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Category Archives: Los Angeles

Los Angeles in Buildings: Scientology’s Pacific Area Command Base (a.k.a. “Big Blue”)

It isn’t always obvious who owns Los Angeles’ notable old buildings, but 4833 Fountain Avenue requires no research more intensive than an upward glance. There, in sixteen-foot letters, its current stewards have mounted — lest the symbolism of the eight-pointed cross at the tip of the rooftop pyramid prove too obscure — the word “SCIENTOLOGY.” […]

What Seoul and Los Angeles Can Learn from Each Other: Seoul Urbanism on TBS eFM’s Koreascape

Each month I join Kurt Achin, host of Koreascape on Seoul’s English-language radio station TBS eFM, for an exploration of one of Seoul’s urban spaces. This month, having just been to Los Angeles for the first time in the two years since I moved from there to Seoul, I ask what these ever-changing cities can learn from one another. […]

KCET: Thom Andersen’s Collected Essays Map Los Angeles’ Relationship to Film

“This is the city: Los Angeles, California,” begins the narration of Thom Andersen’s “Los Angeles Plays Itself.” “They make movies here. I live here.” When I first heard those words, spoken over an assembly of black-and-white shots of freeways, studio lots and theater marquees from Los Angeles movies of the 1940s and 50s, I, too, […]

Korea Blog: Korea’s 1990s sitcom about life in Los Angeles, “LA Arirang”

Not long after I started studying Korean, I signed up for a Japanese class, Japanese being the closest language I could find classes for in Santa Barbara at that time, in hopes of meeting a Korean international student with whom to practice the one I really wanted to learn. I soon did, and he invited […]

Los Angeles in Buildings: City Hall

The thin spread of development over great distances; the strict separation of residential buildings from those of commerce and industry; the caps on height and density: these conditions may now look like Los Angeles’ most crippling and intractable disorders, but they once promised a cure for all that ailed the American city. The bigger Los […]

This week’s city reading: Los Angeles’ varied images, the return of the city-state, Amazon’s search for a city with decent transit

Will the Real Los Angeles Please Stand Up? (Mia Lehrer, Foreground) “The fact that our past Governor filmed Terminator scenes in the LA River, or that The Italian Job shows Mini Coopers racing down the concrete river bed, signaling to other cities that you can concrete over your river and have fun.” A New Approach to Designing Smart Cities (David Galbraith, […]

This week’s city reading: the future of Detroit, a farewell to London, and the failings of transit in the San Francisco Bay Area

Detroit Open City (Aaron Robertson, Los Angeles Review of Books) “The species of loneliness one feels in New York is not the same in Detroit. There is an overwhelming awareness that in a city this large, things should be louder. ‘Detroit is the biggest small town in America,’ I once heard someone say. The slogan rings […]

This week’s city reading: dying alt-weeklies, recanting Richard Florida, and anti-urbanist Margaret Atwood

What Cities Lose When an Alt-Weekly Dies (David Dudley, Citylab) “The thing the Voice and its descendants gave readers was something more important than the occasional scoop: They served as critical conveyors of regional lore and scuttlebutt and intel. Dailies may have told you what was going on; alt-weeklies helped make people locals, a cranky cohort united by common […]

From my interview archive: Los Angeles graphic designer and dingbat appreciator Clive Piercy (RIP)

This year, I’m listening again to selections from the archive of long-form interviews I conducted on the public radio program The Marketplace of Ideas and podcast Notebook on Cities and Culture between 2007 and 2015. I started Notebook on Cities and Culture in large part as a way of understanding one city in particular: Los Angeles, to which I’d just moved a […]

This week’s city reading: how Angelenos evolve, what “ghost signs” reveal, and the weakness of “best cities” lists

Why the ‘best cities to live in’ list rewards the safe and the clean (Gavin Haynes, The Guardian) “The Economist’s clientele are exactly the people David Goodhart characterised as the ‘Anywheres’ in The Road To Somewhere, his take on the populist revolt that gave us Brexit, Trump and global politics’ present weirdness. Unlike the more geographically immobile […]