Sunday, July 12, 2009

100% Less Lotus, 50% Less Festival

Normally around this time of the year, the Militant heads over in an unspecified direction on his bike to Echo Park to partake in the three-decade-old Angeleno tradition known as the Lotus Festival. After all, he was there in 2007 (all three days, even!) and 2008.

But this year, due to the budget you-know-what and the apparent lack of lotus plants in the lake (see for yourself - pictured right), there was to be no "Lotus Festival" per se in 2009.

Enter the Echo Park Chamber of Commerce, who stepped in and put on the "Echo Park Community Festival" as a surrogate to the great Lotus Festival.

The Militant wanted to check it out. Before anyone did any planning, word was that it would be, by all accounts, a "Scaled-Down Version Of The Lotus Festival."

When the Militant arrived, it certainly sounded like the Lotus Festival - the sound of music coming from the main stage, the combined murmur of a crowd, children playing and the midrangey call from the microphone at the information booth.

There was also some Lotus Festival infrastructure to be found, especially in some of the EPCF's signage, which happened to be the signage used in the Lotus Festival.

The community health and nonprofit outreach booths along n the western shore of the lake looked the way they usually do, with most of the same groups present. The area in the northwestern corner of the lake, which recently hosted crafts and plant vendors, along with the garden exhibition - not so much.

The festival's midsection of crafts and merchandise vendors also looked the same, along with the Children's Area. The central portion, again, not so much. The large performance stage was replaced by a tiny little tent.

The crowds were noticeably smaller, but not scant. The good thing about the smaller crowd was that it was that the lines for all the food vendors were much smaller, or even nonexistent. The bad thing, well, of course the vibrant human energy that once propelled this park every early July was definitely not there.

The Militant definitely had mixed feelings about this. What was once a cultural festival, enjoyed by all cultures seemed 50% a reproduction of that (the Children's Area stage featured a few Asian/Pacific Islander cultural dance and martial arts performances from previous Lotus Festivals, but the main stage lacked the familiar timbres of Chinese erhus or the rhythms of Japanese taiko drumming. In its place was a DJ playing reggae music and a bunch of indie rock bands (with the expected tight jeans and ironic mustaches abound!).

The Militant is starting to get it now -- the gentrified Echo Park (the one that claims this area is "The Eastside") is now staking its cultural claim. You saw it coming.

Of course, the sounds of the gentrified Echo Park already has its own venue, where anyone can go to watch the hip-stars play each and every night of the week, but for many of the artists and performance groups from the Lotus Festival, they have clearly lost a venue and an audience.

To the Militant's surprise, he spotted a handful of Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks staff, who normally run the Lotus Festival, managing the Children's Area stage. When the Militant told them that he didn't expect to see them here, one of them replied, "We didn't either!" The unspecified RAP staffer also explained to the Militant that although the community's Chamber of Commerce was running the show, Mayor Villaraigosa didn't want to let this thing go completely and insisted that a certain number of RAP staff work this festival. After all, the park is still a City facility.

And those of you wondering about the dragon boat races? Despite the symbolism used in the EPCF logo, no dragon boat racing for you! But there will be a fireworks display, albeit on Sunday night and not on Saturday night (the Militant, originally planning to stick around past dark, found this out on Saturday and decided to leave not long after learning about the new fireworks night). So if you wanna get some more of your July pyrotechnics on and listen to the "Echo" in "Echo Park," get here by 8:30 p.m. The Militant may or may not be there.

The Echo Park Chamber should be commended for putting on something, though there was an energy, tradition and anticipation that was clearly missing here. The Lotus Festival may or may not return next year, but if history is an indicator, it has gone off-line before, in the late '70s and mid-'80s. The Militant, and many other Angelenos, anxiously await its return.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Green Line To LAX At Last? F'reals Now?

The most often-uttered complaint about our Metro Rail system - the lack of direct service to Los Angeles International Airport -may one day be addressed after all.

According to an email dispatch from Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jancie Hahn, the council's Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee on Wednesday approved various actions pertaining to LAX modernization, including getting Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the City department which administers LAX and three other regional airport facilities, for a plan to extend the (M) Green Line directly into the airport's central terminal area.

You heard that right? Central terminal area. Not any of this "LAX Lot C" bullshee, naw. Like right there in the terminals. Right there!

The email from her 15th district office quotes the councilwoman as saying, "Every other major city in the world has a public transit system that links travelers to the airport. This will make LAX more convenient for everyone – while also relieving congestion on our freeways."

Damn straight. Of course, the City Council has to vote on it, and LAWA has to agree to it, and of course these folks obviously have to get involved, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

MA Pays His Respects To MJ

As mentioned yesterday, the Militant was one of some 21,000 people able to witness the huge Michael Jackson Memorial event on Tuesday at Staples Center.

After a quick Red Line ride to Downtown, he got off at 7th Street/Metro Center, met up with one of his operatives, and walked down Figueroa, past the slew of vendors and onlookers (but not as big of a slew as people anticipated). Once we crossed the demilitarized zone (i.e. Olympic Blvd) and produced our wristbands, we were in the clear.

But right after rounding the ESPN Zone corner and onto Chick Hearn Court, there it was, the big-ass media circus, set up in LA Live's courtyard, and farther west down CHC. It was a visually crazy scene, but as for the folks, it was no different than lining up for a concert here, even though it was 9:30 in the morning.

Inside, the sounds of Michael Jackson's mellower tunes echoed through the arena, which set a somber, respectful mood. After a 40-minute delay due to waiting for the Jackson family to arrive, as well as a minor audio problem, the program began.

The Militant never saw Staples Center so full, yet so silent. Even the expected conversations between thousands of guests were muted murmurs that didn't even sum into any audible roar. The Militant was impressed, and in awe.

The Militant needn't reiterate what happened. You all saw it, on TV, online, and repeated hundreds of times in clips afterward. We heard from a Queen and a pair of Kings. There was a congresswoman and a Mayer. There were Michael's Motown bretheren (as well as the label's patriarch), and of course his biological bretheren. Many of the speeches and eulogies quoted MJ's universally-familiar lyrics and song titles.

There was laughter, there were tears, there was music -- the way life should be.

And of course, there was that moment:

The musical performances were wonderful, especially hearing Jackson's own material, sung by his pop star peers. The only thing better would have been to hear The King of Pop sing them himself...

...And it was then the Militant realized that Michael Jackson was actually gone.

The crowd left quietly, in a relaxed manner. Many of them stuck around at the few LA Live establishments that remained open. Some went back to their offices nearby. A few were instantly hounded by the media circus to get their soundbite reaction. Some international media waved or draped their respective country's flags to identify themselves.

Up above, a skywriter attempted to draw a heart in the sky, with the letters "MJ" inside. And nearly a dozen helicopters hovered like mosquitoes in the cloudless blue Summer sky.

The Grammy Museum, which the Militant visited earlier this year, showed any and all previous Grammy Show footage with Michael Jackson in it. They are also featuring an exhibit of his Grammy show wardrobe, and have also reduced their adult admission to $10 until September 30.

Outsize the demilitarized zone, there was still a crush of people, reporters in front of cameras, pointing their logo-adorned microphones at soundbite donors, and there were people selling items, mostly cheaply-screened Michael Jackson t-shirts, on the sidewalk. A few sold framed portraits, one even sold an iconic glittered glove.

Of course, with the executors of his estate still yet to be finalized, none of this money will be going towards the singer's massive $400 million debt. The Militant also has very mixed feelings on people trying to profit off someone's death. Come on now (though, admittedly, a $10 glitter glove was rather tempting).

Here's some video of the memorabilia vendor circus along Figueroa Street:

In contrast, there was also a humble street musician who played a simplified rendition of the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There" on his guitar and harmonica:

Then of course was the question of Who Was Gonna Pay For All This. The Militant certainly hopes that enough tourist revenue will be spent in this City to make up for the cost in this Budget-Cutting era (And if you are a tourist from outside Los Angeles reading this, please look at the Militant's Michael Jackson Los Angeles map and visit some of these sites, and spend your tourist dollars generously!).

All in all, the Militant was proud to witness another page of Los Angeles HIStory.

More pics:

Fox 11's Jane Yamamoto interviews Memorial attendees.

Media Circus at LA Live.

The camera's eye and hearts in the sky.

Viva El Rey de Musica Popular!

They just can't stop loving him.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson The Angeleno: The City Winks A Sleepless Eye (Interactive Map!)

View Michael Jackson's Los Angeles in a larger map

If you're groaning about how the Militant has joined the media fray in the over-coverage of Michael Jackson's demise, hang tight, because there's lots of relevancy here.

Though born in Gary, Indiana, The King of Pop has been an Angeleno since age of 11, and for much of his stardom called this City his home. His most famous work was made here, his most memorable moments occurred here, and it was here where he breathed his last breath and will be laid to rest. You'll find that Michael Jackson's life has stretched from the Westside to the Eastside, from the Valley to (hey, this is starting to sound like a Randy Newman song...) Orange County.

Yes, Michael Jackson was part of Los Angeles HIStory.

The Los Angeles Times recently published an online map showing various points of importance in the life of Michael Joseph Jackson, who lived in Southern California for most of the past 39 years. The problem with that map is that it lacks the Militant's in-depth historical knowledge and research on this City (Bloggers trump mainstream media yet again!), and that it omits other places in Michael Jackson's life here, like the schools he attended, and the other locations shot in the "Thriller" video. The Militant didn't just rely on Wiki, folks!

The Militant's interactive Google Map at the top of this post (similar to the Militant's previous maps pertaining to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Barack Obama) shows it all; just drag to navigate, click on the left resize buttons to enlarge and click on the little red points to find out the full details. Here's the locations in the map:

First Jackson Residence in Los Angeles, West Hollywood Hills
Jackson Family Estate, "Hayvenhurst," Encino
Michael Jackson's Final Home, Holmby Hills

Gardner Street Elementary School, Hollywood
Montclair Prep High School, Van Nuys

Michael Jackson Burn Center - Brotman Medical Center, Culver City
UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, Westwood

Recording Studios
Cherokee Recording Studios - Birthplace of "Of f The Wall," Fairfax District
Westlake Recording Studios - The Birthplace of "Thriller" and "Bad," Midcity West
A&M Studios, Hollywood

Performance Venues

Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles
Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Pasadena
Dodger Stadium, Elysian Park
Staples Center, Downtown Los Angeles
Disneyland - Captain EO Attraction, Anaheim

"Thriller" Video Filming Locations
Downtown Palace Theatre, Downtown Los Angeles
Bishop Conaty-Our Lady of Loretto High School, Harvard Heights
Union Pacific Avenue - "Thriller" Scene Location, Boyle Heights

Full-screenMichael Jackson's Walk of Fame Star, Hollywood
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood

For any of you reading this who is visiting Los Angeles for Michael Jackson's Public Memorial at Staples Center today, the Militant Angeleno welcomes you! Please feel free to use this map to take your own Michael Jackson tour of Los Angeles, and please do spend your tourist dollars generously (Your sales tax revenues will help get us the proposed subway line to the Westside that much sooner)!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Michael Jackson Memorial - The Militant WILL Be There!

The Militant woke up this morning and got the email.

No not that email. He already got the one that read:

Thank you for your registration.

Sorry, we regret to inform you that your registration to attend the Public Memorial Service for Michael Jackson was not selected.

Hundreds of thousands registered, but only a few can be in attendance.

No, this was a different email. One from an operative, who asked if the Militant wanted to go to the big Michael Jackson Memorial on Tuesday at Staples Center. "Of course!" The Militant replied. The operative, though, could not retrieve the tickets between the 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. pickup time at Dodger Stadium. So the operative forwarded the voucher (pictured left) to the Militant, who printed it out, and he volunteered to retrieve them at The Stadium.

Knowing it may or may not be a traffic snafu there, the Militant rode on his bike and was able to get in and out in a flash (if you saw a bike riding though the Dodger Stadium parking lot - it may or may not be the Militant himself)!

After riding in the main Sunset Gate where is voucher was scanned, he followed the auto traffic to a spot at Dodger Stadium Lot 3 near the Golden State Gate, where he ran into a section of the lot divided into several lanes by traffic cones. The first person he met asked to see his voucher and put a golden wristband on his arm. Yes, he has to wear this thing for the next 19 hours and use it to gain entry into the cordoned-off area surrounding Staples Center. A second wristband was handed over to him.

He was ready to leave, assuming they were the "tickets," when he decided to take more pictures of the goings-on. A few newsvans and police officers in cruisers and bikes (really, did there need to be that many?)were also in the house. Then he noticed staff handing out paper tickets and he wanted to know what was up.

Duh. So the Militant rode his bike to the end of the lane, where they took his voucher printout, tore it up, discarded it in a recycling bin and handed him a pair of purple tickets for the event.

Score! (Seat location and barcode pixelated out to maintain the Militant's anonymity in top picture)

As a long queue of cars waited to exit the Golden State Gate, the Militant rode on through on his bike, unencumbered. So long, suckas!

Now, the Militant knows what you're all thinking. "What's the deal with MJ, MA? It's soooo mainstream. Have you sold out?"

The Militant admits Michael Jackson is as far from the Militant as one can get (well, actually, not quite). He's never been to a Michael Jackson concert, never had a glitter glove, never had Michael Jackson posters in his room, never owned a red zipper jacket.

But the Militant, in his 30somethingness, can't deny MJ played a large role in his '80s music memories. He does own three unspecified Michael Jackson albums, two of them are on vinyl LP (You can pretty much take a wild guess at what one of them is). And the day the "Thriller" video came out, it was nonetheless a cultural event the day the Militant's dad came home from The Wherehouse and popped the tape into the old Betamax (The Militant certainly hopes no pictures of a 12 year-old Militant in a red zipper jacket ever surface).

But in the interest of Militancy, the Militant sees it this way: On Tuesday, July 7, 2009, the entire world's eyes will be focused on Los Angeles. At least for a few hours (again). we can lay claim to being the center of the world. In an age where collective consciousness is splintered into various niches, thanks to the Internet and specialized media, it's a rare sight to see such a major cultural event take place, the Militant will be there to witness it, and it's right here in our backyards.

The Militant will, of course, either be riding his bike or riding the (M)etro there. If you're going to the memorial at Staples Center Tuesday and don't, not only will you suck, but you're gonna make millions of other people's lives suck as well. The Militant can never suck!

The Militant will be Twittering (depending on signal quality) from Staples Center! Follow him at!

BREAKING NEWS: Google Transit Is Now Operational, Angelenos!

People have complained/campaigned for it, and more recently, were anticipating it, and it looks like it's finally arrived: Metro rail and bus trips are finally functional in Google Maps!

It's exciting, but not perfect; The Militant plotted a hypothetical route from Hollywood and Western in Los Angeles' Thai Town going to Marine and Inglewood avenues in Hawthorne. What was assumed as a Red/Blue/Green trip with a possible bus transfer or walk turns out to be a trip on the Red Line, the Harbor Freeway Transitway (Metro Express Line 450), the Green Line and Metro Local Line 40. Okaaaaay, then. There's still some bugs to iron out, or at the very least, a "rail only" option as is found in Metro's Trip Planner. But you heard it here first from the Militant! So far, so good, Google -- the Militant looks forward to more!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th!

The Militant plans to spend his July 4th in the neighborhood of his Compound, attending an operative's backyard BBQ, where there will no doubt be some undocumented pyrotechnic displays lighting up the neighborhood's skies. If you're relatively new to the Militant Angeleno, check out one of his favorite Fourth of July stories here (originally blogged back in 2007). Happy Independence Day, Angelenos!

Manny Happy Returns - The Militant Follows The Dodgers to San Diego!

The Militant slipped away to San Diego on Friday to witness Manny Ramirez's first game back from his 50-game suspension for using a banned substance. Personally, the Militant feels torn about the issue, but he was down south to support the Boys in Blue play against the Padres. And besides, Manny did the crime, Manny did the time, so let's move on.

The good thing about the Padres' PESTCO Park is that it's in an urban location, where the Militant and one of his operatives carpooled into an unspecified San Diego Trolley station and rode into the vicinity of the baseball park. The train was full of baseball fans -- most of which were proudly dressed in Dodger gear. But that was nothing compared to the sight and sound of Dodger fans, decked in blue, walking through downtown SD, chanting, "Let's Go Dodgers!" Looks like Dodgertown moved 140 miles south.

This may or may not be the Militant's first time in a baseball stadium that doesn't have the word "Dodger" in the name, but he can tell you that going to a baseball game in another stadium is much like going to a different church of the same denomination: The format's the same, the local customs are definitely different. PETCO (er, more like PESTCO) Park is yet another generic, faux-retro stadium deigned by the architectural firm Populous/HOK Sport, with all the seats of the same color.

PESTCO was a truly different experience from Chavez Ravine; the Militant couldn't help but notice the following:

PESTCO Park Cons:

- No stadium organist, ergo no "warm and fuzzy feeling."
- Stadium PA bangs out shrill drum machine noises to boost the crowd.
- Stadium PA announcer sounds like the "Dance Dance Revolution" guy.
- Inequality in bullpens. Home team gets a nice facility beyond the centerfield fence, visitors get a lame strip of dirt past the right field foul line -- opposite from their dugout.
- Their hotdog of choice is some generic Weinershnitzel dog.
- They only sing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" once. Not much time to stretch, is there?
- Each homerun sets off pyrotechnics; not a very good environmental move (though fortunately, this season's team doesn't have to worry about polluting the air that often).
- Not only do they have the team's dorky/creepy-looking friar mascot, but the stadium's naming rights sponsor has its own mascots, Red Ruff and Blue Mews. Do you really need two sets of unrelated mascots?
- A plethora of advertisements pepper the entire stadium. Don't you ever complain about the number of ads in Dodger Stadium again.
- Why is Steve Garvey's #6 a retired number?!?

PESTCO Park Pros:

- Urban, transit-friendly location.
- Concession lines move much faster here.
- Video screen "Guess The Hat?"game an actual challenge.
- Visitor's dugout is in the 3rd base side, where we're used to seeing the Dodgers.

Despite this being in San Diego, it appeared some 2/3rds of the stadium were visibly Dodger fans. The crowd was a sellout of 42,217 (which, in Dodger Stadium numbers, is like a Dodger game versus the Nationals. On a Wednesday. During the day. In the rain). It was a slightly different paradigm, though, having to cheer on the team wearing the grey uniform for a change. And the special 4th of July red baseball caps worn by both teams (the Dodger caps had the "LA" logo in blue with a white outline) didn't help either.

The fan ratio definitely helped, as when the Man(ny) Of The Hour made his first at-bat, the Dodger crowd, almost instinctively, conspired to drown out any "Boos" emanating from the home crowd. And for the most part, it worked. Even cheers of "Manny! Manny!" erupted (the Militant himself may or may not have started the first one!).

Some video goodness:

When he took to his left field position, there he stood, standing less than 80 feet from the Militant!

Manny ended up going 0 for 2 with a walk and was replaced in the bottom of the 6th by Juan Pierre, who also got love from the Blue crowd with some cheers of his own. The game ended in a 6-3 rout, with five of those runs scored in the first inning alone. Good times.

The game concluded with a 4th of July fireworks display (due to the actual July 4th game being a day game as the Fox Game of The Week, the Friday night game was their Independence Day celebration), which was pretty lackluster compared to the one at Chavez Ravine. Perhaps the downside of being in an urban area (surrounded by midrise buildings) was that the pyrotechnic display was not very large or very high (San Diego also has an airport and landing path that's ridiculously close to the city's skyline). And the coordination of us outfield folks to be corralled into right field wasn't executed very well by stadium staff (the Militant had to watch the fireworks show in the plaza area behind the outfield bleachers). Which wasn't such a bad thing, since all the post-display smoke wafted back into the stadium.

Oh yeah, the promotional item for Saturday's game? Beach towels -- that proudly read, "BEAT LA." Really now! Tsk, tsk. Even them hated Giants fans don't need to be brainwashed like that -- it's instinctive behavior.

Though honestly, the Militant does get severely irked when visiting team fans get overzealous, so, he guesses it's interesting to see it from the other side for once. Then again, even if the Dodgers lost on Friday night, the team still has the best record in baseball, so bow down!