I Just Attended My First LAPD Officer-Involved Shooting...

Yesterday, my mother-in-law went to good ole trusty UCLA Harbor Hospital.  She felt pains in her chest, and that she couldn't breathe. 

She was supposed to have surgery about a week ago but backed out last minute.  Now, since she hasn't had the surgery, she's been anxious about not having it.  To the emergency room, she went.

My wife happens to be the most available offspring.  The moment she stepped in, she took on translation duties for incoming nurses and doctors, explaining everything from commands to the implications of surgery.

We waited for hours.  There was talk about fears of surgery, reminiscing about our sons growth.  Things were OK.  After a restroom break, I found my father-in-law at the room.

What I was able to get was just pretty much audio and whatever my father-in-law told me, as he moved towards the action and witnessed it first hand.


My Account

A few resident cardiologists happened to be surveying her condition.  She was going to be moved to the cardiology section, when all of a sudden, I heard a really loud argument.

That couldn't be good.

There was screaming;  people scrambled every which way.  There were what sounded like shots (my father-in-law said they were tasers) and someone screaming.  It was unintelligible to me.  I was just hoping the action would not come our way.

My father-in-law and the two cardiologists walked towards the action, which made me want to see the action.  My wife yelled get away from the door.

Fearing the worst but also kind of curious, I compromised by staying by the door and kind of ducking down.  So all I could do was hear.

And then BOOM.  Even more screaming and scrambling! After recent events, I didn't know what the hell was going down.

All this time, my mother-in-law, a heart patient, was panicking and crying.  She was wondering why this was happening.  Her blood pressure rose to 150, which was a situation in itself.

My Father-in-Law's Account

My father-in-law said that a young, skinny, Hispanic-whitish tall man was tasered.  Twice to apparently no effect.

He then attempted to grab the TASER.

That's when the cops shot him.  How this suspect was positioned, I'm not 100% sure, but it sounded like the cops had him down, but that he was not complying.  Father-in-law said that they shot him in the back near the chest-area, and that was that.

In his conversation with me, he kept wondering why that guy would not listen to the officer's commands. 

Media Accounts

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-officer-involved-shooting-20151219-story.html?145057780155310

http://ktla.com/2015/12/19/authorities-investigating-officer-involved-shooting-at-harbor-ucla-medical-center-in-torrance/

http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/shooting-harbor-ucla-medical-center-officer-involved-torrance-363043351.html

The Aftermath

The Hospital was under code triage.  I heard the nurses at the front desk call other law enforcement agencies informing them of the situation.

After the melee, which lasted about 30 seconds to a minute (VERY FAST), the resident cardiologists returned to our room and calmly took us into our room.  They continued surveying and coached her breathing to lower her blood pressure back to a more manageable level.

After they left, we were stuck in our room for about an hour or two.  It seems that we didn't talk much about the situation because we'd all seen how anxious it had made mother-in-law.  But I could tell that it was something my father-in-law was aching to talk about.

The code triage alert was canceled about 30 minutes or hour after the shooting.

Sometime afterward my father-in-law announced, "hey why don't we get hot chocolate and coffee?"  She still had coffee from my trip to In-N-Out.

We made our way to the cafeteria.  On the way there, immediately outside the door about 20 feet away was yellow tape blocking off a hallway, and cops in LAPD black milling about.  It was a crime scene, but there was an air of casualty about it as we took a look and walked towards the exit for the cafeteria.

A few of the workers at the cafeteria knew we were on alert but not the reason why.  Of course my father-in-law had all the information and he would share what he saw. 

We got our hot chocolates and coffee and attempted to get back into the emergency room.  We still had our nametags and assumed that we could get back in but they were not allowing any visitors to the Emergency Room.  We tried explaining that we were just there!  He had seen everything!  But to no effect. 

We waited for about 3-4 hours checking in with the receptionists often.  We won some sympathy, but that still did not get us in. 

My Father-in-Law kept wondering aloud to me why they needed so much space for the investigation.  To him, the case was over when they shot him.  The only place they would transfer him was the freezer.

My Interpretation of Events

Everything happened really quickly in rapid succession.

Part of the scariness of the situation is that I didn't know or see where anything came from.  I didn't know if it was multiple shooters, what other weapons were there.

I just thought and hoped it wasn't a San Bernardino situation.

Was the cop right to pull the trigger?

It's hard to make any credible comment without seeing the situation.

After hearing my father-in-law's account and reading the news reporting, I'm still kind of unsure, but my opinion will ultimately hinge on whether or not the guy was restrained.

IF they had him "restrained" after swinging the metal chair, but not complying, I'd say probably not because the cops probably are not fearing for their lives.  It seems like they shot him just because that was just the more efficient tool given a long day with him.

IF he was "unrestrained" this whole time and possibly out there to cause havoc on civilians, patients in an ER room, guests, and doctors, then I'd probably lean towards saying that some kind of use of force was definitely justified, but a deadly use of force questionable.




The Problem With "If You See Something, Say Something": The Inevitable Selective Application of It After The San Bernardino Shooting

First off, on the shootings in general. As the father to a 9-month old, I can't understand how anything could drive you to commit an action that would take you away from an offspring.  I don't care to judge, but all I'm saying is these actions are infathomable and overwhelmingly tragic.  But yeah.  Damn.  Fuck.

After the mass shooting in San Bernardino, law enforcement has aggressively encouraged the public with a sign I've seen at Disney Studios in Burbank "if you see something, say something."  I generally don't have a problem with that as a general idea applied to any situation. Its a constant reminder, and upon seeing it, people will always be on the look out in general.  

But the mass call by law enforcement in the context of just this shooting bugs me a little bit.

Only in this shooting, out of the 350 or so this year, have I seen/heard law enforcement, people more aggressively say, "if you see something, say something."  The more 'radicalized' conservative version of people commenting on this situation is people saying "I don't care if I offend Muslims, let's profile the crap out of them!"  Meanwhile, we'll still have about 348 of those other mass shootings. 

The fact that law enforcement is more vocal to "see something, say something" particularly around this shooting involving Muslims is that now your right-wing radical as well as your average moderate will wonder a lot more about the Arabic, Middle-Eastern-ish garb-wearing people for nothing other than the way they look and dress.  I say "Middle-Eastern-ish" because just as after 9/11 we saw idiots harrass Sikhs for the headscarf, they will probably do the same. 

The fact that the San Bernardino shooter has been constantly described as "quiet", that co-workers couldn't remember any conflicts, and that even his own family didn't suspect anything, gives those who want to "see something, say something" even more reason to scrutinize anything they associate to be "Muslim" to the exclusion of any other person who also may be doing something suspicious. 




Ralph's Closed in Compton, Yet Another Smart N Final Opened

On the evening drive home from working the more Eastern parts of the OC about a week ago, I was trying to get a cake to celebrate Mr. Boy's 9 months of life.

My mind was trying to imagine where I could get a super-market cake could be had.  I wasn't necessarily thinking cake from specialty shop ala 85 Degrees as the price could be a bit much, I was just thinking something from one of the more "middle-class" supermarkets that tend to have a wider selection of baked goods:  Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons.

The meaning of those supermarkets to us as a family is:  "fresh", ready-to-eat food. 

When I think of any of these, I think of donuts in the morning and chicken and potato wedges, or even salad.  I also think of their endless selections of baked goods.

Taking Artesia all the way from La Habra, I passed up a bunch of Stater Brothers.  Honestly, I didn't know enough about Stater Brothers to stop.  They are actually around Long Beach-ish areas, and their commercial jingle has been permanently branded into my cortex (from a childhood of being subject to their commercials), but I've only gone once inside their stores.

I was trying to imagine where in/around Compton I could get this cake. 

I know Food4Less, the lower-class subsidiary of Ralphs, might have some, but I've always been skeptical of the freshness of its baked goods and deli, which might be completely unfounded. 

Then a thought sprung, the Ralphs on Compton Blvd, near City Hall! (El Super briefly crossed my mind, but typically I'd only go there for fruits or "paisa" baked goods)

Yes!

Only when I turned left, going North on Santa Fe, I didn't see anything.

It appeared that where Ralphs was, a Smart N Final had taken its place.

I'd only heard about the Smart N Final taking the place of the Fresh N Easy on Rosecrans and Central, but not a word about this Ralphs silently closing down, which according to Yelp comments closed down sometime in the summer.

What does it mean to have a Smart N Final instead of a Ralphs?

Immediately, at that time and place of celebrating my son's 9 months with my wife on a weekday night, I couldn't really get a cake at the Smart N Final in Compton.

There is no bakery or deli at the Smart N Final.  They have baked goods, but not seeing any baked goods baking area, I kinda wondered where they got the limited selection of goods made.  I think the bachelorized, younger, more cost-conscious version of me would've picked something, anything from the store.  The married, still cost-conscious, but kind-of-aware-of-my-wife's-tastes led me out of the store.

Smart N Final isn't a bad store at all.  They have the fresh veggies and fruits, which is a heck of a lot more important long-term than whether or not they have cakes or food at a deli.  They're reasonably cheap on most things, though I haven't sat down to calculate exactly how much cheaper/expensive they are.

Ultimately, what it meant for me was a trip to another store, 4.5 Miles Westward into Gardena along Redondo Beach Blvd to Vons.  There I was able to pick up not only a cake but also a pound of crab salad and potato wedges for our bellies.  It also meant paying $3.99 for a kale salad kit that we could get much bigger at Costco for around $6-$7.  For us as a family, having that Smart N Final instead of Ralphs meant that there wasn't immediate physical access to as much fresh, ready-to-eat things from a supermarket.  Or at least catering to our middle-class-ish perceptions of what fresh, ready-to-eat is.

It's not that I'm making a demand, it's just, that's the way it is.

Yes, the LA Media Did/Has Ignored the Beirut Bombings

At least the media, I listened to and watched.

The media which I actually generally like and trust.

There's an article written on Vox, "Did the media ignore the Beirut bombings?  Or did the media?"

The author says that "the media has covered [the Beirut bombings] extensively."

That only true if you have access to the internet AND know/knew where to look.  The majority of what he cites are online publications, with the exception of CNN, which I don't have.

I wouldn't have had access to that knowledge if all I had was local FM radio and TV.

There are days when I'm on the internet all day, and get news really quickly thanks to Twitter, but that's not often.

On November 12 and November 13th, a Thursday and a Friday, I wasn't on the internet all day, so I was mostly getting news from radio and TV.

I was in the car listening to 89.3 KPCC around 1 PM, November 13th. 

The BBC Newshour just began reporting about the attacks on Paris.

The severity and importance of the attacks didn't hit me until the coverage of the attacks bled over onto the next news hour during The World, and then onto All Things Considered.  It was only after that continuous coverage that I got the idea, "oh shit, it's their 9/11."

Once I got home at around 6 PM, my wife was watching the KNBC News, incidentally KPCC's media partner. 

My wife, also a KPCC listener, asked me, "did something happen in France?"

I said something to the effect of :yes, a few shootings."  We watched NBC for more details.  It was all jarring.

Leading up to this day, on Thursday, also in the car, all I could recall on KPCC was talk about the protests happening on campuses and the Officer Involved shootings in LA County, both important issues here. 

But there was no continuous updating by the BBC nor The World nor All Things Considered.  It was just a normal day, KPCC bringing up very interesting issues, but no alarm bells ringing.

I didn't have awareness of the Beirut bombings that had actually preceded the Paris bombings until Sunday morning while browsing Twitter and being curious about what Muslims had to say about the Paris bombings.  I ended up re-tweeting what they said.

One of the Muslim Tweeters posted a link to the New York Times' story about the bombings in Beirut.

This past Monday, November 16th, I watched a little more of my local news on NBC.  They made mention about progress on the investigations of the bombers in Paris.  I go to the Today Show news website.  Still no mention of Beirut.  I go to the NBC News website, the World Section.  Plenty of articles pertaining to the Paris Terror Attacks.  Not one of Beirut.



How Is Bike Commuting Unreliable and Inconvenient in LA?

At any opportunity I get, I will usually bike.

But that has not been a lot lately.

My job has me traveling all over LA County and LA-OC Metropolitan area every single day.  Lancaster, Ojai, Tehachapi, the Third Street Promenade, Broadway in Downtown LA, Downtown Long Beach, Artesia.  I probably take the car 99.9% of the time nowadays now that I'm focused on singular projects in Orange County cities, compared to about 70-80% in previous years with lots of projects within a train/bike ride away.

I like biking, but in the very few times I have a close job, I often have to get up really early even if the job is relatively close (think Compton to Downtown LA).  Uncomfortably early.  Like drag myself up a 4:30 AM early, which sounds awesome at 10 PM at night and when I'm wide awake.  But after having woken up twice between 12 AM and 4 AM to help feed the baby, and still seeing the wife struggle, fuck that noise.  Gotta help wifey out, gotta thesis to write, gotta sleep, so my logic goes... 

My jobs generally last all day, or at least I have to be at a place late, in the darkness.  Do I really want to do this?

Having this kind of schedule combined with the wildly varied distances, and having mixed up my social circles so wildly in five years,  has allowed me to see how unreliable and inconvenient bike commuting in LA can be.

How can biking be unreliable and inconvenient?
  1. Even as a Angeleno who has lived here almost my entire life and travels quite a bit, I don't know the nuances of bike routes/infrastructure in every neighborhood.  On streets I don't know about, I've been stuck on some very bike unfriendly streets.  COUGH Sepulveda en route to and from LAX COUGH.    
  2. To be safe in neighborhoods I don't know, I usually just end up on the big avenues.  But half the time that means battling for lane space/hoping I don't get hit either on the street or biking really slow on sidewalks.  
  3. Map apps on the phones give you some really complicated directions.  I do map out where I have to go, and now the phone can tell me, but I have to listen really hard to her voice. Even for a 13-mile trip from the casa to LAX by bike is complicated.  I know that I can take a street like Compton Blvd/Redondo Beach Blvd or Rosecrans till I hit Sepulveda, but frankly I'm pretty scared of riding Sepulveda at the LAX area because of the density of traffic.
  4. Numerous mechanical problems with the bike.  I've had numerous mechanical problems from a flat tire, to the chain falling off, when I needed to be on time for a job.  It's a stark comparison to the car which :knock on wood: needs scheduled maintenance.  A few solutions for this:  that little piece of bike infrastructure that I blogged about, and/or Taxi Service for biking (ala UberPedal) to bail your freeloading biker ass out of there.
  5. For those who need to haul lots of cargo around.  I used to know a guy who biked with lots and lots of trailers.  He made biking with cargo work in his own way;  he was very motivated to show the world all the things he could do without a car and biking.  These days I'm around a lot of blue-collar-ish people with either families and/or work tools.  They make good use of either mini-vans or pick-up trucks.  Suggesting a bike would not make sense for them and their schedules taking them various places either. 
  6. Too Far of a Commute.  This is probably the main thing.  People just come from all over based on housing that they can afford.  A lot of people who come from my background are not going to want to live in Compton, but would rather tough out a commute from one of the Valleys.

Acknowledging the Unacknowledged on Veteran's Day in LA

Just as every year on TV, they appear to focus on white American Veteran stories (props to Google for their multi-colored Vet Day logo), my focus is on unacknowledged soldiers.



On this day every year, I remember Filipino American Veterans from World War II.  I have been for just about 10 or 11 years now.

'Unacknowledged', 'unrecognized,' are the operative adjectives.  Unacknowledged by major media outlets (and by proxy the American public), unrecognized by US government agency, until relatively recently.  

Basically, when we were at war with Japan, Roosevelt offered soldiers in the Phillippines the same rights and benefits conferred to American soldiers so that they could help in the US effort.  Then, as soon as we won the war, Harry Truman, signed the Rescission act of 1946.  The Rescission Act stripped them of any benefits that they were due to receive.

Just as Veterans from World War II die every year, Filipino veterans from that era die increasingly every year.  

They have been fighting for their rights since the 1960s, and have only won what little recognition and rights in piecemeal fashion.  

For the Fil-Am veterans living here in Los Angeles, a few in Historic Filipinotown, they've scored a few minor victories along the way, such as a little statue at Lake St. Park, installed in 2006.
 
Their largest, and most recent victory nationally was a one-time lump sum payment in 2009, which needed to be bundled under Obama's Stimulus Act from his first term.  But obviously that one-time lump sum payment was a compromise meant to address part of the injustice, and not the full extent of the injustice.

I just wonder what "could have been" if these Filipinos were able to build their lives here, with the benefits of home ownership, the GI Bill, etc.  

I mean, I'm here, I'm sort of successful, but maybe more capital could've been sent to the Philippines, and they'd be more well-off.  Its all been lost time now, but I don't think addressing the injustice is over.  

The group that I usually hang around with, Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV) held a march today in Hollywood, and for more than 15 years have been focusing on getting WWII Veterans full recognition.  I didn't attend and I guess I should have, but the logistics of making it all happen today with all the responsibilities, and the fact that my main computer went down made that a non-reality.

Happy Veteran's Day, and till justice is served....

Election Results from that November 3 Election

About a week ago, I participated in my first Compton election.  A very small one, with only 2 things to vote on.

I know that Measure A passed.  That means my family and I are going to pay an extra $100 in property taxes in addition to the $3,300 we owe.  Woo.  I'm not sure what I'd want Compton High to look like after all that tax money, but I don't really have high expectations.  Shooting from the hip, I think there is an "infrastructure of corruption";  in about 5-10 years we'll find out that the money was misappropriated.  Sadly, I expect it, especially in our town with plenty of social capital but very little economic capital. 

Normally I'd a voted money for schools, but I guess I'm just sour about our property tax bill and adding yet another expense to our fragile economic situation.  But in reality, I guess $100 a year won't kill us either, I hope.

If I had not been looking past the LA Vote page, I didn't really understand who'd actually been elected to school board, except that incumbent Micah Ali was definitely in, as the leading vote-getter in the race.  He was specifically named by the woman who approached me last week on my way to the polls as the guy NOT to vote. 

It appears that a some people really did not like him.  It appears one of the searing issues was of teacher layoffs. Unheralded in any news coverage that I regularly watch (KPCC, NBC4, CBS [the morning show bleeds over because of Colbert]), apparently teachers called a "sick-out" the day after the election.

Besides Micah Ali, we were allowed to choose two others, so Charles Davis and Sandra Moss are also in.  Neither of these people I know about, thought I've learned through her Facebook campaign page, that Sandra Moss is one of the people who voted No on Measure A.  Woot.

I guess now that I know a few names, I'm going to start actually following these people.

Complaining: A Poor Verb to Describe Student Reporting of Racist Incidents Such as #ConcernedStudent1950 in Missouri

I've always been interested in language thanks to George Lakoff's Metaphors We Live By.  One of Lakoff's interests is and has been "framing," or basically how something, be it a news item, a candidate, is presented.

One ESPN article covering the firing of a University President over racial tension at his university seemed to be emblematic of poorly built framing that bothers me a lot. 

The "framing" essentially presents the students in "complain" mode. 

"Complain" especially in the American context always carries with it a negative connotation.  The common belief, built up by an endless array of narratives from media, school, places of business, work is that you're not supposed to do it, much if at all.  The American narrative is supposed to be about working, working, working, no complaining.  Or if you want to complain move to a different country.

In the article editor/writer uses the word "complaint" in a headline link. 



S/he uses variations of the word (i.e. complaints, complained) three more times in the article all to describe actions that students and students alone took or have taken.  We read all about students and the flurry of activity that they have taken, couched on variants of the word "complain."

The student groups are complaining about "racial slurs" and "slights," terms which make it seem like students are simply getting mad over comments made to them.  Lots of commenters say some variation of "they've got some soft skin."

We don't get much sense of why the students are taking such action.  The depth of the reasons for doing so are buried at the bottom of the article,  in terse sentences. 

The article makes almost casual mention of four separate occurrences that have sparked these protests, each of which have only one sentence describing them.  Two of the occurrences are even peppered with a sprinkle of doubt with an "apparently drunken white student" and "two trucks flying Confederate flags, a move many saw as an 'attempt' at intimidation."

One of the occurrences includes feces being smeared in the form of a Swastika in a dorm bathroom.  Typical good ole boy college humor right?



We don't really read much about the President and his inactivity, except his credentials, and the one time where he does not choose to speak to students.  His refusal seems casual. At best he's painted as a typical busy, dismissive university administrator riding a limo who was the unlucky one to lose his job, which leads to comments such as "Another case of inmates running the asylum." 

If ESPN really want to ramp up the hits, their headline should've just read, "Unlucky white guy loses job to complaining blackies."

How Would They Describe Student Actions Then If They Are Not "Complaining" or Filing "Complaints"?

The article is anything but netural.  I probably wouldn't write like whoever did this.

I'm not saying that they shouldn't ever use the word "complain", but in this article and context, it's flagrant. 

With overuse of the word "complain" combined with a dismissal of the occurrences as "slurs" and "slights, they've painted the students as overly-sensitive if not overly emotional.  It's hard to see the students as anything but overly-sensitive and overly emotional, unless you are black.

I mean, ESPN could have painted the student groups as somewhat "reasonable" side by using the word "cite" as in "black student groups have cited incidents etc. etc.", but it doesn't seem like that was ever in this writer/editor's MO.  

Microaggressive Racism/Classism on the Wesside?

About a month ago, KPCC, hosted a talk at UC-Irvine about microaggressions, which is surprising, because it's an academic topic which has now become a largely misunderstood public topic. 

When I attended the talk, I thought the examples given of microaggression at work were kind of weak because they lacked any context.  One example that I thought was weak and hurt public understanding of microaggressions, "people asking an individual "where are you from?" 

Today, I think I have better examples.

Today, I went to buy the kid a very expensive 1st Birthday cake. 

For that we had to trek all the way up to the Little Ethiopia in West LA, which is actually very close to the office where my sister and I work. 

On the way there, we had to find parking in the neighborhood on Whitworth Street.

I know this neighborhood sort of well;  the kind that does not want outsiders to infiltrate their parking spaces.  They have three different types of parking signs per post --- one telling you that you cannot park there from 6PM to 8AM, one telling you that anytime after 8AM or before 6PM is only for 2 hours, and that if you have a district sticker, these signs don't apply to you.

Now, I like to think of myself as an Anthropologist who notices racism when it happens, but I guess I miss a lot of subtle cues, according to my wife.

My wife is from Wilmington, CA and grew up in and around Mexicans and blacks.  She tells me that going to get her MA at Loyola Marymount with white kids was kind of a culture shock for her. 

I've grown up in and around public spaces with white people.  It was kind of a status thing within the Filipino kids and parents to say that I was going to private school with the white kids, the Loyola that is an all-boys high school. 

I think my wife picks up some cues that are not there sometimes, but then other times she's dead on about what she notices.

She's told me about child-adult-hoods of being followed while at stores, or people acting suspiciously around her. 

She's not even necessarily into race and ethnicity scholarship like I am, but she has a keen awareness of her settings and the social perceptions that surround her.

Today, she noticed two things that I completely missed.

1)  As we got out of our car after changing our son's diaper, we headed north towards a sidewalk across from us to go left. 

Another couple, taller, whiter (probably judged to be better looking by industry standards) with a younger baby in a stroller, heading south on the sidewalk was headed our same direction.  I was carrying our baby over my shoulder.

According to my wife, they walked, and were initially ahead of us, but they let us pass.

I did not think anything of it.  I just thought they let us get ahead.

She thought they might have thought we were suspicious and let us go ahead.

2)  On our way back from the cake shop, we walked back to our car. 

On the phone, I heard some guy talking loud.  It's like he was almost yelling at the phone.

I had some inkling of a feeling that we were being watched, but I couldn't pinpoint exactly where. 

My wife brought it up later, and it's funny, that was kind of suspicious too.

We don't know the intent of any of these individuals, but if my wife perceives a slight, then I generally trust her judgment mostly because she tends not to complain about strangers she does not know.

This doesn't really take away anything from us, but it does make us reflect on "our place" in society.  As both educated professionals (or sort of professionals in my case), both of us know we belong and can hang, but it's this type of thing that subtly communicated to us in our younger years that we could not and did not quite belong with rich white people.

Working with a Baby Boom Generation Speed Demon Somewhat Talented, Donald Trump-Voting Co-Worker Who Kinda Promotes Racism: A Case Study Reflection

I Stayed Silent.

If there's one thing I learned in working with someone who casually promotes racism, it's a lot easier to shout some anonymous person online down.  It's easier to draw lines, pick sides, call names.

It is much harder to confront someone you know and developed some kind of rapport with.

I worked closely with a white American dude old enough to be my father.  He said lots of racist stuff.  I survived.  But I always knew I wasn't going to melt down or mentally crumble the way a racist person might think.

Having progressive beliefs and friends around me, the expectation I had of myself, and progressive friends might have of me is that I'd probably confront him about his racist speech.

But I don't like confrontation, I'd rather do everything to avoid it.   I also had a curiosity to know how our relationship would keep evolving without using that racism to shut down any contact and thus, never be able to get to know him and write what I'm currently writing.

So I just kept plugging away at our job.  I'm just here to get my money and get out, I thought.

I stayed dead silent and chose to avoid commenting when he would say "Asians this...", "Mexicans that...", "Muslims that..."

To be clear, I'm not calling my co-worker a "racist", as if being a racist was a separate species of human.  I'm telling you that he does what he does;  he kinda promotes attitudes of racism.  By "racism", I don't mean the separationist, KKK-rally attending view of a "racist", but rather a more "casual" racist. 

It's not like he consciously avoided people of color or anything associated with them --- he was born in Japan, he drove a Nissan, he ate burritos with me.  He talked about his sexcapades in foreign lands.

It was more like when someone from another race did something that got in his way, he would insult them based on whatever was a trait that stood out. 

Being in Southern California, people of different races is the norm, and so if he saw any hint of brown at a person who just happened to get in his way he would say, "Muslims that, Mexicans that, Indian chick, terrorism...etc." 

The First Time

I remember one particular moment when a elderly Japanese man was driving a truck, and making a right turn.  He did it slowly.  But we were trying to make a left into the same street before traffic came.  He exclaimed, "Come on you fucking Jap, hurry up.  That's why these people shouldn't drive."

I was floored the first time he made a comment like this because well I guess I'm just not used to it;  and it's something I would not want to get used to.  I was kind of paralyzed in action, but I realized the old engineer's principle, "if you don't know what to do, don't do anything."

A lot of his rage was channeled on these within-the-moment occurrences, but he moved on kind of quickly afterwards, with the exception of an extended conversation monologue about how Donald Trump was "the guy to get shit done." 
 
He didn't dwell on and on about other races and ethnicities;  but perhaps it's because I did not join in any of his tantrums and I made the conscious effort to stay silent during them. 

I wonder if his many many white working buddies from yore would probably go on and on about different races and ethnicities. 

I myself am not actually white.  I guess I can look somewhat culturally ambiguous, though the guesses usually only range from Asian to Hispanic.  I don't know if he ever figured out that I am actually Asian or specifically of immigrant parents from the Philippines.  It seems like he thought I was Mexican, but when he saw a Mexican guy in a civic was speeding on a residential street it never stopped him from talking about "its always these fucking Mexican kids speeding."
   
Donald Trump:  A Gateway to Openly Expressing Racism 

The first time I recall him making any kind of incendiary commentary, it was related to Obama.

I did vote for Obama, and I think he's doing great, but I don't necessarily support/condone everything he does.

When in conversation about Obama, I know that the best thing is usually to remain silent.  I've seen enough online commentary to know that minds are made up about him, way before any conversation takes place.  Trying to change anyone's mind about Obama is like trying to change someone's religion.

When my co-worker made his comment, I was making comments about the dangers of the particular job we were doing without the benefit of construction zone cones or a full work crew.  Our job on that particular day included standing in the middle of the street, sometimes getting caught up morning rush hour traffic on 50 MPH speed limit streets. 

"Sometimes, maybe this job isn't worth it," I said. 

He said, "I'm only risking my life if I'm taking out Obama."

It was mostly a political statement, but a bit unsettling to invoke a fantasy of presidential assassination while in the middle of a job.  It made me wonder if he would have said the same thing about George W. or even Bill Clinton.

In our first few months working together, he was one to make a lot of political commentary.  He told me that Fox News was the only news channel worth listening to.  He was also trying to talk about how Donald Trump was going to change this country.

Along with his political commentary, in part, poetically mirroring the seemingly unfiltered Trump, he began to openly channel some pent-up anger against some of these groups.

I think it took a kind of comfort level with me for him to begin even making these type of statements.  Again, I dislike confrontation, but I guess that dislike makes me a natural for Anthropology where the main task is to listen.  I'm always curious to know what people are like in their "natural" state.  That is, I like to see how people are when they're not always confronted or being asked to change.

A Quick Humanizing Biography According to My Point of View

Aside from the racism, there was a lot I learned from him and actually admire about him. 

I think everyone is bound to have redeeming qualities.

He's not the worst person in the world, but you wouldn't easily warm up to him.

We worked early, and he was just about on time every time. 

He listens to the soul, jazz station 94.7, the Wave and alternates with 95.5 KLOS, classic rock.  It seems like he would put it on 94.7 whenever I was in the car.  I was actually kind of shocked that he listened to the Wave, and with great enthusiasm.  One of my co-workers suspected that he had been in an interracial marriage because of that, incidentally.

He calls and prides himself as a "speed demon;"  he is reliably, almost unfailingly so and efficient at the job he is called to do.  He gets things done and does a great job of planning ahead, but you will be working fast.

Anything involving work productivity, I believe he has great knowledge and can get done.  Build a house, fix a car,  cook, garden.

Though once you walk him into the realm of dealing with computers, all you see is another bumbling old guy who says he gets it, but does not actually. 

So while we were getting our work done, he often left any computer work related to uploading or downloading to me or another co-worker.

Being of the late Baby Boom Generation, he was one to reminisce on his days as a young iron worker.  He needed to be quick and tough.  He prided himself on landing a position in management fairly quickly.

He follows sports, but only to bet and win money on golfers and baseball teams he bets on.  He actually got me into golf, which incidentally got me watching/following Filipino-Aussie Jason Day.

In the short time that he was with our company, he's quickly developed a reputation for being fast and efficient, but being difficult to work with.  Being difficult to work with didn't necessarily mean that it was because he was being outwardly prejudiced or anything, it was because his working style is fairly rigid and inflexible. 

At the beginning of the project, when there were multiple people, we tentatively agreed to meet at 6AM.  For these projects, the norm had been to meet at 6AM for the first few weeks, but then adapt the schedule as necessary.  He's the only one who'd adhere to starting right at 6AM every day. 

The fact that he worked on that schedule, also while noting when co-workers were not available or missed something while on assignment rubbed more than one of my co-workers the wrong way. 

I could see why the co-workers disliked this;  he was making himself look good, while kinda making the others look bad.


When I See Him Again

He may read this some day, and so I've written this piece with that in mind. 

There were times where we felt really good about finishing things.  Like the time, we finished surveying street lines.  While in a strip mall, he turned up the volume on 94.7 and rocked the block.

When we were focused on the job and finishing things, all was good.

But every now and then, he would say something that would remind me why I couldn't quite feel really comfortable around him.

He would continue to make his comments about Asian drivers, Mexicans, etc.

A lot of his politically-tinged commentaries also centered around "bringing the America he knew back."  When we saw a rocket ship in a local playground, what they call "Cold War Playground Equipment", he lamented the fact that America was becoming too politically correct.

That kinda statement seems to reflect his internal "need" to continually make offensive comments about other races and ethnicities.

But he took me aback when we were talking about his favored physiques for women.  Somehow we got to talking about Serena Williams.  He thought the typical bro thing, "she looks like a man." 

Arguing over personal tastes, I've figured, is usually a lot less tense than arguing politics of right and wrong, but it is still a way of communicating politics, and, so I bit.

"I kinda like the Serena Williams body type."  Which, incidentally, I actually do.

He more or less accepted it, essentially saying to each his own, which in his case tends to be the classic petite women, and encompasses a lot of Asian women.

A few days later while on the street a carrier truck apparently being driven by a black woman was speeding through the fast lane on a 4-lane street.  My co-worker wasn't in too much danger, but it kind of shook him up a bit.

I remarked that it was "Serena Williams trying to get some revenge," to which he said, "probably one of those Fergusons."

"Fergusons?", I knew exactly what he might be aiming for when he said that, but wanted to hear him explain it all himself.

"Think about what happened!", he implored me to think. 

I already knew.

He said, "it's my new way of saying nigger.  You can't say that anymore.  I told the black guys at the golf club and they laughed."

Oh.

Being Real about Knowing Candidates and Ballots in Local Elections

Today marked the first time that I officially voted on a Compton ballot.

I had no idea who any of the people were.

Micah Ali, Skyy Fisher, Arturo Frazier...





Rang no bells for me unless I'd just passed a formerly vacant fenced off brownspace full of fliers.   

At stake were/are three seats on the school board, which we will find out the next day.

The only ways I've learned about these people:

1)  Posters on vacant empty spaces
2)  Physical mailers

And even then, I could only recognize names and symbols.  I couldn't differentiate between any of them.

Even worse, I didn't even know what measures were on the ballot.

I was planning for information from the iPhone to do that --- it couldn't help me differentiate candidates on the spot, but it did help to see a PDF online of a plain English breakdown.

As I made my way to Laurel School Elementary, I ran into a Spanish-speaking woman who also was searching for the polls.  I tried with Spanglish to communicate with her and figured out that she most definitely not want Micah Ali and was rabidly against Measure S.  She also recommended voting Richard Alatorre.

I had been "considering" Micah Ali for one of the seats and had no idea what Measure S was.

When It Came Down to Marking the Ballot

To my surprise, there were only two items in this election cycle:  choosing three school board members and Measure S.

The only information we are given about each of the candidates is their name and profession.

Given that information, and without days of thoroughly researching each candidate, the only thing I was sure about was that I was probably not going to vote in Micah Ali nor Skyy Fisher. 

I looked at the names and their professions.  It appears that I chose people that seemed closest and relatable to what I consider trustworthy.

Hmm...Professor and Instructor, Lizette Arevalo was my first choice, though I don't remember seeing her name anywhere.

Then I saw something about UC Irvine, and being super-involved in lots of community work --- Denzell Perry became my 2nd choice.

Then I remember seeing Arturo Frazier's poster somewhere.  I guess I just really liked his name and the multi-culturality it seemed to represent of the area.  Arturo.  Frazier.

Yea.  That's how I chose my three candidates for Compton School Board 2015.

After the lady approached me and we had our little conversation, Measure S was a slam dunk no for me, given that I've already began complaining about property taxes.  It's quite the switch of a position for me, because typically I'd like to think prioritizing schools especially the upgrade of a school like Compton High school is important, but paying an extra $100 a year on property taxes is a non-starter.

Property Taxes Is Making Owning a Home in Compton Very Hard

Were paying close to $3,300 in property taxes for our property.

Which according to the #3 Google Search result from "los angeles property tax calculator" is actually the median tax paid in LA County. 

OK.

However, the median price of a house in LA County is $420,000.  Much higher than what we paid.  In California, you pay property taxes based on the market value of your home.  Our market value is not $420,000, which means that we should probably pay a lot less.

$3,300 wouldn't be as big a deal if I were making $120,000 a year.  I barely make a fraction of this amount.  Basically what people paid to watch the MayPac non-fight in person was basically what I make. 

We paid a lot less than $420,000, not even half that amount.  We paid around $170,000.  With that home value, the site estimates that we should be paying $1,300, about the amount of our monthly mortgage. 

But in actuality they're demanding DOUBLE our monthly mortgage.

Yay.

This is on top of our school loans ($300), our utilities ($350), gas money ($240), groceries ($400) on two incomes totaling $60K per year, which actually isn't so bad, but more than once I've had to pick up a job or two.

Searching for answers, we called the phone number on that bill.  Whoever took our phone call explained that part of the reason our property tax was high was due to two reasons: 

1)  Prop 13 ensures that properties bought after 1978 are based on current market value of our home.   As new homeowners, we have had to pay property taxes based on market value.

On the surface it sounds harmless, but considering what it has done to public education, and the benefits it gives to old homeowners, it really seems to be pinching us.

From what little I understand, the proposition made it easy for old homeowners, those who bought property before 1978, to prevent neighborhood change.

This NY Times opinion piece from 1988 captures the reality I feel we are currently experiencing in 2015:

If you combine higher tax assessments with sharply higher impact fees, the upshot is that newcomers, many of whom struggled mightily just to make their first down payment, are subsidizing public services for low-taxed landed gentry. 
The reality of "struggling mightily just to make our first down payment" was real. 

I mean, I cleaned out the last of my savings to put into the cheapest house we could buy in Compton.  I'm wondering how my Pacific Palisadian high school classmates would see me now.

It makes me wonder about how much our next-door neighbors pay and the real difficulties and hidden costs of home ownership.

2)  Compton, and other cities with lower to lower middle-income earners have the highest tax rates.

Why?


An LA Times Article from 2010 explains: 

"An additional problem facing low-income cities, particularly during the current economic downturn, is that many have scanty commercial districts that generate little sales tax revenue. As a result, poorer cities tend to be more dependent on property tax revenue than wealthier ones."

The Infrastructure Piece that Could/Would Make Bike Commuting A Lil Better


It's been a really long time since I've biked.

I think a new species of Spider has developed specifically to enjoy the facilities my Nishiki has been offering the past few months.

But I still keep an eye on what happens in bicycling related news, sadly more through the convenience of local TV news and radio than any of the great biking blogs.  I definitely feel like an outsider to the bike scene, but I've biked enough to still chime in on an online comments section full of drivers telling bicyclists how they need to get off the road.

The above innovation at UC Irvine is probably not news to anyone, but it's definitely news to me. 

The above photo of a bike station/stand (I don't know what the bloggers might call it) is equipped with a pump, tire levers, and, wrenches --- basically most any tool to get your bike back up and ready.

The above is exactly the piece of equipment a bike commuter would find useful.

It was completely empty when I came across it and did not look like it was used heavily, but I think it serves the purpose that of the "Call Box" on the freeway does or the air/water pump at the gas station, though I'm guessing that it wouldn't take off until someone found a way to charge/profit off of this.

Perhaps we need to map out "long commuter routes" where these stations/stands can be placed around the Southern California area.

Police: Predators or Peacekeepers?

Right now in America, I think there are essentially two different views of police.

I don't mean to say that all people think either this way or that way, but they represent two polarized sides in a spectrum of thoughts.

There's the side of the spectrum that sees the police as predators.

There's the side of the spectrum that sees the police as peacekeepers.

So the battling views are:  police as predators vs. police as peacekeepers.

I understand views on the spectrum, but usually because on the internet, I tend to find myself around people who unquestionably believe in the police as peacekeepers, I like to challenge what I think is the lack of a critical eye.

Some of my more radical friends like to think we could do without the police. I'm not quite there, but I understand that they do not like the history of law enforcement in this country, nor how normalized bad behavior has seemingly become. 

Another reason I'm not with my more radical friends is because I'd like to think the culture of the institution of policing/law enforcement in America could become something better, divorcing from its history.

I think that "becoming better" would be possible if there were more of a focus on prioritizing education and mediation in all the local law enforcement agencies, especially those with majority white police officers presiding over largely populations of color.

That means, police approach you with the idea that you're a human being, and not as someone who's guilty simply for existing.  And to be fair, for the most part as far as LAPD and LA County Sherriff's Departments go, they have.  I'm not sure about other agencies in LA County.

Story #1:  The Redondo Beach Cop Who Made Me Nervous

I just wanted to go straight and go home.  I didn't feel like taking small streets around or whatever.  I wanted the straight shot along Artesia Blvd that becomes Redondo Beach and eventually Compton Boulevard that would take me home. 

It was a Friday night, around 9:30 PM in Redondo Beach.  I had just come from doing a job at Hermosa Beach for my company and was heading Eastward, home in Compton. 

Traffic was backed up for a good mile and a half.  There was a large sign in construction orange colors with cones warning drivers that there was a DUI checkpoint being conducted by Redondo Beach Police.   A bunch of white cops.

A little past that sign was a smaller street that a sizable amount of drivers turned into.  I think you could actually avoid this DUI checkpoint.  That means, you could choose not to go through it, by turning off into a little street, or so it appeared.

Majority stayed the course.

I decided that I had like the majority had no desire to do any turning, and just wanted to go straight.

I had done nothing wrong, and had nothing to worry about right?

I'd waited about 20 minutes before I'd finally reached the point where the first cop would wave us through.

One cop took a look and waved me through.  Or so I thought.

I guess I was supposed to stop for the next cop?  [sarcasm]Duh!!!!! How was that not obvious, especially when one of them waved you forward and at the end of all these cones there is no stop sign.  The only people who stopped or made sure were probably people who did do something wrong, and were aching to admit their guilt.[/sarcasm]

I stopped but not before the cop said, "Stop stop stop stop!!!!!  What are you doing?," said the middle-aged white cop.

"I thought I could go through."

"Don't you see the Stop sign?"

(Looking intently for Stop sign;  none in sight)  "They were waving me through."

He asked for my license, which I struggled to produced.  Having just seen Straight Outta Compton, I was wondering what he would think once he saw my address.

I felt nervous now giving this cop a reason to question me. 

"Where'd you come from?"

I tried with all my mind might to remember --- all I could remember was that it was 10th Street.

"Have you had anything to drink tonight?"

"Nope."  As soon as this left my mouth and I stared right at the questioning officer, I knew this wasn't enough.  Even I thought I sounded suspicious.  Either that, or the way the cop questioned me and or his distrust of me was so dense that I felt that anything I could say was not going to get anywhere.

All I know is that I was just nervous even though I had not done anything.

He told me to follow his pen with my eyes.

I did this for a good 10 seconds.  

I stared with the might of my life as he moved his pen around.  I couldn't tell what he was trying to do.  It just seemed like he was just trying to get me on something.

The whole time I was just wondering, why the hell would a drunk person wait 20 minutes in line for a gangload of cops, when they could just turn into a little street?


Story #2:  On-Job Harrassment

For basically most of my jobs with my company, I am outside and in the public eye for several hours at time, anywhere from 1-4 hours at once.

Again I do various things as a traffic surveyor.  Sometimes its counting cars at an intersection.  Sometimes its taking GPS points of a sign.  Sometimes its tracking the movement of cars in a parking lot.

I am always having to explain myself, half the time to the public, half the time to some representative of law enforcement.  I've become used to explaining myself.

I'd say that 95-99% of cops have been standard, non-assholes to me, some even cool.  I've been able to talk to LA County Sherriffs at 2 AM about the GPS work I was doing.  I've been able to calm LBPD down about what I've been doing.

But the few times where cops have given me a hard time, they've given me a hard time.

Nowhere was it worse than during a job counting the traffic going through and from the LA County Jail AKA (Twin Towers Correctional Facility) right on Bauchet Street.  It's a small four lane street with lots of pedestrian as well as car traffic.  Lots of ordinary people, nurses, chefs, maintenance workers.  Lots and lots of cops, plain clothes, dressed up, passing me by.

I have my beach chair, my ID badge (which at the time consisted of the company card), my backpack (which had snacks and my laptop, just in case things got slow) and my counting board, which to the uninitiated looks like a 1980s handheld gaming console.

On this day, I was observing the activity of an intersection along with 2 driveways.  I decided that the best observation spot of traffic coming in and out would be across the street from these driveways.  My counting started at 5:30 AM and I was to keep counting until 10AM.

Things were going smoothly until a big rig decided that they would pull up right in front of me and park.  The asshole obstructed my view, leaving me looking under, walking around to make sure I've counted cars correctly.  It looks like I'm dodging, bobbing, and weaving like Money Mayweather himself.

At around 7:10 with the sunlight peaking out, a Sherriff's department car rolls up behind the stupid ass truck. 

I know where this is going.

Traffic is also constant.  And so I just keep Money Mayweathering and counting, until the cops approach me.  A black and an Asian-American cop.  I think for a split second, "oh, my people!"

But then I think of Ice Cube's line, "black police showing out for the white cop," and...this is what happened.

"What are you doing?"

"Counting cars, bitch," I say.  Though, I leave out the "bitch" part.

"What for?"

"To survey traffic.  Sometimes it's for the city."

"Who are you working for?"

"I don't know, I don't know who our client is"

"What is your company?"

I give out the name.

"Can I speak to your boss?

I'm still Money Mayweathering and counting.  I'm walking around, bobbing and weaving a lot.  Traffic is a lot more dense now that these assholes are bothering me.  Of course.

"Can we search your backpack?"

No, I'll get my phone myself.  Money Mayweathering and counting.

I'm fumbling for my phone, as its not in my pocket and located somewhere in my backpack.  The two assholes keep their eyes planted on me as I go towards my backpack.  I rifle through the backpack in frantic search for my phone while I'm Mayweathering and counting.  Incidentally I'm surprised they even let me go to my backpack myself.

Perhaps noticing that I'm frantically doing work while trying to accommodate their requests, one of them remarks "It's OK if you miss a few," said one of the oinksters who do not play any role in my employment status or my paycheck.

I take my chair and backpack and place in front of the cop car and the cops so I have all my stuff with me.  Still Money Mayweathering and counting.

Still Money Mayweathering and counting, I locate the phone number not of my immediate manager but of a manager who is away.  I hand it off to the black cop and he chops it up with that manager for about 10 minutes.  I hear demands for names and companies as he blurts them out.

Still Money Mayweathering and counting.  The black cop hangs up.

Slowly realizing that there's actually nothing going on here, the Asian-American cop preps his parting shots telling me where to stand and not stand.  "You shouldn't be here hiding behind this truck" and "stop pointing that thing [counting board] at people."

And this is why sometimes when people say FTP, I don't think immediately of Filezilla.

I don't have any examples of police playing "peacekeepers" other than the times I've seen them at community meetings or various events whether its a youth meet up in Long Beach or community meeting in MacArthur Park.

If I were to be intellectually honest, I know that it's not all cops acting like assholes.  They are not a separate species.  In the end they are people doing their jobs, dealing with a lot of uncertainty.  I think the way we have designed our justice system rife with quotas, they are prone to making false hits, casting wider nets which ends up punishing everyone, especially those either the wrong color and/or not claiming residence in high class areas.

A Legend Elsewhere, Just Another Jerk on the Freeway Here

I've kinda followed Steven Gerrard's career as a soccer player in Liverpool, England.  Liverpool is usually one of the best teams in one of the top soccer leagues in Europe.  As a crowd before games, they sing a very uniting, humbling song, "You'll Never Walk Alone," which is my favorite anthem of any sports team.

He was basically their everything-man, their longest-tenured captain for 12 years, which in any professional sports is an eternity.  He was an icon for not just English soccer, but all of soccer

http://www.espnfc.us/la-galaxy/story/2600743/steven-gerrard-thrilled-with-z-list-celebrity-status-in-la

The ESPN interview makes interesting points as they paruse through Venice Beach --- that's something a high-profile athlete here, ala Stephen Curry or Chris Paul, might not be able to do here, but might be able to get away with in a not-as-basketballed-up place like say, England. 

A legend elsewhere can be relatively anonymous and enjoy the public spaces here and probably vice versa.  I was heartened to learned that he has already taken in the LA experience of...rush hour traffic and road rage.

My Thoughts on Straight Outta Compton as a Resident of Compton Today

If you were actually living in Compton today, you would hardly see any trace of the mega-blockbuster that tore up the box office in its opening weekend to the tune of $122 million dollars as of its 2nd weekend in widespread release.

There isn't any big billboard that I see (at least here in the Westside).

There isn't a movie theater to watch it in unless you trek on over at least 15 minutes East along Rosecrans Blvd to the Bianchi Theater in Paramount.

I think our mayor Aja Brown has made it a point that she kinda wants to distance from the past and move on.

Overall, I enjoyed it.  I was entertained.  Full.  Stop.

But I think I set my expectations right where I thought the movie would meet them.  This means that I didn't think the movie would be that enlightening, nor that earth-shattering, nor necessarily completely progressive --- that is free of misogyny;  I was just happy it's in a context now in America where a city that would otherwise be ignored gets some cultural cache and recognition, and forms some kind of shared reference point for consumers of popular American culture.

While you won't really learn a lot about Compton from a 2-hour movie, I think the movie is most relevant to today's culture as a small piece in the conversation on police relations with communities of color. 

This movie is not an afternoon special on PBS about the city, so you'd be sorely disappointed if you were expecting to hear anything about Latinos, or about the development of the city of Compton itself.

Just as I had heard from the Watts prophets a few weeks ago, as the Straight Outta [City Name, Place Here] meme has become popular, Compton is a symbol, the name that is a stand-in and representative of the experience of being black, poor, and in a city in America.





"We wanted to put Compton on the map and now its here to say," MC Ren

There's Not Much "Actual" Compton in "Straight Outta Compton"

It seems like the NWAers are trying to say that they came at a time when their city was invisible, neglected, ignored.  They blasted a path out of that.

25 years later, their city is still kind of invisible, neglected, and ignored, but now people have some images of what they think that is, and it's mostly reliant on whatever NWA said.

What the movie showed was a history I have not experienced at all here.  It all seems tied to an era (1980s-1990s) rather than places.  You go to any urban area in LA or even parts of Orange County, whether in Eastside Long Beach or Compton, and most life-long and former residents will more or less tell you, the 1980s and 1990s were extremely crazy.  Those are the eras with all the mythical-sounding stories of how kids were beat up at bus benches in Long Beach, how to survive on my block, you basically had to run to your house. 

As a representation of the realities of the city and surrounding cities around Compton, the movie took very careful attention to aesthetic details or at least with details with which I had been familiar: from the logo of the old Metro buses, to the old LAPD cars. Growing up in LA seeing those same buses and LAPD cars again, it was enough to make me believe, "oh shit, this did happen, and they were there!"

However, there is no real sense of place in a movie with the name of a city in it.

Some guy from UCLA kinda agreed with me.  The movie's focus on the group meant that other than the opening scenes we did not see how these members interacted with community members, other than occasional run-ins with Torrance and Detroit PD.

The movie does not mention much if any of the physical geography of Compton. 

Over the years, I think we've grown accustomed to the idea in hip-hop and general American pop culture folklore that place shapes character.  A place makes you who you are, kinda points you in a direction of what you become.

We get a general sense of the drug and gang violence that surrounds them, but we don't see how Compton in particular is this place.  In one scene we see Crip gang members from "Crenshaw", which is in Inglewood, probably about 3 or 5 miles away from Compton.

Other than the opening scene where Eazy mentions "Greenleaf Blvd" and one scene at Compton Civic Center, I didn't get any idea that they were in the actual Compton but more so the symbolic Compton.

Greenleaf Blvd would mean nothing to no one other residents and/or than people paying very close attention to little details.  We don't really get any introduction to what the street is or means, it's just a reference point known to the actors in the movie, but not the actual audience, and so Greenleaf Blvd could be Main Street USA or Vermont Ave. or Crenshaw Blvd.

I had to look up Skateland (one of the first venues we see NWA performing at) after watching the movie to locate any sense of place.  The LA Times had a quick write-up of the place.

This is what Skateland looks like now (located on Central Ave. and 135th):



Jump Re-Starting the Conversation on Police Brutality



For a movie and group based on showing police brutality, the brutality and brutalizing by cops doesn't seem to actually take place in Compton aside from one incident.  They rely on their experiences in Torrance, in some incidents at a home, their experience of seeing the Rodney King video.

The main reason I say that I'm glad that the movie exists to be a part of the conversation on police relations is that I don't think that blockbusters showing police doing wrong usually do this well in the box office or on television.

I guess like the movie because the topics it brings up represent an anomaly, packed with references to real-life events of police brutality that I think the American media-consuming public has seen and been seeing for the past five or so years.

When it comes to race relations and public perceptions of the police, doing some kind of police work is always portrayed with a positive upswing.  On network television in particular, there's no shortage of cop shows portraying the complexities, emotional highs and lows of cops on network television. In the cinemas, the same thing.  In fact, the big irony is that before we even saw this movie, they stuck in a promo for Ice Cube's comedy with Kevin Hart, in which he actually portrays a cop. It seems like that was stuck in there to foil the message of the biggest takeaway from the group and group's history.

I think the biggest takeaway from the movie is essentially the conditions of the 1990s with police departments staffed largely by outsiders, coming into a community, and dictating rules on their terms rather than community-defined terms.

I'm not sure to what extent that happens anymore.  For me I haven't witnessed it happening.

As far as the actual experience of police here in Compton, the police (the LA County Sheriff's Department) have been pretty alright to me so far.  What can I say?  They come when our house alarm has gone off.  When I call about a neighbor, they've responded, so far.  They can speak Spanish, they seem like they can talk to people.  I'm not sure what the history has been with them or "Compton Sheriff's Department" (as it would have been known in the 1980-1990ss) had been, but on first glance it just seems the departments are staffed by people actually more predisposed to being from and in the community rather than outside it.

The LAPD, the overarching bureaucratic police department that oversees LA (and does NOT include the city of Compton) seems to have changed a lot from the days of Darryl Gates and his "us-against-them" mentality.  They have work to do, but still just like the Sherriff's Department it seems areas are staffed by people being from the community.

Thinking About Why Gang Tagging Still Exists on My Block

It's been another long summer, which on our block means one thing:  tagging on the walls!
And it's not just some crews interested in tagging or doing artistic murals or anything --- it's gang tags, or kids representing a gang that has existed since the 1950s.

On Stop signs, you will see a "CANT" scribbled on top and below the "STOP", you will see the gang's name scribbled underneath, so that Stop Signs around the area read "Can't Stop [Gang Name here]"


 
This morning, I watched the graffiti team sandblast the gang-tagged walls along the street for probably it's thousandth time.  It's the end of July but it's the first time I've seen them all Summer.

Its the first Summer where I've lived here and seen another gang combat the dominant one here.


The tagging has been a persistent nuisance, but I am told by neighbors who have lived here for 20+ years that there was a time when the sandblasters would be painting a wall and a tagger would be right behind them throwing up a tag just minutes after they had finished sandblasting the ball.

That's not the situation now.

But the Summer is when school is out.  Presumably school kids are keeping the wall plastered with their hastily spray-painted insignias representing their gang.

My most immediate neighbors call the current crop of gang taggers "remnants" or "knuckleheads";  the ones who caused all the trouble in the 70s, 80s, and 90s are either dead or locked up.

I don't know any of the kids currently doing any of the tagging, but I was thinking deeply about why these kids (I presume that they have to be kids) felt such a need to continue tagging.

I think of Bambu's Old Man Raps.



I think about who in our neighborhood says anything if at all, and how we seem to let the tagging persist.  I am glad that this appears to be the only issue that I see nowadays.

I realize that there are deeper issues than just tagging.

From my point of view, as an unconnected resident, but a kind of academic, I think it all comes down to individuals recognizing their place in the larger society as being permanently marginal.

 'Permanently Marginal' in the sense their place in larger society can't actually change.  But within their own place in society, they will try to make the best out of what they have (or perceive themselves to have).

Drinking, partying, threatening violence is what they have been, and where they will be.  It's kind of immutable facts of life (which I wonder how much has changed in this age of media 2.0 and the omnipresence of the phones).

I try to imagine what materials and resources they own.  I don't imagine most as home-owners, and I think they're barely making it, probably living with family members.

They probably don't own much other than their reputation, threats to violence, and their outward expressions on the wall.  Their showing of vitality is reliant on vandalizing the public spaces.

The moment they let up their claim of our walls, stop signs, etc., public utilities, it's as if they have let others "win" while their gang has "lost."

I think that as long as their youth (and whomever their elders are) frame what they see as "their" walls, stop signs, public utilities as spaces to claim to show their gang's vitality, it will be an ongoing fight.

I just wish they'd take listen to a former gangbanger from Watts and re-direct their energies and vitalities to other life-building pursuits.

We Lowered Our Water Bill

Last month, we paid around $35 for our water bill.

This month, we cut down the water bill to around $28. 

This.

For a house about 600 square feet, 2200 square foot lot with a washer, a backyard, and a bed of roses.

Pretty small, not many people.  Mainly 2 adult occupants, and occasionally an extra adult.  One baby, who requires that we wash our hands, our dishes, and his dishes a ton.

Things that might have cut down our bill:

1)  I don't wash the dishes as much anymore
2)  Implementation of the 5-Minute shower.  I try to bathe like an astronaut, who uses only 20 oz. of water to shower.  Essentially, I now shower the way I wash my hands:  turning on only when needed, off when soaping, and then back on for the rinse.
3)  Imposition of a new watering restriction by our local water company:  we can only water on 2 days.

How Random Are All Homicides?

One of the more searched for items on my blog is:  How Dangerous Is Compton? 

I don't think homicides are all that random.

Shankar Vedantam from NPR tweeted some research about how homicides tend to be concentrated within certain networks.

You know, we might be missing the wood for the trees, Steve. So take Chicago, for example, in the example you just gave about the ZIP codes. If you visit the website of a newspaper, like The Chicago Tribune, it will tell you that you have a high risk of becoming a victim of violent crime if you live in a neighborhood such as Washington Park or Fuller Park. But not everyone in these neighborhoods is actually equally at risk for becoming a victim of violent crime. I spoke with Andrew Papachristos. He's a sociologist at Yale, and along with Christopher Wildeman, he found the real risk doesn't lie at the level of neighborhoods, but at the level of a network with in the neighborhood.
Gun violence is much more like a blood-borne pathogen. It tends to be very specific behaviors - risky behaviors - that put you in these networks. And in some ways, it becomes much more like the spread of diseases through needle sharing or unprotected sex, rather than catching a bullet from somebody sneezing.

The LA Times Homicide Blog's mission is not so much to make those connections but is there to put out the names, dates, times, and places.

Reading it is all at once sad, engulfing, enraging. Sad because of what has happened.  Engulfing because of the stories behind what happened.  Enraging because we often don't know why what happened happened, and were left to thinking about the big, basic questions of why.

They report victims, location, age, race, a blurb about the incident, perhaps some background information about a victim.  Occasionally, they'll come up with blog entries about trends in a city.

Recently, they noted the "rising" homicide rate in Santa Clarita from 2 in 2011 to 6 this year.

The headline reads "Quiet Santa Clarita adjusts to recent jump in violence" as if that increase over a 62 square mile area with over 213,000 residents was one place full of carefully manicured soccer fields, acreage for people who choose to live that life, wide streets, was basically devolving into one big biker's bar.

To their credit, the writer did note that most of the cases were based on familial/intimate domestic disputes. 

However, a handful of the commenters, still wrote in search of deeper societal and/or demographic causes as if the homicides were "random" and wanted to identify those root causes to theoretically root out homicide.

I think those commenters represent what seems to be a common way of thinking about how crime happens:  it happens more in certain locations, with certain peoples of a certain age, sex, race, and it is either random or because people are in a gang.  Sometimes people conflate those factors of age, sex, race, or a location with being a cause for being murdered (i.e., you're black and in Compton, of course you're going to get shot!).

I think that if people learned more about the importance of networks in our crime discourse, those factors might matter less.  In the absence of information, people would attempt to look at a person's network rather than their age, sex, race, location before voicing a judgement.

The Map Apps on the iPhone as Applied to LA Traffic from a Traffic Surveyor

My various jobs require lots of driving to various ends of the greater LA/OC/Ventura/Riverside/San Bernardino/Santa Barbara.  We even sometimes make our way towards Bakersfield, Kings County.

I officially stepped into the Smartphone world just last year, and have relied ever since on mapping programs.

Before using smartphones, I would generally mapquest directions and print out a page of all the directions 2003-style.  It worked just fine for my job. 

But at some point, I started using my phone to map places out and eventually completely ceased all printing of any maps.

In my one year of iPhoning as a traffic surveyor, I now rely on 4 mapping apps: 

1)  The default iPhone Map:  What I use if my phone is having connection issues.  It seems to find a route faster than Google Maps at times.

It's also what I use for when I want to find something nearby, like a park or a library.

2)  Google Maps:  Probably my most frequently-used because I find that it's usually spot on with estimated time of arrival.  They seem to know how to manage my expectations for when I can get to a certain place. 

It's mostly good until they take you onto toll roads, which can be a probably in deep Orange County (73,241,133)

3)  Mapquest:  What I use when the first two keep taking me to goddamn toll roads in deep Orange County.  Avoiding toll roads is the one redeeming feature of Mapquest, but that's pretty much it.

I would use this more, and am rooting for it to beat Google, but it has been confused a few times by loops --- yesterday, it made me get off a freeway, go in the opposite direction, and then get back onto the same freeway in the same direction that I had been going.  Major points off for that.

Also, the estimated time of arrival is very deceiving;  it does not appear to use any real-time traffic data as the estimated time of arrival kept adding minutes.

4)  Google Earth:  What I use when I need to pinpoint an exact spot on a map.  I like to thank my lucky stars for that triangle that points northeast --- the directional arrow has helped me do my job showing various locations much better.

So in summary:  mostly Google rules, but it does have plenty of things it can work on.

Bring a Gelsons to Compton to Replace Fresh N' Easy

Pronto.

I'd never really been to Gelson's only because I've never really lived in proximity to one when it became a Gelson's.

That all changed a few days ago, not me suddenly up and living near a Gelson's, but suddenly spending a whole day very near a Gelson's.  I spent a whole day, where I essentially had to rely on Gelson's for my lunch and dinner, the Gelson's on Franklin Ave. in Hollywood.

3 points for why a Gelson's would be an absolute great candidate to replace the Fresh N' Easy in Compton.

Score 1.

Cheap cold drinks.

50 cents for a bottle of water.  55 cents for a can of coke.  My co-worker told me this in the morning which I just kind of forgot till my break came and I needed a drink.  I searched the market for cold drinks;  I was skeptical and after 5 minutes or so could not find these vaunted 55 cent drinks.

Then near the seafood and meats section, I see cans and bottles ready for immediate lunch-time consumption.

What the, was this a re-boot of the 1980s or something?!  Very cheap drinks, essentially at the Costco fountain drink level.

Score 2.

A good mix of good ol', reliable brand names but with blended with "organic" brands you might see at a Trader Joes/Whole Foods.

2 for $5 on Hawaiian Barbecue chips.  Though this is arguably not a score for my weight and health.

But if you wanted, you could also binge on kale chips or the quinoa at the salad bar, your choice.

Score 3.

Good on-the-go healthy options for food.  I took home some quality antioxidant salad for a hungry wife.

From what I remember at Fresh N'Easy, there isn't much there except food in packages.

I do not know the numbers, but my sense is that there is a building demand for food-to-go and healthy options, even in Compton.  If there's any indicator of this, it's the fact that we now have three Starbucks stores in the area.  Starbucks has traditionally been seen as an indicator of incoming middle-classdom.  The area where that Gelson's would be located would be near a Starbucks, incidentally, a Starbucks that like any other Starbucks is full of people on their laptops during the daytime. 

I think a Gelson's would attract people looking for cheap drinks and some trusted also brand names, but also have the potential to hook people on healthier foods.  I think it would be an even better alternative than the Trader Joe's that I've wanted.


California Drought: I Am Honestly Confused about My Water Bill

The drought has become extremely severe, so I've heard from the local news and from social media.

According to a Jet Propulsion Laboratory guy, we have only one year of reserve supply left and will be digging hard at underground water.

I understand the drought at a superficial level.

We've heard about the drought for years.  When there isn't an accident or amber alert, the flashing electronic signs on California highways mention the fact that we are in a "serious drought" and that we must "help save water."

I get that we have a finite amount of resources.

I get that we need lots of rain for several years to get back to "normal."

However, I don't think I completely understand the entire picture of our water supply.

The number one thing I am confused about (and hope not to alert my water company is):  my water bill is still around $30-$40 for a single-family home with three people.

That's awesome for my income and allows me to keep on going as I am.

I get that I am not a heavy commercial water user (like say, a golf course owner) and so my prices might not that be high anyway.

But if we really are in a very dire situation why are the water prices I pay not skyrocketing as well?  Or is that just lurking around the corner?  I know that water restrictions are along the way.  

I do want to keep paying what I am paying, but I also am curious as to how this is happening.  Supply is apparently low, demand is probably high, but prices remain low?  What am I missing here?

I mean, I hope the low prices continue, but can anyone actually explain?

Now, Where to Bike for My Edamame?

Welp, I talked trash about the Fresh N' Easy here in Compton when I first got here, wishing instead for a Trader Joe's.
  Probably the same odds as the Chicago Bulls getting the first pick in the 2008 NBA Draft which was 1.7%, which is to say, probably not a good chance.

Now it looks like the Fresh N' Easy chain is closing up a bunch of shops across the Southland.  Kinda sad, as is any failure, but hopefully something better awaits.

The most notable things for me about the particular Central and Rosecrans Fresh N' Easy were that: 1)  it was completely all self-check-out and 2)  recently found that it was the only place to get edamame.

I don't know where unless I go outside of city limits to Gardena (for the Albertson's on Artesia, which I'm not completely sure has edamame) and/or Torrance (Trader Joe's).

Other than that, I did not find the selection that remarkable or radically different than what I could find across the street at Food4Less.  I did not find that food was "fresh", as it appeared that a lot of the food came in packages.  The fruit and vegetable section was not especially large --- it was just one other aisle on the south side of the store in addition to its numerous aisles.

Judging from the physical junk mail I get, the alternatives to getting Fresh Food are the aforementioned Food4Less, Ralph's, Superior, Payless Foods.  I have no idea where people actually do groceries, though that would be an interesting survey.

The main takeaway for me is now that I know for sure that I have to DRIVE to get my edamame.