The 12 Least Overrated Things in Los Angeles
Here at VICE, it’s not uncommon for us to write disparagingly about the city of Los Angeles. We actually do it pretty often. Probably because most of us are sitting in the rarefied air that is the borough of Brooklyn. Not I, sir. No, I live smack in the middle of the City of Angels. I consider myself grateful for the spectacular weather, plethora of career opportunities, and crippling body image issues this town has given me. Yes, I actually like it here. Some people happen not to see things my way though.
LA Weekly, home to some of the best back-page advertisements for medical marijuana I’ve ever seen, posted a venomous screed about the “12 Most Overrated Things in Los Angeles” written by an impetuous young lad by the name of Hillel Aron. One can forgive VICE its predilection for prodding LA since it’s really just some far-off Xanadu for the vast majority of our staff. Conversely, one would assume that a publication called “LA Weekly” would be more amenable to their ever-dwindling readership that makes a home in Los Angeles.
According to his website, Hillel is actually an LA native who attended USC film school and “successfully petitioned Encyclopedia Britannica to make their entry on Los Angeles less negative.” For the foreseeable future, he’ll now be known as “the guy Dave Schilling wrote the article about.”
Wait… I mean he’ll be known as “the guy who took a huge dump on LA and got his article to go viral.” Let’s assume Mr. Aron isn’t being cynical and trolling purely for attention. I mean, that’s crazy. No internet writer does that, ever, especially not for a miniscule list spread over three pages just for the sake of extra clicks. Instead, let us suppose that he is serious about all of this so that I might indulge in a rebuttal that will end up being twice as long as the article I am referencing.
Here are the 12 most overrated things in Los Angeles, according to LA Weekly, and my well-reasoned, passionate response to each one:
Photo by Flickr User alohavictoria
12) Living downtown
Downtown Los Angeles is a wacky place where young urban professionals rub shoulders with smelly hobos, but it’s also home to the most pre-war movie houses in the world, soon to have two of the nation’s top artmuseums, an architecturally significant concert hall, and a Hooters. Tell me how that’s overrated.
11) Bike lanes
“Hey L.A., if you really care about cyclists, maybe pave the fucking roads once in a while?” So, does this mean you don’t want bike lanes? Are you saying they’re stupid or that you want them? I don’t follow this logic at all. Please help.
I Used to be a Scientologist, Now I Help People Out of Cults by Smoking Weed
Dennis Erlich (pictured above, in a weird hat) was the original guy who exposed the craziness of Scientology on the internet. A member since 1967 and later a minister, he started to rebel against the church in the mid-80s. In the early 90s, he began issuing a newsletter called InFormer, exposing the secrets of Scientology.
He became the original internet censorship case in 1994 when he scanned pages of Scientology texts to an online newsgroup, telling the wider world about Thetans and Xenu for the very first time. In 1995 a federal judge permitted Scientologists to raid his house, a video of which can be seen here
Since then he’s been helping people get back to normal life after being in cults, mainly through smoking marijuana. If you’ve just left a cult, his InFormer Ministry Collective
is probably the best place to learn how real life works, whilst also learning how to get super stoned and grow your own weed.
VICE: When you were Minister in Scientology, were you aware you were in a cult?
Dennis Erlich: I thought I was part of a team that was saving the world.
What happened to change your mind?
In 1968 Hubbard established the Sea Org
. They started sending their military missions into the organizations where I was in LA. The very first time these uniformed military types came into the organization they had all of us line up against a wall in the basement. Three uniformed, very fit individuals walked in. The tallest one opened up his jacket, revealing a .45 tucked under his arm. He pulled out a Nazi dagger, with a swastika on it, and flung it into the ceiling above him. Then said in a loud voice, “This organization is now under Sea-Org control.” We had to stay all night. A lot of the things in Scientology knock down the barrier that separates what you’re willing to accept and not.
Nothing Is Less Funny Than Scientologists Doing Comedy
All the great men of history have had their escape valves, their private passions. Einstein played the violin. Disraeli wrote romantic novels. Napoleon used to rub two ferrets covered in sulphur together until one of them caught fire. So it is with the head of Narconon International, Scientology’s notorious drug-rehabiliation wing.
His name is Clark Carr, and when he isn’t fooling around with e-meters, he’s part of Laughworks, which claims to be a comedy group of some kind and also features the woman who used to voice Cubbi in Gummi Bears.
The guys and gals in Laughworks have been taking their laugh-an-hour routines around the Scientology world for the last decade, but of late they’ve gone quiet. Clark in particular has been busy defending his organization from charges that it routinely took out credit cards in the names of people it was supposed to be helping. All that changed last Tuesday, when Stand Up for Valley Org took to the stage in LA. As the name suggests, it was an entire evening of Scientologyl comedy devoted to raising money for the San Fernando Valley Scientologists’ plan to build an Ideal Org, which is a deluxe kind of church.
How Much Does the Church of Scientology Spend on Advertising?
The Church of Scientology has, for a long time, been putting a lot of money into advertising, most recently with the super expensive-looking Super Bowl ad embedded above and their disastrous attempt at running sponsored content in The Atlantic.
But if you’re one of the five people in the world who doesn’t use Adblock, you might have noticed that they sometimes pop up as the sponsored result when you google things.
So how much are they paying to do this?
I’ll do my best to explain this as quickly as possible, because it’s pretty boring. Here’s how cost-per-click advertising works on Google: a company sets a maximum bid that they’re willing to pay for an internet user to click on one of their ads. These bids are associated with keywords that internet users type when searching. Based on the ad’s relevance to searched keywords and the maximum amount that the advertiser is willing to pay per click, Google determines where to place those ads.
For example, if a dessert company wanted their ads displayed any time a user searches for “ice cream cakes,” it would cost, at the time of writing this article, about $0.60 per click in English-speaking countries.
To figure out how much Scientology pays, I tried to advertise for Scientology myself. I set my maximum bid at one dollar per click and selected multiple keywords involving Scientology. All of my bids were rejected, meaning that the person who is currently paying to advertise on those terms is paying more than a dollar per click.
In order to advertise on the first page of Google’s search results for Scientology-related searches, I would have to shell out a minimum of three dollars per click for “creed of the Church of Scientology.”
Scientology Hates Psychology
Illustration by Grant Gronewold.
Scientology’s hatred of psychiatry and psychology has been well documented, but what happens when one of their members has a breakdown? Alice Wu, a young Taiwanese Scientologist living in Sydney, found out when she showed signs of mental illness and was allegedly thrown in an isolation room. According to what her family has told the media, Alice was held against her will, but when an Australian TV station reported the story in late February, the church denied all allegations and Alice herself, who now is back in Taiwan, sent the station an email saying she hadn’t been detained or mistreated.
I spoke to “John,” an ex-Scientologist involved in Alice’s saga, to find out more. (Like many former members of the church, John is worried about being harassed by Scientologists and only agreed to an interview if we withheld his real name.)
VICE: How did you first learn about Alice?
John: There’s an online message board where a lot of former Scientologists communicate. A Taiwanese national described Alice’s story, and I organized a few former Scientologists to visit her. We got someone else to contact the family in Taiwan.
Have you had any personal experience with detainment like Alice allegedly went through?
I’ve known of several attempts to treat mentally ill people in that way. I was told of one guy who spent six weeks on a farm just resting. The problem was that no one was allowed to talk to him.
[Scientology founder] L. Ron Hubbard said when people are in this state, you take them somewhere quiet and try to keep them calm until they straighten out. But if you want to make someone feel like they’re nothing, just ignore them. And that’s what would have happened to Alice.
John’s statements are his opinions and do not reflect the views of VICE Media Inc. or its affiliates.
Read more from our Grievous Sins issue:
New Roma Ghettos
Meet the Last Lykovs
Let’s Get Physical
Scientologists Really, Really Hate Psychiatrists
"Psychiatry: An Industry of Death" is a multi-million dollar museum and visitor center that the Citizens Commission on Human Rights set up in Los Angeles. CCHR is an organization cofounded by the Church of Scientology. The descision to keep their name out of CCHR’s title makes it less likely people will say "lol, shut up, Scientology" when they visit the museum.
When you enter the building signs instruct you not to take photos, and they take your bag away, so this post is gonna be picture-less. My original plan was to go in with a hidden camera and take covert photos, but I was told by our legal people that this would lead to the Church of Scientology literally suing me to death. Soz. But, if you’re interested, the museum looks like this inside.
Anyway, below are some things I learned about psychiatrists and psychologists at the museum that I totally didn’t realize before. Prepare to have your EYES OPENED.
THE DEATH OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
This is the first truth-bomb the museum unleashes on you. Did you know that Benjamin Rush (the first person to write a book on psychiatry in America) was the person who suggested they use blood-letting on George Washington, causing Washington to bleed to death?
According to the text on the exhibit, “The father of American psychology killed the father of the United States of America.” Not off to a great start there, psychology.
THE 9/11 TERRORIST ATTACKS
Under a giant photo of the exploding towers, text explains how evil psychiatrists were responsible for 9/11:
"Osama bin Laden and his terrorist group, al-Qaeda, perpetrated the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. One of Bin Laden’s top aides is Egyptian psychiatrist Ayman al-Zawahiri, known as "Bin Laden’s brain."
Wait, psychiatrists were responsible for 9/11? Why would they do such a thing?
"Within days of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, psychiatrists were predicting that as many as 30% of people affected initially by the attacks would develop ‘post traumatic stress disorder’ and demanded $3 billion in funding to deliver treatments. Antidepressant sales in New York soared immediately afterwards."
Ohhhhhhhh, got it!
ALL OTHER TERRORISM
But it’s not just 9/11 these guys masterminded:
"Research into the engineers of terror atrocities show a dominance of psychiatric and psychological practicing and the typical tools of their trade: drugs and coercive methods."
For instance, did you know that the Egyptian psychiatrist who was bros with bin Laden also once released a statement about the 7/7 bombings? Did you also know that there’s a psychiatrist somewhere in the Middle East who once said that suicide bombers considered their behavior to be normal? Or that the Unabomber came into contact with psychiatric professionals on SEVERAL occasions? Or that the leader of the cult that did the nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway was a psychiatrist? Or that kamikaze pilots often took amphetamines, a drug that is often prescribed BY PSYCHIATRISTS?
Reasons Why LA Is the Worst Place Ever
I recently moved from London to Los Angeles. Despite the fact that LA is the undisputed worst place in the entire world, I’ve been trying super hard to like it. Mainly because I like being that guy who likes the thing everyone else hates just to annoy people (which reminds me, people I know in real life: I never really liked Skrillex or Twilight. You should’ve seen your faces though).
Liking LA also seems to be “a thing” lately. I’ve seen a bunch of articles about it, like this one by Joseph Gordon Levitt that people keep sending me. In it, he talks about how LA is superior to New York because you can sing in the car when you’re stuck in traffic, and also he once saw the movie Swingers here.
Anyway, below are the main things that have been annoying me since moving to LA.
THERE IS DANGER EVERYWHERE
In London, the worst that can happen while you’re out walking around is maybe stepping in a puddle or gettinghappy slapped. Here, I have to worry about drive-bys and forest fires and mountain lions and “The Big One” and rattlesnakes and brain-eating parasites and home invasions and fucking TSUNAMIS! Why did someone think it would be a good idea to build a city here?
IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO HAVE A NORMAL NIGHT OUT
In London, or New York, or Paris, or any other city on Earth, going out means either walking/taking public transportation to a bar or club, then maybe walking to another place after that, then taking a cab home. This becomes problematic in Los Angeles, because public transportation does not exist. And I’m pretty sure cabs don’t exist, either. This means everyone drinks and drives, and I’m not sure if you’ve seen those ads about it on TV, but drinking and driving is really, really, really not OK. Then, you have to find somewhere to park or pay a bunch of money to valet, and then line up to get in, and then before you know it you just paid $30 to get into a “yoga rave” that’s ten minutes from ending, you’ve forgotten where you parked and, oh shit, you got a ticket. Fun times.
THERE IS HIPPIE BULLSHIT ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE
Every time I think I’ve met a normal person, I find out they’re extremely into some kind of new-age nonsense. Did you know that Mercury is in retrograde right now? Me too, and I really, really shouldn’t know that.
I’m not a Scientologist, nor do I give a shit about a book like Battleship Earth, one of the many sci-fi novels L. Ron Hubbard wrote before he steered headlong into inventing a religion. I must admit, though, after having recently peered through a couple of volumes of Hubbard’s writing in the manuals he sells en masse to batshit practitioners such as Beck and Tom Cruise: The writing in this shit is kind of amazing. Or if nothing else, it’s often like nothing else, which is what they said about Beckett.
Hell if I can tell you from where Hubbard drummed the logic and sounds in his sentences. Sure, we assume he’s nuts, not to mention a dickface who raked in money manufactured in god’s name, but isn’t that in some way what the majority of all authors in their secret dreams wish would come about for them? L. Ron Hubbard is pretty much just an even more vilified and mega-loaded Gordon Lish.
Here are some example sentences culled from Hubbard’s Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health(which he originally thought about calling The Dark Sword, Excalibur), pretty much the cornerstone of the whole religion, published in 1950, and all of which could serve as more effective teaching tools than…oh, I don’t know, take your pick:
1. There are many demon circuits which snarl up thinking, but these particular “dub-in” demons mean that the operator is going to get a most awful cargo of what the auditors colloquially call “garbage.”
OK, what the fuck? Dude, “demon circuits”? “‘Dub-in’ demons”? I love the idea of a hyper-accessed realm inside a person, their “awful cargo” that masks them from the people who would come to “audit.” There’s a logic here that flexes in the sentence in a way that uses both sound and terminology to provide a kind of wall that makes the subject mysterious, destructured. People seem to often want language to either be plain or screwy. This satisfies both. Fill me with the garbage and let the demons in. That’s pretty much all I want of art.
See also: Ben Marcus, Dennis Cooper, Lynne Tillman, Jane Unrue.