HIGH TECH, HIGH ART IN A LANDMARK THEATRE

I’m making an exception for a limited engagement high tech, high art performance in a revitalized landmark theatre in Hollywood, as I explain in my weekly arts and entertainment commentary for 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and select websites.

I usually prefer first experiencing the productions, exhibits and assorted offering I comment on, before recommending them, or not.

But since the production labeled Proxima will be at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre, a few steps south of Hollywood and Vine, for just three days, this evening, tomorrow and Sunday, I made an exception.

Prompting me was that the performance promises something distinctly different, which I tend to welcome, for whatever different is and does, it expands my critical context.

The cutting edge sometimes cuts both ways, and evenings can become forgettable, as well as memorable.

Proxima is being promoted as a unique futuristic melding of acrobatic dance in a bombardment of digital projections, composed of colorful, geometric designs.

The performance is by a Tokyo based dance company entitled Enra, a name with roots in the mythical shape shifting and smoke-like Japanese spirit called “enenra.”

And like a shape shifter lurking in a thick cloud, you have to catch a glimpse of it while you can. You may not like it, but you’ll never know if you don’t see it.

In this case, you can check it out, as I did, on You Tube, where its performance for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic bid went viral. For happenings like this you have to love YouTube. Key word, ENRA. There are several performance pieces that can be chosen.

But seeing Enra live promises something special, particularly for performing in the Montalban. It is an eyeful, the theatre having been designed in the gilded Beaux Arts style by the renowned architect of his time, Myron Hunt.

Built in 1926, it has persevered over the years, and is one of the few remaining mid-sized and fully equipped proscenium theaters in Los Angeles, with excellent sightlines and acoustics No doubt from what I could tell from the You Tube teases, they, and the human form of the dancers, will tested by Proxima.

 

BEYOND MALIBU AND INTO THE FUTURE L.A., NOT!

 

Having focused on parochial planning issues in my recent commentaries for public radio KBU, in print and on various websites,, I thought perhaps a more universal perspective was needed, if only for a break.

With this in mind, and in a gesture of hope over experience, I attended a symposium on the future of Los Angeles.

Through the years I have gone to many, particularly back in the days of print when I was a design critic for the L.A. Times and several other publications.

Perhaps now that I’m an octogenarian, I frankly feel focusing on the future is an indulgence; an excuse not to deal with the present.

Whether labeled symposiums, conferences, or workshops, the gatherings prompt the infamous quip among the free loading media of, “call it anything, but don’t call me late for your lunch.”

The light feedings aside, the gatherings of late usually have turned out to be a parade of self-promotions for the principal speakers and a pageant for their self-serving sponsors.

These include the academic urban institutes justifying their own existence and paying homage to their benefactors, and tenure. And then there are the self-satisfied foundations with their supercilious staff secure in their sinecures.

There is also the assorted independent, non-profit think tanks, some admittedly I occasionally wrote for and whose largess I once enjoyed.

Most are staffed with articulate, earnest wonks, good government types, and indeed engaging. Though a few I must add sadly are simply well groomed, glad-handed grifters.

Whatever, in retrospect it is still mostly a mystery how they exactly affect policy as they purport to do, and improve anybody’s quality of life other than their own.

Nevertheless, I found myself at the recent Los Angeles Times Future Cities Summit, for, quoting the newspaper, “a discussion on urban development, resiliency, architecture and the design of the urban environment.” This is grist for my mill.

There also was the promise of the Times to “convene the world’s foremost thinkers, policymakers, developers, entrepreneurs and industry stars for a conversation on shaping the city of the future.”

My former employer frankly has not been doing well, and I was curious to witness its latest endeavor as an event planner and so-called summit sponsor, and perhaps see some former colleagues.

I did indeed saw a few, and that was pleasurable. But I have to report the Summit was not. It was a pretentious affair, and deserves to be criticized, indeed as if I would do if still writing as an unforgiving, if unloved,  critic for the paper.

The estimated 250 or so curious, half filling that the 500 plus seat Broad auditorium in Santa Monica, regrettably heard very little about the future of Los Angeles, and a lot of what the guests were doing at present. That is when they could get a word in edgewise.

The moderators were Times staffers who arguably might be decent deadline writers, but not necessarily discerning futurists and discussion facilitators. This made the speakers and the audience skittish.

There was a second string FEMA official reviewing preparation for the next disaster: boring. And art curator and gallery operator Paul Schimmel talking about a vibrant downtown arts district. Nothing new here and how lucky he was to be there, not mentioning his ignominious departure from MOCA.

But he did adroitly avoid answering a question about the egregious plans for a new LACMA and how it might negatively affect the city’s future cultural scene, but not its director’s edifice complex.

Particularly discursive was a panel discussion on how L.A.’s housing shortage and homeless problem might be solved, weighed down by a wordy and distracted moderator.

The only nugget came from was Tanya Tull of Partnering for Change, who declared the answer to homelessness, is a house, but stopped there.

Their was no real reaction from the architects on the panels, Michael Maltzan and Brian Lane, who did not seem especially inspired to lend a design perspective. Good architects do not necessarily make for good visionaries.

A cautious architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne, did not press the issue, other than to comment, as he has in the past, that Los Angeles would have to face up to the challenge of a growing and changing population. As my annoying Green Amazon parrot squawks. having perched for years in a newsroom, “Stop the presses!”

The depth of discussion was like the paper these days: thin.

And so it went, prompting of the audience in this new age of communications to turn their attention from the stage to their I phones, for whatever.

Though if indeed you are interested in the future of cities, I found some excellent informed presentations on a TED playlist. Check it out.

https://www.ted.com/playlists/29/our_future_in_cities?

 

 

NEIGHBOR BOB DYLAN HONORED

A pause in my usual weekly reviews and recommendations on public radio KBU and select websites of cultural endeavors from wherever, to add my voice to the chorus of congratulations for my next-door neighbor for being awarded a Nobel Prize.

Yes, I’m talking about Bob Dylan, who doesn’t live exactly next door, but around the corner a half mile or so away, and I know is at home only occasionally, being on the road and seemingly performing constantly, everywhere.

In the score of years we have lived on Point Dume here in Malibu I’ve only seen him once, in a car, which I happily report was going under the speed limit.

Actually, I met him once, 52 years ago, in 1964, when he was a rising star and recognizable, with that wild, wiry hair, the slouch, and sheepish, if not a sly grin.

He was in a coffee house where else but in Greenwich Village, at the next table being interviewed by the music critic Nat Hentoff, who was a mainstay, in a then defiantly different Village Voice

I was a reporter at the New York Times, but to the exasperation of my editor occasionally wrote books review and critical commentaries for the Voice. I also knew Nat, havin met him several times, at the paper’s infamous parties hosted by its infamous publisher, the writer Norman Mailer.   It was very much a scene back then in a gritty, restive Village, and Dylan was a part of it.

At the time he was coming under a lot of criticism by the Voice and folk song purists for playing an electric accoustical guitar at a recent concert, I believe it was in Forest Hills, where he was actually booed. I was in the crowd that said let the kid do his thing, and cheered him.

And so seeing him, a few steps away, shook his hand, and to annoyance of Nat, said something to the effect that I liked what he was doing, and thought it was time for folk music to move on. I remember he smiled that shy smile, and murmured what I heard as a thanks.

He is the only Nobel prizewinner I ever met.

But not bearing witness to this, the only other Malibu story I eve r heard was from my late neighbor and friend, Al WInnikoff. He claimed to be Dylan’s realtor, and said he used drive him around looking at properties.

Al also fancied himself a singer, songwriter, and guitar player, and said on several times he got to perform for Dylan. Having tolerated Al’s indulgence, I can only shudder to think what Dylan experienced.    10.14.16

 

 

 

 

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WHY THINGS LIKE A RIGHT TURN LANE GO WRONG IN MALIBU

Every time I make a right turn from PCH to Trancas Canyon Road –and that is several times a week-– I am reminded how our city government disappoints.

Whether the powers-that-be are asleep at the wheel when it actually comes to enforcing agreements with private interests, or whether the city staff is just not motivated, whatever, the fact is the city’s persevering residents are not particularly well served.

And that is especially if they also are not well connected or deep pocketed, and live in West Malibu, as I comment in my latest city observed on 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and select websites.

The failure of a right turn lane not being included in the curbing project now being completed at the northeast corner of PCH and Trancas is not a big item. Actually it is piddling in the public infrastructure realm of billion dollar traffic and transportation budgets.

But it is nevertheless a case in point of how local government – that’s the council and staff –just doesn’t seem to be functioning well these dog days of democracy. They fumbled the right turn issue several times, before simply dropping the ball.

Lot of fingers are being pointed in the social media and where West Malibu denizens meet whom might be to blame for this failure: the haughty owner of the market, the conflicted City Council, a remote Cal Trans, or a somnolent city staff.

To be sure, all are in part guilty to some extent. But mostly I blame a compliant city council and staff that always seems ready to tell you why something can’t be done, rather than how to do it, and indeed get it done.

At City Hall hearing after hearing over the years, whenever planning and development affecting West Malibu was discussed, inevitably the need for a right turn lane off of PCH was raised.

It was never, ever an issue. Everyone concerned apparently agreed, the area’s residents, the shopping center developers, the city’s public safety and planning commissions, the city council, and, of course, city staff.

Also giving a nod to the turning lane was various traffic consultants, PCH study groups, and the condescending Cal Trans. The right turn lane was no brainer: facilitate traffic at a busy corner, and make PCH a little safer.

However, when the plans for a new and improved 17 acre Vintage Market shopping center were approved by the City Council several years ago, the turning lane was not made a condition. The city dropped the ball, only to have it handed back several times by a concerned resident, but dropped it again.

Even when the item was brought back before the City Council, and the developer’s lawyer publicly agreed to the condition, the city did not follow through.

The city said it was Caltrans responsibility, Caltrans said it was the developer’s, the developer said it was the city’s, while alternatives have flown back and forth: move the curb, move the traffic signal, move PCH.

But no one wanted to move his or her ass, and so the construction being completed at the corner now does not include a turning lane.

With any gumption, the council and staff in concert could have taken the initiative, talk as they incessantly do about making PCH safer. But instead, they seemingly, blithely, went out to lunch.

And then at tables in the city’s favored eateries , they no doubt are wondering what the electorate seem so angry about, are our jobs in jeopardy, our pensions?

 

10.8.16

 

 

ART ON DISPLAY IN MALIBU CIVIC CENTER

As heralded here last week and reviewed this week  of OCTOBER 8. 2016,  in my arts commentary on KBU and radiomalibu,net, an exhibit featuring the photography of Fred Ward has opened at City Hall with a celebration of his prolific life.

The exhibit lends a welcomed dual use to the muted municipal building at the end of Stuart Ranch Road, organized by the city’s Cultural Arts Commission and the Ward family. He died at his home in Malibu this summer at the age of 81.

On display is an arresting selection of photographs culled from Ward’s career freelancing for the leading newsweeklies and preeminent magazines of a half-century ago, when print ruled the media, before the age of tedious television and the blathering Internet.

It was also a time of a magnanimous media for top tier writers and photographers, as Ward obviously was, a life of front row seats, exotic assignments, living wages, and generous expense accounts, making the exhibit particularly nostalgic for this former correspondent.

The assignments for Time, Life, Newsweek and the National Geographic took Ward everywhere around the world, evidenced by the exhibit’s display of the diversity of places and people he captured in composed and revealing photographs.

His was an art, be it capturing the obscure, such as the photos of a Maasai warrior in Kenya, or a little girl with a wig in Guadeloupe Or the famous, presidents Kennedy and Ford, the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Fidel Castro and the Dalai Lama, among the many.

And then there are also his exquisite photographs of gems, among them, the Hope Diamond, and crown jewels of Iran, hinting at his fascination with these earth treasures that he documented in several books, and led him in later life to be a gem dealer and gemologist. ,

Ward’s life was indeed fascinating, and well documented by tens of thousands of prints, which his son, Chris, culled with obvious love to about a hundred for the exhibit. Happily the display will be revolving, and several hundred other favored print s also will be shown during the exhibit, which runs until mid January.

It certainly will be an excuse for me to visit several times

Also on display in the Civic Center will be a special art exhibit this Saturday, from 3 to 7, at the Canvas Boutique and Gallery.  Organized by the gallery and the Los Angeles-based First Responders, it will benefit the International Medical Corp., and feature the works of local artists, including one of my favorites, the sculptor Eugenie Spirito. Check it out, at 23410 Center Way,

 

NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY AS AN ART

Malibu’s City Hall happily will be the site for yet another exhibit featuring the work of a local artist, the photographer Fred Ward. The exhibit opens Saturday, and promises to be haunting, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU.

Though Ward was first and foremost a deadline driven news photographer, he was in my estimation an artist; his work having risen to the level of iconic images, evocative of a time and place. He passed away at his home in Malibu, in July, at the age of 81.

For some of us the exhibit will be a trip back in time to the turbulent 1960s, for which we can thank the Malibu Cultural Arts Commission in a its continual laudable attempt to tap into the city’s scattered artistic history and celebrate its artists.

Fred Ward was a photographer for Life, Time and Newsweek magazines, back in our fleeting history when weeklies were the crown jewels of print journalism.   And the most glistening, polished by a circulation that at one time topped 13.5 million copies, was Life.

So to be a photographer for the photo featured and promoted Life was to be a journalistic super star. The notable writers there that included during that time Joan Didion and Jane Howard were admittedly envious.

Indeed, all newspersons that toiled in the trenches of print at that time were envious, including those at the august New York Times, where I worked as a young reporter. Pay was said to be good at the newsweeklies, expenses better, and deadlines were only once a week.

And when journalists gathered then at select midtown watering holes to celebrate their publications being put to bed, getting a photo on the cover of Life was the equivalent to getting an Academy Award.

Ward had several, most notably in 1963 of a grief stricken, Jacqueline Kennedy with her two children before the casket of the assassinated President Kennedy. It was this photo that Andy Warhol turned into his famous print.

And in was Ward who a few days earlier had captured the image of the first lady returning to Washington with her husband’s blood on her legs.

These and other select photos of Ward when on assignment for the news weeklies and later the celebrated National Geographic are included in the retrospective. Also featured is a short video on Ward’s very full professional life, produced his son, Chris. The exhibit runs until January 13 of next year.

 

 

MALIBU COUNCIL ELECTION GETS PERSONAL, FINALLY

The election campaign in Malibu for City Council became a little more interesting this week as the six candidates finally came under more personal and pointed questioning.

The emphasis here is on finally, for most of the forum until the last few minutes, was, frankly, not revealing. if the critical Giant Dodger game wasn’t blacked out for most, I doubt if the hometown drama at City Hall would have attracted a nearly packed house.

The questions were convoluted, diffidently delivered, aggravated by a fumbled sound system, that unfortunately, I feel, prompted predictable answers, and echoed a previous forum at City Hall awkwardly orchestrated by the Malibu Democratic Club.

In full disclosure as a registered Democrat, the less I comment about that evening that ended in a bungled ballot for a questionable endorsement, the better.

The latest forum was conducted by the Malibu Times, and featured its venerable editor Arnold York in uncomfortable command. He is a print journalist, not a broadcast journalist, and not at ease with direct questions and extracting clear answers. .

To be sure, the grilling came at the end of a long, and mostly mundane forum with the candidtes perching on the stage in the council chamber’s, as they all hope to do as elected members in a few months.

After throwing various softballs at the forum, York delivered a hard ball to Skylar Peak, citing his poor attendance record and his position on encroachments on Pt. Dume that had led to a wellspring of protests and an embarrassing reversal for the City Council.

Peak looking nonplussed replied he only missed a fraction of the meetings, albeit attendance at some were by phone. Modest applause

As for the charge Peak proposed the encroachments, he stated it was not he that did but a traffic consultant, and whatever he eventually voted against them. Silence.

Jennifer DeNicola was questioned if her relatively recent community advocacy, in particular battling the school district on PCBs, and now presumptuously running for the council, was just a bare political maneuver for a high political appointment or office. She stumbled through an answer, proclaiming her sincerity and love for her adopted home of Malibu. Scant applause.

York then turned to, or should I say turned on, Laureen Sills, asking if she as a councilperson would just be a complaint sidekick to her good friend, Laura Rosenthal. Sills replied with steely conviction that in her 30 years as an active, concerned resident she had many friends, many at times she disagreed with, and while listening and respecting all, would be fiercely independent. Strong applause

As for being independent, York asked Zuma Jay, given his resume as a former mayor and popularity, why he was running on a slate. with lesser lights Ouch. He replied because he generally agreed with Peak and Rick Mullen, though at time they will no doubt disagree. Scattered applause

Rick Mullen was questioned about his lack of credentials, citing in reply a thick resume that includes a long active residency that includes being a local fire chief and parent. Polite applause.

Carl Randall also was chided for his lack of identity. He, too, in reply cited his positions in the parks and school’s communities, And then there also was his family’s involvement, in particular his mother, Carol, who is well connected at City Hall. Strong but limited applause from the family.

However provocative, it is to York’s credit that these are the questions Malibu residents are asking. To the voter, the six appear to be in agreement on most issues, so it is frankly the hearsay the most likely swing the election.

 

 

 

GETTY ENGAGING AS EVER, ESPECIALLY IN FALL

Fall is finally here, and the crowds are definitely smaller at the southland’s popular museums. Gone are the Summer tourists, as I comment on my arts and entertainment wrap for Malibu’s public radio KBU.

Indeed, on a recent Saturday there were spaces on the more accessible parking levels in the Getty’s underground garage and no lines waiting for its trams up to the center’s campus.

There were no lines also in the pleasant café featuring a reasonable menu, and with seating indoors and out, make it a good time to visit.

This places it high on my to do list whenever we have visitors from afar, and definitely if there are particularly engaging exhibits on display.

At the Center now is a must for anyone interested in the contemporary cultural forces at play in the evolution of art. The exhibit, labeled “London Calling,” is a revealing and provocative selection of paintings by six artists who took root in post World War Two in England.

There in largely destroyed London they challenged the then popular rising trends of abstract expressionism, conceptualism, and minimalism, to paint reality, in a raw, rough and lush style, focusing a critical eye on the human figure and landscapes.

Included in this so called school of London, though I feel a better label would be the London gang, were the more recognized Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and R.B. Katjai. They and others in the gang present a reality that is riveting and haunting. Go see it.

Also on display to the end of November are two very different photography exhibits, for which the Getty has a special curatorial affinity.

The more engaging exhibit, entitled the Real and Ideal, displays the emerging art of photography in France, from 1847 to 1860, Through a fascinating selection of dated photographs, illustrated is the debate at the time whether the new medium was art or science, and what would be its future, depicting the real or ideal.

Bear in mind that at the time novelists and painters were also struggling with the question whether to represent everyday subjects and the world, as it was, the good, bad and ugly, or some fanciful conceit.

In contrast to such questions, the other exhibit at the Getty examines the work of a contemporary photographer, Richard Learoyd. His focus is distinctive, very personal large-scale color photographs that prompt you as the viewer to connect with the subjects.

Both exhibits run through November 27th, at the always engaging, and now more accessible Getty Center.  9.23.16

 

THE LOOMING LOCAL ELECTIONS

The bloated local ballot in Malibu needs some attention, that is if we can possibly tune out the inanities emanating from the national elections, where the gut issues of the day are being drowned out in the nit picking of a trumped up Trump, and a harassed Hillary,

For the first time they are being held the first Tuesday in November, concurrently with the national and state ballots, in hopes a decent turnout, as I comment in The Local, on 97.5 KBU. FM and select websites.

Ever since the city of Malibu was founded 25 years ago the local elections had been held in the Spring, with the results there has been a depressing decrease in voters.

Generally the turnout over the years has registered about 25 percent lower that state and national elections.

The reasons have been many: The time of year, which occasionally conflicted with Spring break for schools and families going on vacation; and no gut-wrenching issues threatening residents, such as the closure of PCH, or a blatant municipal scandal.

In addition, a self satisfied, comfortable public seemed frankly content with the status quo, whether just an illusion, the lack of municipal transparency or an undiscerning local media. Whatever.

To be sure, there was a quiet complaint that the low turnout feed a favored a select clique of residents who dealt in personal favors. But this was put down as scattered whining .

That is, until recently, what with traffic on PCH becoming increasing intolerable; the civic center being stripped of local serving business for high end shops; the public schools being neglected by a distant school district, and a languid City Council, except when it came to self aggrandizing.

But even it could not ignore the low turnouts and the heightened concerns, and subsequently approved moving the elections from the Spring to the Fall, to coincide with State and National elections. No doubt a factor was that the move gave incumbents an extra 9 months in office.

The question now is whether it will actually improve the local vote. That will require voters to wade through the top of a long ticket, plus some 17 propositions,  before having to ponder the local elections, and the six candidates vying for the 3 council seats.

For some indication of that task coming soon in the mail to every registered voter is a 224 page Voter Guide, said to be the most voluminous election guide in California history.

Voters are just going to have to be more alert than ever, listen harder, and think more about what the candidates, are saying and doing. That especially applies to our local candidates judging from the recently launched election campaigns.

All six presented themselves to a crowd of about 100 elbowed into the community room in City Hall at a recent forum sponsored by the local Democratic Club.

Most of the statements of the smiling candidates tended to be indistinguishable, all pledging their commitment to uphold the city’s mission statement to avoid suburbanization and commercialization, try to somehow to better handle traffic on the PCH, and to encourage a transparent and responsive City Hall.

The most excitement came after, when the club voted to see whom it will endorse. It was chaotic, raising questions concerning the eligibility of some who voted and whether the balloting was handled correctly, and should the vote be nullified. It is a mud pile that whomever emerges no doubt will be sullied.

One hopes the official balloting in November will go more smoothly.

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THE REDCAT THEATRE, THE CUTTING EDGE OF L.A.

 

From my catbird seat in Malibu I love the cultural blooming in Los Angeles, in particular the avant-garde art, cutting edge dance and-music, experimental theatre and inventive film. It is what I feel makes L.A. such a great place to live and learn.

What I frankly don’t love is getting to the varied venues scattered across the Southland. Traffic downtown, to the arts district, to Bunker Hill is most times off putting, driving a pain and using mass transit actually worse.

You have to learn to beat the traffic.

That is one of the reasons I like the Redcat Theatre, tucked in the southwest corner under the Disney Concert Hall at Grand Avenue and Second Street, almost as an after thought to the iconic, undulating Frank Gehry conceit. The theatre is about what happens in it, not the architecture.

Curtain time for its evening performances are at 8.30, a little later but allowing for traffic to lighten or lingering at a dinner. Best for me are the Sunday performances, scheduled at 7, when traffic tends to be even lighter, parking painless and returning home easier and earlier.

But first and foremost is that the Redcat founded by the trendsetting California Institute of the Arts – known as CalArts – has been a well spring of creativity, outshining the region’s other more prevailing, and pricey, institutions.

In my opinion, if you want to be on the cutting edge of culture, and get a glimpse of the future, now, get to the Redcat. Whatever is being presented might not work, might indeed by uncomfortable, but for sure you’ll stay awake and be challenged, and probably will not easily forget what you have seen.

Me, I’m going to the Redcat this weekend to catch a dance performance of the center for national choreography of Monteplier, France. The performance is said to be wild, combining contemporary dance with folk dances, in an explosion of vitality by eight male dancers, energized by two on stage percussionists.

In its review, the Le Monde of Paris declared the performance “the joy of being alive, of being together momentarily, and the visceral excitement of dancing. “

Certainly sounds like more fun than beating the visceral excitement of driving in heavy traffic.