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Posts filed under 'Los Angeles'

The Crows are Back

Well they’re back, whoopin’ it up at dusk in huge numbers in the local trees. I refuse to believe summer is over, but the flocks of crows that like to party around here have started their antics. Last month it was a very very loud mocking bird making some kind mating call through the warm summer nights. Now it looks like the crows are getting together for some nice fall roosting.

For a few years I had wondered about the raucous crow festivities here in LA, so in January I asked asked Kimball L. Garrett of the Natural History Museum a few questions about crows in Los Angeles. He has some insights into crow behavior and some perspective on why they seem to take over urban areas. Basically, we’ve replaced the native scrub habitat with crow-friendly trees. And we don’t shoot them like farmers do (it is against the law, so don’t try). Read the article to learn more.

And I’m sure we’ll hear more complaints about the flocking crows this year. I’m still betting that someone here in Santa Monica will come up with a bazillion dollar crow birth control program. So stay tuned for that….

August 26th, 2007

Eva Zeisel exhibition comes to Los Angeles

Eva Zeisel’s body of work will be on display in Los Angeles in celebration of the industrial designer’s 100th birthday. The exhibition will run from September 9 to December 30, 2007 at the Craft and Folk Art Museum on Museum Row at 5814 Wilshire Blvd between Fairfax and La Brea. The show is coming from a run at San Diego’s Mingei Museum of Folk Art.

Eva Zeisel Book, Designer for IndustryZeisel is an industrial designer who, throughout the last century, has produced ceramic dinnerware for mass production. Approaching her 101st birthday, she continues to work from her studio in New York. Her strikingly simple organic shapes are so unique and personal, they are being presented at the Folk Art museums (unusual for mass produced items). In addition to dinnerware, Zeisel designs furniture and decorative pieces, crystal and tea pots, many on view at the exhibition.

I’ve come to admire Eva Zeisel’s work through my parents whose collection appears in the exhibition. Years ago they fell in love with some everyday china that had been used in the family in the 1950s. They got curious and, just a little naively oblivious to the fact that Eva Zeisel was already an icon in industrial design, contacted and befriended her. After years of crawling Ebay, thrift stores and estate sales they’ve amassed an extensive collection of her work and a brilliant network of Eva enthusiasts. They even started the Eva Zeisel Forum (formerly the Eva Zeisel Collector’s Club). (They have a Forum site and a site where they post their latest Eva collectibles up for sale).
There are some excellent books on Eva Zeisel. Eva Zeisel, designer for industry is a beautifully produced book with amazing photography. It is out of print but available through Amazon sometimes, so grab it if you can. Eva Zeisel by Lucie Young is a lighter read with a good amount of biographical information. It is a much smaller book but fun. If you want to hear it straight from the designer’s mouth, Eva Zeisel On Design is a much deeper look at the craft of industrial design, presented through various essays and articles by Eva Zeisel herself.

Eva Zeisel Nambe BowlYea, she’d an icon, she’s in museums and she is producing some very high end work that nobody can afford. But you can still buy her latest work. Nambe is currently selling a very sheik line including polished metal bowls, vases and various wine glasses and goblets. You can see them here.

The one I’m gonna pick up for is the Eva Teakettle, mostly because I really need a tea kettle.

Eva attended the opening in San Diego (which I missed) so I’m hoping she’ll make the LA event!

2 comments August 13th, 2007

Ceramics in Construction, Remodeling and Design

Jennifer Joyce Potter Studio WindowI take weekly classes with Jennifer Joyce in her Santa Monica ceramics studio. It is not easy being a traditional potter in Los Angeles. Amazed at the variety of work she produces I thought I’d share her work through a little interview. Jennifer creates all kinds of amazing sculpture and functional items in here studio. She hosts wine and clay parties and even helps Girls Scouts get their badges in pottery. But some of her most intriguing projects are larger scale works she produces for home construction and interior design. Check out this interview with Jennifer Joyce to learn a little more about the difference between creating small ceramic forms and large pieces for architectural use.

If you have any comments or questions, this is a good place for em.

July 23rd, 2007

Outdoor Shower Design Book

Outdoor Shower design bookOk, I’m a little obsessed with outdoor showers right now. I mentioned a couple of fine showers you can buy from Amazon in a previous post on showering in your backyard. And now this nice little shower design book has come to my attention to help you design and build your own outdoor shower.

I had no idea that outdoor showers are becoming the hot new luxury item. I just know that my significant-other has a soft spot for them because as a kid she would visit their family’s homestead shack out in the Mojave desert and use an outdoor shower. Years later we visited Costanoa, a luxury fake camping resort where you sleep in tent cabins under electric blankets and use shared camp style deluxe bath facilities. The bath house floors are heated with radiant heat and you can shower (in private stalls) under the open sky. And now we are renovating our decrepit bathroom with that style in mind. Most of all I just remember as a kid, some of my favorite times were coming home covered in dirt, mud or sand so that I needed to be hosed off outside. Now I just need the time and energy to build a shower to make it more fun.

Beware– I’ve found that you may need a permit to build an outdoor shower. My plumber warned me that in Santa Monica (where we have a lot of very good strict building requirements) it is technically illegal to build a shower without proper drainage and permits. I need to find more info, but this action by the City Council points out that outdoor showers are really supposed to be used for recreational purposes like if there is a pool or sauna. But it shouldn’t serve as the primary shower for a granny flat. Who knew it was so complicated to hose off in your own yard? You have to admit though, it is important to keep untreated water out of our ocean! It is contaminated enough. So get your permits!

Anyway, this shower design book has received some nice reviews and I’ve got to order mine.

2 comments July 17th, 2007

Donald Sterling is Homeless and Needs Your Help

No comment.

Donald Sterling Homeless Center Ugly Ad

Oh, crap, I can’t help myself. I have to comment. There are a lot of Donald Sterling ads that run in the paper every week and I just can’t discuss every one. But this is nuts. (See the Donald Sterling Graphic Design Foundation if you haven’t yet, and join our cause.)

I know my criticisms of Donald T. Sterling Corporation have all been graphic design related, but I have to take a little spin through the content of this ad. (I’ll comment on the design too, if you can bear wading through some actual substantive issues.)

For many years I worked as a counselor, activist and program manager in homeless services. (I had always been involved in art and design on the side and eventually switched to doing design full time.)

Honestly, I don’t know the full background story behind Mr. Sterling’s homeless service center. Judging by a quick spin around the net, nobody else does either. I generally bristle when people who are not a part of the homeless or social service community step in and try to fix everything. There are many plans and proposals that have been developed and ignored. And in these plans there are a couple of findings that are very clear. The number one thing we need is permanent housing, preferably with support services. Sure it is nice to have another service center, but these centers just become warehouses (or concentration camps) unless there is a place for people to go. And another important issue is that we need many decentralized locations for services. Every community has homeless people and people from every community become homeless. Sending everyone downtown is not a great solution.

But really, my biggest complaint about large facilities like the one proposed is that they can be hell for people. Imagine checking in to a great big facility like this — would you be scared? What if you were not at your best because of your health, mental health or just the troubling circumstances of being homeless? And the very existence of these places is often used as a justification for police sweeps and harassment.

Ok, enough ill-informed whining and criticism. I actually commend Donald Sterling for putting his money and reputation on the line and for trying to do something for Los Angeles. I hope he addresses all of the concerns that the community may have regarding a facility like this so that it will fill a real practical need. And I know he has some hard work ahead. He’s at least trying to do something great and he deserves our support.

Which brings us to his horrible ads in the LA Times again! Assuming this service center and his intentions are all well placed, how is this ad going to help him? He boldly tells us “The Homeless Need Your Help.” It is not clear but it looks like Sterling is posing as the homeless person who requires the help, or I guess he is just posing as the person who is bringing us the news (with a smile on his face). And then the ad describes the plans. What can you do if you want to help? You can write a letter and snail mail it to the address listed. Or maybe that’s how to request services. It is not really clear because the text is just a jumble of incomplete sentences. The only thing that is clear from the ad — from the giant Donald Sterling head to the giant “Sterling Homeless Center” on the building” — is that this homeless service center is really all about one thing: Donald T. Sterling.

Ok, this is not just a design issue. The ad is less ugly than most of the ads running lately. But it is just a poorly executed PR move. If he was actually paying someone to do the ads, maybe he or his people would proof read them and consider if they were actually promoting him and his cause. Even if these ads are free to him, they are hurting him (and everyone who looks at them) more than they are helping.

4 comments June 12th, 2007

Los Angeles Magazine calls Quixo.com Website of the Month!

Really!? Yea, we’re surprised too. It seems that Donald T. Sterling Graphic Design Foundation is striking a chord with many Angelinos who have been plagued by the gawd awful ads in the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere.

It looks bleak (did you see the self serving ads in which the Salvation Army is supposedly congratulating Sterling, but obviously rendered in the evil DTS style?). But we haven’t given up yet! Since we first started this campaign we’ve received widespread support and this site has served as a place for others to vent and share information. We’ve received reports that the ads are free to Sterling because the Times gets ad at Clippers basketball games. And we hear that DTS Corp insist on the crappy look of the ads. Supposedly designers at the Times actually dread getting the assignment. (Yes, the shocking news is that real designers may be involved here.) It is clear from the frequent sloppiness of the layout, the designers have given up hope.

So now that we have more momentum than ever, what will it really take to get these ads to change? Can the Los Angeles Times stand up for its integrity? Can the designers at the Times speak up or at least try to make the ads look nicer? Or, really, can’t Donald Sterling realize that his ads that proclaim to offer “most beautiful apartments in the world” actually send the message “tacky, poorly managed apartments brought to you by a megalomaniac?”

I have nothing against Donald Sterling (except for this ad thing). And I don’t know how well his apartments are managed or anything about his alleged bigotry or sex scandals. And honestly I’ve been disgusted by comments I’ve seen about him that sound anti-Semitic and just stupid. But I do know this: his ads are ugly, they make him look bad and I’m sick of looking at them! There are a few suggesions for how you can do your part here.

(Thanks Los Angeles Magazine!)

Oh, here’s the blurb from the mag:

From Los Angeles Magazine, June 2007
“Buzz Cut”
by Lesley Bargar
Website of the month: Hoping to ease the suffering of layout-conscious Angelinos, the offbeat online magazine Quixo has launched the Donald T. Sterling Graphic Design Foundation, which urges the Clippers owner and real estate mogul to employ a professional artist for his ubiquitous L.A. Times advertisements. The Quixo folks complain, “The ads don’t follow even the most basic principles of graphic design.” So far, Sterling hasn’t budged. Visit quixo.com to do your part.

1 comment May 21st, 2007

Toddlers are Terrified of Automatic Toilets

I don’t know what goes through the minds of people planning kids’ museums and attractions. Why do they put automatic toilets in places that are supposed to be kid friendly? My kids are just starting to get past this, but as toddlers they were absolutely terrified by the automatic toilets.

It goes like this: you are trying to potty train your young child, you bring her into a public restroom at the local tot museum, and as soon as she spots the blinking red eye, she freaks out, refuses to use the toilet and you are left struggling for ways to reassure her. Finally, you crouch down, face nearly touching the toilet, to attempt to firmly cover the sensor so the toilet does not flush while your child is sitting on it. You hold this painful pose for 15 minutes while your kid tries to poop. Then maybe you get a little lazy because you’re in pain from holding the pose or because your other child is lying on the floor, licking the side of the stall, and you move your hand ever so slightly. The toilet, with its supersonic public toilet pressure, emits a loud WHOOSH and your kid is sure she is going to get sucked down, never to see you again. Potty training is set back a decade and have to start looking for a therapist.

I know not every kid is afraid of these things. Some may think they are kind of cool. But save this cool feature for the sinks. The cool factor is much more appreciated there when there is no danger of being sucked into the sewer.

Any day now I’ll start a whole campaign with T-Shirts. Something like: Toddlers United to Stop Horrifying Terrible Red-eyed Automatic Potties. (T.U.S.H. T.R.A.P.). If your interested in joining the movement or have a more punchy acronym, let me know.

If you are a parent seeking help, I can suggest one solution that works pretty well. We learned it from a kind attendant in the baby care center at Disneyland. She showed us you can simply stick a Post-It Note® over the eye and it seems to work most of the time. The trick depends on a couple of things – first the ability of the post-it to stick to the dingy surface of the toilet. Second and most importantly it requires buy-in from the toddler. You have to really sell it with confidence and enthusiasm. I’m not much of a salesperson, so my success would rely on the kid’s disposition on a given day. Still, I keep a couple of post-its handy in my wallet at all times.

My suggestion, again, for anyone building children’s facilities: DON’T MAKE THE TOILETS AUTOMATIC. Save it for the sinks and we’ll all be better off.

(If you are in LA or Santa Monica, I have a list of fun things to do with toddlers and kids. But they don’t have toilet reviews. Yet.)

4 comments April 20th, 2007

UPDATED, AGAIN: FUNdamentals of Music and Movement has moved

FUNdamentals of Music and Movement has moved their classes!
They’ve been working out the details and recently announced that classes are being held in two west los angeles locations:

Monday, Wednesday,  Friday & Saturday classes are held at:

Pacific Arts Center
10469 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90025

Tuesday & Thursday classes will be held at:

Turnout Performing Arts Center
12113 Santa Monica Blvd. #201
Los Angeles, CA 90025

They encourage people to call 310 398 2500 with questions.

Check the website for class schedules and give them a call if you have any questions or to be sure nothing has changed!

FUNdamentals is one of our favorite kid spots and it is featured on our Stuff to do with Kids in Los Angeles page and will soon be included on our Los Angeles Birthday Party ideas page. They do great classes at the Center but also do outreach to pre-school and elementary classes and daycare. They’ll come to your birthday and they do kid rock shows for other occasions. And check out their CD if you get a chance.

March 22nd, 2007

Backyard Science & Fun with Nature (with Kids)

We’ve just posted a new backyard science and fun with nature in los angeles guide! Catherine Criolla has submitted a fantastic write-up on backyard science activities, books, places to go and resources to find more information. I guess it is for kids, but there’s stuff for everyone. There’s stuff about all kinds of critters — bugs (insects, spiders and butterflies), birds, squirrels… You name it. Plus some tips on getting out and enjoying nature around Southern California and beyond. Leave a note here if you have any additions or suggestions.

1 comment March 12th, 2007

Donald Sterling Corporation Ad Update

We’ve just posted a couple of updates on our campaign to stop Donald Sterling Corporation’s ugly full page ads in the LA Times.

So far the campaign has been an enormous success. Like-minded people from around Los Angeles have been finding comfort in knowing that they are not alone in their suffering. Bunches of LA blogs have taken up the cause, including LosAnjealous, Blogging LA, Franklin Avenue and LA Observed .

As a result, new details are coming to light. According to our sources — random people posting comments here and elsewhere– Donald Sterling Corp does not pay for their millions worth of ads in the Los Angeles Times. They got them through a trade for advertising at Clippers basketball games. This explains a lot. The Times has no power to control the quality of the ads and DTS Corp just doesn’t value the ads. We propose that the Times make their banners at Clippers games into eysores to pressure DTS to fix their ugly ads.

In other news, last weekend we were startled to see a new DTS ad layout in the Sunday paper. It almost looked like they were trying a little harder. The ad had a nice dark blue color in the background with a subtle gradient. There were even margins and the design elements appeared to be lined up intentionally. The new gold 3-D logo thing was pretty gaudy, but at least it looked like they were trying. Still, any hope that we were making progress was destroyed when the next page revealed an ad in the old style, rendered even more sloppily than ever.

Oh well. We’ll struggle on. I’m sure someone at Donald T. Sterling Corporation has taken notice of our campaign here. Hopefully even more pressure is mounting because, since they don’t seem to have their own website, people looking to do business with them find us. I’m betting right now they are already working on an ugly-ass website. At least with a website we won’t need a campaign, people have a choice whether to visit it or not….

March 8th, 2007

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