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Bill Maher on political satire and Twitter

Bill Maher and the Twitter bird

These days, comedy and satire have few boundaries. And the vast echo-chamber of the internet has made any boundaries left, even blurrier. Where tasteful boundaries do exist, and are crossed, the blowback can be not-so-funny.
Take Stephen Colbert, who made a joke on his satire show – in his conservative persona – praising the owner of the Washington Redskins for creating a foundation about Native …

California Elections, Commentary, Featured »

Twitter reacts to the arrest of State Senator Leland Yee

Leland_Yee

State Senator Leland Yee was arrested today on corruption charges. He was also a candidate for Secretary of State, but this likely ruins his chances at that office. His arrest was part of a major FBI operation in the Bay Area, which included the arrest of a Chinatown gangster. From the San Jose Mercury News:  
Federal law enforcement officials have been chasing Raymond “Shrimp …

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Featured, News, Politics, Sports »

Encountering Putin at the Sochi Olympics

Russian President Vladimir Putin enters the room.

Like many other big countries, the USA has a kind of sports embassy on the grounds of the Olympic Park in Sochi. Calling it an embassy is a little deceiving, though, as USA house is really a place to hang out, get free American-ish food (the Russian version of a quesadilla), drink Budweiser, and watch the feed of American Olympians competing. It feels like …

Commentary, Environment, Featured, Zocalo Public Square »

Fed to the lions: Marius the giraffe and conflicting zoo cultures

Via Wikipedia: Copenhagen Zoo, Frederiksberg, Copenhagen, Denmark.

A few years ago, I attended a biannual convention of zoo nutritionists in Oklahoma for the book I was writing. Hanging out one night at the hotel bar with a group from around the United States, we got to talking about a practice in some European zoos that sounded shocking. It was called carcass-feeding, and like most Americans, I had never heard of it. …

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Featured, Zocalo Public Square »

Sweet, high art at the Museum of Donuts

The museum of Donuts in Ontario.

I’m used to the reaction now: a snicker, a raised eyebrow, and a pause, as they wait for the punch line.  My husband, Jan, and I couldn’t possibly run something called the Museum of Donuts in Ontario, California, could we?
In fact, we could and we do.  We turn donuts into art and hang them from the walls on the downstairs floor of our apartment, …

California Elections, Commentary, Headline, Politics, Zocalo Public Square »

Is it even possible to be an informed citizen?

Photo via Flickr by Loco Steve/ CreativeCommons

To be an engaged, informed citizen in California is to be hopelessly behind in your reading.
We’re told that we need to follow the big issues in California, that we need to be informed about policy debates, and that policymakers want our feedback on major proposals.  It all sounds reasonable enough, until you see the homework. The governor stresses the importance of his budget, but …

Commentary, Environment, Featured, News, Video, Zocalo Public Square »

Remembering the Baldwin Hills Dam disaster

Firemen escort flood victims in Baldwin Hills in the aftermath of the Baldwin Hills Dam disaster. They wade through the street using a safety rope. Photo dated: Dec. 15, 1963. 
Photography by Joe Rustan, courtesy: Los Angeles Public Library

 
My grandpa bought me a Honda 50 minibike for my 10th birthday. It was 1972, when the sight of a 10-year-old driving a motor bike raised few eyebrows, and I rode that Honda all over the Westside neighborhood where I lived at the time. I roared up and down the alley behind the UCLA married students’ housing on Sawtelle Boulevard and around the church …

Commentary, Environment, Featured, Zocalo Public Square »

City government is the problem – not Sriracha

Photo by tedeytan/ Flickr/CreativeCommons

Last week, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ordered the Irwindale, California plant that produces the highly popular “rooster sauce” Sriracha to cease operations that could be emitting odors that are “extremely annoying, irritating and offensive to the senses warranting consideration as a public nuisance.”
Too bad the judge didn’t apply the same logic to the city government of Irwindale and shut it down …

Commentary, Featured, Zocalo Public Square »

Donuts for votes, and other ways to get people to go to the polls

Donut shop via Flickr by navets/ CreativeCommons

Until a change in the city charter 20 years ago, voters in some parts of Los Angeles were able to take stubs from their ballot, present them to local independent donut shops and receive a free dozen donuts, paid for by local Democrats.
Is it time to bring back donuts for votes? Certainly, the city is full of ideas in the wake of this year’s …

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Zocalo Public Square »

Can art save lives?

The Keiskamma Altarpiece, shown here at UCLA, is a powerful declaration of hope and solidarity in the fight against HIV/AIDS. (Photo courtesy http://makeartstopaids.org/ )

Twenty-five years ago, I was foraging through a museum bookstore and came upon an eye-catching title: “AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism.” The word “AIDS,” rendered on the cover in large font, seemed more than slightly dangerous in 1988, when so many lay sick and dying and there were no effective treatments on the horizon. Equally attention-grabbing was the book’s cover photograph of “Let the Record …

Commentary, Featured, Politics, Zocalo Public Square »

Should LA be the capital of California, and would that end corruption?

Sacramento Capitol Building at night. Photo via Flickr by Michael Dunn / Creative Commons

One thing that unites Americans, pretty much wherever they are from, is the conviction that their own state is singularly corrupt. Most states, if not all, have their harrowing stories of arrested governors or legislators, and local political folklore is filled with hair-raising corruption scandals. Just in the past few weeks, in California, State Senator Ron Calderon got stripped of all his legislative assignments, …

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Featured, Headline, Politics, Zocalo Public Square »

The saints of Skid Row

Saintjulianghirlandaio_crop

A dozen years or so ago, I set out to find connections between the stories of 100 saints and the streets that bear their names here in Los Angeles, a city which itself is named for a saint. (Nuestra Señora de los Angeles, Our Lady of the Angels – that is, the Virgin Mary).
One thing I was fairly certain of at the outset: Nearly …

Commentary, Environment, Featured, News, Zocalo Public Square »

How disaster connects California

Banner image: Edward Vielmetti

When I was a graduate student at Caltech in the 1960s, my boyfriend and I loved to take a spin up the cliff-hanging California Highway 39 that ascends in a 30-mile stretch from Azusa to the crest of the San Gabriel Mountains. Smog was a serious problem back then, but we’d go up on those wonderful days when the air was clear, the sky …

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Featured »

Will you wear a smart watch?

Samsung Smartwatch. Photo by Janitors via Flickr/ Creative Commons

The recent release of the Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch has started a new wave of rumors about the much-anticipated iWatch, including the prediction by at least one research firm that Apple could sell as many as 10 million of the devices. But the history of wearable technology says otherwise—and in fact, I think anything attached to the wrist is more likely to fail …

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Education, Featured, Zocalo Public Square »

Why LA’s kids should learn to hack iPads

Photo via Flickr by Sean MacEntee / Creative Commons

Last year, 40 tablet computers were delivered to the children of two remote Ethiopian villages. The villagers were 100-percent illiterate—the kids had never seen road signs, product labels, or printed material of any kind. Technicians from the One Laptop Per Child program dropped off a stack of boxes, showed a couple of adults how to use the solar chargers, and then walked away. Within …

Commentary, Environment, Featured, water, Zocalo Public Square »

Can we fix LA’s water problem?

Via Flickr by tico_24 / Creative Commons

As a nation, we dream of energy independence. But in Los Angeles, we wouldn’t dream of water independence. The growth and prosperity of our city has been largely defined by our ability to access large quantities of pure water. Our local groundwater resources, in this partial desert with Mediterranean weather, provide only 13 percent of what we need. State politics are now consumed with …

Arts & Culture, Commentary, economy, Featured, Zocalo Public Square »

Who lost the Coliseum?

The entrance to the LA Memorial Coliseum

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum used to be among the most distinguished public buildings in California. It hosted two Olympic Games (1932 and 1984), two Super Bowls (including the first), and the 1959 World Series (Dodgers and Chicago White Sox). John F. Kennedy accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president there in 1960. And while the stadium often seemed rundown, you couldn’t question its …

Arts & Culture, Commentary, economy, Education, Zocalo Public Square »

What Janet Napolitano needs to do for the UC system

Janet Napolitano at  Center for American Progress

By John Aubrey Douglass
Janet Napolitano, who officially takes over as president of the University of California this week, has experience as state attorney general in Arizona, as Arizona governor, and most recently as U.S. Department of Homeland Security secretary. But she has no real experience in academia. Heading a major university appears never to have crossed her mind until a headhunter approached her about the job.
So …

Commentary, Featured, News, Zocalo Public Square »

A short history of the intrusive helicopter

Helicopter's view of Downtown LA  by feculent_fugue/ Flickr/ Creative Commons

Sometime in the mid-1980s, a former chief pilot of the Lakewood (Calif.) Sheriff’s Station helicopter patrol program informed me of the perversity of helicopters. A plane with wings, he said, naturally wants to fly. It’ll glide if the engine fails. A helicopter doesn’t glide. With the engine off and blades spinning in “autorotation,” a helicopter just goes down.
That might please many irate inhabitants of …

Commentary, Environment, Featured, Zocalo Public Square »

Don’t fear the great outdoors, enjoy it!

Via Flickr/ by Ray Bouknight/ Creative Commons

As the leader of the Sierra Club’s Mission Outdoors program, I’m often asked if there are more outdoor recreation deaths today than there were in the past—or if it only seems that way. After all, the first week of September, two people fell off cliffs at Zion National Park, and this past weekend, a group of camping fifth graders were stranded by floods in …

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