Keeping it Current

one of current tv's hollywood buildings

one of current tv's hollywood buildings

Started my first week interning at Current TV, with the Vanguard journalism dept.

A radical group of people for sure…I hope to get in the know.

As expected, a laid-back, hip, young office vibe. But they’re true to their work and are on top of their game.

And on day 2, I got to watch porn….while eating donuts! The thanks goes to Christof, the Current correspondent working on a documentary on the porn industry for the new season of Vanguard, starting Oct. 22.

[Emmy-nominated investigative documentary series, it seems is what we call Vanguard]

I watched — well, fast forwarded through the explicit scenes and slowed down for the dialogue — “Space Nuts” and “Curse Eternal,” two “big” budget pornographic flicks. I say “big” because I’m not sure the size of the budgets nor the comparison to Hollywood films….I didn’t realize there was really a story here until today. Makes sense though – the “real” acting and art that goes into porno DVDs is being undercut by Internet profiteers in the porn biz and gonzo porn stuff.

Sex aside, being behind the scenes a very interesting company that puts out really excellent documentaries and media for the 18-34 demographic should prove quite awesome and hopefully fruitful.

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IN MUSIC THIS WEEK: Because I can’t blog enough about all the artists I want to, you need to check out the latest from Mute Math, Muse, Imogen Heap and Bat For Lashes.

I heard “Backfire” from Mute Math @ The Press in Claremont tonight, which was surprising but awesome. Saw these guys open for Mae freshman year of college at The Glasshouse in Pomona. Only caught the end of their set, but I was immediately impressed: weird noises, a proggy Radiohead feel, melodic verses, fast-paced beats, catchy keyboard and guitar riffs, with a soothing Coldplay-esque voice that can lull you to sleep and get you dancing all at the same time.

>>download the title track, “Armistice,” from the widget on the right! Listen more on LaLa or Myspace

Imogen Heap and Bat For Lashes are my latest lady obsessions, both creating definitively unique sounds through synthesizer manipulation contrasting organic instrumentation like ethnic drums and chimes. I highly, highly recommend. Especially if you’re looking for something. They’re eye-openers. Also caught BfL @ Outside Lands San Francisco a few weeks ago. Couldn’t tell if the girl was hot or not! Girlfriend and I couldn’t quite figure her out. See for yourself below:

batforlashes

Hard to be healthy – the bad, bad food saga

workbuyconsumedie

It’s hard to be healthy.

To me, healthy is in comparison to what I was my senior year of college: extraordinarily bus, underslept, and ferociously hungry.

I had little no time to make my own food. I barely grocery shopped (except for beer) and got by on Panda Express and Subway, with occasional sushi, In-N-Out, and Cantina Express.

None of it is healthy. Maybe a few healthy ingredients……like the lettuce on my burgers or the raw fish in my sushi.

But that of course was combined with all sorts of not so good stuff or decent stuff, but too much of it. [See: carborice, carbobread, fattyfriedorangechicken, fattavacado, etc.)

However, since summer struck and my former schedule (consisting of graduating, editor-in-chief duties at The Poly Post, 16 units, hint of a social life, a weekly column, a local beat and more) has turned into an internship at KPCC 89.3 three days a week. That means a LOT more free time.

SO I’ve been cooking, or at least making: lots of salads and smoothies and almost no fast food. Not to mention, regular exercise 2-4 days a week, compared to ZERO days a week during the busy school year.

But I’ve learned quickly that it’s not easy to eat right. It’s not hard if you eat every meal at home, or maybe live in San Francisco where the food is organic and excellent. But round these parts in Pomona, we’ve got fast food, fast food, fast food, and a couple liquor stores. Sure, there’s plenty of Mexican restaurants, but I can only eat tacos so much. [Sorry SoCalians]

I’m looking for more options. Maybe we should have some food parties. I just got some good recipes from my Jewish mother. Chicken burgers, chicken chili, ricotta pancakes, and a blender cookbook full of new ideas.

But what about when I’m interning at Current TV in Hollywood [6860 Lexington Ave]?

What about Pomona/Claremont area? I know plenty of spots I hit up in both towns. But most are either grossly unhealthy or more expensive than I want when I’m looking for a bite. Dante’s Deli and Boulevard Bagels on Diamond Bar, Cantina Express and Buen Taco for Mexican, Back Abbey, The Press, sushi and whatevers in downtown Claremont….

But I’m pretty sure a giant Chipotle burrito ain’t exactly what the doctor ordered either. But I have a big appetite, so salads don’t tend to fill me up unless there’s a lot of meat in them.

Everywhere I look, I see chains. That’s LA for you, right? Fuck that! Gimme something good to eat!

Fresh&Easy isn’t bad, but I’m not big on prepared meals. I tend to be disappointed. Prefer something actually fresh. Give em a sandwich bar! And Trader Joe’s in San Dimas is legit, especially for good sausage and beer and pirate’s booty. But after seeing SuperSize Me, reading all this crap about healthcare (I’m uninsured!), and diabetes and obesity, and waiting to see Food, Inc…..it’s bad out there.

Just as always, the corporate monsters survive. And they blame Americans for being fat. Consumers are only half to blame in my opinion. Now I’m not suing McDonald’s if I gain a couple pounds, but even its healthiest options (like the McSalad Shaker, ooohhh how clever) become just as fatty once you dress it. And who wants dry leaves? Not I!

I haven’t found my health groove yet…but going on a run today, so that’ll take the guilt off all the Starbucks I’ve been devouring (yuck!). Luckily and unluckily, my girlfriend works there and happens to love the place…and circumstances are, they’re fucking everywhere we are. Now I love me some iced coffee, but the cream and sugar make it probably close to the caloricness of a carmel macchiato (maybe?). Speaking of, *Bux has taken all the transfats out of their fresh frozen pastries. And yes, at least the licensed store on Cal Poly’s campus, they’re delivered the day or days ahead of time, and put in the pastry case frozen the night before, to be perfectly cool and moist upon your 7 a.m. nasty blueberry scone purchase.

Death to us all via mass consumerism, monopolization, and bad, bad food.

Pomona’s Big Changes

downtown-pomona-fox-theater

The Fox Theater is one of the newer attractions in a revitalized downtown Pomona.

Pomona is working to change its reputation from the inside out.

A city known for gang violence and graffiti has been working to revitalize the downtown and breathe new life into an area that has fallen apart from years of neglect.

A revitalization effort has started turning Downtown Pomona into a vibrant community of galleries, restaurants, bars and clubs.

For some, it’s an “island of safety” within Pomona.

But residents are unsure about what’s next. The Downtown Pomona Owner’s Association, a group created to improve the business district, has helped to usher in the facelift.

A.S. Ashley, a local artist, resident  and chair of the Pomona Arts Colony Association, says that what’s good for the city is good for the district and what’s good for the district is good for the individual.

“It’s taken decades to get it to this point where it is actually living,” Ashley said.

The downtown is creating new impressions on locals who used to stray away from Pomona for fear of their safety.

John Clifford, who writes for various Pomona blogs and is vice chairman for Friends of the Pomona Fox, said he used to spend all of his time in Claremont because Pomona was “downright scary.”

“There’s been no life in Pomona for a long time,” Clifford said.

Pomona, the fifth largest city in Los Angles County, suffers from reoccurring gang violence, prostitution and homelessness.
Pomona’s crime rate is 1.31 times the national average, and violent crime is more than double that of neighboring cities such as Diamond Bar, Chino Hills and Claremont.

Of major concern to citizens is that Pomona police close only 44 percent of their homicide cases, compared to 70 percent nationally.

Residents have written submissions to the local newspaper, calling “abusive police practices and individual police misconduct” reasons for not solving murder cases.

This is in a city of around 155,000 that is reported to have 21 documented gangs and 1,320 gang members as of 2006.

Clifford first experienced Pomona in 1972, when he first came to town to work on a political campaign. His office was in the Second Street Mall, the commercial hub of Pomona Valley until the 1950s.

“Buildings were vacating, long-term businesses left town, the mall was rife with gangs and graffiti and all kinds of problems,” Clifford said.

Second Street was home to a thriving post-World War II suburbia until the 1960s, when shoppers were drawn away to the newly built Montclair Plaza and Eastland Mall in West Covina. Pomona attempted to compete by creating of a new kind of pedestrian-friendly mall, but the project failed by the early 1970s, leaving many of the businesses vacant and the streets empty.

Deterioration continued as rents plummeted and lower income individuals moved into the area. The population is now around 65 percent Latino, a historically lower socioeconomic group according to the Census Bureau.

Today, Clifford and other residents are comparing downtown Pomona to Old Town Pasadena, Long Beach and even Hollywood.
The common thread within these cities is a downtown revitalization effort in the form of a Property and Business Improved Business District, commonly known as a PBID.

A PBID forms when businesses get together and agree to pay fees for special benefits the city can’t afford.

Those benefits include security, maintenance and promotion.

The district was recently renewed for 10 years, with a $712,000 budget for the first year. Much of the money goes to security, with the rest devoted to street improvements, marketing and professional services.

Business owners are assessed based on the size of their property.

Carolyn Hemming, district president, said the additional taxes have helped the area succeed.

“The DPOA is cleaning up the reputation of Pomona,” Hemming said. “Now it’s a destination.”

Hemming says it has taken a while for people to start feeling like they could come downtown again, and the improved district has been the catalyst in developing the community of unique shops and entertainment.

“I really want to see this place succeed,” said Hemming, who was born and raised in Pomona.

The improved district is bordered on the north and south by First Street and Mission Boulevard, and on the west and east by South Rebecca Street and South Eleanor Street, respectively. Garey Avenue runs through the middle.

David Armstrong, a downtown property owner, wants the city to create laws and ordinances to govern the maintenance, making sure businesses are held accountable for their own trash.

“It’s really up to the City Council to support the P-BID with laws and ordinances that will benefit everybody.”

Armstrong said he has seen the downtown change drastically from a family-oriented daytime business district to a nighttime entertainment atmosphere.

He’s concerned the city needs to better prepare for the newfound crowds coming downtown at night.

“If you bring three or four thousand people down here at a time, you’re going to have a certain amount of problems,” Armstrong said, mentioning parking and cleanup.

These are all good problems as far as Hemming is concerned.

“I’m happy to see trash because that means people were here,” she said.

Hemming, who has owned a shop downtown for more than 20 years, said she used to keep a shotgun and handgun ready at all times.

“Now that isn’t the case,” Hemming said. “I leave them at home where they’re not needed.”

The district has made progress in cleaning up the downtown and meeting business owners’ needs, adjusting trash pickup cycles for people like Armstrong.

The Pomona police have also been active in recent years, making efforts to address the gang problems.

The police department’s primary focus has been enforcement, to catch criminal gang members, and prevention, to steer youth away from getting involved.

Violent crime was more than double in the 1990s compared to what it is today.

Andrew Kanzler, a Cal Poly Pomona student who lives in south Pomona, sees the overall improvement as a step in the right direction.

He goes downtown regularly and has started to bring his friends.

“The city obviously needs help,” he said. “And I think by amping the businesses that have the most traffic, which is the downtown area, that will be able to pump money back into the city.”

Pomona’s connection to higher education is ample, with Cal Poly Pomona, Western University and DeVry University located within the city and plenty of other colleges nearby.

Most of Western University, located centrally downtown, was carved out of the new district map because the university handles its own security and promotion. But Senior Vice Provost Greg Guglchuk said that the school is onboard with the changes.

Cal Poly Pomona’s presence in the district is marked by its downtown center, which hosts galleries and children’s events.

However, Kanzler knows that many of his fellow students aren’t interested in what Pomona has to offer.

“People go to our school and they’re expecting two things. Some people … like the quietness of it. Some people … want more. If the downtown grows, that will provide what is missing on campus, but also keeps the people that want the quiet campus happy at the same time.”

The previous City Council helped modernize Pomona a few years ago through installing wireless Internet access in a mile radius downtown.

But memories of children like 3-year-old Ethan Esparza, who died in a gang-related drive-by murder in 2006, remind residents of what’s going on in the rest of the city.

The Pomona police have developed the Gang Resistance Education and Training program to work on discouraging gang involvement and deglamorizing the behaviors glorified in movies and media.

As the city tightens its belt to balance its budget for the state, essential programs and services are being cut, from tree trimming and street cleaning to fewer police on duty.

With the downtown district renewed, a friendlier Pomona is starting at the heart of the city.

Clifford thinks Pomona is near tipping point, and that is has the downtown has the potential to flourish and give hope to the rest of the city.

“Today you can go downtown [in Pomona] on the second or fourth Saturday and the place is jammed,” Clifford said. “People are walking – it’s very pedestrian orientated and it’s absolutely wonderful.”