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Culture and the Arts--and anything else that comes to mind.
The Future of LA
That seems to be the vision of the future of our city.
When we first came to L.A., it was race riots and
fires, and the threat that the coastline would give
way and fall into the ocean, taking much of the city
Since weâ€™ve been here, there have been
earthquakes, floods, brushfires and mudslides.
Now, global warming and melting ice caps threaten
the coastline in an entirely new way. And the rest
of the country couldn't care less.
Itâ€™s the movie industry that does it. The movie
industry causes the rest of the country to see us as
superficial, make-believe, glamorous and wealthy.
It sets us up for envy and an expectationâ€”even
anticipationâ€”of â€œjust deserts.â€�
Then in 1982, Ridley Scott's movie Blade Runner
presented a vision of a noir metropolis designed by
former Ford designer Syd Mead.
It took the reality of our city, with its tall downtown
buildings and its polyglot population, and pushed it
up several notches. What surprised me was how
familiar it seemed--when you ignored the flying cars
and the androids.
Then in 1990, sociologist Mike Davis, in his book
City of Quartz: Excavating the Future of Los
Angeles, projected a city that is at once utopia and
dystopia, shaped by economic forces that do away
with public spaces and turn the city into a fortress.
Davis pulled it all together in an article, "Downsizing
the Future: Beyond Blade Runner." He contrasts
the sun-kissed myth of real estate barons and
Chamber of Commerce boosters with the post-noir
vision of novelists like James Ellroy.
According to Davis, "social polarization and racial
tensions have provided fertile ground for the
criminalizing of non-whites, urban youth, and the
He painted three pictures that stand out to me:
1) the planned community of Irvine, which has "no
allotted space for the social relationships of
teenagers, nowhere for them lawfuly to be";
2) CityWalk, a "parallel urban reality repackaging
the best features of Olivera Street, Hollywood, and
the West Side";
3) and the recycling and salvage yards along the L.
A. River where immigrant workers dismantle
computers to the sound of rock 'n' roll in Spanish.
But most of us are just regular people--trying to
cope with our multiple threats as well as we can.
The rest of the time, we live normal lives, enjoying
our pleasant weather and easy access to
mountains, desert and ocean.
Some of us are visionaries--looking ahead to the
kind of future we might have, and trying to do
something positive about it.
This issue includes articles on how L.A. may not be
doomed; a couple of visionary innovators, and the
message of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
I hope you enjoy it and that you'll write me at b.
email@example.com with your response and your
ideas about the future of Los Angeles, or whatever
city your future is entwined with.