Day 313: FPAC 2015

Tinikling at FPAC 24

Tinikling at FPAC 24

This year’s Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture was a smaller, one-day event at the historic El Pueblo building next to Olvera Street. My wife and I had planned on going when it began at 10am, but ended up sleeping in and didn’t get there until lunch time.

Thankfully, the weather was much milder than a year ago, when the festival spanned two days during an unexpected heat wave in October.

Like last year, I wasn’t too impressed with the food; it was okay, but not representative of the best of Filipino fare. I’m sure there are too many laws and/or permits needed, but it would be great to have roaming food vendors selling taho or barbecue sticks like in the Philippines.

Still, kudos to all of the volunteers who make this event happen. It’s always a terrific celebration of the best of the Filipino arts and cultural community and this year was no different; it was a blast.

We didn’t catch the morning performances, but we saw a few of the afternoon acts after we had checked out all of the booths. Some of the acts we enjoyed: the Prime Note Ensemble, Odessa Kane, the SIPA dance crew, and other outstanding musicians and dancers.

My wife and I always love the traditional songs and performances and we were thrilled to hear our favorite love song “Dahil Sa Iyo” not once, but twice. The first was a traditional rendition and the second was part of a hula performance.

The best part of any Philippine cultural event was saved for last: the tinikling. Check out my short video of this traditional dance on my youtube channel.

Day 305: Street Food Cinema

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead

A few years ago my wife and I experienced our first Street Food Cinema in Hollywood. It’s a terrific event of live music, food trucks, and a classic movie shown outdoors in different parts of Los Angeles. I love the picnic atmosphere; it’s family friendly with a laid-back  vibe.

For Halloween last night, my wife scored tickets to the final event of the season at Exposition Park for one of my favorite movies: Shaun of the Dead. Since we’d already dressed as zombies this year, we decided to do a DC/Marvel crossover with my wife going as Spidergirl and myself as Clark Kent-changing-into-Superman (an easy costume for me since I already have the eyeglasses).

We arrived in time for the last song of the band, found a spot near the front to lay down our picnic blanket and beach chairs, then did a quick scan of the food trucks before deciding on our dinner: shish kebabs for my wife and a shrimp po boy and chicken/sausage/corn bisque for me. The food was delicious and we cracked open a bottle of a wonderful wine for the movie.

I was surprised that more people weren’t dressed as zombies or the characters from the movie, but there were some terrific costumes. I particularly liked the McDonald’s Hamburglar I was in line with for dinner.

The crowd seemed to enjoy the film as much as I always do. Shaun of the Dead is such a smart, funny movie, brilliantly versed in its zombie cliches as it pokes fun of itself and the genre. The weather was perfect last night and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend Halloween.

Day 288: The Drought Continues

Greatest World Series moment ever.

Greatest World Series moment ever.

The Dodgers were just eliminated from the playoffs, which means we’re closing in on 30 years since the team last played in the World Series. I know I’ve been a fortunate sports fan, having seen all four of the major sports teams in Los Angeles win a championship during my lifetime, but it’s still a drag when the season ends without a parade in downtown.

Speaking of that last World Series appearance, I’m going to watch this on repeat until this end-of-the-season sadness is gone.

Day 286: Must Win

After the Dodgers went up 3-0 against the Mets, my wife and I decided to go to our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner. My wife asked if I was sure if I wanted to go and I said yes.

As we were driving there, the Mets scored a run against Clayton Kershaw and my first thought was, “here we go again.” I also thought about turning the car around, but we were starving and didn’t feel like making dinner.

Thankfully, everything turned out perfect: we shared our favorite dish, Kershaw broke his 7th-inning curse, Jensen saved the game, and the Dodgers get to play Game 5 in L.A.

And as an added bonus, we made it home in time for another hilarious episode of Fresh Off the Boat. I was as pumped up as Kershaw was tonight.

Day 282: Superman and Clark Kent

The Dodgers' Greinke and Kershaw.

The Dodgers’ Greinke and Kershaw.

The Dodgers lost the opening game of their playoff series against the Mets. Sad to say, it wasn’t as shocking as Clayton Kershaw’s meltdown against the Cardinals last year.

With how much Kershaw looks like Superman during the regular season, he has quite a few Clark Kent moments during October. It’s hard to knock the best pitcher in baseball, but the truth is with each postseason loss, opposing hitters are gaining confidence against him. They’re being patient and aren’t scared of him, knowing that he can be cracked at some point.

While I had my doubts about these Dodgers going to the World Series (hard to get too fired up about a team that was no-hit twice during the season), I was hoping Kershaw and Greinke could do their best Johnson-and-Schilling imitation and drag this team to the promised land.

Greinke is pitching tomorrow. He better be in great shape because that additional weight he’s carrying is the entire Dodgers organization.

Day 270: littlemeatsLA

Cast-iron skillet kimchi fried rice with smoked pork belly and 14-hour smoked brisket.

Cast-iron skillet kimchi fried rice with smoked pork belly and 14-hour smoked brisket.

Over a month ago, my Yelp buddy Alex posted some photos from a supper club in L.A. The food looked delicious, but when I saw the 14-hour smoked brisket I knew I had to drive out there as soon as I could get on the list.

I’m a sucker for anything cooked low and slow.

My wife and I made it for tonight’s dinner and it lived up to all the hype and then some. Not only was the food phenomenal, but the company was fantastic. Our host Robin and our chef for the evening Stevie were personable and passionate and it was easy to see how much love went into our tonight’s #EthnicAmerica get-together.

littlemeatsLA was successful in creating a space where strangers could have a family experience. Old school hip hop served as our background music as we got to know our fellow diners. Conversation flowed freely and easily; one minute I was talking to an attorney, the next an owner of a popsicle business.

It was an amazing and inspirational meal, highlighted by the kimchi fried rice with 14-hour smoked brisket. It was comfort food elevated to an art form, with every bite savored and enjoyed by all of us.

On the way home, my wife and I couldn’t stop talking about the experience: the food, the conversations, the sense of community when people get together like this … and, of course, our next visit.

Tonight’s menu:

Appetizer:

“Ants on a Log” with Ssamjang butter

Main: 

Cast-iron kimchi fried rice and accoutrements, with smoked pork belly and 14-hour smoked brisket.

Dessert:

Pineapple shiso sorbet

Day 219: Manchester United

Manchester United (via Facebook)

Manchester United (via Facebook)

The 2015-16 Premier League season starts tomorrow, so for us soccer fans across the pond, that means waking up at 4:45am to watch the action.

I’m a Galaxy fan because I love all things L.A., but the MLS is still years away from competing with the European leagues. It’s nice to have the European stars on the downsides of their careers come over and build the MLS fan base, but watching the teams in the Premier League or La Liga reminds me why the sport is called The Beautiful Game.

It’s why Americans like me wake up before dawn to watch soccer.

When I’m not rooting for the Galaxy, I’m pulling for Manchester United. As someone who came to the sport later in life, I had to choose a team. It’s not like how I chose my basketball, baseball, or football teams; that was easy, since I grew up in L.A., which meant following the Lakers, Dodgers, and Rams (although once I saw the Raiders play, I immediately switched allegiances. This was made easier by the fact that the Rams abandoned L.A. for Anaheim, then the Raiders moved down from Oakland. Also, I was seven years old at the time).

So why Man U? My stepdaughter roots for Manchester United. Before I became her stepdad, I’d watch her play for her club and school teams. I learned about the sport so I would know what was going on when she played. I watched videos and learned the history of the league. I read the fantastic The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss.  I felt like a bandwagon fan when I started watching Man U, since they’re the most successful club in league history, but that wasn’t going to stop me from cheering for them.

And something funny happened along the way: I became a soccer fan.

It’s my favorite sport by far right now. I’ll never be a rabid Man U or FC Barcelona (my favorite non-American team) because I believe you have to live within the city where they’re located to truly feel the fans’ passion. I think of American football and the passion that it ignites among fans here in the States. Or how the city of Los Angeles gets into a frenzy whenever the Lakers are closing in on another NBA title.

But I love soccer. And I’m rooting for the Red Devils, bandwagon or not.

Day 206: Shakespeare in the Park

image

Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

Here’s something that makes for an awesome date night: Shakespeare in the park.

Tonight’s play at Griffith Park was Romeo and Juliet. I liked how they incorporated a rock vibe to the play (with a live band, to boot). The actors were solid and it was an entertaining show.

What I love the most about Shakespeare in the park is that it’s not your typical theater-going crowd. People from all walks of life come to see The Bard’s work come to life. It’s great to see so many non-theater types enjoying a play written centuries ago.

Day 176: D’Angelo Russell

D'Angelo Russell of the Los Angeles Lakers

D’Angelo Russell of the Los Angeles Lakers

With how awful the Lakers have been the last two seasons (yes, I count a 45-win, first-round playoff exit as awful; Lakers fans are used to watching the team in June), they really couldn’t screw up the second overall pick in tonight’s draft. Most of us thought they were locked into Jahlil Okafor and given the franchise’s history with big men, it seemed a foregone conclusion. At the start of last season, I joked with my fantasy league that the Lakers’ motto for the year should be “Lose More for Okafor” (which eventually changed during the season to “Go Downs for Towns” and “Don’t Hustle for Russell”).

The Lakers surprised everyone and went with D’Angelo Russell, a 6-5 Ohio State point guard, who impressed the heck out of Kupchak. I like the pick. Even though Okafor should make an impact sooner than Russell, the newest Laker has the higher upside. It also doesn’t hurt that the Lakers have a young frontcourt player in Julius Randle, there are All-Star free agent big men available (Marc Gasol, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, etc.), and there’s a still a chance that Boogie Cousins could don the Purple and Gold.

It’s the best I’ve felt as a Lakers fan since the last championship banner was raised (five years ago, which is an eternity for Angelenos) and as a sports fan, today was all I ask for: hope.

Day 175: Music on Netflix

 

Rodriguez at the Greek Theatre

Rodriguez at the Greek Theatre

Just as my taste in music has changed over the years, so has my method of discovering new music evolved. As a teenager, I discovered new music through word of mouth; most of my friends were musicians so one of us was always finding a new band and sharing it with the others. Some of us traded tapes via fanzines while some of us stayed up late to tape radio shows that played new and obscure songs.

Nowadays, I’m more likely to hear about a new song or band via social media than the radio. I tend to read books or watch movies during my spare time.

Thankfully, my love of movie-watching actually helps me find new music. Netflix has a great selection of music documentaries. I’ve enjoyed the films about well-known bands (Rush, Pearl Jam, etc.), but it’s the ones about lesser-known musicians and groups that fascinate me.

Two years ago, my wife and I watched Soul of America, a documentary about Charles Bradley, a soul singer eeking out a living as a James Brown impersonator before being discovered as he neared retirement age. It’s an inspiring film and after we saw it, we were fortunate that Bradley was in L.A. that weekend playing a free show at Amoeba Records (he played the FYF Fest the night before).

This past weekend, a fortuitous pair of tickets (thanks to my Yelp Elite badge) led us to the Greek Theatre to see another obscure musician play a big show. We rented Searching for Sugar Man, a film that details the unique career of singer/songwriter Rodriguez (née Sixto Rodriguez). In the early 70s Rodriguez released two albums that barely sold, despite being worked on by top producers who worked with top artists of the day. He was compared to Bob Dylan on more than one occasion, but he wasn’t able to build a fanbase.

Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Rodriguez put down his guitar and entered a life doing construction work in his hometown and occasionally dabbled in local politics. Unbeknownst to him, his music had become the anthem of South African youth. He’s regarded on the same level as the Rolling Stones and his albums (bootleg and legitimate) sold more than they did in America. It’s only when two fans of his decide to track him down does he learn the truth. Rumors of his demise had been exaggerated: at one point, people thought he’d killed himself on stage.

It’s a fascinating film, since there are so many unanswered questions, especially by the record label that failed to pay him all of the royalties over the years (there is one revealing interview with an executive). To his credit, there’s no hint of bitterness or self-pity in Rodriguez. He’s led a good, if hard, life and he’s a Motor City son through-and-through.

Like Bradley, Rodriguez experienced his biggest musical moments when most musicians have long retired. I might not have heard either of them on the radio, but I was more than happy to have discovered them via streaming video.