Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hi, Froghouse

The Secret Creeks (and Lakes, Springs, and Swamps) of Los Angeles

Today I had another conversation with another native Angeleno who stated flatly that L.A. is a desert. It got me going all over again about the untruth of this, and how I know in my body that our city is run through with water, secret and not-secret, lost, and extant.

I thought you'd enjoy this fabulous map created by the Ballona Wetlands people, who seem really swell, which shows all the historical water that enriched this land: creeks, lakes, ponds, wetlands, marshes, the works. If you click on the right toggle and overlays, you can see your own street. Most likely, there was once a creek nearby!

This wonderful article also describes it all in marvelous detail.

Love and swimming, Kate
Ballona Creek, in the day

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hello, Jello

Enjoyable clip for any Beastie Boys' fan: Jello Biafra, Tipper Gore et al. discussing the Beastie Boys and censorship. I miss smart punk rockers.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Happy Friday

Hey, Bread:

It's finally feeling like summer's coming. I wonder if we'll have any June Gloom this year at all. The May Gray was minimal. I don't expect any July Why at all.

I'm going to see the Beach Boys' reunion this Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl. Worst seats in the place, visually, but best seats aurally. The seats at the top of the Bowl have immensely full sound, cognitively supported by the sight of thousands of people gathered in the night, before the illuminated Shell of Wonder.

I think these seats will be great for the Beach Boys. I figure, with the Beach Boys, at their age, it's all about the sound. Actually, having recently watched the astounding TAMI Show from 1964, I can attest that with the Beach Boys, it has always been about sound. They've never been an attractive group, just barely reasonable-looking. The obvious exception would be Dennis Wilson, who is currently smoking hash with James Brown.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

I (Still) Feel Love

It seems as soon as I started blogging again, rad people started dying. I don't feel like writing about Donna Summer, you know. I mean, I do, but not in any context having to do with her not being alive. That's too much to ask. Just too much. She was too alive and still is in my heart. I love you, Donna Summer.

Here's a shorty Q&A with her from LA Weekly days. Even in just a little phone interview she had such joie de vivre, it made you feel like everything was happy and fine. She must have been an incredible mother. Like so many genius females, she took time off from her professional life to raise her children. What a life.

5 Questions with Donna Summer

When did you realize you had a voice from God?
I think I write about that in my [2003] book, Ordinary Girl. I heard God speak to me when I was 8. It happened while I was singing — I heard this voice say, “You’re going to be famous, this is power, and you’re never to misuse it.” And I’m like, whoa — what was that? Instantly tears just started coming out of my eyes, almost uncontrollably crying.

I heard John Lennon flipped for your work with Giorgio Moroder — what’s the story?
When he got the single of [1977’s] “I Feel Love,” he went back home and listened to it over and over again, and he said to someone who knew him very well, “Listen to this, you’ve got to listen to this song — this is the future. ”

You’ve been out of the spotlight a long time — is this a comeback?
When [my youngest child] Amanda graduated from college two and a half years ago, I was sort of set free to go be myself again. I thought, what am I doing with the rest of my life here? My husband always laughs at me: “You go from housewife/mom to, like, Donna Summer!”It’s kind of a bizarre feeling sometimes for me too.

Is it like riding a bike?
Yeah, it is. I’ve put on a few pounds and for a long time I was really afraid to go out. I thought, I’ve got to be perfect all the time. [But] you’re gonna get older and things are gonna change. It took me a minute to just figure out, okay, this is who I am now — like it or lump it!

And little human things play such a big part in your perception of what you can accomplish — now, performing in 5-inch spike heels kills my feet! One day I thought, well, let me wear flats onstage — and no one noticed the shoes. They just noticed I could dance more.

Who’s your performing role model?
Judy Garland. When she was onstage, I couldn’t see the orchestra. All I could see was her — every motion and eye flutter. That’s my goal. Not to be where Beyonce is now — where it’s about the clothes and the girl and blah blah. I want it to be about me and my music.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

What's Up, Professor Booty

Since Adam Yauch's passing last week, I've been thinking a lot about the album that converted me into a real Beastie Boys fan. As a teenage girl, I didn't find what I was looking for on License to Ill, or in their pseudo-fratboy "antics." You know, giant inflatable penises onstage and a generally metallic attitude toward females. I was probably a little afraid. Definitely too young to grasp any of the knowing humor behind a giant inflatable penis.

I think at some point, someone should make a documentary about the Great Inflatables of rock. Off the top of my head I am thinking of the giant inflatable cobras I saw at Aerosmith and the giant inflatable mouth & tongue when the Stones played Dodger Stadium several years ago. Giant inflatables are not to be taken lightly. They can be a huge hassle. At the Stones show, the tongue wouldn't unfurl and inflate properly, so it was sort of flaccid and weird for much of its appearance. I believe giant inflatables are like fireworks—the two really go hand in hand—in that they give roadies and crew a huge headache and can be downright dangerous, but when they work, they turn even smart audience members into complete idiots. This is a kind of liberation.

In any case, if I had known then what I know now about giant inflatables, I would have probably realized the Beastie Boys were geniuses. As it was, their music didn't appeal to my ears as much as other pop music and even other hip-hop of the time, although we didn't call it hip-hop. We called it rap. (And they didn't play it on KROQ. The first girls heard singing "Brass Monkey" at Immaculate Heart High School were African American, because they were listening to KDAY.)

All the obituaries I read for Adam Yauch mentioned Paul's Boutique as their seminal album, their Sgt. Pepper. But I think that's probably, at the deepest level, not true. (I don't even think Sgt. Pepper was the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper.) 

The Beasties' most expansive, intriguing, and thematically meaningful album was not mentioned in any of the obituaries I read. That album is Check Your Head, which also represented the Beastie Boys' return to recording and playing as a real band. Importantly, Check Your Head also contains as many pop thrills as any Beasties' album besides License to Ill, of course. Those pop thrills are what makes it work. I love the way that "Something's Got to Give"—which comes off as a meditative premonition of the impending L.A. riots—seques into the silliness of "The Blue Nun" ("Mmmm... It does go well with the chicken.")

I have a lot to say about Check Your Head (and its spinoff, The In Sound from Way Out) an album that was recorded in Los Angeles—specifically, Atwater Village—using instruments found through the Recycler. But now I am going out into the great, wide world.


Friday, May 04, 2012

Good Evening, Captain Hornblower

Hear no evil
See no evil
Talkin' no bullshit.

Thank you, Adam Yauch.

Sometimes when someone dies way too young, I wonder... Did they know? And is that why they packed so very much into their life so early?

It's something that you tell yourself as brain comfort. It almost helps to make sense of something that doesn't make sense, if that makes sense.

If Adam Yauch frontloaded his life's work so intensely, perhaps it makes his death somehow... deathless?

Just a little bit?

These are the things you try to think about, to not feel sad.

But you still feel so, so sad.

I want to thank Adam Yauch for setting an example of style, maybe more than anything else. Just straight up style.

It's the joint.

If you can feel what I'm feeling then it's a musical masterpiece

But if you can hear what I'm dealing with then that's cool at least

What's running through my mind comes through in my walk

True feelings are shown from the way that I talk

And this is me, y'all. I emcee, y'all

My name is M.C.A. and I still do what I please.


PS: As a lesson in style, Exhibit A: A letter he wrote to the New York Times after a bad review of his film "Ch-Check it Out."

To the Editor:
I had the great pleasure of reading your unsolicited critique of the "Ch-Check It Out" music video ["Licensed to Stand Still" by Stephanie Zacharek, May 16]. It took some time to get to me, as it had to be curried (sp?) on goatback through the fjords of my homeland, the Oppenzell. And in the process the goat died, and then I had to give the mailman one of my goats, so remember, you owe me a goat.
Anyway, that video is big time good. Pauline Kael is spinning over in her grave. My film technique is clearly too advanced for your small way of looking at it. Someday you will be yelling out to the streets below your windows: "He is the chancellor of all the big ones! I love his genius! I am the most his close personal friend!"
You journalists are ever lying. I remember people like you laughing at me at the university, and now they are all eating off of my feet. You make this same unkind laughter at the Jerry Lewis for his Das Verruckte Professor and now look, he is respected as a French-clown. And you so-call New York Times smarties are giving love to the U2 because they are dressing as the Amish and singing songs about America? (Must I dress as the Leprechaun to sing songs about Ireland so that you will love me? You know the point I make here is true!)
In concluding, "Ch-Check It Out" is the always best music film and you will be realizing this too far passing. As ever I now wrap my dead goat carcass in the soiled New York Times — and you are not forgetting to buy me a replacement! Please send that one more goat to me now!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vin the Sky Poet

What's up, Strato-Cumulus:

Incredible sky last night. The sky couldn't figure itself out yesterday, all day. It rained early morning, was hot midday, then clouded over and rained warm and muggy. Unsettled sky, like a teenager, just volatile and in-between. During the Dodgers-Braves game, Vin Scully was moved to remark repeatedly on the state of the sky around Dodger Stadium. He said in parts it was like a used Brillo pad; adjacent were stretches of blue; overhead it was black. On the 10 East tonight I noticed an odd mix of types of clouds. In this case, the word "mix" doesn't really feel as accurate as the Spanish word "mezcla." That word has the colors in it required to describe last night's sky.

On the 5 in east L.A. at dusk, San Gabriel mountains in the clouds. I took these pics with my ancient flipphone.  It is an idiot-savant camera. 

I drove by Dodger Stadium as I usually do on my way home. I've been loving Vin so much lately, I want to somehow embrace him and keep him, forever. When I drive past and there's a game, the lights of the stadium shine in the dark sky, like there's someone home, and there's a big pot of chili and the stove and music on the hi-fi and the gate's open. And I know Vin is there.

As a radio lover, I am aware that Vin is probably the greatest radio broadcaster I will ever know. And as immortal as is clearly is, he is also human. As untouchable and essentially perfect as he has become, he is also mortal.

Over and over I think to myself, how lucky have I been to live with radio this good—all my life?

This is not just hometown sentimentality. Everyone knows it. Everyone in the whole country who knows anything about baseball knows it.

Vin Scully is probably the secret reason New York hates us.

That, and the fact that we get to watch the sun set over the ocean.

Venice Beach. 


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

O My Soul

Hey, Baby Fishmouth:

I know, that's the oldest joke in the book. "Baby Fishmouth"—as in, "Baby fishmouth is sweeping the nation" (from When Harry Met Sally. Do you remember that line? They are playing charades). In any case, that phrase is so old, it was actually referenced in a now-old episode of Gilmore Girls, with the line:

"Rocket gum is sweeping the nation."

(This kind of writing is why Gilmore Girls is and will always be my best, very most beloved show of all time.)

Let's start this whole thing over.

What's Up, Rocket Gum?

I have a rather major announcement to make.

Drumroll. Thanks.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Friends, Loved Ones, Pets, Family, and Future Ex-Frenemies:

WHEREAS     Ye Olde Rockblogge began 10 years ago on May 12, 2002, thanks to Pre-Google, Pre-Facebook, Pre-Twitter Blogger and one Tony Pierce, goofball supreme,


WHEREAS    El Bloggo De Rocko was horribly dehydrated for a period of time while its author took a vow of silence and retreated to a French cloister where she studied dandelion DNA for five years


WHEREAS    Le Blogue de Roque has been recently rehydrated and is practically a real blog again


WHEREAS    I can't hardly imagine anything better,

I declare May 11, 2012 as the Rockblog Day of Reckoning.

This means absolutely nothing, by the way. It is worth noting, however.

Someday soon, I'll try to explain what happened at the cloister. I feel an especial debt to those readers who held on to this blog long after I let it go, and loved it in a way that I could feel across miles and even years. Cara Mia is the first who comes to mind. Cara Mia read this blog when it seemed no one else did, and she asked me politely, but repeatedly, to write more.

Jonathan Gold, my hero.

Oh God, now I'm namedropping. Matt Welch, my longtime friend and writing inspiration. Tony. My brother, Ben Sullivan. My sister, Maggie Sullivan. My best friend, Debbie Beukema. Laurie Ochoa. Emmanuelle Richard.

I am so blessed—god! Yes, I can say it—I am blessed, and I thank you, God (or whatever You is), and all the good souls who have loved me, helped me, taught me, and inspired me by just being themselves.

There are so, so many people I owe. And I know you know what I mean, because there are so many people you owe, right?

I'm glad we're together in this, owing them so much more than we can give.

And I owe you too, you know. 


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Greetings, Sons of Sniglets:

Been watching more "CHiPS" lately than one usually does. (Which one should do from time to time.)

One of the great discoveries on offer is that just about the entire show was shot on the same three-quarter-mile stretch of the secret 2 Freeway, between Glendale and Flintridge/La Cañada.

Rollin' 2 style

At least for the first season, every episode features the exact same landscape, continually presented as if it were a different part of the vast L.A. freeway system. It's really something special.
 Anyone living outside L.A. would think L.A.'s freeways were wide and rural and barely used, and nowhere near the center of the city.

"CHiPS"'s groundbreaking shin-cam 

The 2 Freeway has been my favorite freeway for some time now, because it is so elevated it makes your ears pop, and it overlooks fog-nestled foothills and approaches august mountains that evoke Olympus and Middle Earth. It is much wider than it really needs to be, which means it is never crowded (except nearing the southern end, where it dumps into Echo Park). Something about the freeway's elevation, its isolation, and the quality of its surface creates a sense of quiet inside your car. There's muffled peace stuffing your ears as you climb higher, higher, toward what becomes Angeles National Forest. The 2 turns into Angeles Crest Highway and leads to the snow. Maybe that's also why I love it. It is a freeway that leads to trees. It also leads to the stars.

Drive with me to heaven, won't you?
The 2 Freeway is the road you must take to reach Mt. Wilson Observatory, where Edwin Hubble discovered that other galaxies exist outside our Milky Way. Just off the 2 Freeway, Edwin Hubble discovered evidence that our universe is expanding, supporting the ideas of Jesuit priest and astronomer Georges Lemaître, who first posited the Primordial Atom, or Big Bang Theory.

Just off the 2 Freeway, Albert Einstein's life was forever changed.

In the years leading up to that singular day in 1933, Einstein had been somewhat resistant to Lemaître's work. Lemaître was a younger man, a student of Einstein's theory of relativity. And he was an upstart, in a sense, attempting to use Einstein's foundation to create his own, very different and totally wild explanation for the formation of the universe. He described his origin theory as a "Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of the creation."

For some time, Einstein resisted. And he also wondered whether Lemaître had been too influenced by his religious training in cooking up this creation story.

But in 1933 Einstein and Lemaître were both in L.A.—Einstein was an occasional guest professor at Cal Tech in Pasadena. At Mt. Wilson, Einstein listened to Georges Lemaître explain once again his theory about the origin of the universe. At the end of the lecture, Einstein stood up and clapped, and proclaimed that Lemaître's theory was

"The most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened."

I love that instead of feeling jealous of Lemaître, or threatened by the leaps this fellow genius had taken, Einstein applauded. (It's especially admirable since this theory must have made Einstein's concept of a "cosmological constant"—which he once called "the worst mistake I ever made"—seem more awkward than ever.)

I love Albert Einstein, because he stood up to praise a rival. Just off the secret 2 Freeway.

A couple eggheads chillin' in Pasadena, Jan. 10, 1933.
As "CHiPS" DVDs reveal, the 2 Freeway hasn't changed in 30-odd years—which only makes me love it more.

It's difficult to imagine any square mile of Los Angeles County could remain unmolested by overpopulation and development in 2012. And yet, when I drive the secret 2, my eye lingers on miles of open, naked mountain forest and undeveloped hillside. My view isn't so very different from what Ponch and Jon saw as they chased hophead bikers and runaway dogs, or from what Lemaître and Einstein faced as they climbed the hills from Cal Tech to Mt. Wilson.

There's a unique power in knowing that the view you see is the same view others have seen for years, decades, even centuries. It seems that today, incremental changes in technology represent quantum leaps in our experience of reality. Yesterday we were regular people living in the real world; today we're hyper-interconnected-technoheads spending much of our lives in some obscure half-lit pseudoreality.

Then again, you see Mt. Wilson, and you know how small that shit really is.


PS: Of course, the road to Mt. Wilson in 1933 wasn't the 2 Freeway. The 2 was built in the 1970s. You may be amused to learn that during its construction, it was apparently used to shoot several choice films including Corvette Summer, Death Race 2000, and Earthquake.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hey, Secret Spice:

Are you from Los Angeles?

Do you remember Lawry's California Center?
Special Occasion Central

It was an outdoor courtyard restaurant in the 1970s and '80s. A Mexican restaurant run by Lawry's Seasonings, adjacent to a spice-packing plant. It featured fountains and steaks and mariachis, oh my.

These photos capture it much as it exists in my memory.

Lawry's closed in 1991 and sat vacant and overgrown until it was rehabbed in 1998 to become the Los Angeles River Center, home to the Friends of the LA River, as well as a popular site for weddings and other events. (Tsar played a secret reunion show there!)

Lawry's California Center had something of the lush al fresco languor of Disneyland—specifically, Adventureland and New Orleans Square. Sometimes when I am eating at Rancho Zocalo, the Mexican restaurant at Disneyland, I get a visceral memory-meld of those times.
Rancho Zocalo lanterns
Dig the xeriscaping

Do you remember Lawry's?