CicLAvia is an experience, not a race

The 11th annual CicLAvia bike festival was held Sunday morning making its way through the streets of South Los Angeles. Over 40,000 bicyclists, skateboarders and pedestrians participated to ride down the 6-mile car-free route on Martin Luther Kind Jr. Boulevard. Organizers said the idea behind the festival is to promote public health and the environment by getting people out of their cars and rediscovering their city. With a generous donation made from an anonymous supporter, they are expecting to have 4 more festivals in the LA area next year. If you are interested in attending the next event, be sure to give them a follow on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates.
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via LA Times

WonderCon 2014 recap

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I have to admit that I used to scoff at WonderCon. It always seemed like a low-budget version of the San Diego Comic-Con, which I began attending as a comic-collecting little kid way back in 1979 and began attending as a Giant Robot booth guy in the mid-1990s. When I first attended WonderCon in Oakland in the late ’90s, the event lacked the all-star panels that I loved as a young fan as well as the indie, arty, and underground elements that fueled my work at GR. My my snobbish point of view, the Marriott basically brought out folding tables for vendors selling superhero comics, original art, big little books, old lunchboxes, and other crusty, dusty stuff.

But now that Comic-Con is practically ruined by celebrity-driven programming, mainstream saturation, and a nerdier-than-thou attitude from just about everyone who can still manage to get in, WonderCon seems a lot cooler. The pop focus (well between the Hollywood insiders nor indie elite) reminds me of how going to Comic-Con used to be–back when I read mainstream comics before I was turned onto underground comix and manga. And it has evolved substantially.

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Last year and this year, I’ve been helping out at my elementary school friend Mike’s Dr. Who-centric booth at the relocated-to-Anaheim WonderCon and have seen the event grow exponentially. Like Comic-Con, you see superhero fandom, anime otaku, Star Wars geeks, Harry Potter followers, and horror movie freaks coexist under the same roof. Except this one was sold out for only one of its three days and there were no corporate pavilions inside or tents. The DC booth was actually rather quaint.

There were indeed some big-time panels (Godzilla, Batman, Groo vs. Conan) but they didn’t seem to have the same commerce-sucking effect that the Hall H ones do in San Diego. And at least they were related to comics, sci-fi, action, horror, swords and sandals, etc. No Glee-type events that I noticed.

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Of course I miss seeing friends at Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics, Grass Hut/Gargamel, Super7, and Giant Robot. Those are the indie comics friends and comics-inspired subcultures that I’m closest to. I don’t miss the all-encompassing hunt for “exclusives” that has turned Comic-Con into a treasure hunt for Ebay capitalists. Meanwhile the cosplay is just as good–and more fun than sexy in real life, despite what most glossy/creepy bloggers would like you to think–and ample 12 dollar parking is pretty awesome.

So there is a lot of room for growth at WonderCon. The floor could be expanded by a full 50 percent without adding a hall. But how big is too big? How fast is too fast? Will more days sell out next year? Will the event even return to Anaheim? As of now, the latter hasn’t been settled. Popularity and success are the natural enemies of subcultures, and subcultures by definition can’t take over the mainstream, so as we stash our scores into Mylar sleeves, overstuffed bookshelves, and IKEA display cases we can’t help but wonder what will happen.

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I’m hoping WonderCon returns to Anaheim in 2015 so I can find out. And hang out with my pal selling Dr. Who stuff while I’m at it.

Life is a game, here is your strategy guide

Life is like a game. Nay, life IS a game. A game that everyone plays and eventually dies in. However what determines whether you win or lose that game is not if you die or live, but rather HOW you live your life and HOW you experience it. Cheesy, I know, but its the truth and we all know it.

Every decision we make of every minute of every day determines the path to our very next move. Was the move worth it? What other move could you have played? Does the move get you one step closer to your goal? Will it help you finish the game? If you’re a little on the slower side (pointing to myself) and answered “yes, those daily nights of partying are helping me achieve my goal”… then you, my friend, are in dire need of some help from our good ol’ buddy, the internet – Here is your guide to the game of life.

Good Luck.

First person to Visit all 201 Countries

Now I’ve met a few pseudo-nomads and world travelers over the years, but this one takes the cake by a MILE. Meet 33 year old Graham Hughes who became the first person ever to visit all 201 countries… WITHOUT A PLANE. He accomplished this ridiculous feat using a combination of buses, taxis, trains, and his very own two feet to travel a total of 160,000 miles in just 1,426 days. Or four years.

Think about that for a second. This guy dedicated FOUR YEARS of his life just to traveling. Imagine what you could accomplish if you dedicated that much time to a single task…

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Casey Neistat is an incredible film maker with a style all his own. So when a studio came to him to do a video for an upcoming movie, he came at them with a most interesting concept. It’s a little something that companies can learn from and emulate.

BOX by Bot & Dolly

What do you get when you combine projection mapping and moving surfaces? One complete mindf*ck coming right on up! This is one of those things that you need to be completely high for in order to fully enjoy the experience, much like you do when watching Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas every holiday season. Just kidding (?).

I’m not sure about you guys but this is the first of its kind that I have ever seen, at least to this level of creativity. Bot & Dolly expect this to revolutionize the future of live theatrical performances and I couldn’t agree more.

The Science Genius Program PART II

Last week I posted about the revolutionary Science Genius pilot program created by Dr. Chris Emdin and the positive effect it’s already been having on the kids involved. After some digging around I came across some more in-depth footage of the program that also sheds some more insight from the student’s perspective and how beneficial they believe the program to be. It’s just amazing to see how interested and engulfed into science these students become by incorporating hip-hop. #FutureOfEducation.

Bonus footage: GZA (one of the all-time greats) visits the class and provides some 1-on-1 feedback.

Kalyanee Mam on tour, Shizu Saldamando at VPAM

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Last week I had lunch with my friend Kalyanee Mam. You might have recall my 8 Questions with her. While she has two new projects in the works, Kalyanee continues to show A River Changes Course, her award-winning documentary about the effects of change on Cambodia at special screenings. It’s a subtle and powerful piece of cinema, as contemplative as it is artistic, and it recently kicked of the inaugural Cambodia Town Film Festival in Long Beach.

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Kalyanee shared that her audiences have been very perceptive. They understand that while the stories may take place in Cambodia, they can see how their decisions affect others around the world. The realization shrinks the planet and is a little bit scary but also empowering and perhaps even hopeful. No wonder Kalyanee is such an inspiration and pleasure to be around despite her dark subject matter. Look for the movie to show in theaters in December.

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On Saturday, I visited the Vincent Price Art Museum on the campus of East Los Angeles College. There, my friend Shizu Saldamando was having her first museum retrospective. I loved seeing her older works gathered properly and shown as a body of work, as well as newer works that show a new emphasis and vibrancy of color. Her subtle use of traditional Japanese paper, foil, and wood grain is, as always, as strategic as it is sophisticated–a ballast to her much-observed pop culture references to cholo culture and, specifically, the goth, new wave, and punk subculture.

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I love how Shizu’s portraiture (on handkerchiefs and bedding as well as paper or wood, left) is shown just one floor below a survey of work by fellow California artist John Valadez (right). I was familiar with his mural-sized surreal Southern California landscapes but seeing his portraits for the first time really put Shizu’s pieces in context. It is not only appropriate but quite meaningful that their shows are running concurrently at VPAM, and I highly suggest you check them out before December 7.

LINKS
A River Changes Course trailer
Shizu Saldamando website
Shizu Saldamando art show
John Valadez art show

I Forgot My Phone

How often are you on your phone? The average smartphone user spends an hour a day, with iPhone users spending a bit more and Android users spending a bit less. Now, consider the fact that this is just an average and we all know how misleading averages can be. I’m absolutely convinced that users, especially those located in major metropolitan cities, are on their phones for AT LEAST double that time. With all of the social media content, addicting games (*cough* Candy Crush), sports apps, Netlix, email, and many others, it’s almost impossible to stay away.

YouTube-er CharstarleneTV just launched a video on just how disconnected everyone is from the real world. It’s garnered quite a bit of attention as it’s already surpassed 13.5 million views in just a week. Although a few of the scenes are a bit facetious, Charlene nailed the video dead on as most people, if not everyone, can resonate with every. single. scene.

FYF Fest 10 Recap

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A lot has changed since I last attended FYF Fest two years ago. Back then the Los Angeles music festival was already far removed from its DIY roots, taking on a family-friendly acronym and being transplanted from the clubs and alleys of Echo Park to a national park in Chinatown, but it has exploded into a two-day extravaganza. The headliners are bigger and the crowds are even huger. But you know what? The lines have shrunk (just moments to enter, minutes to take a whiz), the food has improved (trucks I’ve actually heard of, i.e. Kogi, and many meatless options), and the vibe is still kick back (I didn’t see one O.D. or altercation). Ninety-nine bucks for two days ain’t bad, either.

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Yet none of that would matter if the music was lame, right? The taste still leans indie but the variety is mind boggling. Clockwise from top right are photos I shot of college rock royalty The Breeders, garage rock king Ty Segall, and underground soul hero Charles Bradley. There were also mutations of soul (Solange), hip hop (Death Grips), metal (Baroness), folk (Kurt Vile), and even Arabic music (Omar Souleyman). Truly, FYF offers something for almost everyone who has an ear to the ground.

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And while the fest is aware enough to please young fans of electronic and dance music (top right), it is also attractive to old guys like me who like loud guitars. Clockwise from bottom right, there were reunited ex-members of Black Flag representing L.A. hardcore, the freakish showmanship and musicianship of post punkers Les Savy Fav, and the crossed-over art rockers Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Sunday night’s closer was the shoe gaze pioneering My Bloody Valentine, whose gorgeous and noisy aesthetic overloaded the PA and sent everyone home similarly broken, exhausted, and thrilled.

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My ears are slightly ringing and I’m still coughing up phlegm from two days of breathing secondhand smoke and dust, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for two afternoons and evenings jam-packed with cool music just 15 minutes from home. I read that the park won’t be available next year due to renovations (the spot has turned out to become popular for music festivals so perhaps its days as a dust bowl are nearing an end) but if this year is any indication the challenge will be met handily. Seeya wherever FYF happens next year.