Archive for June, 2011

More Psychedelic L.A.

The most interesting mid-20th century threads of Los Angeles come together in a description of author Aldous Huxley’s time in Los Angeles: European writers and artists in exile, explorations of new and old religions, and experimentation with psychedelic drugs, preferably in the desert. Plus, LSD administered as part of compassionate hospice care!

Huxley came to Hollywood with his first wife, Maria ,and their son; their friend Heard often joined them. While in California, where Huxley also made a home in the desert town Llano, Huxley and Heard became deeply involved in the Vedanta Society, following Indian spiritual teachings and meditation practices.

“Another factor in his spiritual seeking was his near-blindness,” scholar Ann Louise Bardach said at the library panel. “He was always fighting for the light and vision.” Huxley’s terrible vision was a third reason he’d come to L.A. — for a Southern California doctor who he thought could help with his eyes.

Huxley’s first wife Maria died in 1955 of breast cancer, and he married Laura the following year. Laura, Bardach explained, “was more partial to the psychedelics” than his religious inquiries, and he drifted away from Vedanta after their marriage. And he drifted toward drugs that a later generation would indulge in with enthusiasm.

In the clips from “Huxley on Huxley,” and in her bestselling 1968 memoir “This Timeless Moment,” Laura Huxley told the story of Aldous Huxley’s death. In the last hours of his life, as he was dying of throat cancer, she maintained that he wrote a note asking for an injection of LSD. She gave it to him and sat beside him as he passed away, blissfully, on Nov. 22, 1963.

Categories: Media

Not a Helluva of a Deal

A new book from James O’Shea, the former editor in chief of the Los Angeles Times, offers a post-mortem on the Tribune Company (which also owns the Chicago Tribune, of course) under Sam Zell, according to the New York Times.  Due out this week, “The Deal From Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers” is O’Shea’s account of the shady dealings of both Zell and the mercenary bankers who approved the wobbly financing for the Los Angeles Times deal.

The banks received an eye-popping $161 million in fees for just the first round — a number sufficient to run The Los Angeles Times newsroom for a year, as Mr. O’Shea points out — and a total of $283 million in fees for both rounds….

In the book, Mr. O’Shea explains that the Chandlers, long stewards of The Los Angeles Times, were antsy about the dim prospects for the industry as a whole and like other newspaper families — the Cowles and Ridders, and later, the Bancrofts — began looking for an exit.

Very much looking forward to reading this at some point. Perhaps the belly-up state of the Los Angeles Times and the Tribune Company in bankruptcy court is a glimpse into the future for another one of the city’s institutions, currently unraveling nightly in Chavez Ravine.

Categories: Los Angeles, Media

Now That’s Good Advertising

A short article in the New York Times Magazine recounts the hopes of a would-be Arab Spring revolutionary in Beirut. The piece paints a darkly comic portrait of the city after a long civil war with this nugget:

At the end of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, in 1990, Beirut’s downtown was an apocalyptic scene of rubble and weeds, inhabited by squatters in skeletal buildings and bored soldiers moving among sewage-filled craters. The rare splash of color came from the blue advertisements for a billboard company that read: “What do our boards have in common with the C.I.A.? They’re both all over the place.” In the two decades since then, Beirut has become a monument to globalism, home to Louis Vuitton, Chanel and the priciest hotels, the power of capitalism concealing but never really healing the war’s scars.

Categories: Fogs of Time

Samadhi, Not Samaki

For most Buddhist monks, thinking about the Middle Way is a meditation on existence and nothingness.  But for Noriaki Ito, a Shin Buddhist priest at the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in downtown Los Angeles, it also might be a consideration of the havoc wrought by Kobe Bryant’s masterful mid-range game. In a fascinating interview in Tricyle, a Buddhist magazine, Ito talks about his love of the Lakers, thoughts on the other, now-retired Zen Master, and basketball from a Buddhist perspective.


Is it wrong, from a Buddhist perspective, to root for one team over another? Isn’t that desire? I think it’s natural that we choose sides. There’s nothing wrong with it. It makes watching sports that much more interesting…Sports, I believe, is a microcosm of life itself. We know as Buddhists that we should be loving and compassionate to all people, to all living things. But we can’t help but love some people more than others. We can’t help but choose a cute puppy over an ugly snake. As long as we know we’re guilty of such self-centered views, we can remember to open up our hearts to compassion for all. The original meaning of compassion, as we define it, is to feel the pain of another as if it’s our own—and to share the joy of another as if it’s our own. This time around, even though there was a lot of pain in the way the Lakers lost, I felt real joy for Nowitzki, Kidd and the rest of the Mavs—even for Mark Cuban.


Categories: Lake Show, Los Angeles

Get on the Bus

D. J. Waldie writes about the perils of depending on the Metro bus system for transport.

One of the difficulties of public transit for the occasional user is not knowing – not knowing how long the ride will be, what stops the line makes, or through what unfamiliar neighborhoods the bus may pass before arriving somewhere near a destination. Getting this last wrong – getting off too soon or missing the stop – can mean a very long walk.

.  .  .  .

There are metrics that will show you how good the Metro system is, but statistical averages conceal just how ragged some of parts of the system feels to those who must ride – a roughness sometimes made up by folklore, the kindness of strangers, and exquisite good luck, However consoling, these are not the means to run a transit system.

Waldie referenced a story by local columnist Ron Kaye about his wife’s travails when she was forced to depend on the Metro system. A too-rare reminder that life is ruggedly unpredictable for the millions of people who depend on the public transportation to get around town.

Categories: Los Angeles

Kidneys Were in His Mind

Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.

-James Joyce


Categories: Uncategorized

Korean Food Alert

Korean food gets prominent mention in both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times this week. Longtime Korean food fan Mark Bittman (he re-visits his over-the-top comment describing Korean food as “Japanese food with guts” in the article) creates a menu for summer grilling:

In looking to create a menu for an early-season barbecue that would appeal to everyone — meat lovers, vegetarians, culinary thrill-seekers and whoever else might show up — I realized that such a menu already exists. It’s just that it isn’t what we think of as “American food.”

I like his emphasis on the many vegetables available in Korean cuisine, which has long been a selling point for me. And Koreans do eat a lot of vegetables—up to 73 percent more than Americans!

And cookbook author Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee describes Korean drinking culture in an article about anju, the food usually served with alcohol. Too bad she didn’t offer some local anju specialists.

Round one (il-cha) starts with dinner and usually soju. Round two (i-cha) may be at a bar for someanju, like fried chicken, and some beer or whisky. Round three (sam-cha) is usually just another bar for more beer or soju. Round four (sa-cha) is usually at a noraebang (private karaoke “singing” room). Round five (o-cha) wraps up the evening at a nightclub or disco for a few more libations andanju with some dancing, for those who are still standing.

Koreans believe that eating something spicy or salty, or both, helps absorb some of the alcohol. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea, especially if you’ve jumped on the Korean o-cha train.

Categories: Food