Here's your daily audio briefing (updated weekdays):
The Bonghive Fan Base That Pushed for 'Parasite' To Win Oscar Gold
Perhaps few found the historic Oscar win by Parasite as sweet as the so-called "Bonghive." The online fan base helped the darkly-comic Korean thriller become the first non-English language film to win best picture.
The hashtag "#Bonghive" started showing up on Twitter after the film picked up the Palme d'Or at Cannes last May, named after the film's quirky and extremely meme-able Korean director Bong Joon-ho.
Nancy Wang Yuen, a Biola University sociologist who writes about racism in entertainment, was among those pressuring Hollywood to seriously consider Parasite, and demanding recognition for the talented cast.
The Screen Actors Guild went on to award the ensemble for acting last month, helping to pave the way to Oscar Gold. "I absolutely think that buzz counts for something," Yuen said.
"Everybody's on social media, including Academy members," Yuen said. "We're all swimming in the same water."
The movie's win was especially emotional for another L.A. Bong-hiver, Phil Yu, who writes the Angry Asian Man blog. He said he grew up in San Jose in the early 1980s being asked "What's that?" when he told people he was Korean.
"I couldn't help but think of that, as I saw the Parasite cast up on that stage and be like, wow, that was a long time ago, but it wasn't that long ago," Yu said.
He called his mom right up after Parasite won. They kept asking each other: "Can you believe it?"
Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang was one of the most prominent champions of the film.
"For something like Parasite ,which I think is close to a perfect movie, I went pretty all in," Chang said. "I wrote piece after piece. I mean, a movie like that does not come along every day, you know?"
Price Transparency Is A Problem For California's Funeral Homes, Consumer Groups Say
A funeral is already an emotional ordeal – and with the average burial now costing more than $7,300, it can take a huge financial toll on an already grieving family.
While California is the only state that requires funeral homes with a website to disclose their prices online, consumer watchdog groups say many of them are getting around that law -- and charging more than their competitors.
Last year, the Funeral Consumers Alliance and the Consumer Federation of America surveyed 203 funeral homes in six major metropolitan areas, including the city of Los Angeles and Orange County.
They found that about half those businesses prominently displayed their prices online, known as the General Price List.
But about a quarter took advantage of a loophole in the state law that allows them to simply list 16 services and merchandise and instead offer the General Price List only "on request."
Researchers recently revisited that survey and contacted those so-called "price hiding" businesses, asking for a cost breakdown on three basic services: the funeral home's overall service fee, the price of a direct cremation, and the price of an immediate burial.
The result: “price hiders" on average charged as much as a third more for those services compared to their competitors with transparent pricing.
"It's a powerful reason consumers should comparison shop for funeral services," said Steven Brobruck, a senior fellow with the Consumer Federation of America.
But that can be a heavy lift when you’re already dealing with the logistics and time sensitivity of a burial or cremation. Brobruck adds that lawmakers should shoulder the responsibility for keeping funeral home operators honest.
“Consumers would do well to favor the price-posters in their search for a funeral home,” he said, “[but] regulators should consider whether prominent posting makes the funeral home marketplace more price competitive and economically efficient."
Mountain Lion P-56 Killed
A mountain lion that was part of a study in the Santa Monica Mountains has been killed by a permitted resident in response to the deaths of privately owned livestock.
P-56 is the first animal involved in the National Park Service’s study to be euthanized as a result of predatory behavior. He was killed on January 27 by a resident who had obtained a depredation permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Scientists at NPS who are involved in the mountain lion study say that the death of P-56 could be detrimental to their project, and to the well-being of mountain lions in the area.
“We have a very small population, and our lions are already facing a number of significant challenges,” said Jeff Sikich, a wildlife biologist with NPS. “The loss of any animal in this small population could be significant.”
WWE WrestleMania Will Beat The Super Bowl By A Year To LA's New Stadium
The Super Bowl's heading to L.A.'s new SoFi Stadium in 2022, future home of both the Rams and the Chargers. But first, body slams. The stadium will host the biggest show in "sports entertainment" next year when WWE brings WrestleMania to SoFi in 2021.
It's our fourth WrestleMania — sixth if you include the two that took place in Anaheim. (Or five-and-a-third if you don't really count WrestleMania 2, which was held at three venues in different cities simultaneously).
Our most infamous WrestleMania was in 1991, when Hulk Hogan took on a Sgt. Slaughter whose character had turned against the United States. It was moved from the L.A. Coliseum to the smaller Sports Arena, claiming it was due to security concerns around the Gulf War — but was actually due to low ticket sales.
In a press release, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti touted the economic boost next year's event will provide. Vince McMahon (whose reborn XFL recently launched) took his own verbal victory lap.
"WrestleMania will set the bar for future sports and entertainment events held at SoFi Stadium as we add this facility to the list of iconic venues that have hosted our pop-culture extravaganza," McMahon said.
The 2021 WrestleMania isn't the only show that weekend. WWE will also be holding their Smackdown, NXT TakeOver, and Raw shows at the Staples Center, while fan convention Axxess and the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony will be at the L.A. Convention Center.
This year's WrestleMania takes place April 5 in Tampa Bay, shown on the streaming WWE Network.
Gobs Of Money Being Spent To Influence LAUSD Races
The 2017 L.A. Unified School Board election was the most expensive ever — but if the current pace of spending continues, 2020’s school board races could set records of their own.
Outside political groups have spent more than $2.8 million on LAUSD races so far. At the same point in the record-breaking 2017 campaign, “independent expenditures” only totaled $2.4 million, according to a KPCC/LAist analysis:
Here’s what these numbers reflect: whenever an outside political group spends money trying to sway an election — on mailers, advertising, or paid outreach like phone banking — they must report it as an “independent expenditure.”
These numbers do not reflect how much money candidates themselves are spending — but these independent expenditures often end up dominating LAUSD races because of strict fundraising limits candidates face.
.@BillBloomfield, who mostly backs charter/reform-aligned candidates, has chipped in another $788,000.— Kyle Stokes (@kystokes) February 10, 2020
Some of that has paid for supportive mailers in BD5/7 … but mostly for attack mailers against Jackie Goldberg.
Eleven candidates are running for four open seats on the LAUSD board. We’ll be writing more about the race later this week.
- 2020 Elections: Who's Running For LA City Council And LAUSD School Board In The March Primary?
- Will The Key Endorsements For LAUSD's Open 'Latino Seat' Go To White Candidates? (from 2018)
- Our 2019 election guide, which explains the campaign finance trends in LAUSD races
The Oscars Are Forever — Get Ready For The Academy Museum
Now that the Oscars are done, what's a movie lover to do? Mark your calendars for the opening of the new Academy Museum — Dec. 14, 2020. L.A.'s forthcoming world-class film museum, located at Wilshire and Fairfax, will feature pieces from the Academy's collection, including everything from costumes and production art to the personal possessions of Hollywood royalty.
- The Academy Museum's 26-Million-Ton 'Sphere' Only Looks Like A Galactic Superweapon (There's A Movie Theater Inside!) (LAist)
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the weight of the Sphere Building.
Your Long Commute Could Be Increasing Your Cancer Risk
But now they tell us breathing the air inside could be harmful, too, because of flame retardant chemicals that car companies put in seats and other parts of the interior to meet federal safety standards.
One such substance is TDCIPP, or chlorinated tris, which can gradually leach into the air. And the longer your commute, the greater your exposure, according to a new study out of UC Riverside.
The high number of commuters among the student body at UCR (70%) made it easy to find subjects, said Prof. David Volz, one of the study's authors. So 88 students were given silicone wristbands to wear nonstop for five days. The wristbands were then sent to a lab for testing.
Volz said the analysis showed subjects who spent more time in the car were exposed to higher levels of TDCIPP.
So what do we know about TDCIPP?
- The chemical was used in kids' pajamas until it was found to be toxic in the 1970s, and it has been placed on California's list of hazardous chemicals.
- The state law requiring warning labels for items made with hazardous chemicals encouraged the furniture industry to also phase out TDCIPP, Volz said.
Actor Orson Bean Killed On LA Street Known As Highly Dangerous For Pedestrians
Los Angeles police said Bean was not in a marked crosswalk as he tried to get across the roadway between Shell Avenue and Pisani Place to the Pacific Residence Theater in Venice. The L.A. Times reported it is not uncommon for that area of the roadway as patrons park and try to get to the theater across the street.
Bean was killed on a stretch of Venice Boulevard that’s been identified as a dangerous corridor as part of the city’s High-Injury Network — a 6%-share of city streets where 70% of all pedestrian deaths and serious injuries occur.
In Jan. 2017, another pedestrian, identified as 24-year-old Venice resident Anthony Brown, was killed by a hit-and-run driver on the same street just south of Shell Avenue.
The L.A. Department of Transportation has dozens of safety improvement projects slated for streets and intersections throughout the 470-mile High-Injury Network, but there are no current plans for that section of Venice Boulevard, according to city data.
Bean’s death is another addition to the high death toll of people killed by drivers while walking in L.A. Over the last five years, preliminary city data shows the number of pedestrians killed by drivers jumped from 88 in 2015 to 134 in 2019 — an increase of more than 50%.
That death toll grew even as Mayor Eric Garcetti launched Vision Zero in 2015 — a safety initiative with a mission to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries from traffic collisions by 2025.
The policy is focused on protecting the city’s “most vulnerable road users, including children, older adults, and people walking and bicycling,” according to LADOT’s program website.
READ MORE ABOUT LA STREET SAFETY:
State Will Conduct Its Own Investigation Into The LAPD Gang Database Scandal
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is getting in on the investigation of LAPD officers who falsified data from traffic stops to bolster the number of people they identified as gang members.
He told reporters in L.A. Monday that the state Department of Justice will conduct an “independent audit and validation” of entries made in the state gang database by LAPD officers.
The scandal centers on traffic stops conducted by the elite Metropolitan Division in South L.A. The officers are suspected of altering the information on field interview cards to make it appear that the individual who was stopped belonged to a gang.
The Los Angeles Times first broke the story last month. The administrative investigation quickly expanded into a criminal one.
Chief Michel Moore has already moved to fire one officer. The department has assigned 10 officers to home and suspended their police powers. Moore said another 10 were removed from the street because investigators were trying to determine whether their reports contained “inaccuracies or falsehoods.”
A 2017 state law gives Becerra’s office oversight over the gang database, known as CalGang. In a letter to Moore, Becerra said the review will not be limited to entries made by Metro Division officers.
Senior Rent Subsidy Programs Expand In SoCal Cities
Incomes in L.A. are not keeping up with rising rents — especially for those on a fixed income, like senior citizens.
In the face of rising senior homelessness, more cities in Southern California are planning to subsidize rents for their older residents.
In a video recently posted by the city of Glendale, city staffers spin a raffle machine, calling out numbers in a random lottery to pick low-income seniors who will get $300 a month to help pay their rent.
The lottery was held as part of the city’s new Monthly Housing Subsidy Program. About 2,700 households applied for 1,000 spots. Preference was given to households with renters aged 75 and older.
In order to qualify for Glendale’s program, applicants had to:
- Be at least 62 years old
- Be a renter within the city of Glendale
- Have an annual income of $21,950 or less for a one-person household (the cutoff is $25,050 for a two-person household)
- Have at least one disabled person living in the household
Glendale’s Director of Community Development Philip Lanzafame said the city launched the program because elderly renters are struggling to pay for their basics in the midst of California’s housing crisis.
“We don't want people to ever have to make the decision between the rent, their food and their medicine,” Lanzafame said.
Over the last two years, the L.A. region has seen a 31% spike in homelessness among residents 62 and older.
Haven't Received A Sample Ballot For The Primary? Don't Worry
As part of our Voter Game Plan we're answering your questions about the big changes in the way we're voting this year.
Here's one a few people have asked us: "When can I expect my sample ballot in the mail?"
By now, most registered voters should have received their sample ballot — that's the booklet that tells you all the candidates and measures on your ballot in the March primary. Both the L.A. and Orange County registrars began sending sample ballots out a few weeks ago.
But if you still haven't received yours, no need to worry. The timing of their arrival really depends on the post office, meaning some sample ballots are still making their way to mailboxes.
If yours still hasn't arrived by around Feb. 15, you have a few options. You can always view it online at the L.A. County and Orange County registrars' websites. (The L.A. County Registrar even has an interactive sample ballot where you can save your choices and generate a code that you can scan when you vote in person at a voting center.)
You can also see your ballot on our Voter Game Plan website — just input your address. There you can save your choices and email them to yourself or a friend.
Still prefer to get a hard copy in the mail? You can always contact your county registrar’s office and ask them to resend it.
If you have more questions about the voting process, check out those the Voter Game Plan team has already answered, or ask us anything else below:
It’s Monday, Feb. 10 And Here Are The Stories We’re Following Today
Surely you didn't miss the Oscars? If so, or if you just want to relive every memorable moment, then go ahead. I'll wait. I'll even help you out by sharing the results, all that red carpet fashion, and even a few speeches. And, of course, "Parasite."
Got it out of your system? Good. Here's...
What We’re Covering Today:
- Eesh. Still more Oscars. The Frame's John Horn was there last night, so we'll bring you his post-show analysis in short order.
- OK, maybe one more related thing. Pop culture reporter Mike Roe will take you on a tour previewing the Motion Picture Academy museum, complete with photos of the new venue. We learned from Tom Hanks last night at the Oscars that opening day will be Dec. 14, 2010.
- In more serious news, L.A. is considering ways to provide rental assistance for seniors, following similar programs in Santa Monica and Glendale. Reporter David Wagner will explain.
- Plus, a new report is expected today that suggests California funeral homes that hide their costs from customers ultimately end up charging more than the ones that offer transparent pricing. We'll bring you the details when we learn more.
- Plus, contributor Christine Ziemba will have your roundup of weekly events.
Help Us Cover Your Community:
- Got something you’ve always wanted to know about Southern California and the people who call it home? Is there an issue you want us to cover? Ask us anything >>
- Have a tip about news on which we should dig deeper? Let us know >>
The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft.