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For many inhabitants of rival cities like New York and Chicago, disparaging Los Angeles is a popular pastime. L.A. may have gorgeous weather and gorgeous movie stars, they concede, but the ethos is shallow, the smog is thick, and the traffic is insufferable. Such thoughts comfort those obliged to slog through the slush each winter. Alas, they are largely untrue. In fact, as we found on a recent visit, Los Angeles can be a delight, with friendly people, a thriving art scene, sensational restaurants and, yes, the occasional movie star sighting. The public transportation options deserve whatever ridicule they receive, but the traffic is not much worse than in other large conurbations. Indeed, I challenge anyone to rent a late-model convertible and not enjoy driving in L.A.