Destination: Los Angeles

Moby on Los Angeles Architecture

People who’ve spent much time in Los Angeles know the city is home to some amazing architecture—classic mid-century designs, rustic Craftsman homes, bizarro medieval castles—and that these places are often tucked away in canyons, or behind tall fences, or in nondescript suburbs.

The musician Moby is now living in L.A., and he was so impressed by this that four months ago he launched a blog about it featuring his photographs and observations. It’s a good read. This short video offers an intro to L.A. architecture and his perspective on it:

Tour Guide Battle in Southern California Leaves Chinese ‘Very Afraid’

Chinese tourists are increasingly bringing their own guides when they travel to Southern California. Local guides are pissed about losing business and, allegedly, becoming confrontational. The Los Angeles Times breaks it down:

Wang Suqi, president of Beijing-based Total Travel International Travel Service, claims that one of his tour leaders was punched by an American tour guide at Universal Studios Hollywood, and now his tour leaders have asked to be transferred to different tours in Europe and Southeast Asia.

“They’re very afraid,” Wang said. “Even our customers are asking what’s going on.”

The competition for the Chinese tourism business was set off in 2007 when China, for the first time, allowed commercial travel agents to book group pleasure trips to the U.S. But China did not mandate that Chinese tourists hire accredited American tour guides—a requirement that China imposed on other countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Of course, it’s mostly about money. Chinese travelers have been unleashed in recent years, and they spend.

In 2009, Chinese travelers spent an average of $6,800 per person per visit, including airfare, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. By 2020, China will become the world’s fourth-largest source of tourists, the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization predicts.

Paparazzi Fishing at the Baggage Claim

The Los Angeles Times covers the work habits of celebrity photographers who camp out at LAX:

If tips are scarce, photographers make their own luck by “fishing”—strolling the terminal baggage claims and entrances for shots. Airport paparazzi scour crowds less for actual famous people than for signs that actual famous people are about to appear. A shiny black Escalade with tinted windows. A muscle-bound man with an earpiece. And, above all, the “star greeter,” hired by movie studios and other companies to whisk VIPs through lines at the airport. Airport photographers tend to memorize the greeters’ faces, walks, wardrobes and client lists.

Jonathan Gold and Rick Bayless Tweet Off Over Mexican Food in L.A.

What was it? A battle? A shot over the bow? Maybe, looking back, it was just a misfire. But it got L.A. Mexican foodies pretty excited for a few days.

At a talk in Orange County last week, Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic Jonathan Gold—a hero of ours who has made a career of championing great hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants in SoCal—took a shot at PBS TV host and restaurateur Rick Bayless. The chef, whose Frontera Grill in Chicago gets rave reviews, just designed the menu for a new upscale Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, Red O—his first project in the region.

Now, L.A. loves its homegrown Mexican food. It’s a source of pride. So the arrival of Bayless earlier this year was bound to raise eyebrows.

The Los Angeles Times gave Red O a favorable review. Then Gold took the mic at a gathering of journalists last week.

Reported the OC Weekly:

Gold said Bayless was a “good” chef who knew his way around Mexican recipes, but he sneered at Bayless’ nerve in coming to Los Angeles and opening a restaurant—Red O—that presumed to introduce Angelinos to “authentic” Mexican cuisine. In particular, Gold zeroed in on Bayless’ inclusion of chilpachole—a glorious seafood soup from Veracruz—as some rarity, when Gold said the soup was easily available in the Southland, along with dozens of other Mexican regional specialties.

Word reached Bayless, and he tweeted:

@thejgold Thought a Pulitzer meant you checked facts. Sneering at me for something I never said is either mean or sloppy. I’m offended

He also posted this comment on the OC Weekly’s article:

I know it’s all the rage for journalists to go into unsupported hyperbole, but I never said I was going to introduce Southern California to “authentic” Mexican cuisine. I said I was going to bring the flavors of Frontera Grill to Los Angeles.


As of today, however, both sides are tweeting that the spat is behind them.

Gold’s tweet:

@Rick_Bayless and I have kissed and made up, I think. Further thoughts will have to wait for the full review.

Bayless’ reply:

Yes, i think we have :) RT @thejgold @Rick_Bayless & I have kissed & made up, I think. Further thoughts will have to wait 4 the full review.

Taco détente.

Whew. Now we can all go back to eating our enchiladas in peace.

Google Maps—Minus the Map

Yet another interesting way to look at the world or, in this case, Los Angeles. (Via Kottke)

Pink’s Hot Dogs Arrives at LAX

The legendary dog vendor opened its first-ever airport location today in the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Hungry travelers, rejoice!

Video You Must See: ‘Running on Empty’ in Los Angeles

Ross Ching has beautifully adapted Matt Logue's Empty L.A. concept.

Watch the Video »

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: “’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.

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.

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.

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.

‘Fly Girls’: Reality TV at 37,000 Feet

Yup, a slice of Airworld is coming to prime time. The CW has picked up eight episodes of the new reality show, which follows five Virgin America flight attendants from the air to their Los Angeles “crash pad” and beyond. The Los Angeles Times describes “Fly Girls” as having “a ‘Gossip Girl’-meets- ‘The Hills’-vibe”—which, I’ll admit, doesn’t have me rushing to write the air dates in my calendar. The same story offers some interesting points about the intersection of infomercial and entertainment on the show.

Kogi Truck Chef Turns Restaurateur

Now that his Korean taco trucks have made their mark on the Los Angeles food scene, chef Roy Choi is ready for his next challenge: the restaurant biz. Choi’s new restaurant will open in West Los Angeles in February, but the famous Kogi taco won’t be on the menu. Instead, he tells the Wall Street Journal that he plans to “update the rice bowl.” (Via @JohnnyJet)