Monday, August 31, 2009

A 'Standard' evening

Last Wednesday, I strolled over to the Standard Hotel in Downtown for their Silverlake Wine tasting. My Standard experience has only been with the Hollywood property, so I expected it to be about the same in terms of style and atmosphere - cool, lounge-y, with a bit of that Hollywood competition and attitude. When I arrived, I discovered it was something more up my alley. Still had that cool, lounge-y feel, along with my kind of sense of humor. Sure, the Rooftop with its beautiful view of the city can become a bit of a scene on the weekends, but during the week, it's a perfect spot for unwinding after a long day without feeling like you need to impress anyone. An eclectic mix of young Downtowners and business folk can be seen hanging out with some music in the lounge, on the rooftop on the "Grassy Knoll" and Orange area, or out front in a "Paley Park"(Manhattan) homage.

While each property in the Standard family has an artistic angle, what I appreciated about the Downtown property was the quirky, and sometimes inappropriate sense of humor in the displays and pieces. It creates an interesting juxtaposition if you know the history of the space. Once an office building for Superior Oil, now a stylish hotel that pokes fun at corporate life: hotel rooms have "Hello, my name is" name tags outside of the doors, and meeting rooms are named "Blonde" and "Brunette." The floors are original, as are some of the fixtures in the building, such as the door handles and a global clock that, at one time, was state of the art.

I'm looking forward to coming back, if not to take delight in discovering more of the hotel's jokes. The Standard is definitely not a standard hotel experience. Oh, and yes, the wine and appetizers were delicious. It's a shame my husband had his fantasy football draft on this night. Fortunately for him, the Standard has several weekly events, and he's got a wife who likes to share her fun excursions!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hit the LA Ground Running: City Sights and Sites

Urban SunsetIt's that time of year again - in the haze of summer's end and autumn's beginning - I embark on training for some race or another in the fall months. This year I'm running the Nike Human Race because I had such a blast last year (and part of the money goes to a good cause - Pete Carroll's A Better LA charity). I have no idea who the musical artist will be (last year was Kanye West!), but I'm enjoying the training efforts because it always reminds me how awesome it is to exist in a place like Los Angeles.

I mean, I always know this. You can't be a part of and not know the awesomeness of LA, but in the hustle-and-bustle of work commutes and the errands of life, it's easy to slip into a pattern of going to point A to point B and losing out on so much to appreciate.

The other day I had a five-mile training run around the Koreatown cityscape. Really it was about 2 1/2 outside of my starting point, but even in that 2.5 miles I felt like I was transported into so many different worlds. From the urban developments of Koreatown (and its delicious smells of Korean BBQ and tempting bakeries and cafes - wait I'm running, right?), the scenery shifts to the beautiful and elegant homes of Rossmore and run another direction toward Wilshire and you get the classic view of the Los Altos Apartments (exterior of the Angel series, anyone?) and the Masonic Temple designed by Millard Sheets.

While running that day, it's not like I wasn't always aware of these places and hadn't passed by them before, it's just that I hadn't taken the time to soak them in. And doing that precious little - taking that time - it was almost like not ever having seen them before. I was kind of star-struck in a way that a fan might be to a celebrity, but perhaps even better. I just need to walk out the door and hit the LA ground running - for now anyway - to have a sighting.

Leisure walks? They can wait until after the race!

-Charity Tran

For another blog entry of Charity's running around LA (aside from the usual), check out her blog post from the 2007 LA Marathon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Be featured as a guest blogger at ExperienceLA

Have you won tickets from an ExperienceLA giveaway? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Send us a description of your winning moment, including the name of the event you attended, and how your experience was. If your submission is selected, we'll feature you as a guest blogger on the ExperienceLA Blog.

To share your winning story, please send an email to staff[at]experiencela[dot]com, and include in the subject heading "I won tickets from ExperienceLA."

Volunteer to help us at Abbot Kinney Festival in Venice

If you've ever felt like ExperienceLA was such a valuable and useful resource that you just had to share it with others, have we got an opportunity for you (cue cheesy sales music)! ExperienceLA will be at this year's Abbot Kinney Festival in Venice, and we're looking for some volunteers to help us spread the word about our web site. Come spend a day in beautiful Venice, enjoy some time at the festival, meet some ExperienceLA staff members, and help us raise awareness for and all the different arts and cultural venues available in this great city of ours.

The event takes place on Sunday, September 27 from 10 AM - 6 PM. If you're interested in volunteering, please send an email with your full name, phone number, and availability with the subject heading: "AKF volunteer" to staff[at]experiencela[dot]com, and we'll provide you with additional details. We thank you for your support!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Quentin Tarantino at the Midnight Screening of "Inglourious Basterds"

I found it off of twitter. @carolineoncrack RT'd @arclightcinemas's tweet about there still being remaining seats at the midnight screening of "Inglourious Basterds" where Quentin Tarantino himself would be opening!

Cut-to frantic emailing and facebooking to friends and then buying four tickets figuring some friends would reply. Two seconds (practically!) after I purchased my reserved seating at the Cinerama Dome I had a group - Julius, Melissa, and Ian - in place ready to go.

Tarantino opened the evening like a burst of energy and most of the crowd stood up to welcome him.

Tarantino's brief speech was almost a self-esteem boosting session:
1) We were cheered on as the real crowd seeing it at 12:01 am!
2) We were cheered on as the crowd who was seeing it on the historic Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.

There was standing ovations and applause.

And then like a flash - he was gone with a wave to everyone.

But honestly, for that brief glimmering few seconds, it was really cool. I mean - Quentin Tarantino!! - and then to be one of the first people to see his film? It was such a classic "Los Angeles is home to Hollywood magic" moments.

As for the film, I greatly enjoyed it (closing my eyes at times when it got a little gory or I knew something bad was going to is a Tarantino film after all). The deeper levels of characterization were done well with the intensity of the dialogue exchanges between the characters - Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) in particular is showcased in this way. At times, with Waltz's character you weren't quite sure why things were happening until a singular, crystalized moment where it all tied together. In that respect, the audience gets to almost feel uncomfortably close to the nervousness and fear of the characters that Waltz's character confronts. The film's obligatory violent subject manner was handled in the way of Tarantino's standard humor and is enjoyable in its own right. Humor is where Brad Pitt shines the best.

Forewarning (and a scolding to the man who decided to switch to the open, reserved seat in front of me half way through the movie), there are subtitles in this film and you will need to adequately seat yourself for that.

While you might not get to see Tarantino open the show for you, I do hope you guys have a great time seeing Tarantino's new film "Inglourious Basterds" opening this weekend!

-Charity Tran

Thursday, August 20, 2009

First official LA Downtown Fashion Walk - August 20

Tonight is LA's first official Downtown Fashion Walk event. Similar to the monthly Art Walk, but focused on fashion, this event looks to add to the changing face and opinions of Downtown and the Historic Core. Every third Thursday of the month, from 5:30 PM to 10 PM, the area within Broadway to Main and 4th to 7th Street will be transformed into a great fashion expo with exhibitions, photo shoots, pop-up stores and performance art. Items will be available for purchase and for viewing. Don't forget to download the map, which includes a list of participating stores & locations. Check out the Fashion Walk site for additional information on how to make the most of your walk.

Photo Credit: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A 3-day trip to Sydney, Australia?

Calling all Tweeters. This was an interesting promotion that came across our desk. While we are HUGE advocates of Los Angeles and things to do in LA County, this was a contest we thought you, our readers, would appreciate.The winner of the 4320:syd challenge gets to fly with two of their friends to Sydney - that's Australia - for the ultimate three-day adventure courtesy of VAustralia. The only catch is you will have to Tweet 4,320 times while there, so get your Twitter fingers ready! If you're successful, each member of your team will receive a "Round the World" ticket with V Australia and Virgin Atlantic as a prize. The trip to Syndey takes off September 8, 2009, so if you think you've got what it takes, check out the contest website now at You can also see other competition entries at the site to see how your entry stacks up. And feel free to tweet that you heard about the contest at ExperienceLA when you win the trip to Sydney! Good luck.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Summer Fun On the Cheap: A Case Study

CoolHaus - Green TeaLast Friday, I had an extraordinary day that just reminded me of all the opportunities of being in Los Angeles, particulary during the summer months. To its summer significance, it began with the City of Los Angeles celebrating/honoring [500] Days of Summer, meeting the actress portraying Summer - Zooey Deschanel - and a very seasonal treat of free ice cream sandwiches from Coolhaus (okay, so in LA, ice cream sandwiches are always seasonal). The entire event was free to the public, taking places in Angels Knoll - a significant location in what is one of my favorite movies this summer.

Grand Performances - HaegumplusAnd one of the best things about the location for this event was that it was next door to California Plaza, home to Grand Performances and their free - yes FREE - midday and evening summer concerts. The ExperienceLA staff and I roamed over to the plaza to see a full crowd enjoying lunch and watching the Korean fusion group Haegumplus. The best part of the show we caught? They do a cover of Michael Jackson's "Beat It".

The midday fun was followed by an evening of All You Can Eat seats at Dodger Stadium. All-You-Can-Eat hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, and popcorn (and drinks of soda and water) at $25 a seat on select days? That's pretty cheap. Especially when it's a fireworks night.

So you can't get free ice cream sandwiches and meet Zooey Deschanel everyday in LA (though that would be quite awesome!), but the truth is that it's those random free events (see Free Events on ExperienceLA) mixed in with the staples of free summer concerts and cheap seats at Dodger stadium (the cheapest tickets are $9-$11) that are so much a part of why Los Angeles is such a great place to be.

Recession? Whatever. No excuses people. LA is waiting for you.

-Charity Tran

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dodgers: Fireworks & All-You-Can-Eat Seats (Video Included)

Dodgers StadiumLast Friday, I headed out on a group trip with my South El Monte Sister Cities organization to a Dodgers Game. We were all mostly fans of the Dodgers (or as Bobby's shirt expressed "Los Dogers") except for Alexy (a true Angels fan to the core who found some outnumbered kindred spirits among the crowd). But whatever team you're rooting for - Think Blue! - you can't really go wrong with All-You-Can-Eat seats and Fireworks! Video after the jump.

So what can you eat at All-You-Can-Eat seats? As much as you want of the following: Dodger dogs, popcorn, peanuts, nachos, soda, and water. And believe me we had more than our share of everything. There were even these cool Dodger blue water bottles. Seats are $35, but if you can get enough people to go, there's a group discount! (Updated: On the Dodgers' Website: "The price will drop, from $35 per game to $25 per game, for 70 of the 81 home games at Dodger Stadium in 2009.")

And even though the game ran to 12 innings (and the Dodgers didn't win :-() we did get the extra treat of sitting on the field and watching the fireworks. And if you can't make it down to a fireworks night, check out our video on ExperienceLA Youtube!

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Manager

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

They're back - Gin Blossoms perform at the Starlight Bowl

The Gin Blossoms are one of the few pop rock bands in very recent history who've managed to get the formula right for creating good, enduring music. Though their sound can be identified from the 90s, their songs still air on the radio today, and will most likely persist as time goes on.

For those who've waited ever so patiently for the band to return with a new album and hit the road, we're pleased to inform you they're back! With their catchy melodies, upbeat tempos and relatable lyrics, the Gin Blossoms take to the stage on Sunday, August 16 at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank.

A quick listen to their newest single, "Learning the Hard Way" and fans will not be disappointed. The band sounds as if they've not missed a beat since taking a break from the music scene several years ago. While they will most likely cover songs from their newest album, Major Lodge Victory, fans may expect to hear an old favorite or two as well.

Pack a picnic and a blanket, head over to the Starlight Bowl this Sunday evening, and indulge in a little fun pop music as the sun draws the evening to a close. this will Sting will kick the evening off at 6:30 PM. For more information, visit our website at

Friday, August 07, 2009

(500) Days of Summer Gets a Key to the City?!

The offbeat romantic dramedy (500) Days of Summer takes viewers on a journey through downtown Los Angeles, primarily through Tom’s many walking tours. And since they opened the Los Angeles doors to people around the world it is only fitting that the cast and crew should literally be able to open every door in the city.

This afternoon at Angels Knoll Park (at 4th Street and Olive Street), the location of the infamous bench scene, the movie stars Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend and more were given a key to the city. And the press, public, and four of us ExperienceLA bloggers were there to see it and enjoy free customized ice cream sandwiches (yum!) curtsey of COOLHAUS, t-shirts and posters. Because this was not just any key –it is big, bright yellow and the top looks like a sun, oh and most importantly it was promised to open every door in the city and Geoffrey Arend seemed determined to walk around the block and try it out.

The city also put a plaque at the base of the bench commemorating its appearance in the film so if you are a fan of the movie or LA I defiantly recommend visiting the park, sitting on the bench and enjoying the view. You could also take a tour of all the (500) Days of Summer sites thanks to the Los Angeles Times which has compiled a list of prominent downtown locations featured in the movie .

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself to that theater, see a movie rich in LA destinations, and then experience the sites yourself. After all you got to enjoy every last bit of summer you get.

Photo provided by Curt Gibbs. Here's a slideshow of more of his photos from today! For more pics see his profile ExperienceLA on flickr.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Travel abroad in the Getty Villa

The Getty Villa in Malibu off the Pacific Coast Highway is exactly what it sounds like. It has the history of the Getty with the richness and luxurious feel of a Villa. From the moment you enter the museum you are greeted by a long water feature, a beautiful high ceiling, intricate floor work, and pillars all true to its ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria pieces. The entire museum carries on this ancient motif allowing the patron to feel as if they have stepped into the past.

The Getty’s newest rotating exhibits include The Golden Graves of Ancient Vani which is available until October 5, 2009 and The Chimera of Arezzo which will be featured until February 8, 2010. Both of these exhibits open the door to history.

The Golden Graves exhibit features jewelry, ritual figurines and other materials found in the graves of various people. By seeing what these individuals are buried with it gives a sense for what was considered important and what one could not live without. What is further intriguing about this exhibit is that the museum was able to collect features from all different types individuals. There are relics of a woman's grave, that of a young woman, a child and even a warrior giving insight to each specific individual. The woman was buried with three other women, presumably servants, and only she was buried in elaborate clothing with varies imported pieces from Athens. Then there is the young woman who was buried alone and had was found with local materials. Each person was different and had a different history.

In The Chimera of Arezzo exhibit the largest feature is the statue of the lion, goat, serpent monster whose fire breathing stories still live on. What I loved most about this exhibit, and maybe the entire museum, was the delicately painted books that told the story of this creature. The pictures were colorful and flecked with gold and the writing elegant. I wanted to break through the glass and flip the delicate pages, study the drawings and search for someone to translate. I felt so sad leaving the museum without being able to hold them in my hands.

While these two exhibits are main reason I went to the Getty, I was taken by surprise on what a wonderful place it was. There are great interactive opportunities for children of all ages (that includes the adults) and a play room where you can draw on vases, or color your own. There is also a shadow theater part where kids can put on a play for their parents. Kids will love it, the only problem is they may never want to leave.

Another clever addition to the museum is a trading street they created in the sculpture garden where people can go table to table trading and creating items. The first step is to get wood to trade for olive oil which you get to crush yourself, next you head over to the herb section and make your perfume and after that it’s time to play dress up and create necklaces.

The Getty Villa is located right near the beach so it's a great opportunity to get in some culture and summer fun. It really is not that far from the Third Street Santa Monica Promenade, so you can go shop and grab some food after your time travel adventure. But if you are hungry and don't want to deal with driving back to Santa Monica and parking, there is great cafe in the Villa.

So go explore the Getty Villa and the surrounding area while the suns out on our long summer days. For more events at Getty Villa, check out


Bilal and N'dambi at the Conga Room - August 7th!

Performing August 7, 2009 at the Conga Room in Los Angeles will be the dynamic Ernie Barnes of Music...Bilal! With a six-octave vocal range and a stage personality to that of Al Jarreau, he released his highly regarded first album in 2001 "1st Born Second" which jolted Bilal to the attention of not only millions of fans but other musical artists such as Beyonce and producer Dr. Dre.

Along with Bilal, will be the expressionist vocalist N'dambi! N'dambi's albums include, "Little Lost Girl Blues," and "Tunin' Up & Cosignin'", and in 2005 "A Weird Kinda Wonderful," which was only released in Japan but can always be heard on "Our Voices" show at Vocally N'dambi can be as gentle as Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly" or melodramatic as Tina Turner's "You Better Be Good to Me." They both talked about their upcoming performance at the Conga Room, favorite songs audiences love for them to perform, and future endeavors.

"It's been a while since I've performed in LA and with that, I look forward to sharing songs old and new with the audience. With performing, the response is so immediate and I can't wait to feel LA's response. On top of all that, I'm excited about performing in the new Conga Room with Bilal," N’dambi quipped. She continued, "I make an effort to be considerate of what my audience may like about what I do musically so that I am performing what they enjoy hearing. When the audience is involved, it makes one more comfortable about giving your all. My challenge, usually, is trying not to leave any favored songs out of the show. People like to hear Ode 2 Nina, The Sunshine, Call Me, Hot Pearl C....and, in the near future, I have a new album entitled "Pink Elephant" that will be in stores October 6th on Stax."

Bilal had just finished performing in DC but graciously answered the questions. This will be his first performance at the Conga Room. Of course "Soul Sista" and "Fast Lane" hits from the album will be included but he went on to say, "I'm looking forward to performing some of the new stuff....My new album will be out at the top of the year 2010." "Simply staying true to my craft and my heart" was his answer to the question what are the "Keys to Your Success."

Thanks to N'Dambi's Manager Monica and Asya of Fusicology, we are sure to witness great talent at the Conga Room!

For more information about the event, visit


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

If you could meet...

Have you ever wondered what you would say if you had a chance to meet someone famous, dead or alive? I sort of had the opportunity to do that last Sunday at the Fremont Centre Theatre.

The play, "Inside Private Lives," is a fun theatre experience which lets the audience participate in a way that's different from many interactive theatre experiences. Rather than asking you to simply shout out ideas, such as in improvisational theatre, or reciting predetermined lines from a cue-card, "Inside Private Lives" lets you shape and form the direction of the performance, engaging and interacting with the actor on stage.

With roughly 20 controversial personalities from the 20th century (including one of my personal favorites, David Koresh!), the production rotates through a different set of performers each night. No performance is ever the same.

The show introduced me to some fascinating people in our time, and also made me have a change of heart on how I viewed some of them. For example, I was compelled to learn more about the story of Sister Aimee (portrayed by Molly Hagan), a 1920s evangelist accused of lying about being kidnapped. The controversy: was she kidnapped or did she run away with her lover?

We also had the opportunity to meet "The Queen of Mean," Ms. Leona Helmsley, whom I thought I would hate through and through. Actress Silvie Zamora caused me to see that perhaps Ms. Helmsley did have a heart and cared. Maybe I was wrong for judging her. Maybe.

In all of this, the actors asked something from the audience, and we as an audience decided if we were willing to participate and grant them their wish or not. If you're unable to step outside of your comfort zone, this may not be the type of show for you. But if you're willing to get a little silly, especially with a group of friends, and help Tupac Shakur sell his hardcore Christmas rap album, or create a cover for John Dillinger as he escapes from the coppers, consider "Inside Private Lives." And if you do go, be sure to take advantage of the discount offer exclusive to ExperienceLA readers. It's worth the price. Oh, and I should mention, plays are only on Sundays, and the last date to catch this is Sunday, August 30th!