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The strange sounds – and history – of the theremin

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If there’s any instrument that gets misunderstood and under-appreciated in music, it’s the theremin.
Countless bands have employed the warbly, eerie-sounding electronic instrument, from The Pixies to the White Stripes. It was perhaps most famously used by The Beach Boys in “Good Vibrations.”
The theremin was created by a Russian physicist, Lev Sergeyevich Termen. He’s the main character in “Us Conductors”, the debut novel by Montreal-based …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Interviews »

Tom Schnabel remembers jazz musician Charlie Haden

A photo of Charlie Haden from 2008, by Tim Dickeson.

The jazz world is mourning today the death of a great musician. Bassist Charlie Haden passed away at the age of 77, after a long illness.
Haden – a three-time Grammy winner – was born in the Midwest, but came to LA in the 1950s, enrolling at Westlake College of Modern Music.
His music and performances touched on political themes at times, a mirror of the …

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Use a smartphone? Thank Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla, circa 1890

Here’s a question: when was the last time you picked up your smart phone?
Chances are you have one. And you probably last glanced at it – well, maybe you’re looking at it now.
One of the people you can thank for that miracle of telephony is Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla. And today is his birthday. He would’ve been 158.
To celebrate, we asked Marc Seifer, who …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Interviews, News »

Escape from LA in Edan Lepucki’s “California”

Edan Lepucki at KCRW

Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, California, follows a young couple as they leave an apocalyptic Los Angeles for the wilderness to try to make it, away from what’s left of society.
It’s a book that deals with, obviously, escape. But also survival, family, camaraderie (or not), and grace under fire.
Lepucki’s book has already gotten lots of attention with a little help from an unlikely champion, the …

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Art in space! Echo Park gallery designs satellite art

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Here in Los Angeles, art is by no means confined to the walls of galleries and museums.  There are murals and billboards, parks and oceanfront boardwalks.
But one LA couple is sending their artwork to the final frontier – space.
They designed the exterior of a satellite that’s scheduled to launch from Kazakhstan at 8:58 a.m. PST on Tuesday.
Jon Gibson and Amanda White are the owners …

Arts & Culture, Featured »

Film reviews with LA Weekly’s Amy Nicholson

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There are plenty of movies that’ve taken place on the road. It’s a familiar set for Hollywood. Think “Rain Man,” “Due Date,” and of course, “Thelma and Louise.”
There’s a new one now open in theaters in LA. “Tammy” stars comedienne Melissa McCarthy in a road trip movie with McCarthy and her cursing, hard-drinking grandmother played by Susan Sarandon.
LA Weekly film critic Amy Nicholson fills …

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PHOTOS: Inside California’s first marijuana farmers market

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Farmer’s markets are a popular trend in Los Angeles, but the first-ever medical marijuana farmer’s market made its debut in East Los Angeles today.

Card-carrying medical marijuana patients braved 90 degree heat and a long line to get into the California Heritage Market in Boyle Heights.
“They’re definitely going to have to have better access because there’s a lot of people that want to be here,” …

Featured, Interviews, Issues, News, Politics »

LA County CEO William Fujioka to step down

Outgoing LA County CEO William Fujioka

Los Angeles County CEO William Fujioka says he will retire in November, after more than seven years as the county’s top official and more than 40 years in public service. Fujioka says he planned to leave five years ago, but the Great Recession led him to postpone his leave.
He spoke to KCRW’s Avishay Artsy about whether the County is better off now than it …

Arts & Culture, Environment, Headline, News »

An olfactory guide to Los Angeles

KCRW's Steve Chiotakis, left, takes a big whiff of East LA from a scent strip held by artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter.

What does your neighborhood smell like?
It’s not a question we ask ourselves often, and yet it’s something we notice every day. Is it the smell of sea air, freshly-cut grass, car exhaust, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, urine, or something else?
Los Angeles artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter posted a survey online and received dozens of responses. He used that information to create 11 scents that correspond to different …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Headline, Interviews, Politics »

What’s the big f*&#ing deal with the F-word?

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti at the LA Kings rally at the Staples Center on Monday, June 16.

The F-bomb that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti dropped on the city on Monday has quickly blown up into a debate over what politicians should be allowed to get away with these days.
Speaking in front of thousands of fans at a public rally celebrating the LA Kings’ Stanley Cup victory, Garcetti told everyone there are two things an elected official should never do in …

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Steve Ballmer offers $2 billion for the LA Clippers

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has made a bid to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team for $2 billion.
The Los Angeles Times reports that would be a record price for an NBA team. The next highest sale in the league was for the Milwaukee Bucks, which garnered $550 million.
In today’s announcement, Ballmer reportedly beat out LA investors Tony Ressler and Steve Karsh ($1.2 billion), …

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Isla Vista killer’s misogynistic rant spurs #YesAllWomen response

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As UC Santa Barbara students and members of the Isla Vista community continue to deal with the shock of Friday night’s stabbings and shootings, people on social media over the weekend started responding to the misogynistic messages in Elliot Rodger’s YouTube video and e-mailed manifesto.
In the video, he blames women for rejecting him.
A trending topic on Twitter became #YesAllWomen, in which women talked about …

Education, Headline, Interviews, News »

A student’s deadly rampage stuns Santa Barbara

Isla Vista murder victims. Top row from left to right: Weihan Wang, George Chen, Cheng Yuan Hong. Bottom row from left to right: Christopher Martinez, Katie Cooper, Veronika Weiss

Police say the 22-year-old who went on a killing rampage on and near the UC Santa Barbara campus was obsessed with exacting “retribution” for a lifetime of isolation he said he experienced.
Authorities say after Elliot Rodger killed three people in his apartment, he shot and killed three other people at random Friday, and injured 13 more with either gunshots or with his car.
Rodger’s parents …

Arts & Culture, economy, Featured, Interviews, News »

When doing laundry is just too much work

A marketing photo for the laundry delivery service Washio.

Doing laundry can be such a drag. For those of us who are lucky enough to have a washer and dryer in our homes, it’s not that big of a deal.
But if you’re forced to go into that dark, creepy basement of your apartment buildings to use the coin-operated machines – or even worse, the fluorescent-lit neighborhood Laundromat – you’ve probably thought to yourself, …

Arts & Culture, Environment, Featured, Interviews, News »

A Socialist colony in Southern California, founded 100 years ago

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On May 1, 1914, the Socialist colony of Llano Del Rio was founded in the Antelope Valley, about 70 miles northeast of Los Angeles, in the southern edge of the Mojave Desert.
It lasted about three and half years, and at its peak over a thousand people lived there.
On a recent weekend, a couple dozen Southern California artists paid tribute to the centennial of this …

Environment, Featured, Interviews, News, Politics »

Sen. Barbara Boxer on decommissioning nuclear plants

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The nuclear decommissioning process is flawed. That’s the message coming out of Washington D.C. today.
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer of California chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, which held a hearing this morning on retired nuclear power plants. Senator Boxer introduced one of three bills yesterday to change how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversees decommissioning.
The move comes as Southern California is preparing for the …

Arts & Culture, economy, Featured, Interviews, News »

Garcetti on film credits, bicycling and Donald Sterling

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti rides his bike to work on Monday.

As you’ve probably heard, film and TV production is leaving California, to the alarm of Hollywood and local lawmakers.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the mayors of several other big California cities sent a letter today to legislative leaders in Sacramento, calling on them to pass an extension of the state’s film and TV tax credit program.
“I’ve watched, as an Angeleno, while we see …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Interviews »

How to tell a fake laugh from a real one

Photo by y i v a via Flickr/CC.

Admit it: you’ve done it. You’re on a bad date, or maybe in an awkward job interview, and you HAVE to fake-laugh at a dumb joke someone told.
Luckily it’s hard to tell the difference between that and the real thing. But some people can tell.
Greg Bryant teaches Communication Studies at UCLA, and he’s done research to find the small nuances that differentiate phony chortles …

Headline, News »

Union Station turns 75, as rail transit revives

Union Station was the culmination of a long battle.

This Saturday May 3rd, Union Station celebrates its 75th birthday. And it does so as rail transit in LA undergoes a revival, with 75,000 people using the station daily, and a huge expansion being planned that may include a terminus for (the much-contested) high speed rail.
The building itself is now widely regarded as an architectural landmark, with its “Mission Moderne” Spanish-style exterior of white walls …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Headline, News, Politics »

Councilman Bernard Parks visits ‘The Bold and The Beautiful’

LA City Councilman Bernard Parks in a scene from "The Bold and The Beautiful."

LA City Councilman Bernard Parks will make his soap opera debut on Friday on CBS daytime drama “The Bold and The Beautiful.” The councilman will be on the show to promote animal adoption in a scene with series regulars Scott Clifton and Kim Matula.
This continues the long tradition of Los Angeles elected officials appearing on television playing themselves, including former mayors Sam Yorty, Tom …

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