Category Archives: Rants

Hard Wood Floors: Bad Ad Campaigns Part V

Snapped at Woodman and Ventura
When the history of bad ad campaigns is written, this billboard may have a chapter all to itself, or at least a subsection of a chapter. Seriously, it feels almost too easy to critique this as an example of an awful piece of advertising. I mean, really guys? Really?

This billboard sprang up just a few blocks from my house since I started this bad ad campaign mini-series of posts here at b.la and it almost feels like a plant. Every time I pass it I giggle to myself about hard wood floors. I am, I admit, lodged firmly in arrested adolescence. Retarded in the true sense of the word. Even so, it feels almost unsporting to pick on this billboard–like the jock beating up the fat kid on the playground: it’s just too easy. But of course, here I am.

Other posts in this series:
To A New World of Gods and Monsters
It’s a Thin Line Between “Awesome” and “Awful”
Graffitists, I Invite Thee
Some Things Shouldn’t Go Viral

Pasadena Weekly Column Draws Criticism for “Racist Remarks”

I hate invoking the R-word. And I certainly hate directing that word at people. So before anyone gets on my case for calling someone a racist, let me just say that I think there is a difference between someone actually being a racist and someone doing/saying racist things (though some may ask “What’s the difference?” — a topic for another post!).

But after reading an article (Hearing is not believing, 8/26/2010) in the Pasadena Weekly written by Jim Laris, its former publisher and owner– who evidently has a regular column called Cigar Smoke published in the Pasadena Weekly every other Thursday — I don’t know if there is another word other than “racist” to describe his article, except maybe “unfunny.” The article seems to be trying to telling an “amusing” story about how the sound from his TV/cable box seemed to be coming out in Chinese, but it has drawn the ire of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), who issued a Letter to “Pasadena Weekly” for Racist Remarks.

Again, I just want to make clear I’m not calling Mr. Laris a racist. But I wonder if he had any consideration how the following excerpts might sound to Chinese-speaking (not all of whom are from China or “commies,” by the way) or South Asian people: [emphasis is mine]

  • …we started to hear the Chinese guy Kung Powing in Chinese.
  • It made me exclaim to Marge [his wife], “Holy communist plot, what is happening?”
  • Nat King Cole singing “Oh Holy Night” in commie would have killed me.
  • Should I call Charter? Well, I would probably get some Indian techie guy and when I told him I was hearing Chinese coming out of my TV and then it switched to Nat King Cole, he would hold his hand over the speaker of the phone, and turn to his buddy in Bombay and laugh his tandoori-ass laugh and regain his composure and ask me, “Sir, vat is a Nat King Cole?

Ok, so I get that he’s trying to be funny. He makes reference to his wife calling him “Couch Potato Face” and to imaginary conversations with the late Richard Feynman. But as a former publisher and owner of a publication based in the San Gabriel Valley– one of the largest concentrations of Chinese American populations in the nation– is it really a good idea for him to say things like “kung powing in Chinese” or refer to the language as “commie?” And exactly WHAT is a “tandoori-ass laugh?” Who is trying to be– Joel Stein?

What do you think?

The 5 Worst Trader Joe’s Parking Lots in LA

I love Trader Joe’s for their prices, for their Joe-Joe’s, for their simmering sauces.  But, all the mushy love I have for Trader Joe’s is nearly outweighed by how much I hate it for having absolutely awful parking lots.  If you don’t live near one of their new and improved stores – i.e., the ones at Hollywood and Vine or Olympic and Barrington – then you’re stuck with an archaic lot that is a one-way traffic jam from hell.  This is my list of the 5 Worst Trader Joe’s Parking Lots in LA.

5.  Huntington and Rosemead

The Trader Joe’s on Huntington and Rosemead in the good ol’ San Gabriel Valley shares space with a Petco next door.  Often, when Trader Joe’s plays nice and shares its parking lot space with others, the lot actually is not half bad (see, e.g., the parking lot at Santa Monica Blvd. and Martel in WeHo).  Not so here.  As you can see, the parking lot employs the Loop method.  There are two entrances; whether you go with the Blues or the Reds, you’re going to be stuck in a one-way jam somewhere.

4.  Santa Monica

Like its brother across town, the Trader Joe’s in Santa Monica also utilizes the Loop method, and also fails spectacularly.  There are two entrances: one on Pico, and the other at 33nd (the other end of the loop).  Cars inevitably converge, and it’s a bloody fight on who gets to continue through the Loop.  Smarter drivers forgo the Loop entirely and opt for one of the spots in front of the entrance, or look for a spot behind the store – but good luck getting there.  Those entering on Pico theoretically have a Stop sign to obey, but who listens to red octagons in a parking lot?  No one, apparently.

3.  Silver Lake

I think of this lot as one where Trader God threw up all the available parking spots into the air and let them fall, along with Traitor Satan, into the pits of Hell.  The result: spots scattered awkwardly in a half-Loop around the perimeter of the store.  Cars entering or exiting the lot from either entrance on Hyperion sidle uneasily alongside each other, angling for a spot.   I’ll let you in on a secret though: if you drive on Hyperion, past this insanity, past the Cheese Store, there is an overflow lot.  Park there and save yourself an enormous hassle.

2.  La Brea & 3rd

What is worse than a tiny parking  lot designed for a large volume of suburban shoppers jonesing for some two buck  Chuck?  A tiny parking lot designed for a large volume of shoppers jonesing for  some two buck Chuck located right off of one of the busiest  intersections of the city.  For some reason, Trader Joe’s thought this little plot of land was capable of handling not one, but two, ill-fated Loops.  If  you look carefully at the pic below, you can make out the  arrows painted in the lot, which, I guess, are supposed to tell you  where to go.  In practice, the arrows make no sense:  they don’t  guide you to safety any more than the footsteps do at Ikea.

1.  Arroyo Parkway
This is the OG TJ’s, circa 1967.  The template of its future stores, including, apparently, its horrible parking.  The lot is a labyrinth and the parking slots are tiny beyond tiny  (as my friend pointed out, “only a clown car” could squeeze in the spots).  Overall, the lot is ill-equipped to handle the density of traffic and the vanity of Los Angeles (gigantormous Lexus SUVs hogging 2+ spaces, I am looking at you).  Yes, I would like to know how Trader Joe’s came up with the Loop and Other Urban Parking Lot Nightmares, but what I really want to know is: How did the people in the yellow box get in and out of their cars?

That’s my list.  What’d I miss?

It’s a Thin Line Between “Awesome” and “Awful”: Bad Ad Campaigns Part II

Click for full-sized awesomeness
Every time I drive home from Hollywood through Laurel Canyon, I pass this billboard on Ventura Boulevard that proclaims “AWESOMETOWN: New homes from $200,000.” with pictures of happy running children, a tract home, and a sterile building. And every time I think “Really? Are you serious?” I mean, I understand that “ALL YOU CAN AFFORDTOWN” isn’t a great ad campaign, but AWESOMETOWN?  Forgive me Valencians, but you can’t actually believe this about where you live. What I wonder is this: have the ad people have ever actually been to Valencia? And further: do they believe that Valencia is “awesome” or are they attempting to perpetrate a fraud on the rest of us?

I’ll grant Valencia is home to Cal Arts and Magic Mountain, but apart from those two draws, relative to oh, just about anywhere else in LA County, I’d hardly characterize it as “awesome,” I mean, unless white people, malls, and a town frighteningly evocative of the Truman Show is “awesome” in your book. I’ve always felt like one of the joys of Los Angeles is its messy unplanned nature. The freeway system, viewed from above, looks like a tangle of string or pasta. In any given strip mall you can buy pinatas, shop for Armenian groceries, get a pedicure and have a doughnut, and never have to utter a word of English. LA is random, untidy, and by turns charming and ridiculous. Valencia, on the other hand, is sanitized and sterile. It always makes me feel like I’m in biosphere or Logan’s Run. If I’m there for any period of time, I have to double check my palm to make sure that I don’t have a stone turning black set in the middle of it. I know “I CAN’T WAIT TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERETOWN” doesn’t scan very well, but who are you trying to sell houses to by billing yourself this way, Valencia? Twelve year-olds?

To A New World of Gods and Monsters: Bad Ad Campaigns Part 1

Did anyone else notice this full-page gem in the LA Weekly this week? I look at this and I think “Goddess“? “Fitness”? Wrong. Wrong.

This is noxious on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin, but let’s say this much at least–maybe this is “the most fun you will ever have in fitness” because make-overs, weight loss, champagne, parties, boutiques, performances, and so on, have, in fact, nothing at all to do with fitness.

But maybe I am being too dismissive. Clearly, more thought went into the development of classes and fitness programs than you might think on first glance. Emma Ridley, the owner of this fitness emporium cogently explains: “At Goddess Fitness there is no right or wrong way to move, it is just movement.” I don’t know about you, but I feel fitter already. I’m even moving while I’m typing this post right now.

Not only can you learn to pole dance and have a make-over here, you can get a dye job and a Brazilian as well because what’s a goddess without a decent pelvic thrust and a body smooth as a balloon? I know I’m ridiculously retro, nay, even prehistoric, to question the empowering nature of stripper heels and hairless twats–I admit, my feminism got beached before the third wave–but can we at least agree that these things are not “fitness”? For god’s sake LA, get a grip. This is not an easy town to be a woman in. Truly.

And then there’s the video. Do you suppose there’s some kind of platinum membership level that gives you the boobs too?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QBtf58cmWI&[/youtube]

A friendly note from me to Metro

So, it’s been a week Metro fares went up from $1.25 to $1.50.  Now, I’m not opposed to this increase per se – time passes, seasons change, bus fares go up, thus is the way of the world.  However!  as a very regular bus rider (Line 2 from West Hollywood to UCLA, represent!), I have a few ideas about what Metro should be doing my with my 25 cents per ride, suggestions that, if implemented, would make the buses of Los Angeles much happier places to be.

So, dear Metro Transit Authority, here are three humble suggestions for things you can do with my extra 25 cents a ride:

These buses would be much happier if they didn't have annoying televisions on them.

1.  Please offer transfers from one MTA route to another.  It is absolutely ridiculous that riders have to pay the full fare additional times if their route requires switching busses and/or trains.  This is a major city, right?  I can’t think of any other major cities in which transfers from one bus to another, on the same bus system, are nothing more than a heady fantasy.

2.  Some better bus stop infrastructure would be nice.  I don’t know if this is the purview of the MTA or if it’s a municipal responsibility, but I have had to wait for busses at some amazingly skeevy bus stops.  To wit:  One might assume that the corner of Santa Monica and Wilshire, an intersection of two fairly major thoroughfares, could be a fairly major transit hub.  However, waiting for the Eastbound bus on Santa Monica means waiting at a bus stop where the bench might as well be a board balancing on some cinderblocks.  And there’s no shade. And the stop backs onto an empty lot.  As street corners go, it is probably among the least conducive to encouraging people to wait around for a bus.  And it’s not the only stop like that.  We need more bus shelters, or, heck, even some trees for shade, and there also needs to be some work put into making bus stops safer at night.  Having waited for busses in the wee hours even though my mother always told me that I should just take a cab, I have often found myself wishing for some kind of lighting so that I don’t feel like I’m liable to get jumped at any minute.

3.  And, my most important suggestion:  Now that you’ve got an extra quarter from every rider, you don’t need the income from Transit TV anymore, right?  Right?  Please, please, get rid of Transit TV, oh please, god.  This is absolutely key to the maintenance of my sanity.  Supposedly, 84% of people prefer being on a bus with these televisions on them, which leads me to conclude that they surveyed people who have never ridden a bus in Los Angeles.  When I get on a bus and those horrible televisions are on, I want to stick pins in my eyes.  TVs on buses are not an inherently bad idea.  However, whoever is behind the current programming on bus TV should be fired and not allowed to work in any media-related field, ever.  The Transit TV lineup includes news headlines, read in a monotone, by pasty zombie people; triva questions and brain teasers that seem to be compiled by someone with a less than secure grasp on the workings of the English language (my favorite example, from a few months ago was the following trivia question:  “Yogurt is a member of which food group?”  Answer?  “Milk.”  Which is not really wrong, I guess, but it’s not quite right either); horrible, often offensive jokes; and stupid commercials advertising inane things like mail-order college educations, or, advertising the ad space on Transit TV.  Like, honestly?  Do they really think the people who are riding the bus are the people who are going to buy ad space on the bus?  Do they think we are not agonizingly aware of the presence of ad space on the bus?  Oh, and the volume of the sets can’t be controlled by the drivers, and they’re loud and obnoxious, and all of this programming is presented in the most irritatingly patronizing tone possible.  “It’s like they think everyone on the bus is an idiot,” I said to my roommate one day.  “Or maybe,” he replied, “the people who make Transit TV are idiots.”  Truer words were never spoken.

So, dear Metro Transit Authority, these are the humble propositions I put forward to you, in all your infinite wisdom.  My alternate suggestion would be that you use your newfound revenue to buy me a car, but that somehow seems less within the realms of possibility.

Yours,

Alexandra

(Photo courtesy of LA Wad, via the blogging.LA flickr pool)

You know that Arizona Boycott? It hit a little redlight.

So you know that boycott of Arizona that the City Council pushed through to express the outrage over the Arizona’s new immigration law? A lot of people have suggested it’s just a meaningless move, like banning nail clippers on airplanes, that doesn’t really change anything but lets a lot of people pat themselves on the back for doing the right thing. But it seems as quick as they were to pass it, they are just as happy to write in exceptions to it. Like the redlight cameras all over the city, turns out those are operated by Scottsdale-based American Traffic Solutions, Scottsdale being firmly a part of Arizona. And you know, since those are a big source of revenue for the city and prevent accidents at red lights, in the interest of the people, the City Council has gone ahead and excepted them from the boycott. Except they don’t do either of those things. They aren’t making the city any money and if anything they are causing more accidents. And what is worse, the City Council knows this.

The LAPD’s statistics show that about half of the 32 photo-enforced intersections have either had no change in accidents or an increase, said Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

“That’s not a very good record,” she said. And some of the city’s worst intersections for traffic safety don’t have cameras, she said.

She and Councilman Paul Koretz also pointed to a report from the city’s top budget advisor that says Los Angeles’ revenue from tickets falls about $300,000 short of covering payments to ATS and the LAPD’s costs to run the program.

Doing a heck of a job there City Council. Heck of a job.

Wait, WTF are you doing again exactly??
[part of the above photo taken by flickr user jkarsh and used under creative commons]

(SHHHH!) I’m not Frazgo!

Me, and my ... sandwiches

Yikes!

Nothing like the Last Days of Metbogs to get all us old glue horses out of retirement to post.

It’s been So Long since I posted anything here, though, that I can’t remember my danged password, and even when the system tries to give me a new one I can’t get in.

So I knocked Frazgo over the head and stole his login info!

Here we all are, blogging out hearts out for you –

More to come… at least until May 31, when the whole damned thing gets shut down.

(in the neighborhood right now? with some extra canned food for our food drive? Well Bring It On In!)

Hey. Umami Burger. You suck.

Seriously, Umami Burger: I usually don’t like to complain.

But two days ago when I was walking past your newish location at 4655 Hollywood Boulevard, you had a chalkboard sign out, right there on the sidewalk, advertising a “late night happy hour” at 10 PM. At this late night happy hour, the sign promised, I would be treated to $4 beer and wine and, for only $6.99, something called a “69er Burger.”

Usually I giggle uncontrollably at any mention of the number 69, but this is no time for merriment. I saw the sign at about 4:00, when I was on my way to the Vista Theater for the 4:20 (STOP GIGGLING DAMMIT) showing of Hot Tub Time Machine (which was reasonably awesome). So I text-messaged my girlfriend and asked her if she’d be awake enough for a burger and beer at 10 PM on a Wednesday night. She said yes, possibly with several exclamation points. There’s no time to check my inbox, Umami Burger, because I’m not finished being pissed at you.

More on why Umami Burger at 4655 Hollywood Boulevard totally sucks after the jump.

Continue reading Hey. Umami Burger. You suck.

Dear Los Angeles Times: Blow This!

I know times are tough and sold ad space is sold ad space, but did you really have to run the Stihl ad on page 16 of the front section of today’s paper? You know, the one partially pictured at right that among a whole passel of fossil-fueled devices features a certifiably badass leafblowing dude sporting the latest in righteous gas-powered leafblower technology beneath the headline “This Spring I Want Something Lightweight” (and to which I answer “Try a fucking rake, blowhard.”).

The reason I ask isn’t because of anything wrong with Stihl, just the primary subject matter of this specific ad because for the last 12 years or so there’s apparently been something you folks there in your downtown bunker might not have heard about known as a citywide ban on gas-powered leafblower use or more officially “Los Angeles City Municipal Code 112.04(c),” which nutshelled says: “Gas powered blowers cannot be used within 500 feet of a residence at anytime.”

See the problems with the devices are myriad: they make a whole mess of noise pollution, and while making all that noise they’re also creating a bunch of air pollutions what with the harmful emissions they shit and all the particulate matter they push off the ground and into the air. Overall it’s a lose/lose but it appears a lack of prevailing wisdom on the subject (or maybe you knew and just don’t give a crap) allowed you to shill for Stihl, and having done so you gotta know that a whole bunch of yard-warrior homeowners are gonna go grab them some of that anti-green goodness and start using it on any given Saturday or Sunday morning, probably around 10 a.m. Hopefully they’ll all live next door to wherever you all get up in the morning.

You see where I’m going with this? Yeah: NOT a very conscientious, connected decision there, guys. Not by a longshot. In fact if there was a Lame Hall Of Fame, I’d nominate you for the Way Out Of Touch category. So in an effort to help you help yourselves and your paper from looking so idiotic in the future, after the jump I’ve put together a quick list of other things your ad sales department might want to just say no to, no matter how much money that four-color half-pager might bring in. It’s far from complete and some of the subjects you’re probably familiar with, but it should give you a place of responsibility and integrity from which to start:

Continue reading Dear Los Angeles Times: Blow This!

Gimme A Sign: Oh The Irony

On occasion I’ve been known to vigorously rip down unauthorized signage because I’m one of those assholes who takes issue with those assholes who don’t give a shit about illegally blighting our fair city for their own selfish gain.

The law that such basterds fail to observe is Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 28.04, which states as follows: “You cannot be a dick and put a sign up on anything that’s public or utility property, not simply because it’s lame but also because you’re then going to irresponsibly leave that stupid sign there to decay until it becomes someone else’s problem; and seriously no one went to your garage sale anyway much less one that happened two months ago.”

Well aware of that legality, the discovery this morning of the sign, pictured above, found at the median between Highland Avenue and 4th Street was at first modestly disappointing and then semi-rich in irony in that whoever installed this “Need Repairs?” placard did so by damaging its victim tree with a series of screws sunk into its trunk — and all done purposefully high enough to prevent anyone less than 7-feet tall and/or without a ladder handy from removing it. To add their ignorance to the tree’s insult and injury, these aren’t just any arbors. This and every one of the 82-year-old palms that line the center of Highland between Wilshire and Melrose are collectively known as something that goes a little like this: Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark No. 94.

So I called the number on the sign to ask the 818-based handyperson what was up with the double fail, but all I got was an outgoing message that told me I’d reached a guy named Jake and to leave a message. And since he couldn’t tell me to fuck off directly, I assumed him to be an otherwise fine and decent fellow just trying to make a buck in these hard times. With that in mind, after the beep I politely encouraged him to take that trip back over Cahuenga Pass at his earliest convenience to make repairs, so to speak, and take down that sign and any others he may have hung in the vicinity lest some far less tolerant and more angry Hancock Parkians start calling him and/or the office of our sign-hating city attorney.

Just in case he chooses to ignore my suggestion, I’ve put in a request to the Bureau of Street Services, too. Wonder who’ll get there first?

The Problem With Leash Laws

So, a few weeks ago, my girlfriend Alanna and I were running up and down the poorly lit residential sidestreets of Glendale, shouting coordinated attack patterns at each other like SWAT team members and occasionally getting barked at by a German shepherd.

We were trying to catch him. He wasn’t a stray — he had a collar and tags. Every time we got close he would get nervous, and start to bark and growl, and not even our most high-pitched nice-doggy voices would soothe him out of hostility. In the end we just ended up calling 311 and reporting him to Animal Control. At least he wasn’t on a main artery with lots of traffic.

But a few weeks before that we were driving up and down Los Feliz Boulevard with the windows down and our heads stuck out – kind of like dogs ourselves – listening for the jingling collar of a mutt we’d been tracking since Griffith Park. Where the shepherd was hostile, the mutt was evasive, and again we simply called 311.

They’re not all failures. We’ve caught a few, and reunited them with their owners. Like the dalmatian Alanna watched fall out of a moving SUV at the intersection of Franklin and Vine. Or the black lab that seemed to be waiting for me the moment I left our apartment. Or the scruffy mixed-breed I coaxed into a helpful stranger’s car during an interrupted run.

Seriously: You guys need to keep a better eye on your dogs.
Continue reading The Problem With Leash Laws

Is Booting Cars Really LA’s Answer to Budget Deficits?

imagesIt’s not easy to live in LA.  You’ve got to have a certain toughness.  Especially if you are struggling to make ends meet… and who isn’t these days?

Certainly our fair city is having a hard time.  And it seems that one of the answers the people who run this place have is raising the fine on just about everything having to do with driving.  Forget about the impact on the populace.  There’s a new attitude and it seems to be…  let’s make new laws to take as much money as we can from the people of this city.

Now I’m not an advocate of scofflaws who drive like maniacs and endanger peoples lives by their bad driving.  Those losers should be off the road… but I can’t help but wonder what kind of message politicians are sending to us folks when they raise the parking rates to outrageous sums, slap $50 parking fines on expired meters, boot and tow cars after three unpaid parking tickets … it used to be 5 (lots of money in getting a car out of hock) and now are suggesting that putting more cameras at intersections can raise millions for the city.

Continue reading Is Booting Cars Really LA’s Answer to Budget Deficits?

New LA “Job Czar” Hired: Well, That’s One New Job Created

funny-pictures-beaver-wants-a-job-applicationIt’s not often I get to feel glad that I’m not a (reported) billionaire, but I’m glad I am not 49-year-old private equity investor and newly fledged Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner.

Beutner was last week appointed the mayor’s new deputy  and chief executive for economic and business policy. The media title is “Job Czar.”  He will also have, quoting the Times, “a new line of direct authority over the Department of Water and Power, the Port of Los Angeles and the economic and business policies at Los Angeles World Airports.”

Columnists at the Times and the Daily News acclaimed the appointment of Mr B, of whom almost no one had ever heard. Local unemployment stands at over 12 percent. It’s much higher in the neighborhoods where the major current career opportunities are with the Crips and Salvator Maratrucha. Clearly, jobs are a huge priority. Said the mayor, “Austin has a real vision for economic development and job creation.”

First and foremost, Beutner said he’d try to make LA  (the Times said) “a friendlier place for the sort of businesses that create well-paying jobs.”  Excuse me, but this is where I came in. For 30 years and four mayoral administrations, mayors and deputy mayors have promised exactly the same thing. As a result, tax structures have been gently shuffled, regulatory bureaucracies have received many a mild tweak and national campaigns have been launched to sell the world on LA’s commerce-friendly attractions.

No one has claimed these measures turned LA into a business paradise. But during this period, two utterly contradictory business developments did take place…

Continue reading New LA “Job Czar” Hired: Well, That’s One New Job Created

City Council to vote on Medical Marijuana on Wednesday

Yes, the City Council is STILL (I won’t say “hashing out”) working on the Medical Marijuana ordinance, and there’s an important vote tomorrow.

If you care about making a good law that supports the good dispensaries and gets rid of the creepy drug fronts, how about checking out the sample letter you can send, and the list of all the Council contact info? It’s right here after the jump.

Continue reading City Council to vote on Medical Marijuana on Wednesday