Archive for the ‘Hometown Pasadena’ Category

“Play Me, I’m Yours”   4 comments

A post I wrote for Hometown Pasadena, followed by the actual event. Anyone interested, I encourage you to bring it to your city or town—this is very cool.

Wanna play?

For three weeks at 30 locations around Southern California, 30 pianos will be available to interested and eager fingers. Anyone may sit and play (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) as part of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra celebration of music director Jeffrey Kahane’s 15th anniversary.

This free public art installation will launch on Thursday, April 12th with 30 pianists on 30 pianos—playing simultaneously—performing the complete prelude from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier.

Each piano has been decorated, used as “three dimensional canvases.” Artists range from the well-known muralist Kent Twitchell and Columbian-American artist Frank Cubillos to one painted by Homeboy Industries, one by the Armory Center for the Arts, and one designed by L.A. Chamber Orchestra staff member Caroline Shuhart and painted by children of LACO musicians.

PMIY LA LACO CarolineShuhartbyLaceyHuszcza 2012 175x130 Play Me, Im Yours Vromans the armory Play Me Im Yours One Colorado Luke Jerram LACO LA Chamber Orchestra Kent Twitchell Homeboy Industries 30 Pianos 30 Locations  photo

Piano by the L.A. Chamber Orchestra & Their Children

LACO Executive Director Rachel Fine says, “With the pianos serving as blank canvases upon which people can share their own creativity, we look forward to hearing our neighbors, co-workers, and other fellow Angelenos play these instruments. Beyond solo playing, we encourage choirs, bands, other musical ensembles and even dancers to incorporate rehearsals or jam sessions at the piano sites. Some people may seek out all 30 pianos to see the different locations as well as the unique visual aspects of each instrument. The pianos are there to be enjoyed by everyone.”

Pianos can be found—and enjoyed—locally at One Colorado in Old Pasadena, the Pasadena Conservatory of Music, and Vroman’s Bookstore courtyard.

“Play Me, I’m Yours,” originated by British artist Luke Jerram, has already been performed on 500 pianos in 22 cities, involving 22 million people around the world.

“Play Me, I’m Yours”: 30 Pianos, 30 Locations
Launch: Thursday, April 12th, Noon
Locations: One Colorado, Pas. Conservatory of Music & Vroman’s courtyard
Installation up 24/7 through May 3rd
For more info, visit

PMIY Armory Gino Gaspara1 Play Me, Im Yours Vromans the armory Play Me Im Yours One Colorado Luke Jerram LACO LA Chamber Orchestra Kent Twitchell Homeboy Industries 30 Pianos 30 Locations  photo

Artist Gino Gaspara: photo by Armory Center for the Arts

PMIY Armory Gino Gaspara2 Play Me, Im Yours Vromans the armory Play Me Im Yours One Colorado Luke Jerram LACO LA Chamber Orchestra Kent Twitchell Homeboy Industries 30 Pianos 30 Locations  photo

Gino Gaspara; photo by Armory Center for the Arts

PMIY Gino Gaspara at the Armory Play Me, Im Yours Vromans the armory Play Me Im Yours One Colorado Luke Jerram LACO LA Chamber Orchestra Kent Twitchell Homeboy Industries 30 Pianos 30 Locations  photo

Artist Gino Gaspara With His Finished Piano; photo by Armory Center for the Arts

Yesterday at noon, I went to One Colorado in Old Pasadena to see and listen:

Mark Robson, pianist


© 2012 Kat Ward

Posted April 14, 2012 by Kat Ward in Hometown Pasadena

Hèctor Tobar Speaks   4 comments

Photo by Doug Knutson

An interview I conducted this week for  Hometown Pasadena.

Not surprisingly, as the son of Guatemalan parents, a L.A. native, a former Los Angeles Times bureau chief in Buenos Aires, and a weekly local columnist, Héctor Tobar’s fiction is infused with the desire to illuminate the complex layers, significance, and consequences of cultural and ethnic differences and conflict.

His latest novel, The Barbarian Nurseries, is an incredibly dense reveal of the city of Los Angeles. Within the details of the varied sections of this metropolis, he has created a story that focuses on Araceli, a Mexican maid, who after four yours of service is suddenly thrust into the additional role of nanny when the parents, Scott and Maureen Torres-Thompson, make the executive decision (independently of one another) to give themselves a “time-out” from their suddenly taxing lives. The ensuing adventure, and clash of class and culture, reveals the abundance of deep-seated issues at play, and a mistrust and misunderstanding that can relegate society to stagnancy.

HP: How did the title Barbarian Nurseries come about, and what were you hoping to convey by this title?

 HT: It’s a play on the two meanings of the word “nursery” as a place where plants are cultivated and as a place where children are cared for and raised.

Both of these jobs are performed in the U.S. by Latino immigrants to a large degree. Mostly people from Mexico. And in talk radio and right-wing commentary, Mexico especially is considered a place of barbarism, a place without civilization; people think of it as a place dominated by drug gangs and lacking in culture, a perverse and inaccurate vision of what the country is, to be sure.

HP: How did you start writing this story, was it with this particular theme in mind? Was it a discussion you wanted to start, continue, or contribute to?

HT: I started off more than a decade ago, and wrote a first draft of a novel that was a response to the growing anti-immigration movement in the U.S. and a response to this rhetoric that sees the newly arrived immigrant as the dangerous ‘other.’

The initial inspiration came from  the protagonist of Camus’ The Stranger and from the idea of the first image in my novel: a man trying to cut his own lawn without a Mexican to do it for him.

I didn’t really want to start a discussion, as much as I wanted to write an artistic and intellectual response to the moment in which I was living as a native Californian and the son of immigrants.

H-P: Right from the start, you set up the divide and distinction between employer and employee. Could you comment on that?

HT: A big part of the novel is how social class seeps into everyday actions in the home. This is deliberate, of course. It comes from having crossed the class divide myself, or, rather, from having seen my family cross that. We come from Guatemala, a country that’s synonymous these days with service work here in L.A. My father parked cars, worked in hotels. We ascended to the middle class. At one point, I lived abroad as a writer with servants in my home. So I’ve been lucky enough to see that class divide in my own life from both sides.

H-P: Even secondary characters get back stories, even if they’re mini ones, such as the young woman of whom Araceli asks directions in the fashion district. What was the aim in doing this?

HT: I’ve been privileged to be a journalist and writer in L.A. for a long time. I’ve been to many different kinds of neighborhoods, rich and poor and in between. So I figured I had the chance to share with the reader a real tableau of the social differences and gaps and the variety of experience in the metropolis.

H-P:  We have to say, we thought the most alarming part of the book started on page 241 and lasted a mere 38 lines.

HT: Yeah, I was a reporter for a major newspaper covering crime many years ago. I saw firsthand the way the media can assemble melodramas from complex, ambiguous human events. It’s become a big industry in the years since, but the basic manipulation of the truth is the same: take complicated lives and boil them down to issues of good and evil.

H-P: Was the ending of the book, the way the three main characters head off in new directions, just the way the story came to you, or was it a conscious decision?

HT: Maureen and Scott at the end are being set up for another fall. They’ve been humiliated, and forced to lower their expectations. As for Araceli, I wanted to leave her in an in-between state, her story leading to either Mexico or to the U.S., because to me that’s what it means to be an immigrant in the U.S. This country changes you, you can’t go back home and be the same, while at the same time living here can be a fraught experience, as Araceli has learned.

H-P: From the very beginning, we were drawn into the story by your wording and the images you create with your words.

HT: Thanks so much for the kind words. Yes, I’ve spent many long years working on my prose style, trying to develop something that’s evocative and accessible. I’ve had a lot of influences, from short story writers such as Nadine Gordimer and Sandra Cisneros, to novelists like Gunter Grass and Don DeLillo. I like to think of it as reaching for a kind of accessible transcendence, if that makes any sense.

Photo by Elena Dorfman

H-P: In reference to being a writer, how do you know when a manuscript is finished?

HT: When your editor pries it from you hands. I think we are perpetual tinkerers. The real question is: when does the writer stop working on his manuscript and show it to his agent/editor? That’s hard to answer. Personally, when I feel nauseous just looking at it, I know I’m done.

H-P: Do you have a particular connection with Pasadena? We know your children attend Sequoyah School, but is there anything else?

HT: One of the final sections of the novel takes place in the Arroyo Seco, in that hazy area near the border between South Pasadena and Pasadena. I use the Craftsman architecture, with its Midwestern influences, as a symbol of Maureen’s desire to return to the values of openness and simplicity of her youth. Also, there are a couple of Sequoyah parents and their kids who served as inspirations for characters.

Héctor Tobar, author of The Barbarian Nurseries
He will be reading at the L.A. Central Library
Thursday, January 26th, 7 p.m.
630 W. 5th Street, L.A.,

Actualizing Your Dream   8 comments

I am powering through the last edit of my manuscript before it heads off to the copyeditor, so time is even more sparse than usual (with which I’m sure all of you are quite familiar). Subsequently, this week I am sharing a post I wrote for Hometown Pasadena.

As writers, we must also be business women in order to market and promote our books—and as this may not come naturally to some of us (that would be me), I thought this conference looked intriguing. I like the concept and even the words in which they promote it—very real, down to earth, welcoming and inclusive.

Actualizing Your Dream

In the 1970’s, women burned bras, marched, and raised their voices, pushing their agenda for equality and led by the likes of Gloria SteinemBetty Friedan and Bella Abzug.

Economic and social constraints slowly and eventually loosened, and women (who, let’s be real, have always had to forge their own way) said, watch out world, here we come. The intervening forty years have seen women break through all sorts of glass ceilings, in all sorts of fields (bravo and cue the applause).

Yet, there is still work to be done.

To address this, Nada Jones of ltd365 will host her 2nd annual ltdLIVE:  A Conference for Entrepreneurial Women at the Pasadena Convention Center. Their mission, she says, is to “help women actualize their life’s passion through entrepreneurship and make the process inspirational, accessible and achievable.”

Lian Dolan, author of "Helen of Pasadena"

Lian Dolan, author of Helen of Pasadenaprior host of the award-winning talk show Satellite Sisters and current author of the blog and podcast The Chaos Chronicleswill be master of ceremonies.

Keynote speakers will be Kate Somerville of Skin Health Pyramid and Lee Rhodes of glassybaby (product pictured above). Miss Representation, a film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom which premiered in 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast on OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), will be screened the evening before the conference with Newsom holding a Q&A afterwards. There will also be a meet-up with actress, producer and talk show host Ricki Lake.

Break-out sessions on February 1st and master class seminars on the 2nd will focus on the needs of women in every stage of business, from start-ups needing to know the tools required to begin their own business to existing enterprises that want to grow and expand. One discussion will consider what makes women approach business differently than men, and how they can use that to their advantage.

The Financial Literacy session on Wednesday morning is described as “everything you need to know about money—it’s not evil, just misunderstood,” and at the panel that follows you’ll “hear four women share the good, the bad and the ugly of how they do it.”

Finally, the ProFounder Swap & Meet event is where you can make contact with what Nada Jones believes is “your greatest existing resource—your community.”

ltdLIVE: a Conference for Entrepreneurial Woman
Wednesday and Thursday, February 1st & 2nd, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Tickets: $150-$225
For more info, visit

© 2012 Kat Ward

Blurbing! My 3rd!   3 comments

Just saw that my 3rd blurb for the website hometown Pasadena has been published.

Eaton Canyon – Nature Calls”

I’m supposed to present the facts, but the boss says the material for these kinds of blurbs can be dry, so I can add a touch of flourish, humor, etc. I find it hard to be funny on demand–and know I can go overboard–but she hasn’t ripped my pieces to shreds yet–I’m happy!

Posted September 15, 2011 by Kat Ward in Hometown Pasadena

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