Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
-225 Acres Added to Verdugo Mountain Park, New Trail Opens Above Descanso Gardens - [LAist]
-poketo to host collaborative pop up art show friday [angelenic]
-International Children's Film Festival Opens at REDCAT with "Rise and Shine" [blogdowntown]
Things We Don't Like:
-Traffic Congestion in L.A. Worst in the Nation [greengirlla] (Note: All the more reason to take public transit and get out of traffic...or at least being the one to drive in it)
-Dodger Trolley on the Ropes [la.streetsblog referenced in curbed la] (Note: Does not help the above point. Sarah says this is why she's an Angels fan - their stadium is practically next door to a Metrolink Station, not to mention the OCTA bus stops.)
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Daood: Greetings, Tavis Smiley and thank you for being with us.
Tavis Smiley: Hi Daood, nice to be on the program with you. How are you?
Daood: I'm good! [Let's me start by asking you to] characterize the state of the Black Union['s] initial concept?
Tavis Smiley: When I started 10 years ago, it was really a forum where at least once a year we could bring together some of the best thinkers, thought meters, opinion makers, influencers, policy makers - just really some of the best of everybody's minds in Black America to have a dialogue about the issues that matter to Black folks and how we could advance on these causes that we care so much about. So we started the first conversations in Los Angeles on the eve of the Democratic Convention at which Al Gore was nominated to represent the Democratic Party, and here we are now 10 years later in February of this year, February 28th, and we're celebrating the 10th anniversary of these conversations that have really taken us to places all across the country.
We do this every February at Black History Month. We call it the State of the Black Union because it always follows the president's State of the Union address in January and we find that there are always issues that we need to address that go unaddressed in the president's state of the union address. So for 10 years now we've had these conversations and as a person who lives and works for many years now, twenty-five basically in Los Angeles, it's always an honor for me to bring any program that we do back to the City of Los Angeles that will benefit the residents there so we're excited about this 10th Anniversary being in Los Angeles.
Daood: It sounds very good. Making America as good as is promised is the state of the Black Union theme for this year, taken from one of your titled books co-written by Stephanie Robinson. Particularize this year's theme in correlation to the State of the Black Union.
Tavis: You're right, Daood. Every year we conduct the conversations we always have a theme so we can kind of draw in the minds of the audience and kind of focus what the conversation is. There are so many challenges that face Black Americans and when you have two or three panels made up of 12 people on each panel and you're going all day on C-Span for eight or nine hours, it's important to at least focus the conversation -- so this year our theme is "making America as good as is promised". There are a lot of issues that are going to be discussed but the major gist of the conversation is going to be as we continue to make progress now that we've arrived at this historic moment when we have an African American president. We want to revel in this moment because we want to celebrate this moment, but we do not yet live in what the [mainstream] media likes to call the post-racial American. We still have challenges in this country. We still have challenges more of the fact that we are Black and now is a wonderful time to advance the causes and the concerns that hold and keep Black people down.
But the real question is now that we have arrived at this place where there's so much celebration around this historic moment and yet at the same time, the challenges that Black America continues to face – How do we know that we have an ally in the White House after 8 years of what we endured at the Bush Administration? How do we make the most of this moment? How do we do [the] part we've always done when there was no Black president? How do we do our part to make America a nation that will one day be as good as is promised? The gap between the promise and the reality is still too wide and what can we do now to recommit ourselves with all this energy and all this talk about change and all this excitement and all this engagement that people are interested in offering? How do we make the most of that and make American advance? How do we make America as good as is promised? That's what we're really gonna be getting at.
Daood: OK. Subsequently of discussions, exchanging of ideas from the State of the Black Union, the Covenant Movement was created and would you take us on a journey of its beginning to its current success.
Tavis: The short answer to that is that the Covenant was the result of these symposiums, these conversations we've had for now 10 years. The code of the Black America was an outgrowth of the conversations that essentially laid out an agenda of what Black folks could do to make America better. The argument was and is that when you make Black America better you make all of America better so the "Code of Black America" was the first book that laid out an agenda, an aggressive and ambitious agenda and 10 issues, all of which we want to see progress starting with us. What we can do as Black folks about these issues and how we hold the government accountable on these issues, but it was a wonderful book that went to #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. We followed that up with a book called "The Covenant in Action".
The first book, "The Code of Black America", was the "what". The second book "The Covenant in Action" was the "How". In other words, how do we take this agenda and put it into action? So the Covenant in action really highlighted examples of everyday people all across the country who had taken the principles of the Covenant and put them into action. So the second book really becomes the central answer to your question. As to the success of the Covenant, it can be found "In the Covenant in Action" which laid all of that out. The third and final book in this trilogy is called "Accountable", making America as good as is promised so there's a tie-in obviously to this conversation at the Symposium February 28th in Los Angeles. But the book "Accountable", the last book again in this Covenant trilogy is the "Whether". We have what the agenda was...the Covenant, how to put it into practice with covenant in action and now the whether - whether or not the agenda that we have laid out has been met. And to the extent that we are serious about the issues that we raised in the very first book, the last book "Accountable" helps us to calibrate, if you will, what kind of success we are making and going forward in this new era of Obama. How we get all elected officials. Howe we make all of them accountable to what we laid out over the trilogy of these 3 books.
And so the "Accountable" book has done a couple of things. When it comes out February 19th, one it detracts all the things that Mr. Obama has said, quite frankly didn't say on the campaign trail about these 10 issues first laid out of the Covenant. So what does our new President have to say about these issues? What is his agenda? It is important for the American citizens to know that so we can exactly know what it is he is doing, what he said he was going to do. But equally as important is this question of what we can do to hold him accountable which means being responsible first. Barack Obama is not going to get into office and wave some black magic wand and make all your troubles and travails go away, there's work that we have to do. We cannot abandon him right now. We've gotta do our part - not just to get him elected but to help make him a great President. I believe that Barack Obama can be a great President. I want him to be a great President, but he can only be a great president, Daood, if we help make him a great president. Great presidents are not born - great presidents are made. So what are we prepared to do to help him become a great president? Abraham Lincoln didn’t become a great president like Abraham Lincoln was if there is no Fredrick Douglass. What are we prepared to do [is] to be the Fredrick Douglass to help Barack Obama become a Lincoln wide statesman. That's what the book does. The "Accountable" book basically [says], "Here's what he said he was going to do; let's hold him accountable to it and here's how we can do our part to help usher him into his greatness as the president."
Daood: OK. Well, Friday, February 27th at the University of Southern California, subject matters pertinent not only to college students but selected high school students will be discussed. Is this the first year of topics being dialogued by college and high school students and define the objective and goals of their interaction?
Tavis: Every year we have a state of the Black Union Symposium which we've been talking about, which really features adults and there's always is youth voices represented in those conversations. This year for the 10th Anniversary, we decided that on Friday we would have a young scholars conversations. So we're bringing together a number of young scholars and this one is uniquely different because it's multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-ethnic where the State of the Black Union is all African American every year for the obvious reasons.
The Friday conversations, the young scholars conversation that you're referring on the campus at USC is a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic conversation that will feature a number of young scholars engaging in some deep dialogue and some rich dialogue with HS students and college students about the role that young people can and must play to hold the president accountable, to be responsible themselves and to understand that the excitement around electing Barak Obama was important but it was the beginning - it is not the end. I don't want people to think that the goal was accomplished by getting a Black president and now we can sit back and just chill. That's not the way this has to work and that the conversations that we're going to have with these young people, with these young scholars engaging young minds, HS students and college students on the Friday, the day before the Symposium on February 27th. For the young scholars at the Convention Center downtown on Saturday, February 28th.
Daood: Yes. Will any of your students from the Tavis
Smiley Foundation be a part of this course?
Tavis: One of the persons on the stage, I believe, is a person who has matriculated to our Leadership Program at the Foundation so we always try to involve somebody (some bodies) from our Foundation but this is not about the Foundation. It's really about the voices of young people represented in this conversations, but we wanted to make sure that we include young people of every race, ethnicity and culture that we have represented basically in the City of Los Angeles.
Daood: OK. Could you highlight for us a few of the interesting and dynamic stories that made these symposiums unforgettable events?
Tavis: Wow, there are so many. The short answer to that question is really every year a thing of beauty to see the people assemble for this conversation. I said any number of times that the only time we come together is at somebody's funeral. When somebody important dies we all get together for that home going service and, of course, with the election of Barack Obama it means that everybody's gonna be in Washington. But other than in special numbers like those, you don't see this...caliber of people together in this kind of dialogue, and when we do get together at somebody's funeral, it's not a time for dialogue except to celebrate the life of the person who passed away. So this conversation every year becomes the only time of the year when we can get all the minds in some deep dialogue. And so for me to answer your question, it's always moving for me just to see these people together. I treasure every year the photo of all these persons gathered together because its pretty unlikely that each year the group of high quality Black thinkers that we assembled would ever be assembled together in the specific matrix and so for me the highlight of my day is the launching between the morning panel and the afternoon panel when both panels come together for a photo shoot. For me just being in the midst of all that Black brilliance is a thing of beauty and something to behold every year. That's always the highlight of the day and that, of course, doesn't do justice to the good information and the rich dialogue that happens on the stage. But on a personal level I just love that photo album of all the brilliant minds together in one place.
Daood: As a host and moderator - what mental preparations and challenges entail for such an event of great magnitude?
Tavis: I do a lot of reading and the good news about moderating this conversation is that I'm reading for my TV show on PBS and my radio show on Public Radio and for the lectures I'm giving on the lecture circuit all the time. I'm joining you on the phone now on route to a lecture that I'm giving. So I'm always on the road studying and reading every day for TV and radio. So these things are always issues that I'm wrestling with every day. I do a lot of reading in preparation for these conversations in the days leading up to it. But the honest answer is I stay on top of these issues most days anyway so it doesn't require an inordinate amount of preparation because these are issues I'm discussing of the time anyway.
For me as a moderator it's about getting out of the way. It's not about me offering my opinions but about trying to conduct a train, if you will - to be the conductor of this train to make sure it arrives safety where its supposed to be 3 1/2 hours later, 4 hours into the conversation. This allows an opportunity for me to not get into my own point of view and expression but really giving an opportunity for these people to express themselves. So in that regard it's kind of like my TV and radio show anyway, which is asking questions, trying to ask some probing questions and staying out of the way.
Daood: At this point I would like to thank you for taking the time out to conduct the interview and I have one final question. With millions of people viewing in attendance the State of the Black Union, [are there any] promising thoughts that you're [hoping] people will embark upon coming away from this event?
Tavis: Oh, a beautiful question. It's a great place to close. It's the same as it is every year. The narrative I hope will be written after this conversation every year is that #1, people will be enlightened, encouraged and empowered - indeed - inspired by the conversation. There are always some voices every year always laughing. I've gotten to the point now where I expect it. But it's always laughable, quite frankly, a bit humorous for me because it's predictable that somebody's going to write a column. Some commentator is going to say something about that all we do is talk every year. And the truth of the matter is when don't [we] just talk? We have two N.Y. Times best sellers, and "Accountable" book coming out so this Symposium every year has produced three texts to #1. #2, there are all kinds of back thinkers who have been brought to the attention of the mainstream every year. I revel in the number of interviews and other appearances that people end up making on mainstream media after they have appeared in our Symposium, because now they're being exposed [as] the brilliant thinkers that they are to the nation.
So one, we're putting out text, two, we're inspiring other people who are in the media to interview and include their dialogue some of the brilliant people they [have] seen on this stage every single year, and third, the most important, we inspire everyday people who watch the program to understand that there's a role for them to play to help make America a nation as good as is promised.
I mentioned early in this conversation we profile some of those successes, some of the efforts of those people have been profiled in this conversation in the Covenant and action text that the work that they've been doing. But every year there are always people who I know, cause I run into them in the street, they send me postal letters, people who have been inspired by the conversations who are doing all kinds of wonderful work that would never ever be showcased necessarily on a national TV show.
But to answer your question in short is we want to inspire people and I know every single year that that happens and we are pleased to be coming back to Los Angeles again February 28th for the 10th Anniversary of the State of the Black Union Conversation. We had no idea 10 years ago when we started this it would last this long. We had no idea that this would become the pre-imminent conversation. The most watched conversation every year in America where you get all these Black minds together. Ten years after doing this, it is still the only conversation every year. If I had one regret, it would be that we haven't seen more of these conversations kick up but 10 years later it's still the only conversation where you can turn on television all day and see Black brilliance on display.
I thank you for the opportunity to talk to you and look forward to seeing you and all of Los Angeles join us at the Convention Center February 28th in Los Angeles.
Daood: Yes sir, once again I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be with us and I look forward to seeing you. Thank you.
Tavis: Thank you Daood for the opportunity and take care now.
For more information on the State of the Black Union event, visit ExperienceLA.com.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
-LA Times Neighborhod Mapping Project [LAist]
-Recession Obsession: Santa Monica's Tacos Por Favor [LAist]
-Broadway Walk Offers Chance for Education and Input [blogdowntown]
Let us know if we should be looking out for some interesting LA perspectives.
-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Invited Panelists and Presenters:
- Andrew Nystrom, LA Times Social Media
- Eric Richardson, Blogdowntown
- Ed Fuentes, Blogdowntown
- Bert Green, Bert Green Fine Art and Downtown Art Walk
- Curt Gibbs, CRA/LA, ExperienceLA.com, ExperienceLA WiFi
- Charity Tran, Civic Resource Group, ExperienceLA.com, ExperienceLA Blog
- Zach Behrens, LAist
- Audrey Madrigal, VEDC, Historic Downtown Retail Project
Go to ExperienceLA.com for more information.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Rivera just opened in January 2009 and it is already creating a sensation in the LA food scene. For Downtown LA it represents a true food destination; not just thinking about it as a restaurant that one goes to before an event at the Convention Center, Staples, or LA Live.The restaurant is the inspiration of chef John Rivera Sedlar. I guarantee that you will have more fun exploring your way thru the menu of latin inspired small plate dishes, especially the whimsical small bites. With an outstanding wine list from Spain, Portugal, and Argentina, Rivera could be a cousin of another outstanding LA restaurant known for wine and small plates, AOC. I have no doubt that when Los Angeles Magazine does its best new restaurants for calendar year 2009, this one will be near the top of the list. My Rivera food pictures from our recent visit can be seen here. A restaurant like this deserves the word of mouth and social networking buzz that is spreading the word of Rivera as a downtown LA dining destination. The online buzz on Rivera began a year ago with Rich Alossi's reporting on Angelenic on what to expect from this up and coming restaurant. Comments from those visiting the restaurant over the last week or so are now starting to appear on this blog posting. For those who want to better understand the impact of social media, we have a free workshop on February 18, 2009 at the LA Central Library. Our visit to Rivera occured later in the evening during the February Downtown Art Walk.
Friday, February 13, 2009
We all know and love her as Glinda in the Broadway hit musical, Wicked, but this time Kristin Chenoweth's bringing her own goodness to a benefit performance for the Reprise Theatre Company. The performance is one night only at the intimate Freud Playhouse at UCLA. You can also win tickets through the Reprise Theatre Company's website at www.reprise.org/kristin. Check out other events by the Reprise Theatre Company.
Other Broadway-like events around Los Angeles include:
- The Dining Room by A. R. Gurney at the Victory Theatre
- An Enchanted Evening at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center
- Luisa Fernanda, the Zarzuela - A Spanish Musical at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre
- Broadway At The Gardens Presents: Sweeney Todd at the Lewis Family Playhouse
- Pippin at the Mark Taper Forum
-Tiina Vuorenmaa, ExperienceLA Staff
Monday, February 09, 2009
If you weren't able to score a reservation at your favorite restaurant over the last two weeks during the DineLA Restaurant Week promotion, then you are in luck, as it was just extended to the end of February for most of the restaurants. For the second year in a row, my wife and I made it to 4 different restaurants with friends during Restaurant Week, doing our part to help the local economy. Here was a chance to try some of the high end restaurants for dinner at $35 for a three course meal, while others elected to price themselves at $44. The following are my picture sets from the following restaurants that we enjoyed:
Bashan in Glendale
Citrus at Social in Hollywood
Katsuya in Glendale at the Americana on Brand
Cafe Pinot in Downtown LA
In each picture set, I have written a something about each of these restaurant experiences. Of the four restaurants above, Cafe Pinot was the only one that I had ever previously eaten at. I always get a kick eating at Cafe Pinot, as I spent a decade working on the financing and implementation of the LA Central Library Project. Cafe Pinot is on the West Lawn of the Library, also known as the Maguire Garden.
The restaurant from above that I most want to go back to is Citrus at Social. This was food as art, as you can see from the chocolate bar dessert above. Last year my wife and I did Restaurant Week at Table 8, Grace, and Patina at Disney Hall for lunch. We have even traveled to San Diego for their Restaurant Week, as all of these promotions provide bargain upscale meals.
So check out which restaurant are participating by going to the DineLA Restaurant Week website.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
Friday, February 06, 2009
In the past decade, Burnett's work includes "The Annihilation of Fish" and the documentary "The Blues: Warming by the Devil's Fire." In 2007, Burnett directed an epic film on the independence of Namibia, entitled "Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation". Mr. Burnett recently completed the film "Relative Stranger" in 2008, which will premiere at the Pan African Film Festival and will air on the Hallmark Cable Channel March 14, 2009.
The following is an interview with Charles Burnett, conducted by ExperienceLA Blogger Daood.
Daood: Greetings Mr. Charles Burnett and congratulations on your success as a film director. Before we get into "Relative Stranger" and other film projects, can you elaborate on the 17th Pan African Film Festival and its vitality for filmmakers?
Charles Burnett: The Pan African Film Festival is one of the most important cultural events that take place in the States. It is particularly important to the Los Angeles community. The festival exposes the best films of black content to the community. It puts on valuable seminars and gives filmmakers and other artists a forum and a space to have a dialogue with an audience. It is very supportive and that support is quite often the encouragement that keeps you motivated in a world of dog-eat-dog environment.
Daood: A classic film has what essential elements?
Charles Burnett: I think a film that last[s], is always relevant, always appealing and there is always something new that you find even after years and year of viewing. It also says something about the human condition. It is also universal.
Daood: If you had to select one composition from your diary of films that fits your description of a classic film, which one standardizes that criterion?
Charles Burnett: I can't look at my films in an objective way. In fact I'm very critical of my work. I see a lot of thing[s] in them that I would do in another [way], but all filmmakers are not completely happy with the finished production. Initially you are pleased, but as time passes, you see pockmarks. I couldn't tell you about my films.
Daood: Chronologically, take us from 1969's "Several Friends" to 2008 "Relative Stranger", in describing your progress and development as a director?
Charles Burnett: I can't go from film to film because one’s maturity may not be seen in each film. Each film is a war onto itself. The financing and other elements of a film that you don't have control [over] are not in lockstep with your development or vision. You might have a bit more freedom to do what you want and then the next project you are back at square one or [an] event lower than when you first started out. Most independents don't make films that often benefit from going from one film to the next.
When I did "Several Friends" it was in film school and as a student, you had access to equipment, and film was relatively cheap. You had the luxury of being able to tell you[r] story the way you wanted. You were not compromised by the market place. I did the film with my own little money but later as you start making film with money from banks or investors, the rules change and you have to learn to negotiate on every level. The art of compromise is now the way of life. When you are able to do films independent of a concern for distribution, you can grow and develop your world-view. You have to have worked out ideas in an independent [way], without outside influences.
"Relative Stranger" was a completely different way of working for me. The production company had a unique way of making films that [I] was not used to. The method works for the company and they are very successful but for me it was difficult to get familiar with the system. It is like a turn key situation where you walk into a situation already in motion. At the end of the day what you progress in is gaining more insight in working with different people.
Daood: Could you, in detail, explain why Basil Wright and Jean Renoir influenced your early work?
Charles Burnett: Both Basil Wright and Jean Renoir were honest, if you use that word, in telling stories about people. Humanity was central to their work.
Daood: Being among the avant-garde of directors, what approach is taken creatively, to maintain your interest as a director and keeping viewers anticipating your films?
Charles Burnett: I never looked at my self as being avant-garde. My approach shifts from film to film but the story has to be relevant to me. I have to understand it and see it. I like a story that has relationships that reveal something unique about them and that the end raises the viewer's consciousness.
Daood: "Relative Stranger" is the highly anticipated piece in which people will get the opportunity to see at the Pan African Film Festival closing night February 15, 2009. The beautiful Cicely Tyson, Eriq Lasalle and other well known actors make up the cast for this film. Share with us what attracted you to direct "Relative Stranger" and your experience with the aforementioned actors?
Charles Burnett: Like most jobs, your agent tells you that there is a job about a family and you should read the script. I did read the script and I thought I might be able to add something to it. It is always to your benefit to work with such talented actors.
Daood: Presently is there a film in which you're about to embark upon as a director?
Charles Burnett: I have been trying to get several scripts made into films. One film script is based on a Walter Moseley novel. That looks like it may get financing soon. I'm also working a documentary about the building [of] green schools in Liberia.
Daood: Thanks for this opportunity and much success to you in the future.
Charles Burnett: Thank you for your questions and I hope people go out and support the Pan African Film Festival.
Despite a lack of music knowledge depth, I was sure I was going to have a great time because -
1) It was a GRAMMY Sound Stage event, and
2) How can the writer of "Working in the Coal Mine" and songs like "Get Out of My Life, Woman" and "Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky" not be fun?
Good thing I have good instincts for the obvious.
Similar to my last outing at the GRAMMY Museum, the museum's Executive Director Robert Santelli began with a one-on-one sit-down conversation. As Santelli began to ask Toussaint questions from a linear perspective - from childhood and onward - I began to really appreciate even moreso that I attended the Jazz Talk event featuring Charlie Haden. Though both artists exist in the same time frame and are geniuses in their own right, each have such specific stories to tell - different people that they've encountered, music that has inspired them, life experiences that have shaped their music and thinking and decisions. You can't compare the two artists, but having attended both conversations, my picture of that living history is just illuminated.
My favorite detail revealed by Toussaint? He learned to play piano by ear when he was young, learning songs off the radio with the belief that all piano players knew all the songs and he had a lot of catching up to do.
Santelli also focused much of his interview on a major influence in Toussaint's life - New Orleans. And given the last few years of hearing so much about post-Katrina New Orleans, it was just a great experience to hear a voice so much connected to the lively aspects of that city's soul.
Allen Toussaint's musical performance following the interview was probably one of the best moments I've ever encountered. He began with a random medley of songs ranging from classical to funky to piano lesson practice songs. He ended with a musical backstory to "Southern Nights". He told a tale of his youth as a young city boy brought to visit his relatives in the wide, open spaces of the country. It was a peaceful lull where somewhere in the middle of that story, you were there too. Then the story became the song and you knew exactly why that song came to life.
How many places in LA can you experience that?
Allen Toussaint will be performing this weekend on the GRAMMY Awards telecast - February 8th, 2009 at 8 pm ET/PT on CBS. Word has it, there's a special guest involved. There's more GRAMMY Week events at the GRAMMY Museum too.
-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator
Thursday, February 05, 2009
-Spotlight: Celebrate GRAMMY Week at the GRAMMY Museum - Allen Toussaint (TODAY), Hawaiian Music (Tomorrow), and Children's Music Showcase (Saturday)
-Features: Dropkick Murphys and Marcus Belgrave
-Ticket Giveaway: The Todd and Molly Show
See our newsletter for more details! Click here to subscribe to the ExperienceLA.com Newsletter.
But as a car-free Angeleno, I'm all in favor of late-night subway service which frees people from that concern. I was really glad when it launched for the Red Line during the holiday season and (particularly because I'm affiliated with a free public service offered by a mix of public and private agencies) that it was brought to the forefront by a public-private collaboration.
I know that there's a lot that goes into making late night subway service happen, but seeing the new hustle and bustle of LA Live during the holidays (or as of late, a game, a concert, or a show) just makes me be more supportive than ever of getting people out and about.
Times are tough, money is hard to come by, but a lot of experiencing LA is just getting out there. In any case, while we wait for a little more transit freedom, there's plenty of experience LA's offerings that are FREE...
-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator