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Los Angeles's Secret, Foreign Language Movie Theater Scene

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 7, 2013 01:18pm | Post a Comment

Los Angeles is a film town -- maybe the film town. Like the Hollywood district contained within it, the name "Los Angeles" a metonym for American film industry in the minds of many. "La La Land," "The Entertainment Capital of the World" and all that. I love movies; however, in my mind, the Hollywood film thing actually ranks pretty low in the long list of what makes Los Angeles the greatest city in the world. This is possibly (probably) shocking to hear/read if you're a cog in the blockbuster factory or a celebrity worshipper but better you find that out now than never. Luckily, Los Angeles doesn't just make movies, it also shows them. There are few cities in the world with as robust a film culture as Los Angeles.

For those who love celebrity-driven, gazillion dollar CGI superhero franchises you're in luck; there are multiplexes in every mall and Redboxes at every 7-11. Thankfully for other varieties of cinéastes, there's a lot more to Los Angeles’s mise en scène than that. There are architecturally beautiful picture palaces, romantic drive-ins, dingy dollar theaters, high profile revival houses, low profile smut houses, and actual art house chains. Additionally there are all sorts of special screenings and festivals that take place every week of the year.

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring San Gabriel, A City with a Mission

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 10, 2011 09:00am | Post a Comment

INTRODUCTION TO SAN GABRIEL


For this blog entry, I ventured to the city of San Gabriel. Accompanying me were veteran three traveling companions. Cheryl Anne, a designer, hadn't appeared since her Season 4, episode 10 debut, "Gardena - The South Bay's city of opportunity." Artist Chris Urias made his debut appearance and regular audiences are well acquainted with Club Underground's DJ Modernbrit, aka Tim Shimbles, who has appeared in numerous episodes, debuting back in Season 2, episode 4, "Morningside Circle" in which we first discovered South LA's Westside.

To vote for other Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote forLos Angeles neighborhoods, vote here. To vote vote for Orange County neighborhoods and communities, vote here.

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Western Music - Kind of a Latino Thing - Happy Hispanic Heritage Month

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 4, 2011 04:46pm | Post a Comment


I love Western music. Not "Western music" as in "music rooted in European traditions," but rather the "Western" of "Country & Western." Cowboy Music. In many ways, Country and Western is an odd pairing. The two genres seem to be at complete odds. Sure, the performers evince a similar sartorial sensibility, but the subject matter of Western music is about hard-working buckeroos following honor and dogies out under the wide open sky.


Country, which I love too, is quite the opposite. Country celebrates the sedentary life - working and dying in the same small town, farm, or trailer court in which you were born -- and to hell with ethical codes of conduct; get drunk, cheat on your wife, and show up for your crappy job hungover.


Musically speaking, they're only distant cousins - no more closely related than Bluegrass and Jazz, House and Rap, Rock 'n' Roll and the Blues  -- but of those examples, only Country & Western get so invariably lumped together as a single genre that people usually omit the "Western" altogether.


Country's - or Hillbilly's - roots are in EnglishIrishScottish, and Welsh ballads although Africans brought banjos, Germans brought dulcimers, Italians brought mandolins, and Spanish brought guitars into the volatile mix. Hillbilly music was traditionally often played by small string bands that thoroughly blended their influences into something recognizably American.



In Western music, on the other hand, the solo guitar is much more prominent. Cowboys weren't known for traveling with a whole orchestra to be whipped out around the campfire. In Western music, the same ballad traditions of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland are still easily discernible but the main influences are Hispanic, coming from Mexico and Spain.


Sure, there's some musical overlap between Country and Western -- especially in the Southern Plains, which produced artists like Marty Robbins and Tex Ritter -- but for the most part, Country and Western existed and developed independently, separated geographically by many miles until some citified marketing genius stupidly shoved them in the same slot.


To some historians, the first published Western song was "Blue Juaniata" in 1844. At the time, anything west of Appalachia was "The West" and "Blue Juanita" was about a young Native woman waiting on the banks of Pennsylvania's Juaniata River for her brave. Over a century later, it was recorded by one of the biggest acts in Western music, The Sons of the Pioneers. By then, manifest destiny had long ago necessitated European-Americans invading and displacing all indigenous people from sea to shining sea.
 

As various Europeans conquered what's now thought of as the West, Western music became intrinsically bound to that most indelible symbol of the West, the cowboy. The roots of the cowboy are in northern Mexico's vaquero traditions, not surprising when you consider the ankle deep Rio Grande as the imagined division between Americ'as "The West" and Mexico's "El Norte." 


Naturally, western bound Anglos and northern bound Mexicans' traditions combined to a large extent. "Vaquero" was Anglicized as "Buckaroo" in the West, but the vaquero tradition itself could be traced to medieval Spain's hacienda system. In Mexico there were several types of vaqueros, perhaps most recognizably the charro of the Michoacán and Jalisco (where Mariachi developed).


Ranchera is another old form of Mexican music (LA has only one Ranchera station, La Ranchera 930). If Western has a sibling, it's its Mexican half-brother, Ranchera, not Country. In Ranchera, a solo guitarist usually sings about love, nature, honor, work… the same subject matter of most Western music.


There are also ballads about heroic and villainous gunfighters, which developed (with pronounced influence of German and Czech immigrants in northern Mexico) into Corridos and Norteños (or Conjuntos) that are much more popular today. "Norteño," meaning, "Northern," merely reflects the different geographic orientation of Mexico, which lies to the south of what we call "The West." And where would cowboys be without their "yeehaws" and "yahoos," which are merely their take on the "grito Mexicano " that features so prominently in Ranchera and Norteños.

 

Western music's commercial heyday was in the 1930s and '40s, when something like 75% of films made in the US were Westerns. The hard-working cattlemen and gunslingers were both highly romanticized and almost completely whitewashed. Hollywood's version of the West included a few Mexicans, most often as opportunistic-but-not-especially-effective villains, rather than the Cowboys' equal. Not to mention on the Silver Screen there were far fewer Asians and blacks than populated and developed the actual West of the 19th century.


The biggest singing cowboys in film were Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, whose formulaic movies were primarily constructed around performances of Western songs. Popular female Western performers included Billie Maxwell, The Girls of the Golden West (Millie and Dolly Good), Patsy Montana, and Texas Ruby.


Western music incorporated sophisticated harmonies with The Sons of the Pioneers.


Western Swing, developed and popularized by Bob Wills, absorbed Jazz and (with greats like Harry Choates) Cajun music too.


TV and Radio shows continued to evince Americans' love of the old west through the 1950s. With the decline of Old Time Radio and film Westerns' popularity toward the end of that decade, Western music also faded and today you find very few Western groups out there (such as little-known Sons of San Joaquin and Riders in the Sky), where as commercialized Country had flourished financially (if not creatively). However, scan your FM and you'll likely hear some Norteños or Bandas that keep the Western flame alive more than some Cashville mannequin in a cowboy hat. Ayyyyaaah ha haaaaaa!


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Hispanic Heritage Month - Anglo America in Latin America

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 18, 2011 05:24pm | Post a Comment
For Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15), the focus naturally tends to be on Latino experiences and contributions in the US. The US is a nation of immigrants (founded by illegals, some would argue) and currently the largest group of immigrants arriving are from Mexico (followed by China, Philippines, India, Vietnam, Cuba, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Canada and Korea). 

Individuals' reasons for coming to the United States vary but behind general trends there's frequently the specter of American involvement in the politics of their native countries that have made conditions less bearable at home whether it be the funding of right wing death squads, corporate exploitation, economic imperialism, secret anti-populist wars, CIA-backed coups and assassinations, or the American peoples' insatiable appetite for marijuana, meth, cocaine, rubies and gold.

I've already written a blog entry about documentaries dealing with American Latino subject matter so here's a list of films dealing with Latino-American subject matter that also relate to American foreign policy.


    
 
   American Experience - Fidel Castro                            Aristide                                Fidel Castro - El Comandante

    

Che Guevara - Where You'd Never Imagine Him   CHE - Rise and Fall                                         Cocalero

    

   El Che - Investigating a Legend                     The Fall of Fujimori                            Fidel - The Untold Story
    
    

                The Good Fight                               
Castro - The Survivor                          The Spanish-American War

    


              The Hugo Chavez Show                 Pablo Escobar- The King of Coke        Pancho Villa - El Angel y el Fierro

    

       Pancho Villa - Outlaw Hero                       The Panama Deception                        Pictures from a Revolution

    

              Roses in December                                     La Sierra                                                Yank Tanks


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California Fool's Gold -- A San Gabriel Valley Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 24, 2011 06:33pm | Post a Comment
GABRIEL'S HORN DOES SOUND -- THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY

Invariably when one speaks or hears of "The Valley," the valley in question is the San Fernando (despite the fact that there are at least six major and loads of minor valleys in Los Angeles County). For the same reasons that I'm mildly annoyed when people refer to "THE City" or "THE Bay," the notion of "THE Valley" smacks of ignorance at best and unpleasant small-mindedness at worst. This blog entry is an introduction to the San Gabriel Valley, that great and amazing expanse of suburbs, boomburbs, exurbs and enthoburbs (any "suburb" portmanteaus I've missed?) with surprisingly significant history and variety of cultures beneath the seemingly uniform surface of bandage-colored strip malls and homes. That being said, at the time of writing, the San Fernando Valley page on Facebook has 25,519 fans whereas the San Gabriel Valley page has a mere ten.


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of the San Gabriel Valley


GEOGRAPHY

The San Gabriel Valley is bordered by the the Verdugo Hills and San Rafael Hills to the northwest; the San Gabriel Mountains (and Angeles Forest region) to the north; The Pomona Valley and Inland Empire to the east; the Puente Hills and San Jose Hills and, on the other side, Orange County to the south; SELACO to the south west; and The Eastside and NELA to the west.

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