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!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tattoo You

Sometimes it's hard to make it up and out of the house for Sunday morning yoga, thanks to Saturday night events like the one I attended last night: Cirque Berzerk, the amazing alternative circus/theatre piece held this weekend in a big top set up in the middle of downtown (created by LA-ers, performed for LA-ers, thank you very much, although hopefully they'll tour).

But when I do get out for a few downward dogs, I can't help but be struck by one of the tattoos I see on a guy in my class: a Pennsylvania license plate that reads "RE-AL 1."

That's not it. But I can't exactly whip out my cameraphone and take a photo of this guy 's tat in the middle of flow class -- those are the kind of shenanigans that land me right in the paddywagon in my films.

I don't know this guy personally, and he seems nice enough, but I can't help wondering about the circumstances that would lead to a tattoo proclaiming your realness. Would he otherwise be confused for an apparition? He definitely takes up a mat in class, so he can't be that. In fact, I've kind of gleaned that he's either an actor or acting student who moved to LA within the past couple of years, presumably from Pennsylvania... which leads me to a bad feeling about the reasons for the tattoo.

This is pure speculation on my part, but there's one explanation that fits so perfectly into the above scenario: That REAL-1 was preparing to follow his dream and make the big move from his Pennsylvania hometown, where people are real, to Los Angeles, where he had been told everyone was fake. And as a reminder to never ever stop being the REAL-1, he had it emblazoned onto his body forever.

Poor REAL-1, with a permanent reminder of how he bought into a stereotype! He seems to have plenty of friends at yoga, so I hope he now understands Los Angeles a little better, freeing up his next tattoo to be of a star like everyone else in Silver Lake.

The Thrill is Gone

Two of the all-time classic ways to stereotype Los Angeles are:

1. Band from (England/Ireland/somewhere else with dank weather) blow through town for a show or recording session, think they now know everything there is to know about LA and are compelled to write a song about it; and

2. Some variation on "Los Angeles is such a beautiful place... but darkness lies underneath." (Insert music: Bum bum buuuuuum!)

Enter Irish group the Thrills, with this track from their 2003 album (I know, we're catching up) So Much for the City, called "Hollywood Kids."

Well they're sure keen on dancin'
Those Hollywood kids, those Hollywood kids got it made.
When they act, big doors open.
Those Hollywood kids, those Hollywood kids got it made.
So let's party, Dustin Hoffman.
Those Hollywood kids, those Hollywood kids got it made.
Oh how the sun sets on my Boulevard
But leaves quite a shadow to fill
Oh how the sun sets on my Boulevard
But leaves such a shadow to fill
Oh the death of a fast life.
Those Hollywood stars, those Hollywood stars got to pay.
That's some will you've been drinkin.
Those Hollywood stars, those Hollywood stars got to pay.
Oh how the sun sets on my Boulevard
But leaves quite a shadow to fill
Oh how the sun sets on my Boulevard
But leaves such a shadow to fill
So look closer, do you still think that,
Those Hollywood kids, those Hollywood kids got it made

Take heed, Dustin Hoffman! If I see one more photo of you stumbling out of Hyde, your next production may not be able to insure you... bum bum buuuuum!

Perhaps the Thrills shouldn't have settled down, hanging around in a one horse town, but being sheltered is no excuse to perpetuate this kind of repetitive cliche. I know, they're obsessed with Southern California, but is the above based on their actual experience, or just what they've heard people tell them? Are we to believe that the Thrills genuinely thought "Hollywood kids got it made," but then got accepted into said kids' inner circle where they gradually, spontaneously, and with no preconceptions at all discovered that darkness lies underneath?

Of course not. So Much For the City is actually the result of a summer-long recording session spent down in San Diego -- close enough to hop up on Amtrak to catch a show or hit an occasional bar in LA, but with not nearly enough proximity to truly engage with this city and all it has to offer. Next time I have a layover in Ireland, I'll come back with a neat little ditty about some leprechauns drinking Guinness, and how their shamrock patch may not be all it's cracked up to be.

I can't really blame the Thrills, though, as what they really needed was a better tour guide out here. It would have cost just five bucks for all five Thrills to grab tacos from that truck by the Echo, and that would have been a real revelation.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

If You Get Caught Between the Moon and New York City

I have to admit I'd been procrastinating getting this blog up and rolling, what with the beautiful summer weather, hanging out at the Glow Festival and Little Radio Summer Camp, and starring in the latest Fatty Arbuckle film, but this article really got me going. It's just an overflowing cornocopia of anti-Los Angeles-isms (and from someone who should know better, too), perfect for our first post, kind of like a grand opening number with singing, dancing, fireworks, and poodles jumping through flaming hoops. Quoteth Jay Babcock, editor of formerly LA-based Arthur Magazine and fresh New York transplant:

New York is just a more hospitable environment than L.A. ever has been or will be. L.A. is devolving quickly, and I think I got out in the nick of time. The L.A. Times is imploding, our public radio is terrible, the [L.A.] Weekly’s been devolving for years. Local media’s being run into the ground and I don’t think anybody cares. The public’s dumbed down and poorly educated. L.A. is a psychic death hole to me, and I don’t want a part of that. There are so many impending crises — the political structure, the traffic, the educational system. L.A. is failing worse than ever, and I felt that if I can get out, I should. I found a way out. For a long time now I’ve been going back and forth between L.A. and New York, and every time I got off the plane in L.A. I felt dumber.
Of course, who wouldn't want to head off to New York, a city known for its lack of traffic, squeaky clean political structure, and excellent radio stations? But one whiny failed 'zine editor isn't really the best part of this. It's the blog comments, people. (And, by the way, please leave us some. We're new and feel lonely.)

The Times article was re-posted on Gawker, where commenters left the expected fair share of antipathy toward LA and California in general, even wafting over to San Francisco. But not so at the Times! Our coast rose up with a swell of civic pride that left me proud. Like these three posters:

"Here we go again, a holier than thou hipster wannabe cultural elitist attempts to tell us the true value of our society. Just because your preconceived nation of what Los Angeles is or was didn’t work out doesn’t mean Los Angeles isn’t real in any sense of your retarded reality. Seriously, grow up. I’m glad you’re leaving. The irony is that you’re only contributing to the cultural decay of New York City by pushing the original inhabitants out of their neighborhoods. You’re the reason Los Angeles is the way it is, thank god you’re gone."

"I lived in NYC for 12 years and now teach at a university near Baltimore. If I could find the job I want I’d take this guy’s place in a minute.Everything he says about LA is true for NYC and he’s trafficking in stupid cliched cultural criticism."

"Never heard of this clown but I’m glad he’s getting out of my hometown. Anyone else who bad mouthes LA on a daily basis is welcome to turn around. In fact, we should probably kick out all the midwest/east coast transplants who come here for a tan and end up Clipper fans."

129 comments as of this posting. About 120 of them are along the lines of the above, about 7 agree with Babcock, and 2 are from a chastened Babcock himself, backpedaling and listing things about LA he loves. You people are bringing a tear to our eyes, seriously. Come, come with us.

Walking in LA

Hi, and thanks for finding our new blog, Nobody Walks in LA. We're just two deceased thespians who were both born and raised in the Los Angeles area, where we currently reside on the Eastside. With the exception of one of us leaving for one year, we've both lived here our entire lives.

We love our city, because it's a diverse, culturally rich, intellectually stimulating place -- which is why we're sick and tired of the barrage of media representations portraying us as a vapid, plastic wasteland. Take an intelligent, insightful show like Sex and the City or Seinfeld and do an "LA episode," and suddenly everyone's wearing a tie-died shirt and rollerblading on the beach with a blonde wannabe actress. These stereotypes have become so engrained that they're presumed by the general public to an extent that other cities don't have to endure. New Yorkers aren't all rude, there are non-hippies in Berkeley, and we walk in LA. Enough!