John Waters Perverts Los Angeles

Actor, author, artist, auteur…provocateur John Waters is coming to Los Angeles this week. On Wednesday evening he’ll be at Largo at the Coronet, in conversation with Jeff Garlin.

Waters, the legendary filmmaker (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray, Cry-Baby, Pecker, among others) is on a book tour promoting the paperback release of Role Models, his essays about people he finds inspiring. Subjects range from Tennessee Williams and Johnny Mathis to Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten.

This is bound to be a fascinating (and funny) evening. Get your tickets now, and I’ll see you there.

What: John Waters in conversation with Jeff Garlin.
Where: Largo at the Coronet, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles
When: Wednesday, 4 May 2011. 8:00pm.
Tickets available online.

Arrive early. You don’t want to miss a moment. By the way, if you’ve never been to Largo, it’s important to remember the rules; they’re pretty strict about them. No late entry, no cell phones/texting, no photos, no talking. Break the rules and you’ll likely be given the boot. Follow the rules and you’ll likely have a delightful evening.

The Rattling Wall: New LA-based Literary Journal

Skylight Books Sign in Los Feliz

I’m not one of those Angelinos who will claim that our literary culture rivals that of New York (sorry people, it just doesn’t–we can still love LA and concede secondary status on pizza and publishers). Nonetheless, we do have a pretty vibrant community of writers and readers. I’ve written about Chaparral and What Books Press here before, and I’m always happy to see news of a new journal or press.

On that note, The Rattling Wall is set to launch this month, and the inaugural issue looks delightful with offerings from Albert Reyes, Tony Hoagland, James Frey, and Neal Pollack, among others. They’re having a release party at the Hammer a week from tomorrow. If Hoagland were reading, I’d be there in a heartbeat, but alas he is not. Nonetheless,the slate is full of talent: Joseph Mattson, Michelle Meyering, James Greer, Neal Pollack, Allison Burnett, Stacey Waite, Eloise Klein Healy, Sam Dunn, Matthew Zapruder, Lou Mathews. It should be a great reading.

We Do So Read! LA Times’ Festival of Books

the bumper of my car

When you ask people what’s great about LA, they might say the weather or the beach or the sushi or art walk or the New Bev or Umami Burger… but they almost never say “the literary scene.”   Yknowhatimsayin?

Still, we read. Well, some of us do, anyway, and many of those some of us will be at LA Times’ Festival of Books this weekend. I’ll admit I’ve never been there myself (though other’ers have). Somehow it always gets trumped by a work event or a trip or something. This year, though, may be the year for me. I would love, love, love to see Jennifer Egan on Saturday*, though given her recent award, that panel will no doubt be packed plus I have a time conflict with a three-year-old’s birthday party in Ventura (Does the J.Egan panel promise a bouncy house? I think not!). Continue reading “We Do So Read! LA Times’ Festival of Books”

Tina Fey in Conversation with Steve Martin, April 19

People often ask me if Tina Fey is gay.  This is because, I think, and unfortunately for me, I’m the only gay person they know, and they assume that we all know who the others are, like Cylons or something.  The larger takeaway, though, is the implication behind the question: that very few women can have the strength of her talents, defy as many conventions, and not talk incessantly about how she should be defined as a mother first, unless she were a lesbian.  There’s a whole lot wrapped up in that implication, too much to deconstruct here, so I’ll just say: that is a terrible work of fiction that no one wants to read but for some reason keeps getting checked out.

For those of you (gay, straight, boy, girl, in between, on the fringe) looking for a little inspiration a la Fey, Live Talks LA is hosting the writer/producer/actress/comedian at the Nokia Theater on Tuesday, April 19.  Fey will discuss her upcoming memoir, Bossypants, with Steve Martin.  Tickets just went on sale on Friday; get them here.  My guess is that these will sell out, soon, so you better get on it, now.

For those curious about Fey’s essaying abilities (because being head writer at SNL, the creator/writer of 30 Rock, and the writer of Mean Girls isn’t quite enough), check out the last few issues of The New Yorker. An essay  first appears in the same issue as the fantastic article on Scientology, about “juggling” her career and her – blahblah – family (“What is the rudest question you can ask a woman? ‘How old are you?’ ‘What do you weigh?’ ‘When you and your twin sister are alone with Mr. Hefner, do you have to pretend to be lesbians?’  No, the worst question is: ‘How do you juggle it all?’”).

The second essay, in this week’s issue, is on the lessons she learned from Lorne Michaels (“Never tell a crazy person he’s crazy.” – I’m assuming she’s talking about Tracy Morgan here, but I may be projecting).  I hope Tina Fey and Rudy Giuliani do a book exchange, BossyPants for Leadership, just to compare and contrast styles.  If you have nothing going on – and, heck, even if you do – go to the newsstand, flip to page 22, and just read it.  It’s great.  It makes you want to buy the book or e-book.  And, yes, see her live from Los Angeles, on a Tuesday night.

An Evening with Tina Fey in Conversation with Steve Martin, Tuesday, April 19 at 8:00pm at the Nokia Theatre. Tickets are $29 (seat only)/$49 (premier seating plus Fey’s book)/$119 (prime seating plus Fey and Martin’s books). A signing will follow the talk.

Swap Your Borders Rewards Plus Card for a Vroman’s Gift Card

How’s this for a role reversal: instead of begging you to support the indepenent bookstore, Vroman’s in Pasadena is going out of its way to support you. The Pasadena independent bookstore will give you a $20 gift certificate to the store in exchange for your Borders Rewards Plus Card.  You know, that red card you bought for $20 because you thought it meant you would receive a discount on things, but now, in light of the Borders bankruptcy, is just another mini-card making your keychain look like a prison guard’s keychain, if the prison guard worked at a prison with cardkeys for keys (how fancy!).  Note that the offer is limited to the first 200 Borders Rewards Plus Card-carrying people, so go on, swap card for card, and maybe pick up a book with your new treasure.  Maybe this one?

Photo by Clinton Steeds and used under a Creative Commons license.

Sweet Charity: Blogging LA’s Guide to Giving – The Library Foundation of Los Angeles

“I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.
– Isaac Asimov, in his book, “I. Asimov: A Memoir”

Sometimes when I get really angry at people for being whatever negative adjective they are being at the time, generally, I remember the library.  The library, to me, is the epitome of human goodness – there’s just so much trust required in order to make the whole system work.  I check out a book, and you trust me to return it in a timely(ish) manner so that you can read it later, too.   I trust you to not tear out pages from old issues of Real Simple (because you can check out the back issues of magazines at the Los Angeles Public Library, something I just discovered, to my amazement) so that I too can learn all about repurposing dental floss into a cheese slicer.  You trust me not to spill (too much) oil or flour on Baking: From My Home to Yours, a gorgeous book by Dorie Greenspan (CIRC 641.71 G8147-1) while I decide whether I would reference this enough to justify its purchase.  I do appreciate your marginal notes, though.  I trust you to not mark up Louise Erdrich’s fantastic Shadow Tag (FIC ERD), because she writes, extremely well, about the critical importance of space and privacy even within the confines of an intimate relationship, thoughts that more than one person I know, myself included, wanted to highlight and send to our ex’es.

And then there is the trust we have in our local governments to use our tax dollars and funding to support this resource.  One of the funniest/saddest things that happened all year happened during the horrific heat wave that saw downtown roasting at somewhere between 105 and 115 degrees.  The city’s Emergency Management Department urged the public to seek out cooling centers to be safe.  The city also suggested that they seek refuge at one of the LA Public Library’s branches. It was a very good suggestion, except for one thing: on the day the suggestion was made – a Monday that saw downtown LA registering a record-shattering 113 degrees, the hottest day in September since 1877 – all of the city’s libraries were closed.  The Central Library and its 72 branches were closed pursuant to the City Council’s decision earlier in the year to close the library on Sundays and Mondays.  To save money.  Or something. Currently, the library’s homepage is very, very excited to announce that its branches, including the Central Library, will be open on two Mondays this month.  That is sad.

Cutting city investment in an institution that does all it can to invest, educate, and empower its citizens is one of the meanest and most counter-intuitive things you can do.  Take your we-are-in-a-recession argument and shove it back where it came from: the recession is exactly the reason why cities in general should commit tenaciously to their libraries, schools, and other sources of public education.  Tellingly, for all the cuts made this year with surgical imprecision, the police department’s budget was not similarly manhandled.  I suppose this makes sense: if people aren’t going to the library, surely they’re committing crimes on the streets.  On the bright side, we haven’t privatized our libraryyet.

’Tis the season, then, to give a little to our library system.  There are a few ways to give: there are, for example, a number of Friends of the Library groups that support specific branch libraries.  The Library Foundation of Los Angeles (LFLA) is the umbrella non-profit support organization for the LAPL.  Donations to LFLA benefit the Central Library and its 72 branches; they also support the library’s amazing ALOUD series – the same series that delivered Jonathan Gold to the foodies, John Waters to the quirkies, and Natalie Merchant to the children of the ’90s.  Your donations also fund amazing exhibits like “Forty Years of Sesame Street Illustration.”

So, this is me, trusting you, again.  Thanks for returning that book.   And thanks for investing in the library.

Beautiful photo of a wedding reception at the Central Library courtesy bhampton1963 via the Blogging LA Flickr pool.

This post is part of our Sweet Charity: Blogging LA’s Guide to Giving series, just in time for the holidays.

Small Business Saturday

You may have heard that today is something called [checks notes] “Black Friday.” I quote Wikipedia here:

Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season…On this day, many retailers open very early, often at 4 a.m., or earlier, and offer promotional sales to kick off the shopping season.

To me, it sounds like a nightmare, but hey — to each his own.

Why not support your local small businesses by shopping with them tomorrow on the brand new tradition of Small Business Saturday? You know there are many business in your neighborhood that you love and want to keep around.

One of my personal favorites is The Traveler’s Bookcase. They are tiny but carry  so many amazing books — cookbooks, art books, travel guidebooks, travel writing and many awesome accessories for all your travel wants and needs. They may not be able to offer steep discounts, but they will offer personal service and a lovely inviting atmosphere. (Their couch is a comfy place to fantasize about your next adventure.)

Why should you support small businesses? Here are some interesting facts* that I just learned:

• For every $100 spent at local small business, $68 returns to the community.
• Small businesses employ half of all private sector employees.
• Small businesses represent 99.7% of all employer firms.

In these wacky economic times, keeping small businesses in business is more important than ever. If you can, please consider supporting your favorite small businesses this holiday season!

*I learned this on the Small Business Saturday website and you can learn more about the effort there too.

A Pair of Paragons: Jonathan Gold and Bret Easton Ellis at the Hammer

Richard Alexander Caraballo's photo used through Creative Commons

When I conjure the list of people I believe epitomize L.A. in some sense, Jonathan Gold and Bret Easton Ellis are both on that list, but together? Talking?  I admit I hadn’t really considered that. When I saw that the Hammer has them in conversation this Tuesday (tomorrow), I just had to pass it along to you all. I myself am busy or I’d go just because I love L.A., and Gold and Ellis are utterly paradigmatic of the city, each in his own way.

Can you imagine the conversation?

JG: You know, that story about kids snorting coke all night and prostituting themselves reminds me of this amazing coq au vin I had at this little French place on the Westside last month.

BEE: Speaking of cock, let me tell you about the novel I’m working on now…

Seriously, it’s bound to be a great night. (It’s like the sequel to Hank Moody’s stolen novel; this one’s called Fucking and Lunching.) 

Plus, the Hammer events are free, and there’s cheap parking ($3) right underneath the building. If only the gelato place up the street, Piccomolo, hadn’t closed it would be like a perfect evening. Have fun Let me know how it is.

London Calling

Rodger Jacobs is a friend of mine. Up until several years ago he lived in Los Angeles blogging at 8763 Wonderland and commenting pretty regularly here at Then he moved up to San Francisco. After that, Vegas baby where his bloggings can now be found at Bat Country.

It’s been a trip — and mostly not a pleasant one to understate things. A couple months ago he climbed into the Las Vegas Sun and showed everyone how bad things had gotten, and in having that remarkable courage to do so inadvertently proved beyond a troll-stuffed shadow of a doubt that Tennessee Williams’ Blanche Dubois was full of shit. Kindness of strangers, my ass. Fuck ’em — especially those who commented so vindictively and judgmentally. Line every single self-important hating motherfucking one of ’em up with me wearing the latest in the Gorton’s Fisherman Fall Line of slickers and a baseball bat. Sa-wing batta!

But I both digress and now can never run for public office without that psycho quote coming back to haunt me. Ohgeedarn.

Behaving far more proactively and nonfeloniously, I did what I could to help keep him in cigarettes for a few days. Beyond that I’ve been sending a shitload of positive-affirming vibes in the direction of Sin City.

So what? Well, bear with me. I prefaced this post with all that because in the midst of all the crap he’s endured and enduring, there’s an incredible new book out that Rodger wrote the preface to called Jack London — San Francisco Stories, edited by Matthew Asprey from Sydney Samizdat Press. Since Rodger gets a little sumpin’ sumpin’ with every copy sold, I bought two. And since I don’t read in stereo I’m giving my spare copy away. I thought about auctioning it off on eBay with the proceeds going to Rodger, or just donating it to my local library branch and encouraging you good people to buy a copy, but in the end I went in between those two options and added it to my Neighborgoods inventory. So if one of you good people want it, be the first to request it. We can either arrange a hand-off or I’ll put it in the mail to you. Simple dimple.

Cartographical Fantastication

In any of my many urban explorations and travels over my native city I’m that guy: the one who always stops and marvels upon discovery of a broken patch of asphalt that reveals a strata of brick roadway beneath it. The one who sees a bit of exposed trolley car track and sighs. I ride Angel’s Flight with my eyes closed. I stand at Los Angeles Plaza looking across the street and back through time when instead of a parking lot and freeway onramp stood a literal den of inequity and ill repute in the form of an alleyway called Calle de los Negros.

As a reveler in what lies beneath and a craver of historical context, all I had to do was see the cover and read the title of the new book by Glen Creason — the map librarian for the LA Public Library — and my response was Pavlovian. Seriously: one moment last month I was flipping through the current issue of Los Angeles magazine and there it was. Next thing I knew I was on Amazon pre-ordering it. I may or may not have been drooling.

Los Angeles in Maps, published by Rizzoli, arrived yesterday — all glorious 192 maptastic pages of it beginning with what’s believed to be the first published rendering of the area (1853) all the way up to a 2010 LA Times neighborhoods map.

I’ll spare you the OMG as you’ve either already clicked off to go get your own, or such awesomeness is just not as awesome to you as, say, free tix to Mudjunkeez at Spaceland or That Is Not Them That Is Us at Echoplex. But if you’re still here and need more input, allow me to direct you to LA Creek Freak, CicLAvia co-organizer and all-around incredible dude Joe Linton (a contributor to the book), who wrote about it here.

As an aside, the Library Foundation is hosting “Los Angeles in Maps: A Multimedia Journey” at the Central Library’s Mark Taper Auditorium October 28, featuring Creason and author D.J. Waldie. It’s probably standing room only and they’re not accepting any additional reservations online, but I’ll be damned if that’s going to stop me from trying to get in.

Weird Hollywood and others at book signing Friday 10/8/10

There are book signing and then there are Weird book signings that make it all the more fun to attend. This Friday night from 8pm to 10pm, writer Joe Oesterle, who has written a number of the book’s subjects, and other special guests will be at the legendary Boardners bar off Hollywood Blvd. to mingle, sign books, and share some of the weirder tales Los Angeles has been host to.  This book signing is also being co-sponsored by our past city captain David Markland and creator of CreepyLA.

It’s definitely going to be a weird event. Hope to see you there.

Special Guests so far include:
– Karie Bible (from Film Radar, and more notoriously rumored to be the Lady In Black)
– Scott Michaels (celebrity death expert, owner/operator of Dearly Departed Tours)
– Count Smokula (horror host, songwriter)
– Dennis Woodruff (yeah, that guy with the cars)
– Richard Carradine (GHOULA founder, author of The Park After Dark: An Unauthorized Guide to the Happiest (Haunted) Place on Earth)
– Rich Kuras, Managing Editor of
– Christopher Dennis, aka Superman (George Reeves look-a-like) on Hollywood Blvd.
– Steve Goldstein author of “LA’s Graveside Companion.”
– Donna Lethal, sassy Hollywood aficionado and writer
– David Markland (creator, CreepyLA)

Deets 10/8 8PM-10PM, Boardners Bar 1652 N. Cherokee Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028

What Books Press at the Rumor Mill

one of Gronk's many amazing images for What Books Press

Wednesday night I had the good fortune to hear several What Books Press/Glass Table Collective writers read at the Wanted: Writers! series at the Rumor Mill. I’ve been meaning to send a shout out about the Rumor Mill for a while after meeting Joe Staats, the master of ceremonies in line to get books signed at the Central Library. This was the third time I’ve been to a Wanted: Writers! reading at the Rumor Mill and each time I leave entertained and feeling part of a community of writers and readers.

Last Wednesday’s reading was particularly special since Katherine Haake, Chuck Rosenthal, and Karen Kervorkian are all part of a collective of “poets and fiction writers, essayists, political activists, a painter, a film-maker [who] . . .  have come together to create, promote, and celebrate new books of literary writing and astounding art.”  The work read Wednesday ranged from tales of space aliens, poems constructed from the landscapes of New Mexico and Texas, and a romp of  a story featuring no less a protagonist than Robert Altman Sr.’s chicken (I would say cock, but that might give the wrong idea–it wasn’t *that* kind of reading). Gronk does all of the cover art for the press and has his own book, A Giant Claw.

For $70 you can subscribe for a year to What Books Press and receive new releases signed by the authors. You can expect to hear more from me about WBP and Wanted: Writers! in the future.

Vietnam Evening At Traveler’s Bookcase On Wednesday 7/14

Always wanted to travel to Vietnam but your budget doesn’t quite allow it right now? Here’s an event to fulfill your appetite, at least for a night.

Traveler’s Bookcase is having an evening dedicated to Vietnamese food and travel this Wednesday evening, July 14. The event surrounds the recently published book by Kim Fay and Julie Fay Ashborn called “Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam.” Following the reading and book signing, there will be a reception with wine, soft drinks and tasty treats prepared from the book. As a bonus, the vegan friendly Mandoline Grill Vietnamese Food Truck will be parked nearby with inexpensive, delicious Vietnamese classics.

Traveler’s Bookcase
8375 West Third Street

Read more about the book at Kim Fay’s Website.

Love: Still a Battlefield at Border’s, This Friday

Photo by Heidy Escobar

I’m not a religious guy. I believe in science and evolution and Einstein. When people ask me what I think about the origin of the universe, I generally tell them the same story every time: That superintelligent otherdimensional aliens used hyperadvanced technologies to create a simulated universe with the goal that that universe would eventually develop a planet whose inhabitants would evolve to create the most pure, most unambiguously perfect example of art, and that that goal was reached in 1987 when The Replacements recorded “Alex Chilton,” and ever since then the universe has outlived its usefulness and we just have to figure out ways to spend our time until the whole cotillion runs low on thermodynamic free energy and collapses.

Though I admit I could be wrong. The answer could actually be Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker.”

I mention this because Benatar herself will be appearing at the Border’s at 1360 Westwood Blvd. this Friday night at 7 PM to promote her new book “Between a Heart and a Rock Place.” As a fan of small and used bookstores I’m generally not too keen on Border’s, but I’m willing to pay them a visit when they either (a) send me a coupon for 40% off any item in the store or (b) host one of the greatest rock musicians of the 1980s.

Visit the Border’s event page for more information.

Taschen Sale This Weekend

grooverama's Taschen photo used through Creative Commons

I had the paradigmatic blogger moral struggle about this post: do I do my duty as a Metblogger and let you all know about the Taschen sale or do I keep mum and save all the best buys for myself? In the end, my love for you, my fellow Angelenos, won out. I am letting the cat out of the bargain bag.

This weekend there is a giant sale (50-75% off) on display copies and slightly banged up books at all Taschen stores. Taschen, for those of you who are unfamiliar, publishes lovely, delicious books that are almost as much fun to hold in your hands as they are to read. Recent publications include books on David LaChapelle, big butts, Burton Holmes’ turn of the century travel photos, and Philippe Starck. I have no idea what in particular will be on sale, but it’s hard to go wrong in a Taschen store. Details after the jump.

Continue reading “Taschen Sale This Weekend”