Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gehry Ga-reen

I should be arrested for taking this photo while driving 80 mph on the Santa Ana Freeway (I-5).

This is Frank Gehry's Team Disney building in Anaheim, housing the crack Imagineering creative crew. Unfortunately, the usual elegantly crumpled Gehry designs are reserved for the interior side of the building. But...on clear days when I drive northbound and L.A. County-bound to work, I'm showered with an amazing green glow reflected off the treated stainless steel panels. Love that. It's like opening the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, or opening the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Meandering Nothings of People I Admire

Jesus was a socialist...at least I've always thought so. He didn't discriminate and he hung out with the dregs of society; prostitutes, tax collectors and so forth and put stuck up Pharisees in their places. He influenced Ghandi who influenced Martin Luther King, who influenced Cesar Chavez and countless other people.

What's my point, you say? I have none. This is a tribute to one of my favorite actors and humanitarians, Paul Newman. When I was a kid, I used to watch whatever old Newman movies shown on TV. (Thank you, KDOC, KTLA, and KCOP!) I saw the stinker, Silver Chalice, where Newman in toga talked like a thug the entire film, and I saw gems like Hud, Cool Hand Luke, and the Hustler. It wasn't until I saw Newman in Somebody Up There Likes Me about the life of Rocky Graziano that really made a fan out of me. And of course, there was Slap Shot which made me laugh my guts off.

Then I saw a documentary about Martin Luther King's famous speech about racial equality in Washington in 1963 that sealed my worship of PN. He was there, marching with MLK at a time where the klan and tons of other kooks bludgeoned those who dared participate in demonstrations for equal rights.

On a stupid note, our birthdays were only two days apart, and I'd always thought we were sorta kinspirits. We were both liberals and aquarians to boot.

Anyway, I admire Jesus' grit and Ghandi's quiet persistence. MLK's staunch belief in human dignity bowled me over as did Cesar Chavez' persistence (though he was one of the first Minutemen). Newman doesn't quite make the list of the above heroes, but he is up there with Muhammad Ali and Aung San Suu Kyi, Clarence Darrow, and the Doctors Without Borders volunteers.

BaddicusFinch gave me the book, In Pursuit of the Common Good: Twenty-Five Years of Improving the World, One Salad Dressing At A Time by Newman and A.E. Hotchner years ago, and it cemented the importance to the world of this one particular hero of mine. What a humanitarian. What a stalwart citizen. I love you man!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Adventures of Big Boy in Downey

As a kid I loved Bob's Big Boy. I could care less about the food, and I wasn't the type to run up and hug a plastic statue with a pompadour. I was in for the free comic book, the Adventures of Big Boy. I'd grab a copy on the way into the restaurant, and I'd read front to back. I even read the letters to Big Boy...funny, I remember one from a girl oddly named Keith.

You don't see too many Big Boy restaurants anymore. Aside from the historic Bob's in Toluca Lake, you won't find too many thriving locations. And last month the one on Wilshire in Los Angeles was demo'd to make way for a BMW lot.

But...Bob's is coming to Downey, on the site of the Johnie's Broiler restaurant that was almost completely demolished without permits January 2007. The restaurant will be rebuilt to recapture the original Googie design, and with luck should be up and running next year. The mess is finally cleaned up, but those pesky taggers have had their way with the chub sign.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Yucca do it!

Our pal Lizette showed us her spiffy hillside house in Oceanside a couple weeks back. She cooked up a batch of delicious yucca with a tremendous garlic-onion-olive oil-lime (G.O.OO.L.) concoction, and ever since we've been on a huge yucca kick.

Yesterday I was in Hollywood for a conference, and I had some time to stroll the neighborhood. Couldn't miss the newish 54-unit condo development at 6735 Yucca Street. You know, it actually looks like our yucca dish. The concrete walls remind me of the yucca, and the redwood siding would be the GOOOL. Somebody really needs to keep up the landscaping (the side salad?) there...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sherlock Holmes Doused by Guy Ritchie

Dunno about you, but a pet peeve of mine is seeing film stars in magazines dripping in bucket water looking all sexy. Madonna's done it, so has Mel Gibson, Christian Bale, and even Viggo Mortensen. How embarrassing is that. And my point is...that style of corniness should pass like gas and never be seen again.

When I heard that Guy Ritchie was going to direct a new Sherlock Holmes movie, I rolled my eyes. I read and reread the complete volumes when I was eleven, and I feel that I ought to be heard about this subject. Sherlock, after all, has been my father for years (in my head) even though he was a dope fiend. My mother, incidentally, was Irene Adler, the only person that ever eluded the great detective. Then I read that Robert Downey, Jr. was going to play the great sleuth himself.

At this point, I started picturing my father lathered in sea water, his houndstooth hat dripping over his nose and cape. Holy fuck, I though, they're going to ruin my main man. First of all, Robert Downey is SHORT and he is American. Secondly, Jude Law is going to play Watson who is TALLER than Downey.

Sherlock Holmes is over 6 feet tall. His nose is aquiline or hawkish. Downey is too pretty. Jude Law is even prettier. Watson was a military guy stationed in India. He was kinda old already. Sherlock and Watson didn't meet until they were already in in their 40's.

Please don't massacre my little world of 221B Baker Street, Guy Ritchie. Stick to your imitation Tarantino and Scorsese movies. Leave my dad alone! Don't let him roll around in the sand while you douse him with cold ocean water until his sex appeal is milked out of his pores.

Meet the Mathlete

We often wake up on weekends and take in a morning run at the Santa Ana College track. Today I was feeling kinda under the weather, so I tagged along and brought a book. Instead of reading I looked at the new (well, about a year old) athletic complex. As I admired the row of exterior metal fins, I was struck by the mathematical soundness of the design. Equal spacing, structurally correct. Maybe I was having a Beautiful Mind moment...

I used to be a math whiz. Numbers and new mathematical concepts would come easy to me, and I actually had fun solving equations. My last hurrah was probably in 9th grade when I won a tricked out HP calculator in a math competition held at Stanford University. Then I can only chalk my stagnation to laziness...spent too much time listening to the radio, fell behind on my homework, started taking long naps after school. I coasted my way through high school, and in my undergrad years I didn't take a single math class. I tested out on day one, and never looked back.

And that calculator...EzraPounded sold it on eBay a year back for about $15o. Even my depleted, laughable mathabilities of today figure that's not bad for a 20-year old contraption.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bananas for Santa Ana

Santa Ana is the Barney Rubble of Orange County. You know, after about five television seasons in the '60s, the producers never even bothered to tell the viewers where poor Barney worked. No respect.

One of OC's more depressed cities, Santa Ana is also one of the most neglected. We have one library, for instance, and we have to pay $2.oo to rent video tapes - that's right, 2 bones for VHS! But BaddicusFinch wrote extensively the library issue, so I won't spend any more time belaboring our sad state of affairs.

While crime has let up in most OC cities, Santa Ana's went down from last year but at a lower rate compared to other cities. A few high visbility shootings have rocked the town in recent weeks. This may all sound depressing, but I have to say that I love this city. I'd lived on the Westside most of my adult life and when we moved here I was depressed as hell until we started exploring.

There's downtown Santa Ana where the Artist's Village, the Spurgeon clock tower, and my favorite pupusa spot are located, Santa Ana College where I run the track every morning, the wild parrots I see and hear everyday, and sundry other joys this city brings me.

I have to say that I despise two things about SA. One is the Bowers Museum which charges New York museum rates and screws Santa Ana residents by not giving us enough free days despite millions of dollars in grants they're getting from the city.

The second thing I hate are the stupid taggers the make our already messed up streets more crappy. I don't mind tagging - good artistic tagging like the Urban Guerrillas type with giant eggheads and such. But just ugly initials for pissing territory, forget about it. BaddicusFinch has the graffiti hotline programmed on his phone. The first sign of tagging, he calls them up.

Anyway, enough about the negative. We're near all sorts of good places like Little Saigon, a Korean enclave in Garden Grove, the Middle Eastern hub along Brookhurst in Anaheim, and a lot more. For foodies this area is Mecca.

So don't despair, Santa Ana. You are loved like our friend, Barney Rubble.

More Cityscapes...Cuz I Miss L.A.

Here they are...Two versions of Clifton's Cafeteria on Broadway in the heart of Downtown, Machos Tacos in Los Feliz, and a painting of our dogs that hate each other.

Vodie to the max

I'm sure I'm not the only one who tosses the yellow pages phone book straight to the recycle bin when a new edition appears on the front doorstep. Strange how the more obsolete the hard copy phone books have become, it seems we're bombarded with more and more versions - the "original", the Spanish language edition, the chamber of commerce book, etc. etc.

This might sound nuts, but when I was a wee lad I couldn't wait for the replacement phone books to arrive. I was fascinated by the write-ups on the local San Jose attractions, and wondered which photo would land the coveted cover spot. I'd read up on how to telephone strange sounding countries, and flipped to the z-section of the yellow pages to check out the listings under "zoo."

When I was really young and still illiterate, I'd page through the yellows browsing for ads that caught my eye, like that creepy Buster Brown and his dog, and my favorite, the auto bears. I'm pretty sure the first time I ever picked up the phone and dialed out was to the auto service shops that advertised with that damn cuddly bear. "Do you sell toys?" I asked the workers who must've thought they were getting cranked.

Here in Sana Ana we have the surviving Vodie's bear sign specimen on 17th Street, just east of Bristol. The site was developed in 1956, which fits for this type of happy bear sign. The property was on the market earlier this year, so our bear has dodged another bullet for the moment.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Santa Ana Library doesn't stack up!

As cities throughout California have beefed up their library services in recent years, as California voters approved a $350 million state library construction bond, as the neighboring City of Orange more than doubled the floor area of their main library to 45,000 square feet, the City of Santa Ana has done nothing. Unless you count slashing the bookmobile service.

Santa Ana is the 9th most populous city in California. I compared Santa Ana's library system (focusing on number of libraries in relation to population) with the 8 California cities with more residents than Santa Ana and the 8 cities just below Santa Ana in population.

The result...

The only large city in California with as pathetic a library record as Santa Ana is Modesto. Holy cows, what an embarrassment!

City Population Libraries Residents per Library
Los Angeles 3,834,340 72 53,255
San Diego 1,266,731 36 35,187
San Jose 939,899 19 49,468
San Francisco 764,976 25 30,599
Fresno 470,508 12 39,209
Long Beach 466,520 12 38,877
Sacramento 460,242 15 30,683
Oakland 401,489 18 22,305
Santa Ana 339,555 2 169,778
Anaheim 333,249 6 55,542
Bakersfield 315,837 8 39,480
Riverside 294,437 6 49,073
Stockton 287,245 5 57,449
Chula Vista 217,478 4 54,370
Modesto 203,955 1 203,955
Fremont 201,334 4 50,334
Irvine 201,160 3 67,053

Peace Corps Threatened By Short Funding

What's up with the news of the Peace Corps having to halt their new wave of recruits from being deployed to their prospective countries because Congress hasn't passed a budget? Aren't Obama, Bush, and McCain trying to sell us on the need to expand humanitarian assistance programs?

Well the Peace Corps is the way to go. These volunteers are ambassadors for this country. Each teacher, engineer, or agricultural volunteer represents a view of Americans that differs by miles from the asinine teenage flicks that inundate our movie screens, or the dirtbags in reality TV shows that flood international homes.

They get paid close to nothing and have to live the way their students live. I was a volunteer myself (in the late '90s in Sri Lanka before the Feds yanked us out when the civil war heated up) and was paid thirty dollars a month. I learned to make do with what I had just like the folks I was serving. It taught me humility and understanding which I sorely needed.

To hear that volunteers aren't being deployed because there is not enough budget is unbelievable to me. We spend so much on war where we end up killing and being hated. The Peace Corps teaches a different approach: building wells, ensuring safe water, garden projects, teaching English, job skills, and teaching about AIDS, safe sex, and other health related curriculum.

The Peace Corps supports over 8000 volunteers in 74 countries. To lose a chunk of these volunteers is a true loss to this country.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The DeceptiColonel

Remember the episode of the old Hulk TV series with Bill Bixby when a meteorite radiates the Hulk and he only halfway morphs back to David Banner? He becomes the Dulk, if you will. That's what I'm reminded of when I see the Kentucky Fried Chicken designed by Jeffrey Daniels on Western near Beverly. (Does that make me Mr. McGee?) This may be the most unique looking corporate fast food restaurant anywhere, and the corrugated metal predates the overdone corrugation nation we're living in. I'd say it's a bucket transforming into a chicken. Let's call it a chucket.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cityscapes & Googie Fetish

My husband bought me some paint and canvasses to keep my mind from wandering. I'm bipolar and I tend to be self-destructive at times, but that's another story. Anyway, I've been doing a series on cities so here they are...

Half Baked: Not All Eurasians Come Out Purty

My nephew is a quarter Russian, quarter Korean, and half Filipino. He's so damn adorable. Then I have a couple of friends with multi-racial kids that are super cute. One too many times, however, I've been told by people (experts in their own minds) that if I were to have a little watermelon, it'll look way cute. My husband is a halfy himself - white and Mexican.

Then of course there are those who say, "Half white and Asian kids are always so adorable. Good combination, always."

I say to this...WHATEVER! I've seen a lot of mixblix in my time, and the genetic theorists are frikkin' wrong. There was nothing cute about some of the multis except for their predictable GAP attire. These generalizations and exotic fallacies piss me off. The truth is there are as many plain, average, and ugly halfies than there are cute ones. You end up with the same cute factor spectrum as anyone else, with the same percentage of 2s, 7s and perfect 10s. So chill, everyone. Shut your trap and don't let me hear you say what a great combination Asian and white children are. I will slug you. And no. There will be no watermelons popping out of my delicate apertures.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Library, library, quite contrary

I've heard way too many excuses for Santa Ana's failed library "system", now down to the Main Library and the Newhope Library Learning Center. Apologists point to the housing slump, bleak tax revenue, public safety funding that should override other city services, and on and on. Yes, crime is up. The recent high-profile shootings are horrible. But why can't the city leadership see the direct connection between libraries, literacy, education, and jobs?

A strong library system is a sign of a healthy city. A city council that supports improving libraries - expanding hours, adding services, staffing highly qualified librarians, rehabilitating facilities, expanding libraries, constructing new libraries - is a city council that supports creativity, child development, adult literacy, skill development, gang intervention, safe learning, and employment.

Let's look at the Santa Ana City Council. If the economy is up or down, doesn't matter, the Council has gutted the libraries to fund other priorities. Even the bookmobiles were stripped of their funding! How long do the councilmembers think the current economy will be in the doldrums? They're not even willing to start planning for better times. As long as improving the library system is off the table, we're stuck with another symbol of a sick city.

We need libraries now more than ever.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Show me some skin

I discovered the secret to stepping into construction sites to take a look-see without getting hassled. Dress professionally, look like you belong, and when construction workers come your way, just give them a friendly nod and say, "It's looking really good."

Today I rolled into the job site for Los Angeles Unified's new School of Visual and Performing Arts. What a beast...about $200 million budgeted. Getting close, and LAUSD plans to open it up Fall 2009. Too bad nobody knows what the curriculum will be or which students will be allowed to attend. Setting aside the steep pricetag for a moment, the design is tops. I'm big on the silver-gray metallic panels, the awesome twisted tower view of/from the 101 freeway, and the coney library (a flash-forward version of Oxford's Radcliffe Library). It's a sure bet that a sci-fi movie will be filmed here, like Serenity and the Cell were filmed at Diamond Ranch High School.

I left quickly. Horrible memories of interviewing for a stint as a substitute teacher in 1996 (!) came back, so I had to escape. Egads...I can still hear that phone ringing at 5 in the morning to call me back to hell.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Save the Bucket

How did the Save the 76 Ball phenomenon catch on? I haven't heard of any similar campaigns to keep the Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets alive and spinning. Those larger than life signs are historic. (Hey, anyone remember the Leave it to Beaver episode when the Beav gets stuck in the teapot billboard that actually emits steam? How about Fast Times at Ridgemont High when Rat interrupts Damone watching the same Beaver episode to get him to bring the wallet to the restaurant?) The days of the old buckets are numbered, and most cities have zoning regulations that keep a new giant bucket permanently locked out.

Here's a KFC in North Long Beach (Artesia & Downey) that still has the old Colonel...not the updated one with the silly apron...up high on a bucket.

Update on Ezra the Puppy

Our dogs Penny and Little despised little Ezra. They would bark and growl at her to the point that I would be afraid to leave her alone with them. I guess I wouldn't blame my dogs for being angry and depressed (they would mope all day). Ezra and I had become close. She followed me around, even when I was on the toilet, plopping down next to me. It really hurt to see her go.

John and I took her to the pound where they will keep her for a few months. They said that they kept nice dogs longer. Ezra wouldn't have any problems getting adopted because of her age and personality they said. I hope so. Meanwhile Ezra is number 2454 on the website of the Orange County Animal Care Center. I love that dog. Good luck to her.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ramen on Fire

Hapa Asian Cuisine, the teriyaki & ramen fast food stand on 17th and English in Santa Ana, is no more. From the looks of things, the electrical panel caught fire and spread. Before I noticed the scorched panel, my thought was that the bastards who kept tagging the roof parapet walls had escalated their skulduggery to arson.

I wonder if the owner's going to rebuild. I wasn't a big fan of his food...last year he got rid of the monster-size California rolls I would stuff in my fat mouth for kicks...but I felt bad every time I went by and saw another spraypaint hit.

Friday, September 5, 2008

KFC, yeah you know me

I can't remember the last time I tasted Kentucky Fried Chicken. Although I distinctly remember the last time I ate chicken...that was in the spring of 1998 at this Oaxacan restaurant in West L.A. (the one where miscellaneous fools started signing their names on the walls after Edward James Olmos put his name up)...I guess you'd have to go back to the early '90s to find my last KFC experience. Crazy considering I loved KFC growing up. Corner of Monterey and Senter in San Jose, where this kid sadly named Anil (pronounced "A-kneel") used to work.

Well for months my brain's been wired to check out KFC exterior remodels. Funny considering I have zero interest in the actual food inside of there. Apparently the corporate KFC office requires each of their locations to upgrade the outside minimum every 15 years. Since they're bleeding customers to El Pollo Loco, Pollo Campero, Starbucks, etc., they're wise to brighten up their image.

Most coast along with a minor facelift, but others go with what they call the KFC Vision Design. The Vision Thing eliminates the tile roof towers and adds in a more contemporary look, with metal awnings and metal louvers running across the side walls of the building. They start with a standard design, but cities can tinker with the design before approving, so you'll see color and material variations from place to place. Like any proposal, a lazy city staff will let a lazy design pass through. I miss the giant rotating buckets, but they've been gone for a while. Overall, the Vision Design gets my vote.

Take a look at the photos...two are in Anaheim, and one is in Orange. Do they still give out sporks at KFC?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Stray Dog Rescued on Hairy Intersection

I nearly had a heart attack yesterday driving back from the video store. On the intersection of Garden Grove and Harbor, a little stray terrier was having a merry time romping in the middle of street traffic. John immediately said we should try to catch it before it resembled pizza pie. Agreed. We parked and began our search. I went one way and John the other.

He found her first, his hands under the dog's pits as far away from his body as possible. I understood why when I got nearer. The seven pound dog was crawling with fleas...hundreds of them! I thought of my car getting infested by the critters and I nearly balked, but what could we do, we had to do something. I remembered a canvas shopping bag in the car and we placed the little thing there. At this point, the dog which we later named Ezra even though she was a girl, was just taking everything calmly.

The moment we got home, we gave the dog a twenty minute bath - until the fleas drowned. Did I mention there were hundreds of them - in her ears, snout, body, derriere and what have you. We dried her and put Advantage anti-flea medicine behind her neck which should last a month. During this grueling experience, our two veterano dogs were putting on their best, most earth shattering barks to let us know they didn't appreciate the temporary addition to the family.

The puppy turned out to be even tempered and loving. She hardly made a sound - but that's probably because Penny and Little were putting on such a row. Anyway, I love her already and that's dangerous. We can't handle three dogs. We go on vacation often plus we have a tank full of fish, two parakeets, and a small parrot.

I started thinking about giving Little back to my brother-in-law who dropped her on our laps when he and his then-girlfriend decided not to keep her. She's a weird little thing, always burping and dripping water everywhere because of her snaggle inbred teeth. The white puffer has a drinking problem as well. She is addicted to water, so she has a peeing problem. Plus I've never really cared for chihuahuas. Little out, Ezra in. But John shook his head at this blasphemy, signaling he loved Little.

I have to admit, I love Little, too, despite her weirdo character. So I guess there's no way we can keep Ezra. All we can do is find her a loving home. Good luck to us.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Nyala Ethiopian Restaurant Makes Me Want To Cry

My favorite Ethiopian restaurant has gone downhill. They used to have excellent service, bigger portions, and better tasting food. Now it's the pits, and even the flavor of the red dahl is off.

In the not so distant past, I contemplated having my wedding reception there, but certain relatives indicated they refused to eat food that "resembled excrement." I guess not everyone shared my taste. That was years back, and my most recent afternoons there left more to be desired. I gave it another go last Friday and tried their buffet. I was happy because I figured at least I could control the portions and gorge myself. But like I said, the taste was a little off. The stewed cabbage was too watery (though still good) and the dahls were subnormal. Plus, the servers took their sweet time polishing off their own lunch before acknowledging me.

Sorry, Nyala. I have to eat across the street now at the Vegan Ethiopian restaurant I can't remember the name of. The food is kickass, the service is excellent, and the portions are more than decent.

Santa Ana Library Charges for Movies!

The Santa Ana Public Library "system" (does a main library and a single "library learning center" qualify as a "system"?) is screwed up for many reasons, but for now I'll focus on the film collection. Their selection of DVD and VHS movies is abysmal, and the tapes are haphazardly organized on rotating wire racks. (Sure, I still watch VHS if I can't get my hands on the DVD version.)

There are a few movies at the Santa Ana Main Library I wouldn't mind checking out, if it weren't for the jacked up fees they charge. Get this...$2.00 each! What a rip! That's effective July 1, 2008 at the start of the new budget year, up from $1.50 each checkout. That 50-cent increase is a 33% increase...crazy! I can walk over to my closest video store, Videosky, and pay $1.50 for a movie rental. Come on, Santa Ana...free library idealism aside, you need to at least compete with the local video rental shops! And consider that Santa Ana isn't exactly swarming with folks in the position to cough up $2 for a library movie. About 16% of all Santa Ana households are living below the poverty level. Compare that to 7% overall in Orange County. Nice, huh? We earn less, but the City of Santa Ana sticks us with higher fees.

That's another reason why I rarely patronize the Santa Ana Library. I may be a Santa Ana resident, but I take my library business to the City of Orange. They have an extensive movie selection at the Orange Main Library on Chapman, they issued me a library card at no charge, and their film checkouts are free! Thank you, Orange.

LACMA & Broad Contemporary Museum

We waited until the lines dissipated to see the new Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA. The cool recycled street lamps numbering dozens and spray painted white had teased us for a while. The stairs on the side of the building leading almost to nowhere with red railings nearly compelled us to join the lines of yuppies and art farts months ago.

Heck, we should've dove in because the Broad was well worth it. They had Jeff Koons giant animal balloons that were truly awesome. There was Ruscha, Jasper Johns, Warhol, Lichtenstein, and other brilliant artists. But I gotta say, the giant double-wide elevator impressed me the most. It had one of my favorite writer's quotes: "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face." That'd be Orwell, ladies and gent. What a plebian, eh?

We visited the Cheech Marin collection and were disappointed. There was a lot of grody art in there that looked like the book covers of tons of Latin-themed literature - like a kiddie-drawn girl on a bed weightless in the air. Dreamy shit...magical realism is such a yawner. There are a few exceptions like the work of Gronk. On the other hand, the Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement was tremendous. I especially like Julio Cesar Morales' interpretation of illegal immigrants' attempts to slip into this country, such as hiding inside car seats. Very sad and funny at the same time.

Anyhoo, modern and contemporary art is the way to go. Adios for now.