RFK Mural Festival

In collaboration with LAUSD and Thinkspace Gallery, Branded Arts’ latest project “RFK Mural Festival” is taking place this week in Koreatown. Twenty-eight artists were commissioned to paint a series of murals on the massive walls of Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools. The aim of this project is to send an inspirational and positive message to kids ranging from kindergarten to the 12th grade. From 5-11pm tonight, a grand reception will be held at the school where people will get to see the completed murals along with DJ sets, spoken word poetry and special workshops.

Imprint Picks: “The Fall of Language In The Age of English” (2015)

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“Prior to the late 18th century in Europe, no distinction existed between literature and the pursuit of knowledge. The word “literature” then referred to any kind of writing. Divinity schools were the only place of learning. But as Europe gradually secularized, those divinity schools were transformed into today’s universities… It was around this time that literature and the pursuit of knowledge – academia – became manifestly distinct from each other. The word “literature” was by this time used almost exclusively to refer to poems, plays and novels, as it is today.

Something wonderful then happened to literature. Now that the language used in academic disciplines was far removed from the language of everyday life, people no longer turned to academic writings for words of wisdom- the sort that could address perennial human questions such as “what does it mean to be a human being?” and “how should one live?” Where previously they had sought these answers in religious texts, now they were turning to literature for enlightenment- particularly the modern novel, written in prose. Literature became something that transcended science. ”

“The Fall of Language in the Age of English” by Minae Mizumura

Mind Your Drone

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Drone racing is slowly becoming more and more popular. But a new type of drone race is abounding. Welcome the mind-controlled drone race. While these are not quite as fast as the usual drone racers, this type of drone control is in its infancy and should advance quickly. For example, it shouldn’t be too long until these drones are racing at the same speeds as non-mind controlled interfaces. For now, check out these mind-controlled drones.

Wong Kar Wai in person at the Academy and new book with John Powers

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Right after graduating from UCLA, my old roommate Jeff and I got hooked on Hong Kong movies. We’d drive out to the San Gabriel Valley once but more often twice a week to catch double features at the Garfield, Bridge, Kuo Hwa, Huo Hwa, and a few other big screens that came and left. It was great. It cost just five bucks to get in and there was stuff like dried mango, shrimp chips, and hot tea in Styrofoam cups at the concession stand. Did I mention that directors like Tsui Hark, John Woo, and Wong Kar Wai were out of their minds? Getting to see Chungking Express and Ashes of Time in a Chinese movie theater in 1994 before Wong made the jump to arthouse distribution was pretty awesome.

It shouldn’t have surprised me that Jeff would become a film archivist for a living since he has has kept and catalogued every single ticket stub, flyer, and calendar picked up at any movie he went to since before we met. But who knew he would invite me to see Wong Kar Wai in person at the Academy of Motion Pictures more than 20 years later?

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The event was thrown to celebrate the release of a book by Rizzoli co-authored by Wong and local film critic John Powers. Jeff and I cornered Powers during the reception and told him that we were big fans of his movie reviews in the L.A. Weekly back in the day. There wasn’t a lot of mainstream coverage of Hong Kong movies back then, and it’s great that he has gone on to do work for NPR and Vogue. Powers is a cool guy. We gushed about Hong Kong movies and asked for the scoop on what it was like working with the famously late director. He said that everything we’ve heard about Wong is true–and that it was a pleasure to collaborate with him.

The Cinema of Wong Kar Wai is as beautiful as it is comprehensive with six lengthy conversations between the journalist and filmmaker that start with Wong’s childhood as an immigrant kid from Shanghai in Hong Kong who had a nightclub-owning dad and mom that took him to the movies religiously and go all the way to him being a celebrated guest at Cannes. You’ll find everything you ever wanted to know about his film-making philosophy (every film should be different), his relationships with partners (Christopher Doyle, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung), and his outlook toward art (and commerce), and Powers comes across as vastly knowledgeable and intimate without being an obsequious know-it-all in any way. Wong is honest and often funny. They are not afraid to push each other’s buttons, which makes for interesting as well as informative reading. Oh, there are amazing photos laid out by longtime design partner Wing Shya, too.

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The first half of the the event entailed Powers showing clips and then providing his observations about them. It must have been fun but couldn’t have been easy to decide on which ones to show, but he sampled Days of Being Wild, Chungking Express, Fallen Angels, Happy Together, In the Mood for Love, and The Grandmaster. What a treat for us to see the segments in gorgeous grainy, saturated color (some lovely B&W for Happy Together) on a big screen in a dark room with great sound: the colors, the music, the atmosphere… With the filmmaker in the audiences, some of Powers’ comments came across like a roast! I would paraphrase some of his thoughts if there wasn’t a great book that true fans should purchase and read.

The final clip shown taken from the Madmen TV show was full of familiar color, smoke, and style. And then co-creator Matthew Weiner came out to chat with Wong. Technique was a recurring subject, such as the stylized chase scenes in Chungking Express (cool looking, conducive to guerrilla filmmaking, and totally obsolete now that it can be done as an after effect) and his reputation for making up dialogue on the spot (actually the morning of) because he doesn’t enjoy writing. When Weiner said he didn’t like to write, either, Wong poked fun at him by saying that wasn’t true because he saw all the fancy pens at the Madmen office. Another fun moment occurred after Wong, who learned the art under the tutelage of directors like Patrick Tam, dismissed film school as unnecessary. Weiner told him not to say that in front of his kids who were in the audience.

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Perhaps the sweetest moment came toward the end, after Wong said he agreed to make the book with Powers because he thought he wouldn’t have to answer questions about his work anymore. Of course, there he was talking about his movies again. But then he added that the book was also for his 21-year-old son who was just graduating from college. Filmmakers like Wong leave home for months or years at a time to make a movie. This book was also dedicated to his son and intended to inform him what his dad was doing during all that time away.

Of course, it is also a gift to hardcore fans like Jeff and me. We had stalked him two decades ago at a UCLA screening two decades ago when Tarantino got involved with distributing Chungking Express in the U.S. We snagged a picture of him in Westwood and got another photo with him at the Academy. Some things like art, friendship, and obsessive fandom never die.

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8 Questions with Karen Kawallek, Founder of Lake Providence Lodge Scented Wax Melts

Karen Kawallek is the Founder and visionary of Lake Providence Lodge Scented Wax Melts I discovered her during a listen to January’s issue of Shopify Masters, a podcast that educates and inspires business owners on how to grow their on-line businesses with actionable steps. The thing about this interview that struck me the most was the notion that you don’t have to quit your day job before you can identify yourself as an entrepreneur. People might tell you that in order to be an entrepreneur, there are rules. You need to have a fully formed idea that’s a hit, you need to be famous or know somebody famous, you need to give up your day job and dive in with your whole heart, leaving it all behind and see just what happens. If you don’t bet the farm on your idea, then they might say you’re a hobbyist, a weekend warrior, AKA not serious. Who made up these rules? Why are you following them? Listen, while you are busy making excuses (no time, no good ideas, no connections to Mr. Wonderful), others are busy making it work. Take Karen for example. Gainfully employed in the corporate world with no reason to jump ship, she saw a problem that needed solving for her and went about addressing it in a one-step-at-a-time fashion. Karen was passionate about having well made, dye-free, strongly scented wax melts. She didn’t see herself as an artisan, so she took a scientific approach. She taught herself how to create something she needed and then the Customers found her. She had 30 years in the corporate world under her belt with business know-how at her disposal. She took calculated risks and never committed to more than she could do at any one time. She has objectives and goals and all of that makes her a legitimate business owner.

You can do it too! Start with an idea. What are you passionate about, what can you make, what life hacks do you have up your sleeve? What is your problem that needs solving? Think about it. Then take a look at Karen’s journey, believe in yourself and then commence with the dropping of excuses.

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Describe the evolution of Lake Providence Lodge Scented Wax Melts. How and why did you get started?

Lake Providence Lodge scented wax melts was born, in 2012, out of a LOVE of a nicely scented home paired with a quest for long lasting, dye-free, strongly scented wax melts. The commercially manufactured home fragrance products that I was able to find on the market underwhelmed me. I tried smaller vendor wax and LOVED the quality of the product. A very crafty friend asked why I did not make them for myself. I am not even a little bit crafty but got some materials and began. Again, since I do not see this as a crafty venture (it is far more math and science than art), I began testing, blending and documenting data about my testing. I found a wax blend that gave me the results I wanted and I made wax melts for myself and later for friends and family.
Once friends and family of friends and family wanted to buy my wax, it became a small, local business. The business moved online in January 2014.

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You have a full time career and you are an entrepreneur at the same time! For a lot of people, feeling pressure to let go of their career safety net or the fear of having to manage competing priorities keeps people from diving in to run their own business. What advice do you have for those sitting on the fence? How do you manage both?

You can do both. Especially until you know whether the new venture is something that you would want to do, or could afford to do, full time. The key is setting boundaries and having clear business goals and rules for what you can and will do.

While I have been recently asked to do so, I am not in a position to accept wholesale orders. Having clear business rules will keep you from following the emotion (it is flattering!) and moving too quickly or in the wrong direction. I still work my full time career. As a result, there is only so much product that I can make and ship out in a week. I do not open myself up for more than I can manage. I own the business, so I am in control of that.

I have also spoken with some who indicated that they could not open a business with just 1 product. They say you must wait until they have more. Why? Who says? Do it. Try it.

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I’m sure people are wondering about your domain name. Lake Providence Lodge Scented Wax Melts is probably the longest domain on the Internet. Tell us how you came up with the name in 2012 and why you’ve decided to stick with the long form in 2016.

Yes it is!

Many years ago, as a single mom, I saved to purchase a home all on my own. I wanted to live in the neighborhood that I had previously, so that my son could continue in his school and with his friends. LONG story, but I could not afford the homes there. Then a home, which was not even for sale, became available in the most unusual manner and I was able to purchase it! I decorated it in cabin and lodge motif. I bought an old window at an antique store and wanted to paint it to hang in the new house. I wanted the window to look like it had come out of an old fishing lodge. The lodge window needed a name on it, so I pondered a suitable name. I knew that God had provided the home, so I painted the window to say Lake Providence Lodge. It is now in the wax room in my current home. Years later I was given the opportunity to sell my wax at an event at my corporation. Until then, my wax had only the scent name on the label. I had no company name but needed one-quickly! I was told that I needed a sign to take to the event. I named the company Lake Providence Lodge, so that I could take that painted window to the event to be used as my company sign.

I then used the company name to establish my domain not thinking it would be shared beyond a few local customers.

I have been advised by several more versed than me in SEO, that traffic could be lost due to redirects and that I shouldn’t change it now. We are easily found on search engines thanks to bloggers, YouTubers and our own presence on social media.

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What was the biggest risk you took to grow your business and why did you go for it anyway?

I think perhaps moving the business from local sales to selling online. I learned, from a friend who had done the same, that I could start a shop on a marketplace site without having to invest in my own website. I had no idea if nationwide buyers would respond to my products as favorably as local buyers. It took one Friday night to get set up and I made the rest of the additions and changes throughout that same weekend. I knew that it was worth trying. Later, I was ready to venture into my own site. It does not need to be 100% achieved and accomplished from the start!

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What are the top three reasons you credit for the success of your business?

1. That I have a 30-year long career with a prominent U.S. corporation. I understand all aspects of business (marketing, sales, product development, licensing, digital, technical work and more). I can transfer much of this experience and knowledge to my own business.

2. That I am by nature detailed, organized and a bit of a control freak!

3. That I run the business as a business and do not treat it as a hobby from which I make sales. Setting goals, objectives and business rules is critical to me.

Where do you see Lake Providence Lodge Scented Wax Melts going in the future?

I’d love to see it as something I expand to full time after my corporate career ends. Broader product offering and more time would allow me to also expand my business rules.

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Which product on the line is your favorite? What is the Customer favorite?

Our Cake Bite Melts would likely be the favorite for my customers and me. The custom nature makes them fun and they are also so pretty!

Working days at your career and nights and weekends to fulfill orders can be a bear. What do you do to unwind?

I am supposed to unwind? I am more a “wound tightly but fine tuned” kind of person. I need to add unwinding to my objectives! I suppose spending time with my husband and our little chihuahuas at home.

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Where do you personally find inspiration?

My faith serves as a guiding force in all aspects of my life. My corporate work helps me consider ways to do things differently and better. My customers are a tremendous help. They suggest products, scents and ways to approach things sometimes differently than I had planned and considered.

Karen’s favorite thing: Sushi.