Senator Feinstein and Judge Koh

By Carl Tobias

On December 10, the Senate recessed without conducting a final vote on United States District Judge Lucy Haeran Koh. This means that her February Ninth Circuit nomination will expire when the 115th Congress assembles on January 3. The upper chamber failed to provide Judge Koh’s ballot, even though she is an experienced, mainstream jurist, who enjoys the powerful support of California Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, won bipartisan Senate Judiciary Committee approval in September and has languished on the floor ever since. Continue reading

Word of the Year: Surreal

By Jonathan P. Eburne

Each year, the editors of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary select a “word of the year” based on the frequency with which users search for it on their website. They recently announced the 2016 word of the year to be “surreal,” which narrowly beat out “fascism.” The winning term — especially considered alongside its runner-up — seems a fitting descriptor for a year so full of unsettling geopolitical, cultural, and environmental surprises. So we are told, at least. Since 9/11 the popular use of the word “surreal” has become a shorthand way to describe events that overwhelm our very sense of the real. Surreal, in this sense, is the new sublime. A fashion trend in language, perhaps — no less than the emojis and vapes and selfies and hashtags that exploded into common US English in years prior to 2016. Even so, it seems more than a little discomfiting that a word used to describe events “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream” has become so familiar. Continue reading

Religion and Materialism at the K-Spa

By Robert Yusef Rabiee

Natura Spa is a Jimjilbang hidden in the basement of a decadent old marble-walled department store on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and New Hampshire Street in Koreatown. Unlike many other Jimjilbangs, which cater to large families with happy splashing children, Natura Spa is a sedate, oatmeal-colored refuge whose clientele is mostly middle aged Korean men and quiet, athletic types of various other ethnicities. As an obese writer with purple golfer’s purpura ascending my right leg, I am the odd man out here. But I like the feeling of being in the basement and subjecting myself to a battery of brutal saunas, powerful hot tubs, and icy cold dips. It’s peaceful, and the only thing that keeps my right shoulder — a victim of book bags and Modern Stress — from getting squeezed out of its socket. My evenings at the Natura Spa are also the only time I go without my glasses. I have very bad eyesight, so this is a treat for me; I get to see what the world would look like if I had been born three hundred years ago, with these eyes. Continue reading

What He Believed: Revisiting E.M. Forster’s Defense of Liberalism

By Rhian Sasseen

“I do not believe in Belief.” So goes the first sentence of E.M. Forster’s 1939 essay “What I Believe,” written against a backdrop of ever-increasing global fears. “I have, however, to live in an Age of Faith,” he later goes on to say, “the sort of epoch I used to hear praised when I was a boy. It is extremely unpleasant really. It is bloody in every sense of the word. And I have to keep my end up in it. Where do I start?” Continue reading

Hong Kong Noir

By Susan Blumberg-Kason

When I lived in Hong Kong in the 1990s, my only interaction with the police occurred when I’d return from Shenzhen by foot. Once on the Hong Kong side of the Lo Wu Bridge, I always breathed a sigh of relief when I saw their crisp navy uniforms.  The sight represented stability, order, and safety, things that were in short supply in Shenzhen and the parts of Hubei that I often visited as well on my forays to the mainland.  Life in those places had a Wild West, free-for-all feel to them.  There, as opposed to in rule-honoring Hong Kong, the trend often seemed to be that those with guanxi (personal connections) could work the system, while others were left to their own devices. Continue reading

VICELAND’s Desus & Mero: Late-Night Television With a Laugh (And Plenty of Thought)

By Thomas Klepacz

On the Wednesday, November 30th episode of VICELAND’s new daily program Desus & Mero, the show’s two hosts — Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez (or as Twitter and the world knows them, “Desus Nice” and “The Kid Mero”) — discuss the Charlotte Police Department’s withholding of charges against the officer who shot and killed Keith Scott, a 43-year-old man of color with a history of TBI (traumatic brain injury). As follows: Continue reading

Journalism Without Authority: What Have We Lost?

By Steven L. Isenberg

Journalism was once cloaked in a mantle of authority, offering trustworthy information and avoiding slant. Careful reportage and vigilant editing were the building blocks. Authoritative news had personality and style, yet both were as measured as seasoning. Authority was earned and sustained by a demonstration of intelligence, knowledge, and character. Authority set the tone for a news medium; it was the essence of professionalism. We depended on its commitment to stand back from personal opinion. We could hear the clank of failure when high standards went unmet. We expected acknowledgment for error. We knew we would be made to think, and that we also held our right to disagree and be skeptical. This was the quid pro quo for loyal newspaper readership and television news watching. Our minds were our own, but we were also part of a large, broadly based, shared experience. Continue reading

Blade Runner 2049 and Los Angeles’ Korean Future

By Colin Marshall

“LOS ANGELES NOVEMBER, 2019.” So, with that stark title card, begins the film that presented the most fully realized vision of the city’s future in cinema history to that point — and maybe still to this day. It also fixed its setting in the Western imagination as the go-to image of urban dystopia, though when Blade Runner premiered almost three and a half decades ago, that date must have felt comfortably distant. Now, a week before the year 2017 begins, Los Angeles may have got on track to become a densely built metropolis with high-rise-lined streets filled night and day with activity (and not just of the vehicular kind) later than Ridley Scott and company imagined, but the transformation looks well underway nevertheless. Continue reading

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