Wednesday, July 27, 2011

electric bikes!

And now, continuing our trip through the land of Groupon/Living Social/tons of other daily deal sites...electric bikes!:

By the Santa Monica Pier

This blog is making it seem like I'm buying daily deals nonstop, but I swear I'm not. Well, yes, I do buy them once in awhile. I know everyone says they're a guaranteed waste of money, but I'm finding them to be a great source of local stuff to do that I would never have found out about otherwise. 90% of the deals are for massages and Juvederm and tanning (which really are boring) but sometimes fun stuff comes up. Like this electric bike tour we bought from Pedal or Not

The tour first piqued my interest since I had heard a lot about electric bikes (mostly positive), but I never thought I'd get a chance to actually try one. Then I saw that Pedal or Not has a solid 5 out of 5 stars from 34 reviews on Trip Advisor. It seemed like a guaranteed winner--and it was.

Pedal or Not gives "semi-private" tours that are limited to 5 people, but we lucked out and had a real private tour since no one else was in our time slot! It was just our tour guide and us. The tour began in Santa Monica and we rode down the long and winding bike path along the beach to Venice where we wandered among the Venice canals (we're on a bridge over the canals in the photo above). 

It was probably a 7 mile ride roundtrip. Halfway through it, I was definitely depending more on that silver battery pack on the back of the bike than my leg muscles. You twist the handlebar like on a motorcycle to turn the motor on (or at least that's how I see people ride motorcycles on TV), and twisting it more makes you go faster. It is really a strange feeling to speed along on a bike without pedaling. It really took me awhile to convince my body that I was not going to topple over despite the fact that my feet were not moving.

We learned some interesting history about Venice and Santa Monica along the way, of course. And maybe it's still the New Yorker in me, but I was shocked by how polite everyone was. When we'd pass walking pedestrians on the bike path, our guide would say, "on your left, there's 3 people in our party" and most people would actually say "Thank you!" in response. I was surprised, to say the least. I don't think I'll ever really shake off that instant feeling of suspicion/wariness whenever a stranger engages me in public.

Monday, July 4, 2011

star eco continued

Almost forgot about this photo:

Sad and funny-looking...but moreso sad. The original owner of the parrot took care of the bird improperly, and it permanently lost a lot of its feathers. It looks disturbingly like the whole chickens I buy at the grocery store.

star eco station

I can't believe I forgot to write about our trip to the STAR Eco Station back in May! Actually, I'm pretty sure I did write an entry on it, but Blogger lost my draft and I was too frustrated to rewrite it. The time has finally come to recap it, though.

Unsurprisingly, our trip to the Star Eco Station was once again prompted by a Groupon deal. When I read up on it, I was surprised to find out that the Station is a wildlife rescue organization based in Culver City (just ~10 miles southwest of us). My first thought was, "I can't believe an exotic animal rescue can function in the middle of a big city!" and then I became immediately skeptical. It seemed like the whole thing was really geared toward kids, but I decided to buy the tickets anyway. Whether we enjoyed it or not, the money would go to a good cause. I also guessed it would make for great photo ops.

Although I'm pretty sure N and I were the only childless people in our tour, it was still worth it. The Station was a surprisingly robust organization with a good number of animals in it--huge boa constrictors, alligators, exotic birds, and even wild cats. They take in a lot of animals that are illegally smuggled through LAX and stopped by the US Fish and Wildlife service. They can't be sent back to their home countries since they have American "germs" on them already, but they're also illegal to own in the US. Those animals are given to rescues like the Star Eco Station.

The Station also receives animals from people who can't take care of their animals anymore, and they occasionally find them in boxes left on their doorstep in the mornings. At the end of the tour, we found out that they also adopt out some of these animals (since they are legal to own, of course). N has a soft spot for reptiles, and I've never owned one but have always wanted to, so we put our names down on a wait list for an iguana or small tortoise. If one ever comes up, we'd definitely take it!

And now for some photos!

Friday, July 1, 2011

LA film fest (again!)

I keep forgetting we've been in LA for over a year now. When it came time for the annual LA Film Fest again, I was pretty surprised...and now I'm having deja vu blogging about it.

This year's "haul":

  • Somewhere Between (a documentary following the lives of a few Chinese teenage girls who were adopted by white families in the US)
  • Unraveled (a documentary following Marc Dreier, a high powered lawyer who stole millions of dollars from companies and was only overshadowed by Bernie Madoff)
  • Natural Selection (a funky indie comedy about a conservative Christian wife who gets tangled up with her husband's no-good son) 
  • Another Earth (an indie sci-fi movie [that's not really sci-fi] about a girl who tears a family apart after a drunk driving accident and tries to redeem herself)
  • Love Crime (a French movie about living out the American Dream)

The two winners of this year (in my own personal competition that follows my own personal tastes) were Somewhere Between and Another Earth. They were both spectacular and definitely worth seeing. I think N really disliked Another Earth, but I'm becoming a huge fan of indie sci-fi films nowadays...and I think I may have gotten him to reconsider.

Somewhere Between, though, was the all-out CHAMPION. I bawled almost the entire movie...and I'm really not that much of a movie-cryer (although I've noticed that as I get older it happens more frequently). I cried within the first 30 seconds of the film in the opening scene! Although the focus of the movie is on a very narrow slice of America, the girls' experiences can be extrapolated to the overall Asian American experience (especially for women). While the girls in the movie can't find their genetic roots, 2nd generation Asian Americans struggle with the idea of the "motherland" and questions of "where are you from?" in a parallel way. What does it mean? How much does it matter? Should I try to find out? Do I belong here?

I'll go out on a limb and say that these adoptees' struggles/conflicts could be the 2nd gen AsAm experience simmered down to its very concentrated (and, in some ways, very much literalized) core.

Anyway, that was an overly academic stream of thought. Watch the trailer!: