Thursday, December 27, 2007

Catching Up On Movies

Now that my production job has ended, and my next one won’t begin for another week, I’ve had time to relax, get to the gym, and check out the latest movies.

Those sixty-plus hour workweeks put the squash on my social life, especially going to the movies. I was usually so tired I was afraid I’d fall asleep and snore rather loudly, or worse yet drool, and wake up with everyone pointing at me whispering, “That’s the man who snored through the whole movie. And look at the drool running down his chin. Disgusting!” I couldn’t risk the humiliation.

Now that I’m well rested I ventured out to the nearby Cineplex to catch up on the current spate of films vying for an Oscar or Golden Globe or Independent Spirit Award. So far I’ve seen three films worthy of the admission price.
First is the wonderfully quirky “Juno” starring the incredibly talented Ellen Page. It’s the story of a teenaged girl (Page) who gets pregnant and decides to give her baby up for adoption. Through the nine months we see her mature and make decisions that are right for her, though they might not be right for someone else. Her journey into womanhood is something to be admired.

The soundtrack features singer/songwriter Kimya Dawson. Her songs are woven intricately into the story, and what might appear as an attempt to sell her songs actually works wonderfully. Dawson’s songs really do add to the story, rather than distract from it like so many pop songs usually do.

Next was the Coen brother’s “No Country For Old Men,” based on the 2003 novel by Cormac McCarthy. This is a powerful and violent film that will leave you questioning life and its dark souls. I loved it. Josh Brolin gives a stunning performance as hunter Llewelyn Moss who stumbles upon a drug deal gone bad and two million dollars cash. He grabs it and goes on the lam. Here’s a bit of dialogue:

Llewelyn Moss: If I don't come back, tell mother I love her.
Carla Jean Moss: Your mother's dead, Llewelyn.
Llewelyn Moss: Well then I'll tell her myself.

And finally there’s “Sweeney Todd,” the film adaptation of the Steven Sondheim musical. Johnny Depp is one of the greatest actors of our time and he dives into the role of the demon barber of Fleet Street with gusto and raw passion. He’s astounding, and his singing voice is near perfection for the character.

Burton uses a lot of black and grey to obtain that Gothic foreboding atmosphere, and when the bright red blood starts pouring from the slit throats it’s all the more shocking.

So there you have it, three totally different films yet each one fascinating in its own right. Don’t miss them.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Touched By An Angel

Saturday night I went to my friend Carole’s annual Christmas party. She lives out in the canyon area in a rustic house with a huge fireplace that was crackling with a holiday fire. There was food and drink and some real interesting people, a nice eclectic mix.

Carole asked everyone to bring a gag gift for the annual gift swap.

Last year I brought a pink piggy bank as my gag gift and went home with wind up plastic sushi. I still have them.

This year I wasn’t feeling to gag-ish and brought Godiva truffles. How are truffles a gag gift you wonder? I reasoned that if someone didn’t chew the truffle it would get lodged in their throat causing them to… gag.

Prior to the gift swap two people who brought guitars played a whole range of holiday and non-holiday songs and everyone sang along. The Christmas spirit was flowing as freely as the Merlot. The multi-lingual crowd joined together and sang the beloved “Silent Night” in English, German, and Portuguese. It was a beautiful moment.

Then came the gift swap. Oh the anticipation deciding which gift to pick. The biggest package? The smallest package? The one with the brightest wrapping paper? I stood in front of the gifts like a child surveying the numerous packages. I decided the medium package with the red and silver wrapping.

All eyes were on me as I tore the paper open…

Inside the box were snowmen with angel wings. Upon closer inspection, and reading the description on the box, I realized they were a sugar and creamer set. They’re adorable little ceramic things, and will complement the holiday table perfectly. I don’t consider it a gag gift at all.

One woman received a box of adult diapers. Someone else got large penis shaped cookies. I consider those gag gifts.

I left the party in a wonderful holiday spirit humming carols all the way home.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It’s All About Business

I have a cell phone and I use it frequently, but there are places where I need to not have it within reach.

One place is the gym, where I like to relax and workout without any cell phone interruptions.

The other place is the bathroom.

Today I was in the men’s room at work standing at the urinal when I heard someone talking on a cell phone. It was quite a detailed conversation about contracts and what sounded like a confidential matter. His bold and loud voice I didn’t recognize so I knew he wasn’t one of my co-workers. I looked around and didn’t see anyone. Was it coming from the heating vent? No. The voice was coming from one of the stalls.

I began to wonder how this man could be sitting on the toilet conducting business and not feel embarrassed. How could he concentrate on both at the same time? I’d be afraid the person listening would hear what I was doing, and we all know that sometimes we make bathroom sounds that cannot be explained away.

It was then that he started unraveling the toilet paper to wipe his.... and he never missed a beat of the conversation.

I wondered what the other person would say if they knew what he was doing. Would they be so disgusted they’d cancel the business deal? Or were they also sitting on the porcelain thrown without embarrassment?

Something inside me wanted to pound on the stall door and yell, “Do you know he’s taking a sh*t!” But I didn’t. I just giggled at the strangeness of it all.

As I walked out the door I heard the whoosh of the flush.

I just hope he washed his hands… and sanitized that phone.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Music Of The iPod

My iPod has been a constant companion lately keeping me musically satisfied. I’ve rediscovered some old performers and have embraced some new ones.

So here they are, the songs/CDs that are making me sing in the shower:

• Morrissey’s “You Are The Quarry” CD (including all the bonus tracks)
• Maximo Park’s “Our Earthly Pleasures” CD
• Maximo Park’s “A Certain Trigger” CD
• Bette Midler’s “Live At Last” CD (A concert disc from 1976)
• Buffy Sainte-Marie (all her songs: past, present, and future)
• The soundtrack from “Breakfast On Pluto” (A quirky little film from 2005 starring Cillian Murphy)
• Jill Johnson’s version of “Tumblin’ Dice” (a duet with Kim Carnes)
• Kelly Clarkson’s “My December” CD (An underrated CD that deserves more attention)

Where’s the holiday music? I haven’t quite gotten into the Yule-time cheer… yet. I will. It’s just taking a little more time this year. I’ll put it on the “to do” list.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Jesus, Booze & Kwanzaa

I love theatre. From the big Broadway shows with elephants, feathers, multi-million dollar sets and overblown production numbers to the smaller, more serious and quieter productions I am completely enthralled with the theatre experience. For me it’s magical.

Through the years I’ve seen hundreds of productions, and have written reviews for many. I always looked for something good to say, and restrained myself from giving a horrible review. Just because I was having a bad day – stress, fatigue, jealousy, stomach cramps, or whatever – didn’t give me the right to berate someone’s earnest efforts. I’m not a theatre snob. I appreciate all forms of live entertainment.

After seeing the truly wonderful “The History Boys” on Thursday night I took a complete theatrical u-turn and headed to a cabaret venue in the basement of a Mexican restaurant on Friday night to see a show called “Jesus, Booze & Kwanzaa” starring the fabulous Boofant Sisters, Ruby and Vicky.

The Boofant sisters, actually a guy and a gal all dolled up in their boofant finest, sing, dance, tell irreverent jokes, and act totally silly. They entertained the sold out crowd with all the gusto of a size 14 sausaged into a size 4. In other words, their holiday spirit was busting out all over.

In one of the shows highlights they performed Dolly Parton’s poignant “Me and Little Andy” with puppets. It was over-the-top hilarity. I even think Dolly would get a laugh out of it.

Not everything worked. A segment with half-naked elves and circumcision fell flat, and should be cut.

But when they shined the Boofant Sisters shined like a star on the top of an aluminum Christmas tree. Their wacky performance of “Totally Eclipse of the Heart” has to be seen to be appreciated.

“Jesus, Booze & Kwanzaa” is an evening of mindless fun, something we all need every once in a while.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Night At The Theatre… Finally!

Since March I’ve been working 60+ hours per week in film production, which has left little time to check out theatre, or any other of my favorite pursuits. It seems like ages since I’ve been to a concert, cooked a gourmet dinner, flown a kite, hiked the canyon, gone bowling (well… not going bowling has been a conscious choice), or gone on a road trip to wherever the wind blows.

My sense of adventure has taken the backseat to work. And we all know that all work and no play leads to depression, bitterness, and incontinence.

I was feeling all that and more, so last Thursday night I ventured to the Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles to see “The History Boys.” I really didn’t know much about the production except that it won acclaim and numerous awards in Britain where it debuted, and subsequently on Broadway. It was made into a movie last year but I never found time to see it (again, work took precedence). I just figured that if it earned this much acclaim it must be worth seeing.

As the lights dimmed and the stage lit up I was full of anticipation, and I wasn’t disappointed.

“The History Boys” is the story of eight history students in the North of England in the 1980s that are working hard at gaining acceptance into Oxford and Cambridge. Their pursuits are guided by an overly zealous headmaster, a headstrong teacher with a non-conforming teaching style, and a new teacher who wants the boys to think above and beyond what they’ve been taught. As the play unfolds sex, camaraderie, acceptance, loyalty, and dark secrets are confronted.

The play uses a large video screen above the stage to move the story forward. At first it was a bit jarring mainly because I’ve never experienced this in a major theatre production before. Once I realized what was happening I found it rather exciting. It was device that worked. The video used 80s music and that MTV fast paced editing to keep the action going.

Under the direction of Paul Miller this incredible play written by Alan Bennett shines with a wonderfully talented cast. Most notable are Dakin Matthews as the headstrong teacher, Peter Paige as the new teacher, and Alex Brightman as the sexually confused student.

“The History Boys” is definitely worth seeing. Don’t miss it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Community Idol

Star of the day who will it be?

Back when I was a youngster in the plush green of suburban New England there was a local television talent show that came on every Sunday morning called Community Auditions. It was the precursor of American Idol, but with a low-budget cheesiness. I never missed a show.

It was hosted by local radio celebrity Dave Maynard, and it ran for decades.

The format was pretty simple. Maynard would introduce a contestant who would come on stage and perform. There were six contestants per week, and at the end of the show viewers were encouraged to send in their postcards -- this was pre-Internet, pre-cell phone, the dark ages of technology -- to vote for their favorite act. The following week the winner would be announced, and would perform once again, and leave with a grand prize; usually a gift certificate to a local merchant.

To be STAR OF THE DAY was an honor to behold.

One time a student from my junior high school was a contestant. I remember sitting perched on the edge of the couch ecstatic that I knew someone who might be the next STAR OF THE DAY. In his navy blue blazer he strode across the barren stage and sat at the piano. His chubby little fingers caressed the ivory keys as he played the opening to The Beatles' "Let It Be." I recognized the song. That was a good thing. And then he sang. That was not a good thing. He must've repeated the phrase "let it be" a million times.

My loyalty got the best of me and I sent in my postcard praising his performance. He didn't win, but he did become a minor celebrity at school for about a week. He eventually gave up his musical aspirations (thank goodness) and pursued a career in pharmaceutical sales.

I always wanted to go on Community Auditions and sing one of the more popular songs from AM radio, possibly the Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You." I'd start soft and slow and build to a crescendo that would rip the roof from the rafters. Of course with my boy-child tenor voice I cannot imagine myself ever soaring with anything but an off key shriek that would force the loyal audience to turn the volume down or turn the TV off, or burst all the television screens like shattered glass.

I never auditioned.

At the end of every show the contestants would proudly stand center stage and sing the theme song:

Star of the day who will it be?
Your vote may hold the key
It's up to you
To tell us who
will be star of the day

Oh the joys of local television.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A DVD Must See

Lately I’ve been enjoying the benefits of my Netflix membership. For me it’s so much easier to browse online than to stop by the video store, usually when I’m in a rush and the store’s about to close, and make an important “film choice” decision.

My queue currently has a smorgasbord of over forty titles waiting patiently to make the journey through the postal service and into my DVD player.

The other night I watched an incredible French film from 2005 called “A Love To Hide” (“Un Amour a Taire”). Somewhere I’d read a blurb about it and jotted the title on my list of movies to watch, and while browsing Netflix I added it to my queue. I’m so glad I did.

It’s a love story between two young men and a young Jewish woman they hide and protect from the Nazis in 1940s Paris. This beautiful love story doesn’t stay beautiful for long. One of the lovers ends up arrested (his jealous brother wants to “teach him a lesson”) and because he’s on a list naming him a homosexual his release doesn’t go as planned and he’s sent to a concentration camp where torture and death are a way of life.

The reality of Nazi hatred of homosexuals comes in some heart wrenching scenes that had me angry and shocked and full of tears. How did this happen, and most importantly why? Atrocious acts were committed against innocent people whose only crime was loving someone.

Director Christian Faure does an excellent job and the actors, Jeremie Renier, Louise Monot, and Bruno Todeschini all give outstanding performances.

Next time you’re browsing Netflix, or searching your neighborhood video store, please grab this title and watch it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My New Favorite Music

iTunes has become my new favorite waste of time. I want to fill my new red iPod nano with new music in addition to my standby favorites. There are artists I love and will never get enough of (namely Buffy Sainte-Marie), but there are new ones that have captured my attention.

Right now I’ve found two recent releases that I love, and a glimpse of a new CD that I cannot wait to buy.

First there’s Kelly Clarkson’s “My December.” As an artist she has grown tremendously and this CD shows a stronger more confident woman. The songs are brutally honest and introspective. It’s by far her best work and a great step forward. I hope she doesn’t backtrack and fall prey to the demands of the pop-music executives who want to fit her into that pop-kitty category. I applaud Kelly for standing firm and pursuing her own musical direction.

The second CD comes as an incredible surprise. It’s Maximo Park’s “Our Earthly Pleasures.” I just downloaded it the other night and cannot stop listening to it. It’s got great energy, great production, and great songs. This is the second release for this UK band and if this CD is any indication, they’re gonna be around for a long time.

And finally… Buffy Sainte-Marie is my all-time favorite. Recently Kauai radio played songs from her upcoming CD “Running For The Drum,” due out in March 2008. What I heard is stellar. As a singer/songwriter she continues to be relevant, outspoken, and truthful. Hopefully this CD will bring Buffy the commercial success that has sadly eluded her in the USA.

So there you have it… the music that’s rocking my world these days.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Moonlight On Water

My ten weeks in Kauai have sadly come to an end and I’m now back home in Los Angeles fully immersed in my so-called life. I love living in Los Angeles but there was something about Kauai that unleashed my inner self, my spiritual being; a powerful part of myself I never knew before. For that I am truly, truly grateful.

The night before I left Kauai I wanted to do something that would connect me with Mother Earth one last time. I wanted it to be a personal ceremony, something I never would forget. I thought and thought and thought and on my way back to my hotel room to start packing it came to me…

As the moon rose above the ocean I walked towards the rolling waves. Closer and closer I stepped and with each step I shed a piece of clothing. By the time I reached the beach I was as naked as the day I was born.

I danced. I sang. I jumped in the water. I had a grand ‘ole time.

And that is how I said good-bye to Kauai.

(What were you expecting, pictures? No way! Just use your imagination.)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Up, Up, and Away

To celebrate my last weekend on the beautiful island of Kauai I went with a group of friends for a helicopter ride over the island.

At first I was a bit apprehensive because for years I’ve suffered a fear of heights. Rollercoasters, Ferris Wheels, Stepladders, open balconies, and glass elevators would create such fear that I couldn’t move.

So when I got invited for the helicopter ride I immediately decided I’d forego the opportunity of a lifetime and spend the day walking around Kapaa and treating myself to mango flavored shaved ice. Then I thought about it and decided I was a complete ass for even thinking about not partaking. I dug deep inside myself for an ounce of courage and made my way to the helicopter landing.

It wasn’t until I got there that I was told – and saw - it was a helicopter used in the movie I’m working on, and one without doors. I didn’t have time to panic. My group was the first to go.

As we edged forward to the big metal bird that I was about to entrust my life I just accepted my fate and silently prayed that nothing would go wrong.

I buckled up. The propeller started spinning round. I closed my eyes. Liftoff.

Up, up, and away we went…Beautiful.Absolutely beautiful.It was an incredible experience, one I’ll never forget.

I’ll get the mango flavored shaved ice another time.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bonfire of the Soul

Aloha from Kapaa, Kauai.

Yup, I’m still here in Hawaii working on “Tropic Thunder,” a film that’s being released next summer. What was supposed to be a couple of weeks work for me has turned into a couple of months. I’m now scheduled to return to Los Angeles on October 5th. I’m having a great time.

There truly is something magical about this island. I’m a non-country boy through and through; comfortable around concrete buildings, taxis, traffic, and throngs of people everywhere I turn. Kauai is certainly the opposite, and surprisingly I feel like I belong here. A few natives told me the island either embraces you or rejects you. It seems to be embracing me with an incredible hug.

Last weekend the producers hosted a party for the cast and crew; lots of food, drink, music, and fun. Afterwards a group of us went across the road to the Pacific Ocean and built a bonfire on the beach.

Here are two pictures of me. The first one I look like a mirage, a ghost, a massive ball of energy.
In the second picture I was so close to the fire I could feel myself ready to ignite, and it felt good. I love the raw power of fire, the way the flames dance against the sky, and the way it brings everyone together. I didn’t want the night to end.I’ve made some wonderful friends here and will miss them when I leave. Luckily with email and cell phones they’ll be a quick message or conversation away.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Proms, Drama, and Bowling

The other night I was lying in bed catching up on past issues of The New Yorker when I ran across a new word. It’s used to describe the near-crazy excitement and angst created as high school seniors prepare for the senior prom: PRAMA, “the drama during prom season.”

Who should I ask? Who’s going with who? Who will be king? Who will be queen? Where will we party afterwards? Will I get laid? Yeah, yeah, yeah… a couple of beers, careless sex in the back of your parent’s car, and nine months later you’re suddenly forced to take responsibility for those six minutes of sloppy sex. Suddenly the future doesn’t look so bright.

I wonder what the statistic is for prom night pregnancies?

In my opinion prom is the most over-rated night of the high school years, and all the worry and preparation is a total waste of energy. Can you guess I didn’t get laid on prom night? Weeks of foreplay and planning ended with a cold shower and a hangover. And the prom band sucked.

Years ago a friend and her date anticipated their prom as the most important high school night. They planned and planned and made sure they color coordinated his tux with her taffeta gown. Oh it was going to be perfect. He brought her a rose corsage and she pinned a matching rose on his lapel.

Anticipation was in the air.

When they got to the prom they were so damn bored they decided to leave. Where’d they go? Bowling. In gown and tuxedo. They had the best time, and she still talks about it and it’s been over twenty years.

I often wish I went with Carrie to my prom. Now that would’ve been a night to remember.

As I look back on my own prom and the prama and the total letdown it turned out to be, I should've gone bowling instead.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I Got You Babe

One of my favorite songs of all time is “I Got You Babe” written by Sonny Bono and immortalized on vinyl by Sonny and Cher in 1965. I never seem to tire of it, and it remains one of my most frequent spins.

While searching You Tube for Sonny and Cher’s reunion on Letterman I stumbled across a version of "I Got You Babe" by David Bowie and Marianne Faithfull. I never knew it existed, and wow is all I can say.

Bowie and Faithfull are two of my favorite performers and they take the song on a surreal journey into a truly odd artistic coupling.

It’s a concert performance where she looks like a Flying Nun who’s been around the world in a non-religious way, and he looks like he just arrived from outer space.

Are you intrigued? I bet you are.

So take a look and spend the next 3:31 with two of rock's most outrageously gifted artists. Either you'll love it or hate it. I love it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Red, Red, Red, RED!

I have always been in infatuated with office supplies.

No matter what job I had – and I’ve had many – I would always get excited about filling my desk drawers with a plethora of supplies (secretly knowing they would come home with me when the job ended).

There were assorted pens and pencils, pads of paper (numerous sizes), calendars, white out, tape, paperclips, rubber bands, binder clips, and the list goes on and on and on.

When the going got tough at work I would always take solace in the latest Office Supply Catalogue. It was calming, cathartic. And since the company was paying I would order myself something special, maybe a new desk lamp or a P-touch label maker or a leather bound binder.

But over the past year my yearning for office supplies began to wane. I was saturated with everything needed for a successful office. There didn’t seem to be anything new in the catalogues to give me a rise. Office supply foreplay was virtually non-existent, dwindling to a quick glance and little joy.

Then suddenly something wonderful happened. On my first day in the production office in Hawaii I was looking at the stagnant supply of common office supplies when a bright red shiny item caught my eye.
My heart beat faster and the blood started pumping. There within reach was a red Swingline stapler. Red. I reached out and caressed its smooth sleekness and knew that something wonderful was happening. I got dizzy and squinted my eyes as the joy of office supplies reached a high I’d never experienced before. Wow!

I’m in love.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

13,470 is a Big Number

This morning I was perusing the numerous news sites I've bookmarked trying my best to stay in tune and informed. With my recent busy production schedule I’ve found myself lapsing into the “I’ll check it later” mode. And just as I was about to click over to for the weekend movie grosses a headline caught my eye:

13,470 Drunk Driving Deaths in ‘06

I was stunned. I didn’t know if the number was an increase from previous years or a decrease. It didn’t matter at that point. 13,470 was suddenly a big number. It took on a gargantuan proportion.

Something about it hit me hard, and I began to think.

13,470 is half the number of people in my hometown.
Of the 13,470 how many were children?
How many were pregnant women?
How many were innocent people who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?
13,470 is 13,470 people I’ll never have the joy of knowing.
How many of the inebriated fools walked away from the accident without a scratch?
Did the drunken survivors go to prison or did they get off with community service?
13,470 is 13,470 too many.

The very first time I ever came face-to-face with an alcohol related death was when I was in junior high school. I remember it clearly. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon when my social studies teacher, his wife, mother-in-law, and newborn son were innocently driving along and hit head on by a drunk driver. The only survivors were the newborn child… and the drunken man who hit them. The drunk walked away from the accident with barely a bruise. The child’s future was suddenly changed forever.

What will it take to make people think before they drink too much and drive?

I don’t have the answer. I wish I did.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lurking In My Mind Today…

I need to read more David Sedaris.

Hurricane Flossie was a dud. The weather alert about a tsunami hitting Kauai was all hype and no action. I got all excited for nothing.

Rove is leaving the White House. Miracles do happen. Now if we can only get the Village Idiot out of there…

President Hillary Clinton. Yes.

I just learned that when there are a lot of frogs leaping and frolicking it means the ecosystem is in balance. Kauai has thousands of frogs. I’m living in balance. Now what is it they say about kissing a frog?

I have a lot of respect for my friend Eve.

Green has replaced blue as my favorite color. It’s not easy being green, but I’m up for the challenge.

Mathematics can be fun… if you’re number inclined. I am, though sometimes I prefer measuring in centimeters rather than inches. I wonder why?

Honu is Hawaiian for turtle. Turtles can live up to 2,000 years. In the production office where I work they call me Honu. Does that mean they think I’m old? Slow?

Honu? Who Knew?

Disco might be shallow and superficial, but it sure makes me smile. Does that make me shallow and superficial?

As we get older hair grows in places we never thought possible. Thank goodness for razors and Nair.

A woman I know is always proclaiming she’s on a salad-only diet. Yesterday I watched her gorge herself on chocolate chip cookies and fistfuls of dark chocolate M&Ms.

Stop slamming the door!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Greetings From Kapaa

My life has been turned upside down and all around over the past week, and it’s all good, real good.

Since March I’ve been working in film production as a production secretary for a film that’s being filmed in both Los Angeles and Hawaii. I was hired for the Los Angeles office only, and was told I wouldn’t be working on location in Hawaii (Kapaa, Kauai to be exact).

Well I’ve had a quick lesson in don’t believe everything you’re told…

On Monday night I received a call from my boss. She asked me how I looked in a grass skirt. I said “sexy.” She then told me to pack I it up because I was coming to Hawaii.

Long story short, two days later I arrived in Kapaa, Kauai and I’ll be here for the next few weeks (possibly longer).

I’m working long hours and haven’t had the opportunity to see a lot but what I’ve seen is absolutely beautiful. The ocean is a shade of blue I’ve never seen before. It’s mesmerizing.

There are roosters roaming freely all over the place. They start cock-a-doodle-doing around 4:30 in the morning. Supposedly it was during the hurricane of ’92 that the coops were destroyed and the roosters saw an opportunity to escape and did. They’ve since multiplied and set up home all over the island. The other morning while walking to work I encountered seven roosters.

What’s most exciting is that Buffy Sainte-Marie lives on the island of Kauai in the town of Kapaa. I have admired her and her songs for a long time. If you don’t know who she is I urge you to check her out. Her CD “Up Where We Belong” is a great introduction to the brilliance of Buffy.

I secretly hope that as I’m wandering Kapaa I will see her roaming too. I wonder if she’d have a cup of coffee with me? If I see her I’ll have to ask.

I’ve got tomorrow off of work. After I roam around maybe I’ll take hula lessons. Now that would be a hoot!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Birds, Fishies, Lotuses, and Fireworks

This past weekend was the annual Lotus Festival sponsored by the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks at Echo Lake Park. It’s a three-day festival to help develop, promote, and create an atmosphere of understanding of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. This year marked the 30th anniversary of the festival, and since I’d never gone before I decided it was time to go.

I headed over to the festival Saturday evening full of anticipation, especially for the fireworks display.

The area surrounding the lake was packed with people from all walks of life; families, friends, the old, the young, representing all nationalities. It was truly a melting pot of people, and everyone was getting along nicely and having a great time.

There were booths selling food and crafts, and booths promoting community organizations. Additionally there were bands performing live, both modern and ethnic music. It was a great atmosphere under the star filled night.

While wandering through the booths I was surprised to see booths selling birds. Birds? Yep, wonderfully colored birds, both small and large. This booth seemed to be attracting a large crowd of onlookers. I didn’t see anyone buying a bird, but heard a lot of kids begging their parents for one. I refrained from succumbing to bird temptation and quickly moved on.

There was another booth selling goldfish. And yes, a lot of people were walking around with plastic bags filled with water and fish. I just hope these little fishies eventually made their home inside a fish bowl with plastic ornaments and brightly colored pebbles. But something tells me a lot of them were going to die before they got out of the bag only to be flushed down someone’s toilet, or discarded on the side of the road. I don’t think I’d ever want to be reincarnated as a goldfish.

Unfortunately the lotuses were less than spectacular, partly due to the extremely dry weather we’ve been having in Southern California. Go figure, the one year I go the lotuses decide not to make a splendid appearance.

The fireworks were spectacular, and more than made up for the missing lotuses. I just love watching the night light up with all the bright colors: reds, greens, blues, and golds.

Hopefully next year the lotuses won’t be so bashful and will be in full bloom.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Divine Cookie

While growing up amongst the manicured lawns of suburbia we always had a dog. I love dogs. Through the years there was Missy the Mongrel, Glenn the Collie, Barney the Beagle, and Smokey the Welsh Corgie.

When I packed up the car and moved to Los Angeles I bid farewell to family, friends, and dogs. Living in an apartment just didn't feel like the right place for me to have a pet. (Cats, hamsters, fish, and birds are not my thing.) I wanted a dog, but knew it would be selfish for me to have a dog with no yard for it to roam and play. Instead I found joy in friend's dogs.

Over the last couple of years I fell in love with my friend Tom's dog Cookie. When I met her I assumed she was a pup, but she was actually twelve years old! She was one vibrant diva, the queen of the manor, an absolute delight.

Unfortunately last week a car hit her. The internal damage was too much for her to endure and the decision was made to put her to sleep. I was there as she took her last breath. She now dances with angels.

Cookie will be missed.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

1986 and 1977

This past week I took a trip down memory lane when I visited The Paley Center for Media Library (formerly The Museum of Television and Radio) in Beverly Hills. Very few people seem to know about it, and that's a shame. This place is a goldmine of television and radio history.

The Paley Center, located at 465 N. Beverly Drive, is open to the public to come and view, in screening cubicles, television shows and listen to radio programs which are an indelible part of our pop culture. It's the perfect opportunity to relive those shows that burn brightest in our childhood memories.

While searching their list of available programs I had absolutely no idea where to begin. My friend, on the other hand, zeroed in on watching episodes of "Hazel" and "Our Miss Brooks."

Finally I settled on an episode of "The Tonight Show" from 1986 that featured Kim Carnes as musical guest performing songs from her underrated and overlooked Lighthouse CD. She and her band performed Black and White and I'd Lie To You For Your Love, the former being a song I'd never seen her sing live before. It was a wonderful treat!

I don't know why Carnes never replicated the success she had with Bette Davis Eyes from the early 80s. Her subsequent work I find to be so much better. I guess the public associated her too much with that one song and never gave her a chance to prove herself as the incredible singer/songwriter that she is.

After Carnes I was in a music mood and stumbled across Bette Midler's 1977 Emmy Award winning television special "Ol' Red Hair Is Back." It's the best Bette and should definitely be released on DVD. She sings, dances, jokes, and proves that her talent is nothing short of extraordinary.

The opening scene is Island Natives pulling a clamshell from the ocean, and when it’s opened The Divine Miss M emerges singing Oklahoma! Musical comedy doesn't get better than this.

Special guest Dustin Hoffman plays piano while Midler sings Shoot The Breeze, a gorgeous ballad they wrote together, which unfortunately has never been recorded on any CD. It was a highlight of the show.

Other songs performed include:

In the Mood
Shiver Me Timbers
La Vie En Rose
Hello In There
Do You Wanna Dance?
Higher and Higher
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

All in all it was a wonderful afternoon of television history. I anticipate going back again real soon. What will I watch? I don't quite know, but I'm thinking episodes of the cave man comedy series from the 60s called "It's About Time" (starring Imogene Coca) might be a nice place to start.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Misinterpretation of the Garden

This past Saturday night a friend and I headed over to the DIYGallery in Los Angeles for the opening of my friend Jule Hermant’s art show. Jule’s a painter and photographer and this show, her first solo art show, debuts her paintings.

The general theme of the show is the mystery and mystique of childhood. Some of the paintings juxtapose images of Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz against abstract flourishes of design and color. Thought-provoking and bold, Hermant captures universal experiences, sometimes unlocking memories of our own childhood.

One of my favorites is "The Misinterpretation of the Garden" (image shown above).

The show runs through July and if you can I highly recommend checking out this talented artist who’s certainly on the verge of greatness.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

In a previous blog entry I raved about The Kite Runner, the debut novel from novelist Khaled Hosseini. When I heard his second novel was about to be published I was a bit apprehensive. How does someone follow-up such an astounding debut? Would the new book be a thinly veiled rehash of the first? Would Hosseini become a footnote in the literary world as a one-hit wonder?

Happily, Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns is a tremendous novel that in some ways is better than its predecessor. It’s the story of two Afghan women, spanning three decades, whose lives are brought together through a series of tragic events: war, deceptions, betrayal, spousal abuse, murder, and death. It’s sometimes brutal, but always honest. These characters are real. Their lives are a testament to the power of survival.

The book’s title is taken from a 17th Century poem by Saib-e-Tabrizi:

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls...

I admit my ignorance when it comes to Afghanistan. All I really knew was what I’d heard on television and through newspaper, which we all know is a slanted perception. This book gave me a lot of insight and understanding into a culture that is so different from who I am.

There’s a movie of The Kite Runner coming out this year. Let’s hope the filmmakers create a film that compliments the book and doesn’t embarrass it.

I anxiously await Hosseini's next novel.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

He's a Universal Soldier

These past few days I’ve been totally engrossed in reading A Long Way Home: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.

Beah’s journey from youngster to alone and homeless in war torn Sierra Leone to teenage soldier forced to perform unthinkable torture on civilians and soldiers to rehabilitation and escaping his country is astounding. It’s written in a matter-of-fact style that doesn’t ask for sympathy but simply tells his story the way it happened.

At times I was in disbelief, horrified, and uncomfortable at what I was reading. But I knew I had to continue reading. Beah’s story is that important.

I look back on my own teenage years and cannot imagine being so young and having to endure what happened to Beah. For me the biggest worry was what I was going to do on Friday night. For Beah is was whether or not he’d survive the barrage of bullets, scarcity of food, and torture that surrounded him.

Let’s hope that A Long Way Home: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier reaches a mass audience and convinces people that child soldiers are not the answer.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Speaking In Tongue...

Last night a friend and I ventured over the hill into North Hollywood to catch the opening night of a one-man show called "Almost Walking A Straight Line" at the Secret Rose Theatre. It's written and performed by the talented Greg Haskins.

Back in the day when I was a theatre critic I sat through numerous one-person shows that ran the gambit from wretched to mediocre to outstanding, with very few achieving outstanding status. I remember one particular show (somewhere between wretched and mediocre) where there were eleven people in the audience: ten friends of the performer and me, the newspaper critic. After every song the friends would slowly look my way to gauge my reaction. Their applause was forced and their whispered praises were loud enough so I could hear. It was not a good theatre experience.

Luckily "Almost Walking A Straight Line" has wonderful moments with some crisp writing. It's Haskins' story of growing up in an overly zealous Charismatic Catholic family in the mid-west and his struggle with being gay, Catholic, and feeling trapped within the confines of religion.

He spent years praying and participating in various religious therapies that were promising to set him straight. (Sounds a bit like Scientology and certain gay celebrities, doesn't it?) Did he succeed? Hell no.

Haskins' recollections make for some very comical moments, especially his attempts at speaking in tongues.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show and like all good theater, it got me all excited to get up off my lazy ass more often and to go to more shows. And I plan on doing just that.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Surprise and Anticipation

Sorry I haven't been posting as often as I used to, but I've got this film production job and the hours are really long. I work 12-hour days 5 days a week. I'm not complaining because I'm learning a lot and meeting some incredible people. It's just the amount of time working gives me little time for personal stuff, like this blog, seeing friends, and getting to the gym.

Anyway, I was at the CD store the other day and on impulse bought the James Morrison Undiscovered CD. I really didn't know much about him except he's British and he's being touted as the next big thing. Also, it was on sale.

And the verdict? I'm pleasantly surprised with the whole CD. He's in the same vein as James Blunt (only Morrison isn't as wimpy), David Gray and Damien Rice. He's got that British soul vibe happening and he does it well.

Favorite cuts include "Undiscovered," "You Give Me Something," Under the Influence" and "Better Man."

Morrison has the passion, the songwriting skills, and the overall talent to be more than just a flash in the pan. I look forward to his next CD.

Speaking of looking forward… I anxiously anticipate June 12th and the release of Buffy Sainte-Marie's Vanguard Visionaries CD. It's not new material - though a new CD of all new material is reportedly complete and soon to be released - but hopefully it will include some live versions of some of her most loved songs. The Carnegie Hall concert CD never got released because the quality wasn't up to the best standards, so maybe a few of those tunes will be available in this collection. I'm hoping for live versions of "Native North American Child" and "Cod'ine."

Until the next time… remember to laugh and remember to use your signals when making turns.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Power of Fire

This past week Griffith Park in Los Angeles caught on fire (was it arson?) and over 600 acres burned. I live very close to Griffith Park, maybe a quarter mile away.

As I drove home from work I could see the flames engulfing the park. By the time I got home the winds had shifted and the blaze was heading towards Los Feliz, the area where I live.

Friends and neighbors stood in awe and watched the fire as it lit up the night sky. It was powerful, threatening, and frightening.

By 10 PM it was getting too close for comfort and the LAPD declared a mandatory evacuation. I had a few minutes to pack a bag and leave. What would I pack? I threw together my checkbook, computer files, some clothes, and some family photos. It was then that reality hit. What if the fire came down the hill and I lost everything? I couldn't imagine losing a lifetime of personal treasures. I packed what I could and off I went.

Luckily the winds and fire shifted and our area was spared. Thank goodness.

The Los Angeles Fire and Police Departments should be commended for their incredible response to this terrible fire.

Yesterday a friend and I drove towards to the park to see the damage. All I could think of were the animals that must have been trapped with no way out, the coyotes, birds, deer, squirrels, snakes, etc. It's devastating.

With little to no rainfall this year there's danger for other fires as the summer approaches.

Let's all hope that the only other fires we see this season are in the barbecue.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Meow, Meow, Meow

When I was in the fourth grade my teacher, Miss Flynn, taught us a song called "Don Gato." It's a feline love story. Cat loves cat, cat falls from roof and dies, cat comes back to life. The first time I sang it I loved it. It made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

For many years I've been searching for the lyrics to this song. I would sing what I knew for everyone and anyone who would listen and no one knew it. Some even had the audacity to laugh at me. I was beginning to think the song never existed and it was merely a figment of my childhood imagination.

Lo and behold last week I warbled what I knew for a woman at work and she knew the song. Meoooow! From there I was able to surf the web and happily found the lyrics.

I'm so excited that I want to share them with the world. So here they are:

O Senor Don Gato was a cat.
On a high red roof Don Gato sat.
He was there to read a letter,
(meow, meow, meow)
where the reading light was better,
(meow, meow, meow)
'Twas a love-note for Don Gato!
"I adore you," wrote the ladycat,
who was fluffy white, and nice and fat.
There was not a sweeter kitty,
(meow, meow, meow)
in the country or the city
(meow, meow, meow)
and she said she'd wed Don Gato!
O Senor Don Gato jumped with glee!
He fell off the roof and broke his knee,
broke his ribs and all his whiskers,
(meow, meow, meow)
and his little solar plexus
(meow, meow, meow)
"Ay Caramba!!" cried Don Gato.
All the doctors they came on the run,
just to see if something could be done.
And they held a consultation,
(meow, meow, meow)
about how to save their patient,
(meow, meow, meow)
how to save Senor Don Gato.
But in spite of everything they tried,
poor Senor Don Gato up and died.
No, it wasn't very merry,
(meow, meow, meow)
going to the cemetery,
(meow, meow, meow)
for the ending of Don Gato.
But as the the funeral passed the market square,
such a smell of fish was in the air,
though the burial was slated,
(meow, meow, meow)
he became reanimated,
(meow, meow, meow)
he came back to life, Don Gato!

And if you're still reading this post, you can find a version of the song at the following link:

Meow, meow, meow!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Can You Feel It Now?

I have nothing against cell phones. I have one.

I do have something against inconsiderate, selfish cell phone users.

Every where I go I hear people on their cell phones chatting rather loudly about this and that and who's doing what with whom and other details of their boring little lives. And while they're chatting they're not paying attention to what's happening around them, and that pisses me off.

I was at a drive-thru window recently and kept waiting for the car in front of me to place his food order. I assumed he was placing a larger order so I waiting patiently. And I waited and waited some more. Finally he pulled forward and passed the pick-up window without stopping. When I got to the pick-up window I asked what happened and was told the man was on his cell phone and refused to interrupt his conversation to place his order. Then when he finished his call he realized he wasn't hungry after all.

How many times have you almost been hit by a car because the driver was too busy on their cell phone and not watching where they're going? I don't know about you, but I certainly don't want to get a one way ticket to the white light that ends at the Pearly Gates because of someone on a cell phone. Death by cell phone is not my death of choice. My death of choice is old age.

So whom are all these people calling? And why do people have to be on the phone all the time?

I don't even want to start about all those silly ring tones? But take this as a warning: If I hear someone's phone spewing the theme from "Sex and the City" one more time I'm gonna grab it and smash it on the pavement.

Ooh… my phone's in my pocket and it just vibrated. Ooh… it kinda tickles.

I think I just found a new purpose for cell phones.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Cover Me Chocolate

There has so much controversy these past few weeks over the life-size chocolate Jesus, the "My Sweet Lord" exhibit that was unfortunately shut down before it opened in New York. What's all the fuss about? Chocolate's rich. Chocolate's sweet. Chocolate's loved by everyone.

We've seen the image of both Jesus and the Virgin Mary in potato chips. Then there was the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich. We've also got the Velvet Elvis.

Personally I prefer chocolate over grilled cheese and velvet any day.

Artist Cosimo Cavallaro sculptured Jesus in more than 200 pounds of milk chocolate, and it stands six feet tall. To devote so much time to such a creation makes me believe that he did it with genuine feeling and without any malicious intent. If I were Jesus I'd be delighted be to covered in milk chocolate.

Last week hardly anyone knew about Cosimo Cavallaro. Now everyone does. In their effort to thwart attention to "My Sweet Lord," the protesters created incredible PR, not for themselves, but for the artist.

No PR is bad PR, so I think I'm going to continue with my own art project: an interpretation of the Last Supper made out of crushed Pringle potato chips.

Hey Cosimo, if you ever want to sculpt me in chocolate that would be fine, though I prefer dark chocolate.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Laugh Your Arse Off

This weekend I saw a preview screening of "Hot Fuzz," the new film by the creators of "Shaun of the Dead." Instead of zombies, this time they take aim at the testosterone male-bonding action adventure genre, and it's often quite hilarious.

Cate Blanchett makes an uncredited cameo appearance as the ex-girlfriend Jeanine, but you won't recognize her. She's a crime scene investigator in white jumpsuit with goggles and mouth mask. But the voice is hers.

What genre will they tackle next? How about the Western?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Mystery of the Leftover Thief

The communal refrigerator at work is stocked with lots of delicious goodies, some healthy and some not, to satisfy the fussiest taste buds. There's blueberries, strawberries, yogurt, cheeses, sodas, milk, etc. Additionally, there's cookies, crackers, cereal, chocolates, nuts, candies, pretzels, peanut butter, breads, bagels, muffins, coffees, teas, etc. stacked on shelves for easy access. It's a smorgasbord of delight, a sugar lover's nirvana. There's even a request list taped to the refrigerator to make sure no one's craving goes unquenched.

But something very mysterious has been happening. Someone is shunning the communal goodies and stealing people's leftovers, the take-out containers they bring back when they go out to lunch. Yesterday it was pad thai and mushi pork. The other day it was eggplant parmegiana.

What would provoke someone to do that? Can it be the thief has a fetish, a secret arousal from eating someone else's half-eaten food?

I've placed a note on the refrigerator asking people not to take what's not theirs, and if they're uncertain of who's food it is they should ask before they bite.

But the mystery continues...

Maybe I should secretly install a video camera and then post the culprit video on You Tube.

Wouldn't it be funny if it was the big boss doing the stealing?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Truck Testicles

On Tuesday I was driving to the airport to pick up a friend when I saw the strangest thing hanging from underneath the axle of a pick-up truck in front of me. It looked like a rather large scrotum, except this one was shiny silver. I assumed the truck must have run something over and it got caught on the axle. Then I looked again…

I blinked. I shook my head. I thought I was imagining things.

Then I sped up and tailgated the truck to get a closer look and yep, it was a silver scrotum with two big balls. Those pendulous testes bounced with the rhythm of the truck, up and down and from side to side.

At one point we hit speed bumps and wow, did those things swing! I could feel their pain and immediately reached between my legs to protect myself.

Those truck testicles needed a jockstrap for their own protection.

I did some Internet research and there is a company that manufactures these balls for trucks. Their slogan is: A pair of bull balls can give your vehicle a big testosterone boost!

What will they think of next?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Revenge of the Dummies

The other night I saw Dead Silence, a new horror film from the team that brought us Saw. It's about a ventriloquist named Mary Shaw who kidnaps and murders a bratty boy who insulted her at one of her shows. The townspeople of Raven Fair hunt her down, cut her tongue out, and kill her. She's buried, along with her dummies, in the town cemetery.

Shortly thereafter fear and death plagues Raven Fair. The dummies come out of their graves and seek revenge on all the families involved in Mary Shaw's death.

Beware the stare of Mary Shaw
She had no children, only dolls
And if you see her do not scream
Or she'll rip your tongue out at the seam

There's blood. There's gore. There's lots of people having their tongues ripped out.

I wasn't terrified at all… no gasping, no closing my eyes in anticipation, no jumping from my seat, no screaming, no fear, and certainly no nightmares.

Occasionally I did howl with laughter at some of the inane dialogue, bad acting, and hideous leaps-of-faith that were thrust upon us with its thin storyline.

Dead Silence missed the mark for me. What should've been scary wasn't scary at all.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Random Thoughts Part Three...

The other day I met a British woman for coffee and conversation. I called our conversation a chat. She called it a "chin-wag." I think I now have a new favorite phrase.

Sundried tomatoes make me horny.

Anna Nicole has finally been laid to rest, but the circus that was her life sadly continues. Who's the daddy? Certainly not Howard K. Stern. He's creepy in that "I'd do anything, even commit murder, for money" sort of way. And his sister Bonnie Stern is a media whore. I'm willing to bet Anna Nicole never liked her.

Ann Coulter is a hateful, despicable, sub-human creature.

I've been listening to Tom Waits a lot lately. His 1973 ClosingTime album is superb. I keep playing the songs "Ol' 55" and "Martha" over and over and over.

Notes On A Scandal is a must see film. Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are phenomenal.

Starr Jones, the original Bride-zilla, announced she's got a new Court TV gig. Does anyone really care?

American Idol runner-up Katherine McPhee gives me the chills, and not the good kind either. Her singing sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. Will someone please tell her to shut up!

Los Angeles finally has a country music radio station. 105.1 FM.

Paul Young and Clannad perform "Both Sides Now" as a haunting duet. Check it out.

I've had a magnet of Divine, the original Edna Turnblad, on my refrigerator for the past 15 years.

"Tonight I Fancy Myself" by The Beautiful South is a fun song.

I'm hungry.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

From Her Living Room To Mine

The other day I wandered the CD store and found myself drawn into nostalgia, mainly the singer/songwriters from the 70s. In the Pop/Rock section under "K" I came face-to-CD with Carole King's The Living Room Tour, a two CD live show of King with minimal accompaniment.

It was used and cheap, so I quickly snatched it up. What a deal. What a find. Aptly titled, this show includes her signature songs along with some new and pleasant surprises.

She does a great performance of "Smackwater Jack" which has always been a favorite of mine, though I must admit Buffy Sainte-Marie does, for me, the definitive version on her I Used To Wanna Be A Ballerina CD.

There's also great versions of "Sweet Seasons," "Jazzman," "I Feel The Earth Move," "Natural Woman," "Locomotion," "It’s Too Late," "You've Got a Friend," and the lovely "Now and Forever," the theme song for the film A League of Their Own.

I'm not one to watch much television, but I do find The Gilmore Girls a guilty pleasure. Its theme song is King's "Where You Lead I Will Follow" which is done as a duet with her daughter Louise Goffin. On this CD Goffin joins her mother for a rousing rendition. It's a definite highlight.

Speaking of Goffin, Gerry Goffin that is, there's a medley of their most famous tunes which includes "I'm Into Something Good," a totally fun upbeat tune. Be sure to check out Marianne Faithfull's inspired interpretation on her under-rated Kissin' Time CD.

At the age of sixty-two King's voice does show its age and misses some of the higher notes, but her passion and songs more than make up for any vocal limitations.

The Living Room Tour is an intimate evening with one of pop music's legendary singer/songwriters. I highly recommend it.