Thursday, September 30, 2010

RUT By Scott Phillips And The Concord Free Press

There's this book, RUT, by Scott Phillips. He's the guy wrote The Ice Harvest. And if you haven't read it, the fuck is wrong with you? Get a copy. Now. I'll wait.

We good? Okay.

So, RUT.
Rut, a wild and original novel from Scott Phillips, takes readers to the Rocky Mountains circa 2050, where the once thriving burg of Gower is about to become a 21st-century ghost town. Thanks to extreme weather and plenty of toxic waste, the skiers and celebrities are gone, along with the money and the veneer of civilization. What’s left? Old-time religion and brand-new pharmaceuticals, bad food and warm beer, mutated animals and small-town gossip. Can the town survive? We’ll see.
Sounds fun, doesn't it?

That brings us to the Concord Free Press. They print books and they give them away for free.

Yes, you read that right. They'll give you a book, this book in fact, free.

They only ask two things.

Give some cash to a charity. What charity? How much? That's your call. Homeless shelter, food pantry, that guy down the street who's eating leftover cat food out of a dumpster and screaming at the moon.

Give the book to somebody else to read when you're done. Ask them to give it to somebody to read when they're done. Okay, fine, that's three things.

Are they going to check on you? Don't be an idiot. Of course not. They're not the charity police. They assume you're a decent, intelligent sort that wants to do right by your fellow man/woman/hyper-intelligent-mutant-robot-headed-simian. And that you like books.

"But how," I hear you cry in a fit capitalistic hand wringing, "do they make any money?!"

They don't. That's actually kind of the idea. They depend upon the kindness of strangers, on grants, on the idea that people will recognize something good for society in general when they see it and pony up a little cash if they can.

Culture isn't something that should be predicated on money. Yes, we all want to make some scratch. Yes, everything costs. But sometimes it's actually in our collective best interest to give it away.

Get a book out there, get it read. Get people thinking, talking to each other. God forbid, MAKING CONNECTIONS. Maybe helping out their fellow man a little, too.

I know, blasphemy, right? I can hear my tight-fisted Chinese ancestors spinning in their graves right now.

The Concord Free Press is going to be taking book orders for RUT come October 22nd. I'll whine at you some more as that date comes up. In the meantime, spread the word. Keep spreading the word.

And maybe give a book or two away to your friends and some cash to that homeless guy howling at the moon.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Schizophrenic Nature of Downtown

Los Angeles, CA

A man broke into a couples' apartment at the Alexandria Hotel Tuesday morning, woke them up at knifepoint and robbed them. Cash, laptops, ATM cards. Threatened them until they gave up their codes.

Be interesting to see what happens when he tries to use them. At the very least the cops should get a nice picture out of it. Then again maybe he's smart and sells them to somebody else.

Two of the hotel's main selling points on their website are "Controlled Access" and an "Increased Emphasis On Security". Pity that broke down the other day. From what I understand, it's a flimsy promise at best.

The Alexandria Hotel on Fifth and Spring Downtown has seen better days. It has hosted Presidents, foreign dignitaries, movie stars and moguls. In the teens and early twenties it was THE place to be. The Palm Court, the hotel's ballroom with amazing stained glass ceilings has been declared an Historic Cultural Lanndmark and it's supposedly haunted.

In 1923 it faced increased competition when the nearby Biltmore hotel opened eventually forcing the hotel to close out of bankruptcy in 1934. In the '50s and '60s the Palm Court was converted into a boxing ring and it wasn't until the 80's that it got historical status.

Today, the Alexandria lives a schizophrenic existence as low-cost urban housing and a high class restaurant.

It is plagued by complaints of roaches, bedbugs, crackheads. Reviews on Yelp, for instance, vilify it. More flophouse than hotel. On the flipside, the restaurant inside, The Gorbals, gets glowing reviews.

Downtown L.A. is more Blade Runner than people might think. We just need more rain and bigger billboards. This is a city where the nation's biggest open air drug market sits in plain view of City Hall and the courts, where some of the finest restaurants the city has to offer are virtually unknown. Where some of the priciest real estate perches floors above a sea of poverty.

Surrounded by Skid Row homeless and $5000.00 lofts The Alexandria is a posterboy for the current Downtown transition, the manic pendulum swing between destitution and gentrification as it struggles to find a middle ground.

A middle ground that may be impossible to achieve.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

LAT Moves FOB to USC - WTF?

Los Angeles, CA

Every year the Los Angeles Times holds a monster book festival called unimaginatively The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

They do this in front of Royce Hall on the UCLA campus. Easy to get to. Lots of room. A fuckton of parking lots (even if they are nine bucks a pop). Beautiful campus, lots of grass. It's been there for fifteen years.

And now it's moving away from the Westside to the USC campus in beautiful, crime ridden South Los Angeles.

What the fuck are they thinking?

I don't know what went on with the backroom dealings, the secret negotiations. Maybe UCLA got tired of all the Scientology pamphlets and self-published poetry left trampled in the grass. Or USC threw wads of cash at the LA Times. Who knows.

But somebody blew somebody. Whether it was the Times' Eddy Hartenstein on his knees or USC President C.L. Max Kikias is anybody's guess.

Now don't get me wrong, I actually like USC. Beautiful campus. Good school. I have fond memories of the Doheny Library. My grandmother used to work there as a librarian. Thirty-five years ago I would slide down the bannisters and play with my toy trucks on a bench next to the checkout counter.

Good times.

But the area around the campus, now that's another thing entirely.

"Surely," you say, "it can't be that bad. There's, like, museums and shit down there." Well, let's take a look and don't... no, I won't say it.

UCLA is in the LAPD's West Bureau, West LA Area. USC is in the LAPD's South Bureau, Southwest LA Area. How these two places stack up against each other.

Here's a brief summary. You can get the actual numbers in the links below.

Year to date in Southwest LA there have been:
  • 11 Homicides
  • 42 Rapes
  • 701 Robberies
  • 580 Aggravated Assaults
West LA year to date?
  • 2 Homicides
  • 14 Rapes
  • 146 Robberies
  • 51 Aggravated Assaults
That's, uh, quite a big difference there.

I'm sure the USC campus is just fine. They have excellent security. With those kinds of numbers they kind of have to. Mummy and Daddy aren't going to blow wads of cash to send their kids off to get raped and taken down in a drive-by.

Let's put this in a more visual medium, shall we?

Each dot on this map represents a murder since 2007 in a 2 mile radius around UCLA:

The number is 5.

Each dot on this map represents a murder since 2007 in a 2 mile radius around USC:

The number is 102.

This should not be a surprise to ANYONE who lives in this town. In other words the quality of the neighborhood is guaranteed to keep people away.

No, I won't be one of them. It's books, after all. Of course I'll be there. Armed, but I'll be there.

But the hispters and yoga moms with their cash and their strollers and their gentrified lives?

They won't be. And the booksellers who attend are going to feel the pinch.

Compstat numbers for West LA. Warning .PDF file.

Compstat numbers for Southwest LA. Warning .PDF file.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I Don't Think That Goes In The Blue Bin

Los Angeles, CA

There's a lot you can put into those blue recycling bins to get hauled away. Paper, cardboard, metal, plastic.

A woman's body was found in a bag at the L.A. Recycling Center over on Main near Chinatown this afternoon. No details yet on who she was, how she died, or how she got there. Considering how many people I see rummaging through those bins on trash day you'd think somebody would have seen her.

Man, stuffing a body into a blue recycling bin. What the hell are they thinking?

Everybody knows they go into the green bins.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A Missed Opportuniy For Irony

Westlake, Los Angeles, CA

Man, cops shoot one guy who might have just been a misunderstood drunk or could possibly have been brandishing a knife at several people including the officers, and people just won't let that go.

Who'da thunk?

So tonight protesters are again massing at the site near 6th and Union in Westlake where Manuel Jamines was killed by police Sunday after allegedly coming at them with a knife and threatening several people with it.

At some point police fired two volleys of non-lethal projectiles at the crowd, which consisted of men, women, children even. And my favorite
Several people, meanwhile, were shouting angrily into loudspeakers and a group of young men are weaving through the crowd on bicycles. A vendor hawked bags of potato chips.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit. Alive and well in these times of social upheaval. The rock upon which our great nation crashed. The forge within which this country was annee- annull- anal-

Beat into shape.

It's good to see the LAPD responding with their usual measured and thoughtful response. Aren't you folks glad they didn't use real bullets?

Well, we haven't had a really good riot in years. I suppose we're due.

Monday, September 06, 2010

For A Mob That's Pretty Quick

Westlake, Los Angeles, CA

Yesterday, LAPD bicycle officers responded to a call in Westlake about a drunk man (supposedly Manuel Jamines from Guatemala) who was threatening people with a knife. According to the LAPD and some witnesses the guy wouldn't put the knife down after repeated orders to do so. They shot him, killing him.

Now, right now in fact, there's a slew of people at the Rampart Division station on Sixth protesting the shooting. Got the cops in riot gear and everything.

People are claiming that they didn't give the man enough time to put the knife down, that he didn't speak English and didn't understand them. That the police shouldn't have opened fire.

The police are claiming it was justified, that they told him to drop the knife in both English and Spanish, that he was threatening a woman with a 4-year-old and that the guy came at them with the knife raised in a threatening manner.

Now, I don't know which side is right. And I'm not going to speculate here.

What I find interesting is that they waited a whole day before protesting. Even for angry, knee-jerk mob responses that's pretty fast. Usually you start with news stories, the community complains, the preachers get into it. And then you get some traction.

Hell, I don't even think Devin Brown got a mob in the first day.

There's a heavy immigrant population in the area, and police have been cracking down on illegal street vendors, a move that the LAPD says is fueling the anger.

Really? You mean they've got no other reason to be pissed off? Freaking out about getting deported, or afraid of police because, well, where they come from they should be afraid of police?

But that's still pretty fast.

If I were into conspiracy theories I'd have to wonder who put it together, whether the fact that it's Labor Day has anything to do with it, and how quickly it's going to turn into a talking point in the immigration debate, either for or against.

But that would NEVER happen. No one would sink so low as to use a tragedy like this to further a political agenda.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

This Is What Happens When You Do Things Really Half-Assed

West Hollywood, CA

Last week three men, Pirooz Moussazadeh, Bernard Khalili and Shahriar Moussazadeh, were shot to death in a West Hollywood apartment. The alleged shooter, Harold Yong Park, was arrested soon after.

The reason? Pot.

It's looking like Pirooz and Bernard had been buying some high grade hydro from medical marijuana dispensaries and then selling it on the street for, surprise, a profit. Park had done some business with them in the past and showed up at the apartment to score.

Problem: He didn't have the money

Solution: He did have a gun.

Fancy that. He shot the two dealers and took out the third guy who, it would seem, was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now, in an unsurprising turn of events, Sheriff Baca is going on about how California's medical marijuana law is bad because bad people are doing bad things with it. Badly, I might add.

You know what? He's right.

Because the law is a half-assed, poorly thought out, disjointed, schizophrenic piece of crap legislation that, by dint of not going far enough, allows this sort of shit to happen.

It's still illegal to grow, sell and smoke the stuff outside of such narrowly defined parameters that it's still easier to get it on the street than it is to go down to Venice and pay some toothless guy sitting on a Peruvian blanket twenty bucks to get a scrip.

You want to stop this shit you make it as legal as cigarettes. When was the last time three guys got shot for five pounds of fucking tobacco?

Remove the profit and you stop the killing. It's that fucking simple.