A funny thing happened on my way to the internet.

I was going to go to the SiteLA’s (SiteLA is a Quicksilver marketing campaign) Heya party on Friday, August 22nd.

The transportation event sponsored by Toyota??!!!! I know. How could I NOT comment on that? How can I NOT make fun of SiteLA (I’ve got nothing to lose I’m not in Quicksilver’s demographic. Black girls don’t surf.) I think it’s fab that inspired people who are getting nonunion wages to make a very long commercial are doing inspiring things, but come on.

On Friday evening I was going there to make fun of the “random” coolness (and get free beer,) but then I got an email with a bit from Tina Dupuy.

Tina’s writing on the SiteLA topic had gone way above and beyond what I could now do and since I’m not a hack, I decided to give it a miss.

I will just link and send her article anytime someone brings up SiteLA and how I’m “really” missing out.

I wanted to feel something real this weekend, so I decided to go The Southern California Library in South Central. They were having a book sale. I thought it was going to be the normal book sale, you know lots of old weird guys and crappy books, but no this was the best book sale ever.

Southern California Library

I took the Metro 204 to get there.

There was a DJ, fruit, limeade and one of the best book collections on urban development, ethnicity, ethnography, transportation, Los Angeles and just many other topics that I’m very in to.

It was an endless supply of books.

It’s times like this I wish I had a bike trailer.

One gem of a book I picked up with “Los Angeles” by Morrow Mayo. At the time this book was released you could tell it was a big deal. The publisher was Alfred A Knopf and the author, Morrow Mayo was getting regularly published by Harpers and the Nation in the 1930s.

I assumed that for his time, he was a pretty liberal guy.

I was shocked with the sentiments of this book. A book written by a progressive. BusTard (my partner in crime) began reading it on the bus and got a bit nervous and put it away.

“What the hell is wrong with you,” me.
“I can’t talk about it now,” BusTard.
“Is there something wrong with the book? It’s very beautiful,” me.
We had unknowingly purchased a piece of racist LA literature (but still informative.)

How were more “conservative” people thinking, if this guy was liberal? I guess I could ask. Some of those people are still alive and making policy. Ok maybe not (that sounded pretty dramatic though.) Not many 100 year olds making policy, but they may have been alive 15 years ago.

From the chapter, Enter the Gringo:

(People who decorate their writing with sarcasm should probably note that this Mayo guy pretty much invented no depth LA sarcasm, note the no depth line.)

Mayo in referring to the people who first lived in LA before white people came.

“These petit Asiatics, nested on the ground. They subsisted mainly on acorns coyotes, snakes, grasshoppers, and grub worms. When they ran, they galloped. They had no writing and no hieroglyphics; they sowed not, neither did they herd. A hundred unintelligible “ooh-ahs” comprised the whole vocabulary of the Shakespeare among them. Their few simply artifacts, on exhibition today at the Southwest Museums, were all of the Stone Age!” (page 16)

This passage pretty much states the people were too stupid to farm and too stupid to come up with a language, nice…in his prologue he actually comes right out and calls the indigenous people of LA stupid.

Now while this person may have been being sarcastic and may have been liberal for his time do you think this individual viewed descendants of these people as his equals?

Hipster racism was created in the early 20th century by artists and writers who were trying to help, scary. I guess people of color had (or have) two choices as roles; a tool or a lap dog, which is the better option?

“A lap dog. Definitely a lap dog.” BusTard, white guy.

The first newspaper, in the Los Angeles that we (or rather I) know, was the Star.

It was printed in English and Spanish. And back in the late 19th century San Francisco hated us (LA) just as much then as they do now and pretty much for the same reasons. Though now they pretend it is for more lofty do-gooder reasons.

“I am settled in the conviction that unless we succeed in being detached, the time will soon come when our feeble voice will become eternally silenced by an unnatural, unhappy, unprofitable, damnable and irrevocable…” People of San Francisco (of the Herald to be exact) went on to say, “A large proportion of them (Latinos) are so exceedingly dark complexioned that it requires an expert to detect the difference between them and the Indians, and they are but little removed from the black race.” (page 32)

Nice. This isn’t the author’s attitude. This is just how it was.

Mayo is actually showing a part of LA that I always knew existed, but the proof of it was hard to come by. This book hasn’t been reprinted I want to know why. I think the why has a lot to do with people trying to hide the truth.

I think this is why I have problems with SiteLA and marketing companies, because they try to hide the truth or change reality into something that is not real. They want to the truth to be easy to sell.

I like print, because you can’t erase it. In the world of online you can just click a button and you can erase the truth for the average person. The average person just assumes what they put into Google is the end all be all. There isn’t any chance of stumbling upon what you don’t know exists.

I hate marketing companies masquerading as blogs, art collectives and random thoughts of any kind.

Marketing isn’t art.

by Browne Molyneux

Morrow Mayo –
– Los Angeles, it should be understood, is not a mere city. On the contrary, it is, and has been since 1888, a commodity; something to be advertised and sold to the people of the United States like automobiles, cigarettes and mouth wash.

13 thoughts on “A funny thing happened on my way to the internet.

  1. Awesome post!
    For awhile, I was reading these travel journals from the 1910s-1940s, written by American or British men visiting Latin America and other old colonies. The language in which they describe the natives was incredible, so patronizing and reflective of the attitude of those times. Inevitably, one of the dudes falls in love with one of the native women who usually doesn’t reciprocate the affection. Then the narrative gets worse as they describe the objects of their love/lust with even creepier language. Probably like Morrow Mayo they thought they were being charitable with their descriptions.
    SiteLA seems pretty creepy too.

  2. I think the thing that amazes me is that the same thing is going on right now. And like then the people who challenge these kinds of thoughts are told to shut-up and stop being so PC. It’s like if people are not beating people than their actions are completely ok.

    Writing is so powerful. It truly shapes how people think and how policies are made. Reading books like Los Angeles and the travel books that you talked about you can see how truly dangerous the written word can be to the people denigrated in this book.

    I think these books should be more widely circulated and studied in ethnic studies classes, because you can clearly see how the attitudes of the past shape the future, but how people now are much more careful in how they say the same freakin’ thing. If people had a reference they could more easily prove the bs that is currently circulating right now.

    This book should be a requirement for any ethnic studies class that touches on the topic of Los Angeles.

  3. FYI:

    “Never Before Seen – An Exercise in Imaginary Transportation Systems”

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008 from 7-8:30 pm

    Using a medley of recycled materials, participants will be introduced to an innovative way to articulate transportation and land use ideas. Participants will run through a hands-on exercise that uses 3-dimensional forms to discuss transportation systems and their land use impacts. First creating idealized individual designs, participants will then come together in small groups to resolve aesthetic and systematic differences to create collaborative models. Designing transportations systems goes beyond mobility to include the way we design buildings and plan land uses to support the systems. This approach celebrates a multidisciplinary process involving everyone. The workshop will be lead by urban planner James Rojas with additional perspectives given by members of the car industry, bike community and the arts.

    Location: SiteLA

    2522 Sunset blvd.

    LA, CA.

  4. Thanks for that link Mike and I have to admit that I do surf, but I haven’t done it in five years. Saying I surf wouldn’t have been that funny though 🙂

    Love the afro-punk site. I was on there earlier yesterday (I see that’s where your link goes to that your name is attached to.)

    Metro, I hope my post didn’t offend you. I do think there needs to be real conversation with the green movement. Who do we want to pay for the green movement? Corporate sponsorship, hey we have to pay the bills, but when a corporation is designing a movement. I feel it’s my job as a citizen to question it. And if I have some knowledge I definitely want to share that knowledge.

    I find it interesting that corporations are jumping onboard to “eco-consciousness”. The reason why the planet is being destroyed is because of consumption. Driving, being wasteful, pollution is all based in consumption and that’s caused by corporation.

    Step one in the environmental movement is to stop buying new stuff. The only thing we need to be buying that is new is food. Of course that’s not very marketable.

    It’s kind of like Rockefeller are we going to pretend that the legacy of Rockefeller is only about art grants and are we going to skip the part of history where that legacy did all kinds of horrible things to get that money in order to be in the position to give people money? Are we not supposed to be critical of business because they sponsor “eco” events, heck this isn’t sponsorship, this is straight up manifesting an event to seem random. Is that ok? Shouldn’t we question that even if it is for something, “good”. I certainly hope we can and that “PC” doesn’t extend to corporations.


  5. Browne:
    No your post didn’t offend me, not at all. I was giving you a heads up on the city modeling activity a friend was leading. I agree with you about consumption driven environmentalism & “greenwashing” by Wal-mart types. The automobile isn’t going away just yet, and I doubt it will ever with our land use patterns not just here in this city-region, but other not so urban settings across the U.S.

    Any dialogue that seeks that ways to address and increase mobility for all residents is not a bad idea.

  6. “You’re wrong. Black girls do surf.” Nancy

    Oh man I need to do a post for all the people of color who do things that people of color aren’t supposed to do…lol…is that you (you being Nancy) dancing in that you-tube video? If so black girls can dance as well as surf.

    I only dance well when people are not actually looking at me and pretending like I’m another black person that can actually dance. For a long time I thought I could dance (“positive” stereotypes can make you appear good at things that you as individual may be horrible at, but the mind is a powerful tool) until I went to a party and a black person that could dance asked me what exactly was I was doing. He asked,”My sister, where are you from?” (People always ask me that. I must look like a space alien, no I must act like a space alien.) And I said Canada and then he just said, “Oh, that explains alot…” what a butthead. It does dispel another rumor, the one of there being no black people in Canada, there are black people in Canada, but apparently they can not dance.

    All of this talk on surfing has reminded me of another topic: the mysteries of african descent hair…i feel another post coming on…


  7. I was looking up “Morrow Mayo” after seeing a reference to him in another book about LA, and came across this site. Finding a copy of “Los Angeles” at a used book sale is almost like a car collector finding a Model T in a barn. It is available, but it’s $100 on Amazon and $125 and up on A Libris. I get the impression that the first edition is the only edition.

  8. It is the only edition AND it was a great find. I find myself referring to that book often. That book is truth, not in the stereotypes, but a kind of mindset that existed and still exists. It hard to explain in a comment, but I’m very glad I ran across this book.

  9. I learned about the Morrow Mayo book from “Billion Dollar Blackjack” by William G. Bonelli (Civic Research Press, Beverly Hills, 1954, and probably another “first edition only” book), an update on how the Chandler dynasty allegedly more or less ran Southern California since the days when LA was just coming out of its “cowtown” period. Two things I noted about the Bonelli book were the union marks on the title page and the author’s photo (as of 1954 and for a long time afterward, the LA Times was strongly anti-union). I learned about “Blackjack” from “Privileged Son/Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A.Times Dynasty” by Dennis McDougal (Perseus Publishing, Cambridge Mass, 2001). My wife is a Times-Mirror retiree, so this was of more than casual interest. It’s easier to find than “Blackjack” or “Los Angeles”, and in addition to being a biography of Otis Chandler, it is the history of Times-Mirror, and by extension, Los Angeles. I have quite a collection of local-history books, most of them related to transportation; I was born in Pasadena and have lived in the San Gabriel Valley all my life. I remember the “Red Cars”, orange groves, the Arroyo Seco Parkway before it became the Pasadena Freeway, steam locomotives on the Santa Fe, and lots of other “things that aren’t there anymore.

  10. Bob,

    I’m very interested in Billion Dollar Blackjack book, that sounds awesome. I love books on LA history. I love LA even though I talk quite a bit of crap about it, but I like talking crap so anything I’m into I’m going to probably at some point start ragging on it.

    Your library sounds fascinating. Do you give talks? Are you some kind of a planner? Is this just a hobby?

    Do you have any pictures of yourself on the Red Cars? You never think about taking pictures of yourself on things that at the time seem so ordinary, but then they go away and you think, “I should have gotten a picture of that.”


  11. A followup to my previous post: I tried dropping in a photo, but it looked like it was way too big for the “reply” box. It’s easier for me to send them to e-mail addresses and let AOL cut them down to size; you may have gathered that I go back to the days of rotary-dial telephones (when I was growing up in Monrovia, we had no-dial phones–you told a live operator what number you wanted). Speaking of old-timey things, I like the Art-Deco graphic on your “about me” page. From there, I went to the Bus Bench website, and found a rather long discussion of transit issues in LA County, with some comments by Damien Goodmon, who I have seen in action at Metro Board meetings. I happen to be a pro-rail partisan, and have even helped build track and install overhead wire at Orange Empire. I can also share some stories about riding buses, both local and Greyhound.

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