Always-Patsy Cline the production kicking off the 2015-2016 season at the Sierra Madre Playhouse officially opens this weekend to a sold out crowd. SOLD OUT.
As a board member I’m involved in a lot of aspects behind the scene’s. JozJozJoz, metblogs/blogging.la CEO is an official tweeter for the L.A. Opera and that was the germ of the idea for the blogathon for the soft opening, last rehearsal of Always-Patsy Cline. But more on that a bit later.
This is a wonderful story of an overly zealous fan and the star she adored becoming accidental friends and pen pals. The play itself is about how Louise Seger, a Houston housewife played by Nikki D’Amico who is best characterized as a spitfire hellcat fun loving divorcee, reminiscing over the night she first heard Pasty Cline on the radio and how she followed her career until they met a club outside Houston. They became best of friends, Louise and Pasty became penpals and wrote each other until Patsy’s untimely death at the age of 30. Those letters to Louise ended with the salutation “Always-Patsy Cline”. That story, and the story of Patsy’s life are intertwined and told through 27 songs by Patsy Cline beautifully recreated by Cori Cable Kidder and backed up by a live band. Continue reading Always-Patsy Cline and the blogathon soft open→
Bill Hyatt is a metal sculptor of some renown in the area. His metal sculptures are beautifully executed ranging from the surreal to literal representation of their subject matter. They are surreal and real at the same time. Often whimsical, often make an interesting punctuation mark in the area they are displayed. From small crucifix to room sized they are always different and always beautifully done.
I’ve known Bill for a number of years through the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts (MAFA) which is sponsoring the Celebrate the Arts this weekend. Bill Hyatt was chosen to be this year’s Featured Artist for a variety of reasons. Bill has been involved with MAFA for many years, working tirelessly in the lean years to ensure the Celebrate the Arts show was put on. His devotion to MAFA as well as his beautifully executed art were the reason he was chosen to be the featured artists for this years 50th Anniversary Show. For a small gallery of his work make the jump.
Did ya know that near Union Station was the village of Yangna back in the days of the Tongva Nation? That name means “Place of the Poison Oak” and fortunately the settlers of the area saw fit to rename us to Los Angeles. Need more history this month? You just need to simply meander over to the Militant Angeleno blog where he is celebrating 230 years of Los Angeles city-hood with a giant history lesson on the native peoples who first inhabited the area.
He has several posts, the one I found most fascinating was the map of Tongva Villages overlaid onto a map of the L.A. area. Militant Angeleno went as far as to take that map and list the villages by name and the modern city built over them. I just wish I lived in one of those cities that had a Tongva name, I’d go as far as using it as my official city of residence instead of the current name…mail would still get to me using the zip code but how fun would that be to pay homage the natives that were here first and confusing stalkers at the same time.
Meet Evan Cook, the Monrovia Association of Fine Art’s Student Artist of the Year. I have to admit the funnest part of being in MAFA is to find young talent and help recognize them and foster their interest in creating art. Watching Evan grow into his art the last few years has been fun and certainly he has grown tremendously under the mentoring of his teacher at MHS, Sal Perez, and his employer Lisa Barrios of the Paint n Play Art Studio and Gallery. At Paint n Play Evan both shows his work and gives lessons on the potters wheel and ceramics.
First on my “nice list” has to be Joan Whitenack of the Foothill Unity Center. The center serves the poorest of the poor with many services here in the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley. It is no small feat, but director Joan Whitenack gets it done with the help of volunteers, grants, schools and other non-profits in the area. To quote Bill Beebe, president of the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts that awarded her their Renaissance Award, “She’s got a nice smile, but there’s no saying no to Joan.”
Not saying “no” to Joan has worked wonders. What started out as a small effort by a local Church in 1980 has grown to a large incorporated non-profit with two service centers through the efforts of Ms Whitenack. The service centers are located in Pasadena and Monrovia. There they serve families and individuals in crisis to give them immediate aid then help them get on a path to recovery. They even run a “pet food bank” to help them out with taking care of the pets as noted on a recent episode of the Ellen DeGeneres Show!
Aside from helping hundreds of families with their basic needs they have several special events through out the year. Among them are the
Back to School event where more than a thousand children receive hair cuts, dental exams, back-to-school supplies, clothing and even a keepsake art project.
Their mission statement says it all.
Foothill Unity Center, Inc. envisions a community where. . .
All have their basic needs met, including the need to give
All get the necessary support to become self-sufficient
All are treated with love and dignity … all the time
We provide critical support, in the form of food, clothing, motel vouchers, and referrals/advocacy to our neighbors in crisis. As the need for food brings people to us, we listen to their problems and help them find solutions. We work with other agencies to provide long-term shelter, counseling, medical, educational, employment and spiritual assistance depending on the person’s needs.In this way, Foothill Unity Center helps people return self-sufficiency. All services are provided with love and dignity, regardless of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, citizenship, sexual orientation, physical or emotional disabilities or veteran’s status.
All this happened through the energy and vision of Ms Whitenack to be able to help those in need in the foothill communities in the San Gabriel Valley.
Monrovia Center: 415 W. Chestnut Ave., Monrovia 91016 Phone: (626) 358-3486 / Fax: (626) 358-8224 Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm Monday through Friday
Pasadena Center: 191 N. Oak Ave., Pasadena 91107 Phone: (626) 584-7420 / Fax: (626) 584-7422 Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm Monday through Friday
More information on how to Volunteer, donate or help however you can at the Foothill Unity Center Web site.
“If you live in a city, it’s your home. You should be proud of that.”
— Sonja Rasula, on connecting the dots from the big world of Los Angeles to your backyard
Not too toot our own horn, but there is something to the idea that grounds our little almost-didn’t-make-it blogging network known as Metblogs: that you, as a netizen, have a resource other than the big guys for information, news, and commentary about what’s going on in your block. Because, ultimately what goes down at your corner store is a microcosm of what goes on in your neighborhood, your side of town, your city; if you work on improving your little corner of the world, you help improve all four corners of the world. This hyperlocality of action parallels what Sonja Rasula is doing, one event (Unique LA) and food festival (next week’s Street Food Fest) at a time.
I met Sonja for the first time at this spring’s Unique LA, an event where some 300 (mostly) local designers and crafty people brought their, yes, unique items to sell in a giant room at the California Market Center downtown. Keeping up with Sonja is an exercise in – well, exercise. I caught her somewhere between managing her volunteer staff of 9 and trying to get a bite to eat. After pausing to resolve a situation with the tote bags (the $10 admission price to the event included a free tote bag designed by a local artist), we headed over to grab a bite at the Flying Pig’s stand — but not before Sonja stopped by the booth of a vendor named Homako. Homako is a petite Japanese woman based here in LA; her Etsy store contains her mission statement: “To create stuff to make me so Happy.. I want my friends(=my creations) to make you happy too!!!!!!!” Aw. She was so bubbly and excited by all the people – not just Sonja, but others as well – who ooh’ed and ah’ed at her where-did-you-get-it origami necklaces that you just couldn’t help feel peppy too. Sonja picked up a necklace. “If I don’t buy this now, I’m never going to get to it,” she said.
Unique LA is a now bi-annual event, one in the spring and one in the winter, right before Christmas. For the $10 admission fee, participants got free booze, the nifty tote bag designed especially for the event, and the opportunity to shop at the vendors handpicked, by Sonja, to set up temporary shop at Unique LA. For those of you (me) who hate shopping precisely because your taste is buds only with food and not style, Sonja did the legwork for you. It’s easy to take it from here.
“Buy local” is a such an oft-repeated mantra that it almost – almost – is devoid of the reasons behind the thought. The only remnant of the phrase left is the connotation of expense – that, because of the economies of scale, buying locally-produced products is generally more expensive than, say, going to Target. Nonetheless, over 12,000 people attended Unique LA; in total, Sonja estimated that $500,000 was injected into the local economy as a byproduct of the two-day event. (Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, for all his pride about variousnationalevents held in LA and contributing to the local economy, remained conspicuously silent – guess he can’t catch every half million dollar event that happens under his nose.).
The sight of Angelenos – me, you, our neighbors, their mothers- paying the admission price and buying at Unique LA, in a recession no less, was a bit of surprise to me.
Not entirely for Sonja. “The challenge, actually, is getting more people to come” to Unique LA and to “understand why you should buy local,” she said. She credits her “incredible” street team and certain wry social media strategies for the turnout at Unique LA (but otherwise stayed mum on the specifics of her techniques – the details are Coca-Cola-trade-secret tight), but notes that she still “wants to reach beyond the hipsters and young people.” Sonja appreciates good design, wants others to appreciate it as well and not settle for less – even if it means paying a little more.
She hopes that once we recognize that local artists produce unique things that you can not find at your neighborhood Third Street Promenade, a change in mindset from a passive to more active buyer will naturally follow. She raised the fact that guests often visit LA and end up at Third Street. “That’s so funny,” she said. “You can find most of those stores anywhere.” Instead, “I want to have a mall comprised of local vendors” so that the visiting New Yorker can have something a little more LA than shirt from BCBG. And vice versa – Sonja has planned a Unique event for NYC (and Atlanta), so if we happen to visit the Big Apple during Unique NYC, we can take home something a little more New York than a “I Heart NYC” mug created specifically to boost tourism.
It’s easy to write off Unique LA as a cute two-day affair for hipsters, and nothing more. It’s more thought provoking – and a little scary for corporations, and the publications and governments they sponsor – to take it seriously as a step towards modifying our shopping habits (again, all of our shopping habits, not just those of 20somethings with Clark Kent glasses and skinny jeans) that travels beyond the walls of the California Market Center. Now, instead of only Target and Wal-Mart on our list of places to go for, say, stationary, we’ll consider Rock Scissor Paper as well. Shopping with that mentality of choice is the first step towards fully taking advantage of the wonders of capitalism.
In this market of choice, price is only a factor. Sonja is convinced that once people attend Unique LA, they will appreciate the quality and uniqueness of our locally made products and have little qualms about shelling out a little extra for the cost of ownership. In turn, the dollars, earned and spent at the local level, will help support local infrastructures, like schools and public parks. Seeing the state of these infrastructures will motivate us to do things like vote in local elections; after all, as Sonja pointed out, we are most directly and immediately affected by the problems and solutions addressed in the local elections. This is the urban circle of life. It is this circle that is the reason why buying local is so important as to almost be a political act itself. If Simba figured out how to fulfill his role in the jungle, so can we.
That we include the local designers on our shortlist of places to buy is the least we can do. After all, their designs are lifted, sometimes blatantly, from the big guys. Urban Outfitters, for example, strains veryhard to duplicate and commoditize a certain street look, popularized by designers actually living in those streets. Indeed, at least one blog tracks instances where retailers brazenly rip off other designers’ work. Supporting your local designer, in a way, helps support your local Urban as well. Irony, she’s rich. Almost as rich as Urban.
Sonja is clear about not hating (too much) on the big guys, however. There should be room for everyone: “Sometimes, you just really need a plain black leotard from the Gap,” she laughs. At some point, she would like to help retailers enlist local designers and launch local lines within their brands. With supermarkets of all places now heralding locally-sourced fruits and veggies, it is not at all unfathomable that the Gap or J Crew’s Madewell would roll out a line from (and appropriately credited to) a local designer.
All politics is local (RIP Tip O’Neill). The urban circle of life is something Sonja has been contemplating for quite some time. Having spent a significant amount of time in Canada, “making sure your neighbors are taken care of” simply was part of the community mindset. Taking that ethos with her when she moved to LA, she became heavily involved in the Youth Progressive Majority, encouraging young voters to learn the issues and, um, vote.
Sonja mindfully uses her events to “give back” to local non-profits. Some proceeds from the spring Unique LA event, for example, were donated to Greenwish (which helps raise funds and awareness for green businesses), and a portion of each ticket sold for the upcoming LA Street Food Fest will benefit St. Vincent Meals on Wheels and Woolly School Gardens.
Supporting your local artist is less of a problem, it seems, when your local artist happens to be creating food. The last five years or so has seen this city come to its own in terms of food. Among other causes, blame/credit gentrification, the rise of celebrity chefs, and a young demographic with an appetite for taste beyond the scene. Late last year, just as the whole food truck thing was reaching its pinnacle, Sonja organized the city’s first major gathering of food trucks downtown.
By most accounts – including Sonja’s – the February event did not go well. Scheduled to start at 10am, the fire marshal’s inspection caused undue delay. Meanwhile, countless people descended upon the lot; pretty soon, the line (and the parking) snaked so far down 6th street that it was reminiscent of the early, two-hour-in-line days of the Kogi truck. When the festival finally did open, the grounds quickly became overcrowded. The lines at each food truck were enormous, hours-long even. Hungry masses went crankily from one line to another.
Sonja strikes me as the type of person who, if she arrived 15 minutes late one day, would show up 15 minutes early the next. And so, after apologizing in the face of the backlash and anger over the event, she and Shawna Dawson organized a second LA Street Food Fest, slated for next Saturday evening, July 24th, at the Rose Bowl. There is a little hesitation about the second go-around of the food fest, given the problems of the first (indeed, a few food vendors told me they declined to participate precisely because of how the first was executed).
Yet, to give them both credit, Sonja and Shawna learned a-plenty from their first go and upgraded accordingly. Unlike version 1.0, there will be no giant lines spilling over into the huge parking lot that subs as a flea market every month. Rather, version 2.0 caps the capacity, and makes tickets available only via pre-sale. In addition, the pay-as-you-go format has been dropped in favor of a one-time admission fee of $45. This seems a little steep at first, but you do get your money’s worth: liberty to sample all you can sample at each of the 60 participating food vendors and to drink all you can imbibe. Just remember that no one likes an overly drunken foodie (no one).
In addition, the event will bring together both new skool (i.e., Filipino food truck Manila Machine and Fry Girl, who won TWO awards at our First Annual Donut Summit last month!) and old skool (Tamales Elana from Watts and former Breed Street vendor Antojitos Carmen (<– if she has them, you absolutely must – must – pick up a few fried quesadillas)). There also will be a cook-off, so you can watch all sorts of one-chefmanship take place. And, finally, because eating and a competition about eating are not entertainment enough, The Deadly Syndrome and Warpaint will be jamming as the summer night falls. All this on the grasses where Reggie Bush pushed Matt Leinart and where a stunned audience witnessed future Pro Bowler Vince Young handily hand the Trojans their asses.
Regardless of the struggles of the first food event, and how well this second improves on the first, the idea of the food truck powwow undoubtedly will endure. America at the Brand, for example, organized two Street Feasts in March and June of this year, with stores in the outdoor mall running specials and discounts. Similar events at other retail shopping courtyards followed. While I’m personally happy to see local food trucks getting the business, it’s a little … disingenuous? insidious? genius? to use them as the worm to hook people in to spend at the retail mall. Riffing from local ideas, it seems, is not limited to design (oh, right, who can forget Baja Fresh’s ridiculous attempt to put “Baja Kogi” tacos and burritos on its menu?).
Unlike other cities (Sonja points to Austin and Portland), we here in LA are still in the nascent stages of recognizing that we even have a local culture to support. Also, we sometimes shoot ourselves in the foot: as she organized Unique LA and her food fests, Sonja learned that the climate in Los Angeles is “hyper-competitive.” I guess the fact that a celebrity very realistically may wander into your store and pick up your ware to wear makes for a hypercompetitive market. But that competition is giving way to mutual respect. Sonja was pleasantly surprised when she learned that vendors picked to set up shop at Unique LA actively encouraged their patrons to attend the fair. “[T]hese vendors were encouraging their customers to possibly shop with their competitors. And they were ok with that.” Similarly, participating food vendors are actively encouraging their followers to attend next week’s Food Fest. And so, everyone wins. See? A little community building never hurt anyone. We should be proud of us.
The LA Street Food Fest is on Saturday, July 24th, 5:30pm to 9:00pm, at the Rose Bowl. General admission tickets are $45, which includes unlimited eats and drinks, parking, and entertainment by The Deadly Syndrome and Warpaint. VIP tickets are $60, which gets your car a little closer to the stadium and you in a little earlier into the Fest.Tickets are pre-sale only, so get them while they last. And, mark your calendars: the holiday edition of Unique LA is scheduled for December 11 and 12 at the California Market Center downtown. Think of it as a way to avoid those nasty post-Halloween crowds.
Woe is the artist who paints portraits. What pose, where the eyes are directed, standing vs sitting vs something between vs neither, background or no background, what background? A great portrait and you have Mona Lisa; a bad one and you can’t even tell who it is.
That said, not many sit for portraits any more. Instead, families, prom couples, and high school girls going for their glamor shot make a beeline to Target and Sears for their photo portraits. They all have different motivations: to preserve a moment in time; to boast their virility; to fool others; to fool themselves. And yet, the effect of sitting for the photo is remarkably similar to sitting for a portrait: an Awkward Family Photo. Faux austerity, grim smiles, absolutely no smizing, and a dirty, speckled blue curtain. Perhaps now is the time to consider how the Future You would want to remember the Current You. Perhaps with, say, a little more color?
So ever since I met chef Eric Greenspan (The Foundry on Melrose, Iron Chef) I’ve known he had a passion for grilled cheese. We met because he wanted to compete in the Grilled Cheese Invitational, and after we got him in touch with the right people he went on to sweep the awards in 2008, and then to act as celeb-chef judge in 2009. And now, the master of the cheesy gooey sammy is planning to launch…yes…a grilled cheese restaurant.
When Merill Schindler announced that restaurant as one of 2010’s most anticipated foodie happenings, I knew I had to ask Eric just what was up. Here’s the info, right from the grilling-master’s mouth. Of course, details of the resto haven’t been finalized yet, but here’s what he was able to report thus far.
LMK: What is this new restaurant going to be?
EG: A quick serve restaurant. Not fast food but a real casual concept: sandwiches, soups, salads, seltser drinks. Real quick, real affordable–out the door for ten to twelve bucks. Something fun and chef driven.
LMK: And where will it be?
EG: We haven’t locked it up but we’re in the process of negotiating next door to The Foundry [on Melrose].
LMK: What made you decide, “Grilled cheese”?
EG: Since [The Foundry] opened, our grilled cheese sandwich has been a real big hit, and when we won the Grilled Cheese Invitational it got even bigger, more talked about. So obviously it made sense ‘cause it’s our most popular item in the restaurant. Also a grilled cheese is comfortable, it’s familiar, it’s quick. It’s typically not…
It feels like I’m spending my life at the library nowadays. There are surely many far worse fates. The LA Central Library’s ALOUD series of free lectures continues to attract me back, with an ever fascinating array of guests. Last week, I had seen Walter Kirn speak on his book Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever. That was an enjoyable program, and Kirn is extremely personable; but for this post, I will comment on last night’s talk with Tamim Ansary, who was presented and interviewed by Amir Hussain (a co-presentation of ALOUD and The Center for Global Understanding). The title of Ansary’s book matches his talk: Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes.
Update: It appears that Mrs. Lulu has snuck into the blog again. The following contains her observations of a delightful lecture at L.A.’s magnificent Central Library.
Last night, Lulu and I attended one of the LA Central Library’s free lectures in their wonderful ALOUD series: George Lakoff, “The Public Mind: A Cognitive Scientist’s Guide to Your Brain and Its Politics, In Conversation with Ian Masters”
We were both particularly excited about this talk since we had studied Lakoff in graduate school. For those of you who don’t know him, he’s a cognitive scientist and linguist at UC Berkely, whose interdisciplinary work focuses on investigating the ways in which linguistic and cognitive structures (e.g., metaphors, prototypes, frames) shape perception and social life.
Andrew Walker’s hypnotic time-lapse films of Los Angeles, which I stumbled upon recently on Youtube, provide a conflict of sorts. As the time in the frame zips by, there’s a great stillness that washes over you as you watch them. His films show images such as traffic flowing in a torrential blur like side-by-side raging rivers of white and red light, or gorgeously backlit clouds rapidly mutating behind the silhouetted towers of Downtown. You also notice other lights flickering; office lights blinking on and off, aircraft zipping by, an exterior elevator bouncing up and down like a spastic yo-yo on the side of a distant building. And yet there’s that stillness.
Walker’s company, 599 Productions, makes time-lapse films for a variety of projects– TV and indie film productions and music videos, as well as for corporate clients.
From Placerville, a small town midway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, Walker didn’t go the usual route, through a traditional film school, to get into The Industry. After playing around with a camcorder in high school and editing skate films together for fun, he got a job at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank as a projectionist, which served as his on-the-job training. (Interview with Walker after the click.) Continue reading Filmmaker makes Los Angeles stand still by speeding it up→
“In California” (listen to it on last.fm) is a song about searching but not finding; about disillusionment; about being lost.
In California I dream of snow
And all the places we used to go
With the night falling down
With the night falling down
Now I’m living in Korea Town
Waking to the sound of car alarms
Neko Case didn’t write this song, although I first heard this melancholic track off her album Canadian Amp while virtually thumbing through iTunes’ Neko collection. Philistine that I was, for years I believed it to have been penned by the Western-noir fox confessor of Americana herself. Instead, it was actually written by a woman named Lisa Marr, who fronted a band called Cub, and who played off and on with Neko in the 90s.
Was “In California” autobiographical? Or was it, as it is with many songwriters, a case of a musician crafting a narrative around an imaginary life?
So while this post was originally supposed to be about a song and a city, I now find myself drawn into a search for a woman, and her story…
John Leech, the founder of the OnyxCafe in Silverlake/Los Feliz/Echo Park and beloved patron of the arts and truth in general has passed away.
It apparently happened around Monday or Tuesday March 17th or 18th and has been confirmed by the County Coroner. He apparently has no family but he has a trust and its executors have been notified. There is a votive memorial in front of the former location of the Onyx on Vermont Avenue (now Cafe Figaro) in Los Feliz. Initial planning for a fitting memorial to John has begun. More on that soon.
John was one of the rarest things in this world: a genuine philosophical Bohemian in the very best sense of the word who created an austere unpretentious Cafe which was, by his design, a magical safe zone for artists, musicians, poets, scientists, intellectuals and outsiders of all stripes…
I moved to Los Angeles in October 2006, for a strange contract, in this strange specular land. Then, as now, I was reminded of our friends at the Bureau of Public Secrets who so presciently remarked of 21st century LA:
As the world of the spectacle extends its reign it approaches the climax of its offensive, provoking new resistances everywhere. These resistances are very little known precisely because the reigning spectacle is designed to present an omnipresent hypnotic image of unanimous submission.
An interview with Leah Peterson, technical consultant for the Steven Spielberg and Diablo Cody produced “United States of Tara.”
Long time Los Angeles blog readers probably know Leah Peterson for her blog leahpeah and as creator and coordinator of the live reading event series LA Angst and LA Bloggers Live! She’s also contributed to Huffington Post, crocheted hats for Amy Sedaris and sold paintings that hang all over North America. And she’s a mom. Oh, and she also has Dissociative Identity Disorder, commonly referred to as multiple personality disorder. While many people suffering from disorders prefer to keep them secret, Leah wrote a book about it. The book was read by an Oscar winning screenwriter, and now Leah is a consultant for one of cable TV’s hottest shows.
Leah graciously accepted my offer of an e-interview… following are her answers to some of my questions, discussinghow she became involved with “The United States of Tara,” when the show veers from reality, and what Leah is up to next. You reading this, Mr. Spielberg?
How did you become involved with United States of Tara? Is working as a consultant a part of your background?
Leah: The story goes that somehow, my book (Not Otherwise Specified) made it into the hands of Diablo Cody while she was researching DID for the show. She sent me an email and since I’d never heard of her, I forwarded it to my husband, my own personal Snopes, and he looked her up and deemed the name Diablo Cody as a real person. A person really named Brooke Busey. So, fictional, but also real. Crazy? Yes.