Friday, February 27, 2009

Model Economics

You know the guy with the bleached hair and goatee who does the T.G.I. Friday commercials? Robert saw an interview wherein the guy said that he doesn’t eat there, he just does their ads. Like when Darryl Hannah was the face of “Angel” perfume, and stated publicly that she never wears perfume, just a little essential oil.

Let’s not forget that Cybill Shepherd, in “Interview” magazine, credited her youthfulness to a diet free of red meat--- after she’d been signed by the Beef Council to replace James Garner, who had had a multiple bypass.

Consumerism versus celebrity, one feeds on (and off of) the other, but which? I suppose if I actually watched television, I’d have more insight.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

De Nile

People suck. This is news? Oh, and the world is in a handbasket, en route to Hell. Again, nothing particularly informative there. The ancient Egyptians probably had the same complaint, along with dismay over the klafts and shentis of their local adolescents. Adults never appreciate teenaged fashion, at least I don’t.

Now, I’ll grant you, those ancient Egyptians didn’t have methane pockets under melting permafrost. Back in those days, permafrost was properly icy, not like the slacking stuff we’ve got. There wasn’t much in the way of global economy in Times Long Past, but things weren’t that great then either.

It’s logical to be depressed. It’s human nature. Modern civilization is hardwired for angst--- literally. News travels instantaneously, and the bad stuff gets better ratings. The good stuff, what little there is, is a drop in the bucket proportionately, and easy to overlook.

I follow several news feeds on Twitter. Rarely do I see anything that lifts my spirits, but I read every headline like a good girl. What gives me a speck of encouragement (not enough to call hope) is the intelligent, compassionate and articulate tweeting from Thinkers and Doers. They’re out there too, in increasing quantity.

Information is a bleak tsunami, and none of us is in a position to improve the world situation. To balance that, there are heroes, and there is progress.

Sometimes peace of mind requires a cup of denial.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Flickering Revisitations

On the treadmill today, in between watching helicopters bounce and planes take off, I saw 45 minutes of a black and white film without sound. I get points for recognizing a young Peter Finch and even younger Anne Bancroft, but the plot remains a mystery.

Let’s revisit our earliest conversations, you and I. We talked about stories, and what makes us care about them. My vote went to characters, and I bring that to the table now.

The next screen had captions, but all it showed were Oscar preparations; interviews from the bleachers, celebrity sightings, etc. More compelling were the black and white reaction shots, close up on expressive faces of brilliant actors, now dead, showing a range of identifiable emotions. I was hypnotized until it was over. Hopefully there was a happy ending.

Debbie Reynolds and Dick Powell were next, but not for long. It was time to go to weights. Before I left, two pretty girls took the next two treadmills, speaking fast and fluent pretty-ese, flickering between topics. I tried to imagine them slowing to the pace of the film, finishing each thought and reaction before moving on to the next. A large, red and purple jet took off a few hundred feet in front of their eyes, they didn’t even pause. I don’t think they noticed.

Maybe this is why I don’t watch television, except on the treadmill. Maybe I’m a sucker for narrative, for a type of expression that has no place at today’s pace. Maybe there’s a metaphor in what happened, or I’m just too old not to be bored. Never mind. I’m going online to find out what I saw.

Friday, February 20, 2009


A butterfly flaps its wings in China and a parking space opens in Los Angeles. It’s all connected.

You don’t need me to tell you that. How many times have you slapped your mental forehead because you knew that something that had just happened would happen? No, this didn’t just happen to me. What happened to me was a conversation about eggplant.

When was the last time you talked about eggplant? Love the color, loathe the plant. It’s slimy and undelicious and force-fed to innocent vegetarians in obscene quantities. The only time I ever enjoyed it was in an Afghani restaurant in San Diego, a city I haven’t been to in living memory. In the spirit of full disclosure, I referenced it in the aforementioned conversation. That was yesterday.

Well, just now on my beloved Twitter, Mr. Stephen Fry --- who happens to have just landed in San Diego --- asked, “Any thoughts on ‘Afghan Cuisine’?”

Of course I told him about the place, which used to be terrific. After weeks of enjoying his tweets, this was my first reply to him. A happy moment, but it didn’t change my mind about eggplant.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Windmill Variations

If you’re going to tilt at windmills, make sure no one is playing miniature golf nearby.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Use It Or Lose It

There is a corollary to the adage, “Use it or lose it” which implies that there is a limited amount of “it” either to use or to lose.*

While I grumpily made my way into the gym this morning (just because I go every day doesn’t mean I have to be nice about it) I was thinking, how is this motivation? It’s shouted by the kind of personal trainers who wanted to be cheerleaders in high school. They’re loud, unpopular, and annoying. They seem to have trouble counting to ten. (“Two more! Five more!”) Their clients look miserable, and tend to disappear. Used yet lost, the adage belied.

Robert says that when he hears the phrase, he thinks of businesses losing customers. That makes sense. You wouldn’t go back to a restaurant with bad food and rude servers. You might with one or the other if you had a good reason, but not both. The same goes for a shop with high prices and cheesy products. Insert your own examples, I’m not out to flame anybody. Not now, anyhow.

Use it or lose it. Two options, both valid. Is one better than the other? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if we build our muscles, or finish that crossword. Hiding your savings in a mattress is as viable as making a bad investment in today’s market. Conversely, you don’t want to corrupt your personal integrity, or let food rot in the fridge.

Like with anything else, everything depends on what “it” is. Fame, brains, beauty and brawn, use’em, lose’em, but what will you do with’em? Posterity awaits your decision.

*Split infinitive supporters take your fight elsewhere. I know how it sounds but I won’t do it and you can’t make me, nyah nyah. Well, except for that one I missed.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Viva Glamour

I spent yesterday afternoon in West Hollywood, not far from where I grew up. (Ignore my previous whining, it's only about 15 minutes away.) There’s a café I enjoy, despite the mediocrity of the food. It’s the only place where I’ve been in the Ladies’ Room applying lipstick, and had a man come in and look quite affronted to see me there.

Maybe it was the shade of lipstick. In retrospect, it could have been.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Twinkle Twinkle Little Starbucks

I do love Starbucks. Not the undrinkable coffee, but the place, the existential Starbuck State Of Mind.

Once upon a time, back in San Diego where the coffee is good, there was an underground movement against the earliest Starbucks incursions. The guerilla logo was a red circle with stripe, enclosing a “*$$” . (At the time I had to ask, I didn’t get the “star” + “bucks”, but then I’d only heard the name once or twice.) The meaning, translated, was “No Corporate Coffee”. Remember, this wasn’t long after we stalwarts attested that disco sucked. We cared about all sorts of things in those days.

Of course I prefer indie coffee houses with personality and drinkable coffee. At least I do in theory, I’m at an age where I restrict my caffeine. While I adore kicky ambiance, who wants to shlep into Hollywood for it? My favorite Starbux is only 7 minutes away, with plenty of convenient parking.

I was there for a couple of hours today, the Bux next to the Original Bob’s Big Boy™. I never did figure out what the dowdy guy was selling to the two attractive young women next to our table, but he sure was giving it his all. And for once I couldn’t see the laptops of all the aspiring screenwriters. This is good, they usually tilt their machines for maximum public viewing and seeing a single speech that lasts a full screen makes the editor in me cringe.

There is a recession, but there were people using the WiFi without buying anything before that. Okay, so you don’t hear so many paragraph-long single orders. On the bright side, the line moves faster now. If you’re in the neighborhood, let me know and I’ll meet you there.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Home Sweet Home

My favorite gym faces a runway of the Burbank Airport. Today, while on the treadmill, I watched purple and red Southwest Airlines planes take off and land. In the distance, storm clouds clustered over the Hollywood Hills. It was beautiful enough that I climbed back on that same treadmill after a grueling bout in the nether reaches of the windowless weight room.

Pastoral Burbank makes Mayberry look urban and dangerous by comparison. Our buildings are low enough to allow a panoramic view. Not much ever happens here to distract from the bucolic comfort. This is both wonderful and annoying. Sometimes I’d like to go out to eat without having a “Cheers” experience. Then again, I could do that easily if I was willing to drive more than five minutes to get anywhere.

In contrast, I often spend time in Hollywood proper. There, people are Seen. They Dress. And when they speak, it’s loud and often entertaining. I like the kinetic frenetic absurdity of character-place-activity, but you know what? After a couple of hours I’m ready to click my heels together three times and slog through traffic back to the Californian version of Kansas, and to my little dog too.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rain Reign

Rain changes things. At least it does in typically non-rainy Southern California. For example, my neighbors aren’t shouting profanities at each other in their backyard, which I can usually hear from my desk. This is a good and beautiful thing.

There’s also a psychological component at work here. Instead of other houses representing other lives outside my window, there is a blank wall of water. How contemplative, how meditative, how utterly zen-like it is to be isolated within my own thoughts. Rain does that.

Ah, the serenity. I can see why all those chintzy little plug-in fountains were so popular in the 90s, the tranquil plop plop plopping soothes and comforts. Conducive to so much, rain gives us the opportunity to open our minds in ways we don’t generally take the time to indulge in. Will it be philosophy? Creativity?

Nah, I think I’ll play some bingo.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

True Confessions?

It happened just now, in a game on, in chat. Someone said “Good luck” to the room. After a while, I replied, “Thanks, you too.” She asked me for a private chat. Why not? I thought naively. Here’s why not: She wanted my help to get over the pain of losing a relationship which ended five months ago.

We’ve discussed this before, you and I. Maybe I do hear more than my share of confessions, but in this case there were Extenuating Circumstances--- well, okay, I was online, and I was being polite.

It’s everywhere, but more apparent on the Internet. The huddled cyber-masses feel comfortable baring their souls to total strangers, who seem to provide genuine solace and comfort. Of course, the succor goes to a mind neurotic enough to seek it randomly.

This particular young woman, in the span of a few minutes, gave me her email and wanted to continue the dialogue after I left the game. Do I believe she was as she presented herself? Does it matter? To quote her, “idk.” Nor do I care. I refused gently and fled to write this.

Two days ago it was the graphic details of a urinary tract infection (with radiating abdominal pain and antibiotic resistance) suffered by a real life stranger, told to me outside a health food store while I waited for a friend. No Internet involved. This was live, folks. I even know the name of her doctor, another brain cell lost for all eternity.

For all that, I do believe there is a moral imperative to help when we can. The magic trick is to know when it is possible to help and when it’s just fomenting the misery and neurosis. Helping is good; fomenting is useless and ultimately unpleasant.

Today, until my game ended, I offered a few standard platitudes and clichés. These fell as the purest Evian into a desert. Which, spelled backward, is “naïve”.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


People just don’t use the word “pizzazz” enough. It’s true. When was the last time you heard it? Obviously you’re about to hear it here, but let me tell you why--- I saw Paul Green perform at the Magic Castle last night.


What a genuinely nice man he is, in a way no one seems to be anymore. Not merely a mentsch in a snazzy tux, Paul is a seasoned performer. I can see (and have seen) his act innumerably and still enjoy it every time.

Where many magicians have ego, Paul has the confidence of being secure in his skills. Where many disrespect their spectator-participants, Paul welcomes them into his act. I honestly can’t imagine a sensible person not liking his show, which isn’t something you’ve ever heard me say, and not just for the double negative. Or is that a triple now? Never mind, you get my point.

Let’s put it this way: After seeing him again last night, I’m actually going to dig out the recipe he gave me years ago for double frosted Kahlua brownies. I may even give you one.