L.A. I LOVE YOU BUT YOU WERE BRINGING ME DOWN

Hey dudes,

Last week, I talked by telephone to an LATimes journalist named August Brown about why Arthur Magazine had left L.A. for New York.

This was a long conversation. I now regret that I did not set a pre-condition for this interview: I should have insisted on seeing the quotations he was planning to run in his story, to check their accuracy, especially as he was not audiotape recording the conversation — an interview situation, I’ve learned from being a journalist and editor, that virtually ensures significant errors of omission and misrepresentation.

Next time, I will be much more careful. I am now readying a formal demand to the Times for a retraction of the article and a public apology. In the meantime, I want to try to clear the air, as best I can.

Arthur is not a hipster lifestyle publication. It’s an all ages counterculture mag about ideas, and manifestations of those ideas. And counterculture isn’t just in a single place or city or scene or neighborhood anymore — it’s all over the country, all over the world. It’s distributed, a beautiful constellation of enclaves and loners.

Arthur-as-a-magazine aims to serve those folks, wherever they are.

But Arthur-as-a-magazine is made possible by Arthur-as-a-business. Since, somewhat unfortunately, I own 100 percent of Arthur, and I carry all of its debt, I have to do what’s best for the business, and what seems best for me, personally.

At the most basic level, that means that I have to locate myself in the best possible place I can find for Arthur-as-a-business to grow so that Arthur-as-a-magazine can continue to publish.

For better or worse, the fact is that if you’re doing national magazine publishing, you’ve got a far higher chance of making it work as-a-business if you are based in NYC, where you can do the highest number of significant business meetings in the shortest amount of time. It’s not the ONLY place you can do this, of course, but it’s certainly the cheapest — I can get anywhere I need to go for $2 in NYC. And I gotta do that, cuz Arthur has never been big enough for the businesspeople-with-money to come to us–we have to go to them! And almost all of them are in NYC, or travel through it regularly.

So, I figured I would have a better chance of getting Arthur-as-a-business to be self-sustaining, as well as the magazine remaining autonomous and independent and on-target, if I were to be in NYC. The environment here is more hospitable for Arthur-as-a-business. And it has other things that I enjoy, on a personal level, like great pizza and lotsa creative folks and so on. So, here I am, and here we are.

That said!!!! Lemme just say I’m really gonna miss A LOT that is going on in L.A. So I wanna SALUTE organizations, nay INSTITUTIONS, like BEYOND BAROQUE in Venice, the LA CONSERVANCY people who are trying to save the good stuff, the wonderful FAMILY store on Fairfax, the absolutely world-class CINEFAMILY operation on Fairfax, MCCABE’S GUITAR SHOP in Santa Monica (50 years old!), the ELF CAFE in Echo Park, the ZIGGURAT THEATer people, all the wonderful vendors at the local farmers’ markets, FRIENDS OF THE L.A. RIVER, the weekly DUBCLUB (a real accomplishment!), the DUBLAB crew of sweethearts, Chris Ziegler and the L.A. RECORD gang, the valiant folks of SOUTH CENTRAL FARMERS (still going!), the FARMLAB organization, Flea’s SILVERLAKE MUSIC CONSERVANCY, Calarts and REDCAT, the UCLA Live people, whoever’s booking those great shows at the Hollywood Bowl and the Disney Hall, FRITZ HAEG and his visionary projects (although I’m not sure Fritz is really around much anymore), Machine Project (most exciting art space in L.A.), TIM DUNDON (the guru of doo-doo!) in Pasadena, NEW IMAGE ART, Wendy and OOGA BOOGA, VAMP SHOES, MATRUSHKA, the NEW ENERGY folks, ECHO PARK FILM CENTER, John Wyatt’s CINESPIA project, HOPE GALLERY, the nice people at ANTI/Epitaph, SOUTHERN LORD and EVERLOVING and BOMP/ALIVE and IN THE RED independent record labels, great independently owned and operated shops like the PULL MY DAISY (R.I.P. Bingo!) boutique in Silver Lake, PANTY RAID and FLOUNCE in Echo Park, the eternal CAFE TROPICAL in Silver Lake, the upstart INTELLIGENTSIA in Silver Lake, AMOEBA Music, MELTDOWN in Hollywood, DON’S RECORDS in Eagle Rock…

And then there’s Mr. T’s Bowl, THE NUART and NEW BEVERLY and the AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE and films at MOMA, the Herbst brothers’ projects, whatever Kristine McKenna is up to, THE SMELL of course, SELF-HELP GRAPHICS in East L.A., the L.A. FREE CLINIC folks, the LEGAL AID people, the way-ahead-of-the-game BIKE KITCHEN and BIKE OVEN groups, the gigantic dutch oven apple pancakes at DINAH’S on Sepulveda, TITO’S TACOS, the $1 masala chai tea at INDIA SWEETS AND SPICES in Atwater, TACOS VILLA CORONA, the people of the canyons, all the ATWATER PAGANS and experimental chefs, CINEFILE and VIDEO JOURNEYS, Joe McGraw’s wild bar and wilder hair, the courageous people at SPACELAND PRODUCTIONS who produced three adventurous festivals with Arthur, whatever mischief Don Bolles and Nora Keyes are cooking up somewhere, Scott Sterling at the Fold who took so many risks, the overburdened and underpaid TEACHERS of L.A. Unified, the volunteers who keep AMIR’S GARDEN going in Griffith Park, all the lawyers doing PRO BONO work, the possibly revolutionary ECHO PARK TIME BANK, the independent merchants going for it on their own all over town…

I am TOTALLY gonna miss IN-N-OUT, esp the weird one in Glendale. And the GLENDALE NARROWS area of the L.A. RIVER. And Chuck Taggart’s GUMBO show on KCSN. (Thanks too to Chuck P. on Indie and Barry Smolin at KPFK for always looking our for local artists.) And MAN ONE’s crew of beautiful, inspiring graffiti artists. And PHILIPS BBQ off Crenshaw. Doing C-shots at VIET SOY. The pizza at FLORE. And all the great THAI FOOD… the amazing scene that is TOMMY’S on Temple, the Farmers Market downtown, the CARACOL herbal garden in East L.A. ELYSIAN PARK. The 2 FREEWAY. Jerome and the gang at BRAND BOOKS. The good folks of SKYLIGHT. And so many more!!!! All the great underheard bands and ignored poets and out-of-work journalists and artists and scholars and photographers and filmmakers and cartoonists and playwrights and actors and editors and gardeners and designers and botanists and scientists and teachers and historians and clothes designers, and union organizers, and all the life-lovers, all the amazing craftspeople, autonomous/independent individuals all, faced (like all such folks on this planet) with ever-worsening survival odds because of encroaching corporatization/homogenization…

So much good stuff survives, in spite of everything else that’s horrible about L.A.: the drive-you-nuts traffic and the increasing atomization that results, the fucked up health care system (MLK hospital, full-up ER rooms everywhere, etc), the closing of bookstores everywhere (ACRES OF BOOKS, RIP; DUTTON’S, RIP; etc), the dumbing down of schools (yes I know it’s national), the tasteless and foolish overdevelopment (RICK CARUSO’s Grove and Americana malls are abominations), soul-killing ads and billboards for endless crap that this city’s mind-destroying ‘entertainment industry’ churns out, lack of GOOD parks for everyone, oblivious rich people, petty Councilpeople and Supervisors (esp Gloria Molina for going after muralists and taco trucks!), cruel bureaucrats, dumb celebrities and people who care about them, bonehead street gangs killing people over stupid shit, bad policing, the unwillingness to deal with the inevitability of the next earthquake and/or Hollywood Hills fire [check out Dave Gardetta’s Nov 2007 Los Angeles Magazine article, “In the Line of Fire”], Sam Zell’s ongoing destruction of the LATimes, L.A.’s absolutely disgraceful prison system, the awful stuff on the public airwaves of tv and radio — I could go on for a long time.

My hat’s off to all of you who carry on doing your thing in the L.A. area DESPITE ALL OF THIS CRAP (which I refer to as the “psychic death hole”).

I’m really going to miss you, your spirit and your work. And I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Thanks for your interest in Arthur. If you have any questions, you know where to reach me.

All love,

Jay Babcock


Categories: BLOG, Jay Babcock | Leave a comment

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2022: I publish a weeklyish email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca., where I practiced with Buddhist teacher Ruth Denison and was involved in various pro-ecology and social justice activist activities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s