Tuesday, July 26, 2011

If the Pacific keeps a-rising....

The name of this blog is HistoryLosAngeles, not FutureLosAngeles. But in fifty years, today will be a point in history. And in 2060, will we fondly recall the days when the ocean stayed off the coast of Redondo, Hermosa, Venice, and all other beaches?

As this NRDC fact sheet points out, the ocean level along our shore has been rising about 2/3 of an inch per decade for a while. If that trend continues, by 2100 the sea will have risen by at least 20, and maybe as much as 55 inches.

That would not inundate many areas--but there would be a big danger of storm surges. Surges would go further inland than they do now. Folks along the beach in Redondo and Hermosa in the early days,from the 1890s all the way into the 1950s, described storms taking out oceanfront property--homes and shops. Even into the 1980s, I recall a few restaurants destroyed--the Lady ALexandra, I think, and cluba near Seaside Lagoon. Imagine that kind of destruction, and imagine it being much worse.

The storms in 90 years could ravage Superfund sites, waste treatment plants, and eight power plants that currently stand along the California coast. The San Pedro, Wilmington, and Long Beach port areas would be vulnerable to flooding.

Aquifers near the coast would be damaged by saltwater intrusion as the sea rose. Since slight rises in temperature and longer drought periods are also predicted, the loss of aquifers means less fresh water available: bad.

Miles and miles of roads would also be at risk. It seems weird to think that we might not have moved our roads by then, especially since the sea would be steadily rising....but looking at the current political gridlock, the woeful lack of funding for infrastructure, and the opportunistic nature of planning in this area, I can imagine a pretty nasty scenario, and a city where the wealthy have protected themselves--and themselves alone.

But maybe I'm wrong on a lot of counts.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mayberry Elementary School Mosaic

Better than a picture, here is a video showing the installation of a mosaic on an 800-square-foot-exterior wall at Mayberry Street Elementary School in the Silver Lake area. Over the course of ten months, artist Didier Guedj  (pictured in the video) worked with 300 students, giving classes on Fridays, and inviting teachers and people from the neighborhood to come and help on the weekends.

The only problem is that the video shows the mosaic as a work in progress--it has no shots of the finished work. Here is a picture at right--the child magician is the mascot of the school.

Guedj is a self-taught mosaicist from San Francisco. On his website, Mosaics All The Way, Guedj documents all the processes involved in creating the Mayberry mosaic.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mason Lodge Mosaic

I voted last week, and found this mosaic at the doorway of my polling place: Masonic Lodge #332 in San Pedro.

Everything I know about the Masons I learned watching National Treasure 1 & 2 and the History Channel. But a search online brought me to several sites pointing out that acacia trees are embued by the organization with several symbolic meanings.

Both MasonicWorld and the Masonic Lodge of Education  say that the fabled Ark of the Covenant was made of acacia wood, by order of God. The acacia symbolizes immortality because of its evergreen nature, and a sprig of acacia is tossed into the grave of Masons.

There are other implications that vary with the degree of Masonry, if you want to read further into the Secrets of Freemasonry.

However, another site says the Ark of the Covenant was made of cedar, and that the cedar tree symbolizes eternity. So who knows?

I leave it to you: is this mosaic depicting an acacia (left, a red acacia, picture from Charles Sturt University) or a cedar? There are many types of acacias; the most common is the Silver Wattle, but I could not find a photo of one not covered in yellow flowers. This red acacia is believed by some (including CSU) to be the tree designated in the Bible as the source of wood for the famous Ark--maybe because it's named for its richly beautiful reddish wood.

Or is the mosaic a cedar tree, pictured at righ? Again, there are many varieties. This tree at right is a true Cedar of Lebanon, picture from Wikicommons. Since the Freemasons like their symbols to have really ancient pedigrees, my guess is that a cedar of Lebanon would be the only logical cedar to be considered.

Any Masons reading this care to enlighten us?

BTW, I learned that the mosaics at the Downey Civic Theater, which I blogged about last May, are the work of a local artist, Charlotte von Troch. I cannot find anything on the web about her, but I sincerely thank Andrew J. Wahlquist for digging this information up.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Wayfarers' Chapel

Yesterday's picture was--of course--the Wayfarers' Chapel in Palos Verdes. As stated, this was my first visit, but not the last.

The first thing to know about this place is that It Is What It Says It Is.

It is a Wayfarers Chapel. It's not a roadside attraction, a bizarre sideshow, a piece of history, or anything like that. As beautiful and photogenic as the Wayfarers' Chapel is, it's primarily a place for a traveler to take a spiritual break.

Inside, there is a fountain, benches, soft new-age music, and views of trees and sky through every window...quite an accomplishment, since the entire chapel is made of glass. Visitors sit and ponder or meditate or just relax. And that's all. Isn't that wonderful?

Well, let's state the obvious: The chapel sits on a hillside overlooking Portuguese Bend in a neighborhood composed of well-placed mansions. If you group together all the frustrated drivers on LA's freeways (especially this weekend), chances are none of them are driving along Palos Verdes Drive West South, where this sanctuary beckons. So the wayfarers who stop here are already enjoying fresh air and coastal views, as opposed to sitting in gridlock smelling exhaust and fuming. The Wayfarers' Chapel is the architectural equivalent of preaching to the choir.

THe chapel is dedicated to Emmanuel Swedenborg, and its building was sponsored by the Swedenborgian Church in 1951. Swedenborg was an 18th century scientist and mystic. You can read more about Swedenborg's teachings here, in an article on the Huffington Post, or on any number of churchy sites, like here. And on Wikipedia, of course. His spiritual ideas sound very similar to Dr. Wayne Dyer's, but he was also a noted scientist.

Lloyd Wright, son of Frank, designed the "tree chapel," inspired by the redwood forests up north. The chapel uses thirty 60-degree angles in its form, because that measure occurs very naturally in snowflakes, crystals, and branches. The tree framed by the large circle at right is a toyon or Christmasberry tree, native to California.

An interesting bit of trivia: when the cornerstone was dedicated in 1949 (62 years ago as of tomorrow, July 16h), actor Charles Laughton read the 107th Psalm. I know I've seen a picture of that ceremony but can't find it right now.

In recompense, here is a picture from the grounds around the chapel, of Portuguese Point and Abalone Cove. Lloyd Wright directed the planting of the trees, so the look of the place has changed over the decades and some trees are just now reaching maturity.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I took some beautiful pictures a few days ago, mainly of things that are beautiful to begin with. Here is one that I would not recognize before this week. It's a fairly well-known spot, but one I just hadn't visited.

I'll post more about it later, or tomorrow.

Meanwhile, here's something to ruminate on which ties in with the photo nicely: an essay on the history of open space in Los Angeles, "Privatized Leisure," by historian Lawrence Culver.

Culver wrote The Frontier of Leisure: Southern California and the Shaping of Modern America in 2010. I can't link to it on Amazon but I'm sure you can figure out how to buy it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mosaic Workshop in Malibu

Today's mosaic is yet-to-be crafted. The Malibu Art Barn at the Malibu Lumber Yard is hosting a Mosaic Workshop on July 16th, from 5-7 pm.

"In this workshop students will have the opportunity to learn mosaic making techniques and make a variety of mosaic pieces using all types of materials. A final project will include a mosaic complete with grout, sturdy enough to grace your garden or front porch."

BYOBP, according to some sites: bring your own broken plates--for use in the mosaics.

Here's a link to the registration form. The schedule indicates there are more mosaic workshops at the end of July and the first week of August for different age groups.

Finally, here's the Facebook page.

Friday, July 8, 2011

One of the Top 5 Bar Brawls in US History....

...happened right here in Los Angeles. Yay, we made a top five list!

It was New Year's Eve, 1966--almost 1967. Then, it was 1967, and a few undercover cops among the largely-gay revelers at the Black Cat Tavern started making arrests for 'lewd conduct' (Couples were kissing.)

The other patrons took umbrage at such treatment. This picture is from Wikipedia Commons--looks like a pretty dangerous place, huh?

Read the background and details at a great story in Slate by Christine Sismondo: Top 5 Greatest Bar Brawls in American History. You'll have to scroll down to us--we are number five (probably because no one died, as happened in NYC when the Civil War Draft Riots erupted at the Bull's Head Tavern --120 dead and the tavern burned down).

However, the Black Cat Tavern Riot did light a fire. It may have sparked the decision to start a gay publication--The Advocate, according to Sismondo, and it may have been a bit of a prequel to the Stonewall Riots in NYC, two years later.

The Black Cat, according to the Los Angeles Times, is now LeBarcitos, but the illuminated sign of the cat's face is still there. It became a City Historic Cultural Monument in 2008. It's in the Silverlake district at 3909 W. Sunset, near Santa Monica Blvd.

Christine Sismondo has written a book which is going right to the top of my Amazon wish list: America Walks Into A Bar. From Oxford University Press, of all places. From the Puritan's day to our own, bars have been "an institution often reviled, yet always central to American life." I'll drink to that.

I can no longer link to Amazon from this blog (criminy, I'm not asking for commission, just a link!)

Here, then, is the link to OUP's catalog entry, where you can read about the book and buy it. (but it's lots cheaper on Amazon.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

California Breezes in Signal Hill

Calbrisas Park in Signal Hill, right off PCH and California, features mosaic medallions embedded on the main walkway.

The city of Signal Hill commissioned the park a few years ago to enhance life in a "economically challenged" neighborhood.  Part of their commission was to include public art, which is the reason behind these medallions. Each features a different aspect of California: a mission, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, the Golden Gate Bridge, etc. Or Redwood Nation Park, here. (I don't see redwoods, but who cares? I love this coastal view.)

Artist John David Ciccetti, a landscape architect (the link is to his firm) and  lecturer at CSULB, did most of the work of designing and integrating the art and landscape in the park.

In 2006, he received an Award of Excellence from the California Parks and Recreation Society. Read about it here

In addition to the seven mosaics, the park's artwork also includes a decorative fence along the street that shows air--blowing grasses and lifting balls or balloons--a theme which continues over the entrance and "Calbrisas Park" sign, where kites fly.

I see many other parks on Ciccetti's website, mostly urban, using artistic fencing and inlays on the ground to create a play space or stage in  narrow areas surrounded by buildings.

At a Century 21 office, he used flower beds to create a mosaic effect when viewed from above.

Mostly, Ciccetti seems to be a genius at carving out spaces in quarters that should look cramped, given the dimensions.

The bottom picture here is in Long Beach--the East Village Arts Park. Click on it to see what I mean about creating a park space in an area that is challenging, to say the least.