A Tale Of Determination

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June 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on A Tale Of Determination 

Israeli settlers taunt a Palestinian woman who has just been evicted from her home



By Mohammad Arafat

The Gaza strip is located in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea and is an important link between Asia and Africa. The traders of Asia and Africa used to cross Gaza in their comings and goings between the two continents. That importance no doubt made it attractive to the Israelis in their occupation of Gaza and all of Palestine in 1948. The Palestinian people have fought back against the occupation and massacres. They have forced it to withdraw from Gaza and we hope all of Palestine one day.

The Palestinian resistance made Israelis leave Gaza, but that occupation is still in control because Israel besieged Gaza by cutting power and water.  It controls our food and the cooking gas. In December of 2008, F16 warplanes and lots of missiles fell on us. Read more


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June 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on SURVIVING THE WHIPLASH EFFECT OF L.A.’S CULTURE CLASH 

The Hollywood Sign

By Bob Vickrey


Several years ago I found myself doing a double-take as I noticed two familiar looking men mingling with a large group at an author speaking engagement in my local bookstore. The scene there was one that utterly embodied the ever-enduring clash of diverse Los Angeles cultures.


The sight of a well-known author who was in the company of a popular actor was so common in West Los Angeles that it normally would not trigger such a head-turning moment. But when I spotted writer Jonathan Kirsch and actor Charlton Heston in the same contingent, I quickly remembered that Kirsch was the author of a biography entitled Moses, A Life; and here he was rubbing shoulders with the actor who had portrayed the Old Testament prophet decades earlier in the movie, The Ten Commandments. That particular scene represented the very essence of the intersection of the worlds of literary and popular culture—a setting that plays out often in the city where I live. Read more

CALIFORNIA ROAD SCHOLAR: Anarcho-individualists

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June 1, 2013 · Posted in California Roads Scholar · Comments Off on CALIFORNIA ROAD SCHOLAR: Anarcho-individualists 


Alone With Everybody

the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
and nobody finds the
but keep
crawling in and out
of beds.
flesh covers
the bone and the
flesh searches
for more than

there’s no chance
at all:
we are all trapped
by a singular

nobody ever finds
the one.

the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill nothing else

(Charles Bukowski)

By Phyl Van Ammers 

Alison Lurie’s protagonist in The Nowhere City (1965) said, “You know what I saw the first day I got to Los Angeles, when Paul was driving me back from the airport, the first afternoon I was here?  We were driving back from the airport, and we passed a doughnut stand, and on top of it was this huge cement doughnut about twenty feet high, revolting around.  I mean revolving.  You know.  It was going around and around.”  Katherine waved her arm in demonstration.  “That was the first thing I saw, before I saw the stand.  From a long, long way off, that big empty hole going around and around up in the air, with some name painted on it.  Well I thought, that’s what this city is!  That’s what it is, a great big advertisement for nothing.” Read more

Mixville shopping center’s movie ranch

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June 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on Mixville shopping center’s movie ranch 

Tom Mix of Mixville

By Phyl Van Ammers


Whole Foods will soon occupy a building in the strip mall on Glendale Boulevard.   This is an important historic location without even an obscure plaque to show what was once there.


Along Glendale Boulevard, but closer to downtown and near the maw of the 2 Freeway, is the site of the Selig Polyscope movie studio.   Around 1910, Selig recruited a cowboy who had ridden with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders when he was a teenager, served in the Boxer Rebellion, broke horses for the English in the Boer War, served as sheriff, U.S. Marshall, Texas Ranger, and who wanted only to live on the plains and own a ranch but felt he needed to raise the money himself and organized ranch shows.  He and his horse Old Blue performed terrifying tricks in the ranch shows that later became part of the Tom Mix films. Read more


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May 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on LIONEL’S LAMENT 

Lionel holding forth at the Griffith Park Observatory--photo by Kurt Olerud




As bombs were blowing up in Boston, I was sitting in my doctor’s office in Los Angeles’ Chinatown and he was telling me that he had no medicines to deal with my painful swollen legs, knees and feet.


Now I know that human misery is a constant, but when you’re experiencing it personally, so is the world. Bombers in Boston, sinkholes, tsunamis, wars, nuclear accidents, meteors hurling toward cities, earthquakes, mad cops running amok, ships crashing into shore as they navigate into port, all somehow equate with my increasingly wobbly legs.


Now I’ll grant there is no apparent connection between a major American city being under siege by a couple of mad bombers and the pain in my body. But it feels as if the world and the lives of all of us in it, are going bonkers in droves. The news is becoming madder by the day. Nothing is left to shock. Read more


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May 1, 2013 · Posted in Miscellany · Comments Off on THE LONG WINDING ROAD FROM LUBBOCK TO TINSEL TOWN 

Lubbock In My Rear View Mirror

By Bob Vickrey


The two tall handsome gray-haired gentlemen stood staring each other down across the bookstore counter as if they were about to break out in a classic Burr and Hamilton duel.


Former Texas Governor John B. Connally and local Houston bookseller, Ted Brown, were trading sardonic barbs in their ongoing colossal battle of giant egos. They were both elegantly attired in expensive pin-striped suits and each represented that era of the male-dominated, testosterone-driven business world of the 1970s. Governor Connally was a regular customer at Brown’s Bookshop, the best-known bookstore in Houston at that time, and seemed to truly relish his encounters with the feisty Brown. Read more

The California Road Scholar Talks About Noir!

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May 1, 2013 · Posted in California Roads Scholar · Comments Off on The California Road Scholar Talks About Noir! 

Photo is of 1825 N. Kingsley, the apartment building where Walter Neff in Double Indemnity lived. Photographer is Jodi Siegner.


Lo!  Death has reared himself a throne

In a strange city lying alone

Far down within the dim West

Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best Have gone to their eternal rest.       

There shrines and palaces and towers (Time-eaten towers that tremble not) Resemble nothing that is ours.

Around, by lifting winds forgot, Resignedly beneath the sky 

The melancholy waters lie.” 

(Edgar Allan Poe, “The City in the Sea,”  1845 but an earlier version was published as “The Doomed City” in 1831)


By Phyl Van Ammers



Scary literature is not new. Even the Old Testament is pretty creepy.   The Book of Job could be the first noir story except that it ends too well, and Job was probably the oldest-written book of the Bible —  written about events that took place before the flood, around 1270 BC. Read more

The Literary Cookbook: The Day of the Locust

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May 1, 2013 · Posted in Miscellany · Comments Off on The Literary Cookbook: The Day of the Locust 

By Lynn Bronstein


In the 1930s, America was trying to pull its way out of a depression that had devastated the lives of millions. From the slums of eastern cities to the Dust Bowl, people looked to the West, to California, and especially to that place, originally a highly religious little village near Los Angeles, that had become synonymous with the American concept of glamour and magic: Hollywood.

Not all of the people who relocated to this special land found the gold at the end of the rainbow. Those who did not make money right away, and those who never would make money or be discovered for their talent and beauty, would live out their lives in tiny bungalows or seedy apartment houses, working as extras, waiting on tables, selling dubious products door to door or surviving through shadowy activities. These were the people whose lives interested 1930s writer Nathanael West and it was these souls, “the cheated,” who were the subject of his bittersweet 1939 short novel The Day of the Locust. Read more

The Hip Dictator and His Opponents

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May 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on The Hip Dictator and His Opponents 

Leslie Evans

 The Dictator’ Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy. William J. Dobson. New York: Doubleday, 2012. 341 pp.

Former Foreign Affairs editor William J. Dobson has been making the rounds of dictatorial states for the last half decade, interviewing the autocrats’ top functionaries as well as leaders of their democratic opposition. From Putin’s Russia to Mubarak’s Egypt, Mahathir Mohamad’s Malaysia, Chavez’s Venezuela, and, of course, the very model of the modern authoritarian state, China. He concludes that dictators have smartened up since the heavy handed days of yore, when they had to give themselves 99 percent in every election and sealed their borders, preventing people from leaving and trying to prevent information about the outside world from getting in.

The totalitarian regimes of the far right – National Socialism and fascism – were destroyed in World War II. Those of the left – the Soviet Union and its East European client states, Maoist China – collapsed at the beginning of the 1990s, or in the case of China, underwent major reforms. This has left North Korea as the sole indisputable exemplar of the totalitarian model.  Cuba stands somewhere between there and the states labeled authoritarian. Read more


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May 1, 2013 · Posted in Miscellany · Comments Off on A LIFE SPENT AWAKENING THE IMAGINATION OF CHILDREN 

Young Bill Peet at his desk at Disney Studios

By Bob Vickrey



From my perch on the mezzanine level of festively decorated Santa Monica Place, I had a birds-eye view of the scene playing out below me as a forlorn-looking Santa Claus sat by himself watching scores of admiring children mob the famous children’s author at the opposite end of the mall.


With only two weeks left before Christmas, one would have assumed that Santa would have little problem commanding attention amidst the spirit of holiday revelry. However, poor Santa had met his match the day he competed with heralded children’s author, Bill Peet.


After having accompanied the former Disney artist and storybook mastermind in his many Southern California appearances, his winning the face-off with Kris Kringle was no great surprise to me. Mr. Peet’s unique storytelling skills and compelling artwork had connected powerfully with children for several generations—both on the big silver screen, as well as in his many picture books. Read more

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