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.