Tuesday, March 31, 2009

AskMen.com - LA in the Top 29 Best Cities to Live In

AskMen.com just completed their recent survey of "Best Cities to Live In" and LA made the list! (Come on, of course we did!). Where they ranked LA, after the jump!

AskMen.com Ranking: #19 Los Angeles. Check out that AskMen.com survey meter - LA's red hot in almost every category: Sports & Entertainment, Culture, Fashion, Health, Power & Money, Dating & Sex, and The Good Life.

And while this inaugural survey is from the largest online men's magazine, it's probably safe to say a lot of women wouldn't disagree with having LA on the list.

LA shares this top list with some other great cities: Chicago, Barcelona, San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, etc. See all of the rankings on AskMen.com!

-Charity Tran

Monday, March 30, 2009

LA Music Week/end: Downtown to West Hollywood and Back

Did you ever have that feeling that you're reliving your life in a way you've lived it before? Not exactly deja vu, but that *how* you were living your life matched something you've already done? Well - if not - I swear that I am! Check out this post-weekend entry from 2007 and then read onward to this one about my recent adventures...

Tuesday: My friend Nick (from Mrs. Brown's Lovely Daughter) and I had a jam session scheduled. He's out in the Hollywood area so we decided to get our dinner from one of Hollywood's iconic restaurants: Palms Thai. It's definitely a place I'd recommend for good food and a great environment - I mean, who can't love an Elvis impersonator?

Thursday: My friend Jeff (who's a singer in the Long Beach Camerata) and I spent Thursday just chilling around Koreatown a bit. We tried out some soy garlic chicken (yum!) and rice cake (spicy!) from Bon Chon Chicken and learned something new that I will relay to you (so you don't look as dumbfounded - maybe just dumb - as we did/felt). The waiter brought out these white capsules that look kind of like butter mints and a little bowl of water. We went through the logic mutually - is the water to dip something in? Is it water? Are the capsules mints?

Luckily, we're not too embarrassed to ask questions. So we called the waiter back, who - amused - dropped a capsule into the bowl of water. Voila - it became a durable little gauzy towel for your hands post all that fried chicken.

Saturday: Enjoyed the summer-like weather and roamed out to the Coffee Bean at Wilshire/Vermont Metro Station to enjoy some sunshine with my work time. Then I followed up the day with a lovely evening at LA Live. As a GRAMMY Museum member, I received an invitation for a pair of free VIP tickets for Madeleine Peyroux w/ William Fitzsimmons at Club Nokia. As a result, my friend Melissa and I had a lovely evening with dinner at the Farm, a great show, and New Zealand ice cream for a nightcap (I even had a buy-one-get-one-free coupon!).

William Fitzsimmons is not only a great guitarist and singer, but he has a very funny sarcasm that balances out some of the more somber songs of his repetoire (I also got a photo with him and his autograph!). Madeleine Peyroux and her band were absolutely fantastic. Their "street" sequence, reminiscent of Madeleine's days singing in Paris, reminded me of my brief stint in New Orleans and the French Quarter a few years back. Only minor complaint of the day was the row of chatty girls that appeared right in front of us. They were there early for the next concert - which happened to be PRINCE. I was jealous that they were obviously there for that, but not very happy they had to put a damper on the show I was attending!

Sunday: I had a very eclectic music Sunday. I began it with the beautiful sounds of the choir (directed by Jonathan Talberg) and world's largest church organ (with S. Wayne Foster at its helm) at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. Then after lunch, I roamed around with my ipod listening to Utada Hikaru's second English album "This is the One" with its pop/hip-hop beats.

Then my evening was spent listening to Rasputina at the Troubadour. I'm a big fan of artists who just enliven the crowd with great jokes and references. Lead singer Melora Creager was able to play off of Rasputina's unique repertoire of music and historical sources of their songs. While I greatly enjoyed the original pieces of their recital, I did have a special place in my heart for their cover of "Bad Moon Rising".

Monday: So my LA adventures are not done (are they ever done?). I'm headed out tonight for the Inside the Fender Custom Shop event at the GRAMMY Museum, which I'm really excited about (No guitar loyalties really, but in addition to my ukuleles, I do own a Fender Squier).

So I end this entry, like I ended my similar post two years ago: whew!

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Interview: Boxer Eddie Chambers

A boxing match at the NOKIA Theatre? Yup, and Daood's on-hand to bring us an interview with Eddie Chambers (who goes up against Samuel Peter) in the first ever boxing match to be held at the NOKIA Theatre at L.A. Live.

Before you get in to watch the "knockout" on Friday on March 27th, learn more about Eddie Chambers, his past matches, and his thoughts on this upcoming fight in this informative interview.

Two-part podcasts available after the jump.

Eddie Chambers Interview Part 1:

Click here to Download 5.8 MB

Eddie Chambers Interview Part 2:

Click here to Download 4.1 MB

This Weekend: Rasputina at the Troubadour

Given my penchant for chamber music and my eclectic music tastes in general, this cello-driven alternative music trio is definitely up my alley...

But my eclectic music tastes and love of chamber music is only part of why I'll probably be enjoying the show on Sunday (that and I'll be hanging out with an old friend and isn't a music a great experience for bringing people together?). I personally love the creativity involved in bringing instruments traditionally of one music form into another where people don't expect it to exist. Even when I do expect this marriage of cross-genre, I still get that lovely feeling of surprise. Listening to Rasputina's (lead by band's creator cellist/lead singer Melora Creager) music feels pretty much like that - a lovely feeling of surprise.

I'm really jazzed to see the performance in person because Rasputina also dresses up in Victorian costume. A cello-driven alternative band performing in Victorian clothing? You can't see that just any day out of the week.

Rasputina performs at the Troubadour in West Hollywood on Sunday, March 29th. More Information at ExperienceLA.com.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Monday, March 23, 2009

Amstel Quartet at the Bradbury Building

Bradbury BuildingWhen my friend Adam emailed me asking if I wanted to go to a concert at the Bradbury Building, there weren't any reasons not to go - it was an outing with a good friend; I'm a big fan of chamber music, and as much as I love the beautiful historic architecture of Los Angeles, I had never visited the Bradbury Building. To boot, the Da Camera Society that hosts Chamber Music in Historic Sites is an ExperienceLA partner. What more could I want?

The Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary's College brings together two great things - Chamber Music and Historic Sites. The experience is two-fold because the beauty of the experience is coming from so many different directions - the visuals presented by the detail of historic architecture and the sounds of great music within that beautiful space. In the case of my Sunday afternoon, I was able to hear the Amstel Quartet - a saxophone quartet from Amsterdam - within the architecture of the 1893 Bradbury Building.

The Bradbury Building was built for mining millionaire Lewis Bradbury by George Wyman. The building would be Wyman's most famous work. A backstory provided by Jennifer Pinie in the program mentions that Wyman consulted a plancette (a Quija board-esque device) to talk to his dead brother about taking on the project. The program indicated the irony of the response as the dead brother "told" him: "Take the Bradbury Building. It will make you famous." I personally think it was a prophecy fulfilled because it did make him famous, and for good reason!

The Bradbury Building - perhaps also known for its movie star qualities in Blade Runner and Chinatown among many other films - is just beautiful. With wrought iron caged elevators and imported tiles and its huge skylight, your breath catches a little, just looking up when you walk in.

Couple this background with the music of the Amstel Quartet and it was a spectacular afternoon. The Amstel Quartet had a music set that went from works in the late 1800s to modern times (I was a big fan of the Haydn and the A. Pärt) which fit an evening basking in Bradbury Building history. Also, at one point, the quartet played their instruments and walked up and down the stairs of the inner courtyard. A little hokey I suppose, but I'd just fall flat on my face just trying to walk in general, so it impressed me!

Next up in the Da Camera Society's Chamber Music in Historic Sites series is Ciaramella presents "Prisoners of War and Love" at one of my recently tweeted architectural discoveries - the 27th floor observation deck at the City Hall of the City of Los Angeles.

Scroll through my photos of the Bradbury Building in my Flickr:

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

L.A. Storytellers: My Journey, My Rights

LA is no stranger to those who have migrated here and now call LA home. In the course of the journey to LA, it's more than likely that some Angelenos have witnessed defining issues of human rights. Are you one of these people? Has your journey to LA shaped how you see human rights - and youself?

L.A. Storytellers is asking those who have lived in another city or country and are now in Los Angeles to tell their tale. Do you have something to say? More information after the jump.

L.A. Storytellers is a unique gathering and sharing opportunity for Angelenos to exchange life stories, vivid memories, oral histories, and engaging experiences, uncovering voices that represent a constantly changing city.

As part of the International Day of Sharing Life Stories, L.A. Storytellers invites you to tell us your life stories and experiences around the theme: Journeys Toward Justice: Capturing the Stories of Human Rights in the Context of Migration.

Human Rights/Immigrant Rights life stories will be accepted in all languages (we ask that you provide English translation) in one of the following formats: text/words, photo essay, audio, or video.

Extended deadline is April 5, 2009. Download the PDF here for more information.

This is part of the Active Arts at the Music Center series.

-ExperienceLA.com Staff

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Interview: Renae Williams about the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Daood interviews Renae Williams, Director of Dance Presentations at the Music Center, about the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's 50th Anniversary. Learn more about this historic modern dance company and what's in store at this 50th anniversary celebration happening this weekend.

The interview is a two-part podcast. Listen or download the interviews after the jump.

Renae Williams Interview Part 1:

Click here to Download | 7 MB

Renae Williams Interview Part 2:

Click here to Download | 7.1 MB

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Concert Lovers Rejoice!

The Greek Theatre and Gibson Amphitheatre have launched their 2009 Premiere Marquee Club (PMC), a program for concert goers who want to really make the most of their time at events.

There are three levels of membership, depending on how many shows you book, with returning members having higher priority. Perks include a dedicated concession line at both venues, presale notification for all shows, and preferential seating. Plus, their rolling out a new "PERK OF THE MONTH" program where they will be offering special perks to members throughout the year.

Some of the wide variety of events include:

Plus, experienceLA is giving you the chance to win tickets to Celtic Woman on April 25th, 2009 at the Greek Theatre.

If you want to be concert VIP, then I recommend checking out PMC. The program runs now through Tuesday, April 7th. You can find more information at www.pmcla.com. Or take a look at the Greek Theatre and the Gibson Amphitheatre events on experienceLA.com

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Walking in Los Angeles

The weather is warming up and Los Angeles has many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors while experiencing a variety of cultures. Here are a few events to get your feet moving:

You can find more walking events on experiencela.com's calendar section.

Photo Credit:
Where the dirt meets the pavement.
Originally uploaded by Gary Winterboer

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A One Day Visit to Hollywood and Downtown LA

My neighbors who are from Australia had friends of theirs arrive from Australia and knowing that I came up with the idea and oversaw the production of the ExperienceLA/Lonely Planet Downtown LA in Your Pocket Guide, they asked me how I would spend a Sunday between Hollywood and DowntownLA. So here is my one day guide to hopefully not doing too many things, but getting a glimpse of some of what is unique to LA.

If one was leaving bright and early and needed a coffee fix on the way to Hollywood, I recommended stopping off in Silver Lake for coffee at either Intelligentsia or LAMill. Two of the best coffee houses in LA. With the Hollywood Farmers Market beginning at 9 am, then it would be leaving to drive and park one's car for the day at the ArcLight Cinema and Cinerama Dome Movie Complex to formally begin the day at the Hollywood Farmers Market. This is perhaps the best Sunday market in Los Angeles and right after the Santa Monica Farmers Markets ranks among the best. ExperienceLA maintains a complete list of all of the Farmers Markets in LA. Hollywood does a great job with their prepared foods or one could make a reservation at the Hungry Cat when it opens for brunch. After the Farmers Market, there is the largest independent music store in the world at Amoeba. Since one can buy reserve tickets at the ArcLight, one can consider seeing Watchmen right now in the Dome or one of the other movies in their black box theaters. As we know in LA, the Arc Light is among the best movie houses in America. Right now you can see the Watchmen costumes in the lobby as shown above.

So with a full stomach, it is a several block walk to the Red Line Station at Hollywood and Vine. We would catch the Red Line to the 7th and Metro Station at Figueroa which is around 20 minutes away. One way tickets on Metro are $1.25 or a day pass is still $5. Making sure we leave the station at the Figueroa exit, the plan is to walk down several blocks to LA Live at Fig and Olympic. The purpose is to see the Grammy Museum which opened in December. This is now a must see when visiting Downtown LA. At the Grammy, you could easily spend anywhere from 2 to 4 hours due to the number of interactive exhibits. However, the goal is to make it over to FIDM by 3 pm with one hour to spare to see the current Motion Picture Costumes exhibit that runs until March 29, 2009. Looking through the archives, you can see my previous post on the exhibit.

So now that it is 4 pm, what would be next on this journey? We could walk do a mini Historic Core tour, or head over to Cole's or the Nickel Diner at 6th and Main for an early dinner and then back to Hollywood. The Nickel Dinner is a new restaurant that looks like it has been in existence for 50 years, but opened in 2008 and named among the top new restaurants in LA for 2008 by Los Angeles Magazine. Then there is Cole's known for its French Dip sandwiches which dates back probably 80 years or so, also recently re-opened after being renovated by Cedd Moses. Both are worthy dinner dates and neither are in the pocket guide. After dinner, you would walk up 5th Street to the Pershing Square Station to take the Red Line back to Hollywood to go to the Chinese Theater at Hollywood and Highland or to see a movie at the ArcLight and not fall asleep from all of the walking.

But if one had the time and energy to explore the Historic Core after leaving FIDM, you would go north on Hope Street to see the LA Central Library, walking through the Library noticing the historic Goodhue building and the spectacular public art in the new wing, out the door on the 5th Street side then wandering through the historic lobby of the Biltmore out onto Olive Street, then continuing the walk north on Hill to see the Angels Flight cars waiting for PUC approval to begin service again, then into the Grand Central Market, across the street to see the Bradbury Building as featured in Blade Runner at 3rd and Broadway. From here it would be time for dinner. Note that the LA Conservancy has tours of the Historic Core, and now also tours of Main Street. Also, if one really had to see the Frank Gehry Disney Hall, then it is a relatively short up hill walk along 2nd Street to Grand Avenue.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Interview: Stephanie Mills at the Nokia Theatre

The GRAMMY award-winning R&B artist Stephanie Mills will be performing at the Nokia Theatre March 14 as the opening act for the legendary group The Whispers. Since the days of hits such as Sweet Sensation and What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin, among other smash hits extending into the 90's like Comfort of a Man, Stephanie Mills has resurged and elaborated on her musical odyssey.

"I characterized it as my journal of life through music. My music has changed as my life has changed. My music will live forever because people can relate to my lyrics," Ms. Mills stated in a recent interview I had with her.

Unbeknownst to most people, Mills - at the tender age of nine - performed in her first play and eventually appeared at the Apollo Theatre winning Amateur Night six times! Stephanie Mills at that time was characterized as "The little girl with the big voice." She describes of music, "Oh, yes, music is in my soul. It is the only thing that I have done and I am a whole [other] person on stage. I have an alter ego."

Before being discovered by Jermaine Jackson of the Jackson Five, Mills landed the opportunity to open for another legendary group, The Isley Brothers. Ms. Mills signed with Motown, releasing two albums but they didn't generate much attention. However, in 1975, her career ascended into the stratosphere with her getting the role as Dorothy in the African-American adaptation of the Wizard of Oz.

As we continued talking I discovered that there were other compositions that weren't hit songs but that she considered dear to her heart: "Light, Jessie, Secret Lady - which I will be singing in L.A. - and The Medicine Song."

She was also very candid in her perspective of today's music. "The music of today won't last five to ten years from now. The music from...back [in] the day still lives on." But this is not to say she doesn't like some of today's artists, mentioning Indie Arie as someone who has her ear these days.

Ms. Mills is very excited about this year's tour with the Whispers. "The Whispers and I have done lots of shows together, and I will be back before the year is over to perform in Los Angeles if anyone won't be able to attend the show on March 14th."

You don't want to miss the show if you're a fan as she will be singing her hits. I asked Ms. Mills why it was so important to be at the Nokia Theatre to see her perform, and she responded, "I think it is wonderful to see an artist evolve from a young girl to a woman and still sound and look the same."

For more information on Stephanie Mills' show at the Nokia Theatre with The Whispers, visit ExperienceLA.com.

-Daood, Contributing Writer

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Big Pick: Benefitting Jewish Family Service/SOVA Food Pantries

So what do you do if you have over 400 trees full of ripe oranges and want to donate to a local food bank. Russ Lyon of Chatsworth had this problem and asked Rick Nahmias, a social documentarian film-maker focusing on food and agriculture, for ideas. The two of them realized that SOVA, a program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, that operates major food pantries in Los Angeles could easily distribute the oranges once picked. Rick realized this called for a ready group of volunteers so he reached out to Slow Food-LA, as a social action project. Thus, on Sunday, March 8, more than 60 people showed up on short notice for either a morning or afternoon shift, or both to pick Valenica oranges in the San Fernando Valley. Many more offered their services, but only so many could be brought into this gated Chatsworth community. By noon almost 2 tons of oranges had been picked and loaded onto the JFS SOVA truck. It was expected that over 4 tons of oranges would be picked by 4 pm. This event caught the attention of ABC TV Los Angeles, the Daily News, and Caitlan Carroll with National Public Radio's Marketplace which will be aired this week. Here is a link to the Big Pick pictures I took during the morning before I headed out to catch the Sunday Studio City Farmer Market to support our local farmers before it closed.

An event like this is of major importance to SOVA and JFSLA in time of rising unemployment, decreasing funding for social service programs, and economic uncertainty for those who support social service organizations. The 4 tons of food collected today will be given out by SOVA over the next 10 days. SOVA operates three food pantries for those in need to get groceries. JFSLA is the oldest social service agency dating back to the 1850's and serves everyone who needs help. Both SOVA and Slow Food-LA hope to do this again with others who don't have a way to harvest their trees or produce and are looking for an outlet for their produce. As an individual who just has a fruit tree in their backyard, LA food pantries will always accept such donations.

If you would like to provide monetary assistance to help JFSLA and SOVA feed those in need, then one can give to JFSLA/SOVA online here.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Play Spotlight: eLove - a musical comedy about finding love online

In the words of one of my favorite Pat Benatar songs - "Love is a battlefield." In recent years, this field of trial-and-error and "getting to know you" has included the internet, and odds are by now, you've either had your fair share of internet chats and meet-ups first-hand or at least by proxy.

At the Victory Theatre Center in Burbank, eLove tackles the subject of a cyber love story in one of the best ways possible - with song and dance! eLove opened February 7th and continues performances until March 29th.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Seen the show? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Make your comments below!

Commentary: Good Ads in Metro Stations

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical CenterAs a regular user of the Metro Red Line, there are visual aspects of each station that I remember - the rotating visual public art pieces, the unique permanent fixtures of design...and the ads.

Unlike the cornucopia of ads seen in the bus interior, the wrapped bus exterior (just saw this cool Watchmen one today), and the slow roll-out of non-Metro ads within the subway cars themselves, the 7th/Metro station stood for awhile unblemished by faces of commercialism.

The first ads in the station I remember were from a fast food joint (I'd rather not point direct fingers of negativity) that bombarded me to such a degree by their product that I vowed not to eat it.

But lately I've found myself in great approval of the last two ad campaigns I've seen roll through - specifically, the Loyola Law School campaign and the current Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center campaign (pictured). I enjoyed these campaigns partly because they did a great job in branding and providing information. But what attracts me the most about them is the sense of place conveyed, which is so integral in a large area like Los Angeles.

Loyola Law School specifically discussed in their ads just how close they were from the 7th/Metro station. Similarly, as seen in the pictured example, the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center does this as well. My favorite part of the medical center's campaign is the image pictured. It clearly defines where they are to the station, utilizing the familiar mapping system of the subway. Metro riders getting on and off at the 7th/Metro station are given a clear message: "Not only are we great, we're right near you and you can take this mode of transit to get there!"

I hope this type of marketing continues in the future. Who knows what else new I'll learn is so accessible to me by going Metro.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator