Congrats to Long Beach’s own Andrew Pedroza and Ellen Warkentine for having their opus LOLPERA (yes, an opera based on the Lolcats internet meme) accepted into both the Hollywood Fringe Festival and the New York International Fringe Festival! I have been following this project since its initial workshop back in 2010 and to see it come this far and on the verge of being shared with the world makes me all kinds of proud mama. Thanks to L.A. Weekly for letting me cover this extraordinary moment in internet-meets-reality meaning-making.

Hollywood Fringe Festival Can Has LOLPERA

Fresh Frame Foto
LOLPERA co-creator Andrew Pedroza (center) as Dreamer Cat in last fall’s production at the Garage Theatre in Long Beach

It’s a warm Saturday afternoon a month before the start of the Hollywood Fringe Festival and LOLPERAis in its first day of rehearsal. Cast members have just finished a run-through of the work’s dramatic opening number in the living room of Director Angela Lopez’s Long Beach apartment. The word “masterbate,” which was sung loudly and repeatedly as part of the chorus, reverberates off the walls.

“Okay, that was good,” Lopez casually tells the group, many of who were also a part of LOLPERA‘s original run at the 35-seat Garage Theatre last October, when it was L.A. Weekly‘s pick of the week. “Let’s try it one more time — starting from ‘Ceiling Cat rode invisible bike over teh waterz.'”

Yes, those are the stage directions, which in this show can’t help but sound a little silly. As an opera based on the Lolcats internet meme, LOLPERA‘s plot, aria, characters and libretto are culled from the wide range of user-generated images that combine photos of cats with overlying text of their grammatically incorrect and adorably poorly spelled thoughts.



field trip!!

February 10, 2012

Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits Field Trip: Expansion Highlights

Originally posted at the L.A. Weekly Blog Squid Ink


Driving down this unsuspecting stretch of Interstate 15 in San Diego County, it’s hard to tell that some of Southern California’s most notable craft breweries are just off the freeway. If coming down the 5 from Los Angeles, take the 78 East in Carlsbad to the 15 South; before Downtown even has a chance to come into view, you’ve already passed Iron Fist, Lost Abbey, Stone, Green Flash, Alesmith and, lastly, Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits.
As one of 18 breweries in the country that also have an on-site distillery, Ballast Point is the only one in Southern California and the closest one to Los Angeles. That means that, in addition to 40-plus beers in constant rotation, Ballast Point makes its own gin, vodka, rum and — as soon as it’s done aging — whiskey. In addition to the daily booze production, Ballast Point is six months into an expansion that will double its annual brewing capacity (to 60,000 barrels) over the next year.

Last week, head brewer and head distiller Yuseff Cherney gave us a tour of his growing — from 11,000 to 20,000 square feet — Scripps Ranch facility and let us in on some of the best add-ons. Turn the page to read Cherney’s own words on the coolest things we saw.


First published online at the LA Weekly food blog Squid Ink

4 Double Black IPAs That Debuted in 2011: Or, Crossing Over to the (Very) Dark Side


In the last twelve months, the craft beer world has welcomed new flavors from a slew of emerging styles including the rye saison (Avery’s Eighteen), the wheat IPA (El Segundo Brewing’s Picket Fence) and the seasonal imperial pumpkin ale (Flying Dog’s The Fear). But no new style was more exciting for lovers of intense beers than the delicious marrying of dark malts, floral hops and high alcohol content that is a Double Black IPA.

Also known an Imperial Black IPA, these beers are a boozy extension of last year’s most recognized emerging style — Cascadian Dark Ales, a Pacific Northwest creation that has also been called a Black IPA, India Black Ale or India Dark Ale (the semantic debate raged so hard that when including it as a judged beer style for the first time in 2010, the Great American Beer Festival decided upon “American-Style India Black Ale”).

But if 2010 was the year of the CDA — bringing attention to Oregon breweries such as Deschutes and Rogue — 2011 was the year the style left Cascadia and got even darker and more bitter at the hands of brewers in California and beyond. Turn the page for the top 4 Double Black IPAs that saw their first release in 2011.

Black Market Brewing

4. Black Market Brewing 2nd Anniversary: Anniversary beers are always a good way to gauge the adventurous spirit of a brewery and for newer (and smaller) operations such as Temecula’s Black Market Brewing, it’s the one release of the year where experimentation is welcome if not expected. Released in August, this 2nd Anniversary Double Black IPA was a bold move, then, considering that until now, BMB had yet to release an American-style beer darker than a brown ale. This 9% Double Black IPA makes up for lost time, however, with a dark black color that is overtaken with the citrus and grapefruit flavors of fresh hops. It’s not the most complex or well-balanced example of the style, but it’s a wonderful surprise from BMB.

Nicholas Alfonse

3. Uinta Dubhe: In March, Salt Lake City’s Uinta Brewing released the Dubhe (pronounced DOO-bee), its new year-round Double Black IPA that is available in four-packs at most L.A. area craft beer bottle shops. The beer is supposedly named after the Utah State Centennial Star — Duhbe (pronounced DUH-bee) the brightest star in the Big Dipper — but the pronunciation change and the fact that it is brewed with hemp easily leads to other assumptions. Dubhe’s light body, subdued roastiness and intense hop character makes it as drinkable as a single Black IPA, but because of its 9.2%ABV, it’s best to share the four-pack.

Drakes Brewing Company

2. Drakes Jolly Rodger: For San Leandro’s hop-adoring brewery, the holidays do not bring the requisite slough of overly spiced Christmas beers. Instead, its annual Jolly Rodger Ale has been everything from a Scotch Ale to a dry-hopped Imperial Red with no hint to the season except for the high ABVs. This year, Jolly Rodger was a mostly-hoppy, slightly roasty, rye-infused Imperial Dark IPA — a perfectly balanced take on this emerging style. Though technically a vintage ale, don’t you dare age this beer. Like most of Drake’s other well-crafted brews (see our previous love for Aroma Coma), the fresh hop character of the 2011 Jolly Rodger demands to be tasted fresh.


1. Stone’s 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA: Although its name nods to the Cascadian Dark Ales that catalyzed the dark and hoppy movement, this Imperial Black IPA is worlds away from the comparatively puny beers born in the Pacific Northwest. Meaty might be a good word to begin to describe Stone’s 15th Anniversary release; aggressive would be another. Clocking in at nearly 11%ABV, this rich, chocolately, earthy, bitter beer is so extreme that it tastes like a crossbreed of two popular Stone year-rounds–Sublimely Self Righteous (a Black IPA that was itself an earlier anniversary beer) and the Russian Imperial Stout. Contrasting flavors such as mocha and grapefruit battle the tongue’s limits in this unrelenting brew, setting the bar for the Double Black IPA style by turning the CDA into a So Cal beer with balls.

miles runs the voodoo down

December 1, 2011

Bitches Brew Returns For The Holidays: From Miles Davis To Your Pint Glass

originally published online at the L.A. Weekly’s food blog, Squid Ink

When the 9% ABV fusion beer Bitches Brew was first released by Delaware-based Dogfish Head Brewery in June 2010 — on the 40th anniversary of the jazz fusion album of the same name — the beer world sipped slowly, hoping to delay the inevitable end to its glorious existence.

But as with most limited releases from Dogfish Head, Bitches Brew evaporated from shelves as quickly as it arrived. And though a second round of this imperial stout/African honey gesho beer blend was sent out late time last year — after the Sony Legacy collaboration was featured in an episode of the Discovery Channel show Brew Masters — and several kegs mysteriously appeared during L.A. Beer Week, it seemed unlikely that another batch would be bottled.

So imagine our surprise upon seeing the familiar melting colors of Davis’ album cover staring back at us from 750mL bottles on a BevMo merchandise display last week.

It turns out that the brewers had a change of heart. After all, they spent the last year convincing everyone they had all but moved on from Bitches Brew, releasing another Sony Legacy collaboration beer this May — Hellhound On My Ale, in honor of Robert Johnson — and and posting on Dogfish Head’s website as recently as March that there weren’t any plans for a 2011 Bitches Brew.

Still, news of this latest BB release seems to have gone unreported by many outlets that were initially stoked on its creation. Only a press release posted back in October over at explains that a new batch would be released as part of the publicity package for Dogfish Head’s latest Sony Legacy collab, an homage to Pearl Jam’s 20 years as a band called Faithful Ale.

​The Belgian-style golden ale that celebrates Pearl Jam’s status as a “long-player band in a singles-obsessed world” might be delicious in its own right (assuming it wasn’t inspired by the sexual innuendo built into the band’s name), but forgive us for focusing on the holiday return of the much bigger, bolder and seasonally appropriate Bitches Brew.

Actually, don’t forgive us: Just find yourself a bottle, put on the album and pour yourself a glass of the ultimate liquid version of Davis’ smooth-sweet sounds. Because who knows when you’ll have the pleasure of hanging out with this Bitches Brew again.

far and away

October 20, 2011

Originally published at the L.A. Weekly’s food blog, Squid Ink

Q & A With Far Bar’s Jimmy Smith: Little Tokyo’s Craft Beer Scene, How Beer Brings People Together + Little Tokyo’s Beer Week Coming Out Party

Far Bar
Japanese craft beers available at Little Tokyo’s Far Bar

For decades, Little Tokyo has been a destination for its history, food and art venues alike. But in the last year, Little Tokyo has put itself on the radar for another, more unlikely offering–craft beer. And as the second half of L.A. Beer Weekcloses in, the neighborhood is ready to show off why.

Starting three years ago with the opening of dedicated haunts such as Wurstküche and Far Bar — which has been home to the city’s largest selection of Japanese craft beers since its incognito location opened in the heart of Little Tokyo’s First Street — the area’s taps have been slowly replacing the proverbial fizzy yellow beer with more-flavorful libations.

The incorporation of both domestic and international microbrews, however, has hit new heights since this past May when Jimmy Smith took over Far Bar’s beer program, upgrading the basic-line craft tap list and turning the hidden gem into Little Tokyo’s craft beer epicentre. More local joints followed suit and now at least nine establishments within walking distance of each another have enough beer cred that Smith decided to organize tonight’s Big Crawl in Little Tokyo, the area’s first-ever pub crawl.

Far Bar

Though Little Tokyo’s proximity to Union Station (where L.A. Beer Week’s closing festival is held) brought beer fans to the neighborhood last year, Big Crawl is the first official Beer Week event the community has hosted, making it a stylized coming-out party that will introduce drinkers to one of the highest concentrations of craft-beer serving joints in the city.

One of L.A.’s most notable historic neighborhoods is getting a new life as a craft beer destination and Smith is on the frontlines.

Squid Ink: Has an event of this caliber ever happened in Little Tokyo before?

Jimmy Smith: No, actually [Far Bar co-owner] Don [Tehara] was telling me that this is the first time something like this has gone on where the businesses put it on by themselves. Usually it’s the city or the neighborhood council, so this is big because it’s the first time businesses have put something like this together on their own.

SI: What does that say about the atmosphere between businesses in the neighborhood?

JS: It’s great! What’s so wonderful about Little Tokyo is that it’s a community and there’s no competition. That’s what’s going to make this event so special, too–we’re all working together, all promoting each others’ bars for the event.

SI: Do you think the timing is right or the product is right?

JS: We’ve always been very neighborly and close, but craft beer is really bringing everybody together because all the establishments serve craft beer and want to be more involved with it. They see what we’ve been doing at Far Bar and they’re on board with it. I really do think it’s more the craft beer. I mean, a lot of them carry craft beer and people don’t even know that they do.


SI: What are the beer-drinking crowds like in Little Tokyo?

JS: Little Tokyo has become a very diverse area. It’s not just Japanese and it’s not just hipsters. If you saw a regular crowd at the Far Bar, it’s something from every age and race. That’s what’s so great about beer, you get people from all different demographics enjoying it.

SI: What’s your favorite scene in Big Trouble in Little China?

JS: I haven’t seen it in so long, but Don just reminded me that James Hong–from the movie–is a regular customer here and he’s friends with the co-owner. So any scene with him in it would be my favorite. He actually had an exhibition a few months back in Burbank where he enacted parts from the movie. He plays such a great villain.

Participating locations and featured breweries:

Far Bar–Stone
Escondite–Black Market Brewing
Spice Table–Alesmith
Weiland–Port Brewing
Spitz–Eagle Rock Brewing
Fu-Ga–Great Divide
Xlixe–Mad River Brewing
Senor Fish–Avery Brewing
Wurstkuche–Brasserie D’ Achouffe.

A suggested itinerary as well as a partial tap list is available on the event’s Facebook page.

beer blogging

October 12, 2011

Just in time for L.A. Beer Week, I started writing about beer for L.A. Weekly’s food blog Squid Ink. Finally, I get to do some work while drinking all this beer. Below the first post, originally published online here.

UNTAPPD: New Beer App Makes Drinking (Virtually) Social


A little late for last year’s check-in app rage, but just in time for the third annual LA Beer Weekcomes another new Android and iPhone app for beer geeks and casual macro-enjoyers alike.

UNTAPPD started out last year as a web app that allowed users to share their current beer choices with others in the cloud, but last week the company rolled out their official mobile app (which is free!), making it easier than ever to use beer’s latest social-network on the go.

As FourSquare for beer, the app allows you to “check into” a specific brew you are drinking (which is beautiful imagery for those of us who have ever wanted to literally hang out inside of our favorite liquid). And just like Spotify and GetGlue, it will update your Facebook and Twitter with the news of what is going down at that very moment.

Sounds like a familiar concept to the types who insist on disclosing the innocuous details of their everyday life on Internet (or to beer geeks already involved with location-based beer apps such as Beerby and Taphunter), but UNTAPPD is more than just another instance of Twitter-inspired navel gazing.

Whether you’re slamming Newcastle at Lucky Baldwins or sneaking a Pliny into the movie theater, this app goes beyond mere bragging rights, putting the focus on the nectar of the Gods itself by allowing users to both track their personal drinking history and find out what friends are currently digging into. Discovering new brews is also easy through a virtual pub that aggregates updates from the greater UNTAPPD community and features a panel of trending beers, kindly separated into macro and micro.

The 140-character limit on check-in descriptions makes beer reviews, when given, short and sweet. By eliminating room for the Sommelier-style methods of beer judgment so prevalent on traditional beer-sharing sites such as Beer Advocate, UNTAPPD removes much of the pretention associated with online craft beer sharing and opens up reviews to beer-lovers who don’t care to dig into snobbish lexicon in order to describe an IPA that might as well just be “fucking awesome.”

With descriptions as simple as “Soooo crisp!” and as unrelated as “Go team!” UNTAPPD allows Bud Light and Russian River drinkers to mingle together in an unassuming virtual venue.

Follow the writer on UNTAPPD: thesarahbennett

RIP tupac

September 17, 2011

It’s been 15 years since Tupac died and damn if it doesn’t bum me out. But we’ll always have his records (and Tupac: Ressurection) and thanks to Becca Kinskey, our memories. She’s been going around collecting the words of those who loved (and one that hated) him and I was of the lucky few given a platform on which to gush about my love of ‘Pac. Below, a photo of the shirt I bought two months ago so that I could wear it on Tupac’s death day, which is also my dad’s birthday.

as published at LAWEEKLY.COM

Name: Sarah B.
Age: 24
Location Where We Accosted Them: Main Quad, USC
Job: Freelance Journalist
Headed From: Computer lab
Headed To: Lunch
Grew Up: The Valley
Lives Now: LBC
Favorite Track: “California Love”

“California Love” is just the sound of growing up in California in the ’90s. I remember watching it on TV as a kid and not really understanding the context of it at the time–they’re out in the desert, and they’re in war gear, and I didn’t know the whole gangster rap connotations at all at the time, but it just made me feel like, this is, like, LA in the summer. And maybe just because I listened to too much Power 106 growing up…I was one of those latch-key kids and did a lot of after-school care and the camp counselors would always bump that, so I got really into TLC early on and this was just an extension of that. I would have been like 9 years old. But it definitely just felt like LA, like it would have felt wrong to listen to it in another city. And I remember Snoop Dogg and stuff coming out too, but that was the first song that made me bob my head, [laughs] I don’t think I was, uh, bobbin’ before that.

L.A. Record is guest-editing the L.A. Weekly‘s music section for the next few weeks. Super busy with school, but managed to slip in an interview with Ceci Bastida for the blog. First time published at the Weekly! w00t!

Tijuana might be better known right now for its crooked cops and affordable prescription drugs, but Ceci Bastida has been sounding off for the border city’s next generation since she was a feisty 15 year-old fronting politically-minded Mexican ska band Tijuana No! (famous for their cover of the Clash’s “Spanish Bombs”). After dropping out of the scene to teach history at a TJ middle school, and then returning to music as keyboardist for friend and Tijuana No! co-founder Julieta Venegas, Bastida finally moved to L.A. and broke away fromlas bandas in 2008 in order to record her growing cache of electronic-infused Spanish-language post-punk songs (after her debut solo performance at SXSW in 2007, KCRW basically put “Ya Me Voy” on repeat).

Her first solo record, Veo La Marea (“I See The Tide,” released independently in the U.S. last week after previous release in Mexico on EMI) is an aggressive mix of emotional honesty and socio-political advocacy, entrenched in both Anglo and Mexican sounds without alienating either. The culture-straddling work features cameos from American artists such as Diplo and Tim Armstrong (on a bi-lingual Go-Go’s cover, no less) as well as Mexican rapper Niña Dioz, proving that when worlds collide, it’s not always chaos.

The spunky fireball of future music answers some questions via email after looking thankfully out-of-place on the red carpet at the Latin Grammy Awards ceremony in Las Vegas, where her track “Cuando Vuelvas A Caer” was nominated for Best Alternative Song.

This is your first solo album, yet it oozes with confidence. How did you find your own voice so quickly?

I had a decent idea of what I wanted for this album and since I worked on the record over a period of two years, I had time to listen to the songs many times and was able to change whatever I wasn’t completely happy with. I do think that during that time I learned a lot about myself and allowed myself to make mistakes. That freedom helped me try out things that I would’ve probably not tried if I continued to be such a control freak. I think in the end that’s exactly what you need to feel–you need to feel free.

Until a few years ago you had only performed as part of a band. How do you feel you have distanced yourself from past projects?

I think it helped when I left Mexico. It was a good thing for me to meet other people and see how we could work together. The people that I ended up working with had nothing to do with the bands I had played with in the past and knew nothing about them either. I also knew that I didn’t wanna sound like I did when I was a teenager playing with Tijuana No!. So much time has passed since then that my musical interests have obviously changed. While playing in Julieta’s band, I learned a lot–but I also knew that as much as I love her music, it was her music and I was ready to make my own.

You mix a lot of biographical songs with politically-charged songs. How do they connect?

They way I write politically-charged songs now is very different than how I did when I played with Tijuana No!. A lot of the times I try to tell a story sometimes in the first person. I write about things that affect me as a human being–it’s hard for me to ignore what is happening in my country for example. I feel saddened by the increasing violence in Mexico and when I talk about it, I do it from my point of view. I also talk about immigrants and the struggles that I see them go through. This has been always important to me because I come from a city where the border is very present. I grew up watching people try to cross that border every single day and in a way it becomes part of who you are.



mayor for nothing!

September 13, 2008

I woke up extra early today and–with sleep in my eyes–walked to the local coffee shop for a bagel and coffee because it’s saturday morning and I really don’t want to be awake. During my 15 minute wait for a toasted bagel, I picked up the LA Weekly and even though I don’t particularly like the publication, I blew through one of the most-informative, interesting articles about our shitbag mayor that’s ever been written. The final verdict as to why Los Angeles is in the same–or worse–state it was in when he took office: he doesn’t do anything (except get kinky with Telemundo newscasters).

The gist of the whole thing is that the Weekly obtained public records of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s daily schedule and, after carefully reviewing it and properly filling in the blanks, came up with a breakdown of what our mayor does with his day which, mostly, involves feeding his ego and hanging out with people that give him money:

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa logged roughly 900 hours of work during a 10-week period from May 21 to August 1, a time during which he repeatedly touted his 16-to-18-hour, seven-day-a-week workload. L.A. Weekly found that his days actually average about 13 hours, and we sorted the approximately 900 total hours into five categories. (To view a PDF of his schedule obtained by the L.A. Weekly go here.)
TRIPS: 34 percent of his official workload, 310 hours, was spent on out-of-town travel — 10 times in 10 weeks. Most of it was blacked out by Villaraigosa’s office, but the Weekly has independently determined that he made fund-raising jaunts to New York, Chicago and San Francisco, plus traveled to Hawaii, Israel, London, Miami (where he fit in a quick fund-raiser), Oakland and San Diego.
GAP TIME: 24 percent of his official workload, or 220 hours, was only vaguely identified. These areas of his hour-by-hour schedule were dominated by gap-time activities, such as continually moving from one event to another.
BLACKED OUT: 21 percent of his official workload, or 186 hours, was largely blacked-out time the Weekly could not identify but which was said by the mayor’s aides to be spent on fund-raising for his 2009 mayoral race, and personal, family and “security-related” activities.
CEREMONIAL OR PR: 10 percent of his official workload, or 88 hours, was spent on largely ceremonial or public-relations endeavors, including staged press conferences (usually on noncritical or fluffy topics rather than breaking news), prepping for staged press conferences, giving prearranged media interviews and attending ceremonies, receptions, luncheons, banquets and awards.

Then, the most disturbing part:

CITY WORK: 11 percent of his official workload, or 96 hours, was spent in Los Angeles doing direct work on city business. A big chunk of that time involved meeting with special-interest or lobbying groups, while another chunk — 11 hours — went to participating as a voting board member at Metro transit meetings. This category also included policy work, three hours and 45 minutes in discussions with his chief of staff, three hours and 15 minutes signing legislative documents, two hours and 25 minutes spent on “call time/correspondence,” and occasional meetings with city department heads.

THREE HOURS OUT OF 900 WERE SPENT ON LEGISLATIVE DOCUMENTS?! WTF?! We pay this guy?!?!?! lfholdhflrhgiurhdig!!!!


angry citizen