Friday, December 21, 2007


I realize this is a little late and will be pretty brief, but, having written my paper on driving in LA and my blog assignment having been Play it As it Lays, I have been thinking a lot about driving in the city. Growing up, I have spent a lot of time on the freeways (mostly the 10 and the 405), but I never thought about them too much--traffic, which exit to get off at, but not really what they "meant." After a lot of the reading from this class, I see them so differently now. I strain to see over the sides, to the communities down below that Buzzworm talks about (which, even if you are looking for them, are invisible). I try to imagine someone changing four lanes without breaking. Maybe Maria could do it in the 60s, but the way things are now, no one could any more. I consider the idea of trying to be a detective in the modern landscape. It seems that it would be easier for a detective to blend in amongst all of the cars, but also easier for the pursued. I wonder, could those stories about driving the way it was still be created today, or are conditions too different, too changed? I'm glad to have a new perspective on something that I have, and continue to interract with so frequently, but, in a way, had been sort of invisible.

Monday, December 17, 2007

An LA Story

While reading the LA Times a couple of weeks ago I encountered an article that highlighted one of the problems of the dynamic nature of Los Angeles. The article covered the gang/tagging problem in this under served community and how the community dealt with the problem using lawful and political methods.

Feel free to read the article, but there is one part that I would like to share with you all:

"But despite these successes, the neighborhood's promising economic rebound remains at risk in part because of the community's transient nature, community and county officials said.

Several priests and school principals who helped energize residents have departed or retired. As the school year began, Maria Ortiz saw experienced parents leave as well.

So she once again is hoping to hold more Civics 101 meetings in the community to teach others how to take control of their neighborhood.

"Each year," Ortiz said, "we have to do the same thing."

Even Barahona has moved on -- near La Puente -- to organize a similar community effort.

"The county is trying to de-fragment the community," Barahona said. "It's an L.A. story. I've been here three years, and I feel we're still scratching the surface." "

As I read this, I immediately thought of the class and how the dynamic nature of the city has resulted in difficulties managing these urban problems. The transient communities in the city create problems that are difficult to deal with because the needs of the communities are always changing and it's hard to keep up with them.

Have a great break!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

An Account of our Trip to and from UCLA

On October 27th, shortly after the fires and our reading of "Tropic of Orange", Alex and I ventured west towards the Billy Wilder Theater to catch “3 Films by Charles Burnett”. As far as I can remember, the sky was an opaque gray that blended with the colors of the 10. Rain fell sporadically and mixed with ash from the south, together forming black watercolor that streamed down the windshield of my car and obstructed our hoped-for-view of city lights. Inevitably the waves of KSPC receded into white noise, and we soon felt the omnipresent weight of our literature’s Los Angeles upon us.

Arriving early, we picked up some Mexican food before the movies began. Even though the place was a chain, I would say that the chimichangas, black beans and rice were all pretty good. I would tell you the name of the restaurant if I could remember, but it eludes both Alex and me at the moment.

Upon entering the theater, I realized that the audience was primarily black, either African or African American. Clusters of weedy film students, mostly white and to which we seamlessly belonged, peppered the crowd as well. After finding our seats, we sat down next to a young couple (they both had nose rings if I remember correctly) and talked a little bit before the lights dimmed. All that comes to mind of our conversation was the discovery that Stan (Henry Sanders) from Killer of Sheep was regularly featured in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (a Glassmann Family favorite) as Robert E. the Blacksmith.

The presenters gave a few words and acknowledged the cast members in attendance; shortly thereafter the movies were screened. Here are some of my thoughts:

Fragmentary Notes (Films Listed in Order of Appearance):

QUIET AS KEEP (2007) A short film about the everydayness of a dislocated New Orleans family in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Setting not given. Revolves around a broken down car and a family stuck in transition. Shot on digital. Funny and poignant both in minor senses of the words.

Set in South Central. Focused on family through the eyes of a black son. Shot on 16mm color. Composed of emotional images of the everyday. Bleeding light and blaring music. Beautiful because of its gestures and parts, not because of its message.

I walked outside to get some fresh air. The main feature, the impetus of our journey, would start in five minutes.

Boy jumps over buildings in KILLER OF SHEEP

Also set in South Central. Shot on 16mm BW. Tells a new narrative that reaffirms life in Los Angeles. It made me laugh, and I think it made me cry. SEE IT.

Here are some helpful links so you too can watch the film. If you don’t have one already, the first is for a BitTorrent Client (this is technically illegal but is in my opinion worth it); the second is for the torrent of the movie itself (free but also illegal); the third is to purchase it legitimately over Amazon (the DVD also comes with My Brother’s Wedding as an added bonus):

After the screenings, UCLA held a Q and A with members of the audience who were associated with the films’ production. Strikingly unhelpful from a factual perspective, no one seemed to remember the objective past; a friendly argument ensued over whether or not a screenplay ever existed. It was fun, though, and everyone seemed to enjoy reliving the experience of the movies through the respective standpoints of their own hazy memory.

On the drive back, the Los Angeles smog seemed to suffocate a little less, and it became easier to see outside the car windows. We both felt exhilarated, and upon our triumphant return to the Inland Empire, I might have proudly muttered to myself, “Fuck Didion and her LA”.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Santa Monica Peare

A couple of weeks ago I visited Santa Monica Peare. What I noticed was the carousel which reminded me on "They shoot horses don't they?". In the book the characters seem, just as the carousel, to spin in cirlces without making any progress.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Images of Mulholland

David Hockney's "Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio" (LACMA)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hollywood Boulevard

Since my trip to Los Angeles didn’t make it into my paper in any direct sort of way, here’s a brief reflection based on the experience of driving along Hollywood Boulevard and passing Grauman’s Chinese Theater a few hours before a movie premiere. This slightly-crooked photo was taken from the car as we were driving (notice the star on the streetlight).


Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize that they’ve been tricked and burn with resentment. Every day of their lives they read the newspapers and went to the movies. Both fed them on lynchings, murder, sex crimes, explosions, wrecks, love nests, fires, miracles, revolutions, wars.
—Nathanael West, The Day of the Locust

Traffic slows perceptibly several blocks before 6925 Hollywood Boulevard. The first star appears high up on a street light, marking the threshold of HOLLYWOOD with sparkling gold letters. The street narrows—on each side, crowds surge against each other, colliding, pushing in opposite directions. The streetlight stars come into view one after another now, announcing the location again and again to the crowds and the cars. The cement below echoes this proclamation. Lined with stars, it, too, signals place. This is hallowed ground. This is Hollywood.

Everything converges at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard—Grauman’s Chinese Theater—a spectacle of columns and minarets and stone lion-dogs stationed as sentinels to guard the front entrance. The red carpets have been rolled out onto the starry cement in preparation for tonight’s premiere. The fans have already begun to gather, forming a dense mass that will grow denser still. They are pent in by short metal gates. They press against the gates and against each other, straining to reach the edge of the red carpet, straining to see the stars who aren’t there and the commotion that has not yet begun. Now is the lull; for now, they jostle each other indifferently, carelessly, without malice.

In a few hours, the real violence will begin. This is, after all, 6925 Hollywood Boulevard—the location of Kahn’s Persian Palace, the setting for Nathanael West’s infamous riot scene—a place where waiting fans coalesce into a vicious mob, where the pursuit of leisure engenders savage violence. For now, though, they are just a group of people with cameras and posters, waiting for the show to begin, waiting for the thing that will save them from their terrible boredom.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Play- Encino

“No moment more or less important than any other moment, all the same: the pain as the doctor scraped signified nothing beyond itself, no more constituted the pattern of her life than did the movie on television in the living room of this house in Encino. The man in the white duck pants was sitting out there watching the movie and she was lying in here not watching the movie, and that was all there was to that. Why the volume on the set was turned up so high seemed another question better left unasked. “Hear that scraping, Maria?’ the doctor said. ‘That should be the sound of music to you…don’t scream Maria, there are people next door, almost done, almost over, better to get it all now than do it again a month from now…I said don’t make any noise, Maria.” (81)

For the first time, Maria attempts to separate herself from the present in order to ignore the reality that she is having an abortion. This is a significant event in Maria’s life because she makes a decision that alters the course of her future. While Maria has made an active decision, it is questionable whether she is acting as a personal agent. Who makes the decision to get an abortion: Maria or Carter? What does Maria truly want? Are there any past events that may have influenced Maria’s decision (inability to take care of Kate, Carter is not the father)? While Maria rarely speaks, in this instance she vocalizes her feelings; is she momentarily horrified, or protesting against her fatal decision?