Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More L.A. Doom

James Howard Kunstler visited L.A., and doomcasted his 4-day trip. A 34-minute interview which includes a few grains of truth, but mostly sounds like a series of tired old clichés: L.A. is a punishing place; beats you down; all about motoring; everything else is incidental; costs you $1,000 a week in parking; all about making deals; all spread out; unurban; acultural; pornographic; last hurrah in a certain way of doing things...etc.

The sycophantic interviewer -- an East Coaster whose opinion of L.A. was even more caricatural than Kunstler's -- concluded that Angelenos would undoubtedly scoff at all the clichés. They did: Curbed LA posted a summary of the talk, which attracted a plethora of wise-cracking but also well-argued comments. In a nutshell: Kunstler is nothing more than a drive-by journalist, whose expertise in urbanism boils down to a 30-year life in a small NY State community, and a nostalgy for Norman Rockwell.


The Daily Connoisseur said...

This irks me terribly. L.A. is such a great city- like we were discussing, you really have to search for its gems but they are there. There is a reason why so many people live here and want to live here. Boo to his negativity and Bravo to you for calling him out on it!

LA Frog said...

One of Curbed LA's readers coined it: drive-by journalism.

L.A. bashing is fashionable, and often comes from "pundits" who visit the city (if they even do) with preconceived ideas, and follow the same beaten track that only reinforces their own clichés. They rarely make an effort to actually explore the city and find out what it is really about.

L.A. is a unique place, with a unique energy and urban fabric, and that's what makes it so fascinating. But it requires a minimum sense of adventure -- something that escapes those journalistes de salon.

The continuing fascination the city exerts on people also breeds envy and jealousy, which translates into bashing. But as the French say, Mieux vaut faire envie que pitié.

est said...

LA is indeed a great city, and it's not an easy-to-like one, It takes time. But some if not most of the clichés about LA are actually true and in my experience, it is possible to be both fascinated and scared by this city. when I lived in LA, I did feel sometimes that the city was going to explode.

LA Frog said...

@Est - I remember your blog posts from when you were living in L.A., working with the disenfranchised in Downtown: I would feel the city ready to explode, too. L.A. is indeed a schizophrenic place, but so are other cities of similar size. It isn't all Noir though, even if it's fashionable to pretend so.

You're right: L.A. is not an easy place to like at first because it is so spread out, so "out there" for Westeners -- Euros, East Coasters & all, even NoCal. It takes time to tame it. But its difference is not a fault; it's simply the reflection of its unique character.

L.A. has a lot of positive traits, and is a fantastic lab for what it means to be, evolve, and survive as a megalopolis. That so-called urban experts like Kunstler fail to see it only speaks to their myopia.