','subtitle>',$line); echo $line; $line = "\n"; } else if (strstr($line, '','updated>',$line); } else if (strstr($line, '','published>',$line); } else if (strstr($line, ' Impractical Proposals <br> Santa Monica: 2004.12


Brews: Stones at the Beach

From the monthly newsletter of Library Alehouse <http://www.libraryalehouse.com/> on Main Street in Santa Monica:

‘In the ever continuing quest by Stone Brewing to appeal to the masses….’ No, scratch that. Hmm, let’s try ‘Stone Brewing's new release destined for trendy appeal….’ Nope. Hardly. OK, how about ‘New brew from Stone Brewing likely to be a hit amongst light beer fans….’ Ouch. Way off base. Nowhere even close.

The real lead-in line should of course read ‘Stone Brewing, experts in pushing the limits of the IPA style, brews up another winner.’ And a winner it is. Patterned after the famous Stone Anniversary IPAs, this new brew is born. Weighing in at massive 100+ IBUs (International Bitterness Units) and 7.7% alc/vol, this baby is a screamer!

”And the name? Stone Ruination IPA. So named, the bottle's label states, ‘because of the immediate ruinous effect on your palate….’ “

The nattering above conveys a taste of the potions (and the marketing) cooked up by Stone Brewing of San Marcos. Ruination was the first new year-round release from the brewer after the introduction of its infamous Arrogant Bastard Ale more than four and a half years before. Stone employs an extreme brewing style that uses natural ingredients – barley, hops, water and yeast – to produce quaffs of strong and distinctive character. Initially, Library Alehouse was attracted by the brewer’s promise of “No Additives, No Chemical Preservatives, No Pasteurization No Adjuncts,” but it is the phenomenal taste that makes us proud to include both beverages in our menu of stellar beers and ales.

Not a drink for the faint of palate, Arrogant Bastard won’t be a regular or casual choice even among those for whom the hop flower is mother’s milk. This ale pours with a dark caramel color, an unpresumptuous orange-brown head and modest levels of carbonation. The nose is sugary, with a scent of molasses laced with slightly floral and woody notes that causes the sharp aftertaste to come with an element of surprise. The finish is extended, with a sustained bitter attack that prolongs the experience.

Ruination is intense India Pale informed by an imposing amount of hop bitterness stemming from the application of huge amounts of hops to the brewing and two weeks of dry hopping to the aftermath (dry hopping is a flavor-intensifying technique in which a small quantity of cone hops is added to finished beer before it is shipped). Ruination pours with a clear, dark gold color and an enduring crown of beige-colored foam. Hops dominate the taste, but there is a hint of dry grass and floor-of-the-forest woodsiness to the finish. This ale is imposing, sugary and tart.

Stone’s creations, despite their crisp and breezy qualities, have a moldy rain-forest sourness that persists on the toungue. In a less conformist world, these are tipples of the sort that would be enjoyed in good company with pungent cigars. <http://www.stonebrew.com/>


"Mother of mercy, is this the end of Vino?"*

From the monthly newsletter of Library Alehouse <http://www.libraryalehouse.com/> on Main Street in Santa Monica:

Once, the term “big house” conjured ghosts of Paul Muni, Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood scheming to shed their prison grays. For those longest in their cups, the term might bring up memories of Chester Morris, pardoned for saving the guards in the great 1930 prison flicker, “The Big House.”

Now, at the Alehouse at least, “Big House” means just one thing: Ca' del Solo California Big House Red, a dense, richly erubescent vino from Bonny-Doon, the somewhat pixilated vintner from Santa Cruz. Ca' del Solo is what Bonny-Doon calls Italian-style wines; Big House is a blend faintly remindful of Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy, celebrated in less cosmopolitan days as the vessel on which many Americans traveled to vineland.

There is no escape from this Big House, a thick, fragrant, rustic libation that envelops the palate like honey. Despite its heft, this is a beverage with balance and grace, an elephant poised on one leg, gorgeous crimson in color, redolent of esoteric spices and ripe sugarplums, hints of rosemary and black raspberries persisting from its Piedmontese heritage.

Bonny-Doon Vineyard, which insists that “wine should be as much fun as government regulations allow,” is a pleasure to visit on line, with delightful visuals and cheerful prose, and such assets as wine clubs, 30-second Python-meets-South Park promos, and relentless advocacy on behalf of bottles with screw tops.

Befitting a winery that believes that “we should champion the strange, esoteric, ugly-duckling grape varieties of the world,” the current online-special is a naughty Framboisified Syrah Port called "Bouteille Call."

* With apologies to James Cagney.


LAVoice: "Los Angeles To-Do List for 2005"

Mack Reed posted his "Visualize the Next Los Angeles - To-Do List for 2005" on LAVoice.org, and I banged out a few quick comments in reply: <http://lavoice.org/article454.html>


The Arts: Subscribe to Goldstar Events emailings

The weekly email from Goldstar Events lists dozens of current cultural events -- the categories they list include Popular Music, Classic Rock, Jazz, Classical, Comedy, Theatre, Performing Arts, Film, Sports, Spas & Massage, Family and Unique Ideas -- all of them heavily discounted, a few free (i.e., for the cost of Goldstar's $2-$5 handling charge). Goldstar mailings are also available for Orange County, San Diego, South Bay/Long Beach, San Fernando Valley, Whittier Area, Inland Empire, San Francisco and East Bay, and Silicon Valley. <https://www.goldstarevents.com/splash?p=F37688N>


Dogs Gone

Most troubling about the campaign to unleash dogs upon the beach in Santa Monica is its disingenuousness. To bolster her case, for example, Santa Monica Daily press columnist Carole Orlin cites the safety record of pet visitations at nursing homes and hospitals, while failing to mention that these programs are motivated by hoped-for therapeutic benefits and are limited to a very small number of carefully monitored animals in highly controlled environments that are cleaned by professional staffs and protected by extensive liability insurance.

Do we really want to worry about the risk from additional semi-curbed canines on our crowded strand? Statistics show that nearly 2% of the population is bitten by a dog each year, the great majority of and most severe bites and attacks being suffered by children under 12 years old. If the mutt mavens are successful in their designs, some personal injury attorney can save everybody a lot of time by opening a kiosk right at the beach. Along those lines, I have a question: given the inevitability of dog bites if a large number of animals is introduced into a crowded venue, especially one heavily populated by casually supervised children (and with full appreciation that most severe dog attacks involve kids), won't the city and state governments be on the hook for potentially millions of dineros in damages if they knowingly create an inherently unsafe situation? Just asking.

Orlin also anecdotally points to her experience at the "completely open and dog friendly beach" in Carmel, from whence she returned "amazed at how beautiful and clean it was." Well, maybe. I remember the Carmel beach as sparsely attended, certainly when compared to ours, which is as heavily trafficked as Times Square. Closer to home, I myself am "amazed" at the amount of dog-tritus already at the beach, especially on the sidewalks and bike path where dog owners can't fall back on the excuse that they lost it in the dunes.

Speaking of the sidewalks and bike path, isn't it also disingenuous to describe the off-leash proposal as being limited to "a 1/10-mile area of beach?" How are the pups going to get there? Dropped by helicopter? Catapulted from the palisades? No, they're going to walk there, depositing packages in the sand and on the byways as they go. And how are the animals going to be confined to the off-leash zone? Do the dogafiles propose barricading the beach at each end of the dog pound with fences? And, by the way, 1/10 of a mile doesn't sound like much, but if the fenced-in area extends from the street to the water line, what's being discussed is privatizing 50-60 acres of public beach.

The most disingenuous argument of the dog people Orlin puts this way: "Dog owners appear to want the same access to recreational opportunities as do tennis players, soccer players, volleyball players, surfers, sunbathers and others." As things stand now, though, everyone already has equal right to use to the beach. Including dog owners. It's the pooch park promoters who want to make some residents of Animal Farm more equal than others.

If dog owners are comparable to anyone, it is smokers, who are also welcome at the beach but have been asked to leave their filthy habit at home. Besides whatever messes are left by dogs that fail to reach the designated area before letting go, Orlin can't seriously think that dog owners, enough of whom already can't be bothered to pick up after their animals on sidewalks and streets and in neighbors' yards, will be able locate their pets' droppings in acres of sand, even if they want to.

Make no mistake: if the fidolators get their way, the beach will be dirtier. Parents of small children, to take one interested group, should ask themselves if they truly want to have more dogs at the beach (you haven't enjoyed the full, rich experience of parenthood until you've watched your little one pop a sand-encrusted "tootsie roll" he's found into his mouth). Turds aside, don't forget that many canines urinate copiously, and there is nothing much even the most conscientious dog owner can do about that. If you're already afraid to let your children play freely on your urine-soaked front lawn, do you really want the same concern on your treks to the beach? For that matter, does any of us look forward to spreading our blanket in a giant box of doggie litter that isn't even odor-absorbing and pine-scented?

Cleaning our beach is already a formidable job. We shouldn't be entertaining proposals that will make it harder. Some boosters of the canine corral seemed determined to press the issue, though, and they are organizing others to hound public officials about it. The rest of us may want to let the city council and the coastal commission know we think about it, too.


Turn Yards Into Parks

Little in urban life is more dreary than the sight of a lawn. Even when well-tended, their uniformity is deadening to the spirit; thus, they are well-suited to the tedium of suburbs but inappropriate to the more bracing landscape of the city. More often than not, a yard is not the verdant meadow that was intended, luxuriant and enticing, but a tufted and scrabbled wasteland, like the carpet of a fleabag hotel.

In the southern California community where I live, concern over the "pedestrian experience" has expressed itself in the harassment of homeowners, miscreants who use high hedges and lines of trees as shields from noise and fumes on busy thoroughfares. Although some of this shrubbery has been in place for decades, property owners suddenly face, without the benefit of public discussion, at least not in this century, of the desirability or not of such vegetation, the possibility of costly fines or expensive removal.

The lifestyle police argue that their intervention is required because high hedges are antisocial, creating areas of private space that are, well, too private. Although there must be reasonable limits on private property rights, it isn't clear that the hedge row is the place where the line should be drawn. In pursuit of the vaunted pedestrian experience, why should an ugly four foot copse be permitted while a beautifully designed and cared for twelve footer is criminalized? Doesn't any fence have the effect of confining the passerby to a narrow ribbon of concrete? And is there any legitimate lifestyle exigency (there may be safety concerns) that requires regulating the height of barriers other than those that actually intersect the public's space? If I don't want to look in my neighbor's window or permit her to peek in mine, is that anyone's business but ours?

Here are two proposals that, if adopted, would not only improve the pedestrian orientation of residential streets, but also offer additional benefits in water conservation, improved air quality, protection for native flora and fauna, and greatly expanded public space. Either scenario could be realized by means of tax incentives, cash payments, abatements, zoning exemptions, or similar forms of positive reinforcement:

Turn lawns into parks and native plant refuges.

Imagine, if you will, a street in your neighborhood, perhaps the one you use to walk to the market or take your daily constitutional. Instead of crabgrass and sandpits, each yard features a garden of native plants: here cacti, there succulents, the occasional lemonadeberry or manzinita, beds of chinese houses and fiesta flowers beyond.

In addition to inducements favoring such uses, the city could offer the assistance of gardeners, nurseries, publications, free compost, etc., to assure that even those with limited means, time or experience would be able to provide the community with beautified walkways. Where there was interest, neighborhood groups might be able to facilitate and coordinate block-long conversions.

Similarly, in the few cases where a building is set back deeply from the street, a landowner might be moved to offer the front yard as a park, a municipally maintained dell being preferable to the typical sunbaked expanse rendered inhospitable by the reek of dog urine mixed with feces flakes. If such a facility were carefully designed to encourage contemplative uses and were limited to daylight hours, with the right incentives what landowners wouldn't be pleased to have the responsibility for their troublesome and demanding front yards taken over by the parks department?

Such an arrangement would need clear boundaries to protect both the property owner and the city, but there is no reason to think the obstacles couldn't be overcome, as they are routinely for office and apartment buildings.


Crossing Main

How many more decades must pass before the mid-block crosswalk, long promised for Main Street between Hill Street and Ashland Avenue, will be installed at last? Although we have been trained by experience to have low expectations about follow-through by city staff, in this case there are grandfathers who were in diapers when the proposal was first broached.

It's not as though the idea is unprecedented. Mid-block crosswalks already exist on Main -- between Ocean Park Blvd. and Hollister and between Ashland and Pier -- causing both those sections of the drag to be considerably more pedestrian friendly than the rest. The crossing to the north, connecting the Galley Restaurant and Edgemar, has a pedestrian-controlled signal (known locally as "the god light" because it's quick response time makes walkers feel like gods when they push the button to arrest traffic). In front of Joe's Diner (at Kinney), crossers halt the cars by stepping into the marked lane. For the the long-anticipated crosswalk in the Ashland-Hill block, linking the area in front of the World Cafe's parking lot booth (next to LF Stores) with FITO across the street, either method of interrupting traffic would be acceptable, as would a stop sign.

As long as they already have their cans and brushes out (although to suggest this may be to invite another generation of studies by consultants and commissions), city staff could also put a path across Main between the northeast corner of the Victorian and Amelia's (on the block between Hill and Ocean Park), ending the petty harrassment of citizens by expensive jaywalking citations during Sunday farmers' market. As a side effect, both crossings would slow traffic, further benefiting walkers. Although these suggestions have the disadvantage of not costing millions of dollars to implement, like transit malls and traffic calming impedimentia, they would have an immediate and positive impact on the experience of shoppers and strollers on Main Street. (Published Santa Monica Mirror 2004-08-25)


Edifice Wrecks

What's curious about the Santa Monica Public Library now being built -- I mean, aside from the fact that there was no demonstrable need for the thing, that it required a building that had only recently cost millions of dollars to retrofit to be torn down, and that it now itself is millions of more dollars over budget -- besides all that, the construction of a big central athenaeum flies in the face of this burg's rhetorical commitment to neighborhoods, pedestrian orientation, and slow growth.

Unfortunately, the edifice complex afflicting the city elite inevitably leads to such ill-conceived and overblown projects as the transit mall, the civic center and the library.

In the latter case, how much more fitting it would have been to create a network of satellite reading rooms around town, backed up by an efficient distribution system. Even after the central book depository comes on line, there will still be a need for small, local, high-tech libraries. Such mini-libraries (booktiques, call them) would help to increase access to the Internet; provide more -- and more convenient -- locales for library patrons to read, study and create; encourage walking and bike riding; and save many, many unnecessary automobile trips.

Booktiques needn't be nearly as large nor as permanent as the neighborhood library branches already on Main, Montana and Ocean Park. In fact, it's better that they're not. Storefronts, warehouses, churches, community rooms, abandoned gas stations...almost any publicly accessible space could easily be converted to library uses. Once the infrastructure was put in place to deliver books physically and transmit information digitally, booktiques would be simple to set up and remove, unlike the present library configuration, giving librarians the ability to respond relatively quickly to changing demands for their services.

The next time the city council and staff sit down to divvy up budget dollars, maybe they can spare a few bucks for booktiques (imagine, if you will, that the $85 million currently being poured into the central library building was being used instead to innovate ways to relocate "the library" into every corner of the community). Creating attractive destinations for pedestrians and bikers, which is one thing booktiques would be, is a far more effective traffic mitigator, for example, than cluttering the streets with more circles, islands and bumpers at intersections.

What's needed, as it is in nearly every aspect of public life hereabouts, is the application of creative thinking. The same old same old may be a fair description of the bureaucratic safety zone, but there should be other criteria required of planning projects than that they be big and expensive and have been done before. (Published Santa Monica Mirror 2004-07-22).


The new city council must discipline the bureaucrats at last

Someone contemplating the retreat from the communitarian ideals that animated the renters' rights movement might do worse than reflect on these quotes from John Adams:

"The representative assembly," he wrote with revolutionary ardor in 1776 (and no doubt with some small intention of drumming up support for his enterprise), "should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason and act like them."

By 1787, however, reeling from the near-anarchy of the toothless Confederation, Adams believed that the "proposition that [the people] are the best keeper of their liberties is not true. They are the worst conceivable, they are no keepers at all. They can neither act, judge, think, or will."

Similarly did "the People's Republic of Santa Monica" descend from the eden of participatory democracy to the current abyss of shoddy and mediocre dictatorship by bureaucrats. When the SMRR leadership's trust in the people faltered, it removed a counterweight to the city staff's arrogance and trumpery.

The incoming council needs to make a new start by terminating city manager Susan McCarthy and the most autocratic department managers, not limited to those running the planning department. If McCarthy continues to occupy her office at city hall, the council might as soon stay home. It will be business as usual in the dysfunctional village by the sea.

It is way past time the citizens of Santa Monica took the power back from the hired help.