“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”

Every now and then we Trojans have to join up with those annoying Bruins on some things (and not just hating on Cal). This weekend, we join together on a sad note – mourning the loss of former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

John Wooden and Bill Walton, 1970

John Wooden and Bill Walton, 1970. Photo courtesy Vedia on Flickr.

I’ve been making some plans lately for the upcoming World Cup. I don’t follow soccer (football?) but I wanted to take part in the magnificent exercise in sports fandom that will be USA vs. England. Whatever their sport, fans tend to unite over great communal experiences like the World Cup, the Olympics, the Super Bowl or the Lakers in the finals.

We, as lovers of sport, also unite in recognizing legends, regardless of rivalry or affiliation. We all recognize the greatness that was John Wooden.

And all of us, Bruins, Trojans, whatever, felt our hearts sink a bit at the news that Wooden was “gravely ill”, and then when he eventually passed away last night. He may have been 99 years old and hadn’t coached in decades, but the loss of Wooden still leaves a big gaping hole in the sports world. Coaches with his level of success and, more importantly, his level of influence are one-in-a-million.

Well before I moved to California and learned about Trojans vs. Bruins (and on which side I stood), I learned about Wooden. I remember my 7th grade basketball coach preaching his wisdom to us in the locker room. His name is all over buildings in Westwood. My favorite monument to him is the bust carved out of wood that sits in the lobby at ESPN Zone in Anaheim (the “wooden Wooden”). He’s practically required reading for teachers and coaches of all levels.

Wooden represented the best of UCLA, of basketball, of Los Angeles, hell, all of sports in general. While normally I would be reveling in seeing the Bruins cope with a loss (like, say, in a football game), this time, I, and fans everywhere, will be right there with them.

Happy National Do(ugh)nut Day/Really Great Neon!

It’s National Donut Day, everybody!  The perfect day for me to remind you to come to the Donut Summit on June 13!

And today when I was out and about running some errands in West Hollywood, I saw this awesome vintage Winchell’s sign – it’s part of On Route -66 Lights, a collaborative exhibit between the city of West Hollywood and the Museum of Neon Art.  In addition to putting together a map of all the neon in Weho (click here for the pdf), and an accompanying flickr page where you can see and learn about all the different signs, they’ve installed four antique neon signs along Santa Monica Boulevard – three in the median near Santa Monica and La Cienega, and one (the Winchell’s sign) near the entrance to Plummer Park.  I love the Museum of Neon Art, so I think this is so awesome and I’m glad that they are clearly on my donut wavelength!  I’ll be sure to post pictures of the other three signs later this week!

Masa: Chicago-Style Pizza in Echo Park

Photo courtesy Echo Park Chamber of Commerce

Yes: I am a native Philadelphian. Yes: I bitch constantly about restaurants and individuals who use the term “Philly cheesesteak” to describe sandwiches that, if they were magically turned into people, would be Dallas Cowboys fans with unplaceable Midwestern accents. Yes: I am, despite my best efforts at geniality, Kind of a Jerk About These Things.

But it looks like I have to make a concerted effort to stop, since I’m pretty sure I’ve found a deliciously authentic Chicago-style deep dish pizza at Masa of Echo Park.

I’ve only been to the City of the Big Shoulders once, and have only had real-live deep-dish pizza at Gino’s East; true fans and Chicagoans may debate whether this represents the platonic ideal of deep dish, but I thought it was pretty damn good. And the pizza at Masa — located just east of the Echo nightclub and Brite Spot diner on Sunset — seemed pretty damned Chicagoesque to me.

Masa’s authenticity likely stems from owner Rob Rowe’s roots in Chicago pizzerias; Rowe grew up in Chi-town and slaved over its pizza ovens before moving to Los Angeles to open Masa. Despite this, Masa bills itself as a “bakery and cafe;” there’s little effort to advertise the pizza to passing foot traffic, and my girlfriend and I were first drawn to it for its ambience: Classy yet easygoing, like a poet laureate who invites you over to watch Lost.

Continue reading Masa: Chicago-Style Pizza in Echo Park

Free screening of “Get him to the Greek” Thursday 6/10 RSVP Now.

Come see a FREE screening of ‘Get Him to the Greek’ at Burbank 16 with Imax Theater Thursday June 10, 2010 at 7.30pm. Seating is limited so get there early. It is first come, first seated. Concessions will not be included.

For those of you not paying attention to the whole social media marketing thingy Ford has been a player for a while with their soon to be released Fiesta and “Fiesta Agents” hyping the car and their escapades with it. One of the last missions of the Fiesta Movement teams is to create a short film involving the Ford Fiesta. Team LA has come up with the film ‘Fully Loaded’ and will be premiering it that night prior to ‘Get Him to the Greek’.   Screen shots from the film can be found on Flickr.  The various agents across the country are competing for points with their events so you can help them out by, and this is very important, text LAFILM to 44144 to help them accrue points.

When: Thursday June 10, 2010 7:30-10:30pm PST
Where: Burbank 16 with IMAX, 125 E. Palm Ave., Burbank, CA 91502

JOHN WATERS!!! and CARRIE FISHER!!! Tuesday!!!


!!!!  John Waters himself will be at the Aratani/Japan America Theatre downtown on Tuesday to sit down and have a little chat with Princess Leia-turned-author (natch) Carrie Fisher about what they are titling “neurotic happiness.”  Really, I haven’t been this excited since the 5 seconds right before I was about to meet Jane Lynch.  The discussion is courtesy ALOUD, the Library Foundation of Los Angeles’ fantastic, cultural gem of a speakers’ series.  Waters probably will talk about this many role models, as he essays the topic in his new book, Role Models. From Johnny Mathis to Leslie Van Houten (one of the women convicted in the Manson murders (read his fascinating essay on his friendship with Van Houten here)), Waters talks about how he looked up to these individuals, amongst others, as wells of inspiration and fascination.  Did I mention how I’m so, so, oh so very so excited to see him in person discuss all this and more?

Tickets are $25, but before you balk at that, the fee helps support the Los Angeles Public Library, which you all know I heart-with-an-arrow-through-it.  Besides, what else are you going to spend $25 on – some overcrowded concert with expensive PBR and hipsters donning the same bulky Clark Kent glasses without the Superman suit underneath?  Thought so.

John Waters In Conversation With Carrie Fisher is on Tuesday, June 8 at 8pm at the Aratani/Japan America Theatre in Little Tokyo.  Tickets are  $25 for the general public; $17.50 for Library Associates. Role Models, incidentally, wins for Best Cover Art, Literary or Otherwise, of the Decade.

Stuff to do in the SGV this weekend

Just in case the usual stroll through the various “Old Towns” in the SGV isn’t enough here are a few extras tossed in to serve as some diversions for the weekend.   Be prepared for the heat as temps should skirt 100 in the Valley’s this weekend.

  • All Weekend…top on my list is the Relay for Life events in Monrovia’s Library park.  (Attached flyer does get bigger with a click for the full sized schedule).  321 S Myrtle Ave, Monrovia CA 91016
  • All weekend Huntington Library “Corpse Flower” aka Amorphophallus Titanium in all its odiferous glory will be in bloom.  Star News Story HERE.
  • Saturday 6/5  Wild Rose Elementary First Annual Car Show and Fund Raiser.  Awards include Student and Teachers favorites…I just may clean up my old Buick and attend rather than do chores around the house. 10AM – 2PM 232 Jasmine Avenue, Monrovia CA 91016
  • Saturday 6/5 9:30-10AM Metro Gold Line Fillmore station’s remodel in Pasadena is officially dedicated.  Meet some smarmy politicians and listen to the grandstanding for the coming elections.  Snark aside…its quite a nice redo to the station and part of the ever expanding transit rail system Metro is working on.
  • Sunday, June 6 1-5:30PM. Health screenings, tips on healthy living and free CPR training will be offered at a health fair in Pasadena.  The free event at Victory Park, 2575 Paloma St., from 1 to 5:30 p.m. is sponsored by Code 3 Life Support Education and Pasadena City Councilman Steve Haderlein, who represents District 4.

Salastina Music Society debuts with soprano Elizabeth Futral and actor Seth Rogen

Everyone’s headed to the Hollywood Bowl this summer, but if you’re looking for a more intimate setting that involves a world celebrated coloratura soprano, accomplished musicians and that guy from Knocked Up and Superbad…well, here’s your chance.

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra violinist Maia Jasper and violin soloist Kevin Kumar have created the nonprofit Salastina Music Society with a debut concert featuring soprano Elizabeth Futral and actor Seth Rogen in a program that includes a unique ensemble of classical and tango music, to a world premiere composition and a round of storytelling.

From Brahms to a Piazzolla tango to a world premier setting of Neruda’s poetry (sung by Elizabeth Futral of the Metropolitan Opera), the beauty and variety of music on the program is designed to keep the modern attention span engaged. The program also includes levity that is generally absent from the classical music scene. Says Seth Rogen of his participation in the event, “I’ve always been a huge lover of classical music. It is the only type of music that makes you seem smart just by listening to it. I will be reading Ferdinand the Bull, which will be a big moment for me, because I learned to read specifically for this event. I’m excited to be a part of it and hope the audience bears with me if I have to sound out a few of the longer words.”

Thursday, June 17th at Zipper Concert Hall at the Colburn School*
Ernest Chausson: Chanson Perpetuelle, Op. 37 featuring Elizabeth Futral;
Johannes Brahms: String Quintet No. 2 in G major, Op. 111
Ástor Piazzolla: Primavera Porteña (“Spring” from The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires)
Three Neruda Arias, a world premiere by composer Jeremy Cavaterra featuring Elizabeth Futral
Alan Ridout: Ferdinand the Bull, narrated by Seth Rogen.

Friday, June 18th at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica
Ernest Chausson: Chanson Perpetuelle, Op. 37 featuring Elizabeth Futral
Johannes Brahms: String Quintet No. 2 in G major, Op. 111
Ástor Piazzolla: Primavera Porteña (“Spring” from The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires)
Three Neruda Arias, a world premiere by composer Jeremy Cavaterra featuring Elizabeth Futral
Aria TBA also with Elizabeth Futral.

Whether you’re a novice in the chamber music world, love listening to live music or want to support the Los Angeles music scene, these concerts are not to be missed! Tickets can be purchased online on the website or at the door.

*Mingle with the artists afterwards while enjoying complimentary mini-cones of Scoops ice cream. SCOOPS!

Is that Squab for dinner?

A nesting pair of Hawks has adopted my neighborhood to raise its brood.  They are swift hunters.  They are slowly ridding us of non-native or pesty birds and rodents.

We heard the shrill scream of a hawk going in for a kill outside our living room the other night.  Lo and behold….squab (which is just fancy for pigeon) was the main course.   The female of the pair had made the kill and looked at me as if I barged in on some sort of private moment as I grabbed this pic.

The Illusion of Input

One of my coworkers received this nice invitation yesterday through his e-policing subscription:  

Councilmember Paul Koretz
Councilmember Paul Krekorian
& The Bureau of Street Services

Invite you to learn how you can work
With the City to improve the quality of life
In your neighborhood

Identify, report and resolve problems

Reduce illegal signs, potholes, graffiti & other code violations

Discuss City issues and priorities

Saturday, May 22, 2010
10:00 am – 11:30 am
Sportsmen’s Lodge
12825 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City

The problem of course, is that tomorrow was June 1 and the invite is for May 22.

How did that go ” learn how you can work with the City to improve the quality of life in your neighborhood”?

Oh the irony.

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

Two Weeks In June: Your Group Stage World Cup Soccer Schedule In All Its Chalky Analog Goodness

This past Memorial Day morning I did my annual bike ride across town to Los Angeles National Cemetery, followed by a visit to LACMA (admission of which was free thanks to Target, who apparently foots the bill at the museum when holidays fall on Mondays — make a note of that). After checking out some of the art there the next destination was The Village Idiot, my next-door neighbor Dean Malouf’s restaurant on Melrose where we found excellent food and drink and this huge and awesome chalk-filled masterpiece detailing all the Group Stage matches in South Africa that will be broadcast* there between June 11 – 25  (pictured at right; click to ginormify), which Dean told me took about four hours to complete.

While I’m not much of a soccer fan, chances are good that I’ll wake up my inner hooligan by rolling over to a couple of these 7 a.m. weekday matches, probably South Africa v. Mexico, Spain v. Switzerland, and USA v. Algeria.

* While originally they were considering being open for the 4:30 a.m. matches, common sense prevailed and they’ve decided such sleep deprivation was just crazy.

Still Time Left: Brand Bookshop’s Memorial Day Sale

Yes, I snagged this from Google Streetview.

Please accept my apologies, Dear Readers: I had meant to post about this sale over the weekend, but holiday festivities got in the way. But one of the best used bookstores in LA County — if not the best — is having a storewide sale that lasts through today and tomorrow.

Brand Bookshop, at 231 Brand Boulevard in Glendale, is offering a 30 percent discount on every book in the store. What’s more: They won’t charge you any sales tax. The sale ends at 9 PM tomorrow night.

For me, Brand is one of the most important bookstores in the area – not only because of its ridiculously huge speculative-fiction section, but because it’s both an independent bookseller and a seller of used books. Not only are used books cheaper (I paid about a buck-fifty apiece for Philip Jose Farmer’s entire World of Tiers series, complete with the kinds of awesome covers you just don’t see anymore), but they’re more environmentally friendly.

But I think there’s a greater ethic at work here as well. Down the street from Brand (and its counterpart, the wonderfully named Mystery and Imagination Bookshop) is a Border’s Books and Music. The employees at Border’s are uniformly friendly and responsive (I only shop there when Border’s sends me a coupon, and then only when the coupon is for 40 percent off or more, and even then I only buy one book. I’m not made of stone.), but the overall mindset of Border’s seems to be: Here’s your fuckin’ book. Now buy something else or go away. Books are lazily categorized; I’ve seen mystery and fantasy shoved together, and the science fiction section (which consists largely of Star Wars novels and, mysteriously, dozens and dozens of Dresden Files books) is relegated to a space near the bathrooms and the children’s books, as if to tell SF readers exactly how pathetic their literary inclinations are. At the Brand Bookshop, I feel like I’m respected as a reader.

So: Block a couple of hours from your nightly schedule and head to the Brand. And plan on spending a lot of time browsing.

Watercress Cafe: My new favorite lunch spot

Watercress Cafe

Mine is a simple life with small pleasures. A good lunch spot counts for a lot in my world. I live around the corner from Watercress Cafe on Woodman and so I’ve passed it a bazillion times, but somehow I’d never eaten there until recently. They close at 7 weeknights (4 and 3 Saturday and Sunday respectively) and I’m usually not in the neighborhood lunch hours, but now that I’m in on the secret, I’ll be having lunch there when I can.

We’re talking about the ultimate turkey sandwich, people. It has apple slices and herbed goat cheese and greens and it is on raisin bread. It is a perfect mixture of sweet and savory, smooth and crunchy. Watercress‘s turkey sandwich is, as the cute counter guy describes: a party in your mouth. Since the turkey sandwich experience, I’ve been back for a salad that had chicken and pine nuts and greens so good you don’t want to dress them.

the turkey sandwich in question

(I like my greens naked, like I like my… ahem…) I had breakfast there last weekend and it was good but not as great (in my opinion) as the lunches (but then it’s hard to keep pace with Hugo’s as far as Sherman Oaks breakfasts go).

There’s parking in the back and a coffee roaster next door. What could be wrong with that?

Hours: Monday-Friday 7 am – 7 pm, Saturday 7 am – 4 pm, Sunday 8 am – 3 pm
13565 Ventura Boulevard
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423