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Holy crap! Long Beach: Work in Progress really happened. The scenario seemed too good to be true: Come up with panels to illustrate and demonstrate the underrated heritage and upside of a city that I’ve been digging since I was a teenager. Crashing culture, colliding communities, and the power of subcultures–I’m all over that. Above you can see Long Beach skaters/activists Chad Tim Tim, Justin Reynolds, Paul Kwon, Dallas Rockvam, and Levi Brown with Pulitzer Prize winning food writer Jonathan Gold. The event took place in the historic Edison Theatre, which was built in 1917 as the Nippon Pool Room and went through phases as a sporting goods store, foot clinic, and beauty salon. Most recently it was home to CSULB’s theatre troupe but has been shuttered for five years until it was opened by the city just for Friday’s event. Keynote speaker John Jay (W+K Garage) spoke on the the creative crisis–how the need for creativity is at an all-time high in business, the arts, and society in general. His manifesto was followed by authors Cara Mullio and Jennifer Volland’s very cool study on local Case Study House architect Edward Killingsworth. (Yes, I bought a copy of their brand-new Hennessey+Ingalls book on Killingsworth and had them sign it.) Jonathan Gold’s seemingly stream-of-consciousness-yet-completely-in-control ruminations on things he likes to eat in Long Beach (framed by recollections of sailors at The Pike, a roller-coaster decapitation, and bad metal shows at Fender’s) was so good it almost made me cry, and was followed by an otherworldly panel on Long Beach music moderated by my friend and member of The Vandals Joe Escalante. Somehow, he was able to balance the early hardcore punk stories of his longtime colleague Jack Grisham from T.S.O.L. with peeks into Little Cambodia via Dengue Fever’s Zac Holtzman and Chhom Nimol (who played an acoustic preview of a brand new song). Is that a mash-up of subcultures or what. The final panel was about the importance of skateboarding to Long Beach culture and its future with Justin, Chad, Ricki The Dude Bedenbaugh, and Paul. Of course, it ripped and generated a ton of responses. The long day was capped by a round table discussion handled by jeffstaple and words from District 2 Councilperson Suja Lowenthal. Very legit to get seals of approval from a king of street culture and a city respresentative. And so awesome to witness my worlds colliding right in front of my eyes, with Jack and Joe (above, left) from years of going to punk shows to Tanya, Julia, and Renzei (above, right) from my current efforts to help the team build Long Beach (and everywhere else) through culture labs and backers in business. Keep an eye out for more photos and even a video to be leaked in the near future… But until then I think the message of Long Beach: Work in Progress can be applied to anyone’s hometown. Look for what’s cool about it, and then seek to understand, grow, mix, and share...
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I don’t talk about my day job here very often, but I think that a lot of you will appreciate this. Imprint Culture Lab is a company that showcases up-and-coming, under-the-radar, and imported ideas. Eric Nakamura actually helped kickstart the earliest ones, bringing in high-powered friends from the worlds of streetwear, tech, otaku, and craft. I’ve been helping out with the newest one, which takes place in the home base of Imprint and its sister company interTrend.

The topic was born when the founder of Imprint/CEO of interTrend Julia Huang (above, right) told me that her companies were moving from a high rise to the second oldest building in Downtown Long Beach. I created a job for myself documenting its renovation, digging into the building’s sordid past as a psychic temple, researching the local history, and showcasing the community’s energy and upside in a blog. While sitting in on a meeting to choose a direction for the next Imprint, Long Beach seemed like a perfect choice to me. With the company investing and placing roots in the neighborhood, it was time to give back and grow it.

Long Beach: Work in Progress, which takes place next Friday, will have four panels. Authors Cara Mullio and Jennifer M. Volland will talk about their new book for Hennesy+Ingalls on Case Study House architect Edward A. Killingsworth. On the subject of music, Joe Escalante from The Vandals (above, left) and Jack from T.S.O.L. will represent Long Beach’s first generation hardcore punk subculture and Chhom Nimol and Zac Holtzman will talk about their relationship Long Beach’s Little Cambodia.

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Everyone has friends who are in bands. But who hangs out with judges? Next week, original O.C. punk Joe Escalante (The Vandals, and more recently the Sweet and Tender Hooligans) is on the ballot to serve on the bench as Judge of the Superior Court for the City of Los Angeles. He’s a smart and realistic guy—and good friend–who wants to do it for the right reasons. It all started with a legal advice radio show that stemmed from his working in entertainment law, representing his own record label as well as working for CBS. I’m voting for him and if you’ve ever been to a show at the Cuckoo’s Nest, Perkin’s Palace, or Fender’s Ballroom (or even visited Club 33) you might want to support him, too.

MW: Is judging something you’ve always wanted to do? What do you like about it?

JE: I applied to become a Temporary Judge in 2008 to broaden the amount of stuff I can cover on my radio shows. I usually only give “showbiz” legal advice on the radio, but I thought for job security I should brush up on the kind of stuff that more people need like small claims, traffic, and landlord-tenant stuff.

After doing it for a few years I’ve started to like it more than all the other stuff I do. I am able to use my brain, help people, and help the county, and I’ve met a lot of great people who are judges, prosecutors, clerks, translators, defense attorneys, bailiffs, etc. (Not my world until then) And I think I’m good at it.

You can have fun on stage or recording music, but are you really helping people? Maybe, maybe not. And is your brain valued? Or is it your looks? Can you grow old gracefully in a band? You certainly can on the bench.

Traffic Court is often joked about as a punishment for low-level judges. I love traffic court. We’re in Southern California and it’s a car culture in a big way. The rules of the road are on everyone’s mind every day. To be the final arbiter of a traffic dispute is a big honor. I love being involved in it. Everyone wants to make a difference. I think I can on the bench.

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