Thank you for WAR, Anthony

Last Friday I was being ubered to El Segundo by Anthony. When I recognized a song by the Bee Gees he corrected me, it was a remake by Beyoncé (sorry Semna, I should have known). I am so glad we went on chatting about music. He told me to join the Tasteofsoul Festival next day on Crenshaw Boulevard  and to go listening to WAR.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSo I did. What fun! WAR (originally “Eric Burdon and War”) turns out to be the oldest still existing band based in LA with a fabulous latin funky style. The lead singer is Lonnie Jordan, the only one left from the very first day (1969), with mesmerizing musicians around him. While Lonnie, at the age of 68 was running around on stage like a teenager, I could read from the public how the songs were deeply carved in everyones memory and body!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES



innovationLA garden session1

Monday evening we sat with two dozen young LA-ers on some rooftop garden deep south on Central Avenue, warming ourselves at four energetic designers. They told us how they became innovators of the urban planning proces and what they found out about a more human-centered planning process. The context of this #gardensessions is a week full of events organized by .

Graphic designer Colleen Corcoran, who started Cyclavia in LA, stresses the importance of failure and experiment in a fun and safe environment. A small activity with a large impact. Yes, it may cost a couple dollars to organize a Cyclavia, but it turns out these are the moments where people use public transport for the first time or start biking. New bike-lane layouts are being tested. You should, though, have a robust system of data-collecting. So, work together with the government.

Designer Jessica Bremner from Kounkuey Design Initiative advocates tactical urbanism. She considers a project successful if the community takes full ownership. In LA a long period of bad planning practices has to be rectified. Start with the people in need. Participation, independent of scale, is the clue. People know very well what is going on; it is already an issue in the community before it trickles down into government.

Architect Elisabeth Timme from LA-Más mentions her drive to address different scales of engagement. She promotes the tactical urbanism and the experiment as one strain, but working at the systemic level as an other strain, like reviewing the methode of zoning plans in LA (Recode LA), an imperative to allow densification.

Designer Bora Shin represents the design-lead in the Innovation team of the Los Angeles Mayors office. She stresses the importance of design at leadership level. She sees how managing community design practice is getting better implemented in the governmental planning proces.

Keyword of the evening turns out to be fluidity. Fluidity in ownership, fluidity between the city and designteams like these, fluidity between scales and not in the least fluidity in plan: Elisabeth lobbies for an alternative timeline that doesn’t show the end but is the beginning of an discussion.

Yes, social inequity, resource-scarcity and rapid change are themes LA is dealing with, but all women convey a comforting trust in the process as long as the people who are at stake are seriously involved.

Leaving the rooftop, 5 guys in green shiny T-shirts with gold prints wished me a safe bike-ride home. When I asked about their shirts, they proudly stated to guard Central Avenue as “The Historical Jazz District,” explaining how this street is going to revive, like it used to be, long before they were born.


Sketch of the day

April 4th, Classical Underground.

About every two  months, we drive to an industrial desert in Torrance and, with salad and wine, enter one of the nondescript halls. There we join Alexis Steel in his art studio, packed with his large symbolist paintings. The Ukrainian painter organizes a music program for an audience of more than 100 people. Last monday we tremendously enjoyed listening to the singer Delaram Kamareh and the violinist Asya Sorshneva and many more. He says “Art is Great,”  we say “Alexis the Great.”


Sketch of the day

Oktober 31, 2015

The Fighting Tango

In a tango book club we discussed the essay “A History of the Tango” by Jorge Louis Borges (1955). Borges emphasizes that apart from the sexual aspects, violence should be considered the very nature of tango. He refers to violence as part of vir (man), and virtus (courage), the fight as a celebration. This ‘joy of combat’ is best transmitted by music, Borges states, even better than by words. According to Borges, the tango degenerated and lost this element of pure courage in the 20th century, while a moral tone entered the dance.

One of the book club attendants wondered how this nature of violence relates to the tango we are dancing nowadays, where we put so much emphasis on connection. Has the violence disappeared or has it been sublimated in certain movements, like the gancho, or the volcado? Or does Borges refer more to the party in general, the milonga, than to the dance itself? Although some of us experienced fights during a milonga, these are a rarity. Is this force sublimated too, in the well-regulated but subtle game of who dances with whom?

After diving a little deeper into the work of Borges, I see another layer of his statement. Borges despised nationalism. He revolted against the idea of national identity and of seeing the tango as a symbol of Argentinian history. He is much more in favor of the rebel who is lead by his own passion. This rebel can be found between the poor and uneducated. I wonder if Borges ever danced the tango himself… but milonga-lyrics he wrote!

Milonga of Albornoz

Milonga of Albornoz

Milonga of Albornoz (translation by Alastair Reid)

Someone has counted the hours
Someone knows the days,
Someone impervious
to hurry or delay.

Whistling a local milonga,
Albornoz sidles by.
under the brim of his black hat,
morning is in his eye.

The morning of this day,
1890, or so.
On the borders of Retiro
they have lost count by now

of his loves and his games of truco
lasting till dawn, and the dangers-
knife fights with army sergeants,
with his own kind, and with strangers.

More then one thug and crony
has sworn to end his life.
In some corner of the Southside
it waits for him, the knife.

Not one knife but three.
The day had barely dawned
when they faced him, three of them,
and the man took his stand.

A knife thrust found his heart.
His face gave nothing away.
Alejo Albornoz died
as something everyday.

I think that it would please him
that they still tell his story
in a milonga. For time
is both loss and memory.