Humorous anthropology: a collection of Tsing Loh's columns about Southern California in the '90s, reprinted from L.A.'s hip Buzz magazine. Over the hill from glamorous Bel-Air is the San Fernando Valley, home to King Bear Auto Shops, barren mini-malls, and Sandra Tsing Loh, 33, a Chinese-German writer and performance artist who once gave a concert on the Harbor Freeway and lives in Van Nuys. Tsing Loh took over Buzz's Valley column, she says, when Harlan Ellison became bored with it; she was too poor to be bored. And like a Prufrock who gets his furniture at Ikea, she invites us to visit the ``smoggy grid of tract homes'' that is her beloved journalistic beat. Even as Tsing Loh, a wisecracking literary cousin to Merrill Markoe and Carrie Fisher (without the serious underpinning of substance abuse, unless you count Nintendo), bridles against accusations that Southern California is a mindless place—she mines its silliness for all it's worth. She junkets to Vegas to see ``Nudes on Ice,'' visits the set of Baywatch, and travels to Palm Springs for the yearly Dinah Shore Golf Weekend, the occasion for a national gathering of lesbians (including a concert with ``a lesbian rock 'n' roll band banging out covers while a Stevie Nicks type stands to the right, signing for the deaf. `I'm going to leave you, you bitch!' she signs deftly''). Conversant with both Weber Grills and Max Schreck, Tsing Loh drolly interprets the semiotics of her birthplace, with a detour to her memorable Chinese father, a retired aeronautics engineer who dries his torn underpants outside his Malibu home and hitches rides in Santa Monica (``To Mr. Loh, It was a pleasure to have you in my car. Love, Anjelica Huston XXX''). Though her quest for cleverness is occasionally relentless, Tsing Loh is a sharp, earthy observer of an eccentric world.
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