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Monday, December 4, 2023

Mori Building Digital Art Museum

Mori Building Digital Art Museum by teamLab Borderless in Tokyo puts the Los Angeles immersive experience to shameeee… Anyway, at last, I have the time to write this post. Here is one of my many memorable experiences in Tokyo that I hope you will enjoy.

This building was inside Odaiba’s Palette town along with a shopping mall and a giant ferrous wheel. Odaiba is an artificial island in Tokyo. The town reminded me of a fake town in Disney Land or Las Vegas. I bought a backpack at the mall here because Japan has much better backpacks than the ones sold in the U.S. And since I was a tourist, they gave me a sales tax break, but I was not allowed to use the backpack while in Tokyo for tax reasons. I recently found out that the town, and the museum closed in 2022. The good news is teamLab Borderless will move to a new location, Azabudai Hills, and will reopen in 2024.
I ran into this museum by accident during the research for my trip, and I thought Wow! I have got to see this. It was new, and not many people knew about it at the time, not even my tour guides. I tried to buy tickets online. No luck. It kept declining my card. When I got to Tokyo, I asked my guide that if I reimburse her, would she buy us the tickets. She looked at me peculiarly, and asked, why don’t I buy it with my own card? I told her that I tried, but it rejected it. She said that I must be doing something wrong. So, she tried with several of my cards, and the site rejected them all. I told her that I think it’s because my credit card is not a Japanese card. She tried purchasing the tickets with her card, and it worked. This was pre-covid. Perhaps things have changed since.

 

Once inside, you take off your shoes, and walk through a dark hallway as you watch images move against the wall. The day I was there, the images were those of giraffes. After I went through a dark hallway, I walked into a room with a different imagery. If you notice, you will see that the giraffe from the first video fades into flowers in the second video.

So, what’s so special about this place? Well, the building is built for this type of art work, and it is a much larger experience unlike the one room experience in an old Los Angeles building on Sunset blvd. Also, the imagery is not just about the work of one artist. There is a large variety of artwork. My videos here and other people’s YouTube videos do not create the same experience as when you are there in person. The dark rooms, the music, the computer-generated images, and the lighting have a soothing effect on the mind, body, and soul and bring out different emotions. If you have plans to go to Tokyo, make sure you do not miss out on this.

As you go from room to room, and decide to go back to the first room where you started, you’ll notice that the moving images have changed to something else. They have interactive installations that touches on nature, perception, and how each of us view the world.


This room seemed as though I had stepped into the Avatar film and was walking through moving plants. It felt as if I was in a different time and space.



Besides the tea room, this was my favorite room. We sat on the floor along with many other people, just enjoying the waves. There were bean bags in the center for people to lean on. Others laid on the floor, and used their backpack as a pillow. It was completely relaxing, and I did not want to leave.

This is a room many do not know about, and hopefully when teamLab reopens, they will include this tea room. I think I ordered oolong tea with milk. It had a slightly sweet taste. After we were served, images of flowers showed up in our tea, and then the petals fell out of our cup onto the table cloth, and moved away. All I have to say is, you must try it. My tour guide enjoyed it as well.

 

Friday, November 24, 2023

Mamma Mia! at the Pantages

Mamma Mia! at the Hollywood Pantages is excellent. But before I get to that, I just want to say that I’m so behind updating this blog. First, I don’t like this time of year because the days are shorter. I do a few things, and the day is over. Second, I was planning to blog two weeks ago, but my laptop stopped working on Saturday, and I was up until 1:30 a.m. at my brother’s house as he tried to get the keyboard and mouse to work. I have to say, he is a lifesaver because he finally solved the issue; otherwise, I would have lost a lot of data. And this past weekend, I hanged out with my family and my niece who was on a college holiday, and a friend I hadn’t seen in a longtime. So, this post will be short, but I’m working on a few things coming soon…


My friend and I got to the theater right before the lights were dimmed. This year, she and I have been to a bunch of plays. If I don’t like a play, I don’t blog about it. And although Frozen is still my favorite musical in Los Angeles to date, I must say, this jukebox musical was pretty good and put us in a happy mood. Of course, no one is allowed to record any of the scenes until the end.


There were a lot of funny scenes. The outfits in the above video when the trio first came on the stage were so outrages that we couldn’t stop laughing. One of my favorite scenes is when Rosie chases Stavros in the Take a chance on me scene. In the movie, it is funny, but in this play, it is absolutely hilarious.


Another fantastic thing about this play was that the actors loved performing and were enjoying themselves. So, when the story ended, they continued to sing and dance, and it felt like we were watching yet another performance.


The acting, singing, dancing, and Choreography, were flawless. If you get a chance, go see it. You will not be disappointed. And you don’t need front row seats to enjoy this play. The balcony or upper balcony works just fine.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

My 3 Day Water Fast

Before you read this, please note that I’m not a doctor. I’m just sharing my experience. Here is an informative video by Dr. Sten Ekberg. I went on a fast to get rid of impurities in my digestive tract and to give my digestion a break. I learned about autophagy—the body naturally removes the buildup of damaged cells. This process may also be induced through fasting. Here is a video by Dr. Jason Fung.
I have some experience with fasting as I had done intermittent fasting and one meal a day fast in the past. I also did a short water fast long ago because one morning I got up and could not move my left hand. My hand was red and swollen, and I had read that water fasting can help heal most diseases. So, I did a 32-hour water fast, and my hand went back to normal.
And about two years ago, I did a juice fast for 16 days which was super difficult, because it was around Thanksgiving, I was busy doing too many things, and I was invited to various gatherings. Let’s just say, it was a miserable experience.

This year, I found myself contemplating about fasting again because I got sick too many times which is not the norm for me. However, after my juice fasting experience, I was not mentally ready until last Friday night. I had had an early dinner, and I had no plans to hang out with anyone for the rest of the week. I wasn’t sure for how long I was going to last. I just knew that I wanted to do a water fast for at least 3 days, and more if possible.

Here is what happened after my first, second, and third day of water fasting, how I dealt with it, and the aftermath.

Day one: The first 24 hours wasn’t that bad. I drank water each time I was hungry or thirsty. I kept busy working on my computer, doing light housework, calling my friends, going for a stroll somewhere green, and taking naps.

Here is what I also should have done: Putting 1-2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in the water helps smooth over the hunger pangs. A pinch of Himalayan salt on the tongue is also helpful.


Day two: After the first 24 hours, things got much worse. I felt a strong nausea, had terrible headaches, and couldn’t sleep. I did go for an hour slow walk in sunshine to distract myself. This was helpful to get me through day two.

Here is what I also should have done: I didn’t have minerals. It’s important to take minerals during fasting. I didn’t take Himalayan salt until it was too late and I couldn’t sleep. A pinch of Himalayan salt helpes with the headache. I didn’t drink carbonated water. A high-quality carbonated water, such as Pellegrino, helps with the nausea. I didn’t chew on ginger. Chewing on ginger helps with nausea as well. Just don’t eat the ginger. After you’re done chewing it, spit it out.


Day three: After 48 hours, I was starting to experience a mild brain fog. I was hungry and wanted to eat, and was not feeling all that great. I knew that it was time to stop, but I didn’t want to give up until my 72 hours were over. So, I kept busy, did my walk, worked, and took naps until I accomplished my goal.
The aftermath: I feel lighter and more agile. My energy is higher. The skin on my face looks much better. I saw some improvements in my psoriasis.My mood has lifted and I feel happier. I am more disciplined and procrastinate less. I am more aware of what I eat and am gradually cutting out junk foods from my diet. I feel an incredible self-confidence, because I started on a difficult path, and finished it.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. The next time, I want to do it for at least four days. They say that to see real benefits, you should water fast for at least a week. But I have learned to let go of my all or nothing attitude. For me, this is a health journey, and I will get better at it with repetition. After my water fast, I am working on doing intermittent fasting because it is better for my health. I’m also planning to include at least one vegetable juice a day in my diet. And when I’m ready, I will include a once a week 24-hour fast in my routine. This journey is a process, and making changes slowly, makes it more likely to stick to them.

My motivation:  I like to be healthy so that I can live an active life. I am working toward living a life of minimalism. I want to stop consuming so much, be it clothing, gadgets or food.

To recap what is needed for water fasting:

  • Minerals. Minerals should have zero sugar.
  • Apple Cider vinegar
  • Himalayan salt
  • Quality carbonated water
  • Ginger
  • Roobios herbal tea, no sugar (when I would get tired of drinking water, I switched to this tea.)
  • Lemons, sliced (you put the lemon in your water, just don’t eat the lemon.)

A few tips: 

  • Before jumping in, I learned as much as possible about water fasting. Here is a video by Dr. Eric Berg: 72 Hour Fasting Benefits on the Immune System
  • I allowed my body to learn to fast slowly. Such as starting with an 8 hour fast for the first time, and increasing it as I got better at it.
  • Starting a water fast is a mindset. I waited until I was mentally ready.
  • I decided to fast during the least stressful time in my life. 
  • I stayed away from places where people were eating.
  • I rested, took naps, meditated, read, sat outside, and went for a light walk in sunshine.
  • I broke the fast with a plain miso soup, black beans and brown rice.
  • I didn’t overeat when the fast was over, because I didn’t want to lose the benefits of the fast. I ate normal. 

I’m a foodie, and if I can do a water fast, anyone can. For me, the benefits of a water fast outweigh the effort. Best of all, the day after the fast and the days that followed, I felt great.  

Friday, October 27, 2023

Little Tokyo


If you want to get a small taste of Japan, Little Tokyo or Torrance is the place to be. I have never been to Torrance except to pass through to get from point A to B. But one of these days, I would like to check it out. For now, Little Tokyo will have to do. It is an area in downtown Los Angeles with everything Japanese
hotels, apartment buildings, Japanese garden, knickknack shops, interesting stores, cafes, bakeries, a few small grocery stores and plenty of restaurants.
I have been here many times, including during Covid, when this once lively place was dead. Many owners had closed shop, waiting for life to get back to normal. Where there was once a wishing tree, there was just a plain sad looking one, and retailers looked unhappy.

Nowadays, things are back to normal, and the Tokyo Village is again crowded and lively on weekends. If you don’t like crowds, come during the week or in the evening. I don’t enjoy places that are too crowded, but I was so happy to see this area full of life and hustle and bustle, just the way it used to be. The photos you will see in this blog are from various occasions that I’ve been here. One of my favorite place at the Tokyo village is Café Dulce. This is the place where Tessa, the protagonist in The American Outsider, orders her salad. Come early or you will see people lining up outside.
From Sandwiches to Salads to sweets and drinks, nothing will disappoint because the quality of the food is great. I usually get a Caprese sandwich which comes with a salad. Sometimes I have a green tea custard doughnut with a latte or a blueberry matcha drink. It’s best to eat your food here, because the sandwich can get soggy by the time you take it home, the doughnut will no longer be fresh out of the oven, and the latte is much better when you drink it out of their ceramic cup. At the time I took the above picture, they were still in covid mode, and used paper plates and cups. They will still try to do it this way, so make sure that you ask them to use real plates and cups. Also, take your friends with you, and share a bunch of stuff, since it’s not everyday that you will come here.
So, here is the wishing tree that I talk about in my book. Tessa made a wish and tied it to this Tree, and Toshiro came here later and read her wish, not realizing that she was the one who had written it. Do go ahead and write your wish on a strip of paper, and tie it to the tree. Who knows? It may just come true…
There is a small grocery store, Nijiya Market, that sells Japanese products. One time I bought a bag full of Japanese curly cucumbers here and ate the entire thing in one sitting. It was so good, but I haven’t been able to find ones like it since. When I was a kid in Tehran, my mom would buy them at the market. They are delicious, but not so easy to find.
Anyway, I ended up buying a few things here
cucumber and matcha cookies which were meh, but the chips and the mushrooms were yum.The wholefoods near me used to carry these mushrooms, but I can't find them there anymore. So, I usually end up getting them at an Asian supermarket.

I ended up making a quick vegan Miso mushroom soup, the "Persian" way, because I added tumeric. Iranians eat everything with tumeric. I added onion, garlic, tumeric, ginger, Miso, Chinese noodles (I really like the brand you see in the photo, and I get it at wholefoods. It makes the soup tastes just like a ramen soup), organic tofu, sesame seed oil, and water. Bring the water to a boil, and lower to a simmer for five minutes, add the noodles, wait a few minutes, stir to break the noodles apart and it's ready to eat. They came out pretty good.

 


This gentleman's name is Arthur Nakane, and he has been singing at the Tokyo Village for many years. He is kind and sweet. You can google his name and learn more about him. One time I put some money in his basket, and he wanted to have a full-on conversation with me on his microphone, announce my name, tell everyone where I was from, and sing a song for me. I was not comfortable doing that, and so I just nodded at him, shook my head no, and walked away.
Long ago, I was at this Revolving Sushi place with my nieces. The food is just okay. If you have never been to one, it’s worth a try at least once, because it’s a different experience. People line up outside, and sometimes the wait can be more than 30 minutes.
The above places are two different restaurants in one spaceChinchikurin, and Takoyaki Tanota. I don’t eat Takoyaki because I like octopuses, and they’re quite intelligent. But a lot of people sit behind a bar here, and eat them. I once asked them if they make a vegan or a vegetarian one, they said no. However, I have ordered vegetarian okonomiyaki from Chinchikurin in the past. But again, it is best if you eat it there. They can either make it and serve it to you at one of the tables inside, or you can sit behind the kitchen bar and watch the chef make it for you. Another option is to sit outside, and they give you the ingredients, and you can make it on the grill yourself.
Once you walk away from the Tokyo village, there are other things you could do. There is a hidden pretty garden, the James Irvine Japanese garden at the Japanese American Cultural and community center which is a nice getaway from the crowds. If they’re having a private event, you may only be allowed to see it from the outside. You may want to call them before you go.
I like museums because it is a reminder to me that history repeats itself, even when governments around the world claim that they are "progressive." The essence of politicians do not change as they make poor decisions, bringing harm to civilians. Here is the Japanese American National Museum in the area, highly recommended. It's truly informative about World War II and the placement of the Japanese population in the concentration camps. There is an area where you can get a glimpse of the conditions under which they lived.
I was here twice. The first time I visited the permanent collection which I really enjoyed. It felt so real that I was able to feel their pain and hardship.
The second time, there was an exhibit showcasing the work of Miné Okubo, an amazing writer and artist. In 1984, She wrote a book, Citizen 13660, about her experiences, and living under appalling living conditions during World War II.
Weller Court is another area in Little Tokyo where a variety of eateries, and the Marukai market is located. It’s quieter than Tokyo Village, feels more relaxed, and has shady areas to stretch your legs.
I wanted to check out the Marukai market to see if I can find Inari sushi. This is one of my favorite Japanese foods. A lot of people have no idea what this is. Inari is Tofu skin with a slightly sweet taste wrapped around sushi rice. Not many places sell it. I used to get it at one of the restaurants I frequented in Little Tokyo, but they no longer make it. I was surprised to find it here. They were tasty, but not as good as the ones I used to buy at the restaurant. Nevertheless, the store employee who helped me find it, told me that these sell out fast. Another item I was looking for were the frozen wafers which I had tried once long ago. They are hard to find, and I haven’t seen them anywhere else. The Strawberry one comes with a layer of white chocolate. But if you’re like me, you will absolutely love the chocolate one with a dark chocolate layer. So, there you have it. My tour of Little Tokyo. Maybe at another point in time, I will cover the Torrance Japanese areas.