Venice Circle

June 1, 2014

By Jim Smith

Public space is taking a beating in Venice lately. First, our beautiful beach is off limits to Venetians, and everyone else, from midnight to 6 a.m. Then our nutty L.A. City Attorney, Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich, decided our busiest street, Ocean Front Walk, was actually a park and promptly took it away from the public during the same nighttime hours. Now our Venice Circle is off-limits to the public 24-hours a day, every day.

The concept of public space goes hand-in-hand with local democracy. Public spaces allow people to gather and exercise free speech. In years gone by, Venetians like Swami X and Bill Mitchell would climb up on a park bench and begin haranguing the crowd that quickly gathered. It didn’t matter if they said lewd or slanderous things about well-known people. That’s what free speech is all about. You can’t go into the Binocular Building, stand up on a bench and loudly launch an verbal attack on Google. But you can do that in a public space.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the third takeaway of public access, the Circle, is located where five streets come together, including Main, Windward and Grand. It is sometimes called the traffic circle, although real estate agents prefer the “Windward Circle.” Although “Main Street Circle” would define it just as well, “Windward” sounds classier.

In recent years, the Circle has been the site of free speech activities. Our 100-year anniversary of the founding of Venice and Independence Day parade on July 4, 2005, ended at the circle where speeches and music entertained Venetians. See the August 2005 Beachhead for photos and articles about the celebration. A couple of years later, the Venice Peace and Freedom Party initiated a peace vigil at the Circle opposing the ongoing Iraq occupation, the war in Afghanistan, and the threat of war with Iran. The vigils continued every week for 54 weeks.

Later, in 2011, the Circle was the site of the first Occupy Venice encampment. It has also been a place over the year for peaceful retreats, perhaps a day dream or two while lying on the green grass, or simply watching the people and the cars go by.

We can’t talk about the Circle without thinking about that adjoining public space that we recently lost, the Venice Post Office. Here, at the center of Venice, we could wander in and run into one or more of our neighbors, and marvel at the beauty of the 1939 building and its beautiful mural, called the Story of Venice. For more than a year, the building has been an eyesore as it has turned from a public space into a private ego trip. Hollywood mogul Joel Silver bought the building and found it not up to his standards of excess. Now the inside has been ripped out, the mural torn off the wall and only shown to those he wants to impress at the L.A. Museum of Art.

Did Silver ask for signs to go up at the Circle prohibiting pedestrians from entering? Perhaps, when he takes possession of his plush office, he won’t want to see any real Venetians malingering in the Circle. In any case, after more than 80 years, the City of Los Angeles has decided that visiting the Circle constitutes a hazard to us, similar to walking on a freeway. Oh yes, the same ordinance that bans pedestrians from walking on a freeway – L.A.M.C. 80.42.1 – now bans us from this lonely piece of our public land.

It wasn’t always like this. When Venice was a free and independent city (there I go again), the Circle was a lagoon that was the hub of the canal system in central Venice. When, after a farcical election for annexation, Los Angeles filled in all the canals and the lagoon.

As a sop to angered residents, the new Circle was named the Abbot Kinney Plaza, which is still its true name as far as I know. But don’t look for a statue to the founder of Venice, or a bandstand as in many Latin American plazas. Thanks to the Venice Historical Society, there is a replica of a gondola in the Circle, even if we can’t inspect it closely.

Thanks to another colossal ego and artist Robert Graham, we have to share our Circle with a statue to a dismembered Black woman. The statue was a gift from one of Graham’s patrons but the city paid $90,000 for the base on which it stands. To date, L.A. has only contributed $5,000 to the fund for a memorial to Japanese-Venetians who were put in a concentration camp during World War II. Such are the priorities of our oppressors. From the 1970s to the 90s, a people installed statue, called “Freedom,” which people actually liked, graced the Circle. It was stolen away one night by the L.A. street department without a word.

There have been lots of ideas over the past decades to beautify our Circle. One suggestion was to have a Farmers’ Market at the Circle every week. Another was to create a statue garden where we could wander through a flower garden, sit on benches and look at representations of the heroes and artists of Venice, including Kinney, Irving Tabor, Arthur Reese, Flora Chavez, John Haag, Vera Davis, Rick Davidson, Marvena Kennedy, Philomene Long, Carol Fondiller and others. Yes, we have quite a history in Venice!

If the downtown bureaucrats really cared about the safety of pedestrians going to our Circle, couldn’t they have considered other options. No, because in L.A. cars always come first, and people second, if at all. And no, if a 1 percenter like Silver wanted people out, who are we to think our opinions would even be considered?

In a better world, cars could be banned from the Circle. Most of the dangerous traffic is from cut-through commuters going from north of Venice to south of Venice. Surely, they could find a way to travel that didn’t involve roaring down residential streets in Venice. If they can’t be moved, how about a aerial bridge over the traffic. Let’s hold a contest for the most beautiful design. Oops, I forgot, Venice is all about taking money downtown, not bringing it back.

Will Venetians give up and go quietly into that good night? Or will they rage, rage against the dying of the light? When hat-in-hand appeals to the powers-that-be don’t work, then stronger tactics are required. If any public space is to survive, if any cottages and courtyards are to survive the Big Ugly Box onslaught, if Venice is to regain its soul, and independence, we must put our bodies where our words are.

If 50 of my closest friends invited me to a peaceful candlelight vigil in our Circle, how could I refuse? How could you refuse? As the police and TV vans roll up, could we not sing that old union free speech song, “We Shall Not Be Moved”? And the next night…

Venice Circle

Hate Crime on Glyndon Ave.

June 1, 2014

By Mary Getlein

May 12 was celebrated by most Americans as Mother’s Day. On Glyndon Ave., things were not the same. A guy was living in his camper and that irritated someone, and they decided to take the law into their own hands. So they firebombed the “Magoo’s” camper.

Rick Sealent, a man who lived on Glyndon Ave., said he could hear the guy screaming when it happened. Magoo was lying in his bed when they bombed the camper.

The next morning I heard about it and went over to take a look. There was just a shell of twisted metal left. The guy from Bruffy’s re-po yard was there, getting ready to haul it away. Magoo didn’t want to talk to me. He was talking to police about the prosecution of this case. The cop said Magoo had to look that up with Arson. The guy looked like you would expect someone to look after being attacked with a firebomb: dirty, overwhelmed, scared, and desperate. He was lucky to be alive. He lost everything he owned, including his home, in about ten minutes.

I hope they catch the guys that did this. The night before, someone had come by the camper and broke all the windows. Magoo called the police, but the police didn’t respond. The firebombing happened the next night.

It surprised me that this happened on Glyndon Ave. It’s such a clean, pretty neighborhood with people who care about their kids’ education, with beautiful gardens and trees lining the streets. It’s the last place you would expect a firebombing to occur.

Firebombing was one of the weapons leveled at civil right activists in the ’60s. Firebombings and straight-up assassination were the weapons of choice of some of the most twisted, hateful people the world had seen. Born in the U.S.A., our modern, “today” hateful twisted beings are back to using such horrible tactics against the crime of being poor and living in your camper.

Now Magoo has nothing and nowhere to go.

It’s someone declaring war on you because you live in a camper. Most people who live in a vehicle know the rules and try to blend with the other cars, and not attract attention. When you use such violence against undefended people, you join the brutal forces of hatred. There are many ways of killing people, but burning someone out of their homes has got to be the one of worst.

This is a frightening example of what happens when you take “the law” into your own hands. What happens is chaos and random acts of violence. What if there had been little children in the camper? Would that change the point of view for you? There are 50,000 people, men, women and children living on the streets of LA on any given night. These people need to be protected, just like anybody else. There can’t be two systems of justice: one for the housed, and one for the homeless. Who do you think comes out on top?

RV fire

Maya Angelou: An Appreciation

June 1, 2014

By Amanda Seward.

On Wednesday, May 28, 2014 Maya Angelou died at the age of 86. Although I did not know her personally, as did Oprah Winfrey, who called her “mentor, mother/sister, and friend,” I was touched by her death. It is hard to describe why. Although I read most of her autobiographical books, starting with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, I did not see myself as a devotee and other than perhaps the poems, Still We Rise and Phenomenal Woman, I was not particularly familiar with her poetry. Yet I realized by my response to her passing she meant a great deal to me.

She has been called a lot of things, “diva of American culture,” “national treasure,” “America’s conscience,” “global renaissance woman,” and “icon.” She was all of these things. She was a dancer, writer, poet, film director, actor, civil rights activist, and teacher. She was a friend and supporter of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. She was fluent in French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic and Fanti, a West African language and spent years working in Cairo, Egypt and Accra, Ghana. She was a Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet, she was nominated for a Tony Award for her role in the play, Look Away, and won three Grammy Awards for her spoken word albums. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton in 2000, the Ford Theatre’s Lincoln Medal in 2008 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2011. She wrote and recited On the Pulse of Morning for the 1993 inauguration of President Clinton. She was honored with more than fifty honorary degrees. Jerry Offsay, former president of programming at Showtime, said that of the 310 movies he was involved with during his tenure at Showtime, the company premiered 50 films at film festivals around the world, including Down in the Delta, directed by Angelou, and before the film even played at the Toronto Film Festival, the audience gave Angelou a standing ovation. He said that he had not seen that kind of reaction before or since.

She certainly lived a full live. In the first book in her series of memoirs, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she described being sent on a train to the segregated town of Stamps, Arkansas at the age of 3 along with her brother, Bailey, who was 4, to live with their paternal grandmother after their parents divorced. When Angelou was 7, they were picked up in Stamps by their father and taken to St. Louis, Missouri to rejoin their mother and her relatives. Less than a year later, she was back in Stamps after being raped by her mother’s boyfriend. After testifying at the trial of her assailant, he was sentenced to a year in prison, but before he could serve his time, his lawyer somehow got him off and he was released. Within days, he was found dead, kicked to death, presumably by her uncles. Angelou was mostly mute for almost 5 years after, speaking rarely to anyone other than her brother. In her 7-year old mind, she thought that her voice had caused the death of someone. Still, she found solace in books, poems, and in a few close relationships. This first memoir ends when she is seventeen in San Francisco, where she is living with her mother and her new step father, and just borne a child within weeks of graduating from high school. Already, though, you see a person who loved others, who was loved, who was a listener and observer, who had courage, who had dignity in the worst of circumstances, someone who was just and still and curious and knew how to have a good time.

I was touched by an interview with comedian Dave Chappelle in which Angelou described an encounter on the set of Poetic Justice (1993), a movie directed by John Singleton featuring Angelou in a cameo appearance. She described walking out of her trailer to hear two men arguing vehemently with each other. She walked up to one and whispered can I get a word. He huffed and puffed. She asked, I understand that but can I speak with you a minute. The young man calmed and she said, do you know how important you are? Do you know our people lay spoon fashion in filthy slave ships in their and each others’ excrement, urine and menstrual flow so that you could live 200 years later. They stood on auction blocks so that you could live. When is the last time someone told you how important you are? The young man started to tear. Angelou said she wiped his tears with her hands and talked with him. Afterwards Janet Jackson who was starring in the movie came up to her and said, “Dr. Angelou I don’t believe you were actually talking with Tupac Shakur.” Angelou said she had no idea who Shakur was. Shakur’s mother later wrote Angelou saying that he told her about the incident and started thinking a little differently.

Winfrey said that above all Angelou was a teacher. And yes she was. At her death, she had a lifetime appointment at Wake Forest University. Yet, as Offsay said, she was also a listener. When one spoke, she heard you. He also told me that she had a quietness about her that was rare.

As I reflect on her life, I know we have lost an intelligent and courageous voice, but in so many ways she remains with us in her writings, her interviews and her teachings. There are many life lessons she shared. One is to have courage. She said, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” Without courage, you will say “the threat is too much, the difficulty too high and the challenge is too great.” She did not let racism, sexism, poverty, or abuse stand in her way of living life fully.

She said that the most important blessings for her were first her child, and then the others that she loved, that we needed to listen to each other and really hear each other. She seemed to live this creed. Her son was once asked did he ever feel he was growing up in her shadow. He responded, “No, I didn’t. I grew up in her light.”

I will try not to look at her as an icon, because, as she explained, it is hard to measure up to an icon and we are all human. Her life has more meaning if she can help us be our best selves and if we don’t write her off as an impossible standard. She was accessible, she danced, she smoked and she enjoyed Johnnie Walker Blue. With all of that and more, I cannot help but think there is no more appropriate person to be greeted, “Thou art my good and faithful servant with whom I am well pleased.” RIP Maya Angelou.

Maya Angelou

Beware of Google’s PR Whitewash

June 1, 2014

By Anthony Castillo

As with most major corporations who move into communities where they may be less than welcome, Google is in the midst of a subtle public relations campaign to win over the hearts and minds of Venice residents who may not be aware of the
extent to which Google is changing the face of our community. And maybe get the rest of us to think “well, they really aren’t that bad after all.” But don’t believe it for a second, a mega corporation cannot be trusted.

You may have noticed Google attaching its name to the just completed Venice Art Walk. This event has been held for many years before the arrival of Google to Venice, and is something that taps into what Venice has been about for decades:an artists’ community. So of course Google would want to be associated with it, if in name only. And at a recent Venice Neighborhood Council meeting a librarian from the Abbot Kinney library spoke about Google’s youth training program and free training classes for kids interested in the tech world. All of this looks quite benign on the surface, but there is much more motivating these actions than meets the eye.
These recent attempts by Google to do community outreach and throw some money around town are only the beginning of what will be a long and ongoing strategy to try and sway Venice opinion in Google’s favor, and get people to look the other way as Google is buying up large parts of Venice to expand its presence, while further fueling the hyper-gentrification of Venice, which will in turn destroy the very things that make Venice, Venice. The more protests that are held in front of Google’s main office to call them out on the negative effects they are having here in Venice, the more they will try to put a positive spin on the company’s image as a good Venice neighbor. But after all of us are priced out of Venice who will be left? Google, its supporters and a bunch of trust fund hipsters?

While some might call me paranoid or alarmist, the facts bare out my concerns. These types of superficial PR maneuvers are just part of doing business when it comes to major corporations, and Google is no exception. Fact, Google is buying up Venice first one building at a time, and now it has become one city block at a time. Fact, Google wants to encourage the term “silicon beach” when referring to Venice. This attempt to change the image of Venice only serves to make the gentrification that Google is fueling look like progress and not what it really is, a land grab. Fact, Google is a dues paying member of the American
Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and is funding extreme far right wing organizations (something I’ve written about in detail here in the Beachhead February 2014 issue #388).

Fact, Google doesn’t give a dam about Venice, its working class, long term residents, or its history. Google is in the business of doing one thing: collecting data on all its users so it can make maximum profits off of selling this information. That is what Google cares about, period. Google is also expanding into other areas of concern. Its purchase of Boston Dynamics, for instance. This robot making company is in the business of producing some of the scariest creations ever imagined. They then are sold to the military and possibly police departments. Think on the ground drones and you will get what I’m referring to. See for yourself on Boston Dynamics You Tube page (which of course Google also owns). Everyone, not just folks here in Venice, should be concerned about what this arm of Google is up to.

So the next time you see Google do what on the surface looks to be a good deed for Venice, remember they are no different from say a fossil fuel company, a defense contractor (i.e. Boston Dynamics/Google), or a chemical company who has to go out into the community from time to time to whitewash its image, so it can continue to do business with the least amount of push back from the surrounding community. And don’t forget, all that information that Google has on all of us, the NSA also has, and Google is just fine with that. Let’s see where Google comes down in the fight for net neutrality. Because either way they will still get our data. I for one will be skeptical of anything Google does to mask what it is really about, and all of us living here in Venice should be as well.

Google Cat Robot


Labor and the Environment

June 1, 2014

By Mark Lipman

Righteously, there is outrage over the state of our environment. Whether mountaintop removal for coal in West Virginia, or the dumping of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, we all suffer the consequences. The man-made disasters are already too numerous to count, and affect the health of us all, as well as the stability of the entire planet.

When we look at our economy, how well paying manufacturing jobs, reliant on human labor, have been replaced by robotic assembly lines, prison labor and overseas sweatshops, the rage boils within us, as we face eviction and are unable to feed our families.

It is the poor who suffer – who always suffer at the hands of the capitalist class – and it is through their eyes that this story will be told. For when we look upon the ivory and glass towers stretching to the sky, while we live in poverty and despair, we see the economic injustice that is placed upon us and look for someone to blame.
Rightfully, our gaze falls upon those at the very top, for we know it is they who have gutted this planet for their own benefit – it is they who are to be held accountable.

Yet to solve the crisis that is now upon us, it is we who are responsible. For truth be told, it was through our human labor, and our complacency, that this all came about. Yes, we were paid to produce the consequences that we are now paying for. If we are to approach the problem, with the aim of finding a solution, then we must look scientifically at how we got here, in order to find our pathway out.

We built the society we have by hand. We built it through our human labor. Someone else gave us the job, but we did the work.

If we as a people built the problem, are we not also able to build the solution?

Global warming is the major challenge for this generation. If that challenge is not met successfully, we as a species may not live to see another generation.

Our jobs are gone. They are not coming back. The corporate masters have found a cheaper workforce. They do not need us. All they’re keeping us around for is to find out how much they can take. We are on our own to fix this and the sooner we realize this fact and get to work, the better.

We have an unemployed workforce slowly starving to death – officially, 42.6 million people are living in poverty in the United States – officially, 6 million people are living homeless – millions upon millions of people are ready to work, if only they had something to believe in.

Never before in history have two problems been so intertwined, so that a single solution would cure them both.

The problem began with industrialization – that is where we crossed the line with nature and it has only gotten worse since. The tools and technology are available to solve both our ecological and economic problems. As caretakers of this planet, with a responsibility to our future generations, we have an obligation to produce using clean sustainable methods that do not pollute our planet. It is time to restore our roots of local production and agriculture. It is time also to work with purpose as communities, as the owners of what we produce.

After all this time, after all these centuries, after our grandparents and ancestors did all the work – for us to own nothing of it, while those who sat on their asses live in splendor – is nothing short of scandalous.

The only logical conclusion is that we go back to work for ourselves – and do this collectively.  By combining our resources, and networking with others of the same mind, we are able today to create the foundation of a sustainable future for us all.

By working together collectively, by owning our production, we actually have a say in what we produce and how we produce it; into what invest our time. Through that we become individually responsible for the direction of our labor. At which point, as a collective workforce, we have the power to change the world for the better.

Mark Lipman px

“Perceptions of Improprieties” Halt 320 Sunset

June 1, 2014

By Krista Schwimmer

In one of her last acts as the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC)
President, Linda Lucks opened the May 7 Land Use and Planning (LUPC)
meeting by pulling the controversial 320 Sunset Avenue project off the
agenda. Citing “perceptions of impropriety” as the reason, Lucks said
the project would go directly to the VNC. A new staff report would be
written with fresh eyes. “I think this is in the best interest of the
community,” stated Lucks.

Her authority to do this was immediately challenged by LUPC Chair, Jake
Kaufman, as well as Project Architect, Steve Vitallch, who claimed the
applicant had already gone beyond what was necessary and called the
process a “kangaroo court”. Jim Murez also chimed in against Lucks,
saying, “this board reports to the bylaws.” He said the bylaws say
nothing about the VNC President being able to appoint anyone else
outside the committee. Murez was recently soundly defeated by Robin
Rudisill in a run to replace Jake Kaufman as the Chair of LUPC.

Linda Lucks held her ground, however, telling all present that “I have
full authority to make this decision.”

At the May 20 meeting the VNC moved and passed the motion (9-3-1)
that 320 Sunset Ad Hoc Committee be formed to create a staff report on
320 Sunset Avenue Bakery/Restaurant for the board within 30 days.

Free Venice

June 1, 2014

By Marty Liboff

Bike your walk. No smoking. No littering. No loitering. No sleeping in cars. No overt begging. No vending after sundown. No feeding birds. No people after midnight. No vending anything useful. No bottles on beach. No dogs off leash. No selling anything wearable. No beer on boardwalk. No barbeques. No dogs on beach. (Are elephants O.K.?) No selling fruit. No public drunks. No loud music. No amplified music. No vending outside spaces. No hair wraps. No hair cutting. No dumpster diving for food. No nudity. No nude sunbathing. No living in vans. No vending without resale number. No skateboards on walkway. No massages. No smoking pot. No pot shops near beach. No dogs without poop bag. No weekend dogs Memorial Day till Halloween. No sleeping on beach. No camping on beach. No sleeping in parks. No selling water. No public urinating even if toilets are closed. No sleeping on bench. No loud drums. No noise after sundown. No drum circle after dark. No skinny dipping. No selling books. No enclosed tents. No selling jewelry. No breast feeding. No washing in bathrooms. No bathing in bathrooms. No leaving belongings unattended. No cooking on beach. No posting flyers. No being without I.D. No loud yelling. No playing music outside spaces. No talking back to cops. No having too much fun. No being different. No smelly farts. No breathing. No life. No, no, nein, no, no, no … Enjoy Your Beaches. “One thing I can tell you is you got to be free.” – The Beatles


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