Lyn Jensen's Blog: Manga, Music, and Politics

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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Link to Published Story: Fighting Hunger, Random Lengths, 11/9-22/17


Random Lengths has published my round-up of food charities in the Los Angeles Harbor area in the Nov. 9-22, 2017 issue and online. Here's the link to the online version (please copy and paste in your browser):
http://www.randomlengthsnews.com/2017/11/fighting-hunger-never-ending-battle/?ct=t%28Random+Update%3A+Rancho+San+Pedro
+Redevelopment%29&mc_cid=aefc1ee54d&mc_eid=%5BUNIQID%5D
Should the link be down, the text of the article follows:
More people go hungry in Los Angeles County than anywhere else in America — the roughly 1.5 million people who need food assistance is a number that’s remained fairly constant throughout this decade. Other counties across America rank higher in terms of population percentage, but Los Angeles ranks highest in the sheer number of chronically hungry mouths to feed.
Government and private programs address hunger based on the principle that freedom from hunger is a right. Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food.”
Giving Tuesday is Nov. 28 but the fight against hunger never ends. For communities in the Harbor Area, several food banks and charities are constantly serving residents who need food assistance. With the holidays approaching, many organizations are scheduling food drives — but they’re always in need of food, money and volunteers:
  • Carson: St. Vincent De Paul Society, in partnership with St. Philomena’s Catholic Church, distributes bags of groceries every Tuesday, 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. The volunteers estimate that 25 to 30 families and 5 to 10 homeless individuals are fed every week. Most of the clients come from Carson, but also from Torrance and Long Beach. They also distribute clothing and toys. 21922 S. Main St., Carson. Details: (310) 835-7161, svdpla.org
  • San Pedro: Harbor Interfaith has no kitchen or pantry but accepts donations of food (and money and clothing). 670 W. 9th St., San Pedro. Details:  (310) 831-9123, (310) 831- 0603, www.harborinterfaith.org
  • Torrance: New Challenge Ministries is the largest food bank in the South Bay, said John Hernandez, president and senior pastor. It distributes about 4,000 pounds of food per week to about 15,000 people every month via about 20 organizations. They include the Boys & Girls Club and the Los Angeles Unified School District. (The district assists about 600 hungry families, including Washington High School, which teaches more homeless and foster children than any other school in California). Many grocery and other food companies donate their surplus. 21804 Halldale Ave. Details: (310) 320-4171, newchallengeministries.com
  • Torrance: GA United Services, through which Vern Ryan and his daughter Arlene Hyde have distributed about 150,000 pounds of food to perhaps a dozen organizations in almost as many communities—including Long Beach, Carson, Watts, Lomita, Gardena, Wilmington, and Torrance. They estimate they feed about 500 people on a weekly basis. Torrance’s post offices donate everything collected from their annual food drives—about two tons of food every year. Other support comes from such companies as Trader Joe’s. 22121½ Vermont Ave., Torrance. Details: (310) 530-0400, gaunitedservices.org
  • Long Beach: Food Bank of Southern California distributes food directly and through other nonprofit organizations to about 250,000 people throughout the county every week (about 2.5 percent of the population). Truckloads of surplus produce come in and corporations provide employee volunteers regularly. 1444 San Francisco Ave., Long Beach. Details: (562) 435-3577, foodbankofsocal.org
  • Long Beach: Rescue Mission is planning Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, along with food and gift drives. Volunteer coordinator Bethanie Miller estimates, “We serve about 19,000 meals a month and distribute about 2,000 articles of clothing.” The mission serves meals at the 140-bed Samaritan House (for men) and the 50-bed Lydia House (for women and children) and to the general public. 1430 Pacific Ave., Long Beach. Details: (562) 591-1292, lbrm.org

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Link to News Story: Carson Council Proposes Tax on Oil to Stop Fiscal Emergency (Random Lengths, 10/26-11/8/17)

Please see the latest issue of Random Lengths (Oct. 26-Nov. 8, '17) for my news article on the controversy surrounding Measure C, a new tax on oil refineries which the City of Carson is proposing to address a chronic fiscal emergency: 

http://www.randomlengthsnews.com/2017/10/carson-council-proposes-measure-c-stop-fiscal-emergency
/ct=t%28Random+Update%3A+Cities+Address+New+Weed
+Law%29&mc_cid=8fe6aed0f2&mc_eid=%5BUNIQID%5D

Should the above link be down, the content follows:

After finding Carson has a fiscal emergency for the second time in two years, the city council unanimously voted on Aug. 7 to propose a new tax on the city’s refineries. On Nov. 7 voters will be asked to vote on Measure C, the Oil Industry Business License Tax.

If passed the measure would impose a one-quarter-of-one-percent tax on the gross receipts of oil refineries in Carson, but it’s proving controversial. The city is presenting the proposed ordinance as necessary to raise an estimated $24 million for the general fund. The measure’s opponents are questioning the council’s motives.

Carson currently taxes its refineries based on the number of employees, which brings in about $5 million annually.

Names of all five council members appear in support of the measure in the city’s Voter Information Pamphlet. They argue the funds raised will be used to maintain and improve senior, youth, and gang diversion programs.

Their argument also claims, “Torrance and El Segundo receive $11 million each [from taxes on refineries] … but Carson receives only $5 million.”

Although Torrance and El Segundo do impose business license taxes on their refineries, neither city’s is based on gross receipts. 

Carson’s employee union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, supports the measure, according to representative Ana Meni. At a recent community meeting, she argued, if Measure C fails, “What programs do we cut?”

According to city staff, conducting the special election may cost the city $270,000. Opponents have sent out mailers charging the overall cost is closer to $400,000.

The larger amount includes what the city is spending on what it calls “information,” including the mailing of a special edition of the city’s official publication, the Carson Report. Described as an information guide, the mailing only presents the proponents’ side.

In response, some opponents, including Jan Schaefer of Carson Alliance 4 Truth, criticize the city’s “information” campaign. “The staff report actually said they couldn’t spend any money to promote it,” Schaefer said. “It seems they are promoting it.”

Proponents portray the opponents as representing big oil. Western States Petroleum Association is funding the opposition, including mailings and a website.

That website lists Local 675 United Steelworkers, which represents local refinery workers, as opposing the measure. David Campbell of Local 675 denied the union or the local had taken a position.

Matt Klink, campaign manager for the organized opposition, named Carson United to Stop Irresponsible Taxes, said the city council has been unable to balance the budget eight of the past eleven years.

“The measure was rushed onto the ballot. The council declared a fiscal emergency on Aug. 7 and put it on the Nov. ballot,” he said. “The city has a long history of budget deficits. Eight budgets have been unbalanced in the past eleven years.”

“The city has not been a responsible financial steward of taxpayers’ money,” he continued, offering, “They’ve spent $13 million in legal fees in the past four years,” as an example.

Klink also questioned the city’s claim the measure would generate $24 million. He said that figure is not taken from actual data, but from an analysis of a hypothetical refinery. Regardless of how much money the measure might raise, Klink added, “The council’s list of all the specific things funded, that’s just empty promises. It’s a general tax, and by law all [such] tax must go into the general fund.”

Link to proposed ordinance on Carson’s website:  http://ci.carson.ca.us/Government/Election2017.aspx
Link to campaign against Measure C:

www.measurechurtsme.com

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Published News Story: Ban the Weed or Take the Money (Random Lengths, 10/12-25/17)

Link to my latest Random Lengths article, "Ban the Weed or Take the Money," published in the Oct. 12-25, '17 issue:

http://www.randomlengthsnews.com/2017/10/ban-weed-take-money-proposition-64/

Text follows, should above link not be functioning:

Ban the Weed or Take the Money:  Prop. 64 Controversy
By Lyn Jensen, Carson Reporter
Carson is considering its options regarding recent changes to state marijuana law:  ban commercial weed in a city designated “drug-free” since 2008, or take what could be considerable tax revenue.
Proposition 64 passed in 2016, which legalized marijuana for “recreational” adult use starting in January 2018. To reconcile systems for regulation and enforcement, the governor has signed the Medicinal and Adult-use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. The state is responsible for issuing licenses for marijuana businesses.
At the city council meeting on Aug. 1, assistant city attorney Chris Neumeyer explained possible courses of action. “If cities are silent, likely state licenses will allow folks to operate [any licensed marijuana businesses] in that city,” he said. “Cities throughout California are asking, what are we going to do?”
To shed light on that question, Carson recently held two special council meetings, also described as workshops, on Saturday, Sept. 23 and Thursday, Sept. 28, to “consider seeking the community’s input regarding” Proposition 64, according to the agenda.
About 100 people attended the Thursday meeting at the Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald Community Center. Councilmembers Lula Davis-Holmes, Jawane Hilton, Elito Santarina, and Cedric Hicks attended but not mayor Albert Robles.
As explained at the workshops, the new state laws will allow personal adult use of marijuana, and home cultivation up to six plants (enough for one ounce). Cities may ban outdoor cultivation (in public view) and regulate but not ban indoor cultivation (in private homes, perhaps also in businesses, a potential loophole).
All operations must have state licenses but cities may impose additional requirements for local licenses or ban operations except private indoor cultivation. Torrance and Lomita have already banned all commercial activity.
Carson already has a law to tax any allowed marijuana operations. There is a state excise tax on legal marijuana activity, and some of that money can go back to the local level—but only to cities that allow commercial marijuana.
At the workshops several panelists debated such activity. One, Matthew Eaton, a specialist in cannabis compliance, estimated perhaps 18,000 homes in Carson could be growing for personal use under the new law.
Panelists Tyler Strause and Susan Marks advocated for medical marijuana, to scattered applause.
Another panelist, community activist Dianne Thomas, argued in opposition, saying that for people who want medical marijuana, dispensaries are only a ten-minute drive away.
She produced statistics from the Internet showing that three years after Colorado legalized marijuana, there has been a fifty-eight percent increase in arrests of Black and Latino minors, and a majority of marijuana businesses are in communities of color.
She compared banning commercial marijuana to keeping liquor stores out of minority neighborhoods. She received thunderous applause.
Carson residents who commented at the Thursday meeting were divided. Some suggested Carson allow commercial activity for the tax revenue.
Others argued Carson is a “drug-free city,” referring to a council resolution passed in 2008, and minors should be discouraged from drug use.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Book Review: Darkness at Sunset and Vine

BOOK REVIEW
Darkness at Sunset and Vine:  Trilogy by Ginger Mayerson (2012 Wapshott Press)

For real-life darkness around the world-famous intersection of Sunset and Vine, how about the gay hairdresser who wanted to blow up a whole block of Los Angeles to get revenge on his ex? As Mike Rothmiller and Ivan G. Goldman relate in their expose LA Secret Police, the guy wanted to hire a hit man to blow up his ex inside the beauty shop they owned together. He thought if he blew up the whole block, that'd throw police off the scent.

If you can appreciate such factual logic, perhaps you can appreciate Ginger Mayerson's fictional Darkness at Sunset and Vine:  Trilogy, written as a satire of the Bush II administration in 2003, produced in part as a play in 2008, and published by Wapshott Press as a three-part novel in 2012.

Seeing as how it's set in then-future 2016 Los Angeles, how does it play in the Trump era? The title is a reference to the anti-Stalinist classic Darkness at Noon, but America under either Bush (that's either Bush) or Trump isn't Stalin's Russia, where Communism spawned a totalitarian state. We're not there--yet--so Mayerson's premise sets up a false analogy. Actually America under Trump may have suffered a worse fate than the cartoon-villain world the author subjects her readers to, where every conflict is solved by killing, the more people and the more horrifically, the better. If only ending the Republican right's grip on our nation were that simple.

Mayerson's other works show she's a far more credible writer than the simple-minded violent bloodbaths she strings together here. She credits three editors, but this book reads like lazy schoolwork, lacking even rudimentary plot or character development. Think back to elementary school, when the teacher assigned students to write stories from an ant's point of view, with the results often being variations on, "Army ants attacked my garden, so I took my pincers and cut off all their heads." That's the level of writing Mayerson engages in for the entire length of Darkness.

Although the story clearly targets the Bush II administration (with some attacks on Arnold Schwarzenegger thrown in), even its basic premise reads more like right-wing click-bait than left-wing satire. By eerie coincidence it resembles actual right-wing fake news that got the Texas governor himself in a tizzy in 2015--how federal troops (dem Gol-dern Yankee boys in blue, y'all) might invade Texas and seize vacant Walmarts.

In Darkness, Los Angeles has been reduced to a lawless wasteland after Bush's forces invaded California to prop up Schwarzenegger. While "scavengers" (flesh-eating zombies or flesh-eating minorities, take your pick) lurk in the ruins, secret agent Nellie Gail owns a building near the title intersection, and the tenants run a taco stand where the bodies she slaughters conveniently disappear. She kills people whenever she's in a bad mood, and sometimes when she's not. At one point she decides (that lazy plot device) to take over a (heavily armed) public bus and slaughters the (likely working-class minority) employees and (likely working-class minority) passengers, mowing them down with several specific kinds of automatic weapons, and that's just one of her acts of mindless mayhem.

She's the protagonist. The antagonists are just fodder for Nellie's weapons of mass destruction. To call Nellie a sociopath is to give her more motivation than the book does. She's certainly no super-hero crusading for truth, justice, and the American way. Neither is she viewed with the kind of satiric irony needed to turn her into a symbol of all that's wrong with the American right.

Why Mayerson thought this story was ready for public consumption is a mystery. Even satire needs a serious aspect, a germ of truth for its audience. If Mayerson plans to write and publish more social satire, she'd do well to heed the advice of Erma Bombeck, that woman of classic American wit, "In humor, more than anything else, to be believed, you have to draw heavily from your own experiences."

I'm betting Mayerson has much more experience with the actual psychological violence the Republican right does to American women, than she does with fantasy firefights involving automatic weapons and severed heads aboard public transportation.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Review: Electricland (2010 Wapshott Press)

"One learns most clearly what not to do by reading bad prose--one novel like ... [(]Valley of the Dolls, Flowers in the Attic, and The Bridges of Madison County, to name just a few) is worth a semester at a good writing school, even with the superstar guest lecturers thrown in."
                                                                     -- Stephen King

Best-selling writer Stephen King may consider Valley of the Dolls, Flowers in the Attic, and The Bridges of Madison County bad prose, but they were all highly popular literary works. So I doubt feminist author Ginger Mayerson will be seriously offended if I put her Electricland in the company King mentions.
Electricland is an example of the type of manuscript that, before the Internet Age, writers kept stored away and seldom published, unless they either resorted to a vanity press or, like King, reached that level of literary stardom where everything they ever wrote became marketable. Nowadays writers like Mayerson simply start their own online publishing companies (in her case, Wapshott Press), where all their writing, regardless of merit, may go before the public.
Mayerson began writing Electricland with a provocative theme:  women terrorists--ones who are at post-menopausal age--fight against the way American society treats women. She begins with, "There is nothing more dangerous than a woman with nothing to lose."
Unfortunately she does absolutely nothing to develop that premise in any meaningful way. First of all the women described here aren't rag-tag rebels fighting an evil male-dominated empire. They're high-level special agents within the great American evil male-dominated empire, and all they do is kill people and blow things up--for obscure reasons.
If the author didn't have such a feel for the book's southern California setting, this story would have no tie to reality at all. She never even makes it clear whether their female characters are bombing and murdering because they're obeying their male boss's orders, or because they're not obeying their male boss's orders. It's like Mayerson's stories of a day at the office, without consequences.
Some characters pay lip service to the theme--that post-menopausal women are invisible in society--but all Mayerson can do is advance a childish premise that post-menopausal women can get away with multiple acts of cartoonish mayhem because they're invisible in society. In reality people that commit acts of terrorism get noticed--that's the whole point of terrorism--but this story isn't about struggling for power. Terrorism, like elections, has consequences--but not here.
Mayerson can write believable characters, given her Pajama Boy and many of her short stories. If the characters here were anything other than flat and one-dimensional, perhaps we could forgive how the plot consists of nothing other than murder and plotting to murder. Even comic books demand more backstory and character development than what we get here.
This book violates a primary rule of writing--it's not about what the writer knows. Mayerson knows what it's like to be a woman, granted, but I'm guessing her experience with terror, crime, and special agents is limited to comic books and other pop culture. The literary flaws she puts on full display here are the kind that get bad grades in English composition classes. That's precisely why Electricland is worth reading. It belongs beside King's examples of what writers shouldn't do.
In King's On Writing, he provided readers with a premise for a story and then invited them to submit any resulting inspirations to his website. (He's since closed down the link.) Mayerson's constantly looking for new feminist literature, so perhaps her readers could use Electricland as inspiration as well.
Read Electricland, but only to let it inspire your own story about the way women are treated in modern American society. Need a publisher for it? Try Wapshott Press.