Wednesday, 30 June 2010

adventures in tapland

Dear L.A. Metro Transit:

When in NY, get a Metro Card.  When in London, get an Oyster Card.

When in LA, fumble around for lost change.

In other cities - in almost every other city, there is not only quick and easy transit around the city, there are quick and easy ways to access that transit.  In LA, bus fares are $1.25, except if they're not.  Except if you get on a Culver City bus, a Santa Monica bus, a Dash, a Rapid....

There are no transfers.  Well, except if you're going between an LA Metro and a Culver City, a Culver City and a Santa Monica or well, I'm not really sure.

Four busses will cost you $5.00 - except when it doesn't - even if it's just a round-trip.  A day pass will cost you $5 - which is at least 4 busses in a day, except when that is actually less money than a day pass for which you overpaid.

You can buy a monthly pass - a supposed savings - but that is only possible by calendar month.  So if you want to buy a monthly pass, but you are here from June 15th to July 15th, well, then you would have to buy weekly passes instead, which would cost you more and you'd have to go four times to purchase them.

Imagine my thrill and excitement upon learning about the new TAP Card on your website. A-ha!  LA has joined the ranks of the initiated - one card to rule them all!

From your website:
While not a pass in itself, the TAP card is an important innovation for L.A. County transit riders. The durable plastic card contains a smart chip that allows you to buy and electronically load Metro passes, participating regional and local transit line passes, electronic cash, or any combination of the three. In other words, TAP becomes your "transit fare wallet" – holding your passes and cash, paying fares to the exact penny, and freeing you up from carrying around loose change. It even recognizes free transfers!
Well, sort of.

Where can you get a TAP card?  Um, some random check cashing places.

Ok - go to random check cashing place.  Ask for TAP card.  It costs $2.00.  This is not a deposit - it is a cost.  Ask for $10 on the card.  This cannot be done.  I can have a day pass or a week pass.  I don't want a day pass or a week pass.  I want the "electronic cash" option.  The free me up from carrying around loose change option.

Not possible.

Okay - if I buy a day pass does it have to be for today?


Okay.  But I'm not taking transit today.

I buy the card, figuring I can add cash on line, like it says on the website.

Well, sort of.

I can  buy another TAP Card, and have it mailed to me.  With a day, week, or month pass on it.

I can't actually register the TAP Card I have.  And I can't put the cash option on it.

So, I dialed the customer service number:

No, you can't do that online. 
But your website says I can.
No, you can't do that where you bought it.
But it says I can on your website.
No, if you read carefully, and click here, and here and here, then you will see the list of places that you can add cash onto the TAP Card, and NONE OF THEM are in the Los Angeles Metro Zone.
Excuse me?
Yes, m'am, you have to leave Los Angeles, put money on the card, and then come back.  Say, you go to Culver City and you can put money on the card and then use it in the Metro system.
I'm sorry - I need to ghetto money onto my TAP Card?  And I need to go to the Culver City Town Hall to do that?
It's a pilot program, m'am, we are still experimenting with what works best.
A pilot program?  When every other city in the world already has this?

So there I am calculating the additional bus fare to go to Culver City for no reason other than to put money onto my $2 TAP Card.  Can this be real?  LA - can you really be this not together?

I want to be a pedestrian. I really really do.  One huge reason I left this city so I could not be chained to a vehicle.

Does it really have to be this hard?


Bitchy Winans

Monday, 28 June 2010

Monday's Quote

I've been saving great quotes forever now - I thought it would be cool to share them. So I'm gonna start out the work week with a quote.

Here's this week's:

Desire is the key to motivation, but it's determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal - a commitment to excellence - that will enable you to attain the success you seek.

-Mario Andretti

Friday, 25 June 2010


Quality. One of those things that makes life better. Like excellence. It doesn’t have to mean spending more, sometimes it’s just going into the local café next to the Starbucks that has a mean cup of coffee, for less money and far better atmosphere.

I’m thinking maybe I could devote a weekly Friday blog to things that make me go yum.

Here are a few new things that turned me out recently.

Theo Chocolate

When my FB friend Laura posted something about Coconut Curry Chocolate, I was enticingly dumbfounded. Through her largesse, I yesterday received a Fed Ex package of Theo Chocolate at the door! She sent both the Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate and a dark Chili Chocolate.

The package was filled with packing peanuts. Then a silver bubble wrap packet. Inside that was a cool gel pack in a Ziploc. Then a brown paper wrapper (yes – food porn requires a brown paper wrapper) and then – voila – 3 bars of chocolate with a bow. They were taking care of this chocolate.

I usually eat chocolate v-e-r-y slowly. A few squares a day. I did not think it was appropriate to try the chocolate for breakfast. I managed to hold myself off til after lunch.

When I opened the bar, there were not little squares marked off. There was more like a big chunk. Hmmmm….what to do. Okay. So I broke off the first chunk. Took one bite, and then immediately another. Then was transported to another dimension. The texture – you can feel the curry and the coconut, and yet it is still smooth and creamy. The taste that layers – first the milky chocolate (totally right choice – dark chocolate would have been too heavy and woodsy and in competition with the curry), then the curry, then the coconut. Not too sweat. Delectable.

Theo’s is a local Seattle chocolatier. They are organic, fair trade, and have vegan options.

I can’t wait to try more!!!

Sweet Rose Creamery

The Brentwood Country Mart can be the butt of jokes. It is extremely bougey. It has suffered since Bristol Farms went away. But it is also a best-kept

Westside secret. A place for writing breaks, diversions, a fun stroll, and the best shoemaker in town.

Now it is home to Sweet Rose Creamery – a new boutique ice cream shop from the folks behind Rustic Canyon and Huckleberr. Not gelato – ice cream - they were quite clear about that. I went in there one afternoon, quite full – too full to justify getting ice cream. But they allowed me to taste.

First try – the Salted Caramel. Wow. I’m not completely on the salted caramel bandwagon, but wow. This was perfection – the flavours hit in the right order – a little salt, then the creamy buttery sweetness.

Next try – Caffe Luxxe Coffee. Did that say “Caffe Luxxe Coffee”? Yes – they are using coffee provided by Caffe Luxxe (who will soon be opening another shop next store) for their ice cream. Back in the day, when Haagen Dazs was a little store in Queens that hand-packed ice cream pints, this is what the Coffee tasted like. Only, I think, possibly, this one is better. It’s a lot of years separating the two tastings, but I’m feeling confident that this is the best Coffee Ice Cream I’ve ever tried.

The Hazelnut-Chocolate was not as earth-shattering as I’d hoped. It didn’t have much on the gelatos I’ve tried. But the other flavours were heavenly.

The shop is very homey - country, but sparse and not cloying.

They have sorbets and a vegan option daily.

Pho Show

Eating late in Los Angeles can mean trips to the 7-11 or crabby service at Canter’s or too bright, too loud, too much Swingers.

So I’m not sure I should even blog about this one, but here goes. Pho Show is a – you got it – Pho place open til 2am. Near Culver on Sepulveda, it is well-located, mod, cool, and has a huge menu in addition to the Pho. Yummy and reasonable and where else can you get a Vietnamese Iced Coffee at 1 in the morning?

Dakah Hip Hop Orchestra @ California Plaza

If you don’t know, Grand Performances runs fantastic, free, outdoor events all summer in downtown Los Angeles.

Last weekend, the return of Dakah Hip Hop Orchestra to its home base was heart-warmingly transcendent. Double G’s vision has grown to sublime fruition in this 70-piece orchestra doing hip hop covers with live MC’s, back-up singers, two drummers (including MadLib), a DJ (Jedi!), and even a guest appearance by Macy Gray.

The place was packed, the energy was high and it was a testament to the will, strength, talents and persistence of the homegrown artists of LA that Dakah not only exists, but thrives, and is supported and adored by its community.

Don’t tell me this town ain’t go no soul.

Thursday, 24 June 2010


I’ve recently been binging on Hell’s Kitchen on Hulu.

Free Downloads

I had started watching some reality cooking shows with friends who are addicted, and then decided to try this one on my own.

I like Gordon Ramsay for the same reasons I like Nurse Jackie – they get sh*t done and done right and they take the heat for cutting corners when it comes to convention.

When did that become a crime?

When did we get so namby pamby that we forgot that what Americans are good at – in fact it may be our only real achievement -- the drive for excellence by any means necessary.

A few years ago, I got to work on a Gordon Ramsay show. I’d heard the same things everyone heard about him – his ranting, his cursing, his mean-spiritedness. I was afraid. And then he came to work. He was the most focused, professional, in the zone person I’d ever seen. It made him, as far as I can tell, completely neutral except in respect to the job at hand. He was a master. He came in, solicited brief, to the point opinions from several people who had been watching developments before he arrived. He listened more energetically than most people talk. He’d never met me, but listened to me as if I must be super-smart, completely informed, and 100% on his team – therefore that’s what he got from me.

When he interacted with the people on the show, his passion was so evident as to be completely contagious. He is judgemental – a taboo in our current society – but his ability to judge is not only earned by his experience and acumen, it is desirable. People need to hear what he has to say. People who are in trouble, or not good enough, need his advice. For Ramsay, not making the grade is, in fact, a fixable problem. So when he is giving you the tools to do it and the lessons you need and you don’t step up, then his passion comes out as anger. But it is still passion seated in the desire for excellence and order and right.

When did we become so politically correct that we are socially, culturally, and emotionally incapable of passing judgement on the vast difference between right and wrong, between crap and fantastic, or even that huge space between good and great.

In this economy the difference between a good restaurant – or any business – and a great one isn’t just stars on a review – it is the difference between having a business and not having one. Can we afford to hold back our intuitive capabilities to tell best from better in this climate? Is it not the time for us to say goodbye to cruise control and get back to striving?

So we can all spend our days ranting about poor customer service, or maybe we can all get back on the horse and realize that some of our greatest failures of late – from the oil spill, to the economy, to the education of our next generations -- may come from cutting the wrong corners.

Excellence inspires passionate problem-solving, transcends ego, and makes Darwin proud.

Excellence has a price – one we used to be willing to pay.

Watching Gordon Ramsay require it, and seeing people learning by submission, a necessary step in the learning process – even and especially for creatives – makes me remember the country I was raised in, makes me remember that doing it well is more important than what “it” is. That as a civilization, we have the choice to have a kick-ass planet if we are willing to commit our energy, time and ingenuity to that.

Nurse Jackie and Gordon Ramsay make me feel there’s an order in the disorder, there’s still a good fight, and that just maybe the world does not have to slip into the abyss of corruption, stupidity, and gossip.

Just maybe showing up with our best for the people around us, and also demanding it of and for ourselves, is enough.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

something to think about

i can't type too well - having sliced my finger. so i'm heavy into reading and watching. here's something i ran across due to roger ebert's tweets. i find it interesting and a welcome change certainly from dogme. Text below - original link: The Remodernist Film Manifesto.

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The Remodernist Film Manifesto

From Jesse Richards, Granby, MA:

A couple of years back I wrote a film manifesto calling for a new authenticity in cinema, and encouraging filmmakers to strive for this. The manifesto has since been translated into Polish and Turkish, and right now it is in the process of being translated into Traditional Chinese and Slovak. It is also the subject of several thesis papers in progress by students in England, Taiwan and Germany, and has inspired a new, growing, international film movement I was hoping that you might take consider taking a look at it. Thank you for your time.

Remodernist Film Manifesto

1. Art manifestos, despite the good intentions of the writer should always “be taken with a grain of salt” as the cliché goes, because they are subject to the ego, pretensions, and plain old ignorance and stupidity of their authors. This goes all the way back to the Die Brücke manifesto of 1906, and continues through time to this one that you’re reading now. A healthy wariness of manifestos is understood and encouraged. However, the ideas put forth here are meant sincerely and with the hope of bringing inspiration and change to others, as well as to myself.

2. Remodernism seeks a new spirituality in art. Therefore, remodernist film seeks a new spirituality in cinema. Spiritual film does not mean films about Jesus or the Buddha. Spiritual film is not about religion. It is cinema concerned with humanity and an understanding of the simple truths and moments of humanity. Spiritual film is really ALL about these moments.

3. Cinema could be one of the perfect methods of creative expression, due to the ability of the filmmaker to sculpt with image, sound and the feeling of time. For the most part, the creative possibilities of cinema have been squandered. Cinema is not a painting, a novel, a play, or a still photograph. The rules and methods used to create cinema should not be tied to these other creative endeavors. Cinema should NOT be thought of as being “all about telling a story”. Story is a convention of writing, and should not necessarily be considered a convention of filmmaking.

4. The Japanese ideas of wabi-sabi (the beauty of imperfection) and mono no aware (the awareness of the transience of things and the bittersweet feelings that accompany their passing), have the ability to show the truth of existence, and should always be considered when making the remodernist film.

5. An artificial sense of “perfection” should never be imposed on a remodernist film. Flaws should be accepted and even encouraged. To that end, a remodernist filmmaker should consider the use of film, and particularly film like Super-8mm and 16mm because these mediums entail more of a risk and a requirement to leave things up to chance, as opposed to digital video. Digital video is for people who are afraid of, and unwilling to make mistakes.** Video leads to a boring and sterile cinema. Mistakes and failures make your work honest and human.***

6. Film, particularly Super-8mm film, has a rawness, and an ability to capture the poetic essence of life, that video has never been able to accomplish.***

7. Intuition is a powerful tool for honest communication. Your intuition will always tell you if you are making something honest, so use of intuition is key in all stages of remodernist filmmaking.

8. Any product or result of human creativity is inherently subjective, due to the beliefs, biases and knowledge of the person creating the work. Work that attempts to be objective will always be subjective, only instead it will be subjective in a dishonest way. Objective films are inherently dishonest. Stanley Kubrick, who desperately and pathetically tried to make objective films, instead made dishonest and boring films.

9. The remodernist film is always subjective and never aspires to be objective.

10. Remodernist film is not Dogme ’95. We do not have a pretentious checklist that must be followed precisely. This manifesto should be viewed only as a collection of ideas and hints whose author may be mocked and insulted at will.

11. The remodernist filmmaker must always have the courage to fail, even hoping to fail, and to find the honesty, beauty and humanity in failure.

12. The remodernist filmmaker should never expect to be thanked or congratulated. Instead, insults and criticism should be welcomed. You must be willing to go ignored and overlooked.

13. The remodernist filmmaker should be accepting of their influences, and should have the bravery to copy from them in their quest for understanding of themselves.

14. Remodernist film should be a stripped down, minimal, lyrical, punk kind of filmmaking, and is a close relative to the No-Wave Cinema that came out of New York’s Lower East Side in the 1970’s.

15. Remodernist film is for the young, and for those who are older but still have the courage to look at the world through eyes as if they are children.

** The only exceptions to Point 5 about video are Harris Smith and Peter Rinaldi; to my mind they are the only people who have made honest and worthwhile use of this medium. (Aug. 2008)

***(The position on digital/video has changed since this manifesto was written in 2008- the group is inclusive toward use of any motion picture format. See recent essay here).

This manifesto may be appended/added to in the future, as further ideas develop.

The following is for further study for those interested in what has influenced remodernist film philosophy.

Honorary remodernist filmmakers

Amos Poe, and all of the No-Wave filmmakers
Andrei Tarkovsky
Jean Vigo
Kenji Mizoguchi
Maurice Pialat
Yasujiro Ozu
Jean Epstein
Wolf Howard
Billy Childish

Other influential artists/art groups/ideas

Die Brücke
Les Fauves
The Defastenists
Vincent Van Gogh
Edvard Munch
Mono no aware

Some Films That Influenced and Led To Remodernist Film

“The Foreigner”- Amos Poe
“Zerkalo”- Andrei Tarkovsky
“Andrei Rublev”- Andrei Tarkovsky
"Zéro de conduite”- Jean Vigo
“L’Atalante”- Jean Vigo
“Ugetsu Monogatari”- Kenji Mizoguchi
“A Nos Amours”- Maurice Pialat
"The Fall of the House of Usher"- Jean Epstein
“Tokyo Story”- Yasujiro Ozu

----Jesse Richards, August 27, 2008

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