesday along Henry Gaylord Wilshire's namesake thoroughfare, between Western and Harvard to celebrate Urf Day.

Now, as you may or may not know the Militant by now, many days of his week are already Car -Free days, so really this kind of day is like a Lenten Friday for a vegetarian Catholic. But still, the Militant skeedaddled on his trusty two-wheeler, this time down the nice, bike-friendly corridor of Serrano Avenue, where he found a lively street festival and an even more lively crowd in front of the fest's entertainment stage at the Radio Korea building's front lawn (pictured above - nice use of open space, btw).

The festival location was Metro-accessible (the festival was bookended by two (M) Purple Line stations), but it seemed the mode of choice was la bicicleta, (excellent, as it gave the Militant an opportunity to blend in with the crowd, and not become easily recognized). The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition had their bike valet get-up, a free service which the Militant may or may not have taken advantage of.

The booths featured what you'd usually expect to see from an eco-oriented event: Environmental awareness/advocacy groups, Green-conscious merchandise, non-profit organizations and alternative energy demonstrations (pictured left). The Militant, who is eco-conscious yet can't stand the whole hippie-dippie culture thing was pleased to see this was a festival that did reach out to everyone. The trilingual signage reflected the local English, Spanish and Korean communities and people of all ages - from the little tykes who came in groups bearing the bright violet L.A.'s Best and bright green KYCC t-shirts to the older set.

The Los Angeles Eco-Village booth caught the Militant's attention, not because of their recently-inaugurated Bimini Place Shared Street project, but because they had a historical display of the old Bimini Baths, which stood near the present village, which not only showed wowee pictures of the old days, but depicted Sacatela Creek (sorry, no pictures online), a natural perennial stream which once ran from the Los Feliz area down towards Ballona Creek, but was ultimately replaced by an underground storm drain and filled in the 1930s (boo!).

There was live musical entertainment, some of it that hippy-dippy folksy stuff the Militant couldn't stand, but thankfully on the big entertainment stage there was a variety of live music, headlined by Michael Franti (of Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and Spearhead fame), as well as acts that ran the gamut from hip-hop to reggae to latin to electronic.

Spurred by the whole we- gotta- eschew- plastic- bags- like- right- now movement, the hottest item at the festival by far were reusable grocery bags, being given away by sponsors like the overpriced Whole Foods Market. Thing though, he saw a lot of greedy people out there walk around with a half-dozen or so bags, leaving very few or none for people who came looking for them. Learn to share, people! The Militant got a little agitated at the lack of their ability he threatened one vendor vowing to continue to use plastic bags unless he got his reusable. But he quickly calmed down once he found a dude handing out reusable bags printed with the logo of the Belmont Station apartment complex - incidentally built right in front of a famous Pacific Electric Red Car relic.

But two middle-aged women asked the Militant in Spanish where he got his green bag. El Militante regretfully had to tell them, "No mas." But hey, it's a good sign these things are more in demand these days.

The Militant also found time to chat with several operatives, one of which worked in a nearby building (but didn't do the car-free thing, boo) as well as running into some familiar faces who also pedaled it in (if there are any transplant n00bs reading this (probably not very many as the Militant has probably scared many of them away), when you run into people you know randomly on the street, it makes our city feel much smaller. Remember that).

Word on the street was that the event's organizers, who longed to do this kind of event for quite a while, deemed the event was a great success and plan to make this an annual affair. So make your car-free, green-baggin' plans for Wilshire Blvd come Urf Day '09.


Happy Urf Day, everyone.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

OMG M74 H4XX0R3D!!!1

The Militant may or may not have joked about it the other week, but the old adage of "be careful what you wish for" couldn't have rung more true as the Militant passed by this ticket vending machine at an unspecified (M) subway station on Thursday afternoon (If there are any of you who work for Metro who need to know, so you can, like, get it fixed, email the Militant (militantangeleno at gmail dot com) and he'll tell you.

As you can see, what normally would display the trippy-looking Metro logo "screensaver" or the menu where you can "Purchase Paper Ticket" et. al., appears as what is known as a BSOD - the Blue Screen of Death, which plagues certain Windows PCs. Passenger inconvenience notwithstanding, it's a rather embarrassing sight for the public to see. Even moreso than having the MetroVue video monitors remind you to clean up your unused desktop icons.

The upside, though, is now that the Militant knows that each Metro Rail TVM is really just a PC (hey, it's got a monitor, a printer and all), maybe with some l337 h4xx0r skillz, he can learn to blog on one of these things. Now wouldn't that be something. To paraphrase a line from the movie Robocop, the Militant would buy that for a dollar...uh...dollar twenty-five.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Go Retro: Pup 'N' Taco!

The Militant may or may not have dressed just like (and had the same hairstyle as) the kid in the commercial back then.

It's been a long-ass time since the Militant told you to "Go Retro." Well, here he is, bringin' the old series back. This time, the Militant takes you to an era, way before you loved Tito's too, when cars, collars and the bottom openings of your pants were much bigger...and you had a Pup 'N Taco.

There was once a Pup 'N' Taco in the Militant's neighborhood and the building still stands today, architecture mostly intact, as an unspecified ethnic eatery, but apparently there were quite a few of them in SoCal, as well as in the US Southwest. The Long Beach-based chain eventually got assimilated into the Taco Bell borg in 1984, but up until just a few years ago there were a few remaining vestiges of the PNT brand - namely one sign standing along Glendale Avenue in its eponymous city.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Songkran-tastic: Thai New Year On The Boulevard

Though The Militant keeps his personal life a secret, it's no secret that he's totally down for the variety of cultural festivals this great City has to offer.

So despite the 92-degree weather beating down on the heads of a Dodger Stadium-capacity sized crowd, the Militant was definitely there on The Boulevard to take part in this year's Songkran, or Thai New Year Festival.

[Warning: Militant Cultural Lesson Ahead!]

Now, the term "Songkran" does not mean "new year" in Thai (that's "pi mai"), but rather, "to pass or move into," which refers to both the astrological origins of the new year date (the movement of the Sun into Aries) and the cleansing and renewal rituals that accompany the holiday.

In Thailand, Songkran is celebrated during the hottest time of the year. Certainly in that regard there was more than a hint of authenticity in both the festival and climatic atmospheres. Fortunately for this festival, a pair of women in front of The Stone Bar splashed cold water no passers-by, a man standing outside the Siam Square import store spritzed the crowd with a bottle and large water vapor fans kept the Singha Beer garden patrons cool. The splashing of water is part of Songkran tradition, both as a cleansing gesture and to keep people cool.

The Militant will just say this: Of all the cultural festivals in Los Angeles, Songkran is perhaps the best of all. Not only is there the expected cultural entertainment, arts & crafts, commercial vendors and food (yes, there was chicken satay, but c'mon, this is a freakin' Thai festival, after all), but sports (Muay Thai kickboxing, pictured right), a beauty pageant, a parade and dancing (pictured above). This year the festival nearly doubled in size, extending this time to the entire length of the designated Thai Town area (the strip of Hollywood Blvd from Western to Normandie avenues) and, for the first time incorporating a 5K benefit race and a Curry Festival (which, like its processed soybean cousin in Little Tokyo, was a fundraiser for a local nonprofit). It was an action-packed festival for young and old alike. It functioned as an annual convening nexus for the Southern California Thai community (which the Militant may or may not be a part of), numbering about 60,000, and as a taste of the culture for non-Thais (another group which the Militant may or may not be a part of).

The Militant also gave the festival massive points for being extremely transit-accessible, as the (M) Red Line Hollywood/Western station was practically part of the festival space, with riders from all over the Southland emerging out of the station every few minutes. In fact, as the Militant left the festival for the first time, there was a long-ass line to get to the sole pair of ticket machines in the enture station (pictured left). There were also scores of bicycles securely tethered to not only the Metro station bike racks, but numerous sign and light poles all along the Boulevard. People who did opt to take the auto were guided to various off-site lots and shuttled in. This is how it should be done.

For those who ignored all of the above and ended up crawling around the cordoned-off streets the whole day, vainly hoping to score a parking space -- sucks to be you!

Granted, the sheer heat coupled with the plethora of activities left the Militant quite overwhelmed, and instead just decided to chill with operatives in a shaded area, as many attendees did. Basically anything that cast a large shadow anywhere functioned as shade. The Militant also anticipated stuffing his Militant mouth with the product of the more than two dozen Thai food vendors who came from all over SoCal, but instead just settled for some mango and sticky rice and, yes, a stick of chicken satay.

The festival gradually shut down as 6 p.m. drew nigh and the Militant left the festival to take care of some unspecified matters. He did return at about 7:30 p.m. just to bask in the too-awesome warm post-sunset climate, which bore a good helping of humidity, which, with some imagination, made the Militant feel just like he was in Thailand -- a place which the Militant may or may not have visited. There were still a few stragglers in the crowd as the tents went down, the vendors packed their wares and street traffic was haphazardly re-introduced into the Boulevard. The Militant kept on imagining, dreaming of a Songkran After Dark, lights strewn around the street and people still on the Boulevard, still walking, talking, browsing and eating, all basking in the warm evening air as the glow of the purple-orange sky lingering to the west provided the ideal backdrop. One day...

But as evidenced in the sleep-deprived weariness of many of the Militant's operatives who actually worked the festival, maybe that would be too much to ask. The Militant gives a (camo) hats-off to all who put this festival together -- a jorb well done. Suksan wan Songkran!

Aaaaaaaaaannnnnnndddd noooowwwww it's More Pics Time!

The Obligatory Street Crowd Shot: Ya know it!

Two Down, Two To Go: The newly-installed Apsonsi #2 stands guard over the festival. After nearly one year, Thai Town Gateway symmetry finally achieved!

School Is In Session: Native Angeleno and rockstar Thai chef Jet Tila teaches the ogling foodie masses how to make chicken curry.

Don't Hate Them Because They're Beautiful: Contestants for the Miss Thai New Year 2008 contest pose before the crowd; The Militant tries in vain to get the attention of the one in dark blue.

Art On A Platter: Amazingly-detailed Thai fruit carvings go on display.

Spring Cleaning: A festival-goer customarily cleanses a Buddha shrine with water.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Panorama City Pachyderm

The Militant, having to spend the entire day Thursday in The Valley for unspecified reasons (okay, one of them had to do with routine car upkeep -- his car went in for a 25,000-mile maintenance service -- an auto that was purchased new in Summer 2005. Low miles! Looks like all that bike riding has been working!). But after his appointment with an unspecified SFV dealership's service department, he found himself heading east on Roscoe Blvd, killing time until his next appointment, and lo and behold, right by Tobias Avenue, the Militant saw... elephant.

Actually there were three of them. WT...oh there we go. A bright, shocking pink tent pitched further back on a vacant retail lot that used to house the local Montgomery Ward parking lot was a telltale sign that the circus had come to town.

Or rather, el circo.

Los elefantes
were part of Circo Hermanos Vazquez a Mexican circus troupe whose US-based division travels around the country to send in los payasos for performances in Latino metropolitan markets. Having done a stint in Huntington Park last month, Circo H. Vazquez is currently in the middle of its Panorama City run, from April 4 to 21.

As the Militant snapped away on his MilitantCam, various local children, there after having been dismissed from school for the day. clung to the chain-link fence to catch a glimpse of the African elephants, chowing down on grass. Some of the kids' parents, talk to them while pointing to the animals. Looks like someone's gonna be going to see the circus this weekend.

The Militant Is Alive And Well

(Click to embiggen)

The Militant checked his sbemail Thursday and found a flood of letters (okay, a couple) from loyal militant readers wondering if the Militant was okay. Why the cause for concern? Perhaps after skipping a day after a recent post surge, but the Militant has taken breaks before (maybe too many, as February 2008 has proven...all five posts worth). But one of the emails pointed out that on Page A2 of Thursday's Los Angeles Times (pictured above), one news brief heralded:
"Militant dead."

Hey now! Of course, upon further reading, they were talking about an entirely different kind of Militant, eh heh heh...

Perhaps his East Coast Mainstream Media enemies may or may not wish for the validity of the news brief, but to paraphrase Samuel Clemens (c'mon, say it together now...), rumors of the Militant's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Plastic, Oh No, Banned

Some of the other local blogs have already reported that Swedish-based furniture retailer Ike...oops, wait, it's all caps...IKEA will discontinue its use of disposable plastic bags by Fall of this year. Since March 15 they have already charged five cents for people who do need the bags, and are encouraging customers to bring their own reusable bags, which they are selling at 59 cents a pop.

The Militant, a frequent reader (and commenter) of rival guerrilla factions, was engaged in commenting to an IKEA-bag post, when he hit the three-paragraph limit and decided to copy and paste the text into Notepad and make is own damn post instead. So here 'tis.

The Militant was at the Burbank IKEA last week to buy an unspecified piece of particle-board material furniture, plus a couple of cheap plastic storage bins (extra kudos to them for having bike parking, and not the cheap-ass wheelbender kind either, though the Militant had to drive there since his purchase weighed over 100 pounds, and that would have been one helluva masochistic bike ride back to the compound). He obviously didn't need any bags but applauded IKEA's effort to reduce plastic bag consumption by 50%. No not because he's some knee-jerk treehugging cliche, but for the obvious fact that those bags are everywhere - on the street, on sidewalks, in alleys, not to mention scattered all over the Los Angeles River. They're also found in our beloved beaches (as any Heal The Bay cleanup volunteer would attest), and worse, they're part of that two-times Texas-sized big-ass floating plastic crap thing (pictured right) currently circulating in the Pacific Ocean.

On a little tangent here, the Militant was eating some imported Japanese chocolate-filled cookies bought recently from a specified Echo Park grocery. The plastic foil package, with a plastic tray inside, contained 10 cookies -- each individually concealed in its own plastic foil wrapping. WTF here? All this plastic just for a few damn cookies?

But as a shopper who has bought reusable bags from other stores, namely Trader Joes, the Militant tends to forget to bring his canvas bag, especially since his TJs trips are mostly spontaneous events. He can leave the bag in his car trunk, but then if he decides to make a bike trip there, he's SOL. Oh well, he settles for paper most of the time, which makes for a convenient container when it's that time of the week to feed the blue bin.

Oh well, its all excuses anyway. But old habits, from both the retail and consumer ends, need to be broken. TJs does give an incentive for shoppers using the reusable bags, usually in the form of a raffle for a gift certificate. Surely the larger chain stores and supermarkets can do it too, and probably will eventually, but what about the smaller mom & pop markets-cum-liquor stores in the hood that all use black plastic bags? What about the local farmer's market or swap meet?

The Militant would love it if there was some rolling clump-like thing that could collect all the plastic crap on this planet (and perhaps result in a plastic mass large enough to function as Earth's second moon). Or maybe some alien Fred Sanfords from outer space would come visit Earth in search of our plastic crap (which would be like gold to them, and toxic waste like diamonds), and declare to the Earth-dwellers, "All Your Plastic Are Belong To Us?"

Oh well, in the meantime, while the Militant monitors his SETI signal feed, its time for us humanoids to fess up and start reducing our plastic waste habits. And not just for total environmental reasons -- plastic is derived from petroleum so the higher price at the pump will affect the price of them bags accordingly. Ergo, you're gonna pay a little more for stuff just because them bags will cost more for stores to purchase.

The Militant already declines to use bags for small purchases. He will commit more to the reusable bag route. Little steps to put this big-ass problem in the bag.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Along The Shore of Lake Broadway

While walking from the Civic Center subway station to Little Tokyo on Sunday, the Militant snapped this photo of the pool of water that collected at the bottom of the excavation pit for the new Los Angeles Federal Courthouse. Taken from the corner of 1st St and B'way, the Militant dubs it, "Lake Broadway." With DTLA lacking a large body of water nearby (the closest you get are the MacArthur Park and Echo Park lakes), enjoy it while it lasts. Ya gotta admit, it sure looks purty with the skyline being reflected on it.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was another park located closer to Downtown with a considerably-sized artificial lake?

Seen On The Underground Scene

The Militant, aside from riding on that damn bike, is also known for hopping on the Metro Rail to get around. Here's some things he may or may not have noticed lately on the subway...

The Suspect Was Stripeless, I Repeat, Stripeless: Newly-redecorated subway cars, sans stripes, carry the "Metro Rail" and the big-ass "Metro" lettering on the sides.

Your Ad Here: Yes!!! Finally!!! After 15 years, we finally have non-Metro advertisements in the subway trains! This one (though not very visually interesting), hawks digital cable subscriptions from Time Warner.

"There are unused icons on your desktop...": With the little taskbar notice popping up on the lower-right hand corner of the screen, it's quite obvious that the new Metro Rail TransitVue information screens are somebody's Windows XP desktop. Let's just hope none of them go BSOD on us...Maybe those screens should show Time Warner Digital Cable instead.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Little Tokyo Blossoms -- Figuratively

The Militant took the (M) Red Line Sunday to the Civic Center station and walked down to Little Tokyo to check out the Cherry Blossom Festival Southern California which took place this past weekend.

Unlike other Little Tokyo Festivals, like the summertime Nisei Week, a decades-old tradition celebrating Japanese American culture, and the Tofu Festival, a fundraiser event benefiting the nonprofit Little Tokyo Service Center, the Cherry Blossom festival is a relatively new festival, organized by the Japanese American cultural organization Ryoma, which only started the event in 2002 in Pasadena and moved it to Little Tokyo just last year.

Inspired by more well-known Cherry Blossom festivals, the SoCal version also celebrates the arrival of Spring (yay, Winter sucks) and the blooming of the sakura, or flowering cherry tree. Which is a wonderful concept, only...that...there aren't very many of them in Little Tokyo.

Luckily the Militant was able to spot at least one sakura on the festival grounds (pictured above), tucked unceremoniously behind the Kid's Crafts tent on the northeast corner of 2nd and San Pedro. Fortunately there are more sakura planned for the neighborhood, as the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension's Little Tokyo / Arts District station will have a row of them right next to the light rail platform.

Speaking of Metro, the festival, which had the transit agency as one of its sponsors, was very good at promoting transit usage to the festival, and even provided an incentive to Metro riders -- anyone who produced a rail ticket or day pass at the information booth got a free poster. In the Militant's case, he got a watercolor reproduction of a pond of koi goldfish signed by artist and actress Kellye Nakahara Wallett. Other events should learn to follow suit and give a little something extra to Metro riders.

The rest of the festival, which didn't have the requisite Wells Fargo and chicken satay tents (it was, though, sponsored by US Bank and Union Bank of California and did have the requisite funnel cake and kettle corn vendors) had the aforementioned Kid's Crafts pavilion (with origami lessons), Ondo dances (pictured left), local nonprofits and organizations, a martial arts exhibit with live demonstrations, a Hawaiian Village (Many Japanese Americans, and other Asian Americans historically cherish the islands as a geographical and cultural gateway to the US), a main entertainment stage and food vendors hawking the usual festival fare (minus the satay) and Japanese favorites like sushi, takoyaki (fried octopus balls) and yakisoba. Though there weren't very many Japanese food booths, this event was located in Little Tokyo after all - so many restaurants were within short walking distance.

Parts of the festival also spilled into Japanese Village Plaza, which also had its own entertainment stage just outside of one of the Militant's favorite desert shops. One-Man Band Arthur Nakane, who has to bee seen to be believed, performed there to the delight, disbelief and "WTF?" of the crowd.

Though the sun played peek-a-boo all day, and the Militant lost his sunglasses after leaving the subway station (d'oh!), not to mention the apparent lack of the event's namesake trees, it was clear that Spring had finally arrived. With the Militant looking forward to the Songkran Festival in Thai Town next weekend (check out that promo!), Militancy is once again in full bloom.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Westside Ride

Friday night found the Militant venturing into The Westside on bike, to join roughly a hundred cyclists on the monthly Ride-Arc edjumakational rides through various sectors of this great City.

The theme for this month's ride was "Community / Public Space/ Security" - a demonstration of the various uses of public space and security, in how there are various classifications of public and private spaces which people may or may not use (no, really, seriously) according to their intended purpose. Additionally, the ride also touched on how public and private spaces are utilizing surveillance methods (i.e. cameras) for a (true or false) sense of security.

The 22-mile ride, which circled mostly in the Westside, started at the parking lot of the U.S. Federal Building in Westwood, home to various protests, passport renewals and a place to park to take the Hollywood Bowl shuttle bus.

Mile 0, Westwood: "Hey what you guys got going on here? Looks like fun!"
- Middle-Aged Male Passer-By

The Federal Building and the nearby VA Hospital grounds were pointed out as government-owned and funded public land which the taxpaying public was entitled to use -- yet the public largely does not use it.

After circling the vast VA grounds - a virtual community unto itself - there was a large iron gate blocked off to automobiles but open to pedestrians, which the cyclists funneled through. They then made their way through Century City into Beverly Hills, where they stopped at Rodeo Drive (pictured left), with a few rich folks walking around with "WTF" expressions on their faces.

Mile 7, Beverly Hills: "Hey, I wanna join you guys...I got a bike!"
- 20-something well-dressed female on sidewalk

Then it was on through Burton Way and 3rd Street, popping out of the Westside for a bit into the Fairfax District where the cyclists walked their bikes through Main Street Carusoville, an example of privately-owned public space, but The Grove's security went looking for Alex, the ride's leader, and told him he wasn't allowed to address the crowd on this tour stop. So the pack continued on across the street to Pan Pacific Park (we seemed to have been here before...) where they were able to stop, at a publicly-owned public space, though in contrast to the Grove's crowds, there was hardly any non-Ride-Arc'ers in sight.

Later the pack filtered through the wide sidewalks of West Hollywood and into the swank residential neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, which, ironically, are ideal cycling streets. After making a stop near some celeb homes, the group headed back out to Wilshire and through to Bel-Air.

Mile 18.5, Holmby Hills: "What are you people doing in my neighborhood?"
- Some dude in an SUV

After a brief stop in front of spacious Holmby Park, the pack rode up to the gates of Bel-Air. No Fresh Prince to be found, but the riders were briefed on a little bit of the community's history a once the home of Los Angeles' uber-rich, now relegated to the home of regular rich folk. It was on the way back out that a few cyclists took some spills and had some minor collisions with each other on the curving, unlit streets.

Eventually the ride went to the UCLA campus, which, as many of you may or may not know, may or may not have been the Militant's alma mater. The riders rode through Dickson Plaza and Bruin Walk, the Militant may or may not have had nostalgic pangs of pride. Finally, the group stopped in between Pauley Pavilion, home of the recently-eliminated Bruins men's basketball team (yay or boo), and the Intramural field, which is a large open space on the campus which campus security frequently discourages its use. This ended the ride, which left the riders either returning back to the Federal Building or heading home through various means. The Militant, too headed back to the compound via unspecified means.

As always, the Ride-Arc rides provide an excellent educational tour, as well as a way to discover not only the streets of the City but some awesome cycling routes. Many of the previous Ride-Arc rides retraced familiar treading ground for the Militant, but, though rarely wandering into the Westside, he was totally down for exploring some never-explored-before streets.

Friday, April 4, 2008

'Center' of Attention

So what's it gonna be, Angelenos?

Who knew the response to the Militant's be-all,end-all treatise on the whole Eastside-Westside-Something-In-Between dealio would be so huge? To date, 37 replies (okay, so some of those were the Militant's responses to previous replies), a new record here (Props to, Ryan J. Bell and Big Action for all that linkage goodness).

He thought the lot of you would be irate gentrohipsters trying to state their case for all Eastsidedom into the depths of futility but it wasn't the case (They probably don't read Miliant Angeleno anyway...). So it looks like Rev. Militant got a chorus of "Amen"s from the choir that he was preaching to. Testify, Angelenos!

As the Militant mentioned, he is entertaining names for our urban center, as illustrated above.

Suggested names include:

- The Center
- Da Center
- Central Los Angeles
- The Base
- The Capital (Sacto people would take issue with that)
- The Core
- The Cynosure (?!?)
- The Eye
- The Focus
- The Heart
- The Hub
- The Mecca (In post 9/11 America?)
- The Nucleus (Jam on it)
- The Seat
- The Middle
- The Creamy Middle
- Middle Earth
- El Corazon
- The Core Zone (get it?)
- H.O.L.A. (Heart of Los Angeles)
- The West Eastside
- The East Westside
- Center City
- The 21323
- The City (F.U. San Franciscans!)
- Bullseye!
- __________?

Got a name? Post it in the comments. The Militant will find a way to buy some Diebold voting machines and rig, er, determine which moniker will be the name of the center of the City. Either that, or you can text in your votes to see which dancer gets booted off the island