Tuesday, March 31, 2009

License Plate of the Day: See You Next Tuesday Edition

Thanks to Franklin Avenue reader Gary Loader, who sent us this license plate of... wait, what?! How, pray tell, did the DMW allow "CNTFACE"? C'mon, that's not even subtle.

Who Polices the Parking Enforcers?

Discarted is rightfully a tad annoyed to find their friendly neighborhood parking enforcement officer using a loading zone in a middle of the day to grab lunch. They write:

Case in point: this video, taken this past week in East Hollywood, where our dogged local parking enforcement officer uses the loading zone as a parking spot for her lunch break. This is the same parking officer who tirelessly drives up and down our neighborhood blocks all day long, looking for cars on the wrong side of the street on street cleaning days and in red zones and with expired meters.

Somewhere we missed it in the Los Angeles city code where parking enforcement officers don’t need to obey the law. Wow, what a job perk!

It's not just there; a commenter writes: "They routinely park in 3-minute passenger loading zones on Hope St. between 7th-8th streets downtown while they workout at the Bally’s Gym inside Macy’s Plaza. on their lunch hour, i guess."

Correction o' the Day: Getting the New Boss' Resume Wrong

I still hold out hope that the Glendale News-Press can be improved under its new editor, and new (but so far unused) links on the paper's website for user-generated content gives me hope.

But things are getting off to an embarrassing start: Turns out the story announcing new editor Dan Evans got some facts wrong:

In an A1 story published March 17 titled “News-Press, Leader hire new editor,” Dan Evans’ work history was incorrectly identified. He was one of several investigators at the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission and was at the Hollywood Reporter for six months.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Coming Soon to Franklin Avenue

Blogger Baby 2: Electric Boogaloo! Yep, he appears to be sucking his thumb in this shot. (And yes, he's a he.)

The Blogger Preschooler is already excited -- and already hoping to name the baby "Evan II." (Sorry kid, that may be good enough for George Foreman, but that's not our style.) More to come!

The "ER," About to Be Shut Down For Good

Has it already been 15 years since "Friends" and "ER" both hit the airwaves? Yep, fall 1994. I was still in college, and too busy to watch the first seasons of either show.

But come fall 1995, I was working at the TV trade pub Electronic Media in Chicago -- and the entire office was obsessed with "ER." Some were infatuated with George Clooney. Others loved the Chicago setting (even if it didn't actually shoot in Chicago, "ER" crews came to town several times a year to shoot exteriors). And the fast-paced storytelling hooked pretty much everyone.

Our art director, Susan, even began putting together a weekly "ER" quiz on Friday mornings. The winner got their name added to a paper trophy that went around the office; Clooney even signed it during one of his Chicago "ER" visits (Susan and a few others pulled some strings to visit the set).

As time wore on, Susan made the "ER" tests tougher and tougher. I began to take notes during each episode. Whenever any action took place on screen, I'd feverishly write down anything I saw on screen: What time was it on the wall clock? How many characters were in the room? What were a few pieces of key dialogue?

It was everything the networks hoped to have in a hit TV show. Loyal fans invested in a weekly event. "ER" regularly posted 40 shares, helping NBC dominate Thursdays (and before we knew it, the entire week).

Eventually, though, I got out of the "ER" habit. I continued to watch for a few years after I left Electronic Media for Variety... but as the original, core "ER" cast left, I began to tune out as well. I do remember paying special attention to the departure of Anthony Edwards' character, Dr. Mark Greene.

As he was dying of cancer, Dr. Greene took his daughter and headed to Hawaii, where he grew up as a military brat. For obvious reasons, that story resonated with me. (Here's a fictional TV character, after all, who would have attended the same high school as me. Trippy.)

I recently tuned in for the first time in years, in order to catch the return of Clooney, Juliana Margulies, Eriq LaSalle and Noah Wyle. It was like old times -- well, sorta. The 40 shares are long gone, and we're all 15 years older.

This weekend, Maria and I attended the "ER" finale party, held at Social Hollywood. It was a big affair -- cast members past (LaSalle, Wyle) and present (Angela Bassett, John Stamos) celebrated, along with showrunner John Wells and studio and network execs. It felt like the end of an era -- 10 p.m. shows are dropping like flies -- and the party itself, while not lavish, was a throwback to pre-recession times. But considering how important "ER" has been though the years for the network and studio, it was the least they could do.

R.I.P., "ER"!

Does the West Side Really Need Its Own Newspaper?

A few years ago, Slate's Kausfiles blog was convinced that a "gang rumble" had taken place on Halloween in Brentwood. The police checked into it -- as did the L.A. Times -- and couldn't find any evidence of such an event. Yet Kausfiles' easily frightened pals on the Westside were convinced that "West Side Story" had been re-enacted in their backyards. Whatever.

Now, Kausfiles has put out a plea to local billionaires to bank roll a local paper for, what, the woefully underserved affluent Westside?!

Here's why Kaus gets it wrong: First off, he directs his plea to Philip Anschutz -- despite the fact that Anschutz's Examiner papers are mostly filled with wire copy; and judging by his decision to close down the Baltimore Examiner, he's not exactly hot on launching new papers. AND... uh, you really think Anschutz's conservative-leaning, anti-union newspaper will go over well in West L.A.?!

Secondly... here's the gist of why Kaus thinks the West Side is underserved:

We want to know whom Mayor Villaraigosa is dating, and we want to see her picture. And if John Edwards visits his mistress at the Beverly Hilton and gets chased into a bathroom by National Enquirer reporters--hey, you know, maybe that's a story! (The LAT didn't think so.)

Yep, that's a solid business plan. The West Side is underserved by the LA Times because... there isn't enough coverage of who's boffing the Mayor?

And third... Kaus believes the LA Times doesn't cover the West Side because he doesn't see stories that he'd like to see. But last I checked, Kaus isn't the West Side spokesman. Here's where his critique is so ridiculous: Show the LAT to most less-affluent Angelenos, and they'd be struck by how upscale-centric the paper feels. From the throwaway marketing department-run Los Angeles Times magazine, to the Image section, to the kind of entertainment options it covers... I'd say West Siders probably are more familiar with the kind of things the LAT covers than someone in, say, Alhambra.

Kaus may remember that Richard Riordan did, indeed, briefly consider taking on the L.A. Times... but eventually downsized those plans and decided to bankroll a weekly paper instead. But even that paper never got off the ground; and that was in 2003, long before the economic collapse and a few years before print really started tanking.

There's plenty to critique about the LAT -- and I, for one, am still upset that the California section was axed (and don't get me started on the decision to drop "Sally Forth"). But I don't think I've ever heard anyone argue that the paper is suffering because West Side Angelenos want more trivial coverage.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spot Today's Downsized L.A. Times Mistake, #4 in a series

As we continue to chronicle the rise in careless mistakes in the L.A. Times, Thursday's goof was a doozy.

In the Calendar section's Quick Takes column, place holder headlines were never changed. That's why "Tag Briefs Subhead" appeared throughout; also, a cutline next to a photo of Matt Lauer was left with dummy text. D'oh. (Stones/glass houses: I meant to post this on Friday, but was having camera problems. Voila, I'm just getting this up now.)

LA Observed reports that a computer crash caused the problem.

I also heard (but didn't get a photo) of a goof in last week's Food section, where "TK" -- newspaper speak for content to come -- appeared in print. D'oh again.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Philiminator Rides Across America

Yep, that's our TV pal Phil Keoghan -- the "Amazing Race's" Philiminator -- plotting a bike ride across the country, starting tomorrow. Keoghan will kick off the ride at 9:15 a.m. this Saturday in Santa Monica. Other bike riders will join him for an MS-sponsored ride -- but Phil will break off at the Rose Bowl and keep on going to Victorville (for a total of 116 miles in Day 1).

Phil, who's still going forward with the stunt, despite recently rupturing his eardrum, will bike from Los Angeles to New York in a ride that will span 40 days and more than 3,500 miles. He'll average 100 miles per day and stop in 39 different cities.

Here are the scheduled city stops:
Saturday, 3/28: Los Angeles
Sunday, 3/29: Victorville, Calif.
Monday, 3/30: Baker, Calif.
Tuesday, 3/31: Las Vegas
Wednesday, 4/1: Caliente, Nev.
Thursday, 4/2: Cedar City, Utah
Friday, 4/3: Kanab, Utah
Saturday, 4/4: Page, Ariz.
Sunday, 4/5: Kayenta, Ariz.
Monday, 4/6: Cortez, Colo.
Tuesday, 4/7: Pagosa Springs, Colo.
Wednesday, 4/8: Saguache, Colo.
Thursday, 4/9: Fairplay, Colo.
Friday, 4/10: Denver (REST DAY)
Saturday, 4/11: Denver
Sunday, 4/12: Fort Morgan, Colo.
Monday, 4/13: Wray, Colo.
Tuesday, 4/14: McCook, Neb.
Wednesday, 4/15: Holdrege, Neb.
Thursday, 4/16: Sutton, Neb.
Friday, 4/17: Lincoln, Neb.
Saturday, 4/18: Omaha, Neb.
Sunday, 4/19: Atlantic, Iowa
Monday, 4/20: Des Moines, Iowa
Tuesday, 4/21: Iowa City, Iowa
Wednesday, 4/22: Davenport, Iowa
Thursday, 4/23: Rochelle, Ill.
Friday, 4/24: Chicago (REST DAY)
Saturday, 4/25: Chicago
Sunday, 4/26: Plymouth, Ind.
Monday, 4/27: Fort Wayne, Ind.
Tuesday, 4/28: Lima, Ohio
Wednesday, 4/29: Columbus, Ohio
Thursday, 4/30: Dennison, Ohio
Friday, 5/1: Pittsburgh (REST DAY)
Saturday, 5/2: Pittsburgh
Sunday, 5/3: Frostburg, Md.
Monday, 5/4: Hagerstown, Md.
Tuesday, 5/5: Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, 5/6: Baltimore
Thursday, 5/7: Philadelphia
Friday, 5/8: New York (END CITY)

Says CBS: "Along the way, he'll attend meet and greets with supporters at local GNC stores, visit CBS affiliates, attend open-casting calls for the next installment of THE AMAZING RACE, sign copies of his best-selling book No Opportunity Wasted, and ride alongside ex-Racers and fans of THE AMAZING RACE. He will also be participating in rallies hosted by the National MS Society to build awareness for Bike MS and the MS movement."

Retro Friday: L.A.'s Depeche Mode Debacle

In 1990, Depeche Mode had just released their "Violator" CD... and decided to make an in-store appearance at The Wherehouse music store in the Beverly Connection. About 15,000 people showed up -- some camping outside the La Cienega store for days.

By the time the band showed up, chaos erupted. Check out these news reports from the time... and how strangely out of touch these anchors sound. Odd that everyone keeps referring to the "hot new band from London," when Depeche Mode had been selling records in America for a decade by that point (and had even already performed its famous Rose Bowl show two years earlier).

The crowd got so out of control that the riot police was called and the band had to leave early. The story wound up leading newscasts. The next day, then-city councilman Zev Yaroslavsky blames The Wherehouse and KROQ for the melee (about 3:30 into this video); Richard Blade then responds:

Of course, these days Depeche Mode wouldn't attract that kind of crazy crowd... but the band still has a loyal following here in Southern California. Depeche Mode's most extensive tour in years, "Tour of the Universe," comes to L.A. on Sunday, Aug. 16 and Monday, Aug. 17 at the Hollywood Bowl. They're also playing the Honda Center in Anaheim on Aug. 19.

L.A.'s Hottest Realtor

Now that "I Love You Man" has finally hit theaters, motorists passing by this billboard in West Hollywood can now get the joke. Peter Klaven is the name of Paul Rudd's character in "I Love You Man." And yes, I'm assuming that's not really Rudd's body.

Thanks to Beth, who snapped a shot of the billboard while traveling east on Beverly Blvd. toward Robertson.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

No News is No News in Los Angeles

Arbitron has released its major-market radio ratings for February... and I'm once again struck at the difference between L.A. and the nation's other largest cities.

In New York, all-news 1010 WINS-AM is #3 in the market. In Chicago, all-news WBBM-AM is #1. In San Francisco, all-news KCSB-AM is #2, while public radio station KQED, which carries NPR news, is #3!

Then there's Los Angeles. All-news KNX-AM is in 13th place here, while sister KFWB is at 27th place. Why do L.A. radio listeners spend so little time listening to news/weather/sports at the stations?

This is nothing new; while talk outlets like KFI (and long ago, KABC) have been ratings powerhouses, it's been years since all-news stations like KNX have scored high on the charts. (To be fair, KNX got a big boost in February and its 13th place finish is nothing to sneeze at. I'm just making a comparison to other markets, where news stations somehow lead the charts.)

A caveat: Radio isn't sold by these total audience figures, they're sold by demos. So discussions of Arbitron's 6+ ratings must be taken with a grain of salt.

But it's still worth asking. As some commenters note below, it may be that L.A.'s percentage of Spanish-speaking radio listeners is much higher than in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. But I'm not sure that I buy that it's because radio here is more diverse; Chicago and SF pretty much have the same selection of rock, top 40, public radio, college radio, talk, news/talk, etc. outlets as we do.

I do agree with a few commenters that L.A. has one of the best (and most diverse) selection of radio stations in the country -- although that standing has taken a beating as of late. Now that Indie 103.1 and KLSX "97.1 FM Talk" have gone away, we've lost two of the unique commercial stations that made our market special. We still have more strong public radio outlets than most -- others would kill to have KKJZ Jazz, KUSC Classical, KCRW Variety and KPPC News/Talk (plus KXLU College) all in the same market -- and, of course, we have two trend-setting commercial stations in KIIS and KROQ, both of which are imitated throughout the rest of the country. I'd argue we also have some of the strongest, most creative morning radio shows in the nation.

Back to the numbers: It was another great month for KIIS-FM, which dominates at the top. CBS Radio's new 97.1 "AMP FM" is improving the signal's audience already -- and ditto Entravision's KDLD-FM, once "Indie 103.1." Since flipping to Spanish, it has also experienced a solid bump. (Not good news for people still holding out for the return of Indie or FM Talk.)

License Plate of the Day: Dentist Edition

C'mon motorist, this UCLA alum would like you to shoot a grin her way.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

High School Musical, Los Angeles Style

Enough with Zac and Vanessa. Franklin Avenue reader Jay Baxter and his wife travel around Los Angeles hunting for real-life high school musicals -- and good or bad, they're rarely disappointed.

Now, Jay has put together a site to compile a list of this year's local high school shows.

He writes:

Over the last few years, my wife and I have an obsession we pursue vigorously -- the high school musical! We love it when they're bad. We love it when they're good. It's always a delightful night of fun.

Sadly, the L.A. Times (or L.A. Weekly) do not publish these events, so the general public knows nothing about them. So over the last couple months, I write to all the local schools and ask them for their Spring Musical schedule. And this year, I finally compiled them into a makeshift blog with a calendar.

Jay says the "ultimate high school musical" -- the show put on by Beverly Hills High School -- takes place this weekend.

Beverly Hills High will be putting on their version of "Ragtime" -- the musical based on the E.L. Doctorow novel of the same name -- on March 25 through 28. Tix are $25 for VIP seating; $15 for adults and $10 for students.

Jay says, "Last year, they did Les Miz. It was the most insane, Broadway-caliber production I have ever seen in Los Angeles." Maybe you'll see him there.

MIKE ON TV: Retro "Survivor" Edition

Let me take you back to the more innocent days of spring 2001. "Survivor 2" was just wrapping up, and I sat down with Bryant Gumbel -- then the host of CBS' "The Early Show" -- to discuss the product placement on the show. We're here on the set of the "Survivor" reunion special in Television City -- live to the east coast, which means it was about 4:30 a.m.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

FRANKLIN AVENUE CONTEST: Go Retro '80s With the Premiere Marquee Club

The Greek Theatre and Gibson Amphitheatre have launched their joint 2009 concert subscription program, dubbed the Premiere Marquee Club.

The promotion allows members to get preferential seating based on how long they have been a member and at which level they're at. Perks also include a dedicated concession line, presale notification and more. Memberships can be purchased for three shows (silver), five shows (gold) or seven shows (platinum).

The Greek Theatre season includes Bonnie Raitt, A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor, the Gipsy Kings, John Legend, Neko Case and The Brotherhood Tour featuring Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos. Gibson Amphitheatre's schedule includes offers the MTV Movie Awards and Teen Choice Awards, stand-up comedians Chelsea Handler and Kathy Griffin, Il Divo, The Temptations and The Four Tops, and The 7th Annual Brian Setzer Orchestra’s Christmas Rocks! Extravaganza in December.

Order deadline is April 7.

Now... thanks to the folks over at the PMC, we've got a pair of tix to see the "80's Regeneration Tour" on Thursday, July 9 at the Gibson Amphitheatre. Show includes performances by ABC, Berlin, Wang Chung, Heaven 17 and Cutting Crew. Yep, it's a concert that Richard Blade would love. Roq of the 80s!

To enter, send us an email to franklin_avenue(at)yahoo(dot)com, and tells us what you miss most about the 80s.

Bank of America: Like Vegas, But Without the Booze, Cards or Cirque du Soleil

Thanks to Franklin Avenue reader John, who sent this to us last night. He writes: "I saw this fantastic billboard defacement on Glendale Bl. East at Seneca, and thought you guys would enjoy it. I love when corporate billboards are modified!"

We do too!

Two Enter, One Exits

Flo, the Progressive Insurance spokeswoman (and fan of "tricked-out" nametags) vs...

The 1-800 Dentist woman.

Who wins in the battle between TV's bizarre pitch ladies? And why? Discuss.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Celebrating Los Angeles' Heritage

You've seen it while speeding down the 110: Heritage Square, that collection of old homes and buildings located in Lincoln Heights and near both the Southwest Museum and the Lummis House.

As I wrote last week, the museum was the site on Sunday for the Second Annual Los Angeles Heritage Day.

The event brought together several of L.A.'s various history- and preservation-minded groups, including the Los Angeles Conservancy, Hollywood Heritage, Highland Park Heritage Trust, Los Angeles City Historical Society, Culinary Historians of Southern California, Museum of the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, and more.

A few highlights:

Perry House (Mount Pleasant) -- built in 1876; originally located on Pleasant Ave. in Boyle Heights. Moved in 1975.

Inside the Perry House.

Various historical and heritage societies set up their tables at Heritage Square.

1918 Model T truck, parked in front of Valley Knudsen Garden Residence -- built in 1883-1884; originally located on Mozart St. in Lincoln Heights.

Palms Depot -- built around 1887, standing along a Southern Pacific Railroad line in the then-city of Palms. Became a part of the Pacific Electric railway in 1911, and provided service until 1953. Moved to Heritage Square in 1975.

Hale House -- built between 1887 and 1888; originally located at 4501 N. Pasadena Ave. (now Figueroa). Moved to Heritage Square in 1970.

Volunteer dressed as a Point Fermin Lighthouse operator.

You Say "Octumom," I Say "Octomom," Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

CNN's Headline News (HLN) network decides to swim against the tide and refer to Nadya Suleman as the "Octumom" -- with a "u." But HLN appears to be in the minority: A quick check with Google shows just 34,900 mentions on the web for "octumom," compared to 1.5 million for the term "octomom."

"The Soloist," Just In Time

For the embattled folks at the Los Angeles Times, the upcoming movie "The Soloist" should come as a rare morale boost. The feature stars Robert Downey Jr. as LAT columnist Steve Lopez, and Jamie Foxx as Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, the gifted musician who battles with schizophrenia as a homeless man on L.A.'s Skid Row.

The LAT appears to play a prominent role in the feature; portions of "The Soloist" were filmed at the newspaper last year. As the movie's protagonist, the character based on Lopez looks to be the prototypical troubled-but-heroic journalist (hell, that's a positive on-screen depiction that all of journalism, not just LAT staffers, will probably cheer).

"The Soloist" hits theaters on April 24, which is why TV ads for the movie are starting to appear (I saw one last night during "The Amazing Race).

Check out the archive of Lopez's columns on Ayers -- which led to a book, which then led to the movie -- here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Retro Friday: Blooper Edition

I can't imagine this happening today: In 1978, NBC aired the three-part miniseries "Loose Change." But on day two, they accidentally played part 3. After 17 minutes, the network finally realized its mistake... and a live announcer had to give this awkward apology.

She's now California's First Lady, but back in the mid-1980s she was a young up-and-coming TV newscaster. Here, Maria Shriver hosts the "CBS Morning News" with Bob Schieffer -- who accidentally dumps his coffee on live TV.

They're getting punchy on the set of KABC-TV Eyewitness News in this old clip. Christine Lund acts a little goofy as Johnny Mountain delivers the weather; then Lund and Jerry Dunphy try to explain why an Elmer Dills story won't be running.

"AM Los Angeles" hosts Chuck Henry and Ann Martin toss it to Christine Lund for the news... but Christine isn't exactly ready.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

100 Things Dodger Fans Should Do: Number 1, Buy This Book

Just in time for baseball season, Dodger Thoughts maven Jon Weisman's book "100 Things Dodger Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" is about to come out -- and available for pre-order now on Amazon (go here).

Here's how Jon describes it:

"100 Things Dodger Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die," published by Triumph Books in April, covers everyone from Jackie Robinson to Vin Scully, everything from Dodger Stadium to Dodger Adult Baseball Camp, every event from the team’s 19th-century roots to its 2008 Manny Ramirez-led pennant quest. It is comprehensive, enlightening and entertaining. It will satisfy all Dodger fans, from the most casual followers to those who live and die with the team.

Support your local blogger!

FREE L.A.: Post-Modern Dance at the Brand

Metblogs L.A. fills us in on a free show at the Brand Library in Glendale this Sunday at 2 p.m. The Brand itself is always worth a visit; if you're not checking out the Heritage Day event, here's another free option:

If you like free form, modern/post-modern dance you need to stop by the Brand in Glendale this Sunday at 2PM. Sarah Swenson, founder of the Vox Dance Theatre will be performing. I’ve managed to catch a performance a couple of years back, nicely done, very unusual and definitely not “dancing with the stars” (that’s a good thing folks). Of course with FREE ADMISSION this is a pretty easy one to attend and simply enjoy.

Brand Library & Art Center
1601 West Mountain Street
Glendale, CA 91201

License Plate of the Day: Head Doctor Edition

Psychiatrist, or comic book villain? No matter who it is, "Dr. Shrink" drives a Honda.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

FREE L.A.: The L.A. Heritage Alliance's Second Annual L.A. Heritage Day

Click here to download a flyer for free entrance to this year's L.A. Heritage Day, held this Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Heritage Square Museum in Northeast Los Angeles.

The event brings together several of L.A.'s various history- and preservation-minded groups, as well as cultural institutions, and includes activities for kids and adults, as well as tours of the museum's historic structures.

Over 65 groups are participating this year, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Museum, Boyle Heights Historical Society, Los Angeles Conservancy, Hollywood Heritage, Highland Park Heritage Trust, Los Angeles City Historical Society, Culinary Historians of Southern California, Historic Adamson House/Malibu Lagoon Museum, Museum of the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, and more.

A discription from the organizing sponsor:
The event is expected to draw over 500 attendees for a range of programs including children’s activities, living history interpretation, and panel discussions for both the public and heritage organizations on topics like what “historic” means in terms of buildings and districts, and how definitions vary among cities and neighborhoods & a panel on nonprofit fundraising in an era of diminished resources.

For an area widely (and erroneously) perceived as having no "real" history, the Los Angeles region has more than 200 historical
organizations, societies, and museums dedicated to preserving and promoting the rich and varied pasts of various regions, industries, and individuals. The L.A. Heritage Alliance is a network of preservation groups, museums, and historical societies launched in 2008 to unify and leverage their efforts. L.A. Heritage Day is the largest annual event produced by the all-volunteer L.A. Heritage Alliance.

We're going to head over there on Sunday; Heritage Square always depresses me, as it's a reminder that these buildings were moved from their original locales and dumped there as museum pieces. But it's still better than the alternative; had Heritage Square not been organized, even these buildings would have been demolished as well.

Hope for the Glendale News-Press

A few weeks ago, I gave some ideas on how to improve the sorry state of Glendale's tiny daily newspaper (now a part of the L.A. Times' handful of community papers), the Glendale News-Press.

Now, the News-Press has found a new editor, and he sounds promising.

The paper announced on Tuesday that Dan Evans -- most recently the online news editor for the Hollywood Reporter -- will take over as editorial director of the News-Press, Burbank Leader, Crescenta Valley Sun and La CaƱada Valley Sun on April 1.

Evans' resume also includes stints as a reporter for the now-defunct Our Times weekly newspaper in Ontario, as well as the San Francisco Examiner. He also spent time at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and as a senior investigator for the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

From the paper:

For his part, Evans said he had plans to increase the functionality of the papers’ websites and expand their presence through blogs and accounts on Facebook and Twitter as newspapers everywhere struggle to remain relevant amid declining subscriptions.

Interest in hyper-local media has been one of the few bright spots for the Times, and Evans said moving the News-Press and its sister papers into the digital era would only grow their readership.

As I wrote, that's been one of the News-Press' biggest weak spots: The paper rarely updates its website, even when breaking news should warrant it. And there's very little local outreach -- no interactivity, no blogs, no real useful tools. It's a real waste of space right now; hopefully Evans can change that.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rate-A-Restaurant #202: Nickel Diner

Restaurant: The Nickel Diner

Location: 524 S. Main (Downtown)

Type of restaurant: Diner

We stipulated: We were planning to meet up with Friend of Franklin Avenue Eric Lynxwiler for breakfast... and I suggested Philippe's, since I love their fluffy fluffy pancakes. But then I discovered that it was the weekend of the Chinese New Year Parade, and figured we should probably avoid the Chinatown traffic. We'd been wanting to try the Nickel Diner, so that actually opened the door to try something new.

They stipulated: Sorry folks, this is 2009 -- nothing costs a nickel. (Above, that's an uncovered mural from long ago, not an actual menu from now.) Meanwhile, as they grow the business, for now the Nickel Diner is open just for breakfast and lunch, on Wednesdays through Sunday.

What we ordered: Mike (above) Not-quite-vegan Ranchero -- grilled tofu on tortillas with beans, cheese, avocado and salsa; $9.25

Maria: Polenta with maple syrup and a choice of bacon (which she chose), chicken apple sausage or ham; $5.50

Evan: Buttermilk pancakes (3); $6.50

and, of course, we bought to go...

Nickel Diner's famed Maple Glaze Bacon Donut.

High point: There was something tasty about that tofu (yes, for breakfast; I know, I like weird things) -- and I was actually pleased that they put regular cheese on it, although had I been vegan, I would have been concerned over the fact that it wasn't soy cheese, as billed in the menu. (Again, fine with me.) It's an interesting menu.

Low point: Well, I did find a hair in my dish -- but was hungry enough to let it go. (I'm very forgiving, apparently. Didn't even mention it to the waiter, perhaps because we were with someone and I didn't want to make a fuss.) I could have also used more coffee; my cup went empty for long periods of time.

Overall impression: There's a lot of promise in the Nickel Diner, and I'd love for it to evolve into Los Angeles' version of SF's Dottie's True Blue Cafe, one of our favorite eateries up there (and, coincidentally, also in a slightly sketchy neighborhood). Parking's a big problem, especially now that the city has upped the price of meters (we lucked out and parked at a broken one). And we could have used a bit more -- a bit more bacon, a bit more coffee.

Chance we'll go back: Yes, as I like the idea of the Nickel Diner a lot -- and would like to try more items before giving up on it. The Dutch Baby pancake sounds great, as does the french toast and blueberry pancakes... so I'll be back. Eventually.

For a complete list of our more than 200 restaurant reviews, check out our companion Rate-A-Restaurant site.

TV No Longer California Dreaming

My colleague Cynthia Littleton spells out the migration of this year's primetime TV pilots to locales beyond California. Of the 39 hour-long pilots and presentations in the works at the nets, at least 20 aren't being shot here. Ouch.

Writes Cynthia:

This year, Providence, R.I.; Baltimore; Boston; Atlanta; Chicago; Richmond, Va.; and Pittsburgh are among the unusual locales where broadcast net pilots are being produced, and all are in states that offer production tax-incentive carrots. Twentieth Century Fox TV has traveled as far as Prague for its "Da Vinci Code"-esque thriller "Masterwork" for Fox, though that decision was made as much for storyline purposes as anything else.

New York has lured a lot of TV production out of Los Angeles County over the past few years with its rich tax-incentive program, but the much-publicized uncertainty about the future of those credits for new productions, amid the state's $14 billion budget deficit, sent studios shopping for lures in the other 48 states.

What about the recently passed $500 million, five-year production tax credit incentive program here? As Cynthia notes, "that program is seen by many in the TV biz as too little too late, and with too many strings attached."

Monday, March 16, 2009

"The Strategy of Penetration" and Other Religious Album Covers

After I put out a plea (via Facebook, natch) for something to do on Friday night, Chris Nichols suggested that Maria and I stop by the opening night party for "Within Heaven's Earshot: Religious Album Covers" at the Synchronicity Space gallery in East Hollywood.

Vinyl? Kitsch? Live music? Close proximity to Scoops? Sold.

And we weren't disappointed. Culled from a variety of collectors -- including Nichols himself -- I haven't seen so much kitschy vinyl since my college radio station, WNUR. At WNUR, we had an amazing collection of bizarre vinyl, all of which ended up unclassified in the "Freeform" section. I'm guessing we had some of the albums on display (actually, I know we did!)

Here is a sampling of some covers on display:

Ira North -- "If I Were a Woman"

The Good Twins -- "Have Gospel, Must Travel"

Connie Fry -- "Jesus, Use Me"

"The Battle of the Sexes: Can It Be Avoided?"

"Jack Tells It Like It Is"

Buckner Fanning, "The Strategy of Penetration" (I'll remind you, these are all real.)

"Bill & Dick"

"Within Heaven's Earshot" continues through Easter Sunday, April 12. Between now and then, the gallery plans film screenings, live music, ventriloquists and a religious collectibles auction.

Synchronicity Space
4306 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles 90029