29 January 2013

California Gold - or why we must re-Copenhagenize Los Angeles

Huell Howser died earlier this month

"Who?", you ask?

Huell Howser was a television presenter in California who, though he had worked on commercial television, and even on syndicated U.S. Hollywood gossip programming, was known for his down-to-earth presentations about life in and attractions in the "Golden State", a style of television he successfully transplanted from his birthplace of Tennessee.

"But I am not in California, so I have never seen him, right?" you say.

Yes, well, you see, there is this industry based primarily in Los Angeles that makes these things called "Talking Motion Pictures" which you have perhaps viewed?  Because of this and the further industries it has spawned, there is a lot of creative work done in and around Los Angeles and throughout California.

Which is why when something appears even just on local media in Los Angeles, it quickly gets relayed to the rest of the planet via happenstance or satire.

Just ask Bob Crane (you can't actually as he is dead), Gary Owens, or more recently, Jim Thornton.

So you've likely heard or seen Huell, no matter where you are on this planet, if you are a fan of Winnie the Pooh,  or more prominently, The Simpsons, where he was repeatedly parodied as the character Howell Huser

What's this have to do with Copenhagenize? A while back, Mikael wrote a post here about the history of Cycling in Southern California that was resplendent with photos taken over one hundred years ago showing how much bicycles were used in the region.  Another post reprints an article Mikael wrote for the Los Angeles Times, the city's major newspaper, recounting the Bicycle Culture 1.0 that Southern California experienced .

 Now it's one thing to read the scripts, but Huell made a movie.  If you've got 27 minutes, why not sit down and enjoy the "Bikes" episode of Howser's premiere program "California Gold", "A look at L.A.'s bike history with stops at the Pasadena Museum of History, [and] a Sunday Morning ride back in time as Huell uncovers other important stops in L.A.'s Bike History"
(With thanks to the Chapman University Huell Howser Archive)

 Why is this important?  Because there is most certainly an existing and rebounding bicycle culture in Southern California, which is growing quite rapidly. But what is important to realize is that Hollywood very much imposes its street-view on the rest of the world, so it's culture of automobile domination gets presented as the norm. Even when it makes absolutely no sense, as happens when films are made in an east coast U.S. city, including one which is (or was once) actually considered to be "Medieval" in by Urban Planners and Geographers. So if cycling were to become as normal on the streets of Los Angeles as it is in Copenhagen, then, perhaps, one day, some of those movie people might get the idea to portray it as such in one or many of their films.

And imagine what that might lead to.