Tag Archives: los angeles

The Magical and Endangered Species of Puppetry – Saving Bob Baker’s Marionette Theater

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(photo by stephanie ellison)

“You still reach them with imagination; you still reach them with love,” Baker said. “It was through imagination with many a young person that we got airplanes, telephones, motion pictures, you name it — it came through imagination first.” – Bob Baker

A vibrant imagination needs a good work out too, and soon there might be one less place in Los Angeles to exercise it.

The bad economy and new technologies have endangered a special nook in Downtown Los Angeles. Hidden away near an overpass sits a white block building, Bob Baker’s Marionette Theater, with a 50 year history of producing magic out of wood and strings.

Bob Baker started his marionette theater in 1953. Now registered as a historical landmark by the city of Los Angeles, it’s the longest running puppet theater in the US. Over the past decade, with the passing of business partner, Alton Wood, the digital advancements in movie effects, and the lack of public school funds for group field trips, the puppets are in serious trouble of abandonment.

Bob Baker, now close to 90 years old, is selling the theater, but not without putting up a fight to save both his theater and puppetry school.

According to the LA Times:

The total listing price for the five lots located on the corner of Glendale and First streets is listed at $2.05 million on Loopnet. This includes two vacant lots, the theater, storage and the corner parking lot.

Baker said he hopes that someone purchases the land with a lease-back option. Since the listing has been posted, Baker said they’ve already received calls from a few interested buyers. Baker’s also open to taking on an associate partner, or any other arrangements that could keep the theater in business, he said.

While you might not be able to afford purchasing a 2 million dollar theater, you can still make a charitable donation to keep Bob Baker’s Marionettes alive, at “Network for Good”.

Marionettes are completely fascinating – inanimate cartoons brought to life by faceless puppeteers, perhaps this is also the reason puppets can be irksome and down-right creepy, but in a fantastic, Roald Dahl kind of way. From a 300 year old Punch and Judy show, to Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal, or a more recent portrayal in Being John Malkovitch,  Marionettes give us a mythic and rich perspective on the world we’ve crafted and been crafted by, both the good and the bad. It’s a microcosm for all the world is and can be.

And it all happens to be housed in a time-capsule theater, hidden near an overpass, in Downtown Los Angeles, made with wood, and moved by strings. And while adults can appreciate Bob Baker’s Marionettes, only children can unlock its secrets through their own budding imagination.

Create a lifetime memory for a child, and workout your imagination by seeing the show this weekend and supporting Bob Baker’s Marionette Theater.

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Here’s to the man who loved a city of cars, but never drove

Ray Bradbury | 1920 – 2012

SOMETIME in the next five years, traffic all across L.A. will freeze.

The freeways that were once a fast-moving way to get from one part of the city to another will become part of a slow-moving glacier, edging down the hills to nowhere.   

– Ray Bradbury, February, 2006, Los Angeles Times

This is how Ray Bradbury started a Los Angeles Times essay back in early February, 2006, expressing his belief that a monorail system would help solve transportation problems in LA. This wasn’t a new proposition. Bradbury fought for over 50 years for a monorail system – his clean, noiseless, cost efficient solution to Los Angeles’ public transportation woes…to no avail. Often seen traveling on his bike, between bookstores, theaters, and other favorite spots around town, even in his transportation choices, Bradbury was ahead of his time.

Popular Mechanics Magazine

Ray Bradbury’s unfettered imagination and zest for life, reveling in both its ugliness and beauty – whether it be in the horror and ecstasy of fiction, or the dirt and sun of Los Angeles – will remain an inspiration throughout the rest of my lifetime, and countless others in Los Angeles, and the world.

Wouldn’t it be great to honor Bradbury by picking up his cause,  pursuing the dream of a Los Angeles monorail? Call it the Rayal. The conductor uniforms would be akin to Mr. Electro – coattails, top hat, and all. The decor theme could be a rocket to mars, and the interiors would smell of “all the thunderstorms throughout time”. And why not? If we remember nothing else, it’s that Ray Bradbury challenged each and every one of us to dream the big dreams. He will be missed.

What fun you are missing, then. The fun of anger and disillusion, the fun of loving and being loved, of moving and being moved by this masked ball which dances us from cradle to churchyard. Life is short, misery sure, mortality certain. But on the way…why not carry those two inflated pig-bladders labeled Zest and Gusto. With them, traveling to the grave, I intend to slap some dummox’s behind, pat a pretty girl’s coiffure, wave to a tad up a persimmon tree. Anyone who want to join me, there’s plenty of room…

– Bradbury 1973

Ethan Pines for New York Times

Fitness Fashion Friday – Stella for Adidas, and The London Olympics

The world of fitness fashion is growing at a fast pace. According to market research firm GIA, the global market for fitness clothing is expected to reach 126 billion by the year 2015. This is due to, according to GIA, “dramatic lifestyle changes and the desire for stylish, functional and versatile sports apparel.”

I live in Los Angeles, where people don two uniforms – red carpet clothes or workout wear. And while I too spend most of my days in fitness clothing, I love fashion, and am constantly seeking unique pieces, creating ensembles reflective of a personal style.

Lucky for us the options are growing everyday. Recent workout fashion history has gone from spandex leotards and day-glo parachute pants to sustainable materials and tailored designs… I’m still holding my breath for a Rodarte dancewear line.

You always remember your first, and my first brand loyalty went to Stella McCartney and her line for Adidas.  What still draws me to these clothes is the combination of Stella McCartney’s impeccable Saville Row tailoring, with her sense of whimsy. Stella McCartney makes workout clothes that are both fun and smart. One of the first to elevate workout wear to a high-end sense of style, her designs have made lasting impacts throughout the fitness apparel world. It’s not just about looks, McCartney is an active person herself, and it shows in the practical aspects of the clothing and materials as well.

While her last few collections for Adidas were not as strong as the preceding ones, McCartney’s made a strong showing with her Olympic Designs for England, who is also hosting this Summer’s Olympic Games (July 27th – August 12th) in London.

Having worked on the line for over two years,  McCartney told UK Vogue that she considers her country’s flag as one of the most iconic.

Recognizing the Union Jack colors are similar to a lot of other flags, and that the flag might be overused as the Olympic build-up continued,  McCartney chose different shades to express the Union Jack aesthetic, wanting athletes to feel identifiable as Team Great Britain, but unique and yet respectful of the flag’s beauty.

Is running in Los Angeles bad for your health?

In Downtown Los Angeles there’s a film – not of celluloid, but of soot – covering everything, from shop displays in the fashion district to the tables at high-end cafes.  Blowing your nose at the end of each day proves you breathe it in as well. And when I saw so many people jogging and biking through the streets here  – in this fitness obsessed city – I seriously began to wonder “This just can’t be good for you… right?”

Why exercise outdoors in a city known for smog? It seems counterintuitive. I decided to do a little research and find out if it is really harmful, or just a bunch of hot air.

The American Lung Association releases a “State of the Air” report every year.  In 2011, Los Angeles was #1 in ozone pollution in the country, and #2 in year-round toxic particle (soot) pollution. According to The ALA and a 2008 study by the National Research Council, air pollution aggravates asthma, heart and lung disease and diabetes, and can have a severe effect on children, stunting lung growth. Diesel emissions have been linked to cancer. According to the state Air Resources Board, 9,200 Californians die prematurely each year because of dirty air. Research has also connected a higher risk for these diseases directly to exposure from exhausts of heavy traffic and busy highways.

Now imagine running in that air! You increase your intake of oxygen while running, and subsequently the amount of pollutants. The Beijing Olympics weren’t so long ago as to recall the struggle many Olympian faced when training and competing in China’s own pollution problem.. US Olympic Mountain Biker Adam Craig, went into bronchial spasms because of the air. It’s like suffocating. Craig was unable to fully breathe in the air his body needed. 30 minutes into the competition, he had to quit.  And he wasn’t alone. Many athletes experienced similar problems performing at their peak in the pollution.

While Los Angeles might not be as bad as Beijing, and smog and soot levels have dropped in Southern California over the last decade,  the region still has the highest levels of ozone nationwide, violating federal health standards an average of 137 days a year.  Apparently, it’s getting better, but unfortunately not quick enough to make an impact on our health…sorry Angelenos.

So what can we do? Give up our cars, build reliable, and convenient public transit, plants more trees, and offer more pedestrian and bike friendly means of getting around town…like, tomorrow. And if none of that is happening in the immediate future? Then be smart about activity. Check the air quality before rigorous outdoor activity. My Environment on the EPA’s website provides hourly air quality forecasts. Airnow.gov is another  site providing air quality maps. If you must workout outside, do it when traffic is light. Early morning hours are ideal.

So it seems the answer is yeah…running in Los Angeles is bad for you. But, what’s worse – not exercising at all, or doing it in a polluted city?  Both can cause shorter life expectancy and an array of diseases. Until there’s more research, I’d venture to assume it’s better to exercise than just sit on the couch…though you won’t catch me running through the streets of LA, for fitness purposes anyway, anytime soon.

Beauty Culture – how beauty shapes our lives

If you are in Los Angeles, I highly recommend catching the Beauty Culture Exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography before it departs on November 27th. And if you aren’t so close to Los Angeles, you can still experience the viewpoint of photographers and some of their images on the Annenberg website. It’s thought- provoking, stunning, and horrifying, all at once.  In a word – intense. Photographer Lauren Greenfield created a 30 minute documentary for the exhibit which runs in a loop in the center of the gallery. It displays the highs and lows, the grace and pain, and everything in between that is modern beauty. I only hope Greenfield is able to publicly showcase the documentary after the exhibit. Beauty is so intertwined with our lifestyle and society, it can neither be all good or bad, and Greenfield does a great job walking the line between both extolling its virtues and being all too aware of its devastating traps.

In conjunction with the exhibit, throughout the month of October there is a great speaker series, discussing the topics of beauty and society.  Here are the dates and schedules, but for more information, click here.

Thursday Evenings 6:30 to 8:00PM

Thursday, October 6, Peter Fetterman and Lizzie Himmel -“Women In Photography

Thursday, October 11, Randall Slavin with Charlize Theron -“The Making of 24 Portraits

Thursday, October 13, Lauren Greenfield

Thursday, October 20, Mona Kuhn -“Beauty Without Apologies

Thursday, October 27, Elaine D’Farley and Philip Gefter – “Beauty: The Real vs. the Ideal