Friday, October 24, 2008

Shapes & Colors

Here's a playlist I created for one of my editing assignments. We had to make a music video to any song we wanted. The only footage we could use were still images of shapes and colors. I chose Daft Punk's "Human After All." Cheers.

Shapes & Colors
1. Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles
2. Wordless Chorus by My Morning Jacket
3. Destination Overdrive by Chromeo
4. Human After All by Daft Punk
5. Sleeping Lessons by The Shins
6. Everyone Knows Everyone by The Helio Sequence
7. Ready For The Floor by Hot Chip
8. Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve
9. Bodysnatchers by Radiohead
10. Good Morning by Kanye West
11. Don't Worry Baby by The Beach Boys
12. Kids by MGMT
13. I'm Just A Singer In A Rock and Roll Band by The Moody Blues
14. We Will Become Silhouettes by The Postal Service
15. Loud Pipes by Ratatat
16. The Final Countdown by Europe
17. Time of the Season by The Zombies
18. Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Pt. 2 by My Morning Jacket





I just thought this photo was hilarious and had to be shared with the world.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mistakes and Mixtapes


I never really know what to do on a Sunday. Unlike most of my friends, I'm not really into the whole Sunday football thing. Sure, I appreciate it, but it's hard to get into football, especially when you're from a city that doesn't even have a team. So how did I spend my Sunday? Naturally, I went to the movies and saw Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.

I'm pretty sure that Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist was written and made for me. It just hit all the high marks that a movie of my taste should have and then some: relatable characters, coming-of-age comedy, unrequited romance, drinking at clubs and bars, and an awesome soundtrack.

Based on the novel of the same name, Nick and Norah chronicles the fateful encounter of Nick (Michael Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings) and their wild, magical night in New York looking for the secret show of their favorite band Where's Fluffy. The movie played out like a modern day John Hughes film as it followed the triumphs and tragedies of our musical obsessionists. I actually read the book about a year ago too and was happy to see that the film kept the integral subject of the book while making changes I felt made the story better. For one, it changed the musical tastes from queercore punk to indie music in order to give the movie a sweeter and more lighthearted feel. Second, it removed the angsty tone of the book for a more jaded outlook. Finally, it changed the intimate scenes from one of spontaneous act to a more tender and heartwarming moment.

It is true: music makes the world go 'round. I believe that music has the power to inspire, create, and connect. This movie, while yes I know is a movie, demonstrates that music can bring people together.

Haven't you ever had that moment? You know the one I'm talking about. You're passionate about a band, a band that is so dear and special to you for a plethora of reasons. Then, you meet someone. Naturally, the conversation turns to music, and you begin judging each other based on your likes and dislikes. You decide to take a chance and ask that million dollar make-or-break question: "So, what do you think of _______?" A million replies run through your mind: "They suck. Fuck 'em. They're ok, I guess." One answer could possibly determine the rest of your night. And like that, it happens. That person says, "They are my favorite band of all-time!" Suddenly, you have that connection, and the world continues to go 'round and 'round. Soon enough, you're making mistakes. Soon enough, your'e making mixtapes.

The indie music of this film perfectly complements our awkward protagonists. Cera and Dennings have undeniable chemistry that ignites the screen. They relate to each other on the level of equals as they both are still hurting from severely unhealthy relationships and do not want to make themselves vulnerable to heartbreak all over again. Hence, bands like Band of Horses, Devendra Banhart, Vampire Weekend, and Bishop Allen set the playful tone for the quirky night full of randomosity, eternal optimism, and potential heartmend and heartbreak. This movie speaks to the music of our generation and its avid listeners as they live with generational musical iconography like YouTube, MySpace, blogs, mixtapes, and iPods. It also doesn't forget to pay tribute to the forefathers of awesome rock music as it namedrops everyone from The Cure to David Bowie and gives special attention via a lovely monologue about The Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."

I have to make a quick sidenote about the supporting cast of the film. Incredible! Aaron Yoo and Rafi Gravron as Thom and Dev, the two gay members of Nick's band The Jerk-Offs were great catalysts and the logical thinkers of the film as they force Nick and Norah to explore this potential love. Even better, they don't cater to stereotypical gay characters in a film. It didn't define them, it was just one part of who they were. Alexis Dziena and Jay Baruchel as Nick and Norah's exes, respectively, acted admirably as the assholes of the film. We kinda loathed them, we were kinda attracted to them, and everyone's met someone like them. And of course, the Best Supporting Actress goes to Ari Graynor as Caroline, Norah's drunken best friend who provides the film's best comedic moments with her uninhibited shameless drunk antics during the wee hours of Manhattan. There's one scene where, well, let's just say I'm never going to chew gum the same way again.

The film didn't shove their romance in your face. Of course, you knew they were going to end up together as it was a familiar concept we've seen countless times in the romantic comedies of the 80s and 90s. But it was subtle. It was sweet. It unfolded and unraveled in front of your eyes so naturally and magically that by the end of the film, you too had fallen in love with the characters and didn't even realize it, until it was over. Once those credits started rolling, I wished it would just go on repeat and keep playing over and over, like an infinite playlist.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Last Summer Day

And so summer officially ends, and autumn inevitably begins. No more blistering hot days, no more sweltering summer nights. No more just work and no-homework. With my 22nd birthday officially two days behind me, what better way to celebrate the end of carefree bliss and the beginning of reality than going to see My Morning Jacket at The Greek.

God, where to begin? It was amazing! spiritual! existential! out-of-body! FUCKING SWEET! After taking some detours along the way, The Cobra and I finally arrived at The Greek at 8:07 p.m. We heard "Off The Record" in the distance and were surprised. The ticket said doors opened at 7:30 p.m. This was not the case. The show started at 7:30 p.m., and there was no opening band.

Fuck, we already missed half the set!

An empathetic security guard heard our groans and assured us that we had not missed much, especially because they were playing a three-hour set! Oh, what bliss. The Cobra and I saw MMJ about two years ago at The Wiltern. This was at the time when she invited me to their concert and I went not ever having heard a single song. I left feeling blasted away by pure perfect music. That first MMJ concert, in the packed small venue on Wilshire and Western, was and is the best concert I have ever been to. The best performance I have ever seen, though, was MMJ at The Greek.

After getting some overpriced Newcastle, we made our way to our seats in South Terrace. They weren't bad as you could still see the band clearly from a high top right angle. We sat down just as they started busting out "I'm Amazed," the first single from Evil Urges. According to the gentleman next to us, we had only missed "Evil Urges," "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 1," "Off The Record," and "Anytime."

I feel like MMJ is a time capsule band. It's like they go through the history of rock in one set. They can be soft rock pansies, classic rock shred heads, psychedelic tripsters, alt-country stars, and something that can't even begin to have a label. And every song is always epic in its own way. They are at their best when the song starts out slow and and then builds up until they careen out of control and just pick at the guitar until their fingers bleed.

Jim James was a rock star god on stage. Not only can the dude play, he also performs. During his ambient, trippy songs such as "Gideon" and "Phone Went West," James would adorn his head with a towel, and he would just step into his zone, jamming and grooving. He was in his own world. On bring-down-the-house epic rock songs like "Anytime," "Mahgeetah," "What A Wonderful Man," and "Lay Low," Jim James and company were all over the stage. James and the second guitarist Carl Broemmel would dance around each other in intricate weavings and patterns. James would go to the crowd and just shake his legs and hips as if possessed by some dancing demon or channeling Elvis on coke. And nearly every rock-out-with-your-cock-out song had James and the band performing like they were all on acid. But they weren't. They were just having the purest fun you could ever have.

When they played their love songs like "Thank You Too!," "Sec Walkin," and "Two Halves," The Greek turned into quite the magical place. Around "Thank You Too!," their eighth song, I finally managed to take my eyes off the stage and look around me. The Greek is a fucking beautiful venue. It starts at the main stage and expands in all peripheral directions. The seats get higher and higher, but relative to the theatre, the nosebleed section isn't that far away. The entire theatre is surrounded by large, magnificent trees, silent mountains and the city's twinkling lights. We are completely encompassed by nature. It was the perfect setting for a band like this.

The best part of the show had to be the last nine songs, starting off with my favorite song of all-time "Dondante." I remember the first time I heard this song. The Cobra and I were pretty drunk at The Wiltern and the slow drum beat kicked in, grabbing our attention. It kept going and going and then we heard this almost trembling guitar wave come in. And oh, how Jim James sings in that haunting shriek of a voice. It just feels like he's crooning and howling in pain.

"In a dream I saw you walkin'
Like a kid, alive and talkin.'
That was you.

In the classroom you were teachin'
On the streets you were policing.
That was you.

To the one I now know most,
I will tell them of your ghost like a thing
That never, ever was."

On this second performance, he keeps it the same: he sings those first verses and then a little dancing guitar solo comes in, but it's fucking sexy. I'm just feeling this song, my body rocking back and forth, my head nodding to and fro. The guitar line picks up, playing faster, faster, faster, more intense, intense, intense, and then BOOM! a sound wave rips through the stadium, blasting me back in my seat, and I am cleansed and free. The first time I saw this song live, I was stunned. The second time I saw it, I was moved. Not only did they play the Okonokos live version, they expanded on it, adding a new jam element and more fury and anger. James was just slamming his guitar as hard as he could with his hand and pick as if punishing it for all the sins it had committed. It's time for the song to fade out, and Carl Broemmel brings out his saxophone. The sax sings the final sad notes to Los Angeles and finishes the song.

The Cobra and I knew at this point that we were a part of something bigger than ourselves. MMJ slowed it down after "Dondante" with the haunting love ballad "Librarian." People were falling in love all around us with the Greek, with the band, with James, with each other. We knew it was time to lighten up, and we did. Fate then intervened, and the eerie wahs of "Smokin' From Shootin'" rang through the crowds. Puffs of smoke from all places Greek floated above the crowd. I found that rather ironic.

"Do you feel my smokin guns? / They're smoking from a shootin, smokin from shootin / smokin from shootin / at everyone? / Do you live your life / on the road? / Yeah, losing that I'm loving / Askin for nothing / Running from something that isn't there."

With one comes the other, and "Touch Me I'm Going To Scream, Pt. 2" followed immediately. The band changed all their instruments and opted for synthesizers and other electronic doo dads that contribute to this song's awesomeness. What impressed me most was the light show that they had for this song, as if this is what the song is supposed to look like. The backdrop of the set were these large looming eyeballs in sideways wedding ring cases. The band had at least fifty lights shining on them, four circular lights behind the drums, and blasting strobe lights underneath the drum set. You just had to be there to see it. In a fading motion from left to right, the lights would light up consecutively to the beat of the opening synths. The song plays, and it's fucking beautiful, man. It goes on for what may be minutes but felt too short. Then the song reaches climax. James puts the synthesizer down, shakes his head, and sticks out his hand, The guitar is placed in it, and he tears through the strings by playing a power chord that rips through the stadium, popping everyone's ear drums. The crowd goes wild! Everyone tries to match James by singing at the top of their lungs. He lets out this high pitched wail that shatters souls like glass. They extended the song and gave it legendary status. The song wained and descended ever so slowly to a complete stop. The speakers sounded off with the final four second track "Good Intentions." A crowd cheers over the speakers, and Jim James' voice says, "Ok. Cool." The end. The show was over.

Until the encore ten minutes later.

I feel like a band always plays their best songs in the encore. It's the ones that they know the crowd will love, they personally love, or both. These are the songs that the band wants you to remember them by, because they are there for a reason. They engaged the happy crowd in a sweet sing-along with "Golden." They made us feel like we were on ecstasy or LSD through "Wordless Chorus" and its strobe-riphic light show. They made us dance with Satan on "Highly Suspicious." They made you cry with "Run Thru" and that piercing guitar. And they sent us to imaginary places with "One Big Holiday."

And that was it. The concert was over. Just like that. I've been looking forward to this show since I bought the tickets in May, and it was over in 3 hours. With the said and done, summer officially shed its last ray of light.

On the bright side, we had gotten out around 11:30 p.m. on a Sunday. I was still on a high from the show, and so was The Cobra. We were chattering about the show all the way down hill.

"You know, The Cobra, the night is quite young. What should we do?"

She seemed to have read my mind. "Hmm, we are in Los Feliz, and there is The Dresden."
"I think that sounds like a brilliant idea."


It was our first bar experience.

Inside, we both just looked around, taking it all in, and just reflecting on the experience. It was dark and quiet--the perfect setting for the songs to keep playing in our heads.


It still feels like the concert was just yesterday. It feels like it didn't even happen. But it did. It fucking did. That night was not real. It was as if we had gone to another place. When interviewed by Rolling Stone after their career-defining four hour set at Bonnaroo Festival this past summer, James recalls the moment he got his first guitar. "I was completely captivated by it, like it could take me to another dimension." My Morning Jacket has proven that music has the power to open up your mind, introduce new perceptions, and show you things you've never even dreamed.

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Post Script:

Oh, we also watched this so bad-it's-kinda-good-but-it-was-4-bucks-so-who-cares-movie called Far Out Man starring Tommy Chong as a stoner burnout living in the 90s. I'm not going to talk about it just to save space, but here's a photo. Cheers.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Hollywood Dream

The boys are back in town: Vince, E, Drama, Turtle, and Ari, and they've come back in full swing.

Entourage has always been received with mixed reviews, at least in my circle of friends. The acting is not great, everything works out a little too easily for the crew, and are there really no ugly women in L.A.?

My answer to that: who the fuck cares? Entourage is not supposed to be an Emmy-winning drama or something to philosophize about. This HBO phenomenon is about living the good life in Hollywood. It's fun, and you live vicariously through it (or hopefully, like me, one day). Sure, for story's sake, we need Vinnie Chase and The Chasers to fall on hard times just to stay interested and see them succeed. "Everyone likes a comeback, Vince. Since Britney fucked hers up, you're next," Ari boasts in season 5's second episode. While the plot is moving along quicker than the forever-feeling season 4 to speed up Vince's comeback, the first two episodes are setting up what looks to be a promising 13 episodes.

We find E and Drama trying to keep the cash coming in with new clients and new episodes, respectively. Drama is doing the whole long-distance thing with that really hot French chick that he boned on the beach in the season 4 finale. However, the promise of a mainstream Hollywood film reunites the crew to get back to work. Ari and E fly to Mexico to track down a very bearded Vince and the cuddly Turtle fucking some really hot girls.

Oscar winning material, I know.

The second episode assesses the situation in which the entourage finds themselves: Vince is pretty much a Hollywood leper. No one wants to touch him since the disaster of a film Medellin. But with a new work ethic, desperate to prove everyone wrong, Vince and E read scripts like no other until they find one written by the eccentric pair of writers played by Lukas Haas (Brick) and Giovanni Ribisi (Boiler Room). E wants to sign them, but Ari won't let Vince play lead because it's an indie flick. No more indie flicks according to the wunderkind agent. "It's like the Holocaust. NEVER AGAIN!" Vince hooks up with Justine Chambers from Season One, Turtle busts out a brilliant line ("Well, you've already lied to your boyfriend so why don't you tell him that we didn't fuck tonight."), and Drama gets drunk after blowing up at his really hot French girlfriend and getting subsequently dumped. Oh, and there's been quite an abundance of celebrity appearances with the likes of Carla Gugino and Mark Wahlberg. I hear Michael Phelps and the Cuban goddess Jamie Lynn-Sigler will make cameos in a future episode.

I still love this show. It's always great to see what part of L.A. the boys are in such as visiting Urth Cafe or walking down Rodeo Drive. The show isn't just about a group of guys partying, it's about the city that is built on the facade of stardom, where dreams live and dreams die. The show is still hilarious, too, mostly due to Ari and Drama. Watch for great Ari tantrums where he just randomly throws files or breaks people's phones for no reason--pure agent gold. I've also recently come to the conclusion that Entourage needs to come out with a soundtrack: the episode song enders are always brilliant, whether it be classic rock ("Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones; "Peace Frog" by The Doors), hip-hop ("The Good Life" by Kanye West), or alternative awesomeness ("Dream" by Alice Smith; "If I Ever Feel Better" by Phoenix--the last ep's episode closer). As the first two episodes have proven, season 5 looks to be promising.

It's good to have you guys back.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Cobra and The Velvet Margarita

The Cobra has been reborn.

The Cobra is a new found woman.

Finally, The Cobra is 21 years old!

I feel like I've been waiting for The Cobra's 21st birthday longer than she has. I can't tell you how many times I'd be like, "The Cobra, we need to go to this bar. Oh wait, you're not 21 . . . " or something of the sort. Do you know how long we have waited to finally explore the L.A. bar scene? 21 years, you fool. The past year has pretty much been me going to bars and telling her about it. Now, she finally gets to experience what I've talked about. And in typical Cobra fashion, she had to choose the right place to host the festivities. She chose wisely as we got wasted away at The Velvet Margarita (1612 Cahuenga Blvd in Hollywood).

This bar is one of those places that I've always passed and have been wanting to visit. The front entrance alone stirs curiosity with its black awning and bright pink, cursive letters. It just screams "delightfully tacky" (Hooters). The Cobra and her crew were already drinking before Gladly and I arrived around 11 p.m.

I had read on some website that this should be one of Quentin Tarantino's favorite bars because of its unique mix of American pop culture and Mexican aesthetics. It reminded me of a much more Gothic version of the strip club from From Dusk Till Dawn. You step in and are bathed in purple lights. The ceilings are high and adorned with black-and-silver sombreros. To the immediate left was our crew at a reserved table. To the immediate right was a little nook full of Hollywood hipsters. The nook was pretty sweet because it was set-up like one of those old Mexican caves with candles in the crevices. The candles lit up velvet paintings of Dia de los Muertos skeletons and Mexican icons.

Next to this nook is the impressively well-stocked bar. I didn't have to wait at all to get a drink. The bartenders were courteous and made damn good drinks. Now usually, as I'm sure you all know by now, I would normally order a dirty martini, but I figured, "Fuck it, I'm at a margarita bar," so I ordered the El Guapo Classic Margarita with a salted rim. And damn it was good! For me, salt is key to a margarita. The bitterness of the salt perfectly complements the sweetness of the margarita. It got me pretty buzzed too. Suddenly, this 4 at the bar became a 7--it was that good.

The bar is separate from the restaurant although they are in the same room. They're divided by a velvet plush wall. With the high ceilings, velvet divider, moody lighting, and all the skeletons around, I felt like I was riding The Haunted Mansion from Disneyland Mexico. Another bar, the patio bar, is located outside. After you walk down the hallway of velvet paintings of American pop culture figures like Frank Sinatra, Bruce Lee, and David Bowie, you can step out to the patio bar to have a smoke. It was a Wednesday night so obviously the place was dead. When this bar is open on weekends until 4 a.m., though, I have a hunch it's going to be raging, and I'll be contributing.

By the time Gladly and I finished touring the place, the rest of the party had come, and it was finally time to initiate The Cobra into society. We started her off with three Patron shots and a bottle of champagne. She downed them like a champ. The very nice and cute waitress then brought out red tortilla chips with three dips (chipotle, tomatillo, and bean; for free I might add), some apple pie bites, and a delicious chicken quesadilla. Eating said food sobered me up, so I got a Newcastle and 2 more Patron shots.

The Cobra and I downed them. That former 4 that became a 7 transformed into a 9.

Lots of catching up with old friends, 2 more Patron shots for The Cobra and me, and fun was had by all. Nothing noteworthy occurred that night because The Cobra's 21st was enough. Seriously, it was a long time coming. It's really starting to hit me that we're all growing up. I'm turning 21 + 1 next week (no one likes to be 22, let's be real), Boy Band turns 21 in a month, and that fucking word pops up in every conversation: senior. Well, thank God it's only September. There's a lot of maturing to be done, and I expect to do some of it at The Velvet Margarita.

To 21 more years of being those typical 21 year old drunks, even when we're 42.

Happy Birthday, The Cobra.

P.S. Download "Love Lockdown" by Kanye West. I'm a little obsessed.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tropic Awesomeness

I laughed from beginning to end. The whole way through. It's been a long time since I've seen a movie stayed consistently funny. It's been an even longer time since I've seen a movie that stayed consistently funny and was also fucking brilliant. Tropic Thunder was fucking awesome.

What's great about this film is that it can be read on three different levels. I feel my claim is valid since I've now seen the film three times.

Level One: The Obvious
It's good to see Ben Stiller back in wacky hilarity. He always seems to play the same guy in all his films: neurotic macho man pussy (does that even make sense?) This film was no different. Yet, he was hilarious because of the circumstances in which he engaged. Jack Black was always a treat as he played a heroin addict jonesing bad for the dragon. Everyone in the cast (Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson, Nick Nolte, Steven Coogan, Tom Cruise, Matt McConaughey) all contributed funny parts to the film. With that all-star cast, it was like the Dark Knight of comedies. But the award for Best Actor goes hands down to Robert Downey, Jr. He plays an Australian Method actor playing a Black military sergeant. As he says, "I don't break character until the DVD commentary." While he could have crossed a major racial line, Downey, Jr. played it cool and simply offered hilarious insight on the egotistical actor.

Level Two: The Satire
Continuing from The Obvious, Downey, Jr. offers hilarious insight on the egotistical actor by making fun of him. The ridiculousness of a Method actor turning blackface for a role satirizes the stupid lengths some actors will go to learn more about a role. Ben Stiller ridicules the pompous action stars while Tom Cruise gives a little speech about the inevitability of stars going down (was he talking about himself?) Brandon T. Jackson's character Alpa Chino makes fun of musicians with different streams of revenue like energy drinks (cough cough 50 Cent cough cough). You think that they "love tha pussy" but it could all be a marketing gimmick to sell their crap while they "cradle the balls, work the shaft, the whole nine yards)." So many things they say are true. Excuse my political incorrectness but Downey, Jr. had it right: you never go full retard. The satire aspect brings about so many quotable quotes, too. Where to even begin? "I don't read scripts; scripts read me." "I'm a lead farmer, motherfucker!" "I killed one--the thing I love most. Oh my god, you killed a hooker. Ok, calm down, here's what you do. Get some bleach and a shitload of lyme."

But my favorite part of the film:

Level Three: The Self-Reflexive
Did anyone else feel like they were watching a movie? Think about it. The movie we are watching is the movie made at the end of the film. You're watching a film within a film within a film. The sheer fact of the camera pointing towards the audience turns the mirror towards us. It's like we're watching ourselves almost. You see a camera, you see a director, anything that has to do with a movie and suddenly the audience realizes that they are watching a movie. Doing so allows the audience to accept certain things that normally they wouldn't (like McConaughey's random appearance at the end). Because we know it's just a movie, we can suspend our disbelief that much more and appreciate it on a whole new level. On top of that, you had actors playing other actors in the film. Could Ben Stiller be based on Tom Cruise? Is Downey, Jr. making fun of classics like Marlon Brando? Alpa Chino is 50 Cent? Tom Cruise is every Jewish Hollywood producer? Although it was all completely absurd, it was the most realistic film in ages.

Watch the movie. You'll definitely Get Some.

Double Header

Is it me or are there bars around every corner of Downtown L.A.? That's what I started figuring out last Thursday when I went out with my dear friend Liz Whiz. There were places that we walked by that I had heard of like Casey's Irish Pub and, of course, infamous rooftop bar The Standard (I can't believe I haven't been here yet!). We decided to go to quieter bars where we could actually talk and catch up as she was in Scotland for the past year.Since we're both writers, like to read, and love to drink, we checked out The Library Bar (6th and Hope). For a Thursday night, this place was packed like a can of sardines. It was literally a struggle to move. Liz Whiz and I got our first drinks (gin & tonic and dirty martini, respectively) and made our way to a distant corner. After having barhopped in Burbank for the past couple weeks, it was good to see the Downtown crowd full of hipsters, hippies, young and old, classy and trashy. Some people I won't lie looked totally out of place. This one dude was wearing knee high socks, running shoes, cargo shorts, and a white beater. Oh yeah, he also had a mullet (you know, business in the front, party in the back).

The website says, "The Perfect Escape From The Hollywood Bar Scene." This slogan holds true as it is the Downtown crowd and not as pretentious, but I feel like Library Bar would have been way sweeter had it not been so full. It's one room with a bar in front and a lounge area around books in shelves in the back. That's pretty much it. While a cool concept, the enormous crowd ruined it for me. Check it out on a much more dead night like Sunday.

Having bounced, we decided to get our whiskey on and checked out Seven Grand (7th & Grand). The joint is known for its dizzying array of whiskeys from all over the world, served only four different ways (straight; waterback; on the rocks; sour). Liz Whiz needed to explore the fine list of ales as she wanted to see if they had her favorite whiskey from Scotland (they didn't). However, she chose a very exquisite Glen Guyon (sp?) that felt like fire going down my throat. The place was much bigger than Library Bar as it has two pool tables, a cigar shop in the back, and an outdoor patio that is every smoker's wet dream. I went to this place for the first time back in January. It was a Sunday night, which much to my delight, was also Blues night. It gained a much higher level of respect in my head.

We made our way outside and discussed varying topics from the kick-ass Obama to our most drunk stories of the semester (running through the backyards of Scotland makes for a good story, Liz Whiz!).

And then something happened that I had always heard of but confirmed that night. Like a desperate fucker, I asked a random stranger for a cigarette. This guy looked like one of those guys that was trying to relive his youth but through an older gentleman's appearance. He was ripped as hell, too. His name was Mateo, and he kindly scolded me for not having brought my own cigarettes. When I explained to him that I only smoke when drunk and henceforth drink quite a bit, he laughed and figured I was trustworthy. With that, he asked me what I did. I said Film Student. This is where the magic happens. His eyes widened a bit and said, "Oh! You should meet my friend." I was quickly introduced to two of his friends. One was an entertainment lawyer and the other worked for the E! Channel. We engaged in industry talk while Liz Whiz acted as my wingman as she entertained Mateo. I felt like I was hitting on girls but really was just networking. Maybe the two are one in the same. We all exchanged numbers and Liz Whiz and I decided to call it a night. We drove home blasting Classic Vinyl and talked about the epicness of Row Parties (Pre-Rush will be discussed in a future post) and how awesome Seven Grand is. It comes highly recommended.)

I told Gladly what had happened with the two film guys, and he dropped some knowledge on me: "Dude, bars are the best places to make connections. You already have one. It's called alcohol."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Drinking Russian

A couple of weekends ago, the great Jelf passed a landmark in his life: he turned 21. Now what's a 21 year old guy in Los Angeles to do to celebrate this historic day? Get drunk, of course. Hit up bars, of course. Jelf planned to do all these things, but on one condition: do it BIG. He got a huge roll out to come, rented a limo, and got us on the list to the kitschy Bar Lubitsch.

The only things this place has going against it are the epic line that permanently adorns the outside entrance (Jelf took care of this problem) and the expensive drinks menu (my flask filled with Black Label Whiskey took care of this problem). With these two weaknesses extricated, Bar Lubitsch turned out to be the sleeper hit of the summer.

This Russian decadent bar drenches you in red light and vodka upon entering the first room. The first thing I thought: "I just walked into a film noir with Russian gangsters. Awesome." L.A. hipsters and Hollywood wannabes drank and lounged and spit game around the bar and velvet booths. The only time I was in this first room was to get to the smoking area near the entrance and to return to the room where I spent most of my time: the back.

The back room is almost like the secret room of a "front" for Russian gangsters. You think you're going to exit after the you pass the bathrooms but then are greeted by a smaller bar to the right, tables on either side, moody dark lighting, a DJ spinning electronica mixed with rap, and a poppin' dance floor. Of course, I had to buy a martini, and yes, it was absolutely delicious. But the kicker: they mix the drink for you but then give you a small, personal shaker to pour it yourself. Either the bartender was lazy or it's some kind of cool novelty, but I thought it was a nice little touch to cap off an excellent Ketel One Vodka Dirty Martini.

After the cocktail, I drank Coke mixed with my whiskey, and I learned something valuable--even if you just order soda, bars are still really fucking expensive. One martini, two cokes, thirty bucks. Fuckin' L.A.

The rest of the night was spent blissfully drunk, trying to pick up girls, and talking enthusiastically at the smoking patio. I learned another valuable lesson--if you start talking to a girl, REMEMBER HER NAME. I found this out the hard way. I had been talking to a really cute girl wearing a bandanna and to be honest, thought it wasn't going anywhere, so I decided to go have a smoke with Bootyhole. Midway through the cig, Teiam runs out saying that he had been talking to the Bandanna Girl's friend and Bandanna Girl was asking for me. I finished the smoke and went back for round two.

Mind you, by this time, I was Flirting Under the Influence.

Kage (trying to act cool): Well, hey there again. Miss me?
Bandanna Girl: I haven't decided yet.
Kage: You've just been sitting here the whole night. Let's go dance.
Bandanna Girl: On two conditions. First, how old are you?

I seriously did consider busting out the line "However old you want me to be," but thankfully whatever sobriety I had left saved me from this embarrassment.

Kage: 21. You?
Bandanna Girl: 27.
Kage: Chance! (she had no idea what that meant) So what was the other condition?
Bandanna Girl: What's my name?

I'm not gonna lie, I was fucking stumped. The bar was loud. Conversation is hard in bars and clubs. I don't know how people hook up at these places, but I'm working on it. I did the only thing I could do: I tried to change the subject by asking her about music. We discovered we both shared huge passions for My Morning Jacket. She saw right through my ploy, though.

Bandanna Girl: Remember my name yet?

I decided to chance it and take a guess.

Kage: Ok, you look like either a Lisa or a Lauren.
Bandanna Girl: It's Chelsea.
Kage: Wow, I was way off. But hey, you gotta give me points, though. You really do look like a Lisa or Lauren.

Somehow, I managed to save myself and finally got her out on the dance floor. I was disappointed, though because A) she was an awkward dancer, and B) her friend came out to dance with us and proceeded to initiate Operation: Cockblock. It was time to move on.

(I fucking love this photo. Found on Google.)

Minutes later, I turned into Rage Kage and took a cab back to the house with Buckner and Kiddo. There, I wreaked havoc upon Flounder in his room (sorry for kicking your bed while you were in it, dude). I woke up the next morning with my face full of leather couch from the downstairs TV room.

The thing I learned most from this experience: the Russians know how to party.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Classic Vinyl

Heads, up kids:

I've just created a gallery website where I will be putting all my photos up now. Whenever you're in the mood, come check it out. There's a link in the top right corner. The URL is http://gallery.me.com/kalvaren.

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If you ever get the chance to listen to Sirius Satellite Radio, I highly suggest you turn to Channel 14: Classic Vinyl. After chilling at Mumbles' place one lazy Friday, I turned to this station and was blown away by the back-to-back-to-back-to-back, etc. hits they played. Not only is there no-commercial interruption, but it's from a distinct era of classic rock that truly endures: the vinyl legends of the 60s and 70s. I'm talking Zeppelin, The Doors, The Stones, Moody Blues, Allman Brothers, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, James Gang, The Who (a lot of fuckin' Who), Santana, Beatles, Jethro, Creedence--holy shit, man, every song just stuns.

So expand your mind a little. Open those doors of perception. Every band on this station did.

Classic Vinyl:
1. Strange Days by The Doors
2. The Kids Are Alright by The Who
3. Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf
4. Time of the Season by The Zombies
5. Aqualung by Jethro Tull
6. Funk #49 by James Gang
7. Free Ride by Edgar Winter Group
8. From The Beginning by Emerson, Lake, & Palmer
9. Blue Sky by The Allman Brothers
10. Positively 4th Street by Bob Dylan
11. White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane
12. Tuesday's Gone by Lynard Skynard
13. Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin
14. Tale of Brave Ulysses by Cream
15. Unconscious Power by Iron Butterfly
16. Have You Ever Seen The Rain? by Creedence Clearwater Revival
17. Celluloid Hero by The Kinks
18. Europa by Santana

Added at 11:27 p.m.

Classic-er Vinyl
1. The Letter (live) by Joe Cocker
2. Obviously 5 Believers by Bob Dylan
3. Pusher Man by Steppenwolf
4. N.S.U. by Cream
5. Speak to Me / Breathe by Pink Floyd
6. Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin
7. Can't You Hear Me Knockin' by The Rolling Stones
8. I'm Just A Singer In A Rock 'N Roll Band by The Moody Blues
9. Livin' in the U.S.A. by Steve Miller Band
10. Show Me The Way by Peter Frampton
11. Fire by Jimi Hendrix
12. Hey Tonight by Creedence Clearwater Revival
13. Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
14. My Eyes Have Seen You by The Doors
15. C'est La Vie by Emerson, Lake, & Palmer
16. Black Magic Woman by Santana
17. Why Can't We Be Friends by War
18. I'm A Man by Chicago
19. The Wind by Cat Stevens
20. Summertime by The Zombies

Rock hard.

The Express Leaves at 4:20


At least 45% of the theater was stoned. They had to be. This was a movie made for stoners by stoners. The movie is obviously meant to be watched stoned.

So why wasn't it funnier?

A couple of nights before The Cobra, Gladly, Natatat, and I went to go see the highly anticipated Pineapple Express, we were all chilling at Teiam's house for a good ol' fashioned kickback.

Sitting around the firepit, Ratfuck began spitting verbal abuse about the stoner opus. He listed several facts about why Pineapple could perhaps be one of the worst movies of the year. I figured he was just being too critical because of its misrepresentation of smoking and smoking-lifestyle. He stated that it was too absurd, too outlandish to even be believable and that the Apatow crew expected the audience to laugh simply because Dale and Saul are stoned the entire movie.

I didn't want to believe him, so I tried to forget everything he said.

Back to Saturday night. After getting psyched and pumped and ready for the pot picture, we eagerly waited in our seats. The film began, and an hour and fifty minutes later, I left the theater with mixed feelings.

Since then, The Cobra, Gladly, and Natatat have all stated that the more they think about it, the more they realize a sad notion: Pineapple Express was not that funny of a movie.

What happened? Usually the Apatow stamp is a clear indicator of comedic gold.

I think there are several things that went wrong with the film. First, let me make this clear, though: while I definitely see what Ratfuck and Flounder were saying about the movie, I don't think it was as bad as they made it out to be. Sure, the movie flops for the most part, but some parts of the film were pure genius.

The first thing that didn't work was that it lacked "the Apatow touch," meaning it didn't have the thing that made it an Apatow movie. Namely, it was not based in reality. Apatow characters are characters of people that you know, or people that you feel you know. When I watched Knocked Up for the first time, I cried laughing and was a little disturbed because I felt like I was watching my friends and me doing the same things they do, saying the same things they say. It's also a story that could happen to anyone: guy knocks up girl, does responsible thing, tries to make it work, hilarity ensues. I've heard people say they were surprised that Pineapple Express was not only a stoner comedy but also a serious action film. I kept wondering, "Why the hell don't you just go to the cops?" Sure, it can be attributed to stoner paranoia, but that's almost a cop-out. I guarantee you that in the face of danger, a person would sober up or at least think more clearly.

Unless it was really really good weed.

Secondly, and this was Ratfuck and Flounder's point: the movie assumes that just because they are stoned means that it'll be funny. Oh look at Seth Rogen fall because he's stoned. Look at him cough and say stupid things because he's stoned. Oh, the hilarity! Just wasn't buying it. It's true, some things were said because they were stoned so it was funny. It should be the other way: first it's funny, so when you're stoned, it's even funnier.

Third, the plot is extremely weak. The ending is very anti-climactic. There just wasn't enough story to keep the audience engaged for nearly two hours. The only other character worth noting was Red, played by the brilliant and up and coming Danny McBride. After the first thirty minutes, the rest of the film is a long overdrawn chase scene.

Lastly, and this is the part that really bothers me: it's a film where the best scenes were shown in the trailer. Don't you hate it when that happens? Trailers are free online and on television; I didn't need to pay 12 bucks to watch a two-hour trailer. The scene where Franco gets his foot car in the windshield--I know that if I had not seen that in the trailer, tears of laughter would have been streaming down my face. Every time I saw a scene from the trailer on screen, I didn't even flinch.

I don't know what it was, but I left the theater wondering where those two hours went. I feel a movie is comedic gold when it is easily quotable. I could and still only can think of two good quotes from the film:

Girl to Seth Rogen: I wanna marry you!
Seth Rogen: Oooh, umm, shit. Yeah, I think I made a huge mistake. You're way too immature to date.

Seth to cop after being busted with weed: It's medicinal! I'm anorexic! I need it to eat!

The movie had its moments. I mean, after all, it was like Freaks and Geeks: The Fucked-Up Reunion with the great comedy duo of Rogen and Franco. Rogen is his typical self: fat, lazy, and stoned. Franco is a godsend--he's like the Jeff Spiccoli of our generation.

But other than that, the movie really, sadly, was subpar. C'mon, Apatow, you know you can do better than this. It might just be that the Apatow train is losing steam. After all, they have just been overwhelming theaters with their movies. It could be time for a break. Don't release another movie until next year(Funny People due in 2009 starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, Leslie Mann, and Jason Schwartzman [what a cast!] looks promising). I'm sure Pineapple Express will be a hit on DVD, with high school and college kids watching it the "way it is supposed to be watched."

I'm sure by then I can remember some more quotes.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

BurDANK


Home is where the heart is, and I guess that means my heart resides in Burbank, CA. Burbank's an interesting place. When you're a kid, you love it. The flag-football rivalries between schools, the country fairs, carnivals, and farmer's markets. Downtown Burbank with its expansive illustrious mall, 3 movie theaters within a 3 block radius, and of course, In-N-Out. Burbank's got it all.

But there's a certain point where you start thinking about how lame Burbank really is. I don't know if I passed that threshold when I moved to college or when I turned 21, but I've reached my limit. When you turn 21, all you want to do is go to bars (says the alcoholic in me). And this is where Burbank lacks promise.

Living in downtown and going to downtown bars for the past three years, I've gotten used to the glitz and glam and culture and sophistication of it. Places like The Golden Gopher, Seven Grand, Veranda Bar, The Edison--these places require a certain stylized wear and attract roughly the same crowds--the hipster eclectic of Los Angeles . . . and really hot girls. Burbank, not so much.

I've hit up The Blue Room about three more times since that first magical encounter with Mel from Flight of the Conchords. Each time has honored the same tradition--drinking and scoping. Scoping is key when going out. You know you've done it: you give the room a quick wide scan to locate the most attractive guy or girl in the place and size up your confidence for a possible interaction later in the evening. What I've noticed about The Blue Room is that when I "scope" out the place, all the bar patrons are way older than me. Observe this quick interaction between Gladly and a female two weeks ago:

Female: Hey, how old are you boys?
Gladly: Around 22. Why do you ask?
Female: Just wondering (goes to girlfriends, tells them, they all start laughing and looking back at us)

Judging by her looks, this woman had to be at least a million years old (or 29 unsarcastically). That same night, two weeks ago, we hit up the Fantasia Billiards Hall and Bar. The place was packed with townies at least 4 years ahead of me. By this time, I was a little too influenced by Cuervo to really take notice of these townies. It wasn't until I went this past Friday for a quick drink before Step Brothers that I became well-aware of the Burbank social elite.

Sitting outside with beers and cigarettes, Gladly and I discussed the differences between downtown bar culture and Burbank bar culture:

1. People wear Crocs at Burbank bars. 'Nuff said.
2. Burbank is becoming dominated by the Armenian and Mexican cultures. There were a lot of guys with hairy chests, goatees, and cheap gold jewelry.
3. I did not see any single girls. If there was a girl, she was already with a guy. I feel that this says a lot about meeting people at bars in Burbank.
4. The martinis suck.

However, the most "Burbank" experience I have had does not involve the use of alcohol at all. In fact, it was a conversation that took place outside the 7-Eleven on Glenoaks and Cypress:

Gladly (smoking cigarette and looking inside): Hey, I think I went to school with those kids.
Kage: The ones buying donuts?
Gladly: Yeah. Dude, they look really stoned.
Kage: Yeah, man. Even the Asian kid looks super stoned because you can't see his eyes.

Then, a super tiny little blonde kid with black ball piercings and his taller, fatter black friend make their way into 7-Eleven next to the two stoner kids. The two small kids could not have been any older than eleven years old. They exit 7-Eleven and start suspiciously loitering near us. I quickly make sure my wallet's in my back pocket and get ready in case shit goes down. You gotta always be prepared, no matter the size of your foe.

Black kid: Yo, man. You smoke?
Gladly and Kage: Yeah, man. We're smoking now.
Black kid: Shit, man. How long you been smoking?
Gladly: I'd say since around 16 or 17.
Kage: 'Round senior year of high school.
Gladly: But seriously, man, you shouldn't start on it. It's not worth it, trust me. We're lost causes, but you still have a chance.

The white kid hides behind the trash can, jumps out, and hits a car with a spit wad from his spit straw.

White kid: Score!
Black kid: You drink?
Gladly and Kage: Yeah, man.
Black kid: How old are you?
Gladly and Kage: 21.
Black kid: What the hell are you doing here then?
Gladly: Oh you know shooting the shit. But we're about to paint the town red, hit the bar for a drink, go see Step Brothers, and then hit up a party in Eagle Rock by some Bell-Jeff kids. Wild night (sarcastically)
Black kid: Cool, man. You drive?

At this point, I'm thinking two things: a) I know exactly where this conversation is heading, and b) Get to it already so I can say no.

Finally we decide to bounce. We say bye to the kids and give them sound words of advice (Don't start drinking until at least college). Then, my forecast is proven true as the black kid yells, "Yo, man, can I get a cigarette?!"

Gladly and Kage: Were you not listening?! NO.

I don't know what happened to my Burbank. It used to be such a nice little suburb and now it's just shadesters left and right. It's like Hot Topic exploded all over the city. It's cool when you're young, hanging out at Fuddruckers and playing Time Crisis. It's okay when you're way older and are raising a family because of the good schools and lack of gangs (so I assume).

But that in-between period is a real bitch.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

AC/BeerMe

Drinking with friends is always awesome. Drinking with co-workers, though, is an experience. At work, people are all about the jobs, and you're not really sure what jokes you can make or things you can talk about or even if you're allowed to talk because you have work to do. After hours, everyone loosens up (give or take a couple drinks), and you suddenly realize these people have lives outside of work, just like you! I had the pleasure of doing so this past week and had a fantastic time at a bar in Santa Monica called Air-Conditioned (yes, it had air-conditioning). This is perhaps one of Santa Monica's best kept secrets--the entrance is not flashy at all. If I hadn't known where I was going, I would never have guessed the place to be so classy inside.

Air-Conditioned is a small wine, champagne, and cold beer bar. I know, right? I didn't know that a bar could be so limited to those three drinks. I hear great things about the wine selection, but I just wasn't feeling like having una copa de vino, so I stuck with my two old friends Newcastle and Corona for the night. As I drank and listened to inside scoop from the office, I noticed something that rattled me. I don't know if it was the alcohol, but I swear I saw a baby standing on top of the bar. It was like an Ally McBeal flashback. I blinked my eyes thrice, took a sip of my beer, and confirmed it--there was a baby standing on top of the bar, being held by I'm assuming the father. The father was talking to the bartender, and my co-worker Toast (sorry, hun, it was just too perfect a nickname) commented that the bartender must be the mother. I thought to myself, "That or he's using the kid as a pick-up." It was just so unusual to see this in a retro-modern bar like Air-Conditioned, with its brown walls, super high ceilings, and DJ in the corner spinning sweet electronica. If you're ever on Pico and Stewart in Santa Monica, check this place out for a nice drink and intimate conversation.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Farmer's Market


A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Farmer's Market with my Polaroid and Canon Film Camera locked and loaded. Here's a small sample of what took place that day:






























Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hip Hop America

The other day I was driving around and realized that I didn't have any sweet hip-hop mixes to cruise around to in my lowrider Chevy Camarro with hydraulics all while I smoked a fat blunt.  So here you go, fellow gangstas: 

Hip-Hop America by Kage

1.  Dreamer by Atmosphere
2.  Pussy, Money, Weed by Lil' Wayne
3.  Get 'Em High by Kanye West feat. Talib Kweli and Common
4.  Xxplosive by Dr. Dre
5.  Daytona 500 by Ghostface Killah vs. Radiohead
6.  Thin Line by Jurassic 5 feat. Nelly Furtado
7.  Got Yourself A . . . by Nas
8.  I'm In Miami, Bitch by LMFAO
9.  Rapp Snitch Knishes by MF Doom
10.  The Star by Wale
11.  Big Poppa by Notorious B.I.G.
12.  Got Your Money by Ol' Dirty Bastard
13.  Cunninlynguists by RJD2 feat. Masta Ace
14.  Bump by Spankrock
15.  Regulate by Warren G feat. Nate Dogg
16.  The People by Common feat. Dwele
17.  Space Ho's by Danger Doom
18.  Shoot Me Down by Lil' Wayne
19.  Weed Song by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

Available on Project Playlist

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Strictly For Promotional Use

What up dear readers,

Just wanted to point out some new things about this dem here blog. As you've noticed, the right side of the site has become bombarded with links galore.

1. There is now an email subscription service for the blog, so if you actually do enjoy reading these posts as much as I enjoy writing them, sign up, and you'll get the weekly posts sent straight to your inbox! It's the best thing since sliced bread!

2. You can also subscribe via RSS Feed or Blogroll, if you have any idea what that is. Because I sure as shit don't, but thought "Hey, why not?"

3. There's a section now called "Ballin' Blogs!" that links to all the blogs and sites I currently read as well as the latest headline from that blog. If you guys know of any blogs I should be reading or want me to post up, send a comment my way.

4. There are advertisements in between posts. I would really dig it if you guys could just click on one once in a while. Click it open in a new tab, don't even look at the site if you don't want to, but just click away. Mad love to all you.

5. Leave comments! I appreciate any and all feedback.

6. Don't be a douche bag like Mr. Anonymous, who tried to spoil The Dark Knight for me by writing all the spoilers from the movie. Luckily, I had seen the movie before I saw the comment.

7. Look forward to my Dark Knight review, my long-awaited Wackness and American Teen review, and more polaroids and playlists to come!

8. Lastly, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has told me they checked out the blog and made a comment about it. It really just gives me confidence to keep on doing it. If you keep reading, I'll keep writing.

Stay classy, world.

Kage

Monday, July 21, 2008

Enjoy It Now Because After College It's Called Alcoholism

I really need to stop drinking at bars.

Well, not really, but my wallet right now is definitely feeling a ton lighter than it did two weeks ago. Somehow, it panned out that I was able to hit up not one, not two, not three, not four, not you get the point but nine bars this week (one night consisted of going to four bars as it was my best friend Surferdude's 21st birthday). One of the bars, as you've already read, was the magical Veranda Bar. Here's some shortened critiques of places Los Angeles offers to the drinker:

1. Dimples (3413 W. Olive Ave., Burbank, CA 91504)--Wednesday Night

Fuck Dimples. Fuck Dimples because it can go to hell. Wednesday night was the second time I went to Dimples, and it was the second time they screwed me over. Let's time travel back to about a month ago. Buckner, Boy Band, Chickenshit, Jelf (I'm hoping you've noticed by now that these are all nicknames), E.N.D., Cogan, Ravette, and I went for some good ole karaoke. This bar is a staple in the near-Hollywood district. The minute you walk in you are bombarded by kitschy flair and lights everywhere. The walls are adorned by TV screens showcasing either karaoke lyrics or the actual performers on stage. The place is just kind of a spectacle in high quality trashy bling. We went on a jampacked Saturday night littered with groups of girls celebrating birthdays. Rumor was that you had to tip the "Songmaster" in order to sing on stage. We tipped him $40 bucks. Two hours later, as we all got pretty wasted, we still had not sung. He kept promising us we would get to sing, and we kept waiting and drinking and waiting and drinking. When we finally concluded that we would not be singing that night, I said fuck this, stole the bouncer's cigarettes, and stormed out. Everyone followed suit. This past Wednesday they served my friend Pearl a gin-and-tonic minus the gin. There were only 15 people in the whole damn bar, and we still did not get to sing. Fuck Dimples.

2. Firefly (11720 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604) / The Spot (17200 Ventura Blvd.) - Thursday Night

I feel like Firefly came straight out of Swingers (1996). You know that scene where Mikey and his friend are looking for the bar, and Mikey says something along the lines of you know it's cool if there's no sign at the front? Yeah, that's Firefly. This hidden gem is probably the best of Studio City. While there's no sign out front, the ivy-covered front is a clear giveaway. What a classy reception area there was! Crimson red walls and velvet red couches adorn the library-themed reception area, which is directly situated across from the inside bar. It only gets better as you are greeted by the outside patio consisting of cabanas and candles on the left, a fireplace in the middle, another bar to the far right, and an A-shaped rooftop that expands to the outside sky and outside greenery. Drinks were about middle-priced with a dirty martini costing 10 bucks and a Maker's Mark Whiskey on the Rocks somewhere around the figure of 11-12 dollars.

Pro: Smoking outside welcome and the food looked delicious
Con: Erratic music. We came in hearing the seductive sounds of Portishead and then were treated to Green Day, Outkast, and Johnny Cash. It was like someone put their iPod on shuffle.

After some delicious drinks, Gladly, Wonderful, Balboa, and I decided that we needed a quick fix, so we hit up local high school hot spot / hookah bar The Spot. Although I'm of college age, I still do enjoy this smoke-tinged, strip malling, Persian-packed palace in Encino. Sure, it literally is in a strip mall, right next to a GNC and Kumon, but it's all under the Valley's skyline, and they offer amazing hookah and Black Tea. Definitely a great nightcap.

3a. Don and Cyn's Hideaway (12122 Kagel Canyon Rd., Sylmar, CA) - Friday Night, 8 p.m.

You know those bars in old western films or those trashy local cowboy bars in modern films? The Hideaway is exactly what you'd imagine, but more realistic: the bartender was this very friendly middle-aged, cigarette-reeking matron; a jukebox occupied the right corner; the back room sported the pool table and darts board; the outside patio held treasures meant to be sold only at garage sales. Surferdude had always wanted to go to this place because it's really close to his house. At first I was hesitant because he had brought a switchblade "for protection in case shit went down," but I later found the place to be quite charming. The schooner special (a huge goblet of beer) helped a bit, too. Apparently, the place gets poppin' on Friday and Saturday nights when live blues and western bands play. For a cowboy-frickin', finger-lickin' good time, and for an experience out of your safety bubble, I highly recommend this place.

3b. Jake's Billiards and Bar (38 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA) - Friday Night, 10:30 p.m.

A sweet hole-in-the-wall billiards hall and bar where couples and singles gather to drink, shoot around, and watch sports on the three flat panel TVs. With a bar in the far left corner, fifteen (relatively inexpensive) pool tables make up the rest of the bar. Surferdude and I met up with Kiddo and ordered a round of delicious Boilermakers (a shot of whiskey and a beer chaser, for the inexperienced) and went to play some pool, where Kiddo and I were dominated by Surferdude and his buddy Joe, who came later. The thing that makes this place stand out is the 40 oz. mugs of beer they serve. Trust me, for 7 bucks, these things fuck you up good. And with a DJ mixing classic rock with hip-hop that night and no pool hustlers in sight, a good time was had by all.
3c. Fred's Mexican Cafe / Wokcano Restaurant and Bar (119 E. Colorado / 33 S. Fair Oaks, Pasadena) - Friday Night, 11:45-12:50 p.m.

Surferdude and I were getting sloppy by this time. Somehow the topic of a Flaming Shot had become the focal point of the conversation, so the four of us went on a mission to find a place that served a flaming shot. Alcohol? Fire? Drink? Drunk? What more could you ask for in America? In my inebriated mental state, I somehow figured that a Mexican bar would be the most likely candidate to serve such a drink, so we made our way to Fred's Mexican Cafe (formerly Moose McGillycuddy's). To our dismay, the bar did not serve any flaming shots for safety regulations (whatever the fuck that means). However, the bartender somehow coaxed Surferdude and myself to drink something called the Duck Fart. It's just your typical mix of 1/2 oz. Jack Daniels, 1/2 oz. amaretto almond liqueur, and 1/2 oz. Bailey's Irish Cream. While the shot certainly picked us up (even though it tasted like ass, hence the Duck Fart), the bar was dead. We left to continue our quest for the Flaming Shot.

Wokcano did not pan out. It was jam packed with weird-looking Goth locals, the bar was tiny and expensive, and no Flaming Shot was served for "safety regulations" (whatever the fuck that means). We left after 5 minutes. Not much to say about this place.

4. The 901 Bar and Grill (a.k.a. The 9-0) (2902 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA)-Saturday Night

I don't know if I was drunk and made this up or I've actually heard it being said, but there's an old saying that says, "If you remember you're night at the 9-0, you didn't have a good time." My friends and I try to live by this motto every time we go, no matter how much we really don't want to go. Because here's the thing about the 9-0: no matter how shitty the place is (it's one room with a bar and some tables, no matter how dirty it is (people sweat beads, people spill drinks, sex goes on in the bathroom every now and then), no matter how bad the crowd is (you're bound to run into an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend at the 9-0, or someone you just hate, because everyone goes to the 9-0), you will always end up at the 9-0. It's that bar that years later USC graduates will think back and look fondly upon with so many memories. Sure, the drinks are overpriced and not that good. Sure, one Jack and Coke will be the gateway to you kissing porcelain. Sure, there's really not much to do there. But in the end, the 9-0 is there for you to get ridiculously drunk, hook-up, and ultimately make bad decisions that will inevitably lead to great stories. The bar is packed with gorgeous girls and fraternity boys looking to forget that it's a Thursday night and they have an exam the next morning. It's a place where college kids get to be college kids. I'm not a fan of it now, but I'll miss it when it's gone.

Just remember, kids: enjoy it now, because after college, it's called alcoholism.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Welcome To A World Where Batman Rules

The wait is nearly over. Ever since that final scene of Batman Begins, in which Batman is given the Joker's card, I have been anxiously awaiting the sequel The Dark Knight. I have never before been more excited and eager for a movie. I have never heard such hype and buzz about a film before (except say Spiderman 3, although, it is tarnished because of the harsh early reviews). Not only is it a Batman film, it has one of the greatest villains of all time--the Joker. Not only is it supposed to be a great crime drama, it's one directed by Christopher Nolan, you know that guy who did that other fucking awesome movie Memento.

Everyone is going fucking crazy for this movie, so in honor of mad heroes and mad villains, here's a funny article called "The 10 Mental Illnesses of Batman."

There have been many things to have contributed to this madness. Behind every great movie is a great marketing campaign, and The Dark Knight, with its seemingly limitless marketing budget has bombarded our homes with anything and everything relating to this movie. With less than twenty hours before its release, let's take a trip down memory lane and review the amazing marketing campaign of this film. You may remember this first image that was posted about 8 to 9 months ago. It was the first photo of the film that had officially been released by the studio.
I remember seeing this photo and thinking many things:

1. Holy shit, that's Heath Ledger?!
2. Dude, he looks scary as shit.
3. Maybe Christopher Nolan does know what he's doing, especially after casting the unlikely actor.
4. Dude, he looks like a crack addict with smeared lipstick.

Suffice to say, this first photo would not be the last. A couple months later, Warner Bros. released a couple of websites such as www.atasteforthetheatrical.com, www.ibelieveinharveydent.com, and www.ibelieveinharveydenttoo.com which provided some promotional materials from the film and then "Joker-ized" versions of these materials. The Joker's reign of terror had begun.

On August 28, 2007, the first teaser trailer for the film premiered. The trailer had no visuals, only dialogue, and blue lights streaming towards an undefined Batman logo. We heard the familiar voices of Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne and Michael Caine as Alfred, but then we were treated to the first hearing of the Joker's voice: "Tonight, people will die. I'm a man of my word. HAHAHAHA." I fell in love with that delirious cackle and deranged hunger in Heath's voice.

The opening sequence of The Dark Knight, in which the Joker robs a bank, was shown as a preview before I Am Legend. Unfortunately, I never got to see it, but from what my friends said, it only made them hungrier to go see the film.

A couple of weeks later, I saw the first Dark Knight posters at the Pacific Theatres 14 at The Grove. They were Joker-centered and pretty dark, I must say. I loved them.

Finally, the first official trailer premiered. "You've changed things . . . forever," hisses the Joker as the first glimpse of the Batpod races away from us. This was truly one of the best trailers I've ever seen, right beside if not better than the trailer for Spiderman 3. The first video image of the Joker was shown in all its ruthless glory. We explosions, the Joker's crazy cackle, the flipping of an 18-wheeler, and the music! oh the music! It's totally epic.

It's a bloody brilliant trailer. It even won an award (I forget what it's called, but it's a big deal) for best trailer of the year.

Then, a great sadness swept the world as on January 22, 2008, Heath Ledger passed away from an accidental drug overdose. It was the first time an actor's death had personally affected me. I had grown up watching Heath, from his first role in 10 Things I Hate About You to A Knight's Tale to his most revered role in Brokeback Mountain. Along with thousands of others, I saw his potential to be an amazing actor. He's the James Dean of our times.

Obviously, his death forced Warner Bros. into a frenzy as they had to review their entire marketing campaign. Do they continue what they are doing or change it to be more case-sensitive? After doing several forms of market research, it was concluded that displaying Heath's Joker face would not cause controversy or deter people from seeing the film. Now, though, every time I see Heath as the Joker, I feel like I'm looking at a ghost. Perversely, though, his death will probably attract more people to see the film. I still don't know if that's a good thing or bad thing, but I guess the movie should be seen as a testament to his last complete amazing performance.

After that, more posters and another trailer began hitting the public. With less than a month and a half away, Warner Bros. pulled out all their guns. We were hit with TV spots, posters, billboards, radio advertisements, internet advertisements. Less than two weeks to go, you could not go anywhere without seeing something Dark Knight related. Today alone, I went to maybe over 10 movie websites and blogs (I was really bored at work today), and not once did I NOT see an interview or web ad for this film. The Dark Knight has invaded the world.

This is definitely my favorite poster of their entire campaign.

The three major characters holding the thing that means the most to them: the Joker holds his card of chaos and his obsessive target on Batman. Batman holds one of his Bat throw things, representing justice. Harvey Dent holds a campaign pin, symbolizing his desire for power. Overall, it's like each character is holding their ace in the poker game for control of Gotham City.

Other posters and TV spots have begun showing more and more things to get you excited about the movie. One poster shows the latest gizmo The Batpod. One TV spot shows a longer clip of the Joker in a continuous scene. All the trailers and posters have hid something about the Joker, thereby making him an incomplete character, which makes sense because why would you want to see the movie if you already knew how his character was going to act?

Like I said at the beginning, I have never been around such hype and buzz for a movie before. I've had a lot of friends who have already seen it, and they've all said the same thing: the hype is true. It's not just a publicity tactic--the movie fucking rocks.

I've got my ticket for the 1:30 p.m. showing tomorrow at the Arclight in Hollywood.

Expectations are high for the film. Will it beat Spiderman 3's opening weekend record of $151 million? The movie has some elements that may not allow it to achieve this record: it's really dark and not that family-friendly; it has a running time of 2 1/2 hours; it's only opening on a 3-day weekend. However, the film has already set a record for advanced tickets. I've heard that IMAX tickets alone for the film are sold out until Tuesday. This movie, I guarantee, will be the number one film of the summer, if not, the year.

Welcome to a world where Batman rules.