Monday, December 29, 2008

Interview: Dr. Maulana Karenga - Founder of Kwanzaa

Dr. Maulana KarengaDaood interviews Dr. Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa. Learn more about Dr. Karenga (who was named in 2002 as one of the 100 Greatest African Americans by scholar Molefi Kete Asante) and about the tradition he helped establish...

Take us back to September 7, 1965 to the political climate that brought forth the Us organization?

Us emerged in the wake of two critical and shaping events: the assassination and martyrdom of Malcolm X and the Watts Revolt. Malcolm was for me, and later for Us, and the Black Power Movement that was to emerge as a model, an incisive instructor and inspiration for learning, organization and struggle. I had met Malcolm in the summer of '62 while I was at UCLA; had helped organize to bring him to campus, and talked to him at various times when he came to town. In fact, the first time I met him, he gave me a ride home and we talked about a wide range of intellectual and social issues. His work and philosophy had a profound effect on Us, the Movement and me. Indeed, we of Us saw ourselves as sons and daughters of Malcolm in the most revolutionary sense, as heirs of his legacy dedicated to continuing his struggle. Especially influential on Us and me were his ideas of self-determination, self-defense, cultural revolution, pan-Africanism, Third World solidarity and historical consciousness.

The second event which had profound effect on the development of the organization, Us, and on me was the Watts Revolt in August 1965. It was for me, my colleagues and the Movement a historic turning point, marking the end of the Civil Rights phase of the Black Freedom Movement and the rise of another phase which we would call the following year, Black Power. I was in the process of developing my philosophy Kawaida then, left my doctoral studies at UCLA on September 7, 1965, founded our organization, Us, along with several colleagues. Building on the teachings of Malcolm, I defined Black Power and the Revolt, its most vivid expression, as the collective action of a people to achieve, reaffirm and sustain three things: self-determination, self-respect and self-defense.

The Black Power Movement carried within it several tendencies all claiming a revolutionary status including Us. We argued over emphasis on the political, the religious, the economic and the cultural. We chose culture as our main emphasis, stressing cultural revolution, and the radical reorientation toward Africanness, what Sekou Toure called "full re-Africanization". I defined culture as a total system of thought and practice by which a people creates itself, celebrates, sustains and develops itself and introduces itself to history and humanity. This, we maintained, had to be on at least seven levels: religion (spirituality and ethics), social organization, economic organization, political organization, creative production (art, music, literature), and ethos (collective psychology).

So, we were as involved as anyone else in political struggle, and armed, highly trained and disciplined in a paramilitary formation second to none, the Simba Wachanga, the Young Lions. But we stressed the need of culture as grounding that made everything else possible. We argued together with Malcolm, Toure and Cabral, and even Mao, that the cultural revolution precedes and makes possible both the struggle and the people's commitment to it. Indeed, we said until we break the monopoly the oppressor has on so many of our minds, liberation is not impossible, it's unthinkable. But we also argued that in the process of struggle, culture is deepened and developed and remains a living and reinforcing component of the struggle. Thus, culture and struggle are mutually interactive and mutually reinforcing, but culture is key to conceiving and structuring the struggle. Indeed, Cabral said the struggle for liberation is an act of culture.

So, I created Kwanzaa and the Nguzo Saba out of Kawaida philosophy. And Kwanzaa was developed as an institution to teach and reaffirm the importance of cultural grounding. Indeed, I created Kwanzaa for three reasons: first, it was to reaffirm our rootedness in African culture and facilitate our return to our history for we had been lifted out of our own history and made a footnote and forgotten casualty in European history. Second, it was to establish a special time when we and other African people all over the world could come together to reinforce the bonds between us and meditate on the awesome responsibility of being African in the world. And now over 40 million African people all over the world, on every continent in the world, celebrate Kwanzaa and meditate on being African in the world. Thirdly, I created Kwanzaa to introduce and reaffirm the importance of communitarian African values, values that stress and strengthen family, community and culture. And, of course, the key communitarian values of Kwanzaa, the hub and hinge on which the holiday turns are the Nguzo Saba, The Seven Principles: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

Briefly share with us your life in Parsonsburg, Maryland and the migration to Los Angeles, California?

I was born in Parsonsburg, Maryland, on a farm that grew products to truck to various local and regional markets. I grew up helping to plant, cultivate and harvest these crops. I went to school in Salisbury, the county seat and largest city on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It was an all-Black school and I had wonderful teachers who taught the beauty and expansive meaning of Black history and culture, and instilled in us a love of learning and a sense of responsibility to represent the race, as we said then, in the most dignified and positive ways. Some of them were still alive and came to see me not too long ago, when the NAACP and City official gave me warm reception and awards for my achievements especially the creation of Kwanzaa. It was good to see them and I remembered those who were not there and could not come. I was honored and uplifted to have known them and admired them for the good they did and brought in such a racist, segregated and evil environment of that time.

Were your branches of cultural and socio-political consciousness rooted by your parents?

From my father I learned to value knowledge; to cultivate the mind; to master concepts, words and varied ways of expression; to seek the absent in knowledge; to question knowledge present and to be prepared, confident and assertive. From my mother I learned to feel deeply; to care; to sit for hours in silence in meditation and in support of the ill, aged and bereaved; to discipline myself for suffering and sacrifice; to love learning, flowers, gardens and growing things; and to achieve, do and share good. From both of them I learned to speak truth, do justice, care for the needy; to stand in awe and amazement of the beauty and good of creation; and to value the little and yet important things in life. And they taught me too - to avoid vices and acquire virtues; to appreciate silence and self-reflection, and walks in the woods and watching the birds, animals, insects, trees, plants, leaves and streams that filled the woods. They taught me a consciousness of race, a solidarity in sameness, i.e., shared history, culture and struggle; and commitment to race responsibility, pride and progress. Also, they taught me the dignity and value of work and the importance of commitment, excellence and perseverance. Moreover, they cherished justice and condemned injustice and they believed in the eventual triumph of good and right in the world, and the necessity for good people to stand up for what is right and good. And, of course, I was greatly influenced by their views.

Your national and Pan-Africanism outlook developed at what juncture in evolutionary journey?

The sources of my nationalism perhaps go back to my appreciation of the works of the writers and heroes and heroines of our history. It did not become influential and a conscious choice until later. But it was like Malcolm's introduction to Marcus Garvey by his father that did not become influential until later. I came into consciousness in the 60's [through] the activism in the Civil Rights Movement, the Peace Movement, the Anti-Capital Punishment Movement and of course, the Student Movement. At Los Angeles City College, I was involved in all these Movements and became active and interacting with and organizing international students. Indeed, they became a core constituency for me in my becoming the first Black student body President of LACC.

But also an important influence on my nationalist consciousness and that of all of us in the Movement was the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, put forth most brilliantly and incisively by Min. Malcolm X, Al Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. This essential and transformative message, as I understood and interpreted it, was: (1) to remind us of our divinity and dignity, our sacred and inherent worthiness as a people; thus, (2) to raise Blackness up to a sacred observance and awesome ethical responsibility; (3) to deconstruct and demystify the nature of our oppression and the identity of our oppressor; and (4) to charge us with the responsibility to wake up (come into consciousness—historical and spiritual); clean up (live moral lives worthy of our status as bearers of dignity), and stand up (act audaciously to free ourselves mentally and socially and build a community and nation in our own image and interest).

Also, by now I'm deeply involved in studying continental African history and culture and the works of African revolutionaries like Nkrumah, Nyerere, Toure, Fanon and of course, Marcus Garvey and DuBois, and Malcolm X. I would also read Senghor, Cesaire, Cabral, Padmore, Kenyatta and others. And it is out of these theories and philosophies and others that I crafted Kawaida, defining it as an ongoing synthesis of the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.

2007 was the 41st Kwanzaa celebration. Being the creator of this, now, international holiday, impart your perspective of its success?

Kwanzaa represents a profound reorientation of how we as African peoples understand and assert ourselves in the world. One of the most impressive aspects of Kwanzaa is its phenomenal growth among Africans throughout the world and the interest it has gained among others around the world because of this growth and its central message of creating and celebrating good in the world. It is now practiced by over 40 million people throughout the world African community on every continent in the world. And it is important to recognize why Kwanzaa is embraced and continues to grow among so many people. Kwanzaa is embraced and continues to grow worldwide among African people for several reasons.

First, Kwanzaa is embraced and grows among African people because it speaks to our need and appreciation for its cultural vision and life-affirming values, values which celebrate and reinforce family, community and culture, and it challenges us to constantly bring forth the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. Second, it represents an important way we as Africans speak our own special cultural truth in a multicultural world. Third, it reaffirms a rich and most ancient tradition which teaches that the fundamental meaning and mission of human life is to "constantly increase good in the world and not let any good be lost." Fourth, it reinforces our rootedness in our own culture in a rich and meaningful way. Finally, Kwanzaa is embraced and grows because it brings us together from all countries, all religious traditions, all classes, all ages and generations, and all political persuasions on the common ground of our Africanness in all its historical and current diversity and unity, providing us with a unique and ongoing opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the African initiative in the world.

And, of course, I feel blessed and honored to see my work flourish in my lifetime and I'm profoundly grateful to former and especially current members of Us who first practiced and promoted it and continue to do so; to the larger nationalist community who accepted and promoted it also; and to our people who made it a fundamental part of their lives, especially thru the practice of The Seven Principles, the Nguzo Saba, all year round, using them as value orientation, cultural and philosophical grounding and the basis for program development in the work they do in and for our national and international community.

As you and the organization embrace the New Year, what challenges and goals are in place for prosperity and grandeur?

As I said in my 2008 Annual Founder's Kwanzaa Message, our task in these and other difficult, troubled and trying times has been and must remain: to know our past and honor it, to engage our present and improve it, and to imagine our future and forge it in the most effective, expansive and ethically grounded ways for our ancestors, ourselves and those who come after us. And this means boldly facing the difficulties and dangers that confront us, seeking and speaking truth, doing and demanding justice, treating each other with ultimate respect and loving kindness, walking and working together righteously, resisting wrong, oppression and injustice everywhere, and struggling constantly to bring and sustain good in the world.

For more information about the organization, books that you've written as well as Kwanzaa, is there an office location, website and contact number?

I have written 16 books including: Introduction to Black Studies; Maat, The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt: A Study in Classical African Ethics; Kawaida and Questions of Life and Struggle, and Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture.

For a longer list of books and articles, visit my website,

Other addresses and phone numbers are on our websites: and

Heri za Kwanzaa!! Happy Kwanzaa!!!

-Daood, Contributing Blogger

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Party Like It's 2009

Don't have plans for the New Year? Don't worry! Ring in the new year with celebrations as diverse as the city. There's music, theatre, fireworks, even a workshop for kids! Plus there are plenty of other events at that could easily be transformed into a special New Year's Party. Just bring your festive spirit!

-Tiina Vuorenmaa, ExperienceLA Staff

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

LinkedIn - ExperienceLA is now on LinkedIn

Join's LinkedIn Group!

And don't forget about our Myspace Page, Facebook Group, Facebook Fan Page, and Twitter!

-ExperienceLA Staff

This Weekend: 1/2 Off Tickets to "The Joy Luck Club"

Not only does Los Angeles get an extended run of East West Players' production of The Joy Luck Club, there's also half-off ticket deal if you're willing to be a little charitable...

East West Players is offering 1/2 price tickets to the last week of their production of The Joy Luck Club. "To receive the half price tickets, tickets must be purchased in person at the time of the canned food donation. General ticket prices are $45 in the orchestra and $40 in the balcony." Donated proceeds will be given to the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC).

Find more information about The Joy Luck Club on

-ExperienceLA Staff

Friday, December 12, 2008

Newsletter: Holiday Celebration, Kwanzaa, Symphony

Welcome to the holiday season! Mark your calendars for all these great events in celebration:

-LA Symphony's Peace on Earth
-Lula Washington Dance Theatre's Kwanzaa Celebration Concert
-Spotlight: 49th Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration
-Blog Highlights

See our newsletter for more details! Click here to subscribe to the Newsletter. Staff

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Union Station Family Tour

LA Union StationThe Los Angeles Conservancy always has a way of making places come to life. Not that these places aren't alive already - that people don't walk by with recognition or trek through with knowledge that it's there and it's a part of the Los Angeles landscape (though I'm sure many historical things left standing have some thing to do with the Conservancy...conserving). But it's almost a different kind of life, a certain ounce of clarity...the understanding you get from not seeing something, but experiencing it.

I attended the LA Conservancy's "White Christmas" at the Los Angeles Theatre the other week and remembered just that feeling. The last time I was at the Los Angeles Theatre was at Last Remaining Seats in June, but the great feeling of being in that space and to watch it be a real movie theatre is always great. It's not just some beautiful building, it's a building that once had an every day life and in that instance that I'm there, it's still alive. Not to mention, I could probably spend hours looking at that amazing ballroom and the bathroom!

The next Los Angeles Conservancy event is their "Union Station Family Tour" on December 27th, which I'm hoping many kids get to go to because Union Station is an everyday place, but it's a place filled with LA history, architecture, and people. It sounds like the perfect way to see Union Station in a whole new way. And if that isn't a good enough draw, maybe tell the kids it's been in the movies...

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Nutty LA: It's all about the Nutcracker

It's the holidays, go nuts! Well, at least go see The Nutcracker because here in Los Angeles, we've got it all - from traditional to silly to modern art and even an event that includes 4 different styles! You'll be sure to find one you like. So enjoy the festivities and if you're allergic to nuts, check out the experienceLA calendar for other holiday events!

Traditional Nutcracker Events:

Non-Traditional Nutcracker Events:

Nutcracker Related Events:

-Tiina Vuorenmaa, ExperienceLA Promotions Assistant

*Image courtesy of the United States Postal Service - check out the 2008 Nutcracker Stamps!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Follow ExperienceLA on Twitter!

Tweet! Tweet! - Now with Google Friend Connect

Do you have a Google, Yahoo, OpenID, or AIM account? Then join the Google Friend Connect network - now on When you join, you can rate and comment on all of our great events.

Join on our Spotlight Page:

Rate/Comment on our Event Pages:

Hope to see you on Staff

Friday, December 05, 2008

Newsletter: LA Live, Light of the Angels, Grammy Museum, Annie...

Welcome L.A. Live to Downtown Los Angeles - or well, welcome to L.A. Live. The new entertainment complex in Downtown LA is opening its many doors - from restaurants to light shows to nightclubs and the GRAMMY Museum, you've gotta get there! Check out our latest Newsletter:

-Light of the Angels: Nightly multimedia light show for the holidays (Related blog post: Lighht of the Angels @ L.A. Live)
-GRAMMY Museum Opens
(Related blog post: The GRAMMY Museum Experience)
-Go Metro to L.A. Live and Win!
-Late Night Transit for the Holidays
-...and don't forget to schedule in experiencing other parts of LA: We're giving away tickets to Annie at the the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood!

Welcome to December! Staff

Light of the Angels @ L.A. Live

Heralding the opening of L.A. LIVE, superstar Britney Spears, councilwoman Jan Perry, University of Southern California coach Pete Carroll and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa light the 52-foot digital tree on stage at the 'Light of the Angels' Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony at L.A. LIVE on December 4, 2008 in Los Angeles, California - Photo Courtesy of EdelmanLast night was the inaugural holiday tree lighting at Downtown LA's new entertainment complex - L.A. Live. The thirty-minute inaugural event was telecast on KTLA 5 and featured a performance of "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" by talented R&B songstress Natalie Cole, City of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Adam Carolla hosting, and guest celebrities USC Football Coach Pete Carroll and 'Surprise' Celebrity Superstar Britney Spears. The celebrity guest was 'outed' earlier on in the week by blogdowntown, but I think it made it better to know the surprise, to draw in more of a crowd to a place which central purpose is to bring people in to see the new face of Downtown LA's current renaissance.

Here's the general gist of "Light of the Angels":
-Run-time: 7 minutes
-Featuring: Multi-dimentional light display which includes a 37,500 lb. tree that's 54-feet tall in the midst of L.A. Live's Nokia Plaza. The "tree" is covered with 11,382 XL Sphere LED lights
-In addition to the lights (there are also lights that make it look like snow is falling on the trees!), there is video on the plaza's 11 giant video screens and accompanying music
-Show runs on the beginning of each hour nightly from 7-10pm until Dec 31st.

While there might lay some nostalgia for a "real" Christmas tree, a light show adds a bit of flare to the innovative nature that Los Angeles can often reflect. As an Angelino who doesn't see much snowfall, there was an almost "of course" feeling to the idea that we would have a light show for the holidays...and so oddly this "something new" felt a bit like home.

The seven-minute light experience is enjoyable to gaze at, displaying the bright and shiny aspect that can come from the holidays, but augmenting all this is the hustle and bustle of L.A. Live itself. There were families out to see the first show, to mingle around the first openings of L.A. Live's initial bloom. There were jackets on, a chill in the night air, and iconic red Starbucks cups in hand. It was just...nice.
Whether you're there for the lights or the sights, something's bound to catch your eye at L.A. Live.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Rachel Resnick - "Love Junkie" at Book Soup

I'm a big fan of independent booksellers, and I was more than happy to trek over to West Hollywood for a particular event at an uber-cool independent bookstore: Rachel Resnick's reading/book signing of her recently released memoir Love Junkie at Book Soup on the Sunset Strip! (Metro Tip: If you get off at Sunset/Vermont Red Line station, it's just a little bit aways on the Metro 2 bus...)

If you've been following this blog since its inception (if so, thank you!), you may recall the name Rachel Resnick has been mentioned before. Last noted on this blog in 2006, Ms. Resnick was in discussion with Janet Fitch at ALOUD at Central Library with Fitch's release of Paint it Black.

Fast forward - and rewinding a little - to this past Tuesday, Ms. Resnick was at her second LA launch event for her recently released memoir - Love Junkie. I'm a big fan of Resnick's work in general, and a fan of her memoir in particular. It's just the type of book that has you turning the page because the more you enter into Resnick's past as a self-professed "love junkie", the more you're intrigued about her journey, of how she pulled herself out a downward spiral where love is a drug that even the non-junkies can understand.

The memoir is a rollercoaster ride through relationships, and it would first appear that this is the book's driving force - the pulsating, yet destructive nature of the author's romantic and sexual entanglements. But this gives the "drug/addiction" too much credit. The true heart of the novel is the love junkie herself, whose voice weaves the reader in and out of her harrowing journey of men and her knee-scrapping/heart-bleeding acts for love. Resnick adeptly gives just pause to these scenes wrought with disaster by analyzing the roots of her problem, presenting examples of love from her childhood experiences - moments of self-actualizing that gives you time to take a gasp of breath before Resnick takes you through another scene and you hold your breath hoping for her realization and recovery.

The Book Soup event included Resnick reading passages from her book, choosing from scenes that showcases her ability to present descriptive characters and settings. The tone of the event was light and fun - interwoven with jokes as they arose from questions. Much of the audience was also interested in the format of the memoir itself and the motivation and inspiration of how Love Junkie came into fruition.

The best part of author events is to both see the author who wrote the book and hear them read their words. This is particularly true with a memoir event because it's just great to see the face behind a work that is true, especially one where you've been able to read through what the author has had to go through. Whether or not you can identify with the author's situation is almost a moot point because just being able to recognize and acknowledge that a person has endured a journey and is living a life focused on recovery is just inspiring.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Live Blogging at Inaugural L.A. Live Tree Lighting

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The GRAMMY Museum Experience

GRAMMY Museum - Touch TableI'm at a lost for words as I write this post because quite frankly there's just so much to say about the GRAMMY Museum, because there's so much to do and see and hear... So hopefully the following makes sense to you, but sometimes you just need to be there to understand (and really, you need to make plans to be there!)...

When you enter into the museum (tour starts on the 4th floor), the first thing to greet you is a touchtable that allows you to listen and explore genres of music (see the main photo of this post). It's Star Trek meets Apple's iTunes Genius Sidebar, bringing up related genres/topics to the music you have selected to learn. If you can pull yourself away from this almost hypnotic interface of swirling loops, tag bubbles, and music clips (I was there for a good while!), the 4th floor of the GRAMMY Museum is home to "The GRAMMY Music Landscape", "The GRAMMY Archives and Hall of Fame" and "Artist Voices: The Creative World".

GRAMMY Museum - Individual Touch Screen for Music EpicenterMy personal favorites are the interactive exhibits for Music Landscape - Music Epicenters and Culture Shock in particular. Music Epicenters allow you to explore key music in each region across the United States and Culture Shock features major culture changes tied to music over many decades. Both exhibitions require a hands-on approach to navigation and feature music clips and narrative. In addition to interactive exhibits, there are key historic items on display and documentary style videos discussing each genre of music, history, and impact. Before leaving the 4th floor, you get to learn about inspirations and find out from the voices of popular songwriters what inspires them and their work. As a songwriter of sorts, it was interesting for me to see if my methods matched theirs or if it didn't at all.

GRAMMY Museum - In the StudioThe third level showcases Recording Art and Technology, including "In the Studio", a hands-on and visual approach to being a part of the studio, of learning how a recording is made. We often only experience the art of listening to its final product on the radio, CD, or latest greatest MP3 player, so this exhibition enables the visitor to experience key parts in the process of the art. There are also historical panels about how the craft has changed over time and a documentary which features Carrie Underwood's recording of "Jesus Take the Wheel". The GRAMMY Museum wouldn't be complete without the history of the awards, its history of great performances, and its winners - the Everything GRAMMY exhibition is found here as well. Word of warning, once you sit down to watch historic performances, it's really hard to pull yourself away from the amazing artists that have come across a GRAMMY stage. And for you fashionistas, there's also iconic outfits that have graced the red carpet as well.

The final level - Level 2 - features the GRAMMY Sound Stage, Special Exhibits Gallery, the GRAMMY Gallery, and GRAMMY Museum Store. I wasn't able to spend too much time in this section because by the time I got here, my mind was already overwhelmed with everything the museum had to offer on Levels 3 and 4 - and this is only after I skimmed through some exhibitions because of my own time limits. But that only means I need to come back again and again to make sure I get it all. Which may just be impossible because in addition to housing great interactive elements and exhibitions which explore the history of music and recording, the museum itself will act as a living hub of live music and discussion. Its theatre space will be a place for intimate performances and conversations and the outside plaza will be home to performances that require outdoor space.

The GRAMMY Museum opens its doors to the public on Saturday, December 6th and is part of AEG's L.A. Live Entertainment District opening in Downtown Los Angeles.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

LA Opera's "Carmen"

I realized while watching "Carmen" on Sunday afternoon that it's amazing how its music has seeped into the crevices of culture. It's as if I know the sound of it before I realize the origin, every single time. And that's how it opened for me - first with the strains of the orchestra and then my brain thinking: "Oh yeah, that's from Carmen..."

Perhaps the same can be said about the story itself, one of love from passion, devotion, stupidity, and/or insanity, all of the above in which appears in stories elsewhere. It's not too hard to sink yourself into the love story/ies - the good of it and the tragic.

Inevitably, the show is fun, familiar, well-done, and fantastic for those very reasons. To forewarn, the run time for Georges Bizet's "Carmen" is 3 hours and 30 minutes with two intermissions. At first, when presented with this time frame, it appears daunting. After all, the average movie is about two hours long - if that. But with the familiar strains of this famous French opera, the comic elements, and a love story that's parts passion and parts women's lib - time flies with every enjoyable second.

Performances of Carmen continue at the LA Opera until December 14th.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Newsletter: Thanksgiving, White Christmas, Holiday Transit... wishes all of its site visitors, newsletter subscribers, blog readers, Flickr Pool members, and contributing partners (essentially all the fabulous people that make and its network fabulous) a wonderful Thanksgiving!

With the holiday comes an early issue of our newsletter. Check out our latest Newsletter, featuring:

- Extended Public Transit Hours for the Holidays (Metro Red Line and Downtown DASH)
- White Christmas: Screening of that 1954 Classic
- 1,000 Teddies - Art Installation and Fundraiser
- And reminders of great things to read on this blog!

See our newsletter for more details! Click here to subscribe to the Newsletter. You'll be thankful if you do!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Staff

Singing in the Holidays

Call me a caffeine fiend (or a victim of commercialism), but the onset of my favorite holiday season becomes official when I begin to see the Starbucks Christmas cups appear in increased frequency. 90 degree weather or not, warming my hands around a steaming cup of Pumpkin Spiced Latte or Caramel Apple Spice, its holiday aromas wafting me into a state of glee, is a seasonal must. That and listening to 103.5 the moment the station converts to Christmas music 24/7.

I love Christmas. Warm fuzzies galore!!

Good news for those of us Christmas junkies who potentially make everyone else sick with our excitement over irrelevant songs boasting the joys of a white Christmas. The LA Phil recently announced its 2008 Deck the Hall Holiday Series... which includes a Holiday Sing-A-Long!! No more need to be a secret singer within the safety of your morning commute, as you can now join a multitude of people, on key or not, as they sing your favorite Christmas songs. If you've never experienced a sing-a-long before, you're missing out. But if it's not your cup of tea, here's a full listing of the series:

12/16: Chanticleer returns with Exquisite Christmas Singing
12/17: Organist David Higgs presents the Holiday Organ Spectacular
12/20-21: 'Twas the Week Before Christmas with the LA Phil
12/21: David Prather hosts a Holiday Sing-A-Long for the whole family
12/22: The Count Basie Orchestra brings the Swing to the Holidays
12/23: Soweto Gospel Choir offers Inspired Renditions of Christmas Classics
12/31: Pink Martini rings in 2009 with Two Special New Year's Eve Performances

-Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Marketing Assistant

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Thankfuls

I'm thankful to be living and working in Los Angeles because of the great weather and the eclectic mix of cultures all in one location. I'm thankful to be working for because I get to be one of the first to know what cool events are happening in the city.

Unfortunately, I keep hearing complaints (even from myself) of all the other things that have to be done. It may be hard, especially in today's economy, for us to truly understand all that we are grateful for. Here is an activity I found to be quite helpful. This Thanksgiving, try it at the dinner table while everyone is waiting for the Tryptophan to kick in.

1. Each person gets a 3x5 card to write down a list of all the things they "have to" do:

For example:
I have to go to school.
I have to drive in traffic to get work.
I have to brush my teeth.

2. Change "have to" into "get to" and then add a reason why:

For example:
I get to go to school because I have drive to better myself. (Some people don't have that ambition)
I get to drive in traffic to work because I have a car that can drive me there. (Some people don't have cars)
I get to brush my teeth because I have most of them. (Some people don't have any teeth!)

3. Add "I'm thankful" in front, and the final result is:

I'm thankful I get to go to school because I have drive to better myself.
I'm thankful I get to drive in traffic to work because I have a car that can drive me there.
I'm thankful I get to brush my teeth because I have most of them.

So during this holiday (and everyday), change your have to's into get to's, and remember – You get to read this blog because brings it, and all things cultural and wonderful, to you! (Oh, and I'm thankful for the internet as well!)

-Tiina Vuorenmaa Staff

Friday, November 21, 2008

Newsletter: Grammy Concert, DWTS Giveaway...

Check out our latest Newsletter, featuring:

- The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!!
- Holiday Wonders at the Walt Disney Concert Hall
- Cole's All American Street Fair
- Ticket Giveaways and Promotions: Dancing with the Stars at the STAPLES Center & I Love My Wife Discount

See our newsletter for more details! Click here to subscribe to the Newsletter. Staff

Friday, November 14, 2008

War Stories: Joyce Guy Interview

Our blog contributor Daood interviews Joyce Guy, who helms the one-woman show War Stories coming to the NEW LATC (Los Angeles Theatre Center) Fridays-Sundays starting November 14th-23rd. Learn more about this show through the actress herself in this exclusive interview!

Daood: Greetings Joyce Guy!

Joyce Guy: Hey Daood, how are you? Thank you for writing and for you interest in War Stories.

Daood: War Stories is written and also portrayed in this one-woman act by you. Exactly what is War Stories about and why was this subject matter endearing to a singlehanded breathtaking deliverance?

Joyce Guy: My father was a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force for 23 years. War Stories tells the story of his struggles in the military through my eyes. Simultaneously [it] also tells the story of my plight growing up in the military and feeling like an outsider in my own country. A third component of the play gives a biographical glimpse of other African-Americans who have served in the military protecting our country.

Daood: Initially War Stories was a stage reading. Transitioning to an actual play came as the result of what quest?

Joyce Guy: I started War Stories as a staged reading to receive feedback from the audience. The play goes on my family's actual journey from Taiwan to Florida to Japan to Kansas and Delaware, with a series of stories written in a rhythmic monologue style laced with haiku, poetry and biographical sketches.

From those staged readings the audience assisted me in making the journey cohesive and clear. Then this summer I was accepted into the LaMaMa Playwright's Retreat in Umbria, Italy. The retreat proved valuable because there I was able to transition the work into an actual play. Playwright Naomi Iizuka who facilitated the retreat gave instructive feedback but at the same time led the participants through a number of writing exercises that lead down the path to completing War Stories.

Daood: Racism, class differences, and the feeling of being an outsider in one's country has been written and talked about in various mediums, but what would you say is unique about this interpretation of your father's experience that impacts your portrayal?

Joyce Guy: [You're] right, these themes have been written about. What makes War Stories unique is that we haven't heard these themes approached from an African-American enlisted man's point of view as seen through the eyes of young African-American female.

When we hear stories of blacks in the military is usually from a male point-of-view, rarely through a female point-of-view. Or when we hear stories of the military it's from a white point-of-view. Rarely are the stories of the children of black children, which there are many, told in the various mediums. We hear of the heroes, but not the everyday soldier[s] who sacrifice their lives.

Daood: Not only have I read that your depiction is exhilarating, but can you elaborate on the various mediums demonstrative in capturing the essence of those moments and times during the play journey from experience to the next?

Joyce Guy: As in my previous work, I usually incorporate various mediums. War Stories has been the most realized. For the first time I have a live musician, a cellist, Peter Walden who also plays the harmonica, djembe drum and other elements. Being a dancer I always incorporate dance movement into my pieces, that's why I write in a rhythmic style with haiku poetry and passages from American Patriot: The History of Black in the Military written by Gail Buckley. We also utilize photographs and 35mm home movie footage taken by my father.

Daood: Psychologically, what preparation process is imperative for performing a role of this nature?

Joyce Guy: There's not a lot of psychological preparation need[ed] for performing. Most of the psychological preparation happened during the writing because I had to delve into those honest places I hadn't visited for a while. As I perform, my focus is on telling my story and not being afraid to go to the painful places. Since I've reconciled with my past, I've allowed myself to freely enter into those emotional places.

Daood: From a historical, socio-political and cultural standpoint, how significant is War Stories?

Joyce Guy: The inception of War Stories began after the United States invaded Iraq. To once again see the disproportion number of enlisted black and brown men and women going off to fight, this was my way of expressing my views on this travesty, by telling a personal story. War Stories is a reminder of the contribution African-Americans in the military have sacrificed in protecting our country throughout our history with far too little recognition. Now that the U.S. has elected the first African-American president, it is important now more than ever to reveal our true history, why and how we've reached this point. Without knowing, the presentation of War Stories came about at this monumental historical occasion when Americans question our country's intervention and when our troops will be back home.

Daood: Would you provide a phrase from the play that speaks to the triumph and dignity of your father?

Joyce Guy: would love to. "I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I loved the job. I like not having someone constantly looking over my shoulder. The Air Force told me I was in a frozen field. I had faith the system would change."

Daood: I’m honored that you've taken the time out to answer the questions and I will be attending the play!

Joyce Guy: Thank you so much for the interview. I really do appreciate it. I look forward to meeting you.

-Daood, Blog Contributor

Check out Joyce Guy in War Stories at the NEW LATC. For dates and showtimes, visit

Monday, November 10, 2008

Recycling Bottles, Newspapers, and....Buildings?

As the winds get colder, bringing LA into its fall weather (somewhere out there some East Coaster or Midwestener is mocking my opening statement), even sunny LA residents can forget the glow and lessons of Earth Day events of April. But have no fear, going green and integrating earth consciousness into your actions is something to remember every day! But it's not just any day you can see how this lesson works in historic preservation. Recycling bottles, newspapers, and....buildings?

Join the Los Angeles Conservancy as it explores historic preservation as a means of conservation! Richard Moe discusses the relationship between historic preservation and sustainability, letting you see another side of the phrase - "reduce, reuse, and recycle". Check out "Combating Climate Change Through Historic Preservation" at Los Angeles Center Studios on November 12th at 7:00pm.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Friday, November 07, 2008

Newsletter and Giveaway: [Inside] the Ford: 2008-2009 Season

The latest issue of the newsletter features [Inside] the Ford's 2008-2009 season. Check out the shows and enter to win a Season Subscription for you and a guest!

See our newsletter for more details! Click here to subscribe to the Newsletter. Staff

Monday, November 03, 2008

Live Blogging at the Ring Festival LA Press Conference

Coming April-June 2010 to LA... Ring Festival LA. In conjunction with
the LA Opera's presentation of Wagner's "The Ring".

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Behind-the-Scenes: LA Bach Festival Part III (Dress Rehearsal)

This morning was the dress rehearsal for the Los Angeles Bach Festival Finale Concert, and there's something about the dress rehearsal that makes everything just magically click. As I sat there this morning (start time: 9:45 am, day: post-Halloween) - hearing together the soloists, the orchestra, the choir - it just felt amazing and almost unbelievable that tomorrow is the performance.

But what felt just as amazing was the realization that this concert is part of a legacy - that before this dress rehearsal was at least 74 other ones in a span of 74 years.

For a moment during rehearsal as a soloist sang, I had this thought of all the people that have come to pass, that have sat in that very sanctuary of the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, in anticipation for the performance the next day.

Tomorrow closes the 75th Annual Los Angeles Bach Festival (the second oldest in the country, "the Oldest Bach Festival in the West") and to be a part of that history is such a gift.

I hope you've enjoyed following the festival through the eyes of this ExperienceLA blogger, and that you'll be able to see and hear it through your own eyes and ears tomorrow (November 2nd) as the 75th Annual Los Angeles Bach Festival comes a close with Bach B Minor Mass.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Behind-the-Scenes: LA Bach Festival Part II (Video Clip)

My last Bach Festival post gave you my experience as being a choir member in this year's festival. And as Sunday, November 2nd is coming ever closer, I thought I'd give you guys a behind-the-scenes peek at our last piano rehearsal for the Finale Concert (video after the jump).

In the footage is Jonathan Talberg conducting and First Congregational Church of Los Angeles Organist-in-Residence S. Wayne Foster accompanying on piano.

It was unbelievably hard to pull myself away for just a minute to get some rehearsal footage. You don't want a miss a single beat when you're in rehearsal (and you don't want to distract people either!). More to come as we enter this sprint toward November 2nd.

Free concerts are still going and plenty of time to schedule in attending the finale. Check out the remainder of the festival on

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Music Center Spotlight Awards

The Music Center of Los Angeles County invites Southern California high school performers, artists and photographers to apply for the 21st Annual Music Center Spotlight Awards. The program is one of the nation's most acclaimed performing and visual arts education programs for teens, offering training in the arts and awarding over $100,000 in scholarships annually to finalists, semi-finalists and participants who received honorable mentions. Students can apply online at There are no fees to participate.

Visual Arts - Photography & Two-Dimensional Art
Deadline: December 1, 2008
Applications Now Available

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Behind-the-Scenes: LA Bach Festival Part I (My Experience)

The Opening Concert (October 19th) of the 75th Annual Los Angeles Bach Festival begins on Sunday. As a member of the chorus in the Finale Concert on November 2nd, this fact fills me with both dread and excitment.

I usually talk about experiencing the arts from the patron's perspective, but in light of my looking frantically at my Bach B Minor Mass score, I thought it'd be fun to write as someone from the other side, sharing a little behind-the-scenes action. So over the course of the festival, I'll be tossing my two cents and seeing what background and exclusives I can muster from those hard at work in making this event happen.

To give a glimmer into the insight of what it's like to be a member of the chorus, we have been rehearsing as a group weekly since Sunday, September 14th. Each rehearsal lasts 2-3 hours. At the writing of this entry, our group rehearsal time is 10-15 hours, but this is before we kick into high gear and have a span 3 rehearsals in one week before our performance (that should be fun :)).

But there's no counting the collective hours of people working on the music on their own. It's nice though, to know personally the amount of time and effort it takes to to make something come alive. I think I take that appreciation with me when experiencing LA - that while it might seem like something happens before your eyes, it takes a lot of time and energy to get there.

So as I dive back into some more Bach (It's everywhere: in the score I'm learning from, the listening and singing along, the youtube videos I look up to hear it all collectively when I'm not in rehearsal), take some time to check out the events of the festival (some of which are FREE!). And I'll hopefully be back soon with something new to say as things get underway for the 75th Annual Los Angeles Bach Festival.

-Charity Tran, Web Coordinator

Thursday, October 09, 2008

LA Phil: Chamber Music with Yefim Bronfman

Walt Disney Concert Hall SignI've expressed my love of chamber music on this blog before (see: LA Chamber Music Fixe), and my Tuesday evening of Chamber Music at the LA Phil with Yefim Bronfman was no exception.

After a lovely dinner at the Engine Co. No. 28, my friend Adam and I headed out on the local shuttle to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. While we were a little squished at one point, I was happy to see that a large number of people were not only going to the Music Center and the Walt Disney Concert Hall on a Tuesday night, but that they were also taking advantage of the local shuttles that run from the restaurants in the Downtown area (Hint: Check out the website of the restaurant you're dining at, they might have a complimentary shuttle).

The evening began with Brahms: String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 51, No. 1. I'm a big fan of strings, and it was just great to hear how 4 different string instruments can make such beautiful sound with such intensity.

But as lovely as the Brahms piece was, I was really there for the second half, which featured pianist Yefim Bronfman on piano - Schubert: Quintet for Piano & Strings, D. 667 "Trout". While the Brahms provided a sense of intensity, Schubert's Trout had such a light and happy air. From what I could tell about most of the crowd there - with the quiet tapping of their fingers, the automated grins that would appear - that's what they were really there for too.

I'm a particular fan of Schubert's "Trout" because it reminds me of my childhood and the CDs my parents let me buy after some begging. I often say that the music of my childhood is Spanish music on Sundays in the neighborhood, Vietnamese music on static-prone AM radio in the kitchen, and in my own room, the shift between radio stations: classical, oldies, and 80s/90s pop. Radio is a beautiful thing because it's free to listen to, but my apprecation of the CD (or any music bought) is that you can listen to it over and over again at your choice.

The third movement of the piece - the scherzo - is one I remember from a compliation CD I owned when I was younger. Nothing beats hearing something played right before your ears, that before you only knew from a recording. I've had experiences like this before - one when knowledge is an experience and not just a belief - but everytime it comes around it still feels new and is such a great feeling.

There's plenty of LA Phil events coming up and many with Yefim Bronfman at the piano. Check out all of the LA Phil Events on

-Charity Tran, Web Coordinator

Friday, October 03, 2008

UCLA Live: McCabe's 50th Anniversary

Yesterday, when I was about to hop on the Red Line via the Wilshire/Vermont station, the elevator doors opened for me - without me having to press a single button, without anyone being in the elevator. It was just there: as if to say "hello" and "welcome back". Admittedly, it was kinda spooky, but it was pretty nice. Or perhaps it was just my introduction to what would turn out to be a wonderful evening, where I had an unexpected invitation from my friend Katie at the GRAMMY Museum (which opens in December 2008!). She had an extra ticket to McCabe's 50th Anniversary: A Living History of Music at UCLA's Royce Hall.

Featuring artist after artist (including Jackson Browne, Richard Thompson, Odetta, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, David Linley, Jennifer Warnes, The Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, Peter Rowan, Blind Boys of Alabama, Peter Case, Ditty Bops, Ricky Jay, and special guests), the event was a regular jam session and showcase that lived up to its subtitle: "A Living History of Music".

I have never been to an event that took me so easily across time, space and sound, the living history of the individual artists themselves - all in one place. And I don't think I was alone in this experience. The hooting and hollering of the crowd and the toe-tapping and head-nodding of my audience neighbors was undeniable. There was a celebration of song both on stage and off.

As odd as it may sound, attending McCabe's 50th Anniversary concert was reminicient of my morning, like having elevator doors open up without pressing a button, without anyone stepping out, and then walking into something that just carried me away. But even better than a destination that moves you forward in time to where you need to go, McCabe's 50th Anniversary took you back into their shop, their history, their present, and beckoning you to visit in the future.

The UCLA Live season is just starting. There's plenty of things to take you away. Check out the upcoming season on

-Charity Tran, Web Coordinator

18th Annual Divas Simply Singing: Part I

Our blog contributor Daood will be covering the 18th Annual Divas Simply Singing event on October 11th, benefiting HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

In the mean time, he's given us a great clip of Diva Foundation founder and creator of DIVAS Simply Singing, Sheryl Lee Ralph singing "I Am A Woman" from her one-woman play Sometimes I Cry inspired by real stories of women and their battle with HIV/AIDS. Staff

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Fly at the LA Opera

My Saturday afternoon was a mixture of science fiction, philosophy, and...opera. I was familiar with the story of The Fly from years ago, but I never thought of it as a story to fit the opera. Yet, as I watched The Fly on Saturday afternoon, the pieces fell into the role well, dredging up the darker side of humanity like only an opera can. Contrary to the title, The Fly is about humanity from start to finish - what it means to be human, the desire to be more, and finding sometimes too late that what we should most appreciate we already have.

The Fly made its world premiere in Paris in July before making its LA premiere earlier this month with the Los Angeles Opera. The score was written by Howard Shore, who composed the score for the 1986 film that inspired the opera (though the musical scores are completely different). (Sidenote: The entire "Fly" franchise is all based on a 1957 short story by George Langelann. He passed on in 1969 and was probably able to see the 1950s films inspired by the story, but I wonder if he ever thought his story would become an opera?)

I can't do a comparitive between the 1986 film and the opera because it's been awhile since I've seen the film, but I don't think it'd be quite fair to do so. Both are different mediums that hold different expectations. The thing that holds the two together is a story that can probably adhere to any medium because it calls out to human desire and innovation - the ability of a man with even extraordinary intelligence to still act stupidly human with the extraordinary.

While the music and the singers carried this story well, what stands out most in my memory, is the set design and the visual effects. Set in the 1950s, the technology of Seth Brundle the Scientist was still something to amaze oneself at and was done quite creatively with the elements of the story. The computers at times acted as chorus or provided expository dialogue for the passing of time. The opera integrated puppetry to convey visual effects - which worked particularly well when having to depict the failed experiments of Brundle.

The Fly has the ability to transport your imagination and immerse yourself in a story with a lesson you appreciate being reminded of (and a number of humorous lines here and there to break up the darker elements of the story). And as a bonus prize for the geekiest of the bunch, there's a song in there just for us - I mean, you!

Unfortunately, The Fly ended its LA Opera run on Saturday, but the season's practically just begun and there's plenty more to see. Check out the 2008-2009 LA Opera Season on ExperienceLA.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Federico Aubele and Pacha Massive at the Ford

Pacha Massive at the FordWhile the calendars say it's officially Fall, the Summer Season at the Ford Amphitheater isn't over yet. And I found myself quite grateful for this "extended summer" when I made my way over to the Ford Amphitheater to see KCRW Presents: Federico Aubele and Pacha Massive on Friday night.

I'm always learning that there's a universal quality to music, and it's a lesson I always appreciate when it comes around - mostly because it comes with it a great musical experience. Friday night at the Ford reminded me how much I love not only Latin music (despite not always knowing what the artists are singing about), but how music can be a mixture of so many different cultural sounds and genres.

The night opened with Argentinean singer Natalia Clavier, who recently released her solo album and is touring with Federico Aubele. Clavier's music has an alternative, Latin trip-hop quality and was great opening for the night. The smooth nature of her voice and the ease of listening to her songs made a great transition to Federico Aubele, particularly since Natalia Clavier was a featured singer in his set.

Federico Aubele
joined Clavier and the band on stage, adding his guitar to the drums, keyboards, and bass. Aubele's latest album is entitled Panamericana, and listening to his set and the mixture of sounds in his work, it's a very apropos title that reflects his ability to mix so many different musical sounds. But perhaps the most stand-out aspect of Aubele's set was his amazing guitar skills, particularly when the band left for a moment so that he could entertain the audience with a small set with him and his guitar.

If the sounds of Federico Aubele has the ease of your relaxing Sunday morning cup of coffee, Pacha Massive has the ease of your Friday night neighborhood block party. Their mixture of funky Latin sounds brought the audience to their feet, dancing along the aisle and by the stage. It was hard not to leave without having one of Pacha Massive songs in your head, not with their catchy hook "No oh oh oh...don't let go and stay with me" from their song "Don't Let Go" to close their show or the title line of their single in rotation "All Good Things".

In the still warm summer-style nights of LA, I couldn't imagine a better way to spend my Friday evening than a night concert with Federico Aubele and Pacha Massive at the helm.

The Ford Amphitheater season isn't over yet. Check out the last few events to extend your summer on

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

FYI: on YouTube: Go Metro!

Go Metro with The YouTube Channel now features Metro videos. See our playlist of Metro Videos after the jump.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

FYI: on The Sound LA (100.3 FM) was recently featured on 100.3 The Sound LA. Listen to the interview to learn more about and its recent projects. You might hear something you didn't know before! Staff

Friday, August 29, 2008

FYI: Metro's New Transit Map

I wonder if it's a strategic thing to launch new items before a holiday weekend.

Straight from LAist, Metro's launched a new transit map. Check it out!

-Charity Tran, Web Coordinator

FYI: Metrolink on Google Transit?

Experience LA in a new way.

Metrolink is now on Google Transit. Go here for the LA County Area.

Have you tested it out? Thoughts on Google Transit? We'd love to know.

I hope Metro/MTA jumps on board soon. My iPhone will come even more particularly handy in saving my life...and my bad sense of direction.

(Updated: 2:58P.M. - LAist confirms Metro is still in discussion with Google on implementation).

-Charity Tran, Web Coordinator

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Op-Ed: You Call That Art?!

Francisca Blogger Tiina Vuorenmaa reacts to art reacting to her...

"You call that Art?!"

"Why would anyone pay thousands of dollars for that?!"

"My kid could paint that!"

I had heard these comments before, and suddenly - as I'm looking at the art in the James Gray Gallery of Bergamot Station - they came up again, but this time in my own head.

That was a shocker. I may be a math nerd, but I have an appreciation for the arts, even when they can be confusing or controversial. I've studied basic composition and color classes, and I've watched both my father and my sister take fabulous photos. Clearly, these paintings are not done by a child and the comments are just a rash reaction to a piece of art that isn’t my taste. Well, just because I don't like a painting doesn’t mean I can't understand it. No matter how bizarre, abstract, complicated or simple art can be, there is still a method to the madness.

So, I take a closer look.

I forget about beauty being in the eye of the beholder and view this piece objectively. I can see that the bright, saturated blue is set in such a solid way amongst all the various strokes of oranges, browns and cyan that it must be on purpose. Even the dark spots inside it have a different texture than the rest of the piece. This must have been a conscious, artistic decision.

Now, the rest of the strokes may seem to go everywhere, but when I follow my eyes, I can see them direct me down, around to the left, up and back to the center allowing me to view the whole painting. The skinny orange strokes, at the top, are especially important for leading the eyes, but the blue shape itself can lead the eyes in the opposite direction to the section of white.

This leads me to the most bizarre part of the piece - that little stroke of brown inside the white. While, at first glance, it may look like a mistake, I consider it to be intentional for two reasons. One, it breaks up a big patch of white to keep the balance. Two, it leads the eyes down and again we follow the rest of the strokes, this time, counter-clockwise, back to the blue. There is method, purpose, intention and thought in this whole piece, and all I needed were my eyes to tell me why.
No, a child, unless he or she is an artistic genius, could not have painted that. Francisca Valenzuela did. Just take a closer look.

-Tiina Vuorenmaa, Staff

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

FYI: in MetroMix

The most recent issue of Metromix is "The Transportation Issue" and they were kind enough to drop us a note in "Don't Diss the Sys".

Thanks Metromix! Staff

Thursday, August 21, 2008

First Outings: Jamie Cullum at the Hollywood Bowl

I have a confession. Up until last night, I had never been to the Hollywood Bowl.

(Pausing for the gasps of horror, stifling laughter before "Wha-?" - whatever floats your boat and follows with me going "I know, right?").

But I think it was fate that led me there...

It actually started weeks ago. I had noticed that Jamie Cullum was going to be at the Hollywood Bowl (while looking at my trusty RSS feed of events) and I immediately wanted to go because I own both Twentysomething and Catching Tales. While I like to note myself as the independent-type, I didn't know anyone who had ever uttered his name and the Bowl didn't seem quite so fun by myself, so it faded from my mind...until yesterday. My friend Darryl randomly contacted me, asking if I was free to go to the Bowl. He had an extra Jamie Cullum with the Count Basie Orchestra!

A few hours later - there I was at the Hollywood Bowl: transported by that Hollywood Bowl shuttle always talks about, and with plenty of food in hand - french dipped sandwiches (not exactly Phillipes, but delicious ones from The Dip at Hollywood/Highland), cream puffs from Beard Papa's, and not to mention, the handsome guy by my side (that one's for you, Darryl!).

The show opened with a set by the lovely Elizabeth Shepherd (vocals, piano) with Scott Kemp (bass) and Colin Kingsmore (drums). A Christian McBride Situation followed with their organically created improv sound. This was a great lead-into a few numbers by the everso awesome Count Basie Orchestra. This all definitely got the crowd more than ready for Jamie Cullum to bring out his musical talents to add to the evening's sound.

And did he ever.

With a mix of his own songs, his covers of famous songs (see the video below with his medley of Singin' in the Rain with Rhianna's Umbrella), and the wild presence and fun he has on stage, what's not to love?

And here's another dose of fate for you: It was Jamie Cullum's birthday...on the same day as the "birth date" of my time at the Hollywood Bowl (and Count Basie's birthday is today actually!). While my "birth date" present was an evening of great music, food, and friendship, his birthday present was playing with "the greatest big band in the world at the greatest venue in the world". The "life math" works out comparatively speaking...

Okay, so perhaps I'm trying to pidgeonhole my fabulous time at the Bowl to this idea of fate, but if there is such thing as fate, then I'll just take a line from Shakespeare: "If music be the food of love, play on..."

-Charity Tran, Web Coordinator

For more great Hollywood Bowl events, visit

The Puppet Shows: Part II

Peering into the peephole of the polygonal structure, I see a two-story, Japanese-inspired house slowly turning. A woman walks by and goes behind the house. I quickly get over the awkward excitement of being a voyeur when a man walks by, stops to look around (Did he see me?), and continues behind the house.Here comes the woman again, and as the house turns to the front, she enters the bottom floor as the man passes by just missing her. While I am eager to find out if the two shall ever meet, I sense sadness in their blank expressions and their slow, heavy, rhythmical movements. One after the other, they pass by the peep hole only giving me a glimpse of their whole journey.

I become fascinated with the house: dried brush, rice paper and yes, rulers. A video of another man walking is projected onto the second floor of the house. The disjointed, but steady rhythm of all four, the house included, is calming, but I'm stilling waiting for them to- Oh! He saw me! I jump back from the peephole, my nerves slightly shaken, and I laugh at myself for actually thinking a puppet could actually see.

This unique structure was just one part of "The Reptile Under the Flowers", a multimedia puppet show, which, along with the unique "Le Petit Macabre" and the humorous "Matchbox Shows", was a part of "The Puppet Shows: Part II" accompanying "The Puppet Show" exhibit at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. The exhibit is as eclectic as the shows, with rooms full of traditional puppets from around the world, mechanical dancing puppets à la Team America, and videos of various puppet shows, stop-motion animations and hand puppets. I enjoyed the children's furniture all dressed up, but the puppets watching the videos of puppets? Let's just say I didn't wait to see if one of them was going turn his head around. After satisfying my appetite for puppetry, I headed over to the other many galleries of Bergamot Station, but that's another story.

-Tiina Vuorenmaa, ExperienceLA Staff

For other great events at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, visit!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Life in Technicolor"

In light of the Perseid meteor shower, my friends and I decided to orchestrate some late night stargazing. Only, we attempted this a day too late, and by the time we got to Point Dume out in Malibu, it was beyond cloudy. After driving around for some time reading each street sign in search for legit parking (like the nerdy ethical kids we are), we finally mustered up the courage to just risk it and park along the beach.

Plopped like sardines on a blanket, with the music emanating from my iFlop monkey speakers layered with the soothing crash of the tides close by, it no longer mattered whether or not we could see the stars that night.

All would've been perfect had the police not driven by... shining his bright lights our way and breaking us out of our dreamworld. After a futile attempt to lay flat, avoid eye contact, and hope to God he wouldn't notice the obviously human figures on the beach (no logic in that, I know), we headed off in search for yet another beach, and yet another adventure. Just your typical spontaneous late night LA experience...

For a better view of the stars, if not outside then maybe in the planetarium, check out the Griffith Observatory, another favorite place of mine.

-Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Marketing Assistant

Friday, August 08, 2008

"Think Blue, Act Green"

The City of LA has restored public transit from Union Station to Dodger Stadium. The free round trip service started July 25th and is provided on Game Days, starting 90 minutes before game time and ending 60 minutes after the game ends.

And so it goes... the quietest launch ever.

-ExperienceLA Staff

*Editor's Note: Turns out that several ExperienceLA staffmembers were out experiencing other states for a change when LA decided to pull this one on us. So maybe it wasn't the quietest launch, but a welcome one indeed. Here's to a more public and family friendly environment.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Philippe's: Delicious Food, Transit-Friendly

Lunch at Philippe'sMy friend Thea had never been. My friend Jay's gonna move away. Those were two very good reasons why I had lunch at Philippe's today. Though, looking at the photo accompanying this post, does anyone really need a REASON to go to Philippe's?

Tucked near the neighborhoods of Chinatown and El Pueblo/Olvera Street and virtually a block or so away from Union Station (the Alameda side, not the Vignes), is one of LA's oldest restaurants - Philippe's.

The first thing to greet you at Philippe's is probably the sawdust on the floor. Then the rest of the classic eatery kind of falls in line with the time warp: the iconic cluster of photos and posters, the row of telephone booths, the walk-up counter ordering and pickup, the tables and benches to dine on...

The story goes that Philippe Manthieu (who established the original Philippe's in 1908) created the French Dipped sandwich. It might have been by accident. It might have been by random request. It might have been all business. Who knows? Regardless of the rhyme, reason, and origin for the existence of the French Dipped sandwich, you can't go wrong with one here - try complementing it with Philippe's brand of spicy mustard.

And since you're already there, how about a slice of pie? We had pecan and dutch apple. And drinks are a steal when you go the lemonade, iced tea, and water route.

Anytime's a good time to go to Philippe's (except in the hours when it's closed). Today was my first time at Philippe's around lunch time. It's busy, but that nice kind of busy where you feel like you're with the hustle and bustle of the world.

Speaking of hustle and bustle, Philippe's proximity to LA's Union Station makes it easily accessible by LA Transit. Walkable from Union Station (remember Alameda side, not Vignes - I'm trying to make up for walking out the wrong way today), hop on the Red Line or the Gold Line toward Union Station and get yourself a sandwich!

For more information on Philippe's visit

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator