All posts by Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters

Lulu awoke himself, halfway through life's journey, in the darkness of Los Angeles, having lost a straight road in a sleepy New England town. During these last couple years, he's found delight and bewilderment in this urban left-coast adventure. More banal: if you want to ask Google about me, you might try either this frequent nom-de-guerre, or the name "David Mertz."

Too Sexy for Beverly Blvd

Sexy-Volvo-smallI have fond memories of the boxy Volvo’s I used to own.  And probably less fond ones of seeing the Playboy sticker outlines on truck mudflaps.  Somehow I wouldn’t have thought to combine the two.

I guess it’s the neighborhood.  I am not sure whether the driver ahead of me on La Cienega was heading to the vegan Real Food Daily restaurant, or perhaps to the Live Nude Girls Girls Girls strip club, since they are right across the street from each other.

Dressing for the H-Bomb

Nuclear_fireballAs the Station Fire still lingers over these last weeks, only now finally almost fully contained, I’ve pointed many folks to the dramatic images of the pyrocumulus clouds that have come out of it, especially the time-lapse images of these clouds developing.  Like many folks new to having such large fires quite so close, I only learned about the pyrocumulus mechanism with this fire.  One thing that is dramatic in this phenomenon (apart from the sufficiently dramatic itching eyes, headaches, and sore throats that all my friends seem to share) is its striking resemblance to an H-Bomb blast.

I am not the first to note this resemblance, of course.  Not even the first Metblogs author to do so.  Nor the first to think and write about the identity of the thermodynamic mechanism of the formation of an H-Bomb’s mushroom cloud over the course of seconds, and the fire’s formation of one over the course of days or weeks.

Continue reading Dressing for the H-Bomb

Fit to be Tied in LA

PoserNote: It looks like Mrs. Lulu has snuck into the blogosphere again.

Once again I find myself in a dispute with LA Fitness’ business office.

[EDIT: I am in such strong agreement with Mrs. Lulu’s rant here that I’d love to see all our readers share their “my gym screwed me” stories in the comments. I think this is an industry-wide pattern of lying to– and screwing– customers. If you have an experience like Mrs. Lulu’s, read on & let us know. –Lucinda.]

The second time in my husband’s and my two year membership. The first time there was a problem was when he tried to quit his personal trainer contract after the so-called trial period was up. They simply ignored our written and phone requests and continued to bill my credit card. Even after speaking to one of their reps (not an easy feat to accomplish), two more months of illegitimate billing went by before I disputed the charges with my credit card company and got (partial) satisfaction. Continue reading Fit to be Tied in LA

The Future of Voting Systems in Los Angeles County

ivotedbigApart from my other jobs, I moonlight as a wonk.  In particular, for the last 6 years or so, I’ve been involved with a group called the Open Voting Consortium, much of that on its board and as its CTO. With that hat on, I am enormously excited that Los Angeles County is likely to get much better voting systems in the relatively near future.

Let me give the brief plug: we want to make sure that no one has to vote on proprietary DRE voting machines (or ever does voluntarily, for that matter).  There are two glaring flaws in these systems: the source code is secret (so-called trade secrets), and both accidental flaws and deliberate vote tampering is both possible and has likely happened; a voter has no means to inspect the recorded vote before casting it (other than a machine telling them, “trust us, we’ll put the right electrons somewhere”).  Continue reading The Future of Voting Systems in Los Angeles County

Public fitness

2009-08-09 16.16.34
Geysol Johana Lopez Vazquez Fitness Zone

In this post, I feel I must partially recant my complaints about lack of public communal spaces in Los Angeles.  At least on weekend days (albeit still very little at night, and notably less on week days), my local park is well occupied by families on picnics, and both children and adults engaged in semi-organized sports, especially soccer.  Of possible note is that English is not exactly a prominent language in such communal interaction, but there is no reason why it need be.  Moreover, sometimes our city government does something that is simply nice.  A recent addition to mid-town’s Pan Pacific Park is a collection of outdoor exercise equipment.  I am pretty well impressed by the design of the equipment that relies wholly on gravity mechanisms rather than separate weight stacks–that is, the resistance is against the weight of the exerciser herself, appropriately leveraged (more-or-less).

Continue reading Public fitness

The Celluloid Closet

Coming_out_of_the_closetIt is an old documentary (from 1995), but one I only got around to watching last night.  The Celluloid Closet is worth watching, if you can put aside just how seriously it takes itself, and just enjoy the delightful old movie clips it incorporates.  Oh yeah, it had apparently been a book too, but who reads those (and in this case, film genuinely seems more relevant since it can include illustrative clips).  The basic point of the film is more-or-less what you expect, even if you have not seen it: The Hayes Code, along with general homophobia, of course, censored the comparatively explicit representations of homosexuality in early film.  Homosexuals became marked only by coded language and innuendo, but in such a way that those “in the know” knew what Hollywood films were really about.

I would have liked some more depth to it.  It wasn’t only homosexuality that was censored by Hollywood, and it’s not clear that that particular anxiety was the primary one governing the anti-communist, misogynous, racist, xenophobic, imperialist, and puritanical decades of the 1940s and 50s.  A lot of other matters of interest to writers and viewers were equally only mentioned indirectly and in whispers.  OK, so it is just a documentary for HBO, and it hardly needs address the entire political landscape of America through several decades.  But maybe just a little less of the “woe be upon us queers in Hollywood” in the tone would be desirable.  Yes, they are right on the facts, but a bit greater nuance would be nice. Continue reading The Celluloid Closet

WRSHP the desert


You gotta grant Los Angeles its geographic or climatic diversity.  LA is not unique in this feature–I was surprised and delighted when I first visited Vancouver, for example, to find that one could visit a northern rain forest within a half-hour drive, and the visual contrast of the surrounding mountains and the central sound is appealing.  We have an equally broad range of features here in Los Angeles, though warmer and drier versions of those.  Still, we manage beaches, flatlands, and reasonable mountains, in a moderate radius, and with lots of differences in vegetation (albeit spread over more square miles than most geographically diverse cities)

One hears an insistence, from time to time, that Los Angeles is no desert.  This is true, since that would require less than 10in/year of rainfall, where Los Angeles gets about 15in/year.  Something interesting to me, however, as a relative newcomer is that this precipitation is strongly bimodal with low-rainfall years averaging 7-8in/year.  So we are only a desert in odd years, it appears. Continue reading WRSHP the desert

Anger at the graves

Dr. Kenneth Anger

Hollywood’s fabulous Cinespia film series has received notice here at Metblogs a number of times in the past.  I finally made it to my first screening there, which happened as well to be my first viewing of films of Los Angeles’ own Kenneth Anger. Delightfully for us movie goers, Anger’s short films were introduced by Dr. Anger himself (and his young friend, Lucifer, sung a song as well).

On Cinespia, I regret that I only got around to making it and posting this near the end of this year’s season.  If you have not been there, by all means make an effort to see one of the last few screenings.  The social atmosphere of the only-slightly macabre cemetery lawn is an absolute delight, especially if you bring a pleasant friend and a picnic basket to the screening.  This event feels distinctively Los Angeles, in the best of ways.

Anger is an interesting film maker, from my brief experience.  Of course, this fascination might be in my genes, since my non-LA father apparently has a dozen different cuts of the short “Lucifer Rising.” I am just trying to catch up with that generation (anger being closer to the generation past him).  Anger eschews such common devices as dialog, plot, narrative, and really even much use of fades, pans, and other cinematic gestures towards the illusion of the camera’s eye.  Instead we get plain montage, with lingering repetitions of leather men, motorcycles, Hitler, Lucifer, flowers, bunnies, scenic skies… that sort of thing.  All set to either acid rock, bubblegum pop, or some other genre of music.  It’s symbolist film, without Warhol’s lingering attachment to hints of storytelling.  While it might not sound such from my description, there is something shockingly compelling in these compositions.  Find them by all means.

Defending Los Angeles

planet_hollywoodOur glorious blog leader, Lucinda Michelle, recently provided readers here with an amusing tongue-in-cheek List of Things Not To Complain About Ever Again. Apart from the particular items on her list, the aggregation reminded me of the LA-specific novelty of this whole concept of “haters.” I think there is something culturally interesting in the concept.

In my own experience, I had never actually heard of this category of person until shortly before arriving in our fair city, and do not think I have encountered anyone who quite occupies the categories while here. But boy is there ever lots of talk about necessary defenses against such disparagers. Somehow I suspect a connection to the LA Weltanschauung of circularity and self-reference. Y’know, that Baudrillardian moment we all feel on LA streets and in its cafes. Continue reading Defending Los Angeles

All that is solid melts into air

luxemburg-by-churchill-smallOur estimable friend and blog author, Chal Pivik posted a description of the statement “Prepare to Prevail,” written by three LGBT advocacy groups.  These groups urged advocates of marriage equality to wait.  Or specifically “Going back to the ballot […] in 2010 would be rushed and risky.”  To me, equality is 2010 is “rushed” in much the same way that it was rushed, by Brown, in 1954. Does it strike anyone else as noteworthy trivia that the Brown decision of May 17, 1954 was 50 years to the day prior to implementation of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (i.e. the first same-sex marriages in the United States)? Continue reading All that is solid melts into air

I saw the worst minds of my generation…

Exene Cervenka at CAFAM
Exene Cervenka at CAFAM

At the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) last Sunday, I had the pleasure of hearing a reading by legendary Los Angeles fixture, Exene Cervenka.  Apart from her musical, artistic, and literary endeavors–which generally take Los Angeles itself as a special focus–Cervenka’s name is quite literally inscribed in stone, at the wonderful Venice Poetry Wall (a fact I stumbled across quite accidentally a year or two ago, with great delight).[*]  As well as reading, and playing a few songs on solo guitar, Cervenka currently has several of her collages hanging on the walls of CAFAM.

Continue reading I saw the worst minds of my generation…

Restroom art of Los Angeles: Johnie’s Coffee Shop

Ex nihilo LA fit
Ex nihilo LA fit

Ever since I moved to Los Angeles, and to my dear Fairfax District, I’ve been meaning to eat at the historical Johnie’s Coffee Shop on Wilshire and Fairfax.  Of course, as with most things LA, the shop is a familiar combination of wide repute and complete unreality.  During a week of fiction, simulacrum, and frenzied media creation of a whole lot of expensive something out of almost nothing, it seemed like a fine time for a meal and a photograph: A garish pop star with a history of strange behaviors and legal troubles had died, thereby disrupting all Los Angeles streets, costing the city millions, and turning all national TV news into tawdry melodramatic fiction. Like the city that hosts it, Johnie’s is a movie prop.

Continue reading Restroom art of Los Angeles: Johnie’s Coffee Shop

No entity without identity

Bumps versus humps

Since I arrived in Los Angeles, and to my lovely Fairfax District, I have noticed a gesture toward block-by-block neighborhood autonomy. It is apparently the perogative of each residential block to decide whether it wishes to be a “bump street” or a “hump street”. There is nuance to this decision; for although there is no distinction in the physical form of the traffic regulation elements, the semantic distinction is dizzy with moral and aesthetic nuance.

Those of us on hump streets scoff at the crude vulgarity of the bumpsters. Sure they can regulate traffic speeds, but they just lack the refined tastes, the cultural cache of speed humps. One gets a sense of mismatch about them, something like when some Hollywood poseur on Melrose wanders onto West Hollywood’s stylish Melrose Avenue, and looks so garishly out of place. Continue reading No entity without identity

Destiny Disrupted (even more ALOUD)

muslim_constitution_religionIt feels like I’m spending my life at the library nowadays. There are surely many far worse fates. The LA Central Library’s ALOUD series of free lectures continues to attract me back, with an ever fascinating array of guests.  Last week, I had seen Walter Kirn speak on his book Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever.  That was an enjoyable program, and Kirn is extremely personable; but for this post, I will comment on last night’s talk with Tamim Ansary, who was presented and interviewed by Amir Hussain (a co-presentation of ALOUD and The Center for Global Understanding).  The title of Ansary’s book matches his talk: Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes.

Of all the talks I have heard at ALOUD, I found Ansary to be the most engaged and fascinating speaker to date. Continue reading Destiny Disrupted (even more ALOUD)

Shouting ALOUD through a rhetorical frame

The central library of Mars?
The central library of John Carter's Mars?

Update: It appears that Mrs. Lulu has snuck into the blog again.  The following contains her observations of a delightful lecture at L.A.’s magnificent Central Library.

Last night, Lulu and I attended one of the LA Central Library’s free lectures in their wonderful ALOUD series:  George Lakoff, “The Public Mind:  A Cognitive Scientist’s Guide to Your Brain and Its Politics, In Conversation with Ian Masters”

We were both particularly excited about this talk since we had studied Lakoff in graduate school.  For those of you who don’t know him, he’s a cognitive scientist and linguist  at UC Berkely, whose interdisciplinary work focuses on investigating the ways in which linguistic and cognitive structures (e.g., metaphors, prototypes, frames) shape perception and social life.

A central theme of last night’s discussion was the way in which the framing mechanisms of public discourse have been controlled by the Republicans […] Continue reading Shouting ALOUD through a rhetorical frame