SCHOOL BOARD IMBROGLIO, CONTINUED

The nice thing about a World Series, especially one that goes to a seventh, winner-take-all  game, as did the Dodgers versus the Astros, is that when it’s over, it’s over. There is a finality. We move on.

Not so it seems in the protracted divorce proceedings to separate Malibu’s public school from the Santa Monica-dominated unified school district, the subject of my commentary this week on public radio 97.5 KBU. and select websites everywhere. .

Last Monday the school board held a special meeting with the sole purpose to bring to an amicable close seven years of protracted negotiations and public hearings that would allow Malibu to create a stand-alone school district, separate from Santa Monica.

As they have at numerous meetings in the past, an overflow crowd of Malibu parents and politicians testified to the educational benefits, democratic imperative and moral certitude of the separation. Also noted was the difference and distance between the cities, one a rural seacoast village, the other a suburban city, separated by 20 miles.

The public comments ended, the board’s duplicitous Santa Monica majority. that is unfortunately needed to approve the separation, proceeded to back track on previous agreements.

To the chagrin of the Malibu contingent, the Santa Monica representatives nit picked the findings of its own consultants, ignored the blatant inequities of the schools, and generally bemoaned the financial arrangements calling for Malibu to pay Santa Monica millions of dollars into the distant future.

Label it retribution or more bluntly ransom, however onerous, it was felt by the Malibu representatives to be the price of freedom. But whatever the amount, a board member inanely commented it probably would not be enough to fund select programs benefitting Santa Monica, and should perhaps be continued into eternity. And this after years of studies by bean counters.

Sensing the simmering anger, the board suggested that maybe Malibu can be appeased by some vague form of autonomy, and has called for a meeting to explore possibilities. Another meeting, more talk, and one must ask, to what end?

It is apparent that the board’s majority does not want the divorce, that most prefer the current arrangement in which Malibu in effect subsidizes a sanctimonious Santa Monica.

When weighed against doing the right thing, greed sadly tends to win, hands out and in.

Since rational arguments don’t seem to work with Santa Monica, perhaps shame will, and it’s time for something else. Keep tuned as we dig into our bag of civil rights memories.

 

 

CONCERT ANTIDOTE FOR WORLD SERIES

This week, something different for my arts and entertainment commentary on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites everywhere. It is needed if only to edge out of mind the homer happy, wacky World Series that ended with a dud.

It’s needed too, if you want to keep abreast of what’s happening in the world of music, and get out of your caves and experience it.

That is what is promised this Saturday, at 8 PM, at UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance at Royce Hall, where appearing will be the Grammy award winning pop rock band, “OK Go.”

The band is perhaps best know for its eye-catching, mind blowing videos. But instead of seeing the iconic videos on the small screen, expect to see them, in performance, in an immersive cinematic environment, being scored, live.

Don’t expect this to be the usual rock show, lots of amped up sound and flashing lights, but a blast from the bands past, and into the future. If this sounds a bit confusing, stay after the performance, when the band will take questions from the audience. And you can catch your breath.

I also look forward to it being antidote for me to the World Series, which frankly left me exhausted, and deserve some mention here.

After all, this commentary is entitled “arts and entertainment observed,” and indeed I have to confess that the unpredictability and drama of the series was for the most part entertaining.

Certainly for me as a critic it had elements of an ancient production, what with fallen heroes as in a Greek tragedy, and the screaming crowds mimicking Roman spectacles.

This despite the crass commercialism and the mind numbing television spots, though happily were long enough to allow breaks from the couch.

Of course I didn’t attend any of the games, what with the obscene ticket prices. If I wouldn’t pay $100 to see “Hamilton.” I certainly wouldn’t pay S1,000 for a questionable seat, and having to fight traffic to get there, and also pay for parking.

Long, long ago I came to realize that the Dodgers despite the smiling face of Magic Johnson had become just another greedy sports enterprise; I think it was about the time it was bought by Rupert Murdoch and then sold to a Boston parking lot owner.

Suffice it to say the Dodgers are not the team I loved with an uncommon passion, the team of Gil Hodges, Duke Snider and Jackie Robinson, when I was growing up in Brooklyn.

There I’d actually take the legendary trolley to the games at Ebbetts Field to see games, having been blessed with tickets scored for hawking copies of the newspaper Brooklyn Eagle .

But those were days past. The present is now, and the future is a concert at UCLA. Life does move on.

 

 

MALIBU’S DREAM DEFERRED

If cities everywhere, in California, across the country, world wide, have a common concern it is not their urban design, as usually explored here, it is public schools.

People may not give a damn about their communities; not pay taxes, vote, mow the lawn, or even nod to neighbors, being nihilists or just plan anti-social. But whether misanthropic or not, having a child in public school connects them to the world.

It is a thin string that tends to bind even the most frail human settlements, and in a democracy, such as ours purports to be, is essential to its function and no less to its future. Schmaltzy I know, but I believe it.

So even if my four accomplished children are way beyond public school, as I certainly am, I am indebted to the institution and as the unquestioned foundation of democracy fiercely support it.

This prompted me the other night to join with the Advocates for Malibu Public Schools to once again rally for an independent school district before a sadly impassive, if not duplicitous, local school board.

How else can you describe the board’s Santa Monica majority dithering inaction made more exasperating by the sanctimonious city’s posture as a bastion of liberal values. Most hypocritical is its treatment of Malibu.

There is just no justifying for Santa Monica, with its 84 percent voter majority, continuing to hold Malibu hostage, with its 16 percent minority. This is further aggravated by the communities being distinctly different and disconnected, separated by 20 miles, one essentially a preening suburban city and the other a exurban village. After all is said and done, democracy’s true test is the majority’s responsibility to guarantee minority rights.

 

So once again the other night the minority made its case, with speaker after speaker making the point that Malibu is simply asking local control of the schools within its isolated city lines, something that Santa Monica has, and takes for granted

Further, convincingly supported by hard facts, they argued that under the current conditions, with a self serving Santa Monica majority on the board, Malibu is being treated separately and grossly unequally; that Malibu is in a phrase was being short changed in curriculum and cash.

And so it continued, late into the night, with the board’s Santa Monica majority dodging the democratic imperative of home rule, and the paramount moral issue of what will best serve the students of Malibu.The board’s utter failure to step up and do the right thing, reminded me of a poem by Langston Hughes:

,

“What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up, like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—and then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over- like syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags, like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

 

 

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT HALPRIN REMEMBERED AND EXHIBITED

This week, it is not city observed, but landscape architecture observed, at the A+ D museum, that’s A for architecture and D for design, at 900 East Fourth St., way downtown L.A.

On exhibit there is an appealing overview of the life and work of the pioneering landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, who I consider one of the most influential designers of his time, right up there with Frederick Law Olmsted.

My opinion is of a critic who for a while taught design history at USC and landscape architecture at UCLA, and not because Halprin was born in Brooklyn, as I was, and attended Cornell University, and eventually settled on the West Coast, as I did.

But I must admit to being akin to Halprin –he died in 2009 at the age of 93 –and very much into his humanistic approach to urban design, which he articulated in his book, entitled “Cities,” written a half century ago, and still relevant.

While “we do not have a clear picture of the ideal form of a city,,” he wrote, we do have a clear image of the purpose of an ideal city: “

Simply put, he added, it is to provide a healthy, creative environment for people to live in. And this in turn he explains means respecting its topography, people, and cultural heritage, in sum what he labels the character of a place.

Yes, that hard-to-define “neighborhood character” that many communities are now debating, from Malibu to Manhattan.

The book should be required reading for all those involved in the debate, and also those entrusted with shaping our environment. That includes rank-and-file planners, practicing architects, city managers, to our neophyte politicians, being whispered to by project lobbyists and lawyers.

The exhibit also is recommended, consisting of mostly 56 newly commissioned photographs of a selection of his projects. These include the iconic fountains in Portland, Oregon, the plazas in Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, the open space in Sea Ranch on the California coast, and the F.D.R memorial in Washington, D.C.

In L.A. there is the Maguire Garden, a welcoming landscape marking the western approach to the Central Library, not incidentally covering a parking garage. To the north of the library, connecting 5th and Hope, is a distinctive landscaped stairway, graced with cascading water.While the photos, and other glimpses of Halprin’s life organized by the Cultural Landscape Foundation, are engaging, there is nothing like experiencing some actual projects.

So in conjunction with the exhibit, the Los Angeles Conservancy is offering walking tours of Halprin’s downtown project on upcoming Sundays, November 5, 19th and December 17th. www.laconservacnby.org/upcoming-events. You might want to check it out.

 

HEAT WAVE ABATES, LA/CA EXHIBITS DO NOT

The heat wave in Malibu has abated, we hope, and It is time once again for Pacific Standard Time’s LA/LA. an unprecedented and welcomed exploration of Latin American and Latino art, sponsored in large part by the Getty.

Indeed, it seems it is always time for LA/LA since it was launched several months ago at the LA County Museum and is continuing there, and, of course, at the Getty, and seemingly everywhere across Southern California., as I comment this week on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites.

With some 100 concurrent exhibitions, programs and events scheduled over four months at no less than 70 cultural institutions, selecting what to see and then finding time to visit the venues can be a real challenge for those with real lives,.

For me recently it was finding an hour plus downtown to duck into Union Station, to see a here-to-fore hidden, mesmerizing mural, a 43 panel chronological history of Los Angeles, from the founding of the city in 1781 to 1981.

That is when the mural painted by Barbara Carraco was to be displayed as part of L.A.’s bicentennial on, of all things, a McDonald’s exterior downtown, but was censored. It seems 14 of the images were considered offensive, depicting past discriminatory events involving the city’s black, Mexican and Japanese minorities. Nothing like displaying the truth to worry the powers-that-be.

So into storage it went, appearing briefly at Union Station in 1990. And now it is at Union Station again, properly hailed and labeled an “un-censoring” as part of an exhibition co-curated for LA/LA by the LA Cultural and Arts Plaza and the California Historical Society.

I would have liked to seen more of the display on rebel art, but since I was downtown I also wanted to see the Pacific Standard Time’s exhibit at the Central Library, “Oaxaca in L.A”, the city being the home to the largest population of indigenous Oaxacans outside Mexico.

I unfortunately missed the program, as I frankly have some others. There are just too many.

I’m sure it is also daunting for the Getty overseers, museum curators and ardent academics to make time, even though salaried, or just even having their travel expenses covered.

But what of the committed, causal or just curious aesthete, the public, for whom these offering are ostensibly directed? And also what about many of my old media acquaintances, who keep showing up while their publications sadly continue to wilt and no longer pay?

Then of course, there is the constant attraction of what is being presented. It’s like taking an art appreciation course, and loving it.

SUPPORT STIRRED FOR MALIBU AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Could it be that Malibu is getting a conscience, and the need for affordable housing for seniors now loving living here, but need to down size? And also for the many others who serve the community, such as teachers and first responders, but can’t afford Malibu and must live elsewhere?

Thank you, for the dozens of positive and encouraging comments reiterating the need for affordable housing, and urging the city to recognize the imperative to move forward, starting at long last with a declaration of need.

\That is my pleased reaction to a recent commentary on public radio 97.5 KBU and local websites, calling once again for an imaginative redevelopment of the now very uncivil civic center as a true seacoast village that features affordable housing.

Yes, I have urged this several times in the past as an alternative to the unwanted pending crass commercial plans catering to tourists that our local realtors seem to love, and was unfortunately approved by past recalcitrant city councils and obsequious city staffs.

But in the past my immodest proposal prompted just a few private “thank yous” and the cowardly personal insults of the ever- present local dotards

By the way, I get a kick out of the term dotard, which is now widely circulated after having been used to describe the despicable and dangerously despotic President Trump. Our locals aren’t really that bad, just it seems that their thinking has been affected by having been wiped out too often by waves.

I’m sure they love Malibu, it is just that apparently don’t realize that some well designed and sensitively sited affordable housing not only is desperately needed, it actually will help the real estate market.
In particular, a local run and well managed senior housing project could give the option to many seniors here of selling their housing that is now too big since the kids have moved on, and still be able to relocate in the Malibu they love.

Our teachers also are a concern, especially those who have to commute for hours, clogging up the PCH before getting to class, hopefully on time and not too tired, then having to fight the traffic getting home. No wonder it is hard to hire the teachers for Malibu, at least the good ones in demand, so say our school administrators and so indicate various past staff surveys.

And I’m sure there are city personnel down on the municipal food chain that would welcome affordable housing. By having a home in Malibu as well as working here, who knows, maybe they would think a little less of their payroll and pensions, and more about making the town they now live in, more livable, for themselves, and us.”

HEADS UP FOR ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Observing arts and entertainment might not be the most accurate description of these reports; commentaries or criticisms may be more on the mark.

Perhaps an even more precise, if not pretentious, description, would be “user advocate,” an adage heard in the design and development trade I plied in for years.

While lending some perspective and, wishfully, a dash of poetry to my opinions, my prime intention actually is to alert listeners on public radio 97.5 KBU and social media readers to reasonably accessible venues in our fractured Los Angeles.

With that in mind, I prefer giving alerts to current and upcoming events I think might be of interest to culture vultures, rather than doing a review of something I attended, but no longer is available, the exhibit having been taken down or the production ended.

That is why I gave a heads up recently to the Dorrance Dance Company’s appearance at the always engaging Wallis Cultural Center in Beverly Hills., that was just booked for three days, October 12th through the 14th.

A review at my scheduled times would not have allowed those who might be interested in this different dance ensemble time to make plans and get tickets. There are few phrases as sad in this fleeting world as, “I’m really sorry to have missed that.”

Well, sorry to report, if you did miss the Dorrance, you missed an exciting evening, even if you casually entertained by the magnetism of dance, melding music and movement as it does, in the seductiveness of sound and sight. I happen to love it.

So taking exception to my own guidelines –what are guidelines for but to take exception to– I must give it a review, if only to alert those who might have a chance to see the dance company when they hopefully return to the Wallis, or elsewhere.

The company directed and starring Michelle Dorrance, also deserves it, as does the Wallis for featuring it in its continuing dance offerings for which its theatre is near perfect.

As for the performance, it was great, original and breathtaking, giving the edgy rhythms of jazz expression in the patterned pulse of tap dancing, rising out the traditional club scenes of decades ago, and today’s raw street and subway scenes. Very American, and arresting.

EDIFICE COMPLEX MARS L.A. COUNTY MUSEUM

We do appreciate the generosity of L. A.’s David Geffen, who as a well positioned player in the entertainment industry and a Malibu denizen amassed zillions, and has in turn been very generous endowing a host of cultural endeavors.
 
This has included a major addition to the Museum of Contemporary Arts downtown, and a landmark theatre. in Westwood, named naturally the Geffen. No doubt his buying and selling real estate in Malibu added a few drops to his overflowing bucket
 
But I must take strong exception to his latest burst of benevolence, $150 million to the rebuilding of the L..A, County Museum of Art. as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and websites everywhere.
 
If consummated, it will be the largest gift on record toward the construction of an American museum. And I sadly add perhaps one of the most misdirected.
 
The proposed design and construction of LACMA is, I feel, in a word, a bomb. I fear if pursued the project will not only be a colossal waste of money, including substantial public funds, but would subvert the city’s cultural spirit.
 
No doubt with a price tag approaching a billion dollars, it undoubtedly will drain funds from a multitude of art projects across Southern California,
 
In addition, the Geffen gift alternatively could, among other things, easily endow the museum – the city’s largest and most important — to eliminate its entrance fees, and magically open its doors to all, as the Hammer and Broad museums already do.
 
Meanwhile, spurred now by the gullible Geffen gift, the fund raising for the immodest brick-and mortar project stumbles forward. So does the design, which features a blob of a building bridging Wilshire Boulevard to replace the present fractured but functioning LACMA.
 
Admittedly, the museum could use some serious interior redesign, rehabilitation, and relandscaping to improve access and circulation.
 
True, a subtle restoration would be a real challenge to a design team, though not as easy and potentially not as dramatic as working with a cleared site. And certainly not if you are an over-reaching museum director, as Michael Govan apparently is, suffering as he does from an edifice complex.
 
Then there is his servile Swiss architect, Peter Zumthor, of limited museum experience and, as most architects, unlimited ambition. LACMA obviously is the commission of a life time, which has to be very enticing for an architect who seldom has worked beyond his conservative and confining country.
 
If this project is unfortunately pursued as it now seem it will be, when finished, Govan probably will move on, probably to New York, where he is said to yearn to become the director of the august Met. As for Zumthor, he most likely will go back to his Swiss hamlet
 
And L.A. will be stuck with a bomb of a costly building.
 

GETTY CELEBRATES LATIN AMERICAN ART

The engrossing perspectives of Latin American and Latino Art continue to be unveiled in the ambitious cultural endeavor Pacific Standard Time, LA/LA., as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and websites everywhere
 
Underwritten in large part by the Getty Foundation, the exhibits in some 70 cultural institutions are singular curatorial events exploring the traditions of Latin American art and their contributions to art in all the Americas.
 
So much for walls between nations, repressive immigration policies, and the xenophobic views of our embarrassing President Trump, and his gutless and greedy supporters.
 
The sorry situation in the nation’s capitol, I feel, makes it all that important the we celebrate our diversity, particularly in the rich traditions of art. And that is what LA/LA does.
 
Most recently this happily meant touring yet another LA/LA extravaganza, this one to the Pacific Standard Time’s mother ship, the Getty’s Brentwood hilltop museum, Featured there at present are four distinct and strikingly different exhibits.
 
All are noteworthy, but most arresting to me was the exhibit entitled Golden Kingdoms; Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas.
 
With exquisite art works dating back 3,000 years, revealed are a succession of civilizations that obviously valued creativity and enjoyed flaunting it.
 
Of particular interest to me was that metals were used to craft objects of ritual and ornament, not as in most other civilizations, for weaponry, tools or coinage.
 
So we have for example ancient jewel encrusted hoop earrings that would be quite stylish today, and body ornaments that would distinguish a Venice Beach hipster.
 
Displayed in addition to objects in gold and silver are art works made from shell, textiles, and most notably jade. Indeed, jade appears to have been valued more than gold, though the early Europeans did not differentiate.
 
They just plundered everything they could get their greedy hands on while conquering the heathen Golden Kingdoms in the name of Christianity. Millions died, and with them the crafts that had distinguished their civilizations.
 
As for the other LA/LA exhibits at the Getty, they also were fascinating as they were different, but these broadcasts being brief I will have to review the in the weeks and months ahead.
 
However, with the exhibits running into next year, I just might have enough time to see and comment on them all. You should try.
 
 

HOUSING COULD MAKE MALIBU’S CIVIC CENTER CIVIL

It was no surprise reading a L.A. Times business story recently that major commercial real estate developers are increasingly considering adding housing to their mix of mall brews.

That malls and mini malls, and shopping centers are struggling is not news for developers, real estate investors, and city planners-in-the know, as I comment this week on public radio 97.5 KBU andf select websites everywhere.

More and more shoppers are frankly shunning the malls in favor of on-line shopping, where in the comfort of their homes they can view a wealth of products, weigh bargains, and, if are alert to specials, enjoy free home delivery, and easy returns.

As a result, some 25 per cent of America’s malls are expected to close in the next five years., while others struggle to become more appealing. This includes recycling malls in the mode of walkable villages, featuring speciality shops, boutiques, and a range of intimate eateries and entertainment

Now the latest ingredient is housing; and not coincidentally needed more than ever, as California suffers under an acute housing shortage, in particular affordable housing.

Challenging certainly will be the recycling of previously commercial developments, especially the malls anchored by major department stores. It may in some cases prompt bulldozing; after all it is the land and location that is valuable.

Challenging also will be the obvious need for some major rezoning, which depending on the proposed housing, nearby neighborhoods may not like.

This brings me back to my conflicted Malibu, whose efforts at planning at best have been behind the times, and in some cases unfortunately behind the counter.

Malibu I feel is ripe for this recycling in its so-called civic center, which actually is less a center than a scattered collection of suburban mini malls. And no doubt the pending approved shopping centers there catering to tourists will only make it worse, and I suspect the developers also may be having second thoughts, given the shifting shopping trends.

And so once again, as I have strongly suggested in the past, the city consider proposing work force and senior housing in the civic center, specifically for our teachers and first responders. Lets even include a few units for city employees.

In a phrase, housing would make the civic center civil. Indeed, if designed well, it could create the livable, viable sea coast village for which the city has always yearned.

Besides, it actually could reduce traffic on the PCH. Residential uses generate half of what commercial does, especially if they work locally.

It also would more than satisfy Malibu’s affordable housing element required by the State. Certainly it would please the Coastal Commission, and make it look more kindly on the city.

But most of all it is the right thing to do. We owe it to those who serve us.