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."

Parking in LA: A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

I am considering a left turn...
I am considering a left turn...

For naught did I study hermeneutics. Traffic signs are shrouded.  On the other hand, the parking signs are still far more opaque to me overall.  The omission of a district, however, at least lets me roll my eyes immediately; unlike those collections of 4 or more rules about just when I might park, none of which seem quite possible to reconcile with each other.


Note to readers: The form of the quotation “An enigma wrapped in a riddle, shrouded in mystery” seems more mellifluous to me, as well as more familiar.  However, the attribution to Winston Churchill of the title form seems convincing, and surprisingly modern.

The awnings of a new era

The Flapper

I was walking at night, near my home, in what the LA Times apparently calls “Mid-City,” and found myself strangely transported by the spirits of the stucco and Spanish-style 1920s houses on these nice blocks. It is this architecture that feels most “Los Angeles” to me, though admittedly perhaps largely simply as an artifact of where I have lived during my fairly brief sojourn here.  Accompanied by my dearest native informant, thoughts started to swirl in my mind, about the people whom these houses first saw, and what in turn these people saw, and how they would see this neighborhood now.

My quandry, in this case, was mostly technological, if you can perhaps extend “technology” to encompass that part of it that concerns the social and political organization and regimentation of people themselves.  Michel Foucault is always relatively dear in my thoughts.  Grabbing an average American, but not necessarily an Angeleno per se, from 1925, what would he or she think of 2009 Los Angeles? … Continue reading The awnings of a new era

If only California were Iowa

Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain
Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain

No more discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the  Tall Corn State. A unanimous Supreme Court, and no possibility for overly hasty amendment of a protection of rights (not until 2012, at the earliest, and unlikely by then).

I was lucky enough to live in Massachusetts in 2004. Like Iowa, we had some checks-and-balances against an overly quick constitutional revision process. Mob rule ain’t always all it’s cracked up to be; good courts have a place.

Is this a DUI offense?

Bumper sticker seen on Crescent Heights, Hollywood.


Sorry for the technical limits.  I was driving, and not able to get an actual picture of the sticker.  I think my reproduction captures the essence of it though.  For what it’s worth, car looked to be about a 1990’s Toyota, not obviously falling apart, but also not so pricey as the German cars that inhabit my neighborhood.

(for blind readers and robots: the image reads “I’d rather be reading Bukowski”)

Form follows floatsam

A simulacrum of nothing much
A simulacrum of nothing much

One of the many horrors of L.A. architecture is certainly its over-presentation in movies and television. It is comically clichéd to see stories set in other cities, whose framing shots are the same Los Angeles “skyline” that even non-Angelenos have come to recognize as framing shots of every non-L.A. city that makes it onto filmic representation.  What makes this SoCal-centrism so much the worse is the underlying vacuity of buildings in Los Angeles.  Fredric Jameson, following Jean-François Lyotard, famously advanced the notion of postmodernism as pastiche, and Angelena intellectuals often paint the unthinking, seedy eclecticism of Los Angeles as advancing such post-modern ideals (or its anti-idealism, perhaps).

Continue reading Form follows floatsam

An amphiboly about amphibians

I have only been to CalTech once, and Pasadena is admittedly not quite Los Angeles… although they were pretty close from the perspective of my still-East-Coast eyes at the time of that visit. I’m sure no one is really waiting with bated breath, but I warn you now of a future rant on the meaning of “place.” I digress.

While wandering the campus, I sat for a while near a small pond filled with frogs. Actually, the frogs were a nice addition to the campus, with maintenance people returning them to the pond from various nearby buildings. Aside from the pleasant scene, what caught my eye was a sign at the edge of the pond:

“Please do not feed or remove animals from pond”

In some sense, a reasonable and commonplace enough request. On closer mental inspection it struck me how odd it was. In particular, it is a lovely case of a turn of classical rhetoric: amphiboly. About… well, amphibians.

There’s little in life I like more than alliteration.

Thermal Corruption

Places with actual weather
Places with actual weather
Since I’ve moved to Los Angeles–two “winters”, so called, so far–I’ve been overwhelmed by the creeping inability to withstand any actual weather that afflicts Angelenos. The “storms” this December drove in this observation. Partially via the rather breathless newscasters excitedly proclaiming the few inches of snow in some nearby mountains and slightly coolish temperature in Los Angeles and environs themselves, coming during some pleasantly mild rains. But really the observation strikes me hardest among my own friends and acquaintances.

I can understand well enough how natives to the area would be inexperienced with things like water coming from the sky, or temperatures falling to actual button-your-jacket levels. For that matter, the immigrants from similar or warmer climes, are equally excused of the corruption of this rant… Continue reading Thermal Corruption

The micro-geography of fashion

Los Angeles is marked more than most cities, maybe more than any other city, by a locality of style. I’m not sure what happens if these locals drive (or walk!) between neighborhoods, but it seems that one can nearly pinpoint the block you are at just by looking at the outfits of pedestrians and passers-by. But then, it goes beyond garments, actually, pose and posture–most certainly facial expression–likewise modulates by quarter mile, fashinistas wired like pigeons with an internal magnetic GPS organ.

It would be interesting, I think, to try photographing people on blocks, and testing readers’ recognition of areas this way. The photos should not give away much of architecture, but I think we’d get surprisingly good success. For some future post, I hope.

Propriety among the lumpenproletariat

Until a few months ago, I rented some office space outside my home, in a building with a half dozen small suites in the Fairfax District.  One evening, going into work (for I am a night owl, and my brain starts doing its best around midnight), I found an unfolded pocket knife laying unsafely on the exterior metal back-stairs to the building…

Continue reading Propriety among the lumpenproletariat

The opiate of the masses

Christianity: Now for English Speakers

This sign struck me on an evening walk on Olympic, near Fairfax. Not quite Korea Town, but heading in that direction, linguistically and geographically. The sign, which read “An English Speaking Christian Congregation,” had a reminiscence of bad old discrimination/ exclusion signs, but I think its intention is almost exactly the opposite.  Next door to these Lutherans is a Korean Episcopalean church.  That one was written mostly in Korean (which I don’t read, nor speak, unfortunately), but with a small caption saying “English services in basement”.

While I certainly cannot see any good in anyone in whatever linguistic community receiving religious indoctrination, I like the addition of factual consumer warnings to their signage, roughly:  “If you want the benefit (or harm) of religion, here’s an ingredients label to evaluate.”

The essence of sex and rights

courtgavelThere is something that has gone wrong in the last 40 years of the gay-rights movement, albeit for generally well-meaning reasons.  The justifiable outrage over the passage of Proposition 8 has accentuated this fact in my mind, as did seeing Milk a couple months ago (not because of anything in particular about the quite good movie itself, but just because of the times it chronicles).

By way of background, I have something a familial boast: my mother wrote the first gay rights ordinance in the USA, when I was in my first years of elementary school. This ordinance, like most of those that followed in the few years after it, led to a recall of much of the city council, … Continue reading The essence of sex and rights

That old mole

I'll be your author this evening
I'll be your author this evening

I moved to Los Angeles in October 2006, for a strange contract, in this strange specular land. Then, as now, I was reminded of our friends at the Bureau of Public Secrets who so presciently remarked of 21st century LA:

As the world of the spectacle extends its reign it approaches the climax of its offensive, provoking new resistances everywhere. These resistances are very little known precisely because the reigning spectacle is designed to present an omnipresent hypnotic image of unanimous submission.

Continue reading That old mole

The silver lining in the housing crisis

800px-soviet_apartment2As surely as many bad things pertain to our current global depression, it has had a twofold benefit for me personally. Mind you, I am little fond of the decimation of my retirement accounts or the continuing unemployment of my significant other. Still, I am a renter in L.A., and one has to see some redemption in the free-fall of rental prices (even if they are not, perhaps, quite so rapid as those of underlying property values).

I just moved to a new apartment a few days ago. As with most moves, it was accompanied by endless fretting over finding just the right place, with advantages and drawbacks of each one. Quite a few candidates went through the mill, in various neighborhoods (but generally roughly West Side). The ultimate result was renting a Fairfax District place, 400 feet away from our prior apartment… Continue reading The silver lining in the housing crisis