Thursday, August 27, 2009

Yo! Yo Ma(ma)'s so sexy, he...

On Tuesday night Mr. Insomniac headed to the Hollywood Bowl for what may be our last concert there of the summer. The concert started at 8pm which gave us plenty of time to get to our seats and eat a leisurely dinner.


This time I decided to do picnic foods. Chicken salad from Trader Joe's...


And along the way to the Hollywood Bowl, we picked up selection of salads from Lemonade which is conveniently located in West Hollywood.

I forgot to take a picture before we dug into them, but they were a mushroom couscous salad with truffle oil, chicken salad with butternut squash, and spinach with strawberries and blue cheese.



To drink we had an Acacia chardonnay which paired nicely and was ideal for a perfect Los Angeles summer evening.


Our seats were great, save one glaring vibrant detail. Somehow, someone's stuck a glowing cross over the Hollywood Bowl. It annoyed me to no end.


As the night wore on, it got even more irritating.


Fortunately when the music started, I got distracted (most of the time).

On the program was Dvorak Cello Concerto in B minor and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5.
Plácido Domingo premiered as the conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and he did a great job to my unrefined ears.


Yo-Yo Ma was exquisite. I have never heard him live, but own a few of his recordings. The Unaccompanied Bach Cello Concertos are one of the few CDs that I've uploaded to my work computer. It had a beautiful melodic structure, but it's complex enough to hold your focus. Very meditative, very relaxing - I love it.

The cello concerto was beyond compare - and so amazing that you start thinking in superlatives. Like the pianissimo moments create such exquisite tension you fear that your heart will burst... that kind of thing.

Watching him play is so strange. You can tell that he is enraptured by music by the passion in his playing, and by his body movement and expression. At times he would look like he wasn't actually present - like he was in another world. Or high. I started to wonder if Yo Yo experiences things differently than us mere mortals - what does music sound like to him? What does food taste like to him? How does he feel when he is playing? What I wouldn't give to inhabit his body for a performance. I swear to God, he looked like playing the Adagio was 10 times better than sex. It fact, and I was instantly embarrassed to even have such a perverse thought, watching him play that on the big screen was like watching someone have an extended orgasm for 12 minutes. It almost feels intrusive, to watch someone experiencing such joy. And slightly voyeuristic.

I couldn't take many pictures, because the *click* of my camera lens was insanely loud in the hushed amphitheater. I tried to time a couple with the tympani.


After the cello concerto, the crowd went wild. Two curtain calls later, Yo-Yo played an unaccompanied encore, a beautiful haunting piece with elements of a Mongolian melody. The entire audience was entranced - the only sound was the faint murmuring of crickets from the surrounding trees. It was another Hollywood Bowl experience.

I harnessed all my internet sleuthing power to see if he's recorded this anywhere, but I came up with nada... weak sauce.

And then (and then!) Domingo walks out. He's going to sing! And Yo-Yo's going to provide the only accompaniment! I die. He sings (what I discover from my internet prowess) Élégie by Jules Massenet and it is tender and heartbreaking and the pathos just exudes all over.

The audience takes a breather during the intermission and we settle down to listen to the rest of the concert.

This picture is a tribute to my steady cam hands lol. I didn't use a flash and I think the shutter speed was like 1/4 of a second or something. This is the only one that came out halfway decent.


We make our way to the car - ah the joys of stacked parking - where I discover that I don't have my iphone. Crap.


Back to the Bowl we go, fighting the throngs of people heading to their cars. We speak with a woman standing at a lectern at the entrance, she walkie talkies to someone, and lo and behold, it was found in the box. A couple of minutes later, it's back in my hands and I'm getting everyone's name to write the best laudatory letter in the world.

Great night. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Beijing loves IKEA :)

Oh man - I saw this on LA and had to share...

Beijing loves IKEA -- but not for shopping

Some excerpts:

Every weekend, thousands of looky-loos pour into the massive showroom to use the displays. Some hop into bed, slide under the covers and sneak a nap; others bring cameras and pose with the decor. Families while away the afternoon in the store for no other reason than to enjoy the air conditioning.

Bai mapped out a five-hour outing. First, they had hot dogs and soft ice cream cones at noon. Then they enjoyed a long rest lounging on the beds. Bai kicked off her sandals and sprawled out on a Tromso bunk bed. The 36-year-old homemaker made herself comfortable and even answered passing shoppers' questions about the quality of the mattress.

"It's soft and a great buy at this price," she told a young woman, pointing to a dangling price tag.

After that, Bai and her family took group pictures. By 5 p.m., it was time for another meal, so they headed to the cafeteria and ate braised mushrooms with rice.

Many others arrive with the same intentions, sometimes bringing a book to read on a bouncy Poang armchair or carrying stuffed toys for their children to play with on a mattress.

IKEA has the added challenge of copycats. Brazen customers are known to come in with carpenters armed with measuring tapes to make replicas.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I heart IKEA

On Saturday we went to IKEA to pick up some items for Mr. Insom's office. And I wanted to get some vases.

I believe IKEA pumps in some sort of strange sedative in their warehouses. Everyone shuffles along the prescribed path without complaint armed with little golf pencils and paper tape measures. First living room, then dining room, then office... it's sort of like a ride at Disney - full of interesting shiny things to point at and delight in. You can't get off or find an exit door, so you just sit back and enjoy the ride. Besides, have you ever tried to go circumvent the IKEA trail? One time I got directions to the restroom and I was lost for 30 minutes.

I found myself looking all around in a daze. I couldn't focus on anything in particular - my focus on a leather arm chair that was surprisingly comfortable was quickly lost to a throw rug. And then to a magazine rack. Mr. Insom noticed it too. "Look at this lamp," I marveled, fingering at its delicate texture. He looked at me with utter puzzlement and a growing alarm - "What is wrong with you?" His voice appeared to be coming from far away. "Huh?" My eyes wandered past his face as I fingered a throw pillow. "Come on," he ordered and pulled me away. Once I had taken a few steps past the fascinating object and entered the kid room section, I blinked a couple of times and my mind became clearer. Whew.

But then I saw my favorite thing in the whole IKEA world. The 400sq house. In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, IKEA creates model houses in their showroom that features all IKEA products. It is the model of efficient use of space and organization and probably costs like $532.

I love the IKEA houses so much. When I'm walking through it, I like to pretend that it's my home in my make believe life where I'm a carefree latte-drinking editor in Manhattan. I marvel at the hooks on the back of doors, the handy stand near the entrance for sorting mail and keys, the pull out drawers in the kitchen. It is like the neatest, most organized space ever and such a far cry from my sty of an apartment. When I finally snap, look for me at the Burbank IKEA. I'll be trying to wash bras in the bathroom sink of the 350sq model home and threatening other shoppers with the Blaska broom and Slitbar meatcleaver.

Then we get to the marketplace free for all on the ground floor where I run around with my arms full of crap yelling for Mr. Insom to get the cart! get the cart!

I bought 3 of these small bud vases like this for $.79 each.

And three of these votive holders.

And enough tea light and assorted candles to burn down my apartment.

In the warehouse section where you look for the furniture, we managed to find only one of the items we were interested. Yay for IKEA!

I think we spent like four hours in there. Time stands still at IKEA. We came out dehydrated, hungry, and unable to stand sunlight. We went home and promptly crashed into a fitful post-IKEA slumber.

But Wednesday is rib night, y'all!


Friday, August 21, 2009

Fashion Focus Group Fail.

One of my favorite ways to make money is doing focus groups. I freely and happily dispense my opinions on all matters of things, and getting $150 for the privilege is icing on the proverbial cake.

When the focus group people call, I'm usually pretty adept at answering their questions in ways that get me included - basically say yes to anything they ask. Do you eat out at fast food restaurants? Yes. Do you have a Mac or PC? Both. Are you in the market for a new laptop? Yes. Do you have Herpes? Ye- I mean, no. Sorry.

So when the fashion focus group came knocking (Do you like to shop?) I did my usual agreeable technique and made it in. :)

I was concerned though. I'm not a fashionistaand in fact I can't remember the last item of regular clothing I bought. I shop at Target. Mr. Insom's taken to hanging random items in my closet for me because I can't be bothered to go shopping. Currently I'm wearing a shirt that my grandmother bought me when I was a junior in college, a skirt I bought the year I graduated, and sandals that Mr. Insom bought. I just don't get a eff. lol

Just the person you want for a fashion focus group.

So I get to the focus group place. Oh wait. Let me back up.

We were instructed to "Wear an outfit to the group that you like and consider stylish, which must include at least one recent trend or stylish purchase." We also had to fill out a homework assignment about a "great fashion find."

A selection of the questions:
  • Where did you buy this item?
  • How did it make you feel to buy this item?
  • Why did you choose it?
There were 16 questions, people. Lord.

We had to bring said item to the focus group. My item was a cotton shirt with Mandarin details and an unusual batik print that I found in Chinatown. I wear it all the time.

Okay. So I fill out the forms, bring my item, wear a "stylish" outfit and walk into the waiting room, fully expecting to be in a room of people that looked like this.


I'm starting to feel a little more relaxed. That feeling subsides quickly however when we go into the focus group room.

We're told that we're being videotaped. Okay. We're told that there are people watching us from behind the one-way mirror. Er. The focus group moderator pulls out a camera and snaps a picture of my face. Hmm.

Then one at a time, we're instructed to stand up and do a twirl while the moderator snaps pictures. We have to say where each item was purchased and the design label. What about your shoes, she says. What about your necklace? What about your bag? Pictures occur at every moment. Not expecting this and it has a nightmarish quality. Definitely not looking forward to acknowledging the Sketchers that I'm wearing... lol

But I made it through. Most people are wearing items from Banana Republic or Macy's. One woman's wearing Chanel sunglasses and another woman has a Tiffany necklace and a Dooney and Bourke bag. An blond woman in her late forties proudly displays her True Religion skinny jeans. I take an instant dislike to her. Sure enough, she spend most of the time talking about how she never shops at Nordstroms because the one in Glendale is small and dirty and how she Target and Forever 21 clothes are disposal. She takes offense when I say that the Limited and Express skews young. Well of course you would, I think. You're fifty and you're wearing a hot pink ruffled shirt and skinny jeans.

I sit through comments like "I never wear sweats - I hate looking frumpy" without guffawing. I listen to Jenice, a nurse practitioner, describe her cashmere shawls that she wears in the office while thinking about my cozy work blanket - an army green cotton throw that has strange hieroglyphics on it.


Not sure what the story is behind the markings. By my reckoning, my blanket tells the story of a man that is transformed into a porcupine man with horns and goes on to stab a bird and antelope. It's weird.

But anyway - back to the focus group: so far, so good.

We play fun focus group games, like putting the names of stores (Nordstrom, TJ Maxx, Bloomingdales, Macys, Victoria Secret, J Crew, Gap, Banana Republic, Zappos, DSW) into categories.

Then we get asked more details about a few of the stores - I've been inside all of them in the past three months except one. Nordstroms. Turns out that appears to be the focus of the focus group. Oops.

The final activity is to sort various items into "looks like something that would be at Nordstroms" and "definitely not something that would be at Nordstroms". My group of three people starts with 8 black slacks, then we move onto 8 black handbags, then we do 8 patterned shirts and 8 t-shirts.

You try it! Which of the following is a bag at Nordstroms?



Since I have idea of what is at Nordstroms, I just look for examples of "quality" and "classic styling" - just cause that's the impression I have of Nordstroms. I could be wrong, but that's my technique and I'm sticking to it. I'm not sure if my group got the "right answers" as the moderator refused to tell us which items were indeed from Nordstroms. I hate it when that happens. I won't do the same with you - the right answer was bag B. Bag A's at Tar-jay.

Then we were free to go, and I got my check. Yay!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The best thing in the entire world as of today, August 18th

I still have yet to blog about my trek to Michael Jackson's death house.

Instead, I'm going to tell you about the best thing in the entire world (as of today, August 18th).


It's this.

St. Germain Liqueur. Look at that pretty bottle - slim and tapered, smooth vertical lines...Made from Eederflowers, it is a fragrant floral wonderland. Like ambrosia. Like hummingbird nectar. Like the honeyed dew on the first day of spring in the meadows of Northern Ireland.

Lately, I've been seeing St. Germain on lots of cocktail menus and finally decided to obtain my own bottle so I can drink all I want from the comfort of my very own couch. After a particularly trying day yesterday, I headed to liquor store. Three bottles of St. Germain were prominently displayed in the window. I rushed inside, with a happy bounce to my step in eager anticipation. Wandering through the aisles, I finally stumbled on the right location.

Right location, but no bottles. Argh!!!!

Me: Um, where's the St Germain?
Store Guy: Oh, we ran out. We have a another shipment due on Wednesday?
Me: Wednesday?!
SG: Yeah. It's very popular.
Me: What about those display bottles? Can I have one of those?
SG: I think they're models. (checks) Yep.
Me: (groans)
SG: It looks like you need it bad.
Me: (laughs nervously) I have this book club tonight and wanted to make cocktails for everyone, you see.
SG: Right. Do you want me to call to the store on Melrose?

I make a beeline to my car as I dial the phone number to Wally's. I go there and get my booze, declining the paper bag so I can cradle it in my arms like a mewling kitty as I climb back in my car.

Finally I get home and get to bartending.

Here's what I came up with:

1 part St. Germain
1 part Grey Goose
1 part passion fruit juice
1/2 part lime juice

Shake with ice, strain in glass.

It is dangerously good. I'm actually frightened that this drink will open up the dormant genes in my DNA and have me attending meetings in a church basement. So moderation will be the key.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hollywood Bowl 101

On Wednesday I went to the Hollywood Bowl to see musicians perform works by Miles Davis and Gil Evans. From that event and the others I've been to, I've learned all sorts of tips you can do to have the best experience.

I've seen concerts from every seat style in the bowl, and I think my favorite seats are the Terrace boxes because you can see the entire band shell. The Garden boxes are okay too.

The pool circle seats are way too close. You spend most of your time looking up at the performers and you can't get the overall impact of the stage. One perk of the pool circle is that you can order a meal served by waitstaff, but the food is just meh (although it looks pretty) and you're probably better off bringing your own treats. All in all, not worth it.

The benches are the most economical and are great for cuddling with a blanket. The wooden seats can be hard, but they provide cushions for a fee if you have a sensitive ass. I sat in benches for this concert and though I was pretty far away, the sound was fine. It was a long trek to the seats though. lol

The super seats are like your basic stadium seats. I sat in them for this concert and had no complaints.

Box seats at the bowl are equipped with four canvas chairs and one fold up table. You might be able to snag a second one, but all boxes have at least one.

We usually buy our tickets from a third-party supplier. For the concert I went to on Wednesday I bought our Terrace box seats at Barry's Tickets at a 30% discount from the face value of the tickets. And they threw in a free parking pass. Yay!

These are the things I'd recommend bringing along:

Table cloth. You get one table in a box and most of the time it's all dirty and gross looking. Besides, having a table cloth makes the dining experience more "refined" and elegant. It doesn't need to be a white linen cloth - any scrap of fabric will do. You probably want to bring something a bit better than I did though (a yellow beach towel that I got as a Thank You for donating blood).

Candle. I saw a few boxes with tealight candles in a small votive on their tables. The group next door to me had one and I was insanely jealous. Again, it sets nice ambiance and provides a little light.

Food. I like to eat at my seat, but even if you picnic on the benches or on the grounds before the concert, bringing some things to nibble on or dessert makes the experience much memorable. How often can you eat while listening to the LA Philharmonic?

Wine. Don't forget that you can bring all you can drink booze to the Bowl.

Flashlight. This is actually really handy and I'm embarassed to say that it took watching the experienced Bowlers next door to us with a flashlight to put two and two together. A flashlight works much better than using the screen of your iphone to find a wayward item. You don't have to bring along an industrial version - a small penlight would do.

Sweater or blanket. It can get a little chilly. And blankets are great for snuggling.

That's it!
Happy Bowling! :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion - Romeo and Juliet

I suppose I was inspired by this season of So You Think You Can Dance, but when I saw Goldstar's advertisement of $30 orchestra tickets to see the American Ballet Theater perform Romeo and Juliet at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, I jumped on it. Mr. Insom was out of town that day so I didn't even have to worry about preventing him from sleeping during the performance.


The Dorthy Chandler Pavilion, along with the Mark Taper Forum, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Ahmanson Theater, comprise the Los Angeles Music Center. The Music Center is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles Opera, and Los Angeles Master Chorale and provides venues for countless traveling groups and performances.

There's always something good going on down there.




At intermission I took a bunch of pictures of the grounds.






I love Prokofiev's score and although I had seen a previous version of the ballet in Detroit, MI, I hadn't seen the Kenneth MacMillian version. And I hadn't seen the American Ballet Theater perform it. It was magical. I've never been a real fan of ballet, but I loved every second of this performance. Without a doubt there was breathtaking technical execution, but I wasn't expecting the dancers to be such great actors... I truly believed that they were young kids experiencing the exhilarating feelings of first love.

Just to prove my point: here's a high-quality youtube video and some stills of the balcony pas de deux - ah, so beautiful.




And here's a video of Juliet's death scene. Her final pose on the bed gives me chills.

Cameras were verboten, but I snuck one blurry picture of the wonderful Gillian Murphy taking her last curtain call. Man, watching those youtube videos makes me remember how much I loved this. It was probably the best experience I've had in the past year.


Monday, August 3, 2009

LA Tennis Open: Serving everything except garlic fries

On Sunday we went to watch the final game of the LA Tennis Open which generally takes place during the last week of July each year. Mr. Insom's a fan. Me, not so much. The game started at 2pm. We had a hearty breakfast and promptly crashed out for a midday siesta. When I woke up, it was 2:05. Oops.

We headed to the Straus Stadium at UCLA double-time.







Competing in the finals were Sam Querrey (red shirt) and Carston Ball (white shirt).

Querrey was ranked 32 (sixth-seeded American), had posted back-to-back runner-up showings, and was winless in three ATP Tour finals this season. Carsten Ball was the plucky underdog and the first qualifier to reach the final in L.A. tournament history.





The final, featuring Santa Monica resident Querrey and Newport Beach resident Ball, was the first all-Southern Californian title match since 1984. There were lots of supporting fans in attendance.

Sam, in particular, had quite the exuberant cheering section. The shirtless Samurai banged on a bongo drum, did chants, and at one point fired a t-shirt canon into the stands. Way to turn a refined event into Happy Gilmore, guys. lol There were a few calls of "C. Ball!" or assorted Ball chants, but the Samurai were fierce.



It was scorching hot. Folks in the stands just sweated it out. Some had fans, some carried umbrellas, most wore hats... ugh. Here's an interesting fact about me: not a fan of the sun. I hate the sensation of it beating down on me, hate the glare, hate my skin and head getting hot, hate the sweating, hate tanning, hate getting dehydrated, hate, hate, hate.


Many people chose to abandon their seats and hang out in the shade. Can't blame them one bit.


And if I didn't need any more reasons to hate the sun, one poor woman had a pretty bad case of sunstroke and needed medical attention.


Here's another fact about me: I find watching sports a tad bit boring. If it weren't for the hot dogs and garlic fries, I would never go to a Dodger game. There are no garlic fries in tennis, which is a damn shame.

I amused myself by checking out the photographers.



The line judges and ball kids just looked miserable, but that could have just been my attribution of misery. I always thought it would be cool to be a ball kid - they have tryouts and everything.




C. Ball lost steam at the beginning of the third set. He threw his racket down and everything.



Sam pretty much dominated the third set. The final score was 6-1. I felt bad for C. Ball.


Since I barely understand the scoring system in tennis, here's a recap of the match by professionals for those of you who care about this stuff.

After trading breaks of serve early in the opening set, Querrey broke to go up 5-4 and forced Ball to concede a set for the first time in the qualifier’s eight matches this past week at the LA Tennis Open. Ball leveled the contest as he won the final two games of the second set, but he would be limited to just one game the remainder of the match.With the 'Samurai' providing support from the stands, Querrey capitalized on two of his four break point chances in the final set and dropped just three points on serve to secure the win in one hour and 28 minutes. In doing so, he became the 16th different American in the Open Era to win the Los Angeles title and the first since Andre Agassi won his fourth event title in 2005.

Together with his runner-up showings at the grass-court event in Newport on July 12 (l. to Ram) and hard-court stop in Indianapolis last Sunday, Querrey has compiled a 13-2 record over the past month. With a 32-18 season record, he has already surpassed last year’s mark of 28 match wins. He entered the Los Angeles tournament ranked a career-high No. 32, and is projected to move to No. 29 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings with Sunday’s victory.

C. Ball doing his loser interview.


C. Ball hit some autographed tennis balls to the folks in the stands. Apparently one of the balls had $1000 inside it.



The winner, Samurai Sam. Dude got $100,000 and a BMW. Not a bad day at the office indeed.