Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oingo Boingo: A Los Angeles Halloween Music Tradition

Transplants, the Los Angeles experts that they are, love saying that this City has no traditions. Wrongo. Los Angeles does have them, you just don't know what they are. But some traditions, long enjoyed by the locals, are no longer around. perhaps the most well-known tradition was the annual Oingo Boingo Halloween concert. Now if you're really new to Los Angeles, or are under 25 years old, or both, you might be saying, "Oingo What?"

The Militant will explain.

Years before Danny Elfman became exclusively known as a film score composer, he was the lead singer of a rock band called Oingo Boingo. Started in the early '70s with his brother Richard and some UCLA friends, they were originally called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, an eclectic theatrical-music act spanning various genres and eras. In the late '70s, the band gravitated towards a more modern rock, ska and new wave sound and shortened the name to its now-well-known suffix.

The band was signed to A&M records and were local staples on the new wave-formatted KROQ 106.7 FM, and got national exposure via MTV. Songs like "Only A Lad," "Who Do You Want To Be" and "Little Girls" were some of their biggest hits. But they hit the big time through their theme song from the 1985 movie Weird Science and had other hits like "Just Another Day" and "Dead Man's Party."

Even in the midst of their mainstream success and world tours, they would always find the time to come back home to Los Angeles come late October and play their annual Halloween concert, which took place at various venues such as The Palace (now The Avalon Hollywood), Irvine Meadows (now Verizon) Ampitheatre and the Universal (now Gibson) Ampitheatre (See, our venues are still around, they just change their names...), where they played their final Halloween concert - and final concert ever - in 1995.

The heir apparent to Oingo Boingo is the performance art-rock band The Mutaytor, which includes former Oingo Boingo bass player John Avila, who does annual Halloween concerts with a "Danny Elfman-approved" tribute band and sometimes other Oingo Boingo alums such as drummer Johnny Vatos Hernandez and guitarist Steve Bartek. Elfman unfortunately does not participate due to suffering from irreversible hearing loss and avoids loud amplified concert settings.

But Oingo Boingo's music legacy lives on as one of Los Angeles' most influential and original bands, and, along with Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark, (No) Silly String on Hollywood Boulevard, West Hollywood's Halloween Costume Carnival and Knotts Scary Farm, it will always be one of this area's own Halloween traditions. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Massively Critical: The October Critical Mass Ride

The Militant hasn't done a group bicycle ride in a looong-ass time, so he figured he'd check out this month's last-Friday-of-the-month Los Angeles Critical Mass ride on Friday night, having heard it's quite the shiznit these days, with upwards of over 1800 cyclists, and a police escort which followed this unfortunate incident last year.

This was the Militant's first CM ride in over three years. When he first rode in Spring 2007, about 60 riders started at Wilshire and Western, snaked through Koreatown, Hollywood, Silver Lake, Historic Filipinotown and finally ended unceremoniously in Downtown Los Angeles...with about six riders. The Militant thought it was teh lame and has avoided it since, in favor of these rides and this (now defunct) ride.

But now that CM has grown to the size and scope of its originator up north, the Militant wanted to check it out.

He rode over from the Militant Compound to Wilshire/Western, where some 1300 cyclists gathered (pictured right). And just at the ready, LAPD motorcycles were lined up around the corner, with a number of bike cops waiting at the base of the Solair Wilshire building.

The most interesting observation coming back from the Militant's two-year absence from group rides? The change in the group ride demographic. The majority of riders no longer comprises of white hipsters on fixies, but Latino teenagers...on fixies.

The 30-mile ride got underway at around 7:45 p.m., headed north on Western, west on 6th Street, north on Highland, west on Melrose, south on La Cienega...

...and then, well it sorta got iffy after that. The pack thinned out greatly. In fact, though the po-po were escorting us, they were also ticketing cyclists at every other lighted intersection for running red lights. It was sort of bizarre. One female cyclist openly wept as she tried to reason with the officer.

As we headed down La Cienega, there was some confusion as to where to go. Apparently, the pack turned west on Pico, but we continued south on La Brea and turned west on Venice Blvd. towards Culver City.

But Venice Blvd already has a bike lane, and the Militant was increasingly feeling the uselessness of this ride using a pre-existing bike lane when for the past five miles or so we took over the streets (which is the point of Critical Mass in the first place, no?).

At one point, after Mar Vista and into eastern Venice, the Militant was riding all alone. Hmm, this evening started out as Critical Mass and ended like...well, any other night the Militant rides his bike alone. He overheard people heading south on Lincoln, so he dismounted and hung out on Lincoln and Venice. There were other cyclists on each corner, either hanging out or waiting for others. He even saw some head north on Lincoln. At this point, he thought, "Critical Mass the Militant's Ass!" And contemplated either riding the 33 Metro Local bus or his bike back to his compound.

Suddenly, at around 9:25 p.m., a huge gaggle of riders came up to the street and stopped at the light (Pictured left). Here they are! They probably did go down Pico after all. Los Angeles, you never fail the Militant!

Now joining what now looks like a couple hundred riders, we descended south on Lincoln towards Marina Del Rey and Playa Vista, where we got ready to turn left on Jefferson. But since we were all bicycles and there were no cars stopped on top of the road sensors circles, the left turn green light never came. After over 5 minutes waiting at the left turn lane, two motorcycle officers went ahead on a red light and we all followed them.

There were whoops and hollers as we bolted east on Jefferson back towards Culver City. But then again, at every lighted intersection, cyclists were getting red light tickets. So basically, never bolt past a red light (when the police are present, unless they actually allow you to...).

We headed left on Sepulveda and hit Venice Blvd. Being All Hallow's Eve Eve Eve, a number of cyclists wore costumes, everything from the standard zombie and skeleton to some of the more creative ones - including an iPod and Elliot (a dude wearing a red-hooded sweatshirt with an E.T. doll in his bike's front basket - clever).

There were also some pretty tricked-out bikes, including one pulling a long trailer, and one extremely illuminated cycle owned by Dego from Downtown Los Angeles, who had built his over the past couple years and powers all his lights with a 38-volt battery mounted behind his saddle.

We headed east on Venice, using the bike lane again, and didn't turn north again until Western, where the Militant returned back to the Metro station at Wilshire, where he met up with an operative. What started out as roughly 1300 turned into...13.

In all it was a fun night, though the police presence was confusing. June's much-lauded Critical Mass was called a "love fest" between cyclists and LAPD, but the Militant overheard incidents of officers being unnecessarily rude to CM participants. There were riders who had great conversations with the police, mainly the younger officers on bikes (a number of them did look like they were having fun - they normally don't get to ride that far). Officers do have to uphold the law as they are sworn to do, but as the pack thins out dramatically, the purpose of Critical Mass is all for naught. It looked like there were enough tickets handed out to balance the City's budget woes. So thank a cyclist if that happens.

In the meantime, the Militant will look out for the other group rides. Or...he may or may not organize one of his own. Who's down for that?!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Vlogstyle Episode 07: The Militant Experiences CicLAvia!!!

So CicLAvia finally happened on Sunday. The Militant's utopian wet dream of car-free streets in Los Angeles came true, if only for five hours on 10/10/10. It was a unique day in the city, having been shared this event with some 100,000 others. The day was chill, peaceful, joyful. Never before has he seen so many Angelenos engaged in wondrous displays of leisure. But most important is the social impact. Lots of new friends were made (Facebook as well as real-life), mutual experiences were shared. The Militant was even spotted (probably, he can never conform nor deny any spottings by any of the other participants, but he was definitely out there). Kudos to the people who organized this history-making event. No doubt, this is but the first of many. Los Angeles will never be the same.

So enjoy the Militant's little video of the event. As you can see, it made him react...quite emotionally.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Domingo Gigante: It's CicLAvia!

CicLAvia. You know what it is. Sunday, 10/10/10. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Eastside to East Hollywood. Definitely part of the public space revolution in Los Angeles the Militant recently blogged about. Ride yo bikes, jog yo legs, roll yo skates, push yo strollerz, walk yo dawgs, cuz ERRYBODY gonna be a part of it! Be there -- The Militant may or may not. See ya at CicLAvia!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Infinitely Mortifying! KCET Divorces PBS

An earthquake shook today in the local broadcast television world as TV station KCET decided to terminate its relationship with the Public Broadcasting Service, stemming from disagreement over paying an annual $7 million programming fee to broadcast such shows as PBS News Hour, Antiques Roadshow, NOVA and, of course Sesame Street. Elmo no like that!

KCET has been a PBS station since the network formally started 40 years ago. The Militant, like many people his age, grew up on PBS shows on Channel 28. In addition to Sesame Street, it was all about The Electric Company, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, 3-2-1 Contact, Reading Rainbow and lesser-known shows such as Villa Alegre, Zoom and The Song Bag with Tony Saletan. Where would today's kids turn to? Oh, wait, never mind. Also, most televisions in So Cal can pick up Orange County's KOCE, which remains a PBS affiliate.

Still, the shock is unavoidable, and one can only guess the impact of KCET's split. Hmm. Mayor Villaraigosa got divorced and disappointed Los Angeles. Frank McCourt got divorced and disappointed Los Angeles. Is KCET next?

KCET plans to remain, as station president Al Jerome (no, not that guy) stated in his official announcement, an "independent public television station" with "a track record of producing great local programming." Huell Howser fans need not fret, as he won't be going anywhere. In fact, The Huell will be the undisputed face of the station. Wow, that's a-mazing!

One thing is certain - KCET plans to remain a nonprofit public station, will not go commercial and will continue to carry PBS programming until December 31, 2010. As for 1/1/11, that's anyone's guess.'s what the Militant guesses KCET will be broadcasting, starting in 2011:

Mr. Howser's Neighborhood: The Huell will be hosting yet another show, aimed at children, teaching them about a-ma-zing places in Southern California. There will be a trolley, which will be furnished by the San Pedro Waterfront Red Car.

Hipster Antique Store Roadshow: Filmed on location in Silver Lake, this show features hipsters from all over what they consider to be "The Eastside," lining up to get expert appraisals of their vinyl copy of Vampire Weekend's debut album, their first-generation iPhone and their medium-sized t-shirt with a picture of a synthesizer on it.

The News Hour: The most-talked about local issues of the day are discussed in this nightly news program hosted by's Zach Behrens and Lindsay William-Ross.

This Old Craftsman House: Produced entirely in Highland Park, the show's host shows viewers the step-by-step process of DIY'ing your own craftsman house restoration.

Second Street: This children's program takes place entirely in Downtown Los Angeles starring a human cast with puppet characters, designed by Bob Baker Marionette Theater. Puppet characters include the Taco Monster, Ponderous Pigeon and Oscar The NIMBY.

Actually, this whole independent, local KCET thing might not be a bad idea after all. In fact, it might be the best thing evar for the Los Angeles airwaves. PBS is based in Arlington, VA and has an obvious East Coast Bias. An independent KCET would be...Infinitely Angeleno!

Come to think of it...The Militant Angeleno should have his own show! No, really! After all, he possesses an exemplary knowledge of Los Angeles, has some experience being in front of the camera and KCET obviously knows about him. So whaddya say, KCET? GIVE THE MILITANT HIS OWN SHOW IN 2011!

MA blog readers, let KCET know you want to see the Militant on the air!

Monday, October 4, 2010

All Seoul'd Out: The 37th Los Angeles Korean Festival

The Militant passes through the Olympic/Normandie intersection at least once a week and has been hearing of the big 37th Los Angeles Korean Festival for the past few days. The epic, four-day-long cultural extravaganza from this past Thursday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. sounded like something not to miss.

But a busy weekend with tons of unspecified extramilitant activities caused the Militant to miss the free concert by the insanely popular K-pop group The Wonder Girls on Friday night (not surprisingly, the most-attended night of the festival) or the Bibimbap Fest on Saturday (free bibimbap to the first 1,000 attendees!). Dang!

But the Militant was able to check it out on Sunday night. Expecting the show to be over and lots of booths already packing up, the Militant's expectation was totally wrong. Having arrived at around 7 p.m., the festival was still very much alive!

Perhaps it was perfect timing and true (non-hipster) irony. On the very day the Dodgers formally ended their dream of defending their NL West title for the third straight year, the Militant arrived at this festival, situated over the diamond at the Dodgers-built Dream Field at Seoul International Park, located right across the street from the Korean Pavilion Garden (covered in This Here Blog a couple of years ago).

Of course, this event was a pleasant contrast to the disappointing Dodger season (Deport McCourt!). The festival had much action, joy and...Seoul.

Most outdoor cultural festivals have the usual: Entertainment stage, check. Booths, check. Food stands, check. Kid's Area, check. Beer garden, check.

But this one was different. You actually felt like you were in another country, and that's not a knock on the festival at all. In fact, that's what made it totally awesome.

First off, the Militant, in all his terdysumthin years existing in this great City, had never attended a festival that was situated upon thousands of white plastic panels (pictured right). No, really -- the panels were obviously put in place to minimize dust and protect the park's (and the aforementioned baseball field's) surface, but the look and feel of it all made the experience slightly other-worldy. Seriously, when was the last time you attended an outdoor festival on top of thousands of plastic floor panels?

Next was the fantastic night bazaar that took place on most of the festival grounds. Booths hawked everything from therapeutic footrests to ginseng to t-shirts to cellphone accessories to DVDs to cosmetics. People in product stalls hawking their products repeatedly via bullhorns, microphones or at the top of their voices in rhythmic, repetitive cadences, mostly in Korean, but sometimes in the Korean-English-Spanish linguistic triumvirate of K-Town. Accompanied by the cool air, you didn't have to try too hard to imagine that you were in the Land of the Morning Calm.

And the food? Of course, this is Koreatown, and like the Militant always says, You can't spell "Koreatown" without the word "eat." Korean BBQ? There's plenty of that on Olympic, Western and other streets. Outdoor festivals don't have the infrastructure (nor adequate ventilation) for that, but there's tons more K-food to shake a (stainless steel chop-) stick at.

With so much grub and so little time (not to mention stomach capacity), the Militant went for the Choonchun Dakgalbi booth (pictured right), where he had a nicely-stacked $5 trayful of chicken galbi mixed with cabbage, sweet potato, red sauce and cheese.

The Militant wanted more but was short on cash. No prob! Most of the food booths gave away free samples! Everything from Korean-style popcorn chicken to blood sausage to pajeon seafood pancakes. Still hungry? Just come back later, grab a toothpick and sample away!

The night - and the four-day-long festival - concluded with a pretty kick-ass awesome performance by the Tal Taekwondo troupe (pictured left) - which combined the iconic Korean martial art with traditional dance, drumming, acrobatics, b-boy hip-hop moves and Cirque du Soleil-style theatrics. The performance featured some sort of storyline depicting a Crips vs. Bloods-type Korean folkloric battle. Or at least there were these people dressed in blue pitted against people dressed in red...

Even the ever-native Militant admits that the 37th annual Los Angeles Korean Festival was his first, and wonders why he slept on the past 36 fests. but Los Angeles is always like that. The things you take for granted and don't consider much one moment will smack you upside the head and blow you away the next. The Militant will definitely be back for the 38th.