Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Oldie But Goodie: "Morning Eyeliner, Havok's Written Word, and Los Angeles: The Concrete Jungle"

Hello All,

Since I've moved back to the States from my 2-year post-graduate school trek in Edinburgh, Scotland, I've been brewing up a wealth of new articles which I'm proud to say are well in production. I'll have one up later this week which will get you up to speed with my transition back to New York. In the meantime, here's an extremely old "post-of-a-post-of-a-post" from my MySpace blog dated 2 Dec 2006. Since then, my understanding of the world, especially urban and landscape contexts, have changed...maybe dramatically. I suppose however that I've decided to post this because I find it quite interesting that almost 6 years ago I was traveling to and back from a long-term stay in Europe. The story is the same today, only I'm hoping I'm much wiser, and maybe a better writer (haha).

Maybe there's another layer of analysis to this: If the world truly runs on time, seasons, and planetary alignment, will I be having another blog such as this? A blog about change, transformation, and understanding? I'll keep an eye out. In 2018, if I'm still alive, I'll write a blog about it, and maybe, maybe, I'll live long enough to write the next one. How about you? What were you doing 6 years ago, and has your life come full-circle?

As always, please no judging or non-constructive criticism on my article and other people's comments. I would like to maintain an open and healthy dialogue amongst us readers. A humble request from an amateur blogger. =)

Love, Lesley Ann

"Morning Eyeliner, Havok's Written Word, and Los Angeles: The Concrete Jungle"

I've just discovered this morning, as I sojourned to Mom's bedroom to use le toilet , (John was using the shower in the other bathroom) that I have a grandmother who is an English Phd and has written a book about Mom's father's side of the family tree.....sooo, we'll be taking some family photographs in the backyard this afternoon to place in her book. Mom spoke enthusiastically about this as she applied her eyeliner. You can tell she's excited when she raises her pitch while she dotes on her plans for the day.'s almost as if she's yelling at you down a hallway...but that's Mom, and that's why I love her.

Speaking of writing, I woke up around 6:45 am today and couldn't get back to sleep. I suppose I'm still in work-schedule mode- 6:45 am: wake, 7:00 am: go back to sleep, 7:30 am: shower, 8:00 am: get my ass to work pronto! Since I couldn't go back to sleep, I decided to dip into some of Davey Havok's tasty blog literature (yes, I know, I'm hooked on MySpace....ooh the agony. Blame Han ^_~). For the more 'seasoned' writers, it may not be your cup of tea. I'll leave it up to you to decide....

In retrospect, it's a charm to read his work, and I honestly believe that if he committed some time to write a novel (a biography would be splendid), it would be just as insatiable as his music. Albeit, I'm not an English major, a psychology major, nor anyone worthy of being a critic, I must say that the way he writes has an easy flow to the prose. Somehow, there's a transparency that maintains a sense of mystery and reserve that is elegantly appropriate for his position as a popular singer, lyricist, psychologist, and writer (ok, maybe more like a renaissance man)....It's a good feeling to know that he (and I'm sure for many as well) is aware of how psychologically theraputic writing is, and therefore indulges on pixelating his thoughts on the monitor...Indeed, a creative spirit. For, I believe if someone like himself were to abstain from writing, it would be like Hiroshima in the brain.

I have further resolved that, being an architect, I must follow his example and write a little of what I know in my career. I have acquiesced to Michael's suggestion to save my architectural creative energy for my portfolio (which I AM going to work on today) and take an excerpt from one of my previous Deviant Art journal entries.

If you're so inclined to learn a little bit about architecture and urbanism (actually, it's quite long) then please read the (un-edited) February 19,2006 entry below. As I leave you today, I promise I'll make an effort to be more visually restorative and post some pictures online:

DeviantArt Journal Entry
Sunday: February 19, 2006
"Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation."

Dear Reader,

I'm just going to speak from the depths of my tangled mind. I don't know where to begin, nor do I know how to make this journal entry pretty. Here goes......It's been almost half a year since I've been to Deviant Art. Months traveling around Europe has been an exciting experience as well as excrutiating (as I was separated from my love for 4 months), but seeing as it may, I've survived and now I'm back in the United States....hopefully a little wiser, and with greater understanding of my built environment. For those living in Europe, I'd say you've got yourself a sweet deal for living in a country that encourages public transporation.

Los Angeles is a very pedestrian unfriendly city (as well as much of America), and using a car as a basic means of getting yourself from Point A to Point B very much segregates you from your own world and reality....I don't like it one bit. I think this keeps you away from experiencing diversity, and in some ways can encourage racism and prejudice that cities like Los Angeles suffers from on a daily basis. For example, you're stuck in your car on the 5 South during rush hour in the sweltering heat. It's been 45 minutes since you've gotten out of work and you're still stuck in your steel prison. You think it's ridiculous that you could probably get home faster by walking if the traffic keeps up. Then, an old asian female driver cuts in front of you and you break abruptly. What upsets you even more is that damn stereotype that old asian female drivers are just "naturally horrible at driving". Could it be that your anger from the traffic jam is escalated by being cut off by a minority with a stereotype that's been engrained in your mind from daily living? Should you be angry at asian drivers, or should you be angry for their actions? Could these actions be avoided if you lived closer to home? If not, then what's wrong with the urban structure of cities like Los Angeles that has caused us to work, shop, and dine so far away from home? What would the quality of our lives be like if we could choose to spend those extra hours in any way we please?

If you were in a pedestrian friendly city, where chunks of the city are like smaller more dense neighborhoods where work is just a 10 minute walk away, or at most a 10 minute train ride away, don't you think that would give you more time to enjoy the better things in life? Being an architect and an emerging urban designer, I realize these urban qualities, especially after analyzing the urban models of cities like Paris, Berlin, and Barcelona. The reason why these historical cities are so successful and have unfathonable perseverence is because of the density. They have their own ways of avoiding 'Sprawl', a term that cities like Los Angeles suffers from, because instead of growing vertically, it grows horizontally, feeding into the suburbian soils of the Valleys. Life in Europe, to me, seems to be a bit more enlightened because the average urban European spends more time outside of the vehicle walking from Point A to Point B. These individuals can enjoy the open air and burn those extra calories instead of sitting idol inhaling the exhaust and simmering heat of a traffic jam. This aspect of pedestrian transportation in the European life I greatly admire and I would like to aim towards if I ever become an urban planner or a liscened architect.

I'd rather prefer walking to the outdoor neighborhood market and go shopping down boulevards like Friedrichstrasse (Berlin), Las Ramblas (Barcelona), and Champs du Elissees (Paris), than getting stuck in block-like complexes such as shopping malls, parking structures, and K Marts. I understand that these elements can form the American way of life, and our history has made life here the way it is....It's unavoidable, and I know that it can be insulting for anyone to say that this makes American life dull, for who am I to be so biased? Coming from Los Angeles suburbia, I can see the advantages of American commercialism- Strip Malls, Grocery Store chains, and fast food restaurants- for they are important resources for society and a way of (and to make a) living.

I think there's hope for suburbia yet in terms of growth and development. Areas of densification are happening in portions of Los Angles (and LA County) such as Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade, Colorado Boulevard- Old Town Pasadena, and smaller establishments such as The Village- Claremont. In these dense areas, there's life happening both in the day and at night and the spaces are highly desireable to just stroll and enjoy the urban fabric because it's safe. I believe that Downtown Los Angeles does not fall into this category because there is an unbalance between work and living spaces. There are more office/ work buildings than there are residential buildings on ground level, there are no grocery stores, sparce open green space (like parks), and the shopping areas and restaurants are not as successful as expected for a structurally dense area such a Downtown LA. Why is this? This is because the buildings are mostly occupied by workers outside of the city (such as the Inland Empire and Orange County areas where land is more affordable), and the people who do live in the city are the upper-working-class who retreat in sky scraper like buildings. At night, the city is deserted sans the homeless and the random vehicles that zoom down the empty streets at dangerous speeds.

If one were to look at Downtown in a different perspective, the area is so dense with empty sky scrapers that during the evening, the ground floor transforms into a hazardous zone because the pedestrian level in Los Angeles is known to be home for those can't afford to live in expensive apartments and own vehicles- that which physically segregates the upper working class and impoverished. In that sense, "No one walks in LA." As for the upper-working-class, they spend their evenings either at home entertained with their desktops and/or cable televisions, or they're out in their vehicles stuck in evening traffic trying to get to places that ARE safer at night such as Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Pasadena, area where there is more safety in large numbers.

Taking this into perspective, the American model of an urban environment versus the European model is quite underdeveloped. Europe obviously has had more time to develop and densify itself over the last thousands of years with history to back up its culture, as opposed to America where we've only had the last 200 years to really have an opportunity to become the power we are today (with Los Angeles in particular, that's only had the last 100 years to develop into what it is now). Taking this into account that I am an architect and an aspiring urban planner, I could see there is much work to be done for the identity of America as being the country of the future. How can architects, urban planners, and engineers lead America to becoming better than it is now? What are their responsibilities? What are potential solutions to some of our vehicle/pedestrian issues? How do we make the average American walk again? One thing is for sure, I am not going to overlook these issues and design a building just so that it looks cool and is a self-actualization of my ego. That is selfish and unrealistic, for no building can be successful if it's designed because I simply "...wanted it to look that way.", "Bigger is better", and because "I think it's better that way." I am going to design according to sustainability, and that which will persevere throughout history and give a sense of identity in the community it connects itself with. Traveling abroad has taught me these values- that going back to the historical lands of civilization will teach us where humanity has made mistakes and where humanity has been successful. Then, we must take it back to America as a second chance to improve and create that balance we all strive for.

Thank you and much love,
Lesley Ann

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