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“Dolittle” is the latest in a long, undistinguished line of movies about the veterinarian who can talk to animals. It doesn’t speak well for the film that one of its only affecting moments involves a stick insect that doesn't seem to listen and has nothing to say.
Peacock, the streaming service from NBCUniversal, had its big presentation this week and we now know it will come with multiple tiers and pricing options. In addition to hundreds of TV shows and movies in library content, Peacock is also working on a hearty development slate of new programming. The service will debut in April for Comcast customers, and everyone else will be able to get on board starting in July.
After another year of women being shut out of Best Director and only one person of color acknowledged in the acting categories, this year’s Oscar nominations left a lot of people feeling disappointed. Netflix had the highest nomination count of any studio in this year’s Oscar nominations, but will they be able to break through with any big wins, especially after being almost shut out at the Golden Globes?
In October 2017, The New York Times published the first exposé on Harvey Weinstein, quickly followed by Ronan Farrow’s article in The New Yorker.
As Farrow recounts in his book “Catch and Kill,” he originally undertook his reporting for NBC News. Kim Masters was in contact with Farrow while he was working on the story--doing whatever she could to guide and encourage him. Of course, she would have liked to break the story herself but it had stymied her and other reporters for years.
Harvey knew that Masters had made intermittent efforts to get at the truth and, as she subsequently learned from Farrow’s reporting, she was making him nervous. It turns out he had some kind of dossier on her and had sent one of his spies, posing as a reporter, to chat her up. And as you’ll hear, that’s not all.
When Farrow interviewed Masters for his “Catch and Kill Podcast,” they talked about many things, including why breaking the story was seemingly impossible for so many years. Farrow also interviewed New Yorker journalist Ken Auletta, who had also tried to report the facts, without success.
Today we bring you parts of Masters’ interview for “The Catch and Kill Podcast” episode that dropped a few days ago. Masters also add a few other memories from her years covering Weinstein.
Special thanks to Ronan Farrow and his producers for letting us play portions of Episode 5, “The Hunt,” on our show. Be sure to check out all the episodes of “The Catch and Kill Podcast” on your favorite podcast app.
The government says about 20% of Americans have a mental illness, and 11 million of them have a serious mental illness (something that gets in the way of major life activities).
Bamford herself lives with bipolar disorder. She tells Press Play, “I feel like everybody is on a spectrum of different mental experiences. It's just comedians are much more likely to talk about it.”
Bamford says she would love to talk to people who don’t have the financial/cultural resources to handle illness.
“How are they handling it? Because with … not only my income level and my union representation, but I have the best of all possible worlds with getting care. And so I think it would be wonderful to talk to people [about] how they are coping, just people who aren't in entertainment. But it's also interesting to talk to people in entertainment,” she says.
Bamford brings celebrities on her show, including “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” actress Rachel Bloom. In that episode, they discuss health insurance, and the level of resources it takes to get good care.
“It's miserable. And even people who are desperately trying to give you that health care aren't allowed to through the system that they function. So I think a lot of people are willing to find help, ask for help on their own behalf, and then it's just not there,” Bamford says.
She adds that it’s valuable to at least tell people, “You’re not alone.” She recalls, “When I didn't have insurance, I went to county to go get meds. You wait six hours. When you get there, you see somebody for about 10 minutes. And maybe they give you meds, or maybe they try to hospitalize you. And if you're worried about food, and rent, and kids, or any anything else … I just I don't know how people are doing it, and I don't think they are. I think that's the truth.”
Maria Bamford. Credit: Robyn Von Swank.
Meds and work
Bamford’s episode with Bloom also covers medication, which still has a kind of stigma around it.
“It's very embarrassing. There are all these -- guilt of like somehow you didn't work hard enough … and that you shouldn't be on meds, that meds are a weakness thing,” she says.
Bamford says meds affected her energy levels: “It does get me down in terms of I wish I had more energy. I had to drop out. I was on a reality show called ‘Worst Cooks Celebrity Edition.’ … It was 18 hour days, and something I probably used to be able to do when I was not on meds or these particular meds. And I had to drop out of the show after three days because I couldn't keep up. … So it was embarrassing to drop.”
What about the effects of meds on her creative process? She says, “It just slows everything down. And I don't know if my work has suffered. I'm inside of it, so I don't I really know. I believe it's eight years now [that] I've been on the same meds.”
What has Bamford learned through interviewing people on her show?
She says, “I think that experience of -- I look at somebody from the outside and I think, ‘Oh, they've got all the answers, and they feel a sense of calm and purpose in their life’ … but to be with the human being and to go, ‘Oh, okay, we're all just trying to figure it out, that I don't have to be perfect to participate,’ ”
Her guests’ openness has been a highlight too. “People do want to share their own foibles and experiences and want to help others. I think that's what I've learned. I hope that's good enough,” she says.
The Major League Baseball cheating scandal is getting bigger and weirder. Three team managers were fired this week. There are reports of players banging on trash cans and wearing buzzers to tip off batters about which pitches were headed their way. It’s bad for the teams accused of cheating, but really bad for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers lost two World Series to these teams, the Astros in 2017 and the Red Sox who’ve been accused of stealings in 2018.
Dodgers fans are angry about the whole thing too. There’s talk of a class action lawsuit.
We review “Dolittle,” the latest adaptation of Hugh Lofting’s fairy tale, starring Robert Downey Jr.; “Bad Boys for Life,” with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence returning for the third time as the Miami detective duo; “A Fall From Grace,” a Tyler Perry thriller premiering on Netflix today.
Our critics: Dave White, critic for The Wrap and co-host of Linoleum Knife; and Christy Lemire, writer for RogerEbert.com and co-host of Breakfast All Day.
Dave White: “Robert Downey Jr. is weirdly detached from everything around him. I think he just did all of his parts in a solitary room in front of a green screen and is not interacting with any other real human being in the film. That’s what it feels like.”
Christy Lemire: “Supposedly this thing cost $175 million to make. [There’s an] embarrassment of riches both behind and in front of the camera … besides Robert Downey Jr., who I don’t know why this is the thing he wants to use all his ‘Avengers’ clout for, you have Michael Sheen, you have Jim Broadbent. … And then behind the scenes doing the voices of the animals: Octavia Spencer, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, Tom Holland, Marion Cotillard. What were they saying yes to?
… It’s baffling. I don’t know what I’ve seen. I’ve talked about this with a lot of people and I still don’t understand it.”
“Bad Boys for Life”
Christy Lemire: “The plot does not matter. It’s about getting these two guys together again and watching them bounce off of each other.”
Dave White says it’s a good thing that Michael Bay isn’t directing this time. “This is the most coherently put together ‘Bad Boys’ movie of the three. This is more sort of pedestrian as a film. You know what every beat is going to be next. And you know that if they are in a car and they look in the rearview mirror, you’re not going to see the ocean and a boat following them, which is what would’ve happened in a Michael Bay movie."
“A Fall From Grace”
Christy Lemire: “This is actually very competently made, given that this is a Tyler Perry movie. It is slicker than you would expect, but it’s still nuts. It gets increasingly nuts. I don’t want to give anything away.”
Kenneth Starr was the independent counsel who led the investigation into President Clinton that resulted in his impeachment. Starr is now part of President Trump’s defense team in his impeachment trial that starts Tuesday in the Senate. Alan Dershowitz, one of OJ Simpson’s defense attorneys, is also on Trump’s legal team. Both are high-profile defenders of Trump on Fox News.
The 2020 presidential race has a crowded field of competitors, and many are making their way to Los Angeles for fundraisers, rallies, and other events. KCRW is tracking each candidate's visit to LA -- the locations, dates, and significance of what happens.
A recent report revealed that Russian hackers used phishing techniques to infiltrate the Burisma, the Ukrainian company that was the seed of the impeachment trial. The Democratic National Committee was also targeted in 2016. And probably your grandparents or another relative has gotten a suspicious email and didn’t know what to do with it.
From corporations to political figures and everyday citizens, we all can get phished. We get advice on staying safe from Cooper Quintin, Senior Staff Technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
How to protect yourself
If something seems weird about an email or text message, listen to your common sense instinct and don’t click.
“In general, if you get a link or an attachment in an email that you weren't expecting, even if it's from somebody that you know, don't click on it right away. Contact the person in another way. Give them a call. And make sure that they did in fact intend to send it to you,” says Quintin.
Quintin says to maintain your “digital security hygiene,” such as:
Updating all your software, including security features on your phone and laptop.
Using a password manager and turning on two-factor authentication when available.
If you are infiltrated with malware, then what?
“The most common type of malware that we see being installed through phishing attacks right now is ransomware, which will encrypt your data and hold it for ransom until you pay,” says Quintin.
Keep backups of important data on your computer.
Have a professional help you clean up your computer.
What untargeted phishing looks like:
You get an email that looks like it came from Google. It says your account has been compromised, so please click on this link to reset your password. You click and end up on a fake Google login page. You enter your info, which goes to a scammer, and you get redirected to the real Google site.
Sex extortion: The attacker sends you an email saying they have a compromising video of you looking at adult sites, and you have to pay money to ge tthem to delete it. But in fact, they have no such video.
Classic: An email says a rich foreign prince wants to give you some money.
Secret package: An email says you have a package waiting for you at FedEx, but you need to download this PDF to find out what it is. That PDF contains malware.
What targeted phishing looks like:
These techniques can get very sophisticated, and most people will never get one of these in their lifetimes, says Quintin.
But you might get one if you:
- Work for a company that’s under geopolitical scrutiny
- Work in politics
- Work in journalism
- Are an activist
- Are a human rights defender
If you open a malicious email or link, how soon do you know that you’ve been hacked?
“You might not necessarily know that you’ve been hacked as soon as you click on the email. It might take a little bit. A lot of phishing campaigns are trying to get credentials to your email account or to other sensitive accounts. … And it might take a while for that to become apparent,” he says.
There’s a potentially monumental new agreement between the WNBA and its female basketball players. Top players could earn more than $500,000 per season. And for the first time, the average salary would be above $100,000. Players would also childcare subsidies and full salaries when they’re on maternity leave.
Nneka Ogwumike, LA Sparks forward and president of the players’ union, helped negotiate the deal.
“It hasn't always been easy for women of color. And so for us to be able to make such a monumental agreement with the league, with obviously mostly black women, we're very proud of that,” she tells KCRW. “And obviously there's more than just the racial diversity that we have in the league. We have players of so many different orientations and so many different backgrounds. We have mothers. And so I think that this agreement was exactly what we wanted.”
With higher salaries, will the women no longer need to play in China, Russia or Europe -- as they often do -- to make a decent living? She says that decision is up to individuals.
“We’re obviously moving towards opportunities for players in the offseason, so that they do have more options than just going and playing overseas, which has been such a big part of our livelihood with women and basketball,” she says. “But we understand that in order for the league to grow, we must too. And right now, it's looking like the more opportunities there are in the offseason, the more we'll have players in market and be able to truly get the partnerships that we need to continue to fuel resources into the league.”
This is also a revenue sharing agreement, so if the WNBA gets more money, the players will too.
“Right now, we've structured a system in which the league has to attain a certain amount of revenue, which then toggles the 50/50 split between the players and the leagues,” Ogwumike explains.
So how can Ogwumike help the WBA make more money? She suggests it lies in the women continuing to speak up: “Basketball is basketball, but the WNBA is different from the NBA. And I think it's time that we assess exactly what works for us and move forward in that regard. It's on a lot of different organizations and corporations to provide the visibility and access for people to come and watch us; and of course, the partnerships to give us the resources to fund the league.”
So will this agreement ripple out to other women’s sports, such as soccer? She says that’s the perspective she had when going into negotiations.
“We weren't just looking to fight for our own (with the players and the NBA). We wanted to fight for women in the workplace as well. And of course women in sports, more specifically team sports, because I think that team sports … is where we see the most disparity between men and women in sports.”
For stress relief, some adults turn to coloring books, painting, or crafts. Add to that: building LEGO structures. Can connecting the little plastic bricks be a form of mindfulness? Is there value behind unleashing our inner child and tapping into creativity to deal with what life throws at us?
President Trump’s impeachment trial formally began today. House prosecutors marched to the Senate, where Adam Schiff, House Intelligence Chairman and the trial’s lead prosecutor, read aloud the two charges against Trump. Chief Justice John Roberts swore in all 100 Senators as jurors. House Democrats will begin presenting their case early next week. What can we expect? What might Trump’s legal strategy be?
If you want to make six figures a year, you could try to become an air traffic controller, software developer, or nurse practitioner. Or you could apply to your local Taco Bell. Known for greasy stoner food, Taco Bell announced a pilot program for its managers to make white-collar salaries. We look at how this pilot program works, and how the fast food economy reflects the larger job market.
Arnel Guiang had one of those L.A. drives you would not wish on anyone.
“I used to commute daily on the 60, to the 605, to the 105, to El Segundo every single day,” Guiang recalls, standing on the tarmac of Brackett Field Airport in east L.A. County.
The nearly 90-mile-long slog between his Pomona home to the Northrop Grumman office just south of LAX. and back defined his life, he says. Guiang rarely, if ever, made it on time to morning meetings. He spent hours upon hours each week in gridlock.
“Because I lived so far away, I was usually the late guy,” Guiang says.
Until one day, a coworker made a suggestion that he only dreamed about while raging in bumper to bumper traffic: “Why don’t I take you out in the plane sometime?”
Arnel Guiang (left) and pilot Greg Landers on the tarmac at Brackett Field Airport in Pomona. Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb.
Guiang says the first time he landed in Hawthorne, the experience changed him.
“[It] took about 15 minutes to get home from Hawthorne Airport. It was like nothing,” he says. “And I knew from that point on, I said, ‘Hey, what if I did that as a business? What if I did that every single day?’”
That flight, Guiang says, was the spark for his budding commuter flight business called FLy Over All Traffic (FLOAT). He is one of the company’s cofounders, which is angling to begin flying passengers above L.A.’s congested freeways later this year.
Some of the proposed routes that FLOAT could fly, connecting regional airports around Southern California. Photo courtesy of FLOAT.
Pricing for the service starts at $1,250 a month for commuter flights 5 days a week. The company plans to take advantage of Southern California’s vast collection of small airports and airfields, says Lisa Walker, who is a pilot and handles public relations for FLOAT. She admits it may not help solve the region’s traffic problems, but it is a start.
"There’s no one solution,” Walker says. “But we think we can be a part of it. You know, one of the biggest problems with mass transportation is that it’s point A to point B. Sometimes that does not work for everyone.”
Walker says the company has its initial flight paths from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but it cannot release them yet because of federal rules.
Still, FLOAT has some sample travel times:
- Hawthorne Municipal Airport to Whiteman Airport in Pacoima: 10 minutes
- San Gabriel Valley Airport in El Monte to Fullerton Municipal Airport: 7 minutes.
- Camarillo Airport to Compton/Woodley Airport: 23 minutes.
A view from inside the cockpit of one of FLOAT’s commuter airplanes. Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb.
“There’s no TSA. There are no crowds,” says pilot Greg Landers, who flies one of FLOAT’s Cessna Grand Caravan planes. The aircraft seats 11 passengers, including the pilot.
“People aren't distressed by the time they walk in the door of the airport. It’s just a fun environment to fly in,” he says.
But the idea is hardly a new one, and Walker admits the company is taking advantage of existing technology: the regional airports and in-use aircraft. What remains unclear is whether or not the company can be successful in the long-term.
Shon Hiatt at the USC Marshall School of Business says there are similar ventures that have shown promise in other cities. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, he says business executives often use helicopters to fly over the gridlock below, some of the worst in the world.
If the numbers add up for high paying professionals in L.A., he says, the business could grow.
Arnel Guiang (right) says he hopes to expand his company in the coming months to include more planes and more routes. Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb.
“The average Angeleno spends 81 hours a year idling in traffic,” Hiatt says. “So if we look at the economics, the opportunity cost for a highly paid professional in law or finance making $500 an hour to drive - versus taking a commuter flight - could be up to $40,000 a year.”
The economics, however, are just one piece of the puzzle. Emissions from airplanes are a major source of CO2 pollution. A recent studyby the United Nations found that greenhouse gas emissions from commercial air travel across the globe are growing faster than anticipated.
While FLOAT may not be positioned to make a dent in that trend, Walker says the company is looking at new aircraft technology, even though it may be years away.
A view from FLOAT’s Cessna Grand Caravan plane looking down at the San Gabriel Valley. Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb.
“The technology is moving toward electric planes. That’s the path of the future,” Walker says. “So it will become more environmentally safe as time goes on. What we are doing is using existing airfields that are underutilized, existing FAA rules and existing infrastructure to start solving this traffic problem now.”
Tens of thousands of people are expected to gather this Saturday in downtown for the fourth annual Women’s March LA. Since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, many people have gathered nationwide to march for women’s rights and protest threats to reproductive rights.
But some critics are questioning the relevance of the Women’s March this year, especially with an impeachment trial in the Senate and a presidential election looming.
Emiliana Guereca, president of the Women’s March Foundation and an organizer of Women’s March LA, says that this year’s march is a force to be reckoned with. “Most of these activists have plugged into different work. Even if they don’t march with us, they are still plugging into being active, to make sure that their voice counts. Because I personally think we fell asleep at the wheel in 2016.”
Professor Dana R. Fisher points out that the march inspired people nationwide: “When the Women’s March was over, the people who participated, who were predominantly female (85% of the people who participated were female), they did not go back and sit on their couches and twiddle their thumbs. They got active. And they got involved.”
Downtown LA’s Arts District has been turning into the hippest of hip meccas with happening hotels, restaurants, retail, and office space. But recently, there have been a few hiccups, particularly on the restaurant side.
In December, the Manufactory shut down after less than one year in business. It was a 40,000 square foot space with restaurants, a big bakery, marketplace, and coffee roastery.
Now the Firehouse restaurant and boutique hotel says it’s shutting down for a few months for rebranding and other upgrades.
While Trump cuts environmental protections, Democrats debate climate change -- when reporters give them a chance. CNN didn’t ask until the second half of the latest debate. We hear what the candidates said. In the meantime, Chief Justice John Roberts will “preside”over the impeachment trial, but he won’t be a judge.
This is Rob Long and on today’s Martini Shot I do my annual new year’spurge of all of the ideas and articles and clippings I’ve saved, thinking they’d be greatshows, but I haven’t done anything with them, so time to give them away.
Venice Blvd. consists mainly of small storefronts and apartment complexes, but on one corner, next to the fire station, a large garden interrupts the buildings crammed together.
The plants there are grown with the help of broccoli stems and banana peels.
The nonprofit , enter a zip code, and they’ll email information for the nearest hub that’s accepting food scraps from new residents.
However, only eight out of LA Compost’s 32 hubs are taking new people. The rest are closed to the public or at capacity. For West LA residents, the closest option is in downtown.
Dereig says it’s been a challenge to keep up with growing demand: “Unfortunately there are times when the bin reaches capacity, and unfortunately we have to turn some folks away.”
Demand is high because a lot of cities in LA County don’t accept compost. Most of them have green bins, but the rules about what goes in those bins changes across city borders.
For example, Burbank will only accept stuff from your backyard, like dead leaves, branches and grass trimmings. Los Angeles will accept whole foods, like the moldy orange you never got around to eating, but not the orange peels.
It’s much more complicated than in Northern and Central California. Alameda, for example, accepts compost countywide.
“LA County is more densely populated, and so the locations and farms that use the compost generated from our organic waste are farther out. It costs more to ship it to that location,” says Coby Skye, who oversees the environmental program at LA Public Works.
And building a composting facility in LA County comes with its own challenges.
"We also have more stringent air quality regulations, so to develop composting facilities within the South Coast Air Quality Management District (which most of LA County is in) would require those facilities to be fully enclosed. And to pull and treat all of the air within that facility ... that adds to the cost of the composting significantly,” Skye says.
LA Compost gets around those costs by using compost at gardens where food scraps are collected. But there are too many people and too little green space to do that for all residents.
So the burden of composting in Los Angeles falls on Angelenos, such as Kendra Schussel. She is determined to divert her food waste from landfills. But after months of research, she still hasn’t found a solution.
Kendra Schussel keeps hitting roadblocks in her quest to compost her food scraps. Photo courtesy of Schussel.
She paid for a private curbside service until a couple of months ago, when the company stopped servicing her neighborhood. Then she found a neighbor to take her food scraps for a backyard compost -- until that compost pile filled up too.
Her landlord nixed backyard compost for fear of rodents. She’s tried to start a compost system at her daughter’s school, but nobody wants to run it.
“There does seem to be hesitation on more people’s part to start a compost system,” she says. “I’m still trying despite having difficulties doing it. I want to see trash become compost.”
So does the state of California.
The Short-Lived Climate Pollutants Law, passed in 2016, set a goal of cutting the amount of organic waste bound for landfills in half from 2014 to 2020, and then cutting it in half again by 2025.
We haven’t hit the 2020 target. That's why the city of Los Angeles started a year-long pilot program for 18,000 homes last May. People in the target neighborhoods can put their food scraps in their green bins. The plan is to make it a citywide service after the pilot ends.
Skye says it goes beyond city limits: “In the next two years, you’re going to see a major rollout by every city and county in California to meet this new law and to provide service to every resident and every business. So it’s going to be very exciting to see that opportunity come out to every community.”
But the financial challenges of composting in Southern California aren’t going away. Managing organic waste will become more expensive, which will likely mean higher bills for trash collection.
Around Southern California and at other tech hubs nationwide, video game workers (and other tech workers) are trying to unionize. Emma Kinema co-founded Game Workers Unite!, and she organizes the LA and Orange County chapters.
Most recently, she’s joined forces with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the largest communications and media labor union in the United States. She’s leading its Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE).
“Parasite,” a black comic thriller by South Korean director Bong Joon Ho, recently earned several Oscar nominations, including Best Production Design. A house is a central character in the movie. It’s a sleek, modern, glass, wood, and stone creation that belongs to the wealthy Park family.
You can see more of the house in this trailer:
Keon-kyo (Yeo-jeong Jo) walking up a staircase in “Parasite.” Courtesy of NEON + CJ Entertainment.
The House has voted to send the articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also named California Congressman Adam Schiff and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren as two of the seven impeachment managers for the trial that’s expected to begin next week.
Rep. Schiff responded to criticism that delaying sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate for nearly a month undermines the urgency House leaders conveyed when they made sure to vote on the articles before Christmas.
“There's urgency because the president is trying to cheat in the next election,” Schiff says. “But you can't meet that urgency if essentially the Senate leader is going to cook the books and make sure there is no fair trial.”
Schiff also praised an influential group of Senate Republicans pushing the chamber to vote on whether or not to call witnesses as the proceedings unfold.
“I think it's encouraging that a number of Senators are willing to buck their leadership and say no,” Schiff says. “I would hope these Senators and others would be willing to stand up to their own leadership if necessary -- because their leadership is working hand-in-hand with the president -- and insist on both documents and witnesses."
Also on Tuesday, the House released a trove of new documents and evidence related to Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani, and their role in the Ukraine scandal.
"(Giuliani) was doing this with the consultation and approval of the president of the United States,” Schiff says. “And so if they're going to try to attempt to claim that Giuliani was acting on his own, this evidence directly refutes that."
Rudy Giuliani is wedged in the middle of Trump’s impeachment over dealings with Ukraine. New documents released on Tuesday show Giuliani claiming that he was acting on behalf of the president. So how did Giuliani go from America’s mayor and the face of New York’s response to 9/11 to a key player in the president’s impeachment?
2019 was a bad year for recycling in California. Hundreds of recycling centers closed. That’s where you go to redeem bottles and cans for five or 10 cents each. Fewer places to recycle means, well, less recycling. There’s a plan now to fix that.
At the State Capitol today, a Senate committee debated changes to California’s 1987 bottle bill. They want beverage companies to come up with their own recycling programs for their products.
The United States has been fighting the War on Drugs ever since President Nixon declared warfare in 1971. But drugs and war have been inseparable for centuries, from ancient Rome, to imperial Britain, to the Vietnam era, and up to today. Drugs have been taken, taxed, fought over, and exploited – not just by illegal traffickers and narco-terrorists, but by powerful states.
Political science professor Peter Andreas argues that six psychoactive drugs have been particularly potent war ingredients. His new book is “Killer High: A History of War in Six Drugs.”
On Tuesday, two Oakland moms who were living in a house that didn’t belong to them were evicted. Others also lived in the house -- two of whom were arrested and released hours later.
Redondo Beach-based company called Wedgewood owns that house. The company purchased it at a foreclosure auction, and planned to renovate it and sell it at a market rate.
But before that happened, Dominique Walker, a single mother of two, moved in. Walker told Press Play last week, “The house on Magnolia Street was an eyesore on the block. Doing work in the community, folks pointed to this house in particular, saying it’s been vacant, and just letting us know all the vacancies in their neighborhood when we [were] talking about people being homeless.”
Walker added: “Looking for housing, it was very difficult. Because of gentrification and corporations speculating in our communities, it’s impossible to be able to afford, even with multiple jobs, to afford the rent here.”
We also spoke to Sam Singer, a representative from Wedgewood. He said, “What Wedgewood does is the company goes in and takes distressed homes, homes that have been foreclosed upon. It rehabilitates them. It employs local people, local real estate agents, painters, contractors. And it fixes those homes up and it sells them -- the vast majority of the time to first-time home buyers. So they’re a housing creator, whereas these individuals, these squatters, are housing destroyers.”
KQED reporter Molly Solomon has been covering the story. Today, she tells us that a judge recently ruled in favor of Wedgewood, forcing the women to leave.
On Tuesday at 5:15 AM, 30 sheriffs’ deputies came to the house on Magnolia Street and shut down the occupation.
After the eviction, Walker said to the press, “This house was a statement. It was a symbol of what needs to happen in Oakland. This was an absolute victory. ... This is a movement. It’s ongoing. We [are] here.”
Walkers’ friends, family, and community members have offered to help her with a (short term) place to stay, Solomon says.
“I think they [Walker and the other moms] always knew this eviction would come down, and that staying there permanently at the house was kind of a long shot. But in the bigger sense here, this is what they wanted. They wanted us to think about: This is bigger than just this one house, it’s bigger than Oakland. And just getting us to … ask that question, ‘Is housing a human right?’ and to shine a light on these companies like Wedgewood … is a win,” says Solomon.
What will happen to this house now? Solomon says Wedgewood has put a chain link fence around it, boarded up the doors and windows, and hired security to monitor it so others don’t reoccupy it. Wedgework plans to fix up the house and put it back on the market.
With more than 200 films screening at eight theaters in 11 days, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) can be overwhelming. Luckily, the Independent’s food and wine writer Matt Kettmann narrowed down his favorite cuisine-centric films at the festival.
The hit TV show The Crown is being upstaged by a real-life drama: the Sussex Royals — Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — are stepping back from the Royal Family. Their announcement was a bombshell in Britain, though the Queen has since given her public approval.
The couple says Canada is their destination, but Los Angeles has a big role to play for them, from shaping their influencer project to perhaps becoming a possible new home.
Bronwyn Cosgrave, a fashion historian who covered the weddings of William and Kate as well as Harry and Meghan for Canadian TV, tells DnA the couple has been working closely with Oprah Winfrey, as well as the documentarians Dawn Porter and Asif Kapadia on an Apple TV series about emotional health. Cosgrave says it’s a sign they were looking to “take a more active life independently of the royal family.”
The couple could become Instagram influencers, along the lines of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. In fact, the royal couple have been spotted house hunting in Calabasas, according to Vanity Fair and L.A.-based interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard is rumored to be involved.
Markle grew up in Woodland Hills and the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles.The Hollywood actress is also a disruptor, with her own lifestyle blog, The Tig, and the couple have launched their new website SussexRoyal.com.
The jury is out, says Cosgrave, on the “brash” commodification of their royal connection in branded tea towels, mugs and teapots, as is expected from the trademarking of the SussexRoyal name.
However, their modernity, their engagement with humanitarian issues, and the perception of racially-based coldness of the Royal family and British media to Markle, leads Cosgrave to conclude: “It does not surprise me at all that they are willing to take the leap away from the kind of cloistered, suffocating culture that permeates Buckingham Palace.”
The City of Santa Monica seems to have it all: gorgeous beaches, tree-lined streets, smooth roads without potholes.
But the city is worried about people’s happiness, and has founded an Office of Civic Wellbeing. It is taking cues from a growing global movement to elevate quality of life as a societal goal and has its roots in Bhutan and the king’s “gross national happiness” index.
So does it have anything to do with the personal wellness enjoyed by many Santa Monicans, such as yoga, mindfulness and spas?
Well-being has more to do with social connection, says Julie Rusk, director of the office. She tells DnA, “We live in an incredibly beautiful, connected place and we're really lucky to be here. And I think we have a responsibility to figure out how we can address some of the things that aren't so good.”
These challenges include young people’s mental health. The office was founded in 2014 following a string of deaths among Santa Monica highschoolers. It is funded by a mix of taxpayer and private foundation dollars. It measures community well-being with tools including surveys and watching trending topics on social media.
It has held a big public conference on well-being and it gives out micro-grants to stimulate community connection (the deadline for this year’s micro-grant applications is January 15.)
DnA talks with Julie Rusk about the goals of the office and what it is able to achieve. On the one hand, it is on track to create a community park that grew out of a microgrant project. It is concerned with “place-making” from the vantage point of “the amenities, the adjacencies, the light” as opposed to the technical and programmatic needs alone, and the city has set “wellbeing standards” for buildings.
On the other hand, while the office has data on Santa Monicans’ housing anxieties, it cannot intervene to provide housing, though it can try and influence city policy. It is very concerned with loneliness but cannot, for example, mandate that landlords permit renters to have pets, despite findings that dogs and cats provide company and comfort.
It has also elicited criticism from skeptics in Santa Monica who see well-being as an ill-defined project indicative of more government bloat; and those that argue that the city already has a good track record in providing civic connection — its public schools, its support for the homeless, its libraries and services for the elderly.
Rusk says that despite all this, “I think we need to keep equity and the sort of inequalities that we're all living with front and center, because there are many people that don't really have the access that they need to live a good life with their family. And that's what we have to work on.”
Starting this year, new homes built in California are meant to be net zero, meaning they should generate as much energy as they take off the grid.
And that means, along with many other energy saving measures, solar panels.
DnA finds out what that means for homeowners, in costs and design options. And we check out a commercial building — Netflix’s new home in the Epic building in Hollywood — that is experimenting with solar panels, incorporating them vertically in the facades of the building.
What homebuilders need to know
Homes that are under four stories will need to incorporate solar panels, unless they’re either shaded by trees or other structures, or too small to fit a solar installation, such as an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU. Homeowners could choose to lease, rather than buy the panels. The panels are expected to add an additional $10,000 to the home’s cost, but would save the homeowner an estimated $35 a month.
The traditional solar panels on the roof capture the most amount of sunshine and efficiently convert it into electricity for use inside the home, said Bernadette Del Chiaro, Executive Director, California Solar & Storage Association. But the new rules leave room for design innovation.
Design lessons from Netflix’s new building
Hudson Pacific is taking “design innovation” to heart. The developer is building Epic, a 13-story building at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Bronson Ave. in Hollywood, soon to be occupied by Netflix.
Architecture firm Gensler has designed Epic as a future-forward creative space. It’ll have 25,000 square feet of communal outdoor space, a drone landing pad, electric car charging stations, and a parking garage designed to be repurposed into more workspace in an autonomous-car future. It incorporates a passle of energy saving features, including air conditioning that powers down when doors open onto outside decks and let in fresh air.
But DnA went to check out the façades, which feature blue-black windows that look like solar panels. They turn out to be a seamless combination of tinted glass window and panels of photovoltaic cells.
“When you think about solar panels, you typically think of them on top of a roof. But on a commercial office building, your roof is used for all these other other means of construction, including your mechanical equipment,” said Chris Barton with Hudson Pacific.
“So we tried to get very creative because we really wanted to integrate solar panels into the project. And we did it by putting it into the façade, which is very unique, hasn't been done in the city of L.A. before. And we're really happy with the results.”
Chris Barton of Hudson Pacific, David Herjeczki of Gensler, and Rob Pinkerton of Hudson Pacific. Photo by Frances Anderton/KCRW
David Herjeczki, Design Director and Principal in Gensler’s Los Angeles office, said he didn’t want the panels to “look like a dated science experiment” in a decade, when solar panels may be common fixtures on building facades. “And so I think we struck a really nice balance of integrating it, but just making it very architectural and naturally part of the skin of the building without really dating it.”
Do they work?
Very few projects use “building integrated photovoltaics,” and this would be the first in Los Angeles, but spokesperson for the state’s solar industry Bernadette Del Chiaro says there’s a reason for that.
“There is an optimum angle. And that isn't actually at a vertical 90 degree. It's more at a tilt, like what you see on a roof. And so that's why solar on roofs makes so much sense and works so well and generates the most amount of electricity from that solar cell,” she said. However she told DnA she appreciates Epic's experimentation, adding the sloping panels on roofs are the "broccoli" of photovoltaic design.
Rob Pinkerton of Hudson Pacific shows the back of the solar panels. The electrical conduit and wire will be hidden by drywall inside the building. Photo by Frances Anderton/KCRW
Other sustainability initiatives lighting controls and energy efficient plumbing fixtures. Epic’s solar panels will generate only one and a half percent of the power that Netflix needs.
“Bringing this technology on is not a moneymaker for commercial developers,” said Barton,” but “we just felt like it was the right thing to do.”
Major League Baseball found that in the 2017 World Series, the Houston Astros concocted a scheme -- using video cameras and garbage cans -- at their home stadium to steal pitching signs. That was so Astros batters would know what pitches were coming from their opponent, the Dodgers. The Astros ended up winning.
Could the Astros' scheme tipped the balance in their favor, and cost the Dodgers their first World Series since 1988?
2019 was a tough year for the media landscape. An estimated 7,000 jobs were lost, and many publications went dark. The OC Weekly and Pacific Standard Magazine both closed their doors last year.
So it’s an interesting time to launch a new publication, but that is exactly what Zillow co-founder Spencer Rascoff is doing. Last week, he announced that he is starting a new site dot.LA, and it will cover all things tech in Southern California.
In LA, choosing where to buy coffee is about more than what that soy latte tastes like.
“I'll go to a spot where the coffee may not be that good, but the vibe is right. ... I'll just continue going back there because I'm comfortable here,” says Michelle Johnson, a barista and coffee business consultant.
On her blog the “ is custom made, including the terrazzo tables and pale wooden chairs tucked underneath.
A big green parrot is painted on the cafe’s white-coated brick facade outside. The shop stands out among the block of red brick workshops and auto shops in either direction.
Michelle Johnson notices, “We're in a black neighborhood and there aren't that many black people here. And I don't know where these white people came from.”
Black and Latinx people make up nearly 80% of residents in West Adams, Baldwin Hills and Leimert Park, according to sits on the same block as black-owned Eso Won Books and the California Jazz and Blues Museum.
Most of the interior decor pieces, including the couches by the entrance, were donated by community members. That’s according to shop owner Anthony Jolly.
“The community found its pride and brought in stuff to create the feel,” he says.
For him, it’s important that all community members feel like they’ve made some kind of mark on the shop, including those who can’t afford a drink there.
Jolly says he even gives food to an unhoused woman who comes by to charge her phone, and the shop’s design needs to include her too.
“We don't throw people away just because they're having a hard time or misfortune, or they have a mental illness issue. … We believe that they can be a part of this aesthetic too,” he says.
Johnson adds that black consumers might be discouraged from going to certain cafes because they might not know much about coffee, or the other customers there don’t look like them.
But Hot & Cool Cafe has a menu with pictures of the ingredients inside each drink, and that helps bridge a kind of education gap.
Hilltop Kitchen and Coffee - Inglewood
Inside Hilltop Kitchen and Coffee. Photo by Jerome Campbell.
Co-owner Ajay Relan says the aesthetics are a mix of Inglewood and SoHo House, a members-only club in West Hollywood: “It's that sense of pride and almost luxury, but like approachable when you walk in.”
For Johnson, it’s a “coffee shop for black people with money.” She says the design reflects the African influence, but also feels inauthentic to the black people who live nearby.
The expensive-looking decor makes her wonder if a black-owned coffee shops could gentrify a black neighborhood.
“I still find that gentrification is a hard thing to grapple with when you take race out of it. … Now you have [to navigate] class. … At the same time, [Hilltop] is still a nice thing that I think that black people deserve,” she says.
Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks with us about his endorsements for presidential candidate Joe Biden and LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey. We also discuss housing and homelessness.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Press Play: Why do you think Biden is the face of the future?
Eric Garcetti: I think he's somebody who's produced for our city, whether it was helping us raise the minimum wage, or make community college free, or bring the biggest climate set of agreements before Paris together here in L.A. with our Chinese counterparts. … He has absolutely been there for us. So I don't think anybody else in the race comes close.
Secondly, this is the moment, I think, in which we need to have stability internationally. And he's by far the most knowledgeable and most experienced there. And somebody who I've worked very closely.
And don't get me wrong, I'm close friends with people Pete Buttigieg. Mike Bloomberg has been a great friend and mentor. And I'm so excited by Bernie [Sanders] and Elizabeth Warren.
But nobody has produced more for L.A., and I thought he [Biden] deserved that support.
Why did you feel compelled to endorse him right before Iowa and New Hampshire? Why not wait to see how those races shake out?
I don't believe in parsing these things or figuring out who's in the lead. I believe that relationships matter, friendships matter, and people who have delivered for your city matter. That it wasn't even a close contest for me.
I think Joe Biden can actually heal this country. Here’s somebody who's a proud progressive who's delivered, but also who I believe can heal those folks who feel shut out of government and don't feel that government speaks to them.
What is Joe Biden's plan to address homelessness?
It will come out, I believe, in the next couple of weeks. But we're working very closely. And one of the things I've asked all candidates to commit to -- and push this administration right now to move forward on -- is making housing assistance more readily available. Every country that has solved homelessness has done it because the national government looks at housing as a right, not as some sort of privilege.
… I’m helping him [Biden] with a plan that he's already drafted. When we were together this past week, I looked at that, gave him my feedback as somebody on the frontlines.
And I will work with anybody on this. But I think that Joe understands this -- that it is a combination of what we have disinvested in, in terms of our federal housing policy, and also our lack of mental health care in this country.
Do you think some people should be forced into mental health care treatment?
I think that we've seen over the years that's not an effective strategy, except in mild ways. When you have people who I think are dying on our streets, the threshold should not just be ‘are they about to cause bodily harm to themselves or to a person?’
… We see people who are clearly dying on our streets and causing harm to themselves. … We had somebody in front of City Hall that died. We see folks that are clearly not able to take care of themselves. And I do believe that that should be relaxed so that we can get them into the care that they need.
… We do need a threshold that isn't as strict as today. And I do support that change at the state level.
What about the major recommendation from a task force (appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom) that calls for amending the state constitution, so cities are required to cut their homeless numbers?
On the face of it, it looks pretty darn good. I want to dig a little bit more into the details.
It's not just about cities. My understanding is it's often that there's counties and cities that aren't doing anything.
… This would allow one person -- it might be the attorney general or somebody who's an inspector general in the state -- to go to those jurisdictions where they're really doing nothing [about homelessness], and let them know that they have to do it. And if they aren't doing it, that they can refer that to a court who would begin to then enforce.
Many cities are not building a single shelter, are not building a single unit of permanent supportive housing. They're relying on big cities in the region like the city of L.A. to do that work, where we're building 2000 shelter beds and 10,000 supportive housing apartments.
But oftentimes we have neighbors that really aren't stepping up when the populations that are homeless that come into the city of L.A. sometimes come from those areas.
So I do think it would be a good, enforceable way to make sure everybody is solving this together because it takes all of us to do that.
What do you make of the latest opposition to a planned shelter in Los Feliz?
You can never get 100% of people to support it. But we've seen every single time when one of these bridge home facilities opens -- and we have almost 10 of them open now, we'll have over 20 by July 1, representing 2000 beds that weren't there recently -- the people go, ‘Oh, it's actually great. It's well-run. It's better than the status quo.’
… We know what solves homelessness is bringing those shelters, transitional housing opportunities to where people live. … So the solution has to be local. You can't ship people off to another jurisdiction or neighborhood that they don't know and expect them to somehow lift themselves out of homelessness.
You’ve sent a letter to Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, asking for federal help. What resources did you ask for, and what has Carson offered?
I think Secretary Carson, when he went through Skid Row, rightfully so, was haunted by the images that he saw. And anybody who walks through Skid Row in the last 40 years should feel that way. And so, I'm not going to ever weaponize this is a partisan issue.
The federal government, I've asked them to look at their land, their excess dollars, the vouchers that have proven so effective in us reducing veterans’ homelessness by 80% in the city, and to do similar things.
And just because somebody might have a different letter after their name because of the party they register in, I do think this is something that unites us.
So I'm hopeful. I'll believe it when I see it. But we've had some really good conversations. And I think they're looking at excess funds that are there in the federal government that we can apply to. They're looking at federal land that we could use throughout the county of Los Angeles.
And we owe it to this issue and the people who are experiencing homelessness here in Los Angeles to work with anybody.
And as I remind everybody, this will not be solved without deep federal assistance. I hope this can be the beginning of that.
However, Ben Carson wants to evict residents of public housing if there's an undocumented person living there. He's tried to cut funding for rental subsidies. He's rolled back some anti-discrimination measures. Is he a trustworthy partner?
I strictly oppose those, and I speak out about them. But people aren't simple. They may help in one area, and we have to fight in different ones.
We could get infrastructure dollars, for instance, for our subway that came from Washington, D.C. and through this administration. At the same time, we're telling them that their immigration policies are corrosive, destructive.
So I think part of being mayor is making sure that you always think of the city first, that you never sacrifice your values, but you don't write off anybody in authority because they're in a position to help. You better step up and get that help, or else you're not serving your people.
State Senator Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco, is making a third push for SB 50, which would force cities like L.A. to build more housing along transit lines and in neighborhoods dominated by single family homes. What is your opinion on that? I believe you did not support one iteration of SB 50. Would you support this one?
We have to see it. I've worked really closely with the legislature, including Senator Wiener, to say what's working here in Los Angeles. And I oppose the first iteration because it was a one-size-fits-all measure that would have been very destructive to our neighborhoods, and not necessarily gotten us to where we needed to go.
If the measure comes out in a way that protects L.A. neighborhoods but still helps us reach our housing goals, that could be something that I support.
You have endorsed Jackie Lacey in her reelection as L.A. District Attorney. She's facing a tough reelection battle, primarily against San Francisco D.A. George Gascon. And you endorsed her before Gascon entered the race, correct? Do you still stand behind that endorsement?
I do, though I have great things to say about George too. He's been a dear friend who I worked with very closely when he was at LAPD. I love a lot of the things that he has done.
But Jackie is also somebody who I've worked closely with on some issues that matter a lot to me, from domestic violence, to some of the work that we're doing in intervention.
But I think George is somebody who people are looking at very closely, and he deserves to be looked at very closely.
When I know two good people, I never try to drag one down. And George is a really good person. So I think L.A. County residents will have a great choice.
I obviously have a lot of thoughts about the district attorney's office, growing up as the son of somebody who was a deputy D.A. and then the D.A.
And I certainly am closer with George on a couple of things, like the death penalty. I'd like to see Jackie be even more progressive on those issues.
… I also do believe, though, that both of them need to speak much more aggressively to reentry. We see too many people that are getting out of jail and prison. And we have no stick left. I don't want to see somebody go away for 20 years because they have a gram of something too much. But if you get arrested on the streets of L.A., there no longer is a threat of any diversion.
And while we start to see a few million dollars come from the state, we were promised tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of savings. [It] would set up a system to help people with their addictions, to help them get jobs.
I set up an office of reentry in our city, but we just don't have the resources yet.
And I do believe the criminal justice system needs to have the tools to be able to say to folks who are experiencing this sort of addiction, ‘Look, if you are arrested for drug use, you need to be able to go into a treatment program, or else there is some stick of something, even if it's a couple of months in jail. And right now, the law isn't being enforced that way, and oftentimes doesn't allow it.’
Pop culture usually portrays a cheerleader as a perky blonde in a short skirt shouting “go team!” But the sport can be extremely competitive and dangerous -- performed by top athletes.
The Navarro College cheer team in Corsicana, Texas has been deemed the best in the nation 13 times. The new Netflix documentary series, “Cheer,” follows them as they prepare to earn a 14th victory at the annual national competition in Daytona Beach, Florida.
The reason Navarro College is so good: their coach, Monica Aldama. She runs the team “like a hardened, grizzled, savvy Fortune 500 CEO,” describes Greg Whiteley, director of “Cheer.”
Whiteley explains that Aldama graduated with a business degree and wanted to be a Fortune 500 CEO, but then felt the tug to raise a family, particularly in the way she was raised in Corsicana. So to balance her competitiveness with her traditional ideas, she decided to create the greatest cheerleading team.
“Monica will tell you that in order to produce the kind of routine that is a championship caliber routine, they will practice, and practice, and practice until they get it right. And then they'll keep practicing until they can't get it wrong,” says Whiteley.
Coach Monica Aldama in front of her trophies. Credit: Netflix.
“Full out” and totally spent
Injuries are possible every time they do a routine, especially a “full out.” Whiteley says that when he sought a definition of a full out, Aldama replied, “Well, we can only do so many full outs before the body will just expire.”
The full out lasts two minutes and 15 seconds. If cheerleaders go one second past that, they get a deduction.
“We learned that other schools would maybe do 15 or 16 full outs. It’s, if you can imagine, trying to run a marathon in two minutes and 15 seconds. That's what it kind of looks like. And it's certainly what it feels like. These people are some of the most in shape people I've ever, ever seen,” says Whiteley. “And they would be completely spent at the end of a full out. … They would collapse on the mat, and it would take several minutes to recover.”
Navarro College’s goal is to do at least 40-41 full outs before the year's national competition in Daytona.
Accepting serious injuries, and still pushing
Whiteley says there’s a governing body that oversees college cheerleading, and they've taken steps to effectively make cheerleading safer in the last five to 10 years.
However, he says, “The sport is made up with a type of individual that they relish pushing their body to certain limits, not just from a stamina standpoint … but also limits in terms of how high can I throw someone, how many times can I twist my body before I'm caught when I land? And by trying to outdo the other team, your routine is invariably going to get more complex, more risky. And that, in turn, is just going to lead to injuries.”
He says when he filmed Aldama’s team, he didn’t see anyone who sustained a life-threatening injury, but there were a number of concussions, broken bones, and season-ending injuries.
Throws and jumps during a routine. Credit: Netflix.
These kids know what they’re getting themselves into when they sign up for the team, though.
“No one is cheerleading at that level without understanding the risks and embracing those risks. I never talked to anyone who complained about what they were being asked to do,” says Whiteley. “In fact, it was the opposite … what I saw were cheerleaders that were urging to do more, go further, go harder.”
Aldama has to know when to let her athletes keep pushing, and when to tell them to pull back. “We saw, I think, her wrestle with that conundrum over and over again throughout the season we were there,” Whiteley says.
Why is college cheerleading so important to these kids?
After the Daytona competition, there’s not much of a future in cheerleading for these kids. There’s no lucrative cheerleading career awaiting them.
They could become cheerleaders for the Houston Rockets or Dallas Cowboys, but that involves a completely different skill set (compared to the collegiate level), and it’s not as lucrative as a football contract, Whiteley notes.
So why does this small window of college cheerleading mean so much to them?
“The practices that I saw them go through, the types of injuries that they were willing to endure, the fatigue that they were willing to endure, the type of hyper focus that Monica demands from her cheerleaders -- there is no other reason why they do it other than they just love it,” says Whiteley.
He adds that there’s a certain camaraderie among team members that he hasn’t seen anywhere else, in any other sport he’s covered.
“I believe it's a combination of the type of togetherness that is required to pull off these very intricate routines. There is a real safety issue that if you're not 100% in sync with each other, 100% trusting one another, this routine will fail. And a fail can often mean somebody getting hurt really bad,” he says.
“Outsiders” finally fitting in
At one point, Morgan Simianer lived in a trailer with her brother. She has a difficult family history, but cheerleading gave her life more meaning and joy. Credit: Netflix.
Many kids on the team come from broken families and poverty. Several LGBTQ kids felt ostracized growing up and found community in cheer.
“The athletes that we got to know who were gay, they found that in the sport of cheerleading was a place that they felt very comfortable to be who they were; and that who they were, either by virtue of their sexual identity or because of this great ambition to be great at cheerleading, was fully accepted in this activity and by their coach, Monica,” says Whiteley.
La’Darius Marshall is one of the LGBTQ members of the cheer team. Credit: Netflix.
--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Alex Tryggvadottir
This week: Three galleries team up to honor an L.A.-based fiber artist; a downtown gallery features a Memphis Design legend; a group show celebrates modern surrealism; and the costs of MOCA going free.
The "Jeopardy!" GOAT tournament is doing huge ratings for ABC. In a TV world where streaming dominates, the hope for the broadcast networks is that they can still draw big numbers with specialized events.
Hollywood assistants have put up with abusive bosses and bad pay over the years. But in the era of #MeToo, a younger crop of assistants are pushing back. They’re demanding better treatment and better wages with the #PayUpHollywood movement.
Jerrica Long worked as an assistant at Creative Arts Agency (CAA) as a floater. She says that she sat in a “dungeon” and it was one of the worst jobs of her life.
Long says she left abruptly after hearing other assistants saying they would own slaves if slavery existed today. “It was an ongoing conversation between a group of white assistants, and I immediately reached out to HR,” she recalls.
John August was a Hollywood assistant in the 1990s, and now he’s a screenwriter. He has covered the predicament of Hollywood assistants on his podcast Scriptnotes.
“The lack of diversity in Hollywood is directly attributable to how little we are paying assistants,” August says, “So the impetus behind this #PayUpHollywood moment was really looking at how low assistant pay is hurting the industry overall.”
The BLVD is an unassuming bar off Whittier Boulevard in Boyle Heights. During the day, this small, pint-sized dive serves micheladas and Coronas to regulars. It’s typically a low-key place.
But every other Friday, the bar’s tiny, hall-like walls swell with a raucous crowd.
That crowd comes for SELA Hip Hop, a southeast L.A. group of artists. They hold nights of spoken poetry and open mics.
But what’s most popular: rap battles. There are three rounds. The winner is determined by judges and audience reactions. The last winner earned $1000 cash.
It’s a verbal boxing match. Lines range from insulting someone’s mother to insulting someone’s race. Nothing is off limits.
This may all seem negative, but SELA Hip Hop cofounder Darmedius Rod sees the quips and barbs as a way to build character.
“You're basically being ridiculed in front of the people, and you have to just be like, ‘I know who I am. I don't care what you say I am. If I have a big nose like, so what? I love my big nose.’ You know what I mean?.”
Rod, 27, grew up in a gang-heavy South Gate and experienced mental health issues.
“I was just done with life … Growing up in the hood was sad,” he says. “So I fell very deep into depression and anxiety, and it forced me to find the solution. It forced me to find something else, otherwise that was it. That was the end of the road.”
That solution was SELA Hip Hop, established in 2017 by Rod, his girlfriend Kirra Avila, and rap battler Pump Gatto.
The collective bounced around backyards and several venues in downtown L.A. before finding a home at The BLVD, where they’ve been for the past six months. Attendance has flourished, with artists and audiences comprised of people who grew up like Rod.
“I want people from the streets that are trying to grasp a new perspective on life and not necessarily leaving the streets behind, but like embracing it and moving forward with it,” Rod says.
SELA Hip Hop looks forward to growing in L.A. with more venues, bigger cash prizes and a music label.
Avila says their main focus, however, is uplifting people: “If you create these environments and communities, you remind people that at the end of the day, their struggles are not that real, their burdens are not that heavy. You're going to keep pushing whatever you have inside of you. I always believe everyone has something to say.”
In 2018, Huntington Beach sued the state over SB 54, the so-called "Sanctuary State" law that limits cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials. Huntington Beach argued that as a charter city, it should have control over its own policy. An Orange County Superior Court judge agreed. But on Friday, that decision was overturned by a three-judge panel of California's 4th District Court of Appeals.
Coming up: See the unapologetically punk prints of Raymond Pettibon; reset your mind in Oscar Oiwa's immersive dreamscape; learn how African Americans shaped leisure culture in the Southland; explore construction as both practice and performance; and honor the late Dion Neutra's efforts to preserve his father Richard Neutra's buildings.
Governor Gavin Newsom launched a week-long homelessness tour today. He’s expected to visit places hit especially hard by homelessness in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and the Central Valley. The latest numbers show California’s homeless population at more than 150,000.
In his budget announcement last week, Newsom proposed $1.5 billion to help the homeless.
California now has a multi-billion dollar surplus. Could we be spending even more on housing and homelessness?
Eleven nominations went to “Joker,” one of the most controversial films of the year. Why such a sweep? Because it was widely seen and widely liked.
“It started awards season with a win at the Venice Film Festival, which is a big deal and a positive,” says Rebecca Keegan, senior film editor for The Hollywood Reporter. “And also with this huge controversy surrounding the violence in the film. Interestingly, that did not slow down the box office. The box office hit over $1 billion, and I think that's part of why it was so nominated.”
Keegan notes that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has gotten bigger and more international in the last few years. And this year’s nominating season was short.
“Part of what pushes films to the top is just how many Academy members have the opportunity to see them. In the case of ‘Joker,’ it was released in October and easy to see,” she says.
“Little Women” earned nominations for best film, screenplay, actress, supporting actress, costume design, and original score. But it didn’t get on the shortlist for best director.
“This is consistently the category that is a head scratcher,” says Keegan. “Greta Gerwig emerged with a nomination for ‘Lady Bird’ just a couple of years ago. I personally thought, well, the Academy's already shown they liked her. They will like her again with a movie that should be right up its alley. (Costume dramas are the kind of thing that the Academy typically does reward.) And clearly, they like the film … noting it in so many other categories.”
Keegan says this year is the 87th time in which the director category is all male. Is that because the Academy has more male voters?
“Each branch votes for its own nominees, and the directors branch is overwhelmingly male,” Keegan explains. “I also think sometimes there can be a bias about what a director looks like, what directing looks like.”
She notes that the camera movements and costumes in “Joker” draw attention to the fact that it’s directed by an auteur; and Greta Gerwig’s lighting in flashback sequences vs. contemporary sequences draws attention as well. “Nonetheless, the Academy just didn't acknowledge it in the same way,” she says.
Keegan says there’s outrage over Adam Sandler -- a white man -- not being nominated.
“Sandler did something really different in ‘Uncut Gems,’ which is this A24 movie that's been really widely seen and liked. And I think many people were hoping to get an opportunity to see him at the Oscars. He is really a guy who has the complete opposite image of the Oscars,” she says.
Keegan notes that there’s been incremental change -- with Academy membership getting more inclusive and international.
“If you look at how well ‘Parasite,’ that Korean movie directed by Bong Joon Ho performed today, that's an indication that this is not just a group of Hollywood professionals. Increasingly, it's a group of professionals from around the world. And that's going to influence what gets nominated,” she says.
“Parasite” is nominated not just for best picture, but best international film. The Academy just changed the name of that category from best foreign language film, acknowledging that “foreign language” is an outdated term, Keegan notes.
“I think ‘Parasite’ has a total of five nominations, which is really a huge showing, considering a Korean film had never even been nominated in what had been called the foreign language category,” she adds.
“Last year's telecast got pretty good ratings, considering awards show ratings are declining all around, which suggested … that a host was beside the point,” Keegan says.
She adds that last year, several movies that performed well at the box office were represented at the awards ceremony too. “You had the whole cast of ‘Black Panther’ there. You had people from ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ there. This year's crop of nominees does not look to have as much box office power, and that may determine how many audience members tuned in.”
--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Alex Tryggvadottir