Day 15 (20/5) - Los Angeles
Another interesting sales tax puzzle: At the "build your own sandwich" place in Berkeley, my expensive sandwich got taxed but others' cheaper sandwiches didn't. Wth.
The San Francisco Palace of Fine Art was very very very pretentious.
After walking down Hollywood Boulevard for 20 minutes looking for breakfast possibilities, we'd only found a Starbucks, a McDonalds and a Mexican place. This was because it was Sunday morning.
Seen on a Cosmo cover: "Sex 'facts' you shouldn't believe". What, everything in Cosmo?
McDonalds had a 'Swamp Sludge' McFlurry flavour (Shrek promotion) - brownies and green M&Ms. On a previous occasion I'd been told the latter was mint. Bah.
The others wanted to go to Santa Monica but I wasn't interested, so I considered the places I could go by myself. The Getty Villa Malibu needed advance tickets, which were sold out. I considered the Gerry Museum, but I'd seen better. So I decided to try the Tar Pits, but their stupid website didn't have any information on public transport, and the guidebook recommended driving a car since the public transit system sucked (thus also saving them the bother of printing public transport information). The hostel people knew though, so I left just before noon (I probably could've done one more thing if I'd left on my own after arriving at the hostel, oh well).
Working without a map sucks. The hostel said the tourist information (or whoever) used to give out maps, but not anymore. At first I believed them but later I saw people walking around with maps, and saw maps at the tourist information at the Chinese Theatre. !@#$
There were lots of people dressed up outside the Chinese Theatre - Spiderman, Jack Sparrow (whom we'd seem outside Starbucks in the morning), Darth Vader, Gandalf, a Stormtrooper, Superman, Supergirl and Homer Simpson. I saw fewer on Monday, so probably many of them were part-timers with day jobs.
In LA buses you can get a $250 fine and a citation if you 'act loud or unruly' or 'play a radio' Gah.
Beside the Tar Pits, there was also the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I figured I'd miss it since it wouldn't be very impressive (size notwithstanding) but I've since discovered it is "the largest encyclopedic museum west of Chicago" and has, among other things, René Magritte's La trahison des images (The Treachery Of Images; probably the only thing in the Modern Art collection I could've withstood),
Katsushika Hokusai's Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji, an Iranian depiction of the Prophet Muhammad which I would've been compelled to smash and some South and Southeast Asian Art that's probably better than what you can find there, at least in Southeast Asia. Hah. In any case I doubt I'd have had time to do more than see highlights, so.
Ceci n'est pas une pipe
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(Adapted from Facebook; Facebook walls don't like normal ASCII art)
Fiberglass Columbian Mammoths
Harlan's Ground Sloth
Sabertoothed Cat tooth development
Apparently you can't call them Sabertoothed Tigers, and they're in a different group from true cats. There was one part where they imposed a hologram of a sabertoothed cat on a fossil. Cool.
Modern cats attack the neck or throat of prey, but mammoths and mastodons had thick neck muscles protecting the throat. The sabers would've broken if the cats had struck there, and it is rare to find damaged sabers in the tar pits, so they probably attacked the animals' undersides.
Extinct Camel, with American Mastodon behind.
One of the advantages of coming so late in the day was that I got to go on the day's only guided tour of the tar pits outside.
The place is called the Tar Pits ("La Brea" in Spanish), but there's no tar there, since tar is manmade; asphalt is what seeps out of the ground. The reason it's called the Tar Pits is there's no Spanish word for asphalt. Hah.
Hancock Park (outside the museum) was built over oil deposits several miles wide, but the owner wanted to build a park for families to enjoy. No wonder America's not the world's most competitve economy, hurr hurr. The park being above asphalt, the plants die when it reaches their roots. Maintenance must be a bitch.
Bird fossils are very rare normally because they are hollow and light, but the asphalt preserved a lot of them.
They found a 9000 year old woman who was probably murdered (her skull was impacted by a blunt object), and was buried in a ceremonial burial (ie with items), but her actual bones are no longer on display (a cast of her head can be found at the Natural History museum next door). This is because of laws against the display of Native American remains. Bah.
Whiteboard hung above Pit 91. I love the FAQ about no dinosaurs.
They excavate in June to early September. I bet it's because they get cheap student labour then.
Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of Pit 91 while inside, thinking it'd be open after the tour. Ah well. It looked like lots of black goo with coloured flags marking bones which were sticking out of the goo, and there were many planks laid out above the asphalt to walk/work on.
The bones don't all sink to the bottom because an animal may get trapped, and then the ground level will rise around it (asphalt solidifes when mixed with dirt etc), forming another layer of asphalt mix.
Lump of asphalt with bones in observation pit.
They had mass entrapment events. A bison, say, would walk onto the asphalt, thinking it was solid land (if dirt had formed a layer on top) or water and get stuck. Carnivores would come, and get stuck too. Then scavengers would come and get stuck. And then insects would come, and also get stuck. So they have 3.5 million fossils so far (the most Ice Age fossils of anywhere in the world), even though a major entrapment like this would happen just once in 10 years.
Pit 9 - Elephant Pit, since they found many mammoth and mastodon bones inside.
Man with dogs
Pleistocene garden - so called because the plants you see were those that flourished in the area during the last Ice Age.
If you see black marks on the tree, this is because people use asphalt to write on it
Mural of animals
American Mastodon + 6 year old child
There were fossils of a 'Fragile Eagle' and an 'Errant Eagle'. Wth. Where do they get these names from.
California Turkey, Ancestral Californian Condor, American Neophron
Californian Sabertooth, with American lion behind.
Paleontologists at work in the fishbowl laboratory
Picture of Pit 91 excavations
There used to be horses in the New World, but they went extinct 8000 years before the Europeans came.
The asphalt is not always in the same place - hot/cold variations will cause it to liquefy and solidify, and new deathtraps will be created.
The shop had 'soap rocks' (self-explanatory), which were 'tested on human beings'. Gah.
Venus fly traps - $9.99 each!
Pit 91 from outside the fence
On the way out I took the 212 in the wrong direction - I thought I was taking it back to Hollywood, and kept hearing the PA system announce "La Brea and XXX road", but when I opened my eyes (Greyhound overnight isn't the best form of accommodation) I was in the hills above LA. Gah.
People in LA are larger than in the Bay Area.
Only 2 people wanted to go to Universal Studios the next day, so we decided not to. Instead, we planned to watch the taping of the Late Late Show, featuring Frigid Girl and Liquid Nitrogen's hero - Craig Ferguson.
Sign: "Feng Shui. Love Spells." Wth.
Santa Monica Beach. Gloriously full on a beautiful Sunday. The rest of the beach was similarly packed.
Continuing the tradition of 'Muscle Beach'
Santa Monica Beach
Venice Beach at 6:30
Filming near Venice Beach (taken from the bus)
I've never been so pissed off with public transport in a city before. The buses in LA are infrequent, routes and connections are weird (usually I can grok them quite easily), there aren't maps at the bus stops (San Francisco helpfully had maps at most) and the Metro doesn't go to many places. No wonder the daypass is so cheap ($3, and one way is $1.25) - you get what you pay for.
Yet, they claim to be America's best. My theory is that those who proclaim that they are the best are bad, like this random fried chicken place I saw in Malaysia in the middle of nowhere which claimed to be 'America's Favourite Chicken'.
Minute Maid is very proud of their lemonade with no lemons (seen at a Mexican place we had dinner at).
Mexican food is all variations on the same thing - a flour covering with rice, beans, salsa and meat inside. At first I considered the possibility of inauthenticity (my J2 Chinese teacher claimed Western food was either fried or grilled, and one visiting Professor used to think Chinese food in the US was authentic and all greasy) but then there are so many Mexicans in California, so this is a powerful countervailing force.
There were 4 very noisy girls on the Metro ignoring the threat of a $250 fine (3 Blacks and 1 Asian). 2 were dressed very skankily, like hos (they weren't even nice hos - they were in shorts but had fat legs; their ample cleavage far dwarfed mine, but their tummies also bulged. Ironically the other 2 loud girls who were less aesthetically unappealing weren't dressed so skankily). All the while, they were shouting and shrieking at each other at the top of their voices, calling each other bitches and engaging in general nigger talk, as well as clapping constantly. They also did things like sitting on each other's laps (after which one shouted "we get $5000 per hour") and unzipping another's shorts. Naturally, other people were looking at them.
Meanwhile 1 quiet guy with a bicycle was with them. I commented on the hos bit to Huishan and she said the pimp was following them, a comment which made me hoot loudly.
I saw 6 Korean churches in LA this day. Wth.
I'd forgotten to bring a towel and by the time I returned to the hostel the drug store the receptionist had directed me to in the morning had closed. I looked at some souvenir shops, but the cheapest towel I could find was $10 (the most expensive was $24.99 though the guy immediately cut his price to $19.99 when he saw my reaction), and had 3 girls in thongs showing their butts off, so I bathed without a towel (I tried using tissue paper to dry off but it disintegrated). Surprisingly, it was an acceptable experience - it must've been the dry weather.
I hate Mexican food.