An ice machine had been leaking for nearly three months creating a pool. I wish I could call it a puddle, but when a person can drown in the water they fall in, I’ll refer to it as a pool.
I felt like a real idiot after it had happened. I mean everyone knew that the LAKE of water was there. Servers, cooks, the chef and even the restaurant management of the Hyatt Andaz hotel knew to be wary of this certain area, but as minds go, mine was somewhere else — but came crashing back to reality within an instant.
The week after the accident was filled with doctor’s office visits,
Whenever a friend visits from out of town I take them for a stroll down Venice Beach where the diversity of Los Angeles is on brilliant display – tattoo diversity, mental health diversity, “beachwear” and performance diversity, amongst many forms of human heterogeneity. Often we’ll pick up a $5 ring or necklace from one of the vendors, or a salt-and-pepper shaker shaped like lovers in a big hug — or beaded wind chimes that seem so charming in the light of a bright Southern California afternoon.
But on a stroll last weekend I learned that the times are a-changing on Venice Beach. This Friday a card table jewelry seller with 14 years seniority told me that every non-artist will be denied a sellers permit, in order to limit economic competition with nearby permanent stores.
The debate about who should be able to sell their wares on Venice Beach has been going on for decades.
Odds are good that right now, you are using a product that was manufactured in a way that would make you uncomfortable. Not necessarily your tennis shoes (maybe you wear one of the few brands still made in the U.S.). Not your food (though no one wants to know how the sausage is made). No, if you’re reading this blog on a computer, a tablet or a smart phone, that device was probably made in China under conditions that you may have studiously avoided knowing about.
Most tech companies are only too happy to keep you in the dark. (Apple has recently made an announcement on this front—more on that in a moment.) On a recent episode of This American Life,* one man decided to try to do his own investigation. The entire episode told the story of Mike Daisey,
This past Sunday The New York Times devoted a 2700-plus-word feature to humanizing one of America’s most maligned, despised minorities – the rich. “One Percent, Many Variations” was billed as “a nuanced portrait” of the rich and super-rich. Its authors, Shaila Dewan and Robert Gebeloff, seemed genuinely surprised to discover that America’s wealthy do not only live “in New York and Los Angeles, but also in Denver and Dallas,” and that they are a surprisingly diverse group of fellows whose ranks included “podiatrists and actuaries, executives and entrepreneurs, the self-made and the silver-spoon set.”
The piece is basically divided among interviews and statistics about the rich – lots of statistics. For example, the authors write, “Studies show that whites have more upward mobility than blacks.” (Who knew?) And that more vote Republican than Democratic. (Didn’t see that one coming.) Not only that,
I am generally no fan of shopping. Not for fear of being tased or pepper-sprayed, and not even because of my disdain of spending money; I just find the whole shopping experience kind of soul-crushing. To minimize crowds, I time my grocery-shopping to be either early-morning or late-evening, and if I ever have to go to the mall, I truly have to steel myself against the horror.
The main exception to my reluctance to shop is going to the marijuana dispensary to pick up my medicine. When I step past the security area into the display room, I generally feel like a kid in a, well, a marijuana shop. But now, according to a recent article in the L.A. Business Journal, this rare shopping joy may be threatened.
A former manager of law offices and pot dispensaries has invented the MedBox, a pot vending machine.
Last year, we wrote a few articles about college football, one recommending that the NFL Players Association should join forces with the National College Players Association to organize college football workers. And now, in a way, they have, or at least so the NFL thinks.
This Saturday, the NFLPA is organizing its Astroturf Collegiate Bowl at Carson’s Home Depot Center, wherein some of the top college prospects expected to enter the NFL next year will battle each other in one of several college all-star games.
Though this seems wholly positive for the league, apparently they are in a bit of a snit owing to the fact that the NFLPA has invited not just seniors with no college eligibility left, but also underclassmen. As such, the NFL has said it will prohibit scouts from attending the game.
“There are forty million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question, Why are there forty million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society.
We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, Who owns the oil? You begin to ask the question, Who owns the iron ore? You begin to ask the question, Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water?
For 25 years, Manuel Pastor has been writing and teaching with keen insight about the economy and how it shapes our lives. Trained as an economist, Professor Pastor serves as the director of USC‘s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity and co-director of the university’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. In recent years, his research has focused on the economic, environmental and social conditions facing low-income urban communities in the U.S. His writing has appeared in dozens of academic and popular publications, and he is the recipient of grants from the Rockefeller, Ford and National Science foundations, among others.
This is the first installment of an ongoing conversation with Professor Pastor about our economy, our politics and the future of Los Angeles.
Frying Pan News: One of the hottest issues this week in L.A.
I spent last Saturday morning at the five-acre Annenberg Community Beach House complex which, as far as I know, is the only publicly accessible beach facility on the entire coast of our great state. About 200 of us were gathered to honor the 31-year tenure of Barbara Stinchfield, a Santa Monica city staffer who led the effort to finance, design, build and manage the newly opened beach facility for community use.
With a public pool, playground, shaded seating areas, outdoor fountain, public meeting rooms and an indoor-outdoor reception room, the complex, located on the “Gold Coast” adjacent to high-end beach homes, offers ordinary people the beauty of the California beachfront in a tastefully designed building – just what the wealthy can afford to buy in a private beach club.
The “private sector” would have had no incentive to build a public facility like this since it generates no profit and its primary mission is service to the public.
On February 1, 2012, I will be out of a job. That’s because at 12:01 a.m., more than 400 California redevelopment agencies will go out of business, including the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (LACRA), where I have served as a volunteer (meaning unpaid) commissioner for nine-and-a-half years. California’s $6 billion annual economic development program used by cities to revitalize distressed neighborhoods will disappear.
This is happening because of the legislature’s adoption of Assembly Bill 26X, which was upheld by the California Supreme Court on December 29, 2011. While the consequences for me are different than for the hundreds of LACRA employees who will eventually lose their livelihoods, it’s still a personal blow.
Because, for nine-and-a-half years I have devoted a significant amount of volunteer time to making redevelopment a winning proposition for low-income communities in Los Angeles. While I admit that I have not always been successful,
(Editor’s Note: This post by Zak Rosen first appeared on Yes Magazine.)
For nearly a decade, Gloria Lowe was a final-line inspector for Ford Motor Company, checking new Mustangs as they rolled off an assembly line in Dearborn, Michigan. She worked at the River Rouge Complex, a hulking, mile-long structure that, back in the 1930s, employed as many as 100,000 people. By the time Gloria started working there, just a fraction of the workers remained. (Since the year 2000, metropolitan Detroit has lost about 200,000 manufacturing jobs, despite experiencing a slight gain since 2009.)
Then one day, in 1999, Gloria was on her way back into the plant after parking yet another Mustang when an automated, two-thousand pound metal door came loose and crashed down on her head. She was diagnosed with left-side nerve damage from the top of her brain down through her feet,
Meet Charles Scott Howard, Job Killer. Mr. Howard, 51, seems an unlikely actor to play this dreaded role – he’s been a Kentucky coal miner for three decades. The rough-hewn Howard has earned the lasting hatred of Big Coal by shutting down mining operations whenever he’s felt his workplace was unsafe. And by speaking to government officials and the media, he has become a figure feared by corporate America – a whistleblower.
For years Howard has documented dangerous conditions in mines — usually subterranean hell holes owned by Arch Coal Inc. For calling attention to escapeways flooded with waist-high water, poorly hung ventilation curtains and worn-out mine seals that separate combustible vapors, Howard has lived an almost seasonal employment cycle of being fired, blackballed and then, thanks to his lawyer’s efforts, reinstated.
“Howard’s career,” wrote Dave Jamieson, in an absorbing Huffington Post profile last September, “has coincided with the decline of unions in mining and other American industries,
(Editor’s Note: This feature first appeared on Huffington Post.)
With one statement January 5, Newt Gingrich, who constantly reminds voters about his past as a college professor, managed to mangle the facts while resorting to old-fashioned racist stereotypes to gain votes. With his poll numbers sinking, and his presidential campaign desperate, Gingrich told a crowd at a senior citizens center in Plymouth, N.H., “I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”
“The fact is, if I become your nominee we will make the key test very simple: Food stamps versus paychecks,” said Gingrich hoping to appeal to conservative white voters in New Hampshire and in upcoming primaries in South Carolina, Florida and other southern states. “Obama is the best food stamp president in American history.
I have danced in more than 50 music videos, with artists such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga, Prince and many, many others.
Every dancer’s worst work experience, I can guarantee you, has happened on a music video. It is a crapshoot for each video we accept. The music video industry is the dance world’s lawless Wild West. That is why we have decided to stand up for ourselves.
It’s About Time music video dancers have a fair union contract. If you see me or my fellow dancers on the Grammys, we are working under a union contract. If you see us in movies, commercials, or Dancing with the Stars, for example, we have a union contract. But when you watch dancers perform in music videos, we are working without a union contract and without basic protections on the job and no hope of insurance or pension benefits.
Recently the Frying Pan ran an interview with DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL players’ association, in which he responded to people who thought the 2011 players dispute with owners was a “fight between millionaires and billionaires.”
Smith pointed out that a lot of people’s livelihoods depend on professional sports, and lockouts hurt them even more than they hurt players. But there’s a bigger question raised by this issue – and one that highlights a conflict deep at the heart of American cultural beliefs. Who has a moral right (not the legal right or the logistical need, but the moral right) to the proceeds of an enterprise — the people who do the work or the people who front the money? We say we value hard work, but do we really value it more than the right of people who already have money to make even more?
I’ve been asked this question various times during my employment with the Hyatt Andaz hotel over the past few years. The last manager who asked me this had deep bags under her eyes. She’d been working eight days in a row and was then on her 12th hour that day. She told me she needed a cigarette, — which was odd, considering she didn’t smoke.
I laughed. I told her I’d be a terrible candidate for management because I enjoy my family time. I like seeing my wife. I enjoy eight-hour workdays. I enjoy the fact that I occasionally get to do menial household tasks like laundry and dishes. I love the fact that once I’m off the clock, I’m truly off the clock.
She blinked twice, yawned and told me I’d be a terrible manager.
I have always gotten along with my supervisors,
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark recently sent out a call for bloggers to express their hopes for 2012. On December 26 Newmark announced on his own blog that the Frying Pan News’ Jim Lair Beard was included in a group of 16 writers whose ideas were especially noteworthy. (16 People and Organizations Changing the World in 2012.)
Jim’s post, Change Will Not Be Downloaded, spoke of the need for progressives to physically get out into the streets and to knock on doors to advance change in the coming year. He’s in good company on Newmark’s list – his 15 colleagues include MoveOn co-founder Joan Blades, Surfrider Foundation CEO Jim Moriarity and David B. Crowley, President and Founder of SCI Social Capital Inc.
You can read Jim’s latest post, Homicide and Hospitality, in today’s Frying Pan. A restaurant server at the Andaz Hyatt hotel in West Hollywood,
I’m from the Midwest. More specifically, I’m from the mitten state (and I don’t mean Wisconsin!). I grew up in a pretty stereotypical hard-working, blue-collar community. Many of my family members and friends’ parents worked for the Big Three. We had a pretty good life. Everyone went on vacations, we all had multiple cars per family, we had someone to mow the lawns in the summer and shovel the driveways in the winter. Life was good for Michiganders who were working for General Motors or one of their many suppliers. What could go wrong, right?
Then it all unraveled. I’ve watched Michigan, and especially the town I grew up in, go from middle class to low income in less than 10 years. I’ve seen the ranks of the homeless population grow to include large numbers of women and children.
(Editor’s Note: This reposted feature originally appeared on the Huffington Post in slightly longer form.)
Through a story of personal tragedy and the virtues of small-town life, voluntarism, and compassion, the New York Times’ David Brooks has written a column that unwittingly exposes our nation’s outrageous cruelty and callousness.
In his December 30 column, “Going Home Again,” Brooks tells the story of Ruthie Leming, a school teacher and mother of three daughters in St. Francisville, Louisiana (population 1,765), who last year, at age 40, was diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer. Brooks understandably laments the tragedy and applauds Ruthie’s community, which rallied around her and her family as her health deteriorated.
“There were cookouts to raise money for her medical care,” Brooks reports. On April 10 last year — officially “Ruthie Leming Day” — “more than half the town went to a fund-raising concert”
Fresh produce is not a phrase you hear often in East L.A. Just visit any corner store and you can see why.
East L.A. is one of many “food desert” communities in the L.A. Basin. – communities where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain. Walk down any street and you will find a fast-food joint way sooner than you’ll locate a healthy food market. Our residents and kids are bombarded with chips, candy, ice cream and advertising for alcohol when they do go shopping. It’s no wonder that a child will sooner pick up a bag of “takis” (a popular chip brand) than go on looking in vain for healthy food.
In East L.A., the common venue for food purchasing is the corner store. These stores are typically small businesses that sell alcohol, tobacco, snack foods, sodas, candy and very little fresh, high-quality food products. Unfortunately, the fruits and vegetables they sell are frequently bruised,