Sunday, November 30, 2014

Deck the Zoo: A Visit to the LA Zoo Lights Show

LA Zoo lights

The DWP light festival in Griffith Park is long gone -- thank goodness, it was never that great of a display, and not worth the long waits to see it (although we usually walked it, which was a much better experience). But the holiday lights are back in Griffith Park -- this time as part of the Los Angeles Zoo's new LA Zoo Lights display. And this time, it's worth the crowds.

Held nightly from Nov. 28 to Jan. 4, we went on one of the busiest nights of the year (this Saturday) and yes, it was jam-packed and quickly sold out. Yet it was manageable -- and if anything, made for a lively evening. (If we do go back, though, I will make sure to take us on a weekday night.)

But it's an idea that was overdue -- decorate a portion of the zoo with lively lights and other bright displays. And don't forget the reindeer!

The reindeer (Jingle, Belle, Noel and Velvet) are the only animals on display at the event (the others are tucked away from the night). But that's fine, it's late, and you're not there for the animals. You're there for the lights.

Santa is there too, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 5-7 and again on Dec. 12-23. Themed nights include an "Ugly Holiday Sweater Night" on Dec. 12 and a Toys for Tots night on Dec. 18.

Tickets are $8 each; make sure to reserve them beforehand. On Saturday night, the LA Zoo Lights were sold out by 6:45 p.m. -- and our pals who drove all the way from Orange County had to turn around and go home, sadly. Times are staggered to get in; go here to order.

Here are some pics from our night with the lights:

LA Zoo lights

LA Zoo lights

LA Zoo lights

LA Zoo lights

LA Zoo lights

LA Zoo lights

LA Zoo lights

LA Zoo lights

LA Zoo lights

LA Zoo lights

LA Zoo lights

LA Zoo lights

LA Zoo lights

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rate-A-Restaurant #335: Yank Sing (San Francisco)

Yank sing

Restaurant: Yank Sing

Location: 49 Stevenson St. (San Francisco)

Type of restaurant: Dim Sum

Yank sing

We stipulated: In San Francisco, we wanted to find a nearby dim sum spot. Yank Sing was just around the corner.
They stipulated: "Yank Sing has seduced the palate of all ages and has provided an accommodating atmosphere for all types of functions ... business and pleasure alike. On weekdays, there is an air of energy and purpose in the dining room as customers from San Francisco’s surrounding financial district hold business lunches, and Yank Sing’s deem sum carts laden with freshly made offerings weave their way around the tables. "

Yank sing

What we ordered: A variety of items, including Shanghai Dumpling - A Yank Sing signature dish of minced Kurobuta Pork, scallion and ginger wrapped and steamed in its own aromatic broth; Steamed Pork Buns - Warm fluffy bread buns stuffed with nuggets of honey-glazed BBQ pork; Potsticker (Wor Tee) - Northern style dumplings filled with a succulent finely minced pork, cabbage, scallions, ginger, and toasted sesame oil stuffing, steamed in a wok, then shallow- pan-fried, and served with vinegar, soy sauce and Yank Sing Chili Pepper Sauce; Pork Siu Mye - Hand-chopped shrimp with pork, shiitake mushrooms filling hand-wrapped in fresh pasta skin and hand-formed into a fluted 'basket.'

Yank sing

Yank sing

High point:  The sticky rice and pork was probably our favorite item, along with the mushroom steamed dumpling. Good variety of items.

Low point:  The best part of Dim Sum is how economical it is. You can eat a lot for a little. Not at Yank Sing. Perhaps because they're located in the business district, the prices are ridiculously high. If they're gonna be that high, the food has to be better than this.

Yank sing

Overall impression: A bit disappointing. Not authentic enough -- it caters to a more mainstream palate. But it's just too pricy. Also, it's kinda weird that they call it "Deem Sum." (See their website.)

Yank sing

Will we return: Nah; we'll hit another dim sum next time we're in SF.

Friday, November 28, 2014

R.I.P. Bob Baker, Los Angeles' Master of Puppets

Bob Baker
(Pic by Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

R.I.P. Bob Baker, a true Los Angeles treasure. Baker died Friday at the age of 90, according to Variety. His Bob Baker's Marionette Theatre entertained generations of Angeleno kids, having first opened in 1963.

Here's what I wrote on the blog in 2006:

I've always been slightly creeped out by marionettes, yet I've always been fascinated by the art as well. Bob Baker (who won an Academy Award for his puppet work on "Close Encounters of the Third Kind") not only made it his life's work behind the camera, but he also has run the kid-friendly Bob Baker Marionettes theater in downtown Los Angeles for nearly 50 years.

The Bob Baker Marionettes came to Pasadena's Levitt Pavilion (in Memorial Park) for a free show last Wednesday night -- so I grabbed Blogger Baby Evan, packed up some snacks and camped out on the lawn. The hour-long show had a Mexican theme, with mostly young people (taught by Baker, I assume) handling the strings. Afterward, we hopped on stage to see some of the puppets up close -- which scared Evan at first.

Some pics:

A gaggle of puppets

Evan is intrigued, yet spooked, by the marionettes

Cat and mouse

A little history on Baker, from his website:

While attending Hollywood High School, Bob began manufacturing toy marionettes that sold both in Europe and the United States. After graduation at the age of eighteen, he began his extensive career in animation at the George Pal Studios. He began as an apprentice and soon became a head animator of "Puppetoons" a year later.

After WWII, Bob served as an animation advisor at many film studios including Walt Disney.

With his partner, Alton Wood, Bob turned a run-down scenic shop near downtown Los Angeles into a family entertainment institution. An innovative artist and puppet master, Bob and his company have performed puppets around the globe, even on Navy ships and submarines. Mr. Baker currently has an inventory of over three thousand puppets as he creates more.

The Bob Baker Marionettes theater is located at 1345 W. First Street in Los Angeles; call 213-250-9995 for reservations (which are required).

Shows are held Tuesday - Friday at 10:30 a.m., and on Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. General admission for the show is $12 each for adults and children. Children under 2 are free (which means perhaps we should take Blogger Baby again before December!)
The future of the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre is now in doubt; go here to find out how you can help keep it alive.

One Last Big November Sweeps Win For KABC's Retiring General Manager

Arnie Kleiner's going out on a high note. The KABC general manager, who recently announced his retirement, just added one last November sweeps crown to his impressive tenure at the owned-and-operated ABC station. (Kleiner is departing at the end of January.)

I always preface these November ratings by reminding you that sweeps really shouldn't matter in Los Angeles any more -- the local market is now measured every day via personal people meters. But old habits die hard, and the local stations compete heavily in November as if it still mattered.

At 11 pm, KABC expanded its lead vs. No. 2 KCBS in total viewers, thanks in part to a surging primetime (in which KABC dominated vs. its competitors). Meanwhile, at 10 pm, KCAL is also now a dominant No. 1 -- a contrast to last year, where the three-way race was tight. A weak primetime has led to big drop-offs for KTTV.

Here are the November total viewers ratings for the Los Angeles market, in key news timeslots (as well as in primetime).

4:30 am
KABC 93,800 (last year 59,900)
KTLA 41,500 (last year 55,500)
KNBC 23,600 (last year 24,400)
KCBS 16,400 (last year 20,500)
KTTV 10,400 (last year 15,700)

KABC 135,000 (last year 109,100)
KTLA 93,100 (last year 98,400)
KNBC 37,800 (last year 39,200)
KTTV 36,800 (last year 28,700)
KCBS 27,300 (last year 32,900)

KABC 192,700 (last year 213,300)
KTLA 182,400 (last year 176,200)
KTTV 72,800 (last year 65,100)
KNBC 66,400 (last year 68,200)
KCBS 46,600 (last year 38,700)

KABC/Good Morning America 213,500 (last year 241,800)
KTLA/Morning News 208,900 (last year 210,000)
KNBC/Today 95,900 (last year 79,800)
KCBS/CBS This Morning 74,700 (last year 50,700)
KTTV/Good Day LA 67,600 (last year 87,200)

KABC 245,600 (last year 257,700)
KNBC 139,600 (last year 146,600)
KCBS 108,900 (last year 109,700)
KTTV 48,200 (last year 45,700)

KABC 277,500 (last year 278,200)
KNBC 147,200 (last year 136,900)
KCBS 97,200 (last year 107,300)
KTLA 58,900 (last year 86,600)

KABC/ABC 428,600 (last year 388,500)
KCBS/CBS 331,100 (last year 341,700)
KNBC/NBC 287,400 (last year 273,800)
KTTV/Fox 161,100 (last year 233,900)
KTLA/The CW 112,800 (last year 111,000)

KCAL 156,100 (last year 131,900)
KTLA 126,500 (last year 130,500)
KTTV 76,900 (last year 128,100)

KABC 335,900 (last year 318,200)
KCBS 215,000 (last year 205,000)
KNBC 159,000 (last year 186,700)
KTLA 83,000 (last year Arsenio Hall 75,300)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Rate-A-Restaurant #334: Zero Zero (San Francisco)

Zero Zero

Restaurant: Zero Zero

Location: 826 Folsom (San Francisco)

Type of restaurant: Pizza

Zero zero

We stipulated: For our last night in New York, we wanted to eat near our hotel, and find something tasty but also kid-friendly. Artisan woodfire pizza: A yes for us. Any pizza at all: A yes for the kids. Win win.
They stipulated: "With Zero Zero, noted chef and certified pizzaiolo Bruce Hill (BIX, Picco, and Pizzeria Picco) offers San Francisco diners a unique venue for his wood-fired pizzas and other Italian offerings. Opened Summer 2010 in the SOMA neighborhood Zero Zero takes its name from the ultra-finely ground flour used in traditional Neapolitan pizza dough and features variations on the pizzas that have developed a devoted following at Hill's Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, just across from the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County. Zero Zero's menu also includes inventive pasta dishes, a range of starters and antipasti, including crudo, house-cured salumi, a changing selection of bruschetta and salads, and, for dessert, Hill's signature soft serve ice cream."

Zero zero

What we ordered: Fillmore pizza (Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Leeks, Mozzarella, Grana Padano, Pecorino, Fontina, Garlic, Thyme - $17.50); Margherita pizza (Tomato Sauce, Basil, Mozzarella, Grana Padano, De Padova Extra Virgin Olive Oil - $14.50); Radiatore with Braised Short Rib, Lacinato Kale, Marrow Butter and Gremolata ($21.50)

Zero zero

High point:  We almost didn't get the radiatore, but I'm glad we did. The short rib made for a nice, hearty dish.

Low point:  It's a bit of a scene, so perhaps still not the best place to take the kids. Yet ironically it was the obnoxious couple next to us that forced another couple to move tables.

Overall impression: Great spot if you're in the SOMA area. Pizzas are fantastic, but don't pass up the pasta! I wish I had known about the soft serve, but then again, we over ordered and were stuffed. (The cold pizza made for a good breakfast the next day.)

Will we return: I could see us returning if we were back in SF and once again staying close by.

Don't Let Thanksgiving Go By Without Watching This Classic "WKRP In Cincinnati" Episode

Best Thanksgiving episode ever? No doubt. An annual Thanksgiving tradition: The "Turkeys Away" episode of "WKRP in Cincinnati."

"As God Is My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly!"

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

MIKE ON KCRW: Bill Cosby, DreamWorks, Netflix, More

On this Monday's edition of KCRW's The Business, Kim Masters and I bantered about several topics including:
- Someone behind an anonymous letter is looking to sabotage any possible DreamWorks deal.
- Nielsen will finally start measuring Netflix viewership, but that still doesn’t mean we’ll know how many people are watching House of Cards.
- A settlement has been reached in the Midnight Rider case.

Listen by clicking below:

On last Thursday's Hollywood Breakdown, Kim Masters and I talked more about the Bill Cosby mess:

Hollywood Breakdown

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Conversation with the Stars of ABC's "Black-ish"


Last Thursday I had a blast moderating a SAG Foundation panel for the new hit ABC comedy "Black-ish." Stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross were great, and their chemistry as the show's husband and wife is evident. But like I mention in the opening, the show's secret weapon may be the young actors who play their children on the show -- they're all strong.


Panels like these, when the stars come to play, laugh and perform, are a joy to moderate. I dug this one. And best of all, even though Anthony Anderson can easily take over a room, I think I managed to keep things in control. Watch below!

KCRW's THE-SPIN-OFF: November Edition (Listen Now!)


Thanks to Diane Gordon for posting this photo collage; she joins me and Joe Adalian for this month's edition of the monthly KCRW podcast "The Spin-Off." This month we chat about:
We spend a lot of time talking about shows we love, but this month we spend some time on shows that went splat. Biggest busts, biggest disappointments, and rom-coms that had us falling out of love.

And since we last gathered, there are now even more options for watching TV shows without a cable or even basic television package. Sony will roll out a streaming TV package called PlayStation Vue. We talk over the top content delivery and what that could mean for the ever-changing media landscape.

Finally, networks and patience are two words you may not think about putting together, but there certain shows that will be never be hits that networks keep renewing. What’s the thinking there?

We discuss all that and more, plus our monthly downloads -- the stories or shows most top of our minds this month.

Listen by clicking below!

The Spin-Off

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Great Los Angeles Walk 2014 Recap: We Conquer The Valley!

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014

Several hundred of us marched across the San Fernando Valley -- "America's Suburb" -- on Saturday, getting an up-close-and-personal look at most of Ventura Boulevard. And it was, like, totally awesome to the max!

OK, enough with the early 1980s Valley stereotypes. The 9th Annual GREAT LOS ANGELES WALK attracted a large crowd of first timers and veteran participants, particularly many new folks from the Valley who had never heard of the GLAW until this year. In the process we hiked at least 17 and a half miles from one end to the other -- Woodland Hills to North Hollywood.

Along the way, we traveled through Tarzana, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Universal City and more. The weather was great, the food options were plentiful and there was much to see. In the end, we celebrated at District Pub NoHo, which was fantastically accommodating to our group.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014

We kicked things off with a visit from the Nudie car, an El Dorado customized by the late tailor Nudie Cohn. Tommy Gelinas of the Valley Relics museum brought the car for all to see, and also gave a talk about how passionate he is about Valley pop culture history.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Tommy Gelinas, left, and Scott Sterling talk about their mutual love for the Valley.

Then Scott Sterling of the newly opened Museum of the San Fernando Valley spoke and told us all about some of the landmarks we would see on Saturday, and a bit about his new brick-and-mortar location. Thanks to Tommy and Scott for kicking things off!

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014

Along the way, this year's Walk gave us a look at some of the Valley's coolest mid-century architecture, including the Fleetwood Center, Mel's Drive Inn, Casa de Cadillac and more. We also passed by historic sites like the Rancho Los Encinos (a state park most of us had never even visited) and Campo de Cahuenga. We even passed by two of Hollywood's busiest studios: CBS Studio Center and Universal Studios.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014

This being the most built-up walk of businesses we've ever done, I also lost count at the sheer number of Starbucks we walked by. Not to mention Vape stores. Apparently the Valley really likes vaping. (There were also quite a few tacky furniture stores, reminding us that some folks may still be stuck in the 1980s after all!)

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014

Here are some more pics from the day:

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
A lot of BBQ joints in the West Valley. This is not a bad thing.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Now this is a taste crime. This infamous building could be one of the ugliest on Ventura.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
The view from Woodland Hills' Chalk Hill -- which I did not know was named Chalk Hill until Saturday!

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Classic In-N-Out Burger design.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Woodland Casual Patio and Rattan (architect unknown)

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Best-named business on Ventura?

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Fleetwood Center (architect Lee Oakes). Strip mall with a Cadillac facade, yet was never a car dealership.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Corbin Bowl -- renovated but kept its cool original sign.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Sorry Cupid's, but your mascot is a touch creepy.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Tarzana! No lion sightings.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
You buying?

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
It's always time to buy liquor.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
The hookup on Hookahs.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
The best mural on Ventura, hands down. SWEEP THE LEG! Oh "The Karate Kid," you and "E.T." were my first introduction to the San Fernando Valley as a kid.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
There's something cool about walking by this Googie-style car wash on foot. Won't be needing one today!

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Like I mentioned, the Los Encinos State Historic Park was a great find on this Walk. We had never visited.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
More from the park

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Some history for ya.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
El Camino Real bell

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
THESE ARE NOT REAL PEOPLE. This art installation is kinda interesting, kinda weird, kinda disturbing.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Walking toward the 405

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Just, no.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Mel's Drive Inn (Armet & Davis) Googie design.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Casa de Cadillac (Randall Duell, Phillip Conklin), recently restored but first opened in 1949.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
I don't know.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Puppet school!

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
The Valley's war on hipsters.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Soft serve break!

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Daryl from "The Walking Dead," spotted on Ventura!

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
The literal Studio City Hand Car Wash.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
This late in the day, breaks are necessary!

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Words of encouragement from Prints Charm'n!

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Campo de Cahuenga

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Tupac ushers in the final stretch.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
These North Hollywood Toyota mannequins ALWAYS freak me out.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
RIP, Robin.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
NoHo! Almost there.

Great Los Angeles Walk 2014
Just a portion of the folks who made it to the end, at the Art Institute of California-Hollywood. (Many were still walking or already celebrating at District Pub Noho when this was taken.)

Thanks to everyone who came and walked! We'll see you next year for the 10TH ANNIVERSARY GREAT LOS ANGELES WALK -- Saturday, November 21, 2015!

Read most of the Tweets from the day -- at least the ones with the #glaw hashtag -- here!

Post your Great Los Angeles Walk 2014 photos to our Flickr stream here.

Still want a t-shirt as a souvenir? They're available here:

Here are some links to other recaps of this year's Great Los Angeles Walk. Send us your links!

The Great Los Angeles Walk 2014 Flickr Pool

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