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Taiko drumming: ‘Not just Asian anymore’

Maz Baba

This week, 500 international masters and scholars of Taiko have descended on Los Angeles for an unprecedented gathering.
They’re dissecting every aspect of this unique style of drumming and performance, and this weekend in Little Tokyo, they’ll show their stuff in several public performances.
To mark the occasion, we spoke with Masato Baba, considered to be the best Taiko drummer in the United States. A native …

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One person’s trash is another’s masterpiece: Found objects as art in ‘Diverted Destruction’

Hollywood by Crystal Fischetti

Liz Gordon has been in the salvage business her entire adult life.  For the past 7 years, besides selling old stuff – knobs, chandeliers, fixtures of all sorts – she’s given it away, and encouraged people to make art with it.
She calls the effort “Diverted Destruction.”
This year’s theme is paper, aka the pulp edition.  (She’s already got next year’s picked out: Textiles.)  A show she’s …

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Origami physicist fuses art and science


Dr. Robert J. Lang abandoned his career as a physicist to become a full-time origami artist, but that doesn’t mean he turned off the scientific part of his brain.
He describes his artistic process as one of the foremost artists in the craft as “almost mathematical, very geometric.  I take the subject and try to break down the subject mentally into component pieces and then …

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The story of our national anthem, and the man who wrote it


Most people know the name Francis Scott Key, and perhaps even that he wrote the country’s national anthem. Writer Marc Leepson‘s new biography What So Proudly We Hailed, reveals the history of the song, and more interestingly, the man.  It’s a perfect read this week as we commemorate the birthday of the United States.
Another timely reason for this book: It’s the 200th anniversary of the Star …

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A confused identity, a mother’s quest: writer Brando Skyhorse delves into his difficult childhood in a new memoir

The writer Brando Skyhorse with one of his fathers, Frank

If you’re looking for a page-turning summer read, and if you love personal stories that make your own crazy family seem like “Leave it to Beaver,” consider Brando Skyhorse’s new memoir, “Take This Man.”
Much of the action is set on Portia Street in Echo Park, where Skyhorse grew up with his mother, his grandmother, and a rotating cast of potential fathers.  (His biological dad left …

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From high school prom to the Kennedy Center, these teenagers dazzle

I had to take a selfie with Gabriela Campo so I could prove I knew her when.

When I met Gabriela Campo outside the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts a few weeks ago, she told me she was doing a juice fast.
“Prom,” she explained.
While this newly-minted high school graduate looks and behaves like any other young woman her age, she’s also about to have an experience few 17-year olds do: Next week, she’ll perform at the Kennedy Center …

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Bergamot blowout: How the Expo Line complicates, divides, a busy corner of Santa Monica

What Bergamot could look like, as rendered by 26th Street TOD

What the heck is going on over at Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station arts complex? Since a huge parcel on the arts community’s western edge was seized by eminent domain to make way for the coming Expo line, nothing concrete just yet. However, the project has stirred up a whole lot of dissent and fear that’s divided the community. And, could potentially drive out one of Bergamot’s key …

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Photographing a changing Downtown LA

photograph by William Reagh

Every day, it seems, comes the announcement of a new development in downtown Los Angeles. But the current transformation isn’t the first time for the neighborhood. Back in the sixties, nearly 150 acres around Bunker Hill were claimed by the city through eminent domain, and mowed down to start from scratch.
The late photographer William Reagh was there to chronicle every step of it. Over …

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Letters from the front: A play gives voice to the men and women who serve


Letters of the hand-written kind may seem quaint and anachronistic. But to Andrew Carroll, they’re rich historical documents from which we can extract and learn “the world’s greatest undiscovered literature.”
For years, Carroll’s been collecting letters to and from veterans of wars from every conflict in US history, amassing over a hundred thousand to date. (Emails, too.) They’re the foundation of two books as well …

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Tattoos explode, right before your eyes, from body to canvas


On Saturday night, at 7pm, you can witness as a tattoo explodes–in paint, on canvas, right before your eyes.  At KGB Studios on North Spring Street downtown, the model Alli Cat will pose for three hours as artists Anna Stump and Ted Meyer create a 9 x 9 foot canvas of art around her, inspired by her body art.
“Besides being hot and intelligent–our favorite …

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Chronicling the demise of Hollywood Park, one frame at a time

photo by Michele Asselin

Often, the best stories can be found right in your own backyard.
Photographer Michele Asselin has realized this figuratively before, chronicling stories and photos of nannies for the New York Times after she herself became a mother.
This time, she trained her lens on her neighbor in Inglewood, Hollywood Park, the racetrack that was lost to developers late last year. With just two weeks until demolition, Asselin …

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No gas, no emissions, no engine: The world’s first cardboard car revs up DTLA

The Pantone Silver model

Kilduff Motors claims the K100XL, now on display at its new showroom at 9th and Broadway downtown, is the world’s first cardboard car. But when was the last time you believed a car salesman?
What we do know about this new entry to the motor world is this: it’s cute, if a bit boxy, and it’s hand-crafted right in DTLA, so you’d be buying local. …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Interviews »

An astronaut’s biography, and a musician’s novel

Landing June 3rd in bookstores

The Echo may not seem a place for a book party, much less a pajama party, but last night it served as both those things.  Writer Willy Vlautin came to town from Portland to launch his fourth novel, The Free, and attendees were encouraged to wear their PJ’s and bring their pillows.  The event was hosted by Chuck Palahniuk of Fight Club fame, and …

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Sci-fi takes center stage at Sci-Fest in Hollywood


The idea came to actor David Dean Bottrell (“Boston Legal,” “And the Band Played On”) a few years back, after he’d read a short story by Ursula K. Le Guin: How about a festival of science fiction-themed stage plays?
The genre had morphed and changed over recent years thanks to high-tech wizardry in movies and on TV; Bottrell liked the haunting, more suggestive possibilities of live …

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The actress who influenced Hollywood’s greats


The actress Stella Adler’s influence on American theater and Hollywood was enormous. Among the greats who have thanked her include: Marlon Brando. Arthur Miller. Peter Bogdanovich. Harvey Keitel. Judy Garland. Melanie Griffith. Elizabeth Taylor.  And yet, outside the industry, little is known about her.
A new biography of Adler examines her life and influence as a teacher, from her birth to a prominent Yiddish theatrical …

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In the era before the NBA, the NFL, and TV, this sport captivated America


NBA, NFL, MLB, ESPN: Back before an alphabet soup of acronyms captivated the hearts and minds of the American public, entertainment-starved citizens were transfixed by a spectator sport that no longer exists: Pedestrianism.
As odd as it may sound today, in the mid-19th-century, watching people walk, competitively, provided hours of fun for throngs of people. Plus, it made some of those who competed in the sport …

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Remixing cultural heritage and spiritual tradition from South Asia to Southern California


While writer Amar Ravva and I sat chatting about his new book at the Echo Park Boathouse the other afternoon, a woman approached us with a colorful pamphlet. In broken English, she smiled and said something about God.
It was an appropriate exchange, given that Ravva’s new work is about a religious ritual he undergoes in India, at his mother’s request.
“American Canyon,” published by Southern California-based Kaya …

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From Hancock Park to the Galapagos: An unsolved murder mystery and its connection to LA


San Francisco based filmmakers Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller have long wanted to make a documentary about an unsolved murder mystery that took place seventy years ago in a Utopian community in the exotic Galapagos Islands.
But it wasn’t until they discovered a treasure trove of film in a USC archive that they were able to accomplish their goal.  The archival material was footage gathered by …

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The movement to convert a landmarked LA bridge into a park


There’s a growing movement to turn the last steel bridge in Los Angeles into a park. The Figueroa Bridge stands a bit north of downtown, in the shadow of Dodger Stadium, where a tangle of roads runs above busy thoroughfares below: active train tracks, and two rivers below.
Workmen are wrestling rebar here as they put the finishing touches on a new overpass. The land-marked last steel …

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Making art through sickness and health


31-year old Dominic Quagliozzi is like other young artists who move to Los Angeles in search of community, inspiration, and better weather than can be had on the east coast. He arrived here from Massachusetts 7 years ago with his wife, who herself is a painter; each earned MFAs.
But most young artists don’t have the struggles Quagliozzi faces each day. He was born with …

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