Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Spectacular Photos of Presidential Helicopters Over Glendale

Today President Barack Obama visited Dreamworks Animation in Glendale, marking his second visit to Glendale as President. His retinue of helicopters landed at Toll Middle School in Glendale before the motorcade departed for Dreamworks. I took these photos of the helicopters departing Toll's playground.

The President travels in one of two identical VH-3D Sea King helicopters - the helicopter with the President aboard is known as Marine One. The two Sea Kings were also accompanied by two enormous CH-53E Super Stallion support helicopters. Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) is the squadron responsible for Presidential helicopter transport.


Earlier in the day, I was able to catch a glimpse in the distance of Marine One descending towards Toll.

This video from Father Vazken Movsesian of St. Peter's Armenian church shows the Presidential entourage's visit to Toll most comprehensively, as it was taken from inside the police perimeter.

Here's the best video I've found of all four helicopters lifting off from Toll.

Here's MY video of all four helicopters lifting off. Apologies for the shaky quality, I was shooting the video with my left hand and taking the stills you see above with my right!


A History of Presidential Visits to Glendale*

President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak at Dreamworks Animation in Glendale today. Inspired by a rare presidential visit to the Jewel City, here's a list of documented visits to Glendale made by Presidents of the United States. If I'm missing any, please let me know:

President Barack Obama, 2010 and 2013
In 2010, President Obama did a radio interview in the Unum Building in downtown Glendale. He is scheduled to speak at Dreamworks Animation today.

President Bill Clinton, 1996
In 1996, President Clinton spoke at Glendale Community College and had lunch at the Rocky Cola Cafe in Montrose afterward. In 1992, while President-elect, Clinton stopped in Glendale to shop at the Glendale Galleria.

President Gerald Ford, 1976

President Harry Truman, 1948
Truman made a brief campaign speech in Glendale during his successful 1948 re-election campaign.

President Herbert Hoover, 1932
The earliest record I could find of a presidential visit to Glendale was made by Herbert Hoover, who visited the Jewel City in 1932. Looks like he's having a great time!

Visits by Presidents to Glendale that were not made during their term:

Richard Nixon, 1952, 1956, 1962

Ronald Reagan, 1940 and 1966
In 1940, Ronald Reagan married actress Jane Wyman in Glendale at Forest Lawn's Wee Kirk of the Heather church. In 1966, Reagan visited Forest Lawn again, this time as governor of California.

If I'm missing any other documented visits, please let me know and I'll add them to the list.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Truth Behind The Meatball/Glendale Bear "Copyright Dispute"

Sarah Aujero, the creator of "The Glendale Bear" persona, is a friend. I’ve spoken with her regarding most of these events as they unfolded, and she has extensive documentation backing up her story.

Sarah created the Meatball/Glen Bearian/Glendale Bear twitter account in April 2012. Her tweets recounting Meatball’s tales of life in Glendale were hilarious, and the account became wildly popular, rapidly garnering nearly 30,000 followers on Twitter. As the account became popular, Sarah copyrighted various derivations of the name to protect herself legally from imitators (several sprang up). The popularity of her account dramatically raised the profile of the hungry bear who kept returning to Glendale and turned it into a national news story. When the bear was recaptured after having been relocated and having returned to Glendale twice already, the attention she brought to the story was instrumental in saving the bear’s life. 

A sanctuary in Colorado offered to take in the bear, and Sarah starting selling Meatball-related merchandise related to the bear (much of it designed by me) to help raise funds for Meatball’s relocation. When the bear was prevented from being sent to the Colorado sanctuary by a Colorado state law; Lions, Tigers & Bears in Alpine, where the bear was being held temporarily, was good enough to step up and take the bear in permanently. Despite having no legal obligation to do so, Sarah donated all of the profits from the merchandise that were initially for the bear’s relocation to LTB (and has receipts). Sarah was also able to get her employer to match her donations, so in total she has been directly responsible for nearly $4,000 in donations to Lions, Tigers & Bears.

In addition to directly donating all merchandise profits (times two, since her employer matched those donations), Sarah promoted Lions, Tigers & Bears’ own fundraising efforts and events, and encouraged her fans to donate directly to the sanctuary. Meatball is a star fundraiser: since that time, Lions, Tigers & Bears has raised nearly $250,000 towards a new bear habitat intended for Meatball and several other bears. At a $100 a person fundraising event I attended at LTB with Sarah and several other friends from Glendale (Sarah bought my ticket, and also bought tickets for several family members), Bobbi Brink, LTB’s founder, told the story of Meatball, and, while a person in a “Meatball” bear costume danced on stage, in a few short minutes raised nearly $30,000 in pledges specifically for the new bear habitat. Sarah’s guests from Glendale, including me, all pulled out our checkbooks and donated to the new habitat.

Enter the book.

Sarah was contacted by a publisher interested in publishing a children’s book about Meatball that Sarah would write. Sarah contacted LTB with the good news:

Hi Bobbi, 

I left a message on your voicemail earlier today. 
Would love to speak with you briefly about an opportunity that came up. 
A publisher contacted me about writing a children's book about Meatball. 
I only want to do it if I can donate part of the proceeds to him at the sanctuary. 
I'm excited about this opportunity and I hope something can be finished in time
for the Christmas party and the Rose Parade. 
Please give me a call so we can discuss this further. 


Bobbi Brink, founder of LTB, spoke to Sarah on the phone: an LTB donor had ALREADY written a children’s book with Meatball that they were planning on publishing. This had never been mentioned to Sarah previously. Sarah contacts LTB’s PR person, Jen:

Hi Jen [LTB PR person],

I just got a call from Bobbi and she told me they already have a children's book coming out for him and will be available starting mid-November. 

I'm really excited about the book coming out, and it will be really great publicity for the fundraiser. Unfortunately, I'm also disappointed that I was completely kept me out of the loop on this one because there are some things that need to be discussed. 

Legally, I registered the copyright to his name first, since April 2012, as soon as the Twitter account started getting a lot of buzz and months before Meatball was sent to LTB. As such, it would be advisable if the sanctuary's attorney (&/or whomever is representing the author and the rights to the children's book) contact me as soon as possible, before the book is released.

Also, I would like to work out an arrangement to still release my own children's book for Meatball and I will donate a portion of the proceeds to the sanctuary as originally planned. 

Hope to speak to you soon,

Jen, the PR person responds:

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for your email. I have been meaning to email you after I spoke with Bobbi on Wednesday but hadn't had a moment to do so. I'll certainly work with the LTB team to determine the next best steps. Can you tell me, exactly, what you registered for his name (i.e., his public name, "Meatball," or his "Twitter" name, "Meatball the Glendale Bear)? 

Thank you, and we will be in touch soon!


Sarah responds:

The copyright registration is for all of it, "Meatball" - "Meatball the Glendale Bear" - "Meatball the Bear" and "Glen Bearian."

The trademark is for "Meatball" and "Meatball the Bear" both of which have been in use since April 2012 and sold in commerce since August 2012. I dont want to prevent the sanctuary from raising money in any way nor jeopardize the protections of his name.

The whole point of the registrations was to prevent anyone else from taking advantage of the name and fail to donate the proceeds to the sanctuary, as I have been doing from the beginning. As such, the sanctuary can certainly sell Meatball items to make money for itself but there are licensing and other legal issues that need to be discussed as soon as possible. 

Thanks again for your help!

On October 25th, Sarah was sent and told to sign a legal document from Lions Tigers & Bears’ lawyers that required her to sign over all of her copyright and trademark rights related to Meatball; hand over domain names, turn over existing merchandise, “cease and refrain” from using the Meatball copyright (which would mean handing over or closing @theglendalebear), and “in exchange,” be allowed to return to Lions, Tigers and Bears to visit Meatball. 

In a nutshell: we’ll twist your arm by banning you from visiting the bear you helped save unless you sign everything you’ve created over to us.

Sarah refuses to sign.

In an October 31st e-mail from Sarah to LTB:

You're more than welcome to continue using the name(s). And I will continue to support this bear and the sanctuary. Thanks again for taking such great care of Meatball.

November 1, Bobbi responds:

The attorneys will reach out to you

Bobbi Brink
Founder, Director
Lions Tigers & Bears 

On November 12th, after the story broke and in the wake of negative media attention, Bobbi issued the following statement on the LTB facebook page

At no point has LTB demanded control of the twitter handle (@TheGlendaleBear) or formally banned Sarah from the sanctuary. The issue at hand is that LTB has a book at the publisher in which all proceeds will go to Meatball the bear. This book cannot be published because of Sarah’s trademark on the Meatball name. We asked her participation, and she not only declined but threatened with legal action, leaving us unable to move forward with publishing, which would result in the inability to fundraise for the bear.

Let’s review this against the settlement agreement that LTB sent to Sarah and insisted she sign:

"At no point has LTB demanded control of the twitter handle (@TheGlendaleBear)"

Okay, let's check that one:

"or formally banned Sarah from the sanctuary."

Let's check that one too:

"This book cannot be published because of Sarah’s trademark on the Meatball name. We asked her participation, and she not only declined but threatened with legal action, leaving us unable to move forward with publishing, which would result in the inability to fundraise for the bear."

Sarah didn’t “threaten legal action” - she offered them a gratis license that would accommodate their book and fundraising needs but would still keep her trademark protections intact. She explicitly and in writing granted them use of the name for free so they could publish their book and continue to fundraise.

So here are the two key facts that make this entire affair ridiculous:

1) Sarah has, in writing, given Lions, Tigers & Bears permission to use the name Meatball without restrictions, for free.

2) There is no dispute as to who owns the actual copyright and trademark - Sarah registered the copyright in April 2012 and has sold Meatball related merchandise (which activates the trademark) since long before Lions, Tigers & Bears was involved in the Meatball saga. (And though she had no legal obligation to do so, Sarah has donated all profits from Meatball-related merchandise to Lions, Tigers & Bears.)

Anyways, that’s about where we are at the moment. Frankly, the way Sarah has been treated by LTB and the lies they have told make me angry. Despite this, Sarah continues to support Lions Tigers & Bears, but won’t sign away her creative work to visit the bear that she has worked so hard to help. Viva Meatball!

On a more positive note than this absurd episode, Meatball will be featured on the City of Glendale's Rose Parade float this year. On November 23rd the City of Glendale will be holding a fundraiser that includes a meatball tasting competition featuring various meatballs from local restaurants (Sarah's idea!); proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the float and Lions Tigers & Bears. Again, despite the misguided idiocy detailed above, Lions Tigers & Bears does good work and the real bear deserves your support.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Weirdly Lit Bloomingdale's Opens In Downtown Glendale*

Bloomingdale's opens today at the corner of Brand and Broadway downtown Glendale. During the day, the building looks a million times better than the drab brick fortress that existed before.

At night, however, the embedded lighting seems both underlit and overlit in a way that's distracting, and some have brought up safety concerns. The LEDs are way too bright, but the rest of the exterior is barely visible at all. Lowering the intensity of the LEDs and adding some upward pointing lights at the corners of the building to provide some soft illumination of the building itself would decrease the harsh contrast and be less distracting. You can also see in the picture that the streetlight on the corner wasn't working, which further increases the contrast between super bright and super dark. When I compared the reality of the lighting to the rendering of the "night view" presented to the City Council*, I was struck by the difference.

Despite these details, which will hopefully be worked out, it's good to have this corner activated again. For many months, three of the corners at Brand and Broadway were vacant. As of this week, all four corners are occupied and bustling with activity.

*Update: I found this description of the lighting system on page 25 of the council packet:
Lighting: Portions of the mosaic facade containing glass will be back lit to produce a glowing pattern at night. At the northeastern corner of the building where the panel systems meet, a gap between these systems will be lit and create a strong vertical light well. Additionally, the upper floors step back slightly from the black tile first floor to create a small shelf for concealed lighting that will wash the mosaic pattern with light. This effect would be accentuated if a reflective material such as stainless steel projected 8 inches from the roof to "catch" the up-lighting and create a thin cornice of light.
Is the lower concealed lighting just not operational yet?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Downtown Glendale Building On Fire Again*

Last night's fire at 233 N. Brand apparently rekindled and is still burning as I write this. Downtown Glendale resident Erik Yesayan sends the following photos:

*Update at 8:20pm: the latest photos from the scene show the fire apparently under control. Let's hope it stays that way this time!

Dramatic Photos and Video of Huge Brand Boulevard Fire

Here are some dramatic photos and videos of the large fire that occurred at 233 N. Brand Boulevard in downtown Glendale shortly after midnight last night. One man jumped from a second story window to escape the flames and suffered minor injuries. Two firefighters also suffered minor injuries while fighting the flames. I'm not sure yet about the extent of the damage to local favorite Skaf's Lebanese Cuisine or the other businesses on the ground floor of 233 N. Brand, but fortunately the Brand Bookshop was undamaged in the blaze.

(photo by Tony Petborisooth)

Here's an incredible video by Greg Shear of the fire at its peak:

 (photo by Erik Yesayan)

(photo by Erik Yesayan)

More coverage of the fire:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Zareh Sinanyan Finally Apologizes For Hateful Comments

A week after Zareh Sinanyan admitted responsibility for the hateful online comments first reported here nearly two months ago, he finally publicly apologized for the content of those comments at last night's City Council meeting:

“I apologize to anyone who might have been offended by my past comments. I am truly sorry. Many have said they look forward to my future performance, and as I have said many times, my performance will speak for itself. When I appeared before the council as a candidate and addressed the subject of these blog posts, I explained that they were not me, they were not reflective of my character. That was true then, just as it is now. I am here to serve the people of Glendale. All of the people. It truly does not matter to me if you are Armenian, or Latino, or Anglo, or Korean; it doesn’t matter if you’re gay, or straight. And it doesn’t matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu. As my life experiences have demonstrated, the only thing that matters to me is that I want to serve Glendale. Working together to improve our homes is who I am. That is reflective of my character, and I fully welcome and invite people to use this standard to measure my success and effort.”

Good apology; it's frankly amazing he didn't give it two months ago instead of attacking and obfuscating. The apology begins at approximately minute 32 of last night's meeting.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Genocide Denied Is A Genocide Repeated

The forthcoming Armenian Genocide Museum of America in Washington, DC, has produced a powerful short video with the message that a genocide denied is a genocide repeated:

The efforts to build the museum are being led by the Armenian National Institute, which has an excellent website with information about the genocide, in which the Ottoman Turks are well documented to have killed approximately 1.5 million Armenians between 1915-1920. Glendale's annual Armenian genocide commemorative event is April 24th at the Alex Theatre (04/23 update. The City of Glendale now says "there are no more tickets for the Armenian Genocide Commemoration Event on 4/24. There will be a stand-by line that evening at the Alex Theatre for tickets."). The flyer for that and other city commemorative events is below:

The Glendale News-Press also has an article with information about a number of other commemorative events this week:

(Hat tip to my friend Edlin, who is involved with outreach efforts for the new museum and sent me the video. You should also check out another non-profit she's involved in called One Armenia, which uses crowd-funding and transparent reporting to support various environmental, humanitarian and cultural projects in Armenia.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Glendale City Council Member Zareh Sinanyan Admits Responsibility For Online Comments

In response to deeply felt criticism of his hateful online comments from members of the gay and Muslim communities at his first ever city council meeting, Glendale City Council Member Zareh Sinanyan has now publicly admitted responsibility and expressed regret for those comments.

He was particularly moved by the eloquent words of Glendale High student Zehra Siddiqui, who noted that Muslim students in Glendale are often bullied for their religion, and that it's important for role models in the community to take responsibility for their actions, whether good or bad.

From Ron Kaye's column in the Glendale News-Press:

"She was the one who got to me. After she spoke all I could think about was, 'Why would I say something that would insult someone like her?' I would just hope that she would forgive me, I didn't mean those things. They were obviously made in anger. 
"I will do my best to represent her to the best of my abilities. I see her as the future of America. By my actions, I will show who I really am, that those words are not me." 
Clearly, Sinanyan will be living in a fish bowl for quite a while, at the center of tensions over the ascendance of Armenians in the political, economic and cultural life of a city that was very different a quarter century ago when his family arrived in the area. 
For him, and for Glendale, this presents a great challenge to overcome divisions and a great opportunity to move forward and build a greater city together.

I absolutely agree with the closing line. I hope Sinanyan will continue in the spirit of healing and accountability and fully defuse tensions by also apologizing for attacking others, including me, rather than immediately taking responsibility for the comments he has now admitted to writing. If he offers such an apology, I will consider the matter resolved and wish him best of luck on the council.

Sinanyan is smart and was well prepared at the community forums. We both share a sincere interest in South Glendale issues and I'm sure he can put this behind him, both for his own good, and the good of the city.

Zareh, get in touch: tropicostation@gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Zareh Sinanyan Attacks, But Still Hasn't Denied Writing Hateful Comments or Apologized For Them* (04/19 Update: He Has Now Admitted Responsibility & Expressed Regret)

The Glendale municipal election is over, and Zareh Sinanyan has secured a place on the Glendale City Council. A mere 356 votes separated him from Chahe Keuroghelian, who came in fourth. Voter turnout was low, at an estimated 18.2% of registered voters.

The Burbank Blog did a write up on the election results that I highly recommend reading.

If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you’ve also read the hateful comments that every available piece of evidence shows were written by Zareh Sinanyan over a period of several years. Not because I or anyone else says so, but because the allegations are verifiable using cached versions of both the comments and Zareh’s confirmed online accounts. If you haven’t read my previous posts on the allegations, please read them now to understand why this is serious:

Neither Sinanyan, nor anyone else has provided one shred of evidence challenging his authorship of the comments. All it would have taken to fully exonerate Sinanyan was documentation from Google that his account had been hacked for the period in question. When asked directly if he wrote the comments, Sinanyan (campaign motto: "Bringing Transparency and Accountability to Glendale"), gave one of the most misleading non-denials the world has ever seen

Truly, the video must be seen to be believed:

So just to be crystal clear on this:

Sinanyan has neither denied writing the hateful comments, nor apologized for their content.

Rather than responding to the evidence against him, Sinanyan and his supporters accused anyone drawing attention to the comments of conducting a “well-funded, well-organized racist smear campaign." Sinanyan himself, on the record, at a city council meeting, claimed that an anonymous source on *my blog* claimed their goal was to “take the Armenian community in general down.” This is 100% factually untrue. It was a cynical lie, meant to bully me and others who would demand an explanation into silence, close ranks within the Armenian community, and polarize Glendale along ethnic lines. I cannot find words to express my disgust.

The attacks directed at Councilmember Laura Friedman were far worse. For example, in an Armenian-language interview on Horizon TV posted on his official campaign Facebook page, Sinanyan compared Friedman to a Turk who doesn't care about Armenians* (minute 24):

SINANYAN: "And do you know what is unfortunate, maybe she has a small group of people with Armenian names, who aren't really true Armenians, they give her political legitimacy. In other words, you know when you meet some Turks and the first thing a Turk will say to an Armenian - and this is a really well known thing - is you're Armenian? I have many Armenian friends. And this is like Laura Friedman."

In Glendale, saying something like that is inflammatory and inexcusable. It should be denounced in the strongest possible terms by any organization or political candidate with a shred of decency**. The only reason these shameful tactics continue is because members of the community who should know better - most appallingly, The Glendale Teacher’s Association - remained silent.

So where does that leave us? It leaves me embarrassed for Glendale by what can only be explained by either tacit acceptance of bigotry or ignorance, enabled by low turnout. Local elections have a far bigger impact on day to day life than national elections, and proportionally, your vote is thousands of times more important to the outcome. Yet hardly anyone pays attention. Sinanyan was voted for by approximately 4% of Glendale's population. If you're catching up on this now and stayed home during the election, you deserve some of the blame.

Sinanyan will be sworn in at the City Council Reorganization meeting on April 15th.

Until Sinanyan takes responsibility for his actions and apologizes for both the comments*** and the cynical, divisive response to a scandal of his own making, the community must continue to demand an explanation from Sinanyan for his behavior. 



* I had this translated by two different Armenian-speaking friends to verify the context and accuracy of the translation.

** Here’s a challenge for my Armenian-speaking readers: if you see anyone involved with Glendale politics saying something hateful in Armenian language media, record the TV program or save the article and send it to me with a summary in English. I will have an Armenian speaker verify the accuracy of the content and, if it is offensive, will post the original media together with an English language transcript so that the community at large can judge for themselves. Alternately, if you see a non-Armenian candidate using racially charged or discriminatory rhetoric towards Armenians and have a recording or a quote in English language media, send me that too. There should be one standard for hateful racial rhetoric in Glendale, not an English-language standard and an Armenian-language standard. Such rhetoric should be universally condemned.

*** Or provides actual exonerating evidence!