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Showing posts from June, 2008

Sample This!

LA CityBeat Oct. 14, 2004
By Dennis Romero
It's a squealing guitar riff that's barely background noise in N.W.A.'s "100 Miles and Runnin'." Just a bit of acid ax buried under the rap. Nonetheless, this three-chord bit has helped make those who sample without permission - and permission means paying up - industry outlaws.
Astonishingly for some, the practice of sampling has been pushed against the ropes by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. A recent ruling by the court forces producers to get clearance for using even one-note snippets of others' performances. It has sent a chill through the hip-hop and dance music worlds. "In an instant," declared the anti-industry website downhillbattle.org, "this act made the majority of sample-based music illegal."
More than any other instrument, the sampler symbolizes pop music's post-rock, postmodern era. Hip-hop, electronic dance music, boy bands, and teen pop sex symbols h…

Gangster's Paradise Lost

LA CityBeat
Nov. 6, 2003
By Dennis Romero
Cover photo by Steve Appleford Losing the mural, it seems, was a sign of the times. In 2002, when the city renovated the recreation center at Stoner Park in West L.A., the last remnants of the Westside's Latino gang culture were told that the building's big Chicano-era mural would be temporarily removed to accommodate construction, but then returned. The big tableaux from the side of the building was an homage to the Mexican flavor of the neighborhood, and a point of homeboy pride.
But when Mayor James K. Hahn presided over ribbon-cutting ceremonies celebrating the completed makeover last summer, the mural was absent, and the homies still haven't seen it. (A council district field deputy who keeps his eye on parks in the area said he has no idea what happened to the artwork.) Today, a few survivors of the Sotel 13 gang, which has claimed the park since the early 1950s, still congregate at the rec center each weekday at 3 p.m. – lik…

Boomtown

LA CityBeat
Nov. 18, 2004
By Dennis Romero At Glendale Boulevard and Second Street, you can see the crossroads of L.A., old and new. Immigrants from the Mexican state of Michoacan play the pre-Columbian handball game of tarasca in a dirt lot destined to soon sprout a 276-unit, five-story apartment building, mostly for the middle and upper-middle classes. On the hill above, the $45 million Visconti apartment complex is already going up rapidly, faster than the graffiti that lines the historic Toluca Yard, a long-abandoned Pacific Electric rail stop that's become home to the nation's only known tarasca court. Five blocks to the east, the towing skyscrapers of Bunker Hill reflect the setting sun, washing gleaming rays upon this gritty but shifting neighborhood just west of downtown. The area is patrolled by the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Division, once the city's leader in homicide reports, and once described as the Fort Apache of the LAPD. Now, Land Rovers, …

Desolation Boulevard

LA CityBeat
Feb. 5, 2004
By Dennis Romero
Cover photo by Steve Appleford
The curb along San Julian Street is more than a metaphor, it's the real deal - the ultimate backstop for a life's downward slide, the end of the row, even for Skid Row. It's lined with runners hissing out drugs for sale, men taking naps, and newly minted homeless teens passing a joint. On a recent afternoon, the smell of skunkweed mixes with the vapors of human waste. The gutter is filled with murky puddles, scorched blunts, a pink backpack, and tattered trash bags full of abandoned clothing - signs of throwaway lives. A worker at the nearby Volunteers of America shelter says she tosses out seven bags of belongings every day because owners fail to retrieve them from storage. The city's weekly street-sweeping crews bring along a trash truck just to deal with all the curbside refuse on San Julian. "Rats as big as cats" prowl the blocks, as one social worker puts it. Some men walk barefoot t…

A Turbocharged Obsession

Los Angeles Times
January 22, 1997, Wednesday, Home Edition
A TURBOCHARGED OBSESSION;
FORGET FORDS AND CHEVYS. TODAY'S STREET MONSTERS OF CHOICE ARE ACURAS AND HONDAS. IT'S AN INTEREST FUELED BY A GROWING NUMBER OF ASIAN AMERICAN CAR CLUBS.

D. JAMES ROMERO, TIMES STAFF WRITER

The cars are much smaller, the engines have half the cylinders. But with high-tech modifications, high-speed freeway racing and high sticker shock, this new, modern version of ages-old hot rodding is still a high stakes game. Sometimes there's a brush with the law. Sometimes it's gangsters. Often it's street or show battles with other hot rod crews. But the thrill remains the same: speed. Marc Fata, 21, a senior in international business at Cal State Fullerton, worked nearly six years selling shoes to buy and fix up his used '93 Acura Integra. "I didn't go to prom, I didn't go to parties," he says. "I set aside my social life." Now, however, he doesn't even drive…

A Shadow on the Waves

Los Angeles Times
September 26, 1994, Monday, Home Edition
A SHADOW ON THE WAVES;
HE REVOLUTIONIZED THE SURFBOARD, MAKING THE SPORT ACCESSIBLE TO THE MASSES. BUT NO ONE REALLY KNEW ALL THAT MUCH ABOUT BOB SIMMONS. NOW AN AVID SURFER AND SCHOOLTEACHER IS REVIVING HIS LEGEND.

By DENNIS ROMERO, TIMES STAFF WRITER

As San Diego surfing veteran John Elwell tells it, someone spied a speck on the rough, rarely ridden outside break. It was December, 1949, and the boys had just paddled out into the frigid water of the Tijuana Slough, a surfing spot just north of the border. A second take revealed that there was indeed a mysterious figure speeding across the face of a towering swell. Unheard of. Nobody had seen him before, so they dubbed him the Phantom Surfer. Later, local Chuck Quinn had the nerve to paddle up to the unknown. Quinn promptly took measure of the fiberglass-covered balsa-wood board. It had a turned-up nose, flow slots on the side, and -- come again? -- twin fins. Quinn knew about an L…