Behold: five great things you should do in Southern California this week, from art to food to music to an adventure we'll call the Wild Card from the makers of the 5 Every Day app. Get this as a new podcast in iTunes. If you want five hand-picked things to do in Los Angeles every day, download the free 5 Every Day from the App Store.
"Wouldn't it be great if you're playing a concert and you look out and everyone's a dog?"
That's a quote from Laurie Anderson, the people's performance artist. For the better part of four decades now, she's been crafting sound and performance pieces that have somehow translated into hit singles and pretty much universal acclaim.
This Sunday at Cinefamily, Anderson realizes her doggy dream with "Concert For Dogs" — an afternoon concert designed with man's best friend in mind.
Well-behaved dogs get priority seating in the Very Important Dog section for a set of canine-friendly, high frequency music, followed by her latest film, "Heart of a Dog," a requiem for her rat terrier, and a kaleidoscopic meditation on life, death, and the joys between the two.
All dogs subject to pre-approval — visit Cinefamily's website for more details.
If you live in North Hollywood, you undoubtedly already know about the Magical Christmas Caroling Truck, because how could you not?
The Magical Christmas Caroling Truck is basically an annual public nuisance. It's a sixty-two foot tractor trailer, built like a big dumb winter pageant set piece and blaring 20,000 watts of goodwill to any and all within its ten mile radius.
The Truck has circled Toluca Lake for 30 years, garish with its 10,000 twinkling lights. A small army of fur-fringed carolers and dancers follows in its tracks. It's a glorious, wholly American storm of holiday cheer: oppressive muzak eerily Doppler-ing through the avenues for a full seven hours every Christmas eve.
It's inescapable, inevitable, unassailable.
Just like the holidays themselves.
FOOD: Fine Garden Vegetarian
Listen, we don't usually play into the whole New York vs. LA thing. It's apples and oranges.
And besides, in an increasingly homogenous world, the standard signifiers are starting to collapse. Like, you can definitely get really great New York-style pizza in LA. And there's probably a decent burrito in the five boroughs somewhere.
But we will give New York this very specific point in its favor: they've got some great vegetarian dim-sum in their Chinatown. Tons of places with very long menus full of fake shark fin and soy-based General Tso's.
We've always longed for an equivalent here.
Which we believe we have found.
Fine Garden Vegetarian is as good, if not better, than those NYC dumpling places. And it's in Alhambra, so no need to burn your frequent flyer points.
The menu is extensive and meat-free. There's lovely faux-shrimp shu-mai, little lotus seed buns, pan-fried turnip cakes, and sesame-speckled, crispy pork buns that feel like the real thing. They even, somehow, serve vegetarian sea cucumber.
Which we can't vouch for.
MUSIC: Moogfest Dialtones
In the mid-1950s, an electrical engineer from Queens named Robert Moog started making musical instruments. His first products were Theremins, made in his garage with the help of his father.
They sold for $50 a pop.
As he grew older, he started connecting the electronic components in the family garage — oscillators and amplifiers — with controllers and keyboards. The result was an instrument that would change music forever: the modular analog synthesizer.
Moog synthesizers have gone on to be used in countless recordings, by every band from Kraftwerk to the Beach Boys. Remember those "switched-on" classical albums, like Switched-On Bach?
These days Moog's company still makes instruments in the USA and throws a music festival every couple of years in Durham, North Carolina. And in the leadup to this year's Moogfest, the synth company is descending on the Ace Hotel Los Angeles for a day of drones, modular tinkering, and switched-on partying.
It's called Dial-Tones, and it features a stellar of LA musicians, producers, and DJs performing a collaborative, back-to-back, improvised performance using Moog synths.
Entry is limited, but if you can't make the improvised noodling session you can certainly hit the afterparty on the Ace rooftop, for a breezy evening of DJ sets by YACHT, Jerome LOL, Lovefingers, Heidi, and M. Geddes Gengras.
It's all free.
WILDCARD: It's a Wonderful Life
It's a Wonderful Life is super dark. It's like the "Born In the USA" of Christmas movies: the story of a good man's slow, tempered descent into suicidal despair that's usually interpreted as a saccharine Christmas miracle.
But what about the redemptive socialist ending? And Zuzu's petals, and "every time a bell rings" and all that?
Okay, sure, but before that it's all about the death of dreams, adult resignation, and George Bailey knuckling under the pressure of a life half-lived.
Whichever way you wanna read it, it still makes us weepy despite of ourselves, because it stirs up all that's bittersweet about the holiday season: life is wonderful and impossible, and that's okay.
It's a Wonderful Life will be leaving everybody misty-eyed at half dozen different revival houses this week, including the Echo Park Film Center, the Aero, the Egyptian, and Cinefamily.