Moving out in California for dummies: 12 things to keep in mind.

After spending four years in the glorious city of Los Angeles, I thought I’d move my family south-bound towards Long Beach in search of new experiences. Why Long Beach? We wanted to be closer to the beach and not too far from LA. Venice and Santa Monica were not considered because I’ve had my fill of them and I consider them parts of the grander LA experience.  Santa Barbara and Malibu are fun for a visit, but I could not see myself living in either.

I thought the move would involve a phone call or two, followed by a comeback-again-soon party hosted by my compound. Afterall, I was an impeccable tenant who had paid his rent on the day every month. Surely I will be missed and my future homeowner will welcome me with open arms, right?

Of course, I was soon anchored down to reality when I started doing the math after I had handed in my one month’s notice to my residential compound. Pro-tip: Never, EVER do that. Do your research and be meticulous BEFORE you tell the world; but this is why you are here, so good for you!

Here is a checklist to keep in mind and consider when you’ve finally decided to move:

  1. Most apartment/house hunting websites possess the same database of entries. Don’t waste time trying to seek a better deal for the same listing.

  2. Do not base your selection on photos or hearsay. Take the drive and see the place for yourself. Pay attention to the location, surrounding businesses and overall finish of the house/apartment. I’ve heard that unless you were on a tight budget you should avoid living around a liquor store. This could just be hearsay from privileged people, so don’t take my word for it; go see the place for yourself and be your own judge.

  3. If you are looking for two bedrooms and a den, do not search three bedroom apartments. Be sure to read the description of each two-bedroom listing as dens are not a search parameter in the filtering options.


  4. If a listing is cheaper than it should be, consider that not all places come equipped with a washer/dryer unit or designated parking spots. Again, read the descriptions and see the places for yourself.


  5. Though personal residences owned by homeowners may be less of a hassle to rent from than it would have been from a compound, maintenance fees and services you would require in your home will have to be covered from your end. Plan your budget accordingly. For a two-bedroom apartment, you may run yourself around $100 every couple of months or so.


  6. Most lease agreements carry a duration of 12 months, with some giving you the option of six or nine months. Be wary that the shorter the duration of your contract, the more the rent of the same apartment would be. The difference is minimal, never going beyond a few hundred dollars additional per month, but that’s a few hundred dollars you could have spent elsewhere. Plan wisely and ahead.


  7. If you plan to vacate your apartment before the end of your lease contract, the homeowner/compound, depending on your original agreement and duration of stay, will expect you to pay them one or two months worth of base rent (rent minus taxes and service fees). This may sound like common knowledge, but when the maths kick in, the numbers will become serious. I intended to move from my apartment in LA to one in Long Beach. Since I was moving in July and my leasing contracts ended in November, I effectively owed my compound a month’s rent on top of the rent I had submitted a week prior. We’ll get to the numbers later.


  8. Remember that security deposit you put down on your current home? The more you took care of the apartment/house, the more money you will receive of it as a payback. Of course, you will never get the full amount back no matter how much care you put into your home. As a general rule, you will be charged for the repainting of any colored wall ($50 per is an average to keep in mind), the cleaning of carpets, as well as for the maintenance of any furniture that may have been damaged during your stay.


  9. Once you have settled on a place, make sure you ask the owner/leasing agent about the amount of the deposit, the duration of the contract and any other additional fees (swimming pool/gym memberships, gas, electricity…etc.)


  10. When it’s time to pack your stuff, expect to buy more boxes to pack them in than you thought you would. Just add five boxes of each size when you are done acting like you understand spatial geometry.


  11. If you will be hiring a moving company, make sure that they present you with the maximum possible charge (they will not bill you for more than that amount). Also, according to California law, a moving company will charge you for their journey back to their source. This is colloquially called the “double-time charge.” The trip took one hour from my old apartment to the new one; I was charged two hours. They are not scamming you; it’s law.  Scroll down to Item 36 for the official legalese.


  12. If the movers’ quote is more than you are willing to invest, don’t despair and start shopping for cheaper services. A quick search online will lead you to countless nightmare stories of people who worked with incompetent companies and lost lots in the process. Stick to the professionals and plan around them. In my case, I rented out a U-Haul and moved whatever I could by myself and left the bigger items and furniture for the movers. I was originally quoted $1700 for the move but ended up only paying $800 and $130 for the U-Haul. The math is clear.

Now, let’s have fun with the numbers. My math was jarring, and honestly, I only realized the density of the numbers while writing this post. Be a better planner and do all this BEFORE you take the plunge:

$3000 (month’s rent in old apartment) + $3,000 (break of contract of old apartment) + $2,750 (deposit on new apartment) + $2,750 (first month’s rent on the new apartment) + $250 (deposit on the key fobs) + $800 (mover’s fee) + $130 (U-Haul) + $200 (boxes) + $300 (food for the first three days. There was no way any of us was going to cook before we completely set up) = $13,180.

In hindsight, was the move worth all that additional money? If you are moving for the right reasons and you feel it in your heart, don’t let the numbers bog you down. Admittedly perhaps it was my oblivious nature that had me uproot from LA without properly working out the math. There is something to be said about caution: Would I have moved had I seen that $13K price tab? Probably not, but now that I am here, I am happy, and that alone is worth every cent I have.

 

The La La Land post

I finally watched La La Land: a charming movie that should have ended 20 minutes before it actually did, but I seem to be echoing the same complaints for most every movie I have watched recently. Maybe I cherish my time. Maybe I’m just a dolt who’s become too accustomed to the brevity and promptness of modern media. Maybe, as a once-avowed gamer, I would like to pause and resume my films? Maybe David Lynch, who famously refused to include chapter selects on his DVD’s because films should be watched in one go, should just…lynch me. That was a horrid pun, and I know it. Maybe I’m too used to Netflixing and chilling, the prospect of sitting in a dark, loud theater, no longer drives the same patience. Are we done analyzing my habits? Good. On with the show!

Wait, before we get on with this review, did anyone really use chapter select screens on DVD’s/Blu-Rays? I mean, I may have utilized them once or twice, especially to read the titles of each chapter, but otherwise I just skipped until I got to the part I wanted. Moving on.

Rather than have every word muttered to a tune (Les Miserables be damned to the pits of hell where it was first conceived), Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone play the roles of folks who just like to break out into song from time to time. Yes, there are choreographed set pieces, and some of the songs may initially sound forced, but Emma…goodness gracious that woman can act. Lest I strip Ryan from any credit, his portrayed mastery of the piano is convincing. The fact that he was able to attain this level of confidence on the instrument in four months is certainly an achievement.

The film weaves your classic star-crossed lovers, boy meets girl story. But, as is always the case, it’s not the whats I am interested in, but the hows. Damien Chazelle, following up on his Hollywood darling Whiplash, brings to the screen a dreamscape awash with soft glows and sharp primaries. The film feels like a smooth reverie you dream up right before you go to sleep or right after you wake up.

Whiplash was…good, and the cinematic approach to characterization is certainly proven again this time around, but I must admit the following disclaimer: I didn’t exactly enjoy it. Yes, the passion was there and Simmons certainly reminded me of a once brilliant professor, but the movie fell short for me. Fantastic, then, to have La La Land neutralize and improve upon my expectations.

The movie is also an unabashed love story to LA in the vein of Woody Allen’s love of New York in his Manhattan. Though watching a movie based on a city you live in has its caveats. For starters, LA is not only about Griffith Park and its Observatory as the movie industry would love you to believe, but I get the sentiment. Also, identifying locales in the movie may break “some” of the immersion when you discover that their upstairs is on one side of the city, and their downstairs is a 40-minute ride through freeway traffic away. But I digress and nitpick.

Jazz and I are fuck buddies. Every once in a while I’ll whip out my jazz playlist on Spotify and vibe to it in reverent comfort before letting it go for the next week or so. Gosling’s passion for the genre, however, is underscored by his inspired, if not at times, patronizing, outlook. Yes, Jazz has its roots in dinky New Orleans shacks, but must I really be a trained tenor to enjoy a piece of opera? TL:DR version: nope.

I get it, however. Passion can induce anything with an element of divinity, and of that I am appreciative, but I wonder why the same treatment was not granted to the art of acting. Emma plays the role of a struggling actress, herself passionate about her craft. Not once did I hear her express her passion, debate and counter-argue Ryan, or segue into hopelessly romantic views of the art of performance. Both crafts are handled with the same amount of technical reverence, but while Emma’s passion is implied, Ryan’s is underscored and highlighted for the most of the film.

Also, he gets to introduce her to an American cinema classic, Rebel Without a Cause, that I struggle to believe someone with an Ingrid Bergman wallpaper had never watched. Yet he, on the other hand, is all-knowing in his craft and it is implicit that there is nothing of worth that she can offer him save for encouragement and comfort.

It is important to note that as much as I enjoyed this movie, I felt it piggy-banking off of the whimsical charms of old-school musicals rather than introduce anything new. Yes, the sense of nostalgia is grand, and I must admit that I left the theater yearning for some Dick Van Dyke artistry, but how much credit can an homage really garner? Work with me here.

When we all reveled at The Artist, it wasn’t because it did anything new, but because it beautifully proved that silence is a gift that still resonates in this loud, sound-polluted world we live in. It turned its attention to the charms and delicate moments between people, and the story was successfully portrayed through intertitles and silent nuances.

La La Land, on the other hand, only sets out to remind us why musicals of yore are so loved and cherished, but follows the Hollywood trend of employing actors first, performers second. You see, Mary Poppins was what it was because Dick danced and Julie sang. Hollywood today just trains actors to perform, hides behind their inexperience, and holds a bold sign that reads: charm.

If you found yourself infatuated with this movie, do yourself a favor and go watch Vincente Minnelli’s An American in Paris. Gene Kelly is indelible in it, and that sequence of Gosling and Stone dancing in the stars that so many have raved about barely holds a candle to the former.

But don’t let me stray too far from the intentions of this movie. It is magical, touching and does a great job at entertaining and enlightening viewers with its love of jazz, Los Angeles, and the magic that happens in our everyday lives.

1/15/2016

I love to read and write, but I always find reasons why I shouldn’t. When I look at a blank page, I am flooded with a sense of primordial dread that is usually best left for blindfolded people tied up in a car trunk. Why am I not able to express myself? Habit is too easy of an answer, otherwise I’d just tag everything with a lack of habit.

No, the issue is not habit, but rather dedication and a lack of confidence. I never thought I’d ever admit that so casually, but it’s true.

Should I just keep a diary until I get myself into the habit of writing? Maybe it’s the kind of writing that gets to me. I’m a pragmatist and a logician to the farthest point that I may call myself so. Why am I expecting myself to write the next sci-fi wonder? Maybe I am the guy who comes up with slogans and enjoys technical writing. Let’s put this to practice.

It’s not the result I should be focusing on, I know, but my mind drives a tough bargain. If no result is in sight, why bother? How depressing. Nothing happens overnight, and if I wanted to write, then I need to start making a habit of it. There’s that “H” word again.

So, today’s Sunday. It’s pretty lax. I’m feeling well and I am about to pour myself an opening cup of coffee. Speaking of coffee, did you see the new Twin Peaks teaser? I loved that show. In parts. The first season. Most of the first season. But the ads and teasers for the upcoming season are deplorable! I get it, people are excited, but can we get more than a trickle of images and cast lists? Or maybe that is the intention of the creators. In an age of super information (I feel old), mystery is a strong selling point.

Before I end this unedited jumble of words and nonsense, I would like to add that I will be watching La La Land today. I generally hate musicals, so let’s hope this is more Moulin Rouge, and less Into the Woods *shudder*.

Lost Angels

Living in Los Angeles and residing here are two completely different things. Allow me to highlight that for you:

Living in LA requires you to be doing what Angelenos do:

  • Go eat at one of the hundreds of fine restaurants that offer you the same food you’ve always eaten but renamed and re-branded for the sake of originality.
  • Attend galleries for people you’ve never heard of and never will care about while looking at “art” that is better sold on a Venice Beach boardwalk for the price of a deep fried Oreo.
  • Smoke from a myriad selection of weed strains while trying to act like you can tell one strain from the other.
  • Buy food from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s that is gluten-free and so organic, you can smell the manure it was planted in.
  • Show off that you are living in LA by telling people how awesome restaurants here are, how great the art scene is, how natural the food is, and how sublime the weed choice is.

Residing in LA is a whole different story. You’re either at home, or at work, planning a weekend getaway to Las Vegas, Santa Barbara or Malibu, all of which you’ve been to more than you’d be willing to admit to yourself, and all of them being more boring than you’d be willing to admit to your friends and co-workers.

Hey, you have to stand out somehow, right? What’s the point of going on a “staycation” if you’re not going to boast about it? Either way, you are ultimately just staring out the window waiting for something to happen, or for someone to come and tell you “Good job! You’re in LA! Let’s chest-bump and give you that moral boost you were looking for!”

That, or you’re just another actor driving an Uber in-between roles, practicing Yoga over the weekends.

But I hate, I hate! LA is actually an awesome spot, our primary choice of city when my wife and I planned our excursion to the land of the free, home of the brave. Something about it just stuck with us and we hope all our friends and loved ones discover its charm for themselves; the charm inherent in the wonderful food, inspiring art and copious amounts of weed.

Five days in Los Angeles

Five days in Los Angeles
Image source: huffingtonpost.com

I was recently approached by a friend to offer her insight about the stand-out things one might do in LA. I am not an expert, nor do I entitle myself an “Angeleno,” but I have spent the better part of one year in this expansive city exploring it through the eyes of a visitor.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, was what I sent her. Let me know what you think and if you would like me to add anything to the list!

1) Hollywood

Image source: Wikipedia
Image source: Wikipedia

I wanted to start off with the most touristic spot that many visitors ask about. Yes, it’s the Hollywood you see on TV, no it is not the Hollywood you see in the movies. In fact, the novelty of being there will fade out within mere minutes. Factor in the charm of seeing the Walk of Fame and the likes of the Chinese Theater, and you have yourself 20 minutes. You will more than likely bump in to shady characters, and almost definitely be bombarded with photo requests by costume-wearers who seem to celebrate Halloween year-long, but while you’re on Hollywood….

2) Have lunch at Hooters

Five Days in LA_Hooters
Image source: Wikipedia

As juvenile as it may sound, especially that we’ve all grown up beyond waitresses serving you chicken wings and beer, wearing the tightest possible shorts and shirts, you can not come to LA, nay, to the United States, and not eat at Hooters. Is it awesome food? Nothing special, but the place has to be on everyone’s bucket list.

3) Visit Universal Studios / Disneyland

Five Days in Los Angeles_Universal Studios
Image source: worldoftravelusa.com

I’m not sure if you’ve been to either of them, but you have to experience them in your adulthood, specially if you’re lifted, which brings me to…

4) Weed is abundantly available

Image source: rollingout.com
Image source: rollingout.com

Nuff said. Whether you’re a casual smoker or an all-out stoner, you will be sampling top-shelf produce from one of the hundreds of dispensaries peppered around the city. No shady dealings, no dodgy contacts–Straight up business. If you create your own license ($140), you will go home with a medical marijuana ID to show off and laugh about, and you will get to see the insides of the dispensaries–well worth the view, if I were to be asked. Where can you get that license, you ask? Why it’s at places like…

5) Venice Beach

Image source: venicebeach.com
Image source: venicebeach.com

If you want to know why palm trees, murals, and awesome coastlines are synonymous with California, this is the place to prove it. Absolute haven for hedonists, artists, and beach goers, it is a magnificent piece of land that I love visiting on a timely manner. After enjoying a gorgeous day out, especially over a weekend when a massive drum circle shapes up on the beach around sunset, your next logical stop would be…

6) Santa Monica Pier

Image source: choicewallpapers.net
Image source: choicewallpapers.net

Located an easy 30 minute walk along the Venice Beach coastline, this decadent and vintage spot is another one of those areas you can’t not visit while you are here. It’s nothing special, comprising of a Ferris wheel, some random rides for kids, and a few artists displaying their works, but the vibe and feel of the place is another must-see.

7) Food. Lots of it.

LA is known for it’s love for food, and you will find any cuisine your heart desires. Honorable mentions are In ‘N’ Out Burger, complete with their “secret menu” that was only shared via word of mouth until the internet took over, SugarFish with its sublime approach to sushi that you have to taste to believe, and that dingy Mexican joint that sells the best tacos. Also, you will have to try Churros and Funnel Cakes. I’m not sure about the origin of the latter, but the former is Mexican and is the bomb-diggy when it comes to sweet, cinnamon treats. As a general rule, avoid anything that looks like this burger, and you should be fine!

Image source: thecowfish.com
Image source: thecowfish.com

While I’m on the subject of food…

8) Food trucks

Image source: nowimhungry.com
Image source: nowimhungry.com

Scattered around the city is a ridiculous amount of food trucks that serve up everything from the saltiest to the sweetest of foods. Hamburgers, cakes, fried Oreos, waffles, chicken wings, pancake sandwiches doused in banana mustard and basted with vegemite.

I’m not really sure about that last one, but you may as well find it! If you’re not accustomed to eating from a truck, let me comfort you from now: Every one of them is graded as a stand-alone restaurant would and are required to display their score for all to see. Regardless, be your own judge and don’t go around eating deep-fried fava beans mixed with pig fat just because a truck brandishes an ‘A’ score.

9) Comedy Clubs

Image source: timeout.com
Image source: timeout.com

These places are a dime a dozen, but there are a couple of places like the Laugh Factory that you will probably want to visit. It’s where most all comedians you grew up watching had their start, and where you will most likely bump in to Jesus. Seriously, Jesus. Just ask around.

10) The Viper Room / House of Blues

Image source: visitwesthollywood.com
Image source: visitwesthollywood.com

Two iconic spots that have hosted every rock, blues, and jazz musician you can think of. If you are looking for live music, this is probably where you would want to go. They also host a plethora of musical events that cover genres beyond rock. Just check out their schedules prior to your arrival.

11) Clubs

Image source: discoverlosangeles.com
Image source: discoverlosangeles.com

If you entertain the club scene, there are a multitude of clubs to consider, my favorite being Playhouse. It’s smack in the middle of Hollywood, arguably has the hottest pole dancers and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the dodgiest Mario / Luigi cosplay on this side of the world.

Hearthstone Beta Key Giveaway 2.0

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

The last time I held a giveaway for Hearthstone, the reception was phenomenal and I promised to negotiate more keys. Astute readers will have already established that I have delivered on my promise and am ready to unleash Beta keys for this awesome game to 100 lucky winners.

That was not a typo. It’s 100.

To enter, you have to:

1) Make sure that you follow my account @Sparkileptic on twitter/instagram/facebook

2) Publish a tweet, status update or photo using the hashtag #HearthStoneFTW. The content of your published material needs to be relative to Hearthstone and needs to express how excited you are to play it.

3) Retweet/Share someone else’s #HearthstoneFTW post.

3) Sit tight and pray to the videogame gods.

20 Winners will be selected randomly on a weekly basis every Monday, starting Monday November 18.

Good luck to all you awesome gamers!

I vault jumped over buildings and survived a methane attack

sparku

There are moments that define your life as a gamer: The first time you completed a game. The first time you cried playing a game. The first time you heard yourself naming a game as your favorite. Wanting to work in videogames and finding the perfect job for you.

This post is one of those moments.

The majority of you won’t understand what this post is, but for those of you who do, get in touch with me ASAP. We have much to do and pixels to evolve!

Hearthstone giveaway results!

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

When I posted the contest a few days ago, I was not expecting the response to be this phenomenal! Thank you for your awesome participation and you will be psyched to know that the suits have been pleased with the feedback and are considering throwing more codes down my way to give out to you.

As always is the case, my intention was to award each and every one of you, and hopefully I will be able to in the near future. For now, here are the 8 lucky winners of the Hearthstone Beta keys:

Nico Schneider

Cristian Olivan

Nuvori

Maels

Shotgunheavy

Yummydecor

Amer T

Tracy D

Congratulations to all the winners! Those of you with twitter handles and email addresses will be contacted later on today.

Those of you without any means for me to get in touch with you, please drop me a comment with your email / twitter handle within the next 48 hours to claim your prize.

Until next time, all the luck for all of you who were a part of this and much love to you all!

Gamer’s Salute! <(^-^)

Hearthstone BETA Key giveaway

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Earlier today, I sent out a seemingly innocent tweet proclaiming that I had 8 keys to give away for this highly anticipated card game. What I did not expect was the flurry of responses that it has received.

You obviously want to play it, and I would love nothing more than to hand over the codes to you.

To gain access to this awesome game and win yourself a key, just drop in a comment letting me know what you are most looking forward to in the game.

Winners will be chosen at random on September 23.

Keep retweeting and telling your friends to participate as the more the interest, the more codes I will be able to get you guys!