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Monthly Archives: January 2014

The irony of living somewhere is that the tourists go out of their way to see the cultural landmarks and most residents don’t ever make the time.  So being a native, I’ve never taken the time to go see Watts Towers.  It likely does not help that the first thing most people think of in LA when you say Watts is not “giant folk art monument”.  I took the opportunity this month of being near a metro rail stop of taking the easy trip down.  It may not be the most common thing to be taking the subway in LA yet, but at least it was featured a good bit in Her.

Ha, like anyone follows this rule.

Ha, like anyone follows this rule.

The towers are a labor of love completely made by Simon Rodia during and in-between the two world wars over 33 years.  The man built 10 story towers without any scaffolding or help and only stopped because he fell off one day.  He went through two marriages and some serious alcoholism before devoting his life to this one task.

Ten stories of handmade cement, metal bars, and found items.

Ten stories of handmade cement, metal bars, and found items.

He was inspired by the spires and domes of the churches, festivals, and buildings of his youth in Italy. The whole thing looks like a boat if you see it from a certain angle, the tall towers forming its mast.

How the heck did he pour the cement like this?

How the heck did he pour the cement like this?  You can see how much detail work he put into each bit.

He was recycling (or upcycling?) with found items way before it was a thing.

He was recycling (or upcycling?) with found items way before it was a thing.  He found things along rail tracks, beaches, or just wherever he walked.  People also donated extra plates and he brought home things from his tile laying job.

He was inspired by the great thinking men of the past but couldn’t even read himself.  It’s quite impressive what he did with just the drive to make something for so long.

He really seems to like hearts.

He really seems to like hearts.

Seriously, what's with all the hearts?  He used fencing and pipe spigots to create designs in the ground and walls.  He must have done it pretty fast if he got this many designs in.

Seriously, what’s with all the hearts? He used fencing and pipe spigots to create designs in the ground and walls. He must have done it pretty fast if he got this many designs in.

Simon Rodia signed his name with the tools he used to build the towers.  He only used these tools and his hands to accomplish everything.

Simon Rodia signed his name with the tools he used to build the towers. He only used these tools and his hands to accomplish everything.

It was named "Nuestro Pueblo", or our town in Spanish.  He invited the neighborhood to use it as a church and location for celebrations like quinceaneras.

It was named “Nuestro Pueblo”, or our town in Spanish. He invited the neighborhood to use it as a church and location for celebrations like quinceaneras.

While the metro light rail runs pretty close to this area now, the red cars used to run right by it.  Rodia wanted to make something that made the people riding to the far edges of Los Angeles (this is pretty far out) wonder what in the world this structure could be.

The whole thing.  I can't believe that's ten stories.

The whole thing. I can’t believe that’s ten stories.

They give tours a few weekdays and during the weekend.  I managed to catch an accidental private tour with the friendly docent.  LACMA also has people there restoring this sort of hidden treasure.  They have two galleries and a video made while Rodia was still alive playing.  There’s also a jazz festival that occurs there in the fall, supposedly the biggest in all of Los Angeles.  How did I manage to run all over the world and miss this awesome spot in my own backyard?  Sometimes it just takes that extra effort, or a visitor or two, to see your own home in a new light.

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After a year and a half on the road, this is the most time I’ve spent in one city.  My activities were less blog exciting as I explored what I would like to be when I grow up.  I returned to America because although I enjoy exploring new places, I was itching to have a home again and to make some stuff instead of just consuming everyone else’s cultures.

The studio doesn't want us putting video cilps online.  Hopefully a still with a classy MTV style pixel blur is better.

The studio doesn’t want us putting video cilps online. A still with a classy MTV style pixel blur will have to do.

I had studied computer animation in college and I wish I had taken more traditional animation classes while they are still available.  I decided to amend that now by taking a class on something I’ve always loved, stop motion animation.  I thought it was the same thing as claymation, but I quickly learned it is not as we started working with puppets at the studio that makes Robot Chicken.  I had a lot of fun relearning some of the basics and a lot of character animation I did not know.  It became apparent pretty quickly that everyone else there was a professional animator or at least somehow involved with an animation studio.  I never really thought about how insular the animation industry is, not so different from the video games world.  Although I will always love animation, I reached the same conclusion I had reached about it years ago in college.  This is not a career for me.  What else then?

I spend a lot of my time cooking and eating so I’ve always wondered if I should go to cooking school.  Instead of paying a bunch to find out if that was something I wanted to do, I found someone I know to let me work in a kitchen.

Not at all from the bakery I was at.

Not at all from the bakery I was at.  Oddy I don’t have any pictures of the baked goods I made at the bakery.

While I still greatly enjoy cooking at home, I’m not cut out to be throwing around huge bags of flour and giant trays in the speedy environment of a production kitchen.  I never really acclimated to all the allergies and restrictions of the bakery I was at either, which may explain my lack of delicious looking photos.  At least now I know for sure this is also not a career for me.

I didn’t spend the whole year exploring new careers though.  Even in cities I have lived in for a long time there are always new exciting events to try.

The MP3 Experiment was in town to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The MP3 Experiment was in town to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

I’m very interested in participatory experiences so I was excited to see the MP3 Experiment was finally in Los Angeles when I was around.  Over a hundred people word headphones and listened to the same mp3 give instructions so that we operated as a semi-coherent flash mob.  At one point only one ear was used and the crowd split into various groups.  The event ended with a bubble blow up as seen in the picture and cupcakes for all.

Sometimes you make things for the evening.  This is a pinata from an Etsy + CAFAM craft night.

Sometimes you make things for the evening. This is a pinata from an Etsy + CAFAM craft night.

Learning weeks and month long things was very fun but also very tiring so it was helpful to do some quicker crafts as well.  Luckily there are events like the Craft And Folk Art Museum’s monthly collaborative craft nights so that I can learn how to make things like pinatas.  I’m pretty sure it’s also a thinly veiled open bar combined with a family event.

Being in one country or state does not mean I’m always in the same city.  I split my time between my last home of San Francisco and Los Angeles, where I am from. I guess some travel habits, like not being in one place, are hard to break.

Ah San Francisco, how I don't miss your weather.  That's Sutro Tower being swallowed by Karl The Fog.  Yes it has a name, and a Twitter.

Ah San Francisco, how I don’t miss your weather. That’s Sutro Tower being swallowed by Karl The Fog. Yes it has a name, and a Twitter.

I visited several times for various reasons.  Sometimes it was to catch friends before they moved or left on their own round the world travels.  I also participated in the Come Out and Play festival this year which was quite fun.  The actual event is blogged about over in my work blog.  I just like the excuse to explore the beautiful murals of the southern Mission District.  Some of the artists do not seem particularly friendly about having photos taken of their art so the best way to see it all is to go for yourself.

The Precita Eyes Mural Center told me this one was getting destroyed pretty quickly so I should see it while I could.  Ah the nature of outdoor murals.

The Precita Eyes Mural Center told me this one was getting destroyed pretty quickly so I should see it while I could. Ah the nature of outdoor murals.

I liked how expansive some of the murals are.

I liked how expansive some of the murals are.

I did not live in San Francisco that long, although I feel like I saw a lot of things.  There is always more hiding to be discovered.

A windmill in western Golden Gate Park.

A windmill in western Golden Gate Park.

While I was only in San Francisco for weeks at a time, I felt like they were much like my life there, crammed full of activity.  It is a vibrant city full of so many weird things going on at once.

Terrifying.

Terrifying.

It feels harder to know when to stop and blog when I am not physically changing locations every few days.  Hopefully this year brings more exciting things to explore and learn, and I’ll remember to blog it more often.