Destination: California

What Kiss Cams Say About Cities

I love this idea from a sportswriter I usually can’t stand: The Kiss Cam as a two-minute glimpse into a city’s soul. In this case, Bill Plaschke’s talking about the Kiss Cam at Staples Center in Los Angeles during Lakers’ games.

Nowhere, it seems, are the couples as animated, or the crowd as involved, or the message about the heart of Los Angeles any more clear. In a night filled with supermen, it is a brief, heartwarming reminder that the Lakers have been built upon the hopes and ideals of those who are real.

In a town where everything is supposedly disposable, no Kiss Cam moment is cheered louder than a smooch between an elderly couple. In a town that supposedly doesn’t trumpet family values, the second-loudest cheers occur for the forehead pecks of a parent on a child.

The third-most popular Kiss Cam moment? Hugh Hefner sitting in a luxury suite kissing three or four bunnies. C’mon, this is still Hollywood.


‘The Truth is People do Walk in L.A.’

Ryan Bradley’s Good series Walking in L.A. gets off to a strong start. He aims to reverse the notion that Los Angeles isn’t a place for walkers, and he’s carrying a lot of statistical ammunition.

Everyone thinks they know L.A., even if they’ve never been west of St. Louis. Nobody walks in L.A., right? There’s that Missing Persons song, or that line from Steve Martin’s L.A. Story: “...it’s not like New York, where you can meet someone walking down the street. In L.A. you practically have to hit someone with your car. In fact, I know girls who speed just to meet cops.”

But the truth is people do walk in L.A. And bike. Fully 12 percent of all trips in Los Angeles are by bicycle or on foot—that’s more than Austin or Portland. In sheer numbers, L.A. has more bikers and walkers than Washington, D.C., or Chicago, or even San Francisco. And it happens to be far safer for biking and walking than all three, according to a 2010 Benchmarking Report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking. I lump walking and biking together only because, until very recently, so did everyone else. In the 1990s biking and walking were “alternative,” like rock music. Fifteen years ago, Los Angeles spent “about $1 million” a year on pedestrians and bike services. This year Los Angeles has earmarked $36 million on walking alone. Could it be that this western cow-town, this place that’s synonymous with self-reinvention, is reinventing itself?

Bradley’s first exploratory walk in L.A.: a 17-mile trek from LAX to downtown.


Mapped: California as the World’s Stand-In

In 1927, Paramount Studios apparently produced this map of California, designating cities and regions that could double as various parts of the world. Now I can say I grew up near the stand-in for Wales. (Via The Map Room)


Yosemite Through the Eyes of a Chinese Artist

Lovely piece in The Smart Set about Chinese artist Xie Zhiliu’s renderings of Yosemite National Park, which are now part of an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Xie visited Yosemite in 1994, a few years before his death.

There, he produced a series of paintings that are a testimonial to cognitive dissonance. He paints the mountains and trees of Yosemite, but they look vaguely Chinese. The vegetation looks sparse, like in the drawings that accompany Chinese calligraphy. The stones of Yosemite rise up with the stalagmite abruptness we expect of Chinese art.

Cognitive dissonance at work on a canvas can be a beautiful thing. I’m reminded of these impressionistic West-meets-East paintings by Van Gogh.


Taco Bell to Indians: ‘Visit Mexico for 18 Rupees’

Yes, Taco Bell is invading India, offering such classic Mexican delicacies as “Potato & Paneer Burrito.”

The offerings, with an Indian twist designed to appeal to local tastes and vegetarian diets, sound genuinely intriguing in an Indian-Mex-fusion kinda way.


The LAX Theme Building: It’s (Almost) Back

LAX Theme Building Photo of the LAX Theme Building, circa 2006, by brewbooks, via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo of the LAX Theme Building, circa 2006, by brewbooks, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Three long years after shedding a 1,000-pound piece of itself, the iconic futuristic building at Los Angeles International Airport is almost ready for its adoring public again. Jennifer Steinhauer has the update.


The International Banana Museum: Meet its Saviors

Here’s an odd one: Gawker has an exclusive interview with Virginia and Fred Garbutt, the mother-son duo who recently purchased the entire contents of the International Banana Museum on eBay after collector-curator Ken Bannister was forced to sell. The new incarnation of the museum will reopen in North Shore, California, in January 2011.


Tourism in the Tenderloin

Is San Francisco’s “ragged, druggy and determinedly dingy domain of the city’s most down and out” ready for tourists? The New York Times explores the question and talks to those behind a push to bring travelers to the ‘loin.


76-Second Travel Show: The San Francisco-New York Showdown

New Yorker Robert Reid asks: Could San Francisco be the better city?

Watch the Video »


A Love Letter to the Window Seat

Some evocative writing by Mark Vanhoenacker:

But for me, it’s all about the views, especially those entrancing last few minutes before touchdown.

It’s how the details of the world are summoned again, how gracefully scale and shadings resolve into trees and fields and subdivisions. It’s the steady, lyrical motion of a silvery wing over a new place—an entirely unique geography and history that appear simply and perfectly beneath you.

He nails the description of flying into Los Angeles at night: “The city looks like an ad for a computer chip, a kinetic vision of light and energy spilling over the continent’s edge.”


Sewage! Smokestacks! Corroded Shipping Containers! It’s the Urban Ocean Boat Cruise.

This ain’t whale watching. From the Los Angeles Times:

The aim of the Urban Ocean Boat Cruise—run by the Aquarium of the Pacific and Harbor Breeze Cruises—is to ply Southern California’s most compromised waters to show the environmental effects of trade, fishing, industry and other human activities.

The tour balances lessons on tainted seawater and polluted air with an appreciation of the port as a bustling commercial hub that remains home to sometimes surprising amounts of marine life. Or as tour guide Dominique Richardson puts it: “The multiple and conflicting uses of our urban ocean.”

Aquarium president Jerry Schubel, who came up with the idea after taking an architecture cruise last year in Chicago, said he asked himself: “What is it about Long Beach and Los Angeles that’s distinctive? And I realized that Southern California is one of the most heavily used areas of coast in the nation.”

Good story. Great idea.


Man Loses Job, Survives on Hotel Points and Frequent Flier Miles

This week Jim Kennedy is at the Holiday Inn Express in San Clemente using United miles. The Orange County Register has a great package about his plight, including this audio slideshow:

(via Slatest)


The Accidental Tsunami Rider

The Accidental Tsunami Rider iStockPhoto

After Chile's earthquake, Jill K. Robinson paddled her kayak into California's Half Moon Bay and felt the energy from a hemisphere away

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Boing Boing Does the Road Trip

Boing Boing’s Mark Frauenfelder is cruising Southern California in a Buick, making an eclectic series of roadside stops. His latest? The very quirky Museum of Jurassic Technology.


LAX ‘Can’t Hide the Wrinkles Anymore’

Photo by monkeytime via Flickr, (Creative Commons)

Call me crazy, but I never tire of Thomas Friedman’s shots at the sad state of America’s airports. This week: LAX. Zing!

It’s worth noting (and Friedman doesn’t) that a major upgrade of the airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal is underway. That’s at least some good news.