The great architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne made a rather odd point in the LA Times this weekend, comparing Los Angeles to Ancient Rome. Not because it’s once-great empire now crumbling, or because our city fathers are fiddling (i.e., throwing around a football)… but because of a big rock and a giant space shuttle:
One city — ours — is unfinished, amnesiac and forward-looking; the other city — theirs — is so obsessed with past glory, its streets piled so high with landmarks and layers of history, that its 21st century personality can be tough to make out.
So when I began noticing similarities between an ancient Roman ritual and two huge public events in Los Angeles in 2012, I was tempted to dismiss them out of hand. Yet the more I dug into the comparison, the more it seemed to make sense: In parading both Michael Heizer’s huge artwork “Levitated Mass” — better known as the Rock — and the space shuttle Endeavour along our boulevards within a single calendar year, Los Angeles is in some striking ways reenacting one of the oldest public celebrations in Western urban history, the Roman triumph.
It’s always an honor and a thrill when the New York media elite deigns to acknowledge the existence of our tiny burg out here on the west coast, especially when it’s the NY Post, a paper that knows from funny headlines. And so the latest made us chuckle: “Los Angeles Is The Future“, it read. The future of what, exactly? And of when? The 1970s?
As much as we love the attention, we’re forced to do a little fact checking:
• “[Y]ou will soon be able to travel by rail between Downtown and the Santa Monica.” That all depends on how liberal your definition of ‘soon’ is. Phase II of the Expo Line will open in 2016 if everything goes exactly according to plan, which is highly unlikely. So yeah, this could be some time.
• “[T]he glittering LA Live complex”. Sorry, that place is a hellhole.
• “[D]aily celebrity sightings” in Downtown. Not unless you count Eddie Furlong trying to score crack.
Fun-loving Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced today the creation of a new post: Los Angeles Poet Laureate:
“In a city that prides itself on its creativity and dedication to a vital and thriving arts community, Los Angeles is pleased to add this new program to our portfolio of arts initiatives citywide,” he said, according to a press release that Kevin Roderick posted. “We invite all interested Angelenos to nominate noteworthy poets and encourage self-nominations as we search for the first City of Los Angeles Poet Laureate.”
This is a paying gig! The poet laureate gets $10,000 a year to, you know, look thoughtful and a write a bit. You have until October 10, 5 pm to submit your nominations. Here are a few of this city’s guiding lights that we plan on nominating:
Well, #NYC was on the verge of bankruptcy in the late 1970s… (why is that hashtagged?)
The LA Times reports on the opening celebration of Downtown L.A.’s new Grand Park in oddly schizophrenic fashion, the writer admitting under his breath the folly of the endeavor, yet still drinking the Kool-Aid (or ceding to the boosterish wishes of his editors).
Let’s break it down, if we may.
Cons: Neighborhood fissures, social/class divisions, pesky homeless people, a decided lack of shade, oppressive architecture.
Any journalist will tell you that when a headline has a question mark, it’s bullshit. But this LA Times headline takes that rule to an absurd extreme: Will Grand Park be L.A.’s version of Central Park?
Grand Park, set to open tomorrow, is 12 acres long, connects City Hall (on Spring Street) to Eli Broad’s monument to himself (his art museum, on Grand). It looks nice.
But Central Park? New York’s Central Park? Central Park, 843 acres of breathtakingly beautiful landscape in the middle of the densest city in America, probably the greatest single thing built in America? That Central Park?