Picking up Jean Stein’s “West of Eden”

Jean Stein’s West of Eden is an oral history about Los Angeles, shaped from interviews collected over a period of thirty years.

Source: Very Big in LA by Diane Johnson | The New York Review of Books

Johnson is not particularly kind to Jean Stein in this review, but an Angeleno would almost certainly see the value in Stein’s new West of Eden: An American Place. 

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Note: When I’m not a fan (updated)

For the record, when I say in this forum that “I am not a fan” of an artist, that does not always mean to cast aspersions on the skill or talent of that artist.

Case in point: I am not a fan of the Rolling Stones, and with all respect to Jagger & Co., you couldn’t pay me enough to sit through one of their concerts. I recognize that they are talented. I acknowledge they had an impact on a generation of music. Unfortunately, neither they nor their music ever connected with me.

(My elder sister, twelve years my senior, believes this to be a generational issue. She’s wrong: if my age was the cause of my Stones issue, how to explain my love of The Who, Frank Sinatra, and Benny Goodman?)

Talent does not mean connection. We too often interpret in others a failure to appreciate the work of an artist we like as an aesthetic failing, a fundamental flaw in their world view that prevents them from really seeing the work.

But if I have learned one thing at this early stage of my swim in a deepening sea of art and literature, it is the truism that no creation is objective. We bring our experiences, our fears, our subjective values to a work. And that is where the magic takes place. Art is not what happens on a page. Art is what happens when creation and perception collide.

The Private Life of the World’s Tallest Tree

Nature’s best kept secrets are tucked away in the spaces mostly untouched by human interference. That is why, up until 2006, no one knew of the world’s tallest tree, nicknamed “Hyperion”…

Source: The private life of Hyperion, the world’s tallest tree | Inhabitat – Green Design, Innovation, Architecture, Green Building

The Coastal Commission has been Compromised

Source: Will the Future of the California Coast Be For the People or For the Big Developers? – Rules & Regulations – Curbed LA

Read the article.

Brutal.

Time for all of us, regardless of our political stripes, to stand up and insist that the Coastal Commission do its job.

This is going to require a higher degree of diligence than before, but it is not the job of all of us to protect our coasts. We can no longer depend on the government – even the government of a liberal Democrat – to do it for us.

David Ulin’s Sidewalking nominated for PEN Award

Source: 2016 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay | PEN American Center

Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles, David Ulin’s superb essay about Los Angeles as an urban environment, has been nominated for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award. Congratulations, Mr. Ulin, on giving LA the kind of heartfelt examination it deserves, and best of luck with the award.

When a Working Artist Has to Live Off the Grid

Amid a documented rise in the number of homeless in New York City, many of those without homes may be effectively invisible – going about seemingly normal routines and even work without a place to live.

Source: Homeless model: New York’s hidden homeless – BBC News

A fascinating story that poses a question: how long can any city hold itself out as a center of arts and letters when only the most successful artists and scribes can even afford to live there?

Gehry Reconsidered

He is now 86, and shows little sign of slowing down. “I get excited about working on new things,” he said recently. On the list is a shimmering tower that he is creating in Arles, France, to mark a lushly funded private arts complex called LUMA and a series of wriggling slabs for the vast Battersea Power Station in London which is being converted into luxury flats. He is adding to the quarter-mile-long building he recently completed for Facebook in California. And he is supporting arts education in low-performing Los Angeles schools. Mr Gehry is hard on himself, never satisfied that a given design is right. “All I see is what I could have done better. I can’t help it.”

Source: A life in shapes | The Economist

Bridge On the River of Angels

It is also a microcosm of urban crisis — and opportunity. It raises all sorts of questions. What is meant by public space? What is or should be permissible there? What is the solution to the problem of homelessness? What is the best way to help an addict? What is the role of private interests attempting to reinvigorate a public space? Who controls land? What constitutes a power grab? What constitutes commendable, civic-minded community engagement?

Source: Under the Bridge: A Talk with LA Historian and “Under Spring” Author Jeremy Rosenberg – The Los Angeles Review of Books

Los Angeles is Los Angeles no more. Jeremy Rosenberg explains why, and why that is a good thing.

Has Franzen Peaked?

“Purity” feels like an imitation of Mr Franzen’s earlier novels, without the emotional resonance and subtlety. Navigating its illegitimate children, seduction, covered-up crime, international espionage and a secret billionaire feels like being a spectator to, not a friend in, the melodrama. It is testament to Mr Franzen’s talent that he has created his own great works to measure up to. Unfortunately, though, “Purity” does not manage to do so.

Source: Being Franzen’s friends | The Economist