Let me tell you about my boat – Part 2

bOn the bus to and from the Metropolitan Courthouse for Jury Duty. Found myself on a jury for two weeks, and if you’ve ever had to sit still without actually working – writing, typing, reading, drawing – then you know that something swells up in the mind, a magma force waiting to bubble to the surface. These images from my seat on the bus are the islands that formed from the extreme anxiety of having to sit through a court case.


Let me tell you about my boat – Part 1

kDowntown Los Angeles – These images were the result of the evening rush making their way home. There are few opportunities for harsh lighting to find a way into Downtown, what with all the buildings and the limited space available. My view from the bus window gave the photos here a candid quality. Some people noticed me from my seat with the camera, but for the most part these are the swimmers outside the boat, making their way home.


Korra/Last Airbender Tribute show at Gallery Nucleus: Part 2

29Alhambra - The Legend of Korra and The Last Airbender were two cartoon series that touched the lives of many fans. Some were so moved that they camped outside Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra for a chance to meet the show’s creators. Continue reading Korra/Last Airbender Tribute show at Gallery Nucleus: Part 2

  • Mattie Stacey drove with a group of friends from Oakland, California to secure her spot outside the gallery.

“I enjoy the universe, it’s a fun way to have a balance of really, heavy issues – they’re going to war, but there’s still a lot of silliness.”

  • Steve Perez wants Korra’s story to continue.

“If I could ask the creators a question – what is the possibility of there being a comic that updates monthly and explores that world?”

  • Lorraine Grate thinks the show’s complexity gives people a chance to redefine what a hero looks like.

“The show was really progressive, and the main character is female. And then she ends up bi-sexual in the end. It shows a lot of people that there are more than just white, male protagonists. It’s a great show and well written.”

  • When asked about the crowds and the fans camping out for the exhibition show creator Michael DiMartino had this to say:

“It’s amazing. I always get a little overwhelmed when I see the crowds. I also feel bad when I hear that people slept over for two nights. But I appreciate their dedication and support. Even one night, even 10 hours is more than I’ve given to my favorite shows. It’s very humbling.”

Part 1 of this post can be found here.


Legend of Korra creators Michael DiMartino, left and Bryan Konietzko.

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Korra/Last Airbender Tribute show at Gallery Nucleus: Part 1


Alhambra – The Avatar tribute exhibition at Gallery Nucleus was a sort of victory lap for show creators Bryan Konietzco and Michael DiMartino. The gallery show marked the 10 year anniversary for Avatar: The Last Airbender, with the spin-off series The Legend of Korra which just ended in December 2014.

Both animated series revolved around a world inspired by Eastern mysticism, fantasy adventure and steam punk vehicles. But the legacy the Nickelodeon series leaves behind is a testament to its engaging characters, complex storylines and a fan base with a voracious appetite for more stories from the world of Avatar.

The actual line to get into the gallery show wrapped around the block and plenty of fans came dressed as their favorite characters from the series. Some fans camped out overnight in costume and make, but you couldn’t tell by the energy people were putting out.

12 Continue reading Korra/Last Airbender Tribute show at Gallery Nucleus: Part 1

9272330102117In Part 2 some words from the fans, and the show’s creators. Plus more photos of people in cosplay!

Northeast Groove Ensemble

c6Originally appeared at The Eastsider L.A. October 25, 2013

La Cuevita in Highland Park – At  La Cuevita on Figueroa, the sound of a trombone solo cuts through the air on a busy Sunday night at the Highland Park bar. It’s not an intruding sound, but more like background to an engaging story. Live jazz is a hard sell with so many pieces involved. Musicians? Instruments? Sounds too crowded for a bar. It would be easier to just hit a button on a playlist. Continue reading Northeast Groove Ensemble

But Christian Castillo, 28 and Robert Nava, 29, have been playing live jazz at La Cuevita for a year now. One of their first gigs involved Castillo on upright bass, Nava on drums and the electricity going out.

As an upright bass and drum duo they were able to keep playing and the owners of La Cuevita wanted them back, only next time with a full band.

“It’s always been the two of us, bass and drums, since jazz band in high school,” says Castillo.

Over time other local musicians played with the duo and eventually they worked their way up to inviting their high school jazz instructor Greg Samuel and his trombone or Mr. Samuel.  He’s now one of a revolving crew of musicians who play with Castillo and Nava as part of their  Northeast Groove Ensemble, which plays at La Cuevita on Sundays starting at 8 p.m.

It’s been about ten years since Nava and Castillo graduated from Eagle Rock High School, where Samuel has been the instrumental music teacher for the past 20 years. To this day Nava can recall specific lessons from Samuel’s class.

“Throughout my life I still remember those lessons. Today I brought up a lesson that I remembered, and I told it back to him like he told it to me,” says Nava.

“We used to perform for different school functions around the city,” Samuel says. “Now we play these gigs and they’re adults now, but it’s funny, because I’ll tell them that it reminds me of those old gigs.”


c3Trombone player and High School music instructor Greg Samuels.

When Samuel first began playing with the group he thought he would take command of the group. He even calls Nava and Castillo kids sometimes by accident. They had to have a talk with him to tone down the mentor mode he was in. Now they play at La Cuevita almost every Sunday.

At La Cuevita,  the jazz band, which includes a mix of players, some of who did not take classes from Samuel,  is lit by low light and an attentive audience swells around the bar at around 10:30 p.m. Toward the end of their second set, Samuel sings “Red House” by Jimi Hendrix, a blues ballad with enough bite to captivate the audience. Their list includes a few original jam songs, and La Cuevita patrons seem to follow all the usual jazz room rules: give the players room and clap at the end of a moving solo.

“I love the fact that there is a bar that wants live jazz music in Highland Park,” says Castillo.

The band accepts tips during their set, but it’s more of a tradition than a necessity. Other players in the group include former Samuel students who are trying to break into the professional musician circuit. Castillo is a video producer for Fox Sports and Nava is a landscape architect.

“We do this purely for the music and the community,” says Castillo.

Samuel still teaches music at Eagle Rock High School, but due to budget cuts the jazz program has been scaled down. Castillo describes Samuel’s method of teaching as passionate and personal.

“If you worked hard enough he would make you think that you could do anything with music. There were other passionate teachers, but if he taught chemistry we would be out here doing chemistry for fun. He always showed us that we could do better.”

c2Christian Castillo, upright bass, and Robert Nava, drums.