element a440

Phoenix local music kicks ass, and element a440 is awesome!

element a440 in their studio



There are a lot of local Phoenix bands that I keep in rotation along with my favorite national acts. When bands such as element a440, Selfless, or Calabrese come up on my playlist, people wherever I am always say “Wow, these guys are great. Who are they?” What I’m trying to say is, Phoenix has produced a lot of music which is on par in quality with famous bands. Yet, a lot of that talent languishes undiscovered in the somewhat underground local Phoenix music scene.



Halo, the singer



While I was in Arizona for a visit this year, I was lucky enough to run into element a440, one of my very favorite Phoenix bands. I have adored them for the last 10 years, and no one has waited with more rapt attention to review their second CD than yours truly. I review “Selfish,” their first album several years ago when it came out. Since then, I have been hungry for more. Sadly, I had to settle for hearing some of the new tracks, since the album isn’t out yet. I am drooling as I await it’s release.



Ivan, the guitarist



For a feel of what I love about element a440, check out the epic video “Dance Dead.” Yes, the intro is another local band a adore (Hardwire) but then it switches to element a440.



Animal, the drummer (Hiding behind his kit)



The new stuff isn’t as hard hitting. There is a definite mellow tinge to the newer song I checked out, like “Perfect,” which you can check out on YouTube. The video for “Feel” is also available online. Yes, it’s Emo and I usually don’t go for that. However, I appreciate it for the story, the filming, and the music. What these guys do always impresses me and strikes me as absolutely comparable to any major band signed to a label.



Here's some shots with Ivan, Sarah, Halo, Me, and Mandy




I wish I could convey how awesome the energy at their shows is. They put on a killer stage show with all kinds of amazingly well thought out and designed props. I’ve always hated band’s live albums and stuff though, since the music never sounds as good. All I can do is promise you that if you see them live, you won’t regret it!



Sarah and Ivan




A girl I very much consider my little sister, Sarah, is dating the guitarist Ivan. Since I adore her with all my heart, I feel a more person connection to the band than I guess an objective journalist should. However, any Goth kid or metal kid can find an element a440 song that they like. It’s easy to tell your friends about them too, since their on Myspace, Vampirefreaks, and Facebook. I highly recommend you check out their music and pass a link on to your friends. In my opinion, there are a lot of bands out there that deserve to be signed and haven’t been yet, and these guys are definitely on the top of that list!

Sedona Adventure

Sedona is beautiful. You should check it out.

Sedona is one of those places that really makes you feel that cool wonder-feeling. We are tiny people and the earth has things like The Grand Canyon, The Painted Desert, and Sedona which remind us how small we really are in relation to nature. The rock formations in Sedona are huge, and pictures can’t accurately convey what it feels like to stand next to them.



One of the rock formations in Sedona



My visit to Arizona in June was composed of several small trips with several wonderful people. One such person was Jeanette Watson, who happens to be my grandmother. In this picture, she is standing next to a Catalpa tree in a shopping center in Sedona.



Jeanette Watson



In the town, there are some neat things to see. For example, a very small but very nifty Catholic Church resides in the side of one of the red rock formations.



Church on the Rock



Our destination was just outside of town in a box canyon, at a place called Enchantment Resort. The main thing I have to say about this place is, the food is top-shelf. Everything there is really, really out of my price range. As with many things that are expensive, it is a very classy and high-quality place.



Breakfast



The views are really breath-taking everywhere in Sedona. However, there’s something particularly neat about being inside of one. That is an experience Enchantment resort provides.



Grandma on the deck looking at the view



Of course, the décor is old-west. I happen to like the style myself, though my vegan friends might cringe at the cow-skin rugs or the mirror rimed in antlers.


My reflection in antler mirror



It was a delightful trip though, as Sedona always is for me.



Grandma looking down at Oak Creek Canyon




On the way home, we took a detour though Oak Creek Canyon to appreciate the beautiful views. At the top of the canyon there is a nice “scenic vista” point where you can take pictures and buy Native American crafts. I highly recommend you stop there. And, just past that is Flagstaff, which has all kinds of delightful places to eat.

Vegas baby!

Vegas is still awesome, though toned down more and more every year.

I love Sin City at night




Alright, now I know that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. However, I’m not much for personal details in this blog anyway, so I think I’m safe just telling you a few places that I like, and leaving out the more depraved stuff.



My friend Shari sings karaoke on the strip




First off, everyone should see a show while they’re in Vegas. Absinthe was all the rage when I was there a few weeks ago, but there are plenty of classic Vegas shows like Jubilee that are great and probably shouldn’t be missed.



Me at margaritaville




Second, go to Margaritaville. Jimmy Buffet is an American icon and even if you’re not American, everyone should be able to appreciate a good cocktail. The cocktail is an art form that many countries have yet to truly understand, but Americans have a firm grasp on making alcohol into something epic, and that is something you should enjoy if you go to Vegas. I can think of no better place to do just that than in Margaritaville.



Me with some dancers




Now then, if you’re looking for clubs, ask a taxi driver. They usually have coupons for Scores, Spearmint Rhino, and Olympic Gardens (which I recommended). There are dance clubs all up and down the strip too, and taxi drivers can always suggest the right dance club for the type of evening you want. Don’t forget to tip everybody. I know it was a bit hard to adjust to for me, since I’d been in Asia (one does not top there) for 18 months. Still, if you wanted to be treated like a rock star in Vegas all it takes is a little extra cash.



French crape and Italian Gelato for lunch




The food in Vegas is to die for. You can get anything you want. I was homesick for Korean food after a few drinks, and by god, I found some. The multi-cultural aspect is one of the best things about Vegas, in my humble opinion. Oh, and the chocolate fountain in the Bellagio is really amazing. The restaurant there is incredible too.



Bellagio Chocolate Fountain



There is no end to the amount of things you can do in Vegas. Every casino has something cool, like the dolphins at The Mirage. The spas are some of the best in the world, too. My favorite is Qua, at Caesar’s Palace. And of course, you can even hop on a bus and take a tour around spots like the old strip on Fremont Street.



Dolphin at The Mirage



Whatever you do, look out! Vegas lives up to the name Sin City less and less every year I go. Don’t get me wrong- I love it! There’s just a lot of new stuff like non-smoking casinos. There was a time when Vegas was a place to do certain things that you couldn’t do at home. In some ways, it still is. In other ways, well, check the local laws before you visit, okay?



My friend Carl pets a stingray at Mandela Bay



Flagstaff’s Best Spot to Hike

I went home for a visit recently. While I was there I took a few majorly awesome trips. The best of them was the trip to Flagstaff. June is such a great time to go to Flagstaff because it’s so nice out. It’s 80 degrees and sunny nearly every day.



The Kachina Trail, surrounded by ferns and aspen trees




Of course, the reason I went to Flagstaff was for the hiking. The Katchina Trail, on the mountain just below Snowbowl Ski Resort, is one of my favorite places in Arizona.



Josh and Ashley in the trees



Myself, Jamie, Josh, and Ashley explored the forest a little slowly, due to all of us being a little short of breath at that elevation. 7,000 feet is nothing to mess with, and it’ll make you dizzy if you’re not used to it. I forgot just how much thinner the air is, since I’ve been living in Korea at sea level for 18 months.



Looking up into the aspen leaves




Another thing I forgot was the beautiful ferns and forests in Arizona. I tend to only tell people about the cactus, since that’s all the ask about or expect to hear. Yes, I come from a desert. However, it’s a short drive to much greener pastures. (Well, Josh thought 2 hours was a long drive- so perhaps it’s a matter of opinion.)



Josh contemplates a fern




I think the sound of the wind in the aspen trees is something everyone should hear. Josh had never heard it before, and wasn’t even sure which ones were the aspen trees. For the record, they’re the ones with the circle leaves.



A really great spot, in my humble opinion



Northern Arizona really is a great place to visit if you want to enjoy nature. There are ferns, like in many forests. However, unlike in most forests, there are very few bugs. I don’t know if it’s the dry air or what, but you just don’t get bitten by a lot of mosquitoes in Arizona. Since I’ve been away, I forgot how much I appreciated that.



Jamie in the trees



So if you feel like escaping to a really lovely place, let me recommend Flagstaff. And if you do go to Flagstaff, let me suggest that you head up to the Kachina Trail on the mountain. It’s a great hike, and a fairy easy trail. (It must be since we survived it.)



Me in the ferns

The Coolest Sand Castles Ever!

The Sand Festival at Haeundae Beach in Busan is apparently a very popular event. Book a hotel in advance if you plan to go, or prepare to sleep on the beach.

Banners for Sand Fest


I went to the Busan Sand Festival by accident. See, I was trying to take this awesome boy named Carey to see the Temple and the Aquarium and stuff. When I heard (after booking train tickets with KTX) that there was a sand festival that weekend, I thought it would be a small thing that might be neat to check out but wouldn’t affect our plans too much.



Once upon a time...



I am someone who can admit when I am wrong, and let me tell you, I was wrong! The Busan sand festival seems to be one of those things like Mudfest that every white person in Korea feels the need to do. Why? I don’t know. All I do know is that every pub that caters to white people had a line out the door and every hotel was full.



Carey somehow asleep after the sun was up.



Now when I saw every hotel was full, what I mean is I slept on the beach. There was literally nowhere else to sleep. Also, it’s not like I was the only one. There were all kinds of people camped out on the beach. Before you ask, yes, I did check all the hotels by the station, in other random neighborhoods, and inland from the beach. There were really no hotels in all of Busan. I can be sure, because some of the people crashed on the beach were Korean, and they didn’t find hotel rooms either.



Sword in the stone



So with that said, how was the sand festival? Well, a lot of foreign people who come to Korea just want to hang out with other foreigners while they are here. If you are one of those people, there is no better place for you than the sand festival. You would have had a blast.



Sand Lighthouse with real light



Also, if you really like sand castles or sand in general, sand fest is the place for you. I have never seen anything so elaborate made of sand. It was amazing! The theme in 2011 was Fairy Tales, and there were castles and princesses and dragons everywhere. It was really amazing.



Mermaid



Honestly, if you ever wanted to build and amazing sand castle or see someone else build an amazing sand castle, you need to attend the sand festival.



Shin Sae Gay shopping center in sand.



That said, it wasn’t really my scene. Carey hates sand, and I don’t like to hang out in places with a lot of other foreigners. It ruins my Korean experience. I was still impressed by the giant sand sculptures, but not as much as you might be.



Let down your golden hair...



Now of course, the sand festival was at Haeundae beach. That’s pretty much where all the cool stuff is.



Me at Haeundae Beach



I stand by my love and adoration of the Busan Aquarium, which has amazing exhibits filled with beautiful fish. (It’s under Haeundae Beach).



At the Busan Aquarium



I also highly recommend the barefoot path, behind the Westin Hotel. (On Haeundae beach).



Me on the barefoot path behind the Westin at Haeundae beach



If you do go to Busan, there are also casinos, and a really neat Russian town. There is a lot to see. There’s the only UN cemetery in the world as well, which is a somber but also heart-warming adventure. And there’s the fish market, which is pretty neat as long as you don’t’ go right after the Aquarium (seeing the fish alive and then seeing them dead was a little sad.) So by all means, go to Busan. It’s a great place. Just make sure that if you go for the sand festival, you book a room in advance and be prepared to wait a long time for a drink at any foreigner bar.



The only UN cemetery in the world, in Busan South Korea



Everland (the happiest place in Korea!)

In all of South Korea, is there any happier place than Everland? I think not.

Before I begin this entry, I should remind you all that I’m still in Suwon, South Korea. More about that (if you care) on the Bio page.


Everland Entrance



Now then, I am a pretty big fan of Disneyland. As a matter of fact, I’m about 5 years old on the inside; so I’m a pretty big fan of anything designed to appeal to kids. I guess you should bear that in mind when you read this, since the epic awesome that I’m about to describe might not be quite as amazing to a proper adult.



Me and tulips



First, Everland has rollercoasters! Who doesn’t like to be twirled around and terrifying angles and high speeds? T-Express, one of the coasters you can ride at Everalnd, is actually the largest wooden rollercoaster in the world. However, if you have small children or are afraid of that feeling in your stomach just after a rollercoaster reaches the top of a hill and just before it goes down, fear not! They have smaller and less frightening rides for you, too. It’s like Disneyland in that it’s a theme-park that has a little something for everyone.



T-Express




For example, maybe you love animals. In that case, you’ll want to take the safari ride and see the Lions and Tigers. They even have a Liger, which seems to be what happens when a Lion and a Tiger really love each other. I’m not a huge fan of such things, and was more entertained by the pretty birds. I love colorful stuff because, as I said before, I really am about 5 on the inside.



Pretty Birds




Evrland also has a positively amazing garden. It’s really big, and really beautiful. I highly recommend taking a stroll through it and enjoying whatever is in season. It just so happened that when I visited, that was tulips. However, if you go in the summer, I’m told the roses are breath-taking.



The gardens



It really doesn’t matter if you have kids or if you just go on your own. You’ll find something you love at Everland. Also, for you English-speakers, nearly everything is in both English and Korean, so you don’t have to worry about seeing neat animals and not being able to figure out what they are called.



Is one of these King Julian?



To get there from Suwon station, the nice ladies at the tourism office assured me that there are city buses which are cheap. I guess I could have done that, but I didn’t want to. So, I went down to the taxi stand and asked to be taken to Everland (in English). The cab driver knew right where to go and it wasn’t that expensive. I think I paid 25,000 Won, which I considered well worth it.



House in the little kid's area



Oh, and I should mention that the tickets to get into the park are about 35,000 Won. So, it’s cheaper than Disneyland, as well as being totally fantastic.



Overall shot