Monday, July 30, 2007

My First Spoke(n) Art Ride

Monte Vista

Once a month on the second saturday, a number of galleries in East L.A. in the Highland Park area have simultaneous art openings. Spoke(n) Art is an organized bike ride touring these openings. Bikes are ideal for this due to their ability to traverse tight urban areas without the traffic and parking congestion of numerous cars, or the time it would take to walk to the galleries further away from the center.

Monte Vista

Monte Vista

It was an awesome evening, with a fun crowd, interesting art, and exploring a part of town I'd never spent time in. I also had decieded to continue pushing my self by riding out from home in Santa Monica, and eventually riding back after an amazing afterparty held after the ride. There were events like drunken kiddy bike racing, and a live band playing surfer rock with a backdrop of bicycles lit up with christmas lights.

After Party

For any one with a love of riding, exploring, art, or any combination of the three, I highly recommend checking out Spoke(n) Art and seeing what's going on out East.

MorYork Gallery

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"So what are you going to do now?" "I'm going to Disneyland!"

My Disney Flickr Set


My friends convinced me to get a season pass to Disneyland, which I agreed to in large part due to the photo opportunities. Disneyland holds a unique place in American history and culture, a testament to American idealism, technical innovation, and artist vision, as well as excess, consumerism and tourism.

It's a Small World

Now with the season pass I can visit this focal point of America, without the pressure to hit all the rides in a day, and take a step back to really observe my surrounding's in the happiest place on Earth.

Eat Mickey

Monsters Inc

One thing noticeably different since my last time to Disney Land, which was the high school senior class trip, is the inclusion of a lot more Pixar licensed displays and attractions. The Turtle Talk real-time interactive show, with CG characters having real dialog with kids in the audience, was particularly impressive to me.

Turtle Talk

This was accomplished with a premade animation tree controlled by an operator for the movements, a voice actor impersonating the character, an automated dummy lip sync, and some amazing rendering engine that could do dynamic lighting on a very large, high resolution display. It's not perfect, but it's well done and really shows a lot of potential. I'd never seen anything like it before.

Submarine Ride

Holographic displays of characters from Finding Nemo were also added to the remodeled Submarine Ride, which attracted a long line all day. Most of my photos from down there didn't turn out, but I'll try again next time.

Electric Light Parade

I definitely have to hand it to Walt Disney. A man with a grandiose vision, who built under his meticulous oversight, and the design & craftsmanship of the Imagineering team, another world that would live on to attract millions of people from across America, and the world. I highly recommend watching some of the Disney Vault DVDs, several of which include footage of Disney in his own words as well as friends who knew him. Hearing him speak about his ideas, it's hard not feel the optimistic excitement he had for what the future would have in store for us.

Mickey & Walt Mosaic

Walt went to great length's to see his ideas realized, gathering the brightest minds, and artistic talents to his studios & workshops. Some of his educational films, were of significant cultural impact on events such as World War 2 and the space race. It's not all fun and fairy tales. Going into great detail is outside the scope of this blog, but the history of Disney is an interesting one.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Ride-Arc "Incarceration, Gentrification, and Homelessness"

Transitional Housing
"Transitional Housing"

On July 6th, Ride-Arc hosted their 2nd Anniversary ride on the eye opening but bleak topics of homeless population shifting, upper class developments amidst poverty stricken areas, and the rapid expansion of the incarceration system.

In front of needle exchange clinic
"In front of needle exchange clinic" (Pictured is Alex Amerri, one of the ride founders.)

Contrast in demographic could not be more apparent then in Downtown L.A., with upper scale loft/condo developments springing up with 4 million+ dollar pent houses, literally only blocks away from transitional housing, a needle exchange clinic, and homeless encampments.

In front of needle exchange clinic
"In front of needle exchange clinic"

Right at the heart of the city a new large scale jail facility is being constructed near the Civic Center. Already standing is the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, the largest such jail in the United States, and was of monumental expense to the State of California. This facility is able to house a high concentration of prisoners through the use of a panopticon inspired design.

Twin Towers Correctional Facility
"Twin Towers Correctional Facility"

In a panopticon, inmates are housed in a tower with a circular or polygonal floor plan and a single guard on each floor in the center, who is able to watch any inmate on the floor from a single location. This particular facility also subdivides cells on each floor into two half floors to stack more cells into less space, and one way optical glass is used to keep inmates unaware of when the guard is actually watching them.

Twin Towers Correctional Facility
"Twin Towers Correctional Facility"

Twin Towers Correctional Facility
"Twin Towers Correctional Facility"

Then we made our way back to the SCI-Arc campus, for food, drink, and music. It was a fun after party in spite of it concluding our trip to the county jail. I didn't get any pictures of the party it self, as it was low light (didn't bring my flash) and I didn't want to feel like I was in event photographer mode. It was interesting to walk around the campus a bit though and I took a few pictures inside.

SCI-Arc Campus
"SCI-Arc Campus"

At art school we had a our fair share of drafting tables for doing illustration work, but SCI-Arc is the champion of most drafting tables in a single building I've ever seen.

SCI-Arc Campus
"SCI-Arc Campus"

I was also highly captivated by a simple chair hung from the ceiling in a small gallery space near the entrance. It's amazing how different a feeling you get from something so familiar when it is simply presented in a different way.

As things were starting to settle down I got involved in a long and interesting discussion with the Ride-Arc organizers and a girl I had met at the Independence Day critical mass ride a few days previous. Debated were pro's and cons of wealthier people moving into downtown, other social issues, environmental problems, and how different demographics react to these issues. I'm looking forward to the next event if for no other reason then the conversations that can happen.

SCI-Arc Campus
"SCI-Arc Campus"

After the after party there was a bunch of folks still seeking yet more adventure. I joined them in their quest for an early breakfast and drinks, as we indecisively meandered the streets of downtown looking for something that was open. We finally stopped at a local diner, and made conversation over toast and jam. Finally at what was then I think 5:15 in the morning, I rode my bike back to Santa Monica.

Reflecting on my Independence Day Weekend.

This last weekend was the most exciting time I've had for a fourth of July ever. It's not usually a holiday I really get into, but I got two days off from work, took an extra day off and had a five day stretch. I ended up participating in a different group bike ride each of those five days, doing in total I think close to 180 - 200 miles.

The first day being on the 4th, was a critical mass gathering of a couple hundred bicyclists, taking over the streets riding from Santa Monica to the Venice side of Marina del Rey for the big fireworks show. Of note was a guy out there with barbecue on the rear rack of his bike, with coolers hanging on each side, and he started cooking food at the after party. The party was a lot of fun, with music, dancing and people lighting fireworks. Some of us also went down to hang out the beach afterward, a few even swimming, as the water is warm enough for that at night now.

The second day I went out to my second Cubcamp, a fast pace group of riders that goes out every Thursday night, and on Tuesday nights they have Cubscouts ride, scouting the route for Cubcamp. They were doing a practice ride for the All City Team Race East to the Beach, an underground street race hosted by the Wolfpack Hustle. This involved going from east Hollywood to Dockweiler beach as fast as possible the whole way, and trying to keep a paceline formation going. I've never riden that fast for such a sustained length of time before, it was certainly grueling, but also exciting.

On friday, was the second anniversary of the monthly Ride-Arc, a group ride hosted by students of SCI-Arc university. Each ride has a theme, and is led through different parts of Los Angeles stopping along the way to discuss architectural trends and history at the architecture being discussed. Bikes are a pretty ideal way to do this as you are able to cruise slow enough to appreciate your soundings,unlike cars, but able to cover far more ground then walking. It was an eye opening experience and I had an amazing time, I'll write more about this ride in a future post accompanied by photos I took from the event.

On saturday I joined the "Pier Pressure" ride because everybody is doing it. It was a more casual paced ride starting at the Santa Monica Pier and cruising toward Venice in search of the 7-11 that had been converted to a Kwik-E-Mart for the Simpsons movie promotion. Was a fun little ride, and I learned some new little routes cutting through Venice. I also got my self a Squishee and a hyperactive pink cartoon style donut, the most junk food I've had in months. I didn't finish the Squishee though, it was pretty overrated I felt. Afterwards a couple of the riders went out to see a gallery opening in Culver City so I joined them for that, and the day became an all day sort bike ride adventure.

On sunday morning I joined the West L.A. Cycling Club, which I've been doing for a couple weeks now, for their up the coast from the Marina area to Palos Verdes ride. They are a friendly group of folks, and the ride is about 35 miles (plus my miles getting to the start and getting home) with a little climbing. For how crazy I've gotten though, this has become my wind down for the week ride, and the route is ideal for a chill pace and chatting part of the way. The coast is always nice, and as usual gorgeous weather.

After that it was off to Disneyland, as my friend Sam had invited me to come with her and her boyfriend. They talked me into getting a season pass, which I agreed to if for no other reason then the photo opportunities. I find Disneyland to be an interesting intersection of American idealism and fantasy, consumerism and excess, technical innovation and imagination, as well as being a mixing pot of various demographics within America, and tourists from around the world. I'll be starting a Flickr set soon, with my Disneyland adventures.

Sunday was also the day the street race mentioned earlier was happening, and I found out the Cubs got third place in spite of a rider taking a nasty fall, causing a couple minutes to be lost. Apparently a car pulled out suddenly forcing one of the riders, Rich, to brake suddenly, and the rider behind him in the paceline, Annie, slammed into Rich's back tire and flew off the bike getting some road rash along the way. She got back up, made sure nothing was broken, and they went on to get third place, with apparently only 30 seconds between them and the first place team. Big props to the Cubs for pulling that off.

Then came Monday, and my weekend that I wished could just keep on going, finally came to an end. I met so many interesting people and had so much fun. This whole experience getting involved in the local bicycle scene, has given me a renewed appreciation for living in Los Angeles and taking advantage of what it has to offer. I look forward to more adventures in this big crazy city.

Most of these rides were found using the following links as resources:

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Veterans for Peace, Santa Monica Demonstration

Back during the memorial day weekend, I took some photos of the crosses put up by the Veterans for Peace. It's been happening on the north side of the Santa Monica pier every Sunday for a while now. My first time seeing it, I ended up helping them out with moving the empty display coffins, as they were looking for volunteers.

Veterans for Peace

It was a surreal experience walking in procession with symbols representing casualties of war. It's also unsettling to not see it for a few weeks and go back and see it has been growing, a reminder that while we are home enjoying life, elsewhere the war continues on.

Veterans for Peace

I took the first few during the afternoon, then went on a bike adventure (posted about earlier), and came back to take photos at night. At night each cross was lit with a candle, guarded from wind by a red plastic cup.

Veterans for Peace

Whether you're for or against America's involvement in Iraq, I think it is an eye opening experience to see a visual representation, rather then the abstraction of listening to a number or reading a statistic.

Veterans for Peace

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My first members only night at the Longbeach Aquarium (6-25-07).

Aquarium of the Pacific

A few weeks ago I went on my first members only night at the Aquarium of the Pacific. I decided to become a member since I tend to go at least 5 or 6 times a year, and it only takes two trips for the membership to pay for it self. It was a fairly large turnout, but by comparison to a usual weekend day, it was very chill. It was nice having more time to spend at each tank, and they also had a few special features, such as a diver talking to the crowd from inside the large tank in the main hall, and an open house of the educational area in the back, which they use for kids classes.

Aquarium of the Pacific

I also watched an awful cartoon about a girl and her pet shark. A shark that only she can understand, is quite large, and walks around in the air, and whom becomes addicted to sushi after she takes him out for his birthday. A silly plot for a cartoon doesn't necessarily mean it will be bad, but mediocre animation, poor dialogue, and not so funny jokes abounded. I unintentionally won a drawing for the Cartoon Network dvd of this thing, but declined it so some child too young to care yet could enjoy it. I love sharks, so I was a bit sad to see such a poorly made shark cartoon, but as always the real sharks were fun to watch as they prowl around.

Aquarium of the Pacific

As my number of photos has continued to grow, I've started experimenting with the collections feature, so my flickr sets may be shifting around and their contents reorganized. Hopefully none of my past links are broken by this, and if so I'll try to get those fixed once I settle on my organization scheme.

Aquarium of the Pacific

Aquarium of the Pacific (flickr set)

Aquairum of the Pacific (official website)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Bicycle Block Party

I decided to check out the block party celebration for the closing of the Los Angeles run of the Bicycle Film Festival, and got my first taste of the bike street culture at the heart of downtown. Feeling a little tired from a hard week of riding, I wasn't up to ride out there the whole way, so I took a bus bike combo, not wanting to show up for a celebration of bicycles in a car. I'm also trying to do more trips I would otherwise use a car for by bike, the night before having gone to a birthday bash in La Brea all the way on bike, with a change of clothes in the trunk bag. It took a lot less time then I thought it would, and I ended up there sort of too early.

Back to talking about the bike block party; which was loaded with fun, games, people busting moves, tons of bikes parked everywhere (lots of fixies out there), vegan food and delicious home made lemonade. The little area at the corner of Melrose and Heliotrope where it was held, is a perfect spot for such an event, with Orange 20 Bikes (a shop specializing in urban & commuter bikes) and Bicycle Kitchen across the street (a do it your self bike shop that teaches people how to build their own bikes out of donated parts or make repairs to their own bike). It was a blast being out there, and I look forward to the festivals return to L.A. next year.

Orange 20

Skids Contest

Skids Contest

Foot Down Contest

Freestyle Session

Big props to the Bicycle Film Festival (which unfortunately I did not get a chance to see the films, but I'll grab a copy of the dvd when it releases), Orange 20 bikes, who hosted this shindig, and the Los Angeles Country Bicycle Coalition for supporting the L.A. run of the event (an organization of which I am now a card carrying member, and organizer for the L.A. River Ride mentioned a few posts back).