Monday, March 31, 2008

(03.31.08) Recommends:

The LA64.
#56: The Griddle Cafe
7916 W Sunset Blvd.

(explanation of series here.)

We like waking up on the weekends and making pancakes. We cannot always, however, vouch for their tasteyness. Therefore, if you find yourself in LA, and in need of a pancake fix, there's really only one option: Griddle Cafe. Their pancakes -- and we're not exaggerating here -- are bigger than your face. You will be unable to eat, and probably move, for no less than three days. We would try to spend paragraphs exalting the virtues of this place, but frankly, words are insufficient here. So we'll just give this: If you were to reduce Griddle Cafe pancakery to an SAT question, you would have:

Griddle Cafe: LA pancakes:: Arthur Bryant's: KC bbq.

One more thing worth mentioning, now that we're reviewing that picture. You'll notice a really long line. Regardless of time or day, there's always such a line outside this place. You'll also notice the female: male ratio in the picture to be roughly 5:1 (wait, is that what they mean by the Golden Ratio?) And that should end the discussion right there. Any pancake place that serves pancakes bigger than your face, in a stack thicker than your thighs, and still gets that many females clamoring to queue up has to be amazing, right?


Go already. You'll thank us later.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

(03.29.08) Recommends:

The LA64.
#58: Merry Karnowski Gallery.
170 S. La Brea Ave.

#57: Shepard Fairey.

(explanation of series here.)

It feels like Shepard Fairey is an artist whose work we've always known. Obviously this can't be right; at some point we came across an Andre the Giant sticker and through due diligence discovered Shep as the mastermind. Growing up, we were huge fans of both the WWF and the absurd (query whether there is actually a difference between mid-80s WWF and absurdity) so our affinity for Shep comes pretty naturally.

We've taken advantage of seeing his work in a formal setting; we've attended opening receptions at Exhibit A Gallery:

and at Merry Karnowski Gallery:

We've stopped into Merry Karnowski Gallery a few other times. There's always something interesting being shown there. From what we can tell, it's widely regarded as one of the most important galleries in LA for cutting edge and underground art. And Shep, of course, is known primarily as being an underground artist, a street artist. So the thing that we've really come to
appreciate about him is that he makes us question our assumptions about what should be considered Serious Art and what should be considered Underground Art.

See, we grew up in a family that demanded respect for Serious Art. When our family would go on vacation, part of the drill would be to visit the local art museums. And we have very fond memories of these excursions. But here's the thing. Going to a Serious Art museum always felt -- still feels -- like a Big Event. You have to Dress Presentably. You have to speak in Hushed Tones. You have to Behave Yourself. These are all manners of behavior that no doubt have there required place in a civilized world. But.

But. It feels so stiff, you know? Isn't art supposed to inspire, to make the days more bearable, to create the unexpectancies that make life so exciting?

On the other hand, the other day we were just walking to the Beachwood Market, the local market that serves our neighborhood, Beachwood Canyon, and we happened to stumble upon this awesome Shep guerrilla job:

You may recall another Obama-inspired Shep piece that we stumbled upon during a Silverlake blogging adventure from earlier this month:

And seeing this kind of stuff makes us really, really giddy. That's what art is supposed to do, right? So here's the thing. Maybe Serious Art should actually be considered Underground Art. Because Underground -- at least to us -- suggests something that isn't experienced every day. And the Good Lord (along with our co-workers) knows that Dressing Presentably, speaking in Hushed Tones, and Behaving Ourselves just doesn't regularly occur. And, between working and carrying out the bare minimum necessary to get by -- eating and showering, we're thinking -- it's increasingly difficult to actually get to a museum during official museum hours, yaknow?

The flip side to this, of course, is that Shep should actually be considered Serious Art. And this makes sense. Shep takes it to the street; he adds unexpectancy and vibrancy and vitality to our daily view. He adds the color to our every day aesthetic that is both surprising and completely necessary.

Finally, we understand that there's a fine line between street art and vandalism. But we think Shep has demonstrated knowledge in navigating that line. And that makes his vision very necessary to our culture. It's a vision that demands respect from us all.

(03.29.08) Recommends:

The LA64.
#59: The Old LA Weekly Building.
6715 Sunset Blvd.

(explanation of series here.)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A picture of words? We don't know how much they say that's worth. But, we're sure we can all agree that the words pictured are words to live by.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

(03.27.08) Recommends:

Measure for Measure.

Two of the most common themes that have emerged in this space are our appreciation of Andrew Bird as maker of some of the most compelling music we have, and our appreciation of the New York Times' embrace of the internet such that it has become one-stop news shopping. Today we were thrilled to learn that these two juggernauts are combining forces. Andrew Bird will be contributing to a new nytimes blog called Measure for Measure. The blog's description:

With music now available with a single, offhand click, it's easy to forget that songs are not born whole, polished and ready to play. They are created by artists who draw on some combination of craft, skill and inspiration. In the coming weeks, the contributors to this blog -- all accomplished songwriters -- will pull back the curtain on the creative process as they write about their work on a songs in the making.

Check out Andrew Bird's first contribution here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

(03.26.08) Recommends:

The LA64.
#60: Blue Neighborhood Signs.

(explanation of series here.)

We like to discover a town not by map, but by just getting in the car and getting lost. But for neighborhood-centric cities, one of the most apparent shortfalls of this method is that it takes a while to figure out the contours of the various neighborhoods. That's what is so genius about LA's decision to plaster blue signs to announce the official and unofficial boundaries of neighborhoods. You can never go more than about a half mile without learning where you are!

We recommend checking back to this post often, because we plan to continue documenting the blue signs we come across, and when we do, we'll be sure to post them here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

(03.25.08) Recommends:

The LA64.
#61: Brunch at Chateau Marmont.
8221 W Sunset Boulevard.

(explanation of series here.)

So, we were first taken here by family of family of a family friend. Or something like that. Neither party was exactly sure of the connection, but we were pretty floored by the generosity. Taking a wagon full of ne'er-do-wells such as ourselves to brunch is more than we could ever reasonably expect from others. But time and again -- as we've mentioned here several times -- the people we've come across in LA have showered us with enough hospitality to make a midwestern mother's son blush. And we think that's a tremendous storyline, and one underreported by makers of city stereotypes.

(03.25.08) Recommends:

The LA64.
#62: The Mendel's Hollyway Cleaners Sign.
8359 Santa Monica Blvd.

(explanation of series here.)

When we first moved down to LA -- okay, we realize that this is the second post in a row that starts with that phrase and we promise to stop it -- we found ourselves driving by this sign every morning to make sure that (a) it hadn't disappeared during the night, or (b) we hadn't just dreamed it up. LA does not have a ton of stunning architectural highlights, but what it lacks it more than makes up in awesome signage (we're predicting a good 30 of the LA64 could be signs -- we told you we're pretty new here).

Has either Mr. Mendel or this sign appeared in a Simpson's episode yet? We're pretty sure neither has and we're pretty sure there's not a reasonable explanation for such absence.

While we whole-heartedly recommend this sign, we've never actually used the cleaner. And we only mention this because it's received some pretty crappy yelp reviews.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

(03.22.08) Recommends:

The LA64.
#63: The View From Everett Park.
Everett Street, One Block North of Sunset.

(explanation of series here.)

When we first moved down to LA, we were not willing to surrender to the fact that LA has crappy traffic. We were convinced for a brief period of time -- such time has long since passed, mind you -- that we could find secret routes! that would make our morning commute more manageable. The interesting thing about this is that, with certain big caveats, we are believers in the power of free markets. So it is unclear to us why we believed that, in a town with literally millions of commuters, we could just show up one day and find a route that nobody had yet discovered. [Whether this should be classified as being stubborn or delusional, we'll leave for you to decide.]

Anyway. What would inevitably happen while looking for secret routes! is that we would get completely, hopelessly lost. And getting unlost would just add another 45 vein-popping, nerve-shattering minutes to the commute.

What changed a lot for us was the time we got lost in Everett Park. Everett Park is somewhere either in or between Echo Park and Downtown. We realized that we were headed North and were driving up a Big Fucking Hill. We work more south and on Flat Land. Something was Seriously Wrong. Until we turned around and saw this:

And at this point, two things happened. One, it hit us that we actually lived and worked in Los Angeles, and this was a kinda exciting realization. Two, it occurred to us that everything would turn out okay.

We like this story because we think there's truth in it, corny though it may be. We are human and thus it is our wont to feel confused and sad and anxious at times. But sometimes, at the height of that confusion, sadness, and anxiety, the best course of action is to simply turn around and look at our surroundings. Sometimes, when we feel the most unsure, it turns out that we're actually just at the top of the mountain, overlooking our kingdom.

Of course, it also helped that Everett Park has a sign that reminded us, once again, that we are a government of laws and not of men:

Friday, March 21, 2008

(03.21.08) Recommends:

The LA64.
#64: The Silver Lake Lounge.
2906 W Sunset Blvd.

(explanation of series here.)

So, the Silver Lake Lounge. This one will throw the midwesterns for a loop: during the week it's a full on gay bar, then on the weekends, the place takes a break and transforms itself into a hipster indie rock bar. LA is smooth like that.

The place is our kind of place to see a show. Regardless of the weather outside, it is always dark, dark, dark inside. It's small and gets crowded and the sound can get sketchy and the sight lines can get sketchy. But when the stars align, the club is capable of putting on the Most Compelling Live Show You've Ever Seen. The bar is narrow and opens to a small stage off to the back left. The stage is adored with an illuminated sign that says "Salvation." With all the cynicism and sarcasm and detachment and aloofness in our society, there's something that devastates us about that sign.

The last time we were there we caught a great show by the Dodos. This morning the Dodos got a great write up on pitchfork. The Silver Lake Lounge gets a shoot out in the review. Good job, peeps.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

(03.20.08) Recommends:

The LA64.

So as we find ourselves at the start of another round of March Madness, we also find ourselves at the end of our first six months living in Los Angeles. And we thought we would use the tourney as a hook to reflect back on what we've discovered since we moved down from the Bay Area. So starting later today, and continuing throughout the tournament, we will present, in full photoblogging glory, the 64 people, places, and things in Los Angeles that get us excited to wake up in the morning and reluctant to go to bed at night. [1] They will be presented in an order that is meant to portray whimsy, not preference. We hope everybody learns a little from it.

If you see us out and about documenting the city we love, don't be shy -- come up and say hi! Who knows, you may be or become one of our 64 favorite things in this city.

[1] Some people may claim that, despite all the awesomeness surrounding us, we still manage to be conked out cold, every night, by 11pm. The veracity of these claims, alas, will not be considered during this blogging experiment.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

(03.16.08) Recommends:

Swinging Nachos Like You Just Don't Care.

So, last night we made tacos with a Fellow Blogger. And whenever we eat tacos late-night-style, we tend to wake up real early-morning-style the next morning. And this Sunday morning, we had some business to attend to in the Hills of Beverly. And one of our favorite parts of living in California for the last nearly four years has been finding ourselves traveling through locations -- much like the Hills of Beverly -- that we heretofore knew only through songs. And usually, when we find ourselves in these places that seem familiar, we put on the song that makes them feel familiar, and bump it, real loud like. So this AM, while still under the influence of a post-taco glow, we were blaring Pavement. We're not sure if the denizens of Beverly Hills were quite feeling what we were feeling. But at any rate, they were hearing us. And we thought we'd share with you that song, as well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

(03.11.08) Recommends:

Dawn Landes, "Fireproof" (Cooking Vinyl, 2008).

We've blogged about Dawn Landes before here and here, and this week she released a new album. We've been listening to it all week and we're really enjoying it. "Tired of This Life" is thus far our favorite track of the year. Luckily for you the new album can be streamed right here.

Dawn Landes -- Fireproof -- streaming audio
Dawn Landes @ Myspace.

Monday, March 10, 2008

(03.10.08) Recommends:

Pastrami Sandwiches.

So we ventured out to our neighborhood deli yesterday. We got to the counter and were in a red meat mood. Just as we were about to order up some roast beef, the phrase "a pound of pastrami please" floated out of us. And we've gotta say, we can't remember the last time alliteration tasted this good. Why has it been so long since we've had a pastrami sandwich? We're not kidding around here, we've already had about three of them today. And if we're not careful, the whole pound will be gone by dark. We're told that pastrami was created as a method for preserving meat from spoilage in an age before modern refrigeration methods. Today, it preserved us from the Monday blahs and for that we could not be more grateful. Thank you, pastrami sandwich. You really are the king of the salt-cured meats. We promise not to neglect you for this long again.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

(03.09.08) Recommends:

Not Overdoing It.

So yesterday was another action-packed day in Beachwood Canyon. We woke up super-early stizz, only to stumble upon a horribly visual car wreck in which the backside of a poor Mini Cooper was absolutely pancaked. Then it was off for some self-pamper -- calm down back there, it's been a rough month. We tried to get our hair in order, got to smelling pretty again, and got some fancy pants. Then it was off to catch an early show by the Dodos at Silverlake Lounge and an opening night reception at an art gallery. We dutifully recorded all of this via camera, but in our haste to upload the pics, we managed to destroy the chord that is needed for the transfer.

And this mishap caused us to realize that there's been too much stress in our lives lately and all of our hustle and bustle -- our need to be constantly on the move -- is probably a sign that we're trying to overcompensate for something.

Probably we just need to chill for a bit.

So then we hopped into bed and opened Life of Pi, hands down one of our favorite novels ever. There is so much about the novel that absolutely devastates us, but there is one passage in particular that we come back to, time and time, when we think that our emotions are getting the best of us. And we thought we'd share it with you all today.

I wept like a child. It was not because I was overcome at having survived my ordeal, though I was. Nor was it the presence of my brothers and sisters, though that too was very moving. I was weeping because Richard Parker had left me so unceremoniously. What a terrible thing it is to botch a farewell. I am a person who believes in form, in the harmony of order. Where we can, we must give things a meaningful shape. For example -- I wonder -- could you tell my jumbled story in exactly one hundred chapters, not one more, not one less? I'll tell you, that's one thing I hate about my nickname [editor's note: his nickname is Pi] the way that number runs on forever. It's important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. That bungled goodbye hurts me to this day. I wish so much that I'd had one last look at him in the lifeboat, that I'd provoked him a little, so that I was on his mind. I wish I had said to him then -- yes, I know, to a tiger, but still -- I wish I had said, "Richard Parker, it's over. We have survived. Can you believe it? I owe you more gratitude than I can express. I couldn't have done it without you. I would like to say it formally: Richard Parker, thank you. Thank you for saving my life. And now go where you must. You have known the confined freedom of a zoo most of your life; now you will know the free confinement of a jungle. I wish you the best with it. Watch out for Man. He is not your friend. But I hope you will remember me as a friend. I will never forget you, that is certain. You will always be with me, in my heart. What is that hiss? Ah, our boat has touched sand. So farewell, Richard Parker, farewll. God be with you.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

(03.08.08) Recommends:

The Craigslist Dating Blog.

My oh my. So we have this friend. He's smart and funny and gentle and outgoing and pretty much the perfect guy. He's everything we wish we were. But despite everything he has going for him, he is recently out of a relationship. And he's always recently out of a relationship. He's kinda girlie like that. So we took him out for "sympathy drinks" last night and convinced him that there were only two reasonable solutions to his problems. The first, start dating through craigslist. The second, blog the experience. Luckily our friend has taken our advice, and today passed along the blog. And now we present the blog that will do no less than change your entire life:

Craigslist Dating.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

(03.05.08) Recommends:

Jeffrey Lewis and the Jitters.

So this band opened the Mountain Goats show at the Troubadour last night. As my friend and I entered the venue and were milling about in the front bar area of the Troub, we thought the Mountain Goats were already on stage; Jeffrey Lewis can sound uncannily similar to John Darnielle at times. But we hurried into the main room just as Jeffrey Lewis said the next song would feature a slide show, which seemed a bit un-John Darnielle-esque. In this song, Jeffrey Lewis had made an illustration for each line of a hilariously endearing song about the trials and tribulations of young punks and hippies. It set the tone that this is a seriously quirky band. A bit like the Moldy Peaches meets the Dead Milkmen meets Daniel Johnston meets X meets probably a ton of influential lo-fi punk bands that are too underground to even appear on our radar screen meets a bunch of graphic designers and comic book artists. It could easily come off as being too cute, but they rock enough and there's enough of an edge to make it work. They played for about an hour and we found it a completely satisfying hour.

So check 'em out.

On the web.
At myspace.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

(03.04.08) Recommends:

Concert Photography, vol. 13 [Limited Edition vol.]
The Mountain Goats,
The Troubadour,
West Hollywood, Calif.

We just got back from the show and we'll have more to say on it tomorrow. One thing that struck us at the show. Some people communicate through omission. Other people communicate through, well, words. The Mountain Goats communicate with words. We appreciate that. People who communicate through omissions are mostly pussies. See you tomorrow, folks.

Update: After going through our pics there aren't any good enough to post. The above picture is the clearest thing we got and it's pretty bad. It gets really dark and packed at the Troubadour and we're too reluctant to use our flash. We still obviously need training at taking pics in dark rock clubs. If any readers out there want to give us some pointers, we'd love some lessons. We're also thinking about moving beyond our old digital camera into something a bit more fancy and would love input on that decision as well.

Monday, March 03, 2008

(03.03.08) Recommends:

Concert Photography, vol. 12.
The Airborne Toxic Event,
The Troubadour,
West Hollywood, Calif.

So, at a very young age we discovered that we possessed a genuine talent for getting into sold out events. We also happen to be maniacal procrastinators. (It's unclear in which direction causation runs). So for most of our live event going lives we have employed the following tactic. We see that a band we love is coming through town. Then we tell ourselves that we should totally -- oh, totally! -- go to the show. Then, we completely forget about this until about a day before the show, only to learn that the show, invariably, is sold out. Then with about two hours before the show, we conjure our awesome hidden talent and manage to procure tickets, and usually at or below face value. We have used this talent to get/impress at least three dates.

But then an interesting thing happened. We moved to Los Angeles. And we have friends who are ridiculously well-connected [1]. Which means that our special talent has laid dormant for months. One less thing to worry about, we suppose. But also one less thing with which to impress people. At this point, we're worried we might never get another date.

So tonight's two cell phone call last minute hook-up resulted in a spot at the sold out Airborne Toxic Event show.

We first heard them when we had just moved to LA and were convinced that we were on our death bed. Luckily, we lived another day. And we've spent many of the lucid days that have followed listening to tracks from this band.

The crowds keep getting bigger, and more energetic, with spontaneous sing-alongs and fist pumps a common scene.

The fiddle is pretty much the neuroscientist of rock bands: we'll always have a soft spot in our hearts for them.

We know we've gushed about this band every time that we've blogged about them. But we really believe that they have the qualities to be a band that tours nationally and becomes a big sensation. They have a very big stage presence. And the crowds eat this band up.

But even if they don't become superstars, they still put on a really fun show. And they got a room full of hundreds of people to sing and smile and dance and bop their heads. And when we stepped back to get a better view of how the crowd was responding to the band, we noticed some stalwarts of the east side LA music scene smooshed next to people who probably have never ventured east of Cahuenga for their live music fixes. And that's a pretty cool thing. We could heard Willie Nelson singing, the life I love is makin' music with my friends, and I can't wait to get on the road again.

[1] These people are also well-mannered, well-tailored, well-coiffed, well-read, well-educated, smell pretty, cook gourmet meals, run sub-four minute miles, can create complex origami figures, engage in linear algebra over lunch breaks, look reasonable in Speedo brand swimsuits, and stop-drop-and-roll before you even smell the smoke. We don't know where they come from or why they agree to hang out with us. But we're not complaining.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

(03.02.08) Recommends:

Exploring Your Neighborhood.

So as we promised earlier, we set aside some time during this weekend to do nothing but sit on a patio, soak in the beautiful weather, and enjoy some beer.

So we woke up Sunday and set out by foot looking for adventure.

Readers of this blog know we've become completely obsessed with Project Runway this season. So we were pretty stoked when came around the bend and happened to glance across the street.

That's right. We stumbled unto Rami Kashou's Silverlake studio. Note the drapes in the front windows. Homeboy knows how to drape, there's no denying that.

A Sunny Day + A Random Pop Cultural Sighting = Time to Get our Thai Beer on, Yo.

Not wanting to mess with what proved to be a successful formula, we kept on truckin', Thai beer style.

By this point, things like formulas were too much for our malleable minds. So we threw caution to the wind and set out by foot looking for more adventures.

While Chuck Taylor's make us 13% hipper, Thai beer makes us 14% more tired.

So we flagged down a DD and continued the adventure in a big SUV [thus also doing our part to contribute to the War in Iraq].

We continued heading eastward.

Listening to MGMT makes us an additional 13% hipper.

Burrito King makes us an additional 13% fatter.

We might have gotten fatter today. But we can change; we can lose that weight.
Yes! We! Can!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

(03.01.08) Recommends:

Citizen Journalism!

So as we previously mentioned, we saw Cat Power last night. She used to have a reputation for putting on really shitty live performances. But, as we understand it, in the last few years she's gotten things in order and now puts on completely engaging performances. Last night included. Also, owing to the fact that we have friends in Los Angeles who are as generous as they are cool, we had a spectacular view of the show.

But what was particularly notable about the night occurred before the show. We got to the Wiltern a early, because it is located in K-Town, and we never, ever pass up an opportunity to drink Hite like a native. [Even though we're silly white people from Kansas[1], it can hardly be disputed that Koreans love us and think of us as practically half-Korean. South-style, yo. Stop laughing back there; this is all more or less true.] And when we got to the venue we noticed a sign posted on the Box Office[2]. The sign was a Public Notice of Application For Ownership Change. It listed the current owner as the Wiltern Theater. And the new owner as Wolfgang Puck Catering and Events, LLP. The sign also mentioned "on-sale general eating" whatever that means. So, does anybody know, like, what this means? Is Wolfgang Puck a reformed rock star who's going through a mid-life crisis and is now getting the band back together? Is the Wiltern going to be turned into a restaurant? Is Wolfgang Puck just going to be catering the shows? (And maybe some drum solos). We're confused, but we suspect that we can find the answer through fellow bloggers. So if people know what's going on, let us know.

[1] We were sporting a Kansas t-shirt last night. And before the show, while walking from the bar to the venue, we got a "Rock Chalk!" with accompanying fist pump. Then, while in the venue, an impossibly attractive female came up to talk to us because she had graduated from KU (as any KU grad can attest, there are many impossibly attractive girls at KU, the majority of which come either from the farmlands of Kansas, or from Minnesota. Strange, but true.). We mention these stories because one of our favorite parts of living in Los Angeles is that when we wear KU garb people approach, without fail, to tell us they either went to KU or are from Kansas. It literally happens every time we wear KU stuff. Honestly, we now wear Kansas apparel way more then we ever have before because these encounters make us really happy. We realize it might be corny to talk about things like a "sense of community," but we really feel it with our fellow Kansas ex pats. We also realize that it's strange that we strongly identify with our Kansas heritage when we did, in fact, leave Kansas, and all our friends and loved ones therein, when we left for California. But just because we left Kansas does not mean that we have forgotten it, or stopped thinking about it. We want everybody back home to know this.

[2] We would show a picture of this sign, but our camera is currently being held hostage by terrorists. Actually, terrorist, singular. Thus, we do not have access to it. So we took a picture of the sign with our camera phone, but we are bad with the technology and cannot figure out how to transfer the picture from our phone to our computer. So bear with our prose description.