What the hell were the Mama’s and the Papa’s up to?

Mamas and Papas 2

Great Debates Live — NYC — Behind the Scenes




Thanks to The Slipper Room for helping us out.  You can listen to the episode here or catch it on iTunes, Stitcher, wherever you get your podcasts.

Architecture of Downtown Los Angeles

Annual tradition: a day of architectural touring with Craig D.


The restaurant Otium, with the Broad Museum to the right and some building to the left.

Craigs’s house is beautiful.


Craig helping wife Abby

First stop: LA’s Cathedral.


The cathedral was designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning Spanish architect Rafael Moneo. Using elements of postmodern architecture, the church and the Cathedral Center feature a series of acute and obtuse angles while avoiding right angles.

Rafael Moneo

Rafael Moneo

Cardinal Roger Mahony’s decision to rebuild the Los Angeles Cathedral in such elaborate and postmodern architecture has drawn great criticism. Many argued that a church of that size and expense was unnecessary, overly-elaborate and money could have been better spent on social programs. Many felt that either St. Vincent Church on West Adams Boulevard or St. Basil Church on South Kingsley Drive could easily perform the functions required of a cathedral with minimal additional cost. Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral was also criticized for its departure from historical California Mission-style architecture and aesthetics.

Had been reading this book:


which talks a lot about why LA feels so odd to the pedestrian, and the ways LA’s public buildings have of shutting off the street:


I’ll say:


LA’s cathedral, finished in 2002, seemed a bit ’90s to me:


That’s the Grand Arts School / Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts behind Craig.

IMG_4631Disaster waiting to happen at the mausoleum?

Quick tour through Grand Central Market:

IMG_4651A walk past the retired Angels’ Flight:


On February 1, 2001, Angels Flight had a serious accident that killed a passenger, Leon Praport (age 83), and injured seven others, including Praport’s wife, Lola. The accident occurred when car Sinai, approaching the upper station, reversed direction and accelerated downhill in an uncontrolled fashion to strike car Olivet near the lower terminus.

On to the truly bizarre angles of the Bonaventure Hotel designed by John C. Portman, Jr.

IMG_4665I mean what is going on here?:


In his book Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (1989), Edward Soja describes the hotel as

a concentrated representation of the restructured spatiality of the late capitalist city: fragmented and fragmenting, homogeneous and homogenizing, divertingly packaged yet curiously incomprehensible, seemingly open in presenting itself to view but constantly pressing to enclose, to compartmentalize, to circumscribe, to incarcerate. Everything imaginable appears to be available in this micro-urb but real places are difficult to find, its spaces confuse an effective cognitive mapping, its pastiche of superficial reflections bewilder co-ordination and encourage submission instead. Entry by land is forbidding to those who carelessly walk but entrance is nevertheless encouraged at many different levels. Once inside, however, it becomes daunting to get out again without bureaucratic assistance. In so many ways, its architecture recapitulates and reflects the sprawling manufactured spaces of Los Angeles

You said it, pal.

Hely at Bonaventure

Wonder Trail reviewers’ guide

books in box

Books arrived!

The main character of my last book had some rough things to say about book reviewers.  That was part of the joke.  Me?  I’ve always rooted for book reviewers.  They have a tough job.  Newspapers shrinking, etc.  I am on the book reviewers side.  This site is largely amateur book reviewing.  It’s easy (and cheap) to write a bad review.  Hard to write a good one.

Let me make things as easy as possible for anyone reviewing of my book.

If you’ve been assigned the job, or if you want to pitch it and take it on freelance (her0), let me help you with this handy reviewers’ kit to The Wonder Trail:


If you’re brave enough to volunteer?  At your local publication?  God bless.  (Happy to answer your interview questions, write me.)

Print that helpful guide out.  Download it.  All those phrases are free to use.

Start each paragraph on one and you’ll be done in no time!

* this one from actual human reader Margot B. who I don’t know but who very kindly wrote in after winning a copy in the Great Debates Newsletter contest.  

Thanks, and good luck!

No Jumper

Great Debates visited brother podcast No Jumper.  Adam: excellent interviewer, such a professional, warm host.  Do I love this photo?  I might:

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Couple points I did want to make:

  • if you’re new to our format let me stress that sometimes in our debates we give voice to arguments we don’t believe.  I don’t really think the Earth is a flat coin
  • completely choked on now-rappers, sorry.  Straight-up blanked!  Would’ve annihilated if I’d mentioned Nicki Minaj, Kendrick or Kanye.  “Debaters’ Remorse” as we say
  • also why am I bringing up Drudge Report trash?!  needless.

We’re always trying to improve.  What a fun time.

Live Great Debates ep coming soon!  All the behind-the-scenes action will be in Great Debates News, subscribe for once a week fun.



In the Swabian dialect, “Nestle” is a small bird’s nest.

So says the Wiki for Henri Nestle.  I was reading about Nestle because I was trying to learn who owns the spring sources for the major bottled waters in the United States.

Here are our popular waters, by sales in billions of $$:

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Dasani and Aquafina are literally just purified municipal tap water with salt added:

Dasani uses tap water from local municipal water supplies, filters it using the process of reverse osmosis, and adds trace amounts of minerals, including magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt), potassium chloride and table salt (sodium chloride).

Nestle Pure Life as I understand it comes from springs in Canada:

Nestlé’s Aberfoyle Springs plant currently bottles two different waters: the on-site Aberfoyle spring water, and spring water tankered in from Cedar Valley Spring in Erin, Ontario. In addition, spring water is botted on-site in Hope, British Columbia. In the United States, Nestlé Pure Life is a purified (filtered) water.

Next is Poland Spring, owned by Nestle.  Vitaminwater I don’t care about.

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Fiji water is owned by David Brooks’ buddies:

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How about local SoCal water sources, like Arrowhead?:

ArrowHead Mtn Spring Water

Nestle again!

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Here’s an interesting one: Crystal Geyser, the source of which is up on the 395, in bleak country near the Owens Lake, source of LA tap water:

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The owner there is:

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We had to check in with Anonymous Investor on that one:

I never heard of Otsuka before, but just browsed through their 2015 annual report.

Lots of interesting stuff here.  Most of their business (67%) is pharmaceuticals. And the lion’s share of that came from Abilify.  When Abilify went generic in 2015, their earnings dropped off a cliff, although they still managed to stay profitable.

Crystal Geyser is a tiny sliver of their business.  It’s part of their “consumer products” segment. An honor it shares with “Bon Curry,” a line of instant curries–


–and a Gatorade knockoff called “Match”.


All together, the consumer products division comprises only 2.8% of the company’s total sales.

So if you buy the stock, what you are getting is mostly the drug business.

Anyway.  If you wish to own fresh springs, the way to do it seems to be to buy Nestle stock, as Joshua Kennon enthusiastically advises.  Nestle also owns Perrier, whose slim cans I’m getting into.


You should never buy a stock though without looking at a picture of the company’s CEO.  What do we think of Paul Bulcke?

Paul Bulcke

On August 30, 2012, Bulcke claimed that water is not a human right and should be privatized. He was quoted as saying “”If something isn’t given a value, people tend to waste it. Water is our most useful resource, but those using it often don’t even cover the costs of its infrastructure. Fresh water is being massively overused at nature’s expense, but it seems only a global crisis will make us realise the importance of the issue. What is environmentally unsustainable today will become socially unsustainable in the future,

(hmm, that quote is sourced on wiki to this article:

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but I don’t see it).

File this under our ongoing interest in “sources.”

A month away from WONDER TRAIL release


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On June 14, my new book The Wonder Trail: True Stories From Los Angeles To The End Of The World, comes out.

You can pre-order the book here on Amazon or here from your favorite independent bookstore(s?!).  Independent bookstores were very supportive of my last book, I owe them bigtime.  Also who doesn’t love an independent bookstore?


Possible I’m beating the drum on my own book a little too hard.  Book promotion can feel very weird.  By the time the book comes out, you’re exhausted of it, it’s the last thing you want to talk about.

But there’s probably something this lesson about marketing told by David Gergen in this 1993 Michael Kelly profile:

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Anyway, I hope the book is cool and fun and entertaining, a perfect summer read that proves surprisingly informative.

It’s not too early to mark Monday, June 20 on your calendar, I’ll be at Book Soup in Los Angeles.


Today I sent to Helytimes Superfan subscribers some excerpts of the book, about Nicaragua.  If you’d like to receive it too, just send me an email to helphely at gmail.com

These are all pictures of Nicaragua I took on my travels, here is the Ojo de Agua on the island of Ometeppe:


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And a local Coke / wheelbarrow store:IMG_1318