Silicon Silliness

Recent pronouncements about the growth of “Silicon Beach”, the new moniker provided to L.A. and environs, have been making headlines recently. The LA Times, not known for embracing any boosterish characterization of its home city, has carried a flurry of news stories and op-ed articles heralding this new, latest silicon enthusiasm. Over the years, I have been involved with numerous ventures and initiatives which have sought to provide a name that would brand this sprawling metropolis, to give it an identity that would cause it to shrug off its inferiority complex about its much-ballyhooed sister to the north, the famed Silicon Valley. At one time, in the late 1990s, folks from up and down the coast wanted to use the name “Tech Coast” to identify the great urban conurbation spanning Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties (never mind the intervening landmass called Pendleton), and to call attention to its myriad stars: the universities (more than any other part of the country), diversity of its industries (producing everything from breast implants to B-52s), its engineering (starting with defense and aerospace) and creative might (which is legendary), all spread out against its famed coast.

At the same time, there was an effort led initially out of Mayor Riordan’s office to adopt the cuter name “Digital Coast” as a means of marking our place in the shining digital revolution. The Digital Coast Roundtable, of which I was a founding member, started in 1998, catching the wave of the dot com boom. Many of us will remember the wild parties hosted by VIC (the Venice Interactive Community) that celebrated the era of .com mania and the great camaraderie and endless sense of possibility (and mindless wonder) that accompanied our ascent into prominence as a center of the “digital revolution.”

[quote_right]How do you capture that rich universe with one silly moniker? And why would you want to do that?[/quote_right]Now, older and wiser, I believe that the silicon naming game (and indeed any such naming game for LA) is so much silliness. It is fine for small places to want to touch the feet of the Silicon Goddess of the Valley. They can have their Silicon Fen, Silicon Prairie, Silicon Desert, Silicon Mountain, even their Silicon Alley (if New York really wants to go down that path). We, in L.A., ought to stand apart from this wannabe crowd. This is L.A., after all, the place where all the serious nuts in the world hang out and where every loose screw has prospects!

Introducing - SILICONE BEACH!

In one fell swoop, we have something that captures the imagination of the world, especially since we are already known for our use of that remarkable substance. We are also used to being called “fake” and “plastic” (which, in case you haven’t noticed, go very well with “silicone”). So, let’s take back the name and make it our own. Let’s wear the “Silicone Beach” badge proudly. Let’s stand out, so to speak (ahem). If that is too rich for your imagination, you can always repair to the fen, the desert, the mountain or the alley, and leave the beach to us bums who love our fillers. One day, you will come back to get your fill.

Till then, I’ll be looking for a lift here or a tuck there, anything to prolong the sheer zaniness and wonder of living and working in L.A.

Seriously, though, what’s in a name? L.A., of all places, should shun such exercises. For better or for worse, we have already been defined, through a million views on a million shows, through spectacular Januarys when the “evening is set out against the sky, like a patient etherized upon a table” (with apologies to Eliot). That is when scores of people pack their bags and venture west to escape the dreadful winter bite as they watch the sun-drenched valley shine against the backdrop of the San Gabriels during the Rose Parade.

We have never ceased being a restless place of dreamers and dream-makers, tinkerers, musicians, unique specimens on self-propelled transport, serious mad engineers, rocket launchers, medical pioneers, writers, clubbers, fashionistas of both the high- and low-end variety, and, of course, plastic surgeons and their clients. How do you capture that rich universe with one silly moniker? And why would you want to do that?

Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, and other leaders of the digital pack cannot resist the lure, the expanse, the sheer universality of this extraordinary place, as we have found out. Surely we can resist the lure of a silly name that fails to do justice to its boundless character?