Category Archives: Book Recommendations

The School on 103rd Street

The School on 103rd Street by Roland S. Jefferson is a fine political conspiracy novel as well as a stunning roman des riverains about early 1970s Los Angeles
The School on 103rd Street by Roland S. Jefferson is a fine political conspiracy novel as well as a stunning roman des riverains1 planted firmly in early 1970s Black Los Angeles
Today’s book is The School on 103rd Street, by Los Angeles author and psychiatrist Roland S. Jefferson. It seems reasonable to review it here for two reasons. First because it so vividly evokes the peculiar time and place of early 1970s Los Angeles, a spatiotemporal locality that’s dear to my heart and second because its subject matter, racial politics in Los Angeles (including a vast conspiracy the nature of which I can’t really reveal without spoiling the plot, which is something I’m not willing to do) aligns closely with the focus of this blog.

I’ll move on to the serious matters below, but first, check this description of protagonists Elwin Carter and Sable having an evening out in 1973:

The Cyrano building at 13578 Mindanao Way under construction in 1967.
They had dinner at Cyrano’s in Marina Del Rey and then went to the Name of the Game on Century Boulevard for some dancing. At midnight they went down to the Lighthouse to hear Gabor Zabo, and, on the way home, they dropped by Shelly’s Mann Hole and caught the last set by Gerald Wilson. Carter had taken the Ferrari, and, although Sable offered no resistance, she didn’t encourage him. From Shelly’s they headed down Highland toward Wilshire…3

Now, I don’t just read novels for Los Angeles geography porn, but I’m always happy to find it, especially when it has restaurants! Cyrano was a “fine dining” or “continental” sort of place, opened early on in Marina Del Rey. Given the character of the Marina in 1973, at the time Elwin and Sable had dinner there the joint was probably full of cocaine, swinging-in-the-worst-sense, disgusting 1970s facial hair, and gelatinous sleaze coating every surface.

Advertisement from the Los Angeles Times, December 14, 1969, announcing the grand opening of Cyrano.
Advertisement from the Los Angeles Times, December 14, 1969, announcing the grand opening of Cyrano.

The Name of the Game was a dance place in Inglewood at Century and Crenshaw. Here’s how the Los Angeles Sentinel described it on September 2, 1971:

It’s called The Name of The Game, and to many, many persons it’s the name of the place they find attractive and a lively cynosure for a truly good evening of pleasure. Located at 3000 W. Century boulevard, it has music by Dave Holden, and dancing space for frisky feet or those who just love to move and groove. There’s no cover charge, either. The Name of the Game also affords daily luncheon specials, and daily half-price cocktails. So what could be better for the jaded tastes than a visit to The Name of the Game?
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Unfortunately I can’t find a picture of the place. Note also that there was a sensational killing there in 1973. I don’t have space to go into it, but it was well covered in the Sentinel, starting here.11

Next they head off to the Lighthouse, a famous and still-active jazz club in Hermosa Beach which I’d discuss more if I gave even a fraction of a shit about either jazz or Hermosa Beach. Finally, “on the way home,” they head to Shelley’s Manne Hole which, coincidentally, played an important role in my last recommendation, so I won’t belabor it here. However, these two live in Baldwin Hills, meaning that the Manne Hole, at 1608 N. Cahuenga Blvd., is in no sense but the sense that this night should never end on the way home from Hermosa Beach. Ah, youth!

Now, despite my breathless temporogeographical musings, this novel is much more than a travelogue. It’s an immensely important document about the state of racial politics in Los Angeles eight years after the Watts Rebellion, with more than a little relevance for the present day (as well as being a bitchin’ thriller). Read on for details!
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Why We Think it is Fitting to Compare BIDs to Nazis

An essential book for understanding what it felt like to be a Nazi before everyone hated the Nazis.  Click on image for detailed information.
An essential book for understanding what it felt like to be a Nazi before everyone hated the Nazis. Click on image for detailed information.
This blog has two essential purposes: first, to publish public records obtained from the three Hollywood area BIDs we cover and their collaborators and second, to needle employees and supporters of those BIDs. Neither educating nor convincing anyone of anything are huge priorities of ours, and even the public revelation of our two purposes cuts against the grain somewhat. However, it’s recently come to our attention that some of our readers who, so to speak, come upon our work innocently, not involved with the BIDs but just having a general interest in the political life of Los Angeles, may consider our constant comparisons of BIDs with Nazis to be glib, puerile, shallow, offensive, trivializing, and/or so on. Some of the objections expressed have come to seem, after much consideration, to have merit and to deserve a serious response.
The Olympic Games were held in Berlin in 1936, three years after the Nazis came to power.  Adolf Hitler, still seen by the world as a plausible member of the international community, led the opening ceremony.
The Olympic Games were held in Berlin in 1936, three years after the Nazis came to power (and, coincidentally, four years after they were held in Los Angeles for the first time). Adolf Hitler, still seen by the world as a plausible member of the international community, led the opening ceremony.

To understand our position, it’s essential to imagine what it felt like to inhabit the Third Reich as a non-Jew in the early 1930s, before Nazism was a universal symbol of pure and essential evil. Germany wasn’t yet an international outcast, and non-Jewish Germans, for the most part, didn’t feel like a nation of demons. In many ways they were not. Concentration camps, now considered primarily sites of genocide, were opened by the Nazis in March 1933 immediately after their accession to power. At first they were used for holding political prisoners and criminals and people were actually released from them on occasion. There’s also no particular reason to think that the Nazi government had any concrete plans to exterminate Jews from the earth when they took power in 1933.
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Off the Emery Wheel

off.the.emery.wheel.1The other day I got the urge to read a little more about Thurgood Marshall. The Los Angeles Public Library’s catalog led me to a book by badass civil rights lawyer Jack Greenberg (read it, it’s fabulous: Crusaders in the Courts, although it’s not the book I’m recommending). That led me to look for other books by Greenberg, and thus appeared before me a book called Off the Emery Wheel which, as you can see, was published in 1935 by an outfit in Hollywood called the Cloister Press. Clearly this was a different Jack Greenberg, but nevertheless I thought it’d be interesting to take a look.
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The LAPL’s only copy is noncirculating, and, while a trip to the big library downtown is always nice even though it’s not plausible anymore to combine it with a visit to Grand Central Market since the goddamned-hipster-douchebag apocalypse and its associated fourteen dollar “revisionings” of the Egg McMuffin and suchlike nonsense, I didn’t really have time. However, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the stacks at UCLA, working on a historical project which you’ll read about here at some point, I’m sure (and which is at least somewhat related to the Hollywood BIDs, unlike this piece) so I thought I’d check their catalog. Well, Lo! And behold, they own a copy, which I promptly ordered up out of storage.
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And what a pleasant little volume to hold this turned out to be!

Inscription in UCLA's copy of Off the Emery Wheel
Inscription in UCLA’s copy of Off the Emery Wheel
I mean, the poetry is abominable (which is why I’m not reproducing any here), but the book itself is an object of desire. And it’s inscribed by the author as well! And note the tidy little logo of the Cloister Press! A little more poking around and I was blessed to lay my hands on a promotional bookmark from the press, which shows that it was formerly located at 1608 Cahuenga Boulevard.
The Manne-Hole at 1608 Cahuenga Boulevard as it looked in its prime
I already knew about some of the storied history of this building, formerly home to Shelly Manne‘s Manne-hole, the subject of a sidewalk historical marker, but not that there’d been an artsy literary press in there.
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The Utopia of Rules and the Violent Stupidity of the BIDs

David Graeber's fine book of essays provides theoretical tools essential to the understanding of the violence of the BIDs, the utter, abject stupidity of the BIDs and their minions, and the both correlative and causal links between them
David Graeber’s fine book of essays provides theoretical tools essential to the understanding of the violence of the BIDs, the utter, abject stupidity of the BIDs and their minions, and the both correlative and causal links between them
David Graeber is one of my eternal intellectual heroes, and I recommend most highly to anyone who can read his stunning, transformative work, Debt: The First 5000 Years. His most recent book, a collection of essays entitled The Utopia of Rules: On Technology Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy is, while less sweeping than Debt, essential reading. In particular, for the purpose of understanding the violence of the BIDs and the utter, abject stupidity of the BIDs and their minions, one essay, Dead Zones of the Imagination, stands out above the rest.
David Graeber, looking as brilliantly ironic and as ironically brilliant as ever he has done.
David Graeber, looking as brilliantly ironic and as ironically brilliant as ever he has done.

I’ll run through the premises and argument after the break, but a crucial conclusion that Graeber reaches here, and one whose relevance will be immediately obvious to sane readers of this blog, is that

…violence is so often the preferred weapon of the stupid. One might even call it the trump card of the stupid, since (and this is surely one of the tragedies of human existence) it is the one form of stupidity to which it is most difficult to come up with an intelligent response.

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Walking Around with Fante and Bukowski

walking.around.with.fante.and.bukowski.coverWalking Around with Fante and Bukowski is a new collection of essays by Patricio Maya, published by Grady Miller Books. If you’re interested in the literature and culture of Los Angeles you will certainly find something in here that will interest you. Although there’s not much in here that aligns explicitly with the subject matter of MK.org, there is plenty of relevant background material for the student of abusive political power in Los Angeles.

In the title essay, Maya recounts a journey he took following Arturo Bandini’s epic journey to Long Beach in search of Vera Rifkin. One of Maya’s themes here is what he calls “the tenuous dimension between books and reality”:

You walk downtown or on Wilshire, half stoned, asking yourself if here was where Nathanael West ate, if there was where William Saroyan brawled, if Bandini slept here, if Bukowski drank there. It is a kind of derangement. But there are worse ways to spend time when you are 19 years old.

Of course, if the BIDs had had their way it would have been where Nathanael West was arrested, where William Saroyan was arrested, and where Bandini was arrested. That’s the last I’ll say about that, read on.
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Anatomy of a Hustle

Consuelo Marshall: People of Los Angeles, this woman is NOT your friend.
Nine justices of the United States Supreme Court to Consuelo Marshall and the City of Los Angeles: Dear Consuelo and LA, are you fucking serious?!
I would like to recommend the book Anatomy of a Hustle to anyone who’s interested in practical aspects of the governance of the city of Los Angeles. It’s a memoir by Clinton Galloway of his attempt, along with his brother Carl, to get a franchise to bring cable television to South Los Angeles in the 1970s and beyond. They were thwarted at every turn by an astonishingly corrupt city government and an astonishingly corrupt federal judge, spawned in the bowels of City Hall itself; Consuelo Marshall. Things haven’t changed much over there.

Marshall’s blatantly biased decision in favor of her cronies at City Hall was reversed unanimously by the 9th circuit and again unanimously by the U.S. Supreme Court, and yet she continued to violate their orders and judicial ethics at every possible point for almost a decade after the big courts remanded the case back to her with a note attached saying roughly: “Dear Consuelo and city of Los Angeles, are you fucking serious?!”
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