THE PUERCO CANYON TINDERBOX

For all that I have observed, and loved, about my Malibu– the unique seacoast setting, the expansive views of the ocean and mountains, the soothing weather, and the flourishing flora and fauna, — there is always the fear of fire.

That is especially a reality during the hot and dry seasons that now seem year round, prompting my sense of smell to become acutely alert to whiffs of smoke, and my vision to scan the distant horizons for a glimpse of flames.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, my first view of Malibu some 40 years ago was the Agoura-Malibu firestorm, jumping over the PCH at Trancas Canyon and scorching Broad Beach. That fire raged for days, and in total destroyed 200 plus homes and burned 25, 000 acres. (It apparently had been the work of a 15 year old arsonist.)

Then in 1993 there was the Old Topanga fire, roaring into Malibu from the east, down Carbon and Las Flores canyons, and several others, destroying 268 homes and hovering over Malibu for several scary days. (That incidentally depressed real estate in the city, as fires do, opening a window for us to buy on Pt. Dume.)

The next major fire was the Corral, which burned nearly  5,000 acres, reportedly set by teenagers partying up the canyon. The flames were racing toward Paradise Cove and the Point, before the winds miraculously died down.

And still fresh in memory is the Thomas fire in nearby Ventura, which a year ago consumed 300,000 acres and destroyed 1,000 plus structures. It was California’s worst ever, until I fear the next one.

Fires are frightening, as I have witnessed from our terrace and as a television reporter, live on the front lines of several major Southland conflagrations. The overtime was great, but the experience at times was harrowing.

What brings this to mind is the camp and trailhead project being pushed by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority up in Puerco Canyon: An overnight, cook out conceit with a $4 million price tag on a nearly inaccessible tinderbox site, at the end of a twisting switch back dirt road, certainly not for fire trucks or buses filled with kids.

What could anybody connected to the project be thinking? And that includes Malibu’s acquiescing representative on the Authority, Patt Healy, and a gaggle of local bobble headed politicians. I wonder if they have ever walked up Puerco to the proposed site?

And why does it seem our rightly concerned city council, headed no less by a fire chief and a city manager who once was an MRCA bean counter, always seem to be the last to know that Malibu is being once again compromised?

The MRCA’s autocrat Joe Edmiston, who obviously has stayed at the authority’s trough a little too long to become a bureaucratic fat cat, appears to have it in for Malibu. Do we threaten his family business? Whatever, he’s no conservationist, but a public serpent wavering between megalomania and paranoia. Sad.

From my perspective of an experienced land use planner and an advocate for more parks offering wilderness experiences for everyone, especially less privileged kids, the Puerco site abuses every land use criterion and a host of fire safety concerns, and is beyond the pale.

There is much the city and others concerned can do to block the ill conceived project, if they have the gumption or live in a fire danger zone. And that now happens to be all of Malibu. Stay tuned.

 

 

BEETHOVEN ON STAGE AT THE WALLIS

If you enjoy both classical music and classical theatre, and want to chance the PCH some evening, there is an interesting production at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, in Beverly Hills for the next few weeks. entitled “Beethoven.”

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, the production includes selections from some of his most well known compositions, woven into a dramatization of several troubled periods of his life.

Beethoven’s life indeed is known to have been, in a word, miserable. Unloved and unappreciated as a child, he struggled through a lifetime of hostile relationship, with his family and friends, but all the time composing. He was further beset in old age by infirmities and deafness.

You can almost hear the production being heralded by Beethoven’s opening four note motif of his Fifth Symphony. “Da,da,da, dahh.”

A little schmaltzy? Perhaps. But then the life of Beethoven indeed was a little schmaltzy, as hinted at in the production’s advance description:

“An extraordinary one man musical play that brings the composers to life as it dramatizes the true story of a Viennese doctor who spent his boyhood by the maestro’s side as the son of Beethoven best friend.”

It is truly a one man musical, with the Canadian born Hershey Felder doing it all, as the writer, actor, and pianist, under the direction of an experienced Joel Zwick. Felder is even given credit for the set designs.

In particular, Felder’s piano playing was described in the world premier of the musical in a Silicon Valley theatre last year, as “gifted.” Said the critic, “we see him taking a few simple notes and making them into unique pieces, even as a child.” adding “we feel like we are there at the dawn of Beethoven’s genius.” It was a rave review, though I’m not sure it was of Beethoven or Felder.

Actually, I’ve always been a little wary of bios, on film and on stage, with the actors mimicking the words and gestures of their subject, the effect being that of a caricature rather than a true character study.

Hoping this will be the exception. The production runs through August 19th.

 

NIGHT CLUBBING AT THE WALLIS

Summer is in full bloom at the always engaging Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, as I comment on my arts and entertainment public radio segment this week, on 99.1 KBU and select websites.

And in keeping with the laid back ways of the season, the center om Beverly Hills has turned its smaller of two theatres, the Lovelace Studio, into an intimate nightclub.

There under the marquee of The Sorting Room, is a cabaret offering of mostly music in a succession of short, limited runs that frankly made it a challenge to attend all, as I comment on my arts and entertainment observed, public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites.

We did make it into The Sorting Room a few weeks ago for the one night stand of the theater songwriting team of Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler, performing with a professional swagger and in studied voices an original program of very personal, sweet, and bitter sweet, songs.

Ah, men, the good, bad and indifferent, how have they come and gone, and where are they now, except in memory for the song writing team.

The ebullient Heisler and the winsome Goldrich were ably aided by a cast of musicians and guest performers out from the audience, seemingly populated by many friends and family.

Indeed, one got the feeling they had performed for many there in a distant past, industry intimate, Beverly Hills, in their parents’ crowded living rooms after dinner parties.

This weekend , tonight, Saturday, at 7 and 9 pm; and Sunday, at 5 and 7 ,the Sorting Room will be the scene of a rock n roll celebration by the troupe “For the Record” of the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino’s famed Pulp Fiction. Should be a kick.

Wednesday evening for a one night stand, multi-platinum producer Kosine will host a parade of emerging songwriters, performing their original songs.

Then the next night, Thursday, it will be another evening of new musical theatre, where previously unheard tunes will be performed by established and promising new composers .

The production scheduled for Friday evening has been described as a one-of-a-kind cabaret, with songs in both English and sign language. Performing show tunes, hip hop, poetry and comedy will be Broadway’s Josh Castille, and friends – from The Wallis and Deaf West’s Tony-nominated revival of Spring Awakening.

The final one nighter will be next Saturday, a production called “Celebrity Autobiography,” in which the memoirs of select celebrities will be acted out on stage by other celebrities. Laughs are promised. We certainly need some in these depressing neo-fascist days of Trump the terrible.

BTW, by mentioning Trump as I have intentionally keeps me off several websites that had picked me up in the past. I of course intend to keep reviling him into his hopefully sooner than later retirement.

TRUMP THE TERRIBLE CLOUDS THE FOURTH

In the spirit of this week’s July Fourth celebrations, and its abiding traditions, I feel compelled to inveigh against the neo fascist policies of our embarrassment of a President.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU across Malibu and select websites everywhere, I feel the abuses by Trump the Terrible’s misadministration go beyond politics, to the soul of our democratic tenets.

Indeed, we’re not talking politics, as several websites have asked me to shy away from in my commentaries. We’re talking about pride in America, about no less concern than survival of a way of life.

Independence Day used to be a joyous time to remember and celebrate the birth of democracy, a time for hometown parades, fireworks, family and friends’ picnics, reminding ourselves about the good in our nation.

Not this year, with a megalomaniacal, mendacious Trump in the White House, seemingly hell bent to destroy with a disturbing glee our democratic traditions, our national sense of decency, our international reputation of a land of the free, home of the brave, and a welcomed source of hope for all.

Now everyday there seems to be a new effrontery by Trump, his soulless entourage, the craven Republicans leadership, his greedy corporate base, and stupefying, supporters, including a few of my neighbors in Malibu, judging from comments received for some past commentaries taking Trump to task.

As I have stated before, it is beyond comprehension that anyone who says they love our ecologically sensitive seacoast village of Malibu, can support the science denying, imbecilic Trump appointees gutting our frail environment safeguards, and undermining our public education system.

Beyond them there are the supporters of his cruel immigration policies, his disparaging of our justice system, his twisted tax policies he strong armed through congress that unquestionably aggravate the nation’s already worrisome income disparities:The rich are getting obscenely richer, and the poor are getting sadly, depressingly poorer. And heaven help the Social Security System, Medicare and a Supreme Court.

But we’re better than this neo fascist agenda. We are better than him. In the jargon of his and my New York, Trump is truly a schmuck, and a loser, and god willing won’t last long. After all, he’s only been in office two years, though I know it feels like 20. And this Democracy has been around for 242 years.

Terrifying at times as it is, we must hold on, take heart any resistance, and look forward to the Congressional election this fall, and the national election in 2020, that is if Trump is not impeached, as he should be but probably wont.

We have to believe that this nightmare will end, hopefully with a whimper and not with a bang.  Meanwhile, I hope your July fourth was free of thoughts of Trump, and happy.

 

 

 

 

FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT CHECKOUT THE REDCAT

For something definitely different on the ever engaging Southern California cultural scene, check out the Redcat, as I recommend this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and websites everywhere.

It is the NOW festival – that is N for new, O for original, and W for works, described by the sponsoring Cal Arts as a “vital laboratory for artists, redefining the boundaries of contemporary theatre, dance, music and multi media performance.”

The festival running through the Summer is being preceded this Sunday, the 8th, at 3 PM, with a survey of short films and performance documentations by Zackary Drucker, a widely respected, transgender multimedia artist.

She is also an LGBT activist, actress, and a producer of the award winning TV series, Transparent. On a personal note, Zach also is also a family friend, and charming. After the screening she will be in conversation with USC’s art and design professor Amelia Jones.

And where else is this happening? In the Redcat Theatre, of course, ever the wellspring of contemporary attractions tucked away beneath the Disney Concert Hall downtown.

The evening with Zachary Drucker is a centerpiece offering of the month-long film and performance festival, presenting art in thriving queer communities.

Taking the summer in stride, this truly experimental festival aims to generate a better and broader understanding of the complex relationships between sexuality, culture, gentrification, and forgotten or suppressed queer histories. For a schedule check the websites Redcat@calarts.edu or www.dirtylooksla.org.

One of the things I feel what makes Los Angeles so engaging is its diversity, the gazpacho of cultures and rainbow of lifestyles.

As a critic, this diversity I feel lends the arts and entertainment, fads and fashions, and food too, a distinct dynamism, distinguishing the local cultural scene. I love the classics; but I also want to know what is new and happening. For me, everyday it is the world reborn. It makes me feel alive.

And as a political aside I feel compelled to express in our current political nightmare, this cultural diversity makes me unabashedly proud to be an American, and rail against the xenophobia of our embarrassment of a president.

Actually, the festival at the Redcat. in its modest way, lends a hope that America as a tolerant, democratic society somewhere will persevere, and the nightmare of Trump the terrible will end.

 

INDEPENDENCE DAY WOES

In the spirit of this week’s July Fourth celebrations, and its abiding traditions, I feel compelled to inveigh against the neo fascist policies of our embarrassment of a President.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere, I feel the abuses by the Trump misadministration go beyond politics, to the soul of our democratic tenets.

Indeed, we’re not talking politics, as several websites have asked me to shy away from. We’re talking about pride in America, about survival of a way a of life,

Independence Day used to be a joyous time to remember and celebrate the birth of democracy, a time for hometown parades, fireworks, family and friends’ picnics.

Not this year, with a megalomaniacal, mendacious Trump in the White House, seemingly hell bent to destroy with a disturbing glee our democratic traditions, our national sense of decency, our international reputation of a land of the free, home of the brave, and a welcomed source of hope for all.

Now everyday there seems to be a new effrontery by Trump, his soulless entourage, the craven Republicans leadership, his greedy corporate base, and stupefying, supporters, including a few of my neighbors in Malibu, judging from comments received for some past commentaries taking Trump to task.

As I have stated before, it is beyond comprehension that anyone who says they love our ecologically sensitive seacoast village of Malibu, can support the science denying, imbecilic Trump appointees gutting our frail environment safeguards, and undermining our public education system.

Beyond them there are the supporters of his cruel immigration policies, his disparaging of our justice system, his twisted tax policies he strong armed through congress that unquestionably aggravate the nation’s already worrisome income disparities:

The rich are getting obscenely richer, and the poor are getting sadly , depressingly poorer. And heaven help the Social Security System and Medicare.

But we’re better than this neo fascist agenda. We are better than him. In the jargon of his and my New York, Trump is truly a schmuck, and a loser, and god willing won’t last long. After all, he’s only been in office two years, though I know it feels like 20. And this Democracy has been around for 242 years.

Terrifying at times as it is, we must hold on, take heart any resistance, and look forward to the Congressional election this fall, and the national election in 2020, that is if Trump is not impeached, as he should be but probably wont.

We have to believe that this nightmare will end. Meanwhile, I hope your July fourth was free of thoughts of Trump, and happy.

 

 

 

 

WHITHER MALIBU’S WOEBEGONE VILLAGE

Upcoming is July 4th, Independence Day, and if you are looking for a flag to salute, and if you don’t mind it being pastiche, there are several variations on the iconic star and stripes design on display in the Red Ladder Gallery in Malibu’s woebegone Village.

You know where the so-called Village is. That fractured shopping center/ tourist trap, a PCH pit stop behind the obtrusive gas station in the uncivil civic center: Malibu ugly, and so I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites.

The gallery– you can locate it by looking for a red ladder on the façade — is a praiseworthy venture of local resident Eamon Harrington. An Emmy award winning documentarian by trade, Harrington recently has been tirelessly pursuing painting.

In the interest of personal disclosure, he and his attractive family are genial long time neighbors on the Point. Even if you try to avoid the Civic Center, especially in the crush of cars in Summer , do check out Harrington’s artwork.

As an added attraction, the Red Ladder at 3832 Cross Creek Rd. will be hosting a schedule of readings and talks. Check its website and Just bring your own seating.

But sadly I expect the Red Ladder life expectancy might be short, for it is what commercial realtors call a “pop up”, a temporary tenant, a space holder of sorts.

The stratagem is for pop ups to lend some needed life to a shopping center as its landlords scratch like barnyard chickens for deep pocket tenants who will commit to long term leases.

What they hope going for them is the promise and profit of Malibu’s cachet. Not incidentally, this is what whetted the greedy appetites of many of the city’s past powerbrokers and politicians, and prompted Malibu’s misguided and compromised planning practices, tree huggers be damned.

But reality bites. Negating much of the city’s nefarious history of backroom politics is that the picked-over civic center is fast becoming a commercial tar pit of sorts. The Red Ladder might be around a long time.

Malibu these days may indeed attract wandering-window shopping, celebrity-seeking looky-loos, but whether the numbers can justify the escalating commercial rents is questionable as the real estate industry struggles in the wake of the boom in preferred on-line shopping.

They can write off the local population, which increasingly goes over the hill for its shopping, dining and entertainment, certainly now that Malibu’s lone commercial movie theatre has closed Noted is that its replacement will be another pricey “shamata” shop. Just what Malibu doesn’t need.

What the civic center needs, of course, is affordable housing, specifically for our teachers, first responders and seniors. And in deference to the Red Ladder, maybe some live work lofts for our emerging artist community,

Besides creating a more viable, and livable, sea coast village, it is the right thing to do, as I have stated in the past, and no doubt will again, and again, until the city finally acts. It’s time.