Friday, December 30, 2005

Bizarre Car Flip

This afternoon I had lunch at Jake's Diner on Colorado Street in Old Town Pasadena. It was a sunny day, with a lot of pedestrians shopping along Colorado. I had just ordered a cheeseburger when there was the sound of a car accident right outside. The waitresses, cooks and patrons turned towards the street just as a black Nissan Sentra was flipping in front of the restaurant. Gasps and disbelief. As the car settled upside down in the middle of the street, people gathered on the sidewalk to stare. The driver of the car was an old, balding man and he was hanging upside down on his head. He must've been wearing his seat because he was still sitting in the driver's seat.

A few people rushed to the side of the car to see if he was okay, but most folks stood on the sidewalk, staring in curiosity and shock or taking pictures with their cell phones and calling 911. The fire trucks and police cars came within a few minutes. I was one of those who had rushed outside.

When my food arrived, I went back to my stool, dipped my fries in mustard, took a bite of my burger and sat there stunned. I listened to the chatter in the restaurant. Everyone was wondering how a car could flip like that on Colorado, where the traffic doesn't move fast. The car looked like it had flipped forward (over the hood), as opposed to rolling over its side, which made it more baffling. I overheard some people saying that the car had hit a pickup truck (or maybe the truck had hit the car). Still, that doesn't make sense. How does a car going less than 35 mph manage to flip? It was a strange meal indeed.

Anyways, I know that's a weird way to end the year. Car accidents happen all the time here. Just turn on the radio and there are regular reports of freeways being jammed up because of collisions, overturned trucks, stalled cars. But to see something for yourself is bizarre...

I hope everyone has a fun and safe New Year's Eve. Stay warm and see you in the new year!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Another Good TV Show

As much as I'm tempted to blog about Lost, I think it's time to shine a light on another show: Everybody Hates Chris. I've only seen four episodes so far, but each one has been good. Set in 1982, it's loosely based on Chris Rock's life growing up in Bed Stuy. It's funny and cute, but not in a goody goody Cosby Show way. Check it out if you're home on Thursday nights.

Motorized Skateboards

I saw some dude cruising down Los Feliz Boulevard on one of these things today. He wasn't going fast enough to create a blur, but it was interesting nonetheless. I can't imagine that these things are more fun than normal skateboards. How are you supposed to jump and flip your board over? Is there a button for the sliding-down-railings move?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

For the Hip Parent: Violet Magazine

I picked up Violet at the magazine shop in my office building. Started my Charles Mingus' daughter and based in LA, its tagline is "Modern Family Living - You've Grown Up But You Haven't Grown Old." It's an ok magazine, nice to look at and with that non-glossy appeal. I suppose it fills the niche of well-to-do women and young moms who want an indie alternative to the current family and wifely magazines. A little fashion, a little celebrity, a little child-rearing advice. Hip parents profiled so far include Kirsty Hume and Donovan Leitch (left), Juliette Binoche, Laird Hamilton and Debi Mazar. Who says you can't have kids and still be cool? I just saw it in Barnes & Noble, so I guess it's catching on.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A UC Controversy

The University of California has offended some folks again. This time it's college applicants from religious high schools-- namely schools that don't teach evolution. Students from the Calvary Chapel Christian School near LA are not getting credit for their biology class in part because their text book, "Biology for Christian Schools" (published by Bob Jones University Press), says this:

"The people who have prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second. To the best of the author's knowledge, the conclusions drawn from observable facts that are presented in this book agree with the Scriptures. If a mistake has been made (which is probable since this book was prepared by humans) and at any point God's Word is not put first, the author apologises."
UC argues that schools using this textbook as the primary teaching tool do not meet the admission standards to receive biology credit. The textbook does not "reflect knowledge generally accepted in the scientific and educational communities and with which a student at the university level should be conversant." As a result, the Association of Christian Schools Internation (ACSI), the Calvary Chapel Schools and six Calvary Chapel students are suing UC for "viewpoint discrimination." UC denies discrimination and says that if the textbooks were supplementary, rather than primary, then the classes would likely meet admission standards. UC argues that it has a right to set its own academic requirements. For more, see the recent article in The Economist.

It's not just Christian schools that don't teach evolution. Shockingly, there was a biology teacher at my public high school in Orange County who refused to teach evolution. Coincidentally, that teacher was also the advisor for the Bible Study club. He still teaches biology class and, yes, he still skips the evolution chapter. A friend whose brother just graduated from my high school says that the teacher's explanation for not teaching evolution is that he doesn't want to offend those who don't believe in it.

The recent intelligent design case in Pennsylvania has overshadowed the UC case, but I have a feeling that this case will get press soon enough. Religious issues aside, shouldn't universities (public, not just private) be able to determine what it believes are the appropriate academic standards for admission?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Loco for Gocco

I took a Gocco class at Paper Source and enjoyed it so much that I ran out and bought a Gocco. I say "ran" (or more like "drove fast") because Riso, the manufacturer, is discontinuing the Gocco. I went to one of the few places in LA to carry them, the Blue Rooster at Vermont and Hollywood.

For those of you who don't know Gocco (I didn't until the other day), it's a small, portable silk screening contraption from Japan (left) that allows you to print words and designs on paper. Riso describes it as a "Professional Quality Home Printing Kit." Think of it as letterpress in that you bring a lever down to impress your design onto paper, only instead of making an indentation (as you do in letterpress), you are just pressing ink flat onto the paper.

In Gocco, you can print anything that is photocopied-- so that means type, pictures from books, even your own handwriting, as long as you've run it through a xerox machine (carbon-based copy). You can buy different color inks and print on those unusual sized papers that your inkjet won't accept (e.g., circle cards, dinky business cards). A fun hobby for those who like paper.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It's Christmastime... and There's No Need to Be Afraid

I don't really celebrate Christmas, but I do love Christmas songs. My all-time favorite is 1984's "Do They Know It's Christmas" from Band-Aid. I remember taping it off the radio. I tried over and over, waited hours and hours, until I was able to record it right from the beginning. It was a matter of timing. Pressing Play/Record/Pause in advance, then releasing Pause at the precise moment when I heard the drums.

Bob Geldof remade the song last year with a different crew of pop stars (mostly). I haven't heard the new version, but I figure I couldn't like it better than the original. Paul Young to Boy George to George Michael to Simon LeBon-- what could be better?

Happy Holidays Everyone!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Soccer Phenom Goes Dutch

A good friend of mine and avid soccer fan, Mr. Ivanomartin, alerted me to Lee Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American soccer phenom who is going pro. Born in 1986, Lee is a freshman at Indiana University and a forward/midfielder on their soccer team. He had offers from MLS coming out of high school, but decided to go to college. Now it looks likely that he'll join the Dutch club PSV Eindhoven.

Lee's dad is a soccer fanatic and began teaching Lee how to play when he was a wee tot. As Lee got older, his mom wanted him to concentrate more on his studies, but she eventually gave in to her husband's (and her son's) passion. For more about Lee, click here.

I don't know much about soccer, but the one thing I like about it is that people of most shapes and sizes can play and be good at it. That's probably why it's one of the few (only?) truly international sports. Yay for Lee! He now joins Dat Nguyen (Dallas Cowboys' linebacker) in that very select group of Vietnamese-American professional athletes.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Get Lost, Part II

A follow up to the Michelle Rodriguez DUI post from last week. AP has reported that the Lost star was "very argumentative" and down right lame during her arrest. From the story:

"Rodriguez had a blood alcohol level of 0.145, nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08, according to documents obtained by KITV-TV. 'I don't (expletive) belong here! Why don't you just put a gun to my head and shoot me! You've already taken my freedom! You might as well take my life too! ... Just take my car and I'll walk all the way to the North Shore but don't leave me in the back of this car poppie.'"

Is it just me, or could Rodriguez's character Ana Lucia have said the same thing? As Chanchow mentioned last week, Rodriguez is a repeat offender. She pleaded no contest to DUI, driving with a suspended license and a hit-and-run back in LA. Man, I can't stand her. She needs to be off the show and off our roads! Take some (expletive) responsibility and get over yourself!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

This Year's Good Movie

The best movie I saw in theaters this year was Grizzly Man. Granted, that's not saying a whole lot since I didn't see that many movies, but despite the lack of competition, Grizzly Man is really good. It beat out other critically acclaimed movies like Good Night and Good Luck (good), March of the Penguins (good), The Squid and the Whale (bad) and King Kong (very good).

Grizzly Man is the latest from German filmmaker Werner Herzog. It's a documentary about Timothy Treadwell (above), who was a struggling actor (supposedly he was the runner up to Woody Harrelson for the role on Cheers) turned outspoken supporter of the wild grizzly bear population in Alaska. "Documentary" is a strange way of describing the film because the movie isn't so much Herzog's footage of Treadwell, but Treadwell's footage of himself.

In the 1990s, Treadwell began filming himself and the grizzlies during his summers in the Alaskan wilderness. Treadwell was his own one-man filming machine-- cameraman, narrator, star. He named the grizzlies, talked to them, touched their feces. He befriended them, and some would say, became somewhat of a grizzly himself. He was a combination of sweet naivete, self-promoting actor, angry animal activist and madman. In his footage, he presented himself as a lone man in the wilderness, when actually he was accompanied by his girlfriend for several summers.

There is a sad ending to this story, which is disclosed at the beginning of Herzog's film. In 2003, Treadwell and his girlfriend were attacked in their tent at night by an old and hungry grizzly. Audio tape of the fatal attack exists (Treadwell managed to turn on his video camera during the attack, but didn't remove the lens cap), but Herzog chooses not to include it in the film. We can only imagine the horror of what happened.

This is a fascinating movie about a fascinating person. It presents interesting themes (e.g., man vs nature, man as performer) without being preachy or judgmental. Chanchow highly recommends it, especially if it is re-released in theaters this holiday season.

Postscript: I just remembered that I saw Kung Fu Hustle this year, which I may have like as much as, if not more than, Grizzly Man. A must see!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Corn Goes Blue

This may be my last entry about Not a Cornfield, as the field has now entered its "blue phase" (i.e., the corn is being dried and will soon be harvested). For those wanting some background on Not a Cornfield, I refer you to a previous post. It won't be long until the corn will be gone and the land empty. I'll be sorry to see it end because it is such an awesome public art concept. From what I've read, the Annenberg Foundation funded the project for just one season, so it's unclear what will happen to the space next year. In the meantime, there'll be a blue light show every night until December 21st for locals to enjoy.

From their website:

"During the Blue Phase the harvested corn will be recycled and, in January 2006, the field will be tilled and sown with a mixed ground cover crop to further re-mediate the soil. The hosted open-air gallery activities will continue every Sunday afternoon through to the Winter Solstice on December 21, 2005 and, after a brief period of hush, the Friday Night@Not A Cornfield series of salons and open mic/open screen evenings will start up again in January 2006. [T]hese evenings will engage such topics as the future of this specific site and the generation of a broader healthful balance between we humans and our social, cultural and natural environments."

This Gives Me the Giggles

I can't get over this picture. You'd think that with all the money and consultants that Mariah Carey has at her fingertips, she would have better fashion sense. Is this what pop stars wear these days? I haven't watched MTV in a while, so it could just be me.

But query, who wears leotards? Is this one of those leotards where you're supposed to wear pants with them? Did Mariah forget her pants? Then there is the matter of the shoes and socks. This is a very bad combination. Who thinks that a leotard + soccer socks + pumps = suitable outfit for television? On the other hand, this getup might make sense if she were wearing roller skates and knee pads.

On a positive note, Mariah looks good for 35. Yes, Mariah Carey is 35! She is still making hit albums and getting nominated for Grammys. Britney and Christina have come and gone (for now), but Mariah is still boppin along and looking as tawny as ever. I wonder if she is the Cher for our generation.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Getty

One of the biggest attractions in LA these days is The Getty Center. Built over the course of 15 years and at a cost of $1 billion, the gleaming, Richard Meier-designed Getty museum opened in 1997 to much fanfare. I've been to the Getty twice, and each time I've been much more interested in the buildings and the view, than the art collection inside. The Getty made headlines again this year when its (now former) senior curator of antiquities, Marion True, was indicted in Italy on charges of conspiring to buy stolen artifacts.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Get Lost!

First of all, tonight's episode of Lost is a rerun and that's a total bummer. Second, as you may have heard, two actresses from Lost were recently charged with DUI. They must've been partying together because they were spotted weaving on the highway just minutes apart. From the look of them, Michelle Rodriguez seems to hold her liquor much better than Cynthia Watros. Rodriguez is her scowling, punk ass Ana Lucia self, while Watros, who plays Libby, looks totally sloshed and down on her luck. As a punitive measure, both characters should mysteriously disappear from the show and never be heard from again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Who's That Girl?

One of the most drastic decisions a girl can do with her hair is whether to get bangs. Sure, it's not the same as cutting your hair short or dyeing it some unnatural color, but it's a serious decision. One wrong snip and you have to wait years for those strands to catch up with the rest of your locks. This blogger got bangs last night, after almost a year of on and off deliberation.

My hairdresser understood the gravity of this move. Before she snipped away, she said, as if giving me one last chance to change my mind, "Oh, you're going to look different after this..." Unmoved, I took a deep breath and stood by my decision. Snipped she did. I think it looks fine, but it will take some getting used to.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Lucy Stoners

I've been grappling with the idea of taking Mr. Octopus' last name ever since we got married this past summer. On the one hand, I think Mr. Octopus' name would sound pretty good with my first name. On the other hand, forsaking my last name means that there won't be anything definitively Vietnamese left about my name (unless I make it into my middle name). Then, there's the whole issue of leaving my family behind to become part of his (figuratively and literally). (Note to self: It is not a Vietnamese tradition for a wife to take her husband's name.)

Frankly, I think this last one is the hardest to resolve. It's about leaving my identity behind because, let's face it, your name is a big part of who you are. Men don't have to deal with it. Moreover, they aren't expected to deal with it. Imagine the confusion when you ask a guy if he plans to take his wife's name (what a stupid question!). Their name is their name, and that's who they are and who they'll stay. It's expected that his children will take his name, too. Women, on the other hand, get their father's name at birth and take their husband's name upon marriage. Our names flow from the two most important men in our lives, period. (Note: I prefer not to use the antiquated term "maiden name," which implies that women before marriage are/should be virgins.)

Then there was Lucy Stone (1818-1893) who took issue with this tradition. She was a leading suffragette and was married to an abolitionist named Henry Brown Blackwell. In addition to her views on the women's vote, she caused controversy by refusing to be known by her married name. She viewed keeping her name as an assertion of her own rights, her own (pre-marriage) identity. She had many followers, who became known as "Lucy Stoners." She continues to inspire women today, and there is even a Lucy Stone League that is dedicated to (among other things): "equal rights for women and men to retain, modify and create their names, because a person's name is fundamental to her/his existence" and "equal actual frequency of name retention, modification and creation between men and women at marriage and throughout life."

Most of my married girlfriends haven't changed their names. I suspect it might be because they (1) don't like their husband's name, (2) can't be bothered to endure the logistical pain necessary to legally change their name, (3) don't have kids yet so they don't have to decide and/or (4) simply aren't willing to give up their names and their identity. I'd be interested in hearing what you all think about this. Don't be shy!

Friday, December 9, 2005

K-Town in da House

Unless you were peeking behind the restroom doors in Koreatown (or are Korean), chances are you didn't know about the Asian Hip Hop Summit last month here in LA. But have no fear, the event couldn't have been better than the poster (this one spotted in a bubble tea joint at the corner of Vermont and Sixth). Presented by Asiatic Empire, the Summit featured artists with some of the best names I've heard in a long time. Hats off to Hep da Tightest (straight outta Seattle YO) and Hungry Hooligans!

Thursday, December 8, 2005

The Apprentice Comes to LA

Do we really need this? Does anyone watch The Apprentice anymore?

In case you haven't heard, The Donald is filming season six of the show in LA (they're currently airing season four). No doubt an opportunity for him to showcase his California business interests (yawn). It won't be long until I see the Trump helicopter circling around downtown LA.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

LA's First Burb

Founded in 1880s, Angelino Heights was LA's first suburb. About a mile from downtown, it was originally connected to downtown by trolley. The trolley line ran from Main Street in downtown, along Temple Street and up the steep hills into the neighborhood. Angelino Heights was an upper middle class community. About 50 Victorian homes and carriage houses from that era exist today, many of which have been restored. The best of the bunch are on the 1300 block of Carroll Avenue, and have been featured in movies, TV and commercials. You might recognize the one at the bottom from the Thriller video. To check out some more houses, click here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Chanchow Shops: Trader Joe's

People in LA sure do love Trader Joe's. It's unlike any other grocery shopping experience. Imagine Whole Foods, but smaller, cheaper, less bourgeois. Trader Joe's carries a variety of organic and low processed foods, often under its own label. Noticeably absent are brands like Coca-Cola, Tropicana, Kraft.

Trader Joe's began as a convenience store in Pasadena called Pronto Market in 1958. It was a real mom and pop operation, run by Joe and Alice Coulombe. Joe had been a corporate cog until, he says, he realized that the "corporate world was poison to me." After a few years, Pronto was put out of business by the local 7-11. Undeterred, Joe and Alice revamped their store by giving it an island trading post flair and naming it "Trader Joe's." (Alice had suggested "Trader Mom's," but she lost.)

Trader Joe's has since grown to over 200 stores, most of them in California. Their target clientele is the "overeducated and underpaid." That description is spot on, as evidenced by the extraordinary concentration of hipsters I encountered at my local TJ's last week. The ratio of hipsters to normal people must've been 10:1, possibly even 25:1.

Shopping at Trader Joe's is great, as long as it isn't too crowded. The clerks are friendly (they are among the highest paid in retail) and the store is always well-stocked and clean. The beer and wine aisle is especially noteworthy, in part because Trader Joe's began as a wine and cheese store. Joe has since retired, but maintains his own wine blog called Wine Joe.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Fight in the 48th

California's 48th Congressional district is comprised of two of Orange County's richest beach communities, Newport and Laguna, and is a GOP stronghold. Republican Congressman Chris Cox represented the 48th in the House of Representatives for 16 years, before vacating the seat to become Chairman of the SEC this summer.

A special election to fill Cox's vacancy was held in October, but leading Republican John Campbell failed to get the majority he needed to win (he got 45.5%). As a result, there will be a runoff election this Tuesday, December 6th, in which Campbell will face the leading vote getters from four other parties. None of these four is expected to win; however, some believe that Democrat Steve Young has a chance of winning and Independent Jim Gilchrist has a slimmer chance.

Jim Gilchrist has made illegal immigration the issue of his campaign, which is not surprising since he is the founder of the Minuteman Project, an initiative in which U.S. citizens physically patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. Gilchrist is also conservative in his views on the environment ("I view global warming as an act of God, not as an act of man") and heartily supports President Bush on the war in Iraq. Some are speculating that Gilchrist could split the Republican vote, a la Ross Perot, causing Democrat Steve Young to win the seat. Such a result would be quite a feat in this very Republican of Congressional districts.

* * *

Post-Election Update: Republican John Campbell won the seat, taking 45% of the vote. Democrat Steve Young came in second with 28% and Independent Jim Gilchrist had a strong showing with 25% of the vote. Despite his loss, Gilchrist was very pleased and said, "This is just a start ... We've got a huge victory tonight because we've issued a wake-up call to America ... Our cause is not over, nor is my aspiration for my political career." Sounds like we'll be hearing more about this Minuteman in the future.

Saturday, December 3, 2005

Locke Rocks

Lost is back in my good graces again. The last two episodes I've seen have been Quality. Locke (below) has pulled away as the best character by far-- the most interesting and well acted. I think I'll start calling him The Master.

Unfortunately, as Locke has gotten better, several characters have gotten lamer (e.g., Jack, Kate). Worst of all is Ana Lucia (right). I'm hoping that the producers will kill her off or relegate her to a minor, non-speaking role. How juicy would it be if there were a Locke/Ana Lucia showdown? Part of me would fear for The Master, but I have confidence that he would pull through.

Friday, December 2, 2005


Shots I snapped during our trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. Iglesia de Santo Domingo (top) and young and old on the streets.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Happy December

Cannot believe it is already December. The months, nay years, are flying by now. A sure sign that I am feeling old(er). Remember when you were little and time would just drag? Like when you were still in school and June couldn't come fast enough.

Today also happens to be World Aids Day.

LA Basics

I need to brush up on my LA fundamentals. Friends and relatives ask me basic questions that I can't answer, so here are some interesting factoids.

According to a 2005 survey, there were 3,957,875 people living within LA city limits, and a whopping 17,545,623 living in greater LA (Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties), making it the second most populated metropolitan area after New York City. Although incorporated in 1850, LA took off as a city just as cars started being mass-produced. Hence, the sprawling, somewhat decentralized and less dense nature of the city. LA is geographically larger than NYC and Chicago, but is 1/3 and 1/2 as dense in population as NYC and Chicago, respectively. Greater LA is home to 13 area codes and five major airports.

There is no ethnic majority in LA proper. The 2000 census recorded 46.93% white, 11.24% black, 0.80% Native American, 9.99% Asian, 0.16% Pacific Islander, 25.70% other (e.g., Mexican, South African, Hispanic) and 5.18% multiracial. LA has the largest populations of Armenians, Cambodians, Filipinos, Guatemalans, Israelis, Koreans, Salvadorans, Thais, Mexicans and Hungarians outside of their native countries.

The LA flag has three colors, representing olive trees (green), orange groves (gold) and vineyards (red), with the city seal in the center. Antonio Villaraigosa is the current mayor. Elected in a run-off election in May, Villaraigosa is, incredibly, the first Latino mayor of LA since 1872.