1181 Durfee Avenue: 1983 to 1986

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Between the fourth and sixth grades, you are seized by three deep and compulsive obsessions:             Marvel comic books (all things Daredevil and X-Men and Spiderman). BMX bicycles (yours: a second-hand Mongoose, unwieldy and spray-painted black after you stripped the frame down to its bare chrome-moly tubing). And video games. Your parents find all three activities doubtful.  Comic books are allowed since they get you reading something else besides MAD magazine and therefore seem remotely educational.  And when you're on your bicycle, you're out of the house, out of your parents' way, and doing something sort of athletic, even if the extent of this athletic activity is you and … [Read more...]

Making Place: Mapping South El Monte and El Monte

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South El Monte Arts Posse’s upcoming project “East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in South El Monte and El Monte” will use interdisciplinary workshops to create a digital archive. Our hope is that our archive will be accessible to community members, journalists, and scholars and thus produce more written and other forms of cultural production about El Monte and South El Monte. Ultimately, we hope this will produce a better sense of place. Over a four-week period (Jan to Feb 2014) we will be bringing a range of professionals from Mexico City to work in South El Monte and El Monte with community members. Together, we will create a range of primary sources--oral histories, creative … [Read more...]

Waters of Community, Waters of Hostility: The Messy History of Urban America and the Municipal Pool

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[Editor's Note: Just in time for summer heat waves, this is the first in a series of posts in the upcoming weeks on the swimming pool in American life.  For those interested in cultural history of the backyard pool, check out ToM's RR via @KCETDepartures - "A Dive into the Deep End: The Importance of the Swimming Pool in Southern California"] “Caddy Day,” read the Bushwood Country Club Swimming Pool sign in the 1980 comedy Caddyshack, “Caddies welcome 1:00 – 1:15.”    In the roughly five minute scene, the Bushwood Country Club grudgingly hosts its lowest rung of employee: the caddies.  As the motley crew of lower middle and working class white kids, the group’s ethnic population … [Read more...]

Helms, Zoots, Legos, Dinkins, Valley Girls, & Lebowski: ToM Contributors Around the Web

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Tropics of Meta contributors do not only spend their nights toiling at Wordpress and waiting by the phone to hear from our editors.  They have also published widely in sources online and off, from traditional peer-reviewed journals to blogs and news sites.  We wanted to compile some of the notable things our contributors have written in a wide variety of the platforms for some light Summer reading, links to which are included below: Adam E. Gallagher Palestine: A History of Nonviolence (Carnegie Endowment) Jason Resnikoff Thomas Crown's Global Vision (Paris Review) The Indescribable Frankenstein: A Short History of the Spectacular Failure of Words (Paris Review) Carribean … [Read more...]

Dog Days Classics: Lanny Budd, Upton Sinclair’s Ideal Idler

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"It was profoundly true that movements of the spirit came first, and that events of history were consequences thereof." -Upton Sinclair, Wide is the Gate Several years ago I was directed toward Upton Sinclair’s socialist-minded quasi-spy novels about a young man named Lanning Prescott Budd. The 11 books span the breadth of time from the onset of The Great War to the rise of the Cold War, but as I have been able to acquire only the first half of the series, my investigation has followed Lanny only so far as the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. A New York Times reflection on the books gives a decent introduction to the protagonist: Born in 1900, he was the illegitimate child of an … [Read more...]

The Food Truck Conundrum: Urban Politics and Mobile Eats

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When local DC cultural website DCist tweeted a celebratory announcement of the arrival of Chic-fil-A’s new roaming food truck in the nation’s capital, one might have thought the tweet rather ho-hum. At most, cries of corporate infringement on a burgeoning subculture might have been expected to ring out. However, within minutes several prominent DC restaurant proprietors responded with harsh admonishments, but not about aesthetics or subcultures. Perhaps most notably, Dean Gold owner of Cleveland Park’s popular Dino restaurant, rebuked DCist for publicizing the food truck of a company known to support anti-gay causes and legislation tweeting: ChickFilA_Fuckers hate gays and we need to care? … [Read more...]

Learning from Tiny Tower: Mobile Gaming and the Post-Industrial Society

Learning from Tiny Tower: Mobile Gaming and the Post-Industrial Society

Ever since Wii came along and swept everyone from me to my seventy year old retired Teamster uncle into the world of gaming, I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that video games have become a tool by which our future robot overlords are retraining us to perform various tasks after the big takeover.* Big Brain Academy, in particular, reminded me of those later scenes in 1984, when the Party had smashed every bone in Winston’s hands and he had to learn to write again using a big pencil, like a kindergartener. 4423… 3244. Do-re-mi…mi-re-do. Memorize the faces and match the frog to the dog. When a game tells me to take an order on the phone and then tell it back to the game – “calzone, risotto, and a … [Read more...]

Pedaling Your Politics: The Variable Meanings of Critical Mass

Pedaling Your Politics: The Variable Meanings of Critical Mass

Over the past two decades, the prevalence of biking in our nation’s cities has increased rapidly. Never mind unique creations like Portland, Oregon, today, places as diverse as New York, Chicago, San Diego, Seattle, and Austin have vibrant cycling cultures. In San Diego, a Saturday night without a fixie would be like Sunday morning without Mass (for those of us influenced by popery). The same could be said for Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Silver Lake, CA and elsewhere. This increase in bike culture stems from several forces. Environmental concerns, energy issues, aesthetics, and the appropriation of subcultures (after all it would be impossible to say that aspects of hipster aesthetics weren’t … [Read more...]

Recreation Revolution: Working Class Youth and the Creation of Skate Culture

Recreation Revolution: Working Class Youth and the Creation of Skate Culture

Children took the ruins of the 20th century and made art out of them. – Skip Engblom – Zephyr Skate Team co - founder Southern California often endures widespread malign for its “live and let live” sensibilities. Whether deserved or not, this critical eye regarding Southern California culture and its built environment has found expression in numerous works of the past 25 years from Mike Davis’s City of Quartz to more recent tomes like Lisa McGirr’s Suburban Warriors. Importantly, the suburban nature of its culture symbolized by Walt Disney’s societal landmark Disneyland has also been explored for its importance in projecting a new metropolitan form that privileged traditional domesticities … [Read more...]

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