Category Archives: Urban Life

POLITICAL BORDERS: THE AESTHETICS OF GEOGRAPHIC DIVISION

The New York Times has just published a fascinating article titled “Eight Ways to Build a Border Wall” that looks at various construction prototypes for a new border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. See screenshot above.

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CONFUSION: “ART-NOT-ART” STREET ART

A funny thing about “art.” Sometimes the happiest of aesthetic accidents happen as a consequence of totally non-artistic impulses.

Take as prima facie example the case of the roller-shutter pictured above. It’s on a warehouse-factory building in the rapidly gentrifying Downtown Los Angeles neighborhood dubbed the Arts District. It’s a beautiful building, a grand structure standing as testament to L.A.’s glorious former industrial past.

The building — and specifically the roller-shutter — has also been the canvas for many a graffiti tagger or street artist. The owners of the building have painted over graffiti on the roller-shutter several times in a Sisyphean effort to stamp out Krylon spraypaint-wielding vandals.

But guess what happened?

They accidentally created a Mark Rothko painting!!! Well, let’s just say “Rothko-esque.” Yes, a post-modern abstract masterpiece has emerged by total fucking accident!

The current “artwork” will be there until the next layer of graffiti lands on it and it gets covered yet again or until real estate developers or investors snap it up and pay for around-the-clock security presence. In the meantime, it’s available in its current state for film production, as the sign reveals.

STYLE: THIS FORMER EURO-AMBULANCE COULD BE YOUR NEW CALIFORNIA CRUISER

Style. It’s important. You know it. We know it.

When it comes to personal transport, the mode of transit you use says something about your personal style. This is true or truer in no place more perhaps than Southern California. A.k.a., SoCal, where the car is like your avatar to the outside world, as telling of your tastes and lifestyle to people in L.A. as the kind of jeans and sneakers you wear would be on the streets of NYC.

There are many ways to travel in style as you drive SoCal’s scenic ocean-hugging highways and byways, its beautiful canyons and deserts, the palm-tree-lined avenues and boulevards of its cities and towns, but perhaps none is more unique or expressive of a style than this newly for sale 1970s-era Mercedes Benz 3070 Sprinter-type Ambulance.

Don’t you just LOVE IT?!?! (It’s ok, it’s ok … This is a safe space. You can admit to such things here, savvy reader.)

This vehicle would make the most perfect surf-mobile or DIY camper, mais non? Look closely at its roof — yes, you see correctly: Those are siren lights. Yes, SIRENS!

This vehicle was once an ambulance somewhere in Europe, we’re guessing France or Germany, in all probability. Imagine the stories this vehicle could tell if it could talk.

The design of this vehicle is so European that it’s obvs perfectly suited to SoCal in its severe un-California-ness. It’s got style. And it’s for sale by owner, somewhere in Malibu for about $1,900. 

Imagine pulling up to the beaches of North San Diego County in this big, red behemoth, your party or brood spilling out of this thing and on to the warm sands of summer. Or cruising up to the curbside valet at Spago in this whip. Imagine the envy of other shoppers at Costco as you easily glide the obscene bulk of your purchases into the cargo hold of this van.

Imagine all the surfboards you could carry in this thing. Imagine dark desert highways, cool wind in your hair, the warm smell of calitas …

Imagine the sound of the klaxons on this things, the siren at full blare, but that European siren, the one that sounds like braying donkeys hee-hawing through synthesizer horns. A sound that brings heady memories of Paris, smoking Gitanes outside a bar in Belleville at 2:00am, old ladies walking tiny dogs, croissants, strong coffee … “Un creme, sil vous plait!” you audibly say to your self.

So different from the sirens of American ambulances and their elongated notes that sound like a wolf-howl fed through a broken Moog. A sound that conjures up the heady smell of  …. an airport Cinnabon.

But we digress.

TECHNOLOGY: STREET ARTWORK LITERALLY “PHONY”

An electric utility box along Sunset Blvd. in Silver Lake, in Los Angeles, has been painted as an old-school public pay telephone. See pic below.

From a distance you might be fooled into thinking you were spying a real pay phone, albeit a questionably larger-than-life-size one. But, of course, it’s fake, a phony — literally a “phony” in the original sense of the word.

The painting is cartoon-like, but accurate in its rendering of the design and details of the phone. The real public pay phones were once common in cities around the United States, but have all but completely disappeared from American life.

The artwork is a cute and clever reminder of how quickly technology has changed and how physically pervasive and visible it can be in our lives.

As by-product of the explosive growth and adoption of cellphones, and later smartphones, over the past two decades is the erasure of pay phones from the urban landscape.