What's with the music industry?

Twins who carry the burden of trying to bring long hair back to rock
It's not that I believe actors should be homogenized for aesthetic pleasure. In fact, it's sad to see girls all the same shade of peroxide blonde, with matching pumpkin-colored skin and noses courtesy of Dr. 90210. People should embrace their differences, and not be afraid to stand out, save for their new breasts. 
Fake hot goes beyond L.A.!

But why is it, that in the music industry people work just as hard to look different? And not just different, but aesthetically displeasing? As hard as actors try to fit into the mold, musicians work just as hard to break it. The effect is just as contrived.

I went to an MTV Awards pre-party, and the place was positively crawling with manufactured "freaks" -  musicians and wanna-be rock stars. Perhaps it's because the party was thrown by the self-promoting con artist  David Harrison Levi. Or perhaps it was the desperation to stand out without the aid of American Idol. Some musicians tried to bring back long hair (see above). Others decided to cover their clothes with rock 'n roll band pins, but looked like deranged extras from TGI Friday's Servers Gone Wild

with Chris Dennis of Confessions of a Superhero

Girls made dresses from silly string, boys wore blue lipstick. You couldn't escape the feeling that they all went home, removed their "weird" and sat in front of Glee with a bowl of cereal. It was their schtick.

So to all of those homogenized actors and anti-homogenized musicians: JUST BE YOU. I'm not saying that the real you is great. Hell, it may not even be good. But it's got to be better than what you're making us deal with now.

"Starmaker" / con artist David Harrison Levi



Trashy Lingerie, Los Angeles
Gentlemen, you do know that this never happens in real life...right?

To set the record straight. girls NEVER:

- Have pillow fights in lingerie

- Kiss one another, unless it's for shock value (Madonna & Brittany Spears), album sales (Katy Perry) or to get guys to like us (COLLEGE)

- EVER want to have a threesome, unless it's two guys, one girl

- fart


Mashti Malone's - Flavors as original/abusive as their sign!

Mashti wackiness!
The Mashti Malone's sign has always been a hot mess. There's Arabic writing, English writing, a giant ice cream cone and a four leaf clover. L.A. Times calls it "culturally confusing." But it's a relieving visage a town where suburban outskirts are building out homogenized strip malls, with tidy store logos sharing one big sign. Inside of giant parking lots, these strip malls are styled like Mexican haciendas with clay-tiled roofs, but with Japanese pergolas. Don't ask.

Too boring for Mashti wackiness:

Little did I know that Mashti Malone's was the epicenter of a delicious movement. I attended a studio party where they had catered sweets, and that's when I realized they were more than just an ice cream joint with a sarcastic name. 

sample, please!
They used pure ingredients before using pure ingredients was cool. Whole Foods took note and started selling pints in their stores. Bon Appetit and LA Weekly covered them in their publications. But Angelenos can get healthy ice cream from anywhere, so why Mashti Malone's? It's their exotic flavors, popular in the Middle East, such as: rosewater saffron, orange blossom and pistachio. 

Upstarts will imitate and maybe even master these recipes one day. But these are old school, and passed down from Iranian family members. You can't uncover their recipe secrets. And if you move into a modern homogenized strip mall, you certainly can't have their sign.


Mais Oui! Cooking classes at Sur La Table!

TVs are set up so you can watch others at close range
Sur La Table, French for "on the table," has always been the Los Angeles go-to place for truffle oil, crab leg snappers and other sundry dining items. Conveniently located at the Original Farmers Market on 3rd and Fairfax, the prices are a little less shameless than Williams Sonoma, they sell tons of fun trinkets for gift bags and, as I had recently found out, they teach cooking classes.

Yep, I did this.
Time Warner treated us to a night of French epicurean lessons, and the fabulous sit-down meal, where we could enjoy the fruit our labors. Of course we washed the whole thing down with bottles (and bottles!) of wine, then were sent on our merry way with culinary gift bags. 

This was also me.
I recommend taking a class, even if a seasoned cook, just to brush up on some new tips and ideas. While it may be considered pretentious to "over-pronounce French words with a French accent" (the hilarious complaint in Friends with Kids) it's honorable to be able to pronounce the dishes you learned how to cook yourself. It's even better to cook with all that butter.

Do I even need to say it?
Time to sample the goods

the three amigos


Ghost Hunters of Los Angeles

One of my issues with Los Angeles is a lack of known history. I'm sure all kinds of business went down between Mexicans, Native Americans and pioneers from the East Coast. Especially when Missions were being built and cultures clashed. But because of our rocky shorelines, we've never had ships sail in to invade us from other countries. And between this being the Wild West, and the fact that so many dialects were spoken, little was recorded and much was lost in translation. Unlike the East, we had no newspapers, historians, universities or libraries to document things. Less history means means less ghost stories.

To an East Coaster, it makes things a little boring. The Atlantic coastline is rife with sordid history dating back to the Revolutionary War, even Jamestown. In high school, a friend sold a rare Civil War coin to the Smithsonian Institution, after uncovering it in her neighborhood creek. I met a girl at a party who liked to camp overnight by an old Civil War trench in her backyard, which was still hollowed out.  And the most disturbing of all: one of my friends in Virginia was digging in his yard and uncovered bones from an unmarked slave cemetery! Authorities swooped in and the family ended up on the local news. Sometimes it felt like every home in Virginia was built over bodies. Haunted tours were advertised in every town, so it was common to see a person dressed in colonial garb speaking to a crowd of onlookers. The ghost stories that we'd inevitably hear and retell would absorb us until dawn during camping trips and slumber parties. 

So you can imagine the withdrawal. And I love sordid, as many here do.

It seems that the ghost stories of Los Angeles fall into two categories:
  • Spooky events and drama recorded by monks at various missions, as they were some of the only literate people in California at the time
  • Old Hollywood tales, like The Black Dahlia or Manson murders
If you're like me and love a good ghost story, you'd find L.A. a little lacking. The buildings are all new. We don't have thunderstorms. And as previously mentioned, the past is under-recorded. There aren't legitimate ghost tours, just tours of where horrific murders took place. Usually, historic hotels make up stories of Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe sightings, just to book more rooms with tourists. It seems the only things that go bump in the night are drunk celebrities on the PCH.

But you can't blame ghouLA for trying. These "ghost hunters" and enthusiasts gather for drinks, go on field trips and give speeches, all trying to drum up the excitement of supernatural activity. Though many of their claims of things being haunted are unsubstantiated, such as Maeve's Residuals being haunted, (they have no story, but overheard the bartender mention it) they do stir things up. They add excitement to this place. Like me, they are lovers of history that like getting a little spooked.



beet and paneer salad
 If it weren't for the tabloids reporting on Hilary Swank dining here, I never would have known the place existed! I've driven by Mezze countless times, but never noticed the building. Perhaps it's because when on La Cienega, I suffer tunnel vision for Absolutely PhoBulous, to feed the beast which is my abusive Vietnamese craving.

Upon entering, rows of vertical glass jars sat open, like a rustic bulk food area in a farmer’s market. Cinnamon sticks and star anise sat in open jars, welcoming patrons to smell and touch the exotic spices that awaited them in their meals. 

chicken shawerma on house-baked bread and house-fried zatar chips
One could even watch the chefs plating food, stacking it into presentations that bordered on art pieces. But unlike sushi bars and pizza parlors, this staging area was closed off behind a silent glass wall. There was no interaction, and it felt an art instillation. It wasn’t cold, but professional, almost reverential.

liver & pork pate with mint chutney, homemade pickles and puffed pita
The Mezze chefs take great care not only in presentation, but in the quality of the food. My takeaway was that they let each spice speak for itself, having its own voice when being showcased in the dish. The pate showcased the coriander, the potato chips featured zatar, the shawerma had a masculine, char-broiled flavor and the house-made pickles popped with the tang of mustard seed. It was very clear that the display of spices in glass jars was not for d├ęcor, but a demonstration of the tools used by the artists. It is no wonder that celebrities, who could dine anywhere, choose to eat here.