Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Hostel" Takeover

Bijou Phillips wasn't really my favorite actress before, mainly because she always had so much irritating nepotism constantly surrounding her, being the daughter-of-John-Phillips formerly dating the son-of-John-Lennon and now dating the brother-of-that-dude-from-Malcolm-in-the-Middle. She's almost as bad as Casey Affleck marrying Summer Phoenix.

But she's gone up in my book after today's LA Times profile, half of which is spent raving about how much better LA is than New York City. Now, we here at Nobody Walks in LA like NYC very much, but are really weary of New Yorkers (and San Franciscans, for that matter) setting up a ridiculous us-versus-them dichotomy -- so we get kind of a kick when someone does it on our team.

The best part, though, is longtime New York media habitue Choire Sicha's responses:

Phillips: I drive this big truck around L.A. So my life's, like, pretty odd compared to most people. Very rural. I live in the Los Feliz area so I drive through Griffith Park to the other side -- you can ride all through Griffith Park, you have 55 miles of trails. It's horse paradise where I live! That's why L.A. is so great! I get to New York in the winterand you can't do anything. It's fine if you don'tmind sitting in your apartment doing nothing and you don't mind having dinner and seeing a movie-- it's so boring! There's no activities. In L.A., in an hour you can be in Big Bear skiing. In 45 minutes you can be on the beach in a wetsuit. See? It's better here. You can go on a hike all year round! It smells like sage and magical plants and pepper trees!

Sicha: Oh, man.

Phillips: The worst part about New York is you have to live in a little box. In L.A., you can look at a tree and maybe some grass. Maybe you live at the bottom of Runyon and you can leave your place and go for a walk and you can have a dog. And if you already have a dog, it'll be happier! It's just overall better.

Sicha: I guess!

Phillips: And you still have all the arts! All the stuff that's in New York is in L.A. All the same bands play. All the art exhibits come. So you can't say, "Oh, it's because of the arts." If you want to go to the theater? There's only so many plays, and they're all on for years, so you can go to New York for a couple weeks. So there's no reason to be in New York. Unless it's friends. And they don't want to be there either. So you can get all your friends to move to L.A. Probably 90% of all your good friends have already moved to L.A. Who would want to come back to a dark box on a loud busy street with construction and debris? Your apartment is so small and filled with coats and jackets and gloves and scarves -- and accessories are cluttering everything and it's miserable. And even if you go out, it's small! Even the massage parlors are small! Everything is small!

Hey, don't blow your word count with those responses there, Choire. It's like he's so dumbfounded by the idea that someone could live in both places and like Los Angeles better that he's lost all powers of speech.
See what I mean? Really, Choire, it's okay to agree with a positive statement or two about Los Angeles. We'll still believe that you're keepin' it East Coast Real.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Open Letter to Kanye West

Dear Kanye:

A few people have alerted me to this track from your new album, 808s and Heartbreak. It's a fairly wordy song with a lot of lyrics to scroll through, so I'll just post the relevant part:

You spoiled little LA girl
You´re just an LA girl
You spoiled little LA girl
You´re just an LA girl
You spoiled little LA girl
You´re just an LA girl (you need to stop it now)
You spoiled little LA girl
You´re just an LA girl (you need to stop it now)

Thanks, Kanye. I have no idea if your ex-fiancee was particularly spoiled or not, although I never saw her storming fashion awards shows bawling that she was an award's rightful winner. But regardless, our city is a diverse, beautiful city, and shouldn't be treated as an adjective connoting spoiled behavior. Since you live here, you should know that's just a done-before stereotype. Again, let's see if this works when you substitute another city:

You're just a Portland girl
You spoiled little Portland girl

Meh. See what I mean? It's a tired cliche, and you don't seem to be about tired cliches, so stop it. Plus I'm guessing your lady didn't live this lifestyle before she met you, so perhaps this:

You're just a Chicago boy
You spoiled little Chicago boy

...might be more appropriate. Oh, and also?

That was done before too. Kthxbai.
Nobody Walks in LA

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

One might think HBO's Entourage would be a no-brainer for this site, but I have to admit I enjoy the show and don't have a problem with it as far as Los Angeles stereotypes go. It always seemed their writers weren't making those broad characterizations about our city that are found so often in media, but instead focus tightly on one highly specific subset of Hollywood denizen. If you want to call a bunch of shallow industry social climbers "shallow industry social climbers," fine by me, as long as you don't generalize it to the rest of us.

However, that was until this season's finale based in their hometown of Queens (where the show's apparently relocating for next season), meaning they've now set up an East Coast/West Coast duality. And you know what that means in TV: the return of the East Coast Realness cliche. This one's kind of an anomaly, too. Usually East Coast Realness is perpetuated by New York based shows making a two- or three-episode arc to a hyper-glossy superficial Hollywood, but it's not often that you get one going West to East.

But this episode sets it up from scene one, in which Vincent fools around with an attractive female attorney in a New York nightclub. "In LA, you could only get an actress or a hooker to do that," says his brother, Johnny. "God, I love this motherfucking town!" That's right, Johnny -- there are no sexual women at all in Los Angeles other than those paid for their attractiveness. Good thing you're back on the East Coast. You'll never meet an actress or hooker out there!

Just to play up the distinction a little further, after that first scene the boys, who whiled away nearly every L.A. episode in trendy, glossy Paris Hilton-type clubs, suddenly eschew the high-end lifestyle to hang in a grungy neighborhood pool hall in Queens. How serious are they about this transition? Johnny purchases the dive and marks it as their territory by even naming it after himself.

You know things are bad when even the cinematography is stereotyping. Check out these scenes of the guys getting out of their taxicab in Queens:

See the earthy sepia tones permeating the houses, the street, the guys and even the clouds? Salt of the earth. Now check out another car on the street, this one belonging to Ari back in LA:

My eyes! The pure white of the buildings, redness of the sportscar and even the staggeringly bluer sky all connote bright shiny things. You know, like bright, shiny, Los Angeles. I've seen Adrien Grenier at cool indie rock shows around town, too, like of Montreal and Ratatat, both times in the decidedly earth-toned and unshiny Troubadour. Can't he do something about this?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

In the Warm California Sun

I know, it looks weirdly Photoshopped to me too, but it's a real photo of an old race car canopy out in an apparently-shadowless blazing sun of the Mojave Desert (accompanied by heat-impervious dog). It comes from a recent New York Times article on a trip taken with musician Ry Cooder and a bunch of hot-rodders to the outskirts of Los Angeles, intended to promote Cooder's most recent project, a three-album trilogy and novel which take place in the area.

The article's pleasing enough, even if the New York-centric Times staffer engages in more than a tad of gee-whiz marveling over the quaintness of El Mirage and Palmdale -- I half expected him to praise the damn fine coffee and cherry pie during their stop at a museum in Trona. But my favorite part is the essay by Mr. Jalopy, one of the participants in the trip, on his Dinosaurs and Robots blog:

There is the Los Angeles that people imagine of red carpet premieres,Botox lunches, velvet rope nightclubs, Venice bodybuilders and tony boutiques. It is not a fable. That is real. Or, at least, it physically exists.

Then, there is the Los Angeles that I know. Aerospace surplus hardware stores, smoky and ashtray-less Koreatown English hunt club bars in crumbling hotel basements, perfect beer buzz lunches at the Farmer's Market in filtered sunlight, the wild dogs of Pacoima, sprawling thrift stores, trolling junkyards for old diaries and Polaroids, the drag races at Pomona, chrome plating shops, backyards stacked with 300 bicycles, gold miners eager to show their biggest nuggets, fishing for carp in the Los Angeles River, optimists taking over art museums, the nicad battery selection at Electronic City, the metal patination case at Industrial Metal Supply, Kit Kraft Hobby, the gem vault at the Natural History Museum, the szechuan peppercorns of Alhambra, the churlish bartenders at Hop Louie, the sneaker shops of Little Tokyo, the imported coldcuts at Monte Carlo Deli, the Japanese garden on the roof of the New Otani Hotel, the bicycle swap at the Encino Velodrome, the DDR kids at the Santa Monica Pier, the mustard at Philipes, the dimsum carts of Monterey Park, the carnitas at Carrillos, the buffalo at Hart Park, the Kris Special at the Waystation, the netsuke room at LACMA, the Remington Rolling Block at the Backwoods Inn, the coffee shop at the LA Police Academy, the abandoned restaurant with leather walls at Union Station, the yardage of the Garment District, the abandoned fire station in the Toy District with the quartersawn oak lockers viewable through the crack in the door, the first two rows of lowrider history at the Pomona Auto Swap, Abe Lincoln's hat at the Huntington Library, the camillia forest of Descanso Garden,
the bolt room of Roscoe Hardware that is hidden in a kitchen remodeling home center, the genius at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the chile pepper booth at the Grand Central Market, sneaking to the top balcony of the Bradbury Building, the threadbare and dented Variety Arts Center, the orange groves of the 126 and secret utility salvage yard in the northeast San Fernando Valley.

Ry and I share this Los Angeles and it was fun to show it to Lawrence. He did us proud. Los Angeles tries to throw itself away everyday but we are still gold prospectors, hot rodders and guitarists. Our fundamental awesomeness will not be impinged.

Not only does Mr. Jalopy acknowledge our fundamental awesomeness without first being called out on the carpet about it, but he seems like a super fun guy to hang out with as well. (Thanks to BoingBoing for turning us on to this.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Burn This

Is it me, or is it getting hot in here? Gary Simmons is a visual artist with a new show in West Hollywood featuring renditions of Los Angeles landmarks on fire: the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Hollywood sign, etc. Here's part of it:

Combine this with the last post about the film Burning Palms, which isn't a film about a fire or anything, but is titled to quickly connote Los Angeles, and it looks like we've got anther cliche on our hands: that Los Angeles is burning. Bad Religion certainly believe it is:

And Public Enemy would like it to be:

I mean, come on, Gary Simmons. These paintings do look kinda neat, made out of paint and wax, but is there really, truly a statement here or are you just dittoing yet another sad old Los Angeles cliche? The LA Times kindly points us to this Ed Ruscha painting, Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, from way back in 1968:

They also reference Day of the Locust and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which "inspired" the collection (okay, I admittedly haven't seen that one, but I'll trust that Los Angeles burns in it), so the Times isn't buying this as an original idea either. So what kind of person would be so fixated on hating Los Angeles to spend a significant portion of his life's work replicating a tired anti-LA trope/fantasy of destruction?

Gary Simmons lives and works in New York City. He graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 1988 and went on to receive an MA from Cal Arts in 1990. The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York organized a mid-career survey in 2003 that traveled to the MCA, Chicago and Site Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 2006, Simmons' work was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Bohen Foundation, New York.

Oh, got it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Burned Out

According to The Hollywood Reporter, there's a whole film in the works all about LA cliches:

They're heading into "Burning Palms," writer-director Christopher Landon's satire of Angeleno stereotypes as told through five interlacing stories..."It's kind of like a John Waters version of 'Short Cuts,' " Segal said. The segments are based on popular stereotypes of West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Westwood and Holmby Hills.
Wait, what? Those are the five big stereotypable areas of Los Angeles now? Damn all those Westwood people; they're so... collegiate? Is there really a "Sherman Oaks type"? I can't figure out what exactly this guy's railing against, and I'm writing an entire blog on this very subject.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Oh phew, I was worried that my favorite cliche, "LA's dark underbelly," was falling out of favor since I hadn't seen it in a few weeks. But everyone's favorite crying, car-living American Idol wannabe, Josiah Leming, revives it in today's LA Times:

Despite his success, Leming feels out of place in Los Angeles. "[L.A.] confuses me," he said. "It's all, like, kinda glitz and glam, and I don't dig it. It's like, it's beautiful on the face, but there's nothing underneath. It's money and greed and sex appeal. And just no core values.
Perhaps a kid who, according to the Times, "left his ailing mother, out-of-work stepfather and eight siblings in Morristown, Tenn." because auditioning for American Idol was more important might not be the best person to carpetbag over here and get all judgey -- not to mention his parroting of tired old Los Angeles stereotypes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Life in the Cliched Lane

There aren't many days that go by without having at least one LA stereotype thrust at me, and today's no exception as I innocently turned on the radio for an hour and caught the new Eagles of Death Metal single, "Wannabe in LA." Here's the video, which is visually kind of cool:

But what the heck are the Eagles going on about? I can't find the lyrics online yet, but he repeats "I came to LA to make rock and roll / Along the way I had to sell my soul." Have the Eagles of Death Metal ever actually seen the Eagles of Death Metal? Singer Jesse Hughes tours around the world looking like a trucker Freddy Mercury and playing what Josh Homme calls "bluegrass slide guitar mixed with stripper drum beats and Canned Heat vocals." That's what passes for selling your soul these days? Sounds like he's doing exactly what he wants to do. Oh wait... you're supposed to say that if you're talking about Los Angeles.

You know what is an egregious sin in the music world though? Being unoriginal:

I'm just sayin'.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Stars Are Blind

Ugh, what a week. I was supposed to be on location in New York City, but was hit with a really nasty stomach flu and had to come home after a few days. So not only did I get my usual random hotel TV-watching in, but I had a full day trapped in a really crappy hotel* with nothing to do, so I'm basically familiar with this week's episodes of every single MTV and VH1 reality show. That Mystery: He's such a ladies man!

Now, I'm sure it's no great revelation, even if you've never seen the show, that Paris Hilton's My New BFF is full of stereotypes. But just for extra added fun, this week's episode is based entirely around the infamous "LA is fake" cliche. Thanks Paris! I needed something to write about this week.

So basically Paris starts out by intoning that "In Hollywood, it's hard to tell who's real and who's fake," then announces that she'll be attempting to rate the participants on an ascending fakeness scale with the help of that arbiter of gritty reality, Perez Hilton.

Eh, don't get that excited, Perez. A pseudonymed celebrity blogger might not be the world's number one judge of realness, even if you are from the East Coast. Perez doesn't do any appraising anyway, instead just being a cameo who interviews the contestants and assembles them into the aforementioned fakeness list. You get the expected Girl Who Everybody Hates at number one, and the sweet innocent girl from small-Texas-town at the bottom. This is the latter girl on the left: See how innocent! This contestant, Shelley, has an uncomfortable interview segment where she describes how she "came out of her shell" this episode by the above lesbian almost-makeout, plus by touching tongues with Perez. Now if she were, say, at Burning Man, we might buy this, but as part of a televised reality show, coupled with her highly unconvincing delivery of the tale, it just seemed forced, and -- dare I say it? -- fake.

Then there's now-eliminated contestant Onch:

Onch is male, and was a perfectly fun flamboyant girly-boy until he ranked #2 on the "fakeness" scale, leading to a teary-eyed scene in which he dressed in a button-down shirt and dramatically wiped his makeup off on-camera, in an effort to show the real Onch.

So here's how it works in Paris-Hollywood-land: If you're a sweet normal girl and you pretend to be promiscuous to win a contest, you're real. If you're a man who loves wearing makeup and women's clothing and you get rid of all those things, you're real. Got it? Hey, it's Paris' world and she can operate it anyway she wants, but let's not act like a barometer of real in the midst of a cliched fake Hollywood, please.

* I know, I should have checked Yelp before staying there, but the hotel's number is "Pennsylvania 6-5000" and Glenn Miller told me it was swank.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I'm So 'Board With the USA

Here's a 2007 single by Collective Soul called "Hollywood" that, if your musical tastes are anything like mine, you had no idea existed until just now. It's really not the end of the world as far as Hollywood cliches either:

Oh summer
It never leaves your face
You’ve got the sunshine bright-eyed California cotton candy taste

Yeah Hollywood
You know I love you more than one man should
Yeah Hollywood
Well kiss me, kiss me good

Oh pretty pretty stars
They love to sparkle for you

You’ve got the hip locked laidback animated groove attitude

Yeah Hollywood
You know I love you more than one man should
Yeah Hollywood
Well kiss me, kiss me good
Yeah Hollywood
You know I love you more than one man should
Yeah Hollywood
Well kiss me, kiss me good
[return of poppy riff]
Yeah Hollywood
You know I love you more than one man should
Yeah Hollywood
Well kiss me, kiss me good
Yeah Hollywood
You know I love you more than one man should
Yeah Hollywood
Well kiss me, kiss me good
Well kiss me, kiss me good
Well kiss me, kiss me good
Well kiss me, kiss me gooood
Well kiss me, kiss me gooood
Well kiss me, kiss me good
Yeah Hollywood
Yeah Hollywood

Of course that's because there are so few actual lyrics other than "Yeah Hollywood" and "Kiss me good" that there isn't room for many stereotypes anyway. We've got stars, being laid back, sunshine... meh, whatever, we've seen worse. Here's the video:

Again, it's kind of bland and inoffensive, much like the song itself. But what struck me as noteworthy here is the visuals feature a strong return of the "billboard" cliche. Is that something people really say a lot about Los Angeles? That we're just so full of billboards? More so than, say, Times Square or Vegas or other billboard-y places?

Apparently it's not just a cliche, but it's true to the extent that we don't just even have regular billboards here, but there's even a black market for illegal billboards, of which there are currently a whopping 4,000 in the city. Plus hundreds of regular billboards are being converted to the moving digital Blade Runner-esque ones. There's even an anti-billboard activist group called the Coalition to End Billboard Blight.

So, okay, I'll accept it and "billboards" are now officially a Los Angeles cliche. It's my own fault I haven't picked up on it anyway, since I blithely cruise around concentrating on the road and ignoring pretty much all the billboards in town.

Well, almost all. I know, I know, these are quite possibly the absolute worst LA cliche of all, but if the Coalition to End Billboard Blight tries to put Angelyne out of business, they're gonna have some serious 'splaining to do.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Run to the Hills

I've finally been rendered speechless. This has been accomplished by an article in today's LA Times on how The Hills and Entourage are shaping people's perceptions of LA:

Indeed, "The Hills," along with HBO's "Entourage," now in its fifth season,has helped to create a fervor surrounding a glitzy Los Angeles lifestyle that many viewers and tourists like Haas become entranced by and are now seeking to engage in.Certainly, television shows have long held the power to turn everyday destinations into meccas for rabid tourists.

Eager fans have traveled far to snap pictures by some of the spots made famous by their favorite TV characters -- trying on stilettos at the New York City Manolo Blahnik store featured on " Sex and the City" or slugging down a pint at the iconic "Cheers" bar in Boston. But both "The Hills" and "Entourage" have -- unintentionally -- teamed up to sell the latest desirable lifestyle, using B-roll of sparkling city lights, sun-reflecting surf and palm-tree-lined streets to present a clean, almost ethereal Los Angeles.

"From the very beginning, we wanted to set L.A. up as another character. Many people do come here to pursue their dreams, and it lends itself to that fantasy because it's so beautiful -- a city by the ocean," said Adam Divello, creator and executive producer of "The Hills," which trails Conrad and her friends around the city. By day, they work (or, at least, appear to work) at prestigious public relations companies and fashion magazines; at night, they go on dates and party at the city's poshest establishments.

Seriously, this story needs no wry commentary, so I've really got nothing to add. The article in its entirety can be found here.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

It's Business Time

I absolutely love Kristen Schaal (Flight of the Conchords/The Daily Show), especially since I saw her backstage at a National show looking and sounding exactly like her Conchords character Mel but without all the stalkiness. And now she says this in the LA Times:

"I love, love Burbank," she enthuses. "I did not realize that Burbank was the butt of jokes until I did 'The Greg Proops Chat Show' [at the Largo club] last year, and I started talking about Burbank and everything I love about it, and the audience kept laughing louder and louder. They thought I was joking, but I was totally sincere."

See what happens when you come here with no preconceptions? You don't just like the place, but you love, love it. Of course, TV announcers thoughout the years made the entire country think "beautiful downtown Burbank" is a dump, but if you haven't heard that phrase (and I find it kind of hard to believe Kristen Schaal hasn't, but I'll roll with it), there's nothing wrong with the city at all.

And...okay, that postcard isn't gonna impress anyone, but honestly? That could have been taken in pretty much Anywhere, USA, during the '60s, and there are many, many cities across America that are a whole lot blander and grimmer and more joke-worthy than Burbank, not to mention more dangerous.

Anyway, Kristen, we didn't think it was possible, but we now love you even more. And if your buds Bret and Jemaine happen to be free tonight, I have a couple roles in my new film Mabel's Lovers that need to be filled.

Oh, the Humanity

Ugh, the title alone offends me. This is a prime example of a disparaging remark that's perfectly fine to say about Los Angeles, yet would never be made about any other city in America. Staying Human in Chicago? How about Staying Human in Seattle? Doesn't make sense, but then again those cities don't come with pre-conceived notions of, apparently, inhumanity.

Marc Porter Zasada's essays in general aren't even Los Angeles-specific -- most of them deal with general personal or professional life and foibles -- so there really isn't any good reason for civic scorn. It does, however, apply in one area here. The second my radio intones, "This is Marc Porter Zasada with... The Urban Man," my instinct to dive and quickly change the station before I accidentally hear any of his strained third-person quirkiness does become pretty primal.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sex and Our City

One of the benefits of being a famous silent-era comedienne is that you go on location from time to time, which therefore means staying in hotel rooms. And that, of course, means watching random things on TV, since you're far from the happy control freakism of your TiVo. While removing my makeup the other night, I caught one of the most egregious LA-cliche offenders in the history of LA-cliche offenders, the two-part Sex and the City episode where they travel to Los Angeles.

Now, Sex and the City isn't known for its grittily realistic portrayal of New York either, unless you live in a New York where nobody takes the subway and snow always stays sparkly clean. But at least, unlike Friends, it did have some sort of New York vibe, and in general, it was a smartly written show that demonstrated its creators had many keen insights into the dynamics between men and women.

However, these two episodes switch the tension from that between opposing sexes to that between opposing cities, and being that one of them is Los Angeles, all reason, reality and tactfulness go out the window. Here's what the ladies choose to do while visiting our wide, diverse city:

1. Stay at the Standard and sunbathe
2. Go to a "dildo release party"
3. Rent a convertable Mustang that Carrie doesn't know how to drive
4. Go to the Saddle Ranch Chop House
5. Try to crash a film premiere
6. Attend a party at the Playboy Mansion

The Facts of Life Go to Paris looks like a documentary in comparison. There's a recurring dichotomy (especially in the voiceover) of "In New York, we do this... in LA, they do some opposing thing that's silly and flighty." But the perplexing thing is that while the four ladies are held up as an example of East Coast realness, they're the ones who consistently act like the shallowest, most cliched Los Angeles stereotypes possible.

Especially Samantha. While a voiceover solemnly informs us that "In New York, we have parties to celebrate the release of a new book; in Los Angeles, they have parties to celebrate a new dildo" (oh, come on!!), a later scene has Samantha shutting down one of her sex conquests because he's also a poet. Keep in mind the contrasting treatment of aspiring literary figures based in New York: Remember Berger the writer? Carrie went back to that doofus repeatly until he finally broke up with her on a Post-It. Yet the sole reason Samantha bails on this guy is his literary aspirations, because of course trying to be intellectual in Los Angeles is something to be considered silly.

Samantha's other major plot point is that she meets her hero, Hugh Hefner (apparently the new role model for non-shallow New Yorkers), gets invited to the Playboy Mansion, and purchases a fake Fendi purse off the street which is humiliatingly revealed as a fraud at the party. The sale of fake designer bags is treated as a very specific Los Angeles activity, which is a mind-boggling mindset to give a fashion-minded character who lives in New York City. But don't you know? Everything in Los Angeles is fake! Except Samantha's the one cooing over a ridiculously gaudy counterfeit bag, and even the Bunnies at the Mansion have bags that meet the show's idealized standard of non-LA real.

And Carrie picks a car she can't drive solely because it matches her outfit, opining that "cars are the new handbags" or some other nonsense, which really makes it ironic when, at the end of her hour-long sojourn, she steps back into her apartment with voiceover sighing that at least everything contained within is, again, real. Well, everything except her choice in rental cars, apparently. Oh, and her counterfeit-loving friends, the film option she flaked out on for a ridiculous reason, and the ability to afford that cool apartment on a writer's salary. Got it. Carry on, Carrie!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Put a Fork in It

The Airborne Toxic Event are an LA-based band with one song that I really like, and a new album which Pitchfork thinks I won't like much at all, hence the 1.6 out of 10 review they recently gave it. I haven't heard the whole album, so I don't have an opinion on their other songs, but I sure have something to say about this review:

The Airborne Toxic Event is an album that's almost insulting in its unoriginality; while the sound most outsiders attribute to Los Angeles has been marginalized to Metal Skool and the average customer at the Sunset Boulevard Guitar Center, TATE embodies the Hollywood ideal of paying lip service to the innovations of mavericks while trying to figure out how to reduce it to formula.

Oh my. Reviewer Ian Cohen manages to achieve a truly amazing feat: He admits that what he terms the "outsider" perspective of LA is far from reality, yet in the very same sentence he delivers up a big fat cliche about "Hollywood ideals." Quite ironic for someone who's judging others for being formulaic, isn't it?

Fortunately, the Airborne Toxic Event were smart enough to see this too, and posted an open letter to Cohen calling him out on their website:

...It also seems to have very little to do with us. Much of your piece reads less like a record review and more like a diatribe against a set of ill-considered and borderline offensive preconceptions about Los Angeles. Los Angeles has an extremely vibrant blogging community, Silver Lake is a very close-knit rock scene. We are just one band among many. (And by the way, L.A. does have a flagship indie rock band: they’re called Silversun Pickups). We cut our teeth at Spaceland and the Echo and have nothing to do with whatever wayward ideas you have about the Sunset Strip.

That's what we're saying, Airborne Toxic Event. You are now the official soundtrack to Nobody Walks in LA, at least until we have to take someone to task for writing that you can really hear the sound of angel wings in Castledoor.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Ricky Gervais is promoting his new film in the pages of this week's Time by walking around the Getty Museum with a reporter and commenting on the activities there:

Now he and his girlfriend, whom he met in college, live in London and have bought a second home on Manhattan's Upper East Side because it's close to the museums. At 47, he still has the impishness of someone who unexpectedly made it.
When he spots a sign pointing upstairs to paintings, the L.A.-ness of it cracks him up. "Paintings! That's great. They have to be very specific. Like 'Things Made of Clay.'..."
Okay, I've obviously seen many generalizations of this city or I wouldn't be here. But this is certainly the first time someone's dissed us for a sign directing people to paintings within a museum. I know, he's saying all paintings can't be generalized into one broad category, blah, blah, but come on. Would he walk into Amoeba Records and complain that a sign points people toward the "vinyl"? A department store with a floor dedicated to "menswear"?

Of course not. But you see, this is Los Angeles, where a somewhat non-specific sign isn't simply helping museum visitors get where they need to go. In this case, it's a reflection on our supposed lack of culture: Look how shallow we are! We think all paintings are alike! We just want to look at whatever pretty colors are placed before us!

All right, Ricky, feel free to stereotype however you want, but the Getty is still the fourth top museum in the world (ranked higher than anything in London, incidentally), and Ghost Town still looks awful.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Public Service Announcement

One of the main inspirations for this blog, Thom Andersen's 2004 documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, is currently having a rare run at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. This close-to-three-hour musing is a rambling, beautiful, and thoughtful presentation on how our city, its landscape and its people have been depicted throughout movie history, told via over 200 film clips:

This cinematic essay focuses on the discrepancy between the lived-in urban reality of Los Angeles and its various century-deep cinematic mythologies. The movie is about more than just what the movies get wrong. It’s about the way the imaginary space of cinema intrudes upon the actual space of our lives, so that the L.A. of the movies becomes a kind of separate urban reality unto itself.

Damn straight, Toronto Star! The film screens tonight, tomorrow and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Thom Andersen will be appearing in person.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Self Portrait

A couple of weeks ago, the LA Times compiled a list of the top 25 movies from the past 25 years set in Los Angeles. They acknowledged in the original story that the list was likely to stir up debate and anger among film buffs and Angelenos, and they were, of course, correct in their prediction.

At first glance at the choices, I myself was enraged by the list as it seemed to focus on some really shallow crap (pardon my francais, s'il vous plait) but once I read the full article including the reviewers' explanations for their choices, I was only half enraged. Furthermore, I was mildly delighted by some of the selections that I had previously pooh-poohed. Of course, some of the arguments were still cringe-worthy, and I can't let those go unpunished.

Indulge me, won't you, and take a stroll through the list once more so that I may point out the high- and low-lights:
  • A quote by director Curtis Hanson about Kim Basinger's character justifies LA Confidential's inclusion on the list and expresses a more nuanced point of view than the typical "sunshine with a seamy underbelly" chestnut: "She's a natural beauty with a phony image, a disguise that's all about selling it to the suckers. But when you go beyond the image, as when you go beyond L.A. as the city of manufactured illusion, the character is not only beautiful but totally self-aware. Underneath, she knows the truth about who she is. Everybody else is struggling to figure it out."
  • I'm fine with Jackie Brown being on this list. I'm fine with any Quentin Tarantino film being on this list.
  • Beverly Hills Cop? No. Just no. You might as well choose Down & Out in Beverly Hills. If Los Angeles had an anti-LA defamation league, this film would have been picketed. I don't care if this was the first "real guy from elsewhere vs. shallow effete LA snobs" film (and it wasn't), it is a tiresome schtick. It was tiresome when Aesop did it with his city mouse and country mouse, and it's tiresome now.
  • Robert Altman has done Los Angeles much better than in The Player. I nominate Three Women, for instance. Okay, that wasn't made in the past 25 years. I still nominate Three Women.
  • LA Story covers similar ground as The Player with the terrible "industry" folk, and one might think I would hate it for Sarah Jessica Parker's aerobics airhead character pitted against a "real" intelligent woman from England, but it does have a little more depth in the story. As the LA Times notes, "L.A.-haters will have their worst suspicions confirmed by the film's view of restaurant culture and insane commutes. However, underneath the white, upper-middle class flakiness, there's a steady hum of magic, possibility and surprise that can be appreciated only by those who love the city as much as Martin does."
  • Clueless. I love this movie, though it hurts me. It presents a hilarious view of a very small slice of the population, but it's one of those movies that LA haters point to as an example of what LA is. Same goes for Valley Girl. Give me Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
  • I unfortunately can't discuss Collateral or Training Day because I couldn't watch them. I simply can't abide Tom Cruise or Ethan Hawke.
  • From the article: '"Mulholland Drive" could just as easily be called "Boulevard of Broken Dreams."' Ick. Ten point penalty to list contributor Mark Olsen for that observation.
  • To Live and Die in LA. Yes. Well done. I mean, the car chase.
  • Less Than Zero - the film adaptation of a shallow book that felt the idea that "(in Los Angeles) people are afraid to merge" was a brilliant insight. New York gets American Psycho and LA gets Less Than Zero. Thanks a lot, Bret.
  • Fletch - there are only 25 spaces on this list and you fill one with Fletch? I smell a rat.
  • Crash instead of Falling Down? And furthermore, list contributor Mark Olsen comes up with this tidbit about the inspiration for the film: "Haggis had his Porsche carjacked outside a video store on Wilshire Boulevard in 1991. How L.A. is that?" How LA is that? Screw you, Paul Haggis, and screw you, Mark Olsen. That's another ten point penalty to you. In fact, you get a red card. You're ejected from the game.
Finally, I'd like to suggest one more film: Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Yes, it's mainly set in Vegas, but it starts out in Los Angeles, and I find it wonderful that a director so well known for his fanciful dream worlds can so masterfully portray a Los Angeles that I can actually recognize. Well done, Munchausen. Now come back and give us a whole movie, will you?

Monday, September 8, 2008

La La Love You, Don't Mean Maybe

The Russell Brand-hosted VMAs have come and gone, and while I found him pretty funny, and he makes Lyndsey want to give up her chastity ring, others weren't that impressed. Most notably the Associated Press:

Russell Brand seemed a little out of place as the host at the MTV Video Music Awards. Not because he's British or relatively unknown in America, as most of the chatter was about before Sunday night's show from Los Angeles.

It was because Brand injected the VMAs with blunt politics, self deprecation, unabashed sexuality, and, yes, plenty of off-color remarks.

Didn't he know where he was? The VMAs? In La-La Land?

No, this was no place to voice anything like an opinion on world affairs or joke about young Christian pop stars. This is a place to look cool and thank the almighty for the honor of little moon man statuettes.

Okay, AP writer Jake Coyle, let's slow down for a sec and make note of the little LA dis you snuck into that third paragraph. Why, all we do is look cool and love our awards from the most superficial cable network around! We're in LA, where we only care about shallow pretty things! Didn't Russell Brand know where he was?

The only problem is that this is the first time in ten years that the VMAs have been held in Los Angeles, spending the intervening decade in Las Vegas, Miami, and New York City, and they've always been frivolous no matter where they're located. Unless you're prepared to defend Madonna kissing Britney and Christina as the height of intellectualism, please don't make this city-specific.

Secondly, you've committed the grievous offense of calling us "La-La Land." Uh uh. I know, "L" and "A" make "La," but there's also the convenient added benefit of making us seem like a bunch of tra-la-la airheads. Tell you what: Until the AP Style Guide says you can refer to New Orleans as "No-No Land," let's do without the cutesy names.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Angel of the Morning Edition

LA, the brand new and retooled LA Times monthly magazine launched today, featuring an effusive mash note to Los Angeles -- and all the LA-based readers who will hopefully purchase the products and services contained within -- as the Letter from the new Editor. (No link yet but I'll post it if it ends up on the Times' website.)

No amount of feel-good vibes, however, can win us back from that damn "angels live in our city" cliche which permeates the whole thing:

...I do remember that day I landed at LAX for the very first time. I walked out of the terminal and felt the hot wind (it must have come from angels' wings) sweeping across my face, making my hair fly, making me breathe so deeply and filling my heart. I drove in a convertible with the top down for the very first time, up to Mulholland and Beverly Glen. I looked across a city that seemed to reach to forever -- and knew I was home. I never wanted to let the angels go.

Three times this comes up! The letter's even titled Come Fly With Us, for that extra angelic feeling. Please, please, new editor Annie Gilbar, for the love of all that's good and right: Let the angels -- or at least that exhausted LA cliche -- go already.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fair Assessment?

Last night was the start of the LA County Fair, which means those commercials are back that they've been running for the past few years, with the dumb Valley Girls and the uninformed LA schoolkids, and... oh, you don't need this blog to tell you how staggering the LA stereotypes are here.

What's so off-putting about this campaign is not just an ad agency's jokey assertion that we're a bunch of idiots who don't know what milk is or that a cow says "moo," but that as those being advertised to, we're supposed to identify with and somehow see ourselves in them. But marketing to Los Angelenos by mocking how stupid Los Angelenos are is an insulting strategy which not only presumes that we're as dumb as the commercials make us to be, but that we don't have any civic pride either. These commercials don't laugh with us, they laugh at us.

It might be easier to swallow a little gentle ribbing if the "grains of truth" made any sense. But come on:

Yeah, yeah, the women are dumb and shallow and talk like Valley Girls and... concerned with their health? Perish the thought. The assertions here are just odd and reactionary: That you can't make healthy food that looks or tastes appealing, that the women don't know that apple pie contains apples, that anything that sounds remotely vitamin-like should be mocked, and that eating food that's good for you is some crazy Los Angeles fad.

The agency folks can't even keep up a consistent stereotype, because here the presumed health nuts chow down on cotton candy:

Oh wait, they're eating it because they think it comes from cotton. Or perhaps from soy. Or... what in the world are you talking about?! Perhaps their next spots should be about confused advertising executives trying desperately to stereotype a major metropolitan city, and throwing anything against the wall to see if it sticks.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fake Plastic Sleaze

The above photo appears in the 9/5/2008 edition of Entertainment Weekly, accompanying an article about British comedian Russell Brand arriving in Hollywood to host the VMAs and get people to know who the hell he is. See, you can tell he's in Hollywood because the woman he's looking at isn't just blonde and skimpily dressed, but so "plastic" as to literally be a mannequin. Because we're all fake here in LA, get it? Get it?? Like this leather-clad and metal-haired "comic bad boy" is a paragon of authenticity.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Drinking Hennessy With Morrissey

Our good friend Lyndsey Parker is not only a native Angeleno like us, but a kindred spirit of Nobody Walks in LA. She writes the notes-from-the-trenches LA Woman column for British music magazine/website, and points us toward an edition from a few months back in which she takes on the anti-LA lyrical sentiments found in so many songs about our city:

Whether it's Axl Rose warning that this sinful city will chew up/spit out all the hapless innocents who migrate here by the busload ("Welcome To The Jungle"); the Decemberists singing of the "ocean's garbled vomit" and the "smell of burnt cocaine" ("Los Angeles, I'm Yours"); Death Cab For Cutie questioning, "Is this the city of angels or demons?" ("Why You'd Want To Live Here"); Public Enemy declaring, "Burn Hollywood Burn!"; or even Madonna sharing cautionary casting-couch tales in "Hollywood"...well, it's not difficult to find a good song about L.A., but it's nearly impossible to find one that has anything good to say about the place I call home.

To read the rest, including a sighting of a pro-Los Angeles anthem in its natural habitat -- an occurrence so rare it actually inspired that week's entire column -- click here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Indie-Yuppies Vs. LA, Part II

Why do the indie-yuppies hate us so? I'd been waffling a bit on whether the Decemberists' 2003 track, "Los Angeles, I'm Yours," really counts as cliched -- mainly because Colin Meloy's language is so flowery, I can barely understand what the hell he's talking about. But a couple people suggested it for this blog, and from what I can tell, he certainly doesn't like us:

There is a city by the sea
A gentle company
I don't suppose you want to
And as it tells its sorry tale
In harrowing detail
Its hollowness will haunt you
Its streets and boulevards
Orphans and oligarchs it hears
A plaintive melody
Truncated symphony
An ocean's garbled vomit on the shore
Los Angeles, I'm yours

Oh ladies, pleasant and demure
Sallow-cheeked and sure
I can see your undies
And all the boys you drag about
An empty fellow found
From Saturdays to Mondays
You hill and valley crowd
Hanging your trousers down at heel
This is the realest thing
As ancient choirs sing
A dozen blushing cherubs wheel above
Los Angeles I love

Oh what a rush of ripe elan
Languor on divans
Dalliant and dainty
But oh, the smell of burnt cocaine
The dolor and decay
It only makes me cranky
Oh great calamity
Ditch of iniquity and tears
How I abhor this place
Its sweet and bitter taste
Has left me wretched, retching on all fours
Los Angeles, I'm yours

Next time tell us how you really feel, Colin. Now there are indeed a few tried-and-true LA stereotypes in here, mainly the cocaine and the hollowness and the iniquity. But most of it just adds up to a general dump of somewhat nonsensical anti-Los Angeles-isms, from the dueling barf references to the affected pronunciation of "Los Ange-LEES" (I'm surprised he doesn't use the hard "g") to the sallow-cheeked underwear-exposing ladies having sex while cherubs sing -- he says that like it's a bad thing. It's all very evocative, but when you get down to it, he's just kind of kvetching without any actual criticism or analysis or even remotely realistic description of our city, let alone evidence that he has any real knowledge of it. And we're the ones who are "hollow"?

Of course, just four years later the Decemberists were welcomed warmly to LA to headline the 17,400-seat Hollywood Bowl, accompanied by the LA Philharmonic. I have to admit I've been called a lot of things in my time, but if someone described me as "an ocean's garbled vomit," I'm not sure I'd be so forgiving.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

¡Yo Quiero Less Cliches!

I was quite excited to see Beverly Hills Chihuahua was coming for the purposes of this blog, but then I realized that, unlike Beverly Hills Cop or Beverly Hills Ninja, this film doesn't actually take place in Beverly Hills:

While on vacation in Mexico, Chloe, a ritzy Beverly Hills chihuahua, finds herself lost and in need of assistance in order to get back home.

Oh well. Here's the trailer, which is stirring up much more controversy than a Disney talking-dog musical should for its attitude toward Latino culture, women, and treating Mexico and Peru as interchangable:

As you can see, the titular city gets surprisingly little screentime, so they've got to really make their point quickly, cramming images that shorthand "Beverly Hills" into just a few seconds. So these are the shots we get:

1. city streets
2. corner of Rodeo and Wilshire
3. hot babe in sundress with dog in purse
4. yellow expensive-looking convertible sportscar
5. palm trees
6. mansions

What, no kidney-shaped swimming pool? I suppose the above is quick and efficient and doesn't really hurt anyone, or necessarily indicate the Beverly Hills scenes will be candy-colored cliches or anything...

Okay, I'm off to erase that image from my brain in the yearly goodness that is the Sunset Junction Street Festival, which is conveniently located right by the Mack Sennett Studio so I can pop over after filming. See you at the Cold War Kids.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

You Won't Possess Our Hearts

"Why You'd Want to Live Here" is a 2001 anti-LA rant from indie-yuppie blandsters Death Cab for Cutie, but the real question is why anyone'd want to languish around Washington for a guy who writes lyrics so ridiculously rife with stereotype:

I'm in Los Angeles today
It smells like an airport runway
Jet fuel stenches in the cabin
And lights flickering at random
I'm in Los Angeles today
Garbage cans comprise the medians of freeways
Always creeping even when the population's sleeping
And I can't see why you'd want to live here

I'm in Los Angeles today
Asked a gas station employee if he ever had trouble breathing
And he said, "It varies from season to season, here."
It's where our best are on display
Motion picture actors' houses maps are never ever current
So save your film and fifteen dollars
And I can't see why you'd want to live here

Billboards reach past the tallest buildings
We are not perfect but we sure try
As UV rays "degradate" our youth with time
The vessel keeps pumping us through this entropic place
In the belly of the beast that is Californ-i-a
I drank from the faucet and I kept my receipt
For when they weigh me on the way out
Here nothing is for free
The greyhounds keep coming dumping locusts into the street
Until the gutters overflow and Los Angeles thinks
"I might explode someday soon."
It's a lovely summer's day
I can almost see a skyline
Through a thickening shroud of egos
Is this the city of angels or demons?

And here the names are what remain
Stars encapsulate the golden lame
And they need constant cleaning
For when the tourists begin salivating
And I can't see why you'd want to live here.

Billboards reach past the tallest buildings
You can't swim in a town this shallow
because you will most assuredly drown tomorrow

I'm feeling a little Olympic-y this week, so let's start this song at a score of 10.0 and deduct one point for each tired Los Angeles cliche:

- 1: "LA's dark underbelly" (in this case, the belly of the beast)
- 1: Mention of freeways
- 1: Mention of smog
- 1: Mention of motion picture actors/their big houses/star maps
- 1: Mention of billboards (I never knew this was such a big LA stereotype, but Jay Babcock brought it up too so it gets a deduction)
- 1: We are not perfect but we sure try (everyone's striving for some unrealistic level of perfection here)
- 1: Mention of UV rays/sun/tanning
- 1: Here nothing is for free = we're all sellouts
- 2: I can almost see a skyline through a thickening shroud of egos earns two deductions for 1) second smog reference, 2) egos
- 2: Is this the city of angels or demons? Another dual earner as a a hybrid of "angels live in our city" and "LA's dark underbelly"
- 1: And here the names are what remain / Stars encapsulate the golden lame / And they need constant cleaning for when the tourists begin salivating = snarking on Hollywood Walk of Fame, because honoring prominent local citizens is something only we do in LA apparently
- 1: You can't swim in a town this shallow

And the final results are... -4, an all-time Nobody Walks in LA record. That's not even counting some of the negative yet less actually-cliched lines, either, like us smelling like an airport (I d
doubt we'll need a tag for that one) or the Day of the Locust reference, which gets a pass for being literary (but we reserve the right to add that later if it pops up enough).

Death Cab dig this song so much that they're still performing it live, seven years later, and Gibbard is shocked, shocked! when the lyrics don't resonate with LA audiences:

During "Why You'd Want to Live Here," Gibbard sang in the voice of someone trying to convince a lover not to move to Los Angeles ("You can't swim in a town this shallow -- you will most assuredly drown tomorrow"). It's not exactly a love letter to the city and elicited no special response from the crowd. When Gibbard tried to lead a singalong, the reaction was half-hearted and brief. "That was pretty weak, you guys," he said.
He expects a singalong?! Good lord. But the best part is that two years after this song's release, the band became exponentially more famous due to frequent mentions in not just a Southern California-based TV show, but one so Southern California-based that its location comprises its title, linking the band and locale inextricably together in many people's minds. Come on Ben, your last album debuted at #1 thanks to us. Are you drowning or have we actually kept you afloat?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Malingering Doubts

Oh, how I love Malingering. By that, I mean I love a female psychiatrist who goes by that pseudonym in her flickr photostream and blog that skewers some of the ridiculous fashion choices she finds in her daily life. (I can't abide malingering, however. Well, malingering in others.) And since she lives on the west side of Los Angeles, she does find some pretty ridiculous fashion choices.

At first glance, it might appear that she is simply the "mean-spirited, heartless wench" she facetiously claims to be, and that she hates Los Angeles, but I feel there's something a lot deeper going on in her explorations. She focuses on subjects who don't seem to be making their fashion choices on their own, but rather taking cues from media stereotypes of LA style - the attitude of "Paris Hilton is the ultimate blonde-haired, blue-eyed Angeleno*, and I see
from these pictures in the Enquirer that she shops at Kitson. Therefore, I should shop at Kitson." It's a very odd self-reflexivity that is sad to contemplate, but Malingering allows us to laugh at it. She's not stereotyping Los Angeles as much as she is mocking the stereotype of Los Angeles that many of our citizens have bought into.

"I don't think this is about any person in particular. I think this is about people laughing at themselves and their own perceptions of what an image projects. I don't think it matters even if this these are real people, because it has much less to do with the people in the photos themselves and more to do with our reflections on them or what they represent to a particular person."
She is also tough as nails; just reading the sampling of scathing emails sent her way makes my bobbed hair curl. So brava, Dr. Malingering, and keep up the good work. You can fill my Prozac prescription any time.

*Of course, Paris Hilton is naturally a brown-eyed brunette from New York, but let's not quibble.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me

Lest you think all we do here is complain at Nobody Walks in LA, I'd like to point you toward a new film making the festival rounds. Okay, it's called In Search of a Midnight Kiss , which is a title roughly as affected as At Play in the Fields of the Lord, but besides that it does sound quite good, and like a real, actual representation of Los Angeles. I can't tell you much about the film itself as it doesn't open til tonight, and Fatty and I are busy with reshoots, and being that I'm the top comedienne of the silent era, I can't exactly show up unannounced at the Arclight. But I do like what the director says in today's LA Times about filming in downtown LA:

Meanwhile, the fleeting, single shots of a number of buildings downtown are the most elegiac, encountered not as settings but as subjects of emotional intent. Having gone through a very difficult transition after arriving here from Austin, Texas, in the summer of 2003 -- he'd lost his girlfriend, his car and went broke (all of which is represented in "Midnight Kiss") -- [director Alex]Holdridge aimed to infuse this inner turmoil into the downtown landscape.

"My emotional state at the time was, on the one hand, raw, depressed, frustrated and feeling a bit hopeless," he said. "And yet for me, just recognizing how unbelievably beautiful it is down there, I couldn't believe how gorgeous those theaters were, how beautiful the banks were."

Well of course they are! But those of us who live here and frequent downtown's establishments (like the Redwood Bar, where I'll be spinning '80s post-punk and '90s indie rock tonight after filming) and don't live in a fantasy world created by mass media don't need to be told that. But you know who does need to be told that? Apparently the Brits:

The film had its theatrical premiere in London in mid-July and continued its rollout throughout the U.K. before opening stateside, and audiences there,according to Holdridge, “were shocked to see that L.A. – ‘We only know it as beach bimbos or ghetto or Beverly Hills.’ They’re thinking: ‘We’ve seen thousands of movies from L.A., but we never get to see what L.A. looks like normally.’ ”

Alex Holdridge, we at Nobody Walks in LA thank you. You have brought me one step closer to no longer having to bring up Benny Hill just to counter my UK friends' belief that The OC is an accurate representation. You can come blog for us any time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ain't No Cliche Bad Enough

Ashford and Simpson don't really get their due around some parts for writing amazing songs like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and are instead remembered more for their '80s synth-cheezy hit "Solid" since their names are attached to that one as performers. But they probably should have kept their names off this:

Got off the plane where they say it don't rain
Thought to myself 'this is for me'
Oooh, look all around and everywhere the streets were empty
Checked in the hotel to unpack my things
Gotta get out and find some company
And then it hit me! Ooh

Don't walk around, I heard somebody say
In Hollywood they do things a different way
Don't you be caught cruising on a sunny day
Cause nobody walks in LA
Nobody walks in LA

I had some dreams
I was gonna crack the scene
Thought anywhere I could survive
And there must be a special place
Where the beautiful people hide
Began to wonder what was I doing wrong
Had to pick it out and tell it to me
Then it hit me

Don't walk around, I heard somebody say
In Hollywood they do things a different way
Don't you be caught walking on a sunny day
Cause nobody walks in LA
Nobody walks

I've been around and I like New York and Chinatown
Where rivers of people seem to flow
And being here under the sky so blue
What do you do?
What do you do?

I've been around and I don't understand this town
You got to know somebody
Or be on the party list
And if you're not a big star
You won't be missed

But the most important rule
No matter what games they play

(Fadeout on chorus)

This is the Ashford and Simpson song that Steve Buscemi's date in Ghost World should have played to really send him running. And sure, that film was supposedly set in a nameless Everytown, USA, but we Angelenos know the truth -- its cover was blown the second Enid's bus drove by Mario's Peruvian on Rossmore and Melrose. And all anyone did in that entire film was walk around.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Kandy Kolored Tangerine Flake Red Car, Baby

Los Angeles has long been justifiably mocked for its smog, and I'm not going to try to refute that. We have smog; it's horrible. Add a sprawling metropolis to a desert basin, and you're going to have smog.

We of course could do a lot better by using alternate modes of transportation such as public transit, but at this point we're too devoted to our pink Cadillac convertible cars that we drive to the beach with our blonde hair streaming behind us like a sexy sunkissed flag, right? Isn't that what people driving in Los Angeles do if they're not in pre-driveby shooting road rage mode? Pray to the blessedness of their tailfins while stuck in a sigAlert?

Erm, no. We do love our cars, but that love mainly comes from dependence. Any viewer of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? should remember that the basic plot of the story was a conspiracy involving the replacement of Los Angeles' well-conceived Pacific Electric Railway (a/k/a the "Red Car" trolleys) with a bus system. A bus system that used gas, and tires, and buses manufactured by various companies with an interest in taking over transportation for a sprawling metropolis. And public transportation in our city crumbled when somebody realized that public transportation wasn't a moneymaking opportunity even when you have a monopoly on it.

So we developed our car culture as a way of making lemonade out of lemons. If you don't believe a dead silent film star like me, just check out Tom Wolfe's essay about kids and designers in the middle of LA car culture in the '60s to see what a fantastic lemonade we made. But really, I think we'd all be happy here having the opportunity to use public transportation and alternate methods of transport rather than having to drive all of the goldurn time. We dream about it, and we're working on making the dream a reality. It is, of course, still hilarious to be stuck in traffic behind that ancient mummy Angelyne and her pink Corvette, but I don't think the humor would be lost if we could encounter that sight while whizzing past her on a bicycle.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Million Little Cliches

It would make sense to actually read a book before posting about it, but the opening lines of David L. Ulin's LA Times review of "Bright Shiny Morning" (James Frey's first admittedly fictional novel / attempt at redemption) don't exactly send me trotting off to Borders:

"Bright Shiny Morning" is a terrible book. One of the worst I've ever read. But you have to give James Frey credit for one thing: He's got chutzpah. Two and a half years after he was eviscerated by Oprah Winfrey for exaggerating many of the incidents in his now-discredited memoir "A Million Little Pieces," he's back with this book, which aims to be the big novel about Los Angeles, a panoramic look at the city that seeks to tell us who we are and how we live.

You too, James? Frey did really live here for eight years so one would think he possibly could "get it," but his time was spent writing crappy David Schwimmer movies and coming up with new lies for his memoir, so he may not have gotten out of the house that much. Hence we get what Ulin describes thusly:

Frey seems to know little about Los Angeles and to have no interest in it as a real place where people wrestle with actual life. There are obligatory riffs on freeways and natural disasters and a chapter on visual artists that lists "the highest price ever paid for a piece of their work in a public auction." There are also occasional installments of "Fun Facts" about the city, as if to give the illusion of a certain depth. Did you know that it is "illegal to lick a toad within the city limits of Los Angeles"? Neither did I. But I also don't know what this has to do with the larger story of the novel, except as another example of L.A. as odd and quirky, a territory in which we all "live with Angels and chase their dreams."

Gah, here we go again with talk of "angels" in our city because our city's name happens to be Los Angeles, with the added bonus of pigeonholing us as dreamy and flighty. When I start hearing about how we all "live with meadows" in Las Vegas, this will be an acceptable inferrence.

Just for comparison, let's see how Janet Maslin in the New York Times felt about the book (in a review in which she mimicked Frey's writing style):

He wrote about people who were drawn to Los Angeles and who they were, why they came, what they wanted, whether they got it, if they didn’t get that, then what they got instead. He looked into their hearts. But he didn’t get sloppy, not maudlin. He just made up characters and wrote as if he cared about them desperately. Bright Shiny Morning. A new chance, real or illusory, that’s what they all wanted. Bright Shiny Morning. So he made that the name of the book.

His publisher called it a dazzling tour de force. (Look, somebody had to, if only to create a comeback drama.) But that wasn’t so far off the mark.

Oh come on, lady. I know you were once married to Jon Landau, who wrote possibly the most famous line of rock cricitism ever -- "I saw rock and roll's future and its name is Bruce Springsteen" -- which did turn out to be true. But you still don't have to believe everything you read.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Belly of the Beast

The "LA's dark underbelly" cliche makes an appearance in this LA Times article from a few weeks back. It's about noir-surf-detective novelist Don Winslow, a former private investigator, grad student, tour guide in Kenya, punk-rock novelist, and otherwise interesting-sounding guy, who should be therefore worldly enough to avoid this:

"One reason I find SoCal so interesting is that there's so much beauty -- and that's real," Winslow said. "But there's another layer underneath it that's not so pretty. One thing I wanted to do was run those two tracks simultaneously -- without backing off of either."

And, LA Times, as much as we love you: You're on the hook too, for choosing that as the pullquote.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

Sometimes even the ones you love let you down. This time it’s my beloved time-wasting vehicle Like many of my peers my knowledge of current events comes from a variety of blogs, NPR and The Daily Show. At one time Jezebel did a pretty good job of distilling news from a variety of sources. While I didn’t always agree with their point of view, it often got me thinking, my family tree is riddled with Alzheimer’s, I need to keep my brain active, dammit! Increasingly though it seems as though the editors are simply reading the New York Times and editorializing. I could do this myself for the low low price of $61.20.

But their NY Times-centric news is not my main issue. No, my problem is that in these posts they often solely refer to “the Times.” I come from a long line of Los Angeles Times subscribers. Most family conversations begin with “did you see that article in the Times?” Ok, in the last few years there have been a lot of empty threats about canceling said subscriptions. In a fit of anger my mother actually went through with it once. But like all good co-dependent relationships she went crawling back. “I’m just going to get the Sunday edition, I swear!” Before long the paper was again being delivered daily and the excuses for this gave way to silent shame.

So you can see how a girl could get confused. But what gets this girl so riled up is how New York-centric this is. Many times their stories credit only “the Times” and it isn’t until the bottom link that those two tell-tale letters appear, NY. Is it so difficult to include those two little letters in the body of the article, at least upon the first reference? You could argue that Jezebel is based in NYC. To which I argue that they are writing for a national (often international) audience. The LA Times is not the only paper getting the shaft there, The Northwest Indiana and Illinois Times, the Pawtucket Times, the Beaver County Times and of course the UK paper actually publishing under the name The Times. So I make one simple request, beloved Jezebel; qualify!