[Oh, Snap!] Ringing In 2015 at The University of California’s Botanical Garden in Berkeley

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After crushing it into the New Years at Sea of Dreams for the second time running, the New Years Day was spent marinating in the good tidings of the past year, and the first half of Friday was devoted to work. But, as noon settled in – I got the call from my boss that everyone wishes they had: If you have your work in, you’re dismissed. All week, I’d made it a mission to get ahead of myself so I could coast into the New Year; it was totally working.  My parents were poised to pounce with a bevvy of beautiful options for the afternoon – we could go to Land’s End and enjoy the roar of the Pacific, or they could whisk us over the Bay Bridge and into one of two Botanical Gardens manned by the University of California School System, the other located at UCLA ./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/117/39265557/files/2015/01/img_6142.jpg As Ursula from The Little Mermaid taunted, ‘Life is full of tough choices‘; but when one of them happened to be a place I’d already been, and the later a place my family had never spent time, I knew exactly where we should be.

The sun just reached it’s pinnacle and we were off, galloping across the glistening San Francisco Bay into new territory, Oakland’s Strawberry Canyon. Within seconds we were lost in the wilderness, whimsically in wanderlust.   Tucked away in the hillside, high above the city and it’s highest skyscrapers – the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley is one of the Bay Area’s best kept secrets. Boasting over 12,000 rare and unusual plants selectively segmented across 34 acres and multiple greenhouses, these botanical gardens are among the most populated and diverse in the entire United States.

For you number nerds like me – according to their site, this is the breakdown in numbers:

  • 300+ families
    • 2,710 genera
      • 9,670 species
        • 12,800 taxa
          • 19,300 accessions (each accession represents one or more plants in the Garden).

The five best-represented families are:

  1. Cactus family (2,029 accessions; 1,198 taxa)
  2. Sunflower family (1,002 accessions; 771 taxa)
  3. Orchid family (1,030 accessions; 711 taxa)
  4. Lily family (1,097 accessions; 675 taxa)
  5. Heath family (979 accessions; 614 taxa).

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/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/117/39265557/files/2015/01/img_6157.jpg From Cactus Gardens to Herb Gardens, Medicinal Chinese Gardens and massive plots of native Californian, South American, African, Mediterranean and Asian plants – the botanical gardens represents the entire globe, with an emphasis on plants from Mediterranean Climates. Not to mention, there’s an amazing arena for succulents.

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The gardens are open daily from 9 to 5PM and tickets typically run at $10 a head – but, know before you go: there’s free admission the first Wednesday of every month!

 For more about the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, visit their various socials:

 Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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[The Audiofiles] A Little Bit Softer Now: Red Rocks Amphitheater Subject to New Noise Restrictions

One of the few natural amphitheaters on the globe, Red Rocks Amphiteater in Morrison, Colorado manifested from enormous sloping rock monoliths that have been carbon dated back to the Jurassic Period – complete with sea serpent, flying reptile and marine reptile fossils from over 160 Million Years ago.  The Rocks have been called many things, like ‘Garden of the Angels’ and ‘Garden of the Titans’, and at one point, Red Rocks was considered one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World‘.  Anyone who’s been there, including me, will vehemently agree with that statement.

As Dance Music continues to dominate the music industry, the landscape of musical acts at Red Rocks has shifted accordingly; and now that we’re in 2015 –  ‘Pop’ has become pseudo-synonymous with EDM.  If you’ve been living under a Rock, or at least living under ‘Rock and Roll’ – EDM is an uber generalized term for the bass heavy, synth rich Dance Music you hear coming from those Tweens, 20-anythings and young professionals in the car next to you… or, at the gym, on the sidewalk or in a State of the Union address. Honestly, it’s just everywhere at this point.  And that includes Red Rocks.

“Over the 50 years, the biggest and brightest pop stars in the music industry have graced the Amphitheater stage…” – but even that’s a loaded statement. For some, ‘Pop’ is the culmination of redundant records on the radio, for others, it’s the ‘Sound of the Youth’ and even then – you can just make the argument that ‘Pop’ is simply what sells.  All statistics aside, ‘Pop’ is a simple, watered down version of the complexities of ‘Underground’ Dance Music that’s made acceptable for approval by the masses.  Starting in the 60’s, fans at the Rocks bore witness to the musical genius of The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, John Denver, Fleetwood Mac, Rush and Jimi Hendrix. This is the location where U2’s fabled ‘Under a Blood Red Sky‘ was filmed.  As we catapulted into the 90’s – Rock Bands from Dave Matthews, Incubus and Oasis to A Perfect Circle, Phish and Colorado’s own The String Cheese Incident have all hosted musically monumental events at Red Rocks.

As we ushered in a new millennium, Red Rocks witnessed a parallel changing of the guard.  In addition to raucous rock and roll evenings, the night air at Red Rocks is filled with the delirious, delectable Electro sounds from industry greats – for at least one night a year.  In 1999 local radio station KTCL hosted the first ‘Rave on the Rocks‘ with The Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim; and in, 2000, Moby became the first solo EDM artist to perform at Red Rocks.   Rave in the Rocks eventually disintegrated and reappeared as Global Dance Festival – a recurring, now multiday, Music Festival at the Rocks in the Summer.  And let’s not forget,  the grounds also play host to annual events like Punk at the Rocks,  ‘Reggae on the Rocks’ ‘Opera on the Rocks’, The Mayor’s Jazz Festival and more.

As the decade wore on, there were spotted dance acts including Paul Oakenfold in 2002, Daft Punk in 2007 and STS9 starting in 06 (who never left the bill, and trust me – no one is complaining about that!) but the only real EDM show in town was Global Dance. It wasn’t until 2011 that the people of Morrison were truly taken for a spin.  Yes, it’s true that there were more shows in general – jumping from 74 events in ’08 to 98 in ’11, but a larger proportion of acts also had deep roots in EDM.  In one concert season, ears and eyes feasted on Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, The Glitch Mob, Thievery Corporation, Benny Benassi, and LMFAO – a 700% increase in solo performance EDM nights at the venue compared to previous years. The amount doubled the next year, with 2 nights of Bassnectar and Pretty Lights (not combined, mind you, I would have known about that one…), Avicii, Kaskade, Skrillex, and Justice in addition to previous performers. And it was only uphill, or downhill, from there – depending on how you want to look at it.

Between graduations, Festivals, Concerts and community events – 2014 has been the heaviest scheduled event season ever at Red Rocks with over 150 Scheduled Events – and over 10% of them were EDM.  From Flux Pavillion to Zeds Dead, Global Dance to 2 nights of Skrillex, it went off this Summer at the Rocks. Red Rocks even went HARD thanks to Gary Richard’s – and now, the city of Morrison wants us to go home.

The first time there was a crack down on the musical mayhem at Red Rocks it was almost 50 years ago.  Back in the 70’s,  a rowdy group of Jethro Tull fans changed the game for the next five years as non-ticket holders attempted to crash the festival – this led to a ban on ‘heavier sounding’ acts that was finally dropped in ’75. And now, it’s happening again.  The heavy metalhead turned dubstep producer and most epices of DJs, Bassnectar literally brought the noise – busting out his own speakers and incurring over $100,000 in fines at the Rocks – on multiple occasions.  Over time, this pushed the residents of Morrison– and then the city of Denver – to enact a new noise ordinance on the area.   In a tour de force, the music community came together to help contribute to the atrocious fine as well as speak up in support of his decision to be heard loud and clear, but that doesn’t change how the legislators and residents feel.

In 2013, the city of Denver imposed several sound regulations over Red Rocks. And now again in 2015, we’re witnessing yet another schedule heavily riddled with EDM and a city with residents that want the genre banned all together. Set in motion at the beginning of the year, there are some new regulations for artists to take notice of. Instead of having a to tone down the music, 2013’s music regulations are now extended to the entire set. The entire show must be at or below 105 dB for one minute averages, and the bass levels are limited to 125 dB between 25 and 80 Hz for one minute averages.  The weekday music curfew has been moved a quarter of an hour back to 11:45 pm, and on weekends – the music has to shut off by 12:30am.  The sound levels are measured independently by the city’s equipment at the Front of House, and performers can be fined $10,000 for every five times the one minute dB limit is surpassed – not to mention $5,000 for every half hour they go over curfew.   Going into effect January 1st, the new laws stipulate that the City of Denver has the authority to ban any offending artist for the subsequent concert season.

Though some artists aren’t happy, others – including Pretty Lights labelmate Michal Menert don’t seem to take issue:

 If anything, this is going to bring more dynamic out in the music because it will allow more frequencies to breathe…It will be less in-your-face sound coming at you and more dynamic.

As an audiophile myself, I whole heartedly agree.  Though there’s a lot of music I love listening to loud and proud, when you change the volume on any song – you’re presented with new nuances in tonalities and melodies, a novel way of interpreting the melodies and a richer understanding of the song.  Generation Y, Y-Not, or Generation NOW seems to disagree – and has brought an influx of music that effortlessly blends together in a barrage of bass defaced by drops.  When you add that on top of rocks that are already breaking apart and falling on fans, well, you’re going to have a bad time.  So, bring on a new era of music at the infamous rocks and let’s see how (or if) this season’s musicians – including Adventure Club, Excision, Chromeo and Odesza – fare under new regulation.

Do you live in Morrison or does your city have amplification regulations?

Are you a musical artist that feels slightly devalued by their sonic restrictions or do you merely see this as a minor obstacle?

Or, are you a fan that just likes your music loud, bass filled and proud?

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below?

[Get Free] Los Angeles Museums Offer Up Free Admission On January 31st

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but FREE is one of my favorite F words. Get free, be free, freedom…and then – there are the free things in life that make our already glorious lives that much sweeter.  For the last few seasons, I’ve shared my assorted adventures gallivanting through some of the most gorgeous gardens, arboretums and parks on the West Coast. in search of the perfect picnic plot, a summertime reading nook or simply a splendid location for an afternoon stroll. From Southern California through Utah and Colorado, Northern California into Oregon, Washington and Canada – I’ve loved them all, and I’m still on the hunt for more.  With the Getty, Getty Villa, Huntington Gardens and UC Berkeley’s Botanical Garden – though the main attraction truly is the astounding grounds they all reside on, the museums that each facility boasts is creme of the crop, top notch and has international acclaim.

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At the end of the month, some of the best museums in the Los Angeles area are pairing up the local Metro to celebrate a decade of free education at the “Museum Free-For-All”.  On January 31st (and, for some, February 1st), assorted museums are slashing their admission prices so the general public can ogle for free.  Any specialty ticketed exhibitions are except from the offer and regular parking does apply, but that’s a small fee to fork over for an amazing, mind opening day. Participating museums are as follows – and if the museum is offering a Sunday admission, it’s noted.

  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
    Annenberg Space for Photography
    Armory Center for the Arts
    California African American Museum
    California Science Center
    Chinese American Museum
    Craft Folk & Art Museum
    Fowler Museum at UCLA
    The Getty Center
    The Getty Villa (Timed Tickets Required)
    Hammer Museum
    Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) 
    Los Angeles Fire Department Museum and Memorial
    The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA)
    Museum of Latin American Art
    Museum of Tolerance (Sunday, Feb 1)
    The Paley Center for Media
    The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits
    Pasadena Museum of California Art
    Santa Monica Museum of Art
    Skirball Cultural Center
    The Torrance Art Museum
    USC Pacific Asia Museum
    William S. Hart Museum
    Zimmer Children’s Museum (Sunday, Feb 1)

Whether you’re a science nut, a nature nerd or an art afficianado – there’s absolutely something for everyone, and a perfect excuse to get your family, friends and favorites together for a wonderful weekend at the museum. After rummaging through the list, I realized that I’ve only been 20% of the museums – most likely, I’ll be running around between the California Museum of Sciences, the Annenberg Space for Photography and hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in the Getty Villa one more time too.  I love learning, I love expanding my center of knowledge and I love doing it with the people nearest and dearest to me.  If you can’t make it out that weekend, don’t sweat it – there are loads of museums and gardens that offer spotted free admission once a month.

The ArboretumFree the 3rd Tuesday of Every Month

Descanso Gardens Free the 3rd Tuesday of Every Month

The Huntington Botanical Gardens The First Thursday of Every Month

Getty Villa – Admission is always free, Parking is on a Pay Basis

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What are your favorite museums? Do you have any tricks of the trade for free admission? Let everyone know in the comments below!

[Weekly Dose of Wisdom] New Inspiration for a New Year

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In somewhat of a ‘new’ tradition, Danny and I cruised up the California Coast again this New Years Eve for our second annual Sea of Dreams experience.  And it’s all too fitting to us that Sea of Dreams resides in an San Francisco’s vast Ocean of Opportunity.  A compact, efficient city – it hustles and bustles on par with Los Angeles and New York City, but with more pedestrians and more clouds.  Sea of Dreams was a spectacle in itself, and you’ll get to hear about that soon enough – but what left me with an even bigger impression was a whisper at the end of the night.  Departing from Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, we stumbled across a corner and into an older gentleman, roaming the streets with a secret and a smile.  As we inched closer to pass him, he grinned “It’s the second half of the second decade of the second millennium.” We only marinated in that moment for a millisecond before Danny laughed back, “Day one, brother!”.  A smile populated the man’s face as he walked away, and we stood there – staring at each other in amusement.

Whether it’s waking up on the right side of the bed, a fresh jolt of sunshine, or a new lease on life –  every day has the potential to be your ‘Day Zero’, but the start of a New Year provides fertile ground for your passions.  To kick things off the right way, I’ve found some quotes that speak to me – about following dreams, building desires, focusing on intentions and the pursuit of a better tomorrow.

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[Oh, Snap] Gallivanting Through Crissy Field and Over the Golden Gate Bridge

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For the last week of 2014, my wanderlust swept me away from the City of Angels and up to my favorite City by the Bay – San Francisco.  Even though I was born and raised in the Silicon Valley, now that my father lives in the heart of the city I spend a significant proportion of my time gallivanting around neighborhoods in search of epic street art, beautiful scenery and the unique architecture of the city.

Typically, my parents are my road dogs while I roam but this time, Danny and I enlisted a few of our LA favorites to explore with us.  Due to weather issues (typical) and unexpected detours (also, typical) over my last few trips, we never managed to make it down to Golden Gate Park, and I’ve kinda been begging, pleading – maybe even whining – to be dwarfed by the awe inspiring Golden Gate Bridge.  As we descended on the city after a hearty (and delicious) brunch at the Butler and the Chef, my friends asked around to see where we wanted to go; after squeaking ‘Golden Gate Park’ from the back seat, my friends smiled in agreement.  In sync, we took a sip of our roadies while rolling down the windows, the slow backbeat of a moody rock song filled the car while the engine purred in response.  Adventure was calling, and we were ready to answer.

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How lucky were we that the last day of the year also turned out to be a beautiful one? A quick storm from Canada trampled it’s way through California earlier in the week.  Though it left the city windy and cold our first night, paved the way for radiant blue skies dotted randomly with assorted fluffy clouds.  First on the list – Crissy Field.  Originally build as a US Airfield, Crissy Field has since been repurposed into one of the best natural spaces in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is often considered the Golden-gateway, or proverbial front door, to the Presidio.

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Slowly but surely, we made our sundrenched way through the winding paths and up through the Battery Trail to a great viewpoint of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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One thing I’ve always stood by is that you never know where the limits of your comfort zone are if you refuse to push them.  So, on Wednesday – I decided to conquer my tried and true fear of heights (known as acrophobia) and walk the Golden Gate Bridge.

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What are you determined to accomplish this year?

Shout out your resolutions in the comments below and let’s conquer them together!