Thursday, April 30, 2009

FREE L.A.: Tour the JPL This Weekend

Before you go to see "Star Trek" next weekend, go get your nerd on this weekend at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's annual open house.

Free event takes place this weekend, May 2 and 3, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Here are the details:

WHAT: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., welcomes the public to its annual Open House on Saturday, May 2, and Sunday, May 3, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The lab will salute the 40th anniversary of NASA's Apollo 11 mission - the first human landing on the moon. JPL will also celebrate the International Year of Astronomy, a United Nations-endorsed series of events around the world that commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first telescope observations of space and planets by Italian scientist Galileo Galilei.

Open House highlights include: seeing JPL's next spacecraft bound for Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory, in the lab's biggest "clean room;" talking to scientists and engineers who work on missions to destinations such as Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Earth's moon; and visiting JPL's Microdevices Lab, where engineers and scientists work in the world of the ultra-miniature. Visitors can also view the sun through solar-safe telescopes, and learn how NASA instruments measure greenhouse gases, helping scientists better understand global climate change.

Besides the many exhibits and displays, the Open House will feature hands-on activities for children. Visitors can find out how NASA missions are using new media tools such as Twitter at the "The Tweet Spot" booth. Portions of the event will also air live online on Ustream TV at on Saturday, May 2, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

WHEN: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, May 2-3. Admission and parking are free.

WHERE: 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, Calif. From the 210 Freeway, take the Berkshire Avenue/Oak Grove Drive exit. All visitors should wear comfortable shoes -- no buses will be provided from JPL parking lots.

First Look: CB2 Comes to Los Angeles

Crate & Barrel's modern furnishings label CB2 opens its first Los Angeles store today -- its sixth location overall, following one in New York, two in Chicago and two in the Bay Area.

We got an advance look at the new store on Wednesday. CB2 is located at 8000 Sunset, the shopping center that once held the Virgin Megastore -- and pretty much seemed left for dead after that massive tenant closed its doors. The new 8000 Sunset also now houses a Trader Joe's, and seems to be making a comeback. CB2 only takes up a portion of the Virgin Megastore first floor (and it was a bit bittersweet to be walking the floors where I once flipped through import CDs) -- which means half of that floor, plus the second, is still open.

The CB2 space is bright and open, much more so than your traditional Crate & Barrel store. There are bright colors throughout, and some really interesting items. We also noticed that the price points seemed to be a bit more reasonable; it's a good place to go shopping for someone's housewarming party.

Some shots from the new CB2:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Wednesday Poll: To Save or Not to Save the Century Plaza Hotel?

Built in 1966, the Century Plaza Hotel doesn't have the same great history that the late Ambassador Hotel possessed. But it's nonetheless a prime example of mid-century architecture, and harkens back to the history of Century City -- which was carved out of old 20th Century Fox land after the studio (thanks to "Cleopatra") nearly went bankrupt.

As the L.A. Times notes, the L.A. Conservancy is gearing up for another rough fight to save the building from demolition. The new owners want to replace the hotel with two 50-story towers; that's understandably raising some ire:

Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, usually would remain in his home base in Washington, D.C., to trot out the group's annual list of America's 11 most endangered historic places.

But he journeyed cross-country to make this morning's announcement in Century City, right across the street from the Century Plaza hotel. The mid-century modern touchstone, which opened in 1966, made the list after its owner revealed plans in December to demolish the building and replace it with two 50-story towers.

"We wanted to call attention to this local landmark," Moe said at a news conference.

That, in turn, got developer New Century all bent out of shape. According to Curbed LA, the owner responded:

"We are disappointed to see the Century Plaza Hotel politicized in this way, particularly at a time when the City of Los Angeles is suffering from extreme economic hardship and is in dire need of new jobs. The naming of the hotel as an historic place is not supported by the facts. The building is less than 50 years old and does not qualify for consideration under stringent criteria for historic designation of a building of this recent age. [This fact is addressed in that LA Times story]. This is not considered one of the more significant Minoru Yamasaki buildings and is not characteristic of his style."

I sadly thought we had moved past that mentality, having learned from our mistakes. Too many buildings we demolished here in Los Angeles because they were young -- and deemed not historic enough. (Of course, those now-gone buildings would be revered for being historic today. Sigh.) These people sound like, well, spoiled brats.

But maybe I'm missing something here. Perhaps the Century Plaza really isn't anything special. I know I've sat through countless rubber chicken luncheons there. Yet the idea of tearing down a perfectly good building, especially one that does have some history -- is appalling to me.

What do you think? Vote below... as always, the results will come next Tuesday.

Los Angeles: Ad Town One in a series

Verizon Wireless makes it to Fosselman's -- yes, one of the best ice cream parlors in Southern California. (I would say *the* best, but I do love Scoops in Hollywood too). Check out the shot from the commercial, above, and then what the counter really looks like.

(Flickr pic by Parachutes in the Sky.)

Ditto the angle facing the door in the ad (above) and in real life (bottom).

(Flickr pic by Parachutes in the Sky.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Debating L.A.'s Physical Borders, vs. Its Psychological Ones

Metblogs LA stumbled across this geographically inaccurate ad from MSN. "Los Angeles without Santa Monica Pier"?! Santa Monica Pier isn't in Los Angeles -- it's in Santa Monica (hence, um, the name).

Was this a deliberate joke? If a PC without Microsoft Office 2007 is like L.A. without Santa Monica Pier, what's the analogy? Just as Santa Monica Pier isn't really in L.A., is Microsoft Office 2007 not really in a PC? Huh?

Metblogs wonders whether we're all being too rigid in our definition of L.A. Writes the site:

The ad seemed to bring up an constant debate among Metblogs readers and writers: should any area outside of the City of Los Angeles be referred to as L.A.?

When I think Los Angeles, my mind is on anything within county limits. The Los Angeles of popular fiction and of the national mindset never bothers to take into account the borders of the 88 different cities of Los Angeles County, including Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Santa Monica.

Street sign colors may change, certain parking restrictions may be different, real estate taxes may fluctuate, but there’s little practical reason to distinguish between what is the City of Los Angeles and what happens to be another city, or incorporated part of, Los Angeles. As in County.

Except for the City of Long Beach, which really should be annexed into Orange County. Really, please, take it. But I digress…

Your thoughts? Does an "L.A. state of mind" trump whether you actually live in Los Angeles?

Your Favorite Song About Los Angeles: "Los Angeles," by X

It was a tight race early on, as Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." threatened to win our unscientific poll on the best tune about our city. But X eventually pulled far ahead. The results:

"Los Angeles" was released in 1980 by X, still considered one of the most influential punk bands in L.A. history. According to Wikipedia, "their 1980 record Los Angeles resonated so loudly with the citizens of the city that it is named after, that the band received an Official Certificate of Recognition from the City of Los Angeles in acknowledgment of their important contributions to Los Angeles music and culture."

Here are other songs that got a vote in our poll:

"Kid Charlemagne" by Steely Dan
"Santa Monica" by Everclear
"This Is L.A." by The Briggs
"Angeles" by Elliott Smith
"Pico and Sepulveda" by Felix Figueroa
"Slash From Guns and Roses" by I See Hawks in LA
"Ask the Angels" by Patti Smith
"Califonia" by Rufus Wainwright
"Los Angeles is Burning" by Bad Religion
"House on Highland Ave." by Gun Club
"I Love LA" by Rilo Kiley
"California" by Joni Mitchell
"Santa Monica" by the Eagles
"L.A. Freeway" by Guy Clark
"Los Angeles is Burning" by Bad Religion
"The Vicodin Song" by Terra Naomi
"Que Onda Guero" by Beck
"City of the Angels" by Fred Astaire
"California" by the Simpletones
"Free Falling" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"LA Woman" by the Doors

Any more that we missed? Email us or comment below!

Mojo for "MoJoe"

Congrats to my ex-Variety partner, Joe Adalian, whose new TV Week blog -- TV MoJoe -- went live on Monday. The sharp-looking blog kicked off with a fun "five lessons from the career of Bea Arthur" post, as well as "Chuck" exec producer Josh Schwartz giving his top reasons that the show should be renewed. (Did you buy a Subway sandwich on Monday?)

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Novel Weekend at the Festival of Books

Above, that's the Blogger Preschooler waving to the gigantic caterpillar from Eric Carle's children's classic, "A Very Hungry Caterpillar."

Evan's preschool class memorized "A Very Hungry Caterpillar" for their school's holiday show last December, and to this day he can recite the entire story, even without the help of the book. That's why I was excited to see that Eric Carle himself would appear at this year's Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (actually, the entire festival's logo was based on Carle's unique illustrations).

Here's Carle reading from the book at the Target Children's Stage (where we spent a good portion of Saturday). To his left is Debi Derryberry, the voice of "Jimmy Neutron" and the host at the stage.

As Carle read from the book, it was pretty cool to hear several hundred kids yell out at the same time, "STILL HUNGRY!" (Carle's books are big on repetition, and if you're not familiar with "A Very Hungry Caterpillar," well, let's just say he's a very hungry caterpillar.)

I realize that, with a pre-schooler in tow, my Festival of Books experience may be dramatically different than yours. Attending panels is nearly impossible, and instead you're spending a big chunk of the day in the kids section. And yet, I'm perfectly happy with that. To see the Blogger Preschooler excited about being surrounded by books... that's worth it.

MEANWHILE, the temperature this weekend was nearly perfect -- unlike the dreadful heat wave that crippled the event last year. The wind, however, got a tad out of control -- a few tree branches came tumbling down behind the children's stage at one point.

But more seriously, three people were injured when a 15-foot scaffold holding a Festival of Books banner came crashing down. (Above, see the remains on the ground.)

The nearby food court was temporarily closed down as authorities figured out what happened.

Other images from the Festival of Books:

Mr. Dodger Thoughts himself, Jon Weisman, interviewing fellow baseball fan and author Alyssa Milano.

Unfortunately, we had to leave Jon's segment early in order to make it over to "Choo Choo Soul." There's something oddly compelling yet wholly inappropriate about them.

LA Observed's Kevin Roderick signs a copy of his San Fernando Valley book for us.

An Unusual Tale of Gunshots in Griffith Park

(Flickr pic by Clinton Steeds.)

Our friend Jamile sent us this dispatch from her friend, Mary, who encountered quite a scare in Griffith Park last week. Here's her tale, via her MySpace account, of seeing and hearing gunshots, IN the park:
today's shoot out in Griffith Park..just thought I would share a blurb from life today...

robot and I are resuming our regular hiking schedule (which has been on hiatus during the winter/illness months..)

Robot, the ever-punctual one, was waiting for me at our usual meeting spot; the upper merry-go-round parking lot at Griffith Park. He had a few minutes, so he relaxed in his car, listened to Neko Case, and had a bite or two of his power bar. Suddenly, he heard several pops, like firecrackers.

He turned the music off, looked out his window for the little hoodlums he thought must be lighting off firecrackers. Instead, he saw 6 men with guns, 1 van, 2 cars. The two cars were blocking his exit from the park. The 6 men were firing at each other, and were ducking and hiding behind cars!! Robot hit the floor of his car! He peeked out to see what was going of the men saw him.

He thought for sure that he would come kill him (he would be a witness). The firing at each other continued. He frantically began thinking of many things; me driving into the line of fire, his possible escape route, his imminent death, etc. He reached for his cell and called the Ranger station to report the shoot out. The Ranger was alarmed and wanted to know his location. They put him on hold while they checked things out. The Ranger returned to the phone and informed him that it was "just an LAPD training maneuver."

At that point, Robot looked out again and saw that the combatants were done trying to kill each other and were now hanging out, socializing! He, of course, was foaming at the mouth with his adrenalin at its zenith. He was the only civilian in the parking lot when all this went down. He was then approached by some vehicle marked "police" (fake like in the movies). He asked them what the hell they were doing...(having a gun battle in a public place). They denied being part of the division that planned this training session and took off.

This is about when I arrived. It was amazing...Out of the lower lot (near the bathrooms and playground which WAS filled with children playing) came a procession of governmentt vehicles: 2 Suburbans filled with SWAT officers in full garb still poised with their weapons and about 7 unmarked police cars crammed with cops in plain clothes.

They all pulled up and lined up behind Robot's car (they must have gotten calls that there was an unnotified and frantic civilian caught up in the middle of their shenanigans and wanted to get a look at him). They pulled up, stopped, stared at both of us for several minutes, and then drove away to convene about 100 yards away. They watched us for a while, gathered their buddies, then they took off.

Oh, and we saw a scary, slithery, slimy rattlesnake 10 minutes into our hike up the hill. That's when I began to foam at the mouth. But we survivied all the drama.

Yikes... have any of you encountered something like this before? Sounds like Mary and Robot still deserve an explanation...

Vinyl Stages a Comeback

(Photo by Origami Vinyl)

People are once again making a big deal about the return of vinyl, but it doesn't seem like that long ago since the last vinyl revival, in the mid-1990s. But I guess that was 15 years ago, so it's about time that the vinyl trend once again hit the big time.

Indeed, according to the L.A. Times, sales of vinyl records were up 89% in 2008 -- pretty impressive even before you factor in the declining world of music sales.

Now, a handful of vinyl-centric music stores have popped up around town, leading with Origami Music in Echo Park.

The L.A. Times weighs in on the trend:
Neil Schield knows the grim state of the music business as well as anyone; last May, he was laid off from a company at the vanguard of digital music distribution.

But this month, Schield began an unlikely second act: He opened a brick-and-mortar record store in Echo Park, with racks of tasteful inventory carrying price tags as high as $100 -- all presumed liabilities in an age when "digital" and "free" seem to rule the day. For added chutzpah, Schield's shop, Origami Vinyl, exclusively stocks new vinyl LPs, presumed not long ago to be as dead as eight-track tapes.

Moreover, Origami is just one of at least three such shops opening in L.A. this spring; the others are Vacation in Los Feliz and Little Radio, a downtown storefront operated by an Internet radio station and concert promoter. The small boom is the result of a commercial rediscovery and appreciation of vinyl records among collectors and more casual audiences.

"Sometimes I wonder, 'What am I doing?' " Schield said. But "it's the only corner of the physical music business that's growing."

Those of you waiting for an 8-Track or cassette revival, well, keep on waiting.

Watch Out, KIIS: Amp Gets Amp'ed

In case you haven't seen the March Arbitron ratings for L.A. yet... here's the latest top performers among listeners 6+ (which is only used for bragging rights; it's not a demo sold to advertisers) via All Access.

Top 40 KIIS (102.7) is still on top, but is starting to see some erosion. New rival "97.1 Amp" (KLSX) appears to be having an impact, as it shot up to a 3.2 share, better than anything it ever did in its "FM Talk" days. Also of note: All-news KNX appears to be benefiting from KFWB's decision to focus slightly more on Hollywood news. That has led to a sizable drop at KFWB.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Channel 4's Paul Moyer: Never Can Say Goodbye

When Paul Moyer announced his departure from KNBC earlier this month, the anchor was actually on vacation. But the plan was for Moyer to return and eventually say goodbye to viewers on the newscast.

Instead, KNBC said today that Moyer plans to make his vacation permanent -- and won't be returning to the air to give a farewell.

Here's the memo from KNBC vp/news director Bob Long:

Paul Moyer has decided to make the transition from vacation to retirement a seamless one, and he will not be returning to our air to say goodbye. I have had the pleasure of working with Paul for a long time and know him as a friend, and the epitome of what a news anchor should be. Paul feels strongly about making a departure with no fanfare and no formal farewells, and we are respecting those wishes. We’d like to again thank Paul for his numerous contributions to the station and for his many years of service. He will be missed.

Chuck Henry has been doing most of the fill-in work when Moyer has been absent, and that's likely to continue. Still waiting to see whether Henry will permanently replace Moyer, or if a different plan is in the works.

Blago's Not a Celebrity, But He's Definitely Out There

This job sometimes brings me face to face with some interesting people -- and yep, there's something interesting in how embattled former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich keeps running toward the cameras and microphones, instead of away from them.

And seemingly without any real self-awareness of how it looks to the rest of the world. I know why NBC and Granada America went after him to compete on this summer's "I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!" -- just look at all of the free publicity the show has been getting. But Blago's excuse? He says he would have done it to support his family; but really, is he hurting for money that bad? Aren't there other job opportunities that aren't as, well... if you're heading down the same career path as Spencer and Heidi, you might wanna get in touch with a career counselor.

We'll never get to see how Blago might have fared, as a federal judge nixed the politco's plans to fly to Costa Rica and take part in the production. (The judge thought it might be better if, oh, I dunno, Blago actually focused on the corruption charges against him instead.)

I was actually attending Northwestern back when Blago first began his political career in the early 1990s... hell, I think I remember voting for him (that name wasn't hard to forget). Now, all these years later, I'm interviewing him for Variety... and he's on the same stage as Sanjaya.

Check out my write-up of NBC's "I'm a Celebrity" press conference -- with Blago front and center -- here.

Retro Friday: Cookie Monster Gets Shaft'ed

In hindsight, Cookie Monster doing a parody of "Theme from Shaft" -- complete with Isaac Hayes beard -- seems quite bizarre. But I guess it was the 1970s.

Depeche Mode In Hollywood: Reaching Out and Touching Faith

(Flickr pic by JC Olivera).

Depeche Mode hit the stage on Hollywood Boulevard Thursday night -- and Franklin Avenue was there. The street was shut down between Western and Gower, all for the "Jimmy Kimmel Show" (and also sponsored by W Residences, which is celebrating the opening of its new Hollywood building at Hollywood and Vine).

One cop estimated 15,000 people in attendance. I can tell you: The place was packed. Los Angeles has always been a stronghold for Depeche Mode, thanks in part to KROQ, I suppose. And last night's event proves that they can still draw em in, 30 years on.

The band played a short set of seven songs -- including a handful of new ones. But, of course, the crowd responded to the classics: "Enjoy the Silence," "Never Let Me Down Again," "Personal Jesus." David Gahan still has the rock star moves -- although one of the folks I was with pointed out that, well, Dave kinda reminded him of the aging 80s singer played by Hugh Grant in "Music and Lyrics."

The crowd outside the fence -- sans tickets -- threatened to start getting rowdy, as they climbed on roofs and started shaking the fence (which at one point looked like it would come down, starting a riot). But the cops, perhaps remembering the 1990 Depeche Mode debacle at the Beverly Connection, kept things under control.

The show ended on an anticlimactic note, as there was no encore -- instead just speeches by City Council president Eric Garcetti and the W developer. Boo!

Those of you following Franklin Avenue on Twitter saw my updates in real time (uh, sorry about clogging your account). Here's how it unfolded:
Still 30-45 minutes away until Depeche Mode. Frolic Room so close but so far away

Security to people who climbed a roof to see: "Guys, I love that you're up there,but youre going to go to jail!"

People without tickets trying to knock the fence down. uh-oh-- 1990 all over again?

Holy F, there's a lot of people here. DM's still got quite the fan base here in L.A. We're just all, ahem, a few decades older...

They're playing New Order on the loudspeaker. We've been transported into a 1985 KROQ playlist

Well, they fenced those people away from the fence... no rioting... yet

Warm up guy on stage; DM in a few mins

"Thanks for hanging out and not killing each other" -- Jimmy Kimmel

Kimmel: "Also thanks to Eric Garcetti, who got about a thousand complaints today. Go vote for him."

First song, "Wrong"

Crowd's *kinda* into it, but they're waiting for the classics

Channing Tatum and Elisha Cuthbert also on stage; tonight's Kimmel guests

"Personal Jesus"

Crowd is reaching out and touching faith

"Walking in My Shoes"

Batch of new songs

"Enjoy the Silence"

Martin L Gore on guitar, yo

"Never Let Me Down Again" (Dave: "This is back to where it all began!")

Garcetti on stage, now the W developer. Being booed. Get off the stage!

No encore! Boo. Goodbye, i'll stop filling you with tweets now

(Flickr pic by kiasuchick.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ex-Fox 11 Sportscaster Rick Garcia Moves On to KCAL

Following up on our post Tuesday on Rick Garcia's departure as sportscaster on KTTV (Channel 11), KCAL announced this afternoon that he'll be joining that station's key 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts. He'll anchor alongside Pat Harvey, who had most recently co-anchored with Sandra Mitchell.

Here's the release:

Los Angeles, Calif., April 23, 2009 – KCAL-TV (Channel 9) has signed Emmy winner and Los Angeles native Rick Garcia to join Pat Harvey behind the anchor desk for the station’s weeknight 8 and 10 p.m. newscasts. He will make his debut tonight during KCAL 9 News at 10 p.m., immediately following the station’s broadcast of Game 3 of the NBA playoff series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz. The announcement was made today by Patrick McClenahan, President and General Manager, KCAL 9 and CBS 2.

McClenahan said: “Recruiting Rick Garcia represents a major addition to our news team. In addition to being a charismatic and intelligent broadcaster, I am very impressed by Rick’s deep roots in the community. Pairing Rick with Pat Harvey gives us one of the finest and most recognizable anchor teams in Southern California.”

In August 2008, Garcia received the National Hispanic Media Coalition’s Excellence in Broadcast Journalism award.

Garcia has also been honored by the Minorities in Broadcasting Training Program with a Striving for Excellence Award which recognized his career achievements and community contributions.

A Los Angeles native, Garcia attended California State University at Northridge, Antelope Valley College and College of the Desert. He is actively involved with several community organizations, including the Facing Forward Foundation (which supports doctors who provide reconstructive plastic surgeries for underprivileged children with deformities), the Michael Hoefflin Foundation (supporting children with cancer), the Children’s Center of the Antelope Valley and the Boys and Girls Clubs. Since 2006, Garcia has provided the "Unity" award at Quartz Hill High School in the Antelope Valley, where he attended. The award grants a scholarship for two students at the school every year.

Garcia joins the KCAL 9 family after spending the past 22 years with KTTV-TV (Channel 11) and its Fox-owned sister station KCOP-TV (Channel 13) in Los Angeles. He joined KTTV in April 1987 as a weekend anchor and weekday reporter and began serving as the station’s weekday sports anchor in April 1988. Garcia served as host and executive producer of KTTV’s NFL post-game, “Fox Overtime.” He also hosted KTTV’s Major League Baseball post-game show, “Extra Innings,” since it premiered in 1999.

Garcia began his broadcasting career in radio in 1979 as an on-air personality, sports director and play-by-play announcer at KAVL-AM in the Antelope Valley. In 1982, he joined KTN, a cable television station in Palm Springs, as sports director in 1982. One year later, Garcia became the weekend sports anchor at KVBC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas. In 1984, he joined KOAT-TV, the ABC affiliate in Albuquerque, in the same capacity. Prior to joining KTTV, Garcia was the weekday sports anchor at KTSP-TV, the CBS affiliate in Phoenix, from 1985-87.

In addition to being a member of the KTTV team that won Emmys for best newscast in 1997 and 2003, Garcia received Emmys for best sports feature, best sports reporting (twice), best sports series and best feature reporting. He has also received six Golden Mike Awards, the Edward R. Murrow award and numerous other honors from industry and community organizations.

The Story Behind That "Parks and Recreation" Pit

If you caught the first episode of NBC's new Amy Poehler comedy, "Parks and Recreation," you may have caught a few familiar sights.

The show takes place in fictional Pawnee, Indiana, but of course, is actually shot here in Southern California. That's why the Pawnee city hall looks a lot like Pasadena's -- because it is.

And then there's the issue of the pit, which actually plays a major role in the entire "Parks and Rec" series conceit. In the show, Poehler plays Leslie Knope -- a low-level city employee who vows to turn the pit into a park after being approached by Ann (Rashida Jones), whose boyfriend was injured on the property.

In real life, NBC confirmed that the pit was actually dug by the "Parks and Recreation" production team. It's located on undeveloped property around Hazeltine and Collins in Van Nuys.

Also, as the "Parks and Rec" writing team spent time researching local politics, that included at least one visit to a Los Angeles City Council meeting. As a result, you may notice a character on the show who was inspired by infamous L.A. gadfly Zuma Dogg.

"Parks and Recreation" airs tonight on NBC (Channel 4) at 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An Earth Day Warning from "Diff'rent Strokes"

For a certain generation, our first dose of environmental awareness came that fateful day when Kimberly Drummond washed her hair with rain water... and it turned green.

Happy Earth Day... it's too late to save the world for Dana Plato, but it's not too late for you.

The Wednesday Poll: Songs About Los Angeles

LA Metblogs is currently showcasing a series of blog posts in which its contributors highlight songs about Los Angeles (or the region) and how they've personally been impacted by those tracks.

That inspired me to make it the basis of this week's Wednesday Poll. It's not at all extensive -- there are hundreds of songs about Los Angeles -- but these are probably some of the best-known of the modern era (with a few still heavily-played classics thrown in). Nonetheless, I also included an "other" category in case we missed a few big ones.

Which song do you feel best captures the feeling, the mood, the lifestyle, of Southern California?

Results, as always, next Tuesday.

Mr. Los Angeles is Vin Scully

Los Angeles Magazine has ended its search for Mr. LA -- and I think most would agree they made a wise choice: Vin Scully.

Scully, celebrating 60 years as the voice of the Dodgers, beat out a field that included Bob Baker, Eli Broad, Huell Howser, Magic Johnson, Jay Leno, Steve Lopez, Chris Nichols, Charles Phoenix, Wolfgang Puck, Kevin Roderick and Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo.

Still wondering if a Ms. LA contest is close behind...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Channel 11 Sportscaster Rick Garcia Departs

KTTV/Channel 11 sportscaster Rick Garcia gave his farewells Monday night on the Fox 11 news.

According to the station, Garcia spent 22 years at KTTV. Until recently, he also did double duty, anchoring sister station KCOP/13's jiggle newscast with Lauren Sanchez. (Fox 11 anchors Christina Devine and Carlos Amezcua now handle that newscast as well.)

Garcia's photo and bio have already been removed from Fox 11's bio page. Over at TV News, speculation is surrounding the possibility that Garcia may wind up at KNBC (replacing Paul Moyer? That'd be quite a jump) or KTLA, which continues to expand its newscasts.

As another commenter notes, weatherman Mark Thompson told Garcia that he had a feeling he'd be seeing the sports anchor again "real soon." Hmm.

Your Favorite Freeway: The 2

(Flickr pic by Tommy-G.)

It was no contest: When speeding down L.A.'s maze of freeways, you prefer the relatively smooth 2 Freeway (also known as the Glendale Freeway), perched high above the city, and surrounded by mountains.

The 2 is a relatively short freeway, running from La Canada Flintridge (where the 2 turns into the Angeles Crest Highway and heads into the mountains) and Echo Park, where it... just suddenly stops. The 2 suffers from a case of freewayus interruptus, as once upon a time the 2 was meant to continue heading west, over Santa Monica Blvd. -- the never-built "Beverly Hills Freeway."

Perhaps all of you are still nostalgic for "CHiPs," which frequently shot on stretches of the 2 before it officially opened in the late 1970s.

Here's how the poll shaped up:

Jonesy, Post-Jukebox

(Pic by L.A. Times.)

A friend of Franklin Avenue happened to bump into Sex Pistol Steve Jones the other day in New York. Our friend's a big fan of punk rock, and was also an avid listener of "Jonesy's Jukebox," the radio show Jones hosted live in L.A. every day on Indie 103.1. That is, until the radio station flipped to Spanish in mid-January.

He writes of the encounter:

We were standing next to each other on really long lines for the two metrocard machines at the Union Square subway station. It was last Friday at lunchtime and was by far the most beatiful day of this coldish, un-Springlike Spring.

I noticed his Hollywood Utd soccer t-shirt and it got me thinking. Then I put 1 + 1 together and realized it was him. Normally I never bother anyone ever. But being a Sex Pistols/Professionals fan since the age of 14 and a regular listener of his streamed radio show, I just turned straight to him and was like, "Hi, you're Steve Jones from the Professionals and on the radio" and shook his hand.

Being that I was all fired up for Record Store Day which was the next day, I asked him if he was in town for it, thinking that maybe he was DJ'ing or doing an appearance at a record store. He smiled and said "No." He was totally fine. Then he asked me some questions about buying the Metrocard and the metrocard machine. Later after we got our metrocards at roughly the same time, we went through the turnstyles and I shook his hand again, saying that I used to listen to him all the time on 103.1 live feed when I was working my crappy office job and it was great to meet him, he thanked me and was very cool.

I'm sure I sounded like a nerd, but I don't care. THen he asked me where could he get the Uptown 5 train and I pointed him in the right direction. Then I had to run to grab an uptown N to get back to work.

Here's the L.A. Times' coverage of Jonesy's departure, written back in February.

FREE L.A.: Ice Cream, Depeche Mode... and Tweet for Your Dinner

It's already time for Ben & Jerry's annual Free Scoop Day -- make your way to a scoop shop between noon and 8 on Tuesday.

Also this week: McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant is offering a free entrée and beverage to any child that dines for lunch with an adult on Thursday. It's part of the national “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” initiative. Local McCormick & Schmick’s locations include downtown (633 W. Fifth), Pasadena (111 N. Los Robles), Burbank (3500 W. Olive) and Beverly Hills (206 N. Rodeo).

Then there's the free Depeche Mode concert this Thursday in Hollywood. But if you don't have tix, sorry: They've all been handed out.

Now, a time for a FRANKLIN AVENUE CONTEST. McCormick & Schmick's is giving away a $25 gift certificate to a lucky Franklin Avenue reader. Let's make it our first-ever Twitter giveaway. If you want to enter, send out a tweet that somehow mentions both Franklin Avenue and McCormick & Schmicks. We'll pick a winner from there.

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's Always Sunny at the Troubadour

(Flickr pic by Armst.)

Day Man (Aah-aah-aah)
Fighter of the Night Man (Aah-aah-aah)
Champion of the sun (Aah-aah-aah)
You're a master of karate
And friendship for everyone

I've had "Dayman" and "Nightman" stuck in my head for days now, thanks to Friday night's special "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" performance at the Troubadour (they did a second show on Saturday as well).

It was an interesting experiment: The cast of FX's always irreverent "Sunny" hit the stage to re-enact this past November's season finale, "The Nightman Cometh."

The episode revolved around a horribly, horribly inappropriate (is there any other way with "Sunny"?) musical written by Charlie (Charlie Day) -- and performed by everyone from Paddy's bar. Inappropriate, I should add, but hysterical. (The whole musical itself was actually a call back to an earlier episode, the infamous "Sweet Dee Is Dating a Retarded Person," when Charlie first reveals the lyrics, culled from his slightly messed up mind.)

Here's how "The Nightman Cometh" opened on TV, as Charlie tells the gang that he wrote a musical -- and they don't understand:

Danny DeVito (Frank), Charlie Day (Charlie), Glenn Howerton (Dennis), Rob McElhenney (Mac), Kaitlin Olson (Dee) and recurring stars Mary Elizabeth Ellis (the Waitress) and Artemis Pebdani (Artemis) all performed at the Troubadour show, which lasted about an hour. The crowd was clearly made up of fans: Some were repeating lines from the episode, and everyone joined in to sing the musical's big number.

Day Man (Aah-aah-aah)
Fighter of the Night Man (Aah-aah-aah)
Champion of the sun (Aah-aah-aah)
You're a master of karate
And friendship for everyone

The Franklin Avenue Playlist

March 2009

Time Lapse Lifeline -- Maria Taylor (3:59)
Paranoid -- Kanye West (feat. Mr. Hudson) (4:38)
Bang Bang -- K'naan (ft. Adam Levine) (3:07)
Dreams of 18 -- Lal Meri (4:38)
Nothing To Worry About -- Peter Bjorn & John (2:58)
Twice -- Little Dragon (3:06)
Zero -- Yeah Yeah Yeahs (4:26)
Long Long Time -- Rebel Souljahz (3:52)
When Your Mind's Made Up -- Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová (3:42)
People Got A Lotta Nerve -- Neko Case (2:33)
Everyday -- Vetiver (3:48)
Something Is Squeezing My Skull -- Morrissey (2:38)
Train Song -- Feist and Ben Gibbard (3:03)
Panic Switch -- Silversun Pickups (5:44)
Melody Day -- Caribou (4:11)
Walkin' My Baby Back Home -- Nat King Cole (ft. The Roots) (4:15)
Love Letter To Japan -- The Bird And The Bee (4:08)
Not Now But Soon -- Imogen Heap (3:47)
The Rake's Song -- The Decemberists (3:16)
Hiphopapotamus v Rhymenocerous -- Flight of The Conchords (3:46)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Channel 7's Big-Time Twitter Meltdown

Followers of KABC's ABC7Weather Twitter feed were treated to something entirely different than the 7-Day weather forecast this afternoon.

Whoever handles the Twitter account for the ABC7Weather page made a big-time error, as you can see above: The post at the bottom directs users to -- which indeed sends you to KABC's weather page.

But for some reason, in the most recent two posts, they accidentally dropped the "4" in the address -- and (sorry, not gonna provide a link -- you can copy and paste in the browser yourself!) takes you to something completely different. As in NSFW territory. Hell, not safe for home territory. Click at your own risk (or, I suppose, delight, depending on who you are.)

Thanks to Joe for the head's up on this one, via, of course, his Twitter site.

UPDATE: It's been fixed.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Retro Friday: Flying to 1950s Los Angeles

Ahh, the joys of travel during the golden age of air flight. Here's a 1952 film, produced by TWA, that follows a flight to Los Angeles -- and a group of dapper folks enjoying the West Coast. Check out the weird subtext as actor Richard Carlson invites a newlywed couple to his house -- and, with his wife, gets all touchy feely. with them.

According to video commenters, plane seen here is the TWA L1049A Super Constellation; this flight flew from Chicago Midway airport to LAX.

Press Release of the Day: Spongebob Got Back Edition

Sometimes, I gotta say thanks to the content watchdog group the Parents Televsion Council -- for highlighting questionable fare that I hadn't seen. In this case, how did I miss that Burger King had launched a new ad campaign based on Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back"?!

The release:
PTC Blasts Burger King, Viacom for Gross Irresponsibility
Burger King Combines Degrading Images with SpongeBob to Sell Kids Meals

LOS ANGELES (April 16, 2009) – The Parents Television Council slammed Burger King for its latest attempt to sell kids meals with SpongeBob SquarePants toys by promoting the meals with a TV advertisement that declares the King “likes square butts” to the tune of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” (The controversy surrounding this advertisement follows closely on the heels of another Burger King advertising controversy involving depictions that were offensive to Mexicans.) The PTC also chided Viacom for allowing its SpongeBob cartoon character to be exploited in the degrading commercial. The advertisement first appeared during the championship game of the NCAA basketball tournament and has aired on several other programs including America’s Funniest Home Videos and Lie to Me, which aired at 8:00 pm ET before American Idol.

“The actions of Burger King are grossly irresponsible and patently dishonest. In spite of what their PR-spinners want the public to believe, this is an advertisement that is targeted directly at children – exploiting a beloved cartoon character with graphically degrading imagery,” said PTC President Tim Winter.

“Burger King asserts that this commercial targets adults, not children; but that assertion would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic. They are exploiting one of the most iconic children’s brands in all of entertainment, SpongeBob SquarePants. The product is a 99-cent Kids Meal with a SpongeBob toy. And the commercial airs during programs that are watched by millions of families. This has nothing to do with an adult message.

“Viacom defends this use of SpongeBob as a character enjoyed by millions of adults. We would note that Barney the Dinosaur, Dora the Explorer and Elmo are also enjoyed by adults; but it would be preposterous to suggest that those characters target adults. It would be preposterous to say those characters are ripe for exploitation in a television advertisement featuring imagery and dialog that is offensive and degrading to women.

“Regardless of whether their rhetoric is true, which it isn’t, Burger King and Viacom appear to be admitting that the degradation of women in their advertising is appropriate for adults. Both companies should recognize their poor business decision and immediately cease any further airing of the commercial.

“While Burger King panders to controversy and offensive messaging to promote its food, the PTC is encouraging its members – and indeed parents across the nation – to consider more responsible alternatives when making their buying decisions. McDonalds, Wendy’s and Dairy Queen have not only stated their intention to be responsible and respectful advertisers, but they are demonstrating their commitment to those policies on a daily basis.

“Parents have every right to be concerned when popular cartoon characters show up alongside women dancing provocatively to a song that is all about ‘booty’ according to Sir Mix-A-Lot himself in the advertisement. And we hope that Nickelodeon will be mindful not to let SpongeBob become the ‘Joe Camel’ of sexually degrading advertising,” Winter concluded.

Wait, "The actions of Burger King are grossly irresponsible and patently dishonest"? Hey, if the Burger King "likes square butts," then he can not lie! After all, no other brothers can deny. His anaconda, after all, don't want none unless you've got buns. Hon.

Save Your Local Record Store

Growing up, I spent more time in record stores than virtually any other retail establishment. Heading to the mall? Straight to the record store. Looking for a late-night place to hang? The record store. Looking for something to do over the weekend? You get the idea.

It's still stunning to me how quickly the music retail space has disappeared. Tower Records, gone; Virgin Megastore, about the disappear. The Wherehouse? History. And L.A. indie music shops, like Aron's and Rhino? All gone.

Thankfully, a handful survive. Amoeba Records -- actually a relatively recent addition to the scene -- continues, as do other locals like Rockaway in Silver Lake.

I recently spent some time at Rockaway -- the first time in a while that I had a spare moment to go CD shopping. Once upon a time, I hit the music stores several times a week. But you get older. Your time becomes limited. And you miss out on joys like that.

So it was quite a treat last Friday when Evan and Maria both took a nap... and I found myself with some actual time to hit the store. It all came back to me -- that sense of discovery as you pursue through stacks; losing track of time as I painstakingly looked at track listings and covers.

I hate to think of a time when the record store completely disappears. So do the folks at the annual Record Store Day, which is taking place this weekend.

Record Store Day, which takes place this Saturday, April 18, is sponsored by the Music Monitor Network, the Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CIMS), Alliance of Independent Media Stores (AIMS) and Newbury and sponsored this year by NARM (National Association of Recording Merchandisers).


Premiere artists from practically every corner of the musical spectrum have chosen to celebrate with in-store signings and performances. Among them, the Eagles Of Death Metal, whose Jesse “Boots Electric” Hughes will play official Record Store Day Ambassador and who are slated for an in-store set at Rhino Records in Claremont, CA, releasing their acclaimed album Heart On on vinyl. The Breeders’ Kim and Kelly Deal will rock Shake It in Cincinnati, as will Chris Cornell and The Bad Plus at Electric Fetus in Minneapolis, Ra Ra Riot at Flat Black and Circular, East Lansing, MI (acoustic set), The Toadies at Silver Platters, Bellevue, WA, Scott Ian from Anthrax will make an appearance at Hollywood’s Amoeba Music, Manchester Orchestra at Criminal Records, Atlanta, GA, The Bouncing Souls at Generation Records, NYC and the fantastic list goes on. All confirmed in-stores are listed on

You may have also realized that Record Store Day falls smack in the middle of Coachella. The world-renowned music festival set to take place on April 17-19 in Indio, California, has chosen Record Store Day to run the event’s popular on-site record store, with management provided by popular Southwest-based indie retailer, Zia Record Exchange. The on-site Coachella store, previously operated by Virgin, is noted for its high profile foot traffic and good vibe and will host a number of in-store signings from various performing artists including, The Airborne Toxic Event, Noah And The Whale, Silversun Pickups, Franz Ferdinand, Steve Aoki, Electric Touch, Bob Mould, Booker T., Peter Bjorn & John, The Gaslight Anthem, The Kills, Amanda Palmer and others being confirmed all the time (Mastodon, Superchunk and Dhani Harrison being the most recent additions)

Good news for people who love to shop for CDs while suffering from heat stroke!

Deceptive Clinics

Fishbowl LA's Tina Dupuy goes undercover at one of those misleading "pregnancy centers" -- the ones that aren't actually clinics at all, but religious operations -- and writes about it here for the Pasadena Weekly.

Writing of her experience at Glendale's Avenues Pregnancy Clinic:

I just spent nearly two hours of my time to get an admittedly unreliable pregnancy test, erroneous medical information and find out more than I ever wanted to know about the life of a sexless 35-year-old bass player. This is a licensed medical clinic.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My Modest "Lost" Proposal

In case you missed it in Variety, I've been pushing an idea to keep "Lost" on the air in the fall. It's a win-win, I think: Low-cost, but yet unique enough that it'd get higher ratings than any new hour-long drama -- and equivalent ad rates to boot (but at a fraction of the price). It's the last season of "Lost," after all, so why not take advantage of the show one last time to launch something new behind it? Here's the gist of it:

The clock is ticking for "Lost" -- and ABC.

As they prep their pilots for next season, Alphabet execs know they've got one last shot at benefiting from "Lost's" still-strong -- and rabidly loyal -- audience.

Per the network and ABC Studios' agreement with "Lost" exec producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, the island-hopping/time-shifting/ smoke-monstering series is due to flash into history at the end of next season.

When that deal was made in 2007, the finale was still three years off. But now that the day of reckoning has come, the Alphabet will need to take full advantage of next season's send-off.


Now that "Lost's" days are numbered, will an anxious ABC want to wait until January before it can start hyping -- and taking advantage of -- the show's final 17 hours?

It probably wouldn't matter if "Lost" had already faded into ratings oblivion. But "Lost," while not as white-hot as it once was, is still a top-10 ratings powerhouse for ABC.

That's why if they're smart, Alphabet execs will already be plotting ways to keep "Lost" alive in the fall -- and keep fans from waiting eight agonizing months for the story to continue.

Absent original episodes, which don't come until January, the net won't garner the same kind of ratings that the show does in firstrun. But at least ABC can capitalize on the hype surrounding the series' final season -- and perhaps even recruit a few late-blooming or former viewers along the way.

Whatever the network decides to do, it would have to be enough of an event and so unique that it justifies utilizing an hour of primetime.

The most obvious idea? Putting a team of editors to work and recutting the first five seasons into an abridged, chronological version of "Lost."

Such a move would likely attract fans of the show, who are eager to see how the pieces of the puzzle all fit together in one cohesive, linear fashion. And this would also give first-time viewers, or ones who abandoned the show years ago, an entry point into enjoying the final season come spring.

An alternate idea? Edit each major character's back story into hourlong segs.

A less ambitious route would be to cherry pick pivotal episodes from the first few seasons and air them in order, although it's doubtful those episodes would post much of a rating (even if the net added in its "pop-up" info).

And if a full slate of episodes in the fall is out of the question, at the very least ABC needs to run a special or two -- including a townhall meeting featuring Lindelof and Cuse.

That's right, if it's good enough for "Survivor" or "The Bachelor," "Lost" also might benefit from an episode that featured the answers to questions from fans.Net could cut a few specials using the content that was produced for other sources -- webisodes, mobisodes, etc. -- but has never been broadcast. Cutting room floor footage, bloopers ... all of that could be potential low-cost (since it already exists) Friday or Saturday night fare.

As for the series finale in May 2010, here's hoping ABC plans a live, in-studio after show, in which Lindelof and Cuse explain what just happened. Hopefully the duo aren't planning to emulate David Chase, who disappeared for several months following "The Sopranos" finale.

After that, there will surely be some "Lost" fans mourning the loss of the show -- and wishing they could travel back in time and do it all over again. Hopefully ABC execs won't be feeling the same thing.

Whaddyuh think? Would you watch?

Fine, Internet, You Win Again. Franklin Avenue Now On Twitter

OK, fine, I relent. Twitter it is. Franklin Avenue is now on Twitter, and delivering random musings and links. Join in the fun at

    follow me on Twitter

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    The Wednesday Poll: Freeway of Love Edition

    Angelenos have a love/hate relationship with their freeways. Mostly hate, of course. But there are those patches of freeway that still provide smooth rides or breathtaking views -- and without them, our hour-long commutes would still be even longer.

    For me, I enjoy heading north on the 110, particularly in winter, when the snow-capped mountains tower over downtown's skyscrapers. I also get a kick out of taking the 210 between the 2 and the 118; winding through the mountains, you forget that you're in L.A. But my favorite stretch of freeway has to be the 134 between the 2 and Pasadena. Up high, with a great view and a mostly clear ride, my only complaint is the lack of on or off ramps.

    Now, it's your turn. Pick your favorite L.A. freeway below.

    Shelley Winters Says, "Don't Forget to Send In Your Taxes"

    Just in time for Tax Day... this slightly creepy public service announcement from 1980.

    Another One Bites the Dust: Movin 93.9 Signs Off

    As expected (see original post here), KMVN-FM "Movin' 93.9" signed off at midnight, replaced by a Spanish Hot Adult Contemporary format.

    That means L.A. morning star Rick Dees is back in radio exile, although he has just launched a new Internet radio venture, All Number 1 (According to Dees' site, "The ALL NUMBER 1 HITS channel is a live, 24-hour Top 40 radio channel which targets the 6-34 year old listening audience... The launch of ALL NUMBER 1 HITS will feature an exclusive one-on-one with Miley Cyrus as its first guest host. Along with Miley, young visually-oriented entertainers will host shows, including Kevin Dees, Joe Kieley, Mark Wong, and Lizard Man. Gerry DeFrancesco, heralded as the most recognized top 40 programmer, is heading up the programming and consulting of the current driven format.")

    Movin' 93.9 seemed to have finally found its niche as a mostly-80s retro station, and had seen its ratings tick up in recent months. But owner Emmis, hurting for cash, saw an opening in leasing the station out to Mexico's Grupo Radio Centro for $7 million a year.

    The station ended its run at midnight with, of course, Donna Summer's "Last Dance." Here's how it programmed its final hour:

    11:32 PM "ROCK LOBSTER" - B-52'S
    11:05 PM "GOOD TIMES" - CHIC

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    License Plate of the Day: Seacrest Edition

    Hey, we all like some pretty embarrassing stuff. Good on you for owning up to it. Now, I believe Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" is playing -- so gotta run. KIIS fan, OUT!

    Your Top Anchors: KABC's Michelle Tuzee and Marc Brown

    Our wholly unscientific Wednesday Poll numbers are in, and it's official: Viewers are smitten with KABC's top-rated anchor duo, Marc Brown and Michelle Tuzee.

    Brown and Tuzee, who have been paired together since 2002, will soon take the crown as L.A.'s longest-running weekday news anchor duo (once Paul Moyer departs his chair at KNBC). It's obviously a winning combo, judging by our viewers' reactions. Here are the final results:

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