Best of L.A. roundup

My “Arts & Entertainment” and “Mind & Body” contributions to this year’s LA Weekly picks. The gist: SFV grassroots arts, boozy yoga & epic spin class playlists.

Best Place to See Murals Los Angeles 2014 

"Mural Mile"

If you virtually cruise down Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima on Google Maps, you’ll see a few hand-painted storefronts but mostly blank façades. That was Pacoima back in 2011. Since then, the town’s main drag has flowered with new fine-art murals, earning the moniker "Mural Mile" and attracting throngs of walking and biking tours. Artist Levi Ponce has mapped out the 20-plus old and new murals. They include his own Born in East Valley, featuring Cheech Marin against smokestacks and a 1959 Impala lowrider, and Pacoima Art Revolution, a stunning re-creation of the Mona Lisa as a Mexican warrior. Plus there’s Rah Azul and Kristy Sandoval’s Mi Vida, Mi Cultura, a brightly colored tableau of birds, bicyclists and books on race theory; and Sandoval’s Assata Shakur, Freedom Fighter, celebrating the town’s African-American population. For such a concentration of public art, it’s well worth the drive up the 5. —Jessica Langlois

Van Nuys Boulevard between Arleta Avenue & Herrick Avenue, Pacoima, 91331.

Best San Fernando Valley Arts Organization Los Angeles 2014 

11:11 A Creative Collective

Arts organizer Addy Gonzalez and photographer Erin Stone started 11:11 A Creative Collective in 2009 after looking around a Hollywood gallery opening and realizing everyone there — attendees, artists, musicians — was from the Valley. Since then, the collective has been the nexus of an artistic groundswell in the San Fernando Valley. Currently housed in a lofty Tarzana gallery space, its monthly group shows have explored public art, pop surrealism and light and motion. A recent exhibition co-curated by downtown’s Cannibal Flower drew gallery prowlers upstream (north on the 405) to see emerging Valley artists alongside their fellow Los Angeles County contemporaries. But 11:11 is committed to flooding the Valley with art beyond its gallery walls — it has organized art walks in Canoga Park and Topanga and brought murals to North Hollywood and Reseda through the “Fill in the Blank Project,” which connects local muralists with business owners. Oh yeah, and Mayor Garcetti has Instagrammed them. —Jessica Langlois

18640 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, 91356. (818) 925-5993,

Best Startup Fine Art Print Studio Los Angeles 2014 

Valley Print Studio

(photo courtesy of Valley Print Studio)

Housed in a trellis-lined converted garage at the end of a residential cul-de-sac in Woodland Hills, Valley Print Studio is introducing a new culture of printing workshops to the San Fernando Valley. Recent Cal State Northridge graduate Miles Lewis, son of chamber musician Paula Hochhalter and actor Geoffrey Lewis, founded the studio with Zeina Baltagi in 2013. Lewis is tapping into the Angeleno tradition of residential arts spaces and giving community members access to intaglio presses, letterpresses and screen printing and paper-making equipment, so that they don’t have to drive over the hill or pay for a course at an atelier or university. A partner of the creative collective 11:11, the studio offers three-hour workshops on specialized practices such as Coptic bookbinding and cyanotype photography for about 30 bucks and just hosted its first artist-in-residence from Chicago. Not bad for a backyard operation. —Jessica Langlois

5210 Collier Place, Woodland Hills, 91364. (818) 390-2215,

Best Beer-Fueled Yoga Los Angeles 2014 

Bends & Booze

Whether you’re choosing to fuel your practice with the promise of a cold pint at the hour’s end or would rather down a draft before class to loosen up your sun salutations, no one’s judging. Bends & Booze, a free class every Sunday morning from 11 a.m. to noon at Golden Road Brewing, is about not taking life too seriously. Sponsored by Jewel City Yoga, the all-levels vinyasa flow class stretches out on a shady square of Astroturf just past the giant Jenga in the patio of family-friendly Golden Road Brewing. The crowd is small and congenial — more yoga-curious newcomers than limber handstand impresarios. Instructor Cassie Cherney keeps it light, cracking hangover jokes while demonstrating variations on challenging poses and sticking around to hang out after class. There’s no better reward for that chaturanga than sharing a pitcher of Kolsch and a serving of sweet potato tater tots post-savasana. —Jessica Langlois

5410 W. San Fernando Road, Atwater Village, 90039. (213) 373-4677,,

Best Spin Class Los Angeles 2014 

Hollywood Wilshire YMCA

Joe Wolf, a massage therapist and nursing student by day, fills the Hollywood Wilshire YMCA's spin studio Tuesday through Thursday evenings with a crowd ready for a fast, fun and absolutely grueling workout. When he's not making the rounds to personally pump up participants, he seems to channel Andre the Giant's Dread Pirate Roberts from his bike, tracing his finger around the room and challenging the class to “Add more!” in a deep bellow (more resistance, that is). The workout is simple, no gimmicks and little chatter, just steady climbing or quick pedaling to an eclectic playlist — epic heartland rock, swampy industrial trip-hop, classic soul and funk, Top 40 R&B and electro-pop. Even gritty grunge ballads. Whether it's Joan Jett's “Bad Reputation” or Journey's “Don't Stop Believing,” the right song always hits the speakers just as the crowd is wilting, and the hour simply speeds by. —Jessica Langlois

1553 Schrader Blvd., Hlywd., 90028. (323) 467-4161,

06:00 am, by jessicalanglois  Comments

Your Mission: Be Somebody

I wrote about trying out Miranda July’s new interactive public art cum messaging app, Somebody, for LA Weekly. Come along for the ride…

Though all the characters in July’s companion film find each other instantly and convey deeply important messages of love, heartbreak, and lust… in the real world, the app is incredibly cumbersome and inefficient, its messages more novelty than life changing. Still, Somebody’s quirks and inefficiencies only add to its central purpose—encouraging users to experience something surprising, unexpected, and rife with overblown, awkward emotions. In my five-hour experiment with Somebody on its launch day, in fact, I cycled through all the crucial feelings of being a tween again.

02:59 pm, by jessicalanglois 1  |  Comments

Berkeley, 1944.

Last week, my grandma gave me a packet of photocopied letters that my grandpa, Gordon, had sent her in the Spring of 1944, seventy years ago. A few months after they met, at the local ice skating rink in ‘43, she moved to Napa to teach junior high school while Gordon stayed in Berkeley to work at Cal Research (now Chevron) and study for his chemistry PhD. They exchanged letters several times a week—discussing movies, roommates, the lab, teaching, the draft—and got married back in Berkeley that August.

My grandma, Barbara, kept all of Gordon’s love letters, fifteen over the course of three months, and though she doesn’t have the ones she sent him, it’s easy to see from Gordon’s responses that she was very melancholy about her situation—away from home, thrown into the classroom with little experience (as most of us are) at age twenty-two.

My grandpa’s tone is witty and coy, writing about a tennis match in which he’d been handily beaten, about needing to improve his ice dancing skills to be able to keep up with her, and keeping up a running joke about hoping she’s not letting life (hiking, reading, grading) interfere with her sewing him a promised pair of socks (“sox”). Throughout every letter he effusively writes how much he misses her and how he longs for Friday to come, when she’ll return for the weekend.Every so often, between the more quotidian remarks, a bit of knowing, sensitive advice leaps off the page—the sort of thing that reminds me that this 26-year-old card of a fellow is the same doting grandpa who’d helped raise me throughout my youth and teen years.

Here, he tells Barbara not to worry too much about the travails of the classroom…

… that, when seen at close proximity, many things assume a much exaggerated significance. That she’ll probably look back on this and laugh, so why not start laughing now? …

I remember once telling my grandpa he was whimsical, a word I’d just learned, and he balked, saying he considered himself a very serious man. Sure, he relished heavy, serious conversations about politics, science and news, but he would also endlessly play the board game Sorry! with my sister and me, melodramatically groaning when we sent his piece home and saying “twevel” instead of “twelve,” just for fun.

There it was, on the page — that bit of whimsy — that ability to take life as it comes, to laugh instead of fret, to be playful even when the war was on, and he was struggling to develop new chemical compounds while getting sprayed with nitric acid, and his sweetheart was far away.

I’m more like my grandmother — easily worried, over-thinking things, letting dread fester. So that bit of advice, that it just isn’t that important (whatever my mind may be conflating “it” to be… a new class to teach, a looming deadline, a spilled cocktail, an awkward exchange with a friend) .. those words rushed over me like cool water. I remembered his knowing blue eyes, his constant smile, his forearms under my ribs as he taught me to swim, and I felt buoyant, weightless, for just a moment.

Why not start laughing now?

He was talking to her; he was talking to me; he was talking to us.

05:18 pm, by jessicalanglois 2  |  Comments

Came across this gem while choosing journo textbooks for the fall #AvoidingSexistReporting #ImplicitBias @womenjournos

  03:26 pm, by jessicalanglois  Comments

Throwback to 2004: #NYU’s undergrad mag #ManhattanSouth & our “I’ve got Issues Issue”

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A Woman’s Place is Painting a Mural

In the current LA Weekly, I talk to San Fernando Valley muralist Kristy Sandoval about the reactions she gets as a woman street artist, the value of public art (and who should decide what public art is), and starting a feminist muralist movement. Plus Assata Shakur, Toypurina, & Judy Baca.

01:38 pm, by jessicalanglois 8  |  Comments

Rebecca Solnit. Such a badass researcher, writer & revolutionary. #harpers #easychair

  07:41 pm, by jessicalanglois  Comments

Soundtrack Music

It’s summer, grades have been turned in, and I’m spending more time taking old school print magazines to parks, forests, and beaches to read instead of reading and insta-sharing everything on one of several mobile screens. Also jotting down more thoughts in notebooks, far from keyboards and ‘post’ buttons. I even busted out the old SLR to take photos of trips to the Bay, Yosemite, or even the Valley, and it doesn’t connect to the internet, like my phone cam.

All this sort of explains why the blog has been dead and empty (not unlike my FB, Twitter & Instagram accounts) for *gasp* a month!

But, I did write a thing for KCET’s Artbound recently that’s worth sharing — a quick profile of the L.A. orchestral soul band Kan Wakan. It’s part of a cool package Drew Tewksbury and the folks at KCET put together for the website each week to accompany their Studio A segment: a video of a live set, a video interview, interview transcript, and a written story. Lots of ways to engage and learn about up-and-coming bands.

Here’s what I wrote.

Plus, in a moment of true synchronicity of work and life, Kan Wakan’s song “Forever Found,” which I’d listened to about a dozen times the week their album came out, working out the best words to describe the sound and feel, came on KCRW as Aruna and I were driving south on the 5 with the ‘88 Rover packed with camping gear and topped with surf boards, headed for a long weekend at San Onofre State Beach. Both the band itself and a friend I ran their music by describe the sound as 1960s soundtrack music, and in that moment, it actually became the soundtrack to those blissful, fleeting moments of really, actually getting away from everything, disappearing into the sun, surf & sky.

03:44 pm, by jessicalanglois  Comments

Street photographer Larry Yust displays a censored mural at @1111accgallery (at Tarzana Village Walk)

  06:01 pm, by jessicalanglois  Comments