The Simpsons table-read

There’s many reasons I enjoy my job. Namely, I like working with college students to help them meet their goals. The additional perks are pretty cool. This summer, I got to attend field trips as a chaperone to the Aquarium of the Pacific, Disneyland and California Adventure and a biotech company’s campus. Those were all part of coordinating one of the summer research programs.

After the Simpsons table read

Yesterday’s staff field trip took us to the Fox Studios a few miles away in Century City for a table-read of a Simpsons episode.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been up close with the entertainment industry. It’s hard to avoid it living in LA and attending/working at UCLA. Years ago, I walked in on the filming of an Old School scene. A couple of years before that, I was in a Destiny’s Child video with the UCLA Marching Band. I auditioned for MTV and have been an extra in big audience scenes. And like every other Angeleño, I spot a celebrity every once in a while.

Been watching these guys since the Tracy Ullman show

All those experiences were memorable in their own way, but the table-read stands out. It was surreal hearing the voices behind the characters (Yeardley Smith, Nancy Cartwright, Dan Castellenata, Julie Kavner, Hank Azaria, Pamela Hayden) just a few feet away. I geeked out when Cartwright did Nelson Muntz’s “ha ha!” mocking laugh. Those who know me know I do that at inappropriate times. I had to calm down my inner 9 year old who has been watching since The Tracey Ullman Show days and who was super jealous of all the other kids with Bart Simpson “Eat My Shorts!” and “Ay Caramba!” t-shirts from being overly starstruck.

The show runner, Al Jean, narrated the action and gags yet to be animated while the actors read their parts for writers, producers and several guests. Someone in the office knows a writer, hence the invitation. Sean came along too. The episode itself was quite funny, I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

After the reading, we were informed by a coworker that the actors would sign scripts. A few of the actors rushed out, but a few remained and were gracious enough to sign autographs and take photos. Sean and I got signatures from Azaria, Cartwright (she had the longest line, but it moved quickly), and Hayden. I should’ve told Azaria that I love Bumblebee Man more than Moe. I didn’t get to take a picture with a VIP guest, Jane Krakowski — I love 30 Rock! Jane was busy speaking to others. We checked out the studio store, discussed the next steps for the episode and then returned to work.

I’m glad we got in once last field trip before summer officially ended and the students returned to campus for the fall quarter.


Something wicked this way runs

RIP Mr Bradbury

It’s National Running Day. Last year, I took a rest day to celebrate. This year, I planned my route so it would take me past Ray Bradbury’s home in Cheviot Hills. I didn’t know Mr. Bradbury lived so close to me until LA Observed’s post about his passing. Included of the post is a 2009 picture of Bradbury in front of the Palms-Rancho Park branch of the LA Public Library.

I’m sure I’ve passed the Bradbury home before on a run, but never had an idea that one of the best science fiction writers lived only a mile away.

I considered downloading an audiobook of the first Bradbury novel I read, Dandelion Wine, to listen to on my run. That didn’t seem right. If there’s any writer’s work I should read the old-fashioned way, it should be Ray Bradbury. Instead, I listened to a podcast of my favorite daily news show (The Madeleine Brand show). As I neared the Bradbury home, Brand and her guest, local bookstore owner David Kipen, memorialized Bradbury. They discussed Kipen’s visit to Bradbury’s home in Cheviot Hills. I found that fitting.

Rest in peace, Mr. Bradbury.


Frida on my mind

Glad I caught the In Wonderland show before it ended

A month ago, Sean and I checked out In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States show at LACMA. Despite seeing the banners all over the city featuring Frida Kahlo’s “Autorretrato con Collar de Espinas” (Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird), I waited until a few days before the show closed to check it out. I’m really glad I saw the show.

My older cousin, Bibi, introduced me to Frida’s art when I was in 6th grade. Thanks to Bibi, I knew about Diego Rivera’s philandering ways, the horrible bus accident and the monkeys.

I liked Frida and her art, but didn’t love it like some of my friends. I even prided myself on the fact that I wasn’t that kind of Chicana. I made a banner advertising that fact in my early blogging days. (And yes, I know there’s not one way to be a Chicana.)

Las Dos Fridas

Something stirred in me when I finally saw In Wonderland. Frida Kahlo was just one of about 50 artists featured. Most of her paintings were in in the section on self portraits. Despite being familiar with a couple of the paintings in the show (Las Dos Fridas, Autorretrato Con Collar de Espinas, Frida y Diego wedding portrait from 1931), I still had to stop and look at them for a bit. I stood in front of Las Dos Fridas amazed at the detail. Up close, I found new details I’d never noticed in prints, books or even a tableau vivant Halloween costume. I did the same with the wedding portrait. I’d always just thought of that one as an example of her small stature compared to el elefante, Diego Rivera. But this time I got the chance to read the text and imagine how she felt on her first wedding day.

I had no clue Las Dos Fridas was such a large painting

I went through the show once and then walked back to find a crowd around Las Dos Fridas. I couldn’t blame them for stopping to stare and take it all in.

It may have taken twenty years to find my inner Frida fangirl, but she was there all along. I just needed to see the real thing to realize it.


There was a riot on the streets, tell me where were you?

LA palm trees

I usually get annoyed when one topic takes over news and culture podcasts for the week (e.g., Girls, Sharon van Etten’s latest album, Baratunde Thurston’s book tour). This week I didn’t get annoyed by the excellent coverage of the 20th anniversary of the LA Riots (or Uprising, depending on how you saw the situation) on LA’s traditional and social media. Instead, I haven’t been able to get enough.

I was 11 years old during the Riots and living out in the suburbs 20 miles away from any of the action. I definitely was aware of what was going on. I knew the name Rodney King and had seen the video. Everyone had, but I didn’t know the excessive force used against him by the four LAPD officers was not an isolated incident. I didn’t know about Latasha Harlins and Soon Ja Du. I’d never heard of the Watts Riots of 1965. Nor did I know anything about police* brutality, institutionalized racism in the justice system, redlining, de-industrialization, and a recession that hit the poor and working class communities of LA hard. (*In my mind, the police were there to serve and protect, and warn us about doing drugs with the DARE and SANE programs.)

Like millions of others, I watched the coverage of late April and early May 1992 on the news. I was scared and saddened. I didn’t understand why people were burning buildings in their own community. I don’t remember being worried that the burning and looting would reach East LA where my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins lived. I highly doubted that anything would happen in Hacienda Heights; though something did happen a town over.


I remember talking about the looting with some kids who lived down the street. I don’t remember the boy’s name, but he either bragged about looting or just said he wanted to be out there. I also remember watching Edward James Olmos doing a cleanup (I was a fan at the time). I think my cousin who lived in East LA went out to help.

Since I was a kid, I’ve read more about the Riots and talked to people who were closer to the action and/or remember it differently. I’ve also learned a lot more about the conditions that set the stage for such an uprising in LA. I’m not a clueless 11 year old anymore, naturally. I’ve had not-so-great experiences with police and been at marches/rallies that got sketchy. Luckily, I never took a rubber bullet to the eye or got pepper sprayed. I no longer live in the suburbs, but in an LA neighborhood that might have seen some burning and looting 20 years ago. It’s changed a lot in the 12 years I’ve been here. We even have a light rail line (Expo!).

A lot has changed in LA in 20 years. At the same time, we haven’t come that far, but it feels good to know that there are many in LA who are still working to effect change.

Ed at [view] from a loft has a great roundup of 20th anniversary coverage. More from LA Observed and KCRW and KPCC.