Friday, November 17, 2006

THE LIGHTS OF L.A. COUNTY LOOK LIKE DIAMONDS IN THE SKY: I've been meaning to blog this for days now, but there's good news and bad news from up above Los Angeles. The good news is that the Griffith Observatory has finally, at long last, reopened, and it looks fantastic. In a city whose most prominent architectural landmarks are frequently shiny, empty shells, confrontational one-liners, decaying and figuratively buried treasures*, and grotesque kitsch, the Observatory stands alone. It is an elegant, period-appropriate piece of WPA-era (but privately-funded) deco work that perfectly embodies both its function and its aspiration. It's nice to see it all gussied up.

The bad news is that in fixing and expanding the building, the city made some unfortunate choices. First, you can't just drive there. You have to make a reservation to take a shuttle from several miles away. This is a disaster. The Observatory was a great place to go on a whim with kids or out-of-town guests, even if you weren't going in. Nice grassy lawn, unparalleled views of the city. Plus, how am I supposed to play chicken for Natalie Wood's affections now?

Second, the Observatory has turned its back on its historic role as the birthplace of the laser rock show. I saw my first Laser Floyd show in Seattle when I was in the seventh or eighth grade, and I saw many thereafter -- and Laser Rock, and Laser Zeppelin, and even Laser Billy Squier too -- and have good memories, bad memories, and lack of memories of those nights. I guess I'm just sad that there wasn't room halfway between the Sunset Strip and the Milky Way for a fewscore teens looking for the right visual and musical accompaniment (chemical accompaniment sold separately) to a listless Friday night.

*This one's getting an expensive restoration too -- apparently paid for in part, and in true Hollywood fashion, by roles as Jack Rudolph's dining room in the S60 pilot and as Ellen DeGeneres's yoga studio in the Amex commercials.

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