Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
By now everyone and their dog has taken a selfie at Urban Light, the LACMA landmark composed of 202 glowing street lamps (which went half dark earlier this year for repairs). Subvert expectations: Go somewhere that's hidden inside the austere Department of Public Works building downtown and check out 100 years' worth of L.A. streetlights. Open one Friday morning a month — by appointment only — the Bureau of Street Lighting Historic Museum opened in February 2015 and showcases some of the beautifully designed street lamps that have illuminated our fair city over the course of the past century. Up close, the lights are surprisingly large and ornate, and they're all here, from the earliest light attached directly to a power line to the latest LED variety, art deco treasures with dragons and fruit designs, the Hollywood Special, the Five Globe Llewellyn, the Paragon Senior and a dozen or so "ornamentals," all glowing for your pleasure. The city has around 220,000 streetlights in all, and they come in 400 different types, so next time you're outside at night, take a moment to look up — plenty of these classics will still be hard at work when the sun goes down.
The Dodgers' Brandon McCarthy is a good pitcher. Not a great pitcher, a good pitcher. But he is a great tweeter. And by the standards of most athletes, he's Sandy Koufax. The 33-year-old journeyman's tweets are refreshingly oddball, the kind you'd usually find on a struggling comedian's timeline. "Life hack: treat airplanes like a prison yard. Fear = respect," he tweeted, and then, as an example, added: "Just opened my tuna sandwich and left it on the armrest when my seatmate moved his arm. A real power move." Or: "Curiosity is up on Mars alone right now doing science which is cool, but mostly sad 'cause of crushing loneliness. Yes, I have taken my ambie." Best of all, McCarthy, a right-hander who's played for six teams over the course of his 11-year career, tweets like a true left coast–ian. He dislikes Republicans and loathes Donald Trump. And he likes soccer!
@Overheardla, which its anonymous founder describes as “sort of like group therapy for the L.A. experience,” is an Instagrammed anthology of the ridiculous things people have heard other people say in and around L.A. Say what you will about Angelenos (lookin’ at you, NYC), but at least we know how to laugh at ourselves. The idea for @overheardla hit its creator while he was on a trip to trendy health food store Erewhon’s West Hollywood location. He was eavesdropping on absurd conversations and thought it would be funny to post the conversations he overheard on his personal account. When that happened, he says, "I noticed I went from an average of about 12 likes [per post] to an average of about 30 likes." Then one day a Hollywood screenwriter friend suggested the page go public given that it's "soooo L.A." Populated by a steady stream of submissions from the account's followers, @overheardla has more than 250,000 followers and the number keeps climbing. Here's a recent favorite, overheard at Vicious Dogs in North Hollywood: "This city can be so Third World sometimes. The valets don't take credit cards and the restaurants don't even have phone chargers."
Busdriver is a cultural and intellectual treasure in Los Angeles. Since the early '90s, the Leimert Park native has expressed complex thoughts about the intersection of racism, history, economics, politics, technology and culture as a rapper affiliated with the Project Blowed experimental hip-hop collective. Busdriver (born Regan John Farquhar) is still putting out amazing music to this day, but he's recently expanded into podcasting with FR/BLCK/PR, aka Free Black Press Radio. Like Busdriver's rapping, FR/BLCK/PR can be fast, intriguing, long-winded and still compelling. The first episode starts with a soul jazz–type saxophonist blazing over a singing choir while Busdriver announces that the episode will be about the founding of the KKK. Over the next 18 minutes Busdriver takes the listener through a compelling analysis of the racist and classist history of this country's past, and its continuing hold on the present, occasionally punctuated by the return of the blaring saxophone and jazz band of the intro. It's kind of like reading Frantz Fanon in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard as the guy dressed as Superman pokes you in the side. This is Los Angeles.
In an age of casually informative, independent-minded, highly entertaining podcasts, it's great to hear such an edifying show on good ol' terrestrial radio. While L.A.'s 90.7 KPFK, part of the Pacifica Radio Network, is not generally known for humor or colorfully exuberant personalities, there are a few exceptions, and the Pocho Hour of Power is a notable one. Billing itself as "the nation's only English-language, Latino-themed political satire program," the show and its hosts — Patrick Perez, Lalo Alcaraz, Jeffrey Keller and Esteban Zul — along with music DJ Boxy Dee, maintain a sense of freewheeling fun, deftly weaving thoughtfully respectful discussions on art, politics and personal anecdotes with a vibe of controlled chaos bordering on merry pranksterism. Perez is a film producer-director-writer, Alcaraz the author of nationally syndicated comic strip "La Cucaracha," Zul a writer and former rap producer, and Keller a stand-up comedian. Together they're a kind of super team, fusing Latino consciousness with the broader landscape of L.A. and the world, bringing in acclaimed artists, writers, comedians and activists as guests for an hour that's poignant, funny and fast-paced.
Some girlfriends gossip about guys and clothes; other girlfriends gossip about the grisly ways in which people have ended other people's lives. L.A.-based comedian-friends Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff indulge their mutual desire to gab about horrifying crimes on their weekly podcast, My Favorite Murder. Over the course of 30-plus episodes, the duo has discussed everything from pageant queen JonBenét Ramsey's long-unsolved and gruesome murder to the mysterious death of Elisa Lam, whose nude body was discovered in a water tank atop a DTLA hotel (Lam's death was actually ruled an accidental drowning, but the internet's armchair detectives are dubious). Besides well-known true-crime cases, Hardstark and Kilgariff solicit stories from listeners (aka Murderinos) and friends about murders and horror stories from their hometowns. Their banter is extremely funny — it's a comedy podcast, ultimately — but you never get the sense that they're laughing at other people's tragedies. It's more like laughing at what a genuinely awful place the world can be.