Amoeblog

California Fool's Gold -- Exporing Culver City, The Heart of Screenland

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 17, 2013 06:24pm | Post a Comment
ALL ROADS LEAD TO CULVER CITY



Imagine for a moment that you are a contestant on the game show Jeopardy and you were presented with the answer, "This community's slogans have included 'The Motion Picture Capital of the World,' 'The Heart of Screenland,' and 'Where Hollywood Movies are Made?'" If you're like me you'd probably ask, "What is Hollywood?" with some confidence. If you did, however, Alex Trebek would make that slightly pained and disappointed expression and tell you that "the question we were looking for is "What is Culver City?" And again, if you're at all like me, you'd probably go, "Huh?" By the way, Jeopardy! has been filmed in Culver City since 1994.

Artwork in Culver City highlighting Hollywood

Culver City is, in fact, both currently and historically a major hub in the production of mainstream American Cinema (you know, the ones usually referred to as "Hollywood" films) but for whatever reason -- and despite the best efforts of many Culverites -- it has been far less successful than the Hollywood neighborhood in connecting its name to the entertainment industry in the global public's mind. In fact, I'd wager that more tourists and Angelenos associate Burbank, North Hollywood, Studio City, and Universal City with "Hollywood" film production than they do Culver City.

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Happy Birthday to Night Watch - radio's first reality show

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 4, 2012 10:00pm | Post a Comment
With a few, shining exceptions (Blind Date, COPS, ElimiDate, Jersey Shore, Joe Millionaire, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Shahs of Sunset, The Bachelor, The Real World seasons 1and 2 (true stor-ay!), and maybe a couple dozen others, tops) I hate reality TV. To me most reality shows are endurance-defying and totally depressing in a consumerist dystopian way. My aversion to most reality TV is not  really out of some moral disapproval of schadenfreude nor a principled dislike of unscripted entertainment. No, I usually just find them painfully boring and unpleasant. I remember first hearing about Survivor and was rather excited by the concept, hoping for naked castaways with no common language forced to fight tooth and claw just to stay alive. Imagine my disappointment upon finding out it involved little more than people unpleasant from the get go undertaking a series of challenges for prizes in a tropical setting and talking about alliances. Yawn. The good reality shows (as determined by me) offer anthropological thrills, exposing the strange mating rituals of exotic subcultures and paint portraits of people in a way rarely seen in the stylized fictions of the day. 

One of the earliest reality programs was on the radio, Night Watch. It was preceded by the hidden camera prank TV show Candid Camera which debuted in 1948 but, though both reality shows, could scarcely be more different. Night Watch debuted on CBS on April 5th, 1954, a few years after the popularity of TV exploded, threatening film and radio's dominance. To compete with TV's popularity, film offered things not available on TV like widescreen, technicolor, married couples sharing a bed, and
  black people. Old Time Radio ultimately died out in 1962 but in its last days offered other things in short supply on TV, namely adult content, intelligence and exploitation that would never pass muster on the beloved family idiot box. Radio programmers seemed to be OK with a bit of gore and tawdriness since it all took place in the mind and because it was at least packaged as a cautionary public service rather than the exploitation which it really was. The first time I heard it was an episode involving a suicide attempt (there were several) and I was hooked.

California Fool's Gold -- A Westside Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 18, 2011 09:46pm | Post a Comment
JUST ANOTHER DAY IN WEST SIDE LA -- THE WESTSIDE


A view of the Westside from my dirigible
 


Around the world, the mere mention of the word "Westside" prompts people to throw up a "W" hand sign, in imitation of many west coast and west coast-affiliated (Tupac was, after all, a native of East Harlem) pop-rappers of the 1990s (to his credit, Snoop Dogg has always repped his Eastside, as does Compton Eastsider The Game). Within LA, the Westside refers to a wealthy, largely white region of the county (or alternately to South LA's Westside to much of LA's black population). It is bordered by the Santa Monica Mountains region to the northwest, the Pacific Ocean to the West, the South Bay to the south, the aforementioned South LA westside to the southeast, and Midtown and Hollywood to the east.

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(In which Job enjoys a field trip.)

Posted by Job O Brother, August 3, 2009 03:37pm | Post a Comment

Yesterday, the boyfriend decided to surprise me with a spontaneous field trip to The Museum of Jurassic Technology, located in Culver City. It was my first time there, even though I’d been pining to attend for over four years, and it was not a disappointment.

It’s hard to explain how lovable the Museum is to people who’ve never been, because one doesn’t want to spoil its mystique and novelty, and explaining its merit to those who have experienced it is hardly necessary, assuming, as I do, that everyone is charmed by it. (I suppose there could be some whimsy-less, emotional cripples who wouldn’t appreciate it, but I’d like to think they have no interest in either my blog or my company. Humph!)

If your idea of a dream house is The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland...


...if your idea of a fashion magazine is The Delineator...


...or if your shopping choice for bric-a-brac is Necromance on Melrose, then The Museum of Jurassic Technology is your idea of fun day out.

Highlights for me were an appropriately tiny collection of works by Hagop Sandaldjian, the Egyptian-born violinist-turned-microminiaturist, whose sculptures are displayed at the Museum, each situated on the head of a pin (see picture below), with a magnifying glass poised to illuminate for you each impossibly small figure.


Also deeply gratifying was their exhibit of artifacts culled from Los Angeles area mobile homes and trailer parks, replete with gloomy dioramas of various homes-on-wheels set against urban nightscapes. Oddly shaped cases, reminiscent of coffins, showcased vintage perfume bottles, tatting, and other knick-knacks.


I was seduced, too, by the Delani/Sonnabend Halls, which told the stories of operatic singer Madelena Delani, who was (likely) afflicted with Korsakoff's syndrome, a condition which handicapped her short-term memory; how her life touched that of neurophysicist, Geoffrey Sonnabend, is revealed subtly, and we continue to learn more about this man’s work, devoted as it became, to understanding why humans “forget,” culminating in his three volume work: Obliscence - Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter.


Pictured here? Madelena Delani & Geoffrey Sonnabend

That personal research yields little to prove the existence of such people remains moot when considering the delight their tales bring. While it is folly to whole-heartedly trust that everything you witness at the Museum is factual, it does not stop its complex and diverse exhibits from effusing a general radness.

It’s not surprising, sadly, that the Museum is in dire straits, financially speaking, and I encourage all of you who have never been or who love it already to investigate its treasures. And invite me along! I’m ready to go back already.


Yes, please!

Upon leaving, I had a taste for two things: Indian sweets, which I acquired at a shop a mere block away from the museum, and art songs, often called lieder (which is simply German for “songs”).

While there can be no definitive definition of what constitutes an art song, many works within the Romantic-era of classical music qualify. As a general rule of thumb (or in some countries, the forefinger and one-half the pinky) an art song is a composition for voice, usually solo, accompanied most often by piano (but could be another instrument), though in some cases a chamber ensemble is used.


While composers as early as Mozart and Beethoven wrote material in this vein, most consider the golden age of the art song to begin with (and be embodied by) Franz Schubert, who wrote over 600 of the suckers, with its tradition famously continued in the likes of Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and Hugo Wolf.

Amazing variations on this craft occurred later when more modern composers such as Richard Strauss (a personal favorite) and Gustav Mahler, among others, wrote songs that were accompanied by a symphony orchestra.


(You David Lynch fans may recognize the above music as being featured in the film Wild At Heart. The piece, entitled Im Abendrot, is by Richard Strauss and totally gives me a boner in my heart.)

Again, compositions similar to this were written throughout time, making defining an art song somewhat elusive. It’s best, I think, more sensible to determine what is an art song rather than what isn’t. I also think it’s more sensible to wear shoes on the outside of the body, rather than inside. I’m a very uptight individual.


As we departed the wondrous Museum of Jurassic Technology, I cranked up a recording of some songs by American composer Amy Beach.


"What up niggaz and niggettes -That crazy-Ass-Beach is back in the motherfuckin' hizzouse!"

Born (perhaps unwisely) in 1867, Beach was a child prodigy, composing music as early as four years old. (I mean, dude – what was I doing at that age? Like, stealing chocolate chips and pretending my sandbox was a “fancy bar” of which I was the owner, overlooking its occupants with the aid of my magic powers, ability to fly, and pet Pegasus. [The bar was doing well until one day, a centipede was spotted in the middle of it, causing myself and the bar’s imaginary occupants to flee, never to return. It languished as wild grasses claimed it and I discovered reruns of Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot.])



Contrary to the societal norm, Amy Beach was not only a composer, but a woman, and no amount of protest seemed to convince her to change this. In fact, her husband encouraged her to switch her focus from performing piano to composing her own work. She eventually stopped writing in 1944, when her death made it too cumbersome and janky.

I couldn't, unfortunately, find recordings of Beach's art songs online that I felt did them justice. Instead, here's some of her other efforts:






Now then, why not take a trip down to Culver City to see the aforementioned Museum? Why, here’s a link to the Museum’s hours of operation – how convenient! And seriously folks, invite me along!