Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween, A Retrospective

Somewhere in my Dickensianly crowded desk drawers, I have a picture of myself as a child of maybe four, dressed in a pink princess costume. This was so long ago that it was still original and quite artsy to dress a little girl that way. My mother handcrafted the pointed hat with fake jewels and streaming veil, when the fact is that I was too young even to appreciate the pillowcase full of candy--- all of which I was allowed to eat, whenever I wanted.

It was years before parents were warned against treats of loose cookies or fresh apples (razor blades found therein in such quantities that ERs across town offered their x-ray equipment for screening kids’ loot.) Back then, movie horror was psychological when it was good, and special effects were equal parts ketchup and camp. Halloween was only fun, but it was way fun.

Fast forward, and Halloween was the coolest time of the year. Costumes were daring or bleak or symbolic (or all of the above), demonstrating either the state of mind or the aspirations of the wearer. I’m talking adulthood here, folks. At least two of you will remember my Halloween parties, with a guest list of over 50 and food for 100. Still, a decade has passed since the last of them, and I say, “Good riddance!”

Entropy affects everything, even holidays. Somewhere along the line, Halloween became more bother than it was worth. A big, beautiful pumpkin adorns our porch because it was a lovely gift. And having 200 pounds of dog is a great excuse not to give out candy, I’ll have a different excuse next year.

Bah humbug.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


While walking the boy-dogs this afternoon, we had to maneuver around and under some sound equipment. Filming in the street (& sidewalks) four blocks away. Robert said they caught me scooping the poo. Look for it on youtube, I’m wearing a blue tank top.

Tonight, being Sunday, I took my mother to dinner. We went to Frank’s* --- which will be closed for filming next Wednesday.

That’s the thing. Here, we take the Industry for granted. We’re used to the ubiquitous white trucks, the extraordinary inconvenience. People who don’t work in and for the biz, know people who do. Non-professionally, I know actors who tend bar, actors who don’t, stuntmen, set-builders, drivers, researchers, grips, editors, directors, A.D.s, voice guys, craft service--- not to mention the occasional animator (wink) and computer guy. Hell, you all are reading this, well, a flattering lot of you, anyhow. (I’m not counting the writers, because I don’t think that’s mathematically possible. Besides, you know who you are.)

We don’t blink when a Famous Person goes by. Character actors are more interesting than stars because of the effort required trying to remember what we know them from. So when the guy last night said “in production” of course I assumed he was Industry, not in an assembly line somewhere. Just like you did. Unless you’re reading this first, in which case, scroll down to the next post, “Overheard”. I’ll wait. No, really, read it now.

Good. Because yesterday I was planning a post about what it’s like to live on the periphery of the entertainment industry, and that was before I was hit with all the filming today. What was going to be a metaphor, became one of those coincidences inappropriately called irony. Now all my pithy observations seem redundant somehow, so I’ll stop here.

*The old chef from Genio’s Italian Restaurant is now at Frank’s coffee shop on Olive, just west of Victory. He’s only there at night, so the dinner specials are surprisingly good. Melva had the sand dabs, and they were terrific.


Ordinary-looking guy, "I’m not that into it, but they’re well into production already."

Ambitious-looking girl, "Oh?"

Guy, earnestly, "What I really want is to go back to school and get my PhD in Science."

Girl, amazed, "Wow! I didn’t know you can do Science!"

Guy, modestly, "Yeah, I can do Science."

Okay, show of hands, people. How many of you assumed that the “production” mentioned above was some kind of film/TV project? Yep. Just what I thought, all the locals. I did, too. Commentary to follow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Dan Chaon is a multi-award winning author. I haven’t read a single one of his books. My bad.

What I have read is an essay about chili he wrote for a book called “Alone In The Kitchen With An Eggplant”. I’ve been reading food theory for over a decade. I have shelves full of the stuff. Not once have I ever made anything from any of it. Never bothered, never wanted to.

So why did I spend hours today chopping three kinds of peppers (and onions, and a whole head of garlic, and cilantro and oregano, et al) into teensy tiny micro-bits to make a ginormous pot of chili? The first time I read the essay, it didn’t make an impression. Then I reread it over the weekend, and bam (sorry, bad foodie pun) now I’m wielding my Henckel like an obsessed Benihana reject.

The irony is that I will never taste the stuff. There’s four-count’em-four pounds of meat in it. Luckily I have company coming tomorrow (Hi Scott!) who had better be hungry when he gets here. Otherwise, let me know if you want leftovers. Robert says it's good.

Monday, October 20, 2008


In the weight room at the gym, a 50ish man wearing a trilby and sunglasses with his workout gear, yelling into a cell phone:

"I'm trying to find someone who will pay some attention to me!"

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Mood is a funny thing. It’s a funny word, if you look at it or try to say it five times in a row. Like a yawn, a mood can be contagious in a way that transcends species.

We all know that if one person in a room yawns, the others will follow. It’s also been demonstrated that if a dog yawns, the people in the room will also yawn.

Well, after a typically busy morning, I find myself sitting here surrounded by dogs in a placid state of contentment. I echo their placidity, and their contentment. Easy enough to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but it’s an activity I heartily recommend to one and all. And if you don’t have enough dogs for a mood threshold, come over here before the end of the month and sit with ours. We’ve got three til November.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Blog Blog Fizz Fizz

Television was the dominant cultural outlet of the last century, the Internet is obviously going to be It for this one. (Say it with me, “duh!” It’s a starting point, people. Work with me here.)

Did you know that you can zip to a random blog from this page? Look up top and click on “next blog”. I tried that last night.

For all the avoidably egregious syntax, what I found was humbling. From articulately heartbreaking political activism, to families just keeping in touch, to teenagers who put a level of effort into their blogs that should embarrass me --- except that I wonder why those kids came up with elaborate graphics, sound files and whatnot just to support a whine about having too much homework. Whatever happened to soul-wrenching adolescent angst? Sheesh.

Society is going through yet another round of the medium being the message. What I don’t understand is how Young People with their Twittering nanobyte attention spans can read each other’s screensful of … um… verbiage. I assume if I went to their school it would be more salient, but I still see irony here.

Print media is dying. Magazines are disappearing, newspapers are shrinking. Yet the next generation is churning out pages and pages of text online, accompanied by carefully chosen pictures and music. The curmudgeon in me wants to decry their lack of substance, easy enough to do. But they are WRITING! In quantity, no less. And in that, I uncharacteristically find hope.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wherefore art thou, Max?

That’s rhetorical. It’s Buenos Aires this week. But by now all of you should have seen his live theater show, “Max Maven Thinking in Person: An Evening of Knowing and Not Knowing” in which he (brilliantly) discusses Knowing and, yes, Not Knowing, and breathes life, fire and wit into that magician’s trope --- Mystery.

Well, I have a mystery.

Last night I found out that back around 1980 (before you were born, kiddies) someone claiming to be me did something hurtful to someone I have never met. Apparently I had been credited with that deed all this time—and I didn’t even know it happened.

What to do? I thought of a few lines from Max’s show, which I won’t quote here because I’m sure he’ll do the show again and you can see for yourself, but to give you a hint, they’re about Not Knowing. Because I will never know who did it, nor why.

And Max, if you’re reading this, let me know when’s good for coffee.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Doing Things Badly

People often do things badly. Not you, of course, dear reader. I am talking about the rest of us.

When I say "do things badly", I do not mean "do bad things". From casual typos, to misaligned parking, to not paying attention how something is phrased and inadvertently giving offense--- there is a range of imprecision from "oops" through "uh oh" to "oh shit".

Anyone who has worked out with me (you know who you are) knows my obsession with form. That's a no-brainer, lift a heavy weight badly and you’ll get hurt. Same with language. Say what you mean fer chrissake, don't get all poncy with words unless it's because they're more expressive. And food, better to have good ingredients that you can taste rather than elaborate layers of seasoning and presentation that do nothing but cover the plate.

If you’re going to do something, why not try to do it – if not well, then at least, not badly? We don’t, though. We speak without thinking, we eat without tasting, we skim what we’re reading. Don’t get me started on what I see in the gym every day, I honestly don’t know why some of those people even bother—or how they stay out of the hospital.

But there’s a corollary. (Ha! You thought I was going to say “metaphor” again, didn’t you?) If you’re enjoying what you do, often that’s enough. Not always, a hearty belch can make you feel better but it’s still not welcome in my face no matter how far into the alphabet you can get. Play a game because it’s fun. Send a note to a friend even if it has typos. Stop reading this, get out of your chair and do something, anything, to get your blood moving. Because the one thing you can’t do badly, is be happy.

Friday, October 10, 2008


In line, in the Ladies' room:

"Why do they always have to have those big stalls? You know people in wheelchairs don't have to pee."

And, if she votes, her vote will count just as much as mine. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Sunday afternoon I finished reading Tony Vigorito’s “Just A Couple Of Days.” Interesting enough, but wait for it.

Sunday night, Robert used the word ‘meme’. I’d never heard it before. It wasn’t in my handy-dandy giant dictionary (Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary--- which by now is neither new nor universal.) So Robert read to me from some Internet thingy that “meme” was coined in 1976, by Richard Dawkins, noted geneticist and philosopher. Later, I found this:

Main Entry: meme
Function: noun
Etymology: alteration of mimeme, from mim- (as in mimesis) + -eme:
an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture

The next morning, on the op-ed page of the Los Angeles Times, Gregory Rodriguez mentioned Richard Dawkins in his opening paragraph.

So what? Stay with me here. At breakfast Robert and I discussed “Just A Couple Of Days”. I said it reminded me of “Cat’s Cradle”, which led to a talk about Ice-9. Then he noticed that the Vigorito cover quote by Christopher Moore called it “A viral meme of a book.” Ok, I should have seen that myself, but I didn’t.

The real weirdness was when the person to whom I was about to loan the Vigorito book mentioned Ice-9 in conversation that same morning. Nothing to do with Vigorito, it came up in an entirely different context. When was the last time Ice-9 just happened to come up in a conversation you were having?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Boy, did she have the wrong table!

I (lifetime lefty, in case you found this blog by accident) was sitting with my staunchly Republican friend Jim at our regular Starbucks, when a young woman with a clipboard approached us. She was from NBC, looking for undecided voters...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Incongruity (Redux)

Of course Macy’s put up their Christmas decorations halfway through a September heat wave. I didn’t even blink when I saw it. No big deal.

Popular culture has made incongruity ordinary. We expect a twist, a surprise, a bit of a shock--- and are disappointed when we don’t get it. How rare for something to be only what it seems, or someone. Remember when “true blue” was a compliment? Okay, most of you are too young to remember literally, but you get the idea.

Everything has to be juxtaposed with something else to give it validity. Go ahead and offset an idea by acknowledging its opposite, as long as it’s not political. Political issues retain polarized identities in their purest form. Everything else has become a motley grab bag of ideas and execution. Look at the current fashions, if you dare. (Did I mention I was at a mall recently? Do rich kids not own mirrors?)

This blog is an example of incongruity in action. The journal-esque format implies an intimacy belied by public access. I brazenly publish my real name, and in so doing I limit what I am willing to confess for general consumption. Part of that is cynicism, part is professional restraint.

Dignity + the Internet? There’s incongruous for you. Wolfgang Puck putting strawberries in a green salad has nothing on that.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Elvis! On Stilts!

Sorry to get your hopes up, it's just what it sounds like. An Elvis impersonator on stilts, at the Harvest Festival in Ventura.
The peanut brittle is as good as ever, though.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


It’s dead common here. By “here” I mean Los Angeles County, not just the mythical Hollywood. Don’t get me wrong, I like beauty. My friends tend toward extremely attractive as a group. Yes, you do.

If I’m going to have a pastry, I like the decorated ones. I keep the jackets on my books and have been known to purchase one just because I liked the cover. Beauty is good.

On the other hand, beauty can be used as a “get out of kindness free” card. I’d rather be cut off in traffic by a tiny old person who can’t see over the steering wheel than yet another carefree (and careless) Pretty Young Thing of either gender. There was a pretty waitress at my local boite who, in the same conversation, told me “Wow, you eat a lot” and “The way I look, I could get a job anywhere in Hollywood.” She’s not there anymore, maybe she did.

Pretty isn’t as pretty does. Not here. It’s useful, and preferable to the alternative, but here it’s a minimum requirement. The level of expectation is higher, and the punishment for failing to reach it is worse. Los Angeles doesn’t have a court of public opinion, it has a judges’ panel. At least it’s not sexist. The level of expectation is as high for men as it is for women.

In contrast, I know another waitress at a different local restaurant. She isn’t just pretty, she is beautiful. She smiles because she means it, and that shows. So many people happen to be pretty, but when a pretty person is also kind and happy--- that’s when the idea of Beauty regains some meaning.

Aicha, if you’re reading this, I took the food up to Melva’s place myself.