Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Thrashers Live On The Sunset Strip

Saturday night kicked serious, um, bottom.


Basically, because of this young man.

Meet Brandon. This young man Rocks. I know that lots of people say, "This Rocks," and, "That Rocks," and all they mean is that they consider those things to be very cool. Well, those people need to discontinue their use of the word, "Rock," because Rock is a real thing. You cannot Rock unless you are playing rock music, live, for an audience. That is when you Rock.

And Brandon Rocks.

Brandon is my friend Scott's nine year old son. And Brandon is in a band called The Thrashers. Now, I know people are naturally tempted to say, "Aw, how cute. A band of nine year olds." Well, Saturday night The Thrashers took the stage at the Whisky A Go Go and they played a brand of hard rock that borders on metal. So, you know, shut up already with the, "cute."

There you have it. The above picture is epic, because that is Brandon standing in front of our dining table with my hand holding a ticket in front of him to see The Thrashers perform at the Whisky A Go Go on March 21, 2010. A genuine Rock Star standing in our home. (If only there'd been time to play Wii.)

The Whisky. A rock landmark. If you need me to explain that, well, then it would be a waste of my time and yours because then Rock is clearly not your thing. But if you have ever liked a band that became famous after The Whisky was established in 1964, basically everyone who came after The Beatles, then that band played at The Whisky.

Their name in lights. How on Earth did I not pause long enough to point at their name?

We walked inside just before the band came down the stairs. Phew!

Time to rock! The moment they started their first song, they kicked the crowd's ass. Literally. They rocked the house. Barbie and I almost instantly started bouncing our heads to the beat, because this band is tight.

I snuck over to the side of the stage to snap a close pic of Brandon on the keyboard, but I could not get one of him looking my way. No, I did not shout, "Yo! Brandon! Look over here!"

Rock star lights.

My friend's son is THERE. I cannot tell you how awesomely surreal it is to see your friend's son on stage. And when I say, "my friend," allow me to elaborate. I have an extremely clear memory of sitting behind him on the first day of seventh grade science class and looking at his jacket that was covered with bowling patches. To this day I can only wish to bowl as well as twelve year old Scott. I was, for those who want to know, still eleven at the time. That was 29 years and six months go.

So, you know, the almsot thirty year long dotted line in my memory from the first day of seventh grade to the stage at the Whisky A Go Go on Saturday night represents a simply amazing journey. A shame I cannot map out that dotted line for you with google maps.

They sincerely rocked. There is nothing "kiddie" about The Thrashers. I did not think about it until now, but just the idea that young people can care about music that has nothing to do with the Disney Channel brings a tear.

The Thrashers rocked so hard that Barbie had to move closer to the stage to rock out and wave her arms.

Rock star lights, indeed.

After their set, The Thrashers went upstairs to meet with their adoring fans at their merch table. The floor had been full, which is pretty fantastic considering they are based in Northern California.

Brandon signing the back of my Thrashers poster. We bought a CD, a t-shirt for her, a t-shirt for him, and a poster.

After the show, we all met up at Mel's Drive In down the Sunset Strip.

Many a not awful meal has been served to a club goer under that roof. Yes, I chose those words carefully.

Brandon with one of his fans.

Seriously, this was a wonderful night. Ever since I went to see Electric Six last November at the Key Club, I have been keenly aware of how much I miss live music. Specifically, live music in clubs. Clubs where you stand five to twenty feet from the stage. To me, that is music. I am not a man of resolutions, but I intend to go to more live music. Fortunately that includes when The Thrashers return to the Whisky next month.

Brandon's sister, Izzy, makes a Colossal Waste appearance in the night's final pic, titled, "That sundae is as big as your head."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mindshare L.A. March Event

Mindshare? What the hell is Mindshare? Well... let me back up.

Two weeks ago, before the NYC trip, my friend introduced me to the OkGo video This Too Shall Pass, which if you have not seen you must see. (Embedded at bottom.) This video is amazing to the extent that it drove both of us to learn how such a feat was accomplished.

Apparently, when the band had the concept that they wanted to create a one-shot music video of a massive Rube Goldberg Machine in an empty warehouse that would be a part of the song and perhaps abuse them in the process, they posted around online for help and discovered a community of artists and engineers and generally enthusiastic persons known as Syyn Labs. Together, OkGo and Syyn Labs created a simply amazing work of art which takes the form of a music video.

A short yet useful blurb from the Syyn Labs website is this, "Syyn Labs was formed in 2008 by a group of creative engineers who twist together art and technology. We build gizmos, whatzits, and interactive installations that encourage strangers to play together by lowering social barriers."

My friend learned that they hold a monthly event in Downtown L.A called Mindshare. Neither of us hesitated when deciding to go. I do not make resolutions, but if I did then I would resolve to go to more art-themed events.

We sincerely had no idea what we would find at Mindshare. Would we be wandering around a club with techy art pieces here and there? Would there be performance art on a stage? Would this just be another boring night club for singles with a techy-artsy side?

We would have to go Downtown to find out.

Nobody ever uses words like, "vibrant," to describe Downtown L.A.

We found the place, parked, and walked toward the alley entrance of Club 740.

That dude is the type who shouts at a bicyclist to get off the sidewalk. I know, because he did.

The line-up at the alley entrance is made more friendly by one of L.A.'s gourmet catering trucks.

Even though I have never eaten at one, and did not eat at this one, I love how the Catering Truck, known to people like me as a Roach Coach, has managed to go upscale.

A lousy pic, but you can kind of see the chairs set up as well as several balcony levels. This downtown L.A. theater was probably once a true beauty.

As the chairs kind of indicated, Mindshare would be more of a series of presentations than an art gallery thing. It was more a mini-TED. Mirco-TED. Maybe even nano-TED. (If you do not know what TED is, google it.) There was a little bit of art up in balcony that reminded me of the technology rooms at the Sundance Film Festival, but otherwise Mindshare is pretty straightforward. A series of presentations and then socializing.

Time to ditch the flight instructor and the citywide A/V systems guy and grab a seat.

The presentations were, and this is by memory so get off my back if I'm wrong or leave something out; a lawyer-motivational-speaker presenting a little diddy about negotiating; a guy from I think the X-Prize talking about the White House's Open Government Initiative which is something nobody knows about and everyone should; an architect presenting a series of projects including permanent housing for the homeless, a central park for Playa Del Rey, and a CSUSF performance center; the Syyn Labs guys presenting a behind-the-scenes look at the OkGo video (which was cool but I'd already seen this exact presentation on youtube); a kid who builds geodesic tree-houses for the very rich who would have been interesting had he shown the process; a woman from USC promoting TEDxUSC; a futurist of sorts named David Orban who is clearly a genius and spoke of the coming world of exponentially growing data being analyzed by machines instead of people; and finally a hip hopper rip rapping with the crowd clapping/snapping/stomping the beat for him.

The architect, whose presentation I think I enjoyed the most. If I had understood David Orban better perhaps he would have been my favorite.

The crew that put together the OkGo video.

I sat behind Maude Lebowski.

The hip-hopper. He had two guys in the dark center there guiding the clapping, stomping and snapping.

All said it was an interesting night. Had I grabbed food from the catering truck earlier I might have wanted to stick around and meet interesting people. But I was starving, and my friend was slightly drunk and hungry, which lead us out the door soon after the presentation was over.

I bet you did not know about Downtown L.A.'s Historic Core District. Neither would I, if I had not seen this sign on the way back to the car.

We zipped over to Los Feliz for a late-night bite at Fred 62. Since we were far hipper tonight than usual, it only made sense to eat at a hipster joint. After all, Fred 62's motto is, "Eat now, dine later."

The college women next to us were discussing fake I.D.'s. As Bradley Nowell taught us, you can't fight against the youth.


The BBQ Royal was disappointing. The college girls had pancakes and I was filled with self-loathing that there were no pancakes in front of me.

And that is all. A night spent away from the computer and the television; spent in an effort to expand the horizon a little.

I will attempt to embed the aforementioned OkGo video here. Not sure if it will work.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

NYC, March 2010, Day 6

The last morning in NYC. The four previous mornings we woke to the sound of rain. This morning... it was suspiciously quiet. A look out the window revealed why.

Clear blue skies over Manhattan.

This is the view out the same window, but looking to the left. With the rain gone, I realized that Denise's little guest room we have been enjoying has quite the view. "What view?" you ask. In a minute. I have to cover something else first.

I've never read a study on it, but besides the obvious general greatness of human sight, something about sight plus the brain enhances imagery. Go with me on this for a second. Look at something and jump up and down. The greatest motion stabilization camera system on Earth cannot do what your eyes and brain just did. On top of that, our eyes have great depth perception. Case in point immediately below.

In the view above, with my naked eye (okay, given, I have 20/20 vision) I can clearly make out the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. Clearly. Yet even when zooming, it is hard to see.

But there they are, visible from our little North facing window on the Lower East Side.

Orio Shpeedvagon (I Germanized the pronunciation in my head this morning) was pretty uninterested in my looking out windows. After all, the tall, furry-faced human had a job to do.

This is Mein Shpeedvagon rubbing against the iPhone holding hand, insisting that it do the standard forehead to neck to back press that he'd become accustomed to from me.

Seriously, go to the rainy day pics and then back to this one and... well... sunny days sure are nice. Oh hell, this is the modern technowonder knows as a blog. You do not have to go anywhere. Here is the same view three days earlier:

Sure, this Day 2 pic may be a waste of time. After all, I doubt anyone was going to say, "No, the clouds and invisible rain looked far better than the blue sky and sunshine."

Stanton meets Clinton. I know that there are people who love their Suburbs and Exurbs. And that is okay. I cannot explain it, but I find the Urban Landscape more compelling. In fact, to me this pic screams "Neighborhood" while the aforementioned areas do not.

Partially due to the sunshine and partially due to the fact that we fly to California in seven hours, there is a lot on the plate today. We are going to hit the Standard Hotel over in the meatpacking district, check out the High Line (which is a former elevated railway turned into a pedestrian walkway and public park), and then perhaps zip up to Times Square because they have changed it. Changed Broadway, that is.

No subway pics, so just imagine being underground and then emerging on the opposite side of the island. We walked past the Gansevoort Hotel which had been our NYC home more than once before, and proceeded an extra block West to the Standard Hotel.

Okay. Seriously. There is architecture and then there is Architecture.

The sun crept into this second shot, so we banished the colors.

There is Architecture and there is Design. In this case, the entry to The Standard is cool, but I have a feeling it will soon feel dated and therefore be changed. Just a hunch.

Based on our level of hunger, and the knowledge that the Boom Boom Room at the very top of The Standard is not open until 4pm, we decide to hit the High Line first and then grab lunch.

There it is, the end of the tracks from below. I love the concept of taking the leftovers of industry and turning them into public spaces.

The Standard Hotel above the High Line. What I failed to do is walk to the edge of the High Line which I showed you from below to take a shot from that point. Sorry. Would have been a good one.

The tracks that remain are incorporated very artistically into the design of the High Line. Once again I am forced to consider my hometown and the lack of preservation there. Sure, Los Angeles has been ruled by property developers since its inception, and that tends to guide it towards Sim City like explosion and reconstruction with the past eliminated. But damn if that is not a mistake.

We did not get too far down the High Line. Soon after we passed under the hotel, Barbie realized that she had dropped something. We went back for it, found it safely on the ground, and at that point we both felt like grabbing lunch at The Standard Hotel Grill.

If my chest had eyes, this is what they would see.

I had eaten too much this trip. In five days I am literally losing one belt notch. My reaction? Lunch at the grill is the Cauliflower Soup with Egg and a side of Grilled Brussels Sprouts. Above, you see Barbie's BLT.

I do not care if there are Brussels Sprouts haters in the world. I would eat Brussels Sprouts every meal if given the option.

Lunch was made more memorable because we began conversing with the two tables next to us. It all began with the obnoxious woman behind Barbie, who wanted everyone in the room to know that she existed no matter how uninteresting she happens to be. When she loudly asked the Lord Above what lyric follows, "Where did you go, Joe DiMaggio?" Barbie turned to her and gave her the answer, and in a matter of minutes we knew that this older, skinny woman with leathery skin was sleeping with a married man who was willing to buy her a $1.1 million apartment in Costa Rica but not a $1.3 million apartment in Manhattan (which leads me to think he intelligently wants her far, far away yet available for visitation) and that her lunch companion was a subtly wealthy man from the Carolinas who now lived in and owned a winery in Santa Barbara. I could tell you so, so much more.

The young people at the table that completed our triangle, who also found her why-not-call-it-shtick amusing, soon took the whole vibe to the next level when the waiter brought them the most impressive drink I have ever seen.

Look! Look at that ridiculous beverage! It's something like champagne with grapefruit juice and a few other things, but the point is that goblet. I feel like the word goblet does not do it justice, but then again there is no word for a ridiculously large beverage glass because there is no need for such a word to exist.

-- Business Proposal Break: Let's open a bar in Los Angeles where the drinks are all served in goldfish bowls and aquariums. --

Lunch is complete. Time to go back into the hotel.

Candid Lobby Portrait, in sepia. Yes, those are my knees.

Okay, this needs a setup. We get into the elevator to take us to the top of the hotel, where one finds the Boom Boom Room. (I am both happy and sad that they did not go for the gusto and name it BoomBoomRoom without spaces.) In the elevator, there was art. Video Art. Eventually, my iPhone will be upgraded and I will be able to show you movement. For now, you will have to imagine the movement inside your brain.

This image was on a screen on the wall of the elevator, around eye level, and was ever moving along several planes. Clouds, fire, lightning; everything moving at all times. Insane Art, and clearly Hades-esque. I loved it.

The Hudson and New Jersey. This is the first view out of the elevator. But as you walk through the curtains of the Boom Boom Room, you see this:

Not your average hotel bar.

Our friend the Empire State Building, as seen from the North side of the Boom Boom Room.

The Gansevoort Hotel. We stayed in THAT suite a few years back and loved it.

The Statue of Liberty. Don't believe me?

Bugger! I can normally get the finger closer than that.

Time to ride the elevator down.

The video art brings us something a bit more Heavenly on the way down.

At this point, we hop in a cab to hit Times Square. We used to often stay in that area, and almost never go there anymore, but now that the great Broadway experiment has been made permanent, it is time for us to visit.

For those who do not know, Broadway cuts across the perfect right angles of Manhattan at a whimsical diagonal. This means that it often intersects other streets in the most traffic inducing manner possible. Mayor Bloomberg is an out-of-the-box type, and when engineers told him that removing streets can sometimes improve traffic, they began experimenting. In August 2008, they closed two lanes of Broadway from 42nd to 35th, creating public plazas. In May 2009, they closed Broadway entirely to automobile traffic through Duffy Square, Times Square, and Herald Square, basically 47th to 34th. Other streets still cut through, and apparently even though traffic did not improve a whole lot, pedestrian injuries almost disappeared while foot traffic increased, making both residents and businesses very happy. Last month they announced the changes are permanent, and I expect the "Plazas" created by this move will evolve over time to be more like Europe's great plazas. Or not.

La Place de Fois. More commonly referred to as Times Square.

You would never call it beautiful, but it is something.

I guess these pics do not mean much to many, but you have to think that this used to be filled with cars. With traffic. Noisy traffic. There are now cafés and people walking every which way. Definitely an improvement.

Time to hop on the subway. There is an airplane to catch.

When we came out of the subway, I finally took a picture of the Williamsburg Bridge. Sure, we have friends in Williamsburg now, but the actual reason I wanted this picture is that one of my favorite bands, Soul Coughing, refers to this bridge in the song, "True Dreams of Wichita."

Walking up Clinton towards Denise's for the last time. (This visit, that is.)

Casa Denise in the sunshine.

We lucked out. Denise had the time and kindness to drive us to the airport, sparing us using a car service or taking the train.

Cruising across the Williamsburg Bridge. The Soul Coughing lyric is, "And you can stand on the arms of the Williamsburg Bridge crying, 'Hey man, well this is Babylon.' " Funny how modern poetry has been horribly pretentious for around 50 years, except for the songwriters.

I love getting a shot of the destination on a highway sign.

I apologize. I shouldn't even tell you. But if I did not tell you then I would not be Me. That picture was taken inside of a Kennedy Airport Bathroom Stall.

Sometimes the jiggled pic comes out perfectly. That is what the world looks like when you're waiting for a flight. I think that one would look great with the color sucked out and the lights turned green.

Told ya so.

The lights outside that window are Los Angeles.

This belt is moving me towards Los Angeles.

The last cab for a long, long time.

I recall as a child seeing this LAX landmark and being certain it was from Outer Space.


See you next trip. Or next time something deserves to become a part of the Colossal Waste.