While most Girl Scouts have a positive influence on their communities, not everyone follows that rule. The last thing you would expect is for one of the leaders of these organizations, which are expected to be positive role models for the kids, would be the one to go astray.
Michelle Marie Villa was recently arrested for embezzling $5,000 from a Moreno Valley Girl Scout troop that she led. She was allegedly purchasing personal items, which included groceries, craft supplies, athletic gear, a computer and a printer; all using the troop’s debit card.
Redlands detectives served a search warrant at Villa’s house on Jan. 23 and arrested her that same day. She had lead the troop of about seven girls, one of which was her daughter, for about a year.
Officials of the Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio Council, which has its headquarters in Redlands, reported this alleged case of embezzlement to authorities back in December.
“Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio investigates all reports of misconduct by its leaders. If the findings warrant and it is believed a crime has been committed, the Council reports the alleged crime to the appropriate law enforcement agencies and cooperates fully with their investigation. This was the case with Ms. Villa and her alleged embezzlement,” officials with the organization said in an emailed statement.
All of the missing funds have been replaced because it is not the Scouts fault, and innocent little girls shouldn’t be punished for their leaders mistakes.
Although every volunteer who works with the Scouts go through background checks, some cases slip through. The Scouts never want to put any of their members in harms way.
Around 4,000 adult volunteers and 11,500 girls make up the organization. Honesty and integrity are held as some of the highest standards for Girl Scouts . . . let’s hope that they don’t learn from this Scout leader.
Thomas Lauderdale, the band’s leader, was an aspiring politician before forming the band that got his inspiration for Pink Martini after attending one too many political fundraisers where the musical entertainment just fell flat. The band has performed all over the globe including Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa—Pink Martini aspires to continue making music for the world but its roots in politics remain at the core of Pink Martini.
The band supports progressive politics, positive change and it continues to participate in fundraisers for civil rights, affordable housing and other great causes—Pink Martini has a charm that allows it to speak to audiences in countries around the globe, not just in our native U.S.
This charm works because some messages are as important and universal as music; the environment, libraries, education and parks are all subjects that remain near and dear to Pink Martini’s heart. This 10-12 piece little orchestra is an international phenomenon that has had all of its first five albums go gold in France, Canada, Greece and Turkey.
Pink Martini is just one example of bands and musicians that use their global power to reach out to the world using their music and influence in the name of a good cause, but there are many more.
Bono of U2 advocates the fight against AIDs and HIV with his (RED) foundation and regularly helps impoverished countries in Africa. Jack Johnson is an avid environmentalist that uses his fame and fortune to advocate for environmental change. He started the Kokua Hawaii Foundation and sponsors programs for children to get excited and learn to care for the world around them. Carlos Santana started the Milagro Foundation, just one of his many humanitarian projects, that awards grants and donates instruments to disadvantaged youth.
Other notable names—Elton John is an activist for the fight against AIDS/HIV, Madonna for poverty, Paul McCartney for PETA and there was Bob Marley, who preached for peace around the globe. There are countless amounts of musicians who work towards a positive change in our world because they believe in the power of music.
There is that old saying “Music is the universal language.” Among all the musicians turned humanitarians out there, Pink Martini really takes that concept to heart and makes it reality as they continue to learn and sing in different languages, allowing it to reach out to the world.
An estimated 110 million people and 72 percent of U.S. adults are expected to watch this weekend’s Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos.
Forecasts for game time are a jittery 30 degrees. But one thing that’s burning hotter than a dimpled Tom Brady is America’s passion for pigskin. ESPN recently announced pro football is the most popular sport in America for the 30th year in a row.
Then again, of course it is! What else are you going to watch? Hockey? Good god man. I’d rather watch Oprah play Bunco.
In 2014, 35 percent of fans named the National Football League as their favorite sport, followed by Major League Baseball (14 percent), college football (11 percent), auto racing (7 percent), the NBA (6 percent), the NHL (5 percent) and college basketball (3 percent).
One nimrod actually said “soccer,” but we sent him out to look for more shin guards and sliced oranges. Soccer may be the most popular sport in the rest of the world. But in this country, Rupert, it ain’t a sport if we can’t use our hands.
Football isn’t just our country’s most popular sport. It’s in our DNA. It’s barbecuing with a game on, and two-hand touch that turns into tackle in the street and dents your neighbor’s car. It’s knowing that your team is never ever out of it—as long as there’s the chance of a flea-flicker, the long bomb or “the statue of liberty” play.
And there’s something uniquely American about watching our nation’s strongest, fastest prima donnas try to knock each other’s teeth out, then some ref throwing a yellow hankie and penalizing somebody for holding.
What the hell is “holding” anyway? With all the groin pulls, rug burns and internal bleeding, I’m surprised somebody isn’t holding in their intestine after every play.
If a baseball player is even suspected of using steroids, we brand him a cheater and want him banned for life. But nobody cares if a football player takes steroids. Pro football is such a gruesome sport, we’re amazed if anyone can remain healthy for an entire season without a suit of armor and a bazooka.
And that’s precisely what makes the NFL so enthralling. Everyone is so much bigger and more enhanced than us normal doughy humans. Added bonus: Cheerleaders!
The NFL is so over the top precisely because it’s the NFL. The atmosphere is heart stopping. The stadiums are cathedrals. Everything has a pregame, halftime and postgame show, not to mention a blimp. It’s equal parts professional wrestling and Las Vegas spectacular.
And the best part is you’re invited to this party because everyone’s invited. It doesn’t matter if you live in New York or New Mexico or New Delhi. Southern California hasn’t had a professional football team in two decades and nobody who lives here gives a damn. Because the NFL is the one sport that’s more exciting on TV.
According to The Nielsen Company, 205 million unique viewers watched the 2013 NFL regular season, representing 81 percent of all television homes in the U.S. (I like to imagine the other 19 percent were either at the games or too drunk from tailgating.)
NFL games accounted for 34 of the 35 most-watched TV shows among all television shows last fall—better than American Idol, The Big Bang Theory or any show where somebody renovates a house or loses a ton of back flab. And for the second consecutive year, an NFL game was the week’s most-watched TV show in all 17 weeks of the season.
By comparison, last year’s clinching Game 6 of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals wasn’t even the most popular show of its week. It lost to CBS’s NCIS, which is a snoozer my 69-year-old mom usually falls asleep to in her Barcalounger.
This Sunday’s Super Bowl may be the last NFL game for the next 8 months, but don’t despair. Spend the offseason constructively.
Stare at a grease stain that resembles Peyton Manning. Make your own Lombardi trophy out of macaroni. Do a touchdown dance every time someone hands you a receipt.
Just remember one essential thing: Everything is more interesting than soccer, including hockey.
Contact Jeff Girod at email@example.com]]>
THE LOUNGE TRIO
Despite what some people might say, the weekend really does start on Thursday, and there’s no better way to celebrate the weekend than by enjoying some amazing jazz music by The Lounge Trio. Since the funky ‘50s and swinging ‘60s, lounge music has been a popular mood music that gives listeners the feeling that they’re being transported to a far away—possibly somewhere exotic. Come enjoy some fondue and travel with these smooth jams.
7pm. Hip Kitty Jazz & Fondue, 502 W. 1st St., Claremont, (909) 447-6700; www.hipkittyjazz.com.
ASIAN NEW YEAR
Many different cultures, including Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Malaysian cultures, celebrate the New Year this weekend! Pechanga Resort & Casino offers up some of the best New Year fun and festivities. The lion awakens and will pass out lucky red envelopes to guests at 3p.m., but this is just the start. Late into the night there will be singers Wen Zhang, Lee Lung Kee and Ng Hand-Mei, as well as many other special events.
3pm. Pechanga Resort & Casino, 45000 Pechanga Pkwy., Temecula, (951) 693-1819; www.pechanga.com.
AIR BATTLE OVER RABAUL
Aviation has such a unique and storied past in its relatively short life with all kinds of technological innovations and different designs for fighter planes. The Planes of Fame Air Museum wants people to remember this aviation history, and puts on a show every month to generate interest in the warbirds of the past. On display this month is the Douglass SBD Dauntless. The SBD stands for “Scout Bomber Douglass” and it was the Navy’s main carrier-borne scout plane and dive bomber during WWII. It was, at the time, one of the world’s best planes because it possessed a long range, good handling characteristics, excellent maneuverability, potent bomb load capacity, defensive armament and a ruggedness about it that comes with American engineering. One of the best known accomplishments of this plane is as the bomber that delivered the fatal blow to the Japanese carriers at the battle of Midway in June of 1942. During this re-enactment, another battle is featured: The Air Battle Over Rabaul. Here, the allied forces launched an air attack against the Japanese cruiser force, eliminating some of Japan’s naval threat. There will be speakers, historians and veterans there to answer some pre-demonstration questions. The SBD Dauntless will be on display until noon so you can get up close and see just what this magnificent warbird looks like. After that, you can witness what it looks like in action as a flight demonstration will be performed.
9am . Planes of Fame Air Museum, 7000 Merrill Ave., Chino, (909) 597-3722; www.planesoffame.org.
“DICHOTOMIES OF VISION”
In order to be a successful artist in a vast art world, it is necessary to hold onto a solid sense of self. If an artist accomplishes this, it will be apparent in the individuality that radiates from their artwork. In the exhibit “Dichotomies of Vision” at 57 Underground, 10 artists are demonstrating their individuality in presenting their visual and performing arts.
12pm-4pm. 57 Underground, 300 S. Thomas St., Pomona, 909.397.0218; www.57underground.com.
MOSCOW FESTIVAL BALLET
Sergei Radchenko of the Bolshoi Ballet is world renowned for bringing the highest classical elements of the great Bolshoi and Kirov Ballet companies to stages American and elsewhere. Russia’s top ballet dancers have traveled a long ways from home to demonstrate pirouettes and points you wouldn’t believe in their productions of timeless classics like Don Quixote—don’t miss this elegant show of athleticism and grace.
8pm. $29-$79. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Dr., Palm Desert, (760) 340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.
K-VON PRESENTS “TANX GOD!” COMEDY TOUR
You’re probably familiar with K-Von’s humor off MTV’s hit show Disaster Date. Known for making audiences around the world laugh through his hidden-camera show antics, K-Von will have you laughing with a routine that makes fun of himself, current events and more. Performing around the world constantly and appearing online and on television through various outlets, don’t miss what may be your only chance to see him live.
8pm. $5. Ontario Improv, 4555 Mills Cir., Ontario, (909) 484-5411; ontario.improv.com.
There’s nothing more exciting to hit the city of Riverside than the concert series at The Barn! Known for having some of the sickest musical artists, The Barn has done it again with Black Uhuru playing with INDUBIOUS. There will also be DJs spinning beats throughout the event. Let these roots and reggae jams take over your body and get you dancing and grooving into the night.
$5-$15. University of California Riverside, The Barn, 900 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 827-2776; www.kucr.org.]]>
As if to make my Hump Day even worse, an LA Weekly article regarding the impending San Andreas Fault strike-slip fault revealed how truly devastating an earthquake can be to this area—seriously frightening stuff. One video, created by Stanford University, predicts how the impending “Big One” will affect us, showing underground ripples traveling throughout Palm Springs and the desert, all the way down to San Diego and an especially violent set of movement running straight through Los Angeles—meaning that the IE is right in the middle of it all. Screwed? You betcha.
Now I’m paranoid about having an escape plan: Make some of those food kits, make sure my many cats won’t run away and get killed, create a makeshift safety-hideout.
Then again, I’m already pretty prepared with my Zombie Survival Kit (and they called me crazy!)
Thursday, January 23
Poor sushi chefs . . . How can they make master-craft, delicious, traditional sushi if they have to wear gloves?!
Friday, January 24
Pre-party time! Time to start planning for the weekend. Junk food stash is full, Netflix account active; yup, I’m all set.
Saturday, January 25
Somewhere in Northern California, an elementary school teacher was arrested for baking marijuana into a potluck dish that she brought to a small faculty party. It was probably just a joke, I know I would like to see how some of my own co-workers act when they’re high—but unfortunately, a kid got his hands on that food too. And when you hurt the kid, you hurt the parent—then everybody’s angry.
Sunday, January 26
For not winning any Oscars—ever—in his life, Leonardo DiCaprio is a pretty good sport. From his early days in films like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Romeo + Juliet, it took the man a long time to get out of that romantic little girl’s fantasy role—a skin he finally shed with films like Blood Diamond and my personal favorite, Inception.
Even with his more seriously driven career, DiCaprio won’t ever be able to live down the part he became known for: Jack Dawson in Titanic. This weekend, SNL featured a romantic “flying” scene—with Leo holding Wolf of Wall Street actor, Jonah Hill. Leo held Hill lovingly in his arms, cheek-to-cheek.
Ooh la la. Yeah, even with chubby Jonah Hill instead of Kate Winslet, Leo still evokes my doe-eyed Bambi-eyes . . . I still can’t stop dreaming that could be me some day . . . sigh.
Monday, January 27
In the world of online gaming, players typically pay for the game (a retail price) and then pay a monthly subscription to play. It’s no biggie, you pay for your cell phone every month don’t you?
But in the world of EVE Online, a science fiction based MMO where micro transactions rule the galaxy, the premise is a little different. It’s a world on its own, powered by players who have jobs and essentially work them—or just pay real-world money for a better ship.
If players want to earn new ships with their time and dedication, the average-sized “Guardian” Cruiser would take about four hours to earn. Or they could just pay $8 American dollars. The largest of ships, called the “Avatar,” would take 3400 hours to earn—and $7,600 to purchase in real money. Also noteworthy, once a ship is destroyed, it’s gone FOREVER. Unless you buy another one.
However today, due to a simple missed rent payment, one of the largest wars in the game’s history began. Over $284,000 worth of money spent on ships were destroyed with over 2,000 players online at once, all participating in a battle that literally took all day.
What the WHAT?!
I wish some sort of battle would rage when I don’t pay my bills. Ok, I’m done nerding out—for now.
Tuesday, January 28
By now, everyone knows that Justin Bieber was arrested for a number of offenses.
The kid is out of control, so the people of the U.S. are taking matters into their own hands. In fact, people actually set up a legitimate petition on the White House’s own “We The People” web page, demanding that if the correct amount of signatures are received, Justin Bieber will be deported.
It’s not just a hissy-fit being thrown by parents because Bieber is making the young daughters of America swoon (why, I have no idea.) It’s a notice identifying his “dangerous, reckless, destructive and drug abusing” habits and a demand to revoke his green card. With a complete 100,000 signatures received as of this writing, the White House has no choice but to take notice. For now, it’s likely that the idiot celebrity is here to stay.]]>
Scared White Boy (With His Cabeza Intact)
Dear Mick: I recently talked to a pal who just came back from Zacatecas, and you know what he said? He dijo that his hometown is safe now “because los del Chapo killed all the Zetas and now rule everything.” OY VEY! While bigger cities like Tijuana and Mexico City (and even Juarez, to a lesser extent) are generally safe now after the narcoviolence of the Calderón administration, I’d still stay away from the rural regions Mexico, which are experiencing full-fledged rebellion between warring cartels, corrupt cops, the Mexican military and autodefensas (local vigilante groups) who are saying a la chingada with everyone and defending their ranchos on their own terms. Then again, you’re gabacho, and as I’ve said before, ustedes can walk around Mexico with all the impunity of Winfield Scott because the cartels know better than to mess with one, They know if they do, the Obama administration will stop its eternal waltz with various cartels and rain down the drone desmadre.
Why is it that Mexicans prefer to party, barbeque, dance, and drink in their front yards? Friday and Saturday nights, their low-riding buddies machine-pistol them without having to slow down their Honda. Tight-assed pink peeps party too, but in the safety of the back yard.
Why do Mexicans do everything in the front yard? From cooking on the grill, to celebrating birthday parties with inflatable playgrounds like at Burger King to hanging their wet clothes over the railings on their front porch? A friend of mine told me the back yard was where Mexicans keep all their chickens, roosters and autos up on blocks, but it isn’t true. At least not here in Texas. Is this just genetic?
Tony Romo is Lame, but Jerry Jones is Lamer
Dear Gabachos: The sooner gabachos realize that front yards are just a pathetic remnant of Gilded Age nitwits pretending to live like British lords and start using yardas like Mexicans, the better off this country will be. Since houses in Mexico historically had no lawns or ornamental plants (that’s what the fields were for), Mexicans view front yards as virgin land ripe for the taking. We grow fruit trees and sugarcane; we park cars on it. And, sí: we’ll happily put a Dora the Explorer bounce house in the front. Why? Because the back yard is already too packed with partying Mexicans.
Ask the Mexican at firstname.lastname@example.org, be his fan on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!]]>
The contemporary art world is slowly but surely making a place for itself in mainstream culture, encouraging current generations to fill their lives with intellectually stimulating propaganda. With art walks and galleries popping up in almost every city in the Inland Empire, there is no doubt that a wave of young artists will sprout from its cities, creating an artistic mecca. One of the most watched artists of our generation is Joe Biel. With exhibitions internationally, Biel’s meticulously crafted drawings are engaging both visually and conceptually. With inspiration deriving from classical painters like Pieter Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch, Biel’s monochromatic landscapes of surreal representation bring to life a cast of quirky characters living in clustered worlds of ambiguity. Although the overall feel of Biel’s work is rather surreal and somber, his innate ability to create photorealistic worlds in blue and black is what grasps his audience. As his first solo museum exhibition, “Sentry” shows Biel’s skills on a massive scale. In conjunction to The Culver Center of Arts, Sentry will feature a series of large-scale illustrations on paper, with a wall piece featured at the Culver Center. Using various forms of media, Biel eloquently and meticulously creates each line and stroke taking months to even a year to complete a single piece, the quintessence of what being an artists truly means. (Victoria Banegas)
UCRArts Block, Sweeney Art Gallery, 3824 Main Street, Riverside, (951) 827-4787; www.culvercenter.ucr.edu/Exhibition/Sentry]]>
We have had a long week of work and school, so when the weekend comes around, we are all ready for a great escape. What’s a better escape than where music can take us? Enjoy some good beats and good rhymes at the National Orange Show Center where Half Valve Entertainment presents N.O.S. Live—a special EP release event and concert for IE hip-hop artists: StoneXSober and CJ Westley. StoneXSober is a hot new hip-hop duo brought to life by IE natives Cam Archer and Kidd Dryden. Let loose with cool tunes and of course, win free stuff. This event is in celebration of StoneXSober’s debut EP, Half-Gone and among them, fellow hip-hop artist CJ Westley will be releasing his first full length album entitled #OVRSLPT. But the fun doesn’t not stop there—the show goes on with live performances from the likes of D’zyl 5K1, Jay Kasai, Fitz Taylor, Tru Speech and Caleb Lombard. Catch some performance snag some free goodies—oh did we mention that the show is only five-bucks? (Dulce Balandran)
The National Orange Show Center, 930 S. Arrowhead Ave., Gate 10, San Bernardino; www.halfvalveent.com. Admission $5.]]>
Black unmarked helicopters, secret military training operations and other “conspiracy theories” make for good Hollywood films, riveting suspenseful novels, controversial websites and heated talk radio programs. But, tell that to the group of concerned residents, who this past weekend, witnessed such a scenario play out in a residential part of the city near downtown Fairmount Park and the 91 Freeway.
According to a single report in the Riverside Press Enterprise (PE), there is nothing to worry about. Lieutenant Guy Toussaint told the PE that the drills were part of a military training exercise, which involved “insertion training” or the dropping personnel off from a Blackhawk helicopter and then picking them back up again in a single swoop. Residents claim that the extremely loud noises are what led them to conclude the aircraft was no ordinary helicopter or plane. Others said they were worried that the helicopters were flying too fast and too low and hovering over their neighborhood. This area is not a normal area for this kind of exercise or behavior, and the residential codes usually prohibit the extremely low-flying helicopters. The residents are more concerned with their safety and any larger threats that they are unaware of, but as is the government’s habit, very little information is being shared.
“They went right over my house, just above the tree line,” Woods Streets resident Brent Darling told the PE. Darling, who said he was out Sunday evening for a walk with his grandson, also told the PE the ordeal reminded him of scenes from the movie Red Dawn. In that 1984 film, similar happenings occurred as an invasion of the United States from the north and south by communist forces from Cuba, Nicaragua and the Soviet Union in the beginning of WWIII and then the efforts of partisans from a small Colorado town to turn back the invasion. Now, it is unlikely that this is the case for the Fairmount Park “insertion training,” but full explanations have yet to be given to anyone.
The PE reported that there were several helicopters, but the exact number remains unclear. The noise and low altitude of the helicopters had residents wondering about exactly what was going on. Eyewitnesses claim that the aircraft hovered over downtown for just under half an hour, before, turning towards the National Guard armory and Fairmount Park. Some in the neighborhood even said that the helicopters were still heard after 10 p.m., on January 26.
A news release issued January 15 said that the U.S. Army had plans for the training exercise in the city, on the 26-27, in cooperation with various local law enforcement agencies. “Local community members should expect short periods of increased air traffic, including helicopters and low-flying aircrafts, and increased aircraft noise during this time,” the release said. “This is a routine exercise, conducted periodically to maintain a high level of operational readiness for the military personnel involved.”
“This is a slight exercise, conducted intermittently to say a high turn of operational willingness for an infantry crew involved,” read the press release. “The reserve of use members and an internal village is a top priority, and each prevision will be taken to lessen risks for a reserve of all. The United States Army along with a City of Riverside are intensely supportive to an impact such exercises have on internal adults and intend to sight safely and courteously. Every magnitude to revoke a volume of sound compared with a practice will be taken.”
The Weekly was unable to contact anyone from the city, county or other Riverside or IE area law enforcement agencies about their possible involvement with these exercises, or even confirm which other agencies were involved; but we did contact Lieutenant Guy Toussaint from the Riverside Police, who was able to confirm the drills took place, on January 26-27, as reported, but would not offer any additional details or information.]]>
In the contemporary indie rock world, it can be difficult to find bands with country leanings that don’t fall entirely into the country genre. However, Futurebirds from Athens, Georgia, seem to be very adept at walking the line between the two genres. Taking influence from one side and blending it with helpings of the other, the band merges the styles into a sound as incredibly unique as many legendary country rock bands that came before them. Much like The Flying Burrito Brothers, the most distinctive quality of Futurebirds sound is its heavy leanings toward a more psychedelic sound. The band’s tunes are enveloping, utilizing heavy reverb to let its instruments ring out and create a rich tapestry of sound that’s so thick you can almost lay in it like a hammock. Nonetheless, with sweeping slide guitar lines and the band’s singers’ thick Southern drawls, the country qualities of the band’s sound are clear and undeniable.
Though the band’s first LP, Hampton’s Lullaby, was a solid debut record for Futurebirds, its most recent release, 2013’s Baba Yaga, may be the most definitive recordings of the group’s sound so far. However, Futurebirds had to overcome an array of challenges and hurdles both in the studio and outside of it to get the album released, something it laments. “The whole album process was long and excruciating,” explains band member, Thomas Johnson. “The whole process took close to three years. We spent a lot of time in the studio, we demoed and tracked 25 or 30 songs, and worked that down to 15 we mixed and mastered, and ended up putting 13 on the record.” In addition to the time spent in the studio, the record was delayed by trouble finding an appropriate label to release the album, with one potential label deal falling through, before eventually finding a home on the awesome indie label, Fat Possum. While some records that take a long time to see release tend to be over done or over produced, that is simply not the case with Baba Yaga. Instead, the record is clear, focused and shows off a wealth of beautifully crafted, ornate songs which are laden with gorgeous, textural guitar playing and well-thought out, beautiful lyrics. Futurebirds’ sound is at its most dreamy and ethereal on Baba Yaga, while never floating too far off and becoming boring or drab. “A lot of the songs deal with a similar subject matter, because, as a band, it’s a shared experience that we all have,” says Thomas. “We’re getting older, distance starts existing between your friends, you lose track of people, folks start moving on with their lives, and a lot of times when you’re on the road you have to miss a lot of things. So it’s not something we tried to do, but I think we ended up writing a lot of material that was on some level, derived from those same experiences.”
From a songwriting standpoint, the band also focused heavily on stripping away some of the excess in its tunes that may have existed in earlier efforts. With a more streamlined, focused approach to the band’s song writing, and time to demo more than two-dozen songs, though it may have taken longer than they hoped, Futurebirds constructed one of the most powerful psychedelic country rock albums ever recorded, and certainly the best record so far.
Heading into 2014, the band has a good run of dates taking them across the U.S. and back, including a much anticipated show at Pappy & Harriett’s. For anybody that’s hoping to see them multiple times throughout Southern California, the band prides itself on changing things up night to night. “I don’t think we’re ever going to be the type of band that plays the same show every night,” Thomas explains. “I think for some bands it works really well, but I don’t know if we’ll ever be quite like that, we just don’t see the point in doing it that way.”
Outside of its touring plans, Futurebirds is getting set to write and record their third LP, which it is hoping will see the light of day in a much more timely manner than Baba Yaga. Beyond that, the band’s ambitions are wonderfully simple and summed up in one succinct sentence by Thomas Johnson, “We’re just taking it a day at a time and making sure we can pay our bills.” It’s that kind of simple logic that will hopefully keep Futurebirds continuing to create, develop and stay active for years to come.
Futurebirds at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown, (760) 365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com. Sun, Feb. 2. 8pm. Free.]]>
KINDRED SPIRITS: Lupe Fiasco, Drake, The Internet and Tyler The Creator.
RECENT RELEASES: God’s Complex (July, 2013).
WEBSITES: www.jaykasai.bandcamp.com; www.twitter.com/jaykasai.
FREQUENTS: The Vibe Bar and Grill (Riverside), National Orange Show (San Bernardino).
A success story in the making, Jay Kasai is an ambitious young adult with a knack for more than just music. Recently, Kasai has earned multiple filmmaking awards at the San Bernardino Valley College Film Festival for his short, God’s Complex, a visually compelling narrative that features tracks from his album. Accomplished as he is, Kasai’s success didn’t come over night, working full-time while attending school; he was able to save up enough money for his film and music equipment. After spending two years perfecting his skills, Kasai has become one of the San Bernardino’s lead sound-mixing engineers, gaining an impressive repertoire of clientele. Saving some of the talent for himself, Kasai’s songs are flawlessly mixed, creating a crisp, professional sound that can only be obtained by a true creative. With one album under his belt, Kasai has been working on a second along with independent label, OhGoshLeotus. Although young, Kasai has accomplished a lot in the past few years and should be on your “must listen” list for 2014!
Tell me about your song writing process.
Jay Kasai: I usually only write late at night, because that seems to be when the inspiration always hits. I always try to let the instrumental speak to me and see what thoughts come to mind and let my lyrics convey it. I always start with melodies and cadences then match lyrics afterwards.
What can fans expect from a live performance?
Kasai: My live performances always have high levels of energy and expect at least one a capella. Whenever possible I bring out fellow artists I’ve done work with because that is something I like to see as a fan when I go to shows also.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Kasai: My previous album is the soundtrack to a short film I wrote and directed also titled God’s Complex. Look for it on YouTube. My next project will be the soundtrack to a horror film I plan to shoot and release next winter, so find me online and stay updated!]]>
In the course of just five feature films director Jason Reitman has established himself as a timelessly talented filmmaker. From his wicked satire Thank You for Smoking and the hip Oscar-winning comedy Juno to Up In the Air and the low-key yet biting dramedy Young Adult, Reitman has presented stories rooted in unique and memorable characters from America’s heartland.
Now he’s returned with another lyrical tale of average Americans affecting each other’s lives in profound and unexpected ways. Starring Josh Brolin as an escaped convict and Kate Winslet as a troubled single mother who is forced to hide him from authorities as they fall in love over a three-day Labor Day weekend, it might be his first flawed film. Yet it retains a romantic power that makes it stick in the mind long after leaving the theater.
Adele (Winslet) is a single mom of a 13-year-old son named Henry (Gattlin Griffith) who has been traumatized by her divorce a few years before. She’s phobic of everything in her town, so she only goes out monthly to shop for supplies.
While shopping, a mysterious man named Frank (Brolin) asks Henry and Adele to get him out of the store they’re in and out of the area. Frank seems menacing at first, and soon they are all at Adele’s house far outside the town. As Frank hides out from police roadblocks searching for him, he starts to repair numerous things in Adele’s house and cooks amazingly well. This includes an incredible pie that’s so sensually made by the duo that it will either provoke uncomfortable laughter or become a classic romantic scene akin to the sculpture-making love scene in Ghost.
This brief respite provides an odd normalcy for Adele and Frank, two damaged souls who are desperate for attention and love. It also provides Henry with a father figure outside his nice but somewhat distant real dad. As the trio hide from neighbors and the police, it quickly becomes clear that Frank and Adele are so caught up in emotions that they decide to run away together, with the plan leading to unforeseen complications that affect their entire lives.
Labor Day is a beautifully shot movie with rich characters and terrific actors to portray them. Its story is simple yet powerful, as it reminds us that not every criminal ruthlessly committed their crimes and sometimes genuine mistakes can ruin lives. While Frank and Adele help each other through the movie’s Labor Day weekend, the movie shows itself as a tale of love and forgiveness and worldly redemption.
Yet, the film is not without flaws. A series of mysterious flashbacks to a past romance are so vaguely conveyed until their payoff that they could stir annoyance in viewers for much of the film’s running time, even as the revelations they build to ultimately have emotional resonance.
And the dynamics of the relationship between Winslet and Brolin are also maddening at points before we fully learn what drives each character, making me want to yell at the screen at a few points as I wondered why Winslet didn’t take advantage of numerous opportunities to break free from Brolin. Yet again, Reitman’s script (based on a novel by acclaimed writer Joyce Maynard) overcomes those doubts by the end.
For those who appreciate films about people who seem real, and those who love romantic movies with some surprise twists, Labor Day will deliver.]]>
Over the past two years, food trucks have offered a refreshing alternative to the same old mundane food items that restaurants serve. But here in the IE there is at least one restaurant that matches up to the quality and expectations of food truck fare—Dragon Loco Chinese Restaurant in Ontario.
This very small Chinese fast food eatery offers a variety of fun, exciting food items that are infused with distinct Mexican and Chinese flavors. Although admittedly it’s not a mix most people would choose to combine but trust me—you will savor each bite you take. Let’s start with the Chorizo Juanton, three triangle-shaped wontons filled with a tasty chorizo, cream cheese and onion mix, deep-fried and creatively topped with colorful avocado, a delicious sweet and sour sauce and spicy sour cream. Like most of the food presented here, the food tastes as good as it looks.
One of the most popular items on the small but mighty menu, is the Dragon Burrito. First you chose your protein (kung pao chicken, orange chicken, carne asada, chinese barbeque pork or shrimp) that is then combined with grilled onions, beans, Asian pico de gallo, cilantro and fried rice. I always order this burrito with the crispy orange chicken and absolutely love it. Just picture your average burrito, a tortilla wrapped mess of ingredients. Most people would be none the wiser to assume there’s more than the average burrito—until a single bite from the dish reveals the glistening orange color of chicken slathered in citrus-flavored chicken morsels. Is your mouth watering yet?
Some of the new items that were just added to the menu and are fantastic additions, including the Drunken Noodles, a large order of Chinese egg noodles wok’ed with a spicy Rojo sauce, pork, shredded cabbage, bean sprouts and topped with a fried egg. The Loco Fried Rice is also a great meal, with its ample portion of fried rice and grilled onions, carne asada, chicken, shrimp, BBQ pork, bean sprouts, peas and carrots wok’ed with a zesty soy, oyster, chili and mushroom sauce. Finally, the unique Quesadilla Loco, a large flour tortilla stuffed with cheddar and Jack cheese, grilled onions, bacon and cilantro.
Upon my last visit, my table was covered with a variety of visually stunning and colorful array of food, especially the Loco Fries. Imagine a large plate of French fries topped with layers of beans, shredded cheese, your choice of meat, fried rice, avocado sauce, and sour cream. Talk about one crazy and filling dish!
Trust me my fellow foodies, this food is for real and it’s a must try for those who are adventurous and want to excite their culinary senses.
Dragon Loco Chinese Restaurant, 2509 S. Euclid Ave., Ontario, (909) 983-2940; www.dragonlocoontario.com.
Follow Allan on the Let’s Dine Out TV show every Friday nights at 6:30pm on Ch. 24, KVCR-PBS, on the Let’s Dine Out Radio show Saturdays 3pm-5pm on AM 590, KTIE and at Feedme411.com. Contact him at (909) 910-3463 or by email email@example.com.]]>
Painter Justin Bower has been making waves in the contemporary painting market for going on almost three years. This philosopher-turned-painter is steeped in art history and larger than life influences, but it’s his paintings that will floor you with evocative and powerful personal and societal reflection.
Bowers work has been all over the country lately. He has experienced a great streak of success since graduating with an MFA from Claremont Graduate University in 2010. This IE-trained artist has received major art world notice and immediate gallery representation after graduating, with Ace Gallery and the infamous Doug Christmas. Working with such prestigious galleries and being shown in art fairs around the world with Ace, Bower’s large-scale disruptive faces have been affecting people the world over, and raising the bar for contemporary painters. Though the power of his paintings lies in the discomforting, anxiety-inducing, human portrait, buyers and collectors have been buying up his work wherever they can, cleaning out his inventory of work after every major exhibition or project.
As he is basking in his glowing success from some major national exhibitions and the recent L.A. Art Show in January, he hopes to expand into the European and Asian art markets. Over a cup of hot cider, he sits down with me and reflects on his intentions and purpose in creating these stark and haunting portrayals of humanity.
“My work has a lot to do with the subject, and the autonomy of the subject, in a way,” Bower tells me. “So when I speak of ‘the subject,’ what we’re talking about is humanity . . . it’s through the senses that we see and discover that we are human, our humanity; and the understanding of others is through the face and the eyes . . . even just a micron of a twitch has tremendous meaning behind it [in the face] . . . The eyes are the sea to the soul, so they say. That’s where I started.”
Many people often think Bower’s paintings are digital manipulations or playful reproductions of messed photos of people. Pieces of the portraits seem photo-realistic while others are meticulously converted into painted digitizations. “A distorted face disturbs people more, or affects them stronger,” he says.
Bower’s obsession with the portrait is merely a vessel for his larger intention, to thoroughly examine what it means to be human. He aims at neutralizing the viewer and jarring them out of their ego-driven coma, and awakening them into seeing humanity as a whole. Like a surgeon, Bower dissects these beautiful and sleek faces, morphing them into terrorizing and haunting images of a glitch—but perhaps there is a larger glitch that is underlying in these images, in these faces. Perhaps the glitch is in our own reflection.
When I look at a Bower face, I see an insightful glance at creation and destruction at the same time—life and death. I see our whole history through art, and our contemporary placement in it, with digital culture and the inherent search for meaning in our human existence—just in one painting. It’s amazing what an image can do—that power is a keen tool Bower, and many other talented artists, have a firm but tenuous grip on; it is a power I respect and am in awe of.
Bower admits that he doesn’t want to remain stagnant, that he has future hopes of expansion in his art. He hopes to investigate a way to place these figures into an environment. He says he wants to “really work with the whole ontology of what it means to be human, the beingness, which would mean the environment will [also] be fractured. I really want it to be revolutionary, in terms of my work. It’s moving the subject into environments that are unknown. Because that’s how I really feel; we’re moving so quickly, and also from there I can really critique the society’s control, the code that is moving in and out, the disfigurement, the whole gambit of science, technology meeting philosophy, art, and yeah—just creating a whole state of ‘a theatre of becoming.’”
“Pink Martini is a rollicking, around-the-world musical adventure,” says founder, bandleader and pianist for the band, Thomas Lauderdale. “If the United Nations had a house band in 1962, hopefully we’d be that band.” Lauderdale, born and raised in Portland, Oregon, was studying local politics while pondering a run for governor when he dreamed up the idea for Pink Martini in 1994 after attending one too many fundraisers where the musical entertainment for the evening was often uninspired.
Featuring nearly a dozen musicians playing a multitude of instruments including a harp, guitar, upright bass, drums, piano, trumpet and cello to name just a fraction, Pink Martini is a small orchestra which performs music that is elegant yet accessible, educated yet enjoyable. Blending jazz, classical music, American pop, some cabaret and a little bluegrass this band creates a sound that is ritzy, glamorous and international.
“All of us in Pink Martini have studied different languages as well as different styles of music from different parts of the world,” says Lauderdale. “So inevitably, our repertoire is wildly diverse. At one moment, you feel like you’re in the middle of a samba parade in Rio de Janeiro, and in the next moment, you’re in a French music hall of the 1930s or a palazzo in Napoli. It’s a bit like an urban musical travelogue.”
Only a year after Pink Martini formed the group met with near-overnight, international success with their first song, “Sympathique,” where it was nominated for “Song of the Year” at France’s Victoires de la Musique Awards. Since then it has sold millions of albums worldwide on its own label, Heinz Records, and have played at amazing venues across the world including the Cannes Film Festival, the Hollywood Bowl, the Royal Albert Hall in London, New York’s legendary Carnegie Hall, the L’Olympia Theatre in Paris and at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
Pink Martini has released more than a half-dozen independent and collaborative albums including 2004’s Hang On Little Tomato, 2007’s Hey Eugene! and Splendor in the Grass in 2009. Each of its albums has gone gold worldwide and in 2011 it released 1969, an album featuring Japanese singer Saori Yuki, that has since gone platinum. It has also appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, the Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and their music can be heard in films such as Mr. and Mrs. Smith and television shows including The Sopranos, Castle and Sherlock.
A Welcomed Storm
In 2010 when the original lead singer for the band, China Forbes, underwent vocal cord surgery, Lauderdale asked Storm Large, a formidable and influential producer, musician and singer in her own right, to join the band as a lead singer. Since then, Forbes has recovered completely, and the two singers have continued to perform together onstage with Pink Martini.
Large lives in Portland, Oregon, and is a veteran of such bands as Flower SF, Storm and Her Dirty Mouth, Storm, Inc. and Storm and The Balls. Compared to her previous gigs, what does she like the most about playing with Pink Martini?
“We are all capable soloists in our own right,” Large says. “Everyone is a star player and gets their moments to shine. I’m like a glorified back-up singer, so a lot of the normal lead singer pressure is off of me.”
While her own eclectic background is of no small magnitude, working with Pink Martini has shown Large many other vistas. “I’ve learned so much from hanging out with them,” she says. “Just the suggestions alone have taught me so much about music. I’m an old punk rocker who grew up listening to bands like Public Enemy and Metallica. Punk rock music is anti-establishment, and what I love about Pink Martini is how they have always remained independent,” Large says.
Growing up with a last name like hers was a challenge, but the bitter experiences made Large see life as being a lot sweeter, later on. “It’s a great stage name now, but if I were to pick another name it would be more feminine,” she says. A tall girl with a blue-collar background and an artistic nature, Large stood out from her wealthier, more popular classmates. “I was an unhappy, angry teenager going to school with the richest, most beautiful people in the country, and they didn’t treat me well.”
Time has moved on and now Large is a professional who is thriving and influencing in a music industry that has only grown more vicious with time and the internet. Now she is proud of her unpopularity in high school. “If life is tough growing up, you will be able to handle the real world later on,” she says.
With so much Pink Martini to listen to, a listener will soon notice two predominating themes its music is heir to: Joyful multiculturalism and sincere empathy. “Thomas says it best, Pink Martini is global pop. Beautiful melodies hand selected around the world, celebrated by a miniature orchestra,” Large says. When the band hits any city, Lauderdale will venture to a record store, searching for vintage gold, usually older artists and rare composers. “It has to be a beautiful melody, first and foremost. It has to be a tortured love song, full of longing.”
While Pink Martini is certainly very different than anything Large has ever done, given her history in punk rock and her predilection for music that isn’t mainstream, the experience has been a labor she enjoys. “I love touring with Pink. It’s like being a part of a big traveling circus. Performing with the band has been really good for my singing voice. It’s not as aggressive or intense as I normally get, because I play a different character onstage with them,” Large says. “It is very challenging in its own way, especially since its classical music.”
As much as she travels extensively Large still loves Portland’s own home-grown music industry, as well as its army of local artistic talent. “The creative vibe there is constantly changing. Because Portland is such an affordable place to live, you can have a part-time job, live well and still have a budget left over for your art. That really fuels creativity,” she says.
Get Happy is Pink Martini’s sixth studio album, an Earth-exploring array of all the band has to offer including collaborations with artists such as Rufus Wainright, the von Trapps, Phillipe Katerine, Portland’s own Meow Meow, the incomparable Ari Shapiro and even a special performance by comedy and entertainment superstar, Phyllis Diller, who sings along with the band for the song “Smile.”
According to Large, this album will pack a different recipe than Pink Martini’s previous punches. “What’s different about this album is that it is a lot darker. It has a lot of depth. It is also not as sparkly, compared to what we’ve done before,” Large says. “We have a lot more collaborators on this record, nearly nine different singers. Lauderdale really likes to have a lot of people on the stage.”
On the cover of Get Happy is a small boy looking up into the air, dapperly dressed, surrounded by big, bright, happy looking balloons. Rather than being just a simplistic piece of visually uplifting photography, the cover is actually a reference to a popular childhood French story. Large explains.
“Basically, a sad little boy meets a red balloon. The balloon makes him happy, but some bullies chase the boy down and pop the balloon. Just when the boy is sad that the balloon is gone, thousands of red balloons suddenly fill the air above the city and come down to scare the bullies into leaving and carry the little boy away.” Large says. “So the photo is supposed to make you happy, even though the songs on the album are, to be honest, all kind of sad.”
Even the title of Pink Martini’s latest creation, Get Happy, says something deeper. Large tells the tale. “Lauderdale wanted to put out an album that was really joyful, because he was tired of all of the negativity in the media,” she says. With wall-to-gutter coverage of political scandal, economic depression and senseless violence, the band wanted to offer something uplifting, for a difference. “A lot of the songs we were drawn to were still dark, moody and intense, but the album still ended up being called ‘Get Happy,’ so you could say the title is an imperative.”
As with most of Pink Martini’s potent mixtures, each of the songs on this album resonate with a tone that is meant to conjure up a past existence that, for our forefathers, was no less challenging that what we all face today. “The songs date way back,” Large says. “Some are from the 1800s, others are from the 1960s. We picked each of these songs because they are snapshots of dark, desperate times. What we want to say to the audience is, hopefully, we will get through these hard times and have an easier time understanding why it all happened to us, later. Get Happy is a call to action. At least, that’s how I saw it,” Large says.
Pink Balls of Steel
Pink Martini first formed for the purposes of entertaining wealthy donors to causes, political or otherwise, that are intended to help people and the communities they live in. Decades later, with millions of dollars to show for their talents, the band still believes in making lives better whether it’s performing for Occupy Wall Street or to help raise funds for bipartisan, charitable causes. “We always try to show our support for good causes,” Large says.
While a lot of other musicians might be afraid to state their opinions, lest their record sales suffer, but Large and Pink Martini have never let that bother them. “There are some fans that have this attitude that an artist should just shut up and sing. But I feel that just because we draw more attention as artists doesn’t mean we are any less important,” Large says. “An artist might draw some fire, but we have a responsibility to get involved. There are too many people who like to go online anonymously and give their opinion, but it takes balls to put your name, reputation and career out there and make a stand.”
Pink Martini with Storm Large at McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Dr.,
Palm Desert, (760) 340-ARTS; www.mccallumtheatre.com; www.pinkmartini.com. Fri, Jan. 31-Sat, Feb. 1. 8pm. $35-$75.]]>
Whoever posts the correct answer first will be featured as the winner in a follow up post revealing their answer. Ready. Set. GO!
This just in: change in climate—grunge fashion heats up the streets
The notion of grunge culture still being a huge fixture in current culture is no falsification.
The idea was made distinctly apparent upon my arrival back to college life. After a much needed winter break —ha, “winter”— I arrived back on campus greeted by exposed knees through tattered denim, flannels flowing in the Santa Ana winds, Doc Martens trudging over burning asphalt and beanies—endless amounts of beanies in varying shapes and colors.
And yes, it is 80+ degrees in various areas of Southern California currently. We are actually going through a drought causing my allergies to flare and an attractive daily layer of sweat to cover my body.
Yes, the unexpected heat does have me doubling up on deodorant and fiending for my Claritin fix. Thank you for asking.
However, this hasn’t kept me or my college peers from sporting baggy beanies pulled down over our ears and over sized sweatshirts for that fashion over function steez. Yet, I’m feeling conflicted, really. It’s touching on an “I slept in this outfit” quite casual look, but somehow looks and feels painfully appealing and totally on trend. I guess it’s just “a thing,” as some would refer to it. The burgeoning reemergence of a style notion that brims the border of “hesh” fashion merged with the essence of early ‘90s grunge.
Day two introductions in my anthropology course brought out the best of this idealism.
My professor—flaunting thick black-brimmed glasses, a suit jacket over a checkered button up and fully tattooed forearms—reminisced about his days in Portland. “Grunge is still alive and kicking over there, man. It legitimately never left, really. I can see it making a comeback out here too. It’s awesome.” Quite excitedly, he tied this in to a discussion on culture. The witty bastard somehow found a way to bring us in to a conversation on shifts relating to music, fashion and above all—grunge—conclusively reeling us all back to the comparative studies of human societies. It was brilliant.
As you would imagine, we talked Nirvana for a bit. We needed to understand the mainstream origins of the subculture before dissecting its intricacies, of course. We pushed the limits with a little Jesus and the Mary Chain. We spoke about the stark, culturally shocking jump from 80’s hair metal right into grunge; a vast shift for fashion to say the least. Men came from walking around in leopard print accessories, spandex blouses and fishnet frocksto emulating the grunge alpha and omega, Mr. Kurt Cobain.
Teamed with a few contemporary fashion fixtures—maybe the standard snapback for men and a pair of highly crucial leggings for the ladies—grunge essentials are being mixed and matched throughout the wardrobes of fashion forwards everywhere.
As you stroll through the aisles of malls and peak into those fashion blogs, see if you can spot a homage to the profound era of grunge.
While it may not hold the same weight it did when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” first aired on MTV, its presence is back with a modern approach, able to be utilized and expanded on in ways that truly show grunge culture’s longevity and versatility.]]>