Thinking L.A. »

My Love Letter to the Los Angeles River

By | July 1, 2015

How did I end up spending an afternoon throwing “bombs”—baseball-sized bombs of native seeds—into the L.A. River with a dozen other people? It all started when artist Kristi Lippire, who curated “Witty and Urbane,” an exhibition at Fellows of Contemporary Art (FOCA) Gallery in Chinatown featuring five L.A. artists’ responses to living in our city, asked the artists to take part in an all-day, multi-venue …

The Takeaway, Thinking L.A. »

Homelessness Is Not Inevitable

By | June 30, 2015

Ten years ago, Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez attended what he refers to as a “dog and pony show” on Los Angeles’ Skid Row. Its topic: the plan to end homelessness. “And yet,” Lopez told a standing-room-only crowd at a “Thinking L.A.” event co-presented by UCLA and Zócalo at the Plaza on Olvera Street, “homelessness is still going on.”
Lopez moderated a panel on why, …

Thinking L.A. »

Don’t Give the Homeless Your Sympathy

By | June 26, 2015

It doesn’t take more than a stroll down a city street to see that America has a homelessness problem. The guy tucked into in a stained blanket on the bench, the woman pushing a cart filled with everything she owns—from New York to Los Angeles, there are more than half a million people sleeping outside or in some form of transitional housing.
While this number …

Thinking L.A. »

Why Can’t NBC Call Brian Williams a Liar?

By | June 25, 2015

Critics and social media commentators have picked apart Matt Lauer’s nine-minute Today Show interview with disgraced news anchor Brian Williams, making much of its “mistakes were made,” less-than-apologetic tone. What has not gotten much attention, though, is what the interview—and NBC’s attempt to salvage a lesser career for Williams at NBC after he lied about being on a helicopter damaged by an rocket-propelled grenade and …

Thinking L.A. »

Nairobi Knows How to Manufacture a Pop Star

By | June 24, 2015

Six blue-masked doctors in white coats stood before us, each monitoring an infrared detector, checking for signs of fever in travelers. It was late February, and I had just arrived at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, where I was greeted with an Ebola screening. Unlike many of the people deplaning with me, I did not come for a safari, or a post at an embassy, …

The Takeaway, Thinking L.A. »

Gentrification Isn’t About Hipsters

By | June 17, 2015

The term gentrification can be a catch-all word to characterize the arrival of hipsters, widely available wi-fi, and whites moving into neighborhoods of color. But at a “Thinking L.A.” event co-presented by UCLA, a panel of Angelenos who study and work to improve the city tried to hone in on how gentrification plays out on the ground—and how best to manage the forces that are …

Thinking L.A. »

Is My Gentrifying L.A. Hood Getting Worse or Better?

By | June 15, 2015

If you want to know what it’s like on the front lines of gentrification, you only have to look at the corner of Avoca Street and Yosemite Drive in Eagle Rock, my Los Angeles neighborhood.
When my father was a kid in the Eagle Rock in the 1960s, there was a tiny corner store called Joe’s Market that provided eggs, milk, and other necessities. The …

Thinking L.A. »

As L.A. Gentrifies, Who Gets Left Behind?

By | June 12, 2015

When a British sociologist coined the term “gentrification” in 1963, she wrote that it happens when “working class quarters have been invaded by the middle class … until all or most of the working class occupiers are displaced and the whole social character of the district is changed.”
What do such character shifts look like here in L.A.? The organic market that opened in an …

Thinking L.A. »

An Outsider’s Guide to Running—and Losing—a California Election

By | June 11, 2015

Though Ted White’s classic, The Making of the President, is far better known, the best book I’ve read about what it’s like to run for political office is To Be a Politician by Stimson Bullitt. In the 1950s, Bullitt ran twice as a Democratic Congressional candidate in his home district of Seattle—and lost both times.
“Men and women are drawn into politics for a combination …

Thinking L.A. »

A Pharmacy that Dispenses Homeopathic Remedies Instead of Drugs

By | June 10, 2015

My grandparents, Norman and Mary Litvak, founded the Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy back in 1944, originally planning on selling the usual items found in drug stores at the time—medicine, alcohol, soda, cigarettes. Little did they know that within just a few years, they would be pioneering the first fully integrative retail pharmacy in the United States.
Norman had been trained as a pharmacist at the University …