Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Get Ready for the Weekend Wednesday – 082609

Let’s Go to Japan Edition

I’m on a Los Angeles walking tour fever this month. I won’t bore you to death with the details of the Little Tokyo Walking Tour here but I will mention a couple of other LA spots where you can enhance your Japanese experience.

UCLA Hannah Carter Japanese Garden

This estate donated to the University of California in 1965 is located about one mile north of the UCLA campus. It occupies one acre of the Belair community and is a true Los Angeles gem. The garden is only open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10AM to 3PM. Admission is free but a reservation is required. I highly recommend this Japanese garden. For more information, please go to

Let’s Eat

If you want to experience affordable great Japanese dining, go to Yamato. This restaurant has several locations in the LA and OC area. They have a location right on Westwood, so it’s very convenient for you to make a stop after your visit to the Japanese Garden. I’m not a sushi eater but my friends say sushi here is good (we’ll have to take their word for it). I can personally recommend almost everything on their regular and teppanyaki dinner menus. Very delicious!

A Japanese Version of Little Mermaid

Catch an early evening showing of Ponyo at the Landmark Regent theatre (located a block away from the Yamato Westwood restaurant). This updated version of “The Little Mermaid” is written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed other Japanese animated classics Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. According to Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly), Miyazaki’s retelling of this classic story transforms it to a “parable about keeping a planet in balance, and a vision of multigenerational love.” How can you not want to see that?

Little Tokyo Walking Adventure

I still want to encourage you to go on a docent-led or self-guided walking tour of historic Little Tokyo. You start the tour at the Japanese American National Museum on East First Street and you’ll see the “Go for Broke” monument, a replica of an old fire lookout tower, several Buddhist temples, and so much more. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sorry No Weekend Wednesday Post Today

I've had a tremendously challenging week (even though it's just Wednesday). Lots of changes ahead, work is piling up, hitting deadlines, school's starting, and a whole lot of other excuses. When you're stressed and emotions are high, that's when you should take time out. Unfortunately, getting ready for the weekend requires a lot of work, which requires a lot of time that I don't really have. This weekend's focus will be quiet, intimacy, peace and relaxation. I
encourage you to do the same - read a book, work on a hobby, take a walk or hang with your family. Take a break even from your weekend and just breath. See you next Wednesday and enjoy.


Update on 8/21/09

If you're in L.A., the Hollywood Outdoor Cinema is showing Fight Club tonight. Fun events start at 7:30 PM and the movie screening starts at 9PM. Click here for more info.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Get Ready for the Weekend Wednesday - 081209

A Walking Tour of Historic Downtown LA – Photographic Focus

(500) Days of Summer Edition

Since I've been dribbling about (500) Days of Summer continuously over the past few days, I'm going to continue with that theme and get it out of my system. The movie is set and shot in downtown Los Angeles, and it highlights great historic architecture around town. I narrowed down the stops are within the inner 10-blocks of the Old Commercial District. This route is only 3.5 miles all the way around and it has about 10 stops. I even created a supplemental map you can use.

I recommend doing this on late Sunday morning for great daytime photo lighting and I even provide a stop for lunch. This walking trip is dedicated to my friend Angie who is a great photographer and who just celebrated a birthday earlier this week.


Make this your first stop. There are several public parking lots in the area so it will make it easier for you to get back to your car. The Old Bank DVD is the setting for the record and video store scenes in the movie. It's located on the corner of 4th Street and Main and this area is called the Old Bank District. On the northwest corner is the old Farmers & Merchant Bank which is a great building to photograph.

Head south on Main Street and continue for about four blocks.


The next two stops are two buildings that were specifically called out in the movie as examples of great Los Angeles architecture. Tom took Summer on an architectural field trip and these were featured in that scene.

From Main Street, turn right on w. 8th Street then left on Broadway.

The Eastern Columbia Building located at 849 S. Broadway is near the Orpheum Theatre in what Angelenos refer to as the Broadway Theater and Commercial District. This 13-storey high building, constructed in 1930, is now a structure of 140 luxury condominiums.

From Broadway, turn right on W. 9th Street, right on S. Hill Street, then left at W. 7th Street.

Right next to the 7th Street Metro Center (corner of 7th and Flower), you will find the Fine Arts Building. This 12-storey structure is so beautiful I wouldn't do it justice with my descriptions. Admire the outside of the building and go inside to visit Gallery 1927. This gallery utilizes the ground floor of this building how the space was originally intended to be used. This at least gives you an idea of what the building designers wanted to do back in 1927.

Head southeast on W 7th St toward S Flower St, then turn left on S. Hope Street, then right on W. 6th Street.


From W. 6th Street, turn left on S. Olive Street.

On your right, you will see the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Even though this is not an official stop on this walking tour, I would hate for you to miss out on this photo opp. Go ahead and sneak a click.

Continue up Olive Street. Once you pass 4th Street, Angels Knoll will be on your right side. Climb to the top of the park and look towards the city. The view from here gives you a different perspective of downtown L.A. You may just end up wasting a lot of your time here taking photographs. That's completely okay but don't forget we still have one more stop before lunch.

Head northeast on S. Olive Street, traveling up about 3 blocks and turning right on W. 1st Street.


We're finally getting to where my favorite scene in the movie takes place. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays Tom in 500 Days expresses his joy in finally “getting the girl” with a big dance number. I won't spoil the movie for you if you still need to see it. Just know that you won't look at this next spot the same way again afterwards.

From W. 1st Street, turn left on N. Hill Street. Turn left between the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration and the Los Angeles County Court House. This is the Civic Center Mall and at the end of the mall, on your right is the Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain. Can you see the dance sequence in your head?


By this point, you would have walked about 2½ miles. You need some refreshments and sustenance. So head back down south on N. Hill Street, then turn left on W. 2nd Street.

The Redwood Bar & Grill is where they shot all the karaoke bar scenes for the movie. This pub, located at 316 W. 2nd Street, has a ahoy-matey ambiance. The gastro-pub fare is a well-deserved treat after all the walking you've just done. I suggest the Grilled Cheese with The Works. This means with fresh tomatoes, caramelized onions, and avocado slices – so worth the exercise.

Head southeast on W. 2nd Street, then turn right on Broadway.


Located at the corner of 3rd and Broadway, you will find the Bradbury Building. This five-storey building has an exterior facade in the Italian Renaissance style. That's not what's impressive about this building though.

In the movie, Tom goes for a job interview and this setting gives that sense of “moving up” and a quiet elegance. This place, I think, captures the romantic side of Los Angeles a lot of people really miss out on.

The building is open for visitors everyday but you will be limited up to the first landing only. The 5-storey atrium will feel familiar to you, as it has been used for a lot of movies and TV shows. The lace-work balconies and old-fashioned elevators create such a stunning visual display you will not be able to resist the urge to photograph as many angles as you possibly can.

As a bonus, across the street from the Bradbury Building is the Million Dollar Theatre. This movie house was also used in the film as Tom and Summer's movies destination. This is the first Grauman theater (as is Grauman's Chinese Theater, another famous Hollywood landmark) built in 1918.

Head down southwest on S. Broadway, then turn left on W. 4th Street.


In the movie while sitting on Angels Knoll, Tom points out a building he calls the first high-rise of Los Angeles. This is the first time Tom shares his passion for architecture with Summer in the movie. I think it's fitting that we end our walking photography tour with an up-close look at the Continental Building.

This 13-storey building is located on the corner of 4th Street and Spring Street, just one block west of where we started at the Old Bank District. It now houses condominiums with a pub at the street level, perfect for a last refreshment stop before you head home.

I want to credit the following shared Google Maps for providing a lot of the movie-related information and some historical data:

Los Angeles in (500) Days of Summer by the Los Angeles Times

Historic Downtown Los Angeles by twosevens

Share your photos with us if you decide to embark on this little adventure.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Falling in Love with Breaking Your Heart

I saw (500) Days of Summer last night and it was way better than I expected (and I was expecting a lot). This movie made me fall in love all over again—in love with Los Angeles, in love with architecture, photography, the Smiths, movie musical dance numbers, and just falling in love and breaking your heart. And, if you’re not already in awe of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, this movie will definitely make you fall in love with him. We need more films like this.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Get Ready for the Weekend Wednesday - 0800509


Kayaking the Huntington Harbour

Start your day right with a little bit of exercise and sight-seeing. Huntington Harbour has very mild waters so it’s really easy to paddle even for a beginner. If you’ve never kayaked before, this is a great place to start. HB has five man-made islands and you can see local homes (opulent homes with large boats parked on their private docks). You can rent from Sunset Kayak Rentals on PCH. They have the best staff and the prices are more than reasonable. You can get a three-man kayak for about $30.

16910 Pacific Coast Hwy
Sunset Beach, CA 90742

TK Burgers

Want to experience an old-fashioned California burger right across from the beach, near the pier? Visit TK Burger and experience what In-N-Out burger should be (soft bread, sauce and meat grilled to perfection). This is not a place for those who want a fancy. TK is a burger joint for those looking for a SoCal beach experience. Great place for lunch...

110 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA 92648


Farmer’s Market and Art-A-Fair Fridays

If you’re visiting HB on Friday, August 7, they have the Farmer’s Market and Art-A-Fair happening that day from noon to 5pm. You can pick up some California-grown fresh fruits, breads, meats and other food items for your evening picnic. You can also see some kitschy, beach items for your home or as gifts.

If you’re visiting on a different day, you can also get some bonfire picnic items from various stores at the Downtown HB Main Street. Or, just go to Coach’s Gourmet Deli on Main Street and Olive off the pier.

Nighttime Bonfires at the Beach

If you’ve never done this, then you have to do it just so you can say that you’ve partaken in one of SoCal’s beach tradition. NOTE: Stake your fire pit early in the day. This is such a popular activity during the summer – the fire pit competition get’s more heated than the beach volleyball games. Go here for more details.

Monday, August 3, 2009

So Let Me Explain

I'm not really willfully neglectful. I swear! There's so much I want to write here and talk about. But, as my blog title infers, I over-think things and I end up not writing anything. When I don't think I have a coherent train of thought or I haven't resolved an internal conflict, I can't get myself to just put it out here.

So what gives on the Wednesday Weekend's then? That one, I can honestly say, is because I don't feel like I have weekends. I've spread myself too thin and my days have been flowing in to one another. Sorry for that and I'll catch up this week.

So here's currently what's on my mind. Would I be any different from who am I today if I didn't move to California? What would my life be like? Would I be more content with that non-existent life than the one I have now?

OR Would I be the same skeptical, cynical, hard person with the nice smile? Do we really become a different person depending on the circumstances we live through? Or, are we pre-destined to have a certain kind of life?

See what I mean? You tell me how I can blog about things that wouldn't make sense to any one. If I try to distill my thoughts on this subject, I would be posting a totally rambling piece that will completely turn everyone off from reading. And, to make things worse, this is just one idea stream. I have more of these kind of nonsense running around in my head right now and I'm not sure which one to pay attention to.

While I'm trying to sort things out and come up with the next topic to write about, why don't you weigh in on these questions. Let me know what you think by posting your comments and keep your fingers crossed for Weekend Wednesday.