beakspeak_stellarsjay.jpg This gorgeous example of birdkind is a Steller’s Jay (wikipedia article). The picture was taken by local photographer, birder, and blogger Jason Stuck of Beakspeak. Here’s his Flickr site as well. What’s most amazing to me, apart from his obvious talent, is that he’s only been birdwatching since January of 2005.

While we’re on the subject, head on over to the LA Audubon site and check out the upcoming events and recent bird and environmental news.

Wild Fennel

In walking the hills and canyons of Los Angeles, I’ve always marveled at how much wild fennel grows along the paths everywhere. It seems to thrive in really harsh conditions, sprouting out of cracks in the road and along parched beaten paths that look like virtual sand. From Malibu to the Hollywood Hills, it’s usually in some state of blooming. In the late summer it sports gigantic yellow flowered heads that look like gold queen anne’s lace. In the fall and winter, the flowers turn to fennel seed. Now in the spring/summer, beautiful feathery stalks wave in the wind.

Since I’m always buying fennel, I wondered if I could just pick and eat this common roadside attraction. So I did some research and alas, it’s a different variety that we toss in salads and stew with tomatoes to make a yummy sauce. Our hillside weed is too woody to do anything other than flavor the food. It’s great for using as a bed to grill fish and other vegetables to impart that smoky anise flavor. In the summer when the thing flowers, you can take a paper bag, put it over the flowerhead and tap it a couple of times to get pollen. Use the pollen as a spice on fresh zucchini and just about anything else. It’s a taste that will really send you.

Attempted Murder Charges for Ex-Cop Accused of Sexual Assault Against A Minor?

As reported elsewhere, ex-Manhattan Beach police officer Shawn Shelton was arrested for using his old badge to abduct and then sexually assault a 14 year old boy in Vegas. Now, blogger Steve Huff at Huff’s Crime Blog has uncovered the possibility that Shelton could be charged with attempted murder “if his assault against the 14-year-old was violent, and if he penetrated the boy with no condom.”

From Huff:

Not only is the former cop accused now of raping a 14-year-old boy he abducted from a bus stop in Nevada, but that same former cop revealed in conversations later permitted into the judicial record that he was HIV positive.

The documents Huff cites appear to be a case summary of the lawsuit Shelton brought against the city of Manhattan Beach for “alleged harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against…gay police sergeant.”

Huff adds:

Rapists in general are not known for their caution in using prophylactics, except to avoid leaving DNA evidence. One can only pray that if he was the attacker of the boy in Nevada as alleged, then his planning involved more than handcuffs and a “fake,” or perhaps “retired” badge.

The Cult of Charles Phoenix


Charles Phoenix is one of Los Angeles’ civic treasures. He is a lifelong Southern California resident, and has a major ongoing love affair with the L.A. area. And while he does host a wonderful tour of present-day downtown, most of his work has focused on the Kodachrome era: Southern California during the years when Kodachrome slides were used to capture and show the wonders of this region to the folks who couldn’t see it for themselves. The word I seem to have picked up is “histo-tainer”.

Kodachrome slides are the inspiration behind the two slideshows that Charles Phoenix has put together, which are full-fledged performance art as presented and narrated by him. He collects slides, at thrift stores, garage and estate sales, anywhere they turn up. I learned this for the first time last year, at his Retro Slideshow of Southern California, a two hour production at the Ford Ampitheater. And I saw his second show ten days ago, when I went to the Retro Disneyland slideshow, a show of Disneyland slides from 1955 to 1967. We all like Disneyland, some of us more than others – but I think few people love being there like Charles Phoenix does.
Continue reading The Cult of Charles Phoenix

Sheriffs and CCWs and Cronies, Oh My!

There’s an interesting back and forth going on between Jim March and Glen Craig (Retired Sheriff, Sacramento County) in regards to the current CCW policies in CA. While they are specifically talking about a situation in Sacramento, it’s state law that allows it and elected Sheriffs that decide how to enforce it. Last year I posted a link to a video debate between LA’s Sheriff Baca and OC’s Sheriff Carona that shows exactly how different the law allows policies to be. In Jim March’s reply to Glen Craig’s note, Jim mentions LA and OC specifically in reference to situations that look a bit shady (the core of the discussion is speculation that only wealthy campaign contributors have a chance of getting a CCW license in Sacramento, and how this is mirrored statewide). Here’s the snip of that section:

How is it that when Sheriff Baca of LA set up an “executive reserves program” stocked with 20 major campaign contributors, and within a year one had chased a neighbor down the street in his underwear and another “upstanding citizen” laundered a quarter mil through Israel of all places and ran guns into Mexico.

How did the sole CCW holder in the city of Oakland end up being a serial sexual molester with personal connections to the mayor? That’s a 100% failure rate.

Or how about the latest from Orange County? Sheriff Carona has a sweet little program arming rich Los Angeles folks (now that Baca dumped ’em?) by issuing them a joke reservist status and one of same such “cops” was found connected to (and supplying guns for) the scam artist that wrecked the stolen Ferrari doing 160mph DUI.

As I mentioned last week, the current situation that let’s one person decide on a whim who should and shouldn’t be able to carry a gun in public begs for corruption, where as a policy closer matching how drivers licenses are distributed (if you apply and meet a set of requirements you will be approved, regardless of how much is in your bank account or who you know) is much more fair. Again, it’s important to stress that the person calling the shots on this is elected by the people in the county. Sheriff Baca is on the ballot for reelection next week – there are 4 other candidates running against him. While none of the candidates have discussed this topic openly – Ken Masse, who has a blog, seems to have impressed some people with his take on it. Point being, know who you are voting for and what they are supporting.

On a site note, I’d really like to hear from some LASD people (or LAPD people for that matter) on this topic, even if just on the last question in Jim’s note:

What’s going on now is a freakshow. What kind of morale problem does this send through a department, when the whole staff figures the boss is on the take? Can I as a citizen trust a cop/deputy who is willing to work for such an agency, or do I have to look at every single member of such a department as a potential gang member with a badge?

UPDATE: Please see the comments for a note from Paul Jernigan – pro-CCW candidate for Sheriff.

Daily News vs LAPD Blog Followup

Yesterday I wrote about a completely idiotic column in the Daily News about the LAPD Blog. As noted in the comments and an update to the post the LAPD themselves responded as well. In this post, LAPD Public Information Director Mary Grady responds to the article, and it’s everything a reply on a blog should be pointing out many of the inaccuracies that I did, as well as reiterating what they are trying to do with the blog. She writes:

When we re-launched the Department’s website last March, (check your facts Daily News, taxpayers don’t pay for LAPDOnline or the separate blog, the Los Angeles Police Foundation does and the redesign of the site cost $382,000…the blog only costs $15 a month) Chief Bratton did commit to stepping into unchartered blog waters. I say unchartered because some time spent researching Google confirms there are no universal hard, fast rules when it comes to blogging.

So we designed the blog to do a number of things, respond to criticism without having our responses edited, gauge the pulse of the public, let people know what’s happening in the Department, both good and bad, and yes even plug the positive contributions of its men and women. The audacity of this LAPD “flack” to actually want people to know that yes, cops are people too and they do good things. They don’t, as the writer would have you believe, spend the majority of their time going from one fast food restaurant to another. Transparency goes both ways you know.

Go read the full response – it’s worth it.

Garden of Oz in the Hollywood Hills is the Garden of Oz, a place at once so accessible and spectacular that I debated whether or not to even mention it online.

Towards the end of a five mile hike below the Hollywood sign I bumped into this curiosity – a garden with a pathway literally paved with yellow bricks, overflowing with colorful flowers, and decorated with tiled mosaics and beaming with an energy of giddiness usually reserved for the holiday season or an acid trip. Outside the gate, locked unfortunately, is a mailbox that reads “Letters to Oz”, making me anticipate a crazy flying monkey that could swoop beside me to make a pick up and delivery at any time.
Continue reading Garden of Oz

An open letter to Christine Chavez

Dear Christine,

I’ve been receiving a number of items in the mail from you lately. You have a lot to talk about. That’s great! Political candidates should have something to say, and should know how to communicate with their constituents (or potential constituents). I’d really like to ask you a favor, though. Just a wee one. Shouldn’t be too much trouble.

Stop sending me so much freaking mail!

I know there’s an election coming up. I’m totally aware of what’s going on in my neighborhood, district, city, county, and state. I’m also aware that, holy fucking shit, there is so much stuff in my mailbox. I went out of town for two and a half weeks and I came home to not 2, not 5, but TWELVE pieces of mail from you alone! I got something from you for every weekday that I was gone. Add in the two to four pieces of mail I got from other local candidates, and I had one full as hell mailbox.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Christine. You and I both live in east L.A. We even share some of the same political viewpoints. That’s cool. We could probably sit down over coffee and have a nice chat. But for the love of all that’s holy, please stop filling up my mailbox with your shiny pamphlets and envelopes. I haven’t seen this much stuff hit my mailbox since that crap special election the Governator held last year. And we all know how that turned out.

My advice? Just concentrate your efforts on the web. It’s much cheaper and more effective than direct mail marketing. Keep writing pseudo-blog posts on your website. And keep in touch with the communities. Just don’t keep in touch with shiny tri-fold political pamphlets and letters “from Martin Sheen” on your behalf. It just cheapens us all.

The potential constituent with an overflowing mailbox (which has become an overflowing trashcan)

Chekhov in L.A.

cherryorchardsml.gifFull disclosure: I’m a former member of the company that’s currently running The Cherry Orchard, and did the flyer design, too.

Further disclosure: I go to most productions of Chekhov light on hope and heavy of heart: he’s really, really hard to get right–way harder than Shakespeare, whose words tend to work even when performed badly. Chekhov starts with being Russian (which we don’t traditionally see as a light, frivolous culture) and ends up in some sort of translation, often bad.

So, for whoever’s still with me, I cannot recommend Evidence Room‘s Cherry Orchard enough. We’ll see what the critics say (there were a bunch there on Satiddy night), but I say it was exactly “like a kiss”, which is how director Bart DeLorenzo described the tone he was aiming for when we discussed the flyer.

At least, it is if you laugh out loud when you get kissed…

The Cherry Orchard at Evidence Room
Th – Sun at 8pm through July 2
2220 Beverly Blvd. | Los Angeles | 90057
Reservations: (213) 381-7118
More info at

Gas rage?

The AP is running a story about how people are getting upset over the price of gas and taking it out on gas clerks. Everyone has been complaining about gas prices for a while, so I guess it was a matter of time for people to start making a bit deal out of the one or two bad apples who have behaved violently against gas clerks. As if the guy behind the counter is the person who is in charge of worldwide oil prices…

LOS ANGELES – Tempers are rising along with gas prices. Gas stations across the country report that drivers are taking out their gas rage against big oil by yelling at clerks and cashiers and sometimes driving off without paying.

No detailed statistics are kept on incidents of gas rage. But the National Association of Convenience Stores said anecdotal evidence indicates they have increased since prices began climbing in February.

Police in Los Angeles and San Diego — the city with the highest gas prices in the nation — haven’t noticed any violent trends toward gas station workers. But there have been gas-related crimes around the nation. [full story]

Most. Naive. Hackers. Ever.

A couple of kids from NY were recently arrested here in L.A. for blackmailing MySpace (Information Week article here). Apparently, the two developed a code to steal users personal information from MySpace, and then leveraged it against the site. They demanded $150,000, in exchange for which they would NOT release this information to the rest of the population of crackers and script kitties in the pseudo-hacker universe.

So MySpace immediately called the joint local and federal task force in L.A. that deals with “cybercrime”, and then set up a fiendishly clever plot. They would lure the hackers out to L.A. by buying them plane tickets, promising to negotiate, and then arrest them! And, because I imagine that these were the sort of hackers that have better code skills than actual street smarts, they fell for it – and were arrested upon arrival at LAX.

I can only hope these are the jerks that released my MySpace password a few months ago. But even if they aren’t, MySpace should probably focus less on their secret concerts, and more on actually beefing up their security. This also reminds me to remind you all – MySpace is insecure, in so many ways. If you’re using the site, it’s recommended to keep a separate password for it than for, say, PayPal.

Most of all though, I hope that one of the TV channels makes a movie of the week out of this. Of course, that then raises the most important question out of all this: which hilarious GenX TV star should play Tom?

The Daily News Makes Me Want To Puke

My landlord subscribes to the LA Daily News and no matter how many times he’s told them that he only needs one paper a day, they frequently deliver two. Rather than just toss the second copy he often leaves it for me to check out. I usually read the first few lines of the whatever is on the cover (without taking it out of the plastic even), realize that I already read whatever their main story is online the day before and toss it.

Last week he pointed out a story I’d missed by Josh Kleinbaum called ‘bloggers byte back at LAPD’s online foray‘. After getting past that oh-so-clever-yet-circa-1992 headline pun I found an article about “bloggers” reactions to the LAPD Blog. Since this is something I know a thing or two about I quickly read the article hoping to get a viewpoint that I had missed from some other Los Angeles Bloggers who were notable enough to get their names in the ol’ paper. Except I wasn’t so lucky. Not a word from a single LA blogger you might have heard of, but instead plenty of snark quoted from the likes of “Sassy Sue” on (they didn’t provide a link), or anonymous posters on It’s like they went out of their way to only get quotes from people you’ve never heard of, and with no direct links quotes you couldn’t even check out yourself. I was going to write something about it at the time but decide to just ignore it assuming it would just go away.

Unfortunately for everyone who decides to sit down and read this thing, as if on some kind of bashing crusade, the are at it again this week. Only it gets SO much worse. Today the LAFD blog points out a piece by Mariel Garza called ‘LAPD blog just bogs down the net‘ which is so full of inaccuracies it’s not even funny. Do these people have a fact checker over there? I’m guessing no. As I read the piece I was wondering if I should fisk it, pointing out line by line every mistake they made or just pick a few of the bigger ones to highlight. (UPDATE: The LAPD has posted their own reply to this column here)

Continue reading The Daily News Makes Me Want To Puke

LACM :: Friday, May 26th

On Friday, I rode again with LA Critical Mass. This is the one on the last Friday of the month, that leaves from Wilshire at Western. We meet at the Metro station and ride at 7pm. Or we’re supposed to – without anyone taking charge of the ride, it’s more like 7:15. Which was when one guy just lost it and yelled, “COME ON, ALL YOU SCENESTERS! IF YOU WANT TO SIT AROUND AND LOOK COOL, GO BACK TO F–KING SILVERLAKE!”

And that did actually get everyone started on the process of beginning the ride. Ten minutes later, we were wheeling down Western, towards Venice. And somehow, it spread through the ride by osmosis that we were going to the South Central Farm. The idea had to circulate by osmosis; the portable sound system that one of the riders had on a cart behind his bike was too loud for any sort of talking or conferring.
Continue reading LACM :: Friday, May 26th