Archives for July 2004

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Music: Jim Bianco at the Knitting Factory

I've been taking lots of little one day absenses over the past few weeks. Not intentional, they just sort of happen.

Anyway, Thursday night Kathy and I took the Red Line over to Hollywood and Highland to see Jim Bianco at the Knitting Factory. It was the first time I'd been to the Knit in a good two years, and they've changed some stuff up. The show was in the front bar, which meant that they actually had three events running at the same time (Main Stage, Alterknit Lounge, and Front Bar). Crazy. Anyway, the show was great, the sound was great, the crowd was large... It was a fun time.

I bought Jim's new cd, Handsome Devil. Good stuff. Not quite as good as the live performance, but few things really are.

the CalTrans Building and understanding architecture

This week's Downtown News is their Best of Downtown issue. One story presents reader answers to the question, "Who Would You Vote Off the Downtown Island?" Top voter-getter was the still under construction CalTrans Building. From the article:

Some have complained that, with 13 stories of metal and steel, the building resembles a futuristic fortress out of step with its Civic Center surroundings. As one critic commented, if architect Thom Mayne - who, it must be noted, is frequently praised and is winning high-profile commissions across the country - was going for the "totally impenetrable" look, he nailed it.

I can't help but agree. The building rises 13 stories shrouded in a black metal mesh. The otherwise flat surface features various protruding panels that seem like they were partially ripped back by some rogue hurricane. Riding my bike to work I pass the building's site on Main and it just feels absolutely dominating.

Opinion on this Archinect forum thread is somewhat split. Some applaud the green features, while others (rightfully, in my opinion) decry the building's very poor interaction with the street and surrounding neighborhoods. All are interesting reading.

What I find most interesting, though, is a quote from an article about lead architect Thom Mayne that ran last year in Metropolis Magazine (the quote's on the second page). The author questioned Mayne about a concept he had done for the Ground Zero site in New York:

I told Mayne I was confused by all this. His plan for Ground Zero seemed to be exactly what he was condemning at the UCLA conference: a paper fantasy that doesn't speak to the concerns of the average person. It was fairly clear that the people of New York were not clamoring for a critique of Modernism in Lower Manhattan. Mayne's answer surprised me. The average person's understanding of his projects is "irrelevant," he told me. "There's layers and layers of ideas that go into a piece of work. It can be engaged at many levels. Probably most people are engaged at a very direct level: how it affects them. Others will recognize that there's an organizational or conceptual tissue."

That's the feeling I get from the CalTrans building. I walk by it and I feel like I'm missing out on something. More than disliking the building, I simply don't understand it. Which is all good and well on paper, but not nearly as cool when I'm standing beneath 13 stories of Borg-like metal.

another LA blog

I noticed this little bit at the bottom of an LA Times story on PAC-10 Media Day:

USC announced that Leinart has started a blog on the Internet that will feature daily entries. It can be found at

Now, let's get a couple things straight here right off the bat:

The site's hosted by OCSN, the people that host pretty much every NCAA school's official athletics site. That means this is basically an official USC publication. So while I would really enjoy seeing the NCAA equivalent of Mark Cuban's blog, I don't think you're going to see that. I'm sure this is just USC attempting to be "cutting-edge" as they start the Leinart for Heisman campaign.

Imagine if some college athlete really did start a blog, and really was honest about the refs, the opposing team, etc. Do you think the NCAA would stand for that? I don't, even with the new kindler, gentler, student athlete friendly NCAA.

remaking a failure

Over the past few days the long awaited sale of 1100 Wilshire has finally completed. The synopsis background for this maligned structure is provided by an article in today's LA Times, titled "Buyers Seek a Home Life for Empty L.A. Tower":

The 255,000-square-foot tower, whose construction was finished in 1986, has never been more than 10% occupied. It has been empty for a decade, its shell an eerie reminder of the city center's construction boom and bust.

Even before I knew any of its story, 1100 Wilshire interested me just in how set off it is from downtown, isolated from the rest of the tall buildings by the 110. It's a funny looking building, too, the actual glass tower rising from 15 stories of red brick parking.

An article from last year titled "Empty Downtown L.A. Office Tower May Be Getting Its Fill" (available several places, including here) had some fascinating bits:

Martin's firm was hired to work on the Wilshire tower by its first owner, East Asian businessman Tsai Ming Yu — but to this day, AC Martin Partners doesn't want to be known as the building's architect. "We couldn't believe he wanted us to do something this bad," Martin said of Tsai. "We were severely criticized for attempting to change the design," Martin added. But "he was the supreme owner, ruler, emperor of this project. Nobody was to question him." Martin thought that the ramped parking structure, which rises 15 levels, would make drivers dizzy and that the building's triangular shape would turn off tenants who were accustomed to laying out space in more efficient rectangles.

So now the new buyers get to try and disassociate the building from years of bad impressions, spending $60 million (on top of the $40 million purchase price) to take this thing and make it into somewhere people would want to live. The building has an unmistakable upside; that's not in question. Being west of downtown offers it an unobstructed view in three of four directions, so that will surely be a big selling point, as will easy access to the 110, the 101, the 5, and the 10. But, wow, $100 mil? That's a pretty big project.

car update

University Auto Center just called, letting me know what was up with my car. Apparently the problem is the ignition coil. My first thought was, "what's an ignition coil have to do with a car while it's running?" The internet provided my answer, in the form of this ignition system article at

The battery is the source of the voltage for the spark we need to ignite the mixture at the proper microsecond in the cylinder. This spark requires thousands of volts to occur, as much as 120,000 volts. Where do we get these thousands of volts? The ignition coil is the source of the high voltage we need.

Ah... That makes sense. All in all, not a terrible thing to have die. With parts, labor, tax, etc, it'll be $330. And they say they'll have the car ready by 3pm. Let's review the timeline here:

  • 7:40am, car dies
  • 9:00am, car's at the auto center
  • 3:00pm, car's ready

That's not bad at all.

morning troubles

It's been a long morning. I got up, took a shower, made coffee, got in my car, started to work... only to have my car die in the intersection of 7th and Broadway.

I pulled up to the red light, sat there waiting for it to turn green, it did, I started to go, the car sort of jerked once, and then it turned off. I pushed it across the intersection, into what would have been a meter spot were it not in the 7-9am no stopping time, and tried to start it back up. Nothing happened.

To make a long story short, I called AAA, they sent a tow truck, and I got the car towed to the University Auto Center right next to my old apartment. They'll call me back when they've taken a look at it. So now I'm on campus at USC, trying to salvage the day and get a little work done on my laptop.

Bright sides:

  • The spot I pushed my car into was right next to a news stand. I got to spend the time I was waiting talking to a guy hanging out there (I thought he was working, but apparently he was just waiting for something/someone). We talked about cars, work, Australia (he saw the boomerang in the back of my car), and Mexico.

  • The tow truck driver was prompt and friendly.

Oh well. Now I just get to wait and see what they say the damage to my wallet's going to be.

Five Song Sampler

I've been listening to her Five Song Sampler CD for two weeks now. I do like it--she definitely is in the same vein as Jewel, Plumb or John Mayer. Can't wait till I get the full CD...

Music: Zonk and The Peak Show

Saturday night Miggles and I wandered over to 3rd & Main to check out the party/show The Peak Show was hosting. We didn't really stay for the party part, but we did see both Peak Show and Zonk.

Zonk was first (for us... the first band was more punk, not exactly my thing, so we came a little late). The acoustics in the room did them no favors. Concrete walls, a concrete floor, and a high ceiling (wood at least). Mics had a tendency to go into a very gradual feedback loop as things echoed and rattled around the room. As a soundman the first thing I would have done is hang thick comforters on the walls to try and kill some of the bounce. But whatever, it's a band throwing a party.

But back to Zonk... The lead vocals got washed up in the bounciness, so the set lacked the punch of the stuff I'm hearing on their site. They're at Temple Bar tonight, and I'm kicking around heading out there to give the live sound a second chance, but it's a late show and I've got work in the morning, so I'm not too confident that'll happen. So I guess in summary, I think I like them.

Peak Show was up next. The same acoustic disclaimer applies, but I enjoyed this set a lot more. Holland was a bit more forceful about bringing out her vocal, and that helped. I've heard various Peak Show stuff before, with Friend playing some on's show Broadband. Megan Jacobs, who I saw last year as Old Sol ,was on keys and backup vocals. It was a fun, intimate set, with the band playing about 6 feet away from, and on the level of, the 60 or so people who were there.

So, yeah, a fun time, but next time you're throwing a party that includes a show, please think about the acoustics. Please?

Movies: Bourne Supremecy

So we went to see The Bourne Supremecy last night. I liked it, though it really was just straight up an action movie. One thing that bothered me, though... And just to be fair, I'm putting it after the jump. — Continue Reading...

more local shopping adventures

It's days like today that make me all the more amazed with my neighborhood. In the process of moving apartments I managed to lose the cord to my electric razor. I didn't actually realize this until a couple weeks later, when the battery started to get low and I made a futile search for it. So now I've got a dead razor, and being the lazy person I am, that means I shaved less (I'm not all about real shaving...).

Today, though, I decided to take matters to hand and go find a replacement cord. I've mentioned before the joys of living downtown and having multiple electronics shops within a block or two of my apartment. No problem finding something that works then, right? Well, not so much. Electronics shops didn't really have anything, one of them said to try Rite Aid, since they sell the razor. Rite Aid did have the razor, but no cords. The guy there told me I might try Ross Cutlery, which was at Broadway and 3rd, or Broadway and 2nd... I had seen it before, though, so I knew it was 3rd (right next to the Bradbury Building).

Ross Cutlery is an amazing shop. Things I remember them selling: Mag lites, razors, fancy German straight-edge barber shop type razors, barber shop type scissors, barber poles, knives, watches... You get the picture. They had a couple cords like what I was looking for, but with European plugs. Doh.

But the guy who was helping me was like, "Hold on, you might be lucky today." He went to the back and came out with a 1960s Norelco razor for women. With it was a cord, a cord which just happened to be exactly what I was looking for. The guy had been at a garage sale this morning and had bought the razor. He was willing to sell me its cord, and find another one later. After clearing the person-to-person transaction with his boss, he sold me the cord for $5.

So now I've got my late-model Norelco razor charging with a cord straight out of the 60s. And I love it.

Total time away from the apartment? A half hour.

Music: A Tale of Two Artist Sites

A few quick things before my lunch break's over:

The Peak Show has a party tomorrow night downtown. I'm definitely planning to go, and am excited about finally getting out to one of their events. I was going to make the Viper Room two weeks ago, but, well, I forgot.

Speaking of The Peak Show, though, their website is the example I would point people to for how you design a successful band site. First of all, the navigational scheme is very clever and well executed. You have the room-by-room navigation in the house, but then you've also got the complimentary links up top (with alt text to satisfy accessibility concerns). The interior of the site is very logically organized, and the content's pretty straight-forward.

Back to the the home page... That right there is the perfect example of how you use Flash to spice up a web experience without disenfranchising non-Flash users. I didn't even realize the page had a flash version until I happened to visit with my laptop, where I have the plugin installed. As a non-Flash user, I had no clue I was missing anything -- because I wasn't. Every bit of content was accessible to me. The Flash simply added a little spice to the page.

Constrast this with a site like Erik Penny's (Erik knows I'm a fan, so I can get away with making an example of him here). Two of the three computers I routinely browse on don't have Flash installed. When I try to go to I'm imediately redirected to a page that tells me this:

You have visited a site that requires Flash Player version 6

We have detected that either you do not have the player installed, or you need to upgrade the version you are currently using.

Macromedia Flash Player is one of the most widely distributed pieces of software in the world and is safe to install. Downloading and installing the player should take no more than a couple of minutes.

Well, I guess it's cool that Flash is that big-time, but that doesn't change the fact that I don't have it and I'm not very likely to take the time to go get it just to take a chance that your site's going to be worth it (though, Erik, I'm sure yours is... I just don't have Flash here, so I haven't seen it). These stats might be a little skewed, but when I look at the stats for people visiting this site I see 79% of them having Flash installed. If I made my site Flash-only, I'd be instantly cutting off 21% of my audience. Now, maybe that's cool... Maybe you don't want the lamers who can't be bothered to install the latest greatest flashiest Flash, but I do.

All this to say: come on people, show a little consideration. I don't care that I'm missing the bells and whistles. Here's what I want from your site:

  • To get some basic bio info
  • To hear your music, in mp3 form. I want to download it and have it sit on my computer for a couple days while I digest it.
  • To know when you're playing next.

Give me those three things, don't force me to choose between my laziness and seeing your site (because that's not going to be a fair fight), and I'll be happy. I'll come to your show. I may even buy a cd. Then we both win.

choosing your moviegoing experience

Today The Bourne Supremecy comes out, and D4, Magilla, and I will be going to see it. The debate yesterday was about where to go. On one end of the spectrum you have the cheap theaters, like the downtown Laemmle Grande. On the other end are the high-end experiences, like ArcLight or the Director's Halls at The Bridge. In the middle are the decent but not all that special screens like the theater at The Grove, the one at Universal Citywalk, etc.

The difference between high- and low-end is significant. Basically $6.50 vs. $15. But the difference between middle- and high-end isn't really all that defined. You could go pay $12 a pop at the Grove, or pony up the $3 more and get a better movie experience at the ArcLight. Therefore, my argument is that the middle theatres are a bit pointless. I see choosing a lesser screen to save $6 or more, but I can't see doing it to save $3.

The end-result was deciding that a good screen really is nicer. ArcLight's website is failing to connect to anything resembling show times, though, so the choice between Dome and Director's Hall has yet to be made.