Overexposed In Chinatown

ctown5 ctown20It’s not what it sounds like, although what it sounds like sounds fun…

Nope, I was downtown the other day with a camera set to too high an exposure, on a mission to acquire a parasol.

Almost every store in Chinatown around the rectangle created by Broadway and Hill / Cottage Home and Cesar Chavez sells parasols. But there’s only one I’ve ever encountered with a wide selection of diverse and lovely paper–not polyester, same-painting-on-every-pink-and-blue-version, parasols. After three years away, I wasn’t sure the parasol store would still be in the square at the intersection on Gin Ling and Mei Lin Way (yep, all those little pedestrian streets have names…check out the map here…helps when you’re looking for a specific gallery).

ctown08To my relief, Andy’s Gift Shop was still there, across from the lucky coin-toss fountain (a miniature landscape with different mountain-hermit homes sculpted into the waterfall rock, a different pagoda or edifice you can toss a coin into for prosperity and good luck in any area of life). After meandering past the weirdly cordoned-off statue of Bruce Lee and the skatepunk dudes trying to nail the (presently turned-off) waterfall’s house of Good Luck in Love with pennies, I made it into the gift shop and accessioned what was needed. Thanks Chinatown! It’s nice to know a few things haven’t changed.

I have a really crappy phone with an even crappier camera in it. The settings on the phone randomly re-set them depending on the phone’s own perverse mood swings. That day, it had set the exposure to what us photography-illiterate folks call “way too damn bright.” Oddly, the photos came out pretty, with a washed-out sort of lighting that perfectly showcased the lurid colors of the neighborhood.

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Have Infant, Will Travel

People often ask me how I get around so much with an infant. It’s pretty easy: my daughter is 5 months old and can’t say “please stop dragging me to everything, Mom.” Since her birth in June, we’ve been in perpetual motion, stopping only long enough to nurse and fight naps. There’s been a diaper change or two in there somewhere.

WeHo Pumpkin PatchWe’ve been to 3 weddings, 2 baby showers, a wedding shower, and a family reunion, visited folks in 4 states and the District of Columbia, saw the world’s largest rubber ducky in Long Beach, watched Shakespeare in Griffith Park, perused art at the world’s oldest and largest artist colony at the LA Brewery Art Walk, toured one of California’s most over-embellished homes at Hearst Castle, stared at the biggest trees in Big Sur, and gaped at the most expansive collection of Greek artifacts on the West Coast at the Getty Villa. There was a dust-free party for the Burning Man left-behinds in Reseda, a backyard Octoberfest in Eagle Rock, a quick spin through the Patchwork Craft Fair in Long Beach, a free ferry ride to Catalina for my birthday, a single visit to the “Birth Stories” lecture series in Venice, and more baby storytime at the local library than you can shake a stick at. We also spotted a well-known but poorly aging celebrity at a pumpkin patch in West Hollywood. Would it be LA without a star sighting?

I thought life with a baby would slow me down but I’ve been to more places with my tiny partner in crime than I ever went as a single entity. My desire to show my kid the best our world has to offer gets me out of my shell and reintroduces me to all the reasons I moved to California. We don’t plan on stopping. Well, maybe after this nap.

Congresswoman Judy Chu to speak out against Walmart in Chinatown Friday 3/23, 10AM

March 23, 2012, 10AM, LA City Hall Steps, 200 N Spring Street, Los Angeles

china town dying
China Town dying courtesy Llane.org

Congresswoman Judy Chu and API will be speaking on the steps of City Hall before they meet to discuss the “Formula Retail” motion in front of City Council for a vote tomorrow.  Show up and show your support for Congresswoman Chu who is working to support the preservation of China Town.

“Formula Retail” is a motion to prevent Walmart and other big boxes from coming in and changing the character of Chinatown.  Its about preserving the character of the community and its businesses.  Its about preventing the big boxes from coming in and running the existing shops out of business.

After the jump is a copy of the motion for “Formula Retail”, if after you have read it and believe in its purpose please contact your City Council Person and ask them to vote for it. Continue reading “Congresswoman Judy Chu to speak out against Walmart in Chinatown Friday 3/23, 10AM”

Wu Tang Clan ain’t nothing to Trifle with. Win Tix!

Do you remember the movie Airplane?

Remember the two gentlemen who spoke “Jive?” Remember the subtitles at the bottom that translated what they were saying? Remember whenever one of them would say a certain word, the subtitle always translated it as “Golly?”

Such fun.

It’s in this spirit I would like to remind you, one and all, that The Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nothin’ to Trifle With!

(And if you haven’t seen Airplane, get your golly together and watch the trifling thing.)

In Any Case, I’m giving away Tickets to see The Wu on Saturday, Jan 21st! Wanna Go?

Email your Full Legal Name as it appears on your Legal Driver’s Licence or State ID card to [email protected]

Winners will be notified and will show said ID at the Will Call booth the night of the show to claim tickets. Protect your neck.

Wu-Tang Featuring All Original Members: RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God and Masta Killa
Saturday January 21, 2012
Club Nokia
Los Angeles, California
Show time: 9:00pm
Door time: 8:00pm
Age: All Ages+

Step to the Wu.

Continue reading “Wu Tang Clan ain’t nothing to Trifle with. Win Tix!”

Menu Mining: House Special Soup at Vinh Loi Tofu

Okay, sure, so the Menu Mining series has been over for a while. But this gem is among my favorite things about living in LA, and one of the (few) redeeming qualities of working in the San Fernando Valley.

Vinh Loi Tofu House Special Soup
A bowl full of awesome.

I was first introduced to Vinh Loi Tofu when I moved here from central Illinois in August 2006, and it has been a staple in my diet ever since. Owner Kevin Tran seems to be there around the clock, and he has both a friendly rapport with his regular customers and a willingness to guide new recruits to the right introductory dish for their tastes. (Noodles or soup? Spicy – not spicy?) Kevin serves up a great variety of Vietnamese-inspired vegan dishes of his own creation, featuring his own special tofu mock meats that this omnivore could happily subsist on for the rest of his days.

While I love the vegan Banh Mi subs Travis Koplow lovingly refers to as “(s)ham sandwiches,” the House Special Soup holds a very special place in my heart. Garnished (as pictured by me, gets bigger with clickage) with sprouts, peppers, and lemon, this rice noodle soup is loaded with chicken, fish, and shrimp in an amazing savory peanut broth that somehow surprises me each and every time with just how damned good it is. This menu item is one that I have a hard time veering away from, even if I do occasionally feel tempted to try out one of Kevin’s newer soups or noodle dishes, some of which he has resorted to simply naming by year – “Soup 2011,” for example. (He’s actually been getting ahead of himself – he’s already serving “Soup 2012.” Or maybe that’s supposed to indicate “end-of-the-world” soup?)

Of course the drawback for many Angelenos is that there seem to be few things worthy of venturing all the way into Reseda for. (As Mike Doughty would remind us, “We are all in some way or another going to Reseda someday to die.”) I tell you, gentle reader, the House Special soup – and Vinh Loi in general – is definitely one thing worth going to Reseda for.

cave of forgotten dreams: herzog premiere & museum-wide party

Image from the DubLab

So what are you doing after the upcoming Grilled Cheese Invitational? Why you’re heading downtown to party at the Natural History Museum, duh!

This Saturday, Cinefamily and Cinespia are hosting a FREE ADMISSION museum-wide party at the Natural History Museum, presented as the closing event to the “Art In The Streets” film retrospective. First, they’re showing Cave of Forgotten Dreams directed by Werner Herzog at 5:30pm. (the film-rsvp list is already closed, but there will be some seats held for the standby line) Also, the Herzog Q&A will be projected live in the Museum’s Whale Room at approximately 7PM, for those who are unable to get into the screening. Once the movie is over, then the party starts!

At 8PM, the doors open and guests are invited to wander the Museum’s exhibit halls for FREE! There will be live bands, DJs spinning, food trucks, cash bar & an art installation by Mastodon Mesa.

Live Music Schedule

On the Fin Whale Passage stage:
Live performances by Nite Jewel, Islands, White Magic and Matt Baldwin starting at 8:30pm.

In the African Mammal Hall:
DJs Dntel (aka Jimmy Tamborello of The Postal Service), David Holmes and Carlos Nino will spin records starting at 5pm.

In the Gems & Mineral Hall:
DJ collective Dublab will also host a second set of live performances starting at 5pm.

This whole event is generously sponsored by: First Fridays at The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, in association with History Films, Sundance Selects, Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, Dublab

cave of forgotten dreams: herzog premiere & museum-wide party
Saturday, April 23rd
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA, 90007
5:00-11:00pm
Admission: FREE

Got Fed!

JavaJunkee and a Grill Em All Weedeater
JavaJunkee and a GrillemAll Weedeater

Hey everybody – I’m a newbie blogger here at blogging.la, so I wanted to get things started on the right foot by letting you know two things: 1. I love to eat. 2. Nevermind, I guess I already covered that in point 1.

But seriously, I’ve been a longtime reader of blogging.la and have always appreciated what the fine authors here have offered in terms of both individual character and LA culture. I’ve tagged along to various events such as the Blog-around-the-clock marathon at Canter’s and the Donut Summit in Griffith Park. (I missed the Hot Dog Death March and have yet to attend an installment of Classic Eats, but it’s going to happen!) Now that blogging.la has given me an opportunity to contribute to what they’ve got going here, I’m certainly hoping that my offerings will be half as valuable to other readers as I’ve found blogging.la to be for me over these past (almost) five years I’ve had the privilege of calling myself an Angeleno.

Anyway, I wanted to take the opportunity in this post to let folks know about a semi-regular event that seems to be gaining steam over in my neck of the woods, North Hollywood. Last Saturday I ventured out with fellow blogging.la author Travis Koplow and a couple other friends to a lot behind The Federal Bar where ten food trucks had gathered for a third installment of “Get FED!” The truck lineup appears to vary from month to month, and the purpose of the event seems to be at least a little bit focused on trying to promote The Federal Bar. The first time through, back in mid-January, Frysmith tried to dissuade one of my companions from swapping out sweet po’ fries for the regulars on whatever special she happened to order, and then tweeted an apology after the fact. This time around, me and my companions tried out one of the Grill Em All Truck‘s specials, the “weedeater,” and left feeling quite satisfied. Probably the highlight of the event, though, was the two homeless men, or homeless-looking men – completely independent of one another – getting down to the music provided by live DJs. I haven’t seen anything that says with certainty that this will be a monthly event; the first took place on the 15th of January, the second on the 12th of March, and the third on the 9th of April. If you’re looking for a chance to catch multiple food trucks in a single location in the east Valley, I’d say keep your eyes peeled around the first or second Saturday of May for your next chance to catch this one.

While it’s definitely nice to have an event like this just down the street on occasion, I do have to temper my excitement with the sense of disappointment I experience when something really cool – like the food truck phenomenon in LA – reaches that point at which it starts to feel like it’s being exploited as another great marketing gimmick. I’m still not sure, though, which is more distasteful to me: businesses shamelessly trying to tap into the zeitgeist to make a quick dollar (which Get FED! may or may not be, but bank billboards definitely are when they say things like “we have ATMs all over for when you happen to cross paths with that gourmet food truck” – no I don’t have a pic for this but I swear I’ve seen it), or the fact that something cool and obscure about the city becomes ubiquitous and pedestrian. Is that hipster-ish of me to say? Oops.

Where would you build an NFL statium?

So last week Farmers Insurance based in Simi Valley bought the naming rights to an NFL stadium to be built in downtown LA.  Pretty cool, right?  Well the folks out in the City of Industry haven’t given up on an NFL stadium out there and can one up the Downtown LA Folks, their preliminary draft Environmental Report has gotten approval.  The Pasadena Star News is running a poll and as of Sunday afternoon voting is 2 to1 in favor of City of Industry.

Of course its all contingent on getting a NFL team to plunk in a stadium and for that there are no commitments. Personally I think it would be pretty cool to be Downtown if only because it would be mass transit accessible for more folks as opposed to the transit starved C of I.

Where would you put a stadium?  Sound off in the comments and vote over at the Pasadena Star News HERE.

L.A’s Greatest Landmarks: The Hollywood Sign

Photo by Vlasta Juricek, 2005

Photo by Vlasta Juricek, 2005

Perhaps the most recognizable string of letters in the world. A Real Estate Advertising gimmick turned into a Monument and saved by Hugh Hefner, not once but twice. What more fitting tribute to Tinseltown could you ask for? I love The Hollywood Sign.

On Friday the Thirteenth, July 1923, they dedicated The Sign. Thomas Fisk Goff, owner of the Crescent Sign Company, designed it at the behest of real estate developers Woodruff and Shoults. The whole crackpot scheme was the brainchild of H.J Whitley and Harry Chandler, owner of the L.A. Times.

I can almost picture Chandler, with a wild gleam in his eye, exclaiming, “Why, that’s just crazy enough to work!”

The original letters originally read “Hollywoodland,” were five feet taller than the current structure, and festooned with around 4000 light bulbs, plus a giant blinking dot below, 35 foot in diameter, to  “catch the eye.” Because thirteen, fifty foot tall, white, blinking letters are far too subtle on their own.

They put it there to sell land in the hills. And when they were done, they just left it. Bastards! That’s so “ungreen.” Just leaving your garbage on the hill! What are you thinking!

I kid, of course, I love the thing, but that’s kinda what happened. It was never meant to be permanent, at all, let alone to stand up to decades of weather. And I’m sure many, many people felt that way about it as it started to deteriorate over the years. In the early Forties, the signs official caretaker got drunk, drove into the “H” and destroyed it. By 1949 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the City of L.A. parks Department had come to a deal to repair the sign. The eliminated the last four letters and removed the lightbulbs. The Chamber of Commerce would have had to foot the bill for lighting the thing, so, yeah; no.

But it was still the original letters and they continued to deteriorate into a complete eyesore. By the 1970’s it was determined that it needed a complete overhaul, costing a quarter of a million dollars. To raise the money, the band Fleetwood Mac pledged to do a charity concert on the hill in 1977, but local residents put a stop to it. So, the following year, Hugh Hefner stepped in and held a charity auction at the Playboy Mansion, auctioning off individual letters at $27,777 each.

Thus, in August of 1978 they tore down the old sign and put up the one that stands today, this time on purpose. The letters are 45 foot tall and from 31 to 39 feet wide. No light bulbs. Hugh Hefner owns the “Y,” Andy Williams spotted for the “W,” and Alice Cooper bought the third “O” in honor of Groucho Marx. Warner Brothers owns the second “O,” and I suspect they currently keep The Warner Kids trapped in there, instead of in their old water tower.

Recently, a proposal to develop the surrounding land prompted the “Save the Peak” campaign. $12.5 Million dollars was needed to keep 138 acres adjacent to the sign. Donations came from all over, but at the eleventh hour, the Hollywood Sign’s Number One Fan, Hugh Hefner stepped in again, this time donating the final $900,000 dollars to save it.

Thanks, Hef. I really, really appreciate it.

I would respectfully like to dedicate this post to the Memory of Peg Entwistle. Rest in Peace, Star.

This post is part of the L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks series – click here for the rest of the series!

Peg Entwistle

Start Your Engines

On June 18th, start your politically incorrect internal combustion engines for the 2010  Rental Car Rally (RCR), a 36-hour competitive road trip from Los Angeles to Tombstone, AZ.

RCR is a single leg competitive road trip in which teams of costumed players compete for cash and prizes. There is no set route, but each team must hit pre-defined checkpoints, the locations of which will be revealed in the rally booklet provided at the starting line. Each team must furnish photographic evidence of each checkpoint. Teams are scored by a combination of odometer reading, team style and hijinks (details on the RCR web site).

The event is organized by Supreme Commander, the co-founder of a huge, ludicrous water gun tournament, StreetWars, which I personally participated in a few years ago, and The Pants, who throws big video game parties.

The race begins Friday, June 18 and ends Sunday, June 20. A “Basic Team Ticket” will cost you $179 and includes entrance to the rally, admission to the rally pre-party, with drink specials and a briefcase stocked with mischief-making swag (which you can use to mess with the other teams). Each ticket covers one vehicle and unlimited teammates.

To register for the race or for more information, visit the RCR web site at rentalcarrally.com.

Continue reading “Start Your Engines”

L.A. Plays Itself in the Movies: Swingers (1996)

Vegas, baby. Vegas.”

The film that spawned one of the most overused Vegas quotes of our time isn’t about Las Vegas at all. Swingers is so L.A.

Location. Location. Location. For me, the thrill of watching Swingers is noticing all of the familiar locations around town. The characters in this film never stay in one spot for long, always on the move from one bar to another bar, to a Hollywood Hills party, then to a coffee shop for a late night breakfast. All in their own separate cars of course. It’s laughable, but even today I notice that most of my friends in L.A. drive separately, despite that we all live in close proximity of each other and are meeting at the same place.

When I relocated to L.A. in 2003, the very first bar a friend took me to was The Dresden Restaurant to see Marty and Elayne perform. Immortalized by the film, The Dresden remains one of my favorite lounges in L.A. Located at 1760 North Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz, The Dresden makes its appearance in the scene where Mike (Jon Continue reading “L.A. Plays Itself in the Movies: Swingers (1996)”

L.A. Plays Itself in the Movies: Barton Fink (1991)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WK0WjWlVO9w[/youtube]My first screenwriting instructor told our class not to write movies about writers, because their work, unlike the activities of cops and criminals, does not contain the dramatic action that movies require.  Maybe he was right, at least as far as popular appeal.  “Barton Fink,” written by Ethan and Joel Coen and directed by Joel, only grossed $6 million domestically at the box office.  On the other hand, it won the Palme D’Or at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, as well as the awards for Best Director and Best Actor (John Turturro), and was nominated for three Academy Awards.

Barton Fink hits L.A. and L.A. hits back, after the jump

My Saturday in the Patty Wagon

One of the ubiquitous gourmet food trucks to hit the LA streets recently is Patty Wagon, which boasts sustainable, 100% grass fed beef hamburgers and hand cut fries made from organic potatoes. This past Saturday, I found them parked across the street from the Silver Lake Farmer’s Market and decided to check out the hype.

From across the noisy Saturday traffic on Sunset Blvd., I could hear early R&B music being piped from the truck, bands like The Ink Spots and other Decca favorites. Speaking of The Ink Spots, Tennessee Williams said that he listened to The Ink Spots’ tune, “If I Didn’t Care” over and over while he penned “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Anyway, back to the Patty Wagon. As I crossed the street, the music put me in the mood for a good old timey hamburger, the kind you imagine they served in a 1940’s, small town diner. However, Patty Wagon may have an old-fashioned look and sound, but their menu is quite modern. They don’t serve Continue reading “My Saturday in the Patty Wagon”

Pasadena Playhouse to Close

More bad news on the Arts front: The Pasadena Playhouse, an L.A. landmark and institution, California’s only State Theatre, will be closing its doors, possibly for good, due to financial woes.

With 2 million owed to creditors and no way to pay, the current production of Camelot looks to be its last. Thirty seven employees will be out of work after the final curtain February 7th.

Stephen Eich, executive director of the Pasadena Playhouse, has said he is looking for ways to fulfill his obligation to current subscribers amidst massive financial restructuring and possible bankruptcy.

Attempts to find a donor to name the main auditorium after have thus far proved fruitless, as corporate donations have dwindled.

The company was founded in 1917, and the building itself built in the twenties, this is a huge loss for the arts, and a huge loss for theatre. I truly hope they find a way to re-open their doors soon.