L.A. the Blog: Poems and Performances – ‘the WOMEN group’

On a weeknight a few months ago along Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park at the Sancho Art Gallery a group of mostly women poets fronted by musician and poet Dylan Doren performed in celebration of art, words and beats. It marked a beginning for these artists who gathered together for the first time as WOMEN. A month later in the neighborhood of Mt. Washington, Dylan arrived at a party with poetry and music, performing in his wake an eclectic mix of male and female poets exploring sound and meaning. Interestingly this event showcased an entirely different set of poets. One month later off a section of Hollywood Boulevard in the downtown club district, Dylan with a computer hooked up to a speaker gathered yet another group of WOMEN in the courtyard of an apartment building. Again the night vibrated with music and the exploration of life through stanzas, tropes and rhymes.

the WOMEN group poetry reading, Hollywood, CA -2012

the WOMEN group poetry reading, Hollywood, CA -2012

Before each event Dylan takes the time to find the right spot to hang a banner with a simple statement written on the front; a banner that these musicians and artist flock too wherever it goes up; a slightly esoteric but highly enigmatic statement defining a movement by these artists to produce, perform and distribute literary work; a banner hung always in full view of the performing artists for the audience to see, giving a name to the wealth of work coming from contributors. It simply reads the WOMEN group.

So who is the WOMEN group, and what exactly is the WOMEN group? In its beginning stages the question of who might be harder to describe than the what. The group is a “collective of poets and writers” in Dylan’s own words that currently publish chapbooks and host poetry readings around Los Angeles. If you want the “what” of it then there you go.

Describing the WOMEN group while sitting down to dinner at a local Hollywood Thai restaurant (one of this writer’s personally favorite spots, insert add here for Hoy-Ka Thai Noodle), Dylan in personal terms added his reasons for starting the group.

“[To] Collect poetry really,” Dylan said in between bites of noodles in solemn tones. “I think a lot of people write and don’t get their shit out there, and right now I just try to collect poems. I try to motivate people to submit so I can do the footwork and get their shit out there. It’s basically my love for poetry, but also fear of good poetry not getting out.”

When L.A. the Blog caught up with them in Hollywood to experience and share some of our own poetry, the night unfolded with a variety of styles about a myriad of subjects. The poets with a microphone and speaker often fighting the helicopter and traffic sounds coming off the Hollywood streets read four to six poems covering topics from friendship and family to sex, drugs and relationships; backlit by the overhead incandescent and integrated compact fluorescent lights of the apartments entryway with a small crowd of 10 or 12 people mostly artists and writers themselves; in a loose open-mic format that encouraged battle-hardened open-mic veterans, and gave overwhelming support to newer voices who recently joined the group or stepped forward from the audience. After the WOMEN read, one audience member stepped up and called his mom in an inspired happening leaving a message on her voicemail about standing up to participate at a poetry reading, and another joined in with a reading of his favorite William Carlos Williams’ poems. To end the night an acoustic guitar came out.

Each event they hold allows for this open-mic format, but just showing up and performing doesn’t make you part of the group, nor do members of the group strictly write poetry. “I’ve been writing for years and fell into music,” said Dylan explaining his own interest and inspiration in forming the group. “Recently I’ve stopped playing and making music to make the main focus [about] the words.” Many members of the group have played in bands or currently play in bands, or they paint visual art along with writing, or a like this author who recently joined the group they blog random and insightful things about Los Angeles.

The diversity of the members along with such a burgeoning art and music scene in the Silver Lake / Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, and Dylan’s own use of the word “collective” it seems possible the group might bring together all the various types of art – music, painting, sculpture, performance, film, theater, fashion, dance – especially since each poetry event seems to incorporate other art.

According to Dylan though this ain’t the case and the WOMEN group is not to be confused. “That’s another collective,” he said facetious and playful. “We’re a poetry collective.”

“I’m calling from two years ago in a lawn chair, / Sunrise, and sleeping dragon flies / In a wooded clearing, sonorous with incessant / Buzz of cricket and swallows tweeting— / Tents lined up in tribal tee-pee circles. / We were the last alive on earth. – excerpt from a long distance phone call by Tom Kelly, the Women group, Issue 1

As for the actual “who” of the WOMEN group – it currently lists in their first publication and online at their blog eight poets as members, all mostly unknown writers including Dylan himself: Tom Kelly, The Little Red Writer (obviously a pseudonym or penname), Jessica Bloom, Michael Nhat, Honey Gal Nobuddy (another penname we guess), Lina Carol and Nicole Baudouin.

Since the publication’s inception over the summer of 2012 with the WOMEN group, Issue 1, just describing them as eight poets is somewhat erroneous as some recent buzz from the publication and the successive poetry readings swelled the ranks of contributors.

“You know we started off as eight, and now we’re maybe double or more than that,” Dylan said while discussing membership and joining the group. “I have a lot of friends that do music that do poetry that do art so I have been asking them to contribute, or at the poetry readings people that attend they’ve never heard of the collective [but] now because of the event they’ve heard of it, and you know it goes to print. I go to a lot of open mics to talk about it. Now that the WOMEN group, Issue 1, is at three different bookstores people that pick up a copy or just look at it and read it have all the info on how to contact us, and hopefully if they contact us there’s a meeting date or I tell them meet us at a coffee shop, a bookstore or an open mic, or one of the WOMEN group readings.”

For membership in the group this idea of “meeting” holds a great importance. At the moment members are people who have met one another at some point or have met Dylan, and in fact to join the group you must know or have met someone from the group.

“I met every single member in different areas of life, or different parts of L.A,” said Dylan. “Some I’ve known for a long time, for years even, and some I’ve just met. One of the poets I met once before adding her into the WOMEN group. She was just a waitress at a diner and saw that I was writing and we spoke about writing, and we both found out we’re both poets, and exchanged information about open mics around town, and she sent me an email with her poem and it was in.”

Dylan Doren reading at a WOMEN group gathering in Hollywood, CA - 2012

Dylan Doren reading at a WOMEN group gathering in Hollywood, CA – 2012

So unlike most poetry publications where anyone submits and if the editor enjoys the poem they publish it, the WOMEN group requires the added step of taking the time to meet another member, or Dylan at a coffee shop, bookstore or poetry reading. A writer still needs to submit and the current editor Dylan must choose the work for publication, but for Dylan it’s essential that members meet.

“It’s just a set rule to make it more intimate, the group,” Dylan said after a moment of thought.” We do support writers, and writers from all different areas but our collective is meeting on a personal basis, we don’t have to hang out all the time, we don’t have to hang out ever, but we have to meet another member at least once, and since the group is growing in numbers it will be a lot easier.”

“the anarchic decision one makes / to valiantly jettison sagacity / to venture over the edge / how it must feel to really let go / to severe the tether of consequence / leap into the euphoric unknown with an eagles wingspan / trusting that which might annihilate you / like a blindfolded high diver / without any confirmation the pool is filled with water” – excerpt from the difference between “master bating” and “masturbating” by The Little Red Writer, the Women group, Issue 1

It is obvious at this point that the collective is a mix of males and females. With the name such a misnomer for describing the poets, and with the poems in the first collection focused on everything and anything including women, men and everything else, it would be a mistake to attribute the name to a topic the group writes about. The group isn’t GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender) either as far as this writer can tell though I am sure some members are, nor does the group promote women’s issues, and the group isn’t interested in your dad.

Like so many young people these days growing up in a single-family home with their mom, or the women who daily struggle for equal rights around the world, the name is a tribute to these women.

“Yeah, I look up to a lot of women most of all my mother, single mother, hard worker, seven days a week for many years,” said Dylan. “She’s just an inspiration. A lot of my closest friends – women. It’s just a statement that we’re making. At first I was even thinking of making the group anonymous, like maybe only using last names or covering our faces, but I don’t think that’s necessary.”

Anonymous in the hope of creating gender blindness when reading the chapbook, or when they perform at readings. Anonymous so when experiencing the poem you don’t immediately assume that a female or male wrote the piece. In that way your mind doesn’t automatically fall into stereotypes and assumptions that change the words on the page. A somewhat pointed reminder that sexism and gender inequality still exist.

“Hopefully having males take the name WOMEN in time will give a bit to women’s lib,” said Dylan. “Or at least erase that line drawn in the sand.”

Still the WOMEN group is best described in terms of poetry, and to get a sense of the poems you need to read them (we won’t waste our time with scansion and interpretation). They are poets who come together under the banner as writers. “Yes, I already know of two of us that are writing novels and one a short story,” Dylan said when asked about other forms of literature the group might explore. “I look forward to publishing their works. But right now the main focus is to gather the poets for these chapbooks.”

“Like poker I lost every hand / Trying to make apples into oranges / They say we weren’t alone / They gave me a chip it was black / They said welcome back / In the rooms I spoke of my last relapse” – excerpt from Dylan Doren reading live at the WOMEN group, Hollywood, CA (see video below).

It seems that literary groups rarely pick their own name, and more often get prescribed to a style of writing prevalent at the time, or like the Beat Generation their sobriquet comes from one person, in the above case Jack Kerouac, in an interview or perhaps in a letter to a friend, the name used with no intention of it defining a generation, but nonetheless becoming the historical moniker of their literary movement. New Journalism is another example of this happenstance naming of a literary movement, this time taken from the title of a publication that Tom Wolfe curated and disseminated. The Fireside Poets another example who gained their name from the popularity of their poems, or the Black Mountain Poets who mostly attended a college of the same name, and lets not forget the humorous Martian Poets (who? Wikipedia swears they exist?).

For the WOMEN poets living and traveling the streets of Los Angeles in the second decade of the 21st century, the choosing of a name harks back to an earlier time when modernism raged in the streets of Paris, and Virginia Wolf played pranks on the British government with her own group of writers. When writing and bookstores created a community of publishing uncontrolled by the juggernaut of corporate capitalism. Where places like San Francisco, and Oxford birthed new movements and classic epics.

“I began reading more and more, finding poets from past generations, reading their works and researching to find out all I could about them and their journeys,” said Dylan in an email, one of our first communications back and forth discussing this article. More specifically when asked his influences he said, “Just history, the past, all poets that came before us, mostly dead now but, well, that’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to gather all the living poets right now, get them down on paper, put them all together.”

Every writer in some form or another is influenced by past generations, and Dylan’s ideas are no different steeped in the tradition of independent expression and the romanticism of the written word. For this reason the publication remains strictly in print, you can’t find any of the poetry online and each poet must submit an original work. In no form can the poetry be published before. Add to this every writer’s instinct is to compare the new generation with past generations to fit the new into categorical reference so they can more easily make sense of the plethoric past so to dismiss or elevate certain writers above others, the need to define this L.A. movement exists.

“It doesn’t really matter the genre,” said Dylan when pressed about the significance of the WOMEN group when compared to other literary movements like the Beats. “Hopefully the time period, the era, the collective is remembered. I don’t care what it ends up being called because that’s just a name.”

“I like using a word, it’s called ‘sonic,’” Dylan said when asked what he would like his own poetry called. “I got it from Sonic Youth my favorite band, but it’s a different word to describe beauty. Some people say cool, some people use a whole bunch of words, I use sonic. That’s when you know I really like something. Sonic as fuck.”

So maybe Dylan and the rest of the poets won’t be remembered at all as the WOMEN group, but instead in Dylan’s own words as “sonic” due partly to this article being published, at least my ego hopes (who wouldn’t want to be the naming catalyst of a literary movement?).

Just recently in late November like clockwork, one month later, the poets gathered again for another reading. This time at the house of a new member who will be featured in the second issue. At the reading early January was announced as the date for the next publication, the WOMEN group, Issue 2. There will be a reading and release party at Alais Books East in the heart of Atwater Village. Please check the WOMEN group website for further information.

UPDATE 04/12/13: Find below some video of poets performing in Hollywood. Also the WOMEN group issue 2 is out!

UPDATE 5/09/13: We removed the video, also the WOMEN group is releasing their third issue this weekend May 11, 2013, at Alias Books East in Atwater Village, 3163 Glendale Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90039, 7 p.m.

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L.A. the Blog: Light Refraction In the Sky

Light Refraction In Sky

A mysterious and beautiful haze of light setup in the sky of downtown Los Angeles in the month of July, possibly alien invaders but more likely a refraction of light in the atmosphere.

It seems these days any strange occurrence in the sky brings forth new conspiracy theories.  Often observers of phenomena cry out aliens, or secret government projects, or scream the end of the world.  In the past maybe people saw the gods and angels when they viewed such phenomena.  While taking a work hiatus in downtown Los Angeles, after putting in 7-days straight, looking up in the sky this beautiful blue glimmer, similar to a rainbow in the form of a cloud greeted the eye, and what a fabulous and pretty sleep-derived hallucination above head came to mind first.  Unfortunately, once again working with a cell phone camera our photos don’t do justice to the phenomena, but to make up for our lack of technology we offer an explanation to the mystery.

No, the shimmer in the sky  wasn’t an inter-dimensional gate opened by an evil alien or demon race in an attempt to conquer our planet,  though if that was the case they might cancel work.  The beautiful blues with the slight shade of pink like a rainbow came from refracted light.  Unlike a rainbow the light didn’t reflect of water drops falling from the sky, but instead from ice crystals high up in the atmosphere.  The mysterious glimmer most likely was a circumhorizontal arc, but could also be a circumzenithal arc.  Both are phenomena produced by ice crystals and many call them ice halos.  If interested you can look at this site here, and if you scroll down you can get all the good information and science-type answers.  Another great site with information is Atmospheric Optics.  If you do visit this site search until you find the picture of the 44-degree parhelia, well worth the searching.  It is amazing the many beauties produced by this world and if we are lucky enough we might just get to experience.  Please find the better picture below.

L.A. the Blog: Los Candiles Night Club – Decadence Welcome (A changing city, Part 1)

The night air left little doubt that summer sat and reigned over the city. On the streets of Hollywood women wore mini-skirts and guys short-sleeved shirts as they bar hopped, waited in line for night clubs and found the nearest tattoo parlor. The signature city heat that makes Los Angeles either a massive, sweltering discombobulation of people or a destination-dream-paradise cradled the city like a blanket, and added a frenzied pace to everything happening on the boulevard as if heat aiding the movement of mass multiplied and proliferated the various possibilities alive in the night. The mass – people, traffic, love, friendship, drinking, drugging, music, sex – everything.

This city is often like a slow blooming flower, every year unfolding a new petal, unveiling a new aspect of itself for anyone looking and discerning the cities beauty. Hollywood sits close to the heart, but numerous other areas and neighborhoods combine to create the rose that is Los Angeles, or maybe it resembles more a lily or a farewell-to-spring. Forget Hollywood for the moment. This story only starts in Hollywood with a ride into the dark-rising heat of the city streets, ending just on the other side of the L.A. river directly north of downtown in a small nondescript Latin nightclub named Los Candiles. Just for the purpose of translation, Los Candiles means “the candle.”

If asked where the club resides you might say Eagle Rock just because most wouldn’t recognize the name Glassell Park. Like so many working-class neighborhoods its history and uniqueness rest forgotten and ignored among a maze of similar streets with names like Desire, then further lost in a puzzle of similar cities and neighborhoods that all fit into a mold named America. Or perhaps with a history of violence and crime people looked more towards Eagle Rock or Atwater Village for homes, writing the neighborhood off as the bad side of town. Glassell Park – the bad side of Eagle Rock, the bad area of Atwater –  goes unmentioned. For instance the LA Weekly published a story about a crime family, an AK-47 and typical L.A. violence that belongs more to the late 80s and early 90s but happened in Glassell Park in 2008. Or just the other week while talking to a resident he simply stated in sterile terms how some kid recently got beat with a baseball bat, and June 12 of this year a young woman and young man died in a shooting. Violence makes neighborhoods disappear in this city like so much bad food in the refrigerator, people must discard it or the stench and mildew ruin the pleasure of modern society. For instance have you ever heard of the neighborhood of Del Rey?

Of course for the past 20 or 30 years (if not more) a majority of working-class families have called the neighborhood home, and only recently with the whole area of downtown including everything below and above experiencing a renaissance in every sense of the word, although some call it gentrification, the neighborhood has begun to see a shift towards the middle. With middle we mean demographically. Young professionals looking to buy good real estate and others just seeking a more authentic Los Angeles find the neighborhood perfect. With beautiful large homes atop hills that lead into Eagle Rock providing breathtaking views and hidden away in trees; or authentic and great Latin food available through street vendors; or even a sense of community that exists where people live and die together daily; the neighborhood offers a friendly hello at the local gas station, that is of course if you don’t mind a rougher handshake and a little dirt covering up a gem. A gem discovered and just starting to see the light.

Take Los Candiles, an unassuming Latin dance club that sits along a main drag in Glassell Park. You find these clubs all over the city. Some like the ones in Echo Park and Venice have been converted into new sleek dance venues for indie rock and electronic acts, but most in the city still keep their original flavor and offerings. At first look nothing out of the ordinary, but like the neighborhood this club is a gem. Scouring the online website gives the first hint that this club offers something unique with the traditional Latin dance music. “Venga y disfrute con nuestro show Fantasia con Las Estrellas” that loosely translates as “Come and enjoy our show / Fantasy with the Stars”; or later when you click the ‘show’ link in the menu sidebar “Ven y disfruta con nuestro travesty show Fantasia Con Las Estrellas” and the show Fantasy with the Stars comes up again, this time with the word “travesty” attached. Most people relate travesty to what happens during a war when innocent people die, but few relate the word to its original usage that is closer to “burlesque” than to “appalling.” In fact the Latin word “travestire” means to disguise or more literally to cover up with clothing; and travesty means a literary or artistic imitation usually incongruous in style, treatment, or subject matter. Maybe it gets confused because it is so close to tragedy, or because people use the statement “travesty of justice” too often changing the meaning. So a travesty show? Call it what you will, but at Los Candides it means a drag show with singing, and don’t forget the male stripper and the DJ.

Burning through the hot night the road led through the up-and-coming neighborhood, to the unassuming Latin dance club and to a birthday party for an unknown girl with unknown people at an unknown place. The invite seemed strange at first, a phone call promised a party with a ton of women while at the same time offering a drag show. For some reason the two promises didn’t go together, I always equated drag with gay bars in West Hollywood, not straight woman celebrating a birthday in a working-class neighborhood. After learning more about Glassell Park the place even seems more unlikely since gang violence and the machismo of the hood normally make anything GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender) unacceptable. Or even more so with a possible large Catholic population, you would think such a place harbors the ill will of the church. Regardless of its location and its stigma, for the ladies who arrived to the birthday it meant dancing to sweaty South American rhythms and letting loose in a place tingling with an open atmosphere that celebrates what it means to be beautiful and a women.

The local crowd loved the band playing, while the ladies loved every minute of every second. Every song brought out dancers, and the enthusiasm of the small local crowd showed they came for the music. The birthday girl found a dance partner for every song.  She often grabbed a friend, or a friend grabbed her, some of her guy friends followed the girls to the floor to dance with the birthday girl as tempos sped up and the band picked up energy.  A few times an older gentlemen, a veteran of Latin rhythm clubs would escort her to the floor and steal a few moments of youth back. Him and the other few older gentlemen masterfully controlled the dance floor leading their partners around in what from afar seemed slow rhythm combined with the quick turns and spins of ballroom dance. Looking more closely the majesty of what it takes to have that control and grace was tantamount to intricate and precise dance steps that happened quick and fast so the eye could barely follow the practiced patterns that flowed with ease. For these few gentlemen the smiles on their faces and sparkles in the eyes meant that whatever happened earlier in the day at work or home, and whatever happened tomorrow meant nothing in the moment of the dance. For some a cold beer and a shot of hard liquor washed away the day, the week and the years. For those weaving a spell with the Rumba or sweeping across the floor with a Cha Cha the dance gave them the same dignity along with the semblance of eternal youth.

The club wasn’t very packed but if everyone got on the floor room became sparse. This led to a perfect intimate spot for a birthday. As the women drank alcohol and their male friends did the same the atmosphere around the table slowly unwound becoming looser and looser. More alcohol, more drinking and finally the show started, the “travesty show Fantasia Con Las Estrellas.” Beautiful women dressed up as famous Latina stars, the most notable Shakira in gold and flowing blond hair. In true Burlesque and travesty, sexuality permeated the singing and dancing along with a hint of the more sultry tradition of strip clubs. Every so often a famous Latin singer would mount the lap of a gentleman in the crowd shaking her hips back and forth while continuing to lip sing to the radio hits.

After a few acts of famous latinas, they unleashed the male stripper onto the floor dressed in classic cowboy attire, chaps and all. He made his way around the room to the various women at the various tables, collecting dollars along the way, unzipping his fly for extra smiles and girlish embarrassment. At this point it might be worth skipping the entire rest of the episode for a stripper is a stripper. Hunter S. Thompson in “The Rum Diaries” writes this beautiful scene during the Carnival celebration where a beautiful woman dancing with a fabulous man gets drawn further and further into seduction as the tempo and rhythm of the Samba create an explosive sexual energy. If anything about the stripper at Los Candides, his pure sexual energy should be remembered. When tempted over to the birthday girl by dollar bills and innocent eyes, her friends put her up to experiencing first hand the show and his dancing while the alcohol made anything possible, words alone and even pictures fail to describe what happened next. Never has a female stripper ever performed that well for a man, and the question remains who was more surprised – the dancer for his own abandonment in the passion of the moment, or the birthday girl for her willingness to wear a cowboy hat and straddle his lap, chaps and all. The club gave them everything they needed for a memorable night of partying. Of course if they forget they can always refer back to L.A. the Blog and the pictures we posted online of our brief time at Los Candides. We hope the girls tipped their cowboy dancer extra for that one.

Los Candides and Glassell Park might never be the same with young people looking for new exciting and fantastic neighborhoods to live. We left the girls and their friends still drinking and partying. The DJ came on before as we walked out replacing the band and his opening track rocked like a Tijuana night club. Before getting in the car we grabbed tacos from a food stand down the street. One of the best burritos we have ever ate. Maybe year after year from this point forward the murder rate in Glassell Park will slowly become nonexistent, and like so much of the city that we grow up in the neighborhoods continue to change and become wealthier as the working class moves on. Local thrift shops become small boutiques, and development slowly brings large corporate chains. Maybe Los Candides will eventually host techno clubs and indie line-ups, but for now it remains a jewel of a good time … especially for the ladies.

UPDATED: Below find some video from Los Candides …

L.A. the Blog: Part 2, Unique L.A. and the Story of the Custom Shirt

With a post name like “the Story of the Custom Shirt” readers must be dying for the story (does anyone read this?).  Anyway, the whole story about Unique L.A. is that there were more custom t-shirts than any other item.

I Love NY in LA

The not-so-custom I Love NY t-shirt

The event even displayed the not-so-custom I ❤ NY shirt, that makes no sense for LA and I really hope wasn’t selling for very much.  I believe you can get them on the street in NY for pretty cheap, or online for even cheaper.  Again, there were handbags, some real nice artisan hats, fancy gift cards, but most booths that catered to men really went after the “art shirt.”  The only joy found in this fact manifested with $5 custom “art shirt” for sale by the Los Angeles-based company Sub_Urban Riot (get it Suburban, sub-urban).  Finally in this sea of expensiveness (yes everything at the event was pricey) a deal screamed out “buy!”

Sub_Urban Riot

The now infamous $5 t-shirt from Sub_Urban Riot

What a popular idea that works, sell stuff cheap.  Marketplace by American Public Media keeps proclaiming that the 2010 holiday season is the year of the shopper bargain.  Not from any generosity on the part of retailers, but because that is what shoppers want this year and to sell you have to deliver.

Sub_Urban delivered.  With their website claiming that they use organic cotton, and the booth attendant nervously explaining that all of their t-shirts have the Made in USA (if not Made in L.A.) label, $5 truly is a steal.  His nervousness makes me nervous about the claim though (maybe they are ripping off American Apparel??).  With a good quality shirt the t’s make a great gift!

Detroit Sprinkles booth

More t-shirts, this time by Detroit Sprinkles

Too many t-shirts!  Of note, the custom shirts by Detroit Sprinkles captured a dying era and look pretty cool.  The owners make the shirts in their Venice Beach garage and sell them on Abbott Kinney (of course), among other places.  They are Detroit transplants.  What does the Statue of Liberty say, “Give me your tired, your poor …”

T-shirts

More T-shirts damn it!

Leaving the t-shirt behind the next beautiful shinning star of the event upcycles (we just learned this word) fabulous gifts out of recyclable and non-recyclable trash.  At first it sounds gross, but in actuality the stuff was creative and fresh.  For example, old NYC subway metro cards that became the cover for creative address books.  The address book pages were created from junk mail / direct mailers, using the already printed fields for your name, etc.

NYC Metro Card Address Book, Inside Page

Make Shop Live's NYC Metro Card address book made out of junk mailers and old metro cards

Make Shop Live created a use for the most hated thing in L.A. the Blogs mailbox (maybe I can get my junk mail sent to them?).  Other great creations include Tecate beer can Christmas tree decorations in the form of reindeer; and multi-level ashtrays made from old vinyl, though the owners of the booth claimed the ashtrays were jewelry trays, ha!  They sold desk organizers re-purposed form old cardboard.

MakeShopLive

Desk organizer from Make Shop Live, everyone needs one!

Trash bins also made from the same type of cardboard laminating, and other neat stuff (see pics below).  L.A. the Blog gives a big thumbs up to Make Shop Live, and appreciates them teaching our publication about upcycling.

Now let’s get to everyone’s favorite site Look at this fucking hipster and get into just how un-hipster Unique L.A. turned out.  The event shoppers themselves were a real let down.  Of the few definite hipsters around, the camera phone that snapped all our pictures doesn’t do moving targets very well so few of these gems in the crowd got snapped up.  The most eye-catching trend pointed towards decorated lace sweater wear in natural colors with art-deco flavor patters.

Hipster blue hair

Fascinating trend that is eye-catching.

Other than that just your everyday person cruising the myriad maze of funky indie fashion and trends.  The story ends with a packed elevator down to the street level, goodbye penthouse on the 13th floor and goodbye Unique L.A.  If you look at the pics below you can see some of the favorite stuff that made up the day.  Oh and on the way out the DJ, she posed for a pic, pretended to scratch records.  We love you DJ lady!!!!

We love you DJ!!

We love you DJ!!

Cool hat

Cool hat

Metro Card Address Book Cover

Metro card address book cover by Make Shop Live

Artist Drawing

Street artist leaving his mark on some sellable canvas

Hipster couple

The one hipster couple that stood still long enough to photograph

Hipster hat seller

Hipster hat seller rocking the plaid

Stella Neptune

Stella Neptune printed designs on sweaters

Handmade Store On A Bike Cards

Cards by Handmade Store On A Bike

Hipster Patches

Hipster patches by Handmade Store On A Bike

Make Shop Live Reindeer

Make Shop Live reindeer christmas ornaments

Make Shop Live multi-teared ashtrays

Make Shop Live multi-tiered ashtrays

Feather headwear by Bedford Falls

Feather headwear by Bedford Falls

Handmade Store On A Bike

Handmade Store On A Bike, in case you thought I was lying

L.A. the Blog: Unique L.A. and the Story of the Custom Shirt

Unique L.A. is back!  Yes, the third annual holiday shop-a-thon of everything that comes from independent designers.  Perhaps its handmade in a persons garage; sold from a roaming bike store; and/or made from recycled goods (think junk mail from some established store like Macy’s).  It has everything Do-It-Yourself and indie, well almost everything that is!

Unique L.A. - California Market Center

Shoppers stood under the Christmas tree that decorates the halls of the California Market Center as they waited for the 3rd Annual Unique L.A. design showcase.

Unique L.A., held on Dec. 11th and 12th, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., takes over the top floor of the California Market Center (CMC) that sits in the heart of downtown Los Angeles’ fashion district. L.A. the Blog managed to catch the first half-day of action.

Like all good fashion crowds they studiously showed up for the bonanza well before the elevators opened forming a solid line of around 200 people.  It costs $10 just to get into the event, perhaps $6 to $10 for parking, so plan on at least spending $20, especially if you want something to drink while at the show.  Luckily at it’s up 13 floors so you at least get a nice view for the money.  Yes the infamous 13th floor, and no the CMC didn’t skip the number.

826LA Unique L.A. Booth

826LA setup shop at Unique L.A. selling books, posters, time travel stuff, etc ...

It’s notable that 10 percent of the door proceeds went to 826LA, a nonprofit the event sponsored.  My favorite item at the 826LA booth, the All My Friends Are Dead illustrated book by Avery Monsen and Jory John (also available on Amazon and truly funny!).  826LA offers tutoring and creative writing workshops after schools let out for those young, vivacious maniacs howling through the streets (yes I evoked Ginsberg).

Let’s get to the point.  The most striking thing about the show:  too many shirts and not a hint of pants.  You would think that people only wear tops and walk around naked from the waist down.  Detroit Sprinkles Cassette DesignIt offered sweaters, hats, t-shirts, gloves, hoodies (like those cool Detroit ones), pins for your hoodies, neat feather headwear, but not one good pair of jeans.  Or at least not easily found jeans (did anyone sell pants there?).  Wait, there was a sock booth where you could buy socks, and headdresses.

T-shirts at Unique L.A.

T-shirt designs on display at Unique L.A.

The second foible to my perfect day, the price.  As an independent design showcase with many of the items handmade, t-shirts printed by hand, original artwork hand painted, the asking price stood a little higher than the $5 to $10 dollar shirts that you can find just outside the event everyday on the street.

The quality however and the unique feel of everything, the chance to wear a one-off shirt screams at the fashion diva in as all.  IntelligentsiaHell though even the food was expensive.  Coffee cost $4.  Enough said.  Roasted in SoCal, and sold at the newest coffee shop fad in L.A. – Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea – it even wears the mantle indie D.I.Y.   The coffee isn’t even Fair Trade, it’s better. Direct Trade.

Highlights of the show:  the hunt for something affordable, or also known as the best bargain in the show.  The live DJ.  A shop that sold items from recycled garbage.  Of course let’s not forget the hip people cruising around.  While not everyone came decked out in fashion forward mode, there was some jewels of creativity within the shoppers.  Stay tuned for updates!!!

Stuffed cat

Yes, this cat was once alive! It adorned a jewelry display and I can't tell you how much cuter it would be if it was still alive : (

L.A. The Blog: A Look at the Los Angeles Derby Dolls

It was a dark and stormy night, wait … that’s a lie.  It was like any other winter night in Los Angeles – bicyclists taking to the streets in large groups, indie bands playing behind thrift stores, a mass brawl and stabbing at a USC vs. UCLA football game.

Nothing out of the ordinary except the 2010 LOS ANGELES DERBY DOLL CHAMPIONSHIP!!!

L.A. Derby Dolls Logo

If you see this famous skull and crossbones then you know you are in L.A. Derby Doll territory.

Yes, that’s right Saturday, December 4, saw the showdown that brought the Southern California Derby Dolls together under one roof as the Los Angeles Tough Cookies took on the San Diego Swarm for bragging rights as to who gets the title of the best girls on skates.

As roller derby goes the all-female (hence the name) Los Angeles Derby Dolls skate on a banked track.  This makes the action more exciting as the speed, the falls and the wins seem ever so much sweeter.  It also makes the Derby Dolls one of the few leagues in the Unites States that skate on such a track.  Wikipedia even claims that in the United States there are only five other such leagues.

The Tough Cookies skating on the banked track.

The L.A. Tough Cookies skate around the banked track to warm up for the second half.

I want to make a disclaimer here for while there are other “Derby Doll” leagues in this wonderful and wide world, I have maybe preemptively named the Los Angeles Derby Dolls (LADD) part of the Southern California Derby Dolls (a nonexistent league) that would be composed of the San Diego Derby Dolls (SDDD) with the LADD, and the soon to be Orange County Derby Dolls (OCDD).  Notice the last acronym is close to OCD, which this whole paragraph might be considered.

To end the suspense, the Tough Cookies put down the Swarm with a stunning 148 to 106 victory.  Now this was my first roller derby, but I follow basketball and when you win by 40 points, especially in a championship game that means you dominated the other team.

The Tough Cookies obviously had the home-track advantage as last years champions.  They also won in 2008.  So when they got a lucky break in the first half with a heavily penalized San Diego team loosing players to the gruesome death-squad referees (is that their name?); it was somewhat of a surprise when the Cookies only led by 4 at the half.  Without the Swarm picking up those penalties it could have been the Cookies down by 40.

The champions however showed the rough and tumble team that you would expect to win-it-all as they used some well placed penalties and Krissy Krash’s dominating defense to thin out the Swarms ranks in the second half.

The San Diego Swarm

The San Diego Swarm taking a quick team meeting before the 2010 championship game.

Perhaps like all roller derby the usual tripping, shoulder blocks, and in the case of the Tough Cookies, crowd taunting occurred.  Cool heads prevailed in the end as penalties continued to hurt the Swarm leading to multiple ejections from the game in the second half.  Or as the announcer said, “there seems to be some kind of deadly disease going around thinning out the hive.”

Possibly the best thing about the LADD jam other than the beautiful people in derby attire everywhere is the plethora of sites that make up a normal night for the dolls.  At halftime a metal/punk band with some actual talent played for the fans, even though I never caught their name so who cares anyway (sorry good band that played!!!!).  Hot Dog On A Stick sold its famous breaded delights, my personal favorites, along with other food trucks that posted in the parking lot.  (IS IT TRUE THAT THE FOOD TRUCKS GOT THE TABLES REMOVED FROM THE SIDEWALK IN FRONT OF ABOTT’S PIZZA CO!!!  I WILL KILL!!!).

Roller derby girls check out the band.

The amount of t-shirts, knickknacks, and memorabilia along with pure energy of the game fulfilled my need for commercial exploitation that I get at all sports events.  They also sold beer for those inclined to down a cold one.  All-in-all I give the whole night 5-stars and if you have a roller derby in your town (New York??) I say go support the beautiful women as the punch it out.

Oh yeah as the Los Angeles Times reported in 2008 that Alex Cohen from NPR was a roller girls, too bad you can’t read the first few paragraphs on my Firefox browser because some stupid Google ad!!!  You can check the article for a breakdown of the rules in simple form, too.

Also, if you are in Chicago on December 11 check out the L.A. Derby Dolls as they compete against the Windy City Rollers in the Red Bull Banked Jam.  GO L.A.!!!  Stab someone in the parking lot to show how we do in the City of Sin (no don’t I was joking).

Also, last interesting fact – an L.A. Derby Doll wrote the script for the movie “Whip It!” and the dolls skated in that movie.  I love you Derby Dolls!!!

The Girls Going RoundThe LA Derby Doll stage

Artwork at the L.A. Derby Doll track