Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The 14th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival is about to begin

Are you ready for brilliant Jazz music, yummy food and unique street vendor merchandise in Los Angeles’ most historic Jazz location? Well here is your chance. The 14th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival is back celebrating the different styles of Jazz in a street fair atmosphere. On July 25th and 26th between 11am and 7pm, come on out to the historic Central Avenue (cross street 42nd street) which is known in Los Angeles for its rich jazz and blues history.

This festival celebrates different types of jazz music including Latin jazz and the blues. The celebration begins Saturday morning with a discussion lead by Clora Bryant, one of the first woman trumpeters. Performing Saturday will be musicians such as vocalist Raya Yarbrough, the Eric Reed Trio and the salsa Latin Jazz vocalist Adonis Puentes. Sunday features remarkable groups including Jazz America, the Littleton Brothers and the Gerald Wilson Orchestra. A variety of artists are showcased throughout the weekend at different times.

Oh and by the way, the Central AvenueJazz Festival has more than just jazz to offer! Many of the food and merchandise vendors come out exclusively for this event because they know it is just that good! So if you want a chance to try this great food and browse through these crafts do it now otherwise you have a whole year to wait. As far as food goes, there is everything from TNT Shrimps, Jambalaya Man, tacos, smoothies salads and the renowned Cobblermania; while I have yet to try this cobbler let me tell you stories of its greatness make my mouth water.
Merchandise vendors range from clothing, sunglasses, hats, oils and one of a kind jewelry.

If you are not a huge jazz fan but like music, you can think of it as an annual farmers market where you have to come and grab everything fast before it goes away. Also, if you are into photography, this is a fabulous chance to capture some great street activity and excellent musicians for free. That’s right admittance is free! All you have to do is get yourself down to Central Avenue and 42nd street this weekend! Look for parking on the surrounding streets and be prepared to walk. But there is the Metro - just use metro trip planner.

The first photo was taken by Ed Fuentes and to view more of the 2008 Central Jazz Festival go to his flickr set.

The second photo is credited to Curt Gibbs and to view more of his 2008 Central Avenue Jazz Festival photos please go to his flickr set.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Color Me Mine Very Own Fun

The other night my friends and I went for a Girls' Night Out at Color Me Mine, an interactive ceramic painting store that has you come in, select a fantastic ceramic item and paint it anyway you like! This particular night was Pajama Night at the store, and you gotta love promotions that you get 50% off the studio fee. We sat around chatting, listening to music and painting all these pretty things and lounging in our PJs. Some of us made bowls, others cups, some vases and another friend made coasters as a gift (because, trust me, everyone loves one of these hand painted masterpieces).

While we loved our useful choices, we kept wishing we had brought our little cousins so we would have an excuse to do some playful ones, like paint the little ceramic frog, wizard hat or crown cup. Really everything there is just so cute! In fact, not only did we want to bring our younger cousins, we kind of wanted our whole families. One of my friends is even determined to have her bridal shower there so that everyone could make her something special. And yes, they actually do host these types of events and birthday parties! It's really very clever!

You know having fun with your kids doesn't always have to revolve around them. After all, you deserve some fun too. And that is exactly what Color Me Mine offers! It is great for family time and even a Girls' Night Out(some people even drag dates there too). Because doing ceramics is one of the most versatile activities that someone at any age can enjoy. It is a wonderful chance to be able to bond with your family over an activity that you can all enjoy. It's also a great excuse to just get out of the house and enjoy summer-without the heat. And most importantly it is literally creating a memory that you, your children and friends will be able to keep forever.

And while yes it may seem like a messy disaster it is worth it, and I believe I was able to get the small bit of paint on my shirt out without to much hassle. Also, if you are a perfectionist like me it is easy to wash off your mistake from the ceramic. Just be prepared to redo that section.

Color Me Mine is also known for their fun themed nights so you can dress up, enjoy, and sometimes get a discount by participating - yay! Some themes include "Pajama Night", "Ladies Night" and the Studio City location even has a "Mommy, Daddy and Me" night coming up on the 20th of July. Each location has their own theme and entertainment events so click on monthly events on the side of your chosen destination page to learn more.

Each store has their own spirit and different fun features or attractions. For instance the Studio City one offers a summer camp for kids. The Calabasas site is known for their celebrity sittings including Paris Hilton and Micsha Barton. The one in Huntington Beach is located right by some great restaurants and the nearby beach is a fun choice for a family outing or night out. The Long Beach location on Second Street in Belmont Shore is also a great walking street where you can stroll down unique shopping streets and choose to eat from a diverse group of restaurants; overall, it really has a great feel to it. But with any of these locations just be warned they do glaze the ceramics for you so you will need to be able to go back and pick them up another day. But don't worry there are a lot of locations in the greater Los Angeles area, so finding one close to home should be a snap.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Warner Brothers Best Kept Secret. SHH!!!!!

Time to break out those Marauder's Maps and head out to Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank because a tour is about to commence! That's right the Warner Brothers Studio offers tours of their studios and Museum (and for more information click on that link!).

At Warner Brothers, everyone is considered a VIP. Their standard tour is the VIP tour where members get an excusive look at sets, soundstages, backlot streets and craft tours. In addition, the tour ends at the Warner Brothers Museum which has many spectacular exhibits (including an entire floor dedicated to Harry Potter) that are available only through the tour. So for all those muggles and people wishing to experience the behind-the-scenes magic of Warner Brothers' current and classic movies and television come a board! Because what better time is there then the present!

The tour also begins with a video that depicts the history of Warner Brothers. These tours are from 8:20 am to 4pm Monday through Friday and it is recommended to get advanced tickets online. However, they do offer first-come, first-serve tickets each day for remaining spots, as well as extended and weekend tours during spring and summer and those dates will be listed on the website.

But for those of you would want to be very, very important people, there is the Deluxe Tour. These tours are led by guides that take you into current movie sets and allow you to talk to crew members as well as the artists in the craft shops. Overall, this is a more in-depth tour that really allows you to ask questions and understand the movie-making process. This tour also invites you to eat at the studio commissary cafe where -hint hint-you might just get to dine with a star! These Deluxe Tours are five hours and begin at 10:20 am Monday through Friday and advanced tickets are recommended.

Included in both tours is an all-access pass to the Warner Brothers Museum which features many exhibits on movie memorabilia such as costumes and props from classic and recent films. Some examples of memorabilia the museum houses are the intricate hats from My Fair Lady, James Dean's hunky Triumph 500 motorcycle, and Oscar's from some of Warner Brothers award-winning films. Along with these beautiful displays, the Museum has a variety of audio stations and video clips that depict how or when certain props were used in a film. And the most popular exhibit is the entire floor dedicated to the fantastic world of Harry Potter. There is even a Harry Potter Sorting Hat on display that will even sort guests into different houses! Another museum area is devoted to Casablanca that holds Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman's costumes, the famous piano and other one of kind pieces from the production. The most recent addition to the museum is a special one that celebrates the 50th anniversary of television.

With Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince opening today in LA, here are some more Harry Potter-related locations for all of us die hard fans which you might not know about. For instance, if you go to the magnificent Hollywood Mann's Chinese Theater to see the movie, be sure to see the three young stars of the Harry Potter movies Daniel Radcliff, Ruptert Grint and Emma Watson's hand prints and foot prints in front of the Grauman's Chinese Theater - a historic landmark of Los Angeles that houses hundreds of celebrities' imprints. If you go to the Santa Monica Promenade to see the film, another Harry must-see several miles away is Whismic Alley a store at 2717 1/2 Wilshire Blvd. that is fashioned to be a Diagon Alley look alike. Inside the store, you will find individual sections serving as the different stores in the books and movies such as Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions which has extremely authentic costumes and Olivanders Wand Shop featuring equisetic imitation wands from the movie and books. Finally, the Arc Light Sherman Oaks is currently displaying costumes from the latest movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. If you are a real diehard fan or planning to travel to Chicago, the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry has a great summer Harry Potter exhibit that is stirring up lots of excitement. After Chicago, who knows where the exhibit will land.

So don't just sit back, relax and watch Harry Potter or any movie. Get involved with the premiere week and have fun with it. Maybe even go in costume. You are in Los Angeles, meaning Hollywood and all the movie magic is at your finger tips so take advantage and enjoy it!

Voldemort and Death Eater costume photo courtesy of Curt Gibbs that is from his picture set of FIDM's 2008 Movie Costume Exhibit which contains several other Harry Potter costume pictures. It is very possible that costumes from this year's film will be in the 2010 FIDM Movie Costume Exhibit.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

NoHo Gets A Gateway!

So what is the first thing you think of when you think of North Hollywood? Is it the amazing theaters, galleries and performance studios? Is it the Metro stop? The NoHo Commons with yummy food and the great HOWS Market? Whatever it might be, now you can add another thing to your list - the NoHo gateway...

On Thursday July 9, 2009 the North Hollywood community and the CRA/LA (Community Redevelopment Agency) of Los Angeles celebrated the grand opening of the NoHo Gateway with the artist Peter Shire, Council Member Tom LaBonge, and those who had a role in the creation of the project. The NoHo Gateway is the first of three public art projects that are being done in celebration of the North Hollywood project area turning 30 years old. All of these public art pieces and other refurbishments will help distinguish the NoHo Arts District and bring new life and excitement to the area.

The NoHo Gateway project started in 2000 and became a unique collaboration between the artist, Peter Shire, and the community who was able to vote on the overall design. The gateway sign is made up of metal circles and characters that are depicted doing different artistic things. What the sign is suppose to represent is a behind-the-scenes look at the entertainment industry. Hence, some figures are taking pictures while others appear to be busily working on sets or costumes. The story itself is rather intriguing and fun! These touches are something only Peter Shire can bring to the table, including the back of the sign reading “oH oN” so that in the drivers rear view mirror they will see “No Ho,” a rather clever idea.

At the event it was very nice seeing the community members, business owners and those involved with the project come together in celebration of not only the gateway, but NoHo itself and its art and the magnificent changes that the area has experienced over the decade. And the changes really are amazing. It was fun to see the neighborhood involvement; HOWs Grocery store donated food to the event, allowing the neighborhood to virtually step out into their front lawns to eat and enjoy the festivities.

One of these festivities was a swag booth from CRA/LA featuring NoHo stickers, colorful pens, calendars and postcards that promoted other public art projects. They also handed out information on the NoHo Gateway, NoHo turns 30, and different activities in the area such as the “Historic Walking Tour of North Hollywood” (if you are interested in this event call 818-909-4729). There were several event speakers, including Councilmember Tom LaBonge who addressed the great changes in the area and those changes still to come while introducing the artist himself who spoke of his experience doing the project. And, of course, the most anticipated event was the lighting of the Gateway that began with a dramatic countdown and a few heart stopping moments when there was a pause between the flipping of the switch and the actual lighting.

This was a fun event inaugurating the gateway which leads you in to the center of the NoHo Arts District and is really something worth seeing!


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Downtown LA: A Pleasant Surprise

(A plaza comes to life with food vendors, artwork, live music and art walkers at the Downtown Art Walk.)

I recall overhearing a sarcastic response to a suggestion that was made not too long ago. Someone suggested to a woman that she let her out-of-town guests know about upcoming events in Downtown LA. Her response went something like, "Yeah, I'll send my guests to Downtown LA. That's a good idea." At one point, I would have quickly shared that same sentiment. My first impression of Downtown, formed five years ago when I first arrived to LA, was not a positive one. Since then, the area has gone through a significant transformation. I've kept my mind open, and I'm glad I have. I had no idea how much Downtown LA really had to offer in the way of entertainment and nightlife. Sure, there was the Disney Concert Hall and Music Center, and the Staples Center and LA Live. For me, that was about it. Not a whole lot. Certainly not enough for me to have Downtown at the top of my mind when someone said, "Let's go out." That all changed last Thursday night when my husband and I finally attended a Downtown Art Walk.

I'll never know if it was coincidence, or fate that called us out that night. I'd heard of a variety of art walks, but hadn't actually been to one. One of my husband's good friends recently started a series of art work entitled, "WHITE-BORED," a fun play-on-words (white-bored, whiteboard...get it?). We received an invitation to attend a gallery opening where his works would be on display. It happened to be on the night of the Downtown Art Walk. So, we attended. And had a delightful time.

When we arrived at Gallery Row, there was an energy in the air that immediately enveloped us. We didn't really know what to expect, but were excited to dive right in. We started at ARTY, where our friend was showing his work. The walls were lined with diorama-filled bird cages (which we learned were part of the "Canary Suicides" exhibit), and whiteboards with morbid and graphic depictions (amusing and disturbing to see what one's mind can imagine when it's idle). The gallery was swarming with people admiring and appreciating the odd, but clever and thoughtful collections. And it was the same everywhere we went that evening. People were there not just to soak in some art and culture, but also to socialize and simply hang out and have a good time.

As we made our way down Gallery Row, the sounds of live music, the buzz of hundreds of conversations, and smells from various food vendors and restaurants filled the air. We arrived at Pete's near 4th and Main, apparently a hotspot for Downtown (the flat-iron steak and bleu cheese fries are a "recommend"). Our table was outside on the patio, a perfect spot to continue to soak in the remainder of the night's energy and excitement. My husband commented,"This is just as alive and vibrant as a night in Hollywood, but better. This is great!" We dined and watched as people strolled by, noted the Party Bus that made several trips around the area, and thanked Downtown for a wonderful evening.

(A gentleman enjoys the music of Rocky Dawuni at California Plaza.)

The next day, I discovered the Grand Performances "Summer Series" at California Plaza, a series of free, noon-time performances hosted by Grand Performances. I watched as kids and adults ate their lunches, enjoyed the sunshine, and danced to the music of Ghanaian-born, LA-based reggae sensation, Rocky Dawuni. I especially enjoyed watching a gentleman whom I dubbed "Dancing Man," as he added to the show with his graceful dance moves. As I listened to the inspirational and upbeat sounds of Dawuni, I reflected on my Downtown experiences. Although the messages aren't exactly applicable, the positive sentiment was certainly relevant; I kept my mind open and discovered a new, lively and fun world in Downtown LA. And yes, I will tell my friends, family and out-of-town guests to go hang out in Downtown. Take a podcast walking tour, visit Gallery Row, try some new cuisine, go shop at the Fashion District, spend an evening dancing with Dance Downtown, and so much more. You'll be pleasantly surprised!


Friday, July 10, 2009

Ringling Bros in Los Angeles

Ringling Bros at Staples CenterA little bit of popcorn and some sweet blue and pink cotton candy can really make you feel like a kid again. And going to the Circus? Definitely helps. (Video and Photos after the jump!)

It's been years since I've been to the circus, so when the opportunity came to go to Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey's "Zing Zang Zoom", I was definitely not one to say no. I brought along others who were definitely not in the target age market for the Circus, but you know what - I think the Circus' target market is practically any age. Between the kid-friendly music, the beautiful and amazing acrobats, the magical tricks and animal tricks, you pretty much are guaranteed a show to please just about anyone.

Get a taste of the circus with the below, but the circus is in town all weekend at the Staples Center. Followed by Anaheim, CA on Jul 15, 2009 - Jul 26, 2009 and Ontario, CA Jul 29, 2009 - Aug 02, 2009.

Video clip:

Select photos:

-Charity Tran

Come Down Stage for Pershing Square Summer Season

LA vue from Pershing SquarePershing Square is hosting "Pershing Square Down Stage Summer Concerts 2009," a tremendous variety of concert events this summer featuring a large mixture of artists and bands every week. But, more than just hosting one event per week they are hosting up to five FREE concerts per week varying in both time and day. So guess what? If you live, work, or just want to hang out downtown you have no excuse not to come! Especially considering the number of affordable lunch opportunities and fabulous restaurants in the Historic Downtown and it's already beautiful atmosphere, and add some music. It's just perfect!

And seriously, there is something here for everyone, so just skim down and look at the different days and explore the main website or day website linked to the individual events because you are bound to find something, whether you are….

Looking for some cool alternative music, a fun night in the city, or just something new? If so you should be more than interested in Pershing Square's "Spaceland under the Stars" evenings. These events take place Wednesday night between 8 and 10. Featured bands include (but are not limited to) 60 Watt Kid, Union Line and North Top. But for more information and date please check out the website!

Tired of your boring lunch routine sitting in the office staring at the computer? Or looking to spice up a lunchtime meeting? Or simply wanting to do something between lets say...the hours of 12 and 2 in the afternoon? Well then "Thursday Lunchtime Concerts" are just your thing - don't you think? I mean seriously who doesn't want to listen to Chelsea Williams, Tim Fagan, Loomis and The Lust and Eric & Judd? You know you do.

Fretting that you can't make Thursday lunch? That why there are "Thursday Sounds of Summer" evening events between 8 and 10PM. Just enough time to have a nice dinner at work before heading off to a concert. Don't you think? (and that goes for those of you not living in downtown too! With the redline it is easy to get to Pershing Square with more then enough time to eat during or before the show). Thursday nights will feature everything from the alternative rock styles of Rocco Seluca to the softer music of Maia Sharp and much more in between.

Looking to get in touch with you super hero side? Cause lets face it we all need to be super human sometimes. That's why Pershing Square is providing us with a little bit of inspiration curtsy of "Friday night flicks" featuring our favorite superheroes from The Incredibles, the X-man Gang, to Superman and many far between. Sadly though we only getting to hang out with our superhero buddies between 8-10pm (but you can still be a superhero for the rest of the night-I wont tell).

Or thinking why there are not more events on the weekends so I don't have to wake up early the next day?! Well what can I say but "Saturday Night Pershing Square Downtown Stage" is here for you. This coveted Saturday night spot is featuring bands such as The Motels, Paula Cole (who did the theme for a little show called Dawson's Creek), and Upground. But again there are just so much more you got to look for yourself!

Just looking to get up and dance? Well that's why Pershing Square is also featuring "Swinging Dance Bands" between 4 and 6 pm on Sundays because who doesn't want to get up and dance. Some of these swinging bands include Savage City, Undercover and the Scott Martin Latin Soul Band.

And finally, wondering why there are not more kid friendly events? Well don't lose hope because there are two "Pershing Square Kids" events. The first on July 30th features Kids on Stage and Renee & Jeremy. The Second event on August 13th stars Rhythm Child and Jumbo Shrimp Circus.

So didn't I say there would be something for everyone? And I was correct right? The City of LA, Recreation and Parks Department and their Pershing Square Advisory Board have taken on this really ambitious summer program that they are very proud of and truly want people to enjoy. So please come to Pershing Square and support them. Pershing Square is extremely convenient from the Metro and for specific directions please use Metro Trip planner. So come on out, enjoy the music, the food and the experience. And if you have an iPhone or other mobile device, check out the free ExperienceLA WiFi.


Photo by manna from the heavens from the ExperienceLA Flickr Pool.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Reflecting on the Michael Jackson Memorial

I don't really want to add to the legion of post-Michael Jackson memorial posts because, as I write this, I wonder what it is that I can say that might be different or even universal that isn't overwrought and overplayed. But having been among the lucky few who were able to go past the police-guarded barriers at Olympic/Figueroa on Tuesday - to literally cross the street and engage in an area that was part of a world event - I almost feel like it's less of a choice and more of a privilege that I get to speak from that perspective. And to be clear, I didn't get a "golden ticket"...

A day or so after receiving a nice cursory rejection email (I know they sent one to nearly 1.6 million entrants, but it was nice that they did in the first place), I pretty much figured I'd be watching the event from work on my computer. But the day before the public Michael Jackson Memorial service, I received an email from my GRAMMY Museum membership offering the opportunity to participate in a simulcast of the event in their Sound Stage theatre. Without a second thought, I leapt at the chance (literally) and headed out of my office to pick some tickets.

The next day I wasn't sure what to expect heading into Downtown - I was glad my mode of transit is the subway, so there was no traffic to deal with - but would there be as many people rushing down as anticipated? Or, for once, were people going to listen and follow Jan Perry's advice of staying home for the event?

And miraculously enough, people listened.

And the fact that people listened seemed to be the theme of the entire thing.

In my seat at the GRAMMY Museum Soundstage with other simulcast watchers, people listened to all the ways a world-known Pop Icon may have changed the world - whether it was as a musician to other musicians as a humanitarian to so many causes or simply as a human being who was a son, a brother, an uncle, and - as the world finally seemed to acknowledge in the final moments of that memorial - a father.

I admit, there were times where I shed many tears (ok, so I was a bit of a teary mess) and was grateful to be in a space where there were others who also openly mourned. Watching an online stream on your computer at work for work would not so much have been the place to do that, so I thank the GRAMMY Museum for providing that opportunity, for opening their doors so that some of their members could have the space to see the memorial and let go.

Over the last few days I've had the urge to shed tears over this situation - that tug of an ache in one's heart that simmers but never boils over. This was particularly true on the afternoon/night of his passing, as I participated in both a loud celebration of his life and a quiet mourning of his death (See "Not the Wrong Star..."). But I never shed a tear until the memorial service and I was glad to be given that time to do so.

In discussing with a friend recently about all this hoopla and "bandwagon fans", I can see how many might label me in that light. I can't say that I spent a lot of time contemplating about this pop icon prior to his death. I've always appreciated the music of Michael Jackson and I know that his music has influenced me throughout my life. Hands down his "Smooth Criminal" is my favorite music video. But is that the stuff worthy of experiences and memorial services and emotional tears? I'm not sure.

All I know is that regardless of one's opinion, I can't really fathom too many people who would be fitting of a memorial service like the one on Tuesday - full of song, history, love, and respect. I could name the people who participated in the event, who are also national or world icons, but, for a moment in time, they weren't just celebrities that people knew, they were mourners like everyone else.

The service reflected much of Michael Jackson's musical and humanitarian legacy. He was recognized as an icon of change. And if there's anything that I believe Michael Jackson wanted to ask of the world, he wanted most of all that we listen and understand and join together in peace.

And we did.

-Charity Tran

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Let's give a Los Angeles "Lakers Girl Cheer" for Monty Python's Spamalot

That's right, after a four-year run in New York on Broadway, three-year tour and over a year in Vegas, the 2005 Tony Award winner for best musical Monty Python's Spamalot and their "Laker girls" have finally found a summer home in the Los Angeles Ahmanson Theatre. But unlike the Vegas show, the Ahmanson is hosting the full length Broadway production with all the songs, laughs, and killer bunnies that only Monty Python can bring you.

Monty Python's Spamalot is a parody of the cult classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail that makes fun of Holy Grail as much as it does musicals themselves. Spamalot focuses on King Arthur, Pasty and the Knights of the Round Table's quest for the Holy Grail. As well as their encounters with The Lady of the Lake, who sings about not being in the show enough, the Laker Girls (who sadly do not sport gold and purple), and The Knights who say Ni that demand King Arthur and his group to give him their shrubbery as well as put on a Broadway show. But the Knights warn that "you won't succeed on Broadway if you don't have any Jews" which launches the musical into a whole set of other parodies.

Spamalot really is just a laugh out loud comedy enhanced by silly musical numbers and men doing the Can Can, meant to attract all audiences from musical lovers and Monty Paython fanatics to anyone looking for a good laugh. And no one knows this better than King Arthur himself, John O'Hurly, who is returning to the role after just concluding his run in Los Vegas. O'Hurly is best known for his role as J. Peterman in "Seinfeld" as well as being the winner of the first season of "Dancing with the Stars" - oh and, of course, as King Neptune on "Sponge Bob Square Pants." Other title characters include Merle Dandridge as The Lady of the Lake, James Beaman as Sir Robin and Jeff Dumas as Patsy. The fact is that Spamalot is "Not Dead Yet" and this is sure to be a knock out production. So come find your grail at the Los Angeles Ahmanson Theatre! The production runs from July 7th to September 6th. Come soon otherwise you might never have a stuffed cow launched at you.

Anyway, the most important thing to do right now is "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," which is why spoiling yourself with a dinner and show is good thing every once in a while. So do just that! With all the great restaurants downtown, many of which provide shuttles to the Music Center, there is no reason not to. Even better, avoid the hassle of parking and take the Metro to your downtown destinations! Just use the ExperienceLA Metro Trip Planner.

Oh, and just as a head's up, having seen the play in New York on Broadway and loved it enough to memorize all the songs (if you can't tell from all the lyrical references) I warn against sitting in the front row because if it is anything like the theater I saw it at, The Shubert Theatre (which I adore and has hosted two of my favorite shows and is right next to the best cheesecake place in New York Jrs), you might just get wet...but who knows? The LA Production might just have some new surprises in store!


Artwork provided by the Ahmanson Theatre website.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Shakespeare Festival/LA presents "As You Like It"

After 23 years of fabulous productions the Shakespeare Festival/LA is doing it again by celebrating their 24th summer festival with the comedy As You Like It featuring the AQUILA THEATER on July 11th through the 19th at The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Shows begin at 8pm and the box office opens at 7pm.

Shakespeare Festival/LA is an outstanding organization that seeks to help the community by bringing plays that they feel will be meaningful and relatable to the people of Los Angeles. As for the AQUILIA THEATER, they are a touring company which focuses on reinterpreting the classics and using new technology in order to broaden the play's audience, which is exactly the goal of Shakespeare Festival/LA. Both groups focus is to bring communities together to enjoy the arts and make them accessible to all people. Moreover, while attendance is free, you do have to pre-order tickets on their website because space is limited. Also, they are asking people to please bring canned food items which they will be donating to the Food Bank of Southern California.

As for the play itself, As You Like it by William Shakespeare is a hysterical production of love and mistaken identity. Two women, Rosalind and Celia are forced to leave their home and decided it is safest to disguise themselves as men in order to avoid harm. However, when they run into people from their past and others in the area, including Rosalind's crush, signals gets crossed and no one is quite sure who is in love with whom. Having read and preformed scenes from this play many times I have to say I highly recommend it. Even if you are not a big Shakespeare fan the physical comedy, love sick characters and comical situations will have you laughing out loud.

So please join Shakespeare Festival/LA for their celebration of their 24 years for a night of exceptional theater and laughs. In fact you can make a whole evening out of it. The Cathedral is conveniently located right by the Metro Red Line Civic Center stop so you can easily abandon your car and the hassle of parking and buy a subway day pass and explore the city. Or simply walk over to Chinatown for dinner from the Civic Center stop before the show. If you need more information on planning a subway trip you can use the ExperienceLA Metro Trip Planner to get directions from your area (Metro Trip Planner is also in beta testing with Google Transit if you want to try that tool!).


Anime Expo 2009-The Enthusiasm Never Stops!

While it could be said the economy might have had a negative effect on Anime Expo (because of less sponsors, vendors and events this year), nothing could stop the unabashed enthusiasm of the con goers. This year cosplayers, those that dress in costumes, were more original then ever pulling from sources outside of the anime realm including video game characters, power rangers and the surprise hit of the season Vocaloids. More than that, even those not dressed up could be seen running around the exhibit hall looking for costumes or felt hats so that they to could join in the magic. No one wanted to be left out of the fun!

And more importantly no one was excluded. At Anime Expo, everyone's dedication and eagerness is embraced (although don't be fooled, people are opinioned and fights between ninjas and pirates are common) and all that is asked in return is that you try something new and different. Which is what I did. I set out to go to more panels then ever and sit in on video rooms for shows I hadn't seen, all so that I could have the full expo experience. I went to everything from industry to educational to just plain hilarious interactive panels and enjoyed each one, experiencing the vibes of the different crowds.

Needless to say this was an event (and shopping) filled expo that was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. For me, the best part about Anime Expo is going to different panels and hearing about new shows, meeting new people and really being able to interact with the characters I love and that's just what I did. Because really, that's what Anime Expo is about - it is a big party where you just get to be your enthusiastic fun self. You can dress up and enjoy being in character all day and having your picture taken. Or just go in street clothes or anime-themed graphic tees and be able to sneak past some of the fun madness that comes with cosplay. Either way it's a blast! You can even stay at a hotel near the convention center, that way the festivities are twenty four hour - and trust me, having done it, it is more fun staying in a hotel then commuting.

But what really keeps me going back to expo and what makes it so interesting are the panels. Because the con is not just about shopping (though that is easy to forget) but about learning and experiencing new things. For example, the industry panels are always slightly nerve-wracking because of the feelings of excitement and anticipation that lingers in the room as we hold our breath waiting for the announcement of our favorite anime or manga's latest release date and the new titles the company is acquiring. At the Viz Media Anime and Manga panel on July 3rd fans filled in an hour early all so that they could claim to be one of the first to hear about what is new. But in case you missed anything here is a brief recap:

Shonen Jump recently required the license to release a few new manga including Tegami Bachi and Yu-Gi-Oh! R. They also announced the future release of several movies and anime such as L, Change the World (which I saw last con and it is hysterical, I highly recommend it)and the second Bleach Movie The Diamond Dust Rebellion, which is set to come out September 28th 2009. What is special about this is a Bleach contest revolving around the movie's premiere and to learn more go to Some new titles for Shojo Beat are Beast Master and Cactus's Secret. And finally Viz Signiture is acquiring titles such as Ooku: The Inner Champers and What a Wonderful World! What is great about these panels is that they give descriptions of all the new manga, giving us new things to look forward to and making finding new series much easier.

Another Industry Panel was Funamation on July 4th who proved how involved they keep their viewers by announcing the license of Sengoko Basara which they acquired the rights to just that morning. Other announcements included the Season one box set of Dragon Ball Z and the second season of Gunslinger Girl.

I also attended two panels which were more on the educational side but in no way less interesting. On July 3rd I went to the "Manga as High Art" panel which discussed comics' position in pop culture and how in today's society. The speaker further went on to discuss the importance of the cartoon style of drawing and how the abstraction of it allows an individual to put themselves into the story. This involvement with the story is what attracts people to manga, comics and animation in general. Another panel was "Getting Paid to Work in Anime" on July 5th, put on by the Japanese Visual Media Translation Academy (JVTA). They went over different jobs involved in the production of anime, such as script translator, video editor, animator/graphic artist, producer and voice actor. And then compared these different key roles to subjects they offer which include translation, production workflow, script adaptation, voice acting and anime mythology.

And finally there are the hilarious interactive panels which allow the audience to endlessly question some of their favorite creators and voice actors on subjects ranging from their favorite shows or skits to "what they do to stay so sexy." The first interactive panel I went to was the Voice Actor Panel on July 5th which I highly recommend because whether or not you are familiar with the voice actors the audience is bound to come up with something fun. This year the guests included Kari Wahlgren and Cristina Valenzuela. Kari is best known for her roles as Fuu Kasumi in Samurai Champloo, Kagami Hiiragi in Lucky Star, and Robin in Witch Hunter Robin. She has also given her voice to over 90 video games. Cristina (more commonly known as Cristina V) is the less experienced voice actor, but that, however by no means makes her unknown. She has a huge online fan following for her unofficial voice acting work on youtube which she attributes as her break into the industry. Professionally she is best known for her work as Louise from The Familiar of Zero. These two women were very funny and willing to do a lot to please the enthusiastic audience including call friends and family members that could not be there.

Directly following this panel was one featuring the creative team of Robot Chicken which includes producers Seth Green and Matthew Senriech. This stop-motion show has won the hearts of many an anime fan through its hysterical pop culture parodies and endless variety of guests stars. These men were extremely funny and held nothing back in answering questions from the audience and discussing their creative process. They also made the announcement of their upcoming Robot Chicken Skate Park Bus Tour featuring the band Gym Class Heroes which will begin on July 25th at Comicon San Diego. The exact route of the tour will be available on on July 9th. So really Anime Expo is basically a hysterical four-day long party where you get to meet some of the most amazing people in the industry, so if you didn't join us this year come next year for the 20th anniversary of Anime Expo because it is going to be amazing!!!


Michael Jackson Memorial Info

Sometimes the LA Experience is something worldwide - and that definitely seems to be the case regarding Michael Jackson's Public Memorial, which is schedule to take place tomorrow, Tuesday morning at 10:00am (PST) at LA's Staples Center. Here is a gathering of informational links that might be helpful as the world says its formal good-bye to the King of Pop. We'll update this page if we get more information.

-ExperienceLA Staff

Go Metro with Google Transit has always been in support of adding Metro transit information to Google Transit (see our Metrolink on Google Transit post). We were given a hint of this possibility a month ago when L.A. Metro announced that it was releasing transit data for application development including GTFS (Google Transit Feed Specification). Now it's here!*

For those who haven't used Google Transit in other cities (New York and Chicago were among the places where it was pretty much a god-send for me and my iphone!), here's a quick how-to:

Note: Have you ever used it for driving directions? Yeah, pretty much the same deal.

1. Put in a starting address and a destination address. Toggle the drop-down menu of options to "By public transit".

2. The following is an example journey of "Hollywood & Highland" to the "GRAMMY Museum". You have the option of toggling different times. The mapping next to the transit instructions reveal the mapped route you'll be taking. If you press the "+Show Details" about your walk to the museum, you can get your walking directions.

How's that for going green in LA? All the more reasons to Go Metro.

-Charity Tran

*Please note that the current rendition is supposed to be in testing phase, but the functionality should still work. (See LAist)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Video: Impromptu Michael Jackson Memorial Dance Party

Following up on Charity's blog post "Not the Wrong Star..." post about being out in Hollywood on the night of Michael Jackson's passing, here's a clip of the dance party that ensued that evening in celebration of Michael Jackson's music.