Taco Bell

I just went to Taco Bell and ordered a combo with a Mountain Dew. Or Mtn Dew. Or whatever it is.

When I got to the window the guy asked me, “You said Mountain Dew, right? Do you want the green one or the blue one?”

I shuddered and was at a loss for words before telling him that I wanted the ‘normal’ one.

On top of that, I get home and read the side of the cup and they are announcing that they have a new product:

Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos…

I give up trying to defend this company.

The Fonda Theatre

At long last I get to cross ‘seeing The Afghan Whigs live’ off my bucket list. They played two nights at the Fonda Theatre, formerly Music Box, formerly the Henry Fonda Theatre, formerly a bunch of other names but originally (and again) Music Box.


6126 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood, CA 90028

This is a great location in the heart of Hollywood, just a short block from the Hollywood & Vine Metro station. If you don’t take the train, however, you’ll need to look for parking and you’ll probably end up paying in the connected lot. There’s an upstairs floor with seating and a bar as well as an large outside roof patio but all of this is secondary to what really matters – the main floor. Again a large bar and some limited seats sit against the back wall before a step down into the large, flat, open General Admission area. The old 1920’s theater vibe is present from the decorative ceiling, pillars, and old curtains.


As previously mentioned, the theater just went through a stint as the Music Box where the large area in front of the stage often acted as a club dance floor. This means there is plenty of space and the sound is great. The acoustics of the old fashioned theater are appreciated and it’s easy to see the show no matter where you stand. The Afghan Whigs kept the light show simple but the equipment was modern and well done. I have to say that I’ve seen countless shows at this venue and have never been disappointed.


The drinks in plastic cups are more or less what you’d expect but it is worth pointing out that there are enough bars in here to keep you from waiting in any noticeable lines. And of course, this being Hollywood, danger dogs will be served on the sidewalk just outside. But the real gem is the attached bar, Blue Palms Brewhouse. This is one of the best places to discover and drink craft beers in LA. They have a large rotating selection of 20+ drafts, including a few of their own, and have a bunch of appetizers, burgers, and entrees that go great with beer. The only thing I can fault them for is being a little too packed and leaning a bit too heavily on the IPA crutch. Sometimes the door between the bar and the theater lobby is open as well, allowing easy access. What more could you want?

Santa Barbara Bowl

I just caught a great double show. Jane’s Addiction is on tour for their new album and I decided to see them off the beaten path and go to the Santa Barbara Bowl. What’s more, The Airborne Toxic Event opened for them.


1122 North Milpas Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Just on the edge of walkable from Santa Barbara’s State Street, up into the hills, is the pleasant outdoor bowl. The venue is much smaller than similar sites (like the Hollywood Bowl) but the intimacy is appreciated. Southern California lends a hand in the ambiance- the coastal air and cool breeze kept the temperature perfect. There are more seats compared to most normal concerts but there is still a party at the bottom if you so choose. Up top, the wooden bleacher-style seats are spacious.


Most outdoor venues have an acoustical challenge to deal with and may suffer some sound quality loss as a trade-off. The Santa Barbara Bowl does a valiant job and I thought both bands sounded great. The stage is big and offers a lot of space for lights, props, and performers. It is important to keep in mind that, while this is small for a bowl, outdoor venues tend to be much bigger than traditional theaters so you do tend to get more of a bird’s eye view of things.


Is there anything better than drinking wine from plastic cups at outdoor bowl concerts? Santa Barbara, known for great wines, delivered. Unlike Hollywood Bowl, you can’t bring in your own bottles and I’m not even sure if you can bring in your own food. The concession stands have a pretty broad selection of snacks and entrees, though.

Hollywood Palladium

After seeing a few good bands at bad venues, it was refreshing to get to see Crystal Castles with a good set up at the Hollywood Palladium.


6215 Sunset Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90028

Within blocks of the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine, the Palladium is larger and more convenient than one might expect. Parking in the area is limited and will probably cost you some money but it is very easy to get through the line and get inside. The Hollywood Palladium went through a massive renovation in 2008 and has very nice Art Deco elements throughout. The accent lighting is moody and the General Admission floor is laid with wood. The stage is shaped like an oval and the entire floor area wraps around it and out to give a good view to many, and there are two balconies for a higher view, one of which is usually reserved for VIPs (and thus, less packed). The hallways and bathrooms are roomy and the AC works great providing a very easy and comfortable experience all around.


Simply put, the lights and sound system at the Hollywood Palladium are top notch. Everything about the venue is new and well planned. It was refreshing to clearly hear the music after the debacle at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The smoke show, however, does tend to get a bit crazy here and can impact the visibility of the act. In this case I’d say more of that was on Crystal Castles and the fact that I was watching the show from the back of the floor. In the past I’ve seen both the Pixies (for a Doolittle show) and Nine Inch Nails (for a Downward spiral show) further up into the mix and had a fine view.


With a bar on each balcony, one in back of the floor and another in the mezzanine area, it is very easy to grab a cocktail and get back to the show. Smokers might be disappointed by the lack of patio- they just kind of stand outside at the front. Food is nonexistent while inside but, it being Hollywood and all, you’d be hard pressed not to see several bacon wrapped hot dog stands on your way out.

Santa Monica Civic Auditorium

A few friends and I just caught the Silversun Pickups at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Since I see a good deal of shows in the LA area, I figured I should start sorting them out.


1855 Main Street Santa Monica, CA 90401-3209

Just off the 10 and easy to get to, the SMCA is in the heart of the city close to the beach. There’s ample parking in a next door pay garage and there’s no hassle getting inside. The interior structure looks like a 50s era bomb shelter- it is laid out like a theater but has little imagination or noticeable decoration. The plain cement walls and cement seating/steps are so bland that it would even be embarrassing for a high school pep rally. As with most shows, the AC didn’t do a very good job keeping the crowd cool on the General Admission floor but it was nice to be able to go outside in the front grounds for some fresh air. All in all the venue is pretty convenient.


The light show was top notch. I’m not sure how much of this had to do with Silversun’s set up but there were great visuals with modern lights. It was a simple layout too so I’m sure the limits could be pushed on this end. That said, it’s hard to judge the speaker system because the whole place is encased in cement and echoes like crazy. I have to say, especially considering the fairly large open space the crowd was standing in, the music was completely destroyed by the horrible acoustics. I love the band and am familiar with all their songs and it was sometimes hard to discern what was going on. I don’t know if everything could be blamed on just the echoes, either. At times the back up singer would chime in or a guitar solo would start and it took several seconds of silence before the volume was adjusted to the proper mix. Just awful for a great album that I wanted to enjoy live.


Now to the important part. Drinks were served outside and they had good bottles like Sailor Jerry’s available. Prices weren’t too bad and lines were plentiful and decently sized. We did generally wait about 5-7 minutes to order but it was pleasant standing and socializing in the front yard anyway. Pours were pretty good too. There was a food counter inside but it didn’t look appealing and no one was bothering.

Taco Bell

Guilty pleasure confession: I loves me some Taco Bell. I don’t know why but I do. I know it’s radioactive and often forces me to plan out a bathroom schedule in advance but the pleasure of eating meat with piles of cheese and sour cream is irresistible.

But another thing to like about the company as a whole is that they like to experiment. “Hey, Fritos taste good, so let’s put them in a taco!” “Ok, let’s make a hard and a soft taco combined and just glue them together with retried beans.” Needless to say, when it came time to incorporate Doritos into their food, Taco Bell did not disappoint.


No, that is not a hard taco shell- it is a giant Dorito shaped like a taco shell. I’m speechless. This is a delicious chip with a long history in this country, originally created in a taco flavor. The inventor recently died and his family threw Doritos on his grave to honor him. This is an epic chip, and it’s a proper way to see the man out.

Let’s all do our part.


Yeah, China. I hate China. But it isn’t what you think.

I don’t hate China- the country. I hate China- the idea. This is in reference to everybody and their mother worried that the United States is in decline and China will be the biggest world superpower for the foreseeable future. This is my response after hearing about GDP growth trends and seeing charts of how much of the world’s cement China uses. This is my reaction to the fact that China is opening their doors of commerce to the world at large.

So what?

Sidestepping the argument of whether or not a country’s success is to the detriment of another, is it really all that bad that China is moving into the modern age? This is an intimate subject for me. I’ve been to China. The video game industry that I am a part of has embraced the cheap labor there. A couple of personal friends of mine moved to Beijing to open up their own company in China. Are any of these things damaging to the U.S.?

Nobody knows the future. We can only speculate on what might happen. I’ve seen articles and TED Talks about the dominance of China. “Everything we predict about China is wrong because we don’t understand them, but take a look at these GDP predictions! Scary!” These kinds of logical acrobatics ensure that we can only be right about doomsday scenarios. But for every case where China sees success we can postulate otherwise. Here’s my take.

China has just started opening up to the international world but they are still a developing country. While a lot of growth can come from that there is also a lot of baggage. An iron fist has driven the Chinese government thus far but how will that tactic fare next to a global council? No matter how large the entity, censoring the internet can only last so long. There are hundreds of millions of poor citizens who will slowly demand more. Will China’s growing pains emerge as a reckoning?

On the other side of the coin, there are plenty of future industries that U.S. dominance is just about guaranteed in for a while- genetics, medicine, military capability. Sure, manufacturing is increasingly moving to China, but are simple consumer goods going to be the metric of the future? English is the language of the air, the sea, the internet. In major Chinese cities all young citizens can speak decent English. Do these facts not offer a modicum of hope? Or is it more likely that China is the new cold war, the alarmist’s dream?

Is China’s future Communism or revolution? Will China emerge as one or fall apart? Or will they see unprecedented growth while everyone else still does ok? In this case perhaps the less exciting answer is the most likely.