Thursday, November 27, 2008

Down came the rains and washed the fires out..

What a difference a few days make.

Luckily it didn't wash the hills down..

Photo: my iPhone

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Whither GM?

The American carmakers are appearing before the Senate Banking Committee asking for a bridge loan. The GOP seems not to want to give it, citing the Auto Industry's refusal to make fuel-efficient cars.

Of course. longtime politicians have a grip on the lives of the average constituent that's tenuous at best: they argue against subsidised health care for Americans while enjoying free health care for themselves. They pontificate on what the American Auto industry could have or should have done while being chauferred around Washington in a Limo, sirens blaring because Senator Thingummy needs a Venti Latte, STAT. So they villify the US Automakers for making big fat trucks that nobody wants, like Ford's F150 pickup, the best selling vehicle in the US for 26 of the past 30 years (and as of May still firmly in the top 5), ignoring the fact that Toyota spent a bazillion bucks to open a new plant in Texas to build their own bloated, gas swilling Tundra. A plant that they closed for a few months due to the "unseen economic issues" But Toyota is the green company right? They aren't out there asking for money either.

Well, one could argue that they have been in a different position: their government is severely protective of it's industry, keeping the Yen low, keeping foreign competition out while States such as Texas, Alabama and Tennessee are willing to give major deals to foreign carmakers to build plants in their states. There's of course nothing wrong with that, but it does make one want to ask how disingenuous it is for Senator Shelby of Alabama to act all self righteous about the US Auto industry when his state rolled out the red carpet for Mercedes Honda and Toyota and just recently Hyundai. Meanwhile the Big Three are languishing under the burden of legacy costs like pensions, healthcare pacts and Union contracts that the other boys don't have to pay for.

People are often decrying the US car companies as being behind the times and having shitty products. I was discussing this with a co-worker who had an 80's Chevy that was terrible. I had to point out that this was 20 years ago when all cars were terrible and yes, American cars were in particular. But all of the quality reports these days say that the Americans are on the top ten with the Japanese while Mercedes languishes near the bottom of the quality list. including it's Alabama built M-Class, named "worst reliable midsized SUV" in 2007.

People say that American cars aren't economical, but two minutes on the EPA website will show you that Chevy's Aveo and Cobalt get 34 and 36 MPG highway, an Impala 29, a Malibu 32 (to it's direct competitor Camry's 31). Heck, a Corvette will get you 26 on the Highway. That's right, a Corvette. Ford? How about a 35MPG highway Focus? A 28 Highway Taurus? How about a 30 highway Chrsyler Sebring? Or a 29 highway Dodge Caliber?

People say that the Americans don't do hybrids like the Prius. Well, the don't yet, but they have hybrids Malibus, Vues, Escapes, Auras, Yukons and even Escalades. And 2 years from now we'll have the Chevy Volt, the real-life every day useable modern car to crack the 100 mpg mark and move past hybrid into a real-life electric car. If I drove a Volt the only time I would use gas would be on a trip I woudl have to remind myself to take to use up the gas before it went bad.

Did the US Auto industry suffer from a lot of bad decisions and bad cars? Yes it did. Did they have a big part in putting themselves in this dillemma? You betcha. But the insurmountable fact is that many jobs, directly and indirectly come from the American auto industry. Turn on your TV or pick up a paper and look at how many ads are for car dealers and imagine them gone. Drive down your local auto-plex and imagine the showrooms empty. Look at the magazine rack and imagine it half empty. These companies have a big economic reach and unless you live on the moon that reaches extends right into your wallet. I might also humbly point out that 50 years ago it was the manufacturing might of these companies that won us a World War.

To the people who think that Toyota and Honda will take up the slack I'd like to ask, when and how? They'll rehire all the workers, take over all the plants and begin immediately producing Camrys to the adoring masses freed from the banality that was Buick? I don't think so. In the time it would take for these bridge loans to be paid back, this country would swing into an economic crises that our grandparents would remember from the thirties. I am too old to wait on a breadline. Are you?

Image: Cadillac Ranch Webpage

Monday, November 17, 2008 feeling!

This past weekend it seems like the whole of Los Angeles smelled like smoke. The fires that range from Sylmar to the north to Diamond Bar to the southeast have made the air quality just this shy of unbreathable. The Pasadena Marathon was cancelled over fears of the health of the runners, and even walking a few blocks has me wheezing like an old man. Oh, all right, an older man. All of this pales of course to the problems of the people who actually lost their homes; there's nothing scarier about life in SoCal than a wind-whipped fire. Not even an earthquake comes close for me, and I don't live in a fire zone.

To give you an idea of the air quality, here are two pictures: the one on the left was taken from the overlook on Mulholland Drive near Cahuenga this Sunday, Nov 16th. That's the 101 freeway and the barely visible buildings are in Hollywood. The one on the right was taken from the terrace of my friends house in Beachwood Canyon of that same view in November about 5 years ago on a smoggy day. The towers in the background are in Downtown LA. You would normally be able to see the towers in the background in the picture on the right. There's something a bit surreal about smelling smoke and breathing the chunk-style air and just sort of going on with your life. If I had musical talent in addition to a working sense of irony I would have played the violin..

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Real Estate Porn, Architecture Envy and Me

Sometimes, Pansy ain't pretty

Today I went on an adventure with my dear friend Sue, the LA NOIR-chitecture tour.  It visited various Noir-connected sites, such as the Formosa Cafe, the Parva-Sed-Apta Apartments (Where Nathaniel West lived when he wrote "The Day of the Locust") and this little dump: the Villa Primavera.  When I write "dump" it's in the fond hope that no-one will want to live there and I can score an apartment here.  Not only is it life-threateningly cute, but it's under West Hollywood's excellent rent control.

Villa Primavera is a product of the husband and wife team of Arthur and Nina Zwebel, one of the handful of apartments in the fantasy Andalusian style that feature interior courtyards with fountains and outdoor fireplaces built by them in the 20's.  It's a rare treat to get to see one of these places in the flesh (you can see this one in the movie "In a Lonely Place", which was written and later filmed here).  All of the units open to the courtyard, and despite being on busy Fountain Avenue, the place is very quiet; the effect is incredibly peaceful.  One of the tenants even left their front door casually open, showing their original barrel-shaped fireplace and nubby hand-trowelled old plaster walls as if to say "Nyah, nyah, nyah!  I live here and you don't"  At least that's how it seemed to me, knowing that I would be heading home to a place that while it's firmly in 90210 and therefore trumps on zip code, is notably lacking in charm.  These are the sort of apartments that "Buffy The Vampire Slayer", "Mulholland Dr" and "Chinatown" have made seem the quintessence of California style and which I would be very happy to call home.

Something like this..

Photo: my iPhone

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Boys (and Girls) are on the march...

Marching in protest against Prop 8.  

Can't say I blame them...

Unless you want some serious vehicular headaches, avoid Santa Monica Boulevard from Westwood to West Hollywood..

Screenshot of KCAL9's news coverage

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes, I am kvelling...

But I cannot help but be uplifted by his speech, which reminded us that we can aspire to be more, to think that we can work together to create a better future for our children.  To look back at our past and to move forward to our shared future..

I am going to bed with the promise of a better America.  I hope not to awaken to a lesser California..

I'm watching CSNBC and listening to Chris Matthews babble and I have to write:  I love when people who make a million a year pretend to be able to tell what people who make 35 thousand a year live like.....

And it's over

I am very happy that we have elected our new President, and I have to give a special shout-out to John McCain who gave a gracious and classy speech. He's a worthy candidate and I would have voted for him if he was the McCain of 2000. I think we saw that McCain again, the Maverick, the Man who reaches across the aisle, the man who wasn't afraid to shush even his supporters. I'm saddened that people there would boo at the mention of Obama or the idea that we all could actually work together; I hope we can.

Photo: Los Angeles Times

Lines are long...

This was the line at the Beverly Hills Library at 7am when the polls opened. I waited about 30 minutes to vote. My coworker waited two hours in Pasadena- and she got there at 7am as well! It's going to be an interesting night!

Photo: my iPhone

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tomorrow is Election Day:


Sunday, November 02, 2008


I'm watching a TLC special on "Purity Balls" and I am ambivalent.  I think that it's a wonderful thing that children are taught that sexuality is a gift and that empty, meaningless coupling is, well empty and meaningless.  I wonder why this seems to be so female-focused however.  Now granted, I am a mean old man willing to see worms under rocks that aren't there, but the whole Jon Benet-ness of giving a twelve year old a burgundy strapless gown to celebrate her purity seems a bit odd.  But aren't there guys in on this?

I mean, I think that discretion, a sense of self worth and good taste are a wonderful thing.  I'd like to think that I not only have it but had inculcated it into the few people whom I'd influenced.

I just can't think that the few people I'd influenced would believe that I would tell them to test drive cars before buying ones but to commit to a husband without knowing him.  I don't think at 20 you can know him...