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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mmmm. Garbage ...

El Rey Taco Stand: southeast corner of Normandie & Martin Luther King in Los Angeles.

"Home of the Garbage Burrito"

Mmm. Garbage ...

Actually, it sounds delicious. Any place advertising a "Garbage Burrito" has to be good.

I drove by ... sometime I'll have to stop and sample. Here's a link with some comments about El Rey:


On Location in Los Angeles

As I've shared before, parts of Los Angeles can feel like one giant back-lot.

According to the website, on any give day one hundred different ads, commercials, TV shows, or movies are being filmed on the streets of Los Angeles.

Of course, most aren't as elaborate as this crew I stumbled across last October. This is on Broxton Avenue in Westwood Village, a couple of blocks from UCLA.

Broxton is apparently a very popular location for filming. This isn't the first time I've seen a movie crew here, and the street's been used in films like

Broxton is a one way street in Westwood Village, and - with very limited traffic flow - filming causes fewer problems for pedestrians and merchants.

As an aside, years ago my mom worked at the Walden Books located on this same city block. Pop star Michael Jackson came into her store one day, dressed up like old man. She didn't recognize him until she looked at the name on his credit card and hear a very high pitched "thank you" when she handed him back the card. True story.

The Walden Books is long gone, but here's a public parking garage on on the same block. I noticed the crew on my way to work. I wandered around for a few minutes, just to see what what going on.

It's incredible how many people it takes to shoot one simple scene. The shooting here took at least two days, and there had to be at least 200+ people involved. Most of the time their work involves waiting.

I honestly have no idea what it takes to make a movie. The actor on the right is probably someone famous . . . but I'm not the one to ask.

Question: how does a camera crew deal with harsh shadows in an outdoor scene?

Answer: create your own cloud cover. I've seen this in a backlot before, but somehow the crew was able to get permission to build a screen over a public street to midegate shadows from the sun.

Here's another shot of the screen above Broxton. Wow, huge.

photo credit:

Here's a final shot from the film "Dinner For Smucks" (no, I didn't see it).

Just another day on the back lot of Los Angeles. Time to get over to campus (aka work).

View Untitled in a larger map

.© 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kyoto, Los Angeles: the UCLA Japanese Garden

Another hidden treasure here in Los Angeles is the UCLA Hannah Carter Japanese Garden, located less than a mile north of campus on Bellagio Road in the residential neighborhood of Bel Air.

I've lived in Los Angeles off and on since age 7 - and have driven within a few blocks of this location hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times. Like most people, including the vast majority of UCLA students and alumni, I never even knew it was there.

The UCLA Japanese Garden is in the secluded and tony residential neighborhood of Bel Air. The Garden is part of a former estate
and as a result have a grand total of two parking spaces. Needless to say, entrance to the Garden is by reservation only. More on that in a bit.

During the first week of January, I took an hour around noon to see what the Garden was all about. This is the entrance off their micro parking lot. There is no street parking, so again - reservations are a must (and they do have someone at the entrance who checks). Oh, and admission is free.

Wow. I was impressed! There were beautiful streams, waterfalls, pathways, trees, rocks, and ferns. As the only other person there was doing some sort of maintenance for the University, I had the entire garden to myself - which actually felt a little weird. To me, that one of the few negatives of this Garden.

The Garden was donated to UCLA in 1965 by Edward Carter, then Chairman of the Regents of the University of California. It's style and design based on the gardens of Kyoto, Japan.

January in Los Angeles.

I'm sure the Garden is beautiful anytime of the year, but for me, it was especially impressive to experience this in the middle of winter. Pictured above is small ravine was filled with large ferns.

Parts of it felt like Hawaii, minus the airfare.

Another view from one of the pathways. Much of the Garden is built on a hillside (after all, this is Los Angeles) so if you visit, bring appropriate walking shoes.

You'll want to read over their website before making a visit:

For a reservation to visit, call 310 794-0320 or email

The Garden is only open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am-2pm. I know, a total of 12 hours a week: very limited hours. But it's a special place and I'd definitely recommend making an effort to visit sometime.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Gladstones: Friday Morning, January 8th

Thursday January 8th I was driving along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) just south of Gladstones Restaurant at Sunset Blvd (in Pacific Palisades) at about 10:30am.

What caught my attention was how how incredibly crowded the surf spot was. I'd never seen it so packed.

I pulled over and took a few pictures. Here's a wide angle shot - the rock outcropping to the right is where Gladstones Restaurant (corner of Sunset Blvd & PCH) is located. For people out of the area, this is all within the city limits of Los Angeles.

A winter storm elsewhere in the Pacific made for some ideal surf conditions here in Southern California.

Surfing is perhaps the only sport I can think of where those involved don't necessarily want others to join them (especially at "their" spot).

Everyone was crowded in this one spot because this is where the waves were really breaking. A couple hundred yards away, the water was literally empty. And, of course, with temperatures (water temperatures) in the 50's, everyone was wearing a full wetsuit.

I love this shot. One photo. Twelve guys up on three (or is it four?) different waves. Wow.

And how many guys are waiting for the next set? Over fifty.

It was a Friday morning.

Don't people have jobs?

Time to get back to mine . . .


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Saten in Los Angeles

This personalized liscence plate caught my attention.

How would you pronounce it?

Satin? (as in the fabric)

Satan? (as in Lucifer)

Here's a close up (both pictures taken through my windshield).

Someone told me Saten is a Persian (Iranian) name and is pronounced "sah-TEN".

Either way, they're driving a big car.

Welcome to Los Angeles. Don't get in an accident with Saten.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Clown Building and More, Venice California

The Clown Building is located on the corner of Rose Avenue & Main Street, in Venice California.

According the the website "Sculptor Jonathan Borofsky's creation is three stories tall, standing on a large crate above the entrance to a Long's Pharmacy (likely a relatively new tenant.) The clown was created in 1988 with aluminum, steel and painted fiberglass. Borofsky's intent was to capture the festive street performer mashed up with a "formal classical ballet dancer."'

Most "roadside attractions" (giant dinosaurs, jack-a-lopes, world's largest ball of string, statues of Paul Bunyan, etc) are fond along rural highways, designed to get drivers to stop and spend some money.

The Clown Building was just designed to add to the overall ambiance of Venice. And in that case, it's very successful. Kind of like this mural "Isle of California" (1972) located at 1616 Butler Avenue over in West Los Angeles. More on the "funky side" of Venice in a bit.

Last night I came across a link to a church in Denver called Scum of the Earth Church. I kid you not, there actually a church called Scum of the Earth: According to their website, they are a church for "the left out and the right brained."

Their name comes from a passage in the New Testament: "When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world." (St. Paul's 1st Letter to the Corinthians, 4:12,13).

Wow, that's an amazingly gusty name for a church.

Thinking of the crowd in and around Venice, I wonder what kind church - if any - this gritty outdoor piano player (on the Venice Boardwalk) would ever consider being part of? Maybe that's the last thing he'd ever consider. Maybe, but maybe not. My guess is a church that goes out of their way to welcome anyone and everyone, or as their website says "the left out and the right brained."

I'm wonder if our friends in Denver would ever consider a church plant in Venice?

© 2010


Friday, January 1, 2010

Where Bowers of Flowers Bloom in the Sun (Rose Parade, Part III)

122 years ago a group of local Pasadena boosters decided to show off and high light the mild Southern California winters to the folks back East with a "little parade" down Colorado Blvd. The "little parade" developed into the Tournament of Roses.

The original Tournament consisted of a Parade, diversions like chariot races, and eventually a football game. Over the years it focused on the Parade and the football game.

These are just a few close ups of the flowers and floral work on various floats from the 2010 Rose Parade.

With over 16 million people in greater Los Angeles, I'd say that the local boosters did a pretty good job convincing people to move out to California.

Every float is required to be entirely covered in organic material, including - of course - flowers. This is a close up from the Cal Poly float.

"Where Bowers of Flowers Bloom in the Sun."
The beautiful January morning, bright sunny skys and gorgeous flowers remind me of a line from the old song California, Here I Come.

Wow: bright! Here's a close up of the backside of the Kaiser Permanente float: "Magnificant Tales of Health."

These last three photos are from the Bayer Advanced float: "We Are The Champions."

As I shared in a similar post this time last year, with everything going on in the world (war, famine, natural disaters, civil conflicts, etc.) as a Christian is it trival for me to even wonder what God thinks about like the Rose Parade? Or, perhaps, better, what does God think about flowers? What does He think of His creation?

As a friend and professor a California State University, Northridge, stated: "a clearer view of the creation gives us a clearer view of the Creator." Theologians call this natural revelation. In the first century, Saint Paul wrote to a group of Christians in the city of Rome: "for since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made ... " (Romans 1:20).

There's many reasons why I like taking my family to the Rose Parade, but one reason is enjoy the magnificance, variety, and splendor of the creation. Not to worship it, but the One who made it all.

Perhaps it's just me, but I find the Rose Parade as spectacular as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley, or the Redwoods. And living in Los Angeles, a lot closer.

What a wonderful way to kick off 2010.

Here's a couple of links to where we watch the parade (if you're looking for some tips on where to sit) and some more of the 2010 floats.

Happy New Year.


A Cut Above the Rest (Rose Parade, Part II)

Huge, flowered covered floats are the highlight of the Tournament of Roses (aka the Rose Parade). This year's Parade, based on the theme A Cut Above the Rest, was no exception.

Our spot (where we sit) is along Sierra Madre Blvd, just north of the 210 Freeway. It's towards the end of the Parade route, and allows us to show up around 9:30 and still see the Parade in it's entirety.

I'm always impressed by the floats sponsored by local Los Angeles area cities: Burbank, Downey, Cerritos, Duarte, West Covina, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena (am I forgetting anyone?). Here's the beautiful float sponsored by the nearby city of Alhambra. Nice job!

Of course, the corporate sponsored floats are equally as impressive. Here's the China Air float, featuring a Chinese Dragon. I'm not sure how they were able to work in the theme A Cut Above the Rest. No matter. Regardless of the theme, there are always seems to be at least one or two dragons in every Parade.

Here's the second one: a large, green origami dragon, which - of course - moved up and down. Very creative and impressive! One of the stipulations for the Tournament is that every float has to be completely covered in organic material. The float builders get very creative.

Here's the Kaiser Permanente float. I like that fact that most corporate floats have nothing to do with the produce of service they provide. Just something beautiful and amazing to look at.

Here's the back side of that same float. Once again, we were able to enjoy a bright, sunny New Year's Day with temperatures in the 60's. It's only rained once on the parade in over fifty years. Incredible, really.

This undersea themed float "Jewels of the Pacific" was sponsored by the city of Downey. As we were sitting or standing on metal folding chairs towards the back of the crowd, I was able to follow some of my favorite floats for a block or so, snapping pictures. This was one of them.

I'll finish with this amazing float from the city of Burbank. It featured a barnstorming plane (a nod to their city's regional airport and history with aviation) with some incredible animation: the plane moved up and down ....

... soaring and twisting! Again, the entire float is covered in flowers and other organic material. Wow.

Really fun. Many thanks to the thousands of volunteers that allowed us, and a million or so of our closest friends, to kick off and celebrate the New Year.

Some final thoughts on the Parade in the next post.