The Street Screenwriter

“The Cop Whisperer”
Ed Leibowitz
Los Angeles magazine

A profile of writer-director David Ayer, a self-taught writer-director who has translated his experiences growing up on the rough side of Los Angeles into a growing oeuvre.

You probably know Ayer for his 2001 film Training Day, starring Denzel Washington. His new End of Watch, shot with big stars on a tiny budget, is in theaters, and his next project is the reinvention of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Why a Valley Boy Came home

Joseph Gordon-Levitt – L.A. Story – Los Angeles magazine.

Regardless of your opinion about Mr. Gordon-Levitt and his work (I enjoyed 500 Days of Summer more than my age might suggest I should, and his turn as the idealistic young cop Blake was a bright point in The Dark Night Rises), he waxes so near-poetical about Los Angeles that I wound up nodding my head for the entire last three paragraphs.

I like his point about L.A. being a hard city to show to people. That’s something we’d like to fix.

Orange County Fairgrounds

Long before the end of World War II, there were offices in the Pentagon trying to decide what to do with all of the property the government had acquired over the past decade, first for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), then the military. Five years after the war, Washington had divested itself of much of its wartime surplus real estate, but much had remained unaltered.

The state of California purchased a large portion of the Santa Ana Army Air Base, a massive wartime training facility, and apportioned part of that to become the Orange County Fairgrounds.

In the past five years, the fairgrounds have become a political football, with one governor (Schwarzenegger) arguing for their privatization, and another (Brown) urging that the land be retained by the state. The loss of the county fair would be a pity – if nothing else, county fairs are a quintessentially American event that no child should be without, and our fairs in California each seem to be better or different.

But there is no denying that the urban counties of California have left behind the agricultural endeavors that were the original basis for such events. If the Orange County Fair and others like it up and down the state are to survive the exigencies of development and fiscal austerity, they must discover anew their purpose in the future of the State, not just its past.

L.A.: From Freeway to Greenway

Southern California freeways
Southern California freeways (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Los Angeles freeways are the ruins of the future.”

Thus begins Dutton Architects provocative examination

of the future and eventual fate of one of Southern California’s most defining man-made features: the freeway system.

The rising cost of petroleum, Angelenos’ growing acceptance of mass transit, and a gradual rise of a new California lifestyle that places sustainability ahead of mobility could mean that SoCal’s reliance on the automobile has plateaued. Dutton’s manifesto begins with a call to abandon the car as a dysfunctional element of our lifestyle, introduces the idea of a a “Slow Move” future to go alongside our presumed “slow food” future, and then lays out the implications for urban planning and lifestyles.

The car, Dutton suggests, has dominated our city for too long. It is time to approach things another way. By shifting to an integrated, hierarchical network of sidewalks, bike paths, light rail, and subway networks beneath the greenways that take the place of freeways, the study suggests we can claim a lifestyle in keeping with our ideals and our climate.

As with many such studies, there is an thick band of utopianism woven throughout this picture. Southern California has been zoned, built, lived, and governed with the car at the center. Changing that means changing much more than repurposing freeways, and thus it presumes either a burst of instant national enlightenment or a cataclysm (economic or environmental) that will convince Californians that they no longer have a choice.

Yet such criticism is somehow unfair, as it presumes more than what the study was intended to offer. Dutton’s team is proffering a vision of the post-automotive city that can be in many ways better than what we have, not worse. It is not a roadmap on how to get to that future.

I’m not ready to buy yet, but I wish more of California’s planners and architects would pursue such innovative thinking. It might just get us someplace.

The Sountrack of Civil Unrest

The Sound of the L.A. Riots – Los Angeles magazine

Garth Trinidad, a DJ at Santa Monica public radio station KCRW, has put together a playlist in remembrance of the 1992 riots. It’s a fascinating list, but the funny thing is that I remember playing none of these during those days.

I’m thinking about putting together my own April 1992 playlist. Let me know if you have one to share.

Industrial Design with Californian Characteristics

American Design, California Style | Fast Company.

Someone once told me that design is where style meets business. California has long played a major role in industrial design for American industry, and increasingly it is doing so for companies around the globe.

In this quick and thought-provoking read, San Francisco-based designer Brett Lovelady explains why this is the case.

More than Sunshine

California –

California’s diverse landscapes, cultures, and biomes are one of the state’s most attractive features. The beauty we see around us is more than just sunshine, surf, and (movie) stars, cultural memes notwithstanding.

We owe a debt of gratitude, then, to those who have the eye and patience to capture California at its finest. While many of us try (including those of us here at the Golden West Review,) PhotoBotos offers a cache of some truly remarkable photos, including some scenes (like the Yosemite Firefall) that are bits of unremembered history.

Take a look and enjoy.

Iconoclasts in the Big Valley

Duncan West speaking with Cesar Chavez. The De...
Cesar Chavez (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Madness of Cesar Chavez – Magazine – The Atlantic.

In a thoughtful review, Caitlin Flanagan works through the psychic shock that much of our state will experience as it grapples with the dark side of farm labor icon Cesar Chavez. Flanagan reviews Miriam Pawel’s iconoclastic recounting of the movement that culminated in the formation of the United Farm Workers union.

Chavez did some fine work, but the myth that has grown around him is less history than a form of secular veneration. Pawel’s effort has not been undertaken to demonize Chavez, but to do justice to the people who counted on Chavez to better their lives.

For some, this will be the story of a revolution left incomplete by the megalomania of its leader. For others, it will confirm long-held suspicions about the true nature of the UFW. For all of us, it will recast a critical period of California history, forcing us to reexamine the history and plight of the people who make our agriculture industry possible.

A moving read.