Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend In Venice

We just had a nice long Memorial weekend in Venice, and I didn't leave the city limits once, which was fine by me. No holiday weekend traffic dealing for us, other than on the very packed bike path at the beach - again, fine by me.

The whole shebang started out with the Grunion Run at the beach ... which this year turned out to be a total bust while we were there - not one little fish did we see. So, we made ourselves feel better by belting out tunes and generally going nuts until the wee hours, hoping to see some grunion on the way home.We did not (but thank you to Paul Chesne for hosting the late night shenanigans!).

Long weekends mean beach days, and even though we're dealing with some May Gray these days, the sun did make itself known over the weekend. Tan lines 2017 have begun! I walked over and checked out the new rainbow lifeguard tower at Brooks Avenue, all dressed up for Venice Pride this week, looking great.The bright colors can be seen from blocks away, and certainly helped to brighten up the gloom in the earlier part of the day. Great job, everyone involved!

I was invited to a lovely party in the canals, where I discovered the "Venice Canals Art Gardens" tucked away there behind a little bungalow. Canal residents Deborah Groening and Peter Rother bought this plot of land so that it would NOT be developed by yet another big ugly box (BUB). Bless them, because they created a beautiful little oasis of nature there in the canals to be enjoyed by its neighbors. They all came together and pitched in to create and build the garden in March 2016, and now all benefit from the produce and gorgeous space that it took this village to bring to abundant life.

There was a big potluck picnic and a nice guy cooking up some great chicken on a big grill, and everyone was enjoying the beautiful twilit evening. Everyone seemed to know each other, and there is definitely a Canals Clique going on, but all were welcoming (if a little clearly curious as to who we were and why we were there). The highlight of the soiree was a performance by some guys playing the "Hand Pan", a hauntingly pretty instrument that we all got to hear a (very, very long) explanation of before they were played. It was a joy to close your eyes and listen to as you breathed in the heady aroma of all of the flowers blooming around us. Ahhh.

Another beach day was had on Sunday, and it began with the excellent breakfast burrito from Hinano's, which was all decked out for the patriotic holiday of Memorial Day with its attendant red, white, and blue everywhere. Everyone knows about the Hinano burger, but if you haven't yet tried the breakfast burrito - get thee there. It has hash browns (the thin, crispy kind) inside of it. Just trust me.

After a full afternoon of being on the beach body rotisserie, it was time to head to the Ocean Front Walk home of Colleen Saro and Steve Eustace's pad, who were hosting a fun margarita party. They had all kinds of different bowls of fresh fruit, and you would choose your combo, and Steve would blend you up a custom margarita to order. It was delicious, and what great people! We sat in their windows, singing songs, overlooking all of the Boardwalk mayhem, and considered ourselves lucky once again that this is where we get to call it home. The sun set, my phone died, and we later found ourselves at yet another fun party at General Admission's parking lot (where I was still dressed in my bathing suit and towel from the day). Rowdy times.

Memorial Day itself was pretty much gloomy all day, so you just make the best of it, and start the party earlier. It felt like the whole country just wanted to blow off some of the steam that builds up daily under this awful and ridiculous new administration, and all the horrors that have come along with it. Frankly, it was a little hard to feel patriotic when you know how our country is coming off to the rest of the World these days. These holidays are meant to show off the good parts of our country, and I think most everyone did a good job of that. Fun was had by all, according to social media feeds and notes compared.

My dear friends Jenny and Shane held yet another extra fun holiday BBQ on Memorial Day, and I think some parents are probably still over there trying to get their kids out of the pool! Good food, good drink, great friends, and feelings of gratitude ensured that it was a wonderful and memorable time - again. Thank you, Barachs!

So here we go ... on into Summer! The best time to be here in Venice, and the best time to live it up and love everything and everybody while we are all still here. I've been thinking like that a lot lately, really needing to live in each moment, because the World is crazy and nothing is guaranteed. It conjures up a quote I wrote down as a very young girl, from Philip Doddridge, an English non-conformist who lived in the 1700's  ...

"Live while you live, the epicure would say,
And seize the pleasures of the present day!"

Yes. Do! 

*Birthday shout-out to Tom Morello! Cheers, my friend! You're one of the very best people I know. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Miracle, A Concert, And An Art Opening - A Venice Thursday Evening

Though Venice has been shrouded in May Gray the past few days, no one let the gloominess dampen their spirits last night. There were a million things going on, and it felt like people really just wanted to shrug off how heavy the world is lately, and just have some good old fun.

My friend K.C. Mancebo invited me to the preview opening of the new Miracle Theater in Inglewood, that promises to be an extra cool venue for excellent shows in the very near future. It's a great old theater built in 1937 (as The Ritz) that is the centerpiece of the little downtown Market Street in Inglewood. Miracle Mingle!

There are several art galleries nearby, and it looks like Inglewood is happening. It's really charming over there, and artists are there - a criteria I look for. The Miracle also has a massive event space next door to the theater, so anything at all could be put on in there. And if you build it, they will come.

We got a little tour of the space, and dug the 70's loungey vibe they had going on the stage, with a great sound system.

Westside Tacos had set up out back, and they might be the best tacos I've ever had. And that's saying something. The guys made their own tortillas fresh right in front of you! The fillings were creative and delicious, like the blueberry bbq brisket, that was ridiculous. As was the delectable veggie one I'm still thinking about. I was really impressed, and if you want people still talking about your party years later, I'd hire Westside Tacos to do the catering. For real. Yuuuuum. There were also fantastic drinks like lavender Old Fashioneds, that I didn't get to have enough of, because I had to race off to the next thing ...

Back to Venice! Brad Kay was having one of his exceptional house concerts - Brad Kay Defies The Odds - and it was the best when I was walking down the street and heard the wonderful ragtime piano stylings of Mr. Kay from all the way down the block ...

Our Venice Songbird, Suzy Williams, had made paella, the wine was flowing, and people were clapping along and stomping their feet in time, as the concert rocked the house nearly off its foundation with all the applause that followed.

Kay has nearly a museum of cool instruments in his home, like a player piano, a big old Gramophone, large mutes ... all sorts of cool things. He played a duet with Fats Waller playing on the crank up record player that had the whole place cheering, because you just don't hear this kind of music much anymore. It was great - like time travel.

David Barlia joined Kay as his vaudeville partner, and they gave us a whole bunch of fun songs that would have fit right in on that old-timey touring circuit. It was so fun and charming, but it was also getting late, and we still had the last art opening at Abbot's Habit to get to.

Off we went to The Habit, where a group show of several local artists was going down. People spilled out on to the sidewalk, just like the good old days of events there on the corner of Abbot Kinney and California.

A D. J. spun tunes and more drinks flowed, as we all felt the weight of this being the last art opening in this venerable space. My brother, Paul, (who managed Abbot's Habit for years, and created the Friday night music nights) and I are going to do one more of those wonderfully memorable nights there at Abbot's Habit on June 23rd, and it's already way overbooked with musical artists. We're going to make a documentary about all of the wonderful memories that happened within those walls, and would love to see all of Venice squeezed in there on that second to last Friday night ever of The Habit. Please mark your calendars.

It was a lovely night of art and music in Venice, and I only missed the party at General Admission for the release of the Surf Shacks book that I really did want to make it to, but we did our best. And it was the best. Thanks to all who made it so!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

O.G. Trike For Sale!

We were out on a foggy sunset walk last night at the beach, and when we strolled past Hinano's, I noticed a little trike locked up there ... and its little sign announcing it for sale.

Classic Venice Beach Tricycle 
38,000 Original miles - ALL WEST OF LINCOLN (mainly Speedway and The Boardwalk)
Pretty sweet off jumps and handles like the old roller coaster before it burnt down 
Safety bar removed for extra ballsy-ness
Vintage marine layer oxidation w/candy apple red
Imagine yourself in the cockpit of this little beauty! 
$150,000 OBO
Price includes lock/chain
Enquire (sic) @ Maui & Sons
Best offer takes her on Saturday at 2:00

Pretty sweet off jumps! I love it. I love fun people. Keep up the good work of fun, everyone! We need it now more than ever. It seems a little steep to me, but you know Venice these days ... I just hope it goes to a good family.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Björk Digital - A Trip Inside The Mind Of Björk

Björk Digital opened in downtown Los Angeles last Friday, and it is truly one of the most creative things you will ever experience. I was fortunate to attend the press preview for this visual extravaganza from the mind of the Icelandic real life folk hero named Björk. I've adored her ever since I first heard her singing "Birthday" with The Sugarcubes on a mix tape a California boy I liked had sent me, so I was thrilled just to be there. Her voice was otherworldly, and wholly original, set apart from absolutely everyone else on Earth ... because she doesn't seem to really even be OF this Earth.

That truism was further cemented with the opening of this incredible virtual reality exhibit on now through June 4th (so act fast!) at The Music Box at The Reef, a kind of odd office building in a rundown area with this maze of wonder going down in its basement. I ran into some friends in the lobby, and we were all bursting with excitement to be able to be the first ones to view this show in its West Coast premiere. After some coffee and Icelandic water, we were escorted into the theater room for a press Q and A with the major Björk collaborator and the director of three of the exhibit's videos, Andrew Thomas Huang. The L.A. Philharmonic is presenting this show as part of its Reykjavik Festival (wherein Björk will be performing with full orchestra at Disney Hall on May 30th), and the Phil's Johanna Rees welcomed everyone to this opening. Huang began the Q and A by introducing a special guest ... Björk!

She was there live via Skype from New York as an action capture avatar, and adorable even as a futuristic space alien. Her speaking voice is so sweet you just want to record it and have it with you to cheer you up when you need it, and glancing around, you could tell that everyone there was completely enchanted. Rees asked Björk why it was important to bring this exhibit to L.A., and she replied that she had to go with the flow after her new album (around which this show is centered) Vulnicura had been leaked, and she improvised to come up with something spectacular to mark its release. Mission accomplished.

The show has already seen great success in Tokyo, London, Iceland, Montreal, Mexico, and Houston, so please try to go if you can. It's something else. Someone asked how Björk had affected other artists in Iceland, and she said, "People have blind spots about themselves, but I went abroad and made the nation think that they can do it too." When asked if the Disney Hall show would have all these visuals, she responded that "All the focus will be on the music. I'm fond of extremes, as you may have noticed, so this will be all about the ears, and no visuals." But, she added, come to the FYF this Summer and there will be lots of surprises ... YES. Huang got some technical questions about film making in v.r., and Björk chimed in that "It reminds me of the future." I love that.

One reporter asked about Björk's own listening tastes, and she said she listens to so much music that her playlists are 17 hours long. I had never heard of no one she mentioned, which is just how you'd want Björk's tastes to be. She did say that she has been listening non-stop to "Ethiopian vinyl" ... Rad. Working with local orchestras has been a great way to incorporate local sounds into the performances, which I thought was cool. I thought it was REALLY cool, however, when I got to ask Björk a question LIVE. I asked how being such a performer, if this show with really no audience feedback to her was as satisfying. She never really answered that question, instead going off on a very great bunch of tangents about the differences between her live orchestra shows, her D.J. gigs, her recorded song versions, her new composition book, 34 Scores, for people to play and sing her songs at home with family, and said that whatever medium she uses, "My intention is to reach intimacy with the listener," and added that the virtual reality is her at a distance, but it's actually even more intimate than a concert or c.d. experience. She was right, because within this exhibit, you pretty much inhabit Björk's body and mind.

The exhibit is fairly easy to put on, as it's really a bunch of headsets in empty rooms, and as Björk said, "The magic happens in the headsets." After she said an adorable "Thank you" and the avatar waved, signing off, it was time for us to experience that magic for ourselves. We watched the premiere of her "Notget" video, directed by Warren duPrees and Nick Thornton Jones. Björk is a woodland moth-like creature emerging from the Earth, and I don't think it's hyperbole to say that while watching it I could only think, "Björk is the most creative person living today." She just is.

After the video, we lucky few in the first group to go through the exhibit went to the "Biophilia Room", an educational space that has a bunch of Ipads with apps custom developed by Björk to teach about music and science. I didn't really get it, to be honest, and would need a whole bunch more time to check out the apps, as they're pretty involved, and the proceedings need to keep moving along, as everyone is on a timed ticket. There should be (and maybe there is) an app you can just fool around with at home.

The first v.r. video we saw was "Black Lake", an immersive experience directed by Huang, where you walk around a room surrounded by 50 speakers. You listen to the pristine sound while watching emerge from a bunch of dirt as a waterfall cascades out of her body. Her masks and costumes are utterly incredible, and it's hard to keep your jaw from dropping all the way to the floor.

Moving right along ... to "Stonemilker", a 360 degree experience directed by Huang where you sit on a stool and rotate around to see Björk dancing along the Icelandic sea in a yellow dress, singing about "emotional respect" as the waves crash on the volcanic sand all around her ... take a look (and rotate it!):

"Quicksand" was directed by Neri Oxman, of a show Björk performed in Tokyo in a 3D printed headpiece that was again simply amazing. Part two of this room was "Mouth Mantra", directed by Jesse Kanda, and the only one that made me kind of sick. The whole thing is shot from inside of Björk's mouth, and as it all swirls around, I thought I might throw up. It's pretty intense, and I was cool for this one to be over and remove the headset, but also totally impressed again by its creativity.

My favorite room was "Family", again directed by Huang. You're tethered by your headset to keep you from smashing into things, but you get handsets that allow you to create right along with Björk there in her world. I actually walked through her body, and it felt extra strange - and had me wishing I'd eaten some edibles before I got there. You spin yellow swirls around via hand triggers as you move through what seems like outer space along with Björk in her awesome costumes. This one is the centerpiece of the whole thing, and captures Björk's emotional journey "from despair to empowerment", according to the materials. It. Was. So. Cool!

"Notget" the v.r. version is less interactive, and you stand there while a golden Björk dances right around you, super in your face. Once again, I was fully mesmerized by the outfits, and want only to wear one like hers someday ... just completely out there and over the top and driven only by fantastical imagination and unparalleled creativity.

The last stop is back to the Cinema Room, where you can sit on the floor on pillows and watch up to two hours of all Björk's past - and stunning - videos. I took in a good few before my friends in the group after me caught up. We all compared notes, and all unanimously named this as the coolest thing going on now in Los Angeles. There is also a merch area at the exhibit's check-in area, so you can take home a memory of your time with Björk - not that you'll ever forget it. I really, really hope you get to see it while it's here, because you will remember it for always. Sincere congratulations to all of the über-creatives who made this experience possible, because you are all at the very top of the game today. And see the fantastically wonderful Björk any chance that you get, because I've seen no one out there creating as impressively, and as consistently, for so long and so beautifully. Wow. Just WOW.

Tusen takk, Björk and the L.A. Philharmonic!

Björk Digital is on now through June 4, 2017. 

Magic Box at The Reef
1933 South Broadway
Los Angeles

*Q and A photos by Jeanette Oliver
**"Notget" stills courtesy of the L.A. Philharmonic


Monday, May 22, 2017

The 2017 Venice Art Walk - 38 Is Great!

The Venice Art Walk was held for the 38th time yesterday, once again to benefit the Venice Family Clinic. It was a stunningly gorgeous day out, much more Summer than Spring, and the whole town was bustling with artists and art lovers. I had to do an abbreviated version this year because an emergency with some friends meant that I had two little boys in tow with me, which very much affected how much I could get around to see ... but we did pretty great for antsy kids!

We kicked it off in the Kid Zone for the kids, which was outside in the parking lot of Gold's Gym. There was face painting, a sock panda (?), making art with clay, painting, and a super fun bubble situation set up in baby pools. Kids had a blast both trying to make giant bubbles, and chasing them around to break once they were airborne. Good times.

There were several artists doing live painting outside of the Google headquarters (and I still think the silent auction Art Walk headquarters should be back at Westminster School, not at a corporate tech company that has nothing to do with Venice), with the coolest being this woman who looked at you while painting your face without looking (the bad news is that I forgot my phone and notebook and everything trying to get the kids out of the house and all is based on my brother's photos and my memory, which isn't so hot today - sorry to any names I omit as a result). It was cool.

Cooler yet was Balloonski, a guy who makes the most impressive balloon animal things I've ever seen. My little friends stood there watching while he crafted a monkey (complete with eyeballs) climbing a palm tree, and a sword to do battle with.

They were stoked - and they were NOT the kids who knocked over a sculpture inside the silent auction with their balloon things, for the record. Thank God. Balloonski had a permanent balloon piece inside, that my buddies were extra happy to see.

I always want pretty much everything inside of the silent auction, and this year was no different, other than that I couldn't spend the time I usually do to check it all out.

As art often reflects the state of the world and current events, there was no shortage of political art, with excellent points being made. As Mark X Farina does here:

It is also Venice, so there will always be sea, surf, and skate art, like this classic shot from back in the day from Josh "Bagel" Klassman. Want it.

The Signature Artist this year was the wonderful Barbara Kruger, so the t-shirts and tote bags and everything for sale had her "How Can I Be A Better Person?" piece featured on them, and were omnipresent on all the volunteers and attendees. It poses perhaps the best question we should all be asking ourselves every day. How?

I didn't have my phone, so had to rely on my brother to take shots for me, and I kept losing him, so it is what it is. The boys and I went out to the sunny stage area outside to take a load off and try to find the rest of our party. We were entertained by the Rob Morrow Band (Yeah, the Rob Morrow from Northern Exposure), who turned out to be not bad as we enjoyed our spot in the shade.

There was an appropriate bench nearby, as we were certainly kept waiting ...

Also outside were the sculptures up for auction, including a super cool surfboard made up of little photographs. I wanted it.

Kids have to be fed, so we did that, and then headed over to say to John Mooney Glass, who will have his new kiln firing today, but not yesterday, so we went on over to say hi to Amy Kaps at her home studio. We enjoyed some bubbly (Me, not the kids) and saw all of her black and white photos from her live performances from all over, including recently Havana. I love Amy, and her true originality, so much.

Antsy kids kept us moving along, and as they had been in a music video for Sesame Street directed by Rohitash Rao, we went across the street to say hi to him and see all of his recent works. His studio was packed with Art Walkers, and we saw many familiar and fun faces. Rao gave me a Prince piece (LOVE IT! THANK YOU!), and showed my little friend Quinn how to make his first graffiti tag. I mean, they've got to start some time, right?

We didn't have the official map to see which and where all the open studios were, so as the boys were starting to trip, we called it a day for the art part, and embraced the sunny Sunday part, winding up in a pool the whole rest of the day. On the way to the car, we saw a guy showing his art on the street, Venice Style. I don't know if it's because I'm slightly obsessed, but I saw a lot of hummingbird art yesterday. Joy!

I LOVE the Venice Art Walk, and I LOVE the Venice Family Clinic. In times like these, when health care for Americans is in such jeopardy (if you ever even had it), the VFC is more important than ever with all the good work that they do for the members of our Community that need it most. That art is the catalyst for making the good happen is so perfectly Venice that it practically makes me emotional, especially when even the artists are endangered in Venice these days. Events like the Venice Art Walk help to make it clear that Venice is and will remain about the art, and about its People.

I'm a little bummed that I didn't get around to everything I wanted to this year, but again, we need to be about helping each other, and asking ourselves how we can be better people ... and helping friends in need is the perfect place to start/continue.

Cheers to all involved for another wonderful Venice day of ART!

*Photos by Paul Gronner Photography (on his phone)

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Spring Venice Art Crawl - Mini Edition

The Venice Art Crawl went down last night, and this time was centered up and down Venice Boulevard, in what I like to call "The Cultural Corridor". This time out was a lot smaller (with the annual Art Walk also happening this weekend, it's a lot), and I'm not mad at that. There's always so much ground to cover that you can never see it all anyway, so this more bite size version was actually pretty user-friendly. I had woken up to the news that the world lost Chris Cornell, so was feeling a bit melancholy, but also very eager to get out and live myself.

                                                                                                  *this piece by Jennifer Verge

We started the evening in the window seats at Wabi Sabi as the sun went down, and it was like looking at art just watching all the people walk by ... and all the girls taking selfies out in front. Wabi Sabi was also a stop on the Art Crawl, so we hit two birds with one stone (and a few glasses of wine got hit as well, if I'm honest). Barbara Lavery had her show Before They Go up on the walls, a series of photos of Venice artists working in their studios - while they still have them. It was poignant, and great, and shone a light on the fact that Venice is really nothing without its artists ... and that's what the Art Crawl is all about.

As the daylight waned, we headed over to the Beyond Baroque and SPARC complex to see what was happening, but it appeared to be a big crowd for an AA meeting. We probably could have done with staying and listening, but there was still a lot of art to see. We walked over to the home studio of Flavio Bisciotti, which was nearly totally ruined in a fire last year. Fellow artists came together to do a show comprised of all works done on charred remains of things from the studio.

The "Art From The Ashes" show was a great success, and also incredibly inspiring. Artists coming together to make something new out of the old, and supporting each other through it all. It's a beautiful thing, as are the objects that were created out of it. My favorite was the chandelier made from bits and pieces of wreckage, that came together to be more beautiful than any of it had been before. There's a good lesson in there ...

Bisciotti has a wonderful attitude about it all, and appears to be even more inspired himself. He has made chairs that are see through and contain more wreckage, that were very cool, and again, wouldn't have happened without that awful fire. This man has truly become the phoenix.

There were drinks and good conversation there, but there was also a whole bunch more art to see, and we'd already killed a lot of time. We had more Crawlers join us as we aimed for the beach down Venice Boulevard. It didn't seem like much was happening at the Venice Library, so we went on over to Sunny Bak's place to see her, and the silent auction going on there to benefit the Art Crawl Afterburn in the fall.

Sunny does SO much for this Art Crawl, and one of the reasons this Crawl was small, is that she does most of it herself, it seems like. She needs help, volunteers, artists, venues, money ... HELP. It takes a whole community to pull these things off, and we need to all be in it together. One of the best ways to combat gentrification and tech company take-overs is to PARTICIPATE in events. Be SEEN in your Community. Many people I talked to yesterday weren't even aware the Art Crawl was being held last night, though there are banners up all over town, and promotions all over social media. C'mon, Venice. Time to re-boot the school spirit. Thanks!

There was live painting happening outside at Sunny's by Ana Escobar, and the bright colorful pieces brought some fun and vibrancy to the night - plus it's always fun to watch people work.

Time was ticking, so we raced over to the C.A.V.E. to see the beautiful show Sixth Extinction by Louis Masai. It features colorful animals that are endangered or extinct, and is centered by a bee hovering over some flowers. I love Masai's work, and first saw it as a mural behind the G2 Gallery on Abbot Kinney. It's up through May, I believe, and well worth your time to check out on your way to the beach.

We were too late to see Deb Louck's new work at Small World Books, as we found the doors locked. Bummer. It's all still up though, so I'll still go see it and so should you. I love her stuff. We didn't make it into Sidewalk Café either, as now we ran into friends that were on their way to the Canal Club. There was a ton of fun art in the back room there, in a show called "ARTravenous" by James Berkowitz, with various artists showing. There was a big crowd there, and everyone was clearly having a good time.

This was a fun Crawl, as I rolled around with Venice lady legends, Greta Cobar and Suzy Williams - two of my all time favorite Venetians. Laughs were had.

It was vital that we cross the street to James Beach with Danny Samakow, both to see all of his beautiful paintings that were featured on the dining room walls ... and to do shots of some crazy rum together. Why not? (I poured a little out for Chris Cornell. Respect.)

There was still a lot going on all over town, but now it was getting late and people had to work today. It was great to see all the people out and about, on foot and bike, enjoying the sort of holiday feeling that comes with an event like the Venice Art Crawl. We are lucky people. We are alive and creating and sharing and celebrating art and each other in Venice, California.