Friday, November 25, 2011
JLOOP: a brand & interactive agency located in Long Beach, CA. The advertised focus of the Saturday night event [through a few email invitation reminders] was a celebration of the company's 10 year anniversary. The added bonus for the group I attended this outing with was that the celebration was also a soft-launch of a project that my friend had been working on for several months now, an iPhone game called "Tortilla Soup Surfer."
The game features a tomato surfer named Tony [example image to the right] who is riding the wave of tortilla soup inside the bowl of a little boy: Juanito. As Juanito tilts the bowl to slurp his soup, the wave begins. Extra points for collecting chili peppers, performing tricks, and staying in the tube. Not only is the game fun and addicting [like a good bowl of soup is] for us, but it had the additional bonus of featuring accidents that branded it as something out of my friend's artistic vision. The original type used to inform you of a "gnar"ly job done or a "sick" trick executed screamed his aesthetic. The decor at the top of the bowl was reminiscent of pottery he bought for his parents on a trip to Mexico. Without knowing the creator, the game is great...but knowing the designer makes it that much more awesome to see it come to life.
The process getting to this day deserves mention as well. Watching the progression of the game development in stages [via his tumblr account and him showing us short demos of the work-in-progress on his iPhone - if you've ever been to the Reina Sofia in Madrid and seen the photo exhibition that followed Picasso's progress & editing process of Guernica...the experience was essentially a modernized version of that] has enabled us to "travel" into an innovative arena most of us would never experience otherwise.
While there was much meet & mingling occurring, there were also activities provided such that those wall-flowers among us [ah-hem] would have something to facilitate them from social anxiety and potentially awkward small talk.
First and foremost, after the 8:30pm announcement of Tortilla Soup Surfer, there was a running posting of the top scores of the game. Creative profile names abounded...
Next there was the avatar-creation board. JLOOP's website is accented with chibi-like figures that mimic the look of their employees. So, all guests of the event were invited to create a JLOOP avatar of their own. Just like paper dolls, there was a pile of stickers that allowed guests to construct a JLOOP version of themselves to stick to the wall. An example of one is here:
Then there was the instagram clothes line. They had a small photo printer that was synced to print out any photos taken on the instagram app with a hashtag to JLOOP. The photos were then hung on a close line creating both a "party favor" of sorts and also a collage of the evening's events & attendees. As an aside, this is ingenious for a wedding [note to future brides-to-be]: you'd save a bundle by using this idea in lieu of a rented photo booth.
That night is something my group of friends has been talking about ever since. It was a fun outing, but mostly just an incredible blessing to share in a public exhibition of a friend's hard work and creativity...I mean we've always known him to be talented, but it is great to have a larger group recognize this and share in the enjoyment of it as well.
Taking a trip away from your own desk, cubicle, 9-5 into the working realm of another is like traveling to a different state or country: it is a different cultural microcosm. If you get such an opportunity to get a glimpse of the working territory of someone else and to see bits of themselves reflected in a creative medium of choice, don't pass it up.
Monday, October 10, 2011
The main draw to The Derby, however, is the dueling piano bar show. The basic set up is two pianists facing each other who alternate playing songs requested by customers. Once you are seated, your waiter comes by to drop off request cards. I was impressed by the breadth of their repertoire, everything from Disney songs to hip-hop-adapted-to-piano accompaniment [of course they did have the aid of MacBooks to find lyrics and music, but still]. Some of the songs even are accented by video clips like the Chip & Dale audition SNL skit or the orange mocha frappuccino scene from Zoolander. And the crowd gets exponentially more into the whole experience as the evening hour, a number of Coronas drunk, increases. If you come around 8:30pm you'll just see most people singing along reservedly and toe-tapping but a few hours later will have a good majority out of their seats dancing with strangers or even performing a rave-like-swirling light show with flashlights. Its an entertaining outing for people watching alone.
Our crew attended to celebrate a birthday. And you may be thinking to yourself that this sounds like a perfect place to celebrate a birthday...but be ware. Although it may appear to be an ideal night of entertainment for a birthday, a portion of it will come at the birthday boy/girl's expense. The pianists will recognize and "celebrate" your day of birth in a way that may just destroy those among us who shutter at public attention [ah-hem]...it wasn't even directed at me and I was anxious the moment they called our birthday friend to the piano to acknowledge him without even knowing what they were to do to him. As for the details of how they commemorate the completion of another year of life...that will remain something you will have to discover by attending a piano-dueling evening. Curiosity may convince you to go, no?
The larger of a group you go with the better...although you will certainly make friends if you go solo or in a smaller group. There is something about singing along to well-loved and well-known songs that inspires instant kinship. But, if you go with enough friends to chip in some doe, you can take a stab at some mic time. For $20 you can get yourself, or force a friend, to sing to the pianists accompaniment in leiu of the weathered dueling piano man. Our group readily did so for a voice among us...a somewhat willing victim. Now I am sure for some, hearing a karaoking friend may be more enjoyable for a laugh at them than enjoyable for listening to them. For us, however, it was the latter and was additionally one of those memories you place in a time capsule to pull out when you need a reminder of a carefree time when you were young. He's good, as in "could-steal-the-show-from-the-piano-man" good, which equated to augmented enjoyment of forcing a friend to display his talent.
So for a potentially scarring birthday outing, to enjoy the under-celebrated talent of a friend, to unwind from a day of the 9-to-5 with some familiar tunes, and to get a taste of vacation, The Derby is your fix.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Unto the kingdom of perpetual night.
Actor Will Gear opened the Theatricum Botanicum on his property for fellow black listed actors who were victims of McCarthyism. Since he could not get work in Hollywood, he and his family survived on his Topanga Canyon property by selling herbs, vegetables, and theatre. When the blacklisting ended, he converted the Theatricum Botanicum into a non-profit organization that offered free workshops, and since his death educational programs along with traditional productions.
This is not your typical theatre experience. Not the conventional concert hall or play house, with assigned seating or air conditioning. Attending a production here is like entering a time machine, going back to how plays were traditionally preformed: in the open air. But I am getting ahead of myself. When coming to see a play at the Theatricum Botanicum, it will not be a complete experience if you arrive just in time to sit down for the performance. Arrive early and have a picnic on the grounds before hand. There are picnic tables provided and the Hamlet Hut offers some concessions as well. Camping trip meets night at the theatre is an unexpectedly perfect marriage.
The open-air element, to me, was the best part. Feeling the breeze, hearing frogs and crickets mixing melodies, and the sight of periodic leaves falling form the trees above somehow made the play feel more real like it was possible that we simply went on a hike on some walking paths in the woods and stumbled across an engaging interaction with a troop of people in uncommon costume. Best of all, since its rather chilling in Topanga Canyon in the evenings, everyone comes equipped with blankets. So now not only is it camping trip meets night at the theatre, but you now throw in the feeling of watching a movie from the comfort of your home, bundled up in your favorite throw with a warm cup of hot coco in your mittened hand.
Our maiden voyage at the Theatricum Botanicum was for Shakespeare's Richard III. I'd, shamefully, never read the play but was instantly absorbed. The cast was captivating from the first uttered line and had me holding my breath in anticipation at some points and laughing out loud [too loud?] at others. The costumes were over-the-top in ideal Shakespearean fashion making me long for a return to an era where all were required to wear cloaks and capes. Most of all, however, is the undeniable passion the actors of this production have for theatre. I mean, good acting is good acting, but you can tell when an actor or actress truly has a passion for it, sees it as art, as part of breathing for them, rather than just their means to a paycheck. All the actors of this production were clearing of the former type, creatively committed to their characters, and exhibiting their devotion for their chosen art.
I can't believe that I did not know this place existed. For all the money people are willing to shell out for performances of various kinds, many are missing out on a truly unique experience [and at a much more reasonable price at might add] at the Theatricum Botanicum. A great way to spend an evening: picnic dinner, bundled in blankets, and transported into fiction as if a participant in its making. The end of the performance will leaving you wishing you could stay the night, hoping that this theatre-Narnia might just keep you forever.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Laguna Beach hosts an Art Walk the first Thursday of every month. Various galleries & shops in Laguna Beach feature well established or budding artists. Essentially, if you're looking for something free to do after work in Orange County this is your ticket: free peeks at art, free music, and [at some locations] free drinks and snacks.
Although art exhibitions are enjoyable in-of-themselves, the are made much more exciting and memorable if you know a bit about the artist... or if they just so happen to be a very dear friend.
Tonight was the first public exhibition of the art of my friend, Kristina. Since the first days of knowing her, noticing her sketches on the back of a church program while sitting next to her in a pew, I was enamored with her style. And that captivation has only increased as she shared bits of her work, which was done mostly for herself, not to share.
The past few weeks especially have been a blessing and privilege because I was allowed to see various stages of the pieces she was working on to exhibit in the Art Walk. It was almost like watching the growth of a seed from something with great potential, yet not quite itself, into a stunning bloom, a creation one can't drink in quite enough.
I don't just express enthusiasm here for her work because she is my friend, although I will say that it is convenient bonus. I truly think her work is amazingly creative, original, and inspiring. After seeing each piece I was immediately inspired to write, and what better purpose for art than to prove a catalyst for thought and further creativity?
This exhibition featured four works. All are wood burnings with color added after with acrylic pencils [*need to verify the correct terminology with her...out of my element here :)].
While I adored all four, three of the pieces were more thoroughly tied together with the motif of a old man. Her old man character started with Horace [as she called him]: an elderly gentlemen made complete with a pipe, smoke billowing out from both sides of his mouth, a crew cut slate-blue sweater, and white-with-side-burns-connected beard.
Each of Horace's posse that followed would contain similar features: smoke, vacant white eyes, a defined nose, boney hands, and shar pei wrinkles [and I mean that in the most endearing way possible because who is not comforted and intrigued by the outlandish wrinkles of a shar pei?].
The second piece was inspired by Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea [as an aside, both Kristina and I were delighted to discover that on this day in 1952 Hemingway first published The Old Man and the Sea in Life Magazine...perfect timing? I think so...]. The old man drifts at sea on a stormy, full-mooned night while dreaming of a past memory [nightmare?] when his ship was wrecked by a giant squid. His lacquered yellow rain coat fails to shield him from being haunted by the memory of losing his ship, what every fisherman and captain would be most dishonored by.
The final old man, a pilot, evokes bits of Charles Lindbergh and the Red Baron [the Snoopy version or Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen variety], but mostly just bits of her husband as he might look 50 years from now. Bomber jacket, red scarf, goggles poised on his head and twisted-point-mustache make the pilot all the more endearing.
There is something so very inviting about these old men, such that I wish I could crawl into their frames and sit down for a cup of earl grey served with a blue berry scone and just drink up their tales of their adventures from long ago and soak in their lifetime of wisdom. If only. But seeing these characters frozen onto their flat wooden realms is the next best thing. I could just stand and look at them, share their company, for hours, imaging what their life could have been like.
Besides day dreaming of fire-side chats with these fellas I was also thrilled to have the chance to collect some wall-flower moments of watching strangers become intrigued by her art and then compliment the pieces or ask her about her process. To share artistic creations, especially the first time, is a risk, anxiety provoking. It is making yourself vulnerable because every creation contains a piece of their creator. To see others around me become equally as swept away and in awe of her work gave me as much joy as if they were my own works they were enjoying, probably more joy in fact. To see someone, especially a friend, in their creative element is one of the greatest blessings to be had.
Art is not limited to conventional platforms either. Part of the exhibition was also displaying the pieces in just the right way. With the help of our mutual friend, Kristina's pieces were displayed at the Hobie in downtown Laguna Beach, where Luci works. As Kristina set up her pieces our friend worked in the window nearby to create a display for Tom's Shoes. After observing both girls at work I have a much greater appreciation for the creative energy, patience, and artistic vision that goes into a window display. Kristina set up her pieces by hanging from twine and placing the other two among an menagerie of wicker baskets, rope, balls of string, and pieces of drift wood.
Our friend's display featured, among other things, shoes draped over antique books, some with the centers carved out to act in lieu of the traditional clay pot for tiny succulents. I'd like to hire her, the bashful & modest interior designer, to decorate my house. Artists abound in more venues then you imagine.
So the Art Walk is most certainly worth in investigating. Laguna Beach has much to offer the art appreciators among you, permanent galleries abound, but the Art Walk has a lively vibe and you have the added bonus of being able to speak one-on-one with local artists while enjoying their creations [something unattainable at most larger art galleries].
Check back here soon because Kristina is working on getting an Etsy sight going to sell her designs. I will post a link here soon!
Thursday, August 11, 2011
It is comprised of many moments of pain, border line torture at times, which inspires a flurry of grotesque internal monologues…yet we return to it annually: backpacking. The high sierras call our name yearly, and a group of friends and I have become determined [or perhaps I’m just blindly driven] to make this a tradition amongst our group. No matter where life takes us, once a year we reconvene in the backcountry.
Monday, July 11, 2011
The Art in the Streets exhibition is currently at the Geffen Contemporary location, in the heart of Little Tokyo. Find the closest parking lot [we found one with a flat rate of $6.50 within 100 yards of the MOCA entrance], and follow the crowds to the street art candy land. The Geffen Contemporary, architecturally, is essentially a large warehouse. I have been here before for a Murakami exhibit, and the space never disappoints, this time being no exception.
The exhibit begins before you enter the MOCA with murals on walls of the surrounding buildings, a spray painted bus, and even a tagged steamroller truck [Yogi bear met a most cruel demise...picnic basket for one now BooBoo].
I am a great fan of street art, I love discovering it where ever I go, in side streets, in little nooks and corners that many people don't look down. Going into this exhibit was like being a kid in a candy story, sensory overload from the moment I walked through the door and instant enthusiasm to take in all that I could. The scale of the show alone is overwhelming as you take a sweeping panoramic visual digestion of all that lay before you in the hours you have to peruse the exhibit. Color screaming from every corner and you wonder how they put all this together.
As much as I like seeing street art I, quite ashamedly, know very little about individual street artists. Fortunately for me, two of my friends that I explored the MOCA with that day happen to know a great deal about many of the featured artists. So, I stuck close to them as much as possible to hear the factoids and back story of the various artists, and was amused to notice that several strangers lingered near by, obviously listening to the same unofficial tour guides that I was.
The Art in the Streets exhibit had the typical throw ups on walls, but also more unconventional pieces including constructed ally ways made of found objects, enormous stencils used to great shadows on a tent, videos, black-lighted rooms with music, tagged cars, model trains, and a wall made of "lost pet" flyers. What was most valuable, to me, about this exhibit is that it allowed street artists to be featured as what they are: artists. I will readily admit that until about 7 years ago I had thought graffiti to be defilement of public property, vandalism. But, once learning about how it is made, hearing the back story of individual artists, and seeing more of it in general in various cities I became fascinated with it and realized it to be a medium of creative expression.
There is so much to see at this exhibit, that I would recommend going more than once if you can, especially if you live or work in the Los Angeles area. After three hours of surveying the exhibit, we decided to grab some dinner before heading home at the popular sausage grill Wurstküche. As I came to discover from my friend who'd been there before, this place usually has a line out the door, but we hit it just right with only a 10-minute wait in line. However, I will go ahead and say now that whatever the wait would be to dine at this location is worth it...don't let yourself be scared off. The menu is pretty strait forward: pick your sausage, select your two free toppings, and choose a beer. As far as sausages go, they cover their bases pretty well: the more familiar bratwurst & Italian sausage, the more gourmet mango jalapeño chicken or sun dried tomato & mozzarella turkey/chicken sausage, the exotic alligator & pork or rattlesnake & rabbit sausage, and even 3 varieties of vegetarian sausages. They also offer double dipped Belgian fries with an option of white truffle oil glaze and a selection of dipping sauces. For drinks you choose among Belgian, German, and North American beers & ales.
After you stand in line to place your order, you grab your number and head down a hallway to the indoor eating area. It has some private tables, but the greater atmosphere is featured at the commonly-shared beer garden tables complete with brown paper taped to the tables allowing for doodling and games of hangman or tic-tac-toe while you wait for your food. When your food arrives, don't forget to choose among the 5 varieties of mustard and then enjoy.
After dinner we spotted a cream puff place called Beard Papa’s, apparently a chain. The most grabbing thing about it is the little old-man-sailor icon. Cream filling selections abound including coffee, earl grey tea, pumpkin, chocolate, and the original vanilla. The ultra-sweet cream is balanced well by the plain but moist pastry that embraces it. Beard Papa's claim their cream puffs to be “the best in the world,” so are at least worth a try to say you’ve “had the best.”
A wonderful day spent with friends drinking in the creative endeavors of notable street artists. This exhibit truly should not be missed. Whether you see the exhibit or not, you should check out the list of artists and Google their work so on our next day trip or vacation you can be on the watch for their works in their natural environment: the streets.