Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pink Saturday - pink pig!

It's Pink Saturday -  Beverly, at the blog "How Sweet the Sound" hosts Pink Saturday. Let the color pink inspire you.

Take a flying leap into the New Year! It's the fabulous pink pig of Topanga, festooned for the holidays!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Pearblossom HIghway

Click all photos to "embiggen"
CA route 138 is the Pearblossom Highway.  It runs through northern Los Angeles County's Antelope Valley, a high desert valley north of the San Gabriel Mountains and south of the Tehachepis.

It's dry here. It's so dry the vegetation is low, crabbed, and prickly - Joshua trees, creosote bushes, and cholla.  The ground underfoot is grey grit studded with rocks that are rounded from being tumbled in sudden washes, or shattered bits of quartz and granite.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fancy Fusion

For several years now, we have enjoyed both the food and the drinks at chef Sang Yoon's gastropub Father's Office.

Earlier this year, the chef opened a new restaurant, just a few doors away from the Culver City branch of Father's Office.

Lukshon is more sohpisticated place, stylish and sleek, serving Asian-inspired re-imagined small plates. Old favorites of Asian cuisine and even street food are updated, turned inside-out, or re-invented.

The menu items are painstakingly described, with a list of ingredients that include things I've never heard of. Even the cocktails are made with specialized teas and herbs and garnished with exotic pickled delicacies.

Dinosaurs in the desert

We're taking a road trip to the high desert. It's wild out here!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Malibu Christmas

Click to "embiggen"
 Christmas Eve, high on a hill in Malibu, looking out to the Pacific Ocean. That's Santa Barbara Island, to the left, and San Nicholas Island, on the right side.

Jack plays with his friends Franny and Lulu.

To the south and east, the lights of Santa Monica and the South Bay, and Catalina Island. And a giant edifice down the hill, new since our last visit, built by some mogul. Wonder which one of his chimneys Santa will come down?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Look Ma, no tailpipe!

When Our Son comes home for the holidays, it's a good time for him to catch up with old friends, and one of the biggest differences between London and where we live is that there's no public transportation here. L.A. is a town where you need a car, so this year when Our Son came home, we decided to rent a car so that all three of us could work, Christmas shop and visit friends without tying our schedules in knots.

Enterprise now includes the Nissan all-electric Leaf in its fleet. Because I work next to a parking garage with an EV charging station, I've been the lucky one to drive it, while Our Son drives my Honda Fit.

It's a beautiful blue, sleek car that glides silently down the "S" curves of the canyon like a spaceship. It can travel 100 miles on a full charge, but with my 10 mile commute, I haven't yet put its gauge in the "red" zone.

You can charge it with a regular household plug with a cord that travels with the car, but that takes about twelve hours. The one drawback about charging EV is that it makes a warm and cozy place for rats to nest - that's an issue here in Topanga. The one time we did charge it at home, we left the hood open, which is our standard rat-abatement method.

Plugged in
It seems much smarter to park it away from rat activity while at home, and let it charge up while I'm at work - the charging stations in Santa Monica are 220 volts and only take three or four hours for a full charge.

Today I went to the mall and found EV charging stations right there on the ground floor of the garage. The other cool thing about EVs are that - at least now - you can always find a parking place. The charging spaces are reserved for EVs, and the number of cars in use hasn't yet exceeded the number of charging stations in newer garages.

The charging station I use near my office is solar-powered - so in addition to driving "zero emission", I'm not powering up with carbon-based electricity, either. Pretty cool, don't you think?

The Leaf is a lot of fun to drive and surprisingly powerful, too. It has more get up and go than the Hondas. Or at least it feels like it, since you can't hear it reving. It has a GPS that also tells you where charging stations are located, if you're taking longer trips and worry about running out of a charge. For a regular commute, though, it's a great no-anxiety choice.

If you need a rental car for a short and predictable routine, next time try out a Leaf.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Have a Tiki, Tiki Christmas!

A bright, cold windy day and we're in the San Gabriel Valley. This is winter in Southern California. The Santa Anas are tossing the palmettos around high overhead.

Although we don't have snow, or mistletoe, you can tell it's almost Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


This house in the neighborhood on the west side of Silver Lake has a huge tree in its front yard....

And the tree is bedecked with chandeliers.

Dozens of them. Dripping glittering crystal prisms.

They are wired, too.

I'll have to come here at night and see if they light up. I'm not sure whether they are just up for Christmas or whether they are up year-round.

What a wonderful idea.

Here's an LA blog that mentions the chandelier tree, and in the comment the owner/artist explains. Go read it!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The essence of L.A.

Our Son, who's been living in the UK for a year, has returned home for the holidays. And while he enjoys living England, this afternoon he savored once again the true essence of LA.

Yucas shares a parking lot with a liquor store
Sitting in the winter afternoon sunshine at a flimsy table in a parking lot, eating a burrito from a tiny food shack, while the traffic in the street goes by.  The orange grease oozes through the paper wrapping and runs down your wrist.

A cochinita pibil burrito from Yuca's on Hillhurst in Los Feliz.

It's Los Feliz, so you expect hipsters
A liquor store on one side and a nail shop on the other.

Jack likes it, too.


Click to "embiggen"
It's so clear out that I had to pull off the road and take a photo of Catalina Island appearing on the horizon, off the coast.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More punk

(should I know this guy?)
 When Monday comes, punk rock will be far behind us, and all those mohawked guys will be washing gel out of their hair and going back to work at the office.

But tonight - it's Black Flag!

(Note: everyone has a phone or a camera. Everyone!)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rock on

 How can you be too old for punk rock?

 When a show bills itself the 30th anniversary concert, you know there's going to be some creaky bones in the pit.

Crowd surfing? At my age?
But the spirit is still willing.

Grrl band "A Pretty Mess"

 What's different from 1981 is that the bands all have grey hair

And everyone in the audience has a camera.

When the air smells like beer and sweat and marijuana, and the steam rises in the hall up to the ceiling

And you wade through a litter of crushed empty plastic cups on the floor, you know it's old school L.A. punk. Rock on till the lights come up and it's time to go, people!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pink Saturday - pink my ride

It's Pink Saturday -  Beverly, at the blog "How Sweet the Sound" hosts Pink Saturday. Let the color pink inspire you.

It was a typical Saturday afternoon in Hollywood. We'd hopped on the northbound Hollywood Freeway at the Sunset Boulevard on-ramp, and were threading our way through the Caheunga Pass. Past the stacks of the Capitol Records Building, past the Hollywood Bowl, past Universal City, where a sparkling white stretch Hummer limousine glided down the ramp. These things are pretty common in Los Angeles, but moments later, we were startled by a car we saw ahead in traffic.

A Barbie pink Bentley.

Oh, sure, there are lots of Bentleys in Los Angeles, but few as conspicuous as this. Who could it be? Curious, we stayed in our lane and hoped the flow of traffic would bring us alongside.

Click photos to "embiggen"
Pretty soon, we were just alongside the car, and from the passenger seat, I got a quick photo of the driver. A stylish dark-haired young woman.

As we passed and the pink Bentley receded behind us, [The Man I love] looked in the rear view mirror.

"There's another one."  The Bentley was behind us, but coming down the ramp was another pink vehicle.

This one proved to be a large SUV or truck, headlights blazing. It soon pulled alongside the Bentley as it changed lanes.

Just what was going on in the Caheunga Pass, with Barbie-colored vehicles racing along the freeway? I expected to see Angelyne's pink Corvette any second.

On came the pink truck. The fork as the Hollywood Freeway split into the 170 and the 101 Ventura Freeway, the Bentley moved to the left and overtook us - gliding past us toward the San Fernando Valley, the pink truck, meanwhile, right behind us and closing in fast.

We took the split to the westbound Ventura freeway, and the pink truck followed, then slipped into the right hand lane and stepped on the gas.

On it came, and soon it was beside us - it was a Ford F150 king cab pickup, driven by a blonde young woman.

Then it was gone.

After we got home, I googled "pink Bentley" and after a bit, discovered that - although Paris Hilton famously drove a pink Bentley for a while - on December 1, 2011 a size called StarzUncut featured a story about pop star Nicki Minaj and her new pink Bentley.

What do you think, was that Nicki Minaj we saw, cruising through the Caheunga Pass all alone in her new, $200,000 pink 2012 Bentley Continental GT?  Where was she bound?

And who was the blonde in the pick-up? Was it a coincidence both pink vehicles were together on the same highway? As they drove alongside one another, did their eyes meet? Did they nod approvingly at one another's iconic choice of color?

We'll never know. Los Angeles is full of stories, and I've probably given this one has way more meaning than it deserves.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Vocal fry

Several years ago I took a job in an organization where many of my colleagues were young, smart and capable women. When I started, I was trained by a young woman I'll call Natalie, and she had a habitual way of expressing the sentiment of affirmation, agreement - that is, "Yes."

She would smile, nod slightly, turn her downcast eyes to the side a little and growl, "Egg-zaaaaaaaaact-ley."  Tonally, it would go "Up - down - down." The quality of her voice was gravelly, a kind of almost scraping sound.

Another vocal tick common to young women is the tendency to end sentances on an up note? like you're asking a question? - this seems to convey the sense of  uncertainty or submission - you're not sure you're right and would defer to your listener if they chose to contradict you.

But this growly-voice is different. I started to notice it being used a lot, especially when the speaker wanted to be taken seriously, or in a professional setting. It's like they are deliberately pitching their voices lower in order to sound more authoritative. It's an increasingly more commonly heard tone of speech from women salespeople, women spokespersons, radio journalists - the young ones, at least.

Many singers use this growling sound - it's a signature sound for Britney Spears' voice. In this context, I think it's supposed to be sexy and assertive, almost predatory.

I even started to notice myself falling into the habit, and tried to control myself, because I don't like how mannered it sounds.

Well, I just learned the name of the phenomenon, or the name for that register of speech: "Vocal fry." It can be technically described as a low stacatto vibration produced by the fluttering of the vocal chords. For previous generations, vocal fry was considered a speech defect, or something that happened if your voice was damaged. In some languages, vocal fry is a intentional factor that signifies the meaning of a word. Vocal fry also has been used to frighten people - just remember how the child character Danny Torrance said "Redrum!"

A recently published study by Long Island University scholars Nassima Abdelli-Beruh, Lesley Wolk and Dianne Slavin found that college age women are increasingly more likely to use the vocal fry register in their everyday speech - almost 2/3rds of the women in the study.  The growling sound was most frequently used at the end of sentences.

Have you noticed "vocal fry" in your friends' and colleagues' speech? What's your take - annoying, or OK?
Do you "fry" when you speak?

At least I'm glad we know what to call it now. Maybe naming a fad mean that it's soon over.

UPDATE: You can hear vocal fry in the opening lyrics of Britney Spears' song "One More Time" or if you're not a Britney fan, you can hear it HERE.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Too much of a good thing - redux

What's your favorite sinful food indulgence?

What's your second favorite?

What if you had both together at the same time?

That's the question I asked myself when I tried the signature "Lobster macaroni and cheese" at the Santa Monica restaurant Blue Plate Oysterette.

I love lobster. I adore mac and cheese. The combination of the two should be divine!

Only it wasn't. It was too much. The rich taste of the lobster, which would have been wonderful dripping with butter - when paired with creamy cheese just tasted fishy. The tanginess of the cheese was muted.

I learned my lesson - I'll go with simple indulgences over complicated ones next time.

What do you think - divine or over-the-top?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Getting ready!

We're getting ready for the holidays!

Yesterday our phone and internet were both out at the house. Today they're back. I'm making cookies and in a few hours we go pick Our Son up at the airport - home from London for the holidays.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Fool in a $50,000 car

Open letter to the driver of a grey Mercedes E350 sedan:

Dear Sir,

Are you crazy? Did you happen to notice it's pouring down rain this morning?

Did it cross your mind that the driver of that 1990 Volvo wagon in front of you might have to brake suddenly, perhaps while hydroplaning on the sheets of water running down our twisting mountain road, or to avoid rocks or even boulders falling from the cliffs?

As a matter of fact, anything could happen.

January 9, 2005, rock on Topanga Canyon Boulevard. AP Photo
 So why have you  spent the last six miles with barely a car-length between your front bumper and his rear?


Concerned Topangan