Archive for March, 2009

Thanks to my buddy Ted at BikinginLA tapping my buddy Damien at Streetsblog LA on the virtual shoulder and saying “Take a look at what happened to Will”  last Tuesday, Damien not only re-posted my my timelapse video of my bad bus driver encounter on his indispensable blog, but because he knows actual people that work at the MTA and who return his phone calls and emails, he forwarded my rantings to a guy there who replied to him in decidedly measured bureaucratic tones advising Damien to rest assured knowing that attention would be paid to my complaint across the proper channels.

In fact, shortly after the Streetsblog post, I received this unsigned email from

Dear Mr. Campbell
Thanks for the follow-up email and please accept our apology for the regrettable incident described below.  Rest assured, your report will be entered into our database and a copy sent to management staff for investigation.  It should be noted that although your Customer Relations email was just opened, however, your earlier inquiry this morning to Dave Sotero prompted an immediate follow-up by the Division manager responsible for Line 333, Bus #8115. This matter will be thoroughly investigated and the appropriate corrective measures taken.

It needs noting that it was Damien who contacted Dave Sotero; until Damien picked up the ball and ran it into the endzone, I’d never heard of Sotero.  It also bears stating that in my imperfect retributive world, I’d be invited to that “appropriate corrective measures”  meeting and get the opportunity to give the bus operator a big ol’ real-world perspective that he couldn’t ignore and dismiss so casually from atop his air-cushioned throne inside his bus while pointing to where the bus number was painted and oh-so-casually daring me to complain.


But I digress. Because the point of today’s post is not to get all riled up about the past, but instead  to admit that I go both ways. No not those both ways, gutterbrain. The both ways involved in being able  to deliver the bitter as well as the sweet.

Witness today’s sugar regarding today’s bus encounter shared at the MTA’s online customer comments form:

As I consider it equally important to highlight bus operator behavior both excellent and inexcusable, following the complaint I filed (No. 3896) earlier this week regarding the inconsiderate operator of MTA Bus No. 8115, I wanted to write in to commend the operator of bus No. 3011 who this morning while westbound on Venice Boulevard approaching Hauser demonstrated excellent awareness and consideration for me on my bicycle in the Class II striped bike lane. Similar to No. 8115, No. 3011 approached me on the left from the rear, but instead of honking and forcing her bus across the bike lane to the curb she instead came to a stop in the traffic lane, leaving me with the right of way and allowing me to proceed safely to the intersection. It may be a minor matter, but I greatly appreciated it and the operator should be recognized for doing her part to share the road.

Here’s the timelapse video snip of her doing the right thing. And below is a “Goofus & Gallant” side-by-side images stills of the two, with No. 8011 on the left fully occupying the solid striped portion of the bike lane as I brake and go toward the curb, and No. 3011 on the right staying completely in the traffic lane — bonus kudos for doing so when she had the broken bike lane line she could have legitimately crossed over into (slightly biggifiable if clicked):


Not quite a year ago whilst biking to work one morning I passed a patch of passion fruit flowers growing on a fence alongside the Ballona Creek Bikeway near Sepulveda Boulevard and among the many marvelous blossoms found a big and busy carpenter bee hard at work on one. As I go nowhere without a digital camera, I snapped it, liked the end result and thus popped it up on LA Metblogs. From there the fine Mark Fraunfelder at Boing Boing happened upon  it and liked it enough to complimentarily repost the image to that ridiculously famous blog (although for some unknown reason he changed my name to “Will Mann” and despite a couple requests made since asking him correct that error it hasn’t been; oh well).

Fast forward to a couple months or so ago and from out of the blue I get an email from a writer named Diana Barshaw. She tells me she’s doing an article on carpenter bees for her local paper and in the course of her research she found my photo on Boing Boing and wondered if it might be possible to get my permission to reprint it.

Being a greedy bastard I wondered to her if any monetary compensation might be available, and though she tried to get the editor to pay me, it became clear that wasn’t going to happen. Barshaw was such a sweetheart she even offered to give me a cut of her writing fee but as she was barely getting paid herself I told her permission was hers and the paper’s in hopes I could at least get a copy sent to me after the story ran. She said absolutely.

Her local paper? The Jerusalem Post. As in Tel Aviv. As in Israel.

My copy arrived yesterday (click the thumbnails to enlarge):

img_6074 img_6075 img_6076

The article as it appears on the JP website does so without my image for some reason, but it’s there in the dead tree version with my name and website spelled correctly in the credit line, thus allowing me to cross No. 64 off my to-do list: Get something published in a publication outside of the United States.

In other publication news albeit far closer to home, three images I took of Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” installation at the LA County Museum of Art were included in a new book/online exhibition from the museum titled, “Celebrating Urban Light.” Got no scratch for that either, but I did score a complimentary copy of the $45 volume. I’d submitted four pics, but I guess they didn’t like my favorite of the bunch, what with  my bike cluttering up the shot.

Timelapse videos of yesterday’s morning and evening commutes, the latter featuring an extended visit with me alongside the Ballona Creek Bikeway as I patch my fourth flat of the year and then have trouble getting the tube seated inside the tire. And both clips are entirely free of any negative bus interactions, FTW:

The above blink-and-you’ll-miss-it snippet sliced from today’s morning commute timelapse footage might seem at first look to be nothing much, so lemme just cut to the chase and let the complaint filed with the MTA tell the whole story:

The operator of MTA Bus No. 8115 on the westbound 333 line at 9:20 a.m. this morning committed several moving violations and demonstrated a blatant disregard for safe driving practices.

I was traveling westbound on Venice Boulevard on my bicycle in the striped Class II bike lane between Ogden and Sawyer when the bus operator from out of view behind me on the left and moving at speed startled me with two illegal honks of the bus horn. Despite me having position in the lane ahead of him and having the right of way the operator immediately thereafter accelerated to pull abreast of me (at the intersection of Sawyer and Venice) and began to bear right encroaching against me while at the same time crossing over into the bike lane and forcing me to take evasive braking and maneuvering in order to prevent the bus from striking me. The operator continued on with zero concern for the risks he took until crossing completely over to the curb lane ultimately coming to a stop at the northeast corner of the intersection of Venice Boulevard and Fairfax.

Approaching the operator via his window on the left side of the bus (which he refused to open) and advising him that the safer more responsible action would be to decrease his speed and pull in behind me, he simply shrugged and pointed to the front of the bus where its number is located. I told him I’d already noted it and planned on filing a complaint without delay. The operator couldn’t have cared less.

It’s entirely disheartening to encounter such sub-quality, aggressive, irresponsible and unrepentant bus operators who do the MTA such a great disservice. A less-experienced cyclist might have ended up injured or worse because of this operator’s careless behavior.

As a dedicated bicycle commuter I carry cameras (handheld and bike-mounted) with me to document egregious incidents like this. A real-time timelapse video clip of the bus violating my space and pictures of the front and rear of the bus are publicly viewable at the following links:

Past complaints made to the MTA black hole otherwise known as its Customer Relations Department about bad bus operator encounters have brought little more than a form-letter acknowledgment of receipt of my statement and I don’t expect much different this time around.

My favorite symphony is Felix Mendelssohn’s “Italian” also known as his 4th Symphony. I discovered it as a 7th grader when my mother put the record she had of it on the old Admiral Hi-Fi with the pull down turntable in the dining room of our apartment at 1933 Holly Drive in Hollywood.

Though at the time I was far more inclined to the music of Queen than the classics, I think the reason I was drawn to it almost immediately was exclusively coincidental. My English teachers (my class was team taught by a pair of wonderful women, Ms. Litzke and Ms. Diamond) had assigned us a novel to read: Richard Adams’ “Watership Down.”

A novel! I remember being handed my paperback copy and admiring its heft and thickness and its lovely illustration of a rabbit on the cover and feeling so grown-up — while cluelessly taking the title quite literally; I thought it was about a shipwreck. Captivated from the first page, I soon discovered otherwise. And to this day it remains my favorite book ever.

Anyway, it so happened that while in the midst of reading Adams’ classic my mother decided to play Mendelssohn’s classic, and I was captivated from the first notes. Not just because the music was beautiful, but moreso because the light and flowing melody of those first few bars painted a picture in my head of rabbits frolicking in a field — something the rabbits in the book that I’d come to know and love  — Hazel and Fiver and Bigwig — had little opportunity to do across their adventures.

Here’s a YouTube video of the opening of the  first movement by the Cologne New Philharmonic Orchestra:

I’ve listened to the Italian innumerable times since — on cassette, LP, CD, MP3. And while I can’t recite it entirely from memory I can pretty much sing along with it note for note. In fact, I recall a time as a highschooler working in the dungeon at Hunter’s Books on Rodeo Drive when Arthur, the elderly and most cultured of my co-workers there — always dapper in a bowtie and wingtips — didn’t believe me when I told him I knew the piece and challenged me to sing it to him. So I did and he told me  that in a world filled with  the likes of Oingo Boingo and the Go Go’s (who I loved!) the fact that a teenager of that day and age not only new of Mendelssohn but could recite his music gave him hope for humanity.

Next Sunday from seats way up in the Disney Concert Hall balcony with my mother on one side and my wife on the other I’m going to hear it performed live for the very first time. It’s been a long 32 years coming, with many of the adult ones spent unsuccessfully scouring the calendars of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Hollywood Bowl. For what it’s worth I think it helped that this year is the 200th anniversary of Felix’s birthday (which was February 3).

But it’s him and the LA Phil giving the gift. And I’ll tell you what: just as I choked up and shed some tears of joy last year seeing my favorite Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha” for the first time at A Noise Within, I already know I’ll be overcome with similar emotions when Mendelsohhn’s magical music graces my ears.

I may not be able to keep from crying, but I’ll try my best not to sing along.

Part of our renovation is involving a whole bunch of concrete getting poured into a hole dug out deep from under the center our house onto which will be secured additional posts that will brace up under the first floor beams providing mooooooore than enough additional structural support to hold up the new bathtub we’re putting in on the second floor — thus preventing anything resembling the scene in “The Money Pit” wherein the tub crashes through to the first floor leaving Tom Hanks maniacally laughing through the hole where it once stood.

Personally Hanks’ reaction is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, but I certainly wouldn’t be laughing if a similar situation happened to us.

But as usual, my point isn’t about all that.

My point is that in all that excavating that took place, I’ve been itching to get under the house and play amateur backyarchaelogist and see what I might dig up. And today I did. So far, the only thing I found was this fragment of a Dixon Ticonderoga 1386 No. 3 pencil (click to enlarge):


The cool thing is it wasn’t dropped there, yesterday, last year, or even 20 years ago. Turns out via this page at that this particular Dixon Ticonderoga 1386 No. 3 pencil is somewhere in the neighborhood of 64-70 years old. My guess it might have been pitched sometime around 1950 when the place was being divided up into apartments, and its relative preservation can be attributed to the pretty much bone-dry conditions of the soil.

Granted, it’s not a 123-year-old bottle of adhesive, or a spent .357 round, but still… it’s worth a post.

I’m doing some pre-spring cleaning/reorganizing and I came across a copy of the paper from the day my daughter was born in 1989, and for fun (and sadness) compared it in size to a more recent edition I saved for posterity as well.

The 1989 Times masthead for Thursday, September 7, 1989, boasts a circulation of “1,118,649 daily / 1,433,739 Sunday” and came in at 198 pages — all for the lowlow of 25 cents.

The Wednesday, January 21, 2009, masthead is decidedly less informative, foregoing any circulation numbers and only listing its total at 96 pages, and for 75 cents.