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The Press (and the NHL) Won’t Give The Blues a Break

March 9, 2012 3 comments

With last night’s win at home against the Anaheim Ducks, which brings their records to 43-18-7 and 93 points, the St. Louis Blues sit at the top of the Central Division, the West Conference, and yes, the NHL. The Blues are this year’s Cinderella-comeback-kid-underdog-rise-from-the-ashes-success story after struggling to make the playoffs only once in the past five years, and undergoing numerous personnel changes. The only problem is, no one outside of St. Louis seems to notice.

St. Louis sports fans are perhaps used to being slighted in this way. Anyone who watched the Cardinals in last year’s playoff contest on TBS, NBC, or listened on ESPN Radio, knows that non-local broadcasters are hesitant to give any credit where it’s due, nay-saying and undermining the team frequently throughout each game. And now it seems the Blues are catching some of the same flack. Despite winning their last three games in a row, the first headline in this week’s NHL Newsletter read “Canucks show who’s No. 1 by beating Blues,” a story that would have been relevant at the end of last week, but now seems a little late and off the mark. Click through to the NHL’s website and you’ll see nothing of the Blues’ recent success, despite being on a hot streak and gaining the No. 1 position. ESPN.com seems to have also forgotten that the Blues still exist.
This past Wednesday, Bleacher Report’s Nicholas Goss put together his list of the “NHL’s 50 Players Who Will Decide the Stanley Cup Playoffs.” Included were all the big names and favored teams you’d expect: New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, etc. The only Blues mention was Jaroslav Halak, the seemingly unstoppable goalie who’s been swapping shifts with the surprise All-Star Brian Elliot. The Hockey News recently put out its own Top 50 list, and to no one’s surprise, St. Louis is nowhere to be found. How long will it take before sports reporters learn the names T.J. Oshie, David Backes, andy McDonald, and Alex Pietrangelo?

Blues goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, once played for the now defunct Long Beach Ice Dogs in the ECHL.

Maybe this rant is premature. We probably need to finish this season strong to earn a better showing in next season’s All-Star game. Some of our well-known players name’s might carry little weight outside St. Louis because they’re still growing and proving themselves. We have historically tended to be one of the youngest teams in the NHL, after all. But the 200-2012 season is the perfect underdog story that the media loves to tell. The rivalry match-ups this year have been intense, to say the least: The Blues recently bested Chicago 5-1! So maybe this Cinderella story won’t come into focus until it’s complete, but the team has fought hard for their spot as a top contender and it’s clear they’ll be appearing in the post season this year. Is some recognition for their achievements in the here and now too much to ask for?

The current landing page for the Blues' website. This quote is perfect.

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McCourt and Pujols: How to Lose Fans and Alienate People

February 20, 2012 Leave a comment

First off, let me start by saying that I’m not a huge baseball fan, but being from St. Louis, I sometimes consider myself a Cardinals fan by default. St. Louis is, after all, a baseball town. That said, I do love sports. I do love being a part of the game day festivities. I do love when my city wins.  And I do love celebrating my city. Call me a fairweather fan, but I think I’m in a nice position of being able to “Go Crazy!” when the Cards win, but not ending up in tears when they lose. Now that I live in Long Beach, I have two MLB teams located roughly the same distance away from me and I see just as many people wearing Angels gear as I do Dodgers. Unfortunately, baseball in LA has already put a bad taste in my mouth.

Dodger Drama

The drama started before I even moved out to California. Maybe bringing hotshot “Lazy” Ramirez to LA was a bad omen. Former Dodger owner Frank McCourt has generated more negative attention toward himself and his team than I can express. For months it seemed like the morning headlines on KPCC had something to report involving the drama of McCourt’s infamous divorce proceedings, charity scandal, and ownership problems. The year after being proclaimed “Power Couple of the Year” by the Los Angeles Business Journal, the McCourts decided to split, and Frank fired his wife from her position as the “First Female” Dodger CEO the day after the team was eliminated from the playoffs. Maybe she deserved it after having an affair and dipping into the team’s bank account to pay for her lavish lifestyle, but Frank wasn’t much better, and personally benefited from some $130 million of Dodger money in the form of personal dividend payments to himself. After fighting over who owned what portion of the team, Major League Baseball itself was called in to bring a quick end to the drama. Deals were made, and then rejected, while McCourt struggled to find the money to pay the team he was fighting for. Eventually the team filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the MLB put the team up for sale. Then there was the salary of Howard Sunkin, Frank’s buddy and chief executive of The Dream Foundation- the charitable arm of the Dodgers- which was nearly equal to one-fourth of the charity’s entire budget.
After all this, the Dodgers still don’t have an owner and are suffering from a tarnished reputation. This gross display of greed, ineptitude, and corruption on the part of the McCourts has no place in professional sports. Here we have a man who continually raised ticket prices beyond what most teams dare to charge, failed to meet payroll obligations for his players, and involved one of the most storied baseball franchises in history in his personal affairs, all while raking in wild profits to support his image and lifestyle. And I haven’t even mentioned the beating of Giant fan Brian Stowe.

A Tale of Betrayal

Fast forward to December 2011. After leading the Cardinals to their 11th World Series victory, Albert Pujols was suddenly a free agent and the rumors began to fly. Of course we all thought he would re-sign with St. Louis. And by “we all,” I mean pretty much everyone who knew who he was.
Pujols is a St. Louis icon. He is part owner in a restaurant that bares his name. He began some ambitious and highly successful charity work there. There is an adult mental health facility named after him. He helped the Cardinals to the World Series three times, and won it twice.  He was given the nickname “El Hombre” by St. Louis fans. Unfortunately, he is also partly responsible for shutting down the only classical music station in the region (the 62-year-old Classic 99) to replace it with the christian rock station Joy FM, even though Joy Fm already had a home on two frequencies. Despite the loads of evidence suggesting Pujols would remain a Cardinal, he left town as soon as the LA Angels offered a bigger, better contract. Money, not loyalty, no matter what Albert and his wife might say, was the real issue here. Now all along the freeways in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, you’ll find billboards depicting Pujols from the rear, swinging for the fences, alongside captions like “El Hombre,” “Big A,” “Now PlAying,” and “OMG!” How convenient that the Cardinals colors also happen to be red and white- they didn’t even have to photoshop Albert into an Angel’s jersey!

I couldn’t help but smirk and even cheer after reading Tom Schlafly’s most recent Top Fermentation column, where he, with tongue in cheek, quotes “Casey At The Bat:”

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
And in Mudville there is Joy-FM‚—Albert Pujols has sold out.
Unfortunately, the Cards don’t play the Angels this next season. So this spring when the Cardinals do come to Los Angeles, for a three-game series against the Dodgers, I’ll hope to grab a seat near the visiting bullpen for all three nights. If you’d like to join me to help pray away the parking-lot assault, you’re more than welcome.

 

LB Post Articles Highlight “Urban Revival” Aspirations

July 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Urban revival. The term is thrown around about as frequently, and with as much weight, as the term “fusion” is in the culinary world. Both phrases seek to say something very simple in a fanciful way. Essentially, urban revival refers to the recent movement to re-make our cities more pedestrian friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and environmentally sound.
A couple of news articles in the July print edition of Long Beach Post provide an interesting perspective on how this concept is applied in Long Beach.

In her article “The 10 Worst Decisions in Long Beach History”, writer Allison Jean Eaton provides a voice rarely heard in Los Angeles County- one that looks to the mistakes of the past to learn how the future can be made that much better. She is willing to look lovingly at her city and admit that we’ve messed a few things up.

I was surprised to see problems caused by The Queen Mary on her list. When I moved here, I thought of it like I do the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. The Arch is a historical monument to Westward expansion and the exploits of Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea. For many, the view of the Queen Mary evokes the same sense of history and desire that the Arch does. Maybe The City of Long Beach just needs to rethink the use of space, much like St. Louis is doing with the Gateway Arch.

Also appearing in the July edition is an article called “The Future of the Long Beach Civic Center” by Brian Ulaszewski. In it, he highlights the problems with the current center, and the possibility of a new use of space to bring about the activity it was meant to bring to downtown.

I recommend picking up a copy of the paper or visiting them online. Resources like the Long Beach Post are invaluable.

The Articles from LBPost.com:
The 10 Worst Decisions in Long Beach History
The Future of the Long Beach Civic Center

Categories: tourism, Uncategorized

What “Carmageddon” Says About LA County

July 15, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s virtually impossible to avoid hearing about this weekend’s shutdown of I-405, as the media has been hyping “Carmegeddon” for weeks, but the fact that there is such a big deal to be made over the closure of such a short stretch of freeway (only 10 miles) over a mere 52-hour period, highlights what the rest of the nation has long criticized L.A. for: extreme auto dependency.

Hopefully, the right people are taking note and regarding the weekend freakout as reason for something to be done about L.A.’s auto addiction. Providing Los Angeles county citizens with the transportation options of other comparable cities would be a step in the right direction toward solving multiple problems in the area, including the infamous smog issue. In addition, wider freeways will probably just mean more cars, and not less traffic. In fact, a University of Toronto study recently found exactly that.

In all likelihood, enough people will be too afraid to use a car this weekend that the traffic situation will be no worse than any other weekend in L.A. Carmegeddon will probably be laughed about years later, and we’ll all feel foolish for worrying about nothing. Fortunately for those of us living in Long Beach, there’s plenty to do without needing to leave the city anyway, including a college volleyball tournament, free movie on the beach, and motorcycle festival at the Queen Mary.

Amidst all the hype however, the situation might encourage people to explore their immediate neighborhood. My advice? Take a walk! Ride your bike! Take advantage of free rides on Metro rail! Do something that doesn’t involve driving. You might find something really cool nearby that you never knew was there.

The Pike’s Not Dead!

June 13, 2011 4 comments

This past weekend, I finally had the chance to ride the Ferris Wheel at the Pike downtown. I had been to The Pike several times before, and each time I went seemed more dead than the last. It always amazed me how many empty storefronts there were and how few people were out on a given night. The closure of Borders seemed like it would be a huge blow to the area, and I was worried I was witnessing The Pike’s death as a possible casualty of the economy. But this weekend was different- I was surprised and excited to see so many people out enjoying a beautiful Long Beach weekend downtown.

As many already know, The Pike of today is much different from the original one. Opening in 1902, and shuttering in 1979, it hosted several roller coaster and amusement rides, the original Loof’s, now on Long Beach Blvd., and even a bath house. The newer, modern version seeks to pay homage to the past by incorporating a ferris wheel, merry-go-round, and pedestrian overpass that looks like a roller coaster. The fountain outside of The Laugh Factory on the corner of Pine Ave. and Shoreline tells the stories of some of the Pike’s former main attractions.

The views of Long Beach and the Port are definitely worth the $3 ferris wheel ride. For those coming down for a movie or dinner, there’s plenty more to do before or after. A One Dollar Book Store has even moved into the old Borders location. At the very least, The Pike and nearby Pine Avenue Pier are excellent for a relaxing walk.

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Press Release: Long Beach Approves Plastic Bag Ban

May 21, 2011 Leave a comment

I just saw a Tuesday press release from healthebay.org which explains a Long Beach City Council vote to ban single-use plastic bags beginning this August.
Hopefully, City residents will be receptive to the ban, which at first might seem like it creates an enormous inconvenience. But let’s not forget, we survived without the plastic bag before, so I think we’ll be just fine without it.

From Heal The Bay:

SANTA MONICA, CA (Tuesday, May 18, 2011) – The Long Beach City Council tonight approved a ban on the distribution of single-use plastic shopping bags at grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies and farmers’ markets in the City beginning in August.

With the vote, Long Beach becomes the largest city in Los Angeles County to ban plastic bags and is expected to motivate similar actions by other local governments throughout the region, including the City of Los Angeles and City of Pasadena.

In a phased rollout beginning in August, plastic carryout bags will no longer be available in supermarkets, large retail pharmacies, liquor stores, food marts and farmers’ markets in the city, which encompasses nearly 500,000 residents.

The measure seeks to end the environmental and fiscal waste created by the use of 6 billion single-use plastic shopping bags each year in Los Angeles County alone.

California municipalities spend nearly $25 million each year just to collect and dispose of plastic bag waste. Less than 5% of plastic grocery bags are recycled each year statewide, so the remainder clogs precious landfill, litters public spaces and harms animal life when the bags infiltrate waterways.

Long Beach is disproportionally plagued by plastic pollution, as it sits at the terminus of the Los Angeles River. Long Beach spends approximately $2.2 million per year in maintenance costs associated with marine debris such as plastic bags. Suja Lowenthal, Vice Mayor of Long Beach, introduced and championed the bag ordinance and is a board member of Heal the Bay.

“Long Beach has taken control of its own destiny by banning plastic bags from its litter stream and setting an example for cities along the Los Angeles River,” said Vice Mayor Lowenthal.

Environmental group Heal the Bay has led the legislative fight to enact a bag ban for more than five years as part of its ongoing efforts to tackle plastic pollution in California seas and neighborhoods.

“Today Long Beach took a stand against both environmental pollution and fiscal waste,” said Kirsten James, Water Quality Director of Heal the Bay. “This action is yet another signal to the plastics industry that cities are fed up with paying the huge price tag of cleaning up plastic pollution.

Long Beach’s action marks the 11th municipality in California to ban plastic carryout bags. Many others are posed to follow suit. Stakeholders continue to look to Sacramento legislators to move forward a uniform, statewide approach to curb plastic bag pollution.

Retailers in Long Beach will still be able to distribute paper bags, so long as they contain at least 40% post-consumer content. Shoppers who forget their reusable bags have the option of purchasing paper bags at checkout for 10 cents each. Heavy-duty reusable bags are convenient, environmentally friendly alternatives that have been embraced by hundreds of millions of consumers around the world.

Long Beach joins a long list of governments that have enacted progressive curbs on single-use plastic bags, including China, Bangladesh, San Francisco and Mexico City.

About Heal the Bay

Heal the Bay is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay, safe, healthy and clean. We use research, education, community action and advocacy to pursue our mission.

Contact: Kirsten James, Heal the Bay, (310) 451-1500, x 162 or (310) 713-3091 cell

Lunch Truck It Brings Food Trucks to Long Beach

April 29, 2011 3 comments

Beginning May 4, a new weekly gourmet food truck event will kick off in a location where food trucks are rarely seen: within the city limits of Long Beach. Lunch Truck It, which will take place on Coronado at Aneheim on Wednesdays, is a joint effort of Councilman O’Donnell and  the 4th District, and The ZaSo Design District.

Recently, I spoke with Jennifer Jones, administrator of the Lunch Truck It Facebook and Twitter accounts, and a key organizer for the event, to discuss the origin and potential for bringing gourmet food trucks to Long Beach. The following comes from our short e-mail interview.
For those who don’t know, “The ZaSo Design Destrict is made up of a number of creative firms on Coronado Ave. at Anaheim in Long Beach. It has become a collaboration of businesses that want to be more involved in the local Long Beach community and unify the efforts for our district’s creative growth and redevelopment.” Situated on Coronado Street, North of Aneheim Ave, the area will host 3 or 4 trucks every Wednesday for Lunch from 11:30 to 2:30.

Current Long Beach municipal code only allows Food Trucks to operate in construction zones and imposes different regulations and fees than most municipalities in Los Angeles County. This explains why Long Beach residents see trucks operating just outside, but rarely in, The City of Long Beach.

Lunch Truck It will bring a rotating lineup of food trucks to Long Beach (currently 12 trucks are planning on serving in the coming weeks) including Buttermilk, Vizzi Truck, Cool Haus, Global Soul, Ahn Joo, Mandoline Grill, Greasy Wiener, Crepe’n Around, and Grill ‘Em All.

The 4th District and Councilman Patrick O’Donnell was instrumental in getting the ball rolling for the idea of Lunch Truck It to come to fruition. Jones says the Councilman was excited about the idea and the initiative coming out of the area. Vizzi Truck was also a huge help as “the first truck to take a chance on [them] a year ago, they have been immensely helpful with the brainstorm and launch… giving [them] advice and tips from the trucks perspective.” Jones hopes the new event will bring more people into the ZaSo Design District to stick around for more than just lunch. As for her hopes for the impact on local law, Jones said “It is our hope that the City’s regulations will become more flexible and accommodating for gourmet food trucks. We are optimistic that Lunch Truck It will become a hot spot in Long Beach for gourmet food trucks and their patrons from all over L.A. and Orange County.”
I am equally optimistic that bringing gourmet food trucks into the area can spur interest in the area and cooperation with the local organizers, in addition to the fun and spontaneous community that food truck events already bring. Since I come from a city where food trucks are latecomers to the scene and face insane scrutiny and regulations, it’s comforting to see events like this work toward acceptance. I’m enthusiastic that Lunch Truck It will be successful in it’s first weeks and I hope the city comes out to support it. I encourage Long Beach residents to give props to Councilman O’Donnell and Jennifer Jones for having initiative  and vision. Unfortunately, I will be working in San Pedro during the first Lunch Truck It event, but I look forward to stopping by and enjoying some of the best GFTs in LA County sometime soon. Maybe I can convince someone to stop by and take pictures? The kick-off event will feature Great Balls on Tires, KutnSow,  Rosa’s Bella Cucina, The Sweets Truck, and Vizzi Truck. Trucks interested in participating in future Lunch Truck It events can contact info@lunchtruckit.com.

Lunch Truck It
Launching Wednesday May 4th, 11:30-2:30
Coronado Ave at Aneheim
Twitter: @LunchTruckIt
Facebook: facebook.com/lunchtruckit 
Also, feel free to spread this flyer.