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L.A. NOW & THEN

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My life, your life, our lives inside and outside of Los Angeles and its angels.
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Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Nothing can explain the feeling...": Muay Thai Fighter Ariana Gomez Victorious!


They came out fighting: Ariana (L) and Aileen (R)
Photo by © Melody De Leon 
My previous post celebrated the women and men of the Muay Thai Academy of America in North Hollywood, focusing attention on the two students who fought in last night's Girls Night Out Thai Boxing matches: Ariana "Pink Lady" Gomez and Aileen "The Marchine" Maquiraya. At the time of this posting, I don't have the details about the outcome of Maquiraya's fight (except for some stunning photos by Erica De Leon).

In her own words, here's the Pink Lady's victorious Facebook post today (SHE WON!):

Aileen "Pink Lady" Gomez and Troy Fisher
Photo by © Erica De Leon
"Nothing can explain the feeling I had stepping back into the ring yesterday and waking up this morning knowing I left everything in there. Sometimes we learn more from our falls than from our triumphs; it helps to value everything more. My opponent and I came to fight and I think it was evident in there. Thank you to those that didn't stop believing in me even after I wasn't at my best. Only a few know what was wrong last year, but that's why this fight just meant so much to me and after a year of not fighting and being on an emotional roller coaster, I finally feel like I found myself again."

Pink Lady: "I left everything in there." Photo by © Erica de Leon

"Everyone sees the win in the ring but all the work is put in months before and is a team effort. I couldn't have done it without God, the support of my parents, my bro, my coach and godfather Troy Fisher, conditioning coach Matt B, my cornermen Damon Bolder and Gabriel Saekson, and Muay Thai Academy for their support and all their girls for helping us push ourselves in sparring, Mr Julio Trana for doing my wraps, my team, friends, supporters, fans and I can't forget my sponsor Team TSN for keeping me strong and healthy along the way! This one was for me, my Family and my MTA family. We did it!

Falling down is part of life... Getting back up is living."

Congratulations to Ariana! So inspiring!  #AileenGomezwins

And Congratulations to Aileen! You look so fierce in these photos that you are every inch a winner. #AileenMaquirayaMuayThaifighter

Below are a couple of the many gorgeous photos taken by Erica De Leon of Vivar Photography. She has honed her craft as a skillful action photographer by shooting her fellow fighters. See her story in the previous post.

THE AMAZING AILEEN THE MACHINE

Aileen "The Machine" Maquiraya
Photo by © Erica De Leon



Aileen "The Machine" Maquiraya
Photo by © Erica De Leon







Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Muay Thai Boxing changed my entire life": Saturday Night's All Right for Girls Muay Thai Fighting (4/19 at 7pm) Hollywood Park Casino




Ever watched a Thai Boxing match between two women?

This Saturday night you will get your chance at 7pm when two beautiful young women--Ariana "Pink Lady" Gomez and Aileen "The Machine" Maquiraya--climb into the ring to practice their ferocious martial art known as Muay Thai (aka "Thai Boxing") during the Dennis Warner and In Sync Productions-sponsored "Girls Night Out" event at Hollywood Park Casino, 3883 W. Century Boulevard, Inglewood CA 90303.

Ariana and Aileen are both students at the Muay Thai Academy of America (MTAA) founded by Kru Puk who trains adults and children in North Hollywood. They will not be fighting each other.

"The Machine" will be making her amateur debut, and "The Pink Lady" will return to the ring after losing a championship belt. Ariana has been training hard for months to prepare for 3.3 min. rounds. 

"For me this fight is not about redemption," said Ariana, who also has a black belt in Tae Kwan Do and teaches 3rd Grade. "I love this sport and yes, this fight is super important for me on a different level than my past fights, but the reason is not to 'redeem myself.' It's much more than that. It's a journey I've been through especially this last year. It's about all the work I have put in. It's about inspiring, about empowerment."

We wish them both a great evening of fun and healthy competition!

Ariana Gomez (aka "Pink Lady") (Photo by Erica De Leon)
Aileen "The Machine" Maquiraya with sparring trophy.


Ariana "Pink Lady" Gomez (Photo by Erica De Leon)

THE PINK LADY
Aileen "The Machine" Maquiraya
THE MACHINE

The following is a photo essay to celebrate MTAA and the wonderfully strong people who make it happen. It's so common to read about victims of domestic violence, bullying, or worse in Los Angeles and everywhere. I'm happy to post this good news about strong women and men practicing a martial arts whose foundation, according to Puk, is based on "respect." Muay Thai Academy of America is located at 11024 Vanowen Street, North Hollywood, CA 91605.

All photos are by photographer, Erica De Leon, copyright protected. Here is her story:

"MTA changed my life from a depressed, lonely, and afraid girl to a more independent, outgoing, confident woman," said Erica. "MTAA became my family, teaching me more than a sport. It taught me respect for myself and others. Unity, loyalty, and help one another. I started shooting Ariana Gomez's training and fights, and through this, photography became my passion and work (Vivar Photography). Muay Thai changed my entire life."


Trainer Troy Fisher (L) with Damon Bolder (R)


Troy Fisher trains fighters at MTAA. He has a black belt in Tae Kwan Do and teaches kids twice a week in that martial art.

Barry Hawkins



Melody De Leon















Thursday, April 10, 2014

Colombian-born L.A. Zumba instructor Dennis Guzman will reappear on Mundo Fox's "Viva" 4/14: "I want to be where the dance is!"

Dennis Guzman (Right)

#bestlazumba    #dennisgfitness

Viewers tuning in to watch Zumba instructor, Dennis Guzman, perform on the Zumba fitness segment of the Los Angeles Mundo Fox community news show, "Viva" (Channel 22), Mon., April 14 at 8 a.m., will be watching this Colombian-born American fulfill his passion to celebrate the music and dance of his culture. Guzman, who first danced on the show when it aired March 24, has developed a strong following since arriving on the L.A. dance scene two years ago from New York.

“I want to be where The Dance is,” said Guzman. “New York is a Dance Capitol. It’s very soulful. L.A. is the flip side with its focus on the commercial.” A dancer since he could walk, Guzman grew up in New York where he trained in hip-hop, modern and jazz before being hired by Carnival Cruise Lines to perform in their extravaganza revues. Four years, five contracts and 10 shows later, he was ready for a change of pace.

When he experienced his first Zumba class in L.A., Guzman knew he had come home: “I said, ‘OMG. This is an exercise invented by a Colombian!’” At the recent Zumba Conference L.A., Guzman witnessed Zumba founder Beto Perez perform, and afterward posted on his Dennis G Fitness Facebook page:

“Que persona je Beto. So proud my fellow Colombian created this fitness program that put food on the table for me...He is truly amazing.” Perez took the “R” from the Colombian “rumba” (meaning “party”) and replaced it with a “Z” to form his own fitness dance brand in the 90s.

”It’s a fitness party,” said Guzman, whose classes are citywide in L.A. Students range from a grandmother who wants to keep in shape to Puerto Rican actress and former Miss Universe, Dayanara Torres.

“The best thing you can do after or before work is exercise your body,” said Guzman. With his quick smile and supportive attitude, he tends to focus more on his students’ achievements than his own, but his Facebook page reveals over 600 followers, mucho videos starring Guzman’s hot moves and cheering student comments such as “Dennis Guzman eres incomparable!”


“His enthusiasm is contagious,” said a student who identified herself as “Cheryl” after one of Guzman’s “Lunchtime Zumba” classes at the Weddington Recreation Center where Guzman is employed by the City of North Hollywood. “You cannot have a bad day after dancing here.”

"It's an honor to be invited back," said Guzman about his upcoming TV appearance on the "Viva" Zumba segment which is led by instructor Alex Collins. "I really appreciate this opportunity."

As a licensed Zumba instructor, Guzman knows well the benefits of Zumba: "It's a great cardio workout that really tones the legs, and trains students in Latin forms of dance." The popular instructor is also certified in Group Resistance full body toning, Pilates Mat, and WSI Swimming, Aqua Fit, Spinning and Boot Camp. He has taught dance to children and teens, and choreographed quinceaneras. His B.A. is in Communications from University of Tampa.

“I'm so grateful Zumba was created because of how it fits my culture, dance training and personality,” said Guzman, who recently featured a dance class tribute to Rio during Carnival Week. “My hope is to continue empowering people through dance fitness. One love!”


Want more info? For class schedules, more photos, videos and Facebook Page:

Dennis Guzman | Dennis G Fitness | mailto:denguz26@gmail
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DennisGFitness
Blog: http://dennisgfitness.blogspot.com
YouTube: Dennis Guzman Zumba

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Publicity with Soul



My Book Publicity by Marlan is now in its second year and taking off. What I offer authors is a bit out of the ordinary, as I tailor each book launch and marketing plan according to genre, target audience, budget, and do not push authors toward "e-mail blasts" which send out SPAM-like e-mails to media asking for an interview, etc. I have gotten much faster results with an e-mail that is more personal in tone, indicating that we have heard or seen a particular program, and offering valid reasons why the author would make a great guest/interview subject.

I'm always on the lookout for new ways to spread the word through book clubs, libraries, special interest groups, social networking sites, institutions, museums, bookstore events, and pass on recommendations for awards to authors whose books could win big.

I've been fortunate to receive nonfiction and fiction books with themes of "Healing." We are at that point in time that pushes us to heal or die.

As the major publishers struggle or fold, self-publishing has lost much of its former stigma. The same goes for "small press" publications which had less opportunity for "reach" as they do now, thanks to the Internet.

I think of myself more as an "artist" than a "publicist." It's important for me to approach each project as if it were a production or a blank canvas.


To check out my book publicity blog which doubles as an Author's Showcase, please visit: http://bookpublicitybymarlan.blogspot.com. And if you have any questions, please contact me at memoircity at gmail. 






Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Best Zumba Class for $5 (North Hollywood) IMO: Dennis G Fitness

Dennis Guzman (Photo  © Erica Deleon)


Dennis Guzman is an amazing Zumba instructor who teaches all over Los Angeles, but my favorite venue is $5/class (yes!) at the North Weddington Recreation Center (Mon.-Wed.-Fri. @ 12:15-1:15pm). It's difficult to find Zumba teachers with solid dance training. Too many think it's enough to shake their booty, and there's little technique supporting their moves (and yours if you are following them). Dennis is not only creative with the choreography of his Zumba (a gratifying mix of aerobics, Latin dance, and jazz), but his effervescent encouraging-self is contagious.

He calls it "Join the Party" Zumba, and it's easy to see why. You should always dance like nobody's watching, but Dennis makes you feel like you are having a great time at a fun dance party.

A huge bargain on every level. Zumba on, Dennis!

For more info, check out http://www.facebook.com/DennisGFitness

Or just search for "DennisGFitness" to get his complete schedule and updates.

North Weddington Recreation Center (Toluca Lake/North Hollywood, CA)
10844 Acama Street (Lankershim Exit off Hollywood 101 - North of the 101)
North Hollywood, CA 91602
(818) 506-1467
NorthWeddingtonRecreationalCenter@lacity.org

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Judith Fein, Author of "The Spoon from Minkowitz": "Finding roots is the solution for a rootless life."


Title: THE SPOON FROM MINKOWITZ:
           A Bittersweet Deep Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands
Author: Judith Fein
Photographer:  Paul Ross
ISBN:     978-0-9884019-3-8
Publisher: GlobalAdventure.us
Pub. Date: Jan. 5, 2014
Paperback  & All E-Formats      Pages: 243      Price:     $18.95
Publicist: Marlan Warren   E-Mail: roadmap.girl at hotmail


Summary :  Author Judith Fein embarks on a quest to call on ancestors and urges us to do the same in The Spoon from Minkowitz: A Bittersweet Deep Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands.
=============================================================

Interview with Judith Fein, Author of The Spoon from Minkowitz -
A Bittersweet Deep Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands:
 Finding roots is the solution for a rootless life.”



 I heard the Eastern European ancestors of many people like me
 calling out. “Remember us. Don’t forget us. Our story needs
 to be heard. Write our story. Write your story."
—Judith Fein, The Spoon from Minkowitz

     Judith Fein is a travel journalist’s travel journalist. She has globe-trotted unencumbered by maps and prior research from Mog Mog to Vanuatu. By her own account, she has swum with Beluga whales, consulted with a Zulu sangoma in South Africa, and eaten porcupine in Vietnam (“not with relish”). In 2011, when Fein and her photojournalist husband Paul Ross visited Tunisia during the Arab Spring, the French-speaking American Fein found herself on the radio, speaking to Tunisians about Democracy. Her popular book Life Is a Trip: The Transformative Magic of Travel depicts highlights from her decades of soul-searching adventure, which include a road trip with a Maori tribe on their way to reunite with their European roots. However, for Fein—whose motto is “I live to leave” —a big chunk of travel-mystery was still left uncracked: her own ancestral roots.

     Fein’s new book, The Spoon from Minkowitz: A Bittersweet Deep Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands, takes us with her on the trip she finally made in 2012 to the shtetl her maternal grandmother left behind in an obscure Ukrainian village known as Minkowitz.

     The Spoon from Minkowitz came out in January 2014, and has already garnered stellar reviews. Catharine Hamm, Travel Editor of the Los Angeles Times, found The Spoon from Minkowitz “as tense as a thriller and as tender as a love story. Judith Fein’s…quest to connect the dots of her life will have readers laughing, crying and, most of all, cheering her on.” Bill Tammeus, co-author of They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust called the book “compelling” in its ability to “move beyond the borders of Judaism and even beyond Holocaust history to a universal story of love.”

     We had the opportunity to catch Judith Fein for a moment when she is not in perpetual motion to talk about the deeper meanings of genealogy as explored in this book.



For those who have not yet read your book, what is “the spoon from Minkowitz”?

My grandmother was from a Russian village called Minkowitz. And that, plus five other facts, were all I could ever get out of her about where she was from and why she left. She spoke mainly Yiddish, so maybe that was a reason. My mother told me virtually nothing, no matter how much I begged when I was growing up. So then I meet my husband Paul, and we’re immediately attracted. But here’s the kicker: when I ask Paul to ask his parents about their ancestral roots, it turns out his father’s family came from…Minkowitz.

Okay. So the “spoon.” When Paul told his parents we were getting married, his father offered us the only thing left from his parents’ shtetl in Minkowitz”: a soup spoon they brought with them to America.  I treasured it because it made our ancient connection so real to me. We made a place of honor for it under the chupa  (Jewish wedding canopy) on a satin pillow.

What impressed me about your search was that it wasn’t a matter of buying a plane ticket to Minkowitz. You practically “feel your way” through Russia. The same is true in the stories you told in Life Is a Trip. Would you call your process “right brain”?

First of all, there are no planes to Minkowitz. And yes, “right brain.” I call it “following the arrows.” It’s about keeping eyes and ears open. If you trust you will end up in the right place, and if it’s meant to be, you will get there. One friend says I don’t seem to be traveling as much as channeling. She’s dubbed me “The Human Travel Channel.”

This book is like Jewish version of Roots, the Alex Haley book that traces his African American family history. It also reminds me of Safran Foer’s  Everything Is Illuminated, especially when you and Paul are in that stifling car where the driver refuses to roll down the windows in blistering heat. If I were a Hollywood producer, how would you pitch The Spoon from Minkowitz to me?

I’d say it’s a kind of Everything Is Illuminated meets Life Is a Trip.

If there is a link between The Spoon from Minkowitz and Life Is a Trip, what is it?

In Life Is a Trip, I take readers to l4 exotic climes where they experience new and different ways of dealing with life issues—everything from love to death to ambition to family tension. In The Spoon from Minkowitz, I take readers into the land of their ancestors, and into the depths of their own souls. 

Why is connecting to our ancestors so important?

Finding your roots can be the solution to a rootless life. In my book, I talk about roots travel, talking to grandma, digging deep into family roots to find  out who you are and where you come from. Ours is a rare culture that doesn't honor and connect to our ancestors. Everywhere I have traveled, I've experienced ancestor worship, ancestor ceremonies, ancestor altars, ancestor honorings.  It is time to bring this powerful awareness to our shores--with humor, heart, and information.  

What’s next for Judith Fein?

What’s  next for me is also what’s next for The Spoon from Minkowitz. The critical response to the book has been wonderful, and I am planning ancestor events and talks in various cities.







Tuesday, September 24, 2013

All the world's your stage at Dominic Oliver's Behavioral Improv Workshop: "Fly without a Net."


On a warm Monday evening at Dominic Oliver’s Behavioral Improv Workshop at the NoHo2 studio in North Hollywood, Sammy Corrado shares with a rapt audience a trick of the trade he’s learned as a “reader” who helps audition actors for the hot series, The Mentalist:

“Don’t ask if you can do it again.”

Corrado is one of several speakers Dominic Oliver has invited over the last year and a half since his workshop launched. When Corrado finishes, the actors get busy with theater games, improvisation, puppetry, masks, monologues and scene study.

“Sammy’s invaluable casting session experience gave us a unique opportunity to see both sides of a process that scares the pants off a lot of actors,” said Oliver, who invites speakers as well as guests. “I encourage audience. Strangely, it makes my players less self-conscious. I want them to fly without a net and have no fear.”

Behavioral Improv is Oliver’s own term. “We put the focus on character behavior as much as the great, funny line. Because I come from TV, film and stage, I can show how observation and behavior help actors find a character more easily for a part or audition. It’s improv as an acting process, not only a destination.”



Sessions start with a guided meditation that allows players to settle into a more relaxed state. Then for the next few hours, Oliver takes his charges “from 0 to 60” with passion and humor. By evening’s end, actors are galloping off to unexpected, hilarious, places.

“It’s great to watch players surprise even themselves,” said Oliver, perhaps thinking of the somewhat shy young actress who transformed into an old lady demanding that someone fix her vibrator, or an acting newbie who “found a hidden depth that was incredibly rich and moved me to tears.”

Oliver also taught improvisation and commercial acting at the Vincent Chase workshop in Hollywood. He took time out from his busy routine as an actor, teacher, screenwriter and novelist (he recently co-wrote a Cold War suspense thriller, Jitterbug Lift, under the pen name “Oliver Flynn” with partners Jay Flynn and Kaenan Oliver) for a little Q & A:
Q: Where did you grow up? Have your origins affected you as an artist?
A: My life is an improv. I grew up in New York City and wrote a scene for my first movie part that starts, I was a kid on 42nd Street; you had to act to survive.

Q: In the film, All That Jazz, the choreographer tells a frustrated dancer that he doesn’t know if he can make her a great dancer, but he knows he can make her a better one. Does that ring a bell?
A: Exactly my philosophy. I have great respect for Bob Fosse’s work. I know he made a legion of dancers much greater than they were. That’s what we all hope for as coaches.

Q: How do you help players break away from the obvious?
A: We take time to explore the core of the character, find the vulnerability and play the ambiguity to reveal what you feel. The more we tune in and observe others around us in detail—even someone we know—the more depth and variety we bring to our roles.

Q: Your workshop actors can start off stiff, but soon they’re zooming through improvs with comedy and inspired moments.
A: Once a player relaxes, frees him/herself up and begins playing truth, tapping into intuition and imagination, and connecting to one another, real magic happens.

Q: Do you ever push students to get beyond their comfort zones? Ever had anyone rebel?
A: I push them all the time. The comfort zone is what they’re coming to me to leave behind. A lot of actors have difficulty with anger, so we work on using and also releasing it. As for rebellion, if it’s there I help them work around it. The more confident they become, the quicker that disappears.

Q: What’s the deal with the masks?
A: The mask is a tool. Mask work, especially combined with music, informs the non-mask work in a way that simply doesn’t take place intellectually.

Q: Any favorite roles?
A: My best role was probably as a pawnbroker on NYPD Blue. My favorite is Mangiacavallo in Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo. And I got to play a Klingon.  I didn’t know much about Klingons, so I used improv tools to find that guy. Doing mirror work in costume and makeup, using the reflection, gave me the character.

Q: What is your greatest tool?
A: Compassion for the process. I focus on being perceptive about what turns players on, how to work out the kinks and get to the right place. What I give them is trust—in me, in themselves and each other—and that pays off.

 ____________
Dominic Oliver’s Behavioral Improv Workshop meets every Monday at
7:30 p.m. at the NoHo2 Studio, 10428 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, California 91601.

The novel Jitterbug Lift by Oliver Flynn is available in paperback, Kindle and Nook online:

Amazon paperback

Amazon Kindle

Barnes and Noble Nook

Thursday, February 28, 2013

HITTING YOUR RESET BUTTON: ENERGY HEALING


"It's like hitting the 'Reset Button,'" one of my newcomer clients said a couple days ago just 10 minutes into his introductory session, seemingly oblivious to the fact that all hell was breaking loose just outside the studio, as the Loudest Garbage Truck Ever had stopped in front of the studio's windows and was busy making noise that would go on for 15 minutes. 

The Reset Button. I like that. 

So the new campaign to get people in the door who might not otherwise hear of Reiki energetic balancing and healing is in full swing. And so is my great experiment to get out and meet people, hand them a flyer, and talk to them about the healing effects of Energy.

I feel a little like a door-to-door politician at this Election Time. It's not my style to go around asking people if they've ever had "Reiki" (Tibetan/Japanese Energetic Healing), and then proceed to tell them why they might love it. But so far it is quite rewarding. 

I will write more in the next post about the Performer's Relaxation Program ("Relax-the-Act"). But just wanted to show you the Studio's newest flyer (below) and get your response to it. 

Don't be shy...Let me know your thoughts. And if you just love it, please share with friends.

News Flash: 
A very satisfied regular client will be leaving town soon and moving back to her hometown. She's asked me if I will drive with her back East so that I can teach her friend self-healing with Reiki! Very flattering. She said, "We have other people who do Reiki here, but I told her that she really should learn it from you." And she offered to pay my expenses and air faire back to L.A. 

Will I take this generous offer? Hmmmmm....Not sure. But teachers live for moments like these.

Please contact me at LetReikiLightShine at yahoo dot com if you're interested in an intro session. And ask me about packages and discounts for referrals, etc.

In the meantime...Happy Healing to you all! Oh, and here is the newest flyer for the Studio:






Wednesday, January 23, 2013

San Francisco Street Scene by Susan Weinberg-Harter (copyright)


I'm putting the finishing touches on the blog I created for the award-winning San Diego artist Susan Weinberg-Harter whose watercolors and linoleum prints reflect her deep respect and love of nature, and her insightful traveler's eye when she ventures outside of her SoCal domain.

Susan is a "birdwatcher" and has been known to go on tour just to catch glimpses of birds she can't see from her kitchen window or strolling near the marshes of Del Mar. One watercolor recently graced an Audubon Society cover.  Here's the link if you'd like to take a peek:  http://susanweinbergharter.blogspot.com/

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