Los Angeles County Museum Of Art Inaugurates African Gallery

The Los Angeles County Museum Of Art is inaugurating its new Africa gallery with an exhibition of art from the Luba Kingdom.

“Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa” examines the royal art of the powerful Luba Kingdom, which from 1585-1889 dominated central Africa. Its royal lineage was highly regarded and developed an elaborate artwork to reflect its prestige.
The exhibition includes many objects loaned by the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium, like this mask of a legendary hero. Many of the items depict women. While they didn’t rule, they were considered the spiritual guardians of the kingship and the creators of life. A Luba proverb says, “Men are chiefs in the daytime, but women are chiefs at night.” Among the works of art are masks, headrests, sceptres, thrones and cups.

The new Africa gallery is located next to the Egyptian gallery to highlight the influences the two regions had on one another. In addition to special exhibitions, the gallery will also host the museum’s permanent collection.

“Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa” runs until January 5, 2014.

LA Is Still The City Of Dreams

On my first night in L.A., I had pizza with a rock star and an actor. I didn’t confirm it, but the guy who handed us our slices probably has a screenplay in the pipeline. Los Angeles is still the city of dreams and dreamers.

I’m fascinated by cities people flock to in order to pursue a vocation. Writers love New York. Techies settle in the Silicon Valley. Car people need to be in Detroit. Those who are interested in politics and government go to D.C. And anyone who wants to work in the entertainment industry moves to L.A.

Every city also has accountants, police officers, teachers and the rest, but L.A. wouldn’t be the same without the swarms of people who moved there in the hopes of becoming famous. If you live in a city that’s saturated with people who’ve all moved there for roughly the same reason, I can see how it would be a bit annoying. I’ve lived in D.C. three separate times and never warmed to the place in part because it’s a transient city filled with hyper-achieving, my child is going to speak Chinese better than your child, type A personalities.

But while living among the aspiring and working actors, directors and musicians in L.A. might get old, I never get tired of visiting the place. On the first night of my recent trip, my wife and I fell into conversation with a guy who had movie star good looks while waiting for slices of a pizza in a restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. I don’t watch enough Hollywood movies and T.V. to know if he was famous, but he looked the part. But then again, there are all kinds of beautiful people in L.A. and only a fraction of them are famous, the rest wait tables, take off their clothes in strip joints and do 1,000 other things to pay the rent while keeping their dreams of stardom simmering.

I couldn’t bring myself to ask him, “hey, are you on TV?” because I didn’t want to be too much of a rank tourist. We went outside with our slices and sat at a table next to a guy with a big mop of curly blonde hair and two slices of pizza. He had a guitar on his lap and I couldn’t help but ask him what band he was in.

“We’re called the Mowgli’s,” he said.

The name meant nothing to me but immediately resonated with my little boys, who are fans of “The Jungle Book.The young man told me his name was Michael Vincze and, while I naively assumed that he was just an eccentric dreamer that liked to walk around L.A. with a guitar, he casually mentioned that they’d recently played at the House of Blues in Chicago and on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

In many ways, emerging artists like the Mowglis are forced to be consummate travelers. Vincze told us that his band had crisscrossed the country in a van several times, playing gigs in towns and cities all across the fruited plane.

Later that evening, I rode an elevator at my hotel with a strikingly attractive black woman and thought, she’s probably famous or soon will be, and later found out I was right. It was the British R & B singer Laura Mvula.

Of course, if you’re serious about stalking the mega-stars while in L.A., the real household names, there are a number of websites that list their home addresses, where they eat, pray, shop, etc. I have little interest in celebrity stalking, but I love to simply drive around L.A. and marvel at all the ridiculously expensive cars.

I saw more Rolls Royces, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Maseratis in four days in L.A. than I’d see driving around Chicago, my adopted hometown, in a lifetime. These kinds of cars would be considered ostentatious in most corners of the planet but in L.A., hardly anyone seems to bat an eyelash.

On our last day in L.A., I was reminded what I like most about the city after reading a beautiful, heartbreaking story in the Los Angeles Times about Seth Burnham, a struggling “Mid 30s-ish, early 40s-ish” actor who moved to L.A. to pursue his dream and, like many, hasn’t made it but keeps hope alive. The story is part of a series called Chasing the Dream that neatly encapsulates how hard it is to make it in the entertainment business.

As a traveler, I like to be in a place that’s filled with dreamers like Seth Burnham. D.C. is filled with practical, serious career climbers, the kind of people who pay obsessive attention to their 401k portfolios and have panic attacks if they go more than 3,000 miles without an oil change.

But L.A. is chockfull of impractical people following dreams, people who carry their guitars around with them, waiting for inspiration to strike, people who, if given a million dollars, would rush right out and spend it on a Rolls Royce, people who, when you ask them how old they are, respond: “Mid 30s-ish to early 40s-ish.” L.A. doesn’t get much love from travel writers but there is no better place in the country to rub shoulders with fun, idealistic people who are this close to making it big.

[Photo credit: Frankenmedia on Flickr]

Photo Of The Day: The Walt Disney Concert Hall In Los Angeles

One of Downtown Los Angeles‘ great treasures is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a Frank Gehry-designed structure home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and the Los Angeles Major Chorale. It is captured brilliantly in today’s Photo of the Day, taken by Flickr user Nan Palmero using a simple Canon Powershot S95. The sky’s brilliant blue casts a cool hue upon the structure’s stainless steel exterior, illuminating what is truly a building of the future.

Do you have any photos of great architecture? Upload your shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.[Photo Credit: Nan Palmero]

Food Trucks Gone Wild: A Video Tour Of LA’s Melrose Night

Care for a $5 ice cream sandwich made with fried chicken and waffle flavored ice cream and a gluten-free coconut almond cookie? Or how about some Hawaiian breakfast sliders, made with Portuguese sausage, sautéed onions, and Shoyu scrambled eggs on Hawaiian bread? Those of are just a couple of the tantalizing selections I noticed when I stumbled across Melrose Night in Los Angeles last Thursday night.

On the first Thursday of each month, more than a dozen food trucks and an assortment of shops set up on Melrose Avenue between Ogden and Curson between 6-10 p.m. The event began in January 2011, and the crowds and vendor list continues to grow. I counted 15 food trucks at Melrose Night last week and almost every one of them had something I wanted to eat.There was gelato on a stick ($4) at Cool Cow Feel Good, Frito pies ($6) and chicken and waffles ($8) at the Trailer Park Truck, red velvet chocolate chip pancakes ($6), lobster rolls ($12) and a host of other goodies. One truck was even selling flatiron steaks at $15 a pop.

I love the gourmet food truck trend, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to order a steak or fried chicken and stand on the street eating it. I will order tacos, ice cream, lobster rolls, burgers, basically anything that doesn’t require a knife and fork, but I really don’t want to be eating pancakes, omelets, steaks and the like on the street.

My other issue with some gourmet food trucks is the high prices. Some are offering very good values. We had a rocky road ice cream sandwich that I thought was pricey at $5 until I realized the thing was big enough to feed my family of four!

But others are pricing their menu items as though they were restaurants. There is a difference between standing on a street corner eating something and being able to sit down at a restaurant, be it fast food or sit down. I do expect a discount at a food truck, but I think a few food truck proprietors are getting a bit high and mighty.

I know that they need permits and have overhead as well, but their fixed costs are lower than restaurants, so I don’t expect to pay $11 for a veggie burger and fries at a food truck when that is roughly the same price I’d pay in a restaurant.

Those minor beefs aside, I highly recommend checking out Melrose Night. Show up hungry and you will definitely eat well. It’s also a great area for window-shopping and people watching. L.A. isn’t much of a pedestrian city, but this is one of the few opportunities to walk around on sidewalks that are full of people and life. You might not save a ton of money by dining on the street, but you’ll eat well and have a blast.

Solace For The Other 49 States: It’s (Not) Always Sunny In California

It isn’t always sunny in California. It only just seems that way for those of us who live in colder climates. On Thursday, it rained in Los Angeles. I swear, there was no sun or blue skies to be had anywhere. Before I travel anywhere, I check the forecast for my destination obsessively and I can tell you that this is the first time there’s been rain in L.A. in at least 6 or 7 years. Or it least it seems that way.

I’ve traveled extensively around California over the past 30 years and this was actually the first time I have ever – ever – felt any significant rainfall in this glorious state. Perhaps I’ve just been remarkably lucky, but I think Californians are actually quite unused to inclement weather.

On the drive to out hotel we were listening to the local NPR affiliate in Los Angeles and the hosts noted that there had been 188 crashes on L.A. freeways that morning, which, they said, was a big haul, even for L.A. The hosts chalked this up to the rain and I almost burst out laughing.I grew up in Buffalo and my adopted hometown is Chicago. The notion that large numbers of people are crashing their cars due to the fact that it was 65 degrees with a light drizzle seemed delicious, preposterous, wonderful! Only in a place with a truly glorious climate could people forget how to safely operate their vehicles because they are so shocked or unaccustomed to a little harmless precipitation.

Most travel writers like to wax poetic about how they don’t mind rainy weather while traveling. And most of them are full of crap for the following reasons. 1) They spend most of the year traveling and thus have a completely different perspective than someone who has just a few precious days to savor outside their office each year. 2) They typically aren’t traveling with small children they have to find ways to amuse in bad weather.

Anyone who travels frequently can tell you stories about how awful the weather was on one trip or another they’ve taken. Other than California, which has been my lucky destination over the years, I seem to have a knack for brining bad weather to even the sunniest of places.

Italy is a prime example. I’ve encountered day after day of torrential rain and winds in places like Capri, Polignano A Mare, and Siracusa, to name just a few. And on each occasion, everyone I met assured me that the weather we were experiencing was like a freak, supernatural experience. It’s NEVER like this! They say. Or, more commonly, The weather was perfect until you arrived.

I don’t care what anyone says, the truth is that no place looks as good in the rain as it does under blue skies and sunshine. You make the best of bad weather and sometimes it forces you to do some fun things that you wouldn’t do otherwise, but if you get nothing but rain in a place, the chances are, you probably won’t like it as much as if you’d had good weather there.

If you’re traveling with small children, inclement weather takes an even greater toll. If you aren’t with kids, you can lie in bed and curl up with a book or hit a museum, but you’re options are much more limited if you have small kids in tow. You can throw on a movie for them, but it’s hard to do that all day long for days on end. Bitching about the weather won’t help either, but it can be therapeutic.

Our first two days in California have been rainy, with yet more rain in the forecast and the weather is getting warmer in Chicago. It was 63 and rainy in L.A. on Thursday and 54 and sunny in Chicago, so take your pick. According to weather.com, though, L.A. had zero days with measurable precipitation in October and just two days with a wee bit of rain in November prior to my arrival. But L.A. averages 2.37 inches of precipitation in December historically, not much different than Chicago’s 2.57 inches.

Never mind the fact that Chicago is 50 degrees colder. (And there are microclimates all over California, so if you want different weather, just get the car and drive a bit) But on Saturday, we were in La Jolla, basking in the sunshine. And after a couple gloomy days, we appreciated the warmth of the sun all the more so. You can never take good weather for granted, even in California.

[Photo credits: Neil Kremer and Thomas Hawk on Flickr]