Saturday, February 26, 2011

Field Trip

Excited today because I am going to a recording session. The producer has hired an orchestra to play backup on my friend's upcoming album. I am tagging along to watch AND be the resident (unqualitified) photographer. Let's hope they have some decent lighting; I'm crap with flash.

getty image

Friday, February 25, 2011

get it done milo

Sending good vibes to my little brother as he waits to hear back from Berklee College of Music in Boston. Crossing my fingers he gets to wow them with his skills and embark on a brilliant career in music. Take heed BK, you need him.

**We always laugh at him for this picture because he was painting in that shirt, but in the picture it just wound up looking dirty--like we picked up a guy living in a van down by the river.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My LA Guide

My friend is about to visit and I've been compiling a list of place to take visiters for a while now, so it's time to share. These are some of the places that make Los Angeles special and unique. I highly recommend each and every one; they represent some of my fondest memories here in LA; I hope they jump start yours. 

1. Galco's Soda Pop Stop
Location: Highland Park
They still sell the original sodas, all of them. It's all here and tasty! It's like walking back into the summer of '69, oh yeah. 

Cost: depends on how many sodas you can drink

2. Old Town Music Hall
Location: El Segundo
If Galco's is 1960s, Old Town is 1920s. One of a kind. This is an experience you will not want to miss. This little theater in El Segundo runs classic and silent films. A professional organist accompaines the silent films LIVE on a classic Wurlitzer organ that was once use for silent films in the 20s. Concessions are only $1! Join the seniors for something totally special!
Fridays: 8:15pm, Saturdays: 2:30pm and 8:15pm, Sundays: 2:30pm
Schedule 2010-2011

Cost: $8

3. Bradbury Building 
Location: Downtown
Taking it back even further to the end of the 1800s, the incredible architecture of the Bradbury Building is a go-to for any photographer. The back story of the building's design is also fascinating. George Wyman was just a draftsman, but an mine-tycoon turned real estate developer commissioned him to design a spectacular building. Wyman turned down the job, believing he was not experienced enough. But then he was contacted by his dead brother and told to take the job. He did, was widely acclaimed, and then never built anything of substance again. Featured in the film Blade Runner.

Cost: Free!

4. Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Location: Hollywood of course
Founded in the later 1800s, Hollywood Forever is the cemetery where Hollywood's Golden Age stars like Rudy Valentino and icons like Johnny Ramone are buried. Films are regularly shown to an audience with blankets and lawn chairs, and on Halloween and Dia de los Muretos the grounds are turned into a spooky sanctuary. Worth checking out anytime of year for cool photos of the run-down graves and monuments. (They have tours also if you want more history).

Cost: Free!

5. Backstage Bar 
Location: Culver City
Excellent dive bar with just the right amount of relaxation and party atmosphere. Doesn't look like much from the outside, but inside people are always having a blast. The drinks are inexpensive, there is a firepit (heck yeah) and karaoke happens on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays starting at 8pm. (Thursday - there no sports on the screen) . Happy Hour everyday from 4pm to 8pm.

Cost: depends on how much booze you drink

6. Amoeba Music
Location: Hollywood
If you need to replinish your cd, record or DVD collection, this is the palace of music. 

Cost: regular prices for cds, etc.

7. The Edison Lounge
Location: Downtown
Still on this vintage kick, Edison has impeccable taste with its steampunk/speakeasy decor. The space is nice and large; there's jazzy music and strong drinks. It's the perfect place to just chill.

Cost: around $13 a drink, might be a little pricy, but they come strong so you can sip

8. McCabe's Guitar Shop
Location: Santa Monica
McCabe's been here since 1958, the staff are like family, the atmosphere home-y. You can see why young musicians would want to work here. There are tons of instruments for all levels and lots of quirky ones to check out for amusement. Tons of books and instructional material, an excellent repair shop, lessons upstairs, free coffee, AND the back is an intimate venue for some pretty awesome and eclectic music. Check out the concert schedule - it's worth it, like watching your friends play in your living room, but better of course. 

Cost: $15 to 25 concerts, reasonably priced music equip. 

Location: Santa Monica
Excellent little coffee shop, warm cozy decor, with lots of space. If you ask me though, the patio is where it's at. I always go there on rainy days, because the iron work, brick tiles, vines and hanging plants make it feel like my own private Babylon (mostly because Los Angelinos are afraid of the rain). This place is lo-fi as in no wifi - no people buried in 'puters - bonus. It's more a place to read and catch up with friends! And eat if you want. They have food too. Somebody said it was owned by Bob Dylan. 

Cost: $2 - $4 coffee and tea depending on how fancy you like it

10. Hotel Cafe
 Location: Hollywood
One of the best music venues in Los Angeles. The décor is perfect, brick and curtains. The atmosphere is intimate and casual. Acoustics are great. The music is always phenomenal. Just take a look at the Hotel Cafe Tour to know what caliber artists they book: Emily Wells, Thao Nguyen. Pictured is Elivazeta with Sheldon Gomberg on bass. This is the place rising stars get their start. 

Cost: $8 - 10 a show - and you can stay all night. This is how we've found many new bands, just stick around, and you can hear set after set. Excellent deal!

11. Vidiots 
Location: Santa Monica
They have just about any and every obscure, foreign, cult, and documentary film you could ever want. There are sections organized by director, cult classic, sci-fi, etc. It really is a film buffs heaven. If you aren't a buff, no worries. The friendly staff is, and they can tell you anything you need to know and make the proper suggestions. Netflix can't compete. Plus they have a film center for screenings and discussion. They mean biz when it comes to film; I'm just happy places like this can stay in biz. 

Cost: $4.57 for two days, without a membership

12. Inn of the Seventh Ray
 Location: Topanga Canyon
Need some fuel for the flame? This place is oozing romance. The Victorian décor and folliage provides the perfect compliment to the veranda which wraps up and down and around overlooking a creek and trees. They frequently have weddings here, but on any given Sunday you can find the most delicious brunch of fresh organic local food; it’s like you are royalty. A little pricey, but a go-to for special occasions. 
Sunday Brunch: 9:30am to 3:00pm

Cost: $25-30

Honorable Mentions

11.Society of St Vincent de Paul Thrift Store - Huge warehouse of thrift, happy hunting
12. Curious Palate - They use local food purchased from the farmers market next door for some original and delicious food combinations. Finally some creative dishes. Three Cheese Mac n Cheese!
13. Sakura Japanese  - Family Japanese. Crowded as %^&!$, but so good. Salmon Skin Salad!
14. Tara's Himalayan Cuisine - Nicest staff, great food. The Nepalese tea, yum!
15. Govinda's - Hari Krishna blessed lunch buffet for $4, no contest. It's awesome.
16. The Museum of Jurassic Technology  - full of mystical curiosities, this is a museum off the beaten path
17. Sasabune  - "I have tons and tons of money to blow, where do I get phenomenal sushi?"
18. Beard Papa's  - Never has a cream puff been so good!
19. Novel Cafe - Drinking coffee surrounded by books, what's better?
20. Record Surplus - Pick through their huge selection of old records, and then listen to them up the loft

(photo credit is given for photos taken from personal sites, otherwise they are stock from wikipedia, or my own) 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hell is a building uptown

I love dreaming. Maybe that sounds strange, but it's one of my favorite activities. When I am fortunate to remember them, it’s better than going to the movies. But I have  to write them down. I've found that if I don't, my recall gets worse and worse until I feel like a slab of cinderblock. That's probably true for most people.

If you think about it, recalling a dream must be incredibly beneficial for your brain. Just simply going through the process of recollecting each detail and writing it down, probably rewires things in a major way. Basically you are syncing the left and right sides of your brain, bringing them into harmony, building bridges between the two. It's probably equivalent to something like 20 crossword puzzles. If we are just talking brain diet. 

I had been slacking in my writing as of late, and it was really irritating me, so the other morning I committed to writing until my dream spewed out. After about a page and a half, it finally surfaced after I wrote: I want French Toast. haha, suddenly I remembered that in my dream I had been eating takeout while sitting on the banks of the Seine. Brilliamt what sorts of things trigger the memories.

So here's my evidence that writing down a dream really enhances the ability to remember. Today I woke up with my dreams as clear as if I had just walked in the front door with my shoes still wet. It works!

If you are in for a random story, here's my dream from last night:

I was walking uptown, scouting a good building to start a community center. There were some men hanging out on a stoop in front of an old-style barber shop, so I struck up a conversation, asking them about the vacant building next door. "Is anyone renting that? Who would I talk to about a possible lease?" 

The guy casually replied, "Oh, you can't rent that building, it's Hell."
"Huh? You mean there have been some supernatural sightings, or it's haunted or something."

"No, it's Hell," he said smoking and looking unconcerned at the abandoned building next door. "But.. you can go in there if you want."

"Hm.... well, I might be interested in just checking it out for curiosities sake, you know." 

"Sure," he shrugged. "You just have to make sure to cover your head when you go in and out. There's an electromagnetic field that you have to protect against."

“That sounds about right, thanks for the heads up.”

I got some burlap and some friends. We went around to the back alleyway. The building looked like any other brownstone with a shabby backyard. The gate was unlocked, so we put some burlap on the crown of our heads and opened the diamond wire gate. The yard was overgrown and strewn with dead grass and dirt. It looked almost exactly like the picture below. 

I was feeling incredibly pensive about this endeavor, but had made up my mind to go and no amount of fear was going to stop me. I grabbed my friend’s hand and we made our way up the fire escape. On the landing, there was an old woman sitting at a desk wearing glasses with the chain that dangles from the sides like a librarian. Looking closer I discovered that she was not really human. Her skin had the consistency of a toad, but she was minding her own business, so I did the same.

We opened the door and then tried to adjust our eyes to the darkness inside. To my surprise, the place was packed with people, like some hip club! Loud music was pumping out of the speakers, and gothic chandeliers gave the interior a red luminescence. We walked along the second floor, which opened in the center to the same activity downstairs. With a lot of trepidation, we pushed through the crowd. At first I avoided looking at other people, afraid they would be contorted or grotesque, but by the time we had walked the entire length of the upstairs, the people around seemed to be just that - regular people. 

Downstairs we found card tables and a bar. A waiter walked past with a platter of fine Italian beer. He offered me one, so I cracked it open and watched on as a bunch of people played Blackjack. I turned to my friend, “You know, I’m not a big fan of bars, but considering where we are, this is not THAT bad.”  
My companion was about to respond when a hush fell over the crowd. The music abruptly stopped and people started shrinking away to the corners of the room. I heard a whisper in the crowd that He was coming. I didn’t need anybody to tell me who He was. I grabbed the friends that were closest to me and said, “We better get out of here, now.. before anything goes down.” It felt like something out of the Master and the Margarita.

We were just a few paces away from a revolving door, remnants of a bygone era, where the building was probably once an old department store. In the rush, I had lost the burlap cloth. We found some paper on the ground and placed it on our heads to exit the revolving door. (Thinking back, this seems strangely like a yarmulke – though I’m not Jewish or a guy for that matter).

I pleaded for my friends to come out with me, but a few were just enjoying chatting at the door and were clearly in no rush. One kid went through the door without protection on his head to show-off. "Yeah, it kind of hurt," he said, but shrugged and went back inside again. From the street, I could see them all hanging out in the entryway. Then through the tinted glass, I could make out the form of a gigantic black cloak moving into foyer.

There was a guy next to me leaning against the brick wall; he was watching the figure through the window too. “Why won’t they get the heck out of there?” I said, turning to him.

“Yeah, I don’t know.” I was expecting more concern from him, but he just watched with disinterest.

I tried to see what was happening inside, but it was only later that the show-off kid was carried out on a gurney. He was not dead someone said; the Master of Hell had taken pity on his stupidity. I thought that was interesting. So evil takes pity on ignorance too.

photos (+,+,+)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

So bad, it's good, or is it just good? we don't know anymore

We were watching SNL a while back. They had a skit called, "What is Burn Notice?" The contestants were all scratching their heads. In the end, we found that apparently Burn Notice was a TV show, and not only that, it was a very popular show that was in season 3 or 4 with lots of viewers and good ratings. We had to ask, how can a show that no one has ever heard of be popular?

For research, we watched an episode or two. I thought it was ridiculous. I don't watch TV anyway, but this was really silly. However, sometimes I enjoy really silly – like if I’m having a bad day I just need to watch a Steven Seagal film and all is well with the world. So as you can guess, we watched it every once in a while, then I watched it a lot while I was sick last week, and now I’m here to confess that I am a fan.

Nowadays television and film are focused on hyper-realism. Maybe it happened after the popularity of reality TV starting in the nineties. Producers were attempting to cash in on some of the traits that made reality TV so popular – the "unpredictability" and messiness of real life. We can’t wrap up life in half an hour with all of the loose ends neatly worked out (too bad). Shows like Mad Men, Lost, and the Wire were taking a cue by creating this new kind of television show with grittier messier characters and more believable plots. The other day I was listening to Fresh Air; Terry Gross was dissecting the character of Mr. Draper from Mad Men. For a few minutes, I actually thought they were talking about a real historical person. That’s the beauty of hyper realism. Writers and actors are taking character development to a new level.

Not Burnt Notice. It's simple. They solve someone's problem each episode, just sprinkle explosives, spy techniques, and some totally invincible characters. That’s not to say there’s no talent involved in writing. I’m impressed with the spins they take on each new problem. To be formulaic, the writers are pretty ingenious, not to mention the fantastically clever and creative ways the characters always manage to get out of trouble. I do like spy flicks! And the car!

1973 Dodge Charger. One of the coolest cars in muscle history


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Adventure Collage

While I was sick, I had some time on my hands. Just laying here on the couch, tissues, blankets, and tea close by. We were making some collages with the kids at work using Polyvore, so I decided to make a couple of my own. And so Behold, my dream gear for adventure.  Especially that jacket, only 4 grand.

Polyvore even itemizes for you. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy V Day

Happy Valentine's Day

I'm just coming out of a hole, dug last week during one of the worst colds/flu I've had in years - the liabilities of working with kids. Anyway, now I'm feeling better and have tons to catch up on. Kind of wish I had a week for vacation now. 

Enjoy your love day. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Story In Print

Over the summer, my co-worker and I started a journalism club at the Boys and Girls Club. We print our own newspaper (magazine) each month with news from the center, fun tidbits, art, writing. Everything that's fit to print. And the kids do it all. Well all that can get done in a month. I ususally end up helping out with editing and layout. The momentum has been picking up, especially after our December issue, in which they all reviewed film, music, books, and events from 2010. The final product was fantastic, and now the size of our mini club has  reached over 16 members. 

They were ready to step it up, so I got in contact with Kevin Herrera, editor of the Santa Monica Daily Press to inquired about a field trip. He was interested in the idea, although squeezing into the hectic schedule of a newspaper can be difficult. We managed to find a good time on short notice, so we all crowded on the public bus and ventured down to the heart of Santa Monica. Kevin and the other staff members were very engaging, giving a tour and talking about what they do every day.

One of my favorite moments was when Kevin introduced us all to Santa Monica’s sports editor. The kid who covers sports for our newspaper piped up and said, “That’s my job too.” It was very cute, and their sports editor loved it. He was enjoying answering all of their questions – and they asked a lot. I kept telling them on the way to be sure to ask lots of questions; we even talked about what to ask. Once we got there, they really indulged their imaginations. What’s the most dangerous story you’ve ever covered? What’s the craziest story? Have you ever had threats, etc.

I think the guys in the newsroom were very impressed. Afterwards they began to ask the kids about their paper. Of course, the kids were beaming. It turned into an excellent discussion. When we left many of the kids were saying they wanted to be journalist when they grew up. (Even though they were assured that a journalist’s salary was not enough for a Ferrari... yes, that question was asked, haha. .embarrassing.)

I was a little worried about logistics – riding the public bus with 16 kids, paying for the bus, getting off on the right stop, getting back in time. Fortunately everything went perfectly and we even had a little time to spare, so we treated the kids to some ice cream before heading back. They were like ricocheting BBs on the bus. But their ideas were all about our next field trip and improvements for our paper. One little girl even said this was the best field trip she had ever been on. Considering the other kids were scoffing at the idea of going to see a lousy newspaper, for her to say it was the best field trip ever, meant a lot. I was so thankful we were able to go, and for the excellent hospitality of Santa Monica Daily Press.

Guess what. The Daily Press published our photo in the newspaper on Saturday!  

Art Auction Submissions

Submissions Wanted
My best friend who is in a graduate program at the University of Denver is helping to put together this year's Art Auction with the Human Trafficking Clinic. She asked me to put the word out to anyone who would be interested in submitting art to sell for charity (or for a share). 
Subject matter could be anything in the arena of human rights/advocacy. 

I will update here when I have the submission date, but thought I'd put the word out now so artists would have time to break out the paints and hopefully spread the word to other corners of the internet. 

++ She will be coming to LA to pick up artwork in 3rd week in March. Contact me if you are interested.

Human Trafficking Clinic

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Commissioned Art

I made this colored-pencil poster for a friend (gift for her son's birthday). I wouldn't normally do something like this, but for Antelma, anything. She is one of the sweetest, most caring, selfless people I've ever met. She has a wonderful heart. It was my pleasure to help her put together a great present for her son.

But.. man am I happy to be finished with it. I usually have some sort of emotional or intellectual connection to the art I am working on. Don't get me wrong, I like ole Buzz and Woody, but they've already been created. I guess that's why commissioned art can be difficult

Someone recommended me to an advertisement company in Beverly Hills a few years ago. I went for an interview not knowing what it was. They wanted to add me to their roster of freelancers, but after the interview the woman opened the door and told me, "yeah... this probably isn't going to work out, you're too much of an artist artist."

I felt a weird cocktail of rejection and empowerment.

National Fine Arts Competition

I'm the art director at a Boys & Girls Club in Santa Monica. I teach mostly 11 and 12 year olds, who are pretty fantastic. There's a group of about 9 or 10 kids who hang out with me regularly. This week we entered some of their work into a national fine art competition. Together with the other local clubs, we had a gallery show with some pretty savy judges who picked the pieces that will go on to the regional competition (California, Oregon, and Washington). I have to say, my kids impressed.  Check out some of their work:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nancy's brother is Crazy

Best weekend activity: hanging out at Shibat's house with Shibat and Suga. 
Eating fresh oranges and then fine coffee with real cream, and making foil hats, Ha!
Suga is awesome.
He is a great inspiration. About two years ago, he went to the doctor and they told him that his blood sugar levels showed that he was prediabetic. They also found some spotting in his lungs that they thought was cancer. He freaked out and came to the best natural doctor in the world (Shibat of course).

Dr. Shibat put him on a strict program. First, the diet: only organic meat, no processed food or anything out of a box or bag, no sugar, no bread, only raw milk or diary products (point of contention in CA right now), only brown rice, only fresh vegetables and fruit. Suga had been a smoker for 50+ years, so he had to stop smoking and start walking every day. Suga followed the program religiously. Do you know how hard it is to stop smoking after 50 years?!

He lost 20 lbs. and when he went back to the doctor three months later, his sugar levels were normal, his lungs were spotless, he had a clean bill of health. They couldn’t figure out what the heck happened.

It's great inspiration for anyone who might have a similar prognosis from the doctor. Unfortunately, western doctors tend to give medication and casually mention healthy diet and exercise. Some people think a healthy diet is Cracker Barrel or Applesbees. Most doctors don't do much to change that misconception. The focus should be on a healthier lifestyle. It's not easy, but reclaiming your health really can't be. It's hard  work. 

goofing around.. beam me up..

Revival of the cholo pose

This is what I will miss most about LA.