If Los Angeles Ran Entirely on Bicycles

What if Los Angeles operated entirely on bicycles instead of cars for transportation? Ok, I realize there are a lot of holes in the idea that would make that impossible. But still! In honor of Earth Day let’s talk about it.  (By the way, Earth Day was yesterday… if you forgot about it, do some extra recycling this week, or plant a tree or something.)

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Just this past Sunday, Los Angeles held its fifth CicLAvia event, where the city shuts down a major roadway to make room for bicyclists and pedestrians all over the city.  Last weekend’s events shut down Venice Blvd, all the way from the beach into downtown LA. Thousands of Angelenos took to the streets on their bikes, some just tooling around the areas where they live, and others making the entire trek from one end of the route to the other.

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CicLAvia is modeled after the ciclovias that started in Bogota, Colombia “as a response to the congestion and pollution of city streets.” Here in LA  the purpose is “connecting communities and giving people a break from the stress of car traffic.” We don’t have bicycles, but we met friends for lunch who were riding inland from the beach, and popped down to the route on foot to check it out. It was a sea of bicycles!

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So could we do it? Give up our cars in exchange for bicycles as our primary means of transportation? Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

 Some Pros

  • less pollution from car exhaust

  • bicycles take up way less space than cars, presumably meaning less crowded roads

  • all the things that come with reducing reliance on foreign oil

  • people get more exercise; this also means people burning more calories, effectively utilizing more of the calories they put into their systems so that the energy that went into getting that food to them is more valued

  • people would likely live closer to work, and soon communities would become more socially and economically self sufficient

Some Cons

  • your work and play options may be more limited as travelling very long distances would be pretty much out of the question

  • we would still need to allow for space for emergency vehicles to make their way through in emergency situations

  • transporting babies, small children, or people with disabilities would be considerably more difficult

  • the environmental impact of suddenly disposing of hundreds of thousands of cars… well, that would be a bummer, to say the very least

  • rainy days would be pretty unpleasant… maybe we could also institute “rain days” at work…?

Ok, so realistically it would probably not work. But it’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? I’m reading a book right now called The Philosophy of Sustainable Design, in which the author Jason F McLennan sites a quote from Natural Capitalism that explains that of all the energy consumed by a car, only 1% of it actually goes toward moving the person it’s transporting. Baby steps are happening in the car industry to improve on this, to be sure! But McLellan goes on to say, “Our greatest people-moving invention is actually the bicycle, which moves people farther per calorie of energy than anything we’ve come up with. Forty times more efficient than the car and three times more efficient than a person walking!”

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What are your thoughts? Do you have a bicycle at home, and would you be able to replace your car with it?

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Historical Downtown Los Angeles

When people think of Los Angeles, they think of glitz and glamour, expensive cars, palatial McMansions, beaches and sunshine. But rarely do they think “historical.” In fact, there’s a surprising amount of history here in LA. The city was being built up quite rapidly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the result is a city of hidden Beaux Arts, Modern, and Art Deco treasures.

This past weekend the hubby joined me on an LA Conservancy tour I have been meaning to take for quite some time, and I’m so glad we finally went. It was a walking tour, close to two and a half hours, that took us through some of LA’s greatest architectural achievements, ending in a finale of sorts at the Bradbury building, considered LA’s single most important work of architecture.

Here are my favorite highlights of the tour. If you are in the LA area, I highly recommend you take one of the conservancy’s tours on your own. They have a bunch to choose from. I personally plan to hit as many as I can over the coming year.

The Biltmore Hotel

The Biltmore Hotel (not actually associated with the national Biltmore you may have heard of, but using the same name nonetheless) is a pretty perfect example of Beaux Arts architecture. With it’s columns and ornamentation at the base floors of the building and ornamentation at the very top, the architects left the majority of the center of the structure relatively simple, as is typical for Beaux Arts design. To me, this looks just like buildings you might see in a city like New York or Chicago. The Biltmore is a gorgeous hotel, and they even offer a traditional afternoon tea for a truly Victorian experience.

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exterior Biltmore Hotel

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ornamentation at the top level of the building, typical of Beaux Arts architecture

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original front entrance
(today, you would likely enter from the other side, an addition to the building from the 1980’s with a covered drive-up area and parking garage)

Pacmutual Center

This building was originally built when Pacmutual was still the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company. Also in the Beaux Arts style, the ornamentation pattern is similar to the Biltmore. The building still holds most of it’s original charm and decorative detailing, making you feel like you have stepped into another time altogether while you wander through the lobby.

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front entrance to the Pacmutual Building

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this was the original Pacific Life Mutual Insurance Company crest, which still sits atop the entrance

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ceiling ornamentation in the main lobby area

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the building still has it’s original marble staircases

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this is also the original mailbox put into the lobby when it was built in 1908

Los Angeles Central Library

The library is one of those places I have always loved and appreciated. Sadly, we’re no longer technically City of Los Angeles residents, so no more checking out books from this magical place! But it’s still a public building, so anyone can visit. Although the architect refused to admit to building in any particular style, the library was built during the beginnings of the popularity of Art Deco, and it shows. He had also just returned from a trip to Turkey, and the tile work and murals throughout clearly reflect that influence.

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the library sits amongst the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles

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tile detail on the library’s pyramid-shaped top

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the US Bank Tower behind the library was once called “Library Tower” because it was built by purchasing air rights from the library; the library would have been torn down were it not for the money generated by this transaction
(Library Tower’s sunburst-shaped top mimics the sunburst on the library’s tile top)

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on the other side of the building, philosophers welcome the library’s patrons as they enter

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this mural has been cleaned, but never restored , so it remains in it’s original (albeit a little faded) form

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the mural on the ceiling of the rotunda is a near perfect replica of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque

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more details mimicking the Blue Mosque in Turkey

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this globe hangs from the center of the rotunda

The Edison Building (now called One Bunker Hill)

This is another Art Deco treasure that makes you feel as though you have entered another era when you walk inside. The lobby boasts an incredible amount of beautiful marble work and lots of original details including carved wood elevator interiors and inset ornamentations on the ceiling. Plus, there is a mural painted by Hugo Ballin, the same artists who painted the amazing murals in the rotunda at the Griffith Observatory.

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the Edison Building has had a few additions and updates, but mostly remains in it’s original form

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gorgeous marble work and decorative details in the lobby

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mural by artist Hugo Ballin

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the original wood detail still remains in the elevator interiors

Angel’s Flight and Grand Central Market

Angel’s Flight was recently re-opened to the public, and is a treasured piece of Los Angeles history. It was originally intended as transportation for the residents of the exclusive Bunker Hill (now populated by skyscrapers and performance theaters, and no longer residential) so that they could easily go from the top of the hill to the bottom. At the base of Angel’s Flight is Grand Central Market, which was bustling with activity just like I imagine it has since it opened in 1917!

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Angel’s Flight

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Angel’s Flight in action

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the hustle and bustle of Grand Central Market

Bradbury Building

This was the building we all had been anxiously awaiting our arrival to. You may recognize this one from movies such as Blade Runner and 500 Days of Summer, among many others. The Bradbury Building doesn’t look like much from the outside, but is an incredible feat of architecture on the inside! No one actually knows exactly who the architect was, but Lewis L Bradbury commissioned it at the end of his life so that he may leave a legacy to Los Angeles. He never saw it in it’s finished form, but it certainly is a legacy. The glass ceiling allows light to travel into nearly every corner of the building, and incredible iron work and wood panelling details cover the space unlike any other place I’ve ever seen.

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exterior of the Bradbury Building

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interior Bradbury Building

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incredible detail in the iron work throughout the building

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one angle of the open elevator shafts

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the glass ceiling allows plenty of light to flood into the building

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a front view of one of the elevator hafts

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beautiful wood panelling details covers the walls and ceilings

I’m hoping to jump on LA Conservancy’s Art Deco tour next, but there are so many to choose from!

Do you have a favorite LA architecture gem? Or a favorite from your own city?

Spring Garden: Cozy and Delicious

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the flowers that overhang our back patio

We’ve been diving into Spring, and we’re so excited it’s here! I know, I do live in Southern California, and it’s pretty temperate most of the year. But still, Spring is the best time of year. The temperatures stop dropping into the low 40’s, the Winter rain takes a break, and just like on the East coast everything becomes new and green and lush again.

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our back patio (the “lounge”), great for reading, grilling, and chilling

On the first warm weekend, we jumped at the chance to get our outdoor space ready, starting with a refresh of our back patio (which I lovingly like to call our “lounge”). Last week I mentioned our first bbq of Spring; this is where the ladies watched from as the guys battled it out over a game of bocci ball!

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I love to cozy up here with a book

Plus, we have long aspired to be herb gardeners, and since this is the first Spring since we moved into our house last year, we finally have the space for a modest vegetable and herb garden. The hubby cleared out the garden left by the last owners, mainly because it was mostly berries and berries can be impossible to wrangle! (If you’re not familiar with growing berries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are travelers so they can quickly take over your garden if you’re not careful!) We put in a 4×4 raised garden bed and a collection of pots (most of them found around our yard in unexpected places, left lying around by the past two owners of the house).

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our raised herb and vegetable garden

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4 x 4 raised garden bed for the vegetables

We included all our favorite herbs, the ones we use the most in the kitchen.

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thyme

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cilantro

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basil

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rosemary

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chives

We have four types of peppers and a tomato plant, which we hope one day to combine with our young lime and avocado trees (they live in the front yard) to make completely home grown guacamole.

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4 kinds of peppers

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tomato

We threw in a zucchini and a cucumber, because you can’t go wrong with either of those.

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zucchini

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cucumber

And as lovers of strawberries, we decided to replace the ones we pulled out of the original garden with a few in large pots, so they can travel all they want within the confines of a controlled environment.

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strawberries (and one of the inherited gnomes that live in our garden)

I love peeking over at the garden to see how it’s doing, while lounging out back. And it’s especially satisfying when we need some thyme or basil for a meal and we simply go outside and snip off a sprig from our garden. Hooray for Spring!

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the view of our garden from our lounge (and another inherited gnome; we decided to let them stay for good luck)

What have you done to prepare your outdoor space for Spring?

Games to Love at Your Spring BBQ

Spring is here! We had our first bbq over the weekend with a few of our closest friends to kick it off, and it was glorious. Burgers and drumsticks straight off the grill, homemade sangria, and some incredible side dishes brought by our guests that included everything from guacamole, to macaroni and cheese, to homemade Indian samosas. It was a lovely relaxing evening in our back yard, and before long a few of the gang were head long in an intense game of bocce ball on the lawn.

There are so many awesome lawn games fit for a day of grilling, eating and drinking (because we have to burn all that off somehow, ‘eh?) so here are some classics you can play as the weather starts warming up and you look for more excuses to spend your weekends outside.

Bocce Ball

Play as two people or two teams, each with a set of 4 bocce balls. A small ball, called the jack, is thrown toward the end of the lawn, and the object of the game is for your team to get closer to the jack than the other team by tossing and rolling your bocce balls toward it. Just like in pool, things start getting ugly when opposing teams start knocking your balls out of the way to make room for their own near the jack! Each team takes turns based on who is currently closest to the jack, so strategy can be the key to winning!

Horseshoes

Play as two people or two teams. The object is to throw your horseshoe at a stake at the far end of the lawn (traditionally 40 feet away). If you hook the horseshoe around the stake, it’s called a ringer. The only way to score points is by getting a ringer or landing your horseshoe on the ground, closest to the stake. Those horseshoes are heavy, so throwing one that distance is not as easy as it sounds!

Croquet

This game always makes me think of that scene in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland where the Red Queen is hitting curled up ground hogs (or some rodent-type furry thing) with a flamingo-mallet  through the playing-card-soldier arches. Firstly, it’s played with balls not cute furry animals, and the mallets are just mallets, not birds. The game is basically similar to golf, but played with mallets and there are arches instead of holes in the ground (which is much friendlier on your lawn). It’s known to be quite a competitive game!

Volleyball

The great thing about volleyball is you can play with any number of people; whether it’s one-on-one or seven-on-seven, anyone who wants to play can play. All you need is a net, a couple of posts, and a volleyball. I’m sure there are very specific “regulation” rules, but it’s a generally flexible game if you need to fudge the rules a bit for any reason. Plus, playing in your yard is great practice for when the party moves to the beach this summer!

Frisbee

This is probably the easiest to get going, since nearly everyone has a frisbee in their garage somewhere. Just a friendly toss back and forth will get you and your friends up and moving, and a couple challenging throws can make it a lively game. You can also get a group tossing it back and forth. I find most fun when you don’t know who it will get thrown to next! (I love a good fake-out!) If you have a big enough yard and are feeling especially ambitious, step it up with a game of Ultimate Frisbee (remember college?) which is a lot like football but without the tackling. Well, usually without the tackling anyway.

Happy Spring, everyone!

What’s your favorite BBQ activity?

Wonderful Wood Antiques at The Snivling Sibbling

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The Snivling Sibbling storefront

Last weekend while wondering around Eagle Rock, I discovered a wonderful antique store called The Snivling Sibbling.  The hubby and I were out and about, and decided to head down to Eagle Rock to find a little lunch joint. When we were done we did a little exploring by foot. Of course I have driven by The Snivling Sibbling many times and have been curious, so I was excited to walk in and see what this shop was all about. Low and behold, it was filled with treasures!

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an overall view of the shop inside

When we first arrived, we were greeted by small sampling of what the store has to offer, lining the sidewalk out front. Something about the entrance also reminded me of the charming old antique stores you might find on a road trip through the small towns of West Virginia.

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The Snivling Sibbling entrance

The shop is not big in size, but it is packed with wonderful antique and vintage furniture, all very reasonably priced and in fantastic condition.

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some treasures at the front of the store

You can find everything from chairs, to tables, dressers, mirrors, and bookshelves. There is even this beautiful art deco bed headboard and foot board (which I definitely would have snatched up if we had had a full sized bed in the house anywhere).

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art deco headboard and foot board

Delightful accessories have homes all around the shop, peppered over the furniture until someone joyfully takes them home.

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accessories are scattered throughout the store

And when you go, don’t forget to look up! Hanging from the ceiling are accessories, furniture, and art, all worthy of snatching up.

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more treasures hanging from the ceiling

In fact we took this chair home, which we found hanging up above. It is the perfect antique addition to balance out some of the more modern aspects of our living room, and looks great in front of our Bachelder fireplace. This chair is probably more similar to the age of our home than most of the furniture we’ve decorated with, and I feel like it brings a bit of nostalgia into our sitting area.

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one of the treasures we were happy to take home with us

The shop was also filled with beautiful mirrors. Some were hanging on the wall, others on the floor propped up against something else. I fully plan to go back for one as we continue decorating our home.

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one of several beautiful mirrors for sale

Jeff, the store’s owner and operator who we met while we were there, had just gotten a few new antiques in and I found his team out back polishing and preparing them for sale.

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a recent arrival, being prepared for sale

I fell in love with this chair, being polished up out back.

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gorgeous chair, probably Victorian, just arrived and being polished up

Before we left, we decided to also pick up this end table. By its original design, it was probably meant for a sitting room. (The little door on the front has a small cigar rack built into the inside.) But I decided to use it in the bedroom. It has a beautiful femininity to it in the wood carving design and the top border, but the rich warm wood makes it elegant and mature.

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another treasure we delightful snagged, now our bedside table

And again, much like the chair, this end table is about the same vintage as the house, so it keeps with the charm of all the lovely vintage details we love so much about our house.

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a beautiful addition to our work-in-progress bedroom decor

What’s your favorite antique store find? Do you have a favorite antique store in the LA area that I should go check out?

Orchid Dreams

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five buds bloomed my orchid this year

I have lived in Los Angeles for 8 years 7 months, and counting. I’m going to guess that I have been trying to make an orchid part of my decor for approximately 8 years 1 month. I have killed exactly 7 of them to date, but this time I did it! I have successfully nurtured this orchid plant for close to one year now, and not only is it alive, it is blooming!

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my happy, healthy orchid

You’ll have to forgive my excitement. After several people telling me it’s easy to care for orchids, and then me subsequently killing them, this is something I never thought I could accomplish. And much to my chagrin, itactually was pretty easy!… With a couple of new conditions in play:

1) I have this awesome gardening window in my new house. It does not get direct sunlight, but that’s great because orchids don’t like direct sunlight. The window is shaded by a huge ficus tree, so it gets plenty of light but no harsh direct sun rays.

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some of the new roots that developed in the past couple months

2) The gardening window is over the kitchen sink. What does this have to do with anything, you may ask? Well, every time I do the dishes, I am reminded to check it to see if it need watering. And I just water it in the sink when it does. Piece of cake!

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the base of the stalk that grew this year

3) This particular orchid is a Phalaenopsis, which likes to get completely dry between watering. So it was always easy for me to tell when it was time to water it again. Water it when the bark in the pot feels dry.

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Phalaenopsis with red lips

So to encourage those of you who might have felt like me, and think that you can’t take care of an orchid, I’m here to tell you that you can! Here are a couple links that will make it easy:

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five blossoms

Have you tried to maintain an orchid? Did you find it easy or difficult?

A Pop Up Storefront Transformation

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the Fusion Lab storefront at night

For the past couple weeks I’ve been working with Outfest on an awesome grant program they call their Fusion Lab.

“Fusion Lab is a pop-up shop style micro-cinema and media lab in Highland Park, Los Angeles that will be open from March 7 – March 30, 2013. Supported by a grant from the Irvine Foundation, Fusion Lab will host screenings of short films, filmmaking workshops taught by Outfest alumni, and workstations with cameras and editing software. Stop by Fusion Lab to rent a camera to make a short film that you can edit at computers and editing software also available for free.”

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Outfest Fusion was awarded a James Irvine Foundation grant for the project

I was hired to help them get up and running in the storefront space that will be their home for the rest of the month. It’s been such a cool project to work on! I love that the goal is to bring the knowledge of story-telling to anyone who wants to learn. They called on production designer Michael Fitzgerald and his team to turn an underwhelming, if not worse for wear, storefront into a fully functional classroom and screening room in an eclectic-grunge setting, and they did it in a matter of mere days. With dozens of cans of leftover paint and some generously discounted set furniture rentals, he creatively put together all sorts of opposing colors and furniture styles, and somehow it works in the most unexpected ways!

I didn’t get there quite in time to take a true “before” picture, but these were taken only three days after I first saw the space completely untouched (poop-brown walls and all), and only three days before the lab was to open for it’s first screening. Already, so much painting had been done!

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three days to go until opening night

We used the back two-thirds of the space for the screening room, with a rented ten foot screen taking up a majority of the back wall. We also spent a lot of time hanging lights around the space so we could avoid having to use the awful fluorescent lights already mounted on the ceiling.

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Fusion Lab screening room and classroom

The screening room can easily accommodate 40 to 50 people.

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production designer Michael Fitzgerald decided to “embrace” the existing red carpet with these red-cushioned chairs for the screening room

Each wall on one side of the space is meant to represent each of the workshop topics offered: writing, directing, editing, and documentary.

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one of the chalkboard paint walls; the lightbulb represents the “idea” phase of writing a script

All the black paint used in the room is chalkboard paint and can be written on. There are pieces of chalk hung on each chalkboard so you can simply grab a piece and start writing!

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the screening room schedule written in chalk; each screening is a series of short films previously screened as part of either the Outfest or Outfest Fusion film festivals

The furniture in the writing lounge is all rented set furniture.

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rented set furniture makes a comfortable writing lounge in the front of the space

Michael’s team made a screen-print mural on one wall of the writing lounge displaying iconic Los Angeles and Hollywood landmarks.

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one wall is a collage of screen-printed Los Angeles landmarks

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a close up look at the screen-printed Los Angeles collage

Michael’s team built the wall that separates the lounge and the screening room. There are two flaps of the wall, one on each side, that are on hinges so they can close off the screening room for increased quiet and darkness during screenings. (They are shown here open.)

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the view upon entering the Fusion Lab

The room is peppered with little chalkboard and felt signs teaching students about the different movie crew positions held on set and in post production.

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film terms for students to learn by

The storefront windows are filled with paraphernalia representing film and tv, as well as props that the students can use when making their movies.

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storefront display paraphernalia

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the storefront during the day

What do you think of this space? 

A Beautiful Day at the Arboretum

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an unsuspecting entrance to the beautiful grounds at the LA County Arboretum

Last Friday a friend and I took advantage of a beautiful, warm and sunny day by spending it outside at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. What can I say about this place, except that it is a gorgeous reprieve from the sprawl that surrounds it! What a fantastic way to remind yourself of all the amazing vegetation in the world.

The Arboretum is sectioned off into different areas of vegetation, including Africa, Australia, and their Prehistoric Forest. They even have a pond, a lake, and a waterfall! They also have some smaller greenhouses to cultivate the more tropical plants, like orchids, that need a lot of humidity since we don’t have a whole lot of that here in Southern California.

Here are some of my favorite things about the Arboretum.

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an orchid trio (Tropical Greenhouse)

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orchids much like mine at home (Tropical Greenhouse)

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beautiful colors speckling the greenhouse (Tropical Greenhouse)

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looking up through the eucalyptus (Australia)

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glass inlays along Serpent Trail (Australia)

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a little taste of down under (Australia)

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Tule Pond

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I want to have story time under this tree!

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Canadian Geese remind me of being back in the Northeast

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another view through the trees

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The magnolias are blooming! (Meadowbrook)

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And so are the cherry blossoms! (Meadowbrook)

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My favorite part of the day was discovering the waterfall behind the magnolias and cherry blossoms!

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makes me feel like I might be in Hawaii

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a second baby waterfall next to the bigger one

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the view from above the waterfall (Tallac Knoll)

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This could be the best reading spot in the whole place! (Tallac Knoll)

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a big old Cypress tree

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Queen Anne Cottage (1885) – You can’t go inside, but you can peak into the windows to see the period accurate furnished interiors!

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lots of very big, very old cacti along the main walkway


Oscar Movie Favorites

In honor of the biggest night for movies, let’s talk about favorites. Everyone has favorites. Sometimes it’s based on a favorite actor, a favorite book that the movie is based on, a favorite director whose movies you always love. My favorites from this year were based on artistry.

It’s easy to forget that filmmaking is an art. Some movies have more artistry than others. But like any other art (painting, writing, photography), filmmaking is about telling a visual story, eliciting a reaction from the viewer, and giving the viewer an experience outside their own life experiences. To me, the two nominated films that did these things unlike any others were Life of Pi and Beast of the Southern Wild.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

When I saw this film, I truly didn’t know what to expect. It didn’t get as wide a release as most of the others. The trailer looked beautiful and intriguing, and I was curious enough to go out and see it in the theater, but I really wasn’t quite sure what the story was going to be about. It was phenomenal! Beasts of the Southern Wild follows a 6-year old girl named Hushpuppy who lives in the “Bathtub,” unlabeled as such but clearly representative of the most devastated and least affluent area of New Orleans, as an indescribably destructive storm hits and tears down the levy the protects the people of her community from flooding. The film illustrates a complex yet loving relationship between her and a nearly-not-present father who seems tortured just to look at her but nonetheless takes care of her the best he knows how and provides her the basics for her survival. He relentlessly defends the Bathtub as the home he will never leave, no matter the devastation present.

The remarkable thing about this film is the mythology present in the world of little Hushpuppy. Since the story is told from her point of view, and a 6-year old’s perspective on the world is quite different from that of an adult, it is a story of magic, myth, territory, strength, and the search for family (specifically Hushpuppy’s mother). Hushpuppy is followed by beasts that look much like enormous warthogs, metaphorical beasts which she battles with her tenacity and will. I felt completely enveloped in the world the filmmakers created, to the point that it was almost a bit jarring when the movie ended and I had to transition back out of it!

Beasts of the Southern Wild was Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Quvenshane Wallis was the youngest person ever nominated for the award; she truly was incredible in her first ever acting role), and Best Director (Behn Zeitlin).

Life of Pi

This is another film that completely took me away from my own world and into another. I also saw this in 3D, which I am usually skeptical of because so much of it is being done after the movie is shot, and done poorly. But not this one. Life of Pi was shot in 3D and all of the visual effects were also done in 3D from the get go. I was so glad I decided to see it this way, because this is how the filmmakers meant for it to be seen.

Based on the book by Yann Martel, Life of Pi is a gorgeous story of faith, family, struggle for survival, and the meaning of life. The story tells of a boy and a tiger stranded in the same lifeboat after a horrible shipwreck in the middle of the ocean. Because of this, it was the story that supposedly “could never be made into a movie.” How would a filmmaker ever put an actor and a tiger in such close proximity for hours/days/months on end, and how to make sure that tiger predictably performed every action as needed without endangering said actor while on a rocking boat in the ocean? But visual effects and animation are now so technically advanced and the artists that make them happen are so talented and skilled that they made it possible. The artists that worked on the film made this:

Into this:

And Ang Lee directed the lead actor (Suraj Sharma) to elicit all manner of emotions from the audience, all while not actually having a co-star to interact with on set.

The whole film is as beautiful as a painting yet somehow is also convincingly real. The colors in the sky are more vibrant than the most beautiful sunsets, the ocean more blue than the blue-est cove in the tropics. The ocean becomes a character all of it’s own battling with Pi and Richard Parker (the tiger), making survival seem impossible one minute and then providing a wealth of hope resources the next.

This story truly transcends race, religion, and gender to make everyone question their own reality and appreciate the meaning of faith.

Life of Pi won for Best Visual Effects, Best Director (Ang Lee), Best Cinematography (which was in no small part also due to the film’s accomplishments in visual effects), and Music – Original Score. It was also nominated for Best Picture, Film Editing, Production Design, and Writing – Adapted Screenplay.

Tell me, what was your favorite Oscar-featured movie this year?

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Aside

So many of the year’s most successful movies (like Life of Pi, The Avengers, Snow White and the Hunstman, and The Hobbit) were not only dependent on, but their stories were driven by visual effects and the ability for the vfx technology and it’s artists to do things beyond our wildest dreams. What has not been widely talked about in the mainstream media is a huge shake-up happening within the vfx community. Even though the technology gets better and the artists executing these phenomenal feats of the imagination get more skilled and more talented, the studios are driving costs down lower and lower, to the point that a huge amount of the work is being outsourced to India and China. The biggest and best companies in the vfx industry are going out of business, including the recently bankrupt Rhythm & Hues, the Oscar winner for vfx on Life of Pi, because the prices have been driven down so low that they can’t keep up. On the night of the Academy Awards nearly 500 vfx artists turned out to the Dolby Theater with picket signs to protest their treatment, the treatment of their companies, and the outsourcing of their jobs. In an effort to raise more awareness of the issue, I’ve included a few links below to illustrate the state of the vfx community and what these artists are fighting for. I welcome any discussion.

http://blog.sfgate.com/thebigevent/2013/02/25/biggest-oscars-snub-a-shark-attack-on-the-vfx-industry/

http://vfxsoldier.wordpress.com/

http://www.fxguide.com/quicktakes/visualeffectsprotestatoscars/

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323864304578316414057909902.html

Art Deco Meets Science at the Griffith Observatory

Last weekend, a dear friend was visiting from out of town. She used to live in the LA area, and when asked what she wanted to do with her short time here she didn’t hesitate to answer that she wanted to visit the Griffith Observatory!

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

One of the many great things about it is that it’s located in Griffith Park, which some call the Central Park of Los Angeles. Lots of trails for hiking and running, one of which goes directly up to the observatory. (You can also drive right up to it from the other side, but there’s something satisfying about hiking up that steep hill to the reveal of this nugget of Los Angeles history.)

Hiking in Griffith Park

A little backstory of the observatory from the official site:

Exploring the Observatory’s past starts with namesake Griffith J. Griffith, whose plan for a public observatory was as visionary as it was audacious. From Griffith’s bequest in 1919 to the Observatory’s dedication on May 14, 1935, the story shifts to the astronomers, architects, and public leaders who made his vision to reality. From there, the Observatory welcomed 70 million visitors and became the world’s leader in public astronomy, a story told in the context of the building’s four Directors.

In 2002 they closed it down for a few years for some major renovations, and when it opened back up people were so excited that you had to make arrangements in advance just to get in. (Don’t you just love it when people get so excited about science?) Now that the withdrawal symptoms have subsided, it’s easy to go, although still crowded on the weekends.

the front entrance to the observatory

Designed by John C. Austin and Frederick M. Ashley, the building acts as a science museum and planetarium, hugged by art deco perfection! Geometric art deco design details are everywhere, and the beautiful restoration has left the building crisp and pristine so you can clearly see all of the careful work that was put into designing it. And since art deco was all about honoring the classic themes in architecture while also celebrating the age of the machine, it’s the perfect backdrop for the history of the world as viewed with new, ever developing technologies.

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art deco dentals

These art deco styled dentals frame the front entry way into the building. And radiating horizontally outward are geometric S-like embellishments, familiar in many deco designs of the time.

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art deco detail

This detailing follows the building all the way around to the back side, where you can see more of the familiar embellishments and tapered lines so familiar to the style.

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art deco design and detail

The observation dome atop the building fits with the age of the machine.

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a view of the observatory from behind

The first thing you see when you walk through the front door is this incredible Foucault Pendulum. “The 240-pound brass ball, suspended by a cable 40 feet long, swings in a constant direction while the Earth turns beneath it.”

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Foucault Pendulum

Gradually it will knock over each of these pegs, in demonstration that Earth is indeed moving all the time.

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pegs demonstrating Earth’s rotation

And then when you look up, an incredible mural of astronomy, philosophy, myth, exploration, and art.

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mural on the ceiling above the pendulum

Inside, they have an entire wall dedicated to the periodic table of elements.

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periodic table of elements

Each glass square contains the actual element. So if you were ever wondering Scandium looks like, now you know.

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actual elements on display

They also have an actual working Tesla coil.

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Tesla Coil

It is VERY loud when it fires off, but it’s still super cool to be able to see and hear the power of electricity.

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Tesla Coil in action

And for the amateur astronomers out there, wouldn’t you just love to take home this you? Pretty!

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an astronomer’s dream telescope

There is so much more to see than just these little nuggets. There are exhibits demonstrating the earth’s rotation, the solar system, geological phenomenons, and even a live image of the sun on which you can see solar storms happening in real time! What more can I say except that you must see this place for yourself.

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deco design and astronomy symbols in the main lobby

On your way out, one more nod to the art deco design of the building, a back lit display of symbols of astronomy.

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Hollywood sign right next door

I always like to take a moment before I leave to enjoy the views. The observatory sits a top a hill with views in almost all directions, and the famous Hollywood sign is right next door!

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the view of downtown Los Angeles

In the other direction you can see downtown LA.

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the view of the ocean

And on a really clear day, you can even see the ocean from here! It seems so close by!

Have you been to the Griffith Observatory? What was your favorite thing about it?