8 Movies That Take Place In L.A.

8 Movies That Take Place In L.A.

When people refer to Los Angeles, most of the time they refer to downtown L.A., a central urban area populated by skyscrapers. Los Angeles County, on the other hand, is the 4,083 square mile region in Southern California which incorporates 88 official cities and 76 unincorporated communities, making it one of the most diverse areas in the world.

Areas such as the San Fernando Valley, South Central, Hollywood, Malibu, and Pasadena all fall under the blanket of Los Angeles County. As disparate as all these communities may be, Angelinos share many commonalities: the complex and often overcrowded freeway system, smog, constant construction, dry desert weather, and a thriving car culture, to name a few.

Los Angeles is also home to Hollywood, one of the biggest filmmaking capitals in the world. People from all over the world flock to L.A. with the hopes of “making it” in the movie industry. However, not all films shot in L.A. truly depict what it’s like to live in L.A.

The following films not only take place in the city of dreams, but offer some sort of commentary or history about life within this expansive, crime filled, smog-ridden, movie making desert city by the beach.

1. Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)

Billy Wilder’s classic film dramatically depicts the tragic lives of the artists Hollywood has rejected. Set in Hollywood, where the movie industry is of central concern for the characters, the film highlights the characters’ desire to work within a business that doesn’t have room for them.

A struggling screenwriter, Joe Gillis (William Holden), labors away at screenplays that aren’t selling. With rent on his studio apartment behind by three months and his car threatened of getting repossessed, he is desperately in need of a job. He stumbles into the driveway of an enormous dilapidated mansion on Sunset Boulevard, home to aging glamor queen of the 1920s, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), and her live-in servant Max (Erich von Stroheim).

Upon discovering Gillis is a writer, Norma takes him on as a ghost writer to her epic “come-back” film story idea. Gillis becomes prisoner to the lonely and delusional Norma, who cannot come to terms with her faded celebrity.

Both characters have been cast out of the Hollywood industry: Norma because of her age and her inability to keep up with the changes of modern Hollywood; Gillis because his story ideas don’t seem to adhere to the unstable demands of Hollywood’s production companies.

This film’s focus is Hollywood and ways in which artists are affected by the superficial and changeable nature of the movie business. Artists like Norma or Joe Gillis crumble in this place that values novelty and youth.

2. Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955)

This innovative film is recognized as one of the first mainstream movies to depict teenage angst. Set in the Los Angeles suburbs, Ray’s sensitive story depicts three middle-class teenagers and their chaotic emotional turmoil.

A teenage misfit, Jim Stark (James Dean), is new to a suburban L.A. town. He is brought into the local police station for being drunk and disorderly while his parents are out at a party. Upset at his parents’ constant arguing as well as the feeling that his father is being emasculated by his mother, Jim has no one to connect with. He meets Judy (Natalie Wood) and Plato (Sal Mineo); both also frustrated and upset at their unaffectionate and absent parents.

The three become confidants after a teenage punk is killed racing Jim to the edge of a bluff in a game of “chicken.” On the run from a group of punks who believe Jim snitched to the police, the three friends hide out in an abandoned mansion in the Hollywood hills.

Unlike many films made during the 50s, this film ventures out of the studio. We see authentic locations in Los Angeles. L.A.’s Griffith Observatory, overlooking the L.A. grid, is featured twice in the film as an important spot for the three friends.

The exteriors of the high school that Jim, Judy, and Plato attend is Santa Monica High School, the real life alumni of which include: Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn, and Robert Downey, Jr. Interestingly, the abandoned mansion where the friends hide out is the Getty Mansion, a property once owned by oil-tycoon and art collector J. Paul Getty, and where Sunset Boulevard was also shot.

As well as featuring recognizable sites around L.A., the film also shows the suburban neighborhoods with white picket fences to illustrate the sunny veneer beneath which these teenagers are facing their emotional anguish.

3. The Exiles (Kent Mackenzie, 1961)

Kent Mackenzie’s film offers a rare glimpse into the lives of Native Americans living in the historic Bunker Hill district during the early 1960s. Shot with documentary-style realism, the film examines the everyday lives of Native American friends within the bustling city of downtown L.A.

The film follows a group of Native American friends, playing themselves, as they wander the streets of downtown Los Angeles one night, drinking and socializing. Mackenzie mixes unscripted voice-over interviews with improvised scenes of the friends hanging out at bars and dancing on “Hill X,” overlooking the city.

The Bunker Hill district in downtown L.A. was originally designed with Victorian style houses in the mid-19th century as a neighborhood for the well-to-do.

In the face of urban growth, wealthier residents began leaving, in lieu of the suburbs of Pasadena or the Westside. In post-war years, Bunker Hill became a slum area, housing people in poverty- like L.A.’s Native American and Latino population. Today the neighborhood is home to high-rises and cultural spaces, such as the MOCA, the Broad Art Museum, and Walt Disney Concert Hall.

This film expertly mixes pseud-documentary social commentary with modern realist filmmaking, discussing the displacement of Native Americans from their indigenous lands, as well as addressing the ambitions of the poverty-stricken youth hoping for better lives for themselves in Los Angeles.

4. The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman, 1973)

Altman’s version of the 1953 Raymond Chandler novel sets Philip Marlowe in 1970s Los Angeles. Although the story deviates from the book, the film provides a fantastic, somewhat comic re-interpretation of the hardboiled detective genre. Altman establishes the classic private investigator character in Los Angeles’ scenic, modern setting, updating and satirizing the genre at the same time.

Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) is feeding his fussy cat when his old friend Terry Lennox (played by baseball player Jim Bouton) asks for a ride to Tijuana. Marlowe agrees. Upon his return, Marlowe is confronted by two police detectives asking about the whereabouts of Lennox, accused of murdering his wife, Sylvia Lennox.

Refusing to provide any information, Marlowe is jailed by the police for three days. He learns soon thereafter that Lennox apparently committed suicide in Mexico, which provides the police with a satisfactory completion of their case. They quickly free Marlowe. However, Marlowe is suspicious of this news and starts investigating, soon becoming entangled in a larger scheme.

This “neo-noir” crime film places a suited, chain-smoking 1950s-eque private investigator within the relaxed, hippie-filled L.A. of the 1970s.

Elements of the city’s modernity are everywhere: Marlowe’s apartment in the Hollywood hills is full of stoner, hippie neighbors; Marlowe is asked to search for Roger Wade (Sterling Hayden), alcoholic writer, whom he discovers at a private detox clinic (Detox clinic? Did someone say L.A.?); Marlowe’s catch phrase, “It’s okay with me,” typifying his relaxed yet sardonic attitude.

The classic detective genre is satirized by Altman’s film, which immerses the loyal Philip Marlowe in Los Angeles’ decadence of the 1970s.

5. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)

Polanski’s classic film, consistently ranked as one of the best films ever made, tells the story of private investigator, Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), who becomes caught in a whirlwind mystery of corruption and murder as he investigates the actions and then death of Hollis Mulwray, chief engineer for L.A.’s Department of Water and Power.

Gittes is approached by a woman who identifies herself as Mrs. Mulwray, who hires him to investigate her husband. A scandal breaks out when he takes photos of Mr. Mulwray in the arms of another woman.

The real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) confronts Gittes, explaining that he was tricked. Soon thereafter, Mr. Mulwray ends up dead by drowning in an apparent murder. Gittes quickly begins to uncover the sordid facts of Los Angeles’ stolen water supply, as well as the dirty details of Mrs. Mulwray’s personal life.

The film is based on true Los Angeles history in regards to the misconduct of Southern California’s water supply, led by civil engineer William Mulholland. In the early 1910-1920s, large amounts of water were diverted from the Owens Valley into Los Angeles in an effort to expand L.A.’s population. This caused a major drought and agricultural problem in the Owen’s Valley, resulting in a violent conflict between local famers and L.A. water officials.

A neo-noir, this film portrays Los Angeles as a dark place filled with shady dealings. It is a place where corruption thrives and informed people are virtually powerless to stop it.

6. The Decline of Western Civilization (Penelope Spheeris, 1981)

Penelope Spheeris’ rockumentary documents the L.A. punk scene during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The film mixes concert footage from a variety of punk bands (such as X, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and Fear) with interviews with the bands, club owners, record owners, and locals analyzing the punk scene.

This film is the first part of a trilogy of documentaries examining the emergence of various rock music coming from Los Angeles in the 1980s through the 1990s. It acts as a time capsule of the budding hardcore punk scene in Los Angeles as it records the wild performers and audience members. During the time, hardcore punk did not receive much coverage in magazines or on the radio, perhaps due to its controversial, rebellious content.

This makes the film all the more valuable, since it captures the raw moments on stage and in the mosh pit, which were not widely seen in film before this time. It attempts to understand the nature of punk music and the punk lifestyle that manifested during this period in Southern California.

7. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)

This neo-noir, set in 2019, captures a gritty, dystopian side of L.A. With this futuristic action thriller, Ridley Scott envisions what Los Angeles may become in the no-so-distant future.

The story occurs during a time when bioidentical artificial intelligence, called “replicants,” are being put to use on off-planet colonies. Replicants are banned from coming to Earth, but a handful have escaped and are hiding out in L.A.– possibly to contact their powerful manufacturer, the Tyrell Corporation, and attempt to extend their four year lifespan. Ex-police agent and “Blade Runner” Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is given the job to track down and “retire” the replicants.

The production design, lighting, and cinematography is highly stylized in this film, and all come together nicely to give Los Angeles a sleek, yet decaying feel. The L.A. skyline is crowded with neon signs, smoke stacks, and giant skyscrapers, making it feel as though the characters are living within an industrial wasteland.

There are remnants of the old fashioned, Art Deco-esque architecture authentic to Los Angeles, which in the film seems to be crumbling beneath the high tech expansion in this futuristic city. Smoke and shadows mysteriously engulf the characters in this world where human and robot are indistinguishable.

8. Repo Man (Alex Cox, 1984)

This bizarre cult film uses the landscape of downtown Los Angeles as the framework of the film’s unusual story. One part sci-fi, one part action, one part dark comedy, Repo Man utilizes downtown L.A.’s concrete jungle as the backdrop to the film’s rough, delinquent characters.

Emilo Estevez plays Otto, a young punk feeling his way through the world, looking for sex, work, and purpose. He becomes involved with a kooky group of Repo men, led by Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), who take Otto under their collective wing. Meanwhile, government agents seek a mysterious Chevy Malibu, apparently carrying radioactive alien material. The film erupts into chaotic absurdity when the repo agency confronts the government, a rival repo group, and the radioactive Malibu worth $20,000.

Robby Müller’s fantastic cinematography frequently makes use of long shots, placing the characters within the landscape of L.A. Barren concrete streets, telephone poles, highway bridges, and neon lights surround the characters at all times.

Müller shoots half of the film with the characters inside their stolen or repossessed cars, creating the appropriate atmosphere of L.A.’s vagabond car culture. Although the film’s story is eccentric and sometimes uneven, the depiction of Los Angeles’ raw 1980s punk scene feels no less authentic.

When people refer to Los Angeles, most of the time they refer to downtown L.A., a central urban area populated by skyscrapers. Los Angeles County, on the other hand, is the 4,083 square mile region in Southern California which incorporates 88 official cities and 76 unincorporated communities, making it one of the most diverse areas in the world.

Areas such as the San Fernando Valley, South Central, Hollywood, Malibu, and Pasadena all fall under the blanket of Los Angeles County. As disparate as all these communities may be, Angelinos share many commonalities: the complex and often overcrowded freeway system, smog, constant construction, dry desert weather, and a thriving car culture, to name a few.

Los Angeles is also home to Hollywood, one of the biggest filmmaking capitals in the world. People from all over the world flock to L.A. with the hopes of “making it” in the movie industry. However, not all films shot in L.A. truly depict what it’s like to live in L.A.

The following films not only take place in the city of dreams, but offer some sort of commentary or history about life within this expansive, crime filled, smog-ridden, movie making desert city by the beach.

This article originally appeared on Tasteofcinema.com.

William Onyeabor

William Onyeabor

In January of 2017, William Onyeabor passed away.

In 2005, David Byrne’s globe-trotting label Luaka Bop—after investigating the sounds of Brazil, Cuba, and the like—released World Psychedelic Classics 3: Love’s A Real Thing – The Funky Fuzzy Sounds Of West Africa. Along with the likes of the breathtaking É**thiopiques series and Strut’s relentlessly funky Nigeria 70 set from 2001, the compilation helped spur a revival in African music from the continent’s “Golden Age,” that time in the 1960s and 70s when European imperialism was for the most part eradicated, artists and culture flourished, and before many of these nations’ leaders turned despotic. That renaissance has continued on into the present moment, from the work of imprints like Analog Africa, Soundway, and Awesome Tapes from Africa (to name just a few of many active reissue labels), even as Africa’s embarrassment of riches has turned into a glut of sorts, a decidedly First World problem to have.

In those intervening years, Luaka Bop tried with little success to track down William Onyeabor, whose “Better Change Your Mind” appeared on both their comp and the Nigeria 70 set. Little info could be found about the man, though the reports varied wildly: he studied cinematography in Russia, he self-financed his own movie, he was a titan of industry in his native Nigeria with a flour mill, he had business interests in Sweden. About the only thing for certain was that Onyeabor self-released eight albums from 1977-1985 at an annual report clip, before disavowing music for Christianity. Since then, Onyeabor’s music has been bootlegged while original copies can go for upwards of $500 online.

Previous decades have led to re-appraisals of the likes of King Sunny Ade, Ali Farka Touré, Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, and Fela Kuti, and Luaka Bop’s handy new set Who is William Onyeabor? (the first legitimate reissue of his music) posits the man for a 21st century audience, where his sonic sensibilities seem best suited. While those aforementioned African icons gained renown on the world music circuit for their guitar work, their distinct voices, their rhythmic innovations, Onyeabor favored an instrument rarely heard from the African Diaspora, the analog synthesizer.

An array of keyboards can be seen on the cover of Onyeabor’s final album Anything You Sow and across the man’s discography, they evolve from serving as accompaniment to becoming the primary instrument. “Something You Will Never Forget” features a crisp backbeat, Afrobeat horn skronk, and Onyeabor’s organ in roller rink mode, the most conventional song on the set. But on opener “Body and Soul” (a longtime dancefloor staple) Onyeabor tickles the keys then warps them until they sound like an inter-dimensional portal in the midst of the song’s slinking groove. It happens again five minutes into his biggest “hit,” “Atomic Bomb” a heavily wah-wah’d keyboard doing its best Bernie Worrell when-the-Mothership-lands impression.

All but one of the comp’s nine tracks comes in under six minutes (with three topping the 10-minute mark), and most of the songs are structured similarly, at times making the set feel same-y. A steady, boxy drum rhythm (some utilizing drum machine), smatterings of guitar, a bevy of female back-up singers doing call and responses with Onyeabor’s naïf yet endearing English lyrics, but central to each track is Onyeabor’s synth work. The closest comparison to this set might be that of Indian guitarist-turned synth enthusiast Charanjit Singh’s 1982 album Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat, which no doubt sounded like a rinky-dink curio during its time, but in hindsight was revealed to have anticipated acid and techno by a number of years so that by the time of its reissue it sounded downright revelatory to 21st century listeners. Similarly, Onyeabor’s strange use of the synthesizer as embellishment presages that of any number of outsider electronic music producers by three decades. It’s little wonder that the likes of Four Tet, James Holden, Caribou and more have already been buzzing with their accolades for the man and the weird funk of “Fantastic Man” could easily be mistaken for a modern Dam-Funk track.

Whereas Sunny Ade’s singular guitar tone could be as mighty and rippling as a river and Fela Kuti and Tony Allen’s Afrobeat was a force of nature, Onyeabor’s music often times sounds warbling and flimsy, economical and tinny. Some of this might come from the set drawing on vinyl sources rather than master tapes, but knowing of the man’s imminent Christian conversion, it’s not a stretch to see parallels between Onyeabor’s organ tone and those of private-pressed religious records. Onyeabor’s sound is as homemade and insular as anything on last year’s Personal Space compilation, as strange and extraterrestrial as that of Sun Ra. Who is William Onyeabor? doesn’t provide any answers its own posited question, but the mystery and wonder of the man’s music remains intact.

This article originally appeared on PitchFork.com.

15 Things You Don’t Know About California

15 Things You Don’t Know About California

  1. California joined the United States with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War, in 1848. The U.S. paid Mexico $15 million for war damages. In turn, Mexico ceded nearly half of its territory, including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. California officially became a state (the 31st) in 1850.
  1. California was originally known as the Grizzly Bear State. As California boomed—and the bear population was wiped out—it became the Golden State.
  1. The grizzly bear on California’s current state flag is a tribute to Monarch, a 1,200-lb. wild California grizzly bear captured by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (or, rather, the reporter he hired, Allen Kelley) in 1899. Monarch was sent to San Francisco, where he was a star attraction at Woodward’s Garden and then Golden Gate Park until his death in 1911. The last reported sighting of a wild California grizzly bear was in 1924.
  1. While Monarch is front and center on California’s official state flag, which was adopted in 1911, the bear flag image dates back to 1846, two years before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. A group of Americans who’d settled in California, which was then part of Mexico, feared they’d be expelled. They invaded the Mexican outpost at Sonoma and captured the retired general Mariano Vallejo. A few days later, they raised a flag that featured a red star and crudely drawn grizzly and declared the land the California Republic.
  1. And who designed the original flag? William Todd, nephew of Mary Todd Lincoln. It’s a small historical world.
  1. The one-word state motto, an exclamation-point-less “Eureka,” hearkens back to the exciting days of the Gold Rush. But the exclamation of “Eureka!” is attributed to the Greek scholar Archimedes. According to legend, he had an epiphany as he stepped into a bathtub and watched the water level rise—he realized that the volume of the displaced water was equal to the volume of the foot he’d submerged. And then he ran out of the room to tell others about his discovery… while he was completely naked. (More on whether that ever actually happened here.)
  1. California is the only state that’s hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics.
  1. California is the most populous state (and the third largest by area). To put California’s population, approximately 38 million people, in perspective, one out of every eight Americans is from California.
  1. The fortune cookie was inspired by the Japanese fortune tradition o-mikuji and invented in California.
  1. I can haz state recognition? In 1973, the sabre-tooth cat, Smilodon californicus, became California’s state fossil. A year earlier, Assemblyman W. Craig Biddle had nominated the cockroach-like trilobite for the honor. Nearly 2,000 museum curators and fossil experts backed him, but the bill never made it to a vote. A year later, the sabre-tooth cat made it to the floor and passed. The one no-vote? Senator W. Craig Biddle.
  1. Despite living in Los Angeles—a city known for its traffic—for 78 years, writer Ray Bradbury never learned to drive.
  1. California’s most famous for its Gold Rush which began in 1848, but it also had a Silver Rush in the Calico Mountains from 1881 to 1896. By 1904, Calico was a ghost town.
  1. The mineral benitoite can be found in California, Japan, and Arkansas, but only San Benito County, California, has it in gemstone-quality deposits. The California State Gem Mine in Coalinga allows the public to dig and take home a quart-sized bag of treasure.
  1. Thousands of U.S. banks failed after the 1929 stock market crash—by 1933, only 11,000 were left. All of San Francisco’s banks, however, survived.
  1. The highest point in the contiguous U.S., 14,494-foot Mt. Whitney, is only 76 miles from the lowest point in the contiguous U.S., Death Valley. They’re both in Calif— well, you know.

This article originally appeared on MentalFloss.com.

Top Music Cities That Aren’t New York Or LA

Top Music Cities That Aren’t New York Or LA

If Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that music happens in one of two cities: New York or Los Angeles. These are the places you go if you really want to make it big — if you want to pay exorbitant amounts to live in a crumbling apartment and slowly lose all creative energy.

It’s true, you can find music in these cities. But they aren’t the only — or even the best — places for young music lovers in America. The best music in the country typically comes from where you’d least expect it — the tight-knit, weirder scenes outside the mainstream. The following are some of the best cities in the country for young musicians — places with rich histories and bold musical futures:

Palm Desert, California

The Palm Desert scene is exactly what the name might suggest: A distinct brand of sludgy, psychedelic alternative rock churned by heavy groups like Kyuss, Eagles of Death Metal and Queens of the Stone Age. Josh Homme, frontman of the latter group, even created the Desert Sessions, a series of recordings with artists from the scene who pay tribute to the idiosyncratic movement. It’s worth noting that the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, one of the world’s largest music events, is held right next door in Indio, California, and bands from the Palm Desert Scene are often represented.

Athens, Georgia

Best known as the college rock town responsible for cultural icons like REM and the B-52s, Athens maintained a consistent iconoclastic identity by becoming an indie hotspot. In the past decade, bands like Of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel and the rest of the famed Elephant 6 collective gave the town major indie cred. Ever since, Local venues like the 40 Watt Club are a great spot to see these bands and similar less prominent groups on the rise.

East Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville isn’t all country. On the outskirts of the country music capital of the world sits an ideal destination for groups looking to gain footing in the indie world and for fans looking to witness their ascent. The rent is cheap, the venues are diverse and plentiful, and groups like the Kopecky Family Band are almost always playing somewhere close by. The city’s proximity to Nashville doesn’t hurt, either.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The Research Triangle, consisting of Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh, was named for the universities it houses, but the college-centric region has also become a hotbed for local talent and live shows. Its most notable exports include indie folk superstars The Avett Brothers, power pop trio Ben Folds Five and swing revivalists Squirrel Nut Zippers, among an eclectic variety of others. Come here for beautiful college town real estate, stay for basically every kind of music you can imagine.

Berkeley, California

While Boston’s Berklee College of Music educates eager young musicians, the Berkeley on the other side of the country is a bit rougher around the edges. It was at the forefront of punk’s repopularization in the U.S. Bands like Green Day, The Offspring and Sublime emerged from the scene, and the seminal 924 Gilman Street venue where these bands began their journeys remains a hotspot for similar bands today.

Provo, Utah

This small town in Utah has produced two of the most talked about acts of the past year: Imagine Dragons and Neon Trees. When the bands became national chart-topping success stories, the fledging Utah city was revitalized by the increased attention it received. The city began a series of downtown development projects in 2009 and ever since, venues like Velour Live Music Gallery and events like the Summer Rooftop Concert Series have been the highlights of a newly flourishing city that now boasts a thriving music scene.

Olympia, Washington

Any Washington city is going to have a hard time escaping the musical shadow of Seattle, but Olympia’s rich history has helped it carve its own unique identity: it was an important part of the riot grrrl scene in the ‘90s, which produced bands like Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill. Indie rock group Modest Mouse recorded their legendary debut album, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, in the city. It isn’t just in the past though — to this day the avant-garde music scene brings in more than $88.3 million in revenue annually, Billboard reports.

Richmond, Virginia

Virginia’s capital city has long been home to one of the most active punk rock scenes on the East Coast, featuring myriad venues for hardcore and metal bands to gain exposure. Notable exports that include GWAR and Lamb of God, but the city is full of harder sounding bands waiting for their chance to break. Opportunity exists for artists of a gentler persuasion too, though — singer-songwriter Aimee Mann and neo-soul singer D’Angelo have emerged from the area.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Perhaps Minnesota isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of hip-hop, but Minneapolis has a thriving underground rap scene. This is due to the presence of Rhymesayers Entertainment, Minnesota’s largest hip-hop record label that has seen some of its homegrown talent — most notably Eyedea & Abilities and Atmosphere — achieve national success. But if rap isn’t your thing, rock bands Soul Asylum and The Replacements also hail from Minneapolis, and the Twin Cities area hosts a variety of festivals every year.

Denton, Texas

Austin keeps it weird and its annual hosting of the hugely popular South by Southwest festival has cemented it as the musical center of Texas. But a couple 100 miles north, Denton has been emerging as the heart of Texan independent music for some time. In 2008, Paste Magazine named the city’s music scene the best in the country. Denton has also come up with its own answer to SXSW: 35 Denton, a scrappy music festival that has previously featured bands like The Flaming Lips, Solange Knowles, Reggie Watts and many others. Denton is also home to iconic indie rock band, Midlake.

Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha’s musical identity began as a hub for African-American jazz and blues musicians in the ’20s and ’30s, but today, country-flavored indie rock, known as the “Omaha Sound,” defines the area. Omaha-based Saddle Creek Records was an early proponent of the movement and its roster today includes artists like Cursive, Tokyo Police Club and Conor Oberst (most notably of Bright Eyes), whose brother, Justin, co-founded the label in 1993. The scene remains strong to this day, bolstering the careers of many young folk musicians.

This article originally appeared on Mic.com.

Junk Food Regulation, It’s What’s For Dinner

Junk Food Regulation, It’s What’s For Dinner

There needs to be regulations on the distribution, sale, advertising, and overall consumption of junk food by children. Besides the fact that children are the greatest long-term investment any country has, junk food is not only unbeneficial in every concern relating to health possible, it is also causing health problems in children (and adults) at near epidemic levels. To do nothing in the realm of curbing the consumption of these foods would not be irresponsible, it is also short-sided and dangerous. There primary points that this paper will specifically target when reviewing this topic are: one, what are junk foods and what about them makes them bad, two, current trends and consumption of junk foods today, and the third point will be to look at what are some practical things that can be done to curb the consumption of junk foods.

Before we begin, it is worth noting that there is historical precedence for the government taking action against an industry that sells goods that are consumed, and for the sake of this paper, we will look at what the government did in its battle against the Tobacco Industry. Although there has been much research devoted to the topic that consuming junk foods and the ensuing results of obesity are akin to the effects that smoking has on the body, with that point aside, the government did take action against the Tobacco Industry. Although there have been advocates against smoking since at least the 1930’s, the anti-smoking message really began to hit its stride in the late 1980’s and the 1990’s. There are a myriad of factors that contributed to this lobby’s message growth, but among other reasons was the simple fact that scientists, doctors, and researches all came to the same conclusion that smoking is bad (Early, 2010). Now, it took a while for the public to catch on to what the researchers were saying, but once there began to be a generally accepted consensus of the hazards to health that smoking has, it changed the entire nature of the debate. One of the factors that helped to sway public opinion and perception on this matter was that the government (Local, State and Federal) came out very strong against smoking. The end results of governmental actions is that smoking has become an act that is shunned by most people. The point of the previous illustration are these: smoking is bad for people, the government took action in the form of showing smoking in a bad light, raising taxes on smoking, and coming out with a very strong anti-smoking campaign, and the result today is that there are less smokers, and even though we live in a free society and no one lost their constitutional rights, the government was able to attack a problem, and the public health is better for it (Schroeder, 2008). This kind of strategy needs to be employed against the scourge of American and Westerners societies, that being obesity and the host of issues that come with being obese.

The term “junk food” is axiomatic in its meaning, it is junk in the form of food. Now, junk food can take on several different forms, and the term itself does include liquids, i.e. soda and other drinks that contain a high sugar content (this last point can be contested in the form of juices). With that being said, a working list of junk foods includes: fast food, candy, potato chips, low grade frozen foods, sweets, pastries and other foods similar to these. For the sake of this paper, we will focus on the foods that contain no dietary purpose for their existence other than they taste good: meaning candy, potato chips and soda. On a side note, the Fast Food Industry is a contributor to the unhealthy state of children, but on the same token, there are foods sold at fast food restaurants that do in fact contain nutrients that people need to live, so we will shy away from discussing them in great detail. Junk foods are then considered foods that contain no nutritional benefits from consumption; furthermore, a high junk food diet will only lead to poor health because junk foods are bad for people (Newnham, 2009). According to Schreier “Junk foods […] burgers, pizzas, potato wafers and fries” (Schreier, 2011).The previous mentioned statement, along with other points already raised, will be the working definition of junk foods that is used in this paper.

Now that we have discussed what exactly junk foods are, we will now move onto why they are bad for diets. As it can be gathered, junk food is not good for people, and the primary reason is because it causes poor healthy. According to Newnham, junk food can look good, and it can even taste good, but that does not mean that they are actually good for people, furthermore, the junk foods that actually taste the best are the foods that are most likely to be bad for your health (Newnham, 2009). As it can be seen, junk food is bad and is unbeneficial to good health in people, and the most prevalent form of bad health that it causes is in the form of obesity. According to Datar, the percentage of children who were obese rose from 7% in 1980, to over 18% in 2012 (Datar, 2012). Obesity has become such an issue that some organizations have declared it to be a bigger health issue than smoking. The reasons why junk foods are bad for people are simple: they contain high levels of sugar and salt, which are both addictive in nature, and they replace the consumption of healthy foods (Newnham, 2009). Before addressing the other two points that were raised, when a person eats, their body wants to tell them that they are full, but what happens when a person eats junk food is that their body is telling them that they should not eat anymore, even though what they just ate is completely unnatural to their bodies, and as a result, a person may eat an entire bag of potato chips and feel full afterwards, but their body has in no way actually consumed foods that will help it to be sustained (Newnham, 2012). In addition to the fact that junk food consumption is not only harmful to good health, there has research conducted that directly links eating junk food to obesity (Datar, 2012). According to Waddingham, children who have greater exposure to junk foods while at school are more likely to develop obesity and other health diseases, compared to children who attend schools with a lesser number of vending machines (Waddingham, 2015). To address a pervious point raised, besides the fact that junk foods oftentimes contain chemicals and other substances that are harmful to people, the core of all junk foods revolve around high concentrated levels of sugar and salt (Schreier, 2011). Due to the fact that junk foods, which contain two very addictive components, sugar and salt, and factor in that they cost less to produce and distribute than healthy foods, it then comes as no surprise that children are eating more junk food, which are bad for them. Essentially then, a person who consumes junk food is eating something that is addictive, bad for them, and it causes them to shy away from a healthy diet.

Current trends in junk food consumption are hard to know with all certainty, due to the fact that there are a high number of variables including: who consumes junk foods, where in the country they are, and other socioeconomic factors. With that being said, there has been a recent push in the past ten years in the promotion of eating healthier. As it has already been mentioned, the number of children who are what can be considered at obese-levels hit a high in the year 2012. One of the primary factors that have contributed to this stabilization in the statistics would be that the government is making very small advancements in the vilification of junk food producers. Although the government, State and Federal, have come out with information in favor of healthy eating, there has been no real substantial effort to reduce the total number of children who consume junk foods. With all of this being taken into account, junk food heavy diets are still very popular in America, and in fact, the people who consume junk foods the most are seen to be individuals whose families are more in need economically, meaning that they are poor (Datar, 2012). Now, whereas in the past, families in America had little information regarding the negative impacts that junk foods have on themselves and their children, the issue today does not revolve around the notion of lack of information (although this can be a factor), the issue today primarily revolves around the fact that people are consistently choosing to eat junk food over healthy foods like fruits and easy to carry vegetables. There are a variety of reasons for why a person might choose to eat junk food including the facts that: they are cheap, and they taste good. Their taste of course is artificially created that way so they will make people addicted to them.

This naturally leads into the next point; that being the practical regulations that the FDA and State Governments can enact to curb the consumption of junk foods. For one, junk foods can be targeted for higher sales tax rates. Junk foods, as it stands today, has a competitive advantage over healthy foods, in that, they are cheaper, and they taste better; and although junk foods cannot be made to taste worse, their other advantage, cost, can be gotten rid of. A higher tax on junk foods would bring greater polarity in their cost to those of healthier foods. For those who believe that such an action is illegal, need we look at what the government did in its fight against the Tobacco Industry? The government decided in its fight against the consumption of cigarettes that they needed to be the target of higher sales tax rates. If the FDA, ATF, and State Governments were able to raise the cost of cigarettes, then it should not be that great of a stretch to raise the cost of junk foods. Another solution that the FDA can enact to curb the consumption of junk foods would be to come out against in the sense of producing propaganda that portrays eating junk foods as a bad thing. As part of the fight against smoking, several different organizations, with the backing of government money, have produced commercials, radio ads, and created websites dedicated to the sole purpose of portraying smoking as harmful to peoples’ health. A similar campaign can be created that seeks to inform people that junk food will in fact contribute to poor health, and that there is a greater likelihood that they will develop obesity if they consume junk foods. A third action that the FDA could do in association with the FCC and Cable Providers would be to limit the number of commercials that broadcast to children that promote junk foods, in the same way that the promotion of smoking is non-existent. Another action that the FDA can do in conjunction with other Federal Agencies is prohibit K-12th schools that receive Federal Aid from purchasing junk foods with the aid that is given to them, and K-12 schools that receive Federal Aid should be prohibited from having junk food vending machines on campus. With this kind of rule, persons under the age of 18 will have to rely on purchasing junk food when their parents are around.

In conclusion, the government needs to regulate the consumption of junk foods, especially when it comes to children’s consumption of them. Junk food consumption is bad for diets, it causes people (in particular children) to become obese, and the only thing that is going to stop the spread of childhood obesity is a crackdown by the government on junk foods.

 

Bibliography

Datar, A. (2012). Junk food in schools and childhood obesity. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 31(2), 312-337.

Early, D. (2010). Smoking is bad for your colon. Gastrointest Endosc, 71(7), 1241-1243.

Newnham, D. (2009). Junk food can look good but taste bad, david newnham has discovered. Nursing Standard, 24(15-17), 24.

Schreier, P. (2011). Harmful effects of junk foods – but what about canteen and restaurant food? Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 55(1), 5-6.

Schroeder, S. (2008). Stranded in the periphery – the increasing marginalization of smokers. New England Journal of Medicine, 358(21), 2284-2286.

Waddingham, S. (2015). Most of them are junk food but we did put fruit on there and we have water: What children can tell us about the food choices they make. Health Education, 115(2), 126-140.

War! What Is It Good For?

War! What Is It Good For?

Some people, perhaps foolishly, believed that once the election took place in November that we would not have to think about politics for a few years (or even until 2019 when the next presidential election took place). It turns out… we were wrong! We will be stuck with the paradigm of having to think and talk about politics until the day that Donald Trump leaves office, which even for supporters of his or for that matter those who didn’t vote for him, are exhausted by the notion. Regardless, political conversations about the current administration are bound to be plentiful, and one of the conversations the nation is having right now revolves around North Korea.

Recently, I spoke to everyday people about the state of affairs regarding North Korea’s relationship (or lack thereof) with America, and how it would appear that the United States and North Korea are heading towards war.

But before we dive into the responses, it’s worth noting why exactly North Korea has an axe to grind with America. Without going into the magnitude of reasons why this animosity exists, the abridged version goes something like this: the northern part of Korea turned Communist in the 1940’s, towards the end of the 40’s the North invaded and tried to conquer South Korea, the man who led the Communists was Kim Il-Sung (who is Kim Jong-un’s grandfather) who was ultimately defeated by the United States and our allies in the Korean War. This resulted in the creation of two nations. Since this occurrence, South Korea has enjoyed unprecedented wealth and prosperity (especially relative to the state of their country before the War), and North Korea has essentially become Hell on Earth, with millions of people living in absolutely horrible conditions brought upon them by a family of heartless despots.

Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s get into the interviews. The three people that I spoke to about this topic are: Chuck Leela, Joe Chanda and Jackie Acqua. They range in age, but it can be safely said that none of them are older than 45. All three individuals have slightly different opinions about this topic: so let’s get into it.

Here is the conversation with Mr. Leela (after being asked about the current state of affairs with North Korea):

Mr. Leela: “It’s a pretty scary situation! On the one hand, it seems like something could really happen with North Korea, but on the other hand, there’s been this kind of talk for years.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Mr. Leela: “I mean that the media and news people have talked about North Korea being dangerous for years and how we should be afraid of nuclear war with them. There was even a movie about it a long time ago that showed Kim Jong-Il in bad light (Team America). I just don’t know.”

Me: “I see. So if you had to put money on what you think is going to happen, which side would you place your money on?”

Mr. Leela: “On the side of nothing happening. We probably won’t even be talking about this four months from now.”

Here is the conversation I had with Mr. Chanda (after being asked about the current state of affairs with North Korea):

Mr. Chanda: “I’m really nervous… It seems like the entire world is against Trump right now, including a number of Republicans, and everyone in the media, and the whole left.”

Me: “Do you think that what’s going on with North Korea right now is different than what’s happened in the past? Meaning that something could really happen between the United States and North Korea?”

Mr. Chanda: “I think so. I think something could happen between the United States and Syria, between us and Iran, and hopefully not (but who knows) with Russia. It just seems like Trump wants to change the world order so much that the powers that be are going to do whatever they can to stop him, and if that includes wars, then they will do it.”

Me: “So you think that the situation with North Korea could be just a part of a larger picture?”

Mr. Chanda: “For sure.”

Finally, here is the conversation with Ms. Acqua (after being asked about the current state of affairs with North Korea):

Ms. Acqua: “I’m not worried. I mean, sure, something could happen, but anything could happen anytime.”

Me: “So you don’t think that America could go to war with North Korea?”

Ms. Acqua: “No. If something was going to happen, wouldn’t it have already happened? It just seems like the media talks about scary stuff like this to get us to watch them, and then after a week, they start talking about another topic and we end up forgetting about what they just said.”

Me: “Do you think though that this new administration (Trump) will do some kind of military strike against North Korea in order to stop them from doing something dangerous?”

Ms. Acqua: “I hope not! I don’t trust Trump to do anything, especially something so big like this.”

Me: “Would you support any president preemptively taking some kind of military action against North Korea?”

Ms. Acqua: “It depends, but I would lean towards no.”

Although this was just a sample size of what local people think about this complex issue, it is still interesting to hear what they had to say. If you feel like your friends, neighbors, co-workers or even if you yourself don’t have enough information about this topic, then you might want to consider doing your own research.