What is ‘Symbolic Architecture’ & HyperReality?

5 Dec

Artist Lynn Folkues explores the Influence of Disney. Currently at the Hammer Museum.

Authors Discussed: Reyner Banham and Umberto Eco. Suggested Reading: Baudrillard‘s  Simulacra and Simulation (Lots of mind blowing videos below found by the class!)

Reyner Banham was the first academic to really celebrate Los Angeles’ as a place of cultural value. Where many, up to then, saw tacky buildings, Banham saw a new artistic form in “symbolic architecture’. This can be anything from Derby-hat shaped, doughnut shaped buildings, to Murals, to lowriders with Aztec warriors airbrushed on them. He even loves our freeways! But it’s true. If you show any out-of-towner our freeway system, they’re blown away. If either articles were confusing, here’s an old school 70′s video of Reyner Banham presenting his essay, which should help:

So for these two articles, I got a lot of questions and input from the groups. So I’m going to try and put it all here:

The architecture of four ecologies

“The architecture of four ecologies”
What is it about L.A. that made it possible to have such different architecture than any other city?
Why do you think that it has so many different symbolic buildings?

City of Robots

‘Disneyland tells us that technology can give us more reality than nature can.’ (586)

(From Carmen’s group) The idea of the Matrix represents hyperreality: a conceived fantasy that is desired and realistic. The “fake world” the Matrix forms isn’t unreal but rather hyperreality. The blue pill represents the hyperreality where the humans can live in a “free world” ignorant of reality. The red pill represents reality where the humans are used as a power source for machines. The hyperreality of the Matrix parallels with real life amusement parks; giving us what we want at the cost of playing by their rules to fully enjoy what they offer.

Disneyland works in a system that enables visitors to feel that technology and the created atmosphere “can give us more reality than nature can.” The fake animals such as alligators and hippopotamuses are all available to people in Disneyland and for everyone to see. The “fake nature” of Disneyland satisfies our imagination and daydream fantasies in real life. Therefore, they seem more admirable and attractive. When entering Disneyland, consumers form into lines to gain access to each attraction. Then they are ordered by people with special uniforms to follow the rules, such as where to stand or where to sit. If the consumer follows each rule correctly, they can enjoy “the real thing” and see things that are not available to them outside of Disneyland’s doors.-Wikipedia

HyperReality at Disney (skip to 4:55)

“Disneyland is also a place of total passivity. It’s visitors must agree to behave like its robots.’ (589)

Research Paper

25 Nov

Expanded Research Paper

Throughout the semester we have worked to develop the skills necessary for writing college level essays. You have been provided lessons on purpose, narrative, showing vs. telling, revising, integrating support, thesis development, argumentation and topic sentences. Through the written assignments for this course, each of you has had the opportunity to implement the lessons and demonstrate your ability to meet the academic objectives.

As we reach the end of the semester you will expand your research paper by first completing an annotated bibliography of three new sources that can be found by going to the library or using the databases provided in the links below. For the final paper, you will integrate two new academic articles to further support your argument. Consider revising your thesis, if your new research expands or complicates your original thesis. The research paper is a multi-source argument of considerable length, meant to be used as a culminating benchmark activity to assess whether you have met the course Student Performance Objectives, including the ability to write and sustain a cogent well-developed argument that clearly articulates a thesis supported by textual evidence; to select, evaluate, interpret, and synthesize sources in the service of an argument; to smoothly integrate paraphrases and quotations that provide support for the thesis; and to document sources (print, electronic, and other) in MLA style.

Moreover, you have engaged in the academic discourse dealing with a variety of social issues of the Los Angeles area including education, manifest destiny, the myth of Arcadia/Eden, the Mexican-Anglo transition and the Ramona myth, L.A. Architecture, boosterism, suburbs, immigration and the implications of multiculturalism and racism, and Noir. We have been categorizing these different social issues into a loose idea of a L.A. myth. But for the purpose of this assignment, you can think of myth as an assumption one might hold about L.A. (yourself or the general public) and you will be investigating the complexities of this assumption and developing an argument based on your academic research.


-The research essay will focus on a specific CA/LA topic and argue an answer to question you pose about that topic.

Sources and Documentation:

-A minimum of five sources must be used, the majority of which must be found through library research.

Each of you must use at least 2 scholarly journal articles (this in addition to what we’ve looked in class; the periodicals may be print or electronic sources from the college library’s electronic database). Minimum of 2 more sources found from the database, library, or from your Writing L.A. book. At least one more source must be either a personal interview you conduct, or a site visit (a museum, park, building, store etc..) Cite interview or site visit according to MLA. Consult me if you’re stuck on who to interview or where to visit.

-In-text citations and a Works Cited page must follow MLA style (How to do a works cited page: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/05/ ).

Main Databases for finding academic sources:
ELAC: http://researchguides.elac.edu/Eng101_LAMyths

Cerritos: http://libraryguides.cerritos.edu/content.php?pid=408901&sid=3345241

Other Sites






News Sites:


LA weekly.com



Other Videos:





19 Nov

Writers discussed: Mike Davis “City of Quartz,” D.J. Waldie’s “HolyLand,” & Bukowski’s “The Death of Father”

Great Links on Sprawl:L.A. Urban Sprawl. & Article on Getty Exhibition

Mike Davis compares the history of the small utopia desert town of Llano with future predictions of Los Angeles. David mentions the major industries so cal was founded on: agriculture, automobile (briefly), then aerospace; now those have all been outshadowed by the industry of subdivisions and mega developers like KB Home.  What of Davis’ predictions do you believe have come true? Will come true? How does Davis’ interview with the El Salvadorian day laborers add to the essay. This is from Jame’s group:
“We see a theme of desperation and the author(s) are lamenting on past memories due to the sprawl happening in their respective cities. I believe there is a more dark, negative tone throughout these short stories”

1. Will people keep wishing to live in California?

2. Is it true for Davis to suggest that there is no “heaven on earth”?
3. Should the labor movement stay on the political offensive or concentrate on local working people?

waldie holy land
1. Why is bradford important to the writer?

2. what might the metaphor for bradford be?

charles bukowski
1. what tone does bukowski set in the Death of Father?

Have fun!


12 Nov

Writers discussed: Belfrage’s “Promised Land,” McPhee’s The Control of Nature, Didion’s L.A. Notebook, and Gary Snyder’s “Night Song of the Los Angeles Basin”

On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband’s neck. Anything can happen.

Chandler’s opener to “Red Wind,” is one of my favorite lines. With Spring here and the nights warming up, what is with Angelinos relation to nature? It reminds me the couple who’s always fighting: always heated and drama filled. How do those Santa Anas fit into the Southern California imagination?

It was just one big black thing coming at us rolling, rolling with a lot of water in front of it, pushing the water, this big black think. It was just one big black hill coming toward us.

In McPhee’s The Control of Nature, he shows the Genofile family deal with the elements by building a “concrete block with steel reinforcement… his crew had called it ‘the fort.’” How does social class determine Angelinos different responses to nature?

In aggregate, they (Flood Control Basins) are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. All this to keep the mountains from falling on Johnny Carson…

the quality of Los Angeles life rises up the mountain front. There is air there. Cool is the evening under the crumbling peaks. Cool descending air. Clean air. Air with a view..’the fat life of the delectable mountains.’

Do you agree with the ‘literary minds’ that ‘debris flows, mudslides, and related phenomena’ is a “ready-made metaphor of the alleged moral decay of Los Angeles? And to bring it back to Didion, what is with Los Angeles weather? Didon says:

Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.

1. Is a building a dam or aqueduct to preserve water, worth it knowing that you have to destroy homes and take over property that isn’t yours?

2. Are fire seasons beneficial or a threat to California?
3. Would you consider California to be an environmentally friendly state?


Writer’s Discussed: Belfrage’s “Promise Land” and Videos “Mulholland’s Dream” Note: Chinatown is on Netflix and a great supplement to the material here.

We dive right into LA’s big scandal: the water wars. We read about Robert Towne sharing  his experience writing one of the most famous L.A. movies Chinatown. The videos give crucial insight into the scandal and starts with Mulholland raiding the Owens valley, the corruption that took place afterward and I cut it short at the deadly St. Francis Dam disaster (California’s worse man-made disaster).

We look at a section of the novel “Promise Land” to give us better insight into the questions raised above about Angelino’s relation to Nature. I’ll turn it over to two of the groups, who came up with some great discussion questions:

From the Self Proclaimed “English Professors:”

This is the Nature group that’s presenting next week in class here are some question we believe would stir up some discussion.
1.in the control of nature the author tells  a story of natural disasters that occur through out the LA area, would you say us as Angelenos are destroying nature in LA?
2. Was the water wars a good idea?
3.how did LA prevail and kept the water flowing from water wars?
4. Was the water Los Angeles received rapidly growing the city? For good or worse?
This is still a work in progress. Any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated :)


RamonaLand vs. the Pachuco: The first Gringo Myth of LA

7 Nov

Writers discussed: McWilliams “Southern California Country:An Island on the Land” “North from Mexico: Blood on the Pavements,” & Octavio Paz’s “The Labyrinth of Solitude” Recommended: Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona (Chapter 4 link)

So Ramona the novel and the mythical person became a pop icon at the turn of the century. McWilliams explains,

thousands of Ramona baskets, plaques, pincushions, pillows, and souvenirs of all sorts were sold in every curio shop in California.

Tourists came pouring out of the brand newly built train cars. Given that this book actually 1. Goes against the facts of history (even according to critics at the time) 2. Shows the Missions as “a haven for Indians” and is pro-catholic (many Protestants at the time were very suspicious of Catholics) 3. Paints White settlers as land-grabbing bad guys; McWilliams is trying to answer why in the world would all these fresh, white and protestant Californians find an

intense preoccupation of Southern California with its Mission-Spanish past.

So a couple of groups are presenting on Ramona and the Pachuco. Here are there comments and questions:

What do you think McWilliams meant by “Almost any square block of London is more drenched with flavors of the past than the whole Los Angeles”?

McWilliams is somewhat calling California fake, in the sense that it doesn’t have true history like other places in the world. Do you agree?

What do you think McWillams and Paz’s stories have in common?

Why do you think the the Pachucos liked flaunting their differences from everyone else?

1.) Could the sailors in the Carey Mc Williams’s story, “North from Mexico” be viewed as a metaphor for the Klu Klux Klan?
2.) Was it a contradictory statement the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce made when they alleged the zuit suit riots were not racially related ? How does it relate in today’s society ?
3.) How does Carey McWilliams feel about law enforcement in Los Angeles and do you think it is still the same today?
4.) Is Pachuquismo Biculturalism?

What do you believe McWilliams is trying to say that this mythology took off so rapidly and is still with us? Do you believe this mythology is positive or negative for California?

Frontier Town or Hangover?

9 Oct

Writer discussed: William Faulkner’s “Golden Land”

Fred Astaire’s house in Beverly Hills

52Theme Essay Prompt.

What happens when all your dreams come true? When Arturo Bandini gets the career he wants? When Carlos Bulosan gets the big house? The chauffeur, the wife, the kids, the mistress and all the fine food and drink you want? When the money is pouring in and you can spoil your offspring rotten? Faulkner is regarded as one of the most important American writers for his fiction on the decay of the south, but in this rarely discussed Faulkner story, he turns his attention (and his only time doing so) to L.A.

I just recently watched Less than Zero with Robert Downing Jr. and this story , based on Bret Ellis great L.A. novel, reminded me of Faulkner’s short story. Basically it’s about spoiled kids in L.A. What happens when parents move to LA, sacrificing everything to give their kids a better life, but the kids taking everything for granted?

L.A. has been described as the “Frontier Town” in another essay in our book that I highly recommend Stewart Edward White’s “Rules of the Game,” but compare that with Faulkner’s ‘Golden Land’ description:

It was just four, two hours yet until time to start supper. The sun was high; she could see the water from the sprinkler flashing and glinting in it as she went to the window. It was still high, still afternoon; the mountains stood serene and drab against it; the city, the land, law sprawled and myriad beneath it–the land, the earth which spawned a thousand new faiths, nostrums and cures each year but no disease to even disprove them on–beneath the golden days unmarred by rain or weather, the changeless monotonous beautiful days without end countless out of the halcyon past and endless into the halcyon future.

What are we to make of L.A. now?

Welcome to the Jungle! (ELAC students)

1 Oct

Writer discussed: Mona Simpson’s “Anywhere But Here,” H.L. Mencken’s “Sister Aimee” & Louis Adamic’s “Laughing in the Jungle”

1. Simpson: When I first read “Anywhere But Here,” I liked the idea of the mother as a metaphor for Los Angeles. The sort of heroic tragedy of her that was easy to admire. Maybe I’m going out on a limb here (and before I stick my foot in my mouth I will say that I grew up with a single mother, five sisters and now have a daughter), but women are complicated. To call L.A. a woman, like Jim Morrison, means to never have a clear understanding of this city. One critic has said of the mother “Adele is like no one I’ve encountered, at once deplorable and admirable–and altogether believable.” Mona Simpson has also said that when she started the novel that she disliked Adele, but then grew to like her. Does this make the mother  or L.A. a nurturing place or one of Odysseus’ Sirens that by singing the praises of his men, lure them to their death?

Sometimes, I felt my mother climbing up a long, long series of stairs, above what seemed true — my school the hum of electric clocks behind closed wooden doors, my steps, late, the messy locker, my books, heavy and unlooked at, and I followed her up to the clear air. At the top. there was a sky, but when she pushed at it, it broke like so many sheets of colored tissue paper. She began to climb to the other side. I stood still below, next to her legs, but I could see air, feel the wind, from the other side.

2. Mencken: The heavyweight H.L. Mencken is famous for being a hard critic of the prevalent corruption of his time. Even though Mencken is from Cleveland, he weighs in on a scandal that rocks L.A.

Mencken seems to be hinting that with every money-grubbing bureaucrat, businessman, or religious swindler, you need a big group of clueless, hysterical middle classers to take advantage of. The Dupes. Has L.A. moved past a city of dupes? Or are we worst off than before? Mencken writes about Siter Aimée, whose Four Square church still looms high, like the Greek Pantheon, over Echo Park lake. Cited as being the first evangelist on a national scale, Sister Aimée got her start in L.A.

What brought this commonplace and transparent mountebank to her present high estate, with thousands crowding her tabernacle daily and money flowing upon her from whole regiments of eager dupes? The answer, it seems to me, is as plain as mud. For years she had been wandering about the West, first as a side-show wriggler, then as a faith healer, and finally as a cow-town evangelist. One day, inspired by God, she decided to try her fortune in Los Angeles.

Mencken doesn’t even really seem to care about the sex scandal (Sister Aimée ran off with a married man) and almost sympathizes with her. But Mencken, clearly, doesn’t feel sorry for the people that fell for her hypocritical spiel. That would be us, Los Angelinos. Are we a city filled with dupes?

Instantly she was a roaring success. And why? For the plain reason that there were more morons collected in Los Angeles than in any other place on earth…

3. Adamic: And Lastly, Louis Adamic, “Laughing in the Jungle,” talks about the jungle in Panama being beautiful from a distance, but once you’re in it, you need a gun and mosquito netting. Yet another paradox. When dealing with the harshness of surviving in this city is it best to follow Adamic’s advice and in a Dionysian fashion (I had to try to finish my Greek mythology motif) laugh it off?

Hence, if one lives in Los Angeles — in America — one would best be properly equipped and armed — not with guns and bolos and mosquito netting, but with knowledge and understanding of the scene, with a sense of humor — with laughter. Otherwise the place is very apt to get the better of one, both materially and spiritually…

Have fun!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 51 other followers