Posts By Nathan Walpow

Monday, May 28, 2012 / 12:45 pm

Monkology: Come to the Book Party

FourStory co-sponsors an event celebrating the new volume with 15 of Gary Phillips’s Ivan Monk stories.

by Nathan Walpow

Monkology party flyer

Everyone knows about Gary Phillips’s four Ivan Monk mystery novels. But did you know that there are a bunch of Monk short stories too? And did you know that you can find 15 of them in the new collection Monkology?

Okay, it’s not exactly new:  there was the legendary 2004 hardcover limited edition. Which is really hard to get your hands on. Now A Barnacle Book announces a trade edition and e-book, with two additional stories … Monkology: 15 Stories From The World of Private Eye Ivan Monk.

Next Saturday, June 2, from 2 to 4 in the afternoon, A Barnacle Book, Rare Bird Books, and FourStory sponsor the Monkology Launch Party at Club Fais Do-Do, 5253 West Adams Boulevard in Los Angeles. (That’s between Fairfax and La Brea.) There’ll be refreshments, there’ll be books, and there’ll be the man himself.

Come on down and meet him, buy a book, and have a blast. RSVP here.

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Friday, May 4, 2012 / 9:41 am

Young Storytellers: This Magic Moment

The school’s act could be more together, but all that’s forgotten when the kids get cooking.

by Nathan Walpow


If the school I’m a Young Storytellers mentor at wasn’t so darned close, I’d probably have switched to another by now. Every session there’s a few things that demonstrate their lack of commitment to the program. One time the mentors showed up for the first session and found the school had neglected to pick any students. At one Big Show, entire classrooms of students got up and left partway through.

So the problems this time around haven’t exactly been surprising. After a week off for spring break, we returned for our third session. Which was missing the four fifth grade students, who were off on a field trip. Which the school had neglected to mention was going to happen. So several mentors (me included) sat around during one-on-one time, and the energy in the room was way off.

The next week we got going again. The kids learned screenplay format. I think way too much time is spent on this kind of stuff. Do we really need to spend ten minutes explaining parentheticals to the group when it can be done in two when student and mentor pair up? It’s a delicate balance between group and one-on-one activities, and I think a lot more would get done if we shifted to the latter.

Read more ...

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012 / 7:50 pm

An Overlay of Strange

When the unexpected happens, especially when its source is people, not nature, that's when the world seems plain wrong.

by Nathan Walpow

defending Koreatown

I was in Paris recently, and several times I came across schools with signs reminding us of the horrible things the Nazis perpetrated therein during the early ’40s. This made me think about the whole city under German domination; familiar streets and buildings with the trappings of something previously unimaginable; the everyday rendered alien.

One day we went out to the Normandy beaches. Reminders of D-Day were still in place: hulking metal structures on the sand and in the water, dumped there by the Germans to hinder the Allies. The sea was lovely, the sky was clear, yet there were probably a few people around who remembered the shells splitting the air, the smoke, noise and bodies everywhere. The same place, rendered into a nightmare.

The point of the travelogue: We have an image of the place we live. We know the range of weather to expect, the kinds of people we’ll see, the vibe we feel. And there is nothing more disconcerting than to have that image fundamentally changed. When the unexpected happens, and especially when its source is people, not nature; when something we’re not preparing for in the back of our minds occurs: that’s when our world seems plain wrong.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012 / 5:36 pm

There’s A Riot Goin’ On

No Sly, nor the Family Stone, but next week you'll hear from the entire staff about the 1992 "civil disturbance" in L.A.

by Nathan Walpow

LA Times during riots

It’s been twenty years since the whole Rodney King thing. The arrest, the videotape, the trial, the riots. Next week, the FourStory staff takes a look back at what they experienced during the civil unrest following the verdict. Most of us were adults; one was still growing up. One taught in South Central. We were (still are) black, brown, white. All these circumstances, as well as accidents of geography, affected us during the riots, and during the period after.

We start Monday with Tony Chavira’s “I Was Ten Years Old.” You’ll hear from Phillips, Washburn, Schoenkopf and me as the week goes on. Plus a guest writer or two. Then, on Monday, April 30, we’ll have an excerpt from Gary Phillips’s Violent Spring. It’s his first Ivan Monk mystery novel, published in 1994, and is set in the aftermath of the riots.

What’s changed since 1992? Lots. And nothing. Come back next week to read about both.

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Friday, March 30, 2012 / 9:51 am

Young Storytellers: The Whole Exceeds Its Parts

In the second week, a mentor bursts a muscle and the students play Mad Libs.

by Nathan Walpow

bouncing off the walls

The alternator was going on my car, and it crapped out when I tried to start it to go to Young Storytellers Week Two. I called one of our co-head mentors, and she picked me up, but I walked several blocks to meet her, and I walked too fast, and my legs ached. Which is why I wasn’t surprised when, during the game of Kitty Wants a Corner that we started out with, something tore loose in my right calf and I was barely made it to a chair.

We went over all the stuff we learned last week about the elements of a story. The kids got most of them right off the bat. They’re smart and they have a better vocabulary than the high school kids my wife teaches. They’re also bouncing-off-the-walls crazy, and the fact that we’re in the school auditorium instead of the classroom we’ve had each time before gives them plenty of room to bounce.

I was assigned to explain objectives, obstacle and conflict. I used Twilight as an example, wowing the students with my extensive knowledge of Edward and Jacob. One girl who’d said she wasn’t getting it professed to understand when I was done, and explained it all to another who didn’t get it because he was too busy running circumnavigating the room.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012 / 11:11 am

Young Storytellers: Let the Games Begin

There are few things more fun than helping a child write a script, then watching their face when actors perform it.

by Nathan Walpow

Young Storytellers

I’m not much of a volunteer-er. I worked on the McGovern campaign way back in 1972. When I first got to Los Angeles 30+ years ago, I hung out with TreePeople for a while (I suspect mostly to meet women). And that’s been it. So when a friend emailed three years ago, said she was head mentor at a local elementary school for something called Young Storytellers, and asked me to join in, my normal reaction would have been the delete key. But something called to me. There was writing, and there were kids, two things I enjoy moderate doses of. It was just a two month commitment, once a week for an hour.

So I signed up. And it’s been a blast. My sixth mentoring gig started yesterday, and it promises to be the best yet.

The Young Storytellers Foundation works at a few dozen schools in the L.A. area. Most, like the one I’m involved in, are elementary schools. The tagline: Ten Students, Ten Mentors, Ten Actors. Each fourth or fifth grade student gets a mentor. They work together, in the group and one-on-one, for (usually) eight weeks. The student writes a five to six page screenplay. No violence, no existing characters (except the occasional cameo). Then there’s The Big Show. Ten actors come in, the students cast them, and the actors perform them in front of an audience of classmates, friends and family. Hilarity ensues … and that’s the first time I’ve ever written that and meant it.

My five previous mentees have written about:

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Monday, March 12, 2012 / 9:24 am

L.A. Times: Abortion-Based Humor Is a Comics No-No

They call Doonesbury strips on the Texas ultrasound law "a little over the top for a comics page."

by Nathan Walpow

Mike Doonesbury

It’s beyond ridiculous that Texas has a law requiring women to get an ultrasound before having an abortion. If the Republicans are so het up about government intrusion in our lives, here’s a good place to get to work. (Take that, Rick Perry.)

This week’s Doonesbury strips are about that law, detailing the travails of a young woman at an abortion clinic. She gets called a “slut” by a legislator and has to wait in the “shaming room.” You know, the usual Doonesbury.

Garry Trudeau, the comic’s creator, said “it would have been a little surprising” if there hadn’t been editorial resistance to the series. Red-state papers refusing to run it, stuff like that. Of course, there’s no such problem at the Los Angeles Times. They’re running it, all right.

On the op-ed page.

Really, Times? Are you so chickenshit that you fear you’ll upset your comics page readers by presenting a few strips that poke fun at an absurd law? Is it that you’re concerned your readers don’t want to hear about abortion with their daily dose of Dagwood? If it’s not about that, what is it about this particular bunch of installments that make them any less acceptable than the social commentary and political humor that so often grace that first slot on the left-hand comics page. (Where today you’ll find an innocuous Walden College strip.)

I mean, why is Doonesbury in that very first spot? Could it be that it’s because it’s your most popular comic? Seems likely. And if that’s the case, why do you think it’s so popular? It ain’t Red Rascal, that’s for sure … he came along long after the strip acquired that prime piece of unreal estate.

You can find more about this business—it isn’t just the Times that’s scared of abortion—on the Doonesbury site. And you can see the offending strip here.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012 / 11:02 am

Embracing (Or At Least Guy-Hugging) Facebook

Walpow faces reality and decides to move FourStory's comments to Facebook. Will fame and fortune ensue?

by Nathan Walpow

I Hate Facebook

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of social media. I’ve been designing websites since the twentieth century, and I think Web 1.0 was just fine: if you wanted to put something on the Internets, you had to at least go to a modicum of trouble to do so. But MySpace came along, and Facebook and Twitter, and Tumblr (whatever that is) and a hundred more, and suddenly everybody’s every thought can be instantly displayed for the world to see, and frankly most everybody’s every thought should have been kept under wraps.

We’ve had social media buttons on FourStory for a long time. They haven’t been clicked a lot. We’ve got new ones on our latest iteration, and I’m probably going to simplify those in a day or two, because I’m pretty convinced that Facebook and Twitter are the only social networks that count (and I’m not too sure about Twitter, unless Justin Bieber happens to be on your staff).

So why are all posts, short stories, serial fiction installments, and comic pages from today on using Facebook’s commenting system in place of our own?

Read more ...

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Saturday, February 4, 2012 / 1:58 pm

The Artist’s New Clothes

Critics and awards voters get caught up in uniqueness, and we're left wondering what they've been drinking.

by Nathan Walpow

The Artist

I saw The Artist last night, and while it was an okay movie, I didn’t think it was the grand piece of cinematic splendor everyone’s making it out to be. It was clever, and the acting was good, and I laughed a few times, but … okay, put it this way. When I’m seeing a movie I’m really into, and I have to take a leak, I’ll hold it no matter how uncomfortable I get. With this, when I had to go, I went. I didn’t even run down the endless hall at the Arclight in Manhattan Beach to miss as little as possible.

Now, my tastes in popular culture are often out of touch with the multitudes’. For example, my list of dislikes includes U2, Tom Hanks, and Modern Family. (Okay, and The Office, 30 Rock, and Community too.) But I was with my wife and two other people, and while at least two of them enjoyed it more than I did, none of them thought it was great. Why then is it getting such critical praise and a bazillion award nominations?

Read more ...

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Monday, January 23, 2012 / 1:06 pm

FourStory President Tony Chavira Emerges as Radio Personality

He waxes eloquent about the city, its infrastructure, and why things are so screwed up.

by Nathan Walpow

LA360 logo

FourStory associate editor Tony Chavira (who's also the president of Four Story, Inc., the nonprofit we grew out of), has joined the list of regulars on KTLK radio's LA360. He'll be the resident urban issues expert. The show's hosted by Klaudia Aresti and runs Saturdays at 10 a.m. at 1150 on your AM dial.

This past Saturday, Tony explained why a bunch of overloaded power poles came down in last November's mother of all windstorms. Listen here.

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